Authors: Lyla Bardan
Piran reddened. “Tolmin wishes to know if your sister Kelsi may also attend . . . What is that called?”
“A double date?”
He winced. “Ah, yes. Should have known.”
“Poor baby,” I teased, extracting my phone from my pocket. “Let me text Kelsi.”
We walked back to the bike shop, and I grasped the mountain bike’s handlebars. “I’d better clean this up before returning it to the sales floor.”
Piran set his hand over mine, shaking his head. “No need,” he said with a grin. “Sold.”
The time remaining at work passed quickly, and I headed home to change.
That evening, Piran and I huddled with Kelsi under the cinema awning to escape the rain. “Why don’t we wait inside?” I asked.
“Tolmin should be here soon,” Piran replied. “He is not familiar with this movie theater.”
I nodded, realizing it would be easier for Piran’s friend to find us outside.
Kelsi’s gaze wandered as she tapped her foot. She leaned in close to me. “The movie starts in ten minutes.”
“I know,” I said, rubbing my arms. The temperature had dropped, and I hadn’t thought to bring a jacket or sweater.
My sister withdrew her phone from her purse and began texting. Maybe this double date wasn’t such a good idea. I rocked on my heels, willing Tolmin to hurry.
“Look, Bay,” she began. My chin dipped. She was making other plans. Then her mouth fell open as Tolmin strode across the road to the sidewalk in front of the cinema.
“Is that him?” she whispered.
Kelsi fanned herself. “Hot. Hot. Up in smoke. Dying here.”
“Tolmin, this is my sister, Kelsi.”
Tolmin bent to one knee, then rose, towering over her, a killer smile on his face.
“Kelsi?” I prodded.
“Bluuurg . . . causeuhhmmyeahheeeekkkshit.”
Covering my laugh, I grabbed Kelsi’s arm. I knew the feeling.
“Come,” Piran urged. “We must hurry.”
We headed into the cinema, bought tickets, zipped through the concessions line, and made our way in the dark theatre to the back row of seats.
“Move over,” I whispered to Kelsi. I handed a bucket of popcorn to Piran and waited for a dazed Kelsi to shift over a seat.
A New York Knicks basketball game splashed across the movie screen, and I settled into my seat, leaning against Piran. He put his arm around me. Since the other day at my house, he’d only given me tender kisses, nothing more. Letting me set the pace. Or maybe he was worried about the after-effects of my concussion and thought I’d pop a blood vessel or something.
Either way, Nick was
wrong about Piran.
Onscreen, an alien burst out of someone’s water bottle, and I shrank into Piran. His soft chuckle made me laugh at myself. I loved that when I was with him, I could be real. No need to affect some phony persona just to have a boyfriend. I snuggled closer to Piran, the word
suddenly registering in my mind.
He leaned over, and his lips brushed against my ear, sending a shiver down my spine. “Is this what you wish me to be?” he murmured.
My breath hit a snag somewhere between the bottom of my lungs and my throat. God, yes, I wanted to shout, but I swallowed hard and shook my head. I couldn’t have a boyfriend.
The puzzlement in his voice made my heart ache. I gripped his arm. “Not now. I’ll explain later.”
I just wanted to enjoy the time I had with him.
Glancing over at Kelsi, my jaw dropped. I was about to ask her how she liked the movie so far, but clearly, she wouldn’t know. She and Tolmin were making out…with gusto. Okay, so maybe Nick had a point about some Fae guys, but Tolmin may have met his match with Kelsi.
After the movie, we all went to dinner, and Kelsi and I introduced Piran and Tolmin to deep-dish pizza. I couldn’t believe they’d been living in Chicago for a year and hadn’t tried Chicago-style pizza.
When finished with our meal, Kelsi and I headed into the bathroom. She fluffed her hair and touched up her lip-gloss. “Tell Mom and Dad, I’ll be home late, okay?”
“Wait . . . why?”
She glanced over at me. “Tolmin and I are going out for a drink. Maybe a dance club.”
