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|Rapture(Shadowdwellers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
For a very long moment, he didn’t know how to react. Then, as if in a surreal painting where he didn’t quite fit, he swept his eyes over the room to make certain he was exactly where he thought he was and that he hadn’t gotten turned around or wandered back to his rooms where he had left her sleeping in such peaceful, beautiful repose.
Once he was quite certain of where he was, he was able to decide just how furious he should be. The trouble was, there were ten pairs of expectant eyes on him and on the bed. Magnus glanced up at the rotunda ceiling. He was forced to add four more to the count, and he didn’t doubt there would be a very large increase as time went on. Daenaira had made herself quite well known, even infamous, with her cutthroat battle to the death with Nicoya. The students had even made up a little song about her epic performance, something about the downfall of the Killer K’ypruti. It was rather endearing, actually.
As calmly as he could, he continued forward and stepped up onto the platform that raised the circular bed to optimum height. Without headboard or footboard, it allowed every student a unique and very comprehensive view of the lesson on display. He leaned forward to look down at her face when he reached the edge of the bed and, unable to resist the temptation, his fingertips dove into the thick veil of her hair left hanging over the bedside. She was clothed, thank the gods, but barely so. She was wearing a k’jeet made of tissue-thin fabric, the milky chocolate color of it only a few shades darker than her natural skin color. He could see every curve, every shadow, and he could quite easily make out the enticing thrust of her attentive nipples.
The urge to touch her there was just as irresistible as the urge to feel her hair, but with a monumental effort he managed to keep his free hand at his side.
“Dae, would you mind telling me what you are doing?” he asked, actually managing to edit out the wild chains of profanity choking him for the freedom to dwell in that question.
She smiled up at him, that slowly sly grin of a cat.
“Well, your models cancelled for the day. Something came up.” The flash of challenge in her eyes dared him to compel the truth from her after so obvious a lie, but he was too afraid to find out what exactly was on that scheming little mind. “So I figured it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle ourselves. After all, the students need their lesson.”
And what he needed to do was to strangle the wretch. Drenna, if she hadn’t just made him hard as a pike with that outrageous proposition.
“This is an oral sex lecture,” he rasped thickly. “I can hardly lecture and perform at the same time.”
“Of course not. That’s what makes this so perfect. It’s oral sex on the male. Something, by the way, I have yet to learn. I consider this an opportunity to cover many bases at once. The students get their lecture, I learn something new, the models are replaced, and I get to do what I have been wanting to do to you for over a week now.”
This last part was delivered on such a low, seductive rasp of her voice that it sought out every raw nerve he owned. Blood rushed through him, his balls aching with the longing of the desire she painted in his mind, not to mention the visual stimulation he was forced to endure as her every breath beneath the k’jeet rubbed those darkly visible nipples of hers to firmer attention.
He could sense her excitement and her anxiety. She was afraid and thrilled at her own daring all at once, and unless his sense of smell was playing tricks, she was wet with arousal from just the idea of it.
The stumbling block here was that he hadn’t done this before.
Not just this particular unique situation, but exhibitionism as a model for a class. He hadn’t been intimate with Karri, and before that had had no handmaiden. Back then, back when he had raised Trace, it had been more acceptable to be without a female counterpart, and he had spent the first thirty-five years as a priest without a woman by his side. It was, in fact, the basis he had used in his supposition about sex versus his ambitions for Sanctuary. As for before that—well, he had been taught like everyone else, had indulged as any young man might have done, but he had been born to be a priest, and he had stepped into the role immediately after he had graduated from his classes. There really had been no time for adventurous games and experimental daring.
Daenaira watched his thoughts fly through him, heard everything he was thinking, felt the pounding excitement searing through him with every pulse beat. If she weren’t breathing so hard, she would have held her breath. It had been a dare, a risk, and a damn treacherous gamble, and it could very well backfire on her. He was so possessive, whether he comprehended that in his own actions or not, and he was also fighting so hard to re-establish dignity to his sacred home. It was possible he might consider this an unseemly thing for the leader of all Sanctuary to do.
Or he could realize what a hypocrisy that would really be, and shed just a few inhibitions.
“Do you really think,” he said softly, almost dangerously, as he reached to stroke his knuckles beneath her chin and down along her throat, “that I would want to share you with the world?”
“I think you have a class waiting for their lesson, and I think this appeals to you more than you would like me to know.”
The damn Bonding. That and the fact that the way she was lying with her forehead now bent back to touch his thigh, she could easily see the state of his body. He watched her take a slow breath in through flaring nostrils and his gut went tight as he realized she was drawing on the heaviness of his aroused scent. Suddenly he could so easily imagine the scenario she suggested.
“Class.” He had to stop to clear the thick rasp from his throat. Right. Give a lecture like this? “Class is cancelled for the night.”
Daenaira jerked herself up into a seated position in surprise, her wild cloud of hair settling messily around her shoulders. The class complained as a whole, but all it took was the scathing stare of golden eyes to push them into silence. When the last pair of dragging feet had finally exited the hall, Magnus reached across the bed and grabbed her under her arm, literally yanking her off the bed and hauling her against him, his stare burning into her.
“What are you doing? Are you so eager to show yourself to the student body?” he demanded. “I would have thought you had had enough exposure after the way Nicoya and Shiloh violated us. What? Have you discovered you like it and miss it knowing the possibilities have been painted over and sealed away?”
“You bastard!” She hauled off and hit him so hard and so fast across his face he never even saw it coming. “How dare you speak to me that way!”
“I dare because you don’t think!” he railed back at her. Magnus tongued his inner lip, tasting blood where she had cut him against his own teeth. “If you were anyone else, you would answer for this.”
