*first draft of The Feather on My Scale: The 2nd book to Gods of Fire*
Ptolemy took Wash for the day to keep him out of the way of the guards and staff while Nebra disappeared into the corridors of the palace. This left Seth and I to walk the grounds to quietly plot our next movement. The teahouse and the massive pond in the midst of my family houses sat, calmly waiting on us to decide to take up residence for the afternoon.
“You would have him use his fire in the temple?” Seth eased into my grasp, settling into a pool of her black robes while I propped myself against the gilded wall for us to watch the edge of the pond and the hunting park beyond it.
“What do you think of him?” I hedged her question.
“I thought him a mouse at first,” she traced cool fingers up my cheek, her dark eyes amused.
“Got a bit of a bite, doesn’t he,” I smirked, rolling into her hand to kiss her palm.
“Sure doesn’t appreciate your forward approach. He’s not Ptolemy,” she giggled.
“None of you are like Ptolemy,” I caught the edge of her thumb in my teeth as the tips of her fingers skimmed my jaw.
“Ptol’s good for you. Wash might be that nice counterpoint. Will have to see, huh?” she came closer, kissing my cheek. I let up on her finger to capture her mouth. She pushed for me to move from the wall. I slid down to the side, her hands splaying against my chest.
“What do you think of him? Of his dynamic in our house?” I asked, twisting so she would find a more comfortable perch. She settled into the cradle of my hips and leaned into me. Heat snapped up my sides at her soft pressure.
“I’m not sure yet. Hard to assess in just two hours of talking to him. I don’t get bad vibes off his personality. If anything, he lacks a bit of faith in himself is all. He has no problem asserting boundaries. That’s at least good to see. Though physically attaining those boundaries concerns me.” She nipped at my chest, her eyes playing like that of a cat who had found her mouse.
“I did sort of tread all over his boundaries rather blatantly. I would probably have had the same reaction if somebody did that to me.” I found the crease of her thighs, slipping along ample curves to settle her a bit more fully, if only to ask for some other things to be resolved than just our conversation on the wab.
“Patience, pharaoh,” she reprimanded, grinding suggestively.
“Are we doing something here in the teahouse or are you just teasing?” I flicked a glance to the open doors. She wasn’t usually partial to the possibility of being seen.
“Teasing. It’ll make things more interesting this evening.” She shrugged, the collar of her robes coming loose to give me a view I could die in.
“You’re being mean,” I whispered, fixated with a new curve, one that would yield to my touch in mesmerizing ways.
“And you had to bring the wab in.” The lace of her binding was a pure white and tickled against my chest.
“You don’t like him?” my voice cracked.
“Not what I said,” her black manicured nailes traced circles across my sternum.
“You found someone you want to play with?” I guessed. She was wiggling and dammit, if I moved she’d be exposed to the whole courtyard.
“I have my doubts he’d be in favor of my methods.” Her eyelashes drifted, her gaze sliding away from me. Pink dappled her cheeks.
“Why doubts? It’s not that we’ve exactly given him much of a chance to show us his, how were we referring to it?” I thought back to our conversation from the morning.
“Needs and desires?” Seth sat back to run swirling patterns down my ribs. Heaven had to be real. Black silk robes and white lace made for a great combination. I cleared my throat, nodding. “Nebra makes him nervous. If she makes him nervous, I can only imagine his reaction to me handling him.” She pushed at her black waterfall of hair. Drawing my gaze up from everything I dearly wanted to touch, I caught that wistful look she got in her eye when she wanted to try something and was too scared to say.
“Nebra is a foot and a half taller than him. She’s the same height as me. Most men can be a touch intimidated with someone who can probably headlock them into hell.” I inched my way up from her thighs to petite waist. Her eyebrow raised at my motion. “What?” I tried to hide the smile trying to escape from the left corner of my lips.
“I know where you’re going,” her eyes were going back to amused cat. She leaned down into me once again and I found warm weight in my palms. Yes. Yes a god exists. There’s this texture thing between that smoothness and silk dripping down my arms and that slight scratch of lace. Amused cat. She was practically purring. “One touch, pharaoh.”
“You’re daydreaming, aren’t you, Sparrow?” I slipped my hands around her binding, under her robes, to her back and tugged her down to look me in the eyes.
“He’s cute,” she admitted.
“Agreed,” I nibbled up the column of her throat.
“And I want to fuck him,” she flopped forward, spreading herself across me in dejection.
“Fuck him or be fucked by him?” I went hunting for the hooks of her binding.
