Murdoch swooped her up so fast his wounded leg almost gave way. In a flash, he traced her to the bathroom.
Inside, he began running a cold bath. Once he'd settled her in the large tub, he traced to a gas station, returning a few moments later with stolen bags of ice.
As he ripped open the bags to dump their contents into the water, he muttered, "This feels wrong to me. Goes against everything I know."
Because she was like nothing he'd ever known.
Am I truly covering a half-naked, critically injured female with ice?
But when she was up to her neck in it, she sighed in relief. The cold wasn't bracing or painful to her - it was clearly soothing, making her drowsy.
Her shuddering lessened, and her expression calmed.
When the fear in her eyes ebbed... He didn't even want to think about the relief he felt to see that. "Are you still in danger from the poison?"
"Nothing else can be done." She frowned, her gaze unfocused. "You're injured."
"It's nothing," he gruffly replied.
"Take care of yourself, vampire - " Her lids fluttered, and then she was out.
Sleeping. In ice.
He couldn't reconcile this coldness in her. She was like nothing he'd ever dreamed.
But it didn't matter if he understood her. Even if she appeared more comfortable, she wasn't out of danger. Her face was still flushed angrily. If cold was good for her, then she needed more of it.
He traced to the thermostat, turning on the air-conditioning full force. Though he didn't want to leave her - not to drink from the supply of blood he kept in the kitchen, nor to bandage his own wounds - he traced for more ice, stuffing the freezer full.
That task completed, he watched over her, beginning the most anxious vigil he'd held since the night his entire family had died, one by one.
As he paced the spacious bathroom, he couldn't take his gaze off her. Though Daniela had found him skeevy for remarking on her looks, he could see past her injuries. She was lovely, no doubt of it.
She had long flaxen hair, spreading past her shoulders and down to cover her breasts. Her lips were softly plump, parted around her shallow breaths. Lush lips. He imagined pressing his own over them, then teasing her tongue with his.
With a start, he realized he was growing hard for her. He groaned. My first erection in three hundred years. The erection he'd been hoping to avoid. Christ, I am truly blooded?
By a... Valkyrie.
They were warlike, many rumored to be half crazed. To be tied forever to a woman like that - and one he could never touch? A living hell.
No, surely there had to be a way for him to touch her, to claim her. Or would this one leave him in agony as Myst had Nikolai?
He crossed to the tub, crouching beside her, his injured leg screaming in protest. Ignoring that wound, he took her hand in his gloved ones, examining it. So delicate. But he'd seen her fragile-looking claws slash through a male's bone this night.
He released her hand to cup icy water and pour it over her hair, smoothing blood from the strands. Then he clumsily unthreaded her braids and rinsed them.
Why this care? Because it kept his mind off his fear for her - and his apprehension about his future. So he continued to run ice over the bruises on her shoulders and arms. Gradually, the hectic red of her face diminished, leaving pale, alabaster skin. Her breaths started to smoke.
As her wounds began to close seamlessly, his own pain increased. He'd been losing blood from his many injuries, didn't know how he could still be conscious.
Before, he'd been too concerned with keeping her alive to think about much of anything else. Now he became acutely aware that her blood was all over him, marking his bed and the arrows on the floor.
The scent was like nothing he'd ever known. Thirst lashed him like a whip. His shaft shot harder. Damn it, ignore it.
His gaze trailed the lines of her jaw, her dainty pointed ears, her neck. Drinking straight from the flesh was against the laws of his order, because living blood carried the victim's memories, which in turn maddened vampires. Their enemies in the Horde, the Fallen, had all gone red-eyed with insanity.
What if he lost control and bit her? Every male in his order feared becoming one of the Fallen. Murdoch was no different, but breaking that law had never even been a consideration for him. He'd never understood the temptation.
Until now. Am I going to make it to dawn without taking her neck? He had to.
The damage I would do to her... Earlier, her wrist had all but sizzled beneath his palm. What would happen to her tender neck under his fangs and lips as he pinned her down?
Would he burn her as he licked her flesh in ecstasy?
