Sansa likes the beginning parts of sex - the soft touches, the slow tease - but everything that follows tends to be...disappointing.
It's difficult for her to explain to herself what she wants, what she pictures when she thinks of good sex, but she knows what she doesn't like: biting (any involvement of teeth at all, in fact), scratching, fingers digging in so tightly it marks her skin, thrusts that are too hard or too quick (it seems to rub her in the wrong way inside, to feel like it's bruising her, in a way that other people might enjoy but that she definitely doesn't), and being expected to be incredibly athletic or to take the lead.
There's only so many times you can say "softer, slower" during the act itself before your partner says, "like, are you not into this at all?" and then invariably suggests she rides them instead, so that she's "in control", but she doesn't want that either - sex as exercise is so not a turn on for her.
She knows that some of the things she likes could be seen as selfish - lying there while she's touched and admired, for instance - but when her last ex-boyfriend called her "a total wet fish" she resigned herself to being alone forever. She wasn't interested in dissatisfactory sex, nor with being told she was disappointing and selfish and terrible.
Anyway, the rest of her life is entirely satisfactory - she has good friends and a loving family; she has her health; she enjoys her admin job for an arts charity; she lives in the charming old quarter of King's Landing in a tiny mews house of her own, with a reasonable mortgage rate that allows her to treat herself to things like fresh flowers and a new novel from the local bookshop every weekend which she reads while snacking on a packet of French macaroons in sweet pastel colours.
It's a good life, a perfect life really, except that she doesn't have anyone to share it with.
But it's fine, she has her fantasies, her carefully curated erotic novels, an excellent (gentle) vibrator and her own (soft) hands.
It's just that when she's out on her weekend walks through the city, flowers in hand, browsing the farmer's market and the bookshop, taking photos of the parks for her Instagram feed, and talking on the phone with her friends; her eyes can't help but be drawn to the couples enjoying their weekends, to the loving smiles they give one another, the soft kisses.
And when, on one particular Sunday, this is added to a maelstrom of hormones, an annual rewatch of Pride and Prejudice, and a rude text from her last-but-one ex-boyfriend, she gives in and texts Margaery the real reason why her relationships keep failing.
Margaery has, like most of her friends and family, been continually baffled by Sansa's unsuccessful love life. Sansa's mother is sure it's because she's "too picky" which is one of the reasons - along with Catelyn's assertion that at twenty-five Sansa should be married and have at least one child by now - that she doesn't talk to her mother that much anymore.
Oh, girly, that makes sense, Margaery texts back. You like what you like, you're #soft and #sensitive, that's all.
You make me sound like a baby rabbit, who wants to have sex with a baby rabbit, Sansa replies.
Leave it to me, Margaery says.
Margaery works in PR for a variety of luxe brands, and knows a hell of a lot of people in King's Landing, but Sansa can't imagine how she could find a man that would fit what Sansa wanted, nor what kinds of questions you would ask to find them.
Still, four months later - just as spring has sent the flowerboxes and parks of King's Landing into bloom and the dawn chorus is the new soundtrack to Sansa's morning coffee in bed - Margaery comes back with a phone number, and a name: Petyr Baelish.
Who is he? she texts Margaery, as she paints her toenails in a perfect peachy pink.
He's an Angel Investor, and he's loaded. I think he collects art as well, I'm surprised you've never heard of him.
Is he old?
Well, he's not twenty-five. I think he's in his early 40s. But you're into older men, right?
Yes, Sansa texts back after a pause. I don't think I ever told you that though.
Will you hate me if I say it was obvious?
No. What does he look like?
Google him, he's hot. I totally would.
And what makes you think he'd be right for me?
Margaery rings her then.
"OK, so I have this friend," Margaery says.
"Uh-huh," Sansa prompts, with the phone in the crook of her shoulder, carefully applying a second coat to her toenails.
"-and she's an escort-"
"Is this Ros?"
"Oh, yeah, I forgot you've met her. She's a redhead, like you."
"He likes redheads, does he?" Sansa says casually, wiping a q-tip around her nails to neaten them, trying not to get excited about the man that Margaery has found for her.
"Oh he does," Margaery replies, with a deep laugh. "But more importantly, he's totally into the same things you are - extended foreplay, soft touches, all that tantric shit but without the candles and incense and weirdness obviously. Ros says it's why he uses escorts a lot, that he finds it difficult to meet the right women who like what he likes. Ros wasn't really into it, she likes a bit more force in the bedroom, you know, but she said he was perfectly nice, respectful, if a bit intense. So...what do you think?"
"Um," Sansa says, staring at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, the slight pink of her cheeks. "That sounds good." She screws the nail varnish shut and puts it away carefully in her box of pink polishes. "He does know that I'm not an escort, right, he's not going to pay me."
"Oh, no. He wants to take you out on a date. I had Ros show him a picture of you and he asked for your number like straightaway. He's going to text you tonight."
"Tonight," Sansa repeats with a note of shock. "OK."
"Go for it, Sans," Margaery encourages.
As Margaery had promised, Petyr Baelish does indeed text her that evening. He is polite and he uses proper grammar, with nary a 'lol' or a smiley in sight, and she agrees to go for drinks with him that weekend at a stylish bar on the outskirts of the old quarter.
It's on, she texts Margaery, once she's stopped dreamily sighing at the ceiling of her bedroom, and has planned her date outfit down to the accessories - a black dress with thin shoulder straps and a floaty knee-length skirt, a pastel pink cashmere cardigan, a pair of black velvet kitten heels, some pearl earrings, and, most importantly, a set of delicate blush-pink lingerie.
Margaery texts back a string of unfathomable emojis.
Now to not get too excited, Sansa thinks, as she waits for the weekend to arrive, trying to concentrate on the fundraising campaign her work is launching in the summer. He's probably unattractive in person, she thinks, having perused a series of google images and been pleasantly surprised by his trim figure in excellent tailoring, his interesting green eyes and knowing smile. And even if she is attracted to him, he's probably creepy, she thinks, as she leaves her house and walks through the cobblestone streets to the bar.
"Miss Stark," Petyr says when he meets her just inside the glass-fronted entrance, shaking her hand gently, with a soft sweep of his thumb across the back of it.
"Call me Sansa, please," she says, pleased that he is more attractive in person, and by the appreciative way his eyes had swept her body when she walked in.
"Sansa," he repeats, with a small smile, holding eye contact, "a pretty name for a pretty girl."
"Thank you," she says with a little laugh, "but it was my parents who chose my name."
"Shall we head to our table?" he asks, placing a careful hand on her back. "And I should probably admit now that I am actually familiar with the Starks. I went to university with your mother."
"Oh," Sansa says, as he pulls out her chair for her and waits for her to sit before he takes the seat opposite, unbuttoning his immaculate suit jacket as he does, and raising a hand to call for a menu. "Were you good friends?" Her feelings about her mother are complicated at the moment and the mention of Catelyn has added a tiny sour note to her good mood.
"Oh, no," he says with a wave of his hand. "And besides, I was a scholarship student, and she was - if it's not too rude to say - a bit of a snob back then," he adds, leaning forward conspiratorially. The candle in the middle of the table makes his eyes glint dark. "I'm sure she's grown up since then."
"Mmm," Sansa says, whispering a quick thank you to the waiter who has handed her a menu.
"That was a loaded sound," Petyr says pruriently.
"Oh, she's not a snob," Sansa corrects with a shake of her head, "she's just-" she frowns and taps her short nails on the tabletop and he picks up her hand and strokes his thumb down her fingers, making her shiver, "-a perfectionist," she says.
"Mmm," he says and takes back his hand to look through the menu.
"That was definitely a loaded sound," she laughs.
"Maybe it was," Petyr says with a smirk. "Now, do you like white or red, or maybe some champagne?"
"Oh, champagne would be wonderful."
"Perfect, the Bollinger Rosé, I think."
"Perfect," Sansa repeats and he smiles at her.
As she drinks her first glass of champagne she tells him more about herself - her job, her schooling, the last couple of holidays she took, the books she likes to read, her favourite movies and how she likes to spend a Sunday.
Petyr tells her more about him in turn - his investments, his history as a financial advisor to the Crown, his collection of art and select antiques, his investment properties, and his townhouse in King's Landing that she notes is about fifteen minutes walk from her own house and in a very exclusive street.
But all through this chit-chat, this polite conversation sprinkled with gentle jokes and self-deprecating comments, she's thinking about what might happen after the date, about the undercurrent of their interaction. They are compatible enough on the surface, but what about where it counts.
