Walking on the beach, she wasn’t alone. Her two guards were with her, as usual. She felt that she needed to get out, away from that husband of hers. Her slaves were, as usual, incompetent and that led to her being upset. So she walked on the beach, gown held gingerly in her hands, eyes watching the waves of the water. Beautiful, crashing against the shore. How she would love to watch her husband and several of those incompetent slaves wash away in that water.
A giant wave crashed onto the shore, leaving behind a man. Wearing a pure black outfit with some kind of sack on his back, he lay, face-down, absolutely prone. His wild, soaked black hair stuck up in every other direction. He didn’t move.
She gestured toward him. “Go get that man. Find out who he is.”
One of the two guards rushed forward, kneeling by him. He grasped the man’s shoulder, turning him over. “Who are you?” the guard asked in a soft voice. He shook him by the hard, strong shoulder.
The man’s eyes fluttered, giving a vision of black, black eyes, and he muttered, “Emperor-Sama.” He fell silent, but the guard could see his chest rising and falling.
“He’s alive. He said he’s an Emperor.”
“Emperor of what? I don’t know him. I would certainly know any man of my lands.”
“He said the words ‘Emperor-sama.’ I don’t know what that means.”
“He must be the Emperor of a faraway land. We must be sure that he gets well immediately! Let’s get him back to the palace and I’ll have one of my slaves set to making him well again.” She snapped her fingers. “Now! Both of you! We have to be sure he recovers!”
The guards hastily lifted the man and the Queen quickly noticed his height in comparison to her guards. He was much taller than they, with a lean build. He certainly had the build of a king. With a small smile, the Queen turned away from him. When he recovered, she expected a great debt to be repaid to her lands.
He felt hands pressing to his shoulders, bare shoulders, at that. Who would have the gall to touch a warrior’s bared shoulders? Small hands, he felt. He was having problems opening his eyes. The hands moved away from his shoulders, pulled something over his body. A blanket? His eyes opened slowly.
White clouds hung at the edge of his vision, but he immediately locked his eyes onto the woman placing the blanket on his body. Golden hair sparkled in candlelight, pulled into an unkempt bun, strands escaping here and there. High cheekbones, pale white skin, large, upturned pale blue eyes. A small, upturned nose sat above full, red lips, lower lip fuller than the upper, giving her a perpetual pout. Wow, she was beautiful. Angelically beautiful. An Angel leant over him, taking up his entire vision.
He reached up, touching her hand, asking her what name she called herself by. “Anata no nomae wa nan desu ka?”
She remained silent. Perhaps she hadn’t understood him?
He touched his shoulder. “Watashi no nomae wa Samurakami, Takeshi nan desu. Anata wa?”
She said nothing, merely turning away.
Reaching out, he grasped her hand. “Douza. Anata wa. Douza.”
Her blue eyes were staring, widened, at the hand that held hers. She pulled her hand away from his seconds before the door opened. She backed away from the bed as a slightly taller woman with golden brown hair and bright, wide blue eyes approached. Her blue gown gleamed, skirts swishing around her legs, she strode into the room with her head held high. Lips pale pink, skin pale golden, she seemed to be extremely confident of herself. She spoke, voice a high, clear soprano, but he didn’t understand her. Tilting her head to the side, she stared at the man in the bed, repeating her words once again.
Ignoring her, he turned to the girl, the woman who must surely have been sent from Buddha himself. “Douza. Anata no nomae wa nan desu ka?”
The woman turned to the girl as well, then said something in a sharp, angry voice, raising her hand.
He reached up, caught her wrist. “Iie,” he said, shaking his head. “Iie.”
Confusion filled her eyes and she spoke again in a lilting, questioning voice. Her eyes turned to his hand on her wrist.
He let her go slowly. “Watashi no nomae wa Samurakami, Takeshi nan desu. Anata no nomae wa nan desu ka?” From the look in her eyes, he saw she didn’t understand him. What was wrong with these people? He touched his shoulder. “Samurakami, Takeshi.” He touched her shoulder. “Anata wa?”
Understanding lit her eyes. “Queen Anastasia Romanoff.”
He pointed to the girl. “Anata wa?”
Queen Anastasia Romanoff answered. “Slave.”
Holding his hand out toward her, he smiled. “Slave.”
The first woman knocked his hand away, shaking her head, said something. Why did she have such a problem with him shaking Slave’s hand? Where was he, anyway? He asked the woman that question, but she merely tilted her head at him. They didn’t speak Nihon-Go here. He must have drifted a far way from his kingdom.
