Blessed / Cursed

Chapter Seven: The rabbit hole.

Markus frowned at the lovely Lady seated across from him, she had been visiting quite a bit the last several days.

He couldn't blame her, though their opinions on the matter differed their conclusions were the same.

Markus was not eager to go to war on a whim, he'd lost many son's in previous wars and was running out of heirs to be honest.

Raziah's issue lied solely with the idea that her precious High Lord would dare steal a woman.

He understood of course why she took the issue to heart, she herself came into power only because the man she had for all intents and purposes been sold to had died two wars previous to this one.

Their marriage had not been a pleasant one and Raziah refused whole heartedly to acknowledge that the reason she had assumed her title and retained it for so long was because that very marriage had made her a hardened woman, a fierce opponent and completely independent of any man, she'd taken on her fair share of lovers but she refused to remarry.

And now here she sat, so passionate about the issue that she was willing to commit treason to prevent it.

Of course in the beginning she was only complaining about how amoral it was to kidnap and force a woman into marriage but now she was full on discussing how to prevent this from happening.

"If we alert the King surely he would intervene." She was saying quietly.

Markus didn't have the will power to roll his old eyes. "You could do that but then you would have to testify to it, admitting to the High Lord and all the world that you betrayed him, you would lose your seat at least, at most…your life." He explained, it happened rarely in his long life but Markus had participated in more than one act of betrayal, one had to be careful about these things.

Raziah frowned rubbing her chin. "You don't want to go to war yet you've not offered any suggestions on how to prevent this." She pointed out somewhat impatiently.

"I am not interested in fighting but you are mistaken if you believe this one act will prevent a war, our High Lord has made his intentions clear." Markus said not bothering to quiet his tone, he was quite confident they were not being watched.

His words rang true though Raziah refused to accept them. The reality was plain, the wheels were already in motion…the war would come, there was no preventing it and Markus was far to old to attempt to betray the High Lord, that was one fight he had painstakingly avoided his entire life and he would continue to do so.

Raziah continued to rub her chin as her eyes narrowed. "There is no need for us to get involved, as far as the rest of the world is concerned Fire is not participating in the fighting, if we prevent this marriage we have no reason to-." Markus cut her thoughts short.

"We will fight because our allies fight, we have always been aligned with Wind, rather this marriage goes through or not the war will proceed and we will participate…the marriage serves a separate purpose." He said plainly, he knew she would not be reached with reason…she would betray her High Lord because she was blinded by emotion…such a shame.

"Then what is the purpose of the marriage?" She hissed, James had been very plain that this girl was the key, how had Markus not picked up on this fact?

Markus offered a shrug. "I've no idea why the girl is important I know simply that she is…you should not worry so much for it, you've known Stefan his entire life…He would not treat her harshly." He said attempting to take the winds out of her sails on the subject.

Raziah frowned darkly. "That is entirely not the point." She grumbled. "I can see that you are not willing to assist on this matter, I trust that I can count on your discretion all the same?" She questioned ready to move on and attempt to find other allies in this dangerous venture to betray her High Lord.

Markus nodded once. "Mind that you don't stick your neck out too far dear." He warned.

-00000000000000000000-

"How much longer?" Josslynne asked with a tired sigh, once again they had been walking all day, she didn't know which was worse, walking in those damnable heeled boots or walking barefoot.

"We should be there by nightfall tomorrow so long as we keep this pace." Stefan replied knowing she was itching to whine if not once again plant herself on the ground and refuse to move.

They had chatted idly through out the day though Stefan was painstakingly on guard, they were open to be attacked at any point and he would not be caught off guard again.

"How old are you?" She asked randomly causing Stefan to tilt his head just slightly.

"Changed your mind about my offer?" He questioned coyly causing Josslynne to flush.

"Really I cant even get basic information about you?" She shot agitated.

Stefan shrugged. "I cant keep answering your questions for free." He replied smoothly.

