Home > From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)(9)

From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)(9)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

While my Ascension was different from the others, I could still be found unworthy, and I imagined my punishment would be just as grave, but I didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with that.

No.

That was a lie.

I didn’t want to deal with that. I should, but I wasn’t leaving the room. I wasn’t stopping Hawke. I’d already made up my mind even if I didn’t understand why he was still here, with me.

Dampening my lower lip with my tongue, I felt dizzy and even a little faint, and I never felt faint. Those impossibly thick lashes lowered, and his gaze was so intent on my mouth that it was like a caress. I shivered.

Those eyes of his seemed even brighter than before as his finger traced the outline of my mask, all the way to where the satin ribbon disappeared under the fall of my hair. “May I remove this?”

Unable to speak, I shook my head no.

Hawke halted for a moment, and then the half-smile appeared—no dimple this time, though. He trailed his finger away from the mask, then ran it along the line of my jaw and down my throat, to where the cloak was fastened. “How about this?”

I nodded.

His fingers were deft, and he brushed the cloak aside and then trailed just one fingertip along the neckline, following the rapid rise and fall of the swell of my breast. A riot of sensations followed his finger, so many I couldn’t make sense of them all.

“What do you want from me?” he asked, toying with the small bow between my breasts. “Tell me, and I’ll make it so.”

“Why?” I blurted out. “Why would you…do this? You don’t know me, and you thought I was someone else.”

A flicker of amusement crossed his striking features. “I have nowhere to be at the moment, and I’m intrigued.”

My brows lifted. “Because you have nowhere to be at the moment?”

“Would you rather I wax poetic about how I’m charmed by your beauty, even though I can only see half your face? Which, by the way, from what I can see is pleasing. Would you rather I tell you I’m captivated by your eyes? They are a pretty shade of green from what I can tell.”

I started to frown. “Well, no. I don’t want you to lie.”

“None of those things were a lie.” He tugged on the bow as he dipped his head, brushing his lips over mine. The soft contact sent a wave of awareness through me. “I told you the truth, Princess. I’m intrigued by you, and it’s fairly rare anyone intrigues me.”

“So?”

“So,” he repeated with a chuckle as his lips glided along my jaw. “You’ve changed my evening. I’d planned to return to my quarters. Maybe get a good, albeit boring, night of sleep, but I have a suspicion that tonight will be anything but boring if I spend it with you.”

I drew in a shallow breath, weirdly flattered, and yet still confused by his motivations. I wished someone was here to ask, but even if they were, that would be weird—and awkward.

The two glasses by the settee appeared in my mind. “Were you…were you with someone before me?”

His head lifted and stared down at me. “That’s a random question.”

“There are two glasses by the settee,” I pointed out.

“It’s also a random, personal question asked by someone whose name I don’t even know.”

My cheeks warmed. He had a point.

He was quiet for so long that doubt crept in. Maybe I shouldn’t care if he had been with someone else this evening, but I did, and if that told me anything, it screamed that this was a mistake. I was in over my head. I knew nothing about him, of what was—

“I was with someone,” he answered, and disappointment swelled. “A friend who is not like the owner of the cloak. One I hadn’t seen in a while. We were catching up, in private.”

The dismay eased, and I decided that he must be telling the truth. He didn’t have to lie to have me when he could have any number of others who would be eager to intrigue him.

“So, Princess, will you tell me what you want from me?”

I took another uneven breath. “Anything?”

“Anything.” He moved his hand then, cupping my breast as he ran his thumb across the center.

It was such a light touch, but I gasped as bolts of pleasure darted through me. My body reacted on its own, arching into his touch.

“I’m waiting,” he said, swiping his thumb once more and scattering my already disjointed thoughts. “Tell me what you enjoy, so I can make you love it.”

“I…” I bit down on my lip. “I don’t know.”

Hawke’s gaze flew to mine, and such a long moment passed that I began to wonder if I’d said the wrong thing. “I’ll tell you what I want.” His thumb moved in slow, tight circles across a most sensitive part. “I want you to remove your mask.”

“I…” A sharp, pulsing thrill rippled through my body, quickly followed by my heady wonder. What I felt… I’d never felt anything like it before. Sharp and sweet, a different type of anguish. “Why?”

“Because I want to see you.”

“You can see me now.”

“No, Princess,” he said, lowering his head until his lips brushed the neckline of my gown. “I want to really see you when I do this without your gown between you and my mouth.”

Before I could ask what he meant, I felt the wet, warm glide of his tongue through the thin, silken gown. I gasped, shocked by the act and by the rush of liquid heat it brought forth, but then his gaze lifted to mine as his mouth closed over the tip of my breast. He sucked deep and long, and the gasp turned to a cry that would surely embarrass me later.

“Remove your mask.” His head lifted as he slid a hand over my hip. “Please.”

He wouldn’t recognize me if I did. Hawke would never know who I was with or without the mask, but…

If I removed the facial covering, would he say what the Duke often did? That I was both a masterpiece and a tragedy? And when he felt the uneven slices of skin scattered along my stomach and thighs, would he jerk his hand away in horror?

My skin chilled.

I hadn’t thought this through.

At all.

The wonderful, exhilarating heat dimmed. Hawke wasn’t an Ascended, but he was like them in appearance, nearly flawless. I had never been ashamed of the scars before. Not when they were proof of the horror I’d survived. But if he—

Hawke’s hand slid down my outer right thigh to where the dress parted and stopped, right over the hilt of the dagger. “What the…?”

Before I could even take another breath, he’d unsheathed the blade, his fingers coming precariously close to one of the scars. I sat up, but he was faster, rocking backward.

The candlelight glinted off the red blade. “Bloodstone and wolven bone.”

“Give that back,” I demanded, scrambling to my knees.

His gaze shifted from the dagger to me. “This is a unique weapon.”

“I know.” My hair fell forward, over my shoulders.

“The kind that’s not inexpensive,” he continued. “Why are you in possession of this, Princess?”

“It was a gift.” Which was true. “And I’m not foolish enough to come to a place like this unarmed.”

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