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Authors: Morgana de Winter,Marie Harte,Michelle M. Pillow,Sherrill Quinn,Alicia Sparks

Tags: #Fiction, #Erotica

Phoenix Rising I (5 page)

BOOK: Phoenix Rising I
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She’d bartered for once only.

He had demanded the night.

Where would be the harm, she lied to herself as he shifted downward until he could place his mouth over her breast once more, teasing the sensitive nub at the tip until blood flooded it and delightful sensations began to drift through her, stirring the heat of before? Sighing, already glorying in the rise of hunger he built inside of her, she stroked his hair caressingly, slid her palms over the taut muscles of his shoulders and arms in fond acceptance.

When he ceased to fondle her breasts and shifted upward, studying her face in the shadowy firelight that filtered to the bed, she touched his hard cheeks with her hands, lifted her lips to him in offering. He uttered a sound that was threaded with both hunger and relief and took her lips beneath his heated mouth, breaching the fragile barrier of her lips in the same moment with the thrust of his tongue. His mouth and tongue were possessive, aggressive with his rising needs. His passion fed her own, making her belly clench for his flesh, weep for him.

She encouraged his exploration of her mouth and body, rising to meet his every touch, surrendering so completely to the allure of pleasure his body could give her that she felt swept away by it, anxious, fretful to have him claim her fully. “Nightshade,” she whispered shakily when he freed her lips at last. “I want … I need to feel you inside of me.”

A shudder went through him and he lifted away to study her face, his own twisted and harsh with the needs he was struggling to contain. Apparently he saw what he was searching for for he surged upward, guiding his member into the passage that longed to sheathe his turgid flesh. She gasped, arching her head back as he delved her, thrust deeply inside of her, squeezing her eyes closed to hold the wondrous sensation tightly to her. “Stay,” she gasped when he would have withdrawn, lifting her legs and wrapping them tightly around his hips, pulling him deeper still.

He stilled, lifting slightly away again to study her face, rotating his hips and pressing deeper. A sound of bliss sighed from her lips. Her passage clenched around him. Uttering a strangled groan, he lowered his mouth to hers. For several moments, he did no more than kiss her, stirring tremors of delight inside her with the slight rotation of his hips. Abruptly, he broke from her lips with a hoarse grunt, burrowed his face along the side of her neck, and began to move more forcefully, pulling almost completely out of her, thrusting deeply and grinding against her, and then repeating the deep stroke.

A whimper escaped her as she felt her body burgeon, tauten, and then begin to convulse with ecstasy. His cock bucked against the stranglehold of her body. Shaking, his great body jerking uncontrollably, he began to thrust frenziedly, pumping his hot seed into her until his body would yield no more.

Weak as she was in the aftermath, she clung to him, holding him tightly, wanting their bodies locked together. He was still inside of her when exhaustion snatched consciousness away from her.

She woke when he stirred, when she felt his warmth leave her and coolness rushed in to leave her feeling bereft and lonely. Sleepily, she felt for him, wanting to drag his warmth back to cuddle against her, and found only a pillow. A frown creased her brow, but his scent and warmth lingered on the pillow and she drew it to her, clutching it tightly as she drifted away again.

Utter contentment filled her as she floated toward consciousness again. She smiled, luxuriating in the unaccustomed joy that filled her.

“Ye slept well then,” said a familiar voice.

Bronwyn’s eyes popped open and she stared in blank surprise and dawning horror at Zella for several moments before she shoved herself upright and glanced fearfully around. Relief filled her when she found she was alone in the bed, and then disappointment and an odd sense of hurt. He’d left without even saying goodbye.

Gathering her wits, she turned to watch as Zella set the bucket of water down that she’d brought for bathing. “I can manage by myself,” she muttered in sudden apprehension as the events of the night crashed down around her and it hit her forcefully that Zella was bound to notice the telltale signs of her love making. “Go and break your fast,” she added at the look of puzzlement that settled over Zella’s face.

Shrugging, Zella left again, closing the door carefully behind her.

Bronwyn lay back again when she had gone, closing her eyes and allowing the memories to flood her mind. Warmth suffused her at the memories. Her body burgeoned as if she could feel the caresses she remembered.

