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In Ares We Trust

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He stretched and yawned, his huge, chiseled gray body flexing on the mattress. One hand roamed down for a junk-shift, gripping lightly at his sizable, currently flaccid manhood. He lifted and dropped it so it rested more atop his left thigh. After a moment, he opened his single eye and smiled at the ceiling.

Saturday. Off-day. He’d have tomorrow off too. Perks of being the Chief Financial Officer at the firm.

The great Qunari sat up, swung his long legs over the side of the bed, and stood, easing into another refreshing stretch. The clock on the nightstand revealed it was just after nine. Ah, felt good to sleep in, seeing as he was up at five Monday thru Friday. But still, he loved his job. Loved his family and his life. Things were very good.

He moved from the spacious bedroom to the adjoining bathroom, feet smacking the floor on his way to the toilet. He lifted the seat and took a leak. Then he went to the double sinks before the long wall mirror and washed his hands. He splashed some water on his face, swiping at it. Once he dried his face on a towel, his eye fixed on the reflection staring back at him.

F.E. Taurus (Starring Iron Bull) smiled a bit, scratching at the stubble that had formed in the course of a day. F.E. was short for Finn Esaam, and well, Taurus was the family name. He studied himself—the black-inked tattoos on his torso and arms, gained during his college years. In this reality, the multitude of battle scars didn’t exist, though he did have two or three from just being a boy and doing stupid things. The pale slashes over his left eye came from a boating accident when he was sixteen, which had cost him the eye. But the good Lord Ares saw fit to give him two, so he couldn’t complain.

He picked up the jar of horn balm flanking his sink, eyeing his wife’s sink area with amusement. There were a few creams, lotions, and other beauty products set up neatly. He chuckled and applied balm to his majestic set of horns; he did this every week or so to keep them from getting dry. He also took his weekly dosage of dhaya. He and the little lady weren’t ready for another baby just yet. After brushing his teeth, Finn slipped back into the bedroom, pulled on a pair of sweat pants, a t-shirt, and his eyepatch, then headed downstairs.

Even as he moved through the spacious five-bedroom house, he could hear the brood downstairs, the screams and laughter of young voices. Down the curve of wooden stairs to the first floor. He eased right, towards the back of the house to the kitchen. The halls were wide apart, which they had to be to accommodate him and a family of half-Qunari children, though there were some nicked places down low where one of the younger children, most likely Kitt, had dragged her little horns. He took a step and winced, hopping on one foot for a moment.

“Damn Legos…” It was a purple block, part of Kitt’s Doc McStuffins building set.

Finn entered the open floor-space that combined a huge kitchen with the family room area. Across the way, a run of windows revealed a sizable, fenced-in backyard strewn with toys. A few trees spotted the yard, the largest of which had been converted into a treehouse fort. Neighboring homes were also visible beyond the bounds of the tall fence.

The handsome Qunari took a moment to admire his family. There was fourteen-year-old (nearly fifteen) Finn Junior, who was mostly referred to as F.J. He was the oldest and the spitting image of his father–same horn shape and arrangement, though not as large as Finn’s just yet, big and tall for his age, and handsome. He had very curly, dark hair that he kept short and neat. He sat on one of the couches before the 60-inch flat Curve-TV with some music video playing, though he was smiling and texting away on his phone.

The second child was twelve-year-old Adaku. Somewhat petite like her mother, she had a set of short, twisting horns that eased back along her head. Her hair was wavy, shoulder-length, and dark, the color Finn’s would be if he’d ever grown any on his head. Ada was very smart and stuck to her books. Finn figured she’d be a doctor, scientist, or something like that. It was Saturday, for Ares’s sake, and the girl sat at the table reading a Physics book. She made him very proud, as all his brood did. The father grinned.

Child number three was six-year-old Kitt. Kitt’s goal in life right now was to be a “pretty, pretty princess”, and she was well on her way, running around the living room wearing one of the frilly costume dresses she owned over her pajamas. The girl’s long, white hair formed a poofy cascade over her shoulders, down her back. Aside from the horns jutting from her head, very miniature versions of Finn’s horns, she looked nearly exactly like her mother.

The fourth and last child, at least for the moment, was Darr. He was a year and a half old, and the nubs on the sides of his head had recently begun to bud, starting the growth of his double set of horns. Like F.J.’s, his hair was dark, growing in a wavy tuft on his little head. The toddler blared with laughter, doing his awkward run around the family room in an attempt to keep up with Kitt.

