The next morning, the dimly lit room had a grey haze blanketing it from the storm clouds outside, slowly bringing me out of my whiskey-hazed dream. I’d replayed the conversation over and over in my head as I crawled into bed the night before. What they required of their bloodline families was insane, but I guess it wasn’t much different than royals in history had always done. Only, they didn’t mate into an unbreakable soul-tethering mate bond. I shook my head as the events began to roll through my memory and immediately stopped on Xander sitting across from me shirtless as the firelight danced across his muscular figure. Blood began to rush to my cheeks and I felt a warmth growing inside of me. I quickly pushed the thought away and sat up, running my hands over my sleepy face.
Get it together Hastings. He basically just told you he’s been waiting for his mate. He does not want me for anything other than what’s moving through my veins. That’s all that is drawing him. He practically said so himself.
I shook my head, hoping that wasn’t true, but knowing it was. I gently stood and tiptoed out of the library, heading to my room. I opened the closet to see two new outfits hanging.
He must have brought them in while I was asleep.
My heart fluttered as I thought of him being near me while I slept. I pushed the feeling down and my fingers ran through the material of the first one. It was a simple dress, but instead of rigid lines, it was softly draped. It was a pale blue dress with a bateau neck. I rolled my eyes, but turned to see that the back actually dropped about four inches into a “V” and buttons ran down to the hem. I slipped it on and it floated down over my body. The sleeves draped just below my shoulders and the waistline pinched in at my waist, fitting snugly just below before falling over my hips. I smiled and nodded at the improvement.
My eyes fell to the second garment and saw that it was considerably dressier. It was a beautiful sleeveless black silk gown. It had beads cascading down the waist and pooling at the hemline. It was definitely a more slim cut dress, and a row of beaded fringe settled across the lower hip. I turned to see the back cut down to a very deep V, with illusion lace filling the space up to about three inches below my shoulders. It was stunning.
I can’t wait to ask where in the world I’m supposed to wear this little beauty.
I washed my face and brushed my teeth before running my hands through my wavy blonde hair. As I walked out, I listened for any sign of movement. The house was silent. I made my way to the kitchen before letting out a surprised yelp to see Xander standing facing the window. He turned to me and threw his hands up with a smile.
“Oh my God! You scared me. I didn’t hear anyone so I assumed you’d be out. I wasn’t expecting you to be in here.” My hand settled on my chest as I tried to slow my breathing.
He laughed as I tried to calm my nerves, smoothing my hands down over my dress. His eyes lingered as he took in my appearance and then met my eyes in surprise.
“What? Do I have something on my face?”
He let out a laugh and shook his head. “It’s just, your eyes were an incredible emerald green before, and now they look almost blue. It’s strange.”
I smiled and felt the heat rising in my cheeks. “Oh. Sometimes, they change depending on what I wear, or how I feel. I’ve even been told they were light grey before, which I’m not sure is even possible.”
I giggled and walked over to the fridge, pulling out eggs and some tomatoes. He reached to take them from me but I held firm to the containers, staring intently back up at him. “You really can’t keep cooking for me. I promise, I can take care of myself.”
He narrowed his eyes but finally surrendered with a sigh. “I’m the one keeping you here, the least I can do is cook for you.”
I grinned and began quickly cracking eggs into the pan sitting on the stovetop. I added a few cut tomatoes and began to prepare the omelet. He let out a grunt and sat down on the bar stool to watch me.
“Thank you for the dress by the way. It’s beautiful.”
“I thought you needed something that suited you better.” His eyes met mine playfully and he grinned.
I shrugged and gave him a grateful smile back. “So, what was the other one for? That beautiful black one. It was amazing, but I can’t imagine where I could possibly need to wear something so ornate.”
His shoulders tensed and his playful grin fell. “I had told you I’d sent word to my parents about how to proceed with you. They’ve responded. I am to bring you to them at once for inspection.”
I immediately stopped, suddenly no longer hungry. “So what does that mean?”
