The bedroom is three things: tidy, dark, and quiet. The bed is dressed in fresh linens and the curtains are drawn. The vanity sits in its stoic corner with a lovely little jewelry box and a neatly arranged assortment of makeup on display. Upon the end table by the bed is a photograph of the late Nikolai Mihailovitch. The door is closed, and remains that way up until the precise moment that a very tall brute of a man is pushed into it with great gusto, at which point the catch gives and the door swings appeasingly open to allow two entangled bodies—the recently identified very tall brute and a not-so-tall woman with dimples on her cheeks—to burst through and quite thoroughly disrupt the tidy, dark peace of the unsuspecting bedroom.
The woman with dimples on her cheeks is Elena Ivanovna Popova, while the very tall and somewhat brutish man is Grigory Stepanovitch Smirnov. He is not so much a brute as simply a very tall man with pleasantly meaty hands and overbearing tendencies which can, Elena has decided, be overlooked. They are entangled because they are fully engaged in the process of kissing one another, an hysterical affair of stumbling feet, grasping hands, and hungry mouths. It has been a good bit of time since either of them kissed someone quite like this, and they’d each like to think they are still rather good at it, and it isn’t so much that they aren’t as it is that this has all gotten very desperate and quite heated in a short span of time, and they are stumbling and grasping like a pair of particularly randy adolescents, and they are hungry.
After liberating the door, Grigory takes them stumbling in wholly the wrong direction, not knowing this room as well as having his back to it and his attention elsewhere, and so he crashes abruptly into the vanity, upsetting the makeup and jostling the jewelry. Elena seizes him by the front of his dusty coat and puts her tremendously stubborn will into hauling him along toward the bed. With one hand so occupied, the other flails out to guide herself along the wall. She has the advantage of knowing the room, but now it is her back that faces it and her attention that is elsewhere, and so instead of finding wall her fingers clutch at curtain, tugging it loose from its hooks and bringing the entire window dressing down atop them. Grigory, being at least a head taller than she, takes the brunt of the catastrophe, and for a moment is reduced to inelegantly swatting his great big arms at the sudden veil that has so aggressively cast itself upon the situation. He manages to knock the poor curtain wispily to the floor without injuring either himself or Elena in the process, and so emboldened he seizes onto her again. This time he misses her mouth entirely, and determines to prove this intentional by instead inflicting a barrage of little kisses up the graceful slope of her jaw. Incentivized all the further by this turn of events to get them onto a bed, Elena resumes her demanding tug on the man, and being so preoccupied presently collides with the end table, dislodging the late Nikolai Mihailovitch entirely from his perch, and consequently sending the photograph’s frame to smash and shatter across the floor.
“Oh, damn!” she cries, breaking free of him at the noise.
“I thought you didn’t care for rough language, madam,” says Grigory, his breath slipping heavy through his still-parted lips.
“I certainly don’t! Oh, would you look at this mess.” Elena casts about in rapid-onset despair.
“Was that your late husband?” Grigory looks askance at the photograph, now lying face-down on the floor in a treacherous nest of glass fragments.
“How very like him,” she sighs. “Leaving naught but broken disorder in his wake. And who always left to clean up but—hmm.”
“Shall I fetch your man?” says Grigory, a reluctant proposal; his fingers twitch along her waist, eager to return to the matter at hand.
“How perfectly insensible.” For the moment, she is impervious to his light touches, though whether due to the rigid layers of corset and dress or the conundrum in which she’s steeping he cannot know. “He’s sure to pitch another fit if he sees us like this.”
“Well,” says Grigory, and reaches out hesitatingly to recover the photograph.
“No, don’t. He belongs down there.”
“Then that’s the matter settled.” He straightens back up as quick as a soldier coming to attention, catching her again about the waist.
“No, it is not settled. I won’t have us walking about on broken glass.”
“Then we’ll to the bed.”
“Really, sir, do you mean to have your fun, snore through the afternoon as you men always do, only to forget yourself and wade through broken glass when you rise to have your supper?”
“Well,” he says, then quirks his eyebrows. “Hang on, what do you mean snore through the afternoon? You think me some sort of beast? Have a go and then out ‘til sundown?”
