Dinner at Maeve's Vigil

The great silver-bound door opens to Margot's knock, white-haired Siorys bowing to the visitor. "Welcome, Princess Margot," he greets her, his voice deep enough to find company in a well. Standing aside, he gestures her to enter and then escorts her to a small conversation grouping of seats near the unlit hearth before departing to fetch the Chaos Lord.

Margot smiles, inclining her head slightly. "Thank you," she utters quietly, pleasantly. She waits standing, fingers clasped casually at her waist and allowing the drapes of her sleeves to frame her small hips. Her eyes take in her surroundings, glancing around at the décor and banners.

She is waiting less than two minutes, however, before another door opens and Kendall appears to greet her. He is wearing a tailored buttoned shirt with long sleeves and tails, made of black silk shot through with blue iridescence that shimmers like clouds. Fitted black trousers and low indoor boots complete the ensemble. She turns at the sound of Kendall entering, her expression brightening with a smile for him alone.

Approaching her, he also smiles to see her, running admiring eyes over the sweep of her gown and the form it accentuates. He holds out his hands to take hers. "Margot. Welcome and thank you for coming."

She gladly gives her hands over to him. "Thank you for the invitation, Kendall." She steps forward, fingers curling around his, intending to press kisses of welcome to his cheeks. But when she moves forward to kiss his cheeks, he turns his head, capturing her mouth in a light, welcoming kiss.

Margot's eyes widen with surprise at first, but she returns the kiss happily, almost rising to her tiptoes though already wearing heels. Stepping back when he does, her smile remains. Releasing one of her hands, Kendall tucks the other into his arm and escorts her through the tower. "You are more beautiful than the very sea, Margot," he tells her as they walk.

She smiles, cheeks coloring at his compliment. "Thank you," she manages, fingers tightening affectionately around his arm. She allows him to lead her through the tower, eyes taking in their surroundings as he leads her down a short hall, through a small sitting room, and to a balcony with a view of the setting sun. This balcony is smaller than the other she had already visited before, with a correspondingly smaller round table covered in a silvery grey tablecloth edged in silver satin. The table is already set with small plates, glasses, and other necessities. Two chairs sit near each other, looking out over the sea, but Kendall leads Margot first to the railing to give her a view of the vastness below. Picking up the two wineglasses on the table, he offers her one.

She accepts the glass with a smile. Turning to look out to the horizon, she gives a slight shake of her head. "This is… beyond words, Kendall…" she breathes. The setting sun catches in the jewels in her hair, and the few tendrils that hung loose tickled her neck in the breeze. She drinks from the glass, enjoying the savory body of the wine, which smells like a summer breeze over a meadow, hints of sweetness and spice in the flavor. It is not quite as strong as the picnic choice, but still heady.

Margot turns to meet his eyes with hers. “All of this… the view, the setting…" She steps closer to him, pressing a kiss to his cheek. "Thank you. I'm flattered and honored," she whispers with sincerity.

He runs a finger along her cheek to her jaw after she kisses him, and then touches her glass with his. "To you, Margot. Welcome to Amber," he says to her, his voice as low and intimate as when he had invited her to lie next to him on the beach, so very long ago.

Her eyes shine, holding nothing but delight and desire for him. Another step, and there is less than a breath of space between them. "You're the only one who has welcomed me," she admits, emotion filling her eyes. She searches the bottom of the flute for a moment before taking another sip to honor the toast. Breathing deeply, she calms herself, blinking her emotions away. Instead, a smile blossoms, her hand stroking the line of his jaw. "You make me feel welcome."

Kendall smiles at her answer, cupping her cheek in his hand. "I am certain there are many others who wish to give you welcome, but I have left them little opportunity." He studies her face, and she can see in his eyes that he is going to kiss her. Margot leans in for the kiss, but then instead his attention is pulled away, off behind her and to the side towards the doorway. Confused, Margot pulls away, casting her eyes down and taking another sip. She was still struggling to understand cues… and timing.

Kendall’s attention is only broken briefly, however – a mere flicker of the eyes away from her and then back. "Would you care to begin dinner now, or would you like to enjoy the view for a time longer?" he asks her. He of course, has looked perhaps once at the ocean.

She looks up when he speaks. "If you will indulge me, I would like to watch the sun set a few more moments. I know this view is a regular joy for you, but, I've seen nothing that compares… I would like to share it with you." She smiles, wanting very much to prolong their quiet time together. The breeze brings a shiver, though, so she takes both wine glasses and sets them on the balcony's rail before turning to wrap both of his arms around her waist so that her back is resting on his chest.

When Margot turns, she sees that Rory is standing at the door, which is apparently what had caught her host's attention. "Bring the krinth," Kendall says, wrapping her in his arms as she snuggles close. The servant nods and disappears.

She lays her arms over his, holding him close, and rests her head against his shoulder. Kendall knew the move into his form was twofold; her eyes told him that she longed to be closer; her shiver told him that she needed his warmth. She breathes deeply, enjoying how spicy he is. It pleased her beyond words.

He holds her close, asking, "Would you like a wrap for your shoulders?"

Margot shakes her head against his shoulder. "I am content at the moment to steal your warmth." He can hear the warmth in her voice, even without seeing the smile playing at her lips. "Perhaps when it is time to dine and it becomes… complicated… for me to enjoy both your warmth and your cuisine at the same time." The thought brings a rose to her cheeks, as she recalls their afternoon of caresses and feeding each other.

"Are the sunsets in Chaos so lovely?" She finally asks after several heartbeats of silence.

"There is no sun in Chaos," he answers. "Just the turning sky. I have seen other suns in shadows held by my House, however. Amber's sunset is pleasing, yet in comparison, I have seen the setting of a trio of suns, gliding across a sky of crystal in ordered procession. The light splintered into millions of shards of rainbow colors, sparkling on a featureless plain."

She sighs. "I've only seen one sun, whether here or my Shadow. This is awe-inspiring… brilliant colors playing against the ever-darkening sea. I would like to someday see something like your shadow… but…" She let her words fall off, uncertain when she would get the opportunity and not willing to ask for him to host her to this magical shadow he speaks.

He doesn't answer right away. "It is likely that some time you shall," he finally says, his arms tightening around her slightly. "You will eventually gain the power of your House to traverse Shadow, which would mean you could travel wherever you wish as your desires lead you. But home is always the most beautiful, and if Amber becomes your home, you will likely never see any sights to surpass those here."

Margot's arms cross her torso, hands travel up his arms, holding him as close as she is able. "It is possible…" she sighs. She wanted to see so much, experience so much… including his home. Not because it was… or maybe because it was his home… but it sounded so beautiful, magickal. Her words simply did not carry the love and inspiration for her home - her shadow - as his did for Chaos. "I think I would like to see your home some day… I mean, you describe it so magically, I am tempted to enjoy its wonders first-hand."

How do you say you want to see the beauties of your world without sounding foolish… inviting yourself… or worse, creating a sense of obligation to the other? Another sigh moves through her, for her lack of words and grace. "Do you think that it would be possible for me to visit your world some day? Or…" She hesitates, trying to find words that did not hold him personally responsible for her visit. "Is that something unheard of…?"

"It is possible that you may visit Chaos," Kendall answers. "Others from Amber have done so in the past. There would be much for you to see and experience there — Thelbane, the Courts, the Ways of the Houses in the Black Zone. I am not able to speak for the other Houses, but you do potentially have at your disposal the means to secure an invitation to Chanicut."

Potentially? That seems encouraging, if only she would ask… "So, if I asked you…" she starts slowly. She turns in his arms, to gaze in his eyes. "Will you show me your home, so that I may experience your world with your eyes and insights? You don't have to answer immediately… just…" She pauses, eyes not leaving his. "Just consider the possibility, please?"

Kendall looks down into her hopeful eyes with a sort of wistful little smile. "I will consider it, Margot," he agrees. "Though I cannot guarantee anything. As you know, my assignment, my duty, is here. I cannot say when or even if I will ever return to Chaos."

