Return to Hellebore Chapter Forty-Seven


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 2004 Chris Cook.
Note: Contains a little homage to Queen by L.N. James.

Willow and Tara browsed aimlessly through the Market Hall, pausing whenever something caught their eye. All manner of wares were on display, from all kinds of vendors - fast-talking salesmen did a brisk trade in cheap jewellery, herbs and clothing from rickety little tables covered in gaudy cloths and boxes of miscellany; professional market vendors stood behind canvas stalls, with colourful banners overhead proclaiming their specialities, and most of their stock neatly stored behind them with a few samples on display; affluent craftsmen sat idly behind their counters, reading newspapers or canvas-bound books while shoppers drifted by and admired their handiwork on show; painters, potters and sculptors worked on their latest pieces while assistants pointed out their skills to passers-by and promised their work would be an asset to any home or place of business; a few grand stalls, like whole buildings made from canvas and wooden frames, housed entire stores, groceries teeming with shoppers selecting the ingredients for the evening's meal, clothiers taking measurements from expensively-dressed men with assistants standing by, notebooks in hand, boutiques full of all manner of ladies' fashions, with changing rooms set up behind screens, and even in one particularly high-end establishment a pair of women modelling the store's dressed on a raised platform. There were apothecaries, herb and potion merchants, hairdressers, florists, book sellers, tinkers and carpenters; cooks selling hot food from portable stoves, scribes offering their time to write legal documents or important letters, actors, jugglers, acrobats and contortionists drawing a steady flow of applause, and small coins into the baskets set out in front of them. Stores sold parchment, house plants, wine, carpets, leathergoods, baskets, oils, fruit and vegetables, exotic perfumes and dyes, spices, even adorable puppies and kittens, along with all manner of toys to keep them entertained. Vendors extolled the virtues of their wares alongside preachers speaking to small congregations of interested bystanders, steam hissed from stoves and hotplates, pigeons cooed among the massive beams holding the cavernous hall's roof up, and blanketing it all was the steady humming of hundreds of voices speaking at once.

"I think I could comfortably stay here for a few weeks," Willow said, leading Tara over to a stand selling paper, parchment, scrolls and books of blank pages bound in leather. Tara smiled fondly and popped a roasted chestnut into her mouth from the bag they had bought from a trolley somewhere behind them. She paused for a moment to run her eyes across a table of silk scarves, and by the time she caught up Willow was already engaged in intense negotiation over a thick volume in her hands.

"Five crowns," the vendor was insisting, "the leather in the cover alone is worth three!"

"If that's so, whoever sold it to you went away laughing," Willow countered, "two and a half, and that's more than I'd pay in Gotunberg markets."

"We're a long way from Gotunberg," the vendor fired back, "and shipping ain't cheap. Four."

"Don't try to tell me it costs more to ship a book to Entsteig than it does to Westmarch," Willow scowled, "come on, this was probably made within a day's ride of here. Two and six silvers."

"Three and six. I've got to make a living, don't I?"

"Three and one, and throw in this," Willow said, pointing at a slim scroll.

"For the both?" the vendor asked, apparently appalled at the suggestion. "Three five, and that's my final offer. If that won't do, you're welcome to buy elsewhere."

"Three four."

"Done," said the vendor, surprising Tara who hadn't encountered this definition of 'final offer' before. Willow and the vendor, who had both been glaring fiercely a moment ago, were now all smiled, and shook hands amiably.

"Am I missing something?" Tara asked as Willow fished the agreed price out of her coin purse and stuffed her new acquisitions into her satchel.

"Ah, the noble art of haggling," Willow smiled. "You don't do that at home?"

"A bit," Tara said, "not like that... I was wondering if I'd have to separate you two," she added with a cheeky smile.

"Oh, that's nothing," Willow said airily, "you should see the Suk in Lut Gholein. There's a place where they know how to haggle. Of course, they practically invented it. Heh, I remember the first time I went there, I was with Ember and she took me when she went to get some potions. She and the alchemist were arguing like mortal enemies, I swear I was worried he'd pull a sword and she'd blast his stall into the harbour, and then they hit a price, and in no time they're laughing and swapping stories."

"It's like a game," Tara suggested.

"Yeah, pretty much," Willow agreed. "In Lut Gholein it's almost part of their culture. If you're not willing to call on about fifteen different gods and invoke half a dozen colourful plagues on your opponent, you're not haggling hard enough. This place is pretty tame, but it looks like they've got the hang of it - probably a lot of Aranoch merchants come here, and the locals picked up the basic idea from them."

"This is good workmanship, for three and a half crowns," Tara said, fishing the book out of Willow's bag and turning it over in her hands.

"It is, isn't it?" Willow grinned. "I probably could've got him down to three and two silvers, but I don't mind being a little generous when the merchandise is good. Besides, he was being a good sport."

"Don't you already have some blank books, though?" Tara wondered.

"Yeah, but this one will be different," Willow said with a twinkle in her eye. "I was thinking, if you like, we could keep another journal, besides the one we've got. I mean, places we've been and things we've seen are all good and fine to record, but... well, I'd kind of like to keep a journal of the other things we've done." She grinned suggestively at Tara.

"Other things," Tara said, confused, "what do- oh," her eyes widened, "oh... well, it's certainly worth recording. Sort of a, a sex journal?"

"Not that I'm going to forget any of it, ever," Willow said earnestly, "but, wouldn't it be fun now and then, say if we're on a trip, not really in private... well, we could snuggle up somewhere and read together?"

"Hmm, I like the sound of that," Tara murmured, leaning in close to Willow to be heard over the noise of the crowd. "I'd love to read how you record our... adventures." Willow smiled, and blushed faintly. "Tell you what," Tara went on, "leave every other page blank, and I'll see if I can't come up with some suitable illustrations."

"Yeah?" Willow asked, smiling invitingly.

