One battle-weary day, a young woman pricked her finger on a needle while stitching her husband’s torn flesh. Three drops of their mingled blood stained the snow beneath them and melted it from the ebony hilt of a dead enemy’s dirk. The sight brought on a vision of a beautiful daughter.
With a smile on her crimson lips, the young woman conveyed the image to her husband.
And told him that if she ever spawned such a lovely girl child, she would kill her before she took her first breath.
Their third child, a girl, was a homely little thing. Both parents were pleased—the mother because an ugly daughter wasn’t a threat, the father because his spell would keep his precious child alive through the most fragile years of her life.
He knew the beauty she’d become.
Lips bitten blood red in ecstasy, hair black as ebony spilling over blue silk sheets, Rosemary reclined on the bed in all her naked glory. The reflection in the mirror on the wall evoked the story of her past; from the tragic beginning, to the happily ever after, but several details spoilt the fairy-tale princess image. Like the blotches on the white flesh of her breasts and thighs, where the dusting of scruff on Alaire’s sculpted cheeks and chin had scraped her raw. And the crimson bite marks on her neck and shoulders. In the fading afterglow, nearly every inch of her stung, reminiscent of the feeling of basking in the sun by the beach—luxurious—until the burn set in.
Rosemary shifted to find a comfortable position in the narrow space left to her on the double mattress. No matter which way she turned, her body hit hard flesh. She gave up when Chetan rolled to his side behind her to press his lips to a tender spot on her throat. Butterfly kisses, gentle to soothe her pain, chaste and sweet. But imprudent while the scent of their lovemaking saturated him because he smelled delicious, and even though she’d got dessert, she wouldn’t mind another nibble.
Body curved into his, she wiggled a little and felt his flaccid length stir. She let out a soft purr. “Chetan…”
Chetan chuckled into her hair and slid his hand over one puckered nipple, still sensitive from being sucked. “You’re insatiable, my love.” He kissed her shoulder. “Give me some time to recover and I’ll do my best to satisfy you.”
“You’ve had your turn.” Wylie squirted some aloe lotion into the palms of his strong, black hands and smoothed it over Rosemary’s legs. “If she’s still hungry, I can help her. She doesn’t have to wait.”
“I’m ready.” Alaire rolled over to prove it.
A loud grunt from the living room drew their attention to Largo, who shocked them all just by being awake. “You’ve had your turn too.”
The glossy pages of his sports magazine stuck to his cheek when he lifted his head. He stretched one long arm out and fumbled for the table lamp beside the sofa. The light pooled just past the open door and Largo squinted to make her out in the dark room. “Come here Rosemary, I got this.”
One of them, even two, she could handle. All four focusing on her at once snuffed the lingering desire, like too many logs piled over barely sparked kindling. She covered her face with her hands and willed the room to stop spinning.
A breathless laugh escaped her as her head cleared. “Someone pinch me. I’ve got to be dreaming.”
“You’re not dreaming.” Alaire took her hand and brought it to his lips. “If you were, I’m sure you’d do better than us dumb lugs.”
Wylie nudged Alaire and squeezed into the space allotted against the headboard. He pulled Rosemary into his lap and cradled her in his arms. “What girl dreams of being taken in a grungy dorm room?”
This girl, Rosemary wanted to say, but she didn’t, because he wouldn’t understand. They were all well aware of the life she’d left behind, but most had a hard time seeing beyond the big house in Memphis, the fancy clothes, the cars and credit cards.
Only two of her men could fully grasp why a girl raised in a neighbourhood like Belle Meade would be happier here, at Adcock College, living on a ‘historical’ campus two hours away from any decent sized city. The one with her now watched from the living room. When she caught his eye, he gave her a tense half-smile.
“You okay?” Largo mouthed.
Rosemary nodded and snuggled up to Wylie, head nestled in the crook of his neck. The scent of a forest of oaks after rainfall that seemed to saturate his flesh took her to a tranquil place—where she could bask in the simple luxury of yet another moment of living, where she didn’t have to explain how precious each one was.
