“We are now bonded, you and I, through the Void.”
The shade’s voice had gone through her like a shiver that first time she had summoned him, and seemed to resonate somewhere between her ears long after he had fallen silent. He was a formidable ally, and even in his uncanny quiet, Riva could always somehow sense where he was, and just how his ghostly dagger would strike next.
In those rare moments when he spoke, he told of the lost glory of a Brotherhood centuries gone, but a glory that now dangled only just out of their reach. She would not have admitted it for a full quiver of death-hexed arrows, but she hoarded up his words in her memory like a dragon’s cache of gems, to be taken out and reexamined only in secret.
Previously, he had always left her at a task’s completion, or when too much attention from their enemies sent him back into temporary quiescence beyond the veil of the living, but tonight he strode easily beside Shadowmere as Riva rode.
“It can’t be terribly interesting for you, just traveling with me like this,” the dunmer ventured, curious.
She had not truly expected a reply, so when Lucien answered, a startled chill raced up her spine. “My hold on this world is stronger this night, deadly sister, and the Void seems… not quite enough when here, blood lies fresh on the snow.” The night sky was a twinkling cloak of sable felt above them, and Riva could feel the comfort of the new-moon darkness. It was of small wonder that a servant of Sithis found the mortal world more hospitable tonight.
“Then I am glad for your arm at my side,” Riva murmured.
His answering chuckle was a fresh-whetted blade dragged through velvet. “So formal. You have far more than that.”
When at last she stopped to make camp in a well-hidden cave she had frequented on journeys past, Lucien’s form was still a silvered etching upon the air beside her. He remained as she dined on bread and hard cheese, and as she banked the coals of her tiny fire and laid out her bedding on the smooth cave floor. Riva had kept their silence over the hours of travel, and throughout her camp chores, out of some completely irrational instinct that said if she talked to him too much – or maybe, if she forced him to talk to her too much – he would retreat back across the veil for another day. Still, she could not quite stifle her curiosity and faint nervousness at the thought that he might remain as she slept.
Did he mean to guard her? She had drawn half a breath to ask, but he spoke first.
“Sleep, my sister, and then we may… talk.”
Later, Riva would wonder how she’d ever managed to drift off with the tingle of his shade’s presence still a dark fire in her mind, but would ultimately come to the conclusion that it didn’t matter much. She was pleased, either way.
Riva sat up, casting ruby eyes about in confusion. Orange light flickered from a banked fire, and the harshness of its shadows intimated that it was yet dark outside the cave, but… the edges of her vision held a faint haze as if sleep had gummed her eyes, and the cave was warm. Comfortable, even. Skyrim autumns were never warm.
Then the rich laugh from the darkness to her left reminded her that she was not alone. She turned slowly, troubled by something about the sound… It was fuller, somehow.
Instead of the transparent imprint of the assassin’s shade she was accustomed to, a human man’s quite solid form lounged in lithe indolence against the cave wall. His skin had the fair cast of one who does not often see sunlight, but with a hint of color that said he would grow tan if he did, and his deep-set hood was thrown back to reveal a long, silken tail of black hair. His expressive lips wore a smirk as he watched her face.
Riva came to the only logical conclusion she could, given the circumstances. “I’m dreaming,” she said, simply.
“And here I was hoping that I would see that icy calm of yours waver for a moment,” Lucien sighed. “It is commendable, of course, but still, one can wish.”
The heady awareness that he was not only speaking to her freely, but was to all appearances alive, was too much for Riva to contain completely, forcing itself out into a small, fierce smile as she watched his head tilt back when he gazed at the ceiling in mock exasperation. Still, it wouldn’t do to let him see too much of that. “It takes a great deal more than a pleasant surprise to make that happen, I assure you.”
Full lips turned up into a grin, and dark eyes gleamed in the firelit gloom. “That sounds like a challenge. One I would be… delighted… to accept.” His tone promised altogether too many things for Riva to quite suppress the catch in her breath, and his grin grew wider and even less benevolent.
“Is this… are you really here?” she ventured, all at once uncertain as she pushed to her feet. A significant part of her mind did not give a whit one way or the other if she was talking to Lucien’s spirit or her own imagination, but somehow it mattered, regardless.
“Insofar as I can be, yes… which is to a most tangible degree, lest you worry. As you fell asleep, I merely followed you. Dreams are very near the veil and the Void, and I am more powerful, here.”
In hindsight, baiting him probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but wisdom had a bad habit of getting boring, anyway.
“How powerful?” she asked, arching a delicate eyebrow.
Even living among Tamriel’s elite assassins, she had never seen a person move so fast. One moment, he was sitting on the floor three paces away, and the next, he was on his feet in front of her. Cool, smooth hands caught up her wrists in a vice-like grip, and she was forced to stagger backward against the rough stone wall. Suddenly pinned, Riva tried to twist her hands away, out of his grasp, but she could not even begin to shift them.
