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Authors: Bianca D'Arc

Tags: #space opera romance

Talent For Trouble (9 page)

BOOK: Talent For Trouble
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Within moments, she was panting, gasping for air as his pace increased. She clutched his shoulders, keening and moaning as she reached for a completion only just out of reach. Her fingernails scratched his back lightly, encouraging him to move faster still. She was wild with need, and then, suddenly, the tidal wave of ecstasy broke over her, drowning the need in the most incredible satisfaction.

She floated in the seemingly endless sea of pleasure while Darak went rigid in her arms. She felt the warm flow of his seed inside her as he strained for the completion she gave him. It made her feel even better to know that she’d given him this same euphoric feeling. This completion that answered the question she’d had for so long about why people engaged in sex.

She finally understood. She knew now why so many people became fools for this kind of interaction. She understood why people would risk everything to be with someone they cared for.

Darak had taken such good care of her for so long. He’d helped her heal, and maybe, he felt an obligation toward her for that reason, but he’d also stuck around long after the initial healing had been complete.

At first, he’d annoyed her. He’d rubbed her the wrong way in every sense. But over time, she’d come to like his roguish ways and enjoy the teasing light in his handsome eyes. She’d come to care for him and anticipate the time they spent together.

Now, she knew what he was like as a lover. She wasn’t sure how to feel about it. At the moment, she didn’t want to think at all. She just wanted to float on the happy cloud of pleasure he’d introduced her to. Thinking could wait.

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

Jana drifted in a state of utter, replete bliss. She felt motion, but it didn’t really register until her head spun. Short seconds later, she felt a mattress against her back. Darak must have carried her into the bedroom and laid her down on the bed. At some point, he had disengaged their bodies, but her mind was hazy on the details. It wasn’t possible to concentrate for long with the pleasant buzz of energy zinging through her veins.

“Are you all right?” Darak hadn’t gone far. He lay beside her. His voice comforted her, though she felt so good—in no real need of comfort at the moment.

“Better than all right.” She turned her head to meet his gaze, catching the concern shift to amusement.

“That good, eh?” It seemed like he couldn’t resist teasing her, though he sobered quickly enough. One of his hands held hers, their fingers interlaced. He brought her knuckles to his mouth, to trace fine kisses on her skin. “I didn’t mean for this to happen today, Jana.”

“Lucky for you, I’m in a forgiving mood.” She gave him a smile, surprised by how easy it was to bring a look of happiness to his face. She wasn’t used to seeing happiness. Not since she’d been taken from her home as a young teen. The last happiness she remembered was that last, magical day on her family’s horse farm. That perfect day before they came and stole her away.

“What makes you frown so, sweet Jana?” Gentle kisses on her hand brought her attention back to the man lying beside her.

How had she ended up here? She’d never intended to have sex again. Yet, here she was in bed with the worst rogue she’d ever met.

“Memories best forgotten.”

“I hope not recent memories.” He turned toward her, catching her eyes with a rueful expression.

“Memories of home,” she found herself admitting. She hadn’t meant to open up even that much. Must be that her sessions with the mind healer had gotten her used to talking more about things than she should. “Forget it. It’s over, and I’m here now. I must deal with the present, not dwell on the past. Or so they say.”

“They—whoever they are—are usually right. I’ve discovered that old adages usually hold some grain of truth within. I suppose that’s how they become adages.” He reached over to caress her cheek, and she found herself wanting to move into his touch.

That way lay danger. She had already let him go too far. It might be trying to close the stable door after the horses had escaped, but she had to do her best to guard her heart against his charm. She’d given him her body—all too easily, to her mind—but her heart would never be risked again.

Long ago, when she had first come under the collective’s control, before her mind had been subjugated to their will, she had felt the heartbreak of losing those she loved. She remembered those feelings. They were the first to confront her when her mind was finally free. The death of her family may have happened years ago, but it was still fresh in her mind, and in her heart.

Having her little sister back in her life after all these years was a miracle. She loved Jeri more than anything in the universe, and she would not give her up again. No matter what. She would die before she let her heart be broken that way a second time.

