Summary: A lot of things can happen in a New York Gala at the exclusive Waldorf Astoria Ballroom, appropriately transformed into an Enchanted Forest for the occasion.
Dedication: To everyone who has EVER reviewed this monster-fic, the ones that prodded, the ones that asked for it over and over, and the ones that didn’t mind when I did the same with THEIR fics. To all writers and readers. There is a special surprise for someone here, if she catches it.
And to my inner Gold, who decided to take 10 pages to be properly reunited with his Belle. I gave you the smut, now please leave me alone.
Warning: This hasn’t been edited (cause that would have meant more waiting, and I just couldn’t), so I’ll try to weed out most of the horrible mistakes in the following days. Enjoy the rough copy and please forgive all the tiny little errors.
As always, read, enjoy and if possible comment!
“Well, I must say you’re holding up better than I thought you would” Mal’s voice, sweet as honey, grated at Gold’s ears, but he pursed his lips and bared it with as much grace as he could “Let this be a lesson, Nick, about the contracts that you sign and thinking things through before drafting them”
It was a low blow, to tease Nicholas Gold about the fine art of deal-making, but he bit the inside of his cheek to prevent himself from reacting, knowing that to discuss that particular piece of paper wouldn’t exactly endear him to his lady-love, who was currently, if he was interpreting her delightful gold-tinted blush correctly, having some marvellous thoughts about him.
“You live to underestimate me, dearie, not a very wise move” he replied, a soft chiding tone to his voice. It was a strange sort of friendship the one he had with the woman most of the business world called “The Dragon Lady”, a prickly sort of person by nature, made only worse by the betrayals of those close to her. No sooner had the thought popped into his head that, as if summoned, he spied a figure in black, wearing too much lipstick and showing a bit more cleavage than any civil servant ever should, slinked its way to their table.
Regina Mills was a name people did not utter in the financial district, a whispered curse that could get one fired if used in the presence of anyone with power. An agent of the Securities and Exchange Commission, she was known for blurring the lines between the legal and the illegal to “get the job done”. Vengeful to a fault and clearly pursuing her own agenda she used her position in the regulatory entity to advance her allies and smite her enemies, amassing vast amounts of power while maintaining the image of a devoted public servant, relentless in her desire to see corruption and amoral business practices forever stricken from the business world.
Gold had sized her up pretty early on, when she had still been fresh and not as good in the game as she was now, and had taken careful measures to ensure he would forever hold more power over her than she did over him. They had come to blows once or twice, never actually making it all the way to the courthouse. He had armed himself with powerful allies and made deals with people so high up the political food chain he was veritably untouchable.
Once upon a time Mallory had seen things different. She had always been a relentless bitch in business, but as much as she had relished getting to the top, she had also realized it was rather a sad, lonely place, and hadn’t earned her any friends at all, rather the opposite. So when she had casually ‘bumped’ into a smart woman her age who hadn’t seem put off by the sarcasm that coated her every word or the size of her beloved empire she had been quick to befriend her, at first keeping her guard up when she had realized where Regina worked with but eventually letting it slide, knowing that as much as paranoia was good for business it could only last so many months.
They had quickly become inseparable, hanging at Mal’s place or in her office, but seldom in Regina’s own flat, which she maintained was a cluttered mess. They had been to the spa together, to the movies, going to lunch whenever the opportunity arose and generally enjoying a kinship Mal had never before experienced.
Apparently, she had been wrong. One day she had been eating sushi and complaining about her latest failed affair with a laughing Regina and the next she had been practically shunned by every single one of her business contacts, no reasons given. She had called every single one of them, shouting to terrified assistants and stuttering secretaries before one of her own employees, the head of her security and her best recon man, finally got wind of what had been going on: it seemed that a major investigation had been issued by the S&E commission, with a lot of big names being prosecuted for rather heavy charges, and all those people had had in common had been their dealings with Uni Global, even though said empire had not been indicted. Word had quickly spread that Mallory Ficient had granted insight into these companies’ shady business practices through the access she had gained into the companies’ themselves when doing business with them.
Mal had clung to the idea, stupid in retrospective, that it was all a major misunderstanding. She hadn’t given Regina anything, and she had never asked for anything like that. Not one suspicious question, or a hesitant hint, no subtle prodding of any kind. She knew Regina, she was sure, and she wouldn’t do that to her. They were friends.
She had gone to Regina’s flat, a rather chic affair in Tribeca, to get her side of the story. She had been nice as always, offering her a cup of coffee and an apple turnover she had just baked that very morning. And when she had bitten into it she had said that all those awful allegations were totally true.
She had almost choked on the pastry.
“What?” she had spat out, her eyes wide and incredulous.
“Oh, come now, Mal, don’t look so shocked” Regina had replied, all sickly sweet and serene “Surely you had to see this one coming. It’s business, it’s how it works”
“But… Why? I mean, I thought we were…”
“Friends?” Regina’s smile had made Mallory nauseous “Oh, please, Mal, women like you and I… we don’t have friends. We have people we use and people who use us”
The blond businesswoman had stood there, dumbfounded, until Regina’s smile had turned into a laugh and she had felt her shame turn her veins to ice. She had gone and never looked back again. But learning the lesson hadn’t been enough. In the eyes of the business world she had become damaged goods. No one would do business with her, or even take her calls or see her in person. Several of her employees had moved on to greener pastures and most of her overseas enterprises were quickly collapsing.
In her moment of desperation she had turned to the last person she had ever thought she’d come to for help. It had been a rather painful call to make but it had gotten him to come meet her at her office after hours. They had sat in silence for a while, Mal very aware that she looked like she hadn’t slept in months and aged years in days. Gold had been impossible to gauge, his appearance as impeccable as always and his eyes obscured by tinted glasses.
“Mal” he had said at last “What have you done?”
She had proclaimed her innocence vehemently, only to have him wave her words away.
“I know you didn’t hand over anything to that conniving bitch, Mal” he had muttered, his expression vaguely annoyed “You did something even worse. You trusted her. You let her into your office, into your home. You left her alone with your files, your computers, with your fucking empire. How could you have been so stupid?”
She had taken it all, with a grace few else could have mustered. She had gritted her teeth and nodded at all those accusations, made worse by the fact that they were utterly true, and then had meekly asked for his help.
Surprisingly he had said yes. He’d go into business with her, a joint venture he had been planning for a while, and the fact that Imp Incorporated had decided to do business with Uni Global would heal whatever damage Regina had done to her reputation. Gold was the top, the end of the line, no one more powerful, no one more worthy of trust. Gold was never fooled, not by anyone.
He had demanded an outrageous price. It had been the most disadvantageous deal she had ever made, the taste of it bitter and sour, burning the blood in her veins. The anger had not been directed at Gold… Had she been in his position she would have done exactly the same, and he had been more gracious about it than she had expected. It was herself she had loathed, as Uni Golbal had risen from the ashes, a wounded pet she had allowed to come to harm and now crawled back to her side, ever the loyal companion. She had hardened herself more then, vowing she would never find herself again so deceived by anyone else.
