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hand me your burdens (let me cradle your heart)

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It is known that the Lady of the Castle worked tirelessly to keep the estate and her business afloat and thriving. Hell, that was part of the reason why she hired you, her first and only personal assistant. To lift some of the load off her impressive broad shoulders, to give her some breathing room to cherish her daughters and her sparse time alone. You are organized, swift in your work executions, and efficient to the point you’re certain the brow quirks given as you list off the finished duties that day is both in surprise and impressment.

Even the slight tilt of her carmine lips gives away her true thoughts, although her mouth never utters praises as a normal person should. She was too proud and too above expressions of commendation like that.

Not that you mind. You have the simple pleasures of a roof over your head, a full belly, productive times that keep your mind and hands busy, and staying away from those that would not hesitate to kill you on sight. Sure, some days are long and arduous, especially concerning the Lady’s wine business when acquiring other vineyards and brands, yet the burn settling between your shoulders and the coarseness of your eyes almost always evaporate when your Lady hums and settles back into her velvet throne and asks you to partake in a nightcap before retiring.

It is those moments that she shows her appreciation of your efforts. Her voice gentling, almost to a whisper against the fireplace’s crackling and the howl of the wind beyond the plane of glass that cascades moonlight into her office. Sometimes she fills the silence with days long gone by—her time singing in speakeasies in the States, the various troubles her daughters got themselves in decades before, or inane tales of her childhood misadventures. Those always bring a soft flare into her amber eyes as her gaze settles into the flickering and licking flames. The lines on her face crinkle as she huffs out a laugh and her white teeth flash in the light.

(It’s those times your chest flutters with an unfamiliar buzzing that has your limbs tingle and your cheeks grow warm and not from the alcohol. You’re always left confused. But the foreignness is nearly always preceded by the thought that you’ve never seen such a beautiful sight before in your life.)

Other times, you both settle in silence, draped by the night and thoughts. The pops and hissing wood dancing between your bodies as if teasing the air. Nary a word is spoken save for soft ‘good nights’ when you eventually have to leave.

There are additional times, though rare enough that you can count them on one hand, that you reminisced about your own happy childhood memories—the few remaining good things you remember from your life before breaking free. And though you see her gaze full of questions and lips pressed in a purse to stop herself from voicing them, the Lady—Alcina in these times, she insists—never pushes or pries into why you of all people decided to come to this god-forsaken village.

All she needs is to ask—you’ll happily tell her the truth. Yet, she’s too much of a demure woman to cross that line of your privacy.

(It’s strange. The other servants of the castle have been vetted and cleared relentlessly, made sure that their issues will never give them a reason to interfere with the Lady’s and her daughters’ affairs.

Until you came.

Then again, you weren’t really like the other maids, were you? Not with your keen sight, hearing, and smell, or the gnarly scar crossing your cheek, rounding your eye socket, and ending over your nose. Not with the coiled strength beneath your frame. Not with the way you hold your body as if danger is around every corner. Sure, you’re different, but what makes you so special?)

Those small moments are when you know the Lady values your work. She’s more a woman of definitive action rather than fleeting words. It’s one of the many things you’ve learned over the near year working in the castle.

Among them, the fact that your dear Lady will not take a break even if her fingers and eyes are raw from paperwork.

Despite the fact you do admire the woman’s determination, her stubbornness is the most infuriating thing in this damn fortress.

(Well, one of the most infuriating things—if Daniela tries to adopt another rabid ghoul one more time. . .)

Well, regardless, her bullheadedness is one of the few things that makes the two of you butt heads. It especially worsens when her usual tactics of intimidation don’t work on her precious assistant. Some would say you had a death wish. Her anger is notorious around the castle, echoing the halls and rattling the bones of all who heard. All, but you.

(You grew up in a den of snakes where poisoning others were a delightful pastime, you could handle her simple strikes of frustration.)

It took only three times of her infamous anger and shouts rolling off your shoulders like water before she learned that her rage would not sway your own equal stubbornness.

(Cassandra muttered that you two were “perfect for each other” and Daniela said you two should “just fuck and get it over with” when they thought the thick doors of the Lady’s office muted the words. Bela’s swift slaps to the back of their heads shut them up before any other choice phrases could be heard. You don’t know why, but you’re certain you caught just a glimpse of your Lady’s cheeks darken before she stomped out into the hall.)

But the Lady is nothing if not adaptable in her stubbornness. Her pride and grit making sure she got around your insistence on breaks, particularly by sending you off on a mountain of errands and having her girls distract you. However, those methods only last until your duties dwindled and the girls got bored of pestering you to come with them to every nook and cranny of the castle.

Once you learned of her trickery, not even the girl’s half-hearted pleas were enough to keep you from reentering the Lady’s office. Her crimson lips barely produced a singular sound before you were by her seated side with determined fire in your eyes that she couldn’t extinguish. She notably couldn’t say anything as shock overtook her when you showed just how strong your kind was and lifted her from her chair, the Lady’s later feeble protests going on deaf, unwavering ears moments later as you marched off with her.

(“Oh,” Cassandra sang as the girls buzzed around the two of you in a persistent flurry of curious flies and giggles. They circled and circled as their mother gripped your shoulders and berated you with phrases you didn’t know could be used against the likes of you or even been spoken since the time of the Lady’s birth. “Sweeping our mother off of her feet, aren’t you, little assistant?”

It was likely the lighting, but her Lady’s cheeks flushed as she gave her second child a stern glare from beyond your frame. It was only met with maniac snickers—even Bela joining in on the torment.)

Since that evening, the Lady has since surrendered to your demands of a healthier, more streamlined form of work-respite balance. The first few times, she begrudgingly heeded your claims and distanced herself from her work. However, as the minutes went by, you watched as her creases smoothed, her jaw relaxed and softened, and her shoulders dipped ever so slightly—just enough that she wasn’t taut and ready to break. She didn’t verbally say her appreciation, like many of the things you do for her, but her gaze falling on you, smoldering and smoldering, and her long fingers skimming the plane of your shoulders as she passed by, scorching and scorching, was just that.

(That look and graze is repeated over and over in your mind as your hand slips over your core and your hips rock against your fingers, her Lady’s name on your dry tongue, picturing her there instead of your lonely bed.)

She took to your suggestions after that. Taking time out of hectic hours to make a circuit of the castle, relaxing against the railing of her study and sipping on a freshly brewed cup of tea, or even visiting her daughters in the music room much to the girls’ delight.

(And as much as you hate it, she sometimes, though seldom, also calls for one of the maidens to join her in the main chambers if the duties of the day were particularly taxing. Her golden eyes would search for yours as she requests for her next distraction, and you unquestioningly do as you’re told. Though the revolting coil around your chest clenches every time the young women enter her room.

Not out of disgust. You’re not that much as hypocritic. But of something you dare not name in her Lady’s presence.

The coil tightened particularly dangerously one night during one of these unfortunate demands when the Lady left her chamber door open.

Strange, you thought, as you turned into the hallway. It should have been closed. You were certain you closed it behind you when bringing the woman to your Lady. You’re damn well certain. But there it was.

Open.

Inviting.

Tempting.

But you had a duty to keep your Lady’s affairs secluded and quiet, by her command. Closing the door is what a good, obedient servant would accomplish. And so, that’s what you aimed to do—whines, grunts, and other sweet enticing sounds be damned.