Her brow furrows, slightly. "Surely you will be granted the opportunity to return home, for a visit or an important engagement for your House…?" He can hear the concern and compassion in her voice, sadness and worry about his being severed from his homeland, his family; the sense of being here. Alone. The thought wrung at her heart.

He lifts a hand, smoothing away the tiny lines of worry on her brow with his thumb. "That may be," is all he replies.

Margot's eyes close at his touch. She doesn't get the impression that he's hopeful, but she doesn't press further. The sun dips further toward the horizon, though Margot is no longer interested in how its colors play against the horizon and the sea. Wrapped in his arms, facing him, she cannot imagine a more glorious image than the way the fading rays playing upon Kendall's face. Her smile is private, for him, a small sign of her appreciation of him and his attentions.

"Do not worry yourself for my sake," Kendall tells her, voice quiet and gentle. "What is, is. Currently, I am in Amber. In the future I may be given the option to return to Chanicutways, or ordered to go there, or any number of other possibilities. Until that point, there is no benefit to spending concern on the matter." He cocks his head a little to the side, looking off into the distance for a heartbeat before adding, "This may relate to the fantasies you mentioned during our walk in the garden."

Her smile grows, eyes filling with mirth. "Fantasies are wonderful things to entertain the mind and heart." Her cheeks redden, her memory drifting back to her time in the bath and the thoughts that lingered there. Her breath catches, and she casts her eyes to his chest, feeling some of those overpowering responses itching to return. A small chuckle, breathy and hardly audible escapes her lips. "Fantasies are… what the spirit's desires longing to come true." It's a few more heartbeats in his arms, breathing, before she can meet his gaze again.

"Your fantasies appear to be quite… alluring for you," he says, watching the color rise in her cheeks. "Would you mind… sharing one with me?"

With a finger, Margot traces the line of his jaw, tipping his lips to hers. Her kiss is tender, longing for more. She teases his mouth to open to hers, allowing for a deeper kiss. Her lips sample his with a slow loving, not an unbridled passion, but there is no doubt that she is barely keeping that passion at bay. When their lips part, she admits in a whisper, "While I bathed, I had a fantasy of sharing a lover's embrace with you at the setting sun.”

Kendall leans into the kiss, pulling her close, letting her lead in the sensuous, almost dreamy caress. As she whispers her fantasy in the secret space between them, his eyes burn into hers, and he takes a deep, ragged breath. "Margot," he sighs her name, reclaiming her mouth with his for a kiss of deeper passion, letting her know how stimulating he found her confession.

She returns his embrace with abandon. He feels her tremble slightly in his arms, from the chill or passion, it is not entirely clear. Her arms wrap around him again, fingers kneading his back, trying to bring him as close to her as possible given the barrier of clothing between them. It is many heartbeats before he pulls back, bringing up a hand to stroke her cheek with teasing fingertips. "That is a luscious image, my dear Margot," he says. "I look forward with great anticipation to enacting that fantasy with you."

Color flows from cheeks down her neck and exposed bosom, but passion blazes in her eyes. "What makes a fantasy so powerful is the hope that they will become reality," she whispers, breathy. She swallows hard, attempting to gain some control over her desires. "Some are merely portents… revealing what the future holds for us." Her eyes betray her; telling him that she is speaking intimately rather than in a grander scheme.

"I am enjoying your vision of our future," Kendall replies, still stroking her cheek in a calming gesture. "For the more immediate present, however, I believe dinner is waiting." The sun has sunk much lower on the horizon, and night is beginning to creep overhead. The breeze is freshening, though the two on the balcony do not notice it right away. Turning away from the sun-streaked horizon, Kendall leads Margot back to the table, where a small covered platter now sits. Slender gold-flecked candles have been lit, the flames dancing in the breeze, flickering orange, red, and white.

Margot smiles warmly, eyes shining. Her insecurities fade more with each coaxing caress and word of encouragement. She slides away from Kendall, collecting the wine glasses. His hand finds comfort at the small of her back as he leads her to the table. She has a small gasp for the picturesque setting. Her surprise only confirms that she had never been treated to a candlelight dinner. Before moving to her chair, she sets the glasses on the table.

The back of one chair now is draped with dark fabric, a deep blue almost black in the fading light, which Kendall picks up and drapes around her shoulders. So light she can barely feel it, soft as dandelion seeds on the breeze, there is a small button in the front to secure it in place.

She watches him as he swirls the cape around her shoulders, his fingers sliding down the front seams, his hands brushing lightly against her skin. Her hands rest at his waist. Her breath catches as his hands slow to a halt at her breasts, his fingers pinching the fabric together to feed the delicate button through its hole. His smile reassures her, his eyes hold his desire. Her lower lips catches in her teeth, fingers tensing around him as he secures the cape. She kisses him once more, lips lingering on his. "Thank you…" she utters.

Kendall seats her and then removes the platter cover with a flourish to reveal a grouping of small morsels arranged artistically in the center. A carelessly elegant drizzling of dark, sticky sauce decorates the edges of the platter. Setting the lid on a side table, he joins her at the table, picking up his napkin and smoothing it in his lap. "Krinth," he introduces them simply.

Each mouthful is round and flat, like the whole had been a tube cut into smaller discs. A thin skin of red circles the inner filling, which is white and pink. He picks up one disc, dabs it lightly in the sauce, and then holds it to her lips. The taste is… subtle, delicate, elusive. Chewing slowly, there is nuttiness, a smooth cheese, and the feeling of an aged forest where peace and timelessness rest in the branches of the trees.

Margot's eyes close, relishing the nuances of the hors d'oeuvre. "Krinth…" she repeats. ”Is decadent," she compliments, before returning the gesture happily.

He smiles at the compliment. "It is a favorite of mine," he says.

"Are all foods so delicately displayed? My plating at our picnic was hardly so lovely…" Her smile grows as she brings a morsel to his lips.

He accepts the bite from her fingers, chewing slowly and chasing it with a sip of wine before he replies. "Your foods were arrayed as appropriate to the setting. This, however, is quite a different event, and we also here have more luxuries available." Rory's silent appearance just then to refresh both wine glasses punctuates Kendall's point.

"Indeed," she agrees. Glancing to Rory, she smiles warmly, a silent appreciation for his attention. "And, each of these… pieces, are slightly different?" she asks, plucking one that appeared to be similar, but just different enough to cause notice. She raises the second piece to his lips, clearly enjoying the intimacy of food with him.

Kendall takes this next piece from her, offering her another piece as well. "They are formed from the same ingredients all at once, but the ratio varies throughout the final process. Enough to ensure there is similarity and variety." The second piece she eats is, indeed, similar, the texture and delicacy the same. The cheese is stronger, the forest younger, the nuttiness almost imperceptible.

"Is something like Krinth a commonly served delicacy, or is something this intricate reserved for special occasions?"

"This is fairly common at table in my House," he replies. "I asked for common foods to be prepared for this meal, so your experience would more closely align with the ways of my House."

"It's delightful," she smiles. Lifting glass to lips, she takes another sip. Setting the glass down, her free hand takes his. He senses her shift, and one leg crossed the other, she moving their bound hands to her lap. She plucks another morsel to feed him with, watching his expression as she fed him, finding the experience so incredibly sensual, pleasing, tender. Her pulse started to race at the simple act of holding her fingers to his lips. She is silent for a few heart beats before her curiosity once more takes over. "Are there such things as courting rites to abide by in Chaos?"

Kendall takes the next bite from her hand as well, his eyes warm as they rest on her, and he squeezes her hand lightly. "Not as you mean," he says, her handy book coming to their rescue. He takes a meditative breath, choosing another bite of the quickly dwindling krinth before continuing, holding it for her enjoyment. "Bonding within the House, as with those between representatives of different Houses, are arranged by the respective authority figures. Chanicut is large and has several… branches… that have limited autonomy to deal with their own affairs, with strict adherence to the wishes of the Head, my father the Duke. Whether those arrangements are permanent or temporary, and any other details, are typically decided without consulting the representatives. Whether the representatives like each other is a moot point, though I have heard of cases where the relationship has brought forth love."

