© 2023 by Jordan Summers

THE ARRIVAL CHAPTERS 1-3

CHAPTER ONE

 

The restaurant in the Metropolitan Museum hummed with conversation. The day was brilliant. Light filtered in from the skylights, dappling the patrons’ faces as they devoured the delicacies before them.

Rachel Evans, Jaclyn Ward, and Brigit Taylor sat huddled in a corner, their chairs turned away from the throng, successfully closing out the masses.

“Are you sure you want to go through with this?” Jaclyn asked, her voice deceptively cool.

“Absolutely.” Rachel took another bite of salad, chewing the crisp greens. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Jaclyn picked up a pickle from her plate. Making a face close to revulsion, she placed the spear on Rachel’s plate. Rachel laughed and lifted it up in front of her, like a conductor holding a baton. She stared at the pickle for a second. The veggie was firm and stiff, dripping with juices.

Visions of her dream man’s massive member flooded her mind. She bit down on her tongue to keep from moaning aloud. Her nipples tightened beneath her cotton shirt, making each scrape of the material exquisite torture. She took a bite of the pickle, sending its tart juices squirting into her mouth. Closing her eyes for a second in ecstasy, she murmured, “Mmm—I love dill pickles.”

“Pickles. Riiight…” Jaclyn laughed, throwing her blonde head back. “You could have fooled me. That face you’re making looks more like a woman having an orgasm than eating lunch.”

Jaclyn pursed her lips in thought and toyed with the potato salad on her plate. “I think you need a good stiff dick inside you—the larger the better—instead of traipsing into the jungle. Say the word and I’ll open my little black book and make a call.”

Rachel’s eyes widened as Jac pulled out her smart phone and started scanning. Jac methodically went down her address list, throwing out names. “Brett—now there’s a cock a woman can sink onto—mmm…mmm…eight inches of pure male pleasure.” She growled in remembrance, before glancing at the pickle in Rachel’s hand and making a sour face. “I can’t believe you can eat that.”

Rachel grinned and sucked on the dill spear. “I amin ecstasy over my pickle. Just the pickle.” She looked around to make sure no one listened, before leaning in to add, “And contrary to what you believe, a big penis does not solve all life’s problems.”

Jac gazed at Rachel as if she’d just blown tea out of her nose.

Rachel shifted under the scrutiny. “Jac, you’ve watched True Blood and Sex in the Cityone too many times. Besides, I’m not sure Brett would appreciate the assessment, pimp woman.”

An image of her dream man flashed through Rachel’s mind. She saw him above her, on the verge of thrusting inside her aching channel. His perfect ten-inch phallus poised, dripping with dew. Rachel felt herself grow wet.

Brigit laughed and snapped her fingers in front of Rachel’s face. “You still with us?”

Right on cue, the telltale warmth of embarrassment spread across her face, until it felt as if her ears would burn off. Rachel sputtered. “I—of course.”

Jac leveled her gaze on Rachel, challenge echoing in her voice. “When was the last time you had a good lay? Six months? A year? Never—if you’re thinking about Brad, that lame excuse of a fiancé you dumped a while back.”

Rachel flushed anew and shot Jac a pointed look, taking in her friend’s fierce expression. How long had it been since she’d had sex? A year? Two? Yikes, the last time was with Brad and that was ages ago.

Last night, the little voice in her head whispered.

Rachel rolled her eyes. She was losing her mind if she was actually considering dream sex real. The fact that it was better than anything she’d ever had spoke volumes about her love life.

She missed sex.

Maybe the time had come to consider ending her self-imposed abstinence. And she would, just as soon as she got back from the expedition.

“You better enjoy that pickle now, because you’re not going to be able to get those, or good cock in that god forsaken jungle.” Jac’s gaze narrowed into icy slits and her voice lowered to her corporate attorney “this is serious” tone.

Rachel released a heavy breath. Jac had been trying furiously to dissuade her from going on this expedition, since she’d mentioned it to her on the phone earlier this morning.

Brigit took that moment to shove a horoscope in front of Rachel’s face. Brigit’s mop of red hair hung in arranged disarray. The afternoon sun caught the color, turning it into living flame. Freckles dotted her rosy cheeks and wire-rimmed glasses slipped down her slender nose, giving her a disgruntled funky schoolmarm vibe.

“Jac’s right.” Brigit poked the paper for emphasis. “The signs are bad. It’s all here in black and white. If you go to that jungle you’ll be in grave danger.”

Rachel shook her head at Brigit’s fanaticism for astrology.

Her friend was dressed in a day-glow green skirt, with a matching striped shirt. The color set off her cat-like eyes, making Brigit shine in the ensemble. Anyone else wearing that outfit would have looked like a deformed caterpillar.

“I’m serious,” Brigit insisted.

Rachel snorted and Jac snickered. She knew Jac didn’t believe in those kinds of things any more than she did, but Rachel picked up the newspaper clipping and glanced at it before tucking the horoscope into her purse, so that she didn’t hurt Brigit’s feelings.

“Well?” Brigit glared.

“Thanks, girlfriend. I’ll take the fact I’m going to meet a handsome man from a far away land into consideration.” Rachel glanced at Jac, who seemed to be trying desperately not to crack a smile.

“Did you read the bottom?”

Rachel sighed and met Brigit’s gaze. “I read that ‘trouble may come if I choose to travel’, but it’s not going to stop me from going. If I used my horoscope to determine my movements, I wouldn’t leave the house.”

Brigit shook her head and sighed. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” She took a big sip of tea, and the loud sucking sound caused people at nearby tables to turn and stare.

Brigit cocked her head and glared at the strangers’ faces until they turned away. When her attention came back to the table, she changed the subject. “What hotel are you staying at?”

Rachel giggled behind her napkin at her friend’s question. “There are no hotels where I’m going.”

Brigit’s jaw dropped. “Then where are you going to sleep? A cottage or something?”

“Nope. A tent.”

“A tent!” rang out in unison as her friends’ voices converged.

“You’ve never been camping a day in your life!” The color drained from Jac’s usual creamy features. “I thought you’d be staying in a village hut or something.”

Brigit was aghast. “B-But there are bugs in the jungle and snakes and goodness knows what all.”

“You guys.” Rachel held up her hand to silence their verbal assault. “I realize that I may not have much experience in the field…”

Jac’s brow arched. “Did you take an extension course that we don’t know about?”

“Okay, no field experience.” Rachel glanced at Jac and then down at her salad. “But I have waited my whole life for an opportunity like this, and I’m not about to let it pass me by. You know that if I can make a discovery of any kind while I’m there, then Dr. Rumsinger won’t be able to block my promotion.”

“That bastard is just stringing you along,” Jac muttered. “There’s no way he’s going to sign off on your promotion no matter what you find.”

Rachel’s chin shot up in determination. “That’s why I’m going down there.” She clenched her fork to shore up her courage. “The last thing Rumsinger wants is to draw the attention of the board of directors. If I find something, I’ll take it directly to the board if I have to. This is my chance to outmaneuver the slippery bastard.”

