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|Pleasure(Shadowdwellers #3) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Valera burst like an overfilled balloon. It felt as though she were seizing, the way her body locked and clenched in total spasming pleasure. And then she cried out Sagan’s name, and she flew. It was like soaring out from inside of her own body. The rapture of it was profound and devastating.
Sagan rode every moment of her release with her, his teeth grinding as her body suckled him in strong squeezes. His entire body screamed for release, the imminent approach of it making him lose all control as he pounded into Valera without measure or care. When the rushing force of climax overtook him at last it was blinding. He vocalized, a long loud shout that sounded savage. And why shouldn’t it? The potent ejaculation he was feeling felt so incredible that it all but hurt.
He held himself tight and deep within her even when he had spent himself to the last drop. He gasped for breath, and his strong arms that had swung heavy swords night after night for years began to tremble under the hold of his weight. Sagan couldn’t stop staring at her as she tried to recover from her climax. Her skin shimmered with sweat, her flesh reeking of their lovemaking, and her gorgeous eyes dazed with the remnants of ultimate ecstasy. She was so beautiful, and he wanted to burn the image in his mind for all time.
He shoved back thoughts of their uncertain future. It was better to bask in the here and now.
They only had the here and now.
Valera sucked in oxygen in great big gulps. She couldn’t open her eyes to save her life, and her entire body was depending on the strength of the one that held her in place against the wall. Her every muscle was overworked and her nervous system was numb with satiation. She felt Sagan, just as breathless as she was, with his face burrowed against her neck beneath her hair and dropping intermittent kisses onto her sweaty skin.
She had never conceived of such an incredible lover ever entering her sphere. She’d reconciled herself very easily to her hermit’s existence, not bothering to waste time on fantasy when reality had proven more than difficult enough to deal with. And maybe this was about convenience or maybe it wasn’t, but when Sagan was working himself into her body with such passionate focus as he just had, how could it possibly make a difference? Differing species, vows and rules, and time and familiarity made no difference. The world outside of her cabin made no impact as he riddled her with ripping orgasms, one after another, until she was literally blind with pleasure.
And Sagan’s powerful physique made things possible that had not been possible for her before. Like being held hard against a wall, her weight so incidental to him…except that he seemed to get off on it. She had realized it fully some time ago when he’d had her on her hands and knees, thrusting into her in punctuation, and she’d understood that he was enjoying the way the impact shimmied up her body. At first it had embarrassed her, but he’d flooded her with his poetic descriptions of why he found her so delightful just as she was. That, and the fact that he had quickly lost control of himself in the process as her body and his own expressions about it excited him beyond his capacity to contain it, had erased her concerns permanently.
Two days later and with almost every surface of the house having been utilized for their insatiable need for each other, Valera feared nothing so much as she feared that their time was running short. As the stamina and strength of his lovemaking improved, it told her he was healing at a phenomenal rate. In fact, she suspected he was entirely well now. His hands were certainly free of any signs of damage as they skillfully wrought responses from her body, to the point where she didn’t even recognize herself in this passionate, multiorgasmic creature she had become.
As for Sagan, he was all too aware of how deeply mired in trouble he had become. He had expected an intense interlude between them, an appetite that would eventually reach a point of satisfaction. Except it had only grown more and more intense as reservations and societal expectations fell away from them both. She stopped caring that it had only taken him a matter of hours to “get in her pants,” and he stopped thinking of her as “human,” with the differentiations that used to imply to him.
It also stopped being just a matter of sex; if, indeed, it had ever been that at all. Her studious and quiet ways were so opposite to his physical ones, yet she took as much pride and pleasure in her cooking as he did in his swordwork. It had fascinated and amused him at first, but as she fed him creations of both complexity and simplicity, he truly came to appreciate the art and effort in what she did. He suspected she made the same effort when it came to her magic, although she never once showed him use of it again.
But now he felt the press of time and responsibility creeping up on him urgently. Even now, as he tried to catch his breath and was flooded in the wondrous reek of their sexual activities, he realized that there were those at Sanctuary who would be distressed by his absence. They would be looking for him. He didn’t want them to find him here, and he certainly didn’t want them endangering themselves in their efforts to pursue his whereabouts.
Then there was the unknown factor. The one that told him the things his trauma had caused him to forget were very crucial to those he loved and respected. Also, if he had been attacked so boldly, what had happened to the rest of the religious house? Was it safe, or had it been overrun by whatever force it was that had hurt him? This was the least of his worries, of course, because he had faith in M’jan Magnus’s potent abilities and his sheer determination to guard and guide the house he ruled.
Yet the draw and magnetism of this woman he held was all-consuming, and once he left her, he could never come back. Knowing that made leaving her all but impossible. Not after only two days. Sagan was paralyzed betwixt his choices and his desires, and the one that was most immediately satisfying and so astoundingly pleasurable was the one that won out.
“Mmm,” he heard her hum with soft contentment into his ear. “I’m exhausted. I can’t move.”
He resolved the problem by gripping her luscious backside and holding her weight against him as he drew her back from the wall. He enjoyed her lazy, sated giggle as he walked her down the hall and dumped them both into bed with a hard tumble. She ended up beside him, her sweet shape instantly clinging all along his left side as she pillowed her head on his shoulder.
He very much shared her feelings of contentment and intimacy.
This was the part that truly astounded Valera. Perhaps it was because he was limited in just how far he could go away from her on a moment-to-moment basis, but she hadn’t been the one to start these postcoital cuddle sessions. Sagan had all but tackled her to keep her ass in bed the first time she’d tried to ditch him after sex…which had been the first time they’d gotten intimate. She had still been thinking he was going to come to his senses or something and that she probably wouldn’t want to watch it happen at the time. But as it turned out, her Nightwalker lover barely let them come up for air, food, and water…never mind “alone time.” Now she was confident she wasn’t dreaming, misinterpreting, or even just a convenient fluke. But she was very aware of his inner conflicts as time passed and he grew more and more introverted in his thoughts.
