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She continued, “The thought of being with you is welcome. I promise you. Now can we kiss?”

 

Now his mouth opened and closed. “Welcome?”

 

She supposed not. “Yes. But I don’t want you to bond with me simply to save me.” She had once been too afraid to admit she craved his body, had pretended merely to be grateful to get a kiss. There would be no more pretending. “I want you to want to do this. Because I…I want you inside of me, becoming part of me, more than I want another tomorrow. I want to be your woman, now and always.”

 

Before he could respond, another pain slicked through her, raining like poisoned hail and curling her into a ball. Another crack had just slithered through the wall; she saw it in her mind.

 

“Geryon?” she panted. “You must decide.”

 

His gaze bore into her. “I once swore that were I ever lucky enough to regain my soul, I would never, for any reason, trade it again. I have just realized that I would willingly trade it for you, Kadence. So yes, I want to do this. Now we can kiss.”

 

AS THEIR MOUTHS WORKED hungrily, Geryon slowly divested Kadence of her robe, careful not to hurt her with his razor-sharp nails. She was already in pain and he doubted she could bear much more. Beautiful, precious woman. She deserved only pleasure.

 

For whatever reason, she desired him. Desired forever. Together. She had given him the thing he’d thought he valued most—his soul—but he had not known until he’d watched her curl into a ball that he valued her more. Far more. He’d longed to take her pain into himself. For her, anything. She cared not that he was a beast. She saw to the heart of him, and liked it.

 

Amazing.

 

When she was naked, he pulled back and drank her in. Alabaster skin dusted with the sweetest hint of rose. Lush breasts, a curved waist, a navel his mouth watered to sample. Legs that stretched for miles. He bent and licked one of her nipples, laving his tongue around the delectable tip, his hands traveling all over her body.

 

The closer his fingers came to her core, the more she purred a deep sigh of satisfaction, her pain seeming to melt away. “The pleasure, it’s replacing the pain,” she said, confirming his thoughts.

 

Thank the gods. He moved his attention to her other nipple, sucking, allowing the tip of a fang to graze it ever so gently. She moaned.

 

“Still helping?” All the while his fingers teased just above her clitoris, not touching, only teasing. Was he doing this right? Please, gods, let him be doing this right.

 

“Still helping. But I want to see you,” she said, giving his armor a pointed stare.

 

He lifted his head and peered into her eyes. “Are you sure? I could take you without removing a single piece of armor.”

 

“I want all of you, Geryon.” Her features were luminescent. “All.”

 

Beautiful, precious woman, he thought again. “Whatever you desire, you shall have.” He only hoped she did not change her mind when she saw him.

 

“Do not fear my reaction. You are beautiful to me.”

 

Such sweet words. But…he’d lived with his insecurities so long, they were a part of him. “How can I be? Look at me. I am a beast. A monster. Something to be feared and reviled.”

 

“I am looking at you and you are something to be praised. You may not bear the appearance of other men, but you have strength and courage. Besides,” she added, licking her lips, “animal magnetism is a very good thing. Now, show your future bride what she wants to see.”

 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

 

GERYON REMOVED HIS BREAST cloth and tossed it aside, his too-corded chest with its scars, fur and over-large bones revealed. His hands shook as he then unwound the leather wrapped around his waist, as well as the rounded piece of armor, slowly revealing his hardened shaft, his scarred and fur-lined thighs.

 

He tensed, waiting for the inevitable gasp of horror, even though Kadence had assured him of his “animal magnetism.”

 

“Beautiful,” she said reverently. “A true warrior. My warrior.” She reached up and ran her fingertips through that fur. “Soft. I like. No. I love.”

 

Breath seeped from his parted lips, breath he had not realized he’d been holding until just then. “Kadence. Sweet Kadence,” he rasped. She was…she was…everything. What had he ever done to deserve her? If he hadn’t fallen in love with her already, he would have fallen then.

 

“Want to taste you.”

 

“Please.”

 

As the hottest thrum of desire he’d ever experienced pounded through him, he kissed his way down her stomach, stopping only to dip his tongue inside her navel. She trembled. When he reached the apex of her thighs, he worshipped her, sipping, licking, nibbling, loving, and the trembling became writhing.

 

“Amazing,” she gasped, fisting his hair. “Don’t stop. Please don’t stop.”

 

He could feel the power of her, wrapping around him, trying to drive his actions. He wasn’t sure if he could have disobeyed and he didn’t care. He wanted to devour her, possess her, and he did.

