Nykyrian hesitated. “Wait . . . My tracer. It fell out of my wrist. I have to have it.”
Syn let go of him to pick it up from the ground where it lay covered in blood.
“What are you doing?”
Kiara jumped at Nykyrian’s furious snarl, which came from behind her. She’d never heard such a sound from him before. He’d always been so calm, but now . . .
She saw the blood in his eyes as she turned to face him. Heat stung her cheeks at being caught in her snooping.
Rushing forward, Nykyrian cut the power to the viewer. “How dare you!”
She averted her eyes in guilt. “I just wanted to see what you were like as a child. I had no idea . . . I am so sorry.”
He ran his hand over his bicep as he continued to glare at her. Kiara could swear his hand trembled. “Don’t you ever watch one of my personal files again. I swear to the gods, I’ll kill you if you do.” He stormed from the room.
Despondency, guilt, and pain for him consumed her as she sat there holding the remote in her hand.
Now she understood only too well why they kept their pasts hidden. She’d only glimpsed a few scenes from his life.
Nykyrian had lived and suffered through those and who knew how many more. Not as a horrified observer, but as the recipient of the pain and hatred of the world. How much more was there and how much worse did it get?
No wonder he’d made the comment about his lover not liking him . . .
Syn had been right. Her pain, severe though it was, didn’t compare at all. She’d been sheltered by her parents. Loved. Cherished.
Nykyrian had had no one.
Not even a name.
I condemned him for killing someone who’d tortured him while he’d been powerless to fight back . . .
Someone he’d never hurt even though he should have beat Arast long before today. And the only reason he’d done what he had was to keep her safe.
Having seen what he could really do today, she realized something. The fact that he hadn’t tracked Aksel and Arast down and killed them long before now for what they’d done to him . . . that was much more a testament of his character than what he’d done in the hangar bay.
Regret tore through her. I’m so stupid. She’d seen his kindness. The way he’d held her when she cried. The way he’d tended her in Syn’s apartment.
He wasn’t a monster. He was a man who’d been battered by everyone in his life.
I won’t be another one.
Drawing a ragged sigh, she went to find him and apologize for everything.
Kiara hesitated in the hallway just before entering the main room.
Nykyrian sat at the desk, holding his head in his hands, looking more miserable than anything she’d ever seen. She glanced around for Syn, but he must have left.
Hesitant over her reception, she moved forward and knelt beside his chair. “I’m so sorry, Nykyrian. I didn’t mean to pry.”
Nykyrian stared down at her apologetic face and wanted to curse. He couldn’t believe she’d found his files. Bitter, agonizing memories tore through him. All the times in his life he’d needed someone to talk to, to hold him, flashed before his mind and he felt like crying.
What was the use?
He was nothing but a piece of shit.
But as he stared at the pain on Kiara’s face as she watched him, he didn’t see her scorn or condemnation. In her beautiful eyes, he saw the sincere caring he’d always craved.
She looked at him like he was human.
Something inside him shattered under the weight of her expression. How easy it would be to trust just this one person. He wanted to be able to trust someone.
But he knew better. Look at what Mara had done to Syn. People weren’t trustworthy. They’d kill for a single credit. Would mutilate another person’s entire life over something as petty as hurt feelings.
People were vicious and they were cold.
He knew that firsthand and yet he didn’t listen to the voice inside him and all the warnings it shouted.
For the first time in his life, he listened to his heart.
And he reached out to touch her.
Nykyrian’s hand stopped millimeters from her face.
Kiara knew that he couldn’t bring himself to go any further and, having seen the horrors of his past, she finally understood why. Smiling at the gesture, she clasped his gloved hand in both of hers and kissed his fingertips. His hand, which was always so steady, trembled as she held onto it.
A hand that had been damaged so badly by other people’s brutality that Nykyrian hadn’t even been able to make a fist as a child.
The same hand that had soothed and protected her. That had killed others . . .
A hand he always kept covered . . .
His features unreadable, he laid that hand against her cheek while his thumb stroked her chin. He buried his other hand under her hair, his fingers lightly stroking her scalp, causing chills to form all the way down her body. Desire erupted inside her, and she knew tonight she wouldn’t, couldn’t, let him go. Not after what she’d seen of his past.
He’d spent his whole life in solitude and for reasons she couldn’t even begin to fathom, she cared about him. She wanted to give him what no one had ever given him before. Things that she’d taken for granted her entire life. Things that every being deserved to have.
Someone to hold him when he needed it. Someone who wouldn’t judge, betray, or hurt him.
His arms tightened and he pulled her up to his mouth. His lips claimed hers with a passion born of desperate need. Kiara moaned with the pleasure of it as she cupped his face in her hands. She heard his ragged breathing as he gently nipped her lips with his fangs. Opening her mouth, she welcomed him.
He slid from his chair, his hands working magic on her body. Everywhere he touched, she burned, aching for more. Her heart thundered as she ran her hands down the soft silk of his shirt, delighting in the way his hard muscles flexed beneath her fingertips.
She wanted him more than she had ever wanted anything.
Nykyrian buried his lips against Kiara’s neck, finally inhaling the sweet fragrance of her exotic perfume. She was so soft and warm. So very beautiful. And the way she held him . . .
Like he mattered.
In this one moment, he didn’t feel like a freak. Surely she wouldn’t touch someone who was. He laid his cheek against her so that he could feel the warmth of her as her breath tingled his skin. He shook with the force of his need and lost himself in the first true bliss he could recall ever feeling.
