One Little Mistake
Nesta Archeron has been rebuilding her life after a devastating breakup left her with little more than the clothes upon her back and a fifteen-year-old Civic. She has great friends and a good job, more than most people her age can hope for.
But after making one little mistake at work, her stubborn pride rears its ugly head, sending Nesta on a collision course with a handsome stranger, reintroducing feelings she thought she'd long since buried.
Assuming, of course, that Nesta is able to drop her mask.
Recently, a few of my girlfriends spent an afternoon sending memes and cackling over the book Three Simple Rules by Nikki Sloane. Unfortunately, someone made the mistake of asking, "can you imagine this storyline with a Nessian twist?" and this monstrosity was born. I regret everything. Siri, what is sunk cost fallacy?
I want to include a trigger warning as this fic deals with sex work and having sex while blindfolded.
While this is framed as (an absolutely ridiculous) smutty comedy, I know some readers may be uncomfortable with the subject matter, so please proceed accordingly.
Intended for readers 18+
Part 1, Nesta
Monday started off horribly.
“Hold the door,” I yelled, waving frantically to catch the bus driver’s attention and running as fast as my feet would carry me.
I had planned on arriving at work a full hour early, giving me plenty of time to set up Mr. Burnel’s client meeting and still be back at my desk for the market’s open. But, unfortunately, last night I had forgotten to plug in my phone, and my battery died. Which meant my alarm didn’t go off. Which meant I’d overslept on the most important day of my career, and I couldn't even call in. When I realized my mistake, the adrenaline coursing through my body woke me up faster than any espresso could dream of.
My asshole boss was relying on me to prep for the prospective client meeting. I knew how much was riding on this; the Spell-Cleaver account was easily worth tens of millions. Not only would retaining the client be a massive win for the Night Corp, but Mr. Burnel planned on reinvesting the majority of resulting commissions and trailer fees into the company’s fledgling charity. He made it clear that landing this client would have positive, far-reaching effects.
Assuming I don’t fuck the whole thing up first.
My asshole boss will murder me if I’m late. But, first, he’ll probably spend several days torturing me at an undisclosed black-ops site before finally burying my charred remains in some shallow grave, never to be seen again.
And then, worst of all, he’d probably fire me.
I was up and out of my apartment in record time. But, unfortunately, it was raining heavily, and I’d forgotten my jacket and umbrella. I was cutting it too close to turn back, so I sent up a silent prayer and began sprinting to the bus stop like some kind of waterlogged, overdressed marathoner.
“Please wait,” I called again, waving at the driver with one hand while searching for my MetroCard with the other.
The driver did stop when he noticed me; thank the Mother. He gave me a warm smile as I skidded to a halt in front of the bus, thoroughly soaked and gasping for breath. The fact that I made the entire sprint in three-inch stilettos without face planting was a modern-day miracle. I climbed up the bus steps on shaking legs, holding onto the railing like my life depended on it.
“Thank you,” I wheezed, paying my fare before inelegantly dropping into a seat.
“No problem, dear,” he told me as he manoeuvred the bus back into traffic. “Take a few moments to catch your breath. You’re lucky I saw you, the next bus is running behind. Maybe that means you are in for a change of luck, hmm?”
Spoiler alert: I was not in for a change of luck.
We made it to the subway in good time, considering the weather, but I just missed the first train, and then the next one ran five minutes late.
And then, because the Mother Above seemed to hate New Yorkers in general and me in particular, my train unexpectedly went out of service and dumped its passengers off one station before my own. So I decided to run for it rather than pin all hopes on the subway system. I made it to work five minutes to 9, shortly before the meeting was set to commence, and I spent the entire elevator ride with my heart in my throat. Please let there be time to prepare the room.
Finally, the doors open to reveal the gleaming black marble of the Night Corp’s lobby. I scurried past the front desk, embarrassingly aware I was leaving a trail of dripping rainwater in my wake. Cerridwen, the receptionist monitoring the front desk, tsked at me as I rushed by, tapping her watch for good measure.
“Oh, I’m late?” I called out sarcastically. “Guess I was too caught up in the beautiful morning sunshine.”
I didn’t bother waiting for a reply as I ducked down the corridor towards the meeting rooms, my heels echoing through the marble hall. Instead, I sent up a last-minute prayer that the clients were late. Or that my watch was suddenly running twenty minutes fast. Or that Mr. Burnel had been kidnapped by ninja assassins, and his schedule was cleared off as a result.
You know, the usual.
But my heart sank when I saw the meeting room door was wide open; Mr. Helion, CEO of Spell-Cleaver Inc, was seated at the boardroom table. I paused, noting that the company’s good china had been set out and a French press placed before him. Mr. Helion was busy flipping through one of the perspectives I had left on my desk the previous night.
I blinked in shock, not quite believing my luck; someone had prepared the room on my behalf. Nevertheless, I hesitated, unsure if I should try to slink away unnoticed when my Guardian Angel backed out of the room.
“Mr. Burnel will be here shortly, but please don’t hesitate to call me if you need anything else,” Emerie told Mr. Helion as she slipped out of the meeting room, the door latching shut behind her.
She turned around to find me standing in the middle of the hallway, dripping water onto the marble floor and wearing a dumbstruck expression. She raised an elegant brow and said: “You owe me big time, Archeron.
“Marry me,” I told her, meaning every word. “I promise to make you the happiest woman alive.”
“Thanks, but I think I’ll pass. You don’t date women, and I don’t think Mor is willing to share.” Emerie said with a laugh, referring to her long-time girlfriend. Her nose crinkled as she took in my sodden state. “Go, get cleared up before the boss puts two and two together and realizes that I stepped in to cover for you.”
I shuddered at the thought.
From day one, Mr. Burnel made it perfectly clear how unhappy he was being saddled with me. I’d been working as his sales assistant for almost eight months now, and he still hadn’t warmed up to me. Although, to be fair, I was sort of foisted upon him by my sister, so he didn’t really have any say in the matter.
After breaking things off with Tomas, I’d packed up my old Honda Civic and drove through the night, reaching Gwyn’s apartment by sunrise. I hadn’t seen my childhood best friend since high school, but she’d didn’t even hesitate before ushering me inside. No questions asked.
When we were girls, we were inseparable. We met in U8 soccer (Go Valkyries!) and instantaneously clicked. That was before Tomas’ toxic influence - before he forced me to cut ties with friends and family, but it didn’t take long for the two of us to fall back into our old routine. My childhood best friend had grown into a confident young woman. Her career of choice may have caught me off guard, but it paid for her apartment and funded her lavish lifestyle. It also supported me during my first few months here, back when I did little more than hide in her guest room and weep over a man who treated me like garbage.
Gwyn’s job made her happy, so I tried to keep an open mind.
But I didn’t want to rely on Gwyn’s generosity forever, which led me to the next step in my new life plan: asking my sisters for help. Honestly, that part was the hardest. Oh, they would never purposely shame me for asking for help. In fact, I think they were generally thrilled that I came to them. But that didn’t erase the truth that I - their older sister - had to restart my life at the ripe old age of twenty-four, with just the clothes on my back and a fifteen-year-old Civic.
Just to be clear, I hadn’t demanded a job or anything of that nature; I actually went in with low expectations. At most, I hoped they could point me in the direction of a few places looking to hire. So imagine my surprise when my baby sister went ahead and arranged a cushy job at a fancy downtown firm. It was too good to be true.
But, of course, nothing in my life really came without challenges.
Feyre found me a position at the Night Corp, an independent investment firm headed by her fiancé, Rhysand Night. Oh, my kid sister swore up and down that the Night Corp would be thrilled to have me. But, more importantly, Rhysand, I was quick to learn, would do anything to make Feyre happy. Even if that meant creating a position for her fuck-up of an older sister.
So I think it’s clear that I didn’t win the job on my own merit. But regardless of how I came about it, I really did believe I could make a place for myself here. It might be a bit awkward at first, considering the President was directly behind my hiring, but if I kept my head down and worked my ass off, I should be able to prove my worth. So it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. After all, most people wouldn’t complain about the head honcho’s experiment in nepotism, right?
I was wrong.
Mother Above, I had been so very wrong.
My first day at the Night Corp was also one of the worst days of my adult life, secondary only to when I discovered that Tomas had knocked up one of the secretaries.
I still have nightmares about it: Me, standing outside of Mr. Burnel’s office, clutching the little orchid Elain had gifted me, wearing a hopeful expression and one of Gwyn’s borrowed dresses. And Mr. Burnel, silently giving me a once over before demanding to speak to Rhysand in private. I was forced to stand outside my new boss’ office and listen to him rail against hiring me. He went on a five-minute tirade, giving my brother-in-law a plethora of reasons why hiring me would be the worst idea ever.
So, yeah. That was my first day at The Night Corp.
I wish I could say it got better between us, but that would be a lie. Mr. Burnel and I maintain a frosty truce. With me trying my hardest to earn his approval and him trying his hardest to avoid me.
I was honestly shocked he gave me the chance to prepare for the Spell-Cleaver meeting, and it was only by Emerie’s divine intervention that his lack of trust remained unfounded. So If Emerie was willing to cover for me, I would go with it. I knew better than to question things when life tossed me a Hail Mary. I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and scurried off to the restroom to dry myself off.
Things were finally starting to look up.
To: Archeron, Nesta - TNC
From: Gwyn Berdara
Subject: Friday Night Drinks?
I haven’t seen you in ages. We’re meeting up for drinks on Friday, and I’m not taking no for an answer.
I will personally come over there and drag you out by your hair if you even think of giving me some lame-ass excuse. You need to get out more and be reminded that there is more to life than your vibrator.
I snickered as I read my email. As usual, Gwyn was hyperbolic as fuck, considering we’d met up for dinner just last week. Still, I’d gone through the morning from hell, and it would be nice to look forward to something other than going home to an empty apartment. I quickly replied with a restaurant suggestion, shooting off the email before turning my attention to review yesterday’s transactions.
But before I go on, there is something you need to know. Look, I love Gwyn with all my heart, but I don’t want to sugarcoat it. Between you and me, well... Gwyn works as a high-priced escort.
I know, I know. Trust me; I was shocked when I found out, too.
Gwyn was the last person I would expect to choose that line of work. So at first, I thought she was in trouble. Maybe owed money to the wrong people, that sort of thing.
That was not the case. Not by far.
Nobody had forced her; she’d chosen to do this out of her own free will. She wasn’t beholden to anyone and could walk away at any time. More importantly, she enjoyed herself. Gwyn sometimes made more in a month than I would net in a year, all for a couple nights’ worth of work in a secured environment. She was happy and owned it, so who was I to judge?
Like I said before, I try to keep an open mind.
But all thoughts of my best friend and her unorthodox profession went careening out of my head as I reviewed yesterday’s trade blotter. I read the paper twice and then read it again. Refusing to believe my eyes.
“Oh fuck. This can’t be right.” I began tearing the report apart, desperately searching for something which, I began to realize with dawning horror, didn’t exist. “Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck,” I breathed as I triple-checked the report.
Emerie, whose desk sat directly across from mine, glanced up at the commotion.
“Something up, Archeron?” She asked, then paused as she took in my pallid complexion and frantic movements. She stood up and walked over, brows drawn together in concern. “Nes, are you okay?”
No, I wasn’t okay. I was very, very far from being okay.
“I sold the wrong thing,” I whispered, feeling close to throwing up.
Emerie blinked. “What?”
“I sold the wrong thing,” I told her, voice a little bit stronger now. “For the Tarquin account. I sold 5000 shares of Prythian Trust.”
Emerie tilted her head at me. “How much were you supposed to sell?”
“500,” I said, feeling sick.
Emerie paled. Her eyes widening as the gravity of my enormous fuck up sank in. Thankfully she was a bit more reactive than I was and immediately grabbed my phone, punching in the number to the trading desk. She took the report from my hands while explaining the situation to Devlon, our head trader.
I, meanwhile, put my head between my knees and tried not to puke.
She spent the next few minutes on the phone, cleaning up my mistake. That moment stretched out for an eternity. I felt so helpless, not being able to do more than stare at Emerie as she jotted down notes onto my report as she spoke to the trader about price fluctuations. Finally, she hung up the phone and turned to address me.
“How bad is it?” I asked warily.
She gave me a weak smile. “It could have been a lot worse, you know. Especially considering how the European Markets are performing...”
“Em, don’t sugarcoat it,” I pleaded. “How bad is it?”
She sighed, dropping down to sit on the edge of my desk. “The price moved almost $2.30. It will cost us a little over $10,000 to buy back the shares.”
Except Emerie was still sugar coating things. It wouldn’t cost us ten grand to correct my error. That money would come directly out of Burnel’s pockets. The very same Mr. Burnel who’d protested my hiring since day one. The very same Mr. Burnel who took one look at me and saw me for the fuck up that I genuinely was.
