Not late, not late! However, I do feel bad about all the late posts (even if there were only two), so I’m going to cave in and tell you how many books are in the series.
… I lied. What I’m actually going to do is give you a short story with today’s post. Carry on!
Note: The following short story is better read by adults, or older teens who don’t risk parents peeking. *sly wink*
The Unseelie are the other half of the two different Fae courts. These are the ones who make no pretence at goodness, who embrace every foul and blackened part of themselves with open arms. They remain beneath the ground where they were driven after conquest and they revel, stealing and harming humans and other Fae unless constrained by the Tithe–another reason to make the terms solid. They take their pleasure from the turmoil of others, remaining in their Night Court woven with lies and bloodshed. Their targets? Everyone. Not even their own kind are safe. Who else would they turn to, after all, when all other prey is cut off?
The battle. The march of retreat. The wolves. His sire.
The healing scars burned as much as the memory of their acquisition did.
Gideon hissed, closing his fingers over the wrist of the hand dabbing at the red cuts on his chest.
In return, a throatily amused–and female–chuckle. The sound went straight to his groin and reminded him he had been unconscious for an unknown period of time and had gone without a woman longer than was wise even before that. Surely at three and thirty he ought to have known better–did know better. It had hardly been his choice, after all.
“I see all parts of you have returned to the land of the living,” the rich voice continued. The hand not in his grasp stole under the sheets, flicking them aside with a practised motion. A hum of approval at finding him naked beneath, and then fingers were circling him, his hips bucking involuntarily.
“They have not killed me yet,” he returned tautly, eyes still shut.
“Such optimism,” she crooned, moving her fingers lazily up and down the length of him, enjoying the tension it took him as part of the effort to stay still. No matter; her efforts would come to fruit in the end. “I believe that is the trait I favour most in you.”
He snorted and finally opened his eyes. “You have your hand on the trait of mine you favour most,” he said dryly, with a pointed nod in that direction.
Unoffended, she threw her head back and laughed. With the laugh her hair moved, and the opening of her brat–the long cloak all Irish wore–widened, letting him see she wore nothing beneath.
“Certainly not. You forget your creativity and endurance,” she teased, changing the rhythm of her hand slightly. He grunted approval even as he gave her a scornful look.
“Woman, you are too bold by half. Were we not in a rath, you would have been disciplined by now.” He could all but feel his hand ache with the urge to administer the discipline himself.
She only laughed again. “Only by half? I must be losing my touch. Perhaps….” She leaned over and replaced her hand with her mouth, humming inquisitively with her lips still around him.
“Sophia,” he growled in warning.
She tutted reprovingly, pressing the hand he still held captive against his chest to keep him laid flat when he moved to sit up. “Ah, ah, ah, reopen those cuts and the physic will have my head before we ever give each other any pleasure. It took three nights for them to stop bleeding the first time.” Leaning away and pulling her hand free, she unfastened the heavy brat and threw it to the floor, lifting her hair and letting it fall back over her shoulders on a long sigh. “Much better.”
“Surely one such as yourself has no business wearing her hair in a maiden’s style,” he commented, watching the thick, dark curls tumble down even as he slid his own hand between her leg to touch her as intimately as she had touched him.
A low, content purr, and her hips shifted slightly, legs parting to accommodate the stroking of his finger over heated skin. Lazily, she lifted one shoulder and let it fall. “Men like to think they bed a virgin. I will never understand why. One would think they would prefer some experience.”
“Is that not why they come to you?” he asked, working to sound bored. Her capacity for crassness no longer surprised him. He flicked a finger over her bud, found her swollen and slick, and took his hand away, just far enough that he could touch again if he chose to. “Not me.”
She chuckled. “But you, my dear, are no more a man than I am a virgin.” She rose up to her knees, swung one leg over him with the practised skill of a longtime horsewoman.
She was lowering herself so slowly he could watch himself disappear into her, but he had no patience for it, not tonight. “Then cease treating me like one.”
For a moment her eyes, wide and deep blue in arousal, stayed on his. Then a soft, shuddering sigh as she pushed herself down, groaning when he filled her. “As you wish,” she murmured as she began to ride him. “But if you break the skin–”
He growled. “More than skin will be broken, woman, if you think to demand ultimatums of me. More,” he ordered.