“I mean quite plainly that,” says Elena, meeting his eyes with a cool stare.
“She admits it quite plainly! I ought to be offended! There I was moments ago, down on my knees, in love like a schoolboy, and she accuses me of snoring!” Grigory finds it quite difficult not to pace about at this moment, but he does still remember that there is broken glass all about where he might do so, and so he is forced to simply stand there and gesticulate.
“Do you intend to prove me wrong?” says Elena, eyelashes fluttering.
“Do I intend! Madam, I intend that and much more! I intend to marry you, or have you forgotten?”
“I haven’t forgotten,” she says, a smile playing about her lips.
“Then please, tell me whatever it is I might do to to prove you wrong about me!” He makes an irritable shrug of his shoulders and rests his hands on his hips, surveying the mess around them. “Shall I get a dustpan? Do you wish me to clean this up? Would that make you happy?”
“It’d be a start,” she says sweetly.
“Then I’ll go and get a dustpan. Snore through the afternoon. Honestly. I’ll have you know I’m a very wakeful and alert lover, madam. Never was there a man so attentive. You’ll see.” He mutters all the way to the door, stepping gingerly around the bits of glass until he makes it out to the hallway. Elena turns to the bed and lifts herself onto it and out of harm’s way. She unclasps her brooch and sets it aside, then reaches down to take off her boots, but hesitates before she’s begun unlacing. Better still…
“Where is it?” Grigory has reappeared in the doorway, looking attractively hassled.
“Hm?” She arranges herself neatly, perching on the bed’s edge with her knees drawn up to her chest and her skirts pooling elegantly around her still-booted feet.
“The dustpan, where do you keep the dustpan. I’d ask the, uh…” He waves a hand in apparent indication of Luka, but cannot call up his name or title. “But I don’t think he wants to see me.”
“Closet at the end of the hall.” Elena favors him with a prim smile. “Don’t be long.”
“Oh no, madam,” he says with a little nod of his head, a smile that is a bit snide and a bit playful, before pulling out of the room once again.
“Oh, and if you would—” she calls, causing him to lurch back on his weight and turn to look at her in some mild exasperation, “—one of the pistols.”
“Sorry?” He blinks at her, drawing himself up as exasperation shifts to astonishment.
“You heard me.” Elena draws a breath but does not stop smiling, fancying herself a little devious. Perhaps more than a little. Seven months and what seems like a lifetime before that she spent playing the good wife, and now that that’s come so thoroughly crashing down she is a veritable pillar of deviancy. She bites her bottom lip as she grins, staring him down. “We may find a use for it.”
“Right.” Grigory nods, but it’s the sort of nod that belies a complete lack of comprehension. After squinting at her for a moment, he says, “Sorry, you aren’t trying to duel me again, are you? Because I’ll have you know I left all that behind me. Died in the sitting room. Buried in these four walls, etc.”
“Mr. Smirnov,” says Elena quite curtly.
He stutters a bit. “Yes?”
“Please do as you’re told.”
She sees him change before her, the sudden start of realization, the subtle widening of his eyes, the shudder of his drawn breath and the slackening of his shoulders. She likes the look of it. He understands her intent, or the implication at least, and he is far from opposed. He’s a bit flushed as he nods again, little more than a twitch of the head this time, the slightness of it showing just how well he understands; then he disappears into the hall, off on his various missions. Seeing him like this, so startlingly, readily cowed, is far more effective than Elena had expected. She adjusts her position, getting a little nearer the mattress’s edge; it would be easy to let her legs dangle over the side, but that wouldn’t do. She should desperately like to relieve herself of corset, collar, and bustle, but it’s too late for that—she’s embarked on a game now, and she shall simply have to play her part with patience. For now, she endeavors to be as comfortable as she can, working tentatively around the deep twinges of desire pulling at her, the damp heat between her legs. The way he looked at her, the quickness of his acquiescence—it is quite unlike the man who shouted and crowed in her parlor. It is… enticing.
This sort of game might be well beyond her. She’s never had occasion to play it before, certainly not with Nikolai. Dropping it on Grigory, and in effect on herself, ought to be terrifying—and she does feel a good bit of trepidation. But more than that, she is excited on multiple fronts, left struggling to conceal a certain giddiness lest it ruin her performance.
