Authors: TERESA MEDEIROS
She clutched at his hair as pleasure pulsed through her in molten waves. Just as those waves engulfed her in a shuddering spasm of ecstasy, he used his longest finger and the thick, creamy nectar of her surrender to stroke his way deep into the very heart of her, prolonging her rapture for an exquisite eternity.
When her eyes finally fluttered open, Julian was looming over her, peering into her face.
“You frightened me for a moment. I thought you might have fainted again.”
She gave him a dazed and drowsy smile, her body still quaking with little aftershocks of delight. “I wouldn’t miss a moment of this night. No matter what wicked manner of carnal mischief you work on my body, I refuse to swoon.”
He arched one devilish eyebrow. “Is that a challenge?”
“I suppose I can’t stop you if you choose to take it as such,” she replied primly.
“Good,” he said, sitting back on his haunches and reaching for the front placket of his trousers. As it was, they were barely able to contain him.
Portia closed her hand over his, her courage faltering. “Is it too late for me to behave like a blushing virgin and beg you to blow out the candles?”
His eyes heavy with both longing and regret, he brought her hand to his lips, pressing the tenderest of kisses to the back of it. “For you, my lady, I’d blow out the moon itself.”
Portia almost regretted her request as he slipped out of the bed and padded to the candelabrum, stealing one last look at her over his
shoulder. As he extinguished the candles one by one, she drank in the fluid grace of his movements, the sculpted muscles of his chest and the rippling planes of his abdomen, her mouth going dry with longing. Then the last candle flickered out and the night enfolded them in its sheltering embrace. She was surprised to find that the darkness only emboldened her. When Julian returned to the bed and her arms, she was the one who reached for the front of his trousers.
He shuddered as she set him free from the straining fabric, her fingers shyly tracing the length and breadth of him. In the darkness, he seemed to go on forever.
She managed a shaky little laugh. “No wonder it hurt the first time. If it hadn’t happened once before, I’d almost swear it was impossible.”
He rested his brow against hers. “It hurt because I behaved like a barbarian who had just laid eyes on his first woman. Had I been in my right mind, there were things I could have done to make it more…tolerable for you.”
Her hand enfolded him, gently squeezing a guttural groan from the depths of his throat. “Show me.”
She didn’t have to ask twice. Before Portia could catch her breath, he had shed his trousers and they were naked in each other’s arms.
“Mmmmm?” he murmured, using his nimble tongue to tease one of her nipples to a rigid peak.
“Before we proceed, I have a shocking confession to make.”
“I thought I was the only one allowed to make shocking confessions.”
She sat up and hugged one knee to her chest, her cheeks burning in the darkness. He followed, gently brushing the veil of hair from her face. “What is it, Bright Eyes? You’re as pink as a rose.”
She sighed, cursing herself for forgetting that vampires had exceptional night vision. “It’s about the crypt.”
He grew very still. So still it was possible to tell he wasn’t breathing for the first time that night. After a long moment, he said, “If you can’t go through with this because of what I did to you before, I understand. I won’t force you. I’m not that much of a monster.”
“I’m not going to lie. You hurt me. But there
was more. That…
you did to me earlier with your mouth and your hands? That thing that made me feel as if I was going to die of pleasure?” She hesitated. “I felt it then, too. When you bit me…when you…” She turned to look at him, knowing it was impossible to hide from him, even in the dark. “I was frightened out of my wits, afraid you might very well kill me. But for just a few seconds there, I wasn’t sure I cared.”
He was silent for even longer this time. “I have an even more shocking confession to make.”
Portia closed her eyes, her throat thickening with dread.
“I love you, Portia Cabot.” Cupping her face in his hands, he laid his lips against hers, kissing her with a wrenching tenderness that took her breath away. “And whether I’m a vampire or a mortal, I will love you for all eternity.”
She opened her arms and he went into them, covering her as he had on that cold stone floor a lifetime ago. As they sank into the feather tick, it was as if they’d never truly left that crypt, as if there had never been any other woman in his arms or in his bed during all of those long, lonely nights.
