Spark Into Flame Chapter 1
Sky lay on the bed, shivering. Scared to death, knowing how much it would hurt.
The door opened. The prince, Ember, walked in. Resplendent in the royal wedding cloak, purple, crimson, glinting gold, jewels spilled across his broad chest.
He stopped. His black hair softly brushed his shoulders, his beard carefully trimmed, complementing his golden brown skin. He was stunning.
A thrill rushed through her despite herself as she remembered how he’d looked during the ceremony. So beautiful, earnest, royal, even gentle as he took her hand, kissed it. Kissed her softly on the mouth. But she knew men--they were not gentle when it came down to it. She was bound to this man now and she’d have to make the best of it.
She had to please him; that was her duty as the new wife of the Third Heir. If she didn’t please him, he could annul the marriage, but it would bring everlasting shame on her and her family. The DNA match had said they were compatible; the rest was up to her. If she failed, it would be her fault.
He took another step into the soft light falling from above the bed. His mouth dropped open, his eyes wide.
“So beautiful,” he said.
It took her a moment to realize he was talking about her. Many had called her beautiful, but she’d suspected them of pandering to her father. He had always called her plain, weak, frail. She was never good enough for him. But here--they were alone and there was truth in his eyes.
He sat down beside her. His eyes caught hers, and traveled over her body.
Here it comes, she thought. He’ll rip into me--
His eyes devoured her, licking down her body, back to her face. His golden eyes, fire burning deep in them like coals. She dropped her eyes with respect--he was the Heir. She had to respect him--please him somehow--
He slipped back off the bed and stood. Her heart skipped, hardened like a stone. Had she displeased him?
His fingers leaped to the clasp at his throat, fumbling with it.
The jeweled cloak fell to the floor in elegant furls, billowing down to a bubble of glittering stars. He shrugged off his jewel-encrusted shirt, leaving just his white undershirt, contrasting with the bronze-brown of his skin, sheened with powdered gold.
She drew in a breath. She could see the outlines of his body beneath--so strong, sculpted--would he totally undress? Her father had never--had only done what was necessary to teach her--
He looked at her and in his eyes was a note of apology. He actually seemed nervous for some reason.
He slipped the white undershirt over his head, its delicate fabric fluttering in the slight breeze from the window. It floated to the lush purple carpet.
She drew her eyes upward. And gasped. A stunning beauty stood before her, a god chiseled out of gold, flawless. She felt the desire to bow to him. How could she possibly give him all he deserved? How could she--in her inadequacy--ever hope to give him what he wanted?
Sweat sheened his skin, enhancing the glitter of the gold dust. A glistening god. A delicate dance of faint blue lightning laced down his form, and fear rippled through her. That was what hurt the most. It would give him pleasure but would tear through her--
She closed her eyes in dread.
“I am sorry,” he said in his strong, deep voice. “Perhaps this is not what you want.”
She opened her eyes. “It does not matter what I want. Only what you want, Your Majesty.”
“This is your wedding night. I want to please you.” Please her? What did that have to do with this?
“I want to please you,” she managed, her voice husky.
He swept forward then and sat on the bed, his magnificent muscles rippling. Lean, toned, with biceps to die for and sculpted pectorals and abs--gold dust glistened over his body and she longed to touch it. But she dared not take the initiative.
He reached forward and ran his hand down her arm--a feather touch. Delicately sliding to her wrist--he flipped her hand over, traced its veins--
He brought his hand to her face, cupped her chin. His thumb traced her lower lip.
He leaned forward. “May I?”
She nodded, not knowing what he was asking. He leaned forward, pressed his mouth to hers. His lips were soft like petals, not rough, tearing, like--
Something hot clutched her heart, wrenching it. Grabbing her chest with its claws, suffocating her. The past welling up in her throat--she fought it--not now--not the feeling versus what she knew in her mind, detached from what her father had done to her—
He pulled back. “Have I done something wrong?”
Shame shot through her. “Of--of course not, Your Majesty.”
