Authors: Celeste Anwar
New Concepts Publishing
Copyright ©2004 by Celeste Anwar
First published by New Concepts Publishing, January 2004
© copyright January 2004, Celeste Anwar
Cover art by Eliza Black, © copyright January 2004
New Concepts Publishing
5202 Humphreys Rd.
Lake Park, GA 31636
Exquisite pain dawned inside him. It fired in his belly, sizzled in his groin, pierced his very soul. He hadn't expected it, hadn't expected to feel the agony so fiercely once more. Seeing her enflamed him beyond imagining. Time couldn't diminish the effect she had on him. Had a hundred years passed, he would know her, recognize her form, the autumn red flow of her hair, the eyes of spring green and summer gold. Fay magic could not hide her from him, no mask could shield her charms.
Always she haunted him, his dreams, his waking hours. And he'd finally found her.
Initially, Frost Tamann's first reaction upon seeing her again was a mixture of shock and relief. As she entered the room, swaying sensually with the music, however, he could see she'd suffered no lasting harm, no imprisonment, no torture. She appeared, in fact, healthier, happier, and more beautiful than she ever had at the community.
Slowly, stunned relief dissipated as anger swallowed him whole. All these years, he'd feared the worst, never believed his counsel, who'd said she'd run away. He'd thought her kidnapped, drugged, imprisoned somewhere beyond his reach, in a place dark and cold. A place where no life sustaining sunlight could touch her.
Wrong ... he'd been so wrong ... and they were right. The rumors and sightings he'd trailed in his last desperate hope had led him here, to the new country. He'd never expected to find her, never expected that she would choose exile from their people rather than—
Red hot rage and frustrated desire merged, honed sharp as a blade, overpowering soft emotion and fueling senses long frozen. Unfamiliar heat surged in his groin at her proximity, closer than he'd been in years. He cursed beneath his breath, clenching his jaw, tightening his fists as he fought for control over base reactions that hadn't surfaced in ten years ... and she had been the cause before.
It was worse now. The raw pain had built steadily, eating him from the inside until he felt wounded entirely, a hollow man incapable of living. And here she was, enjoying a costume ball, the picture of happiness and contentment.
It didn't seem right that she should be happy, not after what she'd done. He watched as she accepted a beverage from a flirting bartender, watched her smile, sip her drink, touch her collarbone in a gesture of surprise as the heat of the liquor burned its way down her throat.
His fingertips prickled, closed in his fist, as though he had touched the silken smoothness of her skin, brushed the hair from her neck. He willed her to turn to him, longing to see her eyes as she looked on him. Again and again he called to her. Slowly, as though his mind's voice finally carried above the din, she faced him.
He felt as though the wind had been knocked from his lungs, a blow struck to his solar plexus as he caught and held her gaze across the crowded ballroom. In an instant, Frost knew she wore no protection. Her guard was down. Even at the distance, he could sense the quickening of her pulse, knew her breath grew harsh and uneven. Her skin flushed beneath the white fox mask, blooming pink on her cheeks. Did her womanhood flush with the excitement so apparent to his immortal eyes? The thought conjured bittersweet memories, of kisses stolen, pleasure denied, her hot mouth and soft body begging and torturing him like no other could.
She held still, as a hare rather than the snow fox of her costume. She didn't run.
She didn't recognize him.
Frost smiled. She had no idea how much danger she'd just placed herself in with her inability to flee. Deep inside, he'd known it would be this way when he found her again. He never truly believed the lies he'd told himself.
Ten years he'd waited. A decade of searching, of torment, of insatiable longing for the woman who would not have him, even when he gave his heart freely.
She'd crushed it until it was as cold as his namesake, barren as his homeland in winter's grip.
She would know what it was to be spurned, to be destroyed.
There would be no escape for her this time.
The steady pulse of music, the tinkle of glasses, the roar of a hundred laughing, talking revelers—they all faded away, muted by the harsh thump of her own heart. Darcy MacNair felt like she was drowning in blackness, being swallowed by a great void that wiped away her sensation to everything else but the man standing across the room.
Movement surrounded him in a vortex of energy. He stood in the center, like the eye of the storm—untouchable and dark with mystery, an unmistakable threat of some kind that her mind couldn't—wouldn't—comprehend.
He was no more than a stranger in black, a somber force against all that bright color surrounding him, and yet, she felt he was guarded, shielded somehow from her vision. There was something more to him that she couldn't understand. She felt, inherently, that she knew him, and yet there was nothing of the familiar in him. Despite that dismissal, the feeling nagged her, holding her in thrall when she would have otherwise turned away.
More so than the niggling familiarity, some subtlety of his stance suggested a peril to her. Some danger; a flexing of fingers, a tightening of the jaw, tension potent and powerful as her own, apparent even at the distance.
He wanted her. His look of desire was unmistakable, undisguised by the half mask he wore. It fair hummed on the air like a plucked chord.
Darcy was unable to tear her gaze from him. She was trapped mentally, as if she'd sprung a snare. Something wasn't right. Her brain screamed with warning, racing to discover the stranger's identity. It eluded her, remaining just out of reach. She begged her feet to move, to carry her away.
As if tiring of his game, he dropped his gaze, allowing her freedom that she couldn't take. Enraptured, she felt the caress of his eyes touch her breasts, her waist, the apex of her thighs. She felt his look over her entirety as though he physically touched her. Her body responded. She blushed with heat, broke into a fine sweat that misted her upper lip and the valley of her breasts. She felt chilled and hot all over, probed ... naked.