The man returns promptly, as instructed, with dustpan, brush, and pistol. He stands a moment in the doorway, taking her in, her imperious little smile, her regal perch, and once again his shoulders slacken, not from surprise this time, but from sheer awe.
What an astonishing woman! he thinks again.
“Do come here, Mr. Smirnov.”
He does. She holds her hand out for the pistol, and he suffers only the merest hesitation before handing it over.
“Now clean that up, would you?”
He huffs and gets down to his knees, gingerly scraping the glass fragments into the dustpan without complaint, like a common servant. It’s true he loves this woman, amazing to think about it, happened in the blink of an eye, but when they staggered into this bedroom he hadn’t any notions of cleaning up debris while she sat and watched. Is this the sort of thing she likes? Well, it’s not so bad, is it? At least he has her attention.
“How do you take the bullets out?” she says, jarring him from that delusion—her attention has, it seems, been on the gun.
He looks up at her, sighs and gestures. “You need to empty the cylinder. This is a top-break model—there’s a lock to release it on the—that’s it.” She is a quick study, and he spares a moment to marvel as she pulls the revolver open and studies the loaded cylinder. “So, just empty each of the chambers, close it back up, and there you have it,” he adds unnecessarily, turning back to his task. She sets the bullets neatly on the end table while he works; once he’s finished, he empties the pan into the nearby wastebasket.
“You look very fetching in that position,” says Elena suddenly.
He twists his neck to look up at her. “Madam?”
“On your knees, I mean.”
Grigory feels it again: the clutch of his heart, the catch of his breath, just as when she’d instructed him before. Confounding—he’s not so quick to arouse, always clear-headed, always focused, never loses his notorious cool, and yet there it is, the tightening stretch of trouser fabric, the swell of warmth between his legs, tension that will soon border on pain. He gulps audibly.
“As a matter of fact I was just about to get up,” he says.
“Oh? And who told you that you could do that?” She doesn’t hesitate; reflexive and bold, she stretches one leg out and rests the sole of her boot against his shoulder. She sees his mustache twitch, his reaction difficult to follow, though his breath is quick and his face flushed. She feels a churn of apprehension in her gut. Has she gone too far? This is so very unlike her, always the picture of a good lady, well-behaved and conscientious—how is it that this comes so naturally?
“I—” she says, for the moment suspended, “I’ve never done this before.”
“Nor have I,” he admits.
She keeps her foot in place, though there is a subtle coiling in her, ready to pull back. “Do you wish me to desist?”
He doesn’t answer her immediately, gazing up at her as though considering either her or the question, or perhaps both. She feels her breath growing shallower and shallower as she awaits his response, which is, eventually, “I don’t, madam.”
“Oh.” She relaxes, able to brace her foot on him once again. “Good.” Her hands hold her up against the bed; he sees that one of them is resting on the emptied revolver.
She sees Grigory eyeing the gun, then nodding toward it. “And that?”
“Ah.” She picks it up, looking it over. “Well, you seemed so enchanted before, when I threatened to shoot you.”
“That’s true,” he says breathily, “I was. It would be a gift to die by your delicate hand.”
“They aren’t so delicate,” she says with a touch of indignation. “And anyway, there’ll be none of that, not while I have use for you. That is why I took the bullets out—so there’ll be no disasters.”
“But perhaps we could…” Elena lets her eyes rest on the pistol for a moment longer before they slide back up to Grigory, catching his gaze. She turns her hand, tilting the gun toward him, the barrel angled under his chin. “…pretend?”
For a moment Grigory has trouble speaking. He wets his lips, considers her long and longingly. Then he says, “Do you intend me to remain on the floor, then, like some sort of animal?”
“Some sort, yes.”
“Like a dog?”
“Mm.” It’s true he is more of a bear, but the metaphor is apt. Perhaps a very large, very shaggy sort of dog. “Just like a dog.”
“Do you enjoy humiliating me, madam? Down on my knees in the dust?”
