Dillon couldn’t flash. Hell, she could barely move. Every bone in her body felt broken, her muscles felt pulled or torn apart. The senator and the six or seven bastards-she’d lost count-he’d hired had done a bang-up job of teaching her a lesson. Like, a) You don’t punch a politician in the face without expecting to be punched back. And b) You don’t punch a politician in the face after refusing to give him the same ride as you’ve given his wife.
Not if you want to keep your bones unbroken and your skin intact, anyway.
But Dillon had always had a problem with authority, especially when that authority became a total dickhead. She didn’t lie down and take it from anyone-unless they beat her so badly she couldn’t help it, unless her body couldn’t help it and gave out without her permission.
She tried to move her arm, close her fist, but ended up sucking air into her lungs, the pain was so fierce. No quick blow job was going to fix these wounds. Her hand, it felt so heavy. It hadn’t felt that heavy in a long time, not since…
Sudden fear pummeled her, mixing with the acute pain running up and down her frame. No…Fuck no…Not now. Not ever! She needed to feel her-no! She needed to see her face. Gathering every ounce of strength left inside her, she fought to peel herself off the ground, off the stinking, ice-cold cement. Get up, you stupid bitch! Get up before they come back and see you. Shit, maybe they already had-when she’d lost consciousness.
Her fingers tore into the concrete, but she had nothing left in her. She let her head fall and her hands go limp. Maybe she could just curl up and disappear. Curl up and die. Right here, bleed out on the concrete like roadkill.
She heard something then-inside her bloodied ears, or was it in her brain? She couldn’t sense where anything was coming from, or even what position she was lying in. But there it was again. A male voice. It was coming closer, she could feel that in the rise of the skin on her arms. Shit. Her fingers dug in again and she pressed her torso up. Come on! Goddamn it. She had to get up, get out, before anyone saw her.
“Took you long enough,” the male voice said with deep aggression and concern. “Where is she?”
The scent of Impure blood shot into Dillon’s nostrils and she flinched. Have to get up. Have to fight. But her muscles refused her, rejected her. Assholes, she thought dazedly.
“Oh, shit. You didn’t tell me it was this bad.” She felt hands on her back and the voice again. “Easy, D.”
The name…barreling through her mind as she fought to make sense of it. Who called her that? Not the senator, not his bastards for hire. Oh, God.
Someone was lifting her-the male-so gently it felt like slow motion.
“No,” she mumbled between torn-up lips.
He cursed, whispered, “Who did this to you?”
Couldn’t be the Romans. No scent of pure blood. She shook her head, or tried to.
“I want names,” he said fiercely, but his voice wasn’t soft anymore. It traveled, maybe to whoever was there with him. “I want to make sure I kill the right people.”
“You got it, Gray,” another male said.
“Where…taking…me?” She barely got the words out. Her throat was so tight, as if she’d been choked.
“You’re coming home with me. Don’t try to fight me, D, ’cause you’ve got no fight left in you anyway.”
“I can’t…Impures. They…won’t want me.”
“I want you.”
Her brain was going fuzzy. She was going to lose consciousness soon. “Fuck. Gray…”
“Shhh,” he soothed. “Don’t talk anymore, baby. Just rest.”
Always hated that word, “baby.” But not today, not right now.
She felt his grip on her shift, scented leather and gasoline; then she was tucked against his chest, his heart beating hard and strong against her cheek.
“You can’t let anyone see me,” she uttered, her throat so pained, but she had to get this out. “Not like this.”
“Don’t worry, baby,” he said, gripping her tighter. “I’ve got you. No one’s going to hurt you again.”
“Gray,” the other male voice called out.
Dillon started, her fingers flinching against Gray’s chest. “Who?”
“Romans,” Gray told her, moving quickly now.
Shaking her head against that awful truth, Dillon clung to Gray as he climbed into the backseat of a car. “How…did you find me?”
“That night I drank from you. Remember? You rescued my nearly blood-castrated ass from the Paleo?”
He slammed the door shut and Dillon groaned. Did she remember it? The shower, the kiss, the bite? Or had she blocked it out like she did everything good that happened in her life?
