Tonight was the last night of Aelin’s life.
Perhaps that was a tad dramatic.
Tonight was the last night of Aelin’s life as a single woman.
It was a strange and unnerving thought. That by this time tomorrow she would be engaged to a man she had never met, and then, in a few months, would be married to him. Forever. For-godsdamned-ever. It took everything Aelin had in her to not make herself sick at the thought.
A month ago, arranged marriages were a thing of an archaic past, even for princesses such as herself. The rigid rules of ancient monarchies had faded away. Royals married as they pleased, people of whatever standing, should they wish. Though, most of the other royals Aelin had the pleasure of meeting in the past tended to marry well, simply because those were the people they were around the most. Politicians, socialites, other lords or ladies or counts. Old-fashioned titles that managed to wriggle their way into a modern world.
Aelin supposed it could be worse. She could put her foot down if she wished. Her uncle wouldn’t force her to marry if she truly couldn’t stomach it. He wasn’t cruel, he loved her immensely. It had been an idea he had brought up, a small plea to help their country.
Because Terrasen was broke.
It was almost laughable. Terrasen had been one of the strongest nations in the world for hundreds of years and then, within the last decade, a few bad decisions practically crippled them. It started with a sickness in their trees that nearly destroyed their timber industry, one of Terrasen’s main exports. They were a land of sprawling seas of towering pine trees, it had created a large industry and strong economy for years. Until now. They were slowly getting back on their feet but…
Businesses were closing, families were struggling, losing their homes, struggling to put food on the table...
They could use some help.
And so Aelin made the choice to get married to a prince from across the sea.
She knew nothing about him save for his name. He wasn’t a crown prince, but he was the nephew of the queen of Doranelle. He had significant funds, as did Doranelle’s queen, Maeve Adair. She had been eager to create ties with Terrasen for a long while, had been more than willing to offer up her nephew on a silver platter to do it. Aelin didn’t know how she convinced him of an arranged marriage. Maybe he craved the title that Aelin would bear one day. He wasn’t heir to anything. Being a king consort, having that much power, would be attractive to most.
But, perhaps Maeve hadn’t given him much of a choice.
It had all happened so quickly. The arrangements, the deal, and now, Aelin would meet her future husband tomorrow morning.
She hadn’t allowed herself to search for any information about him, not even a photo. She didn’t want to give herself any expectations, would rather just deal with everything as it came. All she hoped for was that he wasn’t terribly homely. If she was going to be stuck with him forever, at least she deserved some eye-candy.
But right now, Aelin didn’t want to think about anything. Wanted to forget herself, forget her responsibilities, forget that she would have to get married, for one more night.
Which was why she was at a club.
She knew that it was a risk to be here. Partially for her life, but mostly for her image. Her family’s PR team was top notch, and had carefully sculpted a precise image of her since her youth. Prim and proper, an elegant and articulate future queen. Always put together, always doing the right thing.
Too bad it was complete bullshit.
Not that Aelin wasn’t intelligent. She was an excellent speaker, a good politician as well. She loved Terrasen and would do anything for her country. But, she wasn’t perfect. She wasn’t an impeccable little princess. She cursed and drank, had a nasty temper. If more people got to know her, knew that she was currently tipsy and wearing a sinful dress as she danced to filthy music, Aelin knew she wouldn’t be loved by Terrasen’s people as much.
Not that anyone would ever know she was here.
Aelin looked nothing like she did in the photos released by the press. The photos that got published were always of her with her hair done neatly, wearing fine, elegant dresses. The most daring makeup she wore in those photos was a light pink lipstick.
And now Aelin looked like a different person.
Her hair was tousled and falling down her back, messy from running her hands through it. She wore dramatic eye makeup to ensure people wouldn’t recognize her, dark and smokey, nothing that anyone would ever picture her wearing. Her dress was short and skintight, barely covering her ass while showcasing her breasts.
Aelin had nice boobs, she knew. It was truly a shame she couldn’t show them off more often.
