Homelands Pt. 11 Ch. 01

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“You kids ready?” Lance asked from the stairs, no more than his head and shoulders sticking up into Yvette’s room. “Her Majesty sent me to fetch you.”

Yvette sighed. She’d told Zach to hide when they heard the footsteps coming up the stairs, but apparently his illusion hadn’t fooled their brother/father. Of course it hadn’t. They were still new to all this, whereas he’d first set foot in Winter years and years ago. That he was able to escape her notice didn’t mean anything. She was nobody.

“Don’t worry,” Lance added. “I won’t tell anyone that I found the two of you together.” He gave Yvette a small smile. “Lena and I have broken a few rules for each other too.”

Zach stepped away from the frozen wall, carved as everything else was from blocks of solid ice, and came back into view. “I bet you did,” he said, a hint of challenge in his voice. He stared at the older man the way one might a jailor.

That probably should have frustrated her. On the one hand, she couldn’t help wondering where he got off acting so jealous over her when he’d given his virginity to Lena. The more she thought about it, the more that bothered her. He’d let a woman he knew next to nothing about, who might or might not have any decency left, claim the prize that was rightfully Yvette’s. That he’d all but promised to her. On the other hand, seeing her one furry beast engage the other in a staring contest over her made her vadge tingle. Bad Yvette was just loving the defiance in her brother’s eyes and hoped she might yet see the two of them come to blows over her. What greater validation of her desirability could a woman ask for?

Lance’s eyes met those of his younger brother. Face utterly impassive, he sniffed at the air, as if testing the boy’s scent from across the room. He evidently wasn’t impressed by it. “It’s not wise to keep her waiting,” he said before turning to take a step down the tower.

With a mere thought, Yvette got dressed again. And this time, she chose an outfit that might better please the queen. She hoped. Her black top had loose sleeves that belonged on a more conservative garment. The sort women wore in centuries long past. But the fabric was so thin as to be translucent, and therefore did little to hide her otherwise naked breasts. The neckline, such as it was, left her shoulders and the better part of her chest exposed, putting her tattoo on full display. Lest it go unnoticed, she freshened the ink too, making the tattoo look fresh. Below the waist, she wore flowing black satin skirts embroidered with blue flowers. Her pumps, which hid beneath the ample skirts, were dark blue. As were her formerly black nails. Her thick eyeshadow incorporated many different shades of blue.

She was tempted to adopt the same blue lips Lena sported. But something told her that would come across as presumptuous. She wanted to look like a proper daughter of Winter, a little scary and a lot sexy, but also one who knew her place. Something told her those bold blue lips were something one had to earn. So she stuck with her favorite shade of pink.

To make her feel a little more decorative, though, she added the pentagram amulet that she’d stopped wearing after realizing the effect it had on the Jesus freaks handing out pamphlets on campus. A bunch of rings too. Almost every finger now had one, including her thumbs. Some had two. Most were plain metal, but a few were adorned with blood-red garnet or black onyx. She promptly replaced those with lapis lazuli.

For his part, Zach went with jeans, tennis shoes, and a simple white T-shirt. Which was less than most men would wear in that cold palace in the heart of Winter, but nonetheless struck Yvette as somewhere between a show of weakness and one of impudence. Lance wasn’t wearing a shirt, and hadn’t once since they’d arrived. At least, not that Yvette had seen. All he ever wore was a pair of black leather pants. He even walked around the icy palace on bare feet. It was like he wanted the world to know that no amount of cold could bother him. The same way Zach should have.

Still, at least he wasn’t wearing a whole bunch of layers. And she had to admit her brother did look pretty good. Maybe not as good as he would bare-chested and squeezed into a tight pair of leather pants, but good. Which was saying something, since most guys couldn’t pull that look off. Whenever Yvette saw a guy in a pair of ratty jeans and a too-tight T, especially one that was plain white, she wanted to slap a couple twenties in his hand and send him to the mall to get clothes suitable for a grown man. And tell him not to forget a good belt and a nice pair of shoes while he was at it. But Zach totally pulled it off. Probably because he had a simple, down-to-earth quality to him that she found intoxicating. Well, that and his great body. But the attitude helped. Even dressed like a boy, he didn’t come across as immature. Not with that sexy beard and those wary eyes. No, he just didn’t feel the need to impress anyone. He was who he was and that wasn’t going to change.