She had since then paid her debt to Gold, no longer a sword of Damocles hanging over her head, and had managed to become a bit more than civil with him, finding a sort of understanding with the fellow CEO. But she lived with the scars of what had almost been, and the memory of the apple turnover and what had been said over tea with a friend. She had at first been wary of Belle, no matter how much the girl did not remind her of Regina, and that wariness had doubled when she had discovered her “association” with Gold. She trusted the Scotsman as far as she could throw him, in spite of the fact that he never lied and always honoured his agreements, and she hadn’t been able to quite believe at first that someone like Belle, young and pretty, gentle, smart and a dash cunning, could possibly be with Nicholas out of affection. She had been proven wrong, Belle’s obnoxious determination and unnatural good cheer eating at her defences till they were but dust in the wind. Two years later she was glad to have nothing but good things to say about the girl. She hadn’t realized, really, how much in need of a potential second in command she had been, how limited her company’s growth had been because of her reluctance to rely on anyone but herself.
Regina would still come sniffing from time to time, an inevitable face among certain crowds, and she had instructed Belle not to engage the black-haired woman in any form of conversation. Her assistant had heard the rumours so she hadn’t questioned her boss, striving to be as invisible as possible despite being the protégée of one of the most powerful businesswomen in America and the girlfriend of the master of Wall Street. Regina had tried and failed to rouse her anger or any other response, so she had let it slide, convinced both tycoons were merely trifling with the girl, a passing amusement on both their parts.
One such occasion in which it seemed to be impossible not to run into Regina Mills, sadly, seemed to be a lavish charity event, and so Mal is relatively prepared, though never pleased, to see her old and dear ‘friend’ slinking towards their table, wrapped rather sinfully in black Zac Posen, a mermaid-style dress with a small train she sort of wished someone would accidentally step on and tear.
“Oh, Regina, what a delight to see you” the blond CEO drawled, a polite smile on her face “Ever the picture of decorum and modesty, as if befits a civil servant”
What had once been forced ease now came to Mallory more readily, time having taken most of the sting out of meeting Regina. Most, but not quite all. At her side she could feel Gold tensing, his eyes fighting not to dart towards Belle and draw attention to her.
“Delightful to see you too Mal, dear” the reply was honey-sweet and equally unpleasant “Keeping our mutual friend company, I see”
Her eyes rested on Gold, who gave her a nod and a smile that no one would ever mistake for anything even close to friendly. It almost cracked when the newcomer turned her attention towards the surprisingly blank Belle, who seemed rather absorbed in checking something on her phone.
“Be a dear, Verna, and leave us grown-ups to catch up” she murmured, prompting her slightly with a tap of her fingers against her clothed shoulder. Belle looked up, as if just noticing the newcomer, and rose from her seat, glancing at Mal to see her nod before quickly mumbling something about ‘talking to a friend’ and making a swift exit. Both CEOs relaxed a bit after the girl’s hasty departure, but hid it as well as they did everything else.
“Well, it’s nice to have a chance to sit down and unwind over fine food and music, isn’t it?” Regina stirred her drink, a Washington Apple served in a Martini glass, with the apple wedge that had served as decoration, popping the wet piece of fruit into her mouth with slow, careful movements.
“Yes, dearie, I quite imagine this must seem like fine food and music to your… rustic palate” Gold replied, his tone cordial and engaging even as his eyes mocked her from where he sat.
“Nick, play nice” Mal chided, looking as disinterested as ever “After all, Regina does so much to try and fit in. Look at that Zac Posen. She must have starved herself for weeks in order to get the money to buy it, even though it’s last season. Which, of course, completely worked in your favour, darling. You couldn’t have pulled it off with the extra ten pounds you used to carry around along with your knock-off purse”
“My brand new Boxter S Porshe would quite disagree with your apparent grasp of my finances” Regina replied, venom in her voice. She hated being called financially inferior, even though in this crowd she most certainly was “Cherry red, one of the first models in the country to date. Will cost a fortune to insure, but one has to be careful”
The barbs were petty and small, meant to dissuade conversation rather than hurt or outright insult, but Regina seemed adamant to stay, and neither businessperson doubted that she had some sort of hidden intention other than to annoy them. To walk away was not an option, but Mal was still very aware of how under her skin Regina could get.
They made idle chitchat, Gold choosing to check his e-mail and do some business from his smartphone, making it very clear that Regina did not warrant more than five minutes of his attention, and Mal made inane comments about the weather, the state of the roads, the recent cut backs on government spending (“Dear, I’m so sorry they slashed your salary like they did, such a tragedy”) and the most recent divorce scandal. The awkward conversation stretched on and on, and Regina looked increasingly more and more comfortable lounging on Belle’s chair and nursing her blood-red cocktail. Finally it was Gold who grew tired of Regina’s presence (or Belle’s absence, Mal wasn’t quite sure which grated on his nerves more) and asked Regina point blank if she wasn’t meant to be mingling more.
“After all, I know connections mean everything to someone… like you” he added, just because he could. Regina’s mouth twisted into an ugly and satisfying sneer before rearranging itself into a smile.
“Well, yes, making the rounds is a necessary evil, but I thought I could give it up for one night and reacquaint myself with an old friend” she brushed a manicured hand along Mal’s left arm in a gesture of pretend affection “I thought it would be good to get over our little disagreement and get back to being in good terms in this very public, popular event, the biggest of the year, so everyone can see we have put our differences behind us at last”
The meaning of her words made Mal’s stomach turn, and she could suddenly feel everyone’s eyes on her, questioning her, remembering the last time Mal had been seen with the brunette from the S&E Commission and what had happened then.
“What are you playing at, Regina?” the blonde spat out, trying to maintain as much of her composure as possible. The other woman smile, a horrible sight, and shrugged her bared shoulders.
“I want… us to get along. Work together. I need someone on the inside, so to speak, and you served me so well in the past… People don’t have to suspect you, I’d be careful this time around. Mal, dear, you should really consider this. Because if you don’t agree I’ll accept it, but I’ll stick around long enough to make people wonder, dear, whether you weren’t acting a bit too chummy with the bitch who supposedly stabbed you in the back”
Mal swore under her breath.
“You say no one needs to now, my dear, yet you spout your lies in front of my number one competitor” she tilted her head towards Nicholas, who was arching an eyebrow and looking vaguely amused, mostly to cover his increasing disgust with the conversation.
“I very much doubt dear old Nick would make any moves against you, Mal, taking into account he’s been fucking your quaint little assistant for years, and he’s become addled by the trampy little chit”
For a moment Gold’s entire boy stiffened, hands clenching around the handle of his cane, coming close to bending the metal. He fought against the urge to pull his lips back into a snarl, studiously keeping his facial expression as neutral as possible as he thought up names for Regina that came from his time in the most questionable parts of Glasgow, when he used to fight for sport and money and drink himself silly. He surreptitiously glanced over towards his little Belle, busy texting someone over the phone, a Raspberry Fizz in her idle hand.
“Well, Regina, you can rest assured that, Nick or no Nick, I’d never make the mistake of spending time willingly with you again”
The woman in black smiled, her red lips stretching over her face in a rather grotesque fashion.
“Then I guess I’ll stay here, trying to convince you to change your mind, and people will probably misunderstand this little encounter as something else”
Maleficient bristled inside, more than ready to make an awful spectacle of herself. Better to lose her standing in society than her business reputation… again. He grabbed her drink, suddenly glad she had asked for a refill moments ago, and was about to throw it at Regina’s over-the-top couture gown when a shrill noise made her pause. Regina made a little moue of displeasure, fished her Blackberry out of her clutch and sighed when she saw the called.
“What do you want Sidney?” she drawled, impatient “… yes, that’s the model… Gods, Sidney, yes, it’s a one of a kind, how many times do I have to…” Regina’s face went completely blank and when she spoke again it was in a high-pitched, disbelieving tone “What do you mean the bottom of the East River?”
