[novel sidestory snippet] untitled #1

“I am going to kill him. I swear by the Mother and all her sweet saints, I am just going to — I am going to smash that door down and put my hands around his neck and just squeeze until there is no breath left in his miserable little body–”

“They usually frown on us doing something like that.” Frest tapped the ashes of his cigarette into the small dish by his elbow, watching as Amalia continued to pace the length of the room. She’d circled it three times already, and now she was rubbing her hands together as she walked, her eyes narrow and inward-focused. “Usually you’re supposed to be dealing with threats, not being one yourself.”

“I know that,” she snapped. She spun on her heel to face him now, her eyes snapping. She’d already pulled her hair free from its ribbon earlier in the evening, and she’d run her hands through it enough times to leave it a bit of a mess. Her eyes were snapping in her frustration. “But really! That no-good ridiculous beast–”

“Careful there,” he said dryly. “He might notice what you’re thinking and take it as a compliment.”

Amalia growled, the sound rising and sharp. She half turned away, then snapped around again and stalked back over, nearly throwing herself into the chair across from Frest and leaning forward, grabbing his half-full glass and throwing it back herself in a single neat swallow. For a moment after the glass was empty she lingered, and then she slammed it back down on the table with a growl.

“Maybe I could just get drunk,” she said. “And maybe he won’t be able to get it up.”

“You could,” Frest said. “Can you even get drunk?”

She put her elbows on the table, fixing him with a flat-eyed stare. “I could try. For the sake of science.”

“Science is about ruining your charge’s wedding night? I’ll remember that.”

Amalia continued to stare for a moment, then groaned, running both hands through her hair, hard enough to pull at her whole face.

“That poor girl,” she said. “She’s utterly besotted, do you know? It’s so damn obvious from the way she hangs all over his every word, and he barely gives enough of a shit to remember her name properly! How difficult is a name like Elizabeth, honestly? It’s a common sort of name! He has at least one cousin with that name, and Oldhills throw it around like it’s currency or something! And he can’t even keep that straight — and she doesn’t even notice. If I ever become that mad, promise me that you’ll stab me in the neck straightaway.”

Frest snorted quietly. He lifted his cigarette again but didn’t inhale, watching smoke trail from the end of it towards the ceiling. “It’s not that bad, being in love.”

Amalia sighed. She folded her arms on the table and leaned forward until she was slouched heavily in her chair, her chin on her crossed wrists. Her expression shifted from annoyed to wry, and she studied him for a few moments before she spoke. “You’d know best, wouldn’t you?”

“It’s terrible,” Frest said. “It’s the worst damn thing you could do to yourself; it’ll rip out your guts and won’t even bother to stuff them back in when it’s done with you.”

“Oh,” she said, dry as dust now. “How lovely. That poor girl–”

“But it’s also the best sort of thing,” he said. He snuffed out the cigarette entirely, then leaned forward to put the one elbow on the table, reaching to pour them both another drink. “I’d recommend it at least once in your life.”

Amalia snorted as she sat back up; she didn’t bolt her drink this time, swirling the glass before she looked at him over the rim, her lips twisted in a sardonic half-smile. “With shining examples like the two of you? I’ll pass, I think.”

“Oi,” he said. “I wasn’t quite that hopeless, and she definitely remembered my name at all times.”

“Of course she did.” Amalia took a long drink, then set her glass down, reaching across the table to hook her fingers in his cravat and tug. Frest leaned forward obligingly with that, bracing his own hands at the edge of the table. The kiss was perfunctory and dry, just a brush of lips together in passing, more like a greeting than any sort of gesture of actual affection. Amalia’s mouth tasted like the expensive whiskey, and the smell of smoke was strong in the small space between them.

Her fingers curled a little more firmly, twisting nearly enough to cut off his air, and Frest allowed that for a few seconds before he reached up to catch her wrist in his, pulling until she let go, and then leaned back. He licked his lips, a reflexive sort of gesture, and pulled the cravat free entirely himself before he got to his feet.

“He’s probably not even going to notice,” he pointed out, as he started to undo the buttons of his shirt. “Probably he’ll do his duty and pass out. Isn’t that what you’ve said about him before?”

