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Once in a Blue Moon
  • Текст добавлен: 26 сентября 2016, 17:49

Текст книги "Once in a Blue Moon"

Автор книги: Delilah Devlin

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Текущая страница: 4 (всего у книги 5 страниц)

Ethan relished the battle to come—with her, with the hellhound who would track them to the bayou. Trolls were warriors. Born to fight. He’d been made for this. Shaped in rock and sweat just for her.

Chapter Six

The next afternoon, the women gathered in the kitchen to prepare the evening meal. With so many to feed, all hands were needed. Besides, after the previous night’s events, the witches were confined to the house. Orders from Ethan at breakfast. The women had contacted their workers and made excuses for why they wouldn’t be coming in for a few days—relatives from out of town.

And although his assumption of authority rankled, Bryn conceded he was right. It was no longer safe for them outside.

“I don’t see why I couldn’t have gone out on the boat today,” Miren said. “We’d have been out on the ocean, a draugr and two mermen to protect me. Who the hell could get to me there?”

“A whale?” Darcy raised an eyebrow. “One call on a conch from someone like Liliana, and you’d have been in the drink, matey. Garrr,” she said in mock pirate voice.

But no one laughed. Mention of the council’s high priestess only turned the mood inside the kitchen more sour. Liliana had been the one who’d pushed for Bryn’s alliance with the hellhound. She was only interested in increasing witches’ power, which any witch would agree could be a good thing. But Liliana served her own selfish purpose. During their ceremonies and rites, she pulled all their power, making herself the focal entity. A star among her kind and the most powerful ally to the rulers.

Liliana’s ethereal blonde beauty belied her ugly heart. Something Bryn and her friends had seen from the start of Liliana’s rise.

“Do you think she’ll come?” Aoife said in a small voice.

“Since she sleeps with Merrick, I doubt she’ll let him come alone.” Bryn glanced up at the others. Liliana hadn’t hidden her interest in Merrick. In fact, she’d tried on more than one occasion to draw Bryn into a threesome, a chance to drain Bryn of her strength to feed herself and Merrick. Bryn felt nothing but revulsion for the pair, and even though Merrick had been her mate, she’d been only too happy when he stayed away at night.

She wouldn’t be so tolerant with Ethan. Not that she believed he would ever betray her. There was an upside to mating beneath your station.

Bryn winced at the snarky thought and pounded harder on the steak she was tenderizing.

“Ooh, you’d think she’d be in a better mood,” Darcy said, narrowing her eyes on Bryn.

Bryn bent her head. “I can feel you staring,” she muttered.

Darcy moved closer and set her chin on Bryn’s shoulder. “So tell us, what’s it like being with a troll?”

“A troll.” Miren shivered. “I still can’t believe that.”

Bryn beat the meat with her tenderizing mallet harder. No way was she going to give the women a play-by-play of what had happened between her and Ethan. She still quivered just thinking about it.

“I did a little research on Vindlér Construction.”

All gazes swung to Aoife.

Aoife shrugged. “An internet search. They have quite the story. Seems Ethan and Renner came south with a few of their buddies after Katrina hit. They didn’t have two pennies to rub together but managed to get construction contracts for the reconstruction in New Orleans—roads, bridges and even a couple of schools. They aren’t hurting now.”

Radha snorted. “Trolls building bridges. How cliché is that?”

Beyond annoyed with her sisters, Bryn set aside her mallet and walked to the sink. She washed her hands, took off her apron and headed to the back door.

“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound like a bitch,” Radha said.

Bryn glanced over her shoulder. “And I forgive you. But snarking on Ethan doesn’t accomplish anything. Yes, he’s a troll. I’m fucking a troll. But I’ll tell you this, you should all be so lucky.”

She let the door slam behind her and stepped farther onto the porch.

“You don’t have to defend me to your friends.”

Bryn glanced to her side. Ethan stood there wearing jeans and a faded gray tee. Looking deliciously disheveled with mud on his boots and dirt stains on his clothing. “I know that. But they made me angry.”

