Saturday, April 18, 2009

Night Warriors by Brenna Lyons

Anna snapped awake, willing her heart to slow. This arousal was maddening. Every night, it was the same thing—or rather a similar thing. The man was always the same, though the encounters were always different—and stunningly real for dreams. She shuddered as she recalled how interactive the dreams were. If she didn’t find something pleasing—and that is strange for a wet dream, isn’t it?—it changed to something pleasing almost immediately.

The man in the dream was beyond handsome to downright sinful. His medium brown hair was longer than Anna typically liked, and his gray eyes glowed silver in the dim candlelight or firelight that was a staple in the dreams. Anna’s head didn’t reach his shoulder; at five feet five, that would make him well over six feet tall.

His age was impossible to gauge. At times, he looked like he was eighteen; at others, he seemed close to thirty. His body was perfect: strong and broad-shouldered, with sparse dark curls over a well-muscled chest and endowed well enough to keep any woman happy, she was sure. There was an intriguing scar on his chest, just above the right nipple, and a red tattoo on his shoulder, some sort of a symbol or glyph that made no sense to Anna but drew her hands and mouth like a magnet.

“Geliebte. Regana,” she whispered into the dark room.

Of all things he whispered to her while he made her his own, both in lightly accented English and in several smooth, foreign tongues, spoken as if he’d been born to them, those two words assaulted her over and over. They melted her, and Anna had no idea what they meant, only that they were spoken with tenderness and passion.

All told, the situation was driving her insane. Anna woke every night, feeling the comfortable aches of having accepted a lover but still aching for him as if she hadn’t—which of course, she hadn’t.

Anna groaned as she realized that that, more than anything, drove her to accept Matt’s invitation out. Matt Collins wasn’t typically a man she would go out with on a dare, but he was funny and attractive, just the kind of man to help her get rid of this pent-up frustration. If he was a little too full of himself, all the better. That just meant Anna would have no problem at all convincing Matt to engage in something hot and mind-blowing that would cure her of this aching need. Twenty-four was far too young to be committed, she decided.

* * * *

Corwyn heard Colin coming and glanced at his watch in shock. Two hours had passed while he read and reread his father’s notes. It was obvious that Veriel had some need for or interest in the woman, but there was no clue what it was in his father’s observations.

“Still here?” Colin questioned. “Sitting down on the job while I’m off hunting,” he teased. “You’re more like Stephen every day.”

“Actually, I’m working on a problem for Father. Your hunt was successful.” It wasn’t a question. Corwyn knew a beast died in Hunter range, and Colin still had the faint smell of it on him.

“Just a low-level named Belanger. Is Father home or gone again on one of his secret forays?” Colin dropped into the chair opposite the desk and smiled at him.

Corwyn felt his jaw tighten reflexively, and Colin’s smile disappeared.

“He met Veriel in battle two days ago. He followed a trail—a problem he was working on, and the beast didn’t want his interference.”

“Impossible. We would have sensed it,” he raged.

“He was outside our range. In Maher, actually. Kord brought his notebook and weapon to me tonight after you left.”

Colin went a shade of pale Corwyn had never seen on him before. “Did Veriel feed?” he asked woodenly.

“No. Calvin sensed Jonas’s distress and sent Veriel to ground with the help of Kord. It was good that they were together and sunrise was fast approaching, or we could have lost more. You know Veriel has never lost to a single Warrior.”

Colin nodded uncertainly but with an easing of his muscles.

Corwyn understood his upset. On the rare occasion that a Warrior was killed by an elder, feeding was always a concern. While any turned beast could access an unprotected human’s thoughts, it took an elder to read the thoughts of a Warrior. If the elder fed, all their safe houses, protected professionals, and strategies were forfeit, especially if it was the house lord who fell; they would have had to start from scratch. For that reason, more than any other, the houses shared information only when it was absolutely necessary. At least, if someone was lost, he couldn’t betray everything.

Elders rarely came within miles of Warriors. They fed, took their pleasures, and went to ground, moving on before reprisals could come. Only once in fifteen hundred years had an elder been killed, by the infamous Pauwel first Lord Crossbearer, but the elders were new then and unaccustomed to their powers. Regardless, they avoided the Warriors for fear of their lives and sent turned to keep the Warriors busy—except for Veriel.

Veriel was an enigma. He was The Mad Deceiver who’d released the beasts from their imprisonment within the Stone and turned his back on his life as a Warrior to go beast in the process. He was known as ‘The Destroyer of Lives.’ Unlike the other elders, he’d often sought out confrontation with the Warriors, especially the early Warriors of Hunter. For a time, it seemed that he was trying to exterminate the house completely. He was vicious and thorough, and more than once, Veriel had fed on Warriors.