The pressure on her skin grew colder and metallic, and Lucien let go to reveal brass cuffs that seemed to grow out of the very wall to entrap her. She gasped as he traced a single finger down the harsh, white lines of her facial tattoos with predatory focus, deceptively gentle.
At the sound, Lucien leaned close enough for his lips to just barely brush the edge of her ear, and a violent shudder racked her body as he spoke. “Powerful enough, I’d say.”
Riva’s voice started as a strangled gasp, and she had to wrench it back into something approaching evenness before she would let herself continue. “So… so it seems. Why are you doing this?”
The finger on her face became his entire palm, gripping her jaw harshly and tilting her face upward so she was forced to meet his dark, amused eyes. “Why do you think?”
She opened her mouth to answer, but said nothing. She knew the signs of desire, surely enough, but would it be that simple? It almost seemed presumptuous to say what she thought. “I… don’t know.”
Lucien hissed, and a younger Riva might have flinched at the force in his narrowed eyes. “Truly?” He ran his hand down her slender throat, over her small, cloth-bound breasts, and down across her stomach to dig blunt fingers into the curve of her hip. “I think you do. And I think you will speak.”
Riva swallowed hard.
“You want me,” she whispered.
The hand gentled once more and slid down her thigh. “Very good. I do. Was that so difficult?”
When she averted her eyes, he chuckled darkly. “Even as a shade, I see your face change when I speak; I hear your breath catch when I draw near. It is… exquisite. You have made me miss the trappings of the flesh, beautiful sister.” As if in deep consideration, he drew a dagger from the sheath at his hip and tested its edge against his thumb. “Tell me, sister, do you fear me?”
The words seemed to ring in Riva’s ears, her attention riveted to his hands, and the reverent care with which he handled the blade. “No… and yes,” she answered softly.
His grin was keener than his dagger, white teeth flashing in the firelight. “That pleases me. The more pressing question is – “ The blade flicked out almost too quickly to follow, aiming for her throat, but before she could draw breath to cry out, it turned and slit open the shoulder of her tunic, instead. Though she felt the cold steel graze her skin, his precision was such that only linen was cut. “ – Would you trust yourself to my… dubious mercies?”
She shivered as the sliced fabric slid down her shoulder until it caught on her breast bindings, but managed a wry smile as she answered him. “That seems a moot point, given my current position, doesn’t it?”
“All the same.” The blade snicked down the side of the tunic, exposing her flank to the light brush of fire-heated air. “I have asked you a question, and whatever else you may or may not do this night, you are going to answer it,” he said, a hint of a growl lending a dire urgency to the command.
Another stretch of cloth parted with a rasping tear, and her tunic slid fully from her body, leaving her only in leggings and smalls. The cold kiss of the dagger’s steel had still failed to mark her skin, but she felt everywhere it had passed like an ephemeral brand, and heart thudding, she knew her answer.
“I would, my brother.”
“Oh, excellent.” His grin grew wider as the last of her clothing fell to the floor in ribbons. Some faraway part of her mind registered that she would be annoyed at the clothes’ destruction, was this the waking world, but there seemed to be a multitude of advantages to amorous encounters in one’s dreams…
…Like the whipping cross that had somehow appeared in the center of the chamber while she had been distracted by Lucien. Riva shivered.
Clearly, he had noticed her attention. “You like that, do you?” The restraints on her wrists melted away to nothing, and she shakily let her arms fall to her sides, her mouth suddenly dry.
“Hmm, so do I,” he went on conversationally, as if she had answered. “My old sanctuary at Cheydinhal lacked a proper torture chamber. Such a shame, that. It has been far too long.” He sheathed the dagger, which brought a twinge of such evenly-mixed relief and disappointment that she wasn’t sure what to feel, but she found his next demand perfectly agreeable. “I think it will be too warm in this place for what I am wearing, considering what I am going to do to you. You will undress me to the waist, now that you have use of your hands.”
Eager to oblige, Riva set deft fingers to the fastenings of his shirt and doublet. He wore soft, silent-moving sable cloth, its style reminiscent of the garments preferred by Gabriella and Festus, but clearly belonging to a time long faded into the hazed memories of elders. The fabric fell away to reveal a smoothly-muscled chest and arms corded from his evident familiarity with weapons, but graceful as a dancer’s. Reluctant to break the contact, Riva let her hands roam along his skin, delighting in his warm, solid presence. She had not taken anyone to her bed in months, and Lucien’s recent company on her assignments had made her feel that lack more keenly than ever.
