Copyright © 2012 Bonnie Dee & Marie Treanor
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Iris sponged at the spreading stain on her dress with a handkerchief dampened in water from a fountain. She didn’t know what tremor had caused her to spill the wine but was glad of the distraction and a chance to breathe fresh air. Her encounter with Hadriel was growing increasingly heated, and she didn’t want to go too far.
If you play with fire, you can’t be surprised when your fingers get singed, Lady Lambert’s voice nagged her.
Iris sighed. Hadn’t she decided earlier today she’d take advantage of this opportunity to satisfy herself with Hadriel? She’d sworn she would have one sexual fling to remember when winter nights in an old man’s arms grew too unbearably long. Yet here she was, dithering again. For heaven’s sake, she was as scatterbrained as Pansy, blowing this way and that on a whim. But something inside her was telling her that having sex with Hadriel would be a mistake. For it wasn’t him she wanted.
“Piss!” she threw the stained handkerchief on the flagstones where the breeze caught it, and it tumbled like a little white ghost across the terrace. Iris sank down on the nearest bench.
This should be so easy—enjoy a strings-free night of passion with a passionate prince from a magical realm—but she couldn’t relax and totally surrender to the experience. Thoughts of Will continued to distract her. She pictured his furrowed brow if he knew what she was up to, and she had no idea why his opinion of her behavior mattered so much to her.
“Will, you’re ruining my night,” she muttered.
A small sound, the catch of breath in a throat, brought her head up with a jerk. But she saw no one in the garden other than a necking couple on another bench, sheltered from revealing moonlight by tree branches.
“Who’s there?” she whispered, peering into the darkness.
This time, she had no doubt that an unseen presence was nearby. She felt the heat of a body right in front of her, heard the slight creak and rustle of clothing as the invisible being knelt or perhaps settled on its haunches. The hair on her nape prickled, and she half rose from the bench.
“I’ll scream,” she warned. “Someone will be here in seconds.”
“Don’t scream. I won’t harm you.” The voice was a mere whisper. She might’ve thought it was the breeze, but air couldn’t form words.
“Who—or what—are you?” Her eyes scanned back and forth as if she could force this mysterious entity to appear.
“Who do you want me to be?”
“I don’t want you to be anything. I want you, whatever you are, to go away and leave me be.”
“Is that really what you want, Iris?” The voice was suddenly close to her ear, so low, so soft and so seductive that her initial panic turned into a different sort of agitation.
Her breathing quickened as did the beating of her heart.
Something warm settled on her arm, a hand—not gripping, just resting there light and easy. A roughened palm began to stroke her bare skin, sending chills through her body.
Iris didn’t pull away. She should be running from this unknown entity. Considering she was in the land of the fae, the creature could be an evil spirit, perhaps twisted and obscene in physical appearance. It might be trying to seduce her soul as well as her body. She should be terrified. But she wasn’t.
She was entranced as the hand slowly stroked her arm, lifting the tiny hairs with a charge of energy. Another hand settled on her knee as the unseen being knelt before her, and then a breath of air warmed her face as it—he—leaned closer. Lips touched the corner of her mouth in a gentle kiss.
“You are so beautiful.” Despite the quietness of the whisper, the voice seemed familiar. And the touch. Iris struggled to grasp why, but her senses felt clouded, perhaps from too much honeyed wine, and she couldn’t focus her thoughts.
“Why do you come here, Iris? What do you want?”
“I like to dance, and a handsome escort awaits me inside, so if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Invisible.”
“Wait.” His voice was suddenly commanding, and Iris found herself rooted to the bench. “Kiss me first. Just once.”
“Why should I when you won’t even show yourself?” she answered tartly.
“I can’t. I’m under a spell, but perhaps one kiss from you will set me free.”
His breath brushed her lips. He was so near she had but to shift a little and their mouths would touch. The idea of such intimate contact with a mysterious stranger was intoxicating, and a little voice in her mind—different from Lady Lam’s nagging—murmured that this was exactly the encounter she’d dreamed of having tonight. Not Hadriel but this man was the reason she’d come here.
Iris leaned in, and the warm softness of lips pressed against hers. She tasted the salt and sweetness of an unseen mouth. Her eyelids drifted softly closed, and she could forget she was kissing an invisible man. All she need do was surrender, and as his hands stole around her and his body pressed close, she felt she’d come home.
He pulled away, and she exhaled a little sigh.
“All right?” he whispered, and another wave of déjà vu swept over her. She’d been asked that question by that exact voice many times. She felt this mysterious man was no mystery at all but someone very familiar to her; yet she couldn’t see her way clear to who he was. He might have been shrouded by a spell.
She nodded and answered breathily, “I’m fine. Kiss me again.”
He did, possessing her mouth with a ferocious determination that swept her off her feet, though she remained seated on the garden bench. His body pressed between her knees, bunching her skirts and weighing them down, and his hands pressed firmly against her back. She could feel the heat burning through her bodice into her skin.
His kisses continued, fervent, desperate, like a man grasping for a branch that would keep him from tumbling down a cliff. He might not have Hadriel’s seductive technique, but, oh, he made up for that lack in pure ardor. This was what it felt like to be worshipped with kisses.
He pulled away with an audible gasp and breathed her name. “Iris.”
“I know you,” she murmured in return. But I still can’t see who you are.
“Yes. You know me, and I, you.” She felt his weight leave her skirts as he stood. “Will you come with me now?”
“Someplace more private, for only one of us is invisible.”
Iris laughed and let him pull her upright and into his embrace. How odd she must look to anyone passing by with her arms wrapped around nothing, her eyes closed and her mouth opened to kiss the air.
“There’s a gazebo just down that path.” She tugged on his unseen hand, drawing him along with her to the trysting spot deep within a bower of scented flowers and diamond-dipped bushes. The gazebo glowed with prism-reflected light, unearthly in its beauty, awaiting a seduction.
Iris stood in the center amidst the sumptuous lounging cushions and faced what she thought was her invisible lover’s face.
“How do you want me?” Her voice sounded lower, huskier than normal, and the desire raging through her was like nothing she’d ever felt with Hadriel. She wanted to be told exactly what to do, where and how to move or position herself. She wanted this man to demand of her, and she wanted to give of herself completely. Perhaps she was the one under a spell, for her will was crumbling to nothing beneath the potent force of his unseen gaze.
“First, give me your permission to do with you exactly as I will; then I will mold and shape you and give you such pleasure as you’ve never known,” he promised.
“Yesss.” It was a sigh, an exhalation, a surrender and a vow. “Do with me what you will.”