|Maella Abbey (maella_abbey) wrote,|
@ 2008-03-11 13:09:00
Orkutsk had seemed blazingly hot when they first entered, their bodies chilled from the endless snow and ceaseless wind despite Marta's nook grass tea. By the time they had eaten and settled into rooms for the night, though, both the contrast and the tea had worn off, and if the inn was warmer than the rest of the city in deference to the thin blood of travelers, it was still colder than Jessica preferred.
At least, that was what she told herself as she huddled in a blanket on the fur rug near the fire, wide-eyed and sleepless.
The soft knock at her door made her jump. For long moments, she debated not answering; if it was Eight, he would undoubtedly want to talk about things she'd successfully avoided since Arcadia, and if it was Angelo...well, from the looks he'd been shooting her, she had the horrible feeling he would want the same thing.
But then, avoiding conversation might well be easier than avoiding thought. Wrapping the blanket more tightly around herself, she rose and unlatched the door.
"Angelo." He was already several strides down the hall, but he turned with a smile at the sound of his name.
"Ah, you are awake." He was fully dressed - unusual for his late-night visits to her room, but understandable in this cold - though his uniform coat was partially unfastened, revealing the dark shirt beneath. "And it looks as if you're in as much need of warmth as I."
"I wouldn't say no to company," she said, stepping back to let him enter, relieved that this was all he wanted. "The bed is a bit far from the fireplace."
His gaze swept across the unmade bed, and he moved to the rug she'd vacated, long fingers absently brushing the fur before he drew her down beside him. Jessica offered him one end of the blanket, and for long moments they merely sat shoulder to shoulder. Neither spoke; they seldom did, on nights like this, Angelo well aware that Jessica had no tolerance for the blandishments he bestowed upon other women, and Jessica preferring to keep things in the limbo of not-discussed and, therefore, not-quite-real.
Angelo's arm wrapped around her, hand curving against her waist, then sliding up to cup a breast. Easy, practiced, almost a tradition between them now. Jessica sighed at the comfortable familiarity of it, shifting until her weight rested a bit more heavily against him. Her nipple tightened, hardened against the light circles his thumb drew through her thin nightgown, and she raised her face, knowing he would be looking down at her with a half smile.
Routine, normal; it required no thought, and yet she was thinking, of pushing him back, pinning him with the vines she no longer commanded, kissing him and toying with him until he arched and screamed and begged...
Jessica pulled back, out from beneath the blanket before Angelo could realize and hold her in place. "I think," her voice shook a little and she swallowed, "tonight isn't really a good night for this."
Angelo frowned, and she would rather have seen annoyance than the raw worry in his eyes. "Are you all right?"
I haven't been all right since I picked up the sceptre. I may never be all right again. Jessica hugged herself, and hoped he'd blame the chill air. "I'm fine. Just...not in the mood, I'm afraid."
"Just company, then."
"No. I'm sorry." He had let the blanket fall when he turned to face her, and his shirt, like his jacket, was partially open. Her eyes fixed on the vee of pale flesh it framed, and her fingers curled at the image of raking her claws - nails - across it, with pressure enough just to pink the skin and make him hiss at the sting. She closed her eyes and twisted her thoughts away, clenching her fists until the sting she'd imagined was in her own palms. She drew a deep breath and prayed her voice would stay steady, though she suspected it was far too late to fool him into thinking she was all right. "Please. I can't."
"Can't what, Jess?" he asked softly, and damn him, why was he so fast and quiet and close? It was hard to think with him standing near enough she could feel the warmth of his body, harder when he smoothed his hands gently over her shoulders, toyed with the hair she'd left loose for the night, fanned her need and want just by existing. "Talk to me."
"I can't trust myself."
Silence, heavy and colder than the air around them. Then Angelo said, "I trust you."
"Come sit down." He tugged her back toward the rug, gentle but insistent, and pulled her down to sit with her back against his chest, his arms around her. Jessica wanted to feel safe and protected in that embrace, but couldn't forget she was the one who needed to be protected against.
"I remember..." she began, then shook her head. "There are things I want. Things that came from Rhapthorne."
"What sort of things?"
His calm was annoying, and annoyance was far preferable to the thoughts persistently flitting about the edges of her mind. "Power. Control."
She could hear the smile in his voice. "Well, that's hardly unique, you know."
Silence again, though his hold on her didn't loosen. Then, so softly she could have imagined it, he said, "You've had that since the day I met you."
"No. What I want is different. What I want..." She tried to pull away, then slumped back against him. "It's different."
He kissed the back of her neck. "I still trust you."
"Then you're a fool."
"So I've been told." He raised one hand, fingers cupping her cheek; she was surprised to feel him brush moisture across her skin. "Tell me what you want of me, that you're so upset."
She couldn't, couldn't. Her breath caught and ached in her chest at the prospect of putting the images into words, of breaking his trust and sending him recoiling from her. And yet, how else could she teach him to be wary of her, short of tying him down and letting the darkness free?
