Lips Like Ice
by Peggy Barnett
76,106 words; 226 pp
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He calls himself the Prince. He is humanoid but not human–fascinating, sensual, at the cusp of maturity, and accustomed to getting what he wants. And Lydia has awoken in his world to find that she has been given to him–as a pet, a plaything, and, if he so desires, a lover.
As Lydia comes to realize that the Prince is as much a prisoner to his culture’s ways as she is, her resentment slowly unfurls into pity, understanding, curiosity, and a deep, unpredictable, consuming lust. She wants him too, on her own terms. But in a world fraught with hidden dangers, her terms are not open for discussion, not when their thirst for one another could doom them both. In a court where monarchs are obeyed and sexual hierarchies are strict, one wrong move could end the Prince for ever… and what would happen to Lydia then?
About the author: Peggy Barnett is the erotica pseudonym of a Toronto SF/F author. She rather enjoys the chance to wander off leash and be naughty, and hopes to add more titles to her growing shelf of erotica one day. Follow Peggy: https://peggybarnett.tumblr.com
Excerpt under the cut…
Lydia’s apartment doesn’t have big windows like this. These soar up to a ceiling that has to be three times higher than what is standard in even the loftiest of condos. They arch and tumble far above her, like the over-wrought ceilings of a cathedral. And standing as it is before them, the creature is silhouetted against an impossible city, all golden lights filtered through amber glass; vaults and domes, and spires cutting into a too-purple sky.
This is not home.
This is nowhere Lydia has ever seen in a travel magazine, in photographs or films. If what she is seeing through the windows is real, then this is a place that is not possible.
Even the air feels wrong–she’s light headed simply from breathing. There’s too much oxygen, or something. It’s like the high from being in a shisha bar, only the air is crisp against the inside of her nostrils, not warm and smoky and tinged with mallow and dried fruit.
The creature shifts, and the fabric itself shimmers, like the throat of a hummingbird; a hundred shades of indigo and emerald, turquoise and navy dancing with every breath the creature takes. Dark hair, or something like hair, is slicked back, and curling around the bottoms of the creature’s ears. It is so black it shines blue. It looks like the kind of thing that might give her an allergy attack.
A cool palm, too big, rests suddenly on her forehead and it cuts through the fever sweat so sweetly that she can’t help the groan that crawls up her throat.
The thing leans over her. She hadn’t even seen it move. Its eyes are titled upwards, catlike and disturbing, and its irises are so pale as to be nearly colourless, only a pinprick of dark, dark green pupil shaped like a star-burst breaking up the silvery-white. Its gaze is narrowed, searching for something on her face that she doesn’t know how to give it, even if she’d wanted to.
The face is narrow, upswept and angular, the nose a knife slice and the chin a dagger. The cheekbones are so sharp that anyone pushing back the creature’s hair might accidentally slit their wrists. The lower lip is plush, but the upper has arrows like ice peaks on a mountain range, and just as cold.
She shivers, burrowing lower into the cascade of pillows.
“It is awake,” it says, voice a rich mix of alto and basso profondo, and like the creature’s mere existence, its voice is also completely vertigo-inducing. Lydia’s ears ring like a deep gong and a dog-whistle have been sounded together. She is absurdly reminded of that film where Alanis Morrisette played God and her voice made the angels’ heads explode like dropped watermelons.
The creature tilts its head, vaguely lizard-like, studying her, and says: “It is alive.” It makes a dismissive noise with its mouth, a sucking of air between the teeth followed by a sharp click that Lydia’s fuzzy brain parses as a scoff. “I did not think it had the strength to fight off the Sickness.” It scoffs again. “Now Father will make me care for it. Better for me if it had died.”
“Not m-me,” Lydia mutters, wondering at the strange structure of this creature’s words. Surely English can’t be its first language. Right?
The creature recoils to the window, sneering. “And it speaks. What an unnatural creature it is.”
Lydia tries to sit up and by the time she’s got her elbows under her, she’s panting with the effort, feels sweat beading along her chin and hairline. “Me? I’m unnatural?”
The creature tilts its head to the side, birdlike, eyes narrowing again. Curiosity blossoms along sleet-hard features. “And listens, and reasons.”
“And walks, and dresses herself, and ties her own shoelaces,” Lydia says. She flops back down onto the pillows, defeated by the shaking in her arms, the weakness in her muscles. She whimpers and with fingers that feel like lead, manages to tease the duvet back up to her chin. “And wants to know where she is.”
“And has chosen her gender already,” the creature says. When it’s clear that Lydia has no intention, nor ability, to strike out at it, it comes back to the side of the bed and peers down at her from what appears to be, in the grip of her dizziness, a great height.
Lydia wrinkles her nose in confusion. “Chosen?”
The creature reaches out again, and again the touch of chill fingers against her flushed face is so good that she groans and can’t resist the instinct to turn her cheek into its palm, desperate for more contact. The creature’s fingers are long enough to reach from the bottom of her jaw to the top of her head all at once.
It slides the hand downwards, the heel soft and gentle against the hollow of her throat. Fingers press just above her jugular, testing her leaping pulse, and Lydia shudders with the knowledge that this thing could easily wrap its fingers around her neck and squeeze. Hardly any effort would be required on its behalf.
In the heat of the fever, it just doesn’t seem like that great of a concern, however, and she lets her eyes slide closed as the second hand joins the first, carding through her oily hair, and ghosting over her eyelids, nose, catching for a moment on her bottom lip before sweeping down to her shoulder. Together the hands push down the duvet, and cool air wafts across Lydia’s overheated skin. The prickling of goose-bumps is just on the bright edge of painful. The creature examines her arms, each joint, and each finger, careful and gentle. Lydia begins to shiver, the fever-sweat evaporating in the wake of the creature’s touch. The creature moves on to her toes, the soft arch of her feet, ankles, shins, calves, knees, flesh brushing against her own lightly enough to not be painful or intrusive, but not so light as to be ticklish.
“What are you doing?” Lydia whispers. She wonders if she should be allowing this. She would never let a doctor or a stranger touch her like this, but she’s so tired, and its touch feels soothing, despite the chill.
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