The last was spoken so loudly people from other tables turned to stare at the agent in disapproval. She seemed not to notice it as she continued to spit things into her cell phone.
“Are you sure that’s what you heard through the police scanner? Sid, if you are not one hundred per cent sure… Cherry red, yes. No, there was no room and I was not about to drive home and take a fucking cab!”
She directed one last, strained smile towards both Mal and Gold before she quickly made her way out of the room, or at least as quickly as any woman wearing a skin-tight mermaid dress could move. It was an amusing sight, Mal decided as he sipped her drink, watching Regina take small but quick steps and dodge countless people. She felt Gold chuckle by her side and a strange sort of camaraderie wrapped itself around them.
“Well, that was anticlimactic as Hell” she quipped, going back to looking bored and jaded. Belle re-joined them at the table, pretending she didn’t notice the tension lingering in the air, intent on demurely wiping her plate clean of the cheesecake she had ordered as desert.
“I do wonder what all that ruckus was about” Nick enquired softly, his face alight with curiosity and glee… and a good dose of lust, as he watched Belle clean her fork of all remnants of raspberry sauce with a careful drag of her tongue. It didn’t take long for the story to reach them. After all they were surrounded by policemen, most of which gossiped like old wives. Mary Margaret had been the one to deliver the news, after having heard the whole thing from her detective friend, Miss Swan.
Apparently Regina had decided to part her quarter-of-a-million dollars, one-of-a-kind Porsche on the sidewalk after being informed that, unfortunately, there was no more room at the hotel’s parking lot. Someone had decided to take the shiny new toy for a joyride, a drunk, witnesses said, and had sadly decided to park it on the bottom of the East River, some blocks away from the ballroom. They hadn’t found the driver, but it was widely believed that he had managed to escape a rather unpleasant death and had staggered off into the night, never to be seen again.
“How tragic” Mal deadpanned, her eyes dancing with mirth “Didn’t she just tell us she hadn’t had it insured yet?”
“Let that be a lesson for next time” Nick sentenced, being even less subtle about his total enjoyment of Regina’s predicament. Belle arched an eyebrow, shaking her head when he let out a disturbing little giggle at the end of his sentence. For all his poise and control every now and then she glimpsed a side of Nicholas that was almost… impish.
“Dear, I think your purse is vibrating… I do hope that’s your phone” Mal’s voice lured her away from thoughts of her love, and she quickly grabbed her clutch and took out her shiny black cell phone, pressing the answer button and holding it to her ear. When she spoke her tone was warm and cheery, tinged with relief.
“Jean-Luc, at last! I was beginning to worry… Yeah, I know, job well done… Of course, that was the deal, we are square now, next time I need your services while you’re in town I’ll pay like the rest. Do say hi to Honoré, and tell her that facilier recipe was really helpful. Ok, have a safe flight, bye!”
She pressed the “end” button on her phone and stashed it away.
“A French friend, Belle? Do tell me he’s the guy you’re finally leaving this old thing for” she pointed with her now empty martini glass to her right, where Nick was sitting, head tilted to a side.
“No, just an old friend who was in town for a couple of days and owed me a favour”
“Oh, why so vague on the details, dear? This favour you speak of sounds juicy”
Belle coloured, shaking her head.
“Nothing of the sort, I’m afraid. But… Let’s just say that what he does is not strictly legal”
“My, my, my little Belle hangs around more men of dubious morals than I knew of” the voice of the CEO of Uni Global was mocking but playful “What is he, anyway? A mass murderer?” Belle shook her head, snorting “Mmm… Money launderer! No? Forger!”
Belle laughed, still shaking her head. Then she reclined in her seat, a devious smile spreading across her face that had Nick staring at her intently, leaning forward to catch her softly-spoken words.
“Car thief” she paused, then added almost as an afterthought “You know Regina once made Mary Margaret cry? Just because she could, for no other reason whatsoever. Mary Margaret, the sweetest girl on Earth. It never sat well with me”
For a moment there was nothing but silence as her revelation sunk in. The brunette smiled once more, this time a full and innocent gesture, before she frowned and cursed under her breath, rising from the table just as the two Adams returned to their seats.
“Oh, damn, Mal, Cecilia from Accounting seems to have had one too many drinks. I’ll get her into a cab, don’t worry”
The two CEOs watched as the girl in gold walked away, at the same time hurried and poised, then looked at each other, dumbfounded, torn between utter shock and fledging pride.
“… Is this your fault or mine?” Mal asked finally asked. Gold, eyes wide, shrugged.
“Both?” he tentatively offered, only to shake his head “Neither” an odd sort of look took over his features, feverish and satisfied at the same time “I’ve always known there was a bit of a mean streak hidden inside Belle. I just didn’t know how deep it went”
Mal decided to ignore the fact that the Scotsman had practically purred the last words. Leave it to Gold to like a bit of evil in his otherwise purer-than-the-driven-snow little girlfriend.
By the time Belle returned the Adams had managed to strike an interesting conversation with both Gold and Mal, so the brunette simply sat back and enjoyed the pleasure of staring at her man, because the word boyfriend seemed rather incongruous when applied to Nicholas Robert Gold. She had been without him for a month, and the part of her that was independent and self-assured had suffered a low blow when it had become clear that she did not function properly without Nick by her side. She had missed him in bed, merely a warm body draped around her, or when reading the newspaper, his amusing quips and sharp insights absent. She had missed the smell of him, his horrible moods and stupid insecurities, his small gestures of affection and endearing quirks.
Suddenly the party seemed to have dragged on too long, and she toyed with the idea of letting Mal know she was “awfully jetlagged” and wanted to go home and sleep it off, no matter the fact that her boss would not buy her flimsy excuse for a second.
So lost was she in her own thoughts that she let out a startled gasp when she felt hands on her shoulders urging her to stand up.
“You golden goddess, you divine being” a voice, vehement and deep, muttered close to her ear. She was turned around and promptly enveloped in a bone-crushing hug “You delightful little angel from above, mistress of my dreams, Queen of my Heart!”
She furrowed her brow.
“Jefferson?” she muttered, completely confused “What…?”
Whatever words she was about to say died on her lips as the lawyer crushed her to him once more. He then pulled her back, holding her at arm’s length and grinning like a madman.
“Hatter, please, what have I told you about respecting other people’s personal space” she hissed, a blush creeping up her neck and spilling over her cheeks. Jefferson laughed, all giddy, nervous energy, completely disregarding her words.
“You have made me the happiest of men. I love you” he cried out before cupping her face in his hands and soundly kissing her nose, lingering in the disturbing way he usually did. His hands obscure the view of all her face, so it did look, if caught at a certain angle, as if the attorney was snogging her in the middle of the ballroom. Belle grabbed his wrists, trying to pry him away before the inevitable ugliness happened.
She was, of course, not fast enough.
“Madden” the mellifluous, heavily-accented voice was akin to a soft growl and was swiftly accompanied by a jab to the back of one of the Hatter’s knees, causing him to lose his balance and release Belle.
“Mr Gold” Madden was all smiles, utterly unapologetic “Didn’t see you skulking there. How are you this fine evening?”
“Fed up” the curt reply was an ominous warning Jefferson did not heed “What on Earth do you think you’re doing with Miss French?”
The possessive edge to his tone was plain for all to listen, and even Mal got a bad feeling. She threw a warning gaze towards the careless young man, who remained utterly oblivious.