“Oh, good to know,” I said, before bending over to vomit last night’s dinner into my wastepaper basket.
Mr. Burnel came striding back to the office about two hours later. He gave Emerie a quick nod while ignoring me completely, walking into his office and shutting the door. I peered at Ermeie for a few seconds while summoning up the courage for the task before me.
You can do this, Archeron, I thought, psyching myself up. I imagined myself as a fierce warrior princess, holding up a sword as I defended against an onslaught of ruthless ne’er-do-wells. You’re brave and strong, and you’ve got this!
But I guess the psych up was less effective than I thought because Emerie frowned at me and asked: “You sure you don’t want me to go in for you?”
I sighed. Emerie had spent the better part of the morning cleaning up my messes. There was no way I was putting her through this, too; it was time for Little Miss Fuck-Up to start handling her own shit.
“It’s okay. I got this.” I told her, although my outside voice sounded much less confident than the one in my head.
I got up, smoothed down my now dry-ish skirt, and walked over to Mr. Burnel’s office. I tapped on the glass door, reminding myself to breathe as I waited for permission to enter.
Unfortunately, he didn’t make me wait long.
“Come in,” his gruff voice called through the door.
I took a deep breath, sent a prayer to the Mother Above, and walked into his office. As I closed the door, I briefly made eye contact with a graved-faced Emerie, watching from behind her desk. She put a hand over her heart as if to bid me farewell. Like I was a soldier marching off to my death. Which probably wasn’t too far off the mark, come to think of it. Vegas would lay good odds that Mr. Burnel’s office would soon become the scene of my murder.
“May I help you, Miss Archeron?” He asked, not bothering to look up from his monitors.
“There was a problem with the Tarquin sell-offs,” I blurted out. Because I’m tactful like that.
That got his attention. Started eyes flew up to meet mine, and suddenly I was the only thing he was seeing. I can’t say that was an improvement on my end.
“What do you mean, problem?” He demanded angrily.
I took a calming breath and explained the situation to Mr. Burnel. He remained quiet the entire time, not bothering to interrupt for questions or clarification. He didn’t even blow up like I’d been expecting, but that didn’t make me feel better. Instead, he just regarded me with a stone-cold expression, dark eyes glimmering as I carefully explained how one little mistake ended up costing him ten thousand dollars.
I finished my summary and waited for a reaction, the silence stretching out between us. It was starting to turn into an awkward game of silent chicken, with neither being the first to speak. I considered heading back to my desk to pack up my personal belongings and wait for security to escort me off the premises, when Mr. Burnel finally broke the silence. He leaned back in his chair, scrubbing a tired hand down his face.
“Well, fuck,” he breathed, sounding more tired than anything.
And somehow, the disappointment in his voice was about a thousand times worse than anything else he could have thrown at me. I was used to his icy indifference; had built up a natural immunity to his disregard. But the disappointment lacing his voice? Fuck, that made me feel about three feet tall. It was an unwelcome reminder that this was just the latest fuck-up in my long and illustrious history of fucking-things-up.
And just like that, a switch was flipped.
“Please return to your desk, Miss Archeron. I’ll handle things from here,” he said, once again all business.
Mr. Burnel returned his attention to the information crawling along the bottom of his computer monitor, a dismissal if I’ve ever seen one, and I realized he planned on covering my ten-thousand-dollar mistake without giving me a scolding. Or even a slap on the wrist. Like he’d long-ago resigned himself to the idea that I was going to constantly fuck things up for him.
Truth be told, that realization hurt me the most.
Maybe that’s the reason I was gripped by a wave of temporary insanity. I would eventually look back on this moment and attribute it all to a bout of delirium, because no sane woman would turn around and do what I was about to do.
“Mr. Burnel, I will personally cover the cost of my error,” I told him confidently. Like every twenty-something-year-old sales assistant just happened to have that kind of money lying around. To be clear: I do not. But that didn’t stop me from saying, “I’ll have the money on your desk by Monday.”
Mr. Burnel eyed me like I had suddenly started speaking in Latin, which was probably an appropriate response.
“Miss Archeron, there are policies in place….”
“I’m aware of company policy, Mr. Burnel!” I snapped hotly, “but that doesn’t erase the fact that I’m the woman who made the error, so I’m the woman who should pay for it.”
He leaned back in his chair, giving me a considering perusal. “Miss Archeron,” he paused, then tried again. “Nesta... Rhys made me aware of the circumstances leading up to your arrival in New York. I know for a fact that you cannot afford to cover the trade correction. Sometimes these things happen; it’s the cost of doing business.”
My face heated in chagrin.
If he thought that would convince me to sit back, Mr. Burnel had another thing coming. I saw red, chafing at the knowledge the Night Corp elites had been advised to treat me with kid gloves. Like I was their special little charity case. It was more than my pride could handle.
I tried to ignore the angry welling in my eyes as I coldly told him: “As I said earlier, you’ll have the money on your desk by Monday.”
And then I stormed out of the office before I could do something smart or sane. You know, like begging my boss to forget the entirety of our previous conversion and accept the situation like a good little girl.
I stopped to grab my purse before storming out of the office, leaving a wide-eyed Emerie in my wake. I needed to get away from the office, if only for a few minutes. Just enough time to compose myself before dissolving into angry tears. Thankfully, I made it to the lobby uninterrupted, fumbling for my phone while summoning the elevator.
The lift chimed its arrival, and I entered a blessedly empty compartment. I pressed the button for the lobby, then hit the first number on my speed dial and wiped away a traitorous tear while I waited for the person on the other end to pick up.
“Hello?” A tired voice yawned into the receiver.
Relief washed through me. “Hey Gwyn,” I sniffed, fighting back tears. “Any chance we can move drinks up to tonight?”
“Nes, you’ve got to be out of your fucking mind,” said my best friend, with all the tact and grace of a bull in a china shop.
I frowned at Gwyn over my glass of wine. “You’re the last person who should be questioning my decision,” I leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, “because you already… you know.” I trailed off, embarrassed.
Gwyn merely laughed at my discomfort.
“Sell my body?” She supplied helpfully, and I flushed in response. “Do you not see how crazy this sounds? Nes, you’re asking to work at my sex club when you can’t even talk about it without blushing!”
I looked around in a panic, checking if anyone at the neighbouring tables had been eavesdropping.
“It’s not that I’m embarrassed to talk about it,” I protested truthfully. Semi-truthfully. I gestured around the opulent room. “I’m just trying to be discreet.”
When I called her, I barely managed to choke out three sentences before Gwyn cut me off, insisting we meet for dinner at Rita’s, one of NYC’s most exclusive hot spots. Unfortunately, the lounge was out of my price range, especially after today’s fiasco, but she insisted on treating me. If you need to cry, she’d said, you might as well do it amongst the crème de la crème.
“Oh, honey, I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the men here had been my client at some point.”
That took me aback, and I reassessed the room with new eyes. Rita’s was a mainstay of the society pages - a place where you can rub shoulders with socialites and politicians alike. I’d known that Gwyn’s customers were high-end, but I didn’t truly appreciate the echelon of clients she was dealing with.
But her comment still left me a little confused.
“I thought you didn’t know who your clients were?” I asked.
Gwyn only shrugged, her rich copper hair shimmering in the lighting.
“Men love to talk about themselves,” she said with a laugh. “Rich men are no different. But, honestly, it’s not easy to figure out.”
Gwyn works out of an exclusive club, and rules stipulate all contractors (AKA the men and women selling their bodies) must be blindfolded unless otherwise requested. It’s partly due to the practice of bondage and partially to protect the client’s identity. But, according to Gwyn, it mainly adds to the vibe of the overall experience.
“It’s about selling a fantasy,” she’d told me one night, after we drank one too many bottles of wine. “I’m lying there when the client walks in, blindfolded, tied up. Entirely at their mercy.” She shivered in delight. “Trust me, no one is complaining.”
Back then, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the whole thing. I was too cautious about accepting Gwyn's words at face value .
“Being entirely at the mercy of your clients doesn’t seem safe to me,” I argued. “What happens if the dude has bad intentions?”
“In all my years there, I’ve never had an issue. The clients are vetted beforehand; it’s a lot more involved than simply providing an updated STD panel. Besides, we’re monitored by cameras the entire time,” Gwyn casually added, and I nearly choked on my wine in response. “It’s not the kind of place where the customers expect wine and roses, Nes. These customers pay good money to live out their wildest fantasies. It’s hot, it’s dirty, but most importantly, it’s entirely safe. I promise.”
“Wildest fantasies, huh?” I murmured, bemused.
“And I make their fantasies come true,” she said with a grin. “That’s what they pay me the big bucks for.”
I’d learn more about her job over the next few months. Gwyn was very upfront about what she did, not the least bit ashamed. So I was more than a little surprised when Gwyn was hesitant about me following in her footsteps.
I enjoyed sex as much as the next girl. Probably a little bit more, actually. And yes, it’s true that I’ve only been physical with Tomas, my high school sweetheart, but Gwyn didn’t know that. She knew the reason for our breakup, of course, but I never went into details about the downward spiral that led up to it. The sad truth was our love-making had become sporadic over our last year together. Tomas claimed work left him too tired for sex, but the fact he was fucking Clare Beddor on the side probably had something to do with that.
So, yeah, maybe it’s been a while since I’ve gotten laid. But that should work in my favour, right?
“I can do this, Gwyn. I know I can”
“If this is about money, then you don’t need to worry about it,” she said softly. “I have no problem covering you. You know that, right? So you don’t need to go through with this.”
My eyes welled at the offer, at the love behind the gesture. “I know you would, Gwyn. That was never even a question,” I told her, clasping her hand in gratitude. “But I’m sick of being a fuck-up. I’m sick of having everyone else clean up my messes. I want to stand on my own two feet, and this would be the fastest way to get myself back on track.”
But my best friend remained unconvinced.
“Tomas really did a number on you, didn’t he?” She said gently, almost to herself. “You’re the farthest thing from a fuck-up, Nes. You’re a human who made a mistake, and you need to forgive yourself for that.”
I gave her a soft smile. “Maybe, but I still need to fix this mess. If only for myself.”
Gwyn went quiet as she contemplated me. Studying me with a seriousness that I haven’t seen since we were children. Eventually, she sighed and sat up a little straighter.
“You have a great body,” she said, suddenly all business.
I felt whipped-lashed by the sudden change in subject, but Gwyn continued on, cataloguing my virtues with a discerning eye.
“Pretty face. Amazing tits and ass.” She paused then, tilting her head at me. “How do you feel about going blonde?”
I blinked, glancing down at the golden-brown hair locks which flowed past my breasts.
“Erm, I’d rather not if I was honest.” I could only imagine the cost of upkeeping that hair colour. I was doing this to get out of debt, not go into it. “This was supposed to be more of a one-time thing, Gwyn.”
“Oh, I know,” she said with that familiar laugh, “but blondes do well, and I’m trying to get the best price for you. No matter. I think this will work.” She glanced me up and down, her smile growing wider. “Yeah, I definitely think we can make this work.”
My returning smile came quickly, not even a shadow of doubt crossing my mind. “You know what, I think you might be right.”
I won’t bore you with all the details of my official enlistment at Gwyn’s club. Most of it was surprisingly dull considering what I was signing up for, but I guess that shows you that paperwork is tedious regardless of subject matter. So instead, let me break down the need-to-know facts. The club is owned by a woman named Amren - just Amren, no last night. I suppose she’s the madam’s version of Beyonce or Adele, but that’s beside the point.
My official interview with Amren consisted of her just staring at me for an awkward minute or two. She seemed to be assessing my attributes like a farmer inspecting livestock, but I kept my mouth shut and spun around when asked. Gwyn had already informed her of the requirements on my end, so Amren knew this would only be a one-time thing.
“You’re not going to flake halfway through and run off screaming, are you Archeron?” So asked the tiny, terrifying woman.
She regarded me coldly for another moment and then nodded her head in apparent satisfaction. Amren dropped into her desk chair and gestured for me to sit down across from her, sliding a contract over to review.
“The club takes a twenty-five percent cut; that’s non-negotiable. In return, we’ll handle price negotiation, but you’ll be the one ultimately deciding to accept the price. We also manage security and take steps to ensure your client arrives free of sexually transmitted diseases. In turn, you will need to provide us with updated paperwork confirming a clean bill of health.” She glanced up at me then, brows furrowed in question. “Can your doctor fit you in? Or do you need me to set something up for you?”
I assured her that I had already arranged everything, and my results will be in before my big debut on Saturday. I was flipping through the contact where a surprisingly large checklist caught my eye. I pulled in for a closer look, unfamiliar with some of the terminology. Queening? Figging?
Amren glanced down at the checklist before a cat-like grin spread over her face. “That, my dear, is what we lovingly refer to as the Menu. You check off all the acts that you’re willing to engage in so the client will know exactly what you consent to. Of course, you’ll be monitored the entire time, and security will toss him the moment he crosses any line.”