Finn drew in a content breath, deepening his smile at Ariel (Starring Ayla) where she stood at the island tending to another batch of pancakes on the griddle. There were about a dozen on the serving plate in the oven already. She wore a thin robe over her pajamas, her fluffy hair secured up and back in a messy bun.

Finn crept behind her, hugging her close. “Mm…good morning, beautiful.”

Ariel smiled and turned her head to catch his kiss. “Did we wake you, sweetheart? I told Kitt to keep it down because daddy was sleeping.”

“No, she’s just fine. Besides, I got more than enough sleep, which I definitely needed after the way you jumped on me last night,” he groaned lowly, nuzzling her ear and neck.

“Oh my god. Get a room,” Adaku rolled her eyes, then dragged them back to her book.

“Behave yourself.” Ariel grinned, playfully elbowing his middle.

Finn released a soft chuckle, holding her tighter to him, face buried in her hair. He loved her and the kids so much; they were his everything. He knew that his desire to have a large family came from his own upbringing in the Qun. In this alternate existence, the Qun was very different. It was still a close-knit community of Qunari, Humans, Elves, and Dwarves, but it also condoned marriage and relationships. The Qun in this world contained large amounts of polygamy, seen as a spread-the-love-community, though there were plenty of monogamous couples as well. Like all others in Thedas, they worshipped Ares as the One True God. Finn spent the first half of his life in a Qun colony, on a farm. His father had two wives–Finn’s mother and a sister-wife. Between the three of them, they had seventeen children, and Finn was the third-born. This was the reason the man enjoyed children so much, why he was so comfortable and patient with them. He’d grown up in a household full of them, having helped take care of his fourteen younger siblings.

Finn left the Qun when he was twenty-two, and not because he hated his life. He had a wonderful childhood, never needed for anything and had most of the things he wanted. That’s the way it worked in the Qun; the community gained wealth because everyone not only did their job but took care of each other. No, things had been good there. The reason Finn decided to leave was because he couldn’t see himself like his parents and his friends’ parents, married to multiple people. He ultimately saw himself with just one person, male or female. As it were, he ended up falling in love with Ariel when he was twenty-five and she was seventeen. They both knew from the moment they met that they wanted to be together, the relationship had formed so easily.

Finn stopped taking his dhaya juice a couple of weeks after they got together. She got pregnant a few months before her eighteenth birthday, finishing up high school while pregnant with Finn Junior. Ariel was able to keep the pregnancy secret until her birthday, upon which she announced it. Mr. and Mrs. Inallo were less than ecstatic, as they believed Finn was too old for her, though a person became an adult legally at age sixteen. They eventually grew to accept him, knowing that his love for their daughter was true and he would take very good care of her. Two weeks after that, they were married, and had been for nearly fifteen years.

“Daddy!” Kitt ran over, and Finn lifted her for a kiss.

“Morning, princess.” The Qunari grinned.

“Wanna play dolls with me? I can have the tea set ready in five minutes!” Kitt beamed, a slim arm around her daddy’s neck.

“Well…that sounds good…”

“Kitt honey, daddy just got up,” Ariel said, flipping pancakes. “Let him get settled and have breakfast, okay?”

The child pouted. “Oh, alright.”

Finn laughed deeply and kissed her cheek. “Flip that frown. After we eat, I’ll play with you, eh?” There was barely time to interact with his kids during the week. Twelve-plus-hour days would wear anyone out. Weekends, however, were all about the family. He looked forward to spending time with them.

“Okay!”

He set her down, and she ran off to play some more.

Finn dropped on the couch beside F.J., and little Darr tumble-walked over to climb in his father’s lap. The Qunari laughed and bounced him a few times, then addressed his oldest. “What you got planned for today, son?”

“Huh?” F.J.’s thumbs raced over the touchscreen of his phone, finishing up a text. His sky-blue eyes turned to Finn, and he smiled. “Oh, nothing much, pop. Going to the mall to meet up with Luke and Ketak a little later.”

Finn nodded. “Nice. I could drive you, if you want.”

“Nah. I’m good. I’ll just ride my bike.”

“What? You embarrassed to be seen with your old man?” Finn churned a rich, throaty chuckle.

“No, I just…”

“He’s stalking Nazlie Ozishok,” Adaku quipped, grinning up from her book.

“What! No, I’m not! Stay on your side of the room, nerd.”

“Nazlie Ozishok? Who’s she?” Finn pressed, brow lifting at his son, who had begun to blush.

