A Shade of Vampire 30: A Game of Risk (11 page)

Bastien

O
n reaching the Mortclaws’ mountain
, I did my best to avoid my parents. I needed to find Yuraya and then get out of here as soon as possible. I asked the first wolf I came across—whose name I had forgotten—if she knew where the woman was. She led me to Yuraya’s door, which was thankfully far from my parents’, and left me there. Clenching my fists and steeling my nerves, I knocked. Opening the door, Yuraya stood before me in her humanoid form.

“Bastien,” she murmured, her eyes widening with surprise, though it did not take long for her lips to curve in a wry smile. “Yes?” she asked, leaning against the doorpost and cocking her head to one side. “What brings you to see me?”

She hardly appeared concerned about the “misunderstanding” that had supposedly taken place between us earlier, as my mother had said she was. She appeared confident as ever.

“I have come to terms with my parents’ wishes,” I said in a low voice. “And I have asked that we be allowed three extra days before our marriage, in order for me to get to know you better.”

Her expression lit up with delight. “That is a wonderful idea… How do you propose we do that, exactly? Get to know each other better?”

“I would like to take you sailing,” I said. “Get away from this mountain and its claustrophobia. Have some time completely by ourselves.”

Again, she approved. “I would adore that, Bastien,” she said. She moved closer and threaded her fingers through the fur behind my right ear. I couldn’t flinch or step away this time. I had to play my part. “When would you like to leave?” she asked.

“Now, actually,” I said. “Just pack up a few things.” Not that she had much. I doubted they had had the time yet to create many new garments for themselves since escaping Murther Island. They were all still very much in the process of setting themselves up here in their lair. Yuraya was still wearing the same tattered dress she wore when I’d first laid eyes on her back on the charred island.

“All right,” she said, stepping back and opening the door wider for me. “Why don’t you step inside while I sort myself out?”

“It’s all right,” I said, not wanting to spend a second closer to her than I really had to. “I’ll wait out here for you.”

“As you wish.” She backed away from the door and disappeared into her room.

I gritted my teeth, glancing up and down the corridor as I waited. I just wanted this to be over with. I would have given anything in the world to travel forward in time to the moment when I could get Yuraya off my tail.

She did not keep me waiting long. She soon emerged, carrying an old sack over her shoulders, the base of which bulged with a few items.

“Well,” she said, shrugging and quirking her sharp black brows, “I’m ready if you are.”

It was clear that she had no plans of transforming into a wolf herself; she wanted to ride on my back. I allowed her to climb on my back before I zoomed toward the exit of the mountain.

“Aren’t you going to bring anything at all?” she wondered. There was an undercurrent of suggestiveness to her tone that I could not miss.

“I have already gathered my things,” I told her. “They are on the boat, which I also prepared for us in advance.”

I burst out of the mountain and began to pound through the woods faster and faster, even as Yuraya’s fists tightened around my fur at the back of my neck. I couldn’t help but be reminded of when Victoria had been in her position. When it had been her fingers twining through my mane, her long legs gripping my sides.

I realized that was how I was going to have to survive this time I was forced to spend with Yuraya. Although the only thing similar about the two of them were their dark features, when she touched me, I had to imagine Victoria.

Hopefully, I could keep Yuraya at bay long enough to allow any touching to be kept to a minimum.

I traveled fast, which made it a struggle for Yuraya to breathe, let alone talk, which was my intention. We traveled in silence until the port came into view and I was forced to slow down.

“Well,” I said, trying to inject at least a small fraction of enthusiasm into my deep voice—not very successfully. “Here we are.” I nodded toward the largest boat that I had chosen.

Yuraya gasped with pleasure. “Oh, my. It looks like the largest ship in the dock. That really is huge… You can navigate ships?”

No
, was the honest answer. At least, I had virtually no experience doing it. But desperate times called for desperate measures… and unexpected skills to suddenly manifest themselves. Navigating the ship was actually the least of my worries.

We boarded the vessel. I set Yuraya down on the deck before moving to the bow where I had left my bag containing spare clothes. I quickly transformed behind a mast and slipped into a pair of pants and a shirt before Yuraya could sneak up on me.

