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|Rapture(Shadowdwellers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
Yes. I do love you. Does this not answer that question?
“It does, K’yindara,” he said softly. “But I should like to hear you say it to me aloud. You hurt me very much when you denied me that day, and it would go a long way to soothing that.”
“I am sorry. I was very afraid of you that day. I didn’t want to be responsible for how you were feeling. But this past week as I watched you struggle so hard to maintain the picture of gliding on an even keel, I began to realize that I was always going to bear responsibility for you and your emotional well-being. It is impossible to be a handmaiden of any effectiveness without it. I am meant to be solace and comfort to you, the one place you can turn to and be a man instead of a priest; the one soul where you should be able to find unconditional love in a physical being. I am representative of M’gnone, who caters gladly to the will of the goddess so she may sit resplendent. But he rules over the land of Light and Sinners with an iron determination to see they pay for their crimes forever. I may be your servant, M’jan, but I am also here to keep you true to your path as sternly as I need to.”
“And I assure you, you are a screaming success, K’yan.” He bent to kiss her mouth in slow, thorough tastes before abruptly lifting away. “Damn me if you didn’t weasel out of saying you love me!”
She giggled. “That’s what you get for forcing me to lie on a cold, hard floor. Bring me to a warm, soft bed and make love to me as wildly as you dare, and I shall think about gracing you with those words.”
“Jei li, my son is due to arrive any minute.” Magnus groaned softly, figuring she probably couldn’t care less. Frankly, as warm and sucking wet as her mouth was on his achingly hard cock, he didn’t much care either. The door at his back was locked, and Trace would wait until he bid him in.But having Daenaira on her knees before him had a way of wringing him out. Ever since she had first taken his lessons on how to perform effective fellatio on him, she had discovered she not only had a talent for it, but a voracious appetite for the effect it had on him. Some saw the act as one of female submission, but she had proven it to be a woman’s domain of dominance. Just the starting flick of her tongue was all it took to drive away all of his thoughts of duty, responsibility, work, and any other damn thing he needed to attend to. She didn’t just like that power, she thrived on it.
And she loved the taste of him. He could hear the cravings in her thoughts, the desire to feel him burst on her tongue in hot, salty gushes. Just listening to the music of her seductive mind drove him to the brink of orgasm.
For the third time that night.
And the night wasn’t even half over yet.
Magnus gripped fistfuls of lush red-black hair, looking down to see himself gliding past her lips as they made mutual effort at it. The wicked flutter of her tongue drove him to distraction, the rushing surge of his pulse in his ears deafening him to the knock that sounded at his back. When Daenaira released him from her lips so very close to his crest, he hissed in pained denial.
“One moment, please,” she called out to Trace, gifting Magnus with her signature sly smile before using her tongue to draw him back into the darkness of her mouth.
Knowing Trace was close enough to hear them, she took that as her cue to pit herself strongly against Magnus’s desire to control himself into silence. She stroked him now as she drew on him deeply and quickly, her free hand scraping and tickling against his ball sack, especially just behind where she knew it drove him crazy. Magnus ground his teeth to nubs, trying to breathe in desperate draws as quietly as he could even as she became more and more relentless.
Culmination thundered over him so suddenly and with such blinding power, he forgot all about silence as he roared out from the start to the finish. He swore a blue streak, called her name, and growled with masculine satisfaction as he pulsed his release into her eager, sucking mouth. She licked him quite thoroughly clean and then sat back on her heels to smile up at him with the satisfaction of a cat. The scent of her sharp arousal wafted up to him, and he grinned down at her.
“Payback’s a bitch,” he reminded her gruffly.
“Yes, yes, and so am I,” she pointed out with a laughing sigh. She rose to her feet, straightened her sari, and watched him right his clothing as well. “I had meant to finish before he arrived,” she offered. Daenaira felt it was important he know she had not been out to purposely embarrass him in front of his son.
