It comes from Thrones of Desire (there's some theme going on on my blog this week, it's hard to say what) which has my FAVE EVER ANTHOLOGY COVER. My story, Of High Renown, is a romance and therefore everyone is of course conflicted and miserable.
She remembered how she had misused him.
It was an unending struggle to keep him alive. The venom in his blood seemed to have destroyed his body’s sense of equilibrium, and threw him between burning fever and frigid tremors every few hours. Emlhi cleaned and bandaged the deep puncture wounds in his shoulder, but after that she simply tried to keep his temperature on an even keel—stopping the fever boiling his brains at one moment, piling blankets over him to maintain some vestiges of warmth the next. She fed and watered him, cut fresh bracken every morning for his mattress and, when she was not watching over him, tried to keep up the work of her smallholding. She snatched her own sleep during his chills.
Between fire and ice, the knight would have passages where he seemed to be lucid but completely exhausted. Then as the fever flared up afresh he’d begin to talk, and sometimes try to rise from his bed. He stared at the ceiling and spoke to people who weren’t there. He raved about battles and campaigns and the horrors he’d witnessed, until Emlhi wanted to stop her ears for sorrow. Sometimes his hallucinations grew worse and in terror or fury he would lash out at her. If he hadn’t been so weakened by his illness, he might have been really dangerous.
It went on for days, and there were times she couldn’t understand why he did not die. She might have called in an older female relative to share the labor of care, but she guarded her sole right to Gareth possessively. Exhausted, she took strength from his stubbornness.
And she took more than strength.
The first time, it wasn’t her doing. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, tending him as he burned. She’d been wiping his face and chest with a damp cloth, dipping it in fresh water every few minutes and waving it about to cool it. He was twisting in discomfort, tossing in a delirious dream, his hands scrabbling convulsively across his belly. When she touched his cheek with the cloth he would turn his face toward it, like a baby seeking the teat. She ran it down the midline of his torso and he grabbed her hand, knotting his fingers around hers. Gently she freed the cloth with her other hand and continued to bathe him. He kept his grip on her. His head was thrown back, his larynx working. Then he pushed her hand into his crotch.
Until now she’d kept his hose on, unwilling to steal the last shreds of his dignity. It was a mistake, she realized; the fabric was sodden with sweat - and beneath it his cock was engorged, as hot and solid as the rest of him. He wrapped her hand around the thick length and squeezed hard, and, as Emlhi felt a blush flood her face, a great sigh of relief escaped his taut throat. Then he began to rub her hand up and down. She squirmed with shame but she didn’t pull away. His cock grew harder beneath her imprisoned grasp, lengthening as it filled. She was clumsy, passive, too inexperienced to know what to do. He masturbated with her hand until he spasmed—and then he relaxed, falling almost instantly into a dreamless sleep.
Emlhi, trembling, pulled her cramped fingers away and plunged them into the bowl of water.
That was the first time; it wasn’t the last. She began coming to him when he burned, the sheets thrown aside and his body—fully naked now, and cleaner and cooler for it—sprawled out across her bed. Then she would take his cock in her hand and stroke its velvet length, squeezing him gently at first and then with more firmness, her face rapt, her breath shallow in her throat, her pulse pounding in her breast and her groin. She thrilled at the catch in his breath and the wet kisses of his foreskin and the noises of his pleasure. She delighted to see him stretch and shudder at her touch, to see his balls tighten and jettison their burden in spurts across his belly. She loved the peace that came across his features when it was done. She would sit and watch him even when he slept, enchanted by the simple rise and fall of his chest.
Because, if she could make herself overlook his suffering, he was beautiful. The heat had melted any fat from his body, stripping him down to muscle. His shoulders were broad, his hips tight, his thighs long and slab-hard. His nipples responded to the cold cloth by turning into little brown berries. Emlhi loved to touch him.
She knew what she did was shameful, but she couldn’t stop herself.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she gasped and grabbed up the blankets. He didn’t seem to notice; he was whimpering very softly under his breath, like a dog in pain. Quickly Emlhi slid into the bed at his back. She was wearing only her shift, because she’d been ready for bed herself. She pressed her warm belly to his spine and felt the chill of his flesh soak into her own. She ran her hand down his ribs and hips and rubbed the rough hair of his thigh.
“Hush,” she whispered, kneading the knotted muscles of his neck with her other hand, pressing her face to his shoulder blade. “You’re alright. You’re alright.” She rubbed her thighs against his, willing the warmth into him. By tiny increments he relaxed, the shuddering soothed away as the covers trapped the heat. His limbs unknotted enough to allow her to slip her hand round his waist, right into the pit of his belly where his pubic hair tickled her fingers. It took a long time, though, and she was tired by the day’s work. Gradually she fell into a doze.
Emlhi awoke when Gareth pulled the blanket aside. Sleepily she protested at the draft, then realized that the man in her bed was no longer cold. He’d stretched out and turned to press against her and he was hot, his skin burning on hers. He put his hand on her thigh, and even through the rucked linen of her shift it felt like he was branding her. Emlhi surged into wakefulness. He wasn’t just uncoiled—he boasted an erection that was pressed into her hip.
He’s sick, she thought. And weak as a kitten. If I want to stop him, I can.
Moonlight through the window revealed little, only his bare calf, his knee pushing between hers. Higher up, their bodies were drowned in shadow. The guttering stub of the candle outlined only the peak of his shoulder. His head was on her pillow and he was panting. Emlhi put her hand up and felt his face; the rasp of stubble, the smear of sweat from his temple, the loose locks of his hair. His breathing was faster than any healthy man’s and he was leaving a wet patch on her throat.
“Sir knight,” she whispered. The pulse in her belly began to beat. He can’t make me, she told herself. He can only do what I let him.
Pulling up the last span of her skirt, he ran his hand up the inside of her thigh and pressed it into her delta. “Hsgood,” he slurred.
Emlhi juddered beneath him.
His fingers probed deep into her slit, seeking her moisture. She whimpered, feeling his heat catch in her sex, flaring up thorough her belly. He parted her folds and dabbled his fingertips within, while his palm and thumb stirred her mound and caressed the rough hair. Her wetness was growing more marked by the heartbeat. She felt completely helpless, suffused by the ancient imperative to yield, to melt, to submit to him. She parted her thighs and he slid his hand up and down the length of her slot, drawing the juices up to the bud of her clit. She moved under him, pushing up to meet him, her shallow little gasps drowned by his fevered panting. The shadows shook against the wall. His thigh was growing heavier and heavier on hers. She slid her own hand across her belly, under his arm, and took hold of his shaft. It jerked in her hand.
Then without warning, just as she was rising to her crisis, he pulled from her grasp and shifted his weight, heaving on top of her. The black silhouette of his head and shoulders loomed over her. Bereft, she caught her breath but spread her thighs willingly, thinking that she knew what must happen next—but she was completely unprepared.
Buy Thrones of Desire at:
Amazon US: Amazon UK