Read Caged Warrior Online

Authors: Lindsey Piper

Tags: #Dragon Kings#1

Caged Warrior (35 page)

While crossing his arm beneath her back, he turned her to lie fully along the bed.
He’d thought of taking her again, in the interminable days after they’d fought. He’d
imagined that she would ride him, so as not to aggravate her tattoo and the wounds
on her back. Two months on, she was healed. Reality meant he could lever his body
over hers and claim her. One day she would straddle his torso and set the pace, but
not this night.

He braced his weight on his elbows. Despite the hazy desire in her eyes, she was completely
fixed on him, as if he was the answer to every question she’d ever asked.

Him. Leto of Garnis. She believed he could be better than he was.
More
than believed; she expected it.

While drawing out the agonizing pleasure of their joining, he almost shared her belief.
Warriors fought and bled and fucked. They didn’t make love in a way that put a partner’s
satisfaction above their own. Leto felt that way now. No matter how urgently he wanted
to thrust—hard, deep, unrelenting—he held back. That
resistance tapped into long years of training. He was strong enough to be patient.
He basked in the moments of soft splendor, waiting for the moment when Nynn would
need him to be anything but.

He bowed over her body while she explored his. Hands and fingers and even her heels
found rough crevices and made them smooth. She calmed him in ways he’d never thought
possible. So very aroused yet somehow
lethargic
. He dropped his forehead to hers.

“I’ve never had this.” The admission made his rhythm falter, along with his heartbeat.
He hadn’t meant to say anything so personal, even as they shared such a personal act.

She cupped the side of his face in the way that made him shudder with a sense of belonging.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Leto pushed away his body’s needs and lifted from hers. “
Bathatéi
.”

“What?” On her elbows, Nynn’s confusion was written across her brow.

“You have felt this . . . this . . . Dragon damn, Nynn, it’s beautiful. And they took
that from you. Your husband . . .”

He’d never felt more humiliated by his inability to make a point.

Nynn’s face had paled, so distinctive in her pain or fear. The golden tone of her
skin drained away and left behind the pattern of freckles he had memorized.

She didn’t shy away or stop touching him. He’d expected both. When faced with a reminder
of that loss, how could she not? Just the opposite happened. She touched him with
more assurance and more vigor.

Leto swallowed to quell the monster in his blood. “Because you remember it all now,
don’t you?”

“Yes.”

Guilt overwhelmed him. She was in possession of memories they hadn’t discussed. That
meant she had her husband back—the life they’d shared, the life that had been ripped
away from her.

Nynn stroked where his inner thigh met his groin. He flinched. She caressed him again,
until the flinches eased into calm. “Breathe,” she whispered.

Now he closed his eyes. She changed position on the bed so that she knelt at his side.
Leto was enveloped by softness once again, this time nestled between her breasts.
He breathed just to soak up her scent.

“Caleb was taken from me.” Her halting words feathered across the buzzed hair and
the crown of his head. “And yes, I ache with the knowledge of what we could’ve shared.
We’ll never have that.”

“I was as brainwashed as you first said. I was part of the system that made your family
suffer.”

“You were a boy raised to be a man with no choice as to how that happened. Do you
yearn to kill and maim, Leto? I don’t believe you do. You’ve never hinted at enjoying
the blood for blood’s sake. It’s all been for your sisters.”

“And for glory,” he said wearily. “You’ve felt it. We both know how intense it can
be.”

“Just like we both know the unfairness of it all. And who
really
caused it. I’ll dig their graves with bare hands if I have to, because the Asters
will not escape the punishment they deserve.”

“You’ll have help digging those graves, if they deserve
such a courtesy.” The cadence of her touches was so soothing. Leto crisscrossed his
arms behind her back and held tight. “I can’t replace your husband.”

“Of course you can’t.” She lifted his head and held his gaze. “That doesn’t mean I
want to be alone forever.”

“I never thought I’d be anything but alone.”

“What about your family?”

“I’ve fought for their safety, but I can’t speak to them. Sometimes they exist more
as goals than people. There are moments I regret that I wasn’t born one of the Dragon-damned
Heartless. At least Indranan warriors can communicate with those outside.”

