“Here.” Reshnel pointed at a spot on the contract. “Sign here, and here; and you, Jervennon of Cecby, there, and there. It is done.” The Master of the Gladiators stood. “I will leave you two to get acquainted. Your next match is the day after next, Taslin. Sir, I will send a runner for your bank note.”
He left the room, leave Taslin and Jervennon sitting across a table from each other.
“That valet, really?” Jervennon barely waited for the door to be closed, but he waited that long. “I could send you one of my mother’s.”
“And when the year of my patronage ended, he’d leave me. Vinroth is part of the business here and he will work for me as well in private as he has in public.” She’d practiced that line. “Well, Dar Jervennon, I’m yours.” She fell to her knees in front of him. “What would you have of me?”
Taslin’s hands were behind her back, one hand holding the other’s wrist; her back was straight and her ass on her heels. She did break protocol enough, however, to look her new Patron in the face. And he was coloring hotly and not quite looking at her. “I have some ideas.”
A glance lower down gave a good impression of what those ideas were. “If you’re impatient, the pit keeps several rooms for just that purpose. We could requisition one, you know. Nobody would naysay you that.”
“Is that what you want?”
“Dar Jervennon, I wish to please you. You have just signed this expensive contact for my services, and I want to give you your money’s worth.”
“Don’t talk about it like that! I mean… I mean…” Jervennon’s hands flailed for a moment. Taslin watched, unsure what response would calm him, but in a moment, he seemed to calm himself. “Sar Taslin, it would please me if you would not talk about this like a transaction. I’m your Patron now; we are in a contract for mutual benefit, yes?”
She could work with that. “Yes, Dar Jervennon.”
Whatever Dar really meant, it seemed to soothe him so much more than anything else. His hands stilled in his lap.
“Then I’m asking you, do you want to go to bed with me?”
Taslin wondered, for a moment, if he knew there was only one right answer to his question. She was pretty sure that he didn’t. Well, that actually made giving the right answer easier.
“Of course, my… my Patron. I’ve been wondering when you’d ask that for a while now.”
“And these rooms they have reserved…?”
“I’ve never been in one, but I hear they’re laid out to make a man of your station happy so they should be good enough for this, wouldn’t you think?”
“You’re really quite striking when you smile, you know.”
“Thank you, Dar Jervennon. As are you.”
“Why… thank you. So, where are these rooms?”
“This way, I think.” She rose, and tilted her head in the right direction, hoping he’d take the cue. He hadn’t Patronized someone, before, but surely he’d grown up with some sort of staff?
It seemed that he knew a cue when it bit him in the ass. “Forward?” He stood up and headed in the proper direction.
“Out this door and to the left.” Taslin fell in behind him, just to his left, in the position of a bodyguard. In the annals of history, that was why rich oligarchs and their families had patronized Gladiators. To some degree, it was still true today. “And then the first door without a ribbon on it.”
“That’s very clever.” The third door was un-be-ribboned, and Jervennon opened it. “This is nice. Nicer than I expected in a place like this.”
She didn’t respond to the implied slight, because she was pretty sure he wasn’t aware of it. “It looks very nice,” she agreed instead. The bed was wide, the bedstead sturdy and made out of wood and twisted metal, the sheets fine linen, the lights covered gas lamps and not candles. It was luxurious to her eyes, although she didn’t know what it was to his. “It looks comfortable enough for…”
“Yes. Yes, it does.” Through his thin pants, it was once again clear that he was eager for this. “Taslin, come here and stand with your back to me, that I might undress you properly.”
An order, good. He needed to remember he was supposed to give those. And an order that she was becoming increasingly eager to obey. Taslin crossed the room and stood, her back to him, her arms loose at her side. “As you order, my Patron, so I do obey.”
“You make the words sound so dirty.” He purred it in her ear, making even that sound dirty. “So scandalous and sexual and lovely.”
“I always assumed they were meant to be sexual.” She took a risk, again, because his hands on her hips were making her twitch in interesting and entertaining ways, and leaned her head back until she could look up at his face. “The whole ritual, if you take it apart and listen to it, is all sex. ‘I kneel before you to service you…’”
“It doesn’t really say service, does it?”
