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The Ever King: Chapter 37

The Songbird

“There aren’t any toothy creatures that will gnaw off my foot, right?”

He stared at me for a breath, bemused. “No, love. Those are in the cove around the bend.”

I released his hand and reached for the clasp of my dress behind my neck. “Good. Then there’s nothing stopping us.”

With the next step, I let the simple dress fall off my body and bunch at my feet. Erik drew in a sharp breath with a curse on his tongue. I’d never been comfortable naked, but there wasn’t much he hadn’t already seen. The way Erik’s eyes darkened to a polished ink whenever he came close, whenever his hands were on my body, had become a new ambition.

He was the first man I wanted to let see me. All of me. A man wrong for me, yet I couldn’t stop wanting him. I couldn’t find a reason to care that I did.

I stepped into the water until I reached my waist. Erik remained on the sand, but stood straight and stiff. Moonlight kissed the slopes of my breasts. Cold as the water was, my body boiled under his scrutiny. His eyes roved from my face, to the peaks of my nipples, to the planes of my stomach.

“Coming in?” I asked sweetly. Erik shook out his hands and I chuckled. “Bloodsinger, do I make you nervous?”

“No,” he insisted. “You unsettle me, there is a difference.”

“You are a sea fae who commands the water. I want to see what you can do.” I cupped the clear water in my palms and splashed it over my face, letting the rivulets glide over my bare skin. “Come in.”

“I don’t—” Erik looked over his shoulder for a breath. “I don’t allow others to see me.”

“I’ve seen you. You’re rather bold at removing your shirt.”

“No.” He paused. “I’ve never let anyone see all of me.”

I went still as though I’d been plunged headfirst into ice. I know how disgusting it is for you to look upon such mangled skin. Shame was potent and hot and grating down my spine. Erik’s torture had been showcased in front of his people, used as a weakness, as fuel to inspire hate.

He hid himself away because of it, and I’d mocked him much the same.

I eased out of the water, naked and bared to him. His eyes pulsed when I leaned into his body and lifted my arm, showing off a pink scar.

“I fell on a jagged rock, and my friends made it into a snake by drawing a head on one end.” I brushed my hair aside, revealing a scar behind my ear. “Sparring accident against my cousin. Alek told me it was my first battle scar left by a fearsome warrior. He was twelve and skinnier than me.”

Four more scars, one on my ribs from stumbling down a rocky knoll while visiting Mira when I was nine. Another on my knee from skidding over rough soil. Two on my shoulders from willow switches Jonas, Sander, and I tried to use as swords until we realized they were more like whips.

Erik gripped my wrist before I could show him the bite mark under my chin from one of my grandfather’s hounds. “You are hardly mangled, love.”

My shoulders slumped. “Erik, I said that out of anger. My intent was to hurt you when I didn’t think anything could hurt you.”

“I’m not hurt.”

“Your scars bother you,” I whispered, “but they do not bother me.”

He scoffed. “Curse me, hate me, but don’t lie to me. I know what I am; I know what people see when they look at me.”

“What do they see?”

“Something weak,” he said in a snarl. “I’ve spent my entire rule proving what was done to me does not lessen my strength as a king.”

“Hmm.” My pulse thudded in my skull when I gripped his wrist. “I was raised to see scars as a sign of strength—or if you are me, a sign of clumsiness. Scars paint our stories, they give proof to the battles we’ve survived, the trials we’ve overcome. To me, what I see when I look at you, Erik Bloodsinger, is a king who has faced more than the kings before him.”

His nostrils flared when I led his fingertips to my hipbones.

“Songbird,” he said, rough and low.

“The more I look at you, the more I want.”

“Don’t,” he warned. “I don’t need false praise.”

“I’m not saying sweet words to bolster your ego, Bloodsinger.” I placed his hand to my thigh. He closed his eyes when I widened my stance. “I’m proving to you what I want.”

Before I lost the sliver of courage, I slid his palm over my wet center. Pleasure at the barest touch rolled through me. Erik dropped his forehead to mine, breaths sharp.

“Can’t you feel how much I want you?” I drew my lips to the hinge of his jaw. “I shouldn’t want you, but I do. When I look at you, I see the scars, I see your story written in every beautiful mark.”

Erik’s brow furrowed. I held to his wrist. Slowly, his fingers teased the heat of my slit. I gasped, arching into him. A low kind of growl slipped from his throat. He eased one finger inside my entrance, then another, exploring me in a way only he’d done, a way I’d only allowed him to do. As though I’d waited for his perfect hands, his perfect touch.

Then he broke away by stepping back.

“You promised you would get me in your grasp, then watch me bleed. You’ve succeeded in that, and I hate you for it, Songbird.” A sharp crack carved through my chest, but before my heart fell out in shambles, Erik pulled my lips close to his. “I am in your hands, I am at your command, for you have made me love you, and you will be my destruction because of it.”

