A Rainbow of Roses




Ann Marie Olson



Story © 2000 Ann Marie Olson




      Karola grimaced at the mirror. When did she get so dumpy? Or for that much matter, when did her waistline disappear? She pinched at her flank. No, still there. Karola distinctly remembered her sides neatly tucking in between her ribs and her hips.
      Grumbling under her breath, she grabbed a corselet. It didn't meet in the front. "It's been years!" The traitorous garment must have shrunk. Giving up, she tossed it into the rework pile on the bed. The pile was growing. Early this morning Karola had decided to rearrange her closet. Falyana was a well grown six year old and it was long past time for Karola to pack away her maternity clothes.
      Unfortunately, many of her other clothes no longer fit now either! Her hair tangled around her wrist. Karola tried covering her rather worn breasts with it. The black on her pale skin only made them look worse. She put a loose silk undershirt on. One she'd stolen from Avilan.
      "At least this still fits ..." Karola pulled out the first overtunic Avilan had made her after their handfasting. Emerald beads and platinum sequins shimmered like water struck by the sun. But it didn't. It gaped loose over her chest and bit into her sides. Karola knew her body had changed with age and children, but this was disaster. There was no way the overtunic could ever be made to fit properly again.
      The garment was one of Avilan's best pieces. Respectfully, she took it off and placed it back on the padded hanger. "Perhaps I should ..." she thought of placing it on a stand against the wall. No, Avilan would take that as offence. He would think that Karola no longer wished to wear it. Saddened, she replaced it in the closet with the others.
      Covered in Avilan's huge shirt, Karola gazed longingly at the beautiful clothes she could no longer wear. "No, I can't ask him."
      "Ask me what, beloved?" Karola felt so mornful to his senses, he had to try to cheer her up. He kissed the back of her silken neck. She shrank away. "Something wrong?" He knew there was, but didn't want to push things if she didn't want to speak.
      "No, no," her voice said. Karola's nager said exactly the opposite. Avilan turned her around. Her stunning violet eyes held the first glimmers of tears. He brushed his thumbs over her cheekbones. Karola's stunning beauty still took his breath away. How he wished he could comfort her.
      "Are you sure?" He smiled at her, trying to convince her to talk. "I love thee." This sometimes worked.
      "I love you," dark lashes lowered. They framed high cheekbones and pointed to the most kissable mouth Avilan had ever seen. Gently, he kissed her eyelids and then moved down to place a single kiss on her lips. Their softness against her sleek Sime warmth sent a frission of desire through his body.
      "I'm glad," Avilan tried honesty. A faint chuckle came from her. His fingers twined in her heavy black hair. She hadn't put it up yet since their seclusion and its drifting about her nearly nude body was far more temptation that Avilan really had any desire to resist. As he opened his senses to her though, she wasn't responding. Something is really bothering her. Karola was usually as ready for a romp as he was.
      Even though since Falyana had been born, Karola had become more and more reserved physically. Their two young daughters were an absolute delight, as all of their children had been and were still. Avilan had figured Karola was torn over Falyana being her last child, but this seemed like something more.
      Karola ran her hand along her side. He ached to follow her hand with his own. Her strong body with its spectacular femininity and Simeness made his pants shrink considerably. But Karola didn't seem to notice it. I guess she doesn't want me anymore. Avilan knew he had become rather stodgy and conservative with age.
      All the young sharm lords were far more agile and adventurous. Maybe she wanted one of them on her arm. Now that she had Arkay paired off with Nashen, maybe she was getting bored with him. His heart fell, as did other things.
      All Karola wanted was a hug. Gingerly, she stepped forward. Her heart froze as Avilan stepped back. What did I do? she nearly wailed. Never before had Avilan refused her a hug, even when it ... she glanced down. I really am unattractive.
      Normally Avilan was so light on the ground after transfer it had become a joke between them. 'Anytime, anywhere' had been their saying. Now, it seemed, Karola wasn't even attractive to Sharm Lord Always Post. She stuck half her tentacles in her mouth and bit at them.
      His jaw tightened and his field reddened from its sweet warm amber. Now he's mad at me. Karola fled the room.