“I’m expressing my utter devotion towards her, of course” he laughed “She’s rendered me a great service, so I thought I would prostrate myself at her feet and worship her as my most benevolent goddess”
As much fun as Belle considered Madden’s eccentric behaviour to be, this time she did not find it at all amusing. Nicholas looked deceptively calm but there was something dark and ugly in his eyes, something that had been brewing for hours, ever since she had first taken off her coat to reveal her playful attire. And it seemed that Jefferson was going to be on the receiving end of all that simmering anger if he didn’t stop being so… Well, so Jefferson.
“Miss French has warned you about respecting her personal space, Mr Madden. More than once, I believe. You ought to pay attention and heed her words, boy, before your firm finds itself short one important client”
Vander, Land and Associates had been retained as Mr Gold’s legal counsel a long time ago, so he was counted amongst their most loyal and important clients.
“I very much doubt, Mr Gold, that you would let your personal… animosity towards me dictate your business decisions” the lawyer taunted, now amused to play cat-and-mouse with Gold. Belle scowled at both men, but was mostly ignored.
“Oh, dear boy, I wouldn’t poke the sleeping beast” Mal warned, a serious edge to her words. Madden laughed, displaying his usual lack of common sense.
“I’m sure the old boy will agree with me on my assessment of the situation” he replied, rocking on the balls of his feet and flashing Belle a quick smile and a wink. Gold leaned back on his chair, titling his head to a side.
“Ah, you caught me. It was indeed an empty threat. I seldom make those, it takes an observant eye to catch me in a lie” he shrugged, the very picture of a gracious loser. The lawyer grinned, happy to have scored a point in his favour.
“By the way, Madden, how is that little pearl of yours? Grace, isn’t it?” Gold paused, his eyes not missing the Hatter’s lips uncurling, setting into a straight, harsh line “I imagine she’s quite happy with her close circle of friends and such. I happen to know the key members of the board of directors of her school, all old poker buddies of mine” it had been, after all, the way Mary Margaret had gotten Henry accepted on a scholarship, not that Emma knew “Stressful job, that. Deciding which kids get in, who need to sadly be denied a spot on the next school year… I can’t imagine how they do it”
Jefferson stilled, barely breathing as he digested the older man’s words. His eyes narrowed, mouth tightening to keep some very interesting words from spilling out of his lips. He tensed all over, breathing deeply in an effort not to be impulsive, because Grace had been mentioned and she deserved every ounce of his self-control.
“I see” he ground out, twisting his lips into a mockery of a smile “I apologize, Belle, for the impromptu display of affection. I think I’ll go talk to Marchie, I see him waving from his table. If you all would excuse me”
He half-bowed, with as much dignity as he could while making a hasty exit, and promptly swirled around, getting lost among the sea of people still mingling about. For a moment there was only silence at the table, thick and uncomfortable and obviously the calm before a rather nasty storm.
“What the Hell was that?” Belle’s voice was soft but had a sharp edge to it. Her eyes were like daggers, but Gold wrapped himself up in his wounded pride and glared right back, thoughts about the last month forgotten now that his most primitive side demanded that he defend his completely justifiable actions.
“He was being a nuisance, dearie, I got rid of him” he replied, words clipped and nostrils flaring. His cane was again getting the brunt of his rage “It’s a simple as that”
He knew he sounded patronizing, but he couldn’t seem to stop, no matter how much he wanted to.
“No, what you did was threaten a devoted father with completely annihilating his child’s happiness” she retorted, a dark look about her face, a mixture or anger and disappointment.
“I’m sorry if he misinterpreted my innocuous observations, dearie” he opened his arms wide, his face clearly unrepentant. Belle’s dark look was tinged with disappointment, which stung more than the businessman cared to admit.
“You’re a beast” she accused, her words cutting even as her tone remained soft “Mal, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll say goodbye to my friends and head home. I’m a bit tired, all of a sudden” when she rose she was stiff as a board, her eyes dodging everyone else’s.
“Sure, dear, no problem” Mal tentatively replied, shooting a murderous look at Gold as the girl turned to leave the table in search of her friends. Nicholas, by her side, seemed at once unrelenting and apologetic, dawning finally on him what and, most importantly, in front of whom. He was seldom bashful about being a bastard from time to time. Exercising a bit of power every now and then was not only oddly satisfying but entirely necessary for a man of his position. It kept people from becoming so overly familiar with him that they forgot he was, just like Belle had said, a dangerous beast, not their friend, or their confidant, or even an empathetic acquaintance. It’s how he had survived in the world he lived in, by playing the game better than anyone else, and said game was, most of the time, ruthless. He had come to enjoy it too much, he had done things not to be proud of. But he had learnt the fine art of restraint when he had realized that power and exercising it came with a price.
He had restrained himself even more after meeting Belle, not because he was unsure she wouldn’t accept him, wicked side an all, but because she had made him want to be a better man, and he was at a point in his life when he could very well afford it. Except now he had slipped, and not in a way Belle would understand – he had not been cutting down a competitor, nor ensuring his company got a better deal on a business- but in a personal, fairly underhanded way.
He had done what he had because he could, and he had wanted to. Nothing more, nothing less. And though he was quite sure Belle would forgive him after calming down he still felt rotten. Being in the outs with Belle was an uncomfortable, unwelcome experience. Especially when it was his own dam fault.
“Nice going, you idiot” Mall muttered besides him, rolling her eyes “Now you’ll never get any, and you can’t even blame me for it”
“Shut it, Mal”
“Well, someone looks surly” Emma offhandedly commented, enjoying a piña colada with gusto “Let me guess… Gold was a bit of a bastard, and you got pissed. Big surprise there, by the way”
Mary Margaret elbowed her blond friend rather sharply before giving Belle an understanding look. The brunette found herself retelling what had happened, leaning close to an abandoned table with a couple of dirty plates and some empty champagne flutes. Emma’s reaction did nothing to help her mood, but MM, more used to her boss’s rather unfortunate and dangerous temper, was more understanding.
“You do know you’re gonna end up forgiving him, right?” Emma pointed out, pragmatic as always “I mean, he’s said and done worse”
“I know” Belle admitted “I just… I missed him so much. And now I can’t just pretend that what he did didn’t happen, and I’m really angry at him now but… I don’t want to be angry. I want to make up for the last month that I didn’t get to see him”
“I’m sorry, sweetie. I know how much you looked forward to a more… private reunion” the raven-haired woman managed to look unaffected by the indirect mention of her boss having sex “For what it’s worth I think he was just taking out his frustrations of tonight with Jefferson. I don’t think he’d have really gone through with the threat, and you kinda have to admit Jeff, as great as he is, can be a bit of a nuisance”
Emma snorted, agreeing with the last part of her friend’s speech rather emphatically.
“Well, on to cheerier stuff… Is that Ruby I see draped all over Dr Hopper?” Belle enquired, genuinely wanting to both change the subject and know how that had happened.
“Yeah, apparently, from what she has been able to text us, she’s doing Archie a solid by pretending to be his hot girlfriend in front of his snooty ex. She’s also texted us like a hundred times that Archie is ‘such a sweetheart’ and that his freckles are adorable, so we’re guessing this has gone past the favour stage and into ‘budding romance’, whether Ruby knows it or not” Emma summarized, smiling when Mary Margaret squealed “Eminem here has already picked the perfect location for their outdoors summer wedding. I keep telling her that with Archie’s complexion a prolonged exposure to the sun is a bad, bad idea”
“I see you’ve kept yourselves busy” Belle deadpanned, staring as Ruby laughed at something Archie said, a genuine sort of laugh, and kissed him on the cheek, making him turn a lovely shade of red “Well, anyway, I came here to say goodbye, I’ve had my fill of this enchanted evening, really…”
The rest of her words were cut out by a resounding clash, followed by the sound of breaking china and a body colliding against the three women. When the initial shock of the impact died down Belle unceremoniously shoved a groaning John Whale from her. He was sporting a bloody lip and a wine stain on his shirt that gave the brunette a pretty good idea of what had happened.
