The pain was horrible. I screamed, arching, and Rhaelgyr held me close. "Focus," he hissed in my ear. "Focus on getting this out."
I gritted my teeth, still screaming. The dragon's claws dug into my shoulder, and something began to burn deep inside. Molten lead filled my veins, and my screams increased. "Stop it, stop it, stop it," I begged.
"No." He growled, raising hairs all over as I feared an attack. "You must endure."
"I hate you." Tears burned behind my eyelids, and I reached for his hand.
Some of the pain dissipated when I realized his claws had never entered my flesh. Only his energy. Tears stopped, and I slumped in his arms. "Good girl," he murmured, his physical fingers gripping my shoulder. "Ready to work with me?"
The parasite continued struggling, lashing out at me. It was like an open wound bathed in lemon and salt, being washed with rusty bard wire. Conscious thought tried to leave, and I stiffened, focusing on staying in control. "Maybe."
Rhaelgyr settled his right arm around my waist, shifting his grip on my shoulder. Any arousal I'd had was long gone, and it was a struggle not to cry out as the thing in my shoulder writhed. His breath was warm on my neck, and I focused on his voice as he started talking.
"It's lodged pretty deep in your soul. It's had to put out little anchors. When I pull it out, you're going to be in a lot of pain. You'll be weak and vulnerable, but I'll do my best to patch you up."
"You can heal spirits?" I swallowed hard, my head resting on his shoulder.
"You'd be surprised what a dragon can heal. Had I been with you instead of Steven, you wouldn't be in this position." He kissed my ear. "Are you ready?"
Fire kissed every nerve. "As ready as I'll ever be."
"Then we begin." Energy stirred, the pain rising. I whimpered in the back of my throat, and Rhaelgyr held me tighter. "It's going to want to stay. The pain is just to urge you to fight me off."
Sweat beaded my brow. It felt like Rhaelgyr's claws were in me again. "It's working." Taking a shuddering breath, I willed myself to remain calm. Staying still was a small miracle.
"But you won't let it. You know I won't hurt you." More of his energy entered me, and his mind pressed against mine. I groaned, twitching in pain, but allowing him access to my mind.
He sighed in return. "Why do you trust me?" The pain lessened as it felt like his control slipped.
"Because I do," I said, turning his way. Rhaelgyr moved, allowing our eyes to meet. "Because you're trustworthy."
His eyes were wounded, his cheeks flushed. "You don't know that."
The dragon was opening old wounds in me, and I was opening old wounds in him. There was so much wrong with this. "Tell me about it after you get Kurlog's thing out of me."
Rhaelgyr nodded, eyes hardening. "I'll tell you everything." His hand tightened on my shoulder, and the torment began anew. I cried out, nails digging into my palms.
"Would you like me to make him pay?" the dragon asked. The moment of weakness and doubt was gone, replaced once more by the strong man I'd met. Nerves thrilled as I recognized the possessive tone from the sex den. Maybe I'd start my new life with an affair.
"Yes," I whispered, submitting further. The more the parasite tried to hurt me, the more tolerant I grew. Agony could only go so high before nerves grew numb.
But I was starting to black out. My mind drifted, nuzzling against Rhaelgyr's presence. He still spoke, but I didn't hear it. I was content to let him work, trust him to heal me.
Why did I trust him so easily?