      "I don't know what to do, Nashen." Avilan couldn't get Karola to even open the door. She had run to a tiny lord's cubby down near the sharm and wasn't talking to anyone.
      "Why are you asking me?" Nashen squawked. "I'm not a Sharm Lord."
      "But you are male and a Lord." Avilan did not add the fact Nashen, like himself, had an older lover.
      "She's female. I don't know much about women Avilan." His smile turned wry. "They are rather a mystery to me."
      "Arkay's older than you are." Fell out of Avilan's mouth.
      "So?" Nashen blinked. "Most Lords take older Sharm Lords as partners." He obviously didn't understand.
      Avilan took a deep breath and smoothed out his hair. "She doesn't want me anymore."
      "She what!" Nashen lunged forward. "Karola doesn't want you? How so?"
      "I guess I'm just too old for her. She probably wants some young sharm lord who can keep it up all night and dance with her all day." He muttered under his breath.
      "What in shen gives you this idea, Avilan?"
      "She just doesn't respond to me the way she used to." He studied the bracelets on his arms. "I know what I can do!"
      "What, Avilan?" Nashen did not sound amused.
      "I can take off my bracelets and court her again." This sounded like a great idea.
      "The last time was nearly twenty five years ago. I think she knows you're a Sharm Lord now, dear." Nashen clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "Have you tried giving her gifts?"
      "No, like what?" This was an even better idea.
      "Something romantic." Nashen looked dubious.
      "I can do romantic!"
      "And what do you expect me to do with this?" Karola had relented to Avilan's burbling at her door. Now she wondered why. The rather odd apparatus made mostly of a handful of silk scarves and leather straps was utterly incomprehensible.
      "Well, first you ..." he looked down at his hands. "It's a ..." he looked over her shoulder. "Um, it's sort of in the nature of a costume." The last came out in a tumbling rush.
      "Ooooo," the image of Avilan in the scanty scraps of material made her mouth water, and other things. "Put it on."
      "For you."
      For the second time in under a week, Karola wanted to bolt. No one would want her in something like this. Avilan was gorgeous. She was a dumpy old matron with nine children. Her lip quivered. "I can't." She protested.
      "Why not?" His deep blue eyes were entirely guileless. "You would be ..."
      Karola wailed and slammed the door. The lone chest in the room held a few clothes left over from some unknown lord generations ago. Faded and moth-eaten, but mostly sound, she managed to pull together an outfit. As she laced them, she realized they were underclothes for a rather heavyset Gen.
      She zlinned through the door. Avilan had made his escape. What in the world has gotten into him? Then it struck her. He couldn't get excited about her body as it was anymore, so he wanted to decorate it. She'd heard about this tendency in older Sharm Lords.
      "So be it," Darya would know about cosmetics and other things like that.
      "What do you do, when, well ...?" Karola broke off, blushing. It had taken nearly an hour to get through all the idle discussion with her son and daughter at Fatima and get Darya alone.
      "When what, Karola?" Darya sipped at her coffee. Karola thought the stuff was vile beyond words and wondered how Darya could drink the stuff all day long.
      "When, well, when, if ... if, well, um,"
      Darya rubbed her hand over her face and smiled. "Go on?"
      "Um, how do you keep Vayer's interest?"
      "It isn't hard."
      "That's the problem!"
      "With Avilan?" Darya leaned backwards, her mug beginning a downward slide towards the floor. "From everything I've heard he's ..."
      "Yes, well," Karola laced her tentacles together. "That's why I wanted to talk with you alone."
      "Why me?"
      "Because you're a Sharm Lord. You know about these things."
      "I'm female, Karola." She blinked, managing to rescue her cup before it fell and placed it on an end table. "Avilan is male ... very male."
      "So is Vayer." Karola pointed out helpfully. "Don't you hear him talk with Arkay and Nashen sometimes?"
      "Well ... yes." She nodded. "I do. They, well, um, Arkay and I have had a few discussions about things."
      "Gen things?" This is what she wanted to know.
      "Sorta," Darya fiddle with the hem of her over tunic. "So, what do you think I could help with?"
