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A Simple Bondman

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"I think I quite like having a concubine." Amusement made Marion's eyes light and though the day had been dreary and the air far too wet, the skin under her fingers was warm and pliant. One of the dogs shifted and yawned, edging closer to the fire as steam escaped his coat. His soft wuffling drew her attention long enough for an errant hand to escape her notice and find the curve of her ass, drawing her closer.

"Is that what I am then? No longer your beloved husband, merely a body to warm your bed?" There was no rancor in his tone and she pressed her lips to the side of his neck. It was rough with stubble and smelled of sweat and greenwood. Both were familiar scents and she inhaled deeply, holding on to them for the too long days that now measured their time apart.

"My beloved husband is dead as everyone now well knows. What else could you be then but a simple bondman brought in for my pleasure and at my behest?" She draped a leg over his hips as if to give physical evidence of her claim. The blankets were heavy on top of them, creased with itinerant shadows from candle light and small movements and she was glad that it was far too late for anyone to think of disturbing her and not yet early enough for him to go sneaking back to the woods.

He ran his hand down her leg and then back up and she shivered. "Simple bondman, eh?" She could just hear the edge of laughter in his voice. It took effort to stop her smile.

"Oh yes. Quite simple. Perhaps even a bit dull." She shook her head slowly in sympathy. "Really, you're lucky I took pity on you and allowed you past the threshold at all."

"I think you've let me much further than that, my love." Now he was laughing. She could feel vibrating through his chest and shoulders and she lifted her head to escape it.

She pinched his ribs hard, just under a scar that had only recently held her attention, and felt a brief flash of triumph when he flinched. It was good to occasionally remind him that he was mortal, as if life itself had not taught him that again and again, each lesson marked on his skin. "You are horrible."

"I'll have them add it to my list of crimes. I hear the crown has found yet more charges to lay against me and I'm sure none could be worse than offending your dignity." He was still laughing, unperturbed by her glare. She gave up and laid back down.

"You'll see how offended I am when next you beg entry into my chamber." She pinched him again then settled into his arms letting him fold them about her as she knew he would. That knowledge was worth more comfort than any action and she kissed his collarbone in immediate apology for her words. "The sheriff was here today. I suspect that he will not wait long before he repeats the visit."

She hated to say it because she knew the change it would bring, something felt in the air more than in the body beneath her. His skin was still soft and warm, still shrouded by dark hollows, but those depths quickly became sinister as his eyes took on a sharpness that she had only just spent hours blunting. It reminded her of nothing so much as one of Walter's hawks back when he could afford to keep them and she didn't relish sharing her bed with a bird no matter how noble.

"Did you not think to mention this earlier?" He moved his hand from her hip to her shoulder as if to protect her from prior trespasses. It would do her little good to tell him that she felt quite safe in her current circumstances and that the sheriff was most certainly not hiding behind a tapestry somewhere in the room.

"And have you spend the night brooding? When there was nothing to be done for it and more enjoyable things on both our minds? I don't think so." She kissed him then, to absolve him of any guilt for not being there that day, fierce with a protectiveness of her own. "You've time enough to plan some fitting retribution tomorrow, and I would appreciate it if it were something appropriately humbling, but for now you are going to put it from your mind. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, milady." The smirk on his lips was almost infuriating but the tension was gone from the air and the hand on her shoulder was drifting down her arm. "Whatever pleases you, milady."

When he kissed her, any trace of anger was gone and she sighed as she felt the callouses on his palm against the curve of her breast. It was a pattern that was familiar to her and she thought that in a darkened room, with only his hands to know him by, she would have no difficulties. "Are you sure it's my pleasure that is foremost in your mind right now?"

He chuckled as his hands moved under the blankets to pull her beneath him and his lips found hers once more. "I could think of nothing but what my lady desires, for as you said, I am only a simple bondman in her service. Little more than a tool to be directed at her whim." He was still smirking but she found that she cared less and less. Perhaps there was something to be said for arrogance on occasion.

She ran her hands over his shoulders and back, pressed kisses on his collarbones and chest, tasted the salt of his skin, and put the day even more firmly behind her. If she would not allow him to dwell on it then in fairness she too must avoid the temptation. "I think I would quite like it if my bondman would embrace the example of the Carthusians and get on with it." She met his smirk with one of her own, daring him to say anything and her laugh echoed through the room as he simply turned his head and blew out the candle.