True to her word, Annette let him sleep in her wide, comfortable bed, and he stayed there until one of the chamber maids appeared to change the linens. The maid departed without completing her task, giving him time to dress and reorient himself to the mid-afternoon sun and confusion of his routines and regulations.
She had, in the time he slept, dressed in day clothing, reapplied makeup and changed her hair, though asides from a few loose tendrils, the blonde coils were covered by a simple house cap. Timmans had evidently recovered and was back at work dressing her mistress.
“I don’t like your face, it’s too prickly,” her fingers lightly brushed his cheek. “It’s uncomfortable when I slap you.”
The safe electric razor she gave him could only cut so close, and left their trace of hair. At her direction he followed her into her rose and white bathroom and sat in a little wooden chair with spindly carved arms.
She had him strip off his shirt, busying herself with the hot towels and the badger hair brush and bar of soap. “You are still so much easier than an old man with palsy.”
“You loved your father?”
“I did, but I also disliked him, because he cared more about being a good father to me than keeping my good will,” the blade of the straight razor lifted and slit through the stubble. “He died just after I got married, and did not live to see what happened to my sister. I think he would be distressed if he knew what had become of our home in his absence.”
Phillip remained non-committal.
“I suppose I did promise to tell you of my night with my lover,” Annette yawned. “Now that you feel less like a cliff face, join me in my bed. I have a few hours to rest again before tonight’s party.”
With only his assistance to undress her, and pull the soft white night dress over her head, she lay down with her shoulders propped by the high pillows at the head of the bed. Not yet intending to sleep, she set him with his head in her lap, stroking the wild curling re-growth of his hair.
“Mikhail was not my first lover. Even if I had been kept innocent of the reality of marriage by a more restrictive husband, the new approach of men after the birth of my son would have told me the way that we live and the little games that are expected.”
“By the time my daughter was born and sent away, we were finished the physical side of our union, and in that sense I cannot think our marriage would be that unusual. My husband put it to me plainly that he expected me to conduct myself in a manner that preserved the honour of the family: no bastards; no rutting with the ones beneath us; nothing that might embarrass him when he spoke on the council.”
It was drowsey, feeling her fingers touch the ridge directly behind his ear and stir his hair. Phillip made a soft noise, still enjoying the relative peace.
“Of course in such a situation, access is a limiting factor. I came to my husband in exactly the condition I should be. Perhaps from this I picked up a few incorrect assumptions; I believed that all interest, even the most gentle, was some sort of game to discredit my husband by making him a known cuckold, and I conducted myself accordingly. My first experiment was with a young officer, not home guard of course, because I did not want to see him again,” she shook her head. “I was disappointed and lucky I did not fall pregnant. I didn’t learn about prophylactics until my next experience.”
“I suppose the other factor that assisted was becoming friends with Chloe.” The heater pinged softly, and with the curtains drawn, her rose coloured bedroom was dim and cozy, suggesting billowy nakedness and intimacy. “With my husband’s responsibilities, the correctional relief societies were his suggestion, I imagine because it makes a more nuanced case to the sort of foreign meddler whose own society is so conveniently ordered for them to feel they have nothing better to do than decide how we should order our own home.”
There was a mixture of pride and self deprecation in her last statement, though the words would not been out of place in the acid mouth of one of the news discussion hosts. “In any case it was almost a year later when I met Captain Sekmet. I thought his shyness was a considerable improvement over my first lover’s boldness, he had comparatively great knowledge. Between Chloe’s insights and his whoring around, I finally took the time to rectify my biological knowledge. It was not a satisfying experiment, but I enjoyed the seduction. The sex, not as much.”
“Who is Chloe?” The name had come up many times, but he’d never met its owner.
“Oh, she is my mentor, I guess you can say. I met her through the society. She runs a school and she has some very useful ideas. Don’t worry, you meet her.
“My lover, he was the friend of my sister’s fiancé from before… Well, there’s not enough time to tell you the whole story, but suffice to say we found an unusual connection and with a little other help I found what I wanted. But I will just speak bout last night.”
And she began to tell him what she saw, after she left the house the night before, starting with the bright lights of the new palace and the way they turned the falling snow into a glorious glittering veil, and the lines of black cards, cuing up at the gate to drop off their distinguished passengers.
