Lucius sat me on the edge of my bed and pulled my duvet up around me. He eased down next to me and rested his palm on my cheek. I flinched away, but he wrapped his other arm around my waist, holding me still.
“Did he hurt you?” His sky blue gaze searched my face.
“No.” I shook my head, ignoring the tremor in my voice.
“He’ll never hurt you again.” His jaw tightened, but his touch remained soft.
“I’m fine.” I shuddered at what Vinemont had done. His threat had grown in the two weeks since we’d been apart, not lessened.
“You’re not fine. Don’t lie to me.”
I pushed him away. I refused to be manhandled or bullied by any of them. Not anymore.
He sighed and released me. “I’m not him.”
I let my gaze travel the ink peeking from the edges of his sleeves. Even if the brothers didn’t see eye to eye, they would always be bound together, on the same side.
His face softened a bit. “Stella, listen—”
“What happened yesterday? Is it safe?” I didn’t want any more mind games. I only wanted to know if I’d survive the day.
He glowered, fine wrinkles turning the corners of his mouth. “Local unrest spurred on by outside interests. It’s taken care of for now. I had to fix up Javier and then meet with useless government officials until late.”
Blood stained his shirt in several places, most of it already brown in the morning light. He seemed none the worse for wear, save a few scratches, making me wonder whose blood he carried in the threads.
He continued, “That was the only reason I didn’t come back to you. I sent Sin to protect you because I couldn’t. I run the business here, so I’m the one who had to calm things down. I didn’t realize he would…”
“Looks like you don’t know your brother as well as you thought.” I pulled the blanket up higher, covering every inch of skin below my neck. “Don’t worry. Your little investment is protected and plenty useable for the next Acquisition trial. No harm done.”
He slumped the slightest bit. Whether it was fatigue from the long night or my sharp words, I didn’t know. “There are traditions. Things have to be done a certain way. You wouldn’t understand.”
I arched an eyebrow. “Do you understand? Vinemont says you don’t even know the rules yet you jumped right in and started playing.”
“I don’t need to know any rules to win, Stella.” He met my eyes.
I didn’t lean away. I wouldn’t cower for him or anyone. I could play the game, too. “You’re full of shit. Playing second fiddle to your brother has made you rash.”
He pulled at the duvet slowly until my shoulders were uncovered, though his eyes never left mine. A heat kindled in them, intense and immediate. “I’ve always been rash. This is nothing new.”
He stroked his fingertips along my collarbone, the gentle sensation so at odds with the ravenous look in his eyes. “I’ve given you two weeks. Two weeks to adjust to being mine. I would never try to force you. I’m not my brother, Stella. Two weeks—has it been enough time?” He slid his fingers lower, pushing the duvet down my bare skin and to the swell of my breast.
My breath hitched in my throat as I glared at him. “I’m not yours. It doesn’t matter what some contract says or what some bullshit Acquisition rules say. I will never be yours.”
He smirked and shoved the duvet the rest of the way down before pulling me into him. His mouth was hot on mine, his tongue desirous and seeking. I shoved against his chest, but his grip on me was unshakeable. His lips were firm, insistent.
He sank his tongue inside, exploring and groaning as he tasted me. Heat pulsed through me but it was all wrong—his scent, his voice, his lips. Even as my body warmed to his advance, my thoughts strayed to his brother. The way he’d handled me before, the feel of him between my legs, the pain and determination in his eyes as he told me I was his poison.
Vinemont was right. I intended to poison them both. So I opened my mouth further, letting Lucius hold sway over me. Letting him think I chose him. He pushed me back on the bed and moved one hand to my breast, kneading it as his hard length rested against my thigh.
I faked a moan. His touch was pleasurable, but didn’t send the shock of adrenaline through me like Vinemont. It didn’t matter. I would use Lucius. I would do what I had to do to truly turn him against his brother. I tangled my hands in his hair and he moved his knee between my thighs. I lifted my hips to him, my pussy tingling at the friction.