An Evening Out

Liao's husband came to her at mid-day, as she was clearing away the lunch she had made for herself. Although it was part of his magic that he did not speak between sunrise and sunset, any more than he ate then, she knew what he wanted as soon as he took hold of the knot of her sash. Lately, he had taken to coming to her during the day; when she had asked why, he had said something about astrological significators that he knew she wouldn't understand. She also didn't understand how he could do astrology in this patchwork city where even the sun and moon seemed the work of a committee and the lights blotted out the stars, but she knew better than to question it.

In the room they shared on those few nights of the month that they spent together, he tugged on the end of her sash and her light house robe fell open, spreading around her as she lay back on the red covers of her marriage bed. She supposed she should be pleased that it never took more than the sight of her naked, waiting body to make him ready; as always, by the time he had finished with the ivory buttons of his scholarly white gown, he was bulging strongly against his trousers. In truth, though, she preferred the times he couldn't perform.

As always, he disrobed completely, hanging his gown on the corner of the bed canopy and folding his trousers on a chair, so that his wiry, age-spotted body was completely bare when he mounted her. She had long since given up hope of his showing any affection or the consideration for her body that she had been told made this a pleasure, so could not possibly be disappointed when he pinned her arms down and laid his full weight atop her, crushing half the breath from her lungs.

She smelt on his breath none of the elixirs he sometimes used to make him able to take her three or four times in a row, so she knew he would be soon finished, and was miserably grateful for it, though she kept her face blank as a statue's. She was right; after no more than three minutes of steady thrusting, he groaned and crushed her hips against the bed with his own, shuddering as he spurted into her. That part seemed to take much longer than usual; she supposed the herbs he was taking to increase his seed were working.

When he climbed off her, the first thing he did was turn over the sand-clock on the nightstand, which would run for the third of an hour he had calculated as being optimum for his seed to work its way into her womb. Then he cleaned himself with a cloth, dressed, patted her belly absently, and left, his thoughts already far away.

When he had first laid this stricture on her, Liao had spitefully sat up and washed herself inside and out as soon as he left, but eventually she realized that if she did conceive, he would leave her alone for nine months or a year, and if she bore him a son, he might never lie with her again. Since then, she had scrupulously stayed lying down for the entire time, and even arched her hips to get what she thought was a better angle for the seed to flow.

Alone, Liao could allow herself to weep. She had been so proud when her parents arranged her marriage to a scholar and official of such rank and wealth, never expecting that it would amount to virtual slavery, bound within four walls to wait hand, foot, and womanhood on a lunatic old man who cared for nothing but his art and power. Still, she might have borne it if she had her family and friends, or if the world outside her door had been sane enough that she could have any place in it. If her husband's folly hadn't brought them to this bizarre place, where monsters and living machines walked with men from every land, along streets of stone and metal and mud.

After a year, she could tell to within a few moments when the clock would run out, and indeed when she sat up only a few grains remained. As always after she indulged herself by crying, she pushed her misery into a back closet of her mind, scrubbed her face with her arm, called herself seven kinds of fool for struggling against the life ordained for her by Heaven, and turned to her duties. As always after her husband lay with her, she drew a bath and washed every trace of his seed and sweat from her body. One small benefit to being in this strange place was the water vat her husband had bought from some creature with a shell like a beetle and too many arms, that instantly heated an entire tubfull of water to any temperature one liked without needing any fuel.

Going down the back stairs, she crossed the path of her husband's new apprentice, a fat black-skinned girl a year or two younger than herself, with an unpronounceable barbarian name and barbaric customs. From the way the girl glared, adjusted the neckline of her indecently skimpy tunic, and stalked off with a switch of tightly-trousered hips, Liao knew she resented her master's choice of bedmate. As she finished clearing away her lunch, she thought it would serve the girl right if she got what she was so blatantly inviting, but doubted it would ever happen. Her husband had no interest in sex except for getting an heir, and although he wouldn't scruple to set aside a barren wife and promote a fertile concubine to her place, he would never think of such a simple solution: to him, every difficulty in life was a challenge to his skill as a magician.

