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A Soul of Ash and Blood: Chapter 64

THIS IS REAL

Poppy hid nothing as she bared herself to me, even though she trembled. Even though no one had seen her like this. She was that brave, that bold, and I was rooted where I stood, my heart thundering in my chest as my gaze left hers, following the sweet flush down her throat.

I’d seen a lot of bodies. Women. Men. Slim ones. Round ones. Those in between. Bodies that were smooth and absent of perceived flaws. Others whose flesh reflected a life lived. I’d seen bodies I’d completely forgotten, but I knew I’d never seen anyone like her.

Poppy had to be a goddess.

Because, my gods, she was absolutely breathtaking—every bit of the unending, lush softness of her curves. The fullness of her breasts and their deep rosy tips. The slight indentation of her waist and the way her hips flared, the lushness of her thighs and the hidden valley between them. I saw the scars she’d told me about before—the marks Craven claws had left behind on her strong forearm, the softness of her belly, and the ones on her inner thighs, and they too were beautiful—a testament to her strength and resilience.

“You’re so damn beautiful and so damn unexpected.” I rasped as I lifted my gaze to hers, more eloquent words failing me because looking upon her felt like both a sin and a blessing. A reward I had not earned.

But one I would take.

I moved faster than I probably should’ve, but I wasn’t thinking. I’d stopped the moment she undid that sash on her robe. I wrapped her in my arms, and then I took her mouth. There was nothing gentle in the way I kissed her. All my hunger and want came through.

And then I lost myself in her.

Poppy reached for my tunic at the same time I did. It hit the floor as I kicked off my boots. My breeches went next, and then there was nothing between us.

I stood where I was, letting Poppy look her fill, and she did. Her gaze traveled slowly over my chest and stomach, then lower.

“The scar on your thigh,” she said, staring at the faded brand. “When did you get it?”

“Many years ago, when I was dumb enough to get caught,” I said, brushing several strands of her hair back. Normally, I hated when someone mentioned the brand or looked at it, but with Poppy? I didn’t care.

I didn’t care about anything but her, nothing but right now.

Poppy’s gaze inched away, and I knew the moment she saw exactly how much I wanted her. She drew her lower lip between her teeth as she stared. My cock throbbed.

“You keep looking at me like that,” I told her, “and this will be over before it starts.”

Her cheeks flushed an even deeper pink. “I…you’re perfect.”

My chest seized because, fuck, I wished I were. If I were, I wouldn’t be here. “No, I’m not. You deserve someone who is, but I’m too much of a bastard to allow that.”

The skin between her brows creased as she stared up at me. “I disagree with everything you just said.”

“Shocker,” I murmured, curling an arm around her waist.

The way she inhaled at the contact of our bodies was fucking addictive. I lifted her, taking her to the bed. I carefully laid her down and then came down over her.

I held myself back, giving her time, even though every part of my being strained to feel the length of her body against mine, to discover what it felt like to be deep inside her. But this…this was a first for her. A lot of firsts. And I’d never been anyone’s first. I wasn’t perfect, but I wanted this to be that for her.

I slowly let some of my weight settle against her. I shuddered at the feel of her legs against mine.

Poppy swallowed. “Are you—?”

“Protected? I take the monthly aid,” I assured her, speaking of the herb that ensured unions weren’t of the fruitful variety. “I assume you’re not.”

She gave me that cute little snort.

“Wouldn’t that be a scandal?” I teased, skimming my hand over her right arm. The scars there were deep. How she hadn’t lost the arm or her life was beyond me.

“It would, but this…”

My gaze lifted to hers, and it felt like the entire keep shifted beneath and all around us. There was a skipping motion in my chest. The nape of my neck tingled as we looked at each other. My heart sped up. This moment…it felt like it had always been coming. As if every choice I’d made—that we’d made—had led to this. It was a crazy feeling, completely senseless, and yet… “This changes everything.”

I brought my mouth to hers, and this time I held myself in check. I mapped the line of her mouth with mine. I kissed her slowly, drawing her lip into my mouth and then parting her lips. I wanted to kiss her harder, deeper, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t let her feel the evidence of who I was like this, but I kissed her until she trembled beneath me, until I knew she wanted more.

