Once Burned Page 18

I made a noise of protest when he pulled away, but he gripped my hair to keep me from seeking out his mouth again.

’’Open your legs, Leila.’’

My heart hammered at the explicit command, yet I didn't hesitate. Vlad's gaze felt like a brand as he stared at me while I spread my thighs. He lowered himself between them, that thick, pulsing shaft so hot against my inner thigh. Then he reached down and I closed my eyes, wanting him so much but also bracing for the inevitable discomfort.

Instead of the thrust I'd expected, his finger delved inside me, stroking and seeking with erotic ruthlessness. Pleasure flashed through me, arching my back and forcing a cry past my lips. Vlad lowered his head and his mouth closed over my nipple, sucking so powerfully that another cry tore from me. Then his finger began to slide in and out, building a rhythm that interspersed my cries with increasingly rapid gasps. All the while, he sucked on my nipple until it throbbed with the same ceaseless insistency as my loins.

I moved without thought, lifting my h*ps in time to his hand and clutching his head to my breast. Wetness slicked the finger that he circled around my clitoris with firm, undulating strokes. Starbursts of sensation went off inside me, making my nails rake down his back. I didn't care about electrocuting him anymore, couldn't think past the tension growing with every intimate rub and greedy pull from his mouth. My blood thundered through my veins until it felt like my entire body pulsed with passion. Over my gasps and moans, I heard Vlad's roughly seductive voice, but he wasn't speaking in English so I had no idea what he said.

Then his hand was gone and something far thicker pressed at my center. I shuddered at the first feel of him-so hot, hard, and unbelievably tantalizing that the pleasure made me groan. Vlad's hand brushed my face, smoothing my hair away before sliding down to grasp my hip. Then he thrust forward, the blade of his flesh penetrating deep. Pain sizzled inside me, tearing a sound of another kind from my throat. Instinct made me thrash to get away from the searing ache, but he held me tight. Very slowly, he began to withdraw.

I let out a ragged breath, trying to force myself to relax. The pain wasn't excruciating, but it had cooled my passion. It'll only hurt tonight, I reminded myself.

When Vlad pulled all of the way out, guilt assailed me. Had my thoughts killed the mood for him?

’’You don't have to stop,’’ I whispered.

He kissed my neck, his mouth hot against my flesh. ’’Sweet Leila, I'm not about to stop.’’

Then he slid down my body before I registered what he was doing. His mouth descended between my legs, tongue a wet, sinuous brand that knocked the breath out of me. At the same time, he caressed my breasts, those strong fingers squeezing my ni**les with exactly the right amount of pressure.

Pain began to fade under the double assault of pleasure. My back arched and his name hoarsely left my lips as his tongue swirled before probing with deep, spine-searing flicks. He used the same addicting strokes when he kissed me, but these were firmer, faster, making cascades of ecstasy wash over me. His fangs grazed my clitoris, applying pressure in shockingly effective ways. Spirals of bliss twisted in my loins, chasing away the remains of pain and replacing it with aching need instead.

My h*ps rose, seeking more. His fingers tightened on my nipples, worrying them into hypersensitive tips while his tongue moved even faster within my depths. My fingers dug into his arms, currents flowing into him with the seething buildup of pleasure. I couldn't stop writhing underneath his mouth, all control gone, my gasps turned into something very close to sobs. Inner muscles clenched with every new stroke, sending shattering sensations through me. Yes, yes, just a little more!

Then his mouth was gone, and a choked noise of frustration left me. Vlad's smile was almost cruel as he rose up, his h*ps sliding between my legs.

’’No. I want to be inside you when you come.’’

Then he thrust forward, that hot, thick flesh causing a clench of passion along with a whisper of pain. He moved deeper, eliciting more rapture and wounding fullness. I whimpered, and his mouth slanted over mine, swallowing my cry as he sheathed himself to the hilt.

Pleasure gripped me as intensely as the sudden slice of pain. Having him fully inside me was too much and so incredible at the same time. I returned his kiss, panting into his mouth as he began to move with slow yet relentless strokes. His taste was sharper but still intoxicating, drawing me in as completely as those achingly sensual thrusts. Pleasure began to build, edged with slivers of pain that made every sensation more intense. Soon I moved under Vlad's body the way I had under his mouth, gripping his h*ps with a hunger I hadn't known I was capable of. My gasps became cries, but I couldn't stop those any more than I could stop writhing beneath the excruciating ecstasy of his increasingly harder strokes. Yes. Please, Vlad, yes!