      "Do you think you could make me more attractive ... maybe, well, then he could ..." Simes never talked about stuff like this. It was indecent. But she had to know.
      "I do have a few tricks. I don't know if ..."
      "I'll do it!"
      Avilan nearly cried. All of Karola's long, silky, soft, wonderful fur was gone. All of it. Every last bit but the hair on her head. His lower lip did quiver.
      "Do you like it?" Her eyes were bright with excitement.
      He did his best. "It's, um, well, it's," he really wanted her hair back! "It's a change." He cringed.
      "You don't like it," she looked down. "You think I'm ..."
      "No, little one,"
      "I'm not!" She bounced wonderfully, even shorn. Avilan stared at her arms.
      "You shaved your arms!" No more soft hair between her tentacle sheathes, no delicate tickle beneath his fingertips, no silky tension wet with roniplin as he palms covered her arms. Naked!
      "Yes," her lip quivered. "I thought ..."
      "I love you Karola," he tried to make up for his mistake. He shook his head no.
      "You ... you ..." she sputtered. "I ..."
      Ashamed of having driven her to such an extreme to try to get some excitement in her life, Avilan fled.
      "Arkay, Arkay!" Avilan pounded on the door.
      "What is it now, Avilan?" The door cracked open a cent. One bleary blue eye looked back at him.
      "I drove Karola away." He sobbed.
      "You did what?!" The door opened. Avilan fell inside. Arkay almost caught him. "What happened?"
      "I," Avilan sniffled from the floor. "She, she shaved!"
      "Some people do that." Arkay blinked.
      "But I made her!" He got to his feet.
      "Quit shouting, Avilan." Arkay dusted him off. "Now, what happened?"
      Obviously Arkay was still mostly asleep. "She shaved because she's bored."
      "Well, it is a change." Arkay still didn't understand.
      "No, she's bored with me." And idea flashed in Avilan's mind. "She did it for her new lover!"
      Arkay rubbed at his temples.
      "I hope she'll be happy. All I want is for her to be happy, Arkay." His stomach gurgled at him.
      "Have you been eating Avilan?"
      "Well, no." He looked down at his hands. "I though if I were thinner, she'd like me again."
      Arkay knuckled the bridge of his nose. "Settle down, Avilan."
      "I can't. I have to win her back. I have to do something!"
      "You're shouting again, Avilan."
      "I know. I'm just so upset." His headache threatened to return. The room swayed around him.
      "Sit, eat," Arkay reverted to short words when he was annoyed. Annoying his best friend after Karola was not a good idea. Cowed, Avilan sat and nibbled at an apple.
      "More," Arkay insisted.
      After the first bite, Avilan realized he was ravenous. Soon half the basketful of food was inside him. Then he looked up. Silver eyes gazed at him from beneath the light blanket on the bed. His mouth dried to sand paper. "Um, hello Nashen."
      "Good morning, m'Lord Azov." Sparkling amusement lit Nashen's field. "I take it the romantic approach didn't work?"
      "She didn't like it." Avilan tried to brush the crumbs from his chest. "Maybe it wasn't good enough."
      "What did you give her Avilan?"
      "A dancing costume," he licked the last traces of honey from his fingertips.
      "Oh my," Nashen blinked at him. "She refused?"
      "She said she couldn't accept it," Avilan forced his hands still. "Maybe her other lover is a better dancer."
      "Then perhaps you should find out what the young sharm lords are doing these days, if you really think she's found someone else." Then he muttered under his breath. "Not that I could zlin it as a possibility actually."
      Karola paced the empty room. She couldn't wear it. It would look wonderful on Avilan. He should be wearing things like this. He was gorgeous. She sucked in her middle again, but eventually decided suffocation would not improve her looks any.
      "Why did I let her talk me into this?" Karola scratched frantically at her arms and legs. Other places itched too, but she really didn't want to scratch there. "Stop that," she told herself. Angry looking red spots came up where she had scratched. "Darya!"
      "Oh yes, please, more," she purred as Darya rubbed the wonderful, soothing cream into her itching arms and legs. "That feels soooooo good!"
      "Why didn't you do this like I told you to?"