He flashed to my side and I jumped, my heart furiously pumping at the surprise. “It will be ok. They’ll just want to test you as I did, seeing what you’re capable of withstanding mentally. They’ll look to see if you’re marked in any way, but I won’t leave your side. I will not let anything happen to you.”
My breath caught in my throat and I froze. “Marked?”
Xander squared his shoulders to face me, his hand reaching to stroke my cheek and bring my eyes to his as he spoke softly. “They will need to see your body, to see if you have any markings of a gift. Markings of an immortal.”
The air felt thick and I labored to breathe. My chest tightened as the room began to spin. “What the hell is an immortal? Xander, I...I can’t take my clothes off for complete strangers.”
I felt myself fading, and my knees buckled. Xander scooped me up and held me strong against his chest, flashing into my room and gently laying me on the bed. As he began to release me, my hands clutched to his arms. I needed the stability of his strong hold to keep from falling apart.
He remained seated next to me and pulled me into his body, running both arms back around me in an iron grip. “I’m sorry Emma. I promise, I will be with you the entire time. I will not leave your side if that’s what you want. Don’t be afraid. It will be all right.”
I nodded, but clutched closer to him, relaxing into his comforting steel hold. I took a deep calming breath, breathing in his comforting scent as well. Cedar and spice. After a while, I felt myself finally able to sit up and I placed my hand on my face in quiet frustration.
I can’t do this. I’ve got to get a grip. I can’t just fall apart any time someone wants to touch me or look at me.
“How are you feeling now?” I jumped as I heard his smooth voice speaking lowly behind me, gauging my response.
He sat forward immediately, feeling me tense and seeing my jump as he spoke. He brought a comforting hand to the back of my shoulders, rubbing gently between them. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Shaking my head, I spoke quietly, trying to regain my composure. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have reacted like that. I don’t know why I did.”
He sensed my lie, and leaned further up to stroke his fingers down my jawline, pulling my chin around to see him. I felt him studying my face and I finally met his eyes, tears threatening to fall.
“What happened to you Emma?” His eyes were piercing into mine, searching for any answer as to why the girl in front of him could be so fragile and yet so strong in one body.
I pulled from his hand and broke his gaze, not able to keep the tears from falling. “Nothing. I just...don’t want to do this. I just want to go home.”
I felt him stiffen at the last sentence, and I shot from the bed before he could try to comfort my anymore, standing near the darkened corner to hide my face.
Keeping my back to him, I furiously wiped away the tears falling down my cheeks. “I’m sorry. I know there’s nothing you can do. I will get it together I promise. When will we have to leave?”
He sighed and stood from the bed, walking in my direction. In a moment, I felt his hand on my arm, gently stroking it. “Today.”
My stomach dropped and the tears threatened to fall again. He turned me around to rest against his chest, wrapping his strong arms around me once more. “Nothing will happen until you’re ready ok? It will be at your word, only when you’re ready. But it will have to happen. I won’t leave you when it does if that’s what you want.”
I nodded, taking a small comfort knowing I had the power to wait if I needed to. I wrapped my arms around his lean waist and buried my face into his broad chest.
He leaned down to kiss the top of my head and spoke gently. “I know this isn’t going to be easy for you. I wish I could do this for you, but I can’t. You are strong Emma. I know you can get through it.”
I looked up into his eyes to see a look of sadness. His piercing blue eyes had turned an almost mercury silver and his face was strained. I realized he could feel every labored breath and every ounce of tension rolling through my body. I began trying to relax in his hold, never breaking away from his gaze. In a moment of stillness, my hand snaked up to the back of his neck, gently pulling his face closer to mine. His mouth hovered only inches from mine as he stared into my eyes, searching.
“Emma, I don’t think...”
I shook my head, returning the look of sadness. I needed his touch to get past the crippling anxiety building inside of me. In this moment, it was the only thing that could make it stop in this moment.
