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Her veins were still bubbling from the high of using her power, she felt like the entire world could fit into the palm of her hands, and with the Darkling by her side that idea didn't sound so absurd. 


His hand was still holding hers, pulling her through the crowd of noblemen and women filling every empty corner of the ballroom with their loud, noisy presence. The Darkling cast a shadow over them, hiding their bodies from plain sight as they slipped away unnoticed. 


She didn't even notice he was pulling her into an empty dark room until the door closed behind her and she was being pushed against the hard wood, the breath being knocked from her lungs at the force applied over her body. She had no time to register they were in the Queen's sitting room, where Alina had once been brought to meet her, because soon the Darkling's lips were over hers and all thoughts fled her mind then. 


Their connection opened wide, a clear stream on a sunny day, fresh and flowing. She could feel how much he wanted her, how much his fervent kisses were not even a fraction of the things he wished to do. His hands hovered over her collarbone, dangerously close to her breasts. 


Alina didn't have much experience with kisses, but the ones she'd received in drunken encounters were full of awkwardness or too much saliva. It was nothing like the kiss she shared with the Darkling. The man knew what he was doing, his lips were sure and firm against her own, tongue hard and pliable when it needed to be. 


He tasted like champagne, and something entirely him. 


His hands finally closed around her breasts, kneading her flesh over the fabric of her black silk kefta . She sighed into his kiss, leaning her body into his exploratory touch. 


She knew there wasn't much of her to grab, but in his arms she felt beautiful as she had always seen the Grisha women that crossed her path. In that moment she felt desirable, and nothing could stop her from pulling him even closer. 


But there was something underlying his kiss—a darkness not even she could fully grasp. She poked at it, curious. It felt like anger, so much anger it made her dizzy.


Alina drew back, startled. “You don’t want to be doing this.” 


“This is the only thing I want to be doing,” he growled, and she could hear the bitterness and desire all tangled up in his voice. 


His hands tightened on her waist, pulling her impossibly closer. 


“And you hate that,” she said with a sudden flash of comprehension. 


He sighed and leaned against her, holding a lock of her hair between two fingers. “Maybe I do,” he murmured, his lips grazing a path from her ear, to her throat to her collarbone.


Alina shivered, letting her head fall back, but she had to ask. “Why?”


“Why?” He repeated, lips still brushing over her skin, fingers sliding over the ribbons at her neckline. “Alina, do you know what Ivan told me before we took the stage? Tonight, we received word that my men have spotted Morozova’s herd. The key to the Shadow Fold is finally within our grasp, and right now, I should be in the war room, hearing their report. I should be planning our trip north. But I’m not, am I?” 


Her mind had shut down, given itself over to the pleasure coursing through her and the anticipation of where his next kiss would land. “Am I?” he repeated as he nipped at her neck. She gasped and shook her head, unable to think clearly. He pushed a knee between her legs, opening her to him in a way she'd never been with a man before. “The problem with wanting,” he whispered, mouth trailing along her jaw until it hovered over her lips, “is that it makes us weak.” And then, at last, when she thought she couldn’t bear it any longer, he brought his mouth down on hers. 


His kiss was harder this time, laced with the anger she could feel lingering inside him. Alina didn’t care. She didn’t care that he’d ignored her or that he confused her or about any of Genya’s vague warnings. He’d found the stag. He’d been right about her. He’d been right about everything. 


His hand slid down to her hip. She felt a little trill of panic as her skirt slid higher and his fingers closed on her bare thigh, but instead of pulling away, she pushed even closer to him. 


She doesn’t know what might have happened next—at that moment they heard a loud clamor of voices from the hallway. A group of very noisy, very drunk people were careening down the corridor, and someone bumped heavily into the door, rattling the handle. They froze. The Darkling shoved his shoulder against the door so that it wouldn’t open, and the group moved on, shouting and laughing. 