"Have we circled the topic for long enough, do you think?" he asks, as he pours her a second glass of champagne.
"I think so, yes," she says with a wry laugh, "we should put our cards on the table."
"Now, Ros wasn't very detailed in what she said to me," he says with a sly smirk, touching the pad of his index finger to his lower lip and distracting her from his glittering eyes. "But she seemed to think we'd be well-suited to one another."
"Yes," Sansa says.
"You like it slow," he says, his voice hushed.
"And soft, careful."
"That sounds perfect for me. I like to take my time, to appreciate a beautiful woman," he says.
Sansa nods again, biting her lip. If Margaery was here she'd be rolling her eyes and calling Petyr sleazy, but Sansa is into it - his confidence; the satisfied, slow blink of his eyes; his focus on her.
"For me, penetration isn't everything," he adds casually, as if they're not sat in a busy bar with attentive waiters walking back and forth between the tables. "I've found that surprises some women."
"That sounds fine with me."
"I thought it might." He smiles and rubs a hand over his jaw. He has a little goatee and beard that looks soft and well-groomed and his hand doesn't rasp over his skin, he's obviously freshly-shaved. "Do you want to ask me any specific questions, set some guidelines? If you'd like to come back to mine for a nightcap tonight, that is. Otherwise, I'd happily meet you again for drinks or dinner, I've enjoyed this, Sansa, talking with you."
"So have I," she says, crossing her ankles under the table, "and I'd like to see your house." She smiles shyly and he smirks. "As for guidelines, um-" she begins, thinking that she might as well get everything out now, rather than being disappointed later, "-I don't like being scratched or bitten."
"Noted," he says, and then raises a hand to ask for the bill from a waiter.
"I don't like being marked or bruised," she continues, eyes tracking the waiter who is making his way to the till.
"I don't know why anyone would mar such perfect, pale skin. Like using a biro on a masterpiece," he says, and picks up one of her hands between both of his, his palms warm and dry on her skin.
Should she be embarrassed that she's totally into this, the endless smooth compliments?
"Anything else?" he prompts.
"I don't like to be in charge," she says, "but I don't like to be dominated either. Um-" she pauses, a slight flush on her cheeks as the waiter sets the bill down and Petyr places his black credit card on top without looking, "-and as for positions and things, I think we can discuss that later."
"Alright," he says, and presses her hand gently between his.
He gets up to pull out her chair and when they are out in the street, he offers his suit jacket for her to wear over her shoulders and puts an arm around her waist. She likes his cologne, it smells expensive, heady but not too heavy.
His house is just as stylish as he is, with careful lighting and exquisite furnishings, the walls decorated with tasteful art, and the curtains a thick velvet.
He makes a diversion to the kitchen to pick up a bottle of champagne with a bucket of ice, and then he leads her up to his bedroom. She likes the way her heels sink into the thick carpet of the hallway upstairs, the dark wood of the doors to each room, the gilt-edged mirrors along the walls.
He pushes his bedroom door open and sets the champagne down and then retrieves his suit jacket from her shoulders.
Unlike the men in their twenties that she's gone home with before, the bedroom is neat and smells good - of wood polish and vanilla, the spice of Petyr's aftershave. The bed is a heavy wooden sleigh number, with a high mattress and crisp white linen sheets.
He circles the room turning on three side lamps and a floor lamp, and then slides behind her to turn off the ceiling lamp, turning the light in the room warm and soft.
"Alright?" he murmurs, and smooths a hand down her back.
"Yes," she says.
He moves past her to the champagne and his bar tray of glasses and liquors. "A drink?"
"Maybe just water?" she asks, licking her dry lips. She's always been a bit of a lightweight and she doesn't want to get too tipsy, she wants to enjoy this rather than it turning into a champagne haze. Plus, it's a good test of a man's intentions, she's always thought, refusing a drink.
"Of course," he says, cracking open some mineral water and pouring two glasses, handing her one.
She sips on it as he watches her and then smiles over the rim of her glass.
"What are you smiling about?" he asks delightedly.
"I don't know," she says, biting her lip.
"You have a beautiful smile, Sansa," he says, coming closer.
She sets her drink down to her left and he lifts a hand to stroke down her hair which she's wearing loose down her shoulder tonight.
"Ros said you had a thing for redheads," she says.
"I do," he says, eyes flicking to hers. He runs his fingers through her hair. "It's very soft," he says.
Sometimes men make terrible does the curtain match the drapes jokes that make any arousal shrivel up, but he doesn't.
"Can I kiss you?" he asks, holding her face with a hand, stroking his thumb across her cheek.
"Mmm," she murmurs and nods, licking her lips.
He leans closer and presses his lips against hers. He sucks her bottom lip gently and then directs her head to the side to kiss her more deeply, but still slow, careful. She sucks at his own bottom lip, and opens her mouth for him to lave his tongue across hers. She makes a pleased noise at the taste of his mouth, the flavour of a mint that he must have slipped earlier while she wasn't looking.
"Can I take this off," he murmurs between kisses, touching her cardigan.
"Yes, please," she says.
"What a polite girl you are," he says and she can feel his smile against her mouth.
He slides her cardigan off her shoulders carefully, smoothing his hands down both her arms, making her body tremble. He puts her cardigan onto a wingback chair to the side, and then slides his hands back up her arms and presses his lips to her neck, plodding kisses down her shoulder, brushing a finger across the straps of her dress and the bra underneath.
Her hands have been clutched in his shirt all this time, feeling the warmth of his skin underneath, the hard planes of his muscles. She flexes her fingers and lifts her hands to touch his arms, to feel his biceps, and then drops them to her sides as he kisses the other shoulder and turns her around to sweep her hair to one side. He kisses the back of her neck as her head dips forward, sucks gently at the skin, and his hands find their way to her waist, holding it between them.
"Shall we move to the bed?" he asks.
"Yes," she replies, feeling the press of his cock to her lower back, pleased by the sign of his arousal.
He leads her to the side of his bed and she sits down, staring up at his glinting eyes, feeling herself shiver excitedly.
He kneels down and lifts up a foot, sliding off her shoe, pressing his hand against her arch, and then repeating the action with the other foot.
"I don't have a foot fetish, in case you're wondering," he says with a smirk.
"Do you have any other fetishes I should know about?" she asks as he stands up.
"I wouldn't call them fetishes, there are things that I like, and things I don't," he says, reaching out a hand to cup her chin. Her eyes flutter. "Just like you. Stand up for me a moment," he says, and she does.
He kisses her shoulder again, and moves her around until he is sitting and she is standing in front of him, his hands on her hips.
"Can I take your dress off? It's very lovely, but I have a feeling you're wearing something even prettier underneath."
"You can," she says, breath hitching when his hands start unbuttoning the row of buttons down her front. She chose this dress for this exact moment; for a slow, careful unbuttoning.
When the dress is unbuttoned, he parts the sides and eases it from her shoulders. "Perfect," he says, his eyes devouring her lingerie - the blush-pink swirl of lace, the pink velvet straps and the ruffles of silk at the legs of her knickers. He leans forward and kisses her stomach softly and she gasps and feels her insides tremble.
"Lay out on the bed," he says, and helps her lie back, lifting her hair from underneath her, placing it over one shoulder. He stands by her feet. "Perfect, Sansa," he says.
He leans over and runs his fingers from the hollow of her neck down between her breasts and her stomach. His hand pauses at the tiny bow at the top of her knickers. "Pretty," he says, and her thighs quiver. He strokes his fingertips along the waistband and then moves up to her bra, brushing along the lace.
She's wet by now, her breath shallow, as he sets his mouth to her stomach, kissing her softly, his thumbs sweeping along her hipbones where they rise above her knickers.
She puts a hand to his head, sinking her fingers into the short curls of his hair. He hums as she does, the vibration tickling her skin as he kisses up to her breasts. The brush of his shirt against her skin reminds her that he's still fully dressed and the picture of it makes her even hotter.
He sucks her nipples through her bra but doesn't do it too hard or use his teeth. "Did you know your blush goes all the way down to here," he says, stroking the tops of her breasts, "it's perfect." He looks up at her and she feels her cheeks heat even more at his wicked smirk.
He peels the straps of her bra down slowly and then the cups, kissing each part of skin uncovered. "Lovely," he says, brushing his thumb over her nipples, "what a pretty pink."
She whines, overwhelmed already. He slides down her body and peels her knickers off slowly, letting out a soft grunt at the sight of her cunt. He presses her thighs apart with his hands and settles himself on his elbows in between. He takes a while stroking the insides of her thighs, teasing her, mouthing at her hips and the soft skin above her mound so that her cunt clenches and her limbs twitch.
