Eugene stared at him, surprised by such an unexpected statement. In her head, the idea that Kasser was slow to blame others was firmly rooted. She looked back over what she’d done, trying to see where she had gone wrong.
“You did see me off. At lunch earlier…”
It had been earlier that day, only a few hours ago. Eugene could clearly remember their conversation over lunch.
“Will you really be okay alone?” Kasser had asked.
“I won’t be alone. Abu and the maid are coming with me.”
“That maid is what worries me.”
“There’s nothing she can do to hurt me. She’ll be in trouble if she does.”
Nothing had really stood out to her as strange during the meal; it was the same atmosphere as always. They hadn’t even discussed the outing for that long. The only thing that Eugene could think of was that she had refused to join him for dinner.
Dining custom here called for more formality when dining together than dining alone, and more formality at dinner than at lunch. A dinner with Kasser could stretch out longer than two hours. If she ate with him, it wouldn’t have left her any time to go out, so she’d turned him down.
He’d accepted her refusal graciously, nodding and letting the moment pass without comment. King Kasser Eugene knew wasn’t one to be hurt by something like that and harbor resentment about it later.
“You told me to be careful. Don’t you remember?”
Eugene frowned, wracking her memory. Was it before that? She remembered the conversation she’d had with him last night.
“Let me know before you leave tomorrow. I have to see you off,” Kasser had said to her.
“Because my outing must be a secret. What if Molly thinks something is amiss? Don’t come near here after sunset. Don’t worry, Abu will be enough of an escort.”
That conversation had taken place after a passionate tryst, while she was lying prone on top of him, skin to skin. Eugene’s face flushed as she remembered how hot and intimate the air in the bedroom had been while they lay tangled together.
That conversation made more sense in context with Kasser’s claim that, “You declined to let me see you off.” The more she thought about it, the more ridiculous Eugene felt. He wasn’t talking about today, but last night. His request had made no sense. The outing was supposed to be covert; him coming to watch her leave would have been counterintuitive.
Kasser said nothing, turning his gaze aside, “What were you trying to say a while ago?”
“Oh, about that.”
Eugene tried to answer, but shut her mouth. The longer she stared at him, the more her lips trembled. Her shoulders shook. A single giggle slipped past her sealed lips, and she could hold it no more, bursting into laughter. Kasser’s resigned expression and weary sigh only made her laugh harder.
This was the man who said it was okay to steal a national treasure and lose it, give money to the Mara church, or be called a saint by the cults, and he had been upset by not being allowed to watch her depart. He’d even come all the way to the square to wait for her.
The ruler of the Hashi kingdom was renowned for being rational and stern, for loving his country and its people. Eugene often felt Kasser was a king who was respected by his people. Even if they didn’t sing his praises, they looked upon him with reverence and awe.
Not only was he a perfect king, he was an incredible person. Eugene often admired him. So this side of him, so human and a little grumpy, was unexpected. It gave her joy, seeing a side of him that so few others were privy to.
Still laughing, Eugene threw her arms around his neck and hugged him. She could feel the pleasant thudding of his heart in his chest, a little faster than normal. She felt light, giddy, almost as though she’d had a few glasses of wine.
“Your Majesty,” she said. “You have no idea how happy I am. It’s not because I met him and regained my memory. I’m glad to know I didn’t do anything to hurt you. I tried to say this a while ago.”
Eugene loosened her hold on him, pushing him back a little so she could look at him.
“I am sorry because of what has been revealed. It’s hard for me to hold my head up high, but I wanted to be a little proud. In order to do that, I must figure out everything that went wrong and fix my mistakes. So I insisted upon meeting him.”
“Everyone makes mistakes.”
Kasser stroked her cheeks with the backs of his hands. His chest ached as his heart filled with emotion. She was so lovely, expressing herself so calmly and honestly.
He pondered her question; why did he believe in her? Seeing her like this, he had no choice but to put his faith in her. She always expressed her thoughts and feelings clearly, in a way that left no room for ambiguity.
The educated elites of the world to which Kasser belonged always had an escape plan hidden in their words, a way to twist away from taking responsibility or owning what they said. Eugene was worlds apart from them, and every conversation with her was refreshing. He often found himself following her with eyes.
“You’re trying to put things right. You have no reason not to be proud.”
Eugene blinked, her eyes glistening. She seemed to be wrestling with a surge of emotions. “What if I keep making mistakes?”