“I don’t know, Rachel.” Jac shook her head. “It seems like an awfully big risk for the possibility of no returns. We don’t want to see you get hurt.” She looked to Brigit, who nodded her head in agreement.

Rachel was Jac’s pet project. She’d taken Rachel under her wing and had shown her the ropes of socializing and corporate climbing in New York. Rachel hadn’t excelled at either, but Jac still remained her staunchest supporter and fiercest protector.

From the outside, Jac had it all. The fact that she was a five-foot eleven, ice blond with riveting blue eyes just made her an even more intimidating corporate attorney. Rachel was five-foot four in heels and had a few too many curves for today’s fashion conscious society. If Jac was Voguemagazine, then Rachel, with her curly brown hair and her hazel eyes, was Home and Garden.

Jac ate men for breakfast, lunch and dinner in her personal life and professionally. She had enough guts to take on an army and win, but Rachel didn’t. To Jac, men were toys to be fucked and forgotten, unless they amused her, in which case they normally lasted a week or two. Her heart lay behind well-protected barricades.

Rachel wasn’t a doormat, but she couldn’t intimidate a fly. That’s why it had taken her months to break up with Brad. Months of heartache she could’ve done without. Like Brad, her boss, Dr. Rumsinger had been giving her the runaround about her promotion. He put her off repeatedly, telling her that he was working on it, when in fact he’d done nothing. Rachel knew the only way to change things was to go on this expedition.

“Reconsider,” Jac said. “There has to be another way, a better way to get around Rumsinger.”

“There isn’t,” Rachel said. “Believe me, I’ve tried everything. This is my best shot, my only shot if I want that promotion. And you guys know how desperately I want that promotion. I’ve earned it.”

“I could draw up a discrimination lawsuit,” Jac said.

“No!” Rachel said. “I’d lose my promotion for good and most likely my job. It and you guys are the only reasons I have to stay in the city. It’s not like I’ve got family holding me here. I love what I do. I’d like to continue doing it.”

Most people could never understand why they’d remained friends, but Rachel knew the real Jac. The Jaclyn Patricia Ward who showed up with chicken soup and a good chick flick when Rachel was sick. The one who sent Rachel flowers if she had a stinker of a date, which wasn’t often since she’d sworn off dating a couple years ago. The one who admitted deep down that she was just as lonely as Rachel.

Rachel loved Jac like the sister she never had.  It was that love that made her take a different tack. “Brigit, remember when everyone told you that you couldn’t break into clothing design without a degree? Who encouraged you to go for it?”

Her delicate features pinched, Brigit stared for what felt like forever, before nodding begrudgingly. “You did.”

Rachel released the breath she’d been holding and turned to Jac’s cool gaze. “When you thought you were unprepared to take on the Hiro Corporation as head negotiator in the merger, what did I tell you, Jac?”

“That I’m the ballsiest broad you know and that I could negotiate a boat from a drowning man.” Jac ran a trembling hand through her cropped blond locks. Her hair fell back in place.

“And you did.” Rachel paused and looked from Jac’s blue eyes to Brigit’s green. “You both did. Now it’s my turn,” she said, her voice pleading for understanding and support.

Jac sighed, a wistful sound that seemed unnatural coming from her. “I’m sorry. You’re right. We should be more understanding, but I just don’t get why they need you.” She took a sip of tea, then patted the side of her mouth with a linen napkin without mussing her blood red lipstick.

With a shrug, Rachel replied, “You know I specialize in ancient languages, among other things. The point of this expedition is to try to locate a mysterious ‘lost tribe’ that the natives in the area fear. If we succeed, then it wouldn’t hurt to have someone along who might be able to communicate with them. That’s where I come in.” She waved her hand dismissively. “Personally, I think the stories about the ‘lost tribe’ are nonsense. No one from the outside has ever encountered them or seen signs that they exist. I suspect it’s just superstition that has been passed down from generation to generation.”

“So if you don’t believe that they’re real, then why go?” Brigit asked.

“I’m hoping to discover a new species while I’m down there or stumble across an artifact.” Rachel took a sip of tea and giggled before adding, “I’m sure it pissed Donald off big time to have the board of directors order him to take me along, seeing as this is his pet project.”

Jac snorted. “Why did they agree?”

“Because I bugged them until they said yes,” Rachel said. “I learned that from you, Jac.”

Jac’s lips twitched in amusement.

Brigit’s head bobbed in approval. “So you’re like ‘DATA’ or ‘C3PO’?” She picked up her sandwich, turning it around and around, examining every angle as if to decide which spot was best to bite.

Rachel laughed. “Leave it to a sci-fi junkie to make that warped analogy.” 

“What about safety precautions? What if you get hurt?” Brigit’s eyes rounded, concern showing in their green depths. “If I understand you correctly the area you’re going into hasn’t been well explored.”

Rachel nodded. “It is definitely remote, but we’ll have several armed guides with us. And the surrounding areas have been mapped and cataloged. Most of them anyway.” She pulled out her guidebook to show them.

Jac snatched it from her hands and thumbed through the pages. “This only talks about the animals and plants indigenous to the area.” Her gaze bored holes in Rachel. “Are you going to carry a gun?”

Rachel nodded. “I’ve been told it is mandatory, due to unknown factors.”

“What unknown factors?” Brigit’s brow furrowed. She put her egg salad sandwich back down on the plate. “A minute ago, you implied it was safe.”

“It is safe. Well, as safe as any jungle can be.” Rachel couldn’t hold back the sarcasm. “As for the unknown factors, if I knew, then they wouldn’t be unknown, now would they?”

“Hey, don’t take that tone with me,” Brigit snapped, her voice rising with each word. “You’re the one who’s decided to go gallivanting off into the jungle unprepared.”

Rachel blew out a breath in frustration. “I won’t be unprepared. We’ll have first-aid kits and radios, in case we need to call for help.” She didn’t bother telling them that radios seemed to pick up weird interference when near the area, which made broadcasting spotty at best. “I’m even going to bring my new satellite cellphone with built in GPS. Hopefully it’ll work.”

“What do you mean by ‘hopefully’?” Jac asked.

Rachel shifted in her seat. “Nothing, really.”

“Rachel,” Brigit said, drawing out her name.

She rolled her shoulders. “The electronic readings in the area are a little odd.”

“Define odd.” Jac’s voice pinched with pent up tension.

Rachel rubbed her neck. “It’s almost as if the area is a giant vortex. Kind of like the Bermuda Triangle, but on land.” She paused, her mind churning with possibilities. “Cool, huh?”

Jac and Brigit frowned. A waiter appeared and refilled their glasses.

Rachel waited for him to leave before she continued. “To be honest, the readings have been off the charts. It’s possible there is an untapped energy source that exists in the heart of the rainforest. It would be the discovery of a lifetime if I could locate its source.”

