Home > No Man Can Tame (The Dark-Elves of Nightbloom #1)(14)

No Man Can Tame (The Dark-Elves of Nightbloom #1)(14)
Author: Miranda Honfleur

Alessandra’s attire had been a statement, she’d said, and it had had an effect, based on the humans’ gasps in their shrine. Or perhaps arriving in full armor on horseback with all one’s weapons was not the marriage custom here.

But she hadn’t stopped. Her arm had remained wrapped around his, and she had proceeded down the aisle. Whatever statement she’d been making, it hadn’t been a refusal. Nothing good, but… not a refusal.

They hadn’t spoken the entire ride to the palace, and hardly at all during the feast. Instead, they had just danced, then eaten the humans’ food silently while the guests had drunk themselves into a stupor.

And then… this.

Riza had been right; even if both he and Alessandra had been unwilling, this ceremony had needed to happen. As right as she was, everything inside him right now didn’t care.

There would be a woman in the next room, his new bride, with whom he would have to consummate this marriage. His likely unwilling bride.

To do so would be—

Dishonorable. Unconscionable. Vile.

An answer. He needed to find an answer.

A door clicked shut in the other room. Alessandra.

He stared at his own door. How long had it been? He shouldn’t have left her to be the first one out. He should have awaited her.

First, they’d exchange gifts, and then—

He eyed the long, flat wooden box on the nearby table. There had been no way to know whether she was a skilled archer or not; if she was, she’d appreciate the Nozva Rozkvetan rosewood bow, and if she wasn’t, he’d teach her everything she needed to know. But would she like it?

With a deep breath, he rolled up his sleeves, tucked the box under one arm, then opened the door.

In the scant candlelight, she stood on the other side of the room, wearing a long, flowing red sheer nightgown that pooled on the floor, with a wrapped parcel in her delicate hands. She wore jewels on her fingers, wrist, ears, and around her neck in a ruby-encrusted golden necklace. Her hair was loose and voluminous, a warm brown like rain-dampened cypress bark, a shade lighter than her dark eyes. The nightgown hung by thin, delicate straps, leaving her long, elegant arms bare.

He suppressed a shiver. Every part of her looked so soft. There was no hardiness to her, just give… Give that would have never survived the difficult conditions in Nozva Rozkveta, nor any queendom in the Deep for that matter, if she were on her own.

But now she had him. Together, they’d survive anything.

She moved to the window, as far away from the hovering group of humans as possible, and he joined her. Nearly shoulder to shoulder, he looked out at the dark city with her, glittering with lights as far as the eye could see, beneath a starry sky.

What could he say to her?

Mati had ordered this. He trusted her completely, had pledged his allegiance to her. Whatever she ordered, he would do.

And Alessandra, she had orders from her father, too, didn’t she? Neither of them wanted this, but for the sake of the peace, they had to show a united front.

Just before the dance tonight, the way she’d gone rigid in her chair—something had angered her. Made her livid. She’d had that wild look about her, like a volodara about to go berserk, and he hadn’t been certain whether his touch would quell that wildness or unleash it.

One of the humans in the group cleared his throat impatiently.

“Alessandra,” he whispered, placing the box on the ample windowsill, and she peered down at it, eyebrows raised, then eyed him. “Accept this gift as a token of my commitment.”

With a soft smile, she grazed the length of the box with a fingertip before gently flicking open the brass closure. She lifted the lid, revealing the deep reddish-brown Nozva Rozkvetan rosewood short bow. Her eyes flashed bright as reverent fingertips smoothed over the wood. “It’s beautiful,” she breathed.

“Only the royalty and kuvari of Nozva Rozkveta are permitted bows of our rosewood. Its perfect balance of density and strength make it the most sought-after bow wood in the land.” Or at least it had been two thousand years ago. “Do you know how to use a bow?”

A light blush. “Papà forbade it. I’ve only attempted it once, and I can’t say I was very good.”

“If you wish to learn, I will teach you,” he said, brushing the rosewood. “I will always do my all for you, and that includes helping you hone skills to hunt for and defend yourself, should you ever need to.”

For a moment, she didn’t move, didn’t speak, just watched the bow with a dreamlike intensity, and then finally she nodded, breathing in lengthily as if awaking. “Thank you. I’d love to learn, Veron.”

It would be something they could do together while they got to know one another. Perhaps, in time, they’d be friends.

She extended her own wrapped parcel to him brightly. “This is for you.”