He parts her folds with his hands and slides his thumb softly down. "Gorgeous," he says as his eyes flick between her cunt and her face, and she squirms and clutches the sheets below her. He smears her slick around with his thumb, circling her clit slowly and gently, and then leaning forward to lick it with little flicks of his tongue. And when she comes with a whine, hand clutching the back of his head, he smooths his hands up the outsides of her thighs, her hips and her sides, intensifying the feeling so that her back bows on the bed and she whimpers.
He strokes a hand across her trembling stomach and watches her as she comes down.
"Don't you want to come?" she gasps eventually.
"I don't need to," he says. His face is flushed and his hair is curling out of his carefully coiffed style.
"I want you to," she says.
He fumbles open his trousers, slipping a hand inside black silk boxers to bring out his cock, kneeling on the bed by her side. He bites his lip as he touches himself, working harder, quicker, with his hand than he ever did on her, and his eyes roam her skin hungrily.
"You should come on my stomach," she says, toes curling excitedly at the thought.
"Yeah?" he says, and his hips buck. He lifts a knee over one of her legs, looming over her in his shirt and black trousers, the belt buckle hanging to one side.
"Uh-huh," she says, biting her lip.
"You're so pretty, Sansa," he says, "perfect," and she feels her cheeks grow warm again. "Fuck," he grunts and comes, spilling on her and groaning at the sight.
He kneels there for a moment, panting and staring at her, and then shuffles off the bed, finding a tissue to wipe her skin.
He pulls off his shirt and tugs down his trousers and socks, then lays himself down next to her in his boxers.
"Good?" he asks with a satisfied smile.
"Very good," she says, and turns her head to hide her smile in the pillow.
She stays over at his that night and wakes after the best sleep she's had in a while.
"Morning," he says as she stretches, his voice gravelly.
He strokes a hand down her bare arm and she blinks open her eyes to see him watching her intently. His hair is now almost completely curled, and in the daylight she can spot more strands of grey aside from the interesting sweeps of it above his ears. She reaches out a hand to touch a curl as he watches her indulgently. "It's soft," she says, and he laughs and rubs his hand across his face.
"My skin isn't, I need to shave before I can kiss you properly, so I don't scratch you." He presses a brief kiss on her cheek and then gets up, stretching out his shoulders and sauntering naked to the en-suite as she watches. "Want to join?" he calls back, and she tiptoes after him and then spends the next fifteen minutes being washed slowly by his very careful hands in his very luxurious shower. Afterwards, he brings out a short fluffy dressing gown from a drawer for her to wear during breakfast.
"Is this yours?" she asks, plucking at the fabric of the dressing gown as she sits in the kitchen and watches him make them toast and grind coffee beans for his moka coffee pot.
"What do you think?"
"I think you're secure enough in your masculinity that it could be, but no, it's not."
"No one else has used it before you if that's what you're asking, I don't tend to have many guests to stay."
"Hmm," Sansa says, wrinkling her nose, not asking if he bought the dressing gown just for her because she doesn't know what answer she would actually prefer.
He laughs a breath and carries a toast rack, which looks like it might be made of silver, over to the table, along with a plate of different spreads from expensive brands, a bowl of strawberries, and a china cup and saucer for her coffee.
"Plans for the rest of Sunday?" he asks her as he sips his own coffee.
"Probably my usual, browse the shops, buy some flowers and a new book. You?" she asks, resting her head on her hand, watching his fastidious movements as he spreads marmalade on his toast.
"Oh, check the markets, send some emails, peruse some auction catalogues."
"Very civilised," she says.
"Are you mocking me?" he smirks.
"Not really," she shrugs a shoulder. "My dad used to spend his Sundays working too. Did you ever meet him?" she asks as she plucks a strawberry from the bowl and sucks it, watching his eyes darken as he watches her.
"Ned? I did a few times, at university, and we've attended a couple of the same events over the years, but we're not in the same circles. He doesn't really like to let loose, your father, to enjoy his wealth."
"Mmm," Sansa says. "My mum is the same, there's only certain things they think it's acceptable to spend their money on, like horses," she says with a little laugh.
"You're not a fan?"
"I was when I was young but I got over that. Robb and Arya still ride and mum and dad help pay for their horses and all the training and events-"
"-but they don't help you?" he asks with a frown as sets his coffee cup down.
"I don't need their help," she says, shaking her head. "I've paid my own way since I left for university."
"That's admirable. But it must have chafed a little, having them spend money on your siblings and not on you."
"A little, perhaps," she admits. She knows it's terribly spoiled to think that way, and she's only ever shared her feelings with Margaery before, because her parents are similarly wealthy.
"I came across lots of their sort, your parents, when I was starting out as a financial adviser. Lots of tweed and shooting jackets, Hunter wellies for all occasions, and large country houses that smelt of wet dog," he says, his top lip lifting in a little sneer.
She hides her smile behind her hand and he raises an eyebrow.
"You know what I mean," he says. "And as for money," he adds, after eating a couple of strawberries, "they were very conservative, worried about looking too flashy or about investing in anything high return. Oh, don't get me wrong, they had more than enough, they just seemed to find spending it distasteful. I don't have the same problem, obviously," he says, sweeping his hand out to encompass his kitchen and his house and everything in it.
He brushes away her offer of helping to clear up the kitchen table, and after he's finished, she says she better make her way home now, even though privately she'd really rather stay here for the rest of the day. It's not polite to overstay her welcome though, that's the first rule of one night stands.
He follows her upstairs when she says she's going to get dressed and when he offers to help her she accepts, heart fluttering in her chest as he helps her into her lingerie with careful hands, the best and worst kind of tease, stroking her skin above the straps of her bra, buttoning her dress up slowly, directing her to turn and lift her arms and raise her feet one by one.
When she's fully dressed, her breath is tight, and her knickers are damp.
He smirks like he knows it, stroking a finger over her bared collarbone.
"Is this your way of making sure I want a second date?" she asks, feeling bold.
"Did it work?" he says with a wicked grin.
"I would have agreed to a second date after last night, after drinks even."
"So would I." He cups the back of her neck in his warm palm. "I want to do this again, Sansa," he says, "I'd like to date you, exclusively."
"I'd like that too," she says. As if she could ever find sex like this anywhere else, she thinks. And besides, she's enjoyed the brief amount of time she's spent with him apart from that, she's intrigued by the hints at a wicked sense of humour and is fascinated by his travel stories and gossip about the art world.
"Good," he says, smiling and brushing his thumb over her cheek, and then kissing her softly, wetly, with little licks of his tongue that remind her of last night.
When she leaves his house, she's in such a daze that she walks in the wrong direction for ten minutes and then has to take a different loop back just in case he glances out of his windows and thinks she's stalking him.
Amazing, she texts Margaery, once she's home and has wandered her house in a dreamy daze, and then had a lengthy wank while lying in her clawfoot tub and remembering every tiny detail of last night.
Yessssss, Margaery replies. Details?
A lady doesn't kiss and tell.
It was perfect, I want to savour it for a little while before I talk about, she texts, and Margery replies with a long strong of celebratory emojis.
For her second date with Petyr, they go for dinner at a restaurant that has views out across the harbour, and after he kisses her hello, and pulls out her chair for her, he hands her a burgundy-coloured gift bag.
"I hope this isn't too presumptuous," he says.
She opens the bag and rifles through the tissue paper to remove a gorgeous candle in a heavy silver holder. It smells like delicate lavender and has lavender buds set in the candlewax itself.
"It's lovely," she says, returning it to the bag carefully and then realising that there's something else in there too. She brings out a flat black box and glances up to see him watch her hungrily. She opens the box and finds a silver link chain bracelet inside, with a pretty charm of a rose attached.
"It's gorgeous," she says, and bites her lip. She can't remember ever being given a gift for a regular date before, let alone a present as nice as this for an actual gift-giving holidays like Valentine's.
"Here," he says, touching her wrist and attaching the bracelet, then smoothing his finger along the links.
"It looks quite expensive," she says, "sorry, I know that's tacky to say."
"It was expensive," he says with a shrug and a smirk.
"Well, thank you," she says, "for this, and the candle, they're wonderful." She holds his gaze as he looks at her hotly.
After dinner, she invites him back to her house, feeling a little nervous at the fact that their wage difference is going to be immediately obvious.
"A mews house, of course, it suits you," he comments, looking at the wisteria in bloom underneath her windows.
