Venture into a world beyond the ordinary, where the dark passions and voracious appetites of vampires, werewolves, demons, and a few undaunted mortals combine to unleash a potent spell.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Emma Holly lives in Minnesota where the winters are long and people will use any excuse to warm up. According to Emma, humanity’s best inventions are hot showers, the printing press, coffee, chocolate, and bicycle shorts for men. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 2591, Minneapolis, MN 55402-0591.
Lora Leigh is known for her deliciously intense and satisfying erotic romance. Her characters come to her in her dreams, inspiring her with the possibilities of What If... Most days, Lora can be found in front of her computer weaving daydreams while sipping the ambrosia of the gods, also known as coffee. When not writing, thinking about writing, or plotting what to write, Lora, a Kentucky native, enjoys gardening, fishing, and hiking with her husband and children.
Shiloh Walker is the national bestselling author of many novels, including Hunting the Hunter, Hunter's Salvation, and Hunters: Heart and Soul.
Meljean was raised in the middle of the woods, and hid under her blankets at night with fairy tales, comic books, and romances. She left the forest and went on a misguided tour through the world of accounting, banking, and a (very) brief teaching career before focusing on her first loves, reading and writingand she realized that monsters, superheroes, and happily-ever-afters are easily found between the covers, as well as under them, so she set out to make her own. Meljean lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter.
Read an Excerpt
The Countess’s Pleasure
Everyone said what happened in Bhamjran stayed in Bhamjran. Despite this universal assurance, Georgiana DuBarry, the dutiful widowed Countess of Ware, wasn’t sure she was ready to put the claim to the test.
Bhamjran might be the Aedlyne Empire’s capital of sensual enlightenment, but Georgiana had only been here a week. One did not throw off the restrictions of a well-bred lifetime as soon as that. One did not even throw off one’s corset.
She stood now, face shielded by hat and veil, in the secret heart of the desert city. This was a sweltering warren of sandy alleys west of the chowk, or central square. Bhamjran’s elaborately carved sandstone buildings rose four stories above her, rich merchants’ mansions rubbing elbows with narrow shops. The little jali-screened balconies—their stonework as fine as lace—lent the mansions an air of mystery. Pampered male consorts might be peering out from them secretly, whiling away the bright, hot hours until their mistresses returned to take their pleasure in thezenan. As interesting as this reversal of the usual patriarchal pattern was, what intrigued Georgiana most was not the idea of harems, but the prosperous-looking establishment directly opposite her watching post.
A steady stream of local women, both alone and in groups, filed beneath the pointed archway to The Ladies’ Lotus. Wrapped in colorful saris more appropriate to the climate than Georgiana’s heavy gown, each woman handed a silver coin to the turbaned guardian at the door. All were smiling faintly as they passed inside, as if their anticipation of what was to come was too delicious to suppress.
Georgiana could join them if she found her nerve. Two years had passed since her husband’s death, all the mourning decency required. Her parents had been gone since before her marriage, and she owed Jonathan’s memory nothing but discretion: to keep his secret as she had when he was alive.
At the thought of that secret, she pressed her white sweat-dampened gloves to the waist of her lilac gown. To have never known true conjugal pleasure, to have been twenty and full of life and in love with her handsome husband, only to discover he could not provide her that private joy, was a disappointment she had never imagined she’d experience. That her disappointment was too shameful to be shared with anyone she had understood at once, even without Jonathan’s tearful pleas not to expose him. To this day, his family did not know the truth. His mother, God heal her bitter soul, still blamed Georgiana for their marriage’s childless state.
I am free now, Georgiana reminded herself. I have money and position and no one about me with the right to tell me what to do. I can explore any side of life I wish.
“He is worth it, memsahib,” said a soft, lilting voice at her shoulder.
An older woman had come up beside her on the pourstone pavement, a richly dressed, golden-skinned Bhamjrishi with merry eyes. When she rubbed one knuckle beneath the curve of her teasing smile, silver and ruby bracelets clinked down her arm. From the look of her, Georgiana suspected her harem was well cared for.
“Bhamjran has not seen Iyan Sawai’s like in a dozen years,” the helpful stranger continued. “A shameful admission, considering he is a foreigner, but there it is. Certainly, you will not find his equal in a tourist trap.”
Georgiana cleared her throat and hoped the shadows on this side of the street hid her furious blush: “I have heard he is a graceful dancer.”
The other woman laughed. “Grace is only the beginning of that demon’s charms. Iyan Sawai can make every partof his body dance.”
Georgiana struggled not to picture too clearly what this emphasis must mean. She leaned closer and dropped her voice. “I have sometimes wondered if demons’ . . . I mean the Yama’s bodies work the same as ours.”
“Better,” the woman said with a grin, not the least scandalized. “Which isn’t to say I’d want one in my bed. Parvati forbid I’d ever take a consort who equated smiling with a sin. However, to look at, the Yama are all any goddess would find divine. Go along now. You’ll forget you are embarrassed the moment his tunic comes off.”
Georgiana wasn’t as sure of this as the stranger, but it seemed more embarrassing to stay with the older woman urging her on. Smiling weakly and nodding her thanks, she took a breath, smoothed her constricting bodice, and strode across the dusty street.
Thankfully, the male attendant took her coin without comment and waved her down the stairs.
It was cool and dark inside The Ladies’ Lotus, and Georgiana’s eyes required a moment to adjust. Cheerfully painted columns split the sunken space, allowing the audience to form small groups. Comprised entirely of women, they sat on the floor on jewel-colored satin cushions. Here and there, low tables held coffee cups and samovars. The sweet scent of cinnamon rode the air, so rich and heady it seemed as if the sun-kissed skin of the women must give it off. They all looked so comfortable in their surroundings, so natural and free, that Georgiana felt even more out of place than she had feared.
For the first time since disembarking from the train at Victoria Station, she wished she had a female friend with whom she might enjoy this adventure. That being out of the question, she looked for a place to sit.
A few cushions remained unclaimed. Unfortunately, the only one Georgiana thought she could get to was in the right-front corner next to the half-moon stage. The last thing she wanted was to sit that close, but the prospect of climbing over the others in her awkward skirt and petticoats was even worse. Resigned, she continued up the aisle and then arranged herself and her gown as best she could on the floor.
A mirror-spangled curtain veiled the platform in smoky blue. Georgiana tried to pretend she wasn’t furiously wondering what it would reveal.
Clearly used to such things themselves, the group beside her wished her a casual good day in her own language. Georgiana had heard that by the age of ten most Bhamjrishi had mastered three dialects. Her husband had liked to say the Queen’s Ohramese was the noblest language, and only savages need speak more, but today she found herself wishing she could return the greeting as considerately.
At least she would not have felt she was the backward one.
She was saved from her self-consciousness when a hush descended over the gathering. A trio of musicians had begun to play in an alcove opposite her seat. Their flute and sitar twined like snakes with the rhythmic pattering of an animal-skin drum. The music was unlike anything she heard at home, wild and worldly at the same time.
Georgiana’s heart began to thump faster. Mindful not to prick herself with the hat pins, she removed her little satin toque. She was really here. She was really doing this. Shades were lowered until the room was black, after which a light swelled from the foot of the stage, a newfangled electric light that was not, strictly speaking, permitted to shine in Bhamjran. Queen Victoria’s agreement with the Yama dictated that their technology be sold to Ohram alone and barred in its protectorates.
But she had no leisure to be offended on her country’s behalf. The spangled, smoke-blue curtain was rising.
Georgiana’s helpful stranger had been mistaken about the tunic. The tall male figure whose form was being revealed from the ankles up was completely naked—and completely breathtaking. He was facing away from the crowd, as motionless as stone, his every muscle thrown into relief by the bright artificial light. Georgiana’s mouth went dry. It seemed wrong to stare, despite having paid for the privilege, but she could not help herself. Symmetry and strength united in the figure’s back, in his long, athletic legs, in the lovely, cuppable rounds of his bum. His hair, which was as black as the proverbial raven’s wing, fell in glossy waves to brush a pair of broad shoulders. Even his arms, body parts Georgiana had never thought of as objects for admiration, brought an odd ache of longing into her chest. His hands hung relaxed and long-fingered by his hips.
