The primale disappeared behind the glass, and Cormia watched him back up to the spray, his magni ficent hair flattening down as it grew wet. With a groan, he arched his back and lifted his hands to his head, his body forming an elegant, powerful curve as the water ran through his hair and over his chest.

Cormia bit her lower lip as he reached to the side and picked up a bottle. There was a sucking noise as he squeezed it over his palm once... twice... He returned it to its resting place, then brought his hands to his hair to massage his locks. Foaming clumps ran down his forearms and dropped off his elbows onto the tile at his feet. The spicy scent wafting up reminded her of the outdoor air.

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With her knees feeling unreliable, and her skin warm as the water he was in, Cormia sat down on the marble edge of the Jacuzzi.

The Primale took a bar of soap, worked it between his palms, and washed his arms and his shoulders. The scent told her it was the same kind she used and it mingled beautifully with whatever he'd washed his hair with.

To her chagrin, she found the suds running down his torso and his hips and his heavy, smooth thighs were worthy of jealousy, and she wondered if he would have let her join him. There was no way of knowing for sure. Unlike some of her sisters, she couldn't read the thoughts of others.

But really, could she imagine standing before him with her hands on his skin under that warm spray... ?

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Yes. Yes, she could.

The Primale went lower with the soap, down his chest and stomach. Then he cupped what was between his thighs, swiping his hands over and under his sex. As with the rest of his ministrations, he moved with disappointing economy.

It was a strange torture, a pleasurable pain to watch him in his private moment. She wanted this to last forever, but knew she would have to make do with her memories.

When he turned off the water and stepped out, she handed him a towel as quickly as she could to shield that heavy, dangling male flesh from her eyes.

As he dried off, his muscles flexed under his golden skin, tightening up hard, then stretching out lean. After he wrapped the towel around his hips, he reached for another and dried his hair off by rubbing the dense, wet waves back and forth. The flapping of the terry cloth seemed loud in the marble room.

Or maybe that was the pounding of her heart.

His hair was tangled when he was finished, but he didn't seem to notice as he looked over at her. "I should go to bed now. I have four hours to fill, and maybe I can start going through them now."

She didn't know what that meant, but nodded. "All right, but your hair..."

He touched it as if only just realizing now that it was attached to his head.

"Would you like me to brush it?" she asked.

An odd expression hit his face. "If you'd like to. Someone... someone once told me I'm too rough with it."

Bella, she thought. Bella had told him that.

She wasn't sure how she knew it, but she was dead certain¡ª

Oh, who was she fooling? He had an ache in his voice. That was how she knew. The tone was the verbal equivalent to what was in his eyes when he sat across the dining room table from the female.

And although it seemed petty, Cormia wanted to brush his locks in order to replace Bella with herself. She wanted to imprint a memory of herself over the one he had of the other female.

The possessiveness was a problem, but she couldn't change the way she felt.

The Primale handed her a brush, and though she expected him to sit on the edge of the deep bath, he went out to the chaise by the bed and sat down. As he put his palms atop his knees, he bent his head and waited for her.

As she approached him, she thought of the hundreds of times she had brushed the hair of her sisters in the bath. In this moment, though, the thing in her hand with all the bristles, was a tool she wasn't sure how to use.

"Tell me if I hurt you," she said.

"You won't." He reached over and picked up a remote unit. When he hit a button, that music he always played, the opera, swelled in the room.

"How lovely," she said, letting the sounds of the male tenor seep into her. "What is the language?"

"Italian. It's Puccini. A love song. This is about a man, a poet, who meets a woman whose eyes steal the only wealth he has... One look into her eyes and his dreams and visions and castles in the air are stolen by her and replaced by hope. He's telling her who he is now... and will ask who she is at the end of the solo."

"What is the song called?"

" ¡®Che Gelida Manina.' "

"You play it often, do you not?"

"It is my favorite among all solos. Zsadist..."

"Zsadist what?"

"Nothing." He shook his head. "Nothing..."

As the tenor's voice soared, she fanned his locks out across his shoulders and started at the ends, taking the brush to the waves in careful, gentle sweeps. The rasping noise from the bristles joined the opera, and the Primale must have been comforted by both, because his rib cage expanded as he drew in a long, slow breath.

Even when all the tangles were gone, she kept on going, continuing to smooth the wake of the brush with her free hand. As his hair dried, the colors came out and its thickness returned, the waves re-forming after each pass, the mane she knew as his emerging.

She couldn't keep this up forever. And what a pity. "I believe I am finished."

"You haven't done the front."

Actually, she mostly had. "All right."

She walked around to stand before him, and there was no ignoring the way he opened his thighs wide, as if he wanted her to come between them.

Cormia stepped into the space he made for her with his legs. His eyes were closed, his golden lashes down on his high cheekbones, his lips slightly open. His head lifted to her with the same kind of invitation offered by his mouth and his knees.

She took it.

Sweeping the brush back through his hair, she followed the loose center part that had formed. With each pull, his neck muscles corded to keep his head in place.

Cormia's fangs sprang out of the roof of her mouth.

The instant they did his eyes flashed open. Brilliant yellow met her stare.

"You're hungry," he said in a strangely guttural tone.

She let her hand with the brush fall to her side. Her voice gone, she simply nodded. In the Sanctuary, the Chosen didn't need to feed. Here on this side, however, her body demanded blood. Which was why she'd been struggling with lethargy.

"Why didn't you tell me before now?" His head tilted to the side. "Although if it's because you don't want me, that's okay. We can find someone else for you to use"

"Why... why wouldn't I want you?"

He tapped the artificial leg. "I am not whole."

