Wincing, he could still imagine the way her scent had clung to his sheets and pillows…

The way it had clung to his skin.

Be strong, Velkan. He had to be. The last thing he wanted was to let her hurt him any more than she already had.

She came forward a bit hesitantly before she set the tray down on the table by his bed. Her long hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she looked extremely tired. And yet she managed to be the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. "Do you still prefer your steak served with onions and stewed apples?"

Her question surprised him. He couldn't believe that she'd remembered that. Nodding, he watched as she pulled the silver top off the platter and then uncovered the onions.

"Are you not eating?" he asked as she handed him the plate.

"I'll just take some of the bread. I'm not really hungry."

He shook his head at her. "Bring the bread plate and split this with me."

"You need it."

"I will live and I can send for more. Now bring me the plate."

She arched a brow at his sharp tone.

"Please," he added, softening his voice.

Retta paused at that. This was a man who was used to issuing commands. To her knowledge, he'd never even uttered "please" before. Her heart softening, she picked up the plate and did as he asked.

"Thank you," she said as he halved his food with her. "By the way, I have a bone to pick with you."

"Only one?"

She smiled in spite of herself. "At the moment."

"Then I can't wait to hear it," he said before tasting his steak.

"'Bram' and 'Stoker'?"

He laughed, a deep, resonant sound. "It was fitting, I thought."

Retta growled at him. But she didn't mention her room, which she'd seen the night of her arrival. It had been an eerie reminder of their past, and it had brought home to her just how much Velkan loved her. Even if he denied it, she knew the truth. Everything had been laid out as if he'd expected her to return at any moment.

When she'd seen it, she'd actually sat down on the floor and wept over her own stupidity.

Forcing that thought away, she cleared her throat. "Did you have to give that man that awful book about my father?"

He shrugged those broad shoulders before he wiped his mouth. "I was stationed in London at the time and bored. He'd been working on the book and had been calling the lead character Radu—which, no offense to your uncle, isn't nearly as compelling as Vlad Dracula.

Besides, it's not my fault the book took off. It would have been forgotten completely if not for the movie decades later."

She narrowed her eyes on him suspiciously. "I heard you had a hand in that, too."

"That is a rumor of which I'm quite innocent."

"Uh-huh." Even so, she wasn't really angry at him. At least not now. A century ago, she'd wanted to cleave his head from his shoulders, but strangely, now that she was here, she felt an odd kind of peace. It was so bizarre.

He set his plate aside.

"You're not through, are you?"

"I'm not really hungry."

The only problem was that she was starving… and it wasn't for food. What she really wanted a taste of was that delectable mouth of his. He was sinful and decadent. He'd always been that way, and it had been so long since she'd last had a kiss, Velkan could barely focus as his body burned for a taste from his wife. How cruel to be this close to her and to not be allowed to sate the need that burned so furiously inside him.

She finished her food, then moved to retrieve his plate. As she did so, she turned to look at him. It was a mistake.

Unable to stand it, he buried his hand in her soft auburn hair and pulled her closer to him. He expected her to push him away.

She didn't.

Instead, she met his lips with remarkable passion. It was as if she wanted to devour him.

Velkan growled at her enthusiasm. It'd been the last thing he'd expected from her. But God, how good she tasted. It was the most incredible moment of his life and all he could think of was pulling her naked body flush to his.

Retta couldn't get enough of him as she folded herself into his arms. At least not until she eagerly brushed her hands against his ribs and felt him cringe from the pain of his injuries.

"I'm sorry," she breathed, pulling back.

But he didn't let her go far. He pulled her back to him and gave her a kiss so sizzling that it melted her completely. With a teasing laugh, she nibbled his lips. "You're still hurt."

"You're worth a little pain," he whispered before he buried his lips against her throat.

Retta groaned as chills spread over her, and her body heated up immediately. It'd been way too long since they'd been together. She'd all but forgotten how good this felt. How good Velkan felt. Leaning back, she pulled him with her until his weight was pressing her into the bed. Still his lips didn't leave her neck as he unbuttoned her shirt. His eyes were dark with hunger as he cupped her breast while his thumb slipped beneath the lace to touch her skin.

She shivered at his hot touch as she pulled his shirt from over his head.

His skin was still burnt and angry looking, but even so, she'd never seen anything more exquisite. He was so lean and ripped that she could see the outline of every muscle on his chest. And she remembered the first time she'd seen him naked. He'd been hesitant, afraid of hurting her. And she'd been stunned by the size of him. By the contrast of his masculine body to hers. Where she was soft, he was hard. Where her skin was smooth, his was chafed by battle scars and calluses. And his scent…

It was warm and masculine, all-consuming.

Shivering, she reached around and undid her bra, then let it fall to the floor.

Velkan could barely breathe. He still couldn't believe she was allowing him to touch her. Not after all the anger she'd spewed. All the insults that had gotten back to him over the centuries. If he were smart, he'd send her packing. But how could he? No matter the anger, he knew the truth..

He still loved her. He still wanted her.

She was everything to him.

And she might change her mind…

That would be too cruel for words. Cruel even for the daughter of Vlad Tepes.

Her eyes dark with longing and passion, she moved from the bed to divest herself of her pants. Velkan thought he was going to die as she reached for her panties. His breath came in short, sharp bursts as she licked her lips, teasing him, exciting him. The tips of her fingers went beneath the black satin fabric.

