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The Forbidden City [The Swordmage Cycle III] [MultiFormat]
eBook by T. J. Lazier

eBook Category: Erotica/Erotic Fantasy/Fantasy
eBook Description: More Sorcery and Sensuality in a World of Romance and Revenge! In Tardan Doring, the Forbidden City, the swordmage Gadwin, the mercenary Jaim Medario, their cousin the magical Guardian, Avian Divcarry, and the sorceress Lady Nicholettia, find themselves embroiled in deadly duels and even deadlier plots. Searching for their mortal enemy, the sorcerer Narshavus Rolas, Avian and Nicky decide to work as courtesans to learn all they can from wealthy patrons. When the arrogant Prince Dristan, Prince Heir of Tardan Doring becomes infatuated with Nicky and orders her to the palace, she discovers Narshavus is the prince's most honored guest. Soon swordplay, magical seductions, and treachery bring the four friends face to face with death. "T.J. Lazier has penned an extremely detailed story and introduced a lot of characters in this book. The sex is hot and detailed, and the characters believable. A hot fantasy book," writes Chat for MayReviews.com.

eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/Sizzler, Published: 2006
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2006

8 Reader Ratings:
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The city of Tardan Doring was located on the Sea of Kaldishar coast of Tardan Island that divided the mouth of the South Tardan River. Tardan Doring was over three millennia old and had been the seat of the Goddess Isharta during the Age of the Second Ones. By the spring of the three hundred and fifteenth year after the death of the Immortal Emperor it was the largest city in the Candatara region with a population of over four hundred thousand.

Surrounded by high walls of white Tardan marble the city covered a good portion of the island and was called the Great Haven by Elves because it had been one of their last refuges in the region during the rule of the Immortal Emperor. However Tardan Doring was known as the Forbidden City amongst non-Elves. Three-quarters of the city was reserved for those of Elven blood and forbidden to others. Another fourth of Tardan Doring was not however. Known as the Foreign Quarter it comprised the harbor district and the areas around it and had come about because the city was one of the most important trading ports on the Sea of Kaldishar.

Sitting at the mouth of the South Tardan meant Tardan Doring was a natural destination for goods from the Minelands and positioned on the coast it was well situated for trade with the Eastern Realms and the Southlands. Trade was the lifeblood of the wealthy city-state and the heart that pumped that lifeblood was the Foreign Quarter. All of Tardan Doring's major counting houses, shipping and trading concerns, merchants, warehouses and other trade business were located in that cramped section of the city with its tall brick and stone buildings, narrow streets and cosmopolitan population.

Also located in the Foreign Quarter was Mierdre's, a pleasure house of great renown. The pleasure house was a narrow four-story brick building with a slate tile roof that was built right up against the wall that separated the Foreign Quarter from the rest of the city. There was an entrance to the establishment in the Forbidden City as well as in the Foreign Quarter and Mierdre's was the premiere pleasure house for the city's wealthy and powerful.

It was also where Avian Divcarry, Lady Nicholettia Sen Sevastion yi Sen Adar and Gadwin and Jaim Medario headed after they arrived in the city in pursuit of the traitor Guardian Narshavus Rolas. The trip aboard the small ship Grayfalcon had taken six days from Donsan to Tardan Doring. It had been a fast journey down the South Tardan, but six days on the cramped ship had not been an enjoyable experience and their arrival at the opulent pleasure house was a welcome relief.

Nicky as Lady Nicholettia was known had been to Tardan Doring to visit her mother's friend Mierdre as a child and Avian had worked at Mierdre's as a courtesan, so the mistress of the pleasure house welcomed them and their companions with open arms. Their horses had been seen to and their belongings moved into the most luxurious guest apartment in the house. Then after they had been served a delicious lunch of smoked duck and delicate white cheese the four of them had been ushered into the pleasure house's luxuriant baths to be bathed, massaged and generally pampered by beautiful bathgirls and masseuses.

Avian Divcarry, Guardian at large greatly enjoyed that after six days without proper bathing facilities. As one of the elite magic wielding warriors who defended the Candatara region and enforced the laws of the Treaty of Dinstarra Avian was used to a certain amount of rough living. However she was also a young woman who enjoyed a certain amount of luxury and had grown more accustomed to it after her training to be and working as a courtesan in Tardan Doring three years before.

