He’d been surprised at her sudden shyness when she’d so boldly unbuttoned his dash jacket and yet been stymied by the buttoned waistband of his trousers. One word he never thought of using for her was ‘shy.’
She tightened her thighs against him, bracing herself as he slid his hands up her hips. The cloth of her wrap skirt bunched up under his hands. If she needed to wrestle to work off her nerves, then he would give her what she wanted. If he could just stop and think and work out what to do next. But the brush of her skirt and buttocks across his hips was even more distracting than the pressure of her palms on his bare chest.
He pulled her torso down hard against his and rolled her over.
She wriggled so effectively, sliding past the curve of his leg hooked over her hip, that she almost got free. He flipped her back down. The feel of her body squirming beneath his made it hard to catch his breath. She was giggling in a breathless way that meant she needed a kiss to calm her.
Just as he shifted to give it, she shoved an elbow between their bodies and with the other thumb dug into the meat of his forearm. He winced and let go with a laughing curse. Wrestling out from under him, she jammed her back against the wall and braced her feet against his thighs and her hands against his chest. Her fingers teasing at his nipples made his groin stiffen and his heart race.
He had waited for so long. He hadn’t touched another woman for fear any dalliance would anger his ancestors and turn the spirits against him, for they could as easily sever the threads that bound him to her as they could draw her back to his side. And they had brought her back to him. Fate had. Destiny had. Or maybe it was just his grandmother lending a helping hand from the spirit world because she thought that at twenty four he was a little old not to be married. Or because she could not imagine a woman turning down her favorite grandson, since after all none ever had. Not that he usually had to ask.
She took his hesitation as an opening to push him to the limit of the bed.
The bed he had built for her. For the two of them. For this.
Maybe thinking wasn’t such a good idea. A man who started thinking in these circumstances was a man about to lose his advantage.
He tipped back over the edge and dragged her with him. It wasn’t far to fall and the impact barely jarred him, but the solidity of her body on top of his stunned him all over again.
He took in a sharp breath, to remind himself he was really awake and with her. The idea that they were this close to at last consummating the marriage was painful because he wanted it so much. And it had to be exactly right, because he was determined to give her that.
Her pagne had wrapped around her leg, trailing up onto the bed like a rope. The way her blouse caught as she pushed up to straddle him left her bodice exposed and gapping enough for him to see the curve of a breast pressed into the lacing. To think of kissing her there made his mouth go dry. She sucked in a breath, as if his body had spoken his thoughts and she liked them. Then she brushed a finger across his lips.
“I’m not sure you’re very experienced at wrestling, Vai. Is this all you can do?”
“I’m just giving you a chance to rest before we really start working on what it is I can do.”
When she giggled it was like being drenched in her delight at the amusing habits of the world. He had spent the last eight years seeing his exalted position as increasingly less free and gratifying and more of a harness he would have to haul along in for the rest of his life. She had shown him the path of escape: air, light, joy.
She bent closer. Her breath brushed sweetly against his cheek. “Promises are just words.”
He grabbed her blouse and yanked it straight up over her head, tangling her arms in the sleeves and blinding her besides. Still giggling, she twisted against the confining way he had wrung the cloth. When she squirmed like that atop his hips, his erection just got harder. He noticed immediately the moment when she realized how good it felt to press herself into him because her breathing altered as she tried, a bit hesitantly, to grind down onto him. She stopped laughing.
He pulled the blouse the rest of the way off over her head. Before she could lower her arms, he grabbed her elbows and locked her gaze with his as she rocked, testing how it felt to plow herself against his erection through the linen of his trousers and the thin lawn cotton of her drawers. Oh, it felt good, and it was just going to feel better.
“Harder,” he murmured, daring her.
She’d forgotten all about the wrestling match. She bit down on her lower lip and concentrated on the rhythm, the way she could ride along his length without there being too much intimacy. Ease into it. More than anything he did not want to go too far too fast.
