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The next morning, Cyril rose with the sun. He sat up in bed with a groan as he squinted at the pale blue early morning sky through his window. Unfortunately, he hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. He woke up several times during the evening, leaving him feeling awful sluggish. But, he had to get up then or else the proper preparations could not be made for his guest he was expecting in a little less than three hours. So, he forced himself out of bed and went to the bathroom to freshen up for the long day ahead. As he got ready, he couldn’t help but smile a few times as he thought of Sabina and the look he’d see on her face once she saw what he had in store for her.

When Cyril had finished dressing, he gave himself a once-over in the mirror and left the room and began his search for either Mariam or Alfred. He managed to find Alfred first, so he greeted him saying, “Good morning, Alfred.”

“Good morning, sir,” Alfred replied with a smile as he stopped his work. He was relieved to see Cyril looking so cheerful after he looked so dismal the night before. “Did you sleep well?”

“Very. And did you?”

“Yes, I did.” Alfred saw a hint of urgency on Cyril’s face. So, he asked, “What can I do for you this morning, sir?”

“I need you to send for Sabina. Tell her to meet me in the foyer in an hour. I have a surprise for her.”

“Right away, sir.”

“Thank you.” And off Alfred went. He knew that Cyril was expecting a guest that day, but what he couldn’t figure out was who this person was or how they were connected to Sabina.

When he reached Sabina’s room, he knocked and she answered a few moments later. “Good morning, Sabina,” he said with a warm smile.

“Alfred?” Sabina said as she tried to rub the sleep from her eyes. “What are you doing here? Is Lionel all right?”

“No need to worry. Young Lionel is fine. I come with a message from Cyril.”

“Oh? What is it?”

“It seems that Master Van Tassel has requested that you meet him in the foyer in an hour.”

“Why? What for?” Sabina asked in alarm.

“It’s all right, dear. There’s no need to worry. He has a surprise for you.”

Sabina raised an eyebrow. A-A surprise? she thought. What is he up to, now?

“Will you be there?” Alfred asked, causing Sabina to come back to reality.

“…Y-Yes. Yes, I will.”

“Good. I’ll let the Master know. Goodbye, Sabina.”

“Bye, Alfred.” Then she closed the door and leaned against it as she ran a hand through her hair. She didn’t know what to make of this surprise Cyril had for her let alone, if she’d like it or not. But, then again, it was Cyril; so he would make sure she would like it. The main thing that bothered her was Cyril’s motive. She couldn’t figure out what it was or if he even had one.

I don’t have time to think about this, she thought. I have to get ready. So, she went to the bathroom and showered. When she emerged and began dressing, Lionel began to stir.

He sat up and stretched before looking to his right and seeing Sabina slip a pale blue sundress over her head. “You’re up early,” he said sleepily.

“Good morning, love,” Sabina replied before going to him and giving him a kiss on the lips. When she moved to continue getting ready, Lionel held her in place and proceeded to deepen the kiss. Sabina humored him for a moment then gingerly pushed him away saying, “I’m sorry, but we can’t right now.”

“Why not?” Lionel said playfully as he held her even tighter. “ Do I bore you?”

“No, Lionel. It’s because I have to meet someone…and I don’t want to be late,” she said as she pried his arm from around her and attempted to put her hair in a bun. It didn’t stay, so she tried a ponytail instead.

“Oh?” Lionel asked, raising an eyebrow. “And who might this someone be?”

Sabina huffed as she was getting frustrated with how uncooperative her hair was being as well as the fact that she’d have to tell Lionel the truth. She pulled out her ponytail and let her hair fall into a cascade of honey-blonde waves about her shoulders before turning to Lionel and saying, “It’s Cyril, okay?”

“Sabina,” Lionel began in a tone that indicated he was about to lecture her.

But, Sabina cut him off saying, “He said he has a surprise for me…Or at least that’s what Alfred said he said.

Lionel hated Cyril and everything he stood for with his whole being, but he hated the thought of Sabina being anywhere near him even more; knowing the effect Cyril seemed to have on her. If he was going to let her go, he needed to know the nature of said surprise. “Do you have any idea what this surprise entails?”

“No.”

“How about a potential motive Cyril may have?”

“No, but-,”

“Then, I’m afraid I can’t let you go.”

“That’s not for you to decide, Lionel! Besides, I already said I’d be there!”

“Sabina, why would you do that?” Lionel exclaimed as he hopped out of bed and crossed the floor to stand with his face only inches from Sabina’s.

Sabina instinctively took a step back, taking in Lionel’s body language and tone of voice; both of which screamed jealousy and passion. She had seen Lionel’s protective side, but never like this; this was protective coupled with fury. She gained the courage to look him in the eyes and asked, “…Why are you acting like this?”

“Because I don’t trust Cyril…Especially around you.”

“Huh…Now, is it him that you don’t trust…Or is it me?”

“I—Sabina—,” he stammered as he tried so desperately to find an answer for her.

“I knew it,” Sabina said with folded arms.

“Sabina, you know what happened the last time you two met. You almost gave in to him!”

“But, I didn’t!” she hissed. “Yes, I came close, but I stopped myself because I love you…Not him. You can trust me, Lionel.” She moved to stroke his cheek, but he pulled away from her. “Lionel, look at me.” He refused. “Look. At. Me…Please?” He reluctantly did so. “Do you remember what I said to you after you completed your training?”

“…No, I don’t believe I do,” he said sarcastically.

Sabina sighed and rolled her eyes. Then she stroked his cheek and said, “Then, let me remind you. I said that you were my one and only lover; the only one who could please me like no other…I meant it then and I still do. Whether or not you believe me is up to you, but I’m still going to see what Cyril has for me.” She went to the mirror to look herself over one last time. After fixing her hair to her liking, she left without another word.

As she went, Sabina couldn’t help but wonder if she had been too harsh with Lionel, but she dismissed the thought, justifying her actions by thinking, All I did was tell him the truth. Besides, he’ll get over it. If he doesn’t believe me, I suppose I’ll just have to work even harder to regain his trust.

When she reached the grand staircase, she took a deep breath and said a prayer of preparation for she had no idea what was waiting for her at the bottom of those stairs. After whispering her “amen,” she descended the stairs and was surprised to see Cyril waiting for her. Once she reached the bottom, Cyril extended his hand and once she took it, he said, “Sabina, darling! I’m so glad you decided to come.”

“Don’t thank me yet, Cyril. You don’t even know if I’ll like your surprise,” Sabina replied matter-of-factly.

“I don’t know, Sabina,” he said with a shrug. “I have a feeling you’ll like this one. Shall we?”

“Please.” With that, Cyril placed her hand on his arm and escorted her to the sitting room; the same one where he sold Hope those many months ago. Sabina hissed in pain and stopped just in front of the threshold as the memories from that night flooded her mind.

“Are you all right?” Cyril asked, his voice full of concern.

She placed a hand to her head as she tried to push the memories back to that dark corner of her mind and stop the throbbing pain that came with them. After a moment or two, the pain left her and she could see straight again. “…Yes,” she panted.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Sabina sniffled. “I’m fine…Thank you.” Then the two entered the sitting room arm-in-arm.

Upon entering  the room, Sabina sensed that they weren’t alone. She looked to her left and confirmed that notion. There in front of the window stood a gentleman with his back toward them. Something about this man seemed familiar, but she wasn’t sure how or why.

“I’m sorry we kept you waiting, Lars,” Cyril said as he released Sabina’s arm.

Sabina’s eyes grew large with both rage and confusion as she wondered why Lars was there.

“It’s all right, Cyril,” Lars replied as he turned to face them. Sabina glared at him, but her expression changed to one of pure surprise once she saw what or who he was holding in his arms. It was little Hope. “I’m not in any rush…Hello again, Sabina.”

She couldn’t speak. Neither could she move despite the urge she had to run to Hope, snatch her away from Lars, and smother her with kisses. Is this…real? thought Sabina as she stood frozen in the threshold. Is this really happening?

“Surprise,” said Cyril as he came along side of Sabina and placed his hand on the small of her back, ushering her toward the center of the room.

“I-I don’t know what to say,” she stammered as she found the strength to speak. Once they were in front of Lars, Sabina reached out to take Hope from him and asked, “M-May I?” Her eyes shifted from Lars to Hope and back.

Lars stole a glance at Cyril who nodded and he gave Hope to Sabina. Once she was in her mother’s arms, Hope babbled with what seemed to be delight. “Oh, sweetheart, how I missed you!” Sabina exclaimed as tears of joy began to flow from her eyes. Then she proceeded to cover Hope’s face with kisses. In response, Hope ran her chubby little hand down her mother’s cheek as if to say: “I missed you, too.”

While the two got reacquainted, Cyril and Lars stood back and sipped some orange juice as they watched the beautiful reunion unfold. This was the happiest either one had ever seen Sabina. Despite the gladsome occasion, much needed to be discussed. Lars, with his eyes never leaving Sabina, leaned over to Cyril and whispered, “She is aware that this is just a visit, correct?”

“…I’m sorry, but no. She doesn’t,” Cyril admitted. Lars frowned at him and he quickly explained, “I didn’t tell her because I didn’t want to ruin the moment. I suggest you do the same and allow her to enjoy her time with her – our daughter.”

Lars opened his mouth to retort, but he decided against it and watched Sabina interact with Daliah. She looked so…happy. More so than what he had imagined. But, why wouldn’t she be happy? he thought. She’s seeing her daughter for the first time in…forever. Thinking back to the moment Sabina first entered the room, he saw the change in her demeanor. She wanted to kill him upon sight, but when she laid eyes on her baby girl, she was overwhelmed with joy. Lars noticed a change in Daliah as well. Although she usually seemed content with Abigail, his wife, Daliah was elated in Sabina’s presence. She was more animated as she smiled, babbled, and such.

As he watched Sabina kiss Daliah’s face, sing to her, and hug her as if she were afraid to lose her, Lars couldn’t help but feel some compassion. He could literally feel the love emanating from Sabina just as well as he could see it and it caused him to think. What a wretched man am I, he thought as he realized the err of his ways upon watching this scene unfold before his eyes. When he purchased Daliah, he had stepped between a mother and her daughter; something that never should have happened. But despite the distance between them, the bond between Sabina and Daliah did not break. What he had originally intended to destroy beat the odds of time and distance. Now, he wanted to redeem himself.

Lars set aside his glass and placed a hand on Cyril’s shoulder, whispering, “May I speak with you in private?”

“Of course.” Cyril finished what was left of his orange juice, put down the glass, and led the way to the foyer, away from Sabina and Hope. Once they were out of earshot, Cyril asked, “What is it you wish to discuss?”

“…It’s Daliah – I mean, Hope. I no longer wish to keep her away from Sabina. After seeing the way she was with her…” He shook his head. “Let’s just say my heart has been touched and I am greatly moved with compassion.”

“…So, are you saying that you wish to return her?”

“Yes, I am.”

“How much do you want?” Cyril asked as he reached for his wallet, but Lars stopped him.

“I don’t want your money, Cyril. I just want Sabina and Hope to be happy.”

Cyril was at a loss for words. He didn’t know how to respond to such a statement. “Th-Thank you, Lars. But, what about Abigail? Has she not grown attached to Hope and adopted her as her own daughter? What will she say?”

Lars cringed at the thought of telling his wife. “Don’t worry about that. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.” He was sure that once he told her, his life would be required of him. If not, he wagered that no amount of explaining would be enough to appease his wife or convince her to forgive him. Oh, well, he thought before stealing a glance at the sitting room where he saw Sabina pass the threshold as she gently bounced Hope in her arms. “…I ought to be going now.”

“So soon? Don’t you want to stay for a glass of brandy or a game of chess?”

“Tempting, but I have no reason to draw out my stay. I’ve done all that I…didn’t necessarily plan to do. Besides, I think Sabina has seen enough of me already. Once again, it’s been lovely doing business with you, my friend,” Lars said with a smile as he extended his hand.

“Likewise,” Cyril replied, shaking Lars’ hand.

“Take care of them…Especially Sabina; she has the makings of a queen, so don’t deny her any good thing. Do you understand?”

Cyril wasn’t sure what Lars meant by that. He was tempted to ask, but his pride got in the way and he replied, “I understand.” I’ll figure it out, he thought.

“Good. Then, I’ll be off.” Cyril then showed Lars to the door, gave his final word of thanks, and Lars left with his head held high.

Once he closed the door behind him, Cyril let out a huge sigh of relief. That was not something he expected to happen so quickly. Going into that meeting, he had hoped that all would go well, but he didn’t think it would happen the way it did. He was sorry for doubting. He inwardly rejoiced knowing that his prayer was answered. So, he adjusted his jacket then walked into the sitting room with his hands behind his back. There, he found Sabina sitting on the sofa gazing lovingly at her daughter.

“Are you enjoying your surprise?” Cyril asked as he strolled behind the sofa and rested his hands on it as he gazed down at a happy Hope.

“Oh, yes. I am,” Sabina said, her eyes never leaving Hope’s face. “How did you-,”

“All it took was a phone call; not hard at all.”

“Well, I thank you,” Sabina said as she turned to look at Cyril. “I needed this.”

“Anything for you, love,” Cyril said with a smile.

Sabina then looked around the room and felt something was amiss. “Where’s Lars? I figured he’d be here watching me like a hawk.”

“He had to step out.”

“Oh? When will he be back?” Sabina asked, turning her attention back to Hope.

“He won’t.”

Sabina froze. Did she hear him correctly? She turned her whole body around so she could see Cyril completely. “What did you say?”

“I said that he won’t be back,” Cyril said as he circled around to sit on the coffee table in front of Sabina. “At least not until I invite him or he decides to pop in.”

Sabina stared at him blankly. “…I-I’m sorry, Cyril. But, what exactly are you saying?”

“Hope is yours again to raise.”

Sabina sat in silence as she let those words sink in. “Really?” she choked.

“Yes.”

“…You’re not lying to me, are you?”

“Sabina, I wouldn’t lie about something like this…I can be cruel, but not that cruel.”

Sabina stifled a sob, but she couldn’t contain her tears for long knowing that her daughter was hers again. She was so overwhelmed with joy that all she could do was cry. Cyril did not move to embrace her as she celebrated in the only way she could. He sat back and watched the fruit of his labor begin to bloom. This moment was one he would cherish forever; seeing Sabina so happy that she was in tears. That is how he wanted to remember her.

When Sabina couldn’t find the strength to cry anymore and wiped away her tears some few minutes later, she kissed Hope’s forehead then looked at Cyril and choked, “How can I ever repay you?”

“Your words are more than enough, Sabina,” Cyril replied.

“But, there has to be something I can-,”

“Sabina,” Cyril said in that gentle yet authoritative tone of his and she stopped. “If you want to thank me, all I ask is that you raise our children right. That would be the best thanks that I could ever receive.”

“…I will. I-I have to tell Mariam and everyone.”

“Do what you will.”

“Thank you, Cyril. Thank you.” She rose to her feet and all but ran for the stairs, but she stopped short of the threshold. Then she turned on her heel and came to stand in front of Cyril again. Before he had a chance to ask what she wanted, she had kissed him on the cheek. Then she left him in the sitting room to go tell everyone the good news.

After recovering from Sabina’s sudden display of gratitude and possibly affection, Cyril stood to his feet and made his way to his office to pour himself that celebratory glass of brandy he had promised himself the day before. He earned it.

Sabina ran as fast as her feet could carry her, being careful not to drop Hope. On her way to Mariam’s room, she ran into Alfred who said, “Hello again, Sabina.” Then he noticed Hope and said, “Hello, little one. Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

“I was on my way to Mariam’s to tell her the news.”

“What news?” Alfred asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Lars returned Hope today,” Sabina replied, beaming.

“Lars…Lars.” Who was that again? Alfred thought.

“He was the man who bought Hope…and my former master.”

“That’s wonderful!” Alfred exclaimed. “I’m sure Mariam will be overjoyed. I’m glad that everything has been made right.”

“Me, too,” Sabina said as she looked down at Hope lovingly.

“Well, I must be off now. I have some work that needs to be taken care of. Have a good day, Sabina.”

“Thanks. You, too.” Then Alfred began to walk away. Sabina called after him, “Do you know if Mariam is in her room?”

“She should be,” Alfred called over his shoulder.

“Alright, then. Thank you!"

“You’re welcome!”

Then Sabina made her way to Mariam’s room. Once she reached the door, she rapped on it twice.

“Come in!” she heard Mariam sing and she did. Upon seeing Sabina, Mariam said, “Ah, Sabina what lovely-,” She stopped as soon as her eyes fell on the bundle Sabina held in her arms. “Is that…?”

“Yes, Mariam.”

“But, how?”

“Lars just returned her…I think he was somehow moved to compassion.”

“Oh, thank God! I thought I’d never see this precious little girl again!” she all but sobbed as she came closer. “May I?”

“Yes, but only for a little while. I still have to tell Lionel.”

“Very well, then.” Mariam took Hope from Sabina and cradled her like she used to for old time’s sake. Unbeknownst to Sabina, Mariam had adopted the twins as her own grandchildren. When Hope was sold, she felt as if part of her heart was torn from her chest. Now that she was holding Hope again, she felt as if the part of her heart that was torn away was now mended. As hard as it was to give her back to her mother, Mariam did so knowing that there would be other times to hold her adopted granddaughter.

“Well, I suggest you ought to go tell Lionel the good news before I start rambling,” Mariam said with a cheerful smile.

“Yes, ma’am,” Sabina replied with a nod of her head. “I’ll see you later?”

“I’ll be here, darling. Just be sure to knock before you come in, hear?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Then Sabina left and went down the hallway to her bedroom. She took a deep breath as she prepared for the onslaught of bear hugs, kisses, and the like. She looked down at Hope who looked up at her with a look that seemed to say: “What’re you waiting for?” Yep. This is my daughter, thought Sabina. “Well…time for you to go see daddy,” she whispered. Then she went inside.

Once inside the room, Sabina didn’t see Lionel. She called out his name, but received no answer. Then she checked the bathroom and he wasn’t there. So, she checked the balcony where she found him, looking out over the plains. He seemed to be deep in thought and Sabina hated to interrupt, but she just had to tell him the good news. “Lionel,” she said as she came up behind him.

“Back already?” he asked without turning to greet her. “What did Cyril have in store for you this time?”

Sabina smirked as she thought about how his face would look in the next few seconds. “Why don’t you turn around and see for yourself?”

