Authors: Zoe York
“No you won’t,” he grunted, pulsing his hips. Just a bit. Just enough. “You’re going to fight this with every breath.”
“I won’t. I want you. I promise.” She was desperate for him now, and that was dangerous—could he trust her word? Could she trust herself?
He sank further into her, stretching her wide.
. She rolled her hips, trying to fit around his throbbing length. He took her breath away, but he gave it right back, making her gasp as he dragged his thick cock back through her folds.
No, no, no
. And then
, as he thrust home again.
She was wet and slick for him, but he was big and she was tight, and the next few strokes were the same kind of battle. Add on the layer of desperation—needing more and being terrified that it would be over far too quickly, because she was already on the precipice of another climax—and she was out of her mind with need.
“I want you to come with me,” he muttered, bruising her lips with another kiss as he started to fuck her hard and fast.
“I’m yours, Aldric.” She panted, meaning maybe to say something else.
I’m with you
Or maybe not.
his, and saying it crashed that dawning understanding onto her, spinning her arousal in an unexpected direction.
Burying her face his chest, she cried out as he sped up, driving them both into a messy, spectacular orgasm.
This time there was no gentle after-care. This time he was twitching just as much as her, clinging just as hard, and when she finally wriggled out of his viper grip, agony was writ all over his face.
“What is it?” she whispered, peppering his face with tiny kisses.
“Don’t be sweet with me,” he muttered, his jaw clenching beneath her lips. “That was too fast.”
“Not at all.”
“We’ll do it again and take our time. I can do better.”
She snorted. “If you do better, you might kill me.”
“Never.” He inhaled deeply, then relaxed around her. Against her hip, his cock felt wet and sticky, and she was sure that if she shifted again she’d feel a similar mess between her legs.
“We should clean up,” she whispered, although why, she didn’t know. They were alone on a spaceship in the middle of a nebula.
“After,” he mumbled into her hair. Between them, his erection swelled, and suddenly between sticky and wet seemed like not so bad after all.
His hands roamed her torso in an unspoken answer. Yes, again. Yes, always.
He had years to make up for, she reminded herself. And so did she—how she hadn’t seen him right in front of her, this giant, beautiful man with an endless thirst for her, who even put up with her ill-temper and demanding ways—yes, again. Yes, always.
She nodded as she opened her mouth and tasted his skin. Salty and warm, uniquely Aldric. “You are mine as much as I am yours,” she whispered, her voice catching on the emotion as she fluttered her tongue along his collarbone.
This time their coupling was urgent in a different way. She braced her heels on the mattress and thrust up to meet each of his strokes. He held her hands above her head and refused to break eye-contact.
This time, they knew what they were doing and what it meant.
They’d both just come. This wasn’t about a race to an orgasm, and when Aldric had seen whatever he’d needed to see in her face, he relaxed. Slowing, he rocked her at a delicious, humming pace that kept her somewhere past turned on and halfway to ready to explode, but it was a nice, steady state. Like, a this-feels-amazing state.
Let’s keep doing this forever kind of state.
As if he could read her mind, Aldric blinked twice and lowered his head, slanting his lips across hers for a kiss that felt…different. Like a preface to something.
Min smukke stædig kone
,” he breathed against her mouth as she trailed her fingers over his broad shoulders.
Her stomach trembled as she gazed up at him. He was deep inside and all around her. She sighed, letting her eyelashes flutter shut. She was half-afraid of the answer, but she had to know. “That doesn’t mean
, does it?”
Groaning, he licked his way into her mouth instead of answering. She squeezed his hips with her thighs and he gave a slow, determined thrust that told her he wouldn’t be rushed here.
“Tell me.” Her voice cracked. She didn’t care if it was intense. She was pretty sure, anyway.
“In a manner of speaking, I suppose that could be the translation.”
She slicked her lips, enjoying the way his gaze caught on the tip of her tongue and followed it across her mouth. “And a more literal one would be…?”
“You talk too much.” Grabbing one of her wrists, he lazily tugged it back over her head, then shifted his weight to grab the other. The whole time, he kept moving inside her, giving the tease as good as she did.
They were matched for each other, that was for damn sure.
“Mmm-hmmm.” He was nervous, too, and that gave her a fresh, hungry confidence. “Tell me.”
Once he had her pinned down, he gave her a heady look that made her toes tingle and her womb clench.
Navena would have sworn, at any other point in time, she didn’t even have a womb. Like, she was
that kind of woman. She was a woman, to be sure—happy to have breasts and hips and a pussy rather than a dick, but on the inside?
The part of a woman that Vikings seemed to value extra hard?
So yeah, shit.