“When my girlfriend tells you to stay away, creep, you stay the fuck away, is that clear?” said a young, sandy-haired man who had a pretty blond clutching him by the shoulders, almost restraining him.
“Come on, Tom, the guy’s not even worth it and your father will be pissed if you make a scene” she told him “And I’m so sorry, that you all got caught in the middle. Is anyone hurt?”
Emma was the first to stand up, giving a hand to Mary Margaret and telling her to be wary of the broken glass everywhere. Belle tentatively stood up, her hands smoothing her gown, looking for possible tears or stains and thankfully finding none.
“I’m all in one piece” the secretary announced “Belle?”
“I think I’m alright, I’ve just got something in my…”
A hiss of pain, sudden, had Belle doubling over, her hands going to one of her sandal-clad feet, probing the sole of her right foot, her hand coming out bloody. Belle wasn’t particularly proud of how the sight of her blood affected her … It was one of those things she knew were not rational. She could handle the sight of other people’s blood well enough, not being naturally squeamish at all, but she scraped one knee or got one tiny scratch on her and she swooned like some sort of stereotypical fairy-tale princess.
“Oh, no, she’s gonna pass out” Mary Margaret said from some place nearby. Belle’s vision had gotten blurry, sounds mixing together, eyes riveted on the line of red on her fingertips. She felt arms guide her to a seat “Just breathe, Belle, come on”
Had she been able to blush she would have. In the back of her mind she could process what a mortifying scene she was making, and prayed people were still distracted enough by Whale’s poor attempts at wiping himself clean to pay her much attention. Unfortunately Whale had chosen that moment as the one to remember he was a doctor and offer his assistance.
“Ok, let me see” she felt his fingers lift the hem of her dress and made a sound of protest, gathering enough of her wits about her to shove him backwards, away from her and into tiramisu leftovers that littered the floor.
“Emma, get him away from me” she pleaded, regaining enough focus to shrink away from the good doctor. But it wasn’t Emma the one that dissuaded Whale from again offering his very unwelcome help, rather Nicholas Gold, who quickly slammed his cane down between Whale’s open legs, barely missing anything of consequence and making Tom, the irate boyfriend, cringe in sympathy.
“You, boy” he barked at a nearby waiter “Where do you keep a first aid kit?”
His hands gently cradled Belle’s face, tipping it up to look into her eyes, trying to get them to focus on him and not on the blood that was now seeping out of her sandal. The nervous waiter mumbled something about the Coat Room and offering to show him the way. Nicholas rolled his eyes, but prompted Belle up, supporting her the best he could with his lame leg, taking care she didn’t step on her injured foot and drive the piece of glass that she had embedded there any deeper.
Whale was left there, unceremoniously sprawled on the floor, both fear and embarrassment clouding his features. What a waste of time the Charity Gala has turned out to be, he thought, getting all dressed up only to run into unavailable women with angry boyfriends everywhere…
“Oh, dear, are you alright?”
A woman knelt by his side, a brunette with curly hair, dark eyes and rather impressive… attributes. He craned his head to look into her face, not really wanting to get punched once more in the evening but at the same time rather confused as to how he had managed to ignore a woman of such… virtue all evening.
“I… err… yes, thank you” he mumbled, dazed. Usually women did not approach him, he was used to taking the first step, mostly with lukewarm results at best. The woman smiled, her tanned skin glowing in the light of the room and contrasting very nicely with the electric-blue of her couture gown.
“Then let’s get you up and get you a drink, it’ll make you feel better” she proposed, helping him straighten up with a smile “I’m Jessica, by the way. Jessica Ann”
Whale smiled in return, marvelling at how this woman, this Jessica, had no qualms about keeping her arms around one of his after he had no need of her help to keep himself standing.
“John Whale… Dr John Whale” he muttered, a silly smile forming on his face when she grinned up at him and pressed herself closer “Forensic doctor, to be more precise”
“Really?” Was he mistaken or what there a flirty quality to her voice? “How fascinating!”
Inwardly, John Whale high-fived himself and thanked his lucky stars.
“Come now, dearie, you can be angry at me all you want after we get your pretty little foot looked at” Nicholas said, his brogue soothing and still a tad mocking as he guided Belle out of the ballroom and across the hall. The moment they found themselves in the Coat Room, a rather spacious room filled to the brim with furs and wool overcoats, he dismissed the mumbling boy with a curt nod and a thanks that didn’t sound particularly grateful. There was, nailed to a wall, a white and red first aid kit, rather big and, as it turned out, pretty well stocked.
“Okay, dearie, now lean against the wall and for the love of God, keep that foot off the floor” he instructed, taking out the antiseptic, some gauze, tape and rubbing alcohol, along with some cotton balls. He knelt at her feet, his leg reminding him to be careful of his movements. He gingerly unclasped her golden sandal, pausing a micro second to admire the stiletto heel and notice the silkiness of her ankle, the first bit of Belle he had touched in over a month. He forced his mind not to let his hand caress her calf and pause at the hollow of her knee, knowing he needed to look at her foot. He grimaced when his fingers made contact with the shard of glass that had slipped into her footwear and cut into her skin, trying to see how big it was. He found her a stool, a small cushioned one, and slowly eased her down, so her back could still rest against the wall.
“Shhh, darling, I know it hurts” he murmured, raising her dress enough to plant the most chaste kiss he could manage on the top of her knee “But I have to do this”
He massaged her calf, willing the muscles to relax and his own not to tighten in desire. His Belle was hurt and needed his help, not his very horribly-timed lust. The fabric of the dress, slippery as hell, made it difficult to keep it away from her legs, so he instructed her to lift the hem to the middle of her thighs and keep it there, since he would need both his hands to treat her. He tried not to be distracted by the amount of skin exhibited to his viewing pleasure, particularly when he noticed she wasn’t wearing stockings, the cruel wretch.
She let out another cry of pain that tore at his heart. His precious girl was suffering and he was not making things better. He thought to distract her, at first, by tracing his fingers up and down her calf while soaking one of the cotton balls in alcohol. Her whimpers were killing him, making him press his lips to the inside of her thigh, trying to comfort her in any way he could. When he dragged his light stubble- he hadn’t shaved for the event, his thoughts otherwise occupied- over the sensitive skin there she shuddered again but he could tell the difference between her shiver of pain and this more languid movement.
A thought entered his mind, so random and seemingly inappropriate he tried to brush it aside at first. But the moment he tried to remove the shard of glass from the sole of her foot she threw her head back and cried out, pain sharp and intense reflecting in the way her hands shook as they held the fabric of her dress up. It decided him then, and without further ado, so that he wouldn’t second-guess himself, Gold placed an open-mouth kiss on the centre of Belle’s thigh, drew the supple flesh to his mouth and sucked, the motion drawing her attention away from her foot and causing her to moan quite differently than before.
“Nick?” she said, hazy “What are you…?”
