“How many times,” Leonas snapped, “do I need to remind you about clothes?”
Minnow looked up from where she was pulling off her shift, having already shed her armor. Ordinarily she would have bathed at home, but Leonas had surprised her with new clothes. She didn’t want to get them dirty, and it wouldn’t be the first time she’d used his bath.
“What,” she said.
“You cannot just take your clothes off around people,” he said. “You’re not a child anymore. You shouldn’t have been doing it when you were a child. There was never a time when pulling your shirt off in public was acceptable.”
“This isn’t public,” she said. “It’s your room.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “With me in it. Who can see you. Along with anyone else who might walk in.”
It was true that sometimes there were other people. She didn’t know if she cared whether they saw her. She still thought of nudity as being a human thing, and still did not think of herself as human. She’d been too long a changeling to consider herself unchanged.
It wasn’t as if the other people were always wearing clothes, besides.
“You’re getting older,” he said, rubbing at his forehead. “That’s why I bought you the clothes, you’re. You’re growing. In ways. Which most changelings wouldn’t need to worry about, but you’re here, so. You need to understand.”
“Leonas,” Minnow interrupted, still half out of her shift. “Are you trying to explain puberty to me?”
He turned bright red under the sudden flaring light of his witchmarks.
“I started bleeding like, three years ago. I think? You’d think it would be easier to keep track but sometimes it doesn’t happen, and other times it happens too much. One time I felt sick for days and then instead of bleeding it all came out as one big blob.” She made a circle with her fingers to demonstrate.
“Don’t tell me about—that can’t be right.” He was immediately distracted from his own displeasure, too puzzled to be repulsed.
“The healer in Lilock says that happens sometimes,” she shrugged. “He says it means I’ll be a terrible mother.”
“What?” Leonas recoiled. “No. Why would that—don’t see him again. That’s not how how anything works. I’m having him arrested for incompetence.”
“That’s not real,” she said.
“I’m the Prince of Astielle,” he said. “If I want him in the dungeon, I can have him in the dungeon.”
“Who are you having in the dungeon?” a woman asked, looking down from his loft, black hair cascading downward.
He refrained from snapping despite the expression on his face. “I wasn’t. Talking. To you.” He sounded like a farmer at the market who hadn’t decided if the sale was worth the customer. Leonas looked back to Minnow, waving her off. “Take a bath,” he said, “I need to get back to my research.”
“I can’t.” Minnow was laying on a table, her leggings pulled down to right below her belly and her shirt raised only as high as her ribs. Leonas had thrown a sheet over her legs for good measure, and another sheet over her chest. She did not understand the function of the sheets, but if they made him feel better she was willing to put up with it. She’d put up with a lot of things over the course of his two-year quest to fix whatever made her bleed wrong.
“This would be easier if you didn’t move so much,” he said, using his fingers to try and measure outward from her bellybutton. He’d tied his hair back into a twist, wearing a scope over one eye. His leather gloves went all the way up to his elbows.
“I’m not moving,” she said.
“Stop talking.” He tossed the hem of the sheet over her chest so that it covered her face. She sputtered and pulled it back downward. “If this doesn’t work,” he said, “it’s going to be your fault for being difficult.”
“What’s it going to look like?” she asked. “When it’s done.”
“Once it heals it won’t look like anything.”
“I thought enchantments needed symbols.”
“Enchanting works by—you don’t need to know how enchanting works.” He cut himself off before he could launch into a lecture. He set down beside her a series of glass vials, each of them containing a needle and thread suspended in liquid. He held another needle over the flame of a candle. Minnow only looked at this array for a moment before pulling the sheet back over her head. “Suffice it to say that as long as the enchantment is there, it doesn’t need to be visible to human eyes. This ought to work.”
She felt the point of the needle touch her skin, and flinched, her abdominal muscles clenching.
“Minona,” he said.
“I have to mark out the spots before I can run the thread through,” he said. “When it’s time to draw the pattern I’ll pinch the skin first. It ought to be obvious. I’m not going to stab it straight into you at random, calm down.”
