What sick game are you playing with her?

Turning to Ylianor, Duncan caught a flash of sadness and regret in the startling green eyes. With her face going pale, he checked around for Chris again. And there he was, entering the room with a couple of adoring young and handsome men trailing at his heels.

No time to lose, Duncan spun to Isabella and Jeff. “Would you excuse me?”

Without waiting for a reply, he moved off. And you, Princess, don’t you dare move.

Puzzled, she tried catching his gaze. But—

I’ll be right back. Shutting her out, Prince Caldwell reached Chris in one stride.

“Excuse me for intruding, gentlemen.” He bent his head slightly as a way of an apology.

“Of course, Leader.” Their deferential expressions and their hesitant tones left no doubt how much in awe the two men were of him. “We were just talking anyway.”

“I have something to ask you, Angel.”
 his attention was all for his blond phase mate.

“Now?” Chris looked annoyed or something to that effect.

Something the prince could not quite determine.

“Yes, now.” His tone did not admit for any postponements.

“Sure.” So Chris went all defiant and raised a challenging gaze. “What’s on your mind?”

“Not here.” The matter was too personal to discuss in front of just anyone. “Somewhere private.” He just hoped the two would forgive his manners. “But I won’t keep him long.”

Wrenching Chris by an arm, Duncan led him to a small and quite empty room, pinning him to the wall as soon as he closed the door. “What sick game are you playing with her?”

“Game?” The glue-gray eyes blazed. “I—”

“Be very careful of what you’re about to say, Angel,” he threatened softly. “If I find out you’ve hurt her in any way—”

“I did more than that.” The blue-gray eyes now shone in open dare. “But she loved it. That’s for sure.”

“I don’t believe you.” Not after what he had seen on her beautiful face.

“Then ask her.” Chris, instead, seemed to have no doubts. “I believe it’s no problem for you to find out right now.”

What if he’s right?

Taken aback, the prince released him, hesitating on his next move. Had the concern for his princess’s strained expression gotten the better of him?

For sure, it was driving him into something he had vowed he would never do, interfere in the private matters of the two closest to him.

“Yes, I played that game.” Somehow, the sneaky angel understood it all and took immediate advantage of it. “Though the gods know how you sensed it since she obviously didn’t tell you.”

“She didn’t have to.” Relaxing his stance, Prince Caldwell regarded Chris coldly.

For whatever the reasons that had driven them to repeat a bloody game that had no business existing in his peaceful world, he could not approve of it. Not as a person born and raised in a place that knew no adult violence, in fact abhorred it. Not as a leader of that same world.

“I read it on her face that something wasn’t right.” Still, whatever was eating her could have nothing to do with the game itself, however abject he found it to be.

For he had noticed how all of Chris’s carving the first time around had not turned her off like he would have expected. What made him sick to his stomach and iced his blood with revulsion had sparked quite a different reaction in her. An excitement that should have been out of place yet had fueled Ylianor like nothing before or after.

So she had wanted to try it again. And since she had not suffered any physical harm, something else had obviously upset her. Something that had probably to do with the angel himself, considering how on edge Chris was now. Had the experience been more intense than either she or Chris had imagined?

“And pray, do tell.” Chris returned his icy stare. “Why did you think I had anything to do with it?”

“‘Cause this evening, you dared her to try you. And she did.” The prince frowned, trying to piece together the sensations she had given off. “So what went wrong?”

“Nothing did.” Evidently unable to stand the pressure, the angel lowered his gaze. “All right, so something did.” Save to raise it again in outright provocation. “But I don’t think this is either the time or the place to talk about it.” On the attack again, he pressed his weight against the prince. “Listen, lover. I didn’t mean to hurt her, just wanted to find my way to her like you’ve been telling me to do. And like I’ll have to, if I’ll have to pledge to her,” he whispered seductively.

His husky tone tickling Duncan’s ear, his tongue flickered on it, tracing its edges.

“After all, you’ve been talking about nothing else since you returned.” Pulling back slightly, Chris adjusted his jacket. “To tell you the truth, this pledge thing is a bit sudden for me. I mean, you as a leader and an eventual council seat I might handle. But having her on top of everything else…” The arresting blue-gray eyes misted. “Well, it’s a step too far for me right now.” He shook his head in frustration. “Anyway, since it seems I’ve little choice in the matter—”

“Angel, you have all the choice in the world.” His heart going out to his blond lover, Duncan folded him in his arms.

Not a menacing way anymore, he could have kicked himself for going on the offensive without first analyzing things through.

“Sure I do.” As though resigned, Chris buried his face in Duncan’s chest. “Tell that to my father,” he sneered. “Not that a pledge would be any problem.” Drawing back, he shrugged as though it meant nothing to him. “It would be a real piece of cake,” he snarled maliciously. “Too bad I have no other woman even remotely interesting or that can even come close to being a decent mate. No one I could ask the damn question without hating her for the rest of my life.” He raked his thick hair nervously. “So you see, I’m in deep shit.” He tried his lips on a smile that came out twisted. “And I’ve got you to thank for it all.”

“Me?” Holding him at arm’s length, the prince scrutinized the handsome face. “Why me?”

“‘Cause you played an excellent game.” There was a definite note of admiration, however accusing Chris’s tone sounded. “Making me like her before it became necessary for me to do so.”

“I had no idea it would come down to this.” And that was the goddamn truth!

“That’s the only reason I excuse you.” Suddenly standing down, Chris eased the tension. “But you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t play it your way from now on. And if mine is through pain, rather than pleasure…” He lifted a shoulder as though indifferent to her fate. “Well, she doesn’t seem to mind, so why should you?”

Yeah, why should I? “All right, Angel. I choose to believe you.” Which did not mean he would be foolish enough to ignore how dangerous and unpredictable his phase mate could become. “Explore your pain angle with her all you like.” Taking a step forward, he flattened Chris to the wall again. “But if you ever seriously hurt her, I swear I’ll have your hide.”

“Relax, lover. How could I seriously hurt the only woman I’m eventually going to pledge?” Chris grinned. “It would be against my interest, wouldn’t it?” Reaching up, his lips attacked the prince’s in a ferocious kiss that took Duncan’s breath away. “And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll return to those hot lays just dying to get a hold of my cock.”

Slipping elegantly from Duncan’s grasp, the angel went for the door and stepped out of the room.