As her breasts rose and fell with her quick breaths, her fingers dug into the muscles of his chest, just as she'd said she would do days ago. She appeared fascinated, her tender palms running all over him.

He felt a savage thrill to see the way her gaze roamed over him. My battle-scarred body is good for more than taking hits. It aroused her.

When she curled her fingers around his shaft to guide it inside her, he hissed in a breath. This is finally going to happen... . The anticipation had him rolling his hips. He swallowed loudly, wondering if he'd last any longer than the time before.

He was already struggling to hold on, his cock throbbing with seed. "Want this so much... " When she began to mount him, his hands flew to her hips, gripping her. "N��omi, I - "

Her flesh was hot and slick as it met his. His eyes rolled back in his head.


The only thing sexier than a completely smitten male was a smitten male who'd never been with a woman. And N��omi was on fire for him.

Yet even as she ached, she savored Conrad's reactions. Once she began to work the broad head inside her, he gave a short, stunned groan. His lips parted as he stared at where they were joining.

This was all new for her as well. She'd fallen for him utterly.

She was truly making love. "Is this everything you'd hoped?"

"Ah, God, you... " He tried to speak again, failed, then gave a sharp nod. "Didn't know... to hope for... this much."

The look of wonder in his eyes as he watched her move on him made her feel sexier than she could ever remember feeling. His big body was so incredibly strong, and yet she was in control of it now, was about to take pleasure from it.

She relished the power, moaning as she settled farther along his length.

Chin to his chest, he shuddered. "Hot," he grunted. "Tight." She knew he was beginning to lose control, his hands quaking on her hips. His muscles were already straining, from his corded neck all the way to the sharp indentations leading from his waist to his groin.

"Take it deeper, N��omi." His accent was so thick.

Biting her bottom lip, she rose up and eased down farther. She was aching for more, too, but his size was challenging.

"Need more," he growled low in his throat, his knees falling open. "More."

She rocked forward, then sank back harder, but his hips surged up at the same time - his shaft plunged deep in a searing thrust.

"Ah, God, N��omi!"

She winced, unable to bite back a cry.

"Your eyes are watering. You told me you wouldn't hurt! But I've hurt you."

"Just give me a second, Conrad," she whispered. The fit was so tight that she could perceive him throbbing inside her. "Can you do that?"

He grated out the word, "Somehow."

After long moments, she tentatively rocked up and back, then again. Each time she could take his length more readily, her body accommodating his.

Soon pleasure subdued the pain, and his heated reactions fueled her own arousal. When she began to ride him in long, steady strokes, he yelled out her name. Once she pried free his death grip from her hips and placed his palms over her breasts, he gave a desperate groan as he squeezed them. Dragging her nails up his inner thighs had him shuddering, drawing his knees up for more.

By the time he was on the brink, she wasn't far behind.

N��omi let herself go completely... .

This was what he'd missed out on. This was what he'd ached for.

Inside his woman, he'd never known greater pleasure. He'd been waiting his entire life for this... .

She threw her head back, arching. Her long hair swept over his thighs. Clutching his legs behind her, she rode him faster. Her breasts quivered as his cock disappeared inside her again and again.

Seeming lost in her own pleasure, she writhed on him, raising her slim arms, stretching and twining her hands over her head. She held her elbows as she whipped her hips.

When she twisted her body at the end of the motion, he rasped, "My God, how you move."

With each snap of her hips, the pressure to come built within him, but he vowed she would first. "Want you to - " His words died in his throat when she lowered both of her hands, letting them graze down her body to her sex. He shuddered out a breath as she began masturbating atop him.

"N��omi!" His control slipping, he drove up between her thighs hard, bouncing her on his shaft.

But she gasped in delight. "Do that again... ."

He released her breasts to cup her plump ass, working her up and down his length as he thrust at the same time. "You like that?"

"Yes!" she cried, rubbing her clitoris faster.

"Come on me, Bride."

"Oh, yes!" Her eyelids fluttered, she licked her lips, then she moaned loudly.

