“You listen very well, mia fada .” Her grandmother’s voice lingered in her head, standing out against the backdrop of voices and music. “You stay with your cousins, si ? You just arrived.” Her grandmother’s cool, slender hands grasped her chin with a gentle caress before they left the storied Soranzo palace before sunset. “The streets are difficult to navigate for a visitor. You’ll get lost quickly.”
Her cousin, Caterina, and Caterina’s friend, Cecelia, were to take her around on the first night of Venice’s famed Carnevale, under the watchful eye of Caterina’s older brother, Francisco. The plan was to stop by the basilica for an evening prayer then look around the plaza around it. Caterina swore that the masked ones would be out by the end of mass and that the people watching would be enjoyable.
Marinette had her new, gilded and red-painted eye mask tucked in her pocket and almost couldn’t contain her excitement. She’d put it on as soon as they left church.
She’d heard so much about Carnevale and begged her parents to let her go with her grandmother, Luigina DuPain, when the favorite sister of the current Soranzo noble family patriarch returned to her native Venice for the Lenten season.
Marinette herself had never gone further than Lyon and wasn’t sure what to expect. She heard about the dancing well into the night. She was told tales of music filling every street and plaza of the islands. She knew there were to be colorful costumes and fanciful masks. It was grand festival!
Yet, as she was rowed on a small boat from the mainland to a series of interconnected islands seemingly raising from the mist that morning, she couldn’t help but believe she entered a dream world of itself.
A dress pre-purchased by her grandmother awaited her when they reached the Soranzo palace and it fit her well, as should any clothing that was tailored for her. It was beautiful; a rich crimson with embroidered gold flowers. Her granduncle presented her with a welcome present of a small gold cross on an oval shield. On the other side as the family crest.
“Should you get lost,” he said with an amused chuckle as she stared at it in wonder. “This will let others know you belong to this family.”
In Venice, she was a patrician daughter of Soranzo...who spoke very little Venetian and as soon as the sun set, lost her cousins and would-be guides.
This was not how she imaged her first fairy tale night in Venice to go.
“Excuse me.” Marinette clutched her small cross in her pale hand, as she tried to single out those in full gilded face masks. Her cousins told her men and women of their class tended to prefer them. She hoped that if she showed them the crest on her cross, they would help her find her family or, better yet, help her return to the Soranzo palace.
“Beautiful lady!” The man instead grasped her hand and swung her around with joy as she gasped and stumbled to keep up. He said something in rapid Venetian and Marinette couldn’t make it out.
“I am looking for the Soranzo palace,” she said as she was thrusted forward, into the awaiting arms of another dancer. Just her luck, she found herself trapped in a circle of swaying bodies. “Please, wait! I need help!”
“I will teach you! Come, move your foot like this!”
No, she didn’t want help dancing! She tried to pull away, but the man’s grip was too strong and he was too caught up in ‘teaching’ her, that he didn’t even realize she was trying to get away.
Marinette bit her lower lip. Behind her mask, her eyes tried to scan the blurred crowds around her. There were so many people in the plaza. Surely, Caterina, Cecilia, or Francisco were there, also looking for her?
“Caterina!” She shouted her cousin’s name into the lantern lit plaza. “Francisco!” Her voice was swallowed by the boisterous dancers and music. Her heart was racing and for the life of her, she couldn’t remember Venetian for ‘help me’.
As the man moved her to the side and released her hands to exchange partners, she cried out. “ Aidez-moi !”
“ Mademoiselle .” A hand caught the small of her back, keeping her upright as her small hand rested on a much larger one. “ Tu vas bien ?”
She inhaled a sharp breath. Was she hallucinating? That was French.
Her voice was tense and she dared lift her eyes. “ Monsieur ?”
His peach lips lifted just a bit into a kind smile as behind the gilded blue-green eye mask just covering the tip of his nose, she could make out blue looking back at her. “Are you all right?” he asked once more, his low, gentle voice almost relaxing. “Do you want to stop dancing?”
His accent mirrored hers. Was he from Paris, also? Her hand squeezed his as tears brimmed her eyes. She began rambling at once, unable to contain her relief and urgency. “I am searching for my cousins and am lost. My Venetian is poor and I-”
“We will help you,” he said. He kept his gentle hold on her as he held her gaze. She felt him leading her towards the edge of the plaza. As his eyes rose, he gave a nod to someone behind her. “Take her out of the circle.”
Marinette cocked her head to the side. She tried to look over her shoulder to see who he was speaking to, only to feel his hands release hers. She gasped; the arm keeping her standing disappeared and she was falling.
“I’ve got you, my lady.” She saw a black mask and clear green eyes behind them. A shallow gasp escaped her lips as she was pulled against a firm chest and met with a kind smile.
Marinette felt another arm brace her back as a tall blond man appeared beside her, holding on to one of her hands as he wove them through an array of cloaked and costumed people. Each step he took seemed to avoid a rush of carnival goers, as if they parted to let them through.
He pulled her along, keeping a smooth pace that was just fast enough for her to keep up with without stumbling behind. He looked over his shoulder as they cleared the plaza and gave her another reassuring smile. He lifted in an arm and seemed to use the heavy black velvet of his cloak to shield her from the masses.
“Are you all right? Are you hurt anywhere?”
She swallowed as she realized they were taking shelter in the arch of a doorway. She could feel a dense, wooden door behind her as the tall blond man stood before her, examining her face and neck for any sign of distress.
“I lost, but not hurt, monsieur.”
His eyes lifted back to hers. “Parisian?” A coy smile tugged at his lips. “So are we!” He seemed to take a step back to give her some space. “You’re quite a long way from home.”
She bit her lower lip. She couldn’t make out his full face, but he was clearly a handsome man. His smile alone was brilliant, and there was an air of excitement and glee around him. She could make out that much in the smoky lantern light above them. His cheerful, familiar accented voice calmed her.
“I am visiting my grandmother.” Marinette grasped the cross around her neck and lifted it up to show him.. “She - I - am a daughter of the Soranzo family.”
The blond man gave her a weak smile. “I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the families here, my lady. Do you know how to get to their home?”
Her face fell and she shook it. Her slender fingers tightened around her cross as she looked down. “I do not. I followed my cousins, but we became separated.”
He let out a low hiss. “Separated...in this crowd....” He looked out, towards the busy street. “Do you remember where you saw them last?”
“At the basilica plaza.”
“We just came from there. Perhaps they wandered to the water...?” He perked up and looked back at her. “Or perhaps they are looking for you? It will be difficult to find them if they’re also walking the plaza in search of you.”
Marinette’s eyes widened. That made sense. If she was wandering around and they were searching, they could’ve just missed each other. She reached forward and grasped the man’s billowing sleeve. “Will you take me back?”
“Of course! If you stay in one place, they’re bound to find you.” He gave her another brilliant smile and Marinette felt her cheeks heat up. He lifted his arm, offering his hand to her as he took a step out into the street.
Her small hand placed itself in his gloved one before falling into step beside him. She didn’t pay attention to the passing buildings or flurry of people around them. All she could focus on was the warmth of his hand coming through his gloves.
“As the night goes on, the more crowded it becomes,” he said, craning his neck forward to try to work out a path. “It will become more difficult to get through the narrow streets.”
“You must be careful,” a calm, gentle voice said from their right. “It’s far too easy to get lost or hurt.”
The blond man looked to the side and smiled. “There you are! I thought you’d be trapped. They didn’t ask you to play?”
“I swore to them another time.” The dark-haired man who saved her from the dance appeared before her and Marinette felt her heart quicken. He was just a bit taller than his friend, but dressed in similar fashion. Their dark, rich clothes had threads of gold and silver and tints of color. A line of green on the blond’s; matching his eyes, and blue on the vest of his friend’s.
“Sir, I never thanked you for your help,” she said, extending her other hand towards him.
Behind his gilded mask, his kind blue eyes looked back at her with a gentle fondness that put her at ease. “I am more than happy to be of assistance to a countryman of my own,” he said, bowing his head just a bit in her direction. He looked from her to his friend. “Have you found her cousins?”
“No, but I suspect if they are searching for her, they may have missed each other,” the blond said.
“She should wait by the steps of the basilica, then.” He walked around them and stood on her other side, placing a light hand on her shoulder as he motioned towards the church. “The steps are a bit elevated. It may be easier for her to be seen there.”
“And she’ll have better look at the plaza.”
The blond’s gloved hand patted hers as he smiled at her. “How lucky for you that my friend knows the benefits of a church so well, yes? We will escort you there.”
“Do you want us to stay with you?” The dark-haired man turned to look at her as they walked. “We have time.”
“All the time in the world,” the blond said. “We never confirmed with Lady Rossi.”
“She’ll expect us there. You know how she is.”
Marinette could see the basilica ahead of them and she pulled her hand back from the blond’s. “I am thankful for your assistance, but I’d hate to keep you. I can’t ask you to stay with me.”
She moved ahead of them, beginning up the imported marble steps of the basilica. Another hand caught hers and she looked back.
“Are you certain?” the dark-haired man asked. The torch and lantern lights above him revealed genuine concern in his eyes and for a moment, Marinette was transfixed. “It is no trouble. We would feel at rest knowing you’re safe.”
They were just being kind to a fellow Parisian, she told herself, yet Marinette couldn’t help but be touched by his words. She gave him a warm smile and squeezed his hands. “I cannot trouble you gentlemen any longer. I have a good vantage point from here,” she said, lifting her other hand towards the structure behind her. “I will be fine and I will find my cousins.”
Beside him, the blond stepped forward and took her other hand back. His smiling green eyes met her blue ones. “Then, my lady, may we at least have a name?”
She prayed they couldn’t see the shameful flush across her face and neck. They were only being proper. She should’ve introduced herself to begin with . “I am with the Soranzo family here.”
“You misunderstand,” the dark-haired man said with a bemused look. “What is our Lady’s name?”
Her breath caught in her throat. Holding her right hand was the blue-eyed man with the gilded mask. Holding her left was the smiling blond in black. What were the chances that they’d both not only be handsome, but kind.
“Marinette....” Her name slipped from the blond’s lips in a soft whisper barely heard above the noise of the music and passing crowds.
“Then, Lady Marinette, may you have a blessed evening.” The dark-haired man took a step forward and lowered his head. Her heart shot to her throat as she felt his warm lips on the back of her hand. As he moved back, his gentle smile lingered. His hand slipped from beneath hers.
“May you have a good night, my lady,” the blonde said. He kept her gaze as his fingers wove through hers. He took a step closer and lifted her hand to his lips. “Though, should you change your mind, come to us.”
He placed a small kiss on her knuckles, his lips curving into a hint of a smug smile as he stepped back.
“Do you know the Rialto?” his friend said. She could see the hint of a playful look on his face. She nodded, unable to bring herself to answer in a steady voice. She didn’t know where it was from there, but she knew of it. “On the San Polo side before the night ends.”
