“The man they think lives inside it.”
“Point taken.” She sighed, and the sound made him hopeful she was shaking off the anger. “Aaron runs into the same problem on occasion when he’s an overnight guest, especially when Kalush isn’t with him. I don’t know what to tell him either, except to make his refusal so embarrassingly public the woman won’t dare go near him again.”
“It wasn’t that,” Daemon said, looking away. “Not all of it anyway.” His fury returned, but he worked to keep it leashed. “Vulchera is a woman, not a girl, and can’t use the excuse of being young for being stupid. She’s a trusted friend of Rhea’s, so she was among the aristos Rhea had invited to provide conversation and company after she and I reviewed the business I was there to review.”
“Was there any business?” Jaenelle asked.
“Some. Anyway,Vulchera’s flirting was too pointed and obvious from the moment we were introduced—and not the friendly kind of flirting your coven indulges in that’s meant to be nothing more than fun. Your friends taught me that there are ways a woman can flirt with a man that lets him know he’s safe.” He slipped his hands in his pockets. “This woman wasn’t interested in doing anything that was safe, and she certainly wasn’t interested in my reputation or my feelings. She used the same scented soap that you had purchased the last time we visited Lady Rhea’s court.”
“It’s not an exclusive soap or an exclusive scent. It’s not even exclusive to the shops in that Province.”
“Vulchera wasn’t wearing that scent the first day,” Daemon said softly. “Since we were at Rhea’s country home, there was only one shop that carried items suited for an aristo purse. She paid one of the clerks to find out what scent you used.” And he intended to have a little chat with that fool very, very soon.
“And then she put on one of your shirts,” Jaenelle said, nodding as if she understood.
But she didn’t. “Do you know how I feel when I see you wearing one of my shirts?” he asked. “Do you understand how aroused it makes me, how much possessive pleasure it gives me? Because of who you are, when you wear one of my shirts, you’re telling the whole household that you’re mine. And more than that, that I’m yours.”
“I feel surrounded by you,” she said quietly. “Comfortable. Safe. Loved.”
“And aroused?” he asked just as quietly.
“Only if I picture you wearing it,” she muttered.
Her answer made him smile—and smoothed some of the jagged edges inside him.
“Well, this bitch did understand. Before we got through dinner that first evening, she realized I wouldn’t invite her to my bed or accept an invitation to hers. So she used a scent I associated with you, put on a piece of clothing that would carry my own scent. She wanted me to pretend she was you. She wanted me to believe she could be a substitute for you.”
Jaenelle studied him. “So you were insulted on my behalf?”
Rage flashed through him before he got it back under control. “Of course.”
For the first time since she walked into the room, she looked wary. With good reason. He might overlook an insult aimed at himself, but he would never tolerate an insult aimed at her.
“Is she still alive?” Jaenelle asked.
“She’s alive.” The Sadist smiled a cold, cruel smile. “But I did inform her that the next time she tried to seduce a married man, she would lose all feeling between her legs, guaranteeing a total lack of pleasure and no possibility of climax until the spell ran its course.”
Jaenelle swallowed hard. “How long?”
“Six months for every married man she had tried to seduce, and a year for every one she had successfully seduced.”
“Can . . . can you do that?”
“The spell is already in place.”
She looked stunned. “Mother Night.”
He stepped closer. Slipped a finger under a strap of that whatever she was wearing.
“I don’t want to talk about Vulchera anymore,” he crooned. “I don’t want to think about her. Not her.”
He knew his eyes were glazed, knew which side of himself wanted to play.
And so did Jaenelle.
“Stay with me tonight,” the Sadist purred. “Here. In this room. Let me play with you.”
“What . . . wh-what does that mean?”
The stutter pleased him. So did the nerves.
“Leave this on. I find it intriguing. With it, I want you to wear one of my shirts and those sheer white stockings. Nothing else.”
She made a small sound. Might have been a whimper.
“I’m going to plump up the pillows and make myself comfortable. You’re going to straddle me. Sheathe me. And then, my darling, I am going to make you stay perfectly still. I’m not going to let you touch me in any way except to give me sweet kisses while I enjoy touching you. I’m going to play with you, lover. I promise I’ll be very, very gentle, and by the time I’m through, I’ll make you very, very happy.”
Her eyes were glassy, and she looked dazed by the force of sexual heat now surrounding her.
“Why don’t you go into the bathroom and get ready?” he said, taking a step back.
He hardly dared to breathe until she closed the bathroom door.
He wanted her desperately at that moment, but he knew what he was asking, knew what he was going to do. He had to give her enough time to think clearly and decide if she was willing to play.
He took off his shoes and socks, removed his belt. He pulled back the covers, plumped the pillows into a mound, and reclined against them, waiting.
The Sadist as lover.
Oh, yes. He wanted to play.
When she came out of the bathroom dressed exactly as he’d requested, he knew in a way he hadn’t before that there was no part of him she feared—and that was the most arousing thing about her.
He was pleasure and trust—even as the Sadist.
When she climbed onto the bed and straddled him, he caught the scents of nerves and excitement. By the time he allowed her to sheathe him, she whimpered out of need.
And hours later, while he watched her sleep, he knew he had made her very, very happy.
Theran walked out on the terrace and crouched beside Gray and the honey pear pots.
“Anything poking out of the dirt yet?” he asked, even though he could see perfectly well there were no seedlings.