H-o-m-e. With a stick, the demon painstakingly scripted the letters in the sand.
"That's perfect, Malkom." He groused at the praise, but she could tell he liked it.
Three nights ago, he'd taken that stick, twirled it in the sand, and then handed it to her, saying, "Carrow."
And that was how his lessons had begun. In front of the fire, he'd learned to write her name, and she'd taught him how to write his own. This morning, they were working on home and food.
Carrow had spent these last few days in the mine with him, fed, loved on, protected, and empowered - literally - by his satisfaction.
Though that first morning, she had woken with a heavy sense of guilt. The demon had given her the sexual night of her life - even without actual sex - and had been gazing at her with that same wonder in his eyes.
She'd thought, Never was he supposed to be like this. Betraying the crazed vemon who'd attacked her would have been easy. Betraying this tender, proud lover, however...
In stilted English, he'd grated, "God morn."
He'd given her a patronizing expression as if saying, That's what I said.
Carrow had remembered the isolated report of his speaking English. "You know more of my language than you let on, don't you?" What if she could explain to him why she was here, even ask for his help? Would she dare risk it?
"Did you once speak English? We've got to talk a lot, then." Like in Dances with Wolves, multiple walking-and-talking montages. "Do you like to make the talk?"
He'd understood nothing. So she'd spoken more slowly while assessing his reactions. She'd been able to see recognition with some words, but not enough to truly communicate.
Yet with each hour, he was recalling more. He'd begun speaking haltingly, in that thick Demonish accent.
He knew please, thank you, are you hungry/tired/thirsty? He could understand just about any one or two syllable words. When she'd told him what she was, he'd even understood the word witch.
He could also ask her if she was needing, as he put it. She refused to teach him the word horny. Of course, by now he'd heard her telling him she was about to come so many times that he could inform her of the same in English.
They were rubbing along but not able to talk freely, definitely not enough to test the waters, to see how he'd react to her predicament.
There was a translation spell she could use, but it would take a lot of power and a ton of skill, was considered a three-out-of-fiver. Even with all the power she'd been harvesting from him, she wouldn't have enough juice. Short of a raucous crowd, she'd be a bust.
So she'd been using the power he provided to reinforce her body for his constant - and welcome - attentions.
Aside from some early stumbling blocks, the demon loved to touch and be touched. For some reason, this had made her think of Declan Chase, with his aversion to contact. Both males had evidently been tormented, but Malkom still craved physical affection.
Sexually Malkom was a dominant demon to the core, but he was inexperienced as well. Which made for more than one tricksy situation.
Still, he'd given her mind-blowing climaxes and a feast of happiness. The more pleasure she felt, the more satisfaction he enjoyed, which in turn made her even stronger.
And everything about her seemed to make him happy.
His reactions to her were so intense, he truly was like a giant battery for her.
Feeding her from his hand? Made him happy. Waking up next to her? He always looked vaguely surprised that she was there. Then his face would relax into that self-satisfied expression, and his happiness would flood over her like a warm blanket.
Watching her bathe? Made him ecstatic.
He'd joined her every time. Any lingering hesitation about getting in the water was dwindling. He loved to bathe her just as she had him, still learning her body as curiosity lit his eyes. She'd let him examine her freely, glad to give him at least that.
At night, as they lay together on his pallet - no need for a second one after all - he pulled her close, enveloping her in his warm arms, pressing her against his chest. The first two nights he'd slept with her collar clutched in his hand. But now he'd begun to accept that she wasn't going anywhere. At least not yet, her mind whispered.
During the days, they ate the phickens and some rock-hard type of tart berry. Just yesterday, she'd gotten him to use a napkin and some plasticware from the packs. Now we're getting somewhere, she'd thought. Until that same afternoon when he'd drunk blood from a bird's neck again. She'd sighed. Rome wasn't built in a day.
In one of the packs, she'd found clothes for him - black combat boots to fit his big feet, camo pants that actually hit his ankles, and a black T-shirt that could stretch over his brawny chest. Apparently, Hostoffersson had been an immense bastard.
Malkom rocked the tacticool. With his golden hair in those warrior plaits, his firm lips and chiseled features, he'd made her heart thump. She'd thought, I'd have to pry witches off him.
Now she gazed over at him writing F-o...
Was she really considering keeping him? As if he'd want her after she betrayed him. In any event, she had no place for him in her world.
He'd be like a bull in a china shop, and her life was already about to change radically because of Ruby.
Hey, from what she'd seen of Oblivion, the Order's facility would be a lateral move for him. Maybe if she told herself that often enough, one day she'd believe it?
He glanced at her then, as though he sensed the serious nature of her thoughts, and she swallowed.
She'd begun to desire all of him, fantasizing about making love with him. But two things held her back. He could get her pregnant, and he might hurt her, possibly biting her again.
He'd been working on maintaining his control and was making such strides that she no longer feared when his eyes turned black, now associating the color with his desire. Steady blue flickering to wicked black.
But could he maintain control when they had sex?