"Oh yeah," Tara promised. "Oh! I see our next purchase beckoning." She led Willow over to a stall of exotic vials and pots, and making sure Willow was watching, bought several bottles of scented massage oil.

"They'll get more at the Palace, you know," Willow said as Tara picked a few coins from a pouch on her belt - the oil came from one of the stalls that did straight-forward business, without haggling on either side.

"Maybe," Tara smiled sidelong, as the vendor took her money and wrapped the small bottles in a padded cloth. "But look at all these different scents... or should that be 'flavours'?"

"This new journal's going to fill up fast, isn't it?" Willow joked, holding her satchel open for Tara to slide her purchase in.

"It is if I have anything to do with it," Tara smirked. "Fast... achingly slow, and everything in between."

"Minx," Willow said, leaning in close to Tara and patting her bottom. Tara wiggled her hips and grinned.

For the next hour they continued to stroll and shop, and tease each other at every opportunity. When Tara leant over a table to inspect a selection of wooden sculptures, tiny birds and cats and horses carved in exquisite detail, Willow made sure to stand very close behind her, with her thigh nudging suggestively between Tara's legs. While Willow compared various tunics, decorated with woven flowers at their hems, Tara made a point of analysing how each one would fit to her body, giving her light touches on her shoulders, her back and her waist to demonstrate each fit. Willow retaliated by quickly licking her ear at the next stall they visited, in the split second the vendor was distracted by another customer, and Tara evened the score by crouching down, ostensibly to look over some woven baskets stacked on the ground, and breathing hot air across Willow's exposed belly as she was peering at a bag hung higher up.

When they came to a long set of tables, lined up in a row twenty metres long and dressed with an enormous canvas cover, Willow knew Tara was planning her next move. Dozens of small merchants had their wares arrayed on the long table, selling hobby crafts that didn't need a permanent stall to themselves, and each time Tara moved from one assortment of carvings, jewellery and framed drawings to the next she would give Willow a speculative look, her eyes drifting to a different part of her with every glance.

'Trying to get me guessing,' Willow thought, giving Tara an innocent smile, 'well then, my lady, I'll just have to make the first move myself.' She knew Tara couldn't endure much more stimulation without doing something about it - just the flush in her cheeks and the depth of her breathing would have told her that, even if the succession of idle touches and seductive glances hadn't rendered Willow herself equally aroused. The next time Tara glanced at her, then returned her attention to the wide table in front of her, Willow crept up behind her and leaned forward over her, half-straddling her thigh and slowly circling her hips. Willow heard Tara gasp quietly, and couldn't contain her glee at the intensely aroused look on her lover's face when she looked over her shoulder.

Tara stared at Willow for a long moment, in which the business of the market seemed to fade away into the background. Then her eyes flickered up, looking behind Willow. Willow turned, puzzled, to see a large, nondescript man with his back to them, his wide shoulders more or less blocking the view of the aisle between the stalls and tables, then she had only enough time to open her mouth in surprise as she felt Tara's hands on her shoulders, pulling her down and back.

Tara held Willow securely, keeping her from falling as they rolled to the ground and beneath the table. Once there, Tara relaxed her grip, though not completely, and licked her lips slowly as she stared at Willow. Willow let out the breath that had caught in her throat during her sudden transition from idle shopper to lurker beneath a table, wondering what Tara was up to, even as she couldn't help responding with a smile to Tara's scrutiny of her. She opened her mouth to voice a question, then realised what that look in Tara's eyes meant. Her mouth hung open wider, her eyes equally wide, and she quickly glanced around their surroundings. The canvas covering the table hung to the ground on all sides - far away above and below, along the length of the table, and with a width just over a metre from side to side. All there was were bare floorboards, and the occasional box of spare merchandise on the sellers' side of the table. If anyone had noticed their sudden descent beneath the table, they were not bothering to investigate.

"Here?" Willow asked in a whispered squawk.

"Why not?" Tara purred, rolling over with Willow in her arms and slowly crawling up her body.

"There must be hundreds of people out there," Willow protested, though half-heartedly. It had taken exactly one touch from Tara to warm Willow to the idea of letting her do exactly as she wanted. Tara's hands closed on her bare waist as she lifted herself up, ducking a little to avoid hitting her head on the underside of the table.

"It's pretty noisy out there," she said in a carefree voice, just louder than a whisper, "I bet no-one will even hear you if you just can't help but moan a little. Or a lot..." She lay down again, her body pressing against Willow from the top of her chest right down to her feet. "Do you want to?"

"Do I...?" Willow asked. "Oh, goddess, come here..." Tara obligingly lowered her lips to Willow, who lifted her head to meet her half-way in a lustful, frenzied kiss that only became more passionate the longer it lasted. Tara moaned delightedly into Willow's mouth as her hands found Tara's belt and pulled the hem of her tunic free, allowing her to slide her arms up beneath it and press her hands against Tara's back, holding her tightly against herself.

"There's only one person I'm thinking about," Tara whispered, as Willow deftly undid the clasp of her bra and slid her hands around to her front, covering Tara's breasts and firmly, lovingly massaging her. "As for... everyone else... mmm... only you... there's only you..." She closed her eyes, a smile of utter contentment on her face as she arched her back, pushing her breasts into Willow's hands. In one quick motion she reached up and pulled her tunic off, taking the loose bra with it, sliding it beneath Willow's head as a makeshift pillow as Willow continued to squeeze and caress her.

"You adventurous minx you," Willow smiled, as Tara moaned quietly and kissed down the side of her neck.

"Mmm, not done yet," Tara murmured. She looked up to see the surprise, and arousal, in Willow's eyes as her hands loosened the ties at the waist of her skirt, and she wriggled the fabric over her hips and down her legs. Sometime when Willow had been absorbed in her activities higher up, Tara had kicked off her boots, so when she trailed her skirt up the side of Willow's body, dragging the gauzy material over her hips and shoulders before bunching it up and setting it aside, only the thin scrap of fabric around her hips, the crotch soaked with desire, stood between her and complete nakedness.