She turned to the blonde woman, said something in a sharp voice that made the woman scurry from the room. A few minutes passed before the woman came back in, carrying a long, golden tray with a golden, elegant plate, a matching teacup, golden silverware and food set on the plate. She carried the tray to the bed, handing it to him, bowing and backing away.
He looked at the strange golden objects on the tray, picked up the one with four prongs. What the hell was that thing? Where were the chopsticks? Didn’t they use chopsticks here?
Queen Anastasia Romanoff snapped at the woman again that made the woman surge forward, taking the object from him. She stabbed the object through a piece of food, taking the object that looked like a dull knife from him to cut it, then raised the object to his mouth.
He took the object from him, understanding what he needed to do with it, and ate the contents on the plate. Several times, he dropped whatever he was trying to put into his mouth, but he managed to finish the food. Then he drank the contents of the cup. The taste of it was thick, strange. He wasn’t sure he liked it. Pushing the tray further down his lap, he looked down at himself. Nude from the waist up, from what he could see. His scars stood out on his muscular, lean chest, abdominal muscles bunching. “Arigatou gozaimasu,” he murmured, bowing his head in thanks.
Queen Anastasia Romanoff said something to Slave and Slave turned and ran from the room.
Over the next few weeks, he saw a lot of Slave and Queen Anastasia Romanoff. Queen Anastasia Romanoff visited him, sometimes sitting with him for hours. Slave would see to his every need, but she never spoke, no matter how much he pestered her. She was absolutely beautiful, growing more so by the day to him. That golden hair gleamed in any light and she was just so beautiful, he couldn’t stop staring at her whenever she was near. He couldn’t escape the feeling that was encompassing him. The feeling that she had been sent to him.
Within a few weeks, he was able to speak their language. He soon found out that “Slave” was not her name. It was the station she served; slave. She was the slave to the Queen and King, who, as he figured out, were the equivalent to the Emperor and Empress of Nihon. For some reason, the Queen and King thought he was the Emperor, the leader, of his land. He wasn’t, but no matter how he tried to convince them otherwise, they wouldn’t listen to him. He was merely a warrior appointed to protect the Emperor and his land.
Once he had mastered the language, the Queen escorted him around the palace, showing him everything. Approaching the kitchen, he heard voices inside. One, a low alto voice that enthralled his senses and made him long to see the face of the woman speaking, and another was a much older voice. He couldn’t decipher what they were saying. Not because he couldn’t understand them; he just couldn’t hear them well enough to understand.
The Queen led him into the kitchen. The moment she was inside the kitchen, the talking stopped. “You are not here to sit around and chat! Where is our lunch? Get to work on it or I shall have you drawn and quartered!”
“That shan’t necessary,” Takeshi told the Queen. “They are working.” The woman, the golden-haired woman, had been the one of the ones who were speaking. The older, gray-haired woman had been the other one speaking. “I thought she was unable to speak.”
The Queen looked at him, then the smaller woman. “Did she tell you she couldn’t talk? If she did, that’s a lie and she’s not allowed to talk in the presence of those higher than she.” She glared at the woman. “I shall have your tongue cut out for that!”
“She has not spoken to me at all. That was the reason I thought she was mute.” He smiled at the golden-haired woman. “I see that you are capable of speech. Might you tell me your name? I would like to know what to call you by.”
“Just call her slave.” The Queen grabbed his arm. “Now come. We have places to go.”
Earlier that morning, he had demanded for his warrior’s garb to be returned to him. By the time he had returned to his room, it was lying on his bed. Late at night, he pulled it on, pulling his mask over his head. Only his eyes were visible. As he had been trained to do, he climbed out the window of his room, down the wall of the stone palace. Once his feet were flat on the ground, he stuck to the shadows, maneuvering his way to the slaves’ quarters. The laundry room, where the slaves were required to wash their clothes and their bodies, would most likely be where the slave woman was.
That woman . . . he had to know her name. She had to have one, so he had to know it. If he didn’t figure it out, he felt like he would burst. The small, rundown thatch cottage came into sight. He could hear the splashing of water, soft padding of footsteps. Glancing each way, he slipped through the door. In a single sweeping glance of the room, he took in all possible exits; the one he’d come in through and the small hole at the top of the far wall. Then his eyes locked onto the woman with her back to him, bent over a large bucket of water as she washed some kind of cloth.
He crept silently to her, recognizing that golden hair. Instead of being up in that incessant bun, it spilled down her back in a brilliant curtain of shimmering gold, reaching her knees. Reaching out, he started to place his hand on her shoulder.
She turned. Eyes locking onto him, she stiffened, eyes widening. Her breath came in a quick, short gasp as she stared up at him. Those red lips parted and she started to back away, almost falling into the water.
