Chapter 1: Epilogue Part 2
“I cannot begin to express how much I resent your presence here.”
I sighed, pretending to feel martyred. “It’s been three months, Loki. Get over it. Seriously.”
He was sprawled on the long, curved couch in the private lounge reserved for the Avengers and…associates? In the kitchen, I turned with a canister of coffee beans and caught him giving me a venomous look over the counter that separated us. He was in his usual armored leather getup, which I found both a little flamboyant and…admittedly, sort of sexy.
“Do you want coffee?” I asked, ignoring his glare.
I turned away, repressing a smile. It really gave me a kick that he could be so rude and so polite at the same time.
Anyway, his thoughts weren’t nearly as resentful as his attitude. In fact, he radiated amusement, which I had learned early on was pretty typical, day-to-day Loki. He could look at you like you were nothing more than an insect, cut you down like he hated your guts, and all the while be silently thinking that you were really quite charming company. And vice versa.
I’d also learned that the best way to deal with him was to simply play along–although I did like to call him out, on occasion. Unlike most people, it seemed to amuse him.
And his insults rarely bothered me. Having lived twenty-nine years with the ability to read minds, I’d developed very thick skin. People tend to think way worse things than they say. Loki was the other way around most of the time.
In fact, everything about his behavior was kind of backward.
Personally, I found it refreshing. More than refreshing. I genuinely liked the God of Mischief. We got along like toast and butter.
I scooped some beans into the grinder and set about making a pot of dark coffee, aware that Loki watched me intently the whole time. He was good at controlling his thoughts–there were times I found it difficult to read him–but lately, he’d been letting his guard slip. I kind of suspected he did it on purpose though.
At the moment he was admiring my figure.
He’d discovered the week before that his attraction to me made me incredibly uncomfortable, and he’d been exploiting it ever since.
“What’s on our agenda today?” he asked in a low, silky voice.
That voice was like a finger up my spine.
I cleared my throat and made myself speak casually. “Same as always. You do your thing and I follow you around making sure you’re not going to stab anyone.”
“Tell me, if I did decide to do something…nefarious, how, exactly, would you plan to stop me?”
“I wouldn’t,” I said, pouring coffee into two white mugs. “Not in my job description. Besides,” I added cream and sugar to his and cream to mine, “You’re not going to stab anyone.”
When I brought him the mug, he gave me a resentful look. He actually did want to be good, although he enjoyed pretending otherwise. Well, he wanted to be good enough that the Avengers would let him stick around and not throw him into a jail cell for the rest of his insanely long life.
“Are we permitted to leave the compound today?” he asked, taking a sip. I paused a moment before responding, waiting for the little psychic pulse of his pleasure when he realized I had made his coffee exactly the way he liked it.
He wasn’t used to being treated with care and consideration. I liked giving him that, in mundane little ways.
I liked it a lot.
“We can’t go out in public yet, but yes. We are cleared to leave the compound for a few hours. Congratulations, by the way.” I sat next to him on the couch and folded my legs beneath me, ready to enjoy my coffee… and a day in the company of the God of Mischief.
“Yes, it’s an enormous accomplishment. Truly momentous,” he replied, with his signature lazy sarcasm. The resentment was real. However, he had felt a little spurt of pleasure when I congratulated him.
The Avengers had set particular rules about Loki’s freedom–hoops he had to jump through in order to gain their trust. Three months under my supervision with no incidents, and he could leave the compound. Another three and he was up for ‘graduation review’ as they called it. If he behaved out in the world with me for those three months, I’d be off Loki duty. Permanently.
I had to admit, I would miss the job.
And the trickster.
“What do you want to do?” I asked, sipping my coffee and ignoring the way he gazed sidelong at my legs, eyes hooded.
He liked my legs a lot. I’d stopped wearing dresses to work for exactly that reason. His attention made me feel jittery and awkward.
Apparently, he liked me in skinny jeans, too.
“Perhaps you might suggest something appropriately mundane for us to do,” he said dryly.
He was playing bored, but he was actually excited to get out. Poor man had been cooped up too long.
“Well, we’re pretty limited, since we can’t go out in public. Do you have any friends we could visit?”
He gave me a look that would make most people shrivel with shame.
“Okay, stupid question. No human friends. Um…” I thought about it.
“Where do you live?”
I blinked in surprise. “You want to come to my house?”
“Do you have a better suggestion?”
He was doing that thing–blanking his thoughts so I couldn’t read him. He couldn’t hide his emotions as easily, though. He was a bit anxious. Afraid I would say no?
My heart did a little jig. The God of Mischief wanted to hang out. With me. At my house.
“It’s really small,” I said–rather stupidly.
He arched a brow. “It’s not here in this godforsaken tower. That alone makes it a veritable paradise.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “Do you like cats?”
“It is small,” he said, though not disdainfully. “You live here alone?”
I nodded. “It’s a granny flat. The main house is over there.” I pointed across the broad, manicured lawn. “My landlord is really private, so I hardly ever see him.”
Loki glanced at the big house–it wasn’t quite a mansion, but it probably looked like a shack to him. Prince of Asgard. Snooty to the max.
“It’s charming,” he said politely. He was talking about my little bungalow. And damned if he didn’t mean it.
I let him inside and opened the curtains in the living room. Watched him consider the flowered couch and thick, cushioned white rug. The antique mahogany coffee table and the watery abstract painting over the little brick fireplace.
“It smells like you,” he said, and then smiled wickedly when I flushed with embarrassment. “You smell delightful, by the way. Like coconut and wildflowers.”
He had never once, in the three months since I’d met him, given me a direct compliment. I didn’t know what to do with it.
Loki was very pleased with himself for successfully putting me off balance. “I do miss that shampoo you used before you switched to coconut. What was the scent?”
He sort of stalked me across the room, radiating predatory enjoyment. Alarms bells started going off in my head.
“Loki, quit it,” I said, and there was a breathless little quaver in my voice. He was too close, using his height to dominate me, leaning in until I could feel the heat coming off his body.
My god, he was smelling my hair.
He smelled like leather and bergamot.
“Was it roses?” he murmured, very close to my ear. “It suited you.”
“You are being so inappropriate right now,” I said, frozen to the spot.
He chuckled darkly, leaning a little closer, black hair tickling my cheek. “I do so adore how squeaky you get when you’re nervous.” He was enjoying the heck out this, and his enjoyment wasn’t entirely at my expense; he wanted me to play along.
Suddenly fighting a smile, I slapped his chest. “Back off, you gigantic creep.”
He tsked, pulling back to look into my face, lips quirking in a devilish little smile. “I will if you tell me what I’m thinking.”
Again, I heard alarm bells. We’d played this game before and I had lost. Loki could conjure some incredibly embarrassing thoughts when he put his mind to it.
“No way,” I said decisively.
He was so close I could see the little striations in the green of his eyes. “Isn’t it your job to know what I’m thinking?”
Oh, you little… “I’m on a break.”
“Oh?” he replied, with interest.
“Yes. Consider me off the clock.”
His eyes glittered. “Are you really? How convenient.”
Then he leaned down and kissed me.
I was so shocked I squeaked. I’m not proud of it, but I did. His lips were hot and very soft, and I’d never expected him to kiss me, and oh god , it was good.
He chucked into my mouth and his hand slid into my hair, cupped the back of my neck. His chest came up against me and my mouth fell open without my permission, and sweet Jesus he was kissing me so slowly, sweetly, like he was savoring it. Savoring me.
Like he really liked me.
I mean, he did like me. I knew that already. But right now he was liking me quite a lot more than I’d ever imagined. His arm was curling around my waist and he kissed me a little deeper because damned if I wasn’t turning to melted butter in his arms.
He tasted like fresh coffee and sugar and his thoughts were curling into my mind like rich, dark chocolate–smooth, delicious, decadent. He was thinking about how I tasted, how sweet I was, how good I felt in his arms. How long he’d been waiting to taste me.
I couldn’t help it. I groaned a little bit, soft and breathless, and he really liked that–kissed me deeper, arms pulling tighter around me.
And then he started thinking much darker, sexier things, and I felt myself heating from head to toe, and finally , my conscience kicked in.
I don’t know when, but at some point, I’d fisted my hands in the lapels of his leather coat, and I let go, pushed at his shoulders until he released my mouth.
“That was not okay,” I blurted.
He smiled smugly. “It felt extraordinarily okay to me.”
Still a little dazed, I shook my head. “Dumb. Super dumb.”
He was still holding me against his chest with both arms. One of his hands slid possessively up my back. “I disagree.”
“This is work. We are not supposed to be kissing.”
He gave me a slow, triumphant smirk. “You said you were on a break. I believe your exact words were, ‘Consider me off the clock’.”
I had no response to that. The bastard had tricked me somehow. I mean he hadn’t made me say the words, but I couldn’t help feeling that he had planned all of this, and I had fallen right into his trap.
“Don’t look so abused. You were enjoying it, weren’t you?” He bent as though to kiss me again, and I froze because I wanted him to kiss me again, but I knew how dumb it was, and I liked this job, and I really really didn’t want to lose it, which I absolutely would if even one person found out I’d been kissing the God of Mischief.
I put my hand over his mouth at the last possible second. His surprise was–if I had to be completely honest–more than a little bit satisfying. He clearly felt he had the upper hand with me now, but I sure as shit wasn’t gonna let myself get all gushy and submissive, even for Loki. Especially for him.
“No more kissing,” I said firmly.
His brows pulled down, green eyes sparking temper. “Why not?” he growled against my hand.
“I’ll lose my job.”
He let go of my waist and grabbed my wrist, pulling my hand away from his mouth. “Who’s going to tell?”
“By the God’s, are you going to run back and confess all on your own?” he rolled his eyes.
“Of course not, but I’m a terrible liar.”
“You’re an excellent liar,” he returned impatiently.
Damn. He’d noticed. “Fine. But I hate lying. I don’t want to do it.”
“Then don’t,” he said, clearly exasperated. “Do you think anyone is going to ask if you’ve been kissing me?”
That stopped me dead. He was right. No one would expect it. Literally, no one. Everybody else treated Loki with a combination of fear, contempt, and suspicion, if not outright hatred. Except for Thor. Thor just treated him with suspicion.
And to all outward appearances, Loki felt nothing but contempt toward me. I appeared to simply put up with him. I hadn’t told anyone about his backward behavior. Mostly because I kind of liked being the only one in on it. Even Thor hadn’t completely figured Loki out. Which was pretty sad, when you thought about it.
I looked up into Loki’s face. “Don’t think for a second that I’m not going to do my job exactly as I should, kissing or no kissing.”
His expression turned wry. “You mean reporting my stabby thoughts?”
“Yes. And I’ll give them a completely honest read at your six-month review, no matter what kind of relationship we might or might not have in the meantime.”
His gaze heated. “What kind of relationship did you have in mind?”
“Honestly? None. I never expected anything like this.”
Loki dragged me closer, arms around my waist again. “Idiot woman. I’ve been flirting for weeks. Didn’t you notice?” His head dipped down and he nuzzled my neck just below the ear.
Tingling all over, breathless again, I mumbled, “You flirt like a cat flirts with a mouse.”
He did that deep, dark chuckle again, kissing my neck very lightly. “I was sure you knew when you stopped wearing dresses. I thought you were teasing me.” He nibbled my earlobe and made me shudder.
“I thought you were just messing with me.”
“Mmm. I do enjoy making you blush.”
His thoughts were getting sexy again. He wanted me to touch him. Wondered if I would let him take me to bed.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, buster.”
His only response was to lick my neck and make me squeak again.
He made a low rumble of pleasure, like a growl, but smoother. “Make that sound again, little mouse.” And then he nipped the same spot he’d licked, and to my dismay, I did squeak again, which made him laugh darkly and start backing me towards the couch.
“Wait, wait, wait !” I cried. But he already had me half-sprawled on the cushions, and he came down over me on all fours, prowling up my body like a big cat. He did pause, however, when I tucked my legs between us to block him from getting any closer. He arched a brow in challenge.
“I am not prepared to let you ravish me on the couch, Loki.”
His gaze darkened. “By all means, if there is some other location you prefer–”
“I really hope you don’t think I’m that easy.”
He didn’t though. It was there in his thoughts. He wanted to kiss me some more. Touch me. See how far he could take it. But he didn’t expect sex. Rather, he anticipated a long and pleasant chase.
Cat and mouse, indeed.
“I am not a prey creature,” I said firmly. “We only have three hours until we have to return to the compound. I would like to eat some lunch.”
His eyes narrowed. “I would like to kiss you again.”
“Let me up first.”
He thought about it. He really liked me in this position–wanted to steal a kiss and feel me under him. Honestly, I wanted to let him, but I didn’t trust myself not to let it go farther. Maybe a lot farther. Just the thought of it–his big body over me, the smell of him, his heat and the way he kissed–a girl could only resist so much.
Finally, he sat back. I righted myself, watching him closely.
“I’m not going to pounce on you,” he said mildly.
“Good. Thank you.” I smoothed my shirt, which was now thoroughly wrinkled.
“What’s for lunch?” he asked casually, one arm draped over the back of the couch.
“I’ll make you a sandwich. And tea. I think I have some cookies as well.” I knew he had a special appreciation for sweets.
“Sounds delightful. Can you be persuaded to kiss me first?”
My heart did a little backflip. “Possibly.”
He leaned back against the couch and waited. Clearly, he wanted me to be the aggressor this time. Normally, I wouldn’t mind–in fact, a good percentage of me was willing to straddle him like a cowgirl and kiss him silly. But he looked so damned smug and sure of himself–and he was shielding his thoughts, which made me suspicious.
“I changed my mind,” I said, and marched into the kitchen, leaving him there without a backward glance.
I didn’t even hear him get up, which was crazy considering all the layers of leather and metal he wore. I made it to the kitchen doorway and he was suddenly on me, spinning me around by the arm and crowding me back against the wall with his body.
It scared me–in the best possible way.
He was pissed–and somehow amused at the same time. My resistance both irritated him and pleased him.
I put both hands on his chest as he leaned down, green eyes narrowed.
“I don’t like being manhandled like this, Loki,”
“No? Your heart is pounding though. I can see it right here,” his fingers caressed my throat. “And you’re flushed.” He was so close, looking at my mouth.
“You scared me. Also, you’re kinda pissing me off.”
His mouth curved. “See, excellent liar.”
“What makes you think I’m lying?”
He stepped closer, until our bodies were nearly touching. “You don’t flush like that when you’re angry,” he purred, “Only when I tease you.”
“A person can feel more than one thing at a time,” I said, trying to sound reprimanding. I really was a bit irritated. He was being so condescending. “Look, I get that you’ve been bored at the compound and you want to have some fun, but I am a human being, not a plaything.”
I don’t think he meant for me to hear what he thought then, but I did. Loud and clear.
Human beings are playthings.
I shoved him so hard he fell back a step, which was really saying something, what with the Asgardian super strength and all.
“Ah,” he said, reading my face. “ Now you’re angry.”
“You don’t mean that.” I could hear the doubt in my own voice.
His eyes narrowed. “Mean what?”
“That human beings are playthings. We have all the same rights and feelings you do.”
He laughed . “Oh, do you?”
I was so mad I couldn’t form words for a moment.
“If I’m so damned inferior, why are you trying to seduce me?” I snapped.
His smug smile made me burn with humiliation. “Why not?”
Stupid, condescending, self-important asshole!
“We’re done here,” I said softly, teeth clenched. “I’m taking you back to the compound.”
There was not even a hint of contrition on his face–or in his emotions. Just a flare of anger and the sting of rejection. He was shielding his thoughts again.
“What about my kiss?” he asked archly.
He knew damn well I wasn’t going to kiss him again. He was trying to antagonize me. Acting like he didn’t give a damn. But he was disappointed, as hard as he tried to hide it.
Not that I gave a damn.
I didn’t say a word to him for most of the drive back to the compound. Usually, I’m not quick to anger–or likely to hold a grudge–but in this case, I was furious.
At first I didn’t understand exactly why, but as I drove I kept getting angrier and angrier, and finally, I had to admit it to myself.
I liked Loki. I mean, really liked him. I’d sublimated it because of work, and the fact that he was an actual extraterrestrial, and a God , and because he was blatant about his disdain for human beings and…half a dozen other perfectly valid things, but… shit. I really liked him. And the way he’d treated me fucking hurt –because I understood now, it had been a game to him. A game and nothing more. He had no respect for me because I was human.
He’d taken advantage of me at the very first goddamned opportunity, because he’d been cooped up at the Avengers compound for months on end, and I was an easy target–his only available target–and I had let him take advantage, proving myself the idiot, inferior human plaything he so clearly believed I was.
Had I secretly wanted him to–even naively believed he could –see me as different from the rest of humanity? Yes. Dammit, yes. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had thought we were friends.
Fucking idiot me.
And I’d let him kiss me. Let myself believe for just a moment that he might have actual feelings for me. That I was special to him, at least in some small way.
Dumb, dumb, dumb!
Truth was, I was more mad at myself than I was at Loki. I’d made a complete fool of myself.
I was definitely still mad at him, though.
“You are disturbingly quiet,” he said, after about ten minutes of icy silence in the car.
I couldn’t conjure a response that wasn’t petty or otherwise inflammatory, so I said nothing.
“Is this the proverbial silent treatment?” he added a moment later, voice dripping amusement.
“I know you don’t actually think this is funny,” I replied bluntly. “You just alienated your one real ally on this stupid, inferior planet, and you’re smart enough to regret it.”
He chuckled. “You may want to consider the possibility that you’re overreacting to a simple episode of playful dalliance.”
My temper flared dangerously and I literally bit my tongue to stop myself from tearing into him.
My silence seemed to cause him some discomfort, which I shamelessly relished.
“I intended no insult,” he said finally, but he said it as though my having taken insult was both idiotic and boring to him.
“Well insult me you did,” I snapped. “Along with the rest of my race. But don’t worry about it, because you won’t get another opportunity like that.”
Silence. And then, as we pulled onto the road that led to the back entrance of Stark Tower, he said, “You mean the kissing.”
“You’re damned right I mean the kissing. I may be human, Loki, but I’m not an idiot.” We pulled up to the gate and I flashed my badge at the guard, who nodded us through as the gate rolled open. “Or maybe I am.”
“Can you clarify that statement?” he asked, with obvious irritation.
I drove the car into the employee parking lot, pulled into my space, threw the car into park and twisted in my seat to give the God of Mischief my full attention.
The words came spilling out like a barrage.
“You want clarification? Fine. I’m pissed because you sexually manipulated me for your own entertainment. Where I come from, that’s considered really fucked up. But more than that, I’m pissed that I fell for it because I’m smarter than that. But unfortunately, I also honestly fucking like you, and I stupidly allowed that to cloud my judgement, and now here we are, and it isn’t fun anymore because I feel totally fucking stupid and humiliated, and I can’t trust you, which I knew from the start anyway, so why did I even give you a chance? And why am I even telling you this, because you don’t give a shit about me, I’m just a lowly fucking human, who–I might remind you–is in direct control of your future on this pathetic little planet, and I might be a good liar but I’m an honest person who suffers from an excess of human compassion, so as much as I want you to be happy, if you ever fuck with me like that again I will throw you under the bus so fast you won’t even know what hit you.”
The look on his face was equal parts shock and consternation. His mouth opened, closed again, brow furrowing.
“Just get out of the car and go inside,” I snapped, turning back around in my seat. I made eye contact with the guards posted just outside the rear entrance and signaled them over. “Your escort is on its way.”
“Listen, I think there may have been some sort of misunderstanding–” Loki began.
“Don’t,” I held up a hand. “Don’t patronize me anymore today. I’m at my limit.”
“Bella, it wasn’t my intention to–“
I gave him a look that made his teeth click together. I cannot tell you how satisfying that was.
On the other hand, now that I’d vented my spleen, the anger was dissolving into plain old hurt, and I was pretty sure he’d seen it on my face and that was what had silenced him, which… wasn’t a terribly satisfying thought at all.
The guards were almost at the car.
“You’re not reading my mind,” Loki said unexpectedly.
“No, I am not. I’ve had enough of you for one day.” Shit. I was close to tears all of a sudden.
“You should,” he insisted angrily.
One of the guards tapped on Loki’s window. Loki waved him off with perfect aristocratic authority.
“Read my mind,” he demanded.
I hit the unlock button and the guard pulled Loki’s door open. “Out of the car, sir.”
Loki ignored him. “Bella.”
“Get out, Loki,” I grated.
His face went hard, green eye glittering with disdain. Finally, he turned and went, baring his teeth at the guards as he passed. One of them turned to follow him and the first leaned down into the open door.
“Is everything alright, Miss Bella? Shall I call Mr. Stark?”
“No, it’s alright. I’ll call him myself,” I lied.
He nodded and straightened, shutting the door and jogging to catch up with the other two.
I sat in the car until the three of them had disappeared inside, Loki’s long, angry strides forcing the guards to scurry comically just to keep up with him.
Then I sat in the car a while longer and cried.
As soon as I came in the next morning, I got called into the boss’ office.
I’d taken the rest of the day off after returning Loki to the compound, but the guard–despite what I’d said– had called Mr. Stark.
“So he didn’t try to hurt you or anything?”
“No, Mr. Stark.”
“It’s Tony, sweetheart. Or Iron Man, if you prefer.” He flashed a grin, flirtatious as always.
I smiled, though I didn’t feel much like doing so. “I’ll stick with Tony.”
“So what did he do? Bayley said you looked pretty upset.”
Bayley was the guard. Damn him. I’d really hoped to avoid this conversation.
“I can see you don’t want to tell me, but I don’t think I need to remind you that it’s your job to do so. If he’s a danger to–”
“He’s not a danger,” I said quickly. “He just pissed me off.”
Tony frowned. “Bayley said you were crying in your car.”
Fucking Bayley. Fucking me .
I considered lying, but I really did hate doing it, and I liked Tony a lot. He was a good boss, and this was the best job I’d ever had. The first place I’d ever worked where I didn’t feel like a freak. Where I felt like I was doing something meaningful. I really didn’t want to lose it.
“Come on, Bella,” Tony said softly. “What happened?”
“I love this job, Mr–Tony. I really do.”
“Okay…” he said slowly, and I didn’t need to read his mind to know that he perceived the guilt behind the words. “Well, you’re an invaluable asset to the team, Bella. You’re the best telepath we interviewed out of nearly a hundred. Head and shoulders above the rest, in fact. You’d have to do something pretty damned despicable to get the boot, here, sweetheart, so just tell me what happened. We’ll work it out.”
“He kissed me,” I blurted.
Tony’s eyes widened. “I’m–I’m sorry, what? Are we talking about the same guy?”
“Thor’s brother. Rock of Ages? He kissed you?”
Again, I nodded.
He looked at me like I’d said the guy sprouted wings and flew away.
Actually, that would have been more believable.
“Okay,” he said like he was trying to get ahold of himself. “Okay. So, Rock of Ages kissed you. That means we–we treat this as sexual harassment.”
“I let him,” I blurted, face burning.
His lips parted, face blank with shock. “You let him.”
“Yeah,” I breathed, choked by sheer humiliation. “I’m sorry.”