Coming up with silent steps and a trembling hand, your fingers wrapped around the brass handle just as a guttural, delicious moan escaped your Lady’s chest. In a particularly familiar cadence, the word caused you to pause and look up—like anyone would do if even the vague perception of their moniker was said.

And the sight through the crack of the door was near godly. Sinful. Utterly divine. It still haunts your dreams to this day. Clawing and scratching against your conscious, ready to be seen again and again during cold, solitary nights with nothing but time and your hand.

There on the edge of her large, plush bed was your Lady, still clothed, though disheveled—hair unkept, dress rumpled, lipstick smudged. Her pale slate skin was flushed dark and blotchy as her seething eyes took in the writhing maiden on her massive ashen thigh. The young woman rocked back and forth, pleasure evident by the gloss left sweetly behind with each movement. Shirt torn open to reveal skin blemished with lipstick stains and bite marks, sweat highlighting each and every curve and angle. Slick and lewd sounds pierced the air in a deviant orchestra of delight and sin. The maiden’s head was lulled back, exposing a bloodied neck, ecstasy rolling through her spine and causing her posture to falter with each press of the Lady’s thigh and the circling of her large fingers to somewhere you cannot see but can easily imagine.

The curling in your gut spun and descended into a pit between your hips, burning and aching, twisting and snaring. Delicious heat spread to every limb and digit and threatened to spur your body forward without consequence. You so desperately wanted to walk in, discard the maiden, and take your rightful place on the Lady’s thigh and even her fingers. You wanted her lips and teeth on you. You wanted her to look at you with such vulgarity, such utter carnality, and sheer desire that it almost made you lose yourself then and there.

You wanted the Lady. You wanted Alcina.

That clear thought in a haze of hormones and craving nearly made you buckle beneath the realization. But you caught yourself just before you stumbled forward and pivoted around to lean against the cool wall to stave off your rising warmth. Though the frigid marble did nothing for your raging mind and heart.

The familiar itch of the scars around your body prickled along your skin, concentrated across your face in a tormenting reminder of your imperfections. Flaws from days long gone. So, with a deep steadying breath, you straightened, adjusted the collar of your suit, and squared your shoulders.

Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter.

You’re here to serve. Here to survive.

Not flounder around with half-baked feelings and desires. You had a duty to do. And you will not falter.

So, with inhumanly quiet steps, you reclaimed your spot before that door and took the handle between your fingers. You had to bite the inside of your cheek hard enough to draw blood to not peer up at the scene again, lest the fragile hold on your restraint may shatter. After a moment and a deep breath, you closed the door—not even your sharp hearing picking up on the sound over the noises in the chamber.

And you left. Body abuzz with heated blood and shallow exhales.

You ignored how your ears perked up as the final breathy whine sounded awfully close to your name.)

Again, the Lady doesn’t verbally say her appreciation. But the way she smiles, eyes brightening from the deadness of staring at letters and dossiers all morning, as you come into her office with a tray of various teas and a cigarette is exactly that. Gratitude that you’ll keep near and dear to your heart despite how futile it is. You always return the smile, trying to hide the emotions with rehearsed words and keeping yourself busy around her office.

It is more often than not you accompany her on breaks, either sitting adjacent on the finely crafted settee and enjoying the warmth of the teas picked for the day or joining her for routes around the castle side and adoring how her voice resounds around the halls when speaking of its long history.

Her smiles are coming easier, you think, from the first time you’ve entered the castle. Yes, she smiled then, beautiful still, but deathly and almost like she held a blade to one’s throat and enjoyed them squirming. It is those smiles she aims at some poor soul who is foolish enough to stumble upon the fortress in hopes of ill-imagined treasures or even a hunter who heard of the three delicate girls and their mother, thinking them easy targets to bolster their mantles. That smile is still present—oh it is, especially when a man-thing is in her clutches, claws poised to strike when their pleas cease to delight her whims.

But these she aims at her daughters—and over the last year at you . . . well, it is gentle and that is not a word outsiders would easily call the Lady. It is a smile that deepened her laugh lines and crinkled her eyes that told of her age and experience. It makes her more real, more vulnerable, that its presence is always a blessing to those in the room. More, dare you say, human.

And this is coming from a woman who towers above everyone and holds their attention like a vice around their necks. From a woman whose absolute aura makes the air in a room thick with either death or promise.

You only hope that your help leads to more smiles like the ones she aims at you.


Bela mentions something earlier today when the daughters are in the library, and they dragged you off with them so you can read from a book. Their mother was busy in a meeting with the other lords and had to reluctantly cancel spending time with them. And it seems they managed to track down the next best person.

Cassandra’s legs are across your thighs, languidly taking up most of the room on the couch, Daniela is leaning and gripping at your side, wildfire hair tickling your neck as she rests her temple against your chest, and Bela is on the floor, sitting on a plush pillow and resting her chin on your knee. Your voice carries well through the library, though it started to hoarse toward the end of the chapter. It is a simple book, old and a bit beat up from wear, but the contents are well-liked and astute—an anthology of poems and short stories of romances.

(Though the girls will never outright say it, they absolutely adore romances and fantasies of true love and courtship. Daniela is the most ardent of the three. Often, she’s one asking for them to the Duke. But the others are just as culpable albeit more secretive about it. You’ve caught Bela and Cassandra on multiple separate occasions sneaking off to read them in the corner of the library, absconded away from sight when one first enters. If you didn’t catch the title of the book before they hid it behind their back, then the flinting eyes and their stutters definitely gave them away. You tease the Lady that she raised a trio of romantics, and she grudgingly but lovingly agrees.)

“. . .I break wild roses, scatter them over her.
The thorns between us sting like love's pain.
Her flesh, bitter and salt to my tongue,
I taste with endless kisses and taste again.

At dawn I leave her
Asleep in my wakening garden.
(For what was done there
I ask no man pardon.)”

Your voice trails off, leaning into the silence encompassing the library. It’s sore and dry after reading too many passages without break. But the way the girls’ eyes are closed and they hum along as if listening to a priest’s sermon beckoned you to persist despite your discomfort. Slowly you shut the book, the soft thump stirring the daughters. Daniela cuddles more into you and squeezes your side to anchor herself. Cassandra wiggles against your lap to keep you there. Bela’s fingers grip the back of your calf. You grin at their antics.

“Girls please, I need to leave for my duties.”

But you make no effort to move. It is well known that your kind runs warmer than the average human and the daughters absolutely delight in it whenever they can. Especially during the colder months and quiet times. Some may say they were clingy or even needy, however, you never minded the way they always seemed to orbit around you whenever they got the chance. You only protested whenever their physical demands got in the way of your tasks, like fixing the gaps in the iron gates or tuning up your motorcycle.

“One more,” murmurs Daniela against your shoulder, nudging herself deeper into the cushion.

You roll your eyes. “You said that two chapters ago.”

The third daughter only grumbles.

“Why can’t you stay?” Cassandra asks, twirling a push dagger between her fingers. “Mother won’t be back for another two hours. I’m sure she won’t notice if you get them done an hour or minute before.”

You give her a playful eye roll and a nudge with your knuckles. “Because it’s nearly harvest time and you know how hectic our schedules will be if we’re not prepared beforehand. I’d rather not deal with idiotic questions the day before an inaugural shipment.”

