The Cursed Kingdom

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THIRTY-SIX

**Warning: mature content ahead**

~ HEAT ~

The adrenaline pumping through my veins coerced my legs to quicken until my muscles protested and the trees around me became mere blurs of green and brown. I was drunk on it. Utterly and entirely wasted. My mind and body buzzed with restless energy that begged to be released and it felt like I would implode if I didn't listen. Faster, faster, faster... it told me and I complied without hesitation, feeling it leave my body with every fall of my foot against the soil and release of my breath.

I was so consumed by the new sensation that I almost laughed out loud with glee when I heard Henrik's pants closing in on me, basking in his frustration that swarmed the bond loudly like bees around a hive.

The rhythm of my heart accelerated until it was as violent as a lightning storm, my breaths ragged and sweat drenching my scalp when I finally heard paws thudding closing in behind me. A low, familiar growl met my ears, my mark responding with a single pulse that lit my body aflame with desire.

A dark blur shot past me and I let out an unattractive shriek that slightly got trapped in my throat, falling backwards onto the grass on my rear and palms, when a large black wolf jumped in front of me and blocked my path. Growling and placing his tail in the air, the Lycan informed me with just his posture what I already knew and had accepted the moment I sensed him drawing near: I was caught.

The sight of Henrik's wolf form standing tall in front of my sprawled out form on the forest floor escorted my thoughts back to when I'd first seen him and felt true fear for the first time in my young existence. At the time, I truly thought he was going to kill meβ€”rip my throat out like the Rogue had to Taylium and feast on my organs until there was nothing left of me but scraps for insects and bacteria. It was ironic that now as we stared at each other, I couldn't imagine how I could possibly survive without this male. Equivalent to the role oxygen played with lungs, he supplied my heart everything it needed to keep beating and I decided as I sat naked in the middle of the woods, the first beams of the day's sun shining through green leaves, that I never wanted to leave.

There was nothing waiting for me back at Amaryllus. No family. I only had one and he was standing right in front of me and the thought of us ever being apart hurt me more than I would ever admit and it had nothing to do with the mate bond.

I let my adoration for him trickle down into the bridge between our minds and it was enough to shake Henrik out of whatever trance he was in, his body relaxing when he realized I wasn't going anywhere. I admired the way his body swayed majestically with his steps as he began stalking up to me, his scars and eyes the only qualities about him that were exactly the same as his human form. His pointed ears twitched every few seconds and his nose never stopped twitching and I couldn't help but wonder what he was sensing, pondering if it'd be strange to ask.

Henrik stopped when he was about a foot away from me, assessing with an unreadable expression my flushed cheeks and parted lips, where shallow pants escaped in small bursts. Suddenly, he huffed, his breath hot against my forehead, and leaned down to my face, nuzzling it with his damp nose before gifting me with a long lick from my jawline all the way up to my temple.

"Echβ€”Henrik!" I screeched loudly and wiped away his warm saliva with my forearm, grimacing in disgust at the same time I glared at him through my eyelashes. Why is it every time he's a wolf he has to cover me in one of his bodily fluids? I questioned internally. Every nasty word I could think of to call him entered my head and the only factor keeping them from escaping my mouth was my dedication to cleaning my face.

Henrik cocked his head, watching me wipe away his salvia disapprovingly with narrowed eyes. I beg your pardon? His offended baritone voice shot down the bond, the scarred skin above his left eye lifting as if he'd forgotten he didn't have any eyebrows.

I scoffed, staring at him in disbelief like he'd grown another eyeball. "That's gross," I stated blankly, not wanting to imagine how the pungent oil mixed with my sweat must've tasted like.

So it's fine I lick your womanhood every night, my cheeks flushed at his words and I shifted my weight on my hand, but I can't lick your face? He gave me a deadpanned look, his eyes just as expressive as if he was human, and it was a humorous sight to see on such a powerful-looking beast.

I thinned my lips, my way of suppressing a grin, and rolled my eyes towards the sky, choosing to stay silent instead of giving him the satisfaction of knowing I understood he was right.

We stared at each other for a few more heartbeats, neither of us knowing exactly what to do next now that the chase was over. Biting my lower lip, I stood onto my knees so our heads were almost leveled and slowly cupped his face between my palms, his eyes closing. I felt the course fur between my fingertips, watching it move like waves under my light touch, and his snout twitched when my thumb grazed a short whisker next to his nose.

"Beautiful," I breathed out and the wolf beneath me trembled.

