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Cotton Calling

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            Briar snuck into Sandry’s study office at the citadel, having charmed himself past the guards with ease—he was well-known. Sandry had not been for a visit to Cheeseman House in some time; Daja and Tris had sent him to collect her for a while. He wasn’t quite sure why he thought night was the best-suited time…

            Sandry didn’t look up when he entered the room. Briar soon realised why: she was in her most somnolent state, cheek pressed to her papers with lady-like snores escaping her small frame. He held back laughter and moved to stand behind her.

            She came to with a moan as he massaged her shoulders and neck.

            “You have magic fingers,” she murmured, leaning into the touch.

            “Not something I’ll deny.” He stooped to kiss the part of her hair. “But I’m on strict orders to bring you home.”

            “I am home,” she protested.

            “Real home. So long as this place means falling asleep on the scribbles of nobles on dry parchment, it is not home. You’re coming with me.”

            “What are you going to do, kidnap me?” She turned to stare up at him, a challenge in her eyes.

            “If that’s what it takes.”

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“Briar, put me down!” Sandry squealed as she was lifted from her study chair. “I didn’t give you permission to kidnap me!”

            “You know, a lot may be beyond my ken, but I’m pretty sure that’s not, in fact, how it works,” Briar rambled as he walked from the room with Sandry over his shoulder. “Daja, Tris and I learned a few tricks in Namorn.”

            “Well it didn’t work there and it won’t work here! Put me down!

            “I’m not trying to get you to marry me. I’m trying to get you to sleep a little!” Briar carried the noble lady down the corridor. A guard approached him then, but Briar merely grinned and waved. “I’m sorry to be a bother. Sandrilene fa Toren seems to have refused her napping schedule, so Daja Kisubo, Trisanda Chandler and I have been forced to make her sleep instead of work. I hope you don’t mind?”

            The guard looked a touch puzzled, but at last cracked a smile and laughed. “She’s been falling asleep on her work again?”

            “That she has. Thought the least I could do was get her a pillow.”

            “Should I have the Duke call on her at her Cheeseman Street residence if he so needs her?”

            “That would be perfect.”

            The guard stepped aside. “I hope you can get her to sleep. None of us here can, when she’s set on working.”

            “I think you’ll find we’re rather persuasive,” Briar acknowledged with a wink. Just like that, he was out of the citadel with the great-niece of the Duke over his shoulder.

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Tris opened the door before Briar could reach it. Daja was standing right behind. They both took in the scene: Sandry over Briar’s shoulder, at last looking resigned to the action—and rather sleepy.

            “She was dozing on her work again,” Briar explained as he stepped over the threshold; the protective spells tickled at his skin for a second, before they left his mind again. “I thought kidnap was the only answer.”

            “I thought we learned kidnap was never the answer?” Tris inquired.

            Daja leaned in and bumped her braids gently to Sandry’s head. “You’re nearly asleep already, saati.”

            “Then surely the eleemosynary action is to bring me to my chambers,” Sandry murmured, slow and sleepy and tripping over her syllables.

            “She must have fallen asleep on her work, words like that; I can smell academics miles away.” Tris helped adjust Sandry into a more comfortable position, though still in Briar’s hold: shoulders and knees cradled over his arms.

            “I suppose I’ll do what the little lady requests and get her to a bed,” Briar stated, swinging her lightly from side to side as he would a baby or small child.

            “I am not a little la—” but a yawn halted Sandry’s argument.

            “To bed, all of you,” Tris instructed. Daja stared at her with one brow raised. “You too. I saw your jaw twitch with a withheld yawn. Bed.”

            “I don’t want to,” Daja complained, all of ten again.

            “Then you’re coming to my bed and I can’t promise sleep.”

            “Sold.”

            The four separated into pairs, three conscious enough for grins of varied sizes.

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“Briar. I have a question.”

            “And I haven’t known you to not ask the questions you have so what is your question, Sandry?” Briar placed her down on a soft surface.

            “Why am I on your bed when I have a guest room downstairs?”

            “Because if I leave you in your own room, I can’t be sure you won’t pick up some work to do while I’m not watching you. If you’re stuck up here with me, I can be sure you actually sleep.”

