When I heard the shower cut off, my whole body went rigid. Pacing the floor for the last twenty minutes had not gotten me any closer to a solution to my problem. Now that the water had stopped flowing, it was only a matter of time before he found his way back into the bedroom.
Every excuse that I could think of was dismissed practically as soon as it came to mind. Getting out of this mess was not as easy as getting into it, and he seemed like a man that was used to getting his way. That only made matters worse.
I was not daft...I knew what he was expecting once he came through that door. Trying to find a way out of a bargain I made was difficult, especially knowing that Tala was still on the premises.
The world we now lived in was not easy. Mankind lived in fear, stayed hidden as much as we could, scavenged for survival, and were as leary of one another as we were of the creatures that ran wildly among us. Granted, it was not just the lycans that created the fear that held humans hostage, but they were by far the most terrifying of the creatures that existed at the top of the food chain.
A teenager with a young toddler gave the appearance of being damaged goods, and I never once gave them an impression that Tala was not my own. To do so would have invited more unwanted attention that I was not looking for.
Tala and I had been fortunate enough to find groups where one fatherly figure or another had taken us under his wing to protect us from those unwanted advances and attention. Though it did nothing to prevent the leers, lustful stares, and carnal comments, it did keep them away from Tala and myself. If there was any doubt about the ability of those that took us under their wing to keep the wolves at bay, Tala and I would make our excuses and venture on a different route to avoid what I always thought was the inevitable. However, the inevitable never happened, and I remained as untouched as the day I was born.
And now, the inevitable was looming over me. The door to the bathroom opened and revealed the nearly nude beast of a man whose intent was to take that which he thought he had a right to. The nerve of that man...and yet I agreed to be his willingly.
A shiver coursed over me as he watched me carefully from the door frame of the bathroom. The damp tendrils of his hair clung to his head as they cascaded downwards now free of the silver that once bound them. Those vivid eyes nearly glowed in the darkened room, rooting me to a spot I had recently been pacing.
The man moved over the floorboards on silent feet clad only in a towel that dangled precariously around his hips, though he seemed unconcerned as to the nature of his imminent exposure. Instead, he moved to stand before me, his eyes trained on me as if I was prey. I suppose I was just that...prey.
My eyes stayed trained on him, watching him as he approached. In my head, I was still trying to plan, still trying to find a way out. When he neared me, I involuntarily took a step back as I clutched my wounded arm to my side. There was no way I could hold his gaze and hide from the lustful thoughts that lingered there. As I let my eyes fall from his, they fell down the length of him and I felt my whole body flush.
At that moment, his hand shot out as he grabbed the back of my neck, forcing me to meet his gaze. “What’s this?” A small smile played at the corners of his mouth.
Those blue orbs seared into mine as he searched for something there. When his brow lifted a fraction at my nonresponse, I felt a small sense of relief wash over me while he continued to allow his own question to mull over in his own head. Maybe I wasn’t what he wanted after all. Maybe having him this close to me showed him something that he was not all too keen on. Maybe…
The man pulled me towards him, and I held my breath. His nose buried itself in the crook of my neck as he inhaled deeply more than a few times as my body went rigid. What on Earth could this man be doing? His body was a little too close to mine, and the scent of him was not as unpleasant as I would wish it to be. On the contrary, had it been any other man, I might have reveled in the very scent of him. However, he was no man, was he?
Though I tried to wiggle and squirm away from him, his grip held me there while he continued to inhale me. “Mina para?” He finally asked as he stepped back to peer at my face more closely.
The man was frustrating beyond words, and his nearness only made it worse. Once he let his hand drop to lift my chin a fraction, I sent him the most scathing look I could muster. “It’s Sedona! Not mini para. Got that?”
A smile tugged more forcibly at his lips. “I know very well who you are Sedona Killian, my mina para.”
“Mini, mina. It’s all the same. And for the record, I am not yours. I am just...how did you say it again,” I spoke, letting the sarcasm drench each word. “Oh, yeah...I am just not unwilling. That’s what you wanted from us, right? Just to know that the one you chose was not unwilling?”
The gauntlet had been thrown, and I was the one who unwittingly cast it. The man before me stepped forward once more, and the towel that once shielded himself from view easily fell from his hips. Involuntarily, I wrenched my head in such a way as to avoid glancing at the goods now fully on display. It wasn’t that I had not seen men nude before, just never one so close.