“ Why would you–no, okay, that’s none of my business,” he held up a hand as though in apology. “So you have a thing for the God of Mischief. Who am I to judge? What’s really important here is…” his expression twisted with confusion and discomfort. “What is important here?”
I gave him a helpless look.
“Why were you crying?”
I swallowed hard. “Because I felt stupid.”
“Is that all?”
“No. I mean, sort of. He was just messing with me and I fell for it. I felt..” totally humiliated “…really stupid.”
Tony nodded slowly, brow furrowed. He was having trouble processing the implications of what I’d said. He might have been a billionaire genius, but he was still a man. A woman would have understood immediately that I had real feelings for the God of Mischief–hence the tears. I prayed like crazy that Tony wouldn’t ask Romanoff, or Ms. Potts, or any other woman to interpret this incident for him.
“Okay,” he said finally. “Thank you for your honesty, Bella.” He sat back in his chair. “I’m not sure where we go from here. This is–a somewhat unprecedented situation.”
“I understand, sir.”
He smiled a little. “You’re not fired, sweetheart.”
I am not too proud to say that I literally sagged with relief.
Tony’s smile widened. “I’m glad you like it here. We like having you.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Tony,” I repeated dutifully.
“But maybe it’s best we take you off Loki detail. What do you think?”
“I–” I hesitated. Part of me was relieved at the thought of not having to see Loki again. The rest of me was deeply, shamefully dismayed. “Will Loki go to prison?”
“For kissing you?” He laughed. “No, sweetheart. We’ll find him another babysitter. Although…” he shot me a look like he’d caught himself before saying something inappropriate. “Nevermind that. We could use you in PR, surveillance, investigation, internal affairs–”
“I do some of that stuff already.”
“I know, but–”
“I can still do Loki detail, if that’s where you need me,” I said, “I’ve learned my lesson.”
His lips compressed. “You sure interrupt a lot.”
Flushing, I muttered, “I’m sorry.”
He wasn’t angry though. “They tell me it’s a telepath thing. You already know what I’m going to say, right?” One of his brows arched.
“I don’t do it on purpose,” I mumbled.
“So how did Reindeer Games manage to get the best of you, hm?”
Dammit. “He can shield his thoughts. I put it in his three-month review.”
He nodded graciously. “You also put that you can tell when he’s doing it and that he can’t hide his emotions, am I correct?”
Warily, I nodded.
“So, was he shielding his thoughts when he…made his move?”
“I…” Dammit, dammit, dammit! “I mean, he was right before. But not…during.”
“So it was during the…er…incident that you realized he was manipulating you.”
“Ah…no. After.” What was he getting at? I tried to read him and got nothing but mathematical chatter. Seemed Loki wasn’t the only one who could shield his thoughts.
His eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Hm.”
“Is that significant?”
“I don’t know. I was just thinking…” he looked at me hard for a second, “You really want to keep the babysitting position?”
I swallowed. “I’m okay with it if you are.”
“Because if he’s as trustworthy as Thor says he is, he could be really useful to us.”
“And you might be the only person who can actually confirm his viability as a member of the team.”
He smiled. “That’s why you want to keep going. You’re a good kid, Bella.”
“You also care about Loki.”
That took me by surprise.
His smile turned into a grin. “You don’t always know what I’m going to say, huh?”
“You’re projecting equations at me,” I pointed out politely.
“I am. Thank you for confirming that it works. You believe we can trust Loki, don’t you?”
Boy, he was really keeping me on my toes. “I…yeah, I do.”
“Can you tell me honestly that your opinion of him isn’t biased due to your…attraction?”
I thought about it. “No, I can’t.”
My honesty seemed to impress him. “Are you going to let him kiss you again?”
“That sounded very decisive.”
“I have a healthy level of self-respect.”
“Glad to hear it. You’re still on Loki duty, but I’m going to send you some backup so you don’t have to be alone with him. One or two of the guards should do it. You good with that?”
I nodded, relieved. I really didn’t like the idea of being alone with Loki again. Although, if I was being honest, my heart did flutter with anticipation at the same time. I was stupidly happy that I would still get to be with him every day.
I wondered if Loki would feel as good about it as I did.
Loki was furious .
The little bitch had tattled to Stark, and now Loki had three idiot human chaperones instead of just the one.
He paced his quarters, too inflamed to sit quietly, circling the long couch and the woman who sat on it, veering off to pass along the windows on the south side of the room.
She’d shown up with two guards this morning. They stood on either side of the door in their matching black suits and their earpieces, watching expressionlessly.
Bella was ignoring him, fiddling with her cellphone. Pretending nothing had changed. If not for the guards, he never would have known she’d told. Her demeanor had revealed nothing since the moment she’d walked in.
In fact, she appeared entirely relaxed in her blue jeans and flowered, off-the-shoulder blouse, legs crossed at the knee. Her glossy chocolate hair had been trimmed recently and the short hairs at her nape were just long enough to start curling again. Looking at her–at the hair he now knew was even silkier than it looked, at the exposed curve of her neck, the taste of which was still vivid in his mind–made him feel itchy, almost violent.
He’d stopped pacing, he realized. He was standing by the windows directly across from the couch, staring at her. Finally, she looked up. He gave her a long, icy glare, drinking in her wide dark eyes, the heavy lashes. The smattering of freckles on her nose and upper cheeks.The full pink bow of her mouth.
One of her brows lifted slightly. “Something on your mind?”
The taste of your mouth , he thought viciously, and then watched her features twitch and flex in surprise–and then in discomfort.
She didn’t blush though. And there wasn’t even a flicker of anger in her steady gaze. For some reason that only increased his ire.
He turned and strolled towards the dining area of his quarters. “What’s on the agenda today?”
“Same as always,” she said, sounding bored.
It was the same conversation they had nearly every day, like a ritual. She was playing her part perfectly.
Are we pretending yesterday didn’t happen? He glanced back at her as he paused next to the small dining table.
Her frown showed irritation. She glanced pointedly at the guards. “Your off-compound privileges have been temporarily revoked.”
“Oh? What shame,” he rallied mockingly, suppressing his bitterness. His restlessness.
She rolled her eyes and went back to her phone.
Loki paced some more, fuming silently. Three months they’d kept him a cell before Thor had convinced them to let him out. Another month of constant supervision–always Thor or one of the others at his elbow. Always the cameras and the suspicious gazes. And then they’d brought Bella–his psychic babysitter–and she’d been… an unexpected diversion. A breath of fresh air, if he was honest. Wide brown eyes full of curiosity and unexpected kindness–and utterly devoid of contempt, suspicion, disgust; the things he saw in the eyes of every other human he met.
She looked like a nursery school teacher but he’d learned quickly there was intellect behind that angelic little face. A delightful, sneaky sense of humor. A startling lack of judgment for the attempted conqueror of her own planet, her people.
She’d treated him for all the world like a friend.
Bits of her angry tirade in the car came back to him for the hundredth time.
I also honestly fucking like you.
I can’t trust you… why did I even give you a chance?
…as much as I want you to be happy, if you ever fuck with me like that again…
Loki struggled not to growl aloud, bombarded by a mix of emotions he didn’t care to examine too closely.
She’ taken him into her home, and she’d let him kiss her, touch her. Perhaps she had been a diversion–she was only human after all. And perhaps he had taken advantage because it had been so long since he’d even had the chance to touch a woman, and he was starved for it–for any kind of real pleasure.
And she’d blushed so prettily at his teasing. Acted like she enjoyed his attention, as uncomfortable as it made her. So, when the opportunity had arisen to take a little pleasure in her, he’d jumped at it. Was that so deplorable? Did he deserve to be villainized for it?
He had to admit that he did like the little human. He liked her a great deal, as ridiculous as it was. He hadn’t meant to abuse her in any way. That look she’d given him in the car–like he’d wounded her somehow…
Loki told himself it hadn’t made him feel guilty–that it was nonsense on her part. Human idiocy. He hadn’t done anything wrong. And he didn’t give a damn how she felt about him. But now that she’d withdrawn her friendship he felt…viciously ill-used.
He felt positively vengeful, in fact.
Abruptly, Bella stood. She turned to the guards, “Will you please leave us for a moment?”
“Uh, Miss, are you sure?” said the one on the left. Loki had forgotten their names the moment Bella introduced them. He watched with icy disdain as Bella assured them she would be fine and ushered them out.
“There are still cameras,” she said, as soon as she’d turned back to him.
“As if I could forget,” he sneered.
“I’m sorry about the guards. Tony insisted.”
“Oh, you’re sorry . Well, in that case,” he returned contemptuously.
“One of the guards reported our…little scene in the car yesterday, otherwise things would be just as they were. I had no intention of reporting it.”
“Of course,” he stalked toward her dangerously, “What would Tony think if he knew you’d willingly taken my tongue into your mouth?”
She actually flushed a little at the words. “He does know, Loki.”
He froze, “ What? You told him?”
“ Why? ”
“Because I’m honest?”
“What could have possessed you to do such an idiotic thing?” he snarled.
“You mean kiss you, or tell Tony the truth?” she rejoined wryly.
“It wasn’t any great crime,” she went on helplessly, “He’s not even mad about it. You just have to behave yourself with me for a couple more weeks and you’ll be allowed to leave again.”
The regret in her eyes was salt in his wounds.
“Only now we’ll have a pair of Stark’s suited goons along for the ride, is that it?” he spat.
“Just to make sure things stay…platonic.”
Loki’s eyes narrowed. He’d closed the space between them and they stood only a few feet apart. “Platonic,” he repeated thoughtfully. “Is that for my sake or yours?”
He stalked closer. “So, we both have to earn his trust again, hm?”
She watched him come with obvious anxiety. “I told him I’d learned my lesson,” she said warily.
Loki halted less than an arm’s length away and her scent curled around him delicately. “And he believed you?”
She swallowed loudly. “Loki–”
“Did you think the cameras would protect you? That I wouldn’t touch you so long as some peon in a control room was watching?” He moved closer, until they were toe-to-toe. Bella was looking up at him with her eyes very wide, breasts hitching upward on a nervous breath.
“The guards are right outside,” she whispered. “Don’t screw this up for yourself just because you want to punish me, Loki.”
“Punish you?” he murmured wickedly, “Who says I want to punish you?” His hands found her hips, slid up to her sweet little waist, making her gasp and grab his forearms as though to stop him.
“You’re angry,” she said breathlessly. “You want to hurt me.”
The words stung–partially because they were true, and partially because hearing her say them made him feel bitterly ashamed of himself.
He picked her up and backed her to the wall, pinning her there with a thunk. Her little squeak of surprise urged him on and the in the next moment he was kissing her fiercely, angrily–almost desperately. She squirmed against him and it felt so damned good , even though she was trying to push him off.
Loki made himself soften, gave her his tongue in a slow, liquid glide, pressing her flat to the wall with the length of his body. She stiffened when she felt his erection, and then– sweet Allmother, thank you –the fight seemed to leave her and she went butter soft against him. Her little hands slid up his arms to his chest and then fisted in his jacket, pulling him closer.
That’s it , he thought distantly, anger forgotten, drawing on her tongue and then groaning as she dipped it into his mouth, exploring him of her own volition. His hands glided up her sides and he took her breasts in a slow, sensuous grip, growling with pleasure at the sensation. She shuddered and whimpered sweetly into his mouth.
Behind him, the door burst open. “Alright, Reindeer Games, let her go.”
Anger returning in a rush, Loki slowly released her. Just before turning he looked down into her face. Her eyes were wide with dread–but no anger. No judgment.
She was horrified. Afraid. But not of him. Not by him.
Loki turned slowly toward Stark and his guards, anger warring with a strange, unexpected rush of elation.
“Hello, Stark,” he said mildly.
Stark gave Loki a disapproving look, lips pursed, and held his hand out to Bella. ”Come here, sweetheart. Let’s get you away from the big bad God.”
Bella stepped out from behind Loki, “Mr. Stark, it was my fault. I shouldn’t have sent the guards away.”
“Oh, we can agree on that,” Stark replied, hand still extended, eyes on Loki.
“He didn’t hurt me,” she said urgenty, and Loki realized with a start that she was defending him.
“It looked pretty forceful to me, hon,” Stark replied. His gaze shifted to her. “You were trying to fight him off, were you not?”
“I– was ,” she replied haltingly, sheepishly. “At first. Right up until… I wasn’t.”
Loki glanced at her in surprise. Honest, indeed.
The two guards shared a brief look of shock. Stark sighed. “You sure this isn’t like, some kind of Stockholm syndrome or something?”
Out of the corner of his eye, Loki saw her nod. “I guess I have a thing for bad boys,” she laughed nervously.
Loki’s heart did a shameful little dance of triumph.
Stark lowered his hand. “Well, I guess I can’t hold that against you.” He grinned at her in a way that made Loki’s hackles rise. “I used to be a bit of a bad-boy myself. Though–” he shot Loki a considering look, “This guy is on a whole other level.”
“You knew this was going to happen!” Bella blurted.
Stark grinned. “You reading my mind?” Then he shrugged. “I might have suspected something like this would occur.”
“Why did you let her comeback in then?” Loki demanded angrily.
Stark smirked, shook his head. “You still don’t get it, do you Reindeer Games? You’re one of ours now.”
Loki scowled in confusion. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Stark held up a finger and then turned to the guards. “Fellas, dismissed.”
They both blinked at him in surprise.
“Alright, come on, chop chop,” Stark clapped his hands at them and they scurried out the door. “That’s right, little privacy here, thank you.”
The door clicked shut and he turned around, pointed directly at Loki, “You, my friend, have to get into the Avengers mentality. Teamwork, cooperation. Trust .”
Loki looked at Bella and her expression reflected his bewilderment. “What the hell are you talking about, Stark?”
“I’m talking about your one-man-against-the-world-pity-party thing, Lo-lo.”
Loki nearly choked. Lo-lo? Pity party? “My what? ” he snarled in outrage.
“Are you in or are you out, man?” Tony returned impatiently. “You’ve behaved yourself perfectly for months, bad attitude notwithstanding. Your brother trusts you. Bella trusts you. I let you go off-compound yesterday with no armed escort and the worst thing you did was kiss a pretty girl. And when that blew up in your face, you still came back .” He shrugged and made a face like, Well? “You gonna give up this serial-killer-slash-martyr act and be a good guy, or what?”
Loki was floored. Speechless.
“You’re not upset at all?” Bella asked cautiously. “About the, erm, inappropriate behavior?”
“Hey, you’re both consenting adults. And like I said, who am I to judge?” Tony grinned. “Besides, Rock of Ages over here falling for a good old-fashioned human girl seems like growth to me.”
“Will you please stop with the nicknames,” Loki grated.
“Not a chance,” Tony came back without hesitation. “And don’t think for a moment this means I’m cutting you two loose.” He pointed at Bella, “You keep doing your job as specified, and you–” he pointed at Loki, “are now responsible for keeping her safe in the field.”
Loki blurted, “I’m responsible for what? ” at the same time Bella said, “In the field?”
“That’s right, folks. You’re partners now. Congratulations. Bella, you start field training next week,” he turned and pulled the door open. “By the way, you have the rest of the week off. Go on a date or something. Eat spaghetti, see a movie. Enjoy your freedom. Starting Monday, it’s no more lazy days at Stark Tower. We got shit to do and I need you both on point.” He waved them off as he walked out, and the door swung shut behind him with a click.
It’s Thursday , I thought dumbly. Three day weekend.
Then I looked at Loki. He was still staring blankly at the closed door. He must have felt me staring because he glanced over.
Suddenly my heart was in my throat, pounding like crazy. Tony had just given us his full approval to…what? Start a relationship?
I knew that was insane–just the thought of dating the God of Mischief made me want to giggle hysterically.
It also made me ache with longing. Stupidly.
Loki’s eyes narrowed.
“W-what?” I stuttered, hating myself.
His lips compressed. Relaxed. He was shielding his thoughts, but his emotions were still in turmoil. Anger sizzled in the air around him. The regret was gone though.
That had been a revelation.
I’d come to work this morning tied in knots, wondering how he would behave. I knew he’d be angry about the guards. I’d kind of expected him to play it off though–to return to the condescending ice-prince routine. To treat me like nothing more than a mild irritation.
But he’d been tied in knots, too. Furious, guilty. And the longer I pretended nothing was wrong, the more inflamed he’d become, pacing around in silent fit of rage. Radiating regret and frustration.
He was sorry . Or he had been.
Not that he would ever say so.
The God of Mischief cared about me. It was there in his feelings. The hurt he tried to drown out with anger. His desire to retaliate against me.
And of course, my determination to remain distant had crumbled in mere minutes. I still wanted to be his friend. I couldn’t stand to see him in pain.
So I’d sent the guards out, hoping to talk him down. To mend fences.
I’d never expected him to come after me like that, radiating lust and danger.
I could still feel his big body against me–the searing heat of his erection stabbing my belly.
Gentle, coaxing Loki–while still a bit aggressive–had been intoxicating. Angry, forceful Loki had completely robbed me of my sense.
My legs were still trembling a little from it. My breasts tingled madly from his touch. My mouth felt swollen, lips hypersensitized. I wanted him to do it again–and at the same time, I was absolutely terrified that he would.
He was looking at me like he could read my mind, and I almost believed it.
“You have thirty seconds to get out of here,” he growled, “before I finish what we started.”
“Loki–“ I began, backing away a step, “W-we should talk.”
He bared his teeth in a predatory grin, totally devoid of humor. “Make it ten seconds.”
Self-preservation beat out my desire to smooth things over. I turned and scurried for the door.
“Bella,” he said, just as I took hold of the knob.
I looked back.
“Congratulations,” his eyes glittered with unspoken promise, “ Partner. ”
That evening I went out and bought myself a bottle of wine and three pints of ice cream, intending to spend the night watching Netflix and wallowing in self-indulgence.
Anything to distract me from the thought of Loki and that look in his eyes.
And the heat in my lower body that wouldn’t subside.
At four pm, I ordered Chinese food, put on my baggiest pajamas and started binge watching the last few episodes of Lie To Me . I was halfway into the bottle of wine when my food arrived, and 20 minutes later, full of Sichuan beef and wontons, I found myself utterly exhausted.
I fell asleep on the couch 15 minutes into Mr. Right.
Of course, I dreamed about him; a jumble of intense sexual images and sensations. His eyes, his hands, his mouth. The weight of his body over me.
When I woke it was dark and Loki was sitting at the other end of the couch, my feet resting in his lap.
It took me a few muzzy, sleep-drunk seconds to figure out that he was real.
The TV was on. He’d restarted the movie. My cat was cuddled up in his lap right next to my feet.
He glanced at me and said casually, “This is an amusing film.”
“How long have you been here?” I rasped. I tried to pull my feet back but his hand was on my ankle and he held me in place easily.
“Not long.” He petted the cat gently with his free hand and Sebastian–the little slut–began to purr loudly.
Loki was… relaxed. More so than I’d ever seen him, though his outward demeanor was the same as always.
He was pleased. Even happy.
I felt like I’d woken to find a hungry lion in my house.
Well, a lion I was half-infatuated with.
“They let you off the compound,” I said.
“Is that a question or a statement?” he replied with amusement, face half-illuminated by the light from the television.
I didn’t answer because he was stroking my bare ankle with his thumb and it made me feel sort of dizzy. There was some kind of fine electrical current issuing from his fingers and traveling warmly up my leg, straight to my–
“A-are you doing that on purpose?” I stuttered breathlessly.
“Am I doing what on purpose?” he asked in a low, velvety voice. His fingers slid higher, under my pajamas, toward my calf.
He was radiating heat now–sexual arousal. Intent.
He liked my clothing. It looked easy to remove.
“Loki, stop,” I whispered, unable to produce any actual voice.
“Why?” he murmured.
“Because–“ I broke off. The energy coming from his fingers increased to a throb that made me clench with desire. “Because I’m n-not comfortable with this.”
That seemed to give him pause. The pulse from his fingers dimmed but did not entirely subside.
“You’re still angry.”
“Don’t say that like an accusation,” I replied quietly. “I had every right to be angry.”
He cursed under his breath and looked away, glaring at the TV.
“You’re incredibly racist and you treated me like an object. I would have to be sadly lacking in self-respect to fall into bed with you now.” I said it gently because I wasn’t mad anymore, but I did have principles. I had to wake up in the morning and like myself.
Even in the dark, I could see his jaw flexing as he clenched his teeth. He wasn’t all that angry, though. The regret from earlier was back, along with a sharp edge of bitterness.
“You would think less of yourself for being with me,” he grated.
I swallowed. There was something heavy behind those words–something that had nothing to do with me.
“Only because you think so little of me. I wouldn’t sleep with anyone who saw me as nothing more than a plaything.”
His glance in the dark was glittering, full of emotion, temper. “You’re a telepath, and you claim not to know what I think of you?”
“You like me,” I said quietly. “But liking isn’t enough, Loki. I require respect.”
He laughed, low and humorless, almost without sound. His fingers tightened on my leg and his emotions were suddenly edged with resignation.
And then he opened himself and just… let me have it. Everything he’d been holding back came rushing to me– a wordless outpouring of complex thoughts and emotions that hit me like a tidal wave and stole my breath.
There was guilt, because he had thought of me as less, but now…there was a fierce sort of protectiveness in his feelings towards me, and a possessiveness that shocked me to my core.
He did respect me. I was special to him. And it was as much news to him as it was to me–or very nearly.
He also resented me though; it came jumbled up with thoughts about his upbringing, his competition with Thor, the desire to be recognized. Somehow, humans being lesser was part of the belief system that allowed him to be of value. And for whatever reason, the desire to be recognized and validated–to have his worth acknowledged–was all tied up with that, too. It had plagued him his whole life.
I’d thrown his self-image out of balance simply by…being me. And his response to that was to put me in a category all my own. Not just a human. More, but still…not the same. His confusion about it was still fresh. His desire to regain my positive regard made him feel vulnerable, deeply uneasy.
And all of it made him uneasy.
Except for the lust. That was comfortable for him. A safe place for him to dwell.
I could see more–the emotional underpinnings he so clearly rejected.
Loki had feelings for me. Real feelings. He just hadn’t acknowledged it yet. I suspected he would resist doing so for as long as possible. Maybe forever.
As I watched his face in the dark, heart pounding, aching , I wondered if he even knew how much he’d just revealed.
Who was I kidding? He would never have let me see all that if he were able to see it clearly himself.
“Loki,” I said hoarsely.
He gave me a look–wary, guarded. “What?”
His fingers were still on my leg, unmoving. The tingle of his energy had ebbed away. He was looking at me, waiting for something, anything.
None of the words that came seemed right. They backed up in my throat.
Finally, a few syllables tumbled past my lips and broke the teeming silence that hung between us.
“Do you like ice cream?”
“I have chocolate fudge swirl, chocolate chip cookie dough, and strawberry cheesecake,” she said, setting each container on the coffee table before him. Then she smiled with genuine excitement, “I can’t believe you’ve never had ice cream before.”
Loki made a show of frowning wryly, but her pleasure amused him. Warmed him. “Yes, it’s been a terrible lapse on my part, I’m sure.”
She handed him a spoon. “Which flavor do you want to try first?”
