As many times as Nola had been chained and used in her life, she knew the humiliation, frustration and helplessness Zane was feeling. He must want to kill Amelia, his new owner. She did.
Hurting another Amazon went against every instinct Nola possessed, every rule she'd ever been taught, but she would have sliced the warrioress to pieces if she'd been able to grip a blade. Zane's eyes had been so wild, his snarls desperate. And she'd been unable to aid him, had only been able to watch in horror.
"I will take his place," she shouted to the ceiling, not knowing if the gods were listening. Or if they even cared. Zane didn't deserve this. No one did. But at least she had endured servitude before. The women wouldn't rape her, of course, but they would work her and beat her, both of which she could survive.
Air sucked through Zane's nostrils, and his body suddenly jerked. Then he began struggling against his bonds again. Her attention whipped to him. He was staring directly at her, his dark gaze boring into her.
"Zane," she said, rushing to his side and kneeling. "Shh, now. Shh. You'll only injure your wrists and ankles further." Already he was bleeding, losing the blood he'd just been given.
He tracked her every movement.
Could he...no. Not possible. No matter how many times she'd wished otherwise, she'd remained as unnoticeable as the air he breathed. Besides, if he knew she was here, he would be fighting her as he'd fought Amelia. Perhaps even more violently. How many times, before this terrible punishment, had she rebuked his advances? Tried to hurt him? Called him vile names? All because she'd been too frightened of her feelings. I am not worthy of being an Amazon warrioress.
Frantic, Zane rubbed his jaw against his shoulder until the material fell away from his mouth. "Nola," he rasped. "Nola, Nola, Nola."
He could see her. Oh, gods. Oh, gods! Could she touch him? Her arm shook as she reached out, meaning to brush his hair from his face, but as always, her hand ghosted through him. She moaned in frustration.
He laughed, the sound full of sweet satisfaction. "I've finally slipped over the edge of sanity and I don't care." He relaxed against the blankets spread out beneath him. "My Nola, here to comfort me. As beautiful as ever."
His Nola? A shiver moved through her. Oh, if only..."You aren't imagining me, Zane. I'm truly here. I've been here since the day of your arrival."
Zane didn't seem to hear her. His gaze was too busy drinking her in. "Of course I would imagine you like this, soft and lush, but still not mine to possess."
"Listen to me. The gods cursed me, as they cursed you, only I am not to be seen, heard or felt." Until now. Why, why, why could she now be seen and heard but still not felt?
Finally, her words seemed to take root. His eyelids narrowed and his lips pulled tight against his teeth, revealing the tips of those deadly fangs. "How can I see you now, then?" he asked, mirroring her thoughts.
"I wish I knew," she said on a sigh. Would others be able to see her, as well?
"So. Another curse is to be heaped upon me. To see, but never to touch." He turned his head from her, as if he couldn't bear to look at her another second. That was the treatment she'd expected from him, but it still hurt. You deserve it. Take it like a warrior.
At least he no longer thought himself crazy.
"Why aren't you with Brand?" he demanded.
Brand, the dragon shape-shifter who had been cursed right alongside them. "I don't..." What? She liked Brand, but she wasn't concerned with his treatment. He had not fought his captivity like Zane. He had embraced the thought of an Amazon owner. Other than Lily, that is. Lily had been too young for him, and he'd been nothing more than a maid for her. Since she'd released him to the ownership of the other Amazons, though, he'd looked nothing but content.
But even if he had not been enjoying himself, Nola still would have chosen to watch over Zane. His strength and determination, and even his wildness, drew her.
Maybe because that wildness had never truly extended to her. Even when she'd stabbed both of his shoulders with spears, he had not attempted to hurt her. He had cried out for her, wanting to be with her.
"Why haven't you used your...gift to help you escape?" she asked, ignoring his question. Much as this man had to hate her, she wasn't ready to voice her softer feelings. Even she didn't understand her change from tormentor to tormented.
His cheeks heated in embarrassment, but still he did not face her.
He'd once used that gift on her. Had slipped inside her dreams and showed her how good it would be between them. How he would kiss and taste every inch of her body, enjoy her, help her enjoy him. "You can show the Amazons the destruction you will unleash if they fail to release you."
"The gods stripped me of the ability when they sent me here. I can no longer enter dreams. Or create nightmares. They also stripped me of my ability to transport myself to other locations with only a thought."
Damn them! "There has to be a way to free you. I wish I could leave camp and visit your king. Word has spread through Atlantis that he is wed now to my sister, Delilah. They would help you, I know it. And maybe, like you, they would be able to see and hear me. But I am bound to this camp, as surely as if I were shackled. I cannot leave its boundaries." Or perhaps she could, now that part of her curse seemed to be lifted. She wanted to check, but couldn't force herself to move away.
Zane shifted even further away from her, and his chains rattled. It was another stark reminder of their doomed circumstances. "Why would you help me?"
"Because I - " She peered down at her hands. Her fingers were twined together and twisting the leather of her skirt. They wanted to be on Zane's body, learning his every nuance. What would make him gasp in pleasure? What would make him moan? "I owe you. I hurt you, and I'm sorry for that. Sorrier than I can ever express. I want - "
"Enough," he growled, cutting her off. "I don't want your apology. I never did. I've always wanted you...your body."
Need trembled through her. "Yes." Yes. That's what she wanted, too. "But you can't touch me. How..."
"We will figure it out. Climb on top of me."
She did, straddling his waist. His eyes closed, and he arched up. She imagined his hard shaft rubbing against her and moaned. "Zane, I - "
The entrance to the tent flapped, and Amelia strode inside. "Well, vampire. I have decided - " Her eyes widened, and she stopped. "Nola? What are you doing here?"
Nola jumped up as though burned. She wanted to scream in frustration, but held her tongue. One question had been answered, at least. Others could see her. "Hello, Amelia." Did she sound as breathless to the warrioress as she did to herself?
"We thought you were dead."
"You thought wrong."
Amelia's dark gaze swung to Zane, then back to Nola. "Either way, you will move away from my slave."
"Nola," Zane said, and there was a warning in his tone.
A warning of what? Nola didn't face him, but squared her shoulders and forced her expression to harden. "How is he truly your slave when you have not yet battled every female who would lay claim to him? Amelia, I challenge you for the vampire."