Then I let myself explore.

I trailed my fingers down her throat and over the slope of her shoulders to the sweet swell of one breast. I flicked my tongue against hers as I felt her hardened nipple beneath the pad of my thumb. Her back arched, and her breaths against my lips turned quick and shallow. I drew my fingertips down her stomach, skating over the thin, jagged scars there and then lower, slipping my fingers between her thighs, through the soft dusting of curls.

Poppy cried out at the featherlight touch. I grinned, obsessed with how responsive she was. It would be a dream to tease and taunt her, to be cruel in the most decadent way and drive her to the brink of insanity with need. But there was no time for that.

There likely never would be.

Pain sliced through me, and for a moment, I thought she had drawn that dagger and put it to my chest. I stilled, my fingers moving gently over the softest part of her as my gut twisted—

She lifted her head, artlessly pressing her mouth to mine, jarring me from my thoughts. Her inexperienced kiss was…it was truly fucking magical, more seductive than any I’d experienced before.

I shuddered as I lifted my mouth from hers and then followed the path of my fingers. I kissed the side of her throat, a little startled by the urge to linger at her pulse. As I kept going, my jaw throbbed almost as intensely as my cock. I drew my lips over the delicate line of her collarbone and then tasted the skin of her chest. I slowed, my gaze flicking up. Her eyes were half-open as I pressed my lips to her nipple. She gasped, fingers clenching the sheet beneath us. Watching her, I drew the turgid flesh into my mouth.

Poppy’s moan brought an answering groan from me as she moved restlessly, guided by instinct. I grinned and then went lower, drawing my tongue over her stomach. She tensed as I neared her scars, and even as brave as she was, I knew having me so close to them worried her.

I would show her she had no reason to worry.

Drawing my mouth over the healed wounds, I pressed a kiss to them, paying them the respect they were due. Her breath caught, and I went even lower, below her navel. I hooked a hand around her thigh, spreading her to fit the width of my shoulders. My mouth inches from the damp curls, I looked up at her.

“Hawke,” she whispered.

I grinned. “Remember that first page of Miss Willa’s diary?”

“Yes.”

Holding her gaze, I kissed between her thighs. Poppy’s back bowed. I didn’t look away. Neither did she, but my heart pounded as I drew my tongue over her, sampling her, and gods, she tasted so damn good. So fucking sweet. I dipped my tongue into her heat, muscles throughout my body clenching with want. I shifted my head, flicking my mouth over the taut bundle of nerves.

Poppy’s hips rose, drawing a rumble of approval from me. I watched as I drew her clit into my mouth. Her head fell back as she writhed.

Fucking gods, I could come just from the taste of her, the sight of her breasts rising and falling rapidly, the jut of that stubborn chin, and the way she so sweetly gave herself over to the wildness building in her.

And I could feel it, the tremor in her legs, the quiver in her breath. I feasted on her, licking and sucking until I was drowning in her scent. Until I knew I could survive on her taste.

“Oh, gods,” she gasped, fingers digging into the sheet. Her legs straightened. “Oh, gods, Hawke—” She cried out, her body jerking and trembling as she came. Her spine flattened against the mattress as her unfocused gaze met mine.

I took one last taste of her, then lifted my head. As she watched, I drew my tongue over my lower lip.

“Honeydew,” I groaned. “Just like I said.”

Poppy shook, and I smiled.

The ache in my cock and jaw intensified as I prowled up the length of her body, clasping the nape of her neck. She watched me with those hooded emerald eyes and shivered as my thighs brushed hers. My godsdamn arms trembled when I positioned myself above her once more. Her eyes closed.

“Poppy,” I whispered, the desire for her becoming primal. I kissed her, letting her taste herself on my lips as my cock pressed against the hot dampness. My heart raced as I stared down at her. “Open your eyes.”

She did as I asked. “What?”

“I want your eyes open,” I said.

“Why?”

I laughed. “Always so many questions.”

She let out a soft little gasp. “I think you would be disappointed if I didn’t have any.”

“True.” I slid my hand from her neck to her breast.

