Zane flipped Nola to her back so that she was peering up at him. A gasp escaped her, but she didn't try to scramble away, even though he loomed above her, dressed in his blood-splattered battle clothes while she was naked.

Her breasts were small but firm, perfectly tipped with hard pink nipples. Her stomach was flat, her skin sun-kissed and smooth. He could see every ridge of her ribs and knew she hadn't eaten since his departure six days ago. Damn her sisters! Had she not already been through enough torment, without her tribe adding to it?

He was going to burn away the images of what they'd done to her. Burn away the memories of the men who had used her. He would replace both with thoughts of himself. He didn't care what he had to do to accomplish it.

"Have you ever experienced pleasure in the act?" he asked.

Up and down her chest rose with the force of her breathing. "No. You?"

"Long, long ago." He only prayed he remembered how to please his woman. With the demon queen, he hadn't cared to try. He'd simply endured. Never had a female's enjoyment been more important to him. "If I scare you, do something you don't like, tell me."

She nodded, nervously licked her lips. "You tell me, as well."

It was his turn to nod. Rather than suck on her nipples as he desired, he lifted himself  off her, reached behind him and tugged off his shirt. He tossed it aside. His boots and pants quickly followed, leaving him as bare as she was.

Nola's gaze traveled the length of him, and fire leapt inside her turquoise eyes. "Zane..."


"No. You won't hurt me. I just wanted you to know I like what I see."

Her trust emboldened him, as did her praise. Gently he eased atop her. Skin against skin, hardness against softness. They moaned in unison. Contact with anyone else, even his king, was hell. Contact with Nola was heaven. Her legs opened, allowing him a deep cradle.

"I want to kiss you now," he said.

Only when she whispered her consent did he lean down and press his lips against hers. Softly at first, barely even a touch. But the sweet scent of her was in his nose, her nipples hard against his chest, her thighs pliant against his, and soon he had to have more. He licked at her, and her lips eagerly parted. His tongue glided past their teeth to intertwine with hers.

He'd had her blood, but he'd never had her mouth. To his delight, this was even better. Sweeter, headier, not for living or healing or even to relieve hunger, but simply for pleasure. It was addictive, and he wondered how he'd gone without this for so long.

Tentatively, she tangled her hands in his hair. And at first, her tongue was hesitant against his. Seeking, as if she wasn't sure what to do with it. But the more he explored her mouth, the bolder she became. Soon their teeth were banging together, their bodies writhing against each other. Sweat was beading over his skin, his blood heating as though lava flowed in his veins.

"Going to...suck your...breasts now," he managed to say between pants. "Like that?"

"Yes. Yes." She, too, was panting. She, too, was sweating. Her eyes were closed and her head was thrashing from side to side.

I did that. Pride filled him as he lowered his head, fitting his lips around one tight little pearl. He laved it with attention before turning to the other one - careful, so careful to deliver pleasure without any sting.

When he kissed his way down her stomach, she quivered and gasped his name.

"Stop?" he asked. Would be difficult, but he would find a way.


Thank the gods. Never had he been more determined in his life. He would know this woman, every inch of her. Nothing would be prohibited. Body, mind...soul. Mouth watering, he licked between her legs. Wet, wild, wanton.

A memory of doing this very thing to the demon queen slipped into his mind. He'd once hated this act - until he'd tried it on Nola on that island. Oh, how he had enjoyed doing so, which had shocked him. Since then, he'd craved it - another shock. He wanted this to last forever. Nola was precious, a treasure, her cries a drug for his ears. Do not think about the demon. She has no place in this wondrous moment.

"Like?" Please, please, please.

"Mmm, yes. Before, they just ripped at my clothes and shoved their way - "

"No, no. None of that." As she'd spoken, she'd stopped writhing. Had released her death grip on his hair. "That does not belong between us. It's just you and me in this bed. You and me."

Her eyes were luminous as she nodded. "Bite me, then. Take my blood and remind me that my vampire is claiming me."

"No. No, I can't."

'Because you do not take from living beings?" she asked hesitantly.

"You, I would gladly take from. Anytime you would have me." It was the truth. "But as I told you, I know your kind abhors that, and I will never ask you to do anything you do not want to do. I will find my nourishment elsewhere."

"No!" she shouted, and it was a soldier's cry. She might appear delicate, but she truly had the soul of a warrior. "You will only ever take from me."

A possessive warrior, he realized, wanting to grin. He crawled up her body, fit his cock against her moist entrance. "I will only ever crave you, sweet. That much is true."

"I need you inside me. I need to feel you, as deep as you can go. Your shaft - and your teeth. Take all of me. Please."

Oh, that please...He'd seen the way her expression softened when he'd uttered that word. Now she thought to use it against him, bless her. Inch by inch, he sank inside her, careful, meticulous. Never had he exercised such exquisite care. Finally, though, he was in her to the hilt. They were joined; they were one. She surrounded him, hot and tight and wet, and it was better than he'd anticipated.

Tenderly he cupped her face. Her beautiful face. His thumbs brushed over her lips. He would care for her all the days of his life. He would ensure no one ever hurt her again. "Ready?"

"For you? Always."

He withdrew from her, almost all the way out, before sinking back in and groaning at the bliss. Her back arched, and her perfect white teeth nibbled on her bottom lip. Her head fell to the side, revealing the delicious plane of her neck. Still he did not bite her. He wouldn't. Wouldn't do that to her.

In and out he moved, in and out he savored her. He stared into her eyes the entire time, and she stared into his. It was as if they were each other's anchor. As if seeing each other kept them here, locked in the moment, just the two of them, safe and cherished. There was nothing else, no one else, the fruition of every secret yearning he'd ever possessed.

"Bite," she commanded.

"No. You are healing."

"No, I am healed. Bite me. I want it. I need it. Don't deny me this. Please, don't deny me this."

"Nola - "

"Please, Zane. Please. With you, nothing seems wrong. Don't make me beg."

He could not stand the thought of this strong woman begging for anything. He bit, fangs driving into her neck. The sweetness of her taste exploded on his tongue, through his body, making his muscles quiver and his bones vibrate.

"Zane," she cried as her inner walls spasmed around his shaft. "Zane, Zane." Her hands clutched at his back, her nails digging into his muscles. "Yes, yes, yes."

"Nola!" That was all his body needed to propel into its own release. He roared, shooting inside her, filling her up with everything that he was. In that moment, his entire existence made sense. He'd been born to be this woman's mate. He'd given himself to a demon to better understand this precious woman's pain. He'd been chosen for the gods' cruel game to ensure this woman's survival.

He loved her. Would always love her.

And now, he thought, an idea springing to life, he would save her.