I slowly reached up and traced the scar on his face, hearing him purr which made me smile giddily, and made my way around to his back where I admired the missing patches of fur where his scars were. My eyebrows lifted when I observed I was able to see his tattoos on the thin lines of visible skin as well, the sharp black edges and swirls blending in with his fur so well that they were almost completely invisible. I wouldn't have noticed them at all if I hadn't been so up close. Slowly, I trailed a hand down his back, feeling his spine give a shudder as his arousal increased, and sneakily approached his tail that I teasingly grabbed and giggled like a misbehaving child once I reached it.

Henrik, growling in the back of his throat out of annoyance, an emotion he made very clear down the bond, maneuvered his head around and licked my mark, the action instantly making me clench my thighs together and release his tail. He growled and did it again, his teeth nipping at it and leaving behind a burning pleasure that had me gripping the fur on his side.

"Henrik..." I said, my voice an embarrassing whine.

Suddenly, I felt movement under my hands and I watched, wide-eyed and fascinated, as his skin began moving on its own, bones reconstructing themselves together right underneath my palms. Dark fur shrunk and disappeared under his skin until it resembled a human's natural body hair and there was nothing left for me to touch but the smooth skin of a maleβ€”my male.

I gasped in a mix of awe, disbelief, and wonder, not having expected him shifting to be such a quick process.

His spine was the last thing to complete the shifting process and Henrik didn't waste another moment to turn on his knees and cup my face with his calloused hands, his hot breath fanning against my lips and making me shudder. "Do you know," he said, running his nose down the column of my neck, towards my mark, and causing my back to arch into him in search of his warmth, "how difficult it is to shift when I'm hard?"

I laughed once through my nose and then smirked, not hesitating for a single moment to reach down and grip the length of him in my palm. A devilish grin stretched across my face when he gave a pained groan and instinctively rolled his pulsing cock farther into my hand.

"Aw, poor Lycan baby," I teased into his ear.

His brightening eyes shot open and he snarled, snapping his jaw at me and gently grazing the skin of my jaw with his sharpened teeth, nothing even remotely human about the action. But I was not afraid. It was physically impossible. My trust in him was far too great to let something as ridiculous as fear for my mate enter my brain, understanding his animal side was just as much a part of him as the one that held me in his arms and played board games with me.

Henrik was Henrik, whether he chose to respond with words or teeth. And he would not hurt me.

His lips crashed down to meet my own and I moaned when his tongue flicked against mine, causing my sinful thoughts to wander to how he used a similar motion when he pleasured me. The image had the throbbing between my legs become intolerable, my breasts so heavy that I longed for him to grab them to relieve some of my agony. I gripped Henrik's base a little tighter in my hand, a throaty grunt my only reply. Without any warning, I swung my leg over his so I was straddling his kneeled form and sunk down onto him, the both of us releasing sounds of relief at the sensation of us becoming one.

"Shit, Raena," Henrik hissed, both out of pleasure and surprise, and grabbed my rear's cheeks in his hands, pulling them apart slightly as he used them to lift me up and down in a teasing manner. I whimpered, trying to push against his hold to go faster but he refused to give me that satisfaction as he gazed at me through dark long eyelashes in what I could only describe as adoration. It had my heart throbbing almost as much as the place where we were joined and I whimpered when an overwhelming sense of pleasure suddenly washed over me. Then those glowing orbs of his lowered to my breasts and I felt him twitch inside me. "Raena, I..." His words trailed off in a mix of a groan and a growl and my mouth happily swallowed it, loving the sensations it created on my lips and tongue that feverishly scraped against his own.

I know, I wanted to say, his unspoken words not needing to be finished to fill my heart to its content. Me too.

My head spun when he swiftly moved us so I was lying against a soft patch of grass, too far gone to care about the twig stabbing into my shoulder as Henrik rolled his hips into my own, still at that excruciatingly slow pace. I knew he was holding back. I could feel it through the bond and also see it on his face, whose eyebrows were furrowed into a frown and veins pulsed erratically underneath the skin of his neck and temple.

"Henrik," I panted, pushing a strand of hair out of his face that was stuck to his forehead by a thin layer of sweat. "Go faster." My voice was a beg and I trailed my lips across his jawline, feeling his pulse under the sensitive skin and cherishing it like it was my own.

He shook his head and swallowed, slowing his movement until they stopped completely. I frowned in concern when he lifted himself onto his hands to stare down at me. "I..." He licked his lips and looked away, ashamed, as a fresh shade of pink sprouted on his cheeks. "I'm afraid I won't be able to control myself very wellβ€”not as well as I have in the past, I mean."

My eyes flickered over to his clawed hands beside my head, his extended canines, and to his jaw that had begun to noticeably lengthen already and my heart clenched. Gazing into his eyes, I lowered my hands from his shoulders and scraped my nails down his back, over his scars and dangerously close to his ass. "I want you Henrik." My voice was a sensual whisper. "All of you."

