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One thing Hillary had learned from his current establishment was to treasure any moments of tranquillity that came his way, for they invariably never lasted long. Sometimes he yearned to lead the kind of life he'd been trained for, the kind which involved knowing all the intricacies of formal place settings, and the nuances of who should never be seated next to whom. Where an evening might find him announcing distinguished guests upon arrival rather than picking off masked intruders with a shotgun and almost getting himself killed in the process.

Yes, a little excitement was all very well, but now several rooms of Croft Manor were in ruins and it was always he who was left in charge of cleaning up the mess. And on top of that Lara was running off to Cambodia, on some complex mission bequeathed by her late father.

"But how're you going to get to Cambodia and get the clock back in fifteen hours?" Bryce was demanding from his perch on the observatory chair.

"I'll be calling in a favour," she said, gathering her books and papers together.

"What kind of favour?" Hillary said sharply, already concerned for her welfare. The variety of people Lara knew from all walks of life was extraordinary. He continued to pointedly hold out her backpack, to no avail.

"Well, that is a secret. If I told you, I'd have to kill you." She walked out of the room without a backwards glance.

After a puzzled exchange of looks with Bryce, Hillary hurried out after her, still holding the backpack. He didn't manage to catch up to her until they were in the middle of the grand foyer, and then only because she'd stopped there, clearly waiting for him. He held out the bag to her again, and this time she took it.

"In Cambodia, I'm going to be meeting up with… an old friend," she said, looking at him steadily, her face betraying no emotion. "I'm going to need to keep a clear head around him."

It took Hillary a few seconds to process the implications. "Ah."

Although he hadn't been expecting it, he understood - it wasn't the first time something of this kind had happened, after all. The problem with working for Lara - Lady Croft, a vestige of his professional self continued to remind him - was that she didn't believe in merely employing people. While they worked for her, she thought she owned them, body and soul. At any time of the day or night she expected them to competently take care of whatever needed doing. And, as Hillary had discovered not long after his arrival, her expectations sometimes extended far beyond what might be considered a butler's fit and proper duties. However, he had never quite managed to work up the nerve to complain.

"When?" he added. "I was just going to get your things together…"

"I expect you to be ready in ten minutes. The packing can wait a little longer."

She strode off, leaving him blinking nervously in her wake. Right. Well, it was a little more warning than he sometimes got. He turned and headed off quickly to his quarters.


***


Exactly ten minutes later, he was freshly showered, dried, and stretched out naked on top of his covers. By now he knew what she expected of him, the same way he knew exactly how she liked her morning cup of tea. He proceeded to squeeze a little lubricant into his hand, and began stroking himself quickly into full hardness. Lara was habitually careless with clothing, and he had seen her naked or half-naked often enough, but it was only ever during these times, the waiting, that he allowed himself to think of her the way he did now. He let himself imagine her undressing in her room, lying in her bed running her own hands over those full breasts, touching herself there and there until she was warm and wet and flushed and ready…

He gasped and forced himself to keep things slow and easy. If he let himself get too carried away, she would never let him forget it. It was better to think of other things. Cambodia. Probably somewhere in the middle of the jungle, which meant she'd likely want more water supplies than usual. Camping gear? Insect repellent? Musing over the practicalities kept him safely distracted until he heard his bedroom door open and shut.

"Very nice," she said, smiling down at him. Her white silk dressing gown was loosely tied around her, and her feet were bare.

"Thank you."

He had aimed for nonchalance, but the effect was somewhat ruined by the way his voice seemed to have risen the better part of an octave. There was no denying that as much as he might have come to terms with this particular aspect of his duties, being the sole object of Lara's focus tended to make him unaccountably nervous. Worse, it also had the secondary effect of dampening his arousal. He saw Lara shake her head disapprovingly.

"Let me help you with that," she said. It was more of an order than a suggestion.

There was nothing he could do but lie back obediently as she wrapped one slender hand around his shaft and quickly brought him back to full attention. She gave the same single-mindedness to this task as she did to everything else, and he was transfixed by her sheer concentration. Her eyes were intent, her lips slightly parted, but her breathing remained calm and even in distinct contrast to his own.

Before very long, his hands were clutching at the covers, and he had to shut his eyes and concentrate in an attempt to keep his body from betraying him too quickly. He could feel her amusement as she toyed with him, bringing him close to the brink before slowing her pace, demanding that he submit to her control without exceeding it.

"For god's sake, Lara," he begged at last, conceding defeat, although it was a game he had never had the slightest chance of winning.

"That's 'Lady Croft' to you." Her voice was low, almost teasing, but he could hear the finely honed steel beneath.

"Yes, m'lady," he said quickly, although why she insisted on such deference from him here as she did nowhere else, he had never dared to ask.