Lionel’s ears perked up upon hearing the playfulness in Sabina’s challenge. He turned his head slightly, but he couldn’t see what Sabina wanted to show him. So, he turned around with a sigh, not knowing what to expect. The surprise could have been anything; expensive jewelry, a new wardrobe, or even an exotic pet. Nevertheless, Lionel’s heart was not prepared when he saw baby Hope smiling up at him as she reached out to him, wanting to be picked up.

Sabina watched Lionel with a smirk on her face. She knew that he wasn’t expecting this as a surprise. It saddened her that he expected the worst case scenario whenever something involved Cyril. But, she couldn’t completely blame him for his opinion because neither of them had the best history with Cyril; they both suffered differently, but they still suffered at his hands. Despite all the damage that had been done, getting Hope back was the one thing they both could agree that Cyril had done right.

“I believe your daughter wants you to pick her up,” Sabina said matter-of-factly, bringing Lionel out of his daze.

“Oh, yes.” He cleared his throat. “Of course.” Then he took Hope from Sabina and held her as not to squeeze her too tight. “Hello, sweetheart. Long time, no see.”

Sabina smiled as she watched the two carry on. Hope was just as animated as she was when she was holding her. She must have missed him terribly, she thought. As she watched Lionel interact with Hope, Sabina couldn’t help but notice how stiff he was while holding her. This prompted her to say, “You’re holding her like a priceless vase.”

“Well, she is awfully precious, don’t you think?”

Touché. Shall we go back inside?”

“You go ahead. We’ll be there in a minute.”

“Okay,” Sabina said with a shrug before turning to head back inside. Before she went in, she looked over her shoulder to see Lionel smiling down at her baby girl. She could’ve sworn she saw a single tear fall from his eye, but when she looked again, there was no tearstain on his cheek. She smiled to herself and went back inside to leave Lionel with Hope.

As he looked down at Hope, Lionel couldn’t help but smile as he fought to keep himself from crying. He was just so glad to have her in his arms one more time. He remembered when Sabina told him that she had been sold. It was as if he had been stabbed with a knife. Then when he found out that Faye was behind all of it, it was like the same knife had been twisted within the wound. He had felt that he had also lost a daughter that day even though she was not his biological child. But now that she was back in his arms, all of the pain he’d experienced when he lost her was replaced with joy.

“I know you’re probably too young to understand me,” he said with a smile, “but Daddy wants you to know that he loves you. I love you so much that I would do anything – and I mean anything for you and your brother. Welcome home, sweetheart.” He kissed her on the forehead then he made his way inside.

Meanwhile…

Cyril was in his office savoring his celebratory glass of brandy. Yes, it was still early in the day, but did he care? Not at all. He sat behind his desk and thought about all the events of that morning. He was pleased with how things turned out. The look on Sabina’s face when she saw Hope was worth it. She was worth it. Then the point Lars made came to his mind. He had said: ‘Sabina has the makings of a queen, so don’t deny her any good thing.’ ‘Don’t deny her any good thing’? he thought. What does that even mean?

His musings were interrupted by a knock on the door. Cyril groaned in annoyance. He had stolen away to his office for some privacy, but he supposed that some people can’t take a hint. He considered taking the intruder to the dungeon, depending on who it was. But, he decided against it. He also considered ignoring them all together. That didn’t work because the knocks only became more persistent; like the intruder knew he was in there. “Enter,” he said with a roll of his eyes.

“You’re lucky I have the decency to knock,” Faye spat as she stormed into the room, slamming the door behind her.

Oh, god, Cyril thought as he closed his eyes and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Good afternoon to you too, Faye. What can I do for-,”

“What is this I hear about Hope getting returned?” she demanded upon reaching Cyril’s desk. Cyril didn’t answer her. “I asked you a question, Cyril!”

Cyril couldn’t help but stare at her in disbelief. Was she really getting upset about good news like this? “Lars returned Hope today. What’s the problem?”

“What’s the problem? Cyril, he bought her from you with the intent of keeping her. Then all of a sudden, he just decides to give her back? That’s not honoring the contract.”

“I’m not concerned about whether or not the contract was honored!” Cyril snapped. “I’m more concerned about you. What is your problem? You should be happy that Sabina was reunited with Hope, not running around demanding why it happened.”

“She doesn’t deserve to be happy after what she’s done!”

Cyril gave her a look that said: ‘We’ve been over this.’ But, he had to ask, “What has she done, Faye?”

“She’s rejected you countless times and has been more of a liability rather than an asset.”

“Oh?” Cyril said as he raised an eyebrow. “If Sabina is a liability…then, what would that make you?”

Faye’s eyes grew large upon hearing him say such a thing. “W-What do you mean? I’ve done nothing but love you and-,”

“That may be true, but what is the motive behind all this…‘love’? Do you love me for love’s sake or for some ulterior motive?”

“Cyril, I love you. You know this!” Faye felt insulted that he would dare question her loyalty after all they’d been through. “If I didn’t love you, I-,”

“What? Never would have let me have my way with you all those times? Ran away from home? Allowed yourself to get pregnant? Please,” he scoffed before taking another sip of his brandy. “I ask you again: What is your motive?”

“I-I don’t understand…Why are you questioning me?”

“What is your motive?” Cyril asked evenly.

“After all we’ve been through…”

He refused to give in to her pathetic attempt to get some sympathy. So, he asked again, “What is your motive, Faye?”

“I’m pregnant for god’s sake, Cyril!”

“What is your motive, Faye?” Cyril shouted, having reached the end of his rope; causing Faye to flinch.

Faye looked as if she were about to cry. She looked at Cyril, seeking sympathy, but he would have none of it. He kept a straight face despite her attempts. “I love you, Cyril,” she choked. “I love you for you and you alone.”

Still, she lies, he thought as he sat in silence, making Faye squirm as she awaited him to speak. “…You love me?” he said after a long intense pause.

“Yes,” Faye replied as she placed her hands on the desk and leaned forward, relieved to hear his voice.

Cyril looked her up and down. “Do you really love me?”

“Yes. More than life itself.”

“Hm…Why is it that I’m not convinced?”

“W-What do I need to do to convince you?”

“It’s not what you need to do, Faye. It’s actually what you’ve done that proves to me that you don’t love me the way you say you do.” Faye opened her mouth to retort, but Cyril cut her off saying, “If you truly loved me, then why did you use me as a means to hurt someone else?”

Faye chuckled nervously. “What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play coy, Faye. It’s not becoming of a girl like you. Why did you use me to hurt Sabina then stand back and allow me to take the blame for your dirty work? That doesn’t sound like love to me.”

“But, Cy-,”

“Then to go behind my back and fuck my butler? Unforgivable.”

“You knew-?!” Faye gasped.

“Of course, I knew. Alfred told me everything…How you threatened to tell me that he raped you, how much more you loved his cock than mine, and the list goes on. All the way down to the last detail.” He saw Faye’s face grow redder and redder with each passing second. He swore she’d start crying any minute because of the humiliation. Cyril paused as he considered whether or not to share the next piece of information. Why not? “Oh, I should also have you know that you weren’t his first.” Faye’s jaw hit the floor. “Alfred was sixteen when he lost his virginity.”

Faye was a wreck. Cyril had destroyed her in a matter of minutes. She thought she had him fooled all this time when in fact, he was the one who had her fooled. She felt so ashamed. “C-Cyril…Why? Why are you so cruel?”

“Simple,” he replied coolly. “You and people like you bring that side out of me.”

“But, I’m-,”

“A liar, whore, and manipulator who has betrayed my trust.”

“I’m sorry, Cyril,” she choked as she bowed her forehead to the desk.

“Oh, sweetheart, you’re not sorry yet,” Cyril said as he put his feet up on the desk.

“What must I do to regain your trust, Master? I’ll do anything you ask.”

“Anything I ask?”

Anything,” she sniffled as she gently placed her hands on Cyril’s boot. “I-I’ll lick your boots, let you do whatever you want to do to me wherever and whenever, and-,”

Cyril looked her over and said, “Alright, Faye. I’ll take you up on your offer.” Faye sighed in relief. “My first order is for you to get out of my office, go to your room, and don’t come out until I figure out what to do with you.”

“Y-Yes, Master,” she said quietly with a bowed head. Then she left more humble than what she had come in.

Whatever shall I do with her now? thought Cyril. I can’t send her back to her father because it would bring even more shame to his household. I could give her back to Bernard, but he was more than happy to get her off his hands. So, I doubt he’d be willing to take her back. Cyril sighed as he weighed his options, which were very few. All seemed suitable, but he was very careful when it came to others’ reputations. Especially in situations like this where the relatives and close friends had nothing to do with the person at fault’s actions.

Cyril wanted his judgment to be swift, but he also wanted to be fair. In order for that to be so, he concluded that he would need more time to weigh all of his options or come up with an even better one. He rested his head on the back of his seat and presumed that the answer would come to him later. But in that moment, he decided to enjoy the pleasures he still had left to call his own; his solitude, dignity, and his endless supply of brandy. Cyril smiled to himself as he sat in silence, taking in the peace and quiet. I better enjoy this while it lasts, he thought with a sigh. Because it’ll disappear just as fast as it came. He raised his glass and said, “Cheers.” Then he downed it all in one gulp.
Broken: Chapter 33
Music Note Bullet (Blue) - F2U Music Note Bullet (Light Blue) - F2U   Good news, good news, good neeeeews! Music Note Bullet (Light Blue) - F2U Music Note Bullet (Blue) - F2U  What will become of Faye? You'll have to keep reading to find out...Mwahahahahahahaha! 

Until next time, my lovelies! :heart:

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Two weeks passed after Cyril’s failed attempt to buy Hope back from Lars. During that time, he had put some distance between himself and Faye despite the news of her pregnancy and had drawn nearer to Sabina, who established her boundaries, which Cyril respected. After much thought and meditation, he got the courage to try again; only this time, he changed his tactic from the commanding businesslike approach to a more humble one. Although he hated being inferior let alone, acting like it, he was more than willing to do so in order to get what he wanted.

After his exchange, Cyril sat at his desk in silence as he replayed the conversation over the phone in his mind. A smile came to his face as he remembered placing the phone back on its receiver. He’d done well. Or so he thought; he had put on a good show, kept his composure, and fed into his opponent’s ego. Phase one complete, he thought. He got up and walked to the cupboard, which held his drink of choice to pour himself a celebratory glass.

His hand was but an inch from the door when he stopped. It was too early in the day and although he had completed the first part of his plan, he had yet to complete the second. So, he decided that he wouldn’t drink until the second phase was complete. In the mean time, he decided that a trip into town wouldn’t hurt. But, he wanted someone to accompany him. Who better than Alfred? he thought. So, he went to find his good friend. He’d searched everywhere he could possibly be, but found no sign of him. So, Cyril went to the only other person who would know where Alfred was: Mariam.

Cyril knocked on the door and received no answer. He knocked once more and again there was no answer. Then he turned the doorknob and the door opened. He poked his head in the door and said, “Mariam? Are you here?”

“Yes!” she sang from another room. “I’ll be out in a minute!”

Cyril entered the room and closed the door behind him before sitting at the small table and taking in his surroundings as he waited. He had only been in Mariam’s room a few times before; usually for when he needed to escape or hide from certain individuals. He found this space to be quite peaceful with the cool blues, earthy greens, and the calming scent of lavender in the air.

Suddenly, Mariam emerged from the bathroom wearing a black satin chemise with a matching floor length robe. “What took you so long, Alfr—Cyril!” She cried upon seeing Cyril instead of Alfred and closing her robe. “M-Master Van Tassel…What are you doing here?”

“Mariam,” Cyril said with a nod. “I assume that you were expecting someone else?”

“Why, yes,” she admitted, looking down.

“There’s no need to be ashamed,” Cyril said as he rose to his feet and walked toward her. “I understand how you feel.”

Mariam’s head snapped up. “Y-You do?”

“Of course. I understand that women have needs, desires, and fantasies, much like we men do. And it looks like Alfred is yours to fulfill those needs. Am I right?”

“Yes, sir,” she said looking down again.

“Speaking of Alfred, would you happen to know where he is?”

“He was supposed to be coming to see me around this time. He might be running late. May I ask why you’re looking for him?”

“Because I’m thinking about taking a trip into town and I’d like some company.”

“Why not take Sabina? I’m sure she’d love to go-,”

“Sabina and I aren’t exactly on good terms, Mariam. Thank you, though.”

There came a knock on the door.

“Who is it?” asked Mariam.

“It is I, my love! May I come in?”

“It’s open.”

Alfred entered the room and froze upon seeing Mariam standing in her robe beside Cyril. He wasn’t sure what to make of this picture.

“It’s alright, Alfred,” said Cyril. “I only came here to look for you and this is what I found.”

“It’s true, Alfred, darling. I came out thinking it was you and it was Master Van Tassel instead.”

“A-Alright,” Alfred said with a sigh of relief. “H-How can I help you, sir?”

“I was wondering if you’d like to join me on a trip into town, but it appears that you had other plans,” Cyril said, looking at Mariam out of the corner of his eye.

Alfred looked from Cyril to Mariam and back. He wasn’t sure whether he could decline Cyril’s offer or if this was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“You should go, Alfred,” Mariam suggested. Both Cyril and Alfred looked at her in surprise.

“But, Mar-,” Alfred managed.

“Go have some fun. Besides, when was the last time you’ve been to town?”

“I-It’s been a while.”

“Then, it’s decided!” Cyril exclaimed, clapping Alfred on the back. “We won’t be leaving until sunset, my friend. So, whatever you were going to do, do it quickly. Meet me in the foyer at six o’clock!” With that, Cyril was gone.

Both Alfred and Mariam stared at the door in silence. Then he turned to her and said, “Mariam, why’d you do that? I didn’t want to go to town! I wanted to spend the rest of my day with you!”

“I’m sorry, love. It—It just slipped out. But, you haven’t been to town in a long time and you’re overdue. You need some time to relax; put your feet up and indulge in a few glasses of scotch, brandy, or some other strong drink,” she said as she played with the buttons on his shirt.

“But, I-,”

“Just go and have a good time with Master Van Tassel.”

“Fine,” Alfred said begrudgingly. “I’ll go, but I doubt that I’ll enjoy it.”

“Just see where the night takes you, love.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

Alfred feared where the night would take him and his master. He didn’t look forward to babysitting Cyril who had a tendency to drink too much and get into all kinds of trouble. Whether it was fighting, molesting women, or even passing out, Cyril had done just about everything. Fortunately for him, Alfred was there to either smooth things over before they got out of hand or pick up the pieces once the damage was done. Either way, he hated it.

“And why are you so eager to get rid of me, hm?” Alfred asked, seizing her wrists and pulling her closer to him.

“I-I’m not,” Mariam stammered.

Alfred raised a knowing eyebrow.

“Honest!” she insisted. He didn’t look convinced. “For god’s sake, Alfred. When have I ever been one to push you out of the window or door?”

He gave her a once-over, looking for any telltale signs that she could be lying. He found none. “Okay, I believe you.” He loosened his grip on her wrists and came to hold her hands instead. “Master Van Tassel said we weren’t leaving until six, correct?”

“Yes, that’s right. Why?”

“It’s only a little past two,” he said bringing her hands to his lips and kissing her knuckles. “…What do you suggest we do between now and then?” He gave her a mischievous look that sent shivers down her spine.

She knew exactly what he wanted to do. “We might as well since that is what you came for.”

Alfred let his hands slither down to her hips and he pulled her closer to him.“I’m glad you see things my way,” he said with a smile.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Mariam replied in a sultry tone of voice. “Now, kiss me before I change my mind.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Alfred leaned down and kissed Mariam softly. He could tell she wanted more, but he wanted to make her wait. Unfortunately, Mariam wasn’t going to wait. She began to bite his lower lip, knowing that it was one of Alfred’s weaknesses. But, Alfred refused to give in. When Mariam figured out that her plan wasn’t working, she grabbed the back of his head, thrust her tongue into his mouth, and began to fence his tongue in a battle for dominance.

Alfred loved a woman who took the lead, but he also liked to have some level of control in which he could keep her on edge; make her wait and have her begging for more once he hit his mark. Mariam wasn’t having it. Although it hadn’t been long since their last meeting, Mariam seemed more desperate than ever before. She usually liked to take her time and savor the moment, but now she seemed to be in a rush; nearly tearing off his clothes. Alfred backed her up against the wall and pinned her hands on either side of her head before breaking the kiss and meeting her questioning gaze with an intense stare.

“Why’d you stop?” Mariam whined.

“You seem…like you’re rushing.”

Mariam rolled her eyes and said, “Of course I’m rushing! We don’t have much time as it is!”

“Darling, I’m leaving at six. That gives me roughly three and a half hours to do whatever I want with you and to you…That’s more than enough time. So, let’s take our time and enjoy this.”

“…Okay,” Mariam breathed as she looked him up and down. “Give me a reason to want you the very moment you return.”

“I’ll do one better,” he said with a smirk as he leaned in and began to kiss her neck ever so softly.

“Oh? And what’s that?” she asked, tilting her head to the side to give him more access, but he made a path downwards as he slowly sank to his knees before her.

“I’ll make you want me…every second…every minute…and every hour…of each day…for as long…as we both shall live,” he said between kisses until he finally got to his knees.

Once his knees hit the ground, he slid his hands up Mariam’s legs until they reached her hips where he felt the lace of her panties. Then he hooked his fingers in the hem and pulled them down. Once Mariam had stepped out of them, Alfred spread her legs and planted a sloppy wet kiss on her sex, eliciting a gasp from Mariam. She had never experienced anything like it before. Although it was odd, somehow, she found herself wanting more. She placed a hand on his head and he took it as permission to continue, which he did.

A minute passed and Alfred already had her mewling and babbling incoherently as she tangled her fingers in his hair. Mariam did her best to stifle her moans out of fear that Cyril or someone was listening, but the thought of having someone listen aroused her even more. Suddenly, Alfred started to suck on her love button and Mariam threw back her head and voiced her pleasure as she reached her first climax; not caring who heard.

Alfred didn’t give her time to recover, he continued to lick, kiss, and suck all while Mariam continued to scream, moan, and sigh his praises. To her, this felt amazing. She had never felt so alive. Alfred had brought her to life again; he’d awakened a desire inside of her that she never thought possible and he was able to give her pleasure unlike any other. About two climaxes later, she decided to stop him.

“A-Alfred,” she moaned, gripping his shoulders.

“Hm?” he hummed.

“S-S-Stop,” she choked as she fought the urge to find her release.

“What?” he said coyly as he deliberately failed to cease the delicious torture.

“I-I need you to stop, now. I-I don’t want to…spend all our time doing…this! I want you…inside. P-Please?” she asked, looking down at him with pleading eyes.

