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The hum of organic systems vibrated through the bare soles of her feet. Satisfaction burned hot in her stomach. It had worked. The synthesised flesh running the city beat again. Alena ran a trembling hand through her hair. And if it went well with Vadim the next day, then the flicker of power now lighting her room with an easy white glow would surge. The city would run as its designers intended and protect them from the attacking fleet. Her gut cramped. But Vadim wasnâ€™t a thoroughbred Volkov. Solid Talar genes from his enslaved father would mix within her. The resulting unknown scared her.
Sacha placed heavy hands on her shoulders, and he leaned in close, his lips brushing her ear. â€œYou did it, Alena.â€
She let out a slow sigh. â€œI hope the generals know what theyâ€™re doing withâ€¦â€ She waved a hand back to the chamber, where Vadim remained. â€œThe Dubov designed your houseâ€â€”she patted the warm hand on her shoulderâ€”â€œwith a specific goal. To activate the empressâ€™ genes and power this city.â€
â€œNot my department, Alena â€¦ but I know that they consulted with senior officials at the Academy.â€
â€œLike thatâ€™s any kind of reassurance.â€
Sachaâ€™s soft chuckle eased over her. â€œAre you calling us vacuous?â€
â€œWell, something has to give. You canâ€™t be that beautiful and have brains too.â€
â€œF*ck me and insult me. Same old Alena.â€ He pulled back with a laugh. â€œWell,
Alena ran a hand through her damp, tangled hair. â€œI think I need to shower alone, Sacha.â€
He glanced back to the open chamber as the soft pad of bare feet echoed over the walls. Vadim stood, framed in the doorway, and scrubbed a hand over his face. The man was still painfully hard. â€œThink I should invite him?â€ Sacha murmured.
Alena bit back a smile. â€œHeâ€™d kill you with his bare hands.â€
â€œYes, he would, wouldnâ€™t he?â€ Sacha turned on his heel and headed in the opposite direction from the imperial bedchamber. He disappeared through one of a row of three doors and shut it softly behind him.
Alena found herself suddenly alone with Vadim for the first time. She felt her nakedness and cursed the fact that she had left her gown on the floor of the chamber. Damn it, she was the empress. She lifted her chin. â€œVadim? You should wash, it will easeâ€¦â€ She waved a hand at his erection. â€œI was going to do that too. Shower, that is. Alone,â€ she added quickly. Alena held back a sigh. Could she sound more stupid?
His gaze narrowed, and he searched the soft shadows of the oval room. â€œWhereâ€™s Sacha Ivanovich?â€
Vadim padded towards her. Hairs prickled on the back of Alenaâ€™s neck, but she refused to take a step back. And she was having trouble placing her hands. Alena clasped them loosely together and still felt awkward. She hated how the man made her so stupidly nervous. â€œNo. Youâ€™re here.â€ She cursed under her breath. Didnâ€™t that sound like an invitation?
The muscle jumped in his jaw. â€œIâ€™m a flight-captain in the Imperial Guard, Alena. Your safety is my responsibility.â€
â€œIâ€™m perfectly safe here, thank you, Vadim.â€
His mouth thinned, and her fingers curled into a ball, nails digging into her palm. She wanted to stroke away the harsh lines. And that was completely inappropriate. Alena turned away and found the flight-captain following her. She ignored him, walking into the bedroom. Getting her bearings in the round room, she padded down the steps to the washing facility. And damn it, her spine ached from holding her back like a rod.
She stopped on the bottom step. â€œYou donâ€™t need to follow me into the shower, Flight-Captain.â€
â€œMy general impressed upon me to watch you at all times.â€ His gaze flicked around the domed room with the two showering alcoves. Black tiles gleamed in the small spots of light embedded in the curve of the dome. â€œYouâ€™re the only Dubov alive to power this place.â€
Alena switched on the shower, and a spray of hot water filled the alcove. She focused her attention on adjusting the temperature, focused so she could ignore the hollow pain in her chest. â€œI donâ€™t need a reminder that my whole family is dead, thank you, Vadim.â€
His hand cupped her shoulder, squeezing gently. â€œIâ€™m sorry â€¦ Alena.â€ He let out a slow sigh, but a wisp of wry amusement coloured it. â€œThis ritual is affecting me more than I thought it would.â€
A short laugh escaped her. â€œYou have the hardest role.â€ She winced. â€œNo pun intended. Sorry.â€
His laughter echoed around the tiled room. With a final brief slide of his fingers down her arm, his hand dropped away. â€œYes. Thank you.â€ He pointed to the alcove beside her. â€œMay I?â€
â€œMake it cold,â€ she said, stepping into the steaming water and letting it stream over her sweat-damp body. Alena lifted her face to the jets and sighed at the wash of cleanserwater breaking over her skin.
â€œIce cold,â€ Vadim muttered before disappearing into the alcove.
