He stood in the path to the women's tent, deliberately blocking her way. He'd ignored her for days. Kept them all walking through the forest. And now Quinn wanted to talk, did he? What could he possibly tell her that could make all this right again? What apology would work?
Not that he seemed likely to do anything of the sort.
“Why?” She couldn't help asking the question, now that the anger had sputtered away. Fear, anger...she had used them all up by now. The only thing left was the hurt and the confusion. “It's going to storm soon. We ought to be inside...”
She stopped. Ara stared at Quinn, trying to assess him with all she had learned about him. Spy. Kidnapper. Now that she knew him for what he was, she expected to see...what? Scales? The evil inside him reflected outside? Ara fought a silly urge to cry. All she saw was the same intent eyes, the coiled energy barely held in check by Quinn's thin frame. He looked ill. She could tell now that there was a fever flush to his cheeks.
But evil? Repulsive? If only he looked what he was. Maybe then she wouldn't wonder what happened. Then she needn't question why, of all women, he chose her to betray.
He hadn't even wanted to mate with her. What he hadn't done to her shouldn't make her want to cry. Why would she want to be with a lizard man? What he had done should be reason enough for her to weep.
“I have to.”
“You have to destroy us?”
“I won't let anyone destroy you.” He sounded tired suddenly. He held the most inner energy of anyone she'd ever seen, but he was weary now. “I pledge that all of you will be safe.”
“You'll just kidnap us and threaten us first?”
“I don't threaten. Whatever I say I'll do, I'll do. I need you women to save my own men. There isn't much left for me, but I will take care of what is mine.”
Colors. More colors again, stronger than ever before. Red lust streaked from his body. Angry waves of purple billowed from the trees by the path. He'd grown more sensitive to the colors as he grew more ill. Quinn knew that as the colors grew more vivid, swirled closer to him, he must be closer to death. He had nothing left to fight them with.
Silver. Cool and bright. Beckoning.
Ara looked at him, silvery swathes of light dancing around her. Quinn clenched his fingers tight against his sweating palms. He was tired. Tired of taking care of his men. Tired of trying to be strong when he was weak. When he saw her walking on the path he gave in to the overpowering need to be with her. He'd wanted to stumble toward her, to scoop her up and gather some of that bright energy from her.
When had he turned into such a needy, selfish bastard? He disgusted himself. No wonder she despised him.
But he wanted her -- not just the silver aura she had -- but the real her. Ara had always been simply herself. She wasn't a comfortable person. There was no lying, no deceit in her. She told you what she thought.
He'd spent his last year spying and lying. He didn't need soft lies. He wanted something real.
No. No, that was impossible. There were so many reasons he needed to deny any honest attraction to her.
Wouldn't having her be the most selfish act of all?
For a moment the colors muted, graying and dying away. Die. He could die. Die and never know what she was like against him, what it was like to be inside her.
Flame his stupidity. He needed to make up his mind. What was he going to do with this female? A drop of rain hit his head. The last time they'd been together there had been a storm. He remembered. He remembered everything. They'd been back in her own keep and she'd nearly driven him mad with desire.
She looked at him directly and his breath caught. Oh yes, he was sure of what to do now.
Quinn was looking at her so strangely.
“Save you?” Ara began to ask when Quinn suddenly lunged closer, swooping in and covering her like a hot wind.
“Don't talk right now,” he muttered, right before he kissed her.
Devouring. Encompassing. Curse him, she was sinking right into the mindless lust-haze only he seemed to inspire. She didn't care.
“I don't care.” His muttered words echoed her thoughts. He paused, then went back for another quick, bruising kiss. He was breathing fast. “I ought to care about what I'm doing, how I should treat you -- but I don't. I can't. I just want you.”
Now she could slap him. Better yet, she could knee him. His cock was certainly a big enough target at the moment. She could run -- somewhere.
Ara hesitated. She slid her hand down, cupping his testicles. He groaned at her touch, pulled her even closer to him.
She could hurt him. Her fingers tightened and he groaned again. Ha. Quinn wasn't in pain, unless you called prolonging lust painful. He pulled her up tight against his erection, her hand still clasping his balls. His grasp was powerful, gripping Ara's buttocks, his palms under the folds of her skirt so his hands were directly against her flesh. They panted together. Then one finger circled her anus.
She cried out, jerked against him.
“You like that.” He whispered the words against her damp temple, stirring the tendril of hair with his breath. “Silvery maiden.”
“I'm not a maiden.” He was mad to call her so.
“I know. But I like to think you come alive only for me, moon goddess.”
Arrogance. He was full of it. But it was the truth, too. For some reason he was the one who made her breath catch and set her body trembling.
He pulled her up higher, then walked with her, his hands cupped under her rear, backing her up against a tree trunk.