Full Summary:

"My ex-friend/ex-servant is trying to inch her way into my bed—which might be fine if I was not a beast, if she was not a runaway, and if there was not a pack of nobles involved. Leaving her to her own devices might solve a host of problems. Except my alpha side has already claimed her, and the alternative is she gets claimed by another. I swear, the next person who tries to take what is mine is going to have hell to pay."

—"Lord" Rome


AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Welcome to the new Volume 2 of The BeastKing Chronicles!

If you're new to the Chronicles, you CAN start with this story, but you may be a little lost. I won't be taking the time to explain the main characters, or preexisting minor characters, or background shared between characters; that was what Volume 1 was for.
If you already read Volume 1, welcome back! This volume will pick up largely where the epilogue left off.
If you previously read Volume 2 under this title, please note that I am starting the volume over again with new content. You would probably be best served by going back to Volume 1 to read over all the changes I made during the last revision, as I grafted miscellaneous chunks of the old volume 2 into the new Volume 1.

Whichever boat you're in, you should be aware that I am expecting this volume to have graphically mature content! That means lemons and violence and seriously complicated (and often dark) psychology. If that bothers you, then this is not the story for you to read.

As the next level of this "Beauty and the Beast" story unfolds, there will be themes of mateship and dominance (and other animalistic connotations) as the beast comes to light. Because of that, I will be blurring the lines between consensual and non-consensual sexual encounters, as well as blurring the line between "hero" and "villain." This will mean hurt-comfort actions/situations and some bondage (among other things). There will also be corrupt nobles, fantasy creatures, magic, and a developing villain. So if violence, intrigue, coarse language, and/or villainy-rape (or almost-rape) situations put you off, you have two choices: 1) You can read the story anyway, and skip over the freaky parts, or 2) You might want to read a more chipper, upbeat story. If, on the other hand, you like psychological stories, then you're going to have a field day. ;)

Disclaimer: The temple is not based on any particular religion in real life, nor is this story meant to condone any practices therein or any beastiality. Read as a fictional story, please and thank you.


Key:

This story has two main characters, and so is told from two alternating points of view: female and male. The separators signify a change in character perspective, meaning a different character is now speaking.

Italicized sentences distinguish the character's thoughts.

The "Glossary" (only for some chapters) contains words that I made up for the purpose of this story, to give it an otherworldly feel. The full glossary is available on my website, accessible via my profile.

Please note that accents within the story are intentional, and are intentionally different from one another.


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Chapter 1
Farther Than I Thought

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In the year to come, I would have many moments when I would reflect back on my life and wonder how I had gotten here: How I had ended up cuffing Bre to a bed. How I laid waste to an entire noble house. How I ended up human, trapped in a temple. How I ended up on a bed with Pandora in the forest. How I ended up face to face with the goddess of legend.

All because of one stupid season.

No—all because of one female that I could not bear to see in the hands of another man.

You may think me lost from the moment I decided to allow her to wait out the frozen weather in my family's abandoned estate. I was not. In fact, by that point in time, I could hardly stand to be indoors at all. I spent the days dozing on my windowseat, because I was nocturnal (like the rest of the forest), and because I deemed it safer there—for myself, and potentially for others, although I found myself rapidly losing care for what might happen to the humans.

But despite my reclusion, there was one external thing my self-centered beastly nature could not abide by: the human it had declared ownership of, squandering her purity on lesser life forms. It is the ability of an alpha to accept another into his domain, and it is his right to demand something—anything—in return. So Labriella's plan to acquire food and shelter for the next season was not flawed, even by a beast's standards. But it was in that moment that I realized why I took issue with that plan. Labriella had already offered her maidenhood to me, as her first-choice alpha…and I had unconsciously accepted. I was already bound to her, and she to me. That unspoken contract would pain either of us if the other strayed—or, at least, it would pain me, as I was not sure how sensitive humans were to these things. What affected her a little, may affect me a great deal.

And so I could not see her mounted on the loins of another male. I might very well tear into him, as I had the males who had kidnapped Bre the day before. But neither could I mount her for myself; it would be the equivalent of her death crouching on my doorstep, waiting for me to slip up even once. If it had been a question before, I was too much a beast now.

And so I grudgingly opened my family home to her, with every intention of leaving her there to fare as she willed, while I continued to live in the forest.

