Hidden Magic Ch. 18bymadam_noe©
"I feel as if I am losing my mind."
"Oh yeah, that's love."
His face was half hidden by his oversized mug. "Are you laughing at me?"
"You've broken countless hearts in your life. It is a little nice to see you holding the short end of the stick."
"I would insult you but I fear what would happen if you turned us out."
"Minn, do you want my help or not?"
"For this moment in time you need to start learning to adjust. We're working hard to avert total disaster, so there's not much time. Tell me, at what moment do you feel you and Tomass were most happy together?"
I thought hard for a long moment. "At my country estate. There's a...private place I go to, alone, a special place. I'd never taken anyone there before, and then I brought him. We, ah-"
"I get the picture. There you go. You gave him something of yourself. You let him see inside you."
"That is what he wants. His mentors have been killed. He's had to leave the safety of his home. He's had to leave his native land and come to the city. He's had to abandon a dream of a solitary life for marriage. He is a man in chaos, and you are his only anchor. And while you're floundering around you are making the only table earth he has to stand on shake."
He gave me a quelling look. "You have to be serious. What he wants is intimacy. You may have bedded hundreds of men, and bedded them well, but there was never any intimacy. You shared nothing of yourself with me, and never did you ask for a glimpse inside me." He held his hand up when I started to protest, cutting me off. "You can treat a pleasurer like that and earn friendship. You were always kind to me, honorable, and in time I could see you're a good person.
"You don't have that luxury of time with Tomass. Show him who you are. Discover who he is. Talk to him about his feelings, his worries, and listen to them. Ask about magic, don't treat it like a tool, it's not like your sword. It's who he is. Find out exactly who he is and let him see who you are."
I nodded. "I think I understand. Anderank, did I ever...make you...feel used?"
His hand covered mine once more. "In the beginning, yes. That's how I always felt, and that's why I choose to be a painter now."
"I'm sorry for that."
He gave me that strong smile again. "You are my friend, and I'll always treasure that. We simply weren't meant for more."
I smiled back and that's when the back door opened. Tomass stood there, black hair blowing in the wind. His eyes trailed from our faces down to our joined hands and Tomass' look turned thunderous.
"Tomass," I said, jerking my hand free and standing. "Would you care for some tea? After I would like very much to visit the plant house with you."
He gave me a look as if I had just proposed we sprouted wings to fly, though goddess only knew, but perhaps a sorcerer could. I knew so little about them, truly.
He closed the door and stepped in. "I've come to use the garderobe. Do not touch my wife again."
Anderank grinned at his retreating back. "He's not indifferent, that's encouraging."
I threw a cake at his head but he just caught it and swallowed it one go before rising to return to the bubbling pot. Perhaps he was right. The focus of my time with Tomass had been sex. Never had I desired a man the way I wanted him, and he was new to it, lost to discovery. Adding to that the need for his magic and the speed with which sex raised it...all we had truly built was passion, which ran easily from lust to anger. We needed more.
I went back to the plant house hoping he would join me. The back garden had high walls for privacy, shading the windows for when young pleasurers came to sit naked for their patron's desire to have their erotic image forever. The house of glass had mirrors at the top, an ingenious invention to bring full light in. A brazier glowed at one end with a large pan of water on top of it, making the air as humid as my homelands.
Most of the plants were natives to my lands, thick decorative fronds and large flowers in violent colors. I soon forgot why I had come to smell them, lost to the beauty.
"It's quite an accomplishment." The door shut firmly behind Tomass.
I turned to face him, clothed all in black, looking like some vengeful pagan god in this little garden of pots. "It reminds me of home." I stepped to one log red flower, a narrow tube that fanned out in a violent explosion of fretted petals at the edge, the pistols solid yellow and bright inside. It smelled of spice. "This is chrysalium pollinaus, commonly known as cinnamon flower. It's always been my favorite. In the spring they will bloom everywhere in our lands."
He stayed by the door, crossing his powerful arms. "Really."
Inhaling the scent deeply I closed my eyes. "Particularly in the ruins. It's so beautiful. It makes me think of my father."