He gave her a small bow of his head before he turned around and began to melt back into the crowds. Behind him, the blond gave her a quick wink and said in a playful voice as he followed.
“Don’t keep us waiting.”
As they vanished, Marinette finally allowed herself to move. A rush of a hot breath came from her as she stumbled back, her hand reaching for the support of a pillar. Her mind replayed their words in over and over, trying to find a lighter meaning. Surely, they couldn’t have been inviting her to some sort of indecent interlude.
They had been so kind to her and even brought her to a space she could find her cousins from. They appeared respectable men.
Yet, he’d heard rumors that respectable men often shed that part of them at Carnevale . Marinette pursed her lips and looked away. It didn’t matter. She had a brief, almost dream like run in with two beautiful men in a foreign city. It was a story to tell Alya when she returned to Paris. That chances of it happening again was slim, especially if her grandmother found out she was lost on her first night.
Her family wouldn’t let her go out unescorted again; she was sure of it.
She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. Marinette lifted a hand to fan her neck. She was sure her flush reached well below the bodice of her dress by now. She could still feel their hands in hers.
“Find your cousins, Marinette,” she said under her breath. That was what she was doing on the steps of the church, wasn’t it? To find her cousins? She straightened up and soothed the front of her dress. She looked out towards the ever moving crowd before her and squinted.
If she recalled correctly, Caterina was in a beautiful silver dress and Francisco had that dark red cap. While everyone was out in their most fantastical clothing, those of her wealthy relatives was still sure to stand out.
Twice, she caught a sliver of silver in the crowd, and it was not brown-haired Caterina. When she saw another shock of the color, part of her was sure it was another false sighting, but this time, there was a dark red cap next to it. Marinette stood on the tips of her toes and craned her neck.
“Caterina!” A wave of relief filled her as she caught sight of her cousins across the plaza, near the gondolas. With reckless abandon, Marinette rushed back into the crowds to cut across and reach them. She hoped they weren’t getting on the gondolas and heading back to the family palace to get help in looking for her.
Her grandmother would be worried and upset. It was Marinette’s first trip abroad and she’d ruined it.
“Caterina! Francisco!” She shouted their names even though it was unlikely that they’d hear her. Still, she couldn’t contain the smile on her face as she wove through the masses. She watched Caterina take a man’s hand as she stepped into a gondola.
“Are you sure you don’t want to wait for your cousin?” That was Cecelia.
Francisco’s arm was around her waist, his hand resting on the swell of her hip as he ushered her towards the gondola.
“I’m sure she’s fine. All Grandfather could talk about was how excited she was to come. Let her have a taste of the madness.”
Marinette’s steps came to a halt. She didn’t recognize the bitterness and irritation in his voice. Francisco had greeted her warmly when they first met.
“I’m not going to change our plans to go to Borano just to babysit some Parisian mongrel,” Caterina said, her lip curling up with distaste at the thought. “Grandfather gave her a cross. If she’s in any trouble, the family name will protect her.”
“You have quite a bit of confidence in your family name, Rina,” the unknown man she sat beside on the gondola said as he paid the gondolier some coins. “What if it doesn’t?”
“Then it’s her fault for foolishly coming here not knowing anything,” Caterina said, lifting her nose in the air. “ Carnevale is for Venetians, but every year, we get more and more of these... tourists . What is to become of our celebration?”
Francisco laughed. “You’re not even staying on the island for it.”
“Borano is where the real Venetians are celebrating,” Caterina said. “Quickly, Jacopo, let us go before she catches sight of us!”
Marinette didn’t go any further. She remained lost in the bustle of masked men and women around her, numb. The warmth and kindness her cousins had shown her was all a farce. Did they lose her on purpose so they could get away?
The gondola pushed off from the wooden dock, filled with laughter and teasing squeals from those seated within. They didn’t care about her. They didn’t care what happened to her.
“Miss, are you lost?” She heard a man ask her the question, but she remained rooted in her spot, staring out at the water. “Would you like to come with me?”
She didn’t know how to get back to the palace.
Her Venetian was terrible; she could hardly get her words together.
It was dark.
She knew no one.
A hand found her arm and grabbed her. “You look lost. Why don’t you come with us?”
Marinette turned her head to the side and looked up at a stranger. Brown hair, dull eyes, and a sly grin on his face. Her eyes crinkled up. He pulled on her arm.
“Come with us.” He tilted his head to a group of young men nearby. “Are you visiting? We can show you around.”
Her breath grew shallow. This was unlike the situation just moments earlier. There was no feeling of warmth or sincerity. His hand was hurting her arm and he was pulling her towards them.
She pulled back, tugging her arm away. “Leave me alone!”
“French?” She heard their murmur and she paled. Now they knew she was a foreigner. She stumbled back as they began calling to her in mangled French coupled with rude gestures. Marinette turned and tried to flee into the safety of the crowd.
Voices continued to call for her and she pushed her way through, afraid to look back and see them following her.
She needed to get back to the palace. Perhaps if she found another well dressed patrician, they would be able to direct her. Another noble would take pity on a daughter of Soranzo, wouldn’t they?
“Ah!” She stumbled forward as a group of fully masked men and women tangled in each other moved past her, shoving her to the side and against a wall. Marinette felt the hard, rough surface scratch against her cheek as her arms braced her against the side of a building.
She looked back as the merrymakers continued out without any concern for her. The heavy scent of wine wafted around them.
An emptiness filled the pit of her stomach. The later it became, the more drunkards she would encounter. It made the need to return even more urgent. At the very least, those men from the plaza were nowhere to be seen.
She pushed herself up and moved in the direction towards the the Grand Canal. It was the main thoroughfare for the city. If she could get a gondola there, she could have them take her to the Soranzo palace. She had no money on her, but if she showed them her cross, maybe they’d take her there and her grandmother could pay.
Marinette felt a cool breeze against her skin as she emerged from between narrow buildings and found the long stretch of the canal before her. Her eyes widened, a wave of relief washing over her like the breeze. Finally, a stroke of luck.
A smile graced her face as she grasped the cross around her neck. Her eyes rested on the series of gondolas waiting by the edge of the canal; the gondoliers talking amongst themselves as patrons haggled prices, embarked, and disembarked.
The smile left her face as the fresh memory of her cousins abandoning her resurfaced.
What would she go home to? How would she explain returning to the palace without her cousins? Her grandmother was the patriarch’s favorite sister, but Caterina and Francisco were his heirs; the children of his first and only son.
Marinette couldn’t implicate them without causing a problem. Even if she told the truth, there was no guarantee that they’d believe her, the visiting foreigner, over the two favorite children. Her heart sank.
“Get out of the way!” a sharp voice yelled and she felt a shove to the side as a wealthy looking man passed with a gaggle of women.
Marinette moved as close to the buildings as she could as he walked past, muttering what she understood to be insults on her intelligence.
She couldn’t spend the night out by herself.
She didn’t know what to do or say when she returned to the palace alone .
She crinkled her eyes and looked up and down the canal, as if hoping for an answer.
A newly completed arch connecting the two largest islands of the lagoon beckoned her with it’s hanging lamps and scurry of people.
The Rialto Bridge.
“San Polo side of the Rialto before the night ends...,” Marinette mouthed to herself. She took a step forward as she heard the blond’s teasing voice.
“ Don’t keep us waiting .”
Her feet were moving before she realized she was. Her steps quickened as she released her cross and reached to gather her skirts in her hands to help hasten her walk. Was this the answer she was looking for?
She slipped between various men and women, costumed goers and drab peasants. Her shoes padded across the stone pathway as she climbed the steps. How she made it through the crowd of people with all their jostling for space was a miracle.
Yet, as she reached San Polo, she found herself panting. Had she run? She looked over her shoulder, back down the elegant, arched bridge.
What was she doing?
“My lady.” a voice sounded somewhat surprised and she turned around. Raising from where they were seated on a pile of wooden boxes were two men: one with a black mask and another in a gilded blue one. The one in blue looked at her as if he were unsure she really stood before him. “You came.”
The blond smiled as he crossed the space to get to her. “I knew she would,” he said.
The other man still looked concerned. “But what about your cousins?”
Marinette swallowed. She tried to stand up straight as her hands clenched at her sides. She would not allow their hurtful words to ruin her night. “It seems they were not as warmly welcoming of me as I thought.”
The blond man’s smile fell. He looked to his friend with a mirroring look of worry. “Then....” He looked back at her. “Shall we escort you home?”
If she said yes, they would escort her, no questions asked. She knew they would not only walk her to her Great Uncle’s doorstep, but properly introduce themselves and reassure her grandmother that she was in good hands. She knew they would.
But she didn’t need them to. She came for the Carnevale and she would experience it with or without her heartless cousins.
“I came for the festival,” she said, a slight tremble in her voice. “I don’t want to return without experiencing it.”
The two men locked eyes once more, as if having a silent conversation in front of her. The dark-haired man turned her. “What do you wish to experience, exactly?”
She felt daring. “What can you show me?”
He licked his lips. “My lady, you know not what you ask.”
“Then show me.”
Once more, the men looked at each other. “What we can show you,” the blond said in a measured voice. “May not be...proper for a young woman of your standing.”
Standing be damned. Now she wanted to know. What did these men know that she didn’t? What did they experience that she couldn’t? She remained firm.
The brunette released a heavy breath. He lifted his hand under his mask and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Are you certain?”
Every sensible bone in her body told her to say no. To retract her demand. If she did, she knew the gentlemen wouldn’t force her and would still take her home.
But she didn’t.
“Luka,” the blond said to the other man. “She’s willing.”
“But is it right, Adrien?” He looked towards her and extended an inviting hand. “If you come with us, there is no turning back.”
“But it will be a night to remember,” the other said, as if promising it would be so. He smiled once more as he also extended his hand.
Two gloved hands were in front of her once more, waiting, and Marinette looked at them. She chewed on her lower lip for a moment longer.
She lifted her hands and placed one on each of theirs. There was no turning back now.
“What kind of night will you show me?”
As their fingers curled around hers, they answered.
“One of utter debauchery,” Adrien said, kissing the back of her hand with his smiling lips.
Luka sighed and kissed her other with his. “And sin.”
Palazzo Soranzo was considered one of the most beautiful and ornate palaces in the city, but the four story structure of gleaming orange-pink stone and delicate arched windows was close competition. A thin tower peeked from behind and Marinette could see the lantern light from the narrow windows. Even in the torch light, she could make out it’s shadow.
Towers were a sign of wealth, especially for the newly wealthy. The carved window frames resembled leaves and vines. They must’ve taken weeks, if not months to be created by the hands of a skilled artisan. There were slender pillars framing some of the middle tier windows, inspired by more eastern styles she’d heard about, but never seen in Paris.
What was more, the palace was on the lagoon. This was the home of someone wealthy and all the small details of their home were a sign to those passing that someone of importance lived there.
