All around me.
Obscuring my vision.
My heart hammers behind my rib cage as the air recedes, wrapping around me, restricting my lungs.
My mind slogs though a sea of fog.
One word reigning over all other thoughts.
“Sam!” A familiar voice cuts though the fog.
But I’ve gone to far.
A growl rips from my throat, the pressure only adding to the intense flames of thirst, coating my mouth in an acrid paste, that causes my tongue to stick to the roof of it.
Samaria, get a grip!
I snarl at the demand.
Warm hands grip either side of my face, forcing my jaws to stay in place, they creak and groan, straining to unhinge like a snake trying to swallow an egg.
“Look at me!” A man grunts, struggling to hold me against him. His voice is soothing, vaguely familiar, but ultimately unknown to me.
Who is that?
Who am I?
Confusion grips me, fanning the flames of my rage and voracity.
“Damn it.” The voice growls.
“Cairo, are you sure bringing this woman is a wise choice? She is volatile and unpredictable.” A female speaks up.
My fury doubles.
Hissing and spitting, I claw at the figure holding me. His features are veiled behind the crimson film coating my vision.
My teeth gnash, grinding as they shift behind my drawn lips. Circumvolving in their search for flesh.
I slam my mental walls down on the interloper.
“She is fine. Once I’ve calmed her down, you will see.” The voice quips in a strained tone.
My chest aches from hyperventilating.
And the increased blood flowing through my veins, causes my teeth to tingle, along with my face.
I scream, the sound foreign, even to my own ears. It warbles on delivery, adding a strange cadence, that stretches into a shrill crescendo.
And then all goes cold.
Cold and wet.
What the hell?
After a moment of stunned clarity, I begin to kick and claw my way to the surface of the frigid water.
Breaking the rippled surface, I quickly scan my surroundings.
On the bank of the small round pond, lit by the white glow of the moon overhead, I spot three figures.
The tallest of which I now recognize as Cairo.
I raise my mental barrier warily.
Welcome back, Dr. Jekyll.
Funny. Where did you even pick that name up from?
I don’t think my movie knowledge is important right now.
Right.... did I....do anything unspeakable?
Besides killing our dignity? No.
If you would feed already, we wouldn’t find ourselves in these situations.
I’m working on it.
I peer at my audience, sheepishly, and then paddle to shore.
I try to ignore how my ball gown drags the floor of the pond. The sopping fabric clinging to me like a glove, paired with my angular, jutting frame, makes me appear skeletal.
A bag of bones, wrapped in satin, doggy paddling to a shore of strangers.
I must have pissed off some greater power in a past life, because this is bull shit.
“Good evening, wonderful weather for a quick dip, anyone wanna join me?” I say, wringing my braid between my fists.
Shame burns my ears, at having lost control, and the steady shiver setting into my bones, did little to aid my pride.
But more worrying than the sting of embarrassment, is the remaining ache in the pit of my stomach.
My outburst had only increased my need for a good meal.
“Hmph, you would not have been tossed in if you hadn’t been trying to rip Cairo’s throat out.” Growls the female voice I’d picked up on earlier.
I look to her with relaxed contempt.
Standing beside Cairo, her shoulder brushing his, is a woman, dressed in form fit, leather.
Her short raven hair, is cut at an angle, long in front, shaved in the back.
Her high cheek bones resting within a elven face, make her look younger than she likely is. The emerald glare she fixes me with, however, ruins her angelic countenance.
The top of her head, just barely reaches beneath Cairo’s chin.
To put it lightly, she towers over me.
But big bitch or not, she could still catch a knuckle sandwich, if she continues to leer.
And would it kill her to back up an inch, she’s practically pawing Cairo.
Course not, I don’t even know him.
I ignore Circe, and instead look towards the woman.
“You look kinda stressed, maybe you should swim a few laps. Wind down a bit, ya know?” My smile does little to warm my tone.
I know I lost it.
And I’ll apologize to who deserves it.
And that person is certainly not this trollope.
“You shameless Gag. I don’t know why Cairo is taking you in. But I won’t stand for your insolence. You should be on your knees before your king!” She spits, taking a step in my direction.