Henrik's eyes widened, softened, and turned dark all within one second, his eyes glowing brighter and manhood swelling further inside me to where I whimpered. "You want me to fuck you?" His clawed hand was suddenly placed around my neck, applying only the right amount of pressure to slightly make it harder to breathe. The action took me by surprise and caused my inner walls to clench harder around him, a moan slipping past my teeth as he leaned down and fanned his breath against my ear. "Is that what my sweet, innocent Little Rae wants?" Every brush of his lips against my earlobe made me want to cry in frustration and I circled my hips only to have them pinned down by his other hand. "To be fucked by the Cursed King?"

"No," I said in a raspy voice, the sound causing his body to stiffen under my hands. "I want to be fucked by my mate."

Henrik growled, grabbed my waist, and flipped me over so I was on my hands on knees, my eyes widening in shock from how fast his movements were. A cry into the trees was my response to him slamming himself into me with so much force that I nearly toppled over, the tip of him immediately hitting a place inside me that had me seeing stars.

Henrik groaned above me, the curses that left his mouth in the most sinful ways filling the atmosphere in between the sounds of our skin slapping together. I clawed the ground, my lips open in a silent scream, as he continued to thrust at a pace so hard and fast that I doubted I would be able to walk properly for a long time. He reached a hand around to my front and groped one of my swaying breasts, pinching its hardened peak between his fingers the way he knew I liked but was sure to be careful with his claws. Then, he trailed his touch down and down and down until it found that sensitive nub between my thighs, where he gave a gentle flick with the pad of his forefinger that had me shouting and shattering apart like the finest glass.

My whole being felt like it was falling apart and being stitched back together all at once while my core constricted around him, breaking whatever tether that had been holding him back. Henrik snarled my name into the woods with a final long slam of his hips that echoed throughout the trees, a sound so purely animalistic that I found my body seizing up once more with pleasure. He jerked and twitched inside me, hands tightening on my hips until I felt his claws poke through the skin located in the same areas where other small, dotted scars were from similar situations. The scorching heat of him filled me up to where I worried the birth control pill I'd taken just a few hours prior couldn't possibly work at all When he finally relaxed his hold on my hips, feather-like kisses were placed along my arched, shivering spine, making me smile down towards the ground as I tried to catch my breath.

Henrik slowly pulled out, almost hesitantly, and I sat up onto my wobbly knees, watching as he, in his half-shifted form, closed his bright eyes and tried to calm his harsh breathing, his jaw slowly returning back into its human shape. But it was a long, grueling and seemingly agonizing process, unlike the other times I'd seen him partly shift before. He flinched with every crack of his joints and even I couldn't help but jump when a certain bone in his neck snapped back into place, eliciting a pained grunt and his already furrowed eyebrows to lower even further.

I silently grabbed his hand that was in between a man and beast and kissed it, feeling his fingers shudder. Helplessly, I watched as my Henrik slowly returned to his full human form, staring in concern as his body shuddered and he gave a loud, relieved sigh.

There was silence for a few minutes as we sat there with only the twittering of birds as our company and my eyes didn't once leave him, waiting for him to speak first. I didn't want to assume what was happening, too afraid to let my thoughts wander somewhere where they could never return, and I didn't want to pressure him into telling me either. But the worry and fear I felt ate away at my being until it consumed me whole, entrapping me in its impenetrable teeth.

Henrik gave a shuddering breath, bracing his hands on his knees. "It's normal for Lycans to shift slightly when our heartbeats increase, whether it be caused by physical strain or strong emotions. But sometimes it's hard to control, especially right after I've done a full shift, and it just keeps getting worse," Henrik gritted out, staring at the ground with a glare that would've had the bravest people running in the opposite direction. I could feel his shame and embarrassment through the bond. He hated that I'd witnessed him in such a weak state, especially during a holiday, and I tried to ease the emotion the best I could, entwining our hands together at the same time I caressed his inner walls with every comforting thought I could conjure. "It's a part of the curse. She wants there to be a day where I can't..." He looked off to the side and growled in frustration, his teeth gritted so hard together that I feared he would crack one.

"Hey. It's ok," I breathed and wrapped my arms around his shoulders for both his and my own benefit. I needed the comfort of his warm embrace, as I believed he did mine, but I also did not want him to see the negative emotions swimming in my eyes.

In truth, I didn't want to think about the chances of him one day shifting and never returning. Henrik always appeared so invulnerable to me that I'd never truly considered it a possibility before, although I knew he was the one the Moon Goddess was after. But now that I had witnessed it in front of my own eyes, seen the amount of control and agony it required him to shift back, the reality hit me like a wave and it was drowning me.