Muffled music could be heard from inside, penetrating out into the narrow street that led to its gate. Men in black clothes lingered by the carved wooden doors, looking as if they were guarding it, though said nothing as they approached.
Smooth marble stairs took them to the front doors and Marinette held her breath.
Beside her, Luka turned to one of the guards and gave him a nod. The guard on their left bowed his head and lifted his hand to knock. Dull, heavy thuds made her jump. On her right, Adrien’s hand continued to stroke hers as if to keep her calm.
“This is Palazzo Rossi,” he said. “We are guests of the patrona’s daughter. Her Carnevale celebration is considered the most decadent of the city.”
“Since the patrona and her husband make a pilgrimage every Lenten season, their daughter takes the opportunity to throw these parties,” Luka said. “It is by invitation only.”
Marinette drew her head back. “Then is it all right for me to be here?”
“Of course!” Adrien was quick to reassure her.
“The patrona’s daughter dares not deny Adrien,” Luka said, a small smile on his lips. “He is a favorite.” It filled her with some comfort.
“My lords, do you have your invitations?” one of the guards asked.
Luka reached into his tunic and retrieved two folded pieces of parchment. Marinette craned her neck to see them and squinted under the torch light. There were no words or numbers. Only glistening gold images were revealed inside. On one, a serpent twisted in a knot framed by an elegant gilded border. On the other, a cat with its claws out also framed by a matching gilded border.
“If you require more.” Luka tugged a glove off of his right hand and lifted it. On his ring finger was a silver ring shaped like a snake.
“Here is mine, as well.” Adrien showed off a thick silver ring engraved with a cat’s paw print. So he was the cat and Luka was the snake. Marinette held back a small giggle. It was somehow fitting; Adrien seemed the more playful of the two while Luka much more patient.
The guard gave an approving nod and looked towards the door. “The Viper and the Cat!”
It was an announcement and Marinette gasped as she heard thick metal bolts turned on the other side of the door. The dark wood double doors creaked open and a flood of senses flooded her: the warmth of spices, the deep scent of perfumes and oils. There was the sound of music played from somewhere in the palace and then there were the voices singing, laughing, and shouting over the cacophony in a multitude of languages.
“Viper! Cat! You’ve finally arrived....” A woman’s excited voice trailed off into critical silence and Marinette grew still.
The woman had dark hair decorated with a beaded net of pearls and jeweled pins. A painted orange mask rimmed with black covered from her nose to her head, and the gown she wore matched. Marinette could feel the woman’s sharp eyes boring into her, as if demanding to know why she dared show up at her doorstep.
Marinette wanted to shrink back, to turn around and ramble about being lost, but she was trapped by two men holding each of her arms.
“Good evening, young madam.” Luka bowed his head. His arm slipped from hers as he extended it to the dark-haired woman; the Patrona Rossi’s daughter, Marinette deduced. “Our apologies for our lateness. We were caught up after the service.”
The daughter held her hand out to be greeted, but kept her eyes on Marinette. “It seems you were. I was starting to think you wouldn’t make it at all.”
“Don’t be silly, young madam,” Adrien said, taking his turn to greet her as Luka finished and brought his arm back to Marinette. “We wouldn’t miss your celebration for the world.”
Her eyes flickered to Adrien and seemed to soften just a bit. Whether it was because of the flattery or because it was Adrien, Marinette wasn’t sure.
“I’m honored that you would grace us with your presence,” she said. She looked back at Marinette. “And tell me, who is your guest? You didn’t send word of one.”
“A friend of ours happened to be visiting. She is unfamiliar with the city, so it is our duty to take care of our countrywoman,” Luka said. Marinette felt his arm take hers again and she gave the hostess a small bow of her head.
“It isn’t a problem, is it?” Adrien asked. It sounded like an innocent query, but Marinette couldn’t help but feel he set it up so the patrona’s daughter couldn’t reject him.
“Of course not. A guest of yours is a guest of mine,” she said. A tight smile reached the woman’s lips. “Welcome to my celebration, dear guests. Tonight, I am Volpe , your hostess. What should I call our new guest?”
Adrien and Luka both turned to look at her and Marinette looked down at her clothing. She didn’t come dressed as any sort of animal. The dress her grandmother prepared for her was red and black and, in the face of Volpe, rather plain.
“Back home, we call her coccinelle ,” Luka said. Marinette tried to contain her surprise as Adrien nodded. He looked at her fondly and patted her hand in his.
“She is our lucky ladybug.”
Volpe pursed her lips, her eyes going up and down Marinette’s body to assess her. She seemed to fix her eyes on the men on either side of Marinette. “Lucky indeed. Well then, Ladybug .” She she stepped back into the house and Marinette followed Luka and Adrien as they entered. “Welcome to my Carnevale .”
In the haze of smoke from lanterns and hanging candle light, Marinette heard herself let out a breathless gasp of awe. The main room was two stories tall, open to the halls above them with a gilded and painted ceiling. Depictions of ancient gods and long lost stories of war and seduction were told over panels stretching overhead. Thin windows were draped in thick, rich red cloth and the panels between them were painted to appear as a panoramic view of the Grand Canal.
On either side of her, there were sofas and chairs, tables filled with food and wine, and laughing party goers reclined and draped all over each other; their masks still on, though clothes were missing. If they weren’t touching each other, they were languid and seemed content on simply watching.
Behind her, she heard the bolts being closed and she looked over her shoulder. The doors were closed.
Marinette heard women squealing above her and she looked up. Behind her mask, her eyes went wide as she saw two wooden beams across the ceiling holding up long, red curtains that were being swung on like swings.
Women with white masks and feathers in their hair teased crowds below and on the upper floor halls as they swung past dressed only in their white undergarments.
Beneath then were two circular tables where men were gambling. A heated argument was happening at one table over winnings and on the other, a woman made a show of raising her stakes. To her right, a man was entertaining the crowds with illusions while a torch bearer blew fire into the air beside him.
Every step she took seemed to reveal a new scene and she could only stare in wonder. It was as if she stepped into another world just by walking into a building.
Fanciful dressed men in sad masks wove through the crowds, offering delicacies from plates they carried.
Marinette saw some fruit on a plate and eyed it. It had been quite some time since she ate. Adrien seemed to follow her eyes and as a server passed, he plucked a small bundle of grapes from a gold platter and held it above her head.
He opened his mouth and she laughed before opening hers. He lowered the bottom most grape into her mouth and she snapped it up. It was sweet and juicy; she held out her hands for more.
They walked down the center of the room and she caught glances looking their way. Curious looks from both men and women. She didn’t blame them. Adrien and Luka together seemed to garner attention without trying.
A few people greeted them, including two women who brushed against Adrien as they passed and a hopeful man who tried to catch her attention. Luka directed her elsewhere in a subtle show of disinterest.
“That’s new.” She heard Adrien say. She turned to her right and felt her jaw drop as she saw massive black iron bird cages placed on elevated tables. They were large enough for a half dressed, black masked men to stand inside, reaching out to caress the faces of those close enough.
Marinette lingered behind the crowds to watch the men pander to their audience. One caught her eye and gave her a smile and wink, extending an arm to her to lure her closer. She almost would’ve wandered his way if Luka didn’t keep her moving.
“The theme this year is birds,” Volpe said as she led them through the massive room and towards a long banquet table at the far end. Chairs were sparse and uneven, though there were two or three people seated at the table, gorging on roasted meats and vegetables. It would’ve been a standard banquet save the centerpiece: a toga clad woman whose skin was painted in gold. She reclined on a sort of lounge in the center of the table surrounded by bottles of wine and fruit with a white mask. A crown of white feathers graced her head as one breast hung out, unashamed and exposed.
Marinette watched, entranced, as a man crawled on to the table to have a suckle, only to have a bottle of wine poured over his head. His friends exploded with bellowing laughter at his rejection.
“Have a seat and eat. I’ll have a room prepared for you.” Volpe stood by the table and motioned two chairs at one side. She glanced at Marinette, then back at Luka. “ All of you?”
Luka gave her a small nod. “If you would, Volpe. Your hospitality is legendary.”
The corner of the woman’s lip curled up. “I already let her in, Viper,” she said in a smooth voice as she passed and ran her finger against Luka’s jaw. “No need to flatter me further. I’ll just have to invite you another time.”
She moved across the room, disappearing into one of the halls with swaying hips and and a mirthful smirk.
“You must be hungry, my lady,” Adrien said. He was at the table, arranging some chairs together at one end and seemingly ignoring the woman who was now feeding grapes to slender young woman who took the man’s place at her teet. “Have a seat and eat. We don’t begin the fast until tomorrow, after all.”
Marinette nodded, in awe of how cheerful and unaffected he was by their company. She was still trying to make sense of everything that she was seeing and hearing. Was this normal to them? Were they used to seeing nearly nude men and women exposing themselves in public? Was this what Carnevale was? Excess of everything man found pleasure in?
“We need one more chair.” She heard Luka talking beside her. She looked around for another chair which they could borrow and inhaled a sharp breath as she caught sight of one in use not three paces from her.
A man was seated on a red cushioned, gilded chair. His hair was in disarray and his mask was still on as he panted with his mouth open. His tongue was practically hanging out as a woman bounced, facing him, on his lap. Her skin was flushed and her mask was tilted. Her undergarments had come undone and were pooled at her hips. Her partner’s hands were buried deep beneath them.
Marinette couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Her heart was racing. She turned her head away, feeling her skin redden at the sight. They were out in a room filled with people! The entertainment, she understood, but to be so...intimate out in the open....what were they doing?
A hand touched the side of her head and gently turned her towards the owner. Luka’s blue eyes met hers as he lowered his head. “My lady, I know we said there is no turning back, but if you wish to return, at any point , say the word.”
At once, she calmed, lost in his reassurance and promises of safety.
How wonderful was this man to seek her comfort above all else? Marinette lifted her hand and held it over his, against her cheek. She was the one who insisted on coming. They had secured her entry without an invitation. Yet, her comfort was still paramount.
“I wanted you to show me,” she said, gathering her courage. “I will not return until you have.”
Behind his mask, she watched his eyes go from concern, to surprise, and then to a soft pride. His thumb reached beneath her mask and caressed the corner of her eye. “And my offer will still stand until the dawn, my lady. I promise.”
He lowered his head and Marinette leaned upwards, entranced by his comforting eyes and his calming voice.
“Ahem.” A sharp cough broke her trance, just before she could taste Luka’s pink lips. He looked up, moving his head away as he took a step back. She turned to the source of the cough and saw Adrien standing by a chair, looking somewhat out of place. “Shall we eat?” he asked. “I found her a chair.”
“My lady....” Luka led her to the seat and placed her hand on Adrien’s so that he could seat her.
“Thank you,” Marinette said. The blush across her face hadn’t faded. Luka took a seat across from her and reached for the wine. Beside her, Adrien began gathering food.