She arrived without much notice, all eyes were where they belonged, on her husband and his resplendent dress uniform of the secret police, red sash over mustard wool, distinct from general Homeguard brown and red. There were few male guests there without a chest plate of medals and gold fringed epaulettes, and those were foreigners, allies and neutral parties, and a small nest of polite enemies, in garish boxy kilts and fringed shawls.
Annette let her husband lead her past the great hall’s arch and along the carpet that led to the king and his consort, to pledge the usual allegiance. The king was looking very old, eldest son and heir on his right, a mixture of love and hopeful anticipation. There was her husband’s little acknowledgement, telling the prince when the time came the old council would stand by the new monarch without having to explicitly say it in a way that would distress the current ruler.
Mikhail was among the colony delegation, a rare bachelor, for once wearing his own uniform, the white vest and the blue sash. She tucked one of her gloved hands over the other, Harrington jewels glittering on her wedding band as her fingers touched from wrist to the crest of her palm. His attention was on her now. They couldn’t talk any other way, for all the wealth and networks, every telephone call passed through the ears of police officers, every computer message was read and vetted by the same machines that delivered it, and while everything short of planned regicide would simply land on her husband’s desk as the warning of a liability, her husband had his own enemies paying their bribes for any scrap they could use, and not every man in the communications bureau was as reliable as the family’s private staff. A pet gentleman was an odd eccentricity, but a member of an opposing political party was inexcusable for a lover.
The night was work, conversations about nothing in particular, feeling the elastic beneath her dress curl itself tight such that every shift in seating was a concession to the limits of ribs and panels. Despite this it was not empty or unenjoyable; many of the wives who were her default companions at these occasions were good people, the king’s consort especially. She danced with her husband’s allies, old men and a few younger exceptions, one she knew to be her husband’s former lover, a young man who’d prospered fast under her family’s sponsorship. She was especially kind to the man’s wife, a sweet creature in a yellow silk sheath, a new bride of two months and still very unsure of herself. Annette did not dance with Mikhail, but she knew he watched her, as men her husband respected put their hands on the small of her back and trotted her around the dance floor while talking about her father.
Stimulants let the party guests extend their revelry into the night, but Annette did not stay among their number. Her husband, ever busy, parted company to spend time with his companions and she prepared a signal.
Retreating to one of the side passages that led into the grand hall, she drew off both long gloves, while watching the snow gather on the stone ramparts of the grand building. She left both placed upon the windowsill and returned to company for another half hour or so, giving Mikhail a chance to agree to meet later. When she returned to the hall, one glove was gone from the pair, and so she took the other and restored it to her hand, and bid her husband a good night, before travelling to the common meeting place she and her lover used for escapades like this.
She did not own Mikhail. How he decided to greet her would vary, sometimes sweetly, sometimes as a challenge. The glove without a mate told nothing of how he expected them to spend their time. When the car arrived the house they used was dark, and the door unlocked.
In the time she had taken to arrive, Mikhail had stripped himself of his clothes, and found a place near the stairs to kneel, holding her other glove in his mouth. She waited a moment in comfortable contemplation, looking at how he placed himself, knees on the carpet, the stirrings of his penis, familiar curve to the left, along his thigh. He was a planner and a bureaucrat, unlike her two soldiers, but there was the leaness she had deliberately inflicted on her pet gentleman, the traits she liked in a man.
She drew her other glove off, one finger drawn up after the other, and his eyes met hers in anticipation. When she stooped to take the glove from his mouth, his jaw tightened, holding it.
“Let it go…” she instructed softly, still tugging, and then there was the expression of challenge. He wanted the game, wanted to feel there was a reason she was angry and wanted to hurt him, and wanted the time after when he could feel completely forgiven. She indulged, draping her other glove over his bare shoulder. He hands found the warm softness of his testicles and squeezed.
“There, darling!” She dropped the gloves on the floor and put one palm on the back of his head to kiss him. “You missed feeling that, didn’t you? Or did you find some girl in the howling white wastes to teach you a lesson?”
“No, Ann.” There was a grin there. He wanted her to be jealous. “Nobody punishes as my Ann does.”
“I’ve a lot to make you answer to, my lover.”
And then Mikhail had his hands on her, seeking the closure at the back of her dress, and the curve of her buttocks, covering up her speech with a kiss. She was not in control completely, but she intended to change that.
Annette took both his arms by the wrists and tugged them from her. “I suppose you make me improvise. Perhaps I shall remind you what I can do?”