Alfred contemplated her request without stopping. He looked up at Mariam and saw the conflict in her eyes. He couldn’t tell whether she was telling him to stop or proceed with her gaze even though her lips had just asked him to stop. He didn’t want to be mean, so he stopped, but only after flicking his tongue three more times; making Mariam’s knees buckle and her hips buck with every stroke. Then he stood up and Mariam let her hands fall to his chest as she trembled violently.

“Don’t ever…do that…again,” she said between pants. Once she was able to catch her breath, she grabbed Alfred by the hand and led him to the bedroom saying, “Come. We haven’t much time.”

“We have plenty of time, love,” Alfred insisted as they entered the room.

“Shut up and please me.” She pushed him onto the bed and slammed the door shut.

Two hours later…

Alfred came out of the bathroom, surrounded by a cloud of steam. He’d just taken a long, hot shower after his marathon with Mariam. He had no idea that she could last for so long, but he wasn’t complaining. He ventured into the bedroom to get dressed while Mariam lay asleep.

When he entered the room, she woke up. “Alfred, come back to bed,” she said sleepily as she propped herself up on her elbow.

“I’d love to, darling, but I have to go meet Master Van Tassel,” he replied, putting on a fresh pair of pants that Mariam had tailored for him not too long before.

“Do you have to? Because technically, you did not agree to accompany him…”

“…No, I don’t have to, but I want to. Besides, it’s been a while since I’ve been to town for leisure. You said so yourself.”

“Yes, but I don’t want you to go.”

“Oh? And why is that?” he asked despite the fact that he already knew the answer to his rhetorical question.

Mariam looked away as she traced the embroidery on her sheet with her finger.

Alfred came and sat next to her on the bed and said, “Why don’t you want me to go, love?”

“Because I—You—Because I don’t want to lose you to some…younger girl,” she finished, her voice no louder than a mumble.

Alfred was taken aback by this. I didn’t see that coming, he thought. “Mariam, we’ve been over this,” he said with a roll of his eyes. “Every younger girl I’ve ever encountered has been nothing but trouble. Besides, I’ll be too busy looking after the Master to even care if a young lady takes notice of me.” Mariam didn’t look convinced. “I’ll come to you upon my return.”

“Promise?” Mariam asked as she looked up at him with big doe eyes.

“You have my word.” Alfred sealed it with a kiss and said, “Then, we can pick up where we left off.”

“I’ll be waiting,” she purred.

“Goodbye, my love.”

“Goodbye.”

Alfred grabbed his coat and left the room, making his way to the foyer. There, he found Cyril waiting; dressed in an all black fitted three piece suit with a black cape that was held about his neck by a golden clasp.

Cyril fished his pocket watch from his pocket and looked at it. Then he closed it and put it back in place. “Alfred, you made it with a minute to spare,” he said with a smile.

“I’ve never been one to be late, sir.”

“True…I trust that Mariam is taken care of, yes?”

“I-I…Um…Yes, sir,” Alfred stammered as he began to blush. He was not one to discuss any intimate details of his romantic relationships publicly.

Cyril realized his error and quickly apologized saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, Alfred. How rude of me. Please forgive me. I didn’t mean to be so forward.”

“I-It’s alright, sir. I don’t like to talk about my relationships in public.”

“Understood. Shall we, my good friend?” Cyril said as he turned toward the double doors.

“Lead the way, sir,” Alfred said with a smile.

“Come. A night full of debauchery awaits!” Cyril draped his cape across his chest and the two left the mansion, hopped into the waiting car, and were driven into the night.

They soon arrived at the Black Swan, an exclusive tavern that Cyril often frequented. Upon entry, the doorman took their coats and the two found themselves a table not too far from the stage so they’d have a decent view come time for the show. However, Alfred made sure to sit facing both the stage and the exit just in case he and Cyril had to make a quick exit.

As they waited for the show to begin, they both took a moment to assess their surroundings. At the time, they were the only two customers inside the tavern besides the doorman and bartender, who made themselves busy making last minute preparations for the night. Since that was the case, Cyril decided to order himself and Alfred a drink. So, he made his way over to the bar.

The bartender saw him coming, placed his hands on his hips, and said, “Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!”

“Hello, John.”

“It’s been a long time, my friend. How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you. How about yourself?”

“I’m doing well; can’t complain,” John replied with a smile. He was a short, stout man with brown hair, brown eyes, and a winning smile. He was a genuinely sweet soul who could talk to anyone and become their friend within minutes. Although most people would assume an owner of a tavern to be snobbish and proud, John wasn’t like that at all. He was down-to-earth and showed kindness to everyone regardless of age, race, gender, or status.

That is one quality that Cyril was working to perfect. “Glad to hear that you’re doing well, my friend,” he replied. “How’s the wife?”

“She’s fine and very, very pregnant.”

“Really?”

“Oh, yes. She’s due any day now, I’d say.”

“C-Congratulations,” Cyril said as he made a weak attempt to smile as his thoughts wandered to Hope.

“Thank you, thank you.”

“Now, will this be your…second?”

“Third.”

“Oh…Then, you’ll be fine.”

“I hope so. Enough talk about me, now. Let me get you a drink. What’ll you have?”

“The usual for me and a pint of spiced rum for my friend over there,” Cyril said as he jerked his head in Alfred’s direction.

“Coming right up.” John immediately whipped up their drinks. When he saw Cyril reach for his wallet, he said, “Don’t worry about paying, Cyril. Tonight, your drinks are on the house.”

“Are you sure, John? I mean, it’s the least I can do since I haven’t been here in so long…”

John sighed and shook his head. “Cyril, you of all people should know better. When a friend offers to pay for your drink, you are not to question him. Neither are you to refuse his offer.”

“Very well then, John,” Cyril said as he took the drinks. “Thank you.”

“Any time, friend. Any time.” Cyril nodded then returned to his seat.

A few minutes after he sat down, more patrons started to enter the tavern and find some seats. Alfred and Cyril watched the men as they entered. Neither saw any familiar faces amongst the gentlemen who filed into the tavern. So, they just continued to nurse their drinks and chat until the show began.

At the stroke of eight, John got on stage and a hush fell over the crowd. “Good evening, gentlemen. I hope you all are having a good evening thus far, but I must inform you that your night is about to get even better. Tonight, you are in for a very special treat. Our very own Black Swans have prepared a little…swan song for you, which I’m sure you’ll enjoy. So please sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.”

As John got off stage, the band began to play a slow, soothing tune. Then the curtains rose and there stood four young ladies in their early to mid-twenties singing a sweet melody in unison. There were two brunettes, one blonde, and a redhead. They all wore matching black form-fitting gowns, white opera gloves, and single diamond pendants with matching earrings.

They crooned a song about tragic love. It told the story of a poor suitor who promised his young naïve lover the sun, moon, and stars; swore that he would love her until the end of time, but he left her for another woman. The lyrics, melody, and harmonies of the song were so rich and powerful that the song could melt the ice encasing a heart that had waxed cold.

Cyril couldn’t help but smile when the one brunette sang her solo in the piece. She had a beautiful alto voice and her appearance surpassed the beauty of her voice. She looked much like Sabina, save her hair color and slightly darker complexion. Halfway through her solo, she looked over at Cyril and their eyes locked. His icy blue met her sultry brown.

He saw her eyes grow large, but she continued to sing without faltering. Then she quickly looked away and made eyes at the redhead who then made a questioning face as she continued to ‘oh’ and ‘ah’. The brunette didn’t look over at Cyril again for the rest of the song.

When the song ended, the tavern erupted with applause; many of the patrons stood to their feet as they cheered and whistled. The Black Swans smiled and curtsied then the curtain fell. Some of the men didn’t take this so well. They wanted to hear more from the beautiful songstresses. John quickly got back on stage and explained that the ladies would be back in a little while. They needed time to rest their voices. Luckily, that was enough to calm the crowd.

Unbeknownst to Cyril, Alfred had been watching him rather closely during the performance. He had seen everything: Cyril’s smile when the brunette began to sing, the moment they made eye contact, and her reaction after that. Being the brilliant man he was, Alfred put two and two together. So, he decided to be direct and said, “Sir?”

“Yes, Alfred?” Cyril replied after taking a sip of his brandy.

“Do you know that young woman?”

Cyril looked confused. “What?”

“The young woman who sang the solo…Do you know her?”

Before he could reply, Cyril was hugged tightly from behind by an unknown individual. Alfred looked at this person and confirmed his assumption. I knew it, he thought.

“Cyril!” said person exclaimed excitedly. She leaned down and rested her chin on Cyril’s shoulder. “I can’t believe it’s you!”

“It’s good to see you, too, Ana,” Cyril replied with a smile. Ana then released him and came to sit in his lap. “You sang beautifully.”

“Thank you, thank you.” She turned her attention to Alfred and said, “Now, who’s this handsome gentleman?”

“This would be my friend, Alfred. Alfred, this is Ana.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Alfred said as he extended his hand.

“Likewise,” Ana replied, shaking his hand. “My goodness, Cyril. It’s been so long! Where have you been? I’ve missed you!”

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the time for leisure,” Cyril replied, tickling her chin.

Ana wasn’t impressed, but she nestled closer to him regardless. “Well, I’m glad that you’re here now.”

“Me, too.”

Alfred sat back and watched the two and couldn’t help but wonder how they knew each other. He had an idea, but he wasn’t sure. “I hope you don’t mind me asking…but, how do you know each other? Better yet, how did you meet?”

“Well,” Ana began, “we-,”

“It’s a long, long story Alfred. Perhaps I can tell you some other time.”

“You can always condense it,” Ana said.

“Not now, sweetheart.” In all honesty, Cyril had no real intention of telling Alfred how they met. It was too scandalous; even for Cyril, a man who had done almost every sordid deed a man of his caliber could possibly do.

“Fine,” she pouted. Just then, she saw her friend and called, “Jiselle, come over here! I have someone I’d like you to meet!”

Then came the redhead of the Black Swans. She had bright green eyes and plenty of barely visible freckles that dotted her cheeks. She was just as beautiful as Ana, but unlike her, she was more reserved and had an air of mystery about her despite her exotic appearance.

“To whom do I owe the pleasure of being called over here?” Jiselle asked in a sweet soft voice once she reached the table.

“The pleasure is all mine,” said Cyril as he took her hand and kissed it, his eyes never leaving hers.

“A-A-And you are?” she stuttered as she tried her best not to swoon.

“This is Lord Cyril Van Tassel and this is his friend, Alfred,” Ana said smiling at Cyril fondly before politely gesturing to Alfred who sat in silence.

“I’m pleased to meet you,” said Alfred as he extended his hand to Jiselle.

“Likewise,” she replied, taking his hand and shaking it. Although she was still swooning over Cyril, Jiselle found herself to be quite taken with this…Alfred. She wanted to know more about him. “Do you come here often?” she asked as she came to stand behind Alfred and massage his shoulders.

“I-I don’t, but the Master has been here many a times,” Alfred stammered. Clearly, he was uncomfortable by this strange woman’s touch, but she couldn’t take a hint.

“Maybe you should change that,” said Ana who threw a knowing glance at Jiselle who smiled back at her.

Jiselle felt Alfred stiffen up. “What’s the matter? You seem a little…tense.”

Alfred gave Cyril a look that said: “Help me.”

As much as he wanted his friend to loosen up a little, it was obvious that it wasn’t going to happen any time soon, so he helped poor Alfred. He cleared his throat and said, “I’m sorry Jiselle, but my friend is happily taken. He has a lovely lady waiting for him back at home.”

“Is that so?” she asked, ceasing her massage.

“Yes, it is,” said Alfred, relieved to be free of her touch.

“Pity…” Jiselle took a seat in the chair beside Alfred. “Oh, well…Whoever she is, she is one lucky woman.” She happened to look up and see another Black Swan gesturing for her to come on. “Come on, Ana. We have to get ready for the next number.”

“Already? Fine,” she huffed as she reluctantly tore herself away from Cyril. “Cyril, darling, you have to come by more often.”

“I can’t make any promises, sweetheart,” he said with a shrug.

“Why not? Are you ‘happily taken’, too?” He didn’t answer her. “…Oh, n-,”

“Come on, Ana!” Jiselle exclaimed as she grabbed Ana by the hand pulled her in the direction of the backstage door.

“This conversation isn’t over, Cyril!” Ana screamed at Cyril who simply waved at her with a smug smile.

Once the women were gone from sight, Alfred leaned over and said, “Thank you for saving me, sir.”

“You’re welcome, Alfred.”

“Now, would you mind if I saved you? Shall we leave while we can?”

Cyril chuckled at Alfred’s offer. Honestly, he wouldn’t mind a taste of the wrath of Ana. He hadn’t had a healthy dose in a very long time and he missed it. “No. Let’s stay for a little while.”

Alfred looked at Cyril like he was crazy. “Are you sure, sir? What about-,”

“Don’t worry, Alfred. I’ll be perfectly fine when she comes to execute her wrath. I’ll let her rant…Besides, it’s rather cute.”

“Very well, sir. Very well.” I hope Mariam doesn’t wait up for me, he thought.

The two stayed and had a few drinks, enjoyed the many swan songs , told a few jokes, and played some cards with some gentlemen who came to sit at their table. They enjoyed every moment of it. At the end of the night, Alfred was both happy and surprised at the fact that Cyril hadn’t gotten into a single fight the entire evening and he was still sober. Alfred was impressed. Mariam would be proud, he thought as he smiled at Cyril who was too busy socializing to notice.

When he finally had Cyril’s attention, he was snatched away by Ana who led him off to some unknown location. All before Alfred could ask if he was ready to go.

“Alright, then,” Alfred said with a sigh as he rose to his feet. “I’ll just wait in the car.” Then he got his coat from the doorman and went to the car where their chauffeur, Peter, struck up a conversation with him and Alfred gladly relayed all the night’s events to him.

Meanwhile, Ana and Cyril stole away to the storage room in the back of the tavern. Once the door closed behind them, she pushed Cyril against the door and kissed him violently. He was surprised, but he wasn’t complaining. This was the Ana he was missing for however many painful months. He relished her fury and jealousy that drove her to dominate him or at least come close to dominating him.

However, Cyril did need to show her who was the dominant in this relationship. So, he grabbed the comb that held Ana’s bun in place and pulled, letting her hair fall into a wavy cascade that ran halfway down her back. Then he wrapped her hair around his hand and once he had a decent amount, he tugged, breaking the kiss and eliciting a yelp from Ana who glared at him.

“I take it that you missed me,” Cyril said in a deliciously low voice that sent shivers up Ana’s spine.

“Yes, Cyril…I can’t stand it when you’re away too long.”

Cyril chuckled and planted a kiss on Ana’s throat. “Neither can I…Tell me, Ana, why did you bring me here?” he asked before continuing to cover her neck with kisses.

“To ask you what you meant earlier.”

“Earlier when?”

Ana stifled a moan. She hated having to talk while Cyril tortured her. “When you said you couldn’t promise me that you’d be by to visit as often as you used to.” He didn’t answer her. “Cyril!”

“What?” he said, ceasing his torture to look her in the eyes.

“You miss me when you’re away…right?” Ana asked softly as she placed gentle hands on Cyril’s chest.

“Of course, I do, Ana.”

“Then, why don’t you ever come see me?”

“I told you. I’m too busy for leisure, right now. I was lucky to get away this evening.”

“Well, who says you have to get away every time? You could just take me home with you and do us both a favor,” she said as she fumbled with his tie before looking up at him, donning her biggest doe eyes.

It was hard for Cyril to resist the effect those eyes had on him. He sighed and cupped Ana’s face in his hands saying, “I’m sorry, love…but, I can’t.”

“Why not?” Ana asked, confused by Cyril’s decision not to take her home. Is something wrong with me? she thought. A-Am I not good enough? Am I not what he wants?

Cyril seemed to read her mind. “It’s not you, Ana. You’re perfect just the way you are.”

“Then, why won’t you take me away from here?” Tears were forming in her eyes. All she wanted was to get away from the Black Swan. She was tired of winking and flirting. She wanted to love someone who loved her for her. Not for what she could do.

Cyril was biting his lip, trying not to cry himself. It pained him to see any woman he cared about cry. He was also trying to delay the blow that he had to deliver to Ana.

Then she said, “Tell me.”

So, he acquiesced and reluctantly said, “…I’m seeing someone.”

Silence filled the room. Ana stared in disbelief and said, “W-What?”

“I’m seeing someone.” Ana looked at him knowingly. “…And she’s bearing my child.”

Ana bit the inside of her cheek and nodded without saying a word. Then she began to pace. Cyril watched helplessly as he waited for her to say something…Anything.

“…Say something, Ana,” Cyril said after six minutes of unbearable silence.

Ana stopped pacing, turned to face Cyril, and said, “What? What do you want me to say, Cyril? Congratulations?” Then she went back to pacing as she mumbled to herself about how wretched of a man Cyril was. Cyril reached out his hand to her as he began to apologize, but Ana slapped his hand away and hissed, “Don’t touch me!”

“Come now, Ana…Don’t be like that. You know I love you.”

Ana glared at him through squinted eyes. “Do you, now?” she asked in a rather cynical tone of voice.

“I do.”

“If that is so, then would you be so kind as to explain why another woman is carrying your child?” He couldn’t give her an answer. “I can’t believe I wasted my life waiting on you.” She saw Cyril’s expression change from one of shock to one of remorse. “Yes, Cyril. I waited for you all this time only to find out that you don’t love me at all…I was just a mistress – No – I was just a toy.”

“No, A-,”

“Yeah,” she sniffled. “…A toy; a little plaything that you can cast aside and gather up again as many times as you want.”

“No, Ana. That’s not what you are to me. I lo-,”

“No?” Ana yelled. “Then, what am I, Cyril? Am I just another one of the many women you have a claim on? Or am I one of the many hopeful women who aspire to bear your bastard children?!”

“No, Ana, no,” Cyril said as he took her in his arms despite how much she fought. He caressed her cheeks and kissed her face to soothe her, but there was nothing he could do to suppress the rage she had coursing through her veins.

“I wanted children, Cyril,” she choked. “I wanted to be Lady Van Tassel…I always have. If you weren’t so busy sleeping around with everything that moves, that could have been a possibility.” She pushed him away from her and looked at him with disgust. “Just like your father,” she scoffed.

“That’s not true,” Cyril hissed. “I’m nothing like him and you know it!”

“Keep telling yourself that. Now, get out of my tavern and don’t ever bother coming back because I never want to see your ruddy face around here again,” she spat.

“…Goodbye, then. I wish you the best of luck.” Ana didn’t reply. So, Cyril turned on his heel and left without looking back.