Josslynne glowered. "Why do you want to kiss me so badly hmm?" She asked stubbornly though she wasn't sure she wanted the answer to that.

Stefan turned to face her sharply, catching her chin with his hand and slowly dragging his thumb across her bottom lip causing Josslynne to freeze solid in shock as all the blood in her body made its new home in her face and her heart thundered in her chest.

He leaned in closer to her until they were barely an inch apart, his breath mixing with hers as he continued to stroke her bottom lip. "Because I like the way you taste." He said with a devilish smirk.

Josslynne stared up at him wide eyed and red faced, he was a dangerous predator to her sanity, hunting it down and killing it with each gentle stroke, tempting her ever closer to her darkest desires.

In the pit of her stomach she felted the urge gnawing at her, he was tempting her so easily it was embarrassing, she knew practically nothing about him but was insanely curious and he knew it and was using it against her, forcing her hand…the only way to get what she wanted from him was to give him what he wanted from her and she was running out of strength to resist him.

She slowly raised a shaky hand and closed her long thin fingers around his wrist, pulling his hand away and turning her face from him. "I…." She stammered trying to find the right words…any words would work honestly. "Don't…touch…me." She finally managed though it seemed much more difficult than it should have been.

Stefan continued to smirk refusing to move away from her. "What's the matter baby, afraid you'll enjoy it a little too much?"

Josslynne narrowed her eyes and released his wrist as if the mere contact had burned her, realizing he had no intention of backing off she took several steps backwards only for him to move forward. "You are extremely-" She was cut off when Stefan rushed forward more quickly than she had expected and wrapped his arm around her back and pulled her forward against him, effectively ending any attempt to get some space.

Her breath hitched sharply as she desperately tried to gather her thoughts. "Scared?" He asked pressing his forehead against hers.

Despite how thickly his voice was laced with heady desire it was a genuine question. Ever since he'd made her that offer he'd been thinking up clever ways to force her into accepting it but at no point did he want her to feel fear.

Josslynne released the breath she had been holding slowly as the one word echoed into the far reaches of her mind. What she felt towards him could indeed be fear, but was she genuinely afraid of him or simply the unknown that he was inherently? Or maybe she was afraid of herself, how far down the rabbit hole could she really go before she was unable to find the surface again?

Initially she had been determined to play this game out, find out what she could and do what she had to do to find her way out of this but as more time passed and she got farther and farther away from any possibly salvation she had to concede that the stakes might just be to high for her to continue to willingly play into his hand.

But what could stop him? What could she say or do to get him to back off? "Answer me." He breathed jerking her from her thoughts.

She swallowed hard as she slowly began to stammer. "Yes…"

Stefan watched her closely for a moment, he didn't believe her answer but couldn't risk that he might have been misreading her this whole time. "Fair enough." He said dropping his hands and finally stepping away from her.

It had been the outcome she had hoped for but she was nonetheless surprised that he backed off so willingly. "I'm twenty-eight." He said as he brushed by her easily.

Josslynne's eyes followed him like a hawk, he had given her a crumb but why? He was still playing her obviously but after the last several extremely intense minutes she would take it.

Stefan continued on silently, he hadn't made enough progress with her…given it had only been a hand full of days but still he'd hoped to be further along than this….maybe he had overestimated his charm?

Or more likely underestimated her willingness to be suckered. He had believed that since she had by all accounts so willingly accepted to be married off to whatever the fuck his name was, that it would be no big deal to get her to fall in love with him.

Yes the circumstances were far from ideal but hey this sort of thing was almost commonplace. If you saw something of value and had the power to take it that is damn well what you did, person, property, didn't matter, the only thing that mattered was your own power.

Stefan had power to spare, James had power to spare, over the centuries people simply learned to not fuck with the Fire Blessed unless you absolutely had to, their pure destructive abilities were nothing to be taken on lightly and they damned well knew it.

