“I don’t like you coming to this place.” Kyo’s brows were twisted unhappily as he shifted his weight, glancing about at the painted screens and lanterns of the red-light district. What was alluring at night rendered gaudy by day.
Sighing at the same sentiment he’d echoed countless times, you shifted the basket of food from one hand to another and grasped the shoji of Kirisato’s room, plastering on a reassuring smile. “It’s fine, Kyo. You walked me here, and Kirisato and the guards will be sure nothing happens to me.”
His mouth tugged down, but he seemed to realize there was no merit to rehashing the same argument you’d already won countless times. “Just…be careful, alright?” Fingertips grazed your cheek as he tucked a hank of hair back behind your ear, something inscrutable in his gaze. “I’ll be waiting for you back at the restaurant.”
You nodded, and he turned on a heel, the stiff line of his back announcing his displeasure as he strode off.
“Kirisato?” you called, rattling the shoji to announce your entrance, and you heard a whisper of sound from inside before her dulcet tones responded.
Sliding the door open, you slipped inside and shut it behind you, turning to find her seated and tapping out her kiseru, a curl of smoke still twining almost affectionately about the gilded architecture of her hair. A resplendent pool of colors and silks puddled around her, as if someone had upended a vast box of jewels at her knees. Her beauty caught, sharp and cutting at your chest, like swallowing rubies.
“I brought your food.” You busied yourself with setting down the package, trying to hide the flush of your cheeks. Half wishing you would get used to how bewitching your lover looked…half wishing you never would.
The room fell silent, so quiet you could almost hear yourself blink, but somehow Kirisato moved with even less sound. Standing to glide across the tatami, the faint tremble of the peony hairpin so carefully tucked in her coif the only thing that belied she was walking at all. She drew to a halt only half a step away and reached out to press the tip of her finger to the space between your brows.
“You are frowning,” she pointed out, and then let her hand fall away to reach for something on the table behind you. “Why?”
“Because you are too beautiful,” you admitted, in a hoarse whisper. Trying not to imagine what she looked like disrobed, when her gray eyes went cloudy with passion, your hands trembling slightly as you let them slip from the knotted fabric of the package. “I’m not sure asking me to come here is a good thing.”
She opened a small pot of rouge and dipped her index finger in, the pad of it coming up startlingly red, as if she had cut herself. “Kyo walked you here, did he?”
The unexpected question jarred you from your thoughts. You waited for her to swipe the color over her own mouth, but that fingertip came to hover over your lips. So close you could feel your breath parting around it as you exhaled.
“He touched your hair,” she murmured.
Your eyes flew up to meet Kirasato’s - because while it was the courtesan’s gaze you found staring back at you, heavy and hooded and coy, it was Haru’s voice that had rung between you. Low and beautiful and dangerous, like candlelight reflected in the jagged shards of a mirror. Parting your lips, you began to form a rebuttal, but you were cut off when Kirisato pressed her finger over them, the rouge on her skin causing her touch to drag as she swept along the curve of your mouth.
“Were you -”
The rest of your sentence was lost in the bittersweet taste of safflower as Kirisato dipped her finger past the line of your teeth, your lips closing reflexively around it to suck away the remnant, the soft warmth of flesh on your tongue sending prickles of awareness soaring through you. Pulling your gaze to the alluring vee of skin bared where her kimono overlapped, porcelain pale and smooth.
“Rouge, red like blood. It stains, too, just like blood, if you aren’t careful.” There was a faint note of singsong in her voice, the sound of it almost far away. As if she was recalling somewhere, someplace else.
Her hand fell to the pot again, and this time it was two of her fingers tinted. Featherlight, like butterflies settling on a petal, they came to rest at the crook of your neck. “Didn’t I tell you I would kill any man that dared lay a hand on you?”
If Haru’s voice had been candles and glass before, it was moonlight on blades now. The cold reflection of a polished sepulchre. A riot of gooseflesh broke over you, and you scarcely dared to breathe.
“You’re mine.” Two words, one motion as he drew his painted fingers across your throat in a slash, rouge smearing across your skin like a grisly sort of necklace. “Mine.”
Splayed wide, his hand circled around the back of your neck and his lips covered yours, bit down on the plumpness he found until your mouth fell open, the kiss blotched with copper and beeswax. An assault, a siege, that left you powerless to do anything but cling to Kirisato’s embroidered shoulders. His mouth stealing the very air from your lungs until you were dizzy, parting just long enough for you to suck in a quick breath before it was on you again.