The words slipped out barely above a whisper, and with each she expected him to draw away, to reflect her own horror at the things Rhapthorne had awakened in her. Instead, he bent his head close over her shoulder to hear, and at the end murmured, "It's a shame you don't remember the trick of the vines, isn't it?"
That broke through the despair holding her, and she snapped in irritation, "Can't you take anything seriously?"
"Oh, I'm quite serious." He gently untangled himself from her, and rose to rummage through her things until he found her old snakeskin whip. "This might do, though."
He smiled and stripped out of both coat and shirt, the cold air raising gooseflesh across his arms and chest. He wrapped the whip loosely around his forearm, the hide gleaming darkly against his pale skin, and Jessica's breath grew short, need and want and fear tangling together in her belly and aching between her legs. "What if I hurt you?" she whispered, her mouth suddenly dry.
"You won't," he said. For a moment, his gaze was so open and trusting that it was like looking at a stranger, then he grinned teasingly, and the effect vanished. "Now, where do you want me?"
"Here. By the fire."
"Perhaps I should strip?" he suggested, when she said nothing else.
Jessica could feel herself blushing, and Angelo's smile - as if this were all a game - wasn't making things better. She nodded and almost averted her eyes; the things they did had never involved either of them being completely naked. That smacked of letting him win, though, and pure defiance would have been enough to make her watch even if she hadn't wanted him.
The uniform coat was folded and draped over the back of the chair placed conveniently at the edge of the rug, so that one might easily enjoy the fire; Angelo had his shirt unbuttoned and was shrugging out of it when she said, "No. Leave it on."
He raised a brow, but obeyed without question, his hands moving to unfasten his trousers. Jessica licked her lips as she watched, twisting the whip around her hands. She wanted him tied, of that much, she was certain, but the whip wasn't long enough to bind his arms and legs both, and she still wasn't convinced that she didn't look the fool, no matter how treacherous her desires seemed.
At least Angelo was enjoying himself, the peacock, turning so the firelight played across the lean, hard muscles of his chest and stomach, outlined the curve of his erection, pale skin framed by the shadows of his shirt.
"Kneel." The word came out too strangled for a proper command, but he obeyed, tall and proud even on his knees, following her with his eyes.
She circled behind him, pulled the ribbon from his hair, ran light fingertips through the strands and down his neck, along his jaw. He made a soft, wordless sound of encouragement; it reminded her of the helpless, pleading sounds she wanted to hear from him, and she smiled as she forced him to bow his head.
His breathing quickened; he didn't protest the movement, didn't protest when she pulled the shirt off his shoulders, halfway down his arms so that, if not precisely bound, his movements were still restricted. Only then did she move in front of him and kneel herself, almost close enough for her breasts to brush his chest.
"I hope this isn't all you have planned for me."
She couldn't see his face, screened by his hair, but she could imagine his eyes taking in the view she offered. She kissed the top of his head, then pushed, so that he had to shift awkwardly to keep from falling as he went from knees to haunches; he ended up lying to one side to accommodate his bound arms, breath coming a little faster.
Jessica scraped her nails down his side, forward over his hip, pulling her hand away before he reached his cock. He glared - no, pouted - at her through the screen of his hair, twisted as if he could get what he wanted that way.
He would learn better.
Heat uncoiled in her belly, throbbed with the beat of her heart as she picked up the abandoned whip. The chair was sturdy, heavy enough that Angelo wouldn't easily be able to move it, and it wasn't difficult to secure his ankles. He tugged experimentally; his legs weren't spread as far apart as she would have liked, and the whip didn't take knots well, but for now they held, though she suspected a bit of determination would have him free.
Which was likely for the best, she reminded herself, and pushed the disappointment down.
She leaned back, hand ghosting down his thigh, settling on the muscular calf. "You make a pretty picture."
That mollified him, as she had known it would. "I live to serve you," he said, and she knew that if he'd been standing he would have bowed, taken her hand and let his touch stray up to the sensitive skin inside her wrist. So predictable, her Angelo.
There was enough play in his bonds for him to nudge his leg against hers. "I can offer you more than a picture, if you come down here."
So sure of himself, even now.
One finger traced the strip of leather curving around his ankle, then she ran her hand up, caressed the inside of his thigh. His cock twitched at her proximity; the muscles under her palm tensed. She leaned down, heard the sharp intake of breath as she kissed the juncture of thigh and body, her hair falling forward to brush his length.
So sure he was going to get what he wanted.
She bit, hard enough to make him cry out, hard enough that the tender skin was already purpling when she raised her head.
"Damn it, Jess," he protested, breathing hard with shock, though his arousal hadn't waned. "I'm not sure..."
