Return to Hellebore Chapter Twenty-Four


Author: Chris Cook
Rating: NC-17
Copyright: Based on characters from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon and his talented minionators, and Diablo II by Blizzard Entertainment. All original material is copyright 2003 Chris Cook.

Tara woke to the sound of someone knocking on the wagon's tailboard. Blinking away sleep and pulling on a robe, she pulled back the canvas flap to find Tryptin, with a parcel under one arm.

"We're getting under way early today," he explained, "sorry to wake you. There's breakfast here," he added, offering the parcel to Tara. "The nearest stream is a little way away, but I've sent a couple of the guards to fetch some fresh water."

"Thank you," Tara said, squinting a little from the strong sunlight outside. She opened the parcel and set its contents aside, then nestled up to Willow, who was still curled up among the blankets, sleeping peacefully.

"Honey, are you awake?" she whispered.

"Yeah but the snowballs are busy," she mumbled.

"Breakfast's here," Tara said, stifling a laugh.

"I'll tell them," Willow replied. Tara smiled and shook her head, then wriggled her arm underneath Willow so she could embrace her with both arms. Willow, still mostly asleep, grinned and stretched in Tara's hold.

"No more snowballs," she murmured, "pretty Tara..." She started slightly when the wagon lurched into motion, then turned her head to look at Tara, blinking slowly.

"Did we move?" she asked. "Or was that just cause you're touching me?"

"I'd like to think so," Tara grinned, "but yes, we're moving. Breakfast's here, and there'll be fresh water on the supply wagon. How would you like me to help you bathe this morning?" she added in a sultry purr.

"Ooh, how can I refuse?" Willow said. "Thank you, my lovely warrior."

"You're welcome, my sweet sorceress," Tara replied.

"Heh," Willow chuckled, "lots of esses there." Tara laughed.

"How about," she said thoughtfully, "my sweet, scintillating, sensual, stunning, shapely," she nibbled Willow's ear briefly, "hmm, succulent... sinfully sexy..." she fell silent as her lips found Willow's, and she spent a moment sucking on her lip before deepening the kiss. Willow eagerly complied, and moaned joyously as Tara guided her tongue into her mouth and lavished attention on it.

"Run out of S-words?" Willow asked cheekily when Tara leaned back to smile at her.

"Not even close," Tara promised, "I was just pondering how to demonstrate 'salacious'."

"Any way you want."

"I like the sound of that."

"Not as much as I do," Willow grinned. "But right now, I could use something to eat." Tara raised an eyebrow and licked her lips suggestively. "Breakfast, you insatiable minx!" Willow scolded her fondly. Tara handed a robe to her as she quickly dressed in a skirt and tunic. She pulled her boots on and grabbed a bread roll just as Willow started.

"You're in a hurry," Willow observed with a grin.

"I don't want to get there and find that all the water's gone," Tara said, "then I'd have to wait until evening to bathe my Willow. And that just wouldn't do," she added in a regal manner. She winked at Willow as she slipped out of the wagon, dropping to the ground lightly and wandering to the side of the road while the caravan trundled on, waiting the moment it took for the supply wagon to reach her.

"Morning, miss," said Kert, who was sitting on the back of the wagon studying a map.

"Good morning Kert," Tara said politely. She climbed into the open-topped wagon and found a pair of reasonable-sized gourds, which she began filling from the small metal tank sitting half-full in the centre of the floor. She tilted her head to read Kert's map as she held the first gourd underwater.

"Most recent map of the area," he explained, business-like, holding it up for Tara to see. "First time in some years I've made the trip to Duncraig along this road. Best to know what's in store."

"Of course," Tara said. She pointed at the winding roads on the map, which was impressively detailed. "We're going along here?"

"That's right," Kert said, "the highland road. Normally a caravan would take the river road, but there's no sure roads between there and the highland towns the Duncraig gentlemen are visiting. We should make the crossroads with the Jesram trail by nightfall, if the weather holds good. Two days on that will see us to Jesram town, then we'll be on the northern trail, and rejoin the highland road two days after, here at Harthim. That's officially the border of Duncraig realm, but it's still six days to the city itself after that. The gentlemen are discussing whether to make another detour, like the Jesram trip, to pass through Namon, that'll add another two days if we go there."

