Magic?You’ve got to be kidding me. Magic? Real Magic?
“Fine.” Faerydae’s angry glare shifted to her. “Then we be allowing the woman to choose.”
Zorid drew a sharp breath and lowered his sword. “Unfair again. She will choose ya.”
“How do ya know?” Faerydae’s eyes now twinkled with the light of a thousand stars. “If my word as a Star Rider is no good, then she is as much a stranger to me as she is to ya. Ya’er chances are as good as mine, or his.” Faerydae pointed the tip of his sword at Creeon, who remain quiet. “But if what I say of my claim is true, then yes, she will pick me and prove my word is honorable.”
Zorid put his blade away. “Faery words are filled with trickery. She wore no claim and she never said ya’er name as her claimant, nor does she speak it now.”
“Excuses me…it’s not like I’ve been given the chance to—”
“Of course she didn’t bloody be telling ya I was her claimant!” Faerydae sheathed his sword with a hard click, silencing her. “As ya been seeing, the shrew is not easily tamed. Rest easy. My Old World Mole blood was never developed in ways of the Fae. I use no trickery. The woman’s choice will be what it will be.”
“What kind of balls do ya have Faerydae?” Zorid smirked. “Asking me to agree in allowing a woman to choose?”
“Do ya have a better idea?”
Zorid’s glance slid to Creeon, who shrugged. “Fine.” He eyed Faerydae with a hard stare. “Get on with it then. How will we make her pick?”
“Do I have any say in this?” Tessla interjected with her arms crossed over her chest in a belligerent twist.
“No!” both men shouted in unison.
“A Pree.” Zorid smiled at her.
Tessla glanced at Faerydae for the translation.
He frowned at Zorid. “A kiss?”
“That’s fair.” The giant’s gruff voice ground out on his hard exhale.
“No, it isn’t!” Tessla frowned at them both. “I won’t do it.”
“See?” Faerydae winked at the man. “I told ya she’s a bloody hard one.”
Ignoring her, the brute continued. “Whichever one of us she allows to kiss her is her claimer. We cannot force her. She has to kiss the man she wants.”
“Fair enough.” Faerydae turned to the silent man, Creeon, giving him a hard stare. “And ya? Do ya lay claim on the woman as well?”
He shook his head in a negative sway. “I’m good.” He backed up, showing he wanted no part of this deal with a faery.
“Then we each get one chance.”
“What if she refuses us both?” Zorid’s voice boomed.
Faerydae scowled at Tessla. “She can’t. We both know a woman can’t walk around here unclaimed by a man. She will pick.” He leaned toward her. “Ya will bloody well pick. Mind well, the man ya pick takes ya home to his quarters—for good.”
The smack of a heavy plop from Zorid’s hand landing on Faerydae’s shoulder echoed to her ears, making her jump. He pulled him back with a firm yank. “I go first.”
Tessla backed up until her back was against the wall. Her arms came up to her breasts like a shield. Zorid stopped just inches from her and stood there. A spice odor wrinkled her nose with displeasure. Zorid frowned down at her with those demanding black eyes. “Well?”
Her heart pounded, as she looked the warrior up and down. The man was a giant. His height was intimidating. In comparison Faerydae’s towering frame was puny next to this freak. If she didn’t kiss him how would Faerydae protect her?
“Kiss him if ya want him as ya’er claimant.” Faerydae’s coaching sent a shot of annoyance through her already raw emotions, and then Zorid irritated her more by leaning in as if sniffing her. Repulsed by the nasty action, Tessla flinched, bumping her head against the wall. The man was pressuring her to make a decision and forcing that choice to be him. Damn Zorid and all the men like him! For all the manhandling this beast did to her, she decided to give her answer by showing him what she felt. Without any thought of the repercussions, she balled her fist and struck Zorid in the stomach as hard as she could. The man didn’t bend over or even have the decency to exhale hard. Instead, he glanced down at her as if she were an annoying gnat, but there was something more in his gaze. Something deeper in those black eyes threatened she hadn’t seen the last of him.
Faerydae stepped to her side and grabbed her hand, pulling her toward him. “So, we have her answer. She is mine.”
