He lifted the tankard of ale to his lips… his fourth, or was it his fifth? What was the point in keeping count? No amount of alcohol would wash away the foulness that had permeated his every waking thought for the last ten days. For some, what he had been asked to do… no, told to do, would be a simple task. And yet, he couldn’t bring himself to accept the fate that lay before him in two short days. The unfairness of it all was beyond words.
Cullen Rutherford took another long swig of his ale as he rested his cheek against his palm, his arm propped atop the slightly splintered wooden bar. The keeper offered him a small smile, most likely keen to Cullen’s internal struggles. After all, isn’t that what bar keeps did… they listened, observed, gave advice. At this point, no amount of advice or words of wisdom could help him out of the situation he had inadvertently stumbled into. If he had arrived merely a few moments later or not at all, he wouldn’t be in this mess. But leave it to Cullen to be as prompt as always… his need to be timely a curse above all other curses.
He felt the steady hand on his back and turned his head slightly as his dear friend sat next to him. Her brown eyes searched his face before her mouth drew up in a slight snarl. “You’re drunk,” she remarked, looking down her long angular nose at him.
“And you,” Cullen slurred as he pointed one long finger at her, “are very perceptive.”
“This will not help.”
“Well what would you have me do, Cassandra? I didn’t ask for this… any of this.”
Cassandra Pentaghast offered him a consoling smile. “No. I suppose you did not.”
He dragged his hand through the waves of his short blond hair. “What was Emperor Gaspard thinking?”
“He was thinking,” Cassandra said calmly as she reached for the ale the keeper had brought her and took a deep gulp, “that in order to keep the trade routes open with the Free Marches and to maintain the peace treaty with Ostwick, he needed to ally with Bann Trevelyan. This was the only way to do so.”
“But why me?”
“You should feel honored that he chose you. It speaks highly of his faith in your abilities to make this work.”
“But married! To a woman I’ve never even met! The thought is absolutely absurd.”
“No! I will not hear it.” He covered his face with his hands and groaned. “Have you met me, Cassandra?” Cullen asked in a pained voice. “I am not fit to be successor of anything, much less someone’s husband.”
Her hand found its way to his shoulder again, not nearly as consoling as he knew she was trying to be. “I realize that is not what you had planned for yourself…”
“I had planned on serving the military until I was old enough to retire. Not be someone’s husband… the father of their children… Maker’s Breath… I’m going to be someone’s father,” he nearly hyperventilated.
“Slow down, my friend. There’s plenty of time for that. Let’s concentrate on one life changing event at a time.”
He reached for his ale and tipped the mug back, draining the contents in one big gulp. Cullen’s head was swimming, his body vibrating from the buzz of alcohol coursing through him. But it wasn’t nearly enough. He needed to be good and drunk. Lifting one finger in the air, he made eye contact with the bar keep and nodded appreciatively when his next tankard of liquid I don’t give a fuck landed before him. Without hesitation, Cullen lifted the ale to his lips and took another long pull of number… what number was he on?
“For pity’s sake,” Cassandra huffed. “There’s no talking to you right now. But whatever you do, please make sure that you are presentable tomorrow when we meet the Trevelyans.”
He turned abruptly to face her. “What? They are here?”
“Of course they are here. Wasn’t that your request… to be married in Orlais so that your family and friends could be present before you made the trip to the Free Marches to take up your new residence with your new wife?”
“It’s just… this is all happening so fast. Too fast.” He downed another long gulp of his ale.
“Yes. Drink more. That will help,” Cassandra quipped, her voice oozing with sarcasm.
Cullen narrowed his eyes at his long time friend. “Do not judge me, Cassandra. This may very well be my last night as a free man and I will drink as little or as much as I damned well please.”
Cassandra lifted her hands in the air before her in surrender. “Ugh! I will see you tomorrow.” Without another word, she slid off of the bar stool and walked away, shaking her head, spiky black hair moving slightly with the gesture.
Cullen gave his full attention back to his new best friend… his tankard of ale. His attention was so drawn into the amber liquid that he barely noticed when a new body took residence in the seat Cassandra had vacated. The alcohol was starting to catch up with him and he felt it… nice and fucking drunk. He was getting close to numb, which was the exact feeling he had been striving for.
“Well, you look bloody hammered,” the feminine voice nearly sang from the seat next to him. “Bar keep, I’ll have whatever he is having…” a slight pause and then a soft chuckle… “Make it two. It seems I have some catching up to do.”
Cullen’s head bobbed as he turned his attention to the blurry image sitting next to him. She might have been pretty, all three of her. “Who are you,” he slurred.
“Just someone who is having a pretty shitty day… much like yourself, apparently.”
Her accent… he couldn’t quite place her accent. It wasn’t Orlesian and definitely not Fereldan. Perhaps she was Antivan or Tevinter? Whatever the case, she had a pretty voice. “Sweetheart, I’ve had a shitty week.”
“Well then, what better way to drown our problems than with a nice tankard of ale. Or in your case, a few.” She tipped back the mug, draining the contents in one go, before slamming it down on the bar and dragging the back of her hand across her mouth. She turned to face him, a seductive grin in place. “I can think of another way to forget our problems. That is, if you are game?”
“What exactly did you have in mind?” Cullen asked, his eyes falling to those lush lips of hers as her tongue darted out to moisten them.
“I have a room upstairs. If you’d like to join me, I’m sure we could think of something.”
