“Jani…” he started, following me, coming to his knees despite his bad ankle, crawling so close that I had nowhere to go. “You’ve been keeping something from me. I see it. Even in the damn dark I can see it. It’s everywhere.” Bane moved his warm fingers to my bottom lip and let his thumb glide across my cheekbone. “You refuse to meet my eyes. You avoid me when I stare too long.”
“You always stare too long.”
“I can’t help that.”
He was massive, a sweltering cloud that collected energy, that absorbed emotion so that it became consuming—a vacuous funnel that craved the things it did not need but took what it wanted. That was Bane. He took control, but for the life of me I could not see past letting him take what had always been his.
“Tell me my daydream was invented. That dream of being in the classroom with you.” There was a challenge in his voice that reminded me of us as children, huddled and scared, taunting and fearless. But I wouldn’t answer, couldn’t tell him something that would hurry along his anger. It would be heavy enough when it came.
“Jani,” he said, coming so close that I could smell the sweat from his skin and hear the tiny rasp that caught in his throat.
“You’ll hate me.” It was as close to an explanation as I could offer.
Bane pressed his hand against my cheek, the touch warm and soft but with that small red current still working behind his skin, still flirting with me to cry out that he was mine. “Never, little witch.”
Give and take. He wanted, needed, but didn’t understand why. He didn’t remember, and at that moment, I could not bring myself to remind him. It would hurt too much. But the warmth in his hand, the sweet, honeysuckle scent from his skin weaving like a spell of its own making, intoxicating me, lulling me closer and closer until only Bane—the sound, feel, and smell of him—took up all the space in my head. There was only this man. There was only this moment.
Both belonged to me.
Our mouths came close together, our breaths heated and dampened our faces, our lips—bringing us to the blistering, bated breath before the race begins. A small incline, the minutest stretch of my neck and that mouth, that tongue would belong to me. It was different from the night he spelled me. There was no primeval encouragement from the ley lines egging us on, inching us closer and closer toward our most basic urges. This was more, and somehow with Bane’s face so close to mine, with his fingers tugging on the back of my hair, I knew that one kiss would unhinge me. It would change everything and there would be no stopping us.
“I…this…” My words got stuck somewhere around the back of my throat, clung tight against the hot breath that fanned out when Bane rested his forehead against mine, when he moved his mouth to kiss between my eyebrows. “This isn’t normal, Jani. This…” He paused, shuddering when that pulsing red light shot across his skin, hovering near his fingertips. “Someone spelled us.”
Blinking, nodding, it was all I could manage. Bane was too strong, the heat in the room too full, the air too thick. Yes, someone had been spelled—him. Someone had done the spelling—me. But really I was a coward, scared of what he’d think, say, damn well do if he found out I’d taken his memories from before. Even if it was for the best, I’d still lied to him—the lie of omission. I’d blocked him and kept for myself something I had no business hiding away.
But Bane seemed content to ignore the past. He seemed mesmerized by the moment, fascinated by the play of reddish light on our skin and that whip of succulent heat that warmed us every time he moved his fingers across my collarbone. “I think I know what this is, Jani, but it makes no sense. Nothing between us, then or now, ever made sense to me.” And it wouldn’t, not to him, not with the understanding I’d taken from him when I blocked his memories. He kept flirting closer to the truth, skating the surface of what that light meant and where he’d seen it before. I couldn’t let him find out, not like that. Not just then.
“Bane,” I said, pulling him closer, loving the low, deep throttle of his voice vibrating when my nails slid up his neck. “You watched over me. Protected me.”
“Did I scare you then?”
“Always,” I said, feeling brave, reckless. I exhaled, staring in his eyes like I wasn’t a coward. “But I loved you for it.”
One swift nod, as though he’d made up some silent decision on his own and Bane picked me up, pulling me closer, his arm around my waist and that busted ankle injury forgotten in his smooth haste to kiss me.
His look was feral and possessive, and even though some loud, loud voice in my head told me to stop him, reminded me that it was my job to stop him, I was powerless against the rush of his mouth against my neck and the greedy hold of his massive hand cupping my hip.
“This isn’t…this won’t lead anywhere…” There was little fight in my protest, my words meant to stop him, only contradicted by how I stretched my neck, giving him greater access to my skin.
“It already has. It started a long time ago.”
“Yes, Jani,” he said, shutting me up with that wide mouth, with the slip of his tongue along my bottom lip. “Every look back then to right now, I was saying the same thing. Every single one.”
My body was electrified, stunted by Bane’s confession, crippled by the light heat collecting around us. If I asked and was disappointed, I’d lose nothing. I had claimed him long ago and had lived with the empty feeling of that for years. If he claimed me now, not remembering a thing and discovered later how badly I’d betrayed him, could I stand the notion that I was his and he no longer wanted me?
Risk and rules. My life existed around both and just for a moment with Bane watching me, with him waiting for permission he didn’t seem familiar with ever having to wait for, I wanted to take something for myself. Just once. “Do I have to ask?”
“No,” he said, his bottom lip twitching as he watched me, “just look a little deeper.”