Because all of a sudden, she knew what Aldric was going to say before his face cracked into a easy, happy smile.
All while fucking her.
This was surreal.
Min smukke stædig kone
,” he repeated. “It means my…”
A wave of emotion roared up behind her.
Louder now, but she wouldn’t stop him, not for anything.
God, the way he said that, like it wasn’t a bad thing at all. And then the wave crashed into her.
It had been a sham, she’d thought. Apparently not for him.
From deep beneath the surging feelings, Navena stared up at the man who thought of himself as her husband. When had that happened? She whispered his name, dragging herself up to him again.
She kissed his lips and held him tight.
Wound her legs around his body and squeezed for dear life.
He didn’t wait for her to respond. He just took over again. At some point she was
strapping him to the bed and having her way with him. It wouldn’t do for him to think that he got to be bossy all the time.
She’d ignored his clues for two long, lonely years.
She’d been left behind in a prison and he’d come for her.
She’d yelled at him and shut him out, and he’d hunkered down and waited.
She didn’t deserve him.
Whispering his name, she rocked beneath him, loving him with her body. Giving herself to him. She brought his hand to her breast and stroked her own down to the tight, straining curve of his ass. She wound them together as tightly as she could, then she welcomed his release deep into her body.
What the hell was she going to do with a hot Viking husband?
Besides love him, of course. As inconvenient as that truth would probably turn out to be, her new feelings for him were crystal clear.
What a novel concept.
This time, it was her that clung tight, and Aldric made the first noises about maybe moving to the shower.
She didn’t answer him.
He misunderstood that, of course. “That was…it’s been a while since I’ve bed anyone. I got carried away.”
“Really?” Her heart squeezed. She didn’t want that to be true.
He paused a beat. “No. But I’d pretend it to be true if you asked it of me.”
Relief flared bright in her chest.
“You don’t need to say anything, of course. I have no expectations of you.”
She laughed and nodded against his chest. “I know. But I want to. Say something, I mean.”
He waited for her to gather her thoughts.
It took a while, because what she was about to propose was frightening. It was, technically, an abdication of her duties and a uniform offense.
She took a deep breath. “We don’t need to race back to Midgard or anywhere else. We can stay here, as long as your supplies will last.”
It wasn’t the most she could give him. It wasn’t a promise of forever or an admission of love.
But it was
A chance at fostering the fragile bonds between them.
Against her cheek, his heartbeat picked up. “This is what you want?”
More than anything else, ever. She nodded. “Let’s hide here. Just you and me and the stars.”
hey’d been hiding
from the world for eight days. Eight days of exploring each other’s bodies and only pausing long enough to shower off the intoxicating scent of sex, or nap together, limbs entwined. Maybe eat something.
It was a hungry tummy that woke Navena early on the morning of the ninth day. She’d been nestled against Aldric’s back, his bare, warm skin soft against her cheek as he slumbered. All those muscles finally at rest.
She crept out of his bunk and went in search of some food. Dehydrated apples and a tube of protein+ peanut butter hit the spot as she curled up in the cockpit. She’d seen pictures of the nebular taken through distant telescopes, but up close—on a galactic level, anyway—the cosmic ice sculptures were different and more breathtaking than she’d ever imagined. Dust pillars carved from cold molecular clouds, that’s how she’d thought of them before. Now the giants silently loomed
, and she kept being drawn back to the cockpit where could sit and stare and think.
“They’re like gods, aren’t they?” Aldric’s voice slid around her through the quiet as he filled the open hatch from the common room.
She glanced at him over her shoulder. Speaking of god-like… “Your hair is growing in. It’s a good look for you. A bit Roman, though. Are you my Gladiator man now?”
“Don’t change the subject.” He smiled as he moved closer and leaned in, pressing a thorough, delicious kiss to her mouth that said he’d be whatever she wanted him to be. “You’ve been getting up to look at the nebula almost every night.”
“Night is kind of arbitrary—”
“I’m seriously going to take you over my knee for the constant back talk.”
“Promises promises,” she muttered through a grin, kicking away his grabby hands as he settled into the pilot’s chair beside her. She sighed. “Yes. Okay, fine, are you happy? I’m finding some comfort in staring at a glittering dust column that’s bigger than a planet.”
“Have they given you any guidance yet?”
She snorted. “Dust, Aldric.”
“You say dust. I say gods.”
“Then you’re crazy.”
Now it was his turn to sigh. “Didn’t they teach you cultural sensitivity in the fancy FedNat training you did?”
She shook her head. “I played hooky those days. Besides, it’s not a spiritual crisis I’m having.”
