Monday, February 22, 2010

Life Without Raine by Riley Ashford

Connor had to wait...had to stay coherent enough to say the words that would make her hate him.

As his hands memorized her body, he drank in these last moments of enjoyment with his wife. God knew he loved her. But if she stayed, she would fight by his side. Last night, he’d sought the witch’s counsel; the old woman had given him little hope he could untangle himself from Solomon’s wicked plot.

Her hands slid up his chest, her firm body writhing under his touch. He could not lose his beloved to death. This was the only way to be sure she would leave—and live. She’d find another husband, another lover. The thought of her giving her body, her soul, to another man pained him so much that he stopped stroking her clit and cupped her sweet pussy. She moaned and rubbed her slick flesh against his palm. She knew only ecstasy—not his anguish. Never would she know the truth. Though their love could not be saved in this lifetime, there was still hope. True love binds the souls, said the witch. True love requires sacrifice.

And the first sacrifice was the trust of his wife.

He trailed soft, slow kisses down the curve of her stomach; he paused at the thought she might carry his child. He pressed his lips against her belly and prayed to God that his wife—and any child born from their love—would live long, happy lives.

Sweat dewed her pale skin; he licked the tiny droplets, drawing patterns in her pale flesh with his tongue. His worship of her flesh led him to the nirvana of her sweet cunny. His hands shook as he parted her thighs.

“Connor...” His name on her lips was the only permission he needed to taste her. Her swollen clit was as succulent as a ripe berry, and just as delicious. He tugged the morsel between his lips and suckled, flicking the tiny nub to the rhythm of her moans.

“Please, my love,” she begged, her restless hands plundered his hair.

He slid his hands under her buttocks and pulled her close, breathing in her feminine scent. It was as earthy and intoxicating as the scent of the forest after a long rain.

He smiled. This was the scent of his Raine.

He stroked her to a higher peak, torturing her clit with flicks of his tongue. She moved against his mouth, taking her pleasure with the same innocence and wonder as the first time she lay with him.

Was it only a fortnight ago they had wed?

She stilled, arched, and cried out. Her cunt sucked at his chin, releasing the creamy evidence of her orgasm. He soothed her tormented pussy with long strokes of his tongue, drinking her woman’s honey.

Raine’s hands were wrapped in his hair and she held him hostage as she rode the waves of bliss. Finally, she collapsed to the bed, sighing contentedly.

He reluctantly rubbed his face against the coverlet. He loved her juices, loved the smell, the taste...but ’twas unseemly to kiss her with a pussy-wet chin.

She pulled at his shoulders, her smile one of wifely satisfaction.

“I am not done yet, my lord,” she purred, drawing him up her body. He positioned himself above her and slowly entered. She was wet and ready and tight...he closed his eyes and moaned. He had no power to utter a word. Another stroke sent more pleasure rippling through him. She pulled him close, grasping with hungry little hands; he thrust harder and faster, her breathy moans battered at his control.

One last gift for his wife.

One...last...gift...

“Connor!”

The pulsations of her second orgasm tugged at his cock and he savored every one. He slowed his movements. He did not deserve the enjoyment he wanted. Mayhap she was not with child, and, if not, he did not deserve to sow his seed.

She moved her hips, her hands sliding to grasp his buttocks. “More,” she whispered in his ear, her breath feathering his lobe. “More.”

It was time.

Despair knotted his throat, but he managed to whisper, “Loralee.”

She stilled underneath him, then her small hands pushed against his chest. He rolled off of her and, though it killed him to see the betrayal and hurt glittering in her blue eyes, he gave her a lazy smile. “Something wrong, my love?”

“Who is—who is Loralee?”

“An...acquaintance.”

“Of the past?” Hope lit the sheen of tears in her eyes.

“If you call the last two nights the past,” he replied, looking down at the coverlet. His jaw clenched at her gasp. Raine, his soul cried out, forgive me.

“You were hunting with Solomon.”

“I was hunting Loralee. I visit her quite a bit, my love,” he drawled. “Surely you did not expect me to end other liaisons after our marriage?”

She pulled the coverlet up to her breasts. “I am lacking, I know, my lord. Yet I hoped I would be enough for you.”

“You are not lacking.” How could she think such a thing? He went up in flames every time he touched her. “But I am a man with a wide and varied appetite. I cannot eat at the same table every night and remain satisfied.” He hoped she did not notice how his voice cracked on the lie.

She scrambled off the bed and hurriedly donned a shift. Candlelight flickered and he saw drops of light in the deep night of her hair. Like a raven’s wing.

“I honor my marriage vows, my lord. I neither wished to marry you, nor wanted to love you. However, I have done both. I will no longer warm your bed. Your mistresses will have to do.”

“We will bed together, wife. It is your duty to bear my sons. In time, you will learn to accept my other women.”

“I will not.” Her expression tightened with anger.

Relief at the return of her spirit flooded through him. He had feared she would accept him sleeping with other women. No, the Raine that stood before him now was the proud, defiant beauty he had found in the woods a lifetime ago, willing to fight him with a dull knife and her wits. Pain clenched his heart.

He had the comfort of knowing she would live—though she would believe him a liar and an adulterer for the rest of her days.

“Connor, know that I have loved you. Know that you have hurt me deeply. I cannot stop loving you, but I will not sleep with you again.”

“You will be mother to my children.” He ran a hand through his hair. “T’would be nothing to hold you prisoner long enough to do what ’twas necessary.”

“I do not know you.” Tears spilled down her cheeks and Connor wanted to take back all that he had said. He pressed his lips together and sent her an indifferent look.

“I am tired of your clinging ways, woman.” He forced himself to yawn. “Our love play was fun, but now I am bored.”

“And I am a fool.”

Through hooded eyes he watched her leave. As the door shut behind her, he knew he had driven away his only happiness forever.

Michael Connors bolted awake, sweat beading his skin as his heart tried to pound out of his chest. Goddamn it. Would the torment never end? Eight-hundred years he’d searched for Raine. In eight lifetimes, he’d never found her. Not once.

Until now.

He slept in the nude—a habit he’d acquired in every life. He ignored the chill as he got out of the four-poster bed. His bare feet slapped against the stone floor as he walked to the window. His bedroom was on the upper floor of the castle—the same room from which he could view the lands once granted to him by a loving father. The same room he’d once shared, oh so briefly, with Raine. All that had changed was the furniture...and his countenance. But his outside was only the vessel. The vessel could be damaged or destroyed, but what it held was eternal.

Michael never remembered the journeys after death, or where he went while he waited to be born again. When he was old enough to think, to remember, his identity of Connor Williams was reaffirmed and his purpose renewed. He was one of the wealthiest men in the world, though no one knew it. He kept his wealth in various banks around the world under different identities. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d had to pretend to be his own son or grandson or great-grandson. It was simple, really. The witch’s spell had been so effective that he remembered all his lifetimes. He kept relevant information and bank account numbers in a secret spot. Unfortunately, he’d had to re-acquire the castle by fair means and foul.

She would remember this place and she would remember them.

Connor, know that I have loved you. I cannot stop loving you...

Michael pressed his fingertips against the cold glass. Please, God, let her love shine as brightly for me as mine does for her. Let all that I have sacrificed in the name of love be rewarded.

“Today, she arrives,” he murmured to the storm-laden skies. “Today, she is finally mine.”