      "Because I was going to let it grow back out." Karola pulled the pillow lower. "At least I don't have tits to get in the way anymore."
      "How so?" Darya pushed at her to roll over.
      "They're all flat." She grimaced, looking at them slide off her chest. "No wonder Avilan can't perform for me anymore."
      "I doubt it Karola." Darya shook her head and began rubbing her feet. The memory of her transfer with Avilan after their handfasting made it feel even better.
      "Could you show me how to give a good massage?"
      "You can't?" Darya blinked.
      "Well, I can, but maybe you have some tricks I haven't thought of." Karola mused.
      "After I'm done rubbing you down."
      "Sounds good to me." And as Darya's hands moved up her thighs Karola moaned again.
      Avilan looked around the bouquet of roses to see Darya's hands caressing the inside of Karola's thighs. No, not the inside of her thighs, higher. Another Sharm Lord was making love to Karola, without letting him join in!
      The flowers dropped to the floor. "Karola?"
      "Oh, shen, Avilan!" She sat bolt upright. Darya turned around. Darya's hands were glistening. She doesn't get that aroused for me anymore! Avilan whimpered.
      "Avilan, no, it isn't ..."
      "No, no, it's all right," if this was what Karola wanted, Avilan wasn't going to stand in her way. "Go ahead." He waved them on. A small part of Avilan's heart had hoped his suspicions weren't true, but now he knew they were.
      Karola felt her heart turn to lead in her chest as Avilan bolted from the room. Come back! She wanted to shout. It seemed she was right, her body did disgust him.
      Lying flat on the bed, next to the younger and far curvier Darya, she must have looked like a cow ... she corrected the thought, a bull, cows at least had teats. She put her face in her hands and sobbed. "What can I do, Darya?"
      "I don't know, Karola." She looked towards the doorway and got up. "I think these were for you." Darya gathered up the fallen roses.
      "And then he ran away," she accepted them anyway. Karola would have much rather had Avilan. Darya's massage had only fired her body's interest in sex to a pitch she'd hardly known since Falyana's birth.
      "Seems so, I'm afraid." She sat on the edge of the bed and rested her hand on Karola's knee. "What's gotten into him?"
      Karola dropped the much-abused roses. "That's it! I'll find him a boy again!"
      Avilan rubbed his face against the soft pillowcase. He missed Karola so dreadfully. Turnover had been sheer hell. Alone, he'd thrown up three times before he settled into nearly six hours of dry heaves. But it wasn't only the physical he missed.
      This next transfer was to be their twenty-fifth anniversary. He'd so wanted it to be special. Avilan'd made all the arrangements with the Azov cooks for a special seclusion breakfast, found a rainbow of flowers to fill their rooms and had even embroidered a new tunic, in secret, for Karola's magnificently changed figure.
      He loved the way she looked now. Seeing her under Darya had driven his hormones into a frenzy of pure lust. He imagined her perfectly soft, kissable, strokable breasts in his hands. Even after turnover his body tried to respond. Amazed, Avilan let it.
      His fantasies of Karola's soft little tiny belly cupped in his hand made him stiffen completely, something he hadn't managed after turnover since his true ascention at Sergei. Normally Simes were flat bellied and wiry thin, but with the children Karola had born for them, her figure remained exquisitely feminine, far more so than any other Sime he'd ever seen. In his imagination, he felt a slender, hot hand trace down his body.
      "After turnover, I'm impressed." A low, soft masculine voice startled Avilan out of his reverie.
      "Who are you?" He slithered backwards, bumping up against the wall.
      "A present," A frightfully young lord with bright blue eyes and hair the color of new gold tried to grin at him. Avilan cringed. This wasn't what he wanted. He didn't want Karola's lover. "You don't like me?"
      "No, I'm sure you're a sweet person," if this was what Karola wanted, he'd go along with it. "But, as you can zlin ..." he waved his hand downwards.
      "I scared it away." A pout came to the young man's lips. It was not appealing. Karola pouting was delightful, particularly those lips which pouted all the time. Avilan closed his eyes again, nearly able to taste the sweet honey of his beloved. "It came back."
