Jehan released her abruptly. His blue eyes glittered with sparks of amber heat, their transformation making his desire all too clear. He ran his tongue over his wet lips and she saw the points of his fangs, now gleaming in his mouth like razor-sharp diamonds. His breath rasped out of him, rough and raw.

“Let’s go,” he growled for her ears only. “The sooner we get this damned farce over with, the better.”

Then he took her by the hand and stalked away from the table with her in tow.


Jehan’s body was still rock hard and vibrating with lust more than an hour after he and Seraphina were delivered to the oasis retreat.

Holy hell. That kiss...

As short-lived and chaste as it had been, it had gripped him in a way that staggered him.

He hadn’t been able to deny how attracted he was to Seraphina from the instant he laid eyes on her. Now he knew she wanted him too. Her response to their kiss had left no question about that. The color that had rushed up her throat and into her cheeks couldn’t be blamed on anything else, nor could her soft little moans. He’d felt her desire for him. He’d breathed in the sweet scent of her arousal, felt it drumming in her blood.

His own blood had answered, and now that his mouth had sampled a taste of Seraphina’s kiss, everything primal and male in him—everything Breed—pounded with a dark¸ dangerous need for more.

Somehow, he’d managed to rein it in back at the Darkhaven celebration.

Now, he just had to make sure to keep his desire in check for the duration of their confinement at the private villa.

Eight nights, that’s all, he reassured himself.

One hundred and ninety-two hours, give or take the few that had already passed tonight.

Which meant somewhere around eleven thousand minutes. All of them to be spent in too-close quarters with a woman who lit up every nerve ending in his body like a flame set to dry tinder.

Yeah, the math wasn’t helping.

Everything they might need had been provided for by their families. Clothing, toiletries, a fully stocked kitchen for Seraphina. They would want for nothing from the outside world, and no one would interrupt their time together until the handfasting had ended.

They’d divvied up the place as soon as they’d been dropped off, negotiating territory and establishing boundaries where neither of them would cross. It only seemed right to give her the privacy of the massive bedroom. As for Jehan, he would inhabit the general living quarters, and use the big nest of cushions in the main room as his bed for the next week.

With Seraphina settling into the sole bedroom suite on her own, Jehan prowled the open space of the villa like a caged cat, taking stock of the unfamiliar surroundings. He strode across richly dyed rugs spread over terra cotta tiled floors. Above his head, the high, domed ceiling glowed with soft golden lights that glinted off a mosaic of gem-colored glass embedded into the white stucco plaster.

Down the wing of the hallway opposite the bedroom where Seraphina had sequestered herself was a traditional bathing room with a steaming, spring-fed pool surrounded by silk-draped columns and fat pillar candles.

In the adjacent, open-concept chamber, more beds of cushions and pillows were arranged around the room, some steeped in shadows, others strategically placed in front of tall, ornately framed mirrors. Erotic statuary and tables holding bottles of perfumed oils and incense jars completed the pleasure den.

Jehan frowned, shaking his head. The handfast agreement may forbid a male from forcing himself on the Breedmate sent with him to this place, but every room in the villa was obviously designed with sex and seduction in mind.

And try as he might to resist imagining Seraphina reclined on those cushions or stepping naked out of the steam-clouded baths, his mind refused to obey.

Eight nights.

He would be lucky to make it through this first one without losing his mind or tearing down the bedroom door she was currently hiding behind on the other side of the villa.

He needed fresh air. What he really needed was a hundred-foot wall between him and his unwanted roommate. A length of sturdy chain wouldn’t hurt either.

Jehan walked back out to the main living area and headed for the French doors leading out to an oasis patio in back. As he crossed the room, he heard Seraphina hiss a curse from inside the bedroom.

He paused, listened. Told himself to keep walking in the opposite direction.

She swore again and he detoured for the passage leading to the bedroom.

“Are you all right in there?”

“Yes. Everything’s fine.” Her reply was quick, dismissively so.

He stood outside the closed door and heard her grumble in frustration. “I’m coming in.”

“No. Wait—”

She stood in the center of the big room, tangled in the complicated yards of red silk that comprised her dress from the celebration. When he chuckled, she glowered. “It’s not funny, you arrogant ass.”

“Really?” He didn’t even try to curb his grin. “Looks pretty funny from where I’m standing.”

She huffed, narrowing a glare on him. “If you’re going to stand there laughing at me, you might as well help.”

He held up his hands. “No touching, remember? How can I help without breaking that part of our deal?” Of course, they’d also said no kissing, but that rule was already shot all to hell, even before they’d arrived tonight. “Ask me nicely and maybe I’ll consider bending the rules.”

Her shoulders sagged in defeat, but the baring of her straight, white teeth hardly looked submissive. “Jehan, will you please help me?”

He didn’t want to admit how enticing his name sounded on her pretty lips. Especially when it involved asking him to assist in undressing her. His blood agreed, licking through his veins in eager anticipation as he stalked across the bedroom to where she stood.

She raised her right hand and gathered her long cascade of bead-strewn, soft brown curls off her neck as she presented her back to him. “There must be a dozen tiny knots holding this dress together. And I can’t figure out where the ends of the long wrappings begin either.”

Jehan stood behind her for a long moment, just looking. Just drinking in the sight of her graceful nape and elegant spine. She was blessed with hourglass curves and long, lean legs. The ceremonial dress hugged every inch of her in all the right places. Including the rounded swells of her beautiful ass.

How was it that his mouth could water, yet feel desert dry at the same time?

His gums prickled as his fangs swelled against his tongue. Another part of him was swelling too, pressing in carnal demand against the loose white linen of his pants. Heat rose in his blood and in his vision, swamping his irises with amber fire.

He reached out and began to loosen the first of the intricate knots.

There were eight of them, not a dozen. Each one was a test of his dexterity as well as his self-control. One by one, the fastenings fell away, baring Seraphina’s naked back to his fevered gaze, inch by torturous inch.

Somewhere along the way, his lungs had stopped working. Desire raked him, sharp talons stealing his breath as he freed the last of the tiny knots and the scarlet silk slackened in his fingers.

Seraphina didn’t seem to be breathing either. She stood unmoving, her mane of long hair still held aloft in her hand. Warmth poured off her skin, and he knew she had to feel his heat reaching out to her too.