The cool water
felt good on his bruises. He ducked his head, letting it soothe his split
blacked eye. He knew he should just go to the Dorus, but he'd been visiting Dorus Alexander too much
lately. His dad was getting tired of having to come up with gifts of food and other items to repay the priest's
kindness in healing Rick.
The swimming hole wasn't as good as the one upstream, but nobody dared swim in the old
swimming hole. Not since Old Granther took over. Old Granther was a dragon, a river monster with teeth
like iron spikes and a tail that could crack a log with one stroke. He'd been there as long as anybody could
remember, and with no heroes to slay him, everyone just used the little pool instead.
There were nice things about the little pool, though. It was shaded by a cluster of trees and bushes,
so it was possible to hide and watch girls swimming. He and Damon had snuck up once, but when it turned
out to be Jane and fat ugly Sarah Hillsby, they'd left quickly.
Rick stretched out on the grass in a patch of warm sun, pillowing his head on his tunic. It was
summer, he was fourteen, and he was done with his day's work. If he went home, he knew his mother would
find something else for him to do, so he was staying away. Margaret Avery wasn't his real mother, nor was
anyone in the village related to him, but it was easier to think of them that way than to try and remember
that a gypsy woman he'd never met had really given birth to him.
He heard someone coming along the path, singing softly. It was a girl's voice, and he recognized it.
Anne Larksley, Damon's cousin, the prettiest girl in Stonebridge. Unfortunately, she was also Big Bill's
girlfriend, or at least that was what Big Bill always said.
He didn't particularly feel like having another fight this afternoon. John Barclay had already beat
him up pretty good because of a disagreement over where to pen an ox. He was taller than John, and
quicker, but his unwillingness to run away had earned him his new array of bruises. So, deciding that he
didn't need to add more by confronting Bill, who was probably coming down for a swim with Anne, he
quickly picked up his tunic and hid in the bushes.
It just wasn't fair, he thought. Why should Big Bill get the prettiest girl? Just because he was big
and mean and strong and stupid didn't mean he was irresistable. Why did girls go for that sort of thing? It
wasn't even like he was handsome, and he had teeth as yellow as dogpiss, and a neck thick enough that even
a dwarf would take two swings to get through it.
Rick considered himself the village expert on dwarves. A year ago, he'd actually met one, which
was something nobody else had ever done. He hadn't just seen a dwarf, but talked to and made friends with
one who was even a real adventurer. Mokik, for that had been his name, had given him a real dwarven
penny to remember him by, and taught him all about gambling. Nobody else believed his story, not even
when he showed them the penny, which was annoying. They never believed anything he said, but the penny
around his neck was as real as the earth.
Someone appeared by the pool, and to his surprise he saw that it was just Anne. Anne by herself.
There was no sign of Big Bill's ugly hulking face. Only pretty, golden-haired Anne Larksley, singing to
He started to stand up, planning to go down and talk to her even though Bill had vowed to break
out a tooth for each word he said to Anne. But he froze as she started unlacing the front of her overtunic. He
realized that this was the chance of a lifetime, the chance to see Anne naked.
She kicked off her shoes, real shoes since she'd turned fifteen just a little while before, and pulled
off her overtunic. Her yellow linen shift was a little too small, especially across the front.
Rick sank among the bushes, his eyes nailed to the sight before him. Still singing softly, some
romantic tune she'd learned from the minstrel that had spent part of the Winter Welcoming Festival with
Lordling Edmund, Anne untied her braid and shook her head, letting her blond hair bounce all the way to her
hips. She wiggled out of her shift and stood in the bright afternoon sun, as bare as the day she'd been born.
She was beautiful. Her waist was narrow, looking like the kind of waist a man could span with his
hands, and even if it wasn't, it made any red-blooded fellow yearn to try. Her breasts were full and flawless,
the most perfect pair Rick had ever seen. Her hips and bottom were deliciously curved. It was as if Dorian
herself had taken mortal girl's form and come down to at once torment and delight him.
Anne stepped into the shallows, shivered daintily, and moved deeper into the pool. She walked
now with the lovely, almost insolent sway of a woman instead of the giggly bounce of a girl. Lucky Dorus
Alexander, who'd taught Anne all about Dorian's Gift!
