It had slipped past her lips and into the air, becoming real, before she realized her mistake and fear washed over her.
Anne sharply sucked in a breath and held it, as if the name could be recalled and left to suffocate in her straining lungs. Everything was still, including her own hand, which only moments before had been frantically moving beneath the sheets in pursuit of something she couldn’t name.
She had almost gotten there, too...
Heart pounding and light headed, Anne cautiously let the spent air out of her lungs and began breathing shallowly, wide eyed and listening intently. There wasn’t much to be seen; she was on her side and facing the wall. Anne tilted her chin down until she could see the boxy shape of the standing mirror at the corner of the room, still draped in a sheet.
The back of her neck was prickling.
The rest of the room would be a mystery until she turned over, but she was frozen in place. Maybe, if she stayed perfectly still and closed her eyes she would fall asleep, and he would never, ever speak to her about any of this...
She deluded herself into thinking this was a possibility until the bed dipped near her knees as the weight of a man pressed down on it.
Anne startled and sat up, though managed an attempt to casually slide the fingers of her right hand from her underwear, as if her arm had naturally settled between her legs to sleep. It was awkward, and her fingers were wet. It also allowed the blanket to slide off her shoulders before she could catch it.
Though she had been expecting it, the sight of the smirking man in dark clothing sitting at the edge of her bed sent a shock through her nerves. She sucked in another sharp breath, but did not otherwise make a sound. Fear and shame rendered her mute.
He broke the silence first.
“So you’ve called for me in a moment like this...” and trailed off, a too-wide grin splitting his face behind a raised hand; he was laughing.
Denial was the only option for her here, really. How could she ever face him again if he had ammunition like this to bring up and shame her with whenever he wanted?
“Who called you?” Heat radiated from her face. “What are you doing in here, you creep?! It’s the middle of the night!” She grabbed her pillow and made as if to throw it at him. “Get out!”
But Mercante did not budge, his grin widening. “Is that really how you want to speak to me, hmm?” He leaned closer to her, and instead of throwing it she clutched the pillow to her body like a shield, though she managed to hold his strange, narrow-eyed gaze. “Since I’ve come at your request.”
And then his eyes opened, his weight shifted and Mercante leaned in so close that he was nearly above her; his mouth now uncovered, his conspiratorial murmur was quite clear, “I heard you, don’t deny it.”
That caused her to look away, shame and embarrassment overriding everything else. She was caught, denial pointless. “It wasn’t a request. That wasn’t...it wasn’t for you.”
“Oh?” He questioned, appearing to examine her closely, hand back at his chin. She wouldn’t - couldn’t look at his expression, or be in the same room with him for much longer. She didn’t trust herself to speak, so instead she nodded, wishing that he would have his laugh at her and leave.
Tomorrow she would figure out where to run away to, debt and life be damned.
But he didn’t laugh this time. The demon placed one broad hand on the bed and slid it towards her, nearly but not quite touching her through the blanket, before saying something truly frightening; “That is unfortunate, since I’ve come to offer my assistance, hmm?”
That got a reaction. Anne jerked her head up and glared at him; he was grinning, obviously delighted at once again having the upper hand. “Do not screw with me, Mercante.”
“I assure you, I am being quite sincere.” The hand began to slide again, until it was moving up her calf, then squeezing gently at her knee over the blanket. It felt like fire, but she didn’t flinch.
She obviously felt it, though.
“Of course,” he began as she interrupted with a gasp; the hand stopped midway up her thigh, before slowly receding, “the choice to accept, or not, is up to you,” he removed his hand from the bed but leaned in close, the startling red of his eyes cracking open to gaze at her, “Anne.”
Here he paused, seeming to realize that the young lady beneath him needed a moment to gather her wits. As the moment stretched on he leaned back and finally looked away.
“However, if my presence is not wanted here…” Mercante drawled, flourishing one elegant hand towards the door, “then I shall be on my way.”
“N...no, you can stay…” Anne answered carefully, watching his gestures rather than his almost-certain-to-be-smirking face. She had clearly lost her mind.
“If you want to,” she added quickly, and managed to feel even more foolish.
She had expected laughter, but not the hand that lightly cupped her cheek and coaxed her face up to meet his piercing eyes. Rather than a smirk, his smile might have been described as fond.
“Oh, Anne. Dear Anne. This isn’t about what I want,” he murmured, now sliding deft fingers through her loose hair. “You called for me, and I’m here. So, what do you want from me?”
“I don’t know…” It was too hard to think when he was touching her. She wished he’d pick between keeping his eyes open or closed. He seemed more honest when they were open…
“Is this a trick?”
The eyes came open again, this time in indignation. Mercante seemed to consider saying something biting, thought better of it, and instead smugly stated, “Hardly. Really, this is a rare opportunity. I don’t often offer my assistance for free, as you well know.” Noticing her tense up at his words, he continued more gently, “Forgive me if I don’t understand your hesitation, Anne. I fail to see how this is a bad deal for you.”
And there he was again, making something difficult sound so easy.
But, if she were being honest, she wanted it, and Mercante seemed to want it too...
Anne allowed herself to catch her breath before asking, “What kind of “assistance” are you talking about, anyway?” The last thing she wanted to sound was eager.
Now Mercante didn’t answer immediately; his gaze felt almost cautious. “....hmm. You really don’t know anything, do you…”
“What?!” Anne hadn’t had time to process why she took offense to that statement, but she certainly felt it. “What is that supposed to mean, huh?!”
