Beauty & Blood, continued...

Ch4: Memoirs





“I never did find out what happened to that band of thieves. I’m guessing the funny man with the coin may have intercepted them and… I don’t know… eaten them or something? It took the Scarlet Rose a full three hours to drive him off when he was in monster mode. It took the town a full three months to repair all the damage. I hope I never come across the sandal man again.”


I pause from my writing for a moment to look out of the tiny window of the attic that I currently call home. The moon was still low on the horizon – I still have plenty of time for my nightly activity. It’s such a shame, but it seems the city of Springvale has had a sudden rash of burglaries. I catch the gleam of gold coins out of the corner of my eye. I can’t help but grin every time I look at the ever-growing pile of coin sacks in the corner of my room. My fencing network has been very, very busy.


A funny memory flashes through my mind and I return quill to ink.


“A few weeks ago, while I was stealthed in an apple tree, I saw stupid Marla addressing a large number of her stupid Scarlet Rose troops. I chucked an apple at her, just to mess with her, and I actually managed to knock her hat off! I swear, it was a one-in-a-million shot! Her unit all burst out laughing and Marla’s face turned bright red!”


I actually have to stop writing as I descend into a fit of giggles. The look on her face! It was priceless! I actually have to stand and get a cup of water before I can continue writing.


“I don’t think Marla and I are actually trying to murder each other any longer. Last week, I was piss-drunk at the bar and she came up to me. She was so smashed, she could hardly stand. I didn’t even recognize her at first given her kind of slutty attire. Apparently, even the captain of the Scarlet Rose likes to be a little knotty after hours.”


I sit and think about the memory for a few minutes. My cheeks start to flush a little when I remember what happened next.


“So she got right in my face and slurred something about us having unfinished business, then challenged me to a wrestling match. I slurred back that I was ready any time, so we rented one of the upstairs rooms and tossed each other around for a while. I remember a lot of giggling and whispering about how we were going to murder each other… but that’s about it. Everything else is a little fuzzy. I think I might have puked into her cleavage at some point – and based on the slimy mess we were when we woke up together the next morning, she probably did the same thing to me. We shared a bath but didn’t do much talking – and I think she took my bra by mistake. I certainly didn’t own a pink support garment before that.”


I look over to a pile of laundry in the far corner of the room, the bright pink object barely pokes out from under the other much darker clothing. I feel my cheeks flush a little again.


“I did ask her if she liked women as much as I did, but she said she preferred men. Regardless, since that day, we’ve kind of become friendly enemies. ‘Frienemies’ if you will.”


My hand absentmindedly brushes the scar on my cheek. I seem to be doing that a lot these days. Stupid redhead. Always distracting me when I need to be focused.


Tossing the quill to the side, I pull on my favorite inky-black outfit. It’s skin tight, but stretchy enough that it doesn’t impede my movements at all. I adjust the ladies a little; in the event that I’m discovered by a man, they always provide a moment’s distraction. Usually that’s all I need to stick him with my blades or make good on an escape.


Squeezing through my tiny attic window, I perch atop the old house that I hide out in. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. The sweet night air invigorates my senses and clears my head. It always helps to take a moment before I get down to business. I make a mental note of the noble homes that I want to visit that night, then open my eyes and skillfully leap to the rooftop beside me.


For several breathless minutes, I quietly speed across a few dozen rooftops. My special cotton shoes provide me with a descent grip while making almost no noise at all.


I’m almost to my first target home when some movement on a balcony below stops me dead in my tracks.


Lord Thomas Chadwick stretches out in a chair with his expensive boots casually propped atop the metal railing in front of him. Naked from the waist up, he sips a small glass of brandy. A writing quill and open notebook with a magical glowing sigil lies on a small table off to the side.


“Well, well…” I murmur to myself, “If it isn’t Mr. Rich-fancy-pants himself.”


Lord Thomas was well known for his wealth in Springvale. Handsome, fit, and the consummate socialite, he was always to be found attending the very finest of gatherings while wearing the very finest of apparel. If ever anyone could be described as a celebrity, Lord Thomas was it. The thing is though, no one actually knew where his wealth came from. Appearing from out of nowhere a few months ago, his vast riches had quickly catapulted him to the very top of the social ladder.


I smile to myself. Doubtless good Lord Thomas wouldn’t mind making a modest donation to the ‘Make Diana Rich’ fund tonight.


I watch as he makes a few more notations in the notebook. What could he be writing? Personal thoughts? A Diary perhaps? A ledger of some sort? My mind began to whirl with excitement.


“Thomas, stop ignoring me!”


A familiar female voice filled the night air. I bristled as soon as I heard it.


Marla steps out onto the balcony wearing nothing but his missing shirt. She’s too top heavy to do up the last few buttons and it gives me an amazing view from above.


“I didn’t come over to be by myself, you know?” she whispers into his ear.


The tall, handsome man stands and smiles down at the fabulous redhead. “OK, baby,” he purrs, “let’s go relax.”


I silently, mockingly, mouth his words and roll my eyes as the two of them disappear into the house. Stupid Marla. Everywhere I go, she pops up for some reason. It figures she’d be a bed warmer for the most popular guy in the city.


I gently lower myself down onto the balcony and immediately go for the notebook. A small candle beside it gives me just enough light to make out a few of the entries:


“Autumn Day 39 – Mr Chemicals reports that the new powder is showing promising results.”


“Autumn Day 53 – Test subjects display immediate dependence on powder.”


“Autumn Day 82 – Meeting with independent sellers goes well. Ramping up production.”


I scan several more pages and the question of where Lord Thomas gets his wealth from becomes clear. I had seen several bar patrons snorting some sort of powder at the private tables in the back, but never thought much of it. Some medications have to be taken that way, but the thought of taking something for recreational pleasure like that had never occurred to me.


A pair of hands suddenly yanks me off my feet and throws me against the side of the house. Marla presses her chest into mine - effectively pinning me to the wall.


“Somehow I knew you were behind the sudden rash of burglaries!” she hisses into my ear.


I struggle against her, but she’s got the leverage.


“No, baby, you’ve got it all wrong,” I say with a wry smile. “I was invited, same as you.”


“Don’t give me that!” she whispers through clenched teeth. “Lower your voice! If nothing else, you’re trespassing and I’m taking you to the prison!”


“I’d like to see you try!” I whisper back. “And why are you whispering anyway? You don’t want Tommy to know I’m here? Nice shirt, by the way.”


“Shut up!” she quietly commands and presses into me harder. “Maybe I’ll just strangle you right here and now and be done with it!”


Lord Thomas’ voice calls out from the darkness. “Marla? Where are you? What are you waiting for?”


“Just a second, honey. I’m almost ready for you,” she calls back in her sweetest voice.”


I take this moment of distraction and maximize it to my benefit. In one swift motion, I wrap my arms around the redhead and spin us a hundred and eighty degrees. Now it’s Marla that’s pinned to the wall.


“Get off of me, Diana!” she whispers as loud as she can.


“Do you know what’s written in that notebook?” I ask and motion to the little table off to the side.


“No, and I don’t care! Thomas’ business is his own!” she replies.


“You’re just his trampy little bed warmer then? Is that it?” I ask and press into her harder.


“Shut up!” she commands again, although this time there’s something behind it. Something in her eyes tells me I’ve hit a nerve.


I give my rival a cruel smile and press into her again. “What’s the more likely scenario here, Marla? That I climbed onto a balcony to read someone’s diary? Or that I was invited here, same as you? Tommy is the most popular socialite in the city. Do you really think he wouldn’t want to spend his nights with a pair of busty women? Or do you think you’re so special that you can appease all of his appetites all by yourself?”


Marla’s face becomes a mask of hatred. “I will destroy you,” she murmurs.


“Oh yeah?” I ask with a wild look in my eye. “Go ahead, hun. Let’s see what you’ve got!”


The redhead begins chanting a spell and her eyes begin to glow red.


I interrupt her by placing my lips over her mouth. I feel her stiffen as I continue to kiss her. Her lips are soft and supple. I take my time. When I finally finish, I lean back to enjoy the look on her face.


Instead of seeing what I thought would be a look of shock or (hopefully) lust, a see a look of profound sadness. She looks down at our pressed cleavage for a while, then back at me.


“I hope you enjoyed that,” she says quietly. A tear runs down her cheek. “I already told you. I prefer men.”


I suddenly feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. A deep feeling of shame washes over me. “I’m… I’m… sorry…” I stutter and take a step backward. It suddenly dawns on me what a terrible person I am. How dare I force myself on someone like that? Just what kind of monster am I?


Marla continues to lean against the wall, but won’t look at me.


“Marla? Are you alright?” Lord Thomas calls from deep inside the darkened house again.


“Yes,” she calls back with as much cheer as she can muster. “I’m almost done here.”


I can’t find any words as I watch her adjust his shirt a little. She wipes away another tear as she steps inside. She returns a moment later and looks me in the eye.


“I don’t want to see you again. Just leave us alone, alright? I’m trying to be happy.”


With that, she slides the balcony door closed.


  • Enjoyed the story very much, the forums could do with more of them :) Thank you for sharing.
  • Oh I do love a good story and this is fantastic ^^
  • ArchivedUserArchivedUser Guest
    edited October 2018

    Ch5: The Apprentice

    “Look, I’m not a bad person okay? It’s not like I go around killing people, you know? I mean… I just killed you and everything, but that’s only because you and your girlfriend jumped me and tried to steal my stuff!”


    I twist my twin daggers a little in an attempt to dislodge them from the bloody carcass of the bandit beneath me. These two were clearly amateurs. I had heard them ‘stalking’ me for at least a quarter mile. I stealthed when they weren’t looking, then unstealthed right behind them and gave them the option to empty their pockets and leave. They chose to engage me in combat instead and… let’s just say they weren’t exactly at my level of prowess.


    My weapons finally leave the bandit corpse with a sickly, moist, sucking sound. I absentmindedly wipe my blades off on his clothing as my thought process continues.


    “I mean, true enough – I steal people’s things. I steal quite well. Not because I’m incapable of doing honest work like your average garden variety peasant or anything… no, nothing like that. I’m quite fit and could hoe a garden just as well as anyone. No, I do what I do because… I’m good at it. I’m good at it and I enjoy it. I do it for the thrills. That doesn’t make me a despicable person, does it?”


    I finish running through the bandit’s pockets. Not much of a haul. A couple semi-precious stones, a couple lock picks and a potion of healing. Big deal.


    I drag his carcass to the river and watch as he floats into the darkness.


    A little off to the side, the bandit’s sidekick coughs up some blood. I can see it spray a little in the moonlight.


    I stoop down to examine her a little. Chesty little thing. That’s one thing I will say about the women in this land – none of us would ever be confused for men. Maybe it’s our diet or something, but all the ladies out here are absolutely gorgeous. I can barely contain myself just walking down the street sometimes. I mean, the men are all pretty fit too. No complaints there either. On the rare occasion, I’ll simply join one in bed after I’ve gone through his house looking for valuables. I refuse to leave a residence completely empty handed. It usually takes me a while to travel there after all!


    “Hag,” the mortally wounded woman below me sputters. “May demons claim your soul!”


    I give her a slightly mocking look. “Demons claim my soul? Oh honey, I’m not the one randomly killing people on this old country road.”


    “You got… lucky…” she sputtered again. “…I can… hold my own… in a proper… duel…”


    Her breath was short and quick. It wouldn’t be long now.


    “Reaaaally?” I say quietly.


    Maybe it was because she was so brash? Maybe it was because she was so physically attractive? Hell, maybe it was because I was bored – but for whatever reason, I decided to see if she was lying or not.


    The healing potion made a little pop sound when I pulled the cork stopper out with my pearly white teeth. The lady bandit’s eyes couldn’t believe it when I poured a little into her stab wound, then pressed the remaining liquid to her lips.


    I watch as the hole in her chest seals itself and the color returns to her cheeks. A moment later, I help her to her feet.


    “Th… thank you…” she stutters, obviously unsure of what to do next.


    I look off in the direction of her floating dead partner. “Was he special to you? A brother maybe? Or husband?”


    The other woman nods a little, her inky-black tresses bobbing in front of her icy, pale complexion. “We were together for a short season, though not wed-locked.”


    “Ah. A boyfriend then? I see,” I say and nod to myself. “Apologies, but as I said, it was the two of you that attacked me. You’ll agree that it was all in self-defense.”


    “Be that as it may…” the female bandit says slowly, “I’ll still gut you for killing my love!”


    I’ve been watching her hands the whole time of course, so I’m completely prepared for what comes next. As quickly as she’s able, the bandit draws a small dagger from the back of her tunic and makes a slashing motion toward me. Leaning back ever so slightly, I watch as the blade whistles through the air in front of my face. Before the brunette can recover, I gently punch her in the throat.


    Dropping the small knife, she stumbles backward struggling for breath.


    “Really?” I ask. “You’re still as weak as a kitten and you’re already trying to avenge your fallen love? I mean, I know the potions are magic and everything, but give yourself a little more time to recover for the sake of heavens.”


    The other woman answers with a roar and charges me as best as she can manage. I easy catch her and we end up in a sort of embrace. I couldn’t have planned this better if I tried.


    “I will… I will murder you! I will… avenge my love… I will…”


    I kiss this poor pathetic beauty of a woman to stop her from blathering on about revenge and whatnot. I know, I know… I recently came to the realization that forcing my lips onto someone without their express permission is completely wrong – but I’m a carnal person and I can’t help myself apparently.


    Besides… I’m a rogue. I’m not going to win ‘person of the year’ anytime soon anyway.


    The bandit woman wrenches her mouth from mine and struggles to escape me, but to no avail. Even if she hadn’t been almost dead a few minutes ago, I still would have been able to overpower her.


    She eventually realizes that she can’t prevail and stops her struggle. Now it’s time for the water-works.


    “Oh Brian…” she sputters. “I’m sorry. I’m so… so sorry…”


    “Brian, huh?” I ask. “Well, look – you guys did attack—“


    “Oh shut up!” she screams. “Let me go! I obviously can’t best you! Either let me go, or run me through again!”


    I let the brunette tear herself from my grasp and watch as she falls to the ground in tears. This might be one of the reasons that I never felt the need to fall in love with someone before. The emotional turmoil it causes is of no interest to me at all.


    I kneel beside the distraught woman and study her for a bit. “Why did you become a bandit in the first place?”


    The woman gives me kind of an incredulous look through her tears. What? Was that not a good question to ask at the moment?


    “I’m mourning my dead love at the moment, you stupid hag!” she shouts.


    Now she’s starting to irritate me a wee bit. She changes her tune a little when I level one of my enchanted daggers at her throat.


    “You were saying?” I ask rather pointedly.


    She stares daggers at me, but continues, “Why do you want to know?”


    “Well, you clearly have no chance of making good on the threat you made when you were half dead, so now I’m trying to decide if I should put you back in that state again.”


    She looks me in the eye for a moment, then down to the blade an inch from her chin, then back to me again. “We were always poor growing up. Ma was always busy with the men at the bar, and Pa died of the fever shortly after I was born.”


    I cock an eyebrow and maintain my stare. “Good start. Continue.”


    “So… I learned to steal. I needed to eat, didn’t I? It was steal, or starve.”


    I start to nod a little. I don’t say anything, but this suddenly starts to hit a little close to home for me. Like… almost exactly my home life growing up, actually.


    The bandit woman continues, “So it’s all that I know, really. I don’t wish to prostitute myself, and I don’t much care for honest work. The profits are not great enough to make a proper life and elevate one’s self from a lowly station.”


    I narrow my eyes a little. “You speak quite well for a lowly serf.”


    She gives me a slight look of resentment. “I enjoy reading. Just because we may find ourselves in lowly circumstances, it doesn’t mean we have to stay there. My books were how I escaped as a child.”


    Beautiful and intelligent? Be still my beating heart. I wonder if she likes other ladies as much as I do?


    “Am I boring you?” she asks with a sneer. “Or do you treat all your would-be assassins with as much indifference?”


    Okay, now she’s really starting to get on my nerves. But, for some reason, I find that refreshing. It’s almost like she’s begun to remind me of a certain redhead.


    I stand and sheath my weapon. Placing my hands on my hips, I continue to study her and try to make up my mind about something.


    “Am I to be set free then, mistress? Allow me to leave this ground and I swear that you and I will cross steal again one day! And the next time, I won’t be so woefully unprepared!”


    “Shut up,” I command. “You’re just showing off now. No one actually talks all flowery like that all the time.”


    She continues to stare at me with defiance in her eyes. That changes to a look of surprise when I extend my hand to help her up.


    “I am Diana of House Dunston, a lowly student of the shady arts from far across the sea. What is your name?”


    The bandit woman stares at my hand for what seems like an eternity. “Alexis of the Millers of Springvale,” she finally replies with a hint of mistrust, but gently places her hand in mine.


    With a little grunt, I pull the other woman to her feet. The potion has had more time to work it’s magic at this point, and Alexis looks the better for it.


    “I’ve spared your life, little bandit,” I say with a loaded smile.


    Alexis narrows her eyes a little. “What of it? When we meet again, I will--”


    “You’re not going anywhere, sister,” I say cutting her off. “You owe me a life debt. One that I mean to collect, by the way. I think that we are comparable souls deep down, and further, although your skills are horribly lacking at the moment, I think you could have the makings of a fine rogue one day.”


    Alexis scowls and backs away from me. “You are mad if you think I will join myself to you! I would rather die here and now!”


    The brunette starts frantically scanning the ground for some sort of weapon. I sigh to myself, then bash her over the head with the pommel of my dagger handle.


    An hour later, Alexis regains consciousness to find herself tied to a chair in my secret attic hideout. I smile as I hear her breathing change from across the room. Our eyes meet in the flicker of the candlelight. Gods above and below, she really is beautiful in this soft atmosphere.


    “Untie me, Diana!” she hisses through clenched teeth.


    I give her a smirk and lean back in my chair. “Untie yourself,” I reply with another smile. “Lesson number one: escaping from being tied up. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

  • ArchivedUserArchivedUser Guest
    edited October 2018

    Ch6: Pecking Order

    "Again," I command as I stand over Alexis with a smirk on my face. The air in the old attic is heavy and humid from our sweaty bodies. It's been another long day of training.


    The brunette pauses to catch her breath, then leaps to her feet with her daggers ready. "You don't have to enjoy this so much, you know?" she says with a scowl.


    I continue to smile as we slowly circle each other, our weapons outstretched and ready to clash once again.


    The old attic floorboards creak and groan a little under the pressure of our bare feet.


    Alexis lunges and swings her daggers in a wide arc. I easily parry both weapons with my own. She lunges again, and again I deflect her attack without much difficulty. She lunges a third time. I catch her blades with the guards on my own.


    Roaring with frustration, she strikes out with one of her feet and catches me in my bare midriff. I stumble backward in surprise.


    "Ha!" Alexis says with a triumphant grin. "You didn't see that one coming!"


    I nod and manage a weak smile. "You got me there. Too bad it took you three weeks to finally think that one up."


    The smile drops from her face like a rock and a look of rage replaces it. Narrowing her eyes, she charges forward, daggers savagely swinging in the air. I clash steal with her a few times, then expertly knock the weapons from her hands. Before Alexis can recover, I deliver a kick to her bare midriff similar to the one she gave me.


    She stumbles backward holding her stomach. The look of rage fades from her face.


    "Control, Alexis, control. We've been over this," I say as I stretch my shoulders a little.


    "This is pointless!" she hisses and spits on the floor.


    "No, it's not. Your technique is miles ahead compared to when we started," I say and take a towel from the wall. "You probably couldn't take someone like Marla yet, but you're more than prepared to take on someone like a guard or whatever."