Fear of that very thing filled her when she allowed herself to think about it. It was one of the many things she was working on with the mind healer.

Loving Jeri was enough. No way would Jana allow her heart to let anyone else inside its walled off boundaries. Not even the rogue who had so easily conquered her body.

Sex was one thing. Allowing herself to feel affection for him was entirely another.

But she liked him. Even though he annoyed her most of the time, there was something she liked about being around him. He was fun. He didn’t take life too seriously, and he smiled a lot. Smiling was something she hadn’t done much of in recent years. Not until Jeri and Micah had shattered the blue stone that had tied her mind to the collective. Not until her first waking moment of freedom, when she’d seen Darak’s dark eyes hovering nearby, concern on his all-too-handsome face.

Then, she’d seen Jeri. Dear, sweet, Jeri. A little older now, but still the darling little sister she had played with as a child and loved so much. That vision had made her mouth move upward in the first genuine smile she had formed in years.

Tears had followed, but the smiles were plentiful from that moment forth. And Darak had been the cause of many of them. He seemed to take it as a personal mission to make her laugh, no matter how hard she resisted him.

And now, he’d been inside her. She wondered if the past moments of uninhibited passion would change the way he treated her now. Would he be more attentive? Or would he be done with her now that he’d gotten what he wanted?

She didn’t think he was that mercenary, but then, what did she really know of his character? Most of the time, he played the court jester, hiding his real feelings behind a mask of humor. She doubted she’d ever seen the real Darak. Not for long at any rate.

She might have walls around her heart, but he had cast iron gates around his to which only his family seemed to have the key. She’d seen him with them and thought perhaps he was more open with them than at any other time. Still, he guarded his true self almost as well as she tried to do.

They had that much in common, at least.

“So thoughtful, Jana.” He brushed a lock of her hair back from her forehead. “Please tell me I haven’t scarred you for life.” A flare of something that could have been panic entered his eyes, but she dismissed it. She had to be reading things into his reaction that weren’t really there. He cared for her on some level, but she doubted he truly cared enough to panic at the mere thought that she might now be regretting their actions.

“No scars from what we just did.” She thought about that. “It’s rather surprising, actually,” she admitted. “Perhaps I was making too much of the idea of having sex again in my mind. The more I thought about it, the bigger the problem became.”

“That is often the case when something is troubling me,” he agreed. His gaze continued to search hers as if looking for the truth. “Too much analysis can blow something out of all proportion. Still, you should probably talk with Master Toombs about this.” He looked worried, and she realized she was frowning at him.

“You want me to tell him we had sex?” She was shocked by the idea.

“Of course.” Darak seemed to think nothing of discussing this most private act with the mind healer.

Of course, it might come up in the next session, but that was between Jana and Master Toombs. It would not be easy for her to talk about. Not in specific terms. She might allude to it, but on Mithrak, few people ever openly discussed sex.

“Do you want me to tell him?” Darak squeezed her hand as if to offer comfort, but his casual words nearly scandalized her.

“Darak!” She sat up and clutched a pillow to her midsection, effectively covering the important parts of her body. “I do not discuss such things as freely as you do.”

“Stars save us from Mithrakian morals.” He sat up, too, seemingly unconcerned by his nakedness. “Jana, you have to talk to him about this. It wasn’t meant to happen, and I’m afraid it was too soon for you. After what you’ve been through, this could have done more harm than good.”

“After what I’ve been through?” She repeated his words, appalled that he might have more knowledge of her past than she wanted him to know. “What’s that supposed to mean? Have you all been discussing me behind my back? Is my sex life common knowledge?” Her voice rose with each accusation.

“Jana…” By contrast, Darak’s voice was deathly calm, low and serious. “I know about the rapes.”

All the blood drained out of her face, and she hugged the pillow tight. Only recently, with Master Toombs’ help, had she been able to call the so-called matings the Wizards had subjected her to by their rightful name. Rape.

