Home > Shadow's Claim (The Dacians #1)(4)

Shadow's Claim (The Dacians #1)(4)
Author: Kresley Cole

Only the sound of soft, even breaths coming from an adjoining bedroom could pry Trehan from his discovery. Inside, he stalked closer to a sizable canopy bed, easing back the curtain . . . to find a small female sleeping.

Shining braids of dark brown hair fanned out around the top of her head, while the rest of her mane lay loose about her slim shoulders. She looked as if she'd fallen back on the bed and hadn't moved since.

He canted his head, taking in her delicate appearance. This was no demoness-she had neither claws nor horns.

She was trim, with a tiny waist. Young-looking.

Most Loreans were frozen into their immortality when they were physically strongest, never aging past that point. She couldn't have been more than twenty when she'd transitioned. He'd turned at age thirty-one. As with all male vampires, his heart had gradually stopped beating and his lungs had ceased taking air. His sexual drive-and sexual ability-had vanished.

That had been nearly a millennium ago. . . .

Over that endless span, Trehan had made a study of the various species of the Lore, and he recognized this one's clothing. She was dressed as a sorceress of old in a scanty outfit designed to reveal as much skin as possible, several pieces of gold jewelry, and a red mask.

One of the Sorceri. Here in Abaddon?

Chapter 4

She was a long, long way from home. Perhaps she was a companion of the demon princess soon to be given away.

He wondered what her power was. He'd heard of Sorceri who could move mountains and boil oceans.

Her mask was slim enough that he could see most of her pixieish features: high, defined cheekbones, an elegant jawline, and a gracefully pointed chin.

Yet her carnally red lips seemed out of place on her finely-boned face, more suited to a siren.

He couldn't tell if she'd be an incomparable beauty, not until she opened her eyes and removed her mask. No matter. For a male who enjoyed little, he was liking this inspection very well.

His gaze dipped to the delectable swell of her br**sts in that revealing top, and lingered. He noticed his hands were opening and closing of their own accord, as if he was imagining fondling those little mounds.

Touching her? A frown creased his brow. He shouldn't be reacting like this. He was unblooded, the walking dead-until he encountered his fated Bride.

At that time, his body would wake for her.

For centuries, Trehan had awaited a daughter of Dacia for himself. As his father had told him: "If it's meant to be, Mother Dacia will give you a Bride. Within our stone borders, you will find her. Until then, want for nothing and embrace the shadows."

Trehan had done that. I extinguished any foolish hopes. He'd all but put a Bride out of his mind.

So why was his gaze rapt on this otherlander's br**sts . . . ?

I must leave this place, complete my kill. Trehan had never missed a target. Besides, if she woke and saw him, he couldn't return home-unless he dispatched her. He had permission to leave and return, but only if he was unseen by any he left living.

There was one exception to the rule, but it was so ridiculous that it didn't warrant consideration.

Even as he mused these things, he inched closer to the bed. Before, he'd thought the beacon in the window had drawn him; now he wondered if this female had somehow been the draw.

Remember the mission! He finally pried his gaze away, only to realize he'd been so spellbound by her that he'd allowed his mist to fade. The carelessness! With a flare of unease, he turned back-

Her eyes flashed open, met his.

I am . . . seen. But zeii mea, my gods, what eyes she possessed! The irises were the lightest brown, ringed with stark black. He could stare into them for lifetimes.

Where had a thought like that come from?

She blinked thick black lashes up at him. "Oh! You scared me," she murmured in English.

Seen. Why hadn't he disappeared before she'd awakened? Why hadn't he remained invisible to her? Now he would be forced to kill her, or else never return home.

"You've come at last." Her lips curled into a grin that would've stolen his breath. If he still breathed. She raised her arms over her head, stretching sensually.

At last? Who did she think he was? She gazed up at him as if they knew each other. She gazed at him . . . with desire.

All at once, he understood why he hadn't disappeared, why he'd let his mist fade.

Because deep down, he'd wanted this creature to see him.

As she rose to a sitting position, her exotic braids and lustrous, wavy hair cascaded over her shoulders. Her locks were chestnut brown, threaded with strands of black, the colors complementing her distinctive eyes.