In total abandon, she climaxed.

All around his cock, he felt the tugging clench of her sex. Control slipping. Her sheath seemed greedy for his seed. He could barely resist the demand.

Instinctive drives overwhelmed him. He wanted to obey them. Mark her, claim her, bite her. He needed his scent all over her, in her. He needed her blood on his tongue.

Before he could stop himself, he turned her to her back, shoving her legs wide.

Pinning her hands over her head, he began pumping his hips between her thighs. "I'm losing... control. N��omi!"

His eyes were wild. His massive body loomed over her, his muscles rippling with strain. He could do anything he wanted to.

N��omi had feared she would never experience Conrad like this - her powerful warrior, captive to his own fierce need. Now she could, if she believed in him, if she trusted him not to hurt her.

She surrendered herself...

As if he sensed her yielding to him, he rose to his knees to take her with more force. Gripping her shoulders to hold her in place, he plunged his shaft into her again and again. She'd never known anything like this - being taken without mercy, helpless to do anything more than accept the pleasure.

With each buck of his hips, he gave a short, rough groan, each growing louder until he was yelling.

Her head thrashed on the pillow. "Conrad... " she moaned, lost in another boundless orgasm.

"I feel you coming on me... " He clutched the back of her neck and rasped, "You're mine, N��omi." With his body tensing all around her, his eyes met hers as he began to ejaculate inside her. His expression turned to one of shock, then anguish. As soon as she felt his hot seed jetting so strongly within her, ecstasy lit his face.

He held her gaze... until his back bowed and his head shot back from the strength of his release. On and on, he filled her. She dimly heard his husky murmur: "Nothing better... nothing."

With a final shove, he collapsed atop her, his breaths harsh against her neck, his heart pounding over hers. Still semihard in their wetness, he continued to thrust over her slowly, as if he didn't want to relinquish his new discovery.

He muttered, "My God, N��omi."

She grazed her fingertips up and down his sweat-slicked back, sighing with contentment. "I could die happy," she sighed, then frowned. I will die happy. No, she wouldn't consider it dying. She was leaving - simply moving on to a new existence. And after sharing this body with Conrad, allowing them both to know this pleasure, she was even more confident with her decision.

He never would have experienced this if he hadn't been blooded... .

"How could I have lived without that?" he grated. "I never knew." He'd demanded... everything from her. She'd seen it in his eyes as he came. He'd wanted her to yield to him, to desire him, to love him.

And she did love this vampire, with all her heart.

When he raised himself up, he gave her a sexy, cocky grin that made her breath hitch. "I was good, wasn't I?"

She reached up and stroked his face. "The best I've ever had or imagined." When he went still, she said, "It's the truth. Some men are just instinctively better lovers."

The grin returned. "Imagine when I practice on you five times a night."

"I can't wait." At her murmured words, his shaft jerked inside her, hardening and thickening so fast, she gasped.

"Time for practice, koeri."


"Where did you go this morning?" N��omi asked, once she'd finished savoring the most delectable croissant ever crafted in the history of mankind.

After the second time they'd made love, he'd been ready - and raring - for another round, but she'd groaned, "Food. Your mortal needs food."

He'd asked her what she would like if she could have anything in the world. "A hot, buttery croissant, with caf�� au lait and fresh-squeezed orange juice." So naturally, Conrad had traced to France and brought exactly that back to her.

"I had errands to do," he answered. It was then that she noticed his hair was freshly cut, though it remained a tad too long, as she liked it. The ends were still wet from his quick shower. And he was wearing crisp new clothes - understated, dark, but unmistakably moneyed.

He was handsome as the devil, and with those fiery eyes, he looked more than a little devilish.

Forever the red would remind her of fire.

"Errands? Like what?"

"I've brought things for you." He handed over shopping bags that said Harrods on them. Lots of bags. Apparently, he'd been to London as well. "You needed clothes. And there are... gifts." He coughed into his fist, his voice gruff. And she knew with certainty that he'd never bought anything for a woman before.