She let him go with a small sound of satisfaction, and he was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and open his eyes again. He watched in silence as she took a step back from the edge of the bed, untying her robe and letting it fall from around her shoulders in a single rippling movement, a sight that still took his breath away.

As always, Lara seemed completely indifferent to her own nakedness, even as he could not keep himself from staring. She stood and surveyed him critically for a long moment, hands on her hips, head slightly tilted, a smile curving her lips. Then she smoothly moved onto the bed, straddling him as easily as she might mount a horse, resting lightly on top of him with his slippery hardness pressed between them.

"Thank you, Hillary," she said, almost absent-mindedly, in a tone that was both acknowledgement and dismissal. Her gaze flickered lightly over his face but as always he felt that she was looking past him, through him. He'd often wondered who she was thinking of at these times. An old friend? A dead love? But he was the hired help; it was not his place to know.

"Yes, m'lady," he said softly.

She leaned forward, then, going briefly onto all fours, her breasts brushing lightly against his chest. Even when her long braid flicked lightly against his cheek, Hillary lay as still as he could, his arms held loosely by his side. He made no move to help as she took hold of his erection, guiding it into her as she pushed slowly back and down onto it. Letting go, she gasped as she took his full length inside of her, and her grip temporarily tightened on his shoulders.

It was all he could do to maintain his silence. The sensation of being inside her was incredible; yet he held still and let her settle and adjust around him, waiting until she began moving against him in earnest.

"Please," he said at last. "M'lady."

She answered him with a single curt nod, her eyes already closed. Only then did he slowly raise his hands in order to touch her; the sleek curve of her hip, the swell of her buttocks, the satin of her breasts. He thumbed her nipples gently, wanting to do more with his mouth, his hands, but knowing it would only earn him a sharp reprimand. His efforts were rewarded, though, as she moaned on top of him, riding him faster and faster. He didn't know what preparations she habitually made before she came to him, but he knew it wouldn't take her long; it never did.

"Oh," she said softly, and that was all. For several long moments she writhed frantically against him, crying out, clutching at him, temporarily helpless in the face of her orgasm. He could feel the rapid beating of her heart, the rise and fall of her chest as she allowed him to enfold her gently in his arms. But not for long, and never for long enough. Within a minute or two her breathing had slowed again, and she pushed herself slowly off him, shaking her head a little as though to clear it. Her eyes were still distant, distracted. It was not until she was lying beside him that she truly seemed to focus on him once more.

"My dear Hillary," she said, smiling, brushing a hand over his bare shoulder. "What would I do without you?"

Sometimes he dared to ask, and sometimes he didn't, but today she seemed in a happy and relaxed mood, despite the looming deadlines.

"Haven't you forgotten something?" he said, and she laughed. He breathed an inward sigh of relief in having read her correctly. It was always a delicate thing, depending on her mood. Sometimes she demanded formality; at others she wanted him to beg. Once or twice she had simply slipped on her dressing gown and left the room without so much as acknowledging his existence.

"Go on, then," she said.

It was hardly the most flattering invitation in the world, but by this point he had already abandoned most of his dignity anyway. He knelt up on the bed while she positioned herself around him, folding her knees up slightly before pulling him down on top of her.

He entered her in a single, well-lubricated thrust, and then there was nothing in the world but her incredible body and his own overwhelming desire. Finally he could relinquish the hard-fought control he had held himself under for so long. For her sake. There was a bitter edge to his hunger, and sometimes he treated her as roughly as he dared, but it seemed to make little difference to her either way. He knew that if he were to look into her eyes there would be nothing for him there but a fond, amused patience. But if he closed his own he could pretend for a few brief moments that she was his, that he could possess her the same way she unquestionably possessed him. Body and soul.

"Lara," he pleaded as his climax finally swept through him. "My god, Lara."

He collapsed on top of her breathlessly, already fighting to pull himself back together again. As soon as the fog had cleared a little he became acutely aware of her muscles tensed around him, the impatience now virtually radiating from her. Hurriedly he withdrew, rolling over to one side to release her. She swiftly pushed herself up off the bed and reached for her dressing gown, and in an instant his fantasy Lara was gone as though she had never been. It was Lady Croft who turned back to him, tying up her sash.

"I'll be taking the Jeep. And you'll have to hurry - I leave in half an hour," she said, not unkindly, and then there was only the click of the door behind her.

Hillary groaned and slowly worked himself up to a sitting position. Then he swung his legs out of bed and headed off to the shower. Again. One of these days he really would have to inform Lady Croft that it was neither fair nor reasonable of her to demand so much of him, regardless of how much he was paid. Some things were simply beyond the scope of his duties. He would explain it all to her, and surely she would understand. One day.

But in the meantime he needed to get himself showered and dressed immediately. And then somebody really did have to see about the packing.