I love him...I love him so much it hurts...
Sera could feel her chest contract as she forced down the urge to lean down and hug him.
They'd stopped by a river, their entourage, wanting to feed their horses for the last leg of their journey.
Bellamy was right in front of her, petting her horse affectionately. He liked horses, he'd told her. Spirit was an exceptional one, he'd informed.
She stood to his back and just watched him.
He was so close, so achingly close, and she wanting nothing more than to hold onto him and make sure he didn't leave her like he did that night.
To make sure this wasn't just some pleasant dream and she'd awake to find him holding the same distant, disgusted look he'd had in his eyes just before he'd left her to her tears.
Her heart was too happy right now, if this turned out to all just be her imagination she knew she'd never recover. She didn't want to be hated. She had enough of being aliented by people, she wouldn't be able to stand it if he did the same...
All this time he'd been so kind to her, so attentive. They'd talked for hours, and she told him all kinds of things about her life.
Even the embarrassing things she never told anyone.
Because it didn't matter what she said to him. He never made fun of her or pitied her, he'd only offer a story of his own and they'd both laugh at their own sillyness.
Those were the things she loved the most about him. That wonderful laugh, so clear and true and full of good humour, making her at ease telling him anything.
That and his smile which was so dazzling, so bright. She wanted him to always smile at her that way, to never let it dim at all. It was a smile that made her feel safe and happy just seeing it.
If he smiled at her every day, and laughed like that with her every day, she'd never complain about anything again.
If this was a dream she never wanted to wake from it. But if this was reality, then she was sure.
Sure of her feelings, and sure of his. She knew how he felt about her, she could feel it deep in her bones. She loved him, and he loved her, and nothing else needed to be understood.
Oh...She wanted to touch him so badly, needed to feel him...but she held back. She forced herself to hold back.
Now wasn't the time, not here, not with so many people around. No, they'd have time for that later, when they were by themselves, when they could just be with each other.
And this time it'll be different from the first, with a real bed. A soft bed they wouldn't leave until well into the next morning.
They'd dine on the finest food, and lick sweet wine off each other's bodies, and then...
She was so lost in her own thoughts that she didn't notice when he'd appeared in front of her.
"Sera." She loved the way he said her name, how it rolled off his tongue. "Are you alright? Your face is so red!"
An amused light danced in his eyes and she knew he understood exactly what was going on in her mind at the moment.
She hid her face, unable to look at him. "Oh, um, no, it's nothing...I'm just a bit hot, that's all..."
Unbearably so. He made her that way, somehow.
"Really?" The charming smile she cherished became decidedly roguishly.
"Y-yes...but I'm fine, I'm alright."
He stepped forward, grinning. "No, that's no good. You're clearly not well. If you ride again in that condition you'll fall right off!"
"Then...w-what should I do?" Sera asked, going an even deeper red because she knew what he had in mind.
And she was proven right. Because in the next moment he had Spirit rise from the ground. It was amazing, Spirit never listened to anyone but her, and even then he did so as if it was a polite request rather than a command.
"Get on and I'll show you."
Sera did as she was told and effortlessly climbed up onto the saddle.
A moment later and he appeared behind her, taking hold of the reins and trapping her between his arms.
Sera couldn't help it, she unconsciously leaned back, melting against his hard chest contentedly. She could feel every breath he took, every beat of his heart, and reveled in that spicy, masculine scent of his that she knew so well.
And she felt even hotter, like every part of her was on fire. It could only ever be because of him. He was like a drug, and Sera found herself an absolute addict.
Even under the stares of everyone around them she still felt her breathing grow more rapid and shallow in anticipation.
Despite people shooting them weird, curious glances, she couldn't stop the rising fire that threatened to overwhelm her sense of reason.
Happy, too happy, deliriously happy, that's what she was.
"Well, is this okay? Or do you want me to get off?" He whispered into her ear, like before, only this time the effect was much more devastating.
"No!" Sera grabbed hold of his arm. "No, please...don't leave me." She all but begged.
A low rumble signalled his laugh before it even went past his lips. "As my Lady commands."
Only after that did she calm down.
"M? Hey, M, you alright?"
Murphy tapped on the woman's shoulder.