By its shape, it was clearly a book. About what? He accepted it and cut through the twine with a claw, eliciting a gasp. Her hand covered her wrist, but not before he glimpsed a hair-thin scratch. Fresh, recent—

No. Had he—?

He hadn’t meant to, but at the feast, or—

When I helped her out of the carriage.

“Alessandra, did I—”

“It’s fine.” She grinned, beamed. Forced it.

By Deep and Darkness, he’d hurt her. He hadn’t even known, and he’d caused her injury. “Forgive me, I—”

Only her eyes indicated the direction of the human officials, and she gave the slightest shake of her head.

So she didn’t want them to know about this. If the humans found out, they might call him—and all dark-elves—dangerous. Violent. Incompatible with human society.

All dark-elves had claws, their look and sharpness a point of strength. A clawless dark-elf would be like a toothless lion, weakened, devalued, seen as lesser—something any child of Mati’s could not do, so as not to reflect poorly on her or Nozva Rozkveta.

But Alessandra—

Smiling, she nodded toward the parcel. “I hope you like it, but if—”

He drew away the paper wrapping with a rustle, revealing a thick tome. A Modern History of Silen. Well, he could certainly stand to learn what had transpired in two thousand years of stone slumber.

On the title page, in elegant calligraphic script it said, To Veron: Silen would be honored to create history with Nightbloom as these final pages are filled with the peace we will forge together. Aless

These final pages? A thrill wove through him as he glanced up at her sparkling eyes and turned to the back of the tome. Of its thousand pages, perhaps two to three hundred were blank at the end.

He huffed his amusement softly. A thoughtful gift. She intended for him to write in their peoples’ shared history into this Sileni tome, a symbolic gesture. The last time he’d written in a book, it had been sketching with Ata, as he’d taught him about the sky realm and its exotic flora and fauna, before Ata had—

“It was newly transcribed,” she said, eagerly thumbing the gilded pages, “and the bookmaker left space to continue recording, just like in the copy my mother gave me.” Her eyes brightened. “Actually, the latest Magister Trials from a few weeks ago were just added, and only this edition—maybe only this first new transcription—has it. The Emaurrian candidate, in the second trial, she looked the Grand Divinus in the eye, and, well, you’ll see, but—”

He grinned at her over the tome, and she bit her lip. So books excited her. A lot. Something they could share. “Thank you. I look forward to filling up these remaining pages.”

As she reddened, another throat-clearing came from the councilors. They were beginning to grate on his nerves.

Alessandra glanced over her shoulder, then back at him. “It’s time,” she said quietly. Gravely. They left the bow and the book together on the windowsill.

Steeling himself, he offered her his hand, and with a swallow, she took it. He ignored the crowd as he escorted her to the curtained bed, pulled aside the ethereal fabric, and helped her up. She sat stiffly, her olive skin pebbled against a chill, and fidgeted with the sheer red fabric of her nightgown. He didn’t look at it too closely, didn’t dare, especially when she seemed so nervous.

But that wasn’t what tonight was about, for either of them. It was about trust. They had both been ordered into roles they’d never desired, and for the sake of the peace, for the sake of their peoples, they wouldn’t buck these roles, even if they were neither attracted to one another nor in love. So they had to build trust, a friendship, a partnership. If any of this was to succeed, those bonds would be crucial between them. And at least a foundation.

She would have every honor, and more. She would have everything she needed, everything she wanted, anything on this earth that he could provide.

There was a washbasin nearby, and he took it—and a towel—to the edge of the bed, placed it on the floor by her feet. She eyed the basin curiously, and another human in the group cleared his throat again.

Alessandra lowered her gaze.

By Deep and Darkness, not only were these humans to witness this “consummation” they demanded, but they intended to hurry it along, too? And to interfere? Such blatant disrespect, for him, and worse, for her. The night of the Offering, the acceptance, was private. A time when a couple calmed after feasting and games, comforted one another, affirmed their vows in private—and, if they so chose, made love. It was a sacred moment for two, and two only.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Beautifully Broken series
» Falling series
Most Popular
» No Man Can Tame (The Dark-Elves of Nightblo
» Text Me Baby One More Time (Text #4)
» Can't Text This (Text #3)
» I Wanna Text You Up (Text #2)
» Let's Get Textual (Text #1)
» Paint It All Red (Mindf*ck #5)
» All the Lies (Mindf*ck #4)
» Epoch (Transcend Duet #2)
» Transcend (Transcend Duet #1)
» Naked Love