PART I – Darkness
The near future…
Once the shadow that was Carl exited through the dark cutout at the back of the room, Ethan wasted no time in pursuing his prey.
He moved one foot forward, away from the door and closer to where Shay remained in a stiff sitting position. At the sight of him approaching her, and with feet as nimble as a wood nymph’s, she jumped and ran toward the furthest corner, far away from her captor. Her chances of escape were narrow. The man who had arranged her kidnapping barred one path while the raging monster who had nearly slit her throat probably still hovered near the rear exit. For the moment, Shay stood perfectly still, her back against the chilly wall, muscles coiled and thighs ready to sprint. She waited…watched…tried to anticipate the blond’s next move. Bright blue eyes twinkled at her, but Shay saw no smile accompany the shimmer hidden within them.
“Why fear me, princess?” There was amusement in Ethan’s tone as his voice trailed off.
The last word he spoke touched Shay’s mind and caused a soft echo to bounce in her thoughts. A curious way to address her. Instead of advancing toward Shay, as she was anticipating, the blond turned away and moved toward a large bureau at the opposite end of the room.
“When I have so many delights to offer you.”
As he turned to face her again, a small gasp escaped Shay’s mouth. Ethan stretched open the palm of his hand and held out his first offering toward his future bride. Shay’s eyes locked on the crimson object. The apple was so red that her eyes nearly deceived her into believing its skin had been dipped in blood. The dim light from the chandelier hanging overhead glinted off the curve of the delicacy. She had not seen or tasted fruit in many years, not since she was a small girl. The saliva was already starting to pool on her tongue. In truth, she could not recall the last time she had eaten…An hour? Two? Twelve? A quick glance around the room revealed nothing that would hint at the time or if darkness still cloaked the outside world. It must. Her veins still pumped furiously, there was no weariness weighing down her bone and muscle. Still, it could simply be that the adrenaline racing through her body was overriding the effects of the sun, which had the power to drip its debilitating rays into even the darkest crevices. There was no way, however, she had been asleep for more than a day. Even so, her stomach grumbled in protest. The sight of the rare treat had sparked an insatiable demand to feed. The instinct bubbled up from deep within her and threatened to overpower her sanity. The true question was which would satisfy her more? The taste of the apple? Or the feel of her handsome host’s rose-pink lips tasting her own?
Without another thought, her hand jerked. One step. Then two. Then four more paces brought Shay dangerously close to returning to within striking distance of the entrancing figure watching her so intently. The barest trace of a grin touched one corner of his sensual mouth.
Remember the garden.
A whispering voice snapped into her thoughts and broke her strides. Faint remnants of a myth her grandma once told her began to circle her mind, but Shay could not pull the full memory together. A sudden rush of hunger, stronger than the fear and trembling the clipped memory tried in vain to evoke in her, urged Shay to accept what her kidnapper presented to her. After all, how dangerous could he be? The more she considered her circumstances, the more she realized how much the odds were in her favor. Instead of being assaulting her and then tossing her into the wastelands, he had brought her to a suite, arranged for her to be pampered – albeit by a maniac – and was now giving her a peace-offering. Against the nagging warning to refuse his gift, her desperation betrayed her willpower to resist. Reaching out, her fingers within a teasing inch of their goal, Shay let her guard down – and, in that one vulnerable moment, Ethan sprung his trap.
The apple dropped from Ethan’s hand and landed with a soft thud against the carpeted floor. Without giving her time to flee, he pulled the female into his grip then twirled her until her back was pressed flat against his stomach and chest. The dampness of her wavy hair caressed the delicate skin of his nipples causing a low hiss of arousal to tumble from between his lips. The sensation urged him to hold her tighter. The need to feel every soft inch of her skin covering his own nearly overwhelmed him. Their connection sent a sharp jolt zipping through the thick muscles of his tense biceps and flooded Ethan with the heat of a primal need to claim her here and now as his bonded mate. Her shiver of fear only served to drive his lust to boundless heights – All Ethan could sense was Shay’s presence. The only sound he heard was the beating of her pulsing heart. The smell of her sweet innocence flooded his nostrils, drowning out any other scent. The feel of her slick skin skimming across the tip of his tongue as he used it to lay a delicious path along the curve of her neck made his manhood instantly harden.
Wait. It is forbidden.
Another current, nearly as intense as his thirst to devour the feminine essence of his woman, disrupted his thoughts. With great reluctance, Ethan pulled his lips from her quivering skin. He had to wait until the cycle of the moon was completed before taking her to his bed. The temptation to taste her, to arc his back and shoulders so that he could wrap his full form around her frame and consume her within his spiraling passion was dizzying. Never before had his attraction to a female compelled him to disobey his masters. No woman had every tempted his lust, his mind, his body and willpower…his heart…so thoroughly, nearly to the point of madness. He was so close to succumbing to the pressure of wanting her so badly that Ethan had no choice but to push the female away from him with one strong thrust.
One moment she was shivering with erotic anticipation from being held so tightly within the bulging strength of his arms, and the next she was being expelled from his hold and shoved forward. The motion was too sudden, causing Shay to lose her balance. Just before she tumbled down hard, a pair of hands caught her by the waist and lifted her to a standing position again. When her bare feet were planted firmly on the floor, one of the big hands that had just saved her from her fall moved in search of her fingers then twined both pairs together.
“Come,” Ethan said, as he gently pulled her across the room with him, “I have something to show you.”
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