He pictured how her br**sts would bounce as he f**ked her.

These lustful thoughts were so unfamiliar, so futile. She would never be beneath him. He angrily palmed his erection behind his jeans, which he knew was a risk, because the worse his arousal grew, the worse it would stay - if he couldn't get her to relieve him of it.

Just this once, he would need her to break the seal. Then he could go on his way, satisfying himself with others.

In his human life, he'd had women falling all over themselves to attract his notice. Whenever he hadn't been on the battlefield, he'd been cradled between a woman's thighs, and had grown notorious for his skills in bed. But if none of the tricks he'd learned would work on Daniela, then how could he seduce her to ease him of this burden -

"Murdoch," she sleepily sighed, "my panties are wet."

A shaky exhalation of breath. "Are they, then?" Had his voice broken?

She wriggled her h*ps as if she wanted them off her. With a hard swallow, he reached forward and dragged the scrap of lace down, revealing silky blond curls. Another groan, another coarse swipe over his shaft.

Too much temptation. He was about to fall on her, to mount the soft body na**d before him.

Three centuries he'd been denied this. His fangs were throbbing along with his cock. He wanted to bury anything he could inside her.

With a sharp shake of his head, he snatched up a sheet to toss over her. When it glided across her ni**les, they budded against it. He studied the ceiling, desperate not to see the way her ni**les strained into the material. Then he sank into the room's one chair, but just as abruptly shot to his feet to pace again. He itched to stroke her, to explore the dream woman in his bed.

Fight the arousal. Resist it -

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She kicked off the sheet. He rushed to draw it back up to her neck. "Keep this here, Valkyrie."

More restless pacing. With a huff, she kicked the sheet away once more. God, could she be any lovelier?

He ran his hand over his mouth. "Damn it, Daniela. It might be a fraction warmer, but it's a world safer for you." Had he drawn up the sheet more slowly, skimming it across her ni**les on purpose?

Yet again, she rid herself of the sheet, but this time she drew one knee up. He saw her sex parted and nearly went to his knees.

Never to taste her there? Fury suffused him. Never to see those blond curls damp from his mouth or wet with his seed?

Never to claim his Bride. Why the f**k had she blooded him then?

He traced to the bathroom, stripped, then stepped under a cold shower. He scrubbed his body with no care for his many wounds.

This blooding business was the most ridiculous rot Murdoch had ever heard of. A woman had to bring him to life, and then he was expected to be bound to that one female - not for a year or a decade. Not even for a mortal's married lifetime.

For eternity.

He'd had no choice in the matter, none whatsoever in the choosing of the female. What if he didn't like delicate-looking blondes? As a mortal, he'd been attracted to buxom barmaids, and milkmaids, and kitchen maids, and the occasional shepherdess - robust women with hearty carnal appetites.

For his Bride, he'd gotten Daniela, the exquisitely fine but untouchable Valkyrie.

As he ran the soap down his torso, his hand brushed his rampant cock. Unremembered pleasure shot through him like an electric current. He was as hard as he'd ever been, aching to come.

When he gripped his shaft in his fist, a strangled sound of need burst from his chest. He gave a stroke up to the crown and back. Felt so good, he had to do it again, and again.

Masturbating for the first time in centuries.

His eyes slid shut when he perceived his se**n welling. In a rational part of his mind, he knew it couldn't go further without her; she had to unleash this within him.

Resentment warred with his ecstasy - if she left him like this, he would be crippled by this lust. But everything else within was greedy for the pleasure.

Uncaring, lost, he thrust hard into his fist.

CHAPTER 7

When Danii woke to the drum of an air conditioner chugging full blast, she found herself alone - and naked.

As she blinked in the shade-darkened room, foggy memories from the night before began to surface. She remembered the vampire's savagery in the fight. She recalled him later gazing down at her in the bathtub with his brows drawn, his face pale from blood loss. How doggedly he'd kept watch over her.

But after that, nothing. Once the poison had begun working its way from her system, she'd blanked.

So... naked? She was certain he'd put her in the tub with her panties on. Now he'd seen her completely unclothed.

Had he liked what he'd seen? No, as an unblooded vampire, he'd have no interest.

A cursory survey of her body revealed a mass of twinges, but her wounds had mended for the most part, leaving only a closing tear just below her collarbone. Her temperature was still high, but would gradually drop each day.

She inspected her wrist where he'd grabbed her. The burn had healed as well.

Even after all these centuries, she was surprised by the degree of pain involved with skin to skin contact. For some reason, it was always the worst. She could skirt a car exhaust and only suffer a lingering sting.

But another's skin against hers was like fire...

She gazed around the spartan room. Considering the still unpacked duffel bag and sparse furnishings - a lounge chair, a desk, and the mattress - this definitely wasn't a permanent home. Danii knew the Forbearers lived in the sinister Mount Oblak castle. So what was he doing here?

Over the drone of the air conditioner, she heard the shower going. The vampire hadn't left her? She recalled the injuries he'd sustained taking out eight of those Icere bastards, remembering that he'd been hurt much worse than she'd initially thought. She didn't know how he'd still been standing, much less how he'd cared for her.

If not for him, she would have died. The poison would have taken hold until even her immortality couldn't have saved her. He had saved her.

She grinned. No longer did she think him skeevy.

When blood had been everywhere and Danii helpless before him, Murdoch hadn't even tried to drink from her. And Valkyrie blood was supposed to be irresistible to vampires. Myst had confided to Danii that she'd given a drop to Nikolai the Overlord five years ago, and he'd been wild for it.

Oh, Myst... What should Danii do about her sister's abduction? Myst, who'd once done her a favor so great that she could never repay it.

The answer seemed obvious. Call Nix and tell her to launch a search and a war if need be. Murdoch had a satellite phone on his desk.

But earlier, he'd said he could take Danii to her sister - because Myst would be with Nikolai. So the two of them were together.