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Too Close for Comfort

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The storm that had once been in the distance now growled overhead and I knew we’d have to stop. The weather didn’t affect me, but I knew Emilia wouldn’t last ten more kilometers before exhaustion or cold claimed her.

“This will have to do.” I shrugged off my jacket and gently hung it on an outstretched branch, before rolling up my sleeves and gathering tree limbs.

“What are you doing?” She asked.

“Building shelter. Unless you’d like to sleep in a storm, I suggest grabbing some evergreen branches and beating the ice off of them. We’ll use the ones you collect to lay on.”

She gawked at me, “I am not sleeping with you.”

I wasn’t sure if it was the corridor dragging her mind that way or if it was bond, but all I did was snap branches and reply, “Your choice. But I will not nurse you back to health when you fall ill.” I gave her a pointed look, “If you don’t want to freeze to death, I suggest moving swiftly.”

I returned to collecting, avoiding her probable glare, when her slippers stomped into the snowy distance. I assembled a structure suitable for shelter under a large evergreen when Emilia returned to our make-shift campsite.

I held out my hand expectantly, “Hand them over.” She whacked them into my palm one at a time as I fashioned a double layer of leaves for us to sleep on. I had seen her fingers were red with cold and began unbuttoning my shirt. I could feel her eyes roam my back.

The witch seemed to regain her composure as she swallowed, “Why are you undressing? Are you affected by the magic here, too?” Hardly, despite the winter chill I had worked up a sweat. Meanwhile I eyed the obnoxious corset whose harsh metal depicted sharp thorny vines which were molded to her bodice. I snapped my gaze away from her chest, mentally cursing myself, when I instructed her to take it off, not wanting her to freeze in a ribcage of cold metal.

“I’d rather not,” she gawked at me, “What in the seven hells do you think you’re doing?”

“Giving you something to wear so you don’t freeze your ass off in that metal.” I extended my shirt to her, when a mental image of her sleeping with nothing on entered my mind, I held it back smirking, “Unless you’d rather sleep in the nude. Lady’s choice.” My choice too, if I had one. I couldn’t tell if she was blushing or if the cold had gotten to her cheeks.

“Why can’t you just magic more clothing?” she asked.

“Any use of magic during your first journey in the Sin Corridor is considered interference.”

“You magicked a cloak.” She countered, gesturing to fabric that would serve as a good barrier for her tonight.

“Before we crossed into the true underworld.” I explained.

“What will you sleep in?” She was full of questions tonight, but I didn’t deign this one with a verbal answer as I raised my brow suggestively. Realization hit her as she mumbled a plethora of curses.

I chuckled to myself and retrieved my jacket from outside. I returned moments later to see Emilia wrestling with her corset, tugging this way and that at the unyielding metal. My body filled up what remaining space the shelter offered. She continued struggling, clawing at her back, her fury palpable and intoxicating in this close proximity.

“I need your help. I can’t undo it myself.”

“Turn around.” She obliged and I saw the ribbons trailed down her back and required a second set of nimble hands to undo. I had seen her naked before, but there was still something so tantalizing about getting consent to be this close with this little clothing.

“Try not to look too thrilled, or I might think you like me.” Insufferable witch. As if my consciousness and dreams weren’t plagued with her. As if the bond she created and I accepted hadn’t shredded what little soul I had and drove me feral.

“Count your blessings.” I said, “My liking you would be a dangerous thing.” My finger grazed down her spine and I wasn’t sure if she shivered from my touch or the cold.

She let out a snort, “Why? Would you ruin me for all other demon princes?”

I tugged at the ribbons, a smile escaping my lips, “Something close.”

Seconds later the corset was undone, but she still clutched it to her chest. I couldn’t see her face, but I could feel her mind running as she conjured an image that made her teeth clench. She seemed to snap out of it, her face perplexed as she tried to name the emotion.

“Envious.” I offered, feeling the jealousy rise in her, but unsure what initiated it.

She whipped around, her cheeks rosy, “Stop reading my emotions.”

I stiffened, but said, “The corridor will continue testing you.” My eyes flickered to the invisible mark I’d imprinted on her neck. “Shut down as many of your emotions as possible. They’re only going to get more intense from this point forward. Aside from fear, this world thrives on both sin and desire in equal measure.”

“Isn’t desire the same as lust?” A common mortal misconception, but simply put I didn’t lust after Emilia. I desired her. Wanted her to be mine and be hers in every way.

