Page 339: Illicit Alliances
Illicit Alliances
Summary: Nina and Stanley have had enough of the tension between Anais and Riordan, so they arrange a private meeting.
Date: 24/06/2012
Related Logs: Anais/Riordan stuff.
Anais Riordan 
Warehouse - Seagard
An illicit meeting place in some warehouse somewhere. Crates and stuff. Probably some fish smells. Romantic.
Sun Jun 24, 289

Not long after the squire's melee, Nina informed Anais that a merchant she'd been trying to set up a meeting with was going to be available soon down by the docks, at one of the recently restored warehouses. What Nina didn't inform her of was the correct time of the meeting, which is a good two hours later than she implies to the lady. Nor did she inform the lady of her other machinations. It's clear that some things have been reaching a boiling point lately, and in the interest of getting it out of everybody's system, she's joined forces with Riordan's manservant Stanley to arrange…an opportunity. And so Anais has followed her maid to the docks, and knocks gently on a door before stepping inside. "Master Stevens?" she calls in, moving in past a few crates and sacks, pushing back the hood of her cloak now that she's out of the sun.

Stanley, meanwhile, takes a different tact. He's been with Riordan for a long time now, and knows his master's mind. Or, at least his nature when it comes to secrets and duplicity. So he tells Riordan the truth. Riordan was of course upset, and had every intention of calling off the plan, perhaps even of informing Anais… And yet somehow, he finds himself here. Waiting inside the warehouse. Nearby is a pack of things that Stanley has readied for them, should the need arise, though in truth Riordan has not dug through it yet. He's dressed, once more, incognito. Apparently the recent practice that he and Stanley had in such deceptions came in rather handily. No one looked twice at just another young traveler come to the city for trade, or the tourney, or both. But it won't fool Anais, of course. His face is still that of Ser Riordan, and those eyes turn to hold hers as soon as she enters, drinking her in. "It wasn't my doing," he blurts out immediately.

Anais stops short when she sees who's actually waiting at the warehouse, the color draining from her face only to rush back to her cheeks. "Oh gods." She takes a step back, turning quickly toward the door only to find Nina in the way.

"It's all right, Annie," the handmaid says, holding out both hands reassuringly. "It's not a trap. He's not- Your husband isn't hiding in the shadows. We just thought…" The handmaid looks toward the door, then back to her lady. "You can't stop thinking about it, Annie. So just…Figure it out, okay? Whatever you decide, I'll help you, but if you don't know yourself, you'll end up in trouble."

Anais still looks shocked, even as Nina turns to step just outside the door. "Oh gods," she says again, more softly, as she looks back to Riordan. "I'm…so sorry. Nina's been with me since we were girls, she just wants- She just wants me to be happy."

"Don't be," Riordan says, shaking his head. If anything, her reaction causes him to relax slightly, some of the tension leaving him for now. Pushing back the hood of his own cloak, revealing his features more fully, he says, "Stanley did not trick me to get me here. He told me how Nina had come to him, and…" He smirks a bit wryly, giving his head another shake. "I could have said no. I almost did. I almost was going to send word to you, or…" He trails off, his eyes still very much caught by Anais. "Stanley doesn't say much," he then says, by way of explanation. "But the few times over the years that he's given me advice, I've learned to listen. And… maybe they are right. I… don't know. I really don't. But for what little it is worth, I want you to be happy too, Anais." He falls silent, still not moving to close the distance just yet, and seems to be debating what to say next. One thing he can say, though, that doesn't need thinking about.

"I want…things I shouldn't want, Riordan." Anais swallows, taking another cautious step closer. "And I know better than to do this sort of thing. I know it can't last. I know the chances of it going badly are…astronomical. I can't change the past. I can't decide not to marry Jacsen after Jaremy ran off. I didn't know you. I didn't know…a lot of things." The words tumble out, her hands tight in her skirts. Things she can't say, even when it seems like they're in private. "You don't know me any better than Jacsen does, Riordan. You just know…what you've seen of me. You might decide you don't much care of who I really am."

