“Mine…” a man’s deep voice whispered to Feiyan.
Still trapped in the darkness of her fever dream, Feiyan realized that the sound came from somewhere around her calves. The lightest of touches feathered over her skin, climbing from her knees up to her inner thighs and even further. The caresses were insistent but gentle, touching her until she could feel pleasure tingling up her belly. She gasped, hips and spine lurching up as she tried to get away from the sensations, but the hands grasping her hips held her firmly. One large hand skimmed softly up to her belly, stilling her in a reassuring manner. She bit her lip as the soft touches continued…wet and hot and…
Feiyan snapped her eyes open, nearly jolting out of her skin as she tried to shove away the gorgeous man running his tongue down from the inside of her knee along her inner thigh.
“Shhh…” he whispered, breath fanning across her flushed skin. Almost gliding, he slowly kissed his way up her belly, touching his lips to the undersides of her breasts, then her collarbone, nipping her throat as his fingers slid themselves skilfully against the wetness of her sex. His other hand, splayed possessively against her breastbone.
Feiyan discovered that she couldn’t move at all: her body seemed frozen in the half light of her dream. Unexpectedly her heart squeezed so hard she thought she’d be sick.
It’s...my chest is burning!
“Hngh!” she huffed in pain and surprise.
The demon frowned. Looking anxious, but still intent on giving her pleasure, he put his head down on her stomach and stroked his fingers deeper distracting her from the pain. Gradually, the burning in her chest eased and something different rose up in her body. Although, she thought she’d been feeling fear, it receded and was slowly drowned out by something else…something unexpectedly fierce.
Slowly the splayed fingers feathered upward from her breastbone and the man threaded his fingers through her long, tangled hair, cupping the back of her head. Their eyes met as he lifted her into a brain melting kiss.
Red horns tipped with black, ruby red eyes, white skin and hair, and a powerfully built body…not a man, but a magnificently beautiful demon…
She opened her mouth to speak, but he thrust his tongue into her mouth, claiming her. Instead of resisting, her body unconsciously responded to him, and a sensual heat clawed up her body as they melded with growing passion.
“Mine…” he repeated softly, drawing his head back to stare at her. Dazed by his beauty, she could only stare back.
Gazing at her intently, he shifted his body, positioning himself between her carelessly splayed legs, but then he paused as if waiting for her to acquiesce. Her eyes widened, realizing the state of his arousal. At his limit, the demon whined, nuzzling at her neck, sliding urgently against her wetness, and yet he still waited for her answer.
Feiyan flinched as he brought his face even closer.
The ruby red eyes above her were framed with heavy white lashes, and they bore into her, drinking in her features. Her stomach flipped as his gaze filled with a deep longing, but she could also see an inexplicable sadness.
Without realizing what she was doing, she reached towards him, giving in to the sudden desire to comfort him.
“Mine…” he whispered in a voice silky with delight and satisfaction. “Mine!”
Crushing her into his embrace, the demon proceeded to devour every inch of her…But fire once again stabbed her in the chest, and she screamed in horror as the demon punched his claws into her chest lto lift out her still beating heart.
Feiyan sat bolt upright in her own bed, sweating and panting, startling her Father who had dozed off in a chair next to her. She covered her mouth with her hands to keep from screaming out loud from the shock, but her heart was still racing from the feel of the demon’s touch.
What the HELL was that?!
Her father, who had fallen asleep sitting next to her, woke instantly when he heard her muffled exclamation.
“Feiyan!” he said, grabbing a hold of her shoulders to prevent her from falling over as she was hit with a sudden wave of nausea and dizziness. “Don’t sit up so quickly…you’ve been unconscious for an entire week…”
Barely hearing him, she vomited onto the floor.
“Your colour still isn’t good,” said Lord Mu, five days later. He stroked the hair away from her forehead, frowning at the amount of weight that she had lost.
“How has his Highness been holding up in Court, Father?” she asked, ignoring the comment. She felt guilty for leaving the Prince alone all this time. In addition to the three days in the water prison, she’d been in bed for more than ten days after that.
“He’s fine. After all, he is the Crown Prince,” her Father said lightly. “Xia has been at his side. So I’m sure his Highness hasn’t missed you at all.”
Feiyan tried not to laugh at her Father’s weak attempt to provoke her.
“Mmmn,” she murmured, eyes downcast.
“Is there something you’re hiding from me?” he asked, his tone only sounding mildly curious.
Feiyan shook her head. Though it still bothered her, the idea of trying to explain to Father about the lecherous demon in her fever dream made her brain smoke.
And the rest…are just things that have already passed…
“Then eat,” he said, handing her a bowl of her favourite rice porridge from a tray. She noticed that he had had the cook put extra pieces of lean pork and salted duck egg into her bowl and hid her smile in a cough. Father thought she didn’t know, but he always betrayed his level of worry when he gave her rice porridge with extra pork.
