- The Darkest Craving
“I never claimed to be.”
“Because no one would have believed you!” Surely that wasn’t her shrieking at him?
He massaged the back of his neck, not seeming to notice her outburst. “The Moirai told me something else. They said I’m destined to marry the keeper of Irresponsibility...or White, the girl you met in the club.”
What he didn’t say, but she heard: he was to stay away from a Fae blood slave. “Don’t let the hags decide your bride, Kane. You decide. Wed for love, or don’t wed at all.”
Kane leaned down, putting them nose-to-nose. He whispered, “I used to be, you know.”
He was so close, his clean, soapy scent thick in her nose. Heat radiated from him, enveloping her, and the tremors within her increased. “Used to be what?”
She reached up, shifted the strands of his hair through her gloved fingers. How badly she wanted skin-to-skin. “You still have your moments. But what changed?”
“Me. Everything.” His gaze dropped to her lips, and lingered, his pupils expanding. “I shouldn’t want to kiss you again, but I do. I want it. Not because of the Moirai but because of you. What are you doing to me?”
Her heart skipped a treacherous beat. “I’m not doing anything.”
“Oh, you’re doing something.” Slowly he lowered his head...coming closer...closer still. “I already stole your first kiss, and I shouldn’t steal the second.”
What if I give it away? “Are you afraid?”
“Yes,” he admitted. “I’ve never wanted a woman the way I want you.”
“Not even Synda?” she managed to respond, breathless.
“I understand why you’re so insecure about her. Your family has always picked her over you. But that isn’t the case with me. I have wanted you since moment one. I have never actually wanted Synda. She’s a means to an end, nothing more.”
A means to an end—not a bride. He wouldn’t wed the girl. And he’d wanted Josephina since moment one.
Overcome, Josephina threw her arms around him, and pressed her lips against his. He moaned, his tongue thrusting into her mouth, demanding the very response she yearned to give. He was a master, sublimely skilled, every stroke propelling her need higher, and maybe she gave as good as she got, because his control seemed to be fraying at the edges, little growls rising from him, his tongue thrusting harder, faster.
Then he straightened, a funny look on his face as he traced a fingertip over lips now swollen and tingling from his possession. “You make me burn, Tinker Bell.”
“Kane,” she said, then gulped.
“That’s not me. You’re actually on fire.”
Frowning, he glanced down at his shoulder. The ends of his hair were tipped with flames that had jumped from the lamp on the nightstand.
Josephina patted the strands, dousing the fire.
“I’m not afraid of him.”
He toyed with the collar of her shirt, making her skin tingle. “Still want me?”
“More than anything,” she admitted softly.
Tentative, he licked the seam of her lips. When nothing terrible happened, he gave her a wicked grin.
“Gonna make you so happy you said that.”
He tugged at the cover, pulling it down, down, down her body, baring her legs, his heated eyes never straying from hers...even as he reached for the hem of the shirt. He crawled onto the bed, graceful as a panther, and straddled her waist.
Breathing was impossible, her insides so keyed and ready for whatever he planned, she could only pant as he continued lifting her shirt, baring her breasts to his view.
He paused to look his fill, his pupils so large his irises were devoid of color.
“You are so beautiful.”
She trembled as he reached out and cupped her, kneaded her.
She was shaking too badly to reply.
His fingers slid down her belly, stopped at the top of her panties. He traced the band, and she quivered.
He stilled, frowned. His ears twitched. “Someone’s coming.”
No! It was just getting good!
Kane jackknifed to his feet, and Josephina sat up, smoothing her clothes in place, trying not to huff her disappointment. No longer was her warrior vibrating with arousal. He was eerily still, a living blade, ready to slash.
Four guards burst into the room, Leopold at the helm.
The prince scowled when he spotted them. “Josephina Aisling. The princess has been charged with baring her body to outsiders. Now that you’re awake, you are to be taken to the throne room to hear your punishment.”
AS THE GUARDS approached the bed, Kane growled from deep within his chest. A feral sound. A primitive warning—uncontrolled danger awaited. The males weren’t getting near the girl. If they insisted, they would die. He’d taken care of her all four days. He’d left her side only once, to visit the king. He had bathed her. Had poured water down her throat. He and he alone had done everything that needed doing to ensure she survived.