Brigit stared at her. “I thought you were looking to discover a new species or the lost tribe.”

Rachel sighed. “I’ll take any of them at this point.”

“What about the terrain?” Jac asked.

“There are mountains on one side, sheer cliffs on the other, plus a treacherous river that snakes through the area, effectively cutting off the only traversable entrance.” Rachel grinned as she imagined what the area would look like once she arrived. The photos only gave a minimal idea of the vast expanse. “Oh, and let’s not forget the jungle. We really don’t know what we’ll find until we get there. Heck, it’ll take three days just to hike in.”

Brigit’s face lost all color. “You’regoing to hike?”

“I realize I’m not a tri-athlete like Jac, but I’m not in too bad of shape.” Rachel shrugged. “Besides you’re one to talk, Brigit. Your idea of a walk is the distance it takes to cross the sidewalk to get to the cab door.”

Both women stared at her as if she had a third eye in the center of her forehead. Rachel had meant to lose those last ten pounds months ago, but excuses and Ben and Jerry’s got in the way.

The friends ate the rest of their lunch in silence, each left to her own thoughts. Rachel knew she was doing what was right for her. She’d thought by having this lunch that she’d be able to ease her friends’ minds and garner their support. Instead, it had backfired. They were now more worried than ever.

Not that she blamed them. If things were reversed, she’d be just as concerned for their welfare.

“If we’d have known we could have gotten you a going away present.” Jac grumbled, glancing at Brigit, who nodded.

Expelling a long breath, Rachel pulled out a couple of scraps of paper and a pen from her purse, scrawling while she spoke. “Listen, guys. I want you both to have this number—it’s my new cell. Don’t worry. I’ll be back in three weeks tops. I promise I’ll call when I get there. If you like I’ll check in every week.” She grabbed both their hands, shoving the paper in their palms while giving them a quick squeeze. “So, if you don’t hear from me in a week, send in the marines.” Rachel laughed at her own joke. “Or you could come, Jac,” she continued. “You had that SEAL training from your dad. I wish I’d—”

Jac frowned, her blue eyes clouding with pain from long ago memories.

Crap, why did I say that?Rachel thought. “I’m sorry…you know I didn’t mean—”

“Forget about it. I already have.” Jac’s face resumed its normal flawless mask.

Rachel rubbed her temple, attempting to ease the tension that had taken up residence there. She could just kick herself for being so insensitive. Even after all these years, Jac still had a difficult time dealing with her father’s death.

The women were silent as they tucked the papers into their purses. Rachel hated upsetting her friends; they were the closest thing to family she had. If it wasn’t for Brigit and Jac, she’d have nothing to return to once the expedition ended.

A cold feeling brushed along Rachel’s spine and over her shoulders, as if someone had just walked over her grave. She shivered and rubbed her arms, deciding it was better to keep that little sensation to herself.

CHAPTER TWO

 

Rachel stared out the tiny plane window. Dirt and bugs were smashed to an even yellow colored paste against the pane.

Through the grunge, snow-capped mountains rose in the distance, their height imposing even from the current altitude. A muddy river wound its way through the jungle alongside a set of sheer cliffs. The rock face was so steep and brittle even the best climbers wouldn’t be able to manage scaling its heights.

The turboprop plane swooped over the jungle canopy after circling a dirt strip that passed for a runway. The cleared patch didn’t look wide enough to accommodate the plane’s wingspan, much less the rest of the aircraft. The endless sea of green managed to dwarf everything, including the tiny runway ahead.

Rachel tightened her seatbelt to the point of pain. The small airplane dipped and her stomach lurched and rolled violently. Her mouth watered as the nausea returned. Three hours earlier the turbulence had caused her to lose what little lunch she’d been able to eat.

The plane dropped and within seconds they were level with the treetops. Rachel’s heart remained up with the clouds. She started to pray, reciting Hail Mary’s even though she wasn’t Catholic.

Twin engines sputtered and the right wing dipped dangerously toward the primitive landing strip. The pilot pulled the nose up at the last second and slammed the wheels down. The jarring sensation rattled Rachel’s teeth. She probably wouldn’t be able to chew solid food again. “Thank God, we made it,” she mumbled, understanding now why some people kissed the ground when a flight ended. After this wild ride, she’d seriously consider other modes of transportation in the future.

She glanced out the tiny window as the dirt runway continued to rush past. By her calculations, the team should have already been here for five days. She had traveled the furthest since the professor had left from a Chicago lecture, which meant she’d arrived last.

The plane halted, sending a cloud of swirling dust in its wake. Jet fumes flooded the main cabin, choking off the stale air.

She coughed, waving her hand in front of her face.

Rachel’s fingers trembled as she unfastened her seatbelt and stood on shaky legs. She had to hunch over in the aircraft, which was humorous, considering her height.

She grabbed her backpack, dragging it up the narrow aisle, and made her way to the open hatch. A crude step had been placed under the door by the pilot to ease her exit, but he had already vanished into the jungle.

Rachel looked down at the step and then back at her massive pack. How chivalrous of him.

She stepped off the aircraft into the thick sticky air. The musky scent of earth and flowers surrounded her, permeating every pore, alerting every sense. Her skin tingled. A kind of physical déjà vu spiraled through her, haunting the corners of her mind. Her hair instantly frizzed and clung to her neck like a wet blanket.

Man, I thought Central Park in July was bad.

Searching through her pack, she pulled out a ponytail holder and secured the mop of hair on her head in a half-knot.

Much better.

Rachel shielded her eyes against the sunlight glittering off the silver aircraft. She reached into her shirt pocket and retrieved her sunglasses, slipping them on to fight the midday glare. Lifting her pack onto her shoulder, she hiked a short distance toward what appeared to be base camp. Her boots made soft sucking noises in the moist dirt.

Rachel had walked a few feet when the hair clinging to her nape stood on end. She swung around, expecting to see someone standing behind her.

No one was there.

Muscles tense, she surveyed the area beyond the aircraft, taking in the dense rainforest. The light didn’t seem to penetrate its imposing façade. Her gaze darted along the edge of the vegetation, searching for any sign of movement—a stray monkey or sloth—anything to justify her sudden awareness.

Come on, city girl, get it together.

She shook her head and continued on.

Eros watched the woman exit the silver plane, his eyes lingering on the rounded curves of her hips and voluptuous breasts that begged for his touch. Would her nipples be like the ripe berries growing on the vines, red, tempting and oh so sweet? Or would they be lush and round like ripening fruit? His mouth nearly watered at the thought.

The prediction had been correct—the woman from the Seer’s vision had finally arrived. He’d staked out the encampment for five days, but hadn’t spotted any females.

Until now.

He released the breath he’d been holding. His large frame rippled with acute awareness. The woman seemed small, unusually so, but still…there was something about her that stirred him.

Her brown curly hair hung low across the womanly flair of her hips. He wondered what it would feel like to have that hair wrapped around his fist while he buried himself deep inside her.