“Oh,” I said, eloquent as always.
“You don’t need to fill that out now. Take it home and sleep on it for a couple of nights,” Amren told me, sliding me her business card. “Email me the forms by Friday, and you’re in.”
I took the card, shook her hand, and that was that.
Between work and appointments to prepare for my new extracurricular activity, I’d barely had any time for myself. And by Thursday night, I was exhausted.
After work, Gwyn had treated me to a manicure and pedicure, which was fun. I was also waxed smoother than a billiard ball, which was decidedly less fun. If the United Nations ever updates the Geneva Conventions, I would definitely recommend adding Brazilian wax to the list of inhumane practices.
I splurged for a taxi home, wanting nothing more than to eat cold leftovers and soak in the tub. My mind was preoccupied trying to decide what it wanted more - day-old pad thai versus three-day-old pizza - which is probably how I missed the figure lurking on my front stoop.
And out of all the stupid mistakes I’ve made this week, this one was near the top.
I froze stock-still at that. At the nickname I hadn’t heard in nearly a year. At the voice I thought I’d never hear again.
“Tomas,” I gasped, not believing my eyes.
But there he stood, Tomas Mandry. The man I had planned on marrying—the man I gave up everything for. I left my entire life behind for him; my friends, family. Hell, I even walked away from a partial scholarship to my dream school. But, I was young and in love, so I followed Tomas to Illinois when he was accepted into the police academy. I thought it was romantic.
Looking back, I was such a fucking fool.
He stood up as I approached him, likely taking note of my new appearance. I’d gone through quite the transformation since leaving Illinois. Gone was the Nesta who dressed in simple yet comfortable clothes for her shift at the bookstore. Now my wardrobe consisted of fashionably tailored skirts and dresses, perfect for Wall Street. (The vast majority were hand-me-downs from Gwyn’s closet, but he didn’t need to know that.)
And Tomas obviously liked what he saw, considering how deeply he swallowed after finally dragging his gaze back up to mine. I flushed under his heated scrutiny. It’d been so long since a man had looked at me that way. Like I was someone to be cherished. Desired.
I missed that look. So much more than I’d ever care to admit.
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” He asked.
And I couldn’t miss the teasing, suggestive lilt to his voice. Or the satisfied grin tugging at the corners of his lips. Like he knew exactly how I felt and planned to use it to his every advantage.
That one look from Tomas had pretty much the same effect as if someone dumped cold water on a lit match. My desire guttered out, fleeing as quickly as it appeared.
“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea,” I told him, not bothering to keep the bitterness out of my voice. “After all, I don’t think Clare would approve of you coming to see me.”
Tomas may condone cheating, but I sure as fuck did not.
His eyes hardened at the mention of his affair partner’s name. Though to be fair, I guess it was technically his wife’s name by now.
I hadn’t seen Tomas since the night sat me down to explain he’d impregnated one of the girls from the secretary pool. He decided to do the right thing and marry the girl. To add insult to injury, he wanted his grandmother’s engagement ring back—the same ring that had been proudly sitting on the fourth finger of my left hand. That was the same night I drove nearly non-stop to Gwyn’s home, and I hadn’t heard a single word from him since. At least, not until now.
“That’s what I came to talk to you about, Nessie,” he said, his voice coming as close to pleading as I’d ever heard. “A lot has changed since you left. Can we just talk? Please?”
I frowned, and, against my better judgement, I motioned for him to follow me inside.
We didn’t exchange a single word as we climbed my five-story walk-up. I’d become used to the stairs months ago and was mildly amused to find Tomas a little out of breath by the time we reached my apartment. I released the deadbolt and let him in first, then shut my front door to lean against it, arms crossed protectively in front of me.
He did a slow spin as he looked around my tiny two-room apartment, not bothering to hide his distaste. “You really chose to live like this, babe?”
I bristled at Tomas’s causal slight. I was proud to have my own apartment, the first place under my own name. So what if it’s on the small side? These are NYC prices we’re talking about, after all.
“You wanted to talk,” I reminded him coldly. “So talk.”
My brisk words seemed to remind Tomas that this wasn’t a social call, and he did his best to look contrite.
Then the next he said took my breath away.
“I wanted to let you know that Clare and I are through,” said the man who broke my heart, shrugging his shoulders like this was no big deal. “We broke up a few months ago. It wasn’t working out.”
It wasn’t working out. Those four little words hit me like a punch to the gut. They hit me hard, and they hit me deep. I collapsed onto my thrifted loveseat, not entirely trusting myself to stand. A year ago, when I’d been adrift in misery, I would have given anything to hear Tomas say those words. Cheater or not, I would have sold a kidney if that meant he’d take me back.
Now? I honestly had no idea.
Besides, how does one even respond in a situation like this? Offer my condolences? Laugh outright? I had no idea what to say. Eventually, the silence became claustrophobic, and I blurted out the first thing that came to mind, “What happened to doing the right thing?”
Although my words may have seemed aggressive, the shock had taken the bite out of my voice. I uncharacteristically demurred, but it was evident I still hit a sore spot.
Tomas’ eyes went cold. Clearly, he knew what I was referring to - a callback to the conversion where he’d admitted to cheating on me. The same conversation where he stripped me of my engagement ring and kicked me out of our shared home, all under the guise of making things right. But then he took a deep breath, and I could practically see Tomas wrestle an expression of forced indifference onto his handsome face.
“It turns out the baby wasn’t mine,” he said a little too evenly.
I blinked, not quite sure how to take that statement. Maybe later, I would laugh at the irony, but, right now, I was only confused. “You came all this way to tell me Clare cheated on you?”
“No,” Tomas said with a patient smile. He stalked closer, squatting down to eye level, trapping me in. “I’ve come all this way to tell you that I missed you, babe. I’ve missed you from the minute you left me. I should never have let you go.” He gave me a lazy grin, the one that used to make my toes curl. “It’s time to put this all behind us. I’m here to bring you home.”
It was all too surreal.
I leaped out of my seat in a bid to create distance between us. This was happening much too quickly, and I was having trouble processing any of it. But I became aware of one overriding emotion, and it wasn’t joy or relief.
It was doubt.
I was feeling hesitant. Like maybe this is something that I didn’t want anymore. And that little epiphany shook me most of all.
“I...I don’t know, Tomas,” I said, hating the uncertainty in my voice. “I’ve been building something for myself here. I have a life, a career….”
“A career ?” He snorted derisively. “Babe, I looked into things, so don’t even think about pulling the wool over my eyes. I know all about your life here. You’re a glorified secretary, so don’t try to oversell it. I’d hardly call that a career.”
I stiffened at the mockery at his voice, the scorn in his tone. “I’m a sales assistant,” I corrected, “but regardless, I seem to recall that you had no problem fucking secretaries before.”
Tomas went cold, and I had to force myself to not flinch in response.
“Don’t you take that fucking tone with me,” he warned.
But I wasn’t about to let him scare me. Not in my own home. “I can talk however I fucking please, Tomas. You no longer get to dictate the way I speak or the way I act. You lost that right the night you kicked me out of my own house.”
I’d never spoken to him like that before, which probably explained the dumbstruck look on his face. I would have laughed if I wasn’t so angry.
“This is all because of that whore, isn’t it?” He bit out, and I recoiled in shock.
“What are you talking about?”
“Do you really think I wasn’t going to look into things?” Tomas asked, and my blood ran cold. “You think I wouldn’t remember the name of your best friend, Gwyn Berdara? You think I wouldn’t find out how good-old Gwynnie earns her money? She’s a whore, Nes. Your best friend is a fucking whore. If that’s the calibre of friends that you’ve been running with, then you should be falling on your knees and begging me to bring you home.”
I swallowed down my retort, wanting to defend my friend, but knew arguing with Tomas would only incite him. So I had to tread carefully. His little speech was a stark reminder that Tomas was a detective, long rumoured to abuse his powers. Cold sweat beaded my brow, I reminded myself that Illinois was several states over, and Tomas held no actual power here.
Still, I needed to shut this down before things escalated even further.
“I think it’s time you left,” I said, pointing at the door.
He paused for several moments, unmoving. I tried to hide my growing unease, wondering just what the fuck I was supposed to do if he refused to listen to me.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to find out.
He snorted in disgust, then stormed past me, pausing long enough to warn, “this isn’t over, Nessie.”
And then he was gone.
By Friday, I was drained.
I tried to put the entire exchange with Tomas out of my mind. But, with a bit of luck, he was already on a flight back to Illinois, tail tucked firmly between his legs. And if he wasn't, well… there was little use dwelling on the things I couldn't control.
I had also decided my sisters could never find out about him.
While it was true that Feyre's fiancé knows influential people that could probably help out if things escalate, Tomas had been a little too quick to bring up Gwyn's profession. What happened if he went blabbing to the wrong people? First, it would draw unwanted attention, opening up a brand new can of worms and affecting more people than just little ol' me. Secondly - and more importantly - I didn't want my best friend to suffer on my behalf.
No, it would be better for everyone if I kept my mouth shut.
Unfortunately, it took me all night to come to that decision, and I'd barely closed my eyes when my alarm went off, pulling me out of a dead sleep. I tossed back a worryingly large amount of caffeine before finally starting to feel somewhat human. The dark bags under my eyes betrayed my restless night, so I applied a full face of makeup and voila; by the time I arrived at the Night Corp, no one would be able to guess I spent the night tossing and turning.
"You look like shit, Archeron,” Emerie told me as she waltzed into the office. “Are you sure you're not coming down with something? I know for a fact you weren't up all night sucking dick."
I frowned, looking up from my email as Emerie set her bag upon her desk, immaculately put together as always. I sighed, knowing there was no use denying things; she was too perceptive for her own good.
"Nah, just had a bit of a sleepless night. You know how it is," I told her, returning my attention to my screen. I gave Emerie a few minutes to respond, waiting for an innuendo or another crack about my non-existent love life, but was met with stony silence. "What? You don't feel like offering more sparkling commentary on my thriving sex life?"
"Emerie appears to be concentrating on her work, Miss Archeron. I'm sorry the same cannot be said about you."
Oh. Oh, fuck.
I had a minor heart attack while quickly minimizing my email. I turned to find Mr. Burnel standing behind me, weaning his usual displeased expression. Emerie, meanwhile, was pretending to be engrossed by her computer monitor. Traitor.
"Sorry, Mr. Burnel. I didn't see you there."
"I would hope so," he deadpanned before gesturing to his office. "I need five minutes of your time."
I followed him wordlessly, shutting the glass door behind me. My boss has summoned me into his office fewer times than I could count on one hand, so I assumed he wanted to discuss a sensitive matter. Or he'd finally decided to go ahead and murder me. One of the two.
Mr. Burnel took his time getting comfortable, tossing his suit jacket over the back of the chair and then rolling his shirtsleeves halfway up his forearms. The asshole's version of business casual, I guess. I stood in awkward silence while he unlocked his computer and glanced through his messages. I was debating the merits of speaking up when he finally deigned to address me.
"I wanted to acknowledge your good work prepping the Spell-Cleaver meeting, Miss. Archeron. Your research was instrumental in helping us land the client."
I blinked, stunned.
Never before had Mr. Burnel provided me with such consideration, not even for a job well done. I probably should have thanked him, but I was a little occupied with wondering if the real Mr. Burnel had been abducted by aliens and if this was his body-snatching replacement.
"Of course, I would have preferred that Emerie hadn't been forced to step in and cover when you were late setting up the morning meeting, but I suppose I should know better than to expect miracles."
Welp, there he is.
"Um… Thank you, sir." I paused tentatively. "Is that all?"
He didn't bother looking up from his computer when he asked: "I was wondering if you’d come to your senses about covering the loss for the Tarquin buy-back?"
His manner was so flippant that I couldn't help but scowl in response. Also, I may have scratched my nose with an extended middle finger. Admittedly not my greatest moment, but, thankfully, the bossman was preoccupied and missed my little show of defiance. "
“Um, no. I'll have the money by Monday."
He frowned, apparently unhappy with my stubbornness, but dismissed me with a wave of his hand and a distractedly uttered, "that will be all."
I fled his office as quickly as possible, ensuring my muttered "asshole" was low enough to pass by unnoticed, and shut his door.
"Sorry, Archeron. I thought you knew he was behind you." Emerie told me when I returned, apparent regret simmering in her eyes.
"It's all good, Em," I assured her before sliding back into my seat and opening up my personal email. I'd been moments away from emailing Amren before my interruption.
From: Archeron, Nesta - TNC
I've attached a copy of the completed paperwork, filled out as per our conversation.
I look forward to working with you.
I went ahead and attached a copy of the STD results from my doctor (everything came back negative, no surprise there), as well as a signed copy of the totally-can’t-be-legal contract. I'd been agonizing over the "menu" the longest, aka what sexual acts I was willing to consent to.