      Avilan made a sound which was nearly coherent, "Gahrch," he choked on his tongue. Then he looked over the young man's shoulder. Karola was standing there, wrapped in old robe of his, three sizes to large even for him, and looking at him hopefully. Reluctantly, hoping to make her happy, he took her gift in his arms.
      She nodded to him, and with a rustle of cloth, was gone.
      After nearly an hour, Avilan managed to get the situation straightened out with the young lord. His name was Syril and he really was a sweet young man. "So, what is this fad going on?"
      "Well, it's like this," he smiled shyly and pulled away the covers. Avilan stared.
      "Can I touch?" he reached out with a fingertip.
      "Gently, those are new," his grin was wicked. Of course Avilan had had his ears pierced many, many times. But he'd only heard about other piercings. As delicately as he could, he brushed his fingertip over the brightly polished metal. "Oh my," Syril moaned. "Careful, I really am post," he bit at his lip.
      "I can see that, yes," Avilan looked down judiciously. "Oh, my, um," he was struck speechless. "How ... didn't that hurt?!" There was a bar of metal through the man's penis!
      "At the time," Syril's voice was soft and dreamy. Avilan recognized it immediately.
      "Oh, sorry," he stopped stroking the equally exotic rings through the man's nipples.
      "No, you don't have to stop," Syril was panting a bit. "Um, yes, I've never had a high field sharm lord stroke them. As I said, they're new."
      "What's it like for your partner?" An idea percolated through Avilan's mind.
      "Let's just say I've never had a problem attracting one." he brushed his hair back proudly. "Probably why Karola picked me."
      "I take it you have a reputation." He grinned at his new friend.
      "More than a reputation, m'Lord Avilan, a waiting list."
      Karola hoped Avilan would at least be able to tolerate her for at least one more transfer. She put on another robe. This made four. Her hair stuck to the back of her neck and twined in damp tendrils across her cheeks.
      As it itched, she lifted it away from her skin and panted. At least her other itches had stopped. New, fine hair had begun growing back in at last. Even though her value seemed to have sunk even lower with her estrangement from Avilan.
      Down in the kitchens, the cooks had acted like she was speaking High Simelan when she'd asked for a special meal prepared for her anniversary with Avilan. Twenty-five years ago this month they'd formally declared their handfasting. Karola could still remember it as if it were yesterday.
      The frantic month of preparation for her fight to choose her own partner. The joyous weeks of discovery of her own body and Avilan's. Old Sharm Lord Sergei teaching both of them. They had been so new to it all, even Avilan, who had had many lovers before her, but few of them female. A small grin played across her face. As far as she knew, equally few of the other lovers he'd had since they'd bonded had been female as well.
      It was an odd sort of unnecessary loyalty, but it charmed her nonetheless. Avilan had mostly chosen to go to Nashen while they were a triad with Arkay. She hadn't begrudged him the least for finding another partner when he was the Sharm Lord off for the month. Karola would certainly have done the same if she were in a triad where she would have had to share a Sharm Lord.
      After Arkay had gone with Nashen, their bed had been frightfully lonely some nights. She missed, well sort of, Arkay's deep snoring in counterpoint with Avilan's. Maybe young lord Syril could join them occasionally. Everyone, every single sharm lord he'd had transfer with, had recommended him highly. Karola couldn't quite understand why, but figured it was a Gen thing.
      Then when she put the two of them together, Avilan had disappeared down into the sharm. She hadn't seen him once since that night! It had been awful.
      Karola fanned herself with the front of her robes. "I stink," she decided, smelling herself. Maybe all the robes weren't such a good idea, even this late in the year. She checked her time sense. It was still an hour or so until she would have normally expected Avilan for their transfer, so she hurried off for a quick scrub.
      Avilan opened the door quietly. He knew Karola wouldn't be coming up here for at least an hour, maybe more. All the arrangements had been made. Breakfast would be waiting for them in the sitting room when they were done. The new over tunic was hanging on the stand he'd had made for it near the closet.
