Chapter 6: Payment

The ravages of war don’t stop on the battlefield. Warriors keep fighting them day after day, but the destruction comes at the bottom of a bottle, a turned shoulder, and the nightmares that refuse to stop with daylight. — A Warrior’s End (Act 3, Scene 3)

A few bells later, Karin enjoyed a blissful buzz that took the edge off her pain and made the seconds race past in a blur. She smiled to herself and looked down to her glass; she kept it on the joint of her leg and hip. The caramel-colored liquid was almost the same shade as the patch of hair next to her knuckles, though there was less than an inch left in the bottom of the glass.

She lifted the glass and took a deep breath of the heady scent before sipping it. The warmth and sting of it sliding down her throat felt good. She smiled and set it back down.

Suras knocked quietly on the door. “Still awake?”

“Yes.”

The waitress came in and held up the bottle. “Another?”

“No, I think I’m done for the night. Oh, that’s for you.” Karin gestured to a small stack of crowns on the corner of the desk. It was a healthy amount but more than a tip.

“What’s that?”

“Just some coins for your trouble.”

“Oh, thank you.” Suras immediately gestured to Karin’s packs. “You want me to clean those? It looks… and smells like you went through a swamp.”

Karin laughed bitterly. “A swamp? Yeah, two of them, one at each end of this last tour.”

“How long?”

“Just shy of three months, about a hundred fifty days or so. It’s pretty rank in there, I’ll deal with the larger bag when I’m on my feet. The smaller has my tools, the larger is just foul-smelling clothes.”

Suras wrinkled her nose and then walked over to the bed. She rested her hand on Karin’s outstretched knee. “Anything else tonight?”

There was an instant flush of heat coursing through Karin’s body. The warmth of Suras’s hand on her skin felt good, though in her immediate fantasy,the hand would slide down Karin’s scarred thigh to the warmth between her legs.

Karin’s hand tightened on her glass. “N-No. I think I’m good.”

“If you’re sure.” Suras’s hand tightened briefly before she pulled it away. “Do you like baths?”

Karin moaned softly. “I haven’t had one of those in months. I would love one.”

Suras smiled brightly. “Then in the morning, after all the night guests head out, I’ll draw one up for you.”

“In the morning, after the night guests leave, I’ll have a bath drawn for you. That way, you’ll have a couple hours to soak without interruptions.”

“Thank you.”

The younger woman turned and headed out, her hips swaying back and forth. Her blue skirt flared out as she spun on her heels and reached over to grab Karin’s larger bag. Looking over her shoulder, she hefted it. “Just clothes, right?”

Stunned, Karin nodded.

“I’ll get these cleaned.”

Without another word, she headed out of the room with a flutter of her dress.

Karin held up her almost empty glass but the words wouldn’t come out.

The door shut behind Suras, latching firmly.

Alone in the room, Karin couldn’t help but stare at the door and imagine Suras was still in with her. Her hand reached up to stroke her knee where the younger woman touched her; it was still hot from the caress. Slowly, she drew her fingertips down her inner thigh, pretending it was Suras that was sliding down to the junction of her legs.

Cupping herself, she ground her palm against the heat that had gathered. She smiled and leaned back as she let her fantasies take her along into the night.