We’ve made it to Wednesday — wahoo! Today we’re continuing our month-long paranormal romance celebration in honor of Halloween with this sexy excerpt from C.L. Wilson‘s The Sea King. In this Hump Day excerpt of the RT Top Pick!, we meet Prince Dilys, who is on the hunt for a bride, and Summer princess Gabriella, who is so much more than she seems …
The shock of her fall and the breathtaking cold of the water left Gabriella stunned for a moment, then the need to breathe snapped her to her senses. Her instinctive scream when she’d fallen left her with barely any air in her lungs. Kicking and flailing, she tried to swim back up to the surface, but the anchor tied to her ankle proved too heavy. Instead of going up, she continued to sink deeper.
There was a splash overhead as something big hit the surface. She paid it no mind. Her entire being was focused on freeing herself from the anchor that was dragging her to her death. Her lungs began to burn as the need to breathe became dire.
She tore at the rough, swollen rope tangled around her ankle, but the weight of the anchor kept the knots tight. Desperate, she grabbed the rope a little below her ankle in an attempt to relieve the tension so she could loosen the knots and get free.
When something grabbed her, what little air she still retained in her lungs left in an instinctive shriek that sent up a flood of rapidly rising bubbles. Water poured into her mouth and throat. She coughed. More water flooded in, and a few seconds later the strangest sense of calm washed over her.
Dimly, she realized she was drowning, but she couldn’t move her arm or legs anymore. She also realized the “thing” that had grabbed her was Dilys Merimydion, who must have dived in after her.
He caught her arm and tugged. When she didn’t move, it took him half a second to realize her predicament. He didn’t try to unravel the knots tying her to the anchor, he simply swiped a hand down below her feet, and the weight of the anchor disappeared.
As he spun back around and reached out to grab her, his left wrist slid across her right. The red rose birthmark on her inner wrist—proof of her royal Summerlea heritage—flared with sudden, almost explosive heat, and the tattoos inked across Dilys Merimydion’s body lit up with a bright, blue phosphorescent glow that illuminated him, her, and the dark water around them.
His gaze, wide, shocked, golden, bored into hers as their weightless bodies went rigid in the cold depths.
The edges of Gabriella’s vision went blurry, and the world went dark.
The next thing she knew, she was lying flat on her back on the wooden pier. Dilys Merimydion was crouched over her, crooning, and what seemed like a veritable ocean of water poured out of her throat as he literally sang the water out of her lungs. A moment later, he placed his lips against hers and blew into her a breath that tingled with warmth and potent magic, and every nerve and cell of her body came roaring back to electric, wildly pulsating life.
When he pulled back, she drew in a long, shuddering breath of her own and stared up into his dark bronze face. His tattoos were alive with otherworldly beauty, the whorls and patterns emitting a phosphorescent glow, as if blue starlight danced across his skin. The stylized wave that curled from the corner of his eye across the crest of his cheekbone seemed to ripple like the surface of the water. Despite their recent swim, he was completely dry and so, she realized, was she. Her hair was a mess, pins lost, curls spilled out around her, but every bit of her was perfectly dry.
Calbernans, it seemed, were masters of more than just the waters of the world’s oceans.
He was still crouched over her. All that smooth, deli- cious skin a scant arm length away, fragrant with decadent, tropical aromas and earthy richness that not even their unplanned plunge into the fjord had been able to wash away. Did he always smell thusly? Good enough to eat? Her tongue hungered for a taste and her palms itched to flatten against the swell of his pectoral muscles, to dis- cover if his skin felt as delicious as it smelled.
“Are you all right?”
His voice was low, husky, rough in all the right ways. She shuddered as every feminine muscle in her body clenched tight. Her fingers flexed.
Don’t touch him! Don’t touch him! For Halla’s sake, Summer, don’t touch him!
She wet her suddenly parched lips. “F-fine. I’m fine,” she somehow managed to stammer. Sweet Helos! Dilys Merimydion wasn’t just a terrible danger to her; he was a potently appealing poison she longed to consume. Every moment he sat there, crouched over her, edged her closer to the abyss.
