A delicate bone structure registered first, followed by the heartwarming scent of rosemary and mint. Warm, soft skin. A feminine gasp. He realized it was Tink after he’d thrown her on the bed. She bounced up and down, and when she stilled she scrambled to press against the headboard, disheveled hair tumbling down her shoulders.

The vase she’d held shattered on the floor. Several pieces found their way into his shin.

He stood there, glaring down at her. “I could have killed you.”

“Well, what do you know? You almost kept the first promise you ever made me.” Eyes as dark as sapphires threw daggers at him.

Daggers that pierced him soul deep. He’d always experienced some kind of ache around her, but this was different. This affected every cell in his body, tearing him apart. “Is that what you still want? To die?”

“Right now I want you to die!” she huffed.

“Is that so?” he asked quietly.

The anger drained from her, and her gaze fell to the floor. “No. Okay. No. I’m sorry I said it. But I do think you need to learn a lesson. You trapped me in here, you...you...argh! I don’t know a name terrible enough.”

“I did you a favor. Seeing you in my clothes would have verified what everyone already thinks.”

“What does everyone think?”

He arched a brow.

“I knew it! They don’t just think I’m your property, they think I’m your slut!” She beat her little fists against the covers. When calm, she said, “But it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t have mattered. No one would have seen me. I could have snuck to my room and stayed there.”

“You’re not exactly a girl who can be overlooked, Tink.” And he would have utterly destroyed any man who had gotten a glimpse of her. Like, body parts and organs would have littered the floor.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve been overlooked all my life.”

“Not by Leopold.”

“Yes, well, he’s out of commission right now, isn’t he?”

“Actually, no. He’s already healed.” Kane eased onto the side of the bed, trying not to allow her nearness to affect his body this time—failing, as always. “Don’t tell me you’re upset about what I did to your brother.”

“I’m not. I’m grateful. It’s just that I had—”

“Chores. I know. They’ve been outsourced.”

She blinked with incredulity. “You told the other servants to do them, and they obeyed you?”

“Yes.” Drily, he added, “Some people actually fear my wrath.”

Her lips turned down at the corners. Such lush, pretty lips, even when she was frowning. “Are you saying I should?”

Lord, save me. “No, Tink. You never should.” He clasped her wrist and lifted her arm, knowing what he was about to do was dangerous, especially now, as the adrenaline of their clash burned the leash holding on to his desire. “Now that we’ve gotten the pleasantries out of the way, we’re going to test out what you can do with your hands.”

She tried to tug from his grip. “No way. I might hurt you.”

“That should thrill you.”

“Well, it doesn’t.”

“You don’t have to sound so defeated about it.” He removed one glove, then the other.

He’d never seen her hands before, he realized. They should have been soft, but they were bruised and scarred. Despite the barrier she always wore, calluses littered her palm and her nails were chipped.

Again she tried to tug away.

Again he held firm.

“Stop staring,” she said, shifting uncomfortably.

“Why? I like what I’m looking at.”

“Right, because they’re so beautiful.”

“They are. Actually, they’re beyond beautiful.” And that was the truth. Her hands spoke of hard work and a strength of character possessed by few. He placed a kiss on each of her knuckles, realized he should have waited until he knew whether or not she’d drain him, then released her.

She watched him through widening eyes.

“Touch me,” he commanded.

“You...you trust me not to purposely take from you, just to escape your room?”

“I do.”

“But why? I just tried to bash your skull with a vase. And what if I take from you accidentally, huh? What then?”

He shrugged. “What happens will happen. We have to know what we’re dealing with.”

Even more adamant, she shook her head. “No. I’m not going to risk you.”

Did she have any idea how telling those words were? “Either touch me, or I’ll leave you in this room and go find Synda. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind—”

With a shriek of anger, Tink jumped to her knees and slapped her hands against his cheeks. “You are such a jerk, and you deserve whatever happens.”

He wanted to laugh. But he couldn’t. They were skin-to-skin, heat-to-heat, and all he had to do to get her underneath him was lean forward. She’d fall back, unable to maintain her balance, and he’d stretch out. It would take him two seconds to strip her. Two more to strip himself.

One more to get inside her.

