Elain and Azriel crept back into their cottage in the late hours of the evening. Though the wedding had been small and intimate, that didn’t mean that their family hadn’t decided that the party following it at Rhys and Feyre’s estate would be a wild one regardless.
It had been difficult to plot their escape—the others wanting an excuse to party well into the morning—but the newlyweds had their own plans for this evening. They had decided ahead of time that they wouldn’t be against simply stepping into the shadows if worse came to worst.
Stepping across the threshold was instantly sobering for Elain as she remembered exactly what they had discussed for their own private celebration.
She’d come across Azriel’s sketchbook months ago, hidden within the drawers of his nightstand, yet still well-used and loved.
This was how she’d discovered how talented of an artist he was, flipping through the intricate charcoal sketches within. She couldn’t help but smile at the fact that many of the more recent pieces were studies of her or of her garden, and then the idea had popped into her head.
“You said the Night Court usually seals their bargains with tattoos, right?”
He had mentioned as much back when Cassian had forged his bullheaded plan to participate in the Rite.
“Yes, and?” Azriel was casual, relaxed, sketching her openly now that she had uncovered his secret pastime. His glasses slipped down his nose as she bit her lip.
“Well what if we made a bargain? On the day we get married. I know it’s customary to prepare vows, but I would much prefer if we made this sort of promise.”
“And you want a tattoo?”
She nodded. “I want you to design it for me. Maybe something a little Illyrian, and I want to design one for you too.”
“You sure about that?” He set down his charcoal, crossing the room to meet her, pinning her against the wall with one arm and boring into her with those bedroom eyes.
Good. He was definitely very into this idea.
“I want you to put your mark on me and for you to have mine on you too. I’m afraid I can’t draw as well as you, though.”
“I’ll show you how to do it with magic, and it’s up to you if you want me to ink you in the traditional way or by magic as well.”
“You can do that?”
“How do you think my brothers got theirs?”
“Hmm. Now I just have to decide what to give you. Perhaps a giant kitten on your stomach or and arrow pointing at your—”
“Just surprise me,” he chuckled before lifting her legs until they were wrapped around his waist and his lips found hers.
“Are you ready?”
Elain nodded. “I want you to do it the traditional way.”
“It’s going to sting much more, love, and take quite a while.”
“I want to feel you leaving your mark though.”
“How about I outline it in ink and then finish it off with magic? While I’m working on it, just work on picturing what you plan on giving me as soon as we make our bargain.”
Elain followed his lead, allowing Azriel to slip off her gown and lie her on her stomach on the couch.
“You know, this isn’t usually how the male undresses the female on their wedding night,” Azriel remarked.
She looked up to an unobstructed view of that glorious smirk. “No, but that’s soon to come.”
She could have sworn his eyes glazed over a bit as he drank in her bare back, only her undergarments shielding her from being completely nude. It quickly passed though as Azriel honed in on his task. “I was thinking about doing something on the backs of your shoulder blades, if that’s okay?”
It was rather endearing that he was asking her permission, but … “I told you that your have free reign with the tattoo. I trust you, husband.” It was excessive and sort of sappy to say, but there was still this giddy part of her which couldn’t stop the word from rolling off her tongue tonight.
“As you wish, wife.” A shiver ran down her spine at him calling her that. Years ago, she couldn’t have even fathomed that he would love her back, and now here they were on their wedding night. “Just close your eyes. I’ll do this as quickly as I can so we can get to … the other part.”
Elain tried to lie as still as possible as Azriel got to work. He had been right in the fact that it stung—it was as if she were being pinched over and over as he worked the needle across her skin. Periodically, he would check on her, asking if she was okay, offering to take breaks, but Elain wanted to power through, and eventually she felt him wiping down her upper back with something cold and wet.
“All done.” He offered Elain a hand and helped her return to a sitting position. She could definitely tell that the spot would be tender for a day or two, but it was worth it to get the experience of sharing this with him.
“So about our bargain …” she prodded.
“I, Azriel Kieran Archeron, promise to love you for the rest of eternity, always striving to put you first and remind you of how much you are loved. I will be a supportive husband, a doting father if we are blessed with children, and a devoted partner to you—my mate, my equal in all but the Cauldron’s eyes.”
This must be where Elain was supposed to say something, though she had nearly lost her words as her eyes welled up from Azriel’s vow to her, even though she had practiced her part of this every day for the past week in the mirror whenever Azriel wasn’t home.
“I, Elain Raisa Archeron, promise that I will love you as well for the rest of eternity. I promise to remain your best friend in every way, loving you with every facet of my heart and striving to always let you know that whenever I can. I will forever be your loving wife, a caring mother if we ever are so lucky as to have children, and your one-and-only for the rest of my days. The Cauldron did it’s damndest, yet I stand before you, your mate and equal by my own declaration.” She added that last part on the fly after hearing him express the same sentiment and resonating with it so forcefully.
“It’s a bargain,” Azriel breathed and reached out with his magic, Elain’s Siphon flaring with his own as he guided her through the process of letting the magic grab the mental image she had and transpose it onto his skin. At the same time, she felt a much duller pain across her shoulder blades as she felt it fill in the lines Azriel had drawn for her.