It was hard sometimes, convincing herself that this was her life. Throughout her early years, the brutal honesty of her reflection showed her why she’d be condemned to a fatal existence of loneliness.
High school had been hell for very different reasons than most unsightly girls her age. They could look forward to a future where looks meant nothing, become successful because of brains or talent. They could find solace in the fact that one day all that made the popular girls special would fade. For Rosemary, each ugly day was one closer to the end. Without that coveted beauty, she wouldn’t live long enough for any of her other qualities to matter.
The day she’d turned from girl to woman, everything changed. The image in the mirror gave her hope. Her skin cleared overnight, became something like living porcelain, perfectly soft and smooth. Her hair, almost matte black, unruly and lanky, gained a thickness and depth of colour, flowing down her back in waves that suited her no matter how it was arranged. Even her body, always awkward, a little plump, too small, changed into a petite, slender form that looked good in any outfit. The loveliness brought tears to her eyes. Maybe, just maybe, she’d get that first kiss. Then that first touch. Then, when the time came, all she needed to survive.
Three years later and she had more than she’d dared hope for. Survival might still be a fragile thing, but it was possible. So many things were possible now.
Including tasting each of the boys she’d claimed, whenever she wanted. They were more than willing, but they’d have to wait.
Rosemary hooked a finger to the starched collar of Wylie’s pale blue shirt and pulled him in for a quick kiss. Tugging the sheet out from under Alaire and Chetan to cover herself, she slid to the edge of the bed. “I wish I had more time for you, boys, but I’ve got to get to class and I need a shower.”
“I guess that means my welcome home will have to wait.”
The deep tenor of a voice she hadn’t heard in much too long quickened her pulse. Breathing became optional. Lips parted, she stared at the broad silhouette standing on the threshold.
“Kurt!” The silk sheets tangled around her legs and she kicked at them and tumbled off the bed.
Kurt caught her in a fierce hug and kissed her forehead. Rosemary latched her arms around his waist under his leather coat, as though doing so could keep him where she wanted him. He actually gave her a full minute before dislodging her and holding her at arm’s length to look her over with a dark frown. He turned the frown on Alaire. “Is it too much to ask that you shave?” Before Alaire could answer, Kurt snapped his hard gaze to Largo. “And why aren’t you watching the hall?”
“I’m beat.” Largo yawned and dropped his large form heavily across the sofa. He slid his baseball cap over his face. “I’ve busted my ass juggling coaching and babysitting. Now that you’re back, I’m taking a nap.”
Chetan climbed off the other side of the bed and picked up the black pants Rosemary had ironed for him earlier that morning. “She was safe with the four of us, Kurt.” One foot in a pant leg, he stumbled, covered his mouth with his hand and tried to stifle a sneeze. “I just wish—” He sneezed, nose reddening, eyes watering. “She wouldn’t bring—” He sneezed again and tried to pull on his pants while walking backwards. “That cat.”
Rosemary nibbled at her lip and moved away from Kurt to fetch the scrawny kitten from where it had tried to slip into the slice of space between the wooden box bed frame and the wall. She carried it to the living room, stroking its fur until its pitiful mewling stopped. It cuddled up against her and promptly fell asleep. She smiled at the tiny bundle of patchy, grey fur. “It’s still so little, I didn’t want to leave it alone.”
Chetan pulled a wad of Kleenex from his pocket to wipe his nose. “You know I’m allergic.”
“You’re allergic to everything.” Wylie looked at Chetan over the rim of his glasses. “Take some Benadryl.”
“And quit whining.” Kurt sighed and took off his leather jacket. He dropped it on the sofa, right over Largo’s head.
Largo snorted, but didn’t move.
Kurt shook his head, eyes on the kitten. “You’ll get fined if they catch you with that. You’re not supposed to have anything but fish on campus.”
“I know, I won’t keep it long.” Rosemary caught the scent of burnt fur and looked helplessly at Wylie.
Wylie stepped up and took the kitten from her, holding the small bundle in one hand.
