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|Rapture(Shadowdwellers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Now Magnus ran.
Brendan withdrew the wooden hairbrush from his pocket and absently ran the boar’s hair bristles across his palm.
“We tend to forget what a sexual organ hair can be. Well, technically the organ is skin. The scalp is loaded with nerve endings and has an incredibly high concentration of blood vessels. Of course, if our Dae was a Lycanthrope female, hair brushing could conceivably be the equivalent of tonguing her across her clitoris, because their hair has both live blood vessels and nerves in each strand. She won’t be quite that sensitive, but you have to imagine that she is. With every stroke of the brush, you have to liken it to a very intimate massage. If I do this right, my partner will come out of this feeling both relaxed and stimulated, not to mention thinking I am quite the considerate lover.” Brendan reached out to touch the vibrant red hair that was waiting for him.
A single word, his very own name, had never sounded so dreadful to the young priest before. He went perfectly still, only his eyes flicking up to look at Magnus. The penance priest stood on the main runner into the classroom, his feet braced hard apart, his expression a perfect, flat calm, and his breath coming quick as the click of the closing door finally announced his arrival. His hands hung loose and open at his sides.
But even if Brendan had been a far denser man, there was no mistaking the dark gold flames of possession and rage within his hard eyes.
Brendan slowly drew back even as he felt Daenaira lift her head to look at Magnus. He knew she wasn’t any less observant than he was, so when she put her cheek back down on her hands and waited patiently for him to continue, Bren knew she was purposely baiting the senior priest. Feeling like an animal caught in the crossfire of a war, Brendan hesitated.
“M’jan Magnus,” he said at last, quickly clearing the altered pitch from his throat. “I was borrowing your handmaiden for my lesson in tactile perception.” He eased off the bed and held out his hand with the brush in it like a man surrendering a weapon. “She has such uniquely beautiful hair, as you know.”
Magnus was silent as the grave.
“But perhaps now that you’re here,” Brendan said quickly, “you can take over the demonstration while I continue my lecture.”
Brendan saw Dae’s head snap up, and at the exact same moment he saw a very predatory smile draw over his mentor’s lips.
Permission to touch.
She had given it to Brendan, and Brendan had just passed it to Magnus. For a blood-rushing instant of triumph, Magnus could have kissed his young friend. He just hoped that the gods and Tristan would understand being made to wait for a few extra minutes. This was an opportunity he simply could not pass up. Dae couldn’t back out of playing model without airing their grievances in front of students, and he knew she would not disrespect him like that.
“I would be happy to,” he said, trying not to sound as eager as he was. He came forward to take the brush from Brendan, looking down into simmering eyes of amber. He was cheating and he knew it. What was more, she knew it. Trapped on the spot, and hoping she was unwilling to deny him publicly, he tried to give her the opportunity to speak her permission just the same. “Provided Dae doesn’t mind.”
She gave her permission silently, laying her cheek back down and simply turning her gaze to one of the far walls, passing on the opportunity to deny him. He took the brush and leaned very close to Brendan before asking, “Did you explain the rules to her before you invited her up?”
Brendan looked a bit startled. As Magnus had suspected, Brendan had seen no reason to explain rules that everyone entering his lecture was supposed to already know. He hadn’t questioned a handmaiden’s casual appearance in his classroom, nor had he considered a grown woman wouldn’t already have all of her preliminary education.
The rule of the room was simple. If you sensually touched the major erogenous zones on yourself or your partner, you were required to continue your display for the benefit of the students until you were through. Autoeroticism included. It wasn’t unheard of at all for a priest and handmaiden to model for a lecture together or alone.
A simple touch could have landed his Dae in something she was not ready for. Light, he didn’t even know if she engaged in masturbatory play in private. She could have ended up learning with a classroom of strangers looking on.
And Brendan would have been the one teaching her.
