Her heartbeat ticked frantically in the side of her neck, drawing his blazing eyes. The urge to stroke that tender pulse point—to touch and taste every enticing inch of her—nearly overwhelmed him.
Clamping his molars together, he fought to keep a grip on those urges. When he finally found his voice, it came out in a gravelly rasp. “There you go. All finished.”
Seraphina paused, letting her hair fall. She turned a glance over her shoulder at him. “The wrappings too?”
Shit. He scowled and began a quick search for one of the ends of the lengths of silk. He tugged it loose and began to unwind it from around her bodice and waist. The damn thing was too long to pull free.
He swore and shook his head. “You’ll have to turn with it.”
“Like this?” She obeyed, pivoting in front of him. He nodded, then pulled the silk taut, letting the tail of it collect on the floor as she slowly spun before him. Around and around and around, her springy brown curls dancing as she turned, the beads threaded through the strands twinkling under the soft lights of the bedroom.
He couldn’t take his eyes off her.
In some primitive part of his brain, he was the conquering desert warlord and she was his mesmerizing captive. His irresistible, stolen prize. He watched her spin, watched the ribbon of scarlet silk unwind, revealing more and more of the beautiful woman wrapped inside.
He wanted to keep undressing her.
When he looked at Seraphina, when he breathed in her cinnamon-sweet scent and felt the warmth of her skin with each dizzying turn she took in front of him... Damn him, but being near her like this, there was so much he wanted.
The drumming beat of her pulse vibrated in the small space between their bodies, and it made his own blood throb in answer. It made him hunger in a way he’d never fully known.
It made him want to burn the pact between their families and take her right here and now, willing or not.
Possess her in every way.
Make her his.
And a temptation he wasn’t at all certain he would be able to resist.
Not for this one night, let alone seven more.
She didn’t know the exact moment when the air between them changed from simply hot and playful to something darker. Something so fierce and powerful, it made all of her nerve endings stand at full attention.
Jehan wanted her.
She’d have to be an idiot not to realize that.
She wanted him too.
And she was too smart to think for one second that he hadn’t picked up on her staggering awareness of him as a man. As a dangerously seductive Breed male who could have her carotid caught in his teeth just as swiftly as he could have her legs parted beneath the driving pound of his muscular body.
Sera swallowed hard, her breath and heart racing as she slowed to a stop before him.
She glanced down, to where she was tethered to his strong hands by the unraveled length of red silk.
Although she was covered where it counted, there wasn’t much of her dress left. Most of it lay on the floor at her feet; yards of scarlet pooled in the scant space between her body and Jehan’s.
She licked her lips as she struggled for words. She should tell him to go, but everything female in her yearned for him to stay. She was no trembling virgin, no stranger to sex. But never with a Breed male. And the electricity that crackled to life between Jehan and her was something she’d never felt before.
It was arresting.
Terrifying in its intensity.
Yet it wasn’t fear of him she felt when she held his piercing light blue eyes. It was fear of herself and of the way he made her feel. Fear of the things he made her want.
“Jehan, I...” She shook her head, unsure what she meant to say to him.
Forget the fact that neither one of them had come to this place willingly, nor intended to walk away from the archaic tradition with a blood-bonded mate?
But that’s not what this moment was about.
What she saw in Jehan’s amber-swamped gaze right now didn’t have anything to do with their romantic surroundings or the expectation and hopes of their families. The things she was feeling had nothing to do with any of that either.
It was desire, pure and simple.
Immediate and intense.
Her body throbbed with it, longing pounding furiously in her breast and stirring a molten heat in the center of her. She drew a shallow breath—then held it tight as Jehan reached out to caress her cheek. His warm fingers felt hard and strong against her face, but he stroked her with such tenderness, she couldn’t hold back the soft moan that spilled past her lips.
She stood rooted in place while her thoughts and emotions spiraled with rising anticipation.
The cool air of the room made her exposed skin feel even tighter. Her nipples ached behind the gauzy ribbons of silk that barely covered them. Goose bumps rose on her naked shoulders and arms with each second she endured under Jehan’s hot, unwavering stare.
His fingers drifted away from her face slowly, then skated in a scorching trail down the side of her neck and onto the line of her left shoulder. She felt him trace the small red birthmark that rode her bicep—her Breedmate mark. His fingertips caressed the teardrop-and-crescent-moon symbol that signified she was something other than simply human.
That mark also meant that if she drank his blood, she would be bound to him and only him, for as long as either of them lived.
As if in answer to his touch, her veins vibrated with a primal quickening, pulse points throbbing in response to each tender stroke.
“You are...so incredibly beautiful.” His deep voice was a growl of sound, tangling through his teeth and fangs. “But we made a deal, Seraphina.”
She knew they had a deal. No looking. No touching. No physical contact of any kind. They had set clear boundaries and established separate corners where they could cohabitate for the week without having to spend any awkward time together. When the handfast was over, they would simply say their good-byes and return to their normal lives.
So why was she wishing so desperately that Jehan would pull her into his arms?
Why was she longing to feel the press of his muscled, hard body against her?
Why was the coil of smoldering need within her winding tighter, all of her nerve endings on fire and eager for more of his touch?
Eager for his kiss and everything that was certain to follow...
But he didn’t kiss her.
A snarl curled up from the back of his throat. An animal sound. An otherworldly sound.
One of denial.
He shook his head, sending the thick waves of his dark hair swaying where they brushed his broad shoulders. His hand dropped away, down to his side. On a slow exhale, he stepped back, creating a cold vacuum of space between them.
He stooped to pick up the pool of red silk from the floor. He was retreating, yet when his gaze lifted to hers, his eyes still blazed with fiery desire, so hot it seared her. His fangs still glittered razor-sharp and hungered behind his lips.
He wanted her. It was written in his fierce expression and in the arousal that made itself obvious when she glanced down at the sizable bulge tenting his loose linen pants.
And he knew that she wanted him just as badly.
She could see that knowledge gleaming in his arrogant, knowing stare.
Damn him. He knew very well, and he was enjoying her torment!
He placed the mound of silk into her hands, a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Goodnight, Seraphina.”