"What? Oh...sorry...." She murmured distractedly.
Murphy looked across the to where she was staring. It wasn't hard to guess, everyone was looking in that direction.
"That Bell, I swear he must have been a legendary host in one of his past lives." Murphy shook his head in wonder. "Girl's putty in his hands" Apparently his charms worked on commoner and Noble alike. " The lucky bastard. Just hope Cece doesn't get stabby on us, cutting up a Noble isn't a good idea."
Murphy had long since believed the girl had a thing for the guy and everyone thought they'd get together eventually, even though he already had a woman at the time. They just fit together so well.
Although with that other girl popping up, that Melanie chick, things got more complicated. Murphy couldn't quite figure out exactly what the relationship between the three really was.
Didn't help that his sister was such a huge bro-con either.
Murphy found himself enjoying the past week. Watching them was damn entertaining.
"Look at the poor thing." Murphy said.. "Being tricked by a guy like Bell." Murphy understood the guy well, no way would he really take an interest in her to this extent after just a day or two of knowing her. He must have some kinda plan in mind.
Murphy bet he'd run the first chance he got. Nobles, it wasn't a good thing to be in their line of sight even on the best of days.
"I feel bad for her," He chuckled. "She's really quite--"
"Enviable..." Mira sighed softly.
Murphy's brow twitched. Hm?
"What was that again? M? M, you there?"
But it was useless. Mira, the mature beauty, was too focused on the two to hear him. Murphy looked at her with worry, taking in all the details.
The way she looked on with glazed over eyes that held unfathomable depth. Almost miserable, wronged, hinting at something dangerous.
Murphy wasn't sure he really recognized this expression of her's. He didn't think there was ever a time he'd seen it on the woman before.
She ate up the scene with every ounce of her attention, her lips pulling down into a grimace like it pained her to watch. Her brows scrunched together, angry, when she looked at the young Noble and how she was being treated.
Something was definitely wrong here. Murphy felt it down to his core. Wrong, something was so very wrong and it made his heart skip a beat.
His faced went a bit grim, turning to look around.
All of them. All the women of the group, they all had the same exact face Mira was making.
While the men looked on in wonder, curiosity and a hint of jealousy, the women just watched with what could only be called irrepressible longing.
What the fuck was happening?
What was this? Was he imagining it? No, that couldn't be.
Murphy walked up to Nyk and spoke low. "Hey, have you--?"
"Noticed? Yeah." Nyk stood up after refilling his canteen. He furrowed his brows, clearly at a loss as to what was going on. "Ever since he came back with that girl the other women have been acting up. I saw Val sneaking a glance at him once or twice too."
"Val?" Murphy asked incredulously. Val, their Val, that coarse woman...sneaking glances? A girlish action like that didn't suit the woman at all!
He nodded. "She didn't seem to know she was doing it either."
"Let's go see Jaime." There was something truly weird going on here and whatever it was creeped the shit outta him. Hopefully the boss man knew what drove the women of their little group to eye their little Bell like he were a sticky bun waiting to be nibbled on.
He nearly gagged, cursing himself. That was one disgusting image he'd just given himself, shit!
And so they walked to the front, going upstream until they found the tall, huge-as-fuck monstrosity that was Jaime's proud steed. As horse whose mother came from the Marakam desert and whose father was of the same breed as Fey's own the thing was as strong as they came. Made most warhorses look like children.
The man was washing his face with water, glancing at them out of the corner of his eye as he sensed their approach
"I know." Was all he said. After a moment, he stood and jerked his chin to the big man to the far right, who was busy chewing on some jerky. "Boris noticed it too."
"The hell you think is going on then?" Murphy couldn't contain the question. In contrast Nyk just quietly stared in wait for the answer.
Jaime made a difficult expression. "I don't know. I've only seen something like this once, and that was on a much smaller scale. An entirely different situation too."
"You've seen it? What do you mean? " Murphy asked.
"Yeah." Jaime had a thoughtful look as he slowly told his story. "A few years back, near the border of Drann kingdom. We'd rested for the night and some wild beasts had snuck up on us, caught us completely off guard. A pack of Ironbacks, at least two or three dozen. Not a problem usually but we were exhausted and had already set camp. We were split up and a few of our group members had reached this small village.