The thought made him glare at Bren with unconcealed temper and the burn of uncontrollable jealousy. Even though it hadn’t happened, the idea of how naïve she had been and of how a male might have taken advantage of that, drove him out of his mind. No one, he thought fiercely, was going to teach her a damn thing except for him. That she was even in this classroom at all made him crazy, though he didn’t understand entirely why. She had a right to learn whatever she wanted to learn.
But she will learn it from me!
Magnus moved up to the bed, looking down on the comfortable sprawl of her amazing curves. The gossamer float of her skirt around her knees as she idly kicked up her feet radiated the innocence of her sexuality. However, it also broadcast her natural, latent sensuality. Her issues with touch notwithstanding, she had a body that was craving attention. He could see it in the curve of her exposed spine, the lift and sway of her cocked hip, and the way she waited patiently with her eyes closed.
Suddenly, he didn’t want to do this.
Not in public. Not in front of anyone else. He wanted her with him behind closed doors where he could enjoy her without an audience, without rules and without restriction.
As Magnus reached down to unlace his boots, he felt the pressure of his situation closing against him from all sides. There were the eyes of the expectant class that he didn’t want, the indifference of the woman who didn’t want him, and the demand of a monarch who needed him. There was his friend who now had to conduct his lecture knowing he had to be very careful not to offend him, and there were the needs of Sanctuary itself, simply waiting for him to return to all that it required from him. All he was missing now was a Sinner demanding repentant justice, and that was usually just a matter of time.
He didn’t realize he had sighed until Daenaira looked up at him. He dropped his second boot, then slipped off his weapons and laid them aside. “Are you comfortable this way?” he asked her. “Perhaps you might like to sit up so the entire class can see you?” No. No. No.
She decided, again without speaking, and slowly sat up. Her free hair draped and slid over her neck and shoulders as she changed position, long dark tendrils spilling down over her breasts. Sitting cross-legged in the center of the bed, she smoothed her skirt down over her knees. Magnus kneeled and slid into place at her back. Setting the brush down for the moment, and wondering why he suddenly couldn’t take in enough oxygen, he slowly reached past her shoulders to gather up her hair in his hands. He couldn’t help himself, his fingertips stroking the powder-soft skin of her throat and neck as he swept all of her hair back beyond her shoulders. Magnus felt the almost imperceptible shiver that tremored through her, and he leaned forward slightly to hide his smile against her hair, also taking advantage to inhale the scent of sweet strawberry shampoo and the luscious natural cream beneath it.
Anything he said to her would be heard by the class, so he kept it simple. “Put your hands on your knees, K’yindara, and do not move them. This is very important, as we do not wish to require ourselves to exhibit anything more than hair-brushing technique. Correct?”
Only because he was so close to her did he realize her body had frozen in shock and, quickly on the heels of that, fear. He was glad for it because it meant she had understood him, or at least gotten the gist of it. He gently touched a kiss of reassurance to the side of her neck and then reached to slide his fingers into her hair at her temples, filtering them through along every rooted strand he could contact.
“Who can tell me which organ is being stimulated on Daenaira at the moment?”
Light, I am definitely going to kill Brendan.
“Skin,” came the confident answer.
“And?” Bren prompted.
Magnus tuned out the voices as he focused on the task at hand. It wasn’t hard to do, the sensation of her body-warmed tresses proving to be more than riveting. He continued to finger-comb her hair until he could hear soft, breathy sighs coming from her and the rigidity in her spine eased. He didn’t even want to pick up the brush. He knew they were both content with just the use of his fingers. But it was a lesson, and not everyone would like things just like he and Dae did. So, he lifted the brush and began to play with her hair in long, soothing strokes. He went excruciatingly slow at times, and a bit faster at others. He turned her hair in his hands as he worked, and then released it to unwind in a whisper of softness. Then Magnus bent her head forward and brushed her hair backward against its natural fall, exposing the nape of her neck and hiding her face behind the curtain of blackened red.
