PART I – Darkness
The near future…
Ethan stared at the slender frame lying on his chamber floor.
When his men had arrived to deliver the girl, they didn’t feel a need to carry her any further than a few inches past the door. And, for the moment, neither did he. The pretty package would remain exactly where they had dropped it.
His eyes studied the sleeping figure. It was impossible for him to drag his glare away from her. The desire to touch her was undeniable. Just like earlier, a magnetic pull drew him closer to the living doll. Without any conscious effort on his part, he bent down to kneel beside her. Posing with her back curved and her knees pulled up to her chin, she looked like a discarded angel. Her face was peaceful, calm. His fingers reached out and ran a slow pace down the length of the thick braid hanging down her slim back. With the tips of the dark strands tangled around his fingers, Ethan leaned in close and used the tip of his nose to trace a line along the curve of her neck.
There was no need to distance himself, she wasn’t filthy like the others. She also didn’t reek of liquor and sex. Even if she did, he probably would have been helpless to resist the impulse that was dragging him so near. Her scent was achingly familiar, yet his mind was having a hard time remembering what it reminded him of. So sweet…too sweet. She didn’t belong here, not in this broken and filthy hellhole. Rat City. That’s what the natives called it. A wayward finger found its way to the cool skin of her leg then floated over her outer thigh. When the roaming digit reached her hip, Ethan’s fingers slid beneath the hem of the thin cloth wrapped loosely around her waist. He stopped his motion and hovered at the soft pad of flesh covering the bone there. As he pressed his fingers deep, a sliver of excitement raced through their tips. His manhood instantly hardened. Like a man in a deep trance, Ethan’s eyes slid closed as he allowed himself one free moment to revel in the sharp, sensual electric pulses flowing over him.
The bolts of energy flowing between them must have awakened her. In an instant, the girl’s lips twisted, her features wretched, and her lashes flew open. Wide eyes stared up at him. Fear. Mixed with…something more…something like…Before he could figure out the depth of the last emotion splashed over her face, the terror resurfaced. She shuffled to her feet like a pussycat trying to scramble away from danger. For her, danger was inescapable.
The more she tried to scurry away, the more urgently a sudden and possessive need to control her swept up from the pit of his stomach and forced him to react to her attempt to flee. Her very essence riled up a desperate lust beneath his hard skin. The fevered frenzy pushed him forward until he cornered the frail female. Her back pressed against the bolted door while the weight of his body pinned her in place. She was trapped exactly where she should be…under his complete dominance and control.
The conflicting emotions raging within him were surreal. Ethan could feel her inner light flowing from her pores and trying to sink into his. He wanted to posses her power and extinguish it forever. He wanted to test her strength, bombard her willpower with his own. How much of his torment could she resist? He needed to see if she was worthy of him and of what he would eventually demand of his queen. Strangely enough, he also felt compelled to prove that he was worthy of her as well.
He had to feel her, to mold her within his grip again. His hand instinctively wrapped around the soft skin just beneath her chin. With the width of one palm, he cupped the underside of her face and the curve of her small throat. With ease, Ethan used his giant’s strength to lift her small body from the floor. Barely retrained terror filled her eyes – her gorgeous, dark eyes. The innocence hovering in the gaze glittering beneath long lashes sent a chaotic pulse running through his veins. His lips parted. An urge to kiss her was unbearable. Time…slowed…to nothing. Watching you…watching me…Wanting you…wanting you to want me. When he was close enough to feel the warmth of her weak breath sweep across his open mouth…Thud…his heart slammed inside his chest. The pounding became so hard, he feared it might suddenly stop beating altogether and he would be dead and forgotten before ever claiming her.
Her struggling against his hold broke the trance. Fear, not attraction spurred her reaction to him. Her whole body shuddered at his continued touch. Ethan could see that she was afraid of what he would do next. Had he really discovered such a rare treasure on the first night of his reign over his new kingdom? It made the question running through his mind inescapable…How had she kept herself pure for so long? He shook the concern away. It didn’t matter. She belonged to him now…to please him in every wicked way that he so chose – but not just yet. There was no such thing as coincidence. Timing was everything, and her appearance signaled only one event. One final sunset stood between him and consuming his sweet caramel temptation.
To stop her useless floundering, Ethan tightened his grip around her throat, forcing the girl to lift her legs and wrap them around his waist. When she did so, he settled his muscular frame further between her thighs. Later, when the time was right, this is the position he would use to finally claim her body. Again, he had to calm his raging lusts and remind himself that his passions would not – could not – be satisfied tonight. If he made that mistake, everything would be ruined and he would, quite possibly, be dead before the next nightfall.
With her tangled around Ethan’s much-larger body, the female’s movements paused. Once she stopped fighting him, he released her airway. When she drew in a gasp of much-needed air, their eyes locked. The curious expression from earlier resurfaced. What was it she was feeling? And why was he so frantic to uncover the truth and match her gaze? Like her scent, those eyes, the color of onyx, stirred up a tempest from deep within. The closer Ethan moved his face toward hers, the more he began to tumble into the pull of a distant memory. Where had he seen this face before? The fingertips of his free hand trailed down the side of her cheek. A layer of light moisture from her skin slid beneath their tips.
Then the connection finally struck him. Like a hammering shock, it reached out, punched past his black heart and revived the last spark of life swirling within his deadened soul. In an instant, he was child again, barely seven years old, sitting in the front row of a church of all places. The word caused Ethan to shudder inside, but he resisted the urge to physically cringe. He refused to allow his concubine to see any weakness within him. In the waking dream, the wandering eyes of the boy-child floated to the next row and were met by a pair of bright, flashing eyes. A girl, not much younger than him, met his gaze. They silently studied one another from across the aisle.
Ethan, his mother called his attention, forcing him to break the connection. Pay attention, the father is speaking.
The boy’s eyes looked forward just in time to see a large fist shooting forward to collide with the side of his delicate face.
Say it, his mother’s kind voice was replaced by a booming baritone. I’ll beat you ‘til you bleed, boy. Now say it.
The small child’s cracked and split lips opened. He could barely push through a gasping whisper. There is no…
An uncontrollable shiver ripped through his convulsing torso. Ethan’s mind blacked out the rest of the horrible tale. With his attention returning to the present, his eyes flicked up and locked with hers. Hate and brutality had become his first reactions to any feelings of vulnerability. His grip tightened, causing her legs to release his hips. She thrashed wildly. After a moment, when her air supply went short, her legs went limp and dangled a few inches above the floor.
He released its grip on her throat and she dropped to the floor then crumpled into a pile at his bare feet. At the sight of her injured form, a frightening urge to lift her up and cradle her within his arms scratched at the surface of his burning palms. Frozen and undecided, Ethan continued to glance down at her. The tingling need to feel her skin again filled him with dread. Protect the true dynasty. The razor-sharp whisper settled the matter. He balled his hands into tight fists and forced himself to turn away. Without further delay, he destroyed the impulse to comfort her before it could work its way any deeper beneath his skin.
Taking long strides, he set his course far away from the presence of the unconscious female. While trying to reign in his wayward thoughts, Ethan set his focus toward planning for the upcoming celebration. His first order of business would be to summon Carl. His bride would need to be made perfectly presentable before attending the feast to be held in her honor.
©Lenise Lee Pubn. All Rights Reserved.