She belonged to him, and he took care of what was his. Even though he’d decided to leave her to save her from Disaster.
That was still the plan. Had to be the plan. But she’d woken up, looked at him with those haunting crystal eyes, her cheeks hollowed, the fever-flush finally gone from her skin, that mass of dark hair tangled around her delicate shoulders, and all of his possessive instincts had risen with undeniable fury.
Mine, he’d thought, even as Disaster had screamed in denial.
Kane withdrew a bloodstained dagger.
The guards stopped to eye the prince, silently asking for direction.
The prince watched him, daring him to act. With only a word, the man could have Kane on his knees, pain consuming him, leaving him helpless. Exactly what the male had to want. Kane could be carted to the dungeon, leaving Tink to face the punishment alone.
The only recourse was to take this matter to the king. Together.
The last time he’d visited the king, he’d requested permission to doctor Tink. Tiberius had reluctantly agreed, but in exchange, Kane had had to promise his friends would attend the wedding.
“I’ll escort her,” Kane said as calmly as he was able. He would fix this situation, and then he would leave. The time had come. “Tell me, though. How did you know she had awakened?”
“Voices were heard.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Tink said, fear glazing eyes that had been filled with passion only a few minutes ago. “I’m staying here.”
“Josephina,” the prince began, his features softening with a desire he had no right to feel. “I’m sorry, I am, but I have to do this.”
Kane offered Tink his hand. “Trust me, sweetheart. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Her shudder rocked the entire bed. She closed her eyes, breathed in...held it, held it...then exhaled. When she faced him, he could tell she was battling tears. Yet still she bravely placed her hand in his, the thickness of her glove hiding the temperature of her skin.
“I need to change into my uniform,” she said.
He’d had it cleaned. It was folded and waiting on the nightstand for her. He pulled the garment over her head, fitting it over the T-shirt he’d dressed her in, never letting anyone see anything they shouldn’t.
He tugged her to her feet, and she hmphed as she tumbled into his side. He snaked his arm around her waist, holding her up.
“Follow me.” Back ramrod-straight, Leopold turned on his heel and marched from the room. The guards were quick to pursue.
Kane practically had to carry the weakened Tink. He wondered where William had gone. Was he still in town? Kane could have used his help right now.
Synda had come to see Kane to ask his opinion about patterns and fabrics and other things he couldn’t remember, and he’d asked her how William had gotten her home, what the warrior had said, but she’d claimed to have forgotten.
As he stalked down the hallway, he noticed the maids were pressed against the walls. They smiled and waved when they spotted him, some even coyly twirling the ends of their hair.
Drop the girl, and pick one of these, Disaster commanded.
Die, Kane shot back.
His boot untied, and he tripped.
He straightened, stopping in his tracks when he spotted a portrait of—no way, just no way—but it was of him and it was hanging next to one of Synda.
“What are you—” Tink’s gaze followed the line of his and she nearly choked on a sudden giggle. “Oh, wow. You look so...”
“Don’t say it,” he gritted.
“Don’t say that you look happy?”
If the situation hadn’t been so dire, Kane would have taken a moment to gouge out the eyes of everyone who’d walked through this hallway. Apparently, William had stuck around the palace after dropping off the princess. There was no other way the Fae royal family could have gotten one of the monstrosities Anya had commissioned.
He bit the side of his cheek. He wanted the people of this realm to respect his strength; they would be less likely to act against him. But anyone peering at the canvas with him bent over a zebra-print lounge chair, wearing only a blue feather boa while holding a rose between his teeth, would assume he was...
Steam had to be curling from his nose.
No wonder Leopold hadn’t minded the king’s directive to leave Tink in Kane’s care. No wonder the prince hadn’t sought secret vengeance for being chopped in the throat and threatened. This was punishment enough.
I’m gonna tear William a new one.
By the time the group reached the throne room, the air was thick with flowery scents and as cloying as usual. His nose wrinkled in disgust; he hadn’t gotten used to the smell, and he doubted he ever would.
The king perched upon his golden throne, and just as before, Synda occupied the throne at his left. The queen was nowhere to be seen.
“Lord Kane,” the princess said with a nod of greeting. “Servant Josephina. So good to see you’re up and about.”