“She’s just a girl from school, that’s all,” Finn Junior answered, shrugging. But she wasn’t just some girl. She was the girl. A gorgeous, tall, slim, rich, popular Qunari beauty, with long dark hair, amber eyes, and the cutest set of little horns protruding through that luscious mane. Every guy in school wanted her. She came off as a little snooty, but that didn’t bother F.J. His raging teenage boy hormones urged him to get as close as possible to her.

“Hm. She doesn’t sound like ‘just a girl’, son,” Finn continued smiling.

F.J. cleared his throat. “Um…well…she is.”

“Stalker.” Adaku’s eyes flashed at her brother, a trim smile upon her face.

“Oh my god, I’m not stalking her! It just so happens her cheerleading troop is having a bake sale at the mall today. Pure coincidence.”

“Oh, is it? Is that why you have today marked, circled, and highlighted with a big heart drawn around it on your calendar?” she pressed further.

“You went in my room!”

Adaku shrugged. “Nope. You left the door open at some point and I happened to see it.”

“Ada, leave your brother alone,” Ariel said, chuckling. She had the dishes set out on the table, and was placing the pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs down as well.

F.J. smirked thickly at Adaku. “Whatevs. At least I have a social life and don’t sit around fantasizing about one. Nerd.”

“Lock it up,” Finn Senior interjected, the tone of his voice strict enough to be the end-all to their bickering. “Let’s eat.”

-----*-----

Saturday brunch at the Taurus table passed by as lively as ever. F.J. and Adaku poked fun at each other, regardless of their father’s warnings. Kitt had donned the tiara to go with her tutu-over-pajamas ensemble and declared herself queen of the table, daintily eating her pancakes. Darr grinned, gurgled, and laughed from his highchair, tossing food a few times. All the while, Ariel tended to him, managing to eat her own meal.

She was quite a woman, Finn thought for the millionth time as he sat at the other end of the table and watched her. The man smiled and sighed at his family.

After the meal, Adaku and F.J. split. Kitt started gathering things for the tea party she planned for her and her dad, setting it up in the family room. Finn lifted Darr from his chair and cleaned him up, while Ariel started clearing dishes from the table. She stood at the sink rinsing plates and transferring them to the dishwasher, smiling at her youngest, who sat playing with one of his learning toys across the room.

Finn went over and hugged her from behind, kissing her neck. “What are you doing today?”

“Mm,” she purred at the sensual trace of his lips, rubbing her bottom against him, feeling that he was beginning to harden inside the sweat pants. She chuckled. “Juliana is coming over later. We’re going to the farmer’s market, then taking Kitt and Darr to the park for a while.”

“Ah, so I guess that means I’ll be home alone.”

“Lucky you. House all to yourself.”

“What if you asked Juliana to take the kids for a couple of hours, and you and I could stay here, get naked, and do nasty things, hm?” Large hands gripped her hips, moving upward.

“Finn.” Ariel giggled. “I want to, honey, but we planned this a few days ago. The farmer’s market only stays open for a few hours, and they’ll have those organic strawberries I like. Sorry.”

He growled sensuously against her neck.

She laughed, turned, and linked arms around his neck, nuzzling noses with him. “We’ll be back home around three, and Darr will go down for his nap. If we’re lucky, Kitt will follow soon after, and then I’ll be all yours.”

The huge Qunari smiled down at her, nodding. “Yeah, you sure will be.”

They kissed passionately.

“Ew! Gross! Daddy, it’s tea time!” Kitt stood with her hands on her hips, smirking at them. The low, decorative wooden table between the large, cushy couches in the family room had been transformed, all her little saucers, cups, and the teapot laid out. A couple of dolls sat on the couch. They would be guests at the party.

The loving parents laughed.

“Duty calls,” Finn said, then went to play with his daughter.

-----*-----

Less than two hours later, Ariel and the youngest two were off with Juliana for some leisurely time. The oldest two had dipped out as well, with F.J. heading to the mall with his friends and Adaku, bless her academic little heart, going to the library. On Saturday.

The Qunari smiled and stretched, standing somewhere between the family room and the kitchen. All alone in the large house. He sighed and went into the living room, a large area to the left of the front foyer. It was mostly tidy, with some toys strewn about. Couches, tables, a fireplace, pictures decorating the walls.

He went back into the family room, yanked up the remote for the TV mounted to the wall, and sat on the couch. He clicked the TV on and started flipping through channels, stopping when he came to one that had a college football game on. Finn watched for a few minutes before it went to commercial.

The screen faded in from black, and one of the familiar Ares clips started. Mini segments meant to remind the world that their One True God was the only god.

