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Saving Verakko: Chapter 14

The Swadaeth tunnel, built to transport precious goods from Mithrandir to the forest city of Sauven, had very little light. Partially because lighting the rarely used winding passage through the underbelly of the mountain would’ve been expensive and difficult, but mostly because only a Swadaeth could access the tunnels using a drop of their venom—and Swadaeth didn’t need light.

He’d only been walking with Lily clasped in his arms for a few minutes, yet it concerned him that the bitter scent of her fear had not abated.

“Don’t worry, I can see. I’ve got you.”

Lily’s body stiffened. “Let me down.”

Reluctantly, he did.

Once her feet hit the floor, she hissed. “Shit, it’s cold. Where are my shoes?” She reached out in the dark, her hands landing on his bare torso. Her fingers flexed before she removed them. Gripping her wrist, he guided her shoes into her hand, then held her steady while she slipped them on. Her skin was as cold as ice.

“There are rooms with hot springs along this route. I visited one a long time ago when I joined my mother’s convoy to Sauven.”

Lily remained quiet, but he could see her eyes darting around, unseeing and wide. She was shaking again. He made to wrap his arms around her, but she pushed away, shaking her head. “Let’s just get to somewhere we can stay the night.”

They spent the next hour walking in silence. He tugged Lily behind him, her hand clasped in his. His insides twisted at the contact, knowing she was only allowing the touch because she couldn’t see on her own.

Something had clicked in him back there during the attack. Lily was his. He had no doubts. But just because he was certain didn’t mean she would want him, and even if she did, he couldn’t ensure they’d be able to be together, at least not right now. He had to convince her to wait for him. He couldn’t see another way.

A dim blue glow illuminated the path ahead of them, and he pulled her in front of him. “Do you see that light? The spring is there.”

She tugged her hand out of his and walked away. Had he already lost his chance? Every instinct in him urged him to run after her, take her into his arms, and hold her until she softened against him the way she’d done before. But things felt different now. She was quiet and introspective and, if her scent was any indication, scared.

Normally, a mass of emotions played over her face whenever he looked at her, but now, her eyes appeared almost vacant, devoid of all feeling. Verakko jabbed his fingers through his hair and shuffled after her. Goddess, he’d never wanted to know a person’s innermost thoughts more than he did right now.

She reached the sealed entrance to the spring and stared up at the moss growing along the ceiling. It glowed a warm electric blue and could be found in the tunnel near any damp, warm, dark place.

Verakko activated the entry pad with another drop of venom and pushed the door inward. A blast of thick, steamy air burst out, and Lily released a small sigh of pleasure. She rushed inside and stared at the large glowing pool of steaming water.

He should wait outside, give her time to herself to collect her thoughts, but he couldn’t. He followed her in and shut the door, drawn to her like a magnet. The idea of letting her out of his sight after seeing her almost get taken away from him for good was unthinkable.

Verakko scanned the vaguely familiar room. The luminous moss grew in the cracks and corners of the stone walls and up into its high, domed ceilings. The light from it pulsed like glimmering veins and cast the hazy room in soft blue light. He bent to unlatch his boots, then toed them off, resolved to spend the night in the warmth.

Lily turned to him and ran her gaze over his bare chest. Verakko straightened, never as uncomfortable with a female’s assessment of him as he was now. Her jaw was clenched tightly in an inscrutable expression. She leveled her impassive gaze on his and swallowed.

“You…” She blinked and swallowed again. “You have blood on you,” she said, her voice no more than a whisper.

Verakko’s attention shot downward, and he found streaks, almost black in the dim light, across his forearms and chest. Was that why she was acting so strangely, because he’d killed that soulless Strigi?

He rushed to the edge of the pool and rinsed himself, but he kept his eyes trained on Lily. She didn’t turn to watch him, just stood rooted in place like a statue. Then she peered down at her shirt—his shirt—and, as though roused from a bad dream, began to struggle, trying to remove the wet fabric clinging to her skin.

Verakko crossed to her in an instant and helped her pull both his shirt and hers over her head, trying to keep his eyes averted from the thin scrap of see-through fabric covering her breasts. He threw the shirts out of sight while she splashed water on her neck and chest, ridding it of the blood that wasn’t there.

