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|Pleasure(Shadowdwellers #3) by Jacquelyn Frank|
And she was willing to stand him beside her and show him proudly as her love. To hold him before the Senate and deem him a worthy man, worthy of their respect and deference.
“You said…you wouldn’t want to be seen in public with me. And Tristan, too. What’s changed from then to now for you? And what will your brother think of—”
“I never said any such thing!” she exclaimed, indignant and horrified. “I would never even think of you like that!”
“Tristan said ‘But none of this in public’ when he saw you leaning with affection on me, and you replied ‘I wasn’t planning on trotting him out on my arm.’ You didn’t want others to know I was your lover, but now you’d make me publicly your husband only days after having that attitude?”
Because he was in such an emotional turmoil, Guin’s usual walls of stoicism were crumbling rapidly away, and Malaya heard the hurt he’d suffered for those words and her heart ached in reply.
“No, no, honey,” she said softly and soothingly as she reached to stroke warm hands against him. He tried to back away, but there was a wall behind him and he stopped against it long enough to let her smooth herself like butter up against his body. “Tristan and I only meant that in terms of distracting you from your job or letting others perceive you as less vigilant. Think of the context of the conversation around that. Stop hearing only what you expect to hear and remember who Tristan and I are! When have you ever known me to treat anyone as below my notice? When have I ever hidden a relationship of any kind from anyone except in the war when secret alliances were crucial? And of all people, Guin, for you to feel this way! Who doesn’t know the esteem I give you? The trust above all others to hold my life in your hands? The claim of friendship and confidant? Everyone knows my regard for you. And they will know my love for you as well. They will know I have chosen a wonderful mate, made a love match with a strong warrior who has done nothing but protect this monarchy with his all. The only thing I have been guilty of is never viewing you equal to my woman’s heart. Of never seeing a candidate for investing this wild and helpless sensation of love! But that was more about me protecting myself than anything to do with you.
“Guin, I’ve never been in romantic love before. Never even thought I might be. Never wanted to be. Why do you think I couldn’t recognize it in you for so long? Half of me was unfamiliar with the entire concept, the other half just closing its eyes and not wanting to see anything that might mean risking…Guin, I’ve suffered pain and loss all of my life. Constantly losing those I love in such violent ways. I could only let myself continue to love through the years if I kept at least one part of me secured away from the cruelness of fate. Even now, if you could feel the terror inside me, the racing of my heart and the instincts crying out to protect myself. But it’s too late. Those cries are being drowned out by all the rest of me, every fiber of me, grasping for you. I’ve opened myself to this so suddenly and it’s so overwhelming and powerful. Please…when I think of you trapping this feeling inside for so long…Please, Guin…”
She was so sweetly begging him, her face turned up to his and her whiskey eyes full of yearning and need. He caught her head between his hands, searching her for a flaw he could expose or exploit. But all he could see were the soft, gorgeous contours of a face tattooed on his heart and the soul behind her eyes that could feed him forever.
“I’ve loved you since the moment I saw you,” he said at last, the words rushed and full of roiling emotions. “Sitting there in powder blue and waiting for your killer so you could turn the table and slaughter his heart instead. Since then I’ve seen no other face but yours, smelled no other perfume, touched no other skin. None of it could compare, every woman paling in my eyes. How unfair for them to be held up against what I have always deemed as perfection. But no other would do for me but you, and you were forever out of my reach, my class, and my rights. I’ve felt this way for fifty years, Malaya, never giving it an ounce of freedom or breath to breathe and then you touched me…you danced against me and touched me and the need all came crashing in on me. You have no idea the relief I felt that morning when you were finally mine to take. And I thought it would satisfy my soul to have at least that much of you, but I knew—even as I ran through the city thinking Acadian was within reach of you, I knew it was nothing if I couldn’t have the right to love you.