“Because they were talking trash about me?”

“Because they were disrespecting my choice. It’s not all about you.” She waved a hand toward the kitchen door. “They resent being cooped up. And they’re likely feeling edgy and more than a little horny. So many of you around, and yet they can’t…taste the pie.”

One side of his mouth curved upward in a sexy crooked grin that made her stomach cramp.

“They have plenty of choices. Why not choose a partner?”

“Because they don’t want to be used. Owned. Don’t want to have every decision they make approved by a male. They want to keep their magic for themselves.”

“Do you feel as though you’ve lost anything…being with me?”

“I gave it away. To you, last night,” she said softly. “Willingly. And isn’t that the greater risk? To fall into a relationship, into love, and lose your sense of self? We’ve been on our own for five years. What we have, we built.”

“And you’ve done well. You’ve prospered.” Ethan reached out and took her hand.

Her fingers tingled, just a tiny spark that she doubted he’d intentionally given her, but every spark was power lost. Didn’t he understand that was what they all feared—giving away their precious light because they couldn’t help themselves?

Bryn cleared her throat. “Thank your friends for keeping it in their pants.”

He pursed his mouth. Humor shone in his dark eyes. “I’ll do that.” He stroked his thumb slowly over her palm.

Another tingle worked its way up her arm. She narrowed her eyes. “You’re doing that on purpose, aren’t you?”

“Is it working?” he murmured.

Were her breasts tingling? Did she feel a tug in her groin? Oh, yeah. “It’s been only five hours since we last made love.”

He arched a brow. “You’ve never called it that before. As I recall, you call it fucking, as in ‘fuck me hard, troll’.”

Bryn’s jaw dropped. “Is that how I sound to you?”

“Did I complain?”

“No, but…it was hardly respectful.”

“Seeing as you were allowing me to fuck you, I didn’t mind one bit.”

Bryn lowered her head. “I guess I’m having a bit of trouble wrapping my mind around it all. You being a troll,” she whispered. “Me wanting you so much.”

He lifted her face with a finger and bent toward her. “You can call it what you like. So long as you continue to want me.”

But it wasn’t just attraction. Wasn’t merely the call of her witchy libido. She stared into his eyes and realized she’d felt drawn to him, pulled closer and closer by invisible bonds since the start. “I don’t want to think of you as being beneath me. Of me being superior or more important. You’ve proven you’re smart and capable and in control of your base instincts. While I’m…” She was the one who whirled out of control every time he touched her.

Ethan kissed her. Maybe just to shut her up, but she didn’t care. She bunched his shirt in her fists and pulled him closer. “I can’t get enough of this, of you,” she said, closing her eyes and rubbing her cheek against his.

He brought his arms around her and hugged her hard, rocking on his heels, soothing away her riotous thoughts. Standing in the circle of his arms, she felt somehow…complete.

Her heart slowed, her body relaxed. Sparks flew along her skin as he rubbed her back. She imagined herself spilling into him and released a bit of moonlight. Shared it with him. Happy to do it.

When she pulled away, she gave a laugh, feeling sheepish over her upwelling emotions. They barely knew each other, and here she was falling in love. But what did he feel?

Ethan kissed her forehead. “Better now?”

“I am.”

“You should stay inside.”

“I know.” She sighed again. “Why are you here? Is it your turn to circle the porch?”

“I felt you.”

She canted her head. “What do you mean?”

“You were agitated, and I felt it.”

Her eyes widened. “That’s unusual.”

“Not when you’re bonded, or so I understand.”

“I never felt that way with Merrick.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Should have been your first clue.”

She patted his chest and noted the sudden tension in his muscles. He didn’t like thinking of her with Merrick. “I’m going inside now.”

He loosened his arms and she immediately missed feeling him against her. She was beginning to crave the comfort of his broad chest. When she turned away, a slap landed on her bottom. She glanced over her shoulder and gave him a glare, but he grinned that crooked smile that made him seem somehow boyish.