The club she was in was crowded and hazy, flashing lights briefly illuminating writhing bodies on the dance floor in glimpses of red and green and blue. It was extra insurance that no one would get a good enough look at her face to figure out who she was. Besides, most people were already a bit drunk and were probably more interested in looking at her chest or her ass than her eyes.
To be fair, Aelin was also a bit drunk. But she was also having the time of her life.
The pounding bass of the music seemed to fill her entire body, leaving little room for anything else, any other thoughts or feeling besides the music. Every atom in her body jumped with the beat, swayed with the pulsing crowd. It was pandemonium, and it was a sweet, sweet oblivion.
Aelin could have really made herself forget everything plaguing her. Within thirty minutes of being in the club, a sleazy man had held out a bag of white powder, invitation in his eye. She had considered it, far longer than she should have. Aelin wouldn’t let herself fall down that hole again.
Somewhere in the back of Aelin’s fuzzy mind she wondered if anyone had noticed she wasn’t in her room. Normally, no one bothered her this late, but her cousin had always had a habit of sticking his nose where it didn’t belong. Aelin loved Aedion, of course, but he was overprotective. Had always been. It could be suffocating at times.
The fact that Aelin was able to sneak out of the palace at all was a feat that almost no one could have accomplished. But, she had twenty three years of practice of evading guards and her overbearing cousin. She was very good at not being seen when she didn’t want to be. It helped that she knew the palace like the back of her hand, knew every single nook and cranny she could cram herself into to avoid being seen. It was a fine and delicate art, perfected in her years playing hide and seek within the halls.
There was a guy dancing against her, holding her hips tight. He didn’t have an ounce of rhythm in his body, and Aelin could practically count every bone he had as she bumped against him. No, he was not a preferred partner. Not when she only had one more night of freedom.
She was graceful as she slipped away from him, gone before he even had a chance to realize that she had been lost in the sea of bodies.
The rhythmic bass blasted through the air, rattling the walls and Aelin’s bones, but she welcomed the sensation. Within this sea of limbs, she was nobody. Just a body among hundreds of others. She savored the anonymity. Tonight, she was nothing more than a wraith, a shadow of a girl. She was no one and everyone.
Aelin’s eyes fluttered shut, tilting her head back and allowing the music to command her body. The swinging of her arms, the rolling of her hips. It was felt as natural to her as breathing.
She lost track of time. She didn’t know how long she danced within the crowd, became one with the music and the movement.
Two broad hands reached out and rested comfortably on her hips, drawing her back gently into a hard, warm body. It was slow, giving her the chance to step away if she wished. But she didn’t. Aelin wouldn’t shun an opportunity to be touched tonight.
When the man noticed she didn’t pull away, he tugged her hips harder against his own.
Aelin leaned her head back, allowing it to rest on his shoulder as they moved. Oh, yes. She liked him. He moved perfectly against her, with her. Even without looking at him, Aelin could tell her was strong, could feel the strength in his chest against her back. And gods, did he smell good. Aelin normally wasn’t able to detect anything in clubs over the scent of beer and sweat, but his pine and snow scent was intoxicating, more so than the actual alcohol she had knocked back that night.
Aelin bit her bottom lip, pressing herself harder against him. She felt his fingers curl tighter into her hips. His breath was hot against the side of her neck. Aelin found herself longing for him to press his mouth against it.
Her eyes cracked open, at first looking down at the hands that held her. Her gaze inched up his strong forearms, saw the swirls of a tattoo on his left arm. She tilted her face up, trying to catch a glimpse of the man who was making her skin burn deliciously.
He was handsome. Breathtakingly so. Strong, elegant lines of his face and jaw, short silver hair and his eyes… it took Aelin a few moments to figure out their color in the flashing lights before deciding they were green. Pine Green, heavily hooded, and looking at her.
