It was nights like these in Ketterdam that Inej couldn’t sleep, when the damp air off the harbor made it sticky and hard to breathe. She shifted carefully, kicking away the heavy coverlet to lie beneath the surprisingly thin, expensive sheets on Kaz’s bed. Though Kaz tried to pawn himself off as a businessman and loved money more than his soul, there was very little luxury he allowed himself when conducting his business. It was in the little details; the thin black watch with the golden hands he wore on the off chance, the intricate cufflinks that were only visible when his jacket pulled back over his gloves just so, and the soft sheets she was now tangled in. Of course, these were details a pickpocket would notice, but there was no trick that Kaz didn’t know. No one could get an inch on him, not even Inej herself.
She sighed and turned over, careful not to rock the bed. Kaz had fallen asleep sometime after midnight and she’d carefully pulled the scattered maps of a Shu warehouse from his lap and set them aside. She had found herself looking at him, charmed by the softness of his face in repose, a bit flattered that she was the only one that had ever caught him unawares. He was not unarmed of course. Quietly and as delicately as she possibly could, she slid her hand beneath Kaz’s pillow and touched the bone-handled pistol he kept there. Her own knives were hidden within reach so that they could be grabbed at a moment’s notice. What dangerous bedmates they made.
Kaz was a light sleeper, plagued by violent nightmares, but she was the Wraith, and she could will herself invisible if she so wished. And perhaps she didn’t wish to be invisible to Kaz tonight, but she also didn’t want to be riddled with bullet holes if she startled him. She slipped the pistol from under the pillow and set it aside on the table beside the bed.
She hesitated then, watching the city lights playing shadows over his handsome face. He always managed to light a fire inside of her that she was desperate to put out. And yet the only way to put that fire out, was the one thing they both seemed unable to do.
They had reached a tentative arrangement with one another only a week ago, and though they had made no progress since, it still sent heat traveling through her body to remember that juncture in this dance of theirs.
“Stay,” Kaz murmured, eyes flitting away from her. The clock on the wall over her shoulder seemed of sudden great importance, and she was left confused, and nervous and mute. With Kaz it was never a question, Barrel boys had no manners. Instead, he demanded her presence, and waited for her to concede or deny.
She kept her eyes on him as she placed each of her knives on the bedside table, one after the other, and noticed that he watched her carefully with that flint gaze. They were like two animals circling one another, unsure of who was hunter and who was prey, waiting for a wrong move that would send one of them fleeing. Would the other chase? She toed off her shoes with her eyes still on him; Kaz Brekker slept in a clean bed, no matter the blood and dirt on his gloves. But she did not undress or pull back the sheets. She lay fully clothed and facing Kaz, and then Kaz began to talk, and the tension eased. She fell asleep to the sound of his voice reading from a book of Suli folklore.
The heat was unbearable, inside and outside of her body as she tried to push that memory away. Kaz had read her to sleep from one of her own books, his gloves on the nightstand beside her faithful saints, and when she had woken, she found he had pulled the sheets around her.
She slid a hand to the back of her neck, feeling the sweat beading there, her breath hitching a bit in arousal. It was the little things that Kaz did, the human things that fanned the flames in her. She reached out tentatively, fingers curling into her palm before they had the chance to touch his sharp cheekbones.
Would he want this?
Did she want this?
Her fingers brushed the closely shaved hair by his ear, a moth’s touch, and Kaz was awake, hand reaching for the absent pistol beneath his pillow. When his hand came away empty, he looked over at Inej blearily, still caught in the last wisps of sleep.
“Kaz, it’s me,” She soothed, her hands splayed out in front of her in a defensive stance.
It’s your Wraith.
When Kaz realized that it was only his spider, he lay back with a tired huff, hand raking over his face.
“Is something wrong?” He asked, peering at her through his long, thieving hands, bare of those damnable gloves. For a moment, she imagined them touching her, pulling her closer, roaming over her skin, and she shivered.
“I just couldn’t sleep,” She murmured, settling back down, her hand cupping her cheek as she looked over at him. “It’s warm.”
“It’s always warm this time of year,” He dismissed, with a cocked eyebrow, as if he thought she was trying to get something over on him. Maybe he thought she had reconsidered their little deal and was going to disappear like she had done to many a man in Ketterdam,
“Just sleep.” She said.
“Just sleep.” He agreed with a sharp nod.
“What’s wrong?” He asked again.
“Really,” She said, passing a hand over the side of her neck where sweat had gathered. She noticed his eyes catch on the movement, saw his nostrils flare for the briefest of seconds. Kaz was just a man, she had to remind herself. He was quicker and smarter than most, but she had seen his eyes follow her when he thought she wasn’t looking. She saw everything.