Eros followed her movements, insatiable hunger searing through him. Her nimble fingers grasped the mass of curls, tying them quickly, exposing more of her ripe heart-shaped bottom to his seeking eyes. Would her feminine musk surround him tauntingly, enveloping his senses until his lust was uncontrollable?

His mouth went dry and his shaft bucked beneath his loincloth, hardening instantly. Breathing became difficult. The need to possess, claim, conquer, overwhelmed him. Ariel, the Seer, hadn’t mentioned these turbulent emotions when she told him about her vision.

Confusion swamped him.

The woman stopped midway and looked in his direction. Her full lips pursed and her pale complexion glowed against the sunlight as she searched the jungle.

She sensed his presence.

Eros smiled. He liked the fact she felt him, knew he watched her from the shadows. He stepped back, even though she wouldn’t be able to spot him in his hiding place amongst the trees.

He would take no chances when it came to this woman. She was too important to his people.

To him.

Men bustled from tent to tent. Temporary housing had been set up, covered wagon style, with the center being the main gathering area. A fire crackled near a couple of crude tables, despite the heat. All flaps opened in, which seemed strange, but then again Rachel didn’t know much about camping, and this wasthe jungle.

Rachel reached the tent where most of the activity seemed to be occurring. She stopped outside the open flap, trying to shore up her courage to face Dr. Donald Rumsinger, or Professor as he liked to be called, even though he’d never taught a day in his life. Her boss, her nemesis, the biggest pain in the ass she’d ever had the displeasure of meeting, held court in the center of the tent.

He’d been jealous of her popularity at the museum since day one. Rachel had never considered herself a threat to his illustrious career, but to Dr. Rumsinger she was. He remained convinced that despite her lack of seniority, when an upper level position opened, she would get the job. Rachel shook her head and rolled her eyes. He was an idiot. She’d be happy with the promotion Donald dangled over her head.

Like it was yesterday, she remembered the day she’d learned what a truly vile human being he could be. Donald had requested she meet him at his office to discuss a new find. When she’d arrived there had been a note taped to the door, saying he’d be right back and could she please retrieve the broom from the janitor’s closet and clean up the mess on the floor.

He’d shattered a glass.

She’d been aggravated that he considered her nothing more than a glorified cleanup girl, but decided it wasn’t worth arguing. So like a sap, Rachel went to the closet door and pulled it open…

Catching the professor in the act of having sex with another man, Dr. Todd.

Randall Todd had taken her under his wing on her first day of work. They would usually have lunch together and had discussed problems the museum faced with future funding. On occasion they’d chatted about their personal lives or lack thereof.

She’d actually had a sort of schoolgirl crush on him, when she’d first hired on. Rachel hadn’t done a good job of hiding that from him or anyone else. He was gorgeous and all the women at the museum wanted him. Now she understood why their relationship hadn’t progressed.

After she’d discovered him in the closet with Donald, her dear friend Dr. Todd had been unable to meet her gaze.

She grimaced.

When Rachel had opened the closet door, the professor had leered at her, his evil eyes glittering with amusement—while Dr. Todd looked mortified, scrambling to cover himself. He resigned from the museum shortly thereafter, even though Rachel had never said a word.

Donald did everything for his own entertainment and didn’t care who he hurt in the process.

The mean-spirited bastard.

She didn’t give one flip if Dr. Todd was gay. She missed his friendship. She missed him.

Rachel blew out a breath. It was now or never. She pulled back the flaps and entered the canvas tent. Dr. Donald Rumsinger stood next to the satellite tracking equipment, his hands full of tangled cables.

He studied topographical images. His orange-red hair lay slicked back with a goopy gel, and thick black glasses, suspended on a bulbous nose, enlarged his mud brown eyes to inhuman proportions. A long walrus tusk shaped mustache hung low, covering his abundant jowls. His potbelly strained the buttons of his soiled shirt. The professor’s bushy brows were furrowed and his face creased with concern.

As if realizing someone was staring, he looked up. His expression changed instantly to one of disgust. “Dr. Evans, how good of you to finallyjoin us.” His voice was contemptuous, but he smiled for the benefit of the others in the tent.

Rachel swallowed her automatic retort, asshole.

Play nice, Rachel.

She wished she had the nerve to wipe that smirk right off his rotund face. But even several thousand miles away from home, he was still her boss. Rachel wouldn’t let the “talking walrus” get to her. She was too close to obtaining her dream promotion to let petty differences get in the way. She managed a smile. “Hello, Professor. How nice to seeyou again.” She didn’t have to add with your clothes onfor him to get the picture.

His face colored at the emphasis.

She tried not to gag as she pictured Donald’s flaccid red prick dripping with semen as he pulled it out of Dr. Todd’s ass. Donald hadn’t even had sense enough to use a condom.

He cleared his throat. “Yes, well...” Donald expelled a frustrated breath. “We’ll get started tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn. I just need to fix some of the equipment damaged last night.”

“Did you have a storm?” she asked.

“No,” he said impatiently.

Rachel had been so nervous that she hadn’t noticed the disarray. She looked around the tent. Monitors and radio equipment lay scattered on the ground. Some had been smashed. Others just knocked over. The entrails of wires were ripped and tied into thick knots. “What happened?”

“Seems someone tried to sabotage our expedition by slicing through the back of the tent and cutting random wires. But,” he waved his meaty hand dismissively, “don’t worry, they didn’t succeed.”

“But who—what? Why?”

“One of the native guides, most likely. Superstitious bastards. They are set on keeping us from finding the lost tribe. I’ve told them if anymore accidentsoccur I’ll dock their pay.” He smiled, obviously pleased with the power he held over the poor indigenous peoples’ heads.

Rachel planted her hands on her hips. “Just how many accidents have there been?” she asked, hoping he hadn’t heard her voice crack.

“A couple, counting this mess.” He shrugged his heavy shoulders. “One of the guides died down by the stream. No great loss.”

Rachel’s face flushed and she brought her palm to her forehead, rubbing it back and forth, trying to cool the area, as she considered the situation. “How?”

“Some sort of jungle creature. Probably anaconda or perhaps a black caiman.” Donald paused, pulling on his whiskers. “I suppose it could have been a cat.” He laughed. “Just one of the many risks that comes with the job. There’s always time to reconsider coming on this expedition.”

The hopeful note in his voice made Rachel’s stomach flip. He was already trying to get rid of her. Maybe he was exaggerating the situation to scare her.  Rachel wouldn’t put it past him.

Asshole.

She took a ragged breath and considered what he’d actually told her. Rachel’s fingers trembled as she fought back the same cold fear she’d felt yesterday. “I didn’t think there were large cats in the area and this isn’t caiman territory. They both would’ve left signs near the water.”

Donald shrugged. “There were no signs, but I had to tell them something to calm the group down. We can’t have the guides panicking, now can we? They must be willing to go deep into the rainforest.”