“Eat to your heart’s content, my lady,” he said, pushing food in her direction. “If what you want isn’t here, we can ask for it.”
She nodded and reached for some bread and roasted meat. “Do you come here every year?” she asked as Luka poured her and Adrien cups of wine.
“This is our third year,” Adrien said. “I was invited by Li- Volpe when she visited Paris. I didn’t want to come alone, so I pleaded with Viper to come with me.”
“Viper?” Marinette looked across at Luka.
“Yes, during these celebrations, we are to refer to each other by code,” Luka said.
“It’s to maintain anonymity.” Adrien reached for a plate. “Viper, they have wild boar, your favorite.” He was already cutting a slice for his friend.
“You two are close.” Marinette smiled. “How lucky!”
“We’ve been together since we were children,” Adrien said with pride. “He’s quite a musician.”
“As are you.”
“Yes, but it comes to you so naturally. He plays the guitar and the harp and more.” Adrien’s face lit up. “You must play for her!”
“Then I’ll ask for a guitar.” Luka chuckled.
Marinette felt the apprehensive tension she carried being in an unfamiliar, and if she were honest - strange - place, dissipate. She was drawn into their conversation on growing up in Paris and then the journey to Venice. While they didn’t go into detail about their past, which she understood to be part of the anonymity of the night, she did make the connection that they were wealthy. She assumed as much from their clothing and their connection to be invited to a patrician’s home, but from what she made out, Luka came from a merchant family and Adrien was possibly nobility.
They regaled her with tales of their travels and Marinette listened eagerly and with envy. For a moment, they were in a bubble of their own, unaware of all the vice and depravity happening around them.
“If you like lace, I suggest Borano. I’m sure your mother would like it as a fine souvenir from your trip,” Adrien said.
“But what about glass work?” Luka offered. “The island has plenty of artisans. My family imports from some. If you wish, I can speak to them and have any items shipped back.”
“Speaking of glass, Viper. Maman wanted me to pick out some gifts for her cousins. Do you have recommendations? She trusts your eye.”
Marinette prepared to take note of Luka’s suggestions for herself when a hand was placed on her shoulder. She lifted her head and looked up at the polished black mask of a skinny, thinning unknown man. He said something in a language she didn’t understand.
“I’m sorry, sir, I do not know what you are saying,” she said. She tried to pull her shoulder away, but the man’s hand held firm.
“French? Wonderful!” His slurred voice sounded delighted. “I heard the women there are quite....” His hand stroked her neck and she felt a wave of disgust, barely able to keep from recoiling. “ Passionate .”
She paled. She knew where he was going and she didn’t like it. Her body tensed and just as she was going to jump out of her chair, the man’s hand was twisted away.
“ Monsieur, you are drunk.” Adrien was on his feet, standing behind her chair and holding the man’s wrist firmly in his. A smile was on his face, but his voice was cold. “I’m afraid you don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Is she yours?” The stranger leered. “Share her for a bit.”
Marinette drew back in revulsion and Adrien pulled the man away. “She does not belong to us-”
“Then abide the rules and share her for tonight,” the man demanded. Marinette looked away, hating the feeling of his eyes studying her body. “I will give you mine for yours.”
Pain filled the stranger’s face as Adrien’s hand, white from pressure, squeezed his. “You didn’t let me finish. She doesn’t belong to us. We belong to her .”
A look of confusion filled the leering stranger. “We?”
“We.” Luka was at her side, standing straight and tall, a tight line across his face as he stared down the stranger. “I think it’s time to take our lady to our room.”
“Agreed.” Adrien threw down the man’s hand with disgust. He wedged himself between the man and Marinette. “My lady?” Her hand grabbed on to his arm as if it were a lifeline. She shot to her feet, allowing him to move an arm around her shoulders and shield her from view as he led her around the table. Marinette kept her eyes down as they walked. Adrien looked back at his friend. “Are you coming?”
“I will join you in a bit, Cat. I have business with this man.”
“Cat?” The stranger’s voice fell. Marinette peeked out from beneath Adrien’s arm and saw the man blanche.
“Then we’ll see you in a bit, Viper.”
The man let out a nervous wheeze. “You’re the Viper ?”
“He’ll have that man removed from the celebration,” Adrien said above her as they walked into a narrow hall. Lovers spilled out of doorways and were kissing in niches along the corridor. Marinette could hear laughing and screaming from behind closed doors.
Her eyes were wide and her fingers curled into Adrien’s strong arm. As in the plaza, he avoided various groups of people on the way to set of wooden stairs. “Is...is the room far?”
He must’ve heard the tremble in her voice, as Adrien stopped at once. He looked down at her and took a small step back to give them some distance
“My lady, are you all right?” He bent down and searched her face for distress. “If this is too much for you, we will leave.”
She shook her head. She needed to stop showing her unease and uncertainty. It was chaos, but leaving this hazy dream didn’t cross her mind. She wanted to feel comfortable in her environment, but she didn’t want to leave so soon and without knowing.
“I wish to continue.”
“You needn’t force yourself.”
Marinette shook her head once more, putting on a determined look. “I will continue.” Adrien’s green eyes studied her face.
“My lady is so brave,” he said as he stroked the side of her face. His intent smile made her heart flutter as the feel of his skin against hers made it tingle. His hands took hers and he kissed her fingertips, slowly, and with their gazes still locked. “I am at your command.”
She swallowed, feeling a bubbling sensation in her abdomen. “Then, take me to our room.”
They climbed up the creaking wooden stairs, to a closed wooden door. A piece of parchment was on the door baring the snake and the cat. Adrien opened the door and Marinette’s eyes widened.
Hanging glass lanterns illuminated the square chamber. Thick, red and white rugs with gold and silver patterns laid across the wooden floor and surrounded a canopied bed draped in indigo velvets behind thin lace curtains.
Marinette stepped into the room, lifting her head to take in all the details. Angels flew from the heavens painted above the bed and the scent of perfumes and incense seemed to mingle. A dreamy smile was on her face as she walked around, admiring all the art on the wall and the little statues and vases around the room. Expensive and imported.
Her hand ran along the soft cushions of a reclining chaise. The bed was separated from the room by thin, lace curtains hanging from the bed posts. She wondered if they were made from the island they spoke of as she touched the delicate white threads. Her fingers slipped between the curtains, admiring the linen covered bed and multitude of pillows.
Her room at the Soranzo palace was fine, but this was an almost obscene amount of luxury. She turned around to tell Adrien her impressions, but the excited smile on her face faded as she saw him still standing by the partially open door.
“Ad...I mean, Cat,” she said, giving him a questioning look. “What are you doing there? Come see this finery with me. It’s embarrassing to say, but my Grand Uncle’s guest quarters don’t compare.”
She touched the lace curtains once more and Adrien gave her a tight smile. His eyes looked across the room, to a small table by the chaise.
“It’s lovely,” he said as he crossed the room. The door closed behind him. He remained a good distance from her as he poured himself some wine from the bottle on the table. “Do you want some more wine?”
“Maybe a little,” she said. “I still prefer the wine back home.”
“Oh, nothing compares to French wine,” Adrien said, pouring into a second glass. He placed the bottle down and approached her with a glass in each hand. “A toast to your first night in Carnevale ?”
She was beaming, unable to believe her luck to stumble upon such a beautiful place, as she accepted the glass. “To my first night.” She lifted her glass and then brought it to her lips.
Before it could touch, Adrien’s hand stopped her. She looked up, confused. Adrien’s eyes were narrowed behind his mask and he was frowning.
“My lady, do you understand what will happen now?”
She cocked her head to the side. What was to happen? Her senses, previously lost to the decadence and the impropriety, began to catch up with her. She was alone in bed chambers with a masked man.... Her heart began to pound in her chest as color spread through her body. She saw what everyone else was doing downstairs.
She heard what everyone else was doing behind wooden doors.
That was what was to happen to her.
Her wide, blue eyes looked at his and Adrien saw the alarm. He took a step back, taking the glass from her hand without a word.
He turned around. “We’re taking you home.”
“No!” Marinette reached for her glass, only to have Adrien hold her back. Panic filled her at the thought of leaving.
Adrien was displeased. “Is this your first night?” he asked. Marinette shrank back. This wasn’t what she planned, though from the moment she entered, she had a feeling it was to come. And she continued forward regardless, transfixed by the people in their most carnal around her. Marinette remained at her escorts sides, never once considering leaving. She wanted to be with them that night and the thought that they would send her back was more devastating that she imagined. She didn’t want them to send her away, but she clenched her jaw and gave him a nod to confirm his suspicion. He looked almost pained. “I cannot take that from you.”
“Why not?” The words left her mouth before she could stop them. Her hand flew to cover her mouth. She looked just as surprised as Adrien.
“You’re a daughter of a noble family,” Adrien said as he turned away and placed her glass on a bedside table. “I’m sure there is someone your family plans you to. For a stranger to come in the middle of the night and take what is theirs....”
Marinette frowned. Where did this come from suddenly? He brought her all the way there, shown her sights she’d never seen before, and then decided for her that she wasn’t ready?
Why was it acceptable for Volpe and her guests to enjoy their night, but not for her? Her own cousins left her fend for herself. The reminder filled her with sudden anger. She would enjoy herself. She would experience the pleasure that was Carnevale. And she would not regret it.
“It is mine and I will choose who to give my first night to,” Marinette said, as firm as she could. “I want to experience the pleasures of Carnevale and you have brought me here to do so, Cat. You said you were at my command.” Her face was burning as she struggled to hold his gaze. “Then I command you to show me pleasure.”
Adrien stared at her for a moment longer. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He held up his glass to her and met her eyes. “As you wish, my lady.”
Her hands cupped his and held it in place as she drank the red liquid from the cup. She drank its contents, keeping his eyes with hers as she pulled away from the cup and swallowed. A small, cool dribble of liquid came down the corner of her mouth and before she could wipe it away, she felt his finger wipe it away. He put his glass down and leaned forward, holding her head against his hand as his lips moved over hers.
He was slow and smooth, a relaxed motion that bought made her heart race, but her body calm. She closed her eyes and melted against him, opening her mouth and feeling his hot breath mingle with hers as the ties of her dress began to loosen behind her.
As they parted, he spun her around and Marinette grasped the canopy pole at the foot of the bed to steady herself as he worked her dress off. The outer layer was shed and it fell to her feet. She sucked in a breath as she felt his fingertips slip between the layers of her undergarment and touch her rosey skin as he peeled them apart.
Marinette shut her eyes, trying to ignore how exposed she felt in the dim room as layer after layer of clothing was removed. Her stockings were rolled down and he pulled off her shoes. Her toes curled into the rug as his tongue slid up the back of her calf and thigh as he stood up. His hand trailed down her back, following the curve of her spine before resting on the subtle swells of her hip. His fingers hooked on to the top of her last article of clothing and he pulled them off.