“It’s fine, go back to sleep,” Her voice was a whisper, to keep the uncertainty from it. She kept herself from biting the inside of her cheek- she knew he would notice. He noticed everything. They were so much alike in some aspects that she wondered if they would ever get anywhere with one another.
“You touched me.”
I did not, was a knee-jerk response she was just able to keep from falling from her mouth. Instead she swallowed thickly and turned over onto her back, hands crossing over her stomach. She wore only a thin white shirt and loose sleeping pants. Kaz had forgone a shirt, but that wasn’t anything to write home about. He’d undressed in front of her before, as if to taunt her, knowing neither of them had the guts to do anything about it. Maybe she should have done the same.
She thought about it, fingers pulling at the edge of her shirt, running beneath the hemline. When she turned her head, Kaz was watching her fingers, his jaw clenching, working as if he were hatching a new heist inside that complicated brain of his. She lifted the shirt a little, just a little, so that he could see the barest hint of naked stomach. She immediately felt ridiculous as his gaze snapped to her face. She tugged the shirt down and almost turned over in mortification. He wasn’t ready for that, and she wasn’t sure she was ready for Kaz Brekker to see her without a barrier.
“Take it off,” The demand brought her eyes back to him, and this was familiar; the rough words like gravel, the silence, the waiting to see if she would oblige him, or walk away and leave them open-ended as was usually their sad case. Couldn’t he just ask like a normal human being?
“You aren’t made of metal, Kaz Brekker. You’ll have to let me in one day.”
She kept her eyes on him as she lifted the cloth again. It was somehow easier to look him in the eye as she stripped herself bare. When she lifted the thin nightshirt over her head and dropped it to the floor, Kaz’s eyes remained on her face for a long moment, before his gaze slid down and with it, fire. Her chest burned as those dark eyes looked at her bare breasts, and for a moment, she desperately wanted him to touch them, to press his lips to them, to feel his tongue...
Her eyes fluttered closed, arousal clutching her. Her body shuddered, nipples hardening in the suddenly cool air without clothes as a barrier. But the touch did not come and when she opened her eyes, lidded now, Kaz had not moved, but she could see how she was affecting him beneath the sheets pooling at his waist.
Without him breaking on her?
She slid across the bed as smoothly as she had slid from one roof to the next in the middle of the night. If he wouldn’t reach out to cool that flame, maybe she could do it for the both of them. Slowly, methodically, quietly . It was what she was good at after all, turning silence to her favor.
This would be like any of their heists, in and out, like the thieves they were.
His gaze flickered over her face but he didn’t move away from her, and she took that as assent. He wasn’t shy about telling her exactly what boundaries she could not cross, another charming aspect she shared with her thief. She would not hesitate to press Sankta Alina against his jugular, no matter the years they bolstered between them.
She reached out and continued where she had left off, brushing her fingers over the shaved sides of his hair, and then she slid her fingers into the longer strands. His hair was so soft and black as a crow’s wing against her fingers. He smelled faintly of clean soap and something sharper, something that permeated his hair. Perhaps a cologne. She’d never taken much notice of the way Kaz Brekker smelled, but suddenly she needed to.
She leaned forward to catch the smell, her breasts pressing against his naked arm. She heard the sharp intake of his breath, and arousal slid down her spine and pooled between her legs. She wanted to take one of his hands and guide it there, feel those long, ungloved fingers press inside her. Her brow knitted as her fingers curled in his hair and pulled a little so that she forced his head back. He let her, those dangerous eyes watching her carefully, his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed hard.
She smiled as she pressed her lips to his temple, and felt him tense beneath her. For a moment, she wanted to ask if he was alright, if it was too much, but she knew that he would stop her in his sharp manner if he didn’t like what she was doing. She slid her hand to his jaw and kept his face still as she moved her lips to the corner of his mouth. She felt him part his lips, warm breath ghosting over her mouth. Her body shuddered. It had been so long since she had felt another body against her own, and never had it been a body that she had wanted, that she had craved for years.
Maybe she would be the first one to break the silence.
She let their lips touch and the kiss came easily after that. He even raised his head, reaching for her, and his tongue dipped into her mouth. It was the ultimate betrayal to his suffering. She’d never thought she’d push this far and break through that icy barrier of his. She nearly climbed on top of him when he groaned into her mouth. Instead, she slid her knee between his legs, keeping the sheets between them, and let him get his pleasure that way. She bit down against his full bottom lip as he brushed against her knee, hard and straining.
“Inej,” He whispered against her damp mouth. “Inej…”
“Yes?” She whispered.