Many people who knew the twenty-six-year-old half-Elf Guardian might have been surprised to see her seated nude on raised a stone bench on the edge of a wide, blue tiled shallow bathing pool enjoying the attention of four attendants. One bathgirl was brushing out Avian's rump-length. freshly-washed, wavy, golden mane while another knelt between her long legs combing her golden nether hair that had been trimmed and shaved into a neat bar. Yet another held each of her soft hands and was applying red lacquer to her long fingernails that, like her flowing hair, were impractical, but a vanity she was not willing to give up.

Another vanity of Avian's was her looks, which breathtaking and statuesque described her appearance. There was of course her golden-blonde hair that, when loose, framed her exquisitely beautiful face that's center points were her long, dark, lash-framed, sapphire-blue eyes. Also there was the blonde's light, honey-colored skin that was softer than silk and glistening from the oils that she had massaged with it like her whole sleekly muscled body was without blemish.

Standing, Avian was only three inches below six feet and her mixture of Elven, Tanshari, and Brashart Sevar blood had given her a long, slender-legged, slim, shapely-hipped and rumped, tiny-waisted, smooth-bellied and full, pink-nippled, bosomed body that men had died attempting to possess. However, behind her beautiful face and body Avian had a keen mind and a strong will and with a great magical talent and skill with a blade, she was an accomplished Guardian. In the six years since she had been made a full Guardian the former apprentice of the legendary Gilead Stonehawk had never failed to carry out her duty as a Guardian.

It was always duty that brought Avian to Tardan Doring. She had trained as a courtesan and worked as one in the Forbidden City three years before to steal back the Scepter of the Immortal Emperor from the royal family of Tardan Doring. Avian had gotten away with that caper and since then whenever a Guardian needed to go to the Forbidden City it was she who was sent. Which would not have been that bad if the young Guardian had not had to deal with Prince Dristan Sen Yadar, Prince Heir of Tardan Doring trying to continually get her to become his concubine.

Now duty had once more forced Avian to return to Tardan Doring and to almost certainly have to deal with the Prince Heir. She along with her friend Nicky and her cousins Gadwin and Jaim Medario had come all the way across Kaldishar from Ilding to the Forbidden City to try to find the traitor Narshavus Rolas and uncover evidence of the conspiracy to steal the Stone of Sevastion. The mission was truly hers but her cousins and friend had come with her to help her carry out that mission and Avian was grateful for their help.

Of course the other three had been involved in the whole mess with the Dragon Stone and Narshavus Rolas since the beginning like herself. Nicky had been the one to uncover Narshavus scheming with the shaman Shrenga to steal the Dragon Stone from the Temple of Sevastion by force and had told Avian. Avian had confronted the traitor only to be fooled and seduced by magic and she, Nicky, Gadwin and Jaim had all fought to successfully defend the temple and the powerful artifact it contained.

Narshavus however had escaped after killing one Guardian and surviving a duel against Avian and another. Searching Ilding and the surrounding country had turned up no sign of the traitorous Guardian, but Nicky had learned that Narshavus Rolas might be headed to Tardan Doring and had had a vision that confirmed he was going to the Forbidden City. So Avian and her companions had set out for Tardan Doring and had had a few adventures along the way before finally reaching their destination after three weeks of travel.

Of course finding one man in a city of more than four hundred thousand would not be easy and finding those that had worked with or for Shrenga in Tardan Doring would probably be just as difficult. Avian, though, did have contacts and friends in the city who could help her find who and what she was after. Mierdre Suchal was chief among those who could help search and as soon as she was finished in the baths Avian intended to find the courtesan so she could explain her needs to her friend.

"Hurry along girls, I need to speak with Mierdre as soon as I can," Avian told the bathgirls who knew her as a courtesan and not a Guardian in her silvery voice in the Kaldishari language rather than her native Dinstarra Sevarran.

"Perfection takes time Mistress Avian," the dark haired girl who was brushing her hair replied in her soft voice in the same tongue.

"True," Avian agreed and with a soft smile because she loved being pampered, she relaxed and let the girls go about their business.

