To Ama’s great disappointment, Miro did not ask Ardent to marry him at dinner time, or on the next day, either. The day after that, Ardent returned to Try Again, alone, at Miro’s insistence. “You have work to do, that will not wait, and which I have kept you from for weeks already. I’ll be well enough to travel in a few days. I shall join you very soon, my lady. I give you my word.”
Four days later, Ardent was at home in her little kitchen, surrounded by the smell of fresh bread and simmering curry. The kitchen was well organized and spotless, as was the rest of the house. She’d built an extension for the house with aether while still in the Sun Etherium, and Jinokimijin had lent her a golem so she could haul it back to install. The new extension was almost as large as her original house. It included a second bedroom, a living room, and a new workroom with ample built-in storage. Ardent moved everything from her original workroom to the new one, and turned her front room into a dining and sitting area instead.
Now she was making dinner, and looking at acres of reaped ground through her kitchen window. A few dozen of the new barbarian fey that Jinokimijin had made out of mortals had chosen to settle in Try Again after hearing Ardent lived there. They’d harvested her crops for her; many of them had experience with farming. So she’d had plenty of time to get the house in shape. And wonder when Miro would arrive.
“Mmm,” a voice said behind her. “That smells delicious. Did you make enough for two?”
Ardent spun about, crossed the kitchen to the doorway where Mirohirokon stood, and swept him into her arms. “You came.”
“Where else would I be?” He kissed her, holding on tightly. “This is the best place in the world.”
“Mmm.” Ardent kissed him in return, then rubbed her cheek down the side of his face and nosed at his throat. Miro was a little taller now, she thought, and broader through the chest and shoulders. He looked vibrantly healthy, like any fey fresh from an Etherium with a renewed body. “You smell like aether.”
He relaxed in her embrace, tilting up his head to allow her better access. “Would you like some, my lady?”
Ardent pinned him against the wall, one arm under him to support his weight, and licked his neck. “Love, Miro, how do you do that?”
He flattened her hair under his hands, cradling her head closer. “Do what?”
“Be so tempting.” She nipped at his skin. “I shouldn’t waste it.”
“Aether spent on your pleasure is never a waste, my lady,” Miro murmured. “Also, it may be easier to replenish than you think, if the phoenix rose is still around.”
“Mmm?” She licked his throat again, distracted, and he whimpered with desire.
Breathing faster, Miro pulled a trinket from his jacket pocket, a hoop of white gold and rubies. “I brought the teleport extractor. Perhaps the phoenix rose will oblige you on a trip or two.”
Ardent blinked at it, and laughed. “Maybe.”
Miro wrapped his legs around Ardent’s waist and pressed a kiss into her hair. “Does my lady have any other objections?”
She held him braced against the wall, ran one arm over his side, feeling the strength in his lean, strong body. “I’m afraid of hurting you,” she admitted, her breath warm against his skin. “Are you sure it’s safe?”
“I’ve been casting spells and reabsorbing aether at a normal rate since yesterday. I’m sure. And if it hurts, I will tell you to stop. And you will,” Miro said, relaxed, confident.
Ardent pressed her lips to his neck. The tide of aether brushed against her mouth like his pulse, and she opened herself to let it flow in. Miro gasped in pleasure, his body eager and pliant in her arms, as she drank him in, sensual, slow.
Some minutes later, the curry on the stove began to burn. Some minutes after that, Miro flicked aether over the stove fire to extinguish it, and the two of them continued what they were doing, unabated.
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