Authors: Jacquelyn Frank
But she was nothing to him, he reassured himself. Nothing more than a much-needed moment of pleasure. He gave himself over to that as he let his mouth slide along her sweet skin, her slightly salty flavor streaking across his tongue as it glided down the length of her breastbone. He shaped her right breast in his hand, kneading the flesh of it almost desperately. He needed her on such a visceral level. Escape. Yes. He needed escape and she was going to provide it.
“Yes,” she encouraged him with a sibilant
as though she could divine his thoughts. Her fingers crawled through his hair, her hands embracing his head as he drew his mouth to the tip of her breast. He opened his mouth against her obligingly, his tongue darting out to taste her rigid nipple. He closed his mouth over her at last and sucked her deep inside. She gasped, her back arching up off the bed. In truth, she did that frequentlyâcurved her body up into his again and again, as if she longed to connect with him for every second possible.
As he pulled at her with his mouth, he let his touch travel below her waist and between her splayed thighs. When he touched her intimately, he found her to be incredibly wet and slick; it was so inviting that he felt like he was strangling with the need to connect with her. But he would not rid himself of his clothing and be free to just take her. He didn't want this to be over that quickly. He felt they both needed more than the quick, unfeeling coupling he kept trying to relegate the encounter to, and in spite of his body, he found himself giving in to those desires. He wanted her to feel pleasure, wanted her to get just as much out of the encounter as he hoped to get. Thankfully she seemed hot and willing and wild enough to feel anything he needed her to feel.
Then her fingers were pulling at the fastenings of his pants, freeing him to her touch as her hand delved beyond and her fingers wrapped around his thick and straining cock. He surged up into her hand, felt the glory of her fingers stroking the length and breadth of him, felt him pulsing to her touch. It was blindingly blissful, everything he could want and more. Almost too much. He surged into her touch again and again with blind thrusts of his hips, all the while seeking out her clitoris with his fingers. He wanted her to feel the same beautiful pleasure he was feeling. But it seemed as though he couldn't focus beyond the feel of her touch on him. Her stroke was erotic without feeling practiced. She was simply seeking and learning, chasing down his every sound of pleasure, repeating herself each time she elicited an uncontrolled response from him. Before he knew it, she had pushed his pants down below his hips, wrapped her legs tightly around him, and jerked their hips into a perfect connection that allowed his cock to slide through the infinite heat and moisture of her sex. He was but a single thrust away from being inside her.
“Slow,” he ground out. “Great gods, you're a hot little thing. Slow down before Iâ”
“Hush,” she breathed against his ear. “Hush and just take me.”
Honestly, he couldn't have resisted the temptation even if he'd tried. It was too much and he was in too much need. He gave her what she was begging for, sliding through her wet heat one last time before looking into her eyes and entering her with a hard thrust. She gasped, long and loud, then released the breath in a lusty groan. Her nails dug into his backside, her hands helping him in his second thrust, the thrust that seated him most firmly inside her.
“There, now. Now who is burning as hot as a star, hmm?” he asked her.
“Is it me?” she asked him, making him laugh.
“Yes, it is you.”
“Oh, good. For a moment I couldn't tell. You are so hot you are burning me from the inside.”
Her words enflamed him. He thrust into her again and again, his mouth crashing onto hers as he devoured her every way he could think of. She overwhelmed him, rocked him to his core, clawed pleasure out of him seemingly from the bottom of his forsaken soul. The feeling was unexpected and disturbing, almost disturbing enough to make him withdraw from her. But the lock of her legs and the escalating fever of her body made that impossible. He began to drive into her in earnest, working himself up, telling himself this was no more than a selfish pleasure. Her reactions meant nothing. His reactions meant nothing. None of it had any deeper meaning than the simple physicality of the joining.
“Gods above,” he swore fiercely as the need to orgasm tore through him. Yes, he thought. He was going to take his pleasure and that would be the end of it. The end of her. The end of them.