But then I realized, like any logical being might, that she had no way of obtaining food without access to the village. Even if she had access, with no money to buy food, she might resort (as she had reluctantly deferred before) to using her body to barter food. Thus we would be right back to where we started: with an argument about what she could and could not do with her maidenhood.

So I began dropping food off at the house once a day, leaving it on the dining room table. Every day, the food disappeared. Thus we continued, without any contact between us. Until one day, when the weather was colder, I decided to sleep inside. I hopped through my window in the early morning hours, shaking off the chill prickling my skin, and folded into my windowseat, eyes shuttering out the view of the forest's dark treeline as the first flickers of daylight began to lighten the sky.

I awoke disoriented, as it had been at least a month since I had slept indoors. Dew coated the sill beside me. I blinked at my empty chambers, musky and still as I had left them, dried pine boughs still littering odd places. My mind flashed back to when I returned after a week to find my room, cleaned and polished for the first time in decades, sporting tree branches from the forest. I remembered how upset and apologetic Bre had been, how fearful that I was not coming back…

I glanced askance, to the open doorway, and then noticed something sitting there on the floor. It was a white teakettle, I realized, set next to a cup on a tray. I could see the disturbance in the air around it from the heat the kettle radiated, less subtle as the temperature outside began to drop.

Bre, I thought. She used to bring me tea every evening, before she went to bed. She must have passed into the hallway and seen me sleeping through the open door. I stared pensively at the tray for a moment, then rose from my seat and paced across the room to crouch and pick up the tray. Bre's scent washed over me, faint yet invigorating enough to merit a second, deeper breath through my nose. A million reasons why I should want her trickled back into my mind. Closing my eyes, I shook my head sharply, brow furrowing. These were not the kind of thoughts I needed.

I picked up the tray and carried it back over to the windowseat, where I settled in and poured myself a cup of tea. The liquid was no longer hot, but it was still warm—warm enough to be something of a comfort as I brooded over my dream. The red-eyed bitch Bre knew as Pandora continued to search the dream world for me. I had not forgotten Bre's claim that the Pandora-bitch intended to mate me. It was a souring thought, but explained much of her persistence. I may not understand much of the process, but I knew mating was not something to be taken lightly, and mating a high alpha even less so. She was trying to prove her worth to me, but I was not convinced. It would take much more than the ability to dreamwalk to change my mind. Not to mention she still had the attack of the wolves to answer for.

As I finished my cup, I became aware of a presence milling hesitantly outside my chambers. I considered a moment, and then, knocking back the last of my cup, I set the cup down gently and rose, padding silently to the door. I walked straight out into the hallway and hung an immediate left, halting right in front of a startled Bre to lean my shoulder into the wall just beyond the doorframe.

"He-hello," Bre stuttered shyly, eyes shifting skittishly from side to side.

I did not respond, just folded my arms across my chest.

"I-I didn't think you wanted ta see me," she continued softly. "So I thought I'd just stay out here…"

The slip in her accent did not escape me. She did seem nervous, if mildly pleased. I let my head fall a little to the side as I observed her. Hair messily tucked into a braid, she had not changed out of the plain white shift made of coarse fabric that her kidnappers had dressed her in a month ago, although she was presumably now wearing more underneath.

"I brought you some tea," she offered, shifting her weight from foot to foot self-consciously.

"It was good," I forced out of my disused throat.

A little spark of relief tugged at the corners of Bre's mouth. "I can take the dishes—" She started to walk by me.

I caught her arm. "I am not done yet."

Through my hand I felt the softness of her flesh. My nose picked up her subtle feminine scent. Suddenly I wanted to bury my face in her neck, to inhale deeply. Her scent was like a breath of fresh air, a welcome home.

"O-oh." I could tell our contact was affecting her the same way it was affecting me. I could feel her thrill and also her nervousness, and a small speck of hope.

When I did not let go, Bre's light brown eyes fluttered hesitantly up to mine. "Rome…?" She left my name hanging in the air like a shy request.

In that moment, I wanted to answer with something that would make her tremble. I remembered myself, however, and released her arm. Locked into my eyes now, Bre seemed unsure of how to interpret the loss of contact.

"Why do you still wear that thing?" I finally asked gruffly.