Her precious arms held him to her in a tender embrace. Desire surged through his veins like liquid fire. He clung to her, needing her, wanting her.
Chills formed under the heat of her hands across his back. He gasped as her tongue played along the tendons of his neck, her teeth gently nipping. He closed his eyes to the sensation.
Reclaiming her lips, he kissed her deeply.
Kiara’s body throbbed in an aching need that demanded the feel of his nak*d body against hers. She ran her fingers under the collar of his shirt, but that didn’t appease her, it only whet her appetite more.
She moaned as he moved his hand over her breast, down her stomach, and underneath the hem of her dress. Chills formed beneath his gloved hand as he stroked the skin of her stomach. Kiara kissed him fiercely, wanting to keep him with her.
Nykyrian growled at how good she tasted. For the first time in his life, he felt desired.
It’s a lie . . .
Don’t you dare buy it.
I was morbidly curious what it’d be like to sleep with a hybrid. Tasha’s cold words tore through him.
You’re a freak. I wish I’d never touched you. You ever tell anyone what happened and I’ll have you killed! He winced at the memory of Driana’s last words to him.
Pulling away, he looked down at Kiara and saw the same desire they’d held . . .
But it wasn’t real. He was well aquainted with this game. He’d played it enough and lost to know better than to even try his hand. She was no different than they were. Today had proven that.
You’re shit and shit is all you’ll ever be. Not even your own mother could bear to look at you.
Leave her now before she turns you into the same drunken waste Syn has become.
Unable to bear anymore, he rose and moved away from her. His breath came in labored gasps. He stared at Kiara’s confused expression, his c**k aching in painful arousal. All he wanted was to feel her body against his, but it wasn’t worth the pain that would come later when she kicked him out of her bed and told him she didn’t want anyone to know what they’d done.
He would never do that to himself again. Better to jack off than be hurt.
Kiara blinked, his apology confusing her more than his sudden retreat. “For what?”
He turned away and brushed his hand through his hair. “I had no right to touch you. Forgive me, princess.”
Kiara’s heart lurched at his pain-filled words.
Walking to him, she ran her hand over his back. “You have more right than anyone else.” She gripped his upper arm and turned him around to face her. When she reached up to remove his shades, he dodged her hand.
Disheartened, but determined, she ran her hand down his cheek, her palm scraped by his whiskers. “I want you, Nykyrian.”
He tore away from her as if her touch burned him. “You pity me. I don’t need it, or want it.”
The anger in his tone set fire to her own. “Don’t tell me what I feel.” She crossed the floor to stand in front of him again.
Once more he tried to move away, but she grabbed his arm and kept him by her side. “You can’t walk away from me, I won’t let you.”
His jaw tensed. “Maybe I don’t want you.”
One corner of her mouth lifted. She remembered the number of discs in his cabinet of her performances, the look on his face as he reached out to her just moments ago. “If that were true, you would stay still and not keep moving away from me. Face it, soldier, you want me more than anything.” She looked down and gave a pointed stare at the part of his body that showed her exactly how interested he was. “Your lips can deny it all they want, but that says it all.”
He shrugged her touch away. “You don’t want me. Not really. I’m just a morbid curiosity to you and nothing more.” He grabbed his long, black coat from the couch where he’d draped it. “You’re safe here. I’ll be back in a little while.”
Desperation filled her. If he left without this settled, she knew he would be gone from her forever. “By God, hybrid,” she shouted. “Don’t you dare walk away from me!”
The murderous look he gave her when he turned around caused her to take a step back. He clenched his hand at his side and she had the distinct feeling he wanted to kill her. “Don’t you ever call me that again.”
Kiara gave him no quarter as she closed the distance between them. “I thought soldiers were trained to meet conflict, not run from it. What is it about me that frightens you so?”
He didn’t answer.
Kiara wanted to scream in frustration.
“I’ll be back later.” In a single graceful move, he flared his coat out and put it on before he headed for the door.
In that moment, she had total clarity as she realized he’d quoted the bitch in the video to her. I’m just a morbid curiosity to you.
That was it . . . That was why he was running from her. He thought she’d do him the same way his commanding officer had done. That she’d kick him out of bed the moment they were through and tell him to keep his mouth shut.
Her heart splintered with the thought of all the needless and cruel pain and rejection he’d carried throughout his life. Pain she wanted to soothe and banish. “Why do you think you can’t be loved?”
He froze with his back to her.
“That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why you live here, light-years away from everyone. Why you don’t even trust your best friend. You’ve closed yourself off from everyone and everything to the point you can’t even touch me.” She closed the distance between them and put her hand on his shoulder. “I won’t hurt you, Nykyrian. I’m not like those others.”
He looked at her over his shoulder. “I’m not blind, princess. I saw the look on your face today when I reached for a towel to help you. I disgust you. You can’t deny it. You are just like everyone else who’s ever looked at me.”
She shook her head. “You don’t disgust me, Nykyrian, and that’s the truth. You learned to forgive Hauk for hurting you. Can you not forgive me, too?”
She ran her hand down his arm, to his wrist where his League tattoo began. “What you did today hurt me. It made me remember things from my past that I didn’t want to—it shoved them straight into my face and it took me time to separate those monsters who killed my mother and shot me from the man you are.” Wrapping her arms around his lean waist, she pressed her front against his back and laid her head against his spine. “Let me love you tonight, Nykyrian. Just once.”