"How long to the city, all up?" Tara asked, filling the second gourd.

"If this weather stays with us? Twelve days, maybe eleven, depending on how much rest Master Shan thinks the beasts need. Light rain won't matter much on these roads, but if we get heavy rains - which is always possible, this time of year - well, if it pours the whole way, could be three weeks. Hope for clear skies, eh?"

"Yes," Tara agreed, taking the water and climbing back to the ground. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, miss," Kert said, returning to his scrutiny of the map. Tara paced herself at a fast walk, slowly overtaking the wagons ahead of her. The morning was slightly chilly, but not unpleasant, the sun was shining bright, and only a few wisps of fast-moving cloud off to the east marked a sky that was otherwise clear blue from horizon to horizon. Tara wondered if she might go riding in the afternoon, and pondered whether Willow might come with her. Most of the horses following in the wake of the wagons were placid, well-behaved animals, and though not a very experienced horsewoman herself, Tara found a certain joy in riding, and thought Willow would enjoy it too, once she gained a little confidence. 'Or perhaps,' she mused, 'she could sit behind me, and just enjoy the ride without worrying about the horse. That wouldn't be bad at all.'

Willow immediately noticed Tara's contented grin as she climbed back into their wagon.

"You're thinking something fun," she concluded, handing her a cheese roll from the remains of breakfast.

"I was just thinking of going riding this afternoon," Tara explained. "Do you think you might join me?"

"You mean sitting behind you, arms around your waist, snuggled up tight against you?" Willow asked.

"That's pretty much what I was thinking."

"I like the way you think," Willow grinned, "it's a date."

"No, it's an apple," Tara said, picking one up.

"Silly," Willow replied, swatting her lightly on the arm. Tara grinned, took a bite out of the apple, and busied herself spreading out a double layer of thick towels over the blankets.

"Are you ready for your bath?" she asked with a hopeful smile.

"As if you need to ask," Willow said. She knelt on one end of the towels, shrugged off her robe and lay face-down, turning her head sideways to grin up at Tara.

"And once again you've managed to get me naked," she observed. "You know, recently I've been spending more time out of clothes than in."

"And this is a bad thing?" Tara asked jokingly.

"Not at all," Willow said, "there's much less laundry to do." She closed her eyes and moaned quietly as Tara trailed a finger up her leg from her ankle, across her bottom, up her back, finishing up tickling her ear, followed by a quick kiss.

"There are other benefits too," she said dreamily. Tara poured some water into a dish, wet a washcloth, and started rubbing Willow's back, soaping her as she went.

"Mmm," Willow sighed, "this is like a fairy tale."

"How so?" Tara grinned.

"You know," Willow murmured, "the ones where there's a lonely princess who spends all her days reading and dreaming of far-away places... oh that's nice!" she interrupted herself, as Tara gave her bottom a squeeze en route to her thighs. "And then a dazzling warrior comes riding up on a white horse... wins the princess's heart... takes her all the places she used to dream about... and they live happily ever after."

"I haven't exactly taken you anywhere," Tara mentioned, firmly massaging Willow's legs as she rinsed the soap away, "unless you count the archery contest in Maresburg."

"Yes you have," Willow said, "remember that morning we met in the courtyard, back at the Baron's castle? You held my hand, and we talked, and you asked me to go with you to the dinner, and then... mmm, you kissed me," she murmured, as Tara ran her hands up her sides, gently brushing the sides of her breasts pressed against the towels beneath her. "I love how you kiss me," she went on, "how you touch me... how you look at me... that takes me to a place better than anything I ever dreamed of."

"Turn over," Tara said softly. Willow did, and stared up at Tara, who was leaning over her with tears in her eyes and a brilliant smile on her lips. She kissed Willow, gently, almost chastely, letting her lips caress Willow's, demonstrating through the contact the joy she was feeling.

