Coming from a port-call in Boston. Patrol is almost over. I took a break from updating Blades and Bellflowers to throw an update this way. I will try to see if anything can be worked on for both stories for around the time I get home. I might not have the opportunity to once I get back to my family. So, nice long full chapter for you since it's been a bit since I posted this one. Finally getting past the wedding and into the early marriage stage. More comments at the bottom. Enjoy!

Strong Memories

Chapter 3- Shadows under the Sun

Life is all about balance. Without it the scales can tip at any time, throwing normal into the wind. Peace time settles into your bones and it's easy to ignore the little things that pile up over time. Tiny stones that you don't notice until the weight overshadows all the positive on the other side. Happiness is like wearing blinders, it makes seeing anything but what is directly in front of you.

The first moon we spent married foreshadowed only good things. I love my wife, though the idea that we were finally allowed to be together was still something worth getting used to. Expectations merging with reality for once. Sometimes I still wait for the bottom to drop out plunging our happy lives into darkness. After all it's happened before.

Hitomi says I'm being pessimistic, but she also hasn't contradicted me about it either. As if stating that nothing bad would happen out loud would call out misfortune. For the time being I push all the negative possibilities to the back of my mind where they live, just a quite nagging feeling. Easy to ignore at times like this. Waking to the soft warmth of my slender beautiful wife, her smooth skin pressed comfortably against my equally bare form.

It's not that we got married and suddenly don't own a set of night clothes, but often find the barrier of fabric between our bodies to be unnecessary. The warmth of summer months just starting to settle in and sleeping uninhibited is almost a custom. Still I remember the way Hitomi reacted when I first explained that on nights of little breeze most people here, myself included opted for comfort over modesty. It was as though everyone she'd met spent the hottest few months entirely nude, and her flustered outrage was endearing.

Now that we were truly together, she'd seemed to warm to the idea. Again, this was only something done in the comfort of one's own home, behind closed doors. Watching the soft early morning light dust her flawless skin with a golden glow made other ideas begin to take shape. Anticipation waking the rest of me.

The light touch of my calloused fingertips caused the thick fan of her eyelashes to flutter slightly, a soft moan escaping parted lips. Encouraged I shifted slightly, Hitomi's slender form rolling more on her back as I leaned over. Mouth tracing the path my hand had followed moments before, neck, shoulder, to the swell of firm breasts. I almost stopped there, but the journey had only just begun.

Sensitive skin meeting my lips as if drawn to the contact by a powerful invisible force. This time her breathy moan said only my name, a note of pleading there. Fingers in my hair as she arches into my touch. Wanting to hear the sound again more than anything I continued down to her narrow waist. Side-tracked by the jut of one lean hip then the other. Instinct and anticipation causing the beautiful woman I love to spread her toned legs a touch wider.

My fingers leaving her to grasp those delicious hips. A small whimper at the loss of contact encouraging me. Completely bared and practically dripping, I tasted her and couldn't hold back the growling moan of my own. Worshipping her body with every movement. Hitomi nearly arched right off the mattress and would have if I hadn't been holding her to me, fingers digging into the flesh of her hips slightly.

Breath coming faster interspersed with moans of pleasure and gasps as the sensations built steadily. Continuing my attention even as her movements became wilder, and hands fisted the sheets. Grasping onto the knotted fabric as though it would save her from going over the crest. Yet I succeeded in pushing her past that last little bit of control. Head thrown back in ecstasy, voice raised in blissful release. Task complete I released my grip on her and sat upright.

Pleased I watched as her chest heaved with labored breathing, as though she'd just run a difficult race. Body trembling with the tell-tale signs of a task well-done. Those mesmerizing green eyes found my gaze, and the heat there made me throb. Before I could move over and into my very willing wife a solid knock sounded on our door.

