Wicked Graces: Chapter Eight

Over the next ten days, Hawke kept busy familiarizing herself with the household staff and servants while aiding in preparations for the coronation. She brought order to it all with surprising alacrity, finding herself grinning quietly each time she realized how proud her mother would be, not just of her rise in station, but by how well she’d fallen in line with her duties. She really did have a knack for making order of absolute chaos; if only she could that with her own life, things would be grand.

As Coronation Day drew nearer, and the city and castle began to bustle with foreign diplomats come to see Starkhaven returned to its former glory, Sebastian refused to negotiate without Kirkwall at the table beside. Even Seneschal Bran would be delighted to see how well she represented the city’s interests, inspiring several offers of financial support toward restorations, as well as volunteers to aid in rebuilding the central parts of the city destroyed during the rebellion.

It would take years to see Kirkwall set right again, and though she’d never quite thought the City of Chains her home, she was still its viscountess. People she loved were there, and she would do what she could to give them the peace and prosperity they deserved after the mayhem her actions brought to their lives.  Continue reading

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Wicked Graces: Chapter Seven

Trade negotiations were not supposed to take all day, but in the seven years Sebastian’s cousin, Goran the Usurper, sat the throne in Starkhaven, he’d made a mess of relationships the Vael family had kept in good standing for several generations.

Duke Antoine of Wycome had come to power three years earlier, and though communications over the last couple months painted him amicably, the ambassador he sent to renegotiate the terms of their agreement regarding the harbor in Wycome was a shrewd and unforgiving man. And apparently he admired Goran Vael a great deal, which said very little about his character in so far as Sebastian was concerned. He didn’t like the man, but he knew well enough one didn’t need to like his adversary to come to an agreement with him.

It took four hours to convince him to review the contracts his father and the former duke signed over two decades earlier, and then they spent two more hours arguing the rising cost of grain with threats of war and rebellion looming on the horizon. He’d woke up with a headache, and whatever it was that happened with Hawke before breakfast—because he still had no idea what to make of it—set the tone for his entire day.

He’d give anything for a tumbler of whiskey. On an empty stomach the results would be devastating. Continue reading

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Wicked Graces: Chapter Six

By no means had Varric Tethras ever given anyone cause to call him slow. Under ordinary circumstances he was generally very observant, quick to the uptake, often figuring things out long before anyone else and piecing them together so he could sit back and say, “I knew it from the start,” while everyone else was making sense of it way after the fact.

But Hawke had thrown him for a complete loop with this one.

Maybe because in all the years he’d known her, he never once imagined her in that light. She was definitely a sexual being, which was one of the reasons he struggled so hard to understand it when she relentlessly pursued Choir Boy all those years ago, but he never thought she and Sebastian would actually ever… sleep together, much less procreate. Continue reading

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Wicked Graces: Chapter Five

A/N: May contain language and situations not suitable for readers under the age of seventeen.

Hawke didn’t remember falling asleep, though for the first time in months her slumber was not plagued by twisted nightmares of all the ways her lover might die before she was back at his side to protect him. In fact, she didn’t remember dreaming at all, not a single threat or temptation working its way through the darkness, and as she opened her eyes she felt mysteriously rested. Almost at peace, even.

She came awake slowly, disoriented and estranged from her surroundings. The bed felt far too comfortable, the air in the room not too hot, not too cold. The pillows and duvet stuffed with warm downy feathers that whispered as she rolled from her back onto her side and found herself face to face with her sleeping husband.

My husband. Continue reading

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Wicked Graces: Chapter Four

A/N: May contain language and situations not suitable for readers under the age of seventeen.

What began in the bath ended in the bedroom, a trail of water leading to a twisted mass of giggling sheets and quilts. The servants weren’t going to be happy about the mess they made, but he didn’t care. He never would have taken her for a giggler, despite her uncanny quick wit and sharp tongue, but behind a closed door with no one to intimidate she let herself go with him. And he loved the sound of her laughter, the way she squirmed when he tickled his facial hair along the quivering curve of her stomach, almost as much as he loved the breathy sighs she released as he teased his lips over her hip bone before pecking kisses lower and delighting in the unrestrained sound of her delight as he tasted her.

He made her entire body arch and writhe before finding his way inside her at long last, a homecoming that made him feel as though he already knew what to expect from the afterlife.

Every time he made love to her it felt like losing himself all over again for the first time. He’d known dozens of lovers in his youth, caused plenty of trouble that nearly destroyed his family’s good name, but none of those young ladies had ever been like Marian. None of them had ever made him feel the way she made him feel. Alive, enraptured, entangled, both lost and found. The warmth of her arms, the heat of her breath, the delicate and girlish whimpers she tried so desperately to hide before giving way to impassioned cries he was sure everyone in the castle would hear, and though he should have he didn’t give a single damn about it. Continue reading

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Wicked Graces: Chapter Three

Hawke was too exhausted to explore the suite of rooms she claimed as her own after retaking the castle. Directly across the halls from the royal apartments, she was quite content to have easy access to her husband, while enjoying a little privacy if she so chose. She liked privacy, room to breathe and move. It made her feel less like she was less confined; Hawke hated feeling trapped.

It seemed Sebastian and the servants went to a great deal of trouble to make it feel like home while she was away, but she was too tired to truly appreciate the finer details put in place. In fact, the only thing she wanted after a warm bath was to curl up in bed beside her husband and forget for a while they’d ever been apart. The prospect didn’t seem likely. His chancellor drew him aside to discuss some urgent matter of state during the banquet in her honor, and he was forced to excuse himself hours before she and Varric finally managed to slip away from the festivities.

She spent so much time smiling and nodding and having her hand kissed by randy nobles her face and neck hurt. Thank the Maker for the mask she was born with. It was all too easy to smile, even when she didn’t mean it—which was more or less most of the time. She was so good at faking it she might actually survive Orlais if her travels ever took her southeast again.

So many nobles, so many faces and names she was never going to remember, and all of them wanted to get close to her, catch her ear and win her favor.

Maybe Varric was right. He hadn’t said as much, at least not out loud, but every time he looked across the table at her she knew what he was thinking: She was not cut out for the royal life, no matter how much Amell blood ran through her veins. She was no princess, any more than she was qualified to play Viscountess of Kirkwall, and yet that was the life she’d chosen. Continue reading

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Wicked Graces: Chapter Two

Much to Chancellor Benneit’s dismay, Prince Sebastian Vael paced in front of Starkhaven’s open wrought iron gates. Wringing hands clasped at the small of his back and head cocked toward the growing visage of two riders on the road ahead, the prince’s stomach felt like twisted, rising dough—both airy and light, but equally agonizing.

His wife was only mere moments from meeting him after months apart. His wife. The years he spent sequestered in the chantry put all such thoughts from his mind, though Andraste herself knew the wickedness and impurity of his daydreams of the raven-haired rogue who aided him in avenging his family. He prayed a lot after he met Hawke, for guidance, for peace of mind and stillness of fluttering heart. Still, he never imagined those daydreams would come to pass. He was committed to the Maker’s work, had given up all worldly ambitions, titles, and goods.

And then he met Hawke.

Aggravated in his pacing, he kept his eye trained on the distance and internally fretted over the number of ways the entire thing could go wrong before it ever even started.

Hawke always made him nervous. Since the moment he first met her in the chantry, still covered in dust and the blood of the Flint Company Mercenaries she made short work of in the Vael family name, the mere sight of her was enough to light fire inside him. A fire, Elthina used to say, would burn his soul to ash if he entertained its flames. Continue reading

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