"You think so?" she asks, as she unlocks the door.
"I do, beautiful just like its owner," he adds and puts his hand on her back as they duck and enter.
She leads him upstairs to her bedroom, and sets the gift bag down on her side table, turning around to face him, her hands twisting nervously. "What do you think?" she asks. Her bedroom wallpaper is a delicate floral print, her bedlinens are crisp white broderie anglaise, and there is a long gilded mirror opposite her bed, and a pink vanity table by her window.
He reaches out to touch the petals of the peonies she bought yesterday and then moves closer, rubs a hand along her white iron bedstead. "Very pretty, both you and the room," he says with a smile.
She'd roll her eyes if she wasn't into this completely, all his compliments.
"Are you nervous because you think I'm going to want different things now, that I lied about what I liked?" he asks, stroking a hand down her side, lifting her hair behind her shoulder.
"I'm not. I liked the other night, it was perfect, you were perfect." He kisses her cheek. "I like this soft jumper too," he says, fingering the fluffy yellow cropped jumper she has paired with her 50s style skirt of a large rose bloom print.
"I like your suit," she says, already a little breathless as he curves his hand around her waist.
"That's good," he murmurs and kisses her and she can feel his smirk against her lips, the soft brush of his beard against her chin.
He moves her back to sit on the edge of her bed and kneels at her feet. He takes off her shoes again and slides his hands up her legs, groaning when his fingers reach the tops of her stockings. "Darling," he says, "stockings as well, you're spoiling me."
He draws up her skirt and parts her thighs, lifting her legs over each of his shoulders as she falls back on the bed. He kisses the bared strip of her thighs, sucking softly at the skin, nosing the straps of her suspender belt and then unclipping them carefully.
He sets his mouth to her cunt over her knickers and breathes in, making her squirm and blush, and then he licks through the peach silk and rubs his fingers along the lace edging.
He peels her knickers off. "Do you ever grow this out?" he asks, brushing her trimmed hair.
"I'd like to see that," he says and kisses her clit.
At some point, her skirt slips down to cover him, but it doesn't stop him from working her slowly, diligently, with his lips and tongue, until she comes with a whine, her hand pressed to the top of his head hidden beneath the silky fabric of her skirt.
When he emerges, his face is flushed and satisfied, and his hair has tufted up. She smooths it down with her hand, feeling fond. It's too early to get attached, they've only been on two dates so far, but she knows she is.
Do you have an Instagram? he texts her, after their third date, which had been a leisurely brunch by the old harbour before he flew off for a work trip.
Will you tell me your name? I want to look at pretty pictures of you while I'm away.
They follow each other back on Instagram and she browses his feed as she drinks a smoothie during her break at work later that day. He posts lots of menswear closeups - tie pins, interesting tie knots, cufflinks, gleaming vintage watches, a flash of the silk lining of a suit jacket, even one picture of his belt buckle that she automatically likes without thinking about and then flushes, knowing that he will know that she's been several years deep in his feed and that she's effectively liked a photo of his crotch. He also posts interiors of hotels and bars and restaurants; exquisitely-plated foods; bottles of wine and champagne, complete with backdrops of fancy wine cellars; pictures of antiques and leather-bound books; travel vistas from hotel balconies; and many images of paintings and avant-garde sculptures.
He doesn't seem to share the same embarrassment at liking old photos of hers, and for the duration of his trip he takes his time scrolling through her whole feed, liking and commenting liberally, especially on the selfies and #ootd photos. She rewards him by taking a photo of her outfit a few hours before she's due to meet him for dinner after his return. Date night, she captions it.
Cute shoes, cute girl, he comments almost immediately and then texts her, what a tease you are, darling, which makes her smile to herself as she fixes her carefully curled updo.
He teases her in his own way a few days later, when he posts a photo of the counter at an expensive gift shop with a stack of three boxes tied up with ribbon on top of it, captioned, presents for my girl.
"Gods," Sansa whispers out loud, trying not to give into the urge to google the shop and work out what he might have bought her. Instead, she screenshots the image and sends it to Margaery.
Oh my gods, are you two official already? Margaery asks. Sansa had reported back that the sex with Petyr had been amazing but she's been coy apart from that, not wanting to jinx it, to embarrass herself by being too keen.
Yup, she replies.
So not only does he give you the exact kind of loving you want, but he also buys you pretty things. It's like you've hit the sugar daddy jackpot.
What? He's not my sugar daddy.
He so is, Margaery texts.
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
Sansa frowns and opens up Instagram again, looking at the picture he posted.
On their next date, which is dinner at his house, she watches him cook, sitting on the barstool in the kitchen and twisting from side to side.
"What's wrong?" he says over his shoulder, as he gets salad vegetables out of the fridge. "Tell me."
"Margaery told me that you were my sugar daddy," she blurts out.
"Oh," he says, setting down his knife and walking closer, leaning across the bar. "And what do you think about that?"
She studies his face, his eyes that shift from grey to green depending on the light. He reaches to stroke her hair back her face.
"Well, I don't need a sugar daddy, I have my own money, I buy everything I need," she says, ducking her head.
He lifts up her chin with a finger. "So you don't like my gifts?" he asks.
"Oh, no, I do, I like them a lot," she says, thinking of the lingerie that was in the boxes he had gifted her. The ivory lace set embroidered with flowers, with matching stockings; the lilac satin set that tied with bows at each hip; and the blush babydoll.
He brushes his thumb across her lower lip. "I just want to buy you pretty things," he says.
"I can buy myself pretty things."
"But you won't, you'll save your money for other things, you don't think you deserve to buy yourself all the pretty things you want. So let me do it." He smirks and his eyes glitter.
"What kinds of things?" she asks as he strokes a thumb across the back of her hand.
"I don't know," he says, circling her, "soft velvet dresses, delicate lace lingerie, trinkets and silk cushions for your house, extravagant flower arrangements, art for your walls, soft furnishings, shoes and bags, makeup, perfume, candles, jewellery, so much jewellery, and did I mention the lingerie?"
"It sounds like you've thought about this a lot."
"I have," he says conspiratorially, leaning closer.
"And what do you want in return?"
"Sansa," he says and clucks his tongue, "the gift-giving is enough." He shakes his head, and holds her face in his hands. "I just want to treat you, it would make me happy to buy pretty things for my pretty girl."
Her stomach heats at his words, and her eyes flutter.
"And perhaps you could take a photo of yourself in some of the outfits now and then," he adds nonchalantly, and she laughs.
"You're such a pervert," she says.
"And you love it," he whispers, and kisses her neck softly.
As time goes on, they expand their repertoire in the bedroom. Sometimes, he has her stand in the middle of the room in her prettiest lingerie, stockings and all, and sits on the edge of the bed looking at her and working his cock until he comes with a groan. She doesn't even need to touch herself to get him off, she can just stand there, swaying slightly on the spot, her hands loose at her sides, feeling warm under his gaze. Sometimes she does touch herself - a soft sweep of her fingers across her collarbone, or her stomach, a rub of her palm across her thigh, the soft cup of a lace-covered breast in her hand - and it drives him wild.
Sometimes, he lays her out on the bed and massages her with oils while he tells her how pretty she is, and has her so aroused that she comes with a single press of the pad of his thumb against her clit and then she lays there, gasping, her limbs warm and loose, as he comes into his own fist or on her lower back.
Sometimes, he puts her in front of a mirror, either sitting on her bed or at the vanity, or standing in his dressing room in front of his row of mirrors, her toes curling into the plush carpet, while he touches her and tells her she's pretty, narrating everything he's doing to her and describing how she looks.
Other times, she poses in his deep clawfoot bath for him, lets him wash her hair with all sorts of fancy products he orders in for her, the water milky from bath bombs with real dried petals. Or he'll get in there with her and as she leans back against his chest, he'll clean every part of her, even in between her fingers, and when she's writhing and panting, he'll put his hand between her legs for her to work against while he rocks his cock against her ass and muffles his moans in her neck.
He likes to come directly onto her cunt, spilling ropes of it there, smearing it around with the head of his cock while she whines and squirms at the thought of what it looks like. He calls it her pussy but she uses the word cunt because the other word makes her cringe to think of, although she admits that she likes the sound of it in his mouth, the pleasing alliteration of pretty pussy, the lewd undertone that is never far away when it comes to him.
He's fucked her occasionally, and it's been good, slow and careful just like everything else, he doesn't get carried away and lose his control. Sometimes he barely thrusts at all, just gives her something to clench around.