To be fair, I did leave a majority of the items unchecked but believe me, that list was extensive. Gwyn had given me a few suggestions (anal is always a huge seller) but drove home the idea I should only consent to acts that bring me pleasure. So keeping that in mind, I set about selecting a mix of things I'd done in the past, as well as a range of kinks I'd always secretly been interested in.
Apparently, it wasn’t just my clients who were going to be living out their fantasies.
I hit send and then quietly went about my day.
Saturday night came quickly.
I spent the evening getting ready at Gwyn’s apartment, feeling a little nostalgic about our time together back in high school, dressing for homecoming and giggling whether one of our dates would try for second base. Spending time with Gwyn was a sweet reminder that little had changed through the years. Other than the fact my date no longer had to wonder if I was a sure thing, I guess.
I was quick to let her know about my run-in with Tomas. I was worried about him potentially exposing Gwyn; she was concerned about him potentially harming me. But, surprisingly, Gwyn brushed off Tomas’s name-calling tantrum without a second thought.
“This wouldn’t be the first time some self-important dick tried to use my occupation against me. Don’t think twice about it from this point on. Tonight is about you!” She crowed before pulling several little back dresses out of her closet.
All thoughts of Tomas went flying out of my head as I touched the luxurious fabrics. Rather, my eyes flew up to meet Gwyn’s.
“These are absolutely stunning, but I can’t wear them,” I told her with lingering regret. A price tag was still attached to the first dress, and one of these cost more than my paycheque. With my luck, I’d tear the thing trying to pull it over my ass. “The client won’t see the dress, so what’s the point?”
Gwyn snorted, her nose crinkling up adorably. “Honey, the point isn’t making the clients happy; it’s making you feel good. Just try one on. I promise, if you don’t feel like Aphrodite reborn, I’ll let it drop.”
I hesitated for another minute but ultimately crumbled when she draped a silky little number over my torso. The fabric was the colour of midnight, incredibly soft with an exquisite sheen. I slipped it on, and, sure enough, it felt amazing.
“Holy shit, Nes. You look incredible.”
“Yeah?” I asked as I stepped in front of her full-length mirror, sipping on a glass of white while smoothing down the fabric with my free hand. Then, I pivoted around, checking myself out from all the different angles, admiring the way the silk draped across my body.
She grinned. “Honey, people pay good money for tits like yours.”
I choked on my wine, which only caused Gwyn’s smile to widen.
But my best friend was right. I felt good, and I think that transitioned to making me look good. Looking confident and, dare I say, a little sexy. This dress reminded me that I was a hot-blooded, sensual woman, not just a flake who sometimes dribbled coffee on myself and occasionally overslept on the morning of important meetings. And, you know what, my tits did look amazing.
We took an Uber to Amren’s club, the Inner Circle. I thought it was aptly named, considering only the NYC elites seemed aware of its existence. Butterflies began swirling when we climbed out and made our way towards the employee entrance at the back of the building. Gwyn knocked on an unmarked metal door, and it quickly swung open to reveal a handsome man.
“Hey Varian,” said Gwyn as she slipped past him, “This is my friend Nes; she’s here for one night only.”
“So Amren said,” Varian replied, sizing me up with warm, welcoming eyes. “Welcome to the Inner Circle.”
I gave him a shy smile and followed Gwyn as she manoeuvred her way down a narrow hallway, pointing out several rooms and their functions, although, to be honest, I forgot most of that as soon as we passed by.
We made our way into a large, ornamental locker room. Two other women were already sitting in front of well-lit mirrors, applying last-minute touch-ups to their own hair and makeup. These women were stunning, and I felt a little intimidating just being in their presence. Gwyn made introductions, and both ladies, whose names I learnt were Cressida and Viviane, made me feel right at home.
“Do you know who’ll be acting as your handler tonight?” Viviane asked as she carefully applied fake eyelashes.
Handlers, you should know, are responsible for price negotiations. The clients come here because they want a submissive lover, and hard-nosed negotiations with a sub can damper the whole experience. This is where the handler comes in. For a percentage of the overall take, the handler will negotiate the best price on our behalf, using a few subtle clues to keep us in the loop. A touch to the ankle means the client is low-balling us. A brush to the elbow means the handler believes they can squeeze out a few more dollars. A graze to the shoulder means we should take the deal.
“That’s why I’m here,” announced a new voice, drawing everyone’s attention. Amren breezed into the room, closely followed by one of the most handsome men I’ve ever laid eyes on. “Miss Archeron, this is Azriel,” she said, gesturing to the Adonis, “He will be managing your affairs tonight.”
I blinked, a little taken aback.
I’d assumed the handlers were all women. And, if my handler was to be a man, I certainly didn’t expect him to look like he just walked off the cover of GQ. Azriel must have sensed my hesitation; he paused in the doorway, wearing a slight frown as he examined my face.
“I won’t take offence if you feel more comfortable with a female handler,” he told me in a surprisingly gentle voice.
I straightened and gave him a weak grin. “No, it’s alright,” I told him truthfully. “I wasn’t expecting a man, but I don’t have a problem with it.” I shrugged lightly, trying my best to appear unruffled. “I’ll probably think of it as a trial run before the big event.”
He seemed to take my comment at face value, giving me a slight nod of acknowledgment. Then, satisfied that my introduction was running smoothly, Amren returned to deal with some emergency in the front office.
“I’m starting to think you don’t like me, Az,” Gwyn pouted. She tilted her head coyly, looking up at him from beneath her lashes. “How come you’re never around to handle my sales?”
The corners of his mouth twitched like he was fighting a smile, but I noticed Azriel averted his eyes when he responded: “I don’t make the schedule, Miss. Berdara.”
“Sometimes life isn’t fair,” she said with a faux sigh before throwing a possessive arm around my shoulder. “Well, I’m going to trust you to take care of my girl here. She’s my best friend, you know.”
“Of course. You can always trust me, Miss Berdara.”
Gwyn gave him a sultry smile before sauntering back towards her makeup chair. Azriel watched her go, and I couldn’t quite get a read on his expression. But the moment was over as quickly as it arrived; he seemed to give his head a little shake and then focused back on me.
“I’ll leave you to finish getting ready, but don’t feel like you need to rush on my account. I’ll be waiting for you outside,” Azriel said before excusing himself.
I hurried back to Gywn’s side, pulling off the dress and slipping into a thick bathrobe provided by the club. She spent a few minutes fussing over me, cleaning up my makeup and smoothing down a few flyaway hairs.
“I’m so proud of my girl. It seemed like only yesterday you lost your virginity on prom night, and now look at you,” she cooed, clasping her hands underneath her chin like a proud mother hen, “off to suck dicks in the big leagues.”
The vulgar language elicited genuine laughter; my nervousness evaporated into nothingness. That’s the thing about best friends - they almost always know the best way to pull you from your worries.
Gwyn grinned as she pulled on her bathroom, but her expression turned serious when she said, “It shouldn’t be a problem, but you remember what to do if the customer steps out of bounds, right?”
I nodded my head. Security cameras were constantly monitoring the rooms. If a client pulls anything shady, I just need to open and close a fist several times, and security will come running. It was a reminder that I was the one who ultimately held power here. I was the one who started or stopped things, all on my own terms. It gave me the boost of confidence needed to get the night underway.
Gwyn was still in the process of doing her hair and makeup, so I would be heading out first. I gave myself one last check in the mirror, took a deep breath, and left to meet my fate.
As promised, Azriel had been waiting for me in the hallway, nearly lost amongst the shadows.
“You look good,” he said, motioning for me to follow. “The customers will be lining up at the door.”
I laughed at that, at the ridiculousness of it all, and followed Azriel down the hall. He gave me a quick rundown of what I was to expect during our short walk.
“I’ll help you get set up and then let the office know we’re ready to accept bids. It shouldn’t be too long of a wait. Do you remember the signals we use during negotiations?” He asked, and I nodded in affirmation.
Then Azriel paused before a door marked “5”, and I was out of time. He pulled it open and stepped aside, letting me be the first to enter. The room had clearly been designed with masculine sensibilities in mind; the air held the faintest scent of leather and whiskey. Rich mahogany panels lined the walls, and two tufted chairs were nestled in the back corner, a bar cart tucked in between them.
But that barely registered - I was too focused on the sleek bed in the centre of the room. Four posts rose from each corner, and I didn’t fail to notice a ring bolted into each one. The knowledge I was about to be tied to those rings hit me like a ton of bricks. And then my eyes fell to the opposite side of the room. There, sitting on a gilded easel, was a poster board listing every sexual act I was willing to engage in. I glanced over the elegant calligraphy, my cheeks flushing with mild embarrassment when I noticed my handler doing the same thing. Why yes, Azriel. I know we’ve only just met, but I am willing to sit on the client’s face if he was so inclined. Thank you ever so much for asking.
“Uh, isn’t that efficient,” I said, if only to cut the silence. I gestured vaguely towards the menu. “I guess that’s helpful since I’ve always been terrible at icebreakers.”
Holy fuck, I really need to stop talking.
Thankfully, Azriel only chuckled as he made his way towards a small set of drawers at the back of the room. “Amren filled me in on your price point, and I’m confident that we can reach your goal before the night is over.” He told me, pulling a folded red cloth from the top drawer. “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable? I’ll help you set up.”
I took a deep calming breath and slipped out of the bathrobe, hanging it up on the coat rack. I kicked off my heels and turned to face my handler. Azriel didn’t so much as blink and my sudden nudity, which helped settle my returning nerves. I gingerly sat down on the edge of the bed and looked to him for further instructions.
“Take this,” he said, handing me a swath of red silk. “You’ll probably feel more comfortable staying partially covered while we wait, and I use it to help showcase during negotiations.”
I took the luxurious silk cloth and held it to my chest as I shuffled back over the soft sheets until I was more or less centred. Azriel dropped a few more supplies on the bed, then gestured for me to extend my arms overhead.
“I’ll use silk ropes to attach you to the bed. It’s a velcro lock, so the client won’t have an issue if they want to release you, but sturdy enough to hold together.” Azriel said as he went about tying me down.
I gave it an experimental tug, and, sure enough, my hand wasn’t going anywhere. There was a little slack, so it wasn’t pulling awkwardly, but I was effectively pinned down. I laid down and allowed my handler to repeat the process on my left hand. After adjusting the ropes to an acceptable length, Azriel picked up a black strip of fabric and came back to my side. I realized he was holding onto a blindfold, and anticipation swirled deep inside.
“Are you ready?” He asked in that gentle way of his.
“Yes. I’m good to go,” I said, surprised to find that I meant every word.
Without further ado, Azriel leaned over and slipped the lustrous fabric over my eyes, fastening the mask in place. The world turned black, and my remaining senses were amplified in compensation. I felt a soft waft of air as my handler straightened up. Heard the rhythmic click of his Oxfords as he maneuvered around the bed. I tried to anticipate his next move, gasping when the silk covering my body was carefully rearranged.
“I’m just adjusting the sheet a little,” Azriel said, narrating his actions while artfully arranging the wispy fabric strategically, covering the peaks of my breasts to the top of my thighs. The caress of silk sliding over my figure was incredibly decadent, and my body responded accordingly. If Azriel noticed my nipples stiffening under the silk, he was too much of a gentleman to comment. “I’ll pull the sheet away during negotiations to help entice the client,” he continued on. “Also, be forewarned that I usually touch the contractors, sometimes intimately. If any of that makes you uncomfortable, I need you to speak up now.”
“Um, no. That’s fine?” Considering what I was here for, it seemed ridiculous for Azriel to ask for consent, but it reinforced the notion I ultimately had control over the way tonight played out. It was oddly reassuring. “You have permission to touch me. Hell, you can even stay and watch if it comes down to that.”
“Well then, I’ll let the front desk know you’re ready.” He gave a comforting squeeze on my wrist, and then I heard the soft rustling of fabric. “It’s Az,” he said, probably into a cell phone. “Room five is ready to open.”
My heart started to pound, and nervousness returned with a vengeance. My mind raced through a dozen terrible scenarios. Knowing this was the absolute worst time to start getting inside my head, I quickly shut that down.
It was hard to judge the passage of time, and I almost wished for the ticking of a clock to help count the minutes. I nearly asked Azriel a question to help distract myself before remembering I was discouraged from speaking once the room was available for clients. Five minutes passed by. And then ten. My worries increased with every passing minute. Before tonight, I had been fixated on what type of man my potential client would be. Would he be kind? Would he be cruel?
But I never thought to ask what would happen if no one showed up.
And then the sound of footsteps pulled me from my misgivings. I held my breath, listening to the rhythm of heavy steps approaching from down the hall, but they passed by without pausing, eventually drifting out of hearing.
More time went by uninterrupted, so I made up a game listing all US presidents alphabetically. I did the same for state capitals. And then I tried to distract myself by counting to a thousand. I made it to nine hundred before deciding to break the silence.
