To read part 3.2 click here, or start from the beginning. Again, thanks to Luz for sending me a copy of this lost tome.My heart immediately sped up. Sure, Lomagnia was landlocked on Nitkistan's north side, and Calterra was a dinky set of islands on the east, but I'd have greater chances of making it back to Lomagnia that way than trying to wait out the war.
"But how would I get out of this place?" I asked. "Mr. White is really good at those security systems."
"The best," Samarra nodded over her fabric swatches. "But it will be relaxed when guests leave the party this weekend. You could get away then."
I had to sit down. "I can't believe it," I said. I could barely comprehend such an opportunity was being laid in my lap, and so soon after arriving. Why was I not more excited? I should have been turning handsprings, but instead I had a knot anxiety in my stomach.
"The girls will be back any minute, so I'll make this quick," the seamstress said urgently. "You'll have to get Mr. White out of the picture, then you can sneak down to the garage and hole up in Alfevi's trunk; I'll make sure he doesn't check it—"
"Wait, wait," I interrupted. "What do you mean by 'get Mr. White out of the picture?'"
Samarra crossed her arms and gave me one of those looks that only women have—the kind that make you feel like a complete idiot, but you don't know what you're missing. She raised her eyebrows at me, as if to say Well, you know, and I got it.
I shook my head. "I don't think I could do that to anyone."
"Do you want him to come looking for you?" she asked impatiently, tapping her foot.
I gave a genuine shudder at the thought. "No, I just think I could knock him out or something, then maybe—"
Samarra interrupted with an eloquent rolling of her eyes. "He'd still come after you, and he'd find you."
"You seem pretty convinced," I commented. I wasn't sure why I was bristling so much; I wasn't sure whether my manhood was being called into question just because I didn't want to murder Fen. Yet. Beating him senseless, that I could do. I thought.
The two girls scampered back into the room with a bolt of fabric, silencing whatever Samarra would have said in response. I was worried, or perhaps confused, or both. Why, indeed, was I so averse to the idea of sacrificing Fen for the sake of my freedom? There are no rules in war, no morals when survival is in question. I should have been willing to outright strangle the man in order to get away. Was something wrong with me, or right with me?
I wondered what Juniper would say. She became a soldier to prevent lives from being taken, not to kill a whole bunch of Nitkanis. In the eyes of most Lomagnians, they are a misguided people, not evil (save for the likes of Almus Tobergus). But on the other hand, if I didn't at least put Fen in a hospital for a few months, he probably would find me and drag me back by my ankles. But if I could get out of Nitkistan before Fen could find me...
"We'll send the suit around tomorrow," Riki was saying when I emerged from my internal debate.
"What? Oh, all right. Thank you."
At that moment Mr. Alfevi and Fen walked in the room. My hands immediately went to cover my crotch and my face went hot, as the two men looked me up and down. I needed to learn how to control that blushing reflex. Fen's expression betrayed nothing, but I blushed redder when the buzz picked up in my spine again.
"I don't understand why you don't have a costume party, Fenton," Alfevi drawled, winking at him. "You could slap a loincloth and some wings on him, you know, really show him to his best effect."
"Some other time, perhaps," Fen replied in a bored tone. "This weekend is more business than pleasure."
Alfevi laughed, as if Fen had told a great joke. "It always is with you, isn't it? At least my end of the business deal will be completed, so I'll be able to enjoy myself."
Fen shrugged. "Would you or the ladies like lunch before you go?" he offered, though his tone said he'd rather they leave.
"Oh, no, it's time I took them home," the designer responded. I half expected him to pat them on their heads. Instead he snapped. "Girls, out in one trip."
With that, Alfevi clasped hands with Fen and swept out of the room. Pompous oaf. Samarra and company had managed to fit all the things that they strewn about my room back into portable cases, and trundled out the door. Samarra shot me a look I read as "We'll talk later," and I gave a shallow nod. She seemed satisfied.
In the meantime I was still standing nearly nude in the middle of the room, and Fen was regarding me contemplatively. I shifted my weight from foot to foot, then remembered I had the freedom to put my clothes back on.
"So, lunch is ready?" I asked as I reached for my shirt. My voice cracked a little, like I was nervous. I wasn't nervous. Not me, no sir. Not at all. Fen was only staring at me like he was about to tackle me and fuck me senseless.
When he spoke I was afraid he could read my thoughts. "Lunch could wait," he suggested slowly (the logical part of my brain viciously rejected "seductively"). I put on my pants.
