Perhaps he should take Leila for a tour? The entire realm consisted of a pink sand beach shrouded by thick white mist, a glittering ocean of violet, and a forest of lavender wisteria trees. Two suns dotted the horizon, their amber light muted, as if twilight forever descended.
The first time Galen had come here, he’d thought, Legion will love this. So of course he’d killed the owner and taken possession. Might equaled right. His first order of business had been picking Leila’s bedroom and filling it with all of her favorite, frilly things.
False Hope whispered, All is well…nothing to worry about…
Galen tensed, his sense of foreboding reaching new heights. Maybe that was the demon’s true hope. To fill him with fear—a malignant cancer—and ruin his time with Leila. Over nothing!
He had a choice. Let the demon win, or make Leila laugh again. Ensure his woman was relaxed and happy, or tense and dismayed.
The fortress came into view, a massive structure with ancient stone walls. Along the copper roof, gargoyles stood sentry. Galen closed in and slowed, then angled his body to ease onto his balcony. On his feet once again, he snapped his wings into his sides.
After stowing the weapons, he returned to the door that joined his bedroom to Leila’s. His ear twitched, picking up the light pitter-patter of footsteps. Finally, only a whisper of air separated them. Today, she wore a plain white T-shirt and nothing else.
For a moment, his thoughts derailed. Look at those bronzed, mile-long legs, ready to wrap around my waist. Or my shoulders.
“Are you hungry? You must be hungry,” he said. He wanted to watch her eat again. And yeah, okay, staring at someone as they savored a meal was probably creep-city, but Leila was his addiction, the sickness in his blood, and there was no cure. Symptoms included:
Acute swelling in the groin—Check.
Night and day sweats—Check.
Total lack of concentration—Check.
“I’m not hungry,” she said, and sniffled.
Sniffled? He forced his gaze back up her body, only to curse. Red rimmed her eyes, and tears glistened on her cheeks. Clench. He cupped her jaw and demanded, “What’s wrong?”
“Everything! You’ve been so good to me, but now our test drive month is over. You probably want to sleep with me just so you can be done with me and and and—”
Not knowing what else to do, he pressed a swift kiss to her lips. She gasped, the pulse at the base of her throat hammering.
Could the month’s end be the reason for his foreboding? “Do you want to know my favorite day in all the eons of my life? The day you doctored me. And the day after that, when you smiled at me. And the day after that, just because you were at my side. I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened between us—except asking for more than a month of your time.”
Her eyes widened. “Really?”
Nod. “How about we extend the test drive another month?”
“Yes. Absolutely.” She leaned against him, resting her cheek against his pec. An intimate pose, one she’d instigated. “You are becoming my favorite part of every day, too.”
The rightness of her words…the fit of her body against his… He nearly howled with triumph. Steady. Moving slowly, languidly, as if he hadn’t a care, he wrapped his arms around her. She offered no protests, and didn’t tense, so he took things a step further and ran his fingers through her silken curls.
Sighing, she cuddled closer.
The scent of wildflowers ignited little fires inside him. “Get changed and meet me in the gym,” he said, kissing her temple. “I’m going to give you a self-defense lesson.” And put my hands all over your delectable body.
“That would be amazing.” With a squeal of happiness, she leaped up to kiss his cheek. Then she backtracked and shut the door in his face, leaving him shocked to his core.
How easily she’d just touched him. How easily she’d offered affection. So different from the frightened girl he’d found in that cabin.
Whistling under his breath, he strode to the gym. Along the way, he spotted the things Leila had left lying around. A piece of her jewelry here, one of her shoes there. A sequined top draped over the couch. A ruffled skirt atop a chair. The sight did something strange to his blackened heart.
The organ came back to life.
In a very short amount of time, Leila had become a necessary part of his family. Though she and Fox didn’t always get along, they tolerated each other so…win.
He removed his tunic—better to tempt you with, my dear—as well as the razor blades in his wings. No way he would risk cutting her. Needing a distraction while he waited, he whaled on the punching bag, working up a good sweat. Maybe, if he expelled enough energy, he wouldn’t get a hard-on every time he touched her.
Nah. He had to face facts. With a female like Leila, he would be sporting wood for all eternity.
