Happy Halloween, my darlings! As a special treat, I’ve written a steamy short story to share for the spooky holiday season. This story contains graphic sexual scenes, blood, death, and a villain who may tempt you. It is absolutely NOT safe for work, nor recommended for anyone under the age of 18 years old. There’s my disclaimer. Now, enjoy this venture into the darkness…
The Phantom showed no mercy to his victims, and yet she longed to cross his path, if only to experience what it would be like to encounter death.
For six months, Emily Whitcombe followed the papers relentlessly, searching for any sightings of the masked vigilante. She studied his crimes thoroughly, scouring the details of each report, desperate for a glimpse of the man beneath the mask.
Why would a proper young woman launch herself into such a macabre search with such ferocity? It was all in the name of research. At least, this was the truth in the beginning. Now, it had become an obsession, a passion. Her desire to uncover not only his identity, but his motivations. This surpassed the curiosity in which she began her search for information regarding her gothic novel.
“Daydreaming again, are you?” Mrs. Merriton appeared, bearing a tray laden with tea and sweets. She tutted and bustled forward, placing the tray on the table beside Emily.
“Of course, Mrs. Merriton, I have my meeting tonight and must have my latest chapter outlined before then.” Emily set aside the book containing the first draft of her novel.
“Must you venture out so late?” The older woman frowned. “And without a chaperone?”
A sigh escaped Emily. As sweet as the landlady was, she clung to the antiquated ideals of a lady’s role and expectations placed upon her in society. It was no use arguing with her about the reality of it being the dawn of a new century. In two months, a new era would begin with the turn of the century. 1900. There had been leaps and bounds in advancements not only for travel and communication, but for women’s rights and autonomy as individuals. Poor Mrs. Merriton seemed uninterested in changing her views, so Emily remained silent and poured the tea.
“Perhaps Roan would escort you to your meeting,” Mrs. Merriton interjected when the man in question walked past the archway.
He paused, peering into the room. His thick, dark hair, a tad longer than was fashionable, hung across his forehead. “Did you need something, Mrs. Merriton?”
Emily’s heart fluttered at the sight of him.
“Would you be willing to escort Emily to her meeting this evening?”
“That’s unnecessary.” Emily held up her hand, and it fell limply into her lap when Roan turned his gaze toward her. “I shall be quite all right walking across town.”
“Pish posh,” Mrs. Merriton protested with a snort. “‘Tis unseemly to have a woman bounding about town alone and after dark. Especially with this Phantom menace lurking about.”
The soft flutter of her heartbeat doubled, resembling a drumbeat in her chest at the mention of the Phantom. Oh, to have such luck.
“If you require my services, Miss Emily, all you need to do is ask.” Roan’s striking green eyes sparkled with amusement when he studied her face.
“I appreciate the offer, sir.” She brushed him off with a soft chuckle, even though her face warmed at his response. “But I shall be perfectly safe on my own.”
He stood in the archway wearing a strange expression she could not quite decipher. “As you wish.” With an inclination of his head, he ducked back into the hall and out of sight.
Emily passed the tea to Mrs. Merriton and gathered her belongings into a bag. The handsome, bashful gentleman showed such concern for her well-being. Of course, he was only offering his services at the behest of Mrs. Merriton, but she could not help but imagine the possibilities of such a gesture if he truly fancied her.
Four years past, at five and twenty, Emily found herself alone in the world after her parents perished in a fire that stole her home and her family’s fortune. Mrs. Merriton’s boarding house offered a comfortable residence during her mourning and subsequent years as an independent woman.
With a year until she turned thirty, Emily now desired to finally claim her true independence and strike out on her own. As soon as she finished her novel and submitted it for publication. Alas, writing a gothic romance seemed much harder than she previously believed, which proved just how important her monthly writing meetings were. She could not miss one, not when her story was so close to completion.
The elusive details, of course, rest in her current obsession with the Phantom. If only she were fortunate enough to encounter the dangerous killer whose presence had created such a commotion in their small coastal town.
Emily sipped her tea while Mrs. Merriton prattled on about something inconsequential. She nodded and smiled, but deep in her mind the wheels turned, searching for ways to capture the essence of the Phantom into her villainous character, Damon.