But Stefan knew in this scenario all his excess power meant nothing, he couldn't force her to love him he needed her to get there on her own as it would be very critical to the overall plot not ending with his execution.

And if all this wasn't bad enough Stefan was quick to realize that while he was trying his damned best to win her affection she had fucking effortlessly won his, he was unwilling to go so far as say he loved her but damned if he didn't know he would get there.

Stefan couldn't decide if his affection was keyed in on her Blessing and the way her mere presence eased him or the way she managed to smile or laugh despite her situation, the way she so determinedly moved forward barefoot and barely clothed…the way she teetered, stuck between being afraid of him and accepting him.

It was long after nightfall before they stopped to rest for the night, both ate their stale brown bars quietly and by all appearances Josslynne had settled herself quite comfortable across from him, not daring to break the comfortable silence that had settled hours ago.

Time to ruin that!

Stefan got up and sifted through his bag for a moment, aware that Josslynne was watching him like a hawk, he grabbed the first aid kit and came to stand beside her. "We should probably change that bandage." He said evenly.

He knew he shouldn't try to pull anything here, if he did she likely would refuse any future assistance from him but…he wasn't sure he could resist the temptation to try once more.

Josslynne frowned at him as if she could read his mind. "I don't need your help." She said all to sharply as she frowned at him now kneeling beside her.

Stefan cocked an eyebrow at her. "If you insist." He said not even slightly put out, the wound was in an odd place, without the proper training she would undoubtedly struggle to change the bandage.

Josslynne frowned at him as he went back to where he had been sitting, he was up to something she was well aware but went about trying to take care of herself.

She looked in the little box and frowned, she didn't know what any of this stuff was for, her eyes briefly darted to Stefan who was chilling over there with an evil grin on his face, he was waiting for her to ask him for help that little bastard…

Josslynne fumbled through the little box, she pulled out a small roll of tape and some precut gauze.

Once she was certain she had all she needed she carefully pulled the hem of her slip up just enough to expose the thick bandage that was taped to her hip, she pulled on the tape and gasped sharply when pain sprang sharply from the wound.

It felt as though she was pulling her skin right off with the tape and she had to take several breaths before attempting again, she tried again and it only magnified the pain.

She looked over at Stefan again with tears burning in her eyes, he was frowning at her his brow furrowed, unable to manage words she just shook her head at him.

Understanding the silent plea for help Stefan quickly got to his feet and came to her side, kneeling beside her he flicked a little ball of fire to life to create more light.

He continued to frown as he looked at the bandage, all seemed well so he didn't understand why she couldn't stand to remove the bandage… "I'm going to count to three and rip it off." He warned.

"No no no." Josslynne fussed swatting his hands away quickly.

"Relax Joss, it'll be over before you know it, one." He said swatting her hands right back.

"Please no no no." She whined.

"Two." He warned ignoring he protests.

Stefan managed to pull the tape just enough to get a solid grip on it. "Ready?" He asked catching her eyes.

Josslynne bit her lip hard and shook her head. "No!" She insisted.

"Three." He said giving one sharp jerk cleanly tearing the bandage off and causing Josslynne to all but scream out in pain.

Stefan had been concerned that the wound had gotten infected but upon inspection he realized she was just a gigantic baby. "You are such a wuss." He commented as he carefully inspected the wound.

It was healing quite nicely he thought, there would be a scar but nothing major. "What?" Josslynne managed sniffling as her hip throbbed painfully.

Stefan paused what he was doing to regard her fully. "You are a wuss, a baby, I thought your damn leg was gonna fall off the way you were whining." He said before returning to his inspection.

Josslynne bit her lip again as she glared at him. "It hurts!" She insisted wounded by his dismissive attitude.

Stefan sighed. "You have no pain tolerance at all." He mumbled. "Relax, it's healing fine, you'll be fine." He continued as he went about cleaning the wound.

"It doesn't feel fine." She grumbled. "And you don't need to…make fun of me." She said swiping at her nose.