    The brunette sits and begins toweling off as well. "Again with the Marla reference? What's the story with you and this woman anyway? You're obsessed with her."


    Without thinking, I lightly feel for the scar on my cheek. "I don't know what you're talking about," I mumble and turn to face away from her.


    A dagger flies across the room, rips the towel from my hand and pins it to the wall. I should never have taught her that move.


    "Stop playing games with me, Diana!" Alexis shouts. She walks over to the clean laundry and plucks the pink brassiere from the pile. "You can't expect me to believe this is yours! This doesn't exactly scream 'master thief'!"


    The site of my apprentice holding my rival's garment stirs something deep within me. In one swift motion, I pluck the dagger from the wall beside me and send it sailing in Alexis' direction. She manages to move at the last second.


    "I thought so," she says with a smirk. "She's special to you, isn't she? Is she the one you pretend I am in the middle of the night? You have wandering hands in the wee hours."


    I say nothing, but feel my cheeks start to redden a little.


    "I wonder if this is big enough to hold me in place." Alexis says and holds the bra to her chest.


    Now it's my turn to narrow my eyes and advance. "Stop it. Give it to me," I say with a little growl.


    Sensing that she's finally getting under my skin, she hoists the article of clothing high above her head with a mocking smile. "No. I think I'll try this on. You don't mind do you?"


    "I said give it here!" I shout and press into her trying to reach the pink prize.


    "Doesn't feel so good being the heal, does it?" she shouts back and gives me a shove with her chest.


    "Looks like I've got the upper hand now!"


    I'll never admit to it, but she really does at the moment. I'm a little taken aback how quickly I've lost control of my emotions. This is embarrassing. All I want is that stupid bra!


    "Give it to me!" I scream.


    I move toward Alexis, but she gives me another kick to my midriff and I stumble backward doubled over.


    "You really want it, Blondie? Come and get it!" Alexis says with a cruel smile and tosses the garment onto the floor behind her.


    I'm like a bull that's just had a red flag waved in its face. I charge the brunette with a loud roar. She does likewise and we smash together in the middle of the room. A moment later, we tumble over and start rolling around on the floor. Still slick with sweat from our earlier training, neither of us are really able to get a good grip on the other.


    "You're so emotionally repressed, Diana!" she says with a grunt. "Why don't you just come out and say it already?"


    "Say what?" I grunt back. I may have trained Alexis a little too well. I don't like not being in control like this.


    "That you love her, stupid! I've known you like women ever since you watched me take a bath last week!" she shouts.


    "It's none of your business!" I shout back.


    She finally manages to roll on top of me and lock my arms and legs in place with the weight of her body. This would be kind of hot under different circumstances.


    "Say it!" she commands again.


    "You say it!" I scream and throw all my weight to the side. I manage to roll Alexis off of me, but she uses the momentum to complete a full roll and end up on top of me again.


    We stare at each other in defiance as our contest of wills continues.


    Our knuckles crack as our intermingled fingers seek to crush each other's hands. Part of me can't help but be impressed by this display of ability. It's only been three weeks and Alexis is holding her own in this wrestling match.


    "Say it," she says softly. It's more of a plea than a command at this point.


    I almost feel touched by the sentiment. I think the sweat is running into my eyes making them tear up.


    "No," I whisper back.


    The struggle finally starts to take its toll. If we were still on our feet, I would probably be able to overpower the brunette eventually, but with her on top of me like this, gravity is giving her an unfair advantage.


    Breathing heavily, I finally feel my arms give out. Feeling my body relax and sensing that she's won, Alexis slides off and collapses on the floor beside me.


    "I should just stab you in your sleep and put you out of your misery," she whispers.


    "Go ahead," I whisper in reply, "she doesn't love me back, so no one would ever care if you did."


    Silence fills the stuffy room after that statement. I guess I kind of just said it.


    I can feel Alexis staring at me as we lie side-by-side panting like a pair of exhausted mutts.


    After a few minutes, she props up on one elbow and studies the side of my face.


    "What?" I ask, still slightly annoyed that I just lost a wrestling match to my apprentice.


    "You don't fancy men at all?" she asks softly. Something about the way she just said that – it's almost like a mother asking her daughter something. Now I really feel uncomfortable.


    I consider the question then give a shrug. "I kind of like everyone, I guess. I'm greedy like that."


    I hear her sputter and look over to see her grinning at me. She reaches over and starts twirling a lock of my hair with her finger as if trying to make up her mind about something.


    "You're never going to let me live this down, are you?" I ask with a groan.


    She doesn't answer, but continues to twirl my hair between her fingers.


    We continue to lie in silence. If I wasn't so exhausted, I'd punch her in the face or something.


    Her gaze shifts to mine and we stare at each other for what seems like an eternity. "Thank you for saving my life," she finally whispers.


    I wasn't expecting that. Fifteen minutes ago, Alexis was nothing more than a pretty plaything to me.

    Something I could boss around and lust after. Now all of a sudden, she's something more.


    "You're welcome," I whisper back, a small smile spreading itself across my lips.


    We continue to stare at each other until I can't stand it any longer.


    "Are we going to kiss now?" I ask with a smirk.


    Alexis rolls her eyes. "No. I don't like women like that." She a little grunt and springs to her feet.




    "Come on," she says reaching down to help me up, "I believe we have a mansion to rob tonight, don't we?"


  • I am really enjoying the story so far razorneck
  • ArchivedUserArchivedUser Guest
    edited October 2018

    Ch7: Men are Pigs

    “You’ve been such a wonderful host, Lord Anderson,” I say and give my most elegant bow.


    Lord Anderson sits red-faced and tied to a chair with a gag in his mouth. I’m pretty sure he looked down my top as I bowed.


    Alexis whistles a merry tune as she stuffs item after item from the luxurious mansion into a large sack.


    “Shame about your guards…” I say and cast my glance toward the corpses littering the floor. “You might want to hire more than the local rabble next time. It would give me and my partner a better workout.”


    “That’s true!” Alexis says in a happy tone as she joins me in front of the Lord of the house. In our matching catsuits and masks, we’re basically indistinguishable from each other. “The Sisters of Fortune thank you for your kind and generous donations this evening.”


    We both bow in unison. I’m pretty sure he looked down our tops again. Well, at least he’s getting a little something out of being robbed I suppose.


    “Halt!” a voice commands from behind us. Like a pair of synchronized swimmers, Alexis and I turn and fling our daggers at the last remaining guard. Hers hits him in the face, and mine hits him in the privates. He’s either dead, or wishes he was dead.


    Lord Anderson gives a muffled scream of rage.


    I snake an arm around Alexis’ waist and pull her close. “Nice shot, babe!”


    She does the same to me. “You too, hun!”


    Lord Anderson gives another muffled scream and starts hopping up and down in his chair.


    “Well darling, I think we’re done here. Shall we take our leave?” I ask Alexis while grinning behind my mask.


    “We shall,” she replies. I’m pretty sure I can hear her grinning too.


    I pick up my matching sack, and we walk out arm-in-arm leaving the master of the house to continue fuming.


    “Putting it on a little thick back there, don’t you think?” Alexis asks as we fill our horse’s saddlebags with our spoils.


    I shrug as I pull my mask off with a smile. “If you can’t enjoy what you do, why do it?”


    She gives me her trademark eye roll as she removes hers and gives her hair a toss.


    We mount up and melt into the darkness leaving our latest conquest behind.


    “We’re going to run out of mansions at this rate,” Alexis says with a laugh as we ride together on the old dirt path to our attic headquarters.


    I flash her a smile. “Springvale is still growing. I think word’s gotten around about this land of opportunity. We’ll be busy for a while yet I think.”


    She nods in reply. The moonlight is just bright enough for me to make out her silhouette. It’s been several months now since I took an apprentice. At first I treated her like an object, but that changed the night she beat me in a wrestling match. I’ve come to admire her spirit and determination. I still find her wildly attractive, but I think it’s safe to say I consider Alexis to be my one real friend in life now.


    She looks back over to me and we share a smile in the darkness. I feel fulfilled in a way that I never have before. I’m not sure I’ve ever really had a friend before.


    Alex suddenly stops her horse and looks behind her.


    “What’s up?” I ask.


    “Shhhhh,” comes her reply.


    We sit motionless in the moonlight. I hear nothing, but I do start to get an uneasy feeling.


    “Do you feel that?” she whispers.


    “Yeah, it’s like we’re being watched or something, right?” I whisper back.


    “Yeah. I don’t think we’re alone.”


    “Let’s keep moving.”


    We nudge our horses into a canter. Shortly thereafter, the sensation goes away.


    “I think we’re good now,” Alexis calls out. I nod in agreement, but she probably can’t see that.


    The old abandoned building comes into view on the horizon and I give Alexis another nod. As we always do, we split up and approach the building from separate directions, just in case someone has found our lair and is waiting to do us harm.


    A few minutes later, I bring my horse to a stop and remove the saddlebags. “Good girl, Beauty,” I whisper and run my fingers through her beautiful mane. “Go get a drink and eat some grass but don’t wander too far away.”


    My horse nudges me a couple times, then begins happily trotting off toward the nearby pond.


    I look up to the attic. No lights. Strange, usually Alexis beats me home. I wonder what’s holding her up tonight.


    I cautiously enter the attic. I don’t sense any movement in the darkness, so I give two sharp claps to ignite our magic lanterns. The large room is flooded with light. No Alexis.


    I sit on our bed and begin peeling off my skin tight suit. Surely she’ll be along anytime now.


    Thirty minutes goes by – still no Alexis.


    Something is wrong.


    I throw on some old ragged clothing and whistle for Beauty out the window. A few minutes later, she and I slowly trace the route Alexis should have taken to approach our home. I hold a torch high and scan the foliage for any signs of my friend.


    A horse approaches out of the darkness. I recognize it as “Stud”, Beauty’s brother and Alexis’ mount. He nudges Beauty and then me as a greeting.


    “Where’s Alexis, boy?” I whisper and run my hand down his face. “Where’s your master?” He gives a little whinny, then continues past us back toward our home.


    I blow a strand of blonde hair out of my face. “Well, he’s no help at all. Typical man. Come on, girl. Looks like we’re on our own.”


    Beauty and I continue onward a few hundred yards until I see a light in the distance.


    “Looks like a campfire, girl,” I whisper, “Wait here. I’ll check it out.”


    I extinguish my torch and creep forward in the darkness. As I approach the campsite, I can hear a man and woman giggling. Peering through the brush at the end of the clearing, I’m shocked to see Alexis sitting on a man’s lap. She fiddles with the zipper on her top as she engages in a passionate kiss with the stranger.


    She ends the kiss with an audible pop, then looks my direction. “Well, don’t just crouch in the bushes like some sort of pervert. Come out where we can see you.”


    I sheepishly enter the clearing. I shouldn’t have trained her so well.


    I’m not exactly looking my best at the moment, but the man gives me a smile as I approach regardless.


    Alexis zips up her top and stands to greet me. “Diana, meet Christopher. We’re old… friends.”


    The man stands and extends his hand with a smile. I shake it and feel the impressive strength in his arm.


    “You didn’t tell me you had a sister, Alex,” he says with a grin.


    Oh, ‘Alex’ is it? I give my friend a confused look. She smiles in return and takes his other hand in hers. “Oh stop. You don’t have to flirt with every woman that crosses your path, stupid.”


    He wraps both his manly arms around the brunette. “She’s just as hot as you, babe. I can’t help it. I’m a slave to beauty.”


    Oh barf. I think this guy needs to go. I wonder if there’s a well I can accidently push him into?


    She gives him a knowing look, then pushes out of his embrace. “Thanks for reminding me why we didn’t last, dummy.”


    “Indeed?” I ask with a cocked eyebrow. Yeah, this guy is bad news. Maybe I’ll just punch him full of dagger holes right now.


    Alexis reads my mind and gives me a little wink. “Chris isn’t staying, are you Chris?”


    He gives me a smarmy smile. I really want to punch it. “No, I’m just passing through. I’m actually here to try out for the Scarlett Rose. I hear they’re heavily recruiting right now.”


    My mind suddenly rushes to an image of this idiot holding my Marla and my heart starts to race.


    Alexis quickly steps between us and grips my wrists. “I know where you head just went,” she whispers. “Go. I’ll meet you back home soon. He’s a friend. Please, just go.”


    “Are you guys ok? Hey, I mean… If you two want to start making out or something, I’m totally fine with just watching!” he says with a laugh.


    I feel ice start to course through my veins. Alexis’ grip on me tightens. “I know. I know. I know. Just do this for me this one time, ok? I’ll owe you one. Just… go.”


    She kisses me on the cheek. I feel the murder feelings start to abate and my body relaxes a little. “Fine,” I whisper back. “But if you’re not home in fifteen minutes…”


    “I’ll be fine. He’s an idiot, yes, but… we’ve got history, and… ugh… we’ll talk later. Please, just go.”


    Alexis releases my wrists. I take her hands and give them a little squeeze. She nods. I turn and walk back into the brush.


    “Well, what the hell was that all about?” I hear the idiot ask in the distance. I finger the dagger in my waistband. One little flick of the wrist and it would be over. One little flick. That’s all it would take.


    I glance back and see them talking. I need to trust Alexis. She’s proved herself more than capable these last few months. Still though, I feel like I need to wait in the dark – just in case I need to defend my friend.


    She reaches up and draws him into another kiss. I feel like I might throw up.


    “Fine,” I mutter, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”


    Twenty minutes later, she flops down on the bed beside me with a big grin on her face.


    I put down my book and give her a look.


    She rolls her eyes and covers her face with one of our pillows. “I know I know I know I know I know I know,” comes the muffled confession.


    “Seriously, Alexis,” I say in my least impressed tone of voice, “That piece of garbage? The two of you?”


    She hits me with the pillow. “Hey, be nice! He’s my piece of garbage! Or at least… he was. Once. A long time ago.”


    I hit her with my pillow. “Honey, we need to find you a nice man like RIGHT NOW if that’s the direction you want to go in. Cause I’m not going to watch you slide into the gutter with that one! No way!”


    She starts attacking me with the stuffed weapon. “You’re soooooo… JUDGEY! Why don’t you just… MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!”


    She’s trying to be serious, but she’s in too good a mood. I join the pillow fight in earnest and we laugh and scream.


    “I’m just looking out for my stupid friend. Stupid!” I yell and land a shot on her head.


    “Well maybe your stupid friend hasn’t had a man in like… WAY TOO LONG NOW. Stupid!” She wallops me in the chest.


    “In fact…” she continues, “you KILLED my last man!”


    The weight of that statement hits me like a ton of bricks. She smacks me with the pillow a few more times, but then stops when she sees I’m not fighting back any longer. She sees the look on my face and things suddenly get intense.


    “You’re right. I did,” I say softly. “I’m sorry.”


    The mood in the room gets heavy. Alexis brushes the dark curls from her face as she processes my last sentence. We sit together in silence for what seems like an eternity.


    “Yes, you did. You killed him,” she says quietly. She reaches over and takes my hand in hers. “But, it was in self-defense. We had every intention of robbing and killing you – just as we had done to several other lone travelers on that road.”


    I look my friend in the eye and see the sincerity of her words.


    “I forgive you for your actions that night,” she whispers and bites the side of her lip.


    She squeezes my hand a little tighter.


    “Will you forgive me for mine?” Her eyes start to glisten a little in the lamplight. My heart breaks and I pull her into an embrace.


    “Of course I forgive you,” I whisper back. “If our roles had been reversed that evening, I probably would have done the same thing you did. We’re similar, you and I. We fight to survive any way we can.”


    I feel her tremble a little in my arms. I pull back and wipe a tear from her cheek. “But I wouldn’t have tried to murder you, dummy. A dead traveler can’t return another day with even more goodies to steal. Your business plan was flawed from the beginning.”


    She sputters with laughter and throws her arms around me again. We hold each other tight for several minutes and feel each other breathe.


    We’re all smiles when the hug finally ends. We continue kneeling across from each other on the bed. Alexis reaches over and pushes my hair out of my face. “Sun will be up soon. We should sleep.”


    I nod. “K.”


    We turn in for the night and I feel her cuddle up behind me. Usually I would have dirty thoughts about how I could take advantage of the situation, but tonight, I’m just happy to be a friend.



  • Just found this, pretty damn good :3
  • Thank you for taking a moment to comment. It makes me want to continue writing this story.
  • ArchivedUserArchivedUser Guest
    edited October 2018

    Ch8: Souls Exposed

    The door splinters and comes off its hinges as the Scarlet Rose soldier and I spill into the hallway. The mansion fills with the sound of other members of the order yelling out to each other as they converge on me and Alexis’ positions.


    How did they know we were going to hit this particular mansion tonight? It’s like someone tipped them off and they were waiting to ambush us.


    The burly member currently on top of me gives a grunt and picks me up off the floor. What do they feed these guys anyway? I swear this one’s as strong as a frost giant!


    Bracing my feet against his chest, I manage to break his grip on my throat and send him tumbling down the hallway.


    My vision is still a little blurry from his assault, but I manage to toss a small vile of acid his direction. It breaks against the wall beside him and splatters his face. His screams tells me I’ve got a few seconds to gather myself and make an escape.


    I quickly locate my daggers on the floor of the room we crashed out of, then leap up into the rafters. I manage to tuck into a darkened corner of the roof just as three more members of the order arrive.


    “Help that man! Where is the rogue? Spread out! Lady Marla commands that no one leaves this premises tonight!”


    My eyebrows raise a little. If figures Marla would be behind this little setup… but how did she know? I trust Alexis completely now. There’s no way she betrayed me. But other than that, who else is there?


    I wait until all of the Scarlet Rose order clear out of the area, then silently drop back to the ground. The pain of the lacerations to my arms, legs, and torso let me know that I won’t be able to fight my way out if they find me again.


    My hands tremble as I desperately try to uncork the tiny healing potion I keep tucked down my cleavage. I use my teeth and finally get it open.


    I feel a little bit of my strength return as my wounds stop gushing blood, but I’ll need additional medical attention soon if I want to stave off lethal levels of infection. I hope none of the Scarlet Rose I’ve fought tonight have dipped their blades in poison or the like.


    I meld into the shadows as two more heavily armored soldiers run by me. Marla is serious about capturing us tonight. She must have her whole division here.


    I hope Alexis is ok.


    We’ve reviewed protocol for situations such as this, of course. We’re to split up and meet at our predetermined rendezvous point if we’re discovered. All I can do it escape to there and hope for the best.


    I manage to make my way to a darkened room and open the second story window. I can still hear members of the order shouting instructions and reporting in all around me. I either leave right now, or not at all.


    I whistle as loud as I can.


    A few moments later, Beauty gallops into view.


    The door opens behind me. “Halt, rogue! The Scarlet Rose demands your surrender!”


    “Give Marla a kiss for me,” I say sarcastically, then backflip out the open window.


    I hear someone say, “The fool has dropped to her death!” as I land on Beauty’s back. Ok, yeah… that’s going to hurt a lot tomorrow.


    I glance back to see the outline of astounded Scarlet soldiers watching me ride into the darkness. I blow them a little kiss through my mask.


    “Go girl! It’s all gone wrong tonight! Let’s get out of here!” I shout to my horse.


    I turn to look back at the mansion. To my great joy, I see Alexis still in full costume riding up behind me. A dozen or so of the Scarlet Rose order follow hot on her heels. Based on how cut up her catsuit is, it looks like she had to fight tooth and nail in order to escape. I watch her for a moment, then narrow my eyes a little.


    We enter a densely wooded area with a narrow windy path. I signal to Alexis to follow me just before I take a sharp right and come to a stop behind a large clump of brush.