      He looked back at it again. Only more than forty years of fabric arts had given him the design skills and physical deftness for its creation. Hundreds of brilliantly colored, fantastically imagined humming birds chased each other through a forest of impossibly rich foliage. Of course hiding it during its creation from Karola had been very difficult, which was some of why he'd had to leave her alone so much during the past week.
      The other reason he'd had to vanish also brought a small grin to his face. He couldn't wait to see the look on her field. Only if she'd accept it. Worry made him bite at his denuded fingernails some more. Everyone had promised him it'd work. That all Simes thought it felt wonderful, but still he worried.
      At least it's different, he pulled off his clothes self-consciously and placed them out of sight in the hamper. Avilan hoped Karola wouldn't still think him old fashioned sporting the newest fad in sharm lord adornment. He arraigned himself in a pool of his own hair on the bed. His need for his beloved Karola healed the last of the ache from his new piercings. Just in time.
      Karola was rubbing at her long hair with a towel as she came out of the bathroom. Maybe I should simply get in bed and cover up with a sheet. She turned. Her jaw hit the floor. "Oh ... my ... God ..." her heart stopped.
      The blackest need she'd ever known flooded her vision. Roniplin trickled down her arms and over her fingers. Her tongue came out to lick clean the saliva flowing from her overloaded glands. She stalked towards the bed.
      Warm, sun rich and honey sweet selyn teased at her. It was Avilan, as she'd only imagined he'd come back, but there was something stopping her. She blinked her vision clear.
      Avilan bit at his lower lip when Karola came into the room. He hadn't known she was already here. She should have seen his gifts in the sitting room first. He sat bolt upright.
      Then she turned to him. Her field clamped onto him with the force of a hammer between the eyes. Syril had warned him about the guiche, but the sensation of magnesium fire rushing from his groin all the way up through the top of his skull burned all thoughts he might have once held in his mind to ash. NEED! His body exploded with desire.
      Then he managed to get a hold of himself. Lava burned through his chest and veins where once they'd only held blood. Tremors of pure light etched every single one of his nerves in stellar brilliance. It all stopped. Avilan gasped in reaction. His vision cleared.
      Karola, every lovely, wonderful, desirable centimeter and kilogram of her stood before him. She was gloriously, magnificently nude. He clicked his new barbell against the back of his front teeth. She jumped half a meter in the air.
      Short, fine hair on her arms and legs stood proudly upright. His palms itched to rub all over her skin. He wanted to be sure it was real. She hadn't shaved again, had she? It didn't look like it!
      Avilan had always been very, very reactive, but this was far more than she wanted. Her whole body quivered, caught between desire and terror. She rubbed at the hair on her arms, trying to get it to lie back down after her startle.
      I couldn't have zlinned that, could I? Karola didn't dare extend her laterals. The sensation had been bizarre enough without the extra sensitivity. Her eyes traced down the magnificent length of Avilan. Or at least they tried to.
      Everywhere she looked she zlinned another bit of metal. His nipples, his navel, his ... she didn't want to look. He couldn't have. She'd heard of this. Was this why Syril was so popular?!
      Avilan stood, with all his incredible grace. She looked. Her tentacles cramped in protest. She couldn't zlin. No, she wouldn't! It would be too awful. "Karola, love," he held out his hands to her.
      "What did you do to my lover?" She wailed.
      "Syril is fine." His nonsequiter made her blink. "Or did you mean Darya?"
      "Who?" She backpedaled. Frantically, she looked around for a robe to cover her sagging body. Avilan leaped forward and caught her hand. For a moment she wondered why he didn't clank when he moved.
      "Syril wasn't your lover?"
      "No, I gave him to you." She stammered in confusion. "Darya was rubbing in lotion to ... well, to stop the itching from where I'd shaved."
      "You weren't making love with her?" He blinked back.
      "No, I'm not interested in Darya." She reached for a shirt she'd left over the back of a chair. Avilan pulled her away from it. "Let me go."
      "All right," his nager fell to dust. He turned away. "I wish you'd let me see you." His voice was as tiny as his daughter's when she'd made a mistake.
      "I'm old and dumpy and ugly." She held the shirt in front of her.
      "And I'm old and boring and fusty."