He takes a sip of wine. "Unofficial coupling for mutual pleasure follows its own ebb and flow," he continues. "It is not so much guidelines and rules as… understandings and silent agreements. In that arena is where the arts of seduction come into play."

"I understand the concept of arranged unions…" she begins slowly, reaching for her own glass to cleanse her palate. "It is not so foreign from my home, though I would not have had to necessarily abide by that tradition. There, my station was not elevated to a ranking that would require a union for political reasons or to build alliances." Her expression turns thoughtful, as if trying to suss out which nuances she wishes to explore. "Intimate exchanges, love-making, is something that is not deeply contemplated… if two persons are attracted to one another, they fall into each other's arms without worry of consequence? Are you not at your most vulnerable state… naked and open to your lover?"

Kendall nods in confirmation. "It can be dangerous sport. As with any sport, there are enthusiastic players, reluctant participants, avid spectators, and the element of risk often is as much the attraction as the activity itself." His gaze wanders to the horizon, still glimmering gold, expression turning pensive. "But there is more to it than that as well. Think of a ballroom filled to capacity with guests. In the center are the dancers in full view, each vying for space on the crowded floor. Surrounding the dancers is a ring of spectators, watching and waiting for a misstep or an opportunity to join the dance. Everyone there knows the others by name, or reputation. Beyond that, however, in the side galleries, there are others who dance in the shadows, apart from or beneath the notice of the circle of players in the center. The ones in the center guard their hearts, minds, and bodies with ferocity. Indeed, many in the center have no hearts to guard. Those in the sidelines are often quite different, where words are spoken with sincerity and hearts are opened to love." He takes another drink of wine, adding, "There is still risk, however."

She watches Kendall as he patiently explains in terms she can appreciate. One hand holding her wine glass, poised to take sips; the other, her thumb strokes her hand in her lap. She sips quietly throughout his words. Setting the glass down, she turns to him once more. "If that is true, then where to you see our dance taking place? In your eyes are we on the dance floor, formal and distant?" She hesitates, her fingers flexing and relaxing in his. "Or do we dance in shadows, free to enjoy open intimacy?"

He turns his eyes to rest on her as she speaks, and he smiles gently at her question, lifting their joined hands to kiss the back of hers. "Ah, my dear, this is how your innocence may cost you. You are a Princess of Amber. You joined the floor the heartbeat you arrived in Amber. It is there in the center that we met, for as Second Son of Chanicut, I am a dancer whether I will it or no. We have not the option or luxury for shadowy trysts in darkened corners, for the spectators do not willingly allow their entertainment to move beyond their sight. We do and say everything before an audience waiting for us to misstep, or to trip us."

Something dampens the glow in her eyes, her smile slipping slightly. "Then, you are guarded and formal in this dance… there is no place to…experience or appreciate those words that could be spoken with sincerity? That our hearts should remain… closed… for the chance to love?" He can tell that she is trying to understand his role in this; whether he is invested or merely moving through the motions. He can also see in her eyes that she knows nothing about shielding her own heart from such torments, her eyes holding nothing but fondness for him.

Kendall takes a deep breath, letting it out in a sigh as he considers how to address her question. He toys briefly with the last piece of krinth on the plate, but then waves it away as he stands, drawing her to her feet as well and leading her from the table to the other end of the small balcony. "Now is a time of savoring the dish we have just shared, before the next is placed before us," he explains, while the table is cleared behind them.

The last of the light had disappeared beyond the sea, stars blinking above them in the flawless sky, the moon yet to make its appearance. He moves close to the railing, pulling her near, holding her hand in his still while he looks down into her eyes. He caresses her cheek with the backs of his fingers, still uncertain what to say in answer.

Her eyes drift close at his caress. She opens them, emotion soft in her expression. "It is alright, Kendall. Do not feel obligated to answer something you do not wish to," she reassures softly. "You've explained duty. And you've answered my original question. It is ungracious for me to ask things that are too personal to answer." Her fingers curl around his. "There is risk in every move, every action. That is true regardless of whether we dance under scrutiny or in shadows. We each have to assess the risks involved and… choose accordingly." She searches his eyes, her own a window to her being. Her smile is for him alone, whispering of peace and contentment.

He moves his fingers to trace the outline of her mouth. "You are much too gentle, Margot," he almost whispers. He continues in a stronger yet still soft voice, speaking slowly. "But you are correct. The risks are for each of us to assess, and our hearts are our own to risk or guard." He pauses for a heartbeat, before adding, "But know this. I have not lied to you, nor will I. Everything I say to you is stated with sincerity. What may come of that in the future I cannot predict."

She nods, her lips pressing against his fingertips with tender care. "Your honesty is all that I ask…" she whispers in their private space before her lips catch his fingers again.

He nods in acceptance of her words. "And I will not harm you intentionally, Margot."

"I know," is all she musters before abandoning his fingers and finding his lips with her own. Tender caresses, her hand rests against his heart as her kisses linger; slow and loving once more.

Kendall accepts her kisses, pulling her close and letting his hands roam her back and sides as they enjoy each other's closeness for another breathless space of time. When they finally move apart, he touches her bound hair lightly, tracing the line of her face to her ear. "The next course is ready for our enjoyment," he says, sliding his arm around her waist to escort her back to the table.

She's easily led back to the table, taking her seat when offered. Once Kendall joins her, she retrieves her wine glass and sips slowly from the vessel, waiting for the next unveiling and explanation.

The next course is a festive salad like concoction, with stalks of green, orange, and yellow leaves standing up in a colorful clump in a small red bowl between their seats. The bowl sits on a plate decorated with more leaves arranged as the rays of a sun extending out from the center, a deep purple sauce drawn in stripes with care between them. Kendall carefully pulls an orange leaf from the bowl, so as not to destroy the whole, dabbing the tip in the sauce before holding it up to Margot. "Shrenka salad, which is made with three varieties of the shrenka plant leaves," he explains. "For some, they represent the past, present, and future. For others, desire, duty, and death." When Margot takes a bite, she finds the leaf to be smooth, stiff and brittle in a vaguely glass-like way. The peppery bite melts on her tongue, mingling with the berrylike sweetness of the sauce, trickling down her throat and bringing a tingle to her fingers.

A surprised smile comes to her lips as the leaf crunches between her teeth. Refreshingly aromatic, she enjoys the different sensations that come with the leaf. She mimics his actions, selecting a yellow leaf from the bowl and dipping it in the sauce before holding it to Kendall's lips. She watches him enjoy the leaf, contemplating her next question. "In my world, there are varying opinions regarding… intimacy…. coupling," she starts slowly, choosing her words with great care. "Men are… encouraged to explore themselves and other companions, regardless of station. Women, especially those of any significant station, are… not encouraged as such. It was the expectation that a woman entered her wedding bed chaste and pure; something that was held at a high esteem… so much so that if a woman lied about her virtue remaining intact and was discovered, shame would fall upon the family or the marriage would be dissolved as the contractual agreement was not upheld by the woman's family. If a man is truly untrusting, he has the right to demand that his fiancé be…"

Margot's words halt as she attempts to calm herself through breathing. "Examined by a nurse to confirm that she had not been sampled by another man. If she had, he had the choice of ending the arrangement or demanding a higher dowry for taking a woman that was 'unclean', thereby agreeing to hide the family's shame because she took another man to her bed."

"Once married, the man would educate his bride to all the nuances of love-making… at least those things that he most enjoyed. Were he a kind and loving husband, he would allow her to explore and discover what loving was most pleasurable for her - and it would be a give-and-take relationship." A sad smile forms. "Certainly an ideal situation, but it is not a requirement for the husband to see that the wife enjoys their time together love-making." She pauses again, taking another sip from her wine. "Am I correct in my understanding that such things - a woman's virtue intact - are trivial in your world? That not only is it not a requirement, there is no allure in taking a woman for the first time on a…" she searched for his term, "bonding night?"

