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Alys saw a white, sharp gleam, and when she reached out, it sliced through the tip of her icy finger. She felt Beau’s lips move against the little wound, and then the soft, rough caress of his tongue. Her heart began to pound as her fingers and then her hand burned, the snow pelting them beading to warm droplets that slid down to trickle over his chest. The stiffness of her face eased away, and the frozen spikes of her hair drooped and became a dripping veil.

Beneath her his cool body heated as well, his muscles stirring and bunching as he shifted her, settling her on top of him, his big hands stroking her buttocks. Alys straddled him with her thighs and pressed her cheek over his heart, feeling the throb there like a slow, steady hammer.

I want him. His sweet scent rose up in her head, as soothing as the claws of her own lust were vicious. I have to have him.

The heat pouring through her raced through her veins, growing brighter and faster with every shallow breath she took. Everywhere their bodies touched, her skin came alive, tight and aching, and she gripped his shoulders, panting as a terrible hunger twisted deep inside her. The smoky sweetness filling her nose made her wonder whether she would spontaneously combust, and burn him alive with her.

She nuzzled his chest, pressing her lips to the hard wall of muscle. He is mine.

That is how it can be, she heard the priest say, his voice distant and fading. All you must do is bring him into your heart. Love him. Give him pleasure. And when you find the fountain, when you drink at last of the waters of forever, you must die for him.

Something wrenched Alys away from the man, and hurtled her back across the chamber. She slammed back into her own body, shaking as the hunger and heat turned to pain and cold. Once more she lay alone in the darkness, with nothing and no one to call her own.

Rise. Go to him.

Alys’s mind cleared of everything but the voice urging her on. She pushed the damp, clinging linens off and swung her legs over the side of the bed.

He is waiting for you. Here.

Her feet scraped against rough wood as she shuffled toward the voice.

Give yourself to him now.

She reached for the coverlet, pulling it back and slipping beneath, her limbs growing leaden as she curled up beside the sleeping man. As she drifted deeper into the blackness, she felt something touch her back, and thought she heard the priest whisper one last time.

My last. My only. My omega.

Chapter 6

The sinking of the sun roused Beau, who should have felt rested, but a heaviness still burdened him. He had spent most of his rest wandering through the nightlands, searching the void for something he had lost, long ago.

Sunehri, the weary, rasping voice of a woman whispered in his heart. You are going on a journey tonight.

The words meant nothing to Beau, and yet they weighed on him like a millstone roped round his neck.

This man will protect you. Obey him as you would me.

Beau could see the boy he had been, smiling and sleepy-eyed as he stumbled over to his mother, who caught him in her arms and covered the top of his dark curls with soft kisses.

“Ammijaan.” The boy buried his face against her breast, taking one furtive peek at the man.

“Sunehri.” She gently lifted his chin, and in Urdu said, “You are going on a journey tonight. This priest is my friend, and he will take you to your father’s homeland, that you may know his people.” When the boy protested, she touched her fingers to his lips. “Remember, when we talked of this? You promised you would be brave for me.” He nodded slowly, and she smiled. “Now, kiss me good-bye.”

The boy pressed his lips to her thin cheek, but when she tried to put him aside, he wrapped his arms around her neck. “You come with us, too, Ammijaan?”

Beau reached for her as well, but the woman and the boy faded away, leaving him alone with the robed man. “Aap mhujhe kahan lay kay ja rahe hain?” he heard himself say as he followed the man to an enormous warhorse. Where are you taking me?

“Ghar,” the man answered, picking him up and tossing him onto the destrier’s back.

Beau frowned as the man swung up on the saddle in front of him, and looked past his shoulder. “The House of Heaven is my home.”

“Not anymore, lad.”

They rode the horse through the city, and across the desert and into the mountains. Each day the man would stop and set up a nomad’s tent so Beau could eat and sleep. Sometimes Beau would wake to see him making chains of tiny links. He made three chains, and on each of them strung…

The eye of Yblis.

The tent, the man, and the horse faded from Beau’s mind, and the burden pressing on him did the same, lifting and lightening until he felt only a hint of it huddled against his chest: soft, warm, alive.

A single breath told him who the sleeping woman sprawled on top of him was, but Beau couldn’t believe it. He lifted his head to see rumpled red hair spread beneath his collarbone. “Alys?”

She answered with a mumble, turning her head and twitching her limbs before going limp again.

