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Tentatively, she tangled her hands in his hair. And at first, her tongue was hesitant against his. Seeking, as if she wasn’t sure what to do with it. But the more he explored her mouth, the bolder she became. Soon their teeth were banging together, their bodies writhing against each other. Sweat was beading over his skin, his blood heating as though lava flowed in his veins.

 

“Going to…suck your…breasts now,” he managed to say between pants. “Like that?”

 

“Yes. Yes.” She, too, was panting. She, too, was sweating. Her eyes were closed and her head was thrashing from side to side.

 

I did that. Pride filled him as he lowered his head, fitting his lips around one tight little pearl. He laved it with attention before turning to the other one—careful, so careful to deliver pleasure without any sting.

 

When he kissed his way down her stomach, she quivered and gasped his name.

 

“Stop?” he asked. It would be difficult, but he would find a way.

 

“More.”

 

Thank the gods. Never had he been more determined in his life. He would know this woman, every inch of her. Nothing would be prohibited. Body, mind…soul. Mouth watering, he licked between her legs. Wet, wild, wanton.

 

A memory of doing this very thing to the demon queen slipped into his mind. Do not think about the demon. She has no place in this wondrous moment. He’d once hated this act—until he’d tried it on Nola on that island. Oh, how he had enjoyed doing so, which had shocked him. Since then, he’d craved it—another shock. He wanted this to last forever. Nola was precious, a treasure, her cries a drug for his ears.

 

“Like?” Please, please, please.

 

“Mmm, yes. Before, they just ripped at my clothes and shoved their way—”

 

“No, no. None of that.” As she’d spoken, she’d stopped writhing. Had released her death grip on his hair. “That does not belong between us. It’s just you and me in this bed. You and me.”

 

Her eyes were luminous as she nodded. “Bite me, then. Take my blood and remind me that my vampire is claiming me.”

 

“No. No, I can’t.”

 

“Because you do not take from living beings?” she asked hesitantly.

 

“You, I would gladly take from. Anytime you would have me.” It was the truth. “But as I told you, I know your kind abhors that, and I will never ask you to do anything you do not want to do. I will find my nourishment elsewhere.”

 

“No!” she shouted, and it was a soldier’s cry. She might appear delicate, but she truly had the soul of a warrior. “You will only ever take from me.”

 

A possessive warrior, he realized, wanting to grin. He crawled up her body, fit his cock against her moist entrance. “I will only ever crave you, sweet. That much is true. Are you ready for me?”

 

“Yes. I need you inside me. I need to feel you, as deep as you can go. Your shaft—and your teeth. Take all of me. Please.”

 

Oh, that please… He’d seen the way her expression softened when he’d uttered that word. Now she thought to use it against him, bless her.

 

Inch by inch, he sank inside her, careful, meticulous. Never had he exercised such exquisite care. Finally, though, he was in her to the hilt. They were joined; they were one. She surrounded him, hot and tight and wet, and it was better than he’d anticipated.

 

Tenderly he cupped her face. Her beautiful face. His thumbs brushed over her lips. He would care for her all the days of his life. He would ensure no one ever hurt her again.

 

“Ready for more?”

 

“With you? Always.”

 

He withdrew from her, almost all the way out, before sinking back in and groaning at the bliss. Her back arched, and her perfect white teeth nibbled on her bottom lip. Her head fell to the side, revealing the delicious plane of her neck. Still he did not bite her. He wouldn’t. Wouldn’t do that to her.

 

In and out he moved, in and out he savored her. He stared into her eyes the entire time, and she stared into his. It was as if they were each other’s anchor. As if seeing each other kept them here, locked in the moment, just the two of them, safe and cherished. There was nothing else, no one else, the fruition of every secret yearning he’d ever possessed.

 

“Bite,” she commanded.

 

“No. You are still healing.”

 

“No, I am healed. You told me so. Bite me. I want it. I need it. Don’t deny me this. Please, don’t deny me this.”

 

“Nola—”

 

“Please, Zane. Please. With you, nothing seems wrong. Don’t make me beg.”

 

He could not stand the thought of this strong woman begging for anything. He bit, fangs drilling into her neck. The sweetness of her taste exploded on his tongue, through his body, making his muscles quiver and his bones vibrate.

 

“Zane,” she cried as her inner walls spasmed around his shaft. “Zane, Zane.” Her hands clutched at his back, her nails digging into his muscles. “Yes, yes, yes.”