You , he thought darkly. “I defer to your suggestion.”
She pretended not to hear the thought, but even in the dim room, he could see her slight flush as she picked up a pint and peeled off the lid. She’d left a light on in the kitchen, but he’d insisted she leave the living room lights off. The darkness would lower her inhibitions, or so he hoped.
“My favorite is the fudge, though only by a hair. Here,” she held it out to him.
Loki took it willingly, touching her fingers as he did. Giving her another little taste of Seidr; a tickling pulse of magic that would communicate his desire to her in a very physical way.
She snatched her hand back, breath catching audibly. “What is that?”
“Seidr,” he said, watching her. Wishing like hell that he could read her thoughts. Wondering just how much she’d seen when he’d opened his mind to her.
Her demeanor had changed afterward. Softened. He’d regained her friendship, such as it was. But he wanted more. Burned for the touch of her body.
Would she give it to him?
Right now, she was giving him a wary look edged with suspicion. “You better not be trying to use magic to seduce me.”
“I am using everything at my disposal to seduce you,” he replied shamelessly.
Her soft huff of laughter was encouraging.
“Unbelievable.” She picked up the strawberry cheesecake, clearly using it as an excuse to avoid his gaze.
He watched her take a bite, the pint of chocolate pleasantly icy in his hand. When she looked at him expectantly, he said, “How is it?”
“Delicious.” She took another bite, swallowed. “Aren’t you going to try yours?”
“Mm. I’ve changed my mind. I’d like a taste of yours.” He sent her an image to go with the words.
Loki watched her eyes widen.
“I gave you a spoon,” she said dumbly. But she didn’t turn away. She sat facing him on the couch, one leg folded beneath her. The sleep clothes she wore were loose and worn. And delightfully thin.
She looked rumpled and vulnerable and utterly delicious. Watching her sleep had been an exercise in self-restraint.
But she clearly had mixed feeling about kissing him.
“Tell me no,” he said, setting his pint and spoon on the table.
She swallowed. Said nothing.
He turned toward her, pushing the cat off his lap and mirroring her pose. Then he reached for the ice cream in her hand. “Tell me you don’t want me, Bella.”
She let him take it, and then the spoon, watching him the way one watches a poisonous snake poised to strike.
“Tell me now ,” he murmured roughly, taking hold of her thighs and dragging her slowly across the cushions toward his body.
“Wanting is not the issue,” she whispered, face very close, breath smelling of strawberry and vanilla.
She was holding her hands up awkwardly as if she’d forgotten about them or didn’t know where to put them. Loki grasped her wrists very gently and drew her hands to his chest, then curled his arms around her.
“Last chance,” he murmured, bending to her mouth.
Her only response was a soft, shuddering breath.
He kissed her nice and slow, savoring the silky texture of her lips, giving her his tongue only when she opened to him willingly.
Gods , her mouth was icy-cold and delicious, tasting of strawberry and cream. Lust spiking, he pulled her closer, kissed her harder, licking the inside of her mouth until it was warm again and the taste of ice cream had faded completely.
Then he let her go and growled, “Now the chocolate.”
Bella looked up at him, wide-eyed, adorably dazed, and then she leaned over to pick up the ice cream. While she scooped a mouthful onto the spoon he watched the soft cotton shirt sliding over her breasts. She wasn’t wearing any undergarments and her nipples were standing up tight against the fabric, clearly visible–and wildly erotic, at least to his mind.
When she’d swallowed the first bite he said, “Another,” and then watched her lips open and close around the spoon with burgeoning lust.
As soon as she’d swallowed he kissed her again, more roughly this time, control slipping. He pulled her up against his body, floored by the contrast of cold lips and warm woman, running his hands up and down her back, first outside the shirt and then under it, growling into her mouth at the sensation of her naked flesh and swallowing her little sounds of pleasure.
“Loki,” she breathed when he broke the kiss. There was a weak denial in those two syllables. Very weak.
“Touch me,” he rasped, letting his hands slip around her ribcage and taking her naked breasts into his palms, at the same time giving her a rush of Seidr–sharing his lust with her, his arousal.
She gasped and stiffened in his arms, then sagged against him, hands held awkwardly aside, ice cream and spoon clutched loosely in her fingers. “That’s not fair,” she breathed against his throat. “No magic.”
“I told you,” he growled, kissing her neck, hungry and open-mouthed, “Everything at my disposal.”
She shook her head weakly. “Not fair.”
Alright , he relented, no Seidr . And then aloud, “Touch me.”
Leaning back, she looked at him with passion-glazed eyes. “How am I supposed to get to you through all this armor and leather?”
Loki plucked the ice cream and the spoon from her hands and set them on the table for the second time. “Allow me.”
And then he spelled his clothes away in a flash of green light.
Bella’s eyes went wide with surprise. She looked at his naked chest, his belly. He’d left the trousers on because she was still a bit reluctant, and he was well aware that if he pushed her too hard she might balk completely and tell him to leave.
Her gaze dipped to the front of his trousers and Loki watched with satisfaction as her breath hitched and her skin flushed.
He took her hands and drew them slowly to his mouth, kissed her fingers and then pressed her palms to his chest. She watched with helpless arousal as he dragged her hands slowly down his torso, over his belly, his breath shuddering at the pleasure of the contact.
He didn’t have to tell her what he wanted–his mind was open to her. When he pressed her right hand to his cock she released a sharp gust of breath and her fingers curled around him.
Then he let go and dropped his arms to his sides, leaving the rest to Bella.
It took her a moment to figure out the closure on his trousers. Asgardian clothes worked quite differently than Midgardian ones. He could have shown her telepathically, but the sensation of her fingers searching his groin was too good–he lifted himself to it a little bit.
A moment later his trousers lay open and his cock stood up stiffly in the open air. Bella’s hands came to rest on his thighs and she simply looked at him.
The anticipation made his heart pound and his mouth go dry.
“Please,” he said, not caring that he was begging. Dying for her touch.
Finally, she did touch him–grip soft and warm–and he groaned aloud, leaning back to watch her little hand caress his length.
“Gods, that’s good,” he rasped. “Faster, Bella.”
“I don’t want to hurt you,” she said quietly, palm rolling over the head of his cock and making him gasp. “We don’t have any lubrication.”
“You won’t hurt me,” he growled.
Her gaze rose to his face, “Should I go get some?”
“No.” Impatience made it sound angry. “Use your saliva. “
“Oh. That’s an idea.”
To his dismay, she let him go and backed away.
“Scoot down,” she murmured. And then she looked up at him with her dark eyes full of heat and intent.
Surprised, eager–realizing what she intended–Loki scooted down until he lay half-propped against the arm of the couch.
Bella took hold of his cock again and holding his gaze murmured, “I’m doing this because I want to.”
“Happy to hear it,” he replied cautiously, breathless and a bit confused.
“I don’t intend to have sex with you tonight,” she clarified. “But I want to do this.”
“Ah, I see,” he said, in an agony of anticipation. “That’s…yes, good. Okay.”
Her lips curved in amusement. Loki scowled.
His embarrassment evaporated the moment she bent down, snuggling between his legs to kiss the tip of his cock.
He expected her to tease him–to kiss and lick before building up to more–but she took him directly into the slick heat of her mouth and sucked him deeply, hungrily, as though she were starved for the taste of him.
Soft, wet sounds filled the room, in counterpoint to and the ragged gush of Loki’s breath. He struggled to hold himself still under the incredible pleasure of it–heard himself groaning helplessly. Watched her lips stretch and flex around his shaft, her fingers gliding in the sheen of saliva her mouth left behind, stroking and squeezing what she couldn’t take inside.
In minutes, he was on the edge–gasping, gripping the corner of the couch cushion in one hand and her slender shoulder in the other.
“Bella– Gods! –yes!” he hissed, unable to stop himself thrusting a bit.
She let go just as the orgasm began to spark along his nerve endings, looking up at him from under her lashes apologetically.
“I want to see,” she whispered, and the words made him growl with approval.
He watched her work his cock between her hands for all of thirty seconds before the orgasm struck–pleasure crackling along his spine and up the length of his cock like a lightning bolt, tearing as hoarse cry from his throat and making him arch towards her in ecstasy.
His gaze latched onto her face in the last few seconds; she was watching him jerk and spasm between her fingers–watching each wet spurt as it left him, still stroking his cock, wracking him with pleasure.
When it was over and he lay limp and heaving before her, wet ropes of come decorating his chest and belly, she murmured, “That was…incredibly erotic.”
He laughed a little bit–breathy and almost voiceless. “It was.”
She stood up–rather unexpectedly–and he grabbed her arm, growling, “I’m not done with you yet”.
“I’m just going to get something to clean up.”
Reluctantly, he let her go. She went into the kitchen. There was the sound of water running and then she came back with a damp towel, pushing his hand aside when he reached for it. She sat and wiped him down herself, gently and very thoroughly. The water was warm, the towel soft. Her touch brought him back from half-hard to full arousal.
“Your recovery time is impressive,” she murmured when she was done.
Loki said nothing. He was thinking about how he might return the pleasure she’d given him, wondering if she would let him suck her.
She swallowed audibly. “Raincheck.”
“You owe me an orgasm,” he said darkly. “Or rather, I owe you one.”
Her mouth quirked. “This isn’t a transaction, Loki.”
“No, it’s certainly not,” he said, sitting up to reach for her. “But turnabout is fair play.”
“The towel,” she gasped as he took hold of her hips and pulled her into his lap. “At least let me put it away.”
He plucked the towel from her hand and tossed it neatly through the kitchen doorway where it landed on the tile with a wet splat.
Sitting in his lap put her right at eye level.
“Kiss me,” he demanded softly, hands sliding under her shirt.
“Quit ordering me around,” she grumbled. Her face was very close and she was looking at his mouth.
He grinned. “Then, by all means, tell me what you want.”
She frowned repressively, but her arms curled around his neck. “I want to kiss you.”
Her lips were just a breath away. “Well now, that is fortuitous,” he murmured.
“But mostly just to shut you up.”
It startled a laugh out of him–a real, honest laugh.
“Perhaps you can think of some other ways to occupy my mouth as well,” he said, right before she kissed him.
Her little tongue slipped between his lips and he suckled it tenderly, fingers skimming her ribcage, tracing the undersides of her breasts as she settled into him.
She kissed the way a cat stretches in the sunlight: slow and languorous. Utterly unhurried.
And deeply. Gods , it was good.
Bella squirmed closer and he stopped teasing her breasts for a moment to hold her tightly, arms banded around her back, flattening her against his chest.
She made a little hum of approval and he lifted her so she could straddle him and then pulled her even closer, relishing the heat and intimacy of the contact. His trousers were still open and her sex was hot against him, even through the layers of her clothing.
He thought about touching her there, imagining how wet she would be, how soft and hot her little folds would feel around his fingers–around his cock.
“Mm!” she pulled back, breaking the kiss. “I said no sex.”
“You didn’t say no thinking about it, though,” he grinned.
Her brows drew down ominously.
Loki held up his hands in a gesture of surrender, “No sex. I got it. I promise to behave myself.”
Clearly, she didn’t believe him. It stung a bit–but not enough to compete with the pleasure of the circumstances.
“Perhaps if you told me what, exactly, you would like me to do…?” he prompted, hands under her shirt again, fingers spanning her belly.
She seemed to consider for a moment. And then, wordlessly, she lifted her arms. Loki whipped the shirt off over her head and looked down at her breasts.
Full. Pale. Nipples tight.
“My mouth?” he asked.
“And then what?”
A surge of lust made the word very rough, dark. “Where?”
He thought she would blush, or balk, but she replied simply, “Inside me.”
Loki rocked his hips forward, pressing into her, making her gasp. “I want to suck you.”
She shook her head, said breathlessly, “Pants stay on.”
Her answer surprised him. “Because I don’t trust myself.”
He growled wordlessly and pulled her hips forward, rocking again, grinding his cock against her sex. She whimpered and gripped his shoulders. He did it some more–until her breath began to hitch and her face went slack with pleasure.
“I could bring you like this" he growled. “Ride me.”
Lips parted, eyes almost closed, she obeyed, rolling her hips into each thrust, increasing the friction. And then, to his surprise, she reached between them and positioned his cock against her just so–and when she started moving again the contact made her moan helplessly.
“Loki…” she whispered.
He bent and sucked her left nipple into his mouth, rolled it with his tongue, biting lightly, making her gasp and buck against him. He sucked and sucked until the poor little nub was swollen and distended, dark red against the pale mound beneath it. Then he turned to the other one and gave it the same treatment, aware all the while that Bella was working herself into a frenzy against his cock–working him into a frenzy, too–whimpering and digging her nails into his shoulders.
The fabric that separated her sex from his was well and truly damp, and Loki was very nearly at his limit.
He flipped her around in his lap without warning, ignoring her yelp of surprise, and looked over her shoulder as he cupped her breasts and lifted them together, fingering the distended nipples with enormous relish.
“Beautiful,” he rasped.
“Now,” she panted. “Please, make me come.”
Growling fiercely, he slid his hand behind the loose waistband of her pants and dipped his fingers between the lips of her sex.
Bella jerked and shuddered in his arms. Her sex was hot, and soaking wet, her little clit already engorged. He stroked it gently with his fingertips and she cried out “ Ah–yes! Right there! ”
“You said my fingers inside you,” he growled, but she was already lost to it, lifting herself to his hand, head bent back against his shoulder, keening sweetly as her orgasm swelled under his fingers.
He used his legs to spread her wide and gave her the fingers of his other hand too, still stroking her clit, making her whimper and grab his forearms as he penetrated her.
“Ah! Jesus–God, Loki!” she cried raggedly, sex clenching tight around his fingers. “Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t–!!”
The orgasm bowed her in his arms and she rode his hands for a few seconds, shaking, nearly screaming, clawing at him in blind ecstasy.
And when she went limp against him, he lifted his hand and licked her wetness from his fingers.
“Sweet,” he murmured, holding her close. “So sweet.”
I woke sometime in the wee hours of the morning and Loki was there beside me in the bed.
He’d tucked me in himself, displaying a level of care and tenderness I’d never expected from him, and then he’d lain on top of the covers beside me and told me to go to sleep.
It had been easy to obey after what we’d done together. I still felt wonderfully loose and satiated.
Loki hadn’t slept at all though. I knew because I hadn’t dreamt. Being telepathic has some serious drawbacks when it comes to intimate relationships. Sharing dreams with the person sleeping next to you was definitely one of them. Being privy to the private thoughts another person has at 3am on a sleepless night is another.
Loki was awake now, lying flat on his back, staring at the ceiling. And he was thinking hard.
Dark thoughts–memories of an alien planet, creatures unlike anything I had seen before. Torture. Threats. Bargains of the darkest sort.
The images and feelings were broken– jagged and fitful in the way that only traumatic memories are. His thoughts skittered across them, bouncing this way and that, latching on to certain moments and then shrinking away.
Someone had hurt him. Forced him into servitude. Tortured him brutally. Under the agony of that, there was the sharp ache of abandonment, loss. His pain was like a hot brand on my psyche.
My breath caught on a sob and Loki’s head turned toward me in the dark. His mind snapped shut instantly like a steel trap and his eyes glittered with anger.
“Who is Thanos?” I whispered.
“Go back to sleep,” he said softly, dangerously.
I knew he wasn’t going to tell me, but I couldn’t let it go. “What did he make you do?”
There was a moment of tense silence and then he rolled toward me, over me, pinning me to the bed with his body. “If you’re not going to sleep, there are other things we can do,” he growled.
He bent and nipped my throat hard enough to make me yelp, and then he sucked the spot very gently, soothing it with his tongue. The air around him swirled with lust and anger. His mood put me on edge–frightened me a little. Or maybe it was the residue left behind from his unguarded thoughts. Either way, my body seemed to vibrate, flashing hot and cold–a fever of desire and trepidation.
Loki pressed his hips into me and he was already hard. Even through two layers of bedding, I could feel the heat of it. An answering heat pooled between my legs. I gave in to it willingly; his pain still echoed across my consciousness and I wanted fiercely to soothe it–for him and for myself.
All my earlier resistance had fled. I wanted him. At the moment, I couldn’t imagine why I had resisted before. It seemed silly after everything we’d done on the couch.
I curled my arms around his shoulders as he brought his mouth to mine, slid my fingers into his hair and sighed around his tongue.
He must have sensed my surrender because his anger dissipated, replaced with a desperate sort of hunger. He started pulling at the bedding, trying to get to my body while still kissing me ravenously.
I wiggled beneath him, pushing as he pulled, equally mad with the need to feel him against me. The blankets bunched around my waist and he broke from my mouth abruptly, lifting himself to tear them aside and then coming down on top of me again, straddling my thighs.
He’d dressed after putting me to bed, but instead of the leather and armor, he’d conjured a simple cotton tunic. Before he could kiss me again I yanked the hem upward and he let me pull it off so I could touch his chest and shoulders, run my hands over his naked arms. Every inch of him was smooth and hard: lean muscle covered in fine, velvety white skin.
It made me crazy.
He was propped on his arms over me, watching with hooded eyes as I touched him. When my hands slid down over his belly he made a low sound of pleasure that made my nipples tighten and my womb clench.
“Lights,” I whispered, needing to see him.
He made a quick gesture with one hand and the lamp on my bedside table switched on by itself, spilling soft golden light across the pale planes of his body.
God, he was so beautiful. I stroked my hands down his torso and he flexed into my touch, the muscles in his belly standing out in stark relief.
He was enjoying the way I looked at him–my touch and the pleasure I took in his body.
I reached for his fly and he bent to kiss me again while I freed his cock and stroked the silky column with both hands, marveling at how hard and hot he was.
Loki pushed my shirt up and dragged his hands over my breasts almost roughly, thinking about how beautiful they were, thoughts swimming with sexual aggression. His touch sent bright shocks of pleasure down into my belly, into my sex.
I wanted him inside me so bad it actually hurt .
It wasn’t just my desire, though, I realized dimly. He wanted it too–his thoughts were a dark, erotic river, pouring straight into my mind.
From far away, I heard fabric tearing. He’d ripped my shirt open and now he was reaching for my pants, sucking my right breast as he yanked them down. Growling fiercely when he plunged his fingers between my legs and felt how wet I was.
An instant later the pants were gone–I didn’t know how or where, and I didn’t give a damn because Loki was between my legs, pushing inside me. Buried to the hilt in a quick, wet glide.
The breath left my lungs on a cry of pain and pleasure. He was big–stretching me, touching me deeply. I lifted myself, wrapped my legs around him.
His pleasure swamped me.
He was already thrusting, thoughts tangled up in the sensation of it–my body beneath him, the liquid glide of his cock inside me, my sex squeezing him tightly. The soft, helpless sounds I made with each thrust inflamed him–made him feel savage.
Intoxicated, I looked up at his face, drank his expression of ecstasy and the pleasure that radiated from him, dug my fingers into his back and rode each thrust with wild abandon.
The pleasure built so rapidly that the orgasm took me by surprise. I think I cried his name–he bent down, kissed my open mouth and rode me faster, murmuring low encouragements– yes, baby, come for me, sweetheart –and he was controlling himself carefully because he was afraid he would hurt me. I wanted to tell him to stop holding back, but the pleasure was splitting me open, setting me on fire, searing every nerve ending.
Just as the orgasm began to ebb, Loki gave a low, rasping groan and his thrusts came so hard they did hurt a bit–in the best possible way–and I made myself tighten around him, wanting to give him pleasure, to make it as good for him as it had been for me. He cried out again–a sharp, animal sound–and then he was coming, pleasure pouring off him in waves, cock jerking hard inside me as he made his final desperate thrusts.
It took a few minutes for my heart and my breathing to slow… and then reality set in.
Loki was still breathing hard, eyes closed, holding himself up on his arms because he didn’t want to crush me, thoughts flowing like molasses–slow and sweet. It had been good –he couldn’t remember the last time it had been so good. I’d been much less inhibited than he’d expected–more passionate, wilder. Sweeter , gazing up at him with such adoration on my face, arching into every touch, crying out his name. He wanted me again already.
And then it hit me.
I’d just had sex with the God of Mischief.
Bella, you idiot.
Loki lifted himself and looked down at me. His expression shifted from gratified to accusing, but his feelings…I read hurt and disappointment. “You regret it already.”
He wasn’t quite angry yet, but he was headed in that direction.
“There’s a reason I didn’t want to,” I said reluctantly.
He swore softly. “Because you believe I don’t respect you.”
“No–well, I mean that was part of it. You don’t see me as an equal.”
His eyes narrowed. “And why else?”
Dammit . “Because I don’t do casual sex.”
His brows drew together. “Casual sex.”
“Yes,” I squirmed uncomfortably beneath him. “Could we continue this conversation when you’re not…”
“Inside you?” His eyes flashed heat. The squirming had turned him on. Oops.
“Yes,” I said, heart beating a little harder.
He gave me a long, focused, predatory look. I held myself very still. Finally, he pulled away.
“Stay,” he said when I started to sit up. Then he swung his long legs over the edge of the mattress, stood, closed his pants, and left the room.
Nonplussed, I propped myself on my elbows and looked at the empty doorway.
He came back a moment later with a damp towel–a different one–and climbed back onto the bed to lay beside me.
“‘Casual sex’ must be a Midgardian concept,” he murmured, nudging my legs apart so he could wipe me gently. “I’m not familiar with it.”
“It’s pretty self-explanatory,” I mumbled, a little breathy. He was being so damned gentle. It made my heart squeeze in my chest.
“Is it?” he looked up at me. “I would not describe what we just did as ‘casual.’ Nor sex in general, for that matter.”
I swallowed. He had tucked the rag against the opening of my sex and held it there to catch the fluid that trickled out of me.
“It means sex without feelings. Without emotions.”
One of his brows arched. “You’re telling me you felt no emotions when I made love to you?”
Made love? My heart lifted traitorously. “No,” I said, “That’s the problem.”
He gave a little huff of exasperation. “You’re speaking nonsense.”
I sighed. Here it comes . “I’m saying I’m incapable of casual sex, Loki. I have feelings for you. Sex makes those feelings get bigger.”
He was silent for a moment, but his emotions seemed to wobble from irritation to something shockingly close to…joy. “And that’s a problem?”
“It is when the person I’m having sex with is a manipulative, arrogant, extraterrestrial deity with a serious superiority complex,” I replied bluntly. “You’re not exactly boyfriend material–not that I expect you to start dating me.”
Loki took the rag away and leaned back. He wasn’t insulted in the slightest, which was sort of funny–or it would have been if I wasn’t tied in knots from having confessed my feelings to him. Instead, he was giving me a speculative look.
“What, exactly, are the parameters of this boyfriend/dating relationship dynamic?”
I blinked. “You want me to explain the dynamics of romantic relationships to you?”
“Human romantic relationships,” he corrected.
Well, this was taking a turn I hadn’t expected. I sat up and pulled the ripped edges of my shirt together, suddenly–and rather belatedly, I realized–feeling exposed. “Can I put some pants on?”
Loki glanced down at the lower half of my body with blatant appreciation. “Must you?”
But he held his hand up and my pajama pants appeared in a little flash of green light. He smiled smugly.
