Her face was broken. She hadn't suffered much for it, a little abuse at the hands of the other women, a great deal of teasing in her early years, but now, as a woman, the tribe simply ignored her. She might have liked it, even enjoyed the freedom her deformity allowed, had it not been for Turan.
She licked her top lip on reflex. The split below her nose set her apart, but it also made her invisible, and ever since Turan had arrived to overthrow Matok and take leadership of their clan, she'd found her quiet freedom less than a benefit. She wanted him, and he'd never once noticed that a wispy woman with a cat's face wandered in the background of the cave's shadows.
She slid along the wall opposite the huge, central fire and listened. Turan's sleeping furs mounded nearest the hearth, and as far as she could tell, he slept. But around her, the sounds of night play filled the cave. The tribe's collective grunts and moaning rose to the stone spires overhead and bounced back down, louder, and more hollow. She'd never cared much about them before.
Since Turan's takeover, however, she'd grown very interested.
She pressed her back against the stone and watched Sumi give pleasure to one of the hunters. The woman's perfect lips pressed around the man's shaft. Her head bobbed forward and back, making small slurping noises while the hunter groaned and presser his hands into her dark hair.
The woman pushed back, and she saw her tongue swirl over the pink tip of the hunter's member. A tiny flare of heat woke between her legs. This was not entirely new. Still, she'd never paid it much attention before.
She slunk further around the wall. No one had claimed Sumi yet. Though the hunter punctuated his groaning with promises along that line. He'd said the same things to Alina the night before.
Further on, she heard Mynas whimpering. The shadow of a larger stalagmite fell across the couple's sleeping corner, and she tucked herself in behind it and listened to Old Bantin's grunting. His breath's hissed in a rhythm in time to Mynas' squeaking. The old hunter had claimed Mynas two moons ago, and now, they only paired together. Mynas was free of pleasuring anyone else, and Old Bantin enjoyed her more fully than he could an unclaimed woman of the clan.
Now they sang their lovemaking to the shadows, and it built in speed and fury. She had to look. The warmth between her legs had spread down to her toes and up into her pouting nipples. Her sex pulsed softly.
She leaned out around the stone spire and watched.
Bantin stood on his knees, his loin cloth pulled aside, and a thick, purple member thrusting away at Mynas' bare bottom. Her cheeks glowed pale white, even in the dim cave, and her back curled and stretched to offer him purchase. Each time the old man pushed, Mynas pushed back and let out her whimpering sex sounds.
Thump. Thump. Mynas' neck stretched and her eyes rolled up to the stone ceiling. Thump, grunt. Bantin sped up, banged against the woman's rump with even more fury.
Her own sex throbbed. She watched hungrily and reached one hand down, sliding it under her leather cloth and exploring her growing want.
The couple built up speed. Bantin's grunts swelled into a panting groan. She stroked herself and watched him grab Mynas' waist and pound away one last time before seizing, arching back and howling like a man possessed.
Her fingers swirled and stroked at her hairy mound. She felt pleasure, something she'd never thought to imagine for herself, and wriggled her hand deeper under her cover. Her lips pressed tight against the urge to make sounds. She rubbed harder and squirmed backwards against the unyielding rock.
As the sensation peaked, she heard a rustle from the hearth, her eyes snapped to the fire and its dance of light and shadow. Her orgasm broke outward, dragging the shivers in her sex out through her limbs, but her pleasure was dimmed by a shock of fear. The shadows, she was sure, hid her movements. Still, Turan's sleeping form had shifted, and their new leader rolled over toward the fire's heat.
Her heart pounded. She froze in the shadows for a hundred breaths. She watched, but no more movement came from the hearth. The night noises dimmed as couples finished their play and drifted back to their respective corners and bundles of fur. Still, she waited, pulse pounding, until the fire itself faltered and shifted to a low glow, before slinking back to her own nest.
