I heard the distinct sound of rushing water, and my eyes fluttered open.
I was lying on soft, pale sand, on the edge of a lagoon. It looked as if I was in the centre of a vast Forrest. Towards the far end of the lagoon, there was a waterfall, cascading down the rock face. The water fell fast, bouncing quickly off the rocks along the way, appearing white where it churned at the bottom.
I inhaled, smelling the musty odour from the surrounding trees and moss-covered rocks.
"Rhett?" I croaked, wearily.
There was a dull, throbbing sensation in my temples, as I sat upright. It felt as if I was coming down with something dreadful. I adjusted myself into a more comfortable sitting position, feeling light-headed and feverish.
I saw Rhett move towards me in my peripheral vision. He bent slightly, resting his hands on both thighs as he leaned down to speak to me.
"Amara, how are you feeling?" He inquired, with caution in his voice.
I shot him an angry glare. "You bit me, how do you think I'm feeling?" I snapped back, in response to his ridiculous question.
Guilt manifested across his finely chiselled features, in the form of a sorrowful frown. If anything, it showed me that he was capable of remorse. However, his puppy dog eyes were not enough to placate me.
"I know," he held up both palms. "You were hurt, and it was the only way I could heal you quickly. You need to be able to get through the labyrinth, and in order to do that, you need to be able to walk," he argued, trying to make his point clear. "You've seen for yourself how dangerous this place is. You're no good to your brother dead, are you?"
I stood to my feet, slowly, in order to check over my injuries. My ankle and thigh had completely healed. So had my knee. The deep scratches on my arm were no longer visible. It was as if nothing had ever happened.
With my temper reaching supernova, I narrowed my eyes into fiery slits of fury. Whereas Rhett's brown ones softened in apology.
"Imbécile," I seethed.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to kiss him, or slap his face... so I did both.
As soon as he approached me, my palm collided with the side of his face, causing his head to snap to the side. A loud slap noise reverberated around the lagoon. I was sure it could've been heard from the heavens above. I wouldn't be surprised if it was heard across the entire labyrinth.
Rhett's face flooded with shock. He obviously hadn't been expecting that. It seemed as if I had caught him off guard.
I put my full force into it, too. I surprised myself by how strong suddenly gotten. Although, I started to regret it, as my palm now stung as if scalded with boiling hot water.
In another fluid motion, my fingers gripped his burgundy sash. Then, standing on my tiptoes, I pulled him down towards me. It looked rather amusing, him standing open-mouthed, eyes wide with shock, as our lips collided.
After the initial shock had subsided, he responded to the kiss, engulfing me in his herculean arms, as he lifted me up off the ground. His tongue parted my lips, becoming acquainted with mine. I wrapped my legs around his waist, as he walked us into the darkened water.
The cold water provided immediate relief from the raging heat that swept over my body.
Our kiss grew fierce, ravenous and urgent. The two of us only stopping to snatch lungfuls of air. I fisted a handful of hair at the back of his head, holding him in place while delivering a delicious assault on his fervent lips.
His dexterous fingers found their way beneath the scrap of material that covered my modesty and I moaned into his mouth. The water no longer provided me with adequate relief as it did at first. My face flushed as the heat all over my body intensified.
"I feel strange," I admitted, breaking the kiss.
"How so?" Rhett asked breathlessly, clearly frustrated that we'd stopped.
I had a feeling he knew only too well, and from the way he was behaving, trailing chaste kisses along the curve of my neck. I'd say he was feeling the exact same thing. He brushed his lips over the mark he made when he bit me, sending pleasurable sensations that flooded straight to my centre.
"I feel as if I'm burning up, and something else, but I can't say it," I mumbled into his shoulder with embarrassment.
"That's why I brought you in the water. It should ease the feeling," Rhett answered as if he knew exactly what I implied.
The feeling had eased only slightly. Now that I was used to the temperature, it wasn't much use at all. I did have the urge to swim towards the waterfall, to see if it was any cooler over there because the more I remained in one place, the more intense the heat became.
I decided against the idea, remembering that I wasn't a strong swimmer. Instead, I continued to cling to Rhett's shoulders.
"Can I ask you a question," I mumbled against his drenched shoulder.
I'd been trying to find the right moment to ask him, ever since he'd mentioned it.
"It depends on what it is, but go ahead," he replied, leaning back to face me with narrowed eyes. They held caution as if waiting to be ambushed.
