Lydia laughed as she watched Seth trying to figure out how to work her iPod. Only he could look that sexy with a frown so stern while wearing a set of black in-ear headphones that trailed down both sides of his head.
"This was made by a demon, too, wasn't it?" His voice thundered in the room.
Lydia pulled out one of the earphones. "You're talking really loud. You should always take one of these out when you speak so that you don't accidentally shout at people."
"Oh. Sorry." He sighed in frustration. "I don't get how this plays music."
"Well, it doesn't just play music. You can use it for all kinds of things. I have pictures in here, games, even movies."
"What kind of pictures?"
Lydia shrugged. "I have some of my house in England." She scrolled through her album until she found one of her living room, then she held it out to him so that he could see.
Seth studied the sedate room that was decorated in greens and yellows. It was very understated and yet also feminine. "It's nice."
"I like it." She scrolled to another photograph and held it out to him. "That's my backyard."
It reminded him of a jungle. Still it was serene and inviting. In all honesty, he felt a little guilty over keeping her here with him when she could be home right now had he not kidnapped her.
She would have been safe. But for him.
"You must miss it."
Without responding, she leaned forward to show him again how he could toggle around the photos. "Just press this and it'll scroll right through."
He did as she said, and discovered more photographs of her home and of her neighbor's yard. But when he got to one of Solin and her with their arms wrapped around each other, all the happiness inside him died.
How could he have forgotten about Solin?
Because you wanted to.
Yeah, but that didn't make it right.
Lydia placed her hand on his. "Seth? What's wrong?"
I'm a jerk and a sucker. That's what's wrong.
Most of all, he was a fool.
Seth couldn't speak at first as guilt overwhelmed him. When he found his voice again, he glared at her. "How could you..."
She continued to play the wounded innocent in this. "How could I do what?"
Seth showed her the photo of her with Solin. The love and happiness on their faces ... He deserved to have the crap beat out of him over it. He should never have touched her. "How could you cheat on Solin after everything he's done for you?"
She gaped. "Excuse me?"
His temper mounted at her feigned indignation. She had no right to be angry at him for defending the man she'd screwed over. "You heard me."
Lydia was so stunned by his assumption about her relationship with Solin that she was at a complete loss for words.
His gaze narrowed even more. "Are you trying to think up a lie to excuse it?"
Now that, that set her temper off, fast. It took everything she had not to slap him. When she spoke, it was through clenched teeth. "I don't have to think up anything." She raked him up and down with her gaze. "I ... you-I-I..." She kept sputtering and stuttering in outrage.
"He loves you so."
"And I love him!" she snapped.
"Then how could you have had sex with me, knowing that?"
She gestured at Seth's lower extremities. "Because I can't have sex with him." She almost choked on the word.
The very thought of sex and Solin nauseated her.
"Why not? Is he impotent?"
She shivered in revulsion. "No ... I don't know. Why would I know? Ew! Gods! Stop that! Ew! Ew! Ew! I don't want to think about that area of his body. As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't have one of those, and nothing other than his feet exists below his waist." She made a gagging noise as she slung her hands in the air, repulsed beyond endurance and disgusted by the very thought of Solin having sex with anyone. "Yes, I know I'm being childish, but I don't care. That's how I feel about it. Yuck! Who wants to have sex with their father? Gross, gross, gross ... Gross!"
Seth sat back on the bed, unbelievably stunned. And not over her outrage and overreaction. Was any of that true?
"What?" he asked.
"Yeah," she snapped, jerking her head at him, "you heard me. Incest doesn't run in my family, buddy. Just so you know."
Okay, now he had the distinct impression that she was insulting him. "What are insinuating?"
"You're the one with the family tree that doesn't branch." She illustrated said tree with her fingers. "How many Egyptian gods slept with their brothers' and sisters' wife's mother's uncle's dogs? Hmm? I ask you?"
He wasn't quite sure if he should be offended or amused by her attack on his family. Honestly, he had no real feelings for any of them other than hatred and disdain but ... "Have you visited your pantheon lately?"
"We're not talking about my pantheon, here. Are we? No. We're insulting yours."
Seth was definitely amused now. "Well, just so long as we have that straight..." Which brought him back to what had started all of this. He sobered instantly. "Is he really your father?"
"Yes ... and you are absolutely the only single living person besides us who knows this. So if you tell anyone, I will know it and I will choke you until you ... do something that makes me happy."
Why did he find her vague and odd threats so amusing? Other than the fact that they were at least creative, he had no idea.
But he had to come back to one thing in her tirade. "Why did you tell me, then, if no one knows?"
"You were accusing me of being a whore. Thanks, by the way. I'm so glad to know you've been paying attention and taking notes in the Trust classes I've tried to teach you."
Now that reignited his anger. He didn't like for anyone to put words into his mouth. He always spoke plainly so there was no reason to misinterpret his meanings. "I didn't call you a whore."
"You implied it."
"I did no such thing."
"No?" She cocked her neck at him again, letting him know just how angry she still was. "Then I want you to run all of your words backward in your head and listen to them. Then put on my ears and listen to them again, and then tell me what you hear. If that doesn't spell whore in any language, I don't know what does."