As the sun was setting on the day of their arrival Lady Nicholettia Sen Sevastion yi Sen Adar was sitting curled up on a low, satin upholstered divan clad in her favorite blue silk robe before a high clear glass window in the sitting room of the guest apartment she and her friends would be sharing on the third floor that looked out over the Forbidden City. Nicky's still damp hair cascaded down over her shoulders, her skin glistened from the scented oils that had been massaged into it and her whole body was wonderfully relaxed. She was enjoying a small porcelain cup of hot chocolate and gazing at the marble and granite houses and buildings of the grander sections of the city where those of Elven blood dwelled.

Nicky had some Elven blood, but it was the blood of Great Dragons running through her veins that made the mostly human girl truly remarkable. She was the last scion of the western branch of the powerful Kaldishari Sen Sevastion family, Lady of Milse and Keldrane, a powerful magess, a brilliant student and like her mother a courtesan. Nicky had inherited her beauty from Collesia Sen Adar while she had inherited her large magical talent, incredible intelligence and free spending ways from Lord Anshrin Sen Sevastion along with the blood of the divine Great Dragon Sevastion the Sky Lord.

Like her mother before her the twenty-year-old Nicky was considered one of the great beauties of Kaldishar. As was the Kaldishari noble ideal Nicky was tall at five feet eight inches and had mid-back length wavy, dark, brown hair and beautiful midnight-blue eyes that were framed by long, dark lashes and set in a breathtaking face. The young noblewoman was long and slender of leg, shapely of hip, small of waist, and full of bosom with plenty of sleek muscle beneath her silken, light-brown skin.

A magess who was a courtesan and a passionate student who was an often-wild young noblewoman, Nicky was a girl of contradictions. She was also a girl who was used to easy living and the more than five hundred mile long journey to Tardan Doring from Ilding had been hard for her. However Nicky had enjoyed the journey with Gadwin who was her lover, Jaim who had become her lover and Avian who was perhaps her closest friend despite the fact they were in competition for Gadwin Medario.

Truth be told the only reason Nicky had come along on the journey was because she had not wanted Gadwin and Avian to have all that time alone together. Nicky personally had had her fill of dealing with traitor Guardians and battling shaman, goblins and Great Mother knew what else when she had helped to defend the Temple of Sevastion. In her opinion she had done her part to save the Dragon Stone and help in tracking down Narshavus Rolas and planned on taking it very easy while she was in the Tardan Doring.

"A marvelous view," a low richly feminine voice observed in Kaldishari, then stated with a laugh, "though this is as close as I will ever come to walking the Forbidden City next to riding to an engagement in a sealed carriage."

Nicky turned to regard the woman who had spoken as she came to a halt at the foot of the divan. Mierdre Suchal was a tall beautiful woman who was the premiere courtesan in Tardan Doring and had been a student of Nicky's mother. She was a bit shorter than Nicky and had a slender, long-legged, slim-hipped and trim-bottomed, tiny-waisted, and medium-bosomed build. However what truly made Mierdre breathtaking was her soft, hot, chocolate-colored skin, big, beautiful, dark-lash framed, chocolate eyes and smooth, beautiful face.

Mierdre was an exotic beauty that rippled with sleek muscle beneath her beautiful skin, had long fingernails and waist-length, lustrous, dark-black hair. The thirty-some-year-old courtesan was the daughter of a Tardan Doring courtesan and a Southlander merchant who had lived most of her life in the city. Mierdre was an intelligent and warm woman who looked exquisite in a simple, clinging, pale-blue, satin house gown with her hair worn in a long, loose braid.

Nicky smiled at the older woman. "That applies to me as well," she said in her very girlish voice and also speaking in Kaldishari. "The Elf blood is not thick enough in my veins to allow me free entry into the Forbidden City."

Mierdre made a wistful sound as she gazed out at the city. "I have lived almost my whole life here and yet what is out there is almost as foreign to me as the lands of my father. Truth be told, I shall probably never set foot in the lands of my father and I know I will never walk freely in the Forbidden City," she said with a sigh.