I didn't open my eyes, enjoying the soft petals on my face, tickling slightly. "He died before I was born. My mother didn't peak much on him. There was a chest of his things in the attic, Delice said the scent on them of this flower was his. He favored it.
"There were a few paintings of him, they say I have his eyes, but I know so little about him. Yet when I smell this flower it's like he's with me."
I turned away from him to face the back. I hadn't meant to say that about my father, I merely wanted to tell him the flower reminded me of home. I had no idea what I was doing.
"Tomass," I said before I lost my nerve, turning. His arms were uncrossed but otherwise he had not moved. "I want to laugh with you."
That made his eyebrows shoot towards his hairline. I stood there, facing him, steadying myself, and at last he laughed slightly. "You what?"
"I've had lovers before. You know what I never have done with them, what I see between happy couples I know. They laugh together. I want that with you. I want things to not be so intense. They have to be, given what we're facing-oh, hell." I turned and smoothed my hair, feeling an utter fool. "Patience. Give me patience and time and in return I will do what I can to understand you. I want to understand you."
"You make me sound like one of your enemies in battle."
"No. No, I mean...I've never met anyone like you, sorcerer or no. I want to know everything about you. I want to know what makes you cry, what makes you laugh, what makes you happy."
"I don't know." At last he stepped in to be framed by the large plants. His hand trailed up to stroke a frond between his thumb and fingers reverently. "Men in this world do not have lives like women do. Most grow up, dreaming of finding a good wife, fathering children, and raising them, building a happy family. Sorcerers dream only of growing in power, of leaving their mentor and taking on a apprentice. Of becoming one with nature.
"If you asked me what made me cry two months ago, I would have said evil. M'Graough, and people like him. Cruelty, war, famine. These things still can make me cry, but now...now it's feeling like though we're in the same room we are not together. Two months ago what made me laugh were silly tricks, the antics of animals. They still do, but now it is those moments when we both falter and take it in good heart. What makes me happy? A million and one things, and you can be that last one."
We stared at each other. That was what Anderank had meant, I understood. Tomass so easily gave so much of himself, and I had been miserly.
"Tomass, I've been at war for seven years. I've known only death, and violence. I've lived in hell. I went to war an idiotic young woman, a girl trapped in a woman's body, and I've come out of it a hardened shell. I wanted nothing more than to see to my estates, find a husband, and settle down. Instead I found myself in the middle of this intrigue.
"I would not take it back, not if it meant never meeting you. I promise you, nothing in my life has more value than you."
His gaze snapped to mine, narrowing. "Oh, really?"
What had I done wrong? Why did I sense an argument brewing? "Yes."
Tomass stepped closer and closer until I was forced to bend my neck to meet his eyes. "Really. Your pride. Where do I stand in comparison?"
He nodded, slowly. "You are a very arrogant woman. You have that right. In your young life you have accomplished many things, things most women could only dream of. But with me...with me I am not one of your soldiers, I am not a servant, I am not a voter. I am your husband, and I demand to be treated as an equal."
Gee, he didn't ask for much, did he? I had to show something of myself. What I had, I knew, in spades, was my determination. I could move mountains if I had to. I could buck every convention of society if I had to. "Yes."
He blinked. "What?"
"Yes, you are my equal, and it is damn time that I treat you as such."
Tomass stared at me for a long moment, and then his hand cupped my cheek, stroking with the same reverence he had shown the frond. "Do you know how frustrating it is to always be waiting? To try to remember a place I've lived my life never thinking about?"
"No," I answered honestly, and then he shocked me with a kiss.
I forced myself to remain still, to respond to him, to not take control. He moved with sweet shyness and hesitation, but persisted. I wanted nothing more than to bury my hands in his hair, rub my body against his, and draw forth the passion that simmered just below the surface. I trembled with need, struggling to hold it in check, and then his tongue traced the seam of my lips and slid inside.
There was nothing I could do but moan and clutch his broad shoulders. I wanted to slant my mouth against his over and over again but remained passive, aching with near violent need.
He pulled back and then crushed me to his chest, hugging me tight, burying my head under his chin. I gripped his waist and closed my eyes. As intense as the passion was, this was wonderful. I had never truly held a lover nor been held by one.
