Chapter 6: The Gentling

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 The comfort of a pillow beneath his head and clean sheets against his skin were reasons enough to rejoice, but Trench was kept from the peaceful embrace of sleep. Thandi's hands were small and delicate and warm, difficult to ignore. Kneading at his shoulders, she massaged the tension from the muscles of his back and neck.

A night with a virgin or near-virgin was worth twice as much as the most experienced harlot in an established brothel. The madame of the Crimson Corset was a woman of her word. Thandi had been reserved for special clients, high paying, infrequent. She was not as experienced (or as assertive) as other whores, which was evident from the lack of worldly wiles.

Before the peace accord between their warring kingdoms, captured Ardanian women were forced into Carneddei brothels. They were exotic distractions because of the color of their skin, their manner of dress, and foreign tongue. The notoriety soon wore off, led by Church policies decrying race mixing. Those fortunate enough to be sold off to noble homes survived. Those sentenced to the mines or military practice yards as chattel did not.

Like them, Thandi was fallen—no longer one of the tribes and had forsaken the nomadic ways of the Steppes. Her mother had not taught her about her people, or perhaps her Carneddei father had forbidden it. Regardless, Trench felt no kinship to her, no sympathy for her plight, trapped between two unforgiving worlds—half-feral Ardanian and half-civilized Carneddei.

Hypocrite.

He could hold no judgment over her because he was a half-breed, too. The bastard son of a Carneddei warrior priest, born among a people where purity of bloodlines was sacred.

With no warning, Trench rolled over and was on top of her. Her eyes grew wide and frightened, reminding him of a colt looking down a saddle and its trappings for the first time. "Ssh," he whispered, as he would to such a colt, gently stroking her voluminous lips with his thumb.

The gentling of a wild horse was not unlike the art of seduction. There were horse-lords who took their horse breaking as a perfunctory task, strapping bridle and saddle to young horses and riding them until there was no buck, no fight, left in them. Success came when the beast was broken on all levels, even the spirit.

Trench came from a different philosophy: a slow garnering of trust and an assertion of authority, without reducing the purity of spirit. The technique worked just as well on Humans.

Thandi's breathing quickened, her chest rising and falling in anticipation. She was more aroused than fearful and held his gaze as a spirited, attentive mount should. She arced her hips with passion as his other hand traced the curves of her small breasts. Allowing his touch to linger until goose bumps rose on her skin, Trench took a nipple between his parted lips. When the flesh hardened on his tongue, he released her and blew cool breath over the moist skin.

Trench slipped his fingers between her legs. Thandi gasped, her head rolling back into the pillows. She was more than ready to receive him, and with a gentle thrust, he entered her, moving slowly, deliberately. Ardanian men were known for being well-endowed, and he gave her a moment to adjust to his girth. While she was not chaste, she had not been used excessively or carelessly. He was determined to make this a memorable experience.

As she bucked involuntarily, Trench hooked one leg over his shoulder and leaned into her, supporting his weight on muscular arms. Breathing labored with wanton pleasure, Thandi wrapped her arms about his neck and pulled him closer, kissing his cheeks and chin and forehead with her wide, brown lips. Her hips moved with involuntary spasms. She was close.

Feathering kisses down the inside of her thigh, Trench grinned. She was breathless and wet, but he slowed the rhythm to a near standstill. Thandi arced her back in protest, imploring him with her eyes. He was in control and decided that he was not ready; so therefore, she would not be ready either. Sinking down onto his elbows, he stared into her eyes and drank in the smell of her and the heat of her skin.

The firelight dimmed with the passing of the hour, sending shadows across the room as her breathing became a subtle whine of impatience and then crescendoed in cries of passion. Trench resumed the rhythm in earnest.

Thandi cried out, her body shuddering uncontrollably as Trench closed his eyes and let the moment come. This was the sensation he lived for—sexual release—where mortal flesh was transcended, if only for a few blissful moments, touching divinity.

Rolling off of her, he laid beside Thandi with a subtle grin curled in the corners of his mouth and coiled his fingers in her hair until she ceased twitching in convulsions of pleasure. To his surprise, the washer girl threw her arms about his neck and kissed him, her tongue darting between his lips. She was invigorated, hardly spent, and wanted more as she pressed her breasts against him and wrapped lithesome leg about his waist.

So much for sleeping.

Trench kissed her on the forehead and rolled onto his back, lifting her on top of him. He was ready to go again, but it was her turn to do the riding.

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