“Are you embarrassed?” His voice whispered in her ear and she shuddered. Her entire body must’ve been as red as the rugs beneath her feet. Even with her back to him, she felt exposed to his gaze; the gaze of a man she just met. His warm hands ran up the sides of her body and over her quivering stomach. “Do you want me to look away?”
She shook her head. “No.” His hands lifted from her and she could feel the cold air their vacancy left.
“Do you want me to touch you?”
His kisses rested on her pale shoulders as his hands followed her arms. He gently pried her hands from the bedpost as he turned her around. She raised her eyes and found his behind his mask. He ran his thumb against her lips and she could feel the heat from his skin.
“Then touch you I shall.”
He led her between the lace, the soft fabric caressing her back as her legs brushed against the edge of the bed. She sank into the sheets and the mattress beneath, arching her head back as his mouth moved down her thin neck, to her valley between her breasts. His hands seemed to run against the side of her body, moving her to the center of the bed as it creaked beneath their weight.
He sat above her, shrugging off his outer coat, his tunic, and then pulled a thin white shirt off his body. He was lean as he stretched back and she admired the smoothness of his skin. Her hands rose and touched his stomach, making him gasp as he tossed his clothes to the side.
She squinted. “You won’t remove your mask?”
“Do you want me to?”
He smiled once more, his golden hair tousled and falling around his face as he laid between her legs, kissing her stomach. Marinette closed her eyes and lost herself in in his kisses and caresses. His hands explored her body, slipping over her breasts and pinching before sliding down her inner thighs, spreading her further apart.
She felt him stroke her and she tensed. She tried to close her legs, only for them to be held apart as his fingers parted the soft, wet folds between them. A hot tongue dipped around her entrance and she squeaked. Her hand shot to her mouth and she bit her finger to keep from crying out.
“Shall I stop?” she heard him ask, his mouth still against her sensitive flesh.
Her head shook from side to side, her carefully made hair unraveling beneath her. “Never.”
He chuckled and he lowered his head once more and another wet, hot flash of pleasure shot through her. She could feel his head bobbing against her thighs, his tongue running across her and finding a cluster of nerves. The moment he touched it, she cried out, arching her back and jerking her hips forward.
She could’ve sworn she heard someone laugh before Adrien stroked her thighs, urging her to relax. Marinette took a few deep breaths, fighting against the onslaught of pleasure burning between her legs as a sopping wet sound came from wherever Adrien touched. She bit her lips, shutting her eyes tight as the heat rose.
“I think she’s enjoying it,” a voice said from above her.
Her eyes flashed open and she turned towards the voice. Reclined on the chaise beside the bed was Luka, a small wooden guitar on his lap as he fiddled with it.
“Viper,” he said before she could finish. Marinette almost snapped her legs closed as her arms shot out on either side of her. She pushed herself up into a seated position as Adrien, with his hair a mess and a thin sheen across the lower portion of his face looked up. He noticed Luka and gave him a lopsided smile.
“Ah, you finally made it.”
“I went to find a guitar.”
“Viper...what are you doing here?” Marinette asked, unsure if she was feeling humiliated for being caught or guilty because while she was attracted to Luka, as well, it was Adrien she succumbed to. She grabbed the nearest pillow and brought it over her body to shield herself from his eyes. Luka didn’t look up from his guitar.
“My lady, this is our room,” Adrien said, grinning as he draped his arms over her legs, keeping his body between them. “We said we would show you a night to remember, didn’t we?”
“We?” She looked from Adrien to Luka and back. Her mind scrambled to recall their words. It was true, everything they said or offered to do, they did so as a duo. They would help her look for her cousins. They would help her return to her Grand Uncle’s palace. They would show her their Carnevale .
Marinette felt as if she would explode at any moment. They brought her to a palace of excess, where she could forget herself in the moment and drown in all physical pleasure. They belonged to her and the thought was elating.
“Say the word, my lady,” Luka said from the chaise. He looked tranquil as his fingers plucked the strings in test. “And I will leave you.” He raised his eyes to meet hers from behind the lace curtain and she felt her heart drop at the thought.
Her eyes crinkled up as she shook her head. “I am overwhelmed.”
“I know.” She let out a whimper. She didn’t want to dismiss him after what he had done for her, yet her first night with two men? She didn’t think she was capable.... A soft smile appeared on his face and he reached between the curtains. His hand stroked her face and she leaned towards him, welcoming his touch. “I will not leave you if you don’t wish it so.”
“It is my first night,” she said, clutching the pillow in front of her. “I am...uncertain I can...with both.”
“The viper always waits for the right moment to strike,” Luka said, still stroking her face. “And so I can wait. Let the Cat please you and, if you want more, I will be here.”
She sat up, excited. She grasped his hand and brought it to her lips, kissing his palm and finger tips. “You will play for me, as well?”
“All night if you wish for it.” He took the pillow from her lap and brought it to his chaise to lean against.
Marinette leaned back on her arms and was eased on to the bed. Luka ran his hand through her hair, moving aside stray black strands as she closed her eyes, content.
“My turn first,” Adrien said as he rubbed her belly and batted Luka’s hand away. “She has commanded me so.”
Luka chuckled and he seemed to melt back into a world outside of the curtained bed. Marinette heard a few melodic strings plucked before her mind focused on the pleasure coming from fingers circling her entrance.
Adrien’s long, slender fingers slid inside her with ease. She watched him remove his hand and blushed as the sticky, wet trails sticking to his fingers.
She was moved on to her side and he lay behind her. His chest was against her back as one arm wove underneath her side and pinned her against him by gathering one pert breast in his hand. She could feel his other hand lifting her thigh and moving one of his legs between hers.
“My lady.” His voice was rough against her as his hand moved between her legs once more and she felt him, a hard foreign muscle, poised at her entrance. “Thank you for choosing me.”
He pushed upwards and she felt him enter her in one smooth motion. One she wasn’t expecting. Her mouth opened and a silent scream seemed to want to escape. Her body tensed and she was still, all to aware of how close they were, yet at a loss of what to do.
A voice screamed in her head to relax her body; to allow herself to loosen and let Adrien delight her. Yet, she couldn’t. Her breathing was shallow and jagged and her arms were stiff. She was foolish. Did she think she’d be able to show Adrien the same pleasure he showed her with no experience?
How out of place she was became evident. She shouldn’t have come.
His arms wrapped around her, holding her against him in a firm, but gentle embrace. She felt his head nuzzle the back of hers.
“You needn’t do anything, my lady,” he said. “All I ask is that you allow me to hold you and enjoy my company.”
It did little to quell how stupid she felt just freezing the moment he entered her. It was a surprise and felt strange, but it didn’t hurt. Was that why he spent so long between her legs rubbing the tender flesh between her legs? To prepare her?
His hips began to move behind her and she felt him slide part way out. She readied herself to be impaled again, but he didn’t completely leave her. His girth rubbed against her entrance, building a new tingling sensation into a heated rush with each push.
He continued to kiss her shoulders and she could hear his breathing growing faster. He let her leg drop over his as his arm circled above her. She turned her head to kiss him, only to jump up as his fingers slid between her wet folds and gathered a small cluster of nerves between them.
She moaned a loud. The rush filled her head as he continued to fondle her, rubbing her between his fingers as he thrusted in and out. She’d never felt anything like it before and couldn’t control the way she jerked and twisted against him. “Cat...!”
“Let it come,” he said, his fingering becoming faster. “Don’t fight it.”
She bit her lips as the heat collecting began to spread over her body. Her muscles began to clench and her legs began to move about. Sweat collected at her temples and she gasped for air.
What was happening? Was this the climax she heard of? It felt good.
It felt hot.
Her hand grabbed his as her hips buckled forward. She clamped on him and he groaned, pulling himself out just as he exploded against her legs.
He held on to her, pressing his hand against the slope between her legs as she continued to pulse against him.
She lay limp, staring out past the bed in silence as she struggled to regain her breath. So this was her first night.
Marinette closed her eyes.
She prayed it didn’t end.
Her mind was muddled as she opened her eyes. The room was still dim and no light was coming from the crossed windows. Faint music could still be heard coming from outside the door. As she took a breath, she felt the arm draped across her body, right beneath her breasts.
She looked down and saw the pale arm, then followed it to the sleeping man beside her. Adrien was still on his side, a small smile on his lips as he slept. His mask was slightly ajar, but otherwise, he looked completely at peace.
Marinette tried to turn her body sideways to face him and burn the image of his sleeping face in her mind, but as soon as she moved, Adrien’s brows knit and he let out a little grumble of protest, freezing her in her spot.
“He’s a light sleeper, so careful not to wake him.” She looked towards the edge of the bed and felt her light heart quicken once more. Luka was laying back across the chaise, down to a loose under shirt and pants. One leg was bent up on the chaise while the other dangled off the side, the guitar still in his arms as his fingers played a light melody.
“Viper,” she said, smiling at the sight of him. He looked comfortable; he must’ve been sitting there for some time. She gasped and stiffened. “How long have I been asleep?”
How long was he waiting for her only to be ignored because she fell asleep? Her poor, sweet Luka....
“Just a few minutes,” he said, giving her a reassuring look from behind his blue mask. “It is often tiring your first time. You can keep sleeping, if you like.”
If she were honest, she would’ve if he wasn’t there. There were worst places to be on such a night than in the arms of a handsome, sleeping man. But while Adrien was beautiful and a ray of light, there was something alluring about near equally handsome Luka. Perhaps it was his voice or the calm care of his actions, but as her eyes swept over his reclining figure, she found herself eager to explore him herself.
As he began to play a new song, Marinette watched his calloused fingers strum the instrument. They were long and he wore multiple rings, though the most prominent was the snake. She closed her eyes and listened to the music. He was as skillful as Adrien gushed earlier.
“How long have you been playing?”
“Since I was a child,” Luka said. “I also played for the church, as well as village festivals. I enjoy playing; it comes natural.”
Marinette smiled, thoughtful. She looked back at sleeping Adrien and bit her tongue. Carefully, she shimmied her way free of his hold and slid to the edge of the bed. She moved aside the lace and stood up.
Luka remained where he lay on the chaise, watching her as he continued to play. Marinette approached him, her cheeks heating up the closer she got. She stopped beside the chaise and brought her hands together in front of her. She chewed on her lower lip. “May I join you?”
He lowered his eyes, moving across her body before giving her a nod. He pushed himself further up the side of the chaise and put his legs on either side to give her room to sit.
She eyed the spot he created for her and tried to control her beating heart as she dared sit elsewhere. Luka’s eyes widened just a bit as he stopped playing. He lifted his guitar and held it to the side as she clumsily straddled his hips and sat atop him. He raised a brow and met her flushed face.
“I thought you wanted me to play.”
She swallowed, nervous with her bold move. Her small hands rested on his stomach. “Pla...play with me.” It sounded so ridiculous, she almost wanted to roll off and hide behind Adrien.