“Are you still hurt?” she asked over her shoulder.

“Hurt?” He scanned his own body, wondering if he’d been injured and hadn’t realized it. No injuries, he concluded. Was she asking out of concern for him? “No. I feel fine.”

She nodded, mollified, yet the look of barely contained anger on her face remained.

He reached out to her when she stood, but she slapped his hand away, then glared up into his eyes.

His heart picked up speed, and a small spike of anger went through him. Was she really upset with him for killing that male? A growl rumbled in his chest before he could contain it. “I had no choice, Lily,” he said with deadly calm.

Her face morphed into one of outraged disbelief. “No choice?” She took a step toward him. He took a step back. “No choice?” she repeated, taking another step.

“I had to kill him. He would’ve hurt you.” Verakko retreated a step again.

“I don’t care about that!” Lily’s hands flashed out, her small fists slamming into his chest in a loud thump. “You were going to leave me!” she snapped.

Verakko stepped back again, lost. “I would never leave you,” he argued, searching his mind to understand what she was talking about.

Her gaze grew fiery, enraged, and she pounded on his chest again. Pushing him farther back and against the door. “You were going to let him take you!” Tears streamed out from her furious eyes, and her scent of fear intensified.

Verakko’s heart thudded out of control in his chest. This fear is for me?

She slapped his shoulder hard, stinging his skin.

“Stop it, Lily,” he warned.

“He would’ve killed you!” She slapped again. “Or worse!”

He rattled another warning, then when she began to pound repeatedly on his chest, he snatched her wrists and spun her around, pressing her back into the smooth metal door and bracing her hands above her head. “Stop! Calm down!” he boomed, trying and failing to sway.

Lily stopped struggling and gazed up at him, face etched with anger. Her breath came and went in shallow gasps, her chest rising and falling in time with his. “You were going to let him take you away.” Her voice broke.

He inhaled deeply and bent so his gaze was level with hers. “You have to know I would’ve come back.”

“Your eyes were black. I don’t know how, but you were hurt in some way. And you were going to let him take you. What if you couldn’t get free?”

“I would’ve found a…a way to…” Verakko’s words stuttered out as her words finally registered. “My eyes?” The world around him slammed to a halt, the thunderous pounding in his chest freezing as though even his heart feared he’d misheard her.

I recognized her? She’s mine.

He peered down at her, his dry throat working soundlessly.

Her brows drew together. Then, without warning, she leaned toward him as far as she could with her hands still pinned above her and kissed him.

All thought fled. His mate was in his arms, safe, and she was kissing him. He released her wrists and ran his hands over her slippery body as though he’d never get another chance. Her hands flew to remove the scrap of fabric at her chest, then down to his pants. He palmed her breasts roughly as she fumbled with the fastenings on his pants. He groaned at the touch of her tongue to his and felt rare antivenom fork an icy path through the roof of his mouth, filling his fangs.

He slipped his hands beneath the loose fabric of her wet, thin pants, and they slid to the floor. Then, he palmed her ass, pulling her in close. Not close enough.

Lily slid a chilled palm onto the overheated length of his cock and whimpered sweetly into his mouth. He released her lips with a groan and descended on her neck, nipping and licking his way along the sensitive skin while she ran her hand up and down his shaft and scraped her nails across his scalp.

The scent of her arousal hung heavy in the air, driving him wild. He slipped his hands along the underside of her thighs, then gripped her ass, lifting her up and crushing her between his chest and the cool door. Lifting her higher, he sucked and swirled her dusky nipple until it pebbled.

Lily arched her back toward him and moaned softly as she dug her nails into his shoulder in the most delightful way. He lowered her again and touched her mouth with his, marveling at the sensations the new act created. Kissing felt more intimate than anything else he’d ever done, and he couldn’t imagine sharing it with anyone else.

She panted his name in between wet kisses and wrapped her legs around his waist, rolling her hips and gliding her slick folds against him. Anchoring herself with one arm around his neck, she reached between their bodies, pressed tightly together, and gripped his shaft.

Lily jostled him with her hips, trying to put a little space between them, but he remained unmoving. He pulled his head back and stared into her eyes. Using his body weight to pin her in place, he placed his palms on either side of her face.

