“Why?” I blurted out. “Why would you…do this? You don’t know me, and you thought I was someone else.”
A flicker of amusement crossed his striking features. “I have nowhere to be at the moment, and I’m intrigued.”
My brows lifted. “Because you have nowhere to be at the moment?”
“Would you rather I wax poetic about how I’m charmed by your beauty, even though I can only see half your face? Which, by the way, from what I can see is pleasing. Would you rather I tell you I’m captivated by your eyes? They are a pretty shade of green from what I can tell.”
I started to frown. “Well, no. I don’t want you to lie.”
“None of those things were a lie.” He tugged on the bow as he dipped his head, brushing his lips over mine. The soft contact sent a wave of awareness through me. “I told you the truth, Princess. I’m intrigued by you, and it’s fairly rare anyone intrigues me.”
“So,” he repeated with a chuckle as his lips glided along my jaw. “You’ve changed my evening. I’d planned to return to my quarters. Maybe get a good, albeit boring, night of sleep, but I have a suspicion that tonight will be anything but boring if I spend it with you.”
I drew in a shallow breath, weirdly flattered, and yet still confused by his motivations. I wished someone was here to ask, but even if they were, that would be weird—and awkward.
The two glasses by the settee appeared in my mind. “Were you…were you with someone before me?”
His head lifted and stared down at me. “That’s a random question.”
“There are two glasses by the settee,” I pointed out.
“It’s also a random, personal question asked by someone whose name I don’t even know.”
My cheeks warmed. He had a point.
He was quiet for so long that doubt crept in. Maybe I shouldn’t care if he had been with someone else this evening, but I did, and if that told me anything, it screamed that this was a mistake. I was in over my head. I knew nothing about him, of what was—
“I was with someone,” he answered, and disappointment swelled. “A friend who is not like the owner of the cloak. One I hadn’t seen in a while. We were catching up, in private.”
The dismay eased, and I decided that he must be telling the truth. He didn’t have to lie to have me when he could have any number of others who would be eager to intrigue him.
“So, Princess, will you tell me what you want from me?”
I took another uneven breath. “Anything?”
“Anything.” He moved his hand then, cupping my breast as he ran his thumb across the center.
It was such a light touch, but I gasped as bolts of pleasure darted through me. My body reacted on its own, arching into his touch.
“I’m waiting,” he said, swiping his thumb once more and scattering my already disjointed thoughts. “Tell me what you enjoy, so I can make you love it.”
“I…” I bit down on my lip. “I don’t know.”
Hawke’s gaze flew to mine, and such a long moment passed that I began to wonder if I’d said the wrong thing. “I’ll tell you what I want.” His thumb moved in slow, tight circles across a most sensitive part. “I want you to remove your mask.”
“I…” A sharp, pulsing thrill rippled through my body, quickly followed by my heady wonder. What I felt… I’d never felt anything like it before. Sharp and sweet, a different type of anguish. “Why?”
“Because I want to see you.”
“You can see me now.”
“No, Princess,” he said, lowering his head until his lips brushed the neckline of my gown. “I want to really see you when I do this without your gown between you and my mouth.”
Before I could ask what he meant, I felt the wet, warm glide of his tongue through the thin, silken gown. I gasped, shocked by the act and by the rush of liquid heat it brought forth, but then his gaze lifted to mine as his mouth closed over the tip of my breast. He sucked deep and long, and the gasp turned to a cry that would surely embarrass me later.
“Remove your mask.” His head lifted as he slid a hand over my hip. “Please.”
He wouldn’t recognize me if I did. Hawke would never know who I was with or without the mask, but…
If I removed the facial covering, would he say what the Duke often did? That I was both a masterpiece and a tragedy? And when he felt the uneven slices of skin scattered along my stomach and thighs, would he jerk his hand away in horror?
My skin chilled.
I hadn’t thought this through.
The wonderful, exhilarating heat dimmed. Hawke wasn’t an Ascended, but he was like them in appearance, nearly flawless. I had never been ashamed of the scars before. Not when they were proof of the horror I’d survived. But if he—
Hawke’s hand slid down my outer right thigh to where the dress parted and stopped, right over the hilt of the dagger. “What the…?”