Ok. You can hit her... just a little bit.
Being called a Gag—a derogatory term for Ghouls— was enough to put my panties in a twist as it was.
But then this cow had to go and toss in subjugation.
Oh hell no.
Cairo can help me, that’s why I’m here.
But I’ll be damned if he or his people expect me to play the sniveling subject.
I am Samaria Attia, and I am no ones possession.
Sensing my budding rapture, Cairo steps in.
“That’s enough Ilani, Sam is my guest, and she will be treated as such. I trust that I will not have to repeat myself.” His tone is enough to put Ilani in her place.
Like a whipped puppy, she backs away from his side, eyes cast to the ground.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” She murmurs.
“Come on Ilani, why don’t you help me get more fire wood.” The third person chimes in. I hadn’t taken stock of him yet.
And I’m surprised to find that this stranger, is Ilani’s twin.
Even down to their outfit, they match in every way.
“Yeah, ok. Come on Illias.” She grips her brothers arm, under the pit, and drags him away without a backwards glance.
Once we are alone, I look up, sheepishly, fully Intending to beg Cairo to forgive me for attempting to filet him.
But before I can so much as open my mouth, my vision is blocked out by the long sleeve shirt thrown over my head.
“What the-” I pull the fabric off my face,
“Put that over your shoulders so you don’t catch a cold.” He says, averting his gaze.
The scent lingering on his shirt, causes me pause.
Clean and crisp, with undertones of spice.
Cairo’s scent envelopes me, and a different kind of hunger begins to burn.
Oh hell no.
I am not getting the hots for the demon king.
No sooner had the thought escaped me, did my eyes betray their good sense and travel to Cairo’s now bare chest.
Sweet mother of all things good and right in the world.
With a capital H.
Lean muscles stretch and flex, as he stands before me, shifting on his feet, looking suspiciously shy.
His skin is the color of the desert before dusk. Golden brown and beautiful. And I’m surprised by my sudden urge to run my fingers down his broad chest.
My eyes travel to his face, half covered by his wavy hair, that looked ruffled even in its combed back style.
Dark and smooth, it shone like oil. The kind of hair a girl could spend hours running her hands through.
He looks foreign.
Had he been human, I would have guessed he were of Egyptian decent.
A pang of grief throbs in my chest at the thought.
My father had held similar characteristics, as far as looking like he had stepped straight out of the sands.
My mother always fawned over him, going on and on about how he could have been a pharaoh, for his looks alone.
I’d rolled my eyes at her then.
But Hypocrisy has a way of sneaking up on you.
And I was certainly feeling that now, because I’m pretty sure that Pharaoh would describe this man better than King.
My inspection ends with his eyes, and I’m stuck in place at the sight of them.
I’d been too preoccupied previously to appreciate his beauty.
They are a light amber, contrasted by his darker features, they stand out like two blazing beacons, cutting through the night sky.
“Thank you, and I’m sorry abou-” I begin, but he folds his hand over mine, and begins to lead me to a large tent erected in the middle of a small camp.
A roaring fire in the center, lit the area well enough to see the the tall trees surrounding us on all sides.
“There is no need to thank me. I will gladly do everything in my power to help a member of my court.” He finally says, opening the beige tent flap, and revealing a comfortable looking, warmly lit room.
I ignore the stabbing feeling that accompanies his words.
That’s right, he’s helping me because he’s a king and that’s what kings do for their own.
There’s no way he would be attracted to me. Not in my current state, and possibly not in my prime either.
He is a king.
And I am a Ghoul, a traumatized one at that.
I need to squash this little crush.
But one look at his delicious looking back and tightly clothed ass, as he steps past me and walks towards a couple large cushions on the ground, surrounding a short table, and I know that I’m screwed.
“Come, sit. I need to teach you how to retract your teeth as soon as possible.” He drops onto a brightly embroidered cushion, before patting one beside him, gesturing for me to join.
“Um. My dress?” I peer down at the soaked parcel, and his ruined shirt.