Bre lowered her eyes from mine. "It's a reminder."

"Of what?" I could not help myself.

"That this is not permanent," she whispered, almost to herself.

Her soft reply struck me in the gut. Of course it was not a permanent arrangement; how could it be? But the beast in me had still claimed her. Speaking of the end of that claim was somehow difficult to stomach.

"…Is it?" she added, quantifying her own statement, and I could see that something in my expression must have betrayed my thoughts.

"No," I agreed.

Bre nodded in understanding, eyes still lowered. I turned to watch her push open the wall behind me and disappear into the servants' quarters.


For a month I had seen and heard nothing of Rome. The only inkling that he was even still in the area was the meat and berries I discovered one day on the dining room table, which thereafter turned into a regular occurrence. Apparently he remembered that I needed to eat, and actually cared whether I starved. That was some small comfort.

But I still did not feel welcome in his house. I had been kicked out of Rome's house too many times, I think, and was now all too cognizant that it could (and would) happen again. At least this time, I knew from the beginning that it was temporary. At least this time when he sent me away, he would not blindside me, and I could not blame him for it. There would be no false expectations.

Then one day, I passed by Rome's empty room as I always did…except it was not empty. A figure lay sprawled across the windowseat directly across from the door, leaning back partially against the wall beside it. Sunlight filtering in through the moving clouds alternated yellow fire and white shadows upon light golden strands, making it obvious who was lying there. I wanted to go to him, to run a hand down from hair to calf to test that he was real. But he had a sort of unapproachable feel to him, like he was a higher level of being lounging within an unreachable space. I felt I would be trespassing somehow into his private space.

Instead, I went to the kitchen and unearthed a teapot. I had no idea how long it had been since Rome last drank tea, nor if he would even want some. But it was the only thing I felt I could do to show him I knew he was there, and that I was at least somewhat glad for his company without being obtrusive or presumptuous. So I set up a tray and placed it in his doorway, and crept off without waking him. I tried to keep myself busy with mundane tasks and not think about our time together in the past, or how much I would love to run my hands through Rome's sunlight-dappled hair.

On the next occasion I passed through the hallway (convincing myself that I was not doing it to get a glimpse of Rome), I kept my eyes lowered to the ground, lest I actually see him…and could not help but notice the floor in front of his room was empty; the tray was gone. I dawdled in the parlor and kitchen areas, and finally ended up back in the hallway, lingering out of sight outside Rome's room. Then suddenly Rome was in front of me, acting like he had known exactly where I was all along. I felt like such a fool, hiding outside his room, and now fidgeting under his direct attention.

"Hello," I managed to eek out, but he offered no salutation in return. He's probably wondering what I'm doing out here, acting like I'm waiting for him or creeping around or something. "I didn't think you wanted to see me," I explained, "so I thought I'd just stay out here." Goddess, I sounded like a rambling fool! I ventured a glance up, to see Rome looking me up and down, his head cocked to the side, with his arms across his chest. I swallowed and quickly looked down again, dropping my eyes from the gorgeous man in front of me who was quite obviously deducing some conclusion about me from my drab appearance.

"I brought you some tea," I mentioned, trying to divert his perusal from myself.

"It was good," Rome acknowledged in a somewhat hoarse, gravelly voice.

I was not sure which to be happier about: that I had done something right, or that my actions had garnered the first three words I had heard out of him in a month.

"I can take the dishes," I offered, seizing my opportunity for escape.

But Rome's clawed hand easily caught on my arm, preventing me from passing him. His touch was like heat and electricity, radiating through my sleeve and searing into my body. My buried cravings for his touch surged to the surface, and all the memories of what those hands of his might be able to do.

"Rome?" I questioned softly, daring to lift my eyes to his.

Rome's eyes darkened from glowing yellow to molten amber for a moment in the perpetually dimly-lit hallway, and I held my breath…But then he released me just as quickly, eyes settling back to normal.

We both lingered in the hall for a couple moments, not quite sure what had just happened, yet not quite sure whether to part ways either. And then Rome asked gruffly, "Why do you still wear that thing?"

It was obvious from his line of sight what he meant, and it was just as obvious from his tone of voice that he did not approve. I felt small.