He's even had her ride him, although she was a little dubious the first time. He had asked her after he had laid her out on his bed and spent half an hour touching her slowly, working her up.
"I don't really like riding," she had said, as he leaned over her, stroking her hair over one shoulder.
"Try it with me, I'll make it different," he had said and kissed one of her nipples, brushing his lips back and forth and making her shiver.
She allowed him some leeway, considering everything else with him had been so good.
"How should I-" she asked, shifting to sit up.
"You can stay like that, I'll lift you," he said, nudging her back to lie on the bed.
He smoothed his hands down her body and then stroked her clit until she was close to coming. He stretched her with his fingers carefully, murmuring, "Such a pretty pussy," and then knelt between her legs, lifted them up around his hips and setting his cock to her cunt. He slid in slowly, groaning, his stomach muscles clenching.
"Good?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, nodding, her hips twitching.
"And now-" he said, sliding his hands under her back, "-we sit you up." He pulled her upwards and shifted his legs flat on the bed so that she sat in his lap effortlessly.
"That was very smooth, I'm impressed," she said, wrapping an arm around his shoulder, enjoying her body pressed against his, his hips between hers. She always hated having to clamber into someone's lap, it was awkward and took too much effort.
"I know," he said in a satisfied tone.
"Now what?" she said, as he kissed her chin, her jaw, sweeping his hands up and down her back, making her shiver.
"Now, you move how you want to move, slow rocking if you like, I'll help." He put his hands to her hips and shifted them back and forth gently, pressing his pelvis to meet hers. "Good?"
"Yes," she said.
He kissed the edge of her mouth and combed her hair back from her face. She ducked her head to muffle her sobs against his neck, rocking her hips slowly, feeling her body heat.
"There you go, good girl," he said, cupping the back of her head, and she came with a whine, pulsing her hips, grabbing onto his back.
He slowed the movement of her hips, kissing her as she moaned against his lips.
"Don't you want to come?" she asked once she had her breath back.
"Would you like that?"
"Yes, you should come inside my pussy," she said, hiding an impish grin against his shoulder.
"You're a menace," he groaned, and she clenched herself around him, the barest minimum of effort, as he curved a hand around her waist and came, the other hand clutched tightly in the silk sheets of his bed, and she trembled at the feeling of him inside her.
Petyr likes to take photos of her - for his Instagram feed, where he calls her, my girl, and for his own private collection. Sometimes he takes polaroids of her or uses his assortment of film cameras, or just a series of filters on his phone. He takes pictures of her when she's not quite aware he's doing it - when she's reading on one of the sofas in his living room in front of the fire, when she's drinking her morning coffee at the table, when she's brushing her hair in front of the bathroom mirror. Other times he has her pose, taking full-length portraits of her or intimate close-ups of her face, her legs, her feet in shoes he has bought her, the strap of her dress across her shoulder, her hands plaiting her own hair. He takes lots of pictures of her in lingerie, and it's like foreplay, the way he poses her and strokes her, telling her how pretty she is. She lets him take nude photos too, as long as they don't have her face in them, and a few polaroid shots of his come on her stomach or her breasts.
But they spend time doing other things too, aside from sex. He'll take her along to gallery openings, and introduce her to the other guests, a proprietary hand on her back. They tour the restaurants and bars of King's Landing, and visit the theatre and the cinema, and when summer arrives in earnest he takes her out in the boat he owns, although he doesn't do any actual sailing, leaving that to the professionals he hires. He also takes her on weekend trips to vineyards and charming coastal villages, patiently indulging her as she takes picturesque photos for her Instagram. And sometimes they just spend lazy hours together in either of their houses, talking and laughing, bitching about whatever TV show they have playing in the background or browsing their laptops side by side and showing each other things they've found, which for Petyr invariably means pretty things he wants to buy her.
Sometimes, she likes to sit on his lap while he's scrolling through his desktop computer in his stately home office, with its leathers and dark woods and masculine prints on the wall. She'll lean back on his chest, legs over the arms of his armchair, and he'll stroke a hand down her hair or play his fingertips across her neck, and she'll feel cherished and warm.
It's on just one of these occasions, as he shows her various villas in Essos he wants to take her to on their first proper holiday together, when she realises that the dates he's thinking of won't work.
"Can we change the dates of our holiday?" she asks.
"Of course," he says, kissing the top of her head. "Can I ask why?"
She sighs and lolls her head back on his shoulder as he brushes her hair behind her ear and twirls a strand around his finger.
"It's my parents' wedding anniversary. They like to have us all home for lunch." She picks up his other hand and runs her finger down his knuckles, sliding his ludicrously expensive watch back and forth on his wrist. "We're encouraged to bring our significant others along." She pauses. "Would you like to come with me?"
"I'd love to, darling."
She turns around in his lap. "Really? I thought you didn't really like them, my parents."
He shrugs. "I don't have very strong feelings about them, but I can't say I'm not intrigued to dine chez Stark and meet the brood."
She narrows her eyes. "You will behave, won't you."
"I don't know what you mean, darling. I have excellent house-manners."
She rubs a finger along his moustache. "Do you?" she asks wryly.
"Is this you making it official then," he says, "for your parents at least. I notice that you haven't shared my face on your Instagram or on Facebook, or used my name."
"Sorry-" she begins, feeling chastened.
"Don't apologise, I understand. You wanted to keep our relationship private, and not invite some of the annoying comments that you'll invariably get."
"What comments?" she says, acting dumb.
He laughs and kisses her neck. "Am I the oldest man you've ever dated?" he asks curiously.
"I'm honoured. Boys your age didn't do a very good job, did they, darling."
She shakes her head as her eyes run over his face, the little creases around his eyes and mouth, his quirked smile.
"So what does one bring as a gift to a Stark anniversary dinner."
She sighs again. "Nothing too fancy."
"I knew that," he drawls.
"Maybe some wine?"
"I'll find my staidest, most inoffensive vintage," he mocks and she hits him gently on the arm.
He drives her up to Winterfell in one of his vintage sports cars, stopping halfway there to stay the night in a boutique hotel with a bed even softer than the one he owns. It's on the second leg of their trip, as she's uploading a picture of the hotel swimming pool to Instagram, when he clears his throat and says, "I should probably come clean about a little white lie before we meet your family."
"Oh," she says, putting her phone away and turning in her seat to look at him. He looks possibly the most chastened he's ever looked, which is not very much at all.
"When I said that your mother and I were not good friends at university, I perhaps elided the fact that I asked her out a couple of times."
"You asked my mother out," she repeats blankly.
"Well, she wasn't your mother back then," he says. "She was popular, attractive." He shrugs.
"A redhead," Sansa adds, biting at her cuticles.
"She roundly refused me and the second time, her boyfriend at the time, your father's brother, I believe-"
"-what? I never heard that they went out. Brandon?"
"Indeed. Well the second time I asked your mother out she made some biting little comment about my background and then Brandon and I got into a bit of a fight."
"A physical fight?"
"Yes," he says.
"I can't imagine you in a fight," she says, trying to assimilate this new knowledge.
"Well there's a reason for that, because I'm not very good in them," he says. "And there was a brief hospital visit after said fight, and a scar down my chest from an errant bottle."
"Your scar is from that fight? Uncle Brandon bottled you? Oh my gods, that's awful," she says, clutching his shoulder.
He lifts a hand from the wheel and squeezes hers. "It was fine, it's over now, and I'm almost thankful to him, to your mother and him, for giving me further motivation to make something of myself." He puts his hand back on the wheel and flexes it. "So you're not angry that I didn't tell you until now?" he says.
"A little miffed, but no, not angry. I can understand why you didn't tell me on that first date, and it must be a difficult topic to bring up. I just can't believe I've never heard of any of this."
"I think your mother is a bit embarrassed about it, and of course, Brandon passed away a few months later and she got together with your father."
"I knew they were all friends before my uncle died, but I didn't know she dated him, gods. I just can't picture it, her ending up with him and not my father. It's like some big family secret."
"Brandon's death was obviously a tragedy, but by all accounts it worked out the best for everyone else, I suppose."
"Well," she says after a few moments of staring slack-jawed out of the car window as the hilly landscape of the Neck rushes past, "I'm certainly glad you didn't marry my mother."
"Really, you wouldn't have liked me for a father, you're sure about that?" he says knowingly.
"Petyr, don't make things weird," she murmurs, and he chuckles.
"But I don't want you to think that my being with you has anything to do with your mother," he says later as they round a large roundabout. "Beyond a cursory resemblance, you're nothing at all alike. You're far prettier than she ever was, sweeter. We suit each other, you and I, don't you think?"