It was an ugly word for an even uglier deed. But it had happened to her. More than once. And worse than the rape had been the silence. Being cut off from the collective she’d come to depend on by that time. Silence in her own mind so that she could concentrate even more fully on the horror being visited upon her helpless body.

Tears leaked out of her eyes against her wishes. She turned away, but Darak saw. Of course he saw. And, like the hero he tried to portray, he reached for her, his arms offering comfort, not confinement.

Her mind resisted, but her body allowed the contact. Her body basked in his warmth, her confused emotions cracking the façade of control and allowing the sweet release of tears, the exquisite pain somehow pleasurable in that it allowed her to fully feel…to express…to being the slow process of healing.

Darak held her while she sobbed.

 

Each tear that leaked out of her eyes felt like a hammer blow to his heart. Darak had never comforted a woman who needed it more. He could feel Jana’s confusion and pain. Her hatred—of the past, he hoped—and not of him.

He understood, as well as a man who’d grown up free of oppression could understand such things. He felt the connection between them grow as she sobbed against his chest, and he didn’t regret a single moment of it. He felt vulnerable, and that normally would have sent him running for the hills, but with Jana, it felt right to allow himself to feel these things. She was trusting him with her vulnerability. The least he could do was return the favor.

He said nothing, crooning to her wordlessly as he stroked her hair and held her tight against him. She clung in a satisfying way, though he hated the sound of her tears. Hated it for the pain it represented, not for any other reason. By the same token, he was glad she could express herself. That the torrent had let loose finally.

He’d talked extensively with Master Toombs about her. Not in specific detail of what she’d told the mind healer, but in broad terms about the stages she would most likely go through in her recovery. Master Toombs had been concerned that she hadn’t broken down before this. He’d warned Darak to tread carefully, but like the impatient fool he was, Darak had forged ahead, full steam. The situation had quickly spiraled out of his control. He’d taken her long before he’d planned.

There was no doubt in his mind that they would be together at some point. He’d looked forward to it with every fiber of his being. He’d dreamed of it every night since he’d first touched her soft skin. But he knew it was too soon. He’d pushed her too far and had left them no alternative. Her body had gone up in flames, the way he’d hoped she would, but when the crisis point came and would not recede, he knew he had no choice but to see it through to the end.

She was paying for it now with the tears that broke his heart. He only hoped he hadn’t done too much damage. Somehow, he’d help her through this. Somehow, he’d heal her heart if it took everything in him to do it. He wasn’t a patient man by nature, but he’d cultivate the fortitude of a stone if it meant he’d be able to help her.

Jana was quickly becoming the center of his world. He didn’t know where it would lead. He only knew that she was more important to him than his own life. When and how that had happened, he had no idea. The thought should have frightened him, but somehow…it felt right. As it should be. Fated.

Though Darak had never believed in fate before.

She began to quiet, her sobs dying down to little catches in her breath as her tears dried up. She swiped at her cheeks with her fingers, but Darak stilled her motions, kissing damp cheeks and soaking up the remaining tears with his lips.

“Do you feel better now?”

A sniffle was his answer as she drew away to fumble on the night table for the tissue box. He let her go, thinking the way she blew her nose so daintily was kind of cute. Everything about her was appealing on some level, even the puffy redness of her eyes. For that condition meant she had begun to heal in some small way. If Master Toombs was correct, perhaps this was the breakthrough they’d been waiting for. Darak only regretted that he’d brought it about in such a way. He didn’t want her to equate his lovemaking with the horrors of her past. He wanted only to bring her joy—not memories of pain.

“I’m sorry.” She threw the used tissue into the small wastebasket against the wall. She seemed unwilling to meet his gaze, and he didn’t like it.

“For what?” he asked cautiously.

“For crying all over you. I’m usually never such a watering pot.” The heat of a blush stained her cheeks to match her eyes.

“You deserved to cry for what was done to you.” His tone was as gentle and serious as he could be, coaxing her gaze to his. “And it is I who owe you the apology.”

BOOK: Talent For Trouble
10.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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