“So, why?” she asked.

“Because I want you to touch me,” I said. “I want you to see what you do to me when you touch me.”

She shivered. “How…how do you want me to touch you?”

The way she asked that… It fucking killed me. “Any way you want, Princess. You can’t do it wrong.”

Slowly, she let go of the sheet. I watched her as she brought her hand to my cheek. Her touch was so gentle. She trailed her fingertips along my jaw, then my lips, and I felt that caress in every part of my body.

Then she explored as I had, gliding her hand down my chest, drawing a quick, deep breath from me. She continued between us, tracing the muscles of my lower stomach. When she reached the line of coarse hair below my navel, I might’ve stopped breathing. I sure as fuck didn’t move, other than to make lazy little circles around her nipple with my thumb. Not until the tips of her fingers brushed my cock.

My entire body jerked. “Please. Don’t stop,” I begged when she halted. “Dear gods, do not stop.”

Poppy did as I pleaded, her gaze locked onto me as she drew her fingers along the base of my cock. My lips parted as she followed the vein, stopping midway to curl her fingers around me. My head kicked back. I trembled as exquisite pleasure rippled through me. Her grip loosened, and my breathing picked up as she slid her hand to the tip. My entire body shuddered as her hold tightened once more.

“Gods,” I growled.

“Is this okay?”

“Anything you do is more than okay.” I groaned as she dragged her palm against my cock. “But especially that. Totally that.”

Poppy laughed and then did it again. My hips followed her movement, need rumbling from my chest.

“You see what your touch does to me?” I asked, pumping against her palm.

“Yes,” she whispered.

“It kills me.” I lowered my head, soaking in how she looked up at me. I’d never felt such anticipation, such pleasure. “It kills me in a way I don’t think you’ll ever understand.”

Her gaze searched mine. “In a…in a good way?”

Gods, it undid me. I lifted my hand, cupping her cheek. “In a way I’ve never felt before.”

“Oh,” she said softly.

Lowering my head, I kissed her as I eased onto my left arm. I slid my hand from her cheek down the length of her as I reached between us. My hand replaced hers. “Are you ready?”

Her chest rose against mine as she nodded.

“I want to hear you say it.”

The corners of her lips tugged up. “Yes.”

Thank fuck. “Good, because I might have actually died if you weren’t.”

Poppy giggled, causing the skin at her eyes to crease.

“You think I’m kidding. Little do you know.” I kissed her as I guided the head of my cock to her entrance. I pushed in, just a little, before stopping. I groaned at the feel of her heat and dampness. “Oh, yeah, you’re so ready.” I lifted my gaze to hers once more, seeing the flush had heightened. I grinned. “You amaze me.”

“How?” She sounded so confused.

“You stand before Craven with no fear.” I dragged my lips over hers. “But you blush and shiver when I speak of how slick and wonderful you feel against me.”

“You’re so inappropriate,” she muttered.

“I’m about to get really inappropriate,” I warned her. “But first, it may hurt.”

Her chest rose again with another deep breath. “I know.”

“Reading dirty books again?”

She bit her lip. “Possibly.”

I laughed, and fuck, that was stupid. It brought me deeper. Taking a deep breath, I pressed in slowly. She was slick with arousal, but she was tight. I didn’t want to hurt her. I’d rather tear out my fucking heart than do that, and maybe that should’ve concerned me, but I was too lost in the feel of her body accepting mine, her taking me, to dwell on that. Poppy’s hands went to my shoulders. I liked the feel of them there. A lot. Shaking, I clenched my jaw as I pushed in to the hilt. Gasping, her eyes closed, and she went rigid beneath me. Breathing heavily, I forced myself to remain still, even as I twitched all over.

“I’m sorry.” I kissed the tip of her nose, then each of her closed eyes, and both cheeks. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” she said.

I kissed her lips, then dropped my forehead to hers. I still didn’t move. Her body needed time. She needed it, not because of the pain she felt, but because pain, no matter how brief, tended to make everything real. She could change her mind now, and I would leave her, but it wouldn’t undo the choices we’d made to this point. It wouldn’t change that she’d crossed that line with me. That I’d crossed it with her.

