Saxa strides away from the circle of frozen bodies with her back straight and her hands curled into fists. Gannicus will never know how close he came to having those fists smash apart his sheepish, guilty face, his and the trembling waif’s beside him.
Nor will he know the crack he left, an icy gap opening in her heart when he pulled Sibyl close, avoiding Saxa’s eyes. Infuriating idiot, forever slipping through her grasp with a glib smile and mocking jest, pretending there’s no more to him than wine and cock, refusing to share the rest. He isn’t worth the breaking of her and he won’t have it, but may the gods curse him for a coward and such a fucking man, balls and head swelling at the mindless adoration of some slip of swooning flower.
He’ll crush the bloom, of course, and return to Saxa when he’s grown tired of Sibyl’s wilting petals, but right now all she can think to do when that happens is to rip off his limp cock and force it down his throat.
She wades through snow and muck, thighs numb with cold under her cloak, and heaps layers of fury upon the unwanted agony inside her, piling it high until the pain is dulled. Fury is better. Fury can be honed, channelled, made useful. Pain by itself is pointless.
Fuck the abdicated god of the arena. Fuck the pallid gods before whom his little Vestal grovels. In Saxa’s country, women are goddesses wilder and taller than scheming Juno and soft useless Venus. If she wants offerings of blood, she’ll take them with her own hands, not waiting for the idle worship of unworthy fools.
Back among the tents, she becomes suddenly aware of steps trailing hers, soft-footed and furtive in the snow. She whirls, hands on her knives, upon a shape in a grey cloak that at first glance seems familiar.
“Walk away, little thing,” she warns, a low growl in her throat. “Before I cut your-“
She halts herself, squinting in the dull snowy morning light, realising her mistake.
Her shadow steps forward. “I am not little, nor a thing,” she says, chin lifted in cautious challenge. Saxa recalls the mouth before she does the face or the ample curves revealed by the wind’s press against her cloak. Sinuessa seems like a lifetime ago, but she remembers the lushness of those lips opening to hers, bare breasts pressed up against her, heedless of the crowd. Gannicus laughed, indulgent as if the display was meant for him, and not Saxa’s own pleasure. That she does not fuck girls to titillate him is one of the things he never bothered to grasp.
She snorts at the woman’s direct gaze. “I remember you. Not little thing indeed. Bold tongue. Ripe tits.”
The woman’s cheeks redden, though not, Saxa thinks, with embarrassment alone. Interesting.
“Belesa,” she offers, and it takes Saxa a moment to understand the lilting syllables mean a name. A soft name, meant for song and dance, sweet wine and warm southern breezes.
She shrugs. “What do you want?”
Belesa does not avert her eyes, although her face is still flushed. In the aftermath of the storm, she looks incongruously warm, as if the frost and wind could not touch her.
“I saw you walking through the snow alone. I followed, lest you fall to danger.”
A ludicrous claim, considering the girl carries no weapons, no blankets, not anything useful but the bold look in her eye. Usually Saxa appreciates boldness, but there could be no worse time for anyone to approach her. She feels ragged and angry, wanting only to destroy something, and reclaim her purpose in the act.
“There was no danger,” Saxa grates out, annoyed at having her turmoil witnessed. “Storm’s over.”
The warning in her voice should be clear, but the fool woman stands her ground, blue eyes intent on Saxa’s face. “I see it rage inside you still,” she says.
Saxa bares her teeth. “What concern of yours?”
Belesa shrugs. A little half-smile tugs at her full lips, but her eyes are serious. “I would not have you freeze.”
Saxa’s mouth tightens, affront coiling tightly in her. She takes three strides towards the woman, anger lengthening her step. Belesa does not back down, although her eyes flicker briefly when Saxa invades her space, leaning in. They’re of a height, but Saxa has never had any trouble making her presence known. She grasps Belesa’s chin and tilts her face towards her, not bothering with a gentle grip. A lovely face by any standard, high cheekbones and luminous skin, that wide mouth made for pleasure.
“I tire of dancing words,” she says, low and dangerous, and digs her fingers into Belesa’s cheeks for emphasis. “See them stand still and give meaning.”
Belesa’s graceful throat moves as she swallows, but she does not flinch away, and the eyes that meet Saxa’s are frank and heated.
“Place undeserving cock from mind,” she says, and her hand seeks Saxa’s, fingers sliding to lace with her own. “Take comfort and diversion elsewhere, and see ice melt.”
Saxa frowns. There’s boldness and then there’s walking barefoot into fire. Still the girl does not blink, or look away. Saxa can see the pulse in her throat, though, a hectic beat racing underneath her skin, giving her away.
She laughs, but hears the harsh edge to it, devoid of real humour. She shifts her grip to grasp the girl’s face between her hands and plants a rough kiss on her mouth, parting the soft lips with her tongue. Belesa’s body melts towards her, hands sneaking underneath her cloak to settle on the chilled arch of her bare ribs. Gods, but she is warm. Her mouth is hot against Saxa’s lips, breath damp and sweet; her tongue swipes against Saxa’s own in blatant invitation. For a moment, she lets go of her own control and thrusts her tongue between those pillowy lips, drowning her fury and her pain inside the welcoming soft depths.
She could do this. Could grab the girl’s wrist and drag her to the nearest shelter. Strip her and shove her down and fuck her, quenching her wrath in those pretty, ample tits and that willing cunt, and send her packing when she’s done. She can picture it all too clearly, the soft body arching to meet hers, that pleasantly smoky voice catching on moans and wordless gasps. She could lose herself in this stranger’s freely offered flesh, and forget.
But when Belesa leans into her, all supple muscle and soft curves, Saxa pulls away, out of the kiss and her own imaginings.
“No,” she says against those sinful lips, denying them both, despite the unexpected spark of heat in her belly.
Belesa blinks at her, eyes dove-grey in the wintry morning light, and bared of all defences. Saxa is familiar with the tell-tale signs of infatuation. She doesn’t know what she has done to kindle it – the only time she’s seen the girl before this was when she kissed her in Sinuessa, and surely that meant nothing? – but she knows it’s a dangerous state at the best of times. It strips logic and reason from the right to choose, instead draping it with a veil of lust and blind adoration.
The shackles of such obsession are all too similar to those of slavery. Saxa will have none of that.
“No,” she repeats, and pushes away the tempting warmth against her, noting with wry interest the sudden twinge of regret in her own body.
“Not like this,” she amends, and sees Belesa’s eyes clear, sharpening to attention. “Consider foolish offer better. If you would see it stand - find me again, at later date.” Their fingers lace briefly, before she pulls back her hand. It feels colder for the lack of contact.
Belesa’s wide eyes hold hers, a little dazed, but with a curious spark of determination behind the blue-grey haze. “I shall.”
Saxa walks away without a parting word, but all the way towards her tent she feels that spark still, that fleeting taste of maybe.
Stay foolish, and return, she thinks, and in the middle of a bleak winter morning filled with loss and anger, she finds herself smiling in grim anticipation.