Rick watched, dry-mouthed with desire, as Anne swam lazily across the pool. Her golden hair
trailed behind her like the mantle of some spring nymph. He wanted to stand up, saunter casually down to
the pool as if he'd had no idea she was there. Maybe she'd even invite him swimming! And once he was
nude, in the water with her, they might splash playfully, and in their tussle her silky-wet skin would brush
against his, and maybe she'd offer to teach him what the Dorus had taught her. Then it would no longer be a
dreamed-of mystery, something only observed and told of. Then it would be a reality, a memory. Whatever
it was, he was sure he'd be much better at it than clumsy fumble-fingered thick-witted Bill Edgebrook.
As much as he wanted to go to her, he couldn't quite summon the nerve. His body was trying
desperately to cope with its response to the sight before it. His pulse was frantic, his palms sweaty, and
there was a bulge in his trousers that could not be explained by the half-eaten piece of bread in his pocket. It
was a problem he'd had all too frequently over the past year or so. Sometimes it came upon him for no
reason at all, but other times he'd be watching Elaine Bywell walk by, or Rosie Edgebrook bent over to
gather straw, or even Jean hanging out the wash, the sun shining through her thin blouse or her skirt pulling
taut against her bottom. Though he knew in his head that she wasn't really his sister, and his body seemed to
care only that she was beautiful and nearby, some part of him still recoiled in alarm at the thought of doing
anything with her, and the times they'd touched or even kissed made his face redden with mingled guilt and
Without him consciously thinking about it, his hand stole to his groin and rubbed gently. It felt
good, but at the same time only made him feel more frustrated. Elaine had touched him like that once, out in
the fields when she'd been bringing water and the two of them had been out of sight of anyone else. She'd
even persuaded him, not that it took much persuasion, to drop his trousers and let her touch his bare flesh.
She still hadn't been willing to lift her skirts for him, but she'd let him take off her top and touch her breasts
while her hands had been on him, moving, stroking, squeezing, until at last the sensation had become
unbearably good and he had climaxed powerfully.
Remembering that time with Elaine, and watching Anne, he stealthily lowered his trousers and
began caressing himself. Oblivious, Anne swam back and forth, then turned to float on her back. Her legs
were apart, kicking slowly to keep her afloat, and he imagined he could see between them though of course
he was too far away.
A noise behind him sent a jolt of fear through his body and he spun, nearly tripping over his own
bunched-up trousers. In his mind's eye, he imagined Bill catching him and not just beating him up this time
but actually killing him.
It was not Bill. It was Elaine Bywell, a berry basket over one arm and a startled look on her face
that quickly gave way to amusement. Her eyes dropped below his waist. His manhood, which had been
wilting in response to his fear, reacted to her gaze by once more stiffening proudly. He tried to cover
himself, torn between relief and embarrassment.
Behind him, he could still hear Anne splashing and humming. Thank the gods she hadn't noticed! It
was bad enough having Elaine see him like this.
"Shh," Elaine said, quietly setting down her basket. She came toward him, a sly smile curving her
"Elaine, what are you doing here?" he whispered, trying to figure out a good way of getting his
pants back up without moving his concealing hands.
"I should ask the same of you." She peeked through the bushes and her eyes widened. "Spying on
Anne Larksley! I should have known."
"She'll hear you!" With her attention focused elsewhere, he swiftly bent and seized his pants. But
as he stood, pulling them up over his long legs, Elaine caught his arm.
"Oh, don't do that," she said. "I like looking at you."
"You do?" he stammered, letting her pry his hands loose of the material.
"Do you know what I like more than looking?"
"What?" he asked, hoping he knew the answer but unable to believe that it was going to happen
"Touching," she replied, curling her fingers around him. A surge of pleasure went through
him, causing him to lurch in her hand. She smiled, pleased by her power, and began moving her hand up
He didn't know why, but it was much more enjoyable with her doing it than it had been when he'd
been doing it himself. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back, his longish black hair tickling his bare
back. The sun made colorful pattens on the inside of his eyelids. He could still hear Anne, and imagined that
she was the one gripping him.
Elaine let go of him, and he almost cried out in anguish. Cloth rustled, and he opened his eyes to
see her removing her blouse. She wasn't as full or perfect as Anne, but her small sweet breasts were like ripe
apples. He wasted no time cupping them in his hands. She leaned close and kissed him, darting her tongue
into his mouth. He stifled a moan, fondling her breasts with one hand while pulling her closer with the
other. The spike that had grown between his legs nudged against her skirts, the slightly coarse wool making
an oddly pleasurable sensation.