She did not have long to savor the feel of him, however. While he had indulged her desire to touch, when she unthinkingly leaned forward to brush a kiss against his collarbone, she found herself caught short by a cruel fist in her hair. “I think not,” he rebuked, his light tone turned all at once to bare menace.
“Forgive me,” she gasped out, eyes watering at the pressure as he wrenched her head backwards to stare at the ceiling.
That earned her a dark chuckle. “Only when you earn it, and you are far from that, now.”
A wet heat coupled with searing pain along the upswept curve of her ear – he had bitten down just beside one of the silver studs she wore set into the cartilage – and she cried out in surprise. Even through the throbbing of her abused ear, she could feel the soft puff of breath as he laughed into it. Her cheeks burned in shame that she had given him a full reaction so quickly, and he sensed her chagrin like spilled blood in the water.
“You thought you might endure without cracking that mask of yours, in point of pride, perhaps?” he asked smugly. She closed her eyes against the inevitable mockery in his as he loosened his grip on her hair enough for her to raise her head once more. “Ahh, but you sing so very sweetly, my sister, and I have had a great deal of practice –“ His free hand was suddenly on one of her breasts, pinching the small, hard nipple sharply, and the bolt of agonized pleasure nearly made her stagger. “ – at finding this particular song.”
“I… see that,” Riva ground out through clenched teeth.
Another laugh, and Lucien had freed her once more. She met his eyes as evenly as she could manage, and though she ached for gap just widened between them again, she was gratified to see the front of his loose trousers protruding slightly. Whether it was a response to desire for her or anticipation of other, less gentle things to come was a question she refused to dwell on.
He nodded toward the whipping cross, a devilish half-smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. “My forgiveness lies there… along with a great many other things. If you would have it… go and show me.” The half-smile deepened into a fully untrustworthy grin, and he waited.
Riva could hear the blood roaring in her own ears, and her vision narrowed until all she saw was Lucien, and the cross behind him. He seemed to know just how hard it would be for her to take that short walk unforced, to voluntarily place herself under his mercy against every hard-won survival instinct that screamed at her to lash out, to attack, to flee into the comforting shadows where none could touch her. Words of surrender were one thing, actions another matter entirely. He had guessed both how difficult the order was for her to follow – and how very badly she wanted to follow it.
Lucien watched her, patient and wily as a feral cat on the hunt.
She muttered a curse under her breath, and slowly unlocked her rigid limbs to walk forward toward the cross.
There were leather straps hanging from the arms of the whipping cross, softened and slightly cracked, as if from many years of enthusiastic use – Lucien hadn’t skimped on the details. Riva closed her eyes as she stepped up to the smooth wood and stood spread-eagled against it, feeling his gaze as sharp as his dagger at her back.
No telltale scrape of a boot on the stone floor warned of his approach. He was simply, suddenly there, with firm, efficient hands cinching the bindings at her wrists and ankles, and though he was not ungentle, she twitched with every tug. A soft laugh as he tightened the final strap, and his hand coasted down her stomach, casting tremors through every muscle beneath it as she felt his bare chest pressing against her back.
Then the hand slid lower.
Slim, dexterous fingers parted lips finely-dusted with dark curls, and dipped – Riva arched her back in shuddering pleasure as two fingers stabbed inside, while the heel of his palm pressed against her hidden nub. They lingered there, tips sliding against her inner walls, and she only barely checked her overwhelming impulse to roll her hips and grind herself against his hand – he had amply shown that he was not of a mind to have her take what wasn’t offered – but nevertheless let out a low, frustrated moan as the fingers withdrew.
“Your body tells me what you try to hold back,” he murmured into her ear, amusement heavy in his silken baritone. “Had you more sense, you would follow its example.” His moistened fingers reached up to trace her lower lip, and she sucked them clean obediently, tasting salt and a tang like spring water.
When she could speak, Riva took small, perverse pleasure in what little rebuff she could manage. “Common sense was never my strong suit.”
Another velvet laugh as Lucien withdrew, raising gooseflesh on the skin of her back as it was left exposed to the air once more. “While that is one of the many things about you that I find… irresistible… nevertheless, your insolence will carry its price, in due time.”
Riva’s eyelids fluttered as her imagination raced toward what that might mean. “What – “
“Silence.” The command fell like a lash. “For the remainder of your time in these – “ he caressed the bindings at her wrists – “you will speak only when I command it, or when your words are but pleas… or cries.”
She drew breath to answer, but caught herself, and nodded instead, allowing her head to bow forward in readiness for what would follow.
She did not have long to wait, as supple strands of what felt like doeskin leather brushed a tickling pattern across her shoulder blades, drawing her into a fresh bout of shivering - that he would choose such a light instrument to begin with spoke foreboding volumes of what would come later. “Do you know what this is?” Lucien asked, tone conversational once more.
