“Hollis?” Oberon urged, fingers gripping her shoulders. She tensed beneath him, eyes shut tight, face contorted in pain. He watched from his peripherals as her wrists began to curl inward toward her forearms at an unnatural angle, as though she were fighting against the pull of something—or someone. She groaned, slackening for a moment, before her body stiffened once more and her lungs forced another scream from her throat.
“No, no, no,” he chanted, cupping her face, pinning her arms, pressing his forehead to hers as Cole’s worried voice carried to him over Hollis’ jumbled, pained noises.
“It’s me, Hollis,” he breathed as she thrashed, her eyes open but rolling back into her skull. He pinched his eyes shut, tuning in to the abhorrent images swirling into her mind. Oberon, killing Willow. Oberon, twisting her mother’s neck, cutting her grandmother to ribbons. Oberon, choking the life out of Hollis with a sick smile plastered to his face.
He felt rage swell within him, stronger than the rage he’d felt as he’d witnessed the tidal wave barreling toward him, the last night of his life. Nostrils flared, he seethed as Hollis’ eyes flew open, fixating on his, a simpering grin curling onto her lips.
“Stay the hell away from her, you bastard,” he seethed, knowing he was listening. Hollis barked out a laugh, tensing once more, her strength beginning to rival Oberon’s. Heart hammering, torn between harming Hollis’ body or ridding her of the hold Tiberius had, Oberon felt stuck. She slackened, panting, tears springing from her eyes as she trembled and whimpered. It was working, but how long she’d have to fight him off, he knew not. And in the process, the harm done to her mind and body would be incalculable.
Oberon wracked his brain, sifting through options. Tiberius was ruthless, cunning—and so he needed to be even smarter. His eyes snapped to Cole, who was kneeling outside the circle, wide eyes fixated on the macabre scene before him. Hollis screamed again, fighting against Oberon’s hold.
“I need your help,” he hissed through grit teeth. Cole stood, nodding with urgency, the fire casting long shadows upon his face. Oberon prayed to the God who hated him that he’d be able to outsmart his brother.
“Do you have any…medical supplies?” Oberon panted, trying to keep Hollis pinned. Cole nodded, rushing off. The horses whinnied nearby, restless, as though a predator was pacing their camp.
“Fight him off, Hollis, dammit!” Oberon growled. She fell, whimpering, blue eyes finding his. She shied away, shaking her head, chin wobbling in her stark fear.
“It’s not me doing those things, you know that, I promised you,” he said, holding her cheek, keeping her eyes on his face.
“Obe—” she choked, eyes rolling back again. He gripped her arms, forcing them into the dirt before her nails had a chance to claw at his face. He heard Cole’s return, and his eyes flashed to him. He jerked his head, indicating he enter the circle. Cautious, Cole approached, kneeling down, unfurling a bag with shiny, metallic instruments. Hollis weakened again, sobbing, and it was almost more than Oberon could bear. Now was their chance.
“When she tenses, that’s how you know it’s him, make him think you’re doing something, to change her—”
“What? I can’t…I…”
“Just make up some bullshit!” Oberon yelled, golden, enraged eyes finding his.
“Alright, alright,” Cole nodded, dropping his gaze to his supplies, shaking hands shuddering over them as he sifted through his options.
“Hurry up!” Oberon roared, feeling her beginning to be overcome once more. Cole’s hand shot down, gripping a syringe and a vial of sedative. Using his teeth, he yanked the cap off, pulling back the plunger, shoving it into the vial, and measuring out the smallest dose—half of what he’d normally use.
“Explain it, out loud,” Oberon hissed, lowering his voice as Hollis began to laugh, maniacal, evil. The images now dancing in her mind were worse—so much worse. Things Oberon would never do to her or anyone—things he knew Tiberius had already done a thousand times because it brought him joy.
Fingers prodding Hollis’ deltoid, Cole searched for a clear spot, the scientist in him wondering about the germs he’d also be introducing to her body by not cleaning the area properly first, but now was clearly not the time for such standard practices. He wielded the needle in front of her gaze, stomach churning as her eyes followed it, widening, and her struggle increased ten-fold.
“This will put her in a catatonic state, until we can transplant her…brain…into a more viable host. It…it is holy, blessed by men of God, so best stay clear,” Cole said, understanding without having to ask. As soon as Hollis had asked him about the Bible, he’d known the truth. And if these creatures were spawn of fallen angels, then he knew what would make them flee.
Hollis growled and kicked and screamed to the starry sky as he shoved the needle in her arm, pushing the plunger down and withdrawing. Her livid eyes found Oberon’s face once more, breathing ragged, vehement hisses issuing through her clenched teeth. Oberon smirked.