A car screeched to a halt beside them, doors opened.
“Go,” Gray commanded.
The car lurched forward, took off at high speed.
Dillon felt herself shutting down, but before she gave in, she whispered, “Did they see…me?”
“No,” Gray uttered. “But they saw me.”
The words entered her ears just seconds before her brain shut off and she succumbed to the blackness.
Lucian had loosened the bolt on the wall.
Around the metal fastener, stone was breaking off in small, dusty chips, falling onto the soft pallet by his feet. It hadn’t been a picnic in the park to make that happen. He was pretty sure his motherfucking shoulder was dislocated, if diabolical pain in that area was any indication. But it didn’t matter. He had to get to her. He had to see her face, shield her from the credenti that had nearly destroyed him, and, if his father’s words were true, protect her from a mad vampire and his Beasts. He had to know she was breathing and unhurt and that the life he’d put inside of her continued on. It was illogical, instinctual.
He lifted the chair again, yanked it high above his head, then sent it falling back down against the bolt, pounding the shit out of it like a hammer to a nail.
“Arrrr,” he groaned, the vibration ricocheting up the chain, into his shackle, and through his entire system.
Fuck. The pain sucked ass, but more chips of stone dropped away, loosening the bolt a little bit farther. He grinned, growled his appreciation, and again brought up the chair and again slammed it down on the bolt. This time the chair’s arm smacked the shackle on his wrist and he felt the bone crack.
He screamed a curse and pitched the chair across the room.
“What the hell are you doing?”
His head came around so fast it took his eyes a moment to adjust. But he didn’t need his eyes; he had his nose-his scent. Bronwyn. She stood in the doorway, her eyes narrowed with a mixture of shock and fear as a light rain dropped behind her. Relief poured through him, but all he wanted to do in that moment was laugh, sneer. His veana thought he’d turned Breeding Male, when all he’d really turned into was a fucking idiot.
“Afternoon, lass,” he called through gritted teeth, the pain sucker punching him with every breath. “Did you bring the Impures back with you?”
“No.” She closed the door. “They’re gone.” She came over to him, stopped a few feet away, her gaze running from the chair near the wall to the bolt in the stone, to his ripped jeans, to his dirty, sweaty chest and shoulders. “Is this the Breeding Male or just you?”
“Just the asshole trying to get to the princess,” he said, breathing heavy, nostrils flaring as he locked eyes with her. “Where are the guards, Bron?”
“I don’t know,” she said, dropping her damp sweater on the table near the fire. “No one knows.”
He studied her. Her expression had changed since entering the cottage a moment ago. She wasn’t fearful anymore, but there was something there-something dark, like anger-or worse. What was it? he wondered. Had she been attacked, chased-
“I saw your mother,” she said, remaining near the table.
Lucian felt his face go rigid, and the pain in his broken wrist no longer registered. “Why would you do that?”
“Doesn’t matter,” she said quickly.
“Like hell it doesn’t.”
She shrugged. “Maybe I just wanted to spend some time with someone who understands, you know? A veana I have something in common with.”
He chuckled bitterly, the movement sending shock waves of pain through his system.
“Don’t laugh at me, Lucian,” she ground out.
“Why not? That was damn funny, Princess.”
She pointed a finger at him, her green eyes brutal, and hurt. “And don’t call me that anymore. You don’t get to call me that anymore.”
The Lucian Roman of a few weeks ago would’ve walked away from a conversation like this one, wouldn’t have given the time, energy, or care to fight for a female. But Bronwyn Kettler wasn’t just any female. She was his. All his. Every inch, every breath, every movement-it all belonged to him. It wasn’t a pretty package of a reality-her falsely mated to another paven and him the goddamn Breeding Male, but there it was. He had claimed her. He had claimed the shit out of her!
He strained against the chains and snarled, “What’s wrong with you? What did that veana say to you?”
“That veana is your mother!”
“I know exactly who she is! What the fuck did she say?”
“Just the truth,” Bronwyn answered, crossing her arms over her midsection. “Which is more than I can say for you.”
His jaw twitched. What the hell was going on here?