Before I could even take another breath, he’d unsheathed the blade, his fingers coming precariously close to one of the scars. I sat up, but he was faster, rocking backward.
The candlelight glinted off the red blade. “Bloodstone and wolven bone.”
“Give that back,” I demanded, scrambling to my knees.
His gaze shifted from the dagger to me. “This is a unique weapon.”
“I know.” My hair fell forward, over my shoulders.
“The kind that’s not inexpensive,” he continued. “Why are you in possession of this, Princess?”
“It was a gift.” Which was true. “And I’m not foolish enough to come to a place like this unarmed.”
He stared at me for a moment and then focused on the dagger again. “Carrying a weapon and having no idea how to use it doesn’t make one wise.”
Irritation flared to life just as hotly as the desire he’d elicited from me mere moments ago. “What makes you think I don’t know how to use it? Because I’m female?”
“You can’t be surprised that I would be shocked. Learning how to use a dagger isn’t exactly common for females in Solis.”
“You’re right.” And he was. It wasn’t socially appropriate for females to know how to wield a weapon or be able to defend themselves, something that always bothered me. If my mother had known how to defend herself, she might still be here. “But I do know how to use it.”
The right side of his lips curved up. “Now, I’m truly intrigued.”
He moved unbelievably fast, thrusting the dagger blade down into the bed. I gasped, wondering what the owners of the Red Pearl would think of that, but then he pounced. He took me back down to the mattress, his weight covering me once more, and he pressed into me in a way that caused all the interesting parts to meet. His mouth lined up with mine—
A fist pounded on the door, silencing whatever he was about to ask. “Hawke?” A male voice rang out. “You in there?”
He stiffened above me, his warm breath against my lips as he closed his eyes.
“It’s Kieran.” The man called out a name I didn’t recognize.
“As if I didn’t know that already,” Hawke muttered under his breath, and a small giggle left me. His eyes opened, and that half-grin appeared.
“Hawke?” Kieran pounded some more.
“I think you should answer him,” I whispered.
“Dammit,” he cursed. Looking over his shoulder, he called out, “I’m thoroughly, happily busy at the moment.”
“Sorry to hear that,” Kieran replied as Hawke refocused on me. Kieran knocked again. “But the interruption is unavoidable.”
“The only unavoidable thing I see is your soon-to-be broken hand if you pound on that door one more time,” Hawke warned, and my eyes widened. “What, Princess?” His voice lowered. “I told you I was really intrigued.”
“Then I must risk a broken hand,” Kieran answered.
A growl of frustration rumbled from deep within Hawke’s throat, the sound strangely animalistic. Goosebumps pimpled my skin.
“The…envoy has arrived,” Kieran added through the door.
Shadows crept across Hawke’s face. His lips moved as if he murmured something, but the sound was too low for me to hear.
A chill chased away some of the heat. “An…envoy?”
He nodded. “The supplies we’ve been waiting for,” he explained. “I need to go.”
I nodded in return, understanding that he had to leave as I reached between us, grasping the edge of the cloak.
For a long moment, Hawke didn’t move, but then he shifted off me, standing. He called out to Kieran as he grabbed his tunic off the floor. I yanked the forgotten dagger out of the mattress, quickly sheathing it as he pulled the tunic over his head and shrugged a baldric over his shoulders, securing the belt at his waist. There were two sheaths at his sides for weapons—weapons I hadn’t been aware of until now.
He picked up two short swords from the chest near the door, and I thought that maybe I needed to be better aware of my surroundings the next time I barged into a room.
His blades were honed to a wicked, deadly point, intended for close-contact fighting, and each side was serrated, designed to cut through flesh and muscle.
I knew how to use them, too, but I kept that to myself.
“I’ll come back as soon as I can.” He sheathed the swords flat to his sides. “I swear.”
I nodded once more.
Hawke stared at me. “Tell me that you’ll wait for me, Princess.”
My heart skipped over itself. “I will.”
Turning, he walked to the door and then stopped. He faced me. “I look forward to returning.”
I said nothing as he left the room, opening the door only wide enough for him to slip through. When the door clicked into place behind him, I let go of the breath I had been holding and looked down at the front of my gown. The area of my breast was still damp, the white material nearly transparent. My cheeks flushed hotly as I scooted off the bed and stood on surprisingly weak knees.