Stepping inside, she couldn’t hide her silly grin. But she wiped it off her face the moment she glanced at her friends.

Miren shook her head, but the corners of her mouth twitched. Aoife and Radha rolled their eyes. Darcy wore a bullish scowl.

“What?” Bryn asked, her tone belligerent.

“It’s so not fair,” Darcy said, and then smiled sheepishly. “I’d love to want someone so much I couldn’t keep my hands off him.”

Aoife sighed. “It’s romantic. A witch and a troll. Like a fairytale.”

“Beauty and Beast,” Miren said, her tone dreamy.

“He’s no beast,” Bryn muttered. But he was—deep inside where his green-eyed monster lurked. And didn’t they all need a beast on their side?

Ethan found Renner in the driveway. Several of the men were reparking cars and trucks to minimize the space they took up. Something to do while they waited for danger to arrive.

Renner had a cell phone against his ear, and the hard look in his eyes had Ethan stiffening.

“Thanks for the warning,” Renner said and ended his call. “That was Hamdir. His cousin up north works at the council’s airstrip. They’ve chartered a flight. No plan was filed, but Merrick was one of the passengers, along with three of the council members.”

Ethan nodded. It was no coincidence. “Did he say how many enforcer-types were with him?”

“Eight. But there’s no telling how many they’re calling in from this region. Guess the fight’s coming to us.”

“Better inventory our weapons. Set up a perimeter. They’ll be rushing to use the last of the blue moon before its power wanes completely. We have to be ready tonight.”

Renner nodded. “What are you going to tell the women?”

Ethan grimaced. “The truth. They have a say in this—whether to fight or surrender.”

“And Bryn?”

Ethan recalled the worry haunting her eyes and hated that he was going to have to bring her more bad news. “I’m not letting her go, Renner. She’s mine. We’re bound. And since her bond with Merrick was broken completely last night, he won’t want her back. If he captures her, he’ll kill her. The council will demand her death as well—as an example to all witches.” He curled his fists tightly.

Renner’s expression grew grim. “Would it be smarter to run?”

Ethan shook his head. “I’ll ask, but I doubt the women will be willing. They’ve worked hard to build a life here. They’re not going to give it up without a fight.”

Ethan left Renner as he gathered the men to tell them what they’d learned. He headed back to the kitchen but found the women in the parlor, peeking behind the curtains at the men outside.

“So you heard?” he asked as he entered the room.

Radha dropped the curtain. Her pale face was nearly translucent. As was Aoife’s.

Bryn walked to his side and laid her hand on his arm. “Are we being selfish, asking you to stand and fight?”

Ethan cupped his free hand over hers. “If we run, we’ll be hunted for all our days.”

“Do you think we stand a chance?”

Her eyes glistened with tears, and he felt a pang in his chest. He’d do anything to keep her safe, even give his life. But her fate had been sealed with the resounding echo the night before. They had no choice except enter the battle. “I don’t know. It depends on the council members. They’ll sanction a battle, but they can set the rules. We have to hope they’ll allow champions to fight.”

“Our champion would be you?” Her voice wavered.

He cupped her cheek. “I have the most to gain or lose. And Merrick will demand it.”

“But he’s a hellhound. How can you win?”

“Baby, I’m a troll. Have a little faith.” He gave her a crooked smile. “But I could use some magic.”

“Merrick will have Liliana at his side. She’ll have funneled every bit of energy she can to aid him.”

“And I have five witches with so much more at stake than just personal gain. Don’t you think your Goddess will have our backs?”

Bryn’s smile began slowly and then stretched across her face. She sniffed and tilted her head, a silent plea for a caress, which he gave her. He slid his hand along her cheek and threaded his fingers in her hair. He bent and kissed her soft mouth.

“Sex magic works well too,” Darcy said, her tone wry.

When he shot her a glance, it was to see her eyes alight with mischief. So maybe Darcy wasn’t completely anti-troll.