Much as she hated her situation, Liao found this conclusion comforting. At home, if she had been set aside she could at least have returned to her family. They would have been mortified, and probably taken it out on her, but at least she would have had somewhere to go and someone to take care of her. Here, she would have no one. She knew that many of the sorts of barbarians in this city treated women as the equal of men, and let them learn trades and even own property, but her upbringing had left her completely unprepared for making her own way on the world. She was dismally certain that if such a thing happened, she would have to fall back on the one resource all women had that all men wanted, suffering many times nightly what her husband inflicted on her only a few times a month, and without the compensations of wealth and respect.

Dishes done, Liao lapsed into boredom. She dusted a few things, retreated to her room to work on embroidering her new gown for a minutes, gave that up as uninteresting, and finally resorted to sitting at the upper floor window looking out over the city and thinking of nothing in particular. From there, she could see out over Herald Park, a square of greenery that spread tentacles like an angular octopus, embracing the pale stone buildings with sharply angled green-tiled roofs that characterized the part of the city adjacent to her house on that side. Beyond the park the land fell away sharply in a series of concrete terraces that, judging by the stains, had once run with water; below that was a labyrinth of red brick, in which it seemed people had set up some kind of street market; and past that it all blended into undifferentiated City. She had heard that each of those pieces had been plucked from its own world and brought here by the mysterious Architects, who were gods, or above the gods, or men with knowledge a hundred thousand years ahead of her own, or impersonal forces generated by too many people living in too close proximity, or any of a hundred other things. The topic seemed to be a favorite for conversation, and never ran out since no two people ever agreed and no one could ever prove their view. Liao wasn't sure she believed any of it; there could be only one Heaven, and any lands below it, no matter how strange, must therefore be one world. Her husband's explanation had left her no more enlightened, and feeling vaguely foolish for having asked, as his explanations always did.

Wondering what was out there, in that city everyone called infinite, and what kind of people, and what their lives were like, was diverting but also melancholy, so Liao wasn't completely displeased when her husband handed her a shopping list. He seemed as though he might say something, but then looked out the window, where the sun was more than an hour from setting, and walked away without a word.

The clothes Liao put on for going out would have appalled her mother: a robe of green silk, well-made and embroidered with bronze vines but with an asymmetric hem that fell no lower than her knees, and under it only a pair of thin black trousers made of some comfortably elastic fabric she had never seen at home and a halter of the same material that kept her breasts from bouncing. She had seen a similar outfit on a woman at the papermaker's and liked the look of it, and when she had hunted down the clothes amid the shockingly immodest wares of the local clothing stores, had liked the comfort even more. Since then, they had languished at the bottom of her wardrobe, unworn for fear of her husband's disapproval, but today she felt brave or whimsical or bored enough to wear them, and stifle any qualms with the rationalization that her husband would never stoop to notice how she dressed. She did hang the jade and bone charm her husband had strictly enjoined her to wear at all times outside the house around her neck, though, letting it rest between her breasts, concealed by her robe. She had never gotten a comprehensible answer as to what it warded her against, but in this strange place, she wouldn't pass up any protection she was offered.

Heartened by this small rebellion, and feeling a bit smug at how well she looked in her new outfit, she set forth in good spirits. The shops her list called for -- dyer's, stationer's, ironworker's, lumberyard -- were all familiar to her, so she had attention to spare for the city and the crowds of people, almost-people, and outright monsters flowing through the streets. As she had with the city overlooked from her window, she entertained herself by wondering what sort of places each of them had come from. The muscular young man with so much brown skin showing above and below his knee-breeches obviously came from someplace warm, but what kind of warmth would also give rise to people with four arms and long curling tails fluffy as a squirrel's? Perhaps his people lived in the trees of some fantastic tropical jungle. Her imagination, busily constructing a treetop city, was abruptly brought to earth as the lad winked at her and shifted the box he was toting so that muscles swelled and slid beneath his skin. Embarrassed at having been caught staring, she turned away and ducked into the dyer's, but her imagination lingered on strong brown arms, soft brown fur, and merry black eyes until the dyer's ill-tempered assistant snapped at her for her inattention. Blushing, she fumbled some of the rainbow-colored paper money used locally into his hands, stuffed the peculiarly slick cloth her husband had ordered dyed blood-red and sky-blue into her string bag, and fled the store. Fortunately for her composure, the squirrel lad had moved on.