I stilled as though if not twitching a single muscle would have the intruder leave faster. Instead they rapped on the wood harder, more insistent. Hitomi slung her long legs over the side of the bed as though intending to go get the door herself. With a heavy sigh I waved for her to get under the covers and stood. Pulling a robe of patterned blue and white diamonds over my nudity as I went.

The intention was to handle the interference quickly and return to finish what I'd started with Hitomi. Whoever it was needed my attention after all. With another loud knock I reached the door, checking that my naked wife was safely below the sheets.

"Coming," I called moments before opening the door. On the other side stood the curvy figure of my sister. Merle tapped her foot impatiently, fist raised to knock yet again. "What is it?" I asked sharply.

Undeterred by my tone she placed a clawed hand on each hip, "Took you long enough." Her sensitive nose wrinkled smelling Hitomi on me, and a spiteful part hoped she'd take that information and leave us to our business. Unfortunately, I was wrong, "You're needed at a council meeting."

"There isn't one scheduled this morning." I state evenly, trying to read her attitude, but failing as I always did with her.

"I know," Expressive blue eyes rolled reminding me that at eighteen moons Merle was both immature and wise beyond for her age. "A messenger came early this morning, and the council wants to see you, now."

The hope that she'd just relay information and leave was gone completely. Sent to fetch me the bright-haired girl would ensure I arrived at that blasted meeting regardless of my wishes.

"Fine," I sighed heavily. "I'll go dress and meet you there."

Before I could shut the door she chirped, "Don't forget to wash out your mouth."

Not that hiding what Hitomi and I did together would have mattered. It still felt like a pointed jab to have the specifics read so accurately. With an apology to the green-eyed woman remaining in my bed I went to wash and dress reluctantly. Still business over pleasure, and the need to hold a meeting so suddenly had my attention. Mind working through possible reasons, none of them pleasant.

When ready for the day I kissed Hitomi goodbye and left the room. Merle was still waiting, as though if left to my own devises I'd ignore her and the council entirely. I may have thought about it but wouldn't ever really do. Just want to.

"I don't need a chaperone," My tone clipped, as she matched my long strides effortlessly.

"Sure," She shot me an exasperated look. "For the last month you've spent more time in bed than anywhere else."

I opened my mouth to shoot back with a retort, but Merle waved the response away quickly. "Not that I care," I could tell there was more to it, but she continued. "It's to be expected. Still it'd be nice to know you haven't forgotten about the rest of us."

There it was, the note of tension and flippant remarks made sense now. My sister has always been there for me, and the moment I get married she no longer seems to have a place in my life. Merle may not ever say it, but my happiness has cost her. She grew out of that one-sided infatuation years ago, still to find herself on the outside of my attention has hurt. Hitomi and I have kind of been in our own world.

It wasn't all about bedroom acts either. I no longer seem to have the same need for my sister's council as before. I've spent more time in the last month practicing than talking to my oldest friend. Merle remains proud though, and she wanted me to come to her not the other way around.

Pausing mid-step she continues to walk ahead for a few strides as I watch, noting the agitated twitch of her striped tail. I really hadn't been paying attention to anyone aside from Hitomi, and that was unfair. Merle always wanted what was best for me even if it hurt her, so she'd never come out and say it. Part of her had to be waiting for the first inevitable fight; where I'd come back for advice or just someone to take my side in the argument.

My hand reached out on instinct catching her slender furred wrist in a loose grasp. Merle could easily shake off the contact. Instead she stopped walking, turning to face me, expression unguarded.

"Would it help if I said I was sorry?" My voice was soft, but I knew she of all people would hear me clearly.

She let out a soft laugh, tension draining away from those patterned shoulders, ones that once stood between me and enemy fighters. In that moment I knew I was forgiven. We may not share blood, but she would always be my sister. Even when I've been otherwise preoccupied.

"Well I guess it's understandable that you've been sex-absorbed." The sly look in her bright blue eyes made me shake my head and laugh in return.

"Don't you mean self-absorbed?" I asked as we started walking again.

