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all night, i'll riot with you

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Daine had never put too much thought into what it took to look beddable, but now, looking as risqué as one could make a maid uniform look, she had to think it mighty uncomfortable. The corset was so loose she had to be very careful of how she walked for fear of it slipping down, and stripped of her shift and leggings, the night air was cold.

Going undercover with Numair shouldn't have involved either of them getting risqué, but best laid plans, and all that.

The maid that was escorting her took a deep, nervous breath, moved the basket of supplies she was carrying to her off hand, and then knocked on the suite door.

Lord Tilain, of the fief of Pearlmouth, was feeding Carthaki rebels information and supplies, and Daine and Numair were setting up camp in his hospitality until they had enough proof to bring back to Corus. It was taking a bit longer than either of them would have liked; they'd been here for a three weeks already.

Earlier that day, Daine, playing the part of a maid of Lord Tilain's household, had had the misfortune of being the one to take Lord Tilain his tea, and had promptly caught the man's eye. Numair, who was playing the part of Lord Tilain's revered guest, had jumped in to prevent her from catching anything... else of Lord Tilain's, and requested her presence in his bedchambers this evening.

And so Daine had spent the rest of the day being bathed and sweetened and dolled within an inch of her life by several of the other maids who seemed to have decided that she was walking to her funeral.

Daine couldn't tell them that the only way Numair would hurt her was if he had been possessed by a demon (and if he was, then they'd have bigger problems than rape), so she simply submitted to the treatments and tried to look appropriately nervous.

She was probably failing, but with any luck, her companion wouldn't notice. The poor girl looked almost nauseous.

Numair answered the door in a loosely-tied robe, careless of the way it gaped open over his bare chest. He smiled an empty smile, eyes flicking over both of them, then gestured them in with a lazy, almost mocking kind of politeness.

They entered.

Daine came to a stop in front of her friend, clasping her hands and lowering her gaze, only for him to catch her chin and make her look up.

He made a show of appraising her, which only did so much to hide the discomfort tightening his eyes. She wondered for a moment if he could even see her at all. Hopefully the maid wasn't looking at either of them too closely. "Now you are exquisite company, pet," he murmured, low and silky. "I do hope you're prepared to work. You've got a sizeable task ahead of you."

A hot shiver ran through her at the image those words conjured, surprising her with the uncharacteristic vulgarity of it and briefly banishing the evening chill. Over the past few years, she'd come to the conclusion that bedding Numair wasn't an unpleasant thought at all, but to hear the suggestion so explicitly...

Behind her, the maid set down the basket on the end table, curtsied, and fled.

As soon as the door shut behind her, starlit black fire washed over the walls, doors, and windows, and Numair released an explosive sigh, dropping Daine's chin like a burning coal.

She missed his warmth immediately.

Of all the things she expected him to do next, it wasn't to go to the closet along the far wall and start pulling out spare blankets.

"You can have the bed," he told her, "and I'll take the floor. Give me one of the pillows." He glanced down at the blankets in his arms, then carelessly tossed them a few feet to the right of the bed. "Or maybe two. No sense in passing them by when you have them to spare."

"...So you mean us to... just sleep? As we are?" Daine checked, her eyebrows climbing. She had been waiting on his plan, but now she wondered if she should have spent a little time thinking of one herself.

"What else would you have us do?" Numair said, his voice gaining a slight edge. He wasn't glancing in her direction at all. "You can have a change of clothes if you wish. We should update each other on what we've found, as well."

"They're expecting you to bed me," she pointed out—apparently, she needed to.

"So they are," he replied neutrally, going back for more bedding.

"It's going to be rather obvious that you didn't if I leave without so much as a lovebite." It wasn't like Numair to forget these things, and Daine wondered why he had.

"Among other things, I am a mage," he said, close to scathing. The topic was obviously an uncomfortable one for him, though Daine couldn't see why. "I made sure to heal you in the morning."

"You're a war mage." She sighed. "They won't hear anything, either."

"I'm sure you're a quiet lover."

Not like she'd know—for as much as her ma used to enjoy entertaining her admirers, Daine's had never left her with the urge to follow in her ma's footsteps—but that was neither here nor there. "You put up silencing wards," she said dryly, "which means that we are doing something you don't want people to hear. You obviously don't expect me to be a quiet lover."