She shrugged. “We can do some spellwork, prepare the herbs and the crystals. When night falls, we’ll gather at the oak.”

An open plain. A place for the Others to move freely. Protecting a structure like a house was confining for demons. Ethan nodded. “Why don’t you let the men know? They’ll prepare the field.” He glanced down at Bryn.

Her gaze slid sideways. “You’ll have to finish preparing the steaks on your own,” she said to her sisters.

“I think we can manage,” Radha said. “Go do what you need to do. We’ll batten down the glassware if the house shakes.”

Bryn’s blush was a deep pink. “She’s exaggerating.”

He snorted. “Is she?”

Laughter followed them as they left the room hands clasped. At the stairway, Ethan swept her up into his strong arms.

“You should be saving your strength.”

Ethan ignored her. She was as light as a feather. He didn’t break his stride. His breathing remained even. At her door, he shouldered it open, then walked to the bed and dumped her on top of the mattress, where she bounced, giggling.

Not bothering to remove clothing because he was already too eager, he roughly shoved up her skirt, gratified she’d foregone underwear. Likely to conserve her panties since he didn’t have patience with lacy bits that only got in his way.

Her hands were busy too, opening his belt, unbuttoning his pants. When she reached inside to free his cock, he shook his head, trying to clear it of the blinding heat that stole his self-control. “Easy there,” he ground out when she tightened her grip on his shaft.

But she was pulling now, hard. Opening her legs and bringing him closer, placing his head right at her entrance. Moist heat, lots of it, greeted him. But he was hard and thick, and she really should wait until he’d played with her pussy, prepared her with his fingers, gently stretched her and made her so aroused there’d be no pain.

When she lifted her hips and forced him inside, he was lost. Just the cap was surrounded by her slick sex, but her eyes, sleepy lids falling to darken her stormy blue to navy, drew him. He thrust inward, gritting his teeth at the snug fit. “You should have let me do this right.”

“You are, I promise. So right.

Not able to withdraw, he ripped apart her shirt and clamped a hand on a naked breast. As he thrust, he played with her nipple, twisting, tugging. Her body tensed beneath him, and he felt the clench of her muscles all around him every time he gave her a tweak. Liquid heat seeped around him, easing his harsh entry.

He took her mouth, grunting when she bit his tongue. He pumped faster, plunging harder inside her and leaned to the other side to tease her other breast. He pulled the tip and let it snap back again and again, and then pinched it hard, only satisfied when she growled and groaned and her nails striped his back.

Her hips were curving, tilting to let him thrust deeper. She bucked and writhed, each movement increasing the friction as the wildness rode them both.

And then the moment shattered in an explosion of heat and light as their mutual pleasure eclipsed. She spilled moonlight into his body that hardened his muscles, bulking them outward. He pummeled her sweet channel, jagged shards of electric delight delivered inward and sparked from his hand at her breast.

The strength of their sharing made them both cry out. In the distance, he heard the slamming of the bed frame against the wall and floor, the shudder of the house, the tinkle of the overhead chandelier, but he couldn’t stop. The moment stretched and darkness fell around them.

When he came back to himself, he jerked, his eyelids slamming open. Fear gripped him. He’d lost himself. Had he harmed her?

But she was wound around him, arms and legs holding tightly to his frame. Her mouth showered his face with kisses.

“Yes, yes, yes,” she sobbed, drawing him deeper and deeper. They were one, blended in light and electricity, the air sizzling around them, sparking, humming.

He rolled and brought her over him. Waited as she dragged deep breaths into starved lungs. He stroked her back, her buttocks, nuzzled her cheeks.


Everything inside him, every thought coalesced in that one word. She was everything. His heart, his mate, his love. Together, they were more powerful. He felt it with a bone-deep certainty. As he drew away, pushing back her hair and framing her lovely face, he knew he’d never forget this moment. Until he drew his last breath, she was imprinted in his mind.