    As soon as the Scarlet Rose soldiers thunder by, we leave our cover and gallop back the way we came. A few moments later, we exit the forest again and start up the side of one of the mountains.


    Large beads of sweat start to form on Beauty’s neck. I know I can’t push her this hard for much longer.


    Now overlooking the forest from above, we can see the glow of the torches still looking for us. They’ll be searching those woods for hours. We are safe for now.


    “We did it,” I call back to Alexis. “We’ve lost them. Let’s go home.”


    Alexis doesn’t respond, but continues to follow behind.


    Thirty minutes later, we come to a stop near a large waterfall. The water cascades down from a cliff some eighty feet above. The moon is just bright enough to make out a geothermal mud fountain in the middle of the river in front of us. The resulting steaming pool makes the air moist and heavy.


    “Here we are. Home sweet home,” I say as I slide off of my mount.


    I hear Alexis dismount as well, but she still says nothing.


    I retrieve several magic flairs from my saddlebag and toss them into the gurgling mud pool. A moment later, a soft glow illuminates the area.


    I turn back to my companion and remove my mask and cowl. My blonde hair tumbles down and I do my best to move it out of my face. “Just tell me one thing before we get started, Marla. Did you kill my partner quickly? Or did you make it slow so she suffered?”


    The other woman remains silent, then slowly removes her own mask and cowl. A shock of red hair catches the soft light from the mud pool. Marla of the Scarlet Rose stands before me.


    “It seems I’ve underestimated you yet again, little gutter trash,” she says with a note of disdain.


    I narrow my eyes and give her a scowl. “So it would seem. And I think we’re past the petty name-calling now, aren’t we hun?”


    A little smirk catches the side of her lip. “Fine, have it your way then – Diana.”


    We slowly circle and expertly size each other up for potential weaknesses.


    “To answer your question,” she says and pauses for dramatic effect, “I didn’t kill your partner. She’s far from unscathed, mind you, but she is most certainly still alive.”


    I nod as understanding floods into my mind. “You need her just in case you end up killing me.”


    Marla returns the nod. “A lot of rich and powerful people want their spoils back. You can’t really blame them, can you?”


    We continue circling in silence until the redhead speaks again.


    “How did you know it was me, by the way? Your partner’s outfit fits me perfectly – not that that’s much of surprise given that all the women around here are about the same size. Odd that.”


    Now it’s my turn to smirk a little. “You move all wrong. You move like a trained warrior, not a thief in the night. That and the fact that the lacerations on her suit don’t match the wounds that you’ve got. It looks like she gave you a decent battle.”


    Marla nods. “It’s true. Did you train her yourself? Her style is very similar to yours.”


    “I did.”


    “How long has she been your lover?” she asks.


    I feel my brain take a blow. Marla’s trying to use psychological attacks to get me to drop my guard. I didn’t think they taught knight-mages that move. She’s really playing dirty right now.


    “We keep things strictly business between us actually. Emotion tends to cloud judgement,” I say in an even tone as possible.


    “And yet…” Marla continues, “…and yet, she’s the first thing you ask about when you drop the charade.”


    “I have to know where my weaknesses lie. Had to know if she was a liability or not.”


    “So where are your weaknesses then? Other than your lust for other women, of course.”


    I take another blow. She’s really pulling out all the stops tonight. I’ve got to refocus or I’m not going to survive this.


    “You’re still pissed that I kissed you that one time? I thought you’d have gotten over that by now.”


    Marla snorts in return.


    “Are you sure you’re not hiding some deep dark secret from the world? I mean… you were the one that challenged me to a wrestling match that night we were both hammered. Things got a little frisky as I recall.”


    I’m pretty sure I just saw her eye twitch. I think I just evened the playing field a little.


    “Like you said… we… I… was drunk,” she retorts. “I can’t be held accountable for choices made when my mind is not my own.”


    I’m getting to her, I can feel it. I must keep pressing my attack.


    “And the next morning when we shared a bath? Was your mind still not your own then? Where you under some sort of diabolical spell? Or were you so blinded by your own inner lust that you felt to steal my bra as a trophy to remember our time together?”


    Marla stops circling and stares at me. She narrows her eyes a little. Time for my finishing move.


    I unzip my top to reveal her pink brassiere. “I know I’ve enjoyed your gift to me. Every time I support myself with it, I remember your touch.”


    She looks down and to the side. The battle of wits is won. Diana: one, Marla: zero.


    She looks back to me, then begins unzipping her own top. My missing black bra comes into view.


    Well crap. I didn’t see that one coming.


    “Fits me like it was tailor made,” she says softly.


    To my surprise, she begins peeling off the remains of the tattered catsuit. The gorgeous redhead is really putting on a show for me. What’s her game here? Is she going to strike after my inner lust puts me off balance?


    Marla’s body is covered in fresh dagger lacerations. Looks like Alexis really did put up a good fight.


    She thrusts Alexis’ daggers into the ground beside her, then turns toward the bubbling pool and starts slowly descending into its muddy waters.


    I stand transfixed. What is going on right now?


    She looks back at me over her shoulder. “Well? Are you coming?”


    Before I’m fully aware of what’s happening, my fingers are peeling the ruined catsuit from the rest of my body.


    A few moments later, I’m neck deep in the mineral pool just opposite my greatest rival.


    “Yes, I was hoping that you would inadvertently lead me back to your lair this evening,” she says quietly, the sound of burping mud bubbles all around us. “But instead, I find myself here with you all alone. Just the two of us,” she continues. “Perhaps later tonight, we will battle and finally find out which of us is more skilled. But for now, let’s just be here together. These muddy mineral waters are known to have healing properties. If nothing else, we will be rejuvenated for whatever happens next.”


    Ok, ok… Diana: one, Marla: one. I’m not sure what all of that was just now, but I’m seriously digging it. I feel my discipline starting to slip. All I want to do is taste the supple lips saying all these crazy things.


    We stare at each other through the steam for… I don’t know how long. Hours? Days? Years? Lifetimes? I am so compromised right now.


    “What are you thinking?” she whispers.


    I shake my head. I’ve got nothing coherent to say at the moment.


    She wrinkles her nose a little. “Come on, Diana. This is a little gift of time we’ve been given right now. Soon we’ll have to go back to the whole good guy, bad guy thing and things might get messy. Look, just forget about everything going on for the next few minutes and just… talk to me.”


    “What do you want me to say?” I say a little more loudly than I meant to. “We gave each other matching scars the first time we met, you say you’re not into women, but you’re not shy about getting close with me. I think you’re one of the most incredible women that I’ve ever met and I’m madly in love with you!”


    That last sentence seems to echo off the walls of the cliffs all around us.


    I watch as Marla processes my confession. To my astonishment, she actually blinks away a tear and her lower lip begins to quiver for a moment.


    That’s it, I quit. She wins. Diana: one, Marla: nine-hundred million.


    “Well…” she starts, her voice trembling a tiny bit, “…since we’re going to kill each other a little later, I might as well tell you that I’ve been waiting all of my life to hear something as pure as that. That was the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever heard and it came from a woman that I’m supposed to destroy! A woman, by the way, that I have come to respect and admire and desperately wish would give up her life of crime and join me in the Scarlet Order. With your skills, we could do so much good together!


    Tears stream down her face now. That was real. That might have been the most real thing that I’ve ever encountered and I feel a lump welling up in my throat because of it.


    “…but you still don’t love me!” I croak out. My eyes turn to liquid now as well. Who cares at this point? Maybe I’ll just let her hold my head under these waters until I expire. Might as well get it over with.


    She shakes her head a little. “Not like you want me to love you, no. Not in a physical way. But… Diana… will you join me? I know you’ve done some terrible things. You’ve robbed. You’ve stolen. Hell, you’ve even murdered! But I’ll find a way to make it all go away! I promise! I’ll…”


    “I never murdered!” I shout, cutting her off. “Never! Everyone that I’ve killed – they attacked me first! It was always self-defense! I swear it! I know I cut down several of your people tonight, but I wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t come at me! Please… please, you must believe me! Please!”


    “I believe you!” she shouts back. “I believe you!” she repeats and wraps her arms around me. I throw my arms around her and we squeeze each other as hard as we can in the muddy, bubbling waters.


    I feel her tremble as her tears land on my shoulder. I tremble right back as my tears come easily now as well.


    Long minutes pass as we continue to clutch each other and wish that the moment would last forever.


    As it always happens though, the moment comes to an end. Releasing each other, we float back apart.


    “Will you join me, Diana? Please?” she whispers one more time, barely loud enough to be heard over the dull roar of the waterfall behind us.


    “Part of me wants to,” I say, my lower lip now trembling. “But it’s the same part of me that wants to run away with you and be with you in a physical way. That part of me is desperate to do anything to please you.”


    “…but?” she whispers again.


    I have to look away as I say it. “But you reject that part of me. So all I have left is the life of ease and excitement that I’ve come to love instead.”


    I can feel her staring a hole right through my head. I look back to her and feel the intensity of her gaze.


    “I’m so, so sorry,” I whisper back.


    She doesn’t reply, but looks to the side and gives a quick nod.


    An awkward silence invites itself to the conversation now. I’ve disappointed her with my answer. That much is clear. I slowly start making for the nearby shore. With a little groan, I pull myself from the steaming mud bath and lie on the embankment. The red clay will dry and start flaking off soon enough. Hopefully my wounds will have healed somewhat. They don’t sting nearly as bad as they did before.


    I hear Marla emerge from the waters as well. I don’t dare look at her right now. The only plan I have at the moment is to lie completely still so she doesn’t miss my heart when she plunges a dagger into it.


    The muddy clay makes blopping sounds as she comes closer and closer to me. It won’t be long now.


    I close my eyes and wait to embrace oblivion.


    “You get one, Diana,” she whispers. “Only one.”


    Before I can ask for clarification, I feel her lips press gently to mine. My whole body starts to tingle. The kiss is brief. Not unlike the kiss one would give a dead lover just after they’ve fallen in combat. It’s a kiss goodbye meant for someone special.


    I sit up and look at the other woman. “Marla?” I whisper.


    She shakes her head. “It was so you don’t have to wonder about that any longer. It was to give your mind some peace.”


    She brushes the muddy tips of my hair from my face.


    “I don’t know what to do right now,” she confesses. “I certainly don’t want to kill you. That would feel like killing a loved one. I feel so close to you tonight. We are definitely sisters-in-arms.”


    She wipes a muddy finger down my nose in a playful fashion. “Do you want to kill me? That would certainly make things a lot easier to figure out.”


    I shake my head. “Even when you still wanted to kill me, I never wanted to kill you.”


    She rests her forehead against mine and we sit in silence together.


    Eventually, she stands and adjusts the saddle on her horse. Still muddy from the neck down, she mounts him and slowly starts back into the darkness of the mountain.


    “It’s a shame you gave me the slip tonight. I never actually found where you were hiding. By the way, we’re holding your partner in the city jail if you are curious. You will try to impress me with the ingenuity of your plan to rescue her, won’t you?”


    A smile starts to cross my lips as I watch her disappear into the night. That smile explodes into full on laughter as her last statement echoes out of the darkness.


    “And I’m keeping your bra!”

  • Thanks for the update, it's really cleanly laid out too so it makes for a comfortable read :3
  • ArchivedUserArchivedUser Guest
    edited October 2018

    Ch9: The Demon Within

    “Can I help you, m’lady?”


    I scan the interior of the Springvale jail. Five members of the Scarlet Rose mill about the office busily filling out paperwork and chatting amongst themselves.


    “M’lady?” the guard at the counter inquires again.


    I meet her gaze and smile sweetly. “I’m here to visit one of your prisoners.”


    “Which one?” she asks.


    “My drunken oaf of a husband. He didn’t come home last night, so I assume he’s in here.”


    She turns and yells at a member of the order sitting in the back of the room. The door to the prisoner lockup is ajar beside him. “Bruce! Did we bring in anyone on a public intoxication charge last night?”


    “Yeah, of course we did. It was Thor’s Day,” he says without looking up from his desk.


    “Got any names?”




    The female guard in front of me turns back and rolls her eyes. “Do you want to just take a quick peak in lockup and see if he’s there?”


    I smile sweetly again and bob my head. I pull my long coat a little tighter around me as a member of the Scarlet Rose escorts me through the office and into the back of the building.


    Several men snore loudly in a large cell with a small drain in the middle. Several of them have wet themselves. The smell of alcohol and urine is overpowering.


    “Oh my…” I whimper and cover my nose with a handkerchief like a proper lady would.


    “Apologies m’lady,” mumbles my burly escort. “Which one is yours?”


    I use this opportunity to cast my gaze around the lockup. Alexis lies motionless on a cot in a cell across the room.


    “There he is!” I declare in my girliest voice and stride across the lock up.


    The large guard come over with a confused look on his face. “You said ‘husband’, didn’t you? This is a woman, m’lady.”


    I look ridiculously surprised. “My stars, are you certain of that? He looks just like the picture in my love locket.” I pull a massive locket from my cleavage and hand it to the guard. He continues to look confused as he cracks the metallic blub open.


    A cloud of spores explodes in his face. Without another sound, he drops to the ground.


    I smile while holding my nose and lifting the cell keys from his belt. “Nighty night now, darling,” I whisper in his ear. “Sleep well. Dream of lusty women.”


    I hum a happy tune as I unlock Alexis’ holding cell. She’s heavily bandaged, looks pale, and is currently unconscious, but she’s breathing. Gods above and below be thanked for that.


    I reach into my long coat and produce a small vial of drake blood. “This was the most potent elixir I could lay my hands on, love,” I whisper as I tilt her head back and pour the orange liquid down her throat. “I just pray it’s enough.”


    The color returns to her cheeks almost immediately and her body visibly relaxes.


    Dang. Drake blood is no joke. I should steal some more of this for recreational use later.


    “Alexis,” I whisper and gently tap the side of her face. “Alexis, honey, wake up.”


    She mumbles and squirms on the bench a little, but fails to regain consciousness.


    I run my hand down the side of her face and play with her curls a little. “Okay sleepy-head, you just keep resting then,” I say as I wrap her in one of her blankets.


    I produce a tiny hourglass from within my robes. The sand has almost emptied out of the top capsule. I continue humming to myself and place the tips of my fingers in my ears.


    A wagon explodes in a ball of flame just outside the jail. All of the Scarlet Rose members in the front office rush out and begin casting ice spells to douse the flames before they spread to nearby buildings.


    I hum a little louder as I drip the liquid from another flask along the bars of Alexis’ cell window. A few moments later, the metal bars expand and burst out of the brick window enclosure surrounding them.


    I hoist Alexis over my shoulder with a little grunt, then climb through the open window with her.


    Beauty stands just outside and whinnies a little as I lower us into his saddle. I sit Alexis in front of me and prop her up with my arms as I reach around her to hold Beauty’s reins.


    “Slowly, girl,” I say quietly. “No one’s looking for us yet. There’s no hurry.”


    My horse understands and starts trotting down a darkened alley. Behind us, the whole neighborhood has arrived with pails of water and additional ice spells. I hope that barrel of pitch and black powder wasn’t overkill. It wasn’t my intention to burn down the whole city!


    The night air is cool as we leave the city limits. A full moon illuminates the foliage all around us.


    “This was too easy!” I say and laugh out loud.


    Alexis starts to stir in her blanket. “Hey baby, welcome back to the land of the living. Don’t worry, I’ve got—“




    Alexis suddenly bursts out of the blanket and knocks me off of Beauty’s back. My horse spooks, rears up sending Alexis into the dirt beside me, and takes off into the night.


    “Alexis sweetheart, what is it? What’s wrong?” I shout.


    My brunette partner turns toward me. Her eyes glow orange and she is drooling. Her wounds emit the same orange glow as her eyes.


    “Fetching alchemist charlatan!” I say with a panicked squeal and crab walk away from the glowing orange horror as fast as I can. “I’m going to murder that bum – if I survive whatever Alexis has become!”


    “RRRRRAAAAOOORRR!” she roars again and leaps high into the air above me. All of the bandages and wrappings burn off of her body giving me quite the view.


    Talk about a hottie.


    Okay okay, that was a terrible joke. Might as well die with a grin on my face though, right?


    I manage to roll out of the way at the last second. A blast of intense heat radiates out from the ground as she lands.


    I shield my eyes from the resulting burning dust cloud. “Alexis, honey! It’s me! It’s Diana!”


    “RRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAOOOOOOOORRRRRRRR” is the only answer I get. Squinting through the airborne particles, I make out Alexis’ face. Her canine teeth have all grown a half inch or so. She locks eyes with me and I feel my heart skip a beat. I think she just licked her lips.


    “Ah hells!” I shout and scamper to my feet. “Hells no! I did not sign up for this tonight!”


    I glance back over my shoulder to see Alexis running after me on all fours. Her demonic, naked body shimmering with orange heat as it catches everything around it on fire.


    “Awwwwwwww hellllllllllls nooooooooooo!” I scream and sprint at top speed back toward Springvale.


    I full-on panic run for several minutes until a thought eventually settles in my adrenalin addled brain. What if this is only temporary? It wasn’t a very large elixir. What if this transformation fizzles in the next few minutes as the city guard are trying to fend off her attacks? She’ll be killed for sure!


    I glance over my shoulder again. The only thing I see in Demon Alexis’ eyes is dinner time – and I’m currently the main course!


    My heart feels as though it will burst out of my chest. I’ve got to think of something and fast!


    The back of my neck starts to redden as the half drake continues to gain on me. I frantically fling something from my robe pocket over my shoulder. I have zero idea what it was that I just tossed, but I hope it slows her down a little!


    A small explosion erupts behind me flinging me forward several feet. I recover as quickly as I can to see Demon Alexis sprawled on the road thirty feet back. Looks like she took the brunt of the impact.


    Good fortune continues to shine on me as Beauty comes galloping back into view. I whistle and manage to catch her tack as she thunders by.


    “Go girl! Go! Up the mountain. We’ve got to lead Alexis away from Springvale!”


    I drag my feet in the dirt as I clutch the side of my horse as she charges upward. I watch as Alexis regains her composure and sprints after us. On the positive side, I’m pretty sure the drake elixir has completely healed her body.




    I bounce a few times and manage to hoist myself onto Beauty’s back. “This way, girl! I’ve got an idea!” We make a hard left and start galloping into the moonlight. The light that Demon Alexis emits starts making crazy shadows on the ground in front of us.


    “What the hell is she…” I trail off as I watch her leap and hover briefly in the air behind us. “Oh, well that’s just great,” I mutter to myself. “I think she’s sprouted little wings now!”


    The air starts to heat up little by little as she continues to gain on us. Fortunately, my final end goal comes into view.


    “Jump, girl!” I shout. “Into the water! Now!”


    Beauty and I jump over a little cliff and fall into Springvale’s large water reservoir. My head breaks out of the water and I gasp for breath. Beauty pops up several feet from me – apparently no worse for wear.


    “Gods I hope this works!” I think to myself as Demon Alexis glides over the ridge above. Too late to glide out of the way, she makes a high pitched squealing sound as the reservoir comes rushing up to meet her.


    “Dive! Dive! Dive!” I shout to my horse and plunge back under the water.


    A moment later, the demonic woman splashes down and instantly produces a huge plume of steam.


    I watch as her bubble-encased form sinks deeper and deeper into the reservoir. I keep pace with her sinking body while staying a safe distance from her.


    Finally, as I had hoped, the bubbles cease and her normal body emerges once again.


    I swim to her as quickly as I can. I snake an arm around her chest and start clawing my way to the surface. My lungs feel as if they will burst when I finally taste the air once more.