Despite having embarrassed herself twice in five minutes, Liao found herself smiling. Being out of her house and away from her husband and his wretched apprentice was worth looking a bit foolish. Anyway, she didn't think the squirrel lad had thought poorly of her.

Outside the stationer's, she discovered that the crowd had as much attention to spare for her as she did for it. While wondering what sort of place a slender swift-looking creature like a brown lizard walking upright and crested with black and white feathers might come from, and what it carried in the pouch of skin on its belly, she felt a hand slide up her thigh, warm and strong through the thin-stretched fabric of her trousers. Startled into immobility for the first moment, Liao jumped straight up when the hand squeezed her buttock. Blushing in fury and mortification, she whirled to face the indecent lout, only to be struck wordless again when she saw that the person grinning down at her, though a head taller than her, was unmistakably a woman. Although the woman's language was as alien as her papery skin, short-cropped brassy hair, and skimpy tunic, her tone and the wink of her long blue eye left no doubt as to what she was proposing. Flabbergasted and mortified in equal measure, Liao slapped the narrow hand from her leg and beat a retreat that she hoped was not completely without dignity. From the high-pitched wild laughter that followed her, she doubted she had been successful.

Finding a bench outside a florist's, Liao sat down for a minute to regain her composure. Before she had married, boys had flirted with her, and some had even propositioned her outright with words or hands, and she had attracted a fair share of ogling eyes and lewd comments even since, but it still shocked her more than she would have expected to have a woman treat her so. Telling herself that this was no stranger than women bearing arms, which she had seen occasionally at home and frequently here, brought some measure of calm, but when she continued on her way through the streets now lit in orange by the sinking sun, the warmth and pressure of the barbarian woman's hand lingered disturbingly on her skin.

Liao made it through the other two stops without noticeable incident, studiously ignoring the shirtless workers at the lumberyard and the way they failed to ignore her while she made arrangements to have several boards of teak and mahogany delivered later. She even managed to avoid thinking consciously about the pale woman with the wanton hands, although she recoiled from every chance contact in the crowd. As she made her way home, she noticed that many people seemed be hurrying, apparently to be off the streets by dark. She found that rather peculiar, since the white lights mounted on walls and poles to light the streets where already lit even though the sun still seemed to be above the horizon (judging by the brightness of the sky, since the buildings blocked any direct view). The entrance to Herald Park from this direction was a long arched tunnel through the lower stories of one of the pale stone buildings, usually a popular thoroughfare but now ominously deserted, emptiness stark and uninviting in the white glare of the lamps at either end. As Liao hesitated at the entrance, simultaneously nervous about entering the tunnel and ashamed of her nervousness, the sky overhead darkened from afternoon to twilight over the space of a dozen breaths.

Spurred by realization of how late she'd be if she took the long way around, Liao stepped beneath the entry arch; at just that moment the sonorous toll of a distant bell shivered through the air and ground. Liao's body shuddered sympathetically, and as she stood wondering where the temple might be, since she'd never heard this bell before, she became aware of a burning tension below her belly and a terrible feeling of incompleteness, almost as though part of her body were missing. The sensation was so strong that, like the delay between falling into icy water and feeling the cold, it had taken several beats of her suddenly pounding heart for her mind and body to acknowledge it. She gasped and stood there shivering and panting, her skin achingly aware of the pressure of her halter and trousers, the smooth slide of silk robe, and the chill of the evening air, as two more tolls of the bell rolled over her, the vibration of each sinking into her body and intensifying the heat and need.

