The Blood Pact Ch. 09

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Babes

Master Oringel sent me on my way, but not before instructing me to return to his chambers when I was ready to be changed back. He said he would probably be there all night but if not I should find something else to do while I waited for him. I didn’t bother to point out that there wasn’t much I could do dressed I now was.

I knew the back door of the Master Oringel’s tower was in one of the most remote parts of the keep and that there wouldn’t be anyone out there, but it still took a colossal amount of courage to leave his rooms. I’d gotten somewhat used to being dressed like that, even if I wouldn’t have chosen to wear anything like if it was up to me, but stepping out into the public realm suddenly made everything different. I knew I looked good, but I was also relatively certain no woman had ever worn anything like this dress in the halls of the keep.

It took several minutes of quite preparation before I proceeded up to the higher levels. Most the activates were starting to wind down at that hour, but there were still more than enough servants around that I was seen right away. Most of them didn’t even try to hide their stares. I knew I was turning red, but I ignored them and just kept walking.

In one of the halls I even passed Greta. She had her sleeves rolled up and her hair tied back, carrying a bucket of dirty water. Catching sight of me, her eyes opened wide and she nearly dropped the bucket.

“Stephanie, is that you? WHERE did you get that dress?”

I just knew that damn wizard had gone and made a fool of me by dressing me like this. Unfortunately it was too late to do anything about it. The entrance to the royal gardens was just ahead. It would be far easier to hurry on ahead rather than going back over all the ground I’d just covered. Besides, it was doubtful Master Oringel would even change the dress to something more respectable even if I begged him to do so. I could only hope Sir Ruvano didn’t find as much fault with my wardrobe as Greta did.

“I’m sorry, I don’t have time to talk right now,” I said as I all but ran past, leaving her standing there with mouth agape.

The large arched opening in the side of hallway lead out onto a veranda with multiple levels that were all decoratively arranged with potted plants. The sun was near the horizon, but there was till plenty of light to see the extensive gardens contained within those high walls.

I hurried through the arch, thankful to put Greta’s prying eyes behind me, but in the process, I nearly ran into a towering wall of muscle and steel. I recognized him instantly as the man with the scar who’d been accompanying Sir Ruvano earlier.

“Hey now, where do you think you’re going?” He placed his hand on my chest to keep me from going any farther. His fingertips felt especially rough against my bare skin. Though they was nowhere near my breasts, it still felt like a terrible violation of my personal space. Not that he seemed to care. In fact, seeing the way he licked his lips, I knew he was hoping I might give him an opportunity to touch even more of my body. I backed away hastily, not wanting to give him any such chance.

“I’m here to meet Sir Ruvano,” I stammered. “I’m Stephanie.” Calling myself that name still hadn’t gotten any more natural.

He smiled, a sinister expression without any warmth in it at all. “That’s too bad.”

“What? Why? Is he not here?” My heart sank. I couldn’t have gone through all this trouble for nothing. And even if I didn’t see Sir Ruvano, Master Oringel was probably still going to want his payment. Could this evening have gotten any worse?

“No, he’s here,” the guard said. “It’s too bad for ME. If he wasn’t meeting you, I wouldn’t let you go anywhere.” I didn’t like the way he was looking at me. If anything, his expression had become even more lecherous than it had been just a few moments ago. “Go ensest porno on,” he said after a moment, pointing with his chin. “He’s waiting for you down there.”

Hesitantly, I sidestepped around him and made my way to steps he’d indicated. However, as I did so, he slapped my ass. With a gasp, I turned to find him smiling down at me. “If things don’t go over well with Sir Ruvano, come and find me. If you don’t, I’ll make sure you regret it.”

And I believed that he would. He didn’t look like the sort who made idle threats.

“I…I…”

It was just for the money, I told myself. Just one night and never again. I simply had to make sure Sir Ruvano didn’t find any reason to send me into the arms of this thug.

Without further word, I turned and rushed down the stairs, past pots and beds of exotic flowers I’d never seen the like of before. Several different terraces opened off at different levels but none of them were occupied. At the very bottom, a sizable hedge enclosed a final series of patios that were each tied together with shared plantings. On one of them was arranged a table and chairs and sitting there was the man I’d come here to meet. With his back turned to me, I had a moment to compose myself before going any further. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

It was just for the money.