Alfred and Peter were sharing a laugh when Cyril entered the car. The two fell silent once he was seated and had closed the door. The butler sensed a change in his master’s demeanor. Ironically Cyril had gone from jovial to dismal all in a matter fifteen minutes or less and this troubled Alfred. Neither had he said a word or made eye contact since he entered the car. So, Alfred gestured for Peter to roll up the partition and drive. He did so and the journey home began.

Cyril noticed that he was being isolated and as much as it bothered him, he refused to let Alfred know that. He did not feel like opening up at that moment, no matter how much Alfred seemed to care. He just continued to stare out the window, hoping that Alfred wouldn’t say anything.

“Is everything all right, sir?” asked Alfred. Cyril cringed at the sound of his voice, but did not answer him. “You seem…troubled.”

Cyril rested his head on the headrest and let out a sigh. I guess I have no choice, but to talk, he thought. “Your powers of perception are amazing,” he said, not bothering to hide the sarcasm in his voice.

Alfred smiled to himself and said, “Thank you, sir. I have had time to master the art of perception. But, please. Tell me what troubles you. Perhaps, I could be of assistance.”

Cyril looked Alfred over in silence. The young man had served him for seventeen long years in which he’d seen Cyril at his best and worst. Alfred was wise beyond his years and he had saved Cyril from himself many a times, so it seemed that Cyril owed Alfred his life. If I can trust him with my life, surely I can trust him with my troubles, he thought.

“Well,” Cyril said before clearing his throat, “Ana no longer wishes to see me.”

“Oh…I’m sorry to hear that, sir.”

“It’s alright. It was bound to happen anyway.”

“…What do you mean by that?” Alfred asked, raising his eyebrow.

“You wanted to know the nature of our relationship, correct?”

“Actually, I wanted to know how you met.”

“Close enough,” Cyril said with a shrug. “I’ll tell you, but it must stay between us. No one else needs to know about this. Do I have your word?”

“Absolutely, sir.”

“Very well, then…Ana and I met five years ago at a party.”

“Oh, lovely,” Alfred said with a smile.

“But, not just any party, my friend. It was a pleasure party with many festivities.” The look on Alfred’s face seemed to convey that the man was unimpressed by this, but somewhat disgusted as well. Nonetheless, he made an honest effort not to judge. “Amongst these festivities, there was a silent auction. I, not knowing what I was getting into, placed a bid. Later that evening, it was announced that I had won one night with a woman designated by the host. And he chose Ana.”

“Well, did she fill your night with pleasure?”

“Yes, she did,” Cyril replied, smiling at the memory. “I didn’t learn her name until the next day…We fell asleep and didn’t wake up until noon.”

“I assume your relationship persisted?”

“Yes. I thought I had made it clear that I didn’t want a romantic relationship, but she fell for me despite the terms I made. She wanted us to be more than what we were and…I—I wasn’t ready.”

Alfred shifted in his seat and his brow furrowed as he contemplated everything Cyril had said in the past few minutes. “So, after all this time, you can honestly say that you never had feelings for her?”

Cyril was silent for a while. That was all Alfred needed, but Cyril didn’t want to admit it outright. “I thought I loved her once, but…” His voice trailed off.

“But, what?”

“…I-I was young and foolish. I didn’t want to settle down. All I was looking for was a good time. That’s the reason I went to the party in the first place. I never had any intention of becoming someone’s lover.”

Alfred threw Cyril a knowing look. “Might it also be fair to say that you were…afraid?”

“I fear nothing,” Cyril growled through gritted teeth.

“Maybe not now, but back then it seemed that you were afraid of your own feelings, sir.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, you made terms from the very beginning as to what you expected from said relationship, if you would call it that. In shutting Ana out, you thought you were protecting yourself from becoming attached and in time vulnerable.” Cyril fell silent and failed to retort, so Alfred thought he had struck a nerve. “It’s alright to be vulnerable, Cyril. Besides, that’s what our lovers want; they want – They need to feel that we trust them with our whole being if we want the relationship to prosper.”

“…Do you trust Mariam?”

“With my life. Why? You ask in such a way that makes me think that I can’t trust her.”

“You can trust her. I suppose I’m a little…jealous of what you have with her.”

“Have you ever opened up to anyone, sir? Shown them the real you and have them not run away?”

“…I-,” A face flashed across his mind. “Once,” he said flatly.

“What happened?”

Cyril looked out the window. He wasn’t looking for anything in particular. He just didn’t want to look Alfred in the eye when he answered him. “…I happened.”

Alfred was tempted to ask what Cyril meant by that, but he decided against it. Based on Cyril’s body language, it was clear that Alfred would get no more out of him. Although that was a disappointing fact, he was pleased that he was able to find out how Cyril met Ana and the extent of their relationship. He was happy that he had gone out that evening despite the fact that it ended on a more sour note than when it began. Alfred just decided to pass the time in silence and look out the window up at the starry sky while Cyril sat across from him in silence.

When they reached the mansion, Alfred and Cyril bid Peter a good night, got out of the car, and walked through the front doors together. Before taking his leave, Alfred asked Cyril, “Do you need anything before I retire, sir?”

“No, Alfred. You’re dismissed.”

“Are you sure?” Alfred didn’t mean to sound so pushy, but he sensed that something was wrong. His gut was telling him that something was off about Cyril. He didn’t know what, but he didn’t like the feeling he was getting.

“Yes, Alfred. I’m sure,” Cyril replied with a reassuring smile. “Go. Mariam’s probably waiting for you.” Alfred took a hesitant step backward. He opened his mouth to ask again, but Cyril cut him off saying, “I’ll be fine…Go make your woman’s night.”

Alfred didn’t want to leave Cyril, but the man had said his peace and dismissed him. So, he had no choice but to take his leave. But, he could leave a word with his master. “W-Well, if you need me, send for me.”

“Don’t worry, Alfred. I’ll keep that in mind…Have a good night.”

“Good night, sir.” Then Alfred left him in the foyer.

When Alfred had gone, the smile Cyril wore slowly turned into a frown. He removed his cape and draped it over his arm before going up the stairs and making his way to his room. He had to admit that his outing with Alfred had done him some good. But his fallout with Ana had caused him some pain as well. Stop blaming yourself! he thought. It was inevitable. It was going to happen regardless how many times you told her you loved her or made love to her like she was the only woman in the world. He couldn’t help but wonder why he was so worked up about this. He didn’t love her; at least not genuinely. But the rejection still hurt despite his tendency to cope by being indifferent.

When he finally reached his room, he went inside and was glad to find that he was alone; his bed was empty and the bathroom was vacant. There was no one, but he and himself. He draped his cape over the back of one of his living chairs. Then he began to undress, leaving an unceremonious trail of clothing all the way to his dresser. He opened the third drawer and pulled out a pair of night pants.

After slipping them on, Cyril ventured to the bathroom where he splashed some water on his face. He reached for a towel and dried his face then his eyes locked with those of his reflection. He set the towel aside and studied his features in silence. He had to admit that he liked what he saw and could understand why women loved him and why other men hated him. He had sharp features; a well-defined jaw line, piercing eyes, a muscular build, and a mysterious air about him.

Cyril sighed as he recalled the past few weeks. Never before had he seen or experienced so much heartbreak. Sabina no longer loved him, Faye had rejected him, and Ana had just said that she never wanted to see him again. He had broken a lot of hearts and for once, it seemed like he was getting paid back for all the pain he’d caused. He turned off the light in the bathroom and went to sit on his bed.

In his mind, Cyril was in a dark place…A very dark place. He opened the drawer of his nightstand and pulled out a small polished mahogany box with his initials engraved on a golden plate. He opened it and in the red velvet lining of the box sat a silver pistol with a black grip. He took the pistol from its cradle and set the box on the nightstand. Hello, old friend, he thought as he held the pistol in both hands. It was a gift from his father that he received on his thirteenth birthday. It had some weight to it, since he hadn’t removed the bullets he had replaced only once in years. He sat staring at the pistol in silence, thinking of the bitter end.

Yes, he was well-known and he had amassed a fortune over the years, but that meant nothing to him; his life was fruitless. All he had done was squander his time and money on wine, women, and whatever else he thought could make him happy and fill the void in his heart. He had broken plenty of hearts along the way and now that his own heart was on the verge of breaking, he didn’t know how to handle it let alone, find the strength bear it.

Although others would have said that he was still young and had so much to live for, Cyril believed that he had done more harm than good and was worthy of death. Tears were forming in the corners of his eyes as he thought of Sabina, Faye, and all of the women he’d taken advantage of in order to please himself. Sabina was right, he thought. I am incapable of loving anyone other than myself.

He placed the pistol to his temple, cocked it, and closed his eyes.

Suddenly, he pulled the pistol away from his head and thought, I can’t do this…At least not yet. I still have one more thing to do. This can wait until then. He then released the hammer on the pistol and replaced it in the box, which he left on the nightstand. He wiped his tears, pulled back the covers, got into bed, and turned out the light. Before he fell asleep, he whispered a prayer saying, “If there’s a God, please…Please let all go well on tomorrow. I want – I need to make things right. So, please make a way and I’ll make it so I never hurt anyone ever again.”

Then he drifted off to the land of dreams.
Cyril struggled long and hard with deciding when he would tell Sabina the news concerning Hope. Over the next few weeks, Sabina would come find him almost every other day, asking him if he had called Lars yet. He kept saying that he hadn’t and her frustration continued to grow every time he told her he hadn’t called. He was growing tired of lying and causing himself and Sabina unnecessary stress.

One evening, he sent Alfred to fetch Sabina and bring her to his office. While he waited, he had downed three glasses of brandy to try and calm his nerves. Unfortunately, it didn’t work because by the time she arrived, his hands were still shaking.

He bid her to enter and had her sit down in a chair in front of the desk. “How are you this evening, Sabina?” he asked in a cool tone of voice.

“…As good as I was yesterday,” she replied with a hint of bitterness.

Not so good, Cyril thought. “Can I get you anything to drink?” he asked, moving toward the end table with a fresh bottle of brandy on ice.

“No thank you. If you would, could you please tell me why you called me here?”

And straight to the chase. “Very well, then.” Cyril sat down in his seat and sat back, crossing one leg over the other. “Well, I called you here to discuss Hope.”

Sabina’s hard expression changed to a beautiful combination a joy and concern. “Yes, and?” she asked, scooting to the edge of her seat.

Cyril’s lips came together to form a thin line as he took in Sabina’s countenance. Her eyes held such hope; it was a shame that he had to dash it. As much as he wanted to tell her that Lars was bringing Hope back as they spoke, he couldn’t do so. He glanced at his glass that sat on the desk. It still had a little brandy left in it. So, he took the glass and polished off its contents. Then he looked at Sabina and said in an apologetic tone of voice, “I’m sorry, Sabina. But, Lars has refused to even entertain the idea of returning Hope.”

Sabina felt as if she’d been stabbed in the heart with a dagger. D-Did I hear him correctly? she thought. No! It can’t be true. “You’re lying,” she hissed.

“No, Sabina,” Cyril said with a shake of his head. “I’m not.”

“H-He couldn’t have refused!” She exclaimed, standing to her feet and slamming her hands down on the desk with indignant eyes.

“I’m sorry…” Cyril said as he slowly rose to his feet and began to make his way around the desk toward Sabina. “But, he did.”

“But, I—He…You told him-,”

“I offered to pay him double – triple – and he refused. I even offered him my estate in the mountains and yet he still refused.”

Sabina looked down at Cyril’s desk, not even seeing it because of the tears, which clouded her vision. She was shaking as she contemplated everything Cyril had said. “I-I’m never going to see her again,” she choked.

“Lars said that you could visit,” Cyril said as he laid a comforting hand on the small of her back.

“It’s not the same!” Sabina screamed, shoving his hand off of her as she glared at him through her tears. “A visit is nothing compared to being able to see and hold my daughter whenever I wish!”

Looking at Sabina in that moment caused Cyril’s heart to ache. She was so…distraught. More than he had ever seen her before; even the time when she watched him sell Hope. “I’m sorry, Sabina,” he whispered. “I tried.”

He moved to embrace her and to his surprise, she let him. “But, it wasn’t enough,” she choked. Then she burst into a fit of sobs as she buried her face in his chest, mourning the loss of her daughter.

Cyril sat on his desk and draped Sabina’s legs over his lap as he comforted her. As he sat listening to her cry, he couldn’t help but shed a tear himself because it was then that he realized the sacredness of motherhood. He had come to understand that the bond a mother has with her child transcends time and space. It is something that should never be tampered with; no matter what potential benefits there may be. Separate a mother from her child and you will witness sorrow that matches no other. Cyril was beyond remorseful for his sin against Sabina and their daughter. The best he could do now was comfort Sabina and hope that Lars would eventually come to change his mind. It wasn’t her intention, but Sabina soon fell asleep in his arms.

He looked around the office and concluded that it was no place for a lady to sleep. So, he scooped Sabina up in his arms, carried her out of the office, went to his room, and tucked her into his bed. He kissed her on the forehead and whispered, “I’m sorry, Sabina…I really am.” Then he wandered over to the fireplace where he lit a fire and sat on the rug where he thought of ways he could try and convince Lars to change his mind and return Hope to him.

About an hour later, his thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his door. He got up and answered the door only to see Faye standing before him. She was the last person he wanted to see at that moment. He hadn’t said a word to her for an entire minute. All he did was stare.

“Are you going to let me in or would you rather stand there and stare?” Faye asked playfully.

Cyril came out of his daze and said, “I’m sorry, Faye, but tonight is not the night.”

“Why not?”

“I…I’m tired. I had a long day today,” he replied, quickly glancing over his shoulder before looking back at Faye.

Faye tilted her head and squinted up at him. “…Why do I feel that you’re lying?” Then she looked around him and saw a figure lying still in the bed. “…Who’s that?”

“Who’s who?”

“Don’t play coy with me, Cyril. Who’s that in your bed?”

Cyril saw no point in lying. “It’s Sabina,” he whispered.

Faye’s eyes grew wide upon hearing that name. “So, I’m not enough for you anymore?”

“No, Faye. That’s not-,”

“What happened to committing to me and only me?!” Faye said loud enough to wake Sabina.

“Lower your voice!” Cyril hissed.

“Why should I? So, the whore can get some sleep? Is that why, Cyril?”

Things were getting out of hand. Cyril clapped his hand over Faye’s mouth, snatched her up, brought her inside the room, closed the door, and took her to the bathroom kicking and screaming into his hand. Once inside of the bathroom, he kicked the door shut behind him. After setting Faye down, he asked, “What? What do you want? Why do you insist on making nightly visits when you know you can come anytime you want?”

“Why is that whore in your bed?!” Faye demanded.

“First of all, she’s not a whore. Second of all, she’s in my bed out of convenience and because she had a rough day today…Satisfied?”

Faye glared at him with folded arms as she stood in silence.

“Good. Now, answer me this: Why did you come here?”

“Because I have something to tell you…” she said quietly despite the rage that was still coursing through her veins.

“What is it?”

“I…I think that I…”

Cyril was getting impatient. “Out with it, Faye!” he barked, causing her to jump. “I’m sorry. Please…Tell me what’s on your mind.”

Faye looked down as she twiddled with her thumbs. Then she looked up at him and said, “I-I think that I might be…pregnant.”

“What?” Cyril asked because he was unsure if he’d heard her correctly.

“I said that I might be pregnant.”

“A-Are you sure?” She nodded. “When did you find out?”

“Last week. My…friend is late by two weeks.”

Cyril couldn’t stay mad at her after hearing this news. He scooped her up in his arms and spun her around with a bellow of laughter. Then he put her down, sighing contentedly.

“I-I take it you’re excited,” Faye said in a manner that sounded like she was asking a question.

“Of course, I am! You’re carrying my child!”

Faye smiled nervously because she couldn’t be completely sure if the child growing inside her was Cyril’s or not due to her time with Alfred.

“So, what do you think we’ll have?” Cyril asked, caressing her belly.

“I’m not sure. Hopefully a boy so I can name him after you.”

“How many do you think are inside your belly, now?” Cyril asked, his voice getting lower and his touch slowly becoming more sensual.

“I-I don’t know,” Faye stammered, getting flustered by Cyril’s change in demeanor.

“Give me a number,” he said, leaning closer to her.

“What?” Faye asked as she backed away from Cyril.

“Give me a number,” he chuckled as he got even closer.

Faye’s back met the sink and she had nowhere to run. “O-One!” she squeaked, squeezing her eyes shut as she slightly recoiled from Cyril.

“Hm…Then, how about we give him a twin?”

Faye’s eyes shot open and she looked at Cyril in shock. Was he serious? She just announced that she was pregnant and…he wanted to have sex? “N-No, Cyril,” she said, trembling at the thought of how he’d respond. “I-,”

“Oh, come now. There’s no need to be shy,” Cyril pressed as he leaned in and planted a kiss on her neck.

“I-I’m not…”

“Then, why won’t you give in to me? You’re usually ready and willing; begging me to take you. Why the change?”

Faye’s hands came to rest on her still flat stomach. “The-The baby…”

“Will be fine. I’ll be gentle…Promise,” he assured her with a wink.

For the first time in her life, Faye could say that she was torn. She was torn between her desire for pleasure and her desire to protect something dear to her. She didn’t know all there was to know about pregnancy, but she did know that abstaining from sex was a part of it at some point. She looked up at Cyril with trusting eyes and said, “You promise?”

“Yes,” Cyril replied in a voice as gentle as his touch moments earlier.

Faye looked down and bit her lip as she thought about what she’d do. It had been quite some time since the last time she and Cyril made love and she was sure he was aware of that, too. She looked up at Cyril and could see the desire in his eyes. His eyes were fixed on her and ablaze with a fiery blue passion. He held her gaze for what seemed to be an eternity.

She longed to feel his touch again; to feel his lips on her neck, his fingers in her hair, and his member deep inside her. Just the thought of all of this made her tremble with desire. “I-I want you,” she stammered as she hesitantly laid her hands on his chest.

Cyril immediately leaned down and kissed Faye ever so gently. Then he picked her up and sat her on the sink, caging her in with his hands on either side. Faye was fading fast as Cyril took control of the kiss; nipping and sucking, leaving her breathless. He hadn’t even touched her and she was already desperate for more, but before she could be swept away, Faye broke the kiss.

Cyril looked at her with questioning eyes. “…What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I want you,” Faye panted, “but not here…” She looked away and finished with her voice no louder than a whisper saying, “Not now.”

As much as he wanted to strip her bare and derail her on that counter, Cyril saw no point in questioning Faye’s judgment. For all he knew, she was looking out for the baby, who would have been fine since she wasn’t too far along. But, he respected her decision, nonetheless. “Very well, then,” he replied before helping her down off the counter.