I had grown up without a father, without that gentle, nurturing love. This was strange, yet with Tomass, it felt right. He kissed the top of my head and then we parted. "Thank you." He turned and left, leaving me alone with the plants.
I had thought this was leading to something more...passionate. Yet out he walked with a lilt in his step. Filtin was right. I would never understand men.
I was the one who stayed in the plant house for hours, sitting on the stool and contemplating the flowers. Darkness was falling when Filtin came in, settling her heft on the slightly wider bench.
"Well you did something right. Your young man is smiling, even volunteered to help Anderank. They started making bread, talking about art. I got bored and came out. Nothing too interesting in the papers."
"Then we go after the Earless. I'm not sure just what M'Graough and Serinne are using her for, but we'll break the hold. No more dead pregnant women?"
"None. Perhaps he is killing someone else and we have yet to discover it, or perhaps he's gone the more traditional route of raising magic."
"Serinne is many things, but a lover of men? Never. You know about my business at the treaty...have there been any messengers from the palace to the North?"
"None except the one who works for the ambassador."
"And she has been denied audience with the queen?"
"What?" I blinked.
"In the North men and women are nearly equals. I think the Northern queen wanted to insult her."
"Perhaps that's our way inside, our source of information."
"I have promised to treat my husband as an equal."
Filtin laughed and pulled out tocatto, stuffing the died leaves into thin paper and rolling it tight. She offered it to me and I took it, lighting it on the match she struck against her thigh before rolling another for herself. The smoke was thick and sweet and I drew it in deeply. "That's going to ruffle quite a few feathers," she said at last.
"Not that I care. It will however likely grant even a lowly Earless and audience with the ambassador."
"What good will that do us when he is not allowed to see the queen?"
"Perhaps our resident sorcerer will have some ideas."
She laughed, lit her tocatto, and we smoked in silence, each of us thinking the thoughts of women who plotted the rise and fall of governments.
Dinner had been a somewhat cheerful affair. The earless and earl dined with the former whore and the current madam and we laughed, sharing stories of our pasts to amuse one another. Tomass had warmed to Anderank, and I wondered at it, but when dessert was served, a wonderful pie from the bakery down the street, the talk turned to the ambassador and the other earless.
When a plan had commenced we retired for the evening, Filtin leaving us to inspect her gaming hell. She had come and gone while I'd been unconscious and since I'd been awake she had passed the day with us, but at night her business flourished and we understood her need to go. Anderank had a sitting outside of his home studio and left with supplies in tow.
Tomass and I could not leave and would have no visitors until the morning when Filtin would send good women to take up our guard duties. And so we retired to the study to sit by the fire and read.
I took the papers Filtin had already read through and sat in a comfortable chair by the fire. Tomass searched the shelves and selected a red leather book. "Here's the one."
"Anderank told me of this."
"And what is it?" I folded the paper and sat back, tucking my legs beneath me.
He sat in the chair opposite me, a mischievous look in those blue eyes. "Should I read a passage aloud?" without waiting for my reply he began flipping pages skimming until one made him smile.
"There are fifty areas on a woman's body that can be made to give her pleasure. The small of the back ad the upper spine prefer soft, gently kisses, while the upper swell of the buttocks prefer a light but firm touch-"
He glanced up, the cover still hiding his mouth. "What?"
"I don't want you reading that!"
"It's a pleasurers manual!"
The book sagged and he gave me a look that was an equal mix of seriousness and dark mirth. "Would you tell an equal, a fellow council member, not to read such things?"
I tried to form a response but for several long minutes no words came. He had me. At long last I narrowed my eyes. "I am going to kill Anderank."
He'd returned to reading and looked up slyly, one dark brow raised. "Come here, wife."
I was trying to be equitable but I wasn't so sure about this. "Give me a good reason."
"There is something I want to try."
There as a sensual threat in that and instantly my body reacted like it was a challenge or a threat. Perhaps that was my problem, my entire life had been a power struggle: getting it, keeping it, earning more. Perhaps that was not what was needed here. Perhaps I had taught him it was always a contest for power, and undoing that lesson would take patience and time. Damn it.
