What made it so hard to control was that simple release brought no relief from the sexual madness. A male’s need could easily outstrip a woman’s endurance, but a male in rut focused all his energy on one woman and couldn’t tolerate being handled by anyone except her, could barely tolerate other women’s presence since they both excited and enraged him.
Jared started to shake. The rut shouldn’t have happened. He was certain other males didn’t experience this after the Fire Dance. There would have been whispers, warnings. And not every male who danced the Fire Dance had a lover waiting for him when it was done. Hell’s fire, he’d never sensed anything like this in his father. There had always been a light in Belarr’s eyes after the dance, and he’d been impatient for his sons to settle down and get to sleep once they got home, but there hadnever been any hint ofthis .
Could it be ...
Jared swallowed hard, dug his fingers into the earth.
Could this have happened because all the years when he should have done the Fire Dance and hadn’t been able to had funneled into this time, his first time? That all the sexuality he should have celebrated and had to suppress during the nine years of slavery was the reason the hunger was so potent now?
His rational mind would be overwhelmed soon. If he didn’t act in the next few minutes . . .
There was no one in their group who could contain him unless Lia used the Invisible Ring against him. Even if she did, would she use it forcefully enough to contain a male in rut?
Involuntarily his hunger sharpened, found a focus.
Getting to his feet, he released the power in the circle he’d created, retrieved his clothes, and dressed.
The fabric pressing against his throbbing c**k maddened him, and he bared his teeth in a savage smile. His green eyes narrowed as he picked up the small silver chalice and took a sip of his own blood, pleased by the zing of power and strength it gave him.
“Mother Night,” he whispered, raising the chalice to the sky for a moment. Lowering it, he slowly poured the blood onto the ground before the altar. “Sweet Darkness, accept this offering from one of your sons.”
He drank half the water in the crystal goblet, then poured the rest into the chalice to clean it. He gave the blood-tinted water to the land, dried the goblet and chalice with his shirt, and vanished them. After placing a shield around the fire pit so that the bonfire could safely burn itself out, he left the small clearing.
As soon as he entered the main clearing, he saw her standing in the doorway, wrapped in a blanket. She was staring at the path that led to the lane and didn’t notice his slow, predatory approach until he was close enough to see the sadness in her eyes change to surprise.
“What are you doing out here, Lia?”
“I—I woke up and saw you were gone. I thought—”
She didn’t have time to tell him what she’d thought before he pulled her into his arms and kissed her with rough desperation. He ran his hands over her body, frustrated by the blanket and the layers of clothes that separated skin from skin. He wanted to tear away those barriers so that he could kiss her, lick her, caress her until she was as frantic as he. When she tried to pull back, he tightened his hold and pressed her hips against his so that, even with all the layers between them, there was no way she could miss that he was fully aroused.
He kissed her again, tasted fear—and realized her heart wasn’t pounding with excitement and her body wasn’t trembling because of building passion.
Let her go, a voice inside him warned.Let her go. No woman, especially a virgin Queen, should experience this kind of fear .
The warning disturbed him, but he couldn’t let her go. He had no control over the hands exploring her body. He couldn’t give up the maddening pleasure of rubbing against her.
He felt rage building in response to her fear. For one moment, his mind cleared and horror washed through him as he realized how easily he could destroy her right now.
“Lia,” he said urgently. “Lia, I’m in rut. Your fear is making it worse.” Pressing his lips against her temple, he licked the frantic pulse. “Please don’t be afraid of me, Lia. I won’t hurt you. I swear by the Jewels I won’t hurt you.”
“Jared.” She sounded breathless. “Jared, I can’t—”
“I know. I know. Could you . . .” He took a deep breath to steady himself. “Could you hold me? Please?”
The shaking hands that had been pushing at his chest stilled.
Jared waited, hardly daring to breathe.
He stifled a groan as Lia’s hands slowly, hesitantly, slid down his chest and settled at his waist. He forced his hips to stay still. After a minute, she gained enough courage to slide her arms around him and stroke his back.
It wasn’t enough, but as she relaxed against him, it soothed the hunger sufficiently that he didn’t feel so wildly out of control.
After a while, she leaned back and looked at him.
His hands slid up her back and over her shoulders, finally cupping her face. He traced her lips with the tip of his tongue. Since she didn’t protest that action, he kissed her again, this time letting his mouth softly melt into hers.
When he raised his head, he saw confusion in her eyes— and maybe a little hunger.
Looking flustered, Lia turned her head slightly, then frowned at his wrist. “You’re bleeding.”
A different kind of tremor went through him. He wanted her to turn her head a little more, close her mouth over the wound, and lap the drops of blood welling up from his wrist. He wanted to make a small nick in the hollow of her throat and drink from it.
Jared dropped his hands, shaken.
A Queen didn’t accept blood from any but her First Circle.
A male didn’t accept a Queen’s blood unless he was offering to surrender his life to her will. A court contract was a formal, written agreement weighted by honor and Protocol. A blood bond was a lifetime commitment.
“Come inside,” Lia said. “Your wrist needs care and you need something to eat.”
“Lia . . .”
She led him inside, walking slowly but more easily. When they reached the kitchen area, she created a small ball of witchlight, enough to see by but not enough to disturb the others.
He stood passively while she used healing Craft on his wrist. He watched her dab an herb paste over the wound. All he could think of as she wrapped some gauze around his wrist to protect it was how good her hands felt and how much he wanted her to stroke him.