“Azriel?” I asked, whispering softly. “Is it normal to wait this long for a client?”
“No, it’s not,” he told me, and I could hear the frown in his voice when he said, “this isn’t normal.”
His reply did little to soothe my nerves. I was about to ask a follow-up question when the rustling of fabric gave me pause. I was pretty sure Azriel pulled something out of his jacket pocket.
“Hey, it’s me. Room five has been available for forty-five minutes, and we haven’t had a single walk-through. What’s the hold-up?” There was more silence as he listened to the other end of the line. I strained my ears trying to eavesdrop but couldn’t make out a thing. Another beat went by, then he said: “Has everything been taken care of? Huh, well, you need to do a better job keeping me in the loop.”
Whatever was happening, it didn’t sound good.
“Is everything fine?” I asked, not bothering to hide my apprehension.
“The front office was busy dealing with a situation. Apparently, someone tried to request a hold on you, but he didn’t belong to the club. So Amren’s people have been scrambling to vet him, and they only approved the application a few minutes ago.”
Which… didn’t make sense.
Outside of club employees, not a single soul knew I was coming here tonight. At first, I thought the front office had mistaken me for another girl and royally fucked up the reservation. But ice shot through my veins when I considered another option.
Tomas had somehow managed to uncover Gwyn’s employment, so he probably knew all about the club. It was pretty damn obvious he was also looking into me , so it was hardly a stretch of the imagination to assume he’d put two and two together. I wouldn’t put it past him doing something stupid, either. Tomas was angry. More importantly, Tomas wasn’t used to being told no. He’d warned me that this wasn’t over, and I’d stupidly ignored it. Ignored him. Buried my head in the sand and pretended everything was fine.
And now, here I was, spread out like a god-damn offering.
I had to get out of here.
“Azriel …” I started.
But then the door swung open, and I was out of time.
I bit my lip and prayed for the best. A hush stretched over the room in a perverse imitation of tranquillity, and I waited for the axe to fall. And then the newcomer finally spoke.
“Holy God,” he rasped out.
The words were low, nearly under his breath, and I couldn’t place his voice. But the newcomer didn’t sound angry. He sounded reverent.
“Hello, sir,” Aziel said, shifting modes to a smooth-talking salesman. “Welcome to the Inner Circle. I understand this is the woman you’ve been waiting for?”
“Yes,” the newcomer breathed. And then a more substantial, “yes, I was.”
Try as I might, I still couldn’t identify the voice. Then, finally, I caught the sound of footfalls as the newcomer advanced on the bed, and I shivered in anticipation.
“Well, this could be your lucky day. Nova is here for one night only,” Azriel said, referring to me by the stage name Amren had assigned. “And for the right price, she’ll be all yours.”
I heard Azriel’s unhurried approach from the other side of the room. Before long, he was standing on the opposite side of the bed. He placed a hand on my shoulder in brief warning before the silk cloth was slowly pulled away.
Then three things happened almost simultaneously:
First, when I was fully uncovered - when my breasts and stomach and a hint of my sex was revealed - the newcomer took a shuddering breath, and I knew for certain the mysterious man was not Tomas Mandry.
And secondly, just as before, my body immediately reacted to the stimulus. My nipples budded when the exquisitely smooth fabric brushed over them. Or maybe it was a result of the picture conjured up by my mind-eye: me, laid out naked before two different men, ready for the taking.
And the third? Well, I’d worry about all of that later.
I trembled a little, and it wasn’t due to the cold.
“She’s a stunning little thing, but I’m sure you already know that,” Azriel continued. His gentle hand grazed over my breast, and I drew in a sharp breath. The smile was apparent in my handler’s voice when he said, “she’s all yours for twenty thousand dollars.”
I gasped again, but not from arousal. Twenty thousand? I didn’t know what to think, to do. My thoughts were spinning out of control, but I kept my mouth closed and tried to anticipate the newcomer’s reaction. My…my client didn’t respond immediately, so I had no clue what he was thinking. Rather, the client slowly circled the bed, likely taking me in from every angle. His steps were surprisingly light. Although I could tell he wore dress shoes, he barely made a sound.
“I don’t know,” the client said, sounding unaffected. Nothing at all like the man who initially struggled for words. “Do you really expect me to negotiate without even sampling the wares?”
Azriel huffed out a laugh. “I don’t mind if you’re drawn to those types of proclivities, but we usually charge an additional fee for that. So I’ll make you a deal; if we’re able to come to an arrangement, I’ll go ahead and waive the extra charge.”
I blinked underneath my blindfold, not entirely sure what was about to happen. I could make out the soft rustling of fabric to the right. Was the client undressing? On my left, I felt Azriel lean over to whisper, “right now, all you need to do is lie back and enjoy yourself.”
My brows furrowed in question, then the end of the mattress dipped, and it clicked that the client was joining me on the bed. I bit my lip, excitement starting to burn low in my stomach as the man shifted and settled in. Large, calloused hands clasped my ankles before slowly sliding up to rest upon my thighs.
I trembled again. Mostly from anticipation, a little from fear.
“Are you okay with this? Me, here? Touching you?” The client asked, his voice rough.
Reality rushed in with those three little questions. I knew what he was asking, really asking. So I nodded, not entirely trusting myself to speak out loud. But it was all the permission he needed; strong hands dipped between my thighs and gently pushed them open. Wide enough that my sex was now on display. The client inhaled sharply, and if you ever ask me to look back on this moment, I honestly couldn’t tell you which one of us was more affected.
“Mother Above,” he whispered, “you’re so fucking beautiful.”
It was unexpectedly tender. The last sort of thing I’d expect from and I melted in response.
And then he leaned between my parted thighs and ran the flat of his tongue through my sex. I gasped out loud, bucking involuntarily against him. The client steadied me with those large hands of his, holding me firmly in place.
“You taste incredible,” he rasped out. The client leaned forward to do it again, this time pausing to swirl his tongue over my clitoris. The feeling of his tongue working my sex was intoxicating, nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. The faintest of cries tore out of me, and I lifted my hips for more. He pulled back slightly, and I felt him smile against the delicate skin of my inner thigh. “Sweetheart, you’re fucking drenched.”
He returned to the task like a man possessed, lapping at my sex like I was made of ambrosia. Like he spent the past year starving and was finally, finally allowed to feast. He ran his tongue over me like he couldn’t get enough. Like it would never be enough.
And me? I burned for more.
This was the sweetest torture; being tied down, unable to use my hands. I yearned to run my hands down my torso, over my aching breasts that were being cruelly neglected. But, inversely, I also wanted to touch him. To stroke and caress and learn all the secrets of his body. To confirm if he was indeed as massive as those large hands had always suggested.
But I could do none of that, which added to my frustration. The ropes tied me in place, condemning me to just take, take, take. Take until I was mad. Until I was frantic with hunger.
And I was. Dear god, I was.
Club rules forbade me from speaking, but after a particularly demanding suckle, I couldn't stop a strangled cry from escaping my lips. I bit down to keep quiet, but that seemed to only inflame him. Undeterred, the client redoubled his efforts with steadfast determination. It was as if, now that he'd sampled what sounds could be drawn out of me, he resolved to make it happen again.
Reason and common sense began to slip away. A familiar fluttering began low in my stomach; tightness coiled, the start of an orgasm forming in record time. I wanted more, needed more. So I fought against the hands holding me down and tried to undulate against him. Tried to ride his face as I chased after that elusive high.
“I thought you would find her pleasing,” Azriel interrupted, cutting through my haze with startling efficiency.
Holy fuck. I jerked back in surprise, having completely forgotten about my handler.
Here I was, trussed up while a stranger tried his hardest to deliver what was sure to be an earth-shattering orgasm, and I’d thoroughly forgotten another man was standing five feet away. But the client remained utterly unperturbed and didn't bother to respond. Instead, he spent a few more moments lavishing special attention to my clit before eventually pulling back.
“She’s lovely,” the client replied. He sounded unaffected, like this was nothing more than a polite discussion about the weather, when he added, “I’ll pay ten thousand.”
And then he slipped a finger inside of me.
“Oh, Christ,” I exclaimed, unable to stop myself from bowing off the bed.
The client let out a dark laugh, bending over to drop a kiss on my stomach while sliding a second finger home. Working them back and forth, rekindling the orgasm that fizzled out when Azriel had so rudely interrupted.
“I think we can do a little better than ten thousand,” Azriel tsked. “How does seventeen sound?”
The client hummed a little; as if taking a moment to consider the offer, all the while dragging me closer and closer to a semi-public climax.
This whole situation felt incredibly hedonistic and downright obscene. I could do no more than close my eyes and let sensation flow over me.
The client began to pump his fingers in a slow, deliberate pace. Like he knew what I needed and revelled in drawing it out from me. I clenched down on him, my body desperate to be filled. He crooked his wrist, and those talented fingers brushed over a secret, sensitive spot deep within me, making me whine in response. When he dipped back down to flick his tongue over my clitoris, I didn’t bother holding in my cry.
I was getting close. I was so fucking close.
“It’s clear you’re both enjoying yourselves,” Azriel noted helpfully. “I don’t see a reason to drag negotiations out any longer, not when you’re both so eager to get things underway.”
The client paused at the interruption. And then, to my utter dismay, he pulled away completely. Frustration welled up inside of me, and I gave a little cry of distress. Spectators or not, I had been moments away from coming.
The client made a soothing sound, placing a hand on my thigh to trace gentle circles over the skin. The mattress dipped as he shifted attention to Azriel, but he never once stopped touching me.
“I’ll go as high as fifteen thousand dollars,” said the client.
It was more than enough to pay off my debt which, yes, should make me happy. But my greedy side realized accepting the deal meant the client would go back to doing those wicked things with his tongue. And that took precedence over everything else.
I needed him back on me. Needed him inside of me.
“Yes,” I wept. And then, because I was afraid Azriel would keep pushing for a higher fee, I cried out: “Please, god. Yes!”
The bed shifted as the client turned back to face me.
“That’s a good fucking girl,” he growled.
And then he slid his palms between my inner thighs, his calluses rough against my delicate skin, and forcefully pried them open. My breath stuttered at his demanding touch. At the feelings he’d awakened. I’ve never been handled so intensely, so primally, and my sex clenched in anticipation.
I felt his warm breath upon my sex and had to bite my lip to keep from crying out. He was so close to where I needed him, hovering just out of reach. Finally, the client slipped his hands under my ass and lifted me as if I weighed nothing. He used his thumbs to open up my sex completely.
“Fuck, look at that,” he rumbled. “You’re practically weeping for me.”
And then he lowered his head.
I cried out as he drove his tongue deep inside, his nose straddling my clit. The client lapped at my core, sending shockwaves of desire shuddering through me. He expertly worked my body, lavishing my sex and not coming up to breathe until long after I was a quivering mess.
But, despite that, I was mindless with lust and greed, and it felt like he withdrew much too soon. I moaned in frustration at the loss of him. Felt empty without him. So he plunged his fingers back inside while simultaneously dragging his tongue over my clitoris. The client was expertly fucking me with both his hands and mouth, and I was awash with pleasure.
Gone were the slower, deliberate strokes from earlier. Now his movements were frantic, reckless and rough. Like he knew I was close - relished that I was close - and wanted nothing more than to watch me tumble off the edge. The sound of fingers working through my slickened sex was absolutely filthy, and the indecency of it all only pushed me closer towards that looming peak.
I wrapped my hands around the silk ropes, my legs around his shoulders, frantic for something to hold. I was desperate for him, for the way he made me feel, and I rocked against his face with mindless abandon. Enthusiastically meeting him thrust for thrust.
Sanity began to slip away. I vaguely remembered that I wasn’t supposed to speak, but I couldn’t stop myself from crying out, “please. Oh god, please.”
The client looked briefly up. Just long enough to say, “you want to come? Then come.”
And I did exactly what he ordered of me. I came right away, right there in front of everyone.
My back arched high as the orgasm tore through me. I might have screamed, might have cried, but as sure as hell kept my hips rolling against that sinful mouth. Riding the face of the man who brought me unbelievable pleasure. Weathering every aftershock ricocheting through me—trying to draw out the best climax of my life.
I eventually collapsed back onto the bed, my chest heaving as I panted for breath. I was limp from my orgasm, could do little more than sink into the mattress as I slowly drifted back towards sanity.
I became aware of the light coat of sweat licking my skin, of the dampness slicking my thighs.
I’ve never felt such consummate satisfaction. I probably should have felt ashamed for acting so wantonly, for craving more - knew that lonely girl from Illinois would undoubtedly feel that way - but couldn’t seem to summon up a shred of remorse as I basked in the afterglow.
“That’s my girl,” the client laughed, dropping a kiss onto my navel.
I hummed in return, content to drift in languid peace.
But then my handler cleared his throat, a gentle reminder of his lingering presence.