Cassandra crosses her arms and purses her lips. Her mouth opens for further protest but a distant creak of a large door on the south side of the castle makes your head tilt and eyes flicker. A rueful smile plays along your lips. “Well, none of us can stay it seems,” you start, clicks of tell-tale heels on marble echoing in your senses. “Because the Lady seems to have arrived earlier than expected.”

That seems to have done the trick to release you from the Dimitrescu daughters’ clutches. Cassandra and Daniela gasp out a “mother” before bursting into jittering swarms of flies and dash out of the room, excited giggling giving way to greeting shouts moments later. You share a look with Bela and you both chuckle silently at the youngers’ antics. The older sister retracts from your knee and stands and stretches as if a cat is interrupted from their perch before a hearth. She takes the tome from your lap and returns it to its designated shelf, not before peeking at the next chapter’s first few sentences. You just manage not to comment on it.

Rising from the seat, you run your hands down your front to smooth out any wrinkles and adjust your tailcoat. All the while, the tell-tale intensity of Bela’s golden stare burns into your temples, almost as scorching as her Lady’s.

You ignore her for a second to assess the nature of her Lady’s and her other two daughter’s conversation—it’s lively, but on the move to the eastern end of the castle, where their mother’s office is. It seems her work is far from being done today. You make a mental note to get the wine, tea, and sanguine decanters ready in the kitchen.

With a raised brow, you turn to Bela, whose eyes never left your form. “Is there something else you need, Bela?” You have long dropped the formalities with the girls on their insistences after the first few months.

Her lips purse, much like her mother when in thought and you resist smiling. The eldest’s eyes are distant, staring where the book now stands, golden inlaid spine almost as brilliant as her irises. You know it’s not hesitation that stops her from talking, rather it's her trying to sort out the cacophony of thoughts in her mind. She always did think through every scenario before broaching an idea.

“What did you think of the selection today?” She asks, not looking at you.

Your brow quirks. “I found it nice—if a bit melodramatic at times.”

Bela flashes you a grin, agreeing. You two always lamented about the histrionics of some stories and poems, much to the other daughters’ distaste. They were particularly taken with epic loves, ones that started wars and crossed worlds.

“I found the first one to be the most interesting, I think . . . if sad.”

It takes you a moment to remember the chapter as you nearly narrated a fifth of the book before the Lady arrived back. It was a short chapter, written by an anonymous author, who told the story of a knight-errant on a quest to lift a curse. It was told in a series of rules of the chivalric code and duty, juxtaposed by past interactions with the princess that highlighted said code. Slowly the story unraveled in a predictable but no less pleasant way. The knight battled through swamps, bandits, and dungeons to get the cure for their charge. And as the antidote was found and brought back, the twist was revealed that all of the fighting and adventure was for naught as it was revealed that the princess was to marry another. The sudden shift in grand romance to a tragedy made Daniela audibly gasp and Cassandra stiffen. Even you had to pause when it was disclosed and blinked when it ended on the wedding day and the knight stood silently to the side as they watched the princess say her vows.

You hum, “I think it was fitting. Sometimes the best loves don’t come into fruition.”

Bela’s brows furrow but she nods. “Still, I like Daniela’s suggestion that they run away in the end.”

“Wishful thinking.”

With that, she eyes you and huffs, “Is it wishful to think that propriety and duty shouldn’t get in the way of happiness?”

You shrug and meet her look with equal sturdiness. “I think the author intended for it to be a cautionary tale.” A flippant wave of a hand, you continued. “Not to reach too high above your station and whatnot.”

Bela nearly loses her eyes rolling them so hard. She turns to you, arms crossed. Instinctually, you straighten your back and clasp your hands behind. “That’s what you got?”

Shrugging, heat rises on your neck. “I suppose. Though I’m no literary critic. My parents didn’t necessarily encourage reading between the lines much. Don’t have much practice in that regard.” You always hated when this distinction comes up. It highlights how different you are from the rest of the Dimitrescu women, how they were encouraged to pursue talents and hobbies beyond physical strength and keeping one prepped for war. The fact that the castle’s library was the largest you’ve seen is a testament to this.

The daughter’s eyes soften at that despite not knowing the full story of your past, but she knows enough to understand what you are implying. “Well, I interpreted it differently.” She resumes, voice serious but somehow encouraging when she notices your questioning gaze. “I think it cautions against holding duty above what you want, that some things are worth taking a risk for. It was clear that the feelings were mutual—but because of respective obligations, the two couldn’t get together.”

You hum and nod. Bela rounds the couch and keeps her eyes on you as she does. Parts of her body dusts into flies as her final words echo in the air.

“Sometimes taking a risk may be the only time you get to have what you want.”

And then she’s gone, leaving you puzzled.


The rest of the day goes by like usual. Making your rounds through the castle, ensuring the staff has accomplished the tasks for the day, looking for any more projects you can add to your growing list of repairs around the area, checking on the Lady and her daughters. Some hours are longer than others, but there is a sense of accomplishment in your treks. It’s not work you imagined yourself doing years past, yet it is work that you can appreciate and see the outcome come to maturity.

In the meantime, the Lady has secluded herself in her office since the Lord meeting, much to her daughters’ dismay. Even yours.

Typically, such meetings left her wanting to do nothing more than be in the presence of her family while sipping on a chalice of her finest vintage. However, the upcoming harvest and Mother Miranda’s plans seemed to be more pertinent than ever and the perfect storm for work on top of work.

After the fourth break of wandering through the castle or having her tea on the balcony, you knew it would be a long night ahead for the Lady—and you. She would protest you staying up with her, however, she couldn’t deny that you by her side made the night go smoother than if she was alone. Also, you tended to catch when her handwriting morphed into illegible scribbles, which you doubt her subsidiaries would appreciate if she sent them off in the state they were in.

(The first—and only—time you called her delirious, late-night handwriting ‘chicken scratch’ almost had you skewered with her prized, decades-old fountainpen. She similarly muttered some choice Romanian curses that would make a seasoned sailor blush.)

It is half-past one in the morning when you return to her office, the castle still in sleep and night, awaiting the next day. You cast your senses to the girls and smile as you only hear the steady hum of their slumbering bodies. They may have different circadian rhythms than others due to their unique physiology, but they do eventually have to rest like everything else. So, it seems it is just the Lady and you as the only awake creatures at this witching hour.

Balancing the tray of tea in your hand, you maneuver the door open and enter without knocking. You know the Lady has heard your footsteps long before you turned into the hallway so there is no point in being redundant and distributing the night as it is.

The Lady doesn’t look up from the dossier pinched between her fingers, instead just hums an acknowledgment.

Her office is swathed in warm yellow light from the oil lamp on the corner of her impressive desk and the orange glow from the lit fireplace on the eastern side of the room. The open curtains of the large windows behind her give no other illumination as the sky is shrouded in gloomy clouds that hide the waning moon and stars alike. Occasionally the dying flame licks of the fire shift the shadows, highlighting the angles of her face, sharpening her features even more. Her signature broad-brimmed hat has long been divested since the third break. It’s with few people she’s comfortable showing the scar starting at her temple and ending somewhere in the hairline. It’s hardly anything to balk at really, it’s thin, not even a fourth of an inch wide, thanks to her regenerative ability since the Cadou implantation, but it is just off-color to her typical pallor that it is noticeable to a keen eye.