In the silence that followed, they stared at each other. Then he sighed and dropped his hand, letting the silk of her skirts fall back into place. Color bloomed in her cheeks, she felt utterly debauched.  


“I should go,” he murmured. “Ivan and the others are waiting for me.” 


Ana Kuya's warnings about peasant girls being irresponsible entered her mind, and she realized with some degree of horror that she'd been nearly bare from the waist down to him. 


This complete stranger whose touch pulled unforeseen reactions from her body and the power lying underneath her skin. 


Her legs were weak under her, she felt like her weight would drop to the floor if he pulled away. So she didn't let him, when he moved to take a step back she grabbed his hand and brought it to her breast once more. 


Silver moonlight bathed one side of his face while the other was left in shadows, but what she could see from his eyes told her that he was more than just a little affected by her bold move. 


"Touch me," she whispered, to make sure he would have no choice but to obey her. 


The Darkling breathed in her scent, burying his face on her neck. "You have no idea how much I want ." 


Her lips opened in a soft "o" and he took that opportunity to trace the soft lines of her mouth with his index finger. She could feel murmurs of his want through their connection, only active when his skin touched hers. 


His knee found its way between her legs once more, and she gladly sat herself down on his thigh, wondering if he could feel the heat of her against his skin even through layers of fabric. The Darkling brought his other hand to her chest, pawing her through the soft silk of her kefta


" Off ," he said in a harsh whisper, pulling at the lapels of her clothing. Alina's fingers were trembling when she reached for the first clasp, fumbling with it until his hand slapped hers away and undid her clasps with practiced ease. 


She wore a wool shift underneath to keep her warm in the cold weather, it wasn't a boring old thing like the ones she'd worn before coming to the Little Palace. The Darkling's eyes zeroed in on the frills and ribbons lining the square cut cleavage, the mounds of her breasts firmly held by stays. 


His hand ran over her many layers, holding her waist some distance apart so his eyes could feast on the sight of her undressed appearance. The moonlight, thankfully, hid her furious blush. 


"I want you bare, Alina." 


Air got stuck on her throat, words lost in some corner of her mind, drowned in lust and desire. 


She didn't even think about it, her hands started to work on the lacing of her stays and then the Darkling's hands were right there, helping her pull the wretched thing off. Her shift was next, discarded somewhere in the dark floor, a lonely white form in the dimly lit room. 


He kissed her neck, warm breath hot on her skin, and his hands explored the flesh now bare to him. She'd never felt more alive than in that moment, with need pooling between her legs and the familiar thrum of her power following the Darkling's touch wherever his fingers lay on her body. 


The connection between them was a brilliant, gleaming bridge. She could meet him in the middle, but she had a feeling he would pull her all the way to his side and consume her whole—strangely enough, she wasn't opposed to that idea. 


When their lips met again, the kiss was much softer than it had any right being. The Darkling's touch became delicately exploratory, and his eyes shone with awe and delight whenever he caught the goosebumps raising the hairs on her arms. He was toying with her, and he relished every second of it. 


Feeling brave, she pressed her body against his and felt the evidence that his want matched hers hidden inside his pants. She might never have been with a man, but she'd been in the army for some time before joining the Grisha ranks. Alina knew what an erection meant and the remedy for such an affliction, had heard fellow officers rubbing themselves in the dead of night when they thought everyone else was sleeping. 


She touched him there, her small hand closing over a hard outline. His breath blew over her face, hands going to hers to help guide her movements. But if he wanted her bare, so did she. 


"Pull it out," she said, knowing if Ana Kuya could see her now she would be horrified at the wanton way Alina was behaving. 


But there was no propriety now, only a desire so grand she felt would consume her entirely and leave only a crisp behind. The Darkling's eyes darkened at her words, he smirked minutely before reaching for the clasp of his pants and revealing what was between his legs. 