"It was something that surprised me terribly, I'm sure." He let his robe drop from his broad shoulders, and Daine spared a few seconds to admire the smooth, tanned planes of his back. There were scars there, some of which she remembered dressing and some of which she didn't, and her mouth dried with the thought that she might like to trace them with her lips, all warm flesh and taut skin.

All too soon, he pulled on a loose cotton shirt, and Daine blinked away the fixation. "I suppose we cleaned the bedclothes and aired the room quite well too...? Why, it will look like we did nothing at all."

"Funny that you should say that..." he muttered, then busied himself with making his makeshift bed.

She attempted to fold her arms, but that made her corset slip down a bit, so she ended up readjusting it instead. "And there's no other reason for two people who arrived at the castle at the same time could want to be alone without eavesdroppers. Certainly. His Lordship has not one reason to be wary of spooks."

Numair paused, then continued, even more tense than before. After a moment, he said, "You might find it surprising, just what people will think when a man and a woman spend a night in the same room."

She remembered how Ma was after one of her gentleman callers—covered in marks of all sorts, her hair disastrous and a limp in her step, languid and bright-eyed and smug until Grandda inevitably found out and lost his temper with her indiscretion, and then she turned irritable and snide for a day or two—but still limping.

"What they think when the man and woman are trying to hide it," Daine corrected. Gods knew that it had been immediately obvious whenever her ma's trysts didn't pan out. She folded her arms under her breasts and ignored the way her corset slipped under the pressure. One of the sleeves of the uniform started to slide over her shoulder. "This situation's a bit different, don't you think?"

"Hag's bones, Daine!" he finally snapped, startling her. He stood in one powerful motion. "If you have any brilliant ideas, I'm all ears, but until that... day..." He trailed off, his eyes falling to her shoulder.

She shrugged, knowing full well that it would make the sleeve slip lower and doing it anyway. Something about the way he was staring was lighting a sparkling glow in the pit of her stomach. "I'm not sure I can fake the stagger, is all."

He pinched the bridge of his nose, slowly closing his eyes. "I could kick you out and say you weren't cooperating."

"And what of Lord Tilain?" she retorted. "If you're not pleased with me, then I might as well back at square one." She made a face. "And I'm not sure he cares if his mistresses... cooperate."

Numair hesitated a moment, and then his shoulders dipped. Fixing his eyes somewhere to the above and right of her, he sighed and said quietly, "Then what would you have me do, magelet?"

"Do you hate it so much?" she asked, more curious than hurt, though that was there too. She dropped her arms and hitched her corset up again. "The idea of laying with me?" Then she glanced down at her reemphasized breasts and wrinkled her nose. "Well, I s'pose you like 'em bigger up top."

As soon as the words left her mouth, she regretted them. She didn't often feel insecure about her looks, but thinking too hard about the sorts of women  Numair favored always left her feeling irritated and unhappy in her skin.

She went to inspect the basket before she could follow that rabbit's trail.

"That is not—" he started, heated, and then stilled.

She pulled out a corked vial of a viscous yellow liquid—augmented oil for ease of intercourse, it looked like—and set it aside. She found another of a colorless, clear liquid that smelled like the potion for increasing sensitivity, and another that she identified immediately as a male performance enhancer. Ma had made a fair number of those.

Numair circled around the bed to her while she investigated. "Daine," he said carefully once he was a pace or two away, "please never doubt that you're a lovely young woman, but I'm not..."

Daine retrieved a golden pregnancy charm from of the bottom of the basket and held it up for inspection. It looked to be of average make, no better or worse than the ones given out by the palace's infirmary.

"'You're not'?" she prompted coolly, not looking at him.

He didn't move or speak for a long moment, and when he did, it was to catch the charm and study it. "I'm not going to take advantage of you," he finished quietly, then pulled the charm from her fingers.

She blinked.

Then he flipped it over in his palm and frowned. "Hang on."

Daine watched in bemusement as he went to his workbag and pulled out a hunk of raw gemstone and that one tool that looked a bit like an awl, then took both and sat on the bed, laying the charm out over his knee. It amounted to about a minute of quick work, kneading and carving the charm, then laying it over the gemstone and covering it in his gift, then holding it up and studying it like she had. Then, apparently satisfied, he handed it back to her.

The magic still in it zapped her fingers; she could see that the sigils on it had been updated and the shape of the charm had been evened out for effectiveness. "A pregnancy charm crafted by the most powerful wizard in Tortall," she mused, smiling wryly. "I do believe I shall be childfree for life."