There came a screenshot of downtown Minrathous Metropolis, a bustling city filled with high-rises and skyscrapers. The shot transitioned to the most impressive structure of all, nestled like a jewel between all those buildings. A huge, modernistic pyramid composed of black marble, steel, and stone, the grounds around it perfectly landscaped with green gardens, all enclosed by a twenty-foot wall. The main dwelling in this world of the One True God.

The picture transitioned again to show a gracefully beautiful woman with dark hair pulled into a neat, militant bun and eyes so golden they blazed from her pale face. Her lips were painted a dark shade, further accentuating her fairness. She was Marris Wilder (Starring Morrigan), Grand Advisor to Lord Ares, and the speaker for all of his segments that aired like clockwork everyday on every channel in every country on the planet.

Finn smirked a bit and crossed his arms, used to the political-religious propaganda. It had been this way since before he was born, before his parents were born, before their parents, and so on. The whole world knew that Ares was their god, and they knew how he ran things. The Qunari was just anxious to get back to the game.

The Grand Advisor finished up on TV, her voice strangely soothing with its rich tones, “…a caring god, a merciful god. Ares has provided us with a world we can all be proud of, and it is all our duty to preserve and protect it. He is our Lord and Protector, the One True God. In Ares…” Marris smiled smoothly, nodding at the camera, “…we trust.”

The camera faded to black, then programming switched back to the football game.

Finn watched until the next commercial break, then switched off the TV. He was bored and had been looking forward to some family time, which he’d have to get later it seemed, once the house filled again. He stretched and moved to the kitchen. The clock on the wall said 12:24. Late enough for a beer.

He grabbed one from the fridge, popped the lid off, and swigged, then slipped down the hall for the front of the house. The wall running along the steps was adorned with several pictures. Most notably were the blown-up images of Finn posing with four different newborns, his children. He made sure to have the pictures taken moments after each of them were born, wearing a huge grin in each image while he held his babies close. Kitt was the only one with her eyes open and smiling at him. Daddy’s little princess.

Finn pulled open the front door, walked across the porch, and down the single step, stopping in his front yard. He drank his beer and observed, eyeing houses across the street, directly to either side of him.

The Taurus’s driveway was very spacious, and two of their three vehicles were parked in it—Finn’s big, black full-cab Escalade pickup with its “HORNZUP” license plate and the family vehicle, a dark-blue Excursion. Ariel had been quite opposed to learning to drive the thing because it was very big, but with some encouragement and lots of practice on supermarket parking lots during closed hours, she learned. The Excursion was still in the driveway because she, Kitt, and Darr rode with Juliana. The third car was Finn’s baby, though Ariel drove it when she wanted. An Audi TT, charcoal-gray and fitted with damage and scratch-resistant glass, as all their vehicles were to protect against a wayward, accidental horn jut. Any smart Qunari, especially one with a family, would invest a couple thousand more to have the glass put into their vehicles. There was a motorcycle in the garage too, Finn’s sportster. He hadn’t ridden in a while, but he did fancy taking it out every now and then for a cruise.

Maybe he’d do that next weekend. Ride his Harley. For now, he inhaled deeply, his great chest expanding, and smiled. Life was great. He swigged his beer, catching movement to his right. Finn waved.

“Hey, man. What’s up?”

Victor Trand (Starring Varric Tethras) tugged the water hose closer to a flower bed flanking his front porch. “Hey, Finn. Not up to much really. Just giving a little moisture to the roses for Brianna.” He activated the sprayer and started watering the flowers.

Finn approached, crossing into Victor’s yard. The Qunari smiled. “Usually she’s out here doing that.”

“Yeah, well, she had to go downtown to the courthouse. District Attorney needed her for something. So, she asked me to handle the roses.”

“Ah, being the good little husband?”

Victor snorted and chuckled. “You’re in no position to joke. When Ariel wants you to do something, you hop right on it.”

“Hm.” Finn nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. Looks like we're both slaves to the whims of our wives.”

“Yeah,” Victor sighed, turning off the hose.

The Qunari’s eye narrowed curiously. “Is everything alright between you and Brianna?”

“Eh.” The dwarf shrugged. “It’s not terrible, though our sex life could use a set of jumper cables. No, it’s Mona. She’s been acting out lately, getting into trouble at school, grades dropping. That kind of thing. And Brianna thinks it’s because I don’t spend enough time with her. I mean, she’s the big-shot lawyer who’s barely at home these days.”