It's clear about midway through her explanation that Kendall is rather puzzled, but he remains quiet throughout her narration, listening with his earnest expression of concentration and interest. He takes two breaths after she formulates her question, offering her a red leaf, this one having a smoky undercurrent to its flavor which brings out an acidic tang in the sauce. "Let me begin by saying you are correct in your surmise that virtue, as you are using the term, is not… valued in quite the same way as you have described," he finally says.

His next words are spoken slowly, as though drawing them cautiously from a pot of hot liquid in order to avoid burning either of them. He stares into the distance as he speaks, his expression thoughtful. "Sex can be… many things, separately or all at once: an enjoyable exercise, an intimate sharing between lovers, a tool, and a weapon to name but a few. As you already noted, coupling in any sense is risky in many ways: physically, socially, emotionally, politically. To minimize the inherent risks, knowledge and experience of sex is as much a necessity as etiquette and heraldry."

He hesitates again, dipping deep into the pot for the next part. He toys with his wineglass, turning it round and round as he thinks. "By that, I mean members of my House are all… educated… about the sexual experience at a suitable age. The education is undertaken by a trusted individual chosen by the family. The age varies according to circumstances. For me, as Second Son, my education took place when I was nine Cycles of age."

"You're first encounter was at age nine, a passage of rites for you," she repeats quietly, amazed. A plethora of questions come to her lips but refuse to be released. "We come from very different worlds." She chuckles quietly and he nods in agreement.

"When did sexual relations become encouraged and pleasurable?" she asks, shifting to cross one leg over the other. One hand rests in her lap and the other reaches for her wine glass. She watches him with interest and curiosity, wanting to understand his experiences in contrast to her utter lack of experience.

"I would not say that sexual relations are exactly… encouraged," he says with a faint and ironic smile. "But there is no way to prevent them, so what is the purpose of making an attempt? As for pleasurable…" He takes a sip of wine. "Most likely it was the third or fourth time."

She swallows hard, an embarrassed smile on her lips. Selecting a green leaf, she brings it to Kendall's lips. "Were you afraid? I mean, the first time that was… sanctioned?" she asks gently, again seeking further understanding. Her hand makes a tiny ball in her lap. "And, the first time driven by your own desires? Was it… difficult? Awkward?"

Kendall lets the leaf melt in his mouth, swirling the wine in his glass as he contemplates her questions. "As to the first, I do not believe fear is quite the right emotion. Anxiety may be more accurate. My teacher was… adept, and overall my early experiences were positive, but…" He frowns at the difficulty of phrasing things he had never spoken of before. "Looking back, I would say the dynamics involved gave that time a certain… sterility. The purpose was education, not pleasure.”

He pauses for the space of two heartbeats and then nods slightly, as though deciding that explanation would do well enough. "As for your second question," he continues. "Difficult, no. Awkward… yes," he admits, and gives her a wry smile.

Her expression brightens at his admission, easing her mind considerably. "I think I've asked you enough prying questions," she says with a smile, lifting her glass to her lips. "You gave me an odd look when I was explaining aspects of sexuality in my world and the different opportunities afforded the different genders. Do you have questions for me? I cannot speak to specifics, but I will try to answer your questions to the best I am able," she offers.

He selects a green leaf for her to try this time. This flavor has a citrusy tang, trading nicely against an undercurrent of cinnamon in the sauce. "I am puzzled as to the curious division of… expectations in this arena. What purpose does it serve to prevent the women of your home from having sexual relations prior to… marriage? Does this relate to Lady Rosabelle's comments about mistreatment of women? And how does one go about investigating whether a woman has previously had sexual relations?" he asks.

"I like the green leaves the best," she admits before addressing his questions. Now it was her time to become introspective. Her eyes fell onto the flicking flames. "There is something that is called…"The Madonna and the Whore", syndrome. The Madonna, was someone of religious significance; the Mother of the Savior. She was to be revered above all. The standard was to hold all young ladies to the standard of the Madonna. The 'Whore' was someone that men fondled, but were never the kinds of women to be brought home and accepted by the suitor's family. Women were the fairer sex, and they shouldn't be… concerned with such matters. There is also a fairly chauvinistic society, favoring men and their pleasures. At some point, the men in power decided that women were little more than property… regardless of station. They were to exist at the behest and pleasure of their Lord Husband."

She sighs. "As for mistreatment of women, I cannot speak directly for Rosabelle's shadow, but if women were regarded as property… then, they could be treated… or mistreated… by their husband at his discretion. If he chose to beat her, he could. If he chose to bring a mistress to their wedding bed, he could. If he chose to brutalize her in their wedding bed, he could. The woman would not have any sanctuary with her family, or his. If he were to perish, then if she were to keep the property, then, she would have to marry his brother. Or, she loses rights to all land and possessions she held with her husband."

Margot takes another moment to collect herself, raising another yellow leaf to Kendall's lips. Her hand retracts, weaving into her free hand, wringing the fingers. "It is my understanding…" She swallows. "It is my understanding that a medical professional, like a nursemaid, can examine a woman to see if her maidenhead remains. The woman to be examined is brought into a bedroom and expected to remove all her clothes. She is then examined, her breasts pressed against to determine if they've ever held the swell from pleasure. Then once the nurse is done with her breasts, she parts the patient's legs to check for any signs of penetration."

Kendall frowns throughout most of Margot's explanation, though not in his normal thoughtful way, taking on an expression of distaste. Watching her hands twist in her lap as she finishes her explanation, he turns and moves to sit closer to her on the edge of his chair, taking her hands in his.

"I have heard of other Houses that have… unusual views of such matters," he says. "Within Chanicut, however, all members of the House have the same responsibilities and privileges, according to their talents, merits, and ranks. It seems… odd to me to have such an arrangement as you have just described, as it seems like a poor way to ensure the health and fulfillment of the members of the House, though… your Shadow does not have such a structure," he realizes.

Her fingers tremble in his hands. "It is as it is," she borrows his phrase. "Those in power get to determine the rules of engagement. The rest—" a rueful smile appears at her lips. "The rest of us have but to follow."

He watches her face as she replies, eyes narrowing slightly with the intensity of his stare. "I see now why you find the topic of sex so challenging," he says, voice quiet. He shakes his head a little, and then focuses back on her. "I see now also why you described your mate in fantasy as you did. But I assure you, Margot, lovemaking can be as stimulating and pleasurable as what we experienced on the beach earlier." The smile he shares with her now is warm and full of memory.

She smiles, a look of hope in her eyes, both hope and uncertainty. "I believe you…" she utters quietly. She stares in his eyes for several heartbeats, the trembling ceasing with the comfort of his hand holding hers. "Will you… will you tell me of your ideal lover?" she asks in a whisper.

He cocks his head to the side, expression turning thoughtful and measuring. "Why do you wish to know?" he asks.

"Because you know who my ideal lover is…" she pauses, looking down at their hands before meeting his with her own. "And because I want to know if it is anything I could possibly ever aspire to."

His gaze drifts into the distance, a small bemused smile taking over his face. "Very well, Margot. I shall attempt to answer this question, though you will understand this is not something on which I have dwelt previously," he says at last. He takes a meditative breath. "The best experiences of lovemaking are found when the participants know and care for one another beyond simple appreciation of beauty or the passing lusts of the heartbeat," he begins. "This could be a friendship, deeper affection, perhaps even love. Beyond that, there is a spark which ignites passion between individuals that cannot be explained or simulated, which I believe has been amply demonstrated between us throughout our interactions."

He pauses, looking into her eyes when he continues. "To speak more… personally, which I believe was the intent of the question, what I find most enjoyable is a partner who is open about her desires and what stimulates her, so that I may please her, and who makes an effort to please me in the same way. If it is not pleasurable, then it is no more than duty, and not worth the effort."

"Even if that lover doesn't know what pleases her…?" she asks quietly, breath held in anticipation of his answer.

Kendall chuckles, stroking her neck in a way that he knows will make her feel weak. "Margot, you let me know what pleases and stimulates you every time I touch you."

