Late in the night, as he held her sleeping in his arms, Malkom again vowed that he would never, never be separated from this creature. Not while I have a breath left in my body.
Had he actually wondered what she'd be good for? Only bringing him the most intense pleasure he'd ever imagined! She had wrung so many releases from him, he'd thought he would fall unconscious.
And, in return, he'd made her climax so hard, she'd thrown back her head and screamed.
He had to believe she was as astonished by the pleasure as he was. If she was even half as grateful for it...
Though he remained erect for her, she'd pleaded for rest. After going without sleep the night before and his skirmishes during this day, he probably needed to join her.
But Malkom knew he would be plagued with nightmares. And he feared she'd disappear before he woke.
So for now, he relished what had just happened between them - the way she'd trembled against him, her breaths on his damp skin, her bold tongue and plump lips.
He craved kissing her mouth again - and her female flesh. Gods, that part of her. If he'd been fixated on her breasts before, now his obsession was divided. Her channel had hungrily gripped his finger. In five days, it'd s"ueeze his shaft thus....
At the thought, his enthusiasm waned. Five days. Much could happen in a handful of days.
Making plans again, Slaine? He'd foolishly been dreaming of a new future. Would these dreams be destroyed like all the others?
Instead of enjoying his fortune, Malkom was nearly sick, his stomach knotted with apprehension as he gazed down at her face. Her full lips were parted, her lashes a dark sweep above pinkened cheeks. So beautiful it pained him.
'Tis too good with her.
He didn't even know what she was, much less why she had come to Oblivion. He'd figured that she was an exile sentenced to this plane. So why was she so certain that she could simply return through the portal?
He was torn. Part of him was suspicious of her arrival. Perhaps she was here by design.
Or perhaps his destined female had been delivered by the hand of fate itself.
Yes, fate. Because another part of him believed she was a reward for all his hardships. Give and take.
He was due some contentment. And he would work to keep it. Tonight his female had fallen asleep in his arms, trustingly, because he'd proven himself.
And more, he'd decided to sacrifice his revenge for her. He'd vowed never to be separated from this woman. Which meant he had to pick one or the other.
Malkom had chosen Carrow, knowing deep in his heart that he would always choose her....
During this night, he'd figured out several things about her. Among them? She was no virgin. She was too confident, too bold. Granted, his experience was limited, but he'd never heard of a virgin who'd guided her would-be lover's finger deep inside her sex.
When she'd come around it ... He bit back a groan at the memory, wanting to be inside her. Which brought his mind back to her conditions.
He wouldn't judge her because she wasn't a virgin - who was he to ever judge another? - but why could he not have her when others had? Why hadn't she done everything in her power to please him, to ensure his protection?
Maybe she sensed how unclean his blood was, or she still feared he'd hurt her. Or was it more? Perhaps she wanted to be wed before he claimed her, or needed permission from an elder or leader to take a male. How else could she have denied them in the water?
Another thing he'd determined? Those rumored heavenly planes - where the air was sweet and the lands gave up food - they had to exist. His soft woman clearly came from a world of plenty.
His thoughts grew dark. What if he followed her to her world, and she forsook him upon hearing about his past? In time, he would remember or relearn Anglish, and then he would have to tell her.
How would he explain what had befallen him? Malkom had been a blood slave, and he'd murdered a royal. He'd been dishonored by his most reviled enemy, outcast by his own people.
Even if she accepted him, her people mightn't give her the approval she awaited, especially since he would be entering her society with no wealth. This mountain was his only territory; if he left it, he would possess no lands to share with her, lands on which to raise their offspring.
Offspring. He'd never had to think about that before. Even if he could have taken a female in the past, he wouldn't have been able to produce seed for her, not until his mate had broken the seal.
Now he might impregnate her. He felt confident that he could protect her and a family far better than his own parents had him.
But what kind of children would I give Carrow? The young of an abomination.
He began to stroke her silken hair, which soothed his thoughts somewhat. Her long mane was cleaned of sand and had dried into glossy waves. He loved the jet-black color, loved seeing those locks spilling over her pale shoulder or streaming through his fingers.
Eventually, his lids grew heavy. But fearing she'd escape him while he slumbered, he reached for her collar. With the band clutched tight in his fist, Malkom finally slipped into a restless sleep.
Dreams of his past surfaced. For so long, Malkom had kept those nightmares at bay. Now they bombarded him.
The memory of the day his mother had sold him to the vampire master arose, as though he were reliving it. He'd been so excited, believing that he was to be adopted into another family. He'd thought he would enjoy endless food, water, and warmth at night.