“Hush, dear, concentrate on what I’m doing to you, alright? On what I’ve been wanting to do for over 30 days, what I’ve dreamt about every single night while I tossed and turned in my cold bed, missing every inch of you till it hurt” his voice reverberated across her sensitive skin, driving her to distraction just as Nicholas’s deft fingers dislodged the shard of glass from her foot, quickly pressing an alcohol-soaked cotton ball and steeling himself for her pained gasp. His other hand moved to her unharmed leg, tracing the hollow of her knee and going up, using his nails to gently scrape alongside her creamy, unblemished skin till she was back to panting and moaning the good way. Her whole leg shook now not with pain but with lust, and he could see that her eyes were both heavy-lidded and strangely surprised, as if she couldn’t decide if she felt pain or pleasure or both and neither.
He dragged his mouth upwards, getting perilously close to her underwear, trying not to react when he saw she was wearing a gold thong, the cut of the underwear, he knew, necessary when using a couture gown (Belle wasn’t particularly fond of thongs so the sight of her in one was a rare treat). He could smell her, both her vanilla-scented body wash and lotion and the unique scent of her, the one that had eluded him for so long it smelled like heaven, like home, like paradise and hell.
His tongue traced the edges of the golden lace, delicate and flimsy like only La Perla could produce, and his nose nudged her centre, basking in its heat. His teeth caught the edge of her underwear just as he replaced the bloodied cotton ball for a newer one, delighting in the way she didn’t seem to feel the new sting of alcohol against her open wound.
“You are a wee demon, aren’t you?” his brogue had come to play, thickened always by his desire “Torturing me today, driving me wild only a few feet away, my golden goddess with a heart of stone” he dragged her panties down with his teeth, masterfully managing to get his hands to apply antiseptic cream to the sole of her foot. The moment the cream touched her skin she shuddered, but there was no pain in her movements or her face, only pleasure.
He let his mouth find its favourite spot amongst her curls, his tongue eagerly parting her folds to seek out the taste of her, one it hadn’t forgotten in the weeks they’d been apart. She was wetter than he thought she’d be, and he could tell it wasn’t just from the last few minutes, if her soaked panties were any indication. And even though he had figured out as much the tangible proof that he hadn’t been alone in his thoughts and wants all night, all month, managed to send a jolt up and down his spine, prompting his tongue to delve deeper into her, doing what his occupied fingers couldn’t. He circled her clit, his teeth readily caressing the bundle of nerves with the gentles and most unsatisfying touch he could manage, delighting in her strangled sounds of protest and her attempts to grasp his hair with one of her hands while the other tried to keep the dress gathered around her waist.
“Nick” she ground out, angry and pleading at the same time, her fingers finally digging into his soft hair and tugging at it with a force that went straight to the businessman’s crotch in an embarrassing shudder “Come on!”
He laughed, finally taking her clit between his front teeth and tugging just as he finished applying the antiseptic cream, drawing back and wiping his cream-covered fingers with the remaining cotton balls. Noticing the fingers of his right hand were lightly coated in blood he grabbed a piece of gauze but, before he had a chance to clean himself he saw her eyes intently looking at his bloodied fingers and, following a strange impulse, drew them into his mouth and sucked them clean, listening as her breath hitched and a keening, inhuman sound left her mouth.
His hands shook as they cut a piece of gauze and folded it till it was small enough to tape over the injury. He wanted to be as quick as possible but she wouldn’t let him, removing her foot from his grasp to hook it behind his back, pushing him forward till he was back where he should have never left, this time adding his saliva-coated fingers to his teeth and tongue, first slightly skimming them over her inner thigh, making goose-bumps appear all over before he let them wonder higher, tracing her hipbone lovingly before tangling in her curls and finally, blessedly, sinking into her with ease, first two and then three, curling them the way he knew she liked, guiding himself by her pleas and hoarse cries of “There!” or the most sought-after “Oh, dear God”.
The heat of her had him dizzy and irrational, trying hard to remember he was supposed to be easing her pain and not merely prompting her pleasure. He fought to find a pace that would pluck the loudest screams out of her, his fingers twisting expertly and pulling back almost all the way before plunging back into her, the motion followed by his tongue first, lapping at her fluids and his teeth second, teasing her folds to finally firmly brush her clit, nerve endings singing in approval each time, evidenced mostly by a hitching of her breathing or a loud exclamation of his name.
He finished taping the gauze firmly in place just as she came, hard and sudden, tightening around his fingers in a way that made him even more conscious of his own unfulfilled desires, his cock straining against the silk of his boxers and his expensive and perfectly-tailored pants. She sagged against the stool, leaning heavily on the wall at her back, her breathing ragged just as his own was.
“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” he enquired, voice shaky as he kissed her right thigh this time, trying to undo any damage he might have done to her. She carded her fingers through his hair in a soothing pattern.
“You could never hurt me” she whispered into the emptiness of her room, her caresses rewarded by more ardent kisses to her thighs and every single bit of her skin he could get to. Seeing her underwear carelessly tossed at his feet and her sated form hovering over him he couldn’t help the selfish thoughts and ideas coursing through his mind and when she tugged on his hair to get him to look up at her knew all those desires where plainly written across his face. Her eyes did not judge him or condemn him, merely regarded him warmly.
“Belle, I…” he knew she knew what he wanted, and tried to plead his case and ask forgiveness for his daring at the same time “I’d be as gentle as a lamb, I swear. I’d treat you like spun glass, as delicate as china, if you would only let me…”
The rest remained unspoken, the words not needed to convey meaning. Her hand grasped his shoulder and tugged on his jacket to make him rise, which he did after struggling a few moments with his injured knee. She cupped his face in his hands, the touch heavenly, and shook her head. He tried not to let his disappointment show, knowing that what he has asked for her had been too much.
“No” she said softly, petting his hair… And dear Lord, how he had missed her petting his hair “You’re not a lamb. You’re a lion” she paused, smiling ruefully “A beast…” he flushed, recalling their earlier fight with no small amount of shame now that he had her back in his arms. She saw it all in his face, the one businessmen couldn’t read, the one that people muttered was carved in stone. He was an enigmatic character with the rest of the world, and an open book with her.
And Belle loved him for it.
She nuzzled his jaw, his cheek, the spot just behind his ear.
“My beast” she purred, taking his earlobe between his teeth, supressing a giggle when he let out a strangled, pained moan as she tugged on it gently before letting go “My mate”
He pinned her hard against the wall then, no trace of delicacy or care in his movements as he took her mouth with his, demanding everything she hadn’t given him in thirty days in a single minute, frenzied desire giving way to languid, all-consuming hunger next, slanting his lips leisurely across hers, drinking in her every sound of approval, tongue tracing her parted lips before plunging deep into her mouth, wrapping around her own tongue with the barest of sighs, feeling his limbs finally stop shaking and his insides rearrange themselves into a semblance of normalcy. He was getting her back into his system and all was right with the world.
“Dear God, how I missed this” he rasped, lips parting from hers to slide down her throat, nibbling on every bit of skin he could before he realized that, though he was licking the side of her painted neck, he didn’t taste the chemicals he expected from the gold dust scattered all over her upper body. Instead he tasted the barest hint of burnt sugar… Caramel.
He tasted her usual vanilla and a good dash of mouth-watering caramel.
“Did I not mention this particular line of body make-up is edible?” she asked into the crook of his neck, and he could feel her wicked smile spreading against his skin there “Most of it is fruits, but a friend of Ruby’s from the UK managed to whip this up for me. It took her a couple of months, but I thought you’d appreciate it”
He ground his hips against her, showing her exactly how much he did appreciate it and she groaned in bliss.
