Locke even released Suzanne so she could see where she was stepping as they headed up the stairs, but his arms clamped around her like a vice, still constantly exploring her body. They marched down the hallway of the first floor to the last door. Locke half kicked the door open and tossed Suzanne across the room onto the bed. She barely hit ground when he came down on top of her, his clothes already gone. The bed wobbled back and forth and even the floor and wall boards creaked as the two entered their life and death struggle, unclear who was hunter and who was prey.
The building slowly settled back down on its foundations a long time later. The window was fogged up and the sent of release filled the air. Moonlight fought through the moisture on the window to cast it's silver glow on bare skin. Locke stared up at that moon whilst Suzanne clung to his arm, her breath still uneasy, her face flushed, and her legs numb.
Locke was, for some reason, suddenly reminded of a short wad which looked suspiciously like a stick in Yoshk's room once. He had called it a 'cigar'. It had been a gift from the baron. He lit it up after every dinner, took a single puff, then tamped it down again. Something about the atmosphere in that room tonight, something about the fogged window, the silver moonlight, and the still panting bit of flesh and all-too-lovely alcoves next to him, made him feel a 'cigar' was warranted.
The bit of flesh next to him had wrapped its arms around him as its head rested on his chest. Locke's eyes turned to her. He was not a good samaritan. He had only offered something of token assistance out of a mild sense of pity, but now the woman had become his bit of flesh, and a pretty good bit of flesh at that, and he was not about to let his bit of flesh get bruised on his watch.
Young men had a heat to them, Suzanne thought, as much a physical heat as a psychological one, and she was appreciating this particular young man's heat at the moment. He had absentmindedly wrapped his arm around her in response to her manoeuvre as his thoughts roamed the world. She saw the competing considerations running around behind his eyes, and started to worry.
"I need just a week. If I keep all my earnings I'll have a good pot by the end of it. Enough to take me to Bideslane and tide me over until I find a job, at least."
"Don't lie to me. You can make, what, two silver at most? That's not enough."
Two silver could feed and house a man for quite a while in a secluded little backwater like the one in which they were at the moment, but it wouldn't last a week in a larger town. Things were made no better by Shalore's all but decimated economy. It had never been all that to begin with, but after the area's conquest, the merchants which formed the region's middle and upper classes had sought to curry favour with their new masters. Several of the shrewder Faustians noblemen had even outright pledged their loyalties to their Faustan counterparts.
Suzanne's eyes darkened and her arms tightened ever so slightly around his firm chest.
"Don't worry," he said in answer, "I'm not in the habit of letting a bit of flesh get away after I've taken a bite."
"Really?" she asked, her dark eyes lightening noticeably.
"Yes. If dinner didn't show you, I finish my meals. I'm just thinking of how to do it."
Suzanne couldn't remember the last time someone else had shown actual, genuine, concern for her. Oh she'd seen plenty of concerned faces, but those expressions had been as shallow as the beauty from makeup. The thought had crossed her mind that Locke might be one of those but she had kicked it out with little reservation shortly afterwards. She intended, even wanted, to her not insubstantial surprise, to snag him. She'd parted her legs to him, and now she would lock him between them. It wasn't half bad to be a bedwarmer for a man in power. Locke didn't have much 'power', however, but she could see much promise of much in the young man's future..
"No one's shown me genuine concern in far too long," she said aloud, "You don't have to worry about me chasing after other men. I'm quite satisfied with the one in my bed right now."
The actual words weren't spoken, but the implication was clear. He had a new shadow now, and he wouldn't be getting rid of it anytime soon. Not that he wanted to. Warm beds were lovely things, and soft, welcoming flesh were even lovelier.
"You sure? A soldier isn't much of a secure investment, you know." he said, only half-teasing.
"Don't jinx it!" Suzanne countered with surprising sincerity, "I'll at least see to your burial if you do kick the bucket though."
Suzanne was just as surprised at the sincerity in her voice as Locke was, and she wondered just how lonely she had become for the first man to toss a friendly fist in the direction of her bullies to make her flutter at him like a lovestruck schoolgirl.
