I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I awake with a start, cold and alone.
Panic forces my throat closed and I nearly fall as I tear myself from the bed and skid into the main living space. I see Aarav standing naked in the kitchen, eyes wide at my frenzied entrance.
“You startled me,” he says, placing a hand on his chest.
I remain where I am, body tight and ready to flee, and take a quick, shuddering breath. “I… I apologize.” My voice cracks as I struggle to calm my racing heart. “I thought you were gone.”
“I’m just making breakfast.” He smiles and tilts his head. “Why would I be gone?”
I take another breath, counting to three before releasing it. “Because you came to your senses.”
He steps forward and offers his hand. “I’m still here.”
I reach out and grip it. I feel the need to pull him so tightly to me that he could never leave, but I don’t.
I can’t force him to stay. After all, I realize with a heavy feeling in my gut, he had a life before I found him. It was possible that he would want to return to a life where I could not follow.
It’s hard to speak, but I force a smile to my lips. “Thank you.”
He leans forward, resting his forehead against my chest. “Thank you,” he whispers back.
I close my eyes, savoring the moment. That’s all I can do. Savor the moments.
I indulge myself with a soft press of my lips to the top of his head. “What were you cooking?”
He laughs and steps back to look at the pot over the fire. “I’m not sure what happened.”
I take a moment to shift my focus from him to the smell in the air, and immediately sneeze as my nose rejects the scents that assault it. I look down at him with my brow raised, and then I laugh.
It’s a deep, rumbling sound, like distant thunder crashing over rocks. I’d almost forgotten what my own laughter sounds like.
I can’t help it, though. I take a step back and stare at him in feigned horror. “Are you trying to poison me?”
His shoulders shake with soundless laughter. “It… It looks worse,” he admits.
I step forward, and my stomach turns. There are little chunks of things in there that shouldn’t be, and the smell is far from appetizing.
It only makes me laugh harder. Aarav stares at the pot, his face twisting as he tries to keep from laughing, too. It’s no use. He doubles over, clutching at the counter with one hand and waving the other in front of his face.
I pick up the pot, carry it to the door, and chuck the entire thing into the yard. I manage to say between the aftershocks of laughter, “Let’s try something simple… together.”
He nods, grinning, and rubs his face as he continues to giggle a bit. Then he moves toward me, resting his hands on the counter on either side of me. “What were you thinking?”
I pause. He’s so close, and the position he’s in is startlingly intimate. When I lick my lips nervously, I watch as his gaze follows my tongue.
“I… Eggs,” I force myself to say. “I have a hen… We can have fresh eggs for breakfast.”
He leans forward, and my breath catches in my throat as he presses his lips against my cheek. “If that’s what you want,” he says in a low voice, and the way he says it sends shivers down my spine.
I search his face, trying to find answers. “Are we still talking about food?”
He shakes his head as he moves closer, touching his forehead to mine. “No.”
I close my eyes, taking a deep breath. Then, I place my lips against his. He wraps his arms around my middle and leans in closer to press our bodies together.
I shudder and pull away slowly. “Aarav…”
He buries his face against my neck. “I love you,” he whispers.
I close my eyes as he says it, trying to do what I told myself I would. Just savor the moments.
But this moment, I can’t enjoy.
Somehow, the words I’ve always wanted to hear are the most painful. Because if he truly loved me, the curse would be broken, but I’m still a beast.
He pulls away to look up at me with a frown. “What’s wrong?”
I shake my head, moving back to lean against the counter. “It’s nothing.”
“It doesn’t look like nothing.”
I chuckle, the sound hollow. “I just don’t understand. Why would you love someone with this face?”
His frown deepens. “What are you talking about? You’re beautiful.”
I cover my face with my hands, and my clawed fingers run across the twisted features. The heavy brow that rests over narrowed eyes. The nose that angles too far down. The coarse patches of hair, like a poorly grown beard all over.
“No one could truly love this,” I say as I try to keep my face covered in shame.
He pulls my hands away and clasps his own to my cheeks. “I do.”
There is nothing but sincerity in his voice. His eyes look at me with only fondness, not a hint of disgust or lies within them.
And, yet, I know it isn’t true.
“I…” I sigh and lean in to kiss him softly. “I appreciate the sentiment.”
His head follows mine to pick the kiss back up, this time running his hands through my hair to elicit something between a growl and a purr. I pull back to look into his eyes once again, then slowly step forward until he’s the one pinned.
“I think my appetite has changed,” I mutter against his lips.
He smiles. “I’m glad.”
I wrap my arms around him, one hand going to his hip and the other cradling the back of his head as our lips meet again.
Slowly, I work my hands under his shirt, running my nails over his back. He shudders at the touch. I break the kiss and move down to his neck, where I gently bite, smiling when he lets out a quiet gasp.
I move both hands to his hips and slowly slide them down over his thighs. His breathing comes fast and shallow, and he’s clutching my shoulders as if for dear life. I glance up at his face to check that he’s still okay.
He looks back at me with wide eyes. His cheeks are red, and he’s panting heavily. There’s a tense, almost hesitant look on his face.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, pulling my hands away.
He looks away, then quickly looks back and says, “I… I want to be the one who pleasures you this time, on my knees.”
The sudden thrill that courses through me sends every hair standing on end. “Are you sure?”
“Please,” he whimpers.
The tone of his voice is enough to overpower any concern I have. “All right.”
I watch as he takes a deep breath, then drops down to his knees. I gasp as he gently takes the head of my cock into his mouth, and I tremble as I fight the urge to bury myself in the warmth. I’m already feeling weak and dizzy from just this little bit.
