Embrace Me at Dawn

Page 30

“Then tell me. We will work together to repair the damage he’s done to your psyche,” Lucan vowed. “But neither your heart nor soul are black, love. Don’t paint yourself that way and settle for loneliness. Don’t let him defeat you or us.” He caressed her cheek.” I’m not perfect, either. Far from it. But the one thing I know without a doubt is that my love for you is true. I believe yours is, as well. If we start with that, if we begin with the knowledge that we belong together, then the only thing that can keep us from our happiness is our own foolishness.”

Damn it, his words were beautiful but wrong. He didn’t understand because he didn’t have the wretched knowledge she lived with each day. She refused to burden him…or risk the censure she feared seeing in his eyes. “What you’ve said, it’s very romantic, but too simple. There are so many things… My family wasn’t good enough for yours.”

He frowned. “That never mattered to me, and my parents came to love you.”

“But they, along with everyone else, wondered why you chose me as your mate.”

“Because I love you, and whatever you imagine their opinions are don’t matter in the least to me. Why do they matter to you? And what does this have to do with Mathias? You’re grasping at straws, trying to keep us apart.”

Anka’s heart stopped at his keen insight. Of course she was grasping at straws. How else could she put him at arm’s length without confessing that she’d neglected to mention for over a hundred years that she’d been born a banshee? Or the horrifying things she’d done with her “gift”? Telling and releasing him might be the most humane thing. Sadly, she was too much of a coward to risk his horror and condemnation.

“I see your mind turning. Mathias raped you, I know that. I’ve seen that he abused you terribly. How can you think for a moment that it’s your fault?”

Yes, that was another black stain on her soul. “I begged him,” she sobbed, “for more. Always for more.”

“Terriforz, love. He forced you to crave him. You know that.”

Regardless, the truth hurt like hell. “When I close my eyes at night, I hear my pitiful pleading for that monster! It haunts me, and it plays again over and over in my head.”

“Is that why you asked Shock to dominate you? To replace Mathias’s touch with something else?”

Bloody hell, he would bring that up. Her needs would be another rift between them eventually. She couldn’t imagine Lucan throwing her onto his bed, forcing her face-down while he smacked her backside red with a crop, sometimes until she bruised. It would pain his compassionate heart to hurt anyone. And she understood completely. Self-loathing ate at her for her urges.

“Not…exactly.” She did her best to be honest. “After I came to stay with Shock, I’d bottled up all my anguish and misery. I refused food or comfort. And as long as I was coherent, I refused energy. He forced me to take it and found a multitude of ways to make me release my emotions so I could cope.”

“You wanted to lie down and die?” He sounded aghast, his question almost an accusation. But didn’t he see?

“Of course I did. I’d lost everything. And as my memories returned…”

She tried to cover her face with her hands, but Lucan grabbed them, pressing them into the mattress. “Whatever it is, we face it together. No hiding. I’m here for you.”

Anka struggled to free her hands, but Lucan wasn’t budging. “Let go! You wouldn’t say that if I told you everything.”

“So tell me everything, every dirty little issue that you think I won’t be able to deal with. Mathias made you beg him to fuck you. He whipped and used you. What else is it you think I can’t handle?”

“He made me kill!” She flung the furious words at him. Then bit her lip to stop herself from confessing the rest of the awful truth. If she had a spine or she could scrape together some courage, she would tell Lucan everything—and release him once and for all.

But even in that, she failed. She lacked the bravery or will to drive them apart forever. For that, she hated herself even more.

“Kill who?” His voice had gone soft, like he finally understood the gravity.

“I don’t know. I don’t remember very much. I blocked that night out. But Mathias teleported me to someone’s home and forced me...” She shook her head. “Dead, all of them. Wizards, witches…younglings.”

Horror dawned over his face. Anka couldn’t look. She turned away, eyes closed, as fresh tears streamed down her cheeks. “I’ve done something despicable and repulsive that I can never take back! I stole lives.” She drew in a shuddering breath of regret. “And it hardly matters whether I was compelled to kill or that I would never have had any hand in their deaths ordinarily. The fact is, I did. And there’s no taking it back. I am haunted by the screams of the little ones crying for parents who already lay dead…” Their ears bleeding with her banshee song. But she still continued to wail because the consequences of stopping were too terrible to contemplate. So the nightmares of little younglings frantically covering their own ears as they sought cover, only to fall, screaming and writhing, until she’d sang them to sleep forever, continued to haunt her. She would spare Lucan that pain.

And now he might have planted a youngling of his in her womb. No! Oh God, no. She had no business being a mother after what she’d done, or consigning an innocent babe to be hunted and hated for her blood.

She shoved him off of her, frantically scrambling out of the bed. Grabbing her clothes, she began untangling them, trying to don them—even as the feverish need from Morganna’s spell possessed her again, filling and tightening her nipples, throbbing through her sex. Even her lips ached to kiss away the frown on Lucan’s face until he wanted only to thrust his way into her body and make love to her again.

Impossible. She could never give him another opportunity to plant a seed in her womb.

Lucan sat up, grabbed her wrists, and hauled her into his lap. “Stop, Anka. Stop! You can’t run from what happened. It’s tragic. You’re a gentle soul, and I can only imagine how deeply that scarred you. But I don’t love you less for being forced to hurt others. I love you more for enduring. Don’t let Mathias win.”

Had Lucan gone utterly mad? She met his stare, her mouth gaping open. Then she closed it. He would assume that Mathias had put some terrible spell on her to compel her to kill others, that she hadn’t chosen that fate of her own free will. The alternative had been unthinkable.