There was everything - shoes, dresses, sweaters, slacks. She found a toiletry kit with shampoos, perfumes, and lotions.

"A saleswoman said this would have anything you could need."

N��omi dug into more bags, savoring the different fabrics and the expensive designs. And not a black satin party gown among the offerings! "Vampire, you have excellent taste!" she said in delight.

He shrugged, but she could tell he was satisfied that he'd pleased her.

She found a felt box with a jeweled hair comb inside. "Conrad, it's so lovely!" Then she frowned at the facets of light in the stones. "These aren't real, are they?"

"Of course."

"Are you rich, then?"

"Exceedingly." His shoulders shot back, his posture straightening. "I don't look like I'd have money?"

"Oh, that's not it. It's just so dear. I adore these types of combs."

"I know. You stole one from Murdoch."

With a sheepish grin, she continued exploring. She pulled out a tiny pair of black thong panties - one among many colors and styles - and quirked a brow. "Let me guess. This is what they're wearing in London?"

"It cost me much to buy you those."

"Were they expensive?"

His face flushed. "They cost me because I could scarcely walk after imagining your body in them. Women's undergarments have a whole new appeal now that I've felt and kissed what goes into them."

She nibbled her bottom lip. "You were aroused in the store?" He glanced away and nodded. She'd have loved to have seen that. "Next time you can take me with you, and I'll model them for you."

Returning his gaze to her, he said, "N��omi, tell me how this transformation happened."

And just like that, it happened. The question she had been dreading. "The specifics are my secret, Conrad. I made a vow never to reveal them. I'm sorry, but that's how it must be."

"You won't confide in me?" he asked, his tone astonished.

"Non," she said firmly. "If you insist, I still won't tell you, and then we'll quarrel."

"I'm to know nothing about how my Bride went from ghost to mortal?"

"I'm going to ask you to do this for me. I'm going to hope that you won't question why, and that you'll just accept when something good has happened for us."

"I can't simply ignore this."

Making her demeanor businesslike, she said, "Then I'm going to have to make it one of the conditions for us to be together."

"One of the conditions? You have more?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact. You have to promise me that there won't be any killing while I'm with you. Unless it's in self-defense."

He narrowed his eyes. "I can make that promise."

"And I have a last one." This morning when she'd awakened, she'd realized how close he'd come to taking her neck last night. If Conrad drank her blood, it wouldn't matter how guarded they all were about the secret. With her memories, he could discover everything - he would know her secret, and then that would be the end of her.

N��omi's new existence was going to last as long as possible, just as long as Conrad didn't discover how short it was destined to be.

"I know I told you in the past that I wouldn't deny you if you wanted to drink from me, but I've had a change of heart."

"Agreed," he hastily said. "It will not happen."

She frowned. This was the answer she'd hoped for, but his adamant tone confused her. "I'd thought you would want to. Do you fear getting my memories? Perhaps of other men?"

"A vampire never sees his Bride's memories of other males. The way my kind fixates - it'd be impossible to get past that. I won't drink you, because I could kill you."

"But don't your brothers drink from their wives?"

"Their wives are immortal - they can't die like that. I could drain your body dry in seconds."

"Then you won't ever slip up?"

"I can't slip up."

She studied his face. "So you agree to my terms for our liaison?"

"Did you always spell out stipulations for the use of your body?"

Her lips thinned. "Yes, I did. Since I intend to use yours as well, I'd be glad to hear your terms."

He stood and paced. "There will be times when I have to leave, but I'll do it when you sleep. I've put a protection on Elancourt against intruders, so you must vow to me that you'll stay inside the manor when I'm gone."

"Very well, but I won't be sleeping much." I can sleep when I'm dead. "And why do you have to leave if you're not working again?" When he hesitated, she said, "I've witnessed your recovery, Conrad. I can't watch you succumb again."

"I have to track the demon who marked my arm and destroy him before he kills me."

"Then it's in self-defense?" she asked. He gave a single nod. "Will you drink from him?"

"I will do everything I can to prevent that."

"And what about Cade and Rydstrom? They'd been searching for you."