The man was truly a heartless bastard. Someone had died and all he cared about was manipulating people to do what he wanted. If he weren’t in charge of the expedition, Rachel would tell him exactly where he could stick his attitude.

But she couldn’t and wouldn’t, because like the poor natives, he could have her bounced out of here in a heartbeat. Rachel left before she said something that she’d regret. She found a guide sitting near the fire, who helpfully pointed out where her tent was located, then phoned Jac. Static popped and whistled in her ear, then the phone rang twice before going straight to voice mail. The woman was never home. Rachel left a message letting her know that the flight arrived more or less on time and everything appeared to be on schedule. She hung up after saying she’d call her in a week, purposely omitting the fact that the expedition had already encountered problems.  Rachel didn’t want to give Jac a reason to come here.

Night fell quickly in the jungle. The air in the tent grew smothering as Rachel unpacked only essentials. The cot, on the other hand, was actually quite comfortable once she put the sleeping bag down and mosquito netting up.

She peeked out the door. A fire blazed in the center of the group of tents. Some of the men gathered away from the flames, sitting in a circle and swapping what appeared to be fishing stories.

Rachel tied the flap of the tent up in hopes of catching a breeze, any kind of relief from the stifling conditions. She walked into the clearing; near the log stumps positioned around the fire and took a seat on one of the logs, furthest from the flames. It was unbearably hot, the air so thick that it hung in low, shadowy clouds just above the treetops, pressing down on the creatures below in a smothering embrace. A cacophony of insects swirled in the night sky, their buzzing surprisingly soothing.

Winged creatures, probably bats, dove close to the fire, pulling up at the last minute in amazing aerial acrobatic feats. Monkeys squealed, their haunting cries so human-like she found it disconcerting.

In the distance she could just barely make out the sound of rushing water through the wall of trees. A stream definitely ran nearby, probably the one the professor had mentioned. Rachel squinted, trying to pierce the darkness. She couldn’t see any sign of the stream or the three-quarter moon’s reflection on anything resembling the tempting liquid.

A cool dip in running water would feel like heaven right about now. Anything to get the sweat off her body. But it was dangerous to go near the stream. Predators came out to hunt, and the most vulnerable prey was found near water.

Perspiration dripped between her breasts, saturating the bottom of her bra. Loose tendrils of hair clung to her temples. The back of her shirt was soaked down the center, and sticking to her like a second skin.

She walked back to her tent and pulled out the zoological guidebook from the case containing her work papers. It had arrived yesterday with Donald’s supply shipment and had been placed inside her tent. As she flipped through the pages in the glow of the kerosene lantern, she read up on what little was known about the local predators.

The waters in this area weren’t supposed to be home to piranha. Only the occasional anaconda and crocodile lived in these parts, but were mainly found deeper in the jungle. According to the book, the animals had been pushed further in due to mans’ encroachment.

An anaconda would make a meal out of her in seconds, probably before she could even scream. Fortunately, the snakes didn’t eat every day because of their slow metabolism. It was lucky for her that the efficient predators tended to avoid running water, preferring instead to use calm pools to drown their victims.

Lovely image. That made death by snake so much more pleasing.

Sweat dripped from her chin onto her book. She slammed it closed, her decision made. Rachel wasn’t stupid, but she’d rather take on an anaconda than turn into a puddle. She dropped the book on the cot and grabbed a towel from her pack, along with a change of clothes. Her hand dug deep trying to arrange the items into some semblance of neatness. Satisfied, Rachel reached for the zoological guide to return it to her work case. She was pushing papers aside when her hand struck something hard. Rachel pulled the item from the case. A semi-automatic Glock dangled from her fingertips with a note taped to it from Jac.

You didn’t think I’d let you go down there without taking one of my little friends with you, did you? Love, Jac.

Rachel glanced over at her cot. A pistol had been placed in her tent by one of the workers. Her lips twisted into a smile as she reread Jac’s note. She laughed, then tucked the present into the bottom of her tote for safekeeping. It was far too visible in her work case. Anyone could find it. Rachel didn’t even question how Jac had managed to get it in there. Some things were best left unknown. She picked up the guide-supplied pistol, taking a few minutes to get used to its unusual weight in her hand. She didn’t like guns, never had, but there was no way she was going into the jungle without a weapon.

She gathered a flashlight and tucked all the items into her safari shirt pockets. When she looked out of the tent, her eyes were drawn to a young native nearby. With a wave of her hand, she signaled for him to come over.

Shy brown eyes looked warily at her beneath long black lashes. His face was a flawless brown coffee color. She decided to speak to the young man in his local dialect, as opposed to English. His face brightened instantly and dimples appeared on his cheeks.

She asked where the path to the water was located. He shook his head and looked around, his eyes darting nervously from shadow to shadow. Rachel reassured him that he wouldn’t get into trouble if he just pointed her in the right direction.

He hesitated.

Rachel gave him an encouraging look and he acquiesced. She took out a few dollars and pressed them in his small hand. He flashed her a quick smile and then bolted. Rachel watched his retreating form until he disappeared out of sight, before turning to gaze into the darkness. She shivered, despite the heat. She hadn’t spotted anything in the inky blackness that would explain her sudden unease. Sweat continued to drip from her skin. Rachel shored up her courage and shook off the unwanted feeling.

From the darkness, sharp eyes watched the woman leave her tent. She made a right and headed down the trail in the direction of the water. Eros smiled.

Come to me, my Queen.

CHAPTER THREE

 

Rachel made her way, flashlight in hand, down a trail she hadn’t seen earlier in the day. Ferns were thick around her ankles and vines hung haphazardly across the path. She picked her way carefully, not wanting to end up with a twisted ankle. The sound of crashing water grew louder. Darkness swallowed up all trace of the camp behind her. Already the air had cooled. She could almost feel the refreshing spray upon her heated skin.

Several minutes passed, the trail widened a bit and the water roared. Orchids clung to the sides of trees like babes to teats, their blooms sweetening the air. Rachel pushed a vine out of the way and stepped into a tiny clearing. A waterfall tumbled from a small outcropping of rocks, plunging into a churning pool. Ten feet further the frothy water turned placid, the current gentle, as it meandered out of sight.Anaconda territory.

The swirling liquid looked amazingly black, even with the reflection of the three-quarter moon shining upon its surface, casting an ethereal glow. She glanced up. Never in all the years of living in New York had Rachel ever seen a sky as wondrous as this star-spattered blanket of ebony.

A breeze caught spray from the waterfall, gently misting her face. She closed her eyes, enjoying the sudden refreshment. Leaves crunched nearby.

Rachel’s eyes flew open and she whirled around, flashlight in one hand, gun in the other, frantically trying to catch any sign of movement. Which was nearly impossible with her fingers trembling like she’d polished off five pots of coffee.  The light swung wildly, leaving shadows in its wake as she searched the jungle.

Her beam passed quickly over a set of glowing red eyes.