 

“Nola!” That was all his body needed to propel into its own release. He roared, shooting inside her, filling her up with everything that he was. In that moment, his entire existence made sense. He’d been born to be this woman’s mate. He’d given himself to a demon to better understand this precious woman’s pain. He’d been chosen for the gods’ cruel game to ensure this woman’s survival.

 

He loved her. Would always love her.

 

And now, he thought, an idea springing to life, he would save her.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

NOLA CUDDLED AGAINST Zane’s body, happier than she’d ever been in her life. She’d just made love. Truly made love. And it had been amazing. Her body had hummed with pleasure, and her mind had soared to the heavens.

 

Only once had she considered her past, and Zane had quickly defeated the memories, as only a strong, fierce warrior could. No one had ever made her feel as protected or as prized as this man had.

 

She hadn’t thought such feelings possible, actually.

 

“Zane,” she said, grinning. She was buzzing with joy, drunk with it, and just might smile for the rest of her life. “Thank you.”

 

“I did do a good job, didn’t I?”

 

It was the first time he’d ever teased her, and she liked it. A laugh bubbled from her; she couldn’t hold it back. Soon she was laughing so hard, tears were streaming down her cheeks. Laughter.

 

Shocking.

 

Zane’s lips were twitching. “Some men would take this as a criticism of their performance.”

 

Only when her giggles subsided did she say, “But as you know you did a good job…”

 

“I’m not one of them,” he agreed.

 

They shared a grin. What a tranquil, amazing moment. The first she’d ever had. But she knew it would be the first of many.

 

His arms tightened around her. “You said every time you admitted something about me, you were freed from some part of your curse.”

 

“Yes.” Reminded of her plight, some of the happiness drained from her.

 

He arched a brow. “Then do you have something else to admit to me?”

 

“Oh. Well… I—” Nola sat up and peered down at him. No longer did he appear so confident and joyous. His expression was blank. No, not blank. Fear was sparking in the depths of his eyes. For some reason, seeing it gave her courage. “I love you. I love you so much I ache with it.” The words tumbled from her; she couldn’t stop them. “I can’t imagine my life without you in it. I want to make love to you every night and wake up to you every morning. And I don’t want you to think I’m saying this only because I wish to lift the curse. I’m not.”

 

“You are too honest for such a trick.” He grabbed her and rolled her under him. “And just so you know, I love you, too. So much I would die without you. You are my life, my heart, my everything. Wherever you are, that’s where I want to be.”

 

She hadn’t dared dream of having a man like him, or a life like they would surely lead, not even as a child. It had seemed too much to ask, too unattainable, and she had preferred to wallow in her sorrows rather than risk hope.

 

“The gods didn’t take your ability from you, you know,” she said. “Not completely. You can still create dreams. For the first time in my life, I see joy in my future.”

 

“Oh, Nola. You are my joy.”

 

With another laugh, she threw her arms around him and rolled him to his back. Her dark hair fell around him, forming a curtain that left only the two of them—just the way she liked it.

 

They made love twice more and spent several hours simply talking and getting to know each other better, before dressing and emerging from the tent. Night had fallen, but vampire warriors still patrolled the area.

 

She froze in place. “Zane. I don’t know about this.”

 

“We must speak with Layel,” he said, remaining beside her. “Inform him that you will be coming with us.”

 

“If I can.”

 

“You can.”

 

He sounded confident. “How do you know?”

 

“You admitted you loved me.”

 

“Yes, but that might not be the admission needed to free me from this camp.”

 

He ignored her, perhaps sensing there was nothing he could say to assuage her fears. “Now, where is that king of mine?”

 

Distraction. He did know her well. Nola spotted the king and her sister in front of the fire, and gulped. There was no love lost between herself and Delilah. Nola had once tried to murder Layel, after all. “Will they…what if…”

 

Zane captured her hand with his own and squeezed. “They will love and welcome you or we will find somewhere else to live.”

 

She shook her head. “I don’t want you to lose everything you hold dear because of me.”

 

“Nola,” he said, forcing her to look up at him. “You are all that I hold dear. Nothing else matters to me.”

 

Tears burned her eyes. “What did I ever do to deserve you?”

 

“It is I who is undeserving. But you have my word, I will do everything in my power to prove myself worthy of you.”

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