"No," Merle grinned broadly. "I think I got it right the first time."

The emotions in the air between us much warmer. Even if it took conscious effort I'd try my best not to make her feel like Hitomi was more important to me. I loved them both in different ways. Just because I was married now didn't mean the rest of my relationships didn't matter.

We arrived at the council chambers and entered, her going in first. To most it might seem odd that Merle was included in meetings, but she'd proven a capable scribe, recording events and taking notes for me to address later. An assistant of sorts, the task suited her well.

When I did enter the room everyone seated stood, including Merle at her small desk placed strategically behind my chair. Being king isn't about fancy dinner parties, rich clothing, and court intrigue. Well I won't say it isn't like that in other countries, but not Fanelia, and never has been.

Ruling a country is mostly about maintaining balance. Managing resources so that they last, but the people can still benefit from them. Improving the overall status, but not too much as envy is dangerous. Maintaining relationships with other countries without showing favor to one over the other. Fanelia is small, and we do not seek power outside our boarders. The same cannot be said about everyone else.

Gaia had been thrown into chaos once by a country and ruler who sought power without care for cost. We still felt the ripple effect from Zaibach's actions five years later. As one of the key players in the Great Gaian War, I was respected by most despite my relatively young age. Still there was speculation and some general distrust that may never go away.

Again, I play a part in the political game, but I don't revel in it as others might. Everything I did was for my people. The long hours, piles of paperwork, and tedious meetings. The one thing I never considered was marrying for anything other than love. Hitomi had been the only woman for me from the moment our paths intertwined.

How could I not be happy? I finally had everything I'd ever wanted; a strong stable Fanelia, Escaflowne securely sleeping, the support of my clever sister, and love of the most amazing woman. I could handle an early morning meeting. It was far from the first and certainly wouldn't be the last.

Despite the suddenness of the councils' desire to convene most of the business addressed was routine. A few times I requested information from old meetings to clarify things, but Merle was able to put the papers into my hand easily.

A recurring trade disagreement where the other party swore previous terms had been agreed upon. Unusual migration of the land dragons to the west which had many concerned, yet no attacks had occurred. Questions about what should be done regarding Austuria's unorthodox wedding present of the old Castelo fort and surrounding lands.

Finally, we arrived at the new business around the time my stomach was ready to complain of its emptiness. The messenger this morning. Letters arriving from Daedlus in the north were not unusual, but its author was, Viscount Garrett Raine.

A titled poof who had started putting his long nose in Fanelia's affairs more so over the last couple of years. I'd counted myself lucky that business had kept him away from the wedding last month. His wife had come with apologies, but I'd rather deal with her. There was always a subtext to his comments. Even at the request of lodging in the palace, for an extended stay while handling some convoluted enterprise. Even in letter form he felt dishonest, as though chasing some other agenda. I wanted to say no, but couldn't, after all he was my only living cousin.

That was reason enough to keep him at arm's length. Even the council felt threated by his insistence to be a part of things here. Which is why they couldn't wait to approach this matter in a more sensitive way. To be honest they were just praying for Hitomi and me to announce a future heir, if we had a child Garrett would move from second in line to the third instantly.

Which was why they hadn't minded the preoccupation with my new wife. Work was still getting completed in a timely manner, but possibly a little less frequently. I still had duties beyond creating a royal line; but knocking my cousin down a few rungs would be a bonus.

Merle and I walked together in search of a delayed breakfast and found Hitomi already seated. Her smile was bright despite the concern in those beautiful green eyes.

"Is everything alright?" She asked, setting down her fork.

"The usual mostly," I responded leaning over to press a light kiss on her soft lips. "Garrett requested to stay here for around a month while he manages some inane venture." I took the seat next to her and was glad to see the food on the table still steaming. It seemed as though Hitomi had tried to wait for us, she was always thoughtful in that unspoken way.