“Show-off.” I took them from him, aware that he watched with great interest as I wiggled into them. “Why did you rip my shirt if you could do that?”
“Because I wanted to,” he replied, as though it were perfectly obvious.
Alrighty then. “I liked this shirt, just so you know.” I scooted back against the headboard and crossed my arms to keep the fabric closed over my breasts.
Loki flicked his hand in my direction and I felt a buzz of magic across my chest. I looked down and the rip was gone as though it had never been there.
He smiled. “Now tell me about Midgardian relationships.”
“What do you want to know?”
Loki sat up to face me, leaning back onto his arms and stretching out so his feet rested next to my hip, legs crossed at the ankle. “Define ‘boyfriend.’”
“Okay. Boyfriend is the term for a male partner with whom one has a semi-committed romantic relationship.”
“Yeah–fully committed would be marriage, generally speaking. There are exceptions, but–”
“What’s the difference between a boyfriend and a lover?” he interrupted.
I thought about it. “Depends on who you ask. To me the difference is that a boyfriend is someone you’re attached to publicly, and the relationship is monogamous. A lover is someone you just have sex with, there’s no commitment, and it isn’t necessarily monogamous.”
“Interesting,” he murmured, green gaze trained on my face with disturbing focus. “So you would have ‘casual’ sex with a lover, but not with a boyfriend?”
“Right. I mean, sex with a lover doesn’t have to be casual, per se, but…it doesn’t really work that way for me.”
“Which is why you didn’t want to have sex with me.”
The speculative look in his eyes darkened into something else entirely. “Because you expect me to be opposed to a semi-committed, monogamous relationship.”
My heart was suddenly fluttering right at the base of my throat. “Yes…and no.”
His eyes narrowed. “Explain.”
I took a slow, careful breath. “I don’t know that you’re capable of a semi-committed, monogamous relationship, Loki.”
“You don’t think I’m capable ?” he repeated softly.
Swallowing hard, I nodded.
“And why is that?” he replied in a silky, dangerous voice, eyes glittering.
“Emotional intimacy,” I said bluntly, heart racing.
The temper in his eyes–in his aura–faltered.
“It’s a necessary part of the kind of relationship we’re talking about,” I said gently. “And it doesn’t seem like something you’d be willing to give me.”
Loki licked his lips slowly–an unconscious, nervous gesture. I could feel his confusion, his hesitation, though his thoughts were guarded.
“Can you give me closeness, Loki?” I asked very quietly. “Would you listen to my private thoughts and feelings? Share yours with me? Would you even want to?”
His eyes had gone very cold, his face still. Showing nothing. He’d withdrawn further from me psychically than ever before, but… he was thinking. Processing.
He was actually considering it.
And doing so filled him with a host of very conflicting emotions.
“You don’t have to answer right now,” I said, battling the hope that rose in my chest.
Don’t do it, Bella. Don’t wait around for the God of Mischief to fall in love with you. Be realistic.
“You won’t make love with me again unless I agree to this,” he said, low and slightly accusatory.
“Don’t say it like that. It’s not an ultimatum, and it’s not a transaction. This is about my personal well being. I can’t just give you that kind of intimacy without getting hurt.”
Loki stared me down for what felt like several minutes. My heartbeat was very loud in my ears.
And then he shocked the hell out of me.
“Monogamy, I can give you,” he said cautiously.
What? I blinked at him like a fool, not sure I had heard correctly.
“Public acknowledgment as well,” he added. “If that’s what you require.”
I think my mouth dropped open. I had forgotten how to breathe.
“And I’ll listen to whatever you want to tell me.”
My throat tightened. Is this really happening? “Loki–”
“But the rest will be difficult,” he finished stiffly.
Words had deserted me. This was all wrong. I hadn’t expected–not in my wildest dreams had I thought–not even for a second!
“Are you sure you actually want this?” I blurted. “Or is it just because you want to have sex with me?”
He gave me a baleful look, eyes going dark.
“I like the idea that you will be publicly marked as mine,” he said flatly.
My head swam. “Is that all?”
He hesitated, but the words rang with truth when he finally spoke them. “I want to hear your intimate thoughts.”
It floored me. Loki wanted intimacy. Real intimacy. With me. The God of Mischief was completely wrecking my perception of him as an untouchable egomaniac.
But still… “Can you treat me with respect?” I asked. “Consistently?”
His expression became hooded, cool. “I treat all my things with respect.”
Son of a B– I was so pissed I couldn’t move for a moment. Then I just started hitting him–knowing it was stupid, and there was no way I could actually hurt him–but I was so mad I couldn’t see straight. He was laughing– the asshole!- -and he fell back onto the mattress with me half-on top of him, punching his naked chest as hard as I could.
Finally, he caught hold of my wrists and said, “Alright, alright, I yield!”
“You are such an asshole! ” I snarled.
He was grinning. “I know.”
“I’m serious, Loki! This is a serious conversation!”
“I know it is.”
“ Then take it seriously! ”
“Alright, alright. I’m sorry.”
I sat back abruptly on my heels, nonplussed. Loki lay flat on his back looking up at me, black hair fanned around his head, attempting to look serious. His eyes were creased with amusement.
He was happy. He thought he had me–that I was his . Smug bastard.
“Let go,” I said, tugging at his grip on my wrists.
He let me go.
I rubbed my face with both hands, overwhelmed. I was half in love with the God of Mischief already, and I’d let him seduce me. I both wanted to be with him and was afraid to let it happen. And then there was the stuff he had been thinking about when he thought I was asleep…too many revelations for one day. And every single one with serious potential consequences.
I caught sight of the clock on the nightstand. It was after 4am. “I’m too tired to continue this conversation,” I said, realizing just how true it was. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally.
The mattress shifted. Loki had sat up. He was leaning close to me. “Bella,” he murmured.
“No more,” I whispered. “I need to go to sleep.”
His arms curled around me, and it was unexpected but…exactly what I needed. Temper crumbling away, I turned and burrowed into his chest, wrapping my arms around his neck.
“I adore you,” I whispered helplessly.
“Mmm,” he held me tighter, kissed my neck. His feelings flowered in my mind, slow and warm; satisfaction, affection, desire. A blossoming sort of tenderness that he found both unexpected and disconcerting. He gave in to it though–because he wanted to comfort me.
Tears stung my eyes.
It felt good, to be held like that that. By him of all people.
I wanted more of it. More tender, affectionate Loki. More thoughtful, caring Loki.
More fiercely passionate Loki.
“Don’t hurt me, okay?” I whispered, knowing it was stupid. He would hurt me. It was inevitable.
And Loki must have known it too, because he didn’t bother to answer.
Loki held her until she fell asleep–under the covers this time because there was no reason to restrain himself anymore. He’d won his little mortal’s heart and body, though nothing could have prepared him for just how satisfying that would be. How sweet.
Even now, he buzzed with triumph. It was tempered with other feelings, though. Feelings he didn’t want to look at too closely. Regret. Guilt. Dread.
At least she wasn’t stupid enough to trust him blindly. But he couldn’t help wanting that anyway–imagining the pleasure of her unrestrained affection.
Bella sighed softly against his chest and he looked down to make sure she was, indeed, asleep. Her little limbs were heavy, limp. Her face slack and peaceful.
Gods, she was warm and soft. And delicate. He was intensely aware of just how delicate she was. He could hurt her easily–without even trying. There was a bright little bruise on her neck where he’d bitten her. And there would be more marks tomorrow, from his mouth and hands–on her breasts, her hips.
Her mortality was both an anxiety for him, and–unexpectedly–a pleasure. It made him very aware of his own strength; triggered an intense desire to protect. It was a strange and uncomfortable sensation. Oddly arousing, too.
It was ironic that he was the one most likely to cause her harm, if indirectly. Hence the regret–the creeping, persistent guilt.
How long until his past deeds caught up with him? How long until this little romantic game came to its bitter end?
How long until Bella looked at him with contempt and judgment in her wide brown eyes?
He looked down at her again, wondering just what he would do when the truth was revealed. If, in fact, he would be able to protect her at all.
Well, best not to think of that. Better to enjoy himself while he could.
He wasn’t noble enough to reject what she offered. Not nearly. He wasn’t likely to get another chance like this one, after all. In fact, he’d wager there wasn’t another woman on Midgard who would offer him such intimacies, much less demand commitment. Closeness.
And he might never make it off this ridiculous planet alive, so there was really no question as to whether or not he should take her, truth be damned.
He told himself the betrayal didn’t matter, but there was a persistent ache in his chest when he thought of it.
So, in typical Loki fashion, he tucked the thoughts and feelings away–into the vault where he kept such inconvenient things–and vowed not to think of it at all.
He dreamed of Thanos and the Tesseract. Of the Black Order and the dark cell where they’d kept him.
He dreamed of Midgard burning, overtaken by Thanos’ armies. Of Thor, fighting for his life. Losing.
And of Bella, lost in the fires.
My fault. It’s my fault!
“Loki, wake up!”
He sat up, gasping, drenched in a familiar cold sweat and heart pounding, eyes burning with unshed tears.
Bella was kneeling beside him, hands on his chest. Her face was streaked with tears and creased from sleep.
The room seemed unfamiliar at first, flooded with sunlight.
“It’s alright,” he rasped, disoriented, “I’m fine.”
“No,” she was shaking her head, clutching at him, “ No .”
His wits returned to him slowly. Why was she so distraught? “Bella,” he reached for her, took hold of her arms. She was sobbing soundlessly in terror. “What is it?”
She shook her head again, leaning into him, pressing her forehead against his chest. She was shaking .
He put his arms around her. “It’s alright,” he murmured, “Calm down. Did you have a nightmare?”
Strange. Had they both been having nightmares at the same time?
She didn’t answer–just pressed close and held on. Loki rubbed her back absently, finding unexpected comfort in the embrace–in giving comfort. His heart slowed, emotional residue of the dream dissipating. It had been a long time since anyone had sought comfort in his arms. A very long time.
It brought back memories of another life– when his world had been very simple. When he’d known who he was–or thought he did. When he’d been unequivocally a Prince of Asgard: Loki Odinson, God of Mischief. He’d almost forgotten that person; had thought him long dead.
But that part of himself stirred to life again now; a man capable of warmth and affection. A man who could hold his woman and rock her gently.
A man who could love and be loved.
It felt good, touching her like this. Fingers in her silky hair. Murmuring little endearments and rubbing the tension from the muscles in her back.
He was still doing it long after she’d calmed.
“Do you want to tell me about it?” he asked.
She shook her head against his chest. “Do you?”
He laughed. “Definitely not. I can think of a hundred more enjoyable things to converse on.”
“How about breakfast?”
“Mm. I’m not a very good cook. I can make omelets, though. Or pancakes.”
“I will gladly eat whatever you place before me.”
She sat up and rubbed her face. Her hair was a mess. “I need a shower first.”
Now that sounded delightful. Bella looked at him, no doubt reading his thoughts. He was making no attempt to hide them.
“You’ll smell like coconut and wildflowers,” she said, lips quirking.
“A small price to pay.” He grinned wickedly.
Loki watched her rise and walk towards the bathroom. She stopped just outside the doorway and stripped off her shirt, turning to look back at him, breasts glowing white in the sunlight streaming through the window. Her nipples were still swollen and very pink, and there were little marks all over her chest and neck where he’d put his mouth the night before.
“Come on then.”
The bathroom itself was small, but the tub was a deep, claw-footed monstrosity with a faded ivory finish. It was more than large enough for them both to stand in, though they could only fit one at a time under the spray of the shower head.
Loki insisted upon washing her, and he took his time with it, lathering his hands first and washing her from head to toe, lingering over her breasts. He soaped them liberally, stroking the little mounds in a slow, erotic haze. Watching the spray run over them in glistening rivulets as he rinsed her. Bending to taste the little beads of water that clung to her nipples.
She was breathing hard and caressing his abdomen, pausing to touch his cock with warm, wet fingers. It stood up rigidly between them, as hard as it had ever been, and he let her stroke it for a while as he suckled her breasts. Then he straightened, slid his soapy fingers between her legs. He used the slippery lather to work her little clit in lazy circles until it swelled and throbbed under his fingers–until she whimpered his name in a high, broken voice and her hand went still on his cock.
Then he backed her under the spray again and rinsed the soap from between her legs, looking down at her as he did it–at her flushed cheeks and parted lips. She closed her eyes as the water sluiced over her head and then gasped when he slid his fingers inside her.
“Shh, I know. You’re sore. I’ll be gentle,” he murmured, withdrawing from the tight little channel and pausing to suck the taste of her from his fingers.
And then he knelt in the tub and look up at her, soaping her from ankle to knee, slow and thorough. Then from knee to hip, even slower now, gliding over her inner thighs, fingers dipping into the crease where hip and thigh came together. And then he stopped, taking hold of her hips with both hands.
“Spread your legs,” he murmured.
She blinked at him in surprise, water running down her face, streaming from her chin and the tip of her nose. He tugged her closer, so the water was splashing around her shoulders, trickling down the front of her body.
She moved her feet apart and he leaned forward, sucked the lips of her sex into his mouth, pushing his tongue between them to draw on her clit. She gasped and her hips flexed forward. He settled into it eagerly, giving her enough suction to bring her right to the edge in a matter of seconds.
Her thighs began to tremble, small hands clutching the shower curtain, hips bucking.
That’s it , he thought darkly, holding her hips as her legs threatened to give out. Ride my tongue, Bella. Come in my mouth.
She whimpered raggedly. One of her hands came to his head, fisted in his hair. Her knees began to buckle.
Don’t fall , he commanded. If you fall I’m going to fuck you right here in the tub.
“Loki,” she keened, panting wildly, “Th-that’s not…a deterrent. Ah! ”
She started to crumble and he growled against her sex, pushed her up with both hands. The sound made her jerk and arch into his grip.
“I can’t!” she cried, gripping his hair hard enough to make his scalp sting. He sucked harder, rolling her clit with his tongue. “ Ah–Loki–coming!! ”
She did fall then, but Loki caught her up again easily, holding her to his mouth so he could keep sucking, listening to her hoarse cries and watching her body undulate as the orgasm wracked her.
When she went limp he let her slide down into his arms and kissed her fiercely, thrumming all over with the desire to be inside her.
“You said…if I fell…” she panted when he released her mouth.
He chuckled. “I appreciate your willingness, but I’d rather have you in the bed. You’ll be terribly bruised if I take you here.”
“Oh.” She gave him that lovely, post-orgasmic look; eyes glazed, face flushed.
“I would enjoy it if you washed me first, however.”
She nodded, “Me, too.”
He stood her up and put the soap in her hands. She washed him with incredible, languid focus, small hands searching his body, learning every inch. Wisely, she left his cock for last. Loki was so aroused by the time she touched it that the damned thing practically leapt into her hands.
“Wow,” she said softly, holding him while he twitched between her palms. “You’re so hard.” Her soapy fingers slid along the underside of his shaft and the breath hissed from his lungs. She was holding his testicles with one hand, soaping them very gently. “Does that feel good?” she murmured, looking up at him.
“Gods, yes,” he rasped.
She stroked his cock lightly with her other hand and the combined sensations made him groan helplessly.
“Can I make you come?”
The request was made in such a low, velvety voice–and with such quiet eagerness–that he couldn’t refuse.
Loki nodded and she started stroking him firmly, still cupping his testicles and rolling them in her palm. He looked down at her hands, at the white soap bubbles decorating his cock and her fingers. The pleasure spiked almost unbearably.
“Bella,” he groaned, reaching for her in the spray from the shower head. Gripping her little waist and drawing her closer.
“I can’t see,” she complained, as the head of his cock bumped her belly.
Loki just growled and bent to her breasts, sucking her nipple into his mouth and making her gasp.
Her hands started working rapidly between them, squeezing him deliciously as her nipple pulled tight between his lips.
Harder , he thought urgently, pleasure pooling and throbbing at the base of his spine. She complied, but it still wasn’t enough, so he let go of her breast and leaned back, closing his hand over hers and squeezing hard, pumping for her.
“Loki,” she breathed, watching their hands, “Doesn’t that hurt?”
“No. Gods! Bella!” he rasped, right on the edge of orgasm. “So good!”
In the next instant he was coming, and his hand went still as the pleasure burst over him in a white-hot flash, but Bella kept stroking, hard and fast, and he heard himself crying out, watched with deep masculine satisfaction as his come decorated her breasts and belly in hot spurts.
Her touch gentled as the orgasm ebbed away, until she was just holding him with one hand, tracing her fingers over the head with the other, gliding through the sticky sheen of soap and his seed.
Loki bent in a haze of satisfaction and kissed her shoulder, shuddering under that gentle touch.
After a moment she put her hands on his hips and drew him under the shower head to rinse him clean, soft hands chasing the residue away, cupping him with incredible tenderness. Her care triggered a strange, swelling sensation of pleasure in his chest. Made him feel… raw and vulnerable. And oddly peaceful at the same time.
Using both hands, he returned the favor, rinsing his seed from her body.
Then she looked up at him, blinking under the spray of water, and smiled. “All clean.”
“Good,” he rumbled, reaching past her to turn off the taps. “Now we can get serious.”
Loki had her once on the bed with her legs around his waist, slow and deliberate, holding back until she begged him blindly for release. Enamored of the sight of her, lifting her body to him, breasts bouncing with every thrust. She watched his body as though it were the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen. Touched him like she couldn’t get enough, dark eyes gleaming with lust. She was so wet that he could hear every penetration, like a soft, liquid kiss. He came with his cock buried to the hilt, her little sex spasming around him, her cries driving him higher.
Then he dragged her to the edge of the mattress and had her again, bent over with her ass turned up to him, watching the smooth contours of her back and shoulders while he rode her. Watching his cock move in and out of her body. Bending to bite her shoulder in the final rush, pinning her little arms and pumping fiercely. The angle made her wild; she clutched the blanket and screamed when she came–which happened twice before he was done. His own orgasm was positively explosive.
Afterward, he brought the rag again–cleaned her up, fascinated by how pink the folds of her sex were in daylight. How swollen. How stiff and puffy her little clit was. Stroking it slowly–until she was wet again–and then bending to suckle her in a hot, languid haze. She came that time with both hands tangled in his hair and his name tumbling from her lips like a benediction.
It was nearly noon when he finally let her up long enough to cook for them; they were both ravenous.
She made coffee, an enormous omelet with cheese and spinach, four pieces of buttered toast, and a stack of pancakes as well. They devoured it together, eating from each others’ plates, talking and laughing the whole time.
It felt delightfully…natural.
Loki was leaning back in his chair, watching Bella nibble the last piece of toast when there was a knock at the door.
They both froze.
“Are you expecting someone?” he asked.
Bella shook her head and glanced down at herself. She’d put a clean t-shirt on–a long one with a wide, scooped neck that slipped to the side and left one shoulder exposed–but nothing else. Her legs were bare and her breasts clearly visible through the thin material.
The knock came again and she called, “Just a minute!” and ran into the bedroom. She came out a moment later and he saw her pass by the kitchen doorway, belting a flowered silk robe around her waist.
He heard the click of the lock and then a familiar masculine voice saying, “Bella. Hi. Uh… I’m sorry to disturb you.”
“Hi, Thor,” she said calmly.
“Have you seen my brother, by any chance? He’s been missing since yesterday. Stark said you might have an idea where he’s gone.”
Bella didn’t answer immediately, no doubt wondering if she should reveal his presence. Loki stood and came to the kitchen doorway, leaning lazily against the jam, arms crossed.
Thor spotted him over Bella’s shoulder and his one eye widened comically. “Loki! What–?”
“Miss me already?”
Thor’s gaze flicked from Bella to Loki in obvious confusion. “What are you doing here?”
“I should think that’s rather obvious,” Loki drawled. He was shirtless, hair undoubtedly mussed.
Bella glanced back at him nervously.
“Bella? Are you…?” Thor blinked at her in shock.
She smiled at him sheepishly, shrugging her shoulders.
“By the Gods…the two of you…?” he looked at Loki again.
“Did you want something, Brother?” Loki returned tartly, “Or did you just come here to gape at us like an idiot?”
Bella gave him a quelling look.
Thor seemed to shake off his disbelief. “You were supposed to return to Stark Tower last night, Loki. That was the agreement. And you’ve been cloaking yourself. Heimdall couldn’t find you. We thought…” he trailed off, glancing at Bella.
“You thought I’d run off and betrayed you again?” Loki suggested archly.
“Well,” Thor had the grace to look a bit ashamed. “Can you blame me?”
“He’s been here since last night,” Bella interjected.
“Right. That’s…good,” Thor glanced down at her robe–at her breasts, Loki realized, bristling instantly. “But he was supposed to return. And he’s not allowed to cloak himself.” To Loki, he said angrily, “You were given express instructions not to, Brother.”
“Has it occurred to you that I might have wanted a little privacy?” Loki drawled.
The anger faltered. “Yes, well…I guess, under the circumstances, that’s…understandable.” Was Thor actually blushing? His gaze slid to Bella again–to the front of her robe and lower, to her bare legs. Loki came away from the kitchen door jam, stalking across the room to them.
“If there’s nothing else, Brother,” he put a hand on Bella’s shoulder and steered her away from Thor, using his body to block Thor’s view of her. “We are rather busy. Perhaps you will be so kind as to report my whereabouts to Stark and assuage everyone’s worries?” He started to close the door and Thor stopped him with one hand.
“No more cloaking, Loki. And you’re to return by sundown.”
Loki sneered. “Not a chance, Brother.”
Thor opened his mouth to argue, but Bella interrupted, peeking around Loki’s shoulder.
“I’ll call Stark, okay?”
Thor was scowling, “Fine. But don’t let him out of your sight.”
Loki shut the door in his face and they could both hear Thor muttering curses outside.
“That wasn’t very nice,” Bella murmured.
Loki turned. She was fighting a smile.
“It wasn’t,” he agreed. “My brother is sadly lacking in social niceties.”
The smile turned into a grin. “He was just a little disconcerted, I think. It must have been very unexpected, to find you, er, dallying with a human.”
“Dallying?” Loki grinned, backing her slowly towards the bedroom. “I thought we decided this was a semi-committed relationship? Does one dally with one’s boyfriend?”
She giggled, “That word sounds kind of silly, coming out of your mouth.”
“Mm,” he took hold of her waist and lifted her against his body. She obligingly wrapped her legs around his hips and her arms around his neck. “The term does have a rather juvenile sound to it: Boy friend.”
He walked her into the bedroom and laid her on the edge of the mattress, leaning over her with one hand braced beside her shoulder. He tugged at the tie of her robe with the other.
“I’m not sure I can do this again, Loki,” she said softly, eyes already dark with desire.
“Oh?” The robe was open and he was pushing the shirt up slowly, palming her breast. “Why is that?”
Her breath hitched at the touch. “I’m really sore.”
“Oh dear,” he murmured, circling her nipple with his fingertips. “Does it hurt here?”
The flesh was rather red and puffy from all his attention. He bent and kissed the little nub very gently.
“And here?” he murmured, kissing the other one.
“Yes,” she breathed.
Loki pulled one of her legs off his hip and slid his hand up her inner thigh to part the lips of her sex, touching her clit with his fingertip. “Here?”