“Sir Ruvano?”

He shot to his feet with a start but froze the instant he laid eyes on me. “My word…”

I practically turned and ran right at that moment. I knew these clothes had been a mistake. “I know the dress is rather silly, but a…friend of mine said it would — “

He came hurrying over, cutting me off in mid-sentence. “No, my dear Stephanie, don’t ever demean yourself like that. You’re absolutely radiant! And that dress…that dress looks wonderful on you. It’s a Treppenkarrow style, isn’t it?”

“Y-yes. I’m told it’s all the fashion these days.”

“Yes it is, but on you it’s elevated even beyond those avant-garde standards.” He took my hand in his and kissed it. I had to fight the urge to cringe. “I’m so glad you chose to honor me with your company this evening. I must admit I was a little worried I might never see you again.”

“Well, your offer was too tempting to pass up…” I said. The smile dropped from his face for a moment, but I suppose that was only to be expected. After all, I’d basically just told him that I was merely there for the money. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything about it. But if I hadn’t, he might have assumed I’d come because I was honestly interested in him. “I mean, you did say it was a standing offer…”

“Yes, yes of course.” He again kissed my hand. “I’m simply glad we can share this time together.”

I forced myself to smile but could barely look him in the eye. He must have taken it as demure charm because his smile grew tender once again. “Come please. I got you something.”

Taking me by the hand, he lead me over to the table where he’d been sitting. There he handed me a flat package wrapped in white paper. Presents now too? This whole evening could easily spiral beyond what I could handle.

“Go ahead, open it,” he said.

Again I did my best to smile. Inside was a large piece of white silk, trimmed around the edges with delicate tassels and elaborate pearlescent embroidery. A shawl, I realized much later than it should have taken any real woman to figure out. I’d seen many of the noblewomen wearing ones similar, but seldom this elaborate. I had to remind myself that made it just the sort of gift any real woman would simply love to receive.

“Oh, it’s beautiful!” I did my best to sound honesty impressed, though in truth, I’d never much understood what purpose a shawl of this sort served. It was so light it wouldn’t offer much warmth and all that decoration would only get in the way and attract asyalı porno dirt. And now that he’d given it to me, what was I supposed to do with it? “I, um, love it.”

“I’m glad. Here let me help you with it.” Taking it from me, he wrapped it around my shoulders and crossed the ends in front, gently lifting my hair out from underneath. Stepping back, he beamed as he looked me over. “Yes, it suits you well. I thought it would serve you far better than that sweaty scarf I gave you last night.”

Well, I did have to admit I no longer felt quite so exposed with it covering my shoulders. Depending on how I held the ends, I could even use it to help conceal the ample cleave revealed by the dress. Maybe it did have its uses after all.

“Would you like some wine?” Without waiting for my reply, he filled two goblets from the carafe on the table and handed one to me.

I took a sip if for no other reason than to avoid seeing the way he kept looking at me. However, that one sip quickly turned into another. I’d never had wine of that quality before. It was only a frantic reminder from some distant part of my brain that kept me downing it all in one gulp. I was supposed to be acting like a woman, not some uncouth stable hand.

“It’s quite good,” I said.

“It’s from my private stock,” he said, taking a sip of his own cup but looking at me over the rim the whole time. “Have you ever been though the gardens before?”

I shook my head and took another sip of wine. He knew quite well that I was merely a common servant girl — that is, he knew Stephanie was — of course I’d never seen the royal gardens before. They were a private retreat for only the highest ranking members of the household

“They’re quite exquisite this time of year when everything is in bloom. I’d love to show them to you if you’d like.”

Flowers had never been that much of an interest for me, but again, most women seemed to love the things. “Yes, that would be lovely.”

“Wonderful.” He set his goblet aside and beckoned me out onto the path that lead away from the veranda. I hastily finished the last gulp of wine I’d been right in the middle of and set my goblet aside as well.

Though filling a relatively small space, the royal gardens were extensive, carefully arranged to turn each small patch of lawn into its own private room. Pristinely shaped hedges directed our views and lead us from one place to the next. Underfoot, every blade of grass was manicured more evenly than any of the finest rugs. I’d never given much credit to the garden keepers before, but now that I was seeing their work up close, I realized that they were true artists. There was more to see in that single walled plot than one could ever hope to take in after even a dozen visits.