"Do you want me to leave?" she asked as she hesitated while he waited for her to lower that damned skimpy piece of fabric.

What, was she insane? Or just plain cold?

"Hell, no," he growled.

Smiling, she slowly pulled the panties down her legs until she could step out of them. In that moment, it was a struggle not to come from the sheer pleasure of seeing her naked alone.

Damn, but she had the hottest body the gods had ever gifted to a woman. Granted her breasts weren't very large and her hips were a bit wide, it didn't matter to him. There was no woman more perfect.

Retta loved the power she felt as he watched her with hooded eyes. Even so, she could tell how eager he was. But that was nothing compared to how badly she wanted a taste of him.

She pulled the covers away from Velkan's body, then crawled back onto the bed between his legs while never breaking eye contact with him. Her mouth dry, she finally dropped her gaze down the bulge in his pajama bottoms. She could have sworn she heard him whimper.

But still he didn't move while she moved her hand so that she could cup him through the flannel. He hissed as if it were sheer torture, and yet she knew by the look of relief on his face that he was enjoying it immensely. It still wasn't enough. Her heart hammering as her entire body burned for him, she dipped her hand into the slit of his pants to seek him out. His skin was so hot and smooth as she touched his cock. He was already wet and leaking. She brushed against the tip of him, making him arch his back as if he were being tortured on the rack.

Laughing in delight at his response, she pulled her hand away so that she could taste the salty sweetness of him.

Velkan was absolutely on fire as he watched her lick the tip of her finger. But that was nothing compared to how he felt as she reached for his waistband to pull his pants off. He lifted his hips to accommodate her even though her slowness was starting to piss him off.

He wanted to savor this, and at the same time he wanted inside her so badly that he could barely contain himself. It was all he could do not to seize her and whip her under him.

But his patience paid off as she tossed his pants over her shoulder, then dipped her head down to take him into her mouth.

The sight of her hair fanning out over his lap while she tasted him was almost more than he could suffer. She looked up at him and met his eyes with nothing but raw hunger in her gaze… He had to grind his teeth to keep himself from his orgasm. But it was hard and he didn't want this over so quickly.

He had to lean back and stare at the ceiling just to control himself, and even so he still felt the moist heat of her mouth as she tongued him from hilt to tip.

Retta groaned deep in her throat as she saw Velkan clutching the sheet in his fists. He lifted his leg between hers, and when his thigh touched her core she almost came from the sheer pleasure of it.

But that wasn't what she wanted. She wanted to make amends to him for all the centuries she'd allowed her unfounded fears and stupidity to keep them apart. She owed him so much and she wasn't going to leave him until he knew just how sorry she was for what she'd done to both of them.

Her body throbbing, she slowly kissed her way from his cock to his navel. Then she moved to his nipple so that she could lave it while he sank his fingers deep inside her. Closing her eyes, she savored his touch as she moved herself so that she straddled his hips.

He moved his hand and cupped her face before he kissed her, and in that moment every bad thought she'd ever carried for him melted and she couldn't remember what about him had ever made her flee. Closing her eyes, she savored his tongue and mouth. Savored the feeling of his hands on her face before she lowered herself onto him.

Velkan shivered as she took him in all the way to his hilt. He'd dreamed of this moment for the last five hundred years. And all those dreams paled in comparison to this one moment in time. He inhaled the sweet fragrance of her skin as she rode him slow and easy.

This was all he'd ever wanted in his entire life. Esperetta in his bed. His body inside hers.

He growled deep in his throat as she continued to ride him, driving both their pleasure onward. She nipped and licked the pad of his finger as he gently traced the curve of her lips.

Needing to touch her, he dropped his hand down so that he could cup her breast in his hand and let her hardened nipple tease his palm. He lifted his hips to drive himself even deeper into her.

Retta smiled and took Velkan's hand into hers while she gave them both what they needed.

The look of pleasure on his face only added to her own. It felt so good to be back with him.

So natural. For the first time in centuries, she honestly felt like she was home.

And she was never going to leave it again.

That thought swept through her an instant before her body shuddered and spasmed. In a glorious flood of ecstasy, her body splintered. Crying out, she leaned forward over Velkan as he quickened his strokes, heightening her pleasure even more.

And when he came, he whispered her name like a breathless prayer. That gave her more hope than anything else that he'd forgive her.

Her heart pounding, she laid herself on his chest while he held her close in the firelight.

There was no sound in the room except their breathing and the sound of his heart thumping under her cheek. Closing her eyes, she inhaled the scent of them and caressed the muscles of his arm.

Velkan lay quietly as he felt every inch of her body pressed against his. He loved the sensation of her flesh on his. Of her hand gliding over his arm. But he knew this couldn't last.

He knew he couldn't trust her.

No matter what he felt right now, the past stood strong in his mind. And it was a past he didn't want to relive. Learning to get through each day while that pathetic part of him had kept watching the road, thinking, no, praying, she would come back to him.

She might be with him now, but she didn't trust him. She never would. And that burned through him like a stringent poison.

"What are you thinking?" she whispered.

"I'm wondering when you'll be on the next flight out of here."

"I'm not leaving, Velkan."

"I don't believe you. You have a business to run. A life to get back to."

Retta grew quiet at that. He was right… and he was wrong. "I've had other businesses in the past that I had to walk away from. I can leave this one as well. I belong here, with you."



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