He might have been a statue in a museum. Nature simply did not make men as wickedly beautiful as this . . . at least, human nature did not.
For thousands of years, the Yama—or demons, as humans liked to call them—had lived in scrupulous isolation in the icy northern wastes beyond the mountains of Yskut. There, they had been sufficient unto themselves, developing their highly stratified society and their amazingly clever science without the humans who lived around them suspecting they were there. One of Georgiana’s distant cousins, an adventurous captain of the guards, had been the first to stumble across their existence, more than a generation ago now.
Many changes had followed for both races, especially after Queen Victoria signed the infamous Avvar Accord, an agreement allowing the Yama to exile certain of their undesirables in Ohram’s capital. In return, the Yama had given Ohram access to enough of their technology to assure Victoria’s superiority over the less secure of her possessions, thus establishing peace throughout her empire. Some of the compromises involved had been uneasy, but given the Yama’s dramatic effect on human fortunes, none could deny a fascination with the empire’s newest visitors.
Yama were so like humans, after all. They simply were more: more beautiful, more intelligent, more perfect. They lived longer than humans, healed faster, and had more strength. Humans might want to deny it, but in their hearts they knew the truth: had the Yama not been so intent on distancing themselves from what they saw as the human taint, they could have ruled the world.
Luck alone saved Georgiana’s kind. The biggest difference between the races was the very one Yama feared. Humans were emotional beings. Sorrow and joy, lust and longing were an accepted part of their lives. The Yama, by contrast, shunned all the fiery issues of the heart. Control was their god, the chill of their icy homeland their ideal. Human nature filled them with disgust. Worse, because of their unusual sensitivity to human auras, the human taint could literally rub off on them.
As a result of this quirk in their constitution, the opportunity to see a demon in an intimate setting was extremely rare. That this demon must be a rohn, or lower-class Yama, was guaranteed. No self-respecting daimyo would ever display himself in this manner, and few enough rohn, either. Had more of Georgiana’s country-women enjoyed her advantages, she suspected the most conservative would have had difficulty walking by The Ladies’ Lotus without a pang. The thrill of the forbidden was enough to assure they’d wish to go in.
Which wasn’t to say that the demon who posed before her needed any more allure.
Georgiana’s gloved hands pressed her folded legs, now as hot as if she’d baked them beneath the sun. The demon had begun to move. One isolated muscle flicked behind his thigh and then one in his lower back. He made his delectable bottom flutter, then the ropy muscles of his shoulders. This was not a dance; artistic expression was as alien to the Yama as emotion. No, this was an explicit demonstration of physical control as, one by one, he shook the various parts of himself alive.
It wasn’t long before Georgiana was barely breathing. She had forgotten to be embarrassed. She had not seen her husband naked often enough to take such displays lightly, and this man . . . Oh, this man was so beautiful, so strong, it would have been a sin not to look.
And then he turned just his head, his chin coming to the line of his shoulder. To her amazement, his eyes locked onto hers as if magnetized.
She realized her hands were fisted at her breast when her heart tried to leap out.
His were not human eyes. Bereft of whites, they were silver from rim to rim but for the swell of his black pupils. In a face as smooth as a mask, those eyes glittered like icy fire. They were alive and, therefore, he was alive. The knowledge came home to her that she was staring at a thinking, breathing person and not a thing.
Her blush seared across her cheeks, but even then she could not tear her gaze away.
His body followed the turn of his head, slowly, calmly, drawing out the tension. As he faced her, her eyes drifted irresistibly to the revelation that was his chest. A shading of black hair could not obscure the beauty of its shape. His ribs moved upward with a breath. Losing her nerve, she looked at his face again. His tongue came out to wet his upper lip. She had heard that Yama did not often do this. Their tongues bore a natural marking that made them seem forked, the very mark that had caused her race to label them demons.
The gesture had a strange effect. Georgiana was no longer merely hot. A pulse as insistent as the goatskin drum thrummed between her legs, centering on the small, tight bud her departed husband had never thought it decent to acknowledge. An image flashed into her mind of the demon’s tongue stroking her there. The ache of longing that stabbed through her was as unprecedented as it was strong. She had desired her husband, but not like this.
“Oh, my God,” she whispered, unable to keep her shock at herself inside. “Oh, my God.”
As if he heard her above the music, the demon’s eyes went momentarily black.
Sweat trickled down Georgiana’s back. The demon’s lips moved soundlessly. Look, they said. Watch.
Gooseflesh prickled the nape of her neck. Her blood was rushing so loudly she barely noticed the audience begin to softly chant, “Sawai.”
The demon deliberately lowered his dark-lashed eyes, not so much acknowledging the others as compelling her. This time, Georgiana obeyed temptation. The front of his body was as lovely as the back. He was lean, symmetrically muscled, and well over six feet tall. She tried to skim past his most blatant attraction by admiring the shapely length of his thighs. It was no use. What hung between them was impossible to ignore.
His sex was as perfect as the rest of him.
He was slack but large, thick of girth and round of head. One strong, blue vein led down the front of his shaft, branching twice to circle him. As she followed this vital conduit to its termination, she saw he was uncircumcised. This gave her another unexpected sexual jolt. She bit her lip and prayed she wouldn’t gasp aloud.
“Sawai,” sighed the audience with a definite note of praise.
His sex had begun to swell.
A moan caught in Georgiana’s throat. He wasn’t even touching himself, and he was rising in smooth, hypnotizing surges. The skin of his penis grew darker, the covering over the head drawing back. Considering the size at which he started, she wouldn’t have thought he could get much larger, but he did, growing ever more impressive until his now-bare crest approached the curve of his navel.
He grew so stiff the blood could only shudder within his engorged flesh, an absolute hammer of stark male strength. No one could think him incapable of penetrating his mate, of riding her deep and hard. Georgiana had never seen anything like this prodigy. She would need two hands to stroke him. She would not be able to fit even half of him in her mouth—
And she did gasp then, because she realized what she was thinking and what this said about her sanity.
The demon’s eyes were waiting when hers flew guiltily up. Any human male would have smiled in triumph, but the demon’s expression remained serene. His lips were parted and his pupils large, but by no other means did he betray his interest in her reaction.
Georgiana jumped as someone tapped her shoulder. A pretty young local woman, dressed in the Lotus’s signature smoky-blue, was offering her a shallow bowl. The oil inside it smelled of almonds.
“You must do the honors,” she said. “Sawai has chosen you.”
Georgiana’s jaw dropped in confusion. “The honors?”
“You must bring Sawai the oil. He will apply it, memsahib, unless you wish to do that, too.”
“No!” she said, and the server’s pretty eyes widened.
Georgiana supposed the woman was unused to anyone refusing, but if she touched the demon, even with her gloves, she feared her etheric-force would transfer over. This was one of the problems of association between the races. The Yama could draw energy from humans. Slightly different from their own life force, it acted upon them like a drug—pleasurable, but potentially addictive, and saturated with emotion. Lower-class demons, whose self-discipline was less-developed, had occasionally gone mad from overindulging. The donation of energy left signs on humans as well, thinning them, refining their looks, until they resembled Yama a bit themselves. Georgiana wasn’t ready to commit herself to that. Watching this demon’s performance was more than daring enough for her.
“I will give the bowl to him,” she said more calmly. “If you would help me up.”
As her legs were nearly asleep from their uncustomary posture, this was a necessity. The young woman gave her a hand, then carefully handed her the oil.