"You, baby," Tara whispered in her ear, "I want you to do it..." She gently guided Willow's hands from her breasts to the straps arching over her hips, and lifted herself up slightly. In a daze, as if in a dreaming fantasy, Willow tugged down, lowering the underwear as far as she could before Tara took over, shedding the tiny garment which came to lie beside her discarded boots.

"There," Tara murmured sexily, "all naked..."

"Goddess," Willow breathed.

"Exciting, isn't it?" Tara went on, licking her ear and neck mercilessly. "Any moment, someone might look... a vendor reaching for something out of one of those boxes... someone might drop a coin, and it'll roll underneath the table, and they'll crouch down, lift up the cover... could be any moment... could be right now..." She caught Willow's earlobe between her teeth and sucked on it for a moment, before lifting herself up, on hands and knees, staring down at Willow.

"You know they'd see everything," she whispered, "see me, poised over you... naked... wanton... the way my thighs are trembling, just from the anticipation... just because I know, I know, that before long, your hand's going to be buried between them, and your fingers inside me... and my breasts hanging down for you, for you to taste, to lick my nipples, to suck into your mouth and feast on..." She leaned forward, bringing her full, pendulous breasts close to Willow's face as her lips again came close to her ear.

"And the way my legs are spread open," she breathed, "anyone could see how much I want you... my lips pouting, shining with wetness... desperate to be touched... parted... opened..." She smiled as Willow drew a shuddering breath.

"All yours, baby," she went on, "all yours... every inch... every fold... every drop... the silkiness... inside, the heat, the tightness... even the little drop I can feel right now... trickling down my thigh... leaving a little path of wetness behind it... feel the air brushing against it... cooling it... I'm so hot..."

"Goddess," Willow said again, "oh goddess, there's no words for how hot you are..."

"Every second," Tara purred, "someone might find us... might see us... you know what the sensible thing to do is, don't you?" She fixed her eyes on Willow's and grinned devilishly.

"Naughty girl," Willow smirked.

"Yeah," Tara whispered, kissing her cheek softly, "take your naughty girl... make her come... right here..." She moved down to Willow's ear, letting a hot breath play over it before whispering: "Make her come so damn hard..."

Willow sucked down gasps of air as her hands moved down Tara's body. Tara rested herself on top of her, moaning quietly in the back of her throat, being rocked gently by the rise and fall of Willow's chest. One hand went around Tara's hips, gripping her, fingers kneading her flesh, the other between her legs, Willow's fingertips playfully teasing through her hair before coming to rest by her clit, without quite touching yet.

"My girl," Willow whispered as her fingers closed on Tara's throbbing bud.

"Yeeeeaaahh," Tara sighed, swaying her hips back and forth as Willow began rolling her clit in her fingers.

"Hard?" Willow asked with an impish grin. Tara met her gaze, and her jaw fell open at the burning desire she saw there.

"Yuh," she grunted, pressing herself into Willow's hand. Willow released Tara's hips, bringing her free hand instead up her back, up her neck, into her hair, gripping firmly and bringing Tara's lips to hers for a searing kiss. The moment they touched, she squeezed Tara's clit hard between her fingers. Tara moaned out loud, fortunately muffled by Willow's mouth, and her body jerked and writhed in uncontrolled passion. Willow kept her fingers firmly clamped around the tiny nub of flesh, rhythmically squeezing, leaving Tara's thrusting, gyrating hips to provide the rest of the stimulation she was craving.

"Uh," Tara gasped quietly, her lips moving against Willow's, "uh, oh goddess, yes baby, yes that's so good, hold me tight baby, hold me hard, oh, oh yes, yes yes yes yes yes..." her mouth stopped forming words and simply breathed quick, sharp gasps of hot air over Willow's face.

Willow drove her towards climax relentlessly. Now and then she would ease her grip slightly, not wanting to send Tara over the edge too soon, before she had reached the pinnacle she was aiming for, but always her fingers returned, gripping, twirling, caressing, twisting and pinching with merciless precision. Tara's unrestrained show of passion excited her beyond belief, and the way she let herself go, naked and vulnerable, perhaps only seconds from discovery, yet thinking of nothing but stoking the heat within her lover, of making love no matter what, touched something deep within Willow that surprised her. Earlier, when Tara had taken her, when she had given herself over to Tara's wild, passionate care, Willow had found such a joy in being hers, in belonging, that she couldn't help but wish to share it with Tara, to take her as she had been taken herself. But, though she had flirted with the idea, Willow found the prospect of taking such a dominant role daunting - to trust Tara was easy, more than easy, but to trust herself that much, to allow herself free rein with such a precious goddess in her arms, to trust herself that she would not disappoint or, inconceivably worse, hurt her lover in some way... To give herself to Tara, to allow Tara to make love to her without restraint, could not be easier, and when making love with Tara, together, neither taking nor taken but sharing, Tara was her guide, and her part in their lovemaking gave Willow the confidence she needed to let herself go free, to enjoy and love and nothing else. But to hold Tara as hers, to take her, to love her with no guide but her own passion and need to please... earlier, Willow had thought, not without regret, that it was beyond her to take such a leap of faith.

Yet now Tara lay against her, giving freely, and although she was still taking an active role in things as they made love hidden beneath a table in the bustling marketplace, she was clearly giving a great deal to Willow, placing herself in her care and trust. She had never held herself back, but it was one thing for her to give, and another for Willow to take, and now Willow found she was not only accepting, but taking, what Tara offered... just enough to give her a taste of what it might be like to take the role Tara had been in earlier. Such a trust still frightened her, but less even than it would have moments ago, and given a taste, Willow found the idea of wanting more was no longer such an inconceivable fantasy.