“I’m calm,” she said. “I’ve been stabbed. With swords.”
“If you’ve been stabbed, it means you’re bad at your job. Learn to parry.” She didn’t have to take the sheet down off her head to know the look on his face. A gloved finger poked at her skin. “The needle is going here,” he said, and this time she didn’t flinch as the point pricked her skin to leave a mark. “And here,” he said, before doing it again. And on, and on, over one side of her stomach and then the other, pointing out every spot before the needle marked it. When he was done, she felt like she’d fallen stomach-first into a rosebush.
“I’m going to start stitching,” he warned, uncapping one of his vials.
“Are you sure this will work?” she asked.
“Obviously not,” he said. “How would I have tested it? If you don’t want it badly enough to risk your experiment failing, you don’t really want it.”
“Fine,” she said, hating most of all the time it was taking. Being on the wrong end of a sharp object was bad, but most of the time it at least had the decency to be over quickly. “If I still get cramps after this, I’m. I’m going to be really mad at you.”
“Get in line.”
Leonas was sitting on the floor of his balcony. She didn’t usually see him on the balcony. From here he could see the city, all the way to the walls of Fort Astielle and out to the mountains and forest beyond. It was a nice view. If it were her, she thought she would have spent most of her time out here.
He was drinking wine out of a crystal goblet. He had the bottle with him.
“I remembered this time,” she said, poking her head outside. She’d seen a flyer at a nearby stable announcing the celebration, and realized that she’d forgotten about birthdays. She didn’t have one, so it had never come up. She thought the occasion warranted using the Rainbow Door. Visiting the night before meant she wouldn’t interrupt the real party.
“Of course you did,” he said. He held up his goblet as if to toast. “Ten years,” he said.
He drank instead of answering.
“I made you a cake,” she said. “Cakes,” she corrected. “I thought it would be easier to eat if they were little cakes, instead of a big one.”
He turned his head, and his eyes dropped before they rose back to her face. “Did you dress up?” he asked.
“I asked the tailor for a birthday party dress,” she said. It was more fitted in the bodice than her usual fare, all fluffy with fabric around the skirt. She was still wearing her sword. “That’s the other reason I used the Door,” she said. “She tried to give me fancy shoes but I kept falling over.” She knelt down a few feet away from him, and set the tray of small cakes down between them. She slid it closer to him. “Try one,” she said.
He picked up a small cake, with its solid shining glaze and sugar-sculpted flowers. “You made this,” he said.
“I got really into cooking, for a while,” she said.
Something shifted in his expression. “I’m sure that killed some time,” he said. “What’s in it?”
“Mashed potatoes,” she said.
“I’m not eating this.”
“You have to try it,” she insisted. “If you don’t like it we can throw them off the balcony.”
He looked at her for a long time, holding the little cake. Then he turned his head before taking a bite, shielding his face from her view. There weren’t many dignified ways to eat a cake without a fork.
“Is it good?” she asked.
“It’s fine,” he said, licking his fingers.
“Are you allowed to leave for the party?” she asked.
“I’m always allowed to leave,” he said. “The whole castle is warded. The whole city.”
“It’s better if I don’t,” he said. “That’s all.”
She ran her hands along her skirt, letting it spread out along the floor. “Are you looking forward to it?” she asked.
His mouth pulled at the corners. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“There must be a lot of food,” she said. “And music. Is there a special ballroom?”
“He opens the Folly Gardens to the public,” Leonas said. “They decorate everything in suns for me.”
“Which ones are the Folly Gardens?” she asked with a frown.
“… the big one. It has its own canal, for all the fountains.”
“What! No. I would have noticed that.”
He leaned towards her. “Have you never seen the Folly Gardens? The great big green area on the other side of the castle? As big as the entire rest of the castle?”
She leaned back. “Why would I have?” she asked defensively. “You’re always here.”
He stared at her.
“Should I go see?” she asked. “Before the party, I mean.”