And yet he couldn't seem to make himself take that pleasure without making certain she was right there with him. Why should it matter to him? Why should he care? he asked himself. She had given herself up to this thing with no promises from him. He owed her nothing.
But there was something about hearing her pleasured cries in his ear that was too compelling by far. It would not be right unless he took her over the edge with him. It simply would not do.
He thrust into her grasping body, listening to her pleasure ramp upward in the air around them. He staved off his need to come until she threw back her head, throat arching up toward him, and shouted in exultation. He surged into her once again and let blinding pleasure sweep through him. He came hard and fast, the clutch of her body around him more than any sane man could bear.
Gasping for breath, he collapsed upon her body, too weak with release to give a care to his weight against her. She was sturdy enough, he thought dazedly. She could bear up until he got his legs under him once more.
Still, after a moment he rolled onto his back and then stared at the colorful bed curtains where they attached to the ceiling as he felt her snuggle up against his body under his right arm. He was growing cold quickly and concerned she was as well. He used the last of his energy to draw the covers up over them before he did something he never, ever didâ¦He fell asleep within trusting reach of a total stranger.
aykun awoke to a sudden weight against his chest. His eyes flew open to see the point of a bladed weapon trembling just beyond the ends of his lashes. On the other end of the weapon was a woman. The only things keeping that blade from penetrating his eye and entering his brain were the strong hands of the other woman lying against his body.
Jileana shoved the woman back with all of her strength, her lithe body coming up off the bed in the same movement. The woman, a total stranger but clearly from Kriza, went sprawling back onto the floor. Jileana was on her like a flash, her naked body straddling the other woman, her hands never losing control of the attacker's dagger hand. With sure and amazing strength, she turned the dagger onto the Krizan woman and plunged it hard into her chest before Jaykun could even get to his feet.
“Low beast,” the Krizan woman gurgled out. “Vile thing. You will die.” Then she spit blood into Jileana's face before taking a last shuddering breath.
“Good gods,” Jaykun gusted out, his eyes wide as he absorbed the enormity of what Jileana had just done for him. His heart was pounding in his chest as he watched her wipe the blood off her face and get to her feet. And somehow, inexplicably, he thought he'd never seen a more beautiful woman in his life. It was possible it was the adrenaline and gratitude of the moment, but he didn't think so. She was a sight to behold, standing naked over her kill.
“Iâ¦th-thank you,” he managed to say, if somewhat shakily.
“I'm sorry it came so close,” she said with a sigh. “I normally don't sleep that soundly.”
“Me either,” Jaykun said, his awe still present in his tone.
It was true. He should have heard the woman the moment she entered the room. He was in what was easily hostile territory and should have been sleeping with one eye open.
“My brothers!” The thought hit him like lightning. He jerked his pants into place as he ran from the room. It stood to reason that if Krizans were going to make an attempt on his life, they would do the same to his brothers. He burst into the common dining hall on his way to his brothers' rooms and pulled up short when he saw them both sitting there, calmly breaking their fast. Two sets of eyes that matched his own went wide at his wild entrance.
“Good morning, brother,” Dethan said, looking a little bemused.
“Y-you're bothâ¦What are you eating?” he demanded of them. Poison. It could be poison.
“Some fruitsâ¦meatsâ¦as you see.”
“There was an assassin in my chambers just now. How do you know that isn't befouled?” Jaykun demanded of them.
Alarm crossed his siblings' features.
“An assassin?” Garreth demanded. “Worry not about the food. We aren't foolish. Our own cook provided the meal.”
“Thank the gods,” Jaykun said on a relieved exhalation. “Thank the gods.”
“Jaykun, where is the assassâ” Dethan broke off, his eyes going wide once more as Jileana entered the dining hall wearing nothing more than Jaykun's tunic. That she wasn't Krizan was immediately obvious to his brother, and but while she might look completely harmless and unarmed, Jaykun had just claimed there had been a killer in his rooms. Dethan surged to his feet as if to cut her off before she reached Jaykun's exposed back.