"You like that, baby?" she whispered to Tara, her fingertips working Tara's clit ceaselessly. "You like it when I hold you hard? When I twist?" She demonstrated with a quick, firm tug, and Tara's entire body shuddered on top of her.

"Ah!" she gasped, "yes! Yes... oh goddess Willow, yes, do it, make me come baby... so close... goddess, so close..."

"Ask nicely," Willow teased, stroking rapidly, thumb and forefinger clamped hard on Tara's clit, her other fingers caressing her soaked folds. Tara's climax was inevitable, but still she played their game.

"Please," Tara whispered without hesitation, "oh goddess please, please baby, please make me come, make... me... oh goddess... commpph!" Her last word was muffled as she clamped her mouth to Willow's neck, just where it met her shoulder, half biting, half sucking, moaning against her skin as her sex pulsed and released a wave of scintillating pleasure.

"Oh baby," she whispered when at last the tremors within her calmed, and her moist lips came away from Willow's skin, "oh, baby... mmm, goddess, I love you... I love who you make me when you make love to me..."

"I love you too," Willow murmured, keeping her hand lightly cupping Tara's sex, mindful of how sensitive she was in the aftermath of her climax, but unable to bring herself to withdraw her hand just yet.

"Mmm," Tara purred contentedly, "oh Willow... oh," she licked the reddening patch on Willow's neck, "heh... that'll leave a mark. Sorry," she grinned sheepishly.

"Don't be sorry," Willow smiled, "I loved every second... and hey, it's not like you haven't already left a much deeper mark on me... right inside here," she unwound her other hand from Tara's hair and brushed her fingertips over her own chest, over her heart. "You put it there that first time you kissed me, back in the garden in the Baron's castle... 'I am Tara's', it says... or maybe you were just filling in the outline you started drawing the moment I first saw you..." She raised her hand to her neck, feeling the flushed hot skin, as Tara gently licked it.

"Yep, same mark," she whispered, "all yours. Your lover... soulmate... your anything you want... anything to please you..."

"All that in one little mark?" Tara asked with a sly grin.

"Uh-huh," Willow nodded, "all that... you put your mark on me, baby."

"Well then," Tara smiled, "there's only one possible thing we can do now, isn't there?" Seeing the question in Willow's eyes she lifted a hand and gathered the hair hanging down beside her face, lifting it up and away. The question turned to arousal in Willow's stare as her eyes fixed on Tara's smooth skin, with no mistaking what Tara wanted.

She eagerly lifted her lips to Tara's neck and took hold, tenderly sucking on her skin through the kiss while her tongue traced playful, seductive patterns. Tara let out a heartfelt sigh of pleasure, and her hand came up behind Willow's head, supporting her, holding her lips against her. Her hips began to move again on their own, pushing herself against Willow's palm, her folds spreading invitingly around her fingers. For Willow, enthralled in tasting Tara's skin, tasting the depth of her love, the invitation was irresistible, and on the next downward stroke of Tara's hips she plunged two fingers deep inside her.

A gasp exploded out of Tara's mouth, louder than the whispers and hushed moans they had managed so far to restrain themselves to, but neither cared. The heat inside Tara astounded Willow, heat and wetness and softness that spoke of a desire truly matching her own. Tara held her head firmly to herself, while her other hand went between her legs and covered Willow's, trapping her most willingly within herself. With her fingertips stroking Tara's sweet spot, the heel of her hand still pressed against her clit, and her mouth voraciously kissing her neck, Tara's climax rose swiftly and broke powerfully over her, leaving her gasping for air, her muscles clenching desperately at Willow within her.

"I-is it... did you...?" Tara managed between heaving breaths.

"Oh yeah," Willow replied in a heated whisper, licking the skin where her lips had feasted, "we'll have lovely matching love-bites."

"Good," Tara murmured, "there'll be no doubt who we both belong to." She kissed her way across Willow's cheek to her lips, and was surprised and delighted at the vehemence with which Willow claimed her mouth and kissed her, lips working over hers, tongue exploring, teasing, promising.

"Goddess," Tara breathed when at last Willow's tongue withdrew from her mouth. A smile spread across her features. "Someone's feeling very, very lusty."

"Is it any surprise?" Willow countered, kissing Tara again, briefly this time but scarcely less passionately.

"Well," Tara smiled, glancing around, "our hiding place seems to have remained undiscovered this far... why don't we push our luck a little longer?" She released Willow hand, biting her lip in pleasure as her fingers slid free of her. "It would be most unfair of me," she whispered, sliding slowly down Willow's body, "if I didn't make sure my Willow was thoroughly satisfied."

"Mmm," Willow murmured, as Tara gently slid the folds of her skirt up and over her hips, "I'm never anything less... ooh!" She moaned, a little louder than she'd meant to, as Tara deftly tugged aside the crotch of her underwear and slid a finger into her. Willow hadn't consciously realised how incredibly wet Tara had made her, and the delicious sensation of Tara's finger moving into her, through a veritable flood of moistness, was more than she was prepared for. Her muscles contracted of their own volition, and she couldn't help but giggle to herself when she heard a soft, moist sound issue from her soaked channel as Tara entered her.

"Heh," she chuckled, as she met Tara's amused grin and returned it, "guess you got me juicier than usual."

"That's okay," Tara whispered, "I'm thirstier than usual." She gave Willow a long, slow lick, starting down low, delving her tongue into her flowing sex, then reaching up to caress her tongue over her clit.

"Oh wow," Willow whispered, her head falling back, cushioned by Tara's rolled-up tunic, "goddess... how long can we stay down here?"

"If anyone finds us," Tara whispered, breathing over her sex, "I'll just say I'm sampling your wares." She gave Willow a gentle, luxurious kiss just above her clit. "This is a market, after all..." another kiss, just below, "...and there's nothing better than a taste test."