His arm enveloped her waist, keeping her up, and once she was steady on her feet, he backed away, pulling the hood off. “It’s okay. It’s I. Takeshi.”
Her eyes widened more and she bowed low.
He shook his head, kneeling to meet her eyes. “What are you doing? I don’t want you to bow to me.” His fingers skimmed her cheek. “You are beautiful. Would you please tell me your name? Watashi no nomae wa Samurakami, Takeshi nan desu. It means, ‘I am Samurakami, Takeshi.’ Anata no nomae wa nan desu ka. That means, ‘What is your name?’ It’s my native language.”
Those blue eyes were huge as they met his. “My name? I-it’s Syeira.”
The corners of his lips tipped upward. “That’s a name worthy of your beauty.”
The pale skin of her cheeks was reddening. “T-thanks.”
“Syeira . . . such a beautiful name.” The tip of his index finger skimmed her lips. “Where I came from, nobody looks like you. Until I saw you, I didn’t know people could have golden hair.” He stood, pulling her to stand straight. “I thought, when I saw you, that an Angel was leaning over me.”
“Milord, you should not speak like that.”
He shook his head. “I am not the Emperor-Sama! I have been trying to say that for weeks now. I am Emperor-Sama’s warrior. Nothing more, nothing less. I have served as Emperor-Sama’s right-hand guard since I turned ten and three. Your Queen wants to believe I am Emperor-Sama for some reason I cannot fathom, but I am not him! I am a warrior, not a Lord. I am the leader of my squad, but not the leader of my nation. Please do not call me ‘Milord.’ I am neither your lord, nor anyone else’s lord.” Well, with the exception of Kaori-San. “So, if you would, call me Takeshi-San.”
He nodded. “Hai. Takeshi-San. You are Syeira-San.” He took her hand into his, smiling at the size difference. Her hand was so much smaller than his. Raising her hand to his lips, he kissed each knuckle. “You have such small hands.” His black eyes met her blue ones. “So . . . Syeira-San, are you married?”
She shook her head. “No. I’m unallowed to marry anyone.”
He tilted his head to the side. “Naze desu ka. I mean, why?”
“The King wants to use me as his bedwarmer when his bedwarmer dies, so I must be untouched until Sylvia dies in three weeks.”
“Why will she die in three weeks?”
“She’ll be fourty. He doesn’t like his bedwarmers to be old.”
“How old are you?”
He smiled. “So am I.” His eyes flicked to the side when he heard footsteps. “I was never here.” With one quick leap, he vanished through the hole in the top of the wall. Crouching low against the wall, he heard the voice of the Queen, demanding to know if he had been inside. Why was she looking for him? How had she known he was gone? After a moment, he took off running, sticking to the shadows, and, glancing around quickly, he scaled the wall and pulled himself into his window, sighing. “Gotta get changed. Fast.” He pulled his warrior’s garb off, changing into the dressing gown he had been given and got into bed, closing his eyes as the door opened.
That woman, the Queen . . . something about her just felt off. . . . He just could not force himself to like her. Perhaps it was in the way she seemed intent to force him to be Emperor-Sama. She could not seem to get her to comprehend that he was nothing more than a warrior. Why was she unable to accept the truth?
The morning came slowly and with it came the sound of someone knocking on the door to his room. His eyes opened slowly. He let out a sigh. “Hai? Come in.”
The Queen strolled through the door, wearing a beautiful golden dressing gown. She had a wide smile on her face. “Good morn, Lord Takeshi. How was your deep slumber last night?”
“Fine,” he said softly, not liking the look on her face. “What is it you desire?”
The smile on her face told him he would not like what she wanted. “It is interesting that you used the word ‘desire.’ Do you like being here, My Lord?”
He hesitated. “It has been very nice, yes.”
“In three weeks, my husband will be executing his current bedwarmer and I shall have to choose either a new bedwarmer or a mister. I would much prefer to find a mister. They are easier to keep happy and they have longer life spans.”
“A mister . . . ?”
She nodded. “Yes. You know. Someone like a bedwarmer, but with much more rights.”
“Someone to entertain you in bed.”
“Exactly.” She smiled. “So, were you married at home?”
“Yes. My wife’s name is Samurakami, Kaori. We have been married for five years now.”
“You mean, you were married. As long as you are here, you are not married. Did you have children?”
“Not that I know of. I am rarely home. I usually am off fighting.”
Another smile. “A King who fights alongside his people. Noble, but stupid.”
Wait. Did she say, he was married? “Just because I am here does not mean I am not married.”
