She was late. But he was late to nearly everything just for the show of it, so it didn't bother Jimaya in the slightest as she rounded the final corner to Rensai's cottage. It was still bizarre to see the lamps lit before she arrived. After so many months of having to light them herself, the warm glow from within still felt more out of place than welcoming. Like someone else was waiting for her inside instead of the erstwhile enemy she'd come to tolerate.
An excited little shiver raced through her and she picked up her pace to match her pulse. Maybe he thought she'd forgotten. Maybe he wondered what important royal matters might have detained her, or how he measured up against all the other demands on her attention.
Jimaya had never seen Rensai self-conscious but she'd pay dearly for the opportunity.
Even she noticed the self-satisfied flush in her cheeks when she rapped her knuckles against the door. To her delight he whipped it open hardly a heartbeat later.
"Rensai," she sighed, smiling magnanimously. "I'm glad I'm not too late. I only just found the time––"
"Get in here," he growled as he dragged her inside by the arm. The slam of the door cut off her affronted yelp.
"What do you think you're––"
But he muffled her indignation with his lips on hers, hard and insistent. She swallowed the sound, her eyes wide, but he deepened their kiss and she could do nothing but melt against him. He sighed to feel her relax and pressed her up against the door.
"You risk a great deal treating your Empress so roughly," she managed when at last they parted. But it came out breathless; the words flitted like moths between reaching fingers. He stroked the back of her neck as he studied her mouth. Their bodies were flush. She wondered if he'd ever looked this hungry when his eyes were hidden behind their blindfold.
"You can handle it," he said lowly. "And you kept me waiting." He kissed her again, gentler. Teasing. He lingered close. "Shall I be sweeter?"
A setting lay atop the table. She noticed it when at last he took her hands and guided her to his bedroom. The kettle still rested in the hearth above the glowing remains of a fire gone low. But by then she was dizzy, they could hardly make it a few feet before coming together to kiss again, and Jimaya had no thoughts to spare for forgotten tea.
The lamps he'd lit illuminated the blaze in his eyes.