The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(82) by J.R.Ward
Preordained. Written in the sacred stars.
She had accepted what was her due the same way she had accepted everything about her life, from her station to her loneliness to the perennial sense that she was missing out on so much through no fault or choice of her own.
She cleared her throat. “I would imagine that the Princess would let him go, if she could. She would not want anyone to suffer, most especially one who had lost a female of worth.”
“Do you know her?”
“I have attended her.”
“What’s she like?” Before she could answer, he put up his hand. “Actually, I don’t need to know.”
“I think she would say that she is as trapped as your brother. I think … she is in a jail of destiny, too.”
He rubbed his face. “That actually makes me hate her less. I guess I never thought about what it’s been like for her.”
“She was told of her destiny just as he was. She has not chosen any of this.”
iAm gave a short laugh. “Maybe they can tell the Queen to go screw. If both of them refuse to play the game, it could be all over. Not that it’s going to save my brother from losing his love.”
“But the stars have revealed their destinies.”
That dark stare swung back to her. “Do you believe that? I mean, do you actually think that the alignment of a bunch of disinterested planets a million light-years away should be used as a map for people’s lives? I don’t.”
“It has been the way for generations,” she said in a hollow voice.
“Doesn’t make it right. In fact, that makes it even more offensive. Think of how much has been ruined.”
maichen’s chest got tight as he spoke out loud things that she had been thinking about … ever since she had learned many years ago that the male she was to mate had found his fate so distasteful that he had escaped the Territory under threat of death and upon punishment of expulsion.
“Enough with this talk,” he said. “It isn’t what we came here for. Is it.”
Her eyes shifted to his under her mesh. “No, it is not.”
His stare went to her robing, as if in his mind, he was getting her naked already.
Her heart started to hammer again, her palms growing sweaty. “I must have you know that I haven’t … I am not…”
“Neither have I.”
She recoiled. She couldn’t help it. He was just so masculine, so beautiful of form, so …
“Change your mind?” he clipped out. “Not sexy, is it—”
“How is that possible,” she blurted. “You’re so phearsom.”
There was a pause. And then without warning, he threw back his head and laughed. The sound was so unexpected and … captivating … she nearly pulled back in surprise again.
When he leveled his eyes on her once more, he smiled for the first time. And he took her breath away.
“That is the nicest compliment I have ever received.”
She felt herself break into a smile under the mesh—but then as he grew serious once more, she did, too.
There would be no going back, she thought. If she didn’t leave now, before he took her hood off … she was not going to go until the deed was done.
maichen’s hands lifted to her masking, her decision made.
Gripping the bottom of the mesh, she began to raise it. Anxiety made her heart skip beats, but she didn’t slow; she didn’t stop.
Planets should not rule the choices of the quick or the legacies of the dead, she thought as the cooler air hit her throat, her jaw … her mouth.
She was choosing this.
She was choosing him.
iAm felt like he was suspended in time as maichen’s face was revealed inch by inch. Her lips were full and deep red, her skin smooth and slightly darker than his, her cheeks wide and high—
He stopped being able to form a thought as her eyes were uncovered.
Deeply set and with heavy lashes, they were a brilliant peridot green. But then again, she was in high emotion and that was a sign of it, something that the stares of Shadows did.
Maybe his were that way, too.
And then there was her hair. Tightly waved, it flowed from the crown of her head and covered her shoulders and beyond. It was so long that he couldn’t see where it ended.
She was, quite simply, the most extraordinary thing he had ever seen.
She was both exotic, because he had been living among humans for so long and had missed the features of his people—and completely normal, because her beauty and her coloring were so much like his own.
“It is a crime to keep you covered,” he breathed.
The blush that ran up from her throat made his fangs descend, and his hands curled from the need to touch her.
“In truth?” she whispered.
“On my blood.”
As if his regard gave her courage, she put the mesh aside, and continued with her uncovering, releasing the simple brass clasp at her collarbone and letting the first layer of robes fall from her shoulders.
She was delicately built, but she was all female, and as much as he tried not to linger on what her body looked like, his eyes refused to go anywhere else.
That flickering pulse at the side of her neck was an invitation to bite.
The swell of her breasts was an entreaty to touch.
The scent of her sex was a call to be answered.
iAm swallowed the curse that wanted to escape from his mouth. She was too much, too beautiful, too alive. His heart was pounding and his cock was hard as marble behind his fly.
He wished he’d had a drink before he’d come here.
“You’re hungry,” she whispered.
“Would you care to take my…”
He couldn’t believe where she was going with that. “Your vein?”
“If you should care for it.”
Oh, fuck him, yes. “I would beg for such…”
“There is no need for that.”
He expected her to offer him her wrist, but as she lifted her chin and exposed her throat, he was rendered really fucking stoopid.
iAm knew he should ask if she was sure, press her to think this through. This was going to move very fast if he struck her with his fangs.
Instead, he groaned, “Please tell me your name.”
“It is maichen. I told you. That is the only name I feel is mine.”
He ground his molars. “maichen, you need to know … I don’t think I can stop. If I get in there.”
“I know. That is why I want you at my throat. No going back.”
His eyes rolled and his torso swayed. “But don’t you have a father back home? Someone who will care that you’re…”
He knew the standards were different for members of the servant class—females were not expected to be virgins, as they were required to be of service in whatever way was demanded of them. But still.
“Are you certain of this?” he said.
His erection was screaming for him to STFU, but his conscience was even stronger than that roaring drive.
Those peridot eyes of hers were steady, strong, certain.
Time to stop talking.
iAm went for her, lunging forward, grabbing onto the nape of her neck, bending her backward, holding her in his arms and putting his mouth to her flesh. He had never taken from a female this way, and he didn’t immediately strike. He was overcome by the scent of her, by the soft skin under his lips as he extended his tongue and licked up her vein.
He intended to nuzzle at her further, but as her hands took hold of his shoulders and she arched into him, he couldn’t wait any longer. He hissed and penetrated her skin.
At the bite, she cried out, but instead of pushing him away, she pulled him even closer.
Her blood was a blast in his mouth, tasting of dark wine and promising an intoxication that started to take hold the instant he swallowed. Sucking at her, he swept his hand down her body, finding the curve of her waist and the flare of her hip. More, he took more as his pelvis pushed forward, seeking that vital juncture of hers that was still under folds of fabric.
Dizzy and hyper-focused at the same time, he laid her out flat and straddled her body, as a wild animal might protect its prey. But he wanted to give to her as well. Moving one of his arms up, he put his wrist over her mouth, rubbing at her lips.
Taking the cue, she struck as well, taking his vein as he took hers, completing a circle that exploded the heat between them.
Before he knew what he was doing, he went to work on her robes, pulling up, higher and higher, the hem, the folds, the weight. Her thighs were smooth and supple, and they opened for him, giving him access to what he wanted most.
No panties. Shadows didn’t wear them.
When he swept his hand over her sex, she moaned and pulled harder on what he was providing her—and he wanted her to drain him dry. But not the other way around. Forcing himself to release her vein, he licked the puncture wounds closed and then found himself drawing his lips downward, crossing over the graceful wing of her collarbone. Heading for her breasts, he gripped the top of her robing with his fangs and ripped it apart, the fabric giving way until—
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