“How can I help?” Ashayna fingered a scroll covered in a flowing script, then hunched over it, her nose a hand-span away. She still couldn’t read a word of it. “What language is this anyway?”
“A dialect of ancient lupwyn,” Sorntar replied. “I can weave a spell to allow you to know our languages. It’s a simple spell, very harmless.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t do well with magic.”
“Ash,” he said, his tone gentle, “let me try.”
She sighed and glanced around the room. Every book was written in a foreign language. Despite her supposedly vast magic, she couldn’t help him with this simple task. Anything would be better than this feeling of worthlessness, even magic. “Fine. Try, if you think it will help.”
Sorntar’s eyes widened. Just as quickly, he hid his astonishment. At moment later, he crowded her back against the table’s edge and his wings blocked escape to either side.
A warm weight landed on either side of her hips—the steady grip of his hands.
“W-what are you doing?”
He ignored her question and lifted her like she weighed nothing, then sat her on the edge of the table. When he stepped between her thighs, she tensed. Too late to stop him, his hands moved to her shoulders. A rising wave of his magic caressed her a moment before its burning essence tickled her nose. Sorntar’s familiar scent blanketed her until a strange mix of panic and desire tightened her stomach.
“Easy, Ash,” he crooned. “I needed to get within the perimeter of your physical shields. They’re stronger than plate armor. I felt you summoning them as soon as you agreed to the spell.”
“I didn’t…I wasn’t aware.” She might not be aware what her magic was doing, but she was very much aware of how close Sorntar stood. The broad expanse of his naked chest nearly begged for her to explore. Her gaze trailed down. Seeing the hard muscles of his thighs trapped between hers had liquid heat swirling through her blood.
Hesitantly, she traced one of his primaries. The feather was wider than her hand and knife-edge rigid. She ran a finger up his feather’s length until the quill’s shaft disappeared under another layer of feathers.
Sorntar began a deep rumbling, not unlike a cat’s purr. Risking a glance up at his face, she found he had his chin tucked against his chest, his eyes closed, and the feathers of his crest were half raised.
A tugging at the end of her braid made her jump; she relaxed when Sorntar began unwinding the thick coils. His fingers smoothed each strand, removing tangles, the scrape of his fingers along her scalp raising tiny thrills along her flesh. With each sweep of his finger, she leaned closer. When he started massaging her temples, she nearly purred along with him.
She released his wing to stroke his back. Her fingers caressed warm skin, trailing up to his shoulders. His hands abandoned her hair and took a firm grip on her hips. He pulled her closer. It still wasn’t close enough. She arched her back and crushed her breasts to his chest, her fingers biting into his shoulders.
Hot and firm, his lips trailed along her jaw, his tongue darting out to taste the sensitive skin of her neck. With a slow, thorough determination, he carefully worked his way up to nuzzle her ear.
She gasped at the heat shooting straight to her core. Her blood thundering in her veins, she arched closer, her hands clinging to his shoulders. Sorntar melted against her with a groan, then continued his lazy exploration until he came in contact with the delicate silver chain. His cooing changed tones, growing deeper. He tugged at the chain, attempting to free her necklace from the confines of her vest.
In truth, it was his necklace. But he couldn’t have it back. It was the only thing able to calm her magic.
His cooing stopped as his eyes opened a slit. He took her free hand and flattened the fingers against his chest, and then his eyelashes lowered again.
At least he wasn’t going to make an issue out of the necklace.
Her traitorous fingers caressed him one final time. “Ah…this isn’t research, nor is it going to help me read ancient languages.”
“Mutual grooming,” he rumbled without opening his eyes.
“I’d say it’s a little more than that…” She pushed at his chest. “I think we need to focus on the problem at hand.”
“Problem?” he purred.
“The Oracle Tower, my wild magic…Sorntar, you need to focus.”