“Do you think they noticed?” she asked, a sleepy smile turning up the corners of her mouth like a kitten’s.

“Sweetheart, I think the heavens heard.”

Chapter Seven

In the last fullness of the blue moon, they gathered in the field around the large oak. Torches burned, struck into the dirt. The women were nude, having gathered their nerve to shed their modesty with so many males in the clearing.

They’d drawn down the moon and stood with gleaming skin. They were evenly spaced around the oak, each guarded by three men who stood outside the torch-lit circle, facing outward. The witches had gifted each man with a final dance to empower them if they were called to battle.

A pearlescent glimmer now lit the men’s naked skin. Something the army gathering at the edges of the clearing couldn’t miss.

Ethan glanced back at Bryn. Her expression was serene. Trusting. In his strength, in their bond and the approval of her Goddess. After they’d made love that afternoon, Bryn had said she’d felt approval, a whisper in her ear the moment before they’d climaxed.

A blessing from above, he believed. Love had poured from them both, filled them both. They’d shared in each other’s power. When Bryn had glided a fingertip along his cheek, he’d felt a spark. A troll spark.

Above them, clouds gathered, wisping around the moon but never obscuring it. Distant thunder rumbled, glimmers of light bursting now and then in thick thunderheads. He glanced at Renner. Their god was with them too. Hammer ready. They were all ready, empowered, willing to throw down skin and fur, tridents and lightning. Ethan’s heart thudded loud and strong, the dull tattoo of pending warfare.

The Others encircled them, closing around the outer circle, dark figures dressed in black, faces darkened with earth and blood. They were armed according to their traditions—swords, tritons, teeth and fists.

Ethan’s stony fists would be his only weapons.

Approaching now, the hellhound let loose a fearful growl, his large paws kicking up clods of dirt. And there beside him, her hand clenched in the fur on his back, was Liliana.

Ethereal and deadly. Beautiful beyond compare. She glowed, but her aura wasn’t pure, didn’t shine like white pearls. It shimmered, red and cloudy, murky with evil. Her pale silvery eyes glowed like the hellhound’s. They’d bound their futures and their strengths.

Three tall gaunt men strode beside the pair, skin slightly gray, eyes completely black. Revenants, immortals who sat on the council due to their long memories. One of them lifted a thin hand and pointed a spindly finger, his gaze going beyond Ethan’s shoulder to Bryn. “You have broken with our rules.”

A shudder rippled through Ethan at the leathery tone of the old one’s voice. He drew a deep breath and fisted his hands tighter at his sides. He didn’t dare look back at Bryn to reassure her, not with the hellhound staring him down.

“Your rule wasn’t just,” her voice came, the lovely husky texture unbroken by any doubt. “I was bound against my will with Merrick. My Goddess has given me her blessing, allowed me my own choice. My own champion.”

The revenant canted his head to the side. He peered with his black eyes at Bryn and then at Ethan. His lips thinned, exposing the tips of his white fangs. “You are impudent. Disrespectful of your betters. Only a battle will determine who is blessed.” He shook his finger. “Know this, if your champion fails, you will both die.”

Ethan let out the breath he’d been holding, relieved the others would be spared. “I am her champion.”

“Of course you are, troll.” The revenant’s lips drew up in a derisive snarl. “You reach beyond your birth. Born a troll, you should have been satisfied to crawl out from under your bridge.”

Ethan’s back stiffened with anger blasting hot throughout his body. “I am a troll, and proudly so. I stand as champion for the witch and her sisters. Should I prevail, you will leave us alone. All of us. The women will have their choice of mates. The Others in this circle will stand outside your rule.”

The old one’s gaze swept the circle. “If he wins, you will be dead to us. Outside our protection. Banished forever. Should you cross paths with the righteous, there will be no sanctions should they kill you.” He drew back his head, lifting his chin. “Should you lose, troll, the witches will be returned to their masters. Your friends will be made slaves. All that you have achieved for yourselves will be lost.”

