The House of the Seventh Minuet CXXIX

This chapter reverts back to Leila’s viewpoint.

**Note: There are some NSFW aspects to this chapter; it’s a little more direct than the references made in previous chapters. Also, the next couple chapters will definitely be NSFW.**

I had been staring into Stefan’s bright blue eyes for a long time. They reminded me of the sky on a bright summer’s day, and between them and the golden sheen of his hair, I kept thinking of him as–

“…the light in my life,” I breathed, forgetting for a moment that he couldn’t have known the thoughts that came before those words; but the sense was too profound not to give voice to.

He smiled a pushed a lock of hair behind my ear, gazing back at me before kissing my cheeks tenderly. “Just like you’re the light in mine,” he whispered.

I gave him a warm smile. ‘Okay,’ I told myself, ‘it’s time to do this.’

I took a deep breath, “Stefan, I…” My voice was shaking, and I also had to pause to clear my throat, but I made myself go on. “Being y– making it official that we’re– Argh, this wasn’t supposed to be this hard! Stefan, I want us to be together, boyfriend and girlfriend, but the without the jealousy or– or whatever you want to call what you and Larsa were doing. He wasn’t taunting you, but you didn’t feel encouraged by his methods, either.”

Stefan nodded, and his expression told me that he was being earnest and sincere. “I know what you mean, Leila. I want to be with you, too– and I’ll be the man you fell in love with.” His voice was hoarse, and I couldn’t tell whether it was because of nearly drowning or because he was becoming emotional. “No more strife.”

I moved onto his lap and let him hold me. “Good,” I said with a sort of finality. “And I’m going to be upfront again and say that I’m going to take this relationship seriously. I want us to be together for a long, long time, Stefan.”

He didn’t reply right away, and my heart nearly jumped into my throat with the thought that I’d overstepped and said something that would scare him off. I looked up with him at him with worried eyes and laid a hand on his cheek. “Stefan?”

His eyes sparkled with extra moisture, and I wasn’t sure whether he was tearing up or having some kind of allergy issue. “Leila,” he said, nearly choking on my name, “I… I like that idea. I’m so glad you said it, because I was too scared to admit that we could all end up as… umm, as… family… someday.”

“I’d like that,” I told him, my voice softer now. “What if my cousin marries your cousin?”

“Y-yeah…” he replied, looking nervous. “And– and if…”

I smiled fondly at him. “I think I know what you mean. Don’t worry, Stefan; I’m hoping things go that well with between us, too.”

He nodded stiffly. “Right. I mean, I would talk about how I hope we can still be friends even if we’re no longer together as a couple, but…”

“I hope that never happens,” I told him. “I mean, I hope this doesn’t add on a bunch of pressure or anything that’s going to make you go back to being stressed out, but nothing would make me happier than things going well between us, and never getting to the point where we have to have that strained friendship that comes after breaking up.”

He caressed my cheek as he stared into my eyes. “So then Larsa’s cousin… and Killian’s cousin… could…”

I nodded, though it hardly felt like I was moving. “Someday,” I whispered. “But–“

“It’s okay,” he reassured me. “You don’t have to explain. No pressure; we’re just here for each other, focused on the now. I feel the same way.”

He was leaning in to kiss me, but then suddenly turned his head away and started coughing.

“That doesn’t sound good at all,” I said when he eventually recovered. “I think what you really need is to get into a steamy shower.”

He smirked and made another weak cough before saying, “Is this going to be your new thing? Get me out of my clothes and soaking wet?”

I felt my cheeks getting warm as I cracked up. “Are you asking because you mind?”

“Oh, I don’t mind at all,” he said, his tone light and playful. “I just wanted to know whether to expect to be ordered to undress on a daily basis.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, contemplating how far I wanted to go with teasing him. Eventually. I decided to just ease into it, and slid off his lap, then off the bed. “All right, you hairy viking, off my bed. It’s time for a shower. Oh, and I need you to help me get out of this dress,” I added as I started unlacing the bodice I was wearing. “I swear, the more I asked for something simple, the fancier the dresses they brought me. I had to threaten to throw them down to the beach before they’d stop trying to dress me like a princess.”

“I would have done the same thing,” Stefan replied as he got up and helped me lift the heavy fabric over my head, which I then tossed onto a nearby chair. “Except you’re much more of a queen, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Heh, what does that make you then, king of the vikings? You really let them dress you up like one before they sent you home,” I commented as I started unbuttoning the pine-green vest he was wearing.

“You don’t seem to mind,” he said with a grin as he watched me. “It seems like I’m a present that you get to unwrap.”

My blush deepened, and I pulled the vest down his arms and tossed it over with my dress. “So my birthday present is a tall man with long golden hair?”

“….One of them,” he admitted after a moment of thought. “But I got you something even better that I’ll give you after dinner.”

I gave him a dubious look. “Better than you? So… dragon eggs?”

“Almost that good,” he teased back, now unbuttoning his shirt.

