Authors: Lindsey Piper
Tags: #Dragon Kings#1
Leto was surprised to find himself smiling. Slight. Chagrined. But it was still a
smile. “You said you had a serpent inside you. You didn’t need another one.” He frowned.
“You also said, ‘Burn it down.’ Do you remember that?”
She began to tremble. Her voice was a chatter of teeth and sloppy consonants. “Can
we . . . ?”
“And what you said about your mother?”
“I don’t want to. Leto, please. It’s fire in my mind. Too much.”
“For now. Too much.” With his arms closed around her, he kissed the top of her head.
“I want you again. I think I’ve wanted you from the start.”
A shaky sob rattled from her chest into his. “After seeing me naked, how could you
“Would it upset you to hear that I’ve used that technique with every neophyte?”
“Did every neophyte turn you on?”
“No. They whined or begged or cried, so that I wanted to make it worse for them. Keep
my pity at bay. You pushed back. Naked. Defenseless. You made me feel like I was the
one being tested.”
“Your secret’s safe with me,” she said with a trace of laughter. “Because I didn’t
see anything close to that.”
Another kiss. Arms tighter. “But here. Tonight. Nynn, not like last time.”
He didn’t have the words to ask for more. Didn’t know how to match emotion with language.
She pulled him down for another kiss. Her naked
chest brushed his as she balanced on tiptoes. Such a beautiful miracle of touch. “Have
we fought enough, Leto? Tell me we have—at least each other. Tell me that my warrior
wants caring, because that’s what I want to give.”
“You’ve kept me whole and safe and
, even when it was directed at you and when I made stupid decisions. I blamed you
when I couldn’t tell one pain from another.” She nipped kisses along toward his shoulder,
talking as she went. “You were the nearest extension of the Asters. I could take it
out on you when I couldn’t harm them. But you never faltered. The long game. Save
our families. You were strong enough for both of us, when I couldn’t be.”
“And what has that strength accomplished?”
“I’m here. You’re here. Will the skills you’ve taught me vanish? No. Which means when
the time comes to . . .” She swallowed tightly. “When the time comes to burn it down,
I’ll be your partner in that, too. So yes.
“But not tonight.”
“No, not tonight.” She caused goose bumps to flutter down his arm with the lightest
caress. “Leto, show me how tender you can be.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Nynn didn’t know if she had asked too much until he cupped her shoulders. The wide,
implacable wall of his body urged her backward. She was at eye level with the undeniable
strength of his chest, which was shaped by muscle and shaded by the sharp, soft angle
of light from the single lamp in the corner. Memories layered on memories, with the
present caught in a dark, swirling
cloud. She had once seen the world as would an artist. Audrey MacLaren. Art teacher.
Widow. So much of herself had been taken, as a child, as a lab experiment, and then
as a Cage warrior.
Rather than go mad from the anger and pain, she sought the man who would take her
mind away, at least for the night. Leto was breathtaking. He had been from the start,
no matter how she’d resisted him. Now, as she lay perpendicular on the bed, she could
admire him fully. Heavy muscles clung to strong bones. His skin shone dark copper,
and his black hair all but absorbed the light. She breathed out. The resentment was
gone. All that remained was the privilege of admiring a man built for violence—and
who dared to offer gentleness.
His gaze held no violence. She found surprising hopefulness among currents of desire
that were practically caresses. Along her cheek. Through the valley between her breasts.
Down to her belly where anticipation grew. She was fire and bronze, all things hot
and resilient. That power was within her, but his open appreciation made her giddy
Soon his weight would hold her down. She wanted that. The security and protection.
The seductive mindlessness.
“You stare.” His two words, as raspy as sandpaper. She shivered. His gaze shifted
to where her nipples beaded.
“So do you.”
“Too much to look at.”
She extended a hand. “It’s like the sun on the snow. You think it’s too much, but
you can’t look away.”
Leto paused in the act of removing his plain shorts.
He was already hard.
Nynn continued to stare. She knew she should find his eyes and return to the idea
of gentleness that she had initiated, but he was too impressive. They’d been too quick
the last time, although tactile memories of biting, kissing, fucking reminded her
there was nothing to regret. Just a different sort of need.
Now she could admire his prowess in full. So aroused, his cock lifted high. It appeared
as lengthy as her body remembered, as thick and weighty.
Although she’d been holding out her arm in invitation, she levered off the bed and
took hold of his hips. She couldn’t resist tasting him. Tongue first, just a circle
around the clean, broad head.
Leto hissed. His hands curled beneath her jaw and lifted her chin. He loomed over
her, as if standing as majestically as a mountain was his gift from the Dragon. “I
will not be gentle if we begin like that.”
“Women have done this to you, then?”
“I’ve practically forced this on women.”
“Big difference, Leto. Stand still. Enjoy. And know that I’m enjoying it, too.”
She liked that his hands tightened around her face, a reminder of the strength he
held in check. Every lick and swirl and long, languorous suck drew different reactions
from him. Sometimes hisses—those were especially good, telling her she’d taken him
by surprise. Sometimes grunts and truncated thrusts, when she’d back off. She didn’t
want to veer too near to the sharp vigor they’d shared before. Mostly his reactions
were told through those hands framing her face. Twitch. Tense. Fingers twisting into
He was too big to take as deeply as she wanted. She used the clasp of her fingers
to make up the difference remaining between her lips and his body. The rhythm she
chose was slow and so, so deliberate, even though her body began to hum a potent charge.
Since she’d learned to use her gift, she equated arousal with the explosive force.
Gathering energy . . . then the release.
This gathering was achingly patient. The release would be complete.
After dragging her tongue along the length of his shaft, she moved to take his throbbing
head back into her mouth. Those hands lining her jaw reminded her that, when he wanted
to be, Leto was in charge.