The harassment of these thoughts became apparent by a week later. The dynamic between them evolved into change. The harder he worked to keep his divided concerns to himself, the more desperate his interactions with her became. He never grew short-tempered with her, his patience and placidity always so remarkable, but it seemed that what he didn’t express outright found its way into their lovemaking. There was suddenly an element of punishment woven within. Not that Sagan would hurt her, but he began to torment himself. He fixated on her pleasure and denied his own release, sometimes for hours, until she was too exhausted to be of any use to him and he would take the suffering of his incompletion into his sleep. He would dream fitfully, began to eat sparingly and with less pleasure than he had at first.
But when he held her close, keeping her tight in his arms, she felt his need for her in the strength he used to keep her there. She would wake in the same embrace she had fallen asleep in.
And she knew every day that it could be the last time.
Finally, the inevitability of it became too much for her to bear.
It happened at the most innocuous moment. She was standing over the sink washing dishes from the meal they’d just finished. Usually Sagan offered to do the chore, but he had left the meal halfway through, claiming to be tired. He’d teased her for being the source of his worn-out state, and she had laughed at his playful remark, but now as she stood with her hands in warm soapy water she realized he was more right than he knew. Sagan, she had comprehended early on, was used to extraordinary physical activity within his day. He was used to a great many things that he was now being kept apart from; a lifestyle full of habits that were 160 years inured into him. So sudden a change, so direct a flout in the face of all that he was…
He was homesick and he was depressed, she realized. Whether he knew it or not, recognized it or not, or showed it or not, it was a fact. No being of his health, breeding, and power needed as much rest as he had come to need. She didn’t care how athletic they were in bed. She had seen a progression and had denied it attention because she didn’t want to see it. She didn’t want the end result of it.
Valera didn’t want to send him home.
She knew he would never come back if she did. It was selfish, she realized as tears clenched like a chokehold on her throat. He would never be happy here. She wished that he could, wished that she could somehow be everything he needed, but it was an unrealistic fantasy. She was human and she was mortal. She would grow old and die and he would be just as young and beautiful as ever. Outside of their physical chemistry, she had nothing to hold him with…and no reason to deserve having him at her side. Sagan could stay no more than Valera could follow if he went.
When he went.
Val dried off her hands and walked into the back bedroom. He wasn’t asleep, but sat on the end of the bed clearly heavy with his thoughts. So much so that he didn’t notice her there. She watched him in silence for a moment; saw the bow of his head as he studied his own hands. It was when she realized she knew what he was contemplating that she hurried forward to fill his empty hands with hers, squeezing them tightly and with all of her heart as she knelt between his feet and looked up into his troubled eyes. Since she had caught him off guard, she saw everything he had tried to keep concealed from her etched in his redwood gaze.
“Here,” she said with a hitch of oncoming pain, “they can only be filled with me.” Valera looked at his hands, stroking her palm over his. “But there…there they can be filled with so much more. A sword. Work. Friends and family. All the responsibilities you treasured and all of the life you lived before something decided to snatch you out of it like plunging you into a surreal dream world. But Sagan,” she said, holding down her selfish emotions until she was shaking with the repression, “the dream has lasted much too long. It’s time for you to awaken back in your real world. You have to go. You don’t belong here.”
Val had wanted to say it straight, with wisdom and selflessness, but her tears and the chasm of loneliness she was reopening overcame her. But she realized he was much too special and far too beautiful for just the human world. Her life was too simple and too unspectacular to hold any interest for him. How she had managed to catch his attention in the first place, she would never understand.
Sagan’s fingers tightened around hers almost painfully as he stared into her swimming eyes. He brought her trembling fingers to the kiss of his lips.
“I don’t want to leave you,” he said with such low intensity that it seized her by her heart. “I can’t imagine an eternity of never watching you cook again, or of never touching you.”
He had her head in his hands instantly, drawing her mouth under his for a kiss of such poignant desperation it broke her heart even as it made her soar with pleasure to know he felt that way about her.
“I don’t think I can live on only nine days of memories of you, Valera. I say that to myself each day and push for another and another, but I don’t even know when it would ever be enough.”
“You can’t survive here,” she argued. “You need more than a woman in a cabin in the wilderness. Don’t you think I know that? Feel that? I could never be happy knowing that staying with me is hollowing out who you are and always have been. You can’t even tell me who you are and who you have been.”
“What I need, what gnaws at me relentlessly, is to know…to know everyone I left behind me is safe and well.”
“And what if they are? You’d come back? To do what? Hide inside when the white nights come to surround you? You can’t do that any more than I can live forever. There’s nothing to argue about here! We’ve always known this was wrong in so many ways—”
“No! Not wrong!” he exploded, jerking her hard between his grasp. “Never again say such a thing, Valera. You are perfect. We are so spectacular together that it cannot be labeled wrong. It defiles the beauty of what we have had and I will not stand to hear you disparage it. Do you understand?”
She nodded and then completely crumbled apart. She realized her stupid heart was breaking for someone she couldn’t have. She knew so little about him, but also knew everything that mattered. He was benevolent and gentle, intelligent and sweet with humor, and he was as dangerous and severe as he needed to be when occasion demanded it. He made love to her in so many ways both lewd and loving, but every time—every single time—he held her hard against his heart and spoke to her just as he was speaking to her now. Treasuring her. Treasuring them.
“But you have to go,” she rasped softly, “and you know that as well as I do.”