Ronan has been true to his word. The next morning, while I was sipping my coffee, a knock sounded at my door. When I’d answered it there had been no one there, but a small box, wrapped with red ribbon, had been left for me. On top of the box, there was a white envelope with my name scrawled across in in neat, cursive ink.
When I’d opened the box, I found a beautiful, white gold ring inside, adorned with three, massive diamonds. In between the diamonds were several, small opal jewels, which sparkled with breathtaking colors when the light hit them just right. It was a gorgeous ring, fit for a queen...
Or a lying, cheating, two faced snake...
I studied the ring more closely as I sipped my coffee, trying to find the rune that had been carved into it. After ten minutes of confusion, I finally saw the small intention on the inner band, so faint that it was nearly invisible.
She’d never notice it.
I put the ring back in it’s tiny box and lifted the envelope, eyeing it warily. I slid off of the bar stool and leaned my elbows against the island as I studied it. When I finally ripped into it and pulled out the folded paper, I gasped.
It was a charcoal sketch. A sketch of me...
I was standing beneath the tree from last night. The lanterns were sketched above me, causing my eyes to shimmer. My face was a cross breed between anxiety and wonder. It was so detailed, so life like...
At the bottom of the page was a note.
Please, do me the honor of accompanying me to our engagement party tonight. The entire Aviary will be there, celebrating our upcoming union, as well as the return of Lady Andromeda Price and Lord Torryn Griggs. Your public rune removal ritual, which is scheduled for tomorrow evening, will also be announced at the party.
High Lord Ronan Regulus
I stared at the page, waiting to feel something. But nothing came. I was completely numb. Nothing could undo this. I was bound to Ronan now, indefinitely, just as he’d written.
I set the letter down on the island counter top and began to slowly pace around the kitchen, sipping my coffee, waiting to feel something...
The minutes ticked by...
A sudden, loud whooshing sound startled me out of my vacant minded pacing. I yelped, dropping my mug of coffee. It shattered at my feet, the hot liquid burning my toes.
“Shit, Ouch!” I cursed. My head whipped toward the balcony, where the noise had come from.
Dristan stood in the doorway, his hair ruffled around his horns from flight, his wings tucked in tightly behind his back. I only needed to meet his gaze for an instant to know that he was pissed. I swallowed and straightened as I gazed at him, the spilled coffee forgotten.
He was wearing black slacks and a plain, black T-shirt. The lack of color in his attire caused his startlingly blue eyes to stand out even more than usual.
He folded his muscled arms across his broad chest as he leaned casually against the door post. His eyes raked slowly down my body and I realized I was still wearing my very short, silk nightgown. His eyes lifted back to my face, two pits of blue flame.
I felt myself shrinking inwardly as his glare pierced into me, paralyzing me to the spot. His expression seemed to become more and more angry with each passing second.
“Dristan-” I started to whisper, but I was cut off.
“Tell me it’s not true.” He demanded, his voice like ice.
I inhaled a shaky breath. “How did you find out?”
He growled as he threw a white card toward my feet. It was an invitation to tonight’s ball. I stared down at it as I read the inscription, which had been scrawled in perfect cursive, and bordered by red roses.
You are cordially invited!
Tonight at 8pm.
Join the celebration for the royal engagement of
Princess Brenya Alemand
High Lord Ronan Regulus
As I lifted my face back to his, I found his eyes shining with anguish.
“Why?! Why did you do it?!” He bellowed, pushing off of the doorway. He stalked toward me, his wings flaring behind him. the action should’ve scared me, but I felt nothing, still numb. I held my ground as I stared up at him blankly.
“I didn’t have a choice.” I whispered.
He glared down at me with flared nostrils. “I told you we would find another way.” He seethed.
I shook my head slowly. “There is no other way. You know that.”
“I would’ve killed her before I let you do this.” He hissed, his body an inch from mine.
I let out a small laugh. “Do you honestly think I’d let you do that? Do you know what that would do to you? She’s your longest friend. She may be a cheating, traitorous slut, but she doesn’t deserve to die, Dristan...”
He huffed angrily and ran his hands through his hair. “We’ll find a way out of this... You’ll call it off after we get the ring...”
He didn’t realize it was impossible, now. My icy blood seemed to turn colder, numbing me ever further, as I turned away from him.