Still, to watch her keep rocking as her pleasure built made him wild. She gasped. Her chin tipped up as her mouth parted and her eyes closed. She shuddered down her body and pushed against him a few more times as he watched her, for of course as he’d suspected she took exactly the same pleasure in her body as she took in food. The purity of her enjoyment was so sensual he began to tremble as her response quivered through her.
“Ah, Vai, Vai, it happened so fast,” she murmured. The feel of her relaxing against him in the aftermath made him delirious with satisfaction and desire.
The glow of the cold fire he had called when he’d stepped into the room began to dim.
He sat up and pinned her arms against her torso and her body against his own. Everything about her was warm and inviting. “We’re not done yet.”
Climbing to his feet, he carried her up with him. She instinctively wrapped her legs tightly around his waist, to hold on. He dumped her on the bed and dropped full length on her. Her eyes were wide and her lips ripe for kissing.
For how many nights had he dreamed of doing this?
He brushed her mouth with his. Her tongue licked to test how open he was.
For an eternity, they kissed searchingly. She began to caress his shoulders and arms. He explored her neck, her shoulders, and ventured down to toy with the lacing that bound up the bodice.
It wasn’t until his shoulders began to bind back and his arms slide off her torso that he realized she was pulling his jacket off down his arms. The sleeves hung up at his wrists because of the tight fit of the buttoned cuffs. She bunched the fabric behind his back. His arms were now trussed behind him. He shifted, but she had him bound. He dug his hips down onto hers and enjoyed the way her eyes rolled back with simple physical gratification.
He flew a trail of butterfly kisses along her cheek and whispered into her ear. “If you’re trying to get me out of the jacket, Catherine, you’ve gotten yourself stuck. And if you’re not, I can’t imagine what you’re going to do now. The moment you let go of me, the rest of our clothes are coming off whether or not this jacket is still on me. And I’ll still be on top of you when we’re done.”
She ducked her head down and bit him.
Not hard but right on a nipple. The clip of her teeth was enough to make him flinch, and the shock of the attack made him drop his guard. That was all it took. She rolled him over so fast she had him pinned on his back. With the jacket wrung up behind, he literally could not move his arms without tearing the cloth.
Again she straddled him.
The glow of cold fire was fading but it was still enough for him to see her fingers pry apart the lacing of her bodice. With deliberate slowness, she revealed bit by bit the curve of her breasts and finally the dark nipples. As the laces slid free, she discarded the bodice. Her pagne they’d left on the floor. All she had left were her drawers, which rode low beneath her navel.
Maybe he had dreamed of seeing her like this but he had never been able to dream properly or thoroughly. She was smooth and lovely. Her breasts were not particularly large but they were firm and full and the worst of it was he could not nuzzle or caress them.
She leaned low over him to make sure he understood that she understood he couldn’t touch her, for it was perfectly obvious by the wicked pinch of her mouth she was taunting him.
“Really, Vai,” she murmured, “you mustn’t think you can best me so easily.”
She brushed her bare chest over his, and he actually groaned. Her nipples were tight and erect. She smelled of arousal. He tried to wiggle out, but his hands were caught at the small of his back beneath him.
Ah. Wait. His fingers found the nubs that were the buttons on his cuffs, and he lifted his hips to push against her as if purely in response to her caressing. The movement hid his effort to free himself, the tuck of each button through its hole. She got bolder and slid a hand to his shoulder as she shifted higher up his body, leaning over so he could lick her breasts. By the way she sighed, she liked the wet pressure of his tongue. It was difficult to manage two things at once. Really, he just wanted to nuzzle first one breast and then the other as she made sounds in her throat that weren’t quite a moan and weren’t quite words. Why had he insisted on the excessively fashionable five rounded pearl buttons on the sleeves? Still, as he finally got one cuff undone, he reflected it was good practice for when it came time to fondle her. He closed his lips over her breast and suckled in earnest. She was breathing in ragged exhalations. He eased his arm free with as little change in the position of his shoulder as possible.
