Adimir laid one hand over his heart. “I have a confession to make,” he said to Miryea.
It was hard for Miryea not to get distracted by the way Adimir’s gesture called attention to his bare chest, but something in her husband’s tone made Miryea sit up--they’d been reclined on the dining couch, though dinner was long since done--and turn to face him. He sounded serious, concerned, not like he was about to tease her, but like he truly had something on his mind. “It had better not be that the Emperor needs you to leave at dawn to infiltrate Kulchu territory again.”
She hoped she was kidding, but it wasn’t out of the question. She’d met Adimir when he was returning from a stint spying among the Kulchu; his mother was an escaped Kulchu slave so he could easily pass as one of their enemy neighbors. He had only made two brief forays into Kulchu territory since they’d wed, both lasting less than a week, but it wouldn’t surprise her if he was called out for more extensive service. Festivals, when border dwellers were distracted, often lured Kulchu raiders hoping to steal food and slaves.
He kissed the top of her head. “Nothing that serious, little rabbit.” His dark eyes were somber, though, his tone thoughtful. “No, I just wanted to confess I wish we could take your grandmother up on the invitation to visit her in Yareth for the Harvest Festival instead of going up to Thermanae.”
Miryea stifled a giggle. Then she decided she might as well let it out. “I know you like my grandmother’s Imperial Army stories--especially the ones about your father as a young officer getting into trouble in Poldar. But I know how much you hate cities. Guess the idea of me whipping you with twigs appeals to you about as much as it does to me.”
“It’s not that. The ritual itself doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind honoring the Lord of Grain’s sacrifice and most women do it so lightly it’s no worse than walking through undergrowth. Besides, I can’t fault anything that makes a pretty woman giggle as much as ‘threshing the grain’ does.” He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “But much as I love my home, the Harvest Festival is one festival I’d just as gladly celebrate in a place where the gods and the old ways aren’t as close as they are at Thermanae. I’m sure in Yareth it’s all a grand excuse for a party, and right now, that sounds a lot more pleasant than the Thermanae way. We celebrate, but it has this desperate edge to it.”
“Maybe it’s knowing winter’s on the way that gives it the grim undertone. I hear winters are nasty in the hills. We could still….”
“Not unless Laeca finds a husband by Harvest Festival, and the last I heard, she didn’t have anyone in mind. As the satrap, my father must stay in Arlind for the Festival, so you and I need to lead the ritual for Thermanae. The Lord of Grain deserves honor for his sacrifice--and a couple with a land-bond needs to be there.”
“I see.” She wasn’t sure she believed it herself, but she wasn’t going to argue with Adimir’s faith. The Thelanese believed in Lady Sun and the Lord of Grain far more in than most Soranians, and took the religious festivals seriously, not just as an excuse for revelry and sexual adventure. Since coming to know Adimir and settling in Thelana, Miryea understood why. In a place where the Lord and Lady of an estate were mystically bound to the land and satyrs might pop in to trade rough wine and wild honey for milk and bread, it was hard not to believe the ancient legends. “I’m not keen on this festival either. If anyone’s getting spanked, I’d rather it be me, seeing that I enjoy it. I much prefer the way we do it back home, with feasting and drinking new wine and men letting their seed fall where they will. Even if the streets are an awful mess the next morning.”
“Just keep in mind that if I act strange as Festival approaches, it’s nothing to do with you. This time of year gets under my skin,” Adimir continued.
She nodded and snuggled closer, encouraging him. Adimir wasn’t one to talk easily about things that troubled him--he preferred to confront a problem, solve it, and then tell you the story. Most of Adimir’s problem-solving involved bashing people who deserved bashing, rescuing people who needed rescuing and other grand, dangerous escapades that made good stories later. She kept telling him he’d someday run into a problem he couldn’t solve with violence--and he kept telling her that if he did, he’d let her deal with it, seeing that she was the educated one. If this was bothering him enough that he wanted to talk about it, she’d listen.
He was silent for awhile, stroking her flank and back idly, occasionally kissing the top of her head.