“So, in summation,” he politely continued, like my previous little exhibition hadn’t just occurred, “fifteen thousand is the price agreed upon by all parties involved.” Then came the sound of footsteps as he headed towards the exit. The door opened, and Azriel paused long enough to add: “Congratulations on securing your bid. Condoms can be found on the side table near the back. Please enjoy the rest of your night.”
The door to our room snicked closed, and we were finally alone.
A slight pause, then the client let out an amused snort.
“He’s a funny guy,” he chuckled before dropping another kiss to the inside of my thigh, where my arousal still soaked the skin.
The mattress lifted, and I sensed the client leaving the bed. I lazily turned my head towards him, towards the space where I think he stood, and caught the sound of fabric whispering. The client was undressing, and that knowledge sent a shiver racing through me.
The responsible part of my brain warned me that I should be a little more present. After all, the client paid an exorbitant amount of money for this time, so I should probably do more than lay out in semi-lucid satisfaction. But I was too addled with post-coital bliss and, instead, I decided to nestle further into the bed’s luxurious sheets.
Afterwards, when reality has returned and this night is nothing more than some distant dream, I’m going to owe Gwyn a massive debt of gratitude.
The client padded back towards the bed and stood over, saying, “you’re the best thing I’ve ever fucking seen.”
I grinned and lazily stretched out, arching my back in a way he must have found pleasing, judging by his sharp inhalation. The mattress dipped, and I had the impression he’d perched on the side of the bed.
“You’ve been struggling to keep quiet, I can tell,” he said. “Is there a reason you’re not more vocal?”
I blinked, caught off guard, and tried to sit up. But, unfortunately, I’d forgotten about the ropes and tumbled back down with an inelegant “oof.”
I sighed, kissing my sex-kitten-charisma goodbye.
“Let me help you out,” he said, a smile lightening his voice.
He clasped my wrist, then came the sound of velcro tearing as the client removed the cuff. Now partially freed, I was able to push myself up before settling back against the headboard.
“I’m not supposed to speak unless spoken to,” I finally admitted, giving him a coy little shrug. “Club rules.”
The client seemed to consider my words as he picked up my newly freed hand, running soothing strokes over the area where my wrist had been tied. The restraints had been comfortable, so I suspected he was just looking for an excuse to touch me.
“But what if I enjoy hearing you speak? Does that change things?” He asked in a teasing manner, “because I seem to recall a little adage that says the customer is always right.”
He was surprisingly funny, a side I’d never expected to ever see, and I didn’t bother hiding the smile tugging up my lips.
“Then I guess I’ll allow it. As long as you promise to keep this our little secret.”
He huffed a laugh, “deal.”
The client started to trace featherlight sketches over my inner forearm, and I shivered at the sensation. I don’t know if it was because I was blindfolded, but I’ve never reacted so strongly to such a sweetly innocent touch.
He slowly worked his way up my body, gliding up over my shoulder before eventually finding purchase upon my jawline. His other hand quickly followed, and soon I was being cradled by those calloused, careful hands.
I felt his breath on my face, warm and sweet, and knew he was going to kiss me. The client tenderly brushed a thumb across my cheek, and my stomach tightened in anticipation. But then he hesitated, not quite touching, hovering just out of reach. So I took the lead, leaning forward and brushing my lips against him. Ever so gently, the lightest of kisses, for the briefest of moments.
But the action made him freeze, and his hands dropped away.
I pulled back in alarm, uncertain what I did wrong. My anxiety returned in record time, and I wondered if I’d invertedly stumbled across some unknown border. If my kiss had crossed some invisible line. Maybe I’d gotten too personal, and that little kiss threatened to tear down that tenuous barrier separating fantasy from reality.
“I’m…I’m sorry,” I stammered, my brain scrambling for ways to make this right. “I thought it would be...”
But my words cut off when he reached out and crushed his lips against mine.
The kiss was overwhelming, demanding. The return of the man who held me down and demanded that I come for him. I could taste my own arousal on those sinfully plump lips, and I trembled in response. My body heated when he swiped his tongue over my lips, demanding access, and I parted for him instantly. The client wasted no time setting forth to explore my mouth, teasing me with that clever tongue.
Although now I was also partially free, no longer pinned down, no longer held passive to his whims. So I met him kiss for scorching kiss, and our tongues fought out a debauched battle for domination. I pushed myself onto my knees, using my free hand to explore the corded muscles of his chest, sucking in a breath when I gauged the sheer size of him. I’d never before grasped how truly massive he was. This man was giant, wholly composed of towering muscles and a sinful tongue.
He was a drug, and I was already craving more.
I surged forth, attempting to press my body against him. I longed to feel his hips press against mine, to know if his cock was as big as the rest of him. But with one arm still tied to the bed, I couldn’t close the space between us, and a frustrated whimper slipped out of me.
Started by my cry, the client tore himself away from our kiss,
“What’s wrong?” He asked, concerned. “Did I hurt you?”
“No, it’s not that. You’re still too far away.” I pouted, my voice sounding dangerously close to a whine. “I want to feel your cock. I want it so fucking bad.”
He huffed out a dark laugh, my frustration a source of amusement, then leaned down to gently rest his forehead against mine. His long hair fell around me, the soft ends grazing my jawline.
“I’m going straight to hell,” he murmured, so faint I almost missed it.
And then his little moment of introspection was over.
The client roughly pulled open the remaining silk rope, freeing me at last. Then, without missing a beat, he reached down to clasp my hips, his hands nearly spanning the whole of me, and dragged me straight up his lap. He’d knelt down before pulling me astride, and my legs fell open, sitting on either side of his muscular thighs, his coarse leg hair tickling my sensitive skin.
“Is this what you were looking for?” He asked, taking my hand and dropping it onto his cock.
I gasped when I felt the size of him, the thick, blunt head beaded with a drop of pre-cum. He twitched under my touch, the shaft so thick I couldn’t fully close my hand around it. I gave him an experimental pump to measure his length, and he sucked in a shaky breath in response. His hand reflexively squeezing my hip.
So, encouraged by his reaction, I licked my palm and did it again. The client let out a groan, low and guttural, and I set to work running my hands up and down the length of him.
“Good girl,” he groaned. “You’re doing so well.”
Hearing that praise, that reverence colouring his voice, set me aflame.
I ran my hand over the head of his cock, gathering moisture and began running it down the solid length of his shaft. My other hand reached down to gently fondle his balls, and the client hissed his approval. A few more passes had his breathing hitching, and his beautiful dick seemed to grow even harder under my ministrations.
I chuckled, practically vaunting at his reaction.
“I guess you like that, huh?” I teased.
He seemed to take a pained breath, then gritted out, “You’re touching me just the way I like it.”
I laughed at that. It was apparent the client was flattering me, so I said, “I don’t think there’s a wrong way to give a handjob.”
Which was the wrong thing to say.
The client went dangerously still, then captured both of my wrists within a single hand. His free hand spread across my lower back, and I was suddenly pressed flush against him. After that, I was entirely at his mercy.
“You’re damn right there is,” he growled in my ear. “There is the way you want to do it. And then there is the way I tell you to do it.”
And holy fuck, how I didn’t immediately come from that little exchange, I’ll never know.
“So, consider this your only warning,” he continued, “the next time you think about acting bratty, I’ll be putting you over my knee.”
I swallowed hard, my sex growing wetter from his threat. Spanking had been one of the kinks included on my menu. I’d written it down almost as an afterthought and had no idea it would ever incite this kind of reaction from me.
My sudden spark of illicit desire must have been apparent, as the client let out a dark chuckle and murmured, “but I’m starting to feel like spanking won’t be an appropriate punishment.” A finger dipped into my sex, and he laughed after finding apparent signs of my arousal. “Yeah, you’ll definitely enjoy that much too much.”
And the next thing I know, I was being lifted in his arms and then deposited flat on my back. I gasped out of surprise, then did it again when the client slowly dragged his tongue over my nipple.
“You’re a greedy little thing, aren’t you, sweetheart? I gave you one orgasm, and you’re already hungry for more.” He tsked.
The client stepped away, his bare feet padding across the hardwood, and I made out the sound of crinkling as he retrieved a condom. He slipped it on but, surprisingly, didn’t instantly return to bed.
The room’s mood shifted as if the physical space between us was enough to release him from this intoxicating spell, bringing the client back to reality. He sighed and softly muttered, “what am I going to do about you?”
The studious tinge to his voice told me he meant it as a theoretical question, but I grinned wickedly as several different responses came to mind. We’d be returning to reality soon enough. If we were destined to spend only one night together, I wanted to savour every self-indulgent moment that I could.
So I rolled onto my hands and knees, leaning on my forearms as I pushed my hips up in wanton invitation. Then, looking back in his general direction, I daringly said, “fuck me, I hope.”
My display had its desired effect; the client sucked in a breath, taking hurried steps back to our bed.
Large hands slid over my hips possessively. The client positioned me for better access, then I felt the length of him slipping through my folds, using my arousal to slicken his cock. I groaned at the sensation, my head falling against the mattress as excitement pooled low in my belly. Then the client slowly pulled back, placing his beautifully thick cockhead against my sex before finally, finally pushing in.
“Oh! Oh fuck,” I cried out.
He didn’t slide in all the way, only an inch or two, really, before pausing to let me acclimate to his size.
“You’re so fucking tight,” he hissed out.
He was gripping my hips tightly. As if I was his leash to reality, the only thing keeping him grounded. When I felt his legs trembling against mine, I wondered just how close he was to losing control.
And it was tight. Not intolerable, but definitely a stretch. Still, I always loved a good challenge, so I eagerly thrust back against the client, desperate for his cock to fill me. Except the hands on my hips tightened, halting my advance, and he rumbled out a low, “careful, now.”
He withdrew again, almost to the tip, before slowly working his way back inside my body, only slightly further than before. I let out a whine, my core clenching down longingly for something that wasn’t quite there.
“Patience, sweetheart,” he murmured.
He paused a little longer, stretching me out so deliciously, but it still wasn’t enough. My hands clenched the bedclothes, sweat beading my brow as I wrestled against the urge to move against him. But the client held firm, unwilling to give an inch. I don’t know if he was overly cautious about hurting me or drew pleasure watching me squirm, but he spent the next few minutes relentlessly teasing me. Fucking me with the shallowest of penetrations. He would slide in a tantalizing inch or two but always stopped himself from going further. He was taunting me, not giving me what I truly wanted, and my frustration seemed to only encourage him.
“Does that feel good?” He teased, and I moaned in response. Amusement lined his voice when he prodded, “do you want some more?”
I did. Mother Above, I did.
But I refused to plead, to crawl, so I did my best to remain composed when I said, “Yes. Yes, I fucking do.”
I didn’t beg, but it was close.
The client chuckled, amused at my debauchery, and I knew my show was all for naught. He knew how desperate I was to be filled and was edging me on purpose. He tightened his grip on my hips and pulled back, nearly to the tip, and held there. I bit my lips in excitement, hoping this was the moment he finally slid all the way in. Finally giving me precisely what I needed.
“Get ready,” he warned, “and take a deep breath.”
My heart thunder expectantly. I felt his thighs flex as the client prepared to drive himself home, and I breathed slowly in as requested.
“Good girl,” he praised as he pushed forward, that sinfully broad cock stretching me enticingly, and then he stopped. Much. Too. Soon.
I whined in frustration, slamming a hand down on the mattress.
“Hmm, that wasn’t deep enough? Sorry about that,” he hummed, not sounding very sorry at all.
One large land released my hip, ran down my spine to perch on my shoulder. He gently nudged my torso down while prompting my bottom higher, lifting me to better suit him. But this new position came with a little more freedom of movement, and when he pulled back in preparation for his next teasing thrust, I was ready.
His muscles braced as he slowly inched into me, and I snapped my ass back, feeling that glorious stretch as his cock was driven deeper than ever before. He gasped, trying to hold me steady while simultaneously fighting to regain control over himself.
I felt him twitching, hands flexing as he struggled to hold himself stationary. The client wasn’t fully seated - he still wasn’t pressed flush against my ass - but this was a vast improvement over his incessant teasing. I made a satisfied purr as I wiggled my hips, luxuriating in the feel of him.
“Oh, you little fucking brat,” he growled, and I knew I was in trouble.
The smack on my ass started me, more out of shock than anything. It didn’t hurt, but I hadn’t been expecting it, and I jerked back in reflex, inadvertently driving his cock even deeper. He clamped down on my waist, holding me immobile as my core spasmed around him. I’d never before climaxed during penetrative sex, but fuck me if I wasn’t already moments away from coming.
Though I was blindfolded, I looked back over my shoulder and begged, “Oh, promise me you’ll do that again.”
My throaty little plea seemed to break his tenuous hold on restraint, convincing him to surrender all authority and relinquish self-control. The sound he made was half-wild, his fingers digging into my hips as I was suddenly jerked backwards. I didn’t have time to draw a breath before the client loosened himself on me. His hips snapping forwards, finally driving that beautiful cock all the way home.
