Sunday, November 23, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 76 - A Third Scorpius Excerpt

For today's Poetry Train, I thought I'd share another excerpt from the novel I've been hammering out during NaNoWriMo. Another confession - I didn't start a brand new storyline, but continued on with what I began in the summer after my writers' retreat.

The excerpt is the third one following the character of Scorpius, a chamberlain for Lady Elinor in a fantasy world which combines a medieval-style slave-owning society with technology. You can catch up on the earlier excerpts here:

Excerpt 1
Excerpt 2

I model Scorpius after British actor Richard Armitage.


Excerpt



















He knew Lady Elinor better than any man alive. He knew what she longed for, what her spoken words meant and what words were always left unspoken. He knew because he’d watched her hold court these last years, all through the rhythm of the seasons.

What he hadn’t realized until that great-horn flew up over the north ridge this morning was how far he was willing to go to serve his lady. If he had to risk travelling down a darker path than he’d ever dared to before, then so be it.

If Scorpius knew anything, it was just how Lady Elinor could wield a crop – with agonizing finesse. She slipped it now under his chin, pressing there until he raised his face high. But he would not meet her gaze.

He wasn’t quite ready for her to see that deeply into his soul just yet.

***

Elinor’s stomach squeezed with excitement as her chamberlain responded correctly to her command. She had to admit, she’d fully expected to see those blue eyes of his looking up at her. She’d been ready to give him the first sting, but he cleared that hurdle easily.

My word, he was a stunning beauty of a man. Why had she never noticed it before? Even on his knees, he came up to her chin. His dark tunic showed off his well-sculpted physique, his trousers straining slightly across the thighs. This was the man he showed to the world every day. But another man had revealed himself to her, someone who wanted desperately to be let out of the bonds he’d created for himself.

Lucky for him he worked for her. She was an expert at coaxing truth from men unwilling to spill their secrets.

“On your feet,” she said, stepping away from him.

He stilled for a moment. Was he thinking better of his offer? Did he long to go back to the way it had been between them, before they went too far? Or was he simply giving her some spirited resistance? Just as she gripped her crop for his first stroke, Scorpius stood in a smooth motion. She couldn’t mistake the hard bulge beneath his trousers, which fueled her own excitement like a laser strike.

“You won’t need these,” she said, pointing at his leather boots. “Take them off.”

Again he paused, his eyebrows drawing together as though he argued with himself whether to proceed or not. Normally she wouldn’t give him the luxury of such a long hesitation. But she knew his true surrender would ultimately be to his own nature, and sometimes it was best to let realization take hold rather than enforce his obedience.

Scorpius bent and slipped one boot off, then the other. She let him stand uncertainly for a moment before tapping one foot with the end of the crop. “These, too,” she said, and he pulled off his socks.

She turned and strode to the end of her bed. Looking back over her shoulder, she said, “Come here.” Now it was her turn to feel a shiver of anticipation as she heard the whisper of his bare feet walking across the marble floor. He stopped just behind her, and Elinor turned in time to see the remnants of a gaze that sized her up the way a lover would before bending into a kiss.

Oh, he was starving for this. Elinor prided herself on seeing through the artifices of others. The fact that until today he’d hidden his desires from her so completely put her off-balance. Obviously Scorpius had many talents, and his ability to deceive her gave Elinor hope for the secret alliance she’d formed among the nobles. He could be of great use to her, both in bed and behind the scenes.

But for now, she had a new slave to break in.

“Undo these clasps,” she said, brushing the top one on his tunic with her fingers. Scorpius waited until she withdrew her hand, then set about unlatching the clasps that held his tunic together at the front. When he reached the last one, he let his hands fall to his sides and waited for instruction. He was a fast learner.

“Take off your tunic,” she said, and enjoyed the sight as he shrugged out of it, revealing an upper body that should never have been concealed. Gesturing with the crop, she said, “Toss it over there,” and he did so.

“Push the curtains aside,” she said, stepping back to give him room. Scorpius took a step and reached out for the orange gauze draped over one of the posts of her bed. Leaning forward, he shoved the curtain so that it revealed the curved wood of the post. At eye level, a few links of chain attached a wrist cuff to the post.