He sounded just as bestial as ever. His eyes, heavy-lidded and fathomless, marked
the only difference. He looked stunned. And eager.
Nynn expected his resolve to crumble. She had pushed him too far. Her warrior would
shove her back across the bed and take what his body demanded. She wouldn’t mind;
he would be satisfying her needs as well. But she’d hoped they were more than that.
He proved they
when he dropped to his knees.
“Off with these,” he said, tugging her shorts. She had no say—a compromise of sorts
between being taken and being coddled. “My turn.”
Nynn opened her knees even as he pushed them wide. “You’ve done this to women, then?”
She’d meant it as a teasing echo, but the skin across his cheekbones tightened as
he grimaced. “Not often enough for you to appreciate any great skill.”
“I like an honest man.”
Lying back on one elbow, she guided his face down until the first rush of contact
made her gasp. His lips were hot, but his tongue was even hotter. He lacked finesse.
He did not lack patience or intensity. Nynn arched and tipped her pelvis forward.
He hooked an arm under her ass to position her as he wanted. His other hand grasped
her breast, softly kneading, looping his fingers over her nipple in a pattern that
matched the pulse of his tongue.
Breathing heavily, Nynn offered no resistance when he pushed her breastbone in a signal
for her to lie back. He eased two fingers into her sheath. He must’ve appreciated
her whispered curse because he grinned against her inner thigh. A rumbled curse of
his own trembled up her legs and pooled where his fingers pulsed.
Without thought, she began to speak in the old language. Not Tigony or Garnis. Not
Sath or Pendray or Indranan. There was a language even older than the Five Clans,
and she knew its words.
Leto paused. Looked up her body. Those nearly black eyes held as many questions as
promises of lust and satisfaction.
“I’d forgotten,” he said softly, in that same lost language.
She caressed his cheek, which was roughened by sharp stubble. The ancient spell wove
between them, until speaking English or even her clan’s tongue would’ve seemed like
sacrilege in the bubble of time and space they’d claimed for themselves.
“Then this is how we’re supposed to make love,” he said. “Even down to the words given
to us by the Dragon.”
A frown etched between his brows. After a few more luxurious strokes, so deep where
she yearned for more, he eased his fingers free. His features still revealed the riddles
of his thoughts, but he lifted up and over her body. They were still sideways across
the mattress. His feet must’ve been planted firmly on the floor. Nynn could only flick
her attention between his taut expression and the hand he’d clamped around the base
of his prick.
“That’s what we’re doing, Nynn. Making love.”
She smiled, almost relieved that his confusion came from something so simple. Although
none of this felt simple. “Yes, we are.”
She pulled him down as she lifted up, that same dance of compromise, as they balanced
each other. Dovetailed one another. His mouth tasted of her body, which was both shocking
and amazingly intimate. Soon that taste was licked and kissed away until she found
only Leto. His heat and the sharp sweetness of his tongue swished over hers. Rough
breaths puffed between them in a quiet, tender duel.
Nynn was restless. The place he’d filled with such care, with only two of his blunt
fingers, needed more. She needed the heavy erection jutting out from the body he held
She touched one of his unsteady biceps. “This from my warrior? Shaking?”
“You take everything from me.” He positioned himself at her slick opening and pulsed
inside. No quick
thrust. Not even a tease—just the gentleness she’d asked for. Hard, thick, almost
asking permission. “Just as you give everything to me.”
“Give me everything now.”
He shook his head. “We’re making love. Those
the right words for what we’re doing. Because I am not a beast.”
“No. You’re not.”
“And I’m not just your warrior.”
Tears burned beneath her lids. She couldn’t breathe except in pained little gulps.
She lifted her hand and touched the collar she’d always hated. Now she had so many
more reasons to despise the things.
She’d asked him once, and she asked him again. “What would you be without this?”
His answer . . .
Oh, Dragon be. Please.
With eyes as dark as midnight, as expressive as dance, he pushed his full, throbbing
length into her waiting body. Nynn opened her mouth but made no sound. Only shuddered
at the rightness of their joining.
He leaned down, cradling the back of her head. She clung to him, wrapped her legs
around him, moved with him.
Against her temple he whispered, “I’d be a better man.”
eto wanted to close his eyes and bask in softness. This was what softness felt like—not
just Nynn’s body, which welcomed his with trust, warmth, and an intimacy so fierce
that it stung each nerve. This was the softness of letting down his guard. He gave
in to her keeping. So often he’d believed he was the one to keep her safe, but that
protection traveled in two directions.
He needed this moment as much as he needed victory.
No, that’s wasn’t true. He needed this more than victory, because he’d lost in the
Cage. Although his pride had been damaged, he had not dried into dust. Unmanned. Ashamed.
No, he still breathed. He breathed the scent of the woman who was teaching him different
ways of seeing the world. The world he knew was small, tight, dark.
If he shut his eyes, glorying in unfamiliar sensations, he’d be back in the darkness.
He stayed with Nynn, with her clear blue eyes that shimmered silver in the pale light.
He stayed with the way her moist lips parted. Every deliberate slide into her slick,
tight pussy drew forth a gasp or a sigh or a little cry. He moved slowly,
giving himself a brief moment to wonder which sound would come next. He liked changing
the angle of his thrusts just enough to catch her by surprise.
She clutched his flanks with edgy fingers, urging him with restless pulses. Her nails
were blunt, but that didn’t mean her sharp journey from his hip to the top of his
spine was any less potent. He shivered under the weight of his vulnerability and released
his confusion with a trio of sharp thrusts. Nynn’s heavy breathing ratcheted down
to a moan.
More sounds to find. More softness edged with the passion and strength they both