“What Happened?”: #WordHighJuly for July 4

Welcome to Word-High July, a chance to explore some lovely Filipino words – one each day. Clicking the first link will tell you more about the challenge, and the second includes the word list, so you can play along.

Many of these words deal with specific emotional states in concrete terms…perfect for a Vulcan woman and a human man seeking common emotional ground. I’m writing 31 sequential flash fiction installments of The IDIC Romance, my Star Trek: Enterprise fan fiction. Read my introductory post, “Hoshi’s Gift”, for more on the characters and the challenge.

I’m still running behind; but I’m still writing and loving it!

Standard disclaimers apply. I don’t own the characters, but they certainly like putting stories in my head. I write fan fiction for passion and joy, not money, to share what I love about this inter-species couple. My fan fiction has always been, and ever shall be, my totally free gift to you!

Disclaimer: These words and photos are from a lovely article by BuzzFeed titled “36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language. All credits goes to them.

That takes care of the essentials, so on with story #4. The aftermath of a wild night T’Pol scarcely remembers.

If you like this story, stop in at my fanfiction.net page, where you can find many more TnT stories.

“What Happened?”

Rated PG-13 for suggestiveness and mild language

T’Pol awoke to the slow steady music of a human heart, the cool of human skin, and the scent of a human man who had called her tinatinga and ashayam – his special one, as he was hers.

But was this real? Or was she lost in dream, memory, or delusion? There was the residual icefire in her blood – there had been trellium. Logically, she couldn’t trust her own memories while she was affected.

“Good morning, sleepyhead.” Trip’s arm curved over her hip, fingers tracing an intriguing pattern upon her skin. Fascinating, the way touching her body aroused her ashayam.

My mate.”

“Oh, is that what I am, now?”

T’Pol was uncertain what response he’d find most agreeable. But then Trip chuckled, his fingers drawing her in against him. “You wish to mate,” she whispered.

He snorted; the sudden percussive sound brought an impulse to flinch away that T’Pol repressed.

“Like hell I do!” His hands moved down either side of her spinal ridge, teasing the appropriate neural nodes as he encountered them. T’Pol knew she would never tolerate such intimate touch from any other man, but he’d learned her as well as Enterprise’s engines. “I don’t want to mate with you, pepperpot, or even ‘explore our mutual sexuality.’ What I want more than anything is to make love with you, as sweet and as long as we can manage -” He made a small groaning sound as she arched into him, instinctively offering herself. “But firstlet’s have breakfast in bed -”

“Breakfast – in bed? Why would we choose to do that, rather than go to the Mess Hall?” A tangle of human emotion shivered through the bond, touching the memory of a dream – or, perhaps, reality?

Trip smiled as though there was nothing amiss. “I’m going to love showing you all the logical reasons for doing illogical things, now that I’m your tinatangi, and you’re mine.” He kissed her nose. “But first, I’ve got to visit your head and take a quick shower, then we’ll see about breakfast. Here’s something for you to do while I’m out of targeting range.”

He held the PADD out to her, still smiling, still concerned, his eyes acquiring the same aspect they had when he was assessing his engines. T’Pol would find it agreeable to ease his mind, but she didn’t yet understand the nature of his unease. She took the PADD, and his fingers lingered for an additional four seconds, so that she could brush the backs of hers over them.

“You all right with me being out of reach for five minutes, tinatangi?”

“I am Vulcan, tinatangi. I’m capable of waiting even when I don’t find it agreeable.”

He nodded. “Good. I wait much longer, I’m gonna embarrass myself.”

T’Pol watched his retreat, finding  pleasure in his unclothed form marked by their shared intimacies. She had thought he would never again mate with her. She was inclined to join him in the shower, just to prove to herself that he was indeed here, with her, her ashayam, her tinatangi. But there was no logical reason to doubt it, when the scent of their couplings was heavy in the air. Comforted, T’Pol engaged the PADD.

It displayed the menu of Filipino words Hoshi had compiled for them. One was highlighted.