"Not a man alive can kick my bucket," Locke boasted, despite his just prior comments to the contrary.
The two lay as they were, their hands casually exploring each other's skin and made pointless chatter. One of the few things Locke had known about his new bit of flesh before they had started making the house complain had been that she was 23, a local. She had lost her parents in your early childhood years. Thereafter it had been just her and her elder brother. They had had to rely on one another thereafter. That had forced Suzanne to become fairly independent, even if she resented all the chores that dumped on her back. She had taken quite well to the job of saleswoman for her brother's furniture. She was literate and knew basic arithmetic. She had been introduced to the tavern's proprietor once she'd become marriageable at 16 and the two had gotten married. It was as much an arranged marriage as no one said it was, and there was little love lost between the two. The war started less than a year after their marriage. That had made business bad enough even without the recent conquest and occupation. She had done her best, but it had not been enough. Her husband had not lifted a finger to help her out either, and had abandoned her not long after.
Locke felt genuinely sorry for her. He and his family had been spared such hardship from the war. His parents were still around, and he had been able to provide for his sister. The fact that he was a man, and a physically capable one, had given him more options for improving his station as well. He looked at her again; gazed at her over the bridge of his nose and the ridge of his chin; saw her intoxicating curves; felt her smooth skin beneath his touch; felt her warm, soft flesh give way under his hand; considered the way she'd tasted, how she'd responded to his ministrations, and how it had felt to plow her depths; and decided it wouldn't be too bad to be able to partake of her regularly.
He considered the possible choices again quickly, though he knew he had already made his decision, and told her more about himself. He was eighteen at the moment. Naturally he was a peasant from Mapleaf Village in the baron's, Baron Cardoj's, barony. He is parents of course still lived there, as well as his little sister. Suzanne was surprised when he revealed he was already a veteran of four years, working towards his fifth despite his youth. Locke didn't shave like most men his age did and his scruffy beard wannabe added several years to his appearance. Suzanne had guessed him her junior, but not by five whole years. That might not mean much for people in their forties or fifties, but it was nearly a fifth of her lifetime and a quarter of his, and not in her favour.
Locke caught the slight complication that swam into her eyes.
"Zanne--" he said, coming up with a pet name for her on the spot.
"Don't call me that," she snapped, "That's a kid's pet name. I don't want you calling me the same thing my brother did. It sends shivers down my spine in all the wrong ways."
"Come now, Zanne," Locke forged ahead, "I'm taking care of you now instead of your brother. I deserve at least the right to give you a pet name."
She stared at him for several long moments, then gave up, most grudgingly.
She was an independent woman -- Locke could tell that much from the fact that she was running a tavern all by herself -- and he could tell she didn't like having to depend on someone else all that much. She was literate, which was more than Locke could say, not that he'd ever had a need for reading or writing in the army. She could do basic arithmetic as well, which was again more than he could boast. He could do low level addition and subtraction, but that was as far as his skill with numbers went. He couldn't understand why somebody would not find someone as capable as Suzanne very attractive, even without her stunning physicality. The thought reminded him to tell her that he was due for another promotion, to a platoon jarl. A simple squad jarl might be a little too low-class for her. And he couldn't really keep a lover around as a mere squad jarl. That privilege was reserved for platoon-level officers and up.
So, he told her about the appointment and the upcoming attack on the city of Farlans. He surprised even himself with how quickly he'd settle into thinking of her as 'his' little piece of flesh. And it wasn't lost on her, either. Future army plans were not something shared with a casual fling, not when so much of the world's espionage happened in exactly this kind of situation.
Since he was treating her as his, then she would do the same, she decided. There was little point in adopting a man if she was not going to make him into something better to help improve her position as well. So she put her mind to work. She asked him everything about every person who would be involved in his evaluation. She listened attentively to his answers, and wasn't shy to push him for more details if he mentioned something that perked her ears. Not too long after, part of which was a short silence while her head shifted all the bits of information into a coherent picture, she suggested he ride Young Master Solon's coattails.