Two armed guards swung around the corner and stopped behind Princess Laila. They kept their gazes straight ahead as they awaited orders.
If they touched Jane, Nicolai would execute them. He would cut their throats, and spit on their remains. The ferocity of the thought should have surprised him. Jane was here for one purpose, and one purpose only, whether she acted like it or not, and remaining untouched by the citizens of Delfina was not it. Surprised, Nicolai wasn’t. Nothing would stop him from attacking these men in cold blood. Jane was his. His savior, his to handle. Only his. No one else was allowed.
Until he left her.
He bit his tongue so hard he tasted his own blood.
“Muzzle the prisoner and cart him to my chamber,” Laila commanded, and he relaxed somewhat. The men weren’t here for Jane, then. “My sister and I will visit with the queen.”
“No,” Nicolai growled before he could stop himself.
“No?” Astonished, Laila leveled her attention on him. She wrapped her fat little fingers around the timepiece hanging from her neck and squeezed. “You dare issue commands, slave? To me?”
“Odette stays.” Jane might have fooled the servants and her sister, but she would not find the Queen of Hearts so gullible. She had groomed Odette in her image, and no one knew her better. Jane and her odd speech would be found out. Killed before Nicolai could use her.
Laila floundered. “You’ll try and kill her again. That’s why you want her here. I know it. That’s why you’re pretending to desire her.”
He flicked his tongue over his fangs. “I need inside her. That’s why I want her here.”
Once again, Jane blushed.
“You…you’re lying,” Laila stammered. “You hate her. You wouldn’t want to bed her.”
“I crave her.”
A pause, heavy with tension. Motions clipped, Laila closed the distance between her and her sister and wrapped an arm around Jane’s waist. “Don’t listen to him. He’ll say anything to gain a second chance to harm you. Come now. I’ll protect you.”
“No!” Jane jumped from Laila’s embrace and glared up at the guards. “Take Nicolai to my chamber, but don’t muzzle him. And tell M-Mother that I’m in need of rest. I’ll speak to her later.”
Laila paled as the men leaped into action. Seconds later, hinges were squeaking as the door to Nicolai’s cage swung open. There were more footsteps, then a key was inserted into the metal base that pinned him to the wall.
His relief was palpable.
“But…but, Odette. You are placing yourself in danger,” Laila said, desperate.
“He. Is. Mine. Nothing more needs to be said.”
Wrong words. The claim—he is mine—affected him, giving birth to a savage animal inside him. Hers, he was hers, and he would have her before he left her, no matter the consequences. Over and over again. In every way imaginable. He would drink her, and possess her body.
There would be no stopping him, no reasoning with him. Not now.
THE GUARDS FORCED NICOLAI onto the bed, the feathered mattress dipping and puffing under his weight. They anchored the metal links curling around his neck to a steel hook in the wall, just above the headboard, then removed the chains from his ankle and wrists—only to cuff him to the bedposts.
Odette had brought slaves here before, Jane realized. The posts were scarred, the deep grooves evidence of their resistance. A lot of resistance. How many times had Nicolai suffered this kind of indignity with the princess?
At least he didn’t try and bite the guards, and they didn’t try to hurt him, and Jane didn’t have to side with a “slave,” fueling suspicion. Already she felt as if she had a neon sign blinking over her head: Imposter.
Thank God Laila hadn’t realized the truth. And wasn’t the other princess a shocker? Short, squat and foaming-at-the-mouth-rabies mean. Seriously. If the Wicked Witch of the West had slept with Hannibal Lecter, and the two of them had a baby, that child’s name would be Laila.
Pay attention to what’s happening around you, Parker!
Right. Jane focused. She watched, flabbergasted, as one of the guards cleaned Nicolai from head to toe and the other oiled him.
She placed the book on the nightstand, considered protesting what was being done to him, but wasn’t sure “Odette” would do such a thing. Therefore, she held her tongue. Through it all, Nicolai remained silent, his expression blank, but his gaze, oh, his gaze was glued to her. His pupils were huge, his irises still sparkling with…desire.
For her, or for her blood? His fangs were sharp and long, revealing the depths of his hunger.
Just then, he was the poster child for bondage, blood and a badass fetish. He was chained, yes, but he would be in control. He was strong, in body and in mind, and he exuded something, pheromones, perhaps, that drew slavelike desires from her. Every cell in her body ached, frantic to know his touch. He was the most physically perfect being she’d ever encountered.
Seeing such a proud, strong man bound like that, lying atop a bed of pink lace and ruffles, being readied for her use, should have caused her stomach to churn with sickness. But she only wanted him more.
Her mind had pictured him before she’d ever met him, yes, but her mind had not done him justice. He was tall, at least six foot four, with wide muscled shoulders, a stomach roped and corded, and skin as smooth as cream mixed with coffee. He had shoulder-length hair as dark as midnight, and eyes the color of moonlight glinting off snow, silvery yet threaded with gold.
She didn’t see her death in those eyes, as the book had promised. She saw her seduction. How many times had she had to stop herself from reaching out, letting him “mark” her, whatever that meant, just to feel his skin against hers? Too many. That’s why she’d jumped away from him when he’d reached for her. She’d feared her reaction, afraid of an increase in the desire she felt. Already being near him was becoming a need as necessary as breathing.
The same force that had brought her here had to be responsible for what she was feeling.
Though he was cut and bruised, with dried blood caked along his arms and legs, he had not a single scar. In fact, he did not have a flaw, period. The closest thing to an imperfection he had was the thin trail of dark hair traveling from his navel to the waist of his loincloth—and that wasn’t an imperfection so much as a roadway to heaven.
Speaking of the final destination of that naughty roadway…down in the cell, he’d been aroused by her, and he hadn’t tried to hide it. He’d boasted about it, drawing attention to his groin. With very good reason. Besides her dreams and single fantasy about him, she had been with only one man. And that man could not compare. She doubted any man could. “Big” was an understatement in Nicolai’s case.