Inspiration Monday XXX – I planned to make this hotter in the spirit of the Roman numeral, but I ran out of time.
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When I return to camp, there is a bare patch of ground in place of my bed. A bed is an odd thing to steal. It must have been moved for a reason.
My other belongings appear to be untouched. I drop my baskets to the ground and sit to remove my wet sandals. Leaning back on my elbows, I stretch my legs long, and look directly into the gaze of Singing Sun’s brother. Although he’s always smirking, tonight’s smirk crosses the distance between us and lands on me. I should have known he was a practical joker. If my bed has one speck of dirt on it, I’m going to make him scrub it ten times in the river tomorrow and then make him watch it dry while his chores go undone.
He rises from his spot, and I look away. Wind touches leaves high in the trees. I roll each vertebra against the ground, one by one, until the back of my head settles against earth still warm from the day. Footsteps close in. He appears above me.
He looks at my baskets. “Fever Berries? And what’s in the other one?”
“Empty,” I say to the trees. “I’m saving it for the testicles of the man who stole my bed.”
His knees hit the ground between my legs and I sit up in reflex. Not even a breeze could pass between his lips and mine. So much for playing aloof.
“Could you remove them in the morning?” he asks. “I might need them tonight.”
“I pity the poor girl.”
“Self-pity?” He clicks his tongue. “Not the best trait.”
“Neither is thievery. Where is it?”
He looks up. I follow his gaze. At once, I notice a swaying hunk of tan, dangling from a high branch. Had I noticed it before, I could have shot it down with a dart and avoided all this nonsense.
He sits back on his heels and smiles. Our civilization is struggling, the world is ending, and he’s playing games.
I pull my legs away from him and cross them under me. “Start climbing. You have two minutes.”
He doesn’t move. I imagine those thick arms and legs moving up that tree, him returning to me panting, sweating, and full of victory. The same way he’d look if…
“You have no bed. You share my bed. That is the plan.”
He jabs his thumb into his chest. “My plan.”
My blood flushes, feverish and electrical, like I’ve polished off my whole basket of berries. It seems I wouldn’t mind being pressed against that chest myself. I push up and walk on my knees toward him. Here’s where I should slap his smug face. I kiss him hard. He’s a solid pillar – unsurprised, unflinching, and completely unguarded. Yet he barely responds.
He waits for me to pull away, then he says, “I only said I’d share my bed. Do you want to alter my plan?”
“Yes.” I stand. “Let’s move your bed far from camp. After all this, I’m going to make you perform.”
He catches me by the leg, takes a quick look around for spectators, then runs his tongue up the inside of my thigh before he stands next to me. “Yes, ma’am.”