Before she had married, when she had flirted with boys and felt their hands on her body, she had experienced something like this, but never so strong even during the most improper grapplings. After her wedding night, she had dismissed those memories as the foolishness of young girls, nothing to do with marriage, but despite all her practice at not feeling, she could not pretend to feel nothing now.

From the days of her maidenhood bubbled up a memory of a story told when girls gathered late at night to whisper and giggle about boys, of the Lewd Ghosts that puffed mushroom spores on the wind to drive women insane with lust, so that they would gladly submit to the imaginatively conjectured fates the Ghosts had in mind. Not long ago, Liao would have been certain of the falsity of the story, but now that she was married to a magician and living beyond the bounds of Heaven and Earth, she wasn't certain of much at all, and so she fished the amulet out of her bosom and clutched it tight with an incoherent prayer to any deity with respect for chastity.

To her surprise, the ache and hollowness of her loins instantly receded, still stronger than anything she had felt, but not so much as to drive every other thought from her head. The first thought she had, of course, was to get home. If these feelings were the work a ghost or sorceror, her husband would protect her, and if they were just the wantonness of her body, she could shut herself up in her room until they passed. Qualms about the eerie passage forgotten, she walked quickly onward, and tried to not think about how like the caress of a hand the brush of her thighs against each other was, or how the pressure of a tongue would be better than the pressure of her halter on her swollen nipples, or how the brush of silky fur would sooth the ache beneath her belly.

Liao's surprise and confusion at finding herself thinking of fur broke her thoughts out of that inward cycle, and in the respite she managed to push all such imaginings, along with any consideration of whose fur she might have been thinking of, into a back closet of her mind and lean firmly on the door. Concentrating only on her home, she hurried down the tunnel only to step dead when she stepped out into the park and saw that not everyone had made it off the streets before sundown after all.

The tunnel opened onto a small flagstoned square, surrounded by small hills topped with flowering trees. Neatly framed by the grassy slope facing the tunnel, a huge dark-skinned man lay face-down, green robe rucked up to leave his heavily-muscled body bare from the waist down. Pale slender legs stuck out to either side from beneath his rhythmically driving buttocks, and thin pale arms clasped his broad shoulders, but the woman beneath him was otherwise invisible, if not inaudible; as Liao stared in amazement, soft gasps gave way to incoherent if impassioned soprano cries that sent quivers down her spine straight to her groin.

Her skin couldn't get any hotter, but she had enough presence of mind to feel embarrassed after a moment and forcibly averted her eyes, trying to ignore the increasingly ecstatic noises as she edged around the busy couple and turned onto the path leading down the arm of the park, between head-high grassy hills, to the gate nearest her home.

Only perhaps a dozen people were visible along that path, instead of the crowds that usually gathered to enjoy the evenings, but those dozen were far more upsetting and made the walk far longer than the loudest crowds had ever done.

Directly around the corner, in the middle of the path, a green-skinned couple lay tangled together atop their clothes, moaning and murmuring to each other as they twisted into a position remarkably limber for people as wrinkled as her grandparents. She watched the progress of mouths and hands for a moment, thinking that it might not be so bad if her husband did that first, until a waning flicker of propriety hurried her on past.

The other people in view had made it off the flagstones and onto the grass before reaching the ground, but only barely; they were still in such plain view as Liao tried to hurry down the path that she couldn't help seeing just what they were doing, even if she had had the willpower to keep her eyes on her goal. On one side, a fair-skinned girl who looked hardly old enough to have breasts straddled a creature as much wolf as man despite his European-style suit; the girl's full skirts hid their joining, but the way she bounced up and down with a girlish squeak at the bottom of each cycle, tiny fists clenched and round face tilted back to the sky, affected Liao more then a clear view would have. The girl was so young, and reminded her so much of her littlest sister, that the scene disturbed her more than a little, but not so much that she didn't stop to wonder what it would feel like to take the girl's place and elicit those growls from the wolf-creature.

