As if that weren’t uncomfortable enough, the temperature continued to escalate. Like metal, his wings were still emanating heat from those direct flame hits. The river of lava below didn’t help matters.
While Melanthe’s skin grew flushed, he began to sweat. A drop slipped from his forehead onto her leg, high on her inner thigh. His eyes locked on the drop as it clung to her pale flesh, poised . . . before it slid down like a lazy touch.
He wanted to follow that trail with his tongue—then tug her little panties aside and discover what made her moan. . . .
“Um, Thronos, maybe we should change positions?” When her thighs flexed around his waist, he jerked his gaze up.
There was an unexpected metallic gleam in her blue eyes. Was that interest?
The urge to investigate this, to test boundaries, was overwhelming. Wrong place, wrong time, Talos. “Good idea. Yes.” They shifted limbs, until she was seated with her legs together, perched across his own.
“Interesting that you can read those glyphs,” she remarked casually.
“The language might not be demonic in nature.”
“Uh-huh.” Her way of saying untruth.
No one got his wings up like this sorceress! “You have much invested in convincing me I’m a demon. You want this to be true, solely to make you feel better about yourself.”
“You’re changing, and you know it. You lied earlier when you said you heard nothing, even though a dragon was approaching. You told an untruth to get what you wanted: a look at my body. But a Vrekener never lies, right?”
“How would you know if I’ve acted demonic? How many of their kind have fallen prey to your charms?”
Instead of answering, she said, “Forget it. If we’re about to die, I don’t want to fight with you.” She wiped moisture from her own forehead. “This is like a sauna in here.” Her gaze dipped to his chest, to the scars visible between the sides of what remained of his shirt.
Now it was her turn to follow drops trailing along his body. She watched them as they meandered over the rises and falls of his scars.
She’d mentioned them more than once yesterday. How foul did she think them?
He should be used to his appearance after so long; instead he was often dumbstruck by his reflection, hating each slashing scar, each raised welt. He would absently trace them when lying in bed.
Did she feel any guilt for them? Was she even capable of it? “Go on, then.” He grasped her wrist, forcing her hand to his chest to explore the damage she’d done. “Feel the marks you gave me.” He peered down at her, assessing her reaction.
To his surprise, she slowly ran the pad of her forefinger over one, a line below his collarbone. She continued on to another one, her expression contemplative.
Though he’d wanted Melanthe to acknowledge his pain—to comprehend it—he grew uncomfortable with her appraisal. He was about to stop her when she traced the worst one, the one that had nearly taken his life.
That shard of glass had pierced him deepest. He had hazy memories of each heartbeat causing him agony. And of his mother, reeling from her mate’s death, sobbing over Thronos’s hand, begging all the gods to spare her youngest son.
Wrath. He grasped Melanthe’s wrists.
She blinked up at him, as if waking from a trance. “What?”
“Do you ever regret what you did to me?” He released her.
She leaned away, until her back was against his wing. “Sorceri disdain regret. We consider it the equivalent of an offendment. So no, I don’t.”
Yes, he was learning her tells. Whenever she lied, something in the timbre of her voice made his wings twitch. Plus, she always leaned back from him, as if she wanted to put distance between them, and she blinked for much longer. “Untruth, Melanthe.”
“Is that a Vrekener way of saying bullshit?”
“So you do feel guilt.” She was capable of it. “You must have heard I feel pain when I fly. It seems everyone in the Lore has. I always wondered if you were gladdened.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Do Vrekeners not have healers for their young?”
“Of course we do! My bones were set true, and healed strong.”
“Then what happened?”
“I pushed the torn muscles before they were ready, continually reinjuring my wings and leg.” As well as my back and my other leg. My neck and shoulders. “I did this up to the point when I froze into my immortality—never stopping.”
“You had to know the pain you were courting.”
“What do you think would make me do that, Melanthe? I was on your trail before I was thirteen.”
“So you overused your wings, and I overused my power because of your knights, and now we’re both screwed. Blame me, and I’ll blame you. Again, I can do this all day, demon.”
His brows drew together. For all these years, he’d never imagined that she might have a legitimate cause to hate him.
“Maybe I would feel guilt if you stopped treating me like a slave and insulting me at every turn.” She leaned forward aggressively. “And for gold’s sake, enough with trying to shame me about my sexual past—just because you’ve never been with anyone.”
As much as he hated that fact, it couldn’t be changed.
“So you haven’t been,” she said in a quieter tone.
He couldn’t read her expression, and that frustrated the hell out of him. Probably inwardly mocking him! “Unlike your kind, Vrekeners mate for life. So, no, I haven’t enjoyed a horde of other lovers, as you’ve done.”
Another flashing blue glare.
“It seemed you were with every male but the one fate intended for you. From me, you ran.”
“What did you expect me to do whenever I saw you? Skip into your arms and hope you weren’t bearing a pitchfork? I didn’t have any reason whatsoever not to run from you.”
He had no answer for that. He wasn’t her mate. She’d told him that she had just lived her life.
Without me. As if he’d never existed for her.
Maybe that was what angered him the most—how easily she’d forgotten him, when his every waking moment was filled with thoughts of her.
Lanthe actually did feel the seeds of guilt.
Seeing that memory of his had softened her toward him. And now that she’d acquitted him of all the things she’d once blamed him for, she found it difficult to hold on to the worst of her hatred.
In fact, she could almost see herself and Thronos coming to an understanding, except for four things.
He now hated her for his injuries. He hated her for the loss of “years and children.” He treated her like a war prize. And he had a pathological level of jealousy and distrust.