He lifted one eyebrow and waited for her to continue—like he could sense how her skin prickled in discomfort and didn’t want to risk spooking her by saying the wrong thing.
Aldric had proved a good listener. A keen one, as well. So far she’d talked about everything except her future, but now she couldn’t hide from it any longer. They were running low on supplies and would need more food in a few days.
At the first opportunity to contact her commanding officer, she’d really need to take it—or give up her career forever.
She dragged a fortifying breath into her lungs and tipped her head back against the headrest. “The thing is, I’ve always wanted to be a soldier. And yeah, I know that there are mercenary gigs available, and I’m not…opposed to that. But would I be trading one demanding career for another?” She squeezed her eyes shut tight, not wanting to risk seeing Aldric’s reaction to the next part. “Because the thing is—”
Clang. Clang. Clang.
Navena threw herself forward, eyes flying open, self-pity forgotten as the ship’s proximity alarm rang out. “Do we have company?”
Aldric swore out loud and punched the console after reading the display. “Gods. Fuck me.”
“What is it?”
He winced. “More like, who.”
Heat crawled up her spine. “A visitor you know?”
“Yeah. And she’s going to want something from me.” He scrubbed his hand over his face. “They’ve got some telepathic skills. There’s no point pretending we don’t see them.”
She’s going to want something…
Navena hated whoever
ldric thought seriously
about powering up, firing his thrusters into Bel’eel’s exhaust manifold, and dealing with the fallout of that once she’d chased their asses back to Midgard.
But the threat of his brand-new, maybe soon-to-be-ex wife meeting his definitely-ex-girlfriend inside the nebula’s radiation field—while real and terrifying—wasn’t actually as dangerous as trying to outrun a bounty on their heads across an entire quadrant.
This was going to be painful though.
Opening a comms link, he set his feet wide and crossed his arms over his chest. Bel’eel couldn’t see him, but he’d learned long ago that his voice projected more power when he was standing.
“This is the
. State your business.”
The cockpit chilled an easy ten degrees as purring laughter filled the air and Navena tensed beside him.
“Oh, Aldric,” Bel’eel murmured as if she were curled up naked in front of him. “So formal. Is that because of the angry woman I can sense is standing next to you?”
“What do you want, Bel’eel?”
“I have cargo for you.” Fucking fuck fuck. No way was her cargo legal. He didn’t answer right away, which of course, Bel’eel would hate. Over the comms connection, her voice grew as cold as the look Navena fired his way as the Verveenian hissed, “Remember our deal, Viking.”
“I haven’t forgotten.”
“Then prepare to dock with our ship. We don’t have all day.”
Not without some understanding first. “There are limits to what I’ll carry for you,” he rumbled, wishing he’d turned on the video comms after all, because he wanted her to see his face and know he wasn’t kidding. “I need to see the cargo.”
Make sure it wasn’t alive. He wouldn’t put it past them.
He cringed at the dismissal in her voice. Why had he ever gotten into bed with her? Personally or professionally?
Because it had suited your purposes
. Well, there was that. This noble thing was somewhat new.
He disconnected the comms link and watched on the monitor as the Verveenian ship drew along the starboard side.
Navena didn’t say anything.
The two airlocks were almost lined up.
He took a deep breath.
“Don’t,” she said icily. “Don’t try to handle me.”
“I was just going to say that if you throw a punch, her right side is weak.”
She snorted a surprised laugh. “Yeah?”
“Well, yeah. But I was also going to tell you that it’s not what you think, and there’s no reason to throw a punch in the first place.”
Not really, but that question was better left unanswered. He gestured toward the common room. Might as well meet their visitors at the airlock. Keep the visit as short as possible.
Navena stomped passed him and he resisted the urge to pull her back against him. He loved the moment when she let the tension go, and her hard fighter stance dissolved into the secret warm woman only he got to hold in his arms.
Depending on how much of a scene Bel’eel created, it might be the last chance he’d get for a while.
Spending the next few nights sleeping in the cockpit…he sighed and shook his head. It was probably what he deserved, but fuck if he’d take it without a fight.
That scuffle would have to wait, though. The red light above the airlock hatch was lit up—extra fucking bright, for the extra fucking aggravation that lay on the other side.
Bel’eel’s not the one to blame for any of this
. No. He knew when he made the deal with her that it would come back on him, that Navena would discover his true nature.
He’d just wanted more than a handful of days with her before the blinders were ripped off. Before he had to stand before her and admit he was no better than the average criminal.
What a shitty husband he’d already proven to be.
And hiding from his demons—and exes—would be even weaker. So he squared his shoulders and pressed the release button, opening the hatch to the Verveenian crew on the other side.
