I am finally updating my story of 'To Tame a Thief', written under one of my first aliases here...Hope you guys enjoy. More chapters to follow! Original Story found here http://www.dimensionsmagazine.com/forums/showthread.php?t=47846&highlight=tame+thief Chapter 1 Ritcha luxuriated in the feel of the soft skin of the man beside her – certainly softer than the coarse inn sheets. Her bedfellow was was slumbering deeply, his dark hair falling across his brow, his breaths even. At this early morning hour he looked almost carefree, his rounder face casting him in a more boyish light despite the stubble lining his jaw. Her head was pillowed on one of his soft arms, and his side was providing a firm support for her back. He had been right not to go back to his wagon. A manic grin spread across her face and she stifled an outright laugh. Not for children indeed! The naughty man’s eyes had twinkled merrily in the gloom of the room, and he had lipped her nipples, ears – all of her, hungrily. He had been forced to clap his hands over her mouth at several points, or else risk the other boarders hearing. Even afterwards, he had seemed reluctant to stop touching her. Rather than rolling over and snoring, he had kissed her skin softly, hands exploring her sleepily until he nestled his nose into the nape of her neck and gave himself up to slumber. Despite giving themselves over to the act, he had not allowed her to touch his belly. And even when he had allowed her to caress his bulk, he had given such a grimace that she couldn’t bring herself to continue. He even had her ride him, rather than him being atop – which, she suspected, was to prevent his bulk being apparent. Ritcha wouldn’t tell him this, but being on top didn’t precisely hide his size. Her knees had barely rested on the bed, his hips were so wide. Her thighs had slipped under the swell of flab, against his hip bones, and the fat had obligingly melded around them. The mental picture of his body beneath her would be branded into her mind forever. Rolling over, she regarded him seriously, grin fading. The happy glow was fading as reality sank in. This had been a terrible, terrible mistake. She hadn’t done anything so stupid in years. What had she been thinking? Always the ne’er do well, Tal was fully capable of having a tumble and thinking nothing of it. Would this be one of those times? Was this all a ruse to finally bed her at last? She didn’t think so, but…the possibility was still there, and it twisted at her wretchedly. Just a conquest? And, even if he wasn’t just in this for a tumble, he hadn’t actually committed to anything. Yes, they had said the ‘L’ word. It was an easy enough thing, to say you loved someone while you were aching and alone. It was something entirely different to love someone, come good or ill. Come richer or poorer. Come lack of honest career, and the possibility of him being taken into custody at any moment? Was she seriously even contemplating marriage with him? He hadn’t even asked her to marry him, either! Smoothing a lock of hair from his face with trembling hands, she bit her lower lip hard. In the bright morning light, it didn’t seem like such a good idea to have lain with her old...enemy? Certainly never a friend. He had made passes at her before…but then he had done so to many women. Her heart squeezed painfully. Maybe he only slept with her because she was the only one willing, now that he was heavier? Not that she objected - but she understood many women didn’t share the same sentiment. Let’s say he didn’t ask her. What would she do? Tears rose into her eyes, her pride rising up to battle the overwhelming pain at the thought. She would do what she had to do to survive – the same as always. And if he were to ask? What sort of husband would he be, really? As a thief, a shyster – what sort of future could they even have together? Where would they live, what would they do? The old Tal was a love ‘em and leave ‘em sort of man, hard hearted and carefree. His philosophy had been that it wasn’t really stealing, if they were so stupid as to leave it laying about. The new Tal was softer, gentler. More unsure, but still quick to react and take offense. She had watched him carefully as they shopped. Despite those agile fingers occasionally twitching, or his bright eyes resting on an object for a fraction of a second too long, he had behaved himself remarkably well. Maybe his weight has slowed him down in his old age? She still remembered Talon nearly a half a decade ago, sneering at her over the jewels he had taken. You can never tame a thief, he had chortled. Tal smiled, eyes still firmly closed. “Like what you see?” he asked archly. One hand slid down her back, and he let out an exhale of contentment. Apparently he wasn’t as asleep as she had thought. “Perhaps,” she replied non-committally, resisting the urge to grin. He either set her on her head in a rage or made her unbelievably happy!! She wasn’t going to swell his ego any more than it already was, though! Especially not if she was going to walk away from him. She didn’t have any other choice…. Those bright blue eyes popped open, a distressed line appearing between his brows. “Ritcha?” he asked uncertainly. Or maybe he did, now. The thought staggered her, and also made her feel more tender. She could feel the soft mound of flab retreating as he sucked in self-consciously. “I’m teasing,” she responded with gentle affection. She remained firm in her decision to walk away, but regret filled her to the point of pain. Despite her tone, his eyes darkened and he pulled back, swallowing. Ritcha knew she must appear cold, as she was using every ounce of control not to stroke his chest and kiss him and tell him she would be anything, so long as he allowed her to stay with him. When he leaned in to kiss her, she only half reciprocated, turning her face away. When he captured her hand in his and placed it on his soft chest, she half curled her fingers, jaw clenching. “This was a bad idea.” The look in his tender eyes almost killed her. Something deep in her chest began to ache, her breathing restricting. She could