Some time later Willow drew back the canvas at the far end of the long table and peeked out. The table sided onto a row of stalls, and no-one in view seemed to be looking towards its end just at the moment. With a guilty smile she quickly scurried out and stood up right, stretching her legs, then stood around trying to look carefree and not attract attention as Tara emerged behind her, straightening her skirt.

"We're naughty, incorrigible girls," Willow grinned as they sauntered back among the teeming crowds.

"Lucky us," Tara quipped. "Oh, I saved these for you... a souvenir?" She idly held her hand in front of Willow and opened it to reveal her underwear, bunched up and still moist.

"You shameless creature," Willow laughed, snatching them and quickly stuffing them into her satchel.

"Shameless?" Tara replied, with an arch expression belied by the twinkle in her eyes. "This from the woman who nearly kicked the underside of the table the second time I..." she glanced down Willow's body and licked her lips.

"Uh-huh," Willow shot back, stroking the back of her hand lovingly, "totally shameless. Honestly, if I'd accidentally made a noise and everyone had looked under the table, I swear you would've just smiled and kept on licking."

"Some things are too sweet to interrupt," Tara said with a demure smile. She glanced at Willow, and her expression shifted from playful to caring. "You don't mind, do you?" she asked gently. "If you'd rather we didn't... you know, do things like this...?"

"Don't even think it," Willow said firmly, "I love every minute of being with you. Even the imminent-danger-of-discovery ones... maybe sometimes, especially those ones," she admitted with a blush.

"You wild woman," Tara grinned, quickly placing a kiss on her cheek.

"Huh," Willow snorted, smiling at the kiss, "me, wild? Uh-uh. Compared to you, I'm little miss conservative..."

"Oh?" Tara smiled, leaning in close to murmur in Willow's ear: "Since when does little miss conservative hold her lover's head to her gorgeous sex and come right into her mouth the way you did?"

"You know what I mean," Willow said, blushing furiously. "Goddess you're something else, you're getting me hot again, you know that? It's just as well you're not wearing panties, at this rate we'll barely make it half-way back to the Palace before we're making out in a doorway somewhere!"

"I have excellent self-restraint," Tara said, adopting an unconvincingly innocent expression. "Mostly," she added in an undertone.

They continued to wander through the huge Market Hall, discussing anything interesting that caught their eye, and often diverting into playful banter, for the next couple of hours. By the time they and their purchases - which now included a gauzy silk head-scarf Willow had noticed, and a new shoulder-bag that Tara bought to help carry everything - made their way to the massive door nearest the street leading up to the Palace the afternoon's gathering clouds had become a steady drizzle, but luckily - naturally, considering the brisk trade they were doing - a handful of vendors were selling collapsible umbrellas just inside the doorway.

"You've got it in you, you know," Tara commented as they made their way back towards the Palace, huddled together under the shelter of a single large umbrella - cheaper than buying two smaller ones, and with the added benefit that it practically required them to walk arm-in-arm, close together.

"What've I got in me," Willow asked, "aside from about half a gallon of sweet Tara-juice?" She was gratified to see Tara blush - Willow had been the one caught off-guard and blushing more often than not during their banter between bouts of shopping, and had become quite fond of those occasions when she managed to be the one to surprise her lover.

"Vixen," Tara murmured with a smirk. "I meant the... the wild girl thing. You're not always 'little miss conservative'."

"Well, maybe," Willow allowed, "but compared to you..."

"You mean, when I go all 'grrr' and you beg for me?" Tara asked, keeping her face in a placid smile. 'Drat, she got me,' Willow thought as she felt her face redden, nodding.

"That's what I mean," Tara went on, "it's in you too. I've felt it now and then... it feels good," she confessed with a wide grin.

"I know," Willow admitted, "I'd... earlier, in the wagon, what I felt when you made love to me, it was... you know I love being with you, making love to you, together... but when you took me it was so intense..." She gave Tara a sheepish grin. "I felt... like you owned me... in a good way," she hastened to add, "like, I'm your love, emphasis on 'your'... it was so, so incredibly sexy."

"For me too," Tara assured her.

"And... I'd like to give that to you," Willow continued, "that experience, that pleasure... and I've had little tastes of what it might be like, you know? From the in-charge end, a-and I'd like to feel that as well..."

"But..." Tara prompted gently.

"But, I... I don't know if I can do that," Willow said with a frown, "it's such a huge thing, to, to be... to have you be mine, not just the way I know you're mine already, like I'm yours, that's just... I can't imagine it any other way... but different to that..."

"For me to submit to you?" Tara asked.

"Yeah," Willow nodded, "yeah... I know it sounds simple, like it's just a, a thing to do, something to do to feel sexy, and I guess it could be just that... I mean, we do, we have already, all that teasing and whispering and playing around... but, I-I want to give you the whole experience, you know? Like you did for me, the real, spiritual, ecstatic your-chains-around-my-heart feeling. And that's such a, an enormous thing to do, because... because you're you, you're my Tara... there's nothing in the world more important than you, and if I did this, and I disappointed you-"

"You could never disappoint me, baby," Tara said soothingly, "never. I know how you feel, it's not just a simple thing for me either. Trusting you is so easy, but... entrusting myself with you... wow," she smiled, "that's a huge step to take. And you're absolutely right, when it's like this it's not just playing around, it's... it's really taking your heart in my hands, and trusting myself to keep it safe. But the reward..." she sighed happily and looked at Willow. "Oh baby, to feel you in my arms, mine, and when you look at me and I see that complete pleasure... I'd love to give that to you too."

"I just have to, I don't know, get into it," Willow shrugged, "get over being nervous... I guess it's like, you remember at that lake, the day before we got to Kotram? In here I know I can trust myself," she tapped her temple, "but down here," her finger moved down to her heart, "I still worry I'll do something wrong."

"It's alright," Tara said with a smile, "you don't have to regret being my utterly sweet, caring Willow... it just makes me love you more." She laughed quietly. "Every day I think that's not possible, and every day it turns out I can."