“No. It's all right,” Jaykun said quickly once he realized to where Dethan's attention had gone. “It wasn't her. She'sâ¦sheâ¦ummâ¦she stopped the attack. She killed the assassin.”
Shocked once again and for the third time in as many minutes, Dethan eyed Jileana. The idea of her going up against a dangerous killer had to be ludicrous to an outsider.
“Was it a Krizan assassin?” Garreth asked, as doubtful as Dethan felt.
“A Krizan woman,” Jaykun informed.
Both brothers eyed Jileana skeptically once more. She smiled at them and waved, completely baffling them.
“Hi. I'm Jileana. I'm not an assassin. I'm just having a sexual exchange with Jaykun.”
Garreth choked and Dethan grinned.
“Is that so? And you areâ¦?” Dethan said leadingly.
“Hoping to repeat the process,” she said brightly.
Garreth choked again and began coughing over his laughter.
“Jileana,” Jaykun said, determined not to blush like a young boy caught doing something wrongâ¦even though that was exactly what he felt like. “These are my brothers, Dethan,” he said, indicating the larger of the two, “and Garreth.”
“You are much smaller than your brothers,” she observed of Garreth.
“Yes, I am,” Garreth said with a grin.
“Your brother Jaykun is very large,” she observed again. “He also has an excellent skill in all I have needed him for thus far. I imagine you are both equally skilled individuals. Although, I should warn you now that I am not interested in sexual congress with either of you. Not that you should be insulted. You are both fine-looking warriors. But I would prefer to remain with Jaykun as far as that is concerned. I'm hungry. May I have some fruit?”
All three brothers were gaping at her so she picked up a piece of fruit and pointed to it, repeating very carefully, “May I have this?”
Dethan snapped out of his disbelief first. “O-of course,” he said.
“Thank you.” She went to the table, sat down just to the side of where Garreth had been eating, crossed her legs, and began to peel her fruit. “I don't consider this our one meal, Jaykun,” she said, reminding him of their bargain. “I am thinking the midday meal is the one you are required to attend. It will be easier and less rushed than the evening meal.”
“Less rushed?” Garreth asked as he picked up his cup.
“Yes. Before he has to burn like a star.”
Unfortunately, Garreth was drinking at the moment she said this, so he sputtered and coughed. “She knows about that?” he wheezed, looking around the room hastily to see who was there to overhear her. The room was empty of all save the four of them.
“Well, of course. I've watched him these past four nights.”
“Of course,” Dethan said. Clearly he was disturbed that she had this intimate information about his brother. “Midday meal?” he asked, arching a brow at Jaykun.
Jaykun had not prepared himself to answer his brothers' questions about Jileana. In fact, some part of his brain had thought he could keep them completely ignorant of her existence. Now he saw just how foolish that idea had beenâ¦even more so now that she was standing there in front of them.
“Jileana is visiting the city for three days. I told her I would have a meal with her once every day while she visited.”
Dethan frowned at that. “Jaykun, we have a great deal to accomplish before winter sets in. Garreth and I return to our wives soon and you need to have the harbor secured for the winter.”
“I know what my responsibilities are,” Jaykun snapped. “But it just so happens that eating is one of those things I will be doing regardless of the constraints on my time, so I don't foresee it interfering.”
Jaykun had changed his tone in such a way that the brothers knew arguing further would risk his wrathâsomething neither of them welcomed and both had learned to avoid. The truth of it was that Jaykun was more than capable of seeing to his responsibilities and didn't need his brothers making attempts to corral him, even if Dethan was the eldest of the three and by right of birth seemed to think he had the management of his brothers as his responsibility.
Dethan was concerned. Women, whatever their use or function, were a distraction and a potential powder keg. He should know. He was at present tightly entwined around the finger of a beautiful, good-hearted woman whom he had only intended to marry as a means of getting himself a kingdom and an army. He had given up his immortality for her, now had three children by her, and couldn't imagine living a day on this planet without her. It was hard enough being required to campaign away from her in the summer months, but he knew he could have a much worse fate.