The man chuckled at my expense as he moved to my right to circle me, the heat from his body practically searing mine at his nearness. He reached out a hand and let it glide gently over my shoulder as he rounded my backside, and I fought hard to stifle the shiver that threatened to overtake me. Bringing his mouth close to my ear, he whispered, “Tell me, Sedona. Have you ever been touched by a man?”
The question made my throat feel like it had something stuck within, and I nearly choked upon hearing him ask. Instead, I lifted my chin and replied, “Tala is my daughter.” It was said with a haughty tone I could not seem to control, and a conviction that I felt to my core.
“I would not deny that, mina para. But that does not answer my question. Though, if you would like to change the avenue on which we speak, I shall oblige.” When he paused briefly, I could feel his breath on my neck as he moved his head from one side of my neck to the other, letting his breath blow across and linger over the exposed skin there as he skillfully moved my hair from his path. Once he reached my other ear, he whispered once more. “By birth?”
My body tensed once more as I tried to find a way to extricate myself from my current predicament. “Does it matter?”
“It doesn’t,” he said simply before letting his lips delicately touch where only his breath had before. The brief contact sent my flesh ablaze as a shudder overtook me. There was no way to prevent my reaction to his sensual contact, and it took everything I had in me to keep my body from responding further to that simple gesture. “You see, I believed you were pure from the moment I saw you. However, with you in the midst of that hormonal lot, it was not easy to get an untainted scent. A scent that was all you.”
His lips brushed against my shoulder as he moved slowly beside me. Once more, I had to steel myself against any reaction lest I entice him to continue the blissful torture. I couldn’t let this beast know that he had any effect on me. “Is that what this is all about? You prize taking a woman’s innocence?” The words fell from me with disgust and resentment tainting every word while my body remained tense under his touch.
His chuckle echoed in the room as his fingers moved beneath my chin to force me to face him. “No, mina para. I prize taking your innocence.”
The warmth of his fingers as they wrapped around my chin seeped in and made my body warm, his words made my stomach flip. Snapping my head from his hold, I sneered at him. “You must be daft! Your kind is known for its lustful nature. Do you seriously think that I, as innocent as you perceive me, can satisfy your beastly cravings?”
The only response from him was a low growl, one that I did not want to interpret. Certainly, it could not bode well for me. Time to change tactics.
Turning my back to him, I took a few paces away from him to put some distance between us. When I spoke once more, I made sure to keep my whole being turned away from him to avoid eye contact, avoid the spectacular view that I am sure he was willing to provide. “Now that you know, we should renegotiate our terms. Since I clearly won’t be able to meet your lustful needs, you should let me go. Pick another woman that is more worldly...more experienced.” Once I said it, I imagined him bedding other women, and the thought was none too pleasant. Pushing the thought from my head, I continued my argument. “After all, I don’t know the first thing about pleasing a man, so you will be left wanting.” I practically held my breath, waiting for his response.
I never heard the man move. Before I knew it, he held my good arm firmly in his grasp as he pulled me stumbling towards the bedroom door. The man did not even bother to wrap his forgotten towel back around his waist before moving quickly into the hallway of the large house.
“Wait!” I shouted at him as I tried to snatch my arm out of his grasp while still trying to avert my eyes. There was no way to miss the sinew and muscle that moved easily beneath his tanned skin, and how his whole body seemed to move fluidly from the crown of his head to the firm backside that I was now trying to keep from my peripheral. “Where are you taking me?”
He laughed with disdain as he halted his movements and pulled me up flush against his form. “You wanted to renegotiate?” The look he gave me pierced through me as his anger poured over me, but it was the calm in his voice that had me more anxious. “You want me to choose another?” His face moved close to mine as a sneer fell over his features. “Let’s do that.”
The wicked smile on his face made a panic sink in that I had never known. He turned away from me once more and started pulling me down the hallway once again. Doors started to open ever so slightly as the women from earlier started to peer into the hallways. For the life of me, it appeared that all women had decided to stay behind with these creatures.
One by one, those women opened their doors to behold the sight that was him. Every part of his body was on display for the world to see, and it did not phase him in the least that these women were openly ogling him. The lust these creatures were known for was only matched by the tenacity and hunger that these women seemed to have towards him.
I counted them, one by one, as they made their way into view. None were so brave to try to intercede on my behalf, but none were too afraid to take in the view of his glory either. And when I counted all but two of them, my heart nearly stopped.
“No!” I worked at freeing my arm from his grasp. “No, you can’t do this!” Kallan didn’t stop his march down the hall, and I continued desperately to free myself. “Stop!” His steps continued their maddening pace. “Please,” I practically begged, “she’s even more innocent than me.”