Typically Cullen would never get this drunk, nor would he accompany a woman he didn’t even know to her room and do… basically what he was thinking they were going to do once they got there because typically Cullen had a hard time talking to women without muttering and stammering like a teenage Chantry boy. But seeing that there was nothing typical about Cullen’s life these days, what harm could there be? Tomorrow, he would be meeting his future wife for the first time ever. The day after that, he would be getting married, something he never thought he would be doing, and then the day after that, he would be getting on a boat… and Cullen hated boats… and crossing the Waking Sea into the Free Marches where he would be calling home for the rest of his years. Every decision from now until eternity had been strategically planned out for him, all so that Emperor Gaspard could secure his relationship with the Free Marches. And Andraste’s tits, if Cullen wasn’t going to do this one thing for himself. What was the worst thing that could happen? It’s not like he’d ever see this woman again.
“I’m quite sure we could think of something,” Cullen offered as he stood up from his seat, wobbled a little less than he was expecting, and held out a chivalrous hand to the seductive brunette. “Shall we?”
They barely got the door shut behind them before his mouth was on hers, his hands working at the button of his trousers. His erection immediately sprang from the confines of his breeches and Cullen reached for her waist, dragging her to him. He hiked her dress up to her thighs and reached beneath the skirt to tug her smalls down her legs only to find she was wearing none at all. The thought caused his cock to throb from wanton desire. He cupped her bare ass cheeks in his large hands, her long legs wrapping around his waist, and he roughly threw her back against the door. He heard her gasp and thought about muttering a quick apology. However, her mouth was devouring his so fervently that he doubted he could have pulled away to even catch a breath.
Quickly and before he sobered up and realized what he was doing, Cullen held onto her with one hand while his other palmed his rock hard erection, lining up the tip of his cock against her soft wet folds. He brushed against her once, twice, three times and then with one quick pump of his hips, Cullen thrust inside of her, feeling a significant amount of resistance that should not have been.
He paused, buried deep inside of her, and pulled his mouth away from hers. His eyes met hers for the first time since she had sat down next to him… bewitching hazel green eyes with flecks of gold. “You are…”
The woman smiled timidly. “Not anymore.”
He rested his head against her shoulder, concentrating on his breathing. As if he didn’t already know he was going to regret this little tryst tomorrow, when he was not riddled with alcohol and bad decision making skills. But the thought that he had just taken her maidenhood caused two very strong reactions in him. The sane, level-headed Cullen felt horrible for taking something so special from her against the fucking door. Yet, the drunken and ridiculously wanton side of him was incredibly intoxicated at the idea that he had discovered uncharted territory… been where no other man had been before.
And the completely curious part of him had to ask, “Why me?”
“Because you were there,” she replied haughtily as she dug her nails into the skin of his neck. “Now, we can talk about it or you can continue to fuck me. I prefer you fuck me, but the choice is completely yours.”
“As you wish,” he chuckled and held onto her as he maneuvered their intertwined bodies to the bed. With his cock still inside of her, Cullen lowered her to the mattress carefully, stretching his body over hers. Ever so gently he thrust inside of her. Her low moan whispered across his skin as she lifted her hips to meet his. He found himself quite shocked at how her body responded to his as he picked up the pace and rocked into her, quicker and quicker until he was furiously sliding in and out of her moist heat. For someone who had never had the pleasure of a man before, she seemed to certainly be enjoying him.
Cullen stood up and dragged her bottom half to the edge of the bed. He lifted her legs so that they wrapped around his waist, placed his hands on her hips and slammed into her, the new position allowing him to bury himself deep inside of her. She cried out as he thrust harder and harder until… Cullen’s release came with a low and guttural groan, his cock slamming into her one final time as he held her in place, spilling his seed inside of her.
He dropped her legs from his hips and maintained his position, his manhood still pressed deep inside of her. Cullen’s breath came rapidly as he stared down at her face. Slightly more sober, he studied the details of her features as she lay before him, her chest rising and falling as she struggled to get her own breathing under control, her eyes closed and her lips drawn in a satisfied grin. There was only one of her now, so that was good.
She was quite pretty, from what he could tell. However, his vision was still fairly impaired from all that he had imbibed this evening. For a moment, he almost asked her for a name, but figured what would be the point. Tomorrow, he would be meeting his betrothed, and the day after that he would be getting married, and then the day after that he would be catching a boat to his now carefully planned life on the other side of The Waking Sea.
Cullen shook his head and chuckled. The lady laid out before him cocked an eyebrow and opened one eye to peer up at him. “What?”
“It’s just… I’ve never done anything like this before.”
“Nor have I,” she replied with her own sardonic laugh.
“Obviously,” Cullen remarked as he finally pulled himself out of her, yanking his breeches up and over his hips before reaching forward and tugging her skirts down over her.
She sat up, tossing her long chestnut-colored hair over her shoulder. “Thank you.”
“Now may I ask, why?”
She swallowed her smile and offered him a pensive look. “My entire life has been planned out for me from the time I was a little girl. And just this once, I wanted to take control of something.”
“I just wish I would have known. I could have made it more… I don’t know… special.”
To this she laughed as she reached up and cradled his stubbled jaw in the palm of her hand. “That’s very sweet of you. But I promise, I wasn’t looking for special. I was simply looking for it to be on my terms. And it was. So again, thank you.” She dropped her hand to her side and offered him one more quick smile before heading to the door.
Cullen abruptly turned to face her, the woman’s back to him. He opened his mouth to speak, to say something, anything. But what was there to say? He would never see this woman again. They had given each other what they needed this night and Cullen was grateful. So he said nothing as she turned the handle and exited out of the open door before shutting it quietly behind her.