The Darkest Craving (Page 39)

The Darkest Craving (Lords of the Underworld #10)(39)
Author: Gena Showalter

Did that needy voice belong to her?

“And you know this because…”

“Because I had a mother, and she told me so. Back then, I couldn’t control what happened with my hands—” and still might not be able to “—but nothing ever happened when she helped me dress.”

He lifted his hand, his fingers closing in on her face. A tremor shook her. Any second now…

Two giggling girls walked past them.

Cursing, he dropped his arm to his side. “Okay, then.” He stalked into the small building, tugging her behind him. A bell tinkled overhead. The scent of floral perfume hit her first, the preferred fragrance of the Opulens and one she despised. Kane clearly felt the same. He wrinkled his nose and pursed his lips—and he looked utterly adorable doing it.

I’ve got to get this…whatever it is under control.

An older woman with silver hair and typical Fae eyes sauntered out from the back. She wore the current fashion, an elaborate gown of yellow silk, material twisted along the belled skirt to form a bouquet of roses. Her skin was lined from a life of hard work. Like Josephina, she was half Fae, half human, but unlike Josephina, she would age to her death. The human part of her was clearly stronger than the Fae.

“I’m Rhoda, the owner,” she said, the words slow and precise. Her expression brightened. “And you’re…you’re…you. How may I help you, Lord Kane? Anything you desire is yours.”

“I want her,” Kane said, dragging Josephina forward and forcing her to stand in front of him. He placed his hands on her shoulders to ensure she wouldn’t bolt, a tremble spilling from him and into her. “Better dressed.”

Maybe it was irrational, but once the initial shock wore off, she experienced a sudden urge to cry. She wasn’t good enough as she was. Her father had told her. The queen had told her. Now, Kane’s actions told her. The mighty Lord of the Underworld beloved by all didn’t want to be seen with a servant wearing rags.

Her gaze met his in the mirror across the room, and he frowned.

“What’s wrong?” he demanded.

I can hold it together. At least for a little while. Later, she would probably hide under her covers. “Don’t worry. I’ll walk behind you from now on. You won’t have to be seen with me.”

His fingers dug into her. “Sweetheart, I don’t like the way this material chafes your skin. It’s too pretty to be streaked with red.”

Oh. My.

* * *

KANE TIGHTENED HIS grip on Tink, and the trembling in his hands increased.

He wanted this woman. So bad.

He wished he were the man he used to be. He would have laughed and flirted with her, relaxing her. He would have charmed her, delighted her. She would have welcomed his attentions—would have even begged for them. Instead, he’d hurt her feelings in the worst way.

“Please, let me do this for you,” he said.

She turned and faced him, peering up at him with those electric blues he should have found as unappealing as all the others, but…hers were different.

He liked that they changed colors with her moods. Liked that right now they were laced with multiple shades of blue. A mix of light blue, dark blue and something in between, creating a sort of poetry, a kaleidoscope of loveliness no one would ever be able to re-create.

“It’s a wonderful gesture, and I am beyond grateful, but you can’t. I can’t wear anything but my uniform. If I do, everyone will have permission to tear the clothing off me—no matter where I am or who I’m with.”

And she would end up naked. As beautiful and naturally sensual as she was, the men around her would gawk, possibly reach out and touch her. Possibly even try to do more.

A bead of rage rolled through him, growing larger the deeper it reached.

He looked to Rhoda. “Make her a new uniform, just in softer, better quality material. And add pockets. Lots of pockets.” He wanted her armed and at the ready at all times. Prepared—as he hadn’t been. “Can you finish it within a couple hours? I want her to leave wearing it.”

“Of course, of course, that’s what I’m known for” was the reply. “I hate to bring this up to so distinguished a customer, but…how will you pay, my lord?”

“With this.” He withdrew the wad of cash he’d stuffed in his boot before beginning this journey.

Rhoda nodded. “Very good. I’ll take her back and—”

“No. She stays within my sight at all times.”

Tink flattened her gloved hands on his chest, and he responded instantly. His heart sped into a now familiar beat, and the increased flow of blood caused his body to ready for her. For all the things he wanted to do to her.

It was painful. Far more than before. It was pleasurable. Far more than he was willing to admit.

The need he felt for her…the edge of it sharpened daily, hourly, and if he wasn’t careful, it would soon cut through him, severing the ties of his good sense, his better intentions, and his concern for the complications.

Disaster roared with fury. Hate her! Leave her!

Kill you, Kane roared back.

Rolls of fabric tumbled from a table to the floor, the heavy spools hitting Kane’s feet with a surprisingly harsh thud.

“I’m so sorry,” Rhoda said, rushing to clean up the mess. “I’m not sure what happened.”

Adamant, Josephina shook her head. “I can’t disrobe in front of you.”

“Why not?” But he already knew the answer. They weren’t lovers. They weren’t even friends, not really. She would be vulnerable. He couldn’t promise not to look. Like the men he’d just disdained, he would look.

He should be ashamed. He’d picked up on a bit of palace gossip and knew her mother, who’d been considered a lowly human, had been the king’s mistress. He knew her mother had been taunted, and suspected she had even been shunned. Any hint of impropriety had to remind Tink of her mother’s anguish. Perhaps even make her feel she deserved the cruel words the two Opulens had uttered outside.

But she didn’t. That kind of thinking had to stop—now.

“I just can’t,” she insisted.

“You can. You will. Like I said, I don’t want you out of my sight, even for a second.”


A pleading tone. One he might have heeded if she had been underneath him—have to get her underneath me. He gritted his teeth. “Keep arguing with me. I’ll find another way to change your mind. A far more intimate way.”