(Yet, you understand why she wishes to hide it. For a woman with no imperfections in your opinion, something so small may fester on her prized vanity.)

It’s these moments that you enjoy most of all. Her barriers are tossed to the side like her heels and hat, her makeup not as flawless as the morning applying it, and the half-moon glasses perched on her nose. It’s a contrast her to usual put-together self, walls as tall as the spires of the castles and near impervious as the stone. You can’t help but smile to yourself as you venture further into the room and quickly set the tray down on the coffee table before the hearth. Well-practiced motions flow through your muscles as you pour the earthy tea, add a splash of blood collected from the cellar, and stir in a cube of sugar. Just how your Lady enjoys it.

At the ting of the spoon against the porcelain echoes in the space, the papers from the Lady’s hand fall to the desk. Familiar pops of her bones follow suit as she rolls her shoulders back and stiffly tilts her head side to side, a hiss of discomfort escaping her lips. It is then her eyes descend on your form approaching the side of the desk, irises ablaze like the once roaring fire in the hearth. An almost imperceivable quirk of her lips greets you as your pass off the teacup and saucer to her.

Even the aroma of the drink dips her shoulders an inch as she takes off her spectacles.

“Any progress since I last came by?” You ask, turning back to the fireplace and pulling back the screen to add a log to the dying blaze. Sparks and smoke plume up as the wood settles and catches, the area growing hotter and brighter as you step away. The shades of the room deepen and press to the corners as you stalk your way back.

She hums as she sips at the tea, much more elegant than you could ever achieve. “Thankfully, I’m past last season’s expenditures. But the budgeting is proven far too narrow for my liking.”

You peer about the various papers around her desk, the words and terms now understood than they would have been five years ago. Past-you would snort and nearly laugh themselves to death if they knew where you would end up—knowing about expenditures, annuity, margins—hell, even malolactic fermentation, oenology, and volatile acidity. What a wonder a year could change, you think, as you perch yourself on the edge of her desk, gloved fingers finding the article the Lady was just reading. It only takes a few seconds of scanning the numbers to understand why this new acquisition is so challenging. It’s no wonder they took the Lady’s offer so quickly—the business would have crumbled within the next year or two.

“I see what you mean. They were producing more than they could sell.” You scoff. “Even I know the basics of supply and demand.”

Her crimson lips twist up more, but as she straightens in her chair her mouth pulls downward in a grimace and she inhales fiercely. Paper immediately forgotten, your attention roams her torso for any sign of injury. As useless as it is for a woman who could face a ballistic claymore and come away with nothing more than a dirtied dress and a new inconvenience.

The Lady’s gaze flicks to your own, still at eye level despite her sitting, and she waves away your concern with a glib hand. “Don’t fret. Only the reward for productivity.”

(Despite her godly regenerative abilities, she can still ache—no doubt residuals from her age when she was implanted with the Cadou. Like the reading glasses she had on her nose. You remember vaguely that the Lady said something about the operation enhancing but not curing. What was already there would be used for the benefit of the host or simply be ignored. Degenerative pains like worsening eyesight and aching bones from maturity were disregarded in favor of other aspects of the person’s genome.)

You just resist berating her for not pacing herself and stretching every once in a while, like you suggested, however, you know that would only instill her obstinacy more. And by the way her shoulders are set squared, though one is higher than the other, but her back still inline like she is at a banquet, you’re certain your words will only be answered with a snark comment and more persistence. Even in pain, the Lady is too stubborn for her own good.

(It would be admirable if it weren’t so irritating because you care. You hate to see her like this.

You’d gladly soothe all her ailments if you could.)

A vague idea spouts in your mind and it takes only a second to decide if you should voice it before the Lady lifts her arms again to take another taste of the tea. Her shoulder spasms slightly that it clatters the porcelain. You straighten from your perch on the desk and begin taking off your gloves, finger by finger. The Lady’s brows furrow but her gaze blinks down slightly as the back of your hands are revealed—it’s no secret that they weren’t spared from your past if the scars are anything to go by. A particularly nasty one in the shape of a strange dental arcade is the flaw that caught her attention, lingering and silently prodding before etiquette has her gaze flick back up to your face.

(It’s no secret that you preferred the tailed butler suit for comfort but also because it’s easier to hide the blemishes across your body. High collared, easy to add gloves, and few possibilities of a clothing mishap revealing your legs. Sure, when working outside you prefer lightweight garments, but there’s still a chance the girls will sneak up and be curious about the various markings scattering across your shoulders.

You suppose by the way your tone was a tad too coy and the everchanging nature of how you received them tipped the Lady off about their true nature. Her eyes were uncharacteristically subdued when she ushered the girls away to keep them from asking too invasive inquiries. She put the pieces together and didn’t want her girls to unwittingly bring up old, festering memories for you.

You thanked her in your own way by adding an extra helping of blood to her tea that afternoon.)

“Which side is bothering you, my Lady?” You ask as you place the gloves on the desk.

There’s a pause before her right shoulder shifts and another grimace contorts her mouth. “My writing one, unfortunately. It’s been making it rather hard to put down notes as of late.”

“And is there a reason you didn’t call me in earlier to help?”

The playfulness in your voice has her lips purse and cheeks puff ever so slightly. It isn’t a pout—Countess Alcina Dimitrescu, Lady of the Castle, and Lord of the Village doesn’t pout, she said as she pouted the first time you brought it up—although it is endearing enough that your eyebrow arches and you grin.

“You were working.” She persists.

You nod and step off to the side to bring forth a footstool the Lady sometimes uses to rest her feet up. A hum escapes you as you push it behind her chair. “And what sort of work does one have at midnight that’s so pertinent?”

If you were any other servant, such teasing would have you sliced to gory ribbons and quickly dragged off to the cellar, so your blood and flesh won’t go to waste. Yet you weren’t any other servant, are you? Not in the way her lips twitch upwards and her eyes crinkle as she peers at you from the side.

Rounding the Lady, no answer comes as you offer your weathered hand out and say, “May I?”

There is only a moment’s hesitation before she obliges, letting her large, delicate fingers rest in the divot of your palm, but not before her brows drew together, still unsure what you have in mind. With a reassuring smile, your other battered hand comes up to steady hers as the first one curls, pressing your knuckles into her palm and screwing into the muscle and tendon. She lets loose a hissing sigh as you give her palm another pass. You switch over to your digits to get her finger knuckles and meat of her thumb, and the Lady spreads her hand, chasing the sensation.

(Her skin is soft, oh so soft and smooth, no doubt putting to use the various oils and lotions she has stashed in her chambers that smell of flowers and spices. Her fingers are so lengthy and pale, bigger than any man’s hands, but there is ultimately a feminine shape to them, tapering off into slender points and nails manicured and lacquered with crimson red. And there is also age there, if one looks close enough, with the slightest amount of sag and wrinkles and perhaps a darkened spot here and there. Again, a testament to when Mother Miranda introduced the Cadou to the Lady.

Yet they are no less beautiful and elegant, like the woman they are attached to.

It makes you sick seeing your tattered and scarred ones holding something so refined. Something so beyond a mutt like yourself. It’s as if your touch could tarnish whatever beauty the Lady has. With the toughed skin, callouses, and marred patterns—a peasant’s hands. Ones that have worked and worked with no reprieve, ones that have bled and broke time and time again from a cruel family and world. They are what villagers claim to be those of a monster.)