Ethan sucked in a deep breath. He glanced around him, at his friends. Their faces were drawn into harsh lines, but to a man, they gave him nods. “So be it. Unleash your hound.”

Before he had a chance to move away and brace for the impact, the hellhound lunged. Ethan was too close to the circle, too close to Bryn and the men next to him. He roared and grappled with the hound’s fur, afraid to release the hellhound in case it hurt those around him.

The hound went for his throat, teeth bared and snapping. Ethan gripped its neck and held it back, rolling with it away from the circle. His grip gave.

A snap ripped into his shoulder.

Ethan bellowed with rage.

The hellhound leapt away and Ethan pushed up from the ground, felt blood roll down his shoulder. He tried to curl his left fist, but it dangled there.

Fury beat inside his chest. He was far enough away now. Bryn, close your eyes! He roared and shook his head. Beat his chest with his good fist and wakened his inner demon. As quickly as he summoned it, his mind drew away, looking down on his body as he lumbered toward the hound.

“Water, Fire, Earth and Air,

Elementals, hear our prayers.

Wash away our warrior’s pain.

Make his fists as swift as licking flame.

Let the ground shake beneath his mighty frame.

Let winds blow, the sky bellow, and his mighty hammer crush.

Water, Fire, Earth and Air…”

He glanced toward the women, but their mouths weren’t moving. And yet he heard the chanting, felt it inside him, growing louder.

Liliana screeched and rushed past the old one, who caught her with one of his slender hands. Again, she shouted and jerked against his hold. “They’re interfering!” she said, pointing at the women. “They’re helping him.”

The old one lowered his face to hers. “They are praying to your Goddess. Why can’t you do the same?”

She jerked again, pulled free and rushed past him, her arms raised, light shooting from her fingertips.

Ethan felt searing heat explode against his side. He jerked and was instantly back inside the beast, facing another lunge from the hound that took him to the ground.

From the corner of his eye, he watched the old one grip Liliana’s long blonde hair, halting her. Her eyes grew wide, her lips drew back in a snarl as she gave Ethan a lethal glare. Again, she raised her hand, pointing fingers.

The revenant behind her, gave her long tresses a violent shake, using it like a whip. Her neck broke. She fell like a ragdoll to the ground.

The hellhound standing on Ethan’s chest raised his head and bellowed, letting loose a deafening squall.

Ethan swatted him aside, flipped upward to his feet and launched himself at the hound who was writhing now on the ground. He might only have a few moments before the hellhound recovered from the painful withdrawal.

“Water, Fire, Earth and Air…” The men’s voices joined the chant inside his head. He felt lighter, his steps no longer leaden. He balled his good fist and hammered down on the hellhound’s skull. A sickening thud sounded as it gave.

All was suddenly silent. Lightning raced across the sky and a moment later, rain pelted him. He sagged to his knees beside the large, furred body, all strength gone.

Arms surrounded him. Bryn hugged him, burying her face against chest. It was over. Rain was Thor’s blessing. Thunder cracked but lightning never touched the field.

He glanced back to the gathering army. But the field was empty except for Merrick’s furry corpse and Liliana’s body, her pale eyes unblinking. Ethan rose on unsteady legs and pulled Bryn away from the gruesome sight.

The torches hissed and went out one by one. The moon was cloaked by cloud. The witches and his demon friends stood silently in the darkness.

Aoife cleared her throat timidly. “Does anyone remember where we left our clothes?”

Bryn stood near the bedroom door as Radha worked her healing magic on the wound to Ethan’s shoulder. The hound had ripped through muscle, torn the troll’s cross on his arm. Radha had stitched him up because Bryn’s own hands were still shaking too much to hold a needle. And now, Radha laid her hands on the wound to seal the edges of the laced skin, her head lowered.

Ethan hissed, but when her sister pulled back her hand, the raw skin was closed and a healthy pink.