The cold fire was by now no more than a misty bauble. The closed door tapped fitfully as a gust of night wind blustered across the compound. As if blown out, the light dissipated, leaving them in utter blackness.
Who needed sight when bodies could feel everything they needed to know?
She slid down, skin to skin, and kissed him, mouth to mouth, and he forgot every cunning maneuver he had meant to do as he brought his free arm up to embrace her. He rubbed a hand up and down her back, marveling in the silk of her bare skin. She ran a palm over the top of his head to feel the texture of his hair. They rolled to lie facing each other, on their sides. He got his other arm, still hindered by the jacket, around her as her arms closed around him. For the longest time they just kissed, breaking to breathe, to nibble on the other’s lips, to press quick soft kisses on cheek or throat. To murmur things that might have been meant as endearments but were not really even words. Slowly, he worked his hands down under the back of her drawers and, cupping her bottom in the span of his hands, he pressed closer and eased back, closer and back again. And then he began to wonder if he wouldn’t need to cool down lest he embarrass himself and disappoint her by coming too soon and without even entering her. He was just so on fire, for in this way even cold mages could burn.
“Let me get that off you,” she whispered.
She groped for the jacket, tugging it out from under him but getting impatient when the unbuttoned cuff caught on his wrist. She yanked so hard two buttons actually popped off, one plinking onto the floor, the other lost in the mattress. She began giggling again as she fumbled with the other cuff buttons, and in the sound he heard and felt that unexpected flare of shyness. But he did nothing. He concentrated on the tensing of her thighs against him as she worked through it.
She dragged the jacket off finally and flung it away. Her drawers were half down as he traced the crease of her thigh. She sat back and took hold of his hands although he had not been intending to do anything to the waistband of his trousers.
“I have to do this myself,” she said in a voice made husky by kissing.
“It’s yours to do, my sweet Catherine. You know I’m yours. Whatever it is you want from me, you know you can have it.”
She sat for the longest time, just breathing, her fingers intertwined with his. He could see nothing, but it seemed to him they were both enveloped by a stillness, poised on the brink of taking a step from which there was no going back.
He thought of how he had first seen her descending the stairs in the Hassi Barahal house. Whatever he had been expecting, it had not been her and her black hair and bewitching eyes and that sarcastic, fearless mouth spilling words that seared him and angered him and made him want to laugh. Every day for almost a year she had been the first thing he thought of in the morning and his last thought at night, not to mention the constant plaguing torment of his increasingly erotic dreams.
He whispered, “But I can’t wait much longer, love.”
She stirred. Holding her breath, her fingers worked along the waistband, unfastening each button without dislodging the fall front. He savored the touch of her fingers moving across his belly.
At last, she eased the fabric down half a hand in distance, and paused. Her body tensed; he understood her well enough by now to know it was pure nerves, that oddly endearing shyness.
“Vai, you’re not wearing anything under these, are you?”
“It spoils the line of my clothes.” It was a lie, of course; he’d dressed this way because he knew she was coming, because the pamphlet and her conversation with Kofi had given him such painful hope.
But the comment had the effect he wanted: A choked-off laugh relaxed her.
“Gracious Melqart, I should have known.”
Then she was pressing herself full length against him, kissing him passionately. He slid her out of her drawers. With hands and a final tug with her feet she got his trousers off him. So it was only and at last the two of them on the bed wearing nothing, just as he had intended. She was panting faintly, hands exploring down his hips. His penis pressed against the dark curls of her sex. Now that they both understood consummation would make the marriage, he supposed he should ask her one more time if she was really sure this was what she wanted. But she had already come back to the room and to this bed; she had pushed him down on the bed not so long ago and said she wanted him. And the truth was, he wasn’t willing to give her up unless she demanded it. He meant never to let go of her.