"Travel is highly overrated," Nicky declared distastefully. "At least when it isn't in a nice, padded couch," she added and raised her Keeve porcelain cup in her soft, long-fingernailed hands to take a sip of her hot chocolate.

Mierdre laughed a soft rich laugh that made Nicky's spine tingle and turned a curious look on her. "So what brings the daughter of Collesia Sen Adar to Tardan Doring in the company of a Guardian and two disreputable looking fighting men?" she wanted to know.

Nicky shrugged prettily. "We have important business here that is not of your concern," she replied, then gave the other woman a sharp look. "And Gadwin and Jaim are not disreputable looking."

Mierdre smiled knowingly. "So which one has caught your fancy?"

"Both are my lovers," Nicky told her matter-of-factly and took another sip of her hot chocolate. "Though I do prefer Gadwin."

"Good choice," Mierdre said with approval. "He is rather handsome and has the look of a rogue about him, which makes a man very appealing. I would not mind teaching both him and that boyishly handsome brother of his a few things," she breathed eagerly.

"Don't you have enough clients to occupy you?" Nicky asked, feeling more than a hint of jealousy over the thought of Gadwin or Jaim with the courtesan.

Mierdre shrugged. "My clients are business and the Medario brothers are potential pleasure," she answered and made a thoughtful sound. "Thinking about clients. Are you going to take on any engagements while you are here?" the courtesan queried.

It was Nicky's turn to shrug. "I really hadn't thought about taking any engagements here," was her reply.

"Well it will not be long before word of the return of Avian Divcarry and the premiere of the daughter of Collesia Sen Adar passes from one end of this city to the other," Mierdre observed and arched an eyebrow questioningly at Nicky. "When the offers for liaisons start pouring in what will you do?"

Nicky shrugged again and sipped at her hot chocolate. "I will deal with that when I must," she said.

"I would take the most generous offers," Mierdre advised her. "You and Avian could make a fortune in a very short time," she pointed out.

"I could use a good deal of money," Nicky admitted.

Which that was the truth because of the fifteen gold crowns Quenna Rolas had paid her for the engagement where the woman had told her of Narshavus Rolas perhaps heading to Tardan Doring Nicky had spent over a third for and on the journey to Tardan Doring. Which meant she would need more money to pay off the outstanding debts she had left behind. She would need at least fourteen crowns to take care of those when she returned to Ilding and could always use more money besides and that made the idea of earning a fortune as a courtesan in Tardan Doring rather appealing.

"Then should I officially announce your premiere as a courtesan?" Mierdre wanted to know.

Nicky nibbled her lip for a moment as she thought on that. "Yes," she decided finally.

"Do not announce her premiere or my return," Avian Divcarry's silvery voice stated sharply in Kaldishari from behind Nicky. "In fact I want our presence in Tardan Doring kept quiet."

Nicky turned her head even further to regard Avian as the tall half Elf came to a stop behind the divan. Avian was clad in a white silk robe embroidered with cranes that molded itself to her figure and had her golden hair worn up and held with gold combs. With her long fingernails freshly lacquered with red and her skin glistening from massage oil the only thing that made the blonde girl look like a Guardian was the golden Guardian medallion with its Great Dragon wreathed sword nestled in the cleavage exposed by the low cut robe she wore.

"You came to the wrong place if you wanted your arrival to go unnoticed," Mierdre informed Avian. "Clients saw you arrive and the staff and courtesans of this place are the worst gossips in the world. With your fame, I'm sure by morning everyone in the city will know that Avian Divcarry has returned."

Avian sighed heavily. "We probably should have stayed somewhere else besides here," she stated with regret.

"What is done is done," Mierdre pointed out, then demanded of her, "What business brings you, Nicky and your two men to Tardan Doring?"

"We are hunting a part-Elf traitor Guardian named Narshavus Rolas," Avian answered without hesitation. "I was wondering if you could ask around quietly about him?" she asked.

Mierdre smiled at Avian warmly. "Give me his description and I will see what can be found out," she told her.

"If he is in Tardan Doring I'm sure we will know by noon tomorrow," Avian said. "Mierdre knows just about everything that happens in this city and what she doesn't know she can quickly find out," she explained to Nicky.

Mierdre laughed softly. "I have friends who know things," she commented.

