His lips rolled, and he began to pace the floor around one of the rugs as he no doubt chose his words carefully. “I had to.”
“You had to,” I repeated, trying to keep my temper in check.
He stopped, his attention on his chestnut boots. “You needed to believe I didn’t remember you at all, therefore, that the stranger I was detested you. You needed to spend enough time with me, with who we’d been, if I stood a chance at being given another chance.” His eyes affixed themselves to mine, a plea within. “Just as you do now.”
My tone was whisper soft and full of incredulity. “I can assure you, I do not need to do a damn thing.” I withheld the wince, the knocking on my gut.
It would seem I couldn’t play nice after all. Still, knowing was useless. I had to try.
“We entered into this marriage for a reason,” he said after a few cooling moments had passed.
“Peace,” I said.
“Love,” he said at the same time.
I crossed my legs, slinging my arm over the back of the chair as he growled and began to pace again. “You are infuriatingly stubborn.”
“You’re just plain infuriating.”
He laughed, sobering quickly as he halted and stared at me. “Audra.” My name was a silent breath. Coming closer, he lowered to his knees, startling me. “Audra, not only do I want peace. I want, no, I need you.”
Reaching out, I brushed my finger over his hairline, then down his cheek, my nail skimming the hair prickling his jaw. His eyes shuttered, his throat dipping. “We are born alone, and we die alone,” I whispered, sweet and matter-of-factly. “We need no one but ourselves.” I knew the words were a harsh lie, but I’d already believed plenty, so why not another.
“You know that’s not true.” His hand gently wrapped around my wrist when my finger moved away from his chin. “You need time, and I can give that to you.”
I needed more than time. “The one thing we have is time, King.”
“I can be patient.”
“Does patience involve whipping and bringing another female to climax?”
“I was desperate,” he rasped. “A fool.”
I was beginning to think I’d been the only foolish one for ever giving him a piece of me.
A piece that now belonged to someone else.
Someone I could not have.
This, I thought, peering down into somber green eyes. I had this. This was the bed I’d made for myself, and there was little point in acting like a brat about it anymore.
Standing, Raiden gently tugged at my wrist, and after drawing in a deep breath, I released it, allowing him to pull me up and into his arms.
Upon the bed, he tugged at the fabric of my nightgown. I heard it rip, the sound similar to the odd fissuring inside my chest. His boots clomped to the floor, the whistling sweep of his pants following.
Crawling between my legs, he dragged his lips up my thigh to my stomach, and then my breasts, his tongue and teeth tender as he teased and tugged.
His hands roamed my sides, one sneaking between my legs. I was wet but not enough.
It didn’t matter. When he murmured, “You rob me of breath,” I clasped both sides of his lying face and brought his mouth to mine.
My entire body pulled taut as he entered me, the discomfort sharp enough to have my back arching.
He took it for a sign of pleasure, growling with satisfaction as his lips trailed up my chest and over my neck. When they reached the curve of my shoulder, the same place I’d been marked by both males before, the world turned an array of gray and black.
Dizzy with panic, I shoved him off me and scrambled off the bed.
Grabbing my robe, I looped it around me, plunging my hand into my hair.
“Silk, come here.”
My chest was heaving, harsh waves of air leaving me, and not enough entering to fill my lungs. “No.”
The drapes swirled, the fire almost burning out, as the room became gusty and the sconces dimmed.
“Hey.” Arms came around me, stilling me, his voice low. “Hey, settle. It’s okay.”
“It’s not,” I wheezed, burning.
He held me until I gathered my static emotions and finally managed to lock them back in their cage. “What happened there?” he asked, carefully.
“I’m…” I stopped, twisting in his arms and stepping back to find his brow furrowed, and his shoulders tense. He was preparing himself for the worst to leave my mouth. “I’m just… not ready,” I lied.
Raiden licked his lips, nodding, then snatched his pants and tugged them on. “It’s too soon. I knew it was.”
Blinking, I stood there as he finished dressing and stomped into his boots.
Before he left, he asked, “May I at least stay with you?”
I should let him, I thought. But I shook my head, my eyes closing.