“Let us say that as long as you are here, your wife no longer exists to you. Forget about her. Now, forget about that. If you know what is good for you, you will accept my proposition.”
He really was not liking her. “What proposition?”
“You will become my new mister.”
“Why do you and your husband not have sex with each other?”
“That matters little. Will you accept my proposition?”
He had a bad, bad feeling about this. “Give me a few days to think about it.” With that, the conversation ended and she left. Getting up, mind reeling, he retrieved a piece of parchment, a quill and ink, writing quickly. “Meet me in the forest tonight, when the moon is high in the sky, Syeira-San.” At breakfast, he strode to the kitchen, listened to her speaking to the cook for just a moment, and went inside. “Ohayo gozaimasu, Syeira-San. Ogenki desu ka?” He smiled at the look on her face. “Good morning. How are you? Did you sleep well?”
Her face flushed. “W-what are you doing in here?”
He held the folded piece of parchment out to her. “Take it.”
She took it, eyes wide.
A small smile on his face, he turned away from her and left. Once the moon was high in the sky, he was waiting in the forest. He waited for hours, but she didn’t show up. Annoyed, but not quite surprised, he made his way back to the palace. Garbed in his pure black warrior’s attire, he slipped into the slave’s quarters. She was, once again, in the laundry room. “You did not come,” he said, pulling the mask off.
Stiffening, she whirled. “M-milord!”
“I am not your lord. My name is Takeshi.” He stood by her side. “Syeira, why did you not come?”
“I-I have work to do! I cannot just go off in the middle of the night.”
She was so obedient, he noticed. He’d have to break her of that. “You do not need to always do as you are told.”
“Y-yes, I do!”
He stepped closer to her. “Then kiss me.”
Her wide, pale blue eyes met his. There was a flush across her pale cheeks. She looked down, away. “I-I cannot do that!”
“Then you do not always do as you are told, do you?”
“I have to stay pure for the King.”
That struck a chord within him. In three weeks, this beautiful woman would be in another man’s bed. She would be forever out of his reach. “Do you want to be with the King?”
“The life of a bedwarmer is softer and more cozy than that of a slave.” She looked down at the floor. “But . . . I think I would prefer being a slave to being a bedwarmer.”
He grasped her hands in his. “Then come with me.”
Her widened eyes met his. “W-what?”
“We will sail the world together. I am certain there are other lands, lands that would let us be free.” He pulled her closer to him. “I have had several years of experience sailing and after my last voyage, I know I am capable of getting us someplace safe.”
“Why not sail back to your homeland, Milord?
“Takeshi, call me Takeshi. And because,” he bowed his head, “I am married to a woman that I do not love, nor have I ever loved her. Emperor-Sama gave me his own daughter as thanks for defending his lands so well. I could not turn down his daughter. To do so would be death. So I married her and I was a husband to her when I was home.” His eyes met hers when he raised his head. “But after meeting you, I have realized that I do not wish to be married to her. The reason I have taken on mission after mission may very well be because of my inability to remain married to her. I do not love her. Seeing you, seeing your beauty and hearing your voice, I have come to realize that you have been sent by Buddha himself for me.”
“What you call ‘God.’ Buddha is my God. The moment I caught sight of you, I knew that Buddha had sent you to me or, better yet, sent me to you. He knows best. Since I saw you, I cannot get you out of my mind, no matter how hard I try. Syeira, dear, beautiful Syeira, you and I were made for one another. I cannot escape that feeling.”
Her blue eyes stared, wide, up at him. “Milord,” the look on his face made her say, “I mean, Takeshi-San, how can you know something after such a short time? We have not known each other long. We barely know anything about one another.”
“Okay. So tell me about you. What do you love to do?”
“Well . . . I love to daydream. I love animals, so I love to feed and play with them. I like to cook and am skilled in that trade.”
“What is your favorite color?”
She smiled dreamily. “Silver. Silver has always been my favorite color. It is such a beautiful color. Like the stars, you see. The color silver reminds me of stars and I love stars.”
He smiled. “As do I. I love the moon and the stars. What else?”
“The wind. I love the wind.”
“I, also, love the wind. I have a penchant for fire.”
She smiled. “Me too. I like fire.”
“I want to know everything about you, Syeira-San. I want to know your dreams, your thoughts, your loves and your hates. I want to know everything about you, right down to every scar, every mark on your body.”
Those words made her blush. “Takeshi-San, I cannot allow that kind of talk or actions. I must remain pure for the King.”
He shook his head. “Syeira, I will never allow another man to take you to his bed. No, no man shall ever lay his hand upon the skin I know to be satin soft.” His fingertips grazed her cheeks. “Syeira, beautiful Syeira, I and only I will have you.”