“Gotta put that fake ID to use, huh?” I nudged her.
She nudged me back. “You and Piran could come too, if you want.”
“Nah,” I replied, scrunching up my face. I didn’t like going to bars. And dancing? Forget about it. I was a klutz, except on a bike.
“You sure?” She tightened the straps of her bra to give her boobs more pop.
“Yeah, I’m sure. You have a good time.” I gave her a hug, appreciating the invite, but I didn’t want to be a hanger-on and cramp her style.
I walked out of the bathroom and found Piran near the main doors of the restaurant, cell phone to his ear, lips compressed. When his eyes caught mine, his stance stiffened, and he strode outside. A pit hardened in my stomach. Okay, there could be a million reasons he was upset.
Kelsi left the restaurant with Tolmin, and I headed outside to wait for Piran. He stood near the street, speaking in his native language, his voice gruff and terse. Finally, he snapped his phone shut and guided me to his car.
On the drive home, neither of us spoke. I watched the traffic, studied the car’s heating vents, and occasionally bit my thumbnail. The silence killed me. Grabbing my knees to keep my restless legs from jiggling, I peered at him out of the corner of my eye. He sat ramrod straight. I wished he would just tell me what was going on.
“You first,” he said.
Ohhh . . . I took a deep breath. “My coach kicked me off his team for being with you. He has a no dating policy during racing season.”
Piran frowned, but said nothing.
“There are no other women’s teams in the area, so I really need to get back on his good side, you know?”
“I see. Thus no boyfriend.”
“Exactly. I don’t want to stop seeing you though,” I added quickly. “But . . . we need to keep it on the down low.”
His frown deepened.
I slid my hand over his. I could only imagine such a lie insulted his Guardian sensibilities. “Just don’t come to my races, okay? I mean, at least not when my coach is there.”
He gave a curt nod.
“My parents are coming to visit me on Monday.”
“Oh?” That should have been good news, but the hardness in his voice made me think otherwise. “Why are they visiting?”
Piran took a corner fast, and I clung to the door handle.
“Sorry.” He relaxed his grip on the steering wheel and eased off the speed. “My first art show is Monday evening, at the school.”
of your parents are coming to see your show?”
“Yes.” He said the word quietly, then paused. “At first, my father was not interested in viewing my paintings, although I was one of only three students selected for the show.”
“So why’d he change his mind?”
“That,” Piran replied, pulling into my driveway, “I do not know.”
I leaned over to kiss him. “Well, I’d love to see your show.”
His lips stiffened beneath mine.
I drew back. “What’s wrong? Is there some reason you don’t want me to see your artwork?” I narrowed my eyes. “Please don’t tell me your stuff is perverted, like you paint naked ladies or whatever.”
With a chuckle, he shook his head. “No, I do not paint naked ladies.”
Yet he averted his gaze and fiddled with the radio, shifting in his seat.
Piran snapped off the radio and leaned back, exhaling. “It is not my artwork I wish for you to avoid, but my father.”
“Oh.” I tugged on my lower lip, a sinking feeling settling in my stomach.
His hand caressed my cheek. “Sweet Bailey, my father is...difficult. That is all.”
“Okay.” I leaned into his caress and kissed him again. The porch light flicked on, and Piran jerked his hand away from my face. I giggled. “It’s only my mom. Don’t panic. She likes you. But I should go in. I’ve been gone all day and she’s probably worried.”
I exited his car and trotted up the walk to the porch, trying to block out the nagging feeling Piran had just lied to me about this father. Then again, maybe the man was a member of the Fae anti-human council. I shrugged it off. So what? Even if his father was the biggest hater on the planet, I was seeing Piran, not his father.
Saturday afternoon, the doorbell rang. In a burst of energy, I skidded down the hallway to the front door. Piran had called that morning, saying he planned to come over. Thankfully, Mom and Dad had gone to a Cubs baseball game and would be gone all afternoon, saving me from any weird parental cross-examination.
I ran my hands over my hair in an attempt to smooth the frizz and opened the door, unable to contain my grin.