“No,” he said. “You shouldn’t wander around the castle at night.” He looked at his bottle of wine. “I’ll take you,” he said suddenly, setting the bottle down and using it like a cane to push himself upright. “If I don’t take you, you’ll just go on your own. You never listen to me.”
“I listen to you,” she said, helping him stand. He fixed his curls, straightening out his shirt.
“You never listen to me,” he said again. “Stay quiet, we don’t want to wake anyone.”
Minnow tried to imagine how they could wake anyone in a castle this big, with the rooms so far apart. He took away the chair he’d wedged under his doorknob, since his door didn’t have any locks. It was the first time she’d seen him make an effort to keep people from wandering through. Then he took her by the hand to lead her down the spiraling staircase, down and down and down. At the bottom was a large hall, and through that a smaller hall to another large hall. She was sure they were different areas, but she couldn’t tell them apart. Another hall, another hall, a great room–and then out to the back entryway, wide stone stairs down into the Folly Gardens.
There really was a canal, man-made and large enough to boat in. In the middle was a fountain in the shape of the sun, the same shape as the one that marked the Heir. Smaller fountains, still large enough to swim in, marked a series of plazas. Statues of men made it all look smaller than it was, until she realized she wouldn’t reach the knee of any one of them. The trees were all a uniform shape, the hedges sharp lines. Everything was symmetrical in all directions, and she was sure it would look like a sun if she viewed it from the sky. Candles floated in the canal, paper lanterns strung through every tree.
“Oh,” she sighed, and she pulled him along, down the massive staircase into the garden. “It’s beautiful,” she said.
“Can it be beautiful slower?” he asked breathlessly. She let him go, and he put his hands on his knees, bending at the waist and taking deep breaths. “That was a lot of stairs,” he said. “Not all of us chase horses recreationally.”
“I don’t like the trees,” she decided, spinning to watch her skirt flare. “They’re too smooth. I like the canal, and the fountains, and the lights. It’s like the Faewilds, when we’d catch pixies by the waterfalls. Will there be dancing, tomorrow?”
“There’s always dancing.”
“Will you dance.”
“I always dance,” he said. “That’s my job.”
“Who do you dance with?”
“Anyone who asks,” he said. “Who’s allowed to ask.”
“Does he pick them?” she wondered. “Like the girls in your room.”
“That’s weird, you know. That he does that.”
“I know.” Leonas leaned back against a tree. “He’s hoping one will stick.”
“Do they know?”
He shrugged. “They want to be princesses. Someday queens.”
“I don’t know why anyone would want to be a princess.”
“I know.” He froze. “Go,” he said, pointing with his chin. “If you follow that hedge it will take you to the edge of the garden.”
She didn’t wait or ask questions. She ducked down to hide as soon as he said something, bending down and moving away from him. When she felt sure he couldn’t see her, she stopped, and waited. Listened.
Steps, coming closer. She didn’t know how he’d heard them from so far away. Or had he heard the door?
“Look who finally decided to come out of his room!” Leland sounded as jovial as always. “And all on his own. We ought to mark it as a national holiday. I suppose it already is one, isn’t it, birthday boy?”
“Thank you, Father,” he said.
“Ready for tomorrow?”
“You don’t look happy.”
“I’m tired,” Leonas said. “I wanted to see the decorations tonight, that’s all.”
“If you don’t like them, we can take them down. Tear down the whole thing. Would you like that?”
“That won’t be necessary,” Leonas said. “The decorations are lovely.”
“We don’t have to celebrate at all,” Leland said. “It’s all for you. The artisans who made the lights, the decorators who designed it, the servants to put it all out.”
“The chefs, the bakers, the diplomats. All the citizens putting the finishing touches on their new clothes, wanting to look their best. The whole point is for you to like it.”
“Say the word, and we can cancel. Close the castle, lock all the gates. Let everyone know we’re not doing this anymore. I’m sure they’d understand. They don’t need to understand. You’re the prince. You can do what you want.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Leonas said.