Veriel had even done the most foolish thing imaginable, turned a Warrior and almost cost himself his life in the bargain. While all elders turned humans as a distraction to the Warriors, Veriel trained his turned vigorously to do the most damage they could. It was rare to find a beast turned by Veriel who was less than a high-level. He simply did not permit any less. When a Warrior died, it was often Veriel or one of his turned at work.

“Corwyn, with Father dead...” Colin began uncertainly.

He nodded stiffly and unsheathed his weapon, placing it on the desk more forcefully than was necessary. Colin stared at the seal in resignation. Crossed arrows superimposed over a bow and crested by the howling wolf head shined silver against the dark metal.

“I am Jäger, now,” Corwyn growled the ritual words.

Colin met his eyes and straightened his spine proudly. “My blade is yours, my duty at your whim. I stand, a Warrior of Hunter, yours to command.” He rose to leave.

Corwyn smiled stiffly. For once, that overactive sense of duty was going to work in the older brother’s favor. There wouldn’t be an argument or balking Corwyn’s place in things. It was Colin’s duty to accept it, and he would do so with no scene—publicly, at least.

“Colin, send Stephen down here. I may as well finish this now.”

“What will you do after that, Corwyn?” he asked quietly.

“Solve this mystery of Father’s, if I can.”

“But what if Veriel takes your life, too?” Colin protested.

“Then you’ll hold the seal sooner than you counted on.”

“Can’t it wait? Shouldn’t you start your family as a safeguard?” This was the Colin he knew and sometimes loved. This was the Warrior that would try Corwyn’s patience.

“This can’t wait, but I swear to keep my eyes open for a mate while I work on it,” he promised grimly.

Corwyn had never put much thought into his duty to marry and produce heirs until now. He’d always thought there would be more time.

Unlike Kord, few Warriors married younger than thirty. In the early days, they routinely married as soon after being blood sealed as they could arrange, but that had fallen out of practice as the bloodlines had grown.

Worse, most protecteds were professionals they needed and not suited to wandering around after a Warrior. Now every woman, bait and saved, would have to be evaluated as a potential mate. Corwyn grimaced at the thought of it.

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Saddle Up 'N' Ride! by Remmy Duchene

Normally when visiting Rusty, Jack would plan his trip far in advance and never had to stop in Toronto for a transfer to another plane. Toronto wasn’t at all what he expected. When the plane landed at Pearson International Airport, they told him he should be back in the airport by first thing in the morning because his flight to Calgary left at nine. They were letting him go because of his badge. He didn’t think it would be any good there but apparently it was. In the hotel, he stared out the window at the highway longingly. He would have rather the plane had gone straight through to his final destination, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. He was desperate to get to Calgary and now that he was so close he felt cheated. He was close enough to taste it yet couldn’t. Folding an arm over his naked chest, he walked back to his bed and grabbed his shirt. Shoving his arms into the shirt, he wished he smoked. He needed something to calm his nerves.

Back home, he would have just gone to the gym and beat a bag into submission. He couldn’t do that because he didn’t know where anything was in Toronto. There was always a second option, sleep. He looked at his bed and that turned his stomach. Grabbing his wallet and his keys, Jack left his room. In the lobby he got a cab to carry him to downtown Toronto. The air was becoming a little nippy which told him that winter was just around the corner. He had loved visiting Rusty when he was younger during the winter. Everything was covered in white snow and though it was cold, he didn’t mind. From time to time lately, he could see himself on all fours before the giant fireplace in the ranch’s living room with Rusty taking him from behind. That thought caused him to stumble and he crashed into a lady. She smacked him with her purse and he apologised. He ducked into a movie theatre to see if he could catch something but nothing caught his attention. Eventually, he returned to his hotel and climbed into bed.

Closing his eyes, he stroked his chest. Then he pinched his nipples and growled. One hand remained to torment the tight buds while the other moved down between his legs. His cock was already hard, with the tip brushing against the sheets. Tossing the sheets from the bed, he pushed up to watch his cock dance slowly before falling stiffly against his flat stomach. Licking one palm, he grabbed hold of his cock and began stroking it.

He panted, groaned, tightened his fist and moved it in long, slow strokes. Visions of Rusty pushing out of the river after a long swim flashed though his head and Jack’s back arched from the bed. The fingers pinching his nipples tightened and he whispered Rusty’s name.

Rusty was bent over, ass in the air.