An odd, much sadder smile flickered across his face. "As long as you wear it, yes—ah."

She had slipped it over her head and resettled her hair over it while he spoke. It dangled in the open scoop of her neckline, the front laces hanging open to reveal the dip between her breasts. "Unfortunately, Master Salmalín," she said, brisk, "there are many people who think you're going to take advantage of me, and they'll wonder about it if I'm not sore and silly tomorrow."

He was staring at the charm he'd just fixed, looking thousands of miles away. "Magelet," he said slowly, almost metered, "you seem to be making a Trickster's play. If a man didn't know any better, he might think you'd like to be 'sore and silly' tomorrow."

Daine blushed. Having it laid out so very clearly was more embarrassing than she had thought it would be.

He studied her face for a long moment, then studied her shoulder. He raised one large hand and touched the spot right next to the sleeve that remained in place, and Daine swallowed, heat blooming her stomach. Slowly, oh so slowly, he started sliding it off with nothing but his fingertip, the fabric dragging over every last millimeter of oversensitive skin in its path, his touch leaving a trail of fire and gooseflesh behind it.

When he was done, her breath was locked in her throat, the peaks of her breasts pulled painfully tight, her cheeks hot enough to match the molten feeling unspooling between her legs. Her gut clenched in anticipation of having her chest bared, but he left her sleeve there, the neckline sitting scandalously low, clinging to the swells by a centimeter.

He stared at where his fingertip met her arm, and then looked up at her face again.

And swallowed.

He pulled away from her arm and rested his hand on her hip instead, gently guiding her to stand in front of him, and she went, stumbling on numb legs.

Reaching around behind her, he took the ties of her corset and pulled them loose with only the faintest tug of resistance, watching her face with dark, intent eyes. She didn't know what he was looking for, but he kept looking as he trailed his hand up her side—all the way from her hip to her waist to her ribcage to her shoulder to her throat—and caressed her jaw with the backs of his knuckles.

"Tell me to stop and I will," he said, rough around the edges. It was more of a command than a promise. His gaze was deadly serious.

She nodded unsteadily, bereft of speech. His touch had always demanded her attention, but like this, it was just making every sensation impossibly more. Her corset was sliding down, down, down as her breathing loosened the laces, and the drag and shift of the fabric underneath was the worst kind of tease.

He cupped the back of her neck and drew her down for a kiss.

It wasn't precisely where she wanted to be touched when the rest of her body was begging for attention, but she was finding that it was a rather wonderful place to be touched anyway. All shivery warmth, melting gentleness, the comfort and safety and relief of home, boiled down to its purest essence. She sank into the feeling without reserve.

He opened the back of her corset and pushed it down off her hips as he kissed her, and she steadied herself on his shoulders as she stepped out of it, feeling deliciously vulnerable and sensitive without its meager protection.

And then he caught her arm, yanking her into him and twisting so he had her top half pinned to the mattress with his weight, and suddenly everything was so much better.

She threw her arms around his neck and clutched him closer, a lightshow in her bones and hunger swamping her core, arching into him and quivering helplessly when the heat of his hand went from her waist to the small of her back.

He broke the kiss, panting hard, and buried his face in her neck, hot, damp breath puffing over her throat. "Not sure you can fake the stagger—magelet, you're a menace."

She opened her mouth to retort and uttered a yelp instead, sensation jolting her womanhood as lips and teeth and tongue found her pulse. 

Daine's impression of lovebites that they were simply a thing that happened as a matter of course in situations like this, and being on the receiving end was—nice. A bit strange, a little too personal, sharp and squirmy, but nice.

Here and now, half buried under Numair's weight with his mouth on her neck, she was certain he could paint his touch over every inch of her and she'd only want more. Strange only in unfamiliarity and wonderfully intimate, the stimulation tugging shameless gasps out of her throat as she tried to squirm into the sensation and away from the intensity, the nips and sucking kisses pulsing hot under her snatch.

She scrabbled at his shirt, half-desperate for the skin contact he was denying her, and he pulled away for just long enough to let her pull it off, then dove back into his task of marking her up in the most pleasurable way possible, the scrape of his chest hair against her own chest making her throb all over. Her neckline, which had been pulled up when she raised her arms, was starting to inch down again with the friction of Numair following her collarbone to her clavicle to her throat to her sternum, and she found herself powerless to stop it, helplessly caught on the slow drag of the hem over her sensitive breasts.