Stefan's fingers froze just against her hip. "I don't…I'm not trying to make fun of you baby, its fine I promise, see for yourself" He said sincerely.

Josslynne's eyes slowly fell to her hip, she grimaced. "That looks horrible!" She whined as her eyes ran over the long deep wound that wasn't quite scabbed over just along her hip bone. "I've been mutilated!"

"Don't be so dramatic." Stefan said shaking his head. "It'll barely be noticeable when it heals up all the way." He said soothingly.

"Really?" She questioned revealing a tiny amount of vanity.

"Really really." He said reassuringly.

Josslynne sighed despondently followed by a sharp wince when he poured some brown liquid on the wound.

Without much thought Stefan lowered his head and blew gently on her hip causing Josslynne to freeze in place, suddenly the pain that had been all consuming was pushed forcibly to the back of her mind as his oh so closeness was all she could focus on.

One of his hands was placed firmly on the back of her hip the other on the inside of her thigh and his mouth inches away from her body, all at once she realized she could barely breathe.

Stefan by all appearances was oblivious to her sudden reaction to him as he continued to tend to her wound. "All done." He said after pressing a fresh bandage on her hip and then looking up.

His lips parted just slightly as he noted the odd and oh so familiar look on her face, he'd seen it only once before but it had burned into his memory, the expression she'd had after he'd kissed her.

He had inadvertently struck a chord and not just any chord, the one he'd been trying to hit for days, apparently he was just trying too hard.

With only a second thought on the matter Stefan reached out and cupped her cheek before slowly moving closer to her, he was making his intentions very clear and much to his pleasure she didn't push him away.

Josslynne's eyes were wide and her breath was hitched as he paused his mouth almost on hers but not quite, she realized he was waiting for her to move the small distance forward and as the understanding settled on her she bit her lip, she needed to resist, pull away…don't fall into his trap.

Even as she mentally chanted trying to talk herself down she realized she was failing, louder than anything else going on in her head was the one simple idea of…what was the worst that could happen…it was only one kiss…

Agonizingly slowly she pressed her eyes shut and closed the little distance between them, gently pressing her lips to his, the contact instantly sent heat surging through her entire body just as touching him always seemed to do but this time it was different, his heat seemed to burn thicker and hotter through her and in the very back of her mind she was vaguely aware that one kiss really could do quite a lot of damage.

She felt Stefan relax as he slid his hand from her cheek to the back of her neck pulling her closer, she felt his tongue run across her lips pleading for entrance which she quickly obliged.

He let out a low groan as he deftly slid his tongue over hers, her lips soft and welcoming under his, devouring every inch of her warm mouth as he pulled her closer and closer demanding more as he savored her taste.

He wanted more, he needed more, so much more. Slowly he eased her back until she was laying on the ground, his hand still holding the back of her neck, her head resting on his other arm as he settled on top of her, her legs on either side of his.

Josslynne felt the sharp panic creep into her bones as she quickly realized this was going so so very much farther than she had intended! But she didn't quite have the nerve to stop him…it felt so nice after all.

Stefan continued to expertly explore every inch of her mouth that his tongue could reach passion pulsing in his veins so overwhelmingly that he might of gotten dizzy had he been standing.

Somewhere in his head Stefan was aware that he needed to stop….but damned if he would be the one to end it, not when she was at last being so willing to his advances.

He dropped one hand to her leg pulling gently as he slid his hand along her bare thigh while simultaneously breaking their kiss, her breath was ragged against his cheek as he dropped his mouth to her throat smirking when she gave a sharp gasp as he slid his tongue across her flesh.

He'd never lost himself so quickly and completely before this moment, the heat from his Fire burning through him and seeping into her, for once Stefan did not attempt to keep the power in check allowing it to flow from his body to hers and by no small miracle she did not recoil from it.

Josslynne's mind was nothing short of a heady blur, she was horribly embarrassed and thrilled and how her body was responding to his every touch, expertly caressing this spot and then that one, taunting and teasing leading her farther and farther down the rabbit hole, unleashing her desires one deft stroke after the other.

