“You really are lovely, aren’t you?” Lady Taisiya put her arm around Sefton’s shoulders. She was a couple centimeters shorter than him, if that, not enough to make the gesture awkward. “And young.”
Sefton swallowed. “Yes, ma’am. I’m old enough, though,” he hurried to answer.
“Oh, I know. Your mother sent over all the paperwork when we were working up this deal. Besides—” Her voice took on a rueful tone “—I remember when you started school. The same year as my oldest son.”
Sefton felt his cheeks warming. “Yes, ma’am,” he repeated. That seemed safe enough.
“And now I’ve gone and made everything awkward. Come on, darling. I promise I’m not an old withered husk.”
“What?” Sefton stared at her in horror. “No, of course not! I mean, you’re beautiful!”
He couldn’t take the words back, and he wasn’t sure if he should or not. Sefton ducked his head, cheeks hot. She was beautiful, her eyes sparkling with life, her smile broad happy, her shoulders broad and yet delicate-seeming. She was more than beautiful; she was stunning. But did you say things like that to women? Did you say things like that to your wife?
She chuckled. “Oh, I knew I’d like you.”
Sefton risked a glance at her face; she looked pleased. Indeed, there was even a little warmth in her cheeks.
She took the chain between his wrists and tugged on it, pulling Sefton against her. “You’re sweet, and, what’s more, you look honest. Thank you, Feltian.”
Feltian. That was him. “Of course I’m honest with you, my Lady—”
“Come, come, what did I say?”
“Taisiya. I have been pledged to serve you.” He started to hold up his chained wrists, the classic gesture of submission, but she was already holding the chain.
She smiled, a look that seemed almost playful, and gave a tug on his chain. “You have, and I accepted the pledge, and here we are. In my chambers.”
Sefton nodded slowly. “Yes… Taisiya.” Years of being told always treat your Lady with respect and honor was running headlong into always be obedient and never give her cause to be upset with you. Sefton settled for saying her name as if it were a deity’s name, careful and reverent.
He was rewarded with a very warm smile. “Are you nervous?”
All of Onter’s advice vanished from Sefton’s mind. He answered as honestly as he could. “Of course, Taisiya. I want to please you.”
“Would it surprise you to learn that I’m nervous, too?”
“My Lady? I mean… I mean…” Sefton bobbed an awkward bow, since she was still holding his chains. This wasn’t going well!
“Look at me, Feltian.”
Feltian. Right. Sefton looked into her eyes. They were jade and malachite, three hues warring for dominance in a bright, regal pattern. She was smiling, too, one eyebrow raised in what he hoped was amusement.
“Taisiya?” he tried.
“Of course I’m nervous. There’s so much to a new husband — everyone’s different, you know, and what makes Onter pleased might freak you out — and juggling four husbands means four personalities to handle besides my own. But, more than that, we’ve had no chance to find out if we’re compatible. Most people don’t, of course. I suspect some people don’t care.”
Sefton gulped. “Compatible? He didn’t even know what she meant by the word. “I mean… my genes are good, ma’am.”
“I didn’t mean genetically. With fourth, fifth husbands, one can allow for less egglings anyway.” She smiled crookedly. “I have quite a few children already, as I’m sure you’ve seen. No, I meant… Well, I meant personality-wise. Will we get along? Can we stand each other? And, of course, there’s also sexual compatibility.”
“Taisiya.” This time, her voice was a little more firm. “If you make me tell you again, I will spank you, and you don’t seem like the sort to enjoy that.”
Enjoy… punishment? Sefton’s cheeks grew hot and he ducked his head. “I’m sorry, Taisiya, it’s just that, my Lady, I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”
“What do they teach boys in school?”
He wasn’t sure if it was a question actually aimed at him or not, but Sefton answered, carefully. “Math, figures. History, child-rearing. Basic combat skills and basic literature. Biology and some chemistry.”
She chuckled at him and patted his head. Sefton resisted an urge to snarl or snap at her, like a dog who hadn’t been well-enough trained. “I’d forgotten how raw and fragile new husbands are. Thank you, that was a very thorough answer. Come here, my dear, sit down next to me and try to relax.” She led him to a low couch which overlooked a magnificent view of the coast — her coast, Sefton realized. “So, the questions end up being: what do you like, what do I like, and where do the two intersect?”
“M… “ Sefton shut his mouth and just blinked.
Taisiya sighed. “…They just told you to do what it took to make me happy, didn’t they?”
“Well, yes,” Sefton blurted out. “You’re in charge.”
“Yes,” Taisiya answered patiently. Sefton would have been far more concerned about her tone if it didn’t seem like she was annoyed at someone that wasn’t him. “And what it pleases me to have, as the one in charge, is lovers who wish to be in my bed and partners who wish to spend time with me — and vice versa. So, compatability.” Now she smiled, and Sefton thought she looked playful. “Don’t worry so much, Feltian. It’s not something you need to do, it’s something we need to find out. Together.”
Sefton swallowed around the dryness in his throat. He was worrying. She didn’t like worrying, was that what Onter had said? “How — How do we do that, Taisiya?”
She smiled at him. It seemed as if he’d finally said the right thing. “Well, my dear Feltian, we get to know each other. Then we go from there.”
Chapter 7: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1175837.html
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