Celta Thursday, Cut from Heart Thief
He was a thief. She was a judge.
There was no way they could become friends. Her position with the FirstFamilies Council was precarious enough without endangering her career by harboring an outcast. Ailim grimaced at the very thought. That was all they'd need to jerk the estate away from the Family. Associating with Ruis couldn't be called a minor transgression. Not for a Supreme Judge. There'd be no way to claim ignorance, not of the law or the circumstances.
Duty had forced her to attend a noble party the night before. The guests had hummed with gossip regarding Ruis Elder, though it had been three days since his banishment.
And behind the gossip, Ailim had sensed the shadows of noble maneuvering. Bucus Elder, the Captain of the NobleCouncil, was not well respected or liked. Apparently he'd had a sheen of smooth affability combined with common sense as well as the all-important heritage and background to win the vote for Captain's Chair two years before.
It was generally known that the FirstFamilies Council, even the entire NobleCouncil, would prefer T'Holly as Captain. But he was banned from that position for fighting with T'Hawthorn in the CouncilHall and breaking the Great Pentacle many years before. And T'Hawthorn was too strong a man himself to alienate by electing his enemy Captain. The long and intermittent feud between the two Houses was always a concern in the back of the nobles' minds.
So T'Elder had won the Captain's Chair, and now his surface persona seemed to be eroding, showing the true man. Rigid, unpleasant, and quick-tempered were just a few of the better phrases Ailim heard applied to him.
But he was still in power, and still able to squash the hopes of D'SilverFir GrandHouse with one fat finger.
Ailim visualized a map in her head and shifted in her seat. She wished D'SilverFir estate didn't border with T'Elder.
And that thought brought her full circle. The map vanished before her mental eye to be replaced by the attractive image of Ruis, the disowned Elder. The image was linked with the feelings he'd engendered in her from the first moment she'd met him in the GuildHall. The flash of respect when she'd seen how uncaring he was of the council's opinion still lingered. All her life she'd considered the opinions of others, following the Family rules for an Heir, in the first years as a judge, and even more so now, watching her every step so she could keep the Family together.
Ruis Elder could teach her to be free. If she let him. With dizzying speed her mind blazed images of the self she could be if she learned to be free, so self-confident that she would never think again of people's opinions more than her own needs. Being able to completely express her emotions.
She knew if she spent time with him, she'd learn how to relax her guards. With him she would need no guards, would have none -- that was a trifle scary, but when she recalled how her senses expanded under the influence of his Nullness she thought she'd dare to be with him anyway.
Her memory played back every press of his fingers, the sensation of his hands massaging her, and the low heat deep inside. A sexual heat that she'd finally admitted to feeling.
Sex was not something she'd often enjoyed. Not since she realized that if she lost herself in passion, her Flair spiraled wide. Then she knew exactly what the man she was being intimate with thought and felt.
She shuddered as memory spun out her first sexual experience. She'd thought her first lover was making love with her.
But in uncontrolled passion, she'd found out differently. He'd believed he was just taking the edge off a physical hunger.
With a jerk of her head she banished the past. No need to think of that man -- who had thought her strange and not nearly as beautiful as the woman he really wanted. At least the old emotions of shock and shame were mostly gone from those memories.
But Ruis would be different. Though she couldn't read him, she sensed that he was an honorable man, obeyed his own rules. That those rules might not march with the standard laws of Celta bothered her, but she couldn't fault him for acting outside them since they had not protected him.
Ailim lifted her head from her arms and gave up waiting for the man. Gathering her papyrus together she pondered Ruis' life. Surely it would have been bad under Bucus. The lines of dissipation on T'Elder's face, the way his meek wife shrank into herself when she was near him spoke of a petty tyrant. The thoughts she'd sensed during the council meeting -- lavish punishments for Ruis, greed for D'SilverFir land, made Ailim wary of the Captain of the Council. She frowned in concentration, trying to remember the "feel" of his thoughts. She sniffed and the clean scent of autumn brought the memory back -- by contrast. His thoughts had held a sly oilyness, like the sticky residue of a slug's passage. It was not the resonance of a moral man, let alone the strong inflection of a nobleman with integrity.
Despite growing up under T'Elder's rule, Ruis seemed open to affection. He had managed to survive and develop his own moral code. She needed facts and information if she was going to be able to overturn Ruis' banishment. She paused. Was she really thinking that? Oh, yes.
Ruis had given her a measure of peace and contentment. He had been kind. Now it was time to give something back to him.