"Is Tara coming with him this time?" Hitomi already knew of my dislike of the man, so it went without speaking. She pushed a platter of my favorite foods closer, short of filling my plate herself.

"Not that I can tell." The ease I felt with just Merle and her around would be short lived with my cousin prowling the halls. Garrett's wife was soft-spoken yet kind. I took after my father in our aversion to political marriages. King Goau's younger sister, an aunt I barely remember, had no such issue more than thirty moons ago. When a contract arrangement sent her to marry the third prince of Daedalus.

Garrett was the second son like me, but after his older brother died in a hunting accident, he became eighth in line for the Daedlus throne. Lower on the hierarchy each year it seems, as cousins ahead of him have more children of their own. Hopefully I will be added to that second group soon. Not that what we'd done this morning would help that goal, but it might have if we hadn't been interrupted.

Breakfast was pleasant enough and I made an effort to include Merle more in conversation. Being the third wheel couldn't have been very fun for her, but it was part of life. At one-point Hitomi asked her if she'd met her own special someone at the wedding, and that had my full attention. As far as I knew there had never been a man in my sister's life aside from me, and I was as far from a romance as possible.

The pretty blush dusting her patterned cheeks was a tell-tale sign that my wife had been far more aware of the neko girl than I.

"I don't know what you mean." Merle's eyes couldn't lie, and she seemed to be looking at anything but me.

Hitomi folded her slender hands together under her chin, the gold dragon on her ring finger glinting with the motion. "Really," There was a knowing smile that was even apparent in her voice. "Then who've you been writing to several times a week?"

My sister gaped for a second before putting on an unconcerned air, one that didn't reach the nervous ticking of her tail. Merle my have decent acting abilities if her stiff posture and honest tail didn't give her away.

"Just a friend." She sniffed as though this little bit of information was close enough to the truth to pass as such.

"Now, why don't I believe you," Hitomi grinned wider, enjoying the taunt. Possibly payback for the interruption earlier.

"It doesn't really matter what you believe." Merle bristled defensively. For a moment I thought I'd have to break up things before it became an argument, but Hitomi surprised us both with a lighthearted laugh.

"Okay, okay," She waved her hands through the air in a motion that the interrogation was over. "You know Merle I only tease you because I care."

"Sure," The younger girl snorted as though she didn't fully believe her.

"No, really." Her voice softer, all joking aside. "I'm not just your friend anymore. Merle, I'm your sister now. I hope you know that you can tell me anything and I will always support you."

As it normally was when Hitomi was forthright, the emotion hit straight to the heart, like a skilled archer always on target. Merle gave her a small smile in return that showed it meant something to her after all. She hadn't lost a brother but gained a sister. One that might just understand her in ways I couldn't

"I'm not lying about the letters being to a friend." Her voice was soft now, less sure, but there was a warmth in her eyes that I couldn't read. "It's Celena, we got closer at the wedding."

That was a slight surprise, for those two to be writing each other so frequently. Then again, the rare occasions where we traveled to Austuria or the Shezars came here the pair were often seen together. It was nice to know that Merle did have another close friend to confide in even if I did pull away unintentionally.

"That's nice," I responded, giving my food a bit more attention now that the tension had passed. "Maybe we could invite her to stay around your birthday." I'd never really got over my slight distrust of Celena, but it was more for her other side, than anything she could control. Dilandau appeared to be gone but not forgotten, still blaming the girl for what he'd done would be an unfair bias.

Maybe it was my thoughtful suggestion, or the off-handed way I no longer focused on her embarrassment, but Merle visibly relaxed.

"I'd like that." Was all she said and turned her attention to the cooling plate of food before her. A light blush still dusting those black striped cheeks. If Merle had found a love of her own, I'd be happy for her, but as a brother I couldn't help being relieved that it was only a friendship after all. Not that I'd ever deny my oldest friend her happiness, but I still felt the need to protect her even now that she was no longer the little cat-eared girl that once followed me into a war.