She trailed the back of her hand down his naked chest, feeling it rise and fall rapidly. He was still trying to keep his mask in place, but he was just a boy then, eager for his first girl, and Inej wanted to give that to him, wanted to have him break in her hands.
She was his girl and he would have her.
“Please,” He finally said, shattering the silence between them, hands twisting the sheets beneath him to keep from touching her.
Kaz Brekker begging. She never thought she’d see the day.
She kissed his neck, tasting the saltiness of his sweat, the cologne. Yes, that’s what it was. It was a sharp cologne that reminded her of his leather gloves, and the heady sandalwood that was burned for the saints in her home country. If she could not feel his tongue against her skin, she would taste him. She licked at the sweat, teeth tugging just under his jaw, and she smiled when he shuddered against her, cursing her name softly. She imagined him pushing her away at any moment, was terrified he would deny her once again. Some traumas were too deep to extract, even with her quiet expertise.
She hushed him with kisses to his parted lips as she finally slid her hand down between his legs. He was warm and hard beneath the sheet and his sleeping trousers as she palmed him. Her body responded to that heavy warmth as she traced his cock with her fingers, imagining each inch sliding into her body. She pushed her cunt down against his leg unconsciously as her fingers traced just under the head of his cock; it was damp against the sheets.
Would he stop her if she removed the barrier?
She leaned over him, studying his face, his eyes worked restlessly behind closed lids as she pulled the sheet away and then began to peel his pants down over sharp hip bones. His eyes flew open and she was looking down into obsidian. Those eyes could be so cold and calculating at the right moments, but now they were liquid black and burning. He pushed into her hand, and her hand curled around warm, naked skin. She felt something break inside her, and her face warmed and tightened, until she had to hide her face against his neck.
How hard had they fought to get to this moment? How many battles had they pushed through together and separately to touch one another without armor?
“Saints, Kaz,” She whispered, lips brushing the side of his neck as she began to stroke him, feeling every bit of him against her palm. When she drew her thumb over the head of his cock, it came away wet. He was kissing her again, and she felt leather against the back of her neck, pushing her hair away. He had slipped on those damnable gloves, and she nearly laughed against his mouth at the absurdity in this moment. But it was something. It was a start.
“Touch me,” She demanded, pulling away to look him in the eyes. She gave him the stare he used to break knees and get answers, and his response was immediate. He cupped her breast, thumb gliding over her hard nipple and she hissed at the soft feel of the leather. His hand was beneath the leather, his hand was touching her. She had held his bare hand once, had felt strong tendons and rubbed her thumb against his surprisingly long lifelines. Artists hands. Thief hands. Her heart thudded rebelliously against her ribcage.
His gaze devoured her body as he slid his palm down her stomach, over her slender hips. When his fingers slid into her, she arched her back, breasts pushing against his chest as he leaned over her. His hair was damp and hung messily about his face as he angled his fingers and fucked her. She kept her hand against his cock, stroking him erratically as pleasure wracked her body, made her tremble and hide her face against his arm. She couldn’t meet that black gaze any longer, not with his fingers inside her. She wanted to guide his cock into her, have him as she should have had him long ago, but she would not test this already fragile ground they now stood on.
“Kaz,” She moaned, nails clutching at his forearm, sweat clinging to her forehead as she finally looked up at him. She felt the pleasure cresting through her too soon, burning her to the wick as he tilted his head back and groaned. She felt warmth spurt against her wrist as she stroked him. She should have known it would end too soon. The tension had been so tightly strung, she’d been afraid one of them would snap. He shuddered against her, but still his fingers kept working her, coaxing her, thumb circling the nub of her cunt until her thighs tensed around his arm, and she drew blood from his skin.
He’ll kill me for that, she thought as she came, her body shuddering against Kaz in pulsing waves.
She floated in darkness for a long while, eyes closed. She didn’t move as she felt Kaz’s fingers slip out of her, as he pulled away from the circle of her arms. She listened to him moving about the room, perhaps taking off his gloves, cleaning away the evidence of them.
I was never here.
I can disappear.
Lips against her damp temple and something warm against her stomach and then her hands. Kaz had cleaned away the mess with perfect precision. Her lips fought against an amused smile as she watched him. So this was Brekker after sex, was it? Very proper. He pulled the sheets up to cover her naked body, but all she could do was offer an exhausted hum of approval. He was a gentleman in bed, no matter his reputation in the Ketterdam streets.
She did not move to leave like a thief under the cover of darkness. The rooftops could wait. Kaz could wait for her.
“Stay,” He said as if he knew she had planned on running.
And she did. She stayed.