For Rix_scaedu‘s commissioned prompt.
Reiassan has a landing page here.
Arinya kept her uncle pinned with her gaze. Did he know she’d heard him? Did it matter? Nothing he’d said had been specifically treasonous; indeed, he could say, and likely be honest in saying so, that he had been working for the well-being of the Empire.
He kept his gaze on her, but his eyes did flicker to Girey; she could see the moment when he made the connection. She couldn’t keep him hidden forever. She’d always known someone would recognize him. But now that she’d claimed his as her own, it would be harder for them to take him away from her.
“I don’t believe I’ve met your companion, either,” she continued smoothly. The man’s qitari was expensively worked, but gaudy even by Callanthe standards, the patterns a mish-mash of currently-fashionable designs. He was, she was fairly certain, not a relative, or at least not a close one.
“Ah, yes. This is Debnet, Lieutenant Debnet of the Emperor’s Army. But I believe that I have met your companion before, Arinyanca. Prince Girey.”
“I am no Prince.” Girey’s voice was far milder than Arinya had expected from him. “Although I have often been mistaken for one.” He fingered the bracelet on his wrist, and then stroked Rin’s fingers in a clearly affectionate manner. In Bitrani, in a sentence loaded with nuance, he continued, “Although I share a name in common with the former Prince of Bithrain, I am simply Girey of Princess Arinyanca.”
Arinya held back a surprised laugh – or gasp – and wondered if her uncle would catch the meanings twisted into that sentence.
Uncle Esnees was not stupid. “I must have missed the ceremony,” he answered smoothly in the same language. “Certainly my niece would not dishonor such a noble captive with a sun-on-the-water union?”
Mentally, Rin cursed both of them for putting her on the spot. A sun-on-the-water union was exactly what she’d had planned for Girey, a promise whispered over used sheets, a union with him as untitled far-junior partner. If Girey hadn’t claimed himself as exactly that, if her uncle hadn’t pushed the issue…
She smiled brightly at her uncle and his minion. “We’ve been back in Lannamer for less than a day, Uncle. While we’re certainly excited, I don’t want any announcement of ours to overshadow Elin’s wedding. Give it some time, please. The ceremony will come when it comes.” And the look on Girey’s face was well worth it.
Her uncle recovered faster than her captive did. “Well. I look forward to hearing when the happy day will be. Do tell me if you hear where the real Prince of Bithrain is, will you?” He’s still wanted for execution.”
“Certainly,” she smiled back at him. She would need to see if there had been an Imperial order to that effect. And she’d need to find that out soon. “Have a lovely day, Uncle Esnees, Lieutenant Debnet.”
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“We think we’ve come up with a problem for the oil shortage.”
“Look at these duck eggs. It took us a bit of finagling to do it, and more than a few changes at the genetic level, but now instead of needing calcium and laying calcium-rich eggs… they take in a variety of supplements and lay plastic eggs. The shells can then be recycled for their plastic, and the egg inside is still perfectly viable. There’s just one flaw…”
“There’s always a flaw.”
“In order to get out of the eggs, the hatchlings needed…
“You made duck Unicorns.”
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She’d walked away the first time he’d brought it up. “The Bond takes away your choice,” she’d said.
“So does not asking me,” he’d retorted. She’d shook her head angrily, making him want to grovel and apologize, but all she’d said, maddeningly, was the same thing she always did:
“You do not understand.”
“Explain it to me,” he complained, but only after she’d shut the door behind her.
When he tried again, he went at it sideways, talking about Porter first. Porter did, after all, need a girlfriend. But, then again, so did Arundel.
“Would you like to have a boyfriend,” he asked her, “me, I mean?”
She’d been surprised, which wasn’t really a good plan – she hated, he already knew, being surprised. She pursed her lips, and he ignored his sudden urge to apologize. “Would you ask that, if I didn’t Own you? Answer me honestly.”
“I would have asked sooner, if you didn’t Own me. Like, the day I fell through your ceiling… okay, maybe not then, but pretty soon after then.”
“In truth?” Darnit, he’d surprised her again.
“You ordered me to be honest,” he pointed out, beginning to get frustrated. He couldn’t win with her. “I want to be your boyfriend. I want to kiss you. I want you to believe me when I talk to you.”
She stared off at the wall, frowning. “That could be the Bond,” she pointed out. “It makes you want physical contact, even if you wouldn’t, otherwise.”
She was going to talk herself out of it. Again. And leave him frustrated and her cranky. Arundel flared his wings, wanting to shout. Shouting was a bad idea. Shouting would only make her more angry.
“So if it’s the Bond,” he said slowly, “then you’re worried I will regret it afterwards?”
“Exactly. You’re acting under the influence. You’re not thinking clearly, cannot think clearly when the Bond is pushing at you.”
“And you’re worried that a Bond-induced need for physical contact is making me want to kiss you.”
She lifted her shoulders and dropped them again in discomfort. “The thought did occur to me, yet. I am not, normally, dating material.”
“The people that let you think that are lying to you,” he flared. “Or you’re lying to yourself.”
“I have never had a boyfriend who wasn’t… I have never had a boyfriend.”
“Well, maybe you should try?” he tried, one last time. “Look, if you’re worried it’s the touch thing, how about an experiment?”
“An experiment?” He had her attention, good.