“You might think you love me still, and that proves what a giving, kind person you are, but I can’t stand myself anymore, Lucan. I hate looking in a mirror. I loathe what I’ve become. You can’t save me or be my hero. You can’t convince me that nothing is my fault. You can’t persuade me that my ‘good heart’ absolves me of all my wrongdoing. But you can let me go and believe me when I tell you that you’ll be so much better off without me.”

Chapter Twelve

Anka stumbled back from the bed, watching in miserable resignation as Lucan softly slumbered. When he woke, he would be furious that she’d hit him with a light sleeping spell. It would last no more than fifteen minutes. He would awake refreshed and alert. And thoroughly angry.

She swallowed, staring. You’ve made your decision! She could stand here and review all the reasons she’d come to this conclusion, or she could stop second-guessing herself and do what needed to be done. The time for making excuses and leaning on others had passed. If she intended to emerge from her own ashes, she needed to start rebirthing herself now.

No fear. No leaning on others. No hesitation. No regrets.

After stepping into her clothes, she approached Lucan and pressed a soft kiss on his lips, savoring him for a long moment. Most likely, she would never have this opportunity again, probably never be this close to him. Would he see her upcoming actions as a betrayal? Would she create the sort of chasm between them that could never be bridged?

Likely so. As much as it hurt, it was better for him.

Once she’d donned the clothes, they chafed immediately. Her sensitive skin protested, but she forced herself to dart out the bedroom door and run for the stairs.

“Where are you going?”

Anka whipped her head around to find Bram in a wingback chair tilted back on two legs, propped against the wall. He raised a brow and sent her a cutting glance.

“Why does it matter? Before you agreed to let me join the Doomsday Brethren, you made me promise to whore myself out to your double agent. Don’t worry. I’ll uphold my end of the bargain.”

“What about Lucan?”

Her conscience stabbed her. “What about him?”

“Your heart chose him.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “My head is overruling that decision. Why is that a problem for you?”

“It will be a problem for Lucan.”

“I’m sorry, but as you’ve said more than once, war isn’t pretty.”

Bram nodded curtly. “Quite true. So you’re just going to break his heart?”

“I’m going to let him get on with his life.” She sent him a tight smile and changed the subject. “Are you expecting Millie back soon?”

“Yes. She’ll want to check on you. I don’t imagine that she’ll be happy to hear you’re leaving already. Morganna’s spell probably has hours, maybe even days, left.”

She shrugged with a confidence she didn’t feel, gritting her teeth against the flush suffusing her skin and the cramping in her womb. All too soon, the symptoms were going to overwhelm her again. She couldn’t let Bram know that every step she put between her and Lucan was excruciating, like she’d cut open her chest with her fingernails and pulled out her own heart. He’d only put on his noble hat and try to force her to stay.

“It’s my problem. I’ll deal with it.” She nodded toward the bedroom where she’d left Lucan. “You deal with him.”

Without another word, she jogged down the stairs and disappeared outside. Dusk was coming, and the wind was whistling a howling tune through the barren trees when she made her way back to the park near Aquarius’s flat. She conjured up her coat from Shock’s house. It protected her from the winter chill, but added to the discomfort crawling over her skin. Forcing one foot in front of the other, she breathed in the fresh air, hoping it would soothe her, and headed to her cousin’s little place.

Anka let herself in with a wave of her hand, hoping to find her quirky little cousin brewing green tea, making some wretched health food that no one—magic or humankind—would ever eat. Instead, the place stood still, uninhabited and silent. The explosion of color Aquarius left in her wake was everywhere, but her cousin wasn’t home.

With a grimace, Anka eased inside and flopped down on the little blue sofa, a hand-me-down relic from another century. Ghastly uncomfortable and stained, the furniture still brought comfort. It was every bit as oddball and familiar as her cousin.

And she’d arrived not a moment too soon.

A shudder washed over her. Anka drew in a deep breath to steady herself, but another wave hit her almost immediately, more fierce than the last. Her nipples ached for a touch, a warm mouth. And the flesh between her thighs burned as if someone had torched her with a dancing flame against her swollen folds. Damn bloody spell! She needed a man to ease the debilitating ache.

No, she needed Lucan.

Curling her arms into her empty abdomen, she doubled over, biting her lip to hold in a cry. Aquarius had very human neighbors, and Anka knew that if she was too loud, one of them could call 999 to “save” her. She’d have a devil of a time explaining that she simply had to wait out Morganna’s spell. And hope it didn’t kill her.

The emptiness of her sex was a seeping, empty gash. She fell back on the couch, her breathing labored, her entire body throbbing for what she would never have again: Lucan’s touch.

Her clothes scratched and chafed beyond anything she could endure now. She tore them off until she was blessedly naked. With a lot of cramping and seizing up, she managed to divest herself of everything. But that didn’t do anything to diminish the frightful ache slicing her in two.

She curled into a ball and tried to rock herself. Sweat poured off of her, and all she could think of was Lucan. By now, he was probably wondering why she’d left him. He was probably worried about her.

Little wonder Bram believed she could die if she went unsatisfied for the duration of this spell. The way her over-sensitized skin rasped against itself and the coarse fabric of the sofa made every nerve in her body sizzle with acute pain. Her taste buds bulged and throbbed without his kiss. Her breasts swelled and peaked, and she could feel blood still rushing into the tips, overwhelming her with too much sensation. Not having Lucan’s hands on her was a torture all its own. She reached between her legs to ease the debilitating need that dragged her closer and closer to mindlessness. But touching herself only hurt more.

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