No Man Can Tame (Page 54)
“Yes, really,” he answered. “Tomorrow.”
Aless kissed his cheek once, then again, then his lips, then slowly claimed his mouth, her fingers raking up into his hair as she leaned into him, a soft moan humming in her throat.
“Hold that thought,” he murmured, although his body had different ideas. As she smiled mischievously, he cleared his throat and led her out of the antechamber and into the bedchamber, where on his table was his copy of A Modern History of Silen. “I know we already gave each other Offering gifts in Bellanzole, but I wanted to share this with you.” He held it out to her.
Her eyebrows rose as she took it, paging through it to get to the blank pages—only, some weren’t blank anymore. He’d filled in the details of their journey, sketched in drawings of, well, mostly her. Nearly all of them—well, if he were honest, all of them, her.
She traced a sketch of her in the duchess’s garden, surrounded by lavender and pixies, and gasped. “Veron, this is… This is stunning.”
He stepped in closer to her and brushed her voluminous dark tresses over her shoulder. “My father taught me, when we used to study sky realm flora and fauna together. I hadn’t drawn anything since he died.”
For a long time, he hadn’t wanted to do anything that had reminded him of Ata, and yet he’d become one of the volodari, just like him. The knot of pain Ata had left behind had untangled, faded, and he understood now. Understood what it meant to be ready to do anything—anything—for those he loved.
“It’s beautiful, Veron,” she whispered, and brushed his lips with hers. Smiling, she pulled away. “I’m not sure mine will mean as much…”
“You got me something?”
Her face bright, she rushed to one of her trunks, opened it, and pulled out a box. “You see, when I wrote to Bellanzole from Dun Mozg, I might have included a certain request to Lorenzo.” She handed him the ribbon-wrapped box.
Raising an eyebrow, he pulled the ribbon undone—some days, he did miss the ease of his claws—and opened the lid.
Inside lay a pair of boots—perfect, supple, well-oiled leather, buttery soft, and—
“Try them on!” she urged.
“You found time in a war to ask your brother for boots?” he asked with a laugh.
She nodded happily.
He did pull them on, and—Holy Ulsinael.
He walked a circuit in the bedchamber, shifted on his feet, crouched, jumped, all while Aless laughed.
“By Deep and Darkness, you laugh, my love, but these—these boots are the most comfortable I’ve ever—” He leaned back into the heel, but it was just… pillowy… and…
She covered her mouth as she giggled. “Lorenzo’s cobbler is born of a long line of cobblers, only he was born an enforcer, too. He uses his skills and his magic to make what Lorenzo calls ‘the shoes of the gods.’” She smirked.
“Holy Ulsinael, he’s not wrong, Aless. These boots are—they’re—” It was unthinkable, but he almost wanted to go on a hunt right now. Almost. But it would be some time yet before Mati would allow him back among the volodari.
“Oh! One more thing,” she said, clapping her hands together.
After making the Offering with Aless and lifebonding with her, if there was a thing in this realm that could make this day any better, he didn’t know it.
“Close your eyes.” Her dark gaze practically sparkled. What was she planning?
He did as she asked and then sank into the bed.
There were flitting footsteps, and the creaking of a hinge, more quick steps, rustling, and—
“All right. Open them.” Her voice brimmed, and he was laughing under his breath when he opened his eyes.
By Deep and Darkness, it was the sheer red thing. His laughter ceased instantly.
She leaned against the wall in that ethereal red nightdress from their wedding night in Bellanzole, and its folds of thin fabric teased shadows and planes beneath a crimson veil. It hung from her frame by thin, delicate straps, its sheer fabric pooling on the floor.
Her shoulders and her long, elegant arms were bare, so much of her soft, beautiful skin bared to him, and his fingers clutched the mattress as they longed to touch her. That night in Bellanzole, he’d been prepared to do his duty as ordered, and neither of them had been ready for it, not in the least, but this image of Aless in her sheer red nightgown had lingered in his memory, more and more in the past couple of weeks.
And here she was now, as if she’d stepped out of that night into this one, his brave, intelligent, beautiful wife, his love, his Aless.