It took even longer this time than before to remember her goal, but with a shiver and a longing backward glance, she rushed onward, shuddering as she passed a fat man entangled in what looked like a colony of snakes or the arms of a giant octopus, shivering at the sight of a girl and a boy, darkskinned as her husband's apprentice, about the same age, and like enough to clearly be siblings, writhing clumsily together with occasional surprised gasps.

The two young men lying curled symmetrically on their sides, faces at each other's groins, were so lovely that she was unable to look away from them and found herself trapped, staring mesmerized at the play of sleek muscles beneath bronze skin and then at the pistoning of a huge male member into a wide-open mouth, half-hidden beneath a disarray of black curls. It looked twice as large as her husband's, and she wondered what it would be like to have that inside her instead; the empty feeling between her legs wanted everything it could get.

The imagined sensation made her fist tighten on the charm, the sharp corners digging into her palm, and the sudden pain broke the spell and pushed her body's demands out to arm's length: hot as before, but not squeezing out all other thought. Forcibly she reminded herself that twice the size would just mean twice the pain, and made her feet resume walking, though it took longer to take her eyes off the rippling curve of a shoulder.

Hurrying, she cut the corner of the final bend in the path, over a small ridge, and with her eyes firmly on the gate stumbled over something on the ground and sprawled almost atop the trio at the bottom of the hill.

The paper-skinned, brass-haired woman who had fondled her outside the stationer's shop lay spread-eagled, tunic rucked up under her arms to bare a long, astoundingly slender body, while a figure armored from waist to neck and with a spill of long black hair knelt between her legs, nuzzling into the juncture of her thighs; a bright-crested white lizard-creature crouched behind, hissing like a kettle as it shoved its hips against the armored person's bare rump and leaning forward to stroke the small cones of the pale woman's breasts with one bird-like claw, inches from Liao's nose.

As Liao started to pick herself up, the pale woman screeched and arched her back, grinding her crotch against the face of the armored person (a woman, from the curve of bare hip and thigh) and forcing her back onto the eager thrusts of the reptile, clutching at the grass while her body shook. The feel of the woman's hand on Liao's thigh flared, hot and strong, and she squirmed, trying to simultaneously pull away and push toward the sensation.

The pale woman slumped back, blazing blue eyes fluttering open and then widening as she saw Liao. After only the briefest hesitation she reached out, long delicate hand sliding into the front of Liao's robe to stroke her shoulder. Her touch was burningly hot, but as welcome to the skin as a hot bath on a winter day, and instilled the same longing for more of that heat. Liao, lost in the warmth, fell forward to lie prone on the grass, nose to nose with the other woman.

As Liao's chest touched the ground, her breast pressed against the amulet that had fallen from her hand when she stumbled and hung free of her body while she knelt there, and it burned like a coal of fire.

She instantly scrambled to her feet, shrieking and swatting frantically at her scorched chest. After a moment she caught hold of the amulet's cord and pulled it away from her skin; when she looked down, the amulet was smoking vigorously as thought it had just been pulled from a fire. Momentarily clear-minded, she ran as fast as she could for the gate. The pale woman called after her, but whatever she said was drowned out by the armored woman's scream.

Liao was concentrating so fiercely on getting through the gate that she didn't see the person standing there until she bounced off him, knocking him against the stone gatepost. In her determination, she had been running head-down, but fortunately had hit him with her shoulder rather than her head, and was more surprised than hurt by the collision; even more surprising was that it was the young man she had been admiring earlier in the day. He stood with two hands behind to catch himself against the gatepost, two forward to catch her, his fluffy tail outstretched for balance, and a startled expression that she was certain matched hers. He was still almost entirely bare, wearing only a pair of tight-fitting knee-breeches, and the oblique light of the lamp delineated the musculature of his splendid body with brush-strokes of shadow, turned his shaggy hair into an orange halo about his broad face, and made the tail wound nervously about one strong leg an amber comet.