When he pulled her closer and cupped one breast with his big hand, Miryea figured that he was done with serious topics and moving on to distraction. Simply admitting he’d rather be somewhere else than Thermanae for a festival was deeper for him than she could really understand. She had a land-bond with Thermanae through their wedding ritual, but she hadn’t spent enough time there yet to figure out what it entailed. Adimir’s was much stronger, bred in his blood and bones. Being Adimir, he probably expected she’d understand that and fill in how serious his admission was and why he might be a bit cranky and edgy. She couldn’t, of course, but perhaps his mother could give her some clues later.
But he wasn’t done. “As a boy, I hated the Harvest Festival. It scared me. I think it did a lot of the lads. Just knowing that we used to sacrifice a young man to honor the Lord of the Grain....” She turned to look at him, struck by the starkness of his voice. His eyes hinted at a child who suffered nightmares around the time of the Harvest Festival, a striking contrast to the muscular warrior he had become. “I was too young to understand that the Lord and Lady had forbidden such things, that they’d happened in the dim past when we were ignorant.”
Hearing her calm, brave husband admit to his fears shook Miryea, so she turned to the humor that had always been her first defense. “It must have been scary. Especially in Thelana. That dim past was…what? Your grandparents’ day?” She scooted off the couch as she spoke, getting out of easy reach in anticipation of the thwack Adimir was certain to aim at her butt. Teasing Adimir about his backward native satrapy practically guaranteed a spanking.
And a spanking practically guaranteed spending the next few hours tangled with Adimir in hot, sweaty sex.
So why, exactly, was she dodging that spanking?
Because every time she felt herself craving the stinging thwacks, craving the way Adimir used his size and strength to dominate her, she heard her grandmother the soldier snorting in disgust at women who let men kick them around. Heard the urban woman she used to be laughing at the old-fashioned ways of Thelana, with its downtrodden women and domineering men.
But seven hells, it wasn’t like that between her and Adimir. It was all for fun--and it turned them both on. A good spanking and some wild lovemaking was bound to get Adimir’s mind out of the dark place into which it was slipping. Childhood nightmares sounded comical on the surface, but she knew that terrors planted in a child’s mind could shape an adult’s life. And her own childish fears had been mundane things, mockery and failure and disgrace and a father’s drunken stumbling, not human sacrifice.
Definitely best to give them both something else to think about, something they would both enjoy. In any case, it was a fine reason to do something she wanted to do anyway.
At the last second, she cocked her hip back into the swat. His palm connected with a slap that resonated through her two long coats, one a silk and linen blend, the other plain linen, and her thin linen salvar. It stung, but in a way that vibrated from her butt to her sex and clit, making them throb in delicious sympathy.
“Oh, you like that, little rabbit?” Adimir already knew the answer, so he kept spanking her as he said it.
But she knew he liked to hear it, liked confirmation that Miryea craved a hot, tender bottom as much as he enjoyed giving it to her.
Lord and Lady, if someone had told her before the Spring Equinox that she’d come to crave such treatment, she’d have laughed. Or thrown something at them. Or possibly taken them to talk to a priest, since they were clearly delusional.
Then again, she hadn’t believed in magic before the Equinox either, or that the gods still took a hand in human affairs. That was before Adimir’s physician mother Jaenna had shown her magical ways of healing that no one at the university in Poldar would believe possible.
And before she and Adimir had seen the Lady and Lord at play, giving divine approval to their union.
She’d learned a lot in the past two seasons.
The most important thing she’d learned wasn’t anything grand or deep, anything magical or divine, although some might argue that it was grander and deeper than most things, because all sexual unions honored the Lord and Lady.
It was that she loved Adimir and he loved her, and that sometimes it was fine to express their love with her ass hot and red and in the air, waiting for him to fuck her from behind.
“More,” she moaned. “Harder.”
“Harder, little rabbit? Are you sure? You know where that will get you.”
“Exactly where I want to be.”
He flipped up her coats and bent her over so she was leaning on the hard couch, her face buried in the pillows piled on it.