He reached for her right hand, ran a thumb over the slightly raised rose-shaped, red birthmark on her inner wrist, then turned over his own left wrist to reveal a golden, trident-shaped mark.
It was not uncommon in Mystral for children of a particularly gifted—usually royal—bloodline to bear proof of that gift on their inner wrists. Females were born with the mark of their birthright on their right wrist. Males on their left. Wynter, Khamsin’s husband, for instance, bore a white wolf on his inner left wrist.
Summer had never given her Rose a second thought, except when it grew hot and warned her of an impending breech of her inner barriers. But she recalled something odd happening at Wynter and Khamsin’s wedding. Something powerful and elemental when their marks met.
Something not too unlike what had just happened in the water between Dilys and herself.
Something, Khamsin had admitted to her sisters in a giggling afternoon of girl talk, that still happened between them in private moments with the most scandalously delicious results. She had decided it was some sort of proof of compatibility between mates—sort of a divine confirmation that “this is the one for you”—as well as a little extra “oomph” to help certain things along, she confessed with rosy cheeks.
Intrigued, Spring had insisted on conducting a series of preliminary experiments to test the theory. Nothing happened when the sisters touched their marks to one another. Nor had anything happened when Spring “inadvertently” brushed her mark against Wynter’s. Autumn had tried it, too, with the same lack of results. They’d tried to get Summer to do the same, but by then, Wynter had become a little unnerved by his new sisters randomly bumping into him and rubbing their arms against his and Summer found it a bit disturbing to test for sexual compatibility with her youngest sister’s husband, so she’d declined.
Now, however, Gabriella had a sinking suspicion that Khamsin’s theory might be correct.
She tried to tug her arm out of Dilys’s grip, but he didn’t let go.
“You can get off me now,” she ordered, mimicking Autumn’s haughtiest tone.
He didn’t move. Instead, he locked his gaze on hers and, with slow deliberation, laid his left wrist flat against her right.
Summer sucked in a breath and went rigid beneath him as a fresh surge of energy shot through her. Only this time, instead of an electric thunderclap that stunned the senses, this surge fired up every sensual cell in her body. If Dilys hadn’t been straddling her, she would have wrapped her legs around his waist and dragged him down atop her. As it was, she burned for him in the worst way. The way his nostrils flared and his tattoos went bright with a fresh burst of phosphorescent blue light only fanned the flames of her desire. She wanted to command him to touch her . . . to kiss her. Her gift of Persuasion flared, bringing the words and the magic to the tip of her tongue.
“Your eyes have gone gold,” Dilys murmured, and there was something about the way he said it the stopped her cold. A sort of dazed confusion and wonder. All the Coruscate siblings’ eyes changed when they drew upon their power. Khamsin’s eyes went a shifting silver, sort of like swirling storm clouds. Spring’s turned an electric green. Autumn’s looked like flames. And Summer’s went golden—the more power she summoned, the brighter and more obvious the gold. Her sisters had always likened it to the sun shining from her eyes, a mark of Helos, but Dilys, clearly, found it significant in some other way.
The shocking moment when their gazes had first met . . . that explosive moment in the fjord . . . and now, again, her uncharacteristically powerful sexual hunger just from the brush of his mark against hers . . . suspicion hardened to certainty.
Khamsin was right. The reaction of marks did mean something.
Summer suspected it didn’t just mean she’d found someone compatible with her . . . she suspected it meant she’d found the someone most compatible with her. Her life’s mate. The man with whom Gabriella could have the sort of love Khamsin had found with Wynter.
The sort of love her mother had found with her father. A love the loss of which had driven Verdan of Summerlea so mad with grief he’d destroyed himself, his son, his kingdom, and very nearly the whole world.
Gods help her.
She wanted it—oh, not the destruction and misery her father had caused, but the love he’d had. The love Kham- sin and Wynter had. That perfect, deep, consuming love. She wanted it so badly the hunger was a burning fire inside her soul.
And here it was. Hers for the taking.
“Dilys,” she whispered, saying his name for the first time, and his eyes glittered bright as a gleaming gold idol atop a god’s altar.