She would never convince him that his own brother had tried to kill her as a girl. She’d never convince him that she was more than a light-skirt, and she had zero tolerance for his slut-shaming.
Yes, she understood his jealousy and anger better; didn’t mean she could accept his disgust.
So why was she feeling an intense attraction to Thronos? Like right now, with his face set with determination, his wings enclosing her, and his scarred skin sheening with sweat.
Those scars made him look hardened, as dangerous as he’d become. Which she found . . . sexy.
And when she’d explored the marks, she’d noticed things about his body she hadn’t before.
How smooth the unmarked areas of his tanned skin were. How sensitive his flesh was to her touch. How his muscles leapt to her fingers.
His breeches had ridden low on his hips, and she’d realized he didn’t have a tan line. She’d always heard that Vrekeners frowned on nudity in any circumstances. Yet sometime when he’d been transitioning to immortality, he must have lazed naked in the sun.
He’d said he’d had dreams about her every night. Had he thought of her as the sun kissed his rugged body? Her breaths shallowed as she imagined Thronos touching himself to fantasies of her.
When she adjusted her position on his legs, he grated, “Melanthe, we need to make haste to find a portal.” He looked like he was struggling not to stare at her damp cleavage—and failing.
She glanced down, saw him stiffening. If she scooched a couple of inches closer, she’d be able to feel his swelling erection against her hip. “I’m on board with the idea now.” Because the only thing she feared more than dragons and demonic hordes was getting pregnant by a Vrekener. Thronos was clever and unexpectedly sexy. If he ever managed to cut the insults . . .
She couldn’t give this male several days to figure out her weaknesses.
So she attempted to concentrate, to sense a portal amidst all this confusion on the mountain. Hunger and thirst made it even more difficult to focus. Plus her gold senses were pinging like crazy. She swiped her palm over her cheeks, but the gold dust was gone. Could she still be sensing that temple?
She did feel the tiniest vibration of portal power, like an echo. “Maybe. I don’t know.”
She glared at him. “Back—off,” she snapped, then regretted it immediately. Why was she being so adversarial with him? She wasn’t the type of female who always kept her cool, but she also didn’t go around provoking male anger, not with her history with men.
So what if Thronos continued being a dick? It wasn’t like she was going to keep him; they didn’t need to hash out their problems and come to a grand understanding. She just needed to beguile him so she could get back to Rothkalina. If she beguiled him hard enough, he’d take her directly there!
Back to enchanting. She leaned into him, inching closer to his erection. “Tell me a secret.”
“Whenever you’ve enclosed me like this, I’ve received a secret from you.”
“I don’t . . . why are you acting differently?” he asked, voice hoarse.
Uncomfortable, Thronos? “You haven’t been around many females, have you?” He would have no clue how to find his footing with her—making her plan all the easier.
It wasn’t even fair. Which was okay, since Sorceri only cared about fair play when it benefited them. Otherwise, they were not fans.
“Females don’t belong on a battlefront, and I spend most of my time there, so no.”
Don’t belong? She and Sabine had been in the Pravus front line against an army of rebel vampires. Bite your new tongue, Lanthe, bite it! “But you’re with a female now, and she’s instituting a new rule. Under these wings, you have to tell me your secrets,” she said softly. “Consider this our confessional, the wing sauna of truth.”
A raised brow. “Wing sauna of truth? Peculiar sorceress. You always did have a fertile imagination.”
“I know something you could tell me.” She trailed her finger down the slickened skin of his chest, dipping it just inside the waist of his breeches.
He released a sharp breath. Puh.
“Why does an angel like you have no tan line?”
He coughed into a fist. “We don’t have roofs in the Air Territories, have no need of them because we’re above the clouds. As I told you, in the months of my transition, I was searching for you. Often I’d come home, shower, then pass out in bed before dressing again.”
“I would have liked to see that,” she said in all honesty.
“What is this, Melanthe?”
“This is me realizing we could die at any moment. It’s my responsibility as a sorceress to play out my best hand all the way up to the end.”
“Is that what I am to you? Another hand of cards you’ve been dealt?”
Well, yes. “You know what I think? I think you’re surly because you didn’t get your peek earlier. Get me to safety, and I’ll show you anything you want to see.” She eased her thighs open a touch.
He sounded like he’d bitten back a groan. He shifted his position again, probably because his breeches were cutting off his circulation down there.
“Don’t you have a private question for me?” she asked.
“You told me you had sensual dreams about me when you slept.” He narrowed his eyes. “Tell me, sorceress, was I scarred in those dreams?”
He was reaching for his anger because it was familiar to him. Hating me is what he knows best.
She’d chip away at that as well. “Yes, you were scarred. And I was kissing every one of them from top to bottom. You were so sensitive, but you craved more, your big body shuddering.”
He frowned at her. “You’re not . . . you’re not lying.”
In a gruff tone, he said, “I would’ve thought a fickle Sorceri would find the marks distasteful.”
“Thronos, we have problems between us—gods, I know that—but lack of physical attraction is not one of them.” A regrettable truth.
The hope in his eyes almost made Lanthe lose her nerve with her plan.
“You must have noticed our crackling sexual chemistry?” she asked.
“I thought that was just the way one felt around a mate,” he admitted. “Yet you feel it for me as well.” His brows drew together. “So why did you tell me I left you cold?”
“I said I felt physical attraction. But I find it difficult to desire a male who insults and hurts me.”
Instead of addressing this, he said, “How many have you felt this chemistry with?”
And here we go.
“How many males have there been, Melanthe?” he asked in a quiet voice, as if he were bracing for her answer.
“You’ll never get a number out of me.”