Rosemary clenched her fists and tried to pull back the heat that had wisps of smoke rising from her fingertips. “As soon as he’s healthy, I’ll find him a home.”
Kurt strode across the room, kicking abandoned clothes from his path, and took her wrist. He pried her hand open. “You should have more control. How often have you been feeding?”
“Twice a day.” Rosemary flushed when Alaire shook his head and held up three fingers. “Sometimes more.”
“Always two at a time?” Kurt put his hand under her chin and forced her to look at him. She gave a small nod. “You have no choice Rosemary, you shouldn’t be ashamed.”
“I’m not, it’s just…” She closed her eyes and fought to hold back threatening tears. “It’s never enough. If I don’t find a way to manage with what I’m getting, how will I ever finish school? How will they?” She held her hand out towards Wylie, Chetan, and Alaire, thinking also of Shiloh and Felix who had already gone to class, both barely able to keep their eyes open. “And what about you? You’ve already lost one job because of me.”
“That was during exams. You were stressed.” Kurt shrugged. “My boss was a jerk anyway. I found a new job.”
“Already?” Rosemary was surprised.
Kurt had taken a trip back home to see if there was any news of her father’s return. He’d called a couple of times, letting them know it would take longer because her mother’s men were keeping a sharp eye out for either him or Largo. He’d finally questioned one of the men alone and got the information he needed. Her father was still in California; Kurt had given them the update just the day before.
How had he had time to find a job since then?
“A garage just off campus needed a mechanic. They were desperate so they hired me on the spot,” Kurt said as though he’d read her mind, which he probably had. Kurt was almost as strong in the powers as her father. “I actually just came to say hi and get my tools. I told them I’d be back in an hour just in case…”
Rosemary gave him a sly smile. “Just in case?”
She sauntered past him, hips swaying beneath the velvet mass of her hair. The sultry dance of a walk brought the three boys in the room to heel like she’d clasped collars around their necks and held tight to each of their leashes.
Only Kurt hadn’t moved. She hooked a finger to his belt to urge him along. “That’s good. I was about to take a shower. Care to join me?”
A rare grin graced Kurt’s broody features and lightened his dark brown eyes to a warmer colour. He laughed, such a joyful sound it shocked the other boys, waking Largo who dragged himself up and stared.
“The world ending?” Largo grumbled, rubbing his eyes with his fists like an oversized child.
“No.” Kurt pulled Rosemary close and wrapped his muscular arms around her. “I’m just about to get something I’ve been craving for weeks.”
Rosemary rose on her tiptoes and kissed his lips, a slow, lingering taste that let her drink in his heat. “I missed you too.”
* * * *
The small, blue and white tiled bathroom slowly filled with steam. Kurt stood in front of the door, arms crossed, leaning against it.
Rosemary soaped up her skin with a sea sponge, covering her body with the aroma of sweet melon, washing away the scent of the other boys. Kurt would take her as he found her. He’d shared her with each of the others before, but she enjoyed the purity of melding clean flesh. She wanted her senses filled with nothing but her lover of the moment, and while Kurt was patient with little else, he obliged her in this.
Once the conditioner was rinsed from her hair, she motioned him closer. “I’m ready for you.”
“Are you?” Kurt approached the bath, shedding his last piece of clothing, a pair of black boxer briefs.
Rosemary watched the muscles undulate in his thighs, let her eyes move up to the hard plane of his stomach, lingering just over his hard dick, on the glorious carved edge of his pelvis.
She licked her lips. “Definitely.”
“Very good.” Kurt stepped into the shower, forcing her to step back. “So, what else do I want to hear?” He cleared his throat. “I’m up here.”
Rosemary brought her eyes to his face. “I know.”
“Do you?” He rested his forehead against hers. “Because sometimes I wonder. Your performance is always perfect, like you can become a cut-out of what each of us wants.” He closed the distance between them and kissed her nose. “But what do you want?”
“I have everything I want.” The water was cooling. Rosemary pulled him with her out of the spray and stretched up to kiss his lips.
