The sound of the sitting room door swinging open had Lakshmi sitting up in bed. Her senses strained, but she didn’t leave the bed. Her own movement could prevent her from hearing anything or anyone else. The door clicked closed, and Lakshmi heard someone crossing her sitting room to her bedroom. No one should be in her rooms in the middle of the night, but the increased beat of her heart did not come from fear. It came from pleasure. Lakshmi recognized Roland’s familiar footfalls, and a wave of heat swept through her.
The door of Lakshmi’s bedroom swung open silently, but Lakshmi sensed the disturbance of the air. And she sensed Roland’s presence.
“Lakshmi,” Roland said. His voice flowed over her like the rare honey the emperor had once imported. A shiver rippled through her.
“You shouldn’t be here,” she said even as she held out her arms to him.
Roland came to her easily, sitting on the bed and pulling her into his arms. He kissed her neck, and she arched to give him better access. The kisses they had been stealing for the last weeks had been delicious, but not nearly enough. She wanted more; wanted everything.
“I had to,” Roland said against her neck. “Oh, you taste good.”
Lakshmi moaned as Roland began nibbling on her collarbone, and gasped when his hand went to cup her breast. “Roland,” she moaned.
“I have to have you,” Roland said.
“Yes.” Lakshmi didn’t care about possible consequences. The only thing that existed for her was Roland. “Yes, please.”
They quickly removed each other’s clothing, fevered hands running over feverish skin. Roland’s body was hard and muscular. It rippled with every move, and she luxuriated in the feel of him. His skin was satin over those rippling muscles, and the hands that ran over her own skin were calloused from swordplay and the sort of physical labor the emperor disdained.
Lakshmi let out another moan, matched by Roland’s as she undid his buckle and slipped the pants off his hips. Never had she been more grateful for the times she had undressed the emperor, for she didn’t think she would have been able to undo the fastenings had she not had years of practice to fall back on.
“My hands are shaking,” Lakshmi said, nearly laughing with delight. Her heart was racing, and she loved the feeling of life rushing through her.
“You make me wild,” Roland said, slipping off the last of her silk and pushing her back onto the bed. “I’ve never wanted someone the way I want you.”
He captured her mouth in another consuming kiss while his hand moved down, down between her legs to stroke the silky entrance to her body. He found her hot and slick, more ready for him than any woman he had ever experienced.
Lakshmi was a concubine, but he knew her heat was genuine. Whatever she might have done in the past, she was here now, with him, and she was ready. She moaned her need and moved against him like a cat. Her hips moved rhythmically, her mouth moving against his neck in a series of kisses and bites.
Roland slid a finger into her heat, marveling at how tight she was, and her fingernails sank into his back, delicious pricks of pain that served to heighten his pleasure.
“Roland,” she gasped as new, wonderful sensations rushed through her. She felt like she was on the verge of something wonderful that only Roland could provide. “Oh, please.” Her voice trailed off into mindless pleas for more, for release from the tension that was growing and writhing in her body. “Roland.”
Roland gritted his teeth. He had planned to pleasure her more, but the heat he felt in the palm of his hand was proof that Lakshmi did not need more tender love play. She needed him. And he couldn’t wait.
Roland moved up her body just slightly, maneuvering until the blunt head of his manhood was at her tight, hot entrance. He moved slowly, marveling in the silky heat. She was so slick that entrance was easy, and he wondered how she could be so tight even as his body sang.
He was halfway in when he felt a barrier, and he could hardly believe it. “Lakshmi?” he asked, lust battling with common sense into a confusing moray.
“Roland,” she said, lifting her head to claim his mouth in a hot kiss. Her hips rocked against his gently, mindlessly, straining for a release that she had never known.
Roland wanted to sink into her, sheath himself in her until they became one. He wanted to move, to find the completion they both sought. But there was that barrier, and he had to know. “Lakshmi, are you a virgin?” The question was ridiculous. She was a concubine, the emperor’s favorite. Her chambers connected to the emperor’s, and he requested her presence more than any other woman’s.
She couldn’t be a virgin.
But he could feel that she was.
Lakshmi’s eyes opened, and she focused through the haze of lust. She had hoped Roland would not realize the truth, but she knew now that had been a foolish hope. “Yes.”
Roland wanted to ask how. He wanted to know why this beautiful, sensual woman, a woman everyone knew entertained the emperor, could be a virgin. But his body had other ideas, and conversation was impossible. He had only the strength for one question. “Do you still want this?” he asked, moving just slightly in her body to emphasize his point.
Lakshmi smiled. “Oh, yes,”
It was all Roland needed to hear, and he pulled back just slightly before thrusting, breaking through the barrier that shielded her virginity.
She cried out, a cry muffled by Roland’s mouth on hers, and he froze.
Pain was unavoidable the first time, but Roland did not want to hurt her more than necessary. He thought it would be possible, just barely, to hold still long enough for her to adjust to his presence in her body.
Lakshmi had other ideas. She moved against him in demand, and when he did not respond she bit his shoulder. “I’m fine,” she said, her hips moving again in a way that clearly demonstrated what she wanted from him. There was no shame in her eyes, only hunger.
For a moment Roland was surprised by her boldness, but then he realized that even a virgin concubine would have more knowledge about sex than most women. And then thought fled as his body took over and he moved in her, luxuriating in her heat, the slick vise of her body, the soft moans and rocking of her hips that was much more sensual than any inexperienced woman should be.
One of Roland’s hands returned to her heat, and he stroked the bud that was the center of her pleasure. She tightened like a bow, and he captured her cry with his lips as she went over the edge, her body clenching and trembling under his.
He followed on her heels, just barely stifling his own cry.