“When we were together,” she said slowly, softly, “on the island.”
This time, instead of his jaw, his cock twitched. “Yes.”
Her chin dropped, her eyes fixed him with a menacing stare. “Did you put a balas inside me?”
Lucian froze, legs apart, chain held straight and tight as he pulled air into his lungs through nostrils so flared they ached from the stretch. “How the hell…”
She swallowed, her eyes suddenly frantic. “Did you?”
Goddamn it! His gaze locked to hers.
“Answer me, Paven!”
“Oh, God.” Her hands dropped and she clutched her belly. She shook her head.
Lucian despised her panic, her disgust-but he’d known it was coming. To bear a Breeding Male’s balas was a blight on a veana’s soul, but to this veana it was the ultimate living nightmare.
He tried to reach her. “I wasn’t the Breeding Male making that choice, Bron. It wasn’t intentional.”
Her face dropped and her eyes filled with tears. “It was a mistake. This whole thing was a mistake.”
His gut clenched, mixing with the pain in his bones and muscles to form a shitty-ass cocktail. “Princess, please don’t-“
“Don’t what?” she interrupted, starting to back up toward the door. “Were you ever going to tell me? Or were you just going to wait until we got back to our lives and let Synjon take credit for…” She trailed off as she saw the look on his face.
Lucian didn’t have a mirror in front of him, but he was pretty sure he looked confused, maybe even thoughtful for a second. Whatever it looked like, she took it as confirmation and cried out, “Oh my God.”
She whirled back and grabbed for the door handle. “I’ve got to get out of here.”
But she wasn’t listening, or if she was she didn’t give a shit. She wanted away from him. She took off into the rain, leaving the door open, leaving Lucian staring after her, his mind fast framing her face, her eyes, her mouth, her belly-his balas.
In that moment, when she was lost to his gaze, Lucian Roman ceased to exist. He became an animal-a feral animal-and without a care to his already shattered bones and ripped skin, he slammed himself forward over and over until at last, he ripped the chain from the wall. Broken, battered, and bloody, he went after her.
Bronwyn ran like a young veana, without thought or direction, just a desperate need to flee, to get lost forever. Rain fell from the sky, pelted her face, her hair, and body, but she barely felt it. If anything it fueled her movement. She ran in the opposite direction of the credenti, hoping to get lost, hoping she could find a hole to crawl into and weep, as she used to do against her mother’s breast-as she’d wanted to do against Mai’s an hour ago.
Her mind spun. It couldn’t be. She couldn’t have spent a lifetime protecting herself from this exact situation only to have it come to pass. What the hell was wrong with her? She could’ve studied anything, become anything-clearly, it didn’t matter because this had been her goddamn destiny all along.
She ran up a gentle slope and straight into a vast field of thick grass. Out of breath now, she stopped for a moment and put her head down between her legs to make her lungs stop aching. Rain dropped on her back, poking at her with accusatory fingers. You slept with him-no protection, no nothing, it screamed at her. You took every risk there was, foolish veana, and now you have a Breeding Male’s balas inside you. How much of it was out of your control and how much of it-down deep, down deep where your unbeating heart beats for Lucian Roman-was something you wanted?
She ran again, through the field and into a stretch of woods. It was darker here, the heavy shroud of trees giving her a modicum of protection from the rain. God, she didn’t want this. It would be insane and wrong and a scab on the memory of her sister to want this. Her sister-her innocent sister who was a victim-her life taken by one such as him.
Her pulse slammed against her veins as her ears picked up something behind her. But the crunch of leaves and the snarl of a bloodthirsty paven came too late for her to react. She was down on the ground, whipping around to her backside and crawling like a crab toward the nearest tree trunk as he moved over her. It was like slow motion: naked, wet chest, sopping jeans gripping muscular thighs, an erection so thick it tented his zipper, and a severe, erotically handsome face slashed with hard angles and tight jaw, all hovering over her.
His mouth was inches from her own, his hair hung down, licking the sides of her face, making a curtain of privacy in the cool, wet woods. “You won’t run from me,” he said, dipping his head and kissing her mouth possessively.