She reached for him, boldly laying her hands on his torso. When he perceived the warmth from her palms, he shuddered like a young vampire, unschooled with women-

Boom! . . . Boom! . . . Boom!

The floor seemed to quake beneath his feet, the walls to shake with deafening tremors.

Yet Trehan knew what was actually happening. The sound was his heart awakening for her, a drum beginning to thunder in his chest.

Beating again and again, faster, harder.

This ethereal creature had roused his body! Soon his lungs would fill with breath, his shaft with blood.

An otherlander belongs to me? A sorceress? He'd heard of worse pairings. Considering where he'd found her, she could have been a demoness.

Then he remembered a critical fact. To return home, Trehan had to eliminate all who witnessed him-except for his Bride. The far-fetched loophole that was too ridiculous to consider had happened tonight!

Thoughts of witnesses and ancient laws faded, replaced by an instinctive protectiveness.

Could she feel the same pull toward him? She was born of a different species. From the tales he'd heard of otherlander Brides, he knew she wouldn't automatically want him with the same ferocity with which he desired her.

"So happy you've come to me," she whispered in a slurred tone, eyeing him with such a proprietary glance that he was taken aback. "To my bed." She was looking him dead in the face, but acting as if they'd met before.

Then comprehension struck. She was of the Sorceri; it was likely that she-or one of her kind-had foreseen her mate. Of course!

"Been waiting for you, darling."

At her words, excitement soared inside him. A shade with a stupefyingly boring existence? No longer.

He merely needed to complete this blooding, then take his new Bride back to his underworld realm. His target could wait until she was safely ensconced in Dacia.

Then this delicate sorceress would grace his home-and his bed-for all eternity.

He knew of other males who'd felt panic at this realization; Trehan experienced only satisfaction. Secret longings resurfaced, at last to be appeased.

I am ready for her.

At that moment, his lungs started to expand. He inhaled deeply, until they felt too big for his chest. Blood rushed to his shaft, hardening it. He groaned as it distended against the confining fabric of his pants.

His gaze raked from her pert br**sts to her waist, dropping to the titillating skirt that bared most of her gently flaring h*ps and her long, shapely legs.

Her Sorceri adornments-the collar around her neck and the gold climbing her pale arms-now struck him as unbearably erotic.

A sexy, delicate sorceress. Apparently I've been waiting for you as well.

Long-dormant drives came roaring back to life-to mate, to claim, to bite? After eons, he hungered.

No, not hunger! Dacians didn't pierce the flesh of others. He wanted only to possess and master her.

But first, he had questions. What is the name of my pretty Bride? Why are you so drunk? What is your connection to this demon realm?

He'd gone the better part of a millennium without bedding a female. Will you forgive how out of practice I am with all this?

She gazed up at him from under her lashes. "I won't disappoint you, I swear it."

Disappoint him? "I am-"

She raised her fingertips to cover his lips. "Shh. Don't say a word. Please. You're in my bedroom for a reason. Let me show you how right you were to come here." She began unlacing her bodice, shimmying from the material. With a shy grin, she tossed it aside to bare the most exquisite little br**sts he'd ever seen.

At the sight of her rosy ni**les tightening before his eyes, Trehan's powerful, rational mind went blank, his questions forgotten.

Bettina had awakened to a darkened room.

All her candles had burned out, but she'd sensed a male's presence, an awareness that made her skin tingle. She'd barely been able to discern the outline of his towering form.

Cas! He'd returned. How to get him to stay? she'd thought in a drunken panic. How to get him into my bed?

So she'd taken off her top. His response: a sharp intake of breath. Which told her he either liked the view-or was merely surprised by her daring.

Talk to him; don't let him get away! "I'm going to make you so glad you've come to me, darling," she said, but she could hear herself slurring. You've got one shot at this, one shot at a future worth having!

Strike fast and hard? She would seduce him yet. When she piled her hair atop her head and arched her back in invitation, he gave a not-so-subtle growl. A growl of appreciation? Or frustration that he couldn't have what he wanted?