The painting hanging over the headboard shook, fell. Its frame broke.

“Are you good?” Tink asked, too intent to notice the destruction.

Disaster spewed a stream of hateful curses, as loud as ever.

“I am.”

“You’re sure?”

“I am,” he repeated. “You can stop now.”

Relieved, she lowered her arms—but the relief didn’t last long. He tore his shirt over his head. “What are you doing?” she demanded, her eyes instantly riveted to his chest.

“Now let’s see what happens when you’re distracted.”

“What? No! Put your shirt back on. You’re...you’re...so sexy.” The last ended with a dreamy sigh. “Uh, I mean...uh...”

“No take-backs.” He smirked as he took her hands and placed them on his pecs. The sensation was almost too much. He groaned. She moaned. “Ready for stage two?”

“There’s more?” she breathed.

“Oh, yes.” So much more.

He should resist, but he wasn’t going to. Every second in her presence was a torture with only one cure. Here, now, with her scent in his nose, an obvious hunger for him in her eyes, she could give it to him.

Mine. He lowered his head slowly, taking his time, savoring every moment, before pressing his lips into hers. Her mouth opened immediately, welcoming him, and he swept his tongue inside. Her intoxicating taste invaded his senses, and all thoughts of leisure were abandoned. Need he’d denied far too long roared to the surface. He was a starving man, desperate to devour.

Driven by instinct, he leaned and she fell back on the mattress, just as he’d imagined. He pressed his weight into the softness of her sweet little body, and pinned her down. In this position, no part of them remained disconnected from the other.

“Kane,” she gasped out.

“Tinker Bell.”

He forced her head to tilt, taking more. Giving more. This time, bad memories were kept at bay. And there was no pain in the action—no pain at all, he realized, not that he would have cared. This woman...she chased the darkness away, showed him pleasure and light. Beauty.

Mine. She’s mine. I keep what’s mine.

They’d started this for a reason—why had they started this?

Her fingertips glided down the length of his spine; her nails scraped back up, sending waves of pleasure through—wait, yes, her hands. “You must have instinctively built mental barriers. You’re not draining me.”

“Keep checking. Just to be sure.” Distracted words. She opened her legs to him, providing a cradle for his aching shaft—want her, want her so bad—and he fell into it, pressing intimately against her. Hissing at the utter pleasure. So perfect. He couldn’t stay still, was already moving against her, rubbing, seeking.

She moaned with breathless excitement and clutched at him. Innocent, he reminded himself. She’d never had this. He had to be careful with her.

But he wasn’t careful as he kneaded her breasts, or when he reached between their bodies to cup her between the legs and rub, hard, harder, because she didn’t seem to want careful. The more demanding his touch, the louder her cries of abandon. He lost his finesse, was nothing more than an animal nipping and pawing at her.

He bit the cord at her neck, and she shuddered.

“Yes! Again,” she demanded.

He obeyed. Every nerve in his body cried for satisfaction—to give her satisfaction. This woman...oh, this woman. She’d been made for him, only him.

She arched against him. She scratched at his back all over again. She squeezed his hips with her knees. Then...she palmed his length.

Going to lose something else...

“This all right?” she asked.

“Better than.”

This should stop, before he pushed them both past the point of no return.


No, he still couldn’t stop.

He’d wanted this for so long...too long. To walk away now...no, he would rather die.

“Please,” she rasped. “Do more to me.”

“Yes.” His fingers trembled as he jerked at the hem of her shirt. He had to strip her. Had to taste every inch of her. Had to prove she belonged to him, that they belonged together, and no one and nothing could ever tear them apart.

The hollow of her stomach...perfection. Her breasts...exquisite, just as he remembered. He was utterly snared, couldn’t tear his gaze away.

Then she moved her legs, planting her feet at his sides and bending her knees.

The panties had to go.

Disaster shook the walls of the bedroom, maybe the entire palace. Suddenly furniture was rattling, and a chair was toppling over. Kane was too lost to care. Such a lush, ripe female. Perfect in every way.

And if you take her, then marry her sister?

The thought swept through his mind, springing from a conscience he’d thought had been murdered. He brushed it aside. He would make sure she liked everything that happened, that she never had any regrets, that she—