Scorpius inhaled sharply. She remembered what he’d said earlier, that he’d come to her as a released prisoner of the ongoing wars between the noble houses. Elinor took a moment to really look at her chamberlain. What had he suffered during those years?

Why did he want to relive the indignities of his capture? Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea, after all. Maybe she could simply take him as her lover, and leave it at that. Without his tunic, the scars at his wrists were plainly visible. Scars from the shackles he’d worn day and night.

Elinor nearly asked him to explain, to tell her why he wanted to give himself to her so completely. She looked him in the face, at his gaze that remained cast down as she’d so recently taught him. His earlier flush of excitement was missing. Now he’d gone quite pale.

Instead, she ordered him to push aside the other curtains, revealing the other post with its wrist cuff waiting for him. Scorpius stood at attention, looking down at the bed, his chest rising and falling as his breathing gave his distress away.

No, he’d come to her this evening of his own free will. He’d offered himself as compensation for a cancelled ball. Besides, there was the matter of his behavior in front of the Master-at-Arms. Must not forget that.

Laying the crop on the end of the bed so he could get a good look at it, Elinor reached for his left hand and stretched it high towards the cuff. Flicking the mechanism open, she placed the cuff around his wrist and locked it. Moving to the other post, she did the same until Scorpius stood bound to her bed, both arms stretched taut and wrists chained securely. Reaching down, Elinor took up the crop and walked slowly behind her chamberlain, whose skin erupted in goosebumps. Now that he was bare, now that she was behind him, she saw plainly the ghostly stripes that gave witness across his back.

“Do you recall what you did this morning in the Great Hall?” she asked, wondering who had put those lash marks there.

“I spoke for you to the Master-at-Arms.”

Elinor reached around her chamberlain at the waist, taking the clasp of his pants in her fingers and twisting it open. He went very still.

“Has it been your job to speak for me to any member of this household?” she asked, opening the next clasp.

“No, my lady.”

“Why did you do so today, then?” She undid the last clasp and opened his waistband, exposing his hips and lower belly.

“Pahlmot needed to see to the great-horn, my lady.”

“I was aware of that.” Elinor jerked down swiftly, pulling his trousers down to his knees. Mmm. His ass was magnificent, and quite clear of any prior marks. His thighs were strong and made lots of promises for future endurance. She didn’t know who looked forward to that future more – herself or this man she’d discovered hiding beneath her chamberlain, of all people.

“Step out of them,” she said, tapping him on the leg. With three elegant motions, considering he was cuffed to the posts, Scorpius freed both legs and kicked his trousers to the side. Then he shook his head as if to clear it, took a deep breath and braced himself.

Elinor felt weak with desire for him. She couldn’t recall ever feeling this way before. No lover, no slave, certainly not her betrothed, no one had made her crave him the way she wanted Scorpius right now.

She wasn’t used to feeling out of control like this. Another feeling, a more familiar one, burst through her desire and ran up through her chest. Anger.

Now that was more like it.

***

His wrists – his wrists – he couldn’t bear the crush of the cuffs on them. His heart seized up as Lady Elinor took a step forward, closing the distance between them. Quite horribly the dungeon of his lady’s rival rose up to replace the chamber as memories flooded back.

He’d felt the lash then.

There was nothing thrilling about pain like that. He’d writhed in his bonds, but there was no escape. Only the next burning slash erupting over his skin, the rawness of his wrists against the metal that kept him in place.

Every moment of every day had been spent trying to avoid being placed under that lash. But Lord Vasser was a slithery man who employed true sadists. Most times there wasn’t any real reason for Scorpius’ torment.

There were only the whims of a depraved master, and the skills of merciless enforcers of that depravity.

Here at the keep, the memory of his fellow prisoners’ cries rang through the gloom of sleepless nights. His own cries dogged him worst of all. By all the gods, he’d fought to keep them from spilling past his lips, ground his teeth against them. But the jailers wrenched screams from Scorpius of which he’d never dreamed he was capable.

So why had he delivered himself back into manacles, stripped naked in his lady’s chamber? What was wrong with him?

He clenched his hands into fists above the cuffs, tensed his body – and waited. The crop whistled through the air, making his hair stand on end. Then it bit into his skin, across his ass where he’d not expected it.