I let out a startled cry as he began pistoning in and out, filling me up in a way I’d never experienced, in a way I prayed would never stop. He was thick enough, hit deep enough to stroke some erogenous part deep inside, titillating my senses and making me spasm. My hands clutched the bedclothes as I scrambled for security, trying to moor myself as the client began fucking with abandon.
“Oh please, please, please, please, pleasepleaseplease,” I sobbed insensibly.
I was completely overstimulated. All I could focus on was that ravishing cock, pushing me towards release. I’ve never felt this good, this feral, and it threatened to consume me.
Feeling my core pulse around him, the client decided to put an end to my suffering. He tightened his grip with his left hand while his right slipped past my thigh, searching out my clitoris. It didn’t take long for him to find my swollen little bud, and he used those talented fingers to rub circles, applying the sweetest pressure.
In that touch, I’d reached my breaking point; his talented caress pushed me over that edge. I tumbled into ecstasy as the climax tore through me. Then, gasping for air, I collapsed onto the bed as waves of pleasure washed over me, and I was lost in sensation.
From somewhere far away, I heard the client breathe out a reverent, “Mother Above,” and I had to laugh. Out of the two of us, I was pretty sure I was the one who’d been closest to seeing god. He withdrew his cock, still glorious hard, and said: “Next time that happens, I need to see your face.”
I hummed in response, rolling onto my back. I wasn’t sure my body could handle another climax, but it seemed like an inappropriate time to start worrying over such minor details.
Calloused hands palmed my aching breasts, and I arched into him with a grunt. He huffed a laugh and ran his thumbs over my hardened nipples, expertly working my sensitive peaks, just like he’d expertly worked the rest of me. Finally, he leaned down to drag his tongue over my nipple, and I whimpered in response.
And then, the client pressed a supporting hand on the mattress and moved to sweetly kiss me. It was slow and tender, entirely at odds with our earlier entanglement, and I melted in response. I tangled my hands in his hair, the kisses becoming debauched when my tongue began meeting his tongue thrust for thrust.
He climbed over me, sliding a hand down over my sex in a teasing manner. I shuddered slightly when he brushed my too-sensitive clitoris, and I briefly wondered if it was possible to have a third orgasm in one sitting. Of course, it’d never happened with Tomas, but... I’d never really experienced any of this before. These heady sensations were all too new. Hedonistic and wonderful, yes, but also exceedingly tempting. If I wasn’t careful, I could see myself becoming addicted to this perfectly wicked man.
“Now be a good girl,” he told me between kisses, “and come ride my cock.”
“Oh, god, yes,” I agreed, burying any lingering impulse to act like a brat. After coming that hard, I was willing to give that man anything.
He chuckled, amused by my enthusiasm, and carefully climbed over me towards the center of the bed. I propped myself up to face him as he got comfortable, feeling the mattress dip slightly to my left. Then, finally, he stretched out and slapped his thigh with a coarsely ordered, “come here now.”
I bit my lip in renewed anticipation, my nerve endings igniting from the domineering order. I slowly crawled my way to him, gently guiding myself up his body. I’m cautious as I swing my leg over his torso, careful not to hit his erection. Still, I accidentally brush it with my toes, and he lets out a strained hiss.
“Sorry, sorry. It’s a little hard to see,” I rush out before carefully lowering to myself upon his lower abdominals, his cock jutting up against my lower back.
I settled in snugly, running my fingers through the sparse hair of his chest, feeling his muscular torso rise and fall with each laboured breath. The client was coated with a thin layer of sweat, breathing deeply as if he’d just run a sprint, though he did nothing more strenuous than lie pronely under me. An odd thought struck me, and I wondered if he was affected by me as I am of him.
It was a foolish idea. Fanciful. Incredibly naive.
This line of thinking was starting to become dangerous, skidding a little too close to reality, so I pushed the notion away and gave him a wicked smile, asking, “Now, what will you have me do?”
I’ve never considered myself a bombshell or vixen, but tonight, with this version of this man, anything seemed possible.
He swallowed deeply, a crack in his cool-headed facade, but his voice was imperious as ever when he demanded, “fuck yourself onto my cock.”
So I sucked in a breath and did just that.
All lingering thoughts empty out of my head as I rose up to hover over that sinfully thick cock, enjoying the slight pinch as I sank down over him. I luxuriated in the stretch of his cock, filling me up so completely. So perfectly. In a way I would never get used to, in a way I never wanted to end. The sound which escapes me is embarrassingly primal, but I can’t find it within myself to care.
I began to rock upon him, undulating rhythmically as I rode my lover, my head tossing back as I became lost to everything but the man under me.
“Look at you, taking me so well,” he encouraged, low and prideful, and my sex clenched tightly in response.
The client is content letting me set the pace, slowly and methodically riding his dick while my core adjusts to the post-orgasmic stretch. I plant my fists on either side of his head, leaning forward to brush my neglected breasts over his chest while continuously riding his shaft.
He took the hint instantly, palming my breasts within those massive hands, leaning up to lavish attention on each aching nipple. Each stroke of his tongue adds to my rising excitement, flicking over my nipples expertly. As if he could read my mind and knew exactly how I liked it, and my responding whine was shameless.
“Plant your hands behind your back,” he commands in his no-nonsense way, “I want to take you in.”
I do as he asks me - I’ll always do what he asks of me - dropping my hands behind me as I begin to quicken my pace. My back arches sensually, and he gives an appreciative groan. He likes watching me. Likes watching my breasts as I writhe over his cock, and that heady awareness sets me aflame.
“Fuck,” he grits out, sounding pained. “You feel so good. So damn good.”
"Yes. Oh, yes,” I breathe, adding a mindless, “I don’t want this to ever stop. Please don’t ever stop.”
I’ve come twice already, and I’m starting to suspect the fact a third one may very well be on its way. He swipes a thumb against my clit, and I ground down on it instantly.
“You like this, then? Being here with me?” He demands, and I shutter pleasantly at the command in his tone. I never thought I’d be the kind of girl who gets wet at the thought of being submissive, but this night was playing out in all sorts of unusual ways.
“Fucking love it,” I admit, quickening my pace.
“Then, sweetheart, isn’t it time we drop the mask?”
The words catch me by surprise, and I stumble forwards a little, my hand sliding against the silky sheets, unable to find purchase.
His hands are on my waist instantly, steadying me. Stopping me from falling.
Reality is starting to shift into place, bringing with it issues I’d thought we’d politely ignore for the rest of our natural lives.
I feel a hand slide upwards the back of my head, where the blindfold has been securely attached, and I know I should protest. Should try to hold onto that last shred of blissful denial for one moment longer. But I’m dumbstruck. My brain isn’t working, and I offer no complaint.
Or, maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe my brain has finally started working and wants to actually see this through.
What the answer is, it doesn’t matter. I don’t offer up a single complaint, and the client takes it as implicit permission to finally remove the blindfold.
My eyes blink as I adjust to the sudden light, but it doesn’t matter. I already know the face of the man lying under me.
And then my boss, Cassian Burnel, says to me, “Hello there, Miss Archeron.”
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Notes: Because I wanted to give something for Nessian week but I suck at time management, you get this nonsense late for the Rivalry prompt. I hope you enjoy!
Oh and yes, the quote about the Hustle is from Zootopia. I love that movie.
Nesta tore her eyes from the pages of her book and forced herself to look up. Right there in front of her, embroiled in a match of the ages, Feyre and Cassian were going at it viciously.
"You're cheating!," Feyre exclaimed again, swearing crudely under her breath.
Cassian flipped her off, laughing with so much open radiance, she felt her breath stop short in her chest. He was so beautiful.
So beautiful that Nesta thought about how she could manipulate the situation to get Cassian to come away with her. Play with her in other ways...a different game altogether.
Azriel cleared his throat loudly and Nesta whipped her head behind to see him raising his brows at her.
Don’t judge me, she almost hissed out, pursing her lips at her interruption.
Azriel’s smirk almost answered back, I think someone should.
Shadows whirled around him, slithering onto her couch and nipping her on the hand. She swatted angrily and them until they slinked off, almost shamefully.
“Serves them right,” she muttered under her breath.
“Some people just can’t control themselves,” Azriel whispered into the papers in front of him.
“Like you control yourself around Gwyn?,” she shot back at full volume, not caring who heard. Azriel’s expression mirrored that of a horrified child who’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He leveled her with a severe look, pointedly looking at Feyre and Cassian, not three feet away from them.
Thankfully, neither were paying any attention to the world around them, only focused on spewing vitriol at each other. They bickered like young children for a few more minutes, and then Feyre lost again.
"Third?," Elain whispered to Nesta as she sat down next to her. She was asking about the number of losses Feyre had already suffered at Cassian's hand. Her sister curled her feet under her body and half of her tucked into Nesta too.
"Fifth," Nesta replied, nestling closer to Elain as well. It was rare for them to sit like this anymore. Soak up each other's warmth as there was no need for it in the always temperate House of Wind and the general lack of poverty in their lives.
Nesta flicked her eyes forward and looked at Feyre's face concentrated on the scene before her. Tongue peeking out between her lips while she thought hard about her next move. It was shockingly adorable and for a moment, Nesta thought about how young her sister looked even now to her. Even with a baby and a marriage and a kingdom to run. Cassian stuck his tongue out suddenly, mocking her, and Feyre smacked his arm sharply.
And the bickering began anew. Nesta rolled her eyes.
"Technically," Nesta muttered to Elain, "she should have one at least one by now. Rhysand switched Cassian's cards when he went for water during their third game because he felt bad for Feyre. Cassian saw it and ignored it. And she still lost."
Azriel choked on his drink behind her and Nesta turned her head to share a conspiratorial smirk with him. They'd been making bets for the past five rounds and Azriel had lost a hefty sum in betting against Nesta's mate.
Why Azriel was still trying to be loyal to Feyre after her disastrous losses, she would never know. But she would admire the loyalty if that was what it was. Nesta was more convinced it was based on brotherly jest to rile Cassian up each time he met his eyes and passed another gold coin to Nesta.
Nesta was no better. She was running on triumph alone that her mate was doing so well. Triumph and pride.
"You can't!," Feyre exclaimed suddenly. Nesta hadn't been paying attention and scrambled to understand what had happened.
"I already did. We agreed. I win and I get that beautiful bow of yours."
Feyre's ears began turning red. "It was a gift."
Cassian snorted. "Hardly. Rhysand took it from my weapons storage to gift you. It's pirated goods at this point."
Feyre opened her mouth. Shutting it and opening it over and over so much that Nesta was tempted to warn her about stray bugs that may wander in.
"I want a rematch," her sister demanded with a curl of her lip.
Cassian was the picture of boredom, leaning back in his chair, settling calmly. Unfazed. He drawled slowly, words dripping sardonically off of his tongue. "You lost five games in a row. You won't win. Let's get on with it Feyre. The bow please." Cassian's large hand lay outstretched in front of the table between them and Nesta wondered if Feyre may slap it.
"I want a rematch," Feyre said again. “You tricked me. I don’t know how, but you did.”
He had. Nesta had seen him lead her into believing he was playing one move for another so many times, she’d wanted to scream at Feyre for not catching it sooner.
“It’s called a hustle, Feyre. Deal with it.”
Feyre ignored him, turning her head to the couch where Nesta and Elain sat, and widened her eyes emphatically. It was a look only sisters would understand.
Nesta struggled to keep her face straight as Feyre's voice exploded in her skull.
Sorry. I'm just angry. Your mate's being an ass.
Nesta snorted and Cassian's eyes began tracing her body as she rose from the couch and approached the table.
Feyre emptied her chair and Nesta took it.
Cassian's pose broke, and he leaned forward expectantly, meeting Nesta's eyes head on.
"What's this then?," he asked affectionately.
Nesta sighed. "Feyre's whining for help." A noise of indignation left Feyre, standing to her left, which Nesta ignored. "So I'm helping."
Cassian's smile was blinding. "You're going to play for her?"
Nesta turned to Feyre. "A bow, is it?" Feyre nodded her head, shooting Cassian a withering glare in the process.
"Sure. I'll play." Nesta examined the cards in front of her. "What are we playing?"
Cassian looked startled. "Er, it's a Fae card game. I'm not sure if you know it." His hands picked up the cards with a flourish and he shuffled them with ease. "Ever heard of Flenaia."
Cassian nodded. "That’s okay, I’ll go over the rules.”
Nesta snuck a glance at Feyre before nodding. "Alright."
He turned to Feyre. "You sure about this? She's never played. She's not going to win." He cast a quick glance to her, a dazzling smile shot her way. "No offense sweetheart."
Nesta shrugged. After all, she was only here because her book had gotten to be too ridiculous. There was only so many monsters with "engorged cocks" that Nesta could read about before losing interest.