“I mean it,” she retorted, breaking off on a groan when he abruptly surged to a sitting position and closed his mouth over her breast. Despite her earlier warning, her free hand went to the back of his head to keep him in place. “Again.”
He obliged her and pleased himself with it. Between his mouth on her breast and his finger rubbing her bud, he could already feel the tremors starting deep within her, warning echoes of what was to come.
Hissing air between her lips, she shoved him back down, breasts aching from the suckling. She returned the favour by leaning over him to suckle him in turn, licking at the fresh blood welling up in reopened cuts. One hand reached behind her, trailed over the very base of him that wasn’t buried inside her. Apart from a sharp intake of breath he made no noise, hips surging up into her and one hand tightening viciously in her hair. She kept her hand clenched into a fist on his chest, shuddering through her own climax with her eyes closed.
Seeing that–their forms resuming solidity after the balancing of energy between them–would have been too intimate for both of them.
Satisfied, Sophia lifted herself away from him and flung herself to the side, nuzzling into the pillows there and enjoying the scent in the air. She stretched luxuriously and made herself comfortable, easy to do in such lavish space. Thanking their hosts would be required.
“Oh.” Thinking of their hosts had reminded her. Yawning, she slapped Gideon’s shoulder to wake him. “The King and Queen wished to see you.”
“You are a terrible messenger,” he groused as he rolled out of bed to find his clothing, mended and laundered, and spotted her gown discarded on a chair.
“I am, aren’t I?” she agreed rather cheerfully. “But then, I had every intention of seducing you. Surely even Conal can deduce that a message between lovers might be delayed in the relaying.”
He aimed a dry look at her over his shoulder. “One thing we are not is lovers.”
“And yet not entirely business partners, either. What would you have me call us?”
“At the moment, late. Clothe yourself.”
“In a moment. Sit down.” She motioned for him to do so and rolled her eyes when he failed to comply. “You have the look of a wild beast. Come here and let me braid your hair properly.”
Grudgingly, he allowed her to do so. When they were both clothed they made their way to the Court’s main hall.
The lighting here was dim even to his eyes. Flickering torches lit the way to the Court’s Great Hall and circled the walls of their destination. The damp dusky scent of growing things gone bad hung over them, the source the roots above them. At the raised dais at the forefront of the court, the King and Queen glittered with gemstones against their darker clothing.
“What do you call yourselves?”
If he had not been staring at her before she spoke, he would have after. Hair of deep red-black, porcelain skin, ruby lips. He heard again the voice warning him, She is exactly as the tales portray her, and for that reason she is not to be trusted.
“O’Faolain,” he answered.
“Do you have a given name, descendant of the young wolf?” The voice was still teasing, but less joking.
“And one of a pair.” Glittering eyes turned to Sophia. On cue, she swept into a low curtsy befitting the social stations she associated herself with.
“Sophia O’Bannion, mistress.”
“See how prettily she moves?” The queen asked, and the court sent up an unearthly caterwauling of response. Sophia tossed a coquettish look over her shoulder and blew a kiss at a hunched and withered goblin, setting them all to cackling. Gideon waited.
“You came here looking for answers, and you found only death. I would offer you some respite from that, and recompense.”
Gideon let his eyes drift deliberately to Sophia and to the King before answering. “I mislike sharing.”
Sophia laughed. “An understatement.”
“Then we shall watch. All of us.” The queen settled back in her chair and waved a hand while her court of monsters roared approval.
Gideon turned to Sophia and saw determination but no surprise in her eyes. “You knew.”
She shrugged lightly, her gown slipping to the floor. “A small price to pay for the answers you wish for, no?”
“You might have left me the choice,” he growled as he swung his brat off and tossed it aside.
She rolled her eyes and shrugged out of her shift. “I have been a courtesan some time now,” she reminded him, turning to him and matter of factly setting about undoing the belts that held his tunic in place. “It is hardly the end of the world or even of one’s self.”
Having succeeded in divesting him of belts and tunic, she knelt before him and went about her business.
He would spend the next four hundred years hating them both: her for leading him to this point and failing to warn him, and himself for believing her and for thinking he could have loved her.
There was to be no kind of normal life for him. He understood that very clearly as he and Sophia were made a spectacle and the Unseelie Court wailed and howled and screeched fit to deafen a man .
But he was not a man. He understood that now as well.