We’d taken off our shoes long ago, and since there wasn’t much left for us to remove, I grabbed his hand and escorted him across the hall to the bathroom. He laughed and went along with me. I turned the shower to hot and went back to helping him with his buttons. Once his chest was bared, I laid my face on it, breathing in his scent and nuzzling the soft golden hairs. He took good care of himself, so even though he worked hard, he was easy to cuddle instead of scratchy or rough.

“Wow, you’ve been wanting to do that for a while now, haven’t you?” he chuckled, though he didn’t hesitate in wrapping his arms around me and caressing the back of my head.

I nodded, still nuzzled against his strong chest. Even though I usually insisted that I could handle myself, I loved how safe I felt in his arms; it was more about knowing that he was devoted to me than anything else. He was very warm, too. He coughed again, and I straightened up.

“Okay, shirt off, Stefan,” I said, hoping I sounded determined rather than commanding.

I went into the cabinet and pulled out a jar of menthol vapor bath crystals with camphor and eucalyptus oil. They worked just as well on the shower floor, as long as they weren’t placed so close to the drain that they flowed away too soon. The vapors would work with the steam to help soothe Stefan’s throat and chest.

Once I had a couple scoops of crystals down, I turned around to see him standing there watching me. “Pants too, silly,” I said with a laugh.

“Oh really?” he teased. “But then I’ll be naked and you’ll see–”

“Yes!” I practically cheered. Then I started helping him with the laces on his pants. “Everything off. If you’re good, maybe I’ll scrub your back, too.”

“Wait…. You stripped me naked last night, didn’t you?”

“You didn’t remember that until now?” I looked up at him, uncertain whether to keep joking around or be worried.

“I’m not usually focused on modesty during a near-death experience,” he replied, keeping his tone light. “I’m sorry that had to be the way it went.”

“The important thing is that you’re safe now,” I said as I finished with the strings. I decided not to remind him of the few times we’d accidentally walked in on each other over our years of being friends; those had only been the briefest of glances, anyway. “All right, off with your pants! I declared, using the same tone a certain queen would when she yelled, ‘off with his head!’

The tan leather pants he’d been given back at Lord Thorne’s castle were not terribly tight, but they weren’t loose either, so they didn’t fall down on their own. I pushed them down to his ankles and stood back up to see him both grinning and blushing.

“It’s okay,” I assured him, knowing he was only tense because it was our first time doing this; he was usually very confident. “You look great.”

My hands grazed over his belly, up his chest, all the way to his shoulders. I wrapped them around his neck and pulled him in for another kiss. his hands went around me, too, timidly at first, and then I could feel him grabbing fistfuls of the soft cotton of my chemise. He pulled up on the fabric slowly, bunching more and more of it into his fists, as though uncertain whether he should be working on taking it off or let me do it.

“Don’t start being shy now that we’ve told each other how we feel,” I urged him, keeping my tone light and gentle. “It’s okay; I want you to undress me.”

“Do you have anything on under this?” he asked, his voice betraying his nervousness.

‘Says the man standing naked before me except for his bracelets and necklace,’ I told myself. And yeah, it was perfectly clear to me how excited he was about all of this. “You’ll find out soon enough,” I replied, as though daring him to take it off.

“Leila, by the gods!” He looked away, his face even redder now.

I giggled and kissed his cheek, understanding what he was what he was probably so nervous about. “Stefan, do you think you’re going to blow your top when she see me? It’ll be fine. Besides, I don’t mind if you get my clothes a little dirty, or get it on me.”

“Oh wow–“

As I went back to kissing him, I laid my hands over his and guided them up, lifting my chemise and revealing that the only other thing I had on was what passed for underpants in Tierney Ríocht. He was shaking as he pulled the cloth up over my head and tossed it aside, and I took his hand and laid it on my chest.

“It’s okay,” I whispered. “Just remember how much I much I love you.”

“Y-yeah,” he gasped, cupping my breast as though in awq of it. I knew he’d seen and touched plenty of others before, but somehow mine seemed special to him. His other arm wrapped around the small of my back. “Ummm… it must be a lot, putting up with me acting the way I’ve been, and you still let me do this.”

“A very, very lot,” I confirmed, moving a little closer to him, my hands around his waist, massaging his hips. “I don’t mind that you’re nervous, Stefan, and I don’t mind if you need to release a little pressure early on.”

“O-oh… okay, yeah,” he said, still sounding as though he was close to fainting. “Oh gods, it’s probably going to– there’s a lot of pressure built up.”

“Then let’s get in the shower and help take care of that,” I said, urging him gently in that direction.

“Leila,” he gasped. “Leila, I–”

But it was time for a shower, and there was no turning back from that.

About Legends of Lorata

Eleanor Willow is the author of the high fantasy series Legends of Lorata, which takes place on a medieval-style world filled with elves, dragons, and faeries. There is also a fourth race, one that is rare and magical: the angelic Starr. Lorata is a distant planet watched over by four deities: good, evil, elemental, and celestial-- and there are plenty of legends about them all! One of the most important ones is the prophecy of Jenh's champion, Loracaz, who is promised to return to the realm whenever evil threatens to take hold. There are currently three books completed, and the first one can be read online. Book four is currently being written, and a fifth will most likely be in the future.
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