“Shayla, look at me.”
As much as she’d been waiting for his voice, it still startled her. His use of her name. His tender, regretful tone.
She knew she must obey, but was afraid if she did, she’d lose control of her emotions— and she wasn’t sure whether hurt or anger would win out. Neither was appropriate to show, and both were likely to result in tears.
The king stepped toward her until he was easily within arm’s reach. “Young Shayla,” he whispered, coaxing her. A long moment passed. And then he fell to his knees before her, his face tilted upward so their eyes could finally meet.
She gasped and her mouth dropped open. He was more fascinating, more gorgeous, than she had even fully recalled. Fire danced behind his eyes, and flashes of gold shined out through the emerald. He was smiling, and it highlighted the strong masculine angles of his jaw and cheeks so vividly it stole her breath. A reaction amplified by the appearance of the sharp tips of his fangs. Shayla licked her lips.
Despite being on his knees, he radiated such palpable power she could feel it jangling in the air between them.
Oh, God. He’s on his knees. A throaty sigh escaped her as she dropped to her own. She was always to be below him.
“Now I can’t see you again.” The warm, amused tone was back. “Please look at me.”
Taking a deep breath, Shayla finally obeyed. Her gaze raked over his intricate tartan robes before finally settling on his handsome face. When their eyes met, the smile he let loose dazzled her, and she smiled back. His playfulness, the incredible sense of ease now possessing him, made it harder to hold on to her anger.
“Thank you,” he said. She nodded. “I have some things I’d like to say to you. Are you willing to hear them?”
“Of course, Your Highness.”
Kael frowned for a moment, and Shayla didn’t have time to figure out why before he spoke again. “I hurt you, and I owe you an apology.”
She inhaled to speak, but he cocked his eyebrow and she fell silent. She nodded again instead.
“I don’t just mean for hurting you with the knife, although I am…beyond sorry you had to endure that.” He grasped one of her hands in both of his and her lips fell open. His touch was so warm, so encompassing. “I lost control and it compromised your safety, your well-being, and that is my first responsibility to the Proffered.”
Shayla’s shoulders and gaze dropped as he referred to her title again. She internally reprimanded herself for expecting anything else.
The fingers on his free hand nudged her chin up and beckoned her to look at him. “Shayla, I lost control because I…I felt something, with you. Something I don’t feel…ever. I…”
She should’ve been focusing, listening, but… Did he just say he felt something for me? With me? Lost control because he felt something…as in, he has feelings? For me?
He chuckled. “Where did you go, young one?”
Shayla shook her head. “I’m sorry, Your Highness.”
He squeezed her hand and dipped his head to look up into her once again diverted gaze. “Shayla, could you please call me Kael?”
Her eyes flew to his and she gaped. “Yes?”
His grin brightened his whole face. “Was that a question?”
“No, Sir—er, Kael.” A blush bloomed hot on her face.
“Mmm, that is lovely. And so fragrant.” He fingered her cheek. “I would like to taste you, Shayla.”
She gulped and shuddered as her heart took off at a mad gallop. “O-okay.”
“Okay,” he whispered as he leaned in.
This wasn’t the wild kiss he’d claimed her with earlier. His lips found hers gently, reverently, as if he was savoring small tastes of a rare gourmet meal. One large hand grasped her shoulder and the other cupped her cheek—both brought her closer to him. He pulled and sucked at her lips, his hair falling around their faces as he rose up over her. She opened herself before he even demanded it of her—her body remembered his exquisite taste and begged for its return.
Their tongues stroked and explored, but she needed more. She pushed forward just enough to suck his whole tongue deep into her mouth.
Sweet fulfillment exploded against her taste buds, dragging whimpers and moans from her. He groaned and her hands flew to his hair. Her left hand found masses of thick silky bronze she gripped and tugged as she held him to her, but her right hand fell on his jeweled braid.
Knowing the significance of it, she yanked her hand back, afraid she’d offended him.
But then his big hand grasped hers where it rested against his chest and pulled it back up to his head. “Hold me,” he whispered against her lips. “Touch me.”
Shayla moaned her assent as her fingers wrapped around the braid and the jewels bit lightly into her skin.
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