"I do," she says, and he cups her knee. She's decided that now she knows about him asking her mother out, she's never going to think about it again – besides, it's true what he says, she can't see the two of them together at all.
As they near Winterfell, and she spruces up her hair in the reflection of the flip-down mirror, the image of the lunch to come coalesces in her mind. "So your appearance today is going to put a cat amongst the pigeons is what you're saying."
"Well, I'm not sure that your mother is going to be delighted to see me, but I'll be very polite, don't you worry."
"I take it back, you are terrible for not telling me earlier," she says grumpily, sitting back in her seat.
He laughs and strokes a hand on her head. "I'm sorry, darling, I just didn't want you to worry about it for ages beforehand."
"It's bad enough that you're older, and flashier, I knew they were going to have a problem with that."
"Flashier?" he repeats, pretending to be hurt. "Well, we're here now," he says, turning into the long drive of her home, "time to face the music I suppose." He stops the car and leans across to cup her face and kiss her softly on the mouth, on both her cheeks, on her forehead and her nose, making her smile.
He gets out and then circles the car, opening her door and helping her up from the low slung seat.
Her childhood home is a ramshackle manor house set in a large estate that includes a wood, several paddocks, and stables her parents had built when Robb was young and started showing promise in all things equestrian. But while her siblings were racing around outdoors, returning for tea each afternoon muddy and happy, Sansa was curling up with a book in her bedroom dreaming of a life down South in King's Landing, in a neatly decorated, and quiet, house all of her own. Looking back now, she can see that she was a bit po-faced as a child, that she should have gone for more walks and enjoyed the countryside, instead of always looking to the future, but her longing for a life somewhere else did give her the drive to work hard at university and at all the internships she did to find herself a good job, so perhaps her younger self was right.
She adjusts her camel coat, smoothing down her skirt as they approach the front door.
"You look perfect," Petyr murmurs, putting his hand to her back, and she takes a deep breath and rings the doorbell.
"Sansa-" her mother begins in a pleased tone of voice as she opens the door, and then she glances over at Sansa's date and pauses, her face startled. "Petyr?" she says.
"Hello, Catelyn," he says and slides his hand down Sansa's side to take her hand.
"But what are you-" her mother looks between them. "Sansa?" she says tremulously.
"Mum, this is my boyfriend, Petyr Baelish. Petyr, this is my mother, Catelyn Stark."
"Lovely to meet you...again," Petyr says, holding out his hand with a little smile.
Catelyn looks at his hand nervously, and with some distaste, and then Sansa hears another, heavier, set of footsteps approaching and she pulses her grip in Petyr's other hand as he slides his thumb across her skin.
"Is that Sansa?" Ned asks, smiling as he opens the front door wider to see his daughter, and then startling just like Catelyn did at the sight of the other man, and clutching the doorframe in his fist so tightly that the wood creaks.
Sansa inwardly sighs.
"Dad, this is my boyfriend, Petyr Baelish," she repeats by rote. "Petyr, this is my father, Eddard Stark."
"Oh, we've already met," her father says darkly, shaking Petyr's hand firmly while Petyr smiles placidly. But Ned doesn't let the handshake end. "You've got some nerve, Baelish, and I don't know what you think you're doing with my daughter-"
"Dad," Sansa cuts in, "can we move inside? There's a bit of an autumn chill out here."
Ned reluctantly lets go of Petyr's hand and Sansa sees Petyr flex his fingers. "Lovely to finally see the Stark abode," Petyr says pleasantly, "Sansa has told me all about it, and her idyllic childhood here, haven't you, darling?"
"I have," Sansa says, knowing that he threw in that 'darling' mostly to irritate her parents, and not caring because it always makes her feel warm when he calls her pet names.
Ned wanders off in a huff while Catelyn leads them to the kitchen where everyone else has gathered. Here we go, Sansa thinks, plastering on a polite smile as they enter the room.
Catelyn claps her hands together. "Sansa's here and she's brought a guest, Petyr Baelish," her mother says, unable to hide the mulish tone of her voice as she introduces him.
"Guest," Petyr whispers delightedly to Sansa.
Robb frowns when he sees Petyr; Arya looks a very Arya-mix of unimpressed and thunderous, and turns to mutter something in her boyfriend's ear; their cousin Jon has immediately read the mood of the room and is looking at Robb nervously; Bran looks his normal blasé self; and Rickon is paying more attention to running around the kitchen chasing his new puppy.
Jeyne, Robb's fiancée, asks Petyr if he wants tea, as Ygritte and Meera come into the kitchen through the back door, cleaning their wellington boots against the boot brusher, their cheeks ruddy with health from a blustery walk.
Sansa introduces Petyr to the girls, and Petyr takes a well-worn earthenware mug from Jeyne and holds it slightly distastefully in his hands, which makes Sansa smile around the rim of her own cup. She notes the way her family is looking at Petyr and between the two of them, and the whispers they're making too. For a family that prides itself on being friendly and polite, they're not doing the best job of it.
"So what do you do?" Arya asks, as she unloads a packet of biscuits onto a plate and takes them back to the kitchen table without offering Petyr any.
"I'm an investor," he says, leaning back on the kitchen counter, arm around Sansa's waist.
"That's suitably vague," Arya replies.
"Arya-" Sansa says.
"Well, I'm what they call an Angel Investor, I put up the capital for other people's ventures and start-ups, as well as having my own portfolio of other stocks and shares and properties."
"Oh, it is," Petyr replies with an easy smile. "And lucrative, obviously."
"I can see that."
"Sorry about Arya," Sansa says, shooting her sister a look, "she's been raised by wolves."
"And how long have you been dating my sister?" Robb butts in.
"About six months now, isn't it?" Petyr says, turning to Sansa, and brushing his thumb across her cheek, making her flush. She nods, and sees Arya pretend to gag in the corner of her eye.
"And how old are you exactly?" Robb challenges.
"What is this, an inquisition?" Sansa says.
"It's alright, darling, they're just welcoming me to the family in their own way. I'm in my mid-40s," Petyr answers.
"So twenty years older than Sansa," Robb says pointedly.
"Oh, I suppose so," Petyr says as if he's never thought about it before.
Sansa coughs to hide her laugh.
"Sansa tells me you're very into horses," Petyr says to Robb, and manages to make it sound like a sordid fetish rather than Robb's actual occupation.
"You can come out for a ride if you like, although I should I warn you that our horses aren't very kind to newcomers," Arya says, the threat clear.
"Oh, no," Petyr waves his hand casually. "Maybe sometime in the future, when Sansa brings me here again."
"As if you'll last that long," Arya mutters darkly and Bran gives her an unimpressed look.
After everyone has finished their tea, a walk is proposed while Catelyn and Jeyne prepare the late lunch. Sansa begs off the walk and says that she'd like to give Petyr a tour of the house instead.
"Is there that much to see in the house?" Catelyn says with a little laugh.
"Well, my old bedroom for one," Sansa says, without quite thinking what she's saying.
Catelyn purses her lips disapprovingly, and when Sansa leads Petyr from the kitchen they bump into Ned too who grumbles at them under his breath.
When they're finally up in her bedroom and alone, Sansa sighs and rests against the door wearily.
Petyr is looking around the room eagerly.
"I know it's very pink," Sansa says, "I hadn't quite developed my tastes yet."
He turns around to face her. "It's charming, and very pretty, quite a contrast to the rest of the house." He brushes the backs of his fingers down her cheek and then kisses her softly. "So this is where you did all your dreaming," he says, moving closer, sliding his hands down her sides.
"Petyr-" she says, her eyelashes fluttering at his soft kisses on her neck. "We can't do this here."
"Can't we?" he says softly. "I'm sure you can be very quiet if you put your mind to it, darling."
She lets out a little whine as he strokes his fingertips across her collarbone. Then he takes her by the hand and leads her to her single bed.
"But-" she says, as he takes her shoes off carefully.
"This doesn't turn you on, doing this here?" he murmurs, smoothing his hands ever-so-slowly up her legs. "Your own little naughty secret?"
"Petyr-" she squirms breathlessly.
She's wearing stockings - because they're more comfortable and not because she expected something like this to happen, honestly - and when he kisses the tops of her thighs any reluctance disappears.
The knickers she's wearing tie at the sides with satin bows and he unties them without removing her stockings and suspender belt. He spreads her thighs as she lies back on the cheap pink fabric of her old duvet, staring up at the faded glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling.