"Once I found the remaining survivors we tracked them down and found they had been taken care of by the residents of the village.
"It was only after I coincidentally noticed how dazed Boris looked in presence of the female villagers that the chieftain explained the origins of their village to me, that they weren't human. That they were actually descendants of a certain clan of succubi and incubi. If I hadn't felt the power of their bloodline myself I may not have believed it."
Jaime did not lie. He also felt the effects of just being near them. Like whispers in his ear. Like fire in his veins. Seeing their every movement as sensual and provocative. And until that moment he hadn't understood why he'd felt that way.
All he knew was that if he stayed there much longer he might not want to leave.
"The chieftain said that if their ancestors weren't originally kicked out of their clan for having defects in their bloodline then my men would have already been sucked of their vitality." A frightening thought."Luckily villagers didn't need that to survive like their kin did, else I don't think any of us would have made it out alive."
The young man continued to look at the scene in front of them. "And I have to say, this situation...looks eerily similar to that time..."
Murphy listened intently, realizing he'd heard something like this once before. It was from Boris when he'd been drunk off his balls, as wasted as he'd ever seen the man. Only that time and no other had he spoke about the events Jaime was telling them now.
It was not something he'd taken seriously back then but it was interesting enough for Murphy to try prodding the man to tell the tale to others a few times after that. Not a single once had the big man ever given in or even acknowledged the story was talked about at all.
Now he knew why. It must have been quite a surreal experience. Losing control of your mind, who would want to admit to something like that?
As for the race of lust demons themselves, Murphy knew from stories that, like Nobles, they carried a so-called Dominant trait. Although theirs was a tad weaker. There was not all that much of a difference between a half-blood and a pure-blood in terms of power, only after several generations would they show signs of weakening.
But they were also said to be able to live for up to 200 years so it wasn't like that was even much of a problem for them. The ones with a purer level of blood could easily make many children over the course of those years. Who knew how many generations a race like that would have to go through before their descendents began to lose some of the power their elders possess?
For Nobles, though, this might be even less of a problem. Their Dominate trait was even more perfect. The Houses that had long since lost their right to remain a true Noble House would still not be as ordinary as those families who never had it.
Their bloodlines could survive in many ways, could be revitalized in many ways. That's why even after dozens of generations Murphy doubted their bloodline would lose it's strength too much, because Nobles guarded and cared for their bloodlines almost religiously. Became experts in both keeping it pure and getting it back on it's feet even if it started to weaken.
In truth not many Noble Houses ever faced the problem of having a weak bloodline, at least not as far as a pleb like him was aware.
Certainly not the more powerful families like the Aldertons, Williams, Lautremonts or Greybornes, the Big Four of Drann kingdom.
That aside, it really was strange. Children of that race having defects? He'd never heard anything of the like before now.
Of course he wasn't all too in-the-know about them. Just knew the basics from the stories he'd heard or read.
Murphy roused himself from his thoughts and continued to listen to Jaime talk.
"Anyway," He went on, " The men at that time had the same faces I'm seeing from the women right now. But it's," He hesitated. "...Different. My men at that time were able to shake the effects after they were aware of what was happening, even if at times they still stared. And they knew what was happening. The women here don't. It's more subtle here. And I'm sure Bell isn't a descendant of an incubus. "
Only the male line descended from an incubus would hold the powers of one. Same with succubi and their daughters. Hence iIf a daughter of an incubus gave birth to a son he would have his grandfather's powers. Again, same deal with succubi and their granddaughters.
Unless you were a pure-blood, born of an incubus and succubus. Then it wouldn't matter what gender you were.
"...Otherwise this effect would have happened long before now. " Jaime finished.
"So what the fuck is happening then?" Murphy grew impatient. It was an interesting story, but he was right. It had little to do with this situation here.
"I mean Bell might be able to give any incubus a run for his money in his ability to attract women, but it's a hard fact that he isn't one!"
If he was Phaedra wouldn't be such a raging bitch to him all the time.
Or who knew. Maybe that really was just how she showed her love. Murphy inwardly shuddered at the thought. If that were true then maybe no other man but that guy would be able to survive her affection. They'd be dead within a week!