She woke late the next morning. The fire crackled with new life, but the clan cave echoed each snap, empty but for her. The hunters would have left first, followed closely by the children and the other women who would spend the day on the plains gathering and playing the games she'd never once been a part of.
She stretched and shook out her long, ashy hair before crossing to the fire to warm the cold stone floor from her bones. She turned her back on the flames and let the heat tend to her spine. Her eyes drifted to Turan's furs, rumpled and empty, and she felt the urge to go to them, to curl into his indentation, to commit a major offense.
Before she could act on the desire, a shadow fell across the cave mouth. She swiveled towards the exit, expecting Sumi or some of the children looking for breakfast scraps. Her heart stuttered at the man standing in the gap, outlined against a gray sky and staring directly at her. Turan.
She dropped her eyes to the floor. Not before she caught sight of his broad, bare shoulders, the swept-back, dark hair, the stance that said, I own everything inside this space. She shivered and hunched lower, backing swiftly toward the nearest shadow.
"Stop." He didn't yell, but the command froze her in her tracks. He was clan leader, and his word was law. Still, her bones shook as the attention.
She heard his footfalls as he crossed the space, stepped down the rock ledge and into the cave's center. She watched his shadow stretch closer.
"Who are you?"
Too much. He spoke to her directly, as if she were a person and not a broken thing. She fought the urge to run, cowered only slightly, but her lips failed to form any answer at all.
"Who are you?" He repeated it, stepped around the fire until she could see the furs wrapping his thick legs in her peripheral. "You live in this cave. I've seen you, sulking alone around our edges. This is my clan, and yet, I do not know you."
"My mother," she'd spoken aloud so rarely that her voice crackled like the fire. "My mother never game me a name."
That would tell him enough. He would know then, that she was not whole, that her life was not worth his time. She shuffled her feet and took another step back.
"Stop." His hand came out, neither gently nor rough, and he took her by the shoulders. "Show me," he said.
She sighed and tried to look at him. Years of hiding waged a war against the fires blooming where his hands met her flesh. Turan, so close, and they were all alone. Better to let him see than keep thinking along that line. She raised her head and faced him, feeling a spark of defiance despite his status—and her lack of it.
"Ah." He nodded. She felt shame. Her head dipped away, but his hand flashed out and caught her chin. He cradled it and lifted her face into the light. "Not so bad," he said. One finger reached up. He traced the split from her nose down, brushing her upper lip. "You are strong. You survived, little kitten."
His words shamed her, but the flush she felt was only partly embarrassed. His hand hadn't dropped away, and one thick finger rested against her lip. The place between her legs flared to life again.
"I had a kitten once," he said. "Tyger cub. My clan killed the mother, and I found the kit hiding nearby."
She sensed he didn't speak to her then, that his mind had drifted to another place and he shared something he shouldn't. These words were for himself. What did it matter if a broken woman heard them? She was nothing.
"I hid it." His eyes dropped to hers, and they burned. "I hid it under my sleeping furs at night. In my wrap during the day."
"What happened to it?" She spoke without thinking, and clapped a hand over her mouth, over his hand on her lip. He didn't pull away.
"My father found it." His eyes hardened. The muscle in his jaw tightened and she knew exactly what had happened. She didn't have to ask.
For a moment, they stood like that. Touching and silent while the clan leader brooded over his loss. He stared past her, through her into the horrors of youth and life and death. Then he shook his head like a dog and his eyes found her again. She put her hand down, trembling in his gaze. His finger traced her deformity again.
"Little kitten." He breathed in and out. "Will you hide under my sleeping robes?"
Her heart stuttered. He didn't mean it. No man would ask her for pleasure. She was nothing. But Turan moved to his furs and sat. He looked at her and raised one dark brow, then flipped the edge of his loin cloth up in an unmistakable gesture.
She leapt to obey.
Kneeling in front of him, she felt the heat in her belly churn with nerves. She'd watched this often enough, but she'd never been asked to do it. Her eyes flickered to his face, sure she'd missed his meaning, but he nodded and his hands lifted the leather further.
