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He smiles against my collarbone as he kisses his way down.

“If I don’t do it now, it’s very likely I’ll talk myself out of it once my head clears and I’m thinking logically again.” He kisses a path through the space between my breasts, and my back arches, trying to push more of my body against his mouth.

“Do what?” I ask on autopilot, not capable of actually thinking.

This is my favorite feeling.

The intimate contact with one of them. It always reminds me that I’m finally alive instead of just surviving. Especially in the middle of a game of survival.

He kisses a lazy trail at the bottom of my stomach, teasing me with how close he is to where I want him.

“I know I’ll regret not taking this first for myself if I do talk myself out of it,” he whispers against my skin before he jerks my legs open wider and his head dips between my thighs.

I’m already making ridiculous sounds and squirming uncontrollably the second his tongue swipes across my clit. It’s way more intense with a mouth than with a finger.

Especially when he sucks it into his mouth and uses his tongue to add that much more stimulation. When that metal bar in his tongue only adds to the already overwhelming sensations, my fingers tangle in his hair and I make some garbled noise of praise and curses.

I’m pushing him away, and drawing him closer at the same time, and then doing some shameless grinding, as though my body is confused by the pleasure that is so intense it’s almost painful. His fingers dig into my legs, dragging me impossibly closer to his face as he grows more aggressive, driving me wilder with each new flick of his tongue.

It’s too much.

Erotic sensation crackles over me with so much force that it turns me hot and cold at the same time, and I cry out so loudly a vine slaps the wall near us.

My entire body goes lax after being so tense just seconds ago, as the ripples of pleasure skate over me in ebbing waves of awareness, the orgasm coming so hard and fast that it’s just too sensitive when his mouth doesn’t immediately relent.

He finally tears his mouth away, then his mouth finds mine again, his hand roughly grabbing my hair as he slides over me. Too far gone to think clearly, I’m convinced we’re going to break the rules and finally get answers about that virgin question, when he breaks the kiss abruptly, breathing heavily as his forehead drops to mine.

“We should run so we can catch up,” he says instead, pushing away from me as he leaves the abandoned boxers behind.

I’m glad he can abruptly shift gears after something like that, but I’m not built that way.

“I’m going to need just another minute,” I say as my legs tremble to punctuate the point.

Damn man is still naked, and my mind is a little feral at the moment.

He smirks over his shoulder, looking really damn proud of himself, as I stare at his incredibly firm ass. He gives me thirty seconds to recover before he reaches his hand down for mine.

I take it, and he easily tugs me up without me even helping him. Since I don’t need to be running around in hell’s belly naked, I go phantom and redress myself.

The sensations are watered down in this form, and I almost feel robbed of the post-orgasmic bliss once again.

“When we get out of here alive, you’re going to do that again to me on a bed,” I tell him as we walk out.

“Who’s your favorite now?” he drawls as he turns and starts backing away, a knowing grin on his face.

“Definitely you,” I say with one hundred percent honesty.

Chapter 5

“How much farther?” Gage whispers as we stop for a second for him to take a few breaths.

A massive spider bat flies through me, and I screech before I can help myself. It’s happened a lot since the lights fully went out about an hour ago.

Two screaming vines lash out, passing through me, and slap Gage right on the ass.

He curses, bolting upright as he casts a glare in my general direction. I can only see with the gray night vision back in place. I doubt he can see at all.

“For the last fucking time, they can’t touch you in that form, so stop screaming. I have welts all over my body because these trees really like your little shrieks.”

“Oops,” I say, very little contrition in my tone.

Closing my eyes, I focus on the guys, reaching out and feeling them nearby.

“Just this way,” I tell him, turning and moving toward their direction. “They must have stopped for the night.”

“With the light down, it’s too dangerous to keep going. We’re getting toward the other side of the forest, and it’ll likely be another battle of survival.”

“You’re not allowed to jump, fall, or stand in the rain. Understood?” I ask him, trying to make light of the situation even as I feel the retroactive fear spike through me like it’s happening all over again.

Exhausted from denying my other form so much, I’m forced to go whole. I grab his hand and guide him easier, hoping we don’t stir another spider-bat.

He releases my hand and slides an arm around my waist, drawing me closer and making walking a tad awkward. I don’t complain, though. I’m not sure why he’s being affectionate, but I certainly have no qualms about it.

His lips brush the top of my head, and I melt a little, leaning into him. Our steps are slow and deliberate, like he’s drawing our bubble-time for a little bit longer.

He’ll probably shove me away in front of the others, and that will suck. But at least I’ll have this memory. It’s a damn good memory. The location of the memory sucks, but the rest is awesome.

“Will more black ice be coming?” I ask warily.

“Yeah. It’ll get more and more frequent the farther away from the fiery lake we get. The screaming vines will continue to get smaller away from their main fire source, which aides in giving us direction.”

“How did you learn all this stuff if this is your first trip to hell’s belly?” I ask him, wondering which books I need to start reading.

“Harold. He’s a balance elder, which means he has very little physical power, but an exceptional amount of knowledge, even though he’s only been around for about a century longer than us. We call him powerful because he’s endured death and came out perfectly balanced—neither good nor evil. He’s the reason we have any books at all, because such things are denied simple surface guardians.”

“Will any of those books give me insight on why you four seem a little moody?” I ask seriously.

He snorts out a laugh as I guide us through a thick grouping of trees.

Just as we get around them, Gage spins me and pins me against one of the ashy trees. My eyes search his face even as my chest rises and falls rapidly.

Fear and excitement always accompanies their mood swings, but right now, it’s just pure unadulterated desire, thanks to his incredible mouth.

The back of his hand ghosts down the side of my face.

“Humans have more balance,” he tells me, pressing closer. “Their emotions are watered down and tempered by that balance. Every emotion we experience is too extreme. We fight feeling anything because it can consume us easily.”

His gaze dips to my mouth, even though I know he can’t really see it. The pad of his thumb brushes over my bottom lip, and his breathing grows heavier.

“And since you came around, we’ve been forced to feel more than we have in a very long time before we leashed those emotions and learned to channel them with Harold’s help and guidance.”

I swallow thickly, even as he continues to touch my mouth and hold me in place.

“How’d he find you?” I ask.

“The summons,” he says as his hand falls away.

He drags me back against his side, and we start walking again, his point now proven. Emotions are definitely more overwhelming when I’m in this form.

They override rational thought and create sort of a primal haze around me. Maybe Harold needs to teach me how to leash my emotions too.

“He was in attendance when we were first called to the graveyard on the day we bonded. We went, even though we were leery. We were so desperate for answers, and we assumed this was going to be that, even if it killed us. Instead, we were given a task. Harold supplied us with weapons and booze, and I guess he felt sorry for us since we had no idea what was going on, so he took us under his wing. In truth, I think he worried someone would kill us if he didn’t help.”

“Just curious, how would one leash their emotions?” I ask, thinking of how easily I’ve been distracted from our predicament just because they have awesome body parts.

It’s rather inconvenient.

He laughs under his breath, but doesn’t answer me. I try to go back phantom to sense the others, but nothing happens.

“I can’t sense the guys like this, but I’m too drained to shift back to my other form,” I say, trying to remember the appropriate direction. “But I think we’re going the right way.”

He keeps me against his side, and we continue to walk.

“I smell a fire now, so I can get us to them,” he murmurs.

“How do you know it’s them? I’ve seen a lot of fire in hell.”

A small bit of laughter spills from his lips. “Hellfire and eternal flames have no scent. This is a handmade, regular, nothing special or harmful about it, fire,” he assures me.

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