I sat straight up in Hyler’s bed, desperately gasping for breath. In Jev City, I would have lit a candle to keep away the darkness. Here, there was no candlelight to comfort me this time. Raking a trembling hand through my hair, a small sound escaped my lips. Nightmares like the one I had just had always left me helplessly clueless as to where I was. However, as I sat there on the bed, it felt as if I had woken up to another bad dream. It was a surreal feeling, but I eventually laid back down on my side, facing the wall. As I settled my head on the pillow without the intention of falling asleep again, I had the strange feeling that I was not alone. That was when I felt a hand on my hip. My heart skipped several beats, but I didn’t scream. After realizing it had to have been Killian, I relaxed again. I flipped over on my stomach, his hand moving to my lower back, and I turned my head to the left so that I could see him. His aquamarine eyes were the first things I saw.
“Scared of sleeping alone?” I asked quietly.
I saw him smile.
“Are you?” he replied.
Secretly, I was glad he had come to sleep with me or else I would have had to suffer from the silence. I didn’t question why he was in bed with me because I knew there would be no point. The house was completely silent, but it wasn’t so menacing with him beside me. Even if we were just staring at each other, it almost felt as if we were having a whole conversation. His eyes told me everything. They held that same hungry look he had worn before when he tried to convince me to have a dalliance with him. However, something was different. There was something else hidden behind the obvious lust he had brewing inside of him. It was much gentler—more passionate than animalistic. It surprised me to a certain degree, but not as much as I expected. A question abruptly popped into my head.
“Do you still think I’m your pet?” I said.
“Yes,” he replied without hesitation.
That answer was completely unexpected. Instead of feeling offended, though, I found it slightly amusing. Before, I had taken it so seriously. Now I couldn’t help but think of how childish it sounded. I giggled at him and he gave me a quizzical look, but said nothing. Then I felt his long, strong fingers wrap around the back of my neck. I immediately went quiet.
“I still haven’t given you a proper punishment, yet,” he said wickedly.
I gulped. It wasn’t the way he threatened that scared me. It was that undeniable heat in my core which rendered me defenseless once again. I tried slowly prying his hand from me but he only tightened his grip. I gasped, digging my nails into his skin.
“Will you take your punishment now?” he said softly.
“Why can’t you just masturbate like a normal person?” I whispered.
“It won’t be nearly as pleasurable as being inside you.”
A shiver shook the entire frame of my body. Very faintly, I could hear his breath quicken. Suddenly, he moved closer to me.
“May I kiss you?” he said, his voice trembling.
“No,” I said hesitantly.
“I honestly believe you’re just saying that.”
“And I honestly believe no means no.”
“May I touch you?”
“You already are.”
“You know what I mean.”
It was becoming hard to breathe, and not because he was choking me, but because my heart was now thumping loudly in my chest. His thumb pressed into my pulse just below my jaw. I watched as his eyes dilated.
“I’ll scream,” I warned.
He smirked, and said, “You didn’t answer my question.”
Why did he have to be so persistent? Why here, why now? His grip loosened slightly, enough to allow more circulation. Without warning, I grabbed both of his arms and sprang up to straddle him. I pinned his arms above his head and glared down at him. His eyes flashed with shock, and then excitement.
“No,” I said. “You may not touch me.”
He chuckled. “You shouldn’t play this game with me—sitting on top of me, pretending you’re the one in control.”
“You’re the one playing games here,” I snapped back angrily. “Can’t we just lie here together without you trying to seduce me?”
“Are you so blind to think I haven’t seduced you already?”
My eyes narrowed as my body went rigid. Deep, deep down, I knew it was all over for me. It had been since the first time we shared a bed together. There was only lust…or was there? Could it be love? No, no, no. I could never love him. It just didn’t seem right. I know what love is. It’s the lust I am unfamiliar with, and if it’s lust I feel for him, well…love and lust are very, very similar. Almost too similar.
Maybe I could love him.
I sighed audibly. Why was this so difficult for me? Would it be okay to have a dalliance based solely on lust? Love would be ideal. Then again, who said I had to choose anyway? The answer was right in front of me. He watched me as I released him and sat up straight. He sat up, too, continuing to watch me closely. The truth was this: Killian was extremely attractive. With his full lips, alien accent, high cheekbones, and beautiful eyes, he was far more attractive than the average Skelt. It was the manipulative, cocky, arrogant side of him that made him so hideous. Still, I had to admit, he had his moments.