Jack’s eyes widened as he saw the image. His hips pumped upward into his tight fist. The head of his cock throbbed, for it was tender. Each time it brushed his hand his body jerked.

“Oh, damn,” Jack managed. His hand was moving faster and faster now. Different images of Rusty, in extremely sexual poses, flashed through Jack’s mind. His chest heaved and his breathing quickened even more. He licked his lips and pinched down on his nipples hard. This time it was too much for Jack to bear.

“Oh, yes!” He arched his back, slammed his hips upward just as his cock exploded. His body trembled uncontrollably as his fist continued working over his dick. Hot white liquid spewed upward against his chest and stomach but all he could do was yell his release at the top of his lungs and ride his orgasm out. When his body relaxed against the bed, his hand fell away from his cock, and he drifted off to an unconscious sleep.

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A Bid for Love, Michelle Houston

As the price climbed, Erika felt her nerves stretch tight. Ryan had always had that effect on her, but not normally so unpleasantly. Anticipation of his return home from work would always leave her with damp palms, her breath coming just a little bit quicker. It was accentuated often by what she was wearing as she waited on him. Normally it was simple lingerie, or a leather bustier. But sometimes he would ask her to lie on the bed wearing a mask, her body completely nude, her limbs resting in the valley of padded cuffs, waiting for him to close them around her wrists and ankles.

Those were the days she longed for the most, the innocent seduction of submitting to his dominating ways, of feeling him stroke her body with a soft whip before the whistle of it sung through the air, and the crack of it landed against her tender skin.

It had been perfect.

When her grandmother had gifted her with the painting of the two of them laying together on a white canvas, no sheets or other decorations to detract from the passion of their embrace, she hadn’t had the heart to let the aging woman know a key item was missing, specifically a collar around her neck.

Shaking her head at herself, Erika returned her gaze to the auctioneer as she countered Ryan’s latest bid, taking the cost to eighteen-fifty. Knowing she could only go a few hundred higher tortured her. She was so close, but as the bids continued, and the price jumped to twenty-one hundred, she had to admit defeat. The auctioneer asked for twenty-two hundred, asked again, then looked at her and asked for twenty-one fifty. Raising her paddle, Erika accepted the bid, then held her breath as the bid was asked again for twenty-two hundred.

“We have twenty-two hundred from the gentleman in the back. Do I have twenty-three hundred? Anyone? Twenty-three hundred for this breathtaking Virginia Gleeson painting? No? twenty-two fifty? Anyone? Then sold for twenty-two hundred to the gentleman in the back. If you’ll come up front, please.

“Our next painting …”

Erika tuned out the auctioneer as he started in about the details of the next artwork. Gathering her purse and folder, she stood and walked to the back of the room. A warm hand wrapped around her elbow and jerked her to a halt.

“We need to talk.”

Looking into Ryan’s gaze, Erika felt her heart tighten. She wanted to scream at him for buying her grandmother’s painting, but the memory of how much she used to love him held her silent.

Bitterness swirled around her as she pulled away from him and opened the doors.

“If you want a chance at that painting, you’ll hear me out.”

Erika almost didn’t stop, but knowing how heart broken her mother would be if she ever found out there was a last chance to get the painting back, forced her to stop. Her mother had taken the loss of her own mother just a few months earlier very hard. It had renewed her determination that they find and acquire all of her paintings.

“Meet me in the hallway in five minutes.”

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A Strange New Breed by Wendy Stone

Terry ran through the woods, glancing fearfully behind her every few steps. She couldn’t see what was chasing her, but she could hear it, loudly crashing through the underbrush. Its growling left a chill of fear on her skin.

The thin white gown she wore caught on the brambles and branches, and her arms were scratched. The rocks cut her feet as she ran. However, terror kept her moving, even though she could barely draw air into her exhausted lungs. Her body screamed for rest.

She dropped to her knees in a grassy clearing, the full moon overhead creating the illusion of daylight. She glanced down at her shaking hands, gaze running over the thin shift, tattered by her wanton bid for freedom. The tiny top was still intact though it did little to conceal, cupping her breasts and making them look full and lush. The rest was transparent, wet from the dew that coated the grasses she knelt upon. It showed off trim thighs and rounded hips, the material clinging to her tiny waist.

“I don’t own anything like this,” she said softly, confusion clouding the sapphire blue of her eyes as she plucked at the fabric, pulling it away from her skin. “And how did I get into the woods? I don’t even like the woods. Too many mosquitoes and ticks.” She shivered with disgust. “This is like a cheesy setting in some bad B-movie horror flick. If there was music, it would be coming to a crescendo, cueing the foul beast come to ravage my poor body.”