Nesta hadn't said anything else so Cassian began.
He spoke in that lovely baritone of his, explaining the ins and outs of the game to her. Guiding her through different plays. Having her repeat the basic rules out to him.
Feyre breezed off soon after, claiming that Nyx needed a feeding even though Nesta knew he'd been fast asleep not even an hour ago.
"Good. Okay I think you understand how to play now. How many rounds?"
Nesta thought about it. Turned to the hallway behind her where Feyre was nowhere near.
"I don't know," Nesta admitted slowly. "I'm playing for Feyre's sake so I'm not sure..."
Elain chimed in, "Do five. A tribute to dear Feyre for her losses." She chuckled at her own joke and it wasn't long before everyone in the room joined her.
"I heard that," Feyre accused with laughter in her voice. Nyx cooed and fussed on her hip, Rhysand trailing in quietly behind her.
It wasn't long before Mor and Amren were suddenly just there with them.
Rhys was the first to add his input. "You're playing against Cassian, Nesta? Flenaia? Good luck sister. You'll need it."
"Thank you, brother," Nesta replied with a grin. "I'm not sure you mean it though."
Rhys gave a huff of laughter before sitting down beside Feyre, taking Nyx into his lap and stroking his head. "Oh I mean it. Cassian doesn't lose when it comes to card games. Hasn't lost in," he turned to Mor, lounged out on the opposite couch, "how long?"
Mor didn't look up, riveted on the table between Cassian and Nesta. "Three centuries. And it would have been a record of five centuries undefeated had it not been for that one loss."
Cassian's hand flexed in irritation and he began shuffling the cards again.
"Why did you lose?," Nesta asked carefully.
Mor perked up, ready to answer but Amren beat her to it. "Don't you know about what happened in the Summer Court?"
"Careful Amren," Cassian warned darkly.
Amren bared her teeth in a smirk that bordered on seconds from being a real bite. “Well he lost girl, and then he destroyed that building. It’s why he’s not allowed to go back to the Summer Court.”
Nesta didn’t react, wanting to take Cassian’s mind away from whatever had irritated him so much that he was now aggressively shuffling the deck.
“Let me,” she spoke softly, taking the cards from his grasp and starting the game.
Nesta played slowly, taking her time with her cards, staring at Cassian’s furrowed, scarred brow for far too long. Until he met her eyes with a knowing grin and she had to feign disinterest. Stupid bat, always distracting her with his looks.
“Doesn’t look good for you, Nes,” Cassian finally spoke after a three minute standstill that she’d taken during her turn. She ignored the playful tease in his voice.
Rhys had foregone the couch altogether now, Nyx squirming in his steady grasp as he stood over the card table. Feyre was watching, now in her old seat, curled next to Elain who was watching with a knowing look the few times Nesta turned to meet her eyes.
Nesta placed her card down to finish her turn.
There was a sudden silence in the room. A hushed explosion of confusion. And then...
"I don't fucking believe it," Rhys exclaimed. "She beat him. She really fucking beat him."
Nesta stared at Cassian, whose eyes had gone wider than she'd ever seen before. "Did I really?," she asked him.
Cassian stared at the cards in front of him. Stared and stared and stared. He nodded slowly to no one in particular and finally met her eyes, crinkled in confusion.
“Yes. You did...”
A squeal to Nesta’s right stole her attention away from her perplexed mate, and suddenly Nesta was being crushed in a hug that made it difficult to breathe.
“Sorry,” Feyre said as she extricated herself from Nesta. “I just got excited,” she admitted sheepishly. But all that disappeared as she turned on Cassian and glared. “She won. She only needs to win two more rounds and then we win.”
Cassian gave her a slow grin. “Don’t you mean she wins? When did this become “we”?”
“Shut up, Cassian,” Feyre growled, walking back to her seat.
And so it was on to round two.
“It was beginner’s luck,” Nesta assured him gently.
“I don’t mind sweetheart,” Cassian responded a little too quickly.
Big Illyrian baby.
I know, right?, Feyre’s voice boomed in her head.
Get out of my head Feyre!
Sorry. I’ll go. Nesta felt the presence leave her consciousness but just for good measure, she stacked up her mental shields again, brick by brick. When she was done, she realized everyone was expectantly staring at her. Cassian most of all.
Nesta apologized with a bob of her head and placed down her card.
The round ended within a few minutes with Nesta as the victor.
It might have been comical the way Feyre began dancing around Cassian’s chair, swinging her arms over her head as her hair whipped back and forth. Half of it smacked Cassian in the face at one point, and Nesta swore she saw murder in his eyes.
“It’s just luck, Cassian. And it’s just a game,” she reminded him.
“Definitely." But the words seemed hollow.
Poor thing. She almost felt sorry for him. The pitiful look on his face that was practically begging her to kiss it away.
Cassian shuffled the cards this time, taking extra care to place them down slowly in front of Nesta and then herself as well. Nesta let him. Let him take his time, brow furrowed, lip pinched between his teeth, distracting her with memories of how his teeth felt leaving marks in her skin.
"Damn," Feyre muttered as Cassian made his second victory. He was good. She would admit that now. She'd taken a full offensive and gotten more difficult to work around with each slightly loudening slap of her card on the table.
Cassian had paid it no mind, caught in his own flurry to get his move done and deal with the next hand Nesta had played.
Rhys let out a low whistle as Feyre herself took it upon herself to shuffle the cards for Nesta.
Cassian's eyes narrowed on her and Nesta knew the game was up as the final round ticked in. As Feyre's hand left the cards in their respective positions, and she breezed away, muttering to Nesta that she'd better win her bow back, Nesta knew it wouldn't do anymore to keep the lies going.
"Still can't believe they're tied," Rhys murmured, rubbing a hand through his midnight hair, to which Nyx gurgled at before grabbing a fistful of it to pull on.
Nesta kept quiet, instead picking up her deck and sorting through what she’d gotten while Feyre wrestled Nyx away from pulling out more of Rhyand’s perfect hair.
“Demonic child,” Rhys muttered, all while allowing Nyx to grasp his chubby fingers onto his own, only to but them in his gummy mouth.
“What?,” Feyre asked, irritaiton lacing her voice at the attention she’d lost from the game as Cassian made his first move.
A good move if Nesta had ever seen one. But not that good.
“I bet Cassian wins this round. Twenty coins.”
“Cheap wager,” Feyre shot back. “You seem to have no confidence in your brother. But fine, you’re on. Nesta is going to win.”
Rhys scoffed. “Cassian’s never lost a card game ever. Not in hundreds of years.” Rhys’ eyes met Nesta’s as she paused on her move to watch the new game unfolding to her right. “Don’t you know, Cassian doesn’t lose. Not in Flenaia least of all.”
Feyre winked at her and Nesta had to fight to keep the smile off of her face. “Oh but don’t you know Rhys? Nesta doesn’t lose either. Especially not in Flenaia. Bet’s on. Make it thirty coins.”
Cassian’s face snapped up from his deck to glare at her.
“I thought you said you’ve never heard of the game.”
Well, the ruse was up now. “Did I say that?,” she sing-songed, placing down her card. “Or did you just assume that because it’s a Fae game and I was human for most of my life.”
Cassian sputtered. “You asked me to teach you the rules!”
Nesta corrected him. “You offered to teach me the rules. You didn’t ask about whether I already knew them or not.”
Nesta had learned Flenaia in the bars she’d frequented during her stay in Velaris. She’d picked it up slowly and had been completely enraptured by the little game played so stealthily and quickly. She’d lost so many rounds in the beginning and the fervor it gave to her, to win, to best the game and herself was why she’d gotten so good at it.
“You tricked me,” Cassian accused, using Feyre’s own line of complaint from not too long ago.
Nesta smirked, dragging a finger sensually down Cassian’s hand that lay flat on the table in front of her. “It’s called a hustle, sweetheart. Deal with it.”
Cassian seemed to be the embodiment of rage as she threw his own words back in his face. Good. She’d like him to turn that anger into something useful for her later on at night. In the confines and privacy of their bedroom, where he could...
“Are you paying attention?,” Cassian’s irate voice snapped her out of her fantasies. “It’s your turn.”
“Is someone upset?,” Nesta mocked, flipping her hair behind her back as she placed her card down without a moment’s pause.
Cassian stared at her. “You sure about that? You didn’t even look at what you put down.”
Nesta shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. I’m going to win either way.”
The corner of Cassian’s lip turned up, and she bunched up her fingers in her lap as she fought the urge to trace it. “If you weren’t hell bent on making me lose, I’d admire the confidence.”
“You admire it regardless,” Nesta volleyed back.
Cassian didn’t say anything, looking through his deck, but they both knew she was right.
“So when I win-”
“If,” Nesta corrected haughtily. “If you win.”
Cassian ignored it. “When I win, I get to keep my bow. But what should I get from you?”
The words were deliciously coarse against her skin and the fabric she was wearing suddenly felt too tight.
Nesta’s voice lowered. “What would you like from me, Cassian?”
She knew how much he loved it when she spoke his name. She couldn’t help it most times. It was a beautiful name, so much so, that butchering it with the shortened nickname felt almost like sinning. The way it rolled off of her tongue like syrup when she crooned it in mocking jest, or the way it stole her breath when she moaned it underneath him was a weakness of hers. But Cassian loved it most, she knew, when it was whispered under her breath in innuendo. Like she was doing now.
Cassian opened his mouth and-
“No!,” Feyre’s voice cut harshly through the spell Cassian’s eyes had had her under. “We don’t need to hear the answer to that question Cassian. Keep it in your pants.”
Cassian leaned back, grumbling something incoherent.
“And you,” Feyre focused on Nesta. “Focus on what you’re here to do. He gives you a few sultry looks and you’re done for.”
Nesta tried to defend herself, but Feyre stopped her with a raised hand. “Don’t deny it. Whatever you two want to do to each after Nesta wins isn’t my business. But let’s deal with the task at hand first, please.”
Nesta rolled her eyes, Cassian following suit.
Cassian threw down three cards with an arrogant wave of his hands. “Well Nes, it was a valiant effort. But unfortunately, the bow is mine.” Nesta stared at them. “And so are you,” he added salaciously.
Nesta placed down her last card. “Adorable. But you still lost the game.”
The grin on Cassian’s face disappeared almost comically fast as he looked down, nose almost touching the table and cards on top of it.
“She won?,” Mor shrieked, sitting upright abruptly.
“She won?,” Azriel whispered to himself.
Rhys ran over to the table. “She won?”
“She won?,” Feyre shouted out, Nyx babbling in response.
“The girl won?” Amren’s gravelly voice floated around them.
Cassian’s eyes skimmed furiously over the set of cards she’d played. Just right so that it hadn’t seemed likely for a victory until she placed down her final card. Her winning card. She’d set him up the moment she’d admitted she’d conned him.
Cassian leaned back in his chair, defeat worn all over his face. “She won,” Cassian admitted softly. Nesta swore she saw a hint of pride when he looked at her before examining the cards again.
There was a moment of silence around them, and suddenly noise erupted in the room. Feyre began screaming, Nyx started shrieking in response. Mor began dancing. Nesta swore Rhys shed a tear. Azriel laughed softly and Elain clapped to her when Nesta looked back to see them.
Feyre brought out her bow within record time, brandishing it more like a sword as she skipped around Cassian, chanting about her win.
Nesta decided then that it was time to make their exit as she saw Cassian glower harder and longer at Feyre’s prolonged victory dance. She swore she saw his eye twitch too.
Nesta weaved her fingers through Cassian’s and pulled him up from his chair. While he didn’t object to her leading them away from the clebration in the living room, she saw the sour look on his face.
“Why the face?”
Nesta let out the laugh she’d been keeping in from the moment Cassian had lost his game. Grasping the hand she was holding tighter, she brought it up to her face and kissed the scarred knuckles. “Oh I’m sorry alright. It was all harmless fun.”
“You tricked me,” he repeated with another pout.
“I’ll make it up to you,” she promised with a grin.
Cassian raised one scarred brow, almost in protest. “How?” Before she knew what was happening, she was pinned against the wall, Cassian towering over her, his arms trapping her in on both sides.
Nesta didn’t balk, pressing herself closer into him. “However you want.”
“I didn’t win,” he reminded her gently.
Nesta rose up on her toes, kissing the skin on his neck where a faint curling of ink peeked out from his shirt. “Are you sure about that?” His pulse hammered under her lips at the question and she nipped lightly at it.
“You win me, Cassian. Most people wouldn’t complain about that."
"Awfully arrogant of you," Cassian let out with a groan, skimming his nose down her cheek.
Nesta laughed. "You love it."
Cassian pulled back, humor dancing in his eyes.
"I do love it. I love you."
Nesta rolled her eyes. "I love you too, bat. Now, what were you about to do to me?"
Cassian winked. "Glad you asked."
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