Lexi continues her first time with another man...
.. a shameful fear that someone like Karandis could never fully comprehend. As unfeeling truesteel, she was invulnerable, unbreakable, safe. Living elven, she could be hurt, could bleed, could die. It was as much cowardice as magic that had kept her locked in sword form for so long. She told herself it was part practicality as well - as a sword, a weapon, she was useful to him and not just one more person he had to protect - but her heart knew she was reaching for excuses.
Karandis turned to her. He touched her temple, trailed his fingers down over her cheek to the corner of her mouth, then followed the line of her jaw to her earlobe. His movements were unhurried and deliberate. His other hand came up, raised her chin. He inclined his head and brushed his lips against hers, not a full kiss but that light, tender brushing.
Audra closed her eyes. She was trembling. Only a little, a faint quiver, but trembling, it was true.
If she had let herself think about it, let herself wonder what it would be like with him, she might have thought their first encounter would be a thing of haste and urgency, a passion so long denied that it had to be consummated with quick fervor. She might have expected torn clothes and frantically seeking hands and eager, open mouths and bodies falling together in a writhing tangle. She would have welcomed that ... but this, this slow and sweet almost-kiss ... the tender touch on her earlobe ... this was better.
He breathed her name against her lips. "Audra."
She set her palms against his chest, not to hold him away, never that, but to feel the warm and solid reality of him. Here, the calm deliberation of him was belied by the strong and rapid drumming of his heart.
"Oh, Karandis," she sighed, and slid her hands up to his shoulders. He was trembling, too ... for all his strength, his undefeated battle prowess, he trembled at her touch.
His arms went around her and gently drew her close. Audra gasped, and it was the life-winning gasp of that drowning girl-child breaking the surface of an Emerinian lake so many years ago, a wonderful and inexpressible relief.
Her back arched and her head fell back, exposing her smooth throat. The beads in her braids clicked and rattled as her hair spilled over his arm.
Utterly vulnerable now, utterly helpless ... he could have crushed her, snapped her bones ... he was so strong, so powerful ... and yet, here in his arms, she had never felt safer or more protected in her entire life. He would never hurt her. Would die a thousand times himself to spare her a single moment's pain.
The passage of time, which was supposed to have so little meaning to elves anyway, seemed to cease altogether. It might have been hours he stood there holding her, it might have been days.
All Audra knew was that his hands were moving over her back, warm through the cloth of the simple gown, cupping her shoulderblades, running the length of her spine, settling on her hips.
He bent and pressed a soft kiss into the hollow at the base of her throat and she skimmed her palms from his shoulders up the sides of his neck, sinking her fingers into the coarse-but-silky thickness of his hair behind his ears. Her thumbs flicked the lobes and she felt his breath quicken, felt the hot puff of it against her collarbones.
She brought his head up and kissed him. This time the kiss was deep, a claiming kiss, a yearning and heartfelt kiss.
When it broke, he drew back a little and they looked solemnly into each other's eyes.
"All this time I've called you 'handsome,'" she said, "and now I finally see how very right I was. You are a wonder, Karandis."
"I knew you had to be beautiful," he said. "You already were. But ... Audra ... you're more ... more than I even dared to hope you'd be."
His hands slid higher, up her ribcage, bunching the fabric.