This is the second part of a story that decided it wanted to come to fruition in bite-sized pieces. In case you missed it, you can start at the beginning here.
A single strong hand pressed to the small of my back as an imposing figure appeared at my side. He wasn’t much taller than me, but he carried himself with the stature of the oldest oak in the forest. His broad shoulders and slim build, along with the characteristic grace and fluidity of his movements, were reminiscent of a pretty dancer I loved once.
“Reed,” he said.
Reed’s eyes narrowed in on the handsome newcomer and said something that sounded more like “Huhthern” as it seethed through gritted teeth.
“Thanks for warming her up for me,” Hawthorn twirled a lock of my hair around his finger, looking at me as he spoke, “but I can take it from here.”
Reed scoffed at him, doing nothing to hide his indignation.
The reasons these two hold so much disdain for one another go way back. It’s a story we don’t have time for right now. All you really need to know is that the tension between them is always thick and catches the buzz of their mutual irritation like flies in honey.
But the tension of resentment does not lay solely in their overt dislike for one another. These two are nemeses of the worst kind. For they have lived long enough to know that they need one another to live with purpose.
What they don’t know yet is how much they will need one another to reach the pinnacle of their pleasure. Lucky for them, they have a benevolent queen who will guide them to their destiny.
But not before she has a little fun of her own. She may be benevolent when it suits her, but a little malevolence must be maintained to maintain the garden’s equilibrium.
I looked from Hawthorn’s smug grin in profile to the sneer that sharpened Reed’s face in a way that belied the gentleness I know he is capable of; the contrast stirred something deep in my core and stoked the hot tingling sensation still simmering between my legs.
“Boys, please.” Despite my rising need to devour at least one of these tasty morsels flashing daggers at each other over me, I said as cooly as possible to maintain the illusion of a calm and collected queen.
Hawthorn gave my hip a squeeze as he walked away from me, closing the distance between him and Reed. I didn’t have to see his face to know that he was running his tongue over the grooves of his top teeth, then biting down on his bottom lip in a show of fuckboy confidence.
“It’s cute,” Hawthorn tossed back over his shoulder at me. “That this little sapling thinks he is enough for you, my queen.” He turned back to face Reed head-on. “The voracious love of a sapling may light sparks, but it’s rarely enough to light a fire.”
Reed spat back twice as hard. “It’s cute that you think that you still have the stamina to meet her needs. I imagine our queen quite appreciates having the devoted attention of someone with the virility of an orchid and the trunk of a beech.”
“The sapling thinks he has the berries to contend with me?” Hawthorn shook his head, addressing me again as he spoke. “Truly, my queen, I don’t know where your soft spot lies for this one.”
“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “I suppose he reminds me of you when you first came to the garden.”
Hawthorn sucked his teeth and quirked his head. It seemed he didn’t appreciate my comparing him to Reed like that.
“You may act hard, Hawthorn,” Reed interjected, “but we all know your wood has softened with time.”
Hawthorn would have had Reed by the collar if he’d had one to grab. Instead, he slid in threatening close until their noses nearly touching, until their chests did when they both puffed up with heaving breaths. His left hand floated instinctively to the hilt of the blade at his hip.
“Watch yourself, sapling,” Hawthorn sneered. “My blade is sharper than ever and could fell you faster than you can say Gaia.”
“Enough!” I clapped my hands together and flared with a glimmer of genuine rage. The rumble could be felt underfoot. “You know the penalty for upsetting the peace in my garden.”
Both men faced me then, heads slightly drooped, feet apart and hands behind their back, like soldiers at ease, but without any ease to speak of.
“Yes, my queen,” they said in solemn unison.
“Choose your weapons,” I said, doing my utmost to contain my underlying glee. “For tonight, there shall be a duel.”
To be continued…
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