Growling, Bronwyn bit his lip until she tasted blood, until he pulled back. “You won’t tell me what to do. Ever.”
He pressed his hips down so she could feel the hard length of him. “You belong to me, Princess, right or wrong-lie or truth. You belong to me and I belong to you.”
Her wicked, thoughtless core shuddered with awareness as she raised a brow at him. “The whore and her bastard, eh?”
His eyes narrowed, minimizing the look of pain that crossed his face. “I am bleeding, Veana. Inside and out.”
She ran her tongue over his bottom lip, took the drops of blood she’d called forth with her quick bite into her mouth, then blew on the tiny wound. “That’s all the healing you get from this veana tonight. Feel better?”
“No. Not better outside, not better inside. Not better until I lick your pussy again, have you come in my mouth again.” He snarled over her. “Not better until I’m inside you, so deep you can’t breathe.” He grinned. “But that’s okay, my princess. Because I can breathe for the both of us.”
She lay beneath him, her skin on fire despite herself, her anger, her feelings of betrayal. “Do you think you deserve to be inside me, Paven?”
“Fuck no,” he said, leaning in, lapping in her ear with his tongue. “But does that matter to you or your pretty pink cunt?”
Panic jumped inside Bronwyn. He had a power over her, her body, her mind. He wanted to take her, consume her, rid her soul of all its anger and leave only the lust and, God help her, the love.
He licked the inside of her ear and she gasped.
“My cock is in heat, Princess,” he whispered, his mouth trailing hot, yet achingly soft kisses down her jaw, “and you have too many clothes on.”
She arched her back, in heat, in need. “You want me to give myself to you, Breeding Male?”
He lifted his head, his eyes blazed down at her with the fire of a paven who knew he had no need to ask, no right to want, no future to give. “You can fucking punish me all you want, Bron,” he said, his voice rough, “as long as you do it with your mouth on mine and your legs spread.”
Her hands found his back, his hard, smooth back. “Maybe I’ll do it with my hand around your cock.”
“Yeah, I’d like that.”
“Or my fangs on your co-“
“Don’t say it. Oh, shit.” His eyes were fierce, inflamed. “I’ll come in my jeans.”
“Maybe that’s what I want,” she said, her nails gently digging into his skin. “Maybe that’s all I want.”
He laughed, hissed, his eyes savage with lust. “Tell me you don’t want me inside you, don’t want my cock sliding home, kissing every inch of those honeyed walls of yours. You tell me that and I’ll get up off you and walk my broken ass out of these woods right now.”
Bronwyn opened her mouth, ready to speak-ready to jump at the offer the Breeding Male had just given her. But she couldn’t do it. As the rain beat down on the trees above them and Lucian pressed his cock against the top of her pelvis, she cursed. She cursed, dark and lustful and defeated.
Grinning like the arrogant bastard he was, Lucian dipped his head and, with his teeth, drew her shirt all the way up to her neck. “Tell me you don’t belong to me.”
Bron gasped as the cool air hit her skin. “I don’t belong to you.”
He kissed the curve of her breast, then down to her belly. “Oh, lass, the scent of your wet pussy says different.”
She moaned helplessly at his words, at the truth inside them, at her core so hot it begged for release.
He had her shirt and bra off in seconds, his chin resting on her belly as he stared up at her, sniffed at her. “I want to eat you again, Princess. Inside and out. Press my tongue so far up your cunt you’ll come all the way down it.”
“Oh, God,” she uttered, her hips lifting, her mind giving itself over to her body.
“Say you’re mine,” he whispered, his fangs raking gently against her belly.
He hooked his fangs on the waistband of her skirt and yanked it down. “Do I have to lick the words from you, Princess? Suck the words from you?”
Bronwyn’s skin was on fire. She was so hot, she wanted to run to the rain, get on her hands and knees under its spray while Lucian took her from behind.
“Or do I have to fuck the words out of you?” he uttered, his mouth so close to her cunt, his breath, warm through the thin cotton of her underwear.
“Yes,” she uttered, her hands reaching for the last bit of clothing that separated her from him. She fumbled with the edges of her underwear, trying to get them off. “Help me, Lucian,” she begged. “Take them off. Take them off before I burn up, before I die.”