“You will never have her,” he seethed, his words a death sentence to anyone who would try. Cole shivered at the power that rolled off him in unrelenting waves, and with a final, inhuman scream that arched her back and shoulders from the dirt, she collapsed, panting. All was hushed, tense for a moment.
“What did you give her?” Oberon whispered, casting his worried gaze to Cole. He shook his head, reassuring.
“Just half a dose of sedative, to calm her.”
Oberon nodded, relaxing. Her brows were knit together, lips parted, but she seemed to be knocked out.
“Thank you, scientist,” he said, voice strained and gravelly as he attempted a kind tenor. Cole felt the side of his lips quirk up in a half smile.
“You’re welcome, nephilim,” he chanced. Oberon’s wide, golden eyes flashed to his, true worry curling into his gut. Cole shook his head again.
“I stand by my word to help you. It was wrong, what we did to you…” he said, eyes falling to a peaceful Hollis. Oberon frowned, nodding. He couldn’t bring himself to blame Cole, not anymore, not with Hollis sprawled beneath him. Cole had inadvertently given him a second chance at life—a chance to find a being that would complete his soul. His golden eyes swept over her nude body, unabashed this time, his relief tangible. He quirked his head, studying her.
Yes, he desired her body, but he also desired to learn her mind, which was a new notion to him. Even caked with dried blood and patches of dirt, she was still ethereal, enchanting.
“I must clean her so she can rest. We leave at dawn,” he said, standing and pulling Hollis into his arms. Cole averted his eyes, blushing, as Oberon walked them to the edge of the lake. In he waded, up to his thighs, before he sat, the sand and rocks soft to his durable skin. Hollis was sweltering in his arms, something he knew to expect, and cooling her down would ensure her recovery. He cradled her to him, his touch gentle.
He realized it was the second time now he’d been responsible for cleansing her—mind and body alike. He ran his fingers through her hair, loosing her braid and scattering gritty bits of dirt into the black, shimmering water. He took his time, her face pale in the blue hue from the moonlight. He lifted his hand to wipe the blood from her chest, but paused, studying her, feasting on her with his wanton eyes.
She was dainty for a woman, but she was young still. Her thighs were thick with muscle, likely from her years spent working hard at the homestead. She had a narrow waist, a flat expanse of stomach that was soft, curving out a bit near her hips. He smiled, his hand pressed to her lower abdomen, feeling her deep breaths, his skin bronzed compared to hers. He wondered what it would be like to feel the swell of her, should she ever be with child.
His smile faltered, though, when he realized that may not be his decision in this new world he’d been reborn into. It would be her choice, and though he didn’t mind that, it left him uneasy, for what if she chose someone else? Sorrow filled him at the very thought. He shook his head, trailing his wet fingers up between her breasts, smearing the dried blood until it was washed from her soft skin.
Tilting his head the other way, his eyes devoured the mounds of her breasts, not large but not small, sloping before pointing up, soft and milky before they blended into a light shade of pink. Blue and violet veins ran the course of her chest, delivering life to her petite, fragile body. He groaned, hardening, wishing to run his tongue the length of her exposed skin, to feel her shudder in pleasure.
One arm cradled her, her warm cheek pressed to his chest, but his other hand was free to roam her cleansed body. He gripped her plump, round ass, before his hungry hand snaked up, feeling the bone of her hip. His fingers dug into her soft muscle before he released her, brushing his palm over her smooth thigh. He snorted at the lack of hair on her legs and arms, but understood the reason for the razor he’d seen her pack. Why women felt the need to rid their bodies of hair was beyond him, but after feeling how smooth her calves were in the water, he knew.
His honey eyes found her face as he gripped her thigh, but she was still and quiet, her mind devoid of thoughts as the lake water lapped around them in gentle waves. Her warm breaths issuing from her parted lips made him shudder, and he reached up, knotting his fingers into her wet tendrils of hair that appeared white as snow in the moonlight. A pink hued blush painted her cheeks, matching the color of her plump lips he so wished to place a lingering kiss on.
With a jolt, he remembered that she knew the truth now—she knew what he was, and she had stayed. In all the turmoil he’d thought it would cause, her only thought had been about heaven, about its reality. He felt a tender smile work its way onto his face. She cared not what he was—she only cared about the content of a person’s soul, whether or not they were good or evil. It gave him hope that this truth would be easier for her to swallow than he’d originally thought.
He traced a wet finger down her throat, past her collarbone and paused between her breasts once more, bending slow, placing a passionate kiss upon her lips, his tongue darting out to taste her as he hardened completely. He felt he’d lose himself within seconds if she kissed him back, but he knew that was impossible in her current state. He pulled away, cupping her cheek, stroking her face with his thumb.
