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|Rapture(Shadowdwellers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Something had to give.
Since he had no intention of pursuing a woman ten times his worth and who clearly looked on him like a big oafish brother, it meant the environment had to return to normal or…
Or he would have to leave.
The idea of leaving her, of entrusting her constantly endangered life to the care of anyone else but himself made him sick to his stomach. It infuriated him to find himself so weak and affected. He had no right to risk getting her killed just because he couldn’t keep control over a ridiculous…
That’s all it was. He had never been so devoted to a single person before, never had the honor of being the companion of someone so pure of heart and intention that it dazzled his jaded eyes. It had been like that from the very first night he had met her, and it hadn’t wavered once. It was all just a stupid fantasy; one that a big, undereducated ex-mercenary like him had no cause to indulge in, yet he did it just the same. Malaya shouldn’t have to pay any price for the fact that he had a libido and an imagination that liked to crave perfect, exquisite things far, far beyond his reach. And even if he ever did get his hands on that perfection, how in Light would he know how to treat it?
It was best to maintain the status quo, of course. She would remain infinitely untouchable; not only to himself, but to anyone who wished harm upon her. He trusted no one else to care for her. Not even the one he had left her with. Not even her brother.
Guin frowned at the thought of Malaya’s twin, his sharp hearing knowing quite well by now the sound of the man finally reaching the point of climax. Thank the gods! He had been dead serious before. If Malaya didn’t resolve this soon, he was going to approach the damn fool himself. Guin hated to see Malaya hurting, which, despite all her laughter and giggles, was exactly what she was doing. It wounded her deeply that her beloved twin would not come to her and entrust her with his troubles. In her room at daytime, beyond the door he slept in front of to guard her, he sometimes heard her give in to pained tears of worry and angst so deep it tore through him without mercy.
If he hadn’t known how much it would hurt her to lose her brother, he would have killed the selfish bastard months ago.
Something had to give.
Daenaira was on the second floor of Sanctuary, in a large hallway, finding things pretty quiet because it was during classes and she was in the educational section of the building. She came up on a large glass dome set in the middle of the floor for seemingly no reason. It was surrounded by a low rail and there were book rests at regular spaces. She was trying to figure out who would read a book while standing and facing a big hunk of glass when she looked down through the dome leading to the room below.“Holy Light,” she whispered.
There, many feet below her but more than easy to see, was a large bed. In the middle of the bed was a couple. They were completely naked and…
She jolted back, her face flaming as she quickly looked around. They were having sex! Right where everyone could see! Then some other things began to register and she peeked back through the glass.
She was looking down on a classroom!
There were about twenty-five people sitting all around the center bed on various chaises and sofas, and they were all watching the couple. Some were even taking notes. Daenaira pressed a cool hand to her burning cheek as she looked down at the center attraction again. The woman was a plump and pretty girl with very dark skin and shoulder-length black curls that hung in dozens of corkscrews. She was on her knees, but not her elbows, while the male penetrated her from behind. The male had a lean, whipcord strong physique and short brown hair that hung over his eyes a bit. Neither one of them was moving, as if they were frozen in time. His penis was only half inside his partner’s body and he was actually breathing quite steadily, by the rise and fall of his chest, and exhibiting a strong impression of control.
“Who can tell me what is important for our male to keep in mind in this position?”
Holy Light! She’d know that voice anywhere! Sure enough, the lecturer stepped away from the far wall where he had gone unseen by her until that moment and he moved to approach the tableau in the bed. The closer he got, the more his voice carried up to her. Not that it needed any help. It resonated right through her.
“And, no, Henry, I will not accept ‘oh, yes, baby!’ as an answer.”
The class erupted in laughter, including the models, and Dae snorted out a soft laugh.
Just like that, Magnus’s head shot up and his sharp golden eyes looked straight at her. Her first ridiculous instinct was to duck, like some kid caught doing something wrong, but it would be stupid to move. First of all, he’d already seen her. Second, she wasn’t a kid. Dae watched him as he hesitated significantly, and then she finally got up the cheek to give him a little wave.