Her nipples hardened under his deliberate stare as though plucked by rough, callused fingers. Tingling, they pressed into the opaque body stocking of her costume like rosebuds seeking the light.
She was suddenly keenly aware of the fact that she wore nothing beneath the body stocking but skin. Why had she not worn something more substantial to the Mystery Ball? Why had she not anticipated this encounter? Had she been gone so long from the community that her Fay powers had deserted her?
His lingering look left her skin feeling electrified, sizzling from awareness. Without conscious volition, Darcy slipped her glamour on like it was some shield that would defend her from his probing. In that moment, his eyes flashed with darkness, apparent to any who looked, though none did. The air shimmered around him, growing hazy and indistinct as his charm slipped one betraying second.
Had she been dowsed in ice water, she couldn't have frozen more.
By the holy mother, it was
The moment she knew it, the shreds of his glamour stripped away. She met the full force of his natural self like a wall of ice.
She felt beaten by surprise, shocked into stillness. It pained her even to look at him, to have the memories she'd blanked out brought back full force in one blinding, heart stopping moment. Her chest ached; her belly fluttered with nervousness; threads of fear and excitement drenched her veins. His mask did nothing to obscure the fatal beauty of his face. How she remembered it, those eyes that glowed with blue fire; the sensuously cruel, taunting mouth. She cursed her stupidity, her trust that the ancients would never leave their precious communities. That carelessness would be her downfall.
He saw that she'd discovered his identity, and he smiled. Darcy's heart floundered in her chest as though wounded. With deliberate intent, he stalked her across the room.
Strangling a gasp, Darcy whirled around. She had to get out, get away. Escape chanted in her ears, deafening her to her surroundings. Nothing else was important now, only getting away.
She saw the entrance past a thick throng of drunken revelers, knew she could make it if she tried. Darcy gathered her nerve and darted across the dance floor.
From her right, blackness caught the edges of her vision. A black gloved hand closed around her forearm, tugging, turning her around until she was caught against a silk-clad chest that reeked of masculine strength.
She couldn't scream, couldn't move. He controlled her, just as he'd always done. Something about his presence sucked the life force from her body, sucked away her free will. Near to him, she could only think of taking him inside herself, clinging to him as though her life depended on it, as though she couldn't breathe unless he willed it so. The familiar desperation rose to a fever pitch, terrifying her. Her body responded to him with breath-taking force. She felt if he kissed her, she would shatter.
She was immersed in his scent. It engulfed her, evoking faraway images of the wild tundra. He smelled of ice and rich earth, a rough, untamed scent that shook the foundation of her core with vivid memory.
Remembered sensation flashed, as real in her mind as if it happened even now. Memory of the dark returned, eyes that glowed blue in the night, a hot mouth branding her neck, hands stroking her breasts, and the hardness that burned like fire and ice at her groin.
It pressed against her belly now, that hot, huge erection that enthralled and debilitated her. She felt a tickling ooze of arousal dampen her folds—her body salivated to devour him.
Darcy whimpered, hating herself. Hating him. The will to scream and run eluded her. How much had she wanted to see him again, knowing it was wrong, knowing that she would be hurt?
Leather encased fingers dug into her flesh, punishing, commanding. She instinctively pulled back, but his hand slipped to her waist, allowing her no escape. He moved her on the dance floor, grinding against her with subtle, sensual menace in a dance of the ancients. Magic flowed through him, through her. It shimmered on her skin like a summer breeze, lulling her fears, arousing her instincts—instincts of creation.
Darcy shuddered, not daring to look at him, waiting only for the chance to escape. What punishment had he planned?
there ever be another chance to flee?
He continued to dance with her, making no accusation, no attempt at conversation. His frustration was palpable, infusing the dance with an edge that kept her nerves taut. She felt his rigidity in every muscle, in the tense silence. It boded ill for her and with each passing minute, she felt the tension tighten to unbearable limits.
Unable to stand another moment, she blurted out, “Why have you come for me?"
He made a grunt of disbelief. “Can you claim to not know why?"
Darcy felt the deep timbre of his voice in her bones. His accent had always affected her that way, sparked chillbumps over her skin with each husky word—a magic all its own.
When she didn't answer, his hands tightened around her. Anger flashed through the nerves of her skin, reflected through his magic. “You dare claim you don't know?” His voice was strained, unlike him, full of cold anger.
He had every reason to be, and yet, she thought it was more her leaving than any deeper feeling that drew him to her this way.
He pulled her infinitesimally closer, forcing her to meet his eyes. They blazed. The mask couldn't hide his anger. How long had it been since she'd seen the eyes of her kind, to see the markings of power each Fay was born with? Around the half mask, the scrolling birthmark seemed almost black with the contrast of his eyes.
Her fingers ached to smooth the frown from his brow, to trace the other marks upon his body. She had not the power to soothe him—she never had.
"I've come for what is mine, for my wife, Darcioney."
She stiffened. She'd ceased thinking of him as her husband the moment she left, though every day had been hell, every night torment. “The marriage was never consummated. It is void in the eyes of our law."
A muscle ticked in his jaw. “It hasn't been ... yet. I will bind you to me, Darcioney. Tonight if need be.” He propelled them to the edge of the dance floor, closer to the entrance, closer to her doom.