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Authors: Rayne Forrest

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kissed him again, pressing her lips firmly to his this time. He kissed her in
return, moving his lips softly across hers. The echoes of their shared passion
resonated between them. Saba pulled away and rested her forehead on his.

“But I’m
very glad he did not.”

Chapter 13


gathered what few things she needed for bathing. Her trip outside the village
wall had given her the opportunity to find a few of those plants that made life
more pleasant. She’d be able to wash her hair again and have it sweet smelling
and shiny. Ryder’s, too.

really wanted to bury her fingers in his amazingly silky mane again. She was
sure there must be something wrong with her for wanting to play with his hair.
She’d never heard of the other women talk about doing it with their mates.
Perhaps it was such a sinful pleasure everyone was too embarrassed to talk
about it.

slipped into her drying lean-to and plucked six leaves from a
stalk. She’d drink the tea tonight when they returned, just to be on the safe
side. She was less sure about using the steeped leaves internally. If the
leaves were placed inside her, they’d not be able to make love again. And she
definitely wanted him again, a little tender or not.

it didn’t matter if she used the leaves as long as she had the tea. Many women
only used the tea and still obtained the desired protection. And she’d just had
her flow. It would be several weeks before she’d be fertile. Perhaps she’d wait
and use the leaves then for extra protection. They’d be more comfortable with
each other by then. If he stayed.

watched her from his perch on the edge of the bed. He’d pulled on the trousers
Tyree had given him, but not the shirt. She was a little self-conscious as she
moved about. Did he suspect how different her body felt to her? Could he know
she had this wonderful new awareness of being female?

Could he
know that the very air brushing her damp thighs was driving her insane?

certainly looked smug enough to know all those things and she just knew he was
the kind of male who
know. She suspected he’d had a great many dealings
with females, most of which she didn’t want to learn about. She slipped into a
long, flowing robe, gathered up her small bundle and turned to him. They’d not
need footwear just to cross the yard, and besides, he didn’t have any yet.

“Are you
ready to go?”

you are.” He rose and stretched cautiously.

watched with interest but he didn’t flinch or grimace. Another few days and he
would be free of the toxin. Her mind shied away from what would happen then.
Tyree would not take Ryder’s refusal to kill the

They stepped
into the stillness of late evening. Light shone from the windows of most of the
huts. Many were about their evening meal and the yard was vacant. They walked
to Hezetta’s hut in silence. Ryder kept a little distance between them for
which she was strangely grateful.

glanced over at Tyree’s hut. His door was closed, an indication he was
elsewhere. She looked about surreptitiously, but did not see him. That was just
as well for he would not be pleased to discover she’d taken Ryder into her bed.
There was no way to hide the fact—the village was too small and the Ramalho too
closely knit to hide much of anything.

was gracious as she ushered them inside her hut that had been constructed over
the entrance to a small cave. Saba wasn’t surprised. It was the woman’s first
chance to get a look at the stranger who had come from the skies. Ryder was
polite but distant with Hezetta, which made a small warm ball of satisfaction
take shape somewhere in the vicinity of Saba’s heart. Hezetta was very pretty
and most men fell all over themselves flirting with her.

passed under a leather curtain and into a short tunnel that opened at the
bathing chamber. Someone had already been here. Several logs in the fire pit
were still burning, the smoke rising into a funnel shaped scoop and out a
natural chimney.

Saba put
two more pieces of wood on the fire and made a mental note to make sure a few
of the boys were put to work replenishing the woodpile.

placed their towels on the small bench that sat beside the drying rock, which
was a large slab of stone beside the pool always warmed by fire. She loved to
sit on the heated slab by the fire and dry her hair. It was a few minutes of
stolen time before the demands of being the headwoman and the healer intruded

She’d had
a firm grip on her nerves as they’d walked. She’d even managed to chat normally
with Hezetta. But now
was standing there, blue eyes gleaming with mischief,
a bulge in the front of his pants. She took a ragged breath and tried to ignore
him, but her pulse fluttered and the urge to press her thighs together was
almost overwhelming.

wasn’t ignoring her, though. He crossed to where she stood in two steps and
yanked her robe over her head. Saba folded her arms across her chest, her hands
cupping her breasts in a vain attempt to shield them from his view. He merely
grinned at her.

A big,
open, smug, smirking male grin. How strangely appealing.

of this procrastinating, angel. We’re getting wet.” His trousers dropped to the
floor and he stepped out of them. His swollen manhood dropped free, heavy and
full. The fluttering in her belly became a drumbeat. Moisture dewed her thighs
as she thought of him inside her, pleasuring her endlessly. How often could he
take her?

laughed wickedly, seeing her interest, and then he tugged at her hips. She
swatted at his hands and tried to act like it didn’t affect her when really she
wanted to reach out and grab him. She finally got a firm grip on his hands.

“Just get
in the water and wet your hair. I’ll hand you the lotion for it.”

flashed her one of those speculative looks he was so good at, but he hopped
down into the water.

nice. Just the right temperature.” He splashed a few handfuls of water up onto
his chest, then scratched the center where dark stubble showed. “Did you have
to shave my chest, too?”

licked her lips as his hand disappeared under the water. She was sure he’d
stroked himself although his expression didn’t change. She batted her eyelids
coyly at him.

