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Midnight Rising (Chapter Twenty-five)

He didn't know what yanked him harder out of the dead fog of his mind: the feel of soft lips on his mouth, or the realization a split second later that he was holding a slender throat in his hands. Squeezing tight, fury flowing from the confusion of his blackout into the tips of his fingers where they pressed with deadly intent on a delicate female larynx.

He couldn't let go.

His eyes were open, but he couldn't focus on the face before him. He heard a choked gasp, a moan vibrating against his locked thumbs.

None of it broke him out of the thick darkness.

It wasn't until he felt soft hands come up to his face – his scars – that he felt the first glimmer of clarity.

Dylan.

Cristo…he was hurting her.

With a roar, Rio threw himself off her, releasing her the instant he realized what he was doing. He scrambled into the shadows of the unfamiliar surroundings, horrified at what he'd done.

Holy hell…what he might have done, if he'd held on any longer.

He heard her suck in a few rapid breaths of air behind him. He waited to hear her footsteps take off at a panicked run. He wouldn't have blamed her. He wouldn't have gone after her either. Not even for the purpose of scrubbing her mind in protection of the Breed and the secret let loose from that Bohemian cave.

If she ran now, she would have her freedom from him completely.

"Go, Dylan. Get far away from me…please."

He heard a rustle of movement as she got up. He closed his eyes, ready to let her go.

Praying she would.

Instead she drew nearer to him. Rio flinched as her hand landed gently on his head and then drifted slowly down his hair.

"Go," he rasped. "Before I lose my fucking mind again and do something even worse. For fuck's sake, I might have killed you just now."

He hissed as she knelt down beside him on the floor. With the slightest coaxing, she brought his head around to face her. "I'm okay, as you can see. You scared me a little, but that's all. God, Rio…how often does this happen to you?"

He scowled and shook his head, not interested in having this conversation right now.

"How do you get through it?" she asked. "I'd like to help you – "

"You can't."

He couldn't force his gaze away from her throat as he said it, hard as he tried to avoid looking at the graceful column of Dylan's neck. He hadn't bruised her – a small miracle – but he could still feel the velvety skin against his palms, the heat of her still tingling in his fingertips.

And there, near the hollow at the base of her throat, beat a strong, tempting pulse.

"You need blood, don't you," she said, too smart to miss the weakness that he couldn't conceal. "Would it be better for you if you fed?"

"Not from you."

"Why not, if you need it?"

He cursed, head still pounding from the lingering effects of his meltdown. "Your blood in my body will create a lasting, unbreakable bond. I would always feel you – be drawn to you – for as long as you are alive."

"Oh," she said softly. "And we definitely wouldn't want that. Not when you prefer to feel isolated and alone."

Rio scoffed. "You don't know how I feel."

"When did you start hating yourself?" she asked, unfazed by the fire he was throwing off with his narrow glare. "Was it after Eva betrayed you, or much earlier than that? Back in that forest cottage in Spain?"

He snarled, turning away from her before she stoked his anger any higher. He was volatile in his current state, a deadly predator teetering on the very edge of sanity.

Just another good reason why he should put the beast down. Before he hurt someone again. Before he let himself think that the future might hold anything of worth for him.

And damn well before he considered Dylan's reckless offer any longer than he had already.

"My mother's been fighting for her life for nearly a year. You can't wait to throw yours away."

"What do you think you'd be doing if you let me drink from you now?" he shot back, his voice rough, combative. A bit desperate, even. "I'm the last thing you need, Dylan. If you reach into the trap to pull me out, I can't promise I won't take your arm off in the process."

"You're not going to hurt me."

Rio grunted, a coarse, animalistic sound. "How do you know I won't?"

"Because I'm going to trust you not to."

He made the very grave mistake of turning back to look at her. With her eyes on his now, Dylan pulled her hair over to one shoulder and moved closer, until her neck was poised near his mouth. Rio stared at the exposed column of pale skin, his gaze rooting on the rapid tick of her pulse beneath the tender flesh.

He growled a violent curse.

Then he curled his lips off his fangs and sank them into her neck.

Oh…God.

Dylan's entire body seized up in the instant Rio's bite penetrated her skin. There was a sudden, piercing shock of white-hot pain, then…bliss.

Warmth filled her as Rio's lips fastened to the wound he'd made and his tongue coaxed her blood to begin flowing into his mouth. He drew from her with a needy intensity, his fangs grazing her skin, his tongue creating a demanding, delicious friction with each hard, wet pull at her vein.

"Rio," she whispered, her breath leaking out of her in a long, shuddering sigh.

He made a low noise in the back of his throat, a rumbling growl that vibrated through her skin and bones as he eased her down beneath him to the floor. His strong arms cushioned her, the heat of his body warming her as he covered her.