      "You are not!" The room held an echo. Avilan stared at her in horror. She must have mirrored his expression, for he pointed at her and bit his lip against laughter.
      "Oh, no," he made another of those clicking sounds. This time Karola did zlin. A smooth piece of metal slid through his tongue from top to bottom. "You thought I didn't want you, didn't you?"
      "Yes," she let the shirt drop. "I figured you thought I was ugly." His hug had a mixed effect. His nager twisted around all the jewelry in his body, creating great flashes of rainbow light.
      "And I figured you were bored with me." His broad gentle hand caressed her face. "I thought if I made myself more interesting ..."
      "I thought if I made myself more attractive ..." Karola couldn't help but chuckle. "Happy anniversary, my beloved."
      "Happy anniversary to you, my beloved Karola." His kiss made her knees buckle. Maybe I won't ask him to get rid of that one. Or maybe it was just Avilan. "Why did you give me Syril?"
      "I wanted to make you happy." She smiled at him. "Why did you do all this?" One finger tapped gently against a nipple ring.
      "I wanted to be able to please you again." His smile was equally crooked, at least once he'd caught his breath.
      "It is all a bit much." She told him, trying not to laugh.
      "You're upset with me?"
      "No, not at all, Avilan." She lowered her head and flicked a tongue across it. This time his knees buckled. But not in a bad way. Augmenting, she picked him up and tossed him on the bed.
      "Those must have hurt," Karola shook her head at him.
      "They did," his testicles still tried to hide inside his body when he thought of it. "Even though they do seem effective."
      "Some more than others," her finger brushed lightly over one of his nipple rings. His eyes rolled up in his head. A deep, heartfelt groan rose from his throat. "Although some of these have got to go."
      "True," he blushed at how overexcited he'd gotten. "Did you like?"
      "Some more than others," she repeated, a wicked grin on her face. Her hand caressed the most intimate of all his new jewelry. "I like this one."
      "Syril said you would." He chuckled once he'd gotten his speech back.
      "I'm going to have to have a long talk with that young man." Her cross tone was totally contradicted by the amusement in her field. "So, which would you keep?"
      "Other than the one you have your hand on?" That one had hurt far too much for Avilan to ever want to have to go through the piercing part of the exercise again!
      "Other than," her eyes strayed to his lips. He licked them, making sure the bar slid through his tongue with the gesture. Her breath caught.
      "This one, I think," he leaned over and kissed her. Her instant, overwhelming response reassured him of the correctness of his choice.
      Karola had been so overwhelmed, she'd forgotten to dress. Proud of his ability to make her forget, Avilan led her to the sitting room. His own knees were still more than a bit shaky, but hers wobbled like jelly.
      "It's magnificent," she breathed, dashing forward to the tunic. He held his breath. "For me?" Her field glowed with awe.
      "Yes, for you," he bowed his head.
      "This was what I wanted," her blush reached to the top of her buttocks. "After your love."
      "You have my love, in its entirety." he felt himself blush. "I would give you the earth, Karola."
      "I would have thee," she smiled at him.
      "If you would have me?" He hoped.
      "Even with all the jewelry in the sharm." She stood before him. "I pledge to thee, my honor and my love."
      "I pledge to thee, my Demense and my Life," he replied, his love for her overflowing all bounds with the repetition of their oaths.
      "For all time to come," her eyes lit with joy.
      "For all our future to live."
      "May our future find happiness and joy."
      "May our children continue to grow strong and straight." Avilan flinched slightly at the reminder of the one who hadn't. Karola squeezed his hand gently.
      "As above." she said and he caressed the earring he had given her at their handfasting.
      "So below." he said and she put a finger to her lips. He stopped. Startled, he watched her zip off into the bedroom. She came back with a stunning gold and malachite bracelet which she slid onto his wrist. He bowed his head, fighting back tears of pure joy. She had remembered. He'd seen it at last midsummer, but hadn't dared ask for such a fantastic piece of work.
      "As within." He clutched both her hands to his chest.
      "So without." Her kiss was far from gentle, ravishing his mouth and making him clutch her to him with all his strength.
      Together, they concluded, "Under all the stars in Heaven, may we continue to find our dreams of eternity."

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