3: In Which She Isn’t Glad She Came
The fireplace was moving.
According to my phone, it had just gone past midnight and I was curled up on the couch with a blanket reading a well-thumbed copy of Carrie. So, given the ominous circumstances, I was entitled to be creeped out…because the fireplace was moving.
I hadn’t even noticed the stupid stone-carved thing until I saw a section of the wall slowly swing open, like a door. In a castle like this, ghouls were inevitable and since my old Chasing Ghosts character, Bibi, hunted ghouls for a living, I was duty-bound to be badass and check it out.
But maybe after this chapter, I thought, giving the tattered novel in my hand a wistful look before glancing at the partly-open fireplace
“Fucking dust,” the ghost muttered, ducking its head and creeping out from under the mantel.
The “ghost” turned out to be Nikolai, which was just my damn luck.
“What the hell do you want?” I hissed, jumping to my feet so quickly everything on my lap went tumbling to the carpet.
He was too busy dusting himself off to answer me so I took that opportunity to march over there and peer into the space he’d crawled out from.
Amazing. Dim lighting inside revealed that there was a passageway; a stone passageway that probably linked to other corridors behind other walls. I was so engrossed by thoughts of eighteenth-century Alvonich children scampering about behind the walls that I didn’t realise that Nikolai had closed what little space between us that there was.
Once again, I jumped like a cat thrown into water. Nikolai was sniffing me. Sniffing my hair like I was…like I was a flower.
“What are you doing?” I murmured, trying to get as much space between us as possible. “You want an autograph or something? Is that it?”
It was incredible that I was able to string complete words together and make inflections at the end that indicated a question. No sane woman would have been strong enough to do the same when this man was in a pair of freaking silk boxers alone that left little to the imagination. Not that I was imagining.
In fact, I was only more aware of my own state of undress. The flimsy tank top I wore revealed that my nipples couldn’t withstand the cold and my cotton boxers were practically nonexistent.
Nikolai laughed loudly, his eyes scanning my front. “An autograph?”
“Why are you here, then?” I took a defensive step back when he moved forward. “I think that’s far enough.”
He paused mid-step, making an exaggerated show of inhaling loudly. “God, are you using apple-scented shampoo?”
“What?” I sputtered, because that was so left field I just had to have imagined that.
“I smell it now – just like I smelled it that night,” he said thickly, tilting his head to one side. “That explains why apples get me hard.” Ignoring my obvious hostility, he crowded over me, invading my personal space. “Still crawling into men’s beds and calling them Mikhail? You sure as hell know how to bruise a man’s ego.”
“Fuck you,” I spat, drowning in his freaking intense eyes as they pulled me in. “I’m not that Vegas woman. I’ll do more than give you a black eye. You can bet on it.”
His lips crooked into a wry smile. “Pussycat is such an applicable pet name for you, Ophelia.”
I didn’t want him to say my name; didn’t want him to be here. It was bad enough that I’d had to suffer through dinner with him – a dinner that included him becoming my father’s new best friend – but for him to be in my bedroom half-naked? It was just too much. All the memories of what his body was capable of doing to my body filled me with an intense longing. A longing I wasn’t supposed to have.
“You must’ve been running low in the pussy department if you seriously remember a mistake that happened nearly seven years ago,” I sneered, “because I certainly don’t. It wasn’t that memorable.”
“Oh?” He arched an inky brow. “I saw the look on your face tonight, up there on the rooftop. Like a deer in the headlights.” He surprised me by leaning forward, his hot breath fanning my ear. “Were you afraid I’d tell everyone how you bucked and sobbed and begged when I was fucking you?”
I shuddered, but not with disgust, as I realised seconds later. No, this was a spastic reaction to such a dirty question – filthy, really – because his wording had succeeded in turning me on. Dammit, why can’t he be as prudish as Mikhail?
“Cat got your tongue, kotik?”
I felt him smiling against the shell of my ear because I felt his lips against my skin. They were soft, so soft it was as if I were imagining the feel of him there. The heat radiating from his body as he further leaned in scorched me; my skin, my insides. He was only a hair’s breadth away from me, so close that I could feel the bulge of his…
“Wow,” I groaned, and that was all the invitation Nikolai needed to kiss me.