She jerked the light back, but the glowing orbs were gone. Rachel’s brow furrowed and she shook her head. The red specks had been the wrong shape and color to be anything other than her imagination. Nonetheless, she scrutinized the area again, shining the beam on the tree branches and the jungle floor—

Nothing.

Anacondas do not have big round eyes and there are no jaguars in this part of the world. It must have been a trick of the light.

She pictured Dr. Rumsinger’s bespectacled orbs and laughed. She was pretty sure no one would feel more repulsed by her nakedness than Donald, if he were lurking in the shadows. It would serve him right to be disgusted considering the stunts he’d pulled on her.

Rachel set the light down and began to undress. The pistol fell out of her hand and landed with a muted clunk.

Smooth move, Rachel.If you shoot yourself in the foot you’ll never be able to go back to the museum and face your co-workers.You’ve checked the area.There’s nothing here, so relax.

She reached down and scooted the weapon away from the water’s edge, but still within easy reach if she needed to get to it. Rachel expelled a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding, and pulled her clinging shirt from her body. It made a disgusting, sucking noise. Rachel cringed and decided unless she wore rubber, clothes should never make those kinds of sounds. She removed her bra and her nipples sprang to life, beading instantly in the hot humid air. She placed her clothes next to the gun.

Rachel smiled and stretched her arms slowly, luxuriously above her head. “Ah…that’s better.”

As she reached down to untie her hiking boots, the hair at her nape rose. She grabbed the flashlight and swung it around, but once again the beam landed on nothing. Not even a monkey lurked near the edge of the water. She blew out a steadying breath.

Definitely a city girl.

Shrugging, she set the light back down and untied her laces, toeing off the boots. She worked the buttons on her pants until they were loose enough to slide over her hips. Rachel stood next to the pool in her lace underwear, listening.

Insects had stopped singing and the jungle had fallen still. Her heart pounded as her fight or flight response kicked in.

Something watched her from the jungle.

Please don’t let it be a predator.What if the guidebook was wrong?

She waited for a several minutes, heart slamming in her chest, until the feeling of being watched went away. Rachel sent a small prayer of thanks up to the heavens, then shucked off her underwear and made a shallow dive into the water. Slicing through the churning liquid, she surfaced several yards from the shore. The water pooled just deep enough to reach her full breasts. She hoped against hope that if anything was out there, whatever itwas couldn’t swim.

Nothing moved.

She looked all around, waiting. She dunked her head under the water again to pull her hair from her face.

When she broke the surface the flashlight was off.

A chill raced up her spine.

Snakes don’t turn lights off. Only men.

Expressing more bravado than she actually felt, she shouted, “Show yourself.”

Her gaze frantically darted around the thick canopy. She caught no sign of movement. Gradually, her vision adjusted to the dark. Rachel could make out monkeys skulking along branches and bats flying in the night sky.

A swift movement to her right caught her eye. Something large loomed about twenty yards away in the darkness. Its massive frame slipped effortlessly and silently amongst the trees.

She tried to recall the guidebook’s entry on animals. There wasn’t any documented creature of that size inhabiting the area. And there’d never been a Big Foot sighting down here.

“Professor, is that you?” she asked, realizing as she spoke there was no way Donald could have produced that size shadow.

No answer.

Maybe it was one of the guides. She hadn’t met them all. “Come on, stop fooling around. This isn’t funny anymore.” Her voice quivered.

Suddenly the threatening feeling morphed into something…familiar, which wasn’t possible, was it? Rachel couldn’t see them, but she felt the creature’s eyes skimming over her body like licking flames, roaming, exploring, and cataloging every square inch of her exposed flesh. Mapping her hidden areas for later exploration.

Logically, Rachel knew she should dip down in the water and cover herself. Her little-used body had other ideas, and her nipples pebbled in response, engorging with blood until they ached.

A little voice in her head asked. What would Jac do?

Letting out a haggard breath, she took a tentative step toward shore, exposing her breasts fully. Her skin prickled as the water cascaded down the valley between her voluptuous globes.

Rachel thought she heard a groan, but the roar of the water muffled all sound. She paused, listening, trying to decide just how far she was willing to show herself. After all, she wasn’t sure what or whom she was dealing with. If it turned out to be her nemesis, she’d die of embarrassment.  Of course, it could turn out to be a hunky native.

A smile curved her full lips as she pictured exactly what her friend Jac would do in this situation—turn the tables on the person spying on her. Rachel reached up slowly with her hands and placed her fingers over the tips of her breasts and tugged gently, fondling the peaks.

A strangled sound came from the darkest part of the jungle. Empowered, she pulled at her nipples, her movements deliberate and sensual, circling them until they marbled. The dusky tips quivered and throbbed with need.

Given the response she was getting, Rachel decided it probably was one of the guides, hiding by the trees. She decided to give him a show he’d never forget.

She took another step and the water level dropped to mid-thigh, exposing her moist sex. Droplets of water clung to the thick nest of sable hair covering her clit. Rachel reluctantly pulled one hand from her nipple and ran her fingertips over the soft, curving flesh of her waist, straight for the sensitive nub buried beneath her mound. With seduction in mind, she slid her finger over her wet folds and felt her body flush anew with its natural juices.

Rachel moaned.

Her breathing hitched. Suddenly she wasn’t just teasing some stranger in the dark. Her body wanted this, needed this, longed for this and knowing someone out there watched only made it more forbidden, more erotic.

She picked up the rhythm as her body tightened in readiness, her orgasm drawing nearer.

Rachel took a couple more steps and reached the shore. Her wobbly legs refused to go further. She dropped down on the grassy bank, falling over onto her back, now cushioned by the lush vegetation. One hand pulled at her nipples while the other, slick with her own juices, continued to work its magic pleasuring her.

She was hot, needy, and ready.

Rachel, you’re in a jungle where the nearest worthy candidate for a good fuck is over a thousand miles away. This might not be the smartest idea, was her last coherent thought before she succumbed to pure sensation.

Her hips undulated and the muscles in her abdomen bunched as the familiar pleasure-pain started. Blood rushed through her head, deafening the sounds around her, until they faded to a distant hum.

Faster and faster she stroked her clit as if possessed, wrapped in a world of carnal need. Her legs shook. The tension in her abdomen pulled taut, teetering on the precipice of that elusive peak, ready to plummet to the awaiting bliss.

A loud moan tore from Rachel’s throat as she came hard. The orgasm slammed into her, washing over her in wave after wave of hot slicing pleasure. Warmth spread through her and out to her limbs, leaving everything tingling. She continued her movements, milking her body, until there was nothing left but afterglow.

Eros couldn’t tear his eyes from the woman. Every fiber of his being screamed out to her, demanding her attention. His heated gaze followed her pale hands as they moved over her full breasts, squeezing at the nipples until they protruded like ripe red berries. He had managed to turn off the light and grab her gun before she’d been able to spot him.

