Wicked as She Wants
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“Are you sure you want more?” he asked. “It had a strange effect on you earlier.”
“It made me feel relaxed. I just had a big scare. I could use some relaxation.”
He handed it over, his fingers reluctant to leave the bottle until I tugged. “Have you never had bludwine before?”
I took several swallows and passed the bottle back. “Cora gave me a sip. And I’ve had bloodwine, with human blood. But not this.”
“It seemed a little like you were drunk, the way you were behaving on deck.”
“Then let’s get drunk.” I could already feel the warm, pleasant uncoiling in the pit of my stomach. I licked my lips and smiled, slow and wide. The world grew fuzzy around the edges. For someone as tightly in control as I normally was, it was a delicious sort of release. Before he could stop me, I snagged the bottle back and had another sip.
“Slow down, there, speed demon.” He tried to take the bottle back. But the taste was growing on me. I craved it. It was richer than the richest blood I’d ever had. If normal blood was a tributary, this was the river.
“I’m not a daimon, silly,” I said with a giggle.
I covered my mouth to burp, and he snagged the bottle, tipped it back, and drained it.
“That was mine!” I said.
“You’re a hungry little thing.” His voice slurred, just a little.
The slow smile on his face matched mine as he pushed back to sit against the bed’s headboard, just a few feet away from me. He crossed his boots on the velvet coverlet and leaned back contentedly.
“You’re right,” he said, eyes on the ceiling. “This is much better. I’ve never drunk so much at once. I’m going to feel like hell in the morning. Prolly go mad. But I just killed a guy, so I guess I deserve a little oblivion.”
I rolled my head over to look at him, and the room spun with me. I could barely move, but I managed to maneuver onto my side, smoothing his long hair out of my way. Up close, it was the color of burnished maple and smelled impossibly of fir trees.
“You’ve never killed anyone before?” I absentmindedly twirled a lock of his hair around my finger.
“ ’Course not.” He rolled over likewise to face me. I felt his knees graze mine but was too melty and fuzzy to react. Our eyes met with a sizzle, and part of me woke up a little bit, just enough to appreciate the fine blue of his irises, the knowing curve of his lips.
“Where I come from, killing is a serious crime. I’ve punched a few guys, but I’ve never drawn blood.” He paused to move a sand-colored curl that had fallen over my cheek. His fingers barely grazed my skin, but I felt his touch like trails of fire. It took everything I had not to purr under his fingers like the cat, yearning shamelessly toward his touch. Instead, I shook my head just the tiniest bit, to see if another curl would oblige.
It did. He moved that one, too, this time more slowly. I grinned at him, and he echoed it, complete with dimples. Somewhere inside me, the beast stirred. But instead of rising in a fury, hissing and spitting and fighting from the dark depths, it seemed to curl and stretch and unfurl, as Tommy Pain did when he found a nice sunbeam.
For the first time in my life, my beast didn’t want blood.
“You good, sugarplum?” Casper drew a finger down my cheek.
“Do we have more wine?” I asked, trying to cover my confusion.
“One more bottle.” He rolled over to rummage in his bag. “That’s all I have to hold me until Minks. But you can have another sip if you need it. Considering the current circumstances.”
He popped out the cork and handed me the full bottle. I took a moment to sniff it, drawing in the strange combination of aged fruit and blud. I took a deep whiff, trying to detect what might have gone into the brew, whether it held the blud of one Bludman or many. I wanted to know how he had found it, how much it cost, whether the blud had been obtained by fair trade or stolen. But I wanted the oblivion more. I wanted the lack of control, a liquor I’d never before tasted.
Knowing that it was precious to him, still I drank deeply, wanted to drink it forever. But he gently took it from me, recorked it, and stowed it back in his bag. I could feel his eyes on my face, his gaze sharper than usual but also warm. Was he actually looking at me as if I was the prey?
“What is it I see in your eyes?” I murmured.
“Long enough have I dreamed contemptible dreams,” he replied softly, as if reciting something. “You are a dazzle of light, darlin’.”
Faster than I could follow, his hand cupped my jaw as his thumb stroked under my lip. I shut my eyes and let the effects of the bludwine wash over me in a haze of red velvet and sweetness. When I opened them again, he was biting his lip, and I saw that his teeth were sharper than I had thought, almost fangs like mine.
“Was that a song?” I asked, but he shook his head.
“Ahna,” he said, his voice husky and rough.
“Yes?” Lips parted, I held my breath.
His face angled toward me, and I closed my eyes, waiting. The kiss never came.