Seeing the delicate hairs at the nape of her neck and the smooth cappuccino color of her skin was far too tempting, just as the pale band of scarring around the base of her throat was a stark reminder of where she had come from. Magnus barely even knew when he had stopped fighting his craving to have her, and as he stroked the back of her neck with his slow-moving fingertips, he tried to understand why. This distraction and loss of focus from the importance of his work was exactly what he had been afraid of. If he had any sense, he would repair their relationship, build a friendship with her, and adamantly refuse himself anything further.
But it was rapidly becoming clear to him that keeping away from her was, in and of itself, the distraction. Denial only made the desire worse. He had no proof, of course, that satiating himself on her would work any better, but he couldn’t simply experiment with her and then decide. If he opened this door and walked through, it would be forever shut behind him. No going back. Not unless she demanded it.
Right then, however, the only thing she was demanding was his attention. She had unwittingly relaxed back against him, her spine tucked snugly up the center of his body as she became like liquid. Without even realizing he was giving in to the impulse, Magnus bent forward and brushed a kiss up along the slope where her shoulder joined to her neck. For a moment she went taut, her closed lashes lifting as she tilted her chin to look at him.
Daenaira quieted again, that liquid quality pervading her once more and her head drifting to sweep back against his shoulder where she remained resting with sultry blinking eyes that spun a knot of raw need in his belly. Not for the lust that fired his soul, but for that empty place that had craved the warmth and acceptance of her permission to touch and to hold her like this.
The priest looked away from the beautiful peacefulness and hypnotic sensuality on Dae’s face and glared at Brendan.
“M’jan, the class is finished.”
Dae responded to that with quick attention.She blinked and looked around the room. Most of the seats were empty now, but there was a sluggish sort of milling about by the students who were trying to affect exiting while still watching the compelling sexual energy between herself and Magnus. She realized just how receptive she had been to him. After a week of sending a very clear message to him that she wouldn’t easily be swayed by his kindnesses and undeniable charms, she had completely abandoned herself to him. And for what? The way he wielded a hairbrush?
Embarrassed and angry with herself, Dae quickly moved away from him and off the bed. She walked over to the chaise where she had left her sari and hastily began to dress herself. How had he found her there? Damn it, she didn’t want him to know she was coming to sex classes! The arrogant ass would think it was for him! It wasn’t. She just hated her ignorance. Now faced with the opportunity to school herself as she had never done before, she wanted to destroy all of her ignorance, or at least eliminate her stupidity about topics even an adolescent should know. Religion. Language. Politics. Sex.
She didn’t look back at Magnus as she heard him dressing as well, but by the time she had draped her sari over her shoulder, she could feel him coming up behind her. All she knew was that he had better not touch her again now that they were out of that bed and the demonstration that had come with it. He stopped very close to her, close enough that she could feel him all along her skin at the back of her body in radiating waves of intense heat. The easy desire to lean back into him again was instant and overwhelming, the sensual warmth of him so strongly compelling.
“We are needed at the royal household,” he said quietly, his tone gruff and low, like a whispered promise he didn’t speak. Later, it vowed.
“We?” she asked, rubbing the side of her neck where he had kissed her earlier as a wash of sparkling sensation shimmered over it. “What would you possibly need me for?”
“We shall discover that as each situation develops, Daenaira. You are my handmaiden and my partner. I will almost always need you by my side.”
“Yes. Of course,” she said, the flatness of her agreement an obvious reminder of his remarks to the contrary that still stung her memory. She shrugged and moved forward. It was apparent the man had no idea what he wanted or needed from one minute to the next, and she wasn’t going to wear herself out vacillating right along with him.
Dae just wanted to be good at something. Not until she had come here had she had even the remotest possibility of that; or so she had thought. It turned out she had been good at fighting all along. All of the viciousness and temper channeled into her speed and instinct of movement was the raw material she could now pour into advanced training. Her bar rail lessons on weapons and emulating a warrior had discovered the prodigy within her, and the last eight years had been lessons in pit fighting. Now she was learning in a way that would combine all of that and more and, admittedly, she was learning from a genius in the art form.