“Expecting someone else?” Kelsi teased. “Forgot my phone.”
My grin vanishing, I groaned. My sister grabbed her phone from the kitchen counter and lifted the lid off the candy canister. She snitched a handful of soft, white candies and popped one in her mouth. “Mmm…Dad makes the best candy.”
“Dad said he was saving those to give to Uncle Garrett.”
“Oops, my bad. Hopefully, he won’t notice a few missing. See you tonight.” She wiped her mouth and headed to the front door.
“Uh, Kelsi? Forget something?” I dangled her car keys from my fingers.
Piran stood on the porch, and Kelsi turned just as I tossed her the keys. She winked. “Have fun, Bay.”
Holding a large, wooden canvas carrier, he stepped into the hallway.
“Your artwork?” I rubbed my hands together. I couldn’t wait to see what he painted.
Piran gestured to the kitchen, and I followed. After setting the carrier on the table, he unlatched it and lifted out a canvas, his expression hesitant.
“I won’t say anything bad,” I promised.
He turned the canvas around, and my breath caught in my throat. It was a painting of me on my racing bike. Like all Fae paintings, it pulsed with life and movement, a canvas in motion. The wheels of my bike whirled, my hair blowing behind me. My thighs rocked like a piston, the muscles in my calves corded, an intense look of concentration on my face.
He’d captured who I’d always wanted to be.
“Who you are,” Piran said softly. “An athlete. Strong and beautiful.”
Trembling, I raised my gaze to his.
“Do you know what I see in you?” he asked.
In a daze, I shook my head.
“Your toughness, perseverance, and focus. Unlike the delicate Fae women, you are not a fragile flower, easily crushed.”
I didn’t bother trying to hold back the tears that sprang forth.
“Please,” he whispered. “Do not cry, sweet Bailey. Have I hurt you?”
I blinked. Hurt me? Hell, no. Not unless it hurt to be finally accepted for who I was.
He stroked my cheek, gently wiping away the tears. “I have never met a girl like you.”
My heart swelled, and I wrapped my hand around his, overcome by a jumble of emotions. Stunned. Honored. Appreciated. Yet, just like that, he’d reminded me of the girls he
, and I couldn’t get that out of my mind.
I bit my lip, working up my courage. “Piran, how many women have you slept with?”
His eyes widened. “I am twenty-two, Bailey. You understand I am not a boy.” He dug the heel of his hand into his temple. “Is the number truly important?”
“Yes,” I replied, my voice wavering.
I couldn’t kid myself. The Guardian Fae were beautiful and sensual. Yet for some reason, I needed to know how many I’d be compared to. Ten? Twenty?
Maybe it wasn’t important to him, but it was to me. Bracing, I fussed with the buttons on my shirt.
His fingers slipped away from mine, and he thrust his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Most men from my land are—”
“I know,” I interrupted. Who didn’t?
He nodded, and his gaze wandered for a moment before finally landing on me. “However, I am not.”
It took me a moment to comprehend what he was saying.
“When I became of age,” he continued, leaning on the kitchen counter, “I was arranged to marry a young Fae woman from the mountains in my homeland, but we quickly realized we were not compatible.” He shook his head, a rueful expression on his face. “Not in the least.”
“So have you ever, you know, had sex with a woman?”
He actually rolled his eyes, but a crimson blush crept over his cheeks. “Yes, but not nearly as many as you believe.” He cleared his throat and raised two fingers.
Oh my God. I had completely misjudged him. That day in my bathroom, he no doubt had been as nervous as I was.
“More so,” he said with an embarrassed laugh. “Yet, Bailey, I fear . . .” He sighed, looking a bit like a lost little boy. “I know you expect me to be experienced and lead the way. To teach you. I am so sorry, sweet Bailey.” He extended his palms to me, as if pleading.
I grabbed his hands, entwining my fingers in his. “No, no. Please don’t be sorry.”
“I am a Fae man,” he said, lifting his chin in pride. Then his shoulders slumped. “Apparently, I dishonor the Fae reputation. I have never taken a human woman.”