"I thought you trusted me." She leaned down again; he flinched when her mouth closed over one nipple, relaxed when she merely sucked and licked her way up to his slightly parted lips, yielded when she captured his face between her hands and kissed him, hard, demanding. Possessive. She had never imagined controlling another like this before Rhapthorne.
"I do trust you." Breathless, now, the smugness gone. She approved. "I wouldn't be in this position otherwise."
His heart beat fast and strong beneath her palm. "Wouldn't you?"
"Not without a fight." His gaze was steady, fearless, and while she remembered reveling in the fear she inspired, somehow this pleased her more. "I'm not fighting."
She smiled and rolled him onto his back, waited until he stopped squirming against the pressure on his arms before she straddled him, nightgown riding up nearly to her hips. The skin of his stomach was cool against her thighs, his erection nudged gently at her, and it would be so easy to simply shift back and take him inside her.
That wouldn't make him beg, though, and she wanted that even more than she wanted to be filled by him.
She ground down against his stomach and stripped the nightgown over her head, her nipples peaking at the kiss of the cool air. Angelo's eyes narrowed appreciatively; he licked his lips, and she could tell from the movement of his shoulders that he wanted his hands free.
He wanted other things, as well, judging from the way he shifted beneath her.
She rose on her knees a bit, moved back, so close that she imagined he could feel her damp heat against his cock, even though she didn't touch him. She stayed like that for a moment, stroked her breasts, felt him strain up toward her, then moved back farther still, until she could kneel between his spread legs and use her mouth on him. Light, teasing licks, gentle nibbles with her lips, until he trembled at the mere touch of her breath on sensitive flesh.
"Goddess, Jess, please." He thrust fruitlessly against air, begging, but not the way the shadows in her cried out for. His left leg jerked, pulling free of the whip; without stopping her gentle, teasing licks, Jessica wrapped a vine - bloodwarm, thornless, as soft as human flesh - around his calf and pulled his leg down and to the side. Angelo didn't notice, didn't notice when a second vine slipped the loosened whip off his right ankle and drew that leg aside, so he was spread out the way she had wanted from the beginning.
Jessica paused in her play to study him. Yes, much better.
Only when a third vine coiled up directly beneath him, replacing the loose confinement of his shirt, and a fourth - fine and delicate, cushioned with broad leaves to leave no marks - wrapped around his throat, did any of it penetrate the haze of need surrounding him.
"Jess?" his voice was a whisper, his eyes wide with fear, while his body still sought the release she'd been denying him, hips moving restlessly.
She ran her hands down her body, stroked between her legs, his fear and her magic singing in her blood like an aphrodisiac. "Don't you trust me?" she asked.
The words were mocking, yet as the silence stretched between them, his answer took on weight, burdened by her own doubts. She swallowed hard. "Angelo?"
His lips moved a moment before he could get the answer out. "I trust you."
She stretched along his body, kissed him hard, hands tight around fistfuls of hair. He kissed back with matching ferocity, as if this were a battle he could win, as if she couldn't simply order her plants to crush his throat, tear him limb from limb.
A vine slid between them, curling around his chest, and she sat back with a cry. The need was rising again, inextricably twined with the darkness; she straddled him again, guided him into her, rode him while more vines twisted around his body, tangled in his hair.
She left his mouth uncovered so he could beg.
He didn't, merely stared into her eyes and thrust up, matching her pace as best he could with the vines hampering him. His gaze was almost as steadying as arms around her, trusting, as if none of this could convince him Rhapthorne's darkness had indelibly marked her.
For the first time, she dared to consider that it hadn't.
She rested her hand on the vines covering Angelo's chest, remnant of magic that wasn't hers, wasn't her; they peeled back and vanished at her command. Angelo shifted beneath her, hands coming up to caress her thighs; she moaned, drove down harder, faster, until Angelo arched up, pulsing inside her.
The world went white, hot and cold, tension rising and breaking in a rush of pleasure, the last hints of Rhapthorne's magic fading as her body shuddered with release. Just the magic, nothing more; no lingering darkness tainting her soul. Her muscles went weak; she sagged forward, caught by strong arms that eased her onto the softness of the rug. She continued to shake, only realizing she was sobbing when Angelo brushed tears from her cheeks.
"It's all right," he whispered, curling protectively around her. "I've got you."
"I'm sorry. All of that...it was me. It was...oh, Goddess, Angelo, I..."
"Of course it was you." He kissed her, then pulled away long enough to retrieve the abandoned blanket and settle it over them both. "I wouldn't have let you do it if I'd had any doubts."
She flushed. "But I...that...I never thought I'd..."
"One more thing you've learned about yourself, then. Though next time, I'd rather do without the vines, I think. They were a bit...disconcerting."
"I don't think I can do that anymore, actually."Shaking, still shaking, and he was warm and solid against her.
"Then it's all settled." He kissed her again, nuzzling the side of her neck. "Go to sleep, Jess. This will all seem less dire in the morning."
And this time, she trusted him.