Luckily, the stage was only a foot away. Georgiana’s arms trembled wildly as she lifted her offering. The demon watched her shake for a moment, blinked inscrutably, and then cupped his hands beneath her gloves. Her knees threatened to buckle at the tingling wave of sensation his touch inspired. His fingers were long and surprisingly hot; his hold gentle but sure. She was almost sorry when he pulled the bowl away.
“Stay,” he said. His voice was low and had a roughness she did not expect. “Please.”
The “please” was grudging. Rohn or not, it seemed his pride did not bend easily.
Georgiana swallowed, then nodded in agreement. She could not bring herself to touch him, but she could stay. To do otherwise would probably be an insult. In any case, she was not sure her knees would allow her to sit again. If she tried to bend them, they might collapse. Instead, she braced her hands on the stage’s edge.
The demon did not dip his fingers into the oil. Still facing her, he brought the bowl to his breastbone, tipped it back, and let the almond-scented stream run down his stomach muscles to the base of his cock. When the rivulet split and rolled over his testicles, he cupped them before it could drip. As if he wanted everyone to notice how full he was, he massaged his scrotum, pulling its swollen roundness out from his body. His fingers were expert and shining.
Oh, God, Georgiana thought, and prayed she had not spoken aloud again.
He handed the bowl back to her. “Hold this,” he said. “I want to coat my shaft.”
Not understanding what he meant for her to do, she stood frozen where she was. When he knelt, bringing their eyes to the same level, it felt unbearably intimate.
“Hold the bowl firm,” he said, angling it upward in her hands, “and I won’t have cause to touch you again.”
Then he slid his erection into the bowl, using his hips to work it over the oily curve of the well-worn wood. Over and over, he pushed his crest to the rising edge, compressing it until his veins shone dark through his skin. Without consciously deciding to do so, Georgiana soon went beyond holding the bowl. Rather, she began to maneuver it in opposition to his strokes, to exert pressure and rub it over him.
From his soft gasp for air, she could hardly have done better if she’d used her hands.
She knew what men liked. Jonathan had taught her to please him as much as he was capable of being pleased, and this obviously healthy male suffered no lack of responsiveness. Indeed, allowing for the differences in the races, this demon was most receptive to her efforts. His cock grew redder and fuller until, like the plucking of the sitar’s string, a subtle shudder vibrated through his frame.
“Good,” he whispered as he pulled back.
When she lifted her gaze to his, she was almost ready for the inevitable jolt of shock.
“Shall I finish here,” he inquired softly, “or would you prefer I rise to my feet again?”
Three choppy breaths were required before she could answer. “Here,” she said, every scrap of her failing courage in the word. “I want to see from as close as I can.”
A muscle flickered in his cheek. She did not know if this were simply tension or an aborted smile. When he spoke, his tone was calm.
“I shall use two hands,” he said. “Because this afternoon’s excitement has made me so very large.”
His words seemed to suggest she was the reason for this circumstance, but it was impossible to guess what went on behind those silver eyes. Would a demon use flattery to please a customer? Did he resent his audience and, by association, her? Did he find this exchange as extraordinary as she did, or was it perfectly pedestrian for him?
But these were foolish questions. No human would ever understand the demon mind. Certainly, Georgiana wouldn’t, not when he wrapped his length in both hands and robbed her of the power of thought.
She knew this act was not meant to be a dance, and yet it was—a beautiful, erotic dance in which every muscle and joint of his body became involved. He made a tunnel of his oiled hands by lacing his fingers together and pairing his thumbs on top. His body undulated as he pulled his hold along his rigid length, dragging his organ out and down—slowly, firmly, as if every inch of every pull must be enjoyed.
He used his foreskin to rub the tip. Each time the pressure of his fingers crossed that sensitive area, his buttocks tensed and pushed forward. His grip was tighter than any Georgiana would have dared employ, though her husband had liked it tight enough.
As his pulls increased in speed, the demon closed his eyes—for privacy, perhaps, or because his blindness let him feel the sensations more. A struggle seemed to be going on inside him, as if he longed to ejaculate but could not quite yet. Perhaps the loss of control a release involved was at odds with his Yamish nature. Perhaps no demon could achieve climax easily. Whatever the cause, no one was complaining. Georgiana had a feeling everyone in the Lotus could have watched him strive for pleasure until the sun went down.
A woman could indulge herself with a man like this. With a man like this, a woman need never be let down.
As if he knew what she was wishing, his eyes flew open and sought hers.
His gaze was too intense to hold for long, threatening to bare more in her than it revealed of him. The sound of his hands working over his hard, oiled skin drew her gaze back down. She knew her cheeks were flaming. The pressure he was using distorted his shape. She wished those were her hands. She wished she were the one both punishing and pleasuring his flesh.
“Tell me you want to touch me,” he demanded, his breathing at last humanly ragged. “Tell me you want to rub my penis, and I will come.”
“I do,” she gasped. “I do.”
He made a sound she doubted anyone but she could hear, like someone muffling an outcry. His eyes did not simply close this time, they screwed shut. His hips thrust hard, and his ribs arched slightly in on themselves. He had covered the head of his organ with one fist, but she knew what was happening anyway. The tightening of his thigh muscles told her, the flush that stained his cheeks and chest. When his hand finally fell away, his cock was lax again and the floor between his thighs was wet.
The audience held its collective breath.
Their silence ended when his eyes opened. Amidst applause and whistles, coins began to rain onto the stage as if the monsoon had come. Realizing this added tribute must be expected, she reached embarrassedly for her reticule.
“No,” said the demon, his gaze cool again. “You have given me enough.”
She could not conceive of what to say. She was shaken beyond the use of words.
My old life is over, she thought without precisely knowing what she meant. After this, I shall never be the Countess of Ware again.
The coins were not Iyan’s. Strictly speaking, aside from a small allowance to meet his daily needs, they belonged to the owner of his indenture. His employer would send a predetermined portion—undercounted, Iyan had no doubt—to the Yamish Ministry of Debts. As to that, the debt was not his own, either. It was his family’s, which fact was enough to have led him, with relative docility, into his present servitude.
A son who would let his mother go to prison didn’t deserve to be called a man.
Of course, a man who would take payment from a woman who had just given him such pleasure didn’t deserve to be called Yama.
Iyan took a moment to regard the dumbstruck female staring up at him. She was pretty in the way human women rarely understood they were—warmly, wonderfully imperfect, with curly flaxen hair, bright blue eyes (the left of which was a fraction higher than the right), and a slightly too-long nose. Her figure was just as generous and made even more so by her pale corseted gown. Most appealing of all, however—at least from his perspective—was her energy.
She was a bright, brimming pot of sex, had she but known it, shooting rays of arousal everywhere she looked. Humans tended to believe demons could only feed from them when they touched, but this wasn’t always the case. Some humans burned hotter, as did some emotions. As Iyan had stood on the stage waiting to begin, he’d felt this woman’s rapt attention caress his body. He had not been surprised (though he had nearly betrayed himself by shivering with pleasure) when her energy poured into him through her gloves. In his year performing at the Lotus, Iyan had built up a tolerance to etheric-force and the emotions that went with it. This woman had penetrated every barrier he had. He hadn’t released his seed that fully in the last twelve months, perhaps in his entire life.
That being so, he could not let her tip him, even if every coin brought him and his family nearer to freedom.
He bowed to her now, deeply enough to show respect, but not so deeply that the gesture could be considered an inappropriate public display. Her hand flew to her still-flushed throat. She was Ohramese by dress, which caught his interest as well. Her countrymen—though officially the occupiers of this city—didn’t often venture into the “real” Bhamjran. The thought occurred to him that the company of a fellow outsider might be pleasant. He wished it were not a breach of good manners to suggest she attend a second performance.
It was, alas, and—no matter his present subjugated state—he would do her the honor of his best conduct. He turned, settled his somewhat upheaved emotions with a calming breath, and strode smoothly from the coin-strewn stage. The owner of his papers, a fat, bearded Jeruvian who had booked him into the Lotus, waited in the wings with his broom and pan.
