IL VEDOVO COR
Renato closed the door to the bedchamber, his hand still shaking as it held the handle, the same hand which still had Riccardo’s blood on it. He could feel it, staining and seeping through his skin, poisoning him with an immeasurable guilt and anguish that he knew would never leave him for as long as he lived. The feel of the knife in his hand was still vivid in his mind and whenever he closed his eyes he heard the gasp Riccardo had made when the blade had gone through him. The air had left him in a sound that had rung with pain and surprise, and it was that surprise that would haunt Renato’s days and nights. The surprise from his king, his friend, his lover. In Riccardo’s eyes, the shock of being killed by the only man he trusted, the one who had told him that he loved him. Yes he had loved Riccardo… He still loved him. He would have died for him but now he had killed him. That hand which had spent many an afternoon touching and caressing now had a dark red brand that would never truly wash away.
As Renato moved to clean his hands in the basin, he heard Amelia’s sobs as she undressed, removing her blood-stained costume, her mask long forgotten. Turning back to his task, Renato watched the water soon become pink as he rubbed the dried blood from his hands and it dissolved into liquid. Riccardo was leaving him drop by drop and it felt wrong. It felt wrong to watch him disappear like this, as if he had never been, as if Renato had never killed him.
Though his hands now looked clean, he looked at himself in the mirror and saw the red streaks on his cheeks, the last trace of Riccardo’s touch. His friend had taken his face in his hand as he was dying, softly brushing his cheekbone with his blood soaked thumb as he had always done during those quiet moments before it had all gone wrong, a last caress and a forgiveness that Renato would never accept. Dampening a piece of cloth in the reddened water, Renato wiped off the blood from his face, scrubbed his skin clean until it was red and angry.
Turning around, he saw Amelia standing next to the window in her nightdress, her shawl tightly wrapped around her as she hugged her arms close. She had stopped crying and now only had a blank expression as she stared at the quiet street below. Looking at her standing there with her dark hair loose down her back and her reddened eyes and cheeks, his remorse only heightened and he hated her for it. He knew she blamed him and she was right because at that moment he had wanted to kill Riccardo…
But he had wanted to kill him because of her and her only. Had she not understood that Riccardo had been his? That she had been his and his alone? Had she not understood that them betraying him would have killed him… and instead it had killed Riccardo. He knew she felt guilty but he still felt a profound anger towards her even though he loved her desperately. He saw her there with the wind softly undulating the delicate fabric of her nightgown and he wanted to lose himself in her. He wanted to kiss her and love her until he forgot Riccardo and the blood on his conscience.
Renato stared at her as he slowly took off his coat and unbuttoned his stained waistcoat with no small amount of difficulty, his shaking fingers unable to grasp the buttons properly. He swore under his breath at his weakness, wishing his trembling hands weren’t such a pitiful reminder of the deep gash of pain in his heart. Amelia, hearing this, turned her head towards him and, immediately taking notice of his problem, silently moved to him and took his hands in hers, softly brushing them away.
She kept an impassive face as her delicate fingers made short work of his buttons and he wondered how she was not shaking as well. How was it that she seemed so calm? How dare she be so emotionless… He wanted her to scream at him, to hurt him in any way she could. This silence tortured him.
When she reached the last button, she pushed his waistcoat from his shoulder and he felt her hair brush up against his face in a soft caress that set him aflame. She moved to step away from him when he was left in only his linen shirt but he took her elbow with hand to stop her. “Wait. Amelia .”
She said nothing, only looking at him with drained, empty eyes and he swallowed, pained. She had no life in her and he would have done anything to send a spark through her and see her alive again as she had been only mere hours ago. He didn’t know what to say so he simply gestured to the knots in his cravat, knowing she would understand. She did and, as she stepped towards him again without a word, he felt her cold fingers brush up against his throat as she untied the tight knots in the linen cloth.
He searched her face, that face which he knew and loved so well, that face which had smiled at him once. He wanted her to smile at him again but he knew he would get no such expression from her tonight. Still, right now he would be content with anything, anything other than the expressionless mask she was currently wearing.
When the knots were finally undone and Amelia started pulling on the linen strips to slide them free of his collar, Renato gave in and quickly took Amelia’s face in his hands, crushing his mouth to hers in a bruising kiss that was more provocation than love.
Emitting a muffled cry, she put her hands against his chest and pushed him off, breaking the kiss. The outraged light in her eyes lit a fire in him even as her voice rose to an affronted cry. “How dare you!” He ignored her words and caught her waist with his hands, leaving a trail of open-mouthed kisses across her neck and collarbone. He heard her breathing quicken and she did not push him off immediately.
Nuzzling the crook of her neck, he spoke in a deep voice that made her shiver in his arms. “I need you Amelia. I need this.” He heard her intake of breath but she stayed still for a moment. He knew her so well that he could hear her think.
After a while, he felt her hand on his nape and raised his head to meet her dark eyes, feeling a heat rush through him as the mix of desire and anger he saw in them. Her voice shook with pain and frustration. “I hate you.” He swallowed and nodded. “I know.” He hated himself more than she ever could, but as of now he didn’t care because he felt the touch of her lips against his again as she raised herself to him and quietly moaned in his mouth.
Not wasting a moment, he crushed her to him with a strong grip as he kissed her desperately, losing himself in her, all of the violence he felt in his heart dissipating in the warm strokes of his tongue against hers. He felt her hands gripping his hair and a groan fell from deep in his throat as his hands began moving across her back and her hips to her backside to push her more against him.