But he had known that. It had been clear in her thoughts. If he had spent less time uselessly resisting her, she would have had her way. It was his fault. Besides, his son was a grown, married man. He could certainly cope with the fact that the man who had raised him was having a sex life of his own.
The unfortunate part of the visit would come afterward, when he had to warn Trace that his wife and future child had been marked for death.
And as if that were not horrible enough…
Daenaira sat on a sofa, her legs tucked beneath her bottom, her body poised and dignified as Magnus opened the door to the royal vizier. Trace, of course, looked thoroughly amused as he greeted his parent. He nodded a greeting to Daenaira as well, his eyes sparkling like polished onyx with his humor as he gave her a wink. His attitude toward her had thoroughly changed since the battle with Nicoya had become known. The depth of risk she had taken to fight for his father’s cause had made him understand that the very things he had feared her for could also be a fearsome protection in his beloved father’s life as well. Knowing the lengths she would go to for the sake of Sanctuary, and realizing there was something quite deeply emotional between priest and handmaiden that had his father happier and far more satisfied then he’d even known him to be, had made all the difference.
Of course, Trace didn’t doubt after what he’d just heard that the satisfaction came from things other than emotion as well. Had he been stone deaf, only the high flush beneath Magnus’s coloring might have given him away. The two looked as innocent as angels.
“M’jan, K’yan,” he greeted. It was so tempting to rib his father a bit, but he would wait until the coupling between them was not so new. In a new relationship for himself, he knew how delicate things could be before familiarity settled in.
“Ajai Trace,” Magnus returned, settling back behind his desk and looking very relaxed and comfortable. Trace made an effort not to chuckle. “How is Ashla?”
“Better. I think. Stronger. Getting a little plumper, I’d say. And about damn time, too.” He looked at Dae. “My woman is too damn thin, especially to be breeding. She was sick for a long while.”
“I have heard. The baby will certainly round her out. I am glad she is feeling better. I know it unnerved you to see her so sickly.”
Trace lifted a brow. “It did. I suppose my father told you that?”
“No. I overheard Killian say something about you avoiding her. Once I learned who you were, I figured if you were anything like your father, you couldn’t bear to see someone you love in pain. Which is why this is going to be such a difficult visit for us today.”
Gods, talk about a segue, Magnus thought grimly as he watched the bemusement fly from his son’s features and alarm replace it.
He is no child, and a warrior at heart as his father is, he will want the truth and quickly, she returned.
“Trace,” he began.
“What did she mean by that?” Trace asked simultaneously.
Magnus very carefully and quietly explained to Trace about Nicoya’s plan to harm his wife and as-yet-unborn child. The vizier went blank with fear and then colored with fury.
“Of course, we will do everything to intercept this before it happens, son,” Magnus assured him.
“But, Trace, you should know something more,” Daenaira segued for Magnus once more, giving the impression that they were both talking from the same mind, which in essence they were.
“Nicoya was the daughter of a Senator. One who, as it turns out, is a very old enemy. I am afraid I must tell you that Acadian is still alive.”
Trace exploded from his seat with an oath that even made Dae wince.
“You’ve known this for how long now, Father?” he demanded with sickly understanding. “It’s been almost two weeks since Nicoya was killed! Did it not occur to you Acadian might seek revenge for that?”
“I have no doubt that she will. However, she will not target those she considers to be dealt with already. I expect Daenaira and I will be made to pay for her daughter’s death one day. But Acadian was ever the patient creature, and she is also quite busy plotting within the Senate. It will take time for her to come around to us. Meanwhile, we will fortify ourselves within Sanctuary and live with caution, though not paralysis. The only way to stop Acadian now is through the acts of the twins and via you. You must search yourself and your memories of your captivity and find some clue to her identity. Sagan is missing, Trace. I do not dare presume him dead while that creature walks this earth and was so very close by when he disappeared. Perhaps if we had found signs of blood or death somewhere—but we did not. We made the mistake once when we thought you had been killed, and you suffered for it cruelly as her prisoner for a year. At this point, you are Sagan’s best hope of recovery. The best hope for your family will, no doubt, be Guin. He has knowledge of assassins that we don’t. If anyone can draw an end to this threat, it will be him.”