“You don’t look happy.”
“I am happy,” Leonas said. “Very happy. The party will be lovely. I’m only tired.”
“I can’t imagine,” Leland said. “It must be very tiring. All your studies. When I was your age, I don’t know if I was ever tired. Not really tired, the way you get when you’re old. I was married to my first wife, then. Trying to hold the kingdom together. It was invigorating, in its way, having so much to do.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Leonas said.
“Would you like to get more involved?” Leland asked. “I’m sure no one would mind, if you wanted to help make decisions. Start advising the advisors, making Astielle in your image.”
“I would not feel qualified.”
“I could understand it if you’d rather be doing something that lets you feel useful,” Leland said. “There isn’t much glory in patience. Learning how to do things the right way.”
“I don’t mind waiting.”
“If you’re sure. I’m sure if I were in your position, I’d want to take my shield and go. Skip the celebration, the ceremony, the ritual. Let the kingdom take care of itself, follow the path of least resistance. Where did the Hero get to, by the way?”
Minnow curled herself tighter against the hedge.
“Left,” Leonas said. “Things to do.”
“Finally wished you a happy birthday, I assume. Is that why you had your door closed?”
“I was rearranging furniture,” Leonas said. “I forgot to move it back.”
“If you want locks, we can get you locks.”
“No,” he said immediately. “That’s fine. I wouldn’t want the room to seem. Uninviting. Because of a misunderstanding.”
Leland hummed. “You have a very big heart,” he said. “Anyone else would try to avoid getting so close, you know. Knowing how things go. It’s very brave of you not to let that bother you. Inviting her in, instead of letting her keep you at a distance. It makes me proud, to have raised a son like that.”
“It’s practical,” Leonas said. “Most Heirs can’t survive without a Hero.”
“Yes,” Leland said, “but there’s always after.”
“I’ve taken it into consideration.”
“I’m sure you have. I hate to see you getting hurt, that’s all.”
“I won’t,” he said. “She keeps me at a distance.”
Leland hummed. “What does a mashed potato cake even taste like?”
Leland laughed. “Well, she can’t be good at everything.”
“Can you use this?” Minnow asked, pulling a geode out of her bag.
“Probably not,” Leonas said. “Maybe. Let me see.” He snatched it out of her hand, holding it up to the light streaming through the windows. Then he brought it over to one of his desks, picking up a scope to look at it closer. “This is fake,” he said finally.
She stomped her foot.
“Where did you even get this?” he asked.
“Dolan,” she said, crossing her arms.
“A traveling merchant I met,” she said. “He had a lot of good stories but I think most of them were fake.” She pulled herself up to sit on one of the tables, letting her feet swing above the floor.
“I hope you didn’t let him talk you into anything else,” Leonas said, setting the geode down. “You shouldn’t listen to salesmen.”
“I didn’t,” she said. “Only the rock. We did have sex, but that was unrelated. He was very clear about not giving discounts.”
Leonas froze. “What.”
“It wasn’t great,” she said. “I didn’t want to tell him so, since he seemed to like it. There’s no rule against sex, is there? For magic reasons?” It would be just her luck if that was the reason she couldn’t do any cool sword magic.
“… no.” He stayed where he was, and she continued to swing her feet.
“Good,” she said. “I want to find someone who’s good at it, but I don’t know how you tell. It might be like cookies, where you have to eat a lot of bad ones looking for good ones. I know there isn’t any rule about cookies. You only have sex with some of the girls, right?”
There was a long pause. “Right,” he said.
“Do you only do it if they’re good? How do you tell? Are there parameters?”
“It. Varies.” He drummed his nails against the wood of the table. His witchmarks were sunny. The way he wasn’t looking at her made her fingers itch.
“Is there a book?” she asked. He had so many books.
“It’s. More hands-on.” He drummed his fingers again. “You let him touch you? This merchant?”