She yelped as the burning-hot charm fell back against her chest and grabbed it away again. Visibly dismayed, the man stepped forward, arms outstretched solicitously. "Are you all right?" His voice was rather high-pitched, but warm and strong and full of concern; Liao thought dizzily that it matched the rest of him. Though he seemed to be keeping his wits better than her -- she doubted she could speak a word, let alone a sentence -- the front of his breeches bulged out so much it seemed likely to tear through. The tiny fraction of her mind not thinking about bodies guessed the engraved seashell around his neck was protecting him as her amulet protected her.

The sight of him had driven any notice of his question completely out of her head. When she didn't respond, he took her by the shoulders. "What's wrong? Are you hurt?" Her body responded even more eagerly to his touch than to the woman's, though, and she only moaned softly and swayed toward him. Flustered, he snatched back his hands. "Don't worry! I won't do anything!"

The sting of rejection, even kindly meant, did at least as much for Liao's clarity of thought as bodily pain. She jumped back, though breaking contact felt like diving into icewater, and responded automatically, "Please excuse this unworthy one." She looked at the ground, not so much for propriety as because she knew if she looked at him, she would be lost again.

"No, no! It's my fault! I'm very sorry I ran into you. If there's anything I can do... It's not safe out tonight; you should get home."

"Please don't trouble yourself with me."

"No, no! It's no trouble at all! Where do you live?"

From where she stood she could see across the court in front of her house to the guttering red light in the side window that indicated that her husband was in his laboratory. She pointed, and, reflexively turning to see if the man was reading her gesture right, met his eyes.

With his back to the light and his face in shadow, his eyes were mirrors of glimmering darkness, and in them she saw her bright image reflected the way he saw her: just big enough to make an armful, robe gaping open over a triangle of skin turned white by the lamplight, round breasts cupped by clinging black, narrow tightly-belted waist and round hips beneath the drape of cloth, long slender legs sheathed in black, high-piled hair straggling down into a round young face with wide slanted dark eyes, and full lips parted invitingly. In his eyes, she was beautiful.

She realized that she was leaning toward him, or he toward her, just before his mouth met hers. That first touch of lips snapped her frayed self-control and she plastered herself against him, desperate to have him press against every inch of her body, both outside and in. The outside of her thigh stung briefly, but she barely noticed. She wrapped her arms around the hard bulk of his torso, and the pressure on her excruciatingly sensitive nipples made her moan into his mouth.

He held her close, one arm around her shoulders, another hand sliding up the back of her neck to loosen the tangle of her hair, and the other two clasping her hips against his thighs. His erection jutted against her belly, seeming blazingly hot even through two layers of clothing, and he shuddered violently when she squirmed against him.

His tongue ran hesitantly along her lips until she snared it with her own and drew it in to squirm soft and strong in her mouth, trapped between her teeth. Having even that little part of him inside her was better than anything a man had ever done with her before; paradoxically, it made her worry if she could stand to go on with this. Then his hands slid up the curve of her hips, sharp nails tracing lines like shooting stars on her skin, and the thought of not going on was even more unbearable.

She dug her fingers into his back, though they barely made an impression in the hard muscle, and ground her hips against his thigh, trying to get his body against the desperation between her legs. That position didn't quite reach, so she was trying to cock her hips forward and straddle him when something supple, strong, and softly padded stroked up the inside of one thigh to where it met the other and squirmed like a padded snake. Even though she wanted to be touched there more than anything, the sensation was so strong that she reflexively flinched away, sliding against his strength as she went up on her toes. The tail followed her motion, though, curling up around her rump and waist to get purchase to press even harder, sending tingling pulses up into her body that were so intense she had to break off the kiss to gasp desperately for air, but each inhalation crushed her breasts even more fiercely against him, and the stab of sensation from her nipples made her breath come out in a sharp cry.

