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His Drakon Runaway Bride(28)

By:Tara Pammi

Ariana lifted her gaze, her heart beating rapidly in her chest. Grief made the planes of his face harsher, even more stark. He ran the pad of his finger against her cheek, hesitant. Naked emotion fluttered in his eyes, for the first time since she had known him. “You... How long were you out for?”

He had been so afraid for her last night, she realized now. She saw the nightmare of it in his frenzied movements, in his shattered self-control. The words in that clinical report had been enough for him to imagine what she had been through. “Two days. They said I had lost too much blood.”

He nodded, a far-off look in his eyes. A look she knew very well. His detachment look. His “burying away emotion because he didn’t know what to do with it” look.

His retreat look.

“After they discharged me, after I came back to my apartment, one evening I sat with the phone in my hand, my fingers hovering over the numbers. I...had never felt so alone in the world. Not even when they came to our house and told me that my parents’ car had crashed.

“I...desperately wanted to see you, wanted to be held by you. To just give myself over. To let you mold me into whatever you needed me to be. Anything felt better than what I had done with my life.”

“Why didn’t you? Thee mou, Ariana, why did you not call me? Had you no trust in me at all?”

“There was nothing good left by then. Everything was in ashes and I... I realized I had to move on. I had to make sense of my life. I had to change how I lived it.

“I always used my father’s rejection of me as motivation to ruin my life. To do as I pleased. I realized... I was just proving him right. I decided that night that I wouldn’t let him be right.

“The next morning, Rhonda got me a job at the agency. And I never looked back.”

“I saw it in your eyes the first moment I laid eyes on you. I knew immediately you had changed.”

Ariana nodded, dismay coiling up at how...unangry he sounded. So much like the normal Andreas. As if he had gone through the entire range of emotion from fury to grief and was now back to his default state of feeling nothing. “I think a part of me died with our son. I...never wanted to love like that again. I didn’t want that pain again. I thought...”

She cupped his face in her hands, desperate to make him understand. “Andreas, when you found me standing at the church, I... I was about to call Magnus. I was about to call it off.”

His dark eyes held hers. Wariness and something else she couldn’t even identify. “Call what off?”

“The wedding. I realized I just couldn’t go through with it. After everything I thought needed to change in me, it seemed nothing had changed where it mattered. I knew you were going to announce your alliance with... You were going to announce your choice for a wife.

“You...would be King and have a new Queen.

“Whether you knew it or not, whether you were in my life or not, it didn’t matter. You still had a part of me. You still had possession of my heart after all those years.” She felt the tension that rippled through his hard body. Every inch of him screamed rejection. Every inch of him wanted to walk away.

The very instinctual gesture sent deep shivers of fear through her.

He had always wanted her love. Thrived on it. Even a week ago, he’d challenged that he would win it back.

All she was now was an emptiness in his eyes. A resignation that was clawing through her. “I...realized the happy, safe, grown-up life I thought I had with a nice man... I just didn’t want it, after all. That you had ruined me for any other man.”

“Ariana...” A warning.

She pressed her finger against his lips, desperate for the right words. “I was not ready to admit it to you when you showed up. I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself, but I... I never stopped loving you.

“I love you, Andreas.

“I have always loved you. I just... I needed to be worthy of you. Worthy of standing by your side, to rule Drakon. I needed to be more than the train wreck my father thought I was before I could truly understand the meaning of loving you.”

The moment stretched, his silence deafeningly heavy in the wake of her words. It was as if she was trying to hold on to this moment between them, trying to freeze time, and it insisted on getting away from her.

“Andreas...please say something. Curse me. Rage at me.”

Turning away from her, he pulled up on the bed. Face buried in his hands, he exhaled roughly. “What we have, this, is never going to be enough, Ariana. We might as well accept it.

“The choice is yours.”

Fear was a bitter taste on her tongue. “What choice?”

“Whether you want to stay with me or not.” Black eyes became opaque pools, reflecting nothing. As if there was nothing. He took her hand in his, traced the veins on the inside of her wrist. As if he was asking her out to dinner while in reality, he was shredding her to pieces.

