Chapter 36: Negotiations

A long-lasting relationship cannot be built in the heat of passion, it must be anchored in a foundation of trust and communication. — Jator Marisaf-Punasar

With a blush on her cheeks, Lily finished pouring the third glass of Cauten 94. A few wisps of condensation rose up from the fruity blush wine. She set the chilled bottle back into the vase with a tiny cooling rune on the bottom before picking up the three glasses and carrying them into the front room of the store.

Kendrick took his. He still wore his black suit. That wasn’t out of place but he had obviously washed it. She caught the scent of the same soap from the shower area. His outfit was damp in a few places, but she couldn’t tell if it was from the shower or his own magic.

Mindil plucked hers from Lily’s other hand before settling back into one of the small couches Lily had in her store front. One leg was hooked up, the fabric bunched at her hip to reveal her soaked panties. The look she gave Lily sent a shiver of desire down her spine.

Lily hesitated as she tried to decide where to sit. Both Kendrick and Mindil were on the two small couches. She had room to sit next to either one but she didn’t know which one. It felt like she was on the cusp of some decision, one she hoped to never make.

Unwilling to choose, she grabbed a chair and pulled it to the front of them, positioning herself between two of the loves in her life.

Kendrick chuckled and leaned back, stretching one arm across the back of the couch. The muscles of his arms pulled the fabric taut, highlighting the cords of his strength. Her body grew warmer as she remembered nestling into those very arms while he made love to her on his makeshift bed.

Turning away, she blushed even hotter. “Sorry.”

“For what?”

“I… I…” She didn’t want to admit she couldn’t choose between either of them. Or for wanting Hasan either, now that she was given permission.

“Nothing.”

Lily’s eyes trailed over to Mindil who slowly lifted one leg, hooking it as she pressed it against the back of the couch. The fabric of her skirt, already disheveled, slid down her thigh to reveal more of the wet patch on her panties. A few damp hairs stuck out of the elastic, reminding Lily that her fingers were there only a few minutes ago.

None of them said anything.

The seconds passed by in awkward silence.

Lily didn’t know how to address it. She could catch whiffs of Mindil’s pussy drifting around her when she sipped her wine, the sweet taste was caught on her fingers. At the same time, she didn’t know how to explain or even respond to Kendrick’s wry response.

She cleared her throat. “I… um…” Her blush grew hotter.

Mindil raised an eyebrow and gave a slight, imperceptible nod toward Kendrick.

Relieved, Lily nodded.

“So, Kendrick, you into boys?”

Kendrick’s eyes never left Lily’s face. “Not the first thing I look for in the morning, but I’ve had a few years to try it out.”

“In the jail?” Mindil said with a purr. Her legs ground together.

Kendrick finally looked away and smiled. “We had a lot of time to kill. There are some entertainment that is cheap and easy. It was either that or playing dice or reading one of the three books.”

Mindil’s lips parted with surprise as she froze. She obviously was thinking something else.

Kendrick grinned. “Though, I’m not sure you really want Hasan and me in the same bed.”

“Why not?” Lily said sharply.

Kendrick’s attention returned to her, his eyes probing. “I’m still a little bitter.” He sighed and looked down at his glass. “On the other hand, I had a lot of time to think about Lily and what I’ve done.”

“You think Hasan should have won?”

Kendrick snorted and shook his head. “He’s always been pushy, more than I wanted. I’ve been stubborn and ass-headed. I think neither one of us would have been a good husband for Lily back then.”

He glanced up at Lily.

Lily smiled back, the fluttering in her heart rising up. “And now?”

“It’s your choice. Now and forever.”

“Really?” asked Mindil.

“If Lily says no, I’ll get up and leave.”

“And won’t regret it.”

Kendrick turned his head toward her. “I didn’t say that. She’s the only reason I haven’t taken up the Mar… a job offer.” He toyed with the glass.

“A job? One for a man of High Society?”

Lily held up her hand. “Min, you don’t—”

“It’s okay,” said Kendrick. He sighed for a moment. “I was helped out of prison by the Martins. In exchange, they offered me a job as a weather man on their ships. It would be a few months out to sea, and then a few months back, probably for our lives.”

“Well,” Mindil said smiling into her glass as she sipped it. “We’d be willing to keep your wife… Lily company.”

Lily found that she didn’t mind the idea of being Kendrick’s wife. The surge of heat that followed surprised her. She bashfully looked at Kendrick. Seeing his stern face, the flickers of desire cooled down instantly. She knew that accepting the job also meant that they wouldn’t be considered in Society anymore. They may be at the upper edge of middle class, but still below the sharp edge that identified High Society.

Kendrick’s gazed matched her own. She found herself staring into his blue eyes, wondering if he was considering the same thing.

A different type of silence flooded through the room.

“You are beautiful,” he said.

“So are you,” she responded.

She lost herself as she imagined what it would be like to live with him, to lose the trapping of High Society. Would they live above the bar, where he is now? Would her mother cease to speak to her? What about the loans for the story? A thousand different paths raced through her head, twisting her stomach but also elating her.

“Wait,” Mindil said. “How could you work for the Martins and still be Society… oh…” Her voice trailed off. “You wouldn’t, would you?”

Kendrick broke his gaze with Lily. “No. I’d have to give up all this.” He gestured down to his black suit and the glass of wine in his hand. The smell of ozone rippled across the room.

“Lily’s father won’t let you marry his daughter if you aren’t Society, you know that.”