"Can any of those friends find out if Narshavus Rolas has visited the Framichal Counting House?" Avian wanted to know.

"One of my best clients is the chancellor of Framichal and he will gladly find out for me," Mierdre said with certainty.

Avian smiled and giggled. "If he finds Narshavus for me I'll bed the man," she declared before requesting, "Could you also ask around about Eastern Realms mercenaries moving through Tardan Doring and upriver to Donsan and those that helped move them?"

Mierdre nodded. "I will look into that as well," the courtesan promised.

Nicky gave Avian a curious look. "So apart from having Mierdre's friends search for Narshavus what are we going to do to try to find him?" she asked.

Avian made a thoughtful sound. "Well since we have inadvertently announced our presence in Tardan Doring you, and I should do our best to make it look like we aren't hunting Narshavus," she told Nicky. "Which means that you and I are going to work as courtesans while Gadwin and Jaim watch the Framichal Counting House."

"It would be best if I had locals watch Framichal," Mierdre advised her.

"Then we'll work as courtesans while Gadwin and Jaim sit around and do nothing," Avian corrected with a small silvery laugh.

"Then do you want me to announce your return and Nicky's premiere?" Mierdre asked.

Avian nodded. "Officially announce my return and Nicky's premiere as a courtesan in Tardan Doring and while you're at it schedule a premiere and return party here for the both of us," she replied.

Mierdre gave Avian a level look. "The house will take the usual quarter share for arranging outside engagements and a third share for any in house liaisons," she pointed out.

"You can keep all of my earnings," Avian stated with a shrug. "I am here after a traitor, not money."

"I will split her earnings with you?" Nicky proposed to Mierdre playfully.

Mierdre smiled softly. "Not likely since I will put Avian's earnings in the same account at Framichal where I put all the money she earned the last time she worked here," she told Nicky.

"How much is in that account?" Avian asked casually, sounding like she did not really care.

"Fifty three gold crowns," Mierdre answered just as casually.

Nicky looked at Avian with very wide eyes. "How could you leave that much money just sitting here in Tardan Doring?" she demanded not so casually.

Avian shrugged. "I didn't need it when I left and I have just never gotten around to getting it since I have never needed it," she said.

"Well I want my money in cash when I leave," Nicky informed Mierdre with complete seriousness. "I will need it then and certainly when I get home to Ilding."

"It shall be as you command Lady Nicholettia," Mierdre said and gave her a small mocking bow.

Nicky glared at the older woman. "I am a magess and can do rather unpleasant things to you since the laws of the Treaty of Dinstarra do not apply here," she pointed out.

"If you do unpleasant things to me who will arrange your liaisons?" Mierdre asked archly.

Nicky giggled and stuck her tongue out at the woman. "Go make the arrangements for Avian and I or I will do unpleasant things to you," she declared playfully.

Mierdre gave her another mocking bow. "Yes my lady," she said, then stuck her tongue out at Nicky before turning to glide out of the room.

"I have really missed Mierdre," Avian stated after the dark beauty had departed.

"I've missed her too," Nicky agreed and turned back to gaze out the window. "I haven't seen her since two years ago when she came to Ilding for a short time."

"When was the last time you were in Tardan Doring?" Avian asked as she leaned down to rest her hands on Nicky's shoulders from behind.

Nicky took a sip of her hot chocolate before replying, "When I was eleven."

Avian laughed a small amused laugh and squeezed her shoulders. "Well Nicky, being in Tardan Doring as a grown courtesan is going to be a lot different than your last visit," she told her.

"I'm sure it will be," Nicky concurred, then made a thoughtful sound as something occurred to her. "Do you think Gadwin is bothered by me being a courtesan or will be bothered by us working as courtesans here?" she asked her friend.

Avian laughed again, one of her silvery laughs that made people's heads light. "Nicky Gadwin doesn't mind you being a courtesan and won't mind us working as courtesans. Besides Gadwin is going to be too busy bedding every bathgirl, bedgirl and courtesan he can here at Mierdre's to be worried about what we're up to. Staying at the most exclusive pleasure house in Tardan Doring is going to be paradise for Gadwin Medario," she said with more than a little amusement in her voice.