The next few embarrassing sounds I made were swallowed up by his mouth. He fisted a clump of my hair in his hand, tilting my head for a better angle. Gripping his shoulders, I pressed my breasts against his chest and whimpered when his fist around my hair tightened in answer. Our tongues curled together before I pulled at his, sucking on it like I’d never tasted anything better. He released a low groan of pleasure into my mouth.
But I needed more, which was why I almost cried with gratitude when Nikolai slid one thick thigh between mine. It was hot, rigid muscle nudging against my aching apex and I ground myself against it, moaning when Nikolai cupped my ass and heaved me up, raising his knee and putting pressure where I needed it the most.
“I’m going to fuck you soon, Ophelia. Fuck you until my name is the only one you know,” he grunted sharply, his mouth already trailing gentle, teasing kisses full of promise down the hollow of my neck. “What’s my name?”
“What?” I couldn’t even remember mine, not when the only thing that mattered was seeking friction between my clit and the cords of muscle in this man’s thigh. Locking one leg around his hips, I pressed myself into him, grinding towards something that felt so freaking incredible. It had been a long time since I’d gotten this hot and I didn’t know where to go from here because we were not going to fuck. Absolutely not. Especially not when just this felt so good.
“My name, myshka,” he ground out, squeezing my ass in his hands. “What the fuck is my name?” And he bit down into the soft flesh of the crook of my neck.
I cried out, arching my back and inadvertently brutalising my clit in the process. Two things happened in that instant: One, I realised that that smidgen of pain – the sensation of his teeth biting into my skin – was absolute heaven. And two, I came.
All over his leg like a bitch in heat.
“Oh, my God,” I panted when I realised.
It had happened so fast and honestly, I wasn’t used to the…explosion. After all, it had happened only once before. Mortified, I snarled for Nikolai to put me down.
He did, examining the exposed, tanned – how the hell was he tan in this icy wasteland? – skin of his thigh.“Did you just…?” He skimmed a finger along the trail of slickness I’d left and brought it to his lips, flicking his tongue out to taste it. I needed the ground to open up for me. “Shit,” he said breathlessly, giving me a look of pure wonder. “You’re so responsive.”
“Leave,” I whispered, still shell-shocked. “Dammit, please leave, Nikolai.”
He stared at me for a long time before reaching out and gently brushing a lock of my coal-black hair out of my face. “You're seriously embarrassed about that?”
I chewed on my bottom lip and narrowed my eyes up at him, nearly succumbing to his pale blue orbs. “What exactly is that, huh? A little wetness between my legs?” I gave him a fake laugh. “Here’s something you might not know. I was thinking of someone else and he made me wet. Not you.”
Nikolai dropped his arm to his side. “Is that so?”
“Yeah. I don’t know what game you're playing here but you can’t expect me to believe that you’ve been holding a candle for me all these years.”
It was his turn to laugh. “Holding a candle to you?” Once again, he was in my personal space and I had nowhere to turn, nowhere to look but at him. “I have a plan, little cat, that involves fucking any and every single woman coming to this wedding. You were my first stop tonight but certainly not my last.”
I swallowed. “Get. Out. You're disgusting.”
He laughed again. “You don’t really mean that, kotik,” he drawled as he turned on his heel and strode to the fireplace. Before he bent, he called over his shoulder, “Next time, why don’t you wait for me to actually touch you before you come all over me?”
I was one minute away from committing patricide. Killing my father had never crossed my mind until today when all I could think about was shooting him and his new best friend in their heads.
Since the snow had more or less thawed and the sun was peeking out from behind a silver cloud, the bridal party was finally allowed to get a tour of the castle grounds. Most of the remaining guests – who were mostly made up of Inga’s and Mikhail’s fellow undergrad students and Inga’s extended family – had arrived and completed our modest group of people strolling through the grounds. There weren’t as many people as I’d expected and Inga had explained that she wanted to make this the smallest, most intimate Ruslavian royal wedding in history. They hadn’t even invited any foreign heads of state.
“Wanna tell me why you’re looking a tad bit homicidal this wonderful morning, O?” Savita chirped in my ear, linking arms with me. Since we were both in parkas, her death-grip was slack.
I directed my “homicidal” look at my best friend. “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Sue me.”
“I think I will,” she quipped, flashing me a grin, “for not turning that frown upside down.”