As if she’d conjured him, a large silver animal loped into the clearing, its keenly intelligent emerald eyes fixed upon her. It growled, showing large white fangs in a terrifying display.

It affected Terry, but only for a moment. She stood, ignoring the fading aches and pains. Pointing her finger at the animal, she shook it like her mother always had when one of her children misbehaved. “Bad dog,” she said in a disapproving voice. “Very bad dog. Sit!”

The animal stared at her as if confused, cocking its huge head to the side. Then slowly, almost reluctantly, it sat.

Terry walked cautiously toward the animal, holding her hand out as she’d seen countless people do to animals they didn’t know. The silver beast took the cue, leaning forward to sniff delicately, its mouth opening and its tongue lolling out to give her a tiny lick. “Good boy?” she said softly, glancing between the animal’s legs to check. “Wow. Yeah, good boy.”

The animal seemed to be amused. He surprised Terry by rolling over onto his back on the grass, exposing his belly and the large pronouncement of his male heritage.

Terry dropped to her knees, intrigued despite the ludicrous situation. Reaching out, she hesitantly began to scratch the big animal on his stomach. What sounded suspiciously like a purr came from deep inside his chest. “You’re a funny one,” she said quietly. “Do you know how I got out here?”

He grunted in answer, rolling to his belly and standing up. After shaking the clinging grass and dirt from his fur, the animal turned, looking over his shoulder as if to urge her to come with him.

“You aren’t like, taking me to be supper for your family, are you? I’m pretty small. I don’t think I’d make much of a meal.”

He grunted again. This time he sounded amused, as if the animal understood what she was saying. But that was impossible, wasn’t it? Then again, so was ending up in some dark forest, running for your life from a big weird-looking animal with the biggest schlong she’d ever seen. This was one for the diary, that was for sure. She took the first step toward him and felt her foot pass through the once-solid ground and into nothingness.

The next thing Terry was aware of was being in bed. But this wasn’t her bedroom. Sitting up, she realized that even the scant protection of the small white shift was gone as the satin sheet slipped down, exposing her breasts.

“Damn,” she swore, grabbing the sheet and holding it to her chest with one hand. “What is going on?”

“Do you really want to know?”

Terry shrieked. The male voice sent a shiver through her even as it scared the living daylights out of her. “Who are you?” she demanded, her head swiveling to look into the shadows to find the man. “Where are you?”

“You didn’t answer me,” he said softly. She jumped, for it sounded as if he were right next to her. “Do you really want to know?”

“Y-yes, I want to know.” She scooted quickly to the edge of the bed away from the voice, pulling the sheet free to wrap around her. “Then I want you to call me a cab and show me the way out of this funhouse.”

An arm wrapped around her waist from behind, hauling her back. Terry shrieked, wanting to fight but her arms were trapped at her sides. Through the thin satin, she could feel the hard, muscular contours of him, including a very long, thick erection that pushed against her butt. “What are you doing?”

“Showing you what is going on,” he said, amusement coloring his tone.

“I changed my mind,” she said, struggling to move her arms, unaware that her struggles were causing the slippery satin knot she’d tied to loosen. When it gave way, covering his arm and exposing her breasts, she doubled her efforts, kicking back with her feet and scoring his shins with her hard heels. “Let me go, pervert. Let me go or I’ll scream down this house!”

She was freed too suddenly for her to react. The satin slid the rest of the way off, leaving her naked in front of the shadowed stranger. She shrieked, reaching to grab the material to cover herself again, only to find it held down by a large, very masculine foot.

“I’m not a pervert,” he said calmly as she tugged at the satin. “A pervert is someone with an unusual sexual proclivity. There’s nothing unusual about what I’m thinking.”

“And rape is normal?” She gave up on rescuing the material. Instead she slowly rose, covering the blonde tuft on her sex with one hand and using her arm to try and cover her breasts. “Listen to me, buddy, there isn’t anything normal about rape.”

“Rape? I don’t want to rape you, Terry.”

She took a step back, feeling his eyes roaming over her exposed curves and wanting to sink into the ground. “So if you don’t want to rape me, why have you brought me here?”

“I didn’t bring you here, you brought yourself, quite willingly if I recall.”

Terry took another step back, wishing for an extra hand to feel behind her for the door. She thought back on her evening. It had been a week since Marissa had disappeared with Lukah and she’d seen neither hide nor hair of her friend. The only contact was one phone call, telling her that she was all right. Marissa had quit work, something Terry couldn’t blame her for considering the size of the Alexandros fortune.