Shivering, she touched her breasts and then skated a hand downward to soothe the ache between her thighs. His man’s flesh, she thought wryly, was like the rest of him, mammoth. The ache wasn’t altogether pleasurable though it stirred pleasant memories.

Pushing the thoughts away, she sat up and moved from the bed to the water to bathe herself. Her inner thighs shook and groaned with effort and she bit her lip, stripping her nightrail off as quickly as her complaining body would allow. His seed had dried upon her thighs and the musky reminder of their night together tickled at her nostrils as she quickly bathed herself.

She had not expected to find such joy in their coupling. Embarrassment colored her cheeks as she recalled how verbally she had displayed her pleasure, how wantonly she had encouraged him, demanded of him. What must he think of her, she wondered in sudden anxiety? She had meant only to yield, but then she had not expected to gain anything for herself. She had thought she would only give him ease.

She shook that thought off. In his single-minded pursuit of his own pleasure, it seemed doubtful that he would have noticed how gloriously she’d reveled in her disgrace. Doubt speared her when she recalled that he had looked down at her as he had thrust into her body, watched her face, but she pushed that away, as well.

It did not matter. He was not likely to carry tales. Perhaps he had even used some of his dark powers against her and that explained why she had enjoyed what she

had never before been able even to tolerate?

It had felt like magic, but not of the unearthly sort.

When she had dressed, she resolutely pushed all thoughts of the night she had spent with Nightshade from her mind and went down to break her fast. She could not seem to contain the joy that kept trying to burst forth, however, the sense of hopefulness and cheerfulness that made the day seem brighter.

Zella and Marta could not refrain from remarking upon it either.

Embarrassed when she caught herself humming under her breath as she went about her chores and the curious gazes of the servants upon her, she tamped the urge, but it only returned and she would find herself smiling idiotically, or humming a tune.

“There’s none that would like ta see ye happy, my lady, more’n me,” Marta said finally. “But the servants are beginnin’ to talk.”

They were in her solar once more, where they usually gathered in the afternoon and Bronwyn had her head bent over her needlework. At Marta’s chiding tone, she felt a blush rising in her cheeks. “And what are they saying?” she asked, feeling a mixture of anger and anxiety welling in her.

“That ye’re behavin’ far more like a woman in love than a widow.”

Bronwyn lifted her head to gape at the woman who had tended her from her earliest memories, struggling against the guilt that flamed her cheeks.

“Yer husband’s scarce cold in his grave. ‘Tisn’t at all seemly ta be goin’ about hummin’ an’ smilin’ to yerself.”

The blood that had rushed to her cheeks abandoned them with a vengeance, leaving her feeling lightheaded. “Have I?” she asked self-consciously.

“It’s nae my business, I know, but ye’ll nae want them gossipin’ when the king’s man arrives, else he’s liable to inform the king yer nae behavin’ like a woman in mournin’.”

Bronwyn took a deep breath to steady her nerves and tamp the rush of temper that swelled inside of her. As angry as she was with Marta for telling her such things, she knew Marta was right. It didn’t matter that she had no reason to mourn her husband, that she’d felt nothing but fear and contempt for him. “I was ill--nearly died. And now I feel well. Is that not reason enough for me to feel cheerful?”

“Aye--and I make no doubt its even more cheerin’ to discover yer rid of that brute of a husband. I’m only sayin’ ye should be careful to behave the way yer expected to behave.”

Subdued, Bronwyn studied her needlework for some moments. “They think that I had something to do with his death?” she finally asked in a low voice.

Marta sent her a sharp look. “If they do I’ve nae heard it, but ye can nae trust that that won’t enter their minds … specially since ye sent yer maids away the other night and have been chirpin’ like a song bird ever since.”

Bronwyn couldn’t help it. She turned so fiery red her cheeks felt as if they’d caught flame. “That’s … absurd! They are speculating that I … that I … only because I wished to be alone?”