Her eyes drift closed at his touch. Even in the incandescence of the candlelight, Kendall can see the color returning to her cheeks. She takes his hand, pressing the palm to her lips. The first kiss, her eyes were closed, the second press, she watched him intently. "As I learn, so shall you…"

He smiles, satisfied with her answer. Reaching over, he pulls her from her chair to sit sideways on his lap, claiming her mouth for a kiss.

Margot slides onto his lap with little effort or encouragement. One arm snakes around his neck, her other hand cradles his cheek, holding his face to hers. Her kisses are sensual, desirous, taking his mouth eagerly and matching his press with her own. Her lap fits snuggly upon his, his chest bearing the weight of hers against him.

Kendall's caresses are slow and sensual, deep and lingering. He moves his attentions to her throat and collar, pushing aside the fabric of the shawl to stroke her shoulder before bringing their lips together again. They embrace for uncounted heartbeats as the moon begins its climb into the sky. It is some time before things calm again, stepping back away from the moment, holding onto the sensations but the passion dampening. When they finally move apart, he cuddles her against his chest, picking up his wine and offering it to her.

She smiles up at him, accepting the glass and sipping from it. Holding the glass to his lips, she assists him to drink from the goblet. She sighs contented, "Why is it that when I am with you, I lose all senses…?" He can hear her smile; and that she doesn't mind the affect he has on her.

He smiles. "Do you wish the serious response, or something other?" he asks her.

She laughs. "You choose," snuggling in closer to him.

"Then it is because you find me irresistible," he says agreeably. "Just as I find it difficult to resist you."

She laughs again, stroking his cheek. "Thank you. For the answer and the compliment." She looks up and presses a kiss to the tip of his chin.

Kendall chooses three leaves from the bowl on the table, one of each color, and dabs them carefully with the sauce before offering them to her. The blend of all four flavors is an almost perfect balance of sensations, each complementing the delicate nuances against each other, the tingling spreading throughout her body.

"More seriously," he says as she enjoys, "it is to this experience which I referred earlier, when speaking of knowledge of sex in a physical sense. It would be a simple matter for someone who is more experienced — someone like me, perhaps — to charm you beyond your ability to think clearly."

Raising his hand to stroke her hair, he instead finds one of her hairpins. He carefully pulls it out to allow a bunch of soft curls to tumble down her back, combing his fingers through the strands before removing a second pin. "It would also be a simple matter for a person to convince you that he was deeply in love with or affectionate to you, the aim being to make you fall for him, confusing physical reactions with emotional attachments, which would allow him to manipulate you."

"There is no doubt that this could happen," she responds, sighing as he removes the pins from her hair. "But, I don't think you would do such a thing. You gave me your word that you would not lie, nor would you hurt me intentionally. You didn't have to, I knew that before you uttered the words… but, ultimately, you are a man of your word." Her faith in him is palpable.

"I trust you… I trust you completely." The last words fall in that quiet place between them, she bringing the goblet to her lips once more.

Kendall kisses her forehead gently and then pulls the remaining pins from her hair, setting them in a small pile on the table. Her hair falls in a soft cloud down her back and over the arm supporting her shoulders. Weaving his fingers into the hair by her temple, he pulls some forward to frame her face and cascade over her shoulder, staring into her eyes in the star and candlelight. "Would you accompany me to my bed this eve, Margot?" he almost breathes the invitation, soft and quiet between them.

"I would like to…" she stares in his eyes, showing him all there is for him to see: attraction, affection, trust, desire, overwhelming desire, "…but, I'm… uncertain. Insecure."

She kisses his lips tenderly. "I want you to love me…" she whispers between their lips. "But I don't know that I can… yet…."

He returns the kiss, tasting her desire and her hesitation. "You wish for me to be in love with you?" he clarifies.

"No. I do not require that of you… though feelings of affection would be nice," she reassures with a smile. "I want to make love to you and for you to make love to me. I want you to show me all the wonderful aspects of giving and receiving pleasure." There is a rawness to her words, complete vulnerability. Her hand rests on his chest.

"This afternoon was magical. This evening is magical. I don't… I'm afraid the magic will vanish…" She lets her words fade, showing him the heart of her insecurity; that he will not find her interesting once he has taken her in his bed. "What happens in the morning when there isn't candlelight or wine and beautiful words with tender kisses exchanged…?" she asks quietly. "Will you still find me fascinating? Alluring? Worthy of your thoughts and time?"

Kendall twines a lock of her hair around his finger, watching how the strands reflect the candlelight as it twists around and around. "I can make no guarantees, Margot," he answers her carefully, his gaze moving up to meet her eyes. "I can only tell you as things are now. Right now, as the candles flicker and the stars shine, I know that I wish to take you to my bedchamber and share with you how much pleasure there may be had between two such as we, who burn so brightly in yearning for each other. It may be the passion will burn itself out in the course of the night, leaving embers or ash as the sun returns. Yet even should that occur, the night will always remain with us."

He pauses, stroking her cheek with fingers still tangled in her hair. "Thus far, I have found your company delightful and fascinating, and I hope to continue spending time together."

She turns away to set the goblet down on the table before turning back to cup his face with her fingers. She waits, searching his eyes for several heartbeats before taking his lips with hers, slow and sensuous. One hand dips once more to his heart, stroking the fabric and the muscle beneath; the other traces the line of his jaw with her fingertips. Her kisses last uncounted heartbeats before she slows to a stop.

Resting her forehead against his, she breathes. “I will…” Fingers tremble against his chest, nervous. Her words catch in her throat, barely audible. “I will stay with you this evening as long as you will have me… until you no longer find my presence welcome.”

He returns her searching look as she makes her choice, placing his hands on her shoulders and stroking her gently through the fabric draped there. He waits for her answer without hurrying her, and gives her words a space to live and breathe on their own before replying. "Thank you, Margot," he says, his voice equally quiet. "For accepting my gift to you with such grace and tenderness." He pulls her closer, arms wrapping around her back as he holds her, stroking her quietly, letting them both rest in the weight of the moment for a time.

She sinks into his chest, letting him hold her, comfort her. She knew he didn't understand or appreciate her anxiety; she only hoped that he would value her gift as she would his. But, the future is uncertain… and he will not make any guarantees, her conscience reminded her. She closes her eyes tightly against the rationale, refusing to let her mind sway her against what her heart so desperately wanted.

Intercourse is nothing of consequence for him… her conscience baits. How will you know that you are nothing more than a conquest? Something to pass his time and ease his boredom. She shifts, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck and resting her head upon his shoulder.

Because he gains nothing by hurting me. Even if he cannot love me, he will treat me with kindness and gentleness. Shifting once more, one arm leaves his neck to fidget with the buttons of his shirt. Many heartbeats pass before she speaks again. "Are you still interested in me showing you a dance?" Her fingers continue to trace the outline of the buttons.

Kendall strokes her hair in a futile attempt to calm her, his breathing slow and relaxed amidst all her fidgeting. "There are many activities we may yet pursue," he responds, and he can hear his smile in his voice. "We have yet to finish dinner, though that will keep if we decide to wait. Should you desire it, there may be dancing, or I may sing a song for you."

His hand continues to stroke her, and he adds in a softer, reassuring tone. "There is no need for anxiety, my sweet. We need not dash toward the bedchamber as yet, unless… that is your wish. You have said this evening has been magical, and I am pleased to draw the time out with you still more."

Margot draws a deep breath, releasing it slowly, and all the tension and anxiety with it. His words comfort her, his touch soothing her. She tilts her head to see him fully, tipping his chin to look into his eyes with a touched, almost surprised expression. "You would sing for me?"

He nods, smiling into her eyes. "Indeed, yes. Is that your choice?"

At her shy nod, he shifts in his chair a little, adjusting them both so she rests more comfortably against his chest. One arm rests around her waist, the other still strokes her hair. He thinks for the space of five heartbeats before moving into the song. It is slow, lilting, with a delicate and haunting melody that wanders the scale as if in search of something. As the song progresses, the melody gains strength, modulating into something steady and strong, completing its journey and finding its place as the piece closes.