There were a couple reasons I was still wearing the simple white gown I woke up in when Rome last saved my life, not the least of which was I no longer felt comfortable helping myself to the servants' dresses that had been left behind in Rome's house long ago. I had before, when my stay in this house was indefinite, and when I was officially Rome's servant. But now, knowing that it was only a matter of waiting out the season before I would be expected to leave again, and since I felt suspiciously like I had blackmailed Rome into allowing me to stay in his house, I did not feel right about wearing clothing that technically belonged to him. When I left, I wanted to leave in my own clothing, whatever the circumstances—even if that clothing had been given to me in order to pronounce judgment upon me.

"It is a reminder," I told Rome simply.

"Of what?" He sounded mildly curious, in his straightforward, abrupt, and unconsciously demanding way.

"That this is not permanent." That I cannot stay with you forever. That the nature of our relationship is one of you saving me and me unable to make anything up to you. That sooner or later, I'll stand before the temple's judgment, and I will never see you again.

Rome did not reply, and I glanced back up from my gloomy thoughts to see a twinge around his eyes and a firm set to his mouth—like my remark was not pleasing to him, and made him tense.

"—Is it?" I added onto my statement. If that look meant what I thought it did, then perhaps there was something inside him that wanted the arrangement to be permanent?

But it was a fool's hope, confirmed the moment his expression closed and the word "no" left his mouth. He looked almost sorry to say it, but unlikely to take it back. I nodded in response, swallowing the lump in my throat that should know better by now than to exist, and this time Rome did not stop me as I tucked in my emotions and brushed past him to push open the segment of wall that swung in on the servants' staircase.

Tugging and shoving the heavy wall-door closed behind me, I stood on the metal landing of the spiral staircase and leaned back against the wall, gathering my thoughts. I would not cry, I told myself, biting my lip as I carefully measured out my shortening breaths. He had not said or done anything new to merit that. I came to live in this house with the mutual understanding that this was how it was going to be. I was not some weak little girl that could not handle that. I knew the world was not a coddling, sweet-smelling place. I could not possibly be so weak and foolish as to think it could be.

…Could I?

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My traitorous mind betrayed me that night. I had a dream that made me feel desperately wicked.

I woke up in that very cell that Rome had rescued me from, its rusted iron bars blurry in my suddenly-returned vision. The gate was open, and on the other side of the opening, against the backdrop of the dead man in the room and the blood spattering the wall of the dark hallway through the open door, was Rome pinning down a priest on the floor. He was poised over the tormented man on all fours, eyes intent on his prey, mouth breaking its straight line to bare his top row of teeth and razor-sharp fangs. His hand rose to the level of his ear, claws elongating as the white-robed man below him watched them grow in transfixed terror. Then, as my vision honed in on his claws and sharpened, the claws descended, and against all odds I found my voice to cry out against the abomination that was about to happen before my newly-awakened eyes.

"Rome, NO!"

"Give me a reason not to." His voice was flat and dead, like all color and emotion had gone out of him. His claws still hung threateningly in the air, his eyes locked with the prone priest's in a fatal staring match as though whoever might look away would forfeit his life.

"Me!" I yelled before I could think better of it. "I'll be your reason not to!" Anything to prevent this atrocity! More than one life would be ripped to shreds if those claws gorged themselves in this man's consecrated flesh. Somehow I knew that it would destroy Rome as well, from the inside out.

"How much of you will you give me?" His voice was calm, clear. It was frightening.

Slowly I rose to my feet and walked across the cold wooden planks to stand a couple yards from Rome and the priest's side. I laid a trembling hand over my heart. "All of me."

I hardly had time to blink before he leapt up off the priest and rammed headlong into me. I cried out in surprise and pain as my back collided with the iron bars, eyes clenching shut at the impact.

"Proposal accepted," I heard in my ear, and then his hot open mouth was on my neck, burning circles of fire wherever it connected with my skin. I cried out at the searing heat, and then found I could not move my hands because he had anchored my wrists to the bars on either side of my head with his large hands. My torso and lower half squirmed helplessly against him, and his chest slammed into me, blocking me in as he rammed both of our weight back into the thick bars, knocking the air out of me.