Lily tensed, she hadn’t thought of that.

“Even if she becomes a kudame, her bracelet still has value. Gainik Kasin will always see her for that, his pride, and hopes for any child she breeds.” Mindil sighed. “Same thing all fathers want.”

It had been a long time since she heard her father’s name. Ever since the fire at Manor Rose, he had left her life completely. Even the loan was from her mother.

“Hence my struggles.” Kendrick’s voice was sullen.

Mindil finished off her glass and set it down delicate on her knee. The bare skin trembled as she scooted it closer to her hip, revealing far more to the room than any proper lady should.

Lily glanced at the window but then realized Mindil was using her powers to ensure no one would see her forbidden position, not unless she wanted them too.

Turning back, she regarded the two, friends and lovers. “What do we do?”

“Well,” Mindil said, “first we get rid of that horse-fucker Djulian. Which means you need to focus on getting that dress perfect.”

“Yes, but—”

“And,” she sighed, “I can’t believe I’m saying this but it also probably means you shouldn’t be distracting yourself with mind blowing sex.” She grinned. “I assume that dark and handsome over there is just as good as me?”

Lily’s ears burned. She ducked her head but smiled. Peeking up, she looked at Kendrick who shook his head in amusement.

Seeing her looking at him, he shrugged. “She is forward.”

“Damn the Couples, of course I’m forward. I’ve been lusting after her almost as long as you. I want to make sure she’s happy and focused when I convince her to eat me out.”

Lily’s mouth opened in surprise.

Mindil grinned. “I also want to stick it to that cow who makes her life miserable. You should have seen her lording it up in here.”

“I have.”

“Oh, well, she deserves it. And the best way is to make something she couldn’t lull about. You, my talented little seamstress, need to make something amazing.”

Encouraged, Lily nodded. “I think I can.”

“No,” Kendrick said. “I know you can. If you need to me to do anything, I’ll do it.”

Mindil straightened. “Of course, we’d do the same.”

Stunned, Lily looked back and forth. The world spun around her and she had to tighten her grip on her wineglass in fear of dropping it. “W-Why?”

“You’re our friend.”

“You deserve it.”

Kendrick and Mindil looked at each other and grinned.

Mindil said, “You are the prettiest flower in our lives but we aren’t looking for someone to move in with us. I don’t want a second wife. We just want a little fun now and then. I can tell you love Kendrick—the puppy eyes make that obvious—then I want you to be happy.”

“I am happy.”

“Then let us take care of you. You make the dresses, we figure everything else. We only have a few days until the girl’s presentation. I’m sure we can keep our fingers, tongues, and everything else out of Lily’s dress until then?” She looked pointedly at Kendrick.

“Nirih,” said Kendrick.

“What?”

“The girl’s name. Djulian’s daughter is Nirih.”

“Oh…” Mindil’s enthusiasm seemed to be tempered for a moment.

“Otherwise, I can manage to keep it in my pants for a few days. Though no promises if she comes home with me.”

The idea of going a few days without sex wasn’t appealing, but Mindil was right. She needed to focus and if that meant remaining chaste, it would be one less thing to distract her.

Kendrick said, “Very well. I will make sure she makes it home, untouched and happy.”

Lily took the opportunity to jump in. “Thank you. I really appreciate it.” She knew she could finish the dress properly, if she just had time to focus. Right now, it felt like everything was settling into place, not where she expected but she could see hope rising along the horizon.

Mindil stood up. “That said, I really should be heading home. I wasn’t intending to molest Lily.” She grinned. “Glad I did.” Turning to Kendrick and holding out her hand. “It was a pleasure. I hope we have a chance to get to know each other.” Her voice took a more playful tone.

Kendrick stood up and reached out, grasping her fingers to gently pull them to his lips. He kissed the back of her hand. “You are more than I expected, Tadame Mindil da Kasin ne Pavin.”

Mindil held up her other hand. “No dames or sires here, deal?”

Lily didn’t need to see the look to realize that Mindil was referring to her being a kudame or bedame.

“As you wish.”

“Good, now I need to go home and have a talking to Hasan.” She strolled toward the door, swaying her ass. Lily caught Kendrick watching with slightly parted lips.

At the door, Mindil stopped. “Oh, and Lily?”

“Yes?”

“There many successful skilled dressmakers who are not High Society. Ones that I would be more than willing to encourage for the rest of their lives, if need be.”

Stunned the second time in the night, Lily watched as Mindil slipped out of the store and closed the door behind her. The bell rang out and then quieted.

“She is a force of nature, isn’t she?” asked Kendrick.

Lily nodded. “She’s beautiful.”

“You are more so.”

With a smile, Lily turned back to him. Kendrick had slipped off the couch and knelt in front of her. She inhaled sharply, a warmth spreading over her.

“Are you okay with what she suggested?”

“To help me with the dress?”

“Yes, but also continuing their relationship as much as ours?” He took her hand and kissed it. “I am nothing without you.”

She pressed her thighs together as she enjoyed his lips on the back of her hand. “Are you?”

“For you? Anything. I’ve spent so long, I’m not going to let my pride get in the way this time.”

She leaned over and kissed him. The firmness of his lips tingled along her skin and the warmth of his body seeped into her bones, warming her from deep inside.

They kissed for a long moment before he broke it. “Do you want me to get the carriage for you?”

She thought about her options. Remember the public house. “Do you… do you think you could just be here while I work a little?”

He arched an eyebrow. “Got a broom?”