True, she thought sadly. He was not whole, although it had nothing to do with him missing part of a limb.

"I didn't want to impose," she said. "That is the only why of it. You are comely to me with or without your lower leg."

Surprise flickered over his features, and then an odd pumping sound came out of him... a purr. "It's no imposition. If you want to take my vein, I'll give it you."

She stood motionless, held still by the look in his eyes and the way the features of his face changed as something came into his expression that she'd never seen on anyone's face before.

She wanted him, she thought. Badly.

"Kneel," he said in a dark voice.

As Cormia sank down onto her knees, the brush fell out of her hand. Without a word, the Primale leaned into her, his huge arms going around her. He didn't draw her to him. He undid her hair, all of it, the chignon and then the braid.

He growled as he fanned her hair out around her shoulders, and she became aware that his body was trembling. Without warning, he grabbed the back of her neck and pulled her into his throat.

"Take from me," he demanded.

Cormia let out a hiss that sounded like a cobra, and before she knew what she was doing, she nailed her fangs into his jugular. As she struck, he barked out a curse and his body jumped.

Holy mother of Words... His blood was a fire, first in her mouth then down in her gut, an all-powerful wave that filled her out from the inside, giving her a strength she'd never known before.

"Harder," he bit out. "Suck me..."

She ran her arms under his and sank her nails into his back and took great pulls from his vein. She grew dizzy¡ª no, wait, he was pushing her backward, taking her down onto the floor. She didn't care what he did to her or where they ended up, because his taste was all-consuming as she consumed him. All she knew was the fountain of his life at her lips and down her throat and in her belly, and that was all she needed to know.

Robes... her robes were being pushed up to her hips. Thighs... hers parting, this time hers parting by his hands...

Yes.

Phury's brain was up on a shelf somewhere, way out of the reach of his body, way out of sight. He was all instinct with his female's feeding, his cock on the verge of coming, his sole focus on getting inside of her before it did.

Everything about her, about him, was suddenly different. And urgent.

He needed himself in her in as many ways as possible, and not just the temporary kind of in that sex provided. He needed to leave himself behind, mark her up good, get his blood and his come in her, and then repeat the process again tomorrow and the day after and the day after that. He had to be all over her so that every fucking asshole on the planet knew that if they got near her they were going to tangle with him until they spit their teeth out and needed splints for their arms and legs.

Mine.

Phury yanked the robing out of the way of her sex and¡ª Oh, yeah, there it was. He could feel the heat come up and¡ª

"Fuck," he groaned. She was wet, welling up, overflowing.

If there had been any way to keep her at his vein while he went down on her, he would have shifted around in a heartbeat. The best he could do was whip his hand up and shove it into his mouth and suck...

Phury shuddered at the taste, licking and drawing at his fingers as his hips pushed forward and the head of his cock nudged at the entrance of her core.

Just as he pressed in and felt her flesh give way to his... that goddamn, motherfucking Primale medallion went off on the bureau right next to them. Loud as a fire alarm.

Ignore it, ignore it, ignore¡ª

Cormia's mouth broke its seal on his throat, and her eyes, wide, fuzzy with bloodlust and sex, lifted to the sound of the rattling. "What is that?"

"Nothing."

The thing shook even harder, as if it were protesting. Either that or celebrating the fact that it had ruined the moment.

Maybe it was in with the wizard.

Ya welcome, the wizard sang out.

Phury rolled off Cormia, covering her up as he did. With a nasty, vicious stream of curses, he pushed himself back until he was leaning against his bed and cradling his head in his hands.

Both of them panted while that slug of gold banged around the brush set.

The sound of the thing reminded him that there was no privacy between him and Cormia. The mantle of tradition and circumstance was all around them, and anything they did had huge repercussions that were greater than just feeding and sex between a male and a female.

Cormia got to her feet as if she knew exactly what he was thinking. "Thank you for the gift of your vein."

There was nothing he could say in response. His throat was too full of frustration and curses.

As the door shut behind her, he knew precisely why he'd stopped, and it had nothing to do with the interruption. Had he wanted to, he could have kept going.

But thing was, if he slept with her, he had to sleep with them all.

He reached up to the bedside table, got a blunt, and lit it.

If he slept with Cormia, there was no going back. He had to create forty Bellas... impregnate forty Chosen and leave them at the mercy of the birthing bed.

He had to be a lover to all of them and a father to all their children and a leader for all their traditions, when he felt as though he could barely get through the days and nights with only himself to worry about.

Phury stared at the glowing tip of the hand-rolled. It was a shock to realize that he would have taken Cormia if it had just been about them. He wanted her that much.

He frowned. Jesus... he'd wanted her all along, hadn't he.

But it was more than that. Wasn't it.

He thought of her brushing out his hair, and realized with a shock that she had actually managed to calm him in those moments¡ªand not just through the strokes of the brush, either. Her very presence eased him, from her jasmine scent, to the way she moved so fluidly, to the soft sound of her voice.

No one, not even Bella, could ease him down. Make the cage of his ribs loosen. Allow him to take a deep breath.

Cormia could.

Cormia did.

Which meant that at this point he craved her on pretty much every godforsaken level he had.

And doesn't that make her a lucky girl, the wizard drawled. Hey, why don't you tell her that you want to turn her into your new drug of choice. She'll be thrilled to know that she can be your next addiction, used to try and get you out of your fucked-up head.

She'll be thrilled, mate, because that's every lass's dream¡ª and besides, we all know how you're the king of healthy relationships. A real golden-boy winner in that department.

Phury let his head fall back, inhaled hard, and held the smoke until his lungs burned like a brush fire.

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