When he took his tail away, the sudden emptiness between her legs merged with the lack inside in a shocking void that left her gasping and trembling. Before she could even begin to think what to do, more meteor trails scored her legs as he dragged her pants down to her knees. She shivered and clamped her thighs together at the touch of frigid-seeming air on her superheated skin. The hard protrusion of his phallus slid down her belly and leg as he dropped out of her embrace, kneeling to pull her trousers all the way to the ground, leaving her clutching his head to her breasts. While his lower hands fumbled with her clothes and feet, and his upper hands pushed up under her robe to stroke her bare back, he took the edge of her halter in his teeth and pulled it down until her breast popped free. The cold on her nipple was just as much of a shock as between her legs, but was instantly replaced by warmth and wetness and the lightest nip of teeth. She cried out again and clutched his head to her, trying to get her entire breast between his lips.

Somehow, he managed to disentangle her feet from her trousers without quite knocking her over, though he had to wrap his tail around her backside to keep her upright. His fur on her skin was as glorious as she had imagined, and she arched her hips back to rub luxuriatingly against it. Then his hands were there too, cupping her buttocks, and he lifted her into the air as he stood. She clutched panickedly at his hair as she rose, and wrapped her legs around his waist, then forgot all fear of falling at the warmth and hardness of his belly against her vulva. She clamped her legs around him hard enough that he released her nipple with a grunt of surprise, and rubbed herself against him, sending the same pulsating thrill through her that his tail had done.

She was just getting into the rhythm of it when his hand wedged between her thighs and his torso and pried her loose. Surprised, she looked up at him; he bent his face to hers, letting her slip a little as he did, and the tip of his erection jabbed her rump. She flinched in startlement, banging her face into his, then leaned back against his hands, looking up into his burning dark eyes. His face was intent, and his eyes locked on hers, as he shifted his grasp on her hips so that his glans slid into the cleft of her buttocks and forward, and lowered her gently.

It did hurt to have so much more inside her than her husband had, like streching any other muscle too far, but the pain was trivial compared to the glory of having that void filled at last. It was the same pleasure his tail and mouth had given her, but flooding her entire body from that place deep within her, so powerful that it burst from her lips in a scream that echoed from the walls.

After a moment, he withdrew halfway, and she whimpered at the return of the emptiness, but when he pushed into her again it was as wonderful as the first penetration. After a couple of rough thrusts that nevertheless sent such pleasure through her that her nails sank into his shoulders, he caught his stride and began pumping rhythmically into her, withdrawing almost completely and then driving his full length into her over and over, forcing a cry from her lips each time. She clamped her limbs around him again as her body matched his motions, shoving onto his thrusts to get him as far into her as possible.

Every stroke added to the pressure of the light and warmth within her, as did the heat of his body against hers and the slide of his smooth skin against her swollen nipples. She felt full to bursting, her body quivering with the effort of not flying apart, and just as she knew she couldn't take another stroke-- he plunged into her again, and she exploded, consciousness lost in the pyrotechnic flares of passion throughout her body as she bucked against him, shrieking her ecstasy to the world.

As the fireworks faded, she became aware of more of her partner than the part inside her: his body trembled instead of pumping smoothly, and his harsh breathing was interrupted by an incongruously girlish squeak every time he thrust into her. Just as she regained enough volition to start matching his thrusts again, he sank his fingers into her back and rump, crushing her against him with bruising force, and gushed into her, jerking violently inside her with every eruption. The burning heat of his seed elicited another cry, and rebuilt the warmth she had been filled with so recently, but with a great gasp he relaxed, loosening his painful grip and cradling her carefully against him as he slipped out of her.

Denied further stimulation, her body slackened too, and she slumped against him, head on his shoulder, and found herself yawning. This started him yawning as well, and he leaned back against the gatepost and slid to the ground to sit cuddling her in his lap, strong hands stroking her back and rear and fluffy tail twitching contentedly against her leg.