Bubbling heat rises on your cheeks, but you conceal it by splaying the fingers more and bending the wrist to dig into the palm one last time before you move on. Lady’s cool breath curls around your fingers as she exhales again, her humming and eyes sliding close.

You smirk and send a mischievous look up. “I was always told I was good with my hands.”

Something very close to a snort escapes the Lady’s nose and her lips stretch into a grin, teeth glinting in the firelight. A low chuckle sounds a second later as you push up to her wrist and let your finger skim the underside. You quirk a brow and see a darkening shade on her face as her arm trembles.

“Ticklish?”

Although she scoffs, she doesn’t retract her hand as you continue knuckling, pressing, and smoothing upward to the junction of her ulna and radius. With your knowledge of anatomy and the Lady’s size, the contours of the muscle and tendons are easy to find and chase away the knots and aches even through her cream cloth.

Hardly.”

Taking that as a challenge, one of your hands travels down again as if to rework the wrist, but instead, you let the tips of your fingers brush the underside, featherlike although purposeful. She sucks in a breath as a shiver runs up her arm. She opens her eyes, piercing and deathly, holding you there with a chilling look from under her lashes.

“Tread carefully, dear.”

Despite the warning, a curling, jittering excitement builds in your chest. The tone would have any other quake and submit coupled with the glare, yet you take it in stride as her eyes don’t hold the intent typical of such as threat. Dare you say, it is playful.

You answer with a goofy grin, one that makes her stern features allay ever so slightly. “I’ll do my best.”

She hums, which quickly morphs into a low, chest-bound sigh that makes her torso deflate as your hand travels higher to her upper arm. Your fingers deftly seek out the bunches of muscle and knots that have instilled themselves into your Lady throughout the day. Intent and swift, you make sure the coils of stress are reduced before you move on to another bundle, fingers rubbing and prodding. The Lady’s eyes slip close once more as you knuckle a particularly difficult spot in the crevasse between her bicep and deltoid. You gulp and resist the burning shudder as she lets loose a deep hum that’s almost a moan.

But you persist and keep your breaths even as you rework her limb and hand before you move up to your final destination. Sliding back up when you’ve determined no other knots are present in her arm, you back away and flex your digits before stepping on the footstool, just behind her right shoulder. You breathe in a stabilizing inhale. You immediately regret it.

By the Gods, her scent is strong and tempting—artisan perfume and soap made by centuries-old crafting families, a willowy light rose and clove aroma that tickles your nostrils, skitters over your flesh, and makes your mind foggy with craving. Her chambers were a miasma with it, where she applies it and restocks it regularly and it takes all your might to not stagger and fall to your knees whenever you get a whiff. Especially when the day goes by, like now, and the smell has diminished like the sun below the horizon, and it mingles with her natural fragrance of soft silks, mountain air, and liquid iron.

(And something else in this instance, subtle yet a heady smell that you can’t quite place—or at least don’t want to place in fear of your imagination.)

Your tongue is suddenly dry and you swallow a lump clutching at your throat.

(Now is not the time to falter. You still have a duty to do before you can release later in your bed.)

With a few last stretches of your fingers and palms, you bring them to the Lady’s back and begin kneading at the point of her shoulder with determined and powerful fingers. Only this time she releases a heavy hiss that makes you pause.

“Did I hurt you?” That’s the last thing you want.

A low chuckle and she replies effortlessly, “Not in the traditional sense.” She gives a pause and shifts so her head leans to the side, exposing more of her long, elegant neck. Your eyes immediately go to the pulse point where her slow heartbeat pounds. You bite your tongue from licking your lips. “Please, continue.”

At the sound of her deep and silken voice, you resume your ministrations at the shoulder girdle and smooth out the coils upon coils of tension, rubbing along bone, sinew, and ligaments. More and more delicious sounds are rising for the Lady’s chest and you’re suddenly very glad you’re behind her at the moment because you can’t fathom trying to make an excuse as to why your visage is so hot.

(Or how your eyes are darker than the night, shining with uncensored want.

Your hands are going to hurt tomorrow if she continues these mewls.)

Heat is spilling down your body and collecting between your hips, curling and curling, so delectably but oh so tragically that borders on pleasure and pain. Gods you want this woman. You’re nearly going insane just by hearing her like this. She’s so close yet so far away.

But you continue without a word, pressing your fingers and knuckles into her muscles, eliciting sounds that you’ll have no problem repeating in the sanctity of your bedroom. Slowly you move inward, rubbing out the tension bundled at her neck, finding little points where your rough but sturdy fingers are slowly unbinding them. The Lady exposes more and more of her pale, luscious neckline and while it allows you to get in the areas you couldn’t, it is also so very enticing. Images of your bending downward and taking her pulse in your lips has your fingers twitching and jaw clenching. Your breathing is hot. Your body is burning. Your skin is aflame as your palms slide up her neck, fingers the match, the Lady’s neck the surface, and the heat the spark.

Her raven locks bob dangerously to the other side that is no doubt uncomfortable. And that is the last thing you want at the moment.

Your other hand snakes around her shoulder, skimming the other side and cupping her left cheek. But not before letting your fingers trace the sharp jut of her jaw as you card your digits through her velvet hair and tuck errant strands behind her ear. The Lady abruptly shivers and inhales sharply as if exposed to a cool gust. Which shouldn’t happen because the air in this office is toasty from the flame in the corner and the two close bodies. Strange.

The new position proves advantageous for two reasons. One, the additional support allows you to press harder and more directly into twisted knots along the slate grey column of her neck, producing more groans and sighs from the woman. The kneading is easier and is clearly being enjoyed by the Lady. Two, well . . . it made you press closer to the Lady, chest brushing the plane of her shoulders and arms wrapped solidly around her frame.

(You’re drowning in this woman, suffocating, flooding yourself by continuing like this. Selfishly and oh so torturingly.)

Though your knuckles are aching, you’d rather die than stop, rather perish than let the sounds coming from her cease.

Yet, as the last knots are being massaged away and your fingers are smoothing out the tendons and muscle from her shoulder to the base of her skull, you know it will ultimately end lest you be punished for overstaying your welcome.

(Then again, it doesn’t sound like the Lady wants you to stop either.

Not with her groans and sighs morphing into something that you can’t entirely write off as sounds of relaxation from a long, arduous day.

Not with that mysterious, enchanting smell growing steadily and steadily with each ministration across her neck, growing in pungency, into something you desperately want to name but dare not to. Not with your sanity and heart on the blade’s edge as they are.

Sometimes you curse your keen senses.)

At last, your knuckles make a line from the tip of her shoulder to the base of her head, a slow process of kneading out the last remnants of the day that you can get to. The Lady makes an obscene noise then, a definite moan that has you curling your toes and reigniting the flame that has settled below your stomach. It’s thick and loud, rumbling her chest and trembling the back of her chair as if she’s the epicenter of an earthquake. The twine of your self-restraint nearly snaps from that alone, nearly abandoning decorum and leaning forward to finally taste her. Your mouth waters in anticipation of fulfilling your desires.

But your working hand falls away, obediently and defeated, as you bend back as if taking a deep breath after having your head beneath the waves. You almost gasp and stagger away.