“Oh, well, don’t let me stop you,” she hissed, her face and eyes burning with her embarrassment and fury. “By all means, have me answer for it!”
“Is that what you want? Do you want to suffer penance?”
“Gods know it has to be better than this insulated, kid-glove treatment I’ve been getting lately!”
“Very well. This desire, at least, I can grant you.”
The temple proper consisted of three levels, the first and main level at the entrance of Sanctuary, and two below. Penance occurred in the chambers on the lowest level. Magnus dragged her there by her arm and on the tips of her toes with a furious speed to match his rollicking temper.But Daenaira wasn’t afraid of him. Not in the least. Though his thoughts were hazed in anger, she could hear and feel the subconscious understanding within him that he was overreacting, but that he couldn’t seem to help himself. They both knew she had done nothing to earn time in a chamber with him; even the slap was justified in its way and repayable with a long hour of prayer repenting on her knees.
But this twisting need and emotion was what she had lost from him this week. He had so deeply repressed everything he was feeling in order to shut her out of his churning thoughts, trying to bring himself onto an even keel with her because he did not have the same access to her mind that she had to his. He had wanted to level the playing field between them, trying to stop the stinging, slapping reminder the unbalanced Bonding between them gave him of her unreturned feelings of love. Neither did he want to burden her with what burdened him. His worry, his stress, and all of the ramifications of Sanctuary’s now-tarnished reputation that he took so personally, he felt these were his concerns and no one else’s. This was his penance, to bear up under what he had unwittingly let occur in his own house. Ignorance was no excuse. Trickery was no excuse. He should have been above all of it. Better than all of it.
Daenaira thought he demanded the impossible. Of himself, and now of her. He wanted a partner in his life, but only at his convenience? Did he think that because she wasn’t in love with him, she didn’t care at all? That she had no feelings of her own? That she couldn’t understand what a trial all of this was for him?
That she couldn’t help him in any way other than to comfort the hunger of his body in the sharp hours before sleep?
Magnus threw open one of the five chambers, each designed for and by the specific priest that claimed it. He shoved her inside ahead of him, and she stumbled and fell to the floor. When he slammed the door shut in his wake, she heard the crack of his hard-soled boots on the intricate tiles of the chamber floor.
She had never been in a penance chamber before, had never experienced it for herself, and now as she looked around the stark atmosphere of the room, she could understand why it was so effective in quelling sin. The room was designed with a single purpose in mind. Punishment. And while there was an archaic collection of objects like whips and crops settled each in its own place along the wall on one side, there were other, far more creative ways of extracting obedience. Mostly, it came down to a person and a priest, one mind against another, one psyche trained to pick apart a resistant one while there was nowhere to escape to. No way to escape, she noted as well when she saw several ways a penitent could be bound into place.
This made her heart trip into an awkward beat of trepidation. She had not been bound since she had last been in her old life and, while it couldn’t be much more than a few weeks since, she had come so far from that stifling and cruel existence that seeing the manacles and chains made her panic with the sensation of being thrown back into what she had once been. She struggled to swallow this all down as she watched from her position on the floor while he paced in a hard, sharp step around her. He was clearly trying to work some of his anger off, but he didn’t yet realize that his fury went deeper and further than just her and just this moment and that he would find it inexhaustible unless he purged himself of it the right way.
Or even the wrong way.
Any way. Just so long as he stopped shoving it aside and stopped pretending it wasn’t even there. Seeing his struggle reminded her of why she was doing this to begin with, and she tapped into the core reserve of obstinacy and defiance she had always used to frustrate her targets in the past when they had tried to punish her. She couldn’t help the absently nervous need to touch the scarring at the back of her neck where the brutality of her collar had left its mark. Most of it had faded to a sightless texture already, having been given time to heal without constantly renewed irritation, but it was still easily felt and much more easily remembered.
Magnus had his hands secured to his hips as he paced, and she watched him warily for a few moments. It wasn’t long, however, before she was just watching him. It was hard not to appreciate just about every movement he made. He hadn’t given her much opportunity to explore his fine masculine body, but she was determined to change that one way or another. He might want to dominate her along with everything else he tried to control in his life, but he was going to find himself sorely disappointed again and again. She had never been easily tamed, and in her opinion the very last thing he needed was a compliant female who left him to his own devices. He had to realize that doing things as he had always done them was absolutely not the answer. Things needed to change for him. He was the crest of Sanctuary. Everything he did filtered down into the rest of his house. Emotional distance had damaged it once already. It was time he felt his passion to all of its depths, whether or not it was returned or able to be controlled. Just like it was time for the Chancellery to assert itself on the Senate and control its power, it was time he brought his focus back to the essence of what this place was meant to be.
It was, in at its core, his heart. When he had let it grow cool and distant, calling it control and discipline, it had allowed weakness and an undermining of the essentials of what it meant to be a warm, living being. If the heart did not feel, then there was no hope for the rest. Feeling was necessary to passion and caring and belief. Faith was more than rote behaviors and acts.
Love was going to be painful as well as pleasurable.
That was simply its nature.
“Why would you do this?” he demanded in abrupt frustration. It so clearly irked him that he couldn’t figure it out for himself. Worse, that he couldn’t glean it from her senses and thoughts like she could from him. She couldn’t help but smile in an irritatingly smug fashion because of it.
No sense in being cautious now, she thought with a shrug.
“Because I wanted to,” she replied simply, applying it to her shrug. “And frankly, I don’t see what you’re so pissed off about! Priests and handmaidens do this all the time.”
“Well, I don’t!”
“Why not?” she demanded. “Aren’t you a teacher? An instructor? Are you too good to lower yourself to your own lessons? Because I have to say, I see something very different when you climb into bed with me in the light hours.”