Metal cut past his flesh, hitting those sizzling bones. Still he fought, imagining his blade slicing through both of these women. More blood would spill. He would lap it up. Strengthen even more. He would tear through their camp. No mercy.
Suddenly a golden ray of light spilled inside the tent, and he would have sworn he caught a glimpse of…no, surely not. Couldn’t be. Yet…there she was. His Nola.
“No—” He stilled, his heart slamming against his ribs. Couldn’t be, he thought again. Unless…was she a hallucination? He’d had them before, yet they never ceased to shock him.
His captor moved, reaching for his neck, blocking the vision.
“Out of my way!” he shouted, bumping his hip against hers and sending her toppling to her face. He’d imagined Nola before, there in the battle tent. Sadly, that glimpse had lasted only a few heart-stopping seconds. How long would this one last?
Had his captor already dispelled it?
If she had…
No. There Nola was again, a shimmering outline of long black hair, a glow of turquoise eyes. She was trying—ineffectually—to tug his captor away from him. He lost his breath. So lovely. His shaft hardened quickly and painfully. Nola. His sweetest tormentor.
Then the vision wavered, the air dabbled…gone. She was gone.
He wanted to scream and hurt and maim. To kill and be killed. The desire came too late, though, his stunned immobility costing him. The Amazon was able to leap to her feet and easily hook a thick strap of material around his useless mouth.
“Finally.” Sighing with satisfaction, she leaned away from him, crouching on her haunches and smiling smugly. “And just as I suspected, your rod is—” Her words halted and her smile faded as his cock withered before her eyes. “But…you were…why…”
He had only imagined Nola; he knew that, but he couldn’t stop his gaze from searching for another glimpse of her. To his dismay, he saw only furs, carved furniture and weapons.
Even as his captor and her friend attempted to arouse him once more, stripping for him, caressing him, he did not stop searching.
Finally, exasperated with him, the Amazons dressed and stormed from the tent, leaving him alone with his insanity.
AS MANY TIMES AS NOLA had been chained and used in her life, she knew the humiliation, frustration and helplessness Zane was now 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—after she’d escaped her mother, that is—but she would have sliced the warrioress to pieces if she’d been able to grip a blade. Exactly as she’d done to her mother. Zane’s eyes had been so wild, his snarls so 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. But she had to try. Zane didn’t deserve this. No one did. At least she had endured servitude before. She could do so again. And were she to actually take Zane’s place, the women wouldn’t rape her, of course, but they would work her and beat her. Neither of which would break her. Because she would know she had helped her man.
“Please,” she shouted. “Switch us!”
No response. But suddenly air was sucked through Zane’s nostrils, and his body 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. She had not only rebuked his advances, she had tried to hurt him, too. Had called him vile names he had not deserved. 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. You are here.”
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 is that possible?”
“Need I remind you of the gods’ powers?”
His cheeks flushed. “How can I see you now, then?” he asked, mirroring her thoughts. “What has changed?”
“I wish I knew,” she said on a sigh. Would others be able to see her, as well?
He laughed without humor. “So. Another curse is to be heaped upon me. To see, but never to touch the only one I desire.” 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.
“You…still wish to touch me?”
A pause, heavy, laden with tension. “Why aren’t you with Brand?” he demanded rather than answer her.
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 a temporary 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 into the tender care 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.
I hate myself for rejecting him.
“Why haven’t you used your…gift to help you escape?” she asked, ignoring his question as he’d ignored hers. Much as this man had to hate her, despite the desire he’d professed—or had she imagined that?—she wasn’t ready to voice her softer feelings. Even she didn’t understand her change from tormentor to tormented. And what if he were to reject her? Her already bruised and battered heart would not survive.
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,” he finally admitted. “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, his chains rattling. 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.”
Rejection. Even though she had not professed her new feelings. As she’d suspected, her heart stopped. Literally stopped. Tears burned her eyes. She had not cried in years. Not since she was a little girl, huddled in bed, dreading the monsters who would visit her.
“I’ve always wanted you…your body,” he added in a croak. “Still do.”
“I want you.”
Shocking. Need trembled through her. Welcome need. Beloved need. “Yes.” Yes. “I would rather give myself to you than give the apology, for I want you, too.” There. Admission. Not as scary as she had thought. Freeing, actually. “But you can’t touch me, and I cannot touch you. How…” Hated need, she thought next. A craving that could never be satisfied.