Concern for his safety persisted. He was the most important part of her life. “That’s your demon talking. I know it. If you would just think this through, you’d—”

“Baby doll, I haven’t thought clearly since I met you. We’re having sex. You’re gonna like it, I’m gonna like it, and we’re gonna come out of this alive.” He paused, snickered. “Get it? Come out of this.”

She rolled her eyes, but his complete disregard for her fears did much to help alleviate them.

Strider wasn’t done, though. “My demon likes to dominate you, yes, and being with you sexually is far more satisfying than anything else because he’s also afraid of you, making your surrender all the sweeter. But he hasn’t accepted a challenge yet. This is just you and me. And need. Hard, raging need.”

She nibbled on her bottom lip. “I don’t want Defeat to fear me. I want him to like me always.”

A slow smile curled his lips. “Good. ’Cause the bastard just purred his approval.”

“Really?” Finally she allowed her arms to wind around his neck. He pressed his shaft against her, rubbed back and forth and pulled a groan of pleasure from deep inside her. But the heat intensified, pulsing from her and he began to sweat. That scared her. “Strider.”

“I’m your consort. You can’t hurt me.”

Another good point. “But…that’s your arousal talking.”

“No, that’s my trust in you and your strength talking.”

“You said I did a piss-poor job.”

“Did not.”

“Did, too.”

“Zip it, Kaia, and stop stalling. Look at it this way if you want. Your Harpy is one badass chick and she loves me. She’s not going to hurt me. Deal with it and let’s move on.”

“She tolerates you,” Kaia lied.

“She obviously needs a vocabulary lesson. She loves me. And,” he went on before she could comment, “she’s stronger than your Phoenix side. She has to be.” As he spoke, he thrummed her nipples, giving her more of the sweet, sweet contact she’d craved so badly. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have gone this long without setting people on fire. But. If it makes you feel any better…”

He lifted her in his arms and carried her to the exit. She felt the drop in temperature the moment Strider stepped outside. Snow poured from the darkened sky, as determined as a rainstorm.

“We’re alone out here,” he said. “Everyone else left yesterday and Lysander posted guards on the other side of the mountains. No one will be sneaking up on us.”

Good to know. What was embarrassing was that she hadn’t given the possibility of a sneak attack a moment’s thought. Only this man. Only his touch.

“You’re going to freeze to death,” she warned as he laid her down in the snow. Goose bumps formed over her skin as she cooled.

“Make up your mind. Either I’ll burn to death or I’ll freeze to death. Which is it?” He spread her legs as far as they would go and crouched in front of her. “So pretty,” he said, running a finger through her moist slit.

Her back arched in supplication. “So good.”

“So mine.” He teased her clitoris, ramping up her desire—and touching everywhere but there. “Say it.”

“I’m yours,” she breathed. Always.

A kiss and a lick at the center of her need, making her moan, and then he was once again looming over her. The snow fell around him, hauntingly beautiful. He didn’t enter her, not yet, but started that slow, hard rub all over again, teasing, teasing. She gave another needy moan.

“Strider. Please.”

“Gods, you taste good. I need another.” Back down he went, licking and sucking.

The pleasure slammed through her and her fingers tangled in his hair. The heat blossomed again, despite the chilly winds, spinning through her veins. Though pleasurable dizziness hazed her eyesight, she watched him, determined to stop him at the first sign of danger. Sweat beaded on his temples and dripped onto her thighs. Sweat, but no welts. Good, good, so good.

His tongue never stopped working her, sinking in and out, making love to her, before finally sliding over her clitoris. With one final press, he brought her to a quick orgasm. Satisfaction burst through her, traveling from between her legs into her chest, her arms, her feet, sweeping a tide of sensation through every part of her. Flames erupted from behind her eyelids, but at no time did those flames leave her.

She began to believe. She could never hurt this man. Neither intentionally, nor unintentionally. He was her other half, as indispensable as her heart. Hell, he was her heart. He calmed her Harpy and now, apparently, he tamed the Phoenix.

“Open your eyes, baby doll.”

She obeyed without question. He was poised over her, hair plastered to his scalp. Sweating still. The tip of his penis brushed her drenched opening and she had to bite her lip as renewed desire sparked.