His grasp tightened on my h*ps before he began to thrust so fast, for a second I was afraid I'd feel only pain. Then that fear extinguished under a flood of blistering rapture that culminated in a cl**ax unlike any I'd ever experienced. My loins convulsed over and over, sending shards of bliss throughout my body until every part of me tingled and vibrated.

Vlad's grip turned to steel, his back arching while a harsh groan left his lips. Then he thrust so forcefully that I cried out, but that cry turned into a moan at the new spasms. He ground against me while his orgasm pulsed inside me like hot honey, those final thrusts making my mind spin away into a million glittering pieces.

After a kiss that stole the rest of my breath from me, Vlad rolled to his side, his tight grip curling me against him. The change in our positions made me suddenly aware of the room's chilly temperature. My front almost burned from its contact with his flesh, but a shiver went up my spine at the brush of cold air on my bare back and legs.

Vlad brushed a kiss onto my shoulder before he pulled the bedspread over us. Then with a snap, the fireplace blazed to life, painting the room in brighter shades of orange and cream. Thanks, I thought, still too out of breath to say it aloud.

His grin was slow and wicked. ’’My pleasure, I assure you.’’

I hadn't been thanking him for that. I poked him with my right hand, but only the barest current flickered into him. His smile widened, and then Vlad caught my hand and kissed it.

’’Now we know what truly drains your power. This will make traveling with you much easier. No need to pack lightning rods.’’

’’You really are the most arrogant man I've ever met,’’ I breathed, but my sated tone didn't match the words.

He kissed my hand again, his mouth lingering this time. ’’Yes, I am.’’

The way he looked at me-possessive, passionate, and unrepentant-made gooseflesh ripple over me. This complex and infamously lethal man was now my lover;a relationship I'd chosen of my own free will. Part of me wondered what the hell I'd gotten myself into while the rest didn't care. I'd relived enough terrible events happening to cautious people to know that prudence wasn't a guarantee for happiness.

I traced my fingers across his jaw to his neck, brushing some of those dark strands aside. Then I ran it over his shoulders, silently marveling that my touch contained no more energy now than static electricity. It emboldened me to keep exploring with my right hand. I dragged it lower, circling my thumb around his nipple and watching it instantly harden.

Was that pain or pleasure? My gaze flew to his. Vlad's eyes were glowing, his lips parted, expression pure sensual expectation.

’’No need to wonder,’’ he said in a voice that flowed over me like darkest silk. ’’If I don't enjoy something, I'll tell you, as I expect you to do the same.’’

’’Okay,’’ I said softly. Strange that all of a sudden, I was very aware of my na**dness, as if Vlad hadn't touched and kissed every part of me.

’’Not yet,’’ he murmured, sliding closer, ’’but I will.’’

The bedspread slipped off his h*ps with the movement. My hand had been on its way down there, so that's where my gaze was, too, but when his groin came into view, I gasped. Another glance revealed scarlet smudges on my own thighs. Was this from my lost virginity, or did vampires ejaculate blood? That was one topic Marty hadn't touched upon.

’’Our fluids are tinged pink, but they're not pure blood.’’

Then this was mine. No wonder it hurt so much at first.

’’Sorry about, um, the sheets,’’ I said, that awkward feeling returning.

His hand curled behind my head before he brushed his lips over mine.

’’Don't. This blood you can only shed once, and you gifted it to me. That makes it worth more than these sheets, this bed, and most anything else in my house.’’

I swallowed at the intensity in his voice, suddenly glad my abilities had prevented me from throwing my virginity away on someone who might not have cared past the immediacy of getting laid. Vlad was still terrifying in many ways, but even if I could change the past to where I never touched that power line, I wouldn't want to share this experience with anyone except him.

The realization reminded me of Marty's warning that Vlad would break my heart if I got involved with him. To deflect that thought-and the growing emotion inside me-I smiled.

’’Besides all that, I bet your staff has lots of experience removing bloodstains.’’

His lips twitched. ’’Yes, they do.’’

