Dark Bites (Page 4)

Dark Bites (Dream-Hunter #1)(4)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

And as she leaned back against his hard, muscular shoulder and chest, and watched him read to her, she became curious about his lips. Before she could stop herself, she reached up and touched them.

He paused to look down at her with an arched brow.

“Are all men’s lips as soft as yours, Ari?”

A sweet smile spread across his face. “I suppose, goddess. But I don’t make it a habit to feel the lips of other men so I don’t know for certain.” There was a hint of amusement in his voice.

She loved the fact that he didn’t comment whenever she said something inappropriate or ignorant. Unlike others, even Caleb, he never grew annoyed with her.

And his lips intrigued her greatly. As did the line of his strong, sculpted jaw and the dusting of prickly whiskers that teased the flesh of her fingers. “Why do people kiss mouth-to-mouth?”

“It’s said to be quite pleasurable.”

“And have you ever kissed someone?”

“Not on the mouth, my lady.”

All of a sudden, a part of him began swelling against her hip. Frowning, she sat up to look down at it. “Did you get injured just now?”

His face turned bright red as he shifted and moved back from her a bit. “No, my lady.”

She was only more confused by his answer and actions. “Is that not why body parts swell?”

He visibly cringed. “Most of the time.”

“But not all?”

“No.” He hesitated and cleared his throat before he spoke again. “That part of a man swells whenever he’s… aroused.”

There was something she’d never considered or known. “I arouse you?”

He turned even redder. “Forgive me if it insults you, my lady. I have no control over it. But don’t worry, I respect your status and birthright, and I will never touch you inappropriately. I swear it.”

A peculiar sensation struck her chest like a blow. Was it pain?

She wasn’t sure.

And she was fascinated by the bulge beneath his chiton. “Have you done this before?”

His deep blue gaze burned into hers. “Every time you’re near me, goddess. Or anytime I smell your scent.”

Her eyes widened. “But I’ve never felt you… not until now.”

He averted his gaze and shifted uncomfortably again. “I normally bind myself so that you won’t.”

“Does that not hurt you, too?”

By his expression, she knew he felt awkward and embarrassed. Yet, as always, he was patiently trying to explain the matter to her so that she could understand it. “A great deal. Yet I’d rather be in pain than insult you.”

“But you can’t insult me. I don’t have feelings for you to hurt.”

A tiny smile played at the edges of his lips. “I forget that, my lady.”

“How can you?”

“Because you don’t seem to be without them all the time. Like now… your brow is creased as if you’re puzzled or confused, and those are emotions. You seem to be very caring and extremely inquisitive. All of those are emotions, too.”

Were they?

“I have emotion?”

“You seem to, yes.”

Could it be that she’d had emotion all along and never knew it? Her body did react to things, but she’d written them off as automatic responses she couldn’t control.

Like his bulge.

Was it possible that those physical reactions were emotions she’d disregarded?

“Ari? What do feelings feel like?”

He set the pole aside and turned her to face him while they talked. “They’re hard to define. But I shall try for you.” His handsome brow furrowed as he considered it. “Well… sometimes I have an ache in my chest when my brother appears sad or is hurt about something. That’s sympathy pain because I want him to be happy and healthy.”

“What does love feel like?”

Aricles fell silent as he looked at the childlike wonder on her face. The way the sunlight made those incredible hazel eyes glow with her fire and beauty. In his heart, he knew he was already in love with her, had been for weeks now. Ever since she’d started joining him for his peaceful afternoons.

But how could he explain what he felt?

“There are different kinds of love.” That seemed like the best starting point.

“Such as?”

“Well, I love my father, but that’s more obligatory. He cared for me when I was a boy and I care for him now that he’s older.”

“But you said he didn’t care for you when you were young.”

Aricles licked his lips as he tried to explain a very complicated relationship that often left him as confused as she was. While he did love his father and would die for him, a part of him hated and resented his father, too. “He took care of us until the death of our mother. He was a great father when we were small. Then the loss of the woman he loved, crippled him until he could no longer support us emotionally.” Or even financially. Rather, his father had given up on life for a long time. “Without my mother, he didn’t want to live either, and so he crawled into his cups and stayed there. So someone had to take care of him and the farm.” Aricles tried not to remember those first years after his mother’s death. They’d been hard and harsh as he struggled with his own grief while trying to care for his brothers and father, as well as their farm.

“So love is obligatory?”

“Not exactly. I mean… yes, it is, but it’s not.”

She rubbed at her forehead. “I don’t comprehend this.”

Aricles pondered it for a moment. “Love obligates you because you want to take care of the person who holds your heart. Their happiness and well-being mean much more to you than your own. So yes, but it’s not truly obligatory, because you don’t really have to take care of them. It’s your own desire that makes you feel such.”

“Ah… that makes sense.”

“And,” he continued, “when they’re gone from you, it’s a harsh loss that haunts and saddens you. All you want is to see them smile. To watch joy light up their face, and to be with them.”

Bathymaas nodded. “I think I understand now.” It was how she felt about him. She didn’t like to see him struck in practice, and when he bled, it caused pain to her chest. Like now… she was still concerned with the fact that he was bulging when she’d never known him to do that before.

And the thought of him hurting…

It, too, gave her a pain in her chest.

She lowered her gaze to his groin. “Why are you not bound today?”