“Then that damned law, Malaya. To think I was holding myself in check so you could have what you deserved and then you were throwing it all away with that fucking law!” He couldn’t help giving her a fierce shake. “You were such a little idiot! I couldn’t watch it. I couldn’t bear it anymore. And I couldn’t only have your body, Laya. As beautiful and as succulent as it is to me, it wasn’t enough. You broke my heart with that fucking law and I couldn’t take it.”
“I know. Oh, honey, I know and I’m so sorry,” she cried softly. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t see. I was so stupidly blind. I was torturing you more and more with everything I did night after night…I’m so, so sorry.” She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him with all of her strength.
“I was”—he swallowed hard—“my mother had an arranged marriage in the old clan tradition of marrying the children of enemies in order to make peace. Her husband held her in such contempt, and he never let her forget it. Starved for attention and love, she took a lover…and she conceived me. Since her husband never touched her, he knew I was another man’s bastard. He never let me forget that either. He waited—until I was old enough to be certain I understood—and then he dragged my ‘faithless whore of a mother’ to me by her hair and beat her to death in front of me. He even did it close enough to me that I had her blood all over me. I was seven years old.”
“Oh, Guin,” she exhaled in soft horror.
“He was my first kill. A contract I put out and filled for myself. Thought it would make me feel better, but all it did was make me feel like him. Bitter, vengeful, spoiled to the core. I killed the man who raised and sheltered me, Malaya, and a long list of others besides who never did me any harm. This is the man you want to love?”
“This is a part of him, yes. A distant part of him. I also want to love the reformed man who, just on the precious words of his mother, begged me to change him into the better man I saw he could be. Ever since then you’ve been loyal and honorable and you’ve done great things to make a great world for our people.”
“I have no faith, no belief in your gods, and I don’t have a third power. I can’t—”
“Guin, stop it! After all these years”—she laughed—“don’t you think I know all of this? I knew everything except the story of your mother and the details of all those contracts you filled before meeting me. One was important, the other is not because it cannot be changed now. Do I hope that one day you will repent these sins to Magnus and ask for penance? Of course I do. I love my gods and I will always want their love to protect you and cleanse you at all times, whether you accept it or not. But you can’t change my mind about being in love with you, Guin, any more than I could change yours. Please…I’m fifty years behind you in terms of loving you this way, and I want to spend the next fifty making it up to you. You’ve been alone and lonely for so long, and I want to drown you in attention. I want to make love with you and let you speak to your love for me every single minute. And,” she said soft and sly as she kissed his lips, “I want to say I love you, over and over again, like it’s something naughty that gets you off.”
That made him smile against her mouth.
“It is and it will, you know.”
Guin took her mouth softly with his, the kiss sweet and obviously different than the ones they’d shared before. It was so filled with their emotions that it instantly dragged them into a spell of need and passion.
Guin had waited so long to hold her and love her with total freedom that he couldn’t slow himself down as his hands ran her body. They kissed over and over, each clash of lips and tongues singing the message into him like an aria. She loves me…and I am finally free to love her.
He quickly pulled away her clothes, needing her skin on his palms. Malaya was just as quick and efficient with his and just as eager with her touch. They began to pant together in bursts of needy breath stifled with unrelenting kissing. The instant they were naked Guin grabbed her up under her arms and ran her back across the room to the bed. She lowered herself onto it and watched him kneel down to be with her, a sensual avarice written all over her expression. Her hands were held out in reception, reaching to draw him to her eagerly. He was over her in a heartbeat, his blood rushing as their skin melted together in warm, wonderful ways. She slid smoothly beneath him, her long legs wrapping around his and stroking over him.
“Be my wife, my honey,” he invited her as a man should do, no matter how powerful the woman. “Be my wife and I will be your devoted husband.”
“I will be your wife and no one will dare gainsay that. Not even Tristan. I love you, Guin. I’ll be saying it thousands of times because it surges so pleasurably through me every time. We’re both free now. We’re both set free.”
