I am not one of those foolish romantics who believe in fate. So the fact that I agreed to accompany Harper, an act far beyond foolishness and the idealistic notions of a lovesick boy, was a bit confounding. Then I realized that it did indeed match my assertion that life is built on the foundation of opportunity and decision. It was a golden opportunity and I had made my decision to take it and follow where it led. I think perhaps the confusion lay in the circumstance that I had never had a decent opportunity before, and therefore, I had not recognized it.
I made my decision on instinct, and yes, in the past, many opportunities of self-destruction presented themselves and I had made many disastrous decisions based on instinct, but they were my decisions and I owned them. Sometimes I even bathed myself in their horrid stench, but I live without regret.
Moving to the countryside was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was akin to a rebirth. I barely recalled my first visit to Harper's Estate. I had been so crazed with ophorium withdrawal that the hallucinations held more to my senses than any of the actual sounds, smells, or sights, and they were unimaginably different from the fetid Capitol and the Prodigal ghetto Hells Below.
It was as if I had to relearn how to use my senses. Every smell was new and I had to seek out the flowers and trees of the estate lands to identify their sources. Even the evening air felt strange against my skin. No stench of piss and manure permeating through it, and without the gaslights of the city streets, the stars and the moon shown far brighter in the sky.
I was overwhelmed by the fresh smells and tastes of the rich meals Harper's cook prepared. I had an appetite for the first time in many years. I'd only eaten enough to sustain my existence. Even before my time with the prayer engines, I was never far from hunger. I felt safe from them at last. It was a false sense of security, of course, but over the past three months I had built a wonderful delusion that Harper and I would be left to ourselves out here. Harper, Will, was at the center of that fantasy. I had food, comfort, warmth and shelter, but most of all the attention of my companion.
By day he allowed me to pour over the vast volumes stored in his family library. By night I studied his body like a large tome filled with stories to fill even the wildest sense of adventure. As a lover, Will was imaginative and attentive. He was attuned to the nuances of my body and played me like a Prodigal violin. He had let it slip once during some particularly intense intercourse, buried deep inside me, he confessed that he always dreamed of having a Prodigal lover, and that I exceeded his most fervent fantasies.
What kind of a man has such dreams? And what kind of luck brought him to my doorstep carrying my tattered old business card? Once again I must remind myself that fate is not my patron. Harper appeared with an opportunity and now I travel the path taken by choosing to follow him.
I'm no longer Belimai Sykes, Prodigal ophorium addict, but something else that I can't explain and don't fully recognize. There are moments when I feel like a kept pet and I resent Will Harper, his humanity, and his freedom. If he needs to travel to the city or even beyond, he can simply board a carriage and leave me for days at a time.
But when I'm soaring through the wind currents above his estate, I catch the scent of Will's own version of envy. He's never asked to try my blood again. I imagine that it frightened as much as thrilled him. Perhaps some night I'll surprise him by spiking his wine.
He said he would return tonight. He had a few legal matters to attend to. I suspect he's been to Hells Below to see Joan and Edward. I didn't ask him to check on Sariel. The mere mention of his name sends spikes of tension through Will's body. He's been back to the city twice before since his early retirement, and never speaks of his visits more than a passing word or two such as, "They're fine." I won't press him. There is much we share in our naked tangle of limbs, yet there are certain privacies we indulge each other. He never asks of my past and I never ask of his future, nor his family's. We live in the present.
It is quite dark here atop the roof. The night sky is clouded over, but I am spared from rain. I hear the approaching carriage before I can make out the horses trotting down the muddy road leading to the estate. I wait silently as Will disembarks. Instead of going directly inside, he waves off the driver and lights a cigarette. After a long drag he looks upward and scans his roof. How well he knows me. I'm not sure whether to be flattered or insulted that I am this predictable. There is enough light emanating from the new gas lamps at front entrance for him to spy me easily. He inhales deeply on his cigarette and smiles at me as he blows the smoke up into the night sky. He looks positively feral.
I step off my perch and float down to him like a moth to a flame. He smells of smoke and horseshit, but also the city and of Good Commons. A faint trace of rose water lingers on his skin. He must have seen Joan today.
"Belimai," he whispers. It is not a greeting. It's his desire speaking and the sound resonates through me like a plucked string. It travels to my groin and my hunger for him is instantly awakened.
He reaches his large gloved hand around the back of my neck and draws me close. He flicks the cigarette to the mud and presses his mouth to mine. Our tongues immediately find each other. The kiss is demanding and heated. As much as I want him, the night air is cold and damp, and I prefer our bed to the mud of the front yard. Besides, Mrs. Kately would have our hides for such dangerous behavior.
"Inside," I murmur, pulling him forward to the front door.
"I've missed you."
"Two days? My, you're getting soft in your retirement."
"Not soft at all," he says crudely dragging my hand through the part of his coat and to his hardness underneath.
We barely make it to our room. Technically it's Will's, and mine is down the hall to keep up appearances for the rest of the house staff. They must be suspicious considering we've set up a spare sitting room as a small dining area and only Mrs. Kately brings us our meals there. Maybe they just think Will is some eccentric private man. Which conveniently is the truth.
We shed our clothes quickly and fall to the bed. His hands roam the edges and scars of my body. I love his hands. To have such beautiful skin against my own ruined flesh feels like sacrilege and an utter waste, but his touch is so reverent that at times, in the moment, I forget my imperfections.
I suck on his neck as his fine hands stroke my hardness. He tastes of salt and ash and something entirely Will Harper. He reaches for the oil and prepares me crudely. Only a few days apart and he's shaking with need. Have I become his addiction? I wonder what he will do when he needs to cleanse my essence from his system?
My fears are overpowered by his primal cry of, "fuck" as he pushes into me, forcefully, deeply.
I want to reply, "That is what you're doing," but my breath is squeezed out from my lungs by the weight of him. He rests for a few seconds on top of me then kisses me wetly, sweetly. It is a strange counterpoint to the long brutal thrusting that follows.
I come while he's still inside me, and I sense his climax a split second before he succumbs to the pleasure. Usually he pulls out quickly. It's a dangerous moment of bare souls and emotions. Far too tempting to say something wishful or… pathetic. Only tonight he pauses and lets the post coital moment linger. I hold my breath.
Eventually, he rolls off me and lights a cigarette. I pluck it from his fingers and inhale the burning tobacco, letting it fill the silence inside me.
"Joan says hello," he says as he reclaims his cigarette.
"Everything go all right?" I ask, vague enough to be safe.
"Yes." He takes another deep drag. "I missed you."
"So you said."
He smiles briefly, and then says, "A few days ago they held a public demonstration at the Hopetown entrance gates."
I'm shocked, but he said it so casually that I'm unsure what he means. "Was there trouble?"
"Oddly enough the Arch Bishop commanded that if the demonstration remained peaceful, then the Inquisitors were to keep their distance."
I'm stunned. "I… I don't understand."
"I think it's beginning," Will says enigmatically, puts out the cigarette butt, and turns over on to his side.
I don't press him any further. I can't even get my mind around the implications. I inhale the scent of Will's sweaty body and our sex. It calms me.
When he's sleeping I try not to think about the future, but it's difficult not to have dreams when feeling so content and sated, despite the turmoil of the world beyond these walls.
Will once told me that he thought Prodigals were as closely descended from angels as from demons, far closer than man. Watching Will sleep, I beg to differ. I have to trace my scars to snap me out of my soppy romantic haze. I curl against his side and I sleep.