How could I have fallen into this trap again? There was no doubt in my mind where he was heading, and a new wave of guilt was starting to wrap itself around me. When his steps halted briefly, I thought I might have captured his attention...made him see reason. “Is that what you think?” His smile was merciless. “You think that she has maintained her innocence?”
The words struck me hard, like a fist in the gut. “She’s never…” Tala was sweet and so innocent in a lot of ways. Certainly, he couldn’t think that she had ever been with a man.
“Your sweet daughter, the one that you have devoted your life to, is not as pure as you think. There was only one scent this evening that had the flavor of innocence.” He pulled me to him as he inhaled my scent. “And it is purely you, mina para.”
“No,” I whispered. Though it was true that Tala was not in my sight every minute of her life, I found it hard to believe that she had lost her innocence to any of the men that we had encountered on our journeys.
“Tis true, and you requested I find someone of more experience than you.” He brought his face close to mine as I felt his body pressing closer to me. “Would you care to renegotiate?” His words taunted me as I fought against the truth of what he was saying.
“You wouldn’t,” I spoke softly as the words drifted between us.
“Are you challenging me?” The teasing and taunting there made me only too aware that he had me where he wanted me. All I could manage was to shake my head. “That’s what I thought.”
The words were there in an instant, and I nearly managed to unleash them on this man for his sheer arrogance. However, he was quicker at reacting than I. His mouth descended on mine as I opened it to unleash those heated words that I hoped to put him in his place. Instead, it left me exposed for his tongue to tease and taunt my own as he explored the confines with sheer expertise.
The initial surprise did not last near as long as I would have hoped as the sensations he elicited started to wash over me. With every gentle probe of his tongue, my body practically hummed with delight. And it pissed me off!
Pulling my head back, I hissed at him. “How dare you take advantage of me like that!”
“You think that is all I plan on doing to you?” There was a promise in his words that made me shiver, and I would like to think it was from feelings of revulsion. “Maybe you just need a lesson on what it means to be willing.”
With that, my heart sunk as he pulled me back towards his original destination. At the last door at the end of the hall, he stopped. “You can’t think she would be willing!” Losing my temper got me into this, and I guess I still did not learn my lesson.
He jerked the door open and stepped closer to me. “Do you think I have not smelt her longing flowing from her quite freely?” He spoke low, his whispered words dancing across my face as his taunting set my teeth on edge. “Her desire to see you safely home came only second to the things she wanted me to do to her.”
“You filthy beast! You’re trying to deceive me...turn me against my own, but it won’t work.”
“Sedona,” the young voice of the one I claim as my daughter filtered through my anger-riddled brain. “Is everything okay?”
When I turned my head towards her, I could see the worry and anxiety that she wore on her face. “Yes, Tala,” I turned to pierce the man before me with my fiercest glare. “Everything is fine.”
“Then you have made your decision,” he spoke, and for all the world sounded victorious. “There will be no more reminders, mina para. From here, there will only be consequences.”
From the corner of my eye, I watched Tala as she slowly took in the vision of this man, and my heart sunk. Have I been so disillusioned?
“I won’t need any other reminders,” I said. “You can have your night, and my innocence, but you will not touch her.” My eyes slid to her to catch her reaction, and it settled like cement in my gut to see that she looked slightly dismayed.
“This was never a one-night commitment, mina para. You will be mine as long as I need a woman in my bed. And I will always need a woman in my bed.”
My head snapped back to him, shock wearing deep in its etchings. “This was not the deal. You never said anything about this being more than a one-night thing!”
“You never thought to ask,” he said smoothly. “Rest your arm, and I will have one of our doctors look at it in the morning.” He stepped away from me before adding, “and I would ask that you hold your temper until we have had a chance to talk once more. I do not wish to be challenged again due to the lack of consequence for your behavior, and I do not wish to take another life due to them viewing you as my weakness.”
Without another word, he moved past me towards the room we had left only moments before. The women were starting to take tentative steps into the hallway in hopes of gaining his attention, but he seemed oblivious to them as he moved past them one by one without even acknowledging their presence.
“Sedona, what was that all about?” Tala stood next to me, her eyes locked on the man that paraded down the hall wearing nothing at all. There was nothing shy about the way that she watched him...nothing innocent.
“That is nothing you need to concern yourself with.” And I meant it. I am not sure how my life got turned upside down so fast, but now I had to adapt to the changes around me and protect that which was mine to protect.