Mona, daughter of Victor and Brianna, their only child, was in the same grade as F.J. and attended the same high school.

Finn pat the man’s shoulder. “It’s that teen angst stage, man. You know, the whole the-world-is-all-about-me thing they all go through. Hey, you wanna come over and talk? I got a fridge of beers and an open ear.” He grinned down at him.

Victor nodded, smiling a bit. “Yeah, sure. Let me put this hose away.”

-----*-----

[Camera Sequence: Finn on the living room couch in the Taurus residence]

“Okay, so you’ve probably gained by now that I’m a pretty good guy.” Large hands clasped before him, elbows on his knees. He nodded and lifted a smile. “I love my family, my job, my country, and my friends. I’ve known Victor for a while. He’s also a good guy.”

Finn’s attractive features broke partially with a smirk, dark eyebrow lifting.

“Where he lacks is in self-confidence. He doesn’t know how to let his wife be the strong presence she is without letting it diminish his character, thinks that submitting to her will means he actually lost.” He grinned. “Lucky for him, he has me as a neighbor, and I plan to help him out in that department. Yeah, it’ll take a few steps. Maybe more than a few. Step one is pulling out some brewskies and unwinding on a perfect Saturday afternoon.”

[End Camera Sequence]

-----*-----

The two neighbors settled around the decorative fire pit in Finn’s backyard, the remainder of a six-pack sitting on the stone-paved patio between them. The Qunari leaned back in his chair, drinking from his beer. That single eye veered to his friend.

“So, what’s really going on with you and Brianna, Victor?”

The dwarf chuffed dryly, swigging from the bottle in his hand. “You really wanna know?”

“Yeah. You’re my friend, and I can tell you need to talk and let some things loose.”

Victor looked at him and sighed. “She cheated on me.”

“Oh, shit. Sorry to hear that, man.” Finn eyed him seriously.

“Nah, don’t be sorry,” Victor replied, rubbing the stubble on his cheek, shaking his head. “It’s my fault. I’ve been withdrawn and distant. It was only a matter of time. I just…”

A long silence passed between them.

“Go on, get it out,” Finn urged.

“I’m a freelance web designer, you know that. Work’s been a bit dry the past couple of years, especially with Wix and these do-it-yourself website building services. It’s plug and play for the everyday person, easy to make decent-looking sites. The need for intricate coding and development is dwindling, unless you land in with a well-off company, you know, getting the contract to handle their web coding and maintenance personally.” Victor’s gaze left from skimming aimlessly through the toy littered yard to his neighbor. “None of this is making sense to you probably.”

“No, I understand what you’re saying. Times are tough for people with your skillset, and you’re not bringing in as much money as you’d like. You think your wife sees you as a deadbeat.”

“Yeah.”

Finn swigged his beer. “That’s not true. Brianna loves you. What she needs from you is support, Victor.”

“But, I do support her. I don’t try to keep her from doing what she wants with her life, her career.”

“And that’s good, but support is more than that. Take me and Ariel. I go to work, earn the money, but she has the most important job—taking care of our home, our kids. I do whatever I can to make her feel appreciated, because she’s important to my success, the reason for it. Everything I do is for her and our family. You love Brianna, right?”

“God, more than anything,” Victor sighed greatly.

“Well,” the Qunari said, leaning over some with a smile, “you have to show her that. Brianna works hard, and she only wants to feel appreciated for it. See, man, this is what you need to do…”

-----*-----

A neighbor’s advice.

With Victor’s marriage teetering the fence, he decided to give Finn’s suggestion a try. So, he dug out a cookbook, went to the grocery store for some things, got back home, and right on trying to salvage his marriage, before the woman he loved found that she didn’t want him anymore.

Victor pulled the oven door open and removed the dish holding six dozen beef wellingtons. He’d never attempted to make the pastry-wrapped delight before, but the recipe was straightforward, and they looked damn good. Aside from the wellingtons, he’d made sautéed baby carrots, garlic-butter mashed potatoes, and a side salad, to which he’d add the dressing when it was time to serve.

The dwarf nodded at the spread of food, pleased. He eyed his watch and saw it was almost half past five. Brianna called a couple of hours ago to let him know she’d be home around six. Everything was right on schedule. He already had things prepared upstairs.

As dwarves, everything in their home was set lower, the counters and such. Otherwise, dwarven homes were ‘tall-people’ friendly. Victor moved around the kitchen island to arrange plates on the dining room table. While he was tending to it, he heard Mona thump down the stairs. She entered the kitchen a moment later.