Hitomi for her part let the subject drop, but there was something in the way she still watched my sister. It was like she was trying to put together a puzzle in her mind but didn't have all the pieces.

We finished eating in light companionable conversation. Merle hurried off to her tasks researching information on the disputed trade agreements. I lingered for a minute too long before kissing Hitomi and telling her I'd see her in the evening. I have a stack of minor issues that would continue to grow if I didn't address them sooner rather than later. When I left the room, she remained sitting, her plate forgotten and gaze following my departure.

I didn't stop to ask what she'd do with her day as mine would be quite full. Sure, there were tasks that were traditionally managed by the Queen of Fanelia, mostly seeing to the day to day wellbeing of the people where the King focused on the overall prosperity of the country as a whole. I'd been handling both jobs since I returned after the war to rebuild. It wasn't necessary to burden Hitomi with that responsibility now. After all she never asked to be queen, why should the title carry extra weight if it didn't need to?

Arriving in my office I noticed the pile of work waiting for my attention with new eyes. The tasks though not difficult had been piling up since the wedding. Some of the lesser important items even that old. Merle hadn't been the only thing I'd been neglecting in favor of spending time with my new wife. Resolved to manage everything better I set to work.

Hours later the job seemed even more daunting. As though the more work I did the more there was to do. After skipping lunch almost entirely I asked for dinner in my office. Determined to tackle the majority of the tower by the end of the day. Somehow, I thought I had been managing things better than this, and it was entirely up to me to complete everything.

It was a welcomed surprise when my dinner arrived carried by Hitomi, a slight line of worry creasing her brow.

"I'm glad to see the paperwork hasn't buried you alive." I hastily cleared a corner of the desk, and she set the tray down. "Thought we'd need to organize a search party."

"That isn't entirely out of the question." I sighed wearily, leaning back in my chair trying to stretch stiff muscles.

"Why don't you eat something and call it a night?" Her voice held only concern for me.

"I'll eat, but there are still a few things I can address tonight." I waved off her worry not liking the idea of giving up before I got a better handle on things. "It's come to my attention that I've been distracted lately."

She stiffened, though I couldn't pin point what I'd said to trigger the reaction. I was probably more tired than I realized.

"Is there something I can do to help?" Hitomi asked one hand reaching for the nearest stack of documents.

Not wanting to bother her or risk the chaotic organization I had in place my hand intercepted hers.

"No," I answered quickly the one word coming out sharper than intended. Seeing the instant hurt on her face I turned the slender hand in my grasp over gently placing a kiss on the heartbeat at her wrist. "Thank you for the offer love, but I won't be much longer."

"Okay," She agreed taking her hand back slowly. Still there was a shielded expression on her face. Had this been our first true argument since marrying, or was she just letting things drop to prevent a fight? Regardless Hitomi left me to my work shortly after without another word.

It wasn't until a few moments after she departed that I realized it was the first time we hadn't kissed at parting in the last moon. Pushing the odd thought away work quickly took central focus again.

That night when I returned to our shared room Hitomi was already in bed, wearing a nightgown. The balcony doors were open, and a decent breeze circled the large room. It seemed oddly formal to start wearing night clothes now, but I didn't ask. Still when I lay down beside her and tried to pull her form to mine, she simply murmured that she was tired.

Being pretty exhausted myself I let her be. Still I missed the soft warmth of her skin against mine and it made falling asleep a longer process than normal.

The next morning, I woke to an empty space in bed beside me. Hitomi's nightgown tucked under her pillow for future use, it seemed she was already dressed for the day. I know I'm not the most sensitive person, but it was clear to even me that we were indeed fighting. Unfortunately, I had no idea why.

I tried to talk to Hitomi, but she seemed to be evading me. Later in the day Merle brought in the information she'd found about the trade dispute so far, and I told her about the sudden distance between me and my wife. Somehow, I thought she'd be on my side and agree that Hitomi was acting odd for no reason, instead she shot me a piercing look.