"And if you wanted to share any fantasies you might have had back then-" he murmurs as he delicately brushes the pad of his thumb around her clit, making her thighs twitch, "-then feel free. Fantasies about handsome older men perhaps-" he says wickedly, kissing her clit a couple of times and then moving to suck gently at the skin of her lower stomach while his fingers swirl around her cunt, "-who sneak in here while everyone else is asleep-"
She whines, feeling overheated in her blouse and cardigan, her skirt pushed up around her waist.
"You flush such a pretty colour, darling," he says, and she comes with a soft moan, covering her mouth with her own hand. "Perfect," he says.
Later, once she's composed herself and has neatened her hair, and the smell of cooking has reached the third floor, they descend for lunch.
Petyr holds her chair out for her as they sit down next to one another, and kisses her on the cheek, as Robb, who is sitting opposite, narrows his eyes.
"Nice walk?" Sansa asks.
"It was lovely, we missed you, Sansa," Robb says pointedly.
"I enjoyed my tour of the house," Petyr says mildly and Sansa presses her foot against his under the table.
"Were are you living now?" Ned asks Petyr, having thankfully not understood the undertone of Petyr's comment, unlike Arya who is muttering to Gendry at the other end of the table.
"I have a townhouse in the old quarter of King's Landing, as well as other properties dotted around Westeros."
"And you grew up in the Fingers."
"I did," Petyr says, serving Sansa some salad as the table hands the plates of food around. "And then I attended Riverrun University, in the same year as Catelyn. You didn't go to University if I remember correctly."
"No, I was working hard for the family business by then."
Petyr smiles politely.
"He went to University with Mum?" Arya says. "That's super weird."
"Well, she wasn't your mum then," Petyr says. "She was Catelyn Tully."
"Super weird," Arya repeats with a sneer as she pours herself some wine - the Stark's own choice of red wine and not the bottle Petyr brought with him, and which Catelyn had taken from him as if it were a bomb and not a perfectly pleasant vintage.
Conversation returns to other matters - Robb's and Arya's competitions, the upkeep of the estate, Bran's tech studies and Rickon's experiences at forest kindergarten - as they eat their way through the homely fair Catelyn and Jeyne have cooked.
As dessert - apple crumble with a rich homemade custard that Sansa still dreams about - is brought out, Robb calls for a toast to Catelyn and Ned and their long and happy marriage. Sansa raises her glass while thinking about the fact that Catelyn might have married Brandon instead. She knows that her parents love each other very much; it's something that's weighed on her as she has got older and has struggled to meet someone she wanted to spend her life with, until now that is.
Arya has obviously been biding her time because as Sansa helps herself to some more custard, her sister says, "that's a nice bracelet, Sansa, isn't it Mum?"
"Oh, yes," Catelyn says distractedly.
"And are those new earrings too, real diamonds?" Arya asks.
"Yes," Sansa says, feeling where this is going. "Petyr bought them for me."
"Does Petyr buy you a lot of things-" Arya inquires, tilting her head to the side, "-it's just that I follow you on Instagram and you seem to be posting a lot of expensive things lately - jewellery, clothes, other things."
"I like to treat her," Petyr says, "is there something wrong with that?" He raises an eyebrow and leans his arm across the back of Sansa's chair.
"You're not like her sugar daddy or something, are you?" Arya says slyly.
"Arya!" Catelyn admonishes as Ned glowers.
"Do you think I'm that shallow that I can be bought?" Sansa says, feeling hurt and trying not to attack Arya in turn.
"Sansa, she didn't mean it, it was a poorly timed joke, that's all," Catelyn says breezily.
Petyr cups the back of Sansa's head and leans to whisper in her ear, "she's just jealous."
Sansa concentrates on her apple crumble and avoids looking at Arya for fear she'll stick out her tongue or give her the finger.
Later, once everyone has gone outside in the warm afternoon sun for further drinks in the back garden, Sansa heads inside to use the bathroom and finds Ned in the kitchen searching the cupboards.
"Sansa," he says, clearing his throat when he sees her. His frowns are deeper than they used to be, but she doesn't like acknowledging that her parents are growing old. "I just wanted to ask you how things were in King's Landing, with your job and the house."
"Everything's fine, Dad," she says.
"You're sure," he presses, putting an awkward hand on her shoulder. Ned spent lots of time roughhousing with Arya and the boys when they were children but he always seemed awkward when it came to any physical contact with Sansa, she can only really remember him hugging her three separate times.
"Is this about what Arya said at dinner, about Petyr's gifts."
Her father's jaw ticks. "I just don't want you to ever feel trapped, or beholden to anyone."
"Dad, I'm twenty-five, I have a good job, I own my own house."
She admits to being hurt that her family seem to think she'd get into some arrangement for money, or that she likes nice things so much that she'd agree to a relationship she didn't want. Do they realise exactly what they're accusing her of?
"I just don't want you to think you can't ever ask us for help. I know that we've probably spent more on your other siblings over the years, horses are expensive, you know that, but we're not hard done by, there's funds if you need them," he says.
"I'm fine," she says, her smile covering a myriad of conflicting thoughts.
"Good," he says, with one of his own lopsided smiles. "You all grow up so fast." He sighs. "Your mother wanted me to bring out a jug of water, the nice jug, and I have no idea what she meant-" he adds, motioning to the kitchen cupboards.
"It's there, on top of the fridge," she says.
"That's the nice jug?" Ned comments, sounding baffled, and grabbing it.
"I'll see you outside," Sansa says.
When Sansa leaves the poky downstairs bathroom, rubbing in the last of her handcream, she bumps into Arya waiting for her in the hallway outside.
"Arya," she says.
"Sansa," Arya replies pointedly. "So that's your new boyfriend then," she adds, leaning on the wall and blocking Sansa's exit.
"Yup," Sansa says, crossing her arms.
"He's dad's age," Arya says, screwing up her face.
"And he's creepy, the way he watches you and touches you all the time, you have to admit that."
Sansa sighs and closes her eyes, trying not to give into the urge to get mad at Arya, trying to leave today with her dignity intact. "I can understand what it looks like, but I like how he treats me, I like him, very much."
"Were you dropped on your head as a baby before I was born," Arya says, and reaches a hand towards Sansa's head that she swats away.
"That's all I have to say about it. I don't really feel like listening to you insult my boyfriend anymore, Arya."
"Fine," Arya says. "But don't come crying when he breaks up with you for someone younger and prettier. Those kind of men are all the same."
Sansa huffs an angry breath, reminding herself that she's leaving in an hour or so, and that this is just the way Arya shows she cares.
She heads back out to the garden and sees Petyr watching for her, as Ned continues to glare at him from the other side of the group.
Petyr kisses her on the cheek when she reaches him and puts a hand round her waist, as her mother's facial expression freezes in a polite rictus.
"I think your brother tried to threaten me again," Petyr says to Sansa sotto-voce.
"I'm sure you held your own admirably," she says a little shortly.
Petyr raises an eyebrow.
"My father asked me if I "needed financial assistance" and Arya told me that you're creepy," she reports back.
Petyr clucks his tongue. "Well, your father's too late, isn't he," he says obliquely, looking at her and stroking his hand across her lower back with a move that always makes her melt. Then his expression turns wry. "I am shocked that Arya doesn't approve, I thought we were well on our way to being good friends."
Sansa scoffs and reaches an arm to hug him, pressing her face to his shoulder and breathing in the smell of mint and her favourite cologne. It doesn't matter to her that her family doesn't like Petyr, and considering everything, today has gone better than she might have imagined. Neither Robb nor Arya has challenged him to a physical fight after all.
They make the rounds of the group slowly, saying their goodbyes, brushing off Catelyn's extremely cursory offer to stay the night and join the others for a breakfast walk the next morning.
Sansa feels her shoulders drop as she sits in the car and she sighs as she brushes out her hair with the travel brush she brought with her.
"Glad that we're heading back to King's Landing now?" he asks as he puts his arm behind her seat and reverses the car, and then speeds out of the drive, spraying up gravel behind him that will surely piss her mother off even further.
"Gods, yes," Sansa says and settles back in her seat, relieved and content.
But as they drive through the North on their way to the same hotel as last time, something that Arya said earlier seems to have wormed its way inside her thoughts and her mood turns.
"You're upset," he notes as she taps her nails on the dashboard. "Tell me," he says.
"OK," she says, brushing a piece of fluff off her skirt. "So I know that you like that I'm pretty, but what if I don't feel like shaving my legs one week, or I get ill and put on weight, what if I want to slob around all weekend," she says, her thoughts coming out in a rush.