Feeling the heavy weight of him against her thigh, Portia shuddered with dark anticipation, expecting him to roughly drive himself home in her as he’d done before. But instead he reached between them with his hand, petting and stroking her as if he had all night to prepare her for what was to come. Those delicious little frissons of delight began to shiver through her again and soon she was panting with need and whispering his name over and over in a breathless plea for deliverance. As his thumb gently flicked over the live ember nestled at the crux of her nether curls, she was afraid she was the one who was going to burst into flames. Especially when his other fingers began to have their way with her at the same time, dipping into her one, then two at a time.
She bloomed beneath the rhythmic stroke of his hand, her body weeping tears of desire for what only he could give her. She wanted to draw him so deep inside of her she’d never have to let him go.
“Please, Julian,” she moaned, his fingers no longer enough to satisfy her. “Oh, please…”
He shifted his weight, kneeing her thighs apart so that she was utterly vulnerable to him.
Only then did he bring himself to bear against her. She gasped as he rubbed his smooth, hard length between her sleek petals, laving himself in the molten nectar he’d teased from the very heart of her. This was an even more exquisite torture, one that made her writhe and whimper beneath him.
“Are you ready for me, angel?” he whispered hoarsely, dipping into her with the thick head of his shaft.
In reply, she wrapped both her arms and her legs around him and arched off the bed, impaling herself on his rigid length.
Julian shuddered, his body battered by a wave of pure sensation. Portia might not be a virgin, but she was every bit as tight as one. And as unfair as it was, knowing that he was the only man she had ever given herself to sent a savage thrill of satisfaction through him.
He had thought he’d been lost before, but now he was lost in the slick velvet heat of her, in the intoxicating scent of her arousal, in the wild, sweet abandon of her surrender. He would have gladly risked eternal damnation for a taste of this heaven. He withdrew, then rocked back up into her, hard and deep.
As Julian began to glide in and out of her in a hypnotic rhythm older than time, Portia clutched at his back, exultation roaring through her veins. This was how it was always meant to be between them. No more genteel conventions of society to restrain them. Just this primal passion, as powerful and undying as he was.
Her eyes drifted open and she gazed up over his shoulder at the mural on the ceiling. Now that she was being ravished by her own beloved beast, she understood the dazed expression in Leda’s eyes, the mindless rapture on her face. With each powerful thrust of his hips, Julian drove her to the very brink of some sweet madness she was powerless to resist. She didn’t know if she would ever again feel complete without him moving deep inside of her.
Which was why it was such a shock when he went utterly still, buried so deep between her legs that her heart began to throb in time to the pulse that beat there.
“What is it?” she whispered.
He gazed down at her. Even in the dark, she could see the gleam of his fangs, the faint reddish glow of his eyes. “I’m afraid of what I’ll do to you if…
I lose control.”
Taking a deep breath, she said, “Don’t be. I want you to give me what you gave those other women when you were fighting to survive. And I want you to take from me what you took from them.”
A shudder rocked his body. “I won’t do that to you again! You can’t ask that of me.”
“Oh, no?” Lifting her head, she caught his bottom lip between her teeth and gave it a sharp little nip.
He recoiled. “You bit me!”
She blinked up at him innocently. “Didn’t you tell me that nipping was a perfectly acceptable expression of affection?”
“Which you just happen to be.” She tangled her hands in his hair, her grip as fierce as her voice. “If I’d have wanted a perfect gentleman, I can promise you that there would have been no shortage of them willing to bed me. But I wanted you. And I’m not going to ask you to be anything less than what you are. Not even for me.
not for me.”
With that, she turned her face away from him, baring the pale curve of her throat to his hungry gaze.
Growling, he came for her. But instead of burying his fangs in her throat, he wrapped his arms around her and bore her back against the headboard of the bed, pounding into her with a driving rhythm that sent shock waves of pleasure all the way to her womb. All she could do was hold on as he rode her hard and fast and deep until her body was slick with sweat and she was nearly insensible with delight.
But not so insensible that she didn’t feel the feverish heat of his open mouth graze her throat or the scrape of his fangs as he claimed the kiss he had denied himself earlier. His mouth settled over her throbbing pulse, his tongue flicking out to taste the salty sweetness of her skin.
Portia shivered, although she could not have said whether it was out of fear or anticipation. She only knew that her hunger was as deep and primal as his own. That she craved his surrender just as much as he craved hers.