    “Beauty! Tow us to shore! Quickly!” I sputter as best I can. My beloved steed obeys perfectly and swims alongside us immediately. A few moments later, I drag my limp companion onto the muddy shoreline.


    “I’ll never say the words ‘that was easy’ again,” I mutter as I tilt Alexis’ head back and seal my lips to hers. I give three sharp breaths, then begin compressing her chest.


    “Come on, girl. Don’t quit on me now!” I shout.


    Three more breaths. More chest compressions.


    Alexis finally coughs up a bunch of water and starts gasping for breath.


    I fall backward completely exhausted, my heart still pounding out of my chest.


    “Praises to the gods!” I shout as loud as I can. “The woman yet lives!”


    “D… Diana…?” Alexis says in a weak voice. “I’m… I’m… cold…”


    I manage to pull myself to my knees and crawl to her. I wrap my long coat around her as best as I can. “Better cold than white hot,” I sputter.


    I pull her close and feel her shiver.


    Beauty kneels beside us as an invitation to get off of the cold ground. I help Alexis onto the saddle then sit behind her while holding the reins as I did before.


    “Diana?” she asks quietly as we canter along the road to our home.


    “Yes, Alexis?” I reply just as quietly.


    “Why the hell am I naked right now?” she asks.


    “Long story,” I reply in my most tired voice ever.


    “Can you pour me a bath when we get back? I’m freezing!”


    “Yes, my friend, I will pour you a bath.”


    Alexis lets out a loud burp. A puff of smoke escapes her mouth as she does.


    “What the…” she trails off.


    I hug her a little tighter and nudge Beauty into a run.


    I can’t take any more surprises tonight.

  • Thanks for the update.
  • Let me know what you do and don't like about the story so far.
  • ArchivedUserArchivedUser Guest
    edited October 2018

    Ch10: Fright Night

    “So? How did you do tonight?” I ask Alexis as we perch atop one of the largest buildings in Springvale and open our matching sacks.


    She roots around in her bag for a moment, then produces a gem-covered necklace. “Beat this!” she says with a wide grin.


    I wrinkle my nose a little, then reach into my bag. I produce a gem-covered dagger. I pretend to stab her with it repeatedly. “Probably comparable in value, but mine’s got some bite!”


    We laugh together and continue showing the contents of our sacks.


    We started this little competition last month. We needed something to spice up our thievery a little. It’s not much of a challenge any more.


    At last, I pull out a red globe and shove it in Alexis’ face. “Nice haul, but check this out! It glows!”


    Her eyes cross as she tries to focus on the object right in front of her nose. “Ooooh pretty,” she whispers. “Okay, okay, fine – you win tonight.”


    I smile so wide I’m afraid my lips are going to split. “Yes. Yes, I do. Thank you.”


    My victory smile quickly fades when the red orb flashes, then slips from my gloved hand.


    “Awww piss!” I say as the bobble starts rolling down the side of the rooftop.


    “What was that flash?” Alexis asks.


    I shake my head and shrug as it goes over the edge. We quickly slide down the roof and peer over the side just in time to see it bounce on the ground a couple times, then come to a stop across the street.


    Alexis shoots me a grin. “Well, that was lucky. I thought I was going to win by default for a second there!”


    I stick my tongue out at her in a playful fashion and we laugh some more.


    Alexis suddenly goes serious and points down at the ground. “Hey, look!”


    The red smoke on the ground starts to dissipate and reveals a woman dressed in a catsuit lying on her back.


    I squint to see her features. “Wait… did you see her there a second ago? That’s bizarre!”


    Alexis shakes her head. “And why is she dressed like us? Do we have some new competition that I don’t know about?”


    I shake my head and shrug again. “Let’s go see if she’ll give us some answers – assuming she’s even alive still. Maybe the orb hit her on the way down or something?”


    We stash our goods in the corner of the rooftop, then quickly make our way down the side to the street below. The woman dressed like us still lies motionless in the street. We approach as quietly as we can and gently remove her mask.


    Alexis lets out a loud gasp. I’m struck by a feeling of bewilderment.


    The woman lying on the street appears to be a perfect copy of me.


    Her eyes suddenly bolt open and have an otherworldly red glow. Alexis and I jump back in fright.


    “What is she?” Alexis says with a yelp.


    “I don’t know!” I shout back. “And why does she look just like me?”


    Before either of us can formulate a hypothesis, the woman jumps to her feet. She looks me up and down, then approaches. I’m paralyzed with fear and have no idea what to do. Alexis slowly backs away from us while shaking her head in fear.


    The other me reaches up and slowly removes my mask. I’m sure my face must be pale as a ghost right now.


    “Are you the one?” she asks – her words have a strange echo to them. As she speaks, that same red glow comes from her mouth as well.


    “I… I… the one…?” I stammer.


    She runs one of her gloved hands down the side of my face in a tender fashion, then steps… I’m not sure how to describe it… ‘inside’ of me? I guess?


    I feel myself merge with this other me - and the feeling is traumatizing.


    Alexis hides her face and screams in terror.


    Mercifully, it only lasts a few breathes as she appears behind me a moment later.


    “You’re not the one,” she says with a hint of sadness. “You freed me, but you’re not the one.”


    My body loses its strength and I crumple to the ground. Never in my life have I ever been so completely freaked out.


    My doppelganger turns to Alexis. “Are you the one?” it asks.


    Alexis starts to scream and takes off running down the street. Lights start turning on as she runs. She’s going to wake up the whole city at this rate.


    The other me starts chasing after her and moves much faster than a normal person would. As she runs, little licks of red smoke stream from her body.


    “Alexis,” I scream as loud as I can and reach after them.


    “What’s going on down there?” someone shouts from a second story window.


    “Is someone being murdered?” someone else shouts.


    “This city is going to Hell in a handbasket!” shouts another.


    “I’m calling the city guard!”


    That last statement is enough to get my legs to work again. The last thing I need is another run-in with the Scarlet Rose right now.


    I can still hear Alexis screaming, so I start running in her direction. Turning the corner, I’m just in time to watch the other me ‘enter’ my apprentice. The look of absolute terror on her face cannot be put into words.


    As before however, my doppelganger steps out of her a moment later. Alexis collapses, just as I did earlier.


    “You’re not the one,” the other me says in a disappointed tone.


    “Leave her alone!” I cry out as I run toward them.


    The other me seems to ignore my command and instead starts scanning the skyline. She starts running down another street just before I can get to her.


    Alexis throws her arms around me as soon as I bend down to see to her. “That was… was… awful! She was… inside… of… me!”


    I lift her mask, kiss her forehead, and hold her as tight as I can.  “I know, baby. I know. You feel violated on a level you never knew existed.”


    We watch as several members of the Scarlet Guard rush up the street to engage the other me. One by one, my doppelganger runs ‘through’ each of them. Each falls to the earth clutching themselves and screaming at the top of their lungs.


    Then a familiar redhead appears at the very end of the street.


    “Marla!” I whisper. “No! Get out of here!”


    The knight-mage stands firm, however, and measures the woman running toward her. She quickly murmurs a spell of some sort and my doppelganger is suddenly encased in a glowing rope. Another spell leaves Marla’s lips and a bolt of energy strikes the other me in the face.


    I watch myself explode into a red, sparkling cloud of dust.


    Alexis and I are still clutching each other when Marla finishes seeing to her people and walks over to us.


    “I should have known it would be you two,” she says with a frown and places her hands on her hips.


    “We were just… taking a nice stroll, minding our own business?” I offer.


    She nods. “Dressed in your rogue suites. Sure.”


    She turns to Alexis. “You’re still supposed to jail.”


    She turns to me. “And frankly, so are you. How could you be so stupid as to steal a seeker stone? Don’t you know any lore at all?”


    Alexis and I stand and try and act tough. “Stole? You have no proof of anything. Search us. We’ve got no stolen goods on us,” I say while wiping the tears from my face.


    Marla ignores my bravado. “Seekers are powerful apparitions that gather information. When one is released, it takes the form of whoever it is that released it, then it tries to find its master so it can merge with his or her mind.”


    “Don’t remind us!” Alexis whispers and grips my arm.


    Marla looks around. “My men haven’t seen your faces yet, so get going before I’m forced to arrest you for breaking and entering, and you for breaking the jail!” she says with conviction while pointing first at Alexis and then at me.


    I give a little nod, then take Alexis by the hand and start into the darkness.


    “I can’t keep doing this, girls,” she calls after us. “Either find a way to pay back the citizens of Springvale, or you’ll both be behind bars very soon!”


    Alexis and I walk in silence until we get to our horses hidden just outside of the city.


    “Why did Marla let us go like that? Do you have some dirt on her now or something?” she asks.


    I think about my reply before saying anything. “No… but we do have a kind of understanding between us.”


    “What do you mean?”


    I climb onto Beauty’s back. “We talked. We bared our souls to each other. We’re kind of… I don’t know… close now, I guess?”


    I can practically hear the wheels in Alexis’ head grinding away. “Are you two lovers now?”


    I knew she was going to ask that.


    “No,” I say softly. “Not lovers. Just… close friends.”


    Alexis give a little sniff. “Okay, fine. Don’t tell me then. It’s not like we’re close too or anything.”


    I let out a long sigh. “You know I would do anything for you, right Alexis? Well… what we went through… I kind of did the same thing with Marla – except it was even more intense. That’s all. And I’m being serious when I say that’s the best way I can think to describe it.”


    “Fine, whatever! I get it, ok? I get it,” she replies impatiently. “I’m just happy that we’re not in jail right now. Jails are--.”


    There’s a brief whooshing sound, and then Alexis falls backward off of Stud with a little grunt.


    “Alexis?” I shout, my heart once again starting to race. “Alexis!”


    I slide off of Beauty and run to my friend’s side. An arrow emitting soft, red, glowing steam sticks out of her chest.


    “Alexis!” I scream.


    “Marla!” I scream as I gallop back into town with Alexis clutched in my arms. “Marla of the Scarlet Rose! Where are you?”


    “Keep your voice down!” Marla commands as she runs into view. Above us, lights start to flicker on again.


    “Marla…” I say with tears running down my face, “there was an assassin in the woods. Poor Alexis…”


    The captain of the guard examines the arrow, then grips the brunette’s face and looks her in the eye. “She yet lives. Come! Bring her! Quickly!”


    Beauty trots after Marla as she sprints down several darkened streets. After a few minutes, she motions for me to bring Alexis inside a corner house.


    “On the table!” she commands and motions to the kitchen. I lie Alexis on the kitchen table as gently as I can. Her breathing is shallow and her skin is moist with perspiration.


    “Open her top!” Marla commands again as she rifles through a box of elixirs. “We haven’t got much time!”


    I tear Alexis’ top open to reveal the arrow wound. The brunette coughs up some blood – the same way she did the night I decided to save her life.


    Marla charges into the kitchen with several vials in her arms. “The arrow is enchanted. If we don’t neutralize the enchantment before we pull the arrow out, your friend is a gonner.”


    I’m speechless as she hands me a vial. “Try that one! Hurry!”


    I dump the clear liquid into Alexis’ wound. The skin starts to bubble and Alexis screams in pain.


    “Wrong one!” Marla screams. “This one! Try this one!” she shouts and thrusts another vial into my hand.


    My hands start to shake as I splatter the blue liquid onto Alexis’ bare chest. This time, a tiny puff of red smoke hisses out of the wound and Alexis visibly relaxes a little.


    “That’s got it!” Marla declares and presses a small healing potion to the brunette’s lips. “Drink!” the redhead commands.


    “Do it, baby,” I say as softly as I can and brush her hair with my hand. “Drink it all down.”


    Alexis chokes down the healing potion as best as she can.


    “Save a little for the wound… woops, she drank the whole thing,” Marla says as she looks up from the arrow still sticking out of my friend’s chest. “Okay, hold her down then.”


    I put my weight on her shoulders. Marla yanks the arrow out of Alexis’ breast.


    Alexis lets out another scream and starts hyperventilating – her nostrils fully flared.


    I watch as the healing potion in her system starts to shrink the wound. A few moments later, it is sealed with scar tissue. Alexis’ breathing starts to slow a little and her body relaxes.


    I look Marla in the eye as I cover Alexis’ chest with a towel. “Thank you,” I whisper.


    Marla wipes a few beads of sweat from her brow and nods several times.


    “Thank you,” Alexis also whispers, barely loud enough to be heard.


    Marla places her hand on Alexis’ forehead and slides it down her eyelids. “Sleep now. Your body has had a nasty shock.”


    Alexis doesn’t argue and lies motionless on the table.


    Marla grasps my arm and pulls me into the next room. “This is all your fault!” she hisses.


    Her words wound me. “What do you mean it’s my fault?” I whisper with a hurt look on my face.


    “The seeker. It contacted its master!” she hisses back. “Don’t you recognize that arrow?”


    I shake my head and shrug my shoulders. I feel like crying right now.


    “How can you…” Marla pauses, then rolls her eyes. “You’re not from his land. I keep forgetting.”


    I can’t hold it back any longer and my eyes spill over. “What do you mean? What are you talking about?”


    Marla rubs the tears from my cheeks and tries to take a softer tone. “There is a legend in these parts. A legend surrounding a powerful thief that has been pulling strings in the government and secretly leads all of the thieves’ guilds in the area.”


    “Thieves’ guilds?” I whisper through my blubbering. “It just me and her. We’re independent.”


    Marla nods. “I know. That’s one of the main reasons I’ve been turning a blind eye to your activities as of late. It wasn’t supposed to be the two of you that we ambushed at that mansion a couple weeks ago. It was supposed to be agents of the Dark Blade.”


    “The Dark Blade? Is that what he calls himself?” I ask.


    “He… or she,” Marla says with a nod. “We were acting on an anonymous tip. But instead of Dark Blade Agents, we found you two. Someone set you up.”


    It’s all starting to make a little more sense now.


    Marla takes my hands in hers. “I know I’ve already asked, Diana, but I’m going to ask again. Join me. Help me root out this evil that is corrupting our land!”


    Ordinarily I would be excited to be getting all of this attention from the gorgeous redhead, but my mind is on the gorgeous brunette lying half dead behind me. I look back to Alexis as Marla continues to hold hands with me. Her chest rises and falls in a normal, rhythmic fashion. She’s going to be ok.


    I look back to Marla and squeeze her hands a little harder. “I won’t join the Scarlet Rose,” I whisper firmly, “but…”


    The captain of the guard gives me an expectant look.


    “…but, I will work with you. In secret,” I say with a nod.


    Marla considers my offer for a moment, then squeezes my hands back. “Alright, Diana,” she whispers with a nod, “in secret then. Welcome to the clandestine side of the Scarlet Rose Order.”


    I sputter a little and shake my head. “Not a chance, hun. How about I welcome you to the Sisters of Fortune instead!”


    A little grin begins to spread itself across her face. “Whatever. It’s just good to finally be working with you.”


    We embrace just as Alexis starts to loudly snore.


    Marla and I exchange a look. I swear I can’t take that brunette anywhere.

  • Ch11: Hers and His


    It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon as I walk into Springvale. For whatever reason, I feel like being a normal human being today.


    I love getting dressed up. I mean, I love my catsuit, don’t get me wrong – I always feel super sexy in it – but there’s just something about walking down the street in a low cut, frilly, ultra-girly flower print dress that puts a little extra spring in my step. I practically feel like bursting into song.


    I even spent extra time on my hair today. Perfectly curled with extra spring, I feel like the most gorgeous woman in town. And based on the way the men are staring, grinning and saying ‘good morning’, I’d say it might be a distinct possibility.


    It’s a shame I can’t go out with Alexis and have fun like this – the city guard is too familiar with her face now ever since Marla captured her. She’s only allowed in town when we’re working unfortunately.


    I visit the farmers market and have a wonderful time smelling fresh flowers and produce. The bread makers are out in force today and I can’t help but put several loaves in my basket.


    I successfully manage to cross off all the items on my checklist except for fresh melons. Glancing around I spot the melon stand at the very edge of the town square. I approach and begin squeezing the wares to find the ones that are perfectly ripe.


    A soft voice says, “I have a couple more behind the stand if you can’t find what you’re after, miss.”


    I look up to see a lovely woman with short blonde hair smiling at me. She leans forward with a little grin as I approach. She’s got just as much on display as I do today.


    I return the smile and lean in as well. Her green eyes and light freckles are absolutely beautiful and give her a youthful appearance.


    “Looking for some nice, ripe melons today?” she asks.


    “Oh, I’m always looking for some nice ripe melons,” I reply.


    She gives a little giggle. “Well then, I’m pretty sure I can help you out.”


    I lean in a little closer. “Can you now?”


    She leans in a little closer as well. “Mmmm hmmm,” she says with a little grin.


    I feel my mouth getting dry. Is this woman flirting with me? I feel butterflies in my stomach.


    She reaches under the stand and produces too large melons. “What do you think of these? I didn’t have room to put them out yet.”


    I look down and smile. “They’re fabulous. I’ll take them!”


    The blonde hums to herself as she places the melons in a small sack for me, then hands them over with another little grin.


    “Are you new around here?” she asks. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”


    I nod as I arrange the produce in my basket to make room. “Uh huh. I’ve only been in the area a few months now.”


    “I thought so,” she replies. “I was pretty sure I knew all the other gorgeous blondes in town. It’s great to have another one join us.”


    “Oh, well thank you very much!” I say with another smile. This woman is fabulous. I wonder if she’s taken already.


    She stretches out her hand to shake. “I’m Sasha, by the way.”


    “Diana,” I say in reply. Her grip is firm. She’s confident. She also allows her hand to linger in mine a little.


    “What do you think of our city? Have you seen all the wonderful sights?” she asks.


    “Well, I don’t know. How many wonderful sights are there?” I say with a chuckle.


    She lets my hand go and leans forward a little again. “Oh, I can think of at least a couple that you haven’t seen yet, I’m sure.”


    I narrow my eyes a little and continue to grin. “I’m intrigued. Tell me more.”


    “Well, I’d rather show you,” she says quietly and leans forward even further.


    Oh yeah, she’s flirting with me alright. Finally, another woman that likes women! And she’s gorgeous!


    I nod a little and give her a flirty lip pucker as I lean in as well. “I was hoping you would say that,” I reply just as quietly.


    She’s practically whispering now. “Why don’t you meet me back here at sundown? I’ve still got a lot of melons to sell – and maybe I’ve got a pair that you might enjoy.”


    “Are they ripe?” I ask, my cheeks starting to flush a little.


    “You’ll have to squeeze them to find out,” she whispers back.


    We both stand up straight again and start waving our hands on our necks.


    “My goodness, it is super warm today!” I say in a loud, deliberate voice.


    “Oh, I know!” Sasha replies and flutters her eyelashes a little.


    “It was wonderful to meet you, Sasha!” I say with a big grin. “I’ll see you later.”


    “Likewise, Diana!” she says and returns the grin. “And you better.”


    Well, that was bracing. As if I wasn’t in a good mood already - now I’m practically going to float home! Alexis isn’t going to believe this!


    I stop in the street and place my hand on my chest. Poor Alexis! She hasn’t been in a man’s arms (or anything else for that matter) since her run-in with that idiot oaf from her past.


    I squint a little and scan the rest of the square. Surely there must be some handsome single men around here somewhere. I could set her up on a blind date! How fun!


    Most of the men I can see already have a woman on their arm or are being towed around by one. I blow a strand of perfectly curled hair out of my face. This could prove to be more difficult than I first thought.


    An older man with a thick, fluffy mustache sweeps the sidewalk in front of his shop. I bounce over to get some information.


    “Excuse me, sir?” I ask in my girliest voice. “Could I ask a quick question?”


    The man’s eyes smile as he looks me up and down. His mouth might be smiling too, but I can’t tell what’s happening behind that facial hair.


