By the time Murdoch released her, they were both out of breath. And Danii was crying.
"Christ, I tried not to take too much - "
"Y-you didn't." But it had still been excruciating.
He winced at her neck. "You're burned."
"It'll regenerate quickly with the cold. Did you even drink enough?" she asked, struggling to disguise how much pain she'd felt. "Do you think this will work?"
"The effect takes time."
"You're already better." With her blood accelerating his regeneration, he began healing almost at once, his battered lips and face soon returning to normal. He unwrapped the bandages from his hands as they mended and flexed his fingers.
But his breaths still fogged.
Minutes passed, then half an hour. She sank onto the bed, and he paced. Another hour had trudged by in anxious silence before he said, "Daniela, why didn't you tell me about the Roman?"
"You saw that?" At Murdoch's nod, she said, "He's in my past."
"You think of me as you do him."
She shook her head. "No, Murdoch. I was angry when I said that. Bewildered."
"But it's true that I took what didn't belong to me."
"We both felt the pull. I could have stopped you. And I've wondered again and again why I didn't. Now I think it was instinct telling both of us the way to be together. If..."
"If this works? It will." He ran his hand over his forehead. "Damn it, if you were brave and strong enough to withstand this - twice -??it's got to work."
"Will you still want me if it doesn't?" she asked quietly.
Reaching for her, he cupped her waist between his hands to tug her to her feet, then gazed down at her with fierce eyes. "Look at me, Daniela. I'm in love with you," he grated. "I want you always, no matter what!"
"Murdoch, I... y-your breaths aren't visible." Was there the slightest blue tint under his eyes?
He frowned. "The temperature doesn't feel as cold in here. It's becoming comfortable."
"Could this truly be working?" Her hand trembled wildly as she reached up to his face.
"Careful," he warned. "Maybe wait a little longer."
"I can't. I have to know." When she caressed his cheek, his eyes went heavy-lidded.
No pain. With a strangled cry, she sagged against him.
"Daniela, are you hurt?"
"I just can't believe this." Tears gathered and fell. She could be with him - Murdoch, the vampire she loved. After two millennia, her constant yearning would end at last.
"Please don't cry." With an audible swallow, he tentatively laid his palms against her face, brushing his thumbs over her tears. No pain.
For so long she'd felt lacking, and the answer had been within her, within them, all along. "I'm crying because I'm happy." She unbuttoned his jacket, pulling it off him to display the chest she'd imagined stroking. Then she placed her hands on him, finding his skin was the perfect temperature.
No pain. His muscles went rigid, tensing to her fingertips. She gave one exploring sweep, then another, until she was rubbing her palms all over him in delight. Only pleasure.
He was still caressing her cheeks. "You're so soft, Daniela. Softer than I ever imagined - and I imagined constantly." He tipped her face up. "I've got to kiss you."
"I'm yours to kiss. I'm yours."
His voice a husky rasp, he said, "You're about to be." He cast her a slow, possessive grin, flashing his fangs - no longer would she look at them with fear. They'd been the means to her and Murdoch's deliverance.
Then he leaned down. "Close your eyes."
She did. After the space of a heartbeat, she felt the lightest brush of his firm lips to hers. The barest contact sent tingles through her. Drawing her closer, pressing her body against him, he slanted his mouth over hers.
His kiss grew unyielding, intent, even as he gently coaxed her lips open so he could stroke a sensuous lick against her tongue. When she moaned, meeting him, lapping softly, he wrapped his arms tightly around her, as if he couldn't get close enough, as if he feared she'd get away.
She clutched his shoulders in turn. Their tongues tangled. Their breaths mingled and grew hectic.
Now this was a kiss - deep, frantic. What she'd long imagined. Hearts thudding, bodies shaking. She whimpered against his mouth as her knees went weak. But he held her steady and safe against his chest as he continued to plunder her mouth.
Too soon, he broke away, leaving her dazed and panting.
"I need to claim you." He pulled her hair to the side and skimmed his lips across the now healed skin where he'd bitten her.
She shivered violently, her nipples hardening in a rush.
"I never want to be apart from you again," he murmured. "Now I'll be able to stay with you here."
Oh, Murdoch, no. Should she lie to him, act as if that could possibly happen?
When he drew back to meet her eyes, she forced herself to smile, though she knew the Icere would never accept him. Vampires were despised here.
She should just enjoy this miracle. Worry about what to do later.
"What? Something's wrong."
"Uh-huh." Her hands dipped to his pants, untying the waist. "You're not naked enough," she said, working them past his protruding erection. When he stood unclothed before her, she gripped his gorgeous length.
He hissed in a breath; she gasped. She could perceive his shaft throbbing in her palm, could feel the texture of his smooth skin stretched taut over the veined ridges.
Against her sensitive fingers, it grew...
So incredibly hard. Could she even take him? We'll know soon enough.
While she explored, he slipped the thin straps of her gown from her shoulders. Gathering the material in his fists, he skimmed it down her body. He paused just before he revealed her chest as if he wanted to prolong this moment.
At last, the silk inched past her erect nipples. He stared at her breasts as if he'd never seen them.
Without warning, he gathered her in his arms, moving them to the bed so he could place her in his lap. Once he had her settled over his erection, he lifted a finger to circle her nipples - one, then the other, his gaze transfixed as the tips swelled to his touch. With a desperate groan, he pressed his lips against one breast, palming the other.
When she felt his tongue snake out over her nipple, her head lolled.
Again and again, he flicked the puckered bud. "Do you want me to suckle you?"
"Yes, oh, yes... " She ran her fingers through his thick hair, cupping him to her.
He drew one of her nipples between his lips, sucking, licking, giving a harsh groan that vibrated into her breast.
"Oh, gods!" Lightning exploded outside. He knew what the lightning meant and drew even harder. Once her nipple was stiff and wet, he moved to the other, delivering the same attention. Then he gazed at them as if in awe.
"Vampire, no more teasing!"
Looking slightly dazed, he grinned. "My fire and ice Bride. Never shy about what she wants."
She shook her head. "Especially not when I've wanted it this long."