“Confession time,” he said. Another brush. “You burned away the angel robes. From both of us. That’s why we were naked. And you did set me on fire. Once. But I got over it.” He didn’t wait for her reply but slammed into her, sinking as deep as he could go.

Automatically she arched to meet him, to take him, to take everything. “You…bastard,” she managed to gasp out. He was so wide, he stretched her. So long he hit her deeper than any other. But she was so wet, the glide was easy. “I could…kill you, doing this.” She’d been so sure, after that climax, that she couldn’t hurt him. Now, to find out that she had hurt him…that she could again…

“Accident,” he said on a moan. He surged deep again, pulled out, surged.

“I won’t risk you.” Could she push him away? For his own good, for his own good. “Strider—”

“You don’t have to risk me. And I’ll prove it.”


STRIDER BROUGHT HIS WOMAN to peak after peak, showing her no mercy, bending her body in every position imaginable. He sucked on her nipples, licked her from head to toe, teased her sex with long, sure rubs, pounded inside her, slow and easy, then sped up, fast, faster, strokes becoming quick, shallow, then deep, piercing.

When she lay on her back, nearly unable to catch her breath, he placed her legs on his shoulders. When she reached another peak, he moved her legs to his waist. When she reached yet another peak, he flipped her around and took her from behind. Through it all, she writhed and moaned and begged for more.

More. Yeah, he could give her more. He thought he could love her like this forever and still another day, despite his own raging need to climax. A need that was building and building, consuming him, but he’d never been more determined to brand himself into another being. And he would. Until every cell she possessed wept with knowledge of him, unable to deny him in any way.

That way, she would never forget that she belonged to him, never forget what he would do to her if she scared him again. Not that this would be much of a deterrent. Hell, he was giving her a reason to get her ass kicked every goddamn day. Almost die, and she’d get the best sex of her life. No damn ego check required, thank you.

He just…he didn’t want this moment to end. He needed this. Needed her.

Keeping him at a distance wasn’t an option. Yeah, he’d known how she would react when she found out she had burned him. And yeah, he’d confessed only when she’d been unable to kick up much of a fit about it. Hello. He was smart. But like he’d told her, charring him over an open flame had been an accident. What he hadn’t told her, but something they would cover later? It had been an accident he’d incited.

She’d been dying, gasping that final breath. He’d seen enough people die to know when the Grim Reaper would be called. And he’d known Lucien would soon be called. Lucien would have heeded the summons, too, no matter how hotly Strider protested. He would have taken Kaia’s soul to the afterlife, as his demon, Death, required. Knowing that was about to happen, Strider had fallen straight into bat-shit crazy land and pulled a Gideon.

He’d married his woman.

He’d recalled how Gideon had raved about slicing himself, then slicing Scarlet and combining their blood. The old-school way to get hitched. The action had bound their lives, their souls, and Gideon’s strength had become Scarlet’s. So Strider had done it. Sliced himself and then Kaia. The moment the blade had sunk into the sensitive flesh between her breasts, she had erupted, thrashing, the fires starting all over again.

A little of his skin had melted—like, the top half of his body—but that had been a small price to pay for her life. He’d already been her consort, but he’d added a little…spice to the relationship. Made them equals. Partners. And gods, the knowledge just about felled him.

Mine, he thought now. My wife. Always.

With every climax Kaia had, Defeat became a little more confident in his ability to tame her. A little more possessive of her. Like Strider, the bastard had realized she would never purposely hurt him, that winning her—something no other man had ever done—was one of the greatest victories of their existence.

Bastard was also pouring pleasure straight into Strider’s veins and it was almost more than he could bear.

“Strider,” Kaia moaned, her sweet, curvy ass wiggling as he once again slowed his thrusts. “Please.”

The snow continued to fall, an exquisite storm he saw but didn’t feel. His woman was too hot. A heat he welcomed, adored, craved…hadn’t known he needed. Heat now represented Kaia, pleasure and satisfaction. A potent combination. He’d probably sport an erection all through the summer.

“Have you learned your lesson?” The words were practically ripped from his throat, his need causing his voice box to constrict.


Leaning down, he pressed his chest into her searing back, the ridges of her spine creating the most delicious friction against his flesh. She murmured her approval. But much as he, too, fancied this new, deeper contact, he didn’t stay that way. He wound his arms around her and lifted them both so that they were on their knees, hers inside of his.