“I think we need to talk,” Damian said flatly.
I stook blankly looking at him. The warm feeling in my stomach churned into guilt.
“I wasn’t expecting you,” I said. “When you weren’t at the palace.”
“Weren’t you?” He said softly. I swallowed. “You’re still upset.” It wasn’t a question. I appreciated that.
“Yes,” I said gently. “Why didn’t you come tonight?”
“I didn’t trust myself,” he whispered. “I behaved badly this afternoon.” I nodded. “I do trust you.”
“It didn’t seem like it,” I spit out. He looked at me.
“I know,” he rested his forehead against mine. “I keep expecting you to realize that I’m not worth all this. I’m not worth a war. Eric should realize it, he doesn’t either.”
“Damian,” I said softly and kissed him. “Oh my love, don’t say that.” He pulled me close. “You’re worth it. We’re worth it.” He kissed me again. Was it possible that he knew? He’s usually so in my head, so in sync with me. “Come to bed.” I said gently. He touched my face.
“Not tonight,” he said gently. I frowned. “I don’t want to, while you’re angry.”
“I’m not angry anymore,” I said softly. He shook his head. “Damian, what are you holding back from me? It’s been weeks and I feel like you’re just gone.”
“So you want me to make love to you just to prove I want you?” He raised his eyebrows. I wanted to scream.
“I want you to stop being so careful,” I said. “I’m not fragile and I thought you of all people understood that.”
“What do you want to hear then?” He said. “That I see you slipping away from me? That every minute you spend avoiding war, and hunting the gods, and weaving magic with Nika or Raymond, you become even more out of my reach than you always were.” I closed my eyes. “And then today I see you in his arms. Tristan Dugarry, a hero, who knows you better than you know yourself, who you always wanted.” He ran his thumb against my jaw. “You’re magnificent, and powerful and important, and I’m nobody.” I swallowed.
“You aren’t,” I said softly. He smiled.
“It isn’t up for debate, darling,” he said, “I could disappear right this moment and the people it would matter to could be counted on my fingers.” I went to argue. “I know you’re one of them, but I worry for how much longer.” I swallowed, thinking of the charge as Nika’s lips met mine.
“Where were you tonight?” I whispered. “And the first night Franz landed. And so many others?” He sighed. “I want to trust you, I do, but I know you’re lying and,” he kissed me.
“I know what you’re accusing me of,” he said, “and I can’t even blame you. But no, I haven’t been with anyone else.” I swallowed and realized I was crying. “I walk, and sometimes I go to see Dorian and Elaine, but I usually can’t even manage that.” I nodded. “I’ve thought about it. I know it wouldn’t be hard to find someone.”
“I’m glad you haven’t,” I whispered and kissed him. He smiled. “No matter how easy it would have been.” I swallowed. “You aren’t nobody. You’re mine and I won’t give you up willingly.” He laughed. I felt guilty, for denying him pleasure and release with someone else when I was thinking about it so much. We kissed and fell back into the bed.
“Yours,” he whispered. I nodded and went for his pants. “Gods, Marina,” he whispered softly. I guided him into me. I’d missed him. He kissed me softly and I whimpered against him. We were through quickly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you.”
“I know that,” I whispered gently. “Damian,” I said.
“Mm,” he exhaled.
“I know I’ve said I don’t want to dwell on the past,” I whispered. He sat up. “But there’s never been anyone else for me,” he nodded, “and I think, sometimes,” I closed my eyes, “I’ve spent so much time wondering if you’ll be tired of me, get restless, that it never occurred to me that I might.” He sat up on his elbow.
“Are you restless?” He asked gently. “Do you want to spread your wings a little?” I swallowed.
“I don’t know,” I said, “I want you, but I see,” I exhaled, “other people, and I wonder, what if I’d met them first? What if you hadn’t overwhelmed me so much?” He smiled.
“Well, that puts one fear to rest,” he said. I wrinkled my nose at him. “If I thought you were regretting Dugarry, I might not be able to take it.” He laughed. “Are these, hypothetical people?”
“No,” I said softly. He nodded.
“Do you want to end this?” His voice was gentle, not unkind, or afraid.
“I don’t know,” I said softly, “no?” He smiled. “Not yet.” I nestled my face into his chest.
“May I request,” he kissed my temple gently, “that until you decide, we remain exclusive.”
“You’re being very very understanding,” I said.
“I love you Marina,” he said, “If I’m going to believe as you do, that we’re meant to be together, I have to trust that you’ll come back to me, if you decide to leave,” I rested my chin on his chest and looked at him. “I’ve been ready for you to leave me since you first looked at me, love.” He swallowed.
“I’ll never not want you,” I said quietly. He kissed me gently, sliding his hands to my hips. I pulled closer. “Were the others all girls?” I asked. He stopped and looked at me.
“No,” he said and looked at me, “is that what this is? Do you want me and another man at the same time?” I giggled and shoved my palm against his face. “I’m not opposed, but I repeat, not Dugarry.”
“No,” I said quietly, “it’s Nika.” Saying it out loud to him, suddenly felt like a hole in my chest was sewn up. He nodded. “We’ve been working together, and today after we argued,” I swallowed. “And now I can’t stop thinking about her. And it isn’t fair to you.”
“I don’t know,” he smiled, “thinking about you and Nika seems quite fair to me actually.” I sighed. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t make a joke out of this. It’s scary, the first time you realize it.” I nodded.
“For you?” I asked. He nodded. “Tell me,” it was the first time I’d asked about other lovers. Besides Elaine.
“It wasn’t a grand romance,” he said, “it was while we were in training. It’s forbidden, at home, you know. That’s why Eric was so eager to get Raymond here. It’s different for me, since I like girls too, and I’m, well, me, so no one pays much attention.” I looked at him. “Rory, that was his name, and he was, well, we had a lot in common, but he often even made me feel like a stick in the mud.” I laughed.
“I can only imagine,” I said. “Why did it end?” He shrugged.
“Like most of my stories before you,” he said, “it didn’t really, he was stationed elsewhere, when we saw each other we still got together.” I wove my fingers into his.
“Franz is demanding an ambassador,” I said softly. “I’m going to ask Lisette for the post.” He exhaled.
“Don’t,” he whispered, “not for me.” I pressed my forehead to his.
“It isn’t for you,” I said, “not entirely. I think I need to go. I think Rana wants me to.” He nodded. “Will you show me Brinecliff?” I whispered, “And Pharras?”
“There’s nothing in the world I’d want more,” he said. I smiled. “You could bring Nika,” he teased. I shook my head and kissed him.
“Enough,” I said. He laughed and pulled me close.
“Well this is cozy,” A drawl came from the terrace door. We both sat up, and I gasped, “hello, Marina,” Brayton was grinning. “Lieutenant Lestoff, I haven’t had the pleasure.” Damian lept out of bed and went right for his throat but was quickly tossed aside by power. “How tedious.”
I felt frozen, I couldn’t move.
“How?” I exhaled. He sat down at the foot of the bed and smiled at me.
“We can discuss that later,” he said. Damian stood up again. “Oh, he’s resilient.” I swallowed. He flicked a hand and a large black funnel restrained him.
“Stop,” I cried out and shoved a hand at him, a blast of light coming out and shattering his magic. He looked stunned as I ran to Damian. He was gasping for breath. “Run,” I whispered to him, “try to get to the palace, tell Annalise.” He nodded, and did make it out the door while I held a wall of light up.
“Well, that is impressive,” Brayton smirked at me. I swallowed and steeled myself.
“Thank you,” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm, “you know how I always longed to please you.” He laughed. “Now, My Lord,” I said, “please explain your presence in my home.”