Amelia gave a low moan as she felt his arousal and pressed her thighs together to quiet the warm pulsing sensations between her legs. She felt completely helpless against her desire for him and even if she knew it was wrong she wanted to forget herself in him, to forget that he had broken her heart and killed the man she loved. She wanted to melt into his arms and never wake, to fall into the comfort of his familiar touch, his burning touch. Her hands lowered from their hold in the softness of his hair to his collar and she tugged on his shirt.
Understanding her, Renato broke away from her for a moment to pull the fabric over his head, groaning as he immediately felt the touch of her hands against his bare chest, sending shivers through him. Bringing her back flush to him, he lowered his head to find her mouth, but she shifted her head to the right to kiss his neck instead, lightly sucking and biting at the delicate skin as her hand slid back into his hair. He closed his eyes and let out her name as a shaky moan. “ Amelia .”
When she pulled away, looking at him with her pupils so dilated that her eyes looked black as night, he couldn’t help but kiss her softly, the caring, languid movement of his lips a thank you. She felt so right in his arms, like she belonged there and for a moment that feeling of emptiness in his chest made way to a growing warmth. He wanted - needed - more than this though.
Breaking away after a moment, he spoke in a voice hoarse with unsatisfied desire. “I want to see you.” He saw a flash of arousal in her eyes and he shifted on his feet, his erection growing very uncomfortable against the fabric of his breeches. She said nothing, instead, she tugged on the string at the collar of her nightgown and let the garment fall to the ground so that she was bare before him.
He stood still for a moment, simply looking at her in the candlelight, the desire in his eyes thrilling her, warming her. Then, ever so slowly, he raised his hand to cup her breast, his thumb running over the now hardened nipple sending sparks downwards from her back to between her legs. Amelia let out a breathy moan and in an instant, his mouth had replaced his hand at her breast, licking and sucking as his hands moved to her backside to pick her up and press her up against him again. She gasped and one of her hands went in his hair, lightly pulling as her other hand anchored itself on his shoulder while he moved her towards the bed. His mouth pulled away from her nipple with an audible pop as his knees hit the side of the bed and he not-too-roughly tossed her on the mattress. She was devoid of his warmth for only a second as he quickly climbed over her, his mouth taking her own in a possessive open mouthed kiss that made her grind against his thigh to relieve the nearly painful throbbing she felt.
While he was still kissing her, Renato moved his hand lower, lightly brushing over the downy hair on her stomach towards the pulsing center between her legs, both moaning raggedly as he felt how wet she was against his fingers. Making her writhe as he teased her with his touch, he entered her with two fingers and she moved against him, breaking away from his mouth to let out a series of low moans as her breathing became more erratic. Seeing the strain of his arousal against his breeches, she moved an unsteady hand to unbutton them, sliding her hand under the fabric to grip his erection and getting rewarded with a shuddering groan from deep within his throat as she touched him in the way she knew he liked, his hand all the while continuing to make her feel as if she were in a haze of pleasure as she tensed up more and more.
Then as he felt her come close, he muttered a curse and removed his hand from between her legs, licking it clean before taking both of her hands and pinning them over her head, admiring the sight of her flushed and breathless. He wanted her so much that it physically hurt him to stay still but he still had to know if she desired this as much as he did. “Do you want this Amelia?” She looked at him as if he were mad to ask this of her at this point even though she should’ve been used to him by now.
He knew she hated herself for her weakness towards him, but he would never take her unless she told him to. Closing her eyes, her voice came out as a throaty whisper as she wrapped her legs around his hips to bring him closer. “ Yes .”
Without wasting another moment, he positioned himself with his hand and entered her in one fluid motion, letting out a low moan as he felt her tight warmth envelop him. As he began moving, she shifted her hands from over her head to his back, her nails digging into his skin. Lowering his head, he lightly bit and kissed her neck before beginning to pound roughly into her, feeling himself come closer and closer to his peak. He could feel and hear that she was also close so he only needed to lower a hand between them and touch the bud of nerves she had there to make her fall apart around him, moaning and desperately clutching at him. The feel of her orgasm around him also sent him over the edge and he spilled himself in her, groaning against her neck as waves of pleasure overtook him.
When they had both stopped shaking, neither of them moved or spoke for a moment, they only stayed there, interlaced, breathing heavily, content. After a while however, Renato feared that he would crush her with his weight so he pulled away and rolled over to his side of the bed, sliding under the covers as he watched Amelia do the same.
He wondered what was going on through her mind, if the temporary pleasure had driven away some of the resentment, of the heartbreak. Feeling his gaze on her, she turned on her side to face him and he felt his heart drop at the sadness that had once again overtaken her eyes. Riccardo still came between them even now that he was gone and Renato cursed Amelia’s grief for reminding him of what he had done. When she finally spoke, her voice was quiet but firm as her eyes held his. “This changes nothing.”
He had expected it but it still felt as if she were twisting a dagger in him as she lay there, still flushed from his touch. He wanted to put his hand on hers, to pull her into his arms and kiss her until she forgave him, but he knew it would be useless. Her mind hated him and it was his own fault. And so he only nodded, speaking in a resigned voice. “I know.”
He watched her turn to the other side so that her naked back was to him and he cursed her for being so lovely that he was completely helpless at her feet. They were happy once… He had made her happy once. But now… Now he wasn’t sure if he would ever know such happiness again.