"And you think it's any different for me?" Riordan asks, quietly, opening his arms, palm up, and a gesture of complete openess. "What do I have to offer that you'd want, Anais? A castle that isn't mine, that I don't even want? A tourney career that I haven't attended to in almost a year, and has maybe a chance of lasting a decade longer, if that?" He smiles, wryly, giving his head a shake. "But if all these things are in our heads, then why am I here? And why didn't you just push Nina aside and walk away?" He doesn't doubt for a second that Anais would be here for a second longer then she wanted to be. He respects her force of will that much, and it shows in his words.

"Smiles," Anais answers his question, taking another step toward him. "Laughter. Desire. Fun." She bites down on her lower lip, hesitating again. "You smile when I laugh. You cheer at tournaments. When things don't go your way, you laugh, or you get angry, but you make a plan, and you act on it. You don't think the whole world is against you, but you're willing to take it on if you have to. And you look at me like…" She trails off, watching him. Watching the way he looks at her. "Like you actually look at me."

Tension returns in Riordan, with each step closer she takes. It's a different kind of tension, however. It's not about what others will think now, or anything to do with politics, family, or anyone else but the two of them. The tension that exists between a man and a woman. And it builds, as he takes a step closer in response. Just one, for now, but it's enough to bring them temptingly close together. "That's the man I like being, Anais. These last weeks, I feel like he's slipping away. Even when I'm around my family, my friends, I feel him slipping away inch by inch… But with you, he is there. Immediately and fully. Always. Every time. Because he sees all those things in you." He pauses, and he takes another step, closer still. So close. But he doesn't yet bridge that last gap between them. "And because you actually look at me." Not once has he taken his eyes from hers. Not once. He just continues to drink her in, the lightest of smiles on his face. And then he asks the hard question in a very quiet voice. "But we knew this, didn't we? From the beginning, we knew what we saw in eachother. And we've skirted the fire until now. So what do we do, Anais? Because we need to make a plan, and we may well need to take on the world to accomplish it. I don't want to repeat my mistakes, but nor do I think doing the opposite will be any good for either of us."

Anais watches him as he speaks, his mouth, his eyes. Each step closer brings a careful breath. "One thing first." Anais closes that final distance, reaching a hand up to his cheek and rising up onto her toes. "Kiss me." Her thumb brushes over his cheekbone, fingers curving at the line of his jaw, as she tips her chin up to him. That one hand is the only point of contact, as she leaves the final step to him, waiting with her heart in her throat.

The tension that remains in the now tiny space between them practically vibrates as Anais touches Riordan, and says those words. He's barely got enough restraint left in him, but what little he has, he spends for the space of seven heartbeats, just looking into Anais eyes. Making it clear that what he does next is not just heat of the moment, for either of them. It's a very deliberate act. They both need to be sure, because they won't be able to come back from it. And then… his hand rises up, sliding up to cup her cheek, and then run back along her skin to the base of her neck. Closing what little distance remains to them, Riordan brings his lips to hers. Only then, after they first begin to kiss, does he release his restraint. The passion that comes with it is rather immense, as is the need he has for this, for her. Warm lips against warm lips, the salty taste of sweat and perhaps a bit of the very small ammount of wine that Riordan used to fortify himself with before he came here.

The longer he waits, the more Anais tenses, uncertainty building in her eyes. Her relief when he reaches out to her cheek comes with a soft, strangled sound in her throat, and she shivers at the slide to her nape. Her lips are soft against his, and yielding, until they part against the pressure of passion. Kissing, it seems, is something she is very good at. Still only holding one hand against his cheek, she holds a slight tension in her shoulders, straining against the kiss even as her tongue brushes his lower lip. Hunger sparks, and yet she struggles to move slowly, eyes closing.