Iyan donned the robe he’d left backstage and tied it. The Jeruvian did not have the civility to look away. From the way he stroked his beard in satisfaction, he might have been judging the condition of a favorite horse.
“Good show,” he said. “Those women were ready to eat you up.”
Not wishing to encourage him, Iyan nodded as brusquely as he could.
“Got enough get-up-and-go for tonight?”
Again, Iyan tipped his head. The worst part of his bondage was having to answer to this man. The best was letting him think he really was a demon who might lose control and kill him if pushed too hard. The Jeruvian did not treat the rest of his stable half so well.
He had begun to walk away when the man called him back.
“Letter came for you. Looks official.”
Iyan retraced his steps and took the missive from the Jeruvian’s meaty hand. The crumpling and smear marks spoke of failed attempts to break the government seal. Fortunately, the wafer was coded to open solely with Iyan’s thumbprint. The paper itself was impossible to tear by human means.
“This is private,” Iyan said. “I will open it in the alleyway.”
“Go ahead,” said the Jeruvian. “Just remember not to run off.”
Iyan did his best to block his ears to the man’s guffaws.
The Jeruvian would have split his corpulent sides if he’d read what the sheet contained. The second phase of the trial against Iyan’s mother was complete, and the verdict was not favorable. She (or her family, since the court had also barred her from practicing her trade) had been ordered to pay an enormous sum in civil damages to the new Prince of Narikerr.
The previous prince, this one’s brother, had died not long ago under questionable circumstances, and the current prince was determined to assert his authority by any means. The suit against Iyan’s mother was one of the results. Without a shred of solid evidence, the similarly royal judge had ruled that not only was Iyan’s mother responsible for the disappearance of the current prince’s teenage daughter, but that said daughter was likely dead. Now Iyan’s widowed mother—as the servant who had been responsible for the daughter’s care when she went missing—must compensate for that loss as well.
Iyan’s head began to throb. In a single stroke, the initial debt he’d agreed to pay was doubled. In another year, he would have been free. Now he could not see himself winning clear in less than three. If the money-grubbing, lying-bastard Jeruvian had his way, Iyan would be thirty before he could dream of living his own life.
He closed his eyes, struggling not to panic at his sense that the alley’s sandstone walls were closing in. He could do this. He would work harder. He would perform three shows a day instead of two, maybe—Divinity help him—accept a private client or two. He’d had plenty of offers, and Bhamjrishi women did have a reputation for being kind. He might even enjoy himself if he could get past the affront to his pride.
His mother liked to say no job was dishonorable, as long as one did it well.
A sound caught in his throat, a choked laugh of irony. Shocked at himself, he bent and braced his hands on his knees. The sound stopped, but he could not straighten. This was not the ambition he had spun for himself as a boy, not even close. If he’d gone to university as he and his mother planned, he would have earned his degree this year—this summer, in fact. He would have been Iyan Ebefre, Doctor of Building Science. Instead, he was a step away from a whore.
If ever a Yama deserved to succumb to emotion, surely that time was now.
* * *
Georgiana had every intention of returning to her hotel. She followed the rest of the women from the Lotus and stepped into the blindingly sunny street. As the others chattered and strolled off in various directions, she looked toward the corner to see if she could spot one of the city’s ubiquitous bicycle-rickshaws. The driver of a saffron-yellow affair with a matching fringed canopy glanced hopefully toward her.
She knew she ought to hail the conveyance. It was too hot to be out and too utterly ridiculous to linger in the area until the evening show. That had been obvious the moment the demon bowed politely and walked away.
Clearly, what had happened had not been important to him. Another day’s work was all, as easily forgotten as it was performed. She would be an idiot if she tried to do anything except forget herself.
But he’s perfect, she thought, the knuckle of one gloved finger pressed to her teeth. He’s absolutely, one hundred percent what I need.
Ignoring the nonsense her brain seemed determined to churn out, she straightened her hat and turned her feet in the direction of her potential ride. As she did, a flash of peacock blue from the adjoining alley caught her eye a second too long.
The flash of blue was him, her ever-so-polite demon.
Wrapped in a robe, he leaned over his knees as if too weary to stand straight. Something about the pose made him appear no older than her own twenty-and-a-handful years, though a Yama’s age could be hard for humans to judge. He still might be her senior. He had seemed so up on the stage. Vulnerability might make anyone look younger.
She saw he held something in one hand, an open letter that had—on the face of it—not conveyed good news.
I should go, she thought. He would not want her seeing him like this.
She did not move fast enough. His eyes turned and locked on hers just as they had earlier.
He can feel me looking at him, she thought, a shiver slipping down her spine.
He straightened to his full height, his face blank and proud once more. “Was there something you wanted?”
Here was her opening, whether she was ready for it or not. She forced herself to take one step through the alley’s flowery cast-iron gate. “Forgive me for intruding, Mr. Sawai.”
“Iyan,” he said. “Sawai is not my name. Sawai means ‘man and a quarter,’ which is what the women of Bhamjran consider me.”
“Oh,” she said, aware that her cheeks were pink and in no doubt as to which part of him the extra quarter signified. “Mr. Iyan then. I hope it is not too presumptuous to inquire, but I was wondering if you might be available for hire.”
He was silent for so long she had either offered him a deadly insult or his Ohramese was not as good as she’d assumed. Obliged to wait, she fought an urge to wring her hands.
“I take it,” he said at last, “that you wish to hire me to do more than dance.”
“I apologize profusely if I have offended you by inquiring.”
He looked at her glove, at the ring she had not yet removed from her hand, the ring her mother-in-law fully expected her to wear until she died herself. “You are a married woman.”
“I am widowed.”
When he folded his arms across his chest, the blue silk robe did nothing to hide his physique. “You are seeking a forbidden thrill, a night of pleasure with a demon.”
She began to shake her head, then stopped herself. The least she could do was be honest. “I do not deny your being different is a thrill, but it is the night of pleasure I want most. Because you are Yamish and I am not, there can be no attachment between us. We will both go our own way when the night is through.”
“Surely you have other choices for partners.”
She did not, could not. The demon’s silver eyes bored into hers in search of what she was hiding, but she stubbornly said nothing. The why of this was her business. His was only to say yes or no.
* * *
Iyan was not as good as some Yama at reading the play of emotion through human auras, but he knew this woman concealed a secret. She might have been surprised to know he admired her for her silence. Discretion was, after all, more of a Yamish trait.
“You realize,” he said, “that if we copulate—” He paused, oddly intrigued, as she flinched and colored at the same time. “If we make love, as humans put it, I will feed off your energy. Even if I wanted to, I could not avoid it. It is impossible for a human to experience an orgasm without radiating etheric-force, and if I agree to pleasure you, you will certainly experience more than one. Our night of pleasure may change your appearance, at least for a few days. I know many humans are sensitive about letting others see they have been intimate with my kind.”
He watched her think this over, her gloved hands clutched unconsciously at her waist. It was all too easy to imagine those fingers bared and running over his naked skin, pouring that amazing sexual energy into him. If achieving release in front of her had been rewarding, how much more so would he find sexual congress? He might well experience more pleasure than he could stand. Too late, he wished he had not felt compelled to warn her. At this less-than-marvelous juncture of his life, more pleasure than he could stand sounded awfully appealing.
“I can make allowances for that,” she finally said. “Perhaps stay in my hotel room until any traces fade.”
His sense of insult was irrational considering he had brought up the matter, but it lashed through him all the same. Quite obviously, she did not think him good enough to have others know they’d been bed partners.
“My price is one thousand Ohramese pounds,” he said, his manner icy even for him.
The woman’s eyes widened. She might be inexperienced, but she knew this was an outrageous sum. The empress of all the Yama would not pay a lover that much. Iyan braced for her refusal, for her to laugh in the human way. Instead, she swallowed hard.