“Don’t remind me,” Amalia growled. She was much more short with undoing the buttons of her own shirt — sharp clipped gestures, gracefully aggressive. It was like watching the clean arc of a knife through the air, as she shrugged out of the shirt and undid the fastenings of the bindings over her breasts. The shirt she let drop, but the bindings she draped over the back of her chair before she stalked forward, her shoulders drawn up and her head lowered, undoing the buckle to her belt and letting both it and her pants drop as well in her approach. Her eyes were narrow, still snapping from the force of her irritation, and Frest held up both hands in a placating sort of gesture, letting her herd him backwards until he hit the bed with the backs of his legs and was forced to sit.

Amalia slid into his lap a moment later, her legs bracketing his, her hands firm on his shoulders. She pushed until he went back entirely, his back on the mattress, and then moved up to straddle his face. Frest hummed briefly, setting his palms on her thighs, hard with muscle and tension both, to keep them steady before he tipped his face up.

She smelled like leather and sweat and something faintly, pleasantly spicy, and her hands slid into his hair, gripping tightly as he opened his mouth and ran his tongue up through soft damp folds. It took a bit of coaxing — he could feel tremors against his hands that had nothing to do with arousal and everything to do with her barely-banked irritation — but he did count it as a victory when her breath came out in a ragged gasp and she began to move, small tight controlled movements against his mouth.

He took his time — he liked to, when he could, because she was usually more about speed and impatience — dragging his tongue in low slow passes, circling around her clit in light lopsided circles, and then more pointedly outward, occasionally drawing soft flesh into his mouth to suck. She muttered and swore at him under her breath, nonsense syllables of encouragement, her fingers alternately smoothing his hair down and pulling it, dragging him harder against herself as she worked her way to her orgasm. He kept his hands where they were, kneading at her thighs, like he could coax some of the tension out of her this way, as well.

She came with a small rough grunt, grinding down hard against his mouth for a moment before a long deep-seated shiver rippled through her body and something in her unknotted all at once; he could feel it in the way her legs relaxed as well. He hummed again, letting his lips buzz against her until she growled at shoved his head back, sliding down until she was on his torso more. She was flushed all the way down to her breasts, her eyes still bright and annoyed — but clearer now, more focused.

“He’s still going,” she said after a moment. Her voice was a bit hoarse, but she sounded very nearly smug. “Guess he noticed it, he’s struggling.”

Frest blinked back, then rolled his eyes with a snort. “Is that what this is all about? You giving him a hard time?”

“No, this is about having a fuck before I actually do just go wring that bastard’s neck,” Amalia said with a snort of her own. There was a gleam in her eye that was almost meanly pleased, though, before she leaned back, reaching behind herself to undo his belt now, deliberate and steady. “Giving him a hard time of it is just a bonus.”

“Ah, of course,” he said. “Though that just reminds me to never get on your bad side, if this is how you’re going to treat it.”

“You shouldn’t do that anyway,” she said. “I’ll tear you apart, don’t think that I won’t.”

Frest hissed through his teeth as she got his pants open, lifting his hips to help her get them down and off his hips. The angle was awkward and just short of uncomfortable, but she was flexible and practiced and her thighs were tight around his hips, and they both made equal noises of relief when his pants came undone. He lifted to help slide them down, and settled his hands on her hips to help steady her as she settled on him again.

“I’m not stupid,” he said, his voice deep in his own ears. “Save that for your charge, if he ever gets his head out of his ass.”

Amalia smiled at him, her teeth bared in it as she sank down onto him, a smooth slick gesture. She leaned forward to set her hands on his shoulders — both to brace herself and to keep him pinned — and then lower still, until her face was a hairsbreadth away from his. “You’re only sometimes an idiot, then. That’s acceptable.”

Frest laughed himself at that, though it was low and strained, and then he gritted his teeth, closing his eyes as he rocked up into her — she was wet enough to make the motion easy, and she ground down in response, her blunt nails leaving dark red trails across his skin. It was an easy sort of rhythm, one familiar to the both of them — it was almost more comfortable than arousing, though he hissed when she drew her nails down his chest again, deliberately sharp against his nipples — and she laughed in response to that, low and pleased, her eyes slitted nearly shut now, glittering in smug pleasure.