Tearing his eyes away, he shot to his feet, tracing to the bedroom. He scooped up the arrows and stained bedding and pitched them outside. While he was there, he shed his torn jacket.
Then he traced to the refrigerator, pouring a cup of blood. Though he was depleted from his injuries, when he tried to drink, it tasted like dirt. He forced himself to swallow.
Damn it, get the cup down. Ignore this lust, blood and otherwise.
After managing barely half of the contents, he returned, gazing down at her face. She lay so still, her blond-tipped lashes a sweep against her pale cheeks.
The mere idea of hurting her sent him reeling. He needed to protect her.
Without opening her eyes, she whispered on a frosty breath, "Murdoch?"
"Do you need more ice?" he quickly asked. Most of it had melted, but the wounds that had marred her chest were practically healed.
She shook her head.
"Do you want to get out of the water?"
In answer, she lifted her arms to him. He frowned. So trusting, so vulnerable.
He gathered her against his chest, then traced her back to his bed. Still holding her, he grabbed a towel for her to lie on.
Her breasts moved against his arm as he laid her down, and his cock shot even harder. For three hundred years, Murdoch had had no interest in women's breasts.
Now he nearly growled with pleasure.
Drawing back, he saw that her eyes were open, half-lidded. Gone was the silver. They were an aquamarine almost too vivid to be real.
"When I slept, I didn't dream of them. I dreamed of you." She sounded delirious. "Vampire, are you going to stay with me?"
He'd wanted to capture a Valkyrie and get her to talk. Why not now? "Yes, I'll stay with you."
This seemed to comfort her, and her eyes slid closed again, but he knew she was still awake.
"Daniela? Who were the men who attacked you?" He recalled the blade and the male's intoned words that had sounded like a sentencing. Tonight's attack had been an assassination attempt.
"The Icere, the fey of the north."
"Why did they want to hurt you?"
She shrugged. "Wasn't the first time. I stay on the move. Just two centuries ago, he sent a troop, but I was able to get away."
"Who sent them?" She was more than two hundred years old?
"Their king, Sigmund. This time they surprised me. 'Cause I was distracted."
"What distracted you?"
She grinned but said nothing.
"Why do they want you dead? Daniela?" When she pressed her lips together, he knew she wouldn't tell him more about this subject, so he decided to move on to a new one.
Nikolai had described the other Valkyrie he'd encountered. One had had skin that glowed, and one had been a supernatural archer. This female was some kind of ice creature. Perhaps all the Valkyrie had overarching similarities, but they could be born of different species.
"Daniela, your sister Myst is not cold like you. Why?"
Without opening her eyes, she murmured, "We share a set of parents. But one of our mothers is different."
"One of your mothers? An adoptive mother?"
"No. Have three parents."
She's delirious. Or was she? One thing he'd learned about the Lore was that nothing made sense to him. The laws of the Lore defied the laws of nature.
"How is that possible?" When she seemed to be going back under, he gave her shoulder a gentle shake.
Her blond brows drew together. "Woden and Freya struck my mother with lightning to bring her back to life. I was in the lightning. The three are my parents."
No, she's definitely delirious.
"Myst was born of Woden, Freya, and a human Pict."
Picts? They'd lived centuries ago. "How old are you?"
"Two thousand or so."
"'m a Pisces."
"I see. Why did you want to know whether Myst was with Kristoff or Nikolai?"
She softly answered, "Myst likes Nikolai. If he's nice tonight, he's going to be plus-one with a Valkyrie."
"Nice tonight?" he repeated. Murdoch suspected his brother would be many things with Myst. Nice was not among the possibilities. Feeling an unaccountable flare of guilt, he traced to the kitchen, returning with a glass of water for Daniela. He lifted it to her lips, but she turned her head away.
"It's just water."
"Don't drink anything."
"I suppose you don't eat either."
If any of this was true... He needed to talk to Nikolai -
"Murdoch?" Her eyes were open once more, and they were focused on his mouth. "You have the most kissable lips I've ever seen."
He swallowed. "And would you like to kiss me? If you could?"
