Thank you. He cleared his throat. Finn blinked. That was oddly specific and violent.

How can you joke about this? Francesca demanded.

And unlike Eloise, he was facing it alone.Phillip, she said, touching his cheek. He didn’t move, and if she hadn’t felt his breath on her fingers, she would have sworn he was a statue. She said his name again, stepping even closer.

She wanted to erase that shattered look from his eyes; she wanted to heal him.She wanted to make him the person she knew he was, deep down in his heart.She whispered his name one last time, offering him compassion and understanding and the promise of help, all in one single word. She hoped he heard; she hoped he listened.

And then, slowly, his hand covered hers. His skin was warm and rough, and he pressed her hand against his cheek, as if he were trying to sear her touch into his memory. Then he moved her hand to his mouth and kissed her palm, intensely, almost reverently, before sliding it down to his chest.Across his beating heart.

Phillip? she whispered, question in her voice even though she knew what he intended to do.

His free hand found the small of her back, and he pulled her to him, slowly but surely, with a firmness she could not deny. And then he touched her chin and tilted her face to his, stopping only to whisper her name before capturing her mouth in a kiss that was blinding in its intensity. He was hungry, needy, and he kissed her as if he would die without her, as if she were his very food, his air, his body and soul.Reaching for her still-trembling body, I pulled her flush against me and ran my hands slowly down the length of her back. She looked as lost in my eyes as I was in hers.

I remained caressing her until exhaustion finally stole her away from me. Still, I couldn’t take my eyes off her face. I hoped that fae could live a long time, because it felt to me that a hundred lifetimes wouldn’t be enough for us.I sensed that she was getting cold. Detaching myself from her gently, I moved her closer to the centre of the mattress. I took a moment to take in the length of her body, the parts of her that had remained secret and shadowed for so long. Then I reached for the blanket, but as I pulled it up over her legs and was about to cover the rest of her with it, I spotted something on her lower stomach. A mark I could have sworn hadn’t been there before. A light scar that ran the width of her abdomen.

I frowned, looking at it more closely. Then I finished putting the blanket over her before sliding beneath it next to her. My hand slipped down to her abdomen, my fingers tracing the scar softly enough that she would not wake up.How could she have gotten a scar like that? It was a huge scar… a surgical scar. The last time I’d seen her abdomen I guessed would have been the time I’d almost given into my passions back in The Oasis, just hours before I’d sent River back to The Shade with Corrine. She’d definitely had no scar then. We’d been naked in that oasis in The Dunes while waiting for Aisha, but the lower part of her had been hidden from me underwater.