She ducked under, facing one muscled thigh and trembling with both fear and excitement. His leg shifted, opening and she turned to center and eyed his stiff shaft. It stood at attention, thick and pink. A sprinkle of dark hair grew at the base, and his head shone with a drop of liquid.
Her tongue darted out to taste it. Turan. She'd never even dared to dream this far. His sticky fluid tasted sweet and salty. She licked again and heard him moan. The sound released her and she moved forward, lapping at the shaft, tasting and measuring him with her tongue.
He moved his legs wider, and she felt his hands on the back of her head. His voice husked, "Touch it, kitten."
Her hands obeyed. She wrapped his member in one hand and let the other tease the soft sack below. He groaned and wiggled closer.
She took him in her mouth and sucked hard. Her body burned with excited fire, and she forgot what to do next. Her tongue swirled over the tip of him and she sucked harder. His hands guided her to action. That's right. She remembered Sumi's motion, the bobbing of her head. His shaft filled her, touched the back of her throat and pushed against it. Turan's hands lifted and pushed until she found the rhythm. His voice, the voice she listened for from the shadows, groaned in pleasure and whispered encouragement.
"Yes, kitten. Mmm. That's it."
She sped up on her own, and he let her take over, only holding her head and stroking her long hair as she worked.
"Oh, kitten," he whispered. "Good. So good."
His words fell on her like sunshine. Praise was something she had never known. She shifted position and tried to take more of him, to devour him and all he represented. Too soon, he stiffened, and she felt his release spill forward. It washed her mouth in salt and she gulped it greedily, let him slide down her throat and live inside her. His legs twitched and his mouth howled something unintelligible.
She didn't want to stop. He shivered, and pulled back, but she reached for him, lapped and suckled until his hands pressed her back gently.
"Easy, kitten." He stroked her hair and sighed. "Easy."
A surge of emotion shook her frame. She leaned against his thigh and let it wash over, felt tears sting for the first time since she was a child. Since she'd learned to ignore her feelings. Turan's hands pet her hair. He didn't move or push her away. He stroked and petted her and whispered, "kitten."
The second morning, she cried again. She hadn't expected him to come, had planned to live in her shadows with only the memory of his taste, of his hands, to ease her loneliness. Instead he returned, after the others had gone. He asked for her again.
The third day, she made him scream out loud. Her fingers, emboldened by his return, wandered lower and found the soft spot behind his sack. He pressed her head tight and howled when she stroked him there. He panted and praised her and came faster and harder than before.
On the fourth day, Sumi caught them.
The woman snarled when she entered the cave and found Turan engaged in the throws of pleasure with her between his legs. She saw the hatred on Sumi's face, and a part of her sparked to it. She drew her tongue more slowly up their leader's member, and she sucked the head with a smile curling over her lips.
For a week, he came for her. Each morning, he would appear in the cave mouth and call softly, "Here, kitten." For a week, she lived fully in the joy of him. She basked in his attention and forgot her broken face. Sometimes, while she worked his sex, his finger would drop to trace the line of her deformity. He never hesitated to touch it, and he never once cringed away.
She left her shadows more. She ate her leftovers as soon as the tribe finished dining. She slept a few feet closer to the fire, and she never guessed what mischief Sumi's whispers might be brewing until the hunters came for her.
She heard their steps approaching and froze beside the fire. Turan wouldn't return just yet. The skies outside the cave had barely shifted into day. Their voices reached her, their laughing, and she scurried to the nearest shadow to hide.
But they'd come to find her. She knew it the instance they showed in the doorway. Their stances were off, predatory, and their voices hissed. "Here, kitty."
She wanted to stay hidden, but she knew the rules. No one had claimed her yet. No one would. Her years of invisibility had faltered in Turan's attention, and now her price would come due. She shuffled from the wall, head down and back hunched. One of the hunters laughed.