Zorid clamped his long fingers around her upper arm like a vice. “Not so fast, Faerydae of the Erlina clan. She has yet to kiss ya.”
Faerydae clasps his free hand over the jailing grip Zorid had on her. “It is a foregone conclusion. She is mine. She’s picked me.”
Zorid squeezed her arm tighter and shoved his other hand into Faerydae’s chest. Much to her surprise, the brute’s vicious push barely moved Faerydae. He must have had on weighted shoes because by right the hit should have sent Faerydae flying across the hall. Zorid growled, “I want to see her kiss ya. And if she doesn’t, she’s mine.”
“Of course she’ll kiss me. I bloody own her.” Faerydae knocked Zorid’s hand off his chest. “She didn’t kiss ya, because she’s mine.”
“Don’t underestimate me.” He chested up to Faerydae in such threatening manner it made her heart pound. He growled down into his face, “I’m seeing ya’er faery attempt to pull the wool over my eyes. It won’t work. She has yet to accept ya as her man. If, and I say if, ya get a kiss from that shrew, then she’s ya’ers. But—if ya don’t, I’ll take her as mine without ya’er interference.”
“Fine.” Faerydae brushed Zorid aside and stepped up in front of Tessla. The minute she looked up at him he mouthed, be quick.
Not liking the silent order, Tessla stood there staring up at his straight-ahead let’s get this over with gaze. A second or two passed. Her lack of immediate reaction forced his now surprised gaze to drop down to hers. She flashed a smile. His right brow rose in warning. She widened her smile. His eyes narrowed with suspicion. His lips moved without a sound, forming the words kiss me. In response, she cocked her head as if thinking about it then smiled again. He drew a breath as his lips thinned in what appeared to be anger.
Zorid’s step forward forced Tessla to take action before she wanted to. She’d hoped to torture Faerydae for a little while longer for being such a cad to her last night. Stepping closer to her reluctant hero, she traced her fingers in a slow path up his arms to his shoulders. His chin lifted, as if to resist her seduction. She glided her hands down his leather-covered chest. His breaths were coming in shallow pumps. He was nervous. Good.
She circled around him and grabbed his ass. At his sharp draw of breath, she squeezed his cheek before moving back in front of him. She leaned into him, snuggling her breasts to his chest. His right eye narrowed with a scolding squint. She wiggled her hips against him. His mouth parted, sucking in air. His focus returned to glaring straight ahead, as if determined to ignore her.
Tessla circled her arm around his neck. Faerydae had another think coming if he thought she’d obey his command and give him a quick peck. She wanted to teach him a lesson. Women were not toys or property. They were people just like men. She moved her lips just inches from his. He turned a cheek to her. She grabbed his face and turned it back, then hesitated, unsure if it was fear or desire that made her heart pound with such an erratic beat. It was so fast and furious she thought she might faint.
He tried to pull away, but she tightened her hold on his face. He raised his hands up in protest before dropping them down to rest on her hips in a silent surrender. The warmth of him melted through her clothes deep to her insides. He had a magical touch.
“Don’t do it,” Faerydae whispered under his breath as if he knew her intentions were to kiss him on the lips instead of the cheek he’d offered.
Something was stopping her from kissing him, and it wasn’t his words. It was a gut feeling, warning her she was playing with fire and about to be burned. However, like a wayward child, she was headstrong to prove her point, despite what her gut or Faerydae said. Besides, how could a simple kiss or two backfire on her? Sure, Faerydae was an attractive man, but she’d picked Shomar as the man of her heart and was nurturing her feeling for him. There was no emotional risk involved here with Faerydae.
The intimate nickname on his lips astounded her. Since the moment they’d met, Faerydae was always surprising her, throwing her off guard, and even though she suspected he’d called her Tessie just now as an attempt to cut her off at the pass, the endearment still responded deep inside of her. The sound of her name, spoken in that tone, made her feel giddy and caused her body to weaken. She was all fluttery inside. It also made her more determined to make her point. She pressed up on her toes to kiss him…on the lips.