Her eyes trembled. “You hardly know me, Milord.”
“I know you just as well as I know the night sky. Maybe I do not know a lot about you, but I will discover something new every minute of every hour of every day. That is a promise I make you.”
“You do not know if you will come to regret that promise.”
Closing his fingers around her thin, delicate wrist, he brought her hand up to place his hand against hers. “Tell me, Syeira-Kun, do you not feel the connection? Do you not feel what I feel, that we were sent to be together?”
She felt that connection, that web that seemed to encase them both. She felt something binding them together as surely as she felt her heartbeat. It was there, whatever it was, and it was strong, but that did not mean that it would not fade. “I feel it, yes, Milord, but what does that matter? We can never be together. I am bound to the King and you are bound to your wife.”
He shook his head, black hair scattering across his face. “Iie,” he rasped harshly. “No. I will not let the King, nor the woman Emperor-Sama bound to me, keep us apart. I will not let anyone stand between us being together.”
“Takeshi-San, you do not understand.”
“Oh, but I do! I understand better than you think I do. That does not mean I will back down. I will never meekly do as I am told to do. I will fight for the both of us, if need be.”
She shook her head. “Takeshi-San-”
His lips found hers. Gentle, tender was the kiss. A kiss that would give her something to think about. He drew away. “Beautiful Syeira. I will have you as mine.” With that, he turned and carefully made his way back to his room. That night was spent in tossing and turning for both of them. The morning came and, once again, the Queen visited his room. This time, she came demanding an answer. She became irate when he turned her down and sentenced him to a life of slavery until he decided to accept her offer.
Normally, something like that would make him fight back viciously, but, knowing it would give him ample time to spend with Syeira, he feigned meekness and did as he was told. Night came and, once again, he met Syeira in the laundry room. This time he did not need the warrior’s garb. Instead, he wore the simple, plain white breeches and tunic the slaves did. Standing in the doorway, watching Syeira washing clothes, he could not help but admire her in the loose-fitting, drab, dirty white slave’s gown. Even adorned in something so plain, so simple and drab, she was beautiful.
“I suppose, milord, you have come again,” she said softly, straightening and turning. Her eyes went wide. “Milord, what is that you are wearing?”
“The Queen told me to become her Mister. I refused and she has sentenced me to a life of slavery until I decide to become her Mister.” He crossed the floor to her. “Syeira, this gives me more freedom to do as I please. I know I can escape and I want you to come with me. Please, my dear, beautiful Syeira. Come with me. I am leaving as soon as the high tide goes out. I want you with me. Please, Syeira. I cannot live without you.”
Meeting his black eyes, she felt hope rising in her. “Where would we go?”
“Anywhere, my love. Anywhere. The world is ours to explore. We will have freedom beyond our greatest hopes. I will take care of you.”
“I-I wouldn’t have to become the King’s bedwarmer.”
He shook his head. “No, you would not be anyone’s bedwarmer. You would go as my wife. Will you?”
Her eyes widened. “Y-your wife?” A red blush covered her cheeks. She looked down, away. “You are . . . asking me to marry you?”
He nodded. “Yes, I want you to be mine. I want to take you into my arms as my woman, as my love for eternity. You do not have to say yes, Syeira, but I would love it if you would. I will not force you to marry me.”
She smiled, looked up at him. “Takeshi-Sam, I accept.”
His black eyes widened. He smiled softly. “You will become my bride?”
She nodded excitedly. “Yes! Yes, I would love to!”
He took her into his arms, holding her tightly. “Oh, Syeira, once we find a home, I will see to it that you have everything your heart desires.”
Face against his chest, she could not refrain herself from smiling. “Syeira Samurakami. I like the sound of that.” She pushed him away. “When shall we marry?”
He smiled down at her. “My love, we shall marry right now. In the moon’s eyes, we shall become husband and wife for all of eternity.” He grasped her small hand and pulled her through the shadows, out of the palace grounds and to the forest, stopping in a place the moon’s light shone down at them and the stars blinked and watched their every move. “Right here, Syeira. We shall be wed right here, right now. Become man and wife with all the stars and the moon watching us. Their light will bless our union.” He brought her hand to his lips. “Dearest Syeira, will you become my woman for now and all of eternity, as long as our souls live on?”
She nodded, excitement building in her. “Takeshi-San, I shall become your woman, your wife, your love for as long as our souls exist.”
He knelt, looking for anything sharp. Espying a particularly sharp rock, he grabbed it, stood and sliced open both of his palms, handing her the stone.