However, without pockets to put my hands into, walking beside Sir Ruvano made me feel quite ungainly and out of place. That is, until I realized he was offering me his arm. I smiled to hide my embarrassment and hooked my hands over his elbow as I’d seen women do. Despite the closeness it put the two of us in, it certainly made things much easier for me. He lead the way and I had merely to follow. But no matter where we went, it seemed as if we had the entire place to ourselves. If Sir Ruvano had arranged that, or if it was just coincidence, he would not say.

At first, I had to remind myself with each step to keep smiling and nodding at his explanations of this plant or that flower. But it wasn’t long before I was actually growing interested in what he was saying. I didn’t care if it was just my feminine side taking over, those flowers were actually quite beautiful. There were also more of them than I could ever hope to remember. Some were so exotic-looking I almost couldn’t believe they were real. Others filled the air with fragrances more intoxicating than the gizli çekim porno finest liquors. There were also more butterflies and hummingbirds than I ever could have imagined. They all bobbed in and out amongst the blooms without any fear at all of the two people watching them. I’d never suspected that anything so wondrous existed right within the very walls I’d grown up in.

However, the sun was setting quickly. It was a shame that we’d only covered a fraction of everything there was to see. After tonight, I’d never have another chance to experience these wonders ever again.

“Not to worry, my dear,” Sir Ruvano said, obviously detecting my unspoken regret. “The truly beautiful flowers open only after dark.”

There was a grotto ahead where we sat on a stone bench and talked quietly for a time, but there wasn’t much for either of us to say — my own life was quite common and, in most ways, fabricated and his concealed behind secrets he was either unwilling or unable to share. As twilight gave way to darkness, however, the garden did indeed come to life around us in a whole new way.

Again we resumed our tour and Sir Ruvano showed me Silver Pixie Cups that twinkled like stars in the night sky and Shining Flamestars that glowed with in a rainbow of unearthly hues like the result of some wizard’s spell. My favorite of all were the Ruby Plaxias with their long bell-shaped flowers that throbbed gently from within with a pinkish glow. The moment they were touched, however, their petals flashed to life with a brilliant crimson blaze before slowly fading back into the darkness. As a host of night insects worked their way from flower to flower, we were treated to a show just as spectacular as any firework’s display.

There were other creatures about as well. In fact, as I was reaching out to examine the star-shaped bloom of some clinging vine, a strange little squirrel came scurrying out of the thick foliage and raced all the way up my arm before he realized it wasn’t a tree branch. Before hopping into a nearby hedge and disappearing from sight, he paused long enough to lick my face with a tongue as long as his body.

“You must be more sweet than all these flowers for him to have made that mistake,” Sir Ruvano said.

I found myself giggling like a little girl despite all my intentions never to do anything so completely foolish.

Shortly thereafter, we came around a corner and I was just as enthralled by the flowers there as by the ones I’d seen in every other corner of the garden. It was only after a moment I realized we were not alone. The large silhouette of a man loomed in the shadows, staring down as us in stony silence. Involuntarily I shrieked and jumped back. Unfortunately, that merely carried me right into Sir Ruvano’s arms. He seemed unconcerned by this stranger.

“Ivan sends word that dinner will be ready shortly,” the man said. It was only then that I recognized him as the same guard from before. Sir Ruvano nodded and the man strode off toward the keep.

“I hope my chaperone didn’t startle you too badly.” Sir Ruvano said as he cradled me in his arms.

I was acting like a fool. I had no reason to be scared, but I felt so frail in this body I couldn’t help myself. I pulled away from him and straightened my shawl as a pretense to regaining my composure. It had fallen to my elbows during the course of the evening, but I pulled it protectively up around my shoulders. The night wasn’t all that cold, but I shivered all the same.

“In my line of work,” he said, “I inadvertently make a lot of enemies. I can never be too careful, even within the castle.”

“That’s perfectly understandable,” I said.

I think I was finally starting to understand him. As a spymaster, he needed to unearth all those hidden threats to the kingdom before it was too late to do anything about them. He wasn’t doing these things for his own advancement, but in the service of the crown. His work demanded that he be harsh, but he was not actually a harsh man. I almost felt sorry that someone with a heart as gentle as his had to put on those airs and constantly live in suspicion of everyone around him.

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