He caught the side of her skirt and pulled it up, sliding a hand underneath, his touch leaving a burning, tingling trail as it went from her calf to her hip—

He pulled away from her, dragging a high whine from her throat in the process, and frowned down at her now entirely bare leg.

"Are you cold?" he asked, concerned even as he rasped.

Daine looked at him. Daine stared at him. Daine wondered if looks could kill, or if she'd have to strangle him herself.

He looked at her face again, and then flushed.

"No, Numair," Daine said, with no small amount of asperity. "I am not cold."

"Right," he muttered, and let her haul him back in.

Mouth busy with hers, he hooked her bare knee over his wrist and pulled her legs wide, then flipped them over and rolled them until they were in the center of the bed with him lying between her legs and pressing her deep into the lush pillows with his kiss.

Daine approved of that much more than she thought she would, and she'd thought she would approve of it quite a bit.

She took the opportunity to indulge in the oft-dismissed fantasy of running her fingers over his pectorals—combing through the wiry hair and feeling the firm muscle and warm skin beneath, memorizing exactly how it moved with his hitching breaths and the faintest sense of his heart pounding beneath, the solidity and immediacy and reality of what it was like to have him so close.

He groaned, deep and low and rumbling, and Daine was treated to the very odd sensation of feeling herself get slicker, inner muscles clenching and releasing a little gush of wet.

The hand he'd pushed her skirt up with remained high on her hip, resting against the edge of the underthings that she'd been left with, and slowly, agonizingly circled her thigh until it rested on the sensitive skin right next to her mound.

Daine was the one who had to break the kiss then, the sheer anticipation loaded into the touch making her breath squeeze right out of her lungs on a high, thready whine. She was on fire, burning hot enough to heat the whole room, greedy and starving, unsated despite every touch giving her more of what she needed.

Numair, who had shifted enough to allow his wrist to rotate, chuckled softly, roughly, and she gathered her wits enough to look into his eyes and see them.

She wasn't sure how to interpret the look he was giving her, but her body did. The rest of her breath was stolen away on a whimper, the peaks of her breasts tightening all over again, another gush of please please please touch me stretch me fill me dampening her smallclothes.

He dropped his forehead against hers and fulfilled her unspoken plea, blanketing her mound with his large hand.

It felt like the lovebite—unfamiliar but sweetly, wonderfully close, turning the feeling of exposure into a warm thrill. She would have kicked anyone else for touching her so intimately, but for Numair, the only response she could summon up was a shuddering sigh as every last bit of tension and resistance dripped right out of her.

He was so close that she could hear him swallow, and then his fingers were carefully, almost gingerly pushing the scrap of cloth to the side.

The feeling of exposure came back in a rush, this time with a flood of embarrassment as he traced the outer folds of her sex. Hands she'd watched at work a thousand times were now at work between her legs, gentle and sure and horribly stimulating. One finger slid into the wetness, then another, both seeking her entrance, and Daine just quivered.

Numair, on the other hand, pulled his forehead away from hers so he could bury it in the pillow beside her, a strangled noise muffled by the plush.

She felt a flicker of concern—he almost sounded pained—but then he pushed his fingers inside and started easing them in and out, and she had to breathe around the sensation.

Gentle, gentle, ever gentle with his big hands, he took his time with getting them into her, each pass going a little deeper and stretching her with jolts of burning. He spread and curled his fingers in turn, the pattern senseless to her but pleasurable all the same. It had her melting in other ways this time, getting her familiar with the sensation as he worked.

Just the feel of him sliding in and out teased that perfect tightness in her belly, but the touch rubbed in a place that made her whole abdomen pulse pleasure, warm and deep, tugging a breathy oh! out of her throat.

He pulled his face out of the pillow and nuzzled a kiss into the hollow behind her jaw, the gesture strangely reminiscent of that look that lit his eyes when he finished a difficult stage of a working, or had a breakthrough in his studies.

The pattern focused there, still rocking and stretching, but rubbing, tapping, pressing, circling as he studied her face with the full force of his exacting attention, coaxing out gasp after sigh after trilling hum while her feet kneaded and slipped in the bedspread.

"Numa-a-air," she said, just to taste it in her mouth, and he swallowed heavily.