see his mind working, the pain encroaching as questions flew across his mind. The thoughts were almost palpable. Didn’t the previous evening mean anything to her? Maybe all she wanted was a tumble with the fat Tal to see what it was like. She wasn’t attracted to him anymore. He was disgusted with himself. He looked visibly woozy – he had obviously imbibed a great deal the previous evening. “Of course,” he murmured. “Why would the nymph stay.” Silence reigned for several long moments, both casting about for something to fill the uncomfortable void that seemed to have opened between them. Outside, the bustle of the departing horde created a dull rumble. Finally, Ritcha sat up, letting the sheets pool from her body. A smothered groan answered her, and he sat up as well. “Come back to bed,” he said eagerly, and lifted the blanket covering him in invitation. She almost caved at the sight, a sort of buzzing filling her ears. His stunning, soft, rolling flesh was exposed, his belly pouring forth onto the bed. His soft chest squished together, creating a soft sort cleavage. It took everything she had to stand firm, and only her past experience with this sort of thing allowed her to speak. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Talon,” she mumbled as she shoved her legs into her clothes. “Whyever not?” Tal demanded, obviously taken aback at her sudden coolness. He sat up, hastening towards her, his heavy footfalls making dull thuds. Taking her composure in her hands, Ritcha turned to face him. The shreds flew from her hands like dandelion fluff. The man before her was every bit of the Tal she had known, and the Tal she was getting to know. His tall body was no longer lanky; instead, he just appeared massive and intimidating. She felt overpowered by his mere presence. Thick, chunky calves supported muscular and pudgy thighs, which dimpled up to meet his padded ass in the back. In the front, his upper thighs were topped off with a succulent slice of flab which competed for space with the pudge surrounding his member. He didn’t stop, taking her arms and looking down at her. Those cerulean eyes darkened, pain shadowing them. His cheeks had once been high, his cheeks hollowing to a chiselled chin and firm lips. Now, his round, apple cheeks met seamlessly with his round double chin, the cheekbones banished from view. He didn’t say anything, just stared at her, barely breathing. Inhaling deeply, she looked up into his eyes. “This wasn’t a good idea,” she repeated carefully. “I never rush into things. I made some assumptions when I shouldn’t have. I didn’t even know what the plan was. I should have – it doesn’t matter.” “Plan?” The man tilted his head, savouring the word. RItcha had to repress a smile, despite her dismay. He never had been one for strategic thinking. “With us.” “Oh, that’s simple enough,” Talon said breezily. “You’re going to stay with me now.” He lifted her hands and placed then on his wide middle, exactly where she had grabbed him last night as she came for the third time. “Tal…” She pulled her hands away, tears filling her eyes. How could she stay with him? He was a thief, for gods sake! His face stilled suddenly. “You…don’t want to stay with me.” His baritone voice was flat, disbelieving, and overly controlled. “It’s not that simple!” He yanked on his shirt, suddenly appearing ashamed of his size. Stabbing his fingers through his hair he stared at her, swallowing. “Actually, it is precisely that simple. Either you want to be with me, or you do not.” “Really?” He had always been one to oversimplify, too. “You’re just going to marry me today and we will ride off into the sunset on your wagon?” He appeared dumbfounded. “Marriage?” He obviously hadn’t even given it a moment’s thought. Yanking on the rest of her clothes, Ritcha avoided his gaze. “Well I’m not going to be your mistress.” So that was all he had thought she was worth? Just a bedfellow to have around until another one came. She gave a bitter mental laugh. And oh, how she had proven him wrong, tumbling into bed like the worst harlot. He tucked her chin up so her face turned to him. “Then we will get married,” he said brightly, his smile easy. Worst repeat marriage proposal ever. Ritcha burned with shame to recall that she had played mistress for two years. When she had finally demanded marriage, it had been agreed to with that same flippancy and lack of care. Also, an astounding lack of follow through. That tone was like a splash of icy water. He didn’t want to marry her. He would just to it to keep her around, just like before. Why didn’t anyone want to start an actual life with her? Ritcha yanked free, eyes blurring. “No.” “Why the hell not?” Tal snapped, stamping his own feet into his boots. “Woman, you are driving me crazy! We have mind blowing intercourse, then you turncoy. First you want to leave because there is no plan. Then you want to leave because you won’t want to be my mistress. Now you want to leave because you won’t marry me?” He snatched his greatcoat, a thundercloud coming over his expressive face. He dialed his voice down and clutched at his head for a moment, as if fighting of a headache. “If you were so god damn determined to just leave me after last night, why couldn’t you come out and just say it?” Ritcha’s mouth dropped open. “That’s not true!” “Then you do want to be with me?” He demanded. Wretched, wretched mistake to have slept with him. “I just wanted to be with you last night, but I don’t see how this will work, and I –” His face was clouding over. “Look. I get it. You went hog riding, got your fill, and now you are trying to send me on my way as gently as possible.” His face was turned away as he yanked the door open. “Thanks for the fun,” he said bitterly. “I have no one to blame but myself for falling this deep, this fast. You were right. I knew what happened to you. I thought that me saying I loved you would have been enough to make you realize – ” He choked, swallowing. “I mistakenly thought that you returned the sentiment.” The tall man paused on the threshold, hands gripping the frame until his knuckles turned white