I walked toward the island robotically and picked up the box before walking back to him and placing it in his palm. I stared up at him, my face like stone.
He studied my expression, confusion swimming in his eyes. “You’ve already got it...”
I nodded, lowering my eyes to his chest.
“Then call it off.” He murmured, slipping the box into the pocket of his slacks.
“No...” I whispered.
“What do you mean, no?”
“What are you talking about? Of course you can, just tell him-”
“Dristan! I can’t!” I yelled, snapping my eyes to his.
He blinked down at me, shocked at my outburst. I watched his confusion turn to rage as his eyes darkened. “Has he threatened you? I’ll kill him...”
“No... He hasn’t threatened me.” I breathed.
“Then call it off, Brenya.”
I sighed and turned away from him, about to walk toward the living room, but he caught me by the wrist.
“What the hell is this?” He whispered in horror. I turned my head to look at him and found him staring at the rune on my wrist, his mouth hanging open, his eyes wide.
“What have you done?” His eyes lifted to mine.
For the first time since I’d received the mark, I felt a twinge of emotion stirring inside of me as I stared into his tormented eyes. I could feel my face breaking.
“He bound me to my word, Dristan... He wouldn’t make the rune unless he knew I wasn’t bluffing...”
He let go of my wrist and took a step back, his face crumpling. “You... You let him bind you to him?”
I stared at him, my face grim, my eyes burning with the coming tears.
“No... Brenya, no...” His voice broke on the last word.
That one, broken word, completely disarmed me.
My heart, which had been slowly cracking apart over the last several hours, finally split into two as he backed away from me. His expression went from desolate, to disbelieving, to pure rage... and then circled back to misery again.
A choked cry escaped my lips as I watched him retreat, as if he could escape the horrible reality of the situation.
“Dristan, I’m sorry... please....” I whispered as tears blurred my vision.
“He’s dead. He’s fucking dead!”
“How could you do this?” His voice was hardly a whisper.
“I did it for you...” I pleaded, taking a small step toward him.
“No...” He shook his head, bringing his hand to his face and rubbing it across his stubble and lips.
“No.” He repeated.
He dropped his hand, his eyes swimming with despair. “You didn’t do this for me... This is far worse for me to endure than having to marry Andromeda. You did this for you, Brenya. You did this so that you wouldn’t have to watch me marry her. You did this out of selfishness. And now... I am the one who will have to watch you marry him... You’ve passed that burden onto me.”
I clutched a hand to my heart. “No! I did this so that you could be free of her! I did this so that you would be free to choose your own wife, someone you love, someone who is deserving of you and your throne! I did this for you!”
“Someone I love? That’s not going to happen.”
“Yes it will! It has to... Otherwise, I did this for nothing!”
He chucked, running a hand through his hair. “Gods damnit, Brenya... You just don’t fucking get it, do you?”
I shook my head as tears fell from my eyes.
His hands fell limply to his sides as he stared at me, his eyes draining of their anger.
“I will never be free to choose the woman that I love.”
“Yes you will, you just have to find her!”
“No...” He whispered, his eyes intense, as he stepped closer to me. “Can’t you see?” He stopped an inch away from me and gazed down into my eyes with an emotion I’d never seen inside of his depths before.
“I have already found her.”
The world fell away from beneath my feet. My lips parted in disbelief as he gazed at me, through me, into my very soul. I couldn’t speak.
My shattered heart seemed to pulse with new life as his words sank into my mind, somehow pulling back together at the seams, repairing itself. The emptiness I’d felt all day... The hollow, bottomless depth of emotional void in my soul... was suddenly replaced with an explosion of warmth and joy.
He lifted a hand and brushed the back of his knuckles against my cheek. “Don’t you understand?” His eyes alternated between my own.
“You impossible... Defiant... Brilliant... Beautiful woman....” He whispered, brushing my tears away with the pad of his thumb. “It’s you, Brenya.... I love you.”
He pulled me into his arms just as my legs fell out from under me. Sobbing cries erupted out of me as a happiness as equal as my despair enveloped my being. The sobs racked through me, and went on for what seemed like forever, as my body trembled against him.
He held me the entire time, his face buried in my hair, never loosening his arms from around me, never showing a hint of impatience. He just let me cry.