I knew he was capable of love. He clearly loved his people, considering he had already mentioned before that they were like family to him. He would destroy worlds to save them, and even though that was a scary thought, it was admirable. I could understand if he was angry and looking to take it out on me. I could understand if he felt lonely and wanted to confide in me to suppress that hurt he was feeling. He had been imprisoned for so long only to wake up and find that the world had changed and everything he knew and loved had been taken away from him. How would I have felt? It’s possible I would have reacted the same way as he did. Maybe I would have dealt with it differently, but at least I could understand where he was coming from. Then, an idea came to mind. Maybe if I could show him a different way to cope with everything he was feeling, somehow make him see that he didn’t need me to submit to him in order to make him feel better.
That settled it. I was going to try something else this time. Instead of hitting, yelling, or fighting, I decided to hug him. Throwing my arms around his neck, I pressed myself against him in a tight embrace. It was fierce and full of raw emotion. He tensed, propping his arm behind him briefly to keep himself steady from the impact. I held the back of his head with one hand while wrapping the other arm around his shoulders. It took him a long time to return it, and even when he did, it was awkward. Still, I was glad he didn’t push me away. I squeezed him tighter, which granted the opportunity for me to smell him. His scent was different from what I expected it to be. It was a mix of rose and spice, accented with the aroma of the forest we had passed through to get here. His skin was soft and smooth, as I had already anticipated. For once, I felt safe in his arms. Usually, I would be fighting for my life to get away from him, but this…this was incredible. To think that he was behaving himself enough to share this moment with me was something I thought I would never have accomplished in a lifetime.
“Why can’t it always be like this, Killian?” I said softly, gently combing through his hair with my fingers.
He was silent for a while. Then he said, “Because I have felt things…strange things… Things I would never have dreamed of feeling for my own kind, much less a Skelt.”
My brows furrowed in confusion.
“What do you mean?” I whispered.
“I don’t know,” he murmured. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”
A long pause, and then suddenly he pulled away from me and bowed his head to kiss me. It was more passionate than the others he had given me, one that felt like a million super novae happening all at the same time. It literally stole the air from my lungs. Just before I thought I would die from the feel of his mouth moving so passionately against mine, he gently, but hesitantly, pulled away. I panted softly, and looked up at him. His eyes were glistening with a new shine I had never seen before in all the time I had known him.
“What evil is this?” he whispered. “It rips me apart.”
Then, it happened. A single tear, large and beautiful, slid over his cheek. His eyes widened in horror and he wiped it away quickly, turning away from me.
“Killian?” I said in a panicked voice as I touched his arm.
A moment passed before he turned around again and grabbed hold of my neck, pressing his soft lips on mine once more. The kiss deepened and was drawn out longer this time. I could feel the heat rising and my mind losing control of my heart so quickly that fear bubble up inside me, becoming almost unbearable. His hand pressed into my lower back, pushing my body against him snugly. I pulled away for a second to catch my breath, then kissed him again. He moaned deep inside his chest, grazing his teeth across my bottom lip. Then he grabbed a fistful of my hair, forcing me to tilt my head up. His breath was warm on my face as he searched my eyes.
“What is it about you…?” he whispered, his breath slightly labored. “What makes you so different?”
His hand moved to hold my neck, his thumb pressing tenderly against my pulse. I sat perfectly still, afraid that if I moved, he would attack. To my surprise, he let go of me, leaning back to lie down. I sat on top of him, dumbfounded by what had just happened. Then, I leaned down, bracing myself against his chest, getting close enough to where our noses nearly touched.
“I understand how you must be feeling right now,” I said quietly. “All that pain you might have gone through must be eating you alive right now. I know you think you need to pretend—to throw up this cold, heartless, unbreakable front—but you don’t.”
He laughed humorlessly and I gave him a look.
“Why do you suppress yourself so much?” I asked desperately. “Tell me.”
I felt his fingers curl around my long locks, twisting into them tightly, nearly pulling the roots out of my scalp. A pained whimpered escaped my lips and my face twisted in agony as he pressed his forehead against mine.
“Do not beg for me,” he said in a low, borderline-hostile voice. “Do not beg for me to feel.”
“But why?” I said, my voice wavering from the throbbing in my head. “What’s so wrong about feeling? Feeling is what gives us life. It’s what makes humans human and Skelts Skelt. Whatever you are, it doesn’t matter. Whether it is love you’re feeling, or—”
“What, you think I love you?” he sneered. “You are utterly misconstrued if you think I care about you at all.”
My throat tightened as he said the words. Suddenly I wished I hadn’t been so empathetic towards him. I winced when his grip tightened on me.
“I don’t believe that,” I whispered, trying to keep my voice steady.
“Why?” he said. “Because you can’t handle rejection? Because deep down, you need me to love you?” He laughed. “You’re so desperate for my attention. You may try to keep your body from me, but in your mind, I am the ruler of your entire existence. Look at you, you can’t even tame the tears that blur your vision—no, don’t wipe them away! Let me see your suffering. Let me see how pathetic you really are.”