He thrust forward involuntarily. The initial pain flared into a second burn, and she hadn’t even swung her arm back yet. Scorpius dragged down on the cuffs, testing the chains’ strength. They were solid just like the dungeon’s.

“Will you ever put words in my mouth again?” Lady Elinor asked.

“I hope I never have to, my lady,” he said truthfully. He’d done so today to save Pahlmot, who didn’t deserve her reaction.

The crop bit. Only the second stroke and already she nearly had him. Scorpius broke out in a sweat.

You’ve faced so much worse than this, he told himself.

He bucked forward with the next cut, thighs straining against the bed. The lash would have sliced him open by now. You can do this.

Another stroke nearly tore a cry free, but he clenched his teeth and forced it back down. Before he could brace himself, she brought the next round of strokes in fast.










He tried to wrench his body away from the pain, but the crop left echoing slashes of agony along the welts it raised. His chest heaved as though he’d run up every set of stairs in the keep.

Lady Elinor climbed onto her bed, sitting languidly before him against her pillows. She still had the crop in her hand, but her grip was loose.

His ass and thighs burned hot, wrenching his attention away from his complete exposure in front. But his lady’s unyielding gaze upon his naked body left him very aware that he hardened.

“You take the crop well. Very well,” she said, a note of admiration in her voice. Scorpius pulled himself up as tall as he could, straining against the cuffs which irritated his scars. He almost spoke.

Almost.

Blast, but she knew how to trip him up. Appeal to his vanity, even as he stood here splayed out - sore, mortified and turned on all at once. A glow of satisfaction spread through him as he savored his resistance to her show of force.

She hadn’t torn him down, hadn’t been able to force the cries that he did not want to make. How he regretted those screams the jailers had ripped out of him. Lady Elinor had given him the greatest of gifts just now, though she would not welcome that news.

Best keep that to himself.

***

Elinor couldn’t stand it any longer. Scorpius was a quick learner, too quick to be duped into meeting her gaze at this point. But she had to see into those blue eyes of his. She had to look into their depths, to see if he felt the same things she felt.

“You are permitted to look at me,” she said. Her heart skittered with anticipation, watching his dark lashes shield him. Scorpius raised his chin slightly. Then his lids raised and she looked up into eyes that almost singed her with their lightening-bolt blue.

No one had ever looked at Elinor with such ferocity. Her stomach fluttered with excitement. She’d had many men chained to the foot of her bed over the years. Would-be suitors who knew of her preference for this kind of bedroom play, who showed their own colors within the first few strokes.

Most men thought it would be sexy until the pain flared up. If they weren’t drawn to it by nature, their ambition failed to shield them from the crop’s bite. Then each poor unfortunate settled into an endurance match, one which intrigued Elinor on its own level.

The men who truly craved release through submission never fought the blows. They opened to them like blooms opened to the sun.

This man, now – this beautiful man – he was somewhere in between those two types. Just as he wasn’t a slave, but professed to have the heart of one. Scorpius, who worked for her, yet moved with the regal grace of one born to the blood.

She could see his desire to submit in the way he knelt, in the way he learned quickly to obey. Another man would have tested her to see if she really meant business.

Those men were a challenge. Elinor enjoyed challenges. She felt one emanating from Scorpius, but it was of an entirely different nature.

He was no stranger to the lash. His back gave up his secrets like the whispers that clung to his wrists and ankles. He resisted the pain of the crop. Scorpius didn’t use the pain as though it were the rungs of a ladder, taking him higher like a true submissive would.

But look at him now, positively glowing with pride over something. It ate at her that she couldn’t place it.

“Do you still want to offer yourself in place of my Dionysian Ball?” she asked. “Or was it better to be the observer, and not the participant?”

Her chamberlain took a deep breath. “It’s too dangerous to hold the ball, Lady Elinor,” he said, switching back into his normal role though he stood naked and stretched between her bedposts.

“You would offer yourself for the sake of my guests? No other reason? I thought you said you knew what I desired?” Why did it hurt, suddenly, the idea that he’d come to her for anything less than a need to please her? Before today, she’d never thought of Scorpius as a potential lover. Now the sight of him stirred her deeply.

