She looked up, and the unhappiness in her eyes was a twisting knife in his gut.
"I wasn't sure you would come back," she said, turning back to fuss with the bread and cheese.
"I wasn't sure you wanted me to come back," he replied honestly.
She started to speak, then shook her head and picked up the plates. "Have something to eat." The plates clattered on the counter. She hunched her shoulders, as if to ward off a blow. "You didn't have to run away. I wasn't expecting anything from you because of this. You didn't have to run."
Yes, he did. But he hadn't run far. Just down to the orchard, where he would be out of sight of the eyrie while he puked his guts out in sick relief that he hadn't seen any visible wounds on her, hadn't seen any missing limbs. He'd been terrified to look when he woke up that morning, hadn't known how keen an edge panic could have until she'd walked into the kitchen on her own.
"It's difficult to explain," he said, flinching at the tears in her eyes when she turned to face him.
"How can a woman understand if no one will explain?"
"I don't remember!"
Nowshe flinched. Then she whispered, "So I was just a body."
Lucivar shook his head. "Oh, I remember you, Marian. The taste of
you, the smell of you, the sounds you made, the feel of you under my hands. The feel of my c**k inside you. I rememberyou. But I don't…" He closed his eyes. "I remember bits and pieces, moments that are jumbled together and shrouded in a violent, red haze that needed some kind of release. But… "
Hadn't he run from this all day? This one picture in his mind. He'd worked himself to exhaustion because every time he thought of her, desire burned through him, and he couldn't ask her to be with him tonight. He couldn't. Because of that one fragment of memory. But he had to ask. Had to know. She couldn't stay here with him if he didn't know how close he'd come to destroying her.
He opened his eyes and looked at her. "I do remember one thing. Me standing by the bed, holding my war blade. And you cowering in one corner of the bed."
Marian shook her head.Then she paled as his words sank in. "No, Lu-civar. No. You weren't trying to hurt me. You thought something had gotten into the room, into the bed. You were trying to protect me."
"Nothing could have gotten into that room, not with all the shields I had around it."
"Nothing did," she agreed. "But you didn't know that. You were startled and…"
"By what?" he snapped, feeling raw…and not sure he really believed her.
She mumbled something and wouldn't meet his eyes anymore.
"I didn't know my feet werethat cold, but then you screamed and leaped out of bed and—"
He looked at her feet.
"I'm wearing socks."
She sounded grumpy. Grumpy was good. Grumpy waswonderful.
"You didn't hurt me, Lucivar. Not in any way."
Relief surged through him, but his heart still ached because he'd sensed a lie beneath her words. He tried to smile, "But you don't want me for a lover." He saw hope in her eyes—and maybe something more? "Do you want me, Marian?"
"I—" She swallowed hard. "Yes, I want you."
He held out a hand. "Then take me."
She turned shy and uncertain. Couldn't quite look at him. Another kind of woman wouldn't have hesitated to take what he offered. Marian might, given time and encouragement, initiate sex by giving a quiet invitation, but she would never demand.
He approached her slowly, his fingers linking with hers when he got close enough to touch her. "Take me, Marian." He stepped back, bringing her with him, until he could sit in one of the chairs. A quick tug and a deft move had her straddling him. He brushed her hair away from her face, enjoying the feel of that black silk flowing around his fingers. His lips touched hers, a soft kiss. "Take me."
He remembered her, but now he could savor the sensations of being with her. The way her mouth opened for him. The timid way her tongue stroked his, encouraging him to take what he wanted. Soft. Sweet. The kind of sex he'd never had before.
Her fingers flexed on his shoulders, her only signal that she wanted more.
His mouth drifting along her jaw and down her neck, he undid her tunic lacings and slipped it down her shoulders as he vanished her undershirt. He doubted she was aware of arching her back in an unspoken invitation to suckle, but he took the invitation while his hands slipped under the tunic to caress her back.
He played with her until she squirmed in his lap, looking for what was still caged behind leather. She gasped, startled, when he vanished all of his clothes and all of hers below the waist. His hands kneaded her bu**ocks, rubbing her against him.
"Take me." He lifted her, sheathed himself inside her. "Take me." She was too focused on the feel of his c**k to understand he was offering more than sex, but he knew he was offering his heart as well as his body. She was ready to ride. He wanted to be ridden. But she didn't have the leverage, so he slid his hands down her legs and cupped her knees, giving her stirrups.
He couldn't touch her, had effectively tethered himself so that he could only submit. Watching a woman ride him to her pleasure had never thrilled him before, but watching Marian lose herself in a sexual haze made him wild to touch her, taste her. But he stayed tethered, helping her ride him, gritting his teeth against the need to explode until she cried out and crested—and took him with her.
She melted against him, limp and trembling, her head pillowed on his shoulder. Feeling his own muscles quiver, he released her knees and wrapped his arms around her, content to hold her. But as the sweat began to dry on his skin, he shivered.
"Come on, sweetheart," he said, giving her a little squeeze. "We can't sleep here."
"Can," she mumbled, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder.
He considered picking her up and taking her to bed, then dismissed the thought. With the way his legs were quivering right now, he'd just dump them both on the floor.
"We can't sleep here. It's too cold." He pushed and prodded until she finally raised her head to look at him. Her eyes were dull with fatigue, and he realized she must have tried to work herself into the ground to run from her own thoughts. "We'll have something to eat and then cuddle up in bed."
Before she could fold around him again, he got her off him enough to dump her in another chair and call in a blanket to wrap around her. After calling in the robe she'd made him for Winsol and putting a light warming spell on it and the blanket, he brought the bread and cheese to the table, then ladled out two bowls of soup. She just watched him, which told him well enough how tired she was.