“I love you. Gods, how I do,” he groaned against her skin as he kissed her jasmine-scented body everywhere he could reach. “Only you can convince me I will be good enough for you, Malaya. Gods know I don’t deserve you. But in this one thing, I’m going to be very, very selfish, my honey. I’m taking you for myself. Gods help anyone who gets in my way.”
“Oh yes…that feels so good,” she uttered as he rubbed her nipple between his teeth, then flicked his tongue against her. She cradled his head as he slowly sucked her, drawing on her so roughly sometimes that she cried out. But he had slid a hand tightly between her legs, his fingertips stroking lightly at her labia, and he felt the ooze of moisture that accompanied every one of those cries.
Not to be neglectful, Malaya’s hands were busy, too. She was petting his rock-hard belly over and over, her nails flashing lower and lower against him. She felt a wet drip on her skin and wasn’t surprised at all when the head of his cock was already slick with his excitement. She rubbed his own wetness into him like a lotion, slowly and methodically and erotically until he lowered his forehead against her breastbone and groaned from deep inside.
“It’s magic, your touch,” he said on a rushed breath. “Do you have any idea how knowing you love me makes all the difference?”
Malaya heard the roughening of his voice and felt the damp stroke of his kiss as he tried to cover his overwhelmed emotions. She felt her throat go tight in answer to knowing how much he felt about her, and how happy she was making him.
“I love you,” she whispered softly. He drew up to look down into her eyes and saw she was just as overwhelmed as he was. Her eyes began to swim with slowly filling tears. She reached to draw his head down and set her lips against his ear. “Come inside me now and let me tell you again.”
Guin didn’t want any other invitation. Her legs were already around him, the heat of her pussy radiating against his lower belly. He slid against her and right into her in a single driving thrust. They both gasped at the rushing, thick sensation of him burrowing into her all at once. He felt erotic stabs of pleasure feeding back across his scrotum and up his spine until he couldn’t help but shudder with the sensation.
“Now say it,” he beckoned her hoarsely as he began to move in long, deep strokes.
“I love you, my Guin,” she breathed, her head tilting back and grinding the words out on a lusty sound. “I love you with everything I am.”
Guin groaned hard and rough, the feelings she inspired rushing over him like a million of her kisses on his skin. She said it again and again, and he could instantly appreciate Magnus’s response to Dae when she had done this to him. He couldn’t keep from driving harder and faster into her, as if trying to reach as deep as he could to touch her as much as he could.
Malaya could feel his intensity. Every surge of pleasure that went through him every time she said she loved him jumped directly from his nervous system and into hers. She was wildly alive with vibratory tingles on the end of every nerve. Her next declaration came out on a gasp as she felt her body twisting into blissful sensation. She didn’t stop speaking her message to him even when she began to spiral up into a thunderous orgasm that threatened to take her breath away. She realized her cries turned into screams of ecstasy, and she didn’t care. In fact, she let him hear everything she felt because of him.
It had its desired effect. Hearing her love and passion was the most powerful trigger he’d ever known. Guin felt his own climax rushing up on him as he struggled to thrust into the clamping muscle surrounding him. He pumped into her frantically as it screamed hot and glorious through him and into her. He cried out his love for her in return, not able to stop repeating the message until his entire body gave out from the sudden relief of his release.
It was all he could do just to breathe. He lay heavily over her, sucking for oxygen as if he’d been drowning. He had been. In love. He laughed at how wonderfully corny that sounded, and how perfectly suited. His chuckle made her smile and she gave him a sated little kiss before touching her fingers to his lips. She shaped and felt his mouth, smiling enigmatically.
“What?” he asked her, nipping at her fingertip when it came close enough.
“All this time I thought the best use for this mouth was in yelling at me about how stubborn I am. Or that I was wrong. Or that I was being foolish. Now I have all that and kisses and licks and cries of ‘I love you,’ too. Adds a bit of balance to it, don’t you think?”