“Perhaps, if you’d seen what a dragon can do to people – as I have,” Scorpius said, then cut himself off. He dipped his head sideways as if he hoped to avoid something. But she knew the things he needed to avoid were inescapable.

It was hard to slip into her own accustomed role. She was far from the unfeeling brat she was made out to be. Her heart went out to this new Scorpius, but didn’t want him to know that. Not yet.

She must veer his attention away from the demons that haunted him, even if it meant putting on the spoiled persona she wore like battle armor. “Are you going to go on about that cursed dragon again?”

Her stomach thrilled at the way he looked at her. His eyes blazed with barely-contained outrage. Even chained up, he looked as if she should take care with what she said next.
















“Do you want me to say I’ve come here for you? The Lady Elinor?” he asked. “Words you need to hear – from me?”

To cover the shock that must have passed over her face, Elinor rose from the pillows to her knees quickly, bringing her face to face with her chamberlain. There was no longer any pretense toward hiding his non-slave status. If he’d not been chained up, she’s not sure that he wouldn’t grab her. Shake her.

“You did say your heart is the heart of one who would serve me,” she said.

He gazed deeply into her eyes, searching for something. “When did you last see your betrothed?”

Elinor’s heart squeezed painfully. “Three seasons past.”

Scorpius sized her up with a discerning glance. How could he make her feel so vulnerable when she was the one with the crop still in her hand?

“Has he ever returned to the keep to see you?” he asked. His questions felt like kicks to her stomach.

“Of course he has,” she snapped. “Have you lost your senses along with your clothes?”

“If that’s what you tell yourself in this bed at night,” he said, gazing past her at the pillow. “Who am I to argue?” Then his blue eyes looked straight into her soul.

Tears started, but she blinked them away. “You forget yourself,” she said, her voice trembling.

Scorpius looked nothing like the self-possessed chamberlain she’d always known. And he certainly looked nothing like a slave who knew his place. Right now he looked like he could devour her whole if he could get his hands on her. Elinor’s skin tingled with dread, with longing as he strained against the cuffs and stretched forward, as close to her as he could get.

“Do I have to remind you of the great-horn?” he asked. “Some of your guests are already en route. The others can be spared – if you will only say the word and call off your ball. In return, you will have me.”

Elinor’s heart swelled with the way he looked at her. So much passion hidden all this time behind the cool professionalism of the man who ran her household. She fought to keep her own expression from betraying her. For there was no going back from this. She needed Scorpius more than she’d ever needed anyone.

Copyright - 2008 - Julia Smith

10 comments:

Joy Renee said...

whoa. that's some tango they're dancing. but boy do they seem to be made for each other. but their creator saw to that didn't she :)

thanx for visiting and for the prayers for my mom and me. i didn't realize how much i needed it myself until shortly after i got posted and found myself in an anxiety attack. i guess working on the post distracted me but the minute i started to relax i started to feel very unrelaxed.

the meditation practice i've been doing most of this year served me well tho. I focused on my breath and got it under control and the sense of impending doom lifted.

fast, shallow breathing through the mouth is both cause and effect of anxiety. so purposefully inhaling slow and deep thru the nose alleviates anxiety. why did none of my mental health practitioners tell me that?

Julia Smith said...

Joy Renee - it's frustrating when you get dribs and drabs of what you need from different health care providers. But I'm glad you found one that gave you that meditation technique. I've had my own struggles with anxiety, myself. I've used that one, too - it definitely helps.

Amy Ruttan said...

Very hot!

Thomma Lyn said...

Excellent job, Julia! I enjoy your writing style. You really pulled me into those scenes, and Scorpius and Elinor are wonderfully-drawn characters.

Travis said...

It's not normally what I would read, but it's very well written. I was riveted by the tension.

Shelley Munro said...

Wow, Julia. Great job!

Nikki said...

He is soo hot! Very interesting read Julia!

jenniferleeland said...

Oh. My. God.!!!!!!
THAT WAS FABULOUS!!!!
I loved it. Absolutely hot and steamy.

Thomma Lyn said...

It's me again! I have a blog award for you, my friend. :)

Bobbi said...

Man, Julia - I need a cold shower after reading that! Scorpius is definitely a character I enjoy reading. Great job!