The current swirled about him, curving around his waist and drawing my eye to the hard board of his abdomen. Scars crisscrossed roped muscle, pale against his tan skin. My gaze skipped like a stone across a pond, unsure which part of him to admire first. A dark trail led from his navel to the waterline, and my fingers itched to trace its path. His legs were the first bare thing I’d seen of him, and even they fascinated me. He said look upon him. I had. Now how did I stop?
My fingers curled. “Can I touch you?”
“I think that would be unwise.” His gaze cast upon the shore.
“Oh.” My hand dropped. I hadn’t realized I’d lifted it.
“Water is sacred to the Salticidae.” He touched my cheek. “I have a healthy respect for Old Father and his walking stick. Otherwise, I would have left you under Mana’s supervision.”
Better for us both that he hadn’t. “No touching then.”
“Not while your skin is bare and your eyes are willing.” His grin turned wry. “I placed more faith in myself than was wise. Resisting you clothed is difficult, while naked it’s nigh impossible.” His fingers sank in my hair. “I thought coming to the water would be safer for us.”
“You mean with your honor to hold you accountable and my fear to keep me honest?”
He chuckled. “Something like that.”
I touched his arm. “I respect their beliefs, but I know myself and own my desire.”
He cleared his throat. “I believe I said I owned my actions.”
With a careless shrug that cost me the dregs of my modesty, I stood on knees weak enough to be swayed by the current. Sacred waters kept my virtue untouched, but it also kept Rhys untouched. Digging my toes into the sandy bottom, I owned my desire. My innocence was his. He would be my husband. I knew him well enough to understand he would never let me go.
“Come, partisan.” I curled my fingers. “Help me bathe, then take me to your home.”
I heard him swallow. “As my maven wishes.”
Hope dangles by a silken thread.
When the head of the Araneidae clan is found poisoned in her nest, her eldest daughter, Lourdes, becomes their clan’s new maven. If her clan is to survive, she has but one choice: she must marry before her nest is seized. All she needs is a warrior fierce enough to protect her city and safeguard her clansmen. Such a male is Rhys the Cold.
Born the youngest son of an impoverished maven, the only things Rhys has to his name are his sword and his mercenary reputation. His clan is starving, but their fondness for the flesh of fellow Araneaeans makes them unwelcome dinner guests. Torn between loyalty to his clan and fascination with his future bride, Rhys’s first taste of Lourdes threatens to melt the cold encasing his heart.
Amid the chaos of battle, Lourdes’s sister disappears and is feared captured. Lourdes and Rhys pursue their enemies into the southlands, where they discover an odd plague ravaging southern clans as it travels north, to Erania. Determined to survive, Lourdes will discover whether she’s worth her silk or if she’s spun the thread by which her clan will hang.
Warning: This book contains one mercenary hero with a biting fetish, one determined heroine who gets nibbled, and an answer to the age-old question, “What does dragon taste like?” Matricide and sibling rivalry are available upon request. The house special is revenge, best served cold.