Willow leant over to her and gently kissed her, slowly, carefully, lovingly. For a moment they simply stood there, in the middle of the rain-swept street, sheltered by their umbrella as other pedestrians bustled around them, enjoying being together without a care in the world.

"See what I mean?" Tara grinned when they finally parted and resumed their walk, arms around each other's waists. "Now I love you even more than I did a moment ago. You're amazing... and you know what?"

"What?" Willow asked eagerly, recognising the tone of Tara with an idea, which would doubtless turn out to be exquisite.

"I think I know just how to reach the 'grrr' in you, my lovely Willow," Tara said with a radiant smile. "Trust me?"

"Always," Willow said without hesitation.

"Then tonight," Tara beamed, "I promise you, before the night is done you'll grrr like you've never grrred before."

Tara maintained a mysterious smile all the way back to the Palace, and refused to be drawn on what exactly she had in mind. To Willow's incessant questions she offered only vague hints, and always her smile, which had Willow turning her curiosity into a game, trying to discern some glimmer of a reaction from beneath Tara's amusement as she came up with suggestion after suggestion.

Once back they called on help from a couple of porters and had the rest of their bags from the wagon brought up to their room. Tara turned a chair around so she could look out of the open balcony doors at the clouds, with the gentle sound of the rain thrumming on the balcony's roof, as she unpacked and polished her ceremonial armour. Willow sat on the couch nearby and went through her collection of letters, picking out those she needed to send and adding her signature to them. A tug on the bell-cord by the door summoned Lissa, who promised that the letter to the Duke's mage would go immediately to his quarters or his workshop, wherever he happened to be at the moment, and the others would go to the Palace's post office, and on to their destinations around the city early next morning.

"You look lovely," Tara said, as she and Willow sat down to a modest dinner, brought to their room hot from the kitchens. Willow had kept her Zann Esu gear on, but added her new scarf, carefully arranging it in the bathroom so that Tara wouldn't see it until she had it perfectly positioned, with its folds just so, and her hair sneaking out on either side to frame her face. She smiled and made short work of her meal, sure that Tara's mysterious plan was drawing near. Tara kept her conversation on everyday matters, discussing the markets, the parts of the city they had seen and so on, avoiding any mention of her promise that afternoon. The amused, expectant glint in her eyes told Willow that she had not forgotten, and she found it actually aroused her to play Tara's game, as if they were about to turn in for a good night's sleep and nothing else. She knew better than to believe that, even for a second.

Later, when their empty plates were taken away, Tara ran a warm bath and washed Willow, gently and lovingly, but positively chastely, especially by her recent standards. Her hands roamed freely over Willow's body, but never with any intent other that to bathe her. She never lingered on Willow's breasts or between her legs, or at the sides of her waist, the backs of her thighs, her neck, or any of the multitude of erogenous zones she had already demonstrated ample knowledge of - nor did she avoid them, either, she simply washed as though she had no idea her touch had the power to excite. Willow, eager not to impede Tara's plans, did likewise, restraining her urge to enjoy the delights of Tara's body as she bathed her, and both conducted themselves similarly as they drained the bath and towelled each other off.

The result of Tara's modest behaviour was that, by the time Willow returned to the main room, turned down the blankets and sat on the edge of the bed, she was in such a state of anticipation as she had never known before. No matter how Tara behaved, how demure her touch or innocent her gaze, Willow never once felt anything less than the full extent of her love, and all the passion that entailed. She knew that Tara knew this, too, that Tara had calculated her behaviour and demeanour all through the evening to achieve just this result - that Willow's ardour for her become inflamed to such a degree that she could barely think without her mind becoming overwhelmed with fantasies.

Tara finished hanging their towels back on their rails and padded back into the main room, naked but showing no sign of intending to arouse, though the mere sight of her brought a flush to Willow's cheeks, and a rush of wetness within her core. Tara sat beside her, and gently took Willow's hand in both of hers.

"I love you," she said softly, "I always have, from the moment I set eyes on you, before I knew what my soul was telling me, and I always will. I would never ask anything of you that you wouldn't give me of your own free will."

"I know," Willow said, the honest emotion in Tara's words reaching her clearly, even through the strength of her desires.

"Do you want this?" Tara asked. Her tone was gentle, supportive, but left no doubt that she needed a true answer, without hesitation or qualification.

"Yes," Willow said simply.

"Lie back," Tara whispered, her hands on Willow's shoulders, gently laying her down on the expansive bed, shifting her to lie comfortably, her head supported by the pillows. She drew the blankets back, to let Willow slide her legs beneath them, but instead of pulling them back up she continued to drag them down, leaving them at the foot of the bed, around Willow's heels. She kissed her palm and held it out towards Willow, then turned and busied herself putting out most of the room's candles, leaving only a few to cast their glow, as the occasional, distant sheet of lightning cast its glare through the windows.

The moment she replaced the delicate brass candle snuffer on the mantelpiece and turned back to Willow, the whole language of her body changed. She sauntered towards the bed, hips swaying invitingly, her fingertips brushing the tops of her thighs as she swung her arms lazily. No-one could have watched her approach Willow without knowing precisely what was in her mind, least of all Willow herself, whose chest shuddered up and down as her breathing increased to a rapid pace.

Tara sat on the other side of the bed, elegantly swung her legs up behind her, and prowled on all fours over to Willow, with the grace of the lioness in her every motion. She swung her leg over Willow's waist and straddled her, taking her wrists and guiding her hands up above her head. Her breasts swung desperately close to Willow's lips as she leaned forward, lifting Willow's hands until they touched the carved wood at the head of the bed. Tara gently closed Willow's hands around two of the slim spiral-carved columns in the wood, then let go and swayed back, until her face was a mere inch from Willow's, and their breath mingled in the air between them.