It doesn't take long at all for Riordan to match his tempo to Anais'. Maybe he had a little more restraint in him after all, or maybe he just feels like there is all the time in the world. Whatever the reason, he slows down the kiss, bringing his other hand to her cheek, brushing his thumb softly against her skin. It, like his other hand, travels across his skin to her neck, until both are cupping the nape, brushing lightly with fingers, holding firmly with palm. Riordan isn't all that bad at kissing himself… but more then anything, he is attentive in the way he goes about it. And then… he draws his lips away. There is almost physical pain in his eyes as he does so, though he doesn't pull his body from her and for now keeps his hands on her neck. He doesn't speak, not at first. Instead he just closes his eyes, and takes a long, steadying breath.

Anais breathes hard when he pulls back, eyes still closed as her fingers curl against his cheek. She stays still there, then turns her head to rest her cheek against his forearm. "I could do that again," she murmurs finally, opening her eyes to meet his gaze. Slowly, she lowers her hand, fingertips tracing over his throat before she clasps her hand to her chest, as though to hold it there. "What are we going to do?" she asks, and though it's a practical question, voice shakes when she asks it.

Riordan smiles at the declaration from Anais, eyes opening to look fondly at her. "I want that," he murmurs in light agreement, lips curling in a lazy smile. Despite that question hanging between him, he takes a moment to just simply enjoy the sight of her, letting her rest against her arm, his fingers curling idly over the back of her neck. "I don't know," he answers, honestly, after a moment. "Whatever we do, we should probably be clever. And I think that is more your department then mine." He pauses, then says quietly, "Or we do things my way, bold and spontaneous." He doesnt actually seem to be serious about that last bit, though, judging by his smile. "But whatever it is that we do… we should do it together," he adds. This time he is utterly serious. "We make a good team."

Anais swallows, then moves to draw back, searching out a seat on one of the crates. "I could get them to set me aside," she says carefully. "I think. I'm reasonably certain, at least. But I don't know how long it would take. And your father wants you to marry Isolde." She worries her lower lip between her teeth, drawing her knees up to her chest. "And I'd want to know that your father wouldn't object to it afterwards, first. I can't take a chance at being left out in the street." She looks up at him, still cautious, still wary. "This is a terrible idea, Riordan."

Riordan lets his hands fall to his side as Anais draws away. He stays there for a moment, looking at her. Watching her. Listening to her. "I would ask him before anything else, of course, though I think my father would agree. He…" He trails off, and his smile is a mixture of wryness and apology, as he continues. "Do you know what he said after the Tourney at the Twins? He told me to… that I should lay with you." He may be paraphrasing here. In fact, it's pretty obvious he is. This is Lord Rickart we're talking about. "My father may be trying for this alliance at my urging, but he doesn't hold any love for the Terricks. He'd never be opposed to doing something that would hurt Terrick. And if them losing an alliance with the Banefort, losing reputation, and the Naylands gaining it all in one fell swoop isn't enough… I think he'd also do it because I ask." He moves towards her, now, coming to his knees in front of her, and holding her hands. "I would not do that to you, Anais. No matter what happens, you will not be left out in the cold. That I promise." Holding her eyes, he kisses her knuckles, then the palm of each hand. Slowly, deliberately. Her last words draw a chuckle, and he looks up at her with the wryest of smiles. "Maybe. The alternative is what? Staying where we are, losing ourselves, changing ourselves? And at what benefit to our Houses? I am a terrible lord, Anais. Stonebridge needs a better hand then mine. And you… how does the Banefort benefit from the Roost, when those ruling it can't even make nice with those at their doorstep? Those who would turn away the sense of friendship and food to begger themselves for honor and pride?" He takes a breath, then, and says quietly, "But you're right. Anything else is just as much a risk, if not more. So… what then is left to us?"