“Oh.” Suddenly I laughed, and he stared at me as if I’d gone crazy.
“This is good?” he asked, his eyebrows rising.
“Yes,” I said, giving him a coy smile, feeling a flush of heat over my cheeks. “This way we can learn together. We can learn from each other.”
My voice sounded smokier than I ever believed possible. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach, and my mind was a jumble of emotions, but I knew what I wanted. I led Piran upstairs and into my bedroom.
Standing on my tiptoes, I leaned into him and kissed his incredible mouth, reveling in the feel of his warm lips. Slipping a hand behind his back, I snatched the end of his braid and pulled off the tie binding his hair.
He drew back slowly, his gaze meeting mine as I separated the thick cords of his silky hair with my fingers. His hand caught my wrist. “Are you sure?”
I nodded. I’d never been so sure of anything.
Crimson rays streaked through his eyes like the blood coursing through my veins. I kissed him again and again. I couldn’t get enough. Wrapping his arms around me, he held the back of my head, deepening the kiss, his tongue sliding over mine, sending a torrent of sensations down my spine.
Damn, this boy could
My chest rose and fell in rhythm with his, until his mouth trailed down my jaw and along my neck, before hovering over my ear. I squirmed and gasped, wanting more. Overcome with the need to feel him, to touch his skin, I tugged on his T-shirt.
He yanked the shirt over his head, and I stared, open-mouthed at his chiseled abs and tight pecs. Unable to stop myself, I placed my hands on his hard chest. The warmth flooding my palms surprised me.
“I can feel your heartbeat,” I whispered. “So fast and strong.”
But that wasn’t all I wanted to feel.
His mouth rose in a crooked grin, and he gripped the bottom of my tank top and peeled it upward. I raised my hands in the air, and shook out my hair as he tossed the tank aside. Warm fingers traced the strap of my bra over my shoulder and down my shoulder blade. Just that simple touch filled me with such longing.
Then he stepped behind me. I stood, trembling, while he lifted my bra band and undid the clasp. Laying the back of my head against his chest, I remained in his embrace, my eyes drifting closed, while his hands slid beneath the loosened bra and gently cupped my breasts. His fingers kneaded and stroked, and I released a soft sigh of pleasure, savoring his gentle but skilled touch. I arched against him, wrapping my hands around his neck.
“Bailey,” he growled, his hands traveling down my stomach to my jeans.
I rolled my hips, encouraging him, and he popped open the waistband button. Slowly, ever so slowly, he dragged down the zipper, the anticipation killing me. I damn near tore the zipper down myself.
“Wait,” he said, sounding breathless.
Oh God, no. I didn’t want to wait.
“We need to discuss . . .” His hands glided over my lower belly. “I was not anticipating—”
“Don’t worry,” I said, running my hands over his broad shoulders. “I’m on the pill. But I always assumed the Fae had some way of controlling their fertility. I mean, there aren’t many halflings running around.”
“No, we do not have a switch that turns on and off like that,” he said with a slight chuckle. His hands mirrored mine, and I leaned into his touch. “A research group is studying why so few halflings have been born.”
“Mmm?” I really wasn’t interested at the moment.
“Nor am I,” Piran agreed, his silky voice once again hypnotic.
He picked me up and laid me on my bed. For a moment, he simply stared at me then ran his hands up and down my torso, over my breasts, over my stomach, heating every inch of my skin. When his breath swept over my abdomen, my hands curled in the bed quilt.
Gripping my jeans, he eased them over my hips and down my legs, then tossed them on the floor. I couldn’t take my gaze away, watching the way his muscles flexed. The moment his hands touched my bare thighs, a flush of adrenaline sent every nerve in my body tingling. His thumbs traveled higher and higher, and my pulse throbbed low in my belly.
Almost there. My back arched and my hips twisted. Everywhere he touched felt as if awakening after a forever sleep.
Definitely not clueless groping.
He slid my panties down and brushed his lips across my upper thigh.