"You're the most beautiful princess I could ever imagine," she whispered. With Willow speechless, Tara returned to her task, soaking the washcloth once more and running it over Willow's arms, chest and stomach. Willow grinned as Tara began to give her breasts more attention than mere cleanliness seemed to demand.

"I don't remember ever reading a fairy tale where the noble warrior did that to the princess," she observed.

"Their loss," Tara said matter-of-factly, giving Willow's breasts a last squeeze before moving down over her hips to her legs. "Just making sure you live happily ever after, in every possible way."

"Oh I am," Willow said, stretching her legs as Tara caressed them firmly. "You know how much I enjoy being with you... talking, sharing thoughts... just, you know, being together... and I don't want to sound like it's just a physical thing, but you are the most fantastic lover." Tara smiled and chuckled to herself.

"I'll accept that," she said, "only if I can be equal most fantastic with you. Besides," she added, finishing with the washcloth and lying down next to Willow, "the way you move, the way you sigh and moan when I touch you..." she got a shy smile on her lips, and kissed Willow quickly. "How could I be content with anything less?" she finished softly.

"Gods you're hot," Willow breathed, "just a few words, and I want to jump on you and make love to you right now."

"Am I stopping you?" Tara asked with a grin.

"First things first," Willow said, sitting up, "I think I owe you a little pampering." Tara smiled, and lay down on the fresh towel Willow spread out for her, lifting her hips and arms to help as Willow undressed her. She enjoyed the way Willow's eyes roamed over her body, and stretched her arms out above her head, arching her back.

"Hey," Willow protested with a grin, "quit trying to seduce me, you. Come on, turn over." Tara obediently rolled onto her stomach, content with the aroused way Willow was biting her lip as she gazed at her.

"I love your legs, you know that?" Willow commented as she was running the washcloth over them, trailing the soap in its wake with her other hand. "You've got beautiful legs... curvy... elegant. I love the way you move. And oh, those thighs..." she murmured, rinsing them with more than a little sensual squeezing. "Those are unquestionably thighs that demand to be touched, and squeezed, and massaged, and kissed-" she broke off as she planted a firm kiss on the back of each thigh, before straddling Tara's legs and moving her attention upwards.

"Shoulders, now," she continued, "look at how smooth these are... strong, too. Lovely firm shoulders... all that exercising and bow practice, hmm? And these arms are perfect for holding me, especially when you make me feel weak all over and I just collapse in your arms, and you hold me... I've never felt anything like that before, you know... just to give myself to you... here I am, completely yours, do whatever you want with me... it's a beautiful feeling."

"For me too," Tara murmured, her eyes closed, all her awareness fixed on Willow's touch as she rubbed the soap on her hands and cleaned it off.

"Now now," Willow said, "can't let myself get too distracted... this lovely back of yours, hmm." Willow lay herself down on top of Tara, leisurely pressing her body into Tara's back. "I could stay here forever," she whispered. "Heh, naughty me," she added, "I've got a job to do." She sat up again and ran her hands firmly up and down Tara's back, rubbing the soap into her skin with her bare hands much more thoroughly than was necessary.

"Could there be," Willow said eventually, moving her hands down, "a more squeezable bottom in the whole world?"

"How about yours?" Tara asked lazily, grinning as Willow massaged away with relish.

"You think?" Willow said.

"Sure," Tara replied, "remember that little thing you wore to the Baron's dinner? Oh my goddess..."

"Hmm, thank you," Willow said, feeling a definite rush of warmth from the praise. "I'll have to remember to tease you with that more often."

"I'm sure you will."

"Now, let me see, did I miss anything? Legs, arms, body, bottom," she gave Tara a light swat. "Flip over and I'll continue." Tara did as she was asked, stretching to deliberately show herself off, opening one eye just a fraction to make sure Willow was watching. Willow gazed at her with an intensity that said she had things other than bathing on her mind.

"Well," Willow gulped, "I, ah, already covered your lovely legs... oh, but I forgot to mention," she added, working her way up from Tara's feet with firm strokes, "how nice it is to rest my cheek against the inside of your thigh... right before I reach out my tongue and- well, I'm getting ahead of myself there," she finished with a wicked grin.

"Tease," Tara accused.