"If I started... I don't think I'd ever stop." Her words were throaty, so damned enticing. She wasn't a warrior, she was a temptress.
And a lesser man could get snared if he wasn't careful.
Her lids slid closed again. She seemed to be in that delirious state where the mind didn't want to cede to oblivion.
She eased her arm over her head, those sexy bracelets clanking, and the damp locks covering her chest fell away, revealing her perfect breasts.
They were little, but high and so plump that he ached to sink his fangs into one. Instead, he dug a fang into his bottom lip. He imagined the blood seeping on his tongue was hers.
He pictured how her breasts would bounce as he fucked her.
These lustful thoughts were so unfamiliar, so futile. She would never be beneath him. He angrily palmed his erection behind his jeans, which he knew was a risk, because the worse his arousal grew, the worse it would stay - if he couldn't get her to relieve him of it.
Just this once, he would need her to break the seal. Then he could go on his way, satisfying himself with others.
In his human life, he'd had women falling all over themselves to attract his notice. Whenever he hadn't been on the battlefield, he'd been cradled between a woman's thighs, and had grown notorious for his skills in bed. But if none of the tricks he'd learned would work on Daniela, then how could he seduce her to ease him of this burden -
"Murdoch," she sleepily sighed, "my panties are wet."
A shaky exhalation of breath. "Are they, then?" Had his voice broken?
She wriggled her hips as if she wanted them off her. With a hard swallow, he reached forward and dragged the scrap of lace down, revealing silky blond curls. Another groan, another coarse swipe over his shaft.
Too much temptation. He was about to fall on her, to mount the soft body naked before him.
Three centuries he'd been denied this. His fangs were throbbing along with his cock. He wanted to bury anything he could inside her.
With a sharp shake of his head, he snatched up a sheet to toss over her. When it glided across her nipples, they budded against it. He studied the ceiling, desperate not to see the way her nipples strained into the material. Then he sank into the room's one chair, but just as abruptly shot to his feet to pace again. He itched to stroke her, to explore the dream woman in his bed.
Fight the arousal. Resist it -
She kicked off the sheet. He rushed to draw it back up to her neck. "Keep this here, Valkyrie."
More restless pacing. With a huff, she kicked the sheet away once more. God, could she be any lovelier?
He ran his hand over his mouth. "Damn it, Daniela. It might be a fraction warmer, but it's a world safer for you." Had he drawn up the sheet more slowly, skimming it across her nipples on purpose?
Yet again, she rid herself of the sheet, but this time she drew one knee up. He saw her sex parted and nearly went to his knees.
Never to taste her there? Fury suffused him. Never to see those blond curls damp from his mouth or wet with his seed?
Never to claim his Bride. Why the fuck had she blooded him then?
He traced to the bathroom, stripped, then stepped under a cold shower. He scrubbed his body with no care for his many wounds.
This blooding business was the most ridiculous rot Murdoch had ever heard of. A woman had to bring him to life, and then he was expected to be bound to that one female - not for a year or a decade. Not even for a mortal's married lifetime.
He'd had no choice in the matter, none whatsoever in the choosing of the female. What if he didn't like delicate-looking blondes? As a mortal, he'd been attracted to buxom barmaids, and milkmaids, and kitchen maids, and the occasional shepherdess - robust women with hearty carnal appetites.
For his Bride, he'd gotten Daniela, the exquisitely fine but untouchable Valkyrie.
As he ran the soap down his torso, his hand brushed his rampant cock. Unremembered pleasure shot through him like an electric current. He was as hard as he'd ever been, aching to come.
When he gripped his shaft in his fist, a strangled sound of need burst from his chest. He gave a stroke up to the crown and back. Felt so good, he had to do it again, and again.
Masturbating for the first time in centuries.
His eyes slid shut when he perceived his semen welling. In a rational part of his mind, he knew it couldn't go further without her; she had to unleash this within him.
Resentment warred with his ecstasy - if she left him like this, he would be crippled by this lust. But everything else within was greedy for the pleasure.
Uncaring, lost, he thrust hard into his fist.