Half an hour later, she strolled into the gym. She’d pulled her mass of hair into a ponytail and donned a pink tank and a teeny-tiny pair of shorts, those mile-long legs still on magnificent display. And yeah, he got a hard-on.
“Ready for your lesson?” he asking, his blood singing with anticipation.
“Muscles,” she blurted out, then gasped. A lovely shade of rose spilled over her cheeks, brighter than ever before. “I mean, yes. Please.”
More and more, she’d begun to see him as a sexual being. Which was only fair. Galen obsessed about every inch of her.
He rubbed a hand over the two butterfly tattoos etched into his chest, their wings riding the ridges of his muscles. The mark of his demons. Her gaze followed the action, and he fought a grin.
Of course, False Hope seized the opportunity to build him up. Teach her how to defend herself, and she will have no need of you. She’ll leave the realm. She’ll—
Leila framed his face with her delicate hands and said, “Thank you for this newest gift. I will be forever grateful.”
The demon quieted, and Galen huffed out a breath.
“You’re welcome,” he said, then frowned. “Why did you remove your baubles? It’s important to train while you wear them, so you’ll know what to do if someone attempts to use them against you.”
“Good point. I’ll wear them next time, promise.” She swiped her hands together, a case-closed gesture. “Do you, uh, want to put on a shirt before we get started?”
And deny himself the ecstasy of skin-to-skin contact? Never. “I’m going to work up even more of a sweat. There’s no reason to dirty a shirt. Laundry, amirite?” He stretched out his wings, wrapping the ends around her calves to urge her closer. “Besides, I would never deprive you of my beauty. Unless you’re unable to control your reactions to my touch?”
“I think it’s a distinct possibility,” she admitted, and almost looked…entranced by his wings. She grazed her fingers over the outer edge. “So soft.”
He shuddered with pleasure and urged her closer. “Do you trust me, Leila?” He continued to caress her calf, his feathers gliding up and down, urging her even closer. And, with every upward glide, he gained new ground. Finally, the tips brushed the perfect globes of her ass.
“I do. I trust you.” She gripped his shoulders to steady herself. “But I also… don’t trust you.”
Smart. He might act like a tame house cat around her, but a hungry lion lurked inside him. “Tell me, Professor Sugar Tush. How I can earn an A plus in Leila’s Trust 101?”
She laughed, saying, “It’s Dr. McGyna to you.” But she quickly sobered and nibbled on her bottom lip.
He had to bite his tongue to stop himself from replacing her teeth with his own.
“Why do you want my trust so badly?” she asked. Almost absentmindedly, she toyed with the ends of his hair.
“You know why.” Blood smoldering. Wings, still gliding. Up, down. Up, down, drawing goose bumps to the surface of her skin. “Say it.”
Her gaze met his. He watched, transfixed, as her pupils expanded, like a dark raincloud sweeping over a desert. The blush spread do
wn her throat, where her pulse picked up speed. Her breaths turned shallow. “You want me in your bed.”
“That’s right. I want you. I want inside you.”
She moved her hands to his pecs, as if she meant to push him away. Instead, she buried her nails in his flesh to hold him still. His Leila was a born predator. She’d simply forgotten for a while.
“All you want from me is sex?” she asked.
“All I have to offer is sex.” And more enemies. If he made their relationship official, he would put a large target on her back, and a huge bounty on her head.
And what about a family? Did she want children one day? Galen sucked at being a parent.
Hey, kids. You’ll have to excuse Dad for a sec. He’s got to wash the brain matter off his hands.
“Do you think there’s a possibility, even slight, that we are forever mates?” she asked.
Her tone…he heard the percolation of hope. Courtesy of the demon?
“Do you want to be forever mates?” Damn. He heard the percolation of hope in his tone as well.
“I don’t know. Maybe? Aeron and Olivia are so happy together. All of the Lords and their mates are happy. Ecstatically so.”
“I’m not like other Lords.” He settled one hand on her waist and reached out with the other, letting his fingers hover over her lips. When she gave an almost imperceptible nod of encouragement, he traced a fingertip from one corner of her mouth to the other. “At heart, they are good. Perfect. I’m not.”
Reminding him of the Leila he’d first met, she took a step closer to him, ensuring nothing separated them, not even a whisper. Her body pressed against his. As they breathed each other’s air, their hearts raced in sync.