The stories of Jack the Ripper ten years past sent shivers down her spine, but the Phantom was something different, something dangerous and unexpected. His victims were always scoundrels, thieves, wastrels up to mischief. He never harmed women or children, or so the papers claimed. But there were never any specific details provided about the men he killed.
Even so, the newspapers sensationalized his bloody crusade, making him out to be an unwanted, treacherous vigilante who would corrupt the innocent and murder any who crossed his path. But there was always more to the story.
Determined, Emily squared her shoulders. If only she could meet this masked menace, then she could ask the questions burning inside her. He could impart the details only one with a tarnished soul could, feeding her curiosity and aiding her in completing her novel’s critical character arc.
Perhaps that was the true reason she longed to walk alone after dark. The chance, however slim, would still leave a window of opportunity.
After tea with Mrs. Merriton, Emily gathered her bag and retreated to the hall to gather her coat and gloves.
“You had best take care, Miss Emily.” Roan’s voice made her jump.
She spun, placing her hand on her heart. “You gave me a fright.”
“My apologies.” A soft smile pulled at his lips. “You seem to take a vested interest in the Phantom.”
“Research,” she protested, patting the bag on her hip. “For my novel.” The excuse sounded pathetic, even to her ears. Guilt rose from deep within, painting her cheeks with heat.
“Does the possibility of crossing his path not terrify you?” Roan asked, his voice low. The tone of his voice and the implication of his question set her heart aflutter.
“On the contrary, I do not fear him as he has not proven himself hostile to innocent women and children.” Emily studied Roan for a long moment. “If I were to encounter him, I would enlist his aid.”
“You would ask a murderer for help?” Roan’s lips twisted in a smile. “With what?”
His laugh warmed her through.
“You find this amusing?”
“I do.” He crossed his arms.
Emily struggled to pull her gaze away from the way his shirt pulled tight against his muscular shoulders and chest. “What would you ask the Phantom, should you stumble upon him in the dark?”
“Does he delight in killing?” She licked her lips. “Is there pleasure in causing pain?”
Roan’s eyes darkened. “Do you believe pleasure and pain are opposites?”
“Perhaps in your mind, but there are some who find pleasure in experiencing pain, as well as inflicting it.”
“You should leave, or you will be late for your meeting.” Roan stepped forward and opened the door. “Enjoy your evening, Miss Emily.”
Shaken from her tangled thoughts, Emily nodded and stepped out into the crisp, fall air.
“Beware. The Phantom is not one with whom to trifle.” With those parting words, he closed the door.
Handsome, charming, devilishly shy, Roan kept mostly to himself. He became the most recent addition to Mrs. Merriton’s boarding house a year past. Traveling through, he found work at a printer in town and stayed.
Handy and helpful, he also found work around the house, exchanging his services for board. All the tenants adored him. Emily, however, found him to be both a distraction and a delight. Her initial admiration for his presence slowly grew into the need to be closer to him, to know more about his history. The innocent brushing of hands and shy glances gradually stoked an innocent curiosity into a simmering desire. One she kept firmly contained and locked away.
The sojourn across town proved uneventful, as did the writer’s gathering. Much was discussed, and Emily made several notes to her already complicated manuscript in which to expand the heroine’s plight by interweaving it with the villain’s. Of course, this left her quite torn about how to proceed with the story, sensing there may be a thread of romance blossoming between the leading lady and the dashing villain, leaving the poor hero confused and neglected. More threads for her to untangle later by gaslight.
Roan’s words haunted her. Is there a difference between pleasure and pain?
By the time the meeting concluded, the stars twinkled overhead and the distant clock in the town square chimed eight.
As she made her way across town, a train whistle sounded in the distance. She cut through the small station platform, barely noticing the two men standing at the far end. They turned as she approached.
“Oi, lovey, what’s a pretty dove like you doin’ out so late, eh?” The taller one grinned, bearing a mouthful of discolored teeth.
Emily backed up a few steps, colliding with the brick building. She scanned the deserted platform. A sickening dread settled in the pit of her stomach when the short, balding man drew a knife from his waistband.
“Come now, lass, we won’t hurt you,” he said.