Her creamy skin glowed in the darkness, smooth and satiny, flushed and glistening, from the dip in the pool. He watched as she slid her fingers between her rounded thighs and began strumming the damp petals of her womanhood.

Moonlight reflected off the juices seeping from her body, the fragrance as rare as the gold orchid. Eros moaned in discomfort as he stiffened like a ramrod. He removed the pistol she’d dropped earlier from his waistband, letting it fall to the weeds. The weapon had no place near his woman.

Her body rippled, slinking with each tantalizing feminine vibration.

She was killing him.

He shook as he tried to maintain the energy surge he’d sent out to ward off the nearby predators so that she’d be protected in the water. Her wild scent called out, beckoning him to mount her, mate with her, possess her.

Eros wrapped his hand around his throbbing shaft, his fingers subconsciously mirroring her movements, pumping furiously. The scene before him was too much.

She was too much.

He had to force himself to stay in the shadows, when everything inside told him to go to her, plunge inside, fuck her mindless. He held his breath, stroking himself harder and faster. Like he wanted to be thrusting inside the woman. He imagined her hot sheath closing around him, gripping.

She continued with her frantic undulations, her fingers slick from her probing. Rounded hips pumped against her hand as she reached her peak. She moaned in release at the same time he spilled his seed.

Eros groaned. His body jerked violently, lean muscles bunching in taut lines as he ejaculated. Semen jettisoned out over his hand and onto the ferns below, leaving him hot and sticky.

He couldn’t seem to catch his breath. His lungs heaved with the effort and his vision blurred. He shuddered as his shaft lost some of its hardness. Still he gripped himself, wishing the woman held him instead, refusing to let go of the lingering sensation.

The woman was a sorceress.

Not since he was a young man had he been so careless, so out of control. Eros fisted his hands in frustration. He didn’t like the fact that this woman already had a firm hold on him. The Seer had withheld that information. After a couple of agonizing gasps, he slowed his breathing.

Eros watched her breasts rise and fall, their fullness jiggling with each breath. The movement held him spellbound. He longed to lap at the pale globes, swirl his tongue around the rosy peaks until her arousal consumed her once more. Just thinking about it had him growing hard.

He vowed the next time she cried out in pleasure, it would be his name forming on her lips.

He’d make sure of it.

Eros turned away from the woman, unable to gaze upon her naked form any longer. His massive body trembled as he fought the urge to seize.

Unconcerned with being heard, he made his way through the jungle, snapping limbs and vines along his route with his powerful hands. He walked a few yards further, then wailed, letting out a warrior’s battle cry. The action released all remaining pent up tension from his body.

Vision be damned, he wasn’t waiting any longer.

Rachel’s breathing remained choppy as she gradually floated back to reality. She slowed her movements down to a few quick strokes, the kind you’d give a cat.

She laughed and brought her arms up and covered her eyes, grasping her elbows and inhaling deeply. The musky smell of sex on her fingers swamped her, the unmistakable odor wafted in the air, mingling with the flowers.

She sighed, contented.

Something crashed near the edge of the trees. Rachel leapt up, her hands flying immediately to protect her exposed flesh. She reached around in the grass, frantically searching until she found the light. Rachel flicked it on, but its beam was unable to penetrate more than a few feet.

The darkness pressed in around her, surrounding, encircling and immovable. She tossed the light down and grabbed her clothes, throwing the items on in haste.

A tormented cry bellowed out of the darkness, echoing throughout the jungle. Nothing that she’d ever heard before sounded like that. Birds took flight, squawking in panic. Monkeys scattered and nocturnal creatures scurried for places to hide.

Rachel snatched the flashlight and ran up the trail, tearing at the vines in her way. She felt eyes boring into her back. What have I done?

Plants and twigs crashed behind her, closer and closer. Her hair snagged on something for a second, before gaining release. She could have sworn large fingers had given her a quick stroke.

Yeah, girl, and Tarzan is going to sweep down from the trees, snatch you up into his muscled arms and carry you off to his hut.

Rachel broke from the jungle in a full sprint. Men were hollering and running from tent to tent with guns in their hands, their eyes bulging, wild with fear. Her arms immediately went in the air as several rifles swung around and pointed in her direction. She slowed but didn’t stop.  Another strangled cry permeated the night.

And then it hit her—she’d forgotten her pistol.

She wasn’t going back for it now. Rachel didn’t stop running until she reached the entrance of her tent. She dove through the opening, pulling the flap closed behind her. She zipped the door and tied all the straps. Her lungs labored for breath, choppy gulps were all she could manage after the sprint.

Her heart pounded out a rapid tattoo as she undressed. Her fingers shook from excess adrenaline as she buttoned her over-sized pajama top and slipped into her cot. She placed the mosquito netting around her and stared blindly at the ceiling.

She’d been hunted tonight and had barely escaped capture.

The question was, by what?

The woman bolted. Instinct kicked in and Eros ran after her, a predator hunting its prey.

He reined in his desire, tightly leashing it. He could easily overtake her, but he chose to wait. The camp was already in an uproar due to his foolishness. In the end, she’d come to him. This group would enter the jungle tomorrow. Then they’d be in his territory.

She’d be at his mercy.

He reached out a second before she broke from the trees and allowed his fingers to brush against the wet hair clinging to her back. It was soft, like he knew it would be.

Perhaps he’d pay her a visit.

Yes—tonight once all had calmed. He’d taste what he’d been denied moments ago.  In the end, her body would be his.

The camp settled down after a couple of watchful hours. Eros made his way through the jungle, following the tree line to the backside of the tents. Hers was easy enough to pick out, since he’d memorized the layout earlier in the week.

He’d gathered the herbs needed to ensure she would be aware of his presence, but not fully awake. The mixture grew pungent as he ground the herbs together into a fine powder, adding his natural energy to the mix. He was immune to the plants effects, as were his fellow Atlanteans.

All he had to do was make it to her tent and slip inside before the guides guarding the campsite noticed. He moved silently, his stealth legendary amongst his people.

He reached the back of her tent. No one saw him slip the razor sharp blade from its sheath and slice through the canvas. Just as easy the second time, as it was the first. In moments the opening expanded, big enough for him to slip his large frame inside.

The woman slept beneath netting, protecting her delicate skin from damaging pests. Her breathing flowed deep and steady. In her sleep she made little mewling sounds and her limbs twitched as she dreamt. Eros smiled.

He approached her inert form and knelt down beside the cot. With trembling fingers, he carefully separated the netting to gain access to her alabaster face.

She was beautiful up close, small and compact, yet full and curvy in all the right places. The light from the campfire brightened the inside of the tent, casting dancing shadows across her pale features.

She smelled of rain and earth, flowers and spice. Eros lifted a finger to brush an escaping brown tendril from her forehead, the texture reminiscent of the finest silk. She stirred, her rosy lips puckering as if accepting a lover’s kiss.