"That was … " she pauses, looking up at him. "Thank you," she says softly, a hand stroking the side of his neck. "That was moving…. Does the song tell a tale?"

"You are welcome," Kendall says, eyes gleaming in pleasure. "Tis an ancient song, telling of exile, loneliness, estrangement from the Blood and the Family. Those are old terms, from when the Courts were still young, and the Houses were not yet as large as they are now. A young woman was lost from due to unfortunate events. She wandered in solitude, finding no kindness or peace, having no place, until she was able to find her way back to the hearth of her Family."

"That's so…" Her words do not form, but her lips pull into a frown. "What a terrible fate…"

"She returned to her House and was welcomed into their hearts at the end," he points out. "Though the road was long and arduous, she found her place and peace." He is silent a heartbeat before asking, "Would you like to hear a happier song then?"

"No," she answers, resting her arm on his at her waist. "Not every experience need be flowers and rainbows. It is good to feel other things as well; that way you can fully appreciate the beauty of that which makes your heart soar." Another stolen glance to his face, "If you would like to sing another song, I will not discourage it… I like how your voice sounds, how your chest vibrates against me."

His smile takes on that almost catlike pleasure at her words, and he nods. "There is a festival in Chanicut that occurs once every Cycle, a sort of celebration for the sky. This song is a traditional one for that time, but it is also a teaching song for younglings. In it, the colors are named and put in their order, and their significance explained." He sings a spritely little tune, which clearly consists mostly of lists made memorable by song and verse. It cycles through three times before ending.

"Are you allowed to teach me this song? I need not know the meaning of the words… but the pronunciations and the melody?" She asks quietly, enthusiasm in her voice. "It reminds me of … childhood songs - rounds - where parts are sung at different times to create this … enveloping effect."

Kendall isn't exactly sure he understands what a round is, but he nods to her request. "You may follow along while I say the words first," he says, saying the words phrase by phrase for her to repeat. Margot moves slightly, positioning herself so she can see how his lips form the words. A delightful giggle comes when she stumbles through the words. Her tongue and lips try to form the words, and for all the languages she has learned, the little nuances continue to catch her off guard.

Many long heartbeats are spent while he teaches her the words to the simple song, chuckling teasingly at her missteps but helping her with her pronunciation, until she is able to sing it through by herself. Her eyes shine with an unadulterated joy; a simple pleasure of the moment. Her expression turns from concentration to delighted surprise when she discovers she's singing the song by herself. Fingers come to her lips, and she wiggles slightly, utterly amused with herself. She kisses him again, enthusiastically, ardently. "Thank you."

"No, indeed, thank you," he says after returning her kiss. "Your joy is a delight to behold, Margot. Now that you know the song, will you explain again what a 'round' is?"

She shifts slightly again, this time, giving him a better view of her lips and expressions. The language was foreign to his ears, soft and delicate. She sings it to him a couple of times so that he may master the melody, simple, playful. Then, she spends her time walking him through the words; her own bemused smile and giggles when the words fall from his lips. Once he masters the words and melody, she walks him though the cyclical complexities of a round, how voices blend and harmonize. They sing the song several cycles before she ends the song, her legs swinging off his lap as she sings along. Her hands come together in a soft clap, thrilled at their success, even if it was little more than a childhood rhyme. "You were marvelous!" she exclaims, eyes shining.

He bows in his chair, a bit of a feat with her sitting in his lap. "It is all in the teaching," he says, reaching for the wineglass and offering her a drink before he sips some himself. "I would be gratified to learn one of your languages, if you would be willing to instruct me."

An arm snakes around his neck, holding on as he bends toward the table, holding him close to her. She watches him drink from the glass, turning to collect the bottle to refill his glass. As she pours, full lips pull into a smile, watching him. "I would be delighted to teach you,” she breathes, turning once more to return the bottle to table. "Is there anything in particular… a phrase… you would care to learn? If you tell me… I can translate and teach you its match."

Kendall swirls the wine in his glass, thinking for the space of five heartbeats, then starts out with, "Would you care for some wine?"

She considers the question for a moment. "Voudriez-vous du vin?" she returns with a smile. "I think I will keep the translations to one language. This is French. It is the same language of the song."

Kendall nods in agreement, and repeats the phrase carefully several times, his musician's ear catching the flow quickly though Margot has to help him with the nuances. Once he is satisfied that he has learned it precisely correct as she pronounces it, he pauses to think on the next phrase that he might need. "Would you like to dance?"

She smiles approvingly. Plucking the glass from his grasp, she drinks from it before responding, "Aimez-vous danser?"

He smiles back, again repeating the words until he has them securely in memory, that mischievous glint lurking in his eyes. "The krinth is delicious," he says next.

Something impish flashes in her eyes. "Le Krinth est délicieux," she replies in a soft purr.

The words take little time to be learned, his gaze steady on her face as they share. "I wish for you to kiss me with passion and desire," he says this time.

She leans in, pressing against his chest. Her lips brush against the lobe of his ear as she whispers the words, "Je souhaite toi m'embrasser avec la passion et désir."

She can feel his heartbeat speed up as she leans close to whisper, and he takes a breath. "Je souhaite toi m'embrasser avec la passion et désir," he repeats into her ear, voice soft.

She removes the glass from his hands, setting it on the table. "Avec tous mon coeur et âme," she returns in near silence, eyes ablaze, capturing his mouth with hers.

Kendall is ready for her, starting to pull her close but hampered by their position on the chair. Running his hands down to her waist instead, he lifts her up slightly so she is supported by one foot on the floor, mouth never leaving hers as he moves her leg around to straddle his legs. She moves in harmony with him, hardly a muscle resisting as he places her astride him. Knees bend, curling her legs behind her, her skirts bunched up around her and no longer providing any defense against his lap.

The soft shawl takes less than a heartbeat to unbutton, fluttering to the floor by their feet, tender love bites mingling with the kisses he trails across the skin of her neck and shoulders. Leaning her back, supported in his arms, he explores the neckline of her dress with kisses and nibbles, placing a kiss between her breasts before continuing around to her other shoulder, her neck, finally reclaiming her mouth again for more.

Kendall feels strong muscles of her thighs tightening against his legs. She trembles against his exploration, her enjoyment audible. Hands, uncertain what to do, simply caress his face, fingers weaving into his hair, encouraging him in his quest. When he finds her mouth once more, she responds hungrily. Pulling back slightly, both panting for air, he breathes against her lips, "Margot est délicieux."

"Très bon. Very good." She smiles, brushing her lips to his. "Et vous, mon chéri Kendall, êtes un rêve apporté à la vie," her voice is low, husky; a tiny secret to be shared.

His eyes are bright and hot as they stare at each other so close together. "And what does that mean, my sweet?" he asks.

A kiss feathers against his lips, then the tip of his nose. She presses another tender affection to his forehead. Lips brush along his temple and cheek; following his jawline. Another delicate press to his neck just below the ear. "Et vous. And you," she whispers. Another press of her lips against his neck, "Mon chéri Kendall. My darling Kendall." Another press. "êtes un rêve apporté à la vie." She retracts her head to meet his intense gaze with her own. "Are a dream brought to life."

He's having a little trouble focusing on her as she delivers the last line, distracted as he was from her caresses. His hands slide down to her waist and he pulls her close again, pressing his forehead to hers as he works to control his breathing. "Aimez-vous danser, Margot?" he says, another distraction being needed at this time.

She breathes quietly, her head nodding against his. Slowly, she slides off his lap, adjusting and smoothing the skirt of her dress. Another deep breath, eyes cast to her feet, for a moment. "Oui, j'aimerais danser avec toi. Yes, I would love to dance with you." She responds, holding a hand out to him.