"Yup," Willow admitted happily. "These hips, now, these I love... they move so sensually... and your lovely stomach... mmm, I could spend a long time on your exceedingly kissable belly..."

"Feel free," Tara said airily.

"I think I will," Willow replied, "but first... and I bet you knew I was getting ready for this..." She straddled Tara's hips and ran the washcloth briefly over Tara's chest, before discarding it, covering her hands in a generous lather and taking a breast in each hand.

"I admit it," she said gleefully, "I'm a breast girl." She squeezed and massaged Tara's breasts, the motions of her hands becoming more arousing as they became soapy and slippery. "But what choice do I have, when I'm confronted with such a truly angelic bosom?" Tara's breathing became steadily heavier as Willow's hands did their work, until, by the time Willow finally finished and cleaned the soap from her chest, she was moaning quietly, slowly tossing her head from side to side. Willow gave her one last, satisfied look up and down, then leaned forward to whisper in her ear.

"But you know what the best part of you is?" she murmured. "Not your luscious, shapely legs, or your lovely embracing arms, or your gentle, loving hands, or your fingers that reach into me and touch my soul, or your divine breasts, or your soft hair, or your endless blue eyes, or even," her voice became a breathy sigh, "even your wonderful sex... do you know what it is? It's this..." She kissed Tara, slowly opening her mouth and running her tongue along her lips.

"That kiss in the castle gardens," she whispered, staring into Tara's gaze, "that was what did it. Even though I didn't realise it, not fully, back then, that was the moment I became yours. So these lips," she punctuated herself with a quick kiss, "are special, because they claimed me. They showed me how to make my life complete, by giving myself to you, body and soul. I love you so much, Tara, so much..."

"I love you too Willow," Tara said softly, "body and soul, yours." She put a hand behind Willow's head and gently brought her down until their lips met again. Willow sighed, writhing slowly on top of Tara, using all of her body to communicate her arousal as their legs intertwined. Then the wagon lurched to a halt.

"Not now," Willow murmured plaintively, glaring up at the heavens beyond the canvas roof.

"Something's happening," Tara said. Willow listened, and heard the voices of the various wagon drivers calling to each other, "All stop," down the caravan's line. There were hooves, a horse moving quickly, and other voices, raised, though not alarmingly so.

"We should see what's going on," Tara said regretfully.

"It'd better be good," Willow griped as she rolled off her and sat up. Both dressed quickly, Willow just pulling on her boots as Tara flashed her a smile and ducked out of the wagon. Willow smiled after her, and impulsively reached under her skirt, pulled off her briefs, rummaged in her bags for the extremely minimal underwear that went with her green dress, and pulled it on. Grinning a shameless grin, she followed Tara out.

Tara was waiting outside for her, looking up the line of wagons to where several men were gathered, one of them on horseback. One of them was Tryptin - he saw them, and waved them over. As they hurried closer they saw Shan, Kert, and two of the caravan's guards, one still atop his horse, the other holding his by the reins as he spoke quietly.

"...not much left," he was saying as Willow and Tara drew into earshot, "but maybe three weeks. Hard to say, though, with the fire."

"Any sign of hostiles?" Kert asked.

"No sir," the guard replied, "none more recent than the bodies. We passed Petar and Hans out on forward left flank on our way back, and they signalled all clear."

"Our forward scouts found the scene of a battle," Tryptin said quietly, as Kert, Shan and the guard talked. "A caravan's been ambushed by the looks of it, not recently but sometime during the last month. Excuse me," he turned back to Shan and Kert.

"I think we should press on," Shan said, "we're making good time, and unless I'm wrong we'll reach the crossroads with plenty of time to spare. There's people there, not a town as such, but it's well-fortified and provisioned, if worst befalls."

"I'd like to examine the scene," Kert said, "we might learn something."

"Very well," Shan said, "how far did you say it was?"

"Twenty minutes," the guard said, "we were scouting farther ahead, but it's in a hollow, it wasn't until we came along the road itself that we saw it."

"Alright," Shan said, "we'll halt and learn what we may. One hour, mind, no more."

