Flesh and Spirit by Amanda Steiger

Flesh and Spirit by Amanda Steiger

Flesh and Spirit

by Amanda Steiger

Changeling Press

[ Fantasy Romance, MFM ]

Rose has always dreamed of serving Kalia, the goddess of healing and pleasure. But in order to become a priestess, she has to complete a ritual in which she casts aside all inhibitions and enters a trance of sexual ecstasy. Only then will Kalia imbue her with healing powers. Her friends Gabe and Rafe — two strong-willed, sensual men from her village — are more than happy to help her complete her Initiation. But can Rose handle what they have in mind?

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Chapter One

Rose waded into the Divine Pool and shivered as the cool water lapped against her naked thighs. Torches burned in ornately carved sconces on the walls of the cave. Her heart hammered as she glanced down at herself and self-consciously crossed her arms over her exposed breasts.

Gabe smiled with one corner of his mouth. “Nervous?” His voice was deep and rich, like dark chocolate. Just the sound of it sent a tiny, hot dart of pleasure to her clit. She licked her lips, her gaze moving back and forth between the two men in the pool with her — Gabe and Rafe. Her Initiators.

“I’m not nervous,” she lied. She couldn’t look directly at either of them. This was the first time she’d seen them naked — well, outside of her dreams, anyway. The men were a study in contrasts. Gabe was all moon-pale skin, lean, whipcord muscles, and pale blond hair that fell to almost the middle of his back. He stood there, staring at her through frost-blue eyes ringed by long, dark lashes. Rafe’s skin was golden tan, his dark hair tumbling in loose curls around his face, his jaw roughened with stubble. They were both looking straight at her, without even a hint of shyness.

Rose brushed a loose wisp of hair from her eyes and studied the wall. “Well,” she muttered. “Maybe a little.”

Rafe’s brown eyes twinkled at her. “It’s all right, you know.” He waded toward her through the pool. The water swirled around him, faintly luminous with spiritual energy, concealing everything below his waist. “This is an important day. You’d have to be made of stone not to be nervous.” He splashed some against her stomach, startling a small laugh from her.

“The water will help, if you let it,” Gabe added. “Soak in here awhile, and it calms you. Loosens your inhibitions.”

“I know that,” she replied, arching an eyebrow. “I’m nearly a priestess, remember?”

The corner of Gabe’s mouth lifted in a cool smile. “Of course. My apologies.” Somehow, he managed to make even that sound arrogant.

Rafe moved closer, until she could feel the heat radiating off his skin and his broad, muscled chest nearly touched hers. Warm hands settled on her shoulders, and her breath hitched. The water was pleasantly cool against her bare, aroused pussy. Rafe leaned down, until his lips brushed against her ear, and murmured, “Rose… are you ready for this? If you want to wait…”

She drew in a slow breath, then let it out.

Every priest and priestess went through Initiation. Gabe and Rafe had already completed theirs. To become a true servant of the goddess Kalia, she had to surrender herself fully to pleasure, to cast aside her ego, and enter a trance of spiritual and sexual ecstasy. Once her mind was fully open, Kalia would enter and bestow her with healing powers. On the surface, the Initiation sounded simple enough, but not everyone succeeded. To abandon all control, to strip oneself of barriers, was not an easy thing. Tonight she would become one of the Chosen or lose her chance forever.

“I’m ready,” she said firmly.

Heat flared in Gabe’s pale blue eyes. He stared at her intently, and a shiver ran through her. His lips parted in a smile, and she saw the glint of sharp silver teeth. Most of the Chosen modified their bodies in some way, as a symbol of their devotion — tattoos, scars, piercings. Rafe had a pair of modest silver studs in one ear. Gabe had given himself fangs and pierced his left nipple with a blue-jeweled silver ring. It glinted in the torchlight, and she found herself staring at it, wondering if it had hurt when they put it in. Absently, she touched her own nipple, massaged it in small circles. She imagined sharp metal sliding through flesh, and the nipple hardened under her fingertips.

She realized Gabe was still watching her, and she flushed hotly.

He reached out and slid one warm fingertip along the curve of her neck, sending fresh shivers rippling through her. Under the water, her labia swelled and pulsed. Gabe leaned in and brushed his lips against her. “Let’s go,” he said.

She frowned, brows knitting together. “Go where? Doesn’t the ritual take place here?”

Gabe shook his head and climbed out of the pool. The water rolled off his pale skin in rivulets, and before he turned, she caught a glimpse of his long, engorged cock bobbing in front of him. He shrugged into his robes, which were long, black, and simple. Rafe pulled on an identical garment, then handed Rose a pale green Initiate’s robe. She quickly slipped into it, covering herself. She knew it would come off again soon enough, but for now it was a relief to have at least a flimsy layer of cloth between herself and the world.