Gunita. A memory or recollection.” There was another folder open; it was labeled  “T’Pol’s Insurance Plan.” Clearly, Trip intended her to study this material, as well, since she’d created no such directory.

The folder contained an order of medical rest leave – for her, and for Trip, as well. The reason was listed as exhaustion, with a notation that they not be disturbed for two days.

The other documents were copies of her commissioning and confidentiality agreements, signed by Captain Archer – last night, at 1918 hours.

T’Pol attempted to recall last night’s events; everything beyond the wholly sensory was inaccessible to her. Clearly, Trip’s human gunita was superior, in this instance. So she took the most logical course of action. She closed her eyes, and simply breathed in their mating- no, their lovemaking. He was her ashayam, her t’hy’la, her tinatangi. He was here. He was hers. She was his.

Trip emerged, wearing only a towel and the proof of her ardor. Before she could become lost in her desires, and his, T’Pol asked, “What happened in the Captain’s Mess last night?”

This round definitely goes to the lady.  There’s some tasteful skin here; be warned.

 

“You Think I’m Special?”: #WordHighJuly Day 3

Welcome to Word-High Julya chance to explore some lovely Filipino words  – one each day. Clicking the first link will tell you more about the challenge, and the second includes the word list, so you can play along.

Many of these words deal with emotional states in concrete terms…perfect for a Vulcan woman and a human man seeking common emotional ground…so I’m writing 31 sequential flash fiction installments of The IDIC Romance, my Star Trek: Enterprise fan fiction. My introductory post, “Hoshi’s Gift,” gives more information on the challenge, and these characters. You can find a further, somewhat more revealing account of the dinner party in “Captain’s Table; T’Pol’s Room”, but it’s not “final” – I’m revising older stories.

I got a bit behind with this story; it needed a lot of revision, and I wanted to give you the best story I could. I hope not to remain behind!

By the way, standard disclaimers apply. I don’t own the characters, but they certainly like putting stories in my head. I write fan fiction for passion and joy, not money, to share what I love about this inter-species couple. My fan fiction has always been, and ever shall be, totally free – my gift to you!

Disclaimer: These words and these photos are from a lovely article by BuzzFeed titled 36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language. All credits goes to them.

That takes care of the essentials, so on with story #3. T’Pol’s timpi seems to have vanished in a rather epic way…and there is a revelation.

If you like this story, stop in at my fanfiction.net page,  where you can find many more TnT stories.

“You Think I’m Special?”

Rated PG-13 for suggestiveness and mild language

Trip Tucker was finally managing to catch his breath. Then reality re-integrated around him and snatched it away again with one distinct thought: This one was going to be damned near impossible to explain to the Cap’n.

That was followed by another. They were in all kinds of trouble here – because here was all tangled up, in their altogether, as his Grandma Tucker used to put it, on the deck plating in the Jon’s private Mess.

He was pretty sure the woman with one pointed ear planted firmly against his chest was still too far gone to have any idea the mess they were in – or the Mess, either, for that matter. No, she was otherwise occupied listening to her favorite music – a human heart that might stop trying to pound its way out of his chest sometime next week. She wasn’t demanding her “More, more, more,” so she might actually be satisfied.

Trip brushed his lips over her rumpled hair. “Better, now?”

T’Pol curled deliciously into him, and tipped her head to study him with wide, warm hazel eyes. She never looked at anyone else this way. “Tinatangi,” she said on a sighing exhalation.

“Huh?” Trip wanted to smack his head for his complete lack of wit. Then again, T’Pol’s kiss swollen lips twitched into the tiniest of smiles, so maybe he wasn’t so witless after all.

Tinatangi. From the Mutually Acceptable Emotional Vocabulary.” Her voice was soft and deeper than usual – her satisfied voice only he got to hear. Made him damned proud, knowing that.

“I don’t remember seeing that one. What’s it mean?”

“Ashayam.” That was a sigh, too. She was giving every indication that she was a very satisfied woman.