She drifted in a comfortable fog of pleasant exhaustion and affectionate warmth for a bit, tired enough to sleep but kept awake by the still-quick beating of her heart. She could feel his pulse too, where the delicate skin of her breast pressed against his chest, slowly winding down. His breath gusted against her ear and he murmured, "That was wonderful. Thank you."

It took a moment for Liao's mind to revive enough to interpret speech, but it did, and the full enormity of what she had done crashed down on her. Adultery! With a complete stranger! In public! Screaming loud enough for the entire infinite city to know what she was doing! In a panic she shoved him away, but he was braced by the wall at his back and it was she who tumbled onto the ground, with an agonized yelp as the fingertip bruises on her shoulders and rump collided with the flagstones. Her belt had come loose at some point, and her robe flapped open, leaving her naked for the whole world to see.

She scrambled to her feet, gritting her teeth as every motion of her legs strained the abused tissues between them, almost as painfully as when she had lost her virginity. The boy she had just rutted with leapt to his feet too, incoherent with dismay, but she ignored him as she wrapped her robe completely around her and tied it as tight as she could, and scooped up her trousers and shopping bag.

"What's wrong? I thought you wanted--" his protestations were cut off as the temple bell boomed again, the vibrations washing away the pains of her body like a masseur, replacing them with a single new ache. With a wail, she turned and fled through the gate, knowing that all her outrage would be useless if a man so much as touched her hand.

Fortunately there was no one abroad to see the allegedly respectable wife of the eminent scholar running half-naked and wholly dishevelled across the courtyard; if there had been, Liao thought she would have killed herself.

The instant she set foot on her front steps, the unnatural compulsion vanished completely, and surprise sent her tumbling onto the stairs. Able to think again, she realized that if her husband saw her like this, she wouldn't get the chance to commit suicide. Her halter had already rubbed the underside of her breast raw, so she tucked herself back in, pulled her trousers on, and twisted her hair up in a coil held by the two remaining pins, all the while trying to ignore the hurt looks cast in her direction from the gate. She had no idea what excuse he had for looking upset; she was the one who'd been raped!

Her reflection in the copper inlays of the door looked passable, if not her best, but before she opened the door she became aware of the unmistakable scent rising from the wetness seeping down her thighs. Vowing to pull down the temple of lust and break its bell herself, she edged around the corner of the house into the perpendicular street, careful to stay right up against the walls where the household magics protected her. There was no door on that side, of course, but she thought she could jump high enough to catch hold of the courtyard wall.

She couldn't, quite, and on her third attempt her foot twisted out from under her when she landed and she ended up sprawled on the ground for what seemed like the hundredth time that evening, with a new injury to add to the ones she'd been aggravating by trying to jump. On the verge of tears, she almost deluded herself into thinking her husband would be sympathetic.

The pad of shoe leather on cobblestones started her out of her funk, and she looked up to see the rogue who had just had his way with her. Leaping to her feet, with a wince at the soreness he'd caused between her legs, she hissed, "Get away from me! Haven't you done enough?" His face fell gratifyingly, but he nevertheless formed his hands into two stirrups, one low and one high, and nodded up at the tiled top of the wall.

Liao still didn't trust him, but she was under no illusions about her ability to fight him off if he attacked her, so she had nothing to lose. Gingerly, she set her injured foot in his hands, wincing as she put her weight on it to reach the higher stirrup, and then sprang with all the energy she had left for the top of the wall. He pushed up just as she jumped, and she ended up halfway over the wall, head hanging down into the courtyard and feet dangling into the street. Every one of her aches and pains made itself known as she dragged herself into a sitting position atop the wall, but she made it. Looking down into the street to see if anyone had seen her undignified scramble, her gaze met dark eyes staring concernedly up. Some impulse born of remembered pleasure, or maybe only of courtesy, moved her to whisper down, "Thank you!" before she slid down into the garden and escaped into her own house.


This file was last modified at 2236 on 13Jan09 by trip@idiom.com.