“Stop this!” I said, pounding a fist against his chest. “You’re just saying this to push me away.”
“Oh, am I? Then tell me. Is it working?”
I felt my body stop working completely. The tears that had formed in my eyes now fell onto his face. He flinched as they splattered on his cheek, and his eyes swirled with some foreign emotion I had never seen in him before. I blinked a few times to coax myself to function again. My efforts prevailed eventually, all at once sending power to my lips, which formed the cursed words:
“I hate you.”
His mouth parted and his eyes turned a darker shade of blue.
“I hate you. I hate you so much.”
His jaw clenched, and he said in a monotone voice, “Don’t be so absurd.”
“But I do,” I said, sniffling. “I do hate you—and you know what? I have every reason to.”
“Stop being so dramatic, Jianna, it’s ridiculous.”
“Then tell me why you care,” I wailed.
“Stop…crying,” he said with rage in his eyes.
“Please! Tell me what you’re thinking right now.”
“In this very moment, I’m furious and utterly annoyed with you,” he growled.
“Why?” I pressed.
“Because you’re an idiot.”
“Why am I an idiot?”
“Jianna, I’m not doing this with you right now.”
“Why not?” I almost shouted. “Why not now? If not now, then when? You can’t keep doing this. You can’t keep running away from your feelings. It’s good that you’re trying to be strong for your family, but even the hero has to cry sometimes.”
“You think I’m the hero in this story?” he said. “I really have gotten inside your head, haven’t I?”
I furrowed my brows and said, “What the hell does that mean?”
“What do you think I’ve been doing all this time? Since the day we met, I’ve been manipulating your emotions so that you would empathize with me. That is how you are my pet and I your master. You would do anything to defend me. You are my pawn, Jianna, a simple tool to satisfy my needs.”
His grip in my hair had loosened a after he was done speaking, but I didn’t move away. Instead, I pressed on.
“Do you really expect me to believe that?” I said. “You respected me when I said I wasn’t ready for a dalliance. You’ve proved yourself on many occasions that you can be trusted.”
“You’re not listening to me,” he hissed. “You are my tool—my pet. I had to convince you first—tame you, if you will—to have you on my side. For this to happen, I had to give you reasons to trust me. Don’t you see? You never meant anything to me, and you never will.”
I shook my head, allowing more tears to spill on his face.
“No,” I said, sniffling again. “That’s not good enough.”
“My, you are stubborn,” he murmured. “What will it take to—?”
He gasped as I lowered my hand from his chest to his abdomen. His breath labored almost immediately as he lay still underneath me. It was a dangerous thing for me to do, but I knew this was all meant to prove a point. My chest throbbed from the ruthless beating of my heart. I experimented by lightly dragging my nails across his body. He groaned.
“Stop,” he said.
“Why?” I said daringly. “Isn’t this what you want? My submission? Fine. Have it your way.”
“I said stop.”
“But I’m more than willing to let you have your way with me.”
“That’s not how this works.”
“Oh? Then how does it work? If I’m such a tool to you, why don’t you use me? You’ve already told me your intentions, so there’s no point in trying to convince me of anything now, right? So, do it.”
“No,” he growled.
Ignoring his answer, I leaned in to kiss and lick the side of his neck. That was when he sat up to pull me off him.
“Don’t,” I said, latching on. “I want this.”
“No, you don’t,” he said, attempting to push me away again.
Before he succeeded in doing so, I pressed my lips to his tenderly. He immediately stopped, hesitating for a split second before taking my face in his hands to deepen the kiss. A raging fire of passion ignited in my chest, setting my body alight with a newfound energy I had never experienced before. With one hand, he reached down to grab my leg and pull me closer. His breath was hot on my skin as he moved down to lick and nip at my neck. I sighed in pleasure. What I didn’t notice, however, was that he had only been distracting me from what he was really doing. Before I knew it, he had both of my hands tied together.
“What are you doing,” I said in a panicked voice.
“Saving you from yourself,” he said.
He yanked me by the rest of the ribbon he used to tie me up with (that I now recognize was from one of my dresses). At the head of the bed, he tied a complicated knot that seems impossible to undo. I widen my eyes in horror as he stood to leave the room.
“I said I was ready,” I said quickly, starting to go after him, but was pulled right back by my bonds.
“No,” he said softly, hesitating by the door. “You are blinded by your emotions. I won’t take advantage of that. Goodnight, Jianna. Sweet dreams.”
“Killian, come back—”
He closed the door on me before I can finish my sentence.