"I want your body," he said into my ear, "and your soul. I want your mind to be so wrapped around me that you cannot think of anything but me inside you." He bit down hard on my ear, and I cried out again, against my temple training. A few more moves like that, and I would forget every ounce of self-discipline I had learned in all my years at the temple. "Can you do that?"

"Yes," I rasped, fingers flexing spasmodically. Dear Goddess, I hoped I could.

"Good," he said, and my eyes flickered open just in time to see the priest dash out the door, before Rome attacked my mouth in the most heart-stopping kiss I had ever experienced. It was not at all kind, nor was it gentle. It was like he was trying to consume me, burn me up, swallow me whole. His teeth and fangs dragged over my mouth until I knew I was bleeding, but I did not care because for some reason I was returning the kiss, even moaning deep in my throat as I tried to get more of him. He arched one of my arms over my head to fit both of my wrists in one hand, and then dropped his free hand to rake his claws down over my breasts, down my torso. I squealed into his mouth, arching both toward him and away.

Rome tore out of my mouth, looked me in the eyes as I gasped for air through the coppery strings in my mouth, and said ever so clearly, "Resist me, and I will kill you."

And then he immediately challenged my resolve by scoring through my white shift from neckline to knees. The shorn strips caught between his claws fell away in ribbons, the sharp tips themselves leaving score marks on my skin. The scores were not deep, but they broke the skin, leaving thin lines of bright red running down the middle of my breasts to my abdomen. I gasped as he slapped his suddenly-bare chest against mine, throwing back my head reflexively as my sensitized breasts smashed against him and my nipples beaded painfully, the stripes down my front lines of fire.

Rome did not bother ripping away the segment of the dress below my knees or covering my arms or hanging down my back, only tucked his hand around my hip to squeeze and score his claws across my rear. I knocked my head back into the bars again, confused as the pain alit the first tremors of arousal between my legs. I bit my lip, trying to hold it in, but the hand holding my wrists suddenly dropped to hike up my thigh sideways against the bars. I opened my eyes into deep pools of fierce gold. He knew, I had a split second to realize. He knew that for every score of pain he was inflicting upon me, he was arousing me. My body was not following the normal rules of engagement. Somehow, this fierce, bloodthirsty man—if that was what he was—was preparing my body for sex with every swipe of his claws.

And then he claimed my bottom lip between his teeth, and nearly pierced it through as he palmed my most private place.

I threw my shoulders back as I arched into him, a hoarse yell tearing from my throat. I felt his sadistic smile press into my neck as he dragged his fingers up hard over my clitoris, not pausing before rubbing back down and over again, back and forth, back and forth. I could not help the hoarse screams bursting forth from my mouth as I slammed my head back onto the bars again and again, growing delirious with want. I had never wanted anything so greatly in my entire life as I wanted what he was doing to me in that moment.

"Do you want me yet?" he spoke into my ear, not even out of breath.

My goddess, Rome! I wanted him so badly, I could burst! I nodded furiously, accidentally cracking my head back against the bars with every uncontrolled swing of my head.

"Say it," he ordered calmly.

"I want you!" I yelled hoarsely.

Rome remained infuriatingly impassive. "Do you want it…here?" He dipped two of his fingers to rim the arousal-slicked entrance to my body.

My whole body from my shoulders to my tailbone bucked backward, whiplashing my head to crack back impossibly hard onto one of the bars…

…and then I woke up, blinking in the darkness. I raised a tentative hand to my head, and followed from the lump there to one of the bedposts. I lay diagonally, I realized then, sprawled haphazardly across the bed, tangled up in the sheets, gripping the comforter in the white knuckles of my other hand. I glanced about the empty head servant's room as I sat up, dimly lit by glowstones taking the cue to alight. I was alone, in a bed, in Rome's house. I shifted my legs around, and grimaced. Good goddess. Five minutes in Rome's presence, and already I was soiling my sheets with arousal. This did not bode well for the next several months, if Rome chose to hang around.

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As it turned out, he did not choose to hang around. Whether because of my awkwardness, or because he could not stand to be away from the forest, Rome chose to disappear once more. Curiously, I did not dream of him again. I wondered if it had to do with his absence. In truth, I was glad for the distance between us, because I was not sure what to make of that dream. It brought up unsavory memories of Rome killing in droves, without concern or remorse. It reminded me of the temple, and the loyalty I still carried toward that place. Above all, it left me reeling from how easily I had given in to Rome as he inflicted pain upon me. It had even gotten to the point where I enjoyed the pain, sheerly because it was him who inflicted it. The worst part was I wanted him to be around to finish it—like it was his right (or something) to finish what he started.