Alina couldn't see much, but the mass and weight of his cock on her hand was enough to give her some idea of what to expect if they went beyond heavy petting. From the way he latched onto one of her breasts as if he was a hungry babe, she imagined they were well on their way to more


Her head hit the hard wood behind her, fingers lacing and threading into his dark, silky hair as he lapped up her breasts and left indecent bites all over her flesh. She wondered if he would leave marks, if she would need to ask Genya to hide the evidence of his desire with her Tailoring. 


His hands wrapped around her thighs, pulling them apart, as he pressed kisses down her stomach and landed on the mound above her most private place. She'd been rid of all hairs upon arriving at the Little Palace, right now she was grateful for the painful experience because the feeling of the Darkling's mouth on her smooth skin was good enough to have her rolling her eyes to the back of her head. 


One curious finger prodded her entrance, collecting some of the liquid lust oozing out of her. He hummed his approval, still kissing his way down to the tiny button of pleasure between her legs. She had never been touched much less kissed there, the sight of this powerful man on his knees claiming what no one else had ever claimed sent a thrill through her body. An answering ring of excitement echoed through their connection, the simmering anger in him turned to burgeoning pride as he realized he was the first to explore her body in this way. 


She didn't have time to take him down a notch, because his lips closed around her button of joy and sucked . Her answering yelp was a mix of surprise, pleasure and embarrassment, she held onto his shoulders firmly so she wouldn't tip over and fall. He made quick, flickering movements with his tongue and a moan escaped her mouth, leaving her horrified by the answers this man could pull from her throat. 


His fingers caressed the lips covering her hole, pushing ever so slightly in and out making her go delirious with need. Suddenly the perception of being empty was very clear in her mind, she imagined him filling her up to the brim and couldn't hold back from moaning. 


She wished she had a name to call out.


"W-what should I call you?" 


He looked up, mouth covered in her. Awkwardness filled her body, she was suddenly very aware of their age difference and that she was a bumbling virgin when he'd probably bedded countless women. Would she even be a good partner? Would he return to the silent treatment after tonight? 


"I have many names, Alina," he said, becoming serious. "But you can call me Aleksander when we're alone." 


She couldn't help the trilling laughter that left her mouth. He pressed his cheek against one creamy thigh, dark eyes focused on her face. 


"What's so funny?" He asked, one eyebrow raised. 


"It's such a common name." Alina shrugged, brushing some of his hair from his face. "I like it." 


"So let me hear you calling it out," he said, then closed his mouth over her sex. 


She gripped his head, not proud of the way her hips started to involuntarily thrust into the tongue working so cleverly to pleasure her. His hands dug into the flesh of her behind, pulling her impossibly closer to his mouth as if he planned to consume her whole. 


Waves of pleasure ricocheted against the walls of her lower abdomen, licking fiery tendrils up her stomach and burning the blood inside her veins. She rode his face until all that pleasure stretched far and tight like a rope, then screamed out his name when it all came crashing down. 


Alina's limbs weakened and her knees gave out, but the Darkling was there to hold her up. Before she had time to register what was happening, he had her front pressed against the door and her ass bare to his eyes. She felt his hands kneading her soft skin, pulling her cheeks apart before she felt a distinct shape rub between her asscheeks. 


"Tell me I'm your first, Alina."


She shivered, fingers grasping the wooden door for some balance. "You know you are." 


He tutted, pulling her closer to him and trailing a wet, open mouthed kiss down her neck. "I want to hear it from your lips." 


His hands closed around her breasts, fingers playing with her nipples. "Y-you are my first." His fingers twisted her nipples, pain and pleasure mixing together. " Aleksander ." 


She could feel his smirk as he slapped her ass, pulling her hips against his and rubbing his cock between her thighs. "Good." 


He pressed a hand on her back, making her spine arch and her ass stick up on the air even more. She held onto the door, feeling wholly boneless. The Darkling—no, Aleksander positioned his cock at her entrance and pushed, stretching her far wider than her own fingers ever could before. 


