For a single moment, frozen in time as if by daguerreotype, he could see her completely.
He stared down at her porcelain face and into her wide unblinking eyes. Jet black hair tumbled wild onto her shoulders — her hair pin had been lost in the fight. He could see into her with perfect clarity. Defenseless. Exposed. Her youth, her beauty, her strength, her fear. The hatred that she felt for him.
The moment passed, and she steeled her heart and shut him out.
The moonless night should have meant darkness, but he could see her plainly, silhouetted by the flames that raged a hundred feet below her swaying boots. She clung to a root that appeared to be both designed and placed at the precipice just for this purpose, high above the wreckage she just wrought. An instant before the crash, they leapt for the cliff from opposite sides of the ship. He made it. She, almost.
Now, safely on the ledge, he held her by the gauntleted wrist of her free forearm as she clung to the root with her other hand.
His focus shifted rapidly from her left eye to her right and back again, as he finally spoke.
“Calista, listen to me. I just lost many good men — my brothers — because of you, and I know that there is nothing you want more than for me to join them.” He paused. “But if you don't let go of that larch root and let me pull you up, you will die tonight with them, and I will live to fight another day.”
She knew he was right, and though wouldn't have thought it possible just moments before, hated him now more than ever.
She relaxed, and let go of the root.
He pulled her up in one uninterrupted motion — from face down in the dirt to standing — with gentle power, until her feet rested on solid ground inches from his, nearly toe to toe.
The instant her boots tasted dirt beneath them, she slammed both palms into his chest, knocking him straight back, just a couple of feet away, far enough that she could-
He was as amused as he was stunned until he sensed the pressure at his sternum. Not in two places, as with her palms, but now a single, centered, point of contact
-pivot on her left foot, perpendicular to him, and bring her right leg up and out toward his chest, the grace and power of a dancer, enough energy at her disposal to compress his chest two inches, stopping his heart. If she wanted.
But she held back.
Still, a rib cracked and he went flying. Another cracked when he landed. He forgot both when she landed on top of him and the night washed white with pain.
Her face appeared through the haze, and it seemed her expression was
I must be unconscious, he thought, or dreaming
neither rage nor anger but
silk on my face — her scarf?
an entirely different emotion.
He looked up at her — willed her face into focus — and through the pain and the snarl of her hair in her face and the confusion of her scarf brushing against his skin, read in her expression something unmistakable:
She was straddling him, her hands again pressed to his chest. Lightly, this time — pulsing in time as she ground herself against him, soft rhythmic beats that drew his attention from pain in his ribs to pleasure further down his torso. She rubbed herself into him, and his leather pants grew more and more uncomfortable as he grew within. And the more he hardened, the harder she ground.
With her long skirt billowing all around him like a lace trimmed tablecloth, she reached beneath. Her hand disappeared. She was touching herself, in what capacity, he couldn't tell. A moment later, she tugged at his buckle and with one more motion, had freed him from confinement.
Before any conscious thought could register, he felt her take him inside her, to the hilt, and then she resumed her rhythmic grinding.
He reached up, and with his fingertips lightly touched the front of her corset, before realizing the many buckles made the gesture pointless. As she rocked faster, he less delicately grabbed her breast, and with a half-laugh, half-squeal, she slapped his hand away, hard.
He didn't care, but no sooner than he'd resigned himself to passively grind back in time into her, she grabbed his hand with both of hers and tightly squeezed it to her chest. Her pace had quickened, her travel, shortened, and she began to squeeze her thighs against the outside of his.
She bent forward until they were face to face — her nose almost touching his — and stared into his eyes, unblinking. With a half-gasp, she froze and held even her breath as she squeezed him uncomfortably hard, for what must have been close to a minute. Staring. Unblinking. Aside from an involuntary spasm, a twitch that he felt contract around him deep inside her, she was motionless while she came.
He hated the staring. He was close to climax himself, but when she got in his face she chased the moment away. He wanted to look away, but dared not.
The pain was a relief when she rolled once toward the ledge, and pulled him on top of her. He took himself in hand and looked down to guide himself into her, when
He was in the air.
She had kicked him up and off.
And toward the abyss.
A strong cold wind whipped around him, and his first instinct was to pull up his pants. But then, as the pain subsided a little, he realized that he was hanging with both hands. From this perspective, he couldn't tell whether it was the same root or not, but regardless, the irony wasn't lost on him. As the pain subsided a little more, he looked up past his hands and the root, and above the edge.
Where she stood, safely, looking down at him.
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