He turned his head and her lips slid along his jaw. For all his talk of Alaire shaving, he hadn’t done so himself. Besides the neat trim of dark hair that always framed his generous lips, he had a shadow of growth in the hollow of his cheeks. Meeting stubble rather than a cushion of lips pulled her from her passionate assault and made her really look at him.
His stance was so detached he might as well have been waiting for a bus. Only nudity betrayed his aloof demeanour. Waiting for a bus didn’t make guys that hard.
She wrapped her hand around his thick length and slid it loosely up and down, enjoying the velvet heat of tight flesh as she peeked up to assess his reaction. His thick, black brows drew together and she sighed. “I didn’t invite you in here for conversation.”
He shrugged and laced his fingers behind his neck. “Fine. Take what you need.”
Rosemary ground her teeth and glared at him. “There was enough lust in that room to chew on, and that’s after I sucked it out of Alaire and Chetan. If that’s all I wanted¼” She spun on her heel and headed out of the bath. “Just forget it. I’m full.”
Kurt hooked an arm around her waist and pulled her back. “Not so fast.” His warm breath teased her earlobe when he laughed and a little chill skittered down her spine. “Are you mad at me?”
“A little.” She relaxed against him, curving her neck towards his lips. “You just got back. And I hoped¼”
His tongue played along her pulse, followed by his teeth. She reached between them and palmed his balls. He dropped his head to her shoulder and made a feral sound in his throat, giving her the seconds she needed to finish what she had to say. “I hoped we could forgo the deep stuff for once and have a bit of fun.”
“What are you afraid of, Rosemary?” He moved her hand and held her close. “Why do you pull away, or turn to sex, whenever one of us tries to get close to you?”
“Yes, you do.”
Rosemary twisted away and retreated to the edge of the bath. She stared at the ceiling, taking slow, deep breaths. Then she looked at him. “This face. This body. They are why you’re here. I need you, all of you, so I give you what you want. You’re the only one that isn’t satisfied.”
“Do you think any of them are satisfied with loving a girl who won’t love them back?”
“I do love them! All of them! Even you!” A sob caught in her throat and she swallowed it back. “Why do you have to make this so complicated?”
“Because it is complicated! Did you expect a relationship with seven guys to be simple?” Kurt took her by the shoulders, anger flashing in his eyes. He looked ready to shake her. “You said you missed me, well, I missed you. I miss you! I want to know what happened to the girl who was ready to take on the world because she finally had a shot. I want the girl who wasn’t afraid to get dirty, who didn’t care if she looked sexy. I’ve watched you bury that girl over the last year and it took being away to see it.” He closed his eyes and let his hands fall. “I hoped I was wrong. When I walked in and you were ready to leave them to do your own thing, I was almost convinced.”
Rosemary crossed her arms over her chest, wishing she had some clothes on for this talk. Maybe with a few layers on her, he wouldn’t be able to burrow so easily into her heart.
“Then tell me how to convince you.”
“Give me a peek at something more than all that prettiness.” He touched her cheek. “And let me do the same.”
Despite the rawness of everything, a tremulous smile crept to Rosemary’s lips. He tempted her, and now that she thought of it, they had all tried. She remembered Shiloh taking her out to dinner and looking sad when she took his hand and led him to the bathroom for a quickie. Chetan hadn’t spoken to her for two days when she’d left his bed in the middle of the night after he’d asked her to stay. Her smile faded.
“I get it.” She moved closer to him, letting him hold her again. “I’ll try.” She tilted her head back. “But you have to do something for me.”
“Show me how much you missed me.”
Kurt groaned and bent down, kissing her lips, her cheeks, her eyelids. Rosemary tilted her head, causing wet tendrils of hair to graze the pert, round curve of her butt. She kept her hands at her sides, letting him do all the work.
His hand slicked over the wet curve of her back. “This is different.”
