The table held his inks and needles, as well as some chilled wine and a bottle of the finest cider he could find. "She's late," he said softly, looking toward the window. Maybe she wouldn't come. Isa forced himself to sit down, taking a deep breath. He needed to calm down before she got there, or he wouldn't be able to do anything. He pulled out his charcoals and fresh pressed sheaf of parchment, letting his lines caress the soft curves he desperately wanted to touch. Hips just so, the swell of soft breasts, chin tilted . . . he lost himself in the sketch.
"Oh wow, is that . . . me?" Her voice made him jump, blushing furiously as he slid the page under some others. "Zara! I . . . it's good to see you." She smiled at him broadly, patting his arm. "It's good to see you too, Isa. Sorry I'm late." He took her hand, pressing his lips to the back of it as he'd done for his wealthy patrons a thousand times. The way she blushed at it, the feel of her against his lips sent a little ripple of desire through him. Isannon ignored it, motioning to the divan. "Sit, please. Let me get you a drink." Zara did as he asked, taking the proffered cider.
"Here is the sketch you liked . . . this is the detail," he said, showing her the flower and vine. Zara traced a finger over it, eyes wide. A pang of nervousness knotted Isa's stomach; what if she doesn't like it, he thought. Zara looked up at him, eyes shining. "It's beautiful! Oh Isa!" In that moment, Isannon was certain she could have asked for anything, and he would have said yes. He smiled brightly, "I am glad you like it, fal'yana." Zara blushed at the compliment. He looked away, reminding himself she was just here to get inked.
Isannon walked over to the table, prepping his equipment. "Finish that glass and we'll start ok?" She nodded, taking a drink. "Will it . . . hurt much?" Isa gave her a serious look, "I will be as gentle as I can be but it will hurt. Are you sure you want to do this?" Zara thought about it, then nodded. "I really want one and I am not so fragile." "Alright. Are you ready," he asked. She drank the rest of her cider and set the cup down. "Yes. What should I do?" Isa swallowed, trying to look professional. "Just lay back and pull your dress a-away from your leg." His throat closed over the last words, barely able to speak them.
Zara took off her shoes, laying back, one hand pulling her dress up to her hip, fabric pooled between her legs. His gaze lingered there for a moment before he could pull it back to the canvas she offered him. "Just like that," he said softly, pulling a chair beside the divan. He ran a hand down her leg, savoring the touch. "All the way to your hip," Isa asked, looking at her. "Yes," she answered, blushing brightly. She looked so vulnerable, so . . . sweet. The desire to kiss her was almost painful as he made himself turn instead to select his ink.
Isannon took the smallest needle and set it carefully, pulling ink into the hollow tip. "Take a breath, Zara." One hand held her leg firmly, hand splayed across her skin. When she inhaled, he began to tap the first line. Isa could feel the needle penetrate, flesh parting under his gentle assault, ink spilling into her. It reminded him of the way he felt the first time he painted, a little god creating. Her small gasp of pain made him pull back, a little twist in his heart at causing her pain. Zara was pale, but no tears, just that small, soft breath. "Are you alright?" She nodded, "Yes. Please keep - keep going." Isa smiled, "Brave girl. Ok, but hold very still."
He leaned down, gently wiping the pearl of blood from her skin with his thumb. Tap and fill, tap and fill, the lines formed across her skin. Isannon mapped her curves with hand and eye, memorizing the way she felt, the sound of her, the smell . . . Why do I torture myself, he wondered. Roses blossomed across her leg, tiny thorns mixed with the green leaves. One thorn for each year she'd spent alone in the temple. Had it hurt so much for her to be away from Darn? Isa pushed the thought away. In this moment, he only wanted to think of Zara as his.
Isannon could feel her tremble a bit from the pain, breath shallow and uneven. "Almost done," he said softly, lips brushing her skin as if by accident. "I need to - to push your dress back a bit," he whispered. Zara's yes was almost inaudible. His hand slid under the soft fabric, pushing it to her belly. Isa knew he shouldn't, but he could resist running his fingers over the smooth curve of her belly, across the light blue lace of her panties. He could feel her warmth there, ached to explore it. Isa pulled his hand away with a sharp inhalation. "I-is something wrong," Zara asked.
"No, nothing," he said hoarsely. "I just . . . I need a smoke. Wait a moment?" Zara nodded, "I can. Could you get me another glass of cider?" Isa got up and poured her the drink, hoping she would not notice anything amiss. "I'll be right back," he promised, going out into the balmy summer night. It did little to calm him. "Rotten fish . . . salted cabbage . . . Ice peak," he muttered, trying to think of unpleasant things, anything other than Zara, so close . . . her lips, the way they sat parted, velvet tongue wetting them as she endured his needlework. "I am a fool," he laughed, lighting a smoke.
When he finally tossed the last of it, putting it out with his boot, Isa was calmer. He'd been gone longer than he meant, but at least he felt as if touching her was safe again. He walked back in. Zara was still stretched out on the couch, dress as he'd left it. He smiled, "You held still!" She nodded, "I didn't think I should move after you put me just so . . ." Isannon laughed, "I would rearrange you, if you did." He settled back into the chair, bending over his work. Worshipping Zara with his eyes, he put untold amounts of care into each flower and leaf, bringing them to life for her.
When he finished and stood up to stretch, she looked down at his handiwork, breath catching in her throat, eyes tearing up. "It . . . it's beautiful," she said softly. "You are beautiful," he whispered. Zara blushed, beginning to move. "Oh! No . . . please . . . let me treat it for you? And . . . could I draw you with it," Isa asked in a rush. She looked at him for a moment, uncertain. "I . . . I guess so." It hurt to have her there, so close but the thought of her leaving hurt more. He knew she would, and drawing the sweetness out this way would only make it worse but Isannon thought the pain a balance.
He took out some oils to treat the skin and protect the wound, rubbing them into her leg with careful reverence. "You must do this each day for a full ten day ok? And if it gets red or -" Zara interrupted him with a little laugh. "Isa, I am a healer. I think I can care for it. Is that bone-burr and pressed aloe in it?" The artist smiled, "Exactly that. I didn't mean to lecture you." He adjusted her dress when he was done, posing her gently on the divan to show off his work.
"This is too comfortable," Zara warned him, yawning. "Are you too tired? I can walk you home," Isannon offered, feeling a bit guilty for keeping her. "No, no. It is just nice. I thought posing would be more strenuous." "Mmm, it can be, but for this, a natural position," he smiled, setting up his canvas. It was easy to start on the lines of her face, expression kind and bit sleepy. He moved down to her body, the lines of her beneath the gown as clear to him as if she were nude. Isa hummed softly as he worked, and somehow the image of her on the divan turned into Zara lying in his bed, face sweet with sleep. It was well after midnight when he looked up again, pulling himself from the pleasant fantasy of the picture.
Zara's eyes were shut, lashes lying delicately on her cheek, chest moving with gentle rhythm as she slept. Isa walked over to the divan, kneeling beside it. "I should wake you," he said softly, brushing a piece of her hair back with his finger. "Can I steal these few hours, fal'yana?" She said nothing, lost to dreams. Isannon sat down in his chair, watching her until sleep took him too, pleasant dreams of waking to red hair and blue eyes. When dawn did peak through his window, she was gone. Only a sweet note of thanks and a lingering sense of warmth on the divan were left to tell him she'd been here.