            Sandry’s eyes took on a hard—and surprisingly awake—spark. “But Tris and Daja aren’t sleeping.”

            No. They could both feel that. But Briar wasn’t prepared for his trousers to start sliding off him, either. “Is this another question, Sandry? Use your words…”

            “Don’t make me sleep.” Sandry stood and took a step toward him, her voice louder this time. “Do some not-sleeping with me.”

            Briar cocked his head as if he hadn’t quite heard.

            “Briar Moss, you are walking with me tonight!”

            He grinned at her bumptious statement. It turned to a smile when Sandry at last looked unsure.

            “That is, if you want to.”

“I want to.” He lifted her up and placed her feet on his, then danced her around the room. “As long as you promise to sleep after.”           

            “There’s nothing that puts me to sleep better. Healer’s orders.”

            “I’m not one to break a healer’s orders, then.” Briar smiled and leaned to kiss her, still dancing them around the room.

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Briar’s dancing was lovely, Sandry thought, but even with the connections off she could still feel the input of pleasure from Tris and Daja downstairs. She was getting impatient.

            Briar felt his shirt pulling up over his head, though Sandry’s hands were otherwise occupied on his hips.

            “You’re not playing fair, are you?” he husked as he felt his trousers slithering down his legs again. Sandry’s little smile—so close to a grin—was infectious. He winked. “Because two can play that game.”

            Sandry’s dress was cotton; with Briar’s powers, it was off in little time at all. He had less trouble with her undergarments than any man she had ever lain with. He was more confident, too, through and through: others had an outer sense of confidence, but Sandry hadn’t had much trouble seeing right through that. Briar was sure of himself but not overwhelmingly so. It gave Sandry butterflies.

            He laughed when she pushed him down onto his own bed. Why was it always a surprise when she wasn’t as delicate as she seemed…? But she soon forgot, with her legs around Briar and her tongue tapping at his teeth.

            Briar was mellifluous to every sense of the word: smooth undulations, sweet whispers, honeyed smiles, actions that flowed into the next with the grace of long practice and great care. She found everything about him suddenly erotic, from his long and thick lashes to the birth mark on the back of his right knee.

            And, when she requested it, he even sang her to sleep. Sandry thought there was certainly not a better catch around than Briar—save the other two in the house, also slipping toward slumber. The Cheeseman House was certainly a home.

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Sandry was the last to wake in the morning; she probably had the most sleep to catch up on. She slipped into Briar’s old tunic and headed downstairs, uncaring of her sleep hair—her family had seen worse.

            “If it isn’t sleeping beauty,” Daja greeted through a smile. She placed a plate of pancakes and syrup on the table, indicating for Sandry to sit.

            “I’ve seen the stream of girls,” Tris remarked as she moved her own food around on her plate, “but I can’t say I expected you to be one of them.” The sting of her words was removed by her brilliant smile: Tris and ‘brilliant smile’ didn’t ordinarily go together. Daja still sent a spatula to bump her on the head. Tris just laughed at it.

            Briar emerged from the rear of the house but jumped back over the threshold before Tris could glare at him. He brushed the dirt off and hurried to the basin. “Good morning, Sandry.”

            “Good morning, Briar.”

            Tris and Daja grinned at each other. Tris mimicked, “Good morning, love bird.”

            “Good morning, stud muffin,” Daja returned in an approximation of Briar’s voice.

            The two cracked up. Sandry wrinkled her nose and shot a glare at Briar when he cracked into laughter as well. But soon even she fell to the risible atmosphere of the morning.

            “Honestly, it was about time,” Tris decided.

            “Well it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for you,” Sandry declared, smiling in the sated way that Tris remembered rather vividly. She coloured in response.

            “It’s just nice to have everyone here for breakfast.” Daja dribbled some extra milk and honey into Briar’s porridge. “You still need the sweetness.”

            “I think you’ll find he doesn’t,” Sandry countered. The laughter started up again and remained well into the afternoon and evening. Sandry decided that, if holidays felt like this, perhaps she could take them a little more often.