Rising to her knees, Ari pleaded with him. “Punish me all you want, Andreas, but please give me a chance. Give me a chance to prove that you can forgive me.”

“Punish you? Forgive you?” He shook his head. The bleakness in his eyes made nausea rise up in her throat. “Do you still not see, Ari? Do you not see how much we’ve lost, how much we... Every time I close my eyes, I see you. Lying on some stretcher, pale, out of it. Alone. I drove you to that.

“Even if I forgive you, I cannot forgive myself.

“Even if I trust you, I can’t trust myself. To not destroy you all over again.”

The shudder that went through his powerful frame sent Ariana through a spiral of desperation. “You’ve changed,” she whispered, her voice husky and rough from all the screaming. “I’ve changed. We have walked through fire, Andreas. And we have both come out strong.”

She traced the angles of his face with shaking fingers. Wet, warm, open-mouthed kisses, she spread them over his torso as if she were sprinkling her own brand of fairy dust.

As if she could somehow make him believe that he could love her, too.

Hands fisted by his sides, he closed his eyes. His breath became harsh, falling on her like soft strokes. She pulled away the duvet that was tangled around their legs and straddled him.

Sinking her hands into his hair, she kissed his temple, his eyes and finally his mouth. He didn’t move, he didn’t react.

A sob rising through her, Ariana dug her teeth into his lip. Moved her mouth down his throat, licked the velvet rough skin of his shoulder. “You love me, Andreas. I will believe it enough for both of us, until you do. You love me, you love me, God, I was such a fool to not see it then. I was such a fool to not stand and fight for you.” She whispered into his skin, the love she felt for him overflowing out of her.

Pushing onto her knees, she pulled off the oversized T-shirt he’d put on her. Arms wrapped around his back, she vined herself around him. His chest crushed her breasts, the angular ridge of his hips digging roughly into her inner thighs.

And then she kissed him. Softly, slowly, stroking and tracing every inch of his sculpted mouth. Pouring everything she felt for him into that kiss.

Only then did he open his eyes. Dark color slashed his cheekbones, his breath out of rhythm. His hands descended to her hips and spread her open, wicked desire glinting in his eyes.

Her breath hitched. Every particle in her stilled as he delved his fingers into her slick flesh. “This proves nothing, Ari. You were right. You have always been my weakness.” One finger and then two penetrated her sensitive flesh. He licked circles around her nipple, never touching the tip.

Making her crazy for more. “You want to be a part of my life? Kala. You want me to continue—” his mouth closed over her nipple and he suckled so deeply that Ariana rocked her pelvis into his washboard stomach “—giving you this mindless pleasure that is the only real thing between us, kala. I’m more than happy to, but that’s all it is, Ari.

“Your destruction, agapita, will not be at my hands this time.”

Sensations spiraled through her. Her spine arched, and Ariana tried to hold on to her thoughts. To not give in to the riot of pleasure that forked through her lower belly. Breathing hard, she stilled his fingers wreaking havoc inside her sex. Just the way he knew would drive her over the edge. “You came for me. After everything I did, you still came for me. You searched for me for two years. That counts—”

His thumb pressed at her clit in erotic circles. Daring her to continue. Drowning her in delirious sensation. Sweat beaded on her skin. All rationality was lost again.

The second he rubbed the thick head of his erection against her swollen flesh, Ariana screamed. Tears gathered in her eyes but there was no turning off the kaleidoscope of sensations arrowing down her lower belly.

“This is all I can give you. This and the status and the respect that I would give any woman I’d have married. I would not cheat on you, but I would not love you, either.

“I will not care what you do with your life, you could learn cabaret for all I care, but I would not love you.”

Ariana bit her lip hard, wondering if actual physical pain could arrest the climax building through her.


Holding her gaze, he wrapped his fingers over her buttocks, lifted her and then sank her down onto his rock-hard flesh. So fully and completely. It stung first and then fire spread through her muscles. He pushed up into a sitting position, his thighs pressing hers inward, one hand locking her wrists.