Again, Riva only nodded, earning a smile in his voice when he spoke again.
“Good. Very good.” The braided tails of the whip may have been soft and unknotted, but they snapped with a sly, spitefully cracking sting as they struck her for the first time.
Riva could not quite stifle the sharp hiss of her gasped breath at that first kiss of the lash upon her bared back – it fell with frightening precision just between her shoulder blades, spreading a singing heat through the skin. She knew Lucien would be smiling even at that slight reaction, and the remembered glint of cruelty in his dark eyes wrecked further havoc upon her composure.
She heard a soft brushing noise, and then nearly jumped as the next blow came with a dull, heavy thud instead of the sharper, lighter touch of the first. He had twisted the tails together just before striking, and –
– the noise came again, and she flinched, very slightly, only for the blow to be withheld. Her face burned as he laughed yet again, and she deliberately relaxed, resolved to weather the –
Caught off-guard once more, this time by a strike with his full strength behind it, Riva gasped softly. The pain was keen enough to make her catch her breath, and sent an answering jolt of a very different sort of feeling to the pit of her belly, where the tightly-leashed coil of desire cried out for more.
“You fight so hard, and for what, sister? Pride? Shear perversity?” He spoke in an inexorable cadence that seemed to flow with the quick, savage battering that he meted out upon her shoulders and flanks with the whip. “Both make you strong in the waking world, but here? Here I will break them.”
Her skin grew hot and over-sensitized as nerves began to protest, and she shivered with the force of the need that only grew with each blow that fell. It was maddening, an enticement, a tease – and the fact that she knew he was capable of so much more made it worse. The pain he gave her was only enough to hone the edge of a dark appetite long-denied; her inner thighs grew moist from arousal, and some reckless part of her wanted to scream at him to stop toying with her and just get on with it… but a whisper of true fear held that impulse in check. If the pieced-together tales she had heard were even halfway accurate, angering Lucien Lachance was right up there with fighting a dragon naked on the master list of extremely foolhardy activities.
Long minutes passed as he beat her, blows interspersed occasionally with an infuriatingly light brush of his fingertips along her bruised back (which nevertheless sent tremors throughout her body). So gradual was the change in cadence that she barely registered its mounting speed until a series of five punishing strikes to the sides of her ribcage left her unabashedly moaning in mixed pain and desire, eyes squeezed shut and hands clenched into fists against the wood of the whipping cross.
Then the blows stopped altogether, and Riva quickly found that for all her internal bravado, she was not nearly as ready for the escalation as she had thought she was.
“Look at me,” Lucien ordered sharply, his voice sounding out from in front of her. She lifted her head and opened heavy eyelids, to find him standing before her, grinning his sadist’s grin and stroking the rich brown tails of the whip. He held her gaze squarely, forcefully for a span of several heartbeats, before something made her eyes fly back to the object in his hands.
It was slowly turning charcoal-black, its tails thicker and less supple, with a glint of polished steel at each tip.
“Time I had some real fun with you, now, don’t you think?”
Riva’s breaths came shallow and shaky as Lucien stalked around behind her once more, her head turning without conscious intent to continue to track his movements. That earned her a swift, harsh hand in her hair, jerking her head back into a blinded position, and she let it fall forward in silent acquiescence.
The heavy, sinister tails were gently draped over her left shoulder, then dragged slowly backward to crest her shoulder and skate down her bruised back. The unforgiving chill of the steel tips sent her into a violent shudder as they met flesh already heated from abuse, which turned into outright shaking when Lucien stepped in close and she felt the ghosting warmth of his breath at the juncture of her jaw and neck. He laughed as he steadied her with a firm hand on her hip, and the laugh was muffled against the skin of her throat when his lips closed around the side of it, hot and soft and wet with a sweep of his tongue and just the barest hint of teeth. Past caring for his certain amusement, she whimpered with need – pain and that thin, bright thread of fear had whetted it to a razor’s edge, and none of this was helped when she felt him press closer, and the hard length of his still-clothed erection brushed against the small of her back.
“What do you want, sister?” The purred question was so soft that at first Riva thought she had imagined it. But then he added, “You may speak,” and her sluggish wits realized they were actually expected to respond.
She knew she wanted him naked and inside her, but that was a heady thing made all the more potent by its deferral. She wanted his mouth on her neck again – Sithis, did she want that – but she suspected that if she said so, he would withdraw just to toy with her. She both wanted and feared the promise of the heavy cat-o-nine in his hand, and that was probably what he expected her to say…
But what would he want her to say? What would send a thrill of desire through his body to answer the cry of her own, drive him to relish what he was doing even moreso than he already was?
