“Pleasure and pain, the good and the bad, are so intermixed that we can not shun the one without depriving ourselves of the other.”
Francoise d’Aubigne, Marquise de Maintenon
Marius looked out the arched window of his room. Across the castle grounds to the Hillcrest beyond were tall fir trees that seemed like dark sentinels under the silver light of the waxing gibbous moon. He waited, lost in thought. Plans, strategies, orders, and the synchronicity of his constant vigilance with his forces afield tumbled through his ever calculating mind. His network of agents ferreted out the plotters who attempted the heinous act of murder on his Duchess. The secret war he had hoped would never come was his to win or lose.
No one attempted such things in my old days with the Secret Police. Marius thought to himself. Ah, for those days again, but without those damned Stalinists interfering at every turn. He lit a candle in the window with his cigar lighter and watched the small yellow flame gain strength, becoming a hot, flickering tongue.
The officer’s mind drifted to other, more pleasurable thoughts.
He looked out again and saw his reflection on the glass vibrating to the beat of the dancing candle flame. She’ll dance for me tonight by the gods below, Marius told himself as he tapped his fist on the granite window seal.
A short time later, Marius was rewarded by the sight of wolves prancing out of the shadow of the trees, looking back, and darting around and over each other. My, how they play like children. He mused.
The wolfkeeper’s daughter stepped out into the moonlight dressed in a hooded, wool coat. She paused to watch the wolves play. Marius saw her glance up at the window just as one of the wolves flipped the front of her coat open to sniff her.
Marius saw her velvet skin in the pale light along the open front as the woman pushed the wolve’s wet nose away and scolded him. An electric tingle gripped Marius. His yearning for comfort only a woman could give filled his fervent mind. It has been too long with this hunt as the pain of duty and the rush of time weighed on him like a ship’s ballast in a tossing sea.
Fantasy and desire gripped the man as he watched with the same piercing stare his wolves often displayed when observing their prey. He stood as a predator stands before the chase. His hunger grew insatiable with each day. Sweat formed on his brow and on the small of his back. He felt a fullness in his loins and an emptiness in his heart.
The wolfkeeper’s daughter threw the baton down the hill and watched as the frolicking beasts took off to retrieve the stick in the hope of a treat. They were rewarded, and the game began anew. Upon return of her creatures, she bent down to pet each canine and give them their snack. Marius saw the flash of her breast in the open collar. The inside of her exposed thigh was a torturous display of erotic temptation. Damn that woman. She plays with a fire she cannot put out.
Agitated fingers snuffed out the candle and drew the curtains closed. Marius went to the fireplace and lit the gas logs. A black leather couch with two end tables provided a comfortable seat before the fire. Marius removed his jacket and threw it over the back of the sofa. He loosened his tie then retrieved a black cherry flavored cigar with honey cured tobacco. Marius poured a brandy and set it over the spirit burner to warm up. The cigar came to life as he leaned over to the heater and drew in flames.
A column of smoke twisted like Arabian dancers in the light of the fire, and the aromatic odor of tobacco and brandy filled the air. It was the smell of privileged men. It was Marius’ scent. He relaxed and let the urgency of his need drain down and cool the heat in his mind and heart. He leaned the back of his head on the couch and exhaled smoke in the air. Calm determination returned as he contemplated his next move with predatorial sureness. Marius glanced at the mantel clock. Ten after midnight. She is late. I’ll have to punish her for that.
Soon, the hallway echoed the opening of the door to the stairs. Marius listened as the sole of petite boots tapped out a rhythm until they hit the center carpet and the tapping became a muted thud. He put out the cigar and finished his brandy. A light rap came at the door. He ignored it. A louder knock. Nothing. The door eased open and then clicked shut. The lock clanked with mechanical sureness. Marius stared at the fire, lost in his thoughts.
He saw her out of the corner of his eye. She leaned over to place a small tray on the end table. He detected the aroma of a freshly baked apple strudel, spices, buttery crust and the scent of wolves, wool, and warm, soft skin. She paused as Marius took in the inebriating view of her exposed breasts. His mouth watered. She had his attention now. She straightened herself and closed her top button to rebuke him for the pleasure he took from her.
“I brought your favorite strudel from the kitchen.”
“I had to . . .”
“What have I told you about keeping to your schedule?”
“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll not let it happen again.”
“Of course, you won’t. Is that barley tea with the strudel?”
Marius got up from the couch and approached the wolfkeeper’s daughter. She watched with wariness, appearing to try to read his mood. Marius grabbed the lapels of her jacket. He looked into her wide eyes full of surprise. The pupils darted around the room and back to him. He pulled her closer feeling the slightest tremble of her body against him and looked down into her face. There was no fear in her, only the wonder that seemed to settle into something else, a kind of subtle anticipation.
He studied her. His face came closer to her’s, invading her space. He saw her nostrils flare as she inhaled his essence, her pupils widened almost obliterating the blue irises reflecting his face and the glow of the fireplace superimposed in the moisture of her eyes. Ice and fire drifted through his mind. Her mouth parted and her breath flowed over his face in a familiar sweetness.
Marius lifted her chin and brushed her lips with his.
“Mmm. I see you’ve had your share of the strudel already.”
“A girl has to eat,” she replied in a confident tone. It was a mistake. She overestimated her power to quell the beast in his heart. More punishment. He smiled with the foreknowledge of how to restore discipline. The trepidation came to her eyes when she recognized her error.
“Take off the coat.”
“I…uh. I don’t…” She stammered, momentarily frozen in a modest virtue, desire, and her deep-rooted sensuality.
“Now, please,” The commander insisted, no malice in his curt reply.