Clothes, coin and trinkets littered the stone floor all the way to the massive bedroom, where she drove him back onto the bed and climbed atop him. He stared up at her with intrigue as she shifted the balance of power for the first time since they’d met, gripping his wrists in her tiny hands and stretching his arms above him as she lowered down to nibble on his waiting lips. He jerked at her grip as if to bring his arms around her and roll her onto her back, but she pushed them back down with enough force to make him gasp against her eager kisses.
“No,” she whispered, tracing the tip of her tongue along his lower lip before nipping at it.
“Yes.” Tugging upward again and rising into her, she forced him back down to the bed once more.
“I’ll tie you down if I have to.”
He rose once more, as if challenging her to hold good on that promise, and she climbed down off the bed, leaving him alone there in its center for a moment. “Where do you think you’re going?” he called to her back as she left the room. His voice echoing through the quiet, empty hall. “Get back here.”
She’d seen them sitting on the edge of the table near the hearth when she’d scoped out the house, leather strips for smithing… and binding. Grinning to herself, she swiped them up and pattered back through the house with a devious excitement burning in her belly.
Brynjolf had fallen into the bed with a hopeless sigh while she was gone and lifted to look at her as she came back in, his eyebrows rising up with interest when he saw what she held in her hands. She stood in the doorway a moment, slapping the strips against her palm before she stalked toward him with a purpose.
“And just what do you think you’re going to do with those?”
She said nothing, but reached for his hand and drew it toward the headboard. He didn’t stop her, but lay perfectly still while, head stretched up to watch as she secured his wrists to the bed and then stepped back to admire both his perfect form and her handiwork. She could have stood there all night just staring at him, watching his chest rise, eyes flickering with lust and longing.
“You’ve snared me, lass.” He jerked at his wrists to show her how well she’d secured them. “Now what?”
“Whatever I want,” she said, kneeing up onto the bed and lifting her leg to straddle his chest.
“Mm,” he murmured as she descended to taste his lips. “I like the sound of that.”
“Good.” She shimmied her hips down lower, until she could feel his eagerness rising against her.
With him at her whim, she teased him endlessly, layering soft kisses along the sensitive skin of his side, the tight muscles of his belly, tickling, taunting and watching his excitement rise. Several times she lifted her gaze to watch his face, his eyes closed, mouth drawn tight as he breathed in hard through his nose, chest expanding when he held that breath in. She could have done anything to him, anything at all and he’d have been powerless to stop her.
“I could hurt you,” she murmured softly, trailing her lips and tongue up over his chest, darting across his nipple before drifting higher to nip along his collarbone.
“But you won’t.”
“How do you know?” She slid her hips down once more, wriggling closer to entice him but then pulling back before giving him what he craved.
“I just know.”
“What if you’re wrong?” He was so close to driving himself home she thought he was actually trembling in anticipation, and she wanted him, wanted to feel him rise up inside her, but she was enjoying the game far too much to stop playing just yet. She drew away again, and he gasped in protest, unbound legs jerking up to push her back into place.
“I’m never wrong.”
Ginna drew out her game so long, it was probably worse than torture for him, proving him wrong even though he’d never admit it. By the time she laid claim to what was hers, he was panting with need and she rewarded his patience and fortitude with long kisses as she rode the waves of endless pleasure with him until they were both completely spent.
Collapsing atop him, he tugged at his binds and she lifted her head to grin down at him. “Would you like me to set you free?”
“No.” He stared into her eyes with unspoken intensity that cut through to her soul. “Just untie my hands.”
She obliged, reaching up to loosen the binds enough that he could slip his hands out. He immediately reached up to rub feeling back into his wrists as she rolled onto her back beside him and drew up her legs. “Did you count out our take from the market this afternoon?”
“Six hundred and fifty septims,” he said. “Minus the forty it’ll take to hire the carriage, that leaves us with six-ten, plus whatever you’ve got in your pockets out there.”
“Not much gold, maybe twenty septims,” she lamented. “A few jewels and rings. A nice gold jeweled necklace that’ll fetch a decent price if sold to the right dealer.”
“Either way, it’s more than enough to get us where we need to go.” He moved onto his side, propping up in the bed to look down on her. “And you didn’t think we could pull it off.”
“I did have my doubts. Nocturnal must have been watching over us.”
“Maybe.” He lowered to brush his lips to hers, the length of his hair falling across her cheek like a soft curtain. “Or maybe we’re really just that good together.”
“Maybe.” She kissed him again and then reached up to tuck his hair back behind his ear. “Did you see the size of this place? I wonder how much they’re asking for it. It’s so small compared to House Dareloth, but I always wanted a big house all my own.”
“Easy now.” He laughed and dropped back into the pillows behind them. “Don’t go getting ahead of yourself, lass. Six-hundred and ten septims and a few pretty rocks isn’t enough to put a roof over your head. It’s not even a start.”
“No, but someday I will have enough,” she sighed then and sat up to rest on the edge of the bed, her back to him.
“What do you need a house for?” Leaning in behind her, he circled his arms around her hips and tried to pull her back into bed with him. “As long as you’ve got a dry place to sleep, I say save your coin.”
“What’s the point in having coin if I don’t use it to buy the things I want?”
“If you walk around spending all your money, you won’t have anything to fall back on when hard times hit. And we’re on hard times, there’s no doubt about it. Besides, you’re like to draw unwanted attention to yourself if you go flashing your wealth around.”
“Well, that isn’t how things are done where I come from.” She tugged free from his arms, stood up and walked toward the wardrobe in the corner of the room. Opening the doors to peer inside at the empty cupboards, she glanced over her shoulder at him. “Where I come from, showing off our wealth keeps the people in line. It’s a demonstration of our power.”
“Or an invitation for a backstabbing,” he muttered.
Ignoring that remark, she closed the wardrobe and slipped out into the sitting room, wandering through the house and taking it all in while he lay abed. It was a beautiful house, perched high enough above the city to offer privacy and the thick stone walls shut out the noise from outside. It was the kind of house she used to fantasize about when she was a little girl, before Severus took her away from her father’s bungalow and put her up in the lavish House Dareloth. She’d had her own room there, and plenty of space to keep her treasures. But even then, it hadn’t been enough. It wasn’t hers.
She heard the sheets ruffling, and when she glanced back over her shoulder, she saw Brynjolf had given up on her coming back and tucked himself beneath the quilt, stretching out to rest in comfort.
Comfort she’d had to force on him, no less.
Their philosophies were so very different; it boggled her mind. Why, if she was going to all the trouble to steal something, wouldn’t she put the earnings from it to good use to better her own situation? Life was for living, and living uncomfortably on purpose seemed a crime in and of itself, especially for someone who’d grown up in the Guild. What did he do with all his money, if not spend it?
Then again, spending all her gold hadn’t advanced her any further in life. It had just made her comfortable in the moment. Had she saved her wealth, instead of frivolously spending it and allowing Mallus to suck it away, she might not be in the situation she was in: squatting in an unowned house with nothing around her to call her own. Or maybe Brynjolf was right. Maybe Brutus would have stabbed her sooner, in order to take what was hers for himself.
Either way, old habits died hard, and though she may have been floundering at the bottom of the barrel after years of swimming with the big fish, she’d get back up there one day. She’d do whatever it took to do it, too.