“It isn’t that dusty. My servants do good work. I daresay your coat is dustier. So long as you’ve done a good job cleaning up the glass—”
“I did a fine job. I’ve a keen eye. As I said, I can put a bullet through a coin in the air at twenty paces. A bit of glass is no match for—” His breath stutters and his voice crashes to a halt as Elena nudges the heel of her boot ever-so-gently against his collarbone.
“The question is, my dear sir,” she looks down at him, holding the gun steady, “do you enjoy it? And I’d appreciate a plain answer, so that we may proceed. I don’t know about you, but my fortitude wears thin.”
“My trousers wear thin, madam, it does them no good to scrape along the floor like this. You like me on my knees, well, you’ll like me better up there with you—I’m desperate, out of my mind with love, I want to hold you, touch you, taste you, and I’m damn good at it, too. Remember I’ve walked out on twelve women and nine walked out on me, I guarantee my tongue has better uses than talking.”
“I find that very easy to believe,” says Elena with a smug little chuckle. “And I’ll enjoy every one of those uses in a moment. Please answer the question, Mr. Smirnov. Do you wish me to hold you at gunpoint, to make you do whatever I wish? Do you agree to remain on your knees until I desire otherwise? If it is not agreeable you need only say so.”
“Dammit, woman! I can’t say so, because it is agreeable, I’m on fire, I’m desperate, I’ll do anything you ask, if you’ll only please be clear and stern and swift—”
Elena holds a finger to her lips, and he quiets immediately, staring at her, breathing hard. She holds him there, pinioned by the boot against his shoulder, pinpointed by the gun under his chin, and she says, “What do you think of my shoes, Mr. Smirnov?”
“Your shoes?” He tilts his head to peer at the boot resting against him. “They are very handsome shoes, I’m sure.”
“Very fine and clean.”
“As you say, madam.”
“Show me how you like them.” She feels collaborating flutters of anticipation, desire, and delight deep in her belly, and narrowly avoids shuddering outright. She repositions the revolver, resting the barrel softly against Grigory’s temple, and leans forward. “Show me what your tongue can do.”
He holds onto her gaze for several long seconds, his eyes softly piercing, before he reaches one great hand up to curl tenderly around her ankle and angles his head down, pressing a chaste kiss to the smooth leather of her boot. He parts his lips, breathing slow, inhaling the scent before he flicks his eyes back up to Elena and runs his tongue delicately over a line of precise stitching.
Elena watches him intently, her mouth slightly ajar, the faint curve of a grin cornering her lips. She had not known entirely what to expect, whether it might be a bore for lack of sensation, but sensation or no, she finds herself gripped, utterly fascinated by the attention he now lavishes upon her foot. Her eyes track him, tracing his every move as he licks and kisses and mouths at her boot, his eyes now closed, as though this were everything in the world to him. How willing he is, after such fuss and fire, how agreeable and how thoroughly good. She arches her foot, nudging the pointed toe of her boot forward, jabbing experimentally into him. Grigory utters a soft sound, a low, guttural sort of whimper, and she feels her heart jump.
She slides forward, forcing him to grip tighter on her foot, helping to balance her as she inches closer to the edge of the mattress. She lets her other leg swing down, hanging over him, just brushing his thighs. She is in a very precarious position, but she is determined to maintain poise, heel braced against his shoulder, gun against his head, and one foot dangling, suggesting. She rotates her ankle carefully to scuff lightly along his leg, up the inner thigh to rest at the unignorable bulge in his trousers. She looks at him, eyebrows raised, waiting.
Grigory eyes her back before returning to his ministrations with an even greater focus, sucking at leather and shoelace with no apparent object but to drive her mad. Elena answers the unspoken challenge by insinuating her other foot between his thighs (which spread obligingly at her intrusion) and pressing a slow, gentle pressure along the length of his erection.
“Ah—!” he finally cries out, gripping with both hands at her leg. He rests his head against her, peering up at her with a ragged grin, speaking around labored breath: “I see how it is. I thought I was done with women, sworn off the lot of them, and then you! I thought I was going mad, but that’s not it at all. You’re no woman, you’re a devil.”