Not even for Lady Winter.

Or mersin escort so Yvette hoped. Because she really needed someone to keep her grounded.

Lance looked his brother up and down, snorted, and said, “Let’s go.”

“Like your outfit,” Zach said to Yvette as he passed by her and headed down the stairs after Lance. He didn’t even look to see how those three little words affected her.

She smiled to herself as she fell in behind him. There was no way he’d give her a second glance if they ran into each other on campus while she was dressed like that. Not that she’d ever let her pierced nipples show like that while walking around U-Dub, of course. But still. The missing bra wasn’t the problem. She was way too goth for him. But at least here, in this cold world, she thought he meant what he said. And though they’d just spent hours in bed together, leaving little doubt that he was kinda into her, that somehow meant a lot.

The warmth of that smile soon faded.

By day, the palace was coldly beautiful. Now that it was dark, though, the walls and floors no longer seemed so charming. And the complete lack of artificial light seemed downright creepy. She had a few lamps in her room, but there were none in the halls. Nor any torches, unsurprisingly. Something told Yvette that no fire, however small, had ever burned inside that palace. But for the ball of blue light ahead of her father, then, they’d not be able to see a thing. Would have no idea who or what lurked in the shadows all around them.

They must have wandered those cold, dark halls for an hour. Maybe two. For all Yvette knew, they went round and round in circles, speaking hardly a word the whole time. But eventually, Lance led them up a long flight of stairs to the top of a tower that no doubt made hers look like little more than a parapet.

Music drifted down the stairwell to greet them. A fiddle, Yvette thought, though she didn’t know her instruments too well. The melody was sad, haunting. If she didn’t know who they were going to meet, she might almost have expected to find a ghost waiting for them at the top. Or perhaps the queen was forcing some long dead soul to play for her while she waited. From what they’d heard about Lady Winter, it wouldn’t surprise Yvette in the least to discover that death was no escape from her icy clutches.

When they finally reached the last few stairs, she saw a man of flesh and blood working a gleaming bow across the strings of a golden fiddle. Like Lance, he wore nothing more than a pair of leather breeches. He had a broad back, strong shoulders, and arms that would have been better suited to working a hammer and anvil than a delicate musical instrument. He was every bit as pale and hairy as her brothers, and the ponytail falling well past his shoulders was no less black, but neither Zach nor even Lance had quite as much muscle.

At the other end of the room stood the most beautiful woman Yvette had ever seen, sipping from a silver chalice and staring off at nothing while the music washed over her. Lady Winter wore a black dress whose tight bodice accentuated her vast bosom and ridiculously narrow waist yet which hung loosely from the hips down, pooling at her feet like spilled blood. Her skin was whiter than white, her hair darker than night, her eyes bright blue and her lips the same dark shade as Lena’s. Yvette felt she might go blind just looking at her. No woman should be allowed to be that gorgeous. Or have a body that perfect.

The man by the wall stopped playing. He turned and looked at the new arrivals and Yvette saw at once that he too had the queen’s blood coursing through his veins. She’d suspected as much, but those blue eyes made it a certainty in her mind. Plus, his facial features were very similar to Zach’s. Though he was perhaps a little more handsome.

He could stand to grow his beard out a bit more though.

If his eyes lingered more on Yvette than Lena, that was only because he’d never met her before. Had to be. A man like him couldn’t be drawn to a girl like her. Especially not if he shared his bed with the woman who evidently found his music so enchanting.

Still, she got chills when she felt his eyes roaming over her body.

“Don’t stop,” the queen told him.

Without a word, he turned his back to them once more. His bow then resumed its dance, filling the room with sounds that could break the strongest heart. Words could not describe the sense of loss and longing he pulled out of those strings.

“Don’t mind Quincy,” their mother told the four of them as she swept across the small room, moving so gracefully that Yvette wondered if her feet even touched the floor. Assuming she had any. “He can be a little nosy, but he does as I tell him.”

That was when Yvette realized they weren’t in the queen’s quarters. The room was too cramped. The bed too small. Ornate as the furniture was, there wasn’t enough of it to house a royal wardrobe, however limited its color palette might be. This was Quincy’s room. kocaeli escort Why the queen had chosen to receive them in it, Yvette could only guess. But it had to be his.

