Cannonballs of hail pounded the dish. Louder. Louder. Louder.

So earsplitting I needed to scream. Vibrations shook the metal at my back. Bolts of lightning struck nearby rocks. Bits of stone were darts against my skin. Thunder boomed so violently, I could feel the percussion in my stomach.

Pouring rain, hail, lightning, winds—as if the universe warned us not to go further. Two opposing forces joining together.

Life and Death.

With his forehead resting against mine, he bit out, “We might be going . . . to hell for this.” But that wasn’t stopping him; pressure grew as he pushed deeper.

I gasped. “Then we’ll rule it together.”

His lips parted. “Es tevi mīlu.” I love you.

For an instant, I saw Jack above me. A moment of time. . . .

I blinked, and I was staring into starry amber eyes again. “I love you too.”

Aric tilted his hips up and plunged.

My scream and his yell were lost to the roaring winds.

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When he was deep inside me, he clenched me close, somehow holding himself still. I felt his heart pounding as he grated words in Latvian.

“English . . . ?”

“You’re mine.” He withdrew with a shudder. “How long I’ve waited.” The heat of his body seared me when he thrust.

“Oh, God, yes.” My hands drifted down to his hips, urging him on.

Between ragged breaths, he said, “Nothing . . . could possibly . . . feel this good. Nothing!” Supporting me with one hand, he used his other to caress me.

“Aric!” The pressure inside me kept mounting.

He gnashed his teeth. “Never want this to end!”

Heat and friction. Electricity. Aric’s increasingly desperate groans. The storm. Everything built and built. “So close . . .” Soon I was on the brink, could only moan and move with him.

“I can’t hold back!” His pace turned feverish. “Sievā, you feel like heaven!”

Sensation overwhelmed me, and I screamed.

I dimly heard him telling me that I was his, that we were forever, that he could feel my pleasure.

That he was helpless not to follow me.

His muscles stiffened. Eyes lost, he bit out: “Dream?”

“No, no . . .”

His body arched, head thrown back. His bellows shook the night, over . . . and over. . . .

Afterward, we clung together, our breaths so loud.

He pressed his lips to my forehead. “Mine.” He clasped me even tighter, his strong arms locked around me as if he’d never let me go.

The storm ebbed. The winds died down, and the hail ended. The last lightning bolt faded away.

36

We lay in the bed in the cabin, just stripped of our wet, ruined clothes. We’d returned to find Cyclops whimpering at the door, but Aric had simply said, “You are quite forgiven. Go home.”

Now Aric wedged his hips between my legs and stroked the back of his fingers over my cheek. “I plan to have you all night, love. Do we need to do something more for contraception?” He dipped down to nuzzle my breasts.

Cheeks gone red, I muttered, “I had a shot.” Paul had said it’d start working right away, but I’d waited a few days to be on the safe side.

Aric raised his head. “You premeditated this?” That seemed to delight him. “I never stood a chance, did I?”

“Just shut up!” I slapped his shoulder.

He grinned, so sexy he robbed me of breath. “You did want me, little wife.” His arrogance had rebounded with a vengeance. “I couldn’t resist you before I loved you; now . . . you hold my heart in your hand once more.”

I swept my palm over his tattooed chest. “I’ll have a care with it this time.”

His eyes went starry again. “I believe that.”

“You’re not disappointed I took precautions? You wanted a kid.” I was ready for a future with Aric—but not with a baby.

Bringing a child into a world without daylight seemed cruel. Would we describe the sun? Maybe we’d say: “Yes, it was millions of miles away, but you could still feel its warmth. I guess you had to be there.”

“Do I appear disappointed?” he asked in a wry tone. No, he appeared overjoyed with me.

“Such a turnaround from before?”

“I’ve realized how selfish that was. And things are . . . different now. If we never have a child, I will be happy. I want all the time I can get with you.”

What little time we had left.

He lowered his head to kiss across one collarbone, his lips hot on me. He scorched a line up my neck . . . across my cheek . . . the corner of my lips. Then fully on my mouth. Cradling the back of my head, he kissed me thoroughly.

When he broke away, he left me aching, my hips rolling for him.

He rose up on straightened arms, raking his gaze over my face, my body, my bright glyphs and restless hips. “I still think this is a reverie, one of my countless fantasies of you.” When he pressed inside, his eyes nearly rolled back in his head. In a strangled voice, he said, “How could this . . . be real?”

_______________

Afterward, we lay on our sides facing each other. I murmured, “I know it couldn’t possibly be worth the wait for you, but was it—”

“By all the gods, it was worth the wait.” He cupped my face, had to clear his throat before he could say, “Do you understand how precious you are to me? Not because I can touch you—that merely allowed me to recognize you.”

I laid my hand over his heart. For two thousand years, it’d been one way. Now it was changed.

His brows drew together, as if he was trying to sort through chaotic thoughts. He opened his mouth to speak, closed it, then tried again: “That wild storm was a tiny fraction of what was going on inside me. I look at you . . . and I soar. I make love to you, and everything is new; I feel . . . so much. I’m certain my chest will explode from it. . . . Gods, I make no sense, do I?” Color tinged his broad cheekbones. “Tonight has boggled my mind. You have boggled my mind.” He held my gaze with his own. “Sievā, I am a planet off its axis.”