“Did you know what you did wrong?” he asked, more severely than he had intended.
“If the King had not intervened, the Queen would have tortured you to death. How are you supposed to protect Xiao Feiyu if you are dead?”
True, but I would have preferred torture to the water prison…
“Well, it seems that Xia is doing a good job in my place…” she said wryly, dipping her spoon in the luscious porridge and savouring the deep saltiness of the duck egg as she chewed.
Her Father grunted.
“The tribute envoy from Shobu is here for the review. You’ll resume your duties today,” he said.
“Yes, Father,” she said, but as he stood to leave, she caught his sleeve.
“You look tired. You should rest…”
“Hah! So, you do know how to be filial!” Lord Mu snorted, sounding vexed. “If I rested, who would look after my disobedient daughter?”
“Father!” Feiyan exclaimed, face coloured with guilt, but she could see a faint trace of humour in her Father’s eyes that said that he was not angry with her for what happened. “I’m sorry, Father.”
“I know. You’re a good child, Yan’er. When you finish your food, go see the Prince,” he said, patting her knee. He then rose, leaving her to her meal.
She nodded, and quietly finished her rice porridge. When she was done, she slipped out of the sleeping robes and stared into the full-length mirror, assessing her body with a critical eye.
The woman in the mirror was scarred and thin.
Ahh, Feiyan thought in distaste noticing how the clavicle bones and top of her sternum protruded. Turning, she ran her hands along her sides, noticing each of her ribs. Then she carefully examined her wrist bones and forearms and sighed. It was obvious she’d lost weight.
“You shouldn’t be worried. You’re beautiful,” said Hajoon, tilting his head slightly to the side to avoid three throwing knives that had magically appeared in her hand. They thudded into the wall next to the window where he had just been standing. He smiled at her.
She turned away, starting to dress.
“Vice-Captain,” she nodded curtly.
“Don’t be like that,” Hajoon coaxed softly, stepping towards her.
“You shouldn’t be here,” she replied sharply.
“Feiyan…” he whispered, voice holding a note of pleading. “Please…”
“Don’t make it harder than it already is!”
“Feiyan, I -”
“No!” her voice lashed at him and she turned, eyes ablaze. “After what happened, we don’t have the right to say it to each other. Not now. Not ever! Father was right to punish us.”
“It’s not wrong for us to love each other!” Hajoon said quietly, jaw clenched.
They were both glaring: Feiyan’s eyes were cold and Hajoon looked angry.
“You’ll obey Lord Mu then,” he stated, fisting his hands. “You don’t care about what Gen and I are feeling?”
Feiyan sighed internally. Hajoon was considered an ice block by most of the Shadows who preferred Gen’s friendliness. Except for her, no one knew that Hajoon was capable of deep feeling…and she hated that she was hurting him. Buckling down, she tried to keep her tone even.
“Hajoon…you know that a Shadow shouldn’t have feelings. They can only exist for their owner or their mission. As the Prince’s double, I have already been remiss by letting my personal feelings get in the way of protecting him. It’s time to take responsibility.”
“What about Xia?”
“That man only loves himself. Of all people, he is the clearest on the distinction.”
“Does it mean nothing to you?” he growled, suddenly grabbing her.
Her breath caught in her throat as his purple eyes stared down into hers full of hurt. She forced herself to breathe slowly, calmly.
“Hajoon, you, me and Gen: the three of us grew up together. You mean the world to me.”
“But you don’t love me,” Hajoon’s breath hissed out. He let go of her wrist, leaving red marks.
“That’s not what I mean,” she answered. “Hajoon…please…”
“I see…then I’m sorry that I’ve troubled you,” he said, turning his face slightly to the side, jaw flexing.
Hajoon had always been like this. Gen was very clear about where he stood with her and had never had any illusions about holding her heart. Though she knew he felt the same where the three of them were concerned, Gen was always careful not to cross the line with her. Hajoon, on the other hand, was not someone easily moved…if and when he let someone into his heart, it would be forever.
But it can’t and shouldn’t be me…
It hurt to see the face he was making, and she felt herself waver for an instant. Then, she shook herself, turning so that he wouldn’t see her biting her lip. Struggling to keep her head, she slipped into her clothes and focused on strapping her knife sheaths to her body, concealing them. Then she put on the wrist sheaths with their hidden darts.
We’re too close. We’re childhood friends. Father and Xia were right to remind us. I don’t want to hurt you anymore than I have already. Please Hajoon…please let it go…for your sake and for mine…
When she turned to him, his normal unreadable countenance was back in place.
“I’m ready,” she said, turning towards the door, but actually she wasn’t prepared at all when he seized her in his arms, smashing his lips into hers, and pillaging her mouth with a desperation that almost made her cry. When he finally released her, he showed no repentance on his face, only acting as if he’d not just tried to assert himself over her…not tried to mark her, possess her.
It’s the last time… his resigned expression seemed to say to her.
“Let’s go,” he said.