Emily darted to the right, hoping to clear the building and find help. The tall man was quicker, snatching her by the waist and pinning her against the brick wall. His breath reeked of malted alcohol and rotten teeth. She gagged as his heavy breaths puffed across her cheek.
“We only want a taste of what you got under those skirts.” The bald assailant grabbed the fabric, pulling it up.
Emily struggled against the tall man’s hold, trying to jerk free from his grip. She kicked at his shin, but he blocked it with his foot and leaned his weight against her, holding her for his partner.
She pinched her eyes closed and turned away. A sob choked her as the bald man’s dirty hands ran along the inside of her thigh.
The blaring steam engine rushed past the platform, creating a gust of air and enough noise to cover her shouts for help. He clamped his hand over her mouth. Her eyes watered at the stench. She fixed her gaze past the men, watching the train passing by. Lights flashed behind them, casting an inhuman glow on her assailants.
A shadow split from the darkness beneath the lamppost. The tall, dark figure swiftly overtook the men. A flash of silver cut through the night, glinting in the light from the passing train. With a garbled cry, the bald attacker grasped his throat, dark liquid spilling from the hole gaping between his fingers. He fell to the ground.
The taller one fought against the assailant as they wrenched him off her. A sucking gasp echoed between the clicking of the train on the tracks. Warmth coated her face and soaked into her gloved hands. He dropped next to the first man.
Emily tore her gaze from the bodies lying at her feet. Sticky, warm blood dripped from her face. Her hands trembled. Her heart thundered in her chest.
The lights from the train cars flashed behind him, illuminating his form in a surreal flickering light. The shadowed man stood over his kill. Two slender blades in his hands. With an audible click, they disappeared into his sleeves. The train vanished beyond the platform into the trees leading outside of town, leaving them in strangled silence. He stepped into the sliver of light from the lamp on the corner.
Her breath caught in her throat. The Phantom.
He wore a black half mask. His hair tucked into a beaver skin top hat and a caped wool coat framed his broad shoulders. He held his gloved hand out to her.
She longed for nothing more than to take it.
Had she completely taken leave of her senses? This man murdered two men and stood before her like a gentleman asking for an evening stroll. Why was she not running away in terror? He was no threat. If he would have wanted her dead, she would be nothing but a twisted pile of blood and bones.
No, he came to her aid, and something deep within her wanted whatever he offered.
Emily placed her trembling hand in his. He guided her around the bloodied heaps and away from the train station. The clicking of the train on the tracks echoed in the distance behind her.
He led her through town, darting down alleys, shifting this way and that, weaving through the buildings, but always remaining encased in darkness.
The Phantom knew his way around town with disturbing ease. They appeared on a side street that led to a small park. She glanced around, her eyes situated to the absence of light. Across the street rose the boarding house, silhouetted against the night sky on a quiet street.
How did he know…the thought trailed off as he pulled her toward a small building covered in ivy and moss tucked deep in the park. The gardener’s workshop. He opened the door and tugged her inside, closing it behind them. His large form leaned heavily against the door, caging her inside.
The Phantom held her captive, but the fear she should have felt never came. A strange excitement settled over her, knowing her one wish had been granted.
The scratch and hiss of a match being struck echoed loud in her ears. A dim, flickering light flooded the small space as he lit the lantern. His masked face betrayed nothing as he watched her. Even in the close space, she could parse nothing from this angle. Not the color of his eyes, or the true angles of his face from beneath the mask.
“You’re the Phantom?” she whispered, pressing her hand to her chest. Her heart beat at such a quick pace that she thought it would burst.
He inclined his head in acknowledgement.
“What are you going to do with me?”
“What do you want me to do with you?” His baritone sent a delicious shiver through her. What was she thinking? He was a cold-blooded killer. And she had watched him slay those men with little effort.
“Let me go.”
“I cannot do that.” He set the lantern on the workbench and crossed his arms.
“Please. I promise not to say anything to anyone.”
“You’re covered in blood.” His words were simple and direct.
Her gaze dropped to her pale blue gown, spattered with blood between the gaps in her cloak. Her white gloves stained beyond redemption. There was no way she could return to the boarding house dressed like this. But she had no clothes, no way to wash herself. She discarded her gloves and wiped her face with the hem of her gown.