Hey, you called me that earlier. It’s Vulcan, right?” Trip couldn’t resist pulling her up onto his body. The damage was already done, after all, and since Jon wasn’t here anymore, maybe he was giving them time before they had to face the fallout of her timpi’s inevitable explosion.

“Yes.” Her paired fingers traced his ear, and now it was him who shivered into her touch.

“You gonna tell me what either one of them mean, or am I supposed to guess?”

“Both mean, ‘special one.’” That tiny smile got a tiny bit bigger. The way it transformed her face was, in a word, fascinating.

“So you think I’m special, do you?” Trip just knew his own grin had to be pretty damned ridiculous. First she’d said she wanted him to come back, then she’d planted a damned passionate kiss on him right in the middle of the corridor. After that, the disastrous dinner that ended here on the deck plating.

“Do you believe you’d be here with me if you weren’t?” All of a sudden, she seemed to realize where they were. She tensed up. “My altered status has caused you considerable difficulty, ashayam.”

She started to get up, but Trip tightened his arms around her. “Please don’t go yet.” He couldn’t hold her by force, and he wouldn’t want to, anyway, but she stopped. Still tense, though. “We’re here together, tinatangi.”

That brought her head up, and her eyes zeroed in on him, her lips parting slightly as her breath caught. Damn, but she was beautiful like this. “That’s right. I think you’re pretty special, too. You know you’re not the only woman I’ve ever been with, but I hope to hell that you’re the last one, because I can’t imagine feeling about anyone else the way I do about you, pepperpot – or should I say ashayam?”

She leaned in to kiss him again – sweet and slow. It was apparently exactly what he should have said – because it was another two and a half hours before they managed to stagger out of the Captain’s Mess. They didn’t see anyone, but that didn’t mean they weren’t still in a mess. It just didn’t bother Trip that much, right now. Something big had shifted between them, and, instead of worrying about it, they went back to her quarters to fall asleep in one another’s arms.

Very Specific Limitations: #WordHighJuly Day Two

Welcome to Word-High July, a chance to explore some lovely Filipino words – one each day. Clicking the first link will tell you more about the challenge, and the second includes the word list, so you can play along.

If you’ve poked around this blog, it might not surprise you that this challenge led me once again to my favorite fandom.

Many of these words deal with specific emotional states in concrete terms…perfect for a Vulcan woman desperately trying to understand what she feels for a human man named Trip…so I’m writing Star Trek: Enterprise fan fiction. Let’s see if T’Pol and Trip can use these lovely words to find common emotional ground, in 31 sequential flash fiction installments of The IDIC Romance. My introductory post, Hoshi’s Gift, gives more information on the challenge, and these characters.

By the way, standard disclaimers apply. I don’t own the characters, but they certainly like putting stories in my head. I write fan fiction for passion and joy, not money, to share what I love about this inter-species couple. My fan fiction has always been, and ever shall be, totally free – my gift to you!

Disclaimer: These words and these photos are from a lovely article by BuzzFeed titled 36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine LanguageAll credits goes to them.

That takes care of the essentials, so on with story #2. Trip’s feeling playful, and testing T’Pol’s capacity for self-control…

If you like this story, stop in at my fanfiction.net page, where you can find many more TnT stories.

Very Specific Limitations

“Oh, pepperpot. Now you are going to love this one!”

Based upon his effusiveness, and the note in his scent and expression that T’Pol most connected to the English word “mischievous,” her ashayam found this word humorous as applied to her, and was now anticipating the play to follow.

He tried to “wait her out” by climbing up to the second level of Engineering. T’Pol followed. Being away from him was unaccountably difficult after his time on Columbia. She was vulnerable in her need for him. It was unsettling.

Vulcans only played purposefully, but she had learned a different manner of play. With soap bubbles, with words, and in other ways that pleased her – and Trip. Remaining silent when she wished to learn an answer delighted him. She didn’t understand why, but she was a scientist. Understanding wasn’t necessary to utilize it to her advantage.