Luka smiled and nodded. He rested his guitar against the side of the chaise before he took her hands and pulled her arms apart. Once more, his eyes raked down her exposed body with silent admiration.
“It’s rare that I’ve been with a woman. I may not be as good as Cat,” he said, his fingers weaving between hers. “Is that all right?”
“It doesn’t matter. I just want to be with you tonight, as well.” He chuckled and leaned upwards to kiss her on the lips.
“My lady is so kind,” he said. He released her hands and held her hips. He pulled her further up before reaching behind her and untying his pants.
“Lift up your arms,” she said, patting his chest. He raised his arms and she tugged his billowy shirt off. She ran her hands over his strong shoulders and down his firm chest and stomach. She could feeling the tingling return between her legs as she ground down against him. “My viper is beautiful.”
“As is my lady.” He kissed her once more before gathering her against him. She felt small in his arms. Was he always that much taller and larger than she was? He lifted her off his body and as he lowered her down, she felt him against her. She spread her legs further apart as she buried her face in the crook of his neck.
A low, trembling breath escaped her as he entered her. She closed her eyes, her arms wrapped around him as his hips began to move beneath her. He filled her and with each thrust, he seemed to go deeper, pressuring further inside of her.
She brought her hips down against his, hoping to take as much of him in as possible when the sensitive nub between her legs rubbed against him. She hissed as a shock of pleasure shot through her, making her shudder. She repeated her movement, rubbing herself against him as she came down and felt the blast of bliss once more.
Her grip on him tightened and her fingers clawed into his back. She dragged herself over him as he slid into her, feeling the friction set fire to her insides as her body rubbed against his. Unable to stop herself, she repeated the motion. He pulled away; she would follow, making sure she kept contact with him.
Her body began to bounce, her movements growing more erratic as the need for gratification consumed her. Her body was in flames, hot to the touch, and starting to glisten with sweat. A shameful moan left her mouth and she didn’t care. Her legs were moving against his, brushing over the soft velvet of the chaise as she straddled the musician. She began to feel her body tightening.
She clung on to him, gleefully anticipating the rush that was coming.
She let out a delirious cry as the a blinding white heat coursed through her body, dousing her in waves of pleasure as her hips jerked against his. His hands grabbed her ass and lifted her; the cool air of the room cut between them as he pulled out. Spurts of hot liquid hit her inner thighs before he released her.
“My viper....” She searched for his lips and found them with ease. He was just as eager to meet her as she lay atop him, her legs falling to the sides of the chaise over his.
His hand stroked the back of her head, urging her to remain close and rest against him as her climax died down. She could still feel herself twitching against him and wondered if he could feel her. If he did, he said nothing.
He kissed the side of her head as she tucked her head against his. “Is my lady satisfied?”
She smiled, her cheeks burning. “She is.” She lifted her head to look up at him. “Is my viper?”
“He is.” He returned her smile. “He is blessed.”
She giggled, enjoying his arms around her, stroking her head and back.
“I don’t see how you’re going to play for her if she’s on top of you,” a voice said from the bed.
Luka laughed beneath her and she joined him as his chest rumbled. “Why don’t you play for her?”
“I’m not very skilled with a guitar,” Adrien said. He was laying on his back, stretching his arms over his head.
“Then why don’t you take her off my hands so I can play?”
“You want to be rid of me so soon?” Marinette asked. She wasn’t sure if she was disappointed or teasing him.
“Viper, be more appreciative of our lady,” Adrien said with a chuckle. “After all she’s done for us.”
“I’m not trying to be rid of her,” Luka said, still lazily caressing her hair. “But if you take her, I can play....” He trailed off. “Unless you are no longer up to it.”
Adrien wrinkled his nose and sat up in bed. “I can last!”
“Of course you can.” Luka looked at Marinette. “Do you want to dance with him?”
She tilted her head to the side. “Dance? With Cat?” She looked towards the bed. “You can dance?”
“A noble bred man like him?” Luka said with a grin. “He was practically born into it.”
“I enjoy dancing,” Marinette said pushing herself up. She twisted her fingers. “But I’m afraid I’m not very good.”
“I’m sure you’re magnificent,” Luka said.
“I’m not. Really. My dance instructor sent me home and I nearly broke my friend’s foot.”
“Then your friend was a bad partner.” Adrien was at the foot of the bed, putting on his pants. They hung against his hips as he stood up and tied them. Marinette eyed the way his body seemed to fit so well in them. “Viper, play for us. I’ll dance with our lady.”
She blinked. “Right now?”
“Of course,” Adrien smiled as he walked to the chaise and offered his hand. “The room is large enough.”
Marinette looked around and pursed her lips. Her arm rose over her chest, though she didn’t know why. Both partners had already seen and touched everything.
“Give her your shirt,” Luka said. “She could catch ill spinning around the room with only a mask on.”
“That’s true....” Adrien walked back to the bed and picked up his discarded shirt. He aired it out and then held the shirt over her head. Marinette lifted her arms so he could bring it down over her.
“Because you’re small,” Adrien said. He tied it closed and took her hand. Marinette stood up and her legs buckled. She yelped and Adrien caught her. “I forgot it’s your first night. Your legs will be a bit unsteady.”
She leaned against him and tried to straighten her legs. “Is it always like this?”
“No, it depends on how tired and strained your body is,” Adrien said. He took a step forward, keeping one arm around her to help steady her. “One step at a time. No need to rush.”
Marinette nodded. As she regained control of her legs, she found herself standing in the open space between the door and the bed. “Are you ready?” Luka asked, guitar back in his arms.
Adrien nodded and Luka began to play a slow and steady beat. “All right,” Adrien said as he lifted one of her arms. “Stand and I will circle you. Then you will circle me.” Marinette furrowed her brows in concentration.
He was in step with every beat Luka played and moved with such grace, she was envious. A smile was on his face and he encouraged her with every movement. Marinette followed his instructions, pausing to get corrections every few steps.
“Good! Now mirror me!”
Marinette held her hands up and clapped. She stepped to the side, going in the opposite direction of Adrien as he instructed. She spun, clapped once more, and returned to her spot with Adrien circling her.
“How am I doing?”
She was beaming. She repeated the steps as the music grew faster. Her spinning became much quicker and she did a few more rotations than necessary. Two more steps and she was dizzy.
She tripped over her own feet and stumbled forward. Adrien caught her against him as he laughed. She flushed. “So much for doing wonderfully.....”
“I think you did very well and kept up.”
“Except for the end.”
“No,” Adrien said with a small, teasing grin as he straightened her up and kept her close. He looked down at her with twinkling green eyes behind his mask. “I like the end.”
She found herself lost in them even as they closed and he kissed her. His warm soft lips made her forget about the dance. As they parted, Marinette slumped against him.
“Everytime I open my eyes, I’m afraid that I’ll wake at home and this was all a dream.”
“Would it be so bad if it was?”
Her eyes began to water at the thought. “It would be.” Adrien’s brows knit together with concern. He brought her head closer to his and tucked it under his chin as he held her close.
She didn’t notice the music stopped until she heard Luka’s voice. “We’re out of wine,” he said. “Let her rest until I return. My lady, do you wish for anything to eat?”
She shook her head and peeked over Adrien’s shoulder. She extended her hand to Luka as he dressed. “Return to me quickly, Viper.”
He shrugged on his tunic and smiled, taking her hand and kissing the back of it. “As my lady commands.”
She remained standing in Adrien’s arms as Luka left the room. Adrien let out a heavy breath. “Rest a bit on the bed,” he said. “It is good you were not pained on your first night, but you must be tired. You’ve only been here a day, haven’t you?”
She nodded as she was led back to the bed. “My grandmother and I arrived yesterday.”
“The journey is long...you should’ve taken time to acclimate before rushing into the celebration.” Adrien laid down beside her and she snuggled next to him, happy to feel the warmth of his body against hers. “Viper and I arrived a few days earlier. When do you leave for Paris?”
“Before Good Friday. My grandmother promised Papa I would be back before Lent is over.”
“And your family...they are of importance in Paris as they are here in Venice?”
“My grandfather was the second son of a duke. He couldn’t inherit the title, but he was the favorite. As a result, my family is...comfortable.”
“I see. And your parents...have they found someone for you?”
Marinette narrowed her eyes and looked up at him. “Why do you ask? Didn’t I say, it was mine to give?”
Adrien’s face turned red. “I didn’t mean to imply that...I only wanted to know if, perhaps....” He trailed off and looked away. Her eyes widened.
“Perhaps what?” Did he want to seek her out? Her heart quickened as her hand rested on his chest. She could feel his heart beating just as fast.
Adrien looked hesitant. “Never mind. It’s not a question for tonight.” He offered her a smile and kissed her head. “Tonight, we just enjoy the present.”
She studied his face and pursed her lips. “They haven’t mentioned any suitors,” she said as she looked away. “If you are curious....”
His hand stroked her shoulder and she almost didn’t hear him whisper. “Maybe I am, my lady.”
He gave her a relaxed smile. “After having both of us, who do you prefer?” Her eyes went wide.
“That’s...that’s an unfair question! I can’t compare.”
Adrien chuckled. “Do you think you can tell the difference?”
“I’ve barely spent a night with you....” Her face fell. She doubted she could, though now she wanted to. “I supposed Luka is taller?”
Adrien laughed and gave her a cheeky smile. “Then, do you want to give it a test?”
“A test?” A small feeling told her she was leaning on something she might regret, but she was curious. “What do you mean?”
“Are you up for a game, my lady?”
“I brought more wine and some grapes....” She heard Luka’s voice as he entered and she straightened up. The door closed and he let out a heavy sigh. “What did you do to her?”
Somewhere in front of her, Adrien gave a sheepish laugh. “She was interested in a game.”
“And what depraved game is this?”
Through her blindfold, she could feel them both staring at her. Her arms were raised over her head, tied together and dangling from the bedpost beams by two of the curtain ties. Adrien’s shirt was gone and with it, her mask.
She sat on the edge of the bed, too short to sit fully on her legs bent beneath her. Her entire body was exposed to the two men in the room and while part of her knew she should be embarrassed and to have shame and cover herself, the thrill of exposure and excitement at the thought of what they’d do to her overwhelmed her normal decency.
“My lady, are you comfortable?”
She nodded, another curtain tie wrapped around mouth, keeping her gagged. He sounded closer and she leaned towards the sound of his voice. As Adrien was tying her, he was careful not to touch her any more than necessary.
She didn’t realize how starved she was for their caresses until she no longer had them.
“She’s going to guess who’s touching her,” Adrien said. The anticipation was making her mouth water and the area between her legs wet again. “Who’s this?”
A hand swept across her chest and she moaned, moving to try to follow it. It was a playful touch. “Hat!” was the best she could say behind her gag.
“Take that thing off her mouth,” Luka said, sounding exasperated. “How is she supposed to answer?”
