As her wounds began to close seamlessly, his own pain increased. He'd been losing blood from his many injuries, didn't know how he could still be conscious.

Before, he'd been too concerned with keeping her alive to think about much of anything else. Now he became acutely aware that her blood was all over him, marking his bed and the arrows on the floor.

The scent was like nothing he'd ever known. Thirst lashed him like a whip. His shaft shot harder. Damn it, ignore it.

His gaze trailed the lines of her jaw, her dainty pointed ears, her neck. Drinking straight from the flesh was against the laws of his order, because living blood carried the victim's memories, which in turn maddened vampires. Their enemies in the Horde, the Fallen, had all gone red-eyed with insanity.

What if he lost control and bit her? Every male in his order feared becoming one of the Fallen. Murdoch was no different, but breaking that law had never even been a consideration for him. He'd never understood the temptation.

Until now. Am I going to make it to dawn without taking her neck? He had to.

The damage I would do to her... Earlier, her wrist had all but sizzled beneath his palm. What would happen to her tender neck under his fangs and lips as he pinned her down?

Would he burn her as he licked her flesh in ecstasy?

Tearing his eyes away, he shot to his feet, tracing to the bedroom. He scooped up the arrows and stained bedding and pitched them outside. While he was there, he shed his torn jacket.

Then he traced to the refrigerator, pouring a cup of blood. Though he was depleted from his injuries, when he tried to drink, it tasted like dirt. He forced himself to swallow.

Damn it, get the cup down. Ignore this lust, blood and otherwise.

After managing barely half of the contents, he returned, gazing down at her face. She lay so still, her blond-tipped lashes a sweep against her pale cheeks.

The mere idea of hurting her sent him reeling. He needed to protect her.

Without opening her eyes, she whispered on a frosty breath, "Murdoch?"

"Do you need more ice?" he quickly asked. Most of it had melted, but the wounds that had marred her chest were practically healed.

She shook her head.

"Do you want to get out of the water?"

In answer, she lifted her arms to him. He frowned. So trusting, so vulnerable.

He gathered her against his chest, then traced her back to his bed. Still holding her, he grabbed a towel for her to lie on.

Her br**sts moved against his arm as he laid her down, and his c**k shot even harder. For three hundred years, Murdoch had had no interest in women's br**sts.

Now he nearly growled with pleasure.

Drawing back, he saw that her eyes were open, half-lidded. Gone was the silver. They were an aquamarine almost too vivid to be real.

"When I slept, I didn't dream of them. I dreamed of you." She sounded delirious. "Vampire, are you going to stay with me?"

He'd wanted to capture a Valkyrie and get her to talk. Why not now? "Yes, I'll stay with you."

This seemed to comfort her, and her eyes slid closed again, but he knew she was still awake.

"Daniela? Who were the men who attacked you?" He recalled the blade and the male's intoned words that had sounded like a sentencing. Tonight's attack had been an assassination attempt.

"The Icere, the fey of the north."

"Why did they want to hurt you?"

She shrugged. "Wasn't the first time. I stay on the move. Just two centuries ago, he sent a troop, but I was able to get away."

"Who sent them?" She was more than two hundred years old?

"Their king, Sigmund. This time they surprised me. 'Cause I was distracted."

"What distracted you?"

She grinned but said nothing.

"Why do they want you dead? Daniela?" When she pressed her lips together, he knew she wouldn't tell him more about this subject, so he decided to move on to a new one.

Nikolai had described the other Valkyrie he'd encountered. One had had skin that glowed, and one had been a supernatural archer. This female was some kind of ice creature. Perhaps all the Valkyrie had overarching similarities, but they could be born of different species.

"Daniela, your sister Myst is not cold like you. Why?"

Without opening her eyes, she murmured, "We share a set of parents. But one of our mothers is different."

"One of your mothers? An adoptive mother?"

"No. Have three parents."

She's delirious. Or was she? One thing he'd learned about the Lore was that nothing made sense to him. The laws of the Lore defied the laws of nature.

"How is that possible?" When she seemed to be going back under, he gave her shoulder a gentle shake.

Her blond brows drew together. "Woden and Freya struck my mother with lightning to bring her back to life. I was in the lightning. The three are my parents."

No, she's definitely delirious.

"Myst was born of Woden, Freya, and a human Pict."

Picts? They'd lived centuries ago. "How old are you?"

"Two thousand or so."

"Two thousand."

"'m a Pisces."

"I see. Why did you want to know whether Myst was with Kristoff or Nikolai?"

She softly answered, "Myst likes Nikolai. If he's nice tonight, he's going to be plus-one with a Valkyrie."

"Nice tonight?" he repeated. Murdoch suspected his brother would be many things with Myst. Nice was not among the possibilities. Feeling an unaccountable flare of guilt, he traced to the kitchen, returning with a glass of water for Daniela. He lifted it to her lips, but she turned her head away.

"Don't drink."

"It's just water."

"Don't drink anything."

"I suppose you don't eat either."

"Un-unh."

If any of this was true... He needed to talk to Nikolai -

"Murdoch?" Her eyes were open once more, and they were focused on his mouth. "You have the most kissable lips I've ever seen."

He swallowed. "And would you like to kiss me? If you could?"

"If I started... I don't think I'd ever stop." Her words were throaty, so damned enticing. She wasn't a warrior, she was a temptress.

And a lesser man could get snared if he wasn't careful.

Her lids slid closed again. She seemed to be in that delirious state where the mind didn't want to cede to oblivion.

She eased her arm over her head, those sexy bracelets clanking, and the damp locks covering her chest fell away, revealing her perfect br**sts.

They were little, but high and so plump that he ached to sink his fangs into one. Instead, he dug a fang into his bottom lip. He imagined the blood seeping on his tongue was hers.




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