Taking her hand, he stands up and then drains the wine in one of the glasses before straightening his shirt. Setting the glass down again, he fills both glasses. "As you were… planning to teach me one of your dances… I considered that your music would be best suited," he says. Rory appears just then and hands Kendall the book that Margot had given him, which he in turns extends to her. "You should choose which melody would be appropriate."

Margot realizes that Rory was waiting in the wings, and her cheeks burn in the shadows. Accepting the book, she flips through the pages, different melodies ringing in the air. She finally selects a song; not too fast but not too slow. "This one will do." She rests the book on her chair and leads him out onto the balcony.

Much as he had walked her through a dance in the grotto yesterday, she slowly leads him through the steps of hers, walking him through each rest, each extension, each allemande, each spin. Hands caress, hers sliding around his waist as she walks around him, his hands around her shoulders as he moves her from one hand to the other. Some elements he recognizes from ballroom dancing, the meter of a waltz, but the moves are nothing like the traditional dance. These were intimate, but not overly so, not as intimate as his courtship dance. She explains when he's got her wrapped in his arms, how he is to tip her; and with his extensive experience, he manages with grace. His mastery is definitely an asset, and by the third pass through the choreography, he moves through the dance flawlessly.

Kendall is an avid student, his turn to watch closely and learn something new. As they settle into the forms of the dance, moving easily together, his intensely serious expression eases, and he smiles as they bring the dance to an end with her facing him in his arms. The music continues to cycle through the melody as they stop and he smiles down at her, calm and at ease once more. "That was lovely, Margot," he says to her. "Thank you for teaching me."

She stares deeply into his eyes, "You are most welcome," she utters, slowly guiding his arms out from behind his back, dipping into a full curtsey. She stares deeply into his eyes from below, smiling up with bright eyes only for him. Rising slowly, she meets his eyes once more, taking a half-step back to give each a little breathing room. "I am happy to teach you others, if that is your desire."

He bows in return to her curtsey, gaze only for her. He nods as he stands. "I would like that. But perhaps we should take in more of dinner first?" he suggests.

She smiles her agreement. For the third time, the table setting had transformed. Margot allows him to seat her at the table, plucking her glass of wine for a deep drink. She finds that there are two things on the table this time, plus a fresh bottle of wine. One small porcelain cup sits on a saucer at each place setting, filled with a clear, steaming liquid that is tinged orange. The aroma of the liquid is very faint, but hints at flowers. In between the place settings is a plate piled with small pieces of meat drizzled with a white sauce and garnished with a spray of three shrenka leaves. A small bowl next to the plate holds tiny rounds of some sort of flatbread.

After Kendall seats Margot, he goes to the door to speak quietly to the servant waiting there. Margot hears the acknowledgement, and then Kendall rejoins her at table. Before sitting, he opens the book to a new chapter, allowing a different melody to float on the air. He picks up the cape that had fluttered to the floor, draping it once again about her shoulders, and then settles into his own chair.

"Soup made from the essence of the zenthiir root," he says by way of introduction, smoothing his napkin back onto his lap. "And… well, it is meat prepared in the style of fahan, though the meat is from Amber and does not quite have the proper texture. Still, it will do well enough." He demonstrates how to pick up the cup of soup in both hands, bringing it to his lips to sip.

The soup is warm and rather bitter on the tongue. But after a couple sips, the steam and the liquid flowing down the throat opens up the head as though she had been congested her whole life, bringing with it the scent of sweet floral nectar which flows into the experience and brings sweetness to the drink.

Margot closes her eyes as she savors the delicacy. The taste was harsh at first sip, but as she continued to sip, she found she had quite an appreciation for the complexities in the broth. "Everything you share is so… wonderful," she gushes quietly. "It's like the whole of my life has been without color, just a landscape of grey; lifeless until this meal," she compliments.

The smile he gives her at this is full and warm and suffused with pleasure. "I am gratified to be able to introduce you to such enjoyable new experiences."

Sipping again at her soup, she turns to regard him carefully, and her expression transforms from thoughtful to mischief. "When I was at the Academy, one of my best friends Francesca had taught some of us a different type of dance. A dance to be watched and enjoyed… whether the audience is 100 or 1." Her lips curl into a smile. "Would you like me to dance for you?"

He sips his soup slowly as she speaks, savoring its warmth. "You mean you wish to demonstrate this dance to me? Yes, I would very much like to see it."

She smiles as she reaches up to adjust the cape, sliding her hair out from beneath the cloth to cascade down her shoulders. "When we are done with this…" She waves to the table. "I will dance for your pleasure."

"I would like that, shayna," he says, reaching for his wine glass and taking a sip. "You also have shared many fascinating things with me."

Margot's smile grows. She is more than pleased that he will watch her dance. Again, she takes a private moment to marvel at how absolutely amazing this night has been, and still, it is hardly done. The thought of how the evening may end returns the color to her cheeks, and she is surprised that she is not nearly as terrified as she had been earlier.

Setting the delicate bowl down, she slides her chair closer to Kendall's. She loved how he smelled, how warm he felt, how his pulse quickened when she was in his arms; and at this point, it seemed foolish to hide how he moved her since she had failed to hide his influence on her all day. With him, she felt brilliant, passionate, interesting. He made her feel bold, curious, desirable, real. She feared him no more than she feared a butterfly or a sunny day. She held little doubt in her mind she was becoming quite taken by the Chaosian, that his charm and patience were wrapping around her heart no differently than his cape wrapped around her shoulders.

A pang in her heart reminds her that his affections were not the same; that while he found her alluring and fascinating, his emotions were not becoming as entangled as hers. Not that this matters… She sighs quietly… One cannot command Love should it choose the object of its desires…. She shivers at the thought of that word. Love. Two days hardly made a romance, or anything lasting. But, still, her heart was open to him; she couldn't refuse it any more than she could refuse the Sun its chance to rise in the morn.

Kendall sets down his cup and reaches over to brush back her hair when she moves closer, tucking it behind her ear to reveal the soft curve of her neck. "What thoughts bring such a sad smile to your face, Margot?" he asks.

"It's not sadness, my hea—" She catches herself, reaching for her glass. "It's nothing of consequence, Kendall. I am only reflecting on how… enchanting all of this is; how enthralled I am in your company, how all that you have done for me… how it stirs something within. I am so very flattered that you have orchestrated all of this. For me. It's a little overwhelming… in the most beguiling of ways." Her smile brightens, her eyes filling with a soft passion and emotion while she drinks from her glass.

He takes her hand and brings it to his lips. "You are most welcome, my dear Princess. This has been also a most enjoyable experience for me. Perhaps even more so than for you, as I have had few opportunities here to enjoy a quiet evening in such…. undemanding company." Setting his empty soup cup aside, he pulls the other plates nearer, still holding her hand.

Her smile grows at his press, and even more so as he leaves her hand in his. "You are welcome to host me in such evenings whenever your heart yearns for a quiet time of pleasant distraction." Pressing the overwhelming emotions deep within for the moment, she brings her expression back to curiosity as she looks on to the meat dish.

When she is done with her soup, Kendall picks up a piece of the meat with a dab of sauce on it, and places it in the center of one of the little rounds. Pressing the edges together to make a compact little packet, he offers it to Margot's lips. His gaze rests again on her as if no one else existed, and he shares a warm smile at her words. "You are very kind to offer your company," he says, voice soft and caressing. "I would consider it a great compliment and privilege should you decide to join me for dinner again."

The bread is spongy, somewhat sticky, and molds around the meat with a salty sourdough flavor reminiscent of the sea. The meat itself — chicken, perhaps — holds up against the bread, providing a nice firmness in counter to the sponginess. Delicate flavor imparted from a marinade is warm like a gently burning fire, cooled by a hint of a rain-washed breeze when the dressing touches her tongue.

She nibbles at the piece, and once more she is pleasantly surprised at all the unique nuances of Kendall's homeland cuisine. "How many times must I say how wonderful this is before it becomes tiresome?" She mimics his actions, preparing a tiny wrap for his enjoyment.