“Do I pay you or the man who swept up your coins?”
This time his anger surged too high for him to contain. The fact that he had invited this treatment by his demand only made it worse.
“I am an indentured servant,” he clipped out, “not a slave. The man who swept up my coins is not empowered to arrange a transaction of this nature.”
“I am sorry,” she said, her hand coming out until it almost touched him. “I do not know how these things are done.”
“And you think I do?”
His voice was sharp and raised. Human or not, she was not inured to people being furious with her. Her lip trembled in warning an instant before a tear slipped down her cheek. “Please forgive me,” she said. “I will leave.”
The tear performed an uncomfortable alchemy on his insides. He did not think he had seen anyone weep since he was a child. Certainly, he had never been the reason they had cried.
“Wait,” he said, his voice no longer angry. “I will give you two nights. One for a thousand pounds and one for free.”
Her eyes were wide and bright as stars. “Why would you give me one for free?”
“For my honor. Because I am not a whore.”
He thought she was going to apologize again or even cry, but thankfully she controlled herself. She rubbed one knuckle beneath her full lower lip. “When would be convenient to . . . meet?”
“Tomorrow night. I shall request a leave from my duties at the Lotus.”
He was beginning to grow addicted to her blush.
“Can you do that?” she asked.
“The terms of my servitude ensure it, and I have never asked for leave before. I am certain you will appreciate the edge a brief abstention gives my performance, though—naturally—I would be capable no matter what.”
“Naturally,” she repeated, the word flatteringly faint.
“You will be pleasured,” he said with a hint of warning he wasn’t sure he could explain. “You should rest before you come. We will meet at my rooms, unless you prefer to hire a place yourself.”
Clearly speechless, she offered him a tiny notebook and a slim gold pencil from her reticule.
He scribbled his direction and looked up. “Where may I contact you if for some reason I am delayed?”
“I am staying at the Hotel Bhamjran.” She hesitated and then put her shoulders back. “They know me as the Countess of Ware.”
Her trust was a gift in any language. He bowed to her and, because they were alone, he bowed deeply. “I look forward to meeting my obligations.”
When he rose again, she was smiling. It was the first time he had seen this supremely human expression on her face. To his surprise, it transformed her from simply pretty to beautiful.
Her eyes possessed a sparkle he thought he could grow to like.
“Oh,” she said, her hand to her throat, “believe me, I look forward to it, too.”
When the bicycle-cab brought Georgiana to Iyan’s address, the area surprised her. He did not live near The Ladies’ Lotus, but in a part of Bhamjran that, although not positively dangerous, had definitely seen better days. The old havelithat housed his rooms had also sunk from its prime as a rich town mansion. Its walls had been painted once but were now pitted by decades of wind-blown sand. Two ragged children, a boy and a slightly older girl, sat on the entry steps, bent studiously over a dented tin plate of the savory snacks called farsaan.
Georgiana recognized the treat because she had ordered it off the Hotel Bhamjran’s menu the night before. Interestingly, the hotel’s version had not smelled as good as the one these children were sharing.
“Sawai!” the children called as Georgiana alighted. “Your foreign devil guest is here!”
The girl then grabbed two batter-fried pakora—no doubt to prevent her companion from eating them while she was gone—and, without a word, escorted the aforesaid foreign devil across a once-grand lobby to a flight of stairs. The stairs’ moth-eaten carpets muffled the only sound that accompanied their climb. The general disrepair made the place seem ancient, but the peeling Ohramese-style columns gave its age as closer to fifty years. As they ascended, they encountered evidence of others living in the house: embroidered slippers left outside an entrance, small wheeled toys fallen on their sides. Whoever these people were, they were either gone at present or very quiet. Finally, at the end of the fourth floor’s hall, the girl rapped twice on a bright blue door, swallowed the last of her chili fritters, and abandoned Georgiana to her nerves.
The demon opened the door.
“Countess,” he said in greeting.
He wore a black robe this evening, with silver piping that highlighted his alien eyes. Georgiana had forgotten how starkly beautiful he was.
“I’m afraid I’m early,” she said, because she could not stand there calmly staring the way he did.
“It is no matter. With two shows a day, I have grown unaccustomed to self-denial. I have everything in readiness.”
He stepped aside to admit her. She thought she had schooled herself to keep her composure, but at the mention of readiness, her mind flashed back to his performance and her body suddenly felt weak. A narrow passage led to his main room. Glancing down it, she saw two tall, onion-peaked windows and what appeared to be the foot of a low, wide bed. Wanting the matter of finances settled, she laid her net bag of coin on the small, carved table inside the door. She had withdrawn the money from the bank that morning, one thousand pounds in full.
Iyan looked at the coins and then at her. It might have been her imagination, but his face looked stiffer than usual.
If this was the case, the cause was destined to remain a mystery. “I appreciate your confidence,” was all he said.
Unsure about his sense of humor, she didn’t say even one of the dozen flirtatious things that flew through her mind. Instead, she followed him to his rooms, which were unexpectedly colorful and in surprisingly good shape.
Some effort had been exerted here to reverse the mansion’s decline. The demon’s sturdy bed sat in the center of a stretch of freshly polished floorboards, its head draped by a tent of gauzy orange and gold muslin. Like the curtain at the Lotus, the cloth was spangled with tiny mirrors. The ceiling from which it hung was high and airy, and on the walls were painted scenes from Bhamjrishi myth. A quick glance revealed an abundance of elephants, monkeys, and turbaned warriors with scimitars. To the right of the hall, a chest of drawers held a comb and brush, plus the letter she had seen him reading the day before. To the left, a doorway opened into a lavishly appointed bath.
That Iyan valued a nice bathing room did not surprise her; the one thing all humans knew about the Yama was that they were notoriously clean. Apparently, however, she had misjudged what being indentured meant to his kind. This flat was nicer than the chamber she had given her own maid.
The demon had been watching her look around. “It is comfortable,” he said.
“It is lovely,” she answered.
This observation seemed not to be out of place.
“You must remove your clothes,” he said.
“Already?” she was startled into responding.
Something like a frown flickered across his face. “You wear your native garments. They do not make a woman feel as she should before sex.”
Georgiana looked down at herself. She had dressed carefully with the aid of the hotel’s maid, throwing off her lavender half-mourning for a bright-yellow cotton gown. Simple though it was, she knew it flattered her, and she felt rather cheery in it. She had even left off her wedding ring, thinking the reminder of her husband inappropriate for what she planned to do.
Evidently, these changes were not enough.
“I will give you a robe,” the demon said, “but I will not let you undress in the bath.”
He was either a mind reader or knew a good deal more about human women than she knew about Yamish males. “Why not?” she asked. “Since I am . . . since I am paying, should I not be allowed my preference?”
“It would be impractical to leave you in charge of our activities. You lack the experience to ask for what will give you the most pleasure. Watching you undress will arouse me, and the more aroused I become, the better service I shall provide.”
She didn’t understand how she could be titillated and embarrassed at the same time. She struggled to speak lucidly. “I thought you could become as aroused as you wished any time you liked. I thought you controlled your body.”
“Perhaps compared to human males this is true, but even Yama are not machines. We must have inspiration, whether we provide it ourselves or receive it from others.”
“So when you were onstage . . .” She could not bring herself to ask what fantasies played in his mind. His reserve forbade it, though her attack of doubts demanded another question be asked. Unable to bear being disappointed now, she turned her face from his steady gaze. “What if the sight of me naked isn’t inspiration enough?”
He drew a breath before he spoke. “You want my assurance that I desire you.”
She forced herself to nod and look at him again.
His face did not show expression so much as it relaxed. “Come here,” he said, and she imagined she heard a hint of kindness in his low, soft voice. “Put your arms around my neck and lean up.”
He was warm when she obeyed him, his skin hardly less silky than his thin black robe.