. Tingling. Aching. His mouth descended between my legs, and my eyes rolled all the way to the back of my skull. Lips, tongue, fingers invaded me. Burning me. How the hell did he know how to do this? No, I did
want to know. I just didn’t want it to stop.
I couldn’t control my legs from shaking. Moaning, I clung to my bed, the pressure building. So close. On the edge. Yes…Right there . . . Oh God! Exquisite white-hot waves slammed into me again and again. I never wanted them to end, even though I didn’t think I could handle one more second.
Somewhere off in the distance my body floated, blissful and content, while my head reeled with the knowledge I’d just had the most mind-blowing orgasm
Soft laughter penetrated my reflections, and I opened my eyes to Piran’s perfect face hovering over mine. Murmuring something unintelligible, I bunched and stretched like a happy jellyfish, while he unzipped and removed his jeans.
“A happy jellyfish?” He gave me a playful push, the outer corners of his eyes crinkling.
How was I supposed to have a cognizant thought with my brain deep-fried and dipped in habanero pepper sauce?
“You often think of food,” he murmured, his hands running over my breasts, bringing my nipples once again to hard peaks.
He gently kissed my neck as his weight settled between my thighs, and I closed my eyes on a sigh. His hips lifted, and I felt him ready against me. This was it. The realization weighed on my mind, and I tensed.
“Shh,” he whispered. “I love you. I fell in love with you watching that first race.”
Trembling, I opened my eyes and looked deep into his, seeing adoration, acceptance, and desire. Everything I needed. I gripped the back of his neck and kissed the smooth skin of his cheek. “I love you too, Piran.”
My question faded on my lips. I didn’t need to know. But he shook his head. “No. I never wanted to take a human woman. Not until you.”
His tongue wetted my lips, and a flash of heat sliced through me. I arched up into him.
“Bailey,” he groaned against my neck.
“Now, Piran,” I begged. Clutching his waist, I angled my hips to drive him inside.
“Slow,” he said, letting out a hiss, the muscles in his neck corded beneath my fingers. “So I do not hurt you.”
I swallowed hard, my throat thick, as I felt his size against my opening. “I’m sure it will only hurt for a moment.”
He lifted his head and met my gaze as he entered me, shallow, before withdrawing. My heart pounded, and I held my breath, watching his face, furrowed in concentration.
Another shallow thrust and another. My eyes closed as he merely taunted and teased. He licked my lips, and I eagerly opened my mouth for him. Another thrust, a bit deeper, and I winced. He kissed me harder, leaving me moaning in my throat.
God, I could kiss him forever.
He lowered his chest onto mine, and I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, burying my face in his neck, inhaling his amazing scent, like the smell of spring and freshly cut wood. My breasts crushed against his broad chest, the feel of his hard muscles against my nipples sent shock waves straight to my core. The closeness of our bodies made me feel as if we were one.
He picked up speed, and the painful sting faded, replaced with a friction . . . a delicious, never-wanted-it-to-end friction. Sensations flamed deep inside me, beyond the physical, beyond what I’d ever dreamed possible. I could do this with him forever.
But after a moment, Piran’s breaths grew harsh, and the muscles in his back tensed.
“I cannot . . .” He clenched his teeth. “Hold back . . . any longer.”
He reared up and threw his head back, squinting hard, as a tortured growl ripped from his throat. I stared in rapt attention. Time seemed to stand still as his taut body shuddered and shook. Then he collapsed over me, panting.
For several moments, I clutched his heaving body, stroking his hair, not minding the sweat coating his skin. To know he could lose control like that, because of me, stole my breath. Stole my soul. Tears misted my eyes, and I hastily wiped them away.
“No, Bailey,” he said softly, rising onto his forearms. “Do not be ashamed of your tears.” He dipped his head and kissed my damp cheek. “I feel the same way.”
A smile creased his face. “The best kind of overwhelmed.”
He rolled onto his back, and I snuggled in his arms, filled with a sense of destiny. We belonged together. He made me feel whole.
“Do you know what I wish?” he asked me.