His finger slipped downward, through the welling of fresh wetness, to touch the opening of her sex. “Here?”
Again, she nodded.
Very gently, he slid one finger inside. “And here?”
Breathless now, she whispered, “Yes.”
So delicate , he thought darkly. “You’re in luck, sweetheart. I have just the thing.”
“Oh?” She was running her hands up his back.
“Mmhm,” he kissed her very lightly, teasingly; her lips were nearly raw as well. Then he pulled back and conjured a little pot of healing salve.
Bella’s eyebrows shot up. “What’s that?”
“Something to make you feel better. Open it.” He put the pot in her hand and she twisted off the top.
“Smells good,” she murmured, “What’s in it?”
Loki dipped his finger into the creamy substance. “Oh, various things. Asgardian herbs. Honey. A bit of spellwork.” He rubbed the cream on her right nipple, and then her left.
She sucked in a breath. “That’s cold. And it tingles.”
“Shh,” he traced a little onto her lips and then pulled back again, dipping his finger into the pot and then bringing that finger to the mouth of her sex.
She gasped a little when he slipped the digit inside. “It sort of tickles.”
He smiled, “It’s accelerating your body’s healing capabilities. You should feel better in a little while.” He withdrew his finger and brought it to his mouth. The cream tasted sweet and slightly floral. It blended perfectly with the flavor of Bella’s sex.
“What should we do until then?” she asked breathlessly, gaze trained on his mouth.
“What do Midgardian couples do when they’re not making love?” Loki settled his lower body against her, bracing his other hand on the mattress.
Bella curled her legs around him again. “Cuddle?”
He laughed, “Is that all?”
“Watch TV and cuddle?”
“Hm. I’d like to know exactly what kind of privileges a boyfriend is afforded,” he parried archly. “Perhaps you could give me a demonstration.”
“I have been,” she said, smiling. “I let you sleep over. And I washed you and cooked for you.”
“Do lovers not do those things on Midgard?”
She seemed to consider that. “Maybe some do.”
“But you don’t.”
Slowly, gravely, she shook her head.
“What else don’t you do with a lover?”
“Watch TV and cuddle,” she replied very seriously.
Loki laughed. “Alright,” he stood up, lifting her easily, “You win. TV and cuddle.”
I left Loki on the couch with the remote in hand, instructing him to find something he wanted to watch. Then I went into the bedroom, closed the door, and took my cell phone out of my purse. It was the first time I’d looked at it since the evening before.
Six missed calls. Shit .
All of them were from someone at Stark Tower. Three from the security office. Two from Thor. One from Tony’s private line.
I dialed Stark.
“‘Bout time,” he answered dryly.
“Sorry, Tony. I left it on silent.”
“Bit preoccupied, hm? Have some company over?”
I flushed. “He’s here. Has been since last night.”
“Of course he is.” It was usually harder for me to read people over the phone, but Stark was amused. Not angry in the slightest.
“He didn’t tell me he was supposed to come back though. I would have made him go.”
“Is he listening now?”
“I don’t know. Possibly.”
“Have you learned anything new?”
That gave me pause. “New? Like what?”
But I thought about the dream, about Thanos–whom I’d never heard of before last night. And the Tesseract; that did ring a bell. A frightening one. But dreams weren’t facts, and I shrunk from the thought of sharing what I’d seen with Tony–and not just because I didn’t fully understand what it had been about.
“You have learned something,” Tony murmured. He wasn’t surprised at all. He’d expected it.
No, he’d been banking on it.
“You knew this would happen,” I accused quietly.
We’d had this conversation before, I realized. When he’d interrupted Loki kissing me at work the day before.
The realization hit me like a freight train.
Stark had been manipulating me since the moment he realized Loki and I had feelings for each other.
“You planned this,” I whispered in horror.
“What do you expect to gain?” I demanded in a low voice. “I care about him. My loyalty to you is compromised now. You had to know that would happen.”
“I also know I can trust you to be honest. If you discover something sensitive–”
“You still think I will?”
“I think Loki is hiding something, yes.”
“And you decided to use me as the involuntary honeypot,” I hissed, angry now. Furious .
“I saw an opportunity, and I took it,” he replied, utterly unapologetic. “We’re talking about the safety of the planet here, sweetheart. A few hurt feelings is a price I’m willing to pay.”
I was so angry I couldn’t speak. Tony was right–about the safety of the planet, and about Loki. He was hiding something. But I felt stupid and betrayed, and my relationship with the God of Mischief meant I was going to have to betray someone: either Loki or Stark.
“Listen, I know this puts you in a difficult position,” he said carefully.
“You unbelievable asshole,” I snapped, shocking myself.
“I’m sorry, Bella. I really am.”
His sincerity made me even angrier. “But you expect me to play along, don’t you? You think I’m going to play the honeypot willingly now?”
“Actually, I kind of expected you to quit.”
“Now there’s an idea I can really get behind,” I said bitterly.
“Look, whatever you decide, Loki is still a potential threat. He may actually be willing to play for our team now, but we can’t just trust him blindly. You’re the only one who can–“
“Enough,” I cut him off. “I get it. You gave him his freedom so he’d let his guard down and now I’m supposed to take advantage of that. Only that’s not how I function, Tony. I’m not a spy.”
“I know you’re not, honey–”
“I’m going to tell him,” I said, tears burning my eyes.
I could feel Tony’s shock. “Bella, don’t–“
“I couldn’t hide it from him even if I wanted to. He’s probably listening at the door right now anyway.”
On cue, the door swung open and Loki was standing there, shirtless and beautiful, green eyes cold as ice.
Tony was sputtering in my ear but I’d stopped listening.
“I have to go, Tony. I’m not coming in on Monday. Or ever. I’m sorry.”
And then I hung up.
I expected him to be angry with me. To withdraw. Maybe even leave.
He stood in the doorway for a moment and watched me cry silent, angry tears, and then he crossed the room, took the phone out of my hand, tossed it onto the bed and said, “You were the only one who didn’t know, Bella.”
I looked up at him in shock. “What?”
His eyes weren’t as cold as they had been, but they were guarded. His mind was closed to me. Even his feelings were unreadable.
“You knew Stark planned all this? That he let you out thinking you would slip up because of me?”
He touched my hair absently, drawing a stray lock away from my face, fingers barely grazing my cheek–as though he were afraid to touch me. “I knew he didn’t trust me. He never has, Bella. None of them do. Why else would he give me leave to run to you?”
I looked away. I didn’t really trust him either. But I wanted to.
“It was a good plan,” he murmured. “I can’t blame him for trying.”
Loki hadn’t realized yet that Stark’s plan had had worked. I’d seen things in his thoughts–in that awful dream–that proved he was hiding something.
I wasn’t prepared to believe he was the danger Stark thought he was, though. But I needed to know.
The question was, would Loki tell me the truth?
I met his gaze very steadily. “When Stark first brought me on, they had me watch you being interrogated. Before they introduced us.”
Loki’s eyes narrowed. He said nothing.
“I was on the other side of the glass when you were in the interrogation room. They had me reading you the whole time.”
His lack of surprise told me he’d suspected as much.
“They asked you about something. The Tesseract. They asked you where it was and you said it was destroyed on Asgard.”
Nothing. Not even a twitch. His eyes were stony.
“You were thinking about it last night,” I said quietly. “You dreamt about it. About Thanos taking it from you and using it to wage war on Earth.”
His jaw tightened, but his thoughts were blank. I tried to read his emotions and got only anger.
Stark used mathematical equations to hide his thoughts. Loki used anger.
My heart was pounding. “It wasn’t destroyed, was it?”
Slowly, he lifted a hand, trailing his fingers along my throat, tracing my collarbone. His face was still, cold. “You’re the telepath,” he replied in silky, dangerous voice. “You tell me.”
His touch left a trail of simmering heat on my skin.
“I told them you weren't’ lying,” I whispered. “I believed it, at the time.”
Gaze darkening, he touched my throat again, watching his fingers–lingering over the bruise where he’d bitten me, I realized. His silence made my heart contract with anxiety.
Then he licked his lips–a strangely nervous gesture–and murmured, “Did you know, I’m not just called the God of Mischief?”
I asked because I knew he wanted me to, but for some reason, I was terrified of what the answer would be.
It came out a whisper. “What else do they call you?”
His gaze rose slowly to my face.
“The God of Lies.”
Loki waited for the look of betrayal–for her eyes to fill with contempt, even hatred. But it didn’t happen.
There was a long, painful silence. She was staring blankly at his naked chest. He could almost hear the gears in her mind working.
And then she looked up at him–eyes shadowed, vulnerable. “Stark knows you’re hiding something, and he can’t use me as a pawn anymore. They’ll be sending someone to collect you.”
Loki felt cold, stiff. “Probably.”
“Will you let them take you back?”
He hadn’t expected this to end so quickly–nor that the sting of losing her would be so deep. “Yes.”
Her brow furrowed. “Why? They might put you in a cell again.”
She asked it almost angrily. Like she wanted him to run.
And Loki answered honestly because she hadn’t turned on him–hadn’t betrayed him to Stark. Hadn’t looked at him with condemnation in her eyes; he wanted to tell her the truth. It was idiotic, really. It wouldn’t benefit him at all–accept that it might prolong her affection for him.
“Because Stark Tower is the safest place on this planet,” he said.
She took a deep breath. “Safe from what, exactly?”
It was a strange relief to say the name aloud at last.
Emotion blossomed in her eyes: gratitude and regret. And trepidation–because he wasn’t lying anymore, and he wasn’t hiding his fear.
“Who is Thanos, Loki?”
He hesitated. Bella might have quit her job, but she wasn’t going to lie for him. Not when her whole planet was at risk. If he told her everything, Stark really would put him in a cell again.
He touched her face–the little patch of freckles on her right cheek, fingers gliding down to the corner of her mouth and over the curve of her lower lip. Measuring. Memorizing.
What good was there in hiding anymore? Everyone knew he had secrets–that he couldn’t be trusted. Six months on Earth and they’d given him no opportunity to escape. And Thanos was coming–there was no doubt in Loki’s mind.
Maybe it was time to stand and fight–for Earth this time, as ironic as that was–even if it would be his dying act. Even if no one thanked him for it.
It would be a relief to not be alone with his fate anymore, at least.
Still touching her face, drinking the emotion in her wide brown gaze, he murmured, “Thanos is the man who’s going to kill me.”
“So you took the tesseract from Asgard because you knew Thanos would come for it.”
Loki didn’t answer immediately and I turned from the window to look at him. We were in the kitchen. He sat at the table, leaning back in his chair with an air of angry resignation.
I felt sick, my stomach knotted with fear and anxiety.
“We had a bargain,” he said flatly. “I failed to uphold my end. The Tesseract is my only chance to appease him.”
There was something strange about the way he said it. Was he bitter about the bargain itself, or the fact that he’d failed to uphold it?
“What bargain, Loki?” I demanded quietly.
His expression creased with bitterness. “The Tesseract in exchange for Earth.”
I frowned. “He sent you here for the Tesseract?”
Loki nodded. “It was in SHIELD’s possession at the time.”
Something wasn’t adding up here. “You said this guy is immensely powerful. He has thousands of followers–warriors, armies . Why didn’t he just come and take it himself?”
Loki shrugged. “One doesn’t do one’s own dirty work when one had copious underlings to do it for him.”
“Why you, then?”
He sighed. “I ran afoul of some of his lackeys. They took me prisoner, and I convinced Thanos that I could be of use to him.” He met my gaze, continuing matter-of-factly, “He would have taken the planet anyway, so I volunteered to do the job. In exchange for rule over Earth, I was to bring him the Tesseract.”
It was all coming clear to me now–the alien creatures in his thoughts, the dark cell, the torture. The guilt.
“He would have killed you if you hadn’t done it,” I said. “And what would have happened to Earth if it hadn’t been you?”
He rolled his eyes. “Don’t try to make me into some kind of hero. I wanted to rule, and I was prepared to take Earth by force. I’m sure you saw what the Chitauri did in New York.”
“I did. How much worse would it have been if Thanos had come himself, or sent another one of his lackeys?”
He gave me a look, eyes narrowed with contempt, resentment.
“How much worse, Loki?”
“Total destruction,” he grated.
I wanted to believe he’d done it to protect the planet as much as to rule it. I really wanted to.
Clearly, he saw it on my face because he said, “Don’t mistake my ambition for kindness. I didn’t give a damn about the humans. I saw an opportunity and I took it.”
I saw an opportunity and I took it.
Exactly the same words Tony had used.
Two men who couldn’t be more different doing awful things out of necessity.
Loki wanted me to believe his motives had been entirely selfish–and perhaps they had been mostly selfish–but I stubbornly decided to believe there was more to it than that.
The fact that he was hiding his thoughts and emotions so adroitly only confirmed my suspicions; I figured if he really didn’t give a shit about Earth he would have shown me that in no uncertain terms.
“Why are you so determined to make me think you’re the villain?”
Loki sneered, “I only hoped to prevent you from succumbing to sentimental delusions about the quality of my character.”
I sighed. “You’re so condescending when you’re defensive.”
His glare was just a little bit sullen around the edges.
“Listen,” I said, coming across the tiles to him. “I’ve been privy to people’s most private thoughts my whole damned life. I know better than anybody that nobody’s really good, and nobody’s truly bad. It’s all shades of grey. So when you put on this bad guy act, you know what I think?”
“Please,” he drawled, “Enlighten me.”
Ignoring the attitude, I said, “I think you want to be seen as a bad guy because it’s easier than trying to be good and failing.”
He rolled his eyes. “What a touching theory.”
I took hold of his chin and yanked his face up so he would look at me directly. “I don’t need to make you into a hero in my mind to be okay with you, or even with what you’ve done.”
His jaw tightened in my hand, eyes glittering with challenge. “Then why are you trying so hard to convince yourself I came to Earth to save it?”
“I’m not,” I replied honestly. “I’m choosing to believe you volunteered for that particular mission because you care just a little bit more about this planet than you pretend to. That’s all.”
He took hold of my wrist and pulled my hand away from his jaw. I expected a physical rejection to go with the look on his face, but he held on, drawing my hand down and consequently forcing me to stoop very close to him.
“What little concern I have for this planet is irrelevant,” he growled, “Thanos is coming. And now it doesn’t matter if I give him the Tesseract. The Mind stone is here, too. He’s going to rip your world apart to find it.”
He wanted me to be afraid; he was afraid–for himself, for me. And he was still trying to convince me of his villainy–trying just a little too hard, I thought.
“So what do we do?” I whispered, heart pounding, nose to nose with the God of Mischief.
“We?” he murmured. “There is no ‘we.’ You quit your job and Stark’s goons are waiting outside to take me in. Whatever happens now is out of your hands.”
His bitterness made my heart squeeze painfully.
“Loki,” I whispered, leaning down to kiss him. I felt his surprise–the surge of unexpected emotion that followed. He let go of my wrist and I curled my arms around his neck. After a moment he pulled me into his lap and hugged me fiercely.
When he let me break away from his mouth I leaned back far enough to look into his eyes. “Still think there’s no ‘we’?”
The acrimonious mood seemed to have left him. His expression was grave, open. “Bella, there’s no place for you in all of this. There’s nothing you can do.”
“You don’t know that,” I said stubbornly.
He sighed. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
I hadn’t expected him to ever say it aloud. Brimming with emotion, I took his face into my hands, stroking his cheekbones with my thumbs, leaning in to kiss the corners of his mouth, his cheeks, the tender skin just below his eyes.
“What are you doing?” he whispered, holding himself very still.
I stroked his eyebrows, kissed each one, pause to kiss his mouth, slow and languid, licking his lips very lightly, dipping for his tongue when he opened to me.
God, I loved kissing him. Especially when he let me be the one in control. The kiss became a sort of erotic worship. I poured all my feelings into it–overwhelming tenderness, affection.
I couldn’t tell him I was in love with him. Not after one day. I could barely admit it to myself.
He would probably laugh in my face, anyway.
But I could kiss him with everything I had– and I did exactly that because it was the only way I knew he would accept my feelings, and I had no idea how long this would last–how much time we would have before it all fell apart.
Before my entire world was under attack.
It didn’t seem real–Thanos and his armies, an impending alien war…
At the moment, all I could grasp was Loki and what I felt for him, and that was enough for now because it was good–it was so incredibly good.
I twisted on his lap, needing to get closer, and he seemed to understand because he lifted me a little and helped me to straddle him, hands on my hips, pulling me in tight.
He was surprised when I pushed my hands between our bodies and opened his pants. Even more so when I lifted myself to take him inside me.
“ Bella ,” he rasped, lifting my clothes aside to watch me sink down on his cock.
His mind flowered open, giving me his pleasure, his gratitude. He hadn’t expected me to give myself to him again.
I rode him just the way I’d kissed him, pouring my love into it. Watching his eyes glaze with pleasure, savoring the erotic flow of his thoughts.
So tight , he whispered into my mind, sharing with me the sensation of my sex flexing around him. He opened the robe and took hold of my shirt with both hands, ripping it easily from neck to hem, making me gasp.
Gods, look at you.
I saw my breasts in his mind–through his eyes. Saw the slow undulations of my own torso as he drank me in. The curves of my waist and hips, the contours of my belly–his hands following his gaze as he showed me in images and sensations how the sight of my body aroused him.
I’d never felt so beautiful in all my life as I did at that moment, seeing myself through his eyes.
I drew it out as long as I could, riding him slowly. Kissing and touching, wallowing in every sensation, every thought and emotion he gave me: the taste of his mouth, the texture of his skin, the rigid curve of his cock moving inside me. His lust and tenderness.
As the orgasm peaked he gave me a rush of Seidr and the pleasure carried me so high I actually lost myself for a few seconds. I could hear his hoarse cry, feel his hands gripping my hips–moving me on his cock as the orgasm tore through me, through us both. And then there was nothing but pleasure, like the red-hot crack of a whip, licking up my spine, burning me from head to toe.
I might have actually lost consciousness for a moment. When I came to, Loki was holding me up, rasping, “Bella. Bella?” in a low, hoarse voice.
A muffled, “Mmph,” was all I could manage, face pressed into the curve of his neck, little shocks of pleasure still racing along my nerve endings.
Loki rubbed my back for a while, both of us panting in the quiet kitchen. Sebastian jumped up onto the kitchen table and sat there watching us with lazy yellow eyes.
When I could speak again I mumbled, “Are they really outside waiting for you?”
“Mm.” His hand slid up my spine and into my hair.
“Half a dozen at least. Thor, too.”
Strange. “Why are they just waiting?”
He sighed. “I haven’t done anything wrong. Yet. And Stark will want to give you as much time to collect the truth as possible.”
I sat back to look at him. “I am not spying for him anymore.”
His face was calm, almost contented. “You’re not going to tell him everything I told you? When your whole world hangs in the balance?”
“No,” I said, irritated. “ You’re going to tell him.”
His brows lifted lazily. “Oh? Am I?”
“Of course you are. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have told me .”
He smiled a little. “I suppose so.”
I touched his chest, slid my hands upward to fiddle with the ends of his hair, gathering my courage.
“What is it?” he murmured.
“I want to come with you.”
That surprised him. “Back to the compound?”
“To what purpose?”
He laughed, flashing teeth, eyes crinkling. “Will you go to prison with me too?”
“They’re not going to imprison you again,” I said firmly.
“What makes you so sure?”
“Like you said, you haven’t really done anything wrong.”
“You mean besides hiding the Tesseract and concealing the truth about Thanos?”
Shit. “Is that really a punishable offense?”
He just gave me a wry look like, What do you think?
Dammit. “If you help them now, maybe they’ll forgive you.”
He laughed again, but this time it was dry and humorless. “Don’t hold your breath, love.”
I might have been wrong about the forgiveness thing.
When they took us back to Stark Tower and Loki told them about Thanos, Thor’s face went a shocking shade of red.
He grabbed Loki by the front of his shirt and punched him–hard.
Loki stumbled back against the broad windows of the conference room, blood trickling from his nose, and said calmly, “I suppose I deserved that.”
“That’s the least of what you deserve, you traitorous little–!” Thor advanced on him aggressively, fury evident in every line of his body.
Heart in my throat, I opened my mouth to stop him–but Stark beat me to it.
“Alright, Point Break, let him be.”
Thor spun, mouth open, radiating sheer outrage–and hurt, I realized. “Six months, Stark! Six months he’s been sitting on this, waiting to stab us in the back!” He turned back to Loki and snarled, “I should have left you to rot in that cell!”
Loki smiled, tight-lipped and humorless. “The end would have been the same, Brother.”
“What end is that?” Romanoff spoke from her chair at the end of the long table where she sat between Stark and Banner. The Tesseract was on the table in front of them: a glowing, translucent blue cube. Loki had produced it from thin air, just like the pot of salve and his own clothing.
The God of Mischief straightened from the window, wiping the blood from his face. “Thanos is coming and there’s not a damned thing you can do to stop him.”
“I want to know why,” Thor demanded. “Why would you hide this, Loki? What do you stand to gain? Will Earth be yours when Thanos is done with it? Do you still thirst for rule over the humans, even now?”
Loki opened his mouth–probably to say something snarky and unhelpful.
“Let’s not give up before we’ve even started,” Stark interrupted calmly. “I’m not just going to hand my world over to this Thanos guy without a fight.”
Thor made a growling sound and stalked away from his brother to stand at the other end of the conference table, broad arms crossed tightly over his chest.
“He’s right,” said Romanoff. “We beat his Chitauri army once. We can do it again.”
Loki laughed softly. “The Chitauri were childsplay compared to what Thanos will bring down on you now.”
“You said he wants the Tesseract and the Mind Stone,” said Banner, leaning forward in his chair. “What does he plan to do with them?”
“Destroy half of all life in the universe,” Loki answered flatly.
“Half of all life–!” Banner’s eyes bulged. “Why the hell would he want to do that?
“Does it matter?” Stark stood up and paced around the table toward Loki. “You can tell us what to expect. What’s this guy’s M.O.? He’s got to have a weakness.”
“He’s a madman,” Loki grated. “But he doesn’t have any weaknesses that I know of.”
“Everybody’s got a weakness,” said Romanoff.
I watched Loki shake his head from my seat at the opposite and of the table from the Avengers. “He’s been playing the planetary domination game for longer than any of us have been alive. Playing, and winning.” He glanced at me, green eyes pale and angry. “Earth will be no challenge.”
“We have the Tesseract,” said Stark. “And Vision. Not to mention Wanda and the rest of us. That’s two of these–what did you call them?”
“Infinity Stones,” said Loki.
“Right. So we have two Infinity Stones and a collection of some of the most powerful people in the universe. In other words, we have resources,” Stark turned to look at Banner. “We’ve worked with the stones before. We can do it again.”
“Don’t be a fool, Stark,” Thor grated angrily. “You remember what happened when you tried to use the mind stone. Humans are not equipped to wield such power.”
“I remember creating the most advanced and innovative android known to man,” Stark snapped.
“Yes, and your arrogance nearly resulted in Earth’s complete destruction,” Thor shot back.
“Boys, boys,” Romanoff interjected. “Let’s focus on the issue at hand.”