She wondered why she felt so self-conscious. It wasn’t as if she’d never been naked with a man before. But two men at once… well, that was new. More importantly, these weren’t just any men.

“This way,” Gabe said, turning toward the exit.

She hesitated. Rafe gave her a reassuring nod and a smile. She bit her lip and followed him. Goose bumps broke out on her flesh as the three of them walked down a narrow stone hall lined with torches. The air was warm and moist, but a faint chill slid over Rose’s skin, like a breath of frosty air.

If the goddess rejected her, she would be separated from them forever. They would live in the temple, and she would stay in the village.

No. She gave her head a small, fierce shake. That wouldn’t happen.

The three of them had grown up in the village, played together as children. Rafe’s father was the village blacksmith, his mother the baker — Gabe, a half-wild orphan they’d taken in. Rose had lived just a few houses away, and had wandered over every day after sitting through her mother’s dreary lessons in stitching and cutting fabrics. Of course, Rose had known from an early age that she wouldn’t be a seamstress. Even then, she felt the goddess’s call. They all did. As adolescents, the three of them had gone exploring in the woods together, seeking out the hidden meadows, the secret caves and waterfalls. They would venture to the foot of the hill where the ancient temple stood — a place of magic and ritual, desire and healing. A place forbidden to the people of the village.

She knew Gabe and Rafe, perhaps better than she knew anyone outside her own family. Yet tonight, everything felt so new. The air was alive with magic, making her skin tingle and her hairs stand on end. A breeze sighed down the hall, caressing her like invisible hands. It should have been impossible — they were underground, in the catacombs below the temple — but the wind swirled around her, playing with tendrils of her hair. The floor hummed beneath her feet.

“Feel that?” Gabe asked softly.

“Yes,” Rose whispered. “Is that Her?”

He gave a small nod.

Rose trembled with anticipation. They kept walking until they reached a stout wooden door, and Gabe opened it to reveal a stone room lit by torches burning with holy fire — a soft, reddish-pink glow.

Rose hadn’t known what to expect from the Initiation Chamber. What she saw made her pulse spike and her stomach tighten. In the center of the room stood an iron frame, tall as a man, with manacles at all four corners. On the wall, a black leather flogger hung from a peg.

Her breathing quickened. She backed away, heart hammering, then bumped into a hard chest and whirled around to find herself staring into Rafe’s brown eyes. He placed his hands on her shoulders and gave them a gentle squeeze. “There’s nothing to fear.”

She gazed at the room — a chamber of torture, it looked like — and shook her head, fear building inside her. “This… this is…”

“It’s the Chamber of Initiation,” Gabe replied calmly.

She stared at him, searching his neutral expression.

What were they going to do to her in here? She’d been told this was a ritual of pleasure, not pain. Panic squeezed her chest. “I’m not sure I can do this,” she said quietly.

“You can,” Gabe replied calmly.

“I know it looks frightening,” Rafe said, “but remember, Gabe and I have both been through this. Just a few weeks ago, I was the one in those manacles.” He nodded toward the iron frame. A tiny smile grew from one corner of his mouth. “It is a ritual of pleasure. But pleasure and pain… well, sometimes they blur together.”

She hesitated.

“Think of why you’re here,” Gabe said.

She remembered a day several years ago when a man in the village had grown deathly ill, and a priestess had come down from the temple to see him. The healing had taken place in the village square, for all to see. Rose had watched, captivated, as the priestess laid her palms on the man’s chest and murmured a few words. A white glow had enveloped her hands, and a few minutes later, the man sat up, looking bewildered but perfectly well. The healing powers bestowed by Kalia were truly miraculous. That day, Rose had sworn to herself that she would do whatever it took to become a priestess.

She took a deep breath and faced the room. Gabe’s fingers brushed the back of her hand, and a tremor of mingled desire and fear ran through her. “I’m ready. Do what you have to do.”

Gabe smiled, showing a glint of fangs.

They entered the room, and Rafe pulled the door closed. She started to walk toward the iron frame, but Rafe caught her wrist. “Not yet,” he said.

She gave him a questioning look. He smiled. “We don’t have to rush things,” he said, rubbing her shoulders gently. There was such strength in those hands, but so carefully controlled. His warm brown eyes searched hers as he brushed locks of loose hair from her face. Then he cupped her face between his palms and leaned down.

He pressed his warm, firm lips to hers, and she closed her eyes. She relaxed into the kiss and placed her hands on his slim hips. With his tongue, he parted her lips and delved between them, caressing her mouth in warm, sure strokes. She’d kissed men before, of course, but never Rafe. It was strange, now that she thought about it — they’d always been so close, the three of them, yet they’d never explored each other in this way. Well, she was pretty sure Gabe and Rafe had, but she’d always felt on some level that she would never be a part of that intimacy, so she’d tried to satisfy herself with other men. There’d always been something missing.