“Bloody hell.” Nothing about this situation was appropriate.
Even though the Phantom murdered those men, he had saved her life. For that she was thankful. Pushing the horrible memories away, she met his eyes again. “What shall I do?”
“Remain here.” He pointed toward the wall behind her where a small cot lay in the back of the shed. “I shall fetch you some decent clothes.”
“Thank you for saving me.” Emily stepped closer, reaching out to grasp the hem of his greatcoat as he reached for the latch. The faint hint of cloves and cinnamon tickled her nose, tainted by something darker and much more masculine.
“A good girl would be home—” he turned and slipped his gloved hand under her chin “—in bed.”
“I am a good girl.” She should have backed away, repulsed at his touch. Yet she leaned into it, savoring the warmth curling low in her belly. There was something about him, tempting and strangely comforting. As if all her months of reading of his exploits made her intimately familiar with this man. If he wished to hurt her, he would have done so already. She boldly met his gaze, shadowed by the mask. His breath caressed her lips as he leaned close.
“But you like to live dangerously. Don’t you, Emily?”
Her surprise at his use of her given name melted under the soft press of his lips as they claimed hers. His kiss ignited sparks of energy. They zinged through her body, landing in the pit of her stomach and releasing a flurry of butterflies. A soft moan bubbled from deep inside her throat when his spiced lips parted against her own.
All her questions, her curiosity, faded into the background. In this moment, there was only him and unbridled desire coursing through her veins.
Emily wrapped her arms around his neck. Pulling him closer, she let her need pour out. He unfastened her cloak, letting it fall to the floor. She gasped as his hand closed over her breast, squeezing through the fabric. Her thighs were slick with arousal from his touch, his kiss.
He slid a blade from his sleeve and gently cut the laces of her gown and corset, letting them pool around her feet. She flinched as the blade retracted. He stepped back, but she tightened her grip on his lapel.
“I’m not afraid of you.” Her husky whisper sounded strange to her own ears. She stepped closer, allowing her hand to glide over the coat and slip between the fabric. His arousal hard against her palm brought a smile to her lips. He desired her.
“You should be.” His voice was dark, full of sinful promises.
In one smooth motion, he spun her around, pulling her against his body. His cock rubbed against the cleft of her ass, even through the heavy coat. He removed his gloves before holding her hips in place. His fingertips teasing her as they slid across her stomach and into the waistband of her drawers. She shivered as they disappeared in the curls between her thighs.
Emily arched into his touch as he parted her folds, dipping a finger into her. Lifting his hand to his mouth, he tasted her arousal. She swayed against him, wishing she could bury her face from the shame of such an intimate action.
At nearly thirty, Emily knew of the passion between a man and a woman, but never experienced it. Her insatiable curiosity drove her to boldness as she parted her thighs, allowing him complete access.
“You taste sweet, just like I knew you would,” he murmured against her ear as his fingers delved between her thighs again. He slid two fingers deep inside her, mimicking the act, pressing into her. His thumb strummed against the sensitive flesh at the apex. A spot she knew intimately alone, but it never felt like this.
Emily cried out, the pleasure of his touch overwhelming and new. It rose to a crescendo, leaving her gasping and panting as he teased her earlobe between his teeth. Pleasure radiated like fireworks against the night sky. Slumping against him, she whimpered as he pulled his hand away.
Emily laid her head back against his shoulder. He nuzzled her neck, kissing the spot where her pulse raced, and cradled her breasts in his hands, rolling her nipples gently between his fingers. She sighed, her body tingling and tender.
“Forgive me.” He stepped back, leaving a chill to fill the void.
Before she could reach for him, he straightened his coat and disappeared into the night. Emily stood, naked and drenched in her arousal, staring in disbelief after the Phantom.
Disappointment filled her. Did he not want her? She snatched a blanket from the small cot in the back of the shed. Wrapping it around herself, she stared at her ruined clothes on the floor. The memory of their shared passion tugged at her mind.
After several minutes, she cursed. She never got to ask her questions. Damn and blast.