“I know you’re watching me, you know.” He half-turned from the console. T’Pol chose not to deny it, or to speak. He sighed, and offered her the PADD. “I ought to know by now that you can out-stubborn just about anybody.”  As she took the device, his fingers brushed lightly over the backs of hers in a fashion that wouldn’t attract attention from the two other crewmembers on this level.

“Thank you,” she said, as their telepathic current renewed and deepened. It required a great deal of touch to nurture a pairbond. Current circumstances kept her wanting more than was feasible until the crew was back at full operational capacity. She focused on the PADD’s display as distraction, reading aloud.

“’Timpi: to control one’s self.’”

“That’s you, pepperpot. Self-controlled from those gorgeous pointy ears right down to those pretty boots.”

T’Pol handed the PADD back to her ashayam without comment. Did he truly still believe that, when she’d been compelled to kiss him in the corridor, where anyone might see? If he did, how was she to explain that, for her, timpi had very specific limitations?

“Hey, you didn’t give me a five minute lecture on the virtues of timpi. And you’re tense. What’s wrong?”

“There is something we must discuss, Trip.” Had she intended to speak, or was she prompted by uncontrolled instinct?

He turned to face her, and rested one hip against the console. “Okay, shoot.”

If he were a Vulcan, there’d be no need to discuss the realities of her limitations where timpi was concerned, or the ways it would affect him, as her bondmate.

“Not here, or while we’re on duty.” She swallowed. “It’s a deeply intimate subject.” She couldn’t withhold this truth from him. His willing participation, and his ability to meet her when she was utterly without control, would eventually become vital to her survival, and possibly his own.

He accepted the light ouz’hesta she offered him, squeezing her fingers. “Phlox said we’ll get a few days’ rest leave once the Cap’n’s fit for duty again. Can it wait until then, or should we find ourselves suddenly in need of food?” He narrowed his eyes to study her, his fingers steady against her own, which trembled with the need for more touch. “Or neuropressure?”

“I didn’t mean to concern you, Trip. It isn’t yet urgent.”

“You’re sure? After I was idiotic enough to walk away-”

“If it were a matter of immediacy, I’d seek direct resolution. At the moment, I’m capable of timpi – within reason, ashayam, and only so long as I can be near you frequently.”

“Well, I’ve got to tell you, pepperpot – I’m just fine with you needin’ to be close to me. Only thing I’d like more is if we could get really close for a while and forget all about timpi.” His grin was the one that made his eyes glitter.

T’Pol breathed in the scent of human desire, and held tightly to her self-control. She must resist the urge to carry her mate off to do exactly as he suggested, for perhaps far longer than he imagined possible.

Note: This video shows some skin. Tastefully  and artfully, but, if that’s not your thing, you might prefer to skip it.

“Live Insects ‘Fluttering’ in One’s Digestive Tract”: #WordHighJuly Day One

It’s Day One of Word-High July, a chance to explore some lovely Filipino words – one each day. Clicking the link will tell you more about the challenge.

So many of these words deal with specific emotional states in concrete terms…perfect for a Vulcan woman desperately trying to understand what she feels for a human man named Trip…so I’m writing Star Trek: Enterprise fan fiction. Let’s see if T’Pol and Trip can use these lovely words to find common emotional ground.

By the way, standard disclaimers apply. I don’t own the characters, but they certainly like putting stories in my head. I write fan fiction for passion and joy, not money, to share what I love about this inter-species couple. My fan fiction has always been, and ever shall be, totally free – my gift to you!

Image Disclaimer: These words and these photos are from a lovely article by BuzzFeed titled “36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language”. All credits goes to them.

 And now, story #1, as T’Pol makes her first attempt to utilize Hoshi’s Gift.  Clicking the link gives more information on the challenge, and these characters.