“What’s got you so chipper this morning?” I asked, although I had a bad feeling that I didn’t want to know.
Someone laughed at the front of the herd – my dad – and I had to force myself to remember that patricide – well, murder in general – was illegal.
“Ryan did this tongue thing last night that was so good, I swear I saw stars and stripes.”
I knew I wouldn’t want to know, I thought, curling my top lip in disgust. TMI and Sav knew each other well.
“Well, that explains the radiant glow,” I muttered dryly.
“Or it might be the baby.”
I froze and ended up inadvertently jerking Sav back. “You’re pregnant?”
She giggled. “Not so loud, Ophelia! We don’t want to upstage Mick and Inga.”
I put my hands on my hips and inspected my friend. She’d always been a tiny thing but that hadn’t stopped her from being an extrovert. With Sav, dynamite definitely came in small, bronze-skinned packages. I couldn’t see her belly through the thick jacket she wore but her hair was pulled up into a tight schoolteacher’s bun on the top of her head, accentuating the definite glow she was radiating from every pore on her face.
“But you’re only twenty-five.”
Sav’s face fell, her pouty lips becoming a thin line. “So what? Is there a golden rule against falling pregnant at twenty-five? Oh, right, there is – The Ophelia Shaw Life Plan.”
“I wasn’t criticising you, Sav,” I insisted. “It’s just…wow. You haven’t gotten your degree yet and –”
“God, Ophelia, not everything’s planned but dammit, Ryan and I are happy and that’s what matters,” she snarled, making me take a surprised step away. “You’re my best friend and I expected you to at least pretend to be happy for us but wow, Ophelia Shaw just has to be the voice of so-called reason.”
“Sav, come on,” I started, but she was already stomping off to join the rest of the group.
Shoving my hands in my pockets, I followed at a slow pace behind her. I hated fighting with Savita but this time, she was the one in the wrong and I wasn’t about to go crawling to her for forgiveness for something I hadn’t even said. I was happy for her, just surprised. She and Ryan hadn’t even really established themselves financially so how could they bring up a baby together?
Not everything’s planned…
Her words came back to me as we approached the stables. Mikhail was going on about the horses’ names and breeds, things I couldn’t care less about. I wasn’t in the mood to ooh and ah over his whinnying horses.
“If looks could kill, PETA would be on your ass about a couple of dead horses,” a voice said in my ear.
How had I not noticed Nikolai moseying up to me? In a plain white T-shirt and camouflage pants, he was more than noticeable – the only idiot that dared to step outside without layering up.
“I’m surprised you were able to detach yourself from your new Siamese twin long enough to talk to me,” I retorted, aware that I sounded irrational and petty.
“You mean Devin?” He let out a husky laugh that went straight to my groin. “Are you perhaps…jealous, little cat?”
“Of my dad?” I raised a brow. “Whatever you're high on, give me some.”
He chuckled. “I hope you know how lucky you are to have a father like him. He talks nonstop about you and your brother.” He grinned. “I especially love the story of his interrogation of your first boyfriend.”
Horrified, I spotted my dad and shot him a glare which he pointedly ignored. My father could embarrass me with just a few anecdotes. Thankfully, he didn’t drink, which meant his tongue would never be loosened with alcohol to divulge my extremely humiliating moments.
“About last night, Ophelia –” Nikolai began soberly, eyes holding mine.
I cut him off with my forefinger against his lips, ignoring the surprise in his eyes.
“Let’s not do this. I’m a big girl; you're a big boy. We can forget about…what happened.”
Back to the rest of the group, he parted his lips and drew my finger inside, his eyes still fixed on mine. He sucked on it and for some reason, that was one of the sexiest things I’d ever seen. Or felt.
Which was why he had to stop.
I pulled my hand back and my finger was released with a pop. Nikolai winked at me before yelling at his nephew, “Hey, Misha, why don’t you show everyone the maze? People could definitely get lost in there.”
The greenery of the hedge maze was partly-covered with remnants of snow but that only made it look that much prettier. I had to admit that the seven-foot wall of shrubbery was impressive. The expanse of green was like a horizon, extending as far as the eye could see.
Someone came up with a dumb idea of seeing who could make it to the heart of the maze – a fountain – first. Surprise, surprise, that “someone” was Nikolai. Before I knew what was happening, I was being jostled by the sheep that were eagerly heeding their shepherd’s call. Like hell was I going to do this.