Suddenly, the door burst open. Roan stood in the doorway, a lantern in his hand. His hair disheveled, looking as though he had not slept in days. Emily clutched the blanket to her chest, her face heating. This must look horrible.
“What happened, Miss Emily?” he asked, his eyes wide as he glanced at her ruined clothes on the floor, then back at her.
“I’ll explain later.” She tucked her hair behind her ears. “Can you sneak me into the house? Please.”
Without a word of protest, Roan blew out the lantern. Quietly, he led her back to the boarding house. When they reached the back entrance, Emily turned to him as he held the door open.
“Thank you.” She rose up on her toes and pressed a kiss to his cheek. A lingering scent of cloves and cinnamon greeted her. His body stiffened as she pressed against him, her hand on his chest. “Roan,” she whispered, “How did you know I was in the shed?”
“I saw the light in the window.”
“How did you know…” She glanced at his lips, then his green eyes. “That I needed you.”
“Emily.” Her name fell from his lips in a dark, dangerous whisper.
“Have you been keeping secrets, Roan?” His eyes drifted closed as her hand ghosted over his cock.
He gripped her wrist and met her gaze, his eyes glinting in the gaslight, then he pressed a finger to her lips. “Shhhh.”
She stumbled forward as he pulled her into his room and locked the door.
His fingertips burned against her wrist. She scrambled to catch her balance. The blanket slipped from her grasp and fell in a heap around her feet.
Roan’s hungry gaze drifted over her. “Is this what you desire, Emily? A villain. A monster?”
Standing nearly bare before him, Emily shivered, not from a chill but from pure need. What they had done in the shed, what she allowed him to do to her—saints, it left her aching and desperate. She bolstered her courage and rose to her full height.
“You are no monster.” She held his gaze, daring him to challenge her.
Warmth from the fireplace curled around them, casting an eerie glow against his face. A handsome, kind face. One she admired silently since the first day he appeared at the boarding house. Knowing Roan hid a darker side left her basking in confusion and want. A thousand questions assailed her, but those could wait.
“Sweet, innocent Emily. You cannot fathom what I am.” He stepped closer, running his fingertips along her jaw and down her throat.
“Then tell me.” She trembled beneath his touch, craving more. “Show me.”
Roan growled, taking her jaw in his firm grip, tilting her face up. “From this moment, you belong to me. Every tear, every drop of blood, every sigh of pleasure. They are mine alone.”
“Only yours,” Emily whimpered.
A raw groan tore from his lips as they crashed upon hers. Unbridled passion poured free from the fire burning between them.
He cradled her face in his hands, laying claim to her mouth, plundering his stolen prize. Emily surrendered to his touch and allowed him to guide her deeper into the darkness.
All her daydreams of haunting gothic romances shattered beneath the weight of his kiss. Roan had been the model for the hero of her tragic love story, and yet the Phantom had been the image she used as the insidious villain. But they were one and the same. And they now belonged to her.
Emily grasped his waistcoat in her fists and drew him closer. Her panting gasps echoed in the room amid the sounds of crackling flames. His searching hands skimmed over her bare flesh, leaving her skin sparking like embers bursting in the air. She fumbled with his waistcoat buttons, desperate to have him laid bare.
He grasped her wrists and spun her around, pinning her to the door. Those kind green eyes flickered with a darkness, a violent tempest raging within their depths. Using his full weight, he pressed closer, caging her against the solid wood. With his other hand, he tore the drawers from her waist, leaving her exposed. His thigh nudged the tender flesh he explored earlier.
She rocked against it, seeking release not from his hold, but from this unending torment. Pleasure danced just beyond her reach. If only she could…her body moved of its own accord, rubbing against the fabric of his trousers and the bulk of his thigh.
Roan’s low chuckle brought her crashing to a stop. “You would use me for your own delight?”
Emily ground her teeth. The agitation disintegrated on a moan when he nipped the tender flesh of her throat.
“Patience, my pet. I will ensure you are well sated before this night is out.” His fingertips traced along the insides of her wrists, sending her mind into oblivion.
There was nothing else in this moment aside from him.
“Shall we play a game?” The question pulled her from her haze of desire.