“I want you, Hollis. Damn you, I want you more than I wanted my next breath of air when I was dying,” he whispered, voice low and humming out over the lake.
“I don’t understand this. It’s not right, and I know that. I’m too dangerous for you, but I’m equally as selfish,” he continued with a growl. She gave a heavy sigh against his chest, curling into him. He hoped she couldn’t hear his words, but if she could, she made no acknowledgment.
“You’re too good for this world. It doesn’t deserve you, but neither does heaven, and neither does myself,” he said, shaking his head, frowning.
“I promise to get you home, tiny woman. And unless you order me to stay, I will leave you to build your life, to surround yourself with your own kind,” he said, sincere as his heart ached deeply in his chest. His hand left her face, once more gripping her hipbone as his desire flooded his veins at the thought of losing her—at the thought of her not wanting him back with the same ferocity that he wanted her. He sat, still and listening to her heavy, rhythmic heartbeats, the sound soothing to him.
His body tensed as her calves rubbed together, her brows pinching, her wide blue eyes slowly blinking open. His hand snaked up her waist to her ribs, and she sighed, eyes fluttering closed as her back arched. A small moan drifted to his ears on the breeze.
“Obe…” she sighed. He tuned into her thoughts, seeing himself from her eyes, pinning her to the dirt with his imposing strength, whispering his promises into her ears before she could be pulled under once more by his malevolent brother. She raised her hand from the water, slow, as though it were made of lead. He reached for it, helping her to move.
“What do you need?” he coaxed, willing to give her anything after all she’d endured. A small, impish smile flitted across her features.
“You,” she breathed as he held her little hand in his. Stunned, he knew not what to say. She pulled her hand from his, gaining a bit of strength, her mind wavering between worlds of deep sleep and consciousness. She pressed her cold, dripping fingers to his chest, letting her hand fall back into the water with a small splash. He chuckled at her pathetic strength.
“What do you want from me?” he pressed. She blinked her round eyes open, and they were crossed in her heavily drugged and exhausted state. Even with half a dose, Oberon could feel how hard a hold it had on her.
“Touch me,” she all but begged, tears in her eyes. Stunned, he began to shake his head, knowing it was wrong to take advantage of such an instance. A kiss was one thing, washing her was as innocent as he could make it in his depraved state—but obeying this command from her would be dangerous.
“Please,” she cried, awakening further, breathing hitched as tears fell. His eyes scanned her face in shock, and then, he saw why. A deep growl rumbled through him at the images that had been forced on her mind. No, he hadn’t used Oberon against her the entire time. Tiberius had figured out she would never fear Oberon, that she trusted him too much to be swayed by lies and deceit. So instead, he’d personally taken from Hollis something sacred. It hadn’t been physically real, but to her there had been no difference.
“I will never let him have you—”
She reached up, gripping his hand with surprising strength, and pressed his palm to her breast. He stilled, watching his hand to see if it would move of its own volition. He swallowed hard, fingers beginning to grasp her, feeling her hardened nipple against his palm. His mouth ran dry, his mind blank with the urge to take her, here and now. He shook his head, scattering his desire to the wind, pulling his hand down to her ribs once more as she cried.
He pulled her up, tucking her face into the crook of his neck as her cries turned to deep, sorrowful sobs. Gritting his teeth, he yanked her up by her hips, forcing her legs apart as she sat facing him on his lap, unable to hold herself up as she wavered and fought the sedative.
“Not tonight, love,” he whispered as her cheek rested on his shoulder and she hiccuped. He cupped her butt, firm, holding her to him, knowing she could feel just how desperately he wanted her. He reached up, winding his fingers through her hair, pulling her to face him as his lips crashed to hers. She was stiff, stunned, until she melted under his expert tongue, sighing in relief into him. He pulled away, nipping at her neck, grazing his teeth along her jugular as she quivered in his arms.
“I will be your first, Hollis,” he rumbled against her, his words an order and a promise. She moaned her assent to the sky, hands limp between them as his mouth found her pert breast. She whimpered again, this time out of lust and longing.
“I want to hear you say it,” he growled, reaching behind to grip her ass once more. She nodded against the hand in her hair, moaning.
“Say it,” he seethed, pressing his need to her, feeling for himself her eagerness and desire. He wouldn’t give in—not yet.
“You-you will be my first, Oberon,” she moaned slowly, wide, dark blue eyes finding his. He felt a malicious smirk curl onto his lips, pressing himself up, stretching her innocence enough to give her a taste of what was to come, feeling her fear of pain but also feeling her stark arousal. She cried out, whimpering. He pulled away, that small bit of discomfort meant to serve as a constant reminder of her promise to him.
Yes, he thought, I will be your first, Hollis, and your last.