The Poison Within
The mornings had a habit of arriving too soon when I spent the night with Elly. I cherished our stolen moments, shiny glimpses of happiness. Like a fool, I threaded them onto the cord of my memory in the desperate hope of creating a fully beaded string one day.
Light would seep through the wooden shutters of the inn where we stayed. The clinking of crockery, mixed with the innkeeper’s nagging at the kitchen maids, would carry up from below. Every time we roused, it felt like a strike to my stomach. I’d grown to hate the sense of relentless finality this breakfast noise brought about.
I tightened my arms around Elly’s sleeping form. We would fall asleep and awaken entangled. Although he sometimes protested I squashed him, he made no attempt to twist free from my embrace. I craved his proximity to a degree that would’ve been mortifying if I hadn’t long stopped caring about hiding my want for him.
Ellydhar Finn-Jánn, the Count of Radvadur, was neither a morning person nor a light sleeper. I once joked that he could nap through a siege with blasting cannons and catapults unperturbed. He admitted to being famous for 'suchlike' when he served in the cavalry during the Elven War.
He hadn’t been well these past months, run ragged by his duties, which had mounted during the latest crisis. The word ‘turbulent’ best described the geopolitics of Radvadur, the westernmost region of the Empire, neighbouring the powerful Elven Country on one side and unpredictable wild tribes on the other. Being the lord of a province riddled with unrest and flooded by a surge of Nymph refugees took up a huge chunk of Elly’s time and health. Yet he rode for over an hour to meet me in a village outside the town of Azlě. Then I kept him up, literally, and ravished him until we both passed out from exhaustion on the damp bed linens a couple of hours before dawn.
I didn’t want to disturb him. I liked watching him sleep. He was the most fine-featured man I’d ever known; coming to terms with his looks had required some effort on my part. I first met him at the library of his family manor while I conducted an investigation that concerned the theft of his mother’s jewels. Speechless and awkward, I’d simply gaped at him.
His aristocratic bearing exuded charm and quiet authority. At first, being in his presence made me feel bovine and conscious of my unwieldy size. But then his kind gaze bore into mine with interest, and heat prickled my skin at the encouragement and mischief I noticed glinting there. He stole my heart the second he offered me a smile.
Thinking back, I couldn’t say how we went from that, to me—a blacksmith's son—fucking him three days later against the doors of his own stables.
Ours presented an unlikely coupling. Yes, I’d made Inspector, which meant an enormous step up for a village gendarme. But the prospect of advancing my career any further didn’t seem realistic in light of my background. Not that I wished for a promotion. I enjoyed my job and felt otherwise content with my social standing. In the eyes of the world, I could never be the Count of Radvadur’s equal, even if, by some miracle, I advanced to the Prefect Inspector one day.
Week in, week out, I feared Elly would tell me we were over. That it had been the last time. But two years on, our unlikely arrangement continued, and as we rolled in the sheets—as hungry and frantic for each other as at the very beginning—his proud and noble ancestors were turning in their graves.
Inhaling the faint scent of the fancy soap lingering in his hair and the musky essence of his skin, I brushed a dark strand away from his face. I loved his glossy waves loosened from the restraint of the ribbon he usually wore at the back of his neck. It was the first thing I stripped off him the instant he entered our room the previous night.
He didn’t stir. His breathing sounded steady for the moment, but his cough, which had worsened since our last meeting, worried me. I’d noticed him rub his chest after every nasty rumble ripped through his lungs, as if in pain. He’d tried to shrug it off by putting it down to a cold. Each of those crackly spasms set a new spark of panic through my mind.
I ran my palm down his arm and laced my fingers with his. Why did Elly’s narrow hand feel so perfect in my large paw? I often marvelled at how our bodies fit together as though we were tailor-made for each other. I knew he found our size difference appealing, and it excited me, too. Although shorter and lighter, he epitomised strength and agility. His leanly muscled, long-limbed physique corresponded with his reputation as an acclaimed fencer and rider. Nevertheless, I could manhandle him with ease the way I knew he yearned for. I’d pin him down to the mattress or against a wall to sate our mutual thirst. The noises he produced while writhing powerless underneath my weight, his eyes wide and liquid, were entirely inapposite for a composed aristocrat. He made my blood boil.
The very thought of his responsiveness invigorated my morning rise.
Whenever I found myself near him, I felt the compulsion to touch. Right then, I brought my lips to his ear and sucked on its shell. His sigh sent a warm tickle of air down my chest. I knew he’d woken when he rubbed his cheek against it.
“Käyru? Please tell me it’s not the morning already.”
Even though he was groggy from sleep, his elegant accent rang with crisp consonants. Try as I might, I could never imitate the clean manner in which he spoke. Long hours spent on obsessive reading had worked wonders for my vocabulary, but my lazy, drawn-out enunciation betrayed my common provenance without fail. The booming quality to my voice only emphasised it further.
I planted a rueful kiss on his temple. “Alas, not even the Lord of Radvadur can stop the dawn from coming.”
His nose wrinkled in distaste. “How insufferable. But speaking of coming…” He ran his palm down my hip and pressed himself firmer to my side, offering an expectant poke of his hard length.
“Elly, I think you wrung me dry last night.” I huffed a laugh, but the sound died on my lips the instant he closed his practised fingers around my cock.
Well, fuck. Then again, maybe not.