“Your curiosity has put you directly in my path.” A lopsided smile tugged at his full lips. “I saw your notes. Your story.”
“You have been going through my things.” A shiver rippled through her. “Reading my work without my permission.”
“Curiosity, it seems, is something we share.” He leaned close, his breath brushing against her shoulder. His lips ghosted over the arch of her collarbone. “Watching you write in the window seat, day after day, disappearing into a world of your own creation. I could not help but wonder what could possibly seduce you with such force.”
Emily closed her eyes, savoring the warm path of his mouth against her overheated skin. She licked her lips, unable to grasp a thought from the jumbled mess of words circling in her mind like a murder of ravens taking flight.
“Tell me—” He brought his hand to her hip, his fingers digging into her flesh, pulling her closer and drawing a moan from her lips. “What thoughts haunt you that you dare not put on paper?”
“I—know not what you mean.” Fear and arousal spiked in equal measure, making her squirm against his hold. Every dark desire she locked away in her mind tumbled free, dancing on the tip of her tongue. Yet she bit her lip in restraint. Thinking about them was one thing, but voicing them to the object of her fantasies was something else entirely.
“Come now, pet.” He cupped her cheek, forcing her to meet his gaze. “I have read your lovely prose, but your words lack the passion I know lurks here.” His hand trailed down to rest between her breasts.
She arched into him as he brought himself closer. Her center brushed against the fabric covering his thigh, and he applied gentle pressure, soothing the ache enough to remind her of his control.
“Ask of me what you dare not put down in ink.”
The gentle brush of his fingertips along the curve of one breast unraveled what remained of her restraint. She craved what he offered. All of it.
“I need to feel.”
His moss green eyes darkened, like a forest in the fading twilight. “Do you trust me?”
Indecision warred within her until the stronger tide swept her toward a decision. “Yes.”
A satisfied grin split his lips, making him look more villainous rogue than the kind, quiet man she believed him to be. His hand slid over her stomach, down until he cupped her sex in his palm. He groaned at the ease with which he parted her folds and caressed her.
Roan dropped to his knees and drew her thigh over his shoulder. He blew across her center, making her legs tremble. Pinning her against the wall with one hand, he held her steady as he dipped his head closer.
When his mouth closed over her sex, a moan ripped from her throat and she arched against him, thrusting her hips against his face. He lapped at her like a man starved, delving his tongue deep and suckling her flesh between his teeth. For every blissful spark of pleasure, he added a hint of momentary pain. A kiss, then a bite, until her nerves frayed with the unknown.
She threaded her fingers in his thick hair, tugging and pulling. He redoubled his efforts until she sagged against the door, unable to bear her own weight.
With a growl, he shot to his feet, grabbed her by the waist, and pulled her against him. His mouth crashed down on hers. She balked at the taste of herself on his lips but softened after a moment of acclimation. He cradled her face in his hands and drank deep.
Emily swayed when he pulled away.
“Grasp the bedpost and spread your legs.” His order sent a bolt of need straight to her cunt.
Placing her hands on the bedpost, she canted her hips as she widened her stance. Emily glanced over her shoulder.
Roan’s gaze drifted down before returning to meet hers. Slowly, he slid his waistcoat from his shoulders and tossed it aside. Her mouth watered at the precise movement of his fingers unfastening the buttons from their tiny nooses. When he peeled the shirt from his torso, Emily bit her lip at the strong, broad chest he revealed. A dusting of hair dipped down into the waistband of his trousers. He tugged them down over his hips.
Emily shifted her weight, unable to bear the torment of waiting a moment longer. When he withdrew his cock with its sloping curve and tapered, glistening head, she gasped at the thickness of it.
He chuckled at her reaction. “Have you changed your mind, pet?”
She shook her head and tightened her grip on the bedpost.
Roan stood before her, his hand stroking his cock. It tormented her to remain still, to wait for his direction. She pulled away from the post.
He closed the gap between them, wrapping his hand around her throat. “Impatient?”
“Please.” A keening moan tore from her throat as he gripped the base of her neck, putting just enough pressure to make her head spin.
Roan pushed her down onto the bed. Gripping her hips, he drew her back against him until her backside lay spread for his perusal. He ran his cock along her seam, coating himself in her juices. She rocked back against him, desperate for him to fill her.