“I think we should call Steve,” said Banner. “In fact, we should call everybody in. Vision, Wanda. This is an all hands on deck situation. Does anybody know how to find Fury?”
Tony’s face creased with disdain. “You know damn well the Cap’ and I aren’t on speaking terms.”
“I think, under the circumstances, it might be reasonable for you to set aside your personal issues just this once,” said Natasha flatly. “We need all the help we can get.”
“She’s right,” said Banner. And then to Loki, “How much time do we have?”
“No idea,” Loki replied heavily. He’d come closer to the table when I wasn’t looking and stood just behind my chair. His aura crackled with anxiety. I wanted to touch him–just as much to comfort myself as him. This whole Thanos thing had finally become real and I was beginning to feel panicked, nauseous.
“Fine,” Stark grated. “Call him, Nat. Fury, too.”
Romanoff nodded and rose, pulling out her cell. She paused at the door and turned back when Banner said, “What about Loki?”
Everyone looked at the God of Mischief.
“I say we put him back in his cell,” said Thor darkly. “Where he can’t put a knife in anybody’s back.”
I could feel Loki’s anger. I didn’t need to look at him to know he was giving his brother a look of pure contempt.
“He can’t help you from a prison cell,” I said quietly.
It was the first time I’d spoken since we’d come into the conference room. Five sets of eyes turned to me.
Romanoff said, “I think it’s pretty damned clear we can’t trust him.” She slid Stark a meaningful look. “I don’t know why you ever bothered to give him a chance in the first place.”
Her contempt was palpable, even without telepathy.
Banner said, “He did tell us the truth,” and then, in response to Romanoff’s withering look, “He has a vested interest in our success. He’s got just as much to lose as the rest of us.”
“You think he won’t jump ship at the first possible opportunity?” Romanoff demanded. “What do you think he’s been waiting for all this time?”
“He planned to give Thanos the Tesseract to save his own skin,” Thor added darkly. “He’s only being honest now because it’s his best chance of survival.”
Loki’s emotions spiraled toward rage. He was standing directly beside my chair now. I couldn’t stop myself–I reached up and curled my fingers around his wrist. The rage faltered a bit, tempered by a little trickle of pleasure. I’d suspected he was standing so close because I was his only real ally in the room; I was surprised to find that he’d read the anxiety in my posture and come closer just to comfort me. The fact that I’d touched him in front of everyone gave him great satisfaction–and not just because I’d apparently accepted his attempt at comfort. It was the first time I’d given any outward indication of our relationship.
“Doesn’t that mean it’s in his best interest to help us, now that we have the Tesseract?” Banner was saying. “I mean, I’m not suggesting we should give him a clean slate, but it can’t hurt to have another God fighting for team Earth, right?”
Natasha was looking at me with narrowed eyes. She was especially good at hiding her thoughts–almost as good as Loki–but her feelings about my budding relationship with the God of Mischief were quite clear.
“He’s an egomaniacal killer,” she grated.
I spoke without thinking. “How many people have you killed, Nat?”
The look she gave me was a surprise: gaze hooded, resentful and slightly amused at the same time. Touche.
Stark had been strangely silent through all this, standing halfway between our end of the table and the rest of the Avengers, arms crossed, expression calculating.
“And what do you think, Bella?” he asked quietly. “Is Reindeer Games on the level?”
Loki bristled and then withdrew from me psychically, giving me a blank, emotionless wall.
I glanced up at him, but he was looking at Stark, expression cool. His wrist flexed subtly under my fingers. I tightened my grip on him.
“I think you shouldn’t give him access to any ships that could take him off the planet,” I said carefully.
Stark smiled at my honesty. Thor gave a bitter little grunt. Natasha said, “See?” Banner just looked confused.
Loki gave me a trickle of grim amusement. He wasn’t angry. That was a relief.
“Why are you sleeping with him if you know what a snake he is?” said Natasha, voice dripping disdain.
“I’m wasn’t finished,” I said, ignoring her jab. “He’ll help us. Just like Bruce said; it’s in his best interest.” I didn’t tell them that Loki cared about Earth. They wouldn’t believe me, and Loki would probably deny it anyway.
But there was something else they needed to know–something I hoped would change their minds. I looked up at Loki. “Tell them what Thanos would do if you gave him the Tesseract.”
His gaze slid down to me, narrowed with suspicion. “You mean besides use it to destroy half the universe?”
I didn’t even bother to nod. He knew exactly what I was asking.
He glared down at me for the length of a few breaths, and then finally he said, “He’d kill me,” and then he looked at his brother with all the rage and resentment of a thousand years of scorn and rejection.
Thor’s expression faltered, anger giving way to confusion, disbelief.
“He’d kill you even if you gave it to him?” Banner asked in surprise.
Loki gave the graying scientist a mocking look. “I had one chance to bring him the Tesseract, and I failed,” he drawled. “Thanos rewards failure with death.”
“So then why did you take it, Brother?” Thor demanded softly. “Why have you kept it secret all this time? Did you intend to use it yourself?”
There was a long, heavy silence, all eyes on Loki. I squeezed his wrist and he twisted it in my grip, taking hold of my hand as though to quell me.
He was tense, anxious. Resentful that I had put him on the spot and… resigned, too.
Finally, in low and angry voice, he said, “I thought to keep it from him.”
And then he stood there stiffly, holding my hand, braced for their judgment–for their rejection.
“Bullshit,” Natasha said immediately.
But Thor didn’t look so sure. Neither did Stark. Banner glanced at Thor as though to judge his reaction.
“Why didn’t you let Syrtyr destroy it with Asgard, then?” Thor asked, almost pleading–anger gone now.
“Do you really think it’s that easy to destroy an infinity stone, brother?” Loki replied stiffly.
Thor stared back at him, nonplussed.
“Is he telling the truth, Bella?” Stark asked.
Loki’s grip on my hand tightened involuntarily. He knew what my answer would be. I swallowed hard.
“I can’t say for sure,” I replied quietly. “He can lie very convincingly, even to me. But I believe so.” I realized as I said it just how true it was. I trusted Loki.
Stark’s dark gaze was steady, grave. “Why? What makes you believe it?”
Everyone in the room was on pins and needles to hear my answer, including Loki.
“Because he never actually told me,” I answered quietly. “I figured it out myself.”
“That’s it?” Natasha said scornfully.
I curled my fingers against Loki’s palm. “He tried to hide it from me.” I glanced up at him again but his gaze slid away. I felt like I was laying him bare to them. It wasn’t a good feeling. “He’d rather we all think him the villain.”
Natasha looked skeptical and Banner was frowning, but Thor’s disbelief had begun to crumble around the edges. He knew his brother better than the others.
“Why?” Natasha demanded.
I opened my mouth to respond but Loki beat me to it.
“I wouldn’t want to disappoint you all,” he sneered.
The words rang with truth, despite the venom. Loki had given up on being ‘good’–or at least on anybody believing him capable of goodness. It gave him a bitter sort of satisfaction to live up to their negative expectations.
But I understood that he’d secretly been waiting for someone to see through the facade. It wasn’t even that hard if you just paid attention.
Natasha was giving him a stunned look. Banner, too.
Stark’s face was carefully blank. He was waiting for something.
“He meant to escape,” I murmured, heart beating fast, “But not just to save his own skin. To keep the Tesseract away from Thanos.”
“Loki,” Thor said softly, “What say you, brother? Does she speak the truth?”
Loki was very still beside me. I looked up at him–his face was closed, wary, jaw clenched.
The God of Thunder came slowly across the room, his one eye gleaming with emotion. “Have I misjudged you again, brother?” he asked in that same quiet voice. There was guilt in it–regret.
“Answer me, Loki. Did I misjudge you?”
Loki swallowed, releasing my hand. His fingers slid along my shoulder and snuck into the hair at my tape. It was an absent gesture; this time he was seeking comfort, if unconsciously.
Finally, he answered in a low, leaden voice, “You always have, Brother.”
I couldn’t believe it. After six months of locked doors, security cameras, psychic supervision and bottomless suspicion, Loki was officially an Avenger.
I mean, nobody actually said the words, but at some point, they all just sat down at the big conference table and started planning. Loki was at the center of the discussion, fielding questions about Thanos and his forces, making brilliant strategic suggestions, and generally behaving like he’d never been at odds with them at all.
Well, except for his usual sarcasm and the occasional snarky exchange with Nat.
After a couple hours Stark called for takeout and everybody got up for a coffee and bathroom break.
Loki turned to me as the others were leaving and said in a low voice, “You don’t need to stay, Bella. I’ll call someone to take you to my rooms.”
“I know where your rooms are,” I said. I wanted to stay, though. Not because they needed me–they didn’t–but because I was still anxious and the idea of being alone with my thoughts was extremely unattractive.
Loki shook his head. “I’ve got rooms in New Asgard now. They’ve already moved all my things.”
“Since when?” I asked, surprised. ‘New Asgard’ was a series of buildings on the Stark compound where the Asgardian refugees had been placed.
“Yesterday,” He smiled. “The accommodations are a vast improvement over the little closet where Stark kept me. I’m sure you’ll find them comfortable.”
I hesitated. I was tired. Utterly drained, in fact.
Loki misread my hesitation. “Would you prefer to return to your home?”
“No,” I said quickly. “Well, I mean…I do need to feed my cat. And I didn’t bring any clothes or toiletries.”
His expression softened; he was pleased that I wanted to stay. Well, smug was probably a better descriptor. “I’m sure we can find someone to look after your cat. Everything else you need can be provided easily.”
He didn’t just want me to stay the night, I realized. He wanted me to stay. Indefinitely.
My heart did a little flip. “Loki…”
Later, he thought, in answer to my hesitancy. Then he pulled my chair around to face him and drew me in close, bending to kiss me lightly. I think he meant it to be a fleeting kiss, but I opened my mouth immediately and he gave me his tongue on a low groan, hands sliding up my legs, stroking my jean-clad thighs.
I’m not sure how long we kissed like that–I was lost to it. When he finally pulled back, he touched my face, brushing his thumb very gently under my eye. “You need rest.”
“Do I have dark circles?”
His mouth quirked. “I should have let you get more sleep last night.”
“Good God, the two of you are just adorable.” Stark’s amused drawl brought both our heads around to the door.
Thor was standing just behind him, holding three boxes of pizza and wearing a slightly disconcerted expression.
“That was fast,” I said, hoping my blush wasn’t too obvious. Had they seen us kissing?
Stark grinned, “I have connections.”
“Pizza connections?” I couldn’t help smiling.
“Among others,” he winked.
Beside me, Loki bristled. I glanced at him and his face was almost impassive, but he looked at Tony with narrowed eyes.
Jealous Loki was a revelation. He’d been jealous of Thor, too, at my house. I’d never found jealousy an attractive trait before, but from the God of Mischief, it was almost as good as a love letter.
Plus, I was looking forward to assuaging those jealous feelings.
Thor set the pizzas on the table and the smell wafted to me. Suddenly I was ravenous.
Banner and Natasha returned a moment later and the six of us ate together almost like friends. When I finally sat back in my chair–belly full and feeling positively drowsy–Loki asked Stark to send up an escort to take me to New Asgard.
Tony was the only one who didn’t look surprised. Thor was positively floored.
They really were polar opposites, the two of them. Thor was an open book, utterly secure in himself, convinced of his own goodness.
He couldn’t quite believe that Loki had become romantically involved with me–a human. He wanted to be happy about it, but he was worried Loki would mistreat me. But he was glad I would be in New Asgard because he would be able to keep an eye on me. I would be safe there, as well, in the coming battle.
That warmed me. The God of Thunder wasn’t sure his brother could be trusted with my care, but he wanted to protect me for Loki’s sake. It was a very brotherly emotion.
When the guard arrived to take me to New Asgard I stood, said goodbye to everyone, and then bent as though to say something in Loki’s ear, making sure to angle my body so that the others couldn’t see. I didn’t say anything though–I kissed his neck and had a little taste of his earlobe. His hand was on the armrest between us and I touched it lightly because I needed the contact. He turned his palm up and slid his fingers along the inside of my wrist, thinking about how silky the skin there was.
And then he thought about returning to his chambers later, finding me asleep in his bed, and waking me to make love.
I made myself straighten and then walked out very casually with Loki’s pleasure and anticipation radiating through my body.
It was still strange to walk freely through Stark’s compound, even with Thor at his elbow.
Stark had never reneged on Loki’s initial release–his ‘graduation’ from threat watch. All of the metal man’s underlings had been informed. There were no more suspicious gazes, no more humans in black uniforms watching his every move. There were still a few fearful glances, but that had never bothered him.
Even better, the Asgardians we actually happy for his return. They’d given him his own chambers, furnished and decorated them in lavish Asgardian style. They hadn’t forgotten what he’d done for them during Ragnarok. And he liked to think that even though he’d posed as Odin, they’d been happy under his rule.
The compound was barely large enough to contain the remaining Asgardian population, but the buildings were comfortable and well-equipped, especially since many of Asgard’s artisans and craftsmen had survived and begun making the place their home. The halls of New Asgard were already decorated with tapestries and paintings, each room filled with traditional Asgardian furnishings.
“Loki,” Thor stopped him just outside the door to his chambers. “I owe you an apology, Brother.”
Well, that was…unexpected.
Loki turned to him, “Do you, really?” he asked with interest.
“Do not mock me, now, Loki. I’m serious.”
He looked serious; handsome face grave.
“Alright then,” Loki relented. “Go on.”
“I never asked what fate you suffered after you fell into that wormhole. Nor why you came back to conquer Earth. I just assumed…” he sighed sharply. “It was arrogant of me to think you did it simply out of spite.”
“Incredibly arrogant, yes,” Loki interjected, earning himself a one-eyed glare.
“I’m sorry I’ve misjudged you,” Thor said stiffly. “Though I do wish you’d been more honest all this time. I could have helped you, Brother.”
Loki mustered his trademark smirk. “You know me better than that.”
Thor shook his head. “I’m not sure I do anymore. I thought I did, but…well, I’m beginning to see there’s a great deal about you that perhaps I’ve misunderstood.”
He actually looked ashamed.
Loki felt a curious sensation in his chest. “Thor–” he began.
“No, let me finish,” Thor held up his hand. “I know we’ve had our differences, and I’ve thought very little of you at times, but you are my brother, Loki, in spite of everything. You’re all I have left.” His one blue eye was full of emotion. “I’m happy to have you fighting at my side again, Brother. More than I can possibly say.”
Loki found himself mute, swallowing against the tightness in his throat. He reached out to clasp Thor’s shoulder in lieu of actual speech. Thor yanked him into a fierce, spine-cracking hug and then released him a moment later, clearing his throat awkwardly.
“Well, I’m glad we could have this little…talk,” Thor said gruffly. “You best get back to your–” he gestured at the door, “–Bella.”
“Right,” Loki said faintly. My Bella. “Sleep well then, Brother.”
“And you, Brother.”
Thor turned to continue down the hall and Loki opened the door to his chambers, pausing as Thor’s voice echoed back to him, tongue-in-cheek: “Be good to her, Loki. Else I might steal her away from you.”
“Just try it,” Loki growled and then shut the door on Thor’s cocky laughter.
He turned, hackles up, cursing under his breath. Bloody musclebound idiot.
The room was cool and dim, soft light emanating from a carved stone lamp in the far corner, casting shadows across the thick fur rugs and the big wooden canopy bed with its luxurious green draperies and silky golden blankets.
Bella was nothing more than a small bump in the center of the enormous mattress–the top of her dark head just visible amongst the pillows.
Someone had brought her tea–it sat on a fine silver tray beside the bed, the silver cup half-empty. He wondered if the servants had been kind to her. If they’d drawn her a bath, offered to undress her.
No doubt she’d have declined such a service anyway. But he wanted to know that she’d been treated with respect. She was consort to a prince, after all.
Well, plenty of time to make sure of that tomorrow. For now, he’d asked that they not be disturbed until morning. He wanted her to all himself tonight.
Who knew how many more such nights he would have before they were at war.
He stripped quietly, laying his clothes across the back of the silk-upholstered chaise so they could be laundered in the morning. Then he padded naked to the bed and slipped between the covers, burrowing until he came against soft, warm woman.
Sweet Allmother, she was completely naked.
Already hard, he curled himself around her, chest to her back, tucking his cock against her silky little bottom.
She stirred when he put his arms around her and he drew his hand slowly up the front of her body to touch her breasts, stroking one and then the other, cupping them firmly, soft flesh welling around his fingers.
“Loki,” she mumbled, still half-asleep, stretching languorously against him.
She twisted as though to face him but he held her in place with one hand on her lower belly, fingers slipping between her legs as he leaned over to kiss her mouth.
Wet. She was already wet. Had she lain here thinking of him before she’s fallen asleep?
Loki growled softly at the thought–at the slick heat under his fingers–dipping his tongue into her mouth and angling her hips back as he kissed her and stroked the velvet lips of her sex.
A moment later he was inside her, sheathed to the hilt. Her breath caught on a gasp, slick flesh rippling around his cock. Her hand found his hip, slid down to the top of his thigh, gripping the muscle there.
“Good girl,” he murmured into her mouth, thrusting slowly. “Nice and easy.”
The tip of his cock bumped her cervix and she moaned softly.
“Does that hurt?” he murmured, withdrawing almost completely, watching her head roll back to the pillow, mouth open on a gasp.
“No,” she breathed. “More. Please.”
Loki gripped her hip and thrust again, harder this time, driving deep, making her writhe.
“Still more?” he asked. Her sex seemed to throb around him.
“Yes,” she whispered, nails digging into his thigh.
He rolled her over, belly down, bracing his elbows on either side of her narrow shoulders, arching sharply so that he could thrust and kiss her neck at the same time.
She whimpered and clenched, growing wetter.
“You like it this way,” he growled, nudging her legs apart and pressing her into the mattress. Biting her shoulder gently. “So deep,” he whispered, rocking her, pestering her cervix with short, rhythmic thrusts, groaning when she tightened. “You’re practically sucking me, Bella.”
The sound she made damned near undid him–soft, animal keening.
“Tell me what you want,” he hissed, thrusting again.
“More,” she whimpered, breathless. “Ride me, Loki.”
Sweet Mother of–that did it. He thrust hard, withdrew completely and buried himself straight to the hilt. And then again, pausing to look down at his cock bobbing stiffly above her ass, lifting himself to watch the rigid length disappear inside, pink lips closing around the broad base.
And then he settled into a hard, pumping rhythm, watching her little body jolt with each thrust, listening to her ragged sobs of pleasure.
“Are you close, Bella?” he panted, “You’re soaking wet. Gods, it’s so good, love.”
She made a sound that might have been a confirmation, writhing helplessly beneath him.
He was already right on the edge himself, thrusting faster, losing his rhythm. “Come for me, Bella,” he growled. “Now!”
Bella gasped, bucking against his thrusts. Turning her head to bite the corner of the pillow closest to her face, screaming raggedly through her teeth, sex fisting tightly around his cock as she came.
“Yes,” he hissed, pumping fast and hard, “Yes! Coming, Bella! Gods!”
The pleasure wracked him, burned along his cock in molten spurts, bowing his spine and tearing rough, animal cries from his throat. Her little sex flooded with his seed and he kept thrusting into his own wetness as the pleasure unfurled, every nerve ending lit and sparkling.
“Do you feel that?” he groaned, head of his cock slipping wetly against her cervix now, each thrust producing a soft squelch. “I’m still coming.” He jerked inside her once more, and then again, pumping deeply, spine tingling.
Just as the orgasm ebbed she whimpered softly and tensed beneath him.
“Again?” he rasped, as her sex began to ripple and spasm. He rode it out with her, angling his thrusts to give her maximum stimulation, gritting his teeth through the intensity of it. She moaned raggedly and pushed back against him, shuddering, sobbing.
And when she went limp he used the last of his own strength to roll her back over and tuck her into his heaving chest, folding both arms around her.
It was a long time before his breath and heart began to settle. After a while, Bella lifted her arm and curled it over his side, squirming closer. He stroked her hip as she settled and realized she must be cold by now; reached down and drew the blankets up around her shoulders. She sighed contentedly.
“Oh.” Her little exclamation was muffled against his chest.
“What?” He looked down.
She was reaching under the blanket, hand between her legs.
“I’m leaking,” she said softly, with just a hint of embarrassment. “The sheets will get dirty.”
“Sheets can be washed,” he said, amused by her concern for the bedding. But he conjured a handkerchief and she took it gratefully, tucking it between her legs.
“What other random stuff can you pull out of thin air?” she asked.
Loki produced a knife.
“Ooh, that’s handy.”
He smiled and sent the knife back into its hiding place, then conjured a cell phone.
“You have a cell phone?!” She plucked it out of his hand and pressed a few buttons. “The battery’s dead.”
“Stark gave it to me, but I find it rather unnecessary.”
“Well, now that you have your freedom, you might want to rethink that.”
She looked up at him. “Do you know how to use it?”
“It’s rather a primitive piece of technology.”
“Oh, right. Well, we can talk when we’re not together with this. And text.” She turned the little black device over in her hands thoughtfully, then looked up at him. “I’d like to.”
“Mm. I suppose that would be useful.” He pushed her hair back from her face, running his fingers through it slowly. “Though I’m not planning to be separated from you anytime soon.”
That seemed to surprise her. “Really?”
“Mm.” He took one of her hands and drew it under the covers by way of explanation.
“Oh!” Her fingers curled around him. “You’re hard again.”
She stroked him absently. “You haven’t really thought about the possibilities, clearly.”
“Possibilities?” he repeated as her fingers slipped through the moisture beading at the tip of his cock.
“Yeah. With the cell phone.”
“You’ll have to be more specific,” he said, watching her breasts press together as her arm moved between their bodies.
She chuckled. “Charge it up and take it with you next time you leave. I’ll give you a demonstration.”
“I told you, I’m not going anywhere.”
“You’ll have to eventually,” she murmured, “And I’ll have to go home at some point.”
Loki reached down to touch her hand, guiding her fingers along his shaft, down and then up again, squeezing gently. “I disagree.”
“You disagree?” She laughed. “I have a life, Loki. I can’t just lounge around here letting you ravish me all day. Especially considering the whole…impending alien war thing.”
Loki stilled. “There’s no reason you can’t stay here,” he insisted. “Stark will give you another job. Besides, you’ll be safest here when Thanos arrives.”
Bella tilted her head back to look at him, brown eyes limpid. “Earlier today you seemed pretty sure that no place was safe from Thanos.”
He scowled. “Would you rather be alone in your little house when he arrives?”
Her expression didn’t falter. She was reading him like a damned book, he realized. He’d let his guard down.
“We’ve only been together for a day, Loki. You really want me to move in?”
Yes, dammit. He wanted her here, close. Safe. Warming his bed every night.
Her fingers tightened on his cock and she started stroking him again in that same leisurely fashion. “What about Sebastian?”
“Your cat can stay, too.”
“What if we drive you crazy?”
He laughed. “I lived with Thor for over a thousand years.”
“Yeah, but Thor doesn’t need to be kissed and cuddled every day, and told that he looks pretty.”
“Well, not by me, he doesn’t.”
“There are other rooms if you’d prefer to have your own,” he offered.