“Isn’t that what you wanted?” She tugged her lip with her teeth when he lowered his head to take a proud nipple in his mouth. “Beyond all this prettiness is a girl who’s getting pretty tired of leading the way with you. All that time you were hunting for others to fill my nest, I dreamed of you finally coming to me, seducing me. I finally got fed up of waiting…”
She was simplifying. Their first time had been before the summer, when stress from her exams had her so hungry she’d nearly drained Shiloh and Felix to death. The others had done their best to accommodate her, but in the end she’d forced Kurt to admit they were unlikely to find another of his strength to take the seventh place before she either killed all the men or—more likely—died herself by refusing to feed.
Having to convince him to sleep with her hadn’t done much for her hard won self-esteem.
“I’m sorry I put you through that.” He left her breast and went to the other, laving it with his tongue. “If it helps, I regret the wasted time.”
“Well then, show me what you would have done with it.”
Kurt took a knee and pressed his lips to her belly. “Demanding, aren’t we?”
Having Kurt, of all people, in that position, turned her world on its head. Their routine was her on her knees, manipulating him with her lips until he dropped his detached front and begged her to slow down, called for whoever was handy, and moved them to the closest available bed. Not to say he was cold with her, but he held something back. Just like she did.
“I guess I can be.” Her hand slapped the tiled wall behind her when he flicked his tongue between her thighs. She braced a foot against his knee and raked her other hand into his hair to hold herself up. “Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer me to be accommodating?”
“Positive.” He pushed her legs apart and lapped at her.
Cold water dripped from his hair to her thigh and goose bumps formed, but she could only feel the heat of his mouth consuming her. She tugged at his hair and his dark gaze rose to spear her as he caught an ankle and draped her leg over his shoulder. The press of his face between her thighs held her firm against the wall. His tongue hardened and he plunged into her folds, gaining entrance, licking and stroking inside until she writhed and screamed. Her legs gave and he grabbed her just in time to avoid her head cracking the tiles.
“You okay?” he asked, lowering her with her legs parted so her throbbing pussy skidded over his solid chest, slicking the taut muscles with her juices.
She bucked and hissed, driving both hands into his hair and clinging to the roots. “Give me a minute.”
He shifted them so her knees settled on either side of his thighs and put an arm around her shoulders to support her. “Take as long as you need. I’m not in a rush.”
His composure cooled her blood. Jaw set, she rose up, dragging her pussy over his dick, dropping a hand to position him between her swollen lips. She opened over the head of him and tried to slam down.
His hands smacked into her ass and squeezed. “Wait.” He winced and gave a shallow thrust of his hips. “The water¼”
All the moisture that would have eased his way covered his chest. Water didn’t lubricate well. She smirked and leaned over to flick her tongue over his nipple. “Mmm. That’s fine.” She nipped along his collarbone. “’Take as long as you need’.”
With a husky laugh, he took hold of himself, nudged her hand away, and stroked her with his dick. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held still as he forced his way inside.
The stretching of the tight walls within filled her with hot cream and soon he nestled so deep she could feel him pressing against her womb.
He didn’t move. “Are you ready?”
She lifted in answer and he latched on to her hips and thrust up. The sounds of flesh slapping flesh filled the room. Kurt lost his restraint and his fierce passion burst into her, all she’d craved from him but always been too afraid to ask for. She didn’t want him to be careful, didn’t want to feel like he was fulfilling a duty. But unleashed desire validated his claims. All the talk hadn’t dampened what was between them. Instead the revelations had crashed through their walls, left them open to all that could be. All that would be.
His hands tightened on her hips and she tensed, enveloping his whole length with every rippling muscle within. He groaned and spilled inside her seconds before she spasmed around him. Another orgasm took her off guard and she cried out, reaching around to dig her nails into his tight ass.
Control slipped and the hunger lunged, claiming her body to devour his. Her core wrapped around Kurt’s dick like a fist. He jerked once, took a deep inhale and got comfortable so she could take her fill.
There should have been another person present to balance her, to provide enough fodder for the gaping maw of the void. A full-blooded succubus could siphon the cumulative lust and passion from a room from afar, but cambion descendants needed intimate contact. A succubus would kill a lover. A cambion could choose not to. Once they learnt how. If they were strong enough to stop.