“Now I’ll have to lick every inch of it off you, you do realize that” he whispered into her ear before ducking to drag his tongue through her collarbone “Can’t have you leaving here with lick marks all over… Though, on the other hand, that would make quite a statement, wouldn’t it?”
He nipped at the juncture between her neck and shoulder, knowing it always got a breathless response from her. Though the first time had been exciting, to make love to her while knowing her weaknesses, the spots that made her see stars, it left him giddy with power and equally powerless against her own knowledge of what made him tick.
“How do I get this awful thing off you?” he asked between kisses and caresses, his hands sliding around her waist, enjoying the silky feel of the golden fabric of her dress but wanting more to touch the skin beneath.
“What if someone comes in?” she tried to reason with him, at the same time kissing his forehead and the side of his head, unearthing his grey sideburns, always obscured by his long mane of hair. He turned to nuzzle her hand and plant a soft, barely-there kiss on her pulse-point.
“The helpful lad told me how to close the room from the inside, to give us privacy while I… tended to you” he chuckled then, a wicked sound that made something coil low in her belly, delicious pressure building there “He offered to be on the lookout and make sure nobody disturbs us”
Belle frowned, trying to think even as Nicholas scraped his teeth against the sensitive skin of her neck, leaving more bruises than what she’d be able to cover up with the concealer tucked safely into her clutch.
“Won’t he be able to hear us?” she finally asked, slipping her nimble hands into his jacket to pull it back and off his shoulders. He paused in his ministrations, having cleaned most of the gold dust off her chest and neck and satisfied with his overall progress.
“Splendid” he finally replied, something dark and primal lurking behind his Scottish brogue “He was your wee admirer, it’ll do him good to hear you moan my name… Over and over”
She laughed, a throaty sound she knew he adored, and playfully turned around in his arms, giving him a new wave of fresh, delightful little ideas to try out with her.
The dress was fastened to her by a nearly-invisible row of hooks and eyes, diminutive and a bloody nuisance when his hands shook with anticipation and need. He took his time though, both adoring the dress and hating it, knowing he’d want her to wear it again but dreading the time she decided to do so.
“I should tear this dress off you” he growled, resting his forehead in-between her shoulder-blades as he continued unfastening the damned gown “Rejoice in the sound of the silk coming apart in my hands, in your pleas to spare this torture device you saw fit to tease me into submission with. I should burn the remains and leave just enough ribbons of the fabric to use as restraints to tie you to my bed and ensure you don’t leave it till I’m good and satisfied, till I’ve gotten my fill of you… Which would undoubtedly take a while” at last he reached the last hook and, with one gentle tug, the whole dress pooled at their feet, a gentle whisper of gold against her skin before it left it bare to his eyes. The strapless bra was of the same flimsy lace as her underwear and it was quickly tossed aside.
He didn’t turn her around, though, enjoying the sight of her bare back and the taste of it as he pushed her unbound hair aside- he dimly recalled undoing her fashionable chignon while snogging her senseless- to lap at the back of her neck, tasting caramel and vanilla as he worked on removing as much gold from her as he could. His hands circled her waist, splaying across the smoothness of her stomach and tracing lazy circles around her navel, marvelling at the way she shivered, loving how highly responsive his little Belle was to his every touch.
He thought of taking her from behind, the angle one of his favourites, but he had to be careful of her foot and, besides, he wanted to look into her eyes as he drove her to temporary madness. Belle’s eyes were exceptionally expressive and he never enjoyed them more than when they darkened in desire. He turned her then, taking care to make sure she was not leaning on her injured limb, and gathered her to him, confused when she shied away. For a horrible moment he thought the worst, that she had come to her senses and was not about to let her boyfriend take her in the coat room of the third-floor ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria. The next moment he registered that her fingers were unbuttoning his shirt and tugging it off him rather insistently. He hadn’t even noticed her discarding his dark blue bow tie, and wondered dimly if he’d manage to find it when it was time to dress again.
“I hate your undershirts” she muttered, nails scraping against his abdomen and living very welcomed red slashes against his pale skin as he yanked said undergarment off him “I know I always say love is layered, but you may have taken it a little too far”
He pressed her up against the wall, eager to push his chest against hers, feeling immediately the hardness of her nipples. This distracted him, and he quickly pressed one fleeting kiss to her open mouth before venturing lower, hooking her injured leg around his waist to make sure it stayed as away from the floor as possible, grinding his teeth when his knee protested at the added weight. He trailed the length of her collarbone with his tongue, remembering the sight of it drenched in chocolate all those years ago, and finding it even more delicious now, after such a prolonged period of involuntary abstinence. He nuzzled the valley of her breasts, where the smell of her skin was concentrated, and inhaled deeply, the last weeks of his life dissolving into nothing. One of his arms cinched around her waist, holding her up and against the wall and his other hand traced light, teasing circles on the side of one of her breasts, drawing pleading whimpers from her throat. One of her own hands had a hold on his hair, trying to push his lips towards to a side till he finally took pity in her, and in him, and allowed her to guide him to one of her nipples, closing his mouth around it and swiping his tongue over it, a bout of manly pride blooming in him when she arched her entire body and grunted in approval of his actions, unknowingly grinding her hips into his and almost causing him to crumble to the floor, taking her with him in the process.
“You wanton lioness” he chided her, his now heightened accent making his words hard to understand, even with the practice Belle had “My lioness, my warrior goddess, my most exquisite tormentor… You’re gonna be the death of me one day”
He turned his head, his mouth latching onto her other nipple while his freed hand kneaded the other breast, barely noticing Belle’s hands quickly undoing his pants and pushing them down, twisting and wriggling to get them to pool to the floor, his burgundy boxers following soon after. He managed to step from between them somehow, in a feat of speed and daring worthy of some sort of Olympic award. When he pressed himself bare into her he almost groaned aloud and with embarrassment he had to fight the urge to come then and there, like he was some sort of hormonal fourteen-year-old with no self-control whatsoever.
“Belle” he groaned, one of his hands hooking her other leg around his waist, taking a minute to find a position that wouldn’t completely shatter his injured kneecap… not that he would notice, all his focus stolen by the feel of her against him “My dear Belle. My life”
Some more shifting and he was inside her, his cock finally nestled where it belonged, his entire body sighing in relief, some muscles uncoiling as others did just the opposite. One of his arms was around her waist and resting somewhere above her lower back, anchoring her to him even as the light sheen of sweat there made it increasingly difficult, and the other supported her weight, securely holding a handful of her ass.
“You cannot feel this tight” the grunted, teeth worrying the skin of her neck “I’ve been fucking you for years. You shouldn’t feel this deliciously tight” there was a note of despair in his voice, as though trying to guess how he was supposed to last when she felt so good around him. She made some sort of keening sound in response, grinding her hips against him to prompt him to move. He did so almost immediately, his hips slamming against her with a sort of frenzied need, pulling back almost entirely before plunging back into her, over and over till he set a pace he reasoned would possible not kill him. She thrust her head back, giving his lips easy access to the underside of her jaw, where the last flicks of gold were hiding, eagerly awaiting the length of his tongue. After he had thoroughly licked her clean he tipped her face down to kiss her again, feeling their complete and utter union like a balm, erasing the phantom pains in his body like they were never there. The horrible reality of the lasts days was fading, and he held onto it, if only to search for the words in which to communicate it to her as his hips keep their rhythm.