She used the stone to spill her own blood into her palms. When he took her hands into his own, she winced at the feel of her open wound against his, but she reveled in the feel of his blood mingling with her own.
“Syeira, my love, now we are marked together. Our blood spills onto the ground, this sacred ground, mingling as we become husband and wife. I say these words before the stars, before the moon, before the very wind rushing against our skins; Syeira, no matter what happens to us, I shall be yours and you shall be mine. We will be with each other, no matter who fights that union, and we shall always find each other if ever we are separated. You are my love, my soul, and now a part of my soul will linger with you, wherever you go, and you shall always have my heart and I shall always protect you.”
“Takeshi, my love, I feel you becoming a part of me. I feel your soul within and around me. I say these words before the stars, before the moon, before the very wind rushing against our skins; Takeshi, now my soul will become part of you and I shall forevermore remain your woman and your love. As long as our souls survive us, as long as the stars shine in the sky, you and I will be together. We shall always find our way back to one another. I will be yours and only yours. You will be mine and only mine. You are my love, my soul and now a part of my soul will linger with you, wherever you go, and you shall always have my heart.”
He bent toward her, lips finding hers, hands still clasped around hers. Their wounds pressed together, blood mingling within their veins now. His lips moved against hers urgently. His hand moved down her body, pulling her close to his body. He drew back, eyes moving down to her decollete. A darkness filled his eyes that had nothing to do with color. “Syeira, I love you dearly, even for as short a time as we have known one another.”
She blushed as she met his eyes. “Takeshi, I love you, even though we have known each other such a short time.”
His hands eased the dress down her shoulders. Kneeling, he slid the dress and his hands down her arms, then down her waist, her hips, her legs, kissing every inch of skin as he bared it. Only her legs were covered by a thin petticoat. “You are not even wearing a shift.”
“Shifts are for royals. Slaves wear only thin petticoats.”
Hands on her hips, he slid the petticoat down her legs, baring her from the waist down. His lips trailed up her legs, up her thighs, up her hips, all the way up her body until they touched her breasts, taking her already erect nipple into his mouth.
She grasped, legs quivering. “Oh, my.”
He played with the hardened nub with his tongue, lips and teeth. Gently at first, but with growing intensity, roughness.
Her knees wobbled. “W-wait.”
He drew back, looking up at her. “What is amiss?”
“M-my legs . . . are trembling too much. . . .”
Shock filled him for a moment, but then he laughed. “Sit, then.”
Gingerly, she sat on the ground. “G-good?”
He nodded, then pushed her backward to be on her back. “Best.” He smirked at her shyness. “Oh, Syeira,” he murmured, placing his lips around her nipple again. One hand smoothed down her body to push between her thighs. “Spread your legs, Syeira.”
Her voice was breathy when she asked, “How far?”
He laughed again. “Dear, innocent Syeira.” He pushed her legs apart far enough to slip his legs between hers. “Like that,” he murmured, sliding his hand up to her core.
Breath stolen as his finger delved within her, she shook her head, wordless sounds falling from her lips. That finger pushed her closer and closer to a shining edge. Those sounds that fell from her were soon swallowed by lips on hers. Hands burying in thick, soft black hair, she held his lips to hers, pulling lightly at his hair. Then as that finger pushed her over that shining edge, she tore her mouth from his, angled her face away from his and screamed.
Seizing the opportunity, he bit down on the side of her throat.
She thrashed against his body, screamed his name to the night sky, until her body lay still beneath his. Pants racked her body. “W-what was th-that?”
“Climax,” he said softly. Quickly, he discarded his own clothing, throwing everything aside. The head of his shaft pressed to her opening. A moment passed and he smiled. “Time to begin.” He gently slid the head of himself into her.
Her body tensed, nails digging into the nape of his neck. Her abdomen tensed as pain washed over her. “Ah,” she gasped, voice strained.
His hands cupped her hips. “It’s painful, the first time, for a woman.” He was moving oh, so gently inside her. Sheathing himself in her warm, velvety body. “You are so soft, so warm, Syeira.” Millions of sensations were running through his body. “Syeira.”
Tilting her head back, she locked her eyes on his. “Takeshi.”
Lips so ridiculously feminine that they made him look silly quirked up at the corners an instant before intense pain filled her. “I just broke your maidenhead,” he murmured, black eyes so soft. “You are officially mine for life. . . .”
She touched her lips to his chest. “And throughout death. . . .”
Magick was woven around them that night. Magick that went far and beyond life and death, that went far beyond the scruples of mankind. Magick that had everything to do with love. Love wove in and out of them that night, over and over again. Love bound them together deeper than the vows they had spoken to bind each other together. Love bound them deeper and more permanently than any words could. Even for as short a time as they had known one another, they fit together perfectly.
