Would he enfold her like this for sex? Pervy Lanthe is on board.

She’d planned to wrap him around her little finger; instead, he’d wrapped his wings around her! He’d made her nearly mindless with desire. Hot, slick, swollen desire.

With each degree he constricted those wings, his groans deepened. He was going to come like this.

She would too, right upon his muscular thigh.

“I’ve waited so long for you.” Pressing openmouthed kisses to her neck, he pumped his hips faster, rutting against her body. Her nipples raked his chest with each of his jostling movements.

When she undulated against his leg to grind her clitoris, he gave a brutal growl. “You like my wings around you? Trapping you to me?”

“And if I never let you go, sorceress?”

She moaned in reply. The pressure kept mounting, until she was on the verge of coming. “Don’t stop, Thronos!”

“The pleasure . . .” he bit out in a tone of wonder as he rocked her. “It’s almost agony.” His biceps bulged as he squeezed her. “I grow nigh!”

Her head shot forward, her mouth on his neck. She was losing control, as she hadn’t in memory. Tongue flicking, she sucked on his skin as wanton urges suffused her.

Snaring his thick cock and working it inside me. Or tonguing his throbbing, veined length.

What would he think of her if she dropped to her knees before him—with her lips parted to be fed . . . ?

“Ah, gods, woman!” His shaft jerked in the tight sleeve they’d created as he rocked faster and harder. “Never knew . . .” Faster. Harder—

Massive body quaking, he threw his head back, tendons taut as bowstrings. Then he roared.

Just as he wasn’t supposed to do.

Through her lips, she felt the reverberations in his throat. She was about to go over the edge with him, moaning with abandon.

Though she didn’t feel seed, his wings rippled around her each time his mighty shaft pulsated. Another bellow shook the night. And another, over . . . and over . . . and over . . .

How badly he must have needed that!

As those dry spasms finally eased, he gave one last shudder, leaving her right on the brink.

Catching his breath, he rested his forehead against hers. “Harder than I could ever have imagined. You made me bellow to the rafters.” Unguarded, he rasped, “And now I feel no pain in my body.”

He raised his face, meeting her eyes. His pupils were blown from his recent pleasure, his irises . . . darker?

What was he thinking about his first orgasm with another? And just like that, those damned doubts returned. What is he thinking about me?

“Now it’s your turn.” He released some of the constriction around her. When he trailed the backs of his fingers across one of her breasts, then lower, her lids grew heavy. “How does my mate like to be petted?” He sifted his fingers through the curls on her sex.

If he touched her clitoris, she was going to lose it. And if she totally let go, she’d be confirming everything he’d said about her. “Wait.” This very day he’d called her “easy quarry,” and she was proving him right! At the thought, she tensed, her impending orgasm dissipating. “I can’t do this.”

“No, sweet, you don’t want to stop. I scent how badly you need release.”

The sorceress in her was clamoring, Pleasure’s there for the taking!

The vulnerable woman within murmured, If he shames you after this, it will hurt forever.

“Let me tend to you, Melanthe. You must be aching.”

“I . . . can’t.” She turned her head away.

She’d let other males pleasure her—just not him!

Thronos punched the tree, cracking the trunk, but Melanthe never faced him.

Before he said something he regretted, he drew back his wings, striding away from her. He found his breeches, nearly ripping them apart in frustration.

Touching her had surpassed all of his fantasies. He’d never known a female could be so soft, so sensual. But she’d denied him. He’d failed to overcome her resistance—he’d . . . failed.

And he’d been unable to hold out against the feel of her. His legs were still unsteady from that mind-blowing release. His shaft had liked its culmination so well, it’d been primed for the next one immediately.

He would never get enough of her! Yanking his breeches up his damp legs, he fastened them over his still raging member, then collected his shirt. By the time he was dressed, she’d donned her skirt and was fastening her breastplate.

Yet again things had gone sideways. Yet again Thronos didn’t understand his current position. She’d described Pandemonia’s traps; was this an unearthly pleasure followed by punishment?

Or merely a foiled plan to get her pregnant? “Why would you let other males give you pleasure but not me?”

She met his gaze. “Because none of them would ridicule me if I let go. And none of them deemed me a harlot. There were things I wanted to do to you, with you, but I heard your voice in my head, sneering that I was easy quarry.”

He wanted them to get past this, to start over. So he could touch her again, wrap her close to him. Gods, how erotic it had been, with the skin of his wings molding over the curves of her womanly little body. Enfolding her had fulfilled some primal need in him, had made him feel like he was taking her into him. “I won’t insult you like that again.”

“No, you’ll just think it. Thronos, I want to be with a male who likes me. Not one who hates me but is forced by his instinct to be with me anyway.”

“Three nights ago, you compared me to a broken bone!”

“I thought you were different then.”

“Ah, yes, you assumed that I was sleeping with my brother. Yet after we resolved that little misunderstanding, you’ve been trying to shame me. You expect me to lose control with you—when you scorn that very behavior? How can I just snap my fingers and get over that?”

“Why did these thoughts arise in the middle of what we were doing? If I could temporarily clear my mind of all the males who’d come before me—”

He rubbed his hand over his face. “That came out worse than I intended.”

“Though I’d once wanted to hurt you, I no longer do.”

“I was cruel before because I thought you were evil. For centuries, I believed that. This anger inside me grew and grew. It’s been seething there so long, and I felt like I’d explode if I didn’t vent it.”