    “Of course, my dear. What can old Earl do for you?”


    “Where do all the single young men spend their time in this city? If a girl wanted to meet a nice guy, where would she go to do that?”


    The older gent chuckles a bit. “Well, sweetheart, when I was a young man, I would spend a lot of my time hunting and fishing. Why don’t you see what’s happening down at the pier?”


    “Thank you, sir!” I say and give a polite curtsey.


    “Good luck!” he calls after me as I hurry on my way.


    “Excuse me. Pardon me,” I sing as I make my way through the crowded streets of Springvale. “Lady, coming through!”


    Unfortunately, my girly shoes do not serve me very well on these cobblestone streets. My toe catches a deep groove and I stumble forward.


    “Woah there,” a member of the Scarlet Rose Order says as he catches me. “We wouldn’t want you falling out of that dress and putting on a show for all the male onlookers, now would we?”


    I look up with a slightly confused look on my face. Who would say such a thing?


    Christopher smiles down at me, except he isn’t looking at my face. “You!” I say with disdain and wriggle out of his grasp.


    “Me!” he says with that smarmy grin of his. He actually looks at my face for the first time and a glimmer of recognition adorns his stupid face. “Oh, it’s you – Alex’s friend. Say, I like your dress. Much nicer than those rags you were wearing—“


    “Shut up!” I command with a look of defiance. “Your words are attracting flies, sir, and I want no part of it.”


    The large man looks down on me and puffs his chest out a little. “I’ll ignore that remark because you’re my girl’s friend, but you should treat me with more respect. I’m Scarlet Rose now.”


    “Your girl?” I say with a sputter. “What makes you think Alexis belongs to you?”


    Christopher looks at the stitching in his glove as if to send the signal that I’m not worth his time to address. “I’m important now. Powerful. I’m the most eligible man in town. If I say she is my girl, then it is so.”


    I’m starting to get that icy feeling in my veins again. “Well if you’re so great, then you can have any woman in town. I’m sure you would be much more interested in one of them, wouldn’t you?”


    He gives a little sniff. “All the hot ones are already taken. So… Alex is mine. What is her address anyway? I want to see her tonight. Pick up where we left off as it were.”


    I don’t have any weapons with me at the moment. Maybe I could bludgeon this idiot with my melons or something.


    “Never mind. I don’t need your help. You may go now. Go. Shew. Run along. Go do whatever it was your empty blonde head was thinking of doing before I so graciously saved you. Bye bye.”


    He gives a little motion with his hand and then turns his back on me. I can feel my face turning several different shades of red and my hands curl into fists.


    “That’s no way to talk to a lady, you dimly-lit clown.”


    The voice is strong and manly sounding. I look over my shoulder to see an athletic looking man in a Scarlet Order uniform.


    Christopher turns his attention to the other man and brushes past me. “What did you just say to me, pleb?”


    “You owe this woman an apology,” he says firmly. “And if your hearing is really so poor, I’ll gladly repeat my earlier assessment of your character.”


    “Know your role, pleb!” Christopher says loudly and forcefully pokes the smaller man in the chest. “You don’t outrank me or outsize me, so how about you’re the one that shuts up now, ok?”


    This marvelous man gives me a little wink and a nod, then looks back to the much larger Christopher. “Last chance, oaf. Apologize like a good lad, or this may come to blows.”


    Christopher can’t believe his ears. He steps back to make sure he’s measured the man’s size correctly, then roars and sends a hammy fist toward the stranger’s face.


    My new hero moves his head to the side at the last moment, catches the larger man off balance, and redirects his forward momentum into the wall of a nearby storefront. Christopher bounces off of the wall and goes down. He groans as the victor steps over his body and approaches me.


    “My apologies, m’lady,” he says as he bows and kisses the back of my hand. “Not all members of the Scarlet Rose are as crass, I assure you.”


    My heart feels like its sprouted wings! “Who are you?” I ask in my best wide-eyed, girly voice.


    “Yes, apologies again, m’lady,” he says with another bow. “My name is Remington, or Remmy for short if you prefer. And may I have the pleasure of knowing your name as well?”


    “Diana of House Dunstan, m’lord,” I say and give my best curtsey.


    “House of Dunstan you say?” he asks with a troubled look. “I’m sorry, but I’m not familiar with it. Was it established recently?”


    I give a little bow. Yes, yes, I do know how to act like a proper lady. Don’t look so surprised.


    “I hail from across the great waters, m’lord. My family does not have an establishment in this land as of yet.”


    “Ah,” he says with a knowing look, “I see. So, you are seeking a sponsor then I take it?”


    Whatever you say, handsome! I give another little bow.


    “Yes m’lord, if that is the way of things in this land.”


    Remmy looks me directly in the eye and smiles. Gods above and below, I hope he can’t see how black my soul actually is!


    “I am not a wealthy man, but I am acquainted with those that are. Perhaps I could make a few… introductions? Would you consider being on my arm at a garden party at this end of week?”


    Buddy, I’ll be on your arm, on your chest, on your face… whatever you want! I feel like I did when I was given a princess dress as a little girl!


    I manage to keep it together long enough to give a proper response.


    “It would be my pleasure to be your accompaniment, good sir.”


    He bows to me. He’s such a gentleman!


    “Then it is settled then! May I call on you—“


    Remmy is suddenly jerked backward by a powerful arm.


    “I’ll teach you to make a fool out of me!” Christopher growls. Before Remmy has a chance to ready himself, the larger man lands a solid punch to his face that knocks him backward several paces. Christopher follows up and lands several more blows that send the smaller man into the dirt.


    “Not in front of the lady!” Remmy sputters through clenched teeth. Blocking Christopher’s next blow, he scores a retaliatory punch to the large man’s stomach, then lands a second blow to his chin.


    Christopher roars and lands a pair of hammer blows to Remmy’s shoulders, knocking the smaller man down to his knees. A kick to his chest sends Remmy rolling down the street.


    “Now I’m gonna end y—“


    Christopher doesn’t get to finish that sentence. Remmy looks up to see Christopher go down like a ton of bricks, then looks to me as I hold the remains of a flower pot in my hands.


    “Remmy! Are you okay?” I ask as I run to him. I help him get to his feet and dust him off a little.


    “Th… thank you… m’lady…” he stammers as he attempts to regain his composure.


    “Just call me, Diana,” I say with a smile and continue brushing the dust from his jacket.


    He attempts to nod as best he can and takes several deep breaths. “Diana, then.”


    I smile sweetly and kiss him on the cheek. “I look forward to seeing you at the end of week, Remmy.”


    “Ah, yes…” he says with another little nod. “Of course. Where shall I call upon you?”


    Oh right. He’s a gentleman. He wants to pick me up at my place. Well, that’s not exactly going to work for me.


    “Actually, I would prefer to meet you at your home, if you don’t mind. My accommodations are… I find them embarrassing at present. I’m sure you understand.”


    He gives another little bow. “Very well, as you wish. Usually a gentleman arrives to save the lady’s formal dress from street ware, but, perhaps you do things a little differently across the great waters.”


    Formal dress? Oh right… of course. A garden party with rich people. Of course I’ll need a formal dress. Welp, looks like Alexis and I need to go ‘shopping’ sometime this week. I wonder if she’s into that sort of thing.


    I bow to him again. “Yes, perhaps a little differently. Thank you. I look forward to our time together.”


    He scrawls his address on a scrap of paper and I bid him farewell. The idiot oaf is still passed out in the street. I make a point of stepping on his midsection as I move over him.


    I don’t think I can be any more fulfilled right now. A hot woman tonight and a knight in shining armor at the week’s end!


    I suddenly stop in my tracks. I turn and look back in the direction of the docks. I completely forgot about finding a man for Alexis!


    I pause for a moment, then wrinkle my nose and shrug my shoulders.


    Alexis is a hot chick too. Let her find her own man.

  • Ch12: A Date to Remember



    “Looking good,” Alexis says as she lounges on our bed and watches me get dressed. “So you met her in the market? Was this before or after you met Prince Charming?”


    “Befoooore,” I purr as I adjust my favorite push up bra. A tight, frilly black dress with silver highlights comes next.


    Alexis gives a low whistle. “I love watching this process! What shoes did you pick?”


    I hold up a pair of dainty silver pumps and grin.


    The brunette’s eyes get large and a she smiles. “Yesssssss! Okay, I’ve got to borrow those later!”


    “Sure,” I say as I sort through my jewelry next.


    “Let’s go necklace and earrings, okay!” Alexis says with excitement.


    “Oh, of course, darling!” I respond and hold up a pair of necklaces for her to choose from.


    “That one!” she says while almost jumping up and down with glee.


    “Help me?” I ask. I hold my hair up while my partner in crime gently slings the glittering chain around my neck.


    “And you’ve got to wear these!” she says and holds up a pair of earrings.


    My hair is still holding up pretty well from the morning, so I tease it a little with a little sticky water to coax it into staying in place.


    I finish everything off with a dab of perfume on each wrist, the back of my neck, the apples of my cheeks, and a tiny spurt down my cleavage.


    “Perfection!” Alexis shouts as I look myself over in the mirror.


    “Are you still sure you don’t fancy women?” I ask and toss her a sexy little smirk.


    “Honey, I’m starting to wonder!” she says and descends into a fit of giggles.


    I give my friend one more little smile before I leave. “Don’t wait up. I’m not even sure if I’m coming home tonight at all.”


    “Ow! Ow!” she calls out as I shut the door.


    The sun is low on the horizon as Beauty and I ride back into town. The crowds have mostly dispersed as the shopkeepers start dismantling their booths.


    I scan the area, but to my disappointment, the melon stand is no longer there. My heart sinks a little. I was under the impression that I would be meeting Sasha here – but it appears that she’s already packed up and gone home.


    “My, you look so beautiful this evening, deary,” and older woman comments as she walks past.


    “Oh, thank you,” I reply. “Excuse me, but, do you know where the owner of the melon stand got off to?”


    The older woman looks confused. “The melon stand?” she asks.


    I nod. “Yes, it was right over there,” I say and point to the end of the plaza.


    She slowly shakes her head. “I don’t remember seeing anything over there, but I’ve only been here a few hours.”


    I watch as she hobbles away and feel confused. I stop another passerby.


    “Sir, are you familiar with the melon stand that stood at the end of the square today? There was a blonde woman running it.”


    He looks over to wear I am pointing and scratches his head a little. “Oh yeah… there was something over there earlier. It wasn’t there for long though. I guess the owner packed up early?”


    I thank him but feel my heart sink even lower. I ask several more of the merchants. All of them either have no memory of the stand or state that it wasn’t there for very long.


    Something odd is going on.


    I slide off of Beauty and make my way to where I met Sasha earlier. There are a few melon leaves on the ground, but that’s about it. I stoop down and roll one of the leaves between my fingers. Still soft.


    “Well, she was here for sure, so at least I’m not losing my mind,” I mutter under my breath.


    I stand and examine the surrounding area. “But where did she get off to? And why for that matter? I thought we shared a moment together.”


    “Am I crazy?” I ask my horse. She turns to the side and doesn’t look at me. “Oh, thanks a lot,” I say with a little scowl.


    I’m about to give up and start back home when something catches the corner of my eye. Stooping down once again, I lift a scrap of paper out from under a stone. My heart starts to beat a little faster as I read:


    “Oh good, you found this. Don’t worry, baby – I’m just getting ready for you. Come to 69 La Rue Street. I’m waiting for you. I don’t like to wait.”


    I feel my cheeks flush a wee bit as I read the note over and over again. I carefully fold the paper and slide it into my bra.


    “Come on, girl,” I whisper as I slide onto her back, “Momma needs to go see her new lover.”


    At least an hour passes. It turns out that Springvale is larger than I thought. I must have stopped at least a dozen times to ask for directions – and some of the citizens told me to go the wrong way.


    The cricket symphony is in full swing as I finally find La Rue Street. A cool breeze has kicked up and goosebumps adorn my bare arms and legs.


    I hug Beauty a little closer and borrow some of her body heat. “This must be it, girl,” I whisper through chattering teeth. “By the gods, it had better be!”


    House no. 69 looks warm and inviting. “Here goes nothing,” I say as I vigorously rub my legs and arms to make myself presentable.


    I take a few deep breaths and pull the door chime. My heart starts to race a little as footsteps quickly approach from inside.


    Sasha swings the door open. “Oh gods above and below, thank the stars it’s you!” she says as she grabs my arm and yanks me inside.


    Not really how I imagined this going down, but I guess I’ll take it.


    “I’m so, so sorry about this,” she says as she runs to the window and peaks through the curtains.


    There’s nothing sexy about this. Something is wrong.


    “Please, sit down,” she commands. “I don’t know how much time we have.”


    My head is spinning now. “Sasha? What’s wrong?”


    “Ohhhhhhhh,” she murmurs and runs to check another window.


    “What’s wrong?” I ask again, a little louder this time.


    “Shhhh!” is the only response she gives.


    She finally runs over and stoops over in front of me. She wears the same outfit she wore earlier in the day.


    “You must forgive me for enticing you over tonight. I know this isn’t what you expected.”


    I can’t help but shake my head a little. My expression must be giving me away right now. “No, not really,” I say softly.


    “I’ll make it up to you later. I promise. But for now…” she runs back to the window.


    “Will you just stop and tell me what’s going on?” I shout. Cute or not, this woman is getting on my nerves now – and not in the good way.


    She sinks into a corner chair and covers her hands with her face. “They threatened me. They threatened to harm my father,” she says and begins to weep a little. “He’s old, Diana. And frail! He wouldn’t be able to defend himself from them.”


    My mind is starting to spin. I stand and start backing toward the door while slowly shaking my head. “What is this?” I ask. “What have you done?”


    Outside the house, Beauty starts to loudly kick up a fuss.


    Sasha looks up at me with tears in her eyes. “I’m saving my father, that’s what I’ve done.”


    As if on cue, two men dressed in all black tumble through the living room window. Sasha screams and hides her face.


    An ambush. I’ve walked into a damn ambush. I should have known this was all too good to be true.


    Before the men can fully recover, I spring into action. The stiletto heels on my feet are my only real weapons at the moment, so I make good use of them. One heel finds the first man’s throat and the second finds his groin. That should keep him rolling on the floor for a while.


    The second man manages to get to his feet and tackles me. We both sail backward until we crash into a china cabinet. The broken glass and wood tear up my back a little, but I can’t think about that right now. My hands find splintered wood and broken glass as the two of us sink to the floor. This one’s eyes make fine targets.


    Sasha continues to scream in the corner. She’s useless.


    Kicking the now screaming man off of me, I make for the door. Outside I see more people dressed in black controlling Beauty with several ropes that have been wound around her.


    “Hang on, girl!” I shout as I hope the fence with my bare legs and feet.


    A dark, hooded figure at the end of the street points my direction. Two women and another man in black charge out of the darkness at me. I double up my fists and assume a fighting stance.


    A familiar figure dressed in a black catsuit leaps off of the roof of Sasha’s home and tackles all three of them.


    Alexis begins vigorously stabbing the three stunned assassins. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t condone her actions, but tonight I’m completely fine with it.


    “What are you doing here?” I shout and help her to her feet.


    “You didn’t really think I was going to let you go chasing after some strange woman by yourself did you?” she says. I’m pretty sure I can hear her grinning behind her mask.


    “Look out!” I shout again and pull my partner to the ground. Several bits of spinning metal fly over our heads.


    “Oooooh, so that’s the way you want to play it, eh?” Alexis shouts and advances on the people still trying to hold on to Beauty.


    “Wait for me!” I shout and steal a pair of daggers from the wounded warriors around me.


    With Alexis and I serving as a clear and present threat, Beauty manages to mule kick one of the men holding her. The others abandon her ropes and start disappearing back into the darkness of the night.


    “No you don’t!” I scream and fling a dagger at one of the fleeing men in black. The dagger strikes him in the rump and he crumples to the earth.


    He’s still screaming when we get to him and turn him over. Alexis pulls his hood back. I don’t recognize him.


    “Who are you?” I demand. “Who set me up like this?”


    He simply smiles through his pain, then bites down on something. The scent of almonds fills the air.


    “Poison!” Alexis cries out. “No! Get it out of his mouth! Now!”


    Too late I’m afraid. The man’s mouth starts to froth and his eyes roll into the back of his skull.


    “Dammit!” I shout.


    “Look!” Alexis says and points back toward Sasha’s house. All of the remaining dark warriors are also now frothing at the mouth.


    I kick the dead man in frustration. “Dammit!” I shout again.


    Sasha still sits crying and covering her face in the corner of her ruined living room. I march over to her and yank her to her feet.


    “Who?” I demand. “Who made you do this? Who is threatening you?”


    I wince as Alexis begins pulling bits of glass and wood out of my bare back.


    “I don’t… I don’t know…” the other blonde whimpers. “I’ve been getting letters for weeks now. Instructing me what to do. Threatening me and my family if I don’t do what they say.”


    “Why me?” I shout back at her.


    “They said… they said…” she says while trying to talk through her blubbering, “they said I was your type.”


    “You are my type,” I manage to say a little more softly. “But why… me? What do they want… from me?”


    “They want you dead,” a familiar voice says from behind us.


    I look over my shoulder to see Marla stepping through the front window – several members of the Scarlet Rose inspect the bodies in the street.


    She nods to Alexis before continuing. “These are all Dark Blade Warriors – well, assassins, really.”


    “Okay,” I say, “but why me? Someone please tell me why they’re targeting me!”


    “Ow!” I wince and look over my shoulder at Alexis. “Be gentle, will you?”


    Alexis shrugs and continues picking at me.


    Marla shakes her head. “I don’t know why they’re after you yet. Clearly you pose some sort of threat.”


    My face must be a mask of pain. “Well, that’s not… ow… very reassuring… ow… Marla!”


    “All done,” Alexis says softly.


    The redhead reaches into her belt and produces a small healing potion. She hands it to me. “We’ll see what we can get from these bodies. Maybe they will give us additional clues.”


    She turns and steps back out through the front window.


    Alexis squeezes my free hand as I down the tiny vial of red liquid. “Can we get out of here?” she whispers through her mask. “Every time I’m around Marla, I’m reminded that she threw me in jail after trying to kill me.”


    I squeeze her fingers back and give her a reassuring nod.


    “What’s going to happen to me and my father now?” the sobbing blonde asks.


    “Take it up with the Scarlet Rose,” I say as I pull Alexis toward the broken front window. “I’m done with you.”

  • Ch13: Slice of Life





    “Oooh, how about this one?”


    Alexis smiles big as she holds up yet another frilly, formal dress.


    I lean back in my chair with my leather-clad feet up on the store counter. I look at the one-hundredth dress that the brunette has selected this evening with indifference.


    “Hmmm…” she says and wrinkles her nose a little, “yeah, maybe not. We want something that shows off your boobs more.”


    The air in the dress shop we broke into this evening is beginning to get stale.


    “You really could do this all night long, couldn’t you?” I ask.


    She looks over with wide eyes and vigorously nods her head. I roll my eyes in return.


    “Okay…” she says and picks up a large pile of skimpy dresses, “Here. One of these will be the magic one, I promise! Now start trying them on!”


    I let out an audible sigh. I’m going to end up trying on every last dress in this shop, I just know it.


    Peeling out of my catsuit, I begrudgingly slip the first formal gown over my head.


    Alexis jumps up and down and claps her hands. “I love it!”


    “Oh, yeah?” I ask and move to the large mirror on the wall.


    Maybe it’s just the dim lighting in this dress shop tonight, but I’ll be damned if I don’t look absolutely gorgeous in this thing.


    “I can’t believe I nailed it on the first try!” Alexis says and practically starts running on the spot.