He looked away.
But she saw a twitch of a smile stroke his lips just before.
“Jalia?” he addressed a young woman to his right.
“Depth?” she asked more than answered.
“True. Depending on the male, of course, the instinctive urge for deeper penetration should be tempered if there is a size issue. The cervix is easier to strike and bruise for many women in this position.” He cleared his throat and looked up at Dae again. “Kiren?” he said without looking at the student.
“Stimulation. A woman isn’t as easily brought to orgasm because of the way he moves across her pleasure spots. Or rather, doesn’t move across them.”
“Not naturally, no,” Magnus agreed. “But this is easily rectified by bringing her up onto her hands, perhaps, and canting his stroke at a steeper angle.”
The models moved as he spoke, demonstrating what he meant, and Dae heard the woman keen in a soft, lustful moan after several steady strokes by her partner.
“Oh my,” Daenaira breathed softly.
When Magnus looked up this time, she gave a little jump. Damn it, she had to keep her mouth shut. The man had incredible hearing.
Magnus’s lecture was completely shot the minute he had heard that first unmistakable laugh, and he had no idea why. Drenna, he’d taught just about the whole damn city how to have sex. What did it matter if Daenaira was watching him do it?
But when she whispered that breathy little “oh my” in response to what she was seeing, she completely blew out his focus. He felt his very blood jolt in his veins, and suddenly all he could remember was seeing her in a full, glorious temper, naked from the waist up and showing off her outstanding breasts.
Magnus snapped his attention to the student calling him.
“I know you say there’s never an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but he isn’t touching her anywhere except by penetration. Isn’t that a little…I don’t know…selfish?”
“I don’t hear her complaining,” Henry noted with amusement, making his classmates snicker.
“Shut up, Henry,” Avel shot out petulantly. She was an unusually sensitive girl and hard to draw out sometimes. Magnus would have to speak to Henry after the lecture about keeping the smart remarks limited to just his teacher. He didn’t want anyone’s curiosity curtailed for the sake of a class clown’s easy laugh.
“Perhaps. He needs to listen to her. He needs to judge what she might need. And she needs to ask for it if he’s being thickheaded.” Magnus refused to look up again and turned to his models. “Killian could reach around to stimulate her clitoris or touch her breasts. Likewise, Dae—uh, Diana could reach to…”
Thank Drenna Diana’s actions were self-explanatory, because he couldn’t seem to spit out the rest. Gods, had he really just done that? More importantly, had Daenaira caught it up where she was?
Magnus looked up, unable to help himself. Sure enough, there it was, that sly little smile of hers and the most incredibly speculative look he’d ever been on the receiving end of. Meanwhile, Killian was working magic on his enthusiastic partner and her moans of pleasure were filling the space between them as their gazes locked and held.
Magnus jumped, though he quickly told himself it wasn’t from guilt. When he saw M’jan Daniel hurrying through the doors, he knew something was very wrong.
“Killian, feel free to finish,” he said quickly, hurrying toward the other priest. “What is it?”
“Brendan sent me to fetch you. He said he found someone you were looking for and that he was hunting him in Shadowscape.”
Daenaira’s attacker. Brendan had been quietly seeking answers in hydroponics and had apparently flushed out the culprit. But Brendan wasn’t a penance priest. He was capable, but not up for a pitched battle if the enemy was well trained. Like the assassins that had tracked and hunted Trace a few months ago. Those sorts of professional killers were nothing Brendan could match himself to.
There were only five penance priests: Magnus, Shiloh, Cort, Ventan, and Sagan.
Then Magnus had the horrible thought that it might be one of those highly placed males that Brendan had ferreted out. If that were the case, he was as good as dead. Magnus darted into the corridor and took a breath. Deep in the darkness, he began to zone out everything around him, focusing on the energy inside him that would help him to Fade. Fade was the dissolving of a Shadowdweller’s physical existence in one dimension so they could arrive in another. There was a long moment of shuddering suspension and a metallic taste across his palate, and then he was in Shadowscape. An exact replica of Realscape, Shadowscape was a completely lightless dimension both inside and out of the underground ’Dweller city. It was just a step out of phase with the real world as they knew it, but it was enough to keep out anyone who wasn’t in Fade.