She wasn’t stupid. Aelin knew what that gleam in a man’s eyes meant, with the way his body rolled against hers. But it didn’t bother her. Because she wanted the same thing.
Aelin’s arms rose up, hands resting on the back of his head, fingers threading into his silky hair, back arching slightly. She wanted to hum her pleasure, but refused to give him the satisfaction. Not so easily at least.
The longer they moved against one another, the more bold the man became. His hands started to move away from her hips, skimming up to the dip of her waist, over the tops of her thighs. She felt rough fingertips playing with the short hem of her dress before darting back up. Her blood was burning, heat building up in her core. She was getting close to breaking. Especially with the way the nose was skimming up and down the length of her neck.
Aelin felt his palms pressed against her ribs, higher, until his hands hit the sensitive undersides of her breasts. Her lips parted and she finally released a tiny groan. The man behind her tightened at the sound.
She looked back up at the stranger. His eyes were dark and intent, pinned on her with a familiar hunger. Aelin turned in his arms, pressing her front against his, before her fingers tangled in his hair and pulled his mouth down to meet his.
The kiss was near violent. Hard and desperate, all teeth and tongue. There was no room for gentleness, not tonight.
Aelin moaned into his mouth as his tongue brushed against hers, biting down on his bottom lip. In retaliation, his hand bunched in her hair and tugged. Not hard enough to hurt, but hard enough to send a thrill racing through her body. She grinded her hips against his while his fingers skimmed over her ass.
She was almost desperate enough to tug him into the bathroom and do it right then and there. But this was Aelin’s last night of freedom. She intended to make it last as long as possible.
“Do you want to get out of here?” Aelin rasped against his ear, her voice husky and almost unrecognizable even to her.
“Your place or mine?” he asked, fingers trailing over the dip of her spine. His voice was deep, laced with a slight accent. Aelin wanted to hear more of it.
“Yours,” There was no way in hell she would be able to sneak a one-night stand both in and out of the palace.
His fingers trailed down her arm until they slipped between hers. “Let’s go then,”
He began leading her through the crowd, big enough that people moved out of his way easily. Aelin let her eyes trail down his body, getting a good look at him. Broad, strong shoulders under a well-fit black shirt and jeans that did wonders for his ass. His tattoos went down his left arm, stopping at his wrist. A smart design choice, made them easier to hide if needed.
Stepping outside of the club was like stepping into another world. The air was cool and empty, the night serene and quiet. Aelin could still hear the music pumping dully from behind the closed doors.
There were cabs waiting along the street. They were quick to snatch one up. He even held the door open for her. A true gentleman.
The cab ride was tense, but thankfully short. The man was staying at a swanky hotel just a few blocks down. Aelin had been there a few times herself. Her family would host events in their ballroom from time to time.
Aelin felt terrible for the poor cab driver. She and the man didn’t say anything to one another, but his hand was resting high on her thigh, thumb skimming over the inside of her leg. He was clearly undressing her with his eyes, and Aelin wasn’t much better. She could only assume that the driver was thanking the gods when they finally pulled up to the hotel.
They walked through the gilded lobby as casually as they could, but Aelin was sure anyone who saw them had some inkling about what they were going to do.
The man hit the elevator button a bit harder than necessary, but the doors slid open blessedly quickly. Even better, no one else joined them. The moment the doors snapped shut, he was back upon her, hands tangled in her hair, kissing her senseless.
“What’s your name?” he panted against her mouth.
Aelin met his eye. “I’ll be whoever you want me to be. For tonight,”
The implications of her words were clear. No names, no connections.
Those conditions seemed to work just fine for him. His mouth slanted over hers again, sealing the deal. One night of annonymous sex and then they would go their separate ways.
Aelin moaned as he grabbed her breast over the thin fabric of her dress. She sincerely hoped no one was paying attention to the security cameras. Or else they’d be in for quite the show. Before she could ponder the possibility any further, the elevator signaled they had reached their destination.