"I'm not sure I like the idea of Gadwin with all those other girls," Nicky said, knowing there was more than a little jealousy in her voice.

"A girl who is a courtesan shouldn't be getting jealous about a man bedding other girls," Avian pointed out.

Nicky sighed and nodded. "I know," she admitted. "But I really like Gadwin."

Avian leaned down to kiss the top of Nicky's head. "Nicholettia Sen Sevastion yi Sen Adar you are a very complex girl," she stated with a certain fondness.

Nicky bit her lip and gave Avian a warm little look over her shoulder. "Do you love me even though I'm complex?" she asked cutely.

Avian winked at her. "I love you very much," she replied. "Though I'm not sure I like how much Gadwin likes you."

"Well I love you too," Nicky purred, then thinking about what her friend had said she told her, "You are my dearest friend Avian Divcarry, even if I am going to get Gadwin."

"And you are my dearest friend," Avian said and slipping her arms around Nicky's neck from behind she rested her chin atop her head. "But you are not going to get Gadwin," she informed her.

"We will see," was Nicky's reply before she went back to looking out the window with Avian as very welcome company despite the fact that she was determined that she would get Gadwin Medario and not her friend.

* * * *

"Now this is living," Gadwin Medario declared in his deep yet youthful voice later that night.

Gadwin was seated in a wing-backed velvet upholstered chair that faced the big marble sheathed fireplace in one of the bedrooms of the quest apartment Mierdre had given them. The bedroom was very large with marble sheathed walls, floor and ceiling and had a big, silk carpet covering most of the floor. It was very expensively furnished with an oil-lamp in each corner and luxurious furniture like the chair Gadwin was lounging in.

He was clad in a dark blue satin robe, had his bare feet up on a padded stool before the blazing fire and had a glass and silver goblet full of expensive brandy in one hand. Enjoying a good bit of lounging before the fire with a goblet of brandy he probably could not have afforded himself after being bathed and massaged by beautiful girls was Gadwin's idea of a good time.

The twenty-five-year-old was a man who loved easy living despite the fact or perhaps because he was a wandering mercenary swordmage who had grown up in stable. Gadwin had a penchant for hard drinking and a love of beautiful girls and preferred to spend most of his time enjoying those, often at the same time. The former did sometimes lead to trouble when combined with his short temper, but, as a skilled fighter with bare hands, weapons and magic, the young swordmage could usually handle any trouble he or anyone he cared about got into.

Standing Gadwin Medario was a tall man at a solid two inches over six feet and was built slender yet very well muscled with broad shoulders. His bushy hair was a sun touched brown and his gray blue eyes set in his ruggedly handsome yet for once clean-shaven face combined with his even-toned skin to mark him a good part Tanshari. Which Gadwin was mostly Tanshari by blood since his father was better than half and his mother a full-blooded member of those horse people.

Gadwin along with his brother Jaim and Avian had been raised in the river port town of Jaln on the Aenaire River that divided Brashart from Caden. He had been trained to be a swordmage by his great uncle Gadfor Medario while Jaim had been taught to fight by the same man. The Medario brothers had left home years before and had been living the wandering lives of fighting men for hire since.

"No, it's sitting around on your rump before the fire," the silvery voice of Avian Divcarry disagreed with a soft silvery laugh.

The girl's words drew his attention to where she lay nude on her belly on the rooms big, four posted and satin-sheeted bed. Avian had her feet raised with her slim ankles crossed and had her chin propped in her hands as she laid there reading a book. It was probably one of the books of fanciful poetry or silly romances his cousin and off and on lover loved to read, but hid from anyone else but him. There were plenty of things which the young Guardian kept hidden from everyone save Gadwin, her grandfather Gadfor and perhaps Gilead Stonehawk.

Avian and Gadwin had been inseparable before she had left Jaln to become a Guardian and once had been as close as two people could be. Familiarity had not bred contempt but a deep understanding and fondness for each other that Gadwin had never been able to fully understand. They were each the other's first lover and besides a great physical passion they shared an emotional bond that was unspoken, yet deeper than even they often realized.