“No. You can desire riches, power, or status. Friendship or vengeance. Desires are more complex wants than mere sins. Sometimes they’re good. Other times they reflect insecurities. This world is influenced by those who rule it. Over time it’s come to toy with us all.”

She seemed to accept the answer as I removed my crown and settled down to sleep. I suddenly became very interested in the veins of a leaf overhead as I saw her bare skin in my peripheral. She buttoned up my oversized shirt and inhaled my scent, a wave of calm enveloping her. She nestled down beside me, as far apart as she could get when she dragged her eyes over my bare chest.

“Aren't you going to put your jacket back on?“

“Stop having filthy thoughts about me and get some rest.” I teased, my eyes already closed.

A shot of indignant anger came from her, “I should have killed you when I had the chance.”

I rolled to my side, taking in her beautiful flushed face before answering, “Sleep.”

We laid in silence for a long while, but I continued to feel her emotions as she alternated from envy to anger to lust and back again. I drifted in and out of sleep, reading her when her emotions settled into lust. I didn’t move, lustful dreams were quite common for mortals. Dreams were the place where their guilt didn’t have to follow them. I was just glad the elements weren’t getting to her too badly. She shivered under the cloak, of course, but as soon as dawn broke we’d head for the castle and get out of the cold. Though I couldn’t read her mind, I could feel the intensity of her dream. I turned to see her back and realized what I thought were shivers was actually her hips rolling.

I went hard at the sight and at the thought of her replicating that motion on me. If she’d allow it, I would come up behind her, my body heat providing warmth and she felt my desire press into her. I would blow warm air to her ear, trailing kisses down her neck; pausing to trace my tongue down my mark. Her moans would spur me on as I wrapped my arms around her and began toying with her breasts, rubbing over the tips to make them taught.

I wouldn’t stop there, I would go lower, trail my fingers down her bare stomach til I reached the hem of her trousers. I would allow my fingers to wring wave-crashing pleasure over her, but go no further. I refused to bed her on a snow sodden cloak in a cramped twig shelter. She deserved the softest bed with silken sheets and a crackling fire in the hearth. Naturally, my room came to mind.

Before anything could happen, she had to know the truth, that the bond we shared was the only bond. That this nonexistent arrangement with Pride wasn’t real. She would have to make a conscious decision to choose me and she couldn’t do that without knowing everything and she certainly couldn’t do it here in the corridor.

Her heart was pounding like hummingbirds wings and I wanted nothing more than to come up behind her and duplicate her desires. Her rolling hips had hiked her skirt up in the heat of this dreamt passion. Emilia’s hands reached at the top button and yanked it free. She unclasped four of them and then the remainder, shrugging it off as she moaned, “Wrraaaath.”

I stopped her before I came undone, “While your current illusion sounds wildly interesting. You might want to put your clothes on. The temperature is well below freezing now.”

The chill outside was nothing compared to the one felt in the shelter now. She didn’t answer right away, only glanced around at the discarded clothing. “Is something wrong?” She breathed, skin still exposed, “Did we break a rule?”

I wanted to scoff. Nearly a hundred rules had been broken since the moment she’d first summoned me. This was hardly the time for moral reflection. Still, she glanced behind her, looking for whoever had riled her so thoroughly and I had gotten confirmation that it was me.

It was an intense effort to forgo my most devilish grin as I said, “I tried to warn you. Your longings will taunt and tease you into oblivion if you can’t control them. This is a realm of sin and desire. It depends on your vices for its survival the same way the human world requires oxygen and water. If you lose control for a second, it will pounce. And not always in the way you believe it will. For example, if you were thinking of hatred, it might test to see if the opposite could be true.”

“I-” she trailed off, at a loss for words. I felt her embarrassment and shame and wanted nothing more than to comfort her. To stroke and hold her and tell her I felt all of those feelings for her too. But now was not the time nor the place.  “That wasn’t real… any of it?”

I gathered my resolve and as if I hadn’t made enough vows and deals to last ten thousand lifetimes, I made her one I knew I would keep. “One thing I can promise,” I whispered, “is you won’t ever doubt it’s real when I touch you.”

Her emotions warred between embarrassment, frustration, and delicious fury. She snatched the discarded shirt and rebuttoned it before hunkering down and saying, “Someone’s cocky.”

My wicked tongue lashed before the thought entered my mind, “Says the person rubbing up against my c-“

Pure fury now, “Finish that sentence and I’ll smother you in your cursed sleep, demon.”

I chuckled to myself, picturing her straddling me, the feel of her on top of me, even if the cloak were to suffocate me seconds later, I’d go blissfully.