“No.” She kissed him so tenderly that it might have been a daydream, but her hand
was still at the juncture of his thigh and groin. Nynn was no daydream. “You are Leto
of Garnis,” she said against his mouth. “You are a Dragon King. And if you let me,
I could love you.”

He bracketed her head in his hands. “Could?”

Her expression took on a teasing glint—a glimmer of silver to lead them out of the
black. “You have to admit, we haven’t been on the same side very often.”

“It felt right when we were.”

“Yes. It did. And it does now.” She arched into his touch when he threaded hard, possessive
fingers into her hair. “I asked for you, remember? I want to be here with you. To
be on the same side and know it’s forever.”

“We can’t promise forever. Not down here.”

“Then we get out of here.”

He shook his head. “Not possible.”

“I wouldn’t do it with the stupid, impatient trust I gave Kilgore. Instead, you’re
my warrior, and I light up like Dragon-damned fireworks.” She grinned, slid her
warm palms to his shoulders, and gave him a good shake. “Then you could love me, too.”

Could?

There was no “could” about it.

He loved her. Nynn of Tigony was a firework, so bright and beautiful in a place that
had never known either. He needed that light, craved it. More meaningfully, he was
grateful that she’d shared it with him. He’d taken to heart that he would keep her
safe because
his
heart was at risk. To lose her now would mean losing a part of himself he hadn’t
known existed, liberated of everyone else’s wishes but his. And hers.

“When we’re free,” he said with his lips against her bare shoulder. “That’s my promise.”

“Now you get to promise that you won’t stop again.”

She stretched back against the mattress, with her knees negligently parted. The pink
wetness of her sex made him want to taste. He dipped low and licked. Nynn’s hands
flew to the back of his head. Another new sound.
Greed
. A combination of
yes
and a groan and a curse word older than the Five Clans. She was salt and sweet, hot
and pulsing against his tongue. Each questing swirl revived his arousal. The past
was the past—painful, and not without a demand to be avenged.

At that moment, however, Leto was finally able to set his mind aside and let his body
loose. Reflex. Instinct. Selfish need. Every satisfying lick made Nynn writhe. Her
hands stroked faster along the back of his head. Dragon be, she could drive him mad
with her enthusiasm. They had matched from the beginning, not in goals, but in resolve
and pure stubbornness. He put that stubbornness to its most sensual use, flicking
faster,
sucking deeper. His prick swelled in response. He was so ready.

This was a claiming, and it was mutual.

“Leto! Please, here with me. Not by myself.”

The breath punched out of him. Without thought, he was over her, kissing her, inside
her. The slow softness they’d given each other was still there, in the way they caressed
and in the encouraging sounds of pleasure. Little gifts. But Leto could not be gentle,
pushing, pulsing with that word repeating in his mind.
Claim.

“I’m here,” he said on a gasp. With his head tucked next to hers on the pillow, he
drove with gathering speed. Each stroke was stronger. Her tight legs and quick hips
met him each time. “We do this together.”

Previous orgasms had all been explosions, full and potent and as hard as he’d fucked.
This time, with Nynn stretched beneath him and her breath breaking to pieces, he felt
his climax building and building. It could’ve been seconds. It could’ve been years.

“Nynn, tell me. Tell me you’re close.”

She had no words, only the fierce arch of her spine and a mangled cry. The clench
of her sheath around his cock broke through the gradual build of his pleasure—broke
through, then dragged him into an abyss that seized his muscles and locked his bones.
His last thrust was as deep as she could take, and she took all of him. Every thick,
aching inch. He growled his satisfaction into the pillow, where Nynn had already turned
her head, kissing his temple. She licked away the sheen of sweat.

When his breathing quieted, he rolled off and around so that she tucked along his
side. “Again,” he said into the near-dark. “I want that again.”

“Tell your prick.” Her voice was sleepy, but he heard a smile.

He kissed her hair, grinning in return. He was
grinning
. “Dragon Kings have remarkable powers of recovery.”

“Yes, they do.” She yawned and snuggled more deeply into his embrace. “Imagine what
it could be if you could use all of your gift. All of those amazing senses.”