That something, she decided, was this. The sensation of Rafe’s lips on hers was so oddly familiar, so right, as if it had happened a hundred times before.

Gabe touched her cheek with cool, slender fingers, distracting her, turning her face toward his. For a moment she just stared into those frost-blue eyes. Gabe leaned forward and touched his lips to hers, sending an electric tingle through her nerve-endings. He slid one hand into her hair, gripping it, anchoring it in place as he deepened the kiss.

She felt the press of fangs through his lips, and her breathing quickened. Cautiously, she explored them with her tongue, feeling their sharp tips. He nipped her lower lip, hard enough to make her gasp, and she tasted blood. She pulled back and touched her lips; her fingers came away glistening red. She looked up, eyes wide. His fangs were bared, tips stained with her blood.

She ought to be frightened. Instead curiosity stirred inside her. She took a step closer and kissed him again. She bit his lower lip, squeezing until she tasted copper, and their blood mingled as their tongues danced together.

Rafe’s hand settled between her shoulders and slid down her spine to rest against the small of her back. She looked up at him, and for the first time, she noticed the small puncture scars on the side of his neck. They were pale, visible only because the scar tissue was slightly shinier than normal skin. She knew where they had come from, and she shivered lightly, wondering what it would be like to feel Gabe’s fangs locked into her throat.

Rafe smiled. “It’s an incredible feeling,” he said in answer to the unspoken question.

Her cheeks warmed. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were spying on my thoughts.”

He laughed softly, and the sound was like a flame licking her insides. She felt it low in her belly, close to her pussy, which pulsed in rhythm with her heart. “You’re easy to read,” Rafe said. “That’s all.” He touched the side of his neck, fingering the scars. “I noticed you looking at these. It seemed natural that you’d be wondering.”

“You will find out for yourself, soon enough,” Gabe said, and his voice trickled like warm honey through her bones.

Rafe’s gaze searched hers. He loosened the sash of her robe, and it fell open, exposing her. “May I?”

She nodded, heart racing.

He glided his fingertips down the slope of her right breast, the ghost of a caress, then spread his big hands over her breasts. The fingers were long, strong and tanned, the knuckles roughened with tiny scars and calluses from a lifetime of work.

She could feel the shape of those hands burning into her — sharp and hot, like he was branding his fingerprints into her skin. His thumbs rolled over her stiff nipples, and she felt the areolae pucker, gathering into small tight folds of flesh around the aching points. He pinched them lightly, squeezing just hard enough to give her a tiny jolt of pain along with the pleasure. Her lips parted in surprise. It was… good.

He leaned down and kissed her deeply. Stubble scraped her skin, and she closed her eyes as she lost herself in the kiss, in the taste of him. He was warm, sweet, with a faint hint of mint on his tongue. He trailed kisses along her jawline and neck, spots of fire on her skin. She slid her hands over his shoulders, down his back, feeling the muscles through his robe, the hills and valleys of him.

When she pressed closer, she felt the bulge of his cock against her hip, throbbing against her. Her pussy pulsed in rhythm. She had an urge to shift so that the bulge was pressed right up against her sex — to rub against him like a cat, to push her softness against his hardness — but she restrained herself. As Rafe had said, no need to rush this.

He slid one large hand down her back to cup her ass, and she felt his hand burning into her again, felt the outline of every finger.

“More,” she whispered against his lips.

She was conscious of Gabe watching them both with that cool, intent gaze as Rafe carefully removed her robe. It fell to the ground, pooling around her feet. His hands slid over her, exploring every inch of skin. A soft, hungry groan escaped her throat as she placed her palms against his broad chest.

She wanted him to cup her pussy, to grind his calluses into her wet flesh. But he didn’t touch her there. His thumb kept coming teasingly close, caressing her lower belly in small circles, dipping lower and lower until it brushed against the small, silky curls between her thighs, but it never quite grazed her clit. A faint whimper of frustration escaped her.

Then Rafe stepped back, leaving her panting. Her lips felt swollen and sensitive from his kisses. She licked them, tasting him.

“Keep going.” Her voice emerged soft and husky.

Both men stepped closer. They ran their hands over her sides, her hips, her breasts. She closed her eyes, savoring the heat of their skin against hers — the roughness of Rafe’s calluses, the smoothness and firmness of Gabe’s hands, like warm, living marble. She arched into their touch. Rafe’s hot mouth touched the juncture between her shoulder and neck. Gabe’s lips brushed her nape. When she closed her eyes, it was easy to melt into the sweetness of it, the overflow of sensation. But when she opened them, reality jolted back into place. Her gaze strayed toward the iron frame, and a tiny trickle of ice-cold fear penetrated the heat of desire.

“Close your eyes,” Gabe rumbled in her ear.

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