Though it was with physical passion that Gadwin ran his eyes over Avian's smooth back and trim, tight derriere. With her long, gold hair flowing down over one shoulder and her soft skin glowing in the light of the fire and silver oil-lamps that lit the room, Avian looked even more beautiful and desirable than she normally did. So with a certain lazy arousal Gadwin decided that he might just see if his lover was interested in using the bed for purposes besides reading.

"I noticed that you locked the door," Gadwin observed suggestively.

Avian lifted her chin from her hands to turn a small smile on him. "Locked it and warded the bolt so Nicky can't use a wind grip spell to open it," she said with a certain satisfaction. "After six days on a small ship sharing one narrow cabin with Jaim and Nicky, I plan on having you all to myself tonight Gadwin Medario," the blonde girl informed him.

Gadwin chuckled at that. "Don't want to share me with Nicky?" he asked lightly before taking a sip of brandy.

"Nicky can sleep with Jaim," was Avian's firm reply.

"Is that jealousy I hear in your voice?" Gadwin wanted to know.

Avian shrugged prettily. "Nicky started this little competition by locking me out of the room at Eldric's in Ralds," she said rather than answer his question.

Gadwin grinned. "So you locked her out of our room at Donsan and now here in Tardan Doring. That sounds like jealousy to me," he observed.

"I am not a jealous woman," Avian declared with a look of innocence that might have convinced anybody but him.

So Gadwin told her, "I'm not blind or stupid enough not to have noticed the way you and Nicky have been subtly fighting over me."

"I'm really not a jealous woman," Avian insisted and propping her chin on one hand she gave a small sigh. "It's just that you like Nicky as more than a friend or casual bed companion and that girl has designs on you even if she doesn't know it yet. I don't want to lose you to another girl Gadwin," she said and the look in her sapphire blue eyes was troubled.

"Avian you could never lose me," Gadwin stated with complete honesty after a long drink from his glass. "You mean more to me than I could ever say. I know I'm not good at saying how I feel and, most of the time, I'm not sure how I feel, but I know that the way I feel about you, I feel only about you."

Avian bit her lip and batted her eyes at him almost shyly. "That means a lot to hear you say because the way I feel about you, I don't feel about anybody else," she told him.

"We're just not too good at talking about our feelings are we?" Gadwin asked wryly.

Avian shook her head. "No, we're not," she agreed before pointing out, "We were raised by people who show how they feel rather than talk about it."

"Actions speak louder than words," Gadwin observed.

Avian gave him a smoldering look. "You want to show how we feel about each other through some very enjoyable actions?" she demanded sultrily.

Gadwin grinned at her. "Just as soon as I finish my brandy," he said with a wink.

Avian raised one hand and without a word and with a surge of magic pulled the silver and glass goblet from his hand with a wind grip spell. "You will have to finish it with me," she declared as she floated the glass to her hand with a loop of condensed air.

Rolling onto her side facing him Avian rested her head on one hand and holding the goblet in the other she took a long drink of the strong brandy while gazing at him warmly through lowered lashes. Running his eyes over her full, pink-nippled breasts, smooth belly and the bar of her golden nether hair between her slender thighs Gadwin felt his heart pounding wildly with arousal. Mind, body and soul there was no girl in the world who could truly compare to Avian Divcarry and Gadwin decided he was definitely going to finish his brandy in bed with his lover.

Shedding his robe as he stood Gadwin crossed the room to the bed and Avian laying upon it at not quite a run. As he moved toward her Avian ran her eyes over his broad shoulders, muscled chest and hard belly and smiled a small smile as she regarded his fully erect manhood.

"I'm glad to see that I still get that reaction," Avian said with a giggle and took another long drink of his brandy.

Gadwin stopped at the side of the bed and smiled down at her. "I'm glad to see that you have only gotten more beautiful," he told her.

"You're a flatterer Gadwin Medario," Avina accused, but the smile on her lips and the light in her eyes said that she did not mind that one little bit.

"I am only telling the truth Avian Divcarry," Gadwin said and stroked one hand over the curve of her hip and down her thigh before asking, "Can I have my brandy back?"

Avian shook her head while sipping from the glass. "No," she replied and tipping her head so that her face was towards him she took a small drink of brandy and held it between pursed lips.

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