“It’s just that--you did not kiss me back. Have I displeased you?”
She almost laughed. He displease her? How could he? Even if that mattered. “No, Your Majesty. You are--perfect. Beautiful. The heir to the gods.”
He nodded, the hint of a wry smile on his lips. “You don’t have to call me Your Majesty, you know. There’s no one else here.”
“But--you are my lord in all things.”
He shook his head, his black hair swaying gently against his shoulders. “No. I’m sorry if that’s the impression you’ve gotten. I may be the Heir, but I’m not the king yet. Besides, when I’m king--if I’m king--I want us to be partners. Equals.”
“Th-that is unheard of, for a consort.”
“My father wants to change things. It’s not how my grandfather is ruling, but when my father rules, he wants my mother at his side. He trusts her. Loves her. I want the same relationship for us. Not the thousands of concubines that my grandfather would want for me. I want you.”
“I will try to please you like a thousand concubines.”
“That’s--not really the point. I mean--we hardly know each other. But that doesn’t mean we can’t grow to love each other. I already love what I know--I want to know more about you, and love that too.”
“I am not perfect.”
“Neither am I. I want to love those imperfections--every part of you.” He reached for her, tucked a swirl of hair behind her ear. “Not that I see many of them.” His eyes flitted over her body, and then caught her eyes again. Those eyes, so earnest, honest, innocent even--their golden fire--Ember suited him. If she dared let that burning word touch her lips. The word that meant his name and all that he signified--
He ran his hand down her neck and leaned forward. Pressed his lips to hers. This time she forced herself to respond. Her father had rarely kissed her, but he had sometimes taught her some of the technical aspects. She let her mouth move with his, a stately dance.
He pulled back again, a seed of shadow in his eyes. “We could take it slow, if you want,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to go further than this tonight.”
“It is expected.”
“We are all that matters. Not anyone outside this chamber.”
“To not consummate our wedding--it would be--unheard of.” Did he not want her after all?
“Who would know? Our tradition also respects the wedding bed. No one is watching. We can be ourselves with each other here. Our true selves, which we can’t be in public.” He pulled the silk sheet up, swept it over her body, and it settled over her, as soft as a cloud. Then he pulled himself up beside her, tucking the other end of the sheet over himself. He lay down beside her.
Warmth radiated from him, and longing stirred inside her--longing that she could not feel when he was touching her--oh, what had happened? Could it be possible that she could not feel--her father had taken it away--branded her, cauterized her with fear-- she could feel from a distance, but never let a man touch her for he would tear her, shatter her like he had done--
Admire this beautiful god but not enjoy him--but if she could only do these paltry mechanical movements--devoid of the passion she longed to feel--perhaps she could not please him--somehow he seemed to know what she did not feel--
The horrible feeling built inside again--she battled it--it threatened to overwhelm her--the feeling that she’d lost something-- her father had rationalized what he’d done as “teaching” but really it was his own perverse lust for a child who just wanted to do what her father said--
But now she’d had enough hints that it was not supposed to be like this. At least, she’d encountered some women who seemed to not have to pretend to like sex--to love their husbands--and that a man grooming his daughter for maximizing pleasure was not common practice ....
It did not take away the fact that this was her duty. She had to please him somehow. But perhaps he just wanted to talk for now. Perhaps she could still prove herself later....
She flipped onto her side to face him. “What would you like to talk about?”
“How about your family? It’s supposed to be a good one. But what was it like living with them?”
He’d unknowingly struck the wound. She fought back the burgeoning dark horizon of pain in her chest. “Like any other Nobility family, I suppose. My mom is so gentle--perhaps too much so--and my father--” It hit her like a wave, and she didn’t want to talk about it for fear of flooding the dam. He could not know her shame--the horror she felt--the horror that would break through and invade any touch he gave her--not feeling was better than feeling the shuddering pain and terror--the fear she’d felt now would be nothing compared to what she felt like as a child each time he--
She’d have to be able to mention her father some time, but not now, not with these feelings crashing against her chest. “My oldest brother is very smart, strong --everything a Vale should be. My other brother Flash is so full of life….And we always had the gardens. I loved to walk in them....” Escape to them every time it happened....