She might have a point with that. But he didn't want to admit it right now. "Can we go back to when we weren't fighting?"
"Little late for that now, buddy. You should have thought about that before you opened your mouth." She started signing angry gestures at him.
He tried to follow and understand, but it made no sense to him whatsoever. "I've got to learn your language one day." Although, he definitely understood the last gesture she made at him. "You sure you're not too sore for that after everything we've done? I know I don't mind and I'm certainly willing to accommodate you."
She made a sound of ultimate disgust as she got off the bed and headed to the bathroom, then slammed the door.
Seth couldn't resist calling out after her. "Does that mean I should still be naked when you return?"
She stuck her head back through the door. "You know, I think I liked you better when you were menacing ... and quiet." She slammed the door shut again.
Those words took him back to how he'd lived in Azmodea and he felt all the amusement drain instantly out of his body. In some ways it seemed like a lifetime ago.
And in others, it was still right there, a painful wound that he was afraid would stir again and start throbbing.
But there was one undeniable truth. "I didn't like me then," he said under his breath. He much preferred talking, even fighting, with her than living that miserable life.
Subdued by his somber thoughts, he lay back on the bed that was covered with her sweet scent. He should shower too, but he didn't want to wash her off him.
He wanted to sit here and just breathe her scent in for as long as he could. He picked up his shirt from the floor where she'd dropped it last night after they'd returned from a run to the kitchen to find something to eat.
It, too, smelled like her. He lifted it to his nose to breathe her in at the precise moment she returned.
She wrinkled her nose in distaste. "Well, at least you're not sniffing your body parts, I guess."
Now there was an odd place to go. "What?"
"Nothing. But if you ever do that with my underwear, I will be so grossed out, that I will never, ever touch you again. Just so you know."
He would definitely commit that to memory. Not that he'd had any plans to sniff her underwear, far from it. But he didn't want to do anything to annoy her. "Any other rules I should know about?"
"Keep the toilet seat down at night, and don't eat the last potato chip. Ever."
"I will remember the seat, but have no idea what the other is." Maahes had forgotten to give him that knowledge.
"Good. Keep it that way and we'll get along famously."
She flounced back to bed.
"Are you still mad at me?"
"I am. Will probably be so for some time. Did you really think I was so slutty that I'd put one man at risk to save me and then turn around and sleep with the one who'd promised to hurt him?"
Seth felt a little trapped by the question. The one thing he'd learned with her was that if he said the wrong thing, she closed him out.
If he said the wrong thing and it really annoyed her, she wouldn't let him touch her at all.
He cared for neither scenario.
But before he could stop his mouth from opening, he spoke. "I'm rather surprised you slept with me given that he's your father."
Lydia raked him with another grimace. He would never learn to stop when he was behind. "You're impossible! I swear you learned your social skills from monkeys."
Seth's face fell as if she'd slapped him. He pulled the earphones out and set them and the iPod down. Without a word, he went to the window to stare out at the sea. Completely naked and oblivious to that fact, he made a striking pose there with his arms crossed over his chest.
She was still having to get used to his perfect unscarred body, and the fact that he had no modesty whatsoever.
Her heart thumped hard against her breastbone as she watched him. With no idea what had hurt him, she got up to join him there.
She pressed herself against his spine and wrapped her left arm around his lean waist. "I'm sorry if that hurt you." She rubbed her fingernail down his shoulder blade and kissed a spot on his bicep. "Could you at least tell me why?"
A tic started in his jaw. "It reminded me of something my adoptive mother used to say, and..."
Seth fell silent as he wrestled with emotions he'd never expected to feel again. He cared for this woman. He didn't want to hurt her, but most of all was a fear that he hadn't known since he'd been a child.
Fear that something or someone would take her from him and he'd be unable to protect her. But the worst was the terror that she'd become so disgusted with him, like everyone else had, that she'd leave him for it.
Please don't throw me away, too.
Just once, he wanted to be worth keeping.
"Seth?" She placed her hands on his hips to twist his body back and forth playfully.
He looked down into those haunting topaz eyes that branded him as hers every time he saw them. "It's nothing."
"Okay, but which word do I remove from my vocabulary, oh great knight who formerly said Ni?"
He drew his bows together as he tried to decipher her strange words. "Huh?"
She smiled at him. "It's a movie reference. So what word?"
"All right. No monkeys of any kind. Just remind me to move my sock monkey collection off my dresser when we get home."
When we get home ...
Those were the sweetest words he'd ever known. It meant that she saw a future for them.
So why couldn't he?
But every time he tried, he could only imagine himself with Noir again. Was he so scarred that he couldn't believe in anything else?
Or was it a premonition that told him he would never be worthy of happiness.
She trailed her hand slowly down the front of his body until she cupped him. Her fingers worked magic on his body as she massaged him back to life.
He had no idea how he could possibly get hard again. Not after the hours they'd already had together. But it didn't take her long to have him stiff and ready to fill her again.
Turning in her arms, he cupped her face in his hands and kissed her like she'd showed him. Then he scooped her up in his arms and returned her to bed so that he could taste her fully.
