“Excuse us,” Raiden said, taking me by the arm and leading me to the dance floor.
“You really need to quit manhandling me,” I said through a fake smile.
In answer, Raiden pulled me close, aligning my stomach with that of his crotch.
His very hard crotch.
“If you think that was manhandling, that trainer of yours has a lot to learn.”
Reluctantly, I looped my arms around his neck when his circled my back, and he began rocking us between the other dancing couples. “Berron bothers you that much.” Not a question.
Raiden huffed, his hands roaming my back as if he were studying the curve of my hips and spine through the material while his eyes wandered the room. “I merely find it concerning that you’ve been left in the hands of a pup who only wants to mount you instead of teach you.”
I murmured low, “Oh, but he has taught me a lot.”
Raiden’s gaze snapped to mine, eyes ablaze. I fluttered my lashes, and he smirked.
“Evidently. Though we do need to work on those reactions of yours. Or else when I have you in my bed, I’m afraid you’ll send every piece of furniture flying about the room.”
I wouldn’t take shit from him. For a female of only nineteen summers, I knew I had a remarkable hold on my powers. “There’s no need to worry your pretty face about such matters.”
“No?” he asked, spinning me around and then pulling me back to his chest.
My stomach leaped. “No, it’s never going to happen.”
His head fell back, and his loud bursts of laughter caught most eyes in the room. Including my father, who squinted at us.
I hissed at Raiden, “You can shut your filthy mouth any moment now. Everyone is looking.”
He did, though the amusement never left his eyes. I had a feeling that was common for this prince. “I have an idea.”
“I don’t care.” I made to remove myself from his hold, not liking the way his skin felt against mine. The way it felt familiar and new all at once.
He squeezed my hips. “A dare?”
“I may be young, but I don’t often play.” I stepped back, and he chuckled.
“Fine.” Reaching for me, he cupped my chin and whispered into my ear, “If you change your mind, I’ll be down in the cellars, getting drunk on my own, or maybe not…” His hands skated to my shoulders, down my arms, then skimmed my wrists and palms as he released me. “I guess it’s up to you who’ll join me. You?” He swung his eyes around the room. “Or someone else.”
I watched him leave and didn’t move even after I lost sight of him.
I blinked, wondering how long the lord of the east had been standing beside me, and reluctantly turned to him.
“You look…” His gaze slowly swept up my body, his fiery eyes warm as they met mine. “Beautiful,” he finished, and the way it rolled off his tongue, soft and intimate, felt like a thousand compliments in one word.
Peering up at him, I realized just how finely hewn his features were. High, sharp cheeks, thin yet plush lips, a square-cut jaw, and lashes a shade or two darker than his auburn hair. If it weren’t for the bump in the bridge of his otherwise straight nose, one would think he were forged from magic stone by the goddesses themselves.
“It is customary to say thank you after a compliment,” Zad said, waking me from my trance.
Someone must have laced the wine.
“And it is customary to leave those who do not desire your company alone.” His brows lowered, and I gathered my gown, smiling tight as I made to leave. “Apologies, my lord, but you’ll need to find yourself another princess to read to from now on.”
Unamused, Zad nodded once. “Insults aside, we should talk.”
“Talk about what?”
His eyes flicked behind me. “Not here.”
I laughed at his audacity. “Not anywhere, Zad.” Before I could leave, he snatched my wrist and pulled me close. “You have some nerve—”
“Listen,” he said so painfully quiet into my ear, his breath tickling. “I don’t know enough yet, but I still think we should—”
“Well, if it isn’t my favorite lord,” my father said, coming up behind us.
I wrenched free of his grip, my heart thumping as my father threw his arm around Zad’s shoulders.
“I’m glad you made it. We have much to discuss.” With a wink and a hard look that suggested I go play the role expected of me, my father led a seemingly reluctant Zad away.
I stared after them for a beat, worry rolling over me in the form of a shiver.
Across the room, Zad’s eyes flicked to me while my father reached for two goblets from a passing tray, then fell away as he accepted the wine.
My father sipped, cringed, then tossed the goblet at the server’s head, red wine spraying his white uniform and face. I didn’t need to hear him to know he was berating the server for something he wasn’t aware he did wrong. Zad said something that caught my enraged father’s attention, and when he turned back to the lord, the terrified server raced away while he had the chance.