"Yes sir," Kert said, signalling the guards to return to their duties. Tryptin exchanged a word with Shan, then turned to Tara.

"I'm sorry to ask this of you," he said, "but it might be important... my fiancÚ is a tracker, she's mentioned that all warriors are trained in the basics of tracking."

"I'll find out what I can," Tara promised. "We're taught to recognise and interpret the signs of people and animals moving, or fighting," she explained to Willow. "I might be able to provide some information about this ambush."

"I'll help," Willow said, "the Order teaches us to trail various kinds of demonic creatures. I might be able to spot something."

"Thank you both," Tryptin said.

"Three weeks ago," Tara said, "maybe four. It's rained heavily twice since then, but I think no longer ago than four weeks."

She was down on one knee, slowly trailing her fingers through the dirt from a patch she had scooped up with the tip of a knife. She had used the time the caravan had taken to reach the ambush site to change into her leathers, while Willow had quickly checked Ember's journal and various of her other books for entries on lesser demons, specifically what distinctive traces, if any, they left on battlefields. She stood behind Tara, leaning on her staff and gazing around, looking for something to catch her eye, Ember's journal open in her free hand.

As Kert's guard had said, the scene of the ambush was in a hollow, not readily visible from afar. The road had been cleared, but still bore a blackened patch where a fire had burned. The charred remains of a burned wagon lay to one side of the road, where they had been dragged, and a little further off were three graves, marked with crosses in the manner common to most of the faiths of Westmarch and Khanduras. On the other side of the road, in a patch of bare land, a dozen or more blackened bodies remained, piled up and burned. Kert and his chief scout were moving slowly about the scene, discerning what they could from the scene.

"They must have driven off the attackers," Willow said, "otherwise who buried them like that? See the way the markers have a halo scratched into the wood, at the joint of the cross? They were prepared for burial so they wouldn't rise. No demon would do that."

"There's traces here of at least five wagons," Tara added, "but only the remains of one. The others must have continued on."

"Do you think brigands might have done it?" Willow asked. "Stolen the wagons, buried their own, and burned the victims?"

"Perhaps, but I'd bet against it," Tara said. "If they wanted to steal, they wouldn't have set fire to a wagon. Maybe it happened by accident, during the fighting, but... well, there's one way to be sure." She stood up and looked across the road at the pile of charred corpses.

"And the day started off so nicely," lamented Willow with a rueful grin. She shrugged, and she and Tara made their way to the pile of bodies. There wasn't much left, fortunately most of the flesh seemed to have been burned beyond the point of rotting, and the air bore only a faint smell of decay.

"Not human," Tara observed, her voice a little strained, but level. "Too small. Carvers?"

Willow pulled a face, and leaned forward to tap one of the protruding extremities with her staff. The piece she touched crumbled a little, making a small pile of ash.

"I should be able to tell," she said, borrowing Tara's knife to scoop up a little of the ash. She handed the knife back to Tara and reached into one of the pouches on her belt, drawing out a handful of small runestones. She sorted through them, finally selecting three and kneeling down to place them on the ground. Tara handed the knife back to her, and watched as she dumped the ash over the stones, then used the tip of the blade to draw a pattern in the dirt, linking the stones. When she was satisfied with the arrangement she drew a diamond shape around it, and watched as the ash stirred and settled into some of the channels she had scratched in the ground.

"Carvers, fallen or dark ones," she said thoughtfully. "They're similar creatures, I don't have the equipment to do a more accurate spell. But dark ones are pretty rare, and almost never come out from underground anyway. Last I heard, all the nests of fallen this far south had been wiped out. Carvers it is."

"How does that work?" Tara asked as Willow picked up her runes and scratched out the pattern in the dirt.

"It's a sort of prime magic," Willow explained. "All living things, even demonic creatures, have their own animating energy. It's distinct from the soul, and it stays in the body after death, until it seeps back into the earth, which takes months. The pattern has lines that represent various kinds of energy, and the runes provide a little kick to move the remains into the parts of the pattern that match them. It works with blood, normally, so I guess it's lucky they were burned."

"Be thankful for small mercies," Tara observed.