"Why didn't you want to be mated?" I asked, flatly.
My words came out blunt and direct. Rhett's shoulders relaxed as he exhaled forcefully. I could tell that my question made him feel uncomfortable, but it was too bad. The words had left my lips and now I was waiting patiently for his answer.
He leaned back in the water, allowing me to rest on top of his broad, muscular chest.
"It's not that I didn't want it, as such. It was because of my childhood. You see, my father had to leave my mother and I, for such a long while, and I saw how much she suffered. I was only a child, I was as anxious as she was. Shortly after he left, she gave birth to my brother, Konrad. My mother prepared herself for the worst, but I bore witness to all her pain and sorrow." He blew out a forced breath before continuing.
"I didn't want to risk being mated, only to leave for war. There's always the strong possibility that another war will break out. I just couldn't put my mate and children through what my mother and I went through," he finished, gazing up at the stars with the look of a wounded man.
His eyes dulled with sadness as if he'd already accepted his own fate. Not that he was thinking of himself, at all. He was implying that he intended to spare me from the heartbreak of losing him, one day.
"You're not being fair. It's not only your decision to make. What if I changed my mind? What if I told you that I want to be mated to you?" I argued. "If you didn't want to be mated to me, then why did you bite me"?
"That's just it, Amara, I do. You're mine. Forever and always." Rhett spoke six simple words, that detonated my heart.
He looked me straight in the eyes as he spoke them. It made my heart flutter with a foreign kind of hope. I bit my bottom lip as I smiled.
"I've met your brother, by the way. I like him. He and I are friends," I told him, unable to remove the grin from my face.
He canted his head to one side. "Is that so?"
I knew I had to be tactful. I had already told him that I wanted to be his mate. The thought had crossed my mind that perhaps I could have the best of both worlds. A life with Rhett, as well as coming to Petr's aid.
"You have the ability to heal people?" I asked, more as a statement of fact.
Rhett's tone grew serious as he began to explain. "Yes, Lycan saliva has healing properties, but unfortunately a bite comes with a hefty price. The tendons in your ankle were badly damaged, therefore, I couldn't have healed them externally." He answered, thinking that this was why I brought the matter up.
"What is the price?" I asked.
"To become one of us," he replied, eyeing my reaction.
"Oh," I swallowed, then took a breath. The thought that I could be turned from the bite, hadn't crossed my mind. "And you say you can cure any injury?" I continued.
Rhett appeared confused. "Of course, but why are y—"
I cut him off before he had the chance to finish what he was saying.
"Would that also include illnesses?" My brows scrunched with question.
"Amara, what're you thinking?" He questioned, searching my gaze.
"I'm thinking, you owe me a favour. I'm thinking, that I will agree to become your mate, on one condition," I landed him with an ultimatum, one he may or may not refuse.
He scrubbed a wet hand over his face, before leaning over to speak seductively in my ear. "And what might that be?" He asked, sending tickles along my spine with his raspy voice, lowered to barely a whisper.
I smirked, knowing that I now had him eating out of the palm of my hand. He wanted me all along. He'd as much as admitted it. I felt the same, there was no doubt about it.
But... if he wanted me to stay here forever with him, then he had to do something for me in return. It wasn't in my nature to be manipulative on purpose. It would be far too easy to forget the promise I made to Petr, whilst he lay on his death bed. I felt as if there was no alternative. As much as the words tasted like poison in my mouth, I needed more than an ally to help me fight my way through the labyrinth.
I turned to face him so that our lips touched ever so slightly. "You're going to take me back to the mainland and you're going to help me save my brother. I intend on keeping the promise I made to him. That is my price, in order for me to remain here forever. I think it's only fair," I replied, leaning back to witness his reaction.
I could see the realization settle in his eyes.
"You don't know what it is that you're asking of me. I will be breaking all of our rules. The very same rules that have kept our species safe for thousands of years," he voiced his concerns.
And then I did it. I went against my own sensibility and used the worst kind of emotional blackmail that I could think of. I knew it was a low blow, but it was my last resort and I'll carry the shame for as long as I live.
"If you care for me, at all, you will do it." I bribed.
I felt him tense beneath me. His muscles in his jaw pulsed as his eyes darted back and forth between mine. I could see the conflict in them as plain as day, but it was his feelings for me that won me my victory.