“I asked him to, for all the good it did me,” she said. She grabbed her own breasts to demonstrate. “Mostly he did this.” It hadn’t been especially arousing, and still wasn’t. Leonas looked at her again, and it made her feel silly, so she let her hands fall. “Maybe other people like that? I didn’t like it.”
He took a step closer, hesitated before taking another. “Let’s. Test something,” he suggested. He came close enough to rest his hands on her knees. “Another experiment.” Even being close to him was warm. He’d manhandled her often enough, but now he waited, his hands hovering inches from her. “Take my hands,” he decided. “Put them where he had them. We can see where he went wrong.”
She frowned. He was looking at a spot on her shoulder rather than her face. She couldn’t decide if he was serious.
Taking his wrists, she pressed his hands to her breasts, feeling awkward all the while. “It was—no, this isn’t right. I need to stand.” She slid off the table, but he barely made room for her. “He was behind me,” she said, turning around. “That was the other thing I didn’t like, I couldn’t see what he was doing.” This time it was much easier to wrap his arms around her body, pressing his hands under hers. “Like that,” she said, letting him go. He continued holding onto her, his fingers longer than her own.
“So you don’t like this,” he said, much closer to her ear than she was used to. She swallowed, her face turning hot. He was warm, and he smelled like soap, and she’d seen his face enough to be able to imagine it. Clinical, gleaming like a polished coin.
“It’s different when you do it,” she admitted. His hands squeezed, and she made a sound; she felt him closer against her back, pinned between the desk and his hips. She pressed her hands into the wood to brace herself. “That’s, um. I don’t know what’s different.” He caught one of her nipples between his fingers, tugging it gently through her shirt. “Oh,” she sighed. “I like it, when you do it.”
He let her go all at once, leaving her startled and disappointed.
“Is that it?” she asked, turning around.
“Experiment’s over,” he said, already ducking behind a shelf. “I need to get some work done, go away.”
The Slitherskin bite on her arm had begun to ooze purple. Leonas found this fascinating, and was collecting samples into little glass vials. He took notes on the color and consistency, and the faces she made when he poked at different spots around it. He moved her arm around, rotating her shoulder and writing it down when she found an angle especially painful.
His face had been close to hers, but it was still a surprise when he tilted her head and kissed her. Her sound of surprise was muffled by his mouth pressed too hard against her own, clumsy and aggressive. She always felt clumsy and aggressive, so this suited her.
He pulled away, staring at her face. Then he took notes.
Leonas was checking her teeth again. She’d lost three since the last time she saw him. He had the bag of them now, along with the shards he’d taken after her new teeth had grown in. He had a special stick he used to poke around in her mouth, so that she wouldn’t bite him.
“They still grow back sharp,” he muttered, taking the stick away. She stuck her tongue out at him. He rolled the stick between his fingers, thoughtful. “I would like to do an experiment,” he said slowly.
He didn’t usually ask. This made her suspicious. So did the way he averted his eyes. She wiggled closer to the edge of the desk.
“A hands-on experiment?” she asked. Their eyes met, and then he looked away.
He left, and when he came back he was opening a small jar of honey, his hands bare. His nails were always perfect shining almonds, and she found them distracting.
“Is it magical honey?” she asked.
“We’ll see,” he said. “Open.”
She opened her mouth wide and stuck out her tongue, the same way she always did. He dipped two fingers into the jar, and stuck them directly into her mouth. Without waiting for confirmation that it was what he wanted, she closed her lips around them and started sucking. The involuntary sound he made shot straight to the core of her. She liked that he was looking at her instead of away this time.
“Careful not to bite,” he warned, which annoyed her, so she bit him. He hissed and tried to pull his hand away, but she grabbed his wrist with both hands. She was stronger than he was, so she held him still while she started to lick him instead, running her tongue along his fingers and through the seams between.
“Stop,” he ordered, and she let him go. He rubbed at his wrist. “Your hands are going to be a problem.”
She realized her mistake. “I can be gentle!” she insisted. “We can do another experiment, I can show you.”