He paused. No, scratch that. Probably wouldn't live past the hour, more like.
"Yeah, I know he isn't." Jaime's words dripped with annoyance. "But that's how it looks."
"Well what do we do about it? Let them continue to ogle and/or rape him with their eyes?"
"Do we have to do anything?" Nyk suddenly asked. "It's disconcerting, but they aren't causing any trouble and Bell doesn't seem to notice it himself. Also, there are some who aren't effected..." His gaze went back to the carriage to the back.
It was there that Melanie and Cecelia sat. The first one displaying a sorrowful face as she looked at the young man and woman, appearing so achingly pitiful that Murphy wanted to go and pat her on the back and slip her drink to wash away her worries, while the other's eyes were unreadable but still calm.
Murphy also saw that Phaedra had a tranquil face--or as much was possible for her otherwise perpetually caustic mood.
She stared too, but her gaze was more "I will allow you to live another day, for now" than hot and passionate. And that wasn't because of jealousy or anything, that was just her default expression when it came to Bell.
If you said they fought like an old married couple, it would only be true if said couple hated each other's guts and the fight was a deathmatch
"What does that prove?" Murphy challenged. "Cece and Fey are understandable. The first probably already liked him, and the second wants his head to adorn her fireplace. But I don't think that Melanie chick has the mental fortitude boss man said it took for his men of that time to become themselves again. If Val can't, what are her odds?"
"People can surprise you." Nyk said simply. "And who knows why this is happening? Maybe there's a reason she isn't affected. But like I said, this hasn't been a problem so far. Why make it one?"
Nyk talked quite a bit today. Showed how serious this was.
"So you want us to just leave it be?" Jaime considered. "Fine, let's do that. You're right in any case. Though strange, nothing bad has come of it. Bell getting a bit more popular with women is all that's happened, not anything we need to worry about."
"Oh yeah?" Murphy cocked a brow at his oh-so-glorious leader. "And what if they suddenly wanna be the sheath to his sword and we end up having to guard the guy against a horde of trained killers? Trained, horny killers?"
Jaime's mouth curved upwards. "Let them have him in that case. Far be it from us to ruin a man's opportunity to have the best night of his life."
Murphy threw him a dirty look. "That's cold, J, real cold. Abandoning him like that, how inhumane!" He threw up his hands. "...But I don't have a death wish, so I'm just going to follow your fine example and keep my nose out of it this time. No need to get an arrow in the ass tryna protect a man from ascending to heaven."
Nyk looked at the other two with a blank face, apparently displeased by their cavalier attitude in regards to a serious topic like that.
Then after a moment he just shrugged. "I like living," He said, secretly promising to himself to keep an eye on things until they parted ways.
He was the one to suggest they not do anything anyway.
"Good man." Murphy clapped his back, walking away. "Let's go get a drink. All this weird shit has me craving something that'll slowly kill me."
Had Lyle known how disloyal these friends of his were being perhaps he'd consider finding new ones.
The sun was hidden behind grey clouds even after they left the forest, yet the day was surprisingly nice and so Sera had chosen merely to wear a simple gown.
Or maybe not quite so simple. The thing had a very close-fitting bodice that pushed up her breasts, and the skirt was long and billowy and thin. It was able to easily allow her to sit astride Spirit, but it also clung to her legs and showed off their shapely slenderness.
She had changed before they left once she knew it wasn't that chilly out, and she hoped he'd take notice of how the material outlined her body's curves.
They'd long since made their way to the front of the group despite her men's entreaty that they stay close, to which she merely waved them off knowing she'd be safe with Bell. And now, presently, they were far ahead of the others.
The closest person was dozens of feet away, giving them a lot of privacy.
Just then a cold wind blew, hitting them directly. Sera started to shiver, quivering in her seat.
"Cold?" His warm breath once more tickled her neck.
"A little." She admitted.
But then, as she became aware of how close they were, she felt a surge of heat well up inside her.
It was odd. The fire had died down as they rode together, but now it spiked back up with a vengeance.
One of her hands moved toward one of his own, tentatively stroking his knuckles. It was the first real skin-on-skin contact they'd had during the ride, and as she touched him she could feel his chest rise and fall heavily.