    I smile as I watch her. She really does get super excited over things like this. Maybe if we ever decide to stop being thieves, she’ll open her own dress shop or something.


    “Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay…” she says as she pulls open a drawer full of jewelry, “now for accessories. We need the perfect accessories. I’m thinking a long, multi-layered necklace and dangly, yet understated, earrings…”


    I smile and shake my head. If it weren’t for my partner in crime, I would have met up with Remmy wearing something out of my closet. Apparently that would have been a terrible mistake according to Miss Fashionista over there. Mind you, she didn’t make a fuss about something new when I went to meet up with Sasha…


    I sit down as my heart becomes heavy. Sasha… I really thought we had something. It’s been so long since I’ve met a woman that returned my affections. She was so perfect too – well, on the outside anyway. Fabulous smile, killer curves, gorgeous eyes…


    “Here! Here! Here!” Alexis says and thrusts a pair of earrings in my face. I manage a smile and begin threading them through the holes in my lobes.


    She looks me up and down and her excitement fades a little. “What are you thinking about right now?” she asks.


    I shrug and shake my head.


    She narrows her eyes a little. “Sasha…” she says quietly.


    A little smile crosses my face and I turn away from her.


    Alexis slides into the chair beside mine and hugs my arm. “I’m sorry. I know you were super excited for all that.”


    “Yeah, well…” I trail off.


    “Maybe she’ll come around after Marla makes sure her father is looked after?” she says in a hopeful tone of voice.


    I shrug again. “I’m not even sure I care anymore.”


    “Awwwwwwww honey…” Alexis whines and puts her head on my shoulder.


    We sit like that for several long minutes. I smile. I have to say – I super love having a best friend. I’ve never really had that before. Moving from foster care to foster care as a child – dad being deceased – mom unable to take care of me mentally or physically – I never stayed in one place long enough to develop a deep connection like I’ve got with Alexis.


    I give her a little kiss on the forehead. “Thank you,” I whisper.


    She lifts her head and smiles at me.


    “Okay…” I say and step to the mirror again, “let’s see about these earrings!”


    We spend another hour trying on various dresses and accessories. Of course Alexis can’t help but start trying on dresses too. It’s almost day break when we finally call it a night and exit through the attic window with our sacks bulging with clothing and jewelry.


    “What an amazing night!” Alexis shouts as we ride out of town. “I’m going to try all these dresses on again as soon as we’re home!”


    I smile and shake my head. Secretly, I wish I could get that excited about something. My emotions are buried so deep, it takes a lot to get them to make an appearance.


    The morning sun is blinding as we dismount and carry our spoils up to our attic. True to her word, Alexis tries on several of her new dresses once again, but soon, fatigue starts to set in.


    “Come on, hun. Bedtime,” I say with a yawn. Alexis yawns as well and concedes that dress-up time is over.


    Soon, she is fast asleep beside me. I gently run my fingers through her hair a little and pull our covers up over her bare shoulder. Sometimes she gets cold if she isn’t covered.


    We typically keep to our own sides of the bed, but this morning I snuggle up close so I can smell the back of her neck.


    I won’t lie, some days it is super hard to share a bed with a beautiful woman and not take advantage of that. I could easily see our relationship becoming super sexy and physical if Alexis decided that that was what she wanted.


    But… she doesn’t want that. So, I choose to respect her wishes. I still allow myself to fantasize about it as I drift off to sleep though.


    My eyes open as the low evening sunlight streams in through the cracks in the walls of our old attic shack. My stomach gurgles loudly in protest of being empty for so long.


    Alexis snores loudly beside me. I know she’ll be hungry when she wakes up too.


    Soon the smell of eggs and pork fill our tiny apartment.


    “Mmmmmm,” a bleary-eyed Alexis purrs as she rises from our sheets. Her hair looks something akin to a bird’s nest. “That smells gooooood!”


    She creeps up behind me and hugs me from behind. “You take such good care of me,” she says, still half asleep. “Do you want a bath? I’m going to pour myself one after breakfast.”


    “Yes, please,” I say with a smile.


    “Mmmkay,” she mumbles and lies down on our bed again.


    The sun is setting as I stand up out of the old tin tub. The heat of the day is quickly escaping and a little shiver runs up my spine.


    “Wrong time to be naked,” I muse and start wrapping myself in towels.


    “Hey, are we working tonight?” Alexis calls out from the attic window. “Your date with Remington is tomorrow, right? Maybe we should turn in early so you can function tomorrow?”


    I nod vigorously and shiver a little. “Good plan. Let’s get some foraging done tonight instead. Are we out of milk?” I ask.


    She nods back. “For two days now, actually.”


    “Ah. Right then,” I say and quickly start scurrying up the stairs. “No excitement tonight. Just life survival stuff.”


    Night falls and Alexis gives a nod as she and Stud start for one of the farms a few miles away – our large milk skin slung over her shoulder.


    Beauty and I start deep into the forest. Before long, I’m on the ground on my hands and knees busily plucking herbs, mushrooms, grubs, and all manner of wild sustenance.


    I blow a blonde strand of hair out of my face as I finish loading up Beauty’s saddlebags.


    “That should keep us going for a while, eh girl?” I say and affectionately rub the side of her neck.


    Something suddenly gives me pause. Did I just hear something? I stand perfectly still and listen. There it is again!


    I creep forward in the direction of the sound and signal for Beauty to stay where she is.


    The sound gets louder as I approach. It’s a light laughter – the kind a woman makes when she’s enjoying special time with a loved one.


    Peering through the brush, I’m able to make out the outline of a pair of elves. I can’t see if they’re wearing anything or not, but they are definitely in close proximity to each other.


    I watch as the man gently strokes his woman’s hair. They share soft conversation and occasionally giggle together. He takes a handful of water from the pond beside them and drizzles it down her face. She continues to giggle and sticks her tongue out to catch a few drops. The woman then slowly leans in and begins to passionately kiss her man.


    I start to feel weak in the knees. For everything I already have in life, this is the one thing that is missing. I’ve never actually loved men as much as I’ve loved women in my life. True enough, I occasionally join them in bed – just to spice up my life with a little variety – but I’ve never actually allowed myself to love one.


    Perhaps it’s because of the abuse that I’ve suffered at the hands of men over the years? Perhaps it’s because I never had a father? Perhaps it’s because the men that I’ve been with only want sex and have no interest in anything deeper?


    The elf man picks his woman up and starts walking deeper into the forest with her. The way she points her toes tells me she’s into it. Soon, the night has claimed them and once again I am left all alone.


    Powerful feelings of loneliness start to bubble to the surface within me. No knock against Alexis, but I want more. I want someone to carry me into the woods at night. I want someone that I can relax and giggle with beside a pond.


    I want a lover.


    I want to be married.


    I want to have a family of my own.


    It’s been a long time since I’ve thought those thoughts. I drag myself back to my horse and slide onto her back. My lungs feel like they’re being squeezed by a vice. I need a drink – and the goat’s milk Alexis will return with later tonight isn’t going to do it.


    I look in a secret pouch sewn into beauty’s bridal. A couple gold coins drop into my hand. That will be enough to get the job done.


    Despite wearing nothing but old rags at the moment, I ride toward Springvale and saunter into the old pub on the edge of town. I’m sure I’ll get an earful from Alexis later on, but she’ll get over it.


    The barkeep looks me up and down a couple times as I slide onto a stool. I flip him one of the coins. He bites it when he thinks I’m not looking. Guess you can never be too careful. Satisfied that the money is good, he plops down a bottle in front of me.


    I don’t bother with a glass. I’m classy like that. A half hour later, the feelings start to go away as the room slowly begins to slosh from side to side.


    I smile a silly grin as a certain redhead approaches my booth. Marla slides in beside me. She’s dressed kind of slutty again. Seems to be a theme every time I see her at the bar. She’s had a couple, but she’s not as far down the bottle as I am at the moment.


    “How are you?” she asks.


    “Finnnnne,” I mumble. “Are we going to wresssstle again toniiiiiiight? Cause I’ll beat yoooou for sure this timmmmme.”


    She shakes her head a little and motions for one of the bar maidens to collect my empty bottle of hooch.


    “Where’s your friend? Is she here?” she asks.


    I shake my head. I think. It’s hard to tell when the room is already moving.


    “Where’s your stuuuupid guy? What’s his naaaaaame again? Tommy or sommmmmmething?” I slur.


    She shakes her head. “We’re going through a… a bit of a rough patch at the moment. I came out by myself tonight to try and have a little fun.”


    “Awwwwwwww,” I moan as I try and hug Marla and end up with my face in her cleavage. “I soooo sa-weeeee.”


    “Okay… okay…” she says as she tries to hold me back. “Maybe I should get you home.”


    Half an hour later, Alexis looks shocked as Marla opens the trap door to our attic hideout.


    “Marla!” she screams. “No! I’ll die first! I won’t be your prisoner again!”


    The redhead holds up her hand to signal for peace, then pulls me up the stairs.


    “Diana!” Alexis shouts and then hurries to help me up the last few steps.


    “I found her at the pub at the edge of town.” Marla says with a little sigh. “She’s completely smashed.”


    Alexis isn’t sure how to proceed. “Th… thank… you… I guess…”she stammers as she helps me into bed.


    “I would never have found this place if the horse didn’t know her way back. I put Diana on her back, and she did the rest.”


    Alexis finishes tucking me in and then turns to our uninvited guest with a little bit of trepidation. “So… what happens now?” she asks.


    Marla is silent for a few moments, then holds up a bottle of wine. “Listen, I know we have a rather… difficult… relationship at the moment. And it’s all my fault. I’m sorry that we found ourselves in mortal combat and I apologize for almost killing you and making you stay in my jail.”


    “O… kay?” Alexis says quietly and begins scanning the room for a weapon.


    Marla moves the hair from out of her face. “Yeah, I know. Words mean nothing, right? I get it. I’m being serious though. I’m kind of working with your… uh… whatever it is you two’s relationship is… I’m kind of working with Diana now, so by extension, I’m kind of sort of working with you too.”


    Alexis still looks very uncomfortable. “Okaaaaaaaay…”


    Marla sighs and taps the side of her head with the lip of the bottle. “Look… what can I do to prove that we’re good now? Do you want to stab me a couple times? I think the dagger you’re looking for is on the table. Would that prove that I’m being on the level here?”


    Alexis walks to the table and picks up the dagger.


    My whole body hurts when my eyes finally flutter open. My stomach is twisted in knots and my mouth feels like sandpaper.


    Laughter fills the air.


    I manage to crawl to the side of the bed and look into the kitchen area. Marla and Alexis sit at our table laughing their heads off. One of Marla’s arms is in a makeshift sling and dried blood adorns her skin. An empty bottle of wine stands on the table between them.


    Marla looks over as I fall out of the bed. “Well good afternoon, sleepy-head! See?” she says as she turns back to Alexis. “I told you she wasn’t dead!”


    Alexis roars with laughter and gives the other woman a playful shove.


    “Oh my gosh, Diana, you never told me Marla went to the same primary school as me!” Alexis says a little too loudly.


    “I had no idea either of you ever went to school,” I croak as best I can.


    The women laugh some more, then Marla stretches her good arm and yawns. “Bleh… I should get back. My squad is going to think I fell down a well or something. I need to get this shoulder looked at too.”


    “Well, you basically made me do it!” Alexis laughs and half hugs the other woman.


    “I had too,” Marla says and gives her a little kiss on the cheek, “or you would have thought I was the devil in a pushup bra for the rest of forever!”


    What the hell is going on here? The last thing I remember is Marla sitting at my booth at the pub.


    The women are all smiles and giggles as Alexis shows Marla out. “She’s great!” Alexis declares as she re-enters our home. “Now I totally get when you’ve got the hots for her.”


    “Yeah… yeah great…” I mumble as I try and claw my way up the furniture to a standing position.


    “What time is your date tonight? You’d better start getting ready!”


    Ugh. My date. My date with Mr. Dreamy. Ugh. Is it too late to cancel? I can’t let him see me in this state.


    “Come on!” Alexis declares and starts pulling my clothes off. “Into the bath with you. I’ll see if I can find some detox potions lying around. They might help a little.”


    Water and suds splash everywhere as Alexis does a number on my hair. “Keep using the pumice stone. Don’t stop. We don’t have time to waste. Keep scrubbing!” she commands.


    I’ve barely got my bra on when a dress starts being pulled over my head. “Arms up! Fix your boobs! Okay, relax, we’ve got a little time. I made some greasy breakfast while you were in the tub. Eat! Eat!”


    I suddenly feel like I’m being ordered around by the mother I never had.


    “There!” Alexis declares as she puts several small flowers in my hair. “You’re a proper lady once again!”


    My hangover is still beating the crap out of me, but looking in the mirror, I’ve got to hand it to Alexis – she’s a miracle worker. I look absolutely incredible!


    My brunette partner in crime takes a step back to admire her work. “Damn I’m good!” she declares. I am forced to nod in agreement.


    “Two spritzes, and then you’re on your way. Did the detox potions work?” she asks.


    I nod again as a light shower of perfume wafts down over me. “I’m feeling a little better.”


    “Okay!” she says as she starts dragging me toward the hatch. “Now remember, if you have to throw-up on your way into town, be sure you tuck your dress in between your knees and watch the necklace.”


    “Yes mother,” I quip as I stumble down the stairs in my heels.


    “Have a wonderful time, darling!” Alexis says and blows me a kiss.


    I blow one back and give her my best smile given my barfy feelings.


    “Okay girl… here we go again,” I say as I take a deep breath. I’m off to see a proper gentleman and be introduced to some of the wealthiest individuals in Springvale.


    What could possibly go wrong with that?

  • Ch14: The Party





    I start to feel a little better when I watch Remmy’s eyes nearly pop out of his head when he opens his door.


    “My lady… how is it possible that you are even more breathtaking than when last we met?” he asks in semi-mock astonishment.


    I could tell this guy just how long it actually took both me and Alexis to get me to look like this, but why spoil his fantasy, right?


    I give a little curtsy. “You are too kind, m’lord.”


    “Oh please…” he says as he takes my hands in his, “when we’re not in proper company, do call me Remmy.”


    I smile a little and give him my best shy look. “And you may call me Diana, if it pleases you… Remmy.”


    “It does please me, Diana,” he says with a gentle look in his eye. “Not so much the name, but you blessing me with your presence. I am the luckiest man in all of Springvale this afternoon.”


    “Oh…” I kind of stammer. I wasn’t ready for all this appreciation and I think my cheeks are starting to blush a little. “Thank you, Remmy. I’m not used to hearing such things.”


    He nods a little, like he just unlocked a tiny bit of the mystery surrounding me. “That… is a shame,” he says softly.


    I think I’m really starting to blush now. I’ve never met a man that was this nice to me before! And I don’t think he’s even tried to look down my top yet – even though I’m not leaving much to the imagination.


    He massages the back of my hands with his thumbs a little, then suggests that we be on our way.


    Right here, right now… I think I would have agreed to absolutely anything!


    I feel like a celebrity as Remmy and I ride side by side through the streets of Springvale. I think Beauty kind of likes his horse too, but I don’t know what he’s called. A few of the shopkeepers even bow as we trot by in our finery.


    Speaking of which, Remmy is dressed in his Scarlet Rose formal attire and looks quite dashing. His mustache is waxed and I think the hair on his head is too. No matter the weather, he’s going to stay looking absolutely perfect!


    “I feel like we’re going to a royal wedding or something,” I say with a laugh.


    He just smiles and continues to nod at all the citizens that stop to watch us.


    A half our later, a pair of well-dressed guards usher us through a large iron gate leading to a vast estate.


    “Oh my,” I say softly and place one of my gloved hands on top of my chest like a perfect lady. I’m already mapping out how Alexis and I are going to get over the wall and approach the mansion in the distance.


    “Yes, quite a sight, isn’t it?” Remmy asks with a smile. “This is the Vanderbelt estate. They have a formal gathering once a season. It’s quite the to-do, really. All of Springvale’s elite will be in attendance.”


    “Oh, Remmy…” I with excitement and reach out for him to take my hand as we continue to ride along, “I’m so happy that you’ve brought me here. It’s like a dream!”


    “Thank you for accompanying me!” he says with a glint in his eye. “I’m going to be the talk of the party, you see? For I’ve brought the bell of the ball. There won’t be a man in attendance that isn’t going to envy me!”


    “Oh, so I’m just your arm candy then?” I say in a teasing fashion.


    He laughs out loud. “Or perhaps I’m yours? No, of course not. Do not worry, my dear, I’m well aware that I am escorting a woman of fine quality tonight. I couldn’t be prouder to be seen with you.”


    My heart starts to pound a little. Would it be bad if I dragged him off of his horse right now and had my way with him? I suppose the other guests wouldn’t approve… I suppose I’ll have to be good for now.


    Finally arriving at the front steps, another pair of guards help us down from our mounts and we are shown inside. Remmy hands the announcer a card, which the heavyset man then reads at the top of his lungs: “Sir Remington of the Scarlet Order now escorts Lady Diana of House Dunston.”


    Soft, polite applause briefly fills the air. Remmy bows and I curtsy to the other guests.


    I clutch his arm as we make our way through the crowd of men, women, and their overpowering perfume. “It’s been… a very long time since I was at a formal affair,” I confess to him in a whisper. “I’m going to try not to make a fool of myself, but I beg your forgiveness in advance if I fail in that mission.”


    “You’ll be fine,” he says and pats my hand. “Just do what all the other ladies do and everything will be just fine.”


    True to his word, Remmy introduces me to several prominent members of the community. I give my best girly smile to each of them and try not to burst out laughing when I realize that I’ve stolen from at least half of them.


    The party progresses and eventually Remmy leaves me to my own devices. I watch as he trots off to greet a few other prominent members of the Scarlet Rose that were invited.


    “I’m surprised to see you here,” a familiar voice behind me says. “I’m surprised to see you standing up actually. I thought you would have been hunched over the porcelain at this point.”


    I roll my eyes and turn to give Marla a knowing smile. “I actually feel like falling over right now,” I confess. “How’s the shoulder?”


    The redhead stretches it a little. “Nothing a little healing elixir couldn’t address. I suppose Alexis helped you get ready? You look amazing, by the way.”


    I smile and cock and eyebrow. “Very kind of you to say, Lady-captain Marla of the Scarlet Rose. You’re also looking rather fetching this late afternoon, if I do say so myself.”


    She gives a little shrug. “I can’t help it. I’m gorgeous.”


    We share a little snort as neither of us can keep a straight face any longer.


    “So…” she says with a little smile, “you and Remington, eh?”


    I can’t help but smile big and nod. “And where is—“


    As if in answer to my next question, Lord Thomas approaches and slides his arms around Marla’s tiny waist.


    She gives a slightly embarrassed chuckle and pulls him to her side instead. “Behave yourself, we’re in pleasant company,” she whispers through her smile.


    He laughs loudly and kisses her cheek. “Baby, you know I own this crowd.”


    Marla flashes me a slightly embarrassed look. “Diana, this is Lord Thomas,” she says and motions for him to introduce himself.


    “Very nice to meet you,” he says with a little nod. “Do you and Marla know each other well?”


    I don’t dare look at the redhead as I nod and answer, “Fairly well, yes. We’ve had our battles.”


    Lord Thomas loves that answer and throws back his head in laughter again. “Marla takes that split second to shoot me another look as if to say ‘really? You had to say that?’


    “This woman is fabulous!” Lord Thomas declares. “Why don’t you bring her over sometime? We could have some fun… just the three of us.”


    “Oh!” Marla says with a startled laugh that sounds a little too forced. “Yes, a lovely idea. We’ll have to do that sometime for certain.”