"You really are an idiot Lord Van," Straight to the point she wounded me.

"What?" I blinked confused how she came to that conclusion so clearly.

"Hitomi has never been like other women." She said this slowly as if I was in uncomprehending child.

"I know," Before I could say more the neko interrupted, apparently my sister had not finished speaking.

"In the time that you've known her, has she ever been happy doing nothing to help when she sees someone struggling?" I wanted to argue that I had been just fine with my workload yesterday, but before I could say anything, she rolled her expressive blue eyes and continued. "You made her feel useless and it's not like she has a job here aside from baby making. Some women would be happy with that life, but not our Hitomi."

She was right of course. Why was it so easy for her to see exactly how dense I had been? Being perceptive might be part of it, while the rest might just be how long the neko girl had known me.

"I'm an idiot." Was all I could say, replaying the entire interaction from yesterday in my head. I was so focused on blaming my poor work performance on how distracted I'd been that I missed meals, refused her help, and still came to bed late. It looks like I don't value her attributes that aren't physical.

"Be sure to start your apology like that." Merle grinned, sharp feline teeth visible as she reveled in my realization.

Before I could gather a reasonable retort, the door opened and in walked the woman I most wanted to see. Hitomi carried another food tray and a glance at the time showed I'd missed lunch. It warmed my heart that even though she was angry, she still would go out of her way for me. I really was a fool. It also showed how little responsibility she felt here, preforming a menial task just for something to do.

Merle gave me a knowing look that said if I didn't apologize she'd openly side with Hitomi, and soon neither of them would be talking to me. Without another word she left, leaving me and my angry wife alone.

"I thought you might be hungry." The bland tone of her voice meant I was definitely out of her favor. Setting down the tray Hitomi turned to go.

I reached for her wrist like before, but this time she twisted out of my grasp. Anger flashing clearly in her bright green eyes.

"Don't touch me," Her voice clearly not in an affectionate mood.

"I was an ass to you yesterday." Admitting the truth, I hadn't even realized until now. "I was punishing myself not you for letting things get this out of control. I'm sorry, pride cause me to refuse your help."

Some of the tension left her shoulders, but not all of it. This dispute was deeper than turning down an offer of assistance. Hitomi felt useless, I hadn't let her do anything aside from the obvious. No woman as strong willed as my wife liked to be treated as all she were good for was a bedmate. We both enjoyed those acts, I made sure if it, but there is more to a marriage. A true partnership.

"It might seem like I don't value you, but that is far from the truth." I hoped my sincerity flowed into my voice. My entire life Fanelia had been my driving force. This all happened because for a moment I realized that something, or in this case someone, had become more important for me. I felt guilty and that was not Hitomi's fault, just the opposite. The problem was I didn't know how to reconcile the two loves of my life now that I had both in my grasp.

How is it possible for me to favor them equally? Instead I pushed the troubling thought away and held my hand out to her. Not grabbing for the stubborn woman this time, just holding in place the scarred calloused fingers I'd hidden from most people my entire life. Not Hitomi though, she'd seen all of me even the ugly parts and found beauty in them.

Slowly almost reluctantly she placed her hand in mine. "I'm sorry if you felt unneeded." The last of the tension seemed to melt away. Merle had been right, Hitomi was at a loss without tasks of her own. "To be honest I could really use your assistance. I didn't want to ask because it's dull work."

"I want to help." Hitomi spoke, her voice light with purpose. Eyes darting to the forgotten tray of food. "After you eat something."

I couldn't help the small smile, relief clear. We seemed to be back on even footing, and it might take a while for me to get the hang of this balance, but she deserved the effort.

"Deal." I agreed easily. After I ate, we worked together stopping only for a dinner where we discussed some of the issues waiting on my desk still. Mostly she organized files and looked through older information for corresponding data. To be honest they were tasks normally done by Merle, but as my sister had her own research at this time sharing the workload wasn't an issue. It did make things flow much quicker.