“Oh, excuse my manners. I’m not in my normal frame of mind currently.” Standing from his seat, he makes his way to a wooden chest, sitting at the foot of a bed made of furs and pillows.
Does no one in Alithia use real beds?
From the chest, he pulls out a large cream colored shirt, and hands it off to me.
We stand there for a moment, eyes locked in tense silence.
“Um, can you turn around?” I ask, swishing my finger in a twirling motion.
His eyes shoot wide open, thick dark brows, reaching for the ceiling.
“Of course.” He turns so quickly that I wonder for a moment, if he’s going to topple over from loss of balance.
He’s off limits.
Party pooper. I’m still looking for that first kiss.
I saw some rather dashing frogs in that pond.
I’m eager, not desperate.
After a moment of struggling with the wet gown, I finally manage to peel it off of my damp, cold skin, and toss it, along with Cairo’s wet shirt, in a basket that appears to contain other laundry.
The fresh shirt feels like heaven as I slip it over my head. Cairo’s scent embraces me like a hug, and my heart flutters.
Get a grip Sam, this isn’t your first rodeo.
“Ok, you can turn around.”
My traitorous stomach drops at Cairo’s expression, as he turns to me fully.
His eyes burn with desire and passion, as they travel down my body with an almost physical presence. Stopping at the hem of his shirt, that barely fell to my knees.
He stares with barely controlled need.
Or maybe not...
I could be reading him wrong.
For all I know know, Ghouls are a delicacy and he’s spirited me away only to have me for dinner. That would be a more likely reason for his lustful look.
I suddenly feel to exposed, and take a step back.
“It’s unwise to back away from me, Sam.” He prowls forward, his demeanor shifting drastically.
“I enjoy a challenge, and a good chase.” He mummers, reaching one hand forwards, he cups my cheek in his palm.
“I wasn’t running. Just making a strategic exit.” I swallow, the mixture of fear, hunger, and arousal swirling in my gut are unsettling.
“Hm.” He leans down, pressing his forehead to mine, and gripping my shoulders on either side.
My pulse picks up, but my excitement is no longer from him proximity.
It’s caused by his heart beat, the sound of his blood corseing through his veins, the smell.
His scent is magnified at this distance, the crisp, spicy aroma fogs my mind in a drunken haze.
He smells like sandalwood... and the forest just before it rains.
“Please.” The plea slips from me, unbidden.
“Focus on your teeth, picture each individual one, shrinking. Tell yourself that you will not be able to feed until they have receded. It’s a mental battle, but I know you can do it.” His words are spoken barely above a whisper, and his body quivers against mine.
I inhale through my mouth in an attempt to block out his scent.
My jaws ache and whine in protest, but slowly, each tooth begins to dull, and recede.
My canines are the last to shift, but they only do so partly, remaining pointed and slightly larger than the rest.
I did it.
Relief washes over me at the return of some sort of normalcy.
“Good girl. Now, remember, although I am capable of withstanding a feeding. I do ask for you to be as gentle as you can.” He grins at me, pulling his forehead away from mine.
Yep. He will be my first kiss.
Hush, you floozie.
I’ll accept that title.
I roll my eyes internally.
Cairo then pulls me to the cushions, sitting down with his legs spread just enough for me to kneel between them, he then bares his neck to me.
I lick my lips, and lean forward.
As if possessed, my body begins to move on its own.
Quick as lightning, my left hand shoots to the back of his neck.
My fingers find purchase in his hair, weaving into it roughly...it’s just as soft as I imagined it would be.
I tug his head further to the side, providing a better angle, and he moans softly, his eyes fluttering beneath closed lids.
The burning sensation in my core, flares, nearly overwhelming my need to drink.
Cairo’s scent strengthens, deepening into an aromatic musk.
I inch closer, my knees brushing his inner thighs, a thrill of pleasure runs through me as he shivers from my touch.
“Easy.” He pleads.
But I’ve never been good at playing nice in these situations.
Without hesitation, I pounce, straddling him, before biting into his neck, where it meets his shoulder, in one fluid movement.
His blood fills my mouth and I groan in ecstasy.