Malkom would never forget his sinking realization that he hadn't been brought to a new family. The dawning horror as he'd heard screams. He'd seen other boys his age humiliated and abused, his young mind comprehending, They are going to do that to me....
On the heels of those scenes came dreams of the Viceroy, who'd tortured Malkom to hold sacred the Thirst. But whenever the vampire had offered demon slaves for him to drink, Malkom had been sickened, fangs gone dull and receding, no matter how badly he'd needed their blood.
I will not feed on my own kind. I am not a vampire!
Each night, Malkom had endured a host of torments. His skin had been flayed from his body with barbed metal whips - or pierced through by his own fractured bones. He'd watched searing pokers slide between his ribs.
His fury over Kallen's death had kept him strong. Never did Malkom let himself forget that he'd been forced to kill his only friend.
And then the time had come when the Viceroy had presented Malkom a slave to drink - one unlike all the others he'd offered, one more valuable than the rest. The vampire had thought Malkom too weak to pose a threat, too numbed to react. He'd been wrong on both counts.
A hazy night of screams, blood splashing the walls...
Yet another scene arose. Malkom dreamed of a crying girl combing her black hair in front of a mirror. He saw her reflection as though through her own glinting green eyes.
Carrow???It had to be her as a child. Even amid the reverie, Malkom knew that this scene had taken place, that this was one of her memories, taken from her blood. Some of the vampires had possessed that talent. The Viceroy had. And 'twas his blood that had infected Malkom's own.
I am witnessing her past.
Someone rang a bell, calling for "Lady Carrow." Lady meant nobility. He'd suspected she was highborn.
When the bell rang again, this young Carrow dashed the back of her hand against her tears. He could feel that she was miserable, heartsick far beyond her years, but he had no idea why.
"All right, all right," she said, drying her eyes, while musing, I'm actually invited to eat with them?
Though she spoke and thought in Anglish, he understood the words.
She exited that room into an even larger one, as large as any dwelling in the city of Ash. Her bedroom? Silks draped the windows and her bed, enough fabric to make hundreds of robes. It looked as if all the silk in the world had been contained in that room.
She was rich. So how could she possibly have been unhappy?
From her room, servants escorted her down a hall into a warmly lit ban"uet room. A table stretched nearly the length of the spacious area, the surface covered with food. Steam wafted from the dishes - what had to be a year's worth of fare - and uniformed servants lined the walls.
At one end of the table, a man and a woman sat together. As Carrow trudged to the other end, she addressed them in a toneless voice, "Mother. Father."
The woman inclined her head, her many jewels sparkling in the light. "Carrow." But she didn't look at her daughter. Malkom wondered if she was blind.
Her father was clean-shaven, his hair short and kempt. Their clothes looked strange to him but were unmistakably well-made.
These are her people, this is her life. Malkom was struck by how clean and plentiful everything was. Silver gleamed, crystal refracting the light from a chandelier above. Clean, shining abundance.
I was clad in tatters, my body filthy, my face unshaven. No wonder she'd bathed him. Even in sleep, he suffered a spike of embarrassment....
Servants rushed to meet their every need, seating and serving Carrow. She didn't eat, merely pushed food around on her plate. Her stomach felt sick, growing worse with each minute her parents spoke to each other in haughty tones, ignoring her.
"Mother, Father," she suddenly said, "I have something I want to talk to you about."
By now Malkom had begun understanding her words from his own previous knowledge of Anglish. With each minute, he remembered more.
"I want to go to Andoain."
Without glancing at Carrow, the father replied, "We're not discussing this with you again. You can't go to spell school because you have no powers yet. Besides, it's for common folk."
Spell school? His mate was a witch, a channa. Which meant that just because fate had marked her as his, she wouldn't necessarily want him back.
"Then I'm going to run away with a pirate," Carrow said. They didn't respond. "I'm going to jump off a bridge and steal your sole heir from you. That's why you had me, isn't it? For an heir? I can't think of another reason - "
Carrow's father snapped his fingers, and two similarly dressed women seized her under her arms.
As she was dragged away, Carrow screamed to her parents, "Look at me, look at me, look at me! What is wrong with you?" Her voice breaking on a sob, she said, "Wh-what is wrong with me?"
Malkom woke from the dream in a rush, agitated, feeling as if he were behind in some task.
I want to make up for how they treated her. She'd been devastated, truly heartsick. My mate, ignored, hurt.
Rolling onto his back, he pressed her sleeping form against his side, and she curled into him with a sigh. He drew her tight against his chest, her body molding so perfectly against his.
He'd had no family. Hers didn't deserve her. Then we will be family.
Never will I be separated from her. His voice hoarse, he told her, "Carrow is mine."
He didn't realize until long moments had passed that he'd spoken her tongue.