The color returned to mottle his cheeks. It was so adorable and sweet that it somehow made her want to touch them and ease his embarrassment. “I was injured in practice and didn’t want to risk reopening the wound with the binding.”

She gasped. “Where were you hurt?”

“Across my hip.”

Aricles caught her hand as she reached to see it. His breathing ragged, he stared at her with a pain-filled expression. “Please, goddess. I’m hard enough already. If you touch me there… it’ll only be worse for me.”

“My touch hurts you?”

He nodded.

“Then why do you spend time with me?”

He smiled at her as he let go of her wrist. “Because the pleasure of your company is worth the pain it causes me.”

That made no sense to her whatsoever. “I cannot comprehend mortal emotions. How can any pleasure be worth pain?”

“It just is.”

The fact that he was willing to suffer to be in her presence brought a strange sensation to her stomach. She wasn’t sure what it was, but it compelled her to lift her hand and lightly brush her fingers against his lips again. “Will you kiss me, Aricles, so that I can see why people do it?”

He expelled a long breath and the light faded from his eyes. “I would love to, my lady. But I fear I’ve never kissed anyone like that. I’m sure I would bungle it.”

“I wouldn’t know if you did since I’ve never had a kiss either. And even though you might bungle it, I still think I’d like to see what the fuss is about. Are you not curious, Ari?”

Aricles felt his heart pound at her question. He was more than curious about how her lips would taste. But he was also a bit scared.

Who are you to question a goddess?

He was her servant and her warrior…

Still unsure, he gently laid his hand against her cheek and stroked her lips with his thumb. “Are you certain you want me to do this?”

She nodded.

Ever so slowly, he lowered his lips to hers. The moment he tasted her, his entire body erupted with a heat so high that it made his past attractions to other women seem mild and insignificant. He shook all over as images of making love to Bathymaas tormented him. He would give anything to hold her like that, but he knew it could never be and he was lucky she’d allowed him this much.

Bathymaas wasn’t sure what to expect, but as his tongue swept across hers and his scent filled her head, something inside her splintered. Her breathing intensified even more… as did his. She felt his heart pounding against her hand. Strong and powerful.

Like him.

He was so hard and fierce, except for his lips that were soft and gentle. And in spite of his inexperience, his kiss was wonderful and it did the oddest things to her body. Made her throb and ache.

Aricles’s head spun at the taste of Bathymaas. In all his fantasies, he’d never dreamed a kiss could be so sweet. His body roared to life, making demands on him the likes of which he’d never felt before. It took every ounce of self-control he had to placate himself with just this tiny part of her.

Pulling back, he stared down at her beautiful face.

She opened her eyes and for the first time, he saw real emotion in those golden depths. Her eyes flared before she cupped his head in her hands and pulled him back for another sizzling kiss.

Bathymaas knew she should release him. It would be the smart thing to do, and yet…

She wanted to possess him in a way she couldn’t comprehend. More than that, she wanted to push him back and straddle him. To run her hands all over his body, and she had no idea why. While she’d occasionally seen animals have sex, she’d never really thought about it. It was what they did to have offspring.

But right now, she wanted him inside her. It was as if her body starved for him the way her stomach craved food.

And she had no idea why.

Did he feel that, too?

Forcing herself to withdraw, she tried to steady her breathing as she looked up at him from beneath her lashes. “Is this emotion, Aricles?”

“It is for me, goddess.”

“What do you feel?”

“Hunger, my lady. Possessiveness. Tenderness.” Love. But he didn’t dare say that out loud. He’d already made that mistake with a woman. “Most of all, protective and caring.”

Bathymaas looked down at her arms and the strange bumps that always came to her whenever he was near. “What are these?”

“Chills.”

She ran her hand over his biceps. “You have them, too. Do you also want to touch me?”

“I do, my lady.”

“And yet you don’t.”

“I told you I wouldn’t dishonor you. I would sooner die than cause you any harm.”

Her vision clouded and her throat tightened as he spoke. She blinked several times, but instead of getting clearer, her vision worsened and something wet fell down her cheeks. “What is this? Am I going blind?”

With a tender expression, he lifted his hand and gently brushed his thumb against her face. “They’re called tears.”

“Why do I have them?”

He tenderly dried her cheeks. “Whenever something hurts inside you or something touches your heart they can manifest unexpectedly.”

Frowning, she looked down and lifted the Egyptian amulet from between her br**sts. “But my heart is here. Nothing has touched it.”

Biting back a smile at her innocence, Aricles placed a single finger between her br**sts. “No, my lady, your heart is in here.” But as he spoke the words, he realized she didn’t have a heartbeat. He scowled.

She held her amulet out to him. “I’m not like you, Ari. When I was a child, I discovered that those who are born to mothers have hearts and heartbeats and that I do not. I asked my father about it and he gave me this amulet and said that it contains his heart that he lost to me the moment I was created. He said it holds his love for me and that even though I’d never understand what love is, that so long as I wore my amulet, I’d have a piece of him with me to keep me safe in his absence. This is my heart.” Her frown deepened at the happy expression that brightened his face. “Why do you smile like that?”

“Because you now have two hearts, my lady. Your father’s and mine.”

She still didn’t understand what he meant. Placing her hand to his chest, she felt his heart beating. “Yours is like my father’s. Strong.”