Her throat was dry and her voice husky as, at length, she answered. “I want to give you anything you wish for, my brother.”
The hand at her hip was lifted, to caress the side of her face with a deliberate gentleness, and his dulcet voice was approving as he stepped away from her and replied, “And that, you will do, I have no doubts. For the moment...” He paused, and she could almost feel the slow-spreading grin as leather tails rustled and steel tips clinked. “It would please me to hear you scream.”
And scream, she did.
The first blow was a snap of burning cold that turned immediately to flaring heat, radiating pain in waves across her shoulders and down her back. Her hands clenched to white-knuckled fists inside the restraints, and every muscle in her body strained to get away, though she could not move.
“Yes, fight it,” Lucien purred from behind her as the whip fell again, scattering motes of agony this time against her flank, and a hoarse yell arose unbidden from her throat. “You are beautiful as you struggle.”
Steel-shod tails struck across her left shoulder, and then immediately across her right. Riva’s head fell forward as she shook, with no apparent direction to flinch.
It would come –
– and she would press herself against the sanded wood of the cross as if it would shelter her, and grit her teeth and still could not stop the cries as each blow rained new, deeper bruises upon layers of others.
Even her toes clenched, seeking anchorage in the unyielding stone floor, as her fingers scrabbled against the wood.
Again. And again. And again and again…
She stopped trying to grit her teeth, and just screamed, finally sagging against her bonds and fully, viscerally accepting that there was nowhere to go. It would stop when Lucien caused it to stop.
The blows continued to fall, and she was dimly aware that the pain had ceased to be distinct – it rose and fell in waves, ebbing and swelling like the tide, and she drifted within it like a cast-off bit of flotsam. Another wave crested, and she felt a hesitant, warm trickle down her back, as if in answer to the tears that had long since soaked her face.
Then the sea was calm.
He was speaking silken music into her ear, and she could not quite understand the words, but she smiled through her tears as his leanly-muscled arm wrapped firmly around her waist, and fingers danced feather-light across her shoulders. Every brush was a delight and a torment, raising protests from bruises and abrasions even as it sent shivers through her core. He shifted, and there was heat and pressure against her back – he was laving her skin with his tongue, taking the blood away from the few small cuts that she knew by their sting as he touched them.
His lips had returned to her shoulders, and he was whispering again – what was he saying? – but she was still weeping and did not quite know why.
“Shhh, beautiful sister… you are strong, but know that you can let go… and I will catch you….”
Was that Lucien, or only her own fragmented thoughts echoing through her mind?
At length, her tears ceased, and she felt she was waking up from another dream… which was absurd, because wasn’t she already dreaming, after a fashion…? It stopped mattering when the warm arm carefully loosened from her waist, and Lucien melted back from her once more…
But his hand paused at her hip and lingered there to become a firm grip, and she knew as surely as night will fall that he had not yet finished with her.
His right hand at her hip was such a distraction in itself – even its light pressure raised protest from the bruises the lash’s stray tails had created – that she almost missed the first brush of his left along the length of her thigh. Riva’s breath hitched as his touch swept higher, fingers splayed and curling to just barely scrape her skin with his short nails… was he going to…?
Her muscles quivered as those careful fingertips brushed the softest skin on the inside of her thigh, teasing and light and somehow even more sinister for it. Then they reached upward, and he laughed at her moan as his fingers glided smoothly between lips slick with desire.
“Still so very ready, even after all that,” he commented quietly, just beside her ear. “It makes me wonder just what I would have to do to you to change that…” Lucien left the velvet threat dangling in the air for a long moment, moving in still closer until his lips were brushing her ear, and her stomach clenched in fear and still more damnable want even as he challenged, “Would you care to find out?”
His laugh was warm and dark and dangerous as Riva froze, ceasing even to breathe.
Then she opened her mouth and took a shaky breath to reply...
And bit her lip, remembering not to speak, and shook her head. She was rewarded with a quick jab of a third finger inside her, his hand moving to slide his fingers against the very top of her slit, and the breath she had taken was expelled in a hiss of pleasure.
“Hmm. I do think I prefer you like this, fortunately for you.”
The fingers flicked up and out, sending a jolt like lightning up her spine, and the webbing of his thumb slid directly against the buried bundle of nerves and made her bite off another moan as he thrust his thumb in, instead. She could not help trying to move her hips, just a little, to urge him deeper. His right hand tightened painfully on her bruised hip, holding her still, but he did oblige her unspoken need, pressing up and deep, grinding his hand against her nub and sending her into spasms with the intensity of it.