He could have Jaykun's fate. Jaykun now carried the burden of the brothers' pact with the goddess Weysa. She had forgiven Dethan and Garreth of that duty, save for the summer months in Dethan's case. Garreth was simply there to assist them as needed as he fulfilled his own agenda for the god of love, Mordu, who required Garreth to open temples in his name and garner him followers just as Garreth's brothers were doing for Weysa. Weysa had made way for the two brothers, but it was clear she would not be so forgiving a third time. No, their only hope for rescuing Maxumâtheir fourth brotherâfrom unending torment was Jaykun. If Jaykun performed well, he might earn a boon from the gods. Or if they covered enough of the planet, listening to tales of the gods, maybe they could find Maxum themselves, just as they had found the Fount of Immortality that had started all of thisâthe fountain from which they drank and subsequently earned the wrath of the gods for their presumption.
So the complication of another woman in their midst was most unwelcome. In fact, it was quite dangerous. They could do nothing to anger the mercurial Weysaâ¦and Jaykun dividing his attentions might do exactly that.
“She is but a woman to warm my bed,” Jaykun muttered. “Or would you deny me even that pleasure?” he asked of Dethan.
“No. Of course not,” Dethan said, his chest growing tight in empathy. His brother suffered so much. If this woman gave Jaykun even a moment's solace, Dethan could not deny him that. Still, Dethan couldn't keep his tongue from saying, “As long as that is all it is.”
“For the love of the gods!” Jaykun burst out angrily. “I'm not going to marry the girl! And so what if I did? I know my duty and where it lies. I know the responsibility that weighs on me! My back is breaking from the weight of it!”
Jaykun turned and stormed back to his bedroom, leaving Jileana alone with his brothers. Completely unfazed, she was enthusiastically eating food from the display in front of her. Dethan and Garreth could only watch with bemusement as she gathered food to her and stuffed it into her mouth. She made pleasured sounds and clearly took an almost erotic satisfaction in the foodâ¦if her moans of delight were anything to judge by.
“Food is so delicious, don't you think?” she asked them. “I don't get to eat these kinds of things where I'm from. I especially like the fruit.”
“You don't look like you're starving,” Dethan observed. Although she was eating like a starving woman, she had a full, healthy shape.
“Oh no, of course not. I get plenty to eat. I only meant the kinds of food I eat are very different. You eat such a variety of foods. It's very nice. If you're not going to eat thatâ¦?” she said, pointing to the toast by Dethan's wrist.
“Oh. Help yourself,” he said, handing it to her.
“It's crunchy,” she noted after taking a curious nibble of it. “Is it fresh?”
“It's toast. We hold it over the fire to make it crunchy on purpose,” Dethan said. He gave her a quizzical look. “Haven't you ever had toast before?”
“Never! How fascinating! You simply apply heat to it and it tastes different.”
“That's true of most food,” Garreth pointed out with amusement.
“We don't use fire to cook food where I am from. We prefer our food fresh and unmolested. But I like this just fine. My brother told me about cooking and I didn't believe him, but now I see we really must start cooking where I come fromâ¦if it is at all possible.”
“And where is it you come from that they don't cook their food?” Dethan asked.
“It's not farâ¦and yet it is.”
“That isn't an answer,” Dethan said.
“Isn't it? You asked a question and I replied. Thusly, it is an answer.”
“Yes, but that isn't a real answer!”
“Well, it isn't a fake one,” Jileana countered.
“Stop it this instant!” Jaykun said sharply as he reentered the room. He was fully clothed, looking tall and strong and confident as he tugged on a pair of gloves. He was dressed in a black tunic with seams of gold, the emblem of their family crest emblazoned across his chest. It was the image of four serpents coming together from four different corners of the crest, their heads making up the four sides of a square. Each serpent was of a different color and design.