“Where in the hell did you learn to throw knives?” Irish asked, counting her knives in the tree. She’d made all of her throws and to add insult to injury, she landed each of her knives on top of his, except one—the one he’d missed.
He’d actually lost the wager.
She sat down close to the mouth of the cave and looked to him. “A race nearly extinct, remember? When you are in hiding, you learn how to protect yourself. Plus, there wasn’t much else to do.”
Her words sobered him up a bit. He was still amazed at her ability, but he felt like hell for the reason she’d ever needed to learn in the first place. Her kind was hunted and killed off by his kind in the past.
“Now,” she looked up at him, “you’ll teach me to kiss.”
“I—uh . . .” He scratched his head and backed away.
“You, uh . . . promised.” Her eyes narrowed. “Is that the kind of man you are? One who reneges on a deal?”
He hadn’t thought she’d win the bet. Crossing his arms over the expanse of his chest, he huffed. “Why do you need to learn now?” He gestured around. “Here of all places?” Maybe he could stall. Just the thought of his lips on hers had him ready to explode in his pants. But she was firmly on the Hands Off Irish list. The first reason being, she was promised to another man. The second reason being, she was untouched.
“Why not now? There’s nothing else to do but wait.”
He took a deep breath and wondered if it made him a bastard to want to be the man who taught her to kiss. There was something erotic about kissing. Irish had to banish that idea from his head because there was no damned way he was teaching her to kiss. “You should be preparing for what’s to come.”
Her blonde brow arched. “If that knife competition didn’t convince you I’m capable of taking care of myself, then maybe you forgot when you first saw me on the isle, when I had just gutted a man from his privates to his neck.” She raised her chin, daring him to say anything.
“Lesson one: If you want a man to kiss you, you don’t talk about slicing anyone’s balls.” She nodded emphatically and he didn’t have the heart to tell her he was only kidding. He pushed off the wall, strode over, and sat down in front of her.
She was biting her lips—most likely a nervous gesture—and while he found it endearing, he reached up and pulled the puffy lip from between her teeth.
“Lesson two: Don’t damage the goods.” He smiled when she blushed. “Come here,” he whispered and she obliged. “Will you sit on my lap?” For him, the best part of a kiss was the intimacy it offered. Having her close would increase the heat of her body against his.
Irish needed to cool down his libido, reminding himself, this is just a lesson. It would go no further than a kiss.
She nodded and settled in his lap.
“Okay, here we go.” He’d never had to instruct a kiss, figuring that kissing was something so natural, the two people would find a rhythm all their own. So, he’d try it that way. He leaned in and her eyes went wide. Pulling back, he asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I thought you were going to teach me.” In the waning sunlight, her eyes sparkled and her pink cheeks flamed.
He smiled. “Kissing is natural. I can’t really instruct you through the mechanics because my mouth is going to be on yours. I want you to place your lips on mine, then follow my movements. Do what comes naturally to you. If you want to stop, just pull away.” When she nodded her understanding, he leaned in part way, waiting for her to lean in as well.
The first soft touch of her lips rocketed him out of his body. He slanted his head and applied more pressure, and like he thought, her natural reaction was to slant her head in the opposite direction. With a smooth motion, Irish pushed his tongue past the barrier of her lips. She gave a small gasp in surprise, but quickly copied his movements.
Her hand came up and nails scored his scalp, causing him to delve deeper. His fangs extended, scraping over her tongue, drawing a small bead of blood. He sucked on the tip of her tongue and she moaned so loud, it reverberated off the cave walls. Irish realized his hesitance to teach her had not come from anything other than his fear of losing control. Because he wanted more than a simple kiss.
Ophelia’s hands moved to his shoulders, holding him in a vice grip. Her body, hot against his, moved of its own accord. Soon, she moved her legs to straddle his waist, and he could scent her arousal. Irish was primed and ready, grabbing onto her ass to hold her firmly on his lap. It was then, an unwarranted thought blasted into his mind. Ophelia was to be queen, and when she hit that throne, she needed to be a virgin.
That thought sobered him up real quick. He pulled away. “Lesson over.” Grunting, he gently moved her off his lap.
“Wait, why?” She stood with him. “Was it wrong?” He felt her hand on his shoulder.
“No, it was all right—too right.” He moved to the mouth of the cave. “We need to head out. The sun is low and we can get there in time to meet the boat.” He didn’t look back at her. Yes, he was an ass for pushing her away without explanation, but hell, if he got hard again with no sort of release, his balls would explode in his pants.
When he did turn, she was removing the shirt he’d given her to wear. “What are you doing?” he asked in a panicked voice.
She eyed him for a moment then frowned. “I’m going to shift. I’ll move faster this way, and my senses will be sharper. Plus, you said I could go to the compound with you and I am better when I’m in wolf form.” Her words were sharp and her tone was clipped.
Good, he needed her to forget the kiss and focus on the task at hand. He turned just as she pulled that tattered dress up and over her lithe body. “Do you—uh—remember the plan?” he asked. At her silence, he turned to find a large wolf with silky fur the same hue as a stormy night’s sky and an endearing little patch of pure white fur under her jaw. “Damn,” he whispered.
Moving forward, he reached out to the wolf. He’d seen her as a wolf before, but each time was as amazing as the first. She nuzzled his hand when he pet her. “I won’t be able to understand you, but I know you can hear me.” He knelt down in front of her. “If anything happens to me, or if shit hits the fan, run.” She gnashed her teeth and shook her head. “Hey,” he reached up and caressed her soft fur, “for me, please. Your people will need you to lead them back to the coast.”
He couldn’t go off into this mission worrying about her, but as he stood and headed out into the night, he knew some of them weren’t making it home. He could only pray it didn’t include Ophelia.