"I'm afraid." Anais looks back down at him, a finger curling against his wrist, stroking the lines of the veins there. "I don't want to throw the Cape into chaos. I don't want to destroy anyone. I don't even-" She sighs, closing her eyes and dropping her head. "I don't even want to hurt Jacsen. Not really. All I ever wanted was to be a good Lady. To bring peace, and order. To improve a house, leave it better than I found it. Is there- If we do this, will it help anyone but us, Riordan?"

"I don't know," Riordan admits, giving his head a shake. "If there was a way to make it tie everything up in a pretty bow… the Charlton mess, Stonebridge, even this damned feud. I feel like we're missing something. Like there is a last piece to this damned puzzle that is just there out of reach. But…" He trails off, before murmuring ruefully, "I'm not that clever." He falls silent, staring up at Anais. And for now, he holds his silence, and her hands, and thinks.

"Your family has the worst luck in love," Anais sighs, leaning back and looking away. "Don't any of you fall in love with people you can be with?" Because this is all him. Totally. Turning back to him, she frees one hand to brush a finger along the line of his cheekbone. "I won't ruin everything just to be happy myself," she murmurs, regret heavy in her voice. "It would be a waste. Neither you nor I would really be happy if our happiness came at a cost to the people around us. If we want this…we have to find a way to make it all work."

Riordan smiles patiently at Anais as she makes those first statements. But he holds his peace, and hears her out, leaning in to her touch as he does. "Anais…" he says, quietly. And this time, not in public, with noone there but the two of them, he does not hold back his words. "This started because we were lonely. We needed eachother. I think that is still true." He straightens himself up, still on his knees, so that he can look straight into her eyes. Close, so close to eachother. "But it is more then that now…" Obviously. "I think we can do this. We'll need to do it right, but we can find a way… And though it'll take time, you are worth the wait." He smiles, once more simply taking pleasure just in the looking at her. Seeing her. "I would have you be mine, Anais, if you would have me as yours." The words are murmured, soft as silk, and sealed in a kiss.

Anais makes a soft sound against his kiss, reaching out to cup his cheek again. It's just as well her knees are between them, adding one more barrier to an even worse decision. "I would," she whispers against his lips. "Oh, gods help me." Her fingers tighten against his skin, soaking in the feeling of him, as hungry as the heat in her breath. "How can you make me this stupid?" she asks, only the faintest curve of a smile touching one corner of her lips.

"The whole world is mad, why should we be any different?" Riordan asks, murmuring the words against her lips, letting her feel the formation of another of his infectious smiles. He doesn't try to get past the barrier of her knees, at least not yet. Right now, he seems to utterly enjoy just exploring her mouth with his. The taste of her, the scent of her, the feel of her. His hands are back around her neck, his fingers dancing over her skim warmly. "We will… need to figure out… a way to meet… Now and again… in private," Riordan eventually murmurs after a rather drawn out period of kissing with no talking. The words, when they do come, are between even more kissing, of course. "To make plans." Just that. Of course.

Anais wears a fresh and wild scent of pine, juniper, and amber, rising all the more heavily from her skin as it warms with his touch. "That's an even worse idea," she murmurs, settling her hands at his wrists. And yet she melts into his kisses, forgetting to object in favor of welcoming every touch. When she finally pulls back, it's with a soft gasp of air, lips swollen from kissing and eyes hazy with lust. "Invite Jacsen to Stonebridge. We'll both come. It will be a chance to…play nice." Slowly, the haze fades, though her thumbs brush slowly over his wrists, holding him still. "And see each other. Carefully. I don't know what to do after that. I can't…think straight."

"Because your husband and I anywhere near eachother is great idea," Riordan says, pointing out the obvious with sarcasm. But he nods his head, after a moment. "Very well. I… will try and play nice." He smiles softly at her, taking in deep breaths, enjoying the smell of her. After a moment, though, he speaks again. This time it is very softly indeed. "And Anais, if anything should change… tell me. If we're to do this, whatever this is… starting now, dinner rules. Nothing but the truth between us, for however long it lasts, we last. I can take you choosing safety over me. If it means you happy, I can live with it. As long as you are honest and tell me first." He stares into her eyes with his dark ones, peering into the very depths of her. Seeing her, and asking for her trust, and this promise.

