Bedore Ashsmith shifted softly on his feet. It occurred to him he was as tense as a rabbit waiting to see what a fox’s next move would be.
A wolf, actually. They were far more vicious than foxes.
Her hair shone as fire this morning. She stood on the balcony outside of her bedroom, at the top of the tower on Hawkston Farm, where the cult had lived for over six months now. They continued to grow. At last count, thirty-two people considered themselves part of the Order of the Fire Queen. The farmhouse was being expanded to accommodate them, besides a bunkhouse being built on the other side of the grain mill.
Tara had a way of attracting people to her, Bedore thought.
The moment she’d walked into that inn back in Wayrest, he’d been drawn to her. Like a luna moth to a flame. Her hair was its most gorgeous and passionate in bright sunlight or bright candlelight. The inn’s light that fateful night had set her hair ablaze.
He’d played it cool as nearly every other man fell over themselves to get her attention. Men could be so disgusting.
What had intrigued him were her eyes. Well, not the eyes. Certainly, they were a lovely green that set off with her pale skin and fiery hair perfectly.
No, it was that delicious, ambitious soul within her eyes he was drawn to.
Fortunately, she’d read the ambition in his eyes and she’d asked him to join her.
It hadn’t taken long to join her in bed. Of course not. There was a reason he kept himself fit. He knew he was attractive to women, and many men, and used it to his advantage. People were such useful objects.
Being Tara Geonette’s second in command, and lover, had its perks.
Though, not at the moment.
“I’m not sure why you and Lysona bothered to come back here without her,” Tara said. She turned around and leveled those eyes at him. Her voice had been ice.
He shifted again. He had not anticipated this level of anger from her.
“We…thought it best to regroup,” he said, modulating his tone into something soothing. “Best not to get caught.”
Her angry look did not change.
“I sent you two on one simple mission. A task so important, I asked my two most trusted leaders to handle it.” Her voice dripped with a level of condemnation he’d not heard in a long time. From his childhood teachers, long dead. He bristled. Then, checked himself.
Don’t be a fool, he thought. Stick with your plan.
“My apologies,” he said. “I should not have taken Lysona’s advice to give up the mission.” He bowed his head to add effect.
“Pathetic,” Tara said. She’d stepped inside and now stood just a foot away. Her anger had not abated.
“I…” Bedore started.
“You, Bedore, are my second.” She now stood inches away. She drove her long index finger into his chest for emphasis. “You were in charge, not Lysona. Leaders take responsibility.”
He looked into her eyes and found himself drowning in green embers.
He took a step back and knelt down, head bowed, neck exposed. Don’t grovel too much, he thought. But, he needed to figure out how to soothe her when she was this way. Or, excite her.
“You’re right, as always, my Queen,” he said. He looked up at her, careful to give her an imploring look without simpering. “I will complete the task.”
She stared down at him, seeming to savor the moment and his weakness. She traced her fingers across his forehead and through his hair, gently, as intimately as when they shared her bed. Her fingers reached the back of his neck.
She dug her nails in, piercing the skin. He bit his tongue to stop his startled yell. She yanked him up by the scruff of the neck until he stood in front of her again. He kept his face stoic. Best not to waver and let her know how much it hurt. He could feel rivulets of blood running down his neck, working their way under his shirt.
Her breathing had picked up, coming hot and heavy as they stood looking at each other, noses nearly touching.
“Don’t fail me again,” she whispered. “I need my niece brought here. Alive. Unharmed. Do you understand?” She traced her index finger down his forehead to the tip of his nose. Gentle again. He could almost hear her heart racing.
“I understand,” he said. He decided to match her breathing, to acknowledge he sensed her change in mood.
She pressed herself against him, full body. She brought her lips almost to his. They shared a few breaths. No pretending now, he felt himself respond.
“Just you this time. No Lysona,” she breathed. “Kill anyone who sees you or tries to stop you. Even if they’re one of my relatives. Except children. Do not hurt any children of my blood.”
She gave him a lingering kiss. “Understood?” It was barely a breath.
“Yes, my Queen,” he said, more eagerly than he intended.
“Good,” she said.
She pushed him onto the bed and Bedore followed every command.
(shout out to the mod, Black Mage Armor SE, Bedore’s outfit)