They argued for a moment over who would be first. She listened and felt her bile rise. This was the life she'd missed. This was the prize she'd won by showing herself to their leader. She wanted to hide again, to slink back to her shadow and die.
One of the hunters--the winner or loser of the debate, she couldn't tell--stepped forward. He stood with legs apart and flipped up his leathers. A long, curving shaft stood pointing to the cave ceiling. It was thin and ugly, and he waved it back and forth at her.
"You." His voice demanded. "Come here."
She scuttled like a crab, half squatting and half crawling over the stone floor. He waved the thing again, and it brushed her hair. His voice grunted and she saw his member twitch.
She lifted her hand.
"Kitten!" Turan's voice split the cave air. It boomed and echoed off the back wall. "Here, Kitten!"
The hunters spun around. She flew past them, ran to the mouth and knelt beside Turan's loincloth. His hand rested on her head.
For a moment, no one spoke. The she heard them whisper. The whole tribe slunk up behind their leader, watching, shifting from foot to foot and waiting for the challenge that would come. Sumi's talk had spawned this, and now, there would have to be a resolution.
Inside the cave, the hunters huddled and glared at Turan. Their eyes were hungry for more than her attention. In this, she was nothing again, only a thing to use against him, a test of his leadership.
He pulled her to her feet, placed his hand at the back of her neck and steered her to the hearth. There he sat and opened his legs. She fell between them, ready, worshiping all that he was. But Turan didn't lift his leather. He glared at the hunters who circled the fire to stand beside his mound of furs. They said nothing, only waited there beside the flames.
"What?" Turan's voice snapped, and she sensed something new in it, an insecurity she couldn't name. "What do you do?"
The first hunter shrugged. "We'll wait," he said. His voice lowered. "We'll wait our turn."
Turan growled back at them. She trembled when he stood, when his hand found her shoulder and lifted her to her feet again. His grip was firm, less gentle and backed by the fierce eyes he flashed from her to the hunters and back. She knew fear. He would toss her to them now. He had to.
Instead, he pushed her. She fell back across his furs and lay there stunned. Turan stood between her legs, and the whispers died. Silence swept into the cave like a demon. His eyes found hers, and he nodded so softly that she barely caught it. He put his hands on her thighs and spread her legs. He meant to claim her.
She shook her head. How could he do this thing? She was broken, unwanted. She was nothing. His words came back to her, You are strong. You survived.
"Kitten." He leaned over and she felt the weight against her belly. "Kitten?"
She nodded once, tears blinding her. She felt his hands pull her leathers aside. His member pressed against her sex, and she closed her eyes tight. He wanted her enough to do this. A stab of pain married to his first thrust. She grit her teeth against it and felt him fill her. His hair brushed at her legs. He pushed deeper and their bodies joined. The tribe gasped in disbelief.
Turan moved slowly, withdrew a ways and then pushed back inside. She felt pleasure mix with the stretching. Her center pulsed and throbbed, and he stroked again, out and in. He grunted and pressed himself deeper into her.
The clan drifted away. The thing was done. No one could touch her now. She belonged to Turan. She belonged. A few lingered to watch, but their whispers drowned in Turan's grunting.
His hands reached for her breasts. She felt his fingers at her nipples and little sparks shot out and down her spine.
"Kitten," he murmured. His shaft ground into her. His mouth fell and licked at her breasts. Her own pleasure built around his. "Kitten, Kitten."
He was strong. He would lead the tribe for many years without challenge. His hands gripped her hips and he tilted her and pushed against his own thrusts. She clenched her muscles, squeezed around him and moaned her own delight. He would rule for a long time, yes. But he would be hers forever.
When his voice changed, she knew his peak was near. She'd learned it and welcomed the stiffening of his legs, the spasm that shook his staff inside her. She was his as well. She was someone. He howled it into the cave, "Kitten!" She had a name.