"Don't let go," she whispered, staring into Willow's eyes. Willow could only nod, caught in Tara's gaze, and a slow, sensuous smile spread across Tara's face.

"I know how much you want me," she whispered, swaying her head from side to side, her gaze moving all over Willow's face, "I want you too... I want the Willow I tasted today. The Willow who wants to take me... whose whispers are my commandments... whose fingers leash me stronger than steel... whose lips brand me... I want to be yours..." She lowered herself to Willow's lips and kissed her, fiercely at first, but by degrees more gentle as Willow responded more and more, her tongue venturing forward as Tara's retreated, claiming her in reply.

"Ahhh," she sighed, as Willow released her from the kiss to take a gasp of air, "that's her... my Willow goddess... and you want me so much now, don't you? Oh yeah, I know... I want you to want me... I want you to have me... and you will," she promised, "oh, baby, you will..."

With a serene, sexy smile she straightened up, sitting back on her heels over Willow's thighs. With deliberate slowness she reached down and dragged her fingertips through Willow's soaking sex, the corners of her smile quirking upward as she noticed the jolt that ran through Willow's body at the touch, and the shudder when she brushed over her clit. She held her hand up for Willow to see, fingertips glistening with juice, then slowly brought it to her mouth.

"Yours," she said, as she painted her lips with Willow's arousal. "Yours," she repeated, dragging her fingers down through her cleavage, leaving a trail of moisture. "Yours," she said once more, as her hand cupped her sex, mingling Willow's wetness with her own. Watching Willow all the while, making sure her attention was firmly on the hand between her legs, she held two fingers together and slowly, tortuously slowly, slid them into herself, until her palm lay flay against her folds and she was as deep within herself as she could be.

"Yours," she whispered, leaning down to whisper with her lips pressed against Willow's, "oh goddess baby it's yours... you want it... you want to be right where I am now... inside me... deep in my soul... and I want you there." She raised herself just enough to look into Willow's eyes, to see the fire there. "What am I?" she breathed.

"Mine," Willow said from between clenched teeth. Tara's eyes closed, her mouth opened, releasing a sigh almost like a gentle climax. She touched Willow's arms lightly, and sighed again as she felt her move, her hands releasing their grip on the carved wood, drawing closer.

"Yeeessss," she hissed, "yes... love me, baby... take me..." She leant down, her tongue hot against Willow's neck, working up to lick her ear, and in a whisper laden with desire, she breathed: "fuck me."

Willow's breath caught in her throat for a second, then she rose like an angel, carrying Tara in her arms and bearing her over. Tara gasped in pleasure as she came down on her back among the soft blankets, with Willow on top of her, feverishly kissing her neck, her shoulders, her breasts, devouring her nipples as her hands closed on Tara's thighs, lifting them on either side of her, pressing her stomach against Tara's thrusting mound.

"Oh yes," Tara moaned, "oh yes, yes, take me goddess, take what's yours!" Willow held a nipple between her teeth, tugging at it to cries of pleasure from Tara, as one hand gripped Tara's bottom and her other slid between their bodies, covering Tara's sex, pressing firmly against it.

"Is this what you want baby?" she murmured, releasing Tara's nipple to brush her lips against it as she spoke. "This?" she demanded, as she slid a finger into Tara, thrusting quickly in and out.

"Uhhh," Tara groaned, beyond words to express her arousal.

"Goddess you're wet," Willow went on, "you're so close... you're close, aren't you baby? Aren't you? Feel that orgasm inside you, straining to break over you?"

"Yes," Tara managed.

"I could make you come right now," Willow purred, "right now, all over my hand... but I won't. I want you to writhe, moan, grind your hips, feel me in you... you want to come so much, so bad, but until I say," she paused, her finger thrust deep, tickling Tara's sweet spot, "until I say..." She left the words hanging, as her caress inside Tara kept her hips jerking and writhing of their own accord.

"I-I c-can't... c-c-come..." Tara panted, "not uh... u-until... y-y-you let... m-me..."

"That's so right baby," Willow murmured delightedly, "we've played this game before, haven't we? But this is for real... I can take you again and again, all night if I want... lick you, kiss you, nibble your folds, suck your clit... even when you feel my tongue dancing inside you, you'll want to come so badly... be a good girl," she grinned devilishly, as she lowered herself down Tara's body. Tara gasped for breath, still tormented by Willow's finger within her driving her wild, and knowing in her soul that blessed release was far, far away.

Willow wasted no time bringing her lips to Tara's sex, licking up the copious juices covering the immediate object of her desire. She swirled her tongue all through Tara's folds, all around her finger still buried in her, still working inside her, before fixing her lips around her clit, sucking voraciously. Tara bucked in her grip, trying to force her mound against Willow's mouth, and Willow eagerly obliged, pressing herself firmly into Tara's warmth, holding her nub securely between her teeth, grazing her tongue back and forth over it.

She recognised the signs of Tara's impending climax, but at the same time she could feel that she was in control, that the thrusts of Tara's hips, the rippling of her inner muscles, all were incomplete, rendered unable to bring her complete satisfaction without the acquiescence, the command, of her lover. Tara responded with all her passion to Willow's love, her body driving frantically towards a climax she could never reach on her own, spurred on only by the sure knowledge that her Willow would never leave her unsatisfied, that the torment of her arousal, so strong as to be almost painful, would be rewarded.

Willow thrust her tongue over Tara's clit again and again, each touch more than enough to have brought her satisfaction had Tara's own will had any say in the matter. But she was Willow's, and Willow knew it - felt it within herself, within Tara. As her mouth filled with the taste of Tara's sex, Willow tasted too the hot, heady pleasure of having her perfect Tara totally in her power - and, even more satisfying, the pure shining knowledge that she was worthy.

She gave Tara's clit one last, lingering kiss, then moved back up her body, licking at the sweat beading on her skin as her hand continued its rhythm between her legs. Tara's head was back on the blankets, and it was only as Willow lightly nipped at her breasts and licked over her collarbone that her eyes focused and she looked back down from the bed's canopy above them.