Her cheeks, forehead, and the top of her nose were all flushed. Long, shaky breaths were sucked in between her red lips, swollen from his kisses. She rocked her hips against him again. Whenever the small nub at her entrance slid across the head of his shaft, she let out a little gasp.

It was becoming harder and harder to hold himself back.

“Are you sure?” he croaked in a husky voice, looking deeply into her gold-flecked eyes. “If we start, I’m not going to be able to hold back. I’ll have all of you tonight.” He let his eyes drift to her neck so she knew what he meant. “In all ways.”

Her brows furrowed, and she nibbled her lip.

He waited, his breath trapped in his throat, for her response. Finally, she gave a small nod.

“Yes?” he growled, his cock pulsing white hot in anticipation.

“Yes,” she said breathlessly. Her hand snaked between them again. He eased his hips back but kept his eyes locked on hers. One of his hands cupped the base of her skull firmly while his thumb rested under her ear, holding her head in place. The other slid under her ass, hiking her higher up his body.

When the head of his shaft was lined up with her entrance, pushing lightly, Lily panted and ran her hand back up his body slowly before stopping to grip his shoulder.

Verakko pushed into her only a little; electricity seemed to crackle along every nerve. They both let out a low moan. He rested his chest against her breasts and inched in farther. He felt her belly tremble and held still, letting her adjust to his size.

Lily released a frustrated groan and used her legs’ grip on his hips to bury his cock deeper inside her. He hissed, and his rattling growl resounded low in his throat. 

He pulled out, then pumped into her again. Hard. Lily let out a high-pitched cry, her eyes widening. He watched her face for signs of pain or pleasure or both and when he only saw pleasure, pumped into her again and again. Each time he was buried deep, she made little mewls of pleasure.

Her core was slick and hot around his shaft, squeezing tightly. He took her mouth with his, moving his hand to cup her ass. She tore her mouth away and pulled herself closer, wrapping her arms behind his neck, one hand tangling in his hair. Cries escaping her on every exhale.

Sweat poured off them, making his hands slip over her smooth skin. He stopped, hooking an arm below each knee, and flattened his palms against the wall. Forcing her legs to spread farther apart. He entered her again.

From this position, the hard, flat area of his pelvis, just above his shaft, rested flush with the small nub she’d toyed with to reach her orgasm the night before. He seated himself inside her and ground his hips against the area experimentally.

Lily moaned and nodded wordlessly, shuddering and grinding her hips in time with him. He rocked into her at a steady pace, making sure he rubbed the small area on each upward thrust. Her eyes fluttered closed, her body growing stiff, until she screamed, “Verakko! Yes, don’t stop.”

She threw her head forward, biting down on his shoulder, and then her sheath convulsed and she came, moaning and whimpering into his neck.

He withdrew and set her on her unsteady feet. “Can you keep going?” he rasped, hoping the rumor that human females didn’t need any downtime between orgasms was true.

Her dazed eyes grew confused, but she nodded. Without wasting any more time, he spun her around and pushed her front into the door. She was still panting, coming down from her orgasm when he slid his arm in front of her hips and flicked the small nub again. She cried out and bucked back toward him. He bent at the knees and slowly guided his length into her slick channel from behind, his muscles shaking with the effort not to grip her too firmly. The throbbing in his fangs grew almost unbearable.

Lily let out a low moan and sank against the door. He set a steady rhythm, rocking in and out of her while keeping his fingers curled around her small pleasure center.

Verakko brushed the hair from her shoulder and rumbled into her ear. “Lily, I’m going to bite you,” he ground out, barely able to utter the words.

Lily gasped and peered over her shoulder at him, gaze bleary with pleasure.

“I need to sway you first.”

A heartbeat passed and he thought she might deny him, but then she breathed “Okay” on a moan.

Verakko let loose his rattling purr, knowing he was going to mark his mate for the first time.

Lily’s breaths hitched, and she scratched against the door as if she didn’t know what to do with her hands.

“Open yourself up to me.” The percussion of his rattling purr drummed through his voice as he swayed breathlessly. “My fangs sinking into your neck will feel as good as my shaft sinking into your cunt.”

