It took everything in Ophelia not to apologize to the hard-headed jerk who’d thought to leave her while he fought her battle. And to make it worse? He now sat in front of her with shredded, yet mending lips and bloody teeth, looking like he wanted to kiss her.
“No!” She shouted aloud to all of the things her body was craving. His smile widened and she nearly moaned when the tip of a blood-coated fang peeked through his lips. Gathering her wits and beating her hormones back with a stick, Ophelia jumped to her feet. “No!”
His smile disappeared as his lips mended. “Look—”
“No, and I mean it. I am coming with you.” She moved toward the mouth of the cave and Irish dove for her, grabbing her hand and yanking her back. When she fell into his chest, she thrust out her elbow and jabbed him in the ribs. His rasping breath and his warm body pressed against her, almost made her forget she was fighting to get away—almost. She stomped her foot down, then adjusted her stance to knee him in the balls.
Rethinking this tactic, Irish used her moment of indecision and kicked his feet out, knocking her off balance. She fell to the ground face down, and Irish fell with her. He caught himself just in time and then grabbed her hands holding her tightly against the cool cave floor with his heavy body.
“Get off me!” She rasped, struggling against his hold.
“Ophelia,” his voice was a deep growl, “stop.”
She fought harder. Fuck that, she was pissed! How dare he hold her down. Feeling his long, thick legs straddled to either side and his muscular arms threaded around her, heat bloomed in her chest. Anger and arousal warred deep in her belly. Not thinking of that now. She thrashed against him.
Irish grunted and then let out a groan she’d never heard from a man. “Ophelia,” his voice strained, “please stop moving.” Heavy pants sounded above her.
“Let me go.” She said, plotting. This time, she would not hesitate . . . only his heat felt so damned good, his warm arms holding her just enough to stop her from freeing herself. She nearly complied.
“I want to let you go, but I’m not chasing your ass out of this cave. Promise me you’ll behave,” he demanded.
Ophelia would not be told what to do when she was being held down against her will. She bucked hard, until a pleasured groan passed his lips. Never had she made a man sound like that. Screams, howls, and pleas for mercy? Yes. But never such a breathy groan. Still, her anger boiled deeper. She wouldn’t give in, not on this matter. She couldn’t. “You will not command me!”
In her struggle to move out from underneath him, her soft bottom nudged something long and hard. She stilled a moment, before giving another wriggle to test his reaction. Instead of holding her tighter or fighting back, he gently pressed into her.
His body was so hot, it seared her to her very soul. He gently released one arm and moved his grip to her hip. “Please behave, so I can let you up. I can’t stay like this any longer.” He swallowed hard between shallow breaths.
“No.” Ophelia wanted to go with him on the mission, but her answer was directed at the fact that he wanted to remove his body from atop hers. Making one last effort to get out of this situation, she bucked up and scooted out of his grasp.
Irish came up on all fours, but kept his head held low, taking deep calming breaths.
“What’s wrong with you?” she asked.
He looked up at her sharply, heat blazing in his eyes. “What do you think? You did that on purpose.”
Her eyes moved down to the large bulge in his pants. “Huh? You tackled me. Not the other way around.” She let out an indignant huff and crossed her arms over her chest.
He released a bark of laughter. “And you sure showed me, didn’t you? Rubbing against me like a puppy in heat!” He stood and adjusted himself.
Her face flamed and the word puppy slapped her in the face like a sledge hammer. “How was I supposed to know that you—that you,” she gestured to his pants, “enjoy holding women down against their will?”
A look of outrage colored his face. “Are you insane, lass? Donnae be lookin’ at me, when I’m only trying to stop you from running off alone, to get killed or bred,” he said with extra emphasis. “You are the one rubbing on me like an animal in heat. What did you think was going to happen?”
She stared at him for a moment. Why did he keep comparing her to an animal? “I—I’m sorry, I just wanted to get away!” She threw her hands up and screamed. “Why am I apologizing?”
“Because, lassie,” his voice lowered and his eyes narrowed. “You just took advantage of me!” Even as he said it in his thick brogue, she saw a glint of humor in his eyes and an impish grin playing on his lips.
Her indignant huff echoed off the walls. “Oh, come on.” She jabbed a finger out at him. “I did not, you did!” She sounded immature, but there was nothing to be done about it.
“And what do you suppose happens when a woman with a luscious ass rubs it up and down a man’s cock?” His voice was low and soft like a purr.
Her face heated even more and she swallowed hard. It had not been her intention, but when she’d realized what she’d done, she didn’t move to stop. “That is no way to talk to a queen.”
He scoffed. “Nor is it anyway for her royal highness to act either, now is it? Pushing against me cock like that . . .”
“I’m a virgin!” Ophelia blurted, wanting to die of embarrassment when he scrambled back, looking disgusted. All of the blood in her body rushed to her face, leaving it redder than she was sure it had ever been.
Her mind scrambled to fix the situation. “I—I have to be. To protect the throne from heirs who weren’t born from me and the wolf I am promised to.” Her word vomit kept flowing. “I’ve never even been kissed.” She clapped a hand over her mouth. Closing her eyes, she endured a long silence.
He finally cleared his throat. “That was a wee bit awkward, no?”
Her lids popped open and a bit of her mortification deflated when she saw the affable smile on his face. “Can I fight with you and the others?”
His silence had her feeling twitchy and ready to run, but instead of the adamant no she was expecting he said, “I’ll play ye for it, lass.”
She smiled. “Ten lashings, and counting.”
He winked and pointed to a tree one hundred yards in the distance. Pulling a small knife from his sleeve, Irish threw it at the tree. “Best three out of four.” He looked over his shoulder, a roguish grin on his lips. “I win, and you go to the ship. You win, and you can tag along. Game?”
Little did he know she was one of the best knife throwers in her pack. She sauntered over and held her hand out. He handed her a knife and she turned and got in her throwing stance. “If you win,” she eyed the tree, “I go to the boat like a good little princess.” She did a practice throw without releasing the knife.
“And if you win?” His voice was close behind her and the heat of his body nearly stole her concentration.
“If I win, I not only go with you on the mission, but you teach me how to kiss, here and now.” She threw the knife, loving the sound it made as it whistled through the air, hitting Irish’s knife, and knocking it from the tree.
“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.