She wiggled closer and held his cock against her belly, stroking him like that. “What will your people think about me living here?”
Loki flexed into her, rocking gently. Her belly was warm and deliciously smooth. “They’ll adore you.”
“What makes you so sure?” she asked skeptically.
“Because I adore you.”
Her hand paused. She looked up at him.
“Does that surprise you?” he asked, amused.
Her hand started moving again, “It surprises me that you’d say it out loud.”
“I adore you,” he repeated, watching her face this time.
She flushed a little. Cute.
“Please stay here with me.”
She rolled her eyes, but the blush persisted. “Fine. I’ll go home and get my cat tomorrow.”
“I’ve already arranged for someone to pick up your things in the morning.”
Her mouth dropped open. “You–!” she let go of his cock and slapped his chest loudly. “You arrogant son of a bitch!”
“Bella,” he interrupted.
She drew her hand back to slap him again and he grabbed her wrist.
“I would not have been so proprietary if the circumstances were different.”
“What if I had said no?” she demanded.
“You didn’t say no, Bella. I knew you wouldn’t.”
Her mouth compressed. “You are unbelievable.”
“It’s your choice to stay. I haven’t forced you.”
She frowned at his chest.
Loki decided to take a page from her book: total honesty. She deserved that.
“We may not have much time together,” he murmured. “Even without the threat of Thanos.”
Brown eyes lifted to his face. “What does that mean?”
“I mean,” he gritted his teeth a little, hating the truth, “I’m the God of Lies. We’re different species. It can hardly be expected to last between us.”
There was a pause and then she said quietly, “I’m not prepared to make any projections at this early point in our relationship.”
“I will live to be over five thousand years old,” he said stubbornly.
Her answer stunned him.
“Well then, it should be no great sacrifice to give me the next sixty years or so.”
Loki pulled back to look at her. “Do you actually mean that?”
Her gaze slid away. “I’m not proposing marriage, if that’s what you’re asking.”
He just lay there, speechless, heart beating loudly.
“I’m also not saying I’m in love with you, because that would be patently idiotic after only one day–”
By the Gods, was she…?
“–but I’m also not going to say I’m not, or at least that I won’t be at some point, or more specifically that I couldn’t be, provided things continue as they have been–”
“How long?” Loki interrupted.
“What?” Her sweet little face turned up to him, eyes wide.
“How long until you can say it?”
She sort of froze then, mouth half open, stunned.
“Next year?” he demanded. “If Thanos doesn’t kill us?”
She licked her lips and took a breath, but no words came.
“Next month?” he asked, more softly.
She shook her head. “Loki…”
“How about tomorrow?”
Her lower lip disappeared between her teeth and she worried it furiously.
“Tomorrow is excellent for me,” he murmured. “I can’t think of a better time to receive an honest profession of love.”
“This is not fair,” she mumbled.
“You think not?” he pulled her closer, still hard, tucking his erection into the hollow of her hip. “You know what I feel all the time.”
“Are you talking about your cock? Because an erection is not a clear indication of romantic feeling.”
He laughed. “You know damn well I’m not.”
“Yesterday your feelings for me were very conflicted.”
“And just a minute ago I told you I adore you. Twice. A lot can change in a day.”
It was true, he realized. She’d stood by him today, defended him. Not that he needed her to defend him–or anyone for that matter. But her trust meant a great deal. The fact that she paid attention, read between the lines. Saw in him what even his own brother couldn’t see…
He wanted her love, now that he realized he could have it.
Bella gave a deep, martyred sigh.
He fought not to smile. “Thanos and his armies could arrive at any moment, Bella. If you wait too long, you may not get the chance to tell me at all.”
She made a low sound of derision. “I hope you don’t think its funny to use that against me. Every time you say his name I feel like I’m going to vomit.”
Humor faltering, he stroked her hair, drew her tight against his chest. “I’m sorry. You’re right.”
Some of the tension left her. She sighed again, warm breath tickling his throat. “It sort of freaks me out when you’re so nice.”
“Nice?” No one had ever called him that before.
“Yeah,” she said, muffled. “You apologized. And you said you like me. And you’re cuddling me in the best possible way.”
“I said I adore you. And this is not cuddling,” he returned with exaggerated disdain. “This is a form of seduction. Foreplay, if you will.” To prove his point, he flexed his erection against her.
“Hmm. Well, it’s working.” Her hand slipped between them and started stroking him again.
Gratified, he lay quietly for a few minutes, focusing on the pleasure of her touch.
Finally, he said, “If you keep doing that, the sheets really will get dirty,”
To his surprise, she ducked her head and wiggled down under the blankets.
“What are you–ah!”
She was sucking him, mouth hot and wet, taking him deep, small hand pumping at his base.
“Bella,” he growled, fighting the desire to thrust, “Slow down.”
She made a little sound of denial and the vibration of it against his cock was exquisite.
“You have about thirty seconds before I come if you keep that up,” he warned, hearing the strain in his own voice.
This time the sound she made was one of approval.
The little minx wanted to drink him.
He flipped the blankets back and looked down at her. There was something terribly erotic about the sight of it–her naked shoulders and the curve of her back. Pink lips stretched around him, long lashes fanned against her cheeks. She sucked him like she found the taste and texture of his cock delicious, hot little tongue swirling over the head, tickling his opening, making him groan.
He touched her hair, thrusting a little despite himself, fingers slipping down to cup her nape.
She pulled back then and his cock popped out of her mouth as she looked up.
“Hold me,” she murmured.
Voice airy and rough he said, “I am holding you.”
Her fingers were still working him, keeping him wound tight with pleasure.
“Fuck my mouth,” she whispered, flushing.
All the remaining blood in his body seemed to rush downward, swelling in her hands.
“Alright,” he replied gruffly.
And then he pulled her head back into place and pushed into her mouth, bringing his other hand down to hold her steady, both hands tangled in her hair.
When he began to thrust–slow and careful–she groaned around him and squeezed his shaft, sucking hard. Egging him on.
“Bella,” he groaned. “Bloody hell.” He thrust harder and she opened up to him, throat working. Tongue writhing.
“Coming,” he hissed, watching her meet each thrust with incredible eagerness, head of his cock nudging her tonsils. Listening to the wet sounds and her little whimpers of encouragement.
“Bella, Gods, yes! Suck me,” he growled, orgasm pouring out into the back of her throat, watching her swallow his pleasure as though it were pure ambrosia.
She held on tight while his cock jerked in her mouth, swallowing and swallowing, pressing herself against his legs. And when he let her go she suckled him a little longer, very gently, and he watched in a haze of satisfaction, stroking her silky hair all the while.
She seemed content to keep going, rolling his softening flesh in her mouth, but he pulled her up to his chest again and kissed her soundly, tasting himself on her tongue.
“That was divine,” he murmured.
Loki smiled. “I’ll be happy to return the favor.”
“That’s okay,” she murmured, settling into his body. “I’m really tired.” And then she proved it by yawning hugely.
“I forget sometimes that you’re human,” he replied apologetically, stroking her back. “I’m running you ragged.”
“Mmm. I like it,” she mumbled drowsily. “I like this new nice Loki, too.”
He chuckled. “It is generally advisable to be nice to one’s girlfriend, is it not?”
“Only if one wishes to keep her.”
“Well,” he began mildly, “I’m not saying I’m in love with you–”
She stiffened in his arms.
“But I’m also not saying I’m not. Or that I won’t be, at some point. Because I certainly could be, provided things continue as they have. So… I suppose that means I do want to keep you.”
After a moment–during which Loki’s heart fluttered traitorously–she said, “Is that supposed to be funny?”
He wanted to make light of it–because that would be easier–but her tone demanded honesty, so he made himself say simply, “No.”
“Because it seemed like maybe you were mocking me.” She sounded angry. A little hurt.
“Must I constantly remind you that you are a telepath?” he countered, irritated.
“Said the God of Lies.”
He sighed. “What possible reason could I have to lie to you now?”
To prove his point, he opened his mind to her.
She lay very still for the space of a few heartbeats, listening. Reading him. And then she pressed her face into his chest and gave a sharp, shuddering sigh of surrender.
“Oh dear. Are you crying?” he asked, amused, trying to get a look at her face. She held onto him stubbornly.
Her answer was quite muffled, but it sounded very much like, Absolutely not.
“Excellent, because that would be terribly awkward for me.”
She giggled wetly.
Loki tucked the blanket around her and settled into the mattress with a deep sense of satisfaction. It was tempered with dread of course, but he shoved away the creeping sense of doom.
Just this one night, he thought. Just this one moment of peace. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
She shifted against him, soft fingers tracing his spine, warm lips tickling his collarbone.
When she spoke, the words were low and laden with feeling–burdened with a sort of unexpected finality that made little sense to him.
Like the period at the end of a sentence he’d expected to go on forever.
“You deserve to be happy, you know.”
Chapter 12: Epilogue: Part 1
It has been three years since Thanos came and went. Earth is rebuilding in the wake of the snap.
So, I've been promising this epilogue for months, and I finally sat down to write it yesterday! It ended up being about 8,000 words total, so I'm splitting it into two parts. I'll post the next one Friday morning.
“I'm not saying it's a perfect solution, but it'll get us by until we have legislation on our side.”
Thor gave me a petulant look and then considered the blueprints laid out on the table between us. “Where the hell is Stark?”
The conference room was empty but for the two of us. “Probably potty training his daughter or something,” I replied impatiently. “What's he going to tell you that you haven't already heard, anyway? New Asgard is getting crowded and Stark is offering you this--” I gestured at the blueprints, “--wonderland of domestic possibilities. What's the problem?”
He scowled at the long reams of paper detailing the small city Tony had designed to accommodate the growing Asgardian population. Somewhere between Thanos and the New World government, the Asgardians had started pairing up with humans. Turns out the two races can produce babies at an alarming rate. Like, in twins and triplets. Thor had a sort of population boom on his hands.
Which was good, when you really thought about it. After losing half of their people in the snap, the Asgardians had given up their disdain for inter-species coupling. I suspected seeing their prince in a relationship with me may have influenced that decision as well.
Human were dealing with the devastation of the snap a little differently. There was, understandably, a great deal of lingering resentment in the collective human consciousness towards all alien life forms. And considerable fear.
Earth was in the process of instituting a worldwide counsel--one that would unify the planet at a never-before-seen level--all with the purpose of protecting the human race from future intergalactic threats. As you might expect, the process was fraught with conflict, not the least of which concerned Asgard.
Nine out of ten countries on the planet wanted to expel the Asgardians from Earth entirely. The remaining one in ten--including the USA--saw them as powerful allies. But very few were open to full integration. Even in the US it was a huge controversy.
The Asgardians hadn't even been given citizenship yet. They had, as far as Earth was concerned, no rights. They couldn't vote, own property, or marry. Even the citizenship of the twenty three half-Asgardian babies now living on Stark’s compound was hotly contested. And the world outside of the compound--though much less densely populated than it had been--was pretty damned hostile to them.
In an effort to create a place for the dozens of budding human-Asgardian families to live safely, Stark had designed a new compound, to be built in rural New York. I wasn't totally clear on the politics myself, but he seemed to think if we structured it like a commune, the government would let us well enough alone until they figured out the whole Earth-citizenship thing.
I thought it was a pretty brilliant solution, but Thor was still chapped that the human race wasn't embracing the Asgardians wholeheartedly. His people--especially those who'd taken human partners--were being treated like pariahs.
“Thor,” I said, trying to make it gentle (his stubbornness was beginning to drive me crazy), “You can't force it. Earth will come around, but it's gonna take time. It took us hundreds of years to give women and people of color equal rights, and we're still struggling with that in many ways.”
He turned that petulant look on me again, blue eye resentful. “If it weren't for Asgard, Earth would be in ruins a dozen times over by now. Your people--”
I held up a hand. “I am not having this argument with you again. Besides, you're preaching to the choir. I want what you want. I'm just trying to be the voice of reason here.”
He sighed. “I know you are. I'm sorry, little sister.”
Oh, for God's sake. “How many times do I have to tell you to stop calling me that? I'm not your sister.”
Thor flashed me a grin and started folding up the plans for New-New Asgard. “You might as well be. Or, rather, you would be, if the blasted humans would legalize Asgardian-human marriage.”
I rolled my eyes. “You severely overestimate your brother's commitment to me.”
“I heard him say that he loved you three times yesterday,” Thor replied smugly, straightening from the table with the plans under his arm.
“You heard him say he adores me three times,” I scoffed, following behind him as he went for the exit. “And that was because he pissed me off and he was trying to get back on my good side. Where are you taking those, by the way?”
“To Stark,” he said as we stepped into the hall. “I want to discuss the agricultural plans with him.” He stopped to face me, clasping my shoulder in one big hand. “You've been an enormous boon, little sister.”
I sighed and he grinned at me flirtatiously. “You have the makings of a queen in you, have I ever told you that?”
“Ew,” I said flatly.
He meant it though, flirtation aside. Thor wasn't great at expressing himself--which ran in his family, blood-relation or no--but he’d learned he could rely on me to read his thoughts and feelings when words failed him. Right now they spelled out in no uncertain terms that my efforts as his official human-Asgard relations advisor were deeply appreciated. He knew how stressful it was for me--and how much he frustrated me on a daily basis.
“Go thank your brother,” I grumbled. “He's the one who talked me into taking the job.”
Smiling at my gruffness, Thor asked, “Where is Loki, anyway?”
“With Banner in the big lab. They're working on the new quantum-field thingy.”
“The Soul-forge,” he bobbed his blonde head in approval. “Healing technology on Earth is abysmal. Loki believes that if we can reproduce the healing rooms of Asgard, the technology can be used to barter with the Earth government for Asgardian citizenship rights.”
“Yeah, he told me. Plus, you know, Asgardians can have proper medical care in the meantime.”
Thor grinned. “That is good also.”
I waved him off and turned away down the hall. “Go pester Stark and Pepper. I'll see you at the council meeting later.”
“Later, little sister.”
I shot him a glare but he'd already turned, broad back swaying slightly as he strutted away. I'd tried to get him to start wearing human clothing, but he wouldn't give up the traditional Asgardian armor. Said it was important for his Kingly image, to project strength and battle-readiness at all times.
Well, at least he wasn't walking around in a cape anymore. That was something.
Loki had taken to human clothing with little resistance. Which had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that seeing him in jeans and a t-shirt made my mouth water and my insides turn to mush.
Okay, maybe it did.
It definitely did.
Smiling to myself as I strolled towards the elevator, I pulled out my cell and shot the God of Mischief a text.
What's for lunch?
He responded almost immediately.
I chuckled, punched the “up” button on the elevator and typed, Don't you get tired of eating the same thing every day?
The elevator dinged as his answer came back.
Is that a trick question? I haven't tasted you in nearly a week.
Inside the elevator, I pushed the button that would take me up to the lab and then answered, Well, you'll be happy to hear that the tide is out.
The tide? He replied. Is that one if your euphemisms for menstruation?
There was a silence of of approximately thirty seconds as the elevator hummed up past several floors of offices and smaller labs.
Finally he answered. Where are you?
I typed, In the elevator. On my way to you.
His response made me tingle with anticipation.
My office. On the desk. Two minutes. Remove your panties before I get there.
What about my dress? I asked, imagining waiting for him completely naked.
Leave it on. He responded promptly. I’m going to crawl under your skirts and suck you.
Holy hell. Alright then.
I went to his office just down the hall from the lab and arranged myself primly on the edge of his big desk, panties tucked into my purse.
I felt him coming before I saw him--a Loki-flavored storm of psychic lust.
He swept in a moment later wearing black jeans and a dark green button-up under his lab coat, long hair pulled back into a loose bun at the nape of his neck.
“I cannot tell you how much I love your sexy scientist look,” I said as he crossed the room to me, green eyes predatory.
“Try,” he said brusquely, nudging my legs apart to stand between them. His big hands spanned my waist, slid up to cup my breasts, squeezing and lifting.
Breathlessly, I murmured, “Bring the labcoat home tonight and I'll show you.”
His only response was a low growl. He bent over me a little, hands on my hips now, pulling me to the very edge of the desk. I thought he was going to kiss me--he was thinking about kissing me--but he dropped to his knees between my feet and looked up into my face with smug intent.
Sneaky bastard. He'd projected the thought at me to hide his real intentions. God of Lies indeed.
His hands slid up the insides of my thighs, skirt bunching at his wrists. I felt his thumb brush the outer lips of my sex and shivered, opening my legs a little further to accommodate his shoulders as he leaned forward.
He lifted the skirt and his head disappeared under it. A moment later his mouth was on me, hot and wet, tongue penetrating sensitive flesh.
I heard myself gasp, heard him sucking me, watched as he pulled my legs over his shoulders and burrowed in.
“Holy God,” I gasped. “Loki that's--ah! No biting!”
He flipped my skirts up and glared at me. “No talking. Don't distract me.”
Oh boy, he was in one of his moods. One of my favorites, actually. I liked to think of it as his “Silence-puny-mortal” mood. Generally this mood entailed a whole lot of sexual dominance and absolutely no conversation.
I should have seen it coming. We’d gone nearly a week without sexual contact. The God of Mischief was starving.
He sucked me with such aggressive focus that I started to shake and my arms wouldn't support me anymore. I fell back onto the desk and he growled again, yanking my ass over the edge so he could hold me to his mouth with both arms.
I came perhaps a minute later with his lips sealed to my body, sucking me in rhythmic pulses even as his tongue worked up and down between my folds in rapid figure eights.
I grabbed hold of his hair and struggled not to buck against his mouth while the orgasm threatened to split me apart. I could actually feel my entire sex throbbing in his mouth, clit pulsing, insides clenching.
“Jesus Christ,” I whimpered when his mouth broke away.
Loki growled again and flipped me over, pulled me up onto to my feet and pushed me over to the bookshelf behind his desk.
He placed my hands on the edge of the shelf nearest my face and I stared blankly at the row of leather bindings, panting helplessly while he shaped my waist and ass with both hands.
I looked down when his black dress shoes bracketed my feet, heard the soft buzz of his zipper going down.
Half a breath later the head of his cock was there between my legs, broad and hot, pushing just inside and then pausing.
I made an involuntary, strangled gasping sound. His size never failed to shock me the first time after any prolonged period of abstinence. Even wet as I was, the penetration hurt a little bit.
Loki took hold of my hips again, pulling me back and up--onto my tip-toes--before he gave me his length in a quick, decisive thrust.
I whimpered again, knees buckling. The angle was incredible. Incendiary. Pleasure sizzled down my legs, up through my womb, straight to the tips of my breasts.
Loki lifted me up effortlessly and set my right knee on one of the lower shelves to steady me--and to open me to him even further. The position kept me high on the toes of my left foot. I wobbled, knees still watery.
“Loki--” I protested, and then cut off on a gasp when he bit my shoulder.
“Quiet,” he snarled--not angry, but urgent. Unyielding. His hands gripped my hips, taking some of my weight and holding me steady. And then he began to thrust.
I clutched the shelf and cried out. He wasn't being gentle--he never was in this kind of mood--and his thrusts damn near lifted me off the floor.
But it was good. Jesus God Almighty it was good!
I could hear him panting behind me, making low sounds of pleasure, hips smacking loudly against my ass, holding my skirt up with one hand so he could watch his cock going in.
His thoughts came to me in a wordless flow of images and sensations. I saw the curves of my ass through his eyes. The gleam of my wetness on his cock. Felt the way my insides pulsed around him and how my heat made him wild.
His feelings came to me, too. His joy at having me again. His aggression, his love. And just a hint of the frustration and longing he'd felt during the last week, waiting for my menses to pass.
It's still made me wild to know that Loki loved me. That he wanted me so much--so intensely--even after three years. He didn't say the words often, despite what Thor had claimed to hear. In fact, I could count on one hand the number of times Loki had actually said the words “I love you.”
He thought them at me daily, though. Poured the feeling into every kiss. Every touch. Every thrust of his cock.
I came again with a ragged sob and the pulse of his love intensified, drove me higher. He bit my shoulder again and rode me harder through the spasms of pleasure, groaning as he found his own release.
He gave me a vivid sensation of his orgasm as it gripped him. The thought came imprinted with his signature smug pleasure.
I'd told him once how it aroused me to feel his cock jerking inside me. To see it. To know that he was coming. To receive those long, liquid spurts into my mouth, my pussy, even my hands. Ever since, he'd made sure to share his own experience of it with me in vivid detail.
I could actually feel each spasm starting behind his testicles--could feel the liquid rush along his cock and the wetness flooding us both as it left him.
It never failed to make me come.
By the time I'd descended from my second orgasm, Loki was carrying me to his desk again, settling into the big leather rolling chair with me draped limply across his lap, head on his shoulder.
“I don't know why you won't let me make love to you during your menses,” he said, with irritating composure. “I lose control of myself every time you make me go so long without.”
Good lord, he was actually ashamed that he'd taken me so roughly.
I cracked an eye open and peered up at him. “Are you apologizing to me right now?” My voice came out weak and hoarse.
He gave me a resentful look. “Your ass is bright red and you look as though you nearly lost consciousness. I feel like a beast when I do this to you.”
I closed my eye again, too tired to hold it open. “Don't apologize for giving me three mind-blowing orgasms.”
His worry settled, but he was still a little ashamed, thinking about how delicate I was. How I would be bruised tomorrow and he would have to be extra gentle with me. We'd gone through this countless times. He never seemed to get it through his head that I liked it when he was rough.
Loki smoothed my skirt down over my thighs with one hand. “I like this dress.”
“You should,” I mumbled, turning my face into his chest. “You picked it out.”
It was green, of course. Sleek and fitted in the bodice, with light, flowy skirts that hugged my hips and clung to my legs. I had to admit it looked good on me. Better than anything I would have chosen for myself.
Loki reached over me to pluck a few tissues from the box on his desk, then tucked his hand between my legs to clean me up before his mess could trickle out and wet my clothes.
“Thank you,” I mumbled.
His quiet drifted over me and I opened my eyes again. “What's the matter?”
“Nothing,” he said seriously.
“You're shielding,” I accused. “You never do that anymore unless you're upset about something.”
“I'm not upset,” he insisted, bending to kiss me.
Kisses were an excellent distraction technique. I let him get away with it because I knew better than to badger him about whatever he was hiding. He'd tell me eventually. Plus, he hadn't kissed me like this in what felt like ages. Slow and deep.
Loki's special, lazy after-sex kisses were a singular sort of pleasure.
When he took his tongue back and lifted away, I reached up to pull the tie out of his hair and drew the mass of soft black curls over his shoulder, rubbing the ends against my lips. He watched me with a lazy, hooded expression of affection.
“I love you,” I said quietly.
His pupils dilated slightly. “I love you, too.”
My heart fluttered and I felt myself flush a little under that steady green gaze.
“Kiss me some more,” I whispered.
He bent to oblige and we kissed for a long time in a love-drunk, post-orgasmic haze.
Someone knocked on the door and he broke away to snap, “Get lost!” before coming back for more.
I giggled against his lips and pushed at his shoulder. “What if that was important?”
“It wasn't,” he growled, holding my jaw so he could kiss me some more.
“Sandwiches are important,” I said, muffled into his mouth.