“And you’re mine,” she says with a kind of satisfaction she has never known, something pitched deep inside, down to the marrow. She slides the gun barrel down his unshaven cheek until it slips under his jaw, tracing the curve of his throat; she watches the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallows, gasping, staring back at her with wide, wild eyes. She leans her foot forward and back in a lazy rhythm, teasing him tenderly until his every breath comes as a groan and he’s squirming beneath her.
“Come up here,” she commands, pulling back and shifting position so her back leans against the headboard, relieved to have that support at last.
Grigory is beyond eager, beyond desperate, beyond coherence as he scrambles to his feet, well past caring about the ache in his knees; he heaves off his dusty coat, opens his waistcoat and lets it slide from his shoulders, hastily unbuttons his trousers. He hasn’t been instructed to undress, but he’ll risk the punishment, he can’t wait any longer, he needs the relative cool of the air on his hot, sweat-slick skin. Elena seems content to allow it, at least, watching him from her little throne. How he’d like to liberate her from that heavy black dress—she looks terribly flushed herself.
“The shoes,” she instructs, her voice rather strained. She points vaguely with the gun.
“Madam,” he says shakily, undoing his trousers but stopping short of pushing them down; he climbs onto the bed, kneels before her, and unlaces her fine boots deftly, making short work of them and sliding them off her lovely, arched feet. He holds one of those feet in his hands for a moment, rubbing it as if in afterthought. He looks up at her—she is watching him, still so flushed.
“Your dress—may I—?”
“If you would be so kind,” she says, and he lets go her foot and leans forward eagerly. He unfastens the top of the garment with ease—at least he does know his way around the absurd puzzle boxes that are women’s clothes—and opens it up, sliding it down from her pale shoulders before becoming momentarily captivated by the sight of her, that lovely warm flush spreading all across her skin, her breasts pressed up under the taut corset, heaving with every breath.
“If you would, sir,” she says quite sternly, drawing him to snap his attention back to her face; she favors him with a wry smirk as she raises the gun again, holding it under his chin. She works her fingers into the collar of his shirt and draws herself close, so close that he can feel her breath upon his lips: “Focus, Mr. Smirnov.”
“I am focused, if you please. You’ve never met a man with such focus.” He licks his lips as he leans in to reach around behind her. She doesn’t move, keeping the gun between them, forcing him to lean around her such that he can see what he’s doing. Elena breathes slow and hot against his ear.
Again he unlaces deftly, hears her sigh of relief as the corset falls away from her, and she from him, stretching her back, massages her ribs and her breasts. Every inch of him yearns to hold her, touch her taste her; he can’t go on like this, can’t suffer patience when she’s there and he’s here. His hands cup round the back of her neck as he sinks forward, desperate, aching, to kiss her again.
The kiss takes her by surprise but she does not object to it, smiling into it, happy to allow him this small indulgence. It is with unbridled ferocity that she grips onto his shirt, and with insatiability that his hands caress her, stroking her cheeks and kneading down her back before gently cupping and squeezing her breasts. He has a soft touch, not so bold and brash as she might have imagined, but devoted, tender.
Still; it won’t do to become too distracted. They have a game to finish.
Elena pulls back sharply, cutting off the kiss and leaving him bereft, gasping and blinking like he’s just surfaced from the water. “Now, now, Mr. Smirnov,” she says, struggling to right her breathing, “I should very much like to see what other skills that tongue of yours has.” Using the gun to gesture, she directs him to her skirts, tugging them back as she spreads her legs. With the bustle it’s too much bother to undress further; she is impatient, and he shall simply have to venture into the dark unknown.
Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be a dilemma for him. “As you desire, madam,” he says, and presses a kiss to the hand that holds the gun before lowering himself between her legs, half-disappearing under the canopy of her skirt. Elena lays the gun aside and curls her fists into the bed linens, trembling with anticipation.
Not being able to see makes this a bit of a challenge, but Grigory is keen for it. Already the scent of her is overwhelming, and as he draws closer he draws a deep, indulgent breath. He settles his fingers on her thighs, enjoying the hitch of her breath and the subtle shudder that runs through her as he carefully pulls down her underthings. He moves slow, savoring the same anticipation that has her quivering.