“Say it.” The words were airy but threaded through with tension, taut like a bowstring. His lips crushed yours again before you had time to even shape a reply, moving across yours desperately, devouring you. Something wild and terrifying in the way they framed yours and overwhelmed you - as if you might lose yourself in his kiss and never find your way home again. “Say it and I’ll forgive him. Say it and I’ll spare his life.”
“I’m yours,” you managed to sob out when he moved away at last, his teeth closing over the tendon that strained at the edge of your neck as your head fell back, suckling at a patch of skin until you felt the blood rise in a welt, hot and stinging. As if punishing you for your slow reply. Fear and lust spurring your pulse in a reckless headlong rush, twining through you irreversibly. Irredeemably.
His tongue laved over the rose-petal mark, washing the pain away, a sweet benediction. “And I’m yours.”
Hands were at the edge of your kimono, hiking it up as breath scalded your ear. Fingertips skimming up the soft skin of your thighs before trailing through the wetness that had already gathered between them, a tiny harsh sound soughing from Kirisato’s ruined lips at the discovery of your arousal. Scarcely grazing the tight bundle of nerves before plunging into you, plucking a muted cry from you with the suddenness of the ingress, the curl of his touch against your walls. Slim perfect fingers fucking you deftly, knowing your every shudder and whimper by now. Translating them effortlessly into a pause here, a flick of his thumb over your clit there.
His other hand worked your obi loose enough to yank the hem of your collar wide, a frantic motion at odds with the placid elegance of Kirisato’s facade. He bent his head to latch onto the nipple he’d bared, and the tips of his hairpins glided over your collarbone like the blunt edge of a knife. A constant reminder of the danger you held and welcomed in the circle of your arms. His teeth gripped the flesh of your breast and held you in place as his tongue worked greedily over your beaded nipple, and you arched your back, trying to press the needy peak further into the gorgeous torture of his mouth.
You writhed, scarcely staying upright save for the iron band of his arm around your back, twisted one way and another by your desire. “Please. Kirisato. Haru. I need you inside of me.” Names left your lips in an indisctinct haze, the necessity of staying quiet the only thing you remained cognizant of. Knowing how thin the walls of Kirisato’s room were, and how taboo it was for him to touch you like this here, of all places. This den of secrets and vipers.
Then your legs were empty and you cried out at the loss, only to see him shifting aside the colorful layers of his elaborate kimono, falling back like petals to expose his arousal, and he was driving inside of you, catching your knee over his arm and opening you to his thrust. It rocked the both of you backwards, your hands grabbing at the table of cosmetics behind you for balance, and you clung with white-knuckled tenacity as he found a punishing pace, the harsh slap of your hips together cushioned by layers of silk and satin and coquetry.
You buried your face in the crook of his neck, the only part of him truly exposed, and sucked in breaths that were burnished with the sweet smell of tobacco and perfume. Clung to the flex and sway of his shoulders as he worked, his strokes flicking upwards at the end, grinding long and languid against your enflamed center, swollen and heavy and slick with lust. Pleasure forking through you almost painfully, searing the space between breaths. Eroding the slim veneer of your control until your fingernails were digging into his collar, carving half-moons into the hard planes of his upper back.
“Look up,” he snarled, biting your earlobe cruelly. “Look at me when you come. I want to see my reflection in your eyes when you do.”
You lifted your head, legs trembling as the wave of your climax began to crest within you, finding his gray gaze hot on yours. Folded steel burning with lust and possession, like a new-forged sword. “Say it again,” he demanded, but this time it was a broken plea. Shattered like the uneasy hitch of his hips. “One more time. Please.”
“I’m yours, only yours. No one else’s,” you promised him on a gasp, sealing the words inside of his mouth with your own, letting the cry of your orgasm pass between you as it shivered you apart around him. The words tasting of despair and elation. “Haru, Kirisato, Haru-akira. You, you, you alone live in my heart.”
Something salty worked its way into your next kiss, but you were too close to tell whether it was blood or tears. Wondered, as he shuddered through his own release to sag against you, a crumpled wilted thing of smoke and mirrors, whether it truly mattered.
There was no sweetness to be found in a gilded cage - no matter how the birds caught within it sang.