A few more thwacks, harder this time, unmediated by anything except her thin salvar. With his free hand, Adimir reached around to cup her breasts, teasing at first one nipple, then the other, until even the fine linen of her underq’misa, thin enough that she could pull both q’misa and salvar through her wedding ring, felt coarse against their tenderness.
Miryea’s ass burned until she thought the only thing that kept her salvar from catching fire was the moisture welling from her sex. Her body clenched in a way that told her that when her release came, it would come hard, making her scream loudly enough that the servants would cast sly, knowing looks at them in the morning and grin to themselves, because when the lord and lady of an estate were united in passion, the Lord and Lady smiled on the estate. And even if Adimir and Miryea were only the heirs to an estate (and the secondary heirs at that, for Laeca was the older sibling), it couldn’t hurt.
Adimir paused in the spanking, slid his hand lovingly along the curve of her ass. “It’s so pink now,” he said, “that I can see it through the linen. And wet….” He pulled at the linen, stretching it taut over her sex. “You’re ready for me, all rosy and juicy and swollen. Do you want me to fuck you, little rabbit, or do you want me to strip you naked and spank your bare ass?”
He pressed against her, letting her feel his body, his hard muscle, his hard cock. After the time he’d spent among the Kulchu, he had little modesty, and none of the Soranian attitude that hiding the body most of the time made it more compelling, more arousing, when you chose to display it.
He liked to display his.
On him, it worked. Then again, it helped that his body was an unusually fine one.
On this warm night, he’d shucked his coats and undertunic as soon as it was certain they were alone for the evening. The heat of his bare chest radiated even through all her clothes. His dark blue linen salvar were tented by his hard cock, which he rubbed between her legs. She pushed back against it, reveling in the sensation as it teased at her swollen clit and probed at her through damp linen. The fabric, even the sturdier linen that made up his salvar, seemed so delicate that his cock might tear right through to enter her. The sharp, rich smell of her arousal and Adimir’s spicy musk hung heavy in the warm early autumn air.
This was one of those times when she wished Jaenna had taught her some magical way to remove clothing. If there was one, she figured a former Kulchu slave would know it--although she wouldn’t necessarily teach it to her daughter-in-law. If Adimir didn’t give her a chance to undress soon, she didn’t think she’d have the coordination to unbutton her coats.
And she was getting tired of losing the buttons on her coats because he got impatient.
Adimir swiveled his hips so his cock moved against her, reminding her just how delicious it would feel when he moved like that inside her. “Do you want this inside you now, love, or do you want more spanking and teasing first?”
“It wasn’t a yes-or-no question. Do you want fucking or do you want spanking?” He chuckled deep in his chest, a sexy rumble. He pulled his hands back and stepped away, just enough so her skin felt bereft without him. “So which is it going to be?”
Miryea’s brain wasn’t working very well, but she knew there wasn’t a wrong answer to this question. She simply couldn’t decide which delicious option sounded more enticing.
But she knew he wanted to hear her say, in so many words, that she wanted to be spanked or fucked. Preferably one, then the other.
So she did the only thing a reasonable woman could under the circumstances, with her ass and sex throbbing in rhythm with her need. She answered, “Both. I want both. Spank me some more and then fuck me. Why choose between the two?”
He didn’t do anything right away, didn’t say a word. Held his breath, she swore. In any case, it became so quiet she could hear the music from his parents’ party in the main house--they were entertaining some Imperial officials--filtering in through the doors and windows open against the unseasonable heat. Seven hells, she could hear crickets chirping, a baby crying in the servants’ quarters, a dog barking the next street over, the blood rushing heatedly through her veins.
Her breasts felt heavy, her body hot and ripe as sun-warmed apricots. What in the world was he waiting for?
“Please,” she said, and to her embarrassment, it came out in a small voice that was almost a sob. “Adimir, please.”
“Happy to oblige, Lady Miryea,” he said, as a servant might, but sounding far too smug and cocky to be a servant (unless it was a servant who was carrying on with the lady of the house).
And then things started to blur.