"Soon, goddess," Willow promised, "so soon... are you ready?"

"I-I'm y-y-yours..." Tara gasped. Willow's heart swelled with desire and pride.

"You're ready," she whispered into her neck, "feel it grow inside you... growing, swelling... so huge it scares you... I'll hold you, baby. I'll keep you safe." She made her way up to Tara's ear, and whispered into it: "Come."

"Willow!" Tara shrieked, her arms flying up to grasp at Willow's back, her nails scratching white trails across her skin. She convulsed violently beneath Willow, thrusting herself onto her plunging finger again and again as waves of pleasure rocked her to her very core. Willow never faltered, thrusting into Tara's flowing sex as her lover rode her monumental orgasm. When it seemed Tara's pleasure might begin to subside, Willow gripped her backside harder, and added a second finger, opening her sopping channel wider.

"Again," she demanded as Tara clung to her. She felt Tara begin to rise to a peak, and added the stimulation of her thumb on Tara's clit, rubbing the sensitive nerves hard, sending shockwaves of intense pleasure all through her body. Before Tara had even recovered from her first climax the second was upon her - her legs whirled up, around Willow's waist, her ankles crossing in the small of Willow's back and holding her hips up off the bed as she gushed again, drawing Willow into her as deep as humanly possible.

Her climax seemed to intensify with each wave and each thrust, rather than easing off, and at its height Willow physically lifted her off the bed, sitting up with Tara wrapped around her, arms and legs, supporting her entire weight on her thighs, and with the hand around her waist, letting her plunge down on the fingers buried inside her. Tara's head swam with pleasure, moans echoed around the room from her throat, and she clutched at Willow as if trying to draw her completely into her, to somehow become one with her. Again Willow waited until her lover's climax showed the first tiny sign of abating, and then-

"Again," she growled. Tara's eyes slammed open, staring at her in disbelief, even as her body responded. She gulped down a gasp of air, then her mouth opened in a silent moan, and for a moment the only sound in the room was their joined breathing, and the hot, wet sounds of Willow's hand, now covered to the wrist in Tara's arousal, continuing to drive into Tara's core.

"You can do it baby," Willow whispered. She held Tara tightly, protectively, as she made love to her, as Tara let herself fall into Willow's arms, into her soul, and Willow took the gift she was given and used it in full measure to bring Tara higher, higher than clouds or stars.

"One..." she whispered, her fingertips pressing into Tara's sweet spot with every thrust.

"...more..." her thumb pleasuring her clit as hard as she could bear, circling, rubbing, pressing into the sensitive bud remorselessly.

"...time." Drawing her fingers back for the last thrust, and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that it would be the last, as surely as if Tara's sex were her own, the feelings within it hers, Willow added a third finger and plunged all three deep into Tara, hitting her sweet spot and clit at once, relentless, burying Tara in stimulation.

A sound formed in Tara's throat, at first a tiny, ethereal whisper of a moan, matching the tentative, almost shy tremors that began within her sex, wrapped tightly around Willow's fingers. The sound grew, louder, stronger, surer, a melodious voice of pleasure as Tara's climax began to gather pace, ever-stronger waves of pleasure cascading down over her. Tara stared her utter devotion into Willow's eyes all the while, until at last she threw her head back, release was upon her, and she let out a pure, high note, an angelic scream of pleasure, blissful, perfect and abandoned, and at the very top of her voice, such that, had it not happened to coincide with an impressive roll of thunder from the night sky, she would likely have woken half the Palace.

The sheer strength, the fullness, of Tara's climax seemed to drain the strength from Willow as completely as it did from Tara herself, and both of them slowly sank back, until they lay, Willow beneath and Tara atop her, along the length of their bed. Willow, with a supreme effort, managed the effort of hooking the corner of the blankets and drawing them over herself and her lover, then her arm returned to Tara's waist, holding her safe as the tremors within her finally began to subside.

"Goddess..." Tara gasped when Willow finally, gently withdrew her fingers from her.

"You can say that again," Willow whispered, wonder evident in her voice. "A-are you okay? That was..."

"Perfect," Tara finished, "it was utterly, utterly perfect... did you feel it, baby? Did you feel me give everything to you?"

"I felt it," Willow replied, "I... it was so beautiful... if, if there are words for how beautiful, they're words only angels can sing... I felt like... like you made me more than human." She grinned at the sound of what she said, but there was no mistaking the honesty in her words, that she believed every one."

"You are more than human," Tara said, kissing Willow's neck from where she lay beside her on the pillow, breathing the scent of her hair. "You're my whole world."

"And you were absolutely right," Willow smiled, "I've got the 'grrr' in me... I never realised how... how spiritual it could be." She paused as a thought struck her. "This... um, this doesn't mean that you won't, you know... still 'grrr' yourself...?" Tara's soft laughter soothed her at once.

"You bet I will," she chuckled, "what I felt in the wagon today... there's no way I'm not taking you like that again. And again, and again..." She kissed Willow once more. "I love you far too much to keep anything from you..."

"I love you too baby," Willow whispered, "I love you so much I've forgotten what it felt like before I loved you." She tilted her head over to kiss Tara properly, tasting her lips. "I love loving you... making you mine... being yours... heh," she chuckled, "I'm starting to think there's nothing we can't do."

"Hmm, maybe you're right," Tara purred, "I certainly intend to find out... but for now, tonight," she lifted herself up, staring down into Willow's eyes, "tonight, I am yours... and your wish is my most pleasurable command." She kissed Willow again, smiling at the passion she saw reignited in her eyes.

"May I pleasure you?" she asked demurely. Willow grinned broadly.

"You may, my love," she replied.

"Thank you," Tara whispered, her gratitude completely sincere.

Continue to Hellebore Chapter Forty-Nine

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