Home > From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)(7)

From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)(7)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Without warning, he broke the kiss and lifted his head. “Who are you?”

Thoughts oddly slow and skin humming, I blinked open my eyes. Dark hair fell forward onto his forehead. His features were shadowed in the soft, flickering light, but I thought his lips looked as swollen as mine felt.

Hawke acted too fast for me to track the movement, tugging my hood back, exposing my masked face. His brows lifted as the haze cleared from my thoughts. My heart jumped around in my chest for a whole different reason, even though my lips still tingled from the kiss.

My first kiss.

Hawke’s golden-eyed gaze rose to my head, and he shifted his hand out from behind my neck. I tensed as he picked up a strand of my hair, drawing it out so it shone a deep auburn in the candlelight. His head tilted to the left.

“You are most definitely not who I thought you were,” he murmured.

“How did you know?” I blurted out.

“Because the last time I kissed the owner of this cloak, she damn near sucked my tongue down her throat.”

“Oh,” I whispered. Was I supposed to have done that? It didn’t sound like it would be something enjoyable.

He stared down at me, gaze assessing as he remained with half his body atop mine. One of his legs was thrust between mine, and I had no idea exactly when that had happened. “Have you been kissed before?”

My face caught fire. Oh, gods, was it that obvious? “I have!”

One side of his lips kicked up. “Do you always lie?”

“No!” I immediately lied.

“Liar,” he murmured, his tone almost teasing.

Embarrassment flooded my system, suffocating the shivery pleasure as if I’d been doused in cold, winter sleet. I pushed at his bare chest. “You should get off.”

“I was planning to.”

The way he said it made my eyes narrow.

Hawke laughed, and it was…it was the first time I’d heard him do so. When I saw him in the Hall, he was quiet and stoic like most guards, and I’d only seen that half-grin of his while he trained. But never a laugh. And with the anguish I knew lingered below the surface, I wasn’t quite sure that he ever laughed.

But he had now, and it sounded real, deep, and nice, and it rumbled through me, all the way to the tips of my toes. I was slow to realize that this was the most I’d heard him speak. He had a slight accent, an almost musical lilt to his tone. I couldn’t quite place it, but I’d only ever been to the capital and here, and it was not often that many spoke to me or around me if they knew I was present. The accent could be quite common for all I knew.

“You really should move,” I told him, even though I liked the weight of him.

“I’m quite comfortable where I am,” he added.

“Well, I’m not.”

“Will you tell me who you are, Princess?”

“Princess?” I repeated. There were no Princesses or Princes in the entire kingdom beyond the Dark One, who called himself such. Not since Atlantia had ruled.

“You are quite demanding.” He lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “I imagine a Princess to be demanding.”

“I am not demanding,” I stated. “Get off me.”

He arched a brow. “Really?”

“Telling you to move is not being demanding.”

“We’ll have to disagree on that.” He paused. “Princess.”

My lips twitched in wry humor, but I managed to stifle the smile. “You shouldn’t call me that.”

“Then what should I call you? A name, perhaps?”

“I’m…I’m no one,” I told him.

“No One? What a strange name. Do girls with a name like that often make a habit of wearing other people’s clothing?”

“I’m not a girl,” I snapped.

“I would sure hope not.” He paused, lips curling down at the corners. “How old are you?”

“Old enough to be in here, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“In other words, old enough to be masquerading as someone else, allowing others to believe you’re another person and then allowing them to kiss—”

“I get what you’re saying,” I cut him off. “Yes, I’m old enough for all those things.”

One eyebrow rose. “I’ll tell you who I am, although I have a feeling you already know. I’m Hawke Flynn.”

“Hi,” I said, feeling foolish for doing so.

The dimple in his right cheek deepened. “This is the part where you tell me your name.”

My lips nor my tongue moved.

“Then I’ll have to keep calling you Princess.” His eyes were much warmer now, and I wanted to see if the pain had eased but managed to resist. I thought that perhaps his pain had gone away. If so…

“The least you can do is tell me why you didn’t stop me,” he said before I could give in to the curiosity and reach out with my senses.

I had no idea how I could answer that when I didn’t fully understand it myself.

One side of his lips quirked up. “I’m sure it’s more than my disarming good looks.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Of course.”

Another short, surprised-sounding laugh left him. “I think you just insulted me.”

Chagrined, I winced. “That’s not what I meant—”

“You’ve wounded me, Princess.”

“I highly doubt that. You have to be more than well aware of your appearance.”

“I am. It has led to quite a few people making questionable life choices.”

“Then why did you say you were insulted—?” Realizing he was teasing me and feeling foolish for not seeing that right away, I pushed at his chest once more. “You’re still lying on me.”

“I know.”

I took a breath. “It’s quite rude of you to continue doing so when I’ve made it clear that I would like for you to move.”

“It’s quite rude of you to barge into my room dressed as—”

“Your lover?”

He raised a brow. “I wouldn’t call her that.”

“What would you call her?”

Hawke appeared to mull that over while still sprawled halfway across me. “A…good friend.”

Part of me was relieved that he hadn’t referred to her as something derogatory like I’d overheard other men do before when speaking of women they’d been intimate with, but a good friend? “I didn’t know friends behaved this way.”

“I’m willing to wager you don’t know much about these sorts of things.”

The truth in his statement was hard to ignore. “And you wager all of this on just one kiss?”

“Just one kiss? Princess, you can learn a wealth of things from just one kiss.”

Staring at him, I couldn’t help but feel…very inexperienced. The only thing I could tell from his kiss was what it had made me feel. Like he was seeking to possess me.

“Why didn’t you stop me?” His gaze swept over the mask and then lower, to where I realized the cloak had parted, exposing the too-thin gown and its rather daring neckline. Honestly, I didn’t know what I’d been thinking when I slipped on the garment. It was almost like I’d subconsciously been preparing myself for…something. My stomach tumbled. More likely, the gown was false bravado.

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