"If you wish to learn something new, I would be happy to teach you."
He shifted at that, his eyes meeting mine and flitting away. Such reticence encased in a beautiful face...there was nothing in all the world more seductive. "I always was good with books."
"I'd say what you've learned in the field has been damn good."
His eyes met mine but still his face tipped down. "We learn. Our mentors teach us how to...raise our magic. It works, but what I have learned this afternoon and what I read here, there is so much more to explore."
I stood then, crossed to him, and moved the book aside so I could sit in his lap. I felt his erection, half-filled and thick, against my hip, and I rubbed it with a gentle wiggle. I said nothing, just drew him into a kiss much as we had earlier.
As always the need threatened to overwhelm me, particularly when his arms came around me and our tongues met, seeking one another. I couldn't help but laugh softly, as did he. Somehow he recognized what I was trying to do, and the moment was perfect. For a long moment we held together, simply holding one another, kissing.
Desire was there, the near-violent need to rip off his clothes and feel his hands on me, to touch him all over, to take that hardening cock into my body and ride us both to ecstasy...but I kept it in check.
He moved a hand slowly from my hip to rest just beneath my breast, cupping my rib cage. It was such a simple move, so sweet, but nothing had ever inflamed me more. I shifted, trying to keep our lips together, rearranging us so I straddled him. His erection was right where I wanted it and I rubbed against it, frustrated by the layers of clothe between us.
His hand captured my breast finally and I gasped at the sudden sensation, undulating with him as he kneaded it gently. I needed more, and pulled on the collar of his tunic. It was one of his old ones, solid, and so I had to go under the hem to touch his skin.
He was smooth skin and taut muscle, the lines hard and finite. I traced them with my rough fingertips and it was his turn to gasp. Tomass' mouth broke from my swollen lips to kiss my cheek and across it to my ear, capturing it with light teeth. "Gentle biting is most arousing on the ear lobe," he said breathily in my ear.
"What?" I was fogged with lust as now both his hands brushed across my erect nipples, the back of his fingers teasing me powerfully.
"Whereas a light scrape of the teeth on the neck is arousing to a woman." His teeth trailed down the side of my neck illustrating his point and his fingers pinched my nipples lightly.
"Oh! I see, read the book pretty well, did we?"
"Something like that," he murmured.
I used the edges of my nails on his skin, enjoying the hiss of his breath. He grabbed the collar of my dress and tugged, muscles flexing impressively as he tore the fabric. "Hey! I didn't bring that many!"
"Fingertips along the spine create a teasing sensation of anticipation." His eyes bored into mine as his hands followed this path.
My back arched of its own accord, and his eyes fluttered to my breasts thrust into his face. "Please," I whispered, burying my fingers in his long silky hair and pressing him closer.
His mouth covered me there, laving my nipple, teasing with his tongue as his hands stroked my back. I wanted to ravish him, to take control, but damn it, I had to give patience if I expected it.
Unexpectedly Tomass scooted me back, stood, and walked to the desk. Jostling with him I could only smile as he set me down on the edge and then immediately we were kissing. He finally shrugged off his cloak, leaving only his tunic and pants, his arms mostly bare. I stroked them, nearly keening at the lack of touch, only our lips meeting.
He knelt down, spreading my legs, keeping them wide and held open with his broad shoulders. "Ah, going the more traditional route?"
He made a noncommittal sound and kissed my inner thighs as his hands sought something from the folds of his cloak. He produced with flourish an item that shocked me to my core, even as I grew wetter with past memories. It was a phallus, stone, finely carved with depraved images. The finest pleasurers used this, keeping one for each patron.
"Tomass...you didn't take that from Anderank, did you?"
"It's brand new. A belated betrothal present, he said."
I found myself actually blushing, quite an accomplishment for a seasoned warrior and woman of the world. There between my legs, pushing my tattered skirt higher, was my innocent husband, studying the phallus, of a size comparable to his own, with sensual delight.
"Shhh." He half rose and cupped my neck, bringing me down for a deep kiss. The cool phallus skittered over my nipples and I panted, clutching his shoulders. He brought it down to my wet cleft and teased me with it, the cool sensation startling and pleasant.