She kissed his ear and whispered, "Close your eyes and hold still."
Rick did, but regretted it as she moved away from him. She wouldn't leave him standing like this,
nearly naked and feverishly aroused, would she? Was she playing a trick on him, and the town bullies were
waiting to pounce on him? He wished he could control the strange hunches he sometimes got. At the
moment, he had no sense of impending danger. Only desire and curiosity.
More cloth rustled. Was she taking off her skirt? Was she going to let him see her? Maybe touch
her? Maybe even, though neither of them was fifteen yet, do it to her? He knew how it was supposed to
work, what went where and what to do, but he'd never actually done it before.
Her hand found his hardness again and his hips rocked toward her. She massaged him until he was
just about to go crazy, then paused. He waited, every fiber tense, and then felt himself engulfed by some
warm, soft wetness. It felt unbelievably good. This time, he could not control the moan and his eyes flew
Elaine was kneeling in front of him, and her head was between his legs. She had taken him in her
mouth, lips sliding along his length, tongue probing, one hand firmly holding him at the base while the other
rubbed his leg. The sight of it, combined with the incredible feeling, almost made him spurt right then, but
he held back by biting the inside of his cheek until he tasted blood. It felt too good to let it be over right
He heard himself gasping, and suddenly remembered Anne. Horrified, he peered through the
bushes. The pool was empty, which sent a tremor of panic through him, but then he saw her reclining on the
grassy bank, still naked, water droplets gleaming on her creamy skin and in the nest of golden curls at the
juncture of her thighs. As he watched, she stretched languidly and caressed her own breasts, then put a hand
between her legs. The sight of her pleasuring herself nearly overwhelmed him. He watched, spellbound by
the rise and fall of her breasts as her breath quickened. She was more beautiful than he'd ever seen her.
Before his very eyes, she threw back her head and quivered in delicious release.
Elaine must have realized he was close to exploding, because she raised her head and looked up at
him. The breeze was cool on his manhood, damp from her mouth, but it did not cool the fire roaring through
"Don't stop," he gasped.
"Wouldn't you rather do it?" she asked.
"What?" He could not believe it. Not a dozen yards away was Anne Larksley, touching herself in
evident delight, and here at his feet was another girl, not as beautiful but certainly pretty, asking him if he
wanted to do it. He wondered briefly if this was just a dream, then hastily shoved the thought away. The
moment he wondered it, he might wake up.
"You know," Elaine said, slipping out of her skirt and laying back. "Share Dorian's Gift." She held
out her arms to him.
He nearly killed himself tripping over his trousers, forgotten around his ankles. He kicked them off
and knelt by her. "Of course I want to! I've wanted to for months! But are you sure?"
In answer, she pulled him on top of her. "I'm sure, Rick."
He kissed her breasts, nuzzling them and sucking on them until she was sighing in pleasure. She
wiggled under him, spreading her legs, and reached to guide him through Dorian's Gate. He was amazed by
how easily he sank into her, by how warm she was, by how good it felt. He'd been worried that when the
time came to actually do it with a girl, he wouldn't know how to move once he was in, but he immediately
and instinctively began thrusting. Elaine rocked with him, lifting her knees and clutching his shoulders. Her
cries, mingled with his own, were no longer hushed. He drove into her harder and faster, rushing toward the
brink, wanting it to last forever but unable to stop. He shut his eyes, pretending it was Anne beneath him,
envisioning the rapturous expression she'd had and pretending he'd been the one to make her feel that way.
"Oh, Dorian!" Elaine gasped, then seized him by the hair and kissed him until he couldn't breathe.
Her hips bucked wildly.
He wanted to echo her prayer, but words failed him as he was overpowered by the sensation of his
release. His hands, braced on either side of her head, tore up fistfuls of grass and earth. He felt as if he was
pouring himself into her, as if all the months of frustrated passion were gushing out of him. Though his eyes
were wide open, he could not see a thing. He heard nothing but the rushing of the blood in his veins.
He collapsed onto her, every muscle twitching and jittering, covered with sweat. For a long time,
he lay like that, until their embrace became more sticky than passionate. He rolled off of her and stared up
at the blue sky.
"Wow," he said. It was all he could say.