"Yes?" he rasped.

"Numair—" she said again, and then cut off as he bore down on that spot at the loveliest pressure. "N-Numair."

He propped himself up on his elbow so he could look at her directly. "What?"

She grinned dopily up at him, the muscles in her face slackening with the rhythm of his hand. "Numair." She just liked saying it. "Numair, Numair, Numa-a-a-air..." He crooked his fingers sharply. "Ah!"

Mindlessly, she twined her arms around his neck and nuzzled his collarbone, tasting the salt of his skin and deciding to leave a lovebite of her own—though he pulled back before she could so much as nip.

"Daine," he said, strained, "you're making it very difficult for me to keep telling myself you weren't just waiting for an excuse."

It took a long moment for the fact that he was talking about sex to filter into her sex-addled brain.

She frowned in thought, only partially holding onto expression and thought both as he kept stroking. In the spirit of truthfulness, she said, "We-ell, waiting is a bit... oh..."

His fingers slowed, then stopped. "But... you've thought about it," he checked.

Her peak was a nebulous thing, swirling around her in vertigo, and she uttered a frustrated noise that he'd stopped coalescing it for her. Somewhat grumpily, she muttered, "Sometimes it's all I can think about."

(She never had been able to figure out what separated the times when he would set off that sweet, inescapable craving, that wistful want that sang when he filled her senses, from the times when everything was normal and the very same things would earn a moment or two of distraction, a sigh at most. The triggers were unpredictable, and she never knew if his laugh or touch or scent was going to lead to hours of preoccupation and restless shifting or not. She wished she did. Her life would be much easier if so.)

He stilled for a moment, then, abruptly, he muttered a curse and sat up and back on his heels, depriving her of his fingers entirely. She blinked over that for a few seconds, and then yelped indignantly, but he wasn't paying attention to her.

He rummaged through the basket the maid had brought with his clean hand, tossing a towel to her left, followed by the augmented oil, and then a tub of a substance she didn't recognize. There was a blank, wild-eyed, hyperfocused look on his face that made her already-racing heart beat faster.

Supplies gathered, he turned back to her, wiping his right hand clean on the towel and opening the tub.

"What is that...?" she breathed, curious.

He smiled faintly, though his eyes didn't change, and coated his fingers in greenish goo. "Cheating."

He didn't elaborate on that for a moment, but then he pulled her smallclothes off and started massaging the goo into her—and her entrance tingled with it, an odd, disjointed feeling touching that space inside her as he repeated the motions of before, now with the effect of making her a little looser with each pass, any burn she might have felt soothed away immediately.

"Potion to help with stretching," he explained eventually, once his third finger went in, sounding almost like he did during her lessons, except for the way his voice was absolutely destroyed. "I don't want to hurt you, but I am about to lose my mind."

She inhaled sharply, the sheer desperation in his voice rolling through her like a physical thing. She clenched helplessly, her hips chasing the penetration and her back arching in offer and plea both.

The motion was what it took for her breasts to finally escape their confines.

She slammed her eyes shut and cried out as the hem tugged her nipples and cold air caressed her skin, and then dropped, panting heavily. A warm touch rested on her breastbone for a moment, and then caught the neckline and slid it down until it was around her middle.

Daine escaped the sleeves in a hurry, clit throbbing and then jolting as he cupped her breast and squeezed, enveloped it in the sweetest, warmest pressure—

"Please," she gasped, spreading her legs as far as they would go and pushing into his touch, latching onto his wrist with one hand and clutching the bedsheets with the other, "Numair, Numair, please, Numair—"

She wasn't sure what she was begging for, but it sure wasn't for him to wrench both of his hands away. Feeling entirely betrayed, she opened her eyes and looked down at him.

His face was crimson, his right right hand still shiny-slick and both shaking as they fumbled with the laces over that impressive bulge in his breeches. He made a tch sound and then a spark of black had both the knot and a couple of the laces below it sliced through.

His member was flushed and hard and big, proportionate to everything else about him, and it knocked the breath out of her to see him wrap a hand around it and stroke. Numair, Numair, Numair—that was Numair and she wanted it (wanted him) so much she couldn't breathe, aching and dripping and desperate.

He used more of the potion to coat it—something that Daine distantly recognized was necessary for the sheer size of him, but whined her discontent over all the same—simultaneously grasping the back of her knee and pulling her whole body closer to him with that alone. Agonizing seconds later, he finally guided the tip between her legs.