"It's a great idea if you want to give him an excuse to set me aside," Anais muses. "Or perhaps a horrible one. He might just get stubborn. But if he gets angry, there's a chance he'll get stupid, and that's all I can come up with right now." She falls silent to his last, looking back into his eyes as her hands tighten on his wrists. "Nothing but the truth," she agrees, nodding slowly to hold his gaze. "Which is that I want you, and I am terrified that I will do something foolish because of it. That I will fail my family. That I will make a complete mess of things here. And I honestly don't know yet if I'm strong enough to go through with this if going through with it means doing harm to more than just us. But I know without a doubt that I feel more alive when I'm with you. That your family makes me feel warm, and wanted, and at home. And that I want…more than just affection. I want passion. I want laughter. I want to feel comfortable without constantly fearing my husband is going to pull away because of something I've said."

"Oh, well that I can do," Riordan says, in response to the getting Jacsen angry. If he hasn't shown a talent for that yet, then people clearly haven't been paying attention. And then he falls silent, holding her gaze as she says all that, not flinching from it, or the grip on his wrists. "And I want you. And it terrifies me, because I know it will make me do something foolish. More then that, I worry that you will hurt me, or my house. The one I could survive, even if I would rather not… the other I never could." He pauses, but never once does his gaze leave hers. "All my life, I have lived for my father, my House, my duty. It is all I have ever known or ever wanted. I am learning, though, that the world isn't made for black and white. Duty and love. One without the other is not just stupid, it's idiotic. My family doesn't work because we are bound to eachother just by blood and duty, but for love of eachother. Neither is wrong, if it is tempered with the other. They make eachother work better together then they could apart. Like we will. Like we do."

"Which is why you have to talk to your father first." Anais closes her eyes for a moment, drawing a deep breath. "I hate telling anyone else anything about this. It makes it so much harder. It increases the chances of something going wrong exponentially. But this is your family and mine. And your father will have to approve whatever comes. You need to know for certain under what circumstances he'll support us, and under what circumstances he'll have nothing to do with it. Then we can decide how best to go about this." Releasing one wrist, she reaches out to cup his cheek again, thumb brushing against his lips. "If it looks like it will damage things with your family, Riordan, then we stop. Fair?"

With his free hand, Riordan reaches up to hold the one brushing at his lips. He holds it there, kissing her palm. It's a lingering, slow, sensual thing, and done while still holding Anais' gaze. "I don't know what will happen, Anais. And there will always be risks, and worries. But knowing that you said that, that you mean it… it makes me more certain that we can make this work." He lays her hand against his cheek, holding it there, and smiles softly at her, reassuring. "I will speak to him as soon as I can. I should find out his thoughts on the Charlton mess anyhow, once I figure out what I'm to do about it." He pauses then, his gaze searching his expression as he says, "There is something else we should discuss, though I wish to all the Seven that we didn't." Still, he waits. As if steeling himself to broach the subject, and risk souring the mood.

Anais sighs softly at his kiss, turning her cheek to press a kiss to his hand in turn. "I don't know if it's me or Jacsen, Riordan," she murmurs, anticipating his other concern. "I know we've been trying. I know my courses come regularly. I know it took my mother almost two years to conceive the first time, and it's been at least two years between children. But there are eight of us, and she's never lost a babe. My cousin Magnola's expecting twins. But I can't promise you it isn't me." Watching him, uncertain, she catches the inside of her cheek between her teeth. "Does it matter?" she asks, soft.

