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Lexa woke with a groggy sense of her surroundings. The last thing she remembered, Jonas had been visiting. After her shock and disappointment that Sava had clearly shared her whereabouts after she’d explicitly told him not to, she’d welcomed Jonas with a grudging “make yourself comfortable.”
He had, and he’d informed her of life in Tanselm. After that... She rubbed her temples, surprised when she felt the rustle of soft cotton over bare flesh. Feeling her belly and legs, she realized she lay naked on her bed.
“What the hell?”
After sitting up, she put her hands to her head to steady her swimming vision. How had she gotten in here? She’d spoken with Jonas, shared his concerns about the encroaching Church of Illumination, tried to gauge ‘Sin Garu’s next move and tossed ideas about his possible whereabouts. Jonas had made her a cup of tea, Earl Grey, her favourite, and they’d relaxed and popped in a movie. A touch of normalcy to give the illusion Lexa was no more than a tired working woman taking a holiday. And then... this?
A male groan made her start and she stared around her. She saw nothing. He groaned again. Realizing the sound came from the floor to her left, she leaned over the side of her bed.
The sight of the naked male left her breathless and had her heart racing like mad. Arim Valens, her ex-lover, ex-friend and the man she couldn’t stop wanting even after several centuries, lay on her floor bound in Dark-hide rope. Lexa blinked several times and leaned farther over the bed, trying to validate the incredible sight before her.
“Arim?” she whispered, not expecting him to respond. Jonas must have drugged her. A knockout with hallucinogenic side-effects. Perhaps a Djinn poison? But she was immune to most toxins. Perhaps the demon’s hold on her soul had made her more than magically weak, but physically ill as well?
“Sava, you bastard,” Arim slurred, struggling in the binding around him. He looked uncomfortable, though scrumptiously naked. Sprawled as he was on the floor, and at an awkward angle from the chair, she figured he’d been tied up in it and had fallen out of the leather recliner onto the floor. The position he now laid in allowed Lexa a view she hadn’t seen in way too long.
A creature of Light, Arim had golden skin—a tanned complexion that highlighted the muscular contours of his form. Though a sorcerer, Arim looked more like a warrior. He had powerful shoulders, a broad chest and ropy arms thick with strength. His legs were both long and well-developed, and the flesh between his thighs was thick, long and growing as she stared at it.
Shocked, she glanced back at his face and saw the Killer of Shadow staring up at her with a look of hunger she hadn’t seen in what felt like forever. His response to her made her wonder, again, if she was experiencing odd effects from the drug Jonas must have fed her. Because Arim only ever looked at her with hostility or rage, never with lust clearly riding his dark brown eyes turning black with desire.
“Blue?” Arim licked his lips, his gaze leaving her face to linger on her chest.
Blue, what he used to call her when they’d been in love. And later, what he called her to remind her of how much they’d lost. It had been some time since she’d heard her nickname uttered in such a raspy, sexual tone. To her mortification, her nipples hardened under his stare. Her womb clenched with need, and had she not known better, she’d think Arim had cast a spell. Unfortunately, her body always clenched in his presence, and today was no exception.
“Where are your clothes?” he asked, seemingly taken with what he could see of her as she leaned over the bed.
Not embarrassed about her looks, Lexa nonetheless backed up onto the bed and lay belly-down, giving Arim no more than a view of her face. Bad enough her magic was all but gone. She needed at least the surface protection of the bed to gain a psychological edge against her powerful opponent. “What are you doing here?”
“Here?” Arim tried to sit up but could only lift his head before he gasped and leaned back. “The damned Dark-hide is stealing my energy.” The minute he admitted his weakened state, he froze. “Are you behind this?”
The lust flaring between them faded as his suspicion took hold.
“I might ask you the same.” She scowled at him, wondering why he couldn’t have stayed silent longer. At least give her a minute or two to enjoy the sight, if not the sound of him. But no. He had to ruin it by opening his big mouth. “Why are you here? How did you find me?”
“I didn’t.” Arim swore. “Sava duped me. Set me up and brought me to you. Said Jonas--” He stopped suddenly, his jaw clenched so tight Lexa wondered if he was in pain.
Arim’s eyes burned a bright red, making him look very much like his firestarter nephew. She was reminded again of his ties to the Storm Lords, his royal nephews so close to restoring Tanselm to what it once was... thanks in no small part to her.
The smug look she sent him had him snarling, and he roared as he tried to break free of the magical ropes. Such a temper. A pity it made him that much more attractive. For all that Arim was one of the most powerful Light Bringers she’d ever met, his anger had always been incredibly Dark, and one of his more attractive features. Too bad it had taken a terrible tragedy to show her his true colours.
“I repeat. Jonas what?” she asked again, her libido under control.
“Did Jonas fuck you in here? On that bed? Is that why you’re naked and I’m tied up? To watch while that traitor takes what’s mine?”
Lexa’s mouth dropped open in shock. She didn’t know what surprised her more. The insane tripe Arim was spouting, or the notion that he considered her his. “Are you out of your mind?”
He glared up at her. As he stared, she realized what it was about him that was different. Not his nudity or even his presence in her home, but the absence of his aura. She focused on the magic inherent in his being. To her astonishment, she saw... nothing.
“Arim, what’s happened to you?”