Just feeling it touch her thoroughly stretched entrance redoubled her assessment of big, and then doubled again when it breached her.

For as badly as his hands shook, for as tense as every line of his body was, he went slowly, gently, carefully, like he was still afraid of hurting her—which was good, because the intrusion of him was so much that she was struggling to breathe around it.

She let her eyes slip closed, focusing on her lungs, on her sex, on the body heat emanating from Numair as he shifted forward, bracing both arms on either side of her and sinking into her. He dropped his head above hers, close enough that she could feel the air disturbed by his breathing, the brush of one heavy curl against her cheek, the faint tremors that wracked him, and she let go of the bedsheets so she could lay her hands on those strong arms instead.

She opened her eyes and found him watching her, open and... raw, desperate and lost, and she reached for him instinctively. Cupping his cheeks, she stroked the faint stubble and overheated skin and smiled reassuringly, even as the realization that it was Numair here with her, Numair inside her, Numair who was watching her in this pure vulnerability and was surrendering just as much blossomed inside her and left her slack.

It was okay that this was so much, because this was Numair, and she could trust him with anything and everything.

A shiver ran through him, the deep press of much pausing for a moment, and the distress melted away for helpless adoration. She couldn't stretch very far like this, but she could stretch far enough to kiss the tip of his long nose, and so that was exactly what she did—and then grunted as the twitch of his hips pushed a little too much of him into her all at once.

He kissed her in apology, dry, senseless kisses that fell on her mouth and trailed around it, her cheeks, her nose her chin, and then he dropped his forehead against hers and started canting his hips, pulling out and pushing in in tiny motions that left him a little deeper with each pass.

She wasn't quite about to go blind with the feeling, but it was close. By the time his hips met hers, she was certain her insides must have been rearranged to accommodate his presence.

She tried to say, I believe I'll be sore and silly tomorrow no matter what, and only managed a faint wheeze. It was all she could do to wrap her legs around him and numbly attempt to keep him there.

He nosed her hairline for a long moment, then shifted to the side so he could lay his hand over her abdomen and press.

Daine near choked on the feeling—like the crook of his fingers except pressurized lightning and everywhere, compounded by the way he had her stuffed to her limits—

And like that, he started to move.

Shallowly at first, then deeper and deeper until the drag and shift of him unmade and remade her very being with every pass. She was only faintly aware that she was clawing his back, begging for air, trying to speak and failing.

It didn't push her up to her peak so much as up past and around it, caught in a tempest of good-good-good-toomuch, fluttering clenches that did nothing to relieve the pressure—

He lifted his hand and her senses returned to her all in a rush.

"Nu-mair!" she gasped as he sheathed himself inside her to the hilt again, the pumping slide suddenly much easier to cope with.

"Sorry," he panted, mouthing the line of her jaw and dripping sweat, "sorry, sorry, so—ffffff..."

They fell into a smooth cant after that, the thick-heavy-big-big-big feeling everything she could take, and then Numair dropped his hand back to her abdomen—not to press, but to rest the side of his thumb against the little nub of her clit so that each thrust pushed them together.

It was the kind of electric shock that was much easier to handle, that lit up her belly-breasts-spine and made her toes curl, punching noises out of her throat with every pumping nudge and taking her to her peak in short order. She could squeeze his cock now, push back into the rhythm, make him wheeze and moan and babble as they shook apart together—

Until, finally, he bore down on her clit just a little too hard and her world went white.

He kept going even as she rode wave after wave after wave of ecstasy, chanting her name in a voice thick with emotion, and then, without warning, jammed himself as deep inside her as he could get and pulsed.

Instinctively, Daine wrapped her legs around him and angled her hips to push him in even that tiniest bit more, unnameably pleased with where he chose to spend himself.

Once he was done, he collapsed on top of her like a puppet with the strings cut.

Daine grunted, then shifted his weight to the side so she could breathe again, leaving his firm-but-softening member inside her. She thought she quite liked it there.

Sadly, after a long minute of just panting together, he eased out of her. He didn't speak, but instead gathered her up in his arms, kissing her temple, her forehead, her eyelids and cheeks and nose, and there was nothing for her to do but melt into it, card her fingers through his hair, and wish she had the strength to turn her body into his.