The flavor is beyond anything I could have imagined, the sweetest ambrosia. I instantly feel drunk from the rush of sensations now flooding my body.
I swallow once.
This is nothing like the last time I fed, where there had only been hate and hunger.
This was heaven on earth...er um... Alithia.
Cairo’s hands grasp my ass roughly, as he pulls my core flush against his erection.
Ok so maybe I wasn’t imagining his attraction to me.
And whoa buddy, does this mans “attraction” exceed expectation.
We moan in unison, our bodies locked in a passionate throw, grinding against one another in wild abandon, as I drink.
I cling to him as life rushes back into my starved bones.
But then something shifts between us.
Like a rope snapping taunt, I feel a bond form.
My spine burns and my heart thunders within my chest, and judging by the surprised sound Cairo just made, he was experiencing the same thing.
Before I can process this, my mind opens, pouring a torrent of memories into Cario.
Like a dream catcher, he takes it all in, to my horror.
I am powerless to stop my nightmares that flash between us.
As if patched together for a slide show, clips of my unspeakable secret, and self hate, are revealed to him.
Im tied to a slab of stone.
A dark figure hovers over me, his face hidden in shadows.
“Please. Don’t.” I whimper, struggling against my binding in an attempt to close my legs.
To cover my nakedness.
He ignores my plea and descends upon me.
I scream and scream, for hours it seems, ‘til my throat bleeds and I beg for death.
But he doesn’t stop.
He takes me.
He takes everything.
And when he’s done....
When I’m broken beyond repair...
Bleeding profusely, teetering on the edge of death.
He slits his palm and brings it to his lips, filling his mouth with his blood...
He slats his mouth over mine, and feeds his blood to me.
My world fades, darkness closing in on the edges of my vision.
And then there is a pressure, as he shoves Circe’s soul within my chest.
Pain grips every cell in my body.
Unspeakable, agonizing, pain...
And then nothing.
I lay limp, unable to even open my eyes.
Circe cry’s within my mind.
Her first words to me,
I’m so sorry.
“You’re mine now, and you always will be. No matter where you go, no matter where you hide. In this life and the next. I will find you. My sweet little experiment.” My abuser cackles.
Then another memory lapses over the first, whiplashing my emotions.
I’m straddling king Rolan’s back, his head between my hands, I tear at his neck, biting and ripping... over and over, until his spine gives way with a wet crunch, and his head comes lose in my fingers.
Ezra, my sweet little godson, the same Ezra who’s diapers I helped changed, who’s first words were, Sam, the physical embodiment of everything I’d ever dreamed of but could never have.
He screams in terror as I step towards him.
Once we had arrived back at the dragon court and I’d cleaned up, he was the first person I wanted to see.
But... I became his boogie man upon first glance.
The monster he now asks his parents to check under the bed for.
I scream, releasing Cairo’s neck.
Shoving him away, I tumble from his lap in the process.
And crab crawl backwards, before curling in on myself.
With my arms wrapped tightly around my knees, I begin to rock.
“Sam... I’m so sorry...Sam?” Cairo begins to move in my direction but I hiss, halting him in place.
Samaria, what happened? You blocked me out again....Sam?
Cairo and Circe’s worried voices fade as HIS replaces them.
In a low, gravely whisper, HE taunts,
I flinch, curling into myself further.
My nails bite into the skin of my arms as I begin to hyperventilate.
I shrivel, a strangled whimper escaping my trembling lips.
My shoulders cave in around me, as I attempt to fold myself as small as I possibly can.
My breath rushes out of me in a whoosh, like I’ve been kicked.
But just as the void is about to swallow me completely, I’m pulled into warm strong arms.
Something is different now.
Where before, his briefs chance touches, elicited a small spark from me.
Now my entire body lit up like the forth of July.
His touch, paired with the calm inducing quality his scent held, snuffed out my almost cataclysmic break down.
Cradled against his chest, I look up into his eyes and ask the only question that really mattered to me right now.
“Did you know that would happen?”
He remains silent for a hot minute, and I’m tempted to repeat my question, when he suddenly speaks.