After an immeasurable amount of time, I felt him lift me into his arms. I was vaguely aware that he had carried me into my bedroom when I felt the softness of my bed replace the strength of his arms.
I slowly opened my eyes as my crying subsided, and found him lying across from me, his arm propped up on the pillow. His free hand was absentmindedly playing with a strand of my hair. He met my gaze with gentle, blue depths and smiled weakly at me.
“I hate it when you cry.” He said softly.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered. And I knew, that he knew, I wasn’t just apologizing for crying. I was apologizing for everything. For what I’d done... For being selfish. For hurting him, for hurting myself. For all of it.
“I forgive you.” He said, lifting my hand and planting a soft kiss on my knuckles. He brushed his thumb over the spot his lips had been as he studied me. “I’m going to find a way to get you out of this engagement. Somehow... We’ll figure it out.”
I knew he was in denial. There was no way out. But I smiled softly anyway, and reached out, brushing my fingers over his lips. “I wish I could just... Be with you...Marry you.”
His eyes softened. “I wish that more than you’ll ever know. But it would go against every belief that the Fae people have. They would riot if their Princess married a Dragon Lord...”
I winced and let out a shaky sigh. The people were supposed to be more important to me than anything. My kingdom had to come first. Guilt coursed through me as I felt a sudden hatred for them, for my crown... I didn’t want it... It wasn’t fair...
Depression loomed above me and threatened to drown me in it’s sticky, black, tar like substance. I pushed it away, as well as the thoughts about my people, my kingdom, the whole world... And I focused on him. Only him...
“I’ve loved you for a long time, now...” I breathed.
He kissed each of my fingertips in turn as I spoke slowly. “As soon as you stepped into the Captain’s path, after he struck me in the village, I felt something... I just didn’t know what it was... And when you let me read the letter from my father... It grew into something more. And then, in the forest... When you saved me from the wolves... That’s when I realized what my feelings meant.”
He pulled me toward him, over the sheets, pulling my body flush against his. He rested his forehead against mine as he sighed deeply.
“It’s been a bit... different... for me.” He admitted.
I furrowed my brows. “What do you mean?”
His eyes flashed with emotion as he held my gaze. “From the moment I first looked into your eyes... My dragon changed. I remember when you first looked at me, your face soaking from the rain... It physically stunned me. I couldn’t move... I’d been suppressing my dragon for a long time, keeping him hidden, deep inside. But as soon as you looked at me... Brenya, you sparked something inside of him. I can’t explain it. All I know is what I felt. And ever since I met you, he’s been out of his fucking mind with this overwhelming, protective, possessive drive to be near you.”
His fingers traced the outline of my jaw as I stared into his eyes, immersed in his words.
“It wasn’t until you struck Flynn with the rock and killed him that I realized I shared my dragon’s feelings. People don’t surprise me. Ever... But you... You’ve shocked the hell out of me every single day, since the day I met you. You’ve stunned and amazed me with your bravery, your spirit, your smart mouth, your loving heart... Your strength... By the time we got to the Bakru village, I was burning... I was in flames, overwhelmed with the desire to touch you, to taste you, to claim you... It’s driven me mad, Brenya. And when I saw you with Ronan... I knew. I couldn’t lie to myself any longer. I realized that I’ve loved you, all this time. And when those words went through my mind... I love her... It broke me. I’ve never feared anything before... But you... You absolutely terrify me.”
I smiled. “I terrify you? I nearly died of a heart attack when I first saw your dragon and you killed the soldiers. You still scare me... a little... Sometimes...”
He chuckled softly, his minty breath fanning across my cheeks. “I know... It was quite entertaining, watching you try to hide your fear of me. Your face was so unreadable, but your scent always gave you away... ”
I scowled playfully. “I wish I were as brave as you are.”
his smile faded as his eyes scanned every detail of my face. “I’m not brave when it comes to you.”
My hand left his face and trailed down his neck, his shoulder, his chest...
“You’ve never seemed afraid to me. You’re always so bold... You’ve been the one who’s acted first in all of this... Us...”
“It’s not being with you that I’m afraid of. It’s losing you that scares me. It’s the fact that you constantly occupy the contents of my mind. It’s knowing that for the first time in my life, someone has the power to harm me. It’s knowing that you’ll be at his side, in his bed... It’s knowing that you’ll never truly be mine.”