Hell, Terry couldn’t blame her for any of it, really. Tall, gorgeous and tasty as hell, she’d have gone after Lukah Alexandros herself except for the fact he only had eyes for Marissa. But she’d been bummed; being left with Shawna was hell. So she’d gone to one of her favorite clubs to dance away the blues.

“Okay, this is an alcohol-induced dream. You aren’t real and all I have to do is wake up.” She gave him one last warning glance that told him what would happen if he touched her again and closed her eyes. “I’ve just got to wake up. Wake up, Terry. You can do it, just open your eyes and the hangover will be hell. Then I won’t ever go partying like that again.” She waited a beat, then slowly opened her eyes, breathing a sigh of relief when she saw her own bedroom walls.

“Thank you,” she breathed, dropping her arms.

“You’re welcome,” he said, coming up behind her, his hands moving over her hips and up her stomach, forcing her to step back against him. “If you’d wanted to do this in your own room, your own bed, you only had to ask.”

His hands were warm against her cold skin. The contrast sent shivers through her. His entire body was warm, making her want to curl into him instead of fight to be away from him. He had talented hands, wonderfully callused hands that were just rough enough to feel good against her body.

“Stop,” she moaned as he moved her hair aside with his chin, his lips finding the pulse in her neck and teasing it. He nibbled on her skin, his teeth sharp, scraping at her with just enough force to cause another shiver to shake her slender form. “Oh God, that feels good. No,” she shook her head, trying to pull away from his lips. “No, it doesn’t feel good.” But the moan that came from deep within belied her every word.

His lips moved from the pulse that thundered frantically at the base of her throat and up the skin of her neck, running his tongue up that length and finding her ear. He nibbled at her ear lobe, taking the sensitive piece of flesh into his mouth. “Stop and go or stay and come,” he whispered in her ear, his hands finally covering her full breasts, palms rolling over nipples hardened in need.

“I don’t know you.” Her head fell back against his shoulder, her hands reaching behind her and finding the hard columns of his muscled thighs. “I can’t want you like this.”

“Why not?” he purred into her ear, moving against her as she caressed him, using her nails against his skin. “I want you.”

“Oh,” she moaned, “say it again.”

“I want you, Terry. I want to tie you to the bed, to touch every part of you. I want you to scream with need. Then I’m going to part your legs and cover your sweet pussy with my mouth. I’m going to fuck you with my tongue, lick your clit until you explode and then start all over again until you beg me to stop.” He took a deep breath and she could feel the frantic beat of his heart against her back. He was as affected by his words as she was. “Only when you beg, only then will I fuck you.”

Her legs shook and she couldn’t stand any longer. She let him hold her up. “Who are you?” she cried, her body burning with need, with desire. For him, for this stranger and his strange powers.

“You know who I am, Terry.” He lifted her, taking a single step back to the other room. The bed, a four poster, had straps at each corner.

Terry moaned at the sight and felt a gush of warmth between her thighs. She was wet, swollen, wanting him to do to her everything he’d whispered. She wanted to make love to this stranger and he hadn’t even kissed her yet. He laid her down against the satin sheet, the fabric cool on her heated flesh. She stayed where he put her, watching as he moved around the bed, careful to keep his face averted from her eyes.

His hands were gentle as he positioned her to his liking, glancing up once in a while to make sure she was comfortable. He tightened the straps, testing each before moving to the next until she was spread eagle on the bed, her body exposed and opened to him.

Then and only then did he lift his head.

“You!” she cried, her eyes narrowing as she took in the familiar face with piercing green eyes and flecks of silver that framed his dark hair. “How are you doing this? How can you make me want you so badly when I hate you?”

Nashe reached out with one hand, his fingers touching the skin of her knee, slowly sliding up her leg to her thigh. He watched as she tried to struggle away from his fingers, but she was tightly bound.

“I hate you, too. You’re everything I can’t stand in a woman. Opinionated, bossy, arrogant. You look down your nose at anyone who’s different. You think you’re so much better than me,” he growled, running just the tips of his fingers through the blonde tuft of fur at the top of her slit. She was shaved bare beneath it, smooth, wet and totally irresistible.

“Then why are you doing this?” Her breathing was harsh, her breasts heaving as she waited for both his answer and the touch of his fingers, sliding inside of her.

“Because it doesn’t matter how much I hate you, or despise everything about you, I can’t get you out of my head. Just one thought does this to me,” he said, waving at the hard length of his cock. There was disgust in his voice, as if he couldn’t stand the thought that she was the one that was doing this to him. But when his eyes roamed over her flesh, they were tinged with green flames.