"Yeah, I'm not really up for touching Carver blood," Willow said with a slight grin, a little of the colour returning to her face as she and Tara turned their backs on the piled-up demon corpses.

"So, the way I read it, maybe three dozen of them attacked," Tara said, "it's difficult to tell from the traces, but I think it may have been that many."

"Probably at least than many," Willow said, "if they attacked a caravan of five wagons. They'd only risk it if they had strength in numbers."

"There were trained men with the caravan," Tara went on, "maybe not in uniform, maybe the creatures just didn't realise. They drove them back after the initial attack, fought them over there," she pointed beyond where the traces of the burned wagon had been, "killed enough that the others broke and ran. They couldn't put out the fire on the burning wagon - maybe there was alcohol or flammable stores in it - so they waited until it burned itself out, then dragged what was left off the road. And buried their dead," she added thoughtfully. Willow followed her gaze, to the three graves, where Kert was standing, staring at one of them. They walked over, and stood in silence, waiting for him to acknowledge them. He looked up, sadness etched in his face.

"It was last month's caravan," he explained quietly, "set out four weeks ago, headed out west over the highlands." He nodded at the middle of the three graves. "I knew him. Good man." He lapsed into silence for a moment, then looked at Willow and Tara again. "Did you learn anything?"

"W-we're pretty sure it was Carvers," Tara said quietly. "They attacked, were fought off quickly, b-but not before they burned a wagon and... did this. Between three and four weeks ago. Nothing since then."

"Thank you miss," Kert said, "you too, miss," he added to Willow. "The dead have been properly seen to, and those," he shot a glare at the charred demon bodies, "don't deserve better. We'll move on shortly." Willow and Tara stayed a moment, staring in silence at the graves, then turned and headed back to their wagon.

"Are you okay?" Willow asked, concerned at the frown marring Tara's face as they sat together, feeling the wagon lurch into motion.

"I'm fine," Tara said with a quick smile, "just... unease. It'll pass. You?"

"Same, I guess," Willow admitted. "Hey, you want to take that ride?" Tara looked up thoughtfully, then smiled properly.

"I'd like that," she replied.

Tara's choice of horse for the two of them, called Aurora, the attendant told her, was strong but gentle, able to carry both Willow and Tara without complaint. Tara smiled as Willow, at her suggestion, talked to the horse for a little while before settling into the saddle behind her, proclaiming Aurora 'very nice, for a horse.' They rode at a gentle pace alongside the caravan through the day, returning to the saddle after lunch at Willow's prompting - she admitted she was starting to see the appeal of riding, though once they were out again, she confessed that it was partly how much she could feel Tara enjoying herself. They talked idly, of nothing in particular, for most of the afternoon. Tara spent most of the time gazing out at the highland panorama around them, the sharply-angled hills on either side rising to distant mountains in the west, and dropping away on the eastern horizon, where, invisible to the caravan, the Kingsway river ran. Willow cuddled contentedly against Tara's back, and talked in a rambling fashion, the scenery prompting her to recall various snippets of geography she had learned from the Zann Esu library, going off on long tangents whenever she thought of something interesting.

The Jesram crossroads, when they reached it just as the sun was touching the mountains in the west, was definitely not worth calling a town, but looked sturdy nonetheless. There were a few small one room houses and lean-tos on either side of the crossroads, but the important buildings, the storehouses, the smithy and the guard house, were all contained within high earth walls, built out from the side of a hill on the east side of the road, facing along the Jesram trail. The top of the wall was fortified with a wooden stockade, which ran up the hill itself, encompassing a watchtower at the top. The handful of guards manning the post had seen the caravan approaching, and had the gates open and waiting as they approached. The gates closed again once all the wagons were inside, and Kert and Shan spoke to the sergeant in command. Willow and Tara retired to their wagon, the tiny outpost having no accommodations for travellers.

"Thank you for riding with me," Tara said, as Willow prepared a simple dinner for them. "The morning was, well, a bit of a shock, but I... I feel better now."

"You're welcome," Willow said, handing her a plate, "and you know I'd do anything to make you feel better. But I really do enjoy riding with you, regardless of the circumstances. You might make a horsewoman out of me yet."