His thumb slipped out, and she let out a near-silent sigh of frustration, but the teasing hand did not completely withdraw. Instead, it slid backward fractionally, and she could feel his thumb slowly circling her rear entrance, slippery with her own fluids. A moment later, it was nudging its way slowly inside, and Riva gritted her teeth at the intrusion, strange and rough whereas the fingers that simultaneously slipped back into her slit felt slick and smooth and terribly welcome. She writhed in desire and trepidation, reveling in the touch of his fingers and now the lightly-stubbled rasp of his chin as it brushed against her shoulder, but half-fearing what he planned to do.
A moment later, he had drawn his torso away and dug his thumb and fingers deeper into her, pressing against her inner walls and holding her there, his hand like a pincer and she really didn’t know whether it was the best or the most horrifyingly vulnerable feeling in the world.
His right hand released her hip – he no longer needed it to hold her still, that was for certain – and languidly traced a path between her body and the whipping cross, brushing across her flat stomach and caressing her breasts, and if she could have leaned into the touch, she would have –
And then the light touch was gone, and she heard the soft, cold sound of a dagger being drawn from its sheath.
“I warned you, much earlier, that your insolence would carry consequences,” he reminded her, almost gently. She felt her body spasm, though whether in desire or rebellion, she no longer knew. His grip between her legs grew tighter, which only made her want to writhe to force his hand to move, to give her release at last…
“Did I not? Stop wondering how you can induce me to pleasure you and speak,” Lucien ordered.
Her face grew hot – was she really that transparent, now? – but she answered hoarsely, “You did. I remember.”
“Good. You have been so very pliant since then that I thought perhaps you hoped I would forget… But that would have been foolish, wouldn’t it?”
Riva held her silence, shivering, which motion stilled instantly as she felt the dagger’s ice-cold blade against her lower back.
She felt as much as heard him speaking to her, again just beside her ear, voice barely a murmur. “I will make sure you never forget. I will mark you, so that even beneath your armor, your skin will recall my promise.” Something deep inside her body twitched, and he must have felt it, for he laughed. “Oh, you like that, too, do you?”
…Did she? Her back was bruised and abraded and cut already; a dagger’s point would be agony as it tore new lines in the skin. And yet, she had half-wished that he had not been so careful much earlier, as he’d sliced away her clothing without so much as nicking her. The cold steel was a threat and a challenge, his silken-voiced question a goad to her desire even as that desire betrayed her.
“Answer me, Riva.”
Her name. No one ever said her name. How did he even know it? It rolled off his tongue like a summons, and she found herself answering even past the nervous lump in her throat, simply because he demanded it.
“I… I do, my brother,” she whispered.
The cold became heat as the tip dug in, and she would have held completely still even if Lucien was not holding her so intimately, so possessively, and even were she not supported by the sturdy wood of the whipping cross. It was slow-moving fire that seemed to go on and on, and she was moaning through clenched teeth but she did not care; let him hear, let him hear and enjoy it, because she knew he would.
And then she heard the faint sounds of the blade being wiped on fabric and sheathed, and it was over. Sagging against her bonds, she began to shake as the sharp, bright clarity of the pain dulled and spread. She knew without touching them that the cuts were very shallow, but they would bleed – the whipping had amply ensured that. Lucien’s free hand stole in front of her without warning and stroked, and she cried out in surprise, every nerve suddenly alight despite her body’s attempts to dampen responses and push the pain away.
“You have done well.” The fingers slid between her swollen folds again, even as he maintained his hold on her with his other hand, and Riva nearly saw stars at the pleasure and the need it engendered. “I am going to release you, now, and you will show your gratitude for the privilege of regaining control of your hands.”
“Anything,” she whispered so softly that she wondered briefly if he heard… but his pleased laugh a moment later intimated that indeed, he had.
Riva gasped as the grasping hand withdrew from her body at last, and a light splash of water – where had he gotten a basin? – sounded a few paces away.
Moments later, his still slightly-damp hands worked the first strap off her wrist, and she stiffly lowered her arm as her fingers tingled slightly. The bonds had been just tight enough that much longer in them would have seen her become very uncomfortable, even above the cacophony of pain upon her back. Lucien released her ankles before undoing the tie at her other arm, and the reason for that was apparent as the strap slithered free and Riva’s knees tried to fold under her when the last thing holding her up was gone.
He caught her as she stumbled backward, wrapping warm arms about her torso, gentle even though the rub of his smooth chest against her back struck fresh chords of agony from the skin. She seemed to hang there, suspended in his grasp for what might have been seconds or minutes, feeling the rise and fall of his chest and smelling his spicy, indefinable scent amidst the coppery tang of blood and her own faint musk.
Then he whispered, and time began to move again. “On your knees.”
That quiet, confident command set her heart pounding anew and seemed to press her downward with the weight of it. As he helped her sink to the floor, guiding her to turn and face him, she wondered faintly how simple words could still affect her so much, after everything he had already done.