Slowly, your push her head up straight and let her senses come back to her. After a moment, her spine strengthens, and she rolls her shoulders. Your fingers greedily brush downward, letting her skin be imprinted on your touch before you step off the footstool. Whether it’s your heart or your own projection, a pounding is insistent in your ears and you’re glad you’re turned away from the Lady for you know she’ll take one look at your troubled appearance and know. Which is the last thing you want now.

A sigh escapes her—a proper one, not something that can be misconstrued in a dirty imagination—and her voice is groggy and deep as if she just rose from slumber. “They were right. You are good with your hands.” Her chuckle is like a teasing touch on your ears, innocent but dangerous to your overheated body.

You hum, not trusting your voice. When the footstool is in its place, you steady yourself by adjusting your collar and coat. The bare skin of your hands ground you, anchor you, and lets the itch of your flawed face come up to your mind.

(Doesn’t matter what you want. You’re here to serve. Here to survive. There’s nothing more you can want without getting hurt.

No matter how your heart strains in your chest. No matter how easy it is to smile here.

It doesn’t matter.)

Turning, you latch your hands behind your form in fear they may wander back the Lady. Feeling the callouses on your fingers, you step forward to get your gloves. You ignore the scorching, heavenly gaze of the Lady.

“How many maidens do we have in the cellar?” Her voice cuts in the air and slices at your heart.

Stillness settles in the office as the words trail off.

You know that question. It’s rare, but still present every time stress and work get to her Lady. Is she still that tense she needs another’s warmth to soothe her? After what you just did? Does she still need another?

A growl builds in your chest in twin with something else. Something nasty, sinister, and desperate that you’ve come to reluctant terms with over the past few months.

Jealousy. You’re fucking jealous. Gods how pathetic are you? You’ve grown attached despite yourself.

She will never be yours.

She can do what she wills with the young women. They are to be used anyway so there’s no stopping the Lady from delving into her merchandise from time to time. Sampling them. For her own pleasure, her own wishes.

(Why can’t she wish for you?)

You come before your gloves and let your fingers fiddle with the leather for a moment, acting as if you are trying to remember. In reality, you are buying time for the snarl to recede back. You can’t meet her eyes, too afraid she may see something you don’t want her to.

“Five, if I remember correctly.”

Of course, you remember correctly. You were just down in the dungeons checking on them. But the Lady doesn’t need to know that.

She hums behind you, low and reverberating. It’s claw scraping at your skull, alluring but oh so hazardous for your heart. Her eyes are still on you, peering into your back as if she’s watching for an accused murderer to slip up. “A bit too few for my liking, but. . .”

You hear her shift in her seat and that’s what causes you to finally look at her after all this time. And the sight nearly has you collapse on your knees.

Her chest is flushed as the flickering, licking flames dance across her exposed cleavage. You watch as the flesh fills her top with ever heaving breaths, straining against the fabric. Pink blotches stamp up her neck and onto her cheeks not even her foundation could cover completely, making for an inciting blush to chase with your tongue across her white skin. The crimson lipstick painted on is cracked and missing in some areas, particularly along her bottom lip—as if she was biting it relentlessly.

But it’s her eyes that have you almost worshiping her then and there. They are absolutely wild. The embers in the hearth highlight the barely visible golden irises encompassed by her blown pupils. It’s as if there’s an eclipse in her gaze, wholly and completely taken over. Sunlight incarnate overshadowed by the night.

And they are unbridled hunger. Ravenous.

And she is staring straight at you with them.

A moment passes.

Then another.

Something is on the precipice, tilting ever so precariously over the edge, and a single nudge would topple it over.

Your fingers flex, traitorously. The movement has the Lady’s gaze snap there for a second before she abruptly looks off into the fire, eyes shining with something you don’t want to presume. Her jaw works and the shades of the blaze sharpens her cheekbones and nose.

“Bring me a maiden.” Her voice is harsh, far too harsh for the circumstance. It sounded almost . . . strained. Like the breath she inhales, a staggering thing that scratches against her chest.

As if on autopilot, you give her a stiff nod despite yourself and turn to leave. However, as soon as you step away your legs stop dead in their tracks and stand before the hearth, heat creeping along your side as if a wildfire has taken hold of your skin. All you can hear is the pops of woods, the quivering of flames and your own chest.

Pounding and pounding. Popping and popping. Hissing and hissing.

Bela’s cryptic words echo in your mind, to the beat of the blaze and your heart, taunting and too observant for your liking.

Sometimes taking a risk may be the only time you get to have what you want.”

You ball your fists and a shock of pain trembles up your arm as your nails slice into the palms.

No.

Not from the pain.

You are trembling before then. You’re fucking trembling from want. How utterly pathetic.

And yet . . . you lend your hearing to . . . Alcina’s heartbeat . . . it’s normally so calm, so soothing to your ear, a steady staccato that’s too slow for a normal person . . . yet it stumbles on itself in the few moments you listen, like it can’t quite catch up to the next beat.

Sometimes taking a risk may be the only time you get to have what you want.”

Your body stills. Your fists release and relax. Something in you has shifted and you don’t care if it is for the worse.

As if any sudden movement will scare away your resolve, you turn with the speed of a predator stalking prey—slow and deliberate, as one small misstep will have the one in your sights jerk and sprint away.

Alcina still sits on her throne of a chair, fire playing across her features, caressing like you so desperately want to. Her aureate eyes are distant and her mouth is settled in a thin line. She’s more a marble statue than a being in this glow.

However, you step closer and her gaze catches on yours. You take another stride and her fingers carve into the wood armrests of her chair, knuckles going deathly pale. Both of your gazes don’t break as you stand before her, eclipsing the firelight with your form, a form of shadow and desire rolled into one. The shades darken her eyes but they no less blaze as if they were miniature suns against the backdrop of space.

Her throat works for a moment before she demands, “Is there a problem?” It didn’t hold its usual bite.

A quick shake of your head. Your eyes never leave hers. “Do you trust me?”

(It’s a loaded question to begin with. Alcina nary trusts another outside of her family and even then, she’s willing to part with those on the council if it means protecting her girls. To ask something so profound and important in a hormone-riddled whisper is far from the perfect scenario you’d imagine. But as Alcina continues to leer into your gaze with the intensity of an inferno, the power of a star, you can’t help but think that regardless of circumstance this question was destined to be spoken between you two.)

Her eyes flicker between yours, and her mouth parts and then closes. An eternity passes as the silence lingers between two bodies. But eventually, her fingers unwind against her chair and her shoulders dip ever so slightly. Without a word, she nods.

It is as if a drawn bow has finally been released after an infinity of pulling back the string.

With a final step, you stalk closer, closing the space between, thighs barely skimming her bent knees. A shudder escapes either you or her, but that doesn’t matter.

(Because at this very moment, you’re taking a risk to get what you want.

And you want Alcina.)

You press closer, eyes never leaving her face in fear of hesitation or recoil, and with a smooth motion, you use your knee to part hers. As one leg opens, your other knee presses the other thigh wide. The cream silk stretches and falls along her pale legs, beautifully and tantalizingly. Even clothed, Alcina spread before you is enough to leave you gasping and lightheaded. Her chest expands and her eyes go large and her lips part when you sink down on your knees as you’ve wanted since stepping into her office. A penitent sinner before a goddess incarnate.