The two stood in awkward silence before Faye spoke saying, “Good night.”

“Good night,” Cyril replied. Then he let her out of the bathroom and escorted her to the door. He kissed her on the forehead before she left the room, stealing one last glance at Sabina’s sleeping figure before Cyril closed the door behind her.

He leaned against the door and sighed. Easy come, easy go, he thought. Then his eyes came to rest on Sabina and a dirty thought crossed his mind, but he decided against acting upon it. He was not going to attempt to make love to her unless she was conscious and willing. Although, he easily could have taken advantage of the fact that she was emotionally distressed, he decided to be the nobleman his father had attempted to raise him to be. He walked over to the fireplace, extinguished the fire, laid down on the couch, covered himself with a throw blanket, and drifted off to sleep, dreaming of reuniting Hope and Sabina.

The next morning, Sabina awoke and felt the other side of the bed out of habit, expecting Lionel to be there. She felt nothing. When she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and took in her suroundings, she woke up quickly upon realizing that she was not in her room. She started to panic, wondering how she got there and why.

Suddenly, her eyes fell on a blonde figure that lay asleep on the sofa. She recognized this sleeping beast as none other than Cyril. She then concluded that this was his room. Upon further recollection, she was able to remember the events of the previous night; the news of Lars not being willing to return Hope, the tears, and everything went fuzzy. I must’ve fallen asleep and he must’ve carried me back here, she thought. She was surprised by the fact that she was still clothed, knowing how much of a pervert Cyril could be. Nonetheless, she was grateful that he hadn’t tried to do anything to her while she slept. Otherwise, there would’ve been hell to pay.

Whilst she sat watching him, Cyril began to stir. He sat up with a yawn and stretched. Despite how much Sabina detested him, she had to admit that he looked rather adorable after just waking up. Cyril sat with his eyes closed for a moment or two before he rose and started to make his way to the bathroom. Then he saw Sabina sitting up looking at him and stopped in his tracks. “Oh, you’re awake,” he said in a groggy voice as he rubbed his eyes. “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” Sabina replied with a half smile.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Yes. Thank you for bringing me here…It was very kind of you.”

“I couldn’t leave you in the office because that’s no place for a lady such as yourself to sleep.”

“Once again, you have my thanks.”

A long moment of painfully awkward silence passed between the two. It was awkward in that there wasn’t much for them to converse about considering their drastic change in relationship due to the unfortunate series of events over the past few weeks. Cyril wanted to speak oh so desperately, but Sabina beat him to the punch saying, “Cyril!”

“Y-Yes?” he asked, surprised that she spoke up first.

“…Y-You weren’t joking when you said that Lars wasn’t going to return Hope…were you?” Cyril looked at her with sad eyes. “Because I know that you can be mean like that some-,”

“I’m sorry, Sabina. But no, I wasn’t joking and I would never tell a joke like that…That would be cruel.”

“I see,” she said quietly. “So, is there any way that he would possibly reconsider?”

“It’s hard to say,” Cyril began as he came to sit beside her on the bed. “He might be if I’m persistent enough.”

“D-Don’t push the subject too much, though,” Sabina stammered, grabbing Cyril’s arm in a desperate manner.

He looked into her eyes and they seemed to be pleading with him. “Why?”

“…Because Lars will hurt Hope.”

Cyril couldn’t help, but think: This woman is crazy. Lars would never do such a thing. “Sabina, Lars may be cruel, but I don’t think he’s cruel enough to harm a baby.”

“You don’t know him like I do!” Sabina snapped as she glared at Cyril. “Lars…Lars is a cruel heartless bastard who gets off on other people’s pain and suffering! He will take things that people love and do horrible things to them in order to get a rise out of a person. He’s done it to me and plenty of others before and he won’t hesitate to do it again. So, I am begging you…for our daughters sake, please don’t try and force his hand, Cyril. Please.”

“Alright,” Cyril said, caressing her face. “I promise.”

Sabina couldn’t help but smile at this. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Cyril pulled her into a tender embrace and kissed her on the forehead. “You’re welcome.” He paused. “How did we get here, Sabina?” he sighed, his demeanor changing from hopeful to wistful all in a matter of seconds.

“What do you mean?” Sabina asked, looking up at him with curious eyes.

“How did we become so…distant from one another in such a short period of time?”

Sabina then sat up and said in a rather matter-of-fact tone of voice, “You sold my daughter, Cyril…The last thing I wanted was to be anywhere near you after that.”

“But, why did you refuse to see me for so long?”

“Because I—I was a mess. I didn’t know what to think about you. Actually, I had no thoughts of you. All I knew is that you took my daughter away from me and I hated you for it.”

“Which you had every right to do…”

“And I am still wondering: Why?” Cyril didn’t answer her. “Tell me, Cyril: Why did you do it?”

Cyril sat silently, staring at his golden signet ring which was on his right middle finger. Then he cleared his throat and said, “It was asked of me.”

“By who?”

“…Faye.”

Sabina shrugged Cyril’s arm from around her shoulders, got out of bed, and circled around to the foot of the bed where she came to stare at him, hands on her hips. The look on Sabina’s face was not one of surprise, but one that seemed to say: “Really?” She stood there for a long time, not saying a word. Then she finally spoke saying, “So, she asked you to sell Hope and you just…did it? Just like that?”

“Not really.”

“Explain.”

“She asked me to do so in an attempt to get me to prove my love for her after everything I put her through. At first, I refused saying that Hope…was my baby – my princess. But, she kept begging and pleading and I kept refusing…Then she pulled out a knife.”

Sabina raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms as she imagined Faye pulling a knife on Cyril. She couldn’t kill even if she tried, she thought. “Then what?”

“She said that if she had to live without my love, then life wasn’t worth living at all.”

“So, she threatened to kill herself if you refused to sell Hope.”

“Yes,” Cyril said with a nod of his head. Before Sabina could ask her next question, he added, “Of course I agreed in order to save her life.”

Sabina’s brow furrowed as she spat, “You should’ve let the little slut kill herself. Or at least attempt to because she couldn’t kill anything even if she tried.” She chuckled. “It probably would’ve taken her eleven times to stab herself correctly to inflict any fatal injury.”

“She was going to slit her throat, Sabina.”

“Then, you should’ve let her and then watched her choke on her own blood,” she hissed. “You chose that little slut over your own daughter.”

“I didn’t mean to,” Cyril said defensively. “My only intent was to save Faye.”

“You’re lying. That might’ve been your initial intent, but there’s more where that came from.”

“No, I-,”

“Let me guess, she offered you a good time after you agreed to go through with it, huh? Am I right?” Cyril didn’t answer. She placed her hands on the bed and got in Cyril’s face. “Look me in the eyes and tell me that I’m wrong.” He couldn’t do so and Sabina got her answer. “You’re the same horny bastard you’ve always been, Cyril.” She turned and ran a hand through her hair.

“No, Sabina,” Cyril said as he jumped from the bed and grabbed Sabina’s arm.

“Don’t touch me,” she said, snatching her arm out of his grasp and spinning around to glare at him. She bit her lip as she fought the tears that were threatening to fall as she heard the man responsible for all her pain confess his sins. “…You wanted a quick fix,” she said through gritted teeth. “Since you couldn’t have me, you took the closest thing without any hesitation: a little slut who wanted to use you in her little scheme to try and break me.”

“That’s not com-,”

“You are the lowest of the low…You traded your baby girl for one night of pleasure when maybe – just maybe – I could have given you a lifetime. But, no…You’d rather have a horny little brat with an ulterior motive beneath you, writhing and screaming your praises instead of being able to hold your daughter and watch her grow up into the beautiful young woman that we both know she’ll be,” she said with her voice faltering at the end as her emotions began to show. “That, my dear Cyril, is why we have become so very distant from one another.”

A long moment of silence passed between the two, allowing each to process what had just been said. Cyril stood still as he silently chewed what Sabina had fed him. Sabina felt rather satisfied after saying most of what she had been longing to say for a very long time, but she wasn’t quite done just yet. “…What does Faye have that is so wonderful that it pales in comparison to your daughter?” she asked.

“…She loves me, Sabina,” Cyril replied.

“She loves you?” Sabina scoffed. “What can a fourteen year-old girl possibly know about love, Cyril? Nothing. All she knows is what it feels like to have you between her legs and she automatically associates that with love after adding all of your flowery words to the equation…You’ve ruined her. You created a monster, Cyril. Are you happy?”

Cyril looked down at the marble floor and mumbled, “I can’t say that I am.”

“I didn’t think so.” She ran a hand through her hair again as she let out a sigh and began to pace. “I’ll tell you one thing, though.”

“What is it?” he asked, lifting his head.

“I won’t be happy until I have my daughter in my arms again…Talk to Lars, but remember what I said. Don’t force his hand…because if he so much as hurts a single hair on her head, you’ll be next after I’m finished with him.” Cyril nodded.

Then Sabina began to make her way toward the door and Cyril escorted her. “I can let myself out, you know,” she said as she turned the doorknob.

“No,” Cyril said darkly as he grabbed Sabina’s wrists, spun her so her back was pressed to the door, and pinned her hands above her head with one hand.

“Cyril, let me go, you bastard!” Sabina yelled as she struggled, trying to break free from his grasp to no avail. “What do you want?”

“I want you,” he whispered.

“…What?”

“What don’t you understand about ‘I’m sorry’? Or ‘I tried my hardest,’ hm? Sabina, I tried convincing Lars, but there is no changing his mind. No matter what I say, no matter what I do, he is not going to return Hope.”

The tears were returning to Sabina’s eyes. “No, that’s not true,” she growled. “He’ll have to change his mind one way or another.” Cyril shook his head. “He has to!” she choked.

“No…Lars is not a force to be reckoned with, Sabina. You of all people should know, right?”

“Cyril…why? Why are you doing this? Why are you saying all these things?”

“Because I want things to go back to the way they were…Before all of this happened.”

“We both know that can’t happen. Now, please…let me go.” Sabina was tempted to ask him what he would gain from forcing himself on her, but she held her tongue. For if she were to speak those words, it would only provoke him more and most likely cause him to act on his impulses.

Cyril took a moment to take in Sabina’s appearance. She was obviously frightened; unsure of what he would do next. Her eyes held a level of fear he had never seen before. He didn’t like it…He didn’t like it at all. If they were going to make love, he wanted it to be out of her own will. He wanted her to want him. He longed to hear her beg for him again, but sadly, it wasn’t going to be at that moment. Cyril slowly loosened his grip on Sabina’s wrists until she was completely free.

She rubbed her wrists in silence as she looked at Cyril; only a small hint of fear remaining in her eyes. “Thank you,” she breathed. He simply nodded in response. “I-I’m leaving now.” She looked at him, but he still said nothing. She turned the doorknob and just before she slipped out of the door, she took one final glance at Cyril. Then she was gone.

Cyril stood motionless as he stared at the door, part of him hoping that she would come back and jump into his arms…That moment never came. So, he let out a defeated sigh, turned on his heel, and walked toward his bed. He pulled back the covers and hopped into bed, plopping his head on the pillow. He knew that he had some work to take care of that day, but he didn’t care at the moment. He had been rejected not once, but twice within the past eleven hours and all he wanted to do was forget it ever happened. So, Cyril closed his eyes and began counting sheep until he had drifted off to sleep.

Some three hours later, Cyril was awoken by the sound of knocking on his door. He was about to call out in response, but he thought, Maybe if I don’t respond, they’ll go away. Unfortunately, he was wrong. Whoever was on the other side of the door was rather persistent. So, Cyril sat up with an irritated groan and yelled, “Enter!”

The door cracked open then he saw a familiar blonde-haired vixen peek around the door. It was Faye. “Are you sure?” she asked. “You sound awful grumpy.”

“Yes. Please, Faye. Come in,” Cyril said as he bowed his head apologetically. She closed the door and sauntered over to him.

“Did I wake you?” she asked, brushing Cyril’s bangs away from his face.

“…Yes,” he admitted. “But, I didn’t mean to put you off! I thought you were some maid or…Alfred, coming to wake me for business. I was wrong.” Cyril smiled at Faye fondly and caressed her cheek. “What brings you here?”

“Well, I came to apologize for my behavior last night. It was uncalled for and very…unladylike of me.”

I’ll say, Cyril thought with a roll of his eyes. “Whatever qualm you have with Sabina, you must resolve it.”

Faye’s heart skipped a beat. Is he serious?! she thought. “B-B-But, why? I mean, what’s the point?”

“She knows what you did.”

“What?” He’s lying. There’s no way that she can know.

“She knows that you convinced me to sell Hope.”

A tension began to rise in Faye’s chest; a tension so strong, she feared that she would faint. “H-How?” she stammered.

Cyril sighed. “I told her.”

“C-Cyril…Why? Why would you do something like that?!”

“She asked me and I couldn’t bring myself to lie to her,” he said with a shrug.

Although she had a pretty good idea as to how Sabina probably reacted, Faye asked, “H-How did she take the news?”

“Surprisingly, she was rather…calm.”

“Calm? Th-That’s not possible. She had to have flipped a table or something!”

“No,” Cyril said with a shake of his head.

“Break a vase?”

“No.”

“Rip a pillow case?”

“No.”

“Slap you silly?”

“She didn’t do anything violent at all, Faye. She was completely calm.”

Faye’s face grew pale at the realization that she was in grave danger. I’m dead, she thought. Her eyes began to well up with tears and Cyril immediately scooped her into his arms and comforted her. Then she sobbed, “She’s going to kill me!”

“No, she’s not, Faye.”

“You don’t know Sabina!”

“You’re overreacting, love. She’s not going to-,”

She grabbed his shirt and said, “Cyril, she’s going to make me suffer the same way I made her suffer! God forbid she finds out that I’m pregnant. She’ll take him from me and – do God knows what! I don’t want that!” Her voice was failing. “Please…I need you to protect me!” she choked.

“I will, love. I will.”

“Y-You will?”

“Yes.”

“Promise to never leave my side?”

“I-,” Cyril considered the fact that he was a noble, therefore he was a businessman. That being so, he couldn’t promise to be by Faye’s side every waking minute. But, he couldn’t bring himself to say no as he looked into Faye’s pleading eyes. She also had her bottom lip poked out in a pout. That was enough to convince him. “Yes, Faye…I promise,” he assured her.

Faye let out a sigh of relief as she closed her eyes and nestled closer to Cyril. This girl puzzled Cyril. He couldn’t say why, but something about her kept him at ease. All the while they were in their complicated relationship, not once did he question her loyalty when he had every right to do so. She was young and beautiful; easily able to attract a younger, more suitable suitor. But, she remained faithful. In his eyes, Faye was truly a diamond in the rough. Although it took some time to win her trust and affection, she wound up with him.

Cyril wrapped his arm around her and drew her closer to him still. He planted a kiss on her forehead and closed his eyes as he rested his cheek on her head. Neither one spoke. Instead, they made a tacit agreement to savor the moment and bask in each other’s company.

A few minutes later, Faye caught herself dozing and opened her eyes before she could drift off to sleep. “Cyril,” she yawned, but received no response. She turned to look at him and saw that he had fallen asleep in a matter of minutes. Oh, well, she thought. It can wait.

Faye turned so that she could get a better look at Cyril. Once she was settled on her side, she watched Cyril as he snored softly. As she observed him, she couldn’t help but wonder what he was dreaming about. She lay there for about a half an hour and surmised that Cyril must have been having a good dream because she could have sworn that she saw him smile at least three times. She would have stayed longer, but her stomach started to growl.

“Alright, little one,” she mumbled as she rubbed her belly. “I’ll get you some food.” She turned to get up, but looked back at Cyril and thought, But, first… She kissed him on his forehead and whispered, “Sleep well, love.” Then she left the room, being sure to close the door quietly as not to wake Cyril, and made her way to the kitchen to ask the cook to fix her something to eat.

Meanwhile…

Alfred was helping Mariam put up some new drapes in her room. She had run into him earlier that morning and asked him to help. He didn’t have anything planned aside from his usual duties, which were so monotonous that he knew exactly how long it would take him to complete each one. It didn’t take him long to complete his duties at all, so he agreed to help the sweet woman.

“How does this look, Mariam?” Alfred asked, slightly moving to the side so that Mariam could see his work.

Mariam looked up from her sewing and adjusted her glasses so that she could thoroughly assess Alfred’s work. She leaned forward in her chair and squinted before she smiled and said, “Can you move the drapes slightly to the left, dear?”

Alfred nodded and proceeded to move the drapes to Mariam’s liking. “Just tell me when to stop.” Then he began to adjust the drapes.

He had barely moved them an inch when Mariam said, “That’s enough, dear.”

Alfred complied and hopped down from the stepping stool, adjusting his vest before moving over to the next window. Whilst he was doing that, Mariam lay her sewing aside and decided to make some tea. She figured that it would be ready by the time he had finished. As she got to work, she stole a few glances at Alfred as he was hard at work. He looked so focused as he kept looking at the other window to try and adjust the drapes so they were just right. Then he looked over at Mariam as she was looking at him. Then he looked away and blushed.

Mariam thought that the need to start a conversation was in order. So, she spoke saying, “Alfred, I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”

“W-What is it?” he stammered, still trying to recover from the eye contact he’d made with her before.

“I heard that a young lady has stolen your heart.”

Alfred froze. Who told her that? he thought. “P-Pardon?”

“I heard that a certain young lady has caught your attention,” Mariam reiterated as she began to garnish a silver tray.

“I...I don’t know what you’re-,”

“Oh, you know. The girl…The girl you’ve been seeing lately. I heard she’s got you wrapped around her little finger,” she chuckled. She turned, carrying the tray which held a teapot and two matching teacups and walked over to the coffee table where she set it down. When she sat down, she asked, “How are you two? What’s her name? How did you meet?”

“I…We…We’re no longer seeing each other. Or speaking, for that matter.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?”

“I’d rather not share.”

“I’m terribly sorry, I really am. I have a bad habit of talking too much.”

“No, it’s alright, Mariam. There’s no way you could’ve known…Besides, I like a woman who can make conversation.”

Mariam’s eyes grew wide upon hearing him say that. “O-Oh, I see.” She immediately grabbed the teapot and poured herself a cup of tea. Alfred, seeing that she didn’t feel up to talking anymore, continued in his work.