She fretted her bottom lip, letting down her hair. But as soon as the locks concealed her br**sts, she felt two wisps of air as he swiftly swept her hair back over her shoulders.

When she could feel him staring once more, Bettina couldn't suppress a buzzed sense of accomplishment.

This was actually happening. Caspion. Here in her bedroom. Admiring her br**sts. He was finally looking at her-because he wanted her!

Cas was going to be hers tonight, and then he'd understand what she'd always known. She was his as well. Their fates would intertwine. There'd be no tournament for the "unchaste" Bettina.

She was giddy-and drunk, but mainly giddy. She imagined walking hand in hand with Caspion the Tracker, announcing their betrothal to all.

Yet he still hadn't caressed her or kissed her. With another spike of alarm, she rose, swaying until his callused hands gripped her shoulders to steady her. Ah, contact!

A lifetime of swordplay had roughened his palms. Because my Cas is a warrior, none finer, none braver. . . .

She laid her hands on his chest, lids growing heavy at the feel of his mighty body. But this was just a tease; she needed to trace his skin, to explore him.

She reached for his coat, working it over his bulging shoulder muscles. He shrugged from it, and she heard it land over the foot of the bed.

For years, she'd been beset with curiosity about sex, about the masculine form. Yet she'd never touched a male before. Would nights of fantasizing at last come to fruition?

When she attempted the top button on his shirt, her normally agile fingers were clumsy. She made a sound of frustration. "I'm impatient to touch you-"

The material of his shirt disappeared with a single rip, joining his coat.

"Thank you. I-I just need to feel you for the first time." Bettina worked with metal every day, engraving, forging, casting. To check for the slightest imperfections, she would often close her eyes and trace her sensitive fingertips over her work, as if seeing with them.

Now she smoothed the pads of her fingers over Cas's na**d torso, holding her breath . . .

The reality was so much better than fantasy! "My gods, I love your body."

Her words made him groan. Light grazes over the hard planes of his pec muscles made them tense for her, made his heart thud louder. And oh, how his flat ni**les hardened. When she dragged her forefingers across them, he hissed between his teeth.

She dipped her hands, savoring each rise and fall of his rigid stomach muscles as they contracted. His body was honed like unyielding iron, his skin flawless.

Initially he'd felt cool, but now he ran hot as a forge.

Any shyness she might have felt disappeared. Every caress deepened her desire, until even her br**sts felt heavy. His scent washed over her-normally pleasing, it had now grown intoxicating.

Inside, she felt like molten gold . . . smoldering, awaiting a chance to be made whole.

Her ni**les stiffened so much they ached, and he must have noticed; his hands tightened on her shoulders, as if he didn't trust himself to touch any other part of her body.

He was such a ruthless demon warrior, and yet he was being patient with her, letting her explore him.

Was he too patient? He should've thrown her to the bed by now! Why wasn't he kissing her?

Maybe he was reconsidering this.

Take him over the finish line, Bettina!

Dazed bewilderment.

Trehan could only stare, riveted by his Bride's pert br**sts and taut ni**les, savoring her every stroke upon his skin. How long he'd gone without a single touch!

This creature belongs to me, he told himself again. To me alone-

The sorceress grasped his hands, pulling them down to her soft br**sts.

The contact roused him from his enthrallment. With a strangled groan, he covered her flesh with his palms, molding it.

Why did other vampires always warn of obstacles inherent in mating with an otherlander? Trehan's mate was demanding that he stroke her br**sts, the ones she'd been eager for him to see.

When he gave them a reverent squeeze, she moaned low. Her reaction made him shudder, a sensual haze clouding his mind once more.

And then she swept her hands down his torso, lower . . . lower toward that aching, engorged part of him. As she grazed her nails along his waist just above his sword belt, his throbbing shaft strained for her touch.

Finally, he found his voice. "You are so lovely."

She briefly stilled at his words, tilting her head. His lust-addled brain determined two things: she truly didn't want him to talk; nothing could interrupt this blooding.

So he resolved to say no more, determined to do whatever it took to come inside her. At the thought of pinning down her writhing body to spend deep within it, need surged within him, as if a dam had been breached.

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