He begins to move slowly, his tongue rubbing and pressing with each pass. I can do nothing but watch as his lips are stretched around me and clutch the edge of the counter tight with both hands.
The sensations running through me are overwhelming, and I feel sweat beading on my forehead as I try to hold back. I’ve never experienced this before. Not before I was cursed, and certainly not after. This is something entirely new, something I didn’t even know I was missing.
I growl as he forces himself further down, then hurriedly pull back when he makes a choked sound. “Are you all right?”
He coughs once, then nods and smiles. “Yes, I just got a little ahead of myself.”
I put my hand on his head and try to push him away when he leans in to try again. “It isn’t necessary to force yourself.”
He doesn’t listen, tilting so that my hand pushes only air and taking me back in his mouth. He bobs up and down with renewed enthusiasm, as if to prove a point. I clench and unclench my hands, not sure what to do with them.
His own hands come up to caress my thighs, and my whole body shudders. He moves slowly, taking his time to run his hands up my thighs and to my balls, which he takes in one hand and gently squeezes.
Then he pulls off and licks his lips as he stands up. “Come on.” He takes my hand and leads me over to the bedroom, where he pushes me onto the bed and climbs on top.
I look up at him with soft eyes. “Aarav…” I cup his cheeks, doing my best to be gentle as I stroke my thumbs over his cheekbones. “You are a marvel.”
He smiles and leans down to kiss my own cheeks. He shifts to position himself over me so that his groin is pressed to mine, and a small movement is all it takes to rub our lengths together.
I gasp and arch my back, my hands flying to his hips to grip them and hold them steady as I grind up into him. My head swims with all the different sensations as we move against each other, his hands on my chest, his eyes half-lidded and lips parted.
The sound I make is some fractured growl, a lustful sound that dissolves into a gasp. That’s when he leans back and tries to take us both in one hand; his fingers don’t meet to complete the grip, but the feeling is just as good as he strokes us.
My fingers play over his hips and waist as I thrust into his hand. He lets out a startled squeak as my thighs hit his ass and nearly knocks him forward.
I freeze. “Too much?”
“No, no.” He shakes his head. “Keep going.”
I take a moment to try to think through the haze of desire, then hold onto his hips to lift him up. I reposition myself so that my length is instead between nestled his cheeks, the head brushing against the small of his back.
With one hand still on his hip, I move the other to wrap around his hand as he continues to stroke himself. I let him drop back down and he rolls his hips to grind against my cock with the entire curve of his ass.
He makes a desperate sound as I force his hand to move in rhythm with my thrusting. The muscles in his arms are corded as he’s trapped between an almost literal rock and a hard place; every movement involves some sort of grind or slide or stroke or squeeze.
There’s nothing he can do that doesn’t stimulate some part of him, and he chokes on a moan when I give a vigorous thrust up. I can feel myself starting to leak where the head pushes against his lower back, and the harder I go, the wetter it gets.
Even without being inside him, I can feel the intensity starting to pool and grow taut. And it seems that he feels the same way, because when I look up at him, his eyes are squeezed shut, his face a portrait of desire.
He’s breathing hard, letting out choked moans and squeaks with each little movement. Then he lets out a long moan as his body begins to shudder, and I feel the streaks of cum as they land across my stomach and chest.
The sight, sound, and feel of his orgasm sends me over the edge and I find my release only a moment later. Just as he starts to collapse on top of me, I give one final thrust, and watch over his shoulder as I mark his back the same way he’d done to me.
We lay there, wrapped in heat, gasping and panting together in a broken staccato. I place a kiss to the top of his head, holding him close with both arms around his middle.
I want to never let go.
A dark part of me wants to chain him up and ensure he has to stay. So there is never a day without his voice, his smile, his warmth.
For the first time in a long time, I feel a swelling in my throat that builds into tears. They well up in my eyes before beginning their descent down my cheeks. I swallow hard in an attempt to stop them, but it’s no use.
The dam inside me is broken, and I feel a sob tear through my chest.
I tighten my grip on him and roll onto my side, curling around him protectively. “I love you,” I whisper with a ragged breath. “I love you.”
His hand moves up to my face to brush away some of the tears as they fall. “I love you, too.” He says it so simply, as though the words require no thought at all.
Instead of relief and delight, I feel only more pain gripping my heart. “Please don’t lie to me. I don’t need your pity.”
He laughs softly to himself, shaking his head. “I don’t pity you. I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t ever pity you.”
His eyes find mine and hold them. I feel my breath catch in my throat.
“I don’t pity you,” he whispers again.
I try to search his eyes for answers or lies, but I see only love.
“I don’t understand,” I say. “The curse is supposed to be broken if someone loves me.”
His hand slides from my cheek, down my neck, and along my arm. His palm meets mine, and he intertwines our fingers together.
“I love you as you are,” he says with a smile.
I close my eyes and let myself fall into the warmth and sincerity of his voice. The fear is worn away, like wind against stone, shaping it into something different.
As I am?
There’s a hundred or more questions in my mind. But that is the one that rings the loudest: as I am?
He doesn’t love me for who I was, or who I could be. What was it he’d said before? That he sought me out because I understood how it felt to be lonely.
Perhaps I was a cure for him just as much as he was for me.
“Okay,” I whisper, squeezing his hand. “Okay.”
He leans in to kiss me, fangs and all. His hands tighten around mine, claws and all. And he loves me, beast and all.
I no longer feel cursed.
His love, I realize, is all I need.