Speaking of blood . . . Vlad agreed not to bite me when we first met, but that was when we were keeping things professional between us. We weren't anymore, so in fairness, I shouldn't expect him to keep his fangs holstered. After all, how could I take a vampire for a lover and then ask him to ignore his very nature, especially since I had to drink his blood once a week?

Vlad heard the thoughts whirling in my mind, but he said nothing. I met his gaze and, decision made, brushed my hair away from my throat in silent invitation.

A slow smile stretched his lips, making me flash to the satisfied expressions I'd seen on lions'faces before they sank their fangs into a gazelle. He leaned down, mouth grazing my neck, so warm, sensual, and scary despite my resolve. Then his tongue slid out, circling over the throbbing base of my pulse in a leisurely yet deliberate manner. Finally, he gave it a long kiss with the faintest brush of teeth before leaning back.

’’Not tonight, but soon. And when I do, you will come to crave my bite as much as my kiss.’’

You are terminally arrogant, I thought, but thus far, he'd also been correct in a lot of his predictions. Case in point: I was in his bed and craving his kisses right now, among other things. But those would wait until I cleaned off first.

I pushed him back and sat up. ’’You have a shower in this room, right?’’

’’Of course.’’ His gaze slid over me with heated intent, and when he smiled, fangs gleamed from his teeth. ’’One that's big enough for both of us.’’

Chapter 24

I woke up alone in Vlad's bed. All the windows had the drapes drawn, blocking out the sunlight. The candles had gutted out, too, but the fireplace still smoldered, providing enough light that I wouldn't stumble into any furniture on my way out of his lobby-sized bedroom.

I got out of bed, remembering to feel around for the step. I'd learned last night that his bed was on a raised dais when Vlad's quick grip was the only thing that kept me from falling after my foot came down on air instead of flooring. Then I found the robe he'd stripped off me after our long, very erotic shower and put it on, hurrying out of his room. Vlad's stunning black marble bathroom had a shower that could fit four and a sunken tub you could snorkel in, but no toilet. In hindsight, that made sense. A vampire wouldn't need one.

I crossed the sitting area into my room since I didn't want to chance bumping into anyone in the hallway. Everyone in the house probably knew I'd spent the night with Vlad, but that didn't mean I wanted to be seen leaving his room in nothing but a robe. After I finally relieved my long-denied bladder, I looked at the tub with longing. An extended hot soak would help my lingering soreness in certain areas, but the sketch artist might have arrived during the night, so I'd better go with a quicker shower.

Half an hour later, I came down to the first floor and peeked into the dining room. Empty. I could start searching the other rooms in this huge house, or do things the quicker way.

’’Hello,’’ I called out. ’’Need to ask a question.’’

Before I could count to three, an impeccably dressed black man appeared, his bald head butter-smooth and thick muscles bulging under his beige suit.

’’Shrapnel,’’ I said, recognizing him from that night in Tampa. He bowed, which struck me as odd. Normally Vlad got the bows, not me.

’’How can I assist you?’’

I resisted the urge to compliment him on how pretty the indoor garden was. ’’Do you know if Maximus got back with the sketch artist yet?’’

’’He arrived with her an hour ago.’’

’’And where are they?’’ I prodded.

His expression closed off into a polite mask. ’’I'll let Vlad know you're awake.’’

’’He knows,’’ a cultured voice stated from across the room.

I turned, my pique at Shrapnel's evasiveness fading when I saw Vlad walking toward me. His wine-colored shirt was a vivid contrast to his black jacket and pants. Both colors accented his emerald-ringed, coppery eyes, but as usual, only his face, neck, and hands were bare. The rest of him was covered, the elegant cut of his clothes simultaneously flaunting and concealing that lean, muscled body.

A body that was now mine to explore and enjoy. All of a sudden, I wished the sketch artist hadn't arrived.

The sly smile that curled Vlad's lips said he'd overheard my thoughts-and liked them. Then he pulled me close, one hand twining through my hair while the other stroked my back.

’’Good morning,’’ he murmured before his lips closed over mine.

I'd wondered if he would be reserved with me in front of his people. Obviously not. By the time he lifted his head, my pulse had tripled and my body felt flushed. I'd also slid my arms around his neck without thinking, my right hand flexing against his shoulders. A week ago, I'd never forget about that hand coming into contact with someone. Now, it seemed so right to touch Vlad that it hadn't occurred to me not to.

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