The fire had burned low while Cullen waded through the endless paperwork on his desk, taking advantage of the late hour to work uninterrupted and alone.
Without warning, a woman’s purr intruded on his privacy, "A deep voice smooth as silk reverberated outside her tiny cell. ‘You have been charged with -’”
Cullen jolted in his chair. “What in Andraste’s name!” His pulse pounded in his ears, and he whipped his head around, searching his small office.
“Shhh, sweetness, I’m reading,” she winked as she stepped from the shadows, her wide necklace glittering in the dim light. “Now where was I?”
“‘-charged with transporting lyrium unlawfully.’ The heavy door creaked open, and Belle gazed up at a broad plated chest, studying the Knight-Captain Colin beneath thick lashes, lingering on his bulging biceps straining at the tight straps of his gleaming armor."
Irritation replaced fear, and he growled, “Maker’s Breath, Isabela, how did you get in here? I am quite certain...”
“I’m a rogue, growlybear.” He could hear the smirk in her voice, and his jaw clenched. “I get what I want. And right now, I want to read this to you since you haven’t even touched it. I left it for you a week ago!”
“Belle raised her amber eyes, surprised to find herself staring at his chiseled face rather than a foreboding helm. Not that his menacing glower was any less disconcerting. ‘I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding,’ she purred, rolling to her feet with the grace of a panther as her head tilted back, chocolate locks falling over her shoulders. ‘I'd be happy to...’ She slithered closer to stroke long fingers over his chest. ‘...clear things up.’”
“Was there some assistance you required, serah?” He interrupted, rubbing his temples as the words on the page swam in front of his eyes.
Cullen blinked when she slid onto the corner of his desk, finding himself in rather close proximity to her unclothed thigh. Politely, he slid his chair away from Isabela and kept his eyes focused on his work.
“I want your help to make this is as accurate as possible.” The pirate’s laugh nearly made him groan. “Templars do try to stop lyrium smugglers, don’t they?”
“Yes, of course,” he muttered.
“Good! Now listen.”
“Colin’s glinting eyes narrowed dangerously. The handsome templar snapped his hand closed like a vise, capturing her slender wrist, but Belle gave him a cat-like smile and arched toward him. ‘So you think you can frighten a confession out of me, Ser Templar?’”
Something in what she said made Cullen’s pen pause. “Did you say ‘Colin’?” He could feel the heat rising on his cheeks, and his jaw clenched.
“Ooo, you are listening,” Isabela laughed. “What? You don’t like the name?”
Cullen’s throat tightened, and he glared at her. “Is there a reason you chose that particular name?”
She leaned toward him, and Cullen pressed against the narrow back of his chair until it creaked. “Same reason I used ‘Belle’, my sweet growlybear.”
The blood flooding his cheeks stilled his tongue, and she continued.
"‘Knight-Captain,’ he growled.
“‘Can I call you Captain?’ Belle taunted, her dark eyes casting over him like a net. ‘You can call me Captain.’
“The stalwart templar ignored her, his voice a deep rumble as he continued, ‘and I will do more than frighten if you don't tell us who supplied you with unauthorized goods.’
“Belle laughed defiantly, the rich rolling sound filling the cell. ‘Can't you ask nicely?’ she cooed, tracing her fingers along his jaw until he snarled like a mabari.”
“Why in Thedas should he ask nicely?” Cullen muttered under his breath.
“Oh, you’ll see, sweetness.” His cheeks flushed again when she winked, and he tried to focus on the page in front of him.
“And her hands should be secured if she is to be questioned.”
“Oh, Cullen, you naughty boy. Do you want to secure my hands?" Isabela’s giggle grated on his ears.
“I-what? No!” Why couldn’t his Void-begotten cheeks stop turning red? Ignoring her, he made a few neat notes in the margins of his report.
“Colin wrenched her hand away from his face and cruelly twisted both hands behind her back. His powerful grip forced her to press against him, the chill of his plate through her thin corset snaking over her skin. Belle caught his gaze straying over her, lingering for an instant on the swell of her breasts, but his grip redoubled.
"’No?’ Belle whispered, her soft lips close to his muscled neck. The scent of him was intoxicating, clean with just an icy hint of lyrium that tingled when she breathed in. ‘I think you can.’
“Colin hesitated, and his steady breath suddenly faltered, his vice-like grip loosening a little. ‘Would it matter if I did?’"
“I have work to do,” Cullen broke in brusquely, refusing to look up from his papers, annoyed that he’d already forgotten what he had just read.
Isabela’s laugh made his ears burn, and when he blinked, she’d moved. He found himself staring at the hem of her tunic instead of his report. Cullen jerked up his head and pushed back from her, the legs of his chair scraping across the wooden floor.
“‘It might.’ Belle purred. Her warm mouth followed the strong line of his jaw. ‘Why don’t you try? It’d be much nicer than you trying to frighten it out of me. Her inviting lips grazed the edge of his as her wide eyes fearlessly met his hazel ones. “You don’t want to,” she whispered, her sultry voice as soft as the sea on a calm day. ‘You don’t need to, Captain. Just ask.’
“His breath caught, and slowly Colin turned his head toward her, his lips uncertainly grazing hers. The light touch seared through Belle, chasing away the chill left by his armor. With a throaty purr, she arched against him, fluidly twisting her arms free of his forgotten grasp.
“Her hands slid into his short ginger hair as his powerful arms lifted her, their tongues tangling.”
“Isabela! Get off... my reports!”
“Your reports?” She leaned forward, her eyes darting lower. “Is that what Templars call it?”
Cullen scrambled to his feet, spluttering. “You ...you are sitting on my reports!”
“I’m not yet, growlybear. I think I’d notice that.”
“Th-th-that’s not...I didn’t...” Cullen buried his face in his hands. “Maker’s breath.” Every time he opened his mouth, it got worse. His ears burned, and he could feel his neck and chest quickly becoming as ruddy as his cheeks
A light touch on his arm made him jump. “It’s just a story, sweetness.” Isabela murmured, pulling his hand from his face. “But I’ll stop if you want. Just leave it here for you to read whenever you like.”
The actual concern in her voice and the way she squeezed his hand made him look at her, and Cullen found she wore a warm smile. Wordlessly, he nodded, and some of the heat began to ease from his cheeks as his chest loosened.
He let Isabela draw him back to his chair, still giving her a wary look. Was this another ploy to make him listen further? But she just tossed the manuscript on his desk and tightened her fingers around his hand once before she let it go.
“Sweet dreams, growlybear,” she whispered and then she was gone, his office door closing without a sound behind her.
Cullen shook his head and returned to his reports. There was always so much to be done. But in the silence, he couldn’t help stealing a glance at the papers she’d left.