She couldn't decide if he was as lost in the moment as she was or if every move was deliberately planned to get a specific reaction out of her, either way she all but lost it when she felt his very hard cock press against her skin.

One brief moment of clarity shouted in her mind that she needed to stop and she needed to stop now but she just couldn't get her body to respond, it was far to busy responding to him.

She couldn't stop the moan that escaped her as the hand that had been placed firmly on her bare thigh shifted to one of her breasts while he once again pressed his mouth to hers.

His kiss was different this time, he wasn't waiting for her to respond he was demanding it harshly, almost too harshly.

Josslynne's heart jumped to her throat when she felt the light tug on her panties.

Stefan felt her tense up immediately and froze as she quickly broke their kiss when she turned her face away from him her eyes still closed, drawing deep shaky breaths as she trembled underneath him.

Stefan rested his forehead against the side of her face as he worked to calm himself, the task was made all the easier when he heard her sniffle, fuck she was crying?

Stefan swore darkly in his head, he'd gone way to damn far. "Shh, baby don't cry….you're alright." He tried to soothe, he cupped her cheek again and forced her to look at him her eyes glassy and her cheeks red as their breath mingled. "We'll stop, I'm sorry…I thought…You're fine, we'll stop." He stumbled unsure of how to recover the situation.

"Please….get off me." She mumbled her bottom lip quivering with painstakingly contained sobs.

Stefan held her gaze for only a moment longer. "Yeah…of course." He said quickly as he pushed himself up.

Josslynne tried to compose herself but she knew it was going to be impossible. She didn't know what rattled her worse, the fact that he was willing to go that far or the fact that she almost was.

It was a harsh blow to her dignity…her morals…her damned honor! She barely knew the man and yet she had allowed him to crawl atop her and nearly….nearly….she dare not finish the thought!

She was vaguely aware that he was speaking, still attempting to soothe her but as her despair over her own actions grew so did her anger, she was angry at herself for allowing this to happen, she'd been raised better, she was angry at him for treating her in such a bold manner…for daring to touch her…..

She could feel the blood settle in her face in a deep blush as the words burst from her uncontrollably. "I am not some….cheap harlot that you can just….you will not treat me like some common whore….put on this earth solely for…your amusement!" Her voice was hoarse and cracked as she stammered and tripped over her words trying to find the right ones to use.

Stefan's brows shot up as he frowned at her. "Of course not." He replied simply, not wishing to upset her further.

Josslynne swiped a stray tear angrily, this whole damned situation was far to much, surely she'd fallen and hit her head and slipped into a coma and this was all just some horribly vivid dream.

Stefan's heart still thundered heavily in his chest as he watched her cautiously. It was regrettable that she'd stopped him short but he knew it was probably for the best, she needed to learn that while he had and would continue to cross many lines with her there would always be one that he would not dare approach.

"I apologize, I was a bit too forward." He spoke slowly but couldn't resist to add. "But you did kiss me."

That earned him an icy glare as she bit her lip hard, trying to swallow the anger that had risen in her belly. "I am not your whore!" She spat venomously.

Stefan offered a devastating smile as he keyed in on exactly where her issue lied, that was the third time she had insisted she was not some common whore. "No you aren't, nor have I or would I treat you as such." He replied easily.

Josslynne frowned at him but her nerves were finally starting to settle and a realization came to her at his words. "Why me?"

Stefan's lips slid into a smirk. "Persistent." When her glare only hardened at his words he raised his hands in a sign of surrender.

Never for as long as she lived would Josslynne have been ready for his answer, the answer she had been bull headedly demanding for the past several days and he had so stubbornly refused to give, now as his words hit her like a literal ton of bricks shattering everything she thought she knew she could have choked on the sharp intake of breath as his reply echoed loudly in her head.

"Because you are Ice blessed."