"For Rydstrom to reclaim his lost throne, he needs information I... acquired. They will be ruthless to get it."

"Acquired? You mean from the memories of the warlock you'd 'drained.'" He shrugged. "Can't you just give it to them?"

"I would if I could. My mind's clearer, but I still can't pull up memories at will." He returned to sit on the edge of the bed beside her. "Why did you believe I wouldn't drink that demon last night?"

"Because you're just not as bad as everyone thinks," she said, repeating her words from days ago. "And because you're starting to look forward instead of back."

He exhaled. "You can't really expect me just to ignore how you came back from death? To not know?"

She shrugged, and his gaze dipped to her bare breasts. "Depends on how badly you want to spend time with me."

His voice harsh, he snapped, "You know how badly."

"Then you liked our morning?" He scowled as if her question was absurd. "Just think, you can have a nubile female here for the taking." Making her voice a purr, she said, "You can do anything to me anytime you like. You'll go from never having had sex to having it whenever the mood strikes you. If you'll just let this lie." This offer alone might take care of his curiosity - but if not, she was fully prepared to demonstrate more of what he'd be gaining.

She grinned. It wouldn't be a chore.

"Just tell me who you were with at the gathering."

"Again, I won't say." She rose to her knees. "Let's drop this, mon grand."

Distracted by her hardening nipples, he absently said, "I can't do that." He ran his hand over his mouth, finding it surprisingly erotic that he was completely dressed while she was naked in their bed. He shook himself. "N��omi, I won't do that."

As she eased over to him, she got a look in her eyes. He didn't recognize exactly what it said, but it made him instantly hard - and excited, his heart pumping wildly.

When she was kneeling up beside him, she nuzzled his ear with hot breaths. "There are so many other things we can talk about." Her fingers were busily unbuttoning his shirt as she murmured, "Like any secret fantasies you've harbored and want to experience." She brushed his shirt away. "Or we can skip the talk and simply do them. Would you like that?"

Just as he'd imagined once, she was using her wiles on him. He'd planned to withstand her for as long as possible. How... intriguing -

He sucked in a breath when she fondled his cock through his pants.

"I need these off, Conrad." At once, he yanked his boots off, then shoved his pants past his already straining shaft. Her eyes went heavy-lidded, as if she truly loved that part of him.

"You think I can't see what you're doing?" Once he was undressed, he sat beside her again. "You intend to manage me with sex. You think to direct me."

When she moved to kneel on the floor between his legs, he forgot how to breathe. "N��omi?" His voice broke on her name.

She placed her palms on his knees, spreading them, then leaned in. "Is it so bad being directed" - she began licking down his chest, her destination unmistakable - "if you like where you're headed?"

His eyes went wide. She's going to... ? I'm to have this... ?

Once she'd reached his navel, his hands flew to her hair, cupping the back of her head. Then came the first touch of her moist little tongue -

He yelled, "You good -  ah!" While he stared dumbstruck, threading his fingers in her silky hair, she lovingly licked the swollen head and circled the crown.

With a groan, he opened his knees wider, hands shaking uncontrollably as she took him deeper. Her mouth was feverishly hot on his sensitive flesh. His shaft began to throb under her tongue, and he couldn't stop himself from thrusting it up between her lips.

Never slowing her ministrations, she moved his hands to her high breasts. As he hefted them and thumbed the peaks, she sucked him even more hungrily.

He wanted this never to end, but she began pumping the base of his cock with her soft palms at the same time, and the pressure to come intensified until it pained him. When she moaned around his length, he knew it was over for him.

Have to warn her. On the verge, seconds from losing his seed, he bit out, "About to... come!"

His jaw slackened when she didn't draw away, instead taking him more greedily. "N��omi!" He rocked his hips up, releasing into her waiting mouth. "Wicked," he groaned in bliss as he shot against her tongue... .

Afterward he lifted her to her feet, clutching her against his chest. As Conrad held his female, he was staggered by the pleasure, wrought from him in a way he'd only ever imagined before.

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