“Oh.” Her brows knit as she walked slowly back to him. “You set him straight, did you? And what do you mean by that?”
Rune watched her hips sway with each gliding step. Hips his hands itched to touch them—to grasp onto them and drag her close. “I explained—not in so many words—that you were off-limits. I made sure he knew you were mine.”
“Am I?” A smile danced at the corners of her mouth.
She was toying with him now, enjoying his possessiveness. “You know you are.”
“Mmm, but I always like hearing you say it.”
“You’re mine, Carys.”
As she stood there, holding the accoutrements of his brutal profession in her hands, for an instant he was gripped with a dread he couldn’t justify or explain. Nor could he shake it.
Scowling, he blew out a low curse. “Come out of there, now. You shouldn’t be handling those things.”
When she didn’t obey him, he stepped inside and took them from her loose grasp. The urge to smash the gloves and torc against the nearest wall was almost overwhelming.
Carys’s hand came up to his face, caressing his rigid jaw. Fire glittered in her irises, and her smile turned a little wicked. “You defended my honor.”
Oh, she was enjoying that fact all right. The sparks in her eyes intensified, desire lighting them with a heat that Rune’s body responded to like dry tinder.
Looping her arms around the back of his neck, she tilted her head up to brush her mouth against his. “You’re my knight in shining armor.”
He scoffed. “Hardly that.”
“You are. You just don’t know it.” She held his gaze, studying him. “I would defend you too, Rune. No matter what. To anyone. To the death, if that’s what it came down to.”
The very thought froze the blood in his veins. “Christ, don’t say that. Don’t ever fucking say that.”
“Why not? It’s true.”
“Even worse,” he growled.
He wanted to feel anger when he stared into her fiery blue gaze, but it was need that spiked through him instead. Need so deep and strong, it rumbled out of him on a ragged breath through his emerging fangs.
He couldn’t stop her from caring for him. She could even love him if she didn’t have the good sense to give her heart to someone more worthy. But to say she would die for him? Christ. No man would ever be worth so much, least of all him.
She deserved to know that.
She deserved to understand that she was pledging her life to a merciless killer. Not only in the cage, but all aspects of his life. From the time of his hideous beginnings, to the half-truth he lived now. He wasn’t worthy of the love she gave him so freely.
Eventually, unless he found the will to walk away from her, Carys would one day learn all of the shame that clung to him even now.
If he had any honor at all, he’d have told her everything already. Before he’d let himself care whether or not she stayed. Before he’d let himself fall in love with her.
The words were right there now—poison at the tip of his tongue.
All he had to do was spit them out.
But then Carys kissed him. Her tongue thrust into his mouth, past his teeth and fangs, greedy and demanding. The erotic sensation of it arrowed straight to his balls. His fangs throbbed in time with the pulse now hammering in his cock, and what little honor he had was swallowed up by the consuming heat of her mouth on his.
He groaned, suspended between torment and ecstasy as she tightened her arms around his neck and her kiss took on a more fevered urgency. Their tongues tangled, fangs clashing as Carys pressed herself against him.
The leather shorts he wore from the halted fight barely held his raging arousal. His sex was hard as stone and starving to get loose. To get inside the temptress who was swiftly stoking him toward madness with her hot little mouth and merciless curves.
He slid one thigh between hers and ground against her, growling at the pleasurable friction of his shaft riding her hip as her tongue thrust in and out of his mouth.
It took all he had to keep a leash on his Breed instincts. It would be so easy to give in to the primal urge to take her plump lower lip between his teeth and bite down, hard enough to draw blood. It would be the act of an instant to break away from her mouth and sink his fangs into the soft flesh of her throat.
So goddamn tempting . . .
She had no idea how often he fought those urges with her.
Nor could she know. Because if she did, his beautiful, headstrong rebel would make certain he gave in to them.
Her mouth still joined with his, she dropped her hands to his bare shoulders and chest. Her fingers skated over his skin, tracing the swirls and flourishes of his glyphs as if she knew their patterns by heart.
No doubt, she did. Of her two Breed gifts, it was her photographic memory that was her most powerful where he was concerned. She knew exactly how to touch him, precisely how to bring him to the edge of oblivion.
When she reached down beneath the loose ties of his shorts to grasp his sex, Rune sucked in a tormented moan. His blood raced through his veins, most of it already heading south to meet the demand of his engorged shaft.
Carys palmed the blunt head of him, slicking her fingertips with the wetness that beaded there. Her caress glided along his length, a sure and steady motion that built swiftly toward an unbearable ache. She showed him no mercy, her touch leaving him taut as a bowstring and panting with need.
Rune still held his fighting gloves and steel torc in one hand. With each sure stroke of her fingers over his stiff cock, his fist tightened, driving the titanium spikes deeper into his palm. He barely felt the pain for all the pleasure of her touch.
And he needed to touch her too.
But not here.
The fighting pit was for pain and destruction, not anything he shared with her, no matter how hungry he was to take her beneath him regardless of where they were. But not in the cage.
He would never let that brutal part of his life brush too closely against what he had with Carys.
He pulled away from her kiss on a harsh curse.
Her touch stilled, confusion dimming the bright embers of her transformed eyes. “What’s wrong?”
He didn’t answer. He didn’t have words, only need.
Taking her hand from his chest, he laced their fingers together and led her out of the cage.
He brought her through the vacant corridors of the arena to his private quarters, tossing aside his gloves and torc as soon as he entered his chamber with her. Carys sighed as his hands found her face and held her steady for his kiss.
Breathless, weightless on her feet, she melted into his touch, into his fevered claiming of her mouth. He stopped only long enough to bring her with him into his bedroom, saying nothing, even as he pulled her into his arms with another searing kiss.
He hadn’t answered her back in the cage. She knew part of his brooding silence could be blamed on need. She felt it too—the flashfire heat that ignited between them whenever they came together.
But something was troubling him. Had been, even before his abrupt exit with her from the arena. She couldn’t pretend she hadn’t noticed.
When their kiss finally broke, she rested her forehead against his and stared into his smoldering eyes. “What happened, Rune? Because if I did something, or said something that bothered you—”
He scowled and reached up to caress her cheek. “You’re doing everything right. All you have to do is look at me now to see that.”