And that was as it should be. Natural. Normal. Both of which he probably craved as well.
She would be more trouble than she was worth.
Sighing, she tore several strips of cloth from the bottom of her robe and knelt in front of him, between his legs. His shaft was hidden by a short skirt of leather and metal filigree. A warrior’s cloth. Perhaps it was wanton of her, but she wanted to see him there. Despite everything. She licked her lips, thinking maybe, perhaps, what if she did peek? That would not destroy his life and…
As if he could read her mind, he sucked in a breath. “Don’t,” he said.
“I’m sorry. I—”
“No. Don’t stop.”
DON’T STOP. D ID HE MEAN for her to move his armor out of the way? Or simply to clean him as she’d promised? Already he was nervous, on edge, and had resisted even the slightest of handling. Afraid to risk a mistake, she leaned in, reached up and mopped the blood from his face with one of the strips of cloth. Acting the coward again, are we?
His delectable scent filled her nose, a midnight breeze that inexplicably reminded her of home. A sprawling, opulent home she had not been able to visit since reluctantly agreeing to oversee the fortification of Hell. How she missed it.
“In all the years I have known you,” she said, carefully avoiding the deepest gash, “you have never left your post at the gate. Do you eat?” At first contact, he had jumped. But she maintained a steady, casual rhythm and he gradually relaxed.
Perhaps one day he would allow her to do more. Would she enslave him, though, as she had the others? Still the question plagued her. If there was a chance that she wouldn’t… What are you doing? She’d already told herself she could not risk it, but hope was a silly thing and refused to leave her.
“No,” he said. “There’s no need for me to eat.”
“Really?” Even she, a goddess, needed food. She could survive without it, yes, but she would waste away, becoming a mere shell of herself. That was why baskets of fruits and breads were brought to her once a week—along with lectures about her many failures. “How, then, do you survive?”
“I’m not sure. I know only that I stopped needing food the day I was brought here. Perhaps the fire and smoke sustain me.”
“So you don’t miss it? The tastes and textures, I mean?”
“It’s been so long since I’ve seen even a crumb that I rarely think of food anymore.”
She wanted to feed him, she thought. Wanted to sweep him out of this nightmare and into a banquet hall with tables piled high, food of every kind gracing their surfaces. She wanted to watch his face light in ecstasy as he sampled one of everything. No one should be forced to go without such nourishment.
When his face was clean, she switched her attentions to his right arm. Angry claw marks glared at her, and she knew they had to be hurting him. Not by word or deed did he betray it, though. No, he actually seemed…blissful.
“I’m sorry I do not have the proper medicines to ease your pain.”
“You have no reason to be sorry. I’m grateful for what you’re doing and hope to repay you in kind someday. Not that I desire you to be injured,” he added quickly. “I do not.” Horror blanched his features. “I would hate such a thing. Truly. I only want to see you healthy and whole.”
Her lips curled into a slow smile. “I understood your meaning.” Finished with her ministrations, she settled her hands in her lap. She didn’t move from her position between his legs, because an idea had taken root in her mind. Perhaps he wasn’t ready for her to remove his armor, but that did not mean he would refuse her…other things. And he’d seemed to enjoy having her hands on him.
Careful. “May I ask you a question, Geryon?”
He nodded hesitantly. “You may do anything you like to me.”
Had he meant the words to emerge so sensually? So husky and rich? Butterflies took flight in her belly. “Are you…do you like me?”
He looked away from her and gave another nod. “More than I should,” he muttered.
Those butterflies morphed into ravens, flapping their dark wings wildly. “Then I would like very much if you would kiss me at last.”
KISS HER? “I SHOULDN’T. I can’t.” What are you doing? You just told yourself you would not pass up an opportunity like this again. Geryon’s gaze strayed to her lips. They were lush and red. Glistening. His mouth watered for a taste of them. His horns, sensitive to his emotions as they were, throbbed.
Those pretty lips dipped into a frown. “Why not? You just said you liked me. Did you lie to spare my feelings?”
If only it were that easy. “I would never lie to you. And I do like you. You are beautiful and strong, the finest thing I have ever known.”
“You think me beautiful? Strong?” Pleasure lit her expression. “Then why won’t you kiss me?”
Yes, you fool. What reasons do you have now? “I will hurt you.” Oh. Why hadn’t he thought of that before? It was irrefutable. And the only guarantee he would keep his lips to himself.