"Very well, I give you my word," he promised.
As soon as he agreed to my terms, I knew he would be bound by his oath.
Moments later, the heat that consumed me, began to intensify once again.
Every part of my body felt as if it was set ablaze with fire. Especially in my most intimate area. I started to claw at my skin as it burned unbearably hot.
"Make it stop," I whimpered, in desperation.
"There's only one way and that's to complete the mating bond." He explained. "Wouldn't you rather do this in a mating chamber?" Rhett asked, surprised by the urgency in my voice.
"Just do it, I'm in agony, I've already told you I agree," I pleaded, lifting my arms as he pulled the silk gown over my head.
He then tossed the drenched silk onto the embankment, then effortlessly tore through the scrap of material that covered my modesty.
His deft fingers brushed along my slit, dipping deep inside my aching channel, only to stroke my inner walls. He circled my engorged clit with the pad of his thumb, looking down at me lustfully, through hooded eyes.
"I'm not hurting you, am I?" He asked lovingly. I shook my head, unable to form a coherent sentence.
Every day during mass, we listened to sermons about giving in to sin. If committing a sin, such as this, was deemed wrong in the eyes of God, then I was more than willing to remain here in hell with Rhett. Never had I felt so much incredible pleasure before.
He removed his fingers and pulled me down onto his cock, filling me up to breaking point with his impressive length. I cried out initially with discomfort, feeling a sharp stab of pain at first, as the head of his cock burst through my entrance and stretched my walls almost impossibly wide. He gave it a moment, allowing my body to adjust to the intrusion. The moment he began to move his hips, dragging his length back and forth along my constricting muscles, it all started to feel more pleasurable.
He was gentle with me, holding me with reverence. He wasn't rough like I imagined he would be. I was grateful for that. Our breathing became ragged as we snatched kisses between breaths, moaning erotic cries of pleasure into the night. His cock was so thick, I couldn't clench my walls as he pounded himself into me, dragging his length in and out amongst my inner flesh.
Every nerve ending in my body felt alight with pleasure. A fiery intensity that began to fill the pit of my stomach with pressure. My sex could only flutter around his girth helplessly, as I reared my head back and screamed my womanly awakenings into the night.
"Amara!" Rhett groaned out loud. His own rhythm quickening, as we reached our peak, simultaneously. His thrusts becoming more and more urgent as he chased his own climax.
Rhett took one of my nipples into his mouth and sucked greedily. Alternating between the two, sending a sharp pleasure, pain sensation that ran straight to my core.
I felt my body tense in the most blissful way, feeling heat flooding through my sex. Through the midst of my own erotic rapture, a rough, throaty moan escaped my lips. My body relaxed and I was left feeling weightless. Rhett's chest heaved, as he too had found his high. With one final thrust, he roared into the night. His cock jerking as he coated my womb with thick gushes of semen.
The intolerable heat ebbed away, leaving me with just a faint tingling sensation across my skin. It wasn't unpleasant. Actually, it was quite the opposite. I leaned across to rest my head on Rhett's shoulder, only to notice that our hearts were now beating together in sync.
I placed my palm against his chest and then to mine. "What does this all mean?" I asked, still breathless.
"It means that our souls are now bound together, as one," he answered.
I liked the idea of that. We were now joined together by the mating bond, and I knew that I could trust him completely.
"We must go. We have only a little time left until sunrise," Rhett advised.
I shuddered as I stepped out of the water, feeling the cold night air biting at my skin.
I squeezed the excess water from my sodden gown and gave it a shake. Reluctantly, pulled it over my head and onto my body, with a grimace.
"You'll dry in no time, look," Rhett assured, pointing to something ahead.
The surrounding forest had begun to alter into desert terrain. The tall, looming trees vanished from all around us, and the lagoon dried up, seeping away into pale sand. I watched with amazement as the land drank away every last drop, before scanning my surroundings. There were valleys of sand that stretched as far as my eyes could see, and even though it was dark, the temperature in the air increased, making me sigh with relief.
"Ahh, this feels better," I relaxed, feeling the warmth envelope me.
I closed my eyes and smiled. Rhett placed his hand in mine and tugged gently.
"Amara, look." Rhett's perturbed tone seemed ominous.
So as I opened my eyes, I followed the direction of his finger as he pointed ahead.
"Oh no." I clutched onto his hand, tightly.