When I returned to her, she was gazing about the deck, her nose wrinkled in disgust.

“Augh. What
is
that smell?” she asked. “It’s coming from the lower decks.”

“Yes,” I said, forcing an apologetic expression to my face. “I am sorry about that. While this boat is certainly the largest and I would say also the most beautiful of all in this dock, there was a rather unpleasant mess in the bottom deck. Apparently, the last werewolves to navigate this ship had no semblance of even basic hygiene… So I mashed up a few plants to disguise it. Unfortunately, they don’t smell a lot better.”

Yuraya giggled, her grimace turning into a broad smile. Her eyes twinkled as she gazed up at me. “You’re funny, Bastien.”

I supposed that was the best response I could hope to receive from her. I had been fearful she might immediately rush down to the lower deck to check it out for herself; but if anything, it seemed she would avoid it at all costs now because of the smell. Exactly what I needed.

Taking her hand, I pulled her firmly with me to the bow of the ship, where I began to pretend to know what I was doing. Which was not an easy task. Even Yuraya ended up noticing my lack of experience as I struggled with even the most basic task of freeing us from the dock. She wasn’t any more knowledgeable than me, but we ended up figuring it out together. I heaved a sigh of relief as we began sailing over the waves, away from The Woodlands and into the deep waters.

Yuraya stood on her tiptoes, gripping the railing at the bow of the ship and staring straight ahead as the wind whipped through her hair.

I tried to busy myself with the workings of the vessel, but Yuraya was sharp. It didn’t take her long to realize that I was just delaying approaching her.

She glanced back at me and narrowed her eyes. “Come, Bastien,” she coaxed, holding out a hand to me. “Don’t be shy.”

I didn’t see any other option but to move toward her and take her outstretched hand. I stood next to her at the bow, even as she wound one arm around my waist.

It felt like every muscle in my body tensed as she reached up to kiss my cheek.

I tried to fix my eyes on the horizon, but I could feel her eyes raking over my face.

Her fingers stroked my jawline, then tangled in a lock of my hair. “You’re so handsome, Bastien,” she whispered. “I feel so lucky to have you.”

I realized that I was biting down so hard on the inside of my cheek that I was close to drawing blood. I tried to take a deep breath and loosen up a little. I faced her, and managed a smile, though I could not bring myself to return the compliment.

Yuraya was the type of girl who would be attractive to most men. Striking features, sensuous eyes, ample curves in all the right places. But I was not most men
,
just as Victoria was not most women. My soul had already twined with hers. There was no going back. As much as the thought was frightening, it had become all or nothing. I would go to my death pursuing her love, or live the rest of my life without anyone’s at all.

Yuraya blew out a sigh, apparently disappointed that I had said nothing to her in return. At least, she backed away from me for a while, and kept her long, thin fingers to herself.

Then she murmured, “You don’t wish for us to marry, really, do you?”

I was so tempted to just tell her the truth. That she was right. That the thought of marrying her made me sick to my stomach. But I couldn’t afford to go down that route now. Not after the trouble I had gone through to gain my mother’s trust. Besides, I wasn’t sure what was really going on in Yuraya’s mind. She could just be testing me perhaps. I also had to remind myself that she possessed the ability to travel back to Mortclaw mountain within an instant, whenever she pleased. It wasn’t like I had her trapped here with me… At least, not yet.

I still had to be careful what I said, weigh every word to make sure that I did not take a misstep. I could not afford to upset her, because if I did, she might leave in a huff and zoom back to our family—which would leave me with no excuse whatsoever for being away from The Woodlands for the three days I desperately needed.

As much as it killed me, I had to stop being so indifferent with Yuraya. Taking my first step closer to her, I positioned myself behind her until my chest pressed against her back. I allowed my hands to rest gently against her waist. She sighed softly, appreciating the gesture. She tilted her head backward and rested it against my shoulder.

“I know we are still like strangers, Bastien,” she whispered. “But we have a lifetime to change that. I can make you love me. I know I can.”