Marta shook her head. “It’s nae fer me ta say if ye choose a lover. But ye’ve nae the temperament ta be any good at pullin’ the wool over everyone’s eyes. An’ if they start thinkin’ ye’ve takin’ a lover, next they’ll be speculatin’ about when … and whether he had anythin’ to do with Lord Smytheson takin’ the notion he could fly.”

Marta had come so close to the truth, Bronwyn felt downright faint.

Focusing her mind on her needlework again, she allowed the subject to drop, hoping that Marta would take the hint and leave it, as well.

To her partial relief Marta appeared to be satisfied only to have warned her, but she could not find any real relief knowing what the servants had been speculating about already.

She need not fear for Nightshade, she knew, for he was no weak mortal and none could touch him … she didn’t think. It was another matter entirely where she was concerned. If the king’s man did get wind of the gossip, she was liable to find herself questioned about her husband’s death at the very least and … the worst didn’t bear thinking on.

She was angry with herself for being so careless and stupid, for allowing herself to become so wrapped up in her pleasure that she had failed to realize that it was far more than an inner joy. It showed, and people noticed.

She should not have indulged her private musings at all, should have put the incident completely from her mind when it was over … for it
was
over. The danger aside, Nightshade was not her lover. What had happened between them had been a pleasant interlude--more than pleasant, truth be told, but no more than that. She could not take him as her lover. She could not even wish for it. It should have been enough that she had found pleasure in giving him ease when she had not expected to.

She did not regret it. She had given her word and she had honored it. Moreover, the fact that it had been such a wondrous experience had completely changed her outlook over the marriage the king had decreed. She had been so revolted over the marriage bed she had thought it must always be that way and she had dreaded having to take another man to husband. Now that she knew it could different, she at least had some hope that she would be able to endure another husband.

Unfortunately, that thought summoned Nightshade to her mind and, try as she might, she could not make herself believe that the man the king chose for her would even begin to compare favorably. He might well be worse than William had been.

Dismay filled her at that thought--not just the possibility that the man might be a vicious brute, but the realization that she had not even met the man and already found herself deeply reluctant--held little belief that he could possibly compare favorably with Nightshade.

Perhaps Nightshade had not truly given her something wonderful at all. Mayhap he had only succeeded in ruining any hope she might have had of finding acceptance, if not contentment in her marriage.

Chapter Seven

The snow falling past her chamber window perfectly suited Bronwyn’s mood. The king’s man, Sir Horace Fitzhugh, had blown into Raventhorne with the first blizzard of the year and the snow had not ceased to fall since his arrival a fortnight earlier. It had only alternated between a light to heavy fall until drifts were piled several feet high along the castle walls and still growing.

Her misery was complete, she thought dolefully.

Restlessness had chaffed at her the moment the snow began to fall and the knowledge sank in to her that she was thoroughly and completely trapped within the castle walls. Truthfully, she rarely went out in any case. And she had already discovered when she had tried excursions outside to take the air that she could not outstrip the gloom that overshadowed her days, but the snow had so curtailed her activities that she had little to occupy her hands and mind.

Grimacing, she acknowledged that that was not completely true. Her mind was fully occupied, but with thoughts of Nightshade, which she would have liked to avoid.

Guilt plagued her, not the remorse she supposed she should have felt, but rather the distress that she was to blame for Nightshade’s hopelessness. She did not know what she might have done differently--save to go to her death willingly--but his despair tore at her.

I have tossed my only hope of redemption from these castle walls to save a pitiful scrap of humanity that means nothing to me.

What hope had William represented, she wondered?

The only answer that presented itself to her was the fact that his death brought an end to his bloodline. William, himself, could not have had a hand in ‘damning’ Nightshade, for he was no sorcerer. But William’s great uncle, Gaelzeroth had reputedly been one of the most powerful in the land.
He
would certainly have had the power to bespell Nightshade.

How, though, did the two connect?

Unless Nightshade had believed that another powerful sorcerer would arise someday from Gaelzeroth’s line, one who
could
break the spell?

She thought that must be it, but even if it was, the knowledge was of no use. William was dead--dead because he had tried to kill her and Nightshade had felt compelled to save her and protect her.

BOOK: Phoenix Rising I
6.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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