Once the water had been refreshed, the servants hurried out of the room, and Yulen closed the door behind them. He walked over to the warrior girl, helping her to her feet, and took away the blanket. “Take off your clothes and climb in the tub,” he ordered.
She stared at him, then proceeded over to the tub and began to shed her wet things. Yulen watched from the other side of the room as she kept her back to him until she was totally nude, then gingerly stepped into the warm water, easing herself down into its depths. He smiled as she settled her head against the lip of the tub and her face broke into a relaxed smile. A little sigh of contentment escaped her.
“Feel good?” he asked nonchalantly. He dragged a small footstool over by the fire and parked himself so that he got the advantage of the warming flames on one side, and a perfect view of her bathing on the other.
Eyes closed, Atty’s reply was a loud sigh. How long had it been since she’d had the luxury of taking a warm, uninterrupted bath? The tub was an old, battered brass one, but it was large enough to easily hold two people-
Her eyes flew open at the realization, and she searched the room to find him sitting over by the fireplace, examining one of her new arrows. There was enough light in the room from the half-dozen candles and the fireplace to prevent her from hiding anything from his sharp eyes.
Not that there would ever be anything they wouldn’t know about each other after tonight.
Yulen noticed her looking over the edge of the tub and surmised what she was seeking. He got up and walked over to where he’d dumped the load of towels and found the bar of soap wrapped in a washcloth.
“Looking for this?” he asked, holding it up. He casually tossed it in her direction. She deftly caught it, but not before she’d had to stretch upward for it, revealing a glistening, round breast. He threw the washcloth directly into the water.
He started to return to the fire when a knock on the door alerted him to the servant girl bringing up a covered mug of milk. Condensation had formed on the outside of the metal tankard. Yulen thanked her, and this time he locked the door securely before taking the mug over to the tub.
For a long moment he watched as Atty drank deeply, and the simple act made him realize how different her life growing up had been from his. He always took the food and drink on the main table for granted, where she had been forced to go out and kill her dinner or face going hungry. Turning away from her, he hid the scowl that came over his face. From now on, he swore to himself, she’d never have to go out and kill for food unless she desired to. She’d never want for anything, not as long as he could help it.
He retook his seat and watched as she unbraided her hair, freeing it so she could wash it. Once it was cleaned, he knew its color would be more evident. How will it look in the morning with the sunlight streaming over it? he thought to himself as he visualized her lying across the sheets, asleep, her hair spread unbound across the pillows. The thought of her sleeping naked on the white linens sent a bolt of hunger through him, and he could feel himself tightening between his legs. Without realizing it, his gaze had fastened on the bed, and she noticed him staring at it.
“Are you going to make love to me tonight?” she asked outright, a small tremble in her voice.
His concentration broken, Yulen glanced at her. “Why do you ask?” he teased, a small smile on his lips. She had a tiny milk mustache on her upper lip.
She shrugged and lifted a knee, scrubbing the calf and foot. “I don’t know. Just wanted to know, I guess.”
“Lovemaking is supposed to be spontaneous,” he told her, still amused. “Besides, I want our first time to be special.” He enjoyed the surprised look she gave him.
“So you’re not going to . . . . I mean, we’re not going to, uhh . . .”
Yulen chuckled. “Do you want us to?”
“Tonight?” she whispered, wide-eyed.
“We’re not going to be disturbed again until the morning. We have all of tonight . . . if that’s what you wish.”
Her gaze involuntarily went to the locked door before traveling back to him. “I . . . don’t know what I want,” she admitted honestly. Nervously.
Lifting an eyebrow at her, he leaned back until his shoulders rested against the stone wall. He still held one of her crude arrows in his hand. Holding it up, he asked, “You did a good job making more of these in the short time you had.”
“They’d do in a pinch. I can do much better with the right tools.”
“Don’t get angry at me for this next question, but did you intend on snagging my scabbard? Or was that a happy coincidence? Were you aiming elsewhere?”
She threw a double handful of water over her face, erasing the soap and the mustache, then smiled. “I was aiming for your trouser leg, but I’d forgotten you lead with your left. So I got the scabbard instead.”
“I lead with my left?”
Atty nodded. “Don’t you notice such things with your enemies? Which hand they prefer? Which foot they lead with? Which ear they favor, or if they squint if they’re looking at a distance?” She blinked through the droplets trailing over her skin. “Yul?”
“Uhh, somewhat,” he managed to find his voice. Her skin had taken on a flushed hue from the warm water. With her hair down, and the playful twinkle in her eyes, she no longer resembled the trembling warrior girl who had faced him down in the forest clearing.
Rising slowly to his feet, he walked over to the tub and kneeled down beside it. He dipped a hand in the water as he kept his eyes on her face. Atty watched him, curious but unafraid.
He leaned over and found her lips. She hesitated for only a moment before lifting her wet hands and gingerly touching his face. Pulling back, Yulen searched her eyes as the tips of her fingers played over the several days’ growth covering his cheeks and chin. “Does it scratch?” he murmured.
“Sorry. When I take my bath, I’ll shave.”
She pulled back slightly in surprise. “You’re taking a bath?”
“Yes,” he chuckled at her expression. “You weren’t the only one soaked to the bone today, you know.”
“Do you want me to get out now?”
“No,” he shook his head. “Enjoy yourself. I’ll get in after you’re through.” He moved the hand he’d dipped into the water and his fingers found a smooth silkiness. Slowly he let them glide over the firm skin until he reached the inside of a knee. Atty kept her eyes locked on his, but he knew he was now in territory where she couldn’t claim expertise.
She moved her leg slightly, away from his fingers. Undeterred, Yulen lowered his hand further, unmindful of the water wrapping itself around his arm and shirt sleeve. He reached her leg again and knew it had nowhere else to retreat. The tips of his fingers stroked the tendons under her knee, then began to draw slow circles over her skin as he gently, carefully followed a secret path toward her belly.
Atty moved slightly, making the water splash against the side of the tub. Her gaze danced between his eyes and his lips as she began to feel things she’d never felt before. His touch tickled, yet it also sent little prickles of heat into the pit of her stomach . . . and lower. She took a ragged breath, too frightened to move. Afraid that if she did again, he’d stop whatever he was doing.
“Shhh.” He leaned inward again to kiss the side of her mouth, mindful of his rough exterior. His right hand lay across her shoulder, barely touching her neck as her wet hair lay like heavy silk across his fingers.
Now his left hand had reached the top of her thigh, but instead of continuing upward, his fingers turned and slowly, tantalizingly, torturously started to dip into the juncture between her legs. He found the soft curls hidden between their valley, and moved himself lower until she moaned softly against his cheek. A shiver ran through her body, forcing her to grasp the collar of his shirt. Yulen felt her eyelashes brush against his temple when she closed her eyes. She was slowly melting from the undeniable sensations he was bringing to her, spreading her legs to allow him easier access. And although he couldn’t deny the demands of his own body, or his pulsing hardness pressed against the side of the tub, he knew he had to prepare her for that moment when her body would be ready to accept him. Otherwise, her first time would shatter her, instead of bringing her the kind of pleasure he wanted her to remember . . . and want again.