I made it four days before the curiosity and the despair overtook me. I despaired because I finally reached the inevitable conclusion that Rome was not likely coming back, and even if he did, he had no desire to touch me how I burned for him to touch me. Out of this despair grew a curiosity. This had been the second dream in which Rome had touched me between my legs, bringing me mind-blowing pleasure so strong it had challenged my view of the world. The second time I awoke prematurely, but the first time the pleasure from his hand also brought immense relief that had even carried over into reality.

Maybe, then, it was not just something that could be done in dreams; maybe it was also an action that could be taken in real life, to the same effect. And maybe—just maybe—the process could be replicated, without Rome present. Rome would not touch me so intimately in person—of that, I was certain. Even if he might have been willing to try it at some point in the past, he certainly was not going to attempt it now that he was determined to be a lone beast dwelling exclusively in the forest, even if he had confessed some interest in bedding me.

With Rome's reaction to the prospect of bedding other men, paired with his killer instincts, I sincerely doubted I would ever meet a man who would touch me the way Rome had (and live)—and certainly not before the temple found me again. I might never experience such a thing again in a dream, and surely never would in reality. But the desire to be with a man (particularly Rome) was still deeply rooted in my heart, and the way had already been paved from my heart to my body.

So I thought to myself, Maybe I can do it. Maybe I can just let all this desire and tension out myself, and Rome won't feel put-upon, and no one will ever have to know.

And so I sat down on the corner of my bed on the night of the fourth day after Rome had disappeared back into the forest. I opened my knees, bracing them on either side of the bed corner. And for the first time in my life, I reached one hand down between my legs and traced over the crotch of my panties. I could not really feel anything at all, so I traced more and more firmly until I could feel the outline of my clitoris. Closing my eyes, I called up the memory of what Rome had done to me when he brought me into his dream and laid me back on the cushions. I could feel the cloth starting to dampen at the memory alone. Slowly I traced the path Rome's hand had taken, focusing in on my clit and rubbing harder and harder with my thumb, pressing in until I squirmed and gasped under my own fingers. I pictured Rome doing it to me behind my closed eyelids, golden hair replacing the brown, long, clawed fingers replacing my small, indextrous, calloused ones. Before I knew it I was breathing his name as I panted, falling deeper and deeper into my own imagination. My head fell back. I was breathing Rome in. I wanted him to take me…

And then there was the sound of a door opening, and a stifled gasp. My muddled brain registered that this was not of its making, and my eyes cracked open.

Rome was standing in the doorway, golden eyes wide with shock over the clawed hand covering his mouth. My mind was incapable of registering the meaning behind this image right away, far gone as it was at the moment. But Rome did. He spun around, putting his back to me, and swung the door shut behind him.

I sat up straight, dazed, and removed my hand from between my legs, holding it up before my face. My fingers glistened with a light glaze, which smelled strangely… And then it clicked into my head. Oh dear goddess, Rome had walked in on my pleasuring myself! What was more, it had been his name on my lips! I brought my legs together hastily, pulling my gown down as my cheeks flushed in inexpressible shame. How far had I fallen, to resort to such a thing—and in the house of the man I was fantasizing about? I squeezed my eyes shut, screwing up my face as I bowed my head. Rome must think horribly of me now! Whatever small granule of respect he might have had for me would be gone. I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them, then tipped over sideways, falling to the bed curled in a little ball so that my back was to the door. Goddess kill me now, I prayed. If she did not, I would die of mortification.

A couple hours must have passed before there was a light knock at the door. Wide awake though I was, I did not answer, and instead decided that if he proceeded to open the door, I would feign sleep. He knocked again, and when I did not respond for several minutes, I heard the door slowly creak open.

"Bre?" he called softly, hesitantly.

I tried not to give any indication of hearing him as his tone of voice resounded right between my throbbing legs. Eyes shut and body still, I kept my silence. I scarcely even breathed.

"I know you are awake," he said in that same soft, deep, slightly gruff tone. "I can hear your heartbeat; it's too fast. And your breaths are too shallow."