He bent suddenly, startling a cry out of her, his mouth moving over one breast, circling the taut peak until she squirmed, her body moving as much as it could. When he finally drew her pale nipple into his mouth, she cried out, an explosion of pleasure surging from his suckling lips into her groin.

“God! How can you do that?” she cried, her wrists twisting in the padded bindings. She wanted desperately to touch him. Whether to rip at his hair and tear his mouth away from her body or to hold him closer, she didn’t know.

He took his time playing with her nipples, stroking them with his fingers, twisting and tweaking the reddening peaks before taking them into his mouth. His hands fondled her soft flesh, growing rougher as her passion rose again. Even the mauling felt good to her, exciting her to a level of passion unlike anything she’d ever felt before.

It was almost a relief when he left her breasts, moving to her ribs, kissing his way down the concave smoothness of her belly to where it rose slightly just above that small tuft of blonde fur. He looked up at her, laying his body between her thighs, planting a soft kiss on one. “Are you ready, Terry?”


He smiled, his white teeth flashing in his tanned skin. “Yeah, babe, ready for this?” He pounced with the quickness of a predator, his lips moving across her smooth lower lips, his tongue plunging between to taste of her musk. Her cry of surprise turned to a shuddering moan. His tongue found the small knot of her clit, flicking over it eagerly.

“Oh God, oh God.” She struggled against her restraints, wanting to wrap her thighs around his head and pull him further into her. It felt so amazing, so astounding, so different than what any other man had ever done to her. His tongue felt different; longer, thinner, wrapping around her clit as if it was jacking her off.

Her body tightened, arching against the bindings. She was so close to coming, wanting it with every fiber of her being. “Please,” she growled, her head thrashing against the pillow.

He lifted his head, hearing her groan as he pulled away from her at the most crucial moment. “So soon?” he asked arrogantly.

“Shut up and keep going,” she snarled.

“Whatever the lady desires,” Nashe chuckled, bending his head toward the sweet flesh he craved.

“How about your head on a fucking platter?” she snapped before moaning in bliss as he lashed at her swollen flesh with his tongue.

He punished her with his mouth, capturing her clit and sucking upon it before nibbling with teeth that were almost too sharp. It was the last little push she needed and she threw her head back on the pillow, teeth biting into her bottom lip until it bled to keep from screaming out his name. Agonizing pleasure swamped her, leaving her breathless, sensitive and limp.

Still he continued, on and on until she felt as if she’d been ravaged, her body one long sensitive nerve ending, his for the taking. The waves of bliss were endless, one after the other, piling on top of her until she gave up, screaming his name in a hoarse voice.

He was gone. Terry blinked blearily, still unable to move. “Nashe?” she whispered, her lips swollen, her mouth dry from the punishing ecstasy he’d put her through.

Nashe sank down next to her on the bed, reaching over to the empty night stand and bringing back a goblet filled with icy-cold water. He held it to her mouth, letting her sip it before dipping his fingers and rubbing her taut nipples with the frigid drops. Setting the glass down, he leaned over her, his lips parting to pull her cold nipples into the searing heat of his mouth.

“Ahhh,” she groaned, her back arching as he played with one peak while suckling upon the other. “Stop, Nashe, God please.”

“Too much tongue?” he asked, his face splitting into a huge grin as he saw the look in her beautiful blue eyes. He reached up, wiping the blood off her chin with his thumb, blood that had been drawn while she fought to keep him from hearing her scream.

Terry watched as he brought it to his mouth, licking off the smear of blood before he came close again, his lips gentle as they covered her. A sense of surrealism took her as she felt her blood heat once more, her body craving his touch, craving his possession. The urge to feel him inside of her, to know if she could take all of him inside her body, seemed too much to resist. She gave in.

“Fuck me,” she whispered against his lips.

Nashe lifted his head, staring down at her. “What did you say?”

“You heard me, you prick.” Now that she’d made the decision, she wanted to get it over with. “Go ahead and fuck me. You aren’t going to stop until you get what you want, so just fucking do it.”

“Well, that was one of the nicest invitations I’ve ever received,” he said sarcastically.

“You’re the one who told me you wouldn’t leave until I begged you to fuck me, right?” She didn’t wait for an answer, hurrying on before she could lose her nerve. “Okay, listen closely. Oh Nashe, you big burly stud, fuck me please. I’m begging you, stick that big, hard cock into my tiny, wet pussy.” She fluttered her eyelashes at him as she finished her sarcastically insipid begging.