“Just an observation.” He was obviously doing his best to take her seriously, which somehow irritated her even more. “I had assumed that friend of yours would have taught you a thing or two by now, so to find you so clueless is-…”
“Are you talking about Mar-!” she interrupted, “-no, I mean, what ‘friend’ are you talking about?!”
“Oh, I believe you know exactly who I’m talking about, Anne. No need to be so shy. It’s only recently that you began sleeping in the shop, and-...”
“How dare you?!” She interrupted him a second time, and to the monster’s credit, he allowed it.
Mercante didn’t even attempt to speak before she continued, “I believe that is none of your business.”
Did he know? But even as she thought that question, she knew that she didn’t want the answer.
Besides, Mark had been a terrible teacher.
“I just want to feel good. I don’t know what to ask for.” For the second time that night, Anne was surprised by the words leaving her mouth. But she didn’t want to take these back. Not it it meant that Mercante would keep looking at her with that fond expression…
No, wait, what was she thinking-...!
“Then allow me to assist,” Mercante answered evenly, so close that the loose hair framing his face was tickling her nose and cheeks.
Anne would never admit it, but she had thought he was going to kiss her in that moment.
Instead, Mercante seized her up out of the bed with one oversized shadow-hand and gracefully switched their positions, though he placed her back to his chest and spread her legs across his right thigh. “Comfortable?”
If his hot breath hadn’t been directly in her ear, or his thigh pressing at her through her underwear, she might have had less of a positive reaction. Instead, it was nearly all she could do to answer, “N-no, who could be comfortable like this…” while cautiously allowing her body to settle back against him. With some lingering hesitation, Anne relaxed her arms until her fingers were brushing the sheets. Mercante’s bare forearms came down to rest across her waist and she vaguely noted that he wasn’t wearing his usual sleeves; when had he removed the coat?
She was dizzy with nerves.
They laid like that for a moment, the only movement being the rise and fall of her chest and his arms slowly snaking across her body. As they slid lower, one hitched up the hem of her nightgown as the other pressed against the thin fabric of her underwear.
On instinct she pressed back, quietly expressing her approval through stifled moans and responsive breathing. Interpreting this as permission to go farther, he teasingly hooked his fingers on the strip covering her front before slipping his entire hand beneath the waistband and into direct contact with her slickened clit.
Since she’d been nearly to completion before calling in the interruption, she was already swollen and quite sensitive; her response was immediate.
“Mercante, ah… !... mm…” Anne canted her hips, eager to give him a smoother angle but simultaneously overwhelmed with feeling. Without thought she reached up to grip at his biceps, prompting Mercante to hold her closer and lightly penetrate her with the tip of his index finger.
Anne whimpered in bliss as it slid inside easily. “It seems you’ve already gotten yourself ready. How long were you doing this before I got here, hm?” His voice was huskier than usual, especially when he followed up with, “How naughty, Anne.”
It was difficult to be annoyed when she was being made to feel so good, but of course this bastard managed to do it. For him to dare asking such a facetious question, when they both knew he had been listening from the beginning... “Shut up,” she snapped between breaths, “you’re twice...no, ten times more perverted than me…”
And yet, Anne was the one moving her hips up and down, pressing herself into the touch that had paused to be maddeningly still.
“...Hm.” Mercante answered, before taking revenge in the form of sliding a second finger inside of her with no warning. He also began to move, rubbing at her with long, deliberate strokes.
Anne was a bit more impatient, rocking her hips eagerly into the touch. Her desire was charming, but made it difficult to establish a rhythm. With his left hand the shopkeeper held fast at her hip, pressing her back into his own body. Her surprised gasp told him that she probably felt his own interest; good - it would give her something to think about.
But not now; he didn’t want to give her any time to think about anything other than the pleasure rising in her abdomen. He sped up, curling his fingers into her and changing the angle according to what garnered the most response.
She was already so close, it felt like mere moments before Anne cried out, grasping at him as her walls throbbed around his fingers, her legs trembling. He didn’t stop moving until, overstimulated, she fought the post orgasm haze off long enough to move one hand over his wrist and still him.
She laid panting in his lap, near boneless and blissfully content, until Mercante had the audacity to lean close again and murmur with a faint smirk, “Does this mean you’re satisfied, now?”
Masking her embarrassment as annoyance, Anne pushed herself roughly off and away from him. She half crawled, half rolled to the side of the bed closest to the wall and lay down facing it, before saying in her most dismissive tone, ‘Course I am. Is that all you wanted? I mean-...is that all you came here for?”
She hoped, but doubted, that her hair was completely covering the blush that was searing her face at that moment. She had felt what he wanted; it was crazy, but her heart thrilled at the thought of him taking her back into his arms. With the right encouragement, maybe he could be coaxed into asking her for something that she shouldn’t want but absolutely, undeniably did-...
Instead, Mercante chuckled quietly and she felt the bed shift as he removed himself from the mattress. She was trying and failing to ignore the pang of disappointment that went through her as he breezily replied, “That depends. Is that all you wanted, Anne?”
The cold disregard of his words and amusement in his voice were enough to break her fantasies. After years of practice, she was able to cast the disappointment aside in her mind, for later.
“I’m good,” she answered, quickly. She didn’t turn to look back at him, and couldn’t put words to any of the thoughts pouring through her head. The silence stretched on and, unable to take it any longer, she awkwardly added, “Thanks, I guess…?”
There was no answer. She waited a few beats longer before turning to look back at the rest of the room.
It was empty; Mercante had gone.