Damn beast-man. Why did the only man I was attracted to have to have superhuman senses?

He sighed. "Damn it, bitch. Are you bent on tormenting me?"

There was a strain in his voice that gave me pause. "I could ask you the same thing," I whispered finally.

The bed sank down toward the edge, and I briefly worried I would topple over backward and roll head-over-heels over the edge. My heart sped up involuntarily at his proximity.

"Tell me why you were doing…that."

Oh hell no. It did not matter how deep and sexy his voice was; there was no way I was talking to him about this!

"I realize," Rome said slowly, "that I might have had the wrong initial response."

What? I opened my eyes and blinked at the far wall. Was Rome apologizing for walking in on me? Or was he apologizing for closing the door…? The fact that he seemed to be apologizing at all was a huge deal.

"I followed your scent down here. I just…when I heard my name…and then I opened the door and saw you touching yourself like that, I just…didn't know what to do."

He smelled what I was doing before he got down here?! And he heard me call his name? He smelled and heard what was going on in the room, and he still opened the door?! I flipped around and opened my mouth to give him a piece of my mind…and then stopped at the peculiar look on Rome's face. He was not actually looking at me; he was staring uncomfortably toward the door, which he had left open. In fact, his entire body was seated on the edge of the bed, but still facing the door. A faint blush was visible on his lightly-tanned cheeks. He glanced over at me with an expression of uncertainty, and then his eyes skittered away, color deepening in his cheeks. And that was when I realized how extraordinary it was that Rome was actually attempting to talk something out. But why in the goddess' damnation did it have to be this that he wanted to talk out?!

"Can you…tell me why you were using my name to…do that?"

I grimaced. Seriously?! "Isn't it obvious?" I whispered hoarsely.

Rome hesitated, and then haltingly shook his head.

Mentally I sighed in exasperation. "Remember that dream we shared?" I said quietly. "That one you told me not to forget?"

"Yes," Rome said just as quietly, a flicker crossing his averted face.

His immediate answer gave me a moment's pause. Was it already on his mind? "Well, I wanted to see if I could do what you did in the dream…on my own."

"Why?" He looked genuinely perplexed.

I felt myself flush. Well, it's not like you're going to do it again.

Rome's head turned to look at me full-on in surprise, and I realized I had spoken that aloud. I ducked my head in appalled shame.

"You…want me to do that…again?" Rome asked slowly.

"I didn't mean it," I backpedaled. "Forget I said anything."

"You are…lying to me."

Goddess damn it all! This man was impossible! Why could he not have enough social sense to leave "well enough" alone? "Why would I lie to you about this?"

"I know not," Rome said pensively. "But I do know that you are lying. Why do you want me to do that to you again?"

I shrugged it off. "Feels good," I mumbled, half hoping he did not hear me. It was only a part of the truth, but it was all he was going to get out of me.

Rome sat pensively for several minutes, and then his gaze swung slowly over to rest on me, and he said hesitantly, "I can…do it again, if that is what you want." He added the last part quickly. "I only meant it as a gift, and as a distraction, before. But I suppose there would not be any harm in doing it again, if you wanted—so long as there are not any expectations."

"So long as you don't expect sex from me," he means, I translated in my head. And dang, if that was just a distraction… I shuddered to think of what he might do if he ever got truly serious. I might die of an overdose of pleasure, if ever I was fortunate enough to be on the receiving end.

Much as I longed for Rome to do exactly what he was proposing, I knew it would not actually be harmless. I had not only used his name because he was the original administrator. I cared too much about him. It had to be him who did it to me. "No," I turned down, tearing my gaze away from his as I sat up properly, "you're right: It was just a one-time thing. You shouldn't replicate it."

Rome hesitated again. "I can feel that you are…close to the end. I interrupted you. You seemed to think it was painful when I stopped before…"

A new wave of heat flooded my cheeks. Ohhh… Oh Goddess, he knew I was that close?! "I'll be fine," I assured him quickly. I did feel like I really wanted to jump in his lap, wrap my legs around him, and rub myself against him—half for the pleasure of it, and half to hear him groan in startled pleasure of his own. And I really wanted something between my legs—I was not all that sure I cared what. But I could live with the longing. I had endured worse.