“You like flowers?”
“Would you like some brought in?”
“You shall have them, my love.” He tapped the com interface behind his ear. “Could you have some flowers sent in please? The more the better.”
He sat up, the sheet falling around his waist. His face shone with excitement. She marveled at this man. This beautiful young man who was already surprising her in so many ways--
Monitor guards in black and red brought in bundles of flowers, overflowing their baskets. All shapes, sizes, colors. They suffused the room with fragrance. She drank it in, closed her eyes, falling back on the pillows into the dream of the garden. The only place she could be herself....
The Monitors set the flowers on the floor, and dumped more onto the bed according to Ember’s instructions. Flowers spilled over her and a laugh bubbled out of her mouth. He laughed beside her, deep, hearty, a little surprised.
A flower tickled her cheek. Stamens dusted her nose. She huddled down into them like a refuge--flowers spilled over her, hiding her in a safe cavern all her own--
His face slid into the pile of flowers beside hers. “Is this what you wanted?”
She studied him for a moment, trying to tone down her disappointment at his intrusion. “Yes. Thank you.” A pink petal brushed her lips. She picked it up, inhaled its scent. It transported her on clouds of oblivion....He slid in beside her and she hardly noticed; she was in paradise....
They lay like this for a while, drenched in scent and glory. Warmth pressed down on her arm--his arm on hers. She fought the urge to toss it off. It wasn’t doing any harm.
Then, his hand stroked her skin, sending tingles racing down it. A delicate snap. Lightning.
She gasped, shot up out of the sea of flowers and they cascaded over her face and chest.
He sat up too, flowers around his waist. “Sorry. I just thought--”
“Thank you for this,” she said. She meant it, despite her fear at his lightning.
“Anything for my bride.” He picked up a flower and handed it to her, bowing over it without a hint of mockery.
She took its tiny stem, lifted it. Starbursts--brilliant red--she’d hidden with them for hours at a time--
The smell overwhelmed her, taking her to the past--she shook her head, trying to rid herself of the feelings--if she let out one tear, it would all be over.
“What is it?” he said, alarm in his voice.
She shook her head. Fighting it off. She wanted to bury herself back in the flowers--but he was there, needing her--and perhaps, afterwards--there were so many, she could bury herself in them and never come out....
She reached toward his face. Pushing back the fear. Pushing back the horrible feeling. Trying to feel, to see him as he was, as she wanted to see him. Her husband. The Heir. A man worthy of her affection and love.
She touched his cheek. He closed his eyes. Surprisingly long lashes shadowing his cheek. Infinitely black.
His hair enticed her, and she buried her hand in it.
He ran his hand along her cheek. Electric current snapped softly from his fingertips. So gentle--she’d never experienced a man’s lightning without pain. It almost felt--good....
She let the scent of the flowers wash over her, relax her. She was safe here, in the garden. This man was not her father. He was--different.
She leaned back and let him slide his hand down over her jaw, down her throat, over her neck. Trusting him--letting go--
Perhaps he wanted her to use her own lightning. She was out of practice--and hers could not compare to the prodigious birthright of the Heir. But she reached up, letting current flow across her skin.
He closed his eyes. She leaned forward, kissing him, letting the current flow across her like water--letting it mingle with his--
His mouth, soft as flowers--his lips, gentle, pressing into hers--
Something stirred inside her that was not fear. Touching him did not mean pain--lightning did not mean agony--it could mean a dance of equals--
The kiss built and she lost herself in it. The delicate spark of his touch, his soft black hair, his smooth golden-brown skin--Some great longing was trying to burst free inside her, so great it could never be satiated except by him and all that he was--
Crack! Cold fire seized her body, and she fell back onto the sheets, terror blazing through her.
- Spark into Flame Chapter 2
scifi romance novel
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