I swallowed as she twisted around to face me. She propped herself up on the railing so that her face could be more level with mine. Draping her hands around my shoulders, she planted a kiss on my cheek, too close to my mouth. Then her lips began moving closer until they claimed mine fully.

As much as I reminded myself that I had to go through with this, it didn’t stop the guilt from clawing at my chest. It felt like I was cheating on Victoria, even more so when Yuraya whispered in my ear, “Kiss me, Bastien. Kiss me like you want me.”

I moved my lips against hers. Her breath hitched, her bosom pressing against my chest.

Her grip was strong, far stronger than Victoria’s. It took an actual effort on my part to try to maintain even a semblance of distance between us but I could no longer do it without her noticing. I moved my hands down her thighs and lifted her off the railing before heading to the center of the ship while she continued tasting my lips.

“I want you to love me, Bastien,” she breathed. “And I want to love you.”

“I know,” I whispered to her, as I managed to surface for breath. “I know.”

I kept my eyes firmly closed—this was the only way I could maintain even a semblance of a fantasy that it was Victoria I was kissing, instead of this girl.

“If you know, then say it back,” she coaxed. “Say you want to love me, too.”

I conjured the vision of Victoria’s light blue eyes. “I want to love you.”

My words seemed to send Yuraya into a kind of frenzy. She began kissing me harder than ever, her tongue pushing past my lips and exploring my mouth.

Then her hands moved to my shirt and before I could even react, there came a loud ripping sound. She’d torn through it, ripping it right off.

I was forced to open my eyes now, gripping her hands as they lowered to my pants.

“Wait,” I managed, my eyes widening. “What are you doing? You know we cannot go so far until our wedding night."

“To hell with tradition!” she whispered. Her lips and cheeks were flushed red, her eyes glazed with desire. “Nobody’s around,” she said. “Didn’t you say that you wanted me to take me sailing on this ship for us to get to know each other better?”

I cursed to myself. I’d feared that she would twist my intentions in this way. I had just hoped that it would not happen quite so soon. The Woodlands were still in view, for heaven’s sake. We had hardly covered any distance at all yet.

“Yes,” I said, my mind working quickly. I had to think how to avoid offending her. She was dangerously temperamental—the type of girl who might storm off at even the slightest mistake on my part.

Her eyes were begging me as she clutched at my pants once again. I realized that there would be no getting out of this without upsetting her. She was burning for me, and she wouldn’t be satiated until she’d had me.

Which meant that I could no longer wait to get the ball rolling with my plan.

“All right,” I said softly. I moved my lips to her ear. “We won’t wait. We’ll make love here and now.”

She stopped struggling and melted beneath my touch as I scooped her up in my arms.

I carried her back toward the front of the ship and into the cabin that held the wheel and a long, wide, cushioned bench that was almost large enough to fit two people lying next to each other.

I lowered her, pressing my lips against hers firmly as I rested her head against the bench. Her fingers trailed down my chest, toward my navel again.

I clutched her hands once more.

“Just wait one moment,” I told her, “You know this is my first time. Just let me… clear my head.” I hardly needed to pretend I was nervous at this point. I was nervous as hell. Putting myself in the position I was about to put myself into, when I didn’t even know that I’d be successful in my plan, was nothing short of terrifying. She was a Mortclaw, a freak of nature altered by the black witches. Which meant she was stronger than me. She could overpower me if she wanted to. The only thing keeping her from it was my promise that I wanted her. That I would claim her, if she would just give me a few moments to prepare myself mentally… whatever the heck that even meant.

“Don’t be too long,” she said. “I’m dying for you.”

My throat parched as a desert, I nodded and backed out of the cabin. I closed the door gently behind me and then dashed to the stairs leading to the lower deck. I traveled down one level at a time, until I reached the room where I had left Cecil. To my relief, he remained hunched in one corner, wide-eyed and nervous.

I held a finger to my lips the second I entered, warning him not to say a word. Then I immediately set my focus on the mashed-up weeds. I only needed a small amount at first, just enough to buy me some time. I could always administer a top-up later.

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