“N-no,” he said, blushing under his witchmarks. He took a step backward, turning away from her. It wasn’t fast enough for her to miss the state of his trousers. “That won’t be necessary.”
She looked at her hands, calloused and sometimes blistered, and decided he was right. “You could, uh.” She grasped feebly at straws. “Try it on other places,” she said, “to see if it’s good. Or see if I taste good? Now?”
He stared at her.
“I’ve been good,” she added, “so you should kiss me.”
“You weren’t good,” he said. “You bit me.”
“Not anywhere important!” She slid off the desk and stepped closer to him. “If you don’t kiss me, I won’t do any more experiments. I won’t give you any more teeth, or poison.”
He looked toward the door, then bent to give her a perfunctory peck on the mouth. She grabbed him and dug her fingers into his shoulders, humming as she demanded more. His strangled yelp made her giggle, but didn’t discourage her at all. She let him go when he kissed her back, his tongue in her mouth tasting like bitter tea.
Then he pushed her away, only enough to put some space between them. “Don’t,” he said, loudly enough that she winced. Then he grabbed her hand, held it up like he was examining the star on the back of it. “Not like that,” he muttered under his breath, rubbing the star with his thumbs like it might fall off. “Not twice. Later. You can’t ask for that.”
He tested the joints of her fingers as she tried to interpret what he meant. He wasn’t usually the cryptic type; if there were things he couldn’t say, he simply didn’t.
“I can ask later,” she said tentatively, and he gave a small nod, pushing all her cuticles back with his thumbnail. “For a… treat.” He nodded more vigorously. “But not more than one.”
“Don’t be greedy,” he said at full volume, which was startling when he was still fidgeting with her hand. “If you’re going to treat yourself, you shouldn’t take so much the people start to notice.”
Right. Okay. They were being sneaky. Too many kisses all at once, and someone might notice. Too much of anything? His hands-on experiments never lasted long. It didn’t feel fair, when she knew he’d had other people. It couldn’t be everyone, that it had to be like this. It was something about her.
Because she was dangerous. Because she was supposed to hurt him. Because he let her in anyway.
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll be good.”
He shut his eyes, and shivered.
“I need you to help me test something,” he said. He clapped a hand over her mouth before she could say anything. “All you have to do,” he said, “is wait here, with your Seeing Stone ready. Okay?”
She bit his hand, and he pulled it back with a yelp. “Okay,” she said.
He pointed a warning finger at her, and then disappeared under the table.
He had, for reasons she did not yet know, built himself a blanket fort. There were at least three heavy down comforters and a quilt, and on top of it all was some kind of embroidered sheet. The patterns were slippery and difficult to look at.
She waited, but nothing seemed to happen.
Leonas poked his head out from under the many blankets. “Did anything happen?”
“Excellent.” He pulled out his Seeing Stone, and her own started to chime. “Answer it,” he ordered. She picked up her stone, and held it out so that he’d see himself on it. “Don’t do that,” he said, before disappearing back under the table. She looked at her stone, but there was nothing on it, no image and no sound. The connection was still there, but nothing was going through. As soon as Leonas came out again, he reappeared on her stone.
“Did it work?”
“I think so,” she said, because he hadn’t actually explained what he was doing.
“Good! Good.” He stood up, brushing himself off, and set his stone down on top of the table. “All that’s left is to run the final experiment, and see if it works.” He took her stone out of her hand, and set it beside his. Then he lifted up the edge of the blankets, and gestured underneath the table.
Minnow looked underneath the table. She looked at Leonas. She pointed at herself, and then underneath the table. He nodded. She put her hands on her belt buckle. He nodded faster. Taking off her belt, she left the Starsword next to their Seeing Stones, and ducked underneath the table.
It wasn’t the best blanket fort she’d ever been in. There were only two pillows, which wasn’t enough by far. It needed more decorations, maybe some small glowing stones to make it feel cozy.