He stared down at her without moving but for the tick that twitched at the side of his mouth, then sat up, his hand moving from her breast. “You can be a real bitch, Terry.”

“Aww, does that mean you aren’t going to fuck me?” she asked sweetly.

“No, it just means that you’re a real piece of work.” He moved over her once more and she felt his cock, hard and thick, at the entrance to her sex.

“Wait!” she breathed, struggling against the restraints. “At least wear a condom.”

He dropped to his elbows, his hands smoothing her wet blonde hair back from her face. “Does that mean you aren’t on the Pill?” he teased, moving his hips just enough to push the tip of his cock into her and then back out.

“Yes,” she groused. “That’s exactly what that means. Besides,” she said with a gasp, “I don’t know how many skanky women you’ve been dipping your wick into. I don’t want to catch anything.”

Nashe laughed. He had the unmitigated gall to laugh!

“What’s so funny, you bastard?”

“You are, my sweet. You’re a hoot, Ter.” He captured her head with his hands, finding her mouth as he began to push inside. She could feel him stretching her, her wet flesh parting around his invading cock even as his tongue pushed inside of her mouth. Either sensation was enough to send her soaring into bliss, but the combination made her forget about pregnancy and disease, crying out in pleasure.

It seemed to go on and on until the fullness was all she could conceive. He pulled his mouth from hers, staring down the length of their bodies, watching as his cock disappeared inside her wet sex.

“Oh, God,” she groaned, unable to believe how good, how right he felt. When he reached behind him and undid the restraints on her ankles, she barely had time to groan at the relief she felt before he hooked her knees over his elbows, bending her almost in half, opening her to take all of him.

“You can call me Nashe,” he growled, looking down at her with that sexy half-smile on his face.

Her brain was on a sensation overload, unable to come up with a snappy comeback or even a suitably foul name. Instead, she tipped her head back, her throat arching as he began to move inside of her. His strokes were long and slow, and she could feel him watching her. Unable to resist, she opened her eyes, getting caught in the green fires in his.

Terry could see the pleasure he was feeling. She felt as if she could see into his soul. There was a strange blackness. It was a sadness, a pain that was almost all encompassing. She wanted to reach out, to touch him and try to take away that pain, cleanse his soul from whatever scarred it so black.

But she could do little more than lay there, his pawn. She was a receptacle for his lust, a lust that she felt as well.

“You keep looking at me like that,” he panted, “and I’m going to think you don’t hate me anymore. Come on, Terry, you’re not falling in love with me are you?”

“I take it back,” she snapped, though her voice was hoarse and her breathing was as harsh as his. “You aren’t a prick. You’re nothing more than an asshole.”

The smile that flitted across his face made her long to reach out and smack him. Instead, she closed her eyes, denying him and herself that closeness. She turned, burying her face against her arm and the pillow.

With eyes closed, she could do little more than concentrate on how he felt inside of her, how good it felt to be taken by him. The tension built, growing with every hard thrust of his deliciously-made cock. Tiny whines and whimpers were torn from her, muffled by her arm.

“Fuck,” he growled, slamming into her. “You feel so good babe, you’re so damn tight. It feels like you’re trying to squeeze my dick off.”

His crude words sent a thrill through her that she didn’t understand. She hated guys who talked dirty to her during sex, usually finding it distracting. But with Nashe, Terry felt as if she’d go up in flames.

“Tell me how it feels, babe,” he whispered, leaning close to her ear and taking the lobe in his mouth to bite.

“Wonderful,” she managed to squeak. “Don’t stop.”

“I don’t think I could,” he growled.

Her body shook at each punishing thrust, her breasts aching and swollen. She could feel his hard cock rubbing up against her clit with every movement. She was on the edge of a cliff, wanting to soar, waiting for the last push that would send her into the oblivion of ecstasy.

Then she was over, flying, circling on an updraft of pleasure so intense, her toes curled. She screamed, she couldn’t help it. His name burst from her lips. Then she felt him follow, his cock swelling, his come bursting from the end, spurting inside of her. The last thing she heard was a moan which sounded suspiciously like her name. Darkness took her.

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Seventh by L.E. Bryce

Elantho spent a restless night in a room overlooking the sea. When Kembari stated that there would be no audience until the next day, he spoke truly. Porters brought their baggage up from the harbor, servants showed them the facilities and brought meals, but no word came from the ruling family except instructions to ask for whatever they needed.

What Elantho wanted, no one could provide. No matter what he said, the soothsayer had unnerved him. On the surface, maybe Kembari was right, for surely a native priest had more experience in these matters. Even this, however, failed to allay Elantho’s misgivings. A ghost trails behind you. Dripping wet. White hair, just like yours.