“May it please Her Majesty, I present my brother Zach,” Lena said, her hands on the boy’s shoulders and her eyes on the queen. “His blood is as blue as ours, as are his eyes. He is strong and fearless. He will make a proud wolf or I will offer my throat in shame.”

A chill ran down Yvette’s spine. The two of them were not just introducing her and Zach to their mother, but vouching for them. With their lives. If she and Zach resisted this world’s corruption, Lance and Lena would pay. Meaning she not only had to choose between the two as lovers, but her actions might well determine which of them would live.

Why did she find that so exhilarating?

The frozen goddess cupped Zach’s chin and tilted his head down so his eyes might meet hers. Yes, he stood a good seven or eight inches taller, but there was no question that he was beneath her. In about a dozen different ways. No expression showed on the queen’s porcelain face, but that itself spoke volumes. She looked like a woman who’d been given a gift she didn’t like by someone whose feelings she nonetheless didn’t wish to hurt.

“No,” she said at last.

Yvette’s throat caught. The air froze and no one moved a muscle.

“Not a wolf, I think, but perhaps a bear.”

The tension went out of her body. Hers, and everyone else’s. Lena’s especially. She hid it well, but Yvette was sure her sister had nearly shit herself.

Then the queen added, “In time.”

“Your Majesty?” Lena asked, a hint of uncertainty in her voice.

“And he’s far from fearless,” their mother continued. “If I’m not mistaken, he refused to take the life you placed in his hands. Though he spilled some blood.”

For a moment, Lena looked terrified. Yvette wouldn’t have thought that possible for her. It seemed outside her emotional range. But she recovered quickly enough.

“So why did you lie?” she asked Lena. There wasn’t so much as a hint of anger in her voice. If there was any emotion at all, it was amusement. But there was no more than a trace of even that. Her deep voice, like everything else about her, was cold and lifeless. “Don’t tell me you’ve developed feelings for him?” Her eyes slid over to Lance. “Already?”

Yvette braced for the violence that now seemed inevitable. In her mind’s eye, she saw her sister’s throat slashed open and blood spraying wildly out into the room. None of them would even see the blow that ended her life, Yvette was sure. But they’d see the effects alright. And none of them would make a move to help her. Not even Lance.

Only that didn’t happen.

She wasn’t sure if she was relieved or disappointed.

“He fascinates me,” Lena said at last. The fear was gone. Or buried more successfully. She was the smarmy student who refused to back down when challenged by the professor. Respectful enough to drain all emotion from her voice, but too convinced she was right to sit down and shut up like she probably should. “He was a virgin before I took him.”

“He’s not the first,” their mother replied.

“I know,” Lena said, her facade slipping just a bit. “But he’s not like all those hares. He is strong, if not fearless. And pure as freshly fallen snow.” A wicked smile spread across her lips. “We’ll have us a lot of fun converting him.”

Zach stood as still as a statue. Like they weren’t even talking about him, but someone else entirely. His eyes stared straight forward, over the top of the queen’s head. Yvette wished she could reach out and take his hand in hers. Tell him she wouldn’t let that happen. Bad Yvette insisted that if anyone was going to corrupt him, it would be her.

“I’ve thought that before,” the queen replied. “Only to have them break easier than I expected. Or beg to be put out of their misery. What makes you so sure he’s different?”

To Yvette’s surprise, Lena answered that with nothing but a small shrug. “I just am.”

Was she crazy? Or did she just have bigger balls than any of the men in that room?

The queen neither laughed nor struck out at her. She didn’t react at all. Not at first. After a few brief instants that felt like hours, she reached up and patted Zach’s cheek in the most belittling way. “You better turn out to be a bear. I’ve grown rather fond of your sister.” Her eyes darted to Lena then back to Zach. “I’d hate to have to lose her over this.”

“You won’t,” Lena said. But even to Yvette’s ears, it sounded like she was saying that for her own benefit more than the queen’s. “You’ll see.”

The queen gave her a thin smile then turned her eyes to Yvette.

Lance put his hands on her shoulders and said, “May it please Her Majesty, I present my sister Yvette. Her blood is as blue as ours, as are her eyes. She is strong and fearless. She will make a proud snow leopard or I will offer my throat in shame.”

The queen stared at her hard, samsun escort and Yvette felt her insides laid bare. She was sliced open by a thousand razors, placed on little glass trays, and slid under a microscope. It made her squirm, though she was too scared to so much as blink or twitch.

She was weak.