In the morning, he slid glances at her that would make her blush several times, but only when nobody could see. He would trail his hand around her waist, touching her abdomen. Three days they spent in blissful secrecy, bodies melting together in the woods, voices echoing one another, before the Queen found out about their tryst.
She said nothing at first. Instead, she went to see four Witches to ascertain what she already knew. When they refused to do the deed she told them to do, she had them beheaded and searched for another Witch that would do as she ordered. That Witch gave her a spell that would do what she wished.
The Queen confronted Takeshi five nights after they had been bound together. “You and that slave, have you been together?” She waved her hand to silence him. “So let me guess, you have decided, ultimately, not to become my mister?”
“No. I will not become your mister.”
“Even if that costs you your life?”
He stiffened. “You would kill me if I refuse to become your mister?
“Then kill me. I refuse.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Ah, is that so? How about your dear, precious Syeira? That slave girl? Would you sacrifice her life so that you would not have to be my mister?”
“I will not allow her to be raped by your King,” he spat. “I would kill you both before I allow that to happen.”
“So . . . warrior, you have made your decision?” She snapped her fingers.
Two guards appeared. Between them, arms pulled behind her back in a painful position, stumbled Syeira. Her lips were bloody and bruised, one cheek swollen. That golden hair was dull as it swung around her face. “Ta-Takeshi.”
His entire body tensed. “Let her go, Anastasia.”
“Let her go . . . ? Oh, but my guards have taken such a liking to her.” As she spoke, one of the guards grasped Syeira’s breast.
He surged forward, but a guard he hadn’t noticed came up behind him. Pain shot through his skull before he could react and he felt his body hit the ground heavily. Darkness sucked at his consciousness. When he awoke, he found himself in a cold, dank, dark cell. His clothing was gone. He was nude as he lay on the cold, hard floor. Shaking his head, he stood. “Anastasia!” he roared. “Where is Syeira?! Where is she?! If you hurt her, I will kill you! Do you hear me!? I swear upon my very soul, upon everything I hold sacred, that if you hurt her, I shall kill you! Even if it takes a thousand lifetimes, I will rend you in twain if you mark one inch of her sacred body!”
Days passed as he dwelled in that cell, roaring at the top of his lungs whenever he became irate. Soggy pieces of stale bread were thrown at him for food. He ate it, however nasty it tasted, and the dirty water they gave to him was drank down. He rarely saw anyone but the one guard that came once a day to offer him nutrients. He made an oath with his own blood that he would kill Anastasia, no matter how long it took. His voice echoed off the walls, reverberating around the room as he screamed and roared that he would take his vengeance.
One day, several days later, when he was weak with hunger, the Queen appeared. She was a vision of loveliness in her golden gown, but she was not someone he wanted to see. She laughed at him as he strained through the bars, reaching for her. “Do you wish to see your dear Syeira?”
He glared at her. “Where is she? What have you done with her?”
“Do not worry. She is alive. None the worse for wear and tear, but she is alive. The King has had her for a few days, but I think it is time to end the punishment.”
His body tensed. “Y-you gave her . . . to the King. . . .”
“Does that make you angry, my little ingrate? To know that the one you love has now betrayed you?”
His black eyes burnt. “She did not betray me. She was raped.”
“Does it make you happy, then, to know that the whole time, she was screaming for you? Does that make you feel good?”
Breath catching, he couldn’t move for an instant. She was . . . screaming . . . for me . . . and I was here . . . useless to her! He roared his anger, his agony, to the walls, to the ceiling. “Never again! Never again, do you hear me?! I will not let you hurt her!”
“It is too late for that. Do you wish to see her? If you come quietly, I will take you to her. My guards,” she gestured to them, “will have to hold onto you, you see, for my security, but I will take you to her. Do you want that?”
“Yes,” he grated out.
She neared the bars. “If you want to see your dear Syeira and want to assure that she will never be harmed by me again, then I suggest you kiss me.”
Anger welled up inside him. “If I kiss you . . . then what?”
“Then I take you to Syeira . . . and I set you free.”
He reached through the bars, grasped her by the hair on the nape of her neck and yanked her to him, lips pressing to hers. His lips moved against hers angrily for a moment before he shoved her away. “Now take me to her!” The cell was opened and the guards grabbed his arms, yanking them behind his back. With the Queen leading the way, they left the palace grounds. It wasn’t until they reached the very place Takeshi and Syeira consummated their love, their marriage, that he saw Syeira.