Verakko wanted to roar with pride when Lily frantically pulled her hair aside. He licked his fangs eagerly and ratcheted up the speed of his thrusts. He used the hand cupping her sex to urge her up and onto her toes, then slipped the other arm under her shoulder, between her breasts, and latched his fingers onto the opposite shoulder, binding her to his chest.

“I’m close,” Lily cried, rocking against his hand in time with his thrusts.

With a roar, Verakko sank his fangs into her, and she screamed.

He smashed her against the wall with rough, erratic pumps of his hips. The antivenom from his fangs leaked into her, and his eyes rolled back at the feeling of release. He inhaled deep, shaky breaths through his nostrils, the blood in his veins pumping with renewed purpose. He’d finally recognized her, and now he was marking her.

Her body stiffened once again, and she quietly chanted, “Yes, yes, yes.”

She choked out a high cry, and her walls clenched around him again, forcing his own orgasm to overtake him. He released her neck and bit the inside of his cheek to keep from bellowing and hurting her ears. Pushing into her as far as he could go and gripping her tightly, he groaned as his shaft pulsed jets of his seed into her.

They stood, plastered together, breathing hard until he noticed her legs shaking. He lifted her off the ground and kicked away their pants while gently kissing the puncture marks on her neck. Carefully, he waded backward into the warm water and dipped until their still-connected bodies were shoulder deep.

“Oh my God,” Lily moaned, resting her head back against his shoulder and running her palms over his arms, still banded across her front. “That was amazing.”

His purr rattled through him again, and pride expanded his chest. He licked and kissed the slowly healing punctures on her neck, marveling at how right they looked. “Did I hurt you?” He didn’t think he had, but he needed to be sure.

Lily chuckled. “Only in the best way. I should’ve known you’d be a little rough.”

He gently slipped out of her and nipped her lobe. “I’ll be anything you want me to be.”


The words replayed in Lily’s mind, and she wanted to believe them. Really, she did. But how could they be true? She squirmed to be released. Verakko rumbled a deep sound of disapproval but gently pressed a wet kiss to her ear that made her shiver, and opened his arms.

She faced him. He looked so happy and relaxed. His bright-green eyes watched her with such contentment. A wistful grin transformed his features as his gaze settled on the part of her neck he’d bitten.

Lily thought back to the night before and recalled he’d mentioned bites were reserved for mates and wives. If he bit her, that must mean he had hope she’d become one of those things. Right? Or was she just fooling herself again?

When they’d first met, he’d told her mates were a couple married for life. It was the type of relationship Alice was in now. Could she see herself staying with Verakko for life? She didn’t know.

If this afternoon had taught her anything, though, it was that losing him had scared her more than anything she’d ever experienced. The thought of not seeing him, arguing with him, laughing with him, threatened to level her even now.

Lily smiled to herself as Verakko waded to the edge of the pool, his devastating teal body glowing brighter in the neon-blue light from the bioluminescent moss. If an emotion like that wasn’t enough to give a lifelong commitment a shot, she didn’t know what was. Still, if they could start with something less permanent and go from there, she’d feel more comfortable.

He rummaged through a large trunk mounted onto the floor near the edge of the pool and produced a small bottle, grinning brightly. “Soap,” he said, raising one dark brow at her.

Lily gasped and splashed over to him, uncaring of how desperate she must look.

“What’ll you give me for it?” He chuckled, holding the bottle out of reach.

She stood back with her hands on her hips and tried to be annoyed. Her scowl cracked. The boyish look of delight on his face was enough to break any woman’s resolve.

She gave him a sly smile and straightened her shoulders, pushing out her breasts. His gaze snapped to attention. She sauntered over to him through the water, reveling in the hungry way he eyed her movements. “Well, maybe if we get really clean all over,” she purred, running her hand slowly down his rock-hard chest, then beneath the water and over his firm stomach, “I might be willing to kiss you in some other places.” He jerked when she gripped his still-hard shaft, making her intention clear.

His eyes widened in disbelief. “You’d do that?”

Lily snaked her arms around his neck, pressing her breasts into his chest and grinning. “I think you’re vastly underestimating how much I enjoy being clean.”

He lowered the tube, and she snatched it. Then he dipped his head, a deep chuckle rumbling through him, and placed a soft kiss on her lips.

Lily let out an embarrassingly loud moan and leaned into the touch of her alien.


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