His jaw clenched, concentrating to restrain himself. “I told you I would never touch you like that again without your consent. I promised to control myself. Are you sure you’re ok with this?”
I nodded softly, my hand pulling him closer to me. His lips brushed mine, hovering just above them. I could tell he was deciding if he should give in to me. My heart leapt into my throat as the energy surged within the small space between us. I gathered my courage and pushed onto my toes, closing the gap between us as my lips met his tenderly, jolting my heart into a fast pace. His arms tensed around me and suddenly something clicked. He tightened his grasp around my waist and pulled me closer into his arms, leaving no space between our bodies. His kiss deepened and I felt my head begin to swim. His tongue traced the seam of my lips and they willingly opened for him. His tongue flicked through, exploring every inch of my mouth, dueling with my tongue. It felt like all of my breath was being sucked out of my lungs and filled with his instead. His hand reached up to wrap into my hair and gently pulled my head to the side, his mouth breaking the kiss and leaving me breathlessly leaning in for more. He kissed down my jawline before landing just below my ear, his warm breath sending chills down my spine. My pulse raced and heat slowly ignited in me. He kissed down my neck and his tongue traced my carotid artery. My heart leapt in my chest and my breathing became shallow as I felt his fangs gently drag against my neck as he breathed in against my skin. His entire body became rigid and I could tell he was fighting the urge to bite down. His hand moved down to my hip, gripping hard against me as his body pressed against mine.
In an attempt to move his attention, my other hand curled behind his head, gripping his hair as I pressed against him and kissed the base of his neck, in the hollow above his collarbone. I felt him shiver and his body relaxed slightly. I smirked in satisfaction at his response. It was working.
My lips made their way up his neck, my tongue massaging against his skin and trailing warm breath up to his ear, speaking in a whisper. “It’s ok. I know you won’t hurt me Xander. I know you can stop if it happens.”
He shuddered as my breath tickled against his skin. In a flash, his face was in front of mine. His hand tangled hard into my hair as his mouth collided into mine, his tongue no longer asking permission before pushing through my lips. I let out a gasp at the aggression and he stiffened. My hand gripped hard against the back of his neck, willing him to continue. His free hand was still gripping hard against my hip when it roamed down to the back of my thigh. His hand untangled from my hair and joined it, picking me up as if I were weightless. I let out a squeal against his mouth in surprise. His strong hands willed my legs to part for him, wrapping them around his lean waist and holding tight. My breath quickened as his hands gripped into my butt, pressing my hips against his. As my heart threatened to beat out of my chest, a low growl came from the back of his throat. His chest vibrated and sent shivers through my body.
He flashed over to the bed and placed me onto it, never releasing my mouth from his. He let his body lower slowly onto mine as we lay back onto the bed and I gasped, feeling him hard against my hip. He leaned onto one arm, wrapping his fingers into mine, allowing his other hand free to roam my body. He stroked my cheek with his knuckles and trailed them lightly down my neck, making their way to my chest. His hand caressed my breast before brushing down my ribcage and waist. As his hand moved to my hip, it gripped hard, pressing me down into the bed as his hips pressed against mine. My breath caught and my stomach tightened at the familiar feeling. I pushed it from my thoughts, allowing his kiss to bring me back to the reality of this man who wanted me. I needed his touch. His hand moved to stroke my outer thigh and slowly pushed the hem of my dress up to my hips, letting his fingers graze across my skin. His fingers lightly traced next to my lace panties and made their way to my inner thigh, stroking my soft skin.
My chest tightened, trying to control the anxiety mixing with the burning fire building inside of me. It felt like my skin was on fire and my nerves responded in flames everywhere he touched. His hand reached further over, cupping my warm center, feeling the heat flaring from within me. Another growl came from deep in his throat and the ball of anxiety waned momentarily at the sound of his desire.