I can't remember a time where I'd ever been this backlogged, so I'd have to come up with another use for her workwise once I was caught up. It wouldn't do to let her feel useless, when what kept me working such long hours was my desire not to have anything on my mind when we were together.

The longer we worked the more I noticed unsettling reports, but with no solid connection it just looked like a string of bad luck. Coincidence wasn't something I believed in, and I became engrossed with the problem. So much so that I hadn't realized how late it had become.

"Sorry, I hadn't noticed the time." I asked signing the last document and sliding it into the file where it completed the packet. Receiving no response from Hitomi I looked up.

There she was curled up on the small sofa off to one side of the office. Long legs folded into the tight space, arms cradling her head, chest moving with slow steady breaths. Fast asleep she looked so peaceful I didn't have the heart to wake her.

With movements as smooth as possible I slid my own arms underneath her form. Lifting caused Hitomi to shift finding comfort in the new position but remain solidly asleep. With each step I took her head bumped softly against my shoulder. It didn't take long to arrive at our room, and with a tense moment of careful balancing I was able to open the door without disturbing her. My strides towards the bed were smoother with the end goal in sight.

Hitomi sighed a gentle breath as I settled her into the soft mattress. Without another thought I kicked off my shoes and climbed in right next to her, pulling the blankets right over the both of us. All I wanted was to hold my wife as we slept and bothering with anything else seemed unnecessary.

It only seemed like moments later when a hand on my shoulder forced me awake. Despite my original assessment of time, bright sunlight came through the windows in thick bands. It was late in the morning. Hitomi sat up rumpled and groggy, but she'd been the one to wake me.

"Van," Her voice a little scratchy with lingering sleep. "We overslept."

She was right of course. Working into the night has happened to me before, but not waking up at a reasonable hour hadn't, until now. Our clothes from yesterday looked about as bad as I felt, but we'd be expected to be up and active by now. For a moment I debated on shutting the rest of the world out and spending the remainder of the day alone with my wife.

Except she was already attempting to prepare for work. I felt disgusting, the old clothes sticking with sweat from sleeping in them. Washing quickly, I came out of the bathing room to find Hitomi trying to smooth down her short hair, unsuccessfully.

Attempting to hide my amused smile, and failing, I pointed her to the vacant chamber. With a wrinkle of her nose she agreed and disappeared inside. For a moment I hesitated the desire to follow her rather strong. Thoughts of her smooth bare skin after a few days without much physical contact made my pants tight, but already being late forced the pleasant idea away.

I skipped breakfast as it was nearly time for the mid-day meal. Heading directly for Merle's reserch desk in the library. She of course gave me a good-natured lecture about sleeping the day away and letting my work pile up, again. By the time I had the results of her findings I was fully back in task-mode, but even more disturbed by what she'd uncovered. There seemed to be two entirely different contracts for the same shipment, and both had my seal. How was that possible?

Add that with the problem I'd discovered last night things weren't adding up right. I was back at my desk growing more engrossed with the unconnected issues when Hitomi appeared a short while later. She at least looked refreshed, and in better spirits. Determined to come back to the strange issues I set them aside and started work on a different less perplexing report. Hitomi happy with her tasking of filing and reorganizing hummed lightly as she moved around the room.

We paused to eat neither of us realizing how hungry we'd been until the food was in front of us. Conversation virtually nonexistent, but the mood quite companionable. Returning to work for a few more hours before I reached the end of my obligated issues. Having caught up nearly a month of work in three long tiring days.

Hitomi finished her task a little while before and had been reading patiently while I completed the last report. Happy with the work, but stiff from being stationary so long I stretched. The kinked muscles protesting the movement. At my low groan she stood and moved behind my chair. Slender practiced hands kneading the knots right out. I sighed and thanked her, my eyes closing as to enjoy the way her fingers knew the exact placement and pressure I needed.