Eventually, though, she caught his wrist and tugged, pulling his hand between her legs and giving him a pointed look.

“You’re demanding, aren’t you? Didn’t I already help you once?” he asked, his voice a little breathless now, but he obliged anyway, curling his finger through her folds until he could nudge his knuckle against the rise of her clit. He stroked it with a rhythm that was just enough off the movement of their hips to be unsatisfying.

Amalia shuddered deeply at that, her whole body rippling with the gesture, and bore down against him harder for a moment, which pulled an answering groan out of him. Her fingers tightened on his wrist, dragging him harder against herself, correcting his stroking to something that would satisfy her.

“Of course I am,” she said, her voice sharp now, strained and amused. “You’re doing this for me, after all.”

“Aha,” Frest said, rough and amused himself, “I thought so.” He rolled his fingers harder against her clit now, encouraging now, and it only took a few more moments before she bore down on him hard, her lip caught hard between her teeth as she shuddered through her second orgasm. He watched her from under his lowered lashes, and eventually her fingers loosened their grip on his wrist — only to squeeze again a moment later, brief and tight: all right, come on.

He made a low noise in his throat, not quite gratitude, and let himself move — harder now than before, faster and smoother, and she rode those thrusts with a languid sort of ease now, her other hand trailing across his chest, tweaking a nipple sharply between her fingers.

And that was enough for him, really; he arched up with a grunt, tipping his head back to expose his throat fully to her as he came. Her fingers brushed along it lightly, tracing along the line of the knot there, pressing just enough to be felt when he swallowed. That sent an unexpected jolt through him, and he let his eyes close entirely for long, long moments after.

When he let himself sag down against the bed in the aftermath and opened one eye, Amalia was leaning over him, propped on one elbow, her fingers still pressed to his neck. She was relaxed now, easy with the coil of her weight over him.

“I’m still going to kill him someday,” she said, almost conversational. “He did just roll over and go to sleep. I bet the poor girl’s regretting all her choices now.”

“Wait at least until he’s got a proper Heir,” he said dryly. “If you kill him before that, she’ll end up lost in the succession scramble, and you’ll end up doing her more harm than good.”

Amalia growled at that, though she was still more relaxed than anything else, reaching to twist his nipple hard at that. He yelped and shoved at her shoulder, which she rocked with before settling herself more firmly on him again.

“And all those cousins are far worse brutes, it’s true,” she said, and shook her head. “Ah, Avis, sometimes it’s very hard to love you.”

“But you do anyway,” Frest said. He shoved at her shoulder again, with less force this time, then folded his arms under his head. “We’ve got enough time between the two of us, I think; it’s bound to turn for the better someday.”

“Someday,” she said, with a snort, then pushed herself up right, sliding off of him finally — though she didn’t go far, only settling to sit next to him, her elbows on her knees. “Let’s just hope that idiot doesn’t get the whole of us swept before then. He’d do it, if I let him, mark my words — that man’s going to get the lot of us in a great deal of trouble someday.”

“Then you’ll fix it,” he said, shrugging against the bed. “And if you can’t, Celeste will. She’s clever like that.”

“Oh, is that so,” she said dryly. “You could stand to be a little more concerned; that charge of yours is going to work herself into an early grave if you let her. Don’t go volunteering her like that.”

“If Avis gets in trouble, all of Union suffers for it,” he said, closing his eyes. “If you think Celeste won’t apply herself to fixing something like that, you haven’t been paying attention at all.”

“And what’s your part in all of that? Spiritual guidance?”

“I’m a priest.”

“So am I.” She jostled his side with her elbow, then dropped backwards on the bed herself with an exaggerated sigh. “Blood and tears, Frest; this marriage is going to end in blood and tears and I’ll be the first one to declare that I knew it was coming all along.”

“You can do that when the time comes,” Frest said. “Go to sleep.”

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