Again, you keep your gaze on her visage, waiting for a rescinding consent, for Alcina to push you away and unsheathe her claws. But none of that comes. Instead, her hands once again tighten around the armrests, anchoring and resounding the room with a sharp creaking of wood, and her chest flushes pink. Alcina’s eyes follow your every move with rapt attention, pupils somehow growing as they follow you down to the ground.

Pounding and pounding, your heart hammers in your ears, over and over your head is beaten with rushing blood with each slam against your chest. The previous scorching coil intensifies tenfold, searing and blazing, and it’s a wonder you don’t pass out from the sheer amount of simmering excitement under your skin. Your hips welcome the heat and your mouth waters at the now named scent from earlier.

Gods, it’s so heady, so potent from before. Her scent clouds your mind, so addicting and oh so Alcina—strong, rich, intoxicating, with the tinge of iron. You lick your lips and watch as her chest expands and her mouth quirks at the sight.

You grasp the hem of her dress, the silk far too rough on your skin, and you’re itching to relieve her of it. The dress gives away as it slides upwards as you lift it, revealing curvaceous ivory calves and knees clad in stockings. Your head traitorously dips down, and you skim her newly exposed skin with your eager lips, tongue flicking out to taste what has been kept from you even behind thin fabric. Alcina sucks in a breath when your lips first touch her flesh and the crack of wood accompanies her sigh as your lips continue their trek upward to the top of her knee. Soon hands find themselves searching and searching like your mouth before, kneading up the muscle and caressing. Each stroke is fire. Each stroke is addictive. Each stroke has your head reeling and breath shuddering as your lips rise and rise.

Alcina’s massive legs spasm and flex. Her heart is pulsing and her exhale wobbles with each pass of your hands or lips. Her thighs shift inward from your ministrations, but something feral escapes, and your grip her knees and pry them back open with a growl. Your fingers dig into her supple flesh with bruising strength as you keep her legs parted.

A gasp sounds above you and you glance up and see a shocked but no less hungry Alcina, nails embedded into her chair, cleavage threatening to spill over from her surging breaths. If you thought her eyes were wild earlier, then these are completely savage, utterly crazed. Another snarl lets loose from your throat.

Your hands and mouth climb further up, skirting her stockings, feeling the supple flesh and muscle beneath. Small bites soon accompany your attentions and her reaction of a hiss and sigh makes sure you continue with ardor. With each inch, more and more of her legs are exposed, more skin for you to taste and mark. About half the way up her limb, you stop, fingers dangerously close to the junction of her thigh and hip, and you kneel there, fiddling with the thin material below. No doubt with absolute desire in your gaze, you wait for further permission. It is one thing to tease, but another to continue fully.

It takes moment for Alcina to blink away her haze and peer down at you, mouth agape and eyes hooded and dark. Absolutely entrancing. Her gaze holds you like a vice and you don’t want to leave.

Alcina’s eyes clear for a moment and a small quirk of her lips softens her stare. With a smile, she nods and drops her massive hand on the crown of your head. You take a second to melt under her heavy and warm touch, nuzzling into it and placing a tender kiss on the underside of her wrist before continuing. Dexterous fingers find the hem of her stockings and underwear, slip underneath, and pull. Vaguely the sound of tearing can be heard from the swift action, but you don’t care. Because now they are hanging loosely around her ankles with her cream skirts pushed high on her upper thighs and you’re kneeling before an altar, looking at pure absolution.

Your arms encircle around her massive, pliable thighs and yank her to the corner of the chair to spread them more comfortably. Alcina gasps, hand curling around your head and nails digging into your scalp. Moaning, you lower your mouth once more to her legs, only this time finally tasting her flesh like you truly want.

Kissing.

Sucking.

Licking.

Biting.

Alcina writhes against you, spreading further open and her nails scratching along your skin, eager and desperate. But you keep your tongue caressing where they are and you take your time to travel upwards and upwards, savoring the taste of her flesh in your mouth as if it's your last meal.

(And you haven’t even gotten to the main course yet.)

A delicious, deep moan escapes her throat when your teeth scrap against a particular spot on her inner thigh, where the meat is largest, the stretch marks are deepest, and the most sensitive. You do it again and again after circling it with your tongue, earning more thigh trembles and sighs. Alcina’s hand continues to grip your head and it attempts to press you forward, but your square your shoulders and resist. As much as you want to dive in, as much as you want to consume, there’s still so much you want to relish.

Yet, as her moans slowly turn to whines and incoherent murmurs, Alcina’s scent continues to grow and grow, headier and headier, inciting you with its promise. It beckons and beckons as you rise higher along her legs. Your fingers dig harshly into her flesh to resist lurching forward and devouring like you so desperately want. No doubt any other person would cry out and bruise from such a grip, but not Alcina. Instead, she bucks and groans as your nails carve into her thighs.

(Gods, this woman will be the death of you.)

Suddenly, her mouth forms around the sound of your name, oh so deliciously and oh so frantically that it nearly makes you whimper with her. After all this time of imagining what it would be like during throes of passion on your lonely nights, after all this time thinking you’d never get a chance to hear such beauty from your Lady, your name leaving her lips in a guttural need is what undoes your restraint.

With a whine of your own, you finally reach the apex of her legs, dragging her even further to the edge of the seat, and you peer in awe. Dark, raven curls are neatly trimmed and refined. Her folds are glistening and dripping from your teasing. Utterly divine in the way she twitches forward from the lack of contact and how her thighs widen even further, wanting, needing. Accomplishment rings deep into your chest and a smug smile stretches on your lips.

(You did this.

You.

Not another expendable maiden or some other lackluster woman.

You made your Lady like this, wet and trembling beneath your fingers.)

A near snarl rips you from your revery as you glance up and see Alcina leer down at you through darkened, hooded eyes. You can’t even see the gold of her irises from this angle.

“Darling, if you don’t—”

Her winded voice cuts off into a harsh sigh as you dip down and place an open-mouthed kiss on her mound, dangerously close to the peaking bundle of nerves. Her hips rear up, but your strong hands keep them pinned. The chair creaks behind the force.

“Don’t worry, my Lady,” you say breathless and low, hovering just above where she needs you. No doubt your exhales sending sweet chills through her. “I’m here to serve your every need.”

Then you dive forward.

A long slow swipe of your tongue makes the both of you moan, yet for two different reasons. For Alcina, she finally gets the delicious friction she’s been desiring. Her head tumbles against the back of her chair, spine arching and hips trying to cant up. She releases a loud, long-suffering groan that echoes and dances around the room. Another tongue swipe sends a jolt through her thighs as they close in around your torso, heels digging into your shoulder, pulling and pulling for more. For you, you finally get to taste the scent you’ve been swathed in, coating your tongue with her slickness and feel of her folds on your tongue. She’s briny and dense with a tinge of iron that’s unique to Alcina and Alcina only. After all this time wasted, you can finally get to taste. You lap and lap and lap, eager to savor more and more.

All you can sense is Alcina. How her soft, shuddering flesh molds beneath your fingers and hands as you keep her hips in place and splay her thighs to get better access to the sweetness at her core. How her fingers are curling into your scalp pushing you forward, but then releases and strokes down your neck as if she’s afraid to hurt the one below. You can hear hers and your heartbeats hammering and hammering against your chests. Her moans and sighs travel down in waves to her legs and rumble your arms and chest. How she’s whispering your name over and over like it’s a final prayer of a dying woman, an ultimate plea to the divine force between her hips. How her wetness is soaking your lips, tongue, and chin, that even your persistent strokes and licks are unable to catch every delectable drop.