“Don’t.” Faerydae’s voice held an anxious edge.
Despite his warning, at a snail’s pace she tilted her head to the side, and pulled on his face until he groaned in defeat and lowered his mouth to hers. The second their lips touched, her body ignited like an erupting volcano. Exploding with desires she hadn’t expected. How was that possible? She had feelings for Shomar. Against her better judgment, she opened her mouth. His tongue accepted her silent invitation. The devil’s fire stirred at the very core of her, making her heart ache with a burning need.
Damn. She shouldn’t be kissing him. She should have listened to Faerydae. It was only because of this stupid situation that she was kissing him in the first place. Despite her knowing better, her body worked as if it had a mind of its own. She was like a moth to a flame, her mind searched for the completion of this treacherous adventure with Faerydae, but her desires had other ideas.
She weaved her hands into his finger-combed locks. The silkiness of his hair created a surge of heat between her legs. She whispered in her ear. “I confess. The flash you got of my panties on the ship—I did it on purpose.”
Faerydae’s hands came up as if to remove her arms from around his neck. Instead, he caressed her forearms with a loving touch, before trailing his fingertips in a titillating path down the sides of her breasts and then farther down her body. “Damn ya,” he breath over her lips before merging his mouth to hers.
Everything inside her told her she should make this kiss quick. Very quick, but her lips seemed glued to his as his hot tongue thrust into her mouth, fencing with hers in a dangerous game of hungry seduction.
Something in her chose to ignore all the warnings her mind was shouting at her from some soundproof corner of her brain. She worked her mouth over Faerydae’s soft lips with a need so unprecedented in her before, it left her craving his touch, his smell, and a longing for his cock.
Her mind surrendered to his gentle caresses. His touch spoke of a hidden passion he held for her, and drew on the negated desire she had for him. She should withdraw, but couldn’t. The only thing consuming her was her emotions and Faerydae’s touch. She glided her hands in a wanton trail down to his lower back and hugged his hips closer to hers. Faerydae’s body stiffened. Need made her slide her fingers back up his lean torso, all the way to his chin-length hair before stroking just the very tips of her fingernails over the flesh of his neck.
A low rumble from Faerydae’s chest hinted of his struggle to fight his own denied passions. He groaned, ripping his mouth from hers as his hands gripped her shoulders and set her away from him, but no farther than the boundary of his arms. He scorched her with his gaze, allowing it to sear deep into her with an unspoken question she couldn’t quite read. He swept his tongue across his bottom lip as if savoring her taste and Tessla’s knees almost gave way.
Beneath his breath Faerydae said, “I can’t control this. This is no ordinary need.”
“No…it isn’t.” She mirrored his tongue stroke over her own bottom lip, tasting his sweetness. Her heart fluttered as if a thousand humming bird flitted in her bosom, making her breathless with their quivering flaps.
Resting his forehead against hers, Faerydae breathed out a heavy breath, “Do ya feel what I feel?”
“I do.” She pressed her hips into him.
A deep growl of surrender came from Faerydae in response to her confession. “Ya shouldn’t have admitted that, Princess.” He backed her against the wall and kissed her one more time with a burning passion. “I want ya,” he murmured against her lips. The way he ran his hands over her covered breasts caused her body to heat and her mind to sizzle with raw lust.
“Make love to me.” She swallowed hard against the words she just uttered. What was she thinking? She wasn’t. She locked her leg around his waist and pulled him in for another long, passionate kiss. Shomar’s sweet handsomeness flashed in her mind and guilt stabbed at her heart. She shoved Faerydae back, breaking their connection. “We can’t do this.”
Her breaths came in ragged gulps. It was too late now for either of them to declare these kinds of intimate feelings. She’d already let Shomar know she was interested in him, and she was. Damn it, she was!
Before she could say another word, Faerydae recovered from her shove and returned to claim her mouth once again. The passion she felt in his lips and embrace were devouring her every emotion. She pressed away from him, confused. Drawing a deep breath, her brain fog lifted, giving her enough oxygen to form a logical thought, or so she thought.
There was only one logical reason she could think of for her behavior with Faerydae.