She didn’t have long to wait. Without missing a stroke, he reached between them to gently flick that smoldering ember between her thighs with his thumb and the entire world burst into flames.
At the exact moment those flames engulfed
her, his fangs pierced her tender flesh. The pain was fleeting but the pleasure rolled on and on, crashing over her in blinding waves. She felt him surge deep within her and knew that he was in just as much danger of drowning as she was.
“Well, that was certainly
murmured a short while later, snuggling deeper into Julian’s arms and resting her cheek against his chest. Moonlight spilled over the bed, bathing their entwined limbs in a silver haze.
“You might find it even more tolerable if you’d stop bullying me into biting you.” She could hear the scowl in his voice as he gently stroked his fingertips over the fresh puncture marks on her throat. “The next time I’m going to put
“I shudder to think what wicked things you’d
do to me if you had me at your mercy,” she said, knowing full well that he already did.
“Oh, you’d shudder all right,” he vowed, his husky chuckle sending a delicious ripple of gooseflesh dancing over her bare skin. “All night long.”
“I don’t know why you’re so concerned. I don’t even feel weak, just a little drunk.”
“That’s because I took just enough blood to keep me going until we can get back to London and I can find a butcher shop.” He paused. “Or a nice plump puppy.”
She sat up on one elbow, gaping at him in open-mouthed horror.
“I was only jesting! I haven’t eaten a single puppy.” He waited until she was nestled back in his arms before adding, “Kittens are so much more tender and delicious.”
She gave a coil of his chest hair a punishing tweak. “You know, you really shouldn’t blame yourself for succumbing to temptation. Haven’t you heard the old legends? Mortals have always had supernatural powers of persuasion over vampires.” She rolled over onto his chest, batting her eyelashes at him. “Only weak-willed vampires, of course.”
He smoothed a tousled curl from her cheek, his gaze still heavy-lidded with desire. “When it comes to you, I’m as weak-willed as a newborn babe.”
“Indeed? Well, perhaps we should put that claim to the test.”
Ignoring his protest, she wiggled out of his embrace and scooted to the opposite side of the bed.
Keenly aware of his appreciative gaze drinking in the moonlit curves of her naked body, she lay back among the pillows and stretched like a cat before crooking one finger at him. “Come to me, Julian.”
“Did you want me to come
you?” He prowled over to her like a marauding jungle cat, bringing his mouth close to her ear before whispering, “Or
She covered her shudder of desire with a haughty wave of one hand. “Put your hands on me.”
She expected him to cup the softness of her breasts in his palms. Instead he began to trail his fingertips over every inch of her alabaster skin, deliberately avoiding the heavy globes of her breasts and the damp nest of curls between her
legs. He stroked and caressed her until her every nerve ending was tingling and aching for more. She turned her face away from him and bit her lip, struggling to pretend indifference.
“Kiss me,” she commanded when she could no longer endure another second of such sweet torture.
His hands gently parted her thighs and she gasped as he pressed that sweetest and most unholy of kisses to her throbbing flesh. She arched off the bed, her fingernails digging into the tick as he brought her to a climax so swift and fierce it left her trembling like a leaf in the wind.
Only then did he cover her mouth with his own, feeding her an intoxicating taste of her own pleasure.
She shoved at his shoulders, rolling him to his back, then straddled him, shaking her tousled mane of hair out of her eyes. “You’re a very wicked and rebellious vampire, Julian Kane. I can see it’s going to take more than just my powers of persuasion to enslave you.”
He folded his hands behind his head, his grin as wicked as a pirate’s. “Ready to break out the manacles, are we?”
She lifted her chin, a temptress’s smile curving her lips. “I don’t believe I’ll require them.”
As she ducked her head to touch the very tip of her tongue to one of his rigid nipples, he eyed her warily. “Have we been reading lurid Gothic novels again?”
She stole an impish glance at his face. “I’m afraid I’ve moved on to some naughty etchings I found stashed between the pages of one of the books in Adrian’s library. I’m sure he’d be mortified if he knew I’d stumbled upon them. But you always did accuse me of being shamelessly inquisitive, didn’t you?”