Your tongue flattens against her opening and teases upwards and circles her clit. She groans in pleasure and frustration but keeps breathing out your name between sighs. You feel her entrance, swollen and red, clench on nothing, and that’s when you decide it's time to stoke the fire more.

Slipping one of your hands from her thigh, you slide it up her middle, gathering her wetness on the fingertips, and let it circle and circle before testing the opening with two. Something creaks beneath her weight as she bucks against your face. Oh, she’s so ready. Ready for you. Sliding your fingers back out, you swiftly glide three back in and curl with no resistance.

A booming moan rattles the room and her legs tighten around your form, hips lifting off the screeching chair. With a deep growl that trembles her entrance and folds, your other hand wraps around Alcina’s middle and stoves her pelvis back down. Again, a gasp leaves her lips at the display of strength.

(As your tongue meets your fingers pumping in and out of her, a arrogant grin couldn’t be stopped from spreading on your face.

How many lovers of Countess Alcina Dimitrescu could say they pinned down her insurmountable form? How many could keep her from rising and bucking and lifting in unadulterated pleasure?

None.

Only you.

Only you.)

As your fingers pump and curl into her core, earning more and more luscious moans, your mouth travels upwards to meet the throbbing bundle of nerves above. You kiss all around it, side to side, up and down, before wrapping your lips around the clit and suck.

Again Alcina bucks and nearly screams your name as more wetness gathers and drips down your hand, your wrist.

Faster and faster you pump, harder and harder and harder you lick and suck, enjoying the sweet incoherent nothings escapes Alcina’s lips and the taste of her. Her sex clutches around your fingers at increasingly faster rates and you know she’s so close. Oh so close to her release. If this is the last thing you ever do, all of your miserable, monstrous life would be worth it just for this singular moment of giving ecstasy to your Lady.

Your jaw aches, and your fingers are stiffening but you don’t dare stop. Not when she’s so close.

Prying your eyes open, you gaze up at the woman above you and moan at what you see.

A large white hand is clasped to her mouth as her head is thrown back, eyes screwed shut in pleasure, exposing her delicious, inviting neck. The other hand is clutching the armrest, but its angle and splinters between her digits tell you she has lost her restraint somewhere along the way. Her blotchy chest is heaving, pale breasts swelling in motion with the pumps of your fingers and tongue. Perspiration clings to her hairline and is gathering in tempting rivets descending down her temples that you so want to catch with your lips. Alcina is utterly and wholly gorgeous even in the throes of passion, when on the verge of coming. It’s perhaps the most beautiful sight you’ve ever witnessed. And you’re determined to see her unravel under your touch.

Doubling your efforts, you add a fourth finger into her core and put more force behind pulsing in and out of her. Inelegant and lewd sounds grow louder and louder like her breathing and groans. Like the slickness of her core coating your face and hand. Your tongue slithers back up to her clit and rolls it in practiced circles and turns before enveloping it in your lips once more. Increasingly, you suck harder and harder in time with thunderous, determined plunges. Alcina grows louder and louder despite the hand clasping over her mouth, the sound reverberating deep in her torso.

In one last devastating thrust and brutal sudden suck, her core clenches around your digits and Alcina pitches upward, hips lifting completely off the chair, heels digging into your back in conjunction with the hard grip of her hand on your head. Her chest shudders and resonates with a guttural half moan, half scream that is only muffled by her palm. No doubt if it isn’t there the entire castle would know what and who made her scream like that. Your hand is soaked down to your wrist and your chin is coated in her slick, delicious wetness. The armrest completely breaks and shatters in her grip, sending splinters scattering across the room. Neck arching, golden eyes rolling back, gorgeous face contorting in pure, unadulterated bliss, she finally comes in a stunning display of power and elegance.

Slowly, you release her clit with a pop and lean your head on the inside of her thigh, decreasing the speed of your pumping fingers as she rides out her orgasm. You watch as she recovers, back slowly descending down and face smoothing and relaxing with every slowed pulse of your hand. Her chest heaves in deep, satisfied breaths.

Your other hand caresses circles into her hip bone in aid to bringing her down back to reality. Nestling into the meat of her thigh, you turn and pepper her muscled flesh with chaste kisses and soothing licks. You breathe in the fragrance that only post-orgasms can permeate as it mixes with her sweat and natural scent. With one last pump, you retract from her core and lean back to kiss down the still quivering thigh. After a moment, you clean off your fingers with your tongue and wipe up the mess that was your chin. Even still, you delight in each drop.

But as you retract your hands from her skin, dark purple and blue marks catch your attention as you move away. They are strewn across her thighs in groups of four or five, littering her pale flesh in nasty marks of your want and carnality. You gulp and flex your fingers as your see some areas where your nails pierced her skin through, blood-smeared and dried.

Guilt pierces your heart and curls around it like a noose. With tremulous hands, you find the bruises and rub at them with a gentleness you never knew you possessed and watch in amazement as they fade under your ministrations after a second. For the ones where both of your limbs were occupied, you placed kisses. Apology after apology, you kiss them away into oblivion.

As you finish and give one last peck on the tip of her knee, long warm fingers brush the length of your nose. You still and peer up at Alcina, wide-eyed.

Though her lipstick is smudged, her hair is tossed, and her mascara blotches around her eyelids, she’s gazing down at you with such affection, such utter adoration that your breath hitches. And she smiles. Truly smiles at you. So tender that your heart aches knowing it's not merited for the likes of you. Her fingers graze the indent of your gnarly scar on your nose, following it down the bridge and under your eye and travel with it up to the tip of your cheekbone in a stroke that makes you blink away stinging tears.

Even as the evidence of her power lay before you in wooden splinters and fading cuts and blemishes, Alcina is so gentle and so soft to you. To you of all people.  

Something claws and scratches at your throat, but you choke it down, instead, you tilt your face and nuzzle into her hand as appreciation.

(Though you don’t deserve such tenderness from such a formidable woman, you will take what you can get.)

After a moment, you inhale a steadying breath and begin to rise from your position. Your knees scream after being neglected for so long, yet you ignore them in favor of slipping down her Lady’s dress hem to give her some form of modesty.

(As useless as it is considering you just buried your face in her sex and made her come hard enough that she broke a chair.)

Straightening, you keep eye contact with the Lady as you roll your sore shoulders and rearrange your rumpled suit coat. Her gaze is still scorching your skin as she watches you turn on shaking legs and pick up your gloves from her desk and slowly pull them on your marred hands.

With the taste of her still on your tongue and the feel of her coming still at the forefront of your mind, with the continual burning deep in your hips, you give the Lady a brief bow.

You glance at the grandfather clock in the corner of the office. You clear your throat before saying, “If there is nothing else the Lady wishes of me, I’ll get back to my duties.”

The Lady’s eyes narrow into a deathly glower, which is lacking in its usual intensity considering her panties are still dangling around her ankles. You back away with a self-satisfied smirk and head for the door.

You don’t know what you just wrought on yourself. The consequences no doubt forming within your Lady’s mind as you leave. But you’re certain you’ll be happy regardless.

(You’re always happy to serve.)