He moved forward, reaching to unsnap the hard leather pouches holding his shurikens. They wouldn’t fall out even in a full aerobic battle, unlike the bolos, so he wasn’t worried about making them a moment more accessible.
“Okay, M’jan,” he muttered to himself, “let’s work some magic.”
As convoluted and inconstant as Dreamscape was, he had an unlimited number of tricks and resources available to help him hunt and battle. Shadowscape was based in all of the same physical laws as Realscape, except those pertaining to light. The only magic here was what he brought with him.
He ran out of Sanctuary, following his instincts. He could already sense the enemy would lead Brendan away from his most familiar ground. It was likely he would even take him aboveground and hope he could force the less experienced fighter into a spontaneous Unfade. It was close to daylight in Realscape. If he was caught out in the open far enough from the city…
“Brendan, remind me to kill you when I’m done saving your hide.”
The hardest thing for a penance priest to learn was to listen to instinct more than he listened to logic and the whispers of his own mind. Very few men could do this. Most kept looking for the trick, the track or the telltale sign. These would drown out the primal hunting instincts all of them had been born with since the inception of the earth. It wasn’t about scent or sensation. It was beyond that.
Magnus burst out into the frigid Alaskan winter, cursing at the blinding snowstorm he found himself in. He hadn’t stopped to prepare any more than Brendan had, and no doubt they were all caught out in the cold. Even with a Shadowdweller’s constitution, there was no surviving freezing, wet temperatures like this for long.
Luckily, he was hit with a throwing dagger right then.
It struck him in the right rear thigh, making him stagger. But he already had shurikens in each hand, and after a moment to orient to a straight dagger throw, he sent them singing through the thick snowfall. As soon as they were gone, he drew his katana.
“Brendan?” he shouted, moving quickly to change his locus. Sure enough, another dagger sliced the air where he had been. Whoever this was, they had an excellent ear. Although not good enough to realize he had moved. He wished he could see the dagger better and perhaps identify it, but he didn’t dare pull it out in case it had hit a major artery.
“Well, well, M’jan Magnus. Nice of you to join the party.”
Magnus rolled his eyes. Not very original. Cocksure and stupid.
“Yes, I heard someone wanted to get their penance on,” he returned blandly. He moved low, the next dagger whipping above his head as he slid a shuriken free. The snow was deep, making it hard to maneuver, and Magnus had to watch where he directed his prey. If his enemy found his blood trail, it would put Magnus on the defensive, and Magnus was definitely leaving a blood trail.
“Hey, that is one sweet piece of ass you brought home, Magnus. I don’t care what the rumors say; you clearly know a nice pair of—oof!”
That was a definite hit, Magnus thought with a smile sly enough to do Dae proud. Prick bastard. He hoped to Light the shuriken had caught him somewhere tender.
His enemy laughed, albeit a bit breathlessly.
“Temper, temper, M’jan.”
He damn well knew that voice, Magnus thought. When he found out who it was, there would be Light to pay.
“Wouldn’t want to tell me where Brendan is, would you?”
Magnus silently moved closer. He wanted within blade distance of this miserable Sinner.
“Nope. Figure he’ll freeze or bleed to death by the time you find him.”
That remark left Magnus little choice. He needed to get close enough to touch his enemy and compel the truth before he killed him. If Brendan was out there in this freezing mess…
He realized it in time to parry a deadly blade swinging at his kidney. He shoved his opponent back and got a look at him.
“Help, help, Magnus!” The priest mocked him in a high-pitched voice. “Brendan, your lover, needs you!” Daniel taunted him by swinging Brendan’s blade for him to see. “Do you find it ironic, teaching all that heterosexual sex when it’s not your thing? I mean, you had that little Karri and didn’t take a single poke at her for two centuries? Not even a little suck-off or hand job? Which was really dumb, honestly, because I hear she was really great on her knees.”