An awkward silence floated between the two for what seemed to be a painful eternity. Nonetheless, Alfred continued to hang the drapes and Mariam continued to sip her tea in silence. The two had what seemed to be a good acquaintanceship, if not friendship due to their many years of working together. Deep down, Alfred had always admired Mariam. She was always kind to him. Even when he was short with her, which was rare. Over the years, he’d grown to appreciate her grace, good work ethic, and her wit; but above all else, he loved her generous heart the most. He’d always wanted to be able to reciprocate the love and kindness she had shown him day in and day out for years.

Now, Mariam on the other hand, had always seen Alfred as the son she never had. He was a charming young lad with a good head on his shoulders. As far as she could tell, he’d have no problem sweeping a young girl off of her feet. He was bound to catch some woman’s heart some day.

“So, have you any suitors, Mariam?” Alfred asked suddenly. If she was going to ask about his love life, he would most definitely ask about hers.

Mariam sputtered on her tea. She wasn’t expecting such a question. “I-I beg your pardon?” she asked with wide eyes.

“Have you any suitors?” he repeated, looking over his shoulder as he finished putting up the last drape.

“Wh-Why would you-,”

“I mean no offense, honest.” He hopped down from the stepping stool and faced her. “The only reason I ask is because you’re a very lovely woman…Ravishing, even.”

“W-Why, thank you…But, I’m merely an old maid.” Mariam, said as she put down her cup of tea out of fear that she’d drop it because she was shaking so badly. She was afraid that she might blush. So, she seized the opportunity to run to the mirror and check just to be sure. To her relief, she had managed not to blush.

“Nonsense. You’ve got the stuff to compete with any dame out there!” Alfred said as he approached her from behind.

“Y-You think so?” Mariam asked as she turned to look at him.

“Think? I know! How could any man ignore such a lively…seasoned beauty as yourself?” He gently caressed Mariam’s face and she leaned into his touch.

Then she caught herself and quickly pulled away. “A-Alfred, please,” she stammered. “This is highly inappropriate.” She went around him and came to stand in the middle of the room with her back to him.

“I don’t see how…We’re both of age.”

Mariam gasped upon hearing him raise this point. She wasn’t prepared to have this conversation. Neither was she expecting to, but she had to try and reason with this young cub who was obviously sexually frustrated. “But, I’m old enough to be your mother!” she exclaimed as she turned to him, wearing the sternest look she could muster.

Alfred wasn’t fazed. “And?”

“It—It’s simply not appropriate.”

“Why?”

Stop questioning me and obey, already! Mariam thought as she mentally slapped herself. “Because I’ve always considered you a son,” she explained.

“But, I don’t want to be seen as your son, Mariam.”

“Then how do you want me to see you, Alfred?”

Alfred paused. He hadn’t expected Mariam to ask that question because he thought it’d be obvious enough, so he had to think fast if he wanted to make his intentions clear. He also had to convey his sincerity in whatever words he chose. Then, he got it. He looked up and closed the distance between him and her. He came to stand inches away from her and when she tried to back away, he took her hands in his and looked into her eyes. He licked his lips and said, “I want you to see me as your friend, your equal…And hopefully in time, your lover.”

Mariam looked into Alfred’s eyes and she could literally feel his seriousness just as well as she could see it. This man was so determined that it scared her. Suddenly, she snatched her hands out of his and walked away, wringing her hands saying, “No, no, no, no, no!”

“Why not, Mariam?!” Alfred demanded, trying not to sound like a spoiled brat. “Have you any other suitors?”

“No!”

“Bedmates?”

“N-Never.”

“Then, why not me? Why not give me a chance to love you the way you deserve to be?”

Mariam turned to him with pity in her eyes. She came to stand in front of him and assumed a motherly tone of voice saying, “Alfred…you are young and full of life. What could you possibly want with an old maid like me?” Alfred opened his mouth to speak, but Mariam continued saying, “Go find yourself a beautiful young lady that you can spend your life with and build a legacy.”

“But I don’t want to find a younger girl, Mariam.”

“Why not?”

“Because all the younger girls I’ve met have been nothing but trouble,” Alfred said with a sigh.

Mariam shook her head. “Just give it time, Alfred. I’m sure she’ll come a-,”

“I’m tired of waiting,” he all but growled as he took another step toward Mariam, forcing her to step backwards.

“Al-,”

“Besides, why should I wait when I have everything I want right in front of me?”

Mariam’s breath caught in her throat and her heart skipped a beat. She barely had enough time to process what Alfred had said before she saw him lean in and felt his lips on hers. When she realized what was happening, she tried to push him away from her, but he was too strong. He managed to back her up against the wall as he tried to deepen the kiss. Mariam was mentally panicking as she was trying to get away from this young man who was still a babe in the game of love. She was struggling – pushing and scratching; doing everything she could to get away, only to be restrained. She was trying her hardest not to give in to this desire that she thought had died a long time ago, but it felt too good. She was slowly losing her will to fight and escape. Then, she finally gave in and relaxed into the kiss, kissing Alfred back.

Despite his desire to suck the very life out of Mariam, Alfred broke the kiss, leaving her hungry for more. Then he looked into the eyes of his now willing captive and could instantly tell that she wanted him. Her eyes said it all; he saw tears forming at the corners of her eyes. He’d awakened something in her; something that had lain dormant for a very long time. He took a deep breath and asked, “When was the last time you had a man?” Mariam looked away from him as if embarrassed. “Tell me,” he said in a gentle tone of voice.

“…A long, long time ago,” she replied.

“I’d say you’re overdue,” he said playfully and they shared a laugh. “…Would you allow me?”

“Will you-,”

“Yes,” Alfred said with a nod, “I’ll be gentle.”

“…Please?” Mariam asked as she looked at Alfred with big doe eyes.

Alfred smiled and bowed saying, “Lead the way, Madam.”

Mariam smiled back and simply took him by the hand, led him to the bedroom, closed the door behind them, and the rest was as divine as spiced wine.
Broken: Chapter 31
Finally back! I hope I didn't keep you on edge too long, my lovelies! Writer's block is a cruel terrible thing...but I overcame it and this is what I came up with. Enjoy! :heart:

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Cyril had just finished drinking a glass of brandy. He placed it on the end table on his side then rose and prepared to get in bed. Suddenly, he heard a soft knock. He looked at the door, unsure if someone was actually knocking at that ungodly hour or if it was just his imagination. Just when he was about to dismiss the thought, he heard it again. So, he let out an irritated sigh and walked over to the door. When he opened it, he was surprised to see Faye of all people standing there. “Faye, what are you doing here this late?” he asked, rubbing his eye.

“I came to see you,” she replied.

“…I didn’t send for you.”

“I-I know, but…it’s important. May I please come in?”

Cyril was tired and the last thing he wanted to do was entertain company. But, he couldn’t just turn her away without knowing what she wanted. Besides, it was Faye. Although their relationship was rather complicated, he still thought enough of her to be there when she needed him. So, he stepped aside and gestured for her to come inside. And she did.

Once she was inside, Cyril closed the door behind her. Then when he turned, Faye grabbed the back of his head and pulled him into a kiss. Cyril was completely thrown off guard by this. Although he didn’t oppose what was going on, he needed an explanation before he got carried away by his own lust. So, he broke the kiss, held Faye at arm’s length away from him, and demanded, “Faye, what’s the meaning of this?”

“Master,” she breathed, “I want you.”

Cyril stared at her blankly. He blinked a few times as he tried to process what was happening. Is that really all she came for? he thought. “I-Is that all you wanted from me?” he asked.

“Yes, please.”

“…At this hour?” She nodded. “Y-You’ve never come to me like this before. Why now?” Faye looked away and started to fidget. “Did something happen?” Cyril asked in a soft concerned voice.

She shook her head.

“Then, why now?”

“…I dreamt of you,” she lied. “Then I woke up and realized you weren’t by my side.” Then she blushed. “I tried to do it myself…but it’s not the same!” she cried as she grabbed at Cyril’s chest and pressed her body against his. “Please, Master, take me! It’s been so long since the last time we made love. No one can touch me like you do. No one can love me like you do. Please…I want it.”

She continued to beg as Cyril looked down at her, wondering how a dream could have brought all this…emotion on. Is it really possible? he thought. Judging by the way Faye was acting, she wasn’t just looking for fun. She was desperate for him; wanting him; needing him to maintain her sanity. He considered how long it had actually been since the last time he took her to bed and he couldn’t even remember. A wave of guilt rushed over him as he thought back on his behavior toward her over the past few weeks.

He actually regretted toying with her heart and mind. He was sorry for neglecting her, but also for neglecting himself of something he so desperately needed – love. Real love; a love he didn’t have to ask for, but was freely given as it was received. He grabbed Faye’s chin and stopped her begging with a kiss, which she immediately relaxed into. He ran his tongue over her lips, asking for permission to gain more access, which Faye gave. Thus, allowing Cyril’s tongue to dance with hers in a battle for dominance.

Faye wasn’t putting up much of a fight, but she wasn’t giving in, either. Cyril, being the man he was, was not about to give up so easily. He was the master, so he would have his dominance. He picked Faye up and pinned her against the door. Faye was surprised, but not fazed by Cyril’s course of action. Instead, she wrapped her legs around his waist and began to kiss in an almost needy fashion. Thus, prompting Cyril to take things further. He managed to lift her skirt and tease her through her panties, eliciting a deep moan from Faye as she ground her hips into his touch.

Cyril smiled to himself as he savored Faye’s every utterance and gesture. With every gasp, mewl, moan, and thrust of her hips, she was telling him she wanted him. And she wanted him in the worst way.

Faye let him toy with her for as long as she could handle. Then when she got bored, she whined, “Cyril, stop your teasing…I want more.” He looked at her expectantly. “...Please?” she whispered. Then he stopped teasing her, winning a sigh of relief from Faye. Suddenly, he pulled her panties to the side and prepared to enter her when Faye cried, “No! No!”

“What? What’s wrong?” Cyril asked, thinking he was hurting the poor girl.

“People will hear if we do it against the door,” she said quietly.

“Faye,” Cyril said as lovingly as he could despite his annoyance, “there’s no one awake at this hour.”

“B-But what if-,”

“Fine,” he sighed, setting her down on the ground. “Where would you like to be loved? There’s the bed, the window, the rug in front of the fireplace, and even the shower if you’d like.”

Faye was overwhelmed by how many options there were. She scanned the room as she assessed them all. The bed was too typical and the window was too exhibitionistic. She stole a glance at Cyril and his impatience was growing every moment that passed without her choosing. “You choose!” she squeaked.

“What?”

“I don’t know where I want you to take me; I-I don’t care! I just want you, Cyril,” she said, clinging to him.

“Well, then,” he said as an amused smirk came to his face. He scooped Faye up in his arms, causing her to gasp, and carried her over to the fireplace. He laid her down on the rug then lit the fireplace as Faye watched curiously. Once the fire was lit, Cyril just sat and watched it without saying a single word to Faye. She was about to call him when he extended his arm and said, “Come here, Faye.”

She swallowed nervously then crawled over to him. Then he sat her in his lap and just held her as he rested his chin on the top of her head. He didn’t say another word. All he did was hold her, his embrace becoming slightly tighter almost every two minutes or so.

Why hasn’t he said anything? thought Faye. Why isn’t he saying anything? Is he going to take me or not? She wanted to ask him what he was doing and why he was taking his time so badly, but she decided against it. She didn’t want to spoil the moment even though she didn’t really understand the depth of it. However, she had to admit that it felt nice just to be held by Cyril despite the tightness of his hold. She felt safe and secure; almost untouchable. This man was so powerful, but he was also so gentle; and he was choosing to be gentle with her of all people.

Cyril sighed, his breath tickling the top of Faye’s head. “You’re probably wondering why I’m doing this,” he finally said after what felt like an eternity.

“…Yes,” Faye admitted.

“It’s because I’m just so happy and grateful to have you, Faye. The thought of losing you or your love – It scares me. That’s why I’m holding you so tightly…Because if I let go,” his voice began to tremble. “I’m afraid – I’m afraid that I’ll lose you for good.”

Faye couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The Cyril she knew was fierce, tenacious, and fearless. This was a side of Cyril she had never seen before; the sensitive, vulnerable side of Cyril. Despite the fact that she knew he loved her, she was honored by the fact that he would share this side of himself with her. She was able to turn around so she could look at him. “Cyril,” she said as she gently caressed his face.

“…I’m sorry,” he sniffled.

“What for?”

“For the way I’ve been treating you lately. I’ve taken advantage of you on countless occasions and I am deeply sorry, Faye. I’ve played with your emotions too much, causing you much unnecessary stress and heartache. I-,”

“Sh…” Faye hushed, placing a finger to his lips. “I forgive you, Cyril…I forgive you.”

Cyril’s eyes met hers in an intense stare that seemed to convey his thanks. Suddenly, Cyril snatched Faye’s hand away from his lips and kissed her deeply and passionately. As his stare, this kiss served as a representative of his gratitude for Faye’s acceptance of his apology. Then when oxygen became an issue, he pulled away and breathed, “I love you.”

Faye’s eyes welled up with tears as a smile came to her face upon hearing him say those three little words. She closed her eyes and let the words sink in.

“I love you,” he whispered again, planting a kiss on her neck, slowly working his way downward.

Faye could feel him undoing the buttons on her nightgown one by one as he continued his trail of kisses down the path of newly revealed skin. She rested her hands on his knees and trembled in delight as she arched into his delicate kisses.

Cyril slid the garment off her shoulders then laid her down on the rug before removing her panties and casting them aside, eliciting a gasp from Faye. He continued his path, but lingered at her navel, leaving soft kisses around her bellybutton. Faye let out a strangled whine as she mentally screamed for Cyril to go lower, but he never did. When she looked down at him, her eyes immediately met his. He could see the longing in her eyes, but he wasn’t going to give her what she wanted until she gave him what he wanted.

He pulled back and blew on her delicate flower, causing Faye to flinch with a gasp; his eyes never leaving hers. “I love you,” he said with all sincerity.

Faye couldn’t fight it. She saw no need in trying. She was hopelessly in love with this man even though she thought it was Alfred she loved. But, no…Cyril was the man she loved. No one could love her like he could. No one made her feel the things she did or think the thoughts she thought as he did. She’d told him she loved him many times before, but this time she wanted him to know that she meant it. “…I…I love you, too,” she whispered.

“What was that?” Cyril asked even though he heard her say it. He just wanted to hear her say it again.

“I love you, Cyril…more than life itself. So, please…make love to me like you’ve never made love to me before.”

“That’s quite a request…but I’ll do my best,” Cyril replied, flashing a smile that met his eyes.

Faye closed her eyes and prepared herself, not knowing what to expect. Then she felt something wet, soft, and thick enter her. Faye looked down and saw Cyril going down on her and was it a sight to behold. She couldn’t help but stare as she watched him work. It was a long time and he hadn’t come up for air yet. Faye bit her lip as she tried to stifle her moans, but it was no use. She was enjoying this special treatment way too much to remain silent. She threw her head back and voiced her pleasure as she grabbed Cyril’s head and thrust her hips upward, forcing his tongue deeper inside of her.

Cyril didn’t stop her. Instead, he got on his knees, taking Faye with him. Faye gasped at this sudden change. She was now being held upside down and looking up at Cyril. He then planted a kiss on her sex, making Faye shiver at the sensation. She spread her legs so she could get a better look at Cyril and their eyes met. He gave her a seductive look before he began to lick her ever so slowly all while holding her gaze.

Faye’s mouth hung agape as she watched this man undo her. In that moment, he was exceeding her expectations. With every kiss of his lips, stroke of his tongue, and gust of air from his nostrils, he was bringing her closer and closer to her climax. She wasn’t sure if it was Cyril’s skill, all the blood rushing to her head, or a combination of the two; but Faye couldn’t contain herself despite her efforts. The pressure was building fast. “Cyril,” she moaned. “You’re gonna make me-,”

He shoved his index and middle finger into her mouth and she began to suck greedily. When he thought they were wet enough, he retrieved them and began to tease her, rousing more delicious moans from Faye. “A-Ah~! Cyril!” she screamed as she reached her climax, convulsing with pleasure-induced spasms. Cyril licked her clean before resting her on her back and allowing her to catch her breath before he went any further.

When Faye’s breathing evened out, she looked at Cyril, who was once again, staring at the fire. She sat up and stared at him, not saying a word. Cyril felt her eyes on him and turned to look at her. Although her face was blank, he saw a hint of disappointment in her eyes. “What is it?” he asked.

Faye looked at the fire that danced in the fireplace. She took in the smell of the wood burning and the sight of the orange-red glow. The flames were beautiful…but also dangerous and unpredictable. She likened Cyril to a flame. He was beautiful and majestic, but he was even more so unpredictable. But, that just added to his grandeur; not knowing what to expect from him was exhilarating and it kept Faye coming back for more each time. Although the man beside her had burned her many a times, her love remained the same. “…I want more,” she replied in a soft voice, her eyes never leaving the flames.

“Then, more you will get.” He moved to position himself over her, but she placed a hand on his chest, stopping him. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. It’s just-,” She looked away, embarrassed by what almost came out of her mouth. Cyril made her look at him again and looked at her with eyes that said that she could trust him. “I-I want to do it,” she stammered.

“Alright, then.” Cyril grabbed a pillow, placed it behind his head, and laid down, waiting for Faye to make her move. He was more than ready for her. Even though she wanted Cyril badly, Faye was awful nervous. She didn’t know why because she’d done it before. She had even slept with Alfred who was even bigger than Cyril. So, she took a deep breath, straddled Cyril’s hips, and slowly began to ease down on his member.

Faye heard Cyril hiss and opened her eyes to see him biting his lip. This was the first time she’d ever seen him do that…and she liked it. One can even say she felt proud that she was the one to make him do such a thing.

When she finally had him inside of her, she sat still, trying to adjust to this familiar yet strange position. She felt Cyril begin to rub her thighs and hips. It felt soothing to her; as if he were encouraging her not to rush herself. She confirmed this when she looked at him and he smiled saying, “Take your time.”

And that’s just what she did. She started by grinding her hips against him as she gave Cyril a massage of her own, using her inner walls, eliciting a low groan from him as he grabbed her hips and thrust upward. She kept this up for a minute or two before she began to ride him. She placed her hands flat on his chest and began to bounce up and down. Cyril began to thrust in time with her and had Faye moaning and mewling like the kitten she was.

He was hitting the spot which drove every woman mad with pleasure with every thrust. It was so good that Faye couldn’t even move. So, Cyril picked up the slack and started thrusting like a mad man. For the next few minutes, nothing but Faye’s screams, Cyril’s grunts, and the sound of flesh meeting flesh could be heard.