She lowered her head, the moist heat of her lips grazing the twitching muscles of his abdomen. He swallowed, his voice suddenly unsteady. “I’m beginning to believe it’s one of your more endearing traits.”
As she enfolded him in the softness of her lips, he arched off the bed with a guttural groan, his powerful body a slave to her will. Portia only took him deeper, determined to prove once and for all that her appetites could be just as insatiable as his.
Portia lay as limp as a rag doll in Julian’s arms, her every muscle sated with pleasure. She was nearly asleep when she felt something hard and persistent nudging the softness of her rump.
She moaned softly without opening her eyes, her body instinctively wiggling even closer to his. “I thought you were only going to
me three times a night. Wouldn’t this make…oh, I don’t know…seven? Nineteen?”
His smoky whisper tickled her ear. “Six and a half. But who’s counting? Perhaps I should have warned you that there is one advantage to being turned into a vampire as a young man.”
“Mmmmmm? And just what would that be?”
He cupped the softness of her breasts in his hands, gently rubbing his thumbs over her nipples as he slid into her from behind. “Stamina.”
For the first time in a very long while, Julian allowed himself to dream.
He stood in a church, no longer banished from the presence of God. Sunlight streamed through the stained-glass windows, warming his face and glinting
off the glossy silk of Portia’s curls. She smiled up at him, her bright blue eyes sparkling with love and tenderness. She wore a snow white choker around her throat and a halo of white rosebuds in her hair, making her look like the angel she was
His loving gaze drifted downward, lingering on the gentle swell of her belly. Joy flooded his heart as he realized she was carrying a child—a child he had given her
He lifted his head to find Adrian there, too, beaming at him proudly. Caroline stood beside her husband with little Eloisa nestled in the crook of her arm
As Julian winked at the toddler, she clapped her plump hands and crowed, “Unca Jules! Unca Jules!”
Portia’s merry ripple of laughter rang like bells through his soul. He tugged her into his arms, drinking in the radiance of his bride’s beauty before claiming her with a tender kiss
When Portia’s eyes first fluttered open, she thought she must surely be dreaming. Surely this was no different from a thousand other dawns when she had imagined waking in Julian’s bed.
He sprawled next to her on the feather tick, his eyes closed and one long leg thrown posses
sively over hers. With the pearly light of dawn glazing his body, he was truly a work of pure masculine beauty—long and lean and perfectly muscled, rough where she was smooth, hard where she was soft. She rolled to her side and studied him with drowsy delight, content to make this dream last for as long as she could.
The usual boyish forelock tumbled over his brow. Although her fingers ached to brush it back, she stayed her hand, not wanting to risk disturbing him in this rare moment of peace. A faint smile curved his sculpted lips, drawing the lines carved on either side of them into striking relief. Her gaze strayed lower, drinking in the impressive breadth of his chest, his lean hips, the tendrils of smoke rising from his skin.
Portia shot straight up in the bed, suddenly wide awake. Her panicked gaze flew to the window to discover the first rays of sunlight already creeping across the foot of the bed.
Acting purely on instinct, she gave Julian a violent shove, rolling him clean off the bed.
He landed in the floor with a painful thud. “
What in the hell…?!
It took her several seconds of frantic fumbling to locate the blanket. Despite the stars of
frost sprinkled across the windowpanes, they hadn’t had much use for it last night. She finally found it balled up against the footboard of the bed along with the tattered scraps of her chemise. She shot the window another desperate glance. The sun was drifting higher on the horizon, its golden fingers coaxing a rosy blush from the sky. Ignoring Julian’s muttered oaths, she tossed the blanket over him.
He sat up, but before he could cast away the blanket and expose himself to those ruthless rays, she threw herself on top of him, driving him back to the floor.
He went utterly still beneath her. It wasn’t until she saw one lean foot protruding from the end of the blanket less than an inch from her nose that she realized she was straddling his head.
“You do know this would be a great deal more fun for the both of us without the blanket,” he finally said, his voice muffled but dry.
She crawled off of him, switched ends, and poked her head beneath the blanket. He was eyeing her balefully, like a large, ill-tempered cat who resented being stirred from its nap.
“We slept through the dawn! The sun is coming up. You were starting to smoke!”
This time his oath was both more profane and more succinct. Without any warning, he rolled away from her, disappearing beneath the bed and dragging the blanket with him.
