Shame has as many faces as fear and anger.
— Kormar Proverb
Lily found it hard to concentrate. She stood in the dining room working with five different fabrics that had the right tooth and texture but still retained their varying colors. She kept her eyes focused on the table but her effort not to look up had caused sweat to prickle her brow and her fingers to shake.
A man’s suit was a relatively simple pattern. She had only made a few under her apprenticeship underneath Penir da Kasin’s eye. While dresses patterns change rapidly, every year had some element different, suits took a decade to evolve. Kendrick’s own design was old but still serviceable.
She peeked up toward the kitchen, unable to resist the sight.
Kendrick sat with his back to her. He was naked, completely and utterly nude. It didn’t matter that she could only see his backside, it was distracting enough that she found herself taking little glimpses like a kid stealing candy.
The open-backed chair did little to hide the cords of muscles along his back and shoulders. His skin rippled with movement as he sipped at his tea or shifted from one crossed leg to the other. She found her heart skipping a beat every time she heard the chair creak and her gaze would snap up to catch the movement.
He was darker than she remembered. He had a reddish tan with few lines to reveal skin untouched by the sun. With the moisture that constantly gathered around him, his glistening body was more than difficult to resist admiring.
Lily forced her eyes down and back to her work. She had been working from almost an hour. Each of the sword cuts, tears, and even burns were easy to repair but there were many of them. She found it almost peaceful to clean up the sections and repair the panels neatly. The black suit was almost a rainbow of colors from her efforts.
She worked along a cuff, replacing a burnt section with some fabric stolen from one of her original dresses. The old fabric smelled of the sea, salty with a hint of rotting plants. She frowned as she finished cutting out the seam.
When she tugged the fabric free, she glanced up again. This time, her eyes locked on the pair of tight buttocks that stuck out from the bottom of the chair. They were the hardest part to pull her eyes away, from the furrow of hard muscles or the tightness. When he shifted, she could almost imagine them driving his cock into her body.
A surge of heat clouded her thoughts. She tore her eyes away and finished repairing the cuff.
While she set down a neat double line of stitches, she struggled with her plans after she finished fixing his suit. She found herself hungering to touch him, to run her fingers along the scars that lined his back or along the tight muscles that were framed for her.
The answer didn’t come to her by the time she set down the last stitch. Unwilling to break the uncomfortable silence, she pulled out one of her silk nightgowns. It was one of her favorites but it also had the most material to use.
Sweeping the repaired suit to the side, she started on a new pattern. Her body hummed as she began to cut out the material for a pair of footwork underwear for him; at least he wouldn’t surprise her by his nudity next time. The loose fit would also give him room to move since it was obvious that he needed agility if he was going to keep fighting.
Movement drew her attention away. Kendrick was standing up. His long legs stretched for a moment, revealing columns of corded muscles and scars. She also caught a hint of his manhood as a shadow between his legs. At the sight of his half-hard girth, she almost cut herself on her scissors.
Lily froze as Kendrick walked over to the oven and set down a fresh pot of water in it. She knew her lips were parting with an intense wave of heat that filled her but there was nothing she could do about it. She couldn’t tear her eyes or thoughts away from his body as he stood there, watching the oven as if he couldn’t feel her eyes boring into his skin.
His buttocks flexed.
The tip of her scissors scraped against her finger.
Lily tried to tell herself to look at her work but couldn’t. She fought against her suddenly rapid breathing. She wanted to say something, call out to him, touch him.
A dripping yanked her attention back. She looked down to see crimson staining the silk fabric. She had nicked herself with her scissors. Hissing in pain, she sucked on her finger to stop the blood while using her other hand to color the fabric a pitch black. It would hide the stain along with giving him some modesty in case some cut ripped open something closer to his private areas.
She heard him finishing preparing his tea. It took all of her effort not to look up as he returned to his chair, but she could easily picture everything after an hour of drinking his appearance.
Sweating, she concentrated on finishing the pair of silk shorts. She was heated with her inappropriate thoughts and half-remembered fantasies. They made it difficult to finish neatly but she bore down and completed his underwear in less than hour.
She was proud she only glanced up twice more, pretending to size him but mainly to admire his body. When she was ready, she stood up and brought the clothes over to the table. “I-I’m done,” she stammered.
His scent was just as distracting. The smell of fresh rain flooded around her. It had just a hint of a lightning storm, the faint tang of electricity that was more elegant than any cologne.
He looked at her and smiled.
A surge of heat washed over her. She swayed for a moment, suddenly dizzy. She had to grab the side of the table for balance.
Lily peeked down at him even as she was mentally screaming not to. His front was just as beautiful as his backside, with deep furrows of muscles and the tan of man hours in the sun. When she caught sight of his manhood, she froze for a moment as she stared at the thick member. With a gasp, she tore her eye back up. “Sorry!”
Kendrick chuckled. It wasn’t cruel or teasing, just playful.
It only made her want him more.
He reached over and dragged his suit to puddle it in his lap. “Best to keep that hidden. I wouldn’t want to be improper.”
She could only shake her head.
Kendrick glanced down at the suit. He lifted it up, barely keeping his naked length hidden. “It’s very colorful.”
“Oh, I’ll get that.” Lily reached over and caressed the fabric. Black pitch flooded through the fabric, obscuring stitching and repairs. The individual differences faded as the suit darkened in his hands. Seconds later, it looked like a custom-tailored suit with almost not differences between the haphazard panels and strips she had used to repair it.
“It’s amazing. I never knew you could do such wonderful work.”
She blushed. “Thank you.”
He didn’t say anything else. A silence stretched between them. Lily looked up to catch his eyes. He was smiling but made no effort to speak.
As the silence grew, so did a flush on her cheeks. She also wanted to reach down to kiss him, just to taste his lips on her own. Trembling, she struggled with her desires.
“I-I,” she started. “I’ll let you get dressed and see if there are any alterations needed.”
Without waiting for a response, she fled the kitchen and returned to the dining room to clean up the scraps of fabrics and threads. It only took her a few minutes, she was a neat worker. When she finished, she noticed that the false dawn was brightening the gaps between the buildings.
“Kendrick, would you like to have breakfast… with…”
He was gone, the kitchen door closed tightly and an empty tea cup on the table.
Sadness flickered across her mind as she inched into the kitchen. “Kendrick?”
He wasn’t waiting around the corner or even in the hallway. She peered out the kitchen window to see his footsteps walking away from her home, the wet steps fading rapidly as the wind blew across the grass.
Lily sighed and wiped a sudden tear from her eyes. It was Pavdei and she had to work in a few hours. Exhausted, she closed the curtain and headed up the stairs, determined not to think of Kendrick, Hasan, or even Nirih’s dress.