She felt the tie at the back of her head being undone. It was peeled off her mouth and with it a trail of saliva as she gasped for air.
A hand grabbed her right breast.
“How can you tell?” Adrien asked.
She bit her lips as she felt the hand mold against her and pinch the tip between a thumb and finger. “His hands are rough from playing the guitar.”
“Impressive.” Luka’s hand left her breast. “Let’s try a less sensitive area.”
Someone caressed her back, trailing down her spine. She furrowed her brows. A finger slipped between her butt cheeks and fingered the tight hole, making her gasp and tense. “Viper!”
“Correct.” His finger slid lower, coating itself in her wetness further between her legs before rubbing against the hole.
His hands slid to her butt cheek and spread them. She felt a hot breath in the crevice followed by a hot tongue.
The bed creaked as she strained against her binds. Her toes curled as she tried not to clench. “Cat!”
“You taste intoxicating.” He kissed the small of her back as he pried her legs apart.
She moaned as he rubbed his hand furiously between her legs and laughed as she tried to press herself against his hand. He pulled away and she felt the bed move. She turned her head, trying to guess where the two were.
Something hot and wet touched the side of her face. A musky scent and almost sticky. It was firm, too large to be a finger. She opened her mouth and felt the tip trace the outlines of her parted lips.
“Cat.” She craned her neck forward and brought him into her mouth; his groan a sign that she was correct again.
A hand ran through her hair and curled into them, tightening and holding her against him as he thrusted his hips forward, shoving him into her mouth. Marinette struggled to breathe through her nose as her head was tilted back and the thick member crashed against the back of her throat.
“Not so rough,” Luka said from behind her. “She’ll choke.”
“Sorry!” Adrien released her hair and stumbled back, pulling him out of her and leaving her coughing.
“You see? Be gentle.”
“Marin-I mean, my lady, are you all right?” Adrien was soothing her hair back, his touch restrained.
“I can take him,” she said as she caught her breath. She lifted her head towards where she heard his voice. “It’s fine!”
She heard Luka exhale deeply. “Why don’t we try something else? I think you’re ready.” His hands were still between her legs, running between them and spreading her wetness around. He prodded her tight little hole with a finger. “Hand me that.”
She didn’t know what that was, only that Adrien was sent to retrieve it. Marinette curled her lips inward, waiting for whatever was planned. Luka removed his finger and she felt something long and warms slide between her moist folds.
“What is that?”
“Something to help you get used to the feeling. Just relax,” Luka said as he continued to slide whatever it was between her legs. Marinette wanted to, but could only shudder as the tool poked at her clit. He brought up back, between her ass cheeks. She felt a firm edge press against her back hole.
Her body tightened as the object pushed through, getting past the entrance and immediately feeling as it were spreading her apart from within. Her hands clenched, nails digging into her palms as Adrien put his hands on her sides and rubbed them.
“It’s all right. Loosen your hold. Get used to the feeling,” he told her.
Marinette’s eyes were shut tight. The object was turning inside of her. A little bit one way and then back in the opposite direction. It seemed to be trying to get her used to the feeling.
“Does it hurt?”
“No...it’s just...it feels strange,” she said. Skillful hands were massaging around the object. “Tell me what it is.”
“Do you want to know?”
“It’s a candle.” As he said it, he moved it in a further. Marinette whimpered. She wasn’t sure if it felt good or not, though the feeling as it was moved forward and back was making her twitch. “Shall we try something larger?”
“Hand me the empty bottle.” That was too much. Marinette squirmed, trying to move herself away. He pulled the candle out and she felt a rush of air against her.
“Not the bottle,” Marinette said in a panicked voice as she felt the cold glass against her more sensitive parts. She could smell the wine and could feel herself nearly drip over the glass as Luka rubbed the container against her. She both wanted it and didn’t.
“You don’t want the bottle?” Marinette trembled, enjoying the cool glass against her heated body. Luka pushed her hips forward and she could feel the edge of the bed in front of her. He lifted her legs from underneath her and spread them on either side, in front of her.
She heard Adrien in front of her. “How about here?”
She screamed at the sudden shock of cold that was pushed into her. Sloppy, wet sounds were drowned out by her heavy breathing as Luka held her up, legs spread, as Adrien inserted the mouth and neck of the bottle into her and moved it in and out.
Her back arched, her hips jutting forward as her head fell back. She felt Luka against her, kissing the base of her neck.
“Look at her shake,” Adrien said his thumb slipped between her folds and rubbed her the bundle of nerves tucked beneath a thin hood of skin. “Do you like it, my lady?”
She was twisting from side to side, trying to gain some control of the pleasure they were giving her. Her head was clouded once more, filled only with the flashes of heat that shot up her body one after the other.
“I love it.” Her mouth was open, gasping for air. “Please don’t stop!” That wonderful, familiar heat and tightness in her abdomen was culminating again. She moaned, wishing for it to come faster.
The bottle, now warmed by her body, was taken away and she was lifted once more. The climax she was waiting for was ripped from her and she scowled in displeasure. One of Luka’s hand dropped her leg and she felt something hot and not as hard as glass, or even a candle, against her ass.
“Scream as loud as you wish.” The tip pushed through and suddenly, she was on fire. Marinette screamed, her body jerking forward, away from Luka’s as he pulled her hips back, closer against him as he entered her.
A moist cloth went over her gaping mouth and she yelled into it. What was happening? Why was he gagging her? A knot was tied behind her, far tighter than it was before. She couldn’t close her mouth, but it wasn’t as if she would.
Tears were in her eyes as she cried out at the burning pain of being stretched in ways she’d never been stretched before.
How could Luka do this to her?
“Breathe,” he whispered against her. “Just like your first time, breathe. I swear to you, it will feel like heaven.” She choked back her tears as she tried to breathe deep and even. She inhaled and he drew himself back, nearly pulling out. She exhaled and he slowly pushed himself back in.
She repeated it. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Out. In. Out. In.
Her body began to loosen. The fire was subsiding. He continued to fill her over and over in a steady rhythm. She could feel him each time he came inside of her and the pain began to feel good.
Her her breathing evened, she leaned back against his body and one of his hands ran down her stomach to slip between her legs. He fingered her as he moved against her, keeping her senses on edge.
“You’re so beautiful. We’re so lucky tonight.” Adrien sounded breathless and Marinette wanted to smile at his praise.
“It was a miracle she fell into my arms,” Luka said. “We’re blessed.”
She felt a hand tugging at her blindfold. It was pulled over her head and she opened her eyes.
Adrien was seated on the chaise across from her, reclined back with a hand around himself, pulling and tugging the arousal as he watched her, hanging by the arms and violated by another man.
Did he enjoy watching her? His skin was flushed as he held her eyes, refusing to break away as he pleased himself so brazenly in front of her. And she wanted him.
“She’s calling for you,” Luka said, his own voice strained. “Are you going to deny her?”
“Deny her?” Adrien said as his fingers grazed his tip. A small smirk appeared on his lips. “Never.”
He rose from the chaise and parted the lace curtains. Marinette’s heart slammed against her chest, anticipation growing as he stopped in front of her. She leaned upwards, waiting for him to remove the tie around her mouth.
Mischief was written on his face as he shook his head.
He kept her gaze as he positioned himself in front of her. Her eyes widened, the uncertainty clear. Only this time, she couldn't voice her worry.
A muffled groan came from her gagged mouth as Adrien masterfully entered her from the front. She shut her eyes as her legs were spread as wide as she could go and two hot, thick appendages were inside her at once.
The feeling was indescribable. All at once she could feel them inside her, throbbing and touching every crevice she had. She was pinned between them, one holding her legs up and the other keeping her hips close to him as they alternated.
As one when in, the other slipped out.
She could feel them rubbing against her. Against each other.
It was as if every exposed flesh of hers was somehow touching theirs and she couldn't focus. One moment, it was Adrien praising how she felt. In another, it was Luka’s groans. At times, she almost heard herself moaning and pleading for them to continue.
Her body was on fire and she loved it.
She began to pull hard against her bindings, her body tightening as the heat bubbled. She opened her eyes, looking up at the canopy bed as she was jostled between two men. The angels painted on the ceiling looked down at her as sweat trickled down the sides of her face.
She could feel it coming and the flash of white hot heat that she was denied earlier swept through. The last thing she saw were the angels.
Ah...so this was heaven.
The melody of the guitar filled the small room and Marinette stroked the thigh of musician playing. He was seated back against the pile of pillows beside her. She was using her other partner as a pillow.
“Grape?” Adrien asked, one arm around her shoulder and the other reaching to a plate of fruit beside the bed.
She saw Luka lean over and open his mouth, never letting the music pause, as Adrien put a dark purple fruit on to his tongue. Adrien was naked, but Luka had tucked her beneath a blanket to keep her warm and to encourage her to sleep. Her body needed to rest, he insisted.
It could rest when the dawn came. For now, she wanted to enjoy the short time she had left with her cat and her viper.
Across the room, she eyed the still dark windows, expecting the light of the morning to appear soon and take them from her. She was afraid to close her eyes and open then to find that this really was all a dream. She dreaded the thought of waking up at her Grand Uncle’s or worse; at home in Paris.
There would be no perfumed sheets stained with sweat, blood, and other bodily fluids spilled the night before. There would be no black masks or guitars, no painted angels and incense.
“Shhh..., no....” She didn’t realize she was crying until the music stopped. Luka was stroking her face and wiping at her tears. “What’s wrong?”
“It’ll be over in the morning,” she said. “I’ll have to go back, won't’ I?”
“You must. Your grandmother is waiting for you, isn’t she?” Adrien said, shifting on the bed to bring his head closer to hers. “My love, my lady....was tonight unpleasant?”
“No, anything but,” she said, sniffling. “It was another world and I enjoyed it. The music was wonderful and the food so rich. There was wine and dancers. There are you two. It seems too good to be true.”
“Your body will say otherwise,” Adrien said, chuckling a bit as one hand massaged her hip.
“I’m sorry if we were too rough.”
“Not at all,” Marinette said as she cupped Luka’s face. He kissed her lips, soft and sure. “The bliss was well worth it.”
“You won’t forget about us, will you?” Adrien asked.
She looked up at him and crinkled her eyes. “I don’t even know how you look like underneath that mask.”
Adrien lifted a hand to remove it, but Luka stopped him. “It may be for the best. We all have secrets.”
“But hers is already off,” Adrien said. “It’s not fair.”
“Her secret stays with us,” Luka said. He looked down at a disappointed Marinette. “At this time, I’m afraid we can’t share more than our names.”
“Luka,” Marinette said, kissing his cheek. “And Adrien.” She turned and kissed the blond. She nestled into the space between him, unsure what to make of their secretive identities. No family names meant she couldn’t ask about them or track them down - in Venice or in Paris. As wonderful as the night was, there was never any promise that she would have them for more than one night. “Does this mean I won’t see you again?”