“Live Insects ‘Fluttering’ in One’s Digestive Tract”

Kilig: butterflies in one’s stomach.” Trip grinned at the way T’Pol studied the PADD, and that adorable little wrinkle between her upswept brows. He waited until she looked at him, with her head and one of those expressive brows slightly tipped. “I’m aware that many humans consume insects, but I don’t understand why this circumstance would be any different than consuming any other animal life.”

“That’s because you’re not looking at it right.” Predictably, she looked at the PADD again, and he hid this smile behind his hand. “No, I don’t mean that way.” She was more sensitive about a lot of things than she used to be. Or maybe he was just a lot better at noticing than he used to be. “Remember, Hoshi said this was an exercise to help us ‘build a mutually acceptable emotional vocabulary.’”

“Then you’re theorizing this word has an emotional connotation.” She set the PADD down on the table and picked up her tea, instead.

“It’s not a theory, pepperpot. I know exactly what it means.”

“Please explain.” Now she knew he knew, her patience to work it out vanished like the chamomile steam rising from her tea mug. She sipped as though she could wait forever, but her eyes were watching him intently over its rim.

“Well, I know Vulcan has butterflies – or insects close enough to them, anyway. So you know their flight patterns.”

“Yes. They are erratic in a way humans refer to as ‘fluttering.’” He could see her making connections; damn, but her mind was fast! “You are suggesting kilig refers to a sensation akin to live insects ‘fluttering’ in one’s digestive tract?”

“Bingo. Although maybe that doesn’t translate to Vulcan stomachs.”

Her lips softened in an almost-smile as she lowered the tea, and her eyes dilated as she offered him the ouz’hesta. “On the contrary. I first felt kilig on the night we met, and I’ve felt it many times since.”

He touched his fingertips to hers, and smiled.

Kilig.” They whispered it together, and, without needing to say anything else, they rose, fingers still joined, she carrying her tea and he the PADD. They went to her quarters and indulged in a much deeper mutual exploration of the sensation.

Dancing: Kifo Island Project for #StaD May 31

Welcome, friends!

Come let me tell you a Story A Day, all May long…

In June and July, I’m drafting two new Kifo Island novels. I know something about 5 of the 6 point of view characters, and I’ve got a sketchy idea of the plots – but I need to learn more about these people and their stories.

I’ll follow A Month of Writing Prompts 2016. I’ll play while moving through my planning efforts. Some of these stories may become part of the eventual novels, but my goal is to invite these characters to show me how their lives fit together to make a novel.

It’s now the final day of the challenge, – so off we go to May 31 – that was yesterday, which means I’m officially caught up once this posts. The prompt? Go BIG!this time, with dancing!

Week Five’s theme is The Last Hurrah!

Warning: Rated R for adult themes. Probably NSFW.

Dancing

She watched him there on the stage, watched his erection pressing hard against his fly, and wondered if he knew that his hips were thrusting forward and back just slightly, but in a lovely rhythm that made her feel like dancing, like pulling him in close, rubbing and teasing against him, feeling the rush of wind as they moved together, became attuned to one another, breathed together…

She crossed her legs over the ache between, that pulsed and spoke of another kind of dancing, one more intimate, more private, needing no music.

He wound down, and she laughed for him, because he was way better than this place. He deserved a proper audience, dozens of adoring young women all salivating over that bulge that teased her, to have his choice of partners for any kind of dancing he wanted to do.

She was the only woman here.

And she wanted to dance.

She applauded him, then came to the stage, waiting there by the side stair. She didn’t want him to leave, or to be unsure that she wanted him.

“You laughed,” he said, and his eyes seemed to caress her, head to toe and back again. He stood there uncertainly, and shuffled his feet.

She climbed up to him, took his hand without saying a word, and led him down the stage stair and out of the squalid little club, and, once they were outside in the steaming night, she led him along the boardwalk, and, shyly, his arm circled her waist, pulling her in close.

Neither of them spoke. No with words, anyway.

Their bodies spoke eloquently to each other, hips swaying in, then away, dancing…

A deep pulse from the distance, and they looked at one another and Yvette kicked off her heels, and carried them, and they held hands and ran across the sand, because the moon was full over the incoming tide, and it was a faster way to reach the place where the music came from.