Cyril wanted to make things interesting, so he continued to thrust, but he added his thumb to the mix. He already had his hands on Faye’s hips, so he took his right thumb and began to tease Faye’s love button, driving her over the edge. She arched her back as she reached both her second and third climax. After that, Cyril thought she was done, but she begged for more.

He gladly obliged. He took her from the front, the back, the side, on the coffee table, on the sofa, and even in a living chair. The girl’s appetite seemed to be insatiable. The sun had begun to rise by the time Faye called it quits. Faye had climaxed a whopping ten times while Cyril only came thrice. They lay in the afterglow of their final climaxes as they watched the flames in the fireplace slowly begin to die.

Cyril kissed the back of Faye’s neck as he pulled her closer to him. He still wasn’t sure why she had come to him at such an ungodly hour, but whatever her reason, it was worth it. Faye was just glad to be by Cyril’s side and in his arms again.

“I wasn’t too rough with you, was I?” Cyril asked.

“No,” Faye replied. “You were perfect.”

“…T-Thank you,” he stammered as he blushed. Why am I blushing? he thought. Faye didn’t see him blush, but it still bothered him. It’s just a compliment, man! Pull yourself together! He cleared his throat and asked, “Faye?”

“Hm…?”

“Why did you come?”

Faye froze. She couldn’t believe he was doing this. This couldn’t wait ‘til morning? she thought. She turned so she was facing him and said, “I came because I needed to prove something to myself.”

Cyril looked at her, confused by what she had just said. “…What did you need to prove to yourself?”

“That I still love you.”

“…W-Wait. I thought you already established that you loved me.”

“I did, but I kept…second-guessing myself. I needed to prove it in this way because if I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t have subjected myself to everything we just did.”

Cyril stared at her in silence. This girl was hopeless…She was in love with him; so in love that she had to keep reminding herself that her feelings were real. He kissed her forehead and then placed his forehead to hers before saying, “You don’t have to do that anymore. My love for you is real and from this moment on, I’m committing to you and only you.”

“R-Really?”

“…Really,” Cyril said with a smile that met his eyes. He kissed her on the forehead again. “Now, let’s get some sleep.”

“O-Okay.” She rested her head against his chest and pondered what Cyril had just said.  He had committed himself to her and only her. Wow, she thought. He…He’s mine. He’s finally mine. She looked at Cyril as he slept so peacefully and wondered what the future held for them. She subconsciously rubbed her stomach and wondered what it would be like to carry this man’s child. As wonderful as that would be, she shook the thought from her mind. Impossible! There’s no way fate would allow such a thing.

She soon drifted to sleep, dreaming of her man, lover, and friend.

Later that afternoon, Cyril awoke and stretched. When he opened his eyes, they came to rest on Faye’s sleeping face. She looked like she was having a pleasant dream. Cyril smiled at the sight of her. But when he looked down at her neck, shoulders, and the small of her chest that showed, she was covered in bruises. Did I do all that? he thought. A rhetorical question. He didn’t know what to expect when she woke up and saw his handiwork.

For now, he had business to take care of. He left a gentle kiss on Faye’s forehead, got up without waking her, took a quick shower, got dressed, and headed to his office. Once inside the familiar space, he sat behind his desk and made a phone call.

“Hello?” came a voice as light and melodious as a flute. Cyril recognized the voice as that of the lady of the house.

“Hello, Mrs. Newton. It’s Cyril Van Tassel. I was wondering if-,”

“Oh, Mr. Van Tassel!” Mrs. Newton gushed. “I didn’t think that I’d get the privilege of speaking to you again. However, I must say thank you for blessing us with our little angel, Daliah. She is just a dream!”

Cyril couldn’t bring himself to say that she was welcome. So, he cut to the chase. “I would like to speak to Lars, please.”

“Uh…Right away, sir.” She placed her hand over the speaker and sent a servant to fetch her husband. “It’s Mr. Van Tassel,” she explained, handing him the phone.

Lars took the phone from her and said, “Why, hello, Cyril, old boy. How are you on this glorious afternoon?”

“I’m fine, thank you, Lars. Lis-,”

“How is Sabina?” His wife gave him the coldest of looks at the mention of Sabina’s name, but he ignored her.

“That’s actually what I’d like to talk to you about, Lars.” Silence came over the other line. “Hello?”

“…What is it?” Lars asked in a concerned voice. “Is she all right?”

“…No. The poor thing is inconsolable. She’s been crying nonstop and she’s barely been eating. It was just yesterday that she finally agreed to see me.”

“Oh, my. All this over her daughter?”

Cyril looked at his phone in disbelief. “W-What do you mean, Lars? I sold her pride and joy! How could you not expect her to react the way she is?”

“Well, if it would help, I could arrange a visit. Your place or mine?”

“That’s not why I called, Lars,” Cyril said, his voice changing to a more businesslike tone.

“Oh? Then, why did you call, Cyril, old boy?”

Here goes nothing, Cyril thought as he took a deep breath. You’ve got this, Cyril…Do it for Sabina. The worst he can say is no, which he probably will. But you’ve got to try! “I called because I want to buy Hope back.”

“…Who?” Lars asked.

“Hope, Sabina’s daughter.”

“Oh, you mean, Daliah?”

“Her name is Hope, Lars.”

“Not while I have her.”

Cyril sighed in frustration. “I’d like to buy Daliah back,” he said through gritted teeth.

“And why is that?” Lars asked despite the fact that he already knew.

“…Because Sabina is suffering and the only way to bring her solace is for her to have her daughter back in her arms again.” Silence held the line. “I’ll pay you well…Lars?”

Although Cyril was speaking loudly and clearly, Lars did not hear him. The middle-aged man sat back in his chair and pondered Cyril’s words. He observed a servant bring little Daliah into the room and hand her to his wife who looked down at her with joy. Then she looked up at him and smiled. He was well aware of how much pain Sabina was experiencing after being torn from her daughter and he was leaning toward returning the little one free of charge. Then he looked at how happy his wife was. She had always wanted a baby girl, but fate caused them to have four strapping boys. Now she had her little angel, as she called her. Then he thought back to when he had Sabina. He loved the excitement she brought to his life, but he hated her lack of obedience even more, so he considered punishing her.

“Lars, are you still there?” asked Cyril.

“Yes, Cyril. I’m here,” Lars replied.

“Well?” He waited on the edge of his seat for an answer, praying to God that Lars would say yes.

Then came a single word: “No.”

“…What?”

Lars did not mind repeating himself. And he did not stutter when he said, “No.”

Cyril couldn’t believe this. He had played his cards right and still came out with nothing. “I-I don’t understand. What-,”

“It’s fairly simple, Cyril. I’m not going to sell her back to you.”

“I-I’ll pay you double the amount you paid for her.”

“No deal.”

“Triple!”

“I’m sorry, but no.”

“I’ll give you…my collection of fine wine.”

“No deal.”

“My estate in the mountains. It’s a beautiful escape from everything.”

“Not interested.”

“Lars, I’ll give you half of my estate!” Cyril cried as the desperation was building and his options were slowly running out.

“No thank you.”

“I’ll give you Sabina! At least she’d be with her daughter!”

Lars smirked. “Tempting…but I don’t believe my wife would be too happy with that. I believe this conversation has gone on longer than it should.”

“Wait, Lars.”

“I’ll be talking to you, Cyril, old boy.”

“Lars-,”

“Goodbye, my friend.”

“Wai-,” Click. Lars was gone.

Cyril sat at his desk holding the phone to his ear as he was still trying to process what had just happened. He had failed to persuade Lars to sell, if not give Hope back to him. He placed the phone on the receiver and ran his hands through his hair with a defeated sigh. What am I going to tell Sabina? he thought. But more importantly, when?
Broken: Chapter 30
And........Faye's back to being needy while Cyril continues to struggle. He's already broken so many promises. Will he be able to keep this one? Tell me what you think.

Until next time, my darlings! :heart:

Prologue: fav.me/d56ajzv
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An entire week had passed since Sabina had put Lionel’s training on hold. During that time, she hadn’t brought it up once. Whenever Lionel mentioned it, she would tell him that she would let him know when they would resume his training. Only, she never did.

One night, Lionel was lying wide-awake while Sabina slept peacefully beside him with her back to him. He was thinking about all the events between his last lesson with Sabina and this very moment.

The poor soul was feeling rather deprived and had reached his limit. So, he turned on his side and slid close to her without waking her. Then he proceeded to wrap his arm around her waist and she didn’t stir. He licked his lips in anticipation and slowly leaned in to kiss the nape of her neck. When his lips met her skin, Sabina wriggled at the sensation. He continued and she giggled. It must be my stubble, Lionel thought. But, he continued slowly regardless.

He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to wake her or let her sleep. In his fit of terrible desire, he didn’t really care. All he wanted was satisfaction and he was willing to get that satisfaction by any means necessary. So he grabbed Sabina’s breast and began to massage it ever so gently.

Sabina’s breath hitched and a moan soon followed. Lionel continued to caress her as he kissed her neck. As the seconds and minutes passed, Sabina’s responses grew more and more intense as Lionel’s touch went from gentle to rough. Lionel couldn’t help but marvel at how she could still be asleep at a moment like this, but he continued nonetheless. Although he couldn’t see Sabina in the dark, he could feel that she wanted more even in her subconscious state.

It was then that he lowered his hand to her stomach and began to caress it in delicate circles. This seemed to calm Sabina a little, but she was still hot and bothered. He continued to rub small circles as he lowered his hand even more. It came to rest just above her womanhood. He teased her; tickling and tugging as he heard her panting. Then she thrust her hips back against him and he had to bite back a moan because it felt so very good, but he had to wait just a little longer.

Lionel continued to tease her and that elicited a desperate whine from Sabina. As much as he loved to tease her, he hated to see her suffer even more. So, he granted her tacit wish.

His hand had barely brushed against her womanhood when he felt a firm grip around his wrist. He froze, but kept a level head.

“L-Lionel?” came Sabina’s quivering voice.

“…Yes?” he replied.

“What’re you doing?” she asked as her hand that held Lionel’s wrist began to tremble.

“Oh, Sabina,” he said with a sigh as he sat up and retrieved his hand. He felt her sit up and turn to look at him in the dark. “I-I wanted-,”

“I told you that I’d let you know!” she hissed.

“I know, but I’ve reached my limit!” Silence floated between the two for a moment. Then Lionel continued saying, “I’ve waited patiently like you asked. I haven’t pleasured myself, let alone tried! Y-You gave me a taste of what it’s like to please you and I want more.”

Sabina stared in shock. She couldn’t believe her ears. Was this what her deprivation was driving her beloved to think and causing him to do what he did? “…W-What are you trying to say, Lionel?” she asked.

“I love you, Sabina,” he said, cupping her face in his hands after some fumbling. “Pleasing you pleases me.”

“…Y-You love me that much?” she stammered.

“Yes.”

“And you want to please me?”

“…I live to please you.”

Sabina swallowed the lump in her throat. She could feel the passion in Lionel’s gaze even though she couldn’t see his face. She sighed then said in a voice no louder than a whisper, “Then, please me you will…Please, continue where you left off.”

Lionel obliged and began to kiss her, but he quickly pulled away and began to fumble for something in the dark.

“W-What’s wrong?” Sabina asked.

“Nothing, love. I just-,” He found what he was looking for and tugged. Then the light from the bedside lamp came on. “There we go.”

Sabina covered her eyes at the bright light that now filled the room. “Why’d you turn on the light?” she whined.

“Because I want to see your face as I make you become undone.”

Sabina’s eyes grew large upon hearing him say something so…forward. The Lionel she knew was gentle and subtle; never brash or forward. But, she seemed to like the way he carried himself. She wanted to respond to him, but she couldn’t think of anything to say. So, she laid back on the pillows, closed her eyes, and waited for Lionel to make his first move.

However, Lionel never moved to touch her. Sabina opened her eyes and caught him staring at her. “What?” she asked.

Lionel smiled and said, “You’re just so beautiful and—I can’t help but smile every time that I see you like this.”

“…L-Like what?” Sabina asked as she shifted nervously with a voice to match her unease.

“Vulnerable…ready…willing-,”

“Lionel, please,” Sabina breathed. “…D-Don’t say anymore.” If he were to say anymore than he already did, she would surely climax from his words alone. “P-Please…Just-,”

He leaned forward and said, “I’m way ahead of you.” Then he silenced her with a kiss; soft and sensual. He then trailed his kisses down her neck and to the small of her chest. He would’ve done more, but the material of her nightgown was in the way. Lionel looked at Sabina for permission, which she gave and he hiked up her nightgown and slipped it over her head. Then he was able to continue his ministrations, which Sabina relished as she arched into his touch and rubbed his head encouragingly.

Lionel hadn’t planned any of this out. His intent was to play things by ear. From where he stood – or lay, he was doing a good job pleasing his lady, but he wanted to go further. If he was going to please Sabina, he wanted to do it well. He wanted to test her boundaries as well as his own.

He continued his trail of kisses down Sabina’s stomach and stopped at the hem of her panties. He looked up at her with a devilish look in his eyes and a smirk on his face. Sabina looked at him, anticipating his next move. Then Lionel did the unthinkable. He grabbed the hem with his teeth and began to tug, causing Sabina to gasp since she wasn’t expecting him to do such a thing. When he got the panties off her, he tossed them aside carelessly. When he went to position himself between Sabina’s legs, she closed them tightly.

Lionel wasn’t sure if this was because she was being feisty or if it was because she was really shy. That didn’t stop him from looking up at her as if to say, “Really?” She opened her legs for him then he nestled himself between them. He stared for a moment before looking Sabina in the eyes and blowing some cool air on her delicate flower. Sabina flinched like he thought she would. Then he took his finger and traced the outline of her flower, which was in full bloom.

Sabina was panting in anticipation. What’s he doing? she thought. Why is he toying with me? He knows I hate being teased!

Lionel wanted a rise out of her and she seemed willing enough to give him one. He just needed to add more pressure. So, he stuck two fingers inside of her, eliciting a combination of a gasp and moan. “L-Lionel!” Sabina gasped.

“You like this?” he asked as he began to pump his digits in and out.

“I-It feels so good,” she whimpered.

He wasn’t sure, but it seemed like Sabina was more sensitive now than she’d ever been before. He shrugged it off thinking she must’ve been just as desperate for him as he was for her. Well, he thought, you’re gonna like this even more.

Without a warning, he placed his lips on her love button and began to suck. Sabina’s jaw dropped upon seeing this unfold before her eyes. She also let out a strangled moan as she thrust her hips forward, trying to get even more of a rise from Lionel’s surprisingly skilled mouth. Lionel took this as encouragement to get even bolder. A few moments later, he removed his fingers and replaced them with his tongue and was taking Sabina for all she was worth.

Sabina was enraptured in this newfound level of pleasure she’d never experienced before. Never did she think that Lionel would do something like this. She was writhing, moaning, and clawing at the sheets as she tried to contain herself, but she just couldn’t do so. It felt too good. She entangled her fingers in Lionel’s brown hair and began to grind against his face. Lionel, trying to keep control of the situation, took Sabina’s wrists and pinned them down at her sides.

Sabina struggled against him, but it was no use. Lionel was going to decide her fate this time. “Lionel, please,” she begged. He simply looked up at her and continued to lick, suck, and occasionally nibble as he held her glassy gaze.

All Sabina could do was stare back at her husband as he devoured her, sending surges of pleasure through her body. She felt the pressure building and began to convulse and moan. Lionel smiled against her. “Come for me, Sabina,” he said.

“N~No!” she moaned. “Not yet!”

“Come on, love. I want you to.”

“No!”

If she wouldn’t come willingly, Lionel figured he’d have to make her. He then stuck his fingers back inside of her and curled them upwards while he sucked her as a babe sucked from his mother’s breast. Sabina involuntarily arched her back as she fought the urge to climax to try and stay high on the passion just a little while longer. But Lionel was relentless. Each flick of his tongue and stroke of his fingers was driving her closer and closer to the edge.

Sabina’s strength was failing and she couldn’t take anymore much longer. She tried to hold on for just a little bit more, but she finally caved. “L-Lionel!” she squealed as she closed her eyes and reached her climax. She felt light; as if she were floating on a cloud. She didn’t know how long it would last, but she wanted to stay like this forever.

She had barely come down from her high when she gasped upon feeling something enter her. When she opened her eyes, she saw Lionel on top of her. She looked at him knowingly and said, “You just couldn’t wait, could you?”

“I-I’m sorry,” he replied through gritted teeth. He’d been deprived for so long, so could she really blame him? Then he leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Tell me what you want me to do.”

The heat of his breath sent shivers down Sabina’s spine. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist. Then she whispered, in a low sultry voice, “Start slow…then do what comes naturally.”

Lionel pulled away just enough to look into her eyes and asked, “Do you trust me?”

“Would I have let you come this far if I didn’t?”

Lionel had a million responses he could have used at that moment, but he saw no point in delaying his beloved’s pleasure, so he did as she asked. He made slow, delicate thrusts as Sabina began to grind against him. If she kept moving like that, she’d send him over the edge, so he started to pick up the pace because he wanted to maintain some level of control in this situation.

He then unhooked her legs from around his waist and turned her on her side, draping her leg over his shoulder. Sabina moaned as she gripped at the sheets thus, encouraging Lionel to do even more. When he grew tired of their current position, he took her leg off his shoulder and pulled her into the sitting position as he cradled her in his arms, causing Sabina to squeal at this new position. However, it didn’t take long for her to adjust because, she was grinding and moaning like mad as she dug her nails into Lionel’s shoulders and raked them down his arms.

Lionel hissed in response to this pain, but this pain went well with the pleasure he was experiencing. He began to suck on Sabina’s neck; hard enough to leave a bruise. Then without a warning, Sabina arched her back and reached her second climax as her inner walls clenched around Lionel, coaxing him to come as well. He resisted because he hadn’t had his fill just yet. So he pulled out of Sabina, laid her down, and flipped her so her back was to him. Then he plunged deep inside her with a grunt. He stilled in an attempt to keep his composure because Sabina was so tight.

When he’d caught his second wind, he had to start slowly; eliciting a few soft moans from Sabina. Then he eventually picked up the pace and got rougher. It seemed the rougher her got, the louder Sabina’s voice became. He slapped her on the buttocks to try and put some space between her moans, causing Sabina to yelp. She’d never seen this side of Lionel before, but she liked it; loved it. He smacked her again and she let out a whine as she raised her rear.

“Lionel,” she moaned as she looked over her shoulder and bucked her hips back against him. “Hit me again…I like it.”

Lionel held her lustful gaze for a moment before he obliged, causing Sabina to moan even louder than before. She grabbed a pillow and sunk her teeth in it as she was fast approaching yet another climax.