What if she wasn’t? What if she couldn’t stop?
Energy hit her, like food eaten too fast; only felt once the meal was finished. Kurt’s mouth covered hers. He wrapped her hair around his fist and force-fed her a current of power though his kiss and the insistent press of his body. Too much. Rosemary whimpered as the hunger released her and retreated to the pits of her soul.
Kurt stroked her hair and whispered. “Better?”
Rosemary closed her eyes and nodded. “Much.” She rolled her tongue around her mouth and the remnants of his lust melted on her tongue like candy. “You haven’t had another since you left me.”
Kurt buried his face in her wet hair. “No.”
“Why? I don’t forbid it. I’m not my m—” She couldn’t get the word out. She hated using it.
Kurt understood. “I know you’re not. I just don’t want to. Once I had you, none other tempts me.”
That kind of statement made the guilt Rosemary should never feel burn deep within. She didn’t want any of her men to feel trapped with her. She couldn’t be exclusive.
Shifting beneath her, Kurt cupped her face and turned her to him. “I don’t feel trapped.”
“Then why don’t you—”
A feral hiss, followed by a shout, snapped their eyes to the door. Kurt grabbed two towels, threw one to her and wrapped the other around his waist. He didn’t check to see if she was covered before throwing the door open.
“What’s going on?” He stepped out of the bathroom, crossed his arms and focussed on Chetan who was balancing on the back of the sofa.
Chetan pointed to the kitten, cowering in the corner while Largo swung a broom towards it.
“Don’t hurt it!” Rosemary sidled past Kurt and ran for the kitten.
Alaire snatched the broom from Largo’s hand.
Rosemary put her hands on her hips and glared up at the big man. “What were you doing?”
“It’s possessed!” Chetan did an abrupt, graceless spin when the kitten growled and spat, then snatched the prop sword Felix kept on display over the sofa. He snuffled a sneeze with the back of a hand and took an awkward swordsman pose. “If it attacks…”
Wylie coughed over a laugh. “You’ll run it through?”
“It’s not possessed.” Kurt grabbed the kitten by the scruff of the neck and tossed it to Alaire.
Alaire cursed as the kitten latched on to his bare chest with her tiny claws.
Kurt’s eyes swept the room and he pointed at something over Chetan’s shoulder. “It got spooked.” He glowered at Largo. “You’re supposed to be teaching Rosemary how to keep this campus clean.”
A faint rasping sounded from the kitchen and Rosemary peered out from behind Largo, jumping when a white mist billowed out, forming into a wispy figure of a woman.
“A ghost?” Rosemary licked her lips and bit back a grin.
Kurt glanced at her, one brow raised. “A ghost. And judging by the solidity of her, she’s been here a while. Wanna take care of it?”
“I’m late.” Rosemary ducked into Chetan’s room, found her clothes and donned them in a rush. She skipped into the living room to give Largo a peck on the cheek, twirled to hug Alaire and blew the others a kiss on her way out. “Be a doll and take care of it for me?” She didn’t wait for an answer before shooting an offhand ‘Thanks’ over her shoulder.
She paused in the hall, giggling when she heard Kurt mumble ‘Brat’ before raising his voice. “If you guys get this wound up over a ghost, what will you do when the territory is breached? Put down the damn sword, Chetan, and clean this place up! Largo, get dressed. I want to see what else you’ve let creep in while I was gone.”
The stale air of the hall seemed to change around her, becoming fresh, like the first taste of spring. Steps light, Rosemary made her way up the two flights of stairs to her floor, humming under her breath. Kurt was back.
Everything was as it should be.
Another shout made her wince. She thought about the cold spots in the lobby and wondered what Kurt’s reaction would be to the poltergeist that had taken up residence in the hall. They’d slacked off in his absence, both in her training and in guarding their borders against paranormals that didn’t belong.
Kurt’s return meant playtime would be cut in half. Rosemary didn’t care. Whatever it cost was worth it to have him around.