“Catherine,” he murmured hoarsely.
“Yes,” she breathed. “Now.”
He rolled her onto her back and stroked a hand down into her curls until she moaned. He found the nub of her and pressed the heel of his hand to massage it as he probed with a finger inside her. She was slick and tight, and she writhed, murmuring his name as he stroked and pressed, as he nuzzled each breast and then kissed her mouth although she was breathing too hard in the throes of her pleasure to kiss him back. Her tight curls tickled his palm. A strand of long hair come loose from her braid trailed across his cheek.
“Oh, Vai.” She tensed and gasped as a convulsion of pleasure washed through her.
He had brought her to this. Such a wave of triumph and pleasure rushed through him that he became unbelievably and almost painfully hard.
“Blessed Tanit,” she murmured as she came back to herself. “I had no idea.”
She arched her hips under him, like a question.
He could not form words. No going back. He thrust in, in one stroke.
She grunted faintly.
It was too dark to see, but he closed his eyes anyway because the feel of her enveloping him was almost too pleasurable to be endured. It was done. It was done. It was done. He bit his lip and breathed himself back down to earth.
“Don’t just stop there,” she said indignantly.
He propped himself on his elbows and began a slow steady stroke in and out. She minutely adjusted her hips with each thrust. She kneaded her hands into his buttocks in a way surely calculated to inflame and arouse him even more than he already was. When he felt the beginning of the throbbing that meant he was close he had to stop and breathe himself down from the edge. He reached for a tiny bit of magic to pour a tincture of cold wind down over them, dangerous for any cold mage to attempt except one who had trained himself to work with absolute precision. It took thought and care to pull the threads of power into the mortal world from the spirit world, and that concentration by itself more than the touch of chilly air worked him back from the brink.
He would not do this quickly. He would show her the kind of pleasure a man ought to give a woman, not just because it was what he wanted and what she ought to have, but because to feed her a rich banquet of pleasure would so surfeit her that she could imagine nothing other than being with him.
Because he had stopped, she began pumping her hips under him until he had to start up again, strong but not too fast. Nothing existed in the world except the feel of her under him and the sigh of her breathing and the caress of her hands that coaxed him faster and harder. The inevitable release became a tide of such intense feeling that everything faded except the rush.
As the flood subsided, his head began to clear and he realized he had forgotten the sheath.
He pulled out and rolled off her. “Up! Get up. Jump around or something. And after I promised you!”
He heard and felt that she stood although he couldn’t see her.
After a moment, she said, “It’s dribbling down my leg.”
Then she began to laugh in the way that made him love her so much. Well, really, there were so many reasons to love her he could not begin to reckon such an extensive accounting.
“Does this really help?” she demanded.
“Probably not,” he admitted. “I can’t believe I didn’t think–”
“Stop, Vai. What’s done is done. And if it felt half as good for you as it did for me, then so be it. We’ll have to hope you didn’t just make me pregnant. But please don’t tell me we can never do this again because of that.”
He reached again with his magic, a thread he sharpened to a fine cutting blade, and pierced a slit into the interstices between the worlds. The glow sparked and swelled. Touching it, he shaped it to a simple sphere the size of his fist. In its light Cat stood quite splendidly bare, displaying her body without the least shyness now. Her braid fell down her back to where its tip brushed her shapely ass. Lying on his back on the bed, he folded one arm behind his head and boldly stared at her breasts and midriff and the dark triangle of curly black hair. She had the most amazing long legs, the very ones she used to easily stride alongside him. Yes, there was indeed a trickle of semen making a trail down one leg.
“Over on the second shelf,” he said with a rueful sigh, “there is a little wooden box with a lid. Bring that over here.”
She didn’t answer at first because she was examining him from head to toe with a look of intent appreciation on her expressive face. He stretched slowly to make sure she had plenty of time to look him over. She took her time, as smug as the cat who’s just lapped up the cream.