“It’s okay,” Kasser reassured her.
“You might have to spend the rest of your life cleaning up the mess I’ve made.”
“The rest of my life, huh?” His fingers brushed over her cheek, caught under her chin and lifted it slightly. “It’s worth trying.”
Eugene closed her eyes as his face tilted and lowered toward hers. His lips covered hers, hot and firm. He slowly sucked on her bottom lip, worshiping it. The tip of his tongue teased along the seam of her lips then cut between them, sliding into her mouth. He stroked it against hers, encouraging a short moan from her throat.
He massaged the sensitive inner flesh, licked her teeth, and sucked her tongue hard. The kiss went on for an age, unhurried. Craving more or her, he kissed her cheeks, her eyelids, and pressed his lips against her neck. Eugene’s head fell back as his face nuzzled under her chin. Her body pressed into the wall of the carriage, pinned there by Kasser’s warm weight.
Eugene moaned as his hand groped the swell of her chest.
“Wait… Your Majesty… Mmm…”
She pushed Kasser away when he kept kissing her neck. “Stop… Not here.”
“There’s no one here.”
Suddenly her mind conjured the image of the empty plaza she had seen before. Eugene pushed Kasser harder. He moved back, giving her room to breathe.
“Why hasn’t the carriage started? We’ve been sitting here for a while now.”
“They’re waiting for my order to go.”
“Oh, my gosh! Are you saying they’ve been waiting this entire time, watching the carriage? What must they think we’ve been doing?”
Kasser laughed. “What do you think we’ve been doing?”
“What are we doing?”
Eugene stared at the smirking king. “Don’t tell me it was your plan to check the sump? To empty the square?”
“Originally, this is what we do around this time. The timing just happened to overlap with each other,” Kasser lied casually.
Eugene narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “You didn’t send an escort after me, did you? I made it clear to you not to do that. He might notice.”
There was no escort, but Kasser had arranged for a large number of patrols. He thought there was nothing wrong with strengthening their presence on the streets in the interests of crime prevention, due to the massive events of the stores.
“Let’s go now. Oh, and be sure to apologize to Abu when we return.”
“Do you know how hard Abu worked today? And you just threw him out like that.”
Kasser dismissed her words. “I am his master, not his friend.”
Eugene was going to criticize his tone, but she closed her mouth and thought instead. It might be wrong to think of the relationship between Hwansu and their owners like a relationship between people. Among beasts, hierarchy according to power was important.
“Then at least praise him for his work. You have to tell him when he does a good job. Alright?”
Kasser rapped twice on the carriage wall, and a moment later it jolted into motion.
Eugene realized that someone had been sitting on the perch the entire time and covered her burning face in her hands. When she finally glanced at Kasser, he was frowning at her, confused as to what was wrong. She couldn’t get used to the customs here, the way they didn’t seem to notice the eyes and ears of the common people.
* * *
The air in the bedroom hung hot and heavy. Eugene lay stretched out on top of Kasser, using him like a large cushion. Little by little his hand, which had been idly rubbing her skin, began caressing her in earnest. He stroked the inside of her thigh, squeezed her buttocks, and swept his palms up, savouring the curves of her waist.
She was exhausted after her last climax, wanting only to fall asleep, but when he touched her so gently… She slowly relaxed, warming up again the more he caressed her.
He wrapped his hand around the nape of her neck, pressing lightly to bring her forward. Bowing his head, he kissed her hair. Kasser’s sweet, simple kisses were more stimulating than even a passionate one. It made her feel as though she knew what the expression “to share love” was trying to describe.
Eugene lifted her head from his bare chest, gazing up at him. He kissed her, covering her lips with his own. What started out as a light press deepened until their tongues were entangled.
Kasser sucked on her tongue. A thrill ran up her spine and she moaned. He surged up underneath her, his firm body pressing against her, skin to skin. It felt like the moment a resting beast began to stretch awake.
As he got up, he gently lifted Eugene and turned her so her back touched the bed. Rising above her, he immediately pressed her legs open and slotted himself between them. He drafted his down her abdomen and caressed her lady garden, checking she was well lubricated. When he found her slick, he pushed his member all the way inside her.
Eugene squeezed her edges shut. The feeling of a thick, hard male part spreading her inner walls was intense. Accepting him was always overwhelming, even though the seeds he’d left inside her earlier served as a lubricant.