    “Yes, a wonderful idea!” I say, not being able to resist yanking Marla’s chain a little. “Marla and I could have a lovely time… and you could just watch!”


    “Oh my!” Marla practically shouts. “M’lord, there are so many more guests for us to greet. Come along now.”


    Lord Thomas has a devilish grin on his face as the redhead quickly pulls him deeper into the crowd. She turns to give me the stink eye just before they disappear in a sea of people. I’ll probably hear about that later, but it was totally worth it.


    Remmy is nowhere to be seen, so I step out onto one of the mansion’s many patios to get a little bit of fresh evening air – and to scope out the best angle of approach for the next time I visit.


    An old gentleman in a wheeled chair off to the side starts to cough violently.


    “Sir, are you alright?” I offer and approach. “Can I get you a glass of water?”


    He shakes his head and waves his hand. “My… my daughter will… will take care… of it…”


    “Father? Are you alright?”


    My heart starts to beat a little faster as I instantly recognize the soft, feminine voice.


    Sasha emerges from the crowd with a concerned look on her face.


    “W… water…” the old man gasps.


    “Excuse me,” she asks and turns to me. “Do you know where I could get a glass of w—“


    A look of recognition hits her like a bolt of lightning and she starts to stammer. “W… water? A… a glass of… water…”


    “Um…” I have no idea what to do or say right now either. “Um…” I say again and desperately look around. I finally catch a server’s eye and wave him over.


    “My father… he needs, uh…” Sasha says and awkwardly points at one of the drinks on the server’s platter, then points to the old man.


    He understands and stoops down to tip a glass of sparkling liquid to the old man’s lips.


    “What are you…?” I trail off. It seems I can’t really finish a sentence right now.


    Sasha looks like Christmas morning. Her clothes and makeup are simple, but they hug and accentuate her body in an absolutely perfect way. Her fabulous eyes and plush, full lips are all I can concentrate on at the moment.


    “My… my father… he’s an old military man,” the blonde stammers back. “A friend of the family that owns this… this mansion…”


    We kind of awkwardly stare at each other for a little too long.


    “I’m sorry,” Sasha finally manages to whisper. “I hope you can forgive me one day. I hope you and I can… I don’t know? Start over, maybe? One day? I hope?”


    “Well…” I can feel my cheeks start to flush a little again, “I don’t trust very easily and you lied about… everything… so…”


    “Not everything,” she whispers and reaches forward to hook her pinky finger around mine. “Not everything,” she repeats.


    My throat goes dry and I excuse myself. It was either that, or I drag that fabulous creature into the bushes and have my way with… hmmm… that’s the second time tonight I’ve had that thought now. I must be getting close to completing my cycle or something.


    My heart feels as if it’s about to burst out of my chest. I snag a drink from a passing server and down it in one gulp.


    Sasha lied to me and almost got me killed. I’m supposed to be over her.


    In semi desperation, I scan the great hall for my Remmy. Where are you, my fabulous man? I really need your pleasant distraction right now!


    I finally see him across the great hall talking to Lord Thomas. I squint a little. Is it just me, or do they look like they’re having an argument?


    An orchestra starts up and any hope of crossing the large room evaporates as swirling couples fill the space between us. Amidst the sea of large brimmed hats, I manage to spot Lord Thomas again as he approaches Marla to invite her to dance.


    Where did my Remmy go?


    Other couples seemingly appear out of nowhere and soon I’m surrounded. Like a rushing river of fabric, endless happy couples swirl and swish all around me. I start trying to make my way back to one of the walls where a ring of chairs has been setup, but I’m buffeted by all the ladies in their wide, whirling dresses of death.


    “Remmy!” I shout at the top of my lungs. It wasn’t a very lady-like thing to do, I know, but I felt like I was running out of options.


    My handsome escort doesn’t appear, but the couples in my immediate vicinity are startled long enough for me to finally slip by them.


    To my horrible excitement, I end up back at the patio where my female interest and her father were moments earlier. To my disappointed relief, they are no longer present.


    And to my absolute horror, I see Remington sprawled out on the lawn a short distance away.

  • Ch15: Outdone





    “Remmy!” I declare loudly as I rush to his side. My beautiful guardsman lies on his stomach, a small trickle of blood streaming down the back of his neck.


    Several of the well-dressed couples begin to fill the patio behind me. Inside, others begin to be aware that something is happening and the music winds down.


    “This man has been assaulted!” I cry out. “Is there a healer in the house?”


    Word quickly gets disseminated among the guests and a minute or two later a familiar blonde pushes through the crowd toward us. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry as my beautiful Sasha kneels across from me with a concerned look on her face.


    “What happened?” she asks as her eyes look deep into mine.


    “You’re a healer, too?” I ask softly, my voice starting to choke with all the emotions running through my body at this instant. “A merchant, and a healer?”


    A little smile breaks through for a brief instant before her professional face returns. “Uh huh,” she says with a nod. “Alchemist, actually, but yes… a healer of sorts.”


    We get lost in a shared gaze again for just a tiny moment.


    Sasha points at Remmy. “So, what happened? How can I help this man?”


    I give my head a little shake. Most of the guests are now surrounding the three of us and I’m suddenly starting to feel a little claustrophobic.


    “I… I don’t know,” I manage to respond. “I came to the patio looking for him when the music started, and… and I found him like this.”


    Sasha puts her hand on Remmy’s back, then gently begins picking at the bloody spot in his hair. “He’s breathing and the wound appears clean and shallow. More than likely he was struck from behind with a blunt object of some sort.”


    I nod my head. I mean, I think everyone with half a brain could have come to that conclusion just from a passing glance. Is Sasha for real? Or is she just using this as an excuse to be near me?


    “Don’t worry, I always come prepared!” she says with a little grin, then reaches deep down into her ample cleavage. “Sorry… excuse the show,” she says softly but continues to grin.


    Her hand returns clutching a small red vial.


    “That’s not drake blood is it?” I ask a little too loudly and involuntarily press backward into the crowd a little.


    The blonde shakes her head. “No, drake blood is more of a fiery orange color…” she pauses and looks me in the eye again. “…you don’t want to mess around with that stuff. Trust me.”


    If only she knew.


    “No, this is all herbal,” she continues. “Ruby root extract, mountain rage extract, starlight sap, and a little dash of Hellion Briar just to get the blood flowing.”


    She opens the vial with a little pop and pours a few drops on the back of Remmy’s head.


    “It’s my own recipe, actually,” she says with another little grin as our eyes meet once again.


    Remmy lets out a soft moan and begins to stir in the well-manicured grass. My hand reaches for his, but my eyes aren’t done gazing into Sasha’s yet.


    He sits up between us, effectively breaking the spell.


    “Oh, my head… what happened?” he asks in a groggy voice. The crowd around us breathes a collective sigh of relief and a few of the patrons gently applaud.


    “Oh, Remington!” Sasha says with surprise, “It’s you! I didn’t recognize you face down on the lawn!”


    My Remmy looks to his right at the fabulous blonde, leaving me on his left.


    “Sasha, darling!” he says and gives my beautiful Sasha a brief kiss on the lips. “Did you use one of your potions on me? My heart is positively racing right now!”


    The blonde nods and gives my Remmy a big, beautiful smile. The crowd starts to disperse and slowly file back into the main hall.


    I take in the sight before me and cock and eyebrow. Just what the hell is going on right now? I’m suddenly so confused and conflicted.


    “Do you want a couple drops on your tongue?” Sasha asks and holds up the tiny vial.


    “You know I can’t say ‘no’ to you!” Remington says with a chuckle and leans back with his mouth open.


    The blonde laughs and pours a little on his out-stretched tongue.


    Remington’s eyes grow large as his face flushes a little. “Gods of the storm, what a rush!” he loudly declares. “Your potions almost make the injuries worth it!”


    I clear my throat a little. I’m not sure what else to do.


    Remington looks my way with a wild look in his eye. “Ah! Diana, darling! This fabulous creature is Sasha of the Springvale alchemical society. Her father is an old military man and friend to our host this evening.”


    I feel myself slowly nodding. “Yes, we are… acquainted.”


    We hear the orchestra start up again. Remington takes us both by the hand and struggles to stand. “Come… I have the two most… beautiful…” One of his legs buckles and he crashes into Sasha, dragging me along for the ride. The three of us go down with me on top.


    “Oh… goodness…” Remington grunts as parts of me land on him.


    “Take it easy, guardsman,” Sasha says with a laugh as parts of me land on her. “You’ve just regained consciousness. You need to take it easy for a little while.”


    I still can’t really process what’s happening right now, so I choose to ignore it and attempt to backtrack a little.


    “Who attacked you?” I ask the man currently under me. “What do you remember?”


    “Okay, get off of him,” Sasha says and pulls me more onto her. Acting as if there was no dual reason behind that action, she keeps her attention firmly on the man lying beside us.


    “Yes, Remington. Tell us. Who did this to you?” she asks.


    Remington’s face clouds over as he tries to gather his thoughts. “Ah… yes… of course. I was… distracted by that healing remedy of yours. Now then, yes… to business then…”


    Sasha and I exchange a little look as I shift on top of her a little more. “Take your time, Remmy. You’ve just taken a nasty blow.”


    Sasha narrows her eyes a little and smiles at me.


    “Remington!” a stately man calls out as he quickly strides toward us. “Remington! Are you alright, man? Oh, look at the three of you sprawled out on my lawn like three sacked peasants.”


    “OH! Lord Vanderbelt!” Sasha says with surprise and struggles to wriggle out from under me.


    The grey haired man helps the two of us ladies to our feet, then reaches over to help Remmy.


    “I heard you were attacked, man!” he says as he brushes the grass from Remmy’s pants. “Are you alright? My estate guard will make a full enquiry!”


    “Very… very good of you, sir,” Remmy replies, his voice a little shaky now. I guess Sasha’s potion wears off quickly.


    “What happened?” Lord Vanderbelt demands. “Who did this?”


    Remmy rubs the sides of his head. “Yes… the ladies were just asking me the same thing. I don’t rightly know I’m afraid. I remember walking off of the patio onto the lawn to get a breath of fresh air, and then I was suddenly surrounded by a crowd.”


    Lord Vanderbelt then turns to Sasha and I. “What of the two of you?” he asks. “Did you see who assaulted this man?”


    Sasha and I exchange a brief look and then bow our heads and give a polite curtsey. “No, my lord,” we say in perfect unison.


    He turns back to Remmy with a little grunt. “As I said, I will have a full inquiry made. I won’t have my guests assaulted in my home!”


    With that, he turns and quickly walks back toward the great hall.


    Remmy continues to rub the sides of his head.


    “Do you need another few drops?” Sasha asks and reaches down the front of her dress again.


    He holds up his hand in protest. “No, thank you dear. I’ll make use of something a little more traditional when I arrive back home.”


    I loop my arm around his. “Home, yes. I think our evening has come to an end. Let’s get you back to your place.”


    Sasha loops around his other arm with a smile. “I’ll help you get him there.”


    Something flares up inside of me. Am I excited or insanely jealous right now? I want Sasha to come with us, but at the same time, Remmy is my date, so… shouldn’t she be taking care of her father right now or something? I feel so conflicted!


    Remmy looks at the blonde on his left arm and smiles. She smiles back at him, and then at me.


    I hope the confusion isn’t reading on my face right now as I smile back at her.


    I feel a touch of relief as Sasha’s father slowly wheels himself out onto the patio.


    “Oh, daddy,” the blonde calls out. “Will you be alright for a few hours? Remington needs some medical attention and I want to see to him at his residence.”


    My heart starts to pound. I think my one love interest is trying to steal my other love interest. I think. Maybe.


    The old soldier waves her on and she looks back at us with another big smile. “Looks like we’re all set. Diana, would you come with us as well? I might need you.”


    I continue to smile because I don’t know what else to do. Of course I’m coming… he’s my date!


    We both help Remmy up onto his horse and then wait for Sasha to go find her mount.


    Finally alone with my man, I take his hand in mine and give it a gentle squeeze. “Are you actually alright?” I whisper. “I can tell Sasha we don’t need her tonight if you want to just go back to your place and spend some time together.”


    He’s silent for a little too long, like he’s thinking things over. I’m just a tiny bit put out by this. We are on a date after all!


    “I do… want to…” his mumbles are cut off by Sasha trotting up beside us on a rather fabulous white steed. I see Beauty perk up a little at his approach. I feel conflicted again.


    “Alright, friends!” she says with noted excitement. “Shall we depart?”


    I let Remington’s hand fall from mine and give the two of them my best grin. Maybe I should just leave and let the two of them have a little time alone. They obviously have history.


    There is a delay leaving the estate as true to his word, Lord Vanderbelt has every guest interviewed before they are allowed to leave the property. A handful of guests are ahead of us, so the three of us get in queue.


    A sturdy looking female guard asks me several questions as her companions do the same for Remington and Sasha. Satisfied with our answers, we are finally allowed to leave.


    We’re all strangely silent on the way to Remington’s home. Sasha looks over at me and smiles a couple of times, but other than that, it’s a dull trip in the darkness. Our man seems lost in thought the entire time.


    Finally, we come to Remington’s cozy little abode. Sasha and I help him off his horse and he whispers a thank you to us. We each take an arm and help him toward the front door.


    “Are you sure you’re okay?” I ask as he struggles with his keys. “You might need more than a potion.”


    “Very… kind of… you,” he says as his hands tremble a little. “Yes… I think I do need a… a good sleep after a pot or two.”


    Sasha gets a concerned look and places the back of her hand on his brow as he tries another key on his key ring. “He’s fevered now. He definitely needs to lie down.”


    I give the blonde my best smile. “I can take it from here if you’d like to get going, Sasha. I’m sure you’re probably wanting to get back to your father.”


    She wrinkles her nose and waves her hand. “He’s fine. I’m needed here more right now.”


    “Whatever you say,” I mutter and look off to the side.


    Remington finally finds the right key and the three of us shuffle inside his small house. A bottle of local wine and two glasses adorns his little dining room table.


    “Forgive me, I was only… only expecting one… one lovely woman tonight…” he mutters as we pass by on the way to his room.


    “Heeeere we go,” Sasha says as we guide him onto his bed and remove his boots.


    “He’s got a couple healing potions in the cupboard over the sink,” the blonde says to me. “Can you get one and a damp cloth too, please?”


    I nod and mechanically do as I’m asked. She knows where he keeps his healing potions. Oh great.


    When I return to his room, Sasha’s got all of his clothes draped over a chair in the corner and a bedsheet pulled up to his navel. She places her hand on his bare chest as she reaches toward me for the cloth and potion.


    A few minutes later, Remington is fast asleep. I follow Sasha out of his room, basically in a trance.


    The blonde washes out the empty flask then turns to me with a little smile. “I think it’s best if I stay with him tonight. I want to keep an eye on his fever – you know, just in case.”


    All I can do is nod. How did I completely lose control of the evening like this?


    She approaches and wraps one of her pinky fingers around mine. “You can stay too… if you want…” she says quietly, her eyes glimmering a tad in the lamp light.


    Part of me really kind of wants to take her up on that offer… but a bigger part of me really doesn’t. Not tonight. Not after she basically just stole my date. I don’t care how fabulous her body looks right now - I’ve still got my pride!


    I shake my head a little. “No, sorry, I’m really, really tired right now. I think I’ll just leave the two of you alone.”


    Sasha puts on a pouty face. “Are you sure?” she whispers. “I really need to get out of these clothes. This bra is killing me.”


    That comment does make me grin, not gonna lie, but I have already made up my mind.


    She sees me to the door, then excuses herself to get back to Remington.


    I slowly close the door behind me. Glancing back, the last thing I see is the blonde’s dress dropping to the floor.

  • haha ok that was a great ending ^^
  • Ch16: Slick Willie





    Alexis looks up from her book as I stumble into our loft that night. She’s still half dressed in our work uniform and has her bare feet up on my chair.


    Our eyes meet for a fleeting moment, and it’s all she needs to know.


    “Awwww honey, not again,” she whines. She jumps to her feet and rushes to hug me.


    We hold each other her for long minutes, but say nothing. It’s just nice to be held by someone that actually likes me right now. I feel tears well-up and threaten to spill down my cheeks as I listen to our small, second story fireplace crackle in the dim of our loft apartment.


    “Do you want to talk about it tonight or tomorrow?” she whispers in my ear.


    I just shake my head. How does ‘never’ sound to everyone? All I want right now is my bed.


    Reading my mind, Alexis helps me out of my dress and under our bed sheets. She lies beside me stroking my hair until I finally drift off to sleep. Gods above and below, I’m so lucky to have her in my life.


    “Morning, ladies!” Marla loudly announces as she lifts the trap door to our loft.


    I make a disgruntled noise and pull the bed sheets over my head. Getting no sleep the night before always catches up to me on the second day.


    Alexis looks up from the table and puts down her book once again. “Marla!” she says with a smile. “Come in! Come in! Come in!”


    “Thank you!” the redhead sings back and returns the smile to the brunette.


    “What brings you around?” Alexis asks. “We haven’t been stealing anything high profile, so that can’t be it.”


    Marla clears her throat a little. “I didn’t hear that. You are just a couple of crazy spinsters living off alone in the woods as far as I’m concerned.”


    A big smile crosses Alexis’ face. “Oh! Right! Right, I keep forgetting.”


    “Besides,” Marla continues with a little grin, “I prefer to keep the two of you in my back pocket just in case Springvale ever needs the services of a pair of fabulous rogues – under the watchful eye of the Scarlet Rose of course.”


    “And off the books,” Alexis adds with a wink.


    “Of course,” Marla says again and winks back.


    “What do you want Marla?” I ask with a grown from under the blankets.


    She sits on the side of my bed and whips my sheets and blankets off. How rude. The cool morning air assaults my bare skin and I curl up into a ball with a whimper.


    “I need to ask you about last night, Diana,” the redhead says in a business tone of voice. “Remington didn’t report for his shift today. I stopped by his housing to call on him, but a bare, blonde woman that wasn’t you answered and said he was sick. Do you know anything about this?”


    I whimper again and pull the bedding back on top of me.


    Alexis comes and bounces onto her side of the bed. “She was in a bit of a state when she came in last night and wasn’t in the mood for talking.”


    Marla flicks her hair a couple of times before continuing. “I know he was attacked on the Vanderbelt grounds during the party last night - why don’t we start there? Vanderbelt security wasn’t very forthcoming with information.”


    Accepting my fate, I relate the whole night to my two girlfriends. Alexis lets out a low whistle when I finish.


    Marla flicks her hair again. “So that was Sasha of the Springvale Apothecary this morning, was it?”


    “Sounds like she swings both ways, same as you, hun,” Alexis says quietly and gives me a gentle poke in the ribs.


    “Indeed,” Marla says with a little smile. “Regardless though, I’m going to go back and check on him. It’s possible that whatever struck him on the Vanderbelt estate was laced with a mild poison of some sort, which would account for his sickliness later in the evening.”


    Alexis nods her approval. “I agree. A regular wound wouldn’t cause sickness so quickly, even if it became infected.”


    “Oh, but Sasha is an alchemist,” I say in a slightly mocking tone. “I’m sure he’s in good hands… and lips… and everything else.”


    Marla strokes my hair a few times to reassure me a little. “Your time will come, Diana. You’re much too fabulous for your fortune to be held back indefinitely.”


    I twist around and shoot her a grin. That was a very nice thing to say to me.


    Marla stands and starts making for the trap door. “I’ll let you ladies get on with your day. We should do a girl’s night sometime soon though. I bet we all have a few stories to share in the same vein as poor Diana’s unfortunate night.”