“What happens if I fetch it?” she said. “Do I get something as reward?”
He marveled at the sway of her backside and the sensual beauty of her thighs as she crossed to the rack of shelves he’d built as a makeshift wardrobe. She fetched the box and, returning, gave him just as fine a view of her front. She was certainly blushing a little, revealed more by the purse of her mouth and the tilt of her head, but it was obvious she liked the way he was looking at her as much as she liked the way he looked.
She sat on the bed beside him. When he sat up, she leaned against him with a contented sigh. Her skin was a little moist with sweat. He draped an arm around her. Opening the lid, he showed her the sheaths made from sheep’s intestines and explained how they worked.
“Ah,“ she remarked. “Like a sword’s sheath. Or a sausage.”
“Catherine!” he protested, laughing.
She snuggled closer, rubbing against him. “How do you know all these cunning things, Vai? And where do you get them? I heard you never went out walking with any of Expedition’s women. It was quite the marvel among all the gossips.” She paused, then brushed a thumb along his cheek. “You have such an expression on your face.”
Some memories were painful to recall.
She kissed him. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked. It doesn’t matter. I was just teasing–”
“No, I don’t mind saying. Back in the village we did everything short of intercourse. You just did not get a girl pregnant unless it was already agreed by your families that you were going to marry. Then I was taken up to the mage House. Everything was different there. I would never have forced myself on a woman who didn’t want me even though it was understood that a powerful cold mage like me could have whomever he wanted. Anyway, the truth is, they were the ones who came to me. So I never even thought about preventing conception until two years ago. The day I realized all those mage House women–married women mostly and a few young widows–from other mage Houses were coming to visit Four Moons House and seducing me only because they were hoping to get a child off me.” He was so happy that he hated hearing how bitterness soured his voice. “I confess for the longest time I thought I was just that irresistible. But in truth I was nothing more than a highly regarded stallion being put out to stud. Not that it was unpleasant, mind you, but . . . ”
But what an insult it had been. He could not say that to her.
Not to mention the idea that he might have sired children he would never know of nor share anything with and in any case have no legal right to claim, even if he wanted to. That was the worst feeling of all, knowing he really didn’t want to and not knowing if he should want to under such grotesque circumstances when he had been used as the most disposable element in the venture. He definitely could not say any of that to her, not now, knowing how badly he wanted a family with her and that for many reasons they simply would have to wait. Assuming he hadn’t made her pregnant; one time, after all, might easily have missed the mark.
She was frowning at him with sweet concern. “No wonder you were so surly and unpleasant when I met you. Put out to stud! Well, Vai, I have you now. You won’t have to suffer the attentions of other women. If I do nothing else worthwhile in my life, it will be to spare you that.”
A fierce, protective, and quite giddy rush of desire and love flooded him as she kept talking.
“And I assure you I really don’t want or need to know any details of whatever it was you did, not to mention how many actual women you may have . . . ”
He pulled her down on the bed and kissed her until he forgot how to breathe. Her hands wandered over him as if she had to make sure he was all there. They tangled, her feet stroking down his calves, he tracing the line of her torso and the swell of her hip. There was a kind of obliterating ecstasy in making love with her that consumed him, or maybe it was just that he had waited for so long and with such troubled hope.
She was the one who got the sheath on him, and it took a little time because she kept laughing and rolling it wrong, but all that fondling just made him more ready for when she pushed him onto his back. This time, straddling him, she came down on him and was herself a sheath, her gaze fixed on him to see how he would manage it. It felt so good he purely couldn’t think at first, but she got his attention back as she began to ride him. Clearly she had a great deal of energy left. But he was confident. He had a lot more staying power now the worst of his impatience and longing was shed.
This could go on for a while and he intended to see that it did. Why was there any need to stop? For after all there was no one else in the world except her, with him, on the bed he had built for them. And it was a good thing he’d built it to be sturdy.
Copyright @ Kate Elliott 2011