The house was small and cold in its complete emptiness, but Annette had little trouble scaring up a length of cord from a curtain tie and binding him to a balustrade. Mikhail smiled, rampant erection jutting. “You can do anything you want, Ann.”
“Can I?” Her finger prodded his sternum. “What if I gave you something longer lasting than a few marks that will fade over the voyage home?”
That got the start of her desired response. She wanted him scared, just a little. “Ann?”
“Hm, but it is cold in here and I could use something to warm me up. No servants, for a man who told me how much he enjoys an audience, you certainly set the place up for solitary camping.”
She left him tied while she found the things for tea. The teachers at her boarding school enforced oddly quaint ideas about self sufficiency that came in handy in the oddest moments. Judging from the way Mikhail was shifting from foot to foot, her casual attitude was making him impatient. Cup in hand, she laughed.
When she tweaked one of his nipples, he hissed. She liked that he was tall, though given full reign there were little modifications she’d make, a bit more muscle on his shoulders, maybe encourage him to let his hair grow.
“Mikhail, tell me what are you planning when your smile and charm gets you untied?” She let her fingernails rasp his chest, feeling the hair there. “If you struggle the knots get tighter and then I might have to leave you there overnight, if I can’t untie you.”
“I…” He began, not taking her threat completely seriously, but ceased to squirm.
She put her tea down before she started hurting him. There was a different tenor to this than her usual sadism, where the control came not from letting herself fall into the mortification of flesh, but to watch his reactions and coax him into talking with chastisements.
With a little effort, pinching along his ribs and slapping is face, he was telling her about the long cold nights he’d kept awake, missing her body, breasts and hips and her mouth and cunt, but mostly her hands, and the way she smiled when she got what she wanted. Despite the fact that this information pleased her, Annette continued with her fake aura of disapproval, “And I suppose, without my hands at work on you, you’ve just fallen to all sorts of debasements.”
She’d had some fear that the old connections they’d made would have frazzled and broken in the time they’d spent apart, almost three years now since she’d thought him gone for good, but everything was where it was when she’d left it, the grip and the touch worked as it always had. Time only aged her lover a little, drawn his hairline back and thinned his hair, and maybe thickened his shoulders, but not changed his needs. She traced her fingers over his lips and he tried to kiss them, before she rammed them hard into his mouth.
Warm and wet, with the sharp edge of his teeth like pottery shards, the tongue slipping to lick the webs between her fingers as he yielded and then gagged a little. She fucked his mouth in the fashion until Mikhail was making back of the throat choking noises, and caressed along his chin with her wet hand before she unhitched him from the stairs. “Take me up to the bedroom.”
He hefted her up, arms supporting her hips while she clung to his shoulders, enjoying the care he took as he manoeuvred up the stairs. It was a small house, a short walk to the bedroom where she told him to put her on the bed and lie on his belly on the floor. With her permission, when she stood he slithered his way under her skirts, kissing her feet and ankles and up her calves.
With all the time with her pet gentleman, it was impossible not to make the comparison, and Mikhail definitely exceeded her regular victim in bravery, searching and nuzzling in a bolder, though not unwelcome way. Eventually his explorations reached the containment limitations of the bell of her skirt, and she let him escape their confines and stand up, to help her undress.
She only got down as far past her slip, leaving the girdle, before he tried to tip her onto the bed, telling her he wanted more rapprochement. She slapped him, and laughed, fingernails raking his chest as the fresh taste of violence drew him in for another kiss, so she could rake his back in the same way. The bed might be cold, linens stale from their long seat on the mattress without being shifted, but they warmed it up with the rigged wrestling match, she would win because he wanted her to be the victor, and they both laughed while he took small wounds: scratches and light bruises. The pillows slid off the bed at the brush of a flailing arm and she arched her back as his mouth sought out the best places to make her happy. One brief moment broke their twined up scrap, fetching and fitting the condom, so inconvenient but necessary, and Annette enjoyed the eager thrusting, as Mikhail’s desire made him take more of her cruelty.
Later, rolled apart but lying with splayed legs crossed, and Mikhail tugging the full condom from his half softened penis, and reached to slide his hand over hers. They would share the small stories from each other’s lives in the half dark of the lamps, until Mikhail fell asleep and she would awkwardly dress herself and slip out of the house.
“My lover will wake alone, but with my touch all over his body. And the next assignation, he was curious, he wants to see how I use you.” Annette said, smiling almost impishly.