She was being held by a large guard, completely nude. Her breasts trembled with every beat of her heart and her knees did not appear to be able to hold her much longer. Her arms were twisted behind her back.
Takeshi’s breath came sharply when he saw the dried blood lingering between her legs. “That ####### son-of-a-#####! He raped her! He ####### raped her! I am going to kill him!” He turned angry black eyes to the Queen. “Right in front of you. His blood will splatter your body before I kill you.”
She laughed. “We shall see about that.” In precisely the same place Syeira’s virginal blood had been spilt was a large hole, six or eight feet deep, four feet wide. Next to the hole was a big, stone box. “This was the holdup, you see. Getting this made. It took a very long time. Now that it has been made, however, we do not need to waste time.”
He had a bad, bad feeling. “You said you would set us free.”
“I did, did I not?”
“Then do it.” Blackness ate at his vision as pain burst through his skull. He wasn’t completely unconscious. He heard Syeira’s screaming, felt his body being dropped into the big, stone box. He heard and felt Syeira struggling beside him, but she wasn’t strong enough. It wasn’t until he could hear dirt hitting the closed lid of the box that he was able to regain full consciousness. His eyes opened. It was dark inside. He reached up, touching the cold, hard lid, and pushed, but it was too heavy. “Syeira,” he grunted, “push against the lid.” He heard her whimpering. “Syeira?” He reached out for her, could see just enough to touch her cheeks. “What is the matter, my love?” He found the problem seconds after. Her arms had been bound behind her back. There was enough room for her to turn over so he could wrestle with the thick rope around her wrists. Moments passed, but he was able to untie her wrists.
She turned to him, reached up to pull the gag from her mouth. “Takeshi, they are burying us alive. We shall never get out!”
He reached for the lid. “Push against it with me, Syeira.”
“It took all eight of them to lift that lid! How do you propose we shall lift it?”
She silenced for a moment. “Yes, Takeshi, I shall try.” She touched the lid, began pushing. After several tense, strained moments, she gave up. “We cannot open it! They have buried us alive and the combined weight of the dirt and the lid is too much for us to open.”
He could hear her crying. He turned to her, took her into his arms. “Dear Syeira, this . . . it’s all my fault. I am terribly sorry, my love. I should never have come here.”
“No, Takeshi, I am happy you came. . . . I am happy we got to be together, even for such a short time. I . . . I just . . . now we shall die, after only discovering that one another existed. We shall die.” Her lips pressed to his shoulder. “Takeshi, I do not want to die tasting the King on my lips. Please.”
In an instant, he knew what she was asking. “Syeira, there is limited oxygen in here. If we do that, we will not have much time to get out before we-”
“We are going to die, Takeshi! And I refuse to die tasting the King. I want to go with the taste of you on my lips and the memory of your body against mine. I beg of you, Takeshi-San. My husband, my man, my love. Please, let me die in happiness and not in misery.”
He nodded and pulled her body tight to his. “I . . . shall make you happy.” His lips found hers and their tongues mated, lips playing with one another, as he eased her onto her back. There was just enough room, just barely enough room for his body to cover hers. He made love to her gently, tenderly, all the while knowing it would be the last thing she would know. Sheathed deep inside her, he could only revel in the feel of her body tight around his as he tried to fight off the pain of never being able to see her body again.
Seconds after their joined climax, Samurakami, Syeira fell into a deep sleep. Not death, not yet, but nearing there, he felt.
He stayed away, pounding at the lid, pushing at it. He pounded at the cold, hard material, calling for help as loud as he could. Pounding so hard, his fists were bleeding; he couldn’t stop. If he did, they would die. He couldn’t let her die. Couldn’t. Had to fight, had to get free. He was a warrior! He would not die here! No way!
Oxygen was getting low. It was starting to get hard to breathe, but he didn’t stop pounding. His fists were bleeding. He could feel the blood dripping onto his face, could smell its scent permeating the small coffin. She had already stopped breathing, he knew, so he couldn’t stop trying to get out. If he could get her out, could get her air, then she might be okay, but he was running out of time. No! He would not let her die, not like this! No!
His hands hurt too much to continue to pound at the box. His fingers wouldn’t even twitch. Ignoring the pain in his hands, he pulled the lifeless girl into his arms, turning onto his side. He felt her cold lips against his shoulder, lamenting and yet thankful that it would be the last thing he would ever feel. As cold and lifeless as the girl’s body was, at least he could hold her in his arms.
They would die together. His eyes closed slowly and he let out his last breath. Never again would his chest rise and fall with another breath, but at least . . . he would die feeling her in his arms.
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