Another bargain with himself, one he accepted: When she comes again, you join her.
To this end, he used his body to work hers, pumping his hips while she writhed on his pistoning cock.
Her eyes widened once more. "A-again, vampire?"
Between his gnashed teeth, he commanded her, "Ah, gods, again, my sweet."
Even before she screamed, he felt the telltale squeeze around his shaft. The pressure of his rising seed mounted; his muscles tensed in readiness, his mind blanking.
"You-are-mine!" he roared as the clench of her orgasm milked him to perfection. No longer could he resist its demand. "Eşti a mea!"
Pleasure wracked him, made him throw back his head and bellow her name as he began to ejaculate deep inside his woman. Scorching jets of se**n bathed her womb . . . over and over . . . until his voice was hoarse, his body emptied.
Never letting you go, female. Never!
With a dazed groan, he collapsed over her. Between breaths, he rasped, "Bettina, eternitate."
The next morning, rain poured outside, the wind whipping Bettina's tower, lightning flashing all around.
But she was cozy inside her workshop, humming as she polished the most important piece of jewelry she'd ever created.
A wedding ring for tonight's ceremony.
She'd started on it as soon as Daciano had left her at dawn. In the hours before that, they'd laughed, touched, and explored each other's bodies in her bed. Actually, it was now their bed, in their rooms. He'd claimed them as well.
With Daciano in her life, suddenly her spire didn't feel like a cloistered prison, but a hideaway for them from the world.
"I dunno what tune you're hummin'," Salem said as he appeared beside her, "but I'll bet the lyrics go like this: 'I-love-sex.' "
Bettina shrugged mysteriously, deciding not to be one to kiss and tell. But, yes, she did in fact now love sex. She had decided this after the first time, then enthusiastically confirmed it on the second and third.
She and Daciano probably would have enjoyed a fourth, but he'd been hindered by his healing wounds.
Just before he'd traced away this morning, he'd tucked her into bed. His hair had been tousled over his forehead, his eyes devilish. "I have some things I have to take care of today. But I await more of this tonight."
She'd been wide-eyed and not a little awed by her vampire lover. As he'd pressed a kiss to her hair, he'd murmured, "Last night, I made you my Bride; tonight, I'll make you my wife."
Bettina Daciano? Instead of the constant crushing loss she'd come to expect in this tournament, now all she felt was excitement. To be his wife? To have an immortal lifetime of nights like the last, of losing herself in his onyx gaze . . . ?
There'd been no sleep for her; she'd rushed to her workshop and started on a gold band for him. It was simple in design to suit his taste.
And now, she understood the symbolism of an unending circle more than she ever had.
"Oh, and by the way, right thanks to you for the proverbial sock on the doorknob, flatmate," Salem said, occupying the backboard. "I had nowhere to go."
"I'm surprised you didn't return to my room, you peeping phanTom."
"Of course I returned. Would've stayed too. But last night, you and the vamp were so loving-and yet oh, so durty-it messed wiv me mind." He made a shuddering sound. "Seems you got over Cas quickly enough. R.I.P. tonight, demon. Hookers the worlds over will go into mourning."
She rolled her eyes. "Nothing is going to happen to Cas. Daciano found an escape clause in the rules because he's brilliant. Bottom line: both of them are going to live." She tucked the polished band into a velvet pouch for safe keeping.
Instead of sharing her happiness, Salem merely said, "Sounds a little too good to be true."
"The vampire can't lie, and he said they'd both survive." But Salem's comment got her thinking. The outcome might be as she wanted it, but the crowd's reaction might not be.
If there was a draw at the end, the rowdy and drunken Abaddonae might riot. Some entourages of fallen contestants still lingered-would they accuse Rune of fixing the tournament?
Thinking like a queen? Perhaps she should institute some precautions. She could assign soldiers to trail the entourages, then station even more guards at the ready for crowd control.
Should she ration the demon brew? No, that'd be wildly unpopular. She tapped her chin. But free baked goods would soak it up! She began scribbling her decrees for tonight.
"So you think this 'draw' is going to make everything just peachy?" Salem asked.
She stilled. "Maybe I do."
"And what about the tension between the vamp and Caspion? Daciano's still an assassin-what's to keep him from offing Cas directly after the tournament?"
"Me. He knows I could never forgive him for that." She'd told Daciano as much in the folly.
Salem shimmered from the backboard into a nearby drill bit. "All right, say the leech actually gives the demon a pass. You can't be thinking that the two of them'll just live here and be chums. Two swinging-dick alphas like that? You're deluded if you believe they won't be at each other's throats."
"It won't happen. I won't allow it to happen," Bettina said, as if she were used to getting her way. Perhaps she hadn't been in the past, but in the future-
"Don't be a git. Daciano's going to run Cas out of this kingdom-and your life-at the earliest."