“Close to what I’m about to do to you if you get my binding off,” she threatened. I found the eye closure and slipped the first hook. She rose up to give me that you can’t be serious look she likes to throw around. “What? Nebra and Ptolemy had their moment and we’re both in agreement Wash is cute. Now I’m horney. Where’s your equipment when we both need it.” I got the next hook undone.
“In my room. Reason I said wait until this evening.” She rested her chin in her palm and waited for me to figure it out. I sighed, catching the drift and kissed her forehead while I tried to get the hooks closed again.
“I swear, your sleeves are deep enough you carry around books, how do you not bring along everything else?” I grouched, getting the last hook back in place.
“You’ve seen me drop my books out of my sleeves.” She leaned back once more, this time pulling her robes back across paradise.
“Alright, yes, I see how that could be awkward.” I crossed my hands behind my head to rest against.
“Ptolemy took an instant liking to him. Probably reminds him of a lost puppy. Nebra has gone completely big sister on him,” Seth slid off of me, her robes gracing me with somewhere to hide while I tried desperately to pull myself back together. That was not going to be achieved any time soon with the soft tops of her thighs giving me a glimpse of more white lace.
“Will there be jealousy, do you think? What if he’s a one person type of person and doesn’t want to share? For all we know, he may have zero interest in any of us,” I offered up that thought.
“And what then, Henu? If he had no interest?” She rose, putting her wardrobe back in order.
“He has the freedom to keep to himself. I won’t take that from him. As I won’t take it from any of you.” I rolled to lean on my hand, regarding her gracefulness.
“Then if there is jealousy, we work it through and see what the next best choice is for all of us.” She shrugged. Pulling a red lacquer comb from her sleeves she settled on a low cushion to work her floorlength locks back into obedience. “These moments, off on our own, are nice sometimes. A little less coordination. But watching the dogpile that is you, Nebra, and Ptol is also fun. I have to wonder how long it would take, if he’s disposed to that kind of thing, before he get’s in the midst of it all.” She was watching the koi fish, but her gaze was half focused. She was off in her own world.
“For now, it will behoove us to just have him as My Heirophant. I’ve needed someone to take over the regency for too many years. Adom has needed to be replaced since his prejudices started leaking out. I just didn’t know any of the staff well enough to take over the spot, and it felt weird,” I admitted, sitting up to lean against the wall once more.
“You’ve seen him for three hours and you trust him more than the same staff you’ve seen for the last fifteen years?” Her words had the lilt of skeptic amusement, but no ill intent.
“You should have seen him in there, Seth. He’s this gentle wave. He gathers, and there’s nothing ostentatious about his methods. Genuine concern and quiet. At first I thought him timid, but then I found fire in his eyes. There’s a rod of silver in his spine.” I admired the flurry of clouds passing by the dome panels, sending sparks of scattering fuschia and lavender across the sky.
“You think he might be the one that can unite the classes?” Her voice sank to a whisper, a not of concern warning me to keep the conversation constructed carefully.
“My people are dying keeping this sinking ship afloat.” The rain of sparks sent slithering ripples of orange bands across the panels.
“The mariners?” Seth studied my interest. I nodded mutely. The mariners. A scattering of outsiders, they were the detested of the villages. Ramses had picked me up from the street, buying me from my dying mother when I was no more than a year. He brought me into the palace and put his faith in my abilities. Mariners were in my blood though. The palace had no memory of where I had come from. Ramses, upon his deathbed, had left it with me, though, that I had come from the mariners, and that my mother had died. He knew nothing of my father. I was left to wonder what, if any family relations I had.
“You think he could traverse the hierarchies?” she turned to the low table next to her and poured water into a pair of glasses and handed me one.
I contemplated the cut glass, shards of orange and purple sparkling against it from the dome panel reflection. “Screw the attracted bit for the moment, Seth. I think he can. I really do. His fire is gentle. This is something that I can’t control. I’m bound to my role and so much of it is hinged on the role of religion that I just can’t wrap my head around. I have to work in these roles that make no sense. I still don’t understand what Ramses’s purpose was of me. But if I need a priest, I need one that can do what the other priests can’t. I need one that can work magic. So many of the Mubharaktan have been thrown out, that not very many in the temples, the common people, have seen them up close. They wouldn’t know what he’s doing. It would be real to them. It was real to us.” I sipped at the water.
“Then we will let the sticks fall and count our fortunes on the stars,” Seth reassured.