Bel’eel came first, of course, hips and attitude leading the way through the airlock.
“So this is the woman you asked me to help you rescue.” Bel’eel slid against Aldric’s chest, not looking at Navena.
He shoved her back, ignoring her pout as he introduced her to Navena. “This is Bel’eel Davidsdottir. Captain of a mercenary ship I’ve had dealings with.”
“Dealings?” Bel’eel laughed. “And that’s it? Where are your manners? Introduce your friend, Aldric.”
His manners were decidedly absent, and he wasn’t worried about that in the least.
Beside him, Navena held out her hand. “Greetings, Bel’eel. Thank you for your assistance in securing my freedom. I am Navena.”
Bel’eel nodded but didn’t extend her own hand. Behind her, her crew stood still—they all knew better than to poke the bear that was their boss. She gave Aldric a slow once up and down, then turned her gaze back to Navena, who’d crossed her arms and dropped her feigned diplomacy.
The two women sized each other up.
Aldric changed the subject. “How would you like me to inspect the cargo? And where am I taking it for you?”
They ignored him.
“Only Navena? That’s vague,” Bel’eel smirked.
“Who I am is of no concern to you.”
“No? I think it is. You are the competition for my lover’s heart.”
“Enough—” he ground out, but it was too late.
Aldric winced as Navena whirled on him, her eyes full of fury. On the one hand, he liked the way jealousy rolled off her. Selfishly, that was a good sign for their relationship.
“His nothing,” he quickly replied, shooting Bel’eel a warning look.
Being the cold-blooded mercenary that she was, the other woman ignored it, her pink skin turning a shimmering gold in places as she preened. “Are we not lovers?”
, Aldric cursed under his breath, grabbing Navena around the waist as she launched herself at his
lover. He took an elbow in his solar plexus for the effort, and with an
muttered that the Verveenians should start bringing the cargo over.
He needed a few minutes to sort out his wife.
Hauling Navena backward across the common room, he didn’t her go until they were safe inside his personal quarters.
personal quarters now.
“Stop it,” he said, bracing himself against the wall, and her. Leaving nothing between them, not even air.
“You said I could hit her.”
“Well, I lied, you crazy hellcat.”
“What kind of weak-ass Viking are you? Let me go! She’s pissing all over what’s mine!” It took her a minute to realize why he was grinning at her. “I mean…”
“No, that’s exactly what you mean. And that’s okay. I approve of this possessiveness. It’s hot.”
She growled at him. That was hot, too.
He pressed his nose against hers. “You want to beat someone up? As soon as they leave, you can put on gloves—or not—and pummel me to your heart’s content.”
Instead of answering, she kissed him. Hard.
“You’ve been keeping secrets from me,” she hissed angrily against his mouth, and he pressed his lips harder against hers, silencing her again.
With a growl, she jerked her face away from his, but she didn’t go far, because he held her in place with his steely grip. “What secrets?”
“That your lizard lady girlfriend helped rescue me, for one!”
“She’s not my—“ He cut himself off. “I called in a favor. I hadn’t seen her in months before that. Strictly business.”
“And now she’s calling one right back. Just how much do you two owe each other?”
That wasn't fair. Or maybe it was, but then she didn't understand the lengths he'd go to. “I’d have done anything to get you back, including selling my soul to the devil.”
“Oh great. You hooked up with the devil. Fantastic.”
“Stop it. I like the jealousy, but the sooner we get this done, the sooner we can kick them off the ship.”
“And then I can kick your ass?”
“You want that?”
Between them, her chest rose and fell. Even as her eyes glittered angrily at him and her lips trembled with rage, her body easily betrayed her. Her hips swayed against his and her nipples hardened.
. His cock swelled in response.
“Yeah, you want that.” He licked his lips and pressed in, grinding his pelvis against hers. She was tough as nails, but he was bigger than her, a fact they both liked. “Do you know how many times I wanted to finish up a sparring session with a hard, fast fuck against the barn wall?”
She licked her lips, a small smile fighting to break through the scowl. “That would have surprised me.”
“But not now.” He traced the wet path she’d just blazed across her mouth with his own before continuing, their faces now pressed right against each other. He could feel her heart pounding against his own and the ache there pushed into his skin and made his voice rough. “Now you know how much I want you. Just you. Only you. Until the end of days.”
“So you can restrain yourself from violence for a few hours, yes? Be a good wife and let me handle Bel’eel and her crew so they can get the hell away from us?”
That was asking a lot, and she knew that he knew it. “Trust me, Navena,” he rasped against her cheek, his big body hard and steady against hers. “I’ll never let you down. You have my word.”