“Make a fist,” Radha said and then smiled as Ethan complied. “All better. Too bad I don’t have a SpongeBob Band-Aid to cover it with.”

Ethan snorted and a tired smile revealed a flash of his white teeth. “Thank you, Radha.” He lifted his head to take in the entire group. “Thank you all. I wouldn’t have survived without your help.”

“Liliana lost the battle,” Darcy said. “The moment she tried to enter the fight against the council’s wishes, she lost.”

No one mentioned her horrible death. And Bryn hadn’t asked what had happened to the bodies on the field. She didn’t want to know. “Yes, thank you all,” she said, “but he needs rest now.”

Covered in bits of grass, mud and blood, Ethan sat with a towel over his privates on the edge of the bed. He’d been in too much pain to dress on the field, and Renner and Sigurd had carried him back between them. The journey back had seemed a crawl.

The women stopped to give her hugs as everyone headed out. Bryn’s shoulders lowered. She was exhausted. Beyond tired. And at the back of it, she was also numb. Where did they stand now? Would the men regret the fact they had sunk their futures within the demon realm by siding with them?

“Bryn, come here.”

She hurried over to Ethan. “Do you need help to get into bed?”

He quirked an eyebrow. “Radha has me well on my way to healing. And the tea she forced down my throat before she started sewing me like a quilt took away the pain. I’m fine. But you look spent.” He patted his knee. “I need you here.”

Gingerly, she lowered to his knee, careful of the many scratches to his neck and shoulders as she wrapped her arm around him. It was a strong knee. Thick, powerful. She leaned her head against him, breathing in his musky scent.

“I know. I need a bath.”

She shook her head against his skin. “A shower. She closed the wound, but I don’t trust you might open a stitch all the same.”

“I’m not sure I can manage a shower on my own.”

His tone gave his intentions away. There was a hint of passion and humor in the deep rumble.

She smoothed her hand down his belly and beneath the towel to cup his cock.

He ringed his fingers around her wrist and pulled it away. “We bathe first. I don’t want to fuck you with his blood on me.”

“I’ll help you—seeing as how weak you are,” she drawled.

They shared wry smiles before she slid off his knee and headed to the bathroom where she gathered towels and washcloths. She started the water, letting it shower over her fingers until it warmed.

“It’s ready,” she said and turned, bumping into his chest because he stood so close.

He skimmed her robe upward. She raised her hands. The garment went sailing. She stepped into the shower with his hands cupping her ass, and the water fell like a gentle rain, wetting her hair and face. She went to the back of the tiled shower, away from the spray, and waited for him to enter. Ethan’s large frame crowded into the space, and he stood with his back to the falling water, staring down at her.

This was a new experience for her. Bathing with a man. Merrick hadn’t been romantic. Hadn’t wanted her except when he was hungry and she was the only one near to give him satisfaction. Ethan seemed to crave her company every bit as she hungered for his.

When he reached for her and began to roam his hands over her skin, she stepped away. “Let me bathe you. Please.”

Ethan’s expression was set, impossible to read, but he dropped his hands.

After soaping a washcloth, Bryn skirted around him. She started with the back of his shoulders and washed in small circular movements down his back to the top of his buttocks, avoiding any raw scratches. Shy of touching him there, she moved around him, letting the water wash away the soap on his back and keeping her head ducked because her cheeks were heating. She gently washed his chest, moved the cloth over his ribs and lower abdomen and then, taking a deep breath, she knelt at his feet.

Ethan leaned back and put his head beneath the water, letting it sluice down his chest. She watched the fat rivulets trace over the ridges of muscle, snaking downward to the hair at his groin.

She set aside the cloth and leaned toward him, following instinct. She needed to touch him, to kiss him, to hold him in her mouth. Her tongue followed the downward curve of his semi-flaccid cock. She gathered him in her hands and opened her mouth, taking as much of his sex inside as she could hold. Then she slowly drew on him, backing away as he filled, her lips sucking, drawing on him, coaxing him into a full erection.

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