“You’re not going to die, Princess,” he whispered, sliding the bit of cotton from her hips and down her ankles until she was free. “I’d never allow it. Never. You belong in life, breathing and smiling and cursing me with that pink mouth of yours.”
Then he was on his knees, his jeans unbuttoned, his fly down, his cock out-so heavy and hard it was nearly purple.
“And I belong inside you,” he said, lifting her up and slipping her shirt beneath her. “My tongue, my cock-it all belongs to you if you want it, Bron.”
Moaning now, keening, baying into the empty woods, Bronwyn grabbed at his chest, her hands fisting his pecs, her hips lifting in silent invitation.
Lucian hissed at her grip on him, but his eyes, wide and savage, were on her mound. He growled, “I’ll take your glistening pussy as a yes, shall I?” Then he drove his cock inside her, groaning as her hot, tight muscles welcomed him, then sucked him in deeper.
Bron gasped at the feel of him, the heaviness of him, the deep pleasure that his cock wrought on her body. It was the most perfect sensation in the world. Nothing was better-nothing-except the movement, the slow pistoning in and out of her.
She arched her back and wrapped her legs around his waist, rubbing her wet core against his pelvic bone and his balls, circling, using her hips and her cunt as her body liked, as it silently instructed her. It was instinct, all instinct. Taking what she needed, what she’d always needed from him but never had the guts to ask for.
Well, perhaps now she did-she would.
“Lucian,” she uttered, beautifully pained, “go deeper, deeper inside of me. Fuck me so deep I can’t breathe or see or do anything but come.”
“Oh, God, Princess,” he whispered softly. “I need you to tell me-tell me you belong to me, that I’ve claimed you inside and out.”
Bron shook her head, her breath heaving, making her breasts quiver. She couldn’t. She wanted to, but she couldn’t-he could never claim anyone, not in love, not in heart.
He left her, pulled his cock from her, and she cried out. Then he moved down, quick as lightning, and buried himself in her curls, licked up her soaking slit until she screamed into the open air. Her head thrashed from side to side and her hands found her breasts. As he nipped her clit, she tugged and played with her nipples.
Just as she was about to come, about to scream, die, he rose up, the head of his cock an inch inside her entrance.
Still tugging at her hard nipples, Bronwyn cried out, “Lucian, please!”
Her eyes opened and she saw him above her, staring down at her with a gaze unlike anything she’d ever seen, his Breeding Male brands-the empty circles nearly glowing. “I want to hear you say it,” he said in a savage, pained voice. “Fuck, I need to hear you say it.”
He inched inside her.
“You want me inside your cunt…”
“Yes!” she cried out.
“But not inside your heart.”
She gasped, then cried, “God, fuck you, Lucian.” Tears glistened in her eyes as she stared into his tortured, hungry gaze. “This is cruel.”
Another inch inside her. “I am cruel. I am savage. I’m the worst-no good for any female, and yet I am the paven who wants to hear that the mother of his balas cares about his sorry ass.”
“I do care. Please,” she whimpered, tears falling down her cheeks.
“Do I own your heart, Princess?”
“It doesn’t beat, Luca.”
“It beats for me,” he said, his hand tunneled between them, his finger trailing up her sensitive slit, “just as this sweet little clit does.”
Her hips slammed up, trying to get at him, get all of him. But he lifted himself just enough to escape her as his finger flicked the swollen bud, then tapped it gently with his thumb. “You hold me captive, Bron.”
“And you me!”
He leaned down, lapped at her tears with his tongue. “I won’t take you, make you come until you tell me you belong to me because otherwise I’m just the Breeding Male again. Don’t you understand that?” Her eyes locked with his. “Don’t you understand that I love you. Me. Not ‘it’-me.”
Her body was on fire, her mind gone, but her unbeating heart could only call out, cry out to the one it had no right to claim. Lucian Roman. “Damn it! I love you too, you bastard.”
He grinned down at her, his eyes shining. “Asshole.” Then slid an inch deeper inside of her.
“Say it, my princess.”
And with that, he slid all the way home.