But like nearly everything else he said, the words framed a scene, an anticipation, a promise… and even exhausted as she was, she could not help but respond.
The stone floor was cool and hard, and for a moment Riva swayed, fearing she might yet collapse, but Lucien’s hands held onto her shoulders, and she steadied, reaching out to rest her palms against the hard muscle of his still-clothed legs. She noted with an absent sort of surprise that by the level of her face, he was not a tall man, though he had certainly never seemed anything less than imposing to her before.
Less sluggishly, she moved to obey the unspoken order, hearing it with as much clarity as she had his words just before, untying the laces of his leggings with fingers that still shook. She had had ample practice at maintaining her dexterity under pressure, though, and the lacing yielded quickly under her touch. She eased the cloth down his slim hips and slowly off his thighs – the leggings were reinforced with panels of supple leather at the front and back, and hugged the contours of his body like a second skin, but Lucien was patient, only drawing his hands up her shoulders and neck to rest against either side of her face as he finally stepped out of the pants and stood naked before her.
He lifted her chin, then, and she looked up to see his small, crafty smile and dark eyes that glittered down at her. The hungry desire she read in his face raised an answering pang from between her legs, and she felt her own lips curve upward in appreciation for the lean, beautiful lines of his body, smeared slightly with her blood – she drank the sight in as one dying of thirst, for it seemed like half an age since she had actually gotten to look at him, immobilized as she had been.
Then she felt his hands tighten and slide into her hair, holding it back away from her face while gripping her scalp in such a way that he could move her head any way he wished, which set her to shivering all over again. Riva let her eyes fall, and he allowed her to lower her head as her hands slid up his thighs and over his hips, and his half-mast erection hardened to full at the first brush of her breath against his fair skin.
Languidly, she passed one hand over his stomach while the other moved to carefully cup his heavy sac, and she was surprised when he hissed in pleasure, yet did not force her forward. She pressed the advantage of being able to – for the moment – set her own pace for all it was worth, slowly dragging her lips across the silken skin of his shaft as it jumped beneath her touch. When she first swirled her tongue around the crown, tasting the first hint of slick, salty fluid, his fingers tightened in her hair enough to sting, and she closed her eyes. Her hand at his balls moved to grasp the base of his cock instead, and in one almost agonizingly-slow motion, she took him in as far as she could, nearly to the hilt.
“Yessss…” he hissed out, and she tried to move, hoping to hear more, but he stopped her, firm hands now gone hard and commanding.
It was only at his direction that her mouth began to slide along his shaft in earnest, his grip on her head controlling both pace and depth of the movement. Her hands, though – she had not forgotten his admonition to thank him for their freedom, and she put that freedom to use with increasing exuberance even as her head moved entirely by his bidding.
Lucien was almost uncannily aware of her limits as she pleasured him, pushing just enough at unpredictable times that she felt vulnerable, knowing he could be halfway down her throat if he wished it, and she would be powerless to stop him… but there was a strange sort of safety in the surrender to his direction, for she also knew that he would push her exactly as far as he intended and not a hair more. He was precise and controlled even in the rising tide of passion, whispering encouragement as he forced her forward until her eyes began to tear up, and gasping quietly as she sucked hard on the pull-back.
With her eyes closed, his hands and his body and his words were her world, banishing the lingering pain of her whip wheals and cuts to the shadowed corners of her mind. She could feel him almost pulsing under her touch now, and maybe if she tightened her lips around him just a little more…
He growled suddenly at the increased pressure and dragged her face backward, slipping from her mouth, and her eyes flew open, looking up toward his face in alarm.
But he was smiling fiercely at her, and she relaxed, awaiting a new command. It came in the form of a firm, but slow tug at her scalp – he was pulling her up to a standing position, but he waited for her to get her feet properly under her and regain balance, and for that, she found herself almost absurdly grateful.
“Thank you,” she murmured softly, and his smile grew wider.
“I do so love to see you like this,” he said, releasing her hair with one hand and using it to stroke lightly across her temple and along her jaw. “Trembling and waiting and radiating the want for me to touch you… Already, I begin to miss hearing your cries. Shall I take you, lovely sister?”
Her eyes, which had been trying to follow the course of his fingers, fluttered nearly closed as scorching desire roared through her at the very suggestion. “Yes…” she whispered.
His hands guided her closer, till his lips grazed her cheek, and he spoke one word, rich and dark. “Beg.”
Riva swallowed and bit her lip, at a loss… but he was waiting, and she did want him, so very badly…
“Please…” she trailed off, unable to find the words to give him what he wanted, but she took a deep, quavering breath and tried again.
“Please, my – Lucien. Take me, fuck me, hurt me more, I don’t care… I need you inside me.”