"But I'm hungry now," I argued, striding past him. Fen's arm snaked across my chest as I passed, his left hand coming around to pull me into him by my hip. His lips fastened under my ear, right in that soft spot behind my jaw, and I stilled. That's a nice spot, I thought absently.
Fen slipped his hand from my hip down into my pants, into my underwear, and stroked the cleft between my buttocks. My body tried to send alarms up to my brain, but the hum absorbed them before they reached their intended target. Fen was hard against my right thigh, and I almost reached down and touched him.
"You know," Fen murmured against my neck, "it would be so easy for me to throw you down right now, and do whatever I wanted to with you, whatever popped into my head."
My breath hitched. "But you promised." I sounded like a child begging his parents to give him dessert.
The hand on my ass withdrew. "I did promise, didn't I?" Fen asked wryly. With a final press of his tongue to my neck he lifted his head. "I suppose it is my own damning that I am a man of my word, no?"
I blinked at him a couple of times. When had my breathing become so erratic? I took a deep breath. When Fen's lips twitched at the corners I realized I had been staring at them. Talented suckers.
I cleared my throat and pulled away. "You know, I still don't like you," I informed him curtly.
Fen raised a brow. "I know you don't," he replied. "You want me, though. This," he ran his fingers up the erection that tented my pants, "can't lie to me."
I shivered but then knocked his hand away. "Asshole," I growled at him. Fen chuckled in his throat. "Is that a suggestion?" he taunted.
I glared at him and made a hasty exit to the kitchen, readjusting myself as I went downstairs in fear that Mrs. Cupps would see my hard-on.
The next couple of days passed without anything of note occurring. The suit arrived, and I did look damn good in it, though it was hell to get in and out of. I showed Gloria's grandchildren a few moves out on Fen's lawn and let them tackle me a lot, which did nothing for my healing bruises. I chatted with the security guys and helped Mrs. Cupps with some of the cooking, just because I was bored. Fen was holed up in his study, and I couldn't bring myself to knock on the door and admit ennui, because that would have indicated that I thought he could relieve it. He hadn't done anything to make me like him any more, but I realized I didn't hate him, either. Then party time came around.
I was nervous because I didn't want to see a bunch of slaves being hauled around. I was nervous because I would probably find out how many people knew my face, which was inversely proportionate to my likelihood of escape. I was nervous because Samarra would be there, and would force me to decide how much harm I was willing to inflict on another human in cold blood. I was most nervous because I would have to sleep with Fen, in his bed.
I was fussing with the zipper of my suit when Mrs. Cupps popped her head into my room. "Hey, love," she greeted me. "I just wanted to say bye for the weekend." She watched me contort myself to reach the zipper on my back, then came over to help me, laughing.
"It is not fair that the zipper begins where I cannot reach it," I whined jokingly.
Mrs. Cupps gave me a cheeky grin. "It's that way so that you have to ask your master to do it for you, honey. That way he or she gets to touch you a bit more," she said in a mock-suggestive tone.
I laughed, but it was more for her benefit than anything else. I was thinking about what would happen if I tried to get Fen to help me into my clothes. After folding the jacket down and picking off lint specks that I couldn't see, Gloria Cupps threw her arms around me. It was a sudden, heartfelt move, and my arms reflexively came around and squeezed her back.
"Oh, love, I'm so glad you're here," she said breathlessly against my chest.
I couldn't help it. I laughed. "I did not have much of a choice, you know," I reminded her.
Mrs. Cupps pulled back and looked up at me. "I know, sweetheart, and I am sorry for that. It just that, oh," she shook her head. "Mr. White had been so alone, and I know you don't like him that much, but he just seems so much more content when you're around."
Well, I thought. That certainly is awkward. I didn't know what to say.
Mrs. Cupps sighed, "I know it's selfish of me, and ironic that I always admired Mr. White for not having slaves, but I praised all twenty-three gods when he showed up with you draped in his arms, snoring like it was your job."
I raised a brow. "He carried me inside? Upstairs, all by himself?" He was even stronger than I had thought. It was oddly intimate that Fen had had is arms wrapped around me while I was unaware.
Mrs. Cupps smiled. "Mr. White didn't want to disturb you. He said you had been having a long day." Understatement of the century.
"Oh, I'm rambling," she said suddenly, giving me another squeeze then stepping back to brush more imaginary lint from my suit. "Well, have fun tonight, and don't drink anything those guests give you."
"Okay," I nodded.
"And don't take any wooden coins," Mrs. Cupps called as she sailed out the door, and flapped a hand at me.
I scratched my head. What did that even mean? They made wooden coins in Nitkistan?