My pulse fluttered when Erik reached a hand to the back neckline of his tunic and tugged, pulling it over his head.

Night shadowed most of him, but it was simple enough to make out that he was broad and carved from stone. A body made for sleek, swift battle. Starlight glinted over glossy scars over his ribs, belly, waist, and below his throat. I was certain more were there, but hidden by the dim light.

Sympathy didn’t take me as I thought it might. Instead, fierce, possessive violence struck when I brushed my fingertips over the numerous gashes across his chest. This close I could see that Erik had inked most of the taut skin to look like black waves, but there were too many scars to cover.

How many gashes had been cut into a child to steal the blood pumping in his heart? It looked as though dozens of glass shards had cut through his body.

If my people did this, I thought I might hate them.

With a kiss to the center of his chest, I reached for the buckle on his belt and tugged until it unclasped, then dug my thumbs into the waistline of his trousers, pulling down, until the sharp lines of his hips showed more scars and more muscle.

Erik took a step for the water, hands on my hips, brow pressed to mine. When the ripple of tides lapped against my ankles, the king helped me ease his trousers down. I licked my lips when his cock sprang free. Thick and velvet; my fingers danced, anxious to touch him as he touched me.

He tossed his trousers and sank into the cove with me. I gasped when the cold water hit my breasts and wrapped my arms around Erik’s neck.

A sly grin spread his lips when he raised one hand overhead. Water rippled, then shot for the sky in cerulean walls. As though a dozen waterfalls flowed from invisible cliffs, we were surrounded by the gentle flow. I let out a gasp of delight when Erik swam to each one, me still in his arms, and touched the flow. Some water pulled out the verdant green of the sea, others a soft purple, more glistened in deep, sapphire blue.

It was as though Erik summoned every shade of tide in a collision of impossible colors.

I stretched my hands out to catch a bit of every shade, laughing as the spray dampened my cheeks.

When I looked back at Erik, his eyes burned in dark desire. His mouth was set in a tight line. I’d never been looked at in such a way, with such heated passion, like without me his world might shatter.

My heart lodged in my throat. I held his unblinking stare and slid the backs of my knuckles down his stubbled cheek. Words were pointless. Deep within my chest, I could feel his want, his possessiveness. It didn’t need to be said.

Beneath the water, Erik slid his hands up my thighs. I trembled and a sharp breath slipped from the back of my throat. He let out a rough growl, hooked my legs around his waist, and slipped a finger into the wet heat of my core again.

My body jumped. Erik tightened his hold around my waist and crushed his mouth to mine.

The kiss wasn’t slow; it wasn’t tender. It was consuming. All tongues and teeth, like we were desperate to devour each other. Erik drove his finger, then another, deeper inside me. He was cruel and gentle and wicked. Those vicious hands tormented me by dragging me to the edge only to pull back and start again.

Flashes of color brightened around us like a firestorm in the waves.

“Erik.” My entire body trembled as I arched into him. He sucked in the hardened peak of one breast. The sharp edges of his canine teeth shocked my blood in a collision of pleasure and pain.

“It’s been too long since my mouth has been on you,” he rasped against my skin.

When he kissed his way to the other breast, my body writhed, overwhelmed, utterly lost, in the rhythm of his mouth and fingers.

Water spun wildly, cascading over my hair, my face. I tilted my head back and arched against him, baring my throat to his tongue and mouth. He nipped and kissed his way over my neck, to my shoulders, back to my lips, as though he couldn’t find his favorite place.

He pumped his fingers deeper, pooling heat low in my stomach.

“Gods,” I said as my body shook. I matched his pace, rocking my hips against his hand. “Say it. Say you dreamt of me like I’ve dreamt of you.”

“You’ve haunted me, love. Since the end of that war, I’ve never forgotten you.” He burrowed his face in the soft space of my neck.

Whimpers of pleasure grew louder. Erik covered my mouth with his hand, and chuckled with a touch of satisfaction when I bit his palm to keep from crying out. A tangle of emotions, desire and obsession, and . . . something fiercer, coiled in my chest. From Erik or me, it didn’t matter.

When he tipped me over the edge, I called out his name against his neck in a breathless gasp. Over and over, I called for him. Only him. I adjusted my hips, trying to find the tip of his length, but he shook his head.

Erik nipped at my bottom lip. “Not here.”

“Why?” I kissed his throat. “You have me, all of me.”

His fingers traced down my spine. “If you think I’m going to let the first time be ass deep in grit and sand, you underestimate me. I will take you, but it will be in my bed.”

Damn the hells.

He cupped the back of my head, drawing me close, and spoke with a new sort of longing, dark and fierce. “Be sure before doing this, love. Do this, and I don’t go back. You’re mine.”

A tremble ran up my arms. Buried in the dark timbre of his voice was a threat. A promise. I hesitated for a breath, then kissed him.

“I said I’m yours.” I trapped his face in my palms. “I’m waiting for you to become mine.”


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