And then his arms were at her back and behind her legs, lifting her near-effortlessly as she hissed at the flare of pain from her back, and she wrapped her legs around his waist and felt his cock nudging at her… but then he was moving, carrying her across the chamber, and her vision blurred with dizziness as he swiftly lowered her to the thick bedroll that was spread, almost forgotten, across the floor.
Her cuts and bruises ached and protested as he pressed her down, but the fresh pain only made the molten heat between her thighs all the more insistent. Lucien had shifted to pin both her wrists to the floor on either side of her, and knelt before her body, almost looming despite his spare frame, backlit by the bloody warmth of the firelight with his face in shadow. Even the shadows, however, could not dim the devious gleam in his eyes as he dipped his face to take her hard nipple into his mouth and sucked, pulling a strangled moan from deep in her chest.
His tongue was hot upon her flesh, and he dragged it down, across her ribcage and stomach to dip amidst her short, fine curls and - !
She was still wet, so very wet, and he hummed a chuckle against her skin as he tasted her arousal, and moved back up her body to trap her eyes with his own.
“I need you!” she gasped. “Please… Lucien, I need you.”
His grin was sharp and hard and triumphant as he shoved her legs apart with his knee, shifting her wrists to the grip of one hand, the other sliding down over her body before settling upon her breast as he sheathed himself inside her in a single, smooth thrust. She cried out wordlessly, legs coming up to pull him even closer, her body stretching and clenching around him as it struggled to reconcile this sudden feeling of full after so long spent pining for more than the few fingers he’d given her.
He held where he was for several heartbeats, until she relaxed slightly, and then he began to move, slowly but forcefully, his breath hissing hot against her neck. At some point, his hair had fallen free of the tie that had bound it back, and now it fell in front of his face to pool to either side of her head, a dark curtain that blocked out any sight but him. Riva started to reach up to stroke it, but was caught short by his hand that still held her own captive, and he ducked his head to bite down hard at her shoulder. She whimpered, settling for surging up to meet his next thrust, and that, he seemed to like, for it drew an answering growl from his lips where they were still closed around her skin.
Lucien increased the pace, and a new, fine sheen of sweat broke out on both their bodies with the glorious exertion of it, raising new fire in Riva’s cuts. She could feel the tension building inside her – it had never been far from the surface since he had pinned her to the cave wall the first time, but now the siren song of pain-laced ecstasy threatened to overwhelm her.
She could not have named the moment when she felt Lucien’s balance above her shift, but his eyes pinned her as surely as did the grasp of his hand and the weight of his body, and she gasped at the devious intent she saw there. His free hand was moving, and then it had settled between her legs, fingertips nestling between her folds even has he continued to slide within her, and with frantic certainty she knew she would shatter if he would only –
There was a firm, insistent pressure as his fingers drew circles around that particular knot of nerves, and her back arched as the world exploded into light and heat, and somehow her hands were free and they were in his hair and against his face and neck and shoulders and she was screaming… he was moving faster still, driving her to a yet higher peak when she thought there was nowhere left to go… and he pushed deep and held hard, his own low moan mingling with her cries as he went over the edge just after her.
Riva lay shuddering, arms tightening convulsively against his back as they rode out the aftermath, the distant throb of pain nigh-indistinguishable from the waves of pleasure still breaking over her.
After a time, he shifted, and she felt firm hands cradling her head again, lifting her to a half-sitting position… and she opened her eyes to see him staring intently at her – not smirking, not laughing… what -?
He kissed her.
She had thought, after all that had passed, that there was no greater intimacy to be had between them, but she had been wrong. The kiss was hard and possessive, his tongue claiming her mouth with a demanding intensity… but she met his onslaught in sudden, equal furor, and it was not the kiss of a master to a slave, but of lovers – fierce and exultant, long and deep.
When they finally drew apart again, both gasping for breath, the last thing she remembered seeing was his piercing gaze, as everything else faded to dark nothingness around her.
Riva awoke to wan light from the cave’s mouth – by the color of it, the day was already beginning to fade. The sunlight hours in Skyrim this time of year were fleeting, and she had always liked it that way.
Slowly, she rolled into a crouch, muscles strong and sure and obeying her commands with precision, as if she had not been a shaking mess mere hours before. There was a slight pulling sensation and faint stinging at the small of her back, and when her fingers investigated, she found a small, crusted spot on her tunic… and the ridged scabs of five splayed lines on her skin. She smiled, slow and languid, at the memory of receiving them, even as her heart pounded with the tangible confirmation that the memory was far from a simple dream.
When she summoned Lucien again, he appeared, insubstantial as ever… but the look and the catlike smirk he gave her from within his deep hood set her blood aflame.