“Such a spoilsport, myshka,” Nikolai teased. He was standing at the entrance, beckoning me to join him.
“Don’t call me that,” I muttered automatically. Google had informed me last night that he was calling me a little mouse, which, logically, was worse than being a pussycat.
“What, a spoilsport?” He advanced, amusement playing across his face. “Ophelia, I want to apologise for last night. Will you let me?”
I sidestepped him and strolled through the maze entrance, breaking into what could only be described as a trot. Getting lost in here was a better option than getting lost in Nikolai’s stupid, stupid blue eyes.
“Ophelia.” He was already close behind me and only had to stick a hand out to grab me and whirl me around. “Stop. Running.” He said each word through clenched teeth.
“I’m not running!” I snapped, trying to wrench myself away. “I’m trying to find the idiotic fountain. Isn’t that the idiotic game someone suggested?”
“That was only so I could talk to you in private.”
“I don’t want to talk to you. You were expressly clear about having your pick of wedding guests last night. Now please, Nikolai, act like an adult and take no for an answer.”
Nikolai was beautiful when he was angry. I’d never thought of any man as beautiful but in that moment of fleeting rage, this particular man was loveliness personified.
“No?” He jerked me to him and I squeaked when we collided. He held me to him. “What’s the matter, little cat? You seem to be shaking. Cold?”
“I have a boyfriend,” I sputtered.
“Bullshit,” Nikolai scoffed. “Devin mentioned that you're single.”
I flushed. Composing myself, I said, “I don’t tell my father every little detail of my life. If I did, he’d know about how you took advantage of me all those years ago.”
“If I remember correctly, I was the one who was taken advantage of,” Nikolai claimed, looking so serious I almost believed him. “I was sleeping peacefully when, suddenly, my cock was abused in a most demeaning fashion – as a substitute for another.”
“You’re a juvenile miscreant,” I hissed in disbelief, before hitting his chest. “Let go of me or I swear to…”
My voice trailed off when I felt it; the unmistakable hardness in his pants pressed so close against me. Just like last night, I reverted to a tongue-tied pubescent teen in the presence of her first male appendage.
“If you continue to look at me like that, I will throw you down and fuck you,” Nikolai murmured, the darkening of his eyes telling me that he meant it.
I ran my tongue along my bottom lip, suddenly parched.
“I think you like it when I talk dirty, kotik,” he pronounced, smirking at me. “Can you feel my cock? Of course you can.” He ground it against me and try as I might, I couldn’t suppress the moan that escaped my mouth. Nikolai regarded me with satisfaction. “When I fuck you – and I will – I will take you every which way I know. Hard. I know you like it rough, little cat, and I like giving it rough.”
“Stop it,” I fiercely protested, but my hands were fisting his T-shirt and my toes were curling in my leather boots. “You’re supposed to be a prince,” I finished lamely.
“Since you’re so responsive, I’m going to eat you out because when you’re bucking and coming into my mouth, I’ll need your mouth free so you can scream my name.”
I jerked against him. How was it that the handful of times I’d dared to bring a guy home, I’d had awful, none-orgasm-inducing sex that had left me scarred for life but this man was able to get me so close with words alone?
Nikolai tilted my chin upwards and my eyes automatically fluttered closed. Every nerve in my body sang a celestial hymn when his lips touched mine. This time, he was slow. My back bowed and I pressed my breasts against his firm chest. Nikolai groaned into my parting lips, cradling my face in both hands as he traced his tongue along the seam of my lips. I held on tight because if I didn’t, I got the feeling that I’d collapse in a heap of sexual frustration.
Tongue to tongue, we made love to each other’s mouths. I’d never thought of it that way but that was what it felt like. His tongue mimicked the steady slide of a cock and my mouth acted as the wet heat of a cunt.
Clearly, that wasn’t enough for Nikolai.
Growling, he snaked an arm around my waist and grabbed my ass. I ran an appreciative hand up his shirt and he shivered from my cold touch but didn’t shrink away. I traced the contours of muscle and the hollow of his navel before I moved upwards, fingers gliding across his pectorals.
I pinched a nipple between two fingers and he shuddered.
“Ophelia,” he gasped.
I was about to say his name in response but from somewhere behind me, someone cleared their throat.
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