“Nesta Archeron, I would like to take you to bed,” Tarquin said.
“You know I have a mate.”
“Yes, I know. And where is he now?” He stroked a dark knuckle down Nesta’s cheek. “You’ve been in my court for three months now. You’ve mentioned him once and that was it. He hasn’t yet come looking for you.”
Nesta closed her eyes, then opened them to stare at the dark water below, sparkling with the lights from the pleasure barge. They stood on the back end of the boat. It was warm and balmy, but a slight breeze kept them cool.
She had no idea where Cassian was. What he was doing. The last time she’d seen him was that night in Velaris, on her mother’s death day when…
She didn’t want to think about what it’d felt like to share her body with her mate. To share his body. Didn’t want to think about how long she’d laid in an empty bed knowing he wasn’t coming back.
“I’m sorry if I upset you,” Tarquin said quietly.
Nesta shook her head. “You didn’t.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“I don’t know what I want,” she lied. Nesta knew exactly what she wanted. It was hundreds of miles away probably drowning at the bottom of another bottle. And who was she to judge? She’d left soon after they’d slept together and fled to the only court she knew he couldn’t get into. Told them all it was to avoid the harsh winter of Velaris. But really she was hiding from him, from what they should have been, but never would be.
She was a coward.
And she was lonely. So unbearably lonely.
She turned to Tarquin. His blue eyes swam like ocean waves. “I can’t offer you anything more.”
He smiled and stroked his knuckle down along her cheek again. She leaned into the touch. “I know,” he said gently. “I’m not asking for anything more. I’m just asking for tonight.”
Her voice was barely more than a whisper. “Okay.”
“There’s no relief, I see you in my sleep, and everybody’s rushing me, but I can feel you touching me.”