An excerpt from
The Captive Princess
A Reverse Harem Fantasy
Ysalara lowered herself onto the flat rock at the edge of the stream, her body nearly collapsing on the way down. Somehow she managed to sit down without actually crashing into the rock.
The others were refilling their waterskins, drinking thirstily from the stream, and splashing faces and arms with cold water. Ysa did not have the energy to participate in any of that.
Flinging droplets of water off one arm, Qorash looked sideways at her. There was something calculating in that look that she did not like. He walked toward her.
Ysa pressed her lips together, meeting his gaze solidly.
“You’d best let me have a look at that foot,” he said, nodding his chin toward it. “If you leave it like that, you’ll end up with fleshrot.”
Unfortunately, Ysa could not deny the truth of his words. The gash that ran from bottom of foot almost to her knee was caked in dirt, with a few solid clumps clinging to it. The wound had dried somewhat, but the flesh pulled open in a way that would leave her with an incredible scar, if it ever healed properly at all. She sighed and gave a small nod. She didn’t like it at all, but if Qorash could do something to help, she would not be too proud to accept it.
He knelt before her, lifting her ankle with a touch that was self-assured and unexpectedly gentle. He used the waterskin he’d just refilled, tipping liquid a little at a time over her wound, using his fingers to work away the debris and flush it clean. “It has to be clean before I heal it,” he explained. “Otherwise, the particles will imbed themselves in your flesh, and you can end up with fleshrot beneath the surface. That would be worse than leaving it as is.”
She nodded silently, grateful for the way that he managed to take the awkwardness out of his ministrations. She thought that the situation could have felt far less comfortable for them both. She watched him, bent over her leg, his face relaxed. Sunlight played on his pale hair, and his creamy skin glowed warmly, emphasizing the dark base of his eyelashes that were only tipped in white. With his mouth relaxed and his eyes cast down to his work, there was none of the mocking glare that he normally cast at her. It was enough to make her wonder if that was all a construction. Without thinking, she said to him, “You have a kind streak, Qorash.”
He glanced up at her and there was a hint of that mocking smile as the corner of his mouth quirked. “I find myself unexpectedly tender when I must use the healing arts,” he said. “Perhaps it helps to draw the magic forth.”
She should have kept quiet, but she noted, “You are not using magic yet.”
He met her gaze and his mouth stretched crookedly. “I am preparing myself, Princess. Some patients seem to require more preparation than others.”
Oddly, his words held no sting. She laughed softly, briefly, and fell to watching him in silence.
When Qorash was satisfied with the cleanliness of the wound, he used his sleeve to blot it dry. His long fingers were firm and expert in the way they gripped her foot, turned her leg. He paused briefly, his eyes flicking to her face, then he pressed his thumb into the bottom of her foot, a vibration radiating from his fingers.
“Oh,” Ysa gasped, her toes curling. She had stiffened automatically at the strange electricity of his touch. “Oh.”
“It is… a different sensation,” Qorash admitted, stroking his thumb across the arch of her foot. “So much feeling in the foot, as well. Do your best to keep still.” His grip on her heel was iron, and her foot wasn’t going anywhere. Surely she would have already jerked it away, if not.
She watched in fascination as he stroked across the wound, molding her flesh beneath his fingers like putty, pushing it into the wound as though she were made of clay.
“That is… amazing,” Ysa said, her eyes wide as a child’s. “I’ve never seen such magic.”
Again, the half-amused smile. “We are a rare sort.”
“And you…” She swallowed, not sure she wanted to ask the question. “…You can use this magic with ill intent as well?”
That earned her a glance. His mouth set. “Yes.”
“So the way you are putting me back together,” she said, really not knowing why she was pursuing this line of thought, “you could use to pull me apart?”
He paused to look up at her now, flashed wide eyes at her to go with the crooked smile. “Exactly.”
Ysa’s breath caught until he finally looked away from her, turning back to his work. Then a nervous laugh trickled out of her, relief at the end of it. She had a sudden realization that this was the closest Qorash had ever gotten to playing with her. “Well that’s… fascinating,” she said breathily.
Qorash made a small noise in his throat then frowned and seemed to be concentrating deeply on her foot. He’d worked his way across her arch, now, and was lightly smoothing the tips of his fingers along the surface.
“That tickles,” Ysa complained as her leg tried to jerk away from him.
“That’s good,” he said. “It means you can still feel.”
“It’s not good right now,” she protested, leg still jerking though fixed in his grasp.
He looked at her and his normally crooked smile turned into the first grin she’d ever seen on him. An evil grin, but a grin. He dragged a slow circle around her arch with the tip of his index finger.
Ysa gasped and fell over backwards, kicking, trying to scramble away. There was tickling, and there was tickling. This was a spasm that climbed all the way up her leg, clenching every muscle from her toes to her thigh. It even seemed to have jumped, like lightning, into her stomach.
Qorash threw his head back and laughed.
“You are not funny, Qorash,” Ysa scolded as she pried herself back up, bracing on her hands, and fixed him with a glare.
“I think I’m funny,” he murmured, getting back to serious work.
Roa was standing across the stream regarding the two of them and met Ysa’s eyes, now. He gave her a half-hearted shrug.
Ysa jerked reflexively as Qorash turned her foot, finished with the bottom of it and moving on to her ankle.
“Be still,” he reprimanded softly. “I’ve still much work to do.”
Dragging in a deep breath, Ysa forced herself to relax. For long moments, Qorash worked on her ankle, and then up her leg toward her knee. She watched him quietly, amazed at every stroke of his fingers. She got used to the odd humming that radiated off them and shaped her flesh, finding herself growing to like it. The tingle that worked into her nerves was oddly appealing, and the more he worked on her leg, the more it seemed to grow. In ways, it was similar to the charge he’d sent through her foot, but this was building slowly, seeming to fill her whole body. She felt it moving up her thigh, between her legs, into her core. Her breath was catching now and then, lovely chills rolling up her spine. His long fingers spread over her calf, urging the feeling through her. Ysa trembled.
Qorash looked up at her suddenly, his grey eyes registering surprise. A wash of realization moved across his face, but Ysa could not read it. He turned back to her leg and slid his palm up her calf.
“Oh,” Ysa gasped, unable to breathe out.
“Are you finished then, Qorash?” Roa asked from across the stream, his voice heavier and less patient than usual.
Ysa’s eyes darted to him and she squirmed under Qorash’s gasp. She felt like she might burst, but she didn’t know what to do with the energy.
The elf’s face slinked into a resigned smile. “Yes,” he sighed, making one, final, light stroke down her leg that left the surface of her flesh completely unmarred. He let go of her and stood up, his body stretching out into a long line above her.
Ysa tipped her face up to him, whispering, “Thank you.” Then she fled toward the water, wanting to plunge into it headfirst, but not knowing why. She wanted the iciness of it to numb the feeling inside her that had come to be absolutely too much. Instead, much more sensibly, she stooped at its edge and drank handfuls of cold water.
Read more of this series, coming soon.