Lydia shivered as he laved her ear, then moved down her throat to her breasts. He seemed obsessed with those. But his attention this morning was for other things, she realized, as he nibbled a blazing trail down her stomach to the part of her that really should be sore by now.
Yet it wasn't.
She parted her legs, giving him access to do whatever it was he wanted.
His eyes half closed, he dipped his head down to taste her. She let out a pleasured yelp as he slid his tongue over her, then scraped her with his whiskers. Burying her hand in those soft curls, she watched as he teased her. It was as if he couldn't get enough of her body.
She certainly couldn't get enough of his touch. She rubbed herself against him as he delved deep inside her with his tongue. Biting her lip, she moaned as his fingers joined his tongue in tormenting her with pleasure.
Seth glanced up at her to see the fire in her eyes and the smile on her face while he licked her. He loved that she said his name whenever they did this. It let him know that she wasn't thinking about anyone else.
And now that he knew the truth about Solin, he was even more possessive of her.
She was his.
He gave her one long, slow lick. "Come for me, Lydia. I want to taste you on my lips again."
Lydia gasped as he returned his mouth to her and quickened the movements of his fingers. Reaching down, she laid her hand against his cheek so that she could feel the muscles of his working while he tasted her.
And in that moment, she obliged his wish as her body spasmed.
Then he crawled up her ever so slowly until he slid himself deep inside her while she was still climaxing. The sensation of his warm, thick fullness made her gasp as he began to rock himself against her hips. Fierce, long, hard thrusts that heightened her pleasure all the more.
Arching her back, she met each of his strokes with the same desperation he had.
"That's it, baby," she breathed as he found the perfect rhythm that never failed to leave her begging for more.
He laced his fingers with hers as he stared down at her while he thrust himself against her hips. She loved feeling him like this. Inside and outside of her.
Seth clutched her hand in his as he watched her staring up at him with the kindest gaze he'd ever known. No one had ever looked at him the way she did. Without disgust or condemnation. She was so small in his arms that at times he was afraid he'd hurt her by accident. But she'd been able to stand up to the worst of him.
Which made no sense because he knew that in the end, she was the best part of him. The only good part.
And he lost himself to her. With a pleasure so profound it burned his soul, he buried himself inside her up to his hilt and let his release flow. He held himself perfectly still as his body convulsed.
Sated and weak, he lowered himself over her, taking care not to put too much weight on her. But he didn't want to pull out of her quite yet. She wrapped her arms and legs around him and cradled his entire body with hers.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked him as she brushed his hair back from his face.
"Absolutely nothing except how much I like being inside you."
She wiggled her hips against his. "You do feel good there."
He kissed her, then pulled away to sit back on his legs so that he could study her body.
Lydia frowned as she watched him fingering her. "What are you doing?"
"I'm looking at the part of me that's on you." He touched the wetness between her legs and rubbed it into her with his thumb. "I don't ever want another man with you ... like this."
She shivered at the possessiveness in his tone. "What are you saying?"
I love you. But Seth couldn't bring himself to speak the words out loud. He didn't know how.
Still, she smiled up at him and then she started singing in the most beautiful voice he'd ever heard, a song that reached so far inside him that he couldn't breathe as tender emotions overwhelmed him. "I hunger for your touch. Alone ... and time goes by ... so slowly ... and time can do so much..."
While she sang to him, she reached up and laid her hand on the hollow of his cheek. He knew they weren't her words, but the way she sang them ...
It felt like they were and they went straight to a part of him that had never been touched before. They said exactly what she meant to him. And why he'd learned a new level of hell.
It wasn't the physical pain of Azura or Noir's cruelty. It was living a life without any beauty in it. Living a life with no laughter or teasing smiles.
A life with no Lydia.
Lydia lay there, staring at him as emotions played across his face. In that moment, she knew what he'd wanted to say and couldn't. And it was okay, because she didn't need the words. She could see it plainly in the way he looked at her as if terrified he was dreaming and at the same time so hungry that his light gaze seared her.
Taking his hand into hers, she folded his two middle fingers down and spread out his thumb, index finger and pinkie so that they were standing up straight.
"What's this?" he asked quietly.
"What you're not saying, but I hear it anyway." She kissed his folded down fingers and placed hers over his.
Seth stared at their combined hands that strangely reminded him of two halves of a heart that formed a whole one when placed together.
She was right. It was exactly how he felt whenever he was with her.
Her smile brightened the darkest part of him as she buried her hands in his hair and brought his lips down to hers. "I will never leave you alone again, Seth," she whispered before she kissed him. "I promise. Not unless you want me to."
And that he would never crave. How could he?
But as she made him blind with the ecstasy of her touch, he couldn't shake the feeling that this wouldn't last.
How could it?
He'd been cursed by his own father and thrown away by his mother. Even so, he wanted to believe in her promise.
If only he could. Yet in the back of his mind lingered the bitter doubt that all of this was only temporary.
He dipped his head down to taste her again. Just as his lips brushed hers, unimaginable agony tore through his entire body. Before he could do anything, it lifted him from the bed and threw him into the wall.