Suddenly, Lionel got the urge to pull something. So, he reached for Sabina’s hair and tugged. He got a low growl in response. Then he tugged hard enough to make Sabina get on all fours. “Ah!” she grunted, releasing the pillow from her mouth. “Lionel~!”

He continued to thrust deep and hard until he felt his own climax coming on. So, he pulled Sabina up so she was on her knees with her back flush against his chest, still keeping a firm grip on her hair. He then began to tease her love button, making her mewl with pleasure. Then he said in a rough voice, “Now will I be your one and only?”

“Yes,” Sabina moaned.

“Are you sure?” he asked, softly biting her neck.

“Yes, Lionel…I-I’m sure,” she said between shaky breaths.

Lionel still wasn’t convinced, so he pulled her hair and said in a gruff voice, “Positive?”

“Yes!” Sabina cried. “Yes, I’m sure!”

Lionel smiled at this. Part of him liked hearing Sabina beg. “…Alright. Now, come for me, Sabina…”

“B-But, Lionel~,”

“Come for me.” He began to rub her and thrust faster and faster until she couldn’t take anymore. She threw her head back on Lionel’s shoulder and came with a loud moan as a series of electric shocks coursed through her body. Lionel soon followed as he grabbed her hips, thrust deep inside, and grunted triumphantly. They stayed that way until they caught their breath a few moments later.

“So…did I pass?” Lionel asked between pants.

Sabina chuckled before she collapsed into the tousled mess of sheets, pillows, and comforter before her.

Lionel crawled on top of her and pressed, “Well? Did I pass or not?”

She opened one eye and smiled playfully before she flipped onto her back and caressed Lionel’s face. “You were splendid, my love,” she said, looking at him with loving eyes. “And I meant it when I said you are my one and only.”

Lionel couldn’t help but smile at this. He had finally surpassed Cyril at the art of pleasing Sabina. As far as he was concerned, he’d won the greatest prize in the world: the adoration of his wife, lover, and confidante. He leaned down and kissed her softly on the lips. Suddenly, Sabina gasped. “What’s wrong, love?” he asked.

She looked down at Lionel’s member that was pressing against her leg and said, “Looks like someone can’t seem to get enough.” Lionel looked away with a blush. Then Sabina pushed him so that he was lying on his back. He began to protest, but she silenced him with a kiss before saying, “I’ll take care of it.”

----------

On another evening, Alfred lay in Rose’s bed waiting for Faye. The black and crimson room became their established meeting place. He hummed a random tune as he waited to pass the time.

It wasn’t long before he heard two raps on the door. Alfred got up, went to the door, and rapped twice in response to be met by three more raps. Then he opened the door with a smile and a giggling Faye jumped into his arms. “Hello to you, too, Faye,” he said, closing and locking the door behind her. Then he scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bed where they nestled close together. “You’re full of energy tonight. Why is that?”

“Nothing special. I was just excited to see you!” Faye replied.

The two shared a laugh before a moment of silence passed between them. Alfred subconsciously stroked Faye’s arm with his finger as he thought about something he’d been wrestling with after their third meeting. Then he said, “Faye?”

“Yes, Alfred?”

He paused, contemplating whether or not to continue. “This has been bothering me for quite some time, now…”

Faye looked at him curiously as she wondered what was going on in his head. What could he possibly want to know? she thought. I hope he’s not…proposing! “What’s wrong?” she asked, sitting up to look down at him.

Alfred sighed. “…How do you feel about me?”

“P-Pardon?” Faye stammered, surprised by this question.

“How do you feel about me?”

“…I—I don’t know,” she said, looking away from him.

Alfred was not amused. So, she wants to play this game? he thought. Alright, then. Let’s play. “I don’t believe you,” he said without hesitation.

“Alfred!” Faye cried as she looked at him in shock.

“I don’t believe that you don’t know how you feel about me, Faye.”

“But, I don’t,” she insisted, donning the best innocent look she could muster.

“Then, that seems to be the same as telling me you don’t love me.”

“Alfred, that’s-,”

“Look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t love me.”

“I-I ca-,”

“Come on, Faye. Look at me and tell me you don’t love me.”

“Alright!” She took a deep breath and looked Alfred in the eyes. “I love you, Alfred.”

Alfred wore a blank face. All he did was nod his head and say, “I knew it.”

“You knew?! B-But, how-?”

“May I say something first?” he asked. Faye nodded. “I love you, too, Faye. I loved you from the moment I first saw you.”

“Then…why didn’t you ask Cyril-,”

“Because he’d bought you and I wasn’t sure what his intent with you was…” Faye rolled her eyes and looked away from him with a shake of her head. Alfred gently turned her face toward him. “I needed to be sure, Faye. When I found out you were his love interest, I saw no point in pursuing you…Then you sought me out. That’s when you got my attention.”

Faye pondered everything Alfred was telling her. The more she thought about it, the more it made sense. She knew Cyril was unpredictable, so she was able to understand why Alfred never pursued her. “Oh, Alfred,” she said, hugging him tightly. “It’s so good to know that you feel the same!”

“Likewise,” he replied once she released him from her embrace as he looked at her adoringly. “…But, one thing still troubles me.”

“And what’s that, love?” she asked, caressing his face.

“What about Cyril?”

The question floated between the two for what seemed like forever. “…I-I’m not really sure,” Faye finally said. “You see, Cyril’s been acting strange as of late.”

“Oh?” Alfred said, raising a perplexed eyebrow.

“Yes. He seems…depressed, but I’m not sure. Some days he’s all over me and can’t get enough of me, then other days, he doesn’t want anything to do with me. He doesn’t want me anywhere near him. Then he goes back to wanting me again.”

“He’s never hurt you, has he?” Alfred asked, grabbing Faye’s arm tightly. Yes, Cyril was his master, but he would kill the man if he ever hurt the woman he loved. “He hasn’t struck you or forced himself on you, has he?”

“No,” Faye replied with a shake of her head. She dismissed telling Alfred about the things Cyril did before they became lovers because it was irrelevant. “He’s just rough with his words.”

“Alright.” He released her arm, but still kept that protective gleam in his eye. “What do you think is the cause of his…moodiness?”

“It’s probably Sabina,” she scoffed. “It always has gone back to Sabina.”

Alfred picked up something from the tone of Faye’s voice. “Am I sensing…some jealousy here?”

“What? No, no, no.”

“Are you sure? Because that’s what it sounds like to me.”

“No, Alfred, no,” Faye assured him as she placed her hands on his chest. “It’s nothing. Sure, I may have been jealous in the past, but not anymore now that I have you.”

“…Why were you jealous of Sabina?”

“Uh…” This man sure asks a lot of questions…Eh, no harm in answering him, though. “I had developed feelings for Cyril back then…Strong feelings.”

“How strong?” Alfred asked as he sat up.

“…I thought I was in love with him,” she admitted.

“Oh…”

“Anyway, he had claimed to love me, but he still pursued Sabina. He even told me that she was always his first choice in an argument. I was always the runner up. Then he said that I was his first choice from the moment he saw me at Bernard’s…and I believed him.”

“So, now?”

“Now, ever since I gave him an ultimatum and he fell out of Sabina’s good graces, I guess he’s been feeling rather lovesick. He’s been going all out trying to win her back, but nothing’s worked. He tries to seek solace in me, but…I’m not Sabina therefore I can’t give him what he wants – or needs.”

“Do you have any feelings for him now?”

“No,” she said without hesitation despite the lump that was trying to form in her throat. “I only have pity for him. But, I do love you.”

“That’s wonderful to know,” Alfred said as he began to nuzzle her neck.

“Ah,” she sighed, tilting her head to give Alfred more access. “Perhaps, I’ll convince him to sell her and her baby as well,” she said to herself.

Alfred stopped his nuzzling, pulled away from her neck, and stared at Faye blankly. “Wh-What?”

“Huh? Oh, I must’ve been thinking out loud.”

“Yes, but what did you say?”

“Oh, I was just thinking about getting Cyril to sell Sabina and her little boy as well,” she said as she played with his sideburns.

“W-W-Wait. What do you mean by ‘as well’?” Alfred was really confused.

“Oh, well, I convinced Cyril to sell Hope not too long ago.” She noticed Alfred’s eyes grow large. “What? You didn’t know?” she asked as she caressed his face.

“Th-That was you?” Alfred stammered, horrified by this terrible news. The woman he was falling in love with day by day was as cruel as a serpent and as cold as the winds of a violent blizzard. He pulled away from her and came to sit on the edge of the bed. “H-How could you?!” he said in disbelief as he squeezed the mattress.

Faye didn’t understand why he was getting so upset. “Alfred, what’s wrong?” she asked, laying a hand on his back.

He spun around and demanded, “What do you mean ‘what’s wrong’? You hurt Sabina – Someone near and dear to my heart…and still you expect me to love you?!”

She laughed nervously. “Alfred,” she said, “it’s me, Faye…I’m still the girl you fell for.”

“No,” he said in a dark tone of voice as he rose from the bed and pointed an accusing finger at her. “…You’re the evil witch I almost fell for. I’m done with you.”

Faye’s jaw dropped upon hearing him say that. He turned to leave, but before he could take the sixth step away from her, she said, “Stop.”

Alfred looked over his shoulder and said, “What?”

She was breathing as evenly as she could to try and contain her rage. “Don’t you dare walk out on me,” she hissed through gritted teeth.

Alfred turned around wearing an amused smirk on his face. “…Or what?”

“I’ll tell Cyril that you raped me!”

He crossed his arms as he looked her up and down. Then he scoffed, “Yeah, right. I’m sure you will.”

“I-I’ll do it! I swear I will!” she exclaimed, jumping from the bed.

Alfred gave her a sympathetic look. He’d had so much love for her it was unreal, but now it was all for naught. “Keep telling yourself that, Faye,” he said softly as he turned on his heel and gave a lazy wave.

“Alfred, I swear if you w-,”

He turned when he reached the door and said, “You and I both know that you love me way too much to rat me out, kitten…Or was it my nice, big cock that you love so much?” Once again, her jaw dropped. “Ta-ta.”

Then he was gone, leaving Faye alone with her thoughts. She dropped to her knees and began to weep, letting all of the events leading up to that very moment sink in. She was lamenting her loss of a chance at potential true love. But, didn’t she already have that with Cyril? No – Things were too complicated or were they? She was so confused. How could I have been so stupid?! she thought as she banged her fist against the floor. Why couldn’t I have just kept my mouth shut?

The poor thing was sobbing. She needed comfort. She needed to be wrapped in someone’s – anyone’s arms. She stopped her weeping instantly as a certain someone came to mind…Cyril. He could comfort her; and comfort her well, indeed. That’s who she wanted to see; the one she absolutely needed to see. He was her drug of choice. It didn’t matter how many times he took advantage of her, abused her, or rejected her. As a dog returns to its vomit, she kept going back to him. A true glutton for punishment, she was. So, she picked herself up and prepared to go see Cyril.

Meanwhile…

Alfred was running down the halls, heading for Sabina’s room. He needed to tell her about Faye before he made his exit. When he reached the door, he began to knock like mad.

Inside the room, Lionel and Sabina awoke with a start, wondering who would disturb them at that ungodly hour. Lionel approached the door with caution and placed his ear to it. “Sabina, please open up! It’s Alfred!” he heard the poor man say. He immediately opened the door, pulled Alfred inside, flung the door shut, and locked it.

Alfred was completely thrown off guard by this unusual greeting, but was even more thrown off by the familiar stranger who stood before him. “Wh-Who are you and where is Sabina?”

“Alfred, it’s me…Lionel.” Alfred’s eyes grew large. “You don’t recognize me?”

“…I knew I recognized you!” He pulled Lionel into a tight embrace then released him to hold him at arm’s length and look him over. “You’re alive? But, how-?”

“It’s a long story.”

“Well, you’re going to have to-,”

“I hate to interrupt this beautiful reunion,” Sabina interrupted, “but would you mind telling me why the hell you came banging on our door at this ungodly hour?!”

“M-My apologies, Sabina,” Alfred said with a nervous chuckle. “I-I came to inform you about some news before I quit.”

“Wait, you’re going to quit?” said Lionel. “Why?”

“I’ll explain in a moment…Sabina, brace yourself.”

“I’m sure I can handle it,” she replied flatly.

I pray so, thought Alfred. “Lionel, hold your wife.”

“What?”

“Just do it.” Lionel obeyed and went to the bed to hold Sabina in his arms. “Now, it was just brought to my attention who was responsible for selling Hope.”

“Well, of course we know who was responsible,” Sabina spat. “It was that bastard, Cyril!”

“Yes and no, my dear. Although Cyril may have been the one to physically sell her, he was not the mastermind behind the situation.”

Sabina stopped furrowing her brow. “W-What do you mean? Cyril was a pawn?”

“Exactly.”

“Then…who-,”

“Lionel.” Lionel held Sabina even tighter.

“Who was it, dammit?!” she growled.

“…It was Faye.”

Silence filled the air. It got so quiet that the only sound that could be heard was the tick of the clock on the nightstand. Sabina’s eyes grew wide and she felt as if her heart had stopped. Lionel was just as shocked as she was, but he had to keep his composure. “W-What?” she stammered.

“I’m sorry, Sabina…but, Faye was the one to coerce Cyril into selling Hope.”

“H-How could she coerce him?” Sabina asked, wondering how a fourteen year old could possibly force a thirty-three year old man to do anything.

“She gave him an ultimatum…”

“Between what?”

Alfred swallowed hard. “You and her…”

“Oh, God,” Sabina choked, burying her face in Lionel’s shoulder.

“If he wanted her, he had to sell Hope.”

“…H-How did you find this out?” Lionel asked.

“She told me,” Alfred replied.

A beat of silence.

“Where is she now?” asked Sabina.

“I-I left her in Rose’s room.”

“Take me to her!” Sabina growled as she fought to break free from Lionel’s grasp. “I’ll kill her!”

“No, Sabina. She’s not worth it!” Alfred tried to reason.

“What do you mean she’s not worth it?!” Sabina screamed. “She made that bastard choose between his daughter and her! And he chose that wretched whore over his daughter!” She began to sob as she stopped fighting Lionel. “He chose a whore…over his own daughter,” she bawled. “A whore! A dirty, wretched whore over his daughter.”

Lionel comforted her the best he could while Alfred looked on helplessly. She continued to weep until she fell asleep in her husband’s arms. He laid her down gently and kissed her temple, whispering, “I’ll take care of her for you.”

Then Alfred let out a sigh and said, “I should be going.”

“Wait,” said Lionel as he rose from the bed and approached his friend. “You said that you were going to quit…Why?”

“Faye has some scandalous information about me and I want to get out of dodge before she even has the chance to share it with Cyril. I’m going to submit my previously written letter of resignation and skip town.”

“She needs to pay for what she’s done.”

“And she will.”

“How?”

“…That I don’t know, but she will pay for what she has done.”

Lionel paused for a moment. Before Alfred could turn to leave, he said, “Alfred, what if I told you that we could use your help?”

“…I’m listening.”

“Sabina and I need to escape. However, we’re both bent on revenge for the injustice on both of our ends, but more so on Sabina’s end in that she’s suffered the most. My plan was to kill Cyril, but considering what Faye’s done, I’ve extended that plan to her.”

“…What do you need me to do?” Alfred asked, unsure of what role he would play.

“You, my friend,” Lionel began as he wrapped an arm around Alfred’s shoulders, “are going to continue to play the role of the faithful butler as you keep watch for my golden opportunity.”

“Which is…?”

“I plan to catch the two before they get into a compromising position. That way, I get Cyril alone and eliminate him. Then Faye will discover the body and Sabina could have her fun if she so chooses.”

“Hm…very clever plan. Although, I don’t have anything personal against Cyril…” He saw the disappointment on Lionel’s face. “I will help you in your plan.”

“Thank you, Alfred!” Lionel exclaimed as he gave the man a bear hug. “You won’t regret it.”

“…I pray not,” he said to himself when Lionel released him.

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“I…I dared Faye to tell Cyril, not thinking that she actually would.”

“Do you trust your own judgment?”

“…Yes and no,” the man said as he began to pace.

“Why is that?”

“I was bluffing! I-I don’t know if she took me seriously or something else!”

Lionel laid a gentle hand on his friend’s shoulder and assured him saying, “Don’t worry, Alfred. I’m sure she won’t tell him anything.”

“How can you be so sure? You weren’t-,”

“I know, I know…but I tend to have good judgment when it comes to things like this.”

“Alright,” Alfred said with a sigh of relief. “Okay…I take your word for it, Lionel.”

“Just act as you normally would.”

“…Will do.” Alfred then headed for the door where he let himself out. “Good night,” he said before leaving.

“Good night, my friend,” said Lionel.

Then Alfred was gone.

Lionel walked over to the door and locked it. Then he turned and leaned against it as he stared at his wife, who lay asleep in their bed. He sighed and said a silent prayer of comfort for her, strength for him, her, and Alfred, and for baby Hope who was absent from them. Then he went and climbed into bed beside her, turned out the light, and took her in his arms, joining her in slumber only moments after closing his eyes.
Broken: Chapter 29
You know the saying...If you catch a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. In the case of Lionel and Sabina, a lifetime of pleasure awaits.

Can you see the wheels turning, darlings?

Prologue: fav.me/d56ajzv

Previous: fav.me/d8jsx6n

Next: fav.me/d8ooffb
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babygrl90

Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
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:iconever-so-excited:
ever-so-excited Featured By Owner 18 hours ago  Professional General Artist
Hey! :wave: I just wanted to stop by and say thank you for adding several of my works to your favorites. :D I'm glad to see you liked them and I appreciate the favs. :heart: Thanks again!
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Trippy4U Featured By Owner 1 day ago
Thanks kindly, BG :rose::iconwineplz:
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cricketumpire Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Hobbyist Photographer
Pleased you weren't bored by the yawning kitty and thanks for faving her   Bear Emoji-28 (Yawn and Lazy) [V2] 

So glad you liked it Babygrl    :yayay: - NaNoEmo 24/30 + Plz  
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babygrl90 Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
She was too adorable to ignore! :3 
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leamatte Featured By Owner 5 days ago  Professional General Artist
Thank you so much for all the favs!! =3
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:iconbabygrl90:
babygrl90 Featured By Owner 5 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
You're very welcome, darling! Keep up the good work! :)
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DraganTheMighty Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for the fav.
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babygrl90 Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome, darling! :)
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Ikarusthefirst Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you very much! ^.^
I wish you a nice weekend!
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:iconbabygrl90:
babygrl90 Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
You're very welcome, darling! I wish the same to you! :)
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