Sera smiled and scooted back until there was no distance whatsoever between the two of them.
After some time she could feel something hard poking her butt, and somehow it felt hot even through the clothing they wore.
A naughty thought came to mind, an unbearable urge, and she began to move her hips, rubbing against that hard thing in a circular motion. Her heart raced and she felt her nipples start to harden in eager expectation.
"What do you think you're doing?" He rasped, stiffening up.
"You don't...like it?" Sera's voice was a breathless whisper, loving how that hot thing felt against her.
"Sera, stop." Bell's voice was strangled, like he was desperately trying to hold something back.
But she didn't want him to.
Her hips worked achingly slow, moving up and down along his erect member. The silky material of her clothing meant that her butt's shape would be easily felt.
Were he to just reach down and touch it the only thing seperating his hand from her rear would be a thin piece of fabic and an equally thin pair of pantyhose that could easily be torn apart.
The fact that they were doing this out in the open, the awareness that dozens of people were just behind them, only added to her excitement.
Sera's words of provacation apparently worked, because in the next instant he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her to him, smashing their bodies together.
She felt it when his lips blow air into her ear, making her shiver for entirely different reasons this time around, before his teeth lightly bit at her lobe.
Sera went limp, every action he took making her mind go hazy and unclear.
Right when she thought he was done, she felt something hot, wet and slippery enter her ear. This foreign invasion, which probably should have disgusted her, just served to send her into a fit of ecstacy.
While he was busy doing that one of his hands let go on the reins and crept along her stomache then down to her inner thigh, halting just before reaching the valley within.
He squeezed her fatty thigh, seeming to enjoy the feeling.
Sera lifted up her head to look at his face, panting. "It's okay, you can do more...please..."
And then she stretched up, locking her mouth over his own.
A flash of blue and purple light shone brightly, then disappeared.
"Sera, enough...I...Don't want to do that here." He grated out roughly, removing his hand and breaking the kiss.
"That's not what this says." Sera's lips quirked, her fingers idly stroking that steel sword she knew to be tucked away beneath his clothes.
He extracted the hand from that particular area in a hurry. "Yes, well, that thing has a mind of it's own right now."
"And you should listen to it."
She saw him make a crooked half-smile. "Just wait till we reach Zeshar. Then we can find a nice room and continue at our leisure."
"But--" Sera started to whine.
"No." His eyes bore into her, making her body even more hot somehow. It was like she was being stripped bare by right in front of him and she loved every naughty moment of it. " I want our first time to be more special than this. Don't you want that?"
"...First time...?" Doubt and confusion. "But we..."
She didn't say it. She didn't understand. Did he really forget? But then why was he acting this way? Why did he pamper her today, so suddenly? Why--?
"That doesn't count." He snorted coldly, breaking her train of thought. "This time we'll do it right. I want that for us, for you. You deserve it. Sera, I'm sorry how I acted before. I was just scared of my feelings for you, how strong and sudden they were. But I won't act that way anymore, I swear to you. From now on I'll treat you right, spoil you right, and care for you right. It might seem silly to you, but it's important to me that we start over and do it better this time. I want to give you a memory more pleasant than just some sordid affair in a moldy old cave. I need to, I can't accept anything less."
There was anger in his voice, a burning conviction, that stopped her dead in her tracks.
Sera's body cooled down and she felt hot tears coming to life. She couldn't express how overjoyed, how special, she felt in that instant.
"Bell..." She cried." I love you...I love you so much..." The tears fell freely now and she wanted nothing more than to just turn and hold him.
He gently wiped the moisture from her face, his voice soft. "I know you do. And from now I'll do everything I can to be worthy of that. " There was deep pain hidden beneath his words, like the thought of doing anything else was unbearable.
She felt so lucky, so glad, that she'd come here. Sera was sure, more than ever before, that everything in her life led her to this exact moment.
If she knew back then that this was what awaited her then even if she had to face a hundred more of those manticores she still wouldn't have hesitated to come.
Because being with him, even despite the short time they'd known each other, filled her with a sense of satisfaction and happiness she didn't think was possible for her....or was deserving of.
As she kissed him once more there was just one small, almost insignificant detail that was left ignored at the back of her mind.
...The fact that he didn't say he loved her back...