Roland buried his head in her shoulder as after-tremors went through them. It could have been minutes or hours later when Lakshmi raised a hand to stroke his sweat-slicked back from shoulder to hip.
Roland didn’t want to move, but he knew he was likely crushing her. He levered himself up onto his elbows and stared down at the concubine who was no longer a virgin.
She had always looked sensual and passionate, but in the dim light, with her hair mussed and her eyes heavy from pleasure, her lips swollen from his kisses, Lakshmi had never looked more beautiful. Roland felt a stirring in his groin that was evidence that he wanted her again. But first they had to talk.
Lakshmi saw the passion in Roland’s eyes, but there was also an edge of seriousness that had not been there before. She would have been worried, were he not still deep inside her. Whatever his thoughts were in the aftermath of their passion, he was not disgusted.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Roland finally asked, bridging the subject that was so obviously between them.
Lakshmi’s smile was somewhat rueful. “Would you have believed me?” she asked.
Roland thought about it, and his smile was answer enough. “Probably not.”
Lakshmi knew that if Roland was going to be honest, she should be as well. It was strange, being honest about something that had so long been kept a secret, but the warmth running through her was no longer just from passion. There was a pleasure that came from sharing that she had never experienced before. “Part of me hoped you would not notice. I wanted you so much, but I was afraid if you knew I was a virgin, you wouldn’t want me.” She looked away, for the first time shy.
Roland grabbed her chin gently and turned her face toward him. “How could I not want you?” he asked. Her eyes were deep and luminous, and he felt like he could fall into her.
“If I wasn’t experienced…You thought you were getting into bed with a concubine.”
In the months Roland had been in the palace, he had realized just how different the south was from his northern homeland. The emperor’s concubines had been a shock to him, but Lakshmi’s assumption that Roland would prefer a woman trained in the arts of seduction to someone naturally passionate but otherwise untouched was a revelation on just how different their societies were. “I love that I was your first,” Roland admitted, kissing her plush lips softly, gently.
“Really?” Lakshmi asked.
“Yes. You were amazing, and knowing that you were that hot for me, that it was not a concubine’s ploy…” His eyes heated, and just as Roland had known from the heat of her body that her passion was not feigned, Lakshmi knew that his words were not empty lies.
“I’ve never wanted anyone but you.” Her heart constricted in fear and excitement at the sharing of feelings, and she stroked his face with her hand, feeling the stubble along the strong planes of his face.
“I have questions,” Roland said. His face was serious again. “How can you be a concubine and still—”
She silenced him with a kiss. “Not now.” Her words were a whisper against his lips.
“Later,” he said and kissed her again, then he rocked his hips and Lakshmi’s eyes grew wide. She knew what happened between men and women, but she had not realized Roland would recover quite that fast, or that they would start again without him ever pulling out of her.
“Are you sore?” Roland asked with concern, remembering that she had been a virgin and would likely still be tender, despite the care he had taken not to hurt her.
Though Lakshmi felt a little discomfort at his movements, she shook her head. The pleasure she felt far outweighed any discomfort, and she wanted him far more than she wanted to avoid discomfort.
“Good, because I don’t want to stop.” Roland thrust harder, moving in rhythms as old as the beginning of the world.
Lakshmi moved against him, and lost herself in pleasure.
A familiar hand on Lakshmi's waist sent ripples of heat coursing through her veins. She shivered pleasantly before turning to Roland. "Hi." Her voice oozed sweet sensuality.
“Hello to you,” Roland said, dipping his head forward and kissing her ear playfully.
Lakshmi looked around the corridor. It was empty for now, but she knew how quickly someone could turn the corner and see them. “We shouldn’t do this here,” she said softly, knowing that there was no way anyone that saw the two of them standing in the corridor with Roland’s hands resting familiarly on her waist could miss that they were lovers.
“But I want you.” His voice was rough with passion.
Heat pooled in Lakshmi’s stomach and dipped lower as memories of the nights they had spent together rushed her. She closed her eyes.
“Come to my room with me,” Roland urged, pulling her closer until she could feel the blunt flesh of his arousal against her stomach.
Lakshmi nearly moaned. “I want to.” It had been only two days since they had last been together, but it seemed much longer. “I miss feeling you inside me.”
Roland groaned and grabbed her hand, tugging her behind him.
She worked her hand loose with a laugh. “I can’t.”
“You can,” Roland said. His blue eyes were hypnotizing in their intensity, and Lakshmi forced herself to look away before she lost her common sense and followed him.
“The emperor has requested me in the Gathering Room. I have to go.”
Roland frowned, the expression drawing a line between his blond eyebrows. “What does he want?”
Normally, Lakshmi would have found the idea of anyone questioning what the emperor wanted ridiculous, but she saw the hint of jealousy in his eyes and risked the intimate gesture of running a hand through his hair. “I don’t know. Not what you want from me.”
Roland closed his eyes and rested his forehead on the top of Lakshmi’s head. “How can you be sure?”
Lakshmi did not know what to say. They hadn’t talked about the circumstances of her being a virgin concubine. Roland had wanted to, but Lakshmi had always distracted him or evaded the questions. As much as she wanted to be honest with Roland, it was not possible. He knew more about her than was safe, but he couldn’t know everything.
“You’ll have to trust me,” she said, moving until she could see his dazzling blue eyes.
Roland looked about to ask her another question, but Lakshmi shook her head and put two fingers to his mouth in a silencing gesture. “Not now.” Lakshmi looked around the corridor again.
“Come to my room tonight,” Roland urged.
Lakshmi knew she shouldn’t. She never should have slept with Roland, and she should not continue to do so, but the feelings that came alive when she was with him were too potent to give up. “Okay. I’ll be there.”