“Thronos, you haven’t been venting it—you’ve been giving it to me to keep. You might have eased your ill will, but you’ve kindled mine.”

“Do you want me to just forget how many males have bedded you? Every time you and your sister left Rothkalina, I knew it was because you were on the hunt for a power. I knew you’d bedded yet another sorcerer who’d stolen one of your abilities.” He paced, his leg beginning to ache once more, a stark contrast to those moments when all he’d felt was her lush body against him and the residual heat of pleasure. The pain was all the worse after its temporary absence. “I was left so damned conflicted. Even as I was enraged because someone hurt my mate, I’d be racked with jealousy. Whenever you let another take you . . .” He stopped to face her. “Melanthe, there is no word to describe that pain.”

She lifted her chin. “I can’t change my past. I wouldn’t even if I could.”

“Why? I suppose those lovers were so amazing that you couldn’t stand to miss a single one?” And yet his first sexual encounter with Melanthe had resulted in no orgasm for her, and him releasing against her belly.

“I wouldn’t take back my past, because then I wouldn’t be me. I’ve done these things, and I’ve had these experiences. Which means I’ll only fall for someone who can accept me—as is. There’s nothing worse than when a male looks at a female and thinks, ‘She would be perfect, if only . . .’ ”

“I know you do! Melanthe would be perfect if only she were a convent-raised virgin, innocent in the ways of men. If only she could fly, tell the truth, and go without stealing/drinking/gambling. If only she were a Vrekener.”

He couldn’t deny these things. “And have you reasoned so about me?”

“If only you laughed. If only you valued gold—and each minute alive. If only you could comprehend that I’m more than a number.”

He bit out a sound of frustration. “I don’t want to think of you like this! But it guts me to know you’ve been with others, and I can’t stop imagining you with them! Jealousy claws at me from the inside!”

“I need to know: Can you ever get over my past?”

“I will not hurt you again, not as I have.”

“That’s not what I asked. Can you get over it?”

He didn’t want to lie to her, but he didn’t see how he could ignore what she’d been doing for five centuries. “You have to give me time to wrap my head around all this. For very, very many years, my life was simple. I had one job to do, one thing on which to focus. Now? I’m always conflicted. I just need time.”

“How much time were you planning to give me to get used to life at Skye Hall? To dress differently, to act differently. Even to make love differently. How much time would I be allotted to become someone other than myself?”

He stabbed his hands through his hair. “Then tell me something to change my mind. You’ve always made me rethink things. Do it now!”

“I can’t—not when you boil my past down to an imaginary number of males. Know that you’re about to join their ranks.”

“Just like you, they all failed to win me. When I finally find the one I’m supposed to be with, I’ll give him something no other has claimed.”

She pinned his gaze with her own. “My heart.”

Something of hers he could possess that no other had before.

“You’re no different from Felix. Both of you wanting something from me. But neither of you ever liked me.”

“I am nothing like that sorcerer! I’d give my life for yours. You know that.”

“Because of your instinct. Remember when you yelled at me, railing that it compelled you to pursue me—otherwise you would have taken my head yourself? If instinct is what’s driving you to be with me, then you might as well be ensorcelled against your will.”

Guilt flared—he had even fought his instinct when it urged him to bestow a kindness on her. He’d had numerous opportunities to limit her suffering, and each time he’d opted for her misery.

“We’re kidding ourselves, Thronos. With our history, these last three days have just been a recap. The damage has long since been done.”

“You’re the one who’s trying to get me to forget the past.”

“Not to forget it! To see it differently.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Why am I even trying? It’s like arguing with a flying, demonic wall. I just can’t do this with you!” She sat to put on her boots, refusing to look at him.

Ignoring me once again. Keeping her within his sight, he paced the glade.

Yet as his ire cooled, he began to feel like the worst hypocrite. Who was he to judge her? He’d planned to commit an offendment to impregnate her, to trap her, though they weren’t wed.

Why couldn’t he get over the past? He was going to destroy her before it was all over.

She’d been hunted, attacked, and poisoned most of her life. It was a wonder she had any goodness in her at all! She could have done truly unforgivable deeds. Instead, she’d lived her life.

And that’s really what you can’t forgive.

For ages, he’d told himself that her actions had forever changed him—a stream carving a groove through rock—ensuring he would always despise her.

But deep down, hadn’t he feared the opposite was true? That no force in the universe could change his feelings for her?

He recalled his conversation with Nïx, when she’d told him how to find Melanthe. He’d been choking back frustration that he would have to wait an entire year to capture his mate, predicting he’d go mad in the interim, when the Valkyrie had said, “I’ll give you a piece of advice, Thronos Talos. Before Melanthe became this, she was that. . . .”

He hadn’t known what the Valkyrie was talking about. Now, as he gazed over at his mate, the answer came to him.

Before Melanthe became my enemy, she was my best friend.

When Lanthe stood, dressed once more, she realized she was overflowing with power.

Which meant she was done beguiling Thronos. She turned a mean smile in his direction. I’ll go wherever my happy ass feels like.

He stopped his pacing. “Melanthe, we don’t have to figure this out all at once. We can’t expect to wade through everything so soon. It will take time, which we will have once we get home.”

For a crazy moment, she thought, Maybe I should just go with him. It was rumored that the Vrekeners stored all the sorcery they harvested in a vault in Skye Hall; Thronos was planning to take her straight there.

As charged up as she felt right now, she could command Aristo to kiss Sorceri ass and order him to release all the abilities his kind had stolen (maybe taking one or two or ten for herself and Sabine).