Into a night club, the salsa beat pounding through them like the waves, the floor thick in sand, so it was like the beach contained in a room, and they whirled and spun and it drove her a little mad when she wanted to be grinding in against him, but then there was something in his arms that said that he wanted it, too, and that they were dancing another kind of dance, one that was part a hunt.

Finally, finally, their hips crashed in together, just for an instant.

An instant that left her wanting more, so much more. She was aware of her skin, the sweat slipping along her spine and into the small of her back, and her thighs were wet with wanting, while that hard tempting bulge pressed in for just a second, then away, again and again, and she moved her body, swaying like sea grass in the wind, and teased him, loving the moan that parted his lips, the way his eyes sparkled, pupils wide in the dark.

Finally, finally, they were grinding and circling, and Yvette knew it was the moment, the moment that would invite, tempt, and promise –
She thrust her hips against him, clawed her way up to him, and dragged him in for a kiss, thrusting her tongue boldly into his mouth, tasting him, tasting his desire, the promise of sex, of a man.

He gave himself to her, took nothing she didn’t offer, but gave her all she wanted of him.

Then, before the beautiful dance could be shattered by reality, Yvette turned and ran off alone.

“The Three Sisters”: Kifo Island Project for #StaD May 30

Welcome, friends!

Come let me tell you a Story A Day, all May long…

In June and July, I’m drafting two new Kifo Island novels. I know something about 5 of the 6 point of view characters, and I’ve got a sketchy idea of the plots – but I need to learn more about these people and their stories.

I’ll follow A Month of Writing Prompts 2016, and play while moving through my planning efforts. Some of these stories may become part of the eventual novels, but my goal is to invite these characters to show me how their lives fit together to make a novel.

Yup, I got behind again. Not with the writing, but with the posting. Life happened.

It’s now the final day of the challenge, and I’m getting my back posts up by midnight – so off we go to May 30 – that was yesterday, which means I’m officially caught up once this posts. The prompt? The Power of Three.”– I’m harnessing my favorite number for creative purposes. Here, a drabble with Quincette, Theresa, and Ubunta contemplating native culture.

Week Five‘s theme is The Last Hurrah!

“The Three Sisters”

“The Iroquois referred to corn, beans and squash as ‘The Three Sisters’. They were planted together, and each aided the growth of the others.”

Together, three girls looked at the display.

“It reminds me of home,” Ubunta’s soft voice sounded like sad music. “It makes me lonely.”

Theresa hugged her, working around the swelling of the younger girl’s belly. “You aren’t alone, little sister.”

Quincette hugged them both. “We’re here with you now, Ubunta. With you, and your baby. Always. We are the three sisters; we’ll grow together now, like the corn, beans, and squash. Together, we will grow strong.”

 

Home Invasion: Kifo Island Project for #StaD May 29

Welcome, friends!

Come let me tell you a Story A Day, all May long…

In June and July, I’m drafting two new Kifo Island novels. I know something about 5 of the 6 point of view characters, and I’ve got a sketchy idea of the plots – but I need to learn more about these people and their stories.

I’ll follow A Month of Writing Prompts 2016, playing through my planning efforts. Some of these stories may become part of the eventual novels, but my goal is to invite the characters to show me how their lives fit together.

It’s now the final day of the challenge, and I’m getting my final two back posts up by midnight – so off we go to May 29. The prompt? Torture Your Protagonist.” Yvette’s caught between lover and husband.

Week Five‘s theme is The Last Hurrah!

Warning: For Mature Audiences only!

Adult content, violence, language.

Absolutely NSFW!

Home Invasion

The paint was sensual and slipped onto the canvas almost without effort on her part. Yvette loved the feel of it. Zeke posed for her, right there on the couch where they’d just made love, and she closed her eyes, remembering his face in the moment when la petite mort had claimed him.