Alena blinked away the water from her eyelashes. Water splashed over his body, and he twitched, gasping at what was obviously a freezing rush. He planted his hands on the black tiles and turned his face to the water. Her own shower was suddenly too hot â€¦ but she couldnâ€™t look away from the sluice of water running over his tanned, muscular back, buttocks, and thighs. Tension coiled low in her pelvis, and her nipples lifted, hardened.
Him and a bed. Alena let her gaze linger on the straining muscles in his arms. Hell, just him. Up against the wall. Hard. Fast.
She groaned and adjusted the temperature of the shower. Cool water splashed in a rush over her skin, and she bit back a yelp. She needed the distraction. Vadim was off limits until the rise of the second moon. Her teeth chattered, and she ran a palm over the panel. The stream of water died. Shivering, she scuttled across the room to the cache of towels and robes stored in a discreet cabinet.
Towelled dry, she threw on a robe. Get out, get to her bed, hide. Daylight and the grind of work would take her mind off her need to screw the man in the shower. Vadim reached past her and grabbed a towel. Damn the man was quiet. His closeness had her skin all too aware of him again. Her mother had never given her strength-giver a second look. General Mishenka still had the bitter turn to him, a narrowness to his eyes that forty years of being spurned by his empress had cut into his face. Her sister Antoninaâ€™s father had been her motherâ€™s knowledge-giver, years after she ascended the throne.
Alena stared at the wet floor. She should run with her first plan, get the hell out of the room. But Vadim intended to stick with her â€¦ so it was easier to stand there and listen to him rub a towel over his cool, clean skinâ€¦ She squeezed her eyes shut. This was crazy. A day. Thatâ€™s all it was. Another day, and she could manacle the flight-captain to her bed, have his lithe body stretched out and at her mercyâ€¦
She groaned and thought about walking straight back into the cold shower. No, thereâ€™d never been any mention of such an awareness of the strength-giver, the need to push him back against the wall and run hands over his clean, muscular torso.
â€œNow we have to sleep together.â€
Alena choked and coughed it out. â€œSleep together?â€ Her voice was little more than a squeak. â€œI canâ€™tâ€¦â€ She waved down his robe. â€œâ€¦with youâ€¦â€
â€œSleep, Alena,â€ he said but the sudden shine of levity in his eyes seemed â€¦ forced.
His gaze dropped. He tugged at the belt and tightened the long black robe around his waist. â€œGeneral Mishenka explained the ritual in detail.â€
And sheâ€™d forgotten it. Her prurient research had always involved the time in the little chamber â€¦ not what had to happen afterwards. It was why the empress had such a big bed, after all. â€œWe all have to curl up together.â€
A wince pulled at his cheek. â€œYes.â€
Before she realised it, her fingers had smoothed over his jaw. The contact jolted him. Her heart tightened. Was her touch offensive? â€œYouâ€™re making me feel unwanted, Vadim.â€
He pulled in a breath, and he stepped back beyond her touch. The intensity to his silver eyes had her blood pounding. His hands curled into fists. â€œDonâ€™t, Alena. Iâ€™m here to prove my strength and discipline. You touch me again? Iâ€™ll have you so hard up against that wall Iâ€™ll not give a f*ck that this city will die.â€
Her breath hitched, and heat melted through her body. She pulled her hands into tight fists, because she wanted nothing more than to reach out and stroke his cheek. That would be wrong. But she still found herself moving forward, stepping into his personal space. Alena felt outside of her own body, taunting him, but she had to. Her body twisted tight with a need she didnâ€™t want to deny. â€œHow hard?â€
â€œAlenaâ€¦â€ He almost growled her name, and a flush stained his cheeks. â€œStop.â€
She lifted her hand, her fingers tracing over the smooth material of his robe. The hard muscle of his pectoral jumped at her touch. The power she had over him intoxicated her. â€œYou didnâ€™t answer my question, Flight-Captain.â€
â€œThis is not a part of the ritual.â€
Her hand slid lower, the glide of her fingers melting into the sound of his harsh breathing. The heat of his skin bled through the robe â€¦ and still her hand skirted lower, lower.
Vadim grabbed her wrist, his fingers locking tight. â€œDonâ€™t play this game.â€
Her other hand pressed against his abdomen. Muscles tensed, and he hissed as she teased a finger down. Through the material, her palm brushed against the solid length of his erectionâ€”
With a growl, Vadim yanked her hand away and barrelled her back. Alena hit the tiled wall with a thump that winded her. Pinning her arms above her head, he leaned in so close his breath brushed her cheek, his hard body crushing her to the wall. His cock strained against her belly. She sucked in a short breath, the ache to have him tearing through her.
â€œI had to hold you open so another man could f*ck you. Have you any ideaâ€¦â€ He sucked her earlobe into his mouth, his teeth nipping. Alena groaned and arched against him. â€œIâ€™m still enough of my fatherâ€™s son, enough of a Talar, to find that an â€¦ abomination.â€ His mouth hovered over hers, his hands flexing around her wrists. â€œI want to make you scream.â€
This post was submitted by Kim Knox.
posted Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 | filed under Excerpts
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