Finally, he broke the silence with, "It seems you aren't a particularly quiet lover, sweet."

She shivered at the sound of his voice, the look in his eyes. She would never be able to listen to him again without knowing what he sounded like saying her name in the throes of lovemaking, and whether that was a wonderful or terrible thing was yet to be seen. Giving him a crooked smile, she rasped, "I guess not."

He seemed oddly pleased by that answer. "Is that a revelation?"

"Never cared to find out before," she admitted, sinking into his embrace all over again and letting out a pleased sigh at the feeling. She let her eyes slip closed as she luxuriated in it. "Everyone kept talking about how good it was, but it was all peanuts to me." Rather unnecessarily, she added, "I get it now."

Numair had gone very, very still. "So this was... your first. I am your first."

"Mm-hm..." she replied, then blinked as she could feel his breathing stutter

The look her was giving her was downright floored.

"Well," she pointed out practically, a bit confused herself, "who else would it be?"

"You've had lovers," he said uncertainly.

It took her a long moment to realize he was referring to Perin the clerk and that one Rider boy she'd been friends with and possibly a couple of others she'd danced with at parties. "'Lovers' is a bit of a stretch."

"And... not one of them appealed to you like this?" His face was unreadable.

Daine grimaced at the thought. "I'd rather not let anyone else 'round my parts, thank you."

He stared at her for another few long seconds, then dropped to his back with a sigh. "Right."

"...Is that bad?" she ventured cautiously. She hadn't thought anything of it, but obviously he thought something of it, and she couldn't quite tell what.

He hesitated, then aimed a smile at the ceiling that was too bittersweet to be called rueful. "I just wish that I had known."

"Would it have changed anything?" she asked, surprised. Sex was sex, wasn't it?

He turned his head and looked at her like she'd said something outrageous. Which, to her knowledge, she hadn't. Obviously she was missing something here.

"Yes," he said to her blank incomprehension, "it would have. If nothing else, you deserve..." She watched as he chewed on his words. "If you were going to lie with me, then..." He trailed off as he held her gaze, then released a deep sigh and rolled back towards her, cupping her face and thumbing her cheek, curling into her until their noses nearly brushed. In a low murmur, he said, "At least I should have spent my time showing you how good it can be."

"...That's not what you did?" she checked dryly, even as a hot thrill coursed through her. Her quim had been very thoroughly used, and every inch of her was very happy about that. What more was there?

He studied her with a dark, speculative heat that made her want to blush, then rested his mouth against hers and eased her into a kiss. "Not even close," he promised against her lips, and then drew her in deeper. When they were both panting and hazy-eyed, he added, "May I make a second attempt?"

All Daine could do was nod.

Apparently 'showing her how good it could be' meant worshiping every inch of her until he had every one of her weak spots itemized and she was little more than jelly. She best liked the moments when she managed to unmake him the way he did her, but oh it all felt good. She could see what he meant by it in the end.

The next day, she had absolutely no issue staggering back to the servant's wing, and a very big issue acting hangdog about it. It was lucky that they had the proof they needed within the next three days, because pretending not to be languid, bright-eyed, and very, very smug as she went about her work was nigh impossible.

It was only once Lord Tilain was being taken away in chains that Daine and Numair had a moment to themselves together.

Under the shade of a tree in the courtyard, watching the bustle of bodies as the castle was stripped and searched, Daine sidled up beside Numair and slipped her palm into his.

He gazed at her, his dark, sensitive face inscrutable, then took the implicit offer in the squeeze of her hand and bent down to kiss her.

"Daine," he said as they parted, rough and hesitant, "this isn't... if you think this is just sex... I—"

"I know," she said, smiling. It had taken a little while to sink in, but how Numair had been with her wasn't how you treated someone you only wanted to bed.

"Ah." He looked faintly embarrassed, then looked at her smile and softened. He reached over and cupped her cheek, kissing her nose when she nuzzled into his palm and laughing when she kissed his nose right back.

"Might I stay in your tent tonight, Master Salmalín?" she asked, holding his hand to her cheek.

To her delight, he blushed. "We-we aren't traveling alone—"

"Just for sleep," she promised. "No 'tasks' of any size. I like knowing you're close."

He gave her a long look, as if to gauge exactly how much she intended to stick to her word (mostly, but if his hands were to wander, she wouldn't say no), then smiled and said dryly, "Anything for you, sweet."

Daine beamed.