His palm began to massage the small bundle of nerves beneath and a low moan escaped my lips. He kissed me harder, enjoying my response. His mouth broke away, leaving me breathless as he continued rubbing against my panties. His lips kissed down my jawline and landed below my ear and my body shivered against him. His fingers gently pushed my panties to the side and traced my warm center. My heart stopped and I let out a small gasp. My stomach was knotted tightly in anxiety, but the fire outweighed my hesitation. I felt his pressure increase against my neck in response and his fingers ran through my folds, massaging their way up and down from my clit to my now wet opening. My back arched in response, pushing against his hand. He slipped one finger easily inside. My hand gripped hard against his and he immediately slipped in a second finger, gently moving in and out as he massaged my bud in unison. I moaned and felt another growl against my skin, his fangs tracing my neck. His body stiffened as he tried to control his desire and I instinctively pressed my hips harder into his hand.
He quickly pulled his hand away and sat up, yanking his shirt away before he reached down to unbutton his pants, shifting them down his legs and kicking them away. He pulled me up to a seated position and his hands grasped my face, pulling me into a passionate kiss as his hands reached down for the hemline of my dress. His lips broke long enough to pull the dress above my head. As his mouth rejoined mine, his fingers quickly reached back to unclasp my bra and toss it away. He leaned me back gently onto the bed and broke away, looing into my eyes. I knew he was searching for confirmation and I nodded, gripping onto his arm. He moved his hips back against me and I felt his nakedness hard against me, my breath catching in my throat.
He kissed down my neck and onto my chest before brushing his lips against my breasts. I gasped at the sensation and felt my back arch instinctively against him, pressing my breasts against him. He took one of my tips into his warm mouth as his hand raked down my body, pulling my panties down away from my hips. I kicked them away as he moved to my other breast, his hand gently squeezing the other one, massaging the tip between his fingers while his free hand moved back down to slide three fingers into my opening, widening and preparing me for him before entering me.
His lips released me and his hips moved to press his erect manhood between my thighs, gently resting at the entrance of my warm opening. The bundle in my stomach tightened painfully once more and I struggled to push it out of my thoughts. My hands reached for the back of his neck, pulling his mouth back up to mine, trying to lose myself in his deep kiss. He moved the round tip gently to my opening, pressing slightly into my folds causing my breath to catch against his mouth. My heart raced and pounded hard against my chest and a bead of sweat appeared at my temple. My hand gripped hard into the back of his neck and my legs tightened in reflex against his hips, my entire body becoming rigid.
Damnit I’ve come this far. I won’t give into it now. I need this. I need him to heal me.
Feeling my response, his body immediately stiffened and he pulled away, breaking from my lips and pulling his manhood away. His hand flew up to my face and stroked my cheek. His mercury eyes were full of desire, but began to slowly fad into a deep blue, showing his concern as he peered deep into mine.
“What’s wrong? Have you changed your mind? I’m sorry Emma. I should have known you weren’t ready.”
I shook my head as a rogue tear appeared and tried to crest over my lashes. My hands still gripped hard against the back of his neck as his forehead leaned down to rest against mine and we both took a calming breath.
“Emma, please. You have to talk to me. I can’t stand not being able to hear your thoughts. I can’t read what you’re thinking. What’s wrong?”
I shook my head as the tear threatened to escape, my breath catching in my throat in frustration. He pulled back to search my face, all desire gone and replaced only with concentration, his eyes now an icy cool blue.
“Xander, I’m sorry. I don’t know why I keep doing this. I want to, more than anything. This hasn’t happened to me in a long time. I don’t know why I’m responding this way now.” I breathed, nearly a whisper.
He leaned up and stroked my cheek gently. He pulled away to sit up, reaching for my undergarments. As he handed them to me, his body stopped, frozen by what he saw. His eyes were locked on my inner thigh. I reflexively closed my legs and sat up to dress. As I slipped my clothes back on, I could feel him watching me. I heard him slowly slide back into his jeans and buttoned them as I turned to face him. His eyes held a look of sadness and confusion, but he waited patiently for me to speak.
How can I even begin to tell him this? Where do I start? I’m so ashamed that I could have thought these would stop him.