Fat.

Ugly.

Unreliable.

There were two women inside her. One was worthy of Winter, the other was not. And it was as yet unclear which would prevail. The queen saw that. She saw everything.

“Maybe,” was all she said.

“Her brother-” Lance began.

“Might hold her back, yes,” their mother replied, speaking past Yvette. “Or she might succeed where Lena fails. Hard to say.” She took a sip of her wine. Not a drop of the red tainted her perfect blue lips. The smell reached Yvette’s nose. It was rich and fuity. And definitely wine. The fleeting thought that it might be blood proved every bit as ridiculous as she should have known it to be. That was far too cliche for this one. “No, you’re not going to keep them apart. But you are going to keep a close eye on both of them.”

Was that what her father had been about to propose? After he’d said he’d cover for them sneaking out of their rooms to be together? Lucky for him their mother didn’t want that anyway, because otherwise he’d have found out what Yvette’s knuckles tasted like.

Probably.

Unless Bad Yvette interceded. As she well might have.

“You’d like to please me, wouldn’t you?” Lady Winter asked Yvette.

Something inside her started to boil. That made it sound unpleasant, which was far from true, but it was still the only word she could use to describe the sensation. The energy inside her Libido grew agitated, then angry. And her body was awash in ecstasy. She inched closer and closer to the most intense orgasm she’d ever experience.

Then stopped.

As she gasped for air, Yvette said, “Very much, Your Majesty.”

Damn. She hadn’t even laid a finger on her. Just looked at her with those crazy blue eyes. And reached inside her, in some non-physical sense. What could she do if she actually used her body? How must those lips feel? Could any other fingers deliver as much pleasure?

“Of course you do,” she said with a hollow smile.

There was nothing Yvette wouldn’t do to please that woman. What had ever made her think that it would be a good idea to resist? Simply looking upon her mother’s face made her heart ache with desire stronger than any she’d ever felt before.

Then the queen turned away from her and the world ended. Or might as well have, for all the difference it made to how devastated she felt.

“Leave this one here,” Lady Winter said to Lena, waving her free hand lazily in Zach’s general direction. “I’ll send for the other when I’m done with him.”

“Let’s go,” Lance said, turning Yvette back towards the stairs.

She wanted to protest. To insist that she be allowed to stay with the queen. But she held her tongue. Protesting, even to her father, would not curry favor.

“I hope I didn’t get you into trouble,” she said instead, once they were far enough down the stairwell that the sad music emanating from the fiddle was no longer audible. Which presumably meant that they were out of their mother’s earshot.

“You didn’t,” he said. “Nor will you.”

A strong hand grabbed her shoulder and shoved her roughly into the wall. Yvette slammed into the ice roughly, lost her balance, and fell the rest of the way down the stairs. Pain bombarded her, rattling her brain and making her eyes tear up. The taste of blood filled her mouth. Her back was hot with pain, her legs and especially her bare arms cold.

Yvette tried to pick herself up, but she was in too much pain. And too disoriented. She wasn’t even sure which way was up. It was all she could do to keep from crying.

Her father’s face came into view. “You’re gonna do as I say.”

“Yes, Daddy,” she said, whimpering. But not crying.

“Our mother says not to keep you from Zach. So I won’t. But you’re going to use whatever time we give you together to push him in the right direction. Let him think you’re his, when in truth you belong to me. Isn’t that right?”

“Yours and yours alone.”

He smacked her. “Don’t say that. The queen always comes first.” Of course. She should have known that. “But I’m ahead of your brother.”

The pain slowly started to subside. So did the cold. She remembered that she was born of Winter, and had no reason to find ice uncomfortable.

“Of course you are,” she said, voice firm.

Bad Yvette needed no convincing. If anything, she wanted him more than ever. That he’d go to such lengths to ensure her devotion only showed how much he wanted her.

He regarded her silently for a time, then nodded. Offering a hand, he helped her to her feet. Then pulled her in for an aggressive kiss.

She couldn’t help it. Her Libido stirred.

Yes, he’d just thrown her down the stairs. And no, he didn’t love her. The sane part of her knew that. He was only interested in her because it would be his head on a pike beside hers if she didn’t make their mother proud. He was nothing but bad news. As everything about this place was. She had to stick to the plan. She and Zach had to help each other survive. And, eventually, escape. Once they knew where to go afterwards.

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