Chapter 31

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"What?" I blink in surprise.

Hale takes a deliberate step forward, close enough that I can smell the scent of clean soap on his skin. "Dance with me," he repeats lowly, lifting his eyes to meet mine.

They're filled with heat, swirling with hunger.

My mouth goes dry. "I don't know how to dance," I whisper weakly, struggling to control the scorching wave that swept up from my toes at the look in his eyes. 

He laughs, a quiet, unamused sound. "I don't care."

With that, he takes my hand and pulls me out onto the floor amidst the other couples swirling and swaying to the music. He traps my hand in a firm grip, pulling me close to him. His other hand settles on the bare skin on my back, the imprint of each finger burning against me. I bite my lip to stifle a gasp.

His eyes flash, his hand tightening briefly. 

Then he steps, pulling me with him in a slow movement. I forget all about not being able to dance when we step again, and he pulls me flush against his body. My own moves with the flow of his and we're dancing. 

"Why are you here?" I whisper, my thoughts all over the place.

"Why do you think?" he responds, a wicked little grin pulling at the corners of his mouth. 

My heart skips. I don't know what to think. He's here, holding me in his arms, looking at me like this... it feels surreal. Surely this new passion isn't just because of some silly dress?

I struggle of find the words. "I think you're here so you can brag to Gareth about all of the beautiful women you get to see, while he's stuck in the cold, lonely barracks." There. A joke, something safe, something familiar. 

"That might have been my initial reason, but now that I'm here, I can only look at one woman." He gives me a meaningful stare.

 My cheeks heat. What game is he playing? "Lady Bedivere does make a rather fetching cupcake," I say, hoping mentioning her will cut through some of this tension so I can breathe, get my head straight, stop and- 

"Sadly for her, I prefer women dipped in starlight rather than frosting." His hands slip up my back in a caress that has me shivering, to finger a tendril of my hair. "Women with wild hair and wild eyes to match their wild hearts."

"Most men prefer their women tame," I breathe, unable to look away. Unable to ignore the tightening in my stomach. I've never seen this side of Hale, never imagined he would say such things to me, look at me in such a way. 

"Most men have never met you," he says hoarsely, pulling me flush against him again. I have feel the hard lines of his body pressed against the soft edges of mine. I want to sink my hands into his hair, press my mouth against his-

Hale leans to whisper in my ear, his lips the barest brush against my skin. "Let's get out of here. We can go somewhere else, somewhere alone."

My skin is hot and tight, my heart racing. I can feel the unspoken promise of his words, desire throbbing between us. I open my mouth to say yes-

White flashes in the corner of my eye and I jerk away from him, alarm filling me. Willow dances by with Darius, his golden hair glinting in the light. Reality comes crashing into me, my head spinning. I'd forgotten what I came here for. 

Hale says my name but my eyes are locked on Willow. She glances over for a second, smiling, then her eyes slide to Hale and she stiffens, freezing in the middle of her dance. She studies him for a second, says something to Darius, then makes her way towards us. 

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