Because it wasn't Murdoch.

Just as she began to pull back from Jadian, her ears twitched. Something was wrong -

Jadian went flying away from her into a tree. She blinked, struggling to get her bearings. Murdoch? He's back!

And he was seething, staring at Jadian with deadly intent, his eyes flooding black.

"No, Murdoch!" she cried. "This is Lord Jadian. He's come to offer me my crown! He's killed Sigmund. Murdoch, are you hearing me?"

Nothing.

"Are you drunk?"

Finally he spoke. To Jadian. "You dare touch my woman?" He launched himself at the Iceren, who eagerly met him. They clashed in the snow and howling winds, throwing punches.

Jadian was fast, skilled, and in his element, but against Murdoch's tracing and palpable fury he was no match. Until Jadian raised ice in his palm...

Oh, gods, Murdoch. "Stop! Both of you, stop fighting now!"

Jadian immediately dropped his hands. Following the order? He gritted his teeth just before Murdoch roared and swung his fist, connecting with Jadian's temple like an anvil hit. Jadian staggered.

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She rushed between them. "Jadian! Are you all right?" Never taking his eyes from Murdoch, he nodded. "Stay here, please." To Murdoch, she said, "Vampire, come inside with me. Now!"

She couldn't believe she was talking like this to the drunk, infuriated vampire who'd just caught his Bride kissing a strange male. Yet when she strode toward the lodge, Murdoch did follow her, though he seemed to be getting more and more enraged with each step.

Once they were inside, she said, "This is not as bad as it looked."

"He kissed you," Murdoch grated, his eyes wild. "He took what doesn't belong to him."

"What are you talking about?"

"Your first kiss - it was mine to give you one day. But you let him."

"I just wanted to see what it'd be like," she said, repeating his words from all those months ago. "It's trivial, especially compared to what has happened tonight. Jadian has come to take me back to Icergard, to my people. They want to offer me my throne."

"And Jadian" - he sneered the name - "had to kiss you to extend the f**king invitation?"

"You have a lot of nerve to blame me for kissing another, since you did it to me."

"Before we'd become committed."

"Committed?" she cried. "You don't even know the meaning of the word! You leave me here, avoiding me, and when you do return, you're distant and preoccupied."

"You let him touch you!"

"I did, and it was nice. More than nice!" she added the lie. "But maybe you're too drunk to notice that I was pulling away from him -  because of you. I chose you, over a male I can touch! And now I see that I chose poorly. Luckily, I can rectify the situation." She held up her crown, clenched in her fist. "I'm going to Icergard with him."

Something in Murdoch seemed to snap. "No, Daniela, you're not." He stalked closer to her. "You're going to stay with me - because you are mine." Finally he was behaving like the domineering vampire. "My woman to possess, to kiss, to drink." As he stared down at her, his irises were black as night and just as fathomless.

Wait...to drink? "No, no. Don't, Murdoch!" But she was caught, mesmerized by the desire in his eyes. "Ah, gods..." When his gaze dropped to her neck, she knew he was going to do it.

So why am I not fighting him?

His gloved hands clamped her shoulders, squeezing them as he held her in place. His parted lips covered her neck, seeking...

Just as she cried out, he groaned and bit down. She flailed, but he held her tight. Pain seared her skin, his fangs like two brands shoved into her neck, his tongue like a flame.

CHAPTER 35

Murdoch fell upon her, pressing her into the wall as he sank his fangs deeper into the sweet flesh of her neck. The cold pained him, so badly he nearly released her, but soon blood wet his mouth. The taste... He growled against her, the pleasure was so intense.

Finally, she's in my arms. At last, I can hold her, taste her.

Couldn't believe he was doing this, needed to pull away. I'm taking too much.

He could feel her cries against him. When she screamed, he somehow released her, stumbling back. "Oh, God, Daniela!" He stared in horror at her ravaged neck, her tender skin burned.

As she backed away from him, her silver eyes welled with tears. "How could you, Murdoch?" Her pupils were huge with shock. "You vowed to me."

Between heaving breaths, he rasped, "Daniela, I don't know what happened."

"You lost control. And you'll do it again."

He wanted to deny it. Christ help me, I can't. His expression must have betrayed his thoughts.

Her tears spilled, her face paler from blood loss. "Now you're the second man who's touched me against my will." Her words were growing weaker, indistinct.

He grated in confusion, "The second?"

"I'm leaving, and I never want to see your face again as long as I live."

Jadian rushed into the lodge then, his watchful gaze taking in the scene. "You bit her?" He looked at Murdoch like he was scum, like he was a monster. "I will slaughter you for harming my queen."

"N-no," Daniela said through her tears, tugging on his arm. "I just want to go."

Go, with that male, away from Murdoch. Forever. "Don't you leave me!" he bellowed.

In answer, she put the back of her hand against her mouth and sobbed. Unsteady, crying freely, Daniela turned to the door without a glance back. When Murdoch charged after her, Jadian stood in his way. Murdoch tensed, about to attack him once more -

Daniela's legs gave way, her body crumpling. In a flash, Jadian swung around and caught her up against him. "Queen Daniela?" Then his eyes narrowed. "Blood loss."

"Give her to me," Murdoch grated with outstretched hands, "or I'll kill you so slowly."

"So you can drain more of her?" Jadian shifted Daniela into one arm; with his other, he hurled a handful of ice at Murdoch.

The hit connected with his chest like a freight train, sending Murdoch crashing into a wall. His skin began to freeze, trapping him in place.

He thrashed to break free, but the ice was too strong. "Don't you dare take her! She can't see that this is a trick - "

With Daniela still in his arms, Jadian loomed over Murdoch. "There is no trick. I've eliminated any threat against her. Her sister even told me how to find her, because she wants Daniela to be with her own kind."

"Then where the f**k were you for the last two thousand years?"