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“I’ll answer a question,” he said, “for a kiss.”
“How very nefarious,” she muttered dryly.
“I’m a monster, aren’t I?”
“You should slap me and run off into the light.”
“Oh, piss off. Slap you and break my bloody wrist, more like.”
“I can’t help it if my bones are particularly sturdy.”
“Why are they so sturdy, again?”
He grinned at her innocent tone. “A kiss, love.”
“Fine.” Before he could grasp what was happening, she darted up on her toes and pressed her lips to the corner of his mouth. Every fibre in his body seemed to shatter, to explode on impact, as if the slight, chaste brush of skin against skin were the most erotic thing he’d ever felt.
And then she was gone, pressing herself back against the wall as if she could sink into it, her lashes lowered. “There. Now answer the question.”
It took him a moment to find the wherewithal to speak, but he tried to sound unaffected. Luke had a feeling that with Chastity, the slightest slip of control might be taken as permission to ride roughshod.
Not that he’d mind her taking advantage of him, once in a while.
“That wasn’t a real kiss,” he said. “You missed my mouth.”
“It’s dark,” she scowled. “Except for those bloody eyes of yours.”
“Thanks to these eyes,” he said patiently, “I can see you just fine. So we’ll do it again, and I’ll kiss you.”
“Nope. My kiss counts. You never said it had to be on the mouth.”
He smiled slowly, glad that the shadows hid his satisfaction. Ah, she had no idea what she’d just walked into. “Alright. Fair enough.” He enjoyed the expression on her face for a moment, all adorably pleased, as if she’d just won a prize. “Like all healthy, cursed beasts beholden to the moon, I am physically stronger, faster and sturdier than the average human. Higher bone density, more powerful muscles, magic, blah blah blah. And I believe I have a stronger immune system.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I’ve never gotten sick,” he said. “That was another question, Chasity. You owe me a kiss.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’re a pervert.”
“You know,” he said reasonably, “you could always reject my bargain. Or at least, you could if you weren’t determined to prove yourself useful to a family who have, for some reason, denied your skills as a huntress. But since you are determined to do so, and since you also secretly want to kiss me, why don’t you be a good girl and let me take what I’m owed?”
She gaped at him like a particularly pissed-off fish. Then, finally, she spluttered, “Don’t psychoanalyse me, you inhuman prick.”
“How am I supposed to support you in overcoming your insecurities—”
“Call me insecure again and I will scoop out your eyeballs with a silver spoon.”
“—if I don’t put effort into understanding you? And Chas, we both know you’re never going to attack me again. I’d be open to play-fighting, though. You’re very sexy when you’re trying to remove my vital organs.”
“What on earth are you blathering on about?” she demanded. But she didn’t sound as brashly confident as usual, or as disgusted and dismissive. She sounded, beneath that iron voice of hers… unsure.
He didn’t like that, because he knew she must be uncomfortable. Chastity appreciated certainty, which meant that he appreciated certainty for her. That was what drove him to say, his words painfully blunt, “I want to mate you.”
There was a heavy pause. Then, finally, she said, “I wish I didn’t know what you meant by that, but…”
“Context clues?” he guessed helpfully.
“Context clues,” she agreed.
“How do you feel about it?”
“Horrified, obviously. I don’t think I need to tell you that whatever matingme entails, it’s never going to happen. Unless you force me.”
He ground his teeth together and breathed through his nose for a moment, her scent ironically comforting as he fought down nausea and fury in equal measure. Then, his temper and his roiling stomach under control, he gritted out in his best imitation of calm, “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.”
“Um… are you okay?”
“Do you care?” he snarled, the moonlight-fine thread of his control finally snapping.
“Yes,” she clipped out, her voice equally harsh. And then they both faltered, blinking at that unexpected response. There was a heavy pause as she swallowed, the sound loud in the silence. Distantly, he recognised the rumble of passing cars on the nearby street, the open-and-shut of a door somewhere close, a faint conversation across the block. But that evidence of a world beyond the secret space between them wasn’t enough to drag Luke out of this moment, this precious breath of time when her eyes met his without aggression, when her pretty lips parted not to attack him, but to drag in air.
When she was just as affected as him, and unable to hide it.
His heart pounding, his beast growling hungrily for more, he leaned closer. “Chastity.”
“Mm?” she hummed, the sound unsteady.
“May I have my kiss, now?”
She took a deep breath, then gave a jerky nod.
“Say it,” he murmured.
Her voice was whisper-fine. “Yes.”