"Really? Galloping along, leaping over hedges?"

"Don't get too ambitious," Willow warned her with a laugh. "I'm glad you feel better," she said, in a sort voice. "The last few days have been... well, pretty darn close to perfect, I guess the reality of the world was bound to turn up sooner or later."

They ate mostly in silence, with a few random observations about the day punctuating their meal. Tara finished first, idly brushing Willow's hair while she waited for her to finish. Willow gave her a kiss and took her plate once she was done, returning them both to the small kitchen in the outpost they had come from. When she got back, Tara was just pulling off her armour and preparing for bed.

"What's this?" she asked with a grin, as Willow shuffled out of her skirt, revealing her lack of substantial underwear.

"Oh, that," Willow said, "I forgot... I put it on this morning. You know, when the day was still going all fairy-tale-style."

"Fairy tales always have goblins, or something like that, don't they?" asked Tara.

"Yep, usually. Goblins, mean old dwarves, wicked witches, thank you very much whoever writes those things."

"Well then," Tara said, "just so long as there's a happy ending, it doesn't matter if there's a monster or two along the way." She leaned over to Willow and murmured in her ear: "I think tonight should have a happy ending, don't you?"

"Oh gods," Willow said, "as if I could ever refuse. But you don't have to, you know-"

"But I want to," Tara whispered, teasing Willow's ear with the tip of her tongue. "Shall I tell you what I want?"

"Please," Willow sighed.

"You must be tired," Tara went on, "from all that riding, if you're not used to it. I think you should lay down and relax, and let me kiss your sex until you're dripping wet." Willow swallowed, her breath stalling for a moment at Tara's words, spoken in her most seductive purr. She lifted her arms as Tara pulled her top up and off, then lay back among the blankets just as Tara has asked, relaxing herself completely as Tara took off her boots and hooked her fingers into the waist of her underwear. Slowly, following her fingers with kisses, she pulled them down Willow's legs. Willow spread her thighs at Tara's gentle prompting, and moaned quietly as she felt the sublime sensation of Tara's lips tenderly kissing all over her sex.

"Oh baby," she whispered as Tara's tongue parted her lips, "oh gods that's wonderful." Tara alternated her attentions between long, deep explorations inside Willow's sex, and sensual licking and nibbling of her lips. She made sure to touch Willow's clit only lightly, and just in passing, letting her climax build slowly rather than urging it. Willow writhed her legs slowly, unable to keep her body still, as she whispered "my love" over and over, like a mantra.

Finally Tara closed her lips softly around Willow's clit and began to suck, lightly at first, but with building intensity, her tongue moving from brief, soft caresses to firmly massaging the bundle of nerves. Willow moaned as loud as she dared, spreading her legs wide to give Tara complete access. She reached down and wound her hand into Tara's hair, holding her head against her sex. Tara smiled, her lips pressed firmly against Willow, and teased her opening with a fingertip.

"Oh yes baby," Willow moaned, "oh gods yes..." Tara teased her a moment longer, waiting until Willow's moans and writhing started to become just a little desperate, then carefully lined up her index and forefinger and buried them in Willow in one smooth motion.

"Ah!" Willow exclaimed, her mouth remaining open as she tossed her head back, her knees lifting to give her the traction to thrust her hips towards Tara, taking Tara's offered fingers within herself as deep as she could, until Tara's knuckles nestled between the lips of her sex. Tara flexed her fingers, drawing another sharp moan from Willow, then began rhythmically stroking her, matching her fingertips on Willow's sweet spot with her tongue on her clit. Willow's breathing came in time to Tara's ministrations, steadily increasing in pace as her fingers thrust, her tongue worked, and at last Willow came with a muffled cry, her sex providing ample juices which Tara lovingly, eagerly licked up.

"Oh my Tara," Willow murmured, as Tara moved up to lie beside her, enveloping her in her embrace as they had become accustomed to, "happily ever after... body and soul..."

"Happily ever after," Tara agreed, settling her head down and nestling into Willow's hair.

Continue to Hellebore Chapter Twenty-Six (Rated NC-17)

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