I pressed my palm against his heart, feeling the precious, dull thud of it beating beneath my touch. “You’re wrong.” I whispered.
His throat bobbed as his eyes alternated between mine.
“It doesn’t matter who is by my side... My heart belongs to you, Dristan, always... I love you, and I am yours.”
For the first time since I’d known him, I saw moisture swimming in his eyes. My heart ached at the sight of him coming undone before me. I curled my arm up and wove my fingers into his silky hair as I leaned forward to kiss him.
My lips melted against his softly, molding with his in the most perfect of ways. “I love you.” I whispered against his lips, pulling myself against him, welding every inch and curve of my body to his. I felt a tear spill over his cheek and I tasted the saltiness of it between our lips.
“Brenya...” He breathed, his arms tightening around me. The way he said my name, so delicately, so lovingly, sounded like the answer to some unspoken prayer.
His lips became more desperate against mine, his sense of need escalating, inflaming my own sense of desire. His tongue slid over the seam of my lips and I parted them wider, meeting the heat of his tongue with my own. His hand slid down my side, following the dip of my waist, and then firmly gripped my hip.
I moaned into his mouth as the familiar, tingling warmth began to spread in my lower belly, traveling straight toward the apex of my thighs.
He moved suddenly, flipping me onto my back. I gasped at the unexpected movement. I blinked up at his towering form above me. His wings flared out to the sides, blocking out the light, shielding me from the outside world, from anything and everything, aside from him.
The light behind him illuminated his wings, causing the shades of deep purple within the black webbing to become visible. I could see the veins inside of the leathery wings, twisting and spiderwebbing outward. I stared at them in awe, wondering what they’d feel like beneath my hands.
He sat back on his knees as he stared down at me with wild, heated eyes, his hands both resting on the tops of my exposed thighs.
“Tell me you’re mine.” He demanded, his slitted eyes raking down my body. The thin material of my silk nightgown did little to shield my body from him. My nipples grew stiff beneath his gaze, as my heart began to thunder against my ribs.
“I’m yours.” I whispered breathlessly.
A soft growl grew in the back of his throat as he lifted one of his hands in the air. He held his clawed, index finger in the air above me, hovering a few inches from my body. I watched, perplexed, wondering what he was doing.
He curled his finger like a hook in the air and began to drag it down, over the length of my body. And though he was not touching me, the fabric of my nightgown began to rip open. The material at my neckline split open and I gasped, my eyes wide, as the fabric continued to rip, following the motion of his finger through the air.
By the time he’d reached the hem of the silk gown, I was panting with unhinged need. He was so daring, so sexy... It excited me in ways I never knew could exist.
The last of the material shredded in half and he slid his eyes to mine. He uncurled the rest of his fingers lazily and then flicked his wrist. As soon as he did, the two, shredded pieces of silk flew to the sides, yanking open like a curtain.
Along with the nightgown, my panties also magically disappeared, leaving me completely bare, every inch of my body exposed to him.
I gasped loudly at the sensation of the sudden, cold air on my skin as his eyes devoured me, sweeping over every detail, every dip and curve, every part of me.
“You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” He said, his eyes settling back on my own. I felt my cheeks heating as I bit my lower lip.
He growled and leaned forward, pulling my lip free with his thumb on my chin. He sucked my lower lip between his own teeth and bit down softly, grazing my flesh with his fangs. I moaned softly at the slight pain, delighted by the sensation, but he pulled away too soon, and began trailing kisses down my jaw.
“Do you know how long your scent has driven me mad?” He murmured, his lips trailing down the slope of my neck. I tilted my head back to give him better access. “I am going to taste you, Brenya...”
His head trailed lower, his tongue and lips caressing my collar bones, my breasts, my navel... He curled his arms around the backs of my legs, over my hips, and gripped the tops of my thighs firmly in his large hands as he settled lower.
I cried out in surprise when he pulled my legs outward, spreading them wide, exposing my most sensitive area. I gazed down at him, between my swollen breasts, as he brought his lips to the skin of my inner thigh.
He began dragging his lips slowly along the skin of my thigh, his breath hot against me. The sensation of him being so close to my center, yet not touching me there, was absolutely maddening. My back arched off of the bed involuntarily as his tongue flicked out over the sensitive skin.