“Luka....” Adrien wrapped his arms around her and held her close as he gave his friend a pleading look. “Surely a family name wouldn’t hurt.”
“It would, especially for you.” Luka looked apologetic and squeezed her hand. “I’m sorry, Marinette,” he said her name with disappointment. Did he want to tell her who they were, too? “What happened tonight cannot leave this room.”
Her heart sank.
Of course it couldn’t. The whole atmosphere of decadence and lust wasn’t something that could be shared outside those walls. Who knew what people of importance were divulging their vices with them? Secrets were a necessity to keep reputations and relationships outside.
She took a deep breath. Even so, the magic of that evening, from the moment she crossed the Rialto and took their hands, she wouldn’t regret. How could she? They made her so happy.
“Thank you,” she said in a quiet voice. “I’ll never have a night like this again, but I felt...alive. I’ve never known such excitement, yet through it all, I felt wanted and...safe.”
“Loved?” Adrien asked, his own voice hopeful.
She met his eyes and smiled, stroking the side of his face. “Very loved.”
“I have something for you,” Luka said. He put his guitar to the side and reached for a small wooden box on the floor. He lifted the small cube that fit in his hand between them. “You are worried you’d forget and think this was a dream.” He opened the top of the box to reveal two glass earrings, as red as her dress and backed by silver. “Wear this and think of us.”
Her eyes began to water. He took one earring from it’s spot on dark velvet and brushed aside her hair. He removed the little gold spheres she wore and replaced one with the red glass.
Adrien took the other and moved aside her hair as she tilted her head towards him. He placed the earring on and kissed her cheek.
“The red in Venetian glass is made of gold,” he said as he placed a crooked finger under her chin and admired the earrings. “It’s strong and beautiful.” He smiled softly once more. “Just like our lady.”
Marinette shut her eyes to keep her tears from pouring out. Luka’s arm adjusted a sheet over her. “Sleep now, Marinette. Before the sun rises, we will take you home.”
It was still dark when she was lifted off the warm bed and the numerous pillows she was nestled in. Lanterns still hung on the wall, though they were starting to wane. The noise of the night had died down into a tired slumber and the heavy scent of perfumes and oils no longer pierced her senses.
She was dressed in the finery her grandmother gifted her once more, but her stockings disappeared. Her little leather shoes were on her bare feet that didn’t touch the ground.
Marinette could feel the smooth cloth wrap around her, keeping her warm and covered as hushed voices spoke above her.
“My cat?” She was half asleep and couldn’t open her eyes entirely.
“I’m here, my lady.” His voice above her, though whispered, was still full of sweetness as it had been the night before. He was the one carrying her and she relaxed in his arms.
“My viper?” She listened for his voice.
“Sleep, my lady.” The low, gentle tone reassured her of his presence and without question, Marinette succumbed to her sleep.
She was tired. Her body felt heavy and she was afraid to move, for fear of feeling the ache of hours of carnal pleasure: her punishment for the sins of the night. Her head had a dull, light throb. At times she felt a bit dizzy and only shut her eyes tighter to try to return to the blessed oblivion of slumber.
She didn’t feel the rocking of a boat as she was carried on and pushed from the shore.
She didn’t hear the hushed negotiations with a boat man as she was cradled against Adrien.
“ Mia fada !” It was her grandmother’s voice that seemed to draw her from her sleep.
She had returned to the Soranzo palace.
“Forgive us for bringing her to you so late. We are visitors and were unsure where the Soranzo family lived. Rest assured, my lord and lady, that she was safe under our care.”
Marinette opened her eyes and saw the back of Luka’s head as he stood just before her. Her Great Uncle was kissing his hands in thanks, saying something that tithes to a father and being blessed.
Adrien handed her to one of her Great Uncle’s men to be carried inside. She turned her head towards the door as she was brought into the great room, but could no longer see it.
The two men who showed her the world just hours ago disappeared into the Venetian mist.
A Year Later, The City of Paris...
“And you remember nothing after that?”
Shielded by a wooden lattice cloaked with black, Marinette remained on her knees with her hands clasped in front of her, shaking her head. She kept her voice low, hoping that no one was waiting for the confession booth behind her and listening to her sordid tale.
“No, Father, I do not,” she said. It was soon to be a year and in all her visits to the tiny chamber, she had not mentioned the events that transpired her first night in Venice. Until that evening and, both ashamed and embarrassed, she found the memories still triggered a near salivating desire of them. “I wished to find them, but I couldn’t. My body was sore for days and I was bedridden. Nonna was so worried when I didn’t return with my cousins, that I was forbidden to leave the palace without her until my return to Paris.”
“Her concern was well founded, was it not? It was a great concern to her when her only grandchild was missing.”
“I know, Father, I know,” Marinette said. “And Nonna has every right to be worried, but I needed to see them again.”
“Oh?” Marinette could’ve sworn there was a hint of curiosity in the priest’s voice, but ignored it. “Why is that?”
“Because I need to make sure that they weren’t a dream.” Her hand rose to her little red glass earrings; a habit of hers since she returned. Marinette bit her lower lip. She was almost convinced it was, but that day she awoke, she found the bite marks and the bruises, all carefully hidden by her clothes so they were unseen by others. When they disappeared, she relied on her earrings to help her remember, though she knew she shouldn’t. “I know I should forget about them, Father, but I cannot. I haven’t been able to. Time and time again, my mind wanders to that night and I....” She let a wave of guilt filled her as she felt excitement bubbling within. The thrill of of the secrecy, the anticipation of their touch, the affection and warmth in their arms.... “And I wish to have it again.”
“I see,” the priest said, hidden on the other side of the lattice. “My dear, there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel....”
“Pleasure,” Marinette said, dropping her head. “Perhaps not, Father, but the closer and closer Lent comes, the more I think of them. My grandmother is here, you see. When she returns to Venice for the season, I will go with her again.”
“She allows you? After last year?”
Marinette nodded, even though he couldn’t see. “Yes! It’s miraculous. When I approached with the interest, she invited me. We are leaving earlier than last year so she can accompany me around the city to familiarize myself. She fears my getting lost. Last year, it was a miracle that I was found by kind men and returned by a priest.”
There was a chuckle. “You know you were returned by a priest?”
Despite herself, she blushed.
“Yes. I dreamt it was my viper, you see, but Nonna and Great Uncle said a priest brought me home before dawn. They must’ve known it would raise questions if two unwed men brought me and arranged for a priest so as not to shame me.”
The priest she was now speaking to let out a small laugh, his voice low and melodic. “It is good, then, that you were cared for.”
“Yes, Father, and I know I won’t be as lucky. I will heed my grandmother’s wishes, but I still cannot shed the guilt of wanting to return to them and experience the night once more.”
“It is a natural feeling to want to return to such comfort.”
“But what should I do, Father? How do I rid myself of this feeling? Surely, I can’t forget them.”
“Does their memory bring you joy?”
“Then why do you want to forget them?”
She didn’t. Marinette looked down at her hands. “Because it is wrong for me to think these impure thoughts.” But she still didn’t want to forget.
“You are only human, as we all are. The Lord will understand; you have done nothing wrong in His love.” The priest’s hand slipped underneath a small gap in the lattice separating them. “Go forth and safe journey.”
Marinette took his hand and brought it to her lips. As she lifted it up, she paused. A silver ring wrapped around his finger, like a ribbon. “Or a snake....” she whispered.
“Nothing, Father!” Marinette planted quick kisses on his knuckles before releasing his calloused hand. She shook her head to push any strange thought out of her mind. The lantern light was dim inside the booth. She must’ve been seeing things.
She heard him give her a blessing before she bowed her head, wished him a pleasant evening, and moved aside the curtain.
Her legs were shaking as she stepped out and she gripped the side of the booth to steady herself. She was losing her mind, that was the only answer. She was plagued with memories and a deep desire to see Cat and Viper again that she was starting to have delusions.
She took a deep breath and stood up straight. She would just find her father and they would go home.
Marinette took a step, forgetting that the booth was on a elevated platform. The ground she expected wasn’t there and she yelped, her arms swinging at her sides as she fell forward. She saw the hard, tile ground rushing towards her and shut her eyes to brace herself.
“I’ve got you! Watch your step!” An arm shot out a caught her, lifting her up before she fell flat on the ground. Her face flooded with color. Why did someone have to see that? The man who caught her helped her on her feet and steadied her. She could see his fine leather shoes. “Are you hurt?”
Marinette shook her head and brushed herself off, trying to compose herself as she lifted her head. “No, I’m fine....” Her voice faded as she looked up into sparkling green eyes. They smiled back at her.
“Let me help you to the pews,” he said. He took her hand in his and put an arm around her shoulder. He felt familiar and Marinette glanced up at him as he led her to the wooden benches across the aisle. He had blond hair. Thick, unruly blond hair peeking from beneath the brim of a hat. Her heart seemed to skip. “There,” he said as he helped her sit. “Are you all right?”
She nodded, unable to speak as she stared at him. Fine woven clothing that looked new, a fancy hat that barely held in his hair. She didn’t ask, but she knew he was a noble.
He looked satisfied with her answer and stepped back, heading towards the confessional booth. Instead of taking her place on one side, he stopped by the little booth where the priest sat and raised his hand. He knocked on the door frame and leaned closer to say something.
Marinette looked around the chapel. No one else was around after the evening mass and out past the doors, she could see the top of her father’s head as he spoke to two people she didn’t recognize. A beautiful blonde woman and a stern looking, tall man were saying something she couldn’t hear.
The sound of the wooden confession booth door opening caught her attention and she turned her head back. A tall man in priestly robes stepped out, one hand clutching a Bible as he straightened his vestiges. His dark hair was cut a bit loose around his face and clear blue eyes caught hers as he stepped out.
Her chest began to heave. She knew they were Parisian. She knew they were of money.
“Your lordship, I didn’t expect you to come tonight.”
“Forgive the bother, Father, but Maman wanted to come for blessings before we left for our journey to Venice.”
Their journey to Venice?
She was sure she thought it, but two sets of eyes turned to her as if she said it aloud and she couldn’t move.
He was a young lord. She couldn’t breathe.
The other was a priest .
They began to walk up the aisle and Marinette turned away, unable to look them in the eye. Everything from her hands to the tips of her ears were burning and the closer they got, the redder they became.
The dark robes of a priest stopped beside her and she fixed her eyes on her hands clenched on her lap. Warm fingertips caressed her hair back and slid across one of her earrings.
“The San Polo side of the Rialto,” Luka’s warm, smooth voice wrapped around her. “Sunset. On the first night.”
She shut her eyes as she shuddered, trying to stifle the anticipation that welled within her. He continued past her and she felt a hand rest over one of hers. She looked down and saw the silver ring with a paw engraving. She swallowed hard.
“My lady,” Adrien whispered in her ear. She could almost hear his smile. “Don’t keep us waiting.”