After a little while I felt her motions change, softer lingering touches. I reached for Hitomi, guiding her from behind me. Her eyes held a heat that I knew well, and as it had been a few days I welcomed greedily. Before I could make a move, she beat me to it, climbing into a position of control. Her long legs straddling me, pinned into the chair looking up.

It didn't matter who instigated the kiss because it swallowed us both, fire burning through my blood. There wasn't time for the proper removal of clothes, just blind hands freeing her breasts as I continued to kiss her as though my very life depended on the task. I felt the tightness of my breeches give way as I to was released from the confines of restricting fabric. There wasn't a chance to feel air against my heated flesh as Hitomi slid down onto me with a moan that equaled mine, skirts bunched up roughly

Our motions full of need and passion unconcerned with time or place. Pent-up as I was it was a surprise, I didn't finish early, the desire to hear those increased noises of pleasure keeping me from the finish line before her. The frantic movements cresting to a crescendo together.

Bathed in the blissful surge of love for her I kissed Hitomi again, this time a long lingering one full of the tenderness I felt for her. Her breaths still raged and body unwilling to part company with mine just yet.

In an instant the moment was shattered by an unmistakable noise. Slow distinct clapping, coming from just inside the door of my study. Shocked and shy by the interruption Hitomi curled over pressing her burning face into my chest, hands shaking as they pulled up the bodice I'd pushed out of the way.

Fury rolled through me as I looked into the cool grey eyes of the intruder, his neatly trimmed black hair smoothed back fashionably.

"What are you doing here?" I demanded harshly.

"I wrote a proper request," He answered in that taunting way I hated. The man knew exactly what I meant and proceeded to push me.

"Not in Fanelia," I gritted out, the only reason I didn't attack him was the compromising position I was still stuck in with Hitomi in my lap. "In my office."

"Enjoying the performance of course." I wanted to beat that condescending smile from his face. "What else should I do cousin?"

"Get out, Garrett." My voice was low, dangerous, and better men would have feared my temper then. Instead the troublesome Viscount just laughed before letting the door shut behind him.

I couldn't get him out of my palace and country fast enough. Unfortunately, he was family, damn the smug bastard to hell.

To Be Continued…

Ah ha ha ha ha. Sorry I couldn't resist. So, we see some tension starting to build. Van has stress starting to fray the honeymoon phase. Hitomi just wants to be useful, but he thinks keeping her from responsibility is a kindness. The poor misguided man. We see some of the differences in the way Hitomi and Van view things starting to show through. The month of bliss is over.

We see some drama from Merle too. Also introducing Garrett Raine. He's going to be so much fun to play with. Not based off anyone, but a new character to fill a role, like his wife Tara. There will be maybe a total of four or five new faces to round out the story. With varying states of importance.

For those familiar with my stories, mature ones especially… I've never written oral sex before. Of course, the couple both being virgins in chapter one would start with the standard position, but as they now have more practice has become more confident with each other. I've had the pair have sex in Van's office in Broken Promises, but that was naked on the floor. This was quick and dirty with Hitomi taking the lead. When writing mature sections I try to be detailed without being raunchy. Trying to focus on emotions and reactions rather than slapping flesh. Uhg I just shuddered at that visual image.

I still remember the first M-rated story I wrote a one-shot called Late One Night. I was a little nervous I hadn't skirted the line well enough. Miniclio was one of the first to read it and she responded with "it was soft-core at most". Thank you friend, that still makes me smile and feel a little better to this day.

Well I think this was a little more detailed then that story. This is after all about what takes place after the happy ever after. Whoever said marriage was easy lied. People grow and change, small things build into big problems. Van may run into some issues adapted from ones I've had. Like being accused of making all the decisions without consulting my other half. From myside I excluded him from things I knew he hated, but not being asked was a sore subject. You see a little of that in how he coddles Hitomi and she hates it.

Can't wait to hear what you think.