Dylan melted into him, losing herself in the dizzying pleasure of Rio's darkly erotic kiss. She was burning up inside. She writhed beneath him, desire swamping her as he held her close to him and drank more of her blood.

He was on fire too.

Dylan could feel the rigid line of his cock pressing against her hip as he lay atop her. His thigh was wedged between her legs, spreading her open. She wanted to be naked with him. She wanted to feel him driving into her as he suckled at her neck. She moaned with the need that was rising up in her, making her grind against his thigh.

"Rio…I want…Oh, God, I need to have you inside me."

He groaned thickly, his pelvis kicking as he pushed the stiff ridge of his erection harder against her. But at her throat, his suckling grew less needy now, slowing to a calmer tempo. Tender, where Dylan wanted to feel more fire. She felt his tongue sweep over the bite, creating a tingly sensation that traveled through her like electricity. He lifted his head and Dylan moaned at the loss of his mouth on her skin.

"I don't want you to stop," she told him, reaching for him. "Don't stop."

He gazed down at her and said something low under his breath in Spanish. It sounded furious and profane.

Dylan stared up into his scorching amber eyes. "Now you hate me too, right?"

"No," he snarled, fangs gleaming in the dim light of the candles.

He pulled one arm out from under her and touched her face. His fingers were shaking, but so very gentle. He smoothed her hair off her brow, then let his hand travel slowly down her cheek, her chin, and along the line of her sternum. Dylan sucked in a sigh as he caressed her breasts. He unbuttoned her shirt in mere moments, then snapped the front closure of her bra.

"You're so soft," he murmured as his palm covered her bare flesh.

He moved down and kissed her nipple, sucking the pearled tip of her breast into the heat of his mouth. Dylan arched up with the sudden arrow of pleasure that shot through her, her desire spiraling tight as a spring.

Rio came back up to kiss her mouth as he worked the button and zipper of her jeans loose and slipped his hand inside her panties. The coppery tang of her blood on his tongue shouldn't have made her so hot, but knowing he'd fed from her – that he'd taken strength and comfort from her body in such a primal, intimate way – was the strongest aphrodisiac she'd ever known.

And what he was doing to her with his fingers now almost had her coming in his hand.

She cried out, on the verge of losing it. "Rio, please…"

He stripped out of his shirt and pants, then pulled her jeans off. Her panties went slower, as Rio kissed every inch of skin between her thigh and ankle as he eased the scrap of satin down from her legs and cast it aside.

He sat back on his folded knees, gloriously naked. "Come to me, Dylan."

She wanted to explore the muscled beauty of his body, but her need for him was more immediate. He took her hands and brought her up onto his lap. His sex thrust up between them, a thick spear of hard flesh. Its broad head glistened with moisture, so temptingly ripe Dylan couldn't resist bending over it and sucking him deep into her mouth.

"Cristo," he hissed, his cock leaping against her tongue.

He tunneled his fingers into her hair as she teased him with a few slow slides up and down the rigid length of him. When she lifted her head, Rio's eyes burned into her. His fangs seemed immense now, his face drawn taut. He caressed her as she climbed up onto him and straddled his thighs.

He kissed her breasts, her shoulder, her throat, her mouth.

"What have you done to me," he rasped, throwing his head back as she took hold of his sex and guided it into the slick cleft of her body. "Ah, fuck…Dylan."

She seated herself onto him and slowly sank down to the hilt.

Oh, it felt good.

Rio filled her with a heat she'd never known before. At first, Dylan could only hold herself there, unmoving, reveling in the pure heaven of their joined bodies. Rio wrapped his arms around her as she began a slow, shuddering rhythm. He met her stroke for stroke, his erection kicking, surging deeper with each downward thrust of her hips.

It didn't take long for Dylan's climax to build. She'd been more than halfway there before they started, every nerve ending alive with sensation and looking for release. She rode him harder, clutching his shoulders as the first wave of her orgasm flooded over her. She cried out with the pleasure of it, quaking inside, splintering into a million shimmering pieces.

Rio's possessive growl as she came made her smile. He hooked his arms under hers and leaned down, guiding her back onto the floor, their bodies still intimately joined. He drove into her, a hard push of his cock. His tempo was urgent, fierce, full of barely restrained power.

Dylan held on as he rocked against her, reveling in the feel of his muscles bunching and flexing under her palms. Overhead, the candles threw erotic shadows on the ceiling, the flames flaring brighter as Rio buried himself deep inside her and shouted with the force of his release.

As Dylan stroked his strong back, she felt like weeping for the depth of pleasure she'd just experienced with him…and for the voice in her head that warned she would be a fool to fall in love with him.

A fact she had to admit, had already come to pass.

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