Leonas ducked under the table, and before she could react he’d grabbed her face and started kissing her. He was half on top of her, and she pressed her elbows into the floor, trying to brace herself and keep from hitting the leg of the table.
“Ten minutes,” he breathed into her hair, already working his fingers into the waist of her leggings. “I can’t risk more than that. Sound can still get out the normal way so I need you to be quiet if this is going to work, can you do that for me?” She nodded, trying to move to make it easier for him to peel her clothes off. “Good, you’re so good, you’re always so good.”
Everything he said was whispered, frantic. He kissed her again, pulled her up and sat on the floor so that she was sitting sideways on his lap. Her leggings were only down to her knees, otherwise dressed, and she could feel his erection through his trousers. He kissed her again, slid his hand between her legs, rubbed a fingertip too vigorously directly on her clit. She bit his tongue, then pulled back to shake her head. He adjusted, circled her clit instead, too light at first but she kissed him when he found the right tempo.
He buried his face in the crook of her neck. “It will be better,” he murmured. “Next time. This is a trial run.” His fingers moved so that he could slide one inside of her, adjusting his thumb until her hips rolled against him. He was warm, too warm. “I’m going to figure you out, I’ll solve you.” She buried her fingers in his curls. “All the magic in you.” He managed to unfasten his trousers, and she spread her legs enough that his cock could rise up between her thighs. She pressed them together, and he thrust up between them with a groan.
“There isn’t time,” he apologized, leaning back and taking her face in his hands. He stroked his thumbs over her cheeks, watched her eyes. “I need you to do this for me, this one thing. Guide me inside, let me see your face.”
She would have nodded, but he was holding her face still. He was shining bright, lighting up their little hideaway. She reached between her legs, gripped his shaft with one hand and his shoulder with the other. She had to rise up a little before she could lower herself back down. It was hard to get the angle right, but once she did, gravity pulled her down onto him faster than she would have done herself. She nearly cried out, had to bite down hard on her lip to muffle it.
“There,” he said, still holding her, thrusting upward so she whimpered. “Just this once, just so I know.” He moved forward, taking her with him, until she was on the floor again with him above her. She wasn’t entirely sideways, but her hips were still at an angle, her knees bent together underneath his arm. He kissed her, muffled the sound he made when he thrust into her. She pushed against the floor with one arm to keep herself from sliding, the other one gripping his hair.
“Next time will be better,” he promised.
“I like this,” she whispered. “I like you.”
He covered her mouth with his hand, and thrust hard. Again, harder, deeper, his nostrils flaring and nothing but the smothered sound of her grunts and of his cock getting wetter. He worked his hand underneath her shirt, pulled at her chest wrap until he could feel her bare breast against his palm. She arched into his touch, tried to angle her hips but couldn’t manage it. It was good, the pounding and heat and furious intensity of him, but it could have been better. Giving up, she let him go and shoved her hand between her thighs, rubbed at her clit and clenched down on him.
This was much better than touching herself on its own.
Leonas pulled out suddenly, thrust between her thighs instead. He took his hand off of her mouth. “Open,” he ordered, and she opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue, fingers working furiously at her clit. Heat splattered on the back of her hand, against her thighs. She liked seeing his face, the way his jaw clenched and his eyes shut. It took another few seconds to bring herself to a crescendo, her back arching and her legs twitching, the sudden burst of pleasure all through her skin.
She wished he’d still been inside her. Ten minutes wasn’t that long, when she wasn’t expecting it. They’d need to figure out some kind of signal next time, before she came over. She could bring a dirty art book, and show him all her favorite parts.
He wiped himself down with a handkerchief. “I need to put the cloak away, I can’t…” He hesitated.
“I’m good,” she said, licking the back of her hand. She wrinkled her nose. “You can go take care of it.”
He kissed her one last time, crushed his mouth to hers with his hand in her hair. Then he left her, and she could hear the sound of fabric sliding against fabric.
If his theory of what they could get away with was wrong, would it be better or worse to pretend she’d been masturbating in a blanket fort without his knowledge?