Need once again slammed into him, along with rage the likes of which he’d never experienced. From this day forth she’d have no other lovers. Calming his turbulent emotions, he reached into his pouch and pulled out the white concoction. Carefully, he took some of the powder into his palm and gently blew the contents across her face.

She inhaled deeply. Her nose twitched and she let out a delicate sneeze. Her eyes fluttered open and locked on his. They widened instantly. Her pupils dilated from exposure to the waking sleep drug. She stared at him as if she recognized him, which was impossible. Eros sensed no fear, only curiosity.

“Shh…you’re dreaming,” he whispered. Her brow furrowed slightly. “My name is Eros. You won’t remember that by tomorrow, but it’s important that you know it now, for I want to hear it as you cry out when you come for me.” She continued her perusal, her eyes reflecting a myriad of questions, before a slow seductive smile formed on her lips. Apparently the thought of having him pleasure her in her dreams wasn’t unappealing.

The muscles in his chest constricted and his heart did a little flip-flop.

Eros dismissed the sensation as quickly as it had arrived. He reached down to the front of her sleep clothing to unbutton her top. His eyes stayed on her face, looking for any sign of fear or disapproval. He would not force his woman tonight.

He simply couldn’t resist the urge to touch her softness, feel her wetness, and hear her soft cries when she came for him.

When the fabric opened and fell away from her body, he tore his eyes from her face. Even with the faint lighting, he could still make out her creamy features. His breath stole from his lungs. Her breasts were large, like he preferred.

He traced his callused finger along her jaw, down her neck, over her collarbone, until he reached the full globes. Goose flesh rose up on her body and her eyes narrowed to tiny desire-filled slits. His fingertip circled one nipple, teasing, drawing it out until it puckered into a tightly aroused peak. Eros withdrew his finger, replacing it with his hungry mouth.

She moaned as his lips latched on to the beaded areola, the sound so exquisite that for a moment he closed his eyes in ecstasy. His tongue flicked over the succulent flesh, making the tight berry marble in response. He reached up with his free hand and pinched her other nipple gently between his finger and thumb, the rough pad stimulating her enough for her to release another soft moan.

Eros sucked in once more, then ripped himself away from her breasts. He wanted more, needed more. He would accept nothing less than her complete surrender. He closed his eyes, trying to gather strength enough to be able to stop when the time came.

“Are you ready for me?” he asked, unable to hide the huskiness in his voice.

She tried to move, but was unable. He smiled at her, then slid down until he rested his arms on her thighs. He leaned forward a few inches above the scrap of material covering the crisp curls of her mound and inhaled. He filled his lungs deeply. She smelled of the sweetest flower, the richest delicacy, her arousal thick and musky in the still night air. It was his turn to bite back a groan.

“You want me, little one?”Eros breathed in once more, cataloging her scent within his body, taking her essence into his soul, so that if she escaped he’d be able to find her anywhere.

“Yes,” she murmured, her voice thick from the drug.

He had the urge to mark her as his own. Claim her for all time. His hard shaft jumped within its confines, demanding the freedom to seek her warm channel.

Not until after the ceremony.The Seer’s warning echoed in his mind.

Eros ran a lone finger along the edge of her lace panties, then pulled out his knife, lifted the seam and sliced them off. He brought the material to his nose, inhaling again, then quickly tucked the ruined panties into a pouch in his loincloth. His finger delved among her slick folds and into her wet slit, gently separating the petals that hid her fiery pearl.

Rachel mewled.

Her juices gushed over his hand. He brought the finger to his mouth and slipped it inside, tasting her for the first time. His mouth exploded in sensation, savoring, relishing, and filing her unique flavor for future reference.

Exotic like forbidden fruit, she was truly a gift from the goddess.

He pulled the finger from his mouth, maneuvering his bulk to the end of the cot, before slipping both hands onto her rounded thighs, carefully separating them enough until he could press his wide shoulders between her legs. Her breathing came out ragged with anticipation.

Eros pulled her down until her bottom hit the lip of the cot. She was exposed and dripping, longing for what he would give her.

She murmured, seemingly unable to form coherent words.

He slipped a finger inside her velvet sheath. “Do you like this, little one?”

A long, needy moan pushed past her lips. Eros worked his finger in and out of her. The muscles of her hungry channel gripped him, beckoning him, pulling him back inside. He added another finger.

She was tight, very tight. She would need much preparation before she’d be able to accommodate his size. He removed his fingers from her moist folds. He needed more. Eros lowered his head between her legs and stuck out his six-inch tongue, stiffening it in preparation for entry. His eyes met hers a second before he plunged inside her passage.

She gasped and whimpered. Her body rippled. He fucked her with his tongue, lapping at her folds in between each thrust, branding her. His thumb found her clit. He applied pressure to the hidden treasure with each circling pass.

She cried out softly, her heated flesh singing beneath his masterful touch. Her body began to tremble and quake, riding on the razor’s edge of desire. He continued to plunder for a few minutes more, devouring her juices. Her muscles tensed.

Eros paused, his arms quivering from restraint. He met her eyes and waited for the word he needed to hear her utter. Say it, he willed her to obey.

She gasped, making keening noises deep in her throat, then tilted her sex to entice him to finish.

He remained firm, even though it killed him to do so.

“Eros, please…,” she whimpered.

The sound of her uttering his name rocked him to his core. How many years had he waited? Longed for this moment? Eros dove back between her legs, twisting and spiraling his tongue, his mouth frenzied, drunk with the taste of her impending release.

Giving one last shudder, Rachel came hard, her body rippling with aftershocks as she gripped his tongue.

Eros fed deep from her endless well, savoring this first encounter.

He licked her flowing juices, trying to catch every last drop. Satisfied, but far from satiated, he prayed that the memory would last until he could feast upon her once again.

Mindlessly, Eros stroked the soft down between her legs, petting it for a job well done. His eyes followed her pebble-like nipples moving up and down, until her breathing slowed. The rise and fall of her chest mesmerized, lulling him with its calming rhythm.

His chin was wet from her release. Eros wiped it with the back of his hand and brushed it off on his loincloth. He was painfully hard. He thought it would burst before he’d get a chance to fill her. How he’d last until after the mating ceremony, Eros knew not.

“Sleep, little one.”

The creatures of the jungle were starting to stir. In a few hours it would be dawn. With great effort, he rose up, quickly buttoning her shirt and moving her back onto the cot.

Her eyes were drowsy from being sated. He placed a slow burning kiss on her mouth. His teeth nipped at her lower lip, until she allowed him full access, until she surrendered.

Eros’s heart leapt in triumph.

He plunged into her deep recesses, tasting the honeyed nectar within. In a dance as old as time itself, her tongue tangoed with his, turning, dipping and rotating, voracious in its demands for a deeper connection.

Reluctantly he pulled away from her, fighting the primal urges coursing through his body. He replaced the netting around her cot and slipped out the same way he’d come.

See you tomorrow, my Queen.

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