“Ahna. I should probably go. I’ve never had this much bludwine, and I can’t . . . I can’t control it. It’s like there’s some mad beast inside me, trying to take over. I should lock myself in the library and sleep it off.”
“No.” I leaned forward to put my hand on his sleeve. “I mean, you don’t have to go. I don’t mind.”
“I feel like I’m half panther, half drunk.” He looked down. His fingers idly stroked my own where they lay on his blood-spattered shirt, making me shiver. “I’m not fit for company.”
“How do you think I feel?” I said softly.
He looked up from our hands, gazing into my eyes as if searching for something there. “I don’t know how you feel,” he said. “You never speak of your feelings.”
“I feel the same as you. Muddled and drunk and not sure whether or not to let the beast out. It’s not a bad thing.”
“You have a beast?”
I snorted. “You’ve met my beast. She tried to kill you once. I think you laughed at her before you sliced her open. Tasted her.”
“Mm. I remember.” He reached out to touch my wrist. A thin pink scar crossed the white skin, and he lifted my arm to kiss it. “She tasted good. But I’ll make amends.”
When his lips touched my skin, I nearly melted. But not like ice. No, like mercury, like metal sizzling, as if my veins were filled with molten fire. I gasped and closed my eyes, and I felt him smile against my skin, kissing his way up my arm, every touch burned into memory with a hot iron.
“I can smell your blud now,” he said, his voice dark. “Right here, so close to the skin, beating like a tiny bird thrashing against a cage.”
His tongue shot out, and a little thrill rippled through me. It was a struggle to hold still, to keep the beast from attacking him in a thousand different ways that I myself didn’t understand. For just a split second, his teeth scraped against the tender skin there, and I felt a thrum of fear and indignation and furious demand, but then his kisses turned harmless again and moved down to my hand, and I relaxed.
He kissed my palm and each finger, then released me. For a moment, my hand hovered in midair, my eyes closed. Then I went boneless and let my hand drop to the bed, the little thrills still running up and down, echoes of his touch. I opened my eyes and licked my lips. My breath was coming fast, the same feeling I would get on a hunt, watching the prey, waiting for the right moment to pounce.
But I wasn’t the hunter this time. My eyes met his, and I saw his beast there, roiling beneath the surface, dark and hungry. I could see the tension in his broad shoulders, his hands curling and uncurling against the blanket as if testing claws.
“Come on, beast,” I whispered.
His lips crashed against mine, his body driving me back into the soft pillows with a passion just one notch above fury.
I had never imagined that a kiss could be like that, like a live thing, like lightning. The hasty, awkward fumbling of the salesman on the tank and the press of the pirate, even that earlier searing brand from Casper himself, were as different from this as a drop of rain was from a hurricane. His mouth moved against mine, hungry and seeking and offering no quarter, no escape. As he parted my lips with his tongue, I tangled my hands in his hair, pinning him to me and daring him to leave me wanting.
In response, he pressed his body against mine, cupping my jaw and settling over me possessively. It was delicious, the strength and purpose in him, the tension in his muscles against the thick velvet of my dress. Barely knowing what I was doing, I growled softly into his kiss and hooked a leg over one of his boots. Heedless of all my training as a predator and a princess, I wanted him right where he was, and damn the rest.
He pulled away to chuckle against my mouth, and I nipped his lip, tasting just the tiniest hint of blood. He growled as I sucked his lip and moaned, trying to draw in more of the marvelous, wild taste of him. No wonder I’d tried to kill him when I’d first woken up. Under that odd, musky odor, he was just a step below the bludwine. Casper was intoxicating.
He pulled back, eyes afire. Trailing a finger down my face, he ran his thumb between my lips. Remembering the sensual dance of his fingers over the harpsichord’s keys, I wrapped my mouth around his thumb and sucked until he pulled it out with a tortured groan.
“No more blood,” he said, his voice as ragged as I’d ever heard.
“Tit for tat,” I said with a brazen smile. Now that I’d had a taste of him, I wanted more.
“Is that how it works? You try to kill me, so I cut you; I make amends and you kiss me until I bleed?”
“I could do without the first two parts,” I purred.
“Could you, now?”
I just smiled, my eyes focused on his lip and the single bead of blood there. I shifted under him a little, noticing his weight now that we weren’t kissing, wanting more kisses. When I tried to move my leg, he caught it against his side. “Oh, no you don’t,” he muttered, stopping my wiggling by pressing up against me in a way that made me gasp and then settling his lips over my open mouth.