“Wow. You did all this? Smells pretty good, dad?”

Victor chuckled. “Thanks. I wanted to surprise your mom. There’s enough for you too.”

“Oh…thanks, but I’m heading to Lauren’s.” The teen opened the fridge, pulled out a carton of apple juice, and drank directly from it.

“Okay, then. I’ll save you a plate.”

“Whatever.” Mona popped her earphones in, cranked her goth-metal, and left.

Victor looked sadly after her, wondering when he became public enemy number one to his baby-girl who used to relish spending time with him. He’d talk with her. One thing at a time. For now, he’d work on his marriage.

-----*-----

A black Mazda CX-3 turned into the Trand driveway, lights and engine cutting off. Brianna (Starring Bianca Davri…somewhat) grabbed her briefcase and got out. Her heels clicked on the pavement as she headed to the front door, unlocking it. The moment she entered, she smelled the deliciousness.

“Victor! Mona!” She set her briefcase down on the stand beside the door, removing her shoes with a grateful sigh.

It was then that Brianna noticed the lighting was tuned down to a tranquil glow. She moved further inside.

“In here, honey,” came Victor’s voice.

She went into the kitchen/dining area combo, and her eyes widened a bit. The dinner he’d prepared was laid out on the table, highlighted by a few candles. Victor wore a silk shirt, unbuttoned to show the top of his toned chest, and some slacks. He smiled and pulled her chair out.

“Victor…” Brianna began, “you didn’t have to do this.”

“I know I didn’t. I wanted to, Bri, to show you how much you mean to me. I know things are rocky between us, but I don’t want to lose you. Please, have a seat, hm?”

The lovely dwarf’s features went softer as she watched her husband. She used a finger to draw stray tendrils of reddish brunette hair behind her ear. She went to sit, and he pushed the chair in. “Is Mona around?”

Victor sat across from her and popped open the wine. “She left for Lauren’s a little while ago. Wrapped her some up, though.” He smiled warmly.

Brianna’s eyes fell to her plate. “This looks amazing. And wellingtons? They’re not easy to pull off.”

“Hm. They are if you follow the directions in the cookbook.” He poured some wine in her glass and cleared his throat. “How’d things go downtown?”

She sipped the drink. “It was busier than I thought it would be for a Saturday. I tried to make it a half day, but District Attorney Paige was on a rampage. The case with the shooting in that coffee shop uptown a few weeks ago has some hard leads. They know it was done by the Dematori resistance, and now they might be able to link it to actual people.”

“Some suspects. That’s a good thing. Those thugs need to be handled, going around killing people in retaliation to Lord Ares.” Victor smirked, drinking from his wine as well. He hoisted a tender smile. “Let’s put all that on hold for now and enjoy the evening of romance I have planned.”

Brianna chuckled, brow rising. “Romance?”

“Oh, yeah.” He winked. “Just a moment.”

She watched him leave the table and hurry upstairs. He returned a couple of minutes later, settling back in his seat.

“Where did you go?”

“Just setting the controls on our tub to run a bath for you, nice and hot the way you like.”

Brianna cut some of the wellington, eating it. “You know, I could get used to all this pampering.” She set her fork down and reached over the table.

Victor took her hand, stroking his thumb over it.

-----*-----

“Dinner was delicious.”

“Thank you. I’ll make sure you have food waiting for you when you get home from now on.”

“Victor…honey…”

“Shh. Night’s not done yet.”

The couple reached the landing at the top of the stairs. Victor grabbed her hips from behind, urging her down the hall for the master bedroom. Brianna pushed the door in and gasped, smiling broadly. He had placed a trail of rose petals from the entrance to the adjoining bathroom. Petals also peppered the bed.

“Oh, Victor.”

He moved around before her, hugging her close, delivering a kiss that embodied the extreme desire he felt for her. Brianna groaned at his erection pressing against her.

Victor broke the kiss, his words hot and pleasant on her face, “I dropped your favorite bath bomb in. Go ahead and relax. I’ll head back down to get the wine and chocolate-covered strawberries from the fridge.”

Brianna blinked after him. She didn’t know what had gotten into her husband, what had lit a fire under his ass, but she very much liked it. She undressed and sank into the tub, turning the jets on low. It was absolute heaven. She lifted a wet hand and examined her wedding ring by the light of candles positioned around the ledge.

After she soaked until the water became too cool for her liking, Brianna got out of the tub, dried off, and went back to the other room, where she found Victor reclining on the bed with his hands behind his head, naked, ready, and grinning at her.