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Earric was normally exhilarated after a successful ceremony, but tonight he felt vaguely uneasy. Beside him in the carriage, Phedre was chattering away about …something – he'd stopped listening several minutes before, to be honest. She was obviously excited, cheeks flushed and hair falling down from the quick knot she'd put it into before they'd departed, and he knew he ought to be paying attention, but he just couldn't. Instead he nodded at appropriate intervals and stared out the window as the carriage clattered over the stones of the Old City.

His thoughts kept returning to their newest members. Oh, he'd done his research – superficially, they fit the profile of the group well enough. A bored, too-smart girl from a proud but impoverished noble family and an upwardly-striving scholar would fit in with a half-a-dozen like themselves already in the Order. But their eyes were too keen, not dulled easily enough with drink and sex, and it unsettled him slightly. Ilphère had been nervous, that much was obvious, and her will was strong, yet in the end she'd freely submitted to his kiss. She was ambitious, that one; she reminded him a little of Phedre in some respects. He would have to encourage her slowly, awakening her potential with a light touch at first, until he was more sure of her intentions. It wouldn't do to have a carefully-constructed cult divided by resentment or jealousy that he hadn't sown himself.

The foreign scholar was another matter, and more perplexing altogether. At first Earric had wondered if some hopeless love for his pretty companion had brought him there, but he hadn't sensed any such emotion from the young fellow. Instead, all he could perceive from him was lies upon lies upon a foundation of lies. It would take some time to sort out the truth, whatever it might be, from such a tangle. Sanadhil – if that was truly his name – had given way to him more easily, or so Earric had thought at first, but the half-elf had a spine as well, it seemed. That was good – it was less fun to break the weak.

He realized that Phedre had paused. She'd probably asked him a question. He turned his attention to her for a moment. Yes, there it was – they'd reached the edge of Rhenea and she was waiting for him to either order the coach home to the Grand, or take them out somewhere for more fun. He found he wasn't in the mood for further socializing. "Home," he told her, more curtly than he'd intended to, and rapped on the roof to let the driver know their intentions. "I want you all to myself now," he added, smiling to smooth any ruffled feathers, and reached over to pull his wife into his arms.

Of course, she couldn't wait until they arrived home; she was never any good at delaying pleasure, and to please her he pretended to be impatient too, even though patience was in fact one of his greatest virtues. He allowed her to force him back against the seat, her tongue darting wanton between his lips as she slid a hand over the front of his breeches, then unbuttoned them, drawing his length out to caress and fondle it. She moved to bow her head over him, but he drew her onto his lap instead, tugging her robes up until she could slide down onto him with a gasp of pleasure. Jolted as they were by the cobblestones, she hardly needed to move to have her fires stoked.

He longed to give her pain, but not here, not where anyone might overhear her screams. He loved the way her face contorted as she begged him desperately for mercy, release from the torture that only he could inflict on her. He loved how pathetically grateful she always was afterwards, and how she would beg him not to do it again even as she kissed him and drew him into her once more, and came and came and came. As it was, he had to confine himself to mundane pleasures for the time being – twisting her nipple hard between his fingers, biting the soft flesh of her lip until it was swollen and red. "Yes," she moaned in the tongue he'd taught her, and he smiled to himself.

As he leaned back he caught a glimpse of the stars overhead, razor-bright, with the moon no more than a sliver, and felt a certain calm descend over him. He would have both of them, in time. Together, alone, with Phedre there or without her, it didn't matter. He'd tasted them, he could still feel them dancing at the edge of his senses – they were his. There was nothing to worry about.