They rushed from the elevator, the man leading her down the hall until he reached his room. He didn’t waste time before taking out his key, unlocking the door, and pulling her inside after him.
The room was dark. Aelin couldn’t make anything out, not that she would have had the opportunity to anyway with how quickly he had her pinned against the door. She let out a tiny gasp as he swooped down, cupping the back of her knees. Aelin wrapped her legs around his waist as his mouth moved to her throat. She was barely aware of her skirt hiking up, becoming little more than a shirt.
“We can stop whenever you want,” he said. “Just say the word,”
But Aelin didn’t want to stop. Not as his tongue darted out as his mouth skimmed up and down her neck.
“Don’t hold back,” Aelin said breathily.
He pulled back far enough to look at her. The gleam in his eyes would have made her knees weak if she were standing. And then, his mouth was back on hers, hard and demanding.
His hands were relentless, pushing whatever remained of her skirt up until it bunched at her waist. His fingers brushed over her lacy undergarments, making her jerk beneath his touch. Aelin could practically feel him smirking against her mouth as he continued to tease her, making her gasp. He took his time as he slowly pushed the lace to the side, finally trailing a finger down her center. She let out an almost embarrassing moan at the sensation.
“Excited, aren’t you?” he teased, no doubt reveling in the evidence of her desire he felt between her legs, knowing that it was from him.
His chuckle quickly turned into a hiss as Aelin reached down and cupped the generous bulge at the front of his jeans.
“Goes both ways,” she said, raising a brow.
Wicked woman, his eyes seemed to say. He kissed her again as his finger finally sunk into her, drawing another obscene sound from her lips. Aelin couldn’t stop her hips from thrusting towards him, wanting more.
He obliged, slipping in another finger.
He was unfairly good at this, working her up faster than any man had ever done before. She was just about to let herself fall over the edge when he stopped suddenly.
Aelin opened her mouth to protest, but he lowered her to the ground. She didn’t stop him as he grabbed the hem of her dress and pulled it over her head, leaving her in nothing but the scrap of silk slung around her hips. His eyes greedily drank in every inch of bare skin, something nearly predatory within their depths.
Aelin grabbed at his shirt, helping him shrug out of it, leaving his chest bare for her to freely ogle. He looked just as strong as he had felt, muscle cording over his chest and abdomen. She reached out and ran her hands over his hot skin before grabbing onto his shoulders and pushing him back towards the bed.
He looked amused as she took charge. Aelin knew she would wipe that smirk off his face soon enough.
The back of his knees hit the bed and he sat. Aelin climbed up and straddled his lap, pushing on his shoulder again to get him to lean back fully on the white comforter. He reached out and ran his hands over her bare breasts, but she had other plans for him.
Aelin slowly and deliberately loosened his belt, deft fingers working the buttons and zippers of his jeans. She worked them down his strong thighs along with his undergarments, leaving him bare for her. A small smirk curled on her lips as Aelin took his length into her hand. The man let out a filthy curse, head falling back into the bed as she pumped him.
She leaned forward, her body hovering over his, watching his face. She felt immense satisfaction knowing her touch could get him to react like this.
Aelin kissed his neck, the hollow of his throat. She could hear him panting, felt as he jutted up into her hand. Gods, did it make her feel powerful.
But his hand caught her wrist, stopping her before she could continue. Aelin’s hand unwrapped from around him as he sat up slowly before flipping them over, pinning her into the mattress beneath them. The man hooked his fingers around the lace at her hips before slowly sliding them down the length of her legs, discarding them somewhere on the floor.
He began to kiss down her body, over her breasts. Her breath hitched as he took a nipple into his mouth, tongue flicking over her expertly. Against her better wishes, Aelin was writhing beneath his massive body.
His mouth traveled lower and lower. She felt his hands wrap around her knees and part her thighs, baring her for him. A shiver raced down her spine as she felt his breath against the inside of her thighs.
When his mouth finally lowered to where Aelin so desperately wanted it, her world was suddenly on fire.