“Figure out what you think is a Bond-satisfying amount of touch, and give me that for a week. No dating, no kissing, nothing like that. Just touch. If I still want to date you after a week…”
She was nodding. Good, nodding was a good thing. “If you still want to date me after a week of regular touch, then we can assume it’s a genuine want.” She graced him with a small smile and took both his hands in hers. “That’s a clever idea, Arundel.”
His heart soared like he was flying. “I try,” he answered in complete honesty.
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Content warnings: no sexual content, but definite d/s.
Her Master dressed her for her first day of work. After three days of nudity, broken only by very brief times in a thin robe, the tailored skirt suit, with its brocade corset in lieu of a vest, felt like armor and like a prison all at once. With the skirt tight around her knees and the tall, pointed heels, her walking was constrained to short steps; with the steel of the corset over her ribs and waist, her back was forced straight.
He replaced the heavy collar with a delicate chain that pressed against her throat but looked, to those who didn’t know, like a piece of fine jewelry, and hung matching earrings from her lobes. “Perfect,” he whispered in her ear. “My perfect Pretty, my perfect assistant.” She blushed and said nothing, wishing she could crawl back to her place by his bed, where she knew exactly what was required of her and knew she could do it.
She rode in the back seat of his limo with him this time, not in the trunk. When he saw her gaze fall there as he walked her into the garage, he smiled knowingly. “Not when you’re working, pretty girl. Only when we’re playing.”
“Yes, sir,” she whispered, feeling the heat come to her cheeks. Playing. In such a short time, playing had become her whole reality. Was it just a hobby to him? Was she just a hobby?
As if reading her mind, he stroked her cheek. “Chin up, Pretty girl. You are my treasure, in the bedroom and in my office. Remember that. I value you for both roles. And now you must be Yaminah, be my executive assistant. I need you to be that woman now, who can handle people.”
She held her chin up, allowing herself a small smile. “Yes, sir. I can do that for you.” It might end up being the longest she’d held a job. She wondered if, when her time under him was through, he’d give her a reference.
“Very good. Now do well today, and I will reward you.” His thumb stroked across her cheek again. “I don’t need to tell you what will happen if you do badly, because I do not believe you have that in you.”
“No, sir.” Not when so much hinged on it. “I will do well for you, sir.”
He smiled at her. “While we are working, as you are Yaminah there, I am Mister Krake.”
“Mr. Krake.” She chuckled dutifully. “All right.”
“And here we are.” Through the windows of the limo, she could see a seven-story building, its style an odd mix of modern and ancient, almost like a reinvention of the castle. The gate lifted to allow them through, into an underground parking lot brightly-lit and brightly-painted in sea colors. “Once you’re settled, I’ll get you your own car, so you can come here when I’m busy doing other things. You’ll park in the spot next to mine.”
“Yes, Mr. Krake.” It was getting hard to breathe. She counted, slowly, to twenty, and forced a bright, happy smile on her face. “I can’t wait to start.”
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Dragons next Door has a landing page here.
“So.” Miss Milligan looked down at her hands.
“So?” Aud asked gently. “You called us here because you believed our daughter was telling tales, Samantha, right?”
“She seemed to be having a lot of trouble with the other students because of it?” the young teacher explained nervously. “And it seemed like… I’ve had students before, who were confused between fantasy and reality. It makes the world a hard place for them.”
“But you work in a school that caters to non-human students,” Sage pointed out. “Surely your students interact with non-humans.”
“Small non-humans!” the girl wailed. “Pixies. Maybe a gremlin. Elkin. The centaurs sometimes come near the school. Not dragons. Not ogres. Not races that eat people!”
“Actually,” Aud couldn’t help but point out, “very few of even the largest races eat human or other sentient meat, and they haven’t in decades. Certainly since the [fillnamehere] Conventions.”
The teacher waved a hand impatiently. “I know, I know. I read my history. But… do you think it’s really true? I mean, I’ve heard of humans eating Harpy meat.”
Sage collected himself first. He was less prone to shock, Aud thought, after his years on the police force. “You have?” he asked quietly. Very quietly.
She’d had time to read the horror in their expressions, and looked, more than anything, confused. “Well, yes. Haven’t you?”
“No,” Aud answered. “Not outside of horror novels and bad urban myths.”
“Oh.” The poor girl squirmed on her chair. “I guess we’re back to ignorance. I didn’t know anyone willingly spent time with… with dragons. With ogres.”
Audrey didn’t know what to think. The girl had a painful level of ignorance, the sort that could cause her all sorts of trouble – and by proxy, cause the school trouble. She didn’t seem to be a bigot, or the sort of hateful people that Aud knew all too well, but she definitely had… issues. And she was probably passing those issues on to her students.
“I’ll tell you what,” Audrey said slowly, “I work as a liaisons, sometimes, translating from the non-human races to the human institutions in the city. For the sake of the rest of Juniper’s school year, why don’t I do something similar for you?”
“Liaise?” She shrank into her chair.
“Not quite liaise, but… instruct. Explain. Teach,” she added, with a smile. “Over tea?”
“Over tea?” Miss Milligan studied her empty tea cup thoughtfully. “I’d like that, yes. Please.”
“Good.” Audrey stood up. “Shall we say every Wednesday after classes, does that work?”
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