Poppy’s chest rose against mine, and then her hips lifted—

Fucking gods, my beautiful, brave Poppy. I squeezed my eyes shut against the sensation of her moving along my length. I shuddered as she did it again, holding myself still until her grip on my shoulders loosened. I opened my eyes.

Then I moved slowly, watching her closely for any signs of discomfort. If I saw it, this would stop. I pulled back until only an inch or so remained inside her and then slowly eased back in.

Poppy’s arms slid around my neck, and another shudder took me. Her hips lifted, following my lead once more. Then we were moving together, her rising as I pushed down. A rhythm of give and take took hold. I still moved slowly, keeping myself in check. This was enough—the friction of her heat and my hardness, her soft moans, the feeling of her so damn tight around me. This was her first time. She didn’t need to be fucked. She needed gentleness.

But then Poppy…my beautiful, brave, and wicked Poppy, curled her legs around my hips, and my restraint snapped.

I shoved an arm under her head, clasping her shoulder as firmly as I held her hip. My mouth closed over hers. I thrust harder, faster, as I held her beneath me. Her mouth moved with mine as she moaned.

Tension built, and I knew I wouldn’t last long. Not after tasting her. Not after feeling her come against my mouth. Not when she was taking every plunge of my hips. I let go of her hip, moving my hand between us, finding her clit as I ground against her, my release building. It felt like descending into madness as I tore my mouth from hers, my gaze fixed on her features.

Poppy cried out, her legs tightening around my hips, and her body clamping down on my cock. She came, and that was it. Her spasms took me to the edge of that madness. My jaw throbbed. My lips parted as she unashamedly found her pleasure. I slipped my hand from between us and planted it on the bed beside her head, my fingers pressing into the mattress. My want for her was spiraling, tightening, and another kind of need took shape, a darker one. My gaze tracked over her swollen lips, her throat. Her pulse. My fangs pressed against my lips. Every part of my body tensed. My head started to lower, lips parting.

Poppy’s eyes fluttered open, locking with mine. She placed a hand against my cheek. “Hawke,” she whispered.

The sound of her voice caught me. I ground my molars as dual needs roared through me. My hand pressed into the space beside her head more, and I fought back the desire to sink my fangs into her as deeply as my cock and give in to my other desire.

My arm around her shoulders tightened, and then I fucked her. I took her hard—harder than I probably should’ve—driving our bodies across the bed. She felt too damn good, too damn perfect, and I’d wanted her from the first moment my lips touched hers. The tension spiraled. Release powered down my spine. I thrust into her once, sealing our bodies together as I came in waves of pleasure. I got a little lost in them, and the instinct I’d been fighting took over. I bowed my head, pressing in beneath her chin, forcing hers back. I found her pulse with my mouth as my hips churned against hers. My lips peeled back. My fangs grazed her skin. Poppy shivered, and a smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. I was poised, ready to strike—

Fuck.

I clamped my mouth shut, swallowing a groan as I pressed my chest against hers. My heart thundered as I fought back the hunger. It had been weeks since I’d fed, but I didn’t need to. I could go much longer. The desire for her blood had nothing to do with that. It had everything to do with her, and never in my life had I experienced that kind of need with a mortal.

I had no idea how long it took for that to happen, for me to trust myself with her. I slowly became aware of her fingers sifting through my hair, but I remained as I was, still joined with her. I didn’t think I had a choice. The nearly all-consuming need to take her blood rattled me, not to mention the feeling of completion without even feeding from her. I’d never felt this before. Never. I didn’t know what it meant. Or maybe I did because I knew this was real. What was between us. What she felt for me. What I felt for her. This. It was real.

A rough breath left me, and I shifted my weight to my elbows. I turned my head, finding her mouth. I kissed her. “Don’t forget this.”

She splayed her fingers across my jaw. “I don’t think I ever could.”

“Promise me.” I lifted my head, catching her stare. “Promise me you won’t forget this, Poppy. That no matter what happens tomorrow, the next day, next week, you won’t forget this—forget that this was real.”

“I promise,” she swore with hesitation. “I won’t forget.”


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