Alina's breath hitched, her body strung up in pain and pleasure, but she was so ready for his intrusion that he slid home easily and soon he was fucking her through the initial burn and pain of being with a man for the first time. 


His arm landed on the wood beside her head, she could see his hands gripping the intricate carvings as he drove into her with abandon. Her mind is filled with nothing but him, all around her, inside her, buzzing in her veins as their powers dance together through their connection. She felt like a missing part of her had finally been found, and she didn't think she could let go of it ever again. 


The entire front of her body was pressed against the door, the force of his thrusts made the wood groan and she could only hope no one was passing by or they would definitely know what was happening inside this dark room. She wanted to hold him, feel his lips on hers as he chased his own pleasure, but this position wasn't going to allow that type of intimacy. Alina wondered if he'd chosen to fuck her from behind for precisely that reason. 


This way she was just another woman who he found himself entangled with, just another warm hole to fill and find his release. No strings attached, no feelings aside from lust. She thought back to the anger she felt lurking inside him, how much of that he was lacing into every thrust? His fingers dug on the flesh of her hips, his pace was violent and unwavering, did he even notice he was being harsh? Was this how he always fucked? 


It didn't matter. If this was all she would get from the Darkling—from Aleksander, then she would gladly take it. His hands gripped her waist, holding her steady as he gave a few more thrusts and groaned in pleasure as he reached his own release. 


He rested his forehead on her shoulder, their breathing equally ragged and cut short. Alina's surprise reached new levels when he laced his fingers with hers against the wooden door, and pressed a kiss to her cheek. 


"I'm not going back to the party," he told her, pulling out of her. She could feel his spend drip down her thighs, making a mess. "But you should, at least for a little while." 


Alina turned in his arms, looking up to meet his eyes. "How can I go back to the party in this state?" 


He smirked, brushing some of her very disheveled hair from her face. "I'll send Genya to your rescue." 


"No," she hurried to say. "I don't want to go back." 


Aleksander frowned. "You must. They need to see you." 


"They saw me," she answered, watching with a heavy heart as he made himself presentable once more and picked up her discarded shift and stays from the floor. "They saw plenty of me." 


He shook his head, walking back toward her. "I promise it will only be a little, then you can excuse yourself and go back to your room." 


She lifted up her arms, accepting his help in dressing her. His deft fingers made quick work of the lacing, and he placed various little kisses against her collarbone as he worked on her stays. 


"You can wait for me in your room," he said, voice full of dark promises. That caught her attention, she met his dark eyes as he helped her back into her silk kefta


"You'll come?" She asked, feeling giddy at the prospect of being in his arms again, feeling him drive in and out of her, this time while laying on a bed. 


"I plan on it," he said with a smirk, and she blushed after realizing the double meaning of her words. Aleksander tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, pulling her face up to meet his in a kiss. "I'm not even close to being satiated. I've waited for you for a long time, Alina, it's only fair I thoroughly enjoy what you can give me freely." 


Her body naturally gravitated toward his, he finished up clasping her kefta and brought his hands to her waist, centering her. She kissed his jaw, his cheek, his lips...she would have kept going if he didn't stop her. 


"Later," he whispered. "Soon." 


She nodded, understanding what he meant. They would have time to enjoy more of each other, now duty called and they both needed to be somewhere else. 


"I'll leave the door unlocked," she told him, stealing one last kiss. 


He cupped her cheek, tilting her face up. "Go enchant them, solnishka ." 


Smiling, Alina slipped out of the dark room where her life had just changed forever and made her way back to the ballroom where she was instantly swarmed by noblemen and women eager to meet the Sun Summoner. 


But with every nod of her head and smile she gave to the people around her, she could remember his touch and his breathy moans against her ear. Her thighs were still a mess from the spend he'd left there dripping from her core, but she couldn't find the energy to care, all she could think about was going back to her room where she could wait for him, only so they could make another mess.