By Deep and Darkness, he wanted to see her, every part of her, commit her to memory, and know her by the tip of a finger or the curve of a collarbone.
Biting her lip, she took slow steps to him, stood between his knees, stroked through his hair, over his shoulders, along his jaw, and he closed his arms around her, pulled her in and down to him as he moved deeper into bed. His hands found the smooth skin of her back as her lips met his, as her kiss deepened, as she breathed the same air, and he rolled her over, pinned her to the bed.
Gleaming dark eyes danced as she looked up at him, a smile playing on her lips. “What will you do to me, dark-elf prince?”
He huffed a soft breath. Oh, he had plenty of things in mind, but above all one. “Love you till the end of time, Aless. Till the end of time.”
The autumn wind gently rustled through the trees as Veron headed to the site of the library construction. Leaves of gold, red, and russet descended from the sunlit canopy.
He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Although it wasn’t uncommon for him to visit Aless during the day, it was rare indeed when she went to the trouble of inviting him. By note, no less.
He nodded to his fellow stavbali—Mati still had him on building projects instead of back hunting with the volodari—and to the Stone Singers and inzenyri. It had been four months since the library announcement, and the exterior of the building was almost complete. The longest task had been hauling in the stone for the Stone Singers, and as strong as his people were, the stavbali weren’t omnipotent. He rotated his shoulder, as if he’d helped haul the stone just yesterday.
A sea of large white pavilion tents surrounded the construction, and beneath one were two ladies surrounded by children with quills and paper. Her blessedly dark hair dancing in the breeze, Aless removed one of her hands from her lavender cloak and waved at him before hiding her coy smile with a finger.
She spoke to Gabriella, then bid the children goodbye and trotted over to him while he jogged to meet her. Encircling her in his arms, he kissed her, allowing his fingers to slip through that silken hair of hers. Holy Ulsinael, he was a lucky man.
Pulling away, she smiled softly, her gleaming dark eyes searching his. Her smooth fingertips grazed his jaw, and her little smile widened. “Aren’t you going to ask me why I invited you here today?”
He huffed. “Surely you know by now I’d never question a blessing, my love?”
Her cheeks colored, and she nudged him with her shoulder before taking his hand. As they strolled toward the library, she rubbed the small of her back a little, and he replaced her hand with his.
“You work too hard,” he said. Since the start of the project, there had been nothing she hadn’t done, from trying to help haul the stone to attempting to build the furniture. She’d kept herself busy even before she’d organized school for the local children and anyone who wished to learn.
“I can’t help it,” she replied, but he already knew that. “When your dream comes true, you don’t rest on your laurels. This is only the first of many libraries, Veron.”
Her vision sprawled wide, and he’d move mountains to achieve it with her.
“Besides, after our lifebond, I’ve never felt stronger in my life,” she said brightly as they entered the building.
He snorted. “I didn’t expect it would be such a thrill to a mortal, but… again, I don’t question blessings.”
“With this one, neither will I.” She leaned in, and they headed toward the east side of the library, where the first panels of stained glass had already been put in. They depicted a rose, a shared beauty between the humans and the dark-elves.
She looked up at it, sunlight pouring through reds and greens, then at him, and his breath caught. Her face glowed with the dazzling colors, and when she smiled, she was a goddess in the flesh. “Veron, I’m with child.”
His eyebrows shot up, and he scrambled for breath… and words, any words. But alas, all he could muster was inhalation, exhalation, frown… inhalation… pause, a word—no, false alarm—
She stifled a laugh, but her eyes were half-moons. Her hand squeezed his.
He pulled her into his arms, kissed the top of her head. “I was already the luckiest man alive when you said you loved me, Aless. And somehow, by Deep and Darkness, you’ve given me a fortune more.”
A quiet gasp, and she leaned into him, clinging to him as she sniffled softly. “I didn’t know if it could happen—I wasn’t sure. But then my moonbleed didn’t come for the second month, and when I went to Xira, she said… She said we’re going to have a baby.”
What he wouldn’t have done to be in the room and hear the news with Aless. “I can’t wait to meet her, my love.”