His hand came down on her ass hard.
She squealed as the pain radiated through her, giving way to an aching, pulsing pleasure.
“Behave, pet. Next time, I will leave a mark.”
A question formed on her tongue, but a strangled cry broke free instead when Roan drove his cock deep into her. He split her in two, the pressure bringing tears to her eyes. She buried her face in the blankets as he withdrew and thrust deep again.
Her hands fisted in the fabric as she scrambled for a firmer grip. Over and over, Roan pounded into her. His hips bruising her backside. His fingertips gripped tight as he guided himself home, again and again.
With every stroke, the discomfort and pain ebbed away, making room for a blossoming pleasure. Emily rocked back against him, opening for him and welcoming his onslaught.
“Good girl.” He stroked the curve of her ass before withdrawing.
The loss of his touch and his cock buried deep inside her left her confused. Roan pushed her up onto the bed, rolling her onto her back. He climbed up, settling between her thighs and fitting himself to her once more.
Roan pressed his fingers to the tight bud he had laved with his tongue earlier, gently rolling it. Stars flickered behind her eyelids. With every jerk of his hips, his hand moved in tandem.
Emily dug her nails into his arms as the tension pulled tight inside her. When it snapped, his name broke free on a gasp. The release washed over her, like waves crashing on the shore.
Roan leaned forward, capturing her lips in a bruising kiss. He quickened his thrusts, driving her deeper into the bed. She thread her fingers through his hair and pulled.
He hissed a breath between his teeth and buried his face in her neck. The sting of his teeth against her skin made her clench around his cock. His seed filled her as he slowed his pace, finally coming to a rest with his head against her shoulder.
Sticky and sated, Emily stroked her finger along his nape. When he finally withdrew, he rolled onto his side and pulled her back against him.
Together they laid in the flickering firelight, silence a balm between them.
“Will you tell me?” she asked, sleepy and content.
“Tell you what, pet?”
“Why you do it?”
“Sleep first, then I shall tell you whatever your heart desires.”
A frown tugged at her lips. “But I must know why.”
His heavy sigh tickled her cheek. “To protect you.”
Confusion mingled with exhaustion, muddling her mind. “I don’t understand.”
“You will, pet.” He kissed her shoulder. “Sleep.”
It was useless to argue with him. She would have her answers soon enough. Burrowing into the pillow, she yawned and closed her eyes. His arm draped over her, keeping her close and safe.
In all the time she knew Roan, she desired him. But knowing she possessed both his heart as well as the Phantom’s left her with a deep-seated satisfaction.
The ending of her novel took frame in her mind as she drifted off to sleep. The hero was the villain in the end after all.
Roan stared into the distance, watching the shadows of the flames dance upon the patterned wallpaper. Emily’s soft breaths became deeper, more even until she relaxed completely against him, lost to the warm embrace of slumber.
The tension eased from his shoulders, and he inhaled the sweet scent of her, of their union.
This would certainly complicate matters.
How could he possibly give her the answer she sought without revealing the truth?
He stroked her cheek, tucking an errant lock of hair behind her ear. She curled deeper into his embrace.
So trusting. So innocent.
Roan grinned. His plan had worked, and now she lay content in his arms, oblivious to the danger encroaching on her perfect little world.
He made sure she would never recognize him from before that night. The night he killed her family with a single overturned lantern and a window curtain.
Her father stole everything from him, and he plotted his revenge. He never intended to seduce her. To fall in love with his enemy’s daughter.
Could he follow through with his vengeance?
Her soft moan filled the room. He tightened his hold on her.
Everything in his body screamed to keep her safe, to protect her. But his soul demanded blood. Payment for the wrongs done to him.
Perhaps he could indulge, keep her for a time. Love her.
The darkness in his soul crept forward, demanding satisfaction.
“Not yet,” he whispered to the darkness. She may yet bring hope.
Such dangerous desires. Ruin visits to those who dare to dream. To hope for something more.
With a kiss to her temple, he closed his eyes. He would worry about it later. For now, he would savor this woman. Even if she bore the name of the man who killed his family and left him in despair.