At first, Riordan looks a bit surprised, but also relieved. As if she is following the train of thought that he wanted to without him asking. But by the end, it becomes clear that isn't the case, judging by the way he blinks. And he actually lets out a small laugh, and reaches out, freeing both hands to cup her cheeks. "Oh, Anais, my wonderful Anais, that isn't what I meant, not at all," he says, leaning over to kiss her on the mouth. "Actually, my worry is quite the opposite," he says when the kiss ends. The smile that blossomed previously wilts a bit, as he admits. "I am more worried what will happen if this takes very long, and Jacsen should get you with child." Because, as hopefully is becoming clear, Riordan doesn't believe Anais is barren. Not at all. Not with her hips.

"Oh." Anais lets out a soft breath, relief clear in her smile and the way her shoulders ease. "I hadn't…thought about that," she admits, absently reaching over to brush her fingers through the hair at his brow. "I don't know. I can't…not. And I can't exactly be taking moon tea, either." Her smile fades away, frown flickering across her features. "I married him, Riordan. I said the words, I took the oaths. For as long as that lasts, I have to honor them as much as I can. Is that…Is that foolish?"

Riordan enjoys the touching for a moment, letting his own fingers wander over her face, and her hair, taking obvious pleasure in just the simple intimacies of these little freedoms that they haven't had before. But more heavy conversation must be had, so eventually he focuses on that. "You could take moon tea. Or… I don't know. But there's a thousand different ways for you to prevent it. And Anais, if you don't… if he gets you with child, it may well be the end of anything we might do. He would never let you go, after that." Like he said before, this isn't a conversation he relishes. The thoughts it brings on, the memories even… It all shows in his expression. But he soldiers on as best he can, drawing strength from her closeness. And that shows too. "You are not foolish. I… I don't know the man. And though I don't think I can respect him, because of how you've been treated, I respect you. I respect how you are trying to hold it all together, and still do right by him. I do. But if he gets you with child…" He really doesn't want to say it again, so he doesn't. He just falls silent, a frown playing across his own lips.

"No," Anais agrees quietly. "He'd never let me go." She's silent for a long moment, then shakes her head, lowering her hand. "I don't know, Riordan. I have to think about it. Find out about your father first. Then…Then we'll cross that bridge. For now, I have to keep doing what I've been doing. I have to try to find food for the Roost. I have to go back to the camp." Leaning forward, she claims another long, heated kiss before she starts to stand. "One step at a time," she murmurs, only reluctantly releasing him. "We'll do this right. If there's any right way to do it."

Riordan returns the kiss with a passion, as neither of them are truly sure when their next chance will be. It is accompanied with the same small, lingering, heated touches, and the pure enjoyment of being close. The reluctance of their parting is plain in his eyes, but he nods. His hands linger in hers, as they prepare to part. The last of their touches. "Come to Stonebridge soon… with your husband." More and more, he's finding that last bit to gall him like it didn't before, and it shows. "I'd present the invitation personally, but I don't think we want me to piss him off just yet." He smiles a touch, before he continues. "I'll speak to my father, and I should have word for you by then, if I can't find a way to get it to you before." His hands linger in hers just a bit longer, before he forces himself to let her go. "And Anais…" He really loves saying her name, and is starting to find words to make the use of it sound very, very intimate. Carressing it with his tongue, adding heat to it. "Promise me something. Promise me that when you're with him…" Yes, the words stick in his throat, but he forces them out. "Promise me that you will think only of me."

Anais makes a soft sound at his last, stepping forward to brush one more soft, reassuring kiss. "I already did," she whispers, fingers lingering at his skin before she pulls herself away. Her cheeks are bright, and she presses her fingers to her lips as she backs away. "Don't think about it, Riordan," she shakes her head. "Just…don't think about it." It's the only advice she can offer, and advice she knows means nothing. But she offers it anyhow. And in a few brief seconds, she's outside once more, drawing deep breaths of the sea air as she tries to chase the memories of the last hour away from her mind.