It seemed he was just as skilled with his mouth as he was with his hands. Her hips rutted up, wanting more, but his fingers curled into her hips, pinning her down and rendering her still, leaving her to his mercy.
Just for a moment, Aelin wished she knew his name, so she could moan it. With the way his mouth worked against her, he deserved it.
But every thought flew from her head as he slipped his finger inside her again, moving in tandem to his lips and tongue. With the two sensations nearly overpowering her, the man worked Aelin to her high almost embarrassingly fast. And when he sucked down on that sensitive bundle on nerves at the apex of her thighs, she finally shattered, legs trembling from the force of her pleasure.
He didn’t remove his mouth nor his fingers until her high had passed and her body had gone limp.
Aelin was still trying to tame her breathing as she felt his body slide back up hers. Her eyes were only open slits, but enough to see his face, his pupils blown wide with lust. His hands brushed her messy hair from her sweaty face.
“What do you want me to do?” he breathed, fingers trailing down past her chin before wrapping around her throat and squeezing gently.
A tiny sound of pleasure escaped Aelin’s lips at the sensation. She saw his lips curl up slightly, squeezing harder at her reaction.
“Just fuck me already,” Aelin gasped out, impatient and ready to feel his body pressed against hers.
Through the desire in his eyes, Aelin could have sworn she saw a glimmer of playfulness. Since you asked so nicely, he seemed to say.
He kissed her, deep and hungrily, broad hands drifting down the flesh of her thighs, hiking them up his hips. Aelin could him hard, pressed against her. She grinded her hips up, desperate for any kind of friction. But, he didn’t waste time with teasing her any longer. She felt him line up with her entrance, waiting a heartbeat before pushing in.
Aelin released a low, throaty moan as he continued to push in deeper and deeper until he had sunk in to the hilt. Her eyes fluttered shut, leaning her head back and exposing her throat. He took advantage of that tiny movement, hand wrapping around her neck once more as he pulled out inch by inch before rolling his hips back into hers.
He started off slowly while they grew used to the feeling of one another. But it didn’t take long before Aelin desired more.
“Harder,” she demanded, dragging her fingers down the length of his back.
He complied, snapped his hips against hers with enough force to jolt her entire body. He continued like this, fucking her harder, faster.
Part of Aelin wondered what had driven him to find a warm body this night. He clearly wasn’t from Orynth if he was staying in a hotel, but she doubted he was here on vacation. The way he held her, the ferocity in which he moved in her, made it clear he had stress of some kind to burn. Perhaps a business trip that wasn’t going according to plan.
If things had been different, maybe she would have asked him about it.
But the less she knew of this silver-haired man the better.
His teeth scraped and nibbled at the skin at her neck. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Aelin knew he was leaving marks she would have to cover the next day. It would be rather embarrassing if she met her future husband while having another man’s love bites all down her throat.
Aelin’s legs tightened around his hips as his thrusts grew sloppier. She could feel that tension building up deep inside her, threatening to snap at any moment.
Her moans rose over the sounds of their heaving breaths and skin against skin. She could hear him groaning in her ear, panting into her neck. His hand traveled over her breast, skimming over the planes of her stomach, before coming where they were joined. The pads of his fingertips rubbed over that most sensitive spot and with that, Aelin came undone with a loud cry.
Her nails no doubt broke the skin on his shoulders as she clenched around him, not that it seemed to deter him. He pumped in and out of her a few more times before, with one mighty thrust, he spilled himself inside of her.
They didn’t move for a few moments, both trying their damndest to catch their breaths. Aelin’s heart was pounding so hard she wondered if it would burst from her ribs.
Her eyes slowly peeled open, looking at the man who still hovered above her. Clumps of his silver hair stuck to his sweat-dotted forehead, muscles loose and relaxed beneath her hands. He really was handsome, especially in the afterglow of pleasure.
It was truly a shame Aelin would be engaged tomorrow. Perhaps she would have left him her number.