It seems his patience does not suit Elena’s needs, however, for almost as soon as she is divested she reaches into her mass of skirts, grips him by the hair, and nudges him forward insistently—and who is he to argue, really? He presses his face against her, spreading her delicately with his fingers, his nose buried between the warm, wet folds of her, and finally, he tastes her with a long, luxuriant stroke of his tongue.
Elena tenses the moment he touches her, but when he surges forward at her behest, when he presses against her with his lips and that nose and that mustache, it’s an instant explosion of sensation, and as he licks her with expert care she arches her back and sucks in a sharp lungful of air. She shudders, full-bodied and magnificent as he works and teases with clear expertise, his tongue flicking and darting sensuously around the tip of her, pushing her closer and closer before returning to lave deep and almost reverently along the full length of her. She gasps and whines and clutches at him, unable to keep her hold on his hair and so turning to his shirt, holding hard enough that she might tear it. She lifts her legs to wrap around him, holding him tight, and he groans thickly in answer, his hips grinding against the mattress. His mustache and stubble tickle almost roughly against her and her subsequent moan is low and long and loud.
“M—Mr. Smirnov,” she says breathlessly, pushing at him, “enough. I want—I want to look at you.”
He extricates himself, breathing heavily, his hair mussed and sticking to his forehead, and he stares at her in adoration, as if in a trance.
She brushes her fingers delicately along his jaw, tracing the architecture of his face, feeling the traces of herself on him, and leans forward to kiss him deeply, tasting herself on his lips.
“On your back now,” she whispers against his mouth, and then leans her weight into him, flipping him over. He lands on the gun and grunts in pain; she can’t help laughing as he pulls it out, handing it back to her with a droll expression. She sets it on the end table, wanting both her hands for this.
She tugs his trousers down a little further, admiring him a moment before climbing atop him, straddling his hips, letting her skirt billow around him. She reaches down into her clothes, touching him with delicate care, preparing him; he lifts his hands to her thighs, gazing at her, breathing slow.
Finally, having made them both wet enough to proceed, she slides down onto him with a stuttering sigh, and his reaction is electric: he arches beneath her, groaning low and thick, clutching her thighs, pressing his hips up to meet her. She lets out a little cry as he pushes deep inside her, filling her up, then reaches out to take hold of him, hands kneading his chest as she moves steadily atop him. She doesn’t rush it, enjoying every inch of his desperation, the shape of his face as he thrusts slowly inside her, his head tilted back, his hands squeezing at her thighs—
“Madam—” he manages to get out between heavy breaths. “Elena—”
“Grigory,” she answers immediately, the sound and taste of his name filling her with great warmth; she compresses her thighs around him, drawing a sharp moan. “You have been so very good.”
“And you have been most—” he says, his breath hitching as she pushes harder against, his eyes finding hers, “astonishing.”
She smiles and rolls her hips quicker against him, unable to keep from moaning as she rides him nearer and nearer the end of it, and he grasps at her desperately as he cries out, and—
And they lie there for a minute or two, Elena curled over him, sweat-soaked and gasping, Grigory prone and limp and light-headed, before she lifts off him gingerly and falls to his side in a heap, curling up against him. He puts his arms around her and holds her, leaning his head against her hair, which has come partially undone to the point that he can stroke it.
After some quiet has returned to the room, Elena lifts her head and studies him. “You don’t seem so terribly sleepy,” she remarks.
“I am tired,” he admits. “But I’m in no mood to snore, I assure you.”
“Mm.” She lays her head back down on his chest. “Well done, sir.”
“And you.” He strokes her hair a moment more before he says, “You have made me very happy, madam. And yet there is still the matter of my mortgage payment—at some point I shall have to leave your pleasant company, and then I don’t know what I shall do.”
“Nonsense,” she says shortly. “You’ve no mortgage payment to worry about.”
“But—” He stares at her, uncomprehending. “But I have!”
“No, no. You shall stay here with me.” She looks up at him and presses a little kiss to his cheek. “And that’s the end of it.”
Well. Who is he to argue with an armed woman? There will still be several matters to attend to, but those seem rather unimportant right now. He settles back in against her, letting his eyes close. “As you say, madam.”