“Your hips are not close enough,” he said, and pulled her to him until they were pressed together from breast to knee.
His sex was already half-risen, half-hard, yet still capable of being pushed down between them. At the feel of its generous size, Georgiana could not contain her sigh of pleasure—nor a restless squirm. The demon seemed not to mind. While one hand continued to secure her hips at his groin, the other slid up her back and into her hair. His fingers sent tingles along her scalp as they combed through her fair, tightly corkscrewed curls. The massage loosened far more than what he touched.
In truth, her entire body was about to melt.
“Kiss me,” he said, “and feel me change.”
She had perhaps six heartbeats of pressing her lips to his before he took control. First his tongue flicked her upper lip, then her lower, then slid deliciously between. With lips as smooth as satin, he drew on her, slowly, strongly. Suddenly energy rolled between them in a prickling wave. In the pleasure of his kiss, she had forgotten to pay attention to what was happening to his sex, but it reminded her of its existence in no uncertain terms, abruptly kicking up against her as its owner sucked in a startled breath.
“Sorry,” she said when he broke away from her mouth. “I didn’t mean to—”
“Shh.” He took her by the shoulders and turned her around, his fingers moving deftly over her gown’s back fastenings. “I’m getting you out of this now. This is going to be even better than I had hoped.”
She did not want to wait to be disrobed; she wanted to kiss him again, but finally her gown, corset, petticoat, shift, and drawers lay in heaps around her on the floor.
“Such a lot of clothes,” he said, standing slightly breathless before her, though he’d been patient enough up until then. “It is a marvel you did not faint.”
“I left off the stockings.”
Again came that little smilelike twitch beside the corner of his mouth. “I am sure that omission is all that stood between you and heat stroke.”
“May I have a robe now?”
His hands were ghosting over the curves of her breasts, his eyes slitted with enjoyment, as if he could feel her energy from inches away. He returned his attention to her face with seeming reluctance. “No, Countess, you most certainly may not.”
He grabbed her waist then, lifted her up, and slid her savoringly down his front until their faces reached the same level. Her naked breasts settled on his chest, but even more distracting was the way his erection prodded her through his robe.
Evidently, no exertion could diminish him. He was hot and firm and long, and she could not have been reminded more forcefully of his superior demon strength. Though her feet still dangled off the ground, he showed no strain as he tilted his head to kiss her.
He chose the perfect angle. At the first deep taste, her lips began to buzz.
She suspected her mouth would have been humming even without his gift for drawing energy—which she was happy to discover did not hurt. Though his kiss had a certain bridled savagery, it was sweet to her, his tongue too clever not to spur fantasies. It seemed able to move more quickly, more precisely than a human’s, but also with more sheer strength. After a few heady minutes, she had to push back to catch her breath.
He was smiling then, just a bit. “Forgive me,” he said. “You are more delicious than you know.”
Forgive him for what, she wondered. For smiling? For kissing her with such passionate expertise?
She would never know. He was tumbling her back onto his traditional Bhamjrishi bed, its joints so expertly fitted they did not creak. Like some feline predator about to pounce, he crouched above her on hands and knees. The way his shiny hair waved down around his face made her long to pet him like a cat.
“Now,” he said, almost purring it. “Let us discover how sensitive you are.”
She had never been kissed as he kissed her then, had never been studied and pleasured and caressed with no intent but to make her writhe. He would not let her touch him, and soon she did not have sufficient control of her limbs to dare. He was torturing her with kisses, making her want him so badly she groaned aloud. When he kissed the inside of her elbows, her knees jerked uncontrollably. When he stroked her bottom, her breasts grew hot. The soles of her feet seemed connected in some mysterious fashion to her deepest sex. She grew wet as he brushed his lips across them and nearly spasmed when he nipped one particular spot with his teeth.
None of her reactions, excessive though they were, put him off in the least. Indeed, when she began to pant at his continued fondling of her feet, he carefully set them down, tore off his robe, and stretched his long body out beside her with what truly seemed to be impatience.
“You are perfect,” he said, his silver eyes so intense they burned. “You possess every trait any man could want.”
Any man but my husband, she thought, then shoved the memory ruthlessly away. Iyan was close enough to touch, and he was not at that moment tormenting her. Not willing to miss her chance, she reached for his cock.
She gasped at the same time he did. Here was silk beyond anything she’d felt: thick, pulsing hardness, living heat wrapped in flesh. The branching vein that had fascinated her at the Lotus had a twin running along his underside. Gently, and with a dawning sense of enchantment, she explored his length up and down.
“Not yet,” he said sharply when she reached his sac.
His fingers touched her wrist, but he wasn’t pushing her away. In fact, his eyelids threatened to slide shut. She took a chance and pulled her firmest grip from the root of him to the tip. She caught his foreskin in the process. As she’d seen him do during his performance, she used the pliant covering to squeeze and caress his sensitive crest.
His strangled moan of reaction was as rewarding as anything he’d done to her.
“Countess,” he rebuked. “Please.”
“You said the more aroused you became the better you would serve me . . . unless that was a lie?”
His eyes focused on her again. From the lift of his straight black brows, he understood she was teasing. “Even a Yama has limits. But I see I must remind you who is in charge.”
Abruptly enjoying herself in a different way, she lay back and threw wide her arms. “Would that be you?”
A flush moved into his face, and she worried for a moment that she had gone too far. But then he licked his lips as he had that afternoon in the Lotus, and his gaze settled on her breasts. She became aware of the tingling tightness at their tips. Her nipples pulsed like fire even as he looked.
“Be careful, human,” he said, his voice gone slightly rough. “I know your body’s secrets, see them as you cannot. The light of your energy tells me where you want to be kissed most now.”
The claim was true. He leaned over her, his body heat like the sun, and fastened his mouth on her breast. He sucked her strongly enough that she felt the pull to her toes.
Then his tongue began to work.
Sensations jangled all through her body, but especially between her legs. Had he not secured her hip with his hand, she would have rolled to him, would have taken him inside her as quickly as she could. He was too powerful to overmaster, but she heaved and twisted anyway. When he shifted to her other nipple, she had to bury her hands in his hair.
She was on the verge of pleasure just from this, held an infuriating inch away from the culmination she had so often been denied. Frustration robbed her of her admittedly inferior human self-control. The sounds of longing that broke in her throat seemed twice as loud compared to his silence.
Her sole consolation was that he was breathing hard when his mouth lifted away at last. He held her gaze while his tongue, its forked marking clear, curled out to wet his now-reddened lips. His tongue was a little longer than a human’s, moving with a sinuosity no man she knew possessed. Her involuntary shudder of response brought a flash of total blackness into his eyes. It was, she realized, his body’s way of signaling a sudden increase in excitement.
“One more,” he whispered. “One more part of you needs my kiss.”
He moved too quickly for her to protest or even tense. With demon swiftness, he yanked apart her thighs, slung her calves over his shoulders, and sank his mouth to her sex. Here his sucking pressure, coupled with the agility and strength at his tongue’s command, produced a spike of sensation so sharp she exclaimed at first in alarm. She thought she was coming, but then the feeling rose and rose until, with a flicker of his tongue that could in no way be reproduced by her kind, her pleasure broke in hard, throbbing waves.
She heard him make a sound and felt his fingers tighten painfully on her hips. She remembered what he’d said about being unable to avoid feeding from her energy when she came. She wondered just how deeply this affected him.
Very deeply, she thought as he set her down. The outlines of his body seemed to vibrate before her eyes. Color flushed his face and chest, outdone only by the rich russet of his cock. He bent toward her again, softly but insistently kissing a path up her body until he reached her mouth. There, despite what must have been a painful state of arousal, his kiss was deep and slow. Sensing how intensely he wanted her, imagining how hard holding back must be, the heat in her body changed, twisting from satiation back into need.
“Oh, God,” she said. “I can’t believe I want you again.”
