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Page 7

"You’re such a bit of a thing," he murmured. He closed his hand around her wrist. "See? So fragile."

"I’m stronger than you know."

"I know, lass. You have Fae strength, but I’ve never seen it packaged in such beauty."

Was he trying to melt her heart? The big, strong Shifter with loneliness and sorrow in his eyes? She suddenly wanted to hold him and heal all his hurts.

Niall had something else on his mind besides healing just now. He parted her thighs with a soothing hand and slid himself inside her.

Alanna’s eyes widened as he filled her, so big, but feeling so good. What a wonder that a huge, barbaric, beast of a Shifter could be so gentle.

He stayed gentle as he began the rhythm of lovemaking, his head bowed, his braid sliding across his shoulder. Alanna cupped his hips, urging him with hands and mouth not to be too careful with her. Niall groaned as he sped his thrusts, kissing her as she met him stroke for stroke.

Alanna’s frenzy began a few seconds before his did. They peaked together, both crying out, both holding hard, kissing and panting, hot breaths tangling. Then they wound down together, Niall kissing her face, her neck, her lips.

"You see?" Alanna whispered. "I’m perfectly fine."

"That you are, love. And so am I. As you can feel inside of you."

"You mean I’ve not yet worn you down?"

Niall grinned and licked her upper lip. "Not by a long way, my love. Not by a long way."

He started again, this time more playfully. In spite of knowing that Niall was right, that this might be their only night together, and in spite of her worry the choices she’d made, Alanna pulled him inside her and let herself drown in his loving.

#

Alanna awoke an hour later to see Niall leaving the bed. She lay in the warm nest they’d made, enjoying the view of his bu**ocks as he bent over to fetch a tunic. Their gazes met when Niall straightened up to slide it on.

His eyes changed to the feral cat within him before returning to deep green. "You’re such a beautiful lass." He leaned down to kiss her, his lips warm.

She savored the kiss. "Where are you going?"

"The sword won’t get finished by itself, love. It’s not going to be a very good weapon made so hasty."

"My spells will hold it together." The point was for Shifter craftsmanship and Fae magic to join.

Niall descended to the lower floor, and she heard him poke up a fire and clatter crockery. She pulled on her robes and followed him downstairs to find him setting out ale and bread and a hard chunk of cheese.

"I’ll do that," she said as he started to slice the bread. "You go to the forge, and I’ll bring the breakfast." Niall raised his brows, and she smiled. "I used to make Dubhan breakfast. He was surprised I could do it."

Niall shrugged, set down the knife, and kissed her cheek. She turned her head to meet his kiss, determined to enjoy this very brief time they had together. Her hand closed around the knife handle, and she gasped.

"Damn," she said. Alanna looked at her fingers, which were creased with light burns. "The spell is wearing off." She sucked on her fingertips.

Niall picked up the knife and quickly cut slices of bread and cheese. "What did you do when you lived in the human world before?"

She took her fingers out of her mouth. "Dubhan found copper and bronze knives for me."

"You need to go back to Faerie."

"When the sword is finished."

They assessed each other again, like enemies who’d learned to respect each others’ skills. Niall brushed her hair back from her face and kissed her forehead.

"Eat your breakfast, love, and we’ll finish the sword. Whatever comes, we’ll make the best damn sword that ever was."

Alanna didn’t reach for the plate. "Let us finish now. I don’t need sustenance the same way Shifters and humans do."

"Eat the damn food, woman. You’re weak here, and with all this iron about, you’ll be getting weaker."

"Yes, dear." Alanna sat down, slanting him a demure glance. "Whatever you say, dear."

His eyes narrowed. "Your brother doesn’t know what a feisty witch he’s harboring, does he?"

She sent him a grin. "’Tis best that way, do you not think?"

"Vixen." Niall leaned down and kissed her. "To think, when you walked into my forge, I thought you cold and brittle."

"You warmed me, Niall."

"Aye, I wrapped that cloak around you."

"That is not what I meant."

Niall gave her another seductive kiss. "I know."

He grabbed bread and cheese, took a gulp of ale, and banged out of the cottage, sending chill air sweeping through the room. Alanna shivered again, but without the loathing she’d had last night. It was cold in this human place called Baile Icin, but with Niall to keep her warm, she thought she could weather it.

Chapter Five

Whatever else Alanna’s magics did, they certainly sped up the forging process. Alanna chanted more spells, and Niall watched runes appear and disappear as he formed the tang, made the hilt, and ground the blade. Alanna closed her eyes for the last spell, sweat standing out on her brow as her musical voice pronounced the words.

The last set of fiery runes faded to be replaced by fine lines that etched themselves all over the sword and hilt. Those lines didn’t fade but joined in continuous, interlinked patterns, interwoven with runes, as though they bound the sword and hilt together. Even though Alanna ceased speaking, Niall thought he still heard her voice, soft whispers coming from the sword itself.

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