"Sansa," he says, clucking his tongue, and he rests a hand on her thigh. "I don't want a doll, I'm attracted to you because you're a real person. I think I'd be attracted to you if you changed drastically," he says consideringly, "but I'm not sure you will, I think your family just know how to needle you and make you feel uncertain. That you want the same things that I do is immensely attractive, darling, no matter what else happens, and besides, you forget that you'll always be younger than me, more youthful even when we're old."
She crosses her arms as he squeezes her leg gently. "Now you're making me want to cry," she says, her voice thick.
He strokes the back of his hand down her cheek. "They're just jealous, sweetheart. They can't stand that you're happy and successful. And that you have a fabulously wealthy and extraordinarily handsome boyfriend," he adds with a grin.
She laughs and rolls her eyes. "The funniest bit of that is that I know that a part of you isn't lying."
He shrugs his shoulders and adjusts his hands on the steering wheel. "I'm not terribly renowned for having low self-esteem, it's true," he says with a smile.
"Did you enjoy dinner?" she asks, leaning her head back on the headrest.
"I did, it was fascinating."
"You were judging us all, weren't you."
"Did you have fun?" he asks, deftly sidestepping her comment.
"I did...but I'm glad that I only see them all a few times a year."
"Maybe next year we can shock them all with an engagement announcement, that'll put a bee in all their bonnets," he says slyly.
"It would," she says, trying not to get too excited but secretly very pleased indeed that she now has a loose schedule in her mind. An engagement, gods, and just when she had given up on ever marrying anyone.
But then a few weeks before Christmas, she receives a thick letter in the post that has her questioning everything.
She can't quite understand the sheaf of papers at first, nor who the sender is until the name of Petyr's lawyers rings a bell. What she has been sent is the deeds to a house that has been bought in her name, a house on the street behind Petyr's street, and directly opposite his own townhouse.
She walks up and down her small kitchen, frowning and reading the papers again and again, her body heating up with anger and frustration and then she gives in and rings him at work, something she's rarely ever done.
He answers after three rings and she pictures him sitting in the office she's visited a handful of times, with the wall of windows looking out across King's Landing and the soundproofed door with the good lock that they took advantage of one time.
"Darling, what a nice surprise-" he begins but she's not in the mood.
"Petyr, I got a letter in the post from your lawyers, the deeds to a house in my name."
"I can explain-"
"I don't want to be a kept woman in the house next to yours. I like my own house, I thought you knew that, I put a lot of work into it, I'm not going to move out into a house of your own choosing. I'm not yours, you don't own me, I'm not-"
"-one of my old escorts? Is that what you think I was about to say," he replies but he doesn't sound angry like she is.
"No, I don't have anything against sex workers, or your history with them, that's not what I meant-"
"Sansa, you have the wrong idea, and I'm going to fire my lawyer for sending that letter to you now before I had a chance to explain," he says softly, and her heart starts to slow down at the measured tone of his voice, as she walks through her house towards her bedroom. "I never expected you to get rid of your house or move in opposite me. I only thought you might like to use it now and then like...a holiday home. It's directly opposite the back of my house, you see, and the way the walls and trees are set up, only I can see in through the large wall of windows..." he trails off and she breathes out a relieved laugh, staring at her reflection in the mirror next to her bed. "So if you wanted to spend a day wandering from room to room, wearing a pretty dress or some lovely lingerie, reading and relaxing, while I watched through the windows from my house, for instance-"
"It's a shag pad you mean," she says, smile so wide it hurts her cheeks. He's unbelievable.
"Well, something more refined than that, but yes."
"And the lawyers?"
"I wanted you to have it, to own it. Think of it like part of your early inheritance, so I don't have to put it in my will and you won't have to pay inheritance tax."
"I am a bit older than you," he reasons.
"Not that much older. And you're not dying, are you?" she presses, frowning.
"No, darling. I just wanted to give you a present."
"An entire townhouse is a rather extravagant present."
"What can I say, my love language is gift-giving."
She laughs and falls back on her bed. "I suppose I might need to decorate this house."
"You might indeed. Any thoughts?"
"You're the real aesthete, what do you think? What wallpapers and soft furnishings would look the best as a backdrop to me in my silkiest of underwear."
"Sansa," he groans.
"Are you touching yourself right now?"
"I am, are you?"
"Such a tease, sweetheart."
"Think of it like Schrödinger's wank, am I touching myself or not."
"You are a very strange girl," he says and she can hear his voice get breathy. "Now, tell me what you're wearing," he orders softly.
"A pair of opaque black tights-"
"Have I ever told you how much I like you in tights."
"You have. My pale blue dress with the white peter pan collar and the little row of buttons, the darting around my breasts that you said you liked," she says as she sweeps a hand across her clothed body, putting her phone on speaker beside her.
"I do," he pants. "And underneath?"
"Underneath," she says, pulling up the skirt of her dress and touching herself over her tights. "That violet set, the transparent lace."
"Fuck," he grunts.
"My nipples are hard and they're poking through the lace of the bralette," she says, squirming now, turning over onto her front to rock against her hand.
"Are you wet, darling?" he gasps.
"Yes," she whispers, and hears him come with a groan.
After a bit of heavy breathing, he clucks his tongue. "And now I've come all over my suit trousers. Sansa," he admonishes.
She makes a squeaking sound.
"Oh, you like that?" he asks and she can hear him smirk.
"Uh-huh," she says and then rubs her clit until she comes with a whine.
"Well, it was worth it then," he says with a laugh. "Send me a picture of your face?" he asks, as he shuffles around on the other end of the line, changing into one of his suits in the wardrobe attached to his office washroom.
She does as he asks, pleased by the flush on her cheeks and the soft curl of her hair around her shoulders in the picture.
"Gorgeous," he says when he receives it. "Perfect."
"I'd just like to say," Margaery announces over the phone while Sansa is browsing the bookshop one Sunday, idling the hours away before Petyr comes home from his latest work trip, "that when you two invariably get married, I have to be the maid of honour, and when you have an annoyingly happy and picture perfect marriage, complete with disgustingly cute babies, that you mustn't forget that I'm responsible for all of this, that I set you both up."
"Wasn't that Ros, technically?" Sansa says, smiling as she ducks down the steps into the cookery section of the bookshop. Petyr likes to cook but he never buys himself cookbooks so she's going to treat him.
"I'm wounded, Sansa."
"I am thankful to you, Margaery," Sansa says more seriously, "I'm so happy you don't even know." She bites her lip and tries not to give in to the urge to twirl on the spot like some girl in a romcom.
"And if Petyr wanted to gift me any of his artworks in thanks..."
"Find your own sugar daddy," she laughs, glancing around to check that no one's listening.
"Working on it, Sans, working on it as we speak."
"I need it, I'm trawling through Tinder right now with my other phone. An endless sea of receding hairlines and sun's out gun's out tank tops." Margaery sighs. "I'll let you go now, I'm sure you're busy prettying yourself up for the return of Himself."
"I'm in the bookshop actually, choosing him a cookery book."
"Disgusting. I don't want to hear about your strange fetish games," Margaery teases and Sansa snorts a laugh.
Once she's said goodbye to Margaery and bought two books of fusion cookery, the pictures intricate and fussy just how he likes, she walks back along the street, pausing in front of the window of the lingerie boutique.
Just landed, Petyr texts her, what are you doing right now?
She takes a photo of the shop, window-shopping, she texts.
If you can hold on for half an hour or so, you might just be the recipient of a rather large beribboned box of knickers made of YiTish silk.
Her heart kicks in her chest and she turns and walks swiftly towards her house.
I can't wait, she texts back. I'll be in the bath when you arrive, let yourself in and come find me.
Such a tease, darling, he replies and she can see his pleased smirk in her mind, the way he'll put his phone back in his pocket and then smooth a hand down his suit jacket to fix the line. Gods, and she's getting hot now just thinking about him sitting there in his car from the airport, the box with her presents next to him on the seat, his slim fingers adjusting his tie and tapping on the car door in anticipation, his cock hard in his immaculately-pressed trousers as he thinks of her waiting for him.
She wraps up his books once she's home, in navy wrapping paper with a silver paisley pattern, makes herself some rose tea and heads upstairs to her bathroom. She looks at herself in the floor length mirror as she strips, a floral bath bomb fizzing behind her as the tap runs. Perfect, she thinks, smoothing a hand down her side and curling her hair into a clip on top of her head, her cheeks blushing pink. Perfect.