Sighing deeply, he sat back. “Fine, go get your sandwiches.”
I bounded up from his lap and over to the door, poking my head into the hall.
The woman who ran the lunch cart turned back when she heard the door open and I waved her over. A moment later, two fat salami sandwiches and a pair of cokes in had, I returned to Loki's desk.
He watched me come with that same strangely serious expression, emotions very still, gaze lingering on my thighs, and then my breasts. When I sat on his desk between his open legs, he finally looked at my face.
I handed him a sandwich and he took it wordlessly.
“Loki, you're freaking me out,” I murmured, setting the cokes beside my hip. “Did something happen?”
He shook his head, focused now on the sandwich he was unwrapping slowly with both hands.
I watched him do this, growing more and more anxious, my own sandwich forgotten in my lap.
“I recovered a spell,” he said quietly, peeling the last layer of white butcher paper away from his sandwich. “That prolongs human life.”
I could not possibly have been less prepared for such a proclamation.
When I said nothing, he looked up at me. “I've been debating whether or not to tell you.”
All I could do for several breaths was to blink at him stupidly, thoughts tumbling.
“It's a spell Asgardians used a very long time ago, when it was common practice to take human lovers. Odin made it illegal before the Aesir-Vanir war, when we withdrew our presence from Midgard.” He paused, watching my face--for what kind of reaction, I have no idea.
I couldn't muster a single word.
He took a deep breath. Let it out slowly. “The Asgardians asked me if I could recover the spell some time ago.”
That made sense, what with all the half-Asgardian babies being born.
“But,” he went on carefully, “I'm concerned about the implications for our relations with the government...if I start gifting human beings with extended life spans…”
“Yes,” I said, voice rusty. “I see what you mean.”
“On the other hand,” he looked at his sandwich, held between long fingers as though he might lift it from his lap to his mouth at any moment. “If I don't give it to them…”
Half-Asgardian babies aged at a fraction of the speed of human babies. Their human parents would be long gone before they reached adulthood.
“Have you talked to Thor about this?” I asked.
He nodded. “He is, as you might expect, adamantly for it. Under one condition.”
Loki gazed at his sandwich for a moment, and then looked at me very steadily. “Marriage.”
“Marriage?” I repeated blankly, heart pounding.
He nodded. “Only couples who want to wed will be allowed use of the spell.”
Again, I found myself speechless.
The implications for Earth and Asgard were quite serious. I could just see the uproar it would cause for Thor to grant such a thing to selected human beings.
The personal implications, on the other hand...I met Loki's gaze again, trying to read him.
Shut tight. No surprise there. But he was gazing at me in that same steady way, expression just a little guarded, like he was waiting for me to say something, do something.
"Why marrigae?" I asked. "What if some of the new parents don't want to marry?"
Loki shrugged. "There had to be some stipulation, or else we would be inundated with humans demanding immortality."
"Oh. That makes sense."
He nodded. Silence strenched beteeen us.
“I don't know what to say,” I mumbled finally. “What are you thinking?”
Loki swallowed slowly. His mind flowered open to me.
He was thinking back to our first night together in new Asgard--to that ridiculous half confession I'd made. I heard his words echoing back to me.
I will live to be over five thousand years old.
Oh God, I thought senselessly, heart hammering. Oh God, here it comes.
Paper crinkling softly, Loki picked up his sandwich and set it beside me on the desk, then leaned sideways and opened the bottom drawer next to my dangling legs.
He pulled something out of it--a small stone box carved with interwoven Celtic symbols. Green eyes rose again to my face.
He held it out to me and I sat there frozen, looking at him.
“I can give you the next seventy years,” he said gravely, “Can you give me the next four thousand?”
Ahhh! Someone just inboxed me and brought to my attention the fact that I never posted part 2 of the Epilogue! I'm so sorry to anyone who was waiting! I put it up on Wattpad week ago and apparently forgot to post it here, too! :/ derp
Loki sent me back to our rooms in New Asgard to think about it.
Those were his exact words. Take some time alone to think about it.
He wouldn't let me answer until I had, though I knew the instant he put that box in my hand what my answer would be.
Immortality is no small burden, he told me gravely. You would outlive everyone you know--all your human family and friends. It's not a decision to be made lightly.
He closed his mind to me again then, and he was oddly stiff--almost formal--which made me suspect that he was very much afraid I would say no.
It was a bizarre concept, though. Four thousand years with Loki? Plus, immunity to all disease, rapid self-healing, near-perpetual youth...it was hard to wrap my head around.
I went home and sat in the center of our big bed with the little box resting on the coverlet before me, replaying the conversation in my mind.
The spell is attached to the ring, he said, staring at me with that bizarre stillness about him, mind utterly closed. If you accept, the spell will activate when you put it on, and your life force will be linked directly to mine. As long as I live, you will live.
There doesn't have to be a ceremony? I asked.
He shook his head. The spell is activated by clear intention.
He never actually asked if I would marry him, which was more than a little irritating. But Thor had declared he would grant the use of the spell only to couples who wanted to marry, so...
Leave it to Loki to propose marriage through inference.
The spell itself only required a deep emotional bond between two people in order to function.
The bond is what will allow me to share my life force with you, he told me gravely.
Well, the bond was no issue. But I kept coming back to four thousand years. For some reason, it made my heart trip with anxiety.
I opened the little box and looked at the ring inside. It was silver and gold woven together in a design like a double-S, made up of two snakes biting each other's tails. Loki's symbol. I'd seen it on some of his armor and weapons, and embroidered on his Asgardian clothes as well.
The thought of wearing it made me flush with happiness. At that moment I wanted him so badly I could hardly breathe.
I pulled my phone out and texted him, Exactly how long do I have to think about this?
Within seconds he answered, As long as it takes.
I smiled, typed, Ok, I'm done.
But my thumb hovered over the send key for a long time, and suddenly my heart was pounding again. Anxiety gripped me so hard my eyes actually began to water.
I was terrified, I realized. Not of being immortal, but of being tied to Loki for four thousand years.
In a hurry, I deleted Ok, I'm done and typed, What happens if you get tired of me?
It took him a few seconds longer to respond this time, but the answer was reassuringly… Loki.
What nonsense are you babbling now?
Tears spilled down my face even as I laughed. Don't be a jerk. I'm kind of freaking out.
He responded, Because you believe I will cast you off someday?
Yes, I sent back. And then, quickly, No. Dammit. I don't know. I'm scared of the possibility, I guess.
He didn't answer right away. I swiped the tears from my face and added, Terrified, actually.
The next four minutes seemed to stretch on and on, waiting for him to respond.
Finally, he said, Have you been harboring this fear for the last three years, as well?
Shit. I had, of course. But I'd decided from the beginning to take things as they came, refusing let myself project at all. Even after Thanos came and went, and we started picking up the pieces, I never allowed myself to wonder where we would end up, Loki and me.
I honestly never expected quite this level of commitment from you, I confessed, feeling stupid. Or any, really.
My phone buzzed almost instantly with his response.
I giggled a little and replied, Honest.
And maybe unfair, I realized, with a sting of shame.
I could almost imagine Loki looking down at his phone--his deep, martyred sigh. His response surprised me though.
What can I say to reassure you?
Oh, Loki...I stared at those words and felt a wave of love so intense it made me start crying all over again. It was unfair of me to have doubted him all this time, wasn't it?
I looked at the ring. Thought about the last three years. Going to bed with Loki every night. Waking with his face in my hair and his arm draped over my side.
I remembered the look in his eyes the first time I told him I loved him. That wild gleam of happiness and the way he'd held me, kissed me.
The first time we made love after the snap came back to me as well. God, I'd cried so long, and so hard. But Loki had been there, silent and helpless, holding on for dear life. Afterward, he took me so gently. Tenderly. Like I was made of glass. And when I came in his arms, he'd cried a little too, silently, face pressed into my neck as he rode me through the waves of pleasure.
His feelings then had been very clear--for the first time. His need. His love. He didn't actually say the words until months later, but...he hadn't needed to, and he knew that.
In three years we'd had at least a hundred fights. Every single one had ended with laughter. Kissing. Lovemaking.
He might close me out for hours or even a whole day, but in the end, he always opened to me again. Showed me the fears that made him pick fights or try to boss me around. So many fears.
Loki had been scared all along, too. Questioning his worth. Wondering why I loved him so much--what I saw in him that he couldn't see in himself.
But he'd still asked me.
I can give you the next sixty years. Can you give me the next four thousand?
I looked again at the ring. Picked it up with trembling fingers.
It had been close to ten minutes and I hadn't answered his text, I realized. He must be tied in knots.
I looked at the glowing words on my screen.
What can I say to reassure you?
Nothing, I sent back. I'm okay now.
Then I set the phone down and held the ring up between the thumb and forefinger of my right hand.
The door swung open and Loki was standing there in his green shirt and lab coat, tensed as though for battle.
I blinked. “What are you doing here?”
He looked at my face, and then at the ring in my hand. “I live here,” he said, with a ghost of his usual sarcasm.
“But I thought you were--”
“Banner sent me off. I was too busy texting you to get any work done.” He looked at my face again, hand falling away from the door. “What, exactly, did you mean by ‘I'm okay now’?”
“Uh…” I watched him cross the room to the bed. “I thought it was pretty self-explanatory.”
His face creased with irritation. “Humor me.”
God, I loved him so much. And man, he really did look good in a lab coat. He'd put his hair back again. I looked down at his legs in those snug black jeans.
“Hey,” he snapped his fingers. “Up here. Focus.”
I smiled into his face and some of the tension left him.
“I meant I'm okay like I don't need to be reassured,” I said dutifully.
Apparently, that wasn't quite clear enough. He frowned at me, eyes narrowed, mind shut tight, emotions in a tangle--fear and hope and irritation.
He looked pointedly at the ring again, still held up in my right hand.
“I was going to put it on,” I clarified.
That did it. He released a slow breath and tension seemed to flow out of every muscle.
“You scared me,” he grumbled.
“Sorry. I didn't mean to.” And then, looking at his jeans again, I added, “You are super-duper pretty, did I ever tell you that?”
His expression darkened into one of his, I'm about to do dirty things to you looks. A year or two ago he would have disparaged my ‘ridiculous human colloquialisms,’ but this time he didn't even smirk. He simply murmured, “You could stand to say it more often.”
“You are so pretty it hurts to look at you,” I said, drinking the rush of his gratification and the swell of love that poured off him.
“Put it on,” he said softly.
I held the ring out to him. “In my culture, the husband does that part.”
His eyes glittered. I'd used the word husband very pointedly, and he understood exactly why. He took the ring, and then my left hand when I extended it to him.
“Four thousand years,” I said, looking up at him.
His gaze became hooded. “Four thousand years.”
And then he slipped the ring onto my finger.
Green light burst from the little metal band and shot across my body in a blinding flash. An instant later it was gone.
I looked down at my body. “Is that it?”
“That's it,” he said.
I took my hand back and looked at the two snakes intertwined on my finger. “I don't feel any different.”
We shared a long, measured, meaningful look. Loki’s green eyes cataloged my face. It felt good to just look at him.
Abruptly, I realized something. “I need to get you a ring.”
He smiled. “If you like.”
“Are we going to have a wedding?”
“It won't be legal though.”
“It will according to Asgard,” he said impassively.
“Mm. Good enough for me. Can we consummate now?”
His laugh made me tingle all over with pleasure.
“Absolutely,” he replied, crawling onto the bed and over me so that I had no choice but to lie back or be knocked over.
“Will you leave the lab coat on?” I asked as he bent to kiss me.
“Mmm. Whatever you like.”
I let him kiss me once, taking his tongue and sucking it gently.
When he pulled back I said, “How about the lab coat and nothing else?”
Loki burst into laughter--totally unrestrained this time--and I pulled him back down with arms and legs until I could feel his chest and belly shaking against me.
“How about the lab coat and nothing else at all?” I suggested, bobbing my eyebrows.
His mouth flexed with lingering amusement, eyes glittering. He understood immediately what I meant and I was deeply pleased to find that he felt no resistance to the suggestion whatsoever.
“You'll have to let go if you want me to undress,” he said.
“Mmm…” I let go and sat up to watch as he began to strip, lying the lab coat beside me on the bed and casting the rest of his clothes on the floor.
When he was naked, I handed him the lab coat and he smirked. “You're serious about this.”
Sighing, he put the crisp white garment back on. His cock stood out stiffy between the open edges.
“Now the rest,” I said impatiently.
He pursed his lips a little, but his pale skin flushed blue from head to toe, eyes going crimson, graceful lines rising along every inch of exposed skin.
Now it was my turn to sigh. It had taken more than year of coaxing and bargaining to get him to this point. He wouldn't let me see him like this every day, but he seemed to accept that I liked it.
“Come here,” I murmured, scooting to the edge of the mattress and holding out my arms to him.
He came and stood between my knees, face serious, red eyes warm and hungry.
“Make love to me,” I whispered, touching his chest, his belly. Bending to kiss the tip of his cock. “I want you so much.”
With one hand on my shoulder, he tipped me back onto the mattress, and then he just stood over me for a few seconds, looking.
He leaned down and pulled my skirt up, gaze heating when he found I still wore no panties.
I lifted my legs around his hips to pull him closer and he chuckled, teeth very white against those azure lips.
"Inside, Loki," I murmured. "Quick."
"Not quick," he admonished in a low voice, settling over me on extended arms. "Nice and slow." He shifted against me and pushed inside.
I gasped, moaned softly.
"See?" He murmured, red gaze hooded with pleasure. "You're bruised from earlier."
I shook my head. "Feels good. Ride me hard."
"No." Loki withdrew for a slow, gentle thrust. "Like this." He pushed deep, paused to peel my dress off over my head and then pulled my bra down around my waist.
Then he bent to suck my breasts, holding them with both hands, thrusting slow, so slow. I dug my bare heels into his lower back and pushed up against him.
He retaliated by pulling out, pinning my legs together between his own and thrusting inside again with all his weight pressing my hips down. The position made me feel deliciously helpless. Even more so when he took hold of my arms and held them above my head.
We both looked between his body and mine, watching him fuck me. The sight of his long, azure cock moving between my legs made me crazy. I begged him to do it harder and he ignored me, pumping in that same languid, dominating rhythm until I started writhing and bucking beneath him.
"Hush," he murmured. "You like it slow. You come so hard when I draw it out like this."
It was true, of course, but the pleasure built so high before he finished it that I lost myself entirely. Twisted and fought, trying to wiggle my legs free so I could have some control again. Wanting to wrap my legs around him and move myself on that hot, rigid column.
It didn't work, of course. Loki just kept pumping away, making low sounds of pleasure as I struggled, holding my arms with one hand so he could touch my breasts with the other.
Towards the end, my begging must have moved him because he murmured, "Let me make you come like this and you can ride me afterward. I'll lay nice and still for you, I promise."
"My way?" I gasped, aching, burning all over with unresolved pleasure.
His cock dipped deep inside me, jerked a little, withdrew. He was getting close.
"You way," he agreed darkly.
"Can I...use the cuffs?" I panted, struggling to hold myself still.
His thrusts came a little harder, a little faster. I heard myself start to keen as the orgasm gathered.
"Yes," he breathed. "Whatever you want."
"Loki," I whimpered. "Oh God, oh God!" The pleasure pulsed and rose--and rose, and rose--until I thought I would die.
"Ready?" he asked in a low, melting voice, strained now with his own impending orgasm.
"Yes! Please, oh God, please, make me come!"
He growled with satisfaction and sped his thrusts just a little--just enough to tip me over the edge into a slow, agonizing climax, pleasure rolling up my body in scalding waves.
I screamed raggedly, bucked and bucked, desperate for the extra stimulation. Loki's hand slipped between us. His thumb found my clit and made me whimper-- stroked me once, twice--ratcheted the pleasure up from that slow, rolling burn to a bright explosion.
He rode me hard enough then--but for just a few seconds as he came--that I did feel the bruising, deep inside where he touched my cervix.
A moment later he was lying on top of me in a panting, sweating heap, both of us shuddering and twitching.
"Mmmph," I grunted. "Loki..."
He rolled dutifully to one side, and then onto his back.
Still breathless, limbs watery, I crawled on top and collapsed, cheek on his heaving blue chest.
"I hate it when you do that," I mumbled.
His chuckle was so deep I actually felt it more than heard it.
"You do not," he countered.
'It's like pleasure torture," I said grumpily. "It feels good, but so good I want it to stop."
His hand found my back, slid down to cup my behind. "You should see how you look, though. And your pussy is like a vice when you come that way."
"You really enjoy it that much?"
"I wouldn't agree to let you cuff me if I didn't," he answered wryly.
I sat up, straddling his hips.
Crimson eyes rolled lazily toward me. "Already?"
"You know how this goes," I said, reaching back to unhook my bra and then tossing it away. "You're the one who wound me up."
My inside were still hot from it. Nerve endings buzzing with unrelieved arousal.
Loki conjured the special cuffs he'd made for me--well, for him. They looked like regular handcuffs, but he's used seidr to make them unbreakable, somehow. Loki couldn't be trusted to play helpless if I bound him. He'd broken two pairs of cuffs and several lengths of silk bondage rope since the first time we'd tried it.
"Against the headboard," I ordered softly.
He looked up at me, radiating sexual aggression, dominance. Letting me bind him made him crazy.
But he sat up and scooted back towards the head of the bed with me in his lap, holding onto his shoulders to keep my balance.
He stuck his wrists out dutifully and let me cuff him to the heavy slatted frame. I'd made him spell the headboard, too. He'd broken and repaired this one twice already.
Once I had him cuffed I wasted no time pushing him back so he was half reclined on the pillows with his arms raised above his head. Then I climbed aboard, and even though he wasn't completely hard again yet, I worked his length up inside me, watching his face flicker with lust.
I started riding him immediately--hard and fast. I loved having the freedom to take my pleasure like this. I could bring myself to orgasm two or three times before he climaxed--more if I concentrated on staving him off.
"How many times today?" he asked darkly, watching my breasts as I worked myself on him.
God, he was certainly hard now.
I didn't answer him--I was already close. I put my fingers between my legs and his gaze snapped to my hand. A few seconds later I came, gasping and bouncing in his lap.
"Bloody hell," he cursed softly. "That was fast."
"What's my record?" I panted.
"What?" Lust-glazed red eyes rose to my face.
"How many times before you come? What's my record?"
"Four, I think."
"Before I let you come?"
He nodded, gaze dropping to my sex as I started moving again. "I take it you're going for a new record today."
"We'll see," I breathed, touching his chest with both hands. Watching the muscles in his belly flex.
"I like I when you do the figure eights," he murmured, gate hot on my rolling hips.
"Mmm. You're so hard already." I shifted to get that thick column at just the right angle and Loki's eyes rolled back a little when I started bouncing again.
Oh God, that's it.
"You're getting tighter," he rasped, eyes nearly closed. "Coming again?"
I rode him harder for a few seconds, stiffened and cried out in answer.
"Bella, you'll kill me," he groaned.
I brought myself twice more. Made Loki suck my nipples while I took him. Turned around and rode him the other way, with my back to his chest.
He started thrusting somewhere around my third orgasm, but he held himself back from climax without my assistance, which I thought was very generous of him.
By the fourth time, he looked like a wild animal in bloodlust, crimson gaze slitted, watching me like he would eat me alive.
I rose from his lap and stood straddling his chest.
"Suck me," I said softly.
His expression went so dark it made me shiver. He leaned forward and brought me with his mouth, glaring up at me the whole time.
And when I slumped down across his thighs afterward he growled, "Let me go and I'll fuck you as hard as you ever dreamed I would."
I looked up at his face, and then at his cock. Both were flushed. The latter impossibly stiff. The look in his eyes was so intense--so predatory--that meeting his gaze made my stomach drop. I'd seen him like this before, of course. Right before he started breaking cuffs and headboards to get at me.
"I'll take care of you right now," I said. "Just stay still."
He growled, long and low and wordless. His arms tensed. He yanked on the cuffs and made the whole headboard tremble and creak.
"Loki, don't," I warned.
"Suck me," he demanded, deep and guttural. "Ride me, dammit. I'm going to split this bed in half if you don't make me come soon."
"Okay," I said soothingly, climbing into his lap again. "Like this?"
"Gods, yes," he groaned as I sank down on him. "Do the figure eights."
His eyes fluttered when I obeyed.
"Your breasts," he rasped. "Let me suck them."
I leaned forward obediently and lifted my chest to him, gasping when he bent to take one nipple in his mouth. He sucked so hard it made me whimper and dig my nails into his shoulders.
"Faster," he rasped, switching breasts.
I obeyed, riding him far more roughly that I needed to for my own pleasure, outrageously stimulated my the animal look of pleasure on his face. Touching the ridges on his cheeks while he sucked me and panted against my breasts.
Only Loki could somehow manage to be utterly dominating while chained helpless to the headboard. It might have been amusing, if it wasn't so damned arousing.
I came again just before he did, surprising us both, making him snarl and sink his teeth into my flesh, hips jumping under me, jolting me roughly.
"Don't stop," he growled fiercely. "Don't you dare stop!"
At last, he came, head thrown back, body rigid, blue skin sheened with sweat. He made a sound like nothing I'd ever heard before. Low and ragged, furious. The hairs stood up all over my body. His cock was so big inside me, hot and heavy, jerking wildly.
"Loki," I breathed, when he went limp, slumping back against the pillows, against the headboard.
I rested myself gently against his chest, heart still beating fast. A little frightened, if I was honest. I'd never seen him like that before--never heard him make such ferocious sounds.
It turned me on. But it also scared me. I was sort of worried that I had pushed him too far.
"Loki?" I murmured hesitantly, when his pulse had begun to slow, my cheek resting at the base of his throat.
"Bella," he answered limply.
I lifted my head. "Are you okay?"
Blue lips curved. He looked at me with slitted red eyes. "Fine," he murmured. "Uncuff me, please."
I reached up and set him free. He tumbled me down onto the pillows immediately and folded himself around me with a sigh.
"That was..." I trailed off, looking for an appropriate word.
"Fantastic?" he rumbled drowsily.
"That's one way of putting it."
He shifted against me, lifting his head a little. "You didn't like it?"
"I did. Of course I did. You just...scared me a little there at the end."
I felt his lips in my hair. "You have nothing to fear from me, ever. You know that."
He was right of course. I did know that.
The last of the tension bled away. Loki's breath became soft and even. I felt myself getting drowsy.
"You were magnificent," he murmured, surprising me.
I blinked. "Yeah?"
He was replaying it his mind, drifting towards sleep.
"The way you order me to do things," he mumbled. "So softly. But utterly commanding. Turns my cock to stone."
I smiled, flushing a little. It had taken a lot of effort to be so bold with him in the beginning. I still felt embarrassed sometimes afterward.
"And the way you ride me," he went on, words a little garbled with sleep. "Use me. Gods. Nearly came when you told me to suck you. Weren't even touching my cock."
"Loki..." I said softly.
He made a low humming sound of pleasure. "Love you, Bella. Ought to tell you every day."
I kissed his chest, and then his chin. His eyes were closed, black lashes showing thick against his blue cheeks.
"I love you, too," I said, kissing his mouth very lightly. "So, so much."