“I did not. Such things are fairly rare among our people, and I have yet to experience it until now.” His face is full of wonder and... happiness?
“What exactly is “it” that happened.” I snap, losing patience.
The only bright side in this, was that he hadn’t immediately jumped to discus my memories.
“A blood tie. It only happens with a partner that is compatible to claim as a chosen mate. It’s an engagement of sorts for our kind. Being demons are not blessed with Fated mates, we instead have chosen mates. Seeking out a blood tie, is the widely favored method of choosing ones partner.”
“A single soul can have several blood ties in a life time, until they choose to mark one as their mate. But you are the first one I’ve tied to, until now I have never found a blood tie.” He explains, a strange look in his eyes.
“Hold up.” I scramble out of his lap, and stand to my feet.
A passionate night or two with an otherworldly man, was one thing.
I’m no stranger to one night stands, flings, and beneficial buddies.
Hell, they are the only kind of relationship I’d ever pursued in my adult life.
Commitment is not something I'm in the market for... but judging by the look on Cairo’s face, he was already hearing wedding bells.
“You’re saying that you’ve placed some ritual engagement, bull shit on me?” I snarl, and my teeth pulse in their desire to descend once again, but I rein them in.
I’d rather not look like a pissed off piranha right now.
Cairo sighs, rising to his feet,
“To be fair, you placed the blood tie on me. Being you were the one feeding.” His eyes darken, and focus on my lips, causing me to swipe my tongue across them.
I catch a stray drop of blood on my pass, and shiver.
Had I really placed the tie on him?
“How do I take it back?” I blurt, I didn’t asked for this, wasn’t even warned it could be a possibility.
I can’t be liable for another persons heart, I’m barely able to keep my own glued together from the shambles it had been left in.
But the pain that crosses Cairo’s face is unquestionable, and leaves me with a dull ache in my chest.
“You want to take it back?” His voice is low, but deadly, his eyes cast in uncertainty and anger.
“I-” I’m cut off as he advances on me, but suddenly seems to think better of his actions, and steps away.
He scratches at the back of his head indecisively, before letting out a deep sigh.
“You can’t take it back.” He begins, “But you can look for another blood tie. The bond is not made complete until you mark one of the other ties, and he or she marks you back.” He explains bitterly.
That’s something at least.
I’m not obligated to fulfill anything with him.
Even if my body, soul, and demon would beg to differ.
“Well that’s a relief.” I whisper.
But the low growl that comes from Cairo, tells me I was not quiet enough.
“Well, tonight has been a blast, thank you for the meal and the fiancé, but I really ought to get some sleep.” I yawn, and stretch my arms as I walk to the pile of pillows and furs, and belly flop into the center, worming my way under the blankets.
“What are you doing?” Cairo asks from above me.
“I’m going to bed, what does it look like. I’m sure the king can find other sleeping arrangements. And as I’m now your fiancée, it would be rude of you to make me sleep anywhere but here.” I bat my lashes innocently.
“You are absolutely correct, however, my chivalry only goes so far, and Illias snores, quite loudly. So we shall be sharing this bed tonight. We will be returning to our castle in the morning, You can pick any room there that you would like. And I’ll respect your privacy.” He says as he crawls in beside me, but remains above the blankets.
Well damn, how do you argue with that?
Besides, I feel safe with Cairo, I know he won’t harm me.
So I shrug, and pull a particularly soft pelt up to my chin.
“Sweet dreams.” He rumbles, his body tensing as he spoke.
His words sound almost like a prayer.
And they likely were... He had seen my nightmares, after all.
Just as I’m about to reply, he wraps his arm around waist, and pulls me against his chest, he then places a chaste kiss against the back of my neck, before nuzzling his face into my hair.
“Goodnight.” I whisper, deciding in that moment that I deserve to be held without the other person expecting anything in return... At least once.
After tonight I will draw the line with this man.
He may now know of my nightmares.
But he can never know of my real demons.
The ones that haunted me long before the Faye king.
Forming a relationship with him... would rip them straight out of the closet.
So this can’t happen.
I won’t let it.