He leans over to accept the bite from her fingers, his eyes catching the light of the candles at a different angle as he moves this time, making them glow softly in the dimness of the balcony. "You may say so as many times as you wish, Margot. I find it unlikely that your enthusiasm for taking in new experiences will ever become tiresome."

She had noticed how gorgeous his eyes were in daylight, and as the sun dipped past the horizon. Now, completely under the blanket of light with nothing but the Moon's silvery kiss and the dancing flames of the candles; his eyes were stunning, breath-taking… something from Myth itself. She drew him closer with her hand in his, pressing a kiss to the tiny place where jaw meets cheek.

"This is remarkable." The hand that feeds him cradles his other cheek, her forehead resting against him. "You. Kendall. You. Are. Remarkable…" her whisper barely audible, little more than the movement of her lips against his skin. She waits a few heartbeats for her words to take rest before retracting her head, a smile only for him upon her lips.

He sits quite still as she kisses and whispers to him, watching her closely as she draws away with a faint frown of uncertainty on his face, as though unsure how to respond to what she had just said. He sips his wine slowly, his expression becoming thoughtful. "Thank you, Margot," he says at last, setting the glass down and beginning to prepare another bite for her.

She watches him, concerned that she had offended him with her compliment. "If I overstepped, I am sorry," she utters. "I only meant to express how… how much I appreciate you and your efforts." Plucking her glass from the table, she becomes keenly aware of its depths. "Sometimes my tongue runs before I have chance to leash it."

Drinking from the glass, she sets it down, turning to face Kendall once more. "Will you tell me how it is your smile has faded, so that I do not become the cause of it again?" Her eyes are filled with genuine concern and sincerity.

"You have not offended me, and I thank you for the sentiment." Kendall replies, offering another bite to her, his voice calm and smooth. He then shares a faint smile to reassure her. "I do not mind having you speak freely to me, as your gentle words are beautiful and refreshing. I have no wish for you to feel the need to guard your tongue when we are alone together."

Margot nods, leaving what must best lie alone. She takes the bite happily, hoping that the simple act of chewing and silence will keep her from spoiling things further.

The meal proceeds quietly for some little while, though he still holds her hand in his as they share a silence that softens and becomes more companionable as they both relax again, a silence embellished with the soft sounds of gentle music rising from the pages of the book nearby. Kendall claims the last bite for Margot, sipping his wine as she eats the morsel, which settles on the stomach comfortably as though they had both eaten just enough. Leaning over as she finishes, he touches her lips with his, letting the wine mingle with the gentle kiss. "I am sorry for distressing you, Margot," he says softly. "Would you still consent to dance for me?"

Her lips linger at his, tender kisses returned to his lips. "What is past, is past." She smiles against his lips. "If you still wish to watch, I would love to dance for you."

Kendall nods, sitting back in his chair again. "I would very much," he says.

Margot rises from her chair, pressing a last kiss to Kendall’s forehead. Raising a foot to the chair, she unties her shoe. Her fingers slide up her skirt, revealing silk stockings. One by one, she unclasps the garter belts, rolling the stocking down her leg. Stepping down, she repeats the process with the other leg. Barefoot, she places the rolls of stockings inside her shoes. Finally, she removes the cape from her shoulders. As she does this, Rory and a third servant she hasn’t seen before appear again to clear the table in record time with silent efficiency. Dishes are removed, wine glasses refreshed, and the half empty bottle is removed, along with the book, as the two disappear back into the tower.

Padding across the marble floor, Margot glances around. Closing her eyes, she concentrates for several heartbeats, fingers at her lips. Opening her hands, a half-dozen lights disperse around her, as if she were surrounded by her own constellation of stars.

She smiles at him from across the balcony. “I’ve never danced for anyone before…” she admits with a sheepish smile. Once more, her expression turns thoughtful. Another orb appears, floating just above and out of sight. Quietly, a solemn song begins, driven by a quartet of strings… and so does the dance.

Arms start above her head. Slowly, she begins to move, arms snaking around her form to the somber sounds enveloping her. Hips circle and sway, her skirts swish against the floor and rustle against her form. She turns, and her dress glitters like diamonds catching the sun’s brilliance. Another spin and her arms caress her torso before sliding around her form to frame her hips as she moves forward and back. She stands at profile, back arching and arms snaking against the night sky. She collapses against the floor, body still undulating to the music, her body rising and falling without missing a beat. Swaying she glances to Kendall, giving him a furtive glance; her eyes shy, her smile sultry. With the same fluidity she fell, she rises as if someone from the heavens had tugged a string. Each movement is an act of intimacy, each caress breathes life to sensuality.

Neither dancer nor watcher could say how many heartbeats passed before her dance slows to little more than swaying in time with the waves below. Kendall watches the entire performance without a sound or movement, save to occasionally sip from his glass. When the music ends, though, he stands and applauds. Walking over to where she stands in the midst of her glowing lights, he smiles down at her.

"That was extraordinary," he says, his soft voice suffused with enthusiasm, eyes glowing in the light with both appreciation and the warmth of desire.

"Thank you," she offers softly, looking up at him. Her smile is soft, eyes warm. The lights continue to follow their growing orbit, now circling Kendall as well. From here, she is struck once more by how looking upon him warms her, making her toes curl even as she stands. Her breathing was slightly labored, from exertion and having him so close. Her eyes hold his, waiting. "Is there another dance for us?" she asks.

Cupping her cheek with his hand, he leans down to kiss her, the caress slow and sensual like her dance. Trailing his lips across her cheek, he whispers in her ear, "There are many dances in our future, shayna. Which one do you crave right now?"

"One that does not leave me alone in the night," she replies against his cheek. He only nods, encircling her waist with his arm to escort her from the balcony.

The tower is darkened with night, and very few lights show their way, but Kendall's steps are sure as he takes her back through the sitting room, down the hall, a few more turns and doors passing them by. Rory is standing by one and opens it as they approach.

Inside, the room is dark save candles that sit on every surface, releasing a faint spicy scent into the air. Furniture in the shadows almost seem to move in the dancing glow. When they step inside, the door shuts behind them with a quiet click, and Kendall turns to look down at her, tracing her jaw with a finger.

"My feet are dirty," she blurts, then starts to giggle, a hand covering her lips. "I'm sorry…" She looks into his eyes and melts; all anxiety and questions on whether this is right vanishing from her lips. "I guess I'm a little nervous."

Kendall takes her hand away from her mouth. "There is no need to be nervous," he says. Holding her hand, he leads her deeper into the room to where the bed waits, candles burning on tables at either side. As they approach, wine glasses and a bottle become visible sitting on one side table.

The enormous bed itself is tidy, not pulled back yet for sleep, and then Margot can see that the dark and swirling coverlet is actually the blanket on which they had lain on the beach, now clean and unsandy. Kendall sits on the bed, allowing Margot to remain standing. Pulling her close, he kisses her, caresses gentle and slow, soothing and sensuous.

"This is beautiful…" she whispers between kisses. "So warm, inviting…"

Pulling back slightly, Kendall looks into her eyes again. "It is for you," he says.

Her eyes soften, fingers tracing his lips. "Are you always so caring?" she whispers. "You have done nothing less than make me feel safe and cherished." In her eyes is something like disbelief; as if she had never dreamed someone would be so gentle with her.

Kendall smiles up at her, his hands stroking her hips and waist. "Indeed not, my dear Margot. Many times I am willful and quite impatient. Thoughtless, arrogant, and selfish. My many faults have been described to me on countless occasions."

"And yet I've not seen any of these qualities in you… you treat me as if there is no other in the cosmos." She blinks slowly, drawing a ragged breath. "You are beyond description."

He shakes his head. "You, I believe, fall into that category. The beauty that shines in your eyes and touches your smile is unlike any that I have encountered before."

She smiles, eyes shimmering with moisture. "Please. I'm just me." Her words fall softly against him, her fingers trace the features of his face.

"And I am simply Kendall," he whispers to her. "Let us leave it at that."

Her lips find his again, drinking from their tenderness.

Fade to Black

Back to the list of Kendall's game threads
The Morning After

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License