Merely to cohabit with such a strong being took care on her part, and she'd been using magic just to lessen the risk of an accidental injury. Yet for their "claiming," she would have to surrender herself fully to him, trusting him not to hurt her. She didn't know if she could take that leap of faith.
And of course, there was still the issue of his biting. So far she didn't think he'd dreamed her memories, not that he could have revealed that development with words - or miming - anyway. Yet every time he drank her, it increased the likelihood that he would see them.
For her to explain her predicament to him was one thing. But she feared his seeing bits and pieces out of context. Which again would make him lose control.
She knew he wanted to drink her. She'd caught him gazing at her neck, not necessarily with hunger, but almost with yearning.
One night, she'd awakened to find him pacing, running a hand over his mouth. Keeping her breathing deep and even and her lids barely cracked open, she'd watched as his gaze had darted over her, then up to the ceiling, as if he were seeking guidance. With another look at her, he'd raised his arm to his mouth, sinking his fangs into his own wrist, groaning against his skin. Had he been imagining it was her?
He'd bitten himself to keep from breaking his vow to her.
How much longer could a need like that be contained?
Can I keep my vow another night?
Malkom needed to drink her, not because he thirsted for her blood or wanted to "dine on flesh," but because with each hour, she grew more distant.
She was slipping away from him.
Even as she let him enjoy her body, she often appeared lost in thought, closing off her mind. The more she did this, the more he gazed at her neck, craving that connection that had so amazed him.
Now a dis"uiet had settled over him, and he couldn't concentrate on the letters anymore. He laid down the stick. She didn't even notice as she stared at the fire.
Malkom was so damned accustomed to loss, yet he knew he would never recover if he lost her. To not have her in his keeping? The mere idea sent his rage climbing.
If only he could communicate with her freely. Yet the more he remembered of her language, the more punishing nightmares of his childhood and torture surfaced.
Still he pushed himself, needing to understand. At times, just before he brought her pleasure, she'd murmur at his ear. What was she telling him when her voice was almost sad? It made him crazed.
And he wanted to ask her why she'd been showing this affection to him. Was it just so he'd protect her? His confidence that she would want the strongest male had now turned to desiring more from her.
Until they could communicate, he'd decided to learn as much as possible about her. Life with the witch was wondrous ... and odd.
She seemed to have a fixation on cleanliness, scrubbing their eating utensils with her magic and continually washing their clothes.
Each morning and night she'd used the blue stick brush to rub her teeth. She kissed him madly each time he did the same. The scent was sharp but pleasant, and the brushing felt good, as if his mouth were being petted.
He'd stopped swallowing it the second time she'd crinkled her nose and muttered, "Ooh."
And every day, she'd given him writing lessons. He could potentially live for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and he'd recalled what Kallen had once told him: "Of course you're intelligent enough to read! Who the devil convinced you otherwise?"
Malkom might not be learned now, but he could be. And whenever Carrow praised his progress or regarded him with undisguised admiration, it brought his mind back to a very brief time, long, long ago, when he'd been proud. He'd commanded armies of demons - and he'd been skilled at it.
I'd almost routed the vampires from this plane with battles I'd won.
In the end, Malkom had done it by himself, assassinating the Viceroy so gruesomely that his vampire followers had fled Oblivion in terror.
Despite this, the Trothans had clamored for Malkom's death. At least now he was giving them reason to....
Though his nightmares had returned with a vengeance, these were occasionally "uelled by dreams of her memories, always scenes from her childhood. In each one, she'd been indoors, playing by herself in an echoing building. For years, she'd been alone, miserable.
As I was. It seemed fate had paired Malkom with a woman who was perfect for him.
He ruthlessly tamped down his doubts.
Because he not only wanted her. He needed her.
Whenever they kissed and touched, he was able to shut out thoughts of his past. Everything about his sensual new mate kept him firmly - and feverishly - in the present.
The now familiar scent of her arousal, the look in her glittering eyes when she was needing, the way she nibbled her bottom lip whenever her thoughts grew wicked.
The sound of her abandoned moans as he kneaded her breasts.
She went wild when he licked them, or her sweet sex. He'd wake her from slumber with his tongue delving hungrily.
The witch had brought him more sexual pleasure in moments than he'd experienced in all his centuries. Her kiss alone ... it made him feel close to her, almost as much as taking her neck had.
Yet Malkom had stopped pushing to claim her. Now he wanted a bond first, because with all the new possibilities between them, one filled him with fear.
Begetting another bastard like himself.
Sometimes he scorned his father more for leaving his son vulnerable than he did his mother for selling hers.
Malkom would never risk the same happening to his own offspring. He intended to wed Carrow at the earliest opportunity -
"Demon," she murmured, finally turning to him. "Portal next night?"
Portal. He knew this word. She used it often enough. "Next night," he agreed. She was keen to get back to her home, had explained that they would leave tomorrow at exactly the middle of the night.
Had he figured out why she was here in Oblivion, or why she believed a portal would open to welcome her back?
No. All he knew was that he was going with her. For now, that was enough.