She hesitated for a moment, not sure how to proceed, then slowly dipped her head to peer under the bed. Julian was still glaring at her, his tousled hair furred with dust. Fortunately the bed was high enough for there to be a dark and cozy little cave beneath it.
“It will be hours before the sun goes down and we’re able to travel,” she said, feeling quite miserable on his behalf. “What should I do?”
He caught one of her wrists in his hand and tugged, his scowl melting into a winsome smile. “Keep me company.”
Portia perched on the edge of the bed, drawing on one of her silk stockings by the light of the rising moon. “You might have told me earlier that those were
naughty etchings I found, not Adrian’s.”
Julian lifted her hair and bent to brush a kiss
over her nape, sending a shiver of fresh desire down her spine. “Why tell you when it was so much more fun to show you? I purchased them from an upperclassman when I first arrived at Oxford. I was studying them one day, trying to figure out which end was up, when I heard Adrian coming up the stairs. I stashed them between the pages of the first book I could put my hands on and forgot all about them. Until you so generously reminded me of their existence.”
“You may have forgotten where you stashed them, but you obviously didn’t forget what you saw. Or which end was up.” She rose and stepped into her delicate kid slippers before turning into his embrace. “Why, I didn’t even know that…” Blushing furiously, she stood on tiptoe and whispered something in his ear before finishing with “…was humanly possible!”
Lifting a hand to caress one of her rosy cheeks, he grinned down at her. “I’m not a human, remember?”
With Julian to share it, the day hadn’t been nearly as long as Portia feared. As soon as the fiery orb of the sun had slipped beneath the
horizon, he had gone out and foraged some wood so she could build a fire in the bedchamber’s stone hearth. He’d also found a few forgotten potatoes in the house’s vegetable cellar. While he had drawn fresh water from the well outside, she had roasted the potatoes in their steaming jackets to appease her growling stomach. Oddly enough, sitting cross-legged and barefoot in front of the fire wearing nothing but Julian’s shirt while he fed her tender bits of potato had made her feel as pampered as a queen. She had also used the fire to warm water for an impromptu bath for the both of them.
Of course once they were both all wet and slick and naked…
Portia sighed wistfully and stroked the wayward strand of hair she loved so well from his brow, reluctant to admit that their moonlit idyll was coming to an end. She’d already donned her gown, smoothing out the wrinkles as best she could. The holy water had dried without leaving so much as a spot.
Julian draped his cravat around her neck. He used it to pull her into him for a lingering kiss before gently knotting it into an impromptu
scarf that would cover the fresh marks on her throat. “Adrian and Caroline are probably frantic with worry by now. If I don’t get you home soon, my own brother may very well challenge me to pistols at dawn. And we both know how disastrous that would be.”
“Once he realizes we’re safe, he’ll probably just demand to know if your intentions toward me are honorable.” Although Portia kept her tone light so as not to betray the cost of the question, she could not hide the shadow of doubt in her eyes. “Are they?”
His somber expression reminded her all over again of what had passed between them in the crypt. And in the night. He caressed her shoulders, gazing deep into her eyes. “When we return to London, I have every intention of swallowing my stubborn pride and begging my brother to help me capture Valentine and retrieve the only gift worthy of a woman like you.”
“Your soul?” she whispered, hardly daring to speak the words aloud.
He shook his head, a rueful smile curving his lips. “Not
soul, angel. Because as soon as I wrest it away from Valentine, I plan to surrender
it into your keeping, along with my heart and the rest of what remains of my mortal life.”
Blinded by a sweet rush of tears, Portia threw her arms around his neck. “For a man without a soul, you’re quite the romantic, Julian Kane.”
He buried his face in her hair and gently rubbed her back. “Then I guess you won’t object when I insist that we name our first daughter after you.”
“You want to name our first daughter Portia?”
He drew back, blinking down at her in mock confusion. “Portia? Why, I would have sworn your name was Prunella!”
Portia was still chiding him for teasing her as they crunched their way across the frozen fields toward the lights of the nearest manor house. Although Julian had wrapped her in his coat and draped his arm over her shoulders, Portia was beginning to sorely miss her mink-lined mantle and muff.