"I swore to destroy the Psy Council." Sascha's empathic gift had saved him from becoming a beast ravaged by vengeance alone, but he was a predatory changeling male. He couldn't forget. "They nurtured Enrique, protected him. I want their blood to flow in the streets."
"Hate will destroy you," she whispered. "It'll destroy... us."
He shuddered, burying his face in the curve of her neck. The electric curls of her hair cushioned him with a soft warmth that was so intrinsically female, he couldn't hope to explain it. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he simply held her, allowed himself to hold her, to accept that she was his mate. And that she came from the very race he'd made the target of all his rage, all his pain... so that he wouldn't have to face his own guilt.
A scientist's practical hand rose to press against his cheek as Ashaya tilted her head in a sweet gesture of acceptance. "People always say it's changelings who most crave touch, but that's not the truth. A long time ago, long before Silence, Psy craved it more than any other."
He let her words wash over him like affectionate rain. His mate, his mate, was trying to temper his grief, trying to tell him they weren't so very different after all.
"We were becoming so mentally inclined, living so much on the psychic plane that it scared us. We sought out physical sensation to anchor us, to bring us back to reality."
"Did it work?"
Her hand rubbed gently and he felt the cat in him shudder in surrender. "Yes," she said. "It turned the course of our history so powerfully that even Silence couldn't derail it. Not even the strongest among us retreat wholly from their physical bodies. Touch saved us."
"Then save me, Shaya." He laid his heart bare, invited her to savage it.
Dropping her hand, she turned in his arms. Then, rising up on tiptoe, she cupped his face in her palms and drew him down. Her kiss was innocent, vulnerable, a caress so gentle that it made him her slave between one breath and the next.
"Dorian," she said and it was another caress. One hand fluttered to rest on his shoulder, the fingers of the other tracing a line across his cheekbone, along his jaw and down until she splayed her hand flat against his heartbeat.
Whether she understood or not, he knew he was being marked in a very feminine way. "More," he demanded, greedy, starving, ready to take.
She curled her fingers into his chest instead of complying. "You're an incredibly handsome male," she said. "Perfect bone structure, pure blond hair, eyes so blue they should be impossible. Your only 'flaw' is this tattoo." She traced the three jagged lines on his right biceps. "It's an echo of the markings on your alpha's face."
He gave a short nod.
"A symbol of absolute loyalty." Her lips parted. "Knowing that just makes you even more dangerously beautiful."
He felt a blush heat up his cheeks. His looks were simply another hurdle he'd had to overcome as far as he was concerned. "Took a long time for people to take me seriously."
"Yes, but you see, Dorian," Ashaya said, stroking her hands down his chest and back up, "you intimidate me."
"You didn't seem intimidated on the couch in the apartment." He raised a hand, fisting it in her hair. It fascinated him, it was so wild, filled with what felt like a thousand colors from pure black to a golden brown. He wanted to know what it would feel like brushing over him. It also made him wonder about the colors in other, lower places. His fingers curled in anticipation.
"That was an aberration. I know you did what you did to help me." She pressed a kiss to his chest and glanced up through her lashes. "Tonight, I find myself asking how I could possibly measure up to a man so beautiful."
Dorian wondered if women were born with the ability to cut their men off at the knees. "Shaya, I look at you and I think sex."
Her fingernails dug into his chest, making his c**k jump.
"Then I think about all the ways in which I'd like to have sex with you. All of them involve licking my way across every inch of you." Bending his head, he flicked out his tongue and tasted her just above the ragged pulse in her neck. "God, I love your skin."
"My skin?" She glanced uncomprehendingly at her own arm when he rose from nibbling at her. "It's brown."
"It's melted chocolate and coffee with cream, exotic as the f**king desert, and so damn erotic, I have wet dreams about you na**d on my sheets, your skin smooth and hot from the sun's rays."
She swallowed, chest heaving. "You make me sound edible." He purred. "You are." He wanted to strip her bit by slow bit - the cat was desperate to know if her skin was the same luscious shade all over. "If it isn't," he whispered, taking her mouth in a ravaging kiss, "I'll happily rub every inch of you with sweet, lickable oil and stroke you until the sun has its way with you."
She seemed to be having trouble breathing. "Dorian, that made no sense."
"Didn't it?" He bit her lower lip and saw her pupils dilate as her hands moved down to grip at his waist. "I have this fantasy."
"Oh." She rose up on tiptoe, unconsciously following his mouth.
He rewarded her enthusiasm with another kiss. "Of sliding my hand from your nape, down the sweep of your back and over the sweet, sweet curves below."
She blew out a shuddering breath when he cupped her bottom with one hand. "I said, slow."
"We're just talking."
Her next look was an accusation. "You know perfectly well what you're doing."
He smiled, feeling the cat purr again. He did know what he was doing. Ashaya was a creature of the intellect. She was so damn smart it turned him on like nobody's business. He knew instinctively that to truly reach her, to awaken her sensuality on the level he needed, he'd have to tempt her mind as well as her body.