“Dristan!” I cried out.
I felt him smile against my skin just before he bit down, extracting a long moan from my lips. He switched to my other thigh, trailing gentle kisses and flicks of his tongue over the flesh there, while his hand trailed soft, feather light circles on the skin just above my pubic bone.
My hands slid up over my sides and I gripped my own breasts, desperate to feel something, to feel more... I kneaded the soft mounds, rolling the hardened length of my nipples between my fingers as he continued to tease me.
I glanced down at him and found him watching me, his teeth bared against my flesh. I moaned at the lust and heat in his eyes and gently squeezed my breasts as he watched me.
His hand began to trail lower.
He switched thighs again, trailing the heat of his tongue up and down my inner leg, so close to where I needed him. His eyes didn’t leave mine as his hand finally dipped between my legs and I felt his fingers brush against the seam of my sex.
His breath tickled my skin as he snarled, “Fuck... you’re wet...”
He pushed two fingers into me and I mewled at the long awaited friction. I rolled my hips to meet his hand. He slid his fingers out, then back into me, and then out once more... So, so slowly.
I rolled my hips again, eager to feel more... But he pulled his fingers away, causing me to whine in distress.
“No!” I panted, frustrated.
I glared down at him, ready to scold him for it, but my dismay was forgotten as I watched him suck his fingers into his mouth. His eyes were two, dark pools of stormy sea as he stared into mine and he growled in approval at the taste of me.
I threw my head back onto the pillow as his lips began trailing up my thigh again. He was torturing me. This was torture. My hands tangled into the sheets at my sides, gripping onto them for dear life.
“Please...” I moaned, my back arching.
“There is the word I’ve been waiting for... ” He smiled against my skin.
He lifted upward, toward my belly, and planted a soft, chaste kiss against the skin below my navel. I watched in fascination as he began to trail the kisses lower, and lower.
The stubble of his chin gently scraped across the sensative skin above my pubic bone and I gasped, my hands shooting into his hair. He glanced up at me as his mouth trailed lower, his eyes full of desire and dark intent.
He paused as he hovered above the apex of my thighs, his eyes still glued to mine.
“Please...” I whispered once more.
The slick heat of his tongue slid between the highest point of my folds, flicking firmly... just once...against the swollen bud of my clit.
That one, simple movement set off a barrage of fireworks inside of my body. Colors sparked behind my closed eyelids as I cried out at the unbelievable sensation.
My fingers tightened in his hair, trying to press him closer to me, but he resisted. He flicked his tongue against my bundle of nerves a second time, and then pulled away again. My back bowed off of the bed, my body screaming.
“Dristan, Please, I need more!” I begged, knowing it was what he wanted.
As soon as the words fell from my trembling lips, he unleashed himself upon me. His tongue trashed against the sensitive nub, rolling around and around, circling that single point of my most desperate need.
I panted as I moved my hips against him, rolling my body in time with his movements, as he feasted upon me. He growled deeply as he lapped at my entrance, tasting my essence. My hips bucked as he pushed the tip of his tongue inside of me, filling me with heat.
I moaned as pleasure began to grow inside of me, building me up, higher and higher. He moved his expert tongue back to my bundle of nerves, circling round and round, side to side, up and down...
I didn’t think he could add to the intense pleasure, but when he slid his fingers inside of me and began pumping them in and out, I realized I was wrong.
“Oh, gods...” I moaned, my toes curling inward. I couldn’t contain the feeling. My legs began to stretch and kick involuntarily, overwhelmed by the pleasure, and he tightened his grip on me, pinning me to the bed.
The restriction of movement increased the intensity of the pleasure and my moans grew louder. My voice seemed to be the only outlet, the only way to expel the waves of desire swelling inside of me.
He snarled in satisfaction at my growing cries of ecstasy, my body trembling against his lips.
I was nearing the edge of a cliff, my body singing, my insides quivering with growing intensity. Higher and higher he took me, and my very soul felt as thought it were lifting out of me as we neared the summit of my orgasm.
“Come.” He growled with authority, his tongue still trashing against me.
And that one word, that one demand, was all it took to send me over the edge. I plummeted, spiraling back toward earth, as my orgasm pulsed through me.