He splayed his hand across her belly, pressing gently in a manner that made her aware of how wet and tight she was. When he finished watching whatever evidence played through her aura, he met her gaze.
“I am glad you want me. As you can see, I want you as well. It is time I prepare myself for entry.”
He looked prepared as he was. His sex was thrumming, so unremittingly upright his torso might have been a magnet and it an iron bar. But she did not have the nerve or the inclination to contradict him. If he wanted further preparation, who was she to stand in his way?
He opened a drawer she had not noticed in the side of the bed’s platform. From this space he withdrew a dull silver bottle with a perfume atomizer’s top. With a discernible wince, he pressed his raging erection out with one thumb. His other hand sprayed a cloud up and down its length. Fascinated, Georgiana sat up to watch. The cloud settled on his skin with a pearlescent glow, spreading until his organ was encased.
This seemed to cause him no discomfort. By the time he finished applying whatever the substance was, she could have sworn he’d swelled even more.
“It is a self-sealing prophylactic,” he said with the merest hint of strain. “The technology is still prohibited to humans, but not, of course, to me. The sheath it forms is very thin and does not dull sensation, though it is a trifle cold.”
“And you enjoy that?”
Her amazement brought a sheen of what simply had to be amusement into his eyes. “My arousal has . . . maximized because now I know I may be inside you with complete safety.”
“Maximized,” she repeated, completely enthralled by the part of him that warranted the term. “There’s an appropriate word.”
“Do not fondle me again,” he warned, though her fingers had merely curled on her thigh. “My control is not what it should be tonight.”
Though it was probably insensitive, Georgiana could not contain her grin. “I suppose a Yamish lady might complain, but allow me to assure you that whatever you manage will be better than I am used to.”
“That is no secret. You, however, deserve the superlative.” He studied her body as if considering his next move. “It would be best if you turned onto your front and allowed me to penetrate you from behind. You have more nerves at the anterior of your vagina and will thus receive the greatest benefit from my thrusts. Plus, you will not feel inhibited in your responses because of your concern that I am watching them.”
“That—” She swallowed and tried again, a heat that really should not have been inspired by such clinical language running from her sex. “That is most considerate.”
“I shall enjoy it,” he said, ruining any hope she had of recovering control. “You need not worry about that.”
He handed her an apple-green satin bolster on which to prop her hips. Even the little adjustments he made to her position were exciting. Her knees had to be wider, her bottom canted more dramatically, and each of these movements required an assortment of gentle touches from his hands.
She felt oddly protected, and just as oddly vulnerable. He knew what he was doing; that much was clear.
“Perfect,” he announced at last. As if to test—or simply to appreciate—the truth of this claim, he drew his fingertips from her shoulders down either side of her spine and over the upraised curve of her bottom. There his thumbs stretched inward to brush the sticky softness of her labia. “Yes, you will take me admirably in this pose.”
In the face of such satisfaction, she could not be embarrassed. Even if she were, she had no means to hide. By the time he shifted into place behind her, she was as needy as if she’d never had an orgasm in her life.
With her cheek pressed to the mattress, she watched him reach between their bodies to adjust himself.
She gasped as the sun-hot crown of him nudged her sex. Despite its sheathing, he felt perfectly naked—and perfectly huge.
“Do not be afraid,” he said as he lifted his upper body on muscled arms. “My organ may be large, but I know how to wield it to enhance delight.”
The pressure on her sex increased as his hips pushed forward, then subsided when he pulled them back. Again he did this, and again. Georgiana’s fingers curled into his sheets. He was sliding the largest, silkiest part of him in and out just inside her gate, and the pleasure she received from this was cumulative.
Her pleasure had plenty of time to build up. His movements were as regular as a metronome. The tent that draped the head of his bed began to sway. Looking back, she saw his expression had undergone a subtle change. He looked, just a little, as if he were in pain. The hands that gripped her waist were hard.
“You are very wet,” he observed somewhat tightly after a few minutes of this activity.
“I am . . . oh, Lord.” She closed her eyes as an interesting motion of his hips sent the tip of his penis in a tight circle. “I have no experience with anything that feels this good.”
“Ah,” he said. Two more hip swivels filled a pause. “I am afraid that poses a challenge. I am unused to my partners being this easy to arouse. It is . . .” He trailed off and licked his lips, so she assumed he was not displeased with her responsiveness. “I am unable to judge your needs completely. Would you prefer to wait, or do you want full penetration now?”
“Now,” she said with absolute decisiveness. “Oh, do it now!”
* * *
Iyan hesitated; he knew his judgment was not currently its sharpest. The surface of the human body was a conduit for energy, and he had been drinking from hers all night—most strongly when he brought her to her first pleasure. He knew there was little danger he would harm her. Especially at the instant of climax, humans drew from reservoirs outside themselves—universal energy, for lack of a better term.
Her effect on him, however, was definitely dangerous. He felt far too close to ejaculation—and far too disinclined to fend it off. He was used to having to urge himself to come, not struggling to hold it off.
Still, it was impossible to resist her demand, even had he not been honor bound to obey. Her voice was too husky, her body too obviously eager. At this particular moment, she wanted the very thing penetration was designed to give.
She wanted to be taken.
Braced for what was sure to be an unsafe heightening of sensation, he gathered himself to enter her lubricious heat. In his unusual eagerness to be inside her, he may have misjudged the force this would require. With one strong thrust, she surrounded nearly all of him.
Considering how incredible this felt on his thudding shaft, it took a moment to recover enough of his senses to realize why she’d cried out.
“No.” He began to pull back in spite of his body’s utter reluctance to be anywhere but where it was. “This cannot be.”
She reached one arm back to grab his hip. “Don’t stop.”
“But I will hurt you. I have taken your maidenhead.”
“I assure you I barely felt it. Can’t you tell how much I want you inside me? Please, Iyan, I didn’t pay you to stop now!”
This reminder might prick his pride, but the very fact that she was desperate enough to employ it was flattering. Too, she had not used his name before this. He had a sneaking suspicion he liked that more than he should.
“Very well,” he said. “I shall be as careful as I can.”
Excerpted from "Hot Spell"
Copyright © 2006 Emma Holly.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
THE BREED NEXT DOORThis story is set a number of years after the original Pride went public. Jonas is now Head of Breed Enforcer Affairs. Tarek is a Breed that we haven't met before and he is after a Trainer from the Lab that Tarek was held at. It is interesting to watch Tarek handle the normal day to day things that we take for granted. I love his reaction to the smell of homemade bread fresh from the oven. I don't think there is anything that brings to mind home and comfort like that smell. The only problem with this story is that it is too short. There are questions that aren't answered like: Why the Trainer was trying to break into Lyra house instead of Tarek's? I am not sure how this advances the overall story but it was fun to see a Breed in an every day situation and try to learn to be normal.