It felt right to say his name, right in a way nothing had ever felt before. The syllables whispered across her skin like a warm, languid caress, sinking into her flesh, into her very bones. As if his name was a lost part of herself that had finally found its way home. The hunger for him burned brighter, becoming a sweet and terrible ache.
There was a voice in her head, crying out a warning, but it was only a dim echo, the caution drowned out by a seductive song that beckoned to her, ensnaring her soul in golden bands of honeyed light.
“Call me,” the song whispered, only it didn’t speak in words but rather in powerful swells of emotion, warm currents so strong she could feel resistance being drained away. A man’s song. His song. “Sing my Name. Claim me as thine own. For I am thine before all others.”
And deep inside, a powerful voice welled up inside her, whispering urgently, Claim him. Make him yours.
Certainty flowered in her soul. She could do it. She could bind him to her for all eternity. Every part of her being wanted exactly that.
Her hands rose, splayed fingers sliding across the intoxicatingly warm, deliciously soft skin of his lean cheeks, cupping his face.
Her eyes never left his as she gently and inexorably tugged his face down and guided his lips to hers.
She’d never kissed a man. She’d wanted to a few times before, but she’d never allowed herself to do so. Now, the instant his mouth touched hers, she knew she’d never want to kiss any man but him for the rest of her life. He was her one and only. He was everything she would ever want, everything she could ever need.
His lips were smooth and firm and warm against hers. Velvety soft to the touch. She licked at them gently with the tip of her tongue, tasting him.
He shuddered, and his lips parted, opening against hers as his head tilted and he deepened the kiss. His legs stretched out, his long body lengthened, pressing down against hers, a delicious, heavy, warm weight supported by the powerful arms that flattened against the dock to frame her. The long, silken, fragrant coils of his hair spilled down to dance along the tops of her shoulders and caress her cheeks. They—like he—smelled of sultry, tropical nights and warm sea breezes, sweet, spicy, exotic, and he tasted like the answer to every wistful, aching dream she’d ever dreamt in the long, lonely dark of her aloneness. She gave herself up to the kiss, luxuriated in it. Her hands slid around the hot, sleek, hardness of his muscled chest, learning every swell and hollow, every texture.
Satiny skin. The nubbly velvet of hardened nipples. The trembling steel of clenched muscle.
She could pet him like this for a lifetime and never grow tired of it. She dragged her nails down the bumpy line of his spine and reveled in the way he sucked in a sharp breath, shuddered against her, then ravaged her mouth with a kiss gone wild, licking her, tasting her, breathing her in. His fingers dove into the mass of her unbound curls, cupped her skull and pulled her closer, tighter into his kiss, and if by sheer strength and desire, he could drag her into his body and make her part of him. He kissed her until she was dizzy and gasping for air, until he was gasping too. And when he finally pulled away to catch his breath, his eyes were dazed, his expression stunned.
“Blessed Numahao,” he whispered. “How can this be?
You are . . . you are . . .”
She stared up at him, drinking in the sight of him, saturating her soul with the bittersweet wonder of this moment, committing every tiny detail to memory. Her thumbs slid across his skin, caressed the glowing blue sigil shining on his cheekbone, traced the planes and angles of his beautiful face.
And then she smiled with aching gentleness, her heart savaged by the knowledge that if she let herself, she would love him as she would never love another soul . . . love him as no other being in Mystral could ever or would ever love another.
And she told him softly, the powerful gift of her Persuasion pulsing in her voice, “Nothing. I am nothing to you.” She had to wrap her fingers around the back of his neck and hold on tight as he tried instinctively to pull away, to reject the command threaded through each word she spoke. “You came here to court my sisters, not me. I am not the wife you need, and you will not pursue me.”
Her smile trembled, then broke. Unable to stop herself, she kissed him again, one last time. Kissed him with all the desperate longing that clawed her from the inside out, kissed him until tears of regret and sorrow spilled from the corners of her eyes. And then she pulled away to say, with an unwavering surge of even stronger Persuasive power, “You will not remember this. Not that you came to me, not that you saved my life, not that we kissed. You will not remember. And you will not pursue me.”
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