The thought was almost too much to handle. He’d overload. But that made him hate the
collar even more. He had touched, tasted, inhaled Nynn’s distinct beauty. All of it
blunted
. He was half-tempted to drag them to the training Cage and make love to her without
the barrier that stood between him and his true power.

But no, that would be a poor substitute. Nynn had been right. They would be free.

♦   ♦   ♦

“After the match . . .”

Leto’s scratchy, rumbling voice broke their long, long silence. Nynn may have dozed,
but for minutes at a time. It was as if her body only wanted brief moments of sleep
so that she wouldn’t stray from him for long.

“Hm?”

He cleared his throat. “After the match, you said that you’d killed your mother.”

Old pains seized her heart. She wanted to curl into a ball and curl and curl until
she couldn’t be burned by flame. It had been banked for years, but if she let it,
her mind could become that long-ago house on fire.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t know when else to ask about it. Tomorrow, there’s
no telling, Nynn.”

“I know.” She inhaled his salty, masculine scent. She breathed him again, knowing
she
was the perfume that didn’t smell quite like Leto. “I’m half Pendray,” she said,
not knowing where else to begin the tale.

Leto made some noise in his throat. “Makes sense now. Freckles like them. Ears a little
pointed at the top. And your gift, a blend of rage and electricity.”

“That’s what I’ve assumed, too. Well, since finding out the truth of it.” She shifted
against his side, glad for his protection. “My mother was Leoki of Tigony. She never
revealed my father’s identity, afraid our clan would punish him. When she refused,
she was banished. I was left in Mal’s care.”

“Mal?”

“Malnefoley.”

Leto chuckled softly. “I suppose only you can refer to the Giva by such an informal
name.”

“Maybe, yes. My mother was his aunt, but she was only five years older. He protected
me, and I defended him from those who called him the Usurper. I wasn’t trained in
the martial styles for no reason. But I was still an outcast because of my bloodline.
I lived a step apart.” She shrugged, adjusting those painful childhood slights. “Eventually
my mother returned. Mal made sure she was accepted at the fortress.”

“The privilege of the Giva?”

“More like the power of a man coming into his own.” She sighed. Dragon be, this weight
on her chest. She never wanted to feel it again. “But my mother was . . . unstable.
Whatever she’d endured out in the world had not been kind. Mal was losing the ability
to protect her. Things were tenuous enough when . . .”

Nynn blinked back tears. They were welling inside her, with no other outlet. Telling
the rest of the story would make crying inevitable. Leto was still looking at her,
his grave features etched with concern and a sympathy she never would’ve thought possible
from the great champion of the Asters. Not at first, anyway. Now she knew that he
felt a great deal. She took refuge in the comfort he offered wordlessly.

“You’ve seen what my gift can do. I didn’t know how to control it. The house. Our
house, there in the Tigony complex. I was sitting next to my mother on her bed. She
had a fever, raving, half lost to the world. Then I was fire. The first explosion
of my gift.”

“You remember it now?”

“Not . . . entirely. I remember people’s reactions to it. Grief. Accusations. Hatred.
But the actual moment the house exploded and she burned?” She shook her head as tears
dripped toward the pillow. “Thank the Dragon I don’t remember. When Mal’s personal
doctor said she would never recover, she begged to be killed. Mal took the responsibility
himself when he wielded a Dragon-forged sword to take her life.”

Leto petted the tears away, then kissed the corner of her lips. “So when they let
some Indranan witch dredge your brain, they hid more than just your gift.”

Nynn managed to nod, although her neck was stiff and cramping. “They took most memories
of my mother. I became Tigony in name only. Blending in with the humans became a better
option. I emigrated to the States. Studied art. Fell in love with Caleb. Became a
teacher.”

A sob shook her shoulders, then overcame what remained of her control.

Leto pulled her into the hollow of his curved shoulders. He held her, even rocked
her gently. The words he said in their ancient, Dragon-given tongue were a comfort,
even if her tears drowned out some of the words. She’d lost so many versions of her
life, then regained them in pieces only to have them taken again. All of those gifts
and thefts had led her to the moment when a Cage warrior held her as if he could take
her grief into his own warm skin—the Cage warrior who’d taught her how to forge a
life of her own.

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