    Alexis starts bouncing on the bed and clapping with a big smile. “Yes! Fabulous idea, Marla! Ohhhh we could do each other’s hair! Ohhh and bake sweets!”


    The Captain of the Scarlet Rose gives us a big smile and nod as she waves and disappears from sight.


    The brunette flops down on the bed beside me with a big sigh. “She’s so awesome. I love her so much!”


    I snort a little. “Are you sure you don’t fancy women?” I ask in a teasing manner.


    She leans in close and gives me a flirty look. “You’ll be the first one to know if I ever change my mind, baby.”


    We stare at each other for a moment while her words hang in the air, then both burst out laughing.


    “Come on!” Alexis commands. “I got a few pieces from last night; we need to pay a visit to Slick Willie.”


    I groan again as she pulls me onto my feet. I manage to eat a little and soak in the tub for a few minutes before she starts pestering me to hurry up. I swear that girl needs to just calm the hells down sometimes. Where does she get all her energy?


    It’s mid-afternoon by the time we finally ride into town together. The candlesticks and silverware she lifted last night are carefully wrapped and packed in our saddlebags so as to not draw attention.


    Springvale is its usual busy self with its packed streets full of people, mounts, and people on mounts.


    Alexis and I guide our horses down a narrow alleyway and disappear from sight. I’m fairly certain this narrow space is enchanted; it’s always unnaturally dark for some reason.


    A single blue-flame torch is affixed to the alley wall letting us know that we’re in the right spot. We dismount and gather our spoils from our saddlebags.


    Alexis quietly whistles a very specific tune. Suddenly, one of the bricks in the wall in front of us slides to the side.


    “It was a dark and stormy night,” a gruff voice says.


    “The seas were angry,” I reply.


    “Such a sight,” Alexis adds.


    The brick slides back into place and we stand patiently waiting.


    After a few moments, the entire wall opens to reveal a very large Orc. He gives us a sly, toothy grin and motions for us to enter. “Ladies…” he says quietly.


    “Heeeeeeey, Buster,” Alexis says in her flirty voice. “Knock any heads lately?”


    “You know it, darling,” he replies. “I also knock boots, you know? If you’re feeling lonely.”


    She gives him a knowing grin and hooks her arm around mine.


    “What a waste…” the Orc mumbles as Alexis pulls me forward into the dimly-lit hallway.


    “You’re terrible,” I whisper in the darkness.


    “Always keep them wondering, hun,” she whispers back. I can practically hear her grinning.


    We descend down a winding stone staircase lit by the occasional fiery-blue torch. The air grows damp the deeper we go.


    “Glad I didn’t do my hair,” I grumble to myself. “I always leave this place with a nasty case of ‘the frizzies’.”


    “Whine, whine,” Alexis says with a giggle.


    “Your hair is thicker! You don’t know my pain!” I reply and stick my tongue out at her in the dark.


    Finally reaching the bottom of the stone steps, we continue forward with our feet sinking into the muddy floor of a long cave.


    “Glad I didn’t wear my good boo—“


    “Don’t start!” Alexis says, cutting off one of my favorite complaints. “Every week it’s the same thing. Oh… my hair. Oh… my boots. Oh… they’re looking at my boobs. Oh… I think I want to marry a pirate one day…”


    I give her a playful shove. “As if you never complain, Miss Flirts-with-every-male-rogue-in-the-land!”


    A pair of blue torches suddenly ignite directly in front of us revealing a pair of shadow guards.


    “Glittering gold is a very fine thing,” one of them says, his other hand on the hilt of his sword.


    “Attach a small diamond,” I reply.


    “And it makes a fine ring,” Alexis says.


    Satisfied, the men bow to us and place their enchanted torches together against the cave wall. I reach under the flames and turn a hidden handle. A large door swings open revealing a bright, lavishly decorated room.


    “Diana! Alexis! Come in! Come in!” a small goblin with several gold teeth and a gold earring says with a big smile. “What do you have for me this week?”


    “Hiiii Slick Willie,” Alexis purrs and gives the little monster her sexy smile. The goblin smiles a little bigger and grunts a little while his eyebrows start to dance.


    I shrug. “Not that much actually. We had a lot going on this week. Didn’t get a ton of work in.”


    Alexis leans over and plants a little kiss on the top of Willie’s left ear. I don’t think he even heard what I just said.


    He starts to quiver a little as she hands him the first silver candlestick. “Oooo Willie like’ie!” he says with enthusiasm.


    I hope he’s talking about the silver.


    Each new piece Alexis hands him seems to please him a great deal. A few minutes later, we’ve handed over all our ill-gotten wares and wait for our cash-out.


    The goblin’s nose twitches as he scribbles in his ledger and examines his margins for the week. He finally slaps his ink quill on the counter and disappears into an open vault off to the side.


    Alexis shoots me a look of excitement and bites the side of her lip. The payment is always her favorite part.


    Slick Willie appears again and tosses us two small coin bags each. The excitement on the brunette’s face fades a little.


    “Only four little sacks this week, Willie?”


    The little green monster clears his throat a little before continuing. “Sorry honey-bunny, but silver isn’t bringing home the bacon like it used to I’m afraid. Our overseas associates are looking more for enchanted items now as opposed to precious metals.”


    Alexis bounces the coin bags in her hands and glances down with a look of disappointment.


    “Heeeeeey,” Willie purrs, “Willie still gave his favorite pair of rogues his best rate! You know old Uncle Willie always takes care of his girls!”


    I nod and step in front of Alexis. “We know you do, Willie, and we appreciate it.”


    “Yeah…” Alexis pipes up. “I don’t mean to seem ungrateful. You’re still our guy and we love you.”


    The big smile returns to the little goblin’s face and we see ourselves out.


    “We need to step up our game a little,” Alexis mumbles as we start back up the stone steps. “Momma needs a big payday every time! It’s one of the main reasons I keep doing this!”


    “I thought it was because you didn’t want to dance with the other wenches down at Silvermoon Tavern,” I say in a snarky way. “You said something about hating having your bra weighed down with coins, didn’t you?”


    “Oh, you’re hilarious,” she replies in a dry tone. “At least I don’t fill my bra with cotton to get men’s attention.”


    “Uh huh,” I reply and decide to keep the banter going. “Would you like to borrow some? Your girls really need all the help they can get.”


    Alexis suddenly spins around and presses her chest into mine. “You know that’s not true,” she says quietly. I feel my face start to flush a little in the darkness and find myself a little bit tongue-tied.


    Alexis turns and continues down the dark hallway. “You’re so easy, Diana!” she says with a little chuckle.


    A few minutes later we lead our horses back into the bright afternoon sunlight.


    “Well…” the brunette starts and turns my way. “What now? It won’t be dark for another few hours.”


    I shade my eyes and look around at the busy streets. “I don’t know,” I mutter. “Maybe I’ll go see if Remington is alright.”


    “You want backup?” the brunette asks as she swings up into Stud’s saddle.


    I shake my head as I mount Beauty. “No, I’ll be fine, thanks.”


    “Are you sure?” Alexis asks with slightly narrowed eyes. “You took a bit of a blow to your ego last night. Are you sure you don’t want to give it a few days first so you can catch your breath?”


    I shake my head again. “Hopefully he’ll be alone so we can talk. I’ve got a few things I want to say.”


    “Okay,” Alexis says and nods her head. “If that’s what you feel like you need to do.”


    I return the nod and manage a brave smile.


    “I’m going to go… visit… some of the armor and weapon smiths in the area,” she says with a sly smile. “You never know. I might find something that would be of interest to our friends overseas.”


    I give another nod and nudge Beauty to start trotting down the street. “I’ll see you back home in a few hours then,” I call back over my shoulder.


    Pressing though Springvale’s rush-hour traffic proves more difficult than I first anticipated and it takes me a full thirty minutes to get to Remmy’s place.


    I take a couple of deep breaths before I approach his front door. What if Sasha is still there? What if she wants to get physical again? What if they’re both there and they have each other and neither of them ever want to see me ever again?


    I give my head a little shake. Sometimes a woman’s thoughts are her own worst enemy.


    I take another deep breath and loudly knock on Remmy’s door.

  • Ch17: A Revolting Turn of Events





    To my surprise, the door opens a little as I knock. That’s odd. I know Remmy is a member of the Scarlett Rose and everything, but Springvale is a large city now. I would always keep the door bolted.


    I take a half-step inside and glance around.


    “Hello?” I ask. “Remington?”


    No response. I roll my eyes a little and take another deep breath. “Sasha?” I ask. The name is bitter and sweet as it leaves my lips.


    Still no response.


    “Hello? Anybody home?” I advance and close the door behind me. “Hello? It’s Diana. I’m just here to check-in on Remington.”


    I’m not really sure why I feel the need to announce my intentions to what appears to be an empty house. I poke my head into his bedroom, half expecting to see Remmy and Sasha in the middle of sort of sordid sexual expression.


    No luck. The room is empty. The bed is unmade, however, which strikes me as odd. Remmy is a disciplined military man. An unmade bed doesn’t fit with his character. I’m pretty sure it was made when Sasha and I helped him home last night.


    I see something move out of the corner of my eye. I whirl around to see a little brown field mouse sniffing a crumb in the corner of the room. It sees me looking at him and quickly disappears through a tiny crack in the wall.


    “Shoot,” I say and place my hand on my chest. “You gave me a little fright there, little fell—“


    More movement catches my attention and I turn back to the room just in time to see a woman clothed in black launching a fist at my face. My body springs backward, but she still manages to land a partial hit on my cheek. The impact sends me stumbling backward into the living room. Recovering quickly, I’m able to successfully block the next three attacks she launches in rapid succession. Going on the offensive I manage to grab her by her top and force my knee into her midsection. She grunts with the impact, but uses her bent over position to ram us backward into the kitchen. We land together and roll around on the floor trying to gain the top position. She manages to punch me in the face again. I use the opening to kick away from her and leap back to my feet. She’s just as quick and rolls to a standing position. Before she can attack again, I tackle her and we end up on top of the kitchen table. I use my weight to pin her beneath me and punch her face a couple of times. She punches my breast then grabs the back of my top and wrenches me sideways, sending me flying off the table and back down to the floor. She kicks me a few times; I manage to grab her boot and push backward, throwing her off balance back to the floor. As she goes down, I scramble to my feet and stomp her midriff. She sweeps my leg and I go down again. Rolling on top of me she wraps her hands around my throat. I do likewise and for a long minute, we attempt to choke the life from each other. I start to see stars and my grip starts to loosen, but fortunately, so does hers.


    We push away from each other gasping for breath.


    “Who are you?” I rasp.


    The woman in black doesn’t answer.


    “What have you done with Remington?”


    The woman continues to stare daggers at me but says nothing.


    I smile a little. “I know it’s you, Sasha. You can stop pretending.”


    The other woman finally speaks while gasping for air. Her voice is slightly muffled through the fabric covering her face. “Ha! You wish!”


    I don’t recognize the voice.


    “What do you want?” I demand.


    She takes a moment to answer. “To prove myself worthy of the Dark Master!” she shouts and lunges for me again.


    I’m still recovering from being choked, but I manage to connect my fist to her face as she comes at me. That stuns her just long enough for me to swivel around and kick her in the side of the head. She grunts with pain, but manages to catch my leg and launch a kick to my midsection. I crumple for a moment giving the other woman enough time to put me in a headlock and drag me up to my knees.


    “I could have taken a knife from the counter and ended this a few minutes ago…” she hisses. “But, I wanted to beat you woman to woman. I wanted to feel the life draining out of you as I crushed you with my bare hands!”


    I’m starting to see stars again. In desperation I maneuver my legs out from under me and push against the nearby wall. I launch us backward into kitchen draws and my attacker cries out in pain. Feeling her hold on me loosen, I send several elbows backward into her midriff until she lets go of me to cover and protect herself.


    Scrambling back to my feet, I grab her by her top and let myself fall backwards. Using my falling momentum, I brace both of my feet on her stomach, and flip her overtop of me back into the Livingroom.


    She lands hard on the wooden floor and arches her back in pain.


    “Thanks,” I mutter as I leap back to my feet and approach her, “It’s been a while since I’ve had a decent workout like this. You want to go a few rounds in the bedroom next?”


    I know, I know… inappropriate. But what can I tell you? This woman got my blood pumping!


    I grab hold of the fabric wrapped around her head and yank it off. A pale skinned woman with long, straight black hair looks up at me and glares.


    I grab her by the hair and yank her to her knees. “There, I’ve seen your face, now tell me who you are!” I demand.


    She laughs in response. “My name is Elvira,” she says through gritted teeth. “And you’re mine, sweetie. The rest of the Dark Blade knows that your death belongs to me.”


    I get down to her level and look her straight in the eye for my next question. “Why me?” I shout. “Why do the Dark Blades want me dead?”


    She laughs again then locks eyes with me and gets deadly serious. “Cause it’s either going to be you… or it’s going to be me. And baby… it’s going to be ME!”


    Without warning, Elvira locks her lips to mine in a sensual kiss. I’m completely taken off guard. I lose my footing and fall backward with the other woman moving on top of me. The pale skinned woman breaks the kiss and wriggles free of my hold on her hair.


    Getting back to her feet, she stands over me with her hands on her womanly hips and gives me a lusty look. “That’s enough for today, I think,” she purrs and licks her lips. “We both got a few good licks in I’d say.”


    I still sit sprawled on the floor looking up at my new nemesis. The events of the last few seconds still spinning in my head.


    Elvira laughs again then turns and limps toward the door. She pulls the rest of the black fabric from her body revealing normal tight-fitting street clothing underneath. She fixes her hair a little before opening the front entrance.


    She takes a step outside before pausing and looking back at me. “Your guard friend is fine, by the way. He left for an evening shift about an hour ago. Looks like sleeping with that blonde alchemist hussy really did the trick.”


    I scowl.


    She gives me one last parting grin and then closes the door behind her.


    Night has fallen by the time Beauty and I get back home. Alexis is dressed in her catsuit and sits at the table reading another one of her books when I finally lift the door to our place.


    “Finally!” she says slightly annoyed. “Did you have a sexy good time with Remington and Sasha or something? What took you so long?”


    I ignore her question and ease myself onto the side of our bed. Alexis stands sensing something is wrong with me. “What’s wrong? Wait… have you been in a… fight?” she asks and rushes over to me.


    I groan a little as she grabs my face and turns my bruised skin toward the lamp light. “Oh baby, what happened to you?” she whines.


    “I’ve made a new friend,” I say to the best of my ability through her fingers.


    “What?” Alexis asks slightly disgusted by my jesting tone. “Man or woman this time? Who attacked who?”


    I sit her down on the bed beside me and relate the events of the afternoon.


    “Elvira?” she asks and wrinkles her nose. “What kind of dorky name is that? I bet her parents hated her or something. No wonder she joined the Dark Blade. She’s probably doing the world a favor by covering up that ugly mug of hers.”


    I look to the side and shrug. “No, she’s just as pretty as the rest of us. Haven’t you noticed that everyone is basically gorgeous in this land?”


    Alexis huffs and whips out one of the daggers hidden in her catsuit. She slashes the air several times with a grimace on her face. “She won’t be so pretty when I get done with her. No one gets to attack my best friend! Not unless they want to get stabbed in the face!”


    “Okay, okay…” I say softly and pull the brunette into a side embrace. “Calm down. If she wants to challenge me to a fair fight, that’s fine. But if she brings friends and tries to get the drop on me…”


    Alexis stabs the air several more times.


    “Exactly,” I whisper and kiss her forehead.


    We sit together in silence and listen to the fireplace crackle. It’s so nice to have someone that wants to watch my back and stick up for me. Alexis is the bestest friend a girl could ever have.


    Alexis sits up and unzips her top. “Well, I guess we’re not working tonight then.”


    I shake my head. “Nah… I’m kind of beat-up right now.”


    I grunt a little as I help my friend out of her tight leather gear. I think Elvira bruised a couple of my ribs when she was kicking me.


    “Here,” Alexis says and tosses me a half empty vial of red liquid. “It’s our last one. Those were one of the items on the shopping list tonight.”


    I gratefully down the rest of the healing potion and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.


    “Better?” the brunette asks.


    “Yeah. Thanks.”


    My friend helps me into bed and then takes her spot beside me. She absentmindedly strokes my hair with a faraway look on her face.


    I’m super relaxed and would love to sleep right now, but I see the look on her face, so I do my girlfriend duty.


    “What are you thinking about?” I ask, barely able to keep my eyes open.


    “I wonder if Sasha really did sleep with Remington last night… or if it’s just Elvira messing with you.”


    I scowl and whine a little. I really should have just gone to sleep.


    “I want to meet this woman,” Alexis declares with conviction. “I want to make sure she’s good for you.”


    “That’s sweet of you,” I say with a yawn. “What about Remmy? You don’t want to meet him?”


    “Oh, Remington I already know,” she says with a hint of dismissiveness.


    Suddenly, I’m not tired anymore. “What!” I ask and sit up ignoring the stabbing pain in my side.


    Alexis examines her fingernails and gives a casual nod. “We dated a couple years ago.”


    My head suddenly feels like it’s spinning. “What do you mean, ‘you dated’?” I demand.


    She shrugs. “I tried to go straight a couple years ago. I tried out for the Scarlet Rose. It was before Marla was in charge. Remington was trying out too. He made it, I didn’t, but we got together.”


    I flop back onto the mattress. “How long?” I ask.


    Alexis shrugs again. “Four, maybe five months, maybe? He didn’t like the people I started spending time with.”


    “Your bandit friends, I’m guessing?”




    “And you didn’t think to tell me this sooner?”


    My friend smiles down at me and runs her fingers through my hair a couple more times. “You were so happy when you met him. He and I are certainly not together anymore, so I figured why dilute your enthusiasm?”


    “I just…” I trail off. I’m not really sure where I’m going with my next thought. “I don’t like to think that we have secrets, I guess? Is there anything else you’re not telling me for whatever reason?”


    The brunette laughs a little. “I don’t know… I don’t think so. I’m sorry, I was going to tell you when the time was right. I thought I’d let the two of you get to know each other a little more before I started in with my dirty laundry. I knew it would come up eventually though.”


    “It would have been super weird if we met him downtown together,” I mumble.


    “Yeah… especially since as far as he knows, I’m just a common bandit now.”


    “Agh! That’s right!” I say and cover my face with my pillow. “If he sees us together, he’s going to be super suspicious!”


    Alexis smiles and nods. “I mean, he’ll find out about our night job eventually anyway, right? If you two were to get serious, he’d either have to come on board, or you’d have to give up being a rogue.”


    The truth of that statement weighs on me like a ton of bricks. Alexis is absolutely right. Blast her… I was perfectly fine not considering the future until now.


    “I’m so sorry!” Alexis whines and snuggles up to me. “I didn’t mean to depress you!”


    “Too late,” I whimper and make a pouty face.


    “Awwww,” she whines again and gives me a kiss on the forehead. “Don’t worry. Maybe things will work out with Sasha instead. She does bad things sometimes, apparently. I bet we could convert her to the dark side and get her to join The Sisters of Fortune!”


    “Maybe,” I whisper and let out a yawn. My energy is officially gone now.


    “You two could have the cutest little blonde babies!” Alexis whispers and snuggles up close to me. I can see she’s fading now too.


    “Two women can’t make babies, you dork.”


    “Oh… right... I knew dat…”


    Alexis drifts off to sleep.


    I gently rest my forehead against hers and feel my eyes close as well.


    “Girls!” Marla screams as she opens our hatch and stumbles into our apartment. Alexis and I bolt awake and are temporarily blinded by the early morning sunlight streaming in our windows.


    Marla crumples on our floor covered head to toe in blood. “I need… your… help…”

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