**Courtesy of CK2S Kwips & Kritiques**Demons, Aliens, Werewolves, Vampires, and genetically engineered beings. Berkley¿s Hot Spell anthology is sure to have something to satisfy every lover of Paranormal Romance! ~The Countess's Pleasure by Emma Holly~ All the Countess of Ware was seeking was one night of discreet, yet earth-shattering passion. Securing the services of an exotic Yamish dancer seemed just the thing. All Georgina thought she wanted was pleasure, but what she found with Iyan was so much more¿I¿ve previously enjoyed Emma Holly¿s contemporary romance and her fantasy romance, but in The Countess¿s Pleasure, Holly delivers an intriguing blend of historical romance and science fiction that I found more than pleasing.Iyan¿s alien race is known for their control, their unwillingness to give in to emotion. Even still, it isn¿t difficult to see how Georgina stirs him, as his precious control wavers time and again with the lovely widow.Georgina is the perfect match for Iyan, despite being human. Practical and shrewd outside of the bedroom, the passion she exhibits behind closed doors with Iyan charms him as effectively as those other qualities so valued by his people.As can be expected with any Emma Holly story, the love scenes are decadent and plentiful, certain to liven even the most dormant libidos! ~The Breeds Series: The Breed Next Door by Lora Leigh~ Tarek¿s current mission places him right next door to none other but his own mate, although he doesn¿t realize that is who Lyra is to him at first. No, that critical piece of information isn¿t revealed to him until living next door to her for months threatens to push him past his breaking point. When Jonas Wyatt explains the Breed Mating Heat to him, Tarek is more than eager to claim for his own the sassy little bread-baker who has unwittingly tormented him for so long.But Tarek¿s mission threatens his new Mate¿s safety, and Tarek will protect her at any cost.The Breed Next Door is the first of Lora Leigh¿s Breeds series to really drive home in no small way the fundamental differences in the way the Breeds grew up versus humans. As entranced as he is by the scent of his little Mate, Tarek is equally captivated by the scents of the homemade bread she bakes ¿ something he has never experienced before, and something most of us take for granted.Indeed, watching Tarek enjoy new experiences such as clumsily mowing his own lawn, enjoying the taste of freshly baked bread, and trimming his yard is simultaneously heart-rending and joyous. While your heart breaks for what he has missed in his life, you cannot help but find his zeal for these things infectious.Which is the very reason Lyra finds it impossible to stay mad at him, no matter how bonkers he drives her. Well, that and this crazy attraction she feels for him. Still, Lyra gives him hell every chance she gets, in a way she has no idea turns the incorrigible Tarek on.What Lora Leigh story would be complete without a healthy infusion of love scenes guaranteed to make your own knees quiver in excitement and induce some very sweet dreams for the reader¿ And Ms. Leigh delivers all of that and more in The Breed Next Door!~The Guardians, Book 1: Falling for Anthony by Meljean Brook~ Anthony and Colin have long been best friends, despite their differences in social class. But while those differences do not prevent their friendship, they certainly prove an obstacle to Anthony being able to court the woman he loves, Colin¿s twin sister Emily.When Anthony is struck down by a Nosferatu, the Guardian Michael offers him the chance to become a Guardian himself. Normally, such an offer means the new Guardian is prevented from returning to Earth for the first hundred years of their service, to avoid any contact with those who knew them before their death. When the Nosferatu that killed Anthony targets Colin & Emily¿s family for death, Michael breaks the rules, and assigns Anthony to the mission to save his friends.Fall
Great reading, short 'n steamy stories get to the point without the feeling of being short changed! I'm not usually a reader of historical romance however Emma Holly's story is a great blend of historical without being to fru-fru and sci-fi with out too much whu-whu. I loaned it to a friend to introduce her to the paranormal side of romance and she really liked it. I think everyone will find something here that they'll like!
Uneven anthology, and in the end, not especially memorable either. Big name Emma Holly writes a not bad piece is an alternative Victorian World where semi demons exist along side us and one of them is seduced by a countess. Shiloh Walker's Blood Kiss also wasn't bad, with sexy werewolf Roman rescuing and mating with vampire Julianna. I couldn't finish Meljean Brook's Falling for Anthony, and Lora Leigh's Breed book was par for the course. None of them were a keeper.
The Countess's Pleasure by Emma HollyNot quite as erotic as some of Emma Holly's other works that I've read, though still definitely hotter than your standard paranormal/fantasy romance as well.Georgiana, a widowed countess from Britain, travels to Bhamjran, a British Victorian India, and unknowingly meets up with the man of her dreams, or at least, a dreamy man... well, then again, he's not really a man but a demon. Iyan is part of a separate paranormal race known as the Yama; they aren't actually demons as you might think of them in terms of evil spirits or minions from the various levels of Hell. But besides their sculpted bodies, perfect features, and unwillingness to succumb to emotion, they are also able to draw energy from humans in a most unusual way. Mixing between the races is generally frowned upon. But then again, "What happens in Bhamjran, stays in Bhamjran." And Georgiana is committed to living for herself now, even if that means taking pleasure where she can find it... in the arms of a demon!My Rating: 5 starsThe Breed Next Door by Lora LeighI plan to read some of Lora Leigh's other Breed books so this novella was a good introduction to the race, and the writing style of the author. I liked it a bit more than the previous story because there was some additional elements of danger that weren't present in the previous story. Lyra is a human, and unknowingly living next door to a "Breed", a genetically engineered human clone species bred to serve, usually in a warlike capacity. The Breed species were very ill-treated by their masters, until the revolution that is, fought side-by-side with humans who also thought their treatment too cruel. Many escaped to live in the real world among humans, trying to hide their true identity. Tarek was such a creature... and sexy as hell to boot! And the two of them are forced into close quarters after the people hunting Tarek decide to go after Lyra instead...My Rating: 6 starsFalling for Anthony by Meljean BrookAnthony is a Guardian, a special type of angel created to protect the human race from evil. After being killed by a Nosferatu while serving as a medic during the Napoleonic Wars, Anthony is made into a Guardian, a special type of angel created to protect the human race from evil. Though most Guardians must wait 100 years first if they choose to fall, Michael the archangel has decided to send Anthony back after only a few short weeks, to protect the very family he unknowingly helped to betray to the Nosferatu who attacked him.There's a whole back story, which is pretty intense, but when I tried to get into it, the summary got super long, so suffice to say, I really enjoyed this story the most of all of them so far. Though the sex scenes could've been a wee bit longer >:-> the story was definitely well fleshed-out. My Rating: 7 starsThe Blood Kiss by Shiloh WalkerRoman Montgomery, the Wolf King of Wolfclan Montgomery, believes he has found his true mate. Unfortunately, she's the daughter of his sworn enemy, Lord Eduard Capiet, head of The House of Capiet. While on a mission to free his younger brother from the hands of Eduard, he abducts Eduard's daughter Julianna, not wanting to leave her in the hands of such a monster as Eduard, who's archaic old ways have drawn the eye of the Ancients.There's a bit of similarity to Romeo and Juliet. Not just in the names, but also in the fact that the 2 Houses are sworn enemies. And Roman and Julianna fall in love. Fortunately, the story doesn't end in tragedy as Romeo and Juliet does. And there was enough action and danger going on, since the erotica wasn't as sizzling as some of the other stuff I've read, to keep the story interesting for me.My Rating: 7 stars
These weren't the best paranormal romance stories I've read, but they were the most diverse.
***** The Countess's Pleasure by Emma Holly. Too short, but then it's a novella. Another Yama story, like The Demon's Daughter. The hero is a Yama (demon), the heroine, a widowed countess. He's an indentured servant, working as an erotic dancer to keep his mother from prison. As expected from Holly, it's steamy and emotionally true. ***** The Breed Next Door by Lora Leigh. Part of a series I'll probably have to check out now. Reminds me of Dark Angel, particularly since we've been watching season 2 on DVD lately. The hero is genetically engineered with cat DNA. Steamy, good suspense. ***½ Falling for Anthony by Meljean Brook. This one really needed to be longer. If it's part of a series, I'll give it back a half star. But there's enough going on here for a 300+ page book. The paranormal world of angels and nosferatu and guardians; the hero's complex relationship with his mentor; the heroine's complex relationship with her father; the complexities of their developing relationship. ***** The Blood Kiss by Shiloh Walker. Evil vampire king imprisons the brother of the werewolf king. Werewolf king goes to get him back, is attracted and aided by vampire king's daughter, who he takes captive in retaliation. Nice intrigue, steamy.
the only reason i purchased this book was because its an addition to one of the breed series of lora leigh's books. over all, i enjoyed reading the other others and was captured to their different writing styles, but my favorite will be lora leigh's section of the book! THIS SURE IS AN ENTERTAINING READ! ;-D.
Although I bought the book for Lora Leigh "Breed" novelette, I enjoyed the other authors, except Emma Holly, too slow.