Her face scrunched adorably in her confusion. “I don’t understand. You’ve never hurt me before.”
“My teeth…they are too sharp.” He didn’t add that his hands were too toxic, his strength too mighty. Were he to lose control of himself and squeeze her, which was a possibility considering how much he desired her, she would be hurt. Scared, too. Perhaps even irreparably damaged.
“I’m willing to risk it,” she said, placing her palms on his thighs and burning him soul-deep.
He both hated and loved his half-armor at that moment. Hated because it kept him from skin-to-fur contact. Loved because it blocked her gaze from parts of his monstrous form.
“Why?” What reason could she possibly have for wanting to place her luscious lips on something so disgusting? Mere curiosity would not drive a female to such an act. Evangeline had vomited the moment she’d first spied his changed appearance. “I could tolerate what you were, but I cannot tolerate…this,” she’d thrown at him.
“Because.” Twin pink circles painted Kadence’s cheeks, but she didn’t turn her gaze.
“Why?” he insisted. He placed his hands atop hers. Gulped at the headiness, the silkiness.
“You saved me.”
So she was grateful. Exactly as he had suspected—and had not wanted. His shoulders sagged in disappointment. Did you truly expect her to desire you? No, he hadn’t expected it—but he had hoped. “It would be dishonorable to kiss you for such a reason.”
“But I owe you.”
“No. I release you from that vow.” Foolish again!
“Fine.” Though she remained on her knees, she rose until they were merely a whisper apart. “Do it because I’m desperate, needy. Do it because I’ve suddenly realized how quickly something can be taken from me, and I wish to know some part of you before I’m—”
“Before you’re…” he managed to choke out. She was desperate? Needy? For him?
“Do it,” she pleaded.
Yes. Yes. Geryon could no longer resist, dishonorable or not. Risk or not. He would be careful, he vowed. So careful. He could not resist her. Would not resist her.
He bent the rest of the way, softly pressing his mouth against hers. Exquisite. She didn’t pull away. She gasped, lips parting, and he swept his tongue inside. Her taste…so sweet, like a snowstorm after a millennium of fire. Beyond exquisite.
“More,” she said. “Deeper. Harder.”
“Sure?” Please, please, please.
“More than I’ve ever been.”
Thank the gods. Centuries had passed since he’d kissed a woman and never while in this form, but he began thrusting his tongue against hers, rolling them together, retreating, then going back for more. When he felt his teeth scrape hers, he stiffened. And when she moaned, he tried to pull away. But her arms slid up his chest, one anchoring around his neck, the other caressing a horn. He had to grip his thighs, nails sinking deep, to keep his claws off her.
“Like?” she asked.
“Yes,” he managed to grit out.
“Good. Me, too.” Her lush breasts pressed into his chest, her nipples hard and searching.
She truly enjoyed his kiss? Tremors rocked him, their tongues beginning another dance, his muscles tightening against the strain of remaining exactly as he was. With every moment that passed, every breathy sound that emerged from her, his control snapped a little more. He yearned to toss her down, climb atop her and pound, pound so hard he would brand himself on every inch of her. Inside every cell.
More, more, more. He had to have more. Had to have all.
Had already given all.
The realization rocked him. “Stop,” he finally said. “We must stop.” He jerked to his feet, away from her, already mourning the loss of her taste. Shaking. He kept his back to her, panting, his heart racing.
“Did I do something wrong?” she asked softly, and there was a catch in her voice.
Oh, yes. You stole a heart I could not afford to give. He’d promised never to lie to her, however, so he merely said, “Come. We have waited long enough. We have demons to hunt.”
THEY STOPPED AT THE FIRST building they came to: a tavern. An actual, honest-to-gods tavern, where blood was served rather than alcohol and body parts were the snacks. Kadence had known such things existed down here, but it still struck her as odd. Demons, acting as humans. In their eerie way.
She and Geryon had had a two-mile trek from the pit’s entrance to here. A two-mile trek she had spent remembering his earth-shattering kiss, cursing him for stopping it and fretting about his reasons for doing so.
Throughout her endless life, she had welcomed only those three lovers into her bed, and all three had been gods. If gods had not been able to handle her, there was no way Geryon could. But she had hoped. For once, during that too-short span, she’d had no thoughts of controlling her nature, only enjoying. Oh, had she enjoyed. His taste was divine, his tongue hot and wet, his body a work of art and muscle. So badly she had wanted him to touch her. To strip her and penetrate her. To claim her.