“We truly
did not know how long you would be bedridden. I should think you’d forgive us
since you’ve recovered.”

laughed at her teasing tone and held his arms out to her. “Come get wet.”

She met
his gaze. His blue eyes turned a smoky gray. She placed the
on the edge of the pool and then jumped in. He grabbed her, wrapping his arms
around her and holding her to him. It was heavenly to be skin-to-skin with him
in the warm water. He cupped her bottom and lifted her. She wrapped her legs
around his waist.

“Kiss me,
angel.” His request was low, his voice husky with more than desire. The
richness of it surprised her, called her to do his bidding without thought, or
question. She slanted her mouth across his.

His lips
opened under hers, inviting her, daring her, to bravely give herself over to
her innermost desires. Gooseflesh shivered all over her. She just wasn’t brave
enough to give in to passion with Hezetta just a few feet away. His fingers
teased at her from behind.

should bathe,” she whispered breathlessly. Those clever fingers were getting
bolder. He nibbled at her neck before raising his head to look at her.

“Is that
all you really want, angel?” His eyes had that gleam to them again, the one
that seemed to slip through her resolve.

“I…” She
had to clear her throat. The corner of his mouth quirked up in a little smile.
“I want many things, Ryder Vaughan. Right now I want to be clean.”

released her and she dipped into the water. She took a breath and held it,
going all the way under to wet her hair. She broke the surface and wiped her
eyes. He followed her example, going under and coming up an arm’s length away.
She grinned at him.

“You look
like a drowned

snorted rudely. “I don’t think that’s praise of my manly form, angel.”

cannot possibly know what a

His look
turned cautious. “That’s just it, Saba. I do know what you’re talking about.
It’s a smallish, brown creature with a long naked tail, tiny ears, and big
bright eyes. Don’t you wonder how it’s our languages are so close that we understand
each other without difficulty?”

Maybe she
could make love after all. Hezetta hearing them would be preferable to having
this conversation with him.

wondered. In truth it bothered her greatly. She was sure all the implications
of it were beyond her reasoning, but a few of them were not. First and
foremost, had he been to her world before? Adena was vast. There were other
peoples beyond the seas. Hallaf’s grandfather had come from one of those
distant places.

there was the theory the gods had traveled far and wide through the heavens, to
world after world, and left their offspring to populate those worlds. She had
thought that believable until the
had come. Was that creature a
child of the gods, too? Yet, here was Ryder, speaking the words of the Ramalho,
and so alike physically she had to believe the gods had seeded themselves far
and wide. It was the only thing she could believe.

statement that to kill the
could be murder was quite disturbing.
She didn’t want to think of the
in terms other than as a brutal,
senseless killer. Yes, making love was much more attractive than pursuing these
thoughts. She floated through the water, back to his side.

crushed one of the
leaves and rubbed until it worked into a rich
lather then she worked the lather into her hair. His hands reached to cover
hers and work the suds through to her scalp, his strong fingers giving her a
heavenly massage. She closed her eyes and relaxed into it. He chuckled softly.

give you a full-body massage later, angel, if you like.” She heard the coaxing
note in his voice. He liked the idea. So did she, so much so her skin tingled
all over.

“I’d like
that. I have a bit of
lotion. It will take away the dryness of my

motioned for her to rinse her hair. “Your skin is perfect, Saba.”

dropped to her knees and dipped her head backwards. The gentle current of the
pool carried the suds away. Ryder leaned over her, kissing her breasts. Her desire
for him spiked. She made fast work of rinsing her hair. When she straightened
up, he handed her another leaf then dipped under the water again. He came up on
his knees in front of her. She started to work the lather into his hair.

His hands
snaked up the back of her thighs to pull her closer. His mouth closed over a
pebbled nipple with a quick, teasing caress of his tongue. Desire streaked
through her on a straight line from his mouth to her most secret places. She
would have fallen had he not been holding her firmly.

you are so beautiful.” The strange, sad note in his voice was her undoing.

He had to
stay with her. Or if Tyree sent him away for not killing the
, she
would go with him. She could not be parted from him. She needed him like she
needed the air they all breathed.

It was
folly and she knew it. At least, her head knew it. Her heart was speaking a
totally different truth to her.

She was
falling in love with this tall, quiet stranger whose eyes hinted at depths
she’d not imagined in a man. Maybe she loved him already even though it would
likely bring her nothing but heartache.

didn’t care. Her heart told her she was strong enough to weather whatever
storms came her way because of it. Even if he didn’t want her for more than
these few days until he was completely healed. The demands of her body overrode
her mind and her heart.

Her body
was screaming in need. The need for him to kiss her all over. The need for him
to touch her all over. The need to feel him buried inside her again. Her hands
shook as she coaxed him to lean back and allow her to rinse the lather from his
hair. He closed his eyes as she ran her trembling fingers through his long
hair. Finished, she trailed her fingers along his collarbone. He cupped her,
slipping a long finger inside her. She clutched his shoulders as her body
pulsed into his hand.

He rose
out of the water in a shower of droplets, like some aquatic god in the stories
from before the time of Wae. His burning gaze locked with hers as he swept her
into his arms, lifting her from the pool and laying her down on the heated
stone slab by the fire. His body followed hers down, covering hers. His knees
opened hers as his mouth descended.

opened herself to her own need, and to his.

And to

BOOK: A Hero's Bargain
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