Beau touched her back with his hands, intending to gently shake her, but the clammy condition of her thermals gave him pause. Was she sick? Her heartbeat thrummed steadily against his chest, and her breathing seemed regular and clear. Despite the dampness of her garments, they didn’t smell of her sweat or anything at all.

Taking care not to jolt her, Beau placed her on her side, climbed over her, and stepped out of the bed. She slept on as he lifted her into his arms and carried her over to her bed.

As Beau lowered her down, he discovered her linens were as damp as her garments. Alarmed now, he rested a hand on her brow. Her skin felt warm, not hot, to the touch. He lifted a corner of her coverlet to his nose, but like her thermals it smelled only of her body scent, not the salt of sweat.

Beau glanced back at his own bed. The dampness of the cellar may have woken her, and in some drowsy confusion she may have mistaken his bed for her own. She had certainly shown no waking desire to share it.

I agreed to let you join my team, Mr. York, not climb into my bed.

Beau drew away from her and took a seat at the desk, swiveling the chair to watch her and think. He did not recall dreaming or waking even once during the day, which was not at all normal for him. The Darkyn did not sleep as mortals did; their rest was more conscious and deliberate, and when they did surrender themselves to the darkness, they often ended up in the nightlands.

Alys’s presence had made it difficult for Beau to rest, but when he had finally drifted off, he had blanked out completely. He could not remember experiencing such an oblivious sleep, in fact, since his days as a mortal.

A faint ache in his head made him rub a hand over his scalp. At the base of his skull he found a new, tender spot that indicated he had been struck there. He eyed Alys’s peaceful, innocent face. Had she clubbed him over the head while he slept? Why would she then crawl in bed with him?

“No.” As if she’d heard his thinking, Alys sat straight up in the bed, staring at him with wide eyes. “What are you doing?”

“Presently?” He leaned back. “I’m sitting and watching you sleep.”

“Oh. Right. We’re sleeping together. I mean, we’re sharing a room.” She fell back against the pillow, and then brought her hands up to touch her sleeves. “Why are my thermals damp?”

“I cannot tell you.” Beau regarded her, noting that her confusion seemed genuine. “Did something happen while I slept?”

“How would I know? I was asleep, too. Ouch.” She touched the side of her head. “That hurts. Did I fall out of bed?”

Beau rose and went to her, pushing aside her hand to examine the spot on her scalp. “Perhaps you did. You have a bump here.”

“Wouldn’t I remember that?” Before he could reply, she shook her head. “Never mind. I had an awful nightmare last night. I was thrown across the room, and then I was in bed with you.”

She didn’t have to say it as if it were the same as being submerged neck-deep in muck, Beau thought. “Then you do remember something.”

“Excuse me?”

“When I awoke”—he nodded across the room—“you were in bed with me.”

Alys’s shoulders stiffened. “That’s not funny.”

“I am not jest—joking. I woke up and found you on top of me.” He knelt down before her. “Let me see your eyes.” When she glared at him, he could see that her pupils appeared normal in size. “Do you feel dizzy, or sick?”

“No, I’m fine. Really.” Alys glanced over his shoulder. “That part about me being thrown across the room—you couldn’t have done that. It’s too far. I probably…” Her voice trailed off as she went still and closed her eyes. “Oh, God, no. Not now.”

“Alys?” He touched her hand. “What is it? Do you recall something?”

“No, but I’m pretty sure I know how I got in your bed.” She looked at him. “I must have been sleepwalking. I had a terrible problem with it when I was a child, and I still have episodes once or twice a year. I am so sorry.”

He sat back on his haunches. “Why do you apologize to me? You were not awake. You could not know what you were doing.”

She cringed a little. “Thanks, but that doesn’t make crawling into bed with you any less embarrassing.”

Now she thought being in bed with him was humiliating. “When I woke, you seemed quite content to be using my chest as your pillow. I certainly did not mind it.”

“You didn’t.” She gave him a wary glance. “Why not?”

“It seemed to me harmless.” Think of her as a child. “Something a younger sister might do.”

Alys frowned. “Your sister slept in your bed?”

“No; I have no sisters.” He was making a hash of this. “I only mean that you should not feel embarrassed. I knew from the moment I woke that it was an innocent thing.”

“Yeah, well, it was.” She swung her legs over the side of the bed. “And it was probably the nightmare that set it off.”

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