Henrik, without speaking a word, lifted me into the air with my legs around his middle, one arm secured around my waist while the other went under my rear. I groaned when my sore womanhood rubbed against the hardness of his abdomen with each of his steps and I buried my face in his shoulder, exhaustion suddenly consuming me from the day's activities while the energy inside me returned back to wherever it'd crawled out of.

Henrik nuzzled his nose in my hair, purring in content as his mind became settled while my muscles suddenly tensed at the sensation of water against my toes. I shot my head up and peered behind my shoulder to see Henrik walking us into a clear blue lake and I shuddered as the cold water rose to my hips, slowly getting a little higher each passing second and the further he walked into it.

"As much as I'd enjoy everyone smelling you dripping with my seed," Henrik said with a chuckle at seeing my displeased face towards the freezing lake and his words, "I'm not sure how much your poor human heart would."

I rolled my eyes and clung onto him tighter. Henrik finally came to a stop when the water was above my breasts and was a hair's width away from his pectorals. After a moment of getting comfortable to the change of temperature, the cool liquid felt like heaven against my heated skin that was covered in sweat, grime, oil, and another white substance that had me blushing to think about.

I hummed in content, listening to the sound of slow running water and Henrik's calming heartbeat beneath my ear. My eyes lazily moved upward and saw the orange sun almost completely above the mountain tops, painting the sky with such exquisite colors that I was reminded how beautiful life could be.

"Raena?" I murmured my response into his shoulder, too tired to lift my head. "Do you think I'd make a good father?" Henrik asked in a gentle whisper, stroking my back and kissing the top of my hair. He then rubbed the bridge of his nose along my temple, reminding me of a feline trying to leave its scent.

My eyes opened wider at the question and my heart became heavy with guilt, so heavy that if it wasn't for Henrik lifting me up, it would've dragged my body straight to the bottom of the lake. "Yes, of course." I swallowed, staring at the trees and anywhere else that wouldn't require me to look into his eyes.

Henrik held me closer, reminding me of how I used to hold the stuffed dolls my mother made me to my chest whenever I sought comfort as a toddler. "I ask because my father wasn't the kindest male." I immediately thought of his facial scar and the horror I felt when I learned his own parent had done that to him. I listened to the rest of his words carefully, my eyebrows furrowed in concentration so I wouldn't miss anything. "My mother was the one who truly taught me everything that matters. She was talented in every subjectβ€”art, literature, cuisine. Gods, Raena, she would've loved you," Henrik said wistfully, his voice revealing that vulnerability he always hid behind his perfected mask of indifference. "She would've fed your love of sweets until you couldn't walk." He chuckled softly at the thought, the beautiful sound making my eyes sting.

"She sounds like an amazing person," I told him. I hated the way my voice broke, wishing desperately that I could be strong for my mate for once and instead was failing miserably.

"She was," he nodded in agreement, suddenly sounding somber. "But she made a terrible queen." That sentence made my eyebrows furrow, never having heard anything negative about the late monarch before and never expecting it to come from her son. "My mother was too overpowered by her emotions to be able to handle the hard choices sometimes necessary for our people. If there was ever an execution of a traitor or a law made that would hurt a few but benefit the economy as a whole, she couldn't look at my father for weeks knowing what he'd let happen. Eventually, my mother's merciful, kind nature and my father's attempts at appeasing her led to the Human Kingdom conquering over half our kingdom. You, though, have found a balance within just eighteen years, which astounds me everyday. You care for people but you don't let them get away with shit, not even me, which is what I admire the most about you."

The stinging in my eyes intensified and I rested my chin on his shoulder, my foot idly rubbing against the rough skin of his back, and I was thankful my face wasn't in his eyesight. I need to tell him, I thought, playing with the ends of his hair, and dug my nose into the crook of his neck to breathe him in, clinging onto him and hoping he would never let goβ€”that this moment in time would never end.

He smelled like home.

I made a sound in between a squeal and a moan when Henrik suddenly nudged his hardness against my sore entrance while giving my mark a gentle kiss, the vibration of his deep laughter against the sensitive skin making me jump.

"We still have a couple more minutes until the sun completely rises over the mountains, my female," he reminded me in a wicked whisper before turning my head with a hand on my chin so he could pull me into a searing kiss that had my toes curling and core pulsing instantly.

I need to tell him, I repeated as I trailed my lips down his skin and to the place where his neck and shoulders met, teasingly biting him enough to leave a sting but not break skin. A growl loud enough to quake the trees was my response. But just not today.


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