He was so tender and tremblingly beautiful then that a remembering shudder of answer passed through her now, as she sat wearing nothing but her skin and the marks he’d made on her. She opened her eyes to take him in en flagrante. He was so young, and aroused again already, even though he was still wet with their mingled secretions.

Her lover smiled as he watcher her with half-lidded eyes somnolent but aglow with all that he felt for her, and Yvette wanted him as though they hadn’t finished only fifteen minutes since.

“You’re a natural model, mon chere,” she told him, as the paint made love with the canvas. Zeke chuckled, and then it was only his breathing, the way he caressed himself now and then, as though not aware of it, and the way his breath sharpened as he rose into his hand.

Mon dieu, il est beau!

Yvette wanted him again with sudden painful intensity. She’d never loved so wholly, or wanted anyone else this way –

She went to her love, her lover, her amour, and, right there on the couch, she claimed him, impaled herself, and his guttural moan was a thing of beauty and joy –

Pain exploded against her head.

“ You filthy petite chienne!”

She was ripped away from Zeke, cartwheeling through air.

Zeke cried out wordlessly as she crashed into her easel, toppling it, spilling the paint over her.

Xavier spat and, kicked her in the jaw. The shock sent her teeth through her lip. But he wouldn’t get another cry out of her. Jamais!

She made that a promise to herself.

“Leave her alone!” Zeke roared, and Yvette twisted to see him standing wide-legged, daring Xavier with his fists up. He was always so placid, so sweet. She hadn’t known he could be angry. He was a revelation.

“Filthy petite piqure, fucking my wife! You’re telling me to leave her alone? Elle est a moi!”

“Je fais partie de moi-meme!” Her words were mangled by her swelling lip, but they were true.

Ecoute-toi! You can’t even speak, now.” His laugh was coarse and cruel. How had she ever thought that he was as highborn as she, a gentleman? Oh, he was a deceiver!

Yvette got up on her hands and knees, and spat blood at him. She forced the words out through her battered lips again, en anglais, so that Zeke could understand.

“I belong to myself!”

He spat at her and kicked again, into the soft flesh of her breast. Yvette swallowed back the yelp that tried to break loose. Non. That’s what he wanted.

“You. Are. A. Monster.” Zeke’s voice was cold, hard, like a sharp rapier, each word a thrust.

“You are a pathetic cheat and a loser, taking someone else’s leavings. She’s une pute ivre -” Xavier kicked her again, in the ribs. He was circling her, and Zeke was circling him.

“Oh, that’s right. You’re too ignorant to comprender le francais! En anglais, puis. She’s a drunken whore, and nothing more!”

“I’ve never charged for my love -”

“Love?!”

Yvette’s breath stabbed through bloody lips. “You know nothing of love. You’ve given me none – only taken, and taken, and taken again!”

She dragged herself to her feet, ready to launch herself at him.

Zeke caught her, holding her gently. “Don’t, love. This beast wants to hurt you. But he won’t dare go through me to get to you. He’s the Cowardly Lion. Let me keep you safe.”

“You think she loves you? You, a skinny little nothing? Non, mon ami, she’s only using you to scratch an itch – the same way she used to use me -”

“Who used whom, Xavier?” She laughed at her husband. It hurt her ribs, her jaw, her lips, but Yvette didn’t care. She sheltered in the arms of a man who loved her, and laughed. “I loved you. All that you stole from me, I would have gladly given you. It meant nothing to me. Do you not know that I loved you once, and would still, except that you stole from me, paraded other women in front of me, gave me only hatred and violence, when all I wanted was to love you?”

“Est-ce votre amour, alors, Yvette? This usurper of a boy who doesn’t know real from his madness? Non, Yvette, he’s only une piqure you ride, to scratch the itch.” His eyes focused on the toppled easel, the smeared canvas and the paints –

Yvette knew what he was going to do before he moved. She lurched out of Zeke’s grasp, trying to protect the art, the beauty of the moment before Xavier took it away, as he took everything.

Non.

Not this.