“Dristan!” I cried out his name as I came against his mouth. He pulled his fingers out of me as his tongue slid against my entrance. He groaned as he felt the contractions of my muscles squeezing around him.
I went limp, my soul slowly melting back into my body as I came back to my senses. I panted, trying to catch my breath as small aftershocks rocked through me, my ears still ringing with the intensity of my release.
He trailed feather light kisses up my belly, my breasts, my neck, before he kissed my lips. His tongue swept into my mouth and I could taste myself on him.
“Do you see how sweet you taste?” He whispered against my lips, his tongue gently moving against mine. My only response was a weak whimper as I swept my tongue over his lower lip.
I didn’t know it was possible to want a man so desperately. I wanted him, all of him, in every way that I could have him. Spiritually, physically, emotionally, all of it.
No, I didn’t want it. I needed it.
I reached down between us and pressed my palm against the stiff bulge in his pants. He hissed, his eyes widening, as I slid my hand down the length of him, feeling him through the material.
“You told me once that I wasn’t allowed to touch you until you’d tasted every inch of my skin... You’ve tasted me... Now let me touch you.”
His hand snaked down and wrapped around the back of mine, still pressed against his manhood.
“You’re not ready for this.” He whispered, emphasizing the last word by pushing his hips forward, furthering himself into my hand.
I inhaled sharply, amazed at his girth. “I am more than ready. I need to feel you. All of you.”
His eyes darkened. “That’s not what I mean, love. What I mean is that your body will not accept me.”
My eyes widened as I stroked the thick inches through his clothing. He was big. But it was difficult to tell just how big while he was dressed.
He smiled at the bewilderment on my face. “You’re still in your human form. I don’t want to hurt you. When you become Fae, your body will be different.”
“How?” I asked.
“You’ll be stronger, physically. Less susceptible to pain and injury. It will still be...” his grin widened. “A tight fit... But you will be able to handle it without the risk of me harming you.”
I pursed my lips. “You’re really going to make me wait?” I slid my hands back up his body and wrapped my arms around his neck.
“Believe me... ” He kissed me briefly. “I don’t want to... But it’s necessary.”
“But... Aren’t you... In need of release?” I said shyly, my cheeks heating as we smiled at each other.
He chuckled. “Well... Thanks to you... I’ve been finding my own release several times a day.”
My moth popped open.
“If I didn’t, I’d end up tearing the entire Aviary to rubble.” He added, nibbling my lower lip.
“You feral beast.” I teased, giggling at him.
He huffed a laugh before capturing my lips with his own. “That’s my favorite sound in the world.”
“When I make you laugh.”
He rolled off of me and pulled me to his side as he closed his eyes. Curious, I reached my hand up and ran a finger over the length of one of his horns. He opened his eyes as he gazed down at me, watching silently.
It was smooth, but it had ringed ridges all around the width, which felt bumpy beneath my touch. The end was sharp and I winced as I tapped it with the tip of my finger.
When I met his eyes again, they were swirling with affection. “I’ve never let anyone touch my horns before...”
I smiled softly at him, soaking in his beauty. I could drown in the oceans of his eyes and die happily there.
“I should go.” He murmured, his eyes trailing down my nose, my lips, my chin, and back up again. As if he were trying to memorize my face.
“I don’t want you to go...” I whispered.
“I don’t want to... But you need to get ready for the party... And I have work to do.”
“I have to meet Andromeda and Torryn when they return for briefing. I need check on Sylvie and Marrok... And I have a lot of research to get started on.”
I furrowed my brows. “Research?”
“Yes. I’m going to figure out how to get you out of the binding rune.”
I closed my eyes. “Dristan... There’s no way out. We would need a miracle...”
“Then I will find one.” He whispered, brushing a strand of hair out of my face. “If it kills me, I will find one.”
I opened my eyes, feeling the moisture behind them growing. “I love you.”
He kissed me softly. “Say it again...”
We spent awhile longer in the bed, both whispering soft words of affection to each other, both savoring our moment of secret happiness.
When he finally left, the reality of what had just happened between us hit me. I felt lighter, somehow...
I prepared for the party in a daze. I felt like I was floating as I drifted around my chambers, my mouth curled into a permanent smile.
And even though everything around me seemed to be falling apart...
I was whole inside...
He loves me...