“Do you know what torture it is when, during long nights, the arteries boil, the heart is bursting, the head is splitting, and one’s own teeth bite one’s own hands?” another thrust and Belle looked up at him, her eyes wide and her mouth open, nostrils flaring in a tell-tale sign of lust “When inexorable tormentors are unceasingly turning one, as on a burning grid-iron, because of thoughts of love, jealousy and despair?” his voice was a growl, passion and anguish mingling till they became one, and he knew he was too close to his release, and Belle, having come once already, wasn’t ready for a second time yet. He changed the angle of his thrusts, letting her one-word pleas and desperate sounds be his guide as he found a deeper form of penetration which he would be able to keep up for a while at least. But even as he found it he knew something was missing and he wished she’d tell him and put him out of his misery. His legs were shaking now, the strain of her weight and his exertions leaving them
“More” she finally croaked, dragging her fingernails down his back to catch his attention “Do it again, Nick…” another pause, her voice getting breathy and faint as she elaborated “I want to listen to more”
He searched his addled mind for what could satisfy his little Belle even as his more primal side drove in and out of her with single-handed focus, her flesh and his the only important things in the world. He caressed her naked back with a trembling hand, wetting his lips to whisper into her ear:
“Oh, to love a woman! To love her with all the fury of one’s soul! To feel that one would give, for the least of her smiles, one’s blood, one’s life, one’s fame, one’s salvation!” every sentence was punctuated with a thrust and a moan from her lips, and it urged him on, rejoicing in having uncovered a rather unconventional kink of Belle’s “Immortality and eternity, this life and the next; to regret not being a king, or an emperor, or a genius, or an archangel, or God, that one might place a greater slave upon her feet”
She answered each of his words with a movement from her hips or a scratching of her lovely fingernails on his back. He felt his control slip and for a suspended second in time hated her for not reaching the end of her own rope and putting him out of his misery.
“Mercy” he whispered against her ear, his lips brushing against the skin there fleetingly with every word he spoke. He grasped one of her hands, bringing it to his lips to plant feverish kisses upon her palm and wrist “Child, torture me with one hand, but caress me with the other! Have pity! Have pity on me!”
He felt her walls tighten suddenly, and sent a prayer to whoever cared to hear it as she came undone all around him, holding onto his shoulders and deliciously biting down on his neck to keep as quiet as possible, shaking harder that he had ever seen her do previously. His release came instantaneously, lasting as much as her and leaving him sated in a way he was sure he had never felt before. It was a month worth of unfulfilled lust and curtailed desires that clashed upon him, as heavy as the ten fist months of their acquaintance, if not made heavier by the actual knowledge of her body and what it could do when snuggly wrapped around his.
He lowered them onto the cold floor with as much gentleness as he could, using the pile of clothes at their feet as some sort of lover’s nest, Belle snuggling against him with a content hum, her skin aglow with perspiration and whatever else caused post-orgasmic women to shine.
“That was…” she sighed, shaking her head in an effort to clear her mind enough to find a word for what had just happened. The fact that she couldn’t did more for Gold’s ego that whatever compliment she might have found.
“Indeed” he purred beside her, his forehead nudging the side of her face, content to play the sated cat cuddling up to its master.
They staid like that for a few more minutes before reluctantly beginning to work on their appearance, dressing with care and looking for the pins Belle had used to pull her hair up, coming close to recreating her original hairstyle. The bathroom adjoining the Coat Room was useful to clean the little remains of gold dust from Belle’s body, though how she’d explain why she had wiped it off she had no idea. She tied Nick’s bowtie for him, the businessman grinning like a shark when he noticed her fingers trembled as they did so, and then yanked on it, making catching his attention.
“This was spectacular. Mind-blowing, Earth-shattering, before-and-after kind of sex” she said and then glared at him, true anger in her face “But in no way does it make me forget what you did to Jefferson. Never again, Nick, not to any of my friends. Can you do that?”
He looked at her intently before nodding, knowing she was not asking anything unfair of him. Jefferson was a rather dear friend of Belle’s and he’d have to make his peace with it.
“Vilify me, strike me, be angry at me, do what you will, but for mercy’s sake, love me” he murmured before kissing her thoroughly, muffling her laugh.
“By the way, I’ll be exploring this rather particular reaction to Victor Hugo again, dearest” he warned her, taking her hand and helping her limp back to the ballroom. She smiled, a coy little gesture that sent his blood pumping.
“Do you promise?”
It was late in the evening, but Mal languished by the bar, feeling restless and oddly unwilling to call it a night yet. When she spotted her assistant, being helped into her coat by Nicholas Gold, she rolled her eyes and approached the pair.
“Really, Nick? The Coat Room?” she chided, not fooled at all by the couple’s attempts at looking presentable. Belle blushed, as she knew she would, and Nick grinned, showing sharp teeth and reeking of satisfaction.
“I really don’t know what you’re inferring, dearie” he replied, completely at ease “Though I must admit it is a rather lovely room. I know I won’t be forgetting it any time soon”
The brunette besides him elbowed him slightly in the ribs, shaking her head.
“We’re taking off, Mal, if you don’t need me anymore”
The blond CEO bit her tongue so she wouldn’t ask the girl to stay, it would be very unfair to force her to remain with an injured foot.
“Not at all, dear… Though I suspect that I’d said yes Nick would have still dragged you out as quickly as his crippled little self could manage. Go home, rest… And I mean it, dear, rest. And drink plenty of fluids in between bouts of love-making. Remember that dehydration is bad for the skin”
Another blush, a quick hug and they were gone. Her little friends had also departed, two in the arms of very besotted men and one arguing with another, and she felt a healthy kind of envy that still hurt a bit.
Her rather morose thoughts were interrupted by someone resting against the bar near her.
“Whiskey, boy, and neat” the newcomer barked, short and to the point. Mal glanced at him, surprised to see he was a bit older than her, and looked a tad uncomfortable in his expensive and pristinely-cut suit. The nervous bartender handed him his drink but in the process knocked over Mal’s, coming close to getting vodka on her lovely Ellie Saab. She looked at him with murder in her eyes and he stuttered something unintelligible before scampering off, presumably in search of a wet rag to clean the CEO’s vodka-drenched hands.
“Well, that was rather bad form” the stranger said, his lovely English accent hooking Mal against her will. He produced a handkerchief seemingly out of thin air and offered it to her with a curt nod. Finding herself gracious she offered a smile as she accepted it, wiping her hands clean and returning it.
“Do you think he’ll ever come back?” the stranger said, a note of humour in his voice.
“No if he knows what’s good for him” Mal replied sweetly, her smile dangerous. Men were usually put off by this side of her but the stranger laughed, head thrown back and blue eyes dancing.
“I do love a woman that knows how to scare men in to submission” he complimented her, giving her a more appraising look “I do hope I’m not being too forward”
Mal paused, threw caution to the wind and shook her head, grasping the hand he was offering and feeling a nice sort of heat when he kissed her hand.
“Not at all” she murmured “I’m Mallory Ficient, by the way, CEO of Uni Global”
The moment of truth was upon her. She expected the newcomer to retreat, but he merely smiled even wider and caressed her hand once before letting it go.
“James Hook, owner of the Jolly Roger Shipbuilding Corporation. A pleasure to make your acquaintance, my beauty. Would a lady such as yourself care to keep an old dog company for a while?”
She shrugged, trying to ignore the way something sparked inside her.
“Of course… For a while”