His eyes searched the darkness, probing the shadows for the slightest movement. All was still. Omis was not there.

Was he?

We have fortune tellers and charlatans in Thevit. They would have said something. In the darkness, the only sound Kembari’s faint snoring in the next room, Elantho punched his pillow and laid his head down once more. It must be a lie, some story to frighten me with. Yes, that must be it: the ruling family had paid a disheveled old man to discourage the newcomers. Seventh won’t end drowned in a fishing net.

Another would have laughed off the incident. Elantho, straining to hear any shuffle or whisper that to tell him he was not alone, did not fall asleep until dawn began to lighten the sky.

The next thing he knew, midmorning sunlight was slanting directly into his eyes, and Kembari was shaking him awake. “I let you sleep in because I know you had a rough time of it last night,” said the priest, “but they’re bringing in water for our bath and you need to eat something before we go. Lady Lirinan’s sent for us. Make sure you put on your best robes and as much jewelry as you can. You’ll want to look gaudy.”

Elantho blinked at the request. Talevé in the Seaward Islands dressed plainly. Not since Sirilon had he been encouraged to put on the silvery brocade and jewels which were out of place in rustic Thevit. Now he pinned the silver moorcat to his lapel, drew wayward strands of his hair back into a mother-of-pearl clasp, and slid onyx and moonstone rings onto his fingers.

Kembari appraised the results. “Eshandri will wear plenty of jewelry, far more than you’d consider tasteful. I have to warn you: his appearance won’t be what you expect.”

“You make it sound as though he has three eyes and a tail.”

“In the southern Islands, talevé are called surani, and they wear tattoos on their faces. Try not to look shocked when you see him.”

That the islanders favored body decoration came as no surprise. In Thevit, Elantho had seen the tattoos sported by the local talevé: the triple-wave Water rune, or the wearer’s ki’iri totem. Now the custom spread to the newcomers from the mainland. Even Dyas wore a rune on his arm and, so it was rumored, a wolf on one buttock. Elantho found the very idea of inking one’s skin vulgar—and yet, when Omis one day pulled off his tunic to reveal a hrill basking across his chest, its body seeming ever so slightly to move whenever Omis flexed his muscles—how strangely beautiful and erotic it seemed.

A steward came to conduct them downstairs. “Lady Lirinan be waiting for you in the chamber,” he said, his thick accent slurring the words. Half a moment later, visibly realizing his error, he repeated the message in fluent Shivarian: “The lady awaits you in the audience room.”

Kembari spoke in Danasi, thanking him. Although he never troubled to learn the native tongue of the Islands, Elantho had absorbed just enough in the past two years to recognize its courtesies.

In his grandfather’s house, great doors of brass-studded, polished oak opened onto a large audience chamber hung with tapestries depicting courtly scenes and furnished with ornately carved chairs and cabinets. Here, more than a thousand miles away from Sirilon, Elantho tried to hide his disapproval as the steward led him and Kembari through plain, flimsy-looking doors into a room much like any other in the Tashite ruler’s house. No dais, no canopy of state. Instead, the woman who was their hostess sat on a curved chair padded with a red cushion that had obviously seen better days.

Lirinan’s only concession to rank showed in her outlandish dress. A white cotton caftan banded in red draped her formidable bulk; its short sleeves allowed her to display gleaming gold and silver bangles. From a silver nose ring, turquoise beads looped across her left cheek to a dangling earring set with yet more jewels—jasper and agate and carnelian.

Courtiers thronged Prince Carancil’s audience chamber, and dogged his steps wherever he went outside his private apartments. Elantho saw no court officials here—unless the ten young people ranged around Lirinan carried out that function.

Introductions began. Kembari spoke in Shivarian, giving his name before gesturing to Elantho. “This is Elantho né Hethigal, grandson of the ruling prince of Sirilon, talevé of the Blue House of Lachant.”

Lirinan frowned under sharply arched brows. “You are very plain for a surano.”

Each of the ten young men and women, ranging in age from twenty-nine to fifteen, were her children. Whoever their father was, Lirinan did not mention him. “This is Batama, my First.” She gestured to a tall man with a neck as thick as a drum, draped with several turquoise and silver necklaces. So it went, until it became clear that the woman’s offspring were numbered rather than named. Elantho also noticed that Lirinan passed over one son, not naming him until the end.

“Eshandri, my Seventh,” she said, “knows how to honor the Lady with his marks of beauty.”

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