Pleasure of a Dark Prince Read online

Page 5


Chapter 2

  She'd often thought so herself. Luckily for them, she had no interest in garnering a man's attention.

  "And you could no' be bonnier. "

  In fact, she could be. Her hair was drenched. Her clothes were boring - a serviceable pair of shorts and a plain T-shirt. She wore no makeup or jewelry, but then, she never did. Not since she'd started wearing the bow.

  "Are you fey or Valkyrie?"

  I'm an Archer. A celibate in plain clothes. A shadow in the background. "Guess. " At least he got points for not mistaking her for a nymph. Unfortunately, the two species resembled each other with their elven features. That was where all similarities ended.

  "With the bow and the pointed ears, I'd normally say fey. But you've wee fangs and claws, so I fear it will no' be so easy as that. "

  "Easy? What are you talking about?"

  He opened his mouth, then closed it, slanting his head at her in an appraising way. She sensed that whatever he'd been about to tell her, he decided against it, instead saying: "Seduction. Valkyrie are notoriously difficult to seduce. "

  He wanted to seduce her? No talk of a date, of courting, just sex. Men! "Difficult, you say? If you've made a go at one of us in your current state - unshaven, bloody, half-dressed, and covered in mud - I just can't imagine why. Not to mention that you smell of mash and distillery. Be still my heart. "

  He scrubbed a palm over his face, seeming surprised to find stubble there. "Today is no' a good day for me. "

  "Then you should go back and enjoy your groupies. I've always heard that nothing brightens one's outlook like an orgy with nymphs. " Why this sharp tone? As if she were jealous. A spark of disquiet arose in her.

  "Doona want them. " He drew closer. "Even before I saw you. " He gazed deeply into her eyes, as if he could see through her chaste, ascetic shell and recognize how wild she truly was. As if he knew her façade was a shaky house of cards that could be felled with a touch.

  You have a darkness in you, Lucia, Skathi had warned her eons ago. You must constantly be vigilant against it.

  Yes, vigilant. Lucia needed to get home, away from this rumbling-voiced werewolf. A face like his had been her undoing once, a handsome face that had concealed a monster.

  Just as this one's did.

  "The attraction isn't mutual," she said crisply. "So be on your way. " With that, she turned to dispose of her kill, intending to throw the pieces into the water for the animals there to feed on. When she bent for the kobold's head, the Lykae picked up the body, as if he were being gentlemanly, retrieving a dropped handkerchief. So surreal. They lobbed the pieces into the murky water.

  Her task done, she brushed off her hands and turned for home.

  He followed.

  She stopped, glaring briefly at the sky before telling him, "Werewolf, save yourself both time and effort. Whatever is the opposite of a sure thing, that's me. "

  "Because I'm a Lykae?"

  Because you're a man. "You were right earlier - I am a Valkyrie. And my kind considers yours little better than animals. " They did. Though Lykae weren't formal enemies like the vampires, older Valkyrie had battled them in the past, during bygone Accessions - faction-wide wars in the Lore. They'd said it was rare to see one fully turned unless you threatened their mate or offspring, but that even a hint of the beast that resided inside them was harrowing. . . .

  So where was the conviction in Lucia's tone?

  "Aye, mayhap they do, but what do you consider me?" He narrowed his eyes. "Surely you doona agree with them or you would no' want me to mate you now. "

  Her lips parted. "Mate me? I've met arrogant males in my day, but you are the king of them. "

  A shadow passed over his face. "The king, then? What a way of putting it. " But he quickly recovered. "Then give me a boon for taking the prize. Tell me your name. "

  She exhaled, then grudgingly said, "I'm called Lucia the Huntress. "

  "Lousha," he repeated.

  Everyone she'd ever known had pronounced her name Loo-see-ah. With his thick Scottish accent, the werewolf pronounced it Lousha. She just stopped herself from shivering.

  "Well, then, Lousha the Huntress" - a roguish grin curled his lips - "you've snared me. "

  Tingles danced over her body, but just as swiftly foreboding filled her. She had no business responding to him. He'd just left the nymphs and a guaranteed orgy. He would expect sex from a female this night.

  Which she could never give - even if she wanted to - without disaster.

  So why was her gaze descending along his damp chest? Her eyes followed the trail of hair from his navel down to the low-slung waist of his worn jeans, then lower. . . she almost gasped to see the bulge there.

  She realized he must have been doing the same perusal of her - because the bulge grew. She quickly glanced up, found the Lykae's gaze was riveted to her breasts. Her nipples were straining against the wet material of her shirt, and he was staring hard at them as if he wanted to remove her top - with his mind.

  When their eyes met once more, his flickered blue again, reminding her anew of why interacting with him was unwise. "Run along, wolf. Or I'll make you wish you had. "

  "That will no' be happening, Valkyrie. "

  "Why?" At his determined look, a suspicion arose in her, one so ridiculous it hardly warranted another thought. But she couldn't shake it. "I'm not. . . your mate, or anything, right?" She couldn't be.

  "Nay. Though I might wish it otherwise. "

  Thank the gods for that. "Then - leave. "

  When he instead drew nearer, she yanked free her bow and nocked an arrow, drawing the string without thought. She aimed straight for his heart, which wouldn't kill an immortal like him but would put him down for a good while. "Stop right where you are, or I'll shoot. "

  He didn't stop right where he was. "You would no'. When I mean you no harm?"

  "This isn't an idle threat," she said in a steely tone. His expression turned impatient, as if he couldn't understand where her caution was coming from. "I will shoot you if you come closer. "

  He came closer. So she shot him in the heart. Or four inches to the right, having decided at the last second to vary her aim by a degree.

  The arrow landed in his solid chest, drilling through his muscles until only the flights were visible. "Bluidy hell, woman!" he bellowed, scowling down at his chest.

  In a placid tone, she reminded him, "I told you not to come closer. "

  He fisted the flights, trying to draw the arrow free, but those barbs made it impossible. Reaching around awkwardly, he grated, "Help me get this thing loose!"

  She blinked up at him. "I put the arrows in. I don't take them out. "

  His chin jutted. "You do with me. "

  The corners of her lips quirked, surprising her. What a wild, mad Lykae. She schooled her features. "Why would I ever?"

  "Because, Valkyrie" - he started for her again, apparently planning to ignore the arrow in his chest - "by the close of this night we'll be sharing a bed, and you'll feel foolish to have shot up your bedmate. "

  With a sigh, she let sail another arrow. "Oh, dear, how foolish of me. You were saying?"

  He continued closer. "When I set to kissing those pouting lips of yours - "

  Another arrow sunk into his chest.

  Now three wounds marred his gorgeous body, three trails of blood tracking over the rises and falls of rock-hard muscle. Gritting his teeth, he said, "This hurts like hell, lass, but it's heartening. "

  "How do you figure?"

  "At fifty times the distance, you dispatched that kobold with three arrows to the neck. I've earned a trio to the chest. Seems you slapped him while you're tickling me. You doona want to kill me, which is a good sign. Maybe this is your way of flirting?"

  She sobered once more, reality washing over her. "I'm not flirting - trust me, you'd know. " Because disaster would be imminent. Damn it, he kept coming for her.

  "If you're