Rome looked disbelieving, but he nodded anyway. I breathed in relief as he got up from the bed and walked toward the open doorway. "Good night, Bre," he said softly, and shut the door behind him, leaving me alone with the burning in my loins, amidst the softly-glowing stones.


When I returned to the house, I was shocked by the thick feminine odor that immediately turned my mind onto sex. In fact, it was hard to think of anything but rutting with the scent cloying about. As the only female present in the house, the smell had to be coming from Bre. Was she not bathing…? I followed the scent down to the servants' quarters, where it was thickest. I could only hope the effect the smell was having on my groin was not noticeable.

As I approached the door to the room Bre had been inhabiting, with full intention of demanding that she bathe or cease doing whatever it was that was spreading that smell, I was stopped in my tracks by the sound of my own name. Did she already know I was here? Or was she calling for me? I listened more intently, and realized the way she was saying my name was closer to a groan. Was she dreaming? Was she in pain? Not thinking to knock first in my own house, I opened the door…

…And gasped in complete shock. There on the bed lay Bre, with her legs spread apart in my general direction. Her hand was tucked between her legs, her head thrown back, and she was moaning my name as she touched her most intimate of places. The beast in me, of course, smelled her sweet feminine musk, saw her spread legs, heard her call my name, and took it as an open invitation to mount her. But the rest of me was stunned to my core that Bre would think of me while she did this—that she might be inviting me to mount her.

Maybe she wasn't inviting me, I second-guessed. Maybe she just wanted to do this on her own. But my groin remembered all too well the sight of her beneath me in that dream I would never forget, panting my name and begging me not to stop, uncertain yet enthralled with the way I touched her as no one had ever touched her before. She shouldn't be doing this to herself, part of me argued. I should be the one touching her. And then a wave of possessiveness swept in. In a last-ditch exercise of rapidly-deteriorating self-control, I turned from the extremely provocative sight, and swung the door closed.

And then I berated myself for my actions. What if she took that the wrong way? I was closing the door on her, turning away from her tempting invitation. Should I be doing that? My loins clearly did not want to be doing that. Did I make the right choice? Should I never have opened the door? What if she thought I was rejecting her as a mate? Should that even matter? Had I not decided I would not touch her physically? Why, then, should it matter to me what she thought of my reaction? I should not even be here!

It took me awhile of pacing the upstairs hallway (where the smell was not as pungent) for me to calm down enough to rationalize. Finally I came to the conclusion that offending Bre was not my intention when I closed the door, and that I should probably make sure she knew that. Secondly, I was tempted by Bre's vulnerable position, which was why the idea of inadvertently rejecting her bothered me so much. And thirdly, some part of me was evidently jealous, and a little hurt and left out, because what I had done to her as a sort of gift, Bre had found a way to do on her own, without my participation.

So I did something I had never really done: I verbalized to Bre what I had not intended to do. I know not what possessed me to confess. But in the face of my rare moment of honesty, Bre's dishonesty when I offered (against my better judgment) to finish what I had interrupted struck me fairly hard. I asked her if she wanted me to do to her again what I had done in our shared dream, but she said she did not mean it when she implied that she did—which was a lie. Then she pretended she was not lying when I called her bluff. And then she told a partial-truth when she said she wanted it because it felt good—which left me wondering what the other reason could be, and why it seemed specific to me (since she called out my name, not another's).

Then Bre told me that dream shared between us was a one-time event, which was a full-out lie—which was compounded by her addition that it should not be replicated. At that point, I stopped questioning her integrity, because I realized I was learning just as much from her lies (if not more) as I would learn if she told me the truth. But it hurt more than I thought it should that Bre did not think she could trust me with the truth.

When I pointed out that she might actually need assistance, Bre grew so flustered it was almost tangible, and she rejected my offer. It had been a hard thing for me to gather the confidence to suggest, and yet when I was sure it was the right thing to do, Bre declined. She would rather live in discomfort bordering on pain, than allow me to give her intimate relief.

Whatever just happened in that room, I thought, closing the door behind me as I exited, it was much farther from an invitation than I thought.

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A/N: Well that was rather explicit for a first chapter. But it's a good relational starting point for the volume, I think.

Surprised? Confused? Please review!

New chapter 1 posted 5/10/14.