This piece is part of a much, much bigger backstory that I've fleshed out for a character in an RP. The setting is early Victorian era. I plan to write Anna's entire story at some point, which I have outlined—this scene occurs very early in her adventures, shortly after she has met Lady MarburyAnna later becomes quite "skilled," if you catch my drift. Comments are appreciated, as usual.


How Anna Got Her Hands

"Stop walking like a victim, girl. Keep your back straight, head up. Look at me in the eye."

Anna obeyed, though the pain in her lower back made her eyes tear. Biting her lip, she walked to Lady Marbury, and took her hands. Anna met her steel grey gaze, a formidable combination with sharp cheekbones and razor-thin eyebrows. The lady's hands were warm and rough, a stark contrast to her own—white, smooth, and cold as the moon.

"How fares the Viscount D'Arvay?" Lady Marbury asked, in a tone suggesting that time would come soon enough for the answer to be "Dead."

Anna said nothing, but the gleam in her hazel eyes, the long-suffering anguish of a helpless woman who could do nothing to stop her husband's nightly bedroom torture, revealed all the information Lady Marbury need know. Dropping the girl's hands, for her beauty could certainly cause men to drive their carriages off cliffs, Lady Marbury motioned her to be seated.

"We are awaiting a guest, Anna," the lady said, knowing full well the girl could not bear to be addressed by her title, and thus did all she could to make her feel comfortable. "You recall your earlier attempt at the bedroom arts, which did not meet either of our expectations. This one will be—I should think—quite illuminating. I have called in an expert."

The humiliation of the previous encounter burned in Anna's memory. Believing her teeth would soon break her skin if she kept ravaging her lower lip, Anna clenched her jaw instead, trying, trying to take Lady Marbury's advice and not betray fear.

Moments later, Lady Marbury's steward strode into the room, announced a man with dark colouring, warm eyes and a hairstyle appropriate for the stage. He dressed in bawdy clothing, a bright blue jacket and trousers, a tall hat and a cravat so tasteless even her impoverished brother would have dismissed it for foolery. The man could not have thought much of his garments—indeed, he rarely wore any at all, but this was a special circumstance.

"This is Rafael," said Lady Marbury. "Rafael, this is the Viscontessa Anna I was speaking of."

"Ah, Anna," he greeted her with an easy smile. "It is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance, my dear."

Finally, she spoke, her voice sounding frail even to her own ears—a whisper. "And yours."

"Shall we begin then?" Rafael shot a questioning glance at Lady Marbury, who nodded.

"You know the way, you may take her to the Swan," she said, referring to a small bedroom on the same floor. Lady Marbury rose, her regal form sweeping out of the room, each tendril of her dark hair curled and perfect. How Anna had admired—craved—for that confidence.

"Come now, sweetheart," he said, taking her hand. Flinching at the man's touch, despite feeling gentler than a feather brushing her skin, she followed him to the room. By the time he sat Anna down on the bed, she was trembling uncontrollably, small breaths escaping out of her rosebud mouth. Anna had learned not to cry out.

Rafael put his hands on her shoulders as to steady her, and looked full in the eye the beautiful girl the lady had described to him. Eyes a fleck of sunlight would reveal as opals. She would not meet his.

"Her ladyship told me about your situation," he began softly, his voice reminiscent of dandelion seeds blowing into the wind. "Listen to me. I will not harm you. I may make you cry, I may cause you to shout, but never in pain. I may touch you, kiss you, take you into my arms, but you will never bruise, you will never bleed, and you will never hobble out of this room.

"You need not worry of me trying to possess you. My services are well-known, and I prefer the reed rather than the flower," he added with a tinge of humour, and gave her a wink. "Though I certainly don't mind aiding a stunning creature like yourself. And even should I wish it, I could not harm you like your brute of a husband. My experiences in the army made sure of that..."

Anna finally emitted a choked sound of alarm.

"...though don't you dare feel sorry for me, nobody else does," Rafael said with a laugh. "I have compensated. Now, your dress, my dear, unless you wish me to disrobe you myself."

Though the feeling of dread still remained, Anna loosened her gown with his help, slipping out of it with timid reserve. Although her torturer never dared strike a blow to her face, she heard Rafael gasp at her discoloured skin and the bruises littering her back, shoulders and legs. Lady Marbury's balm had helped with the worst of them, for her pain had subsided to a dull ache.

"Well, we cannot begin that way," Rafael said, indicating for her to lie on her stomach, with her back to him. He placed her russet locks, smoother than silk and a colour more brilliant, out of the way, and slid his fingers along her form. He found spots of tension in her body, then kneaded them forcefully, rubbing his calloused thumbs into her creamy skin.

She gasped and nearly jumped up, her eyes watering. "One moment, and it will pass," she heard Rafael's reassurance.

Sure enough, after a few brief moments her back felt as if they'd been assaulted by a million needles, he released the pressure, and Anna felt a pleasant, tingling sensation where his hands were. He moved onto her legs, shoulders, buttocks, stomach, giving each the same attention and care. Heat returned to her body and her muscles relaxed, not having felt life in her limbs since her marriage to the Viscount D'Arvay six months ago.

"Hands," Rafael began, as he moved past mere massage, inciting little flames over her body, "are your greatest weapon. Out of all the senses, men—or even women, should the need arise—respond most ardently to touch. Master this, love, and you shall never again be on the receiving end of torture." Anna thought she heard a little smile in his words.

She again felt her tension ease, she warmed up to his touch, feeling safe, more intimate than she had ever felt with anyone in her life. By this time, he had removed most of his own clothing and hovered over her like a guardian angel.

"From what her ladyship tells me, you are to enter her service once you have settled your husband's misdeeds," said Rafael, his hands finding the folds in her skin. Anna made a noise of agreement.

"Do not shirk from the uglier tasks—there is no price for your hands' beauty. Mine have seen cliffs, guns, knives, reins. They've bled, they've scratched and been scratched, they've clung to life and love. You give your hands character when you work for it—and later they work for you. You certainly would not be feeling this—" he twisted his hand and Anna, to her own shock, let out a purr—"if I went about my day with gloves over my hands like you ladies do."

He was right. Anna did cry out, but not in pain. For once—dare she admit it?—she had felt pleasure in the bedroom. And she was awed by the fact that Rafael touched her not at all, save for his hands.

And afterwards, a spark of impulse swallowed Anna, and she leaned up to him and grabbed his head, gifting him with a small kiss.

Hands, Anna thought. All my life, my face has been a curse, my beauty inherited, none of my doing. But hands... hands, I shall make my own.