Almost as soon as the thrall of magic had released them and the sting of it had left the air, Azriel began undoing the clasps on his shirt, a soft smile on Elain’s lips as he pulled it over his head and turned so she could see the rose-covered thorns which she had placed encircling both joints where his wings attached to his back.
She’d wanted some aspect of her with him always, in one of the most intimate places she could imagine—besides the wings themselves. She was the only one ever allowed to touch them, the only person whom he would not guard them against. She had laid her claim.
He pulled her to the mirror so he could view them for himself and also to show her the Illyrian whorls he’d inked on her back, so similar to his own, but with their own flair. Hers had thorns, and buds in Illyrian indigo strewn throughout. He’d made their tribal tattoos something wholly her own, and she couldn’t help but smile at the fact that they’d both chosen such similar designs for each other.
“They’re perfect,” he murmured, giving her only another few moments to marvel at the intricacies of her new inking before his hands were in her hair, his shirtless torso pressed against her own, his impatience thoroughly mirrored in her as she ran a hand up the back of his neck, the other going right to that place along his spine right between his new markings.
“You’re mine,” she breathed into his mouth as he hitched her legs around her waist and summarily carried her straight to bed.
“You’re mine,” he purred softly before slashing through her undergarments with a flash of cobalt. His own pants didn’t last much longer.
Azriel nestled her into the mattress, tenderly lowering her so that her back—though her Fae blood and whatever salve he’d rubbed into her skin seemed to have lessened the stinging already—brushed the sheets as gently as possible.
There was nothing gentle though about the kisses pressed to her lips, a ravenous hunger ready to devour her. Well, he was going to need to hurry up because with his cock encroaching on her entrance, Elain might just devour him instead.
“Easy,” Azriel growled before grinding up against her, and trailing kisses down her neck. It was always this game between them, wickedly taunting each other to draw their pleasure out—no matter that they were both Fae and their staminas had proven themselves to be impressive time and time again. Elain didn’t doubt that this was only one of the many times their bodies would collide before they made it out of bed tomorrow morning.
She let out a growl of frustration, wrapping her legs around his waist and hiking them up just enough to that sensitive spot on his lower back which she’d just permanently marked. “No games,” she countered, as he hissed, cock twitching against her.
“As milady wishes,” Azriel murmured before detaching her legs, kneeling before her now as he held a thigh with each hand and hoisted Elain’s abdomen a few inches off the bed, one arm moving to support her weight as he feasted.
He stowed his hunger, choosing to sample the course with slow, taunting flicks of his tongue, as he moved on her, always grazing her clit but never giving it as much attention as it deserved, sending Elain into a tizzy.
Once he was fully satisfied, once he had relished the taste of her thoroughly, he unleashed himself—broad smooth strokes engulfing her as Elain’s desperate hands struggled to find purchase within the sheets.
He was dragging this out, but Elain couldn’t complain at the waves of fire coursing through her body at the godsent gift which was Azriel’s wicked tongue. Up and down, he carried her through the throes, always backing down whenever she came too close to completion, letting her simmer until he was ready for her to boil over.
Then, when Elain had been taunted and teased along until she was about to burst, Azriel plowed forward, his tongue hitting that high note over and over until those waves of fire became an inferno in her core and she came for him.
Azriel played with her lazily for a while longer, before coming up for air and grinning at her, her moisture glistening on his lips. “Now how do you want to take me, love?”
“The wall.” She didn’t need to tell Azriel twice, for she was swiftly lifted off the mattress, her back grinding into the hard surface, cool against her skin in contrast to the heat pouring off the male pressed to her front, his length perfectly aligning with her entrance before sliding into her as she latched onto him.
Quite possibly her favorite position, she let Azriel thrust into her, each one searing through her as the wall rattled behind her. She loved being reminded of that raw strength and power he possessed as the shadows he’d unleashed also danced around them and brushed up against their bare skin with each passing throe.
Teeth tugged on her earlobe, and Elain let her head fall back against the wall, exposing her neck for him to pleasure. Lips, teeth, and tongue annihilated it as his breaths came faster, with each repetition of the rhythm.
Just when she felt her blood boiling once again and knew he was close to his release, she traced one finger—all it would take—lightly down the inside of his wing, taking pride in his grunt of satisfaction as he came inside her and she felt herself splinter around him.
Azriel was lying on his stomach, head propped on his folded arms as he took in his gorgeous wife asleep beside him.
Not long ago she had been playfully tracing the circles of thorns on his back, marveling in the beauty of the ink against his skin and at the permanence with which she had branded him.
If only she knew.
This little flower of his had permeated her way into his very soul, turning centuries of beliefs and habits on their heads as she rewrote the way he viewed the world.
He could still be the cold, unforgiving spymaster which his Court required of him, but now he knew that it didn’t define him. And when he came home after long days which sometimes required too much of him, she was there to soothe his aches.
He was no longer lonely. No longer unloved. No longer hiding his innermost self with such ferocity for fear of being too broken for anyone else.
It was enough, he mused as he rolled, pulling her into his bare chest and wrapping a wing around her delicate form protectively.
No. It was more than enough. It was more than he could have possibly wished for upon the stars as a small boy. He was happy. They were happy.