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Alpha straightens and gives Korwin a narrow look. I have no idea what’s going on, but the tension at the table is enough for me to take another sip of wine. The smooth liquid is barely down my throat when I hiccup. A loud, open-mouthed sound that brings everyone’s attention back to me. I try to stop, to hold it back, but another one comes. At least this time I keep my lips closed.
“Sorry,” I say, hand over mouth. I hiccup again. This one sounds like a muffled squeak.
Korwin pushes his chair back from the table and rises. “Please excuse me. It appears my woman needs to be put to bed.”
The entire table erupts into laughter and before I know it, I am tugged into Korwin’s side and led from the dining hall.
“I feel funny,” I say, hiccupping between feel and funny.
“That’s because you’re drunk. Why didn’t you hold off on the wine?”
“You didn’t tell me it would make me drunk.”
“People in Hemlock Hollow drink alcohol. It’s not some new Englisher invention.”
“Yes, but I’ve never had it before. I thought it would take more to feel the effects.”
By the time we make it to his room, I don’t feel like myself. The world comes to me in flashes of light and color. Korwin props my back against the wall and lights a few candles before closing and locking the door.
“I’m going to fall off these boots,” I say, trying to lift one foot to take them off and tumbling, ungracefully, into the wardrobe. The heavy piece of furniture rattles ominously.
“Wait. Let me help you.” He kneels in front of me, unzips one boot and slides it from my foot. I brace myself on his shoulders to keep my balance. My fingers automatically knead the muscles there. It’s a pleasurable experience, touching Korwin, and I run my thumbs along the side of his neck as he removes my other boot. The footwear hits the floor with a thud when he casts it aside, and for some reason this strikes me as supremely hilarious. I laugh from my belly and can’t stop.
“There. I won’t have you breaking your neck your first night here.” His hands are still on my leg, one under the outside of my knee and the other skimming my inner thigh. He raises his face to look at me, and I stop laughing. Full lips parted, a spark of blue lights up the irises of his hooded eyes.
“You’re so beautiful,” I mumble. I mean it to be an internal thought but it pops out from between my lips of its own accord.
A crooked smile graces his lips. “You’re drunk.” His wrist reaches the hem of my dress, mid-thigh, and I lean harder into the cool wall in an effort to balance the heat he’s putting off.
“Maybe,” I agree. He strokes higher, until a shiver travels the length of me, from the place where he gently rubs to the roots of my hair.
There is something I’m supposed to say now, something I’m supposed to do. I can’t remember. I could no sooner hold a thought within the wavy confines of my brain than capture the flicker of the candles in my palm. I’m spinning and warm, tingly. Mute, I sink my fingers into his hair and tip his head back, then lower my mouth to his. Welcoming my kiss, he softly caresses my lips with his own, then cups the back of my neck to pull me closer.
With his hand stroking around my hip, he stands and pulls me flat against his chest. The power ebbs and flows between us, our connection growing. The spark within me begs for release. I can feel the heat catching in my throat, my skin coming alive with blue twisting veins of energy. His body is reacting in the same way, filling the room with light and warmth. I tug on his hair and force the kiss deeper, running my fingers along the nape of his neck. I wrap one leg around his—weightless, burning, totally in the moment.
“No.” He stops and pulls away. I desperately want him to move in the opposite direction, to touch me in an intimate way. I’m ready to come out of my skin for want of him and there’s nothing to stop us here. No rules or elders or expectations.
I grip his shirt to keep him close. “Please.”
To seal my invitation, I grab the hem of his shirt and lift it over his head, placing my hands on his bare skin underneath. His eyes widen. With a shaky breath, he steps into me again, hands sliding over my ribs. I run my nails across his abs and along the muscles of his back.
“Lydia…” Korwin groans and shakes his head. “You don’t have to do this.” I trail kisses up his neck to his ear. “You shouldn’t.”
I suck his earlobe between my teeth. His eyes flutter closed and he pitches forward slightly, resting an elbow against the wall. One hand skims up my spine to my nape.
All at once, he unbuckles the collar at my throat and tosses it on the dresser, making a face like it sickens him. The overture makes me smile. Our lips meet and the familiar snap connects us once again. Hot energy pours down my throat and out of my fingertips into his skin, a complete circuit. Hotter we burn, until we glow like a star. I’m relieved that this room is made of concrete because I can’t control the heat I’m putting off and I can’t stop. I won’t stop.
Korwin grabs my wrists, panting, and pushes me away, not roughly but with enough strength that I can’t misinterpret his intentions. One step, then two, he retreats, his face contorting in pain.
“Kor—” He cuts me off by raising one hand.
“Get into bed,” he says, pointing at the brown wool blanket beside him.
“Yes. Better.” I do as I’m told, leaning back on my elbows.
He shakes his head and moves for the door.
“Where are you going?”
“To save us both from a huge mistake.”
“It’s not a mistake,” I say, ignoring the slur of the S sound as I say it. “If things had gone as planned, we’d already be married.”
Korwin places his hands on his hips and hangs his head. “We would be, but we’re not. You deserve better than this. We both do.”
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