|A Thief Bared by Madeleine Shade|
When the travelling golden boy Arjan comes across a seemingly abandoned manor at a crossroads, the sly thief lets himself in to sample the soft beds, tasty food and comfortable chairs housed inside. However, his hopes for an easy haul are set aside when he finds a nude maiden waiting for him in the most perfect bed in the house. Exhausted, even though he has slept, and ravenous, despite eating his fill, Arjan slowly begins to realize that not everything is as it seems.
The second door opened into a bedroom that was as warm as the first one had been cold. All of the wood glowed with hues of honey and nutmeg. This bed sported a pillowy mattress covered with quilts patched together from fabrics in vibrant colors of plum, cherry, apricot, pear, and lemon. Spicy scents flowed out of delicate glass jars arranged on a tray woven from reeds. And on every available surface, the slumped wax of red candles sat as a testament to the fiery nature of the woman who called this room her own. Arjan reached out to run his finger along the ridges of a key embossed on one of the glass containers. At his touch, the glass shattered and a golden liquid splashed on his hand, burning him with its caustic contents.
Arjan jumped back with a yelp and frantically wiped his hand on his stolen cloak. Where he touched, the fine gold thread darkened to the dim color of ash. A sense of heavy foreboding settled on his shoulders. For a brief moment, Arjan thought about fleeing the quiet house, but he wasn’t ready to give up yet. With the manor’s residents absent, he could take what he wanted. Surely there were untold treasures hidden behind the doors. With a grin, he opened the last portal.
Unlike the other two bedrooms, this one was bright and breezy. It was also occupied. Arjan froze in the doorway and stared. A maiden lay sleeping on a bed. She was a study in contrasts with her smooth, pale arms exposed to press against the dark fur coverlet. Her long ebony hair fanned out over a white pillow. The morning sunlight highlighted her perfection, casting shadows on her skin.
For a long moment, he wondered why she didn’t wake. Could the fair maiden be caught in the web of a sleeping spell? If so, a kiss was the cure and that was something Arjan could deliver. Before he could act on his thoughts, the maiden’s eyes flared open. She sat up in her bed and stared at him with eyes the color of the moon. Arjan’s breath caught in his throat. The girl’s lips curved in a shy smile, and the bearskin slipped down to gather around her waist and expose her bare skin. Her small breasts stood high and proud, soft mounds crested with pale pink nipples.
“You should come and sit with me, my lord.” She ran her fingers through the black fur coverlet. “I’ve been waiting for you.”