 

Only when she came apart, screaming her pleasure, did he rise above her. He was proud and honored to have given her such ecstasy. But he was trembling now himself, his body on fire. Desperate. Aching. For her, only her.

 

“Pain?”

 

“Gone.”

 

The fact that this bonding could save her might be the reason he’d dared broach the subject, but he had never been happier. She would be his. She would live.

 

Her legs wound around him, and she cupped his cheeks, staring deep into his eyes. “Please don’t change your mind. I need more of you.”

 

He had stilled, he realized, poised at her entrance. “Never change my mind. Must have you. Ready?”

 

“Always.”

 

He entered her an inch, one blessed inch. Stopped, gave her time to adjust. He’d go slowly if it killed him. And it might. Torture. The sweetest kind of torture. But he would make this good for her, the best.

 

“Why do I not feel the need to master you?” she purred into his ear. She bit the lobe.

 

Sweet fire. “That’s how it was, before?” Sweat beaded all over him and dripped onto her.

 

She nodded, arching her hips to take more of him. Another inch.

 

He had to cut off a groan. “Perhaps because my heart is so completely yours, there’s nothing left to master.”

 

“Oh, Geryon. Please.” She stroked his horns, circling a fingertip over the hard points. “Take me all the way. Give me everything.”

 

He could deny her nothing.

 

Releasing his fierce grip on control, he pounded forward and she cried out. Not in pain, but in joy, he realized. Their souls—he had a soul, he truly had a soul—were dancing together, intertwining…joining. Yes. Yes. Over and over he filled her, giving her all of him. Their wills intermingled so completely, it was impossible to tell who wanted what. Pleasure was the only goal.

 

His nails raked the floor beside her head, his teeth even nipped her, but she loved it all, urging him on, still begging for more. And when he spilled his seed inside her, her inner walls clutching him in her own surge of satisfaction, he shouted the words that had been building inside of him since the moment he’d met her. “I love you!”

 

To his surprise, she gave a shout of her own. “Oh, Geryon. I love you, too.”

 

They were mated.

 

They were bound.

 

THEY QUICKLY DRESSED. Kadence was still weak, but at least the pain had stopped.

 

“Are they still at the gate?” Geryon asked. He was ready to end this. To take her away from this realm and cherish her always.

 

What if she still could not leave?

 

The thought drifted through his head but he ignored it. He would finally have a happy ending. Because they were together. Because they loved.

 

“Oh, yes,” she said. “They’re working it feverishly.”

 

He kissed her lips, and he reveled in another taste of this woman he loved. “We will hike there. The moment you spy them, lock them in place, and I will do the rest.”

 

“I hope this works,” she said, “because I couldn’t bear the thought of being parted from you.”

 

Neither could he. “It will. It has to.”

 

CHAPTER NINETEEN

 

THE HIKE TOOK AN HOUR, a slow torturous hour as well as a too-quick span, and then Geryon found himself standing a few yards from the wall. When he comprehended the carnage around him, he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. The demons had worked so fervently, they had bled all over the stones—stones that had been shredded, almost paper thin. A hole was imminent.

 

Worse, the horde of Demon Lords was still there. They were huge, all of them at least seven foot, their bodies so broad that even Geryon, massive as he was, would not be able to stretch his arms wide enough to measure them. Skeletons were visible underneath the translucent skin. A few had wings, a few scales, and all were grotesque in their evil. Red eyes, horns like Geryon and fingers like knives.

 

“Kadence,” he said.

 

“I’m trying, Geryon, I swear I am.” Each word was softer, weaker. “But…”

 

One of the…things spotted them. Laughed, a sound that raised every hair on his body.

 

“Now,” he shouted to Kadence. Please.

 

“Freeze, demons. I demand that you freeze.”

 

They did not.

 

“Try again.”

 

“Am.” She glared over at them—nothing. Pointed her hands at them—nothing. Groaned with the force of her will—but still nothing happened. The Lords did not freeze in place. “I can’t,” she gasped out.

 

“What’s wrong?” He glanced at her, even as he moved in front of her, repositioning his arm around her waist. She had paled, as she had while working in the bar, and her trembling had returned. Had his arm not been around her, he knew she would have fallen. Had the bonding not worked, then? “Talk to me, sweetheart.”

 

He watched the demons as they rallied together, watching him. Laughing. Imagining how they would kill him?

 

“I’m bound to you and the wall. I can feel your strength, its weakness, and it’s tearing me apart,” she cried. “I’m sorry. So sorry. All of this was for nothing, Geryon. Nothing! I’m doomed. I was doomed all along.”

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