“Our fortune,” Daenaira said quietly, “rests solely on the time we have been given. The longer your mate carries, the more time we have.”
“And if she miscarries?” he spat, his sturdy frame shaking in a fine tremor under his rage. “She is half human, frail and small. Gods, she may not even survive the birth. Don’t you think I’ve seen how taxing this is on her? Don’t you see how much I despise myself for impregnating her so recklessly, however much it was a strange twist of physical laws? She cannot know about the rest of this. The stress would kill her.”
“I think you underestimate your woman,” Daenaira said gently, and then held up a hand at his furious glare. “I know. Who am I to talk? But we women are often stronger than we appear to you males. Even the frail ones. She will sense you are keeping something from her if you are not up-front.”
“You are Sainted,” his father reminded him grimly.
Sainted. Similar to the Bonding, yet different. There did not need to be love for the Sainting to occur, only the intent of ultimate sacrifice. But Ashla could wend her way into Trace’s thoughts all the same, plucking at his worries and making him confess them to her. It would be a terrible way for her to learn of these threats. Besides, Trace wouldn’t take for granted that Acadian was wholly satisfied with her daughter’s plans. He would need to protect her, and that alone would raise Ashla’s suspicions. Thank Drenna they lived in the royal palace.
“Guin is not yet returned. He is a week overdue. Malaya worries,” he said a bit numbly.
“Guin will return soon. I intercepted him before his return and redirected him to begin the search for the assassins. Do not speak of it to Malaya. He prefers she think he is still off ‘having a sulk,’ is how he put it. I tell you only because I want you to know the search is already begun. I would never fail you in this. We will find this treachery in time. You have my word on that.”
“Then my heart is at ease,” Trace said with sudden and calm sincerity as he met Magnus’s steady golden gaze, “for you have never lied to me and you have never disappointed me. Your wisdom brought Ashla safely to me, and I will trust it again to keep her as safe as I will try to do.”
“Watch yourself, Trace,” Dae added with concern as she sat forward on the sofa. “Nicoya was pure poison, the fruit of a black womb. You know well enough the woman who birthed her. She is equally capable of anything.”
“I know. Trust me,” he said grimly.
Daenaira watched sadly as he left a short time later, her heart going out to him. “He should be headed home, but if he is anything like his father, he will divert somewhere and blow off a little steam first. He won’t want to go to Ashla in a temper.”
“He is a great deal like his father,” Magnus said, the mixture of love and pride so very evident that it made her smile. “So I imagine you are right.” He got up from his seat and came to her, squatting down before her as his hand curved possessively around her thigh beneath the fall of the sari. “There is threat to you, K’yindara, and it distresses me. I take comfort in your fighting heart and third power, but I need to ask you to keep close to me as much as you can until the twins can resolve this battle within the Senate. Until Acadian is made to repent for her crimes, none of my family and no part of this society is safe.”
“Keeping close to you,” she said with soft affection as she leaned close enough to brush warm, fairy-light kisses against his cheek, “is something I find I am growing a happy talent for.”
“Mmm. It’s a wonder I get anything done of late,” he scolded with a gentle chuckle.
“And yet, you have already selected a new penance priest, welcomed back much of the student body, and delegated new staff to all the classes left abandoned by Nicoya’s failed insurrection.”
“It helps that you have been writing my sermons for me. You have a very grounding touch. I feel as if I am connecting to others in a whole new way. Thank you for that.” He reached to nuzzle warm, wet lips into her neck, a hand arriving quite suddenly at her breast. He burrowed beneath the sari and the velvet hem of her blouse until his fingers were pinching her lightly in a tease. “Not to mention I have never been so relaxed throughout my nights as I seem to be of a sudden.”