“It says serve, but we always joked about it when we were reading the silly porns people made about it.”
“We read those, too.” His hands slid down to the hem of her tunic, and then back up to the buttons at the back. He was deft in unbuttoning her, even while his lips wandered over her ear and her cheek and her forehead. “I have a collection of them under my bed. I don’t know why I kept them. It was a little silly, I guess, but they were fun.”
“They are fun. I never kept any of them. We used them for fire fuel, a lot of the time, after we read them. When I was older, I actually bought a couple. I had to hide them from my mother, then, because that was a waste of mon…” She trailed off. “I’m sorry, m… master. You don’t want to hear that.”
“I want to hear everything about you, but now might not be the moment for everything.” He nibbled on her ear tip.
“Mmm. Yes, master.” Master felt warm and pleasant on her lips. Of course, his lips felt warm and pleasant on her ear, too. “What do you want to know about me right now?”
“I want to know what makes you moan with pleasure. I want to know what you’re like with your tongue and what you can do with your hands. I want to know what you feel like under me.”
“You’re a bit of a poet, aren’t you?” She arched a little further backwards, trying to get her lips onto his neck. Almost, almost…
“I have been, from time to time.” He leaned backwards, moving his neck just out of her reach. “And you?”
“I’m not the poetic sort. They don’t really teach it in the schools I went to.” She had one trick left up her sleeve – the sleeve that was on the floor over there. She tilt her head to the side and hooked her foot around his ankle.
“Not at all?” He seemed oblivious to her maneuver, or, rather, to its possible consequences. He used it to grind up against her, and moved from her ear-tip down to the side of her neck. “Not even the classics?”
“Well, that hardly counts, does it?” She did not want to throw her new Patron onto the floor. She wanted to move him, yes, but not throw him. She shifted her hip just so, and there was his neck tumbling into her mouth perfectly. “Classics are… mmm… classics.”
“Unh.” He caught a handful of her hair and held on. Taslin froze for a moment, but he didn’t seem intent on pulling her away from him. “You’re rather aggressive.”
She set her teeth into his neck, very gently, careful not to leave a mark. “Is that a bad thing, Master?” She moved from his neck to his earlobe in a series of small bites.
He cupped her breast, squeezed, and then squeezed again with every nibble. “No. No, at least, not yet. I like it.”
“Then I am glad to have pleased you.”
“So formal.” Somehow, a hand found its way between her thighs. “Are you always this formal with your lovers?”
“You’re my Master and my Patron, Dar Jervennon.” His ear tips curved differently than any she’d encountered before. She traced the lines with her tongue. “I believe you deserve a certain level of formality.”
“You make it sound like a punishment.” He took a step backwards, both hands still on her; she shifted with him and found her lips on his throat. “Are you punishing me, Taslin?” His voice vibrated against her lips; she kissed the vibrations and then bit them. “Unf. Careful.”
“Always careful. And no. I am not punishing you, my Master. That is not my place.”
“And is it my place to punish you?” His voice was still playful; she glanced at his face and saw he was smiling. The smile turned solemn when he saw her looking, however. “My apologies, Taslin. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean you were doing anything to be punished, just…” He pinched the curve of her breast. “That it might be fun to leave a few marks on your perfect skin.”
She set her teeth into his throat again, waiting until he moaned before she released the bite. “We negotiated that.” It wasn’t so much a reminder as an agreement.
“We did. You surprised me with that.” He dragged painted nails down her stomach, leaving thin red lines.
“I surprise you quite a bit, Master.” She writhed away from his hands and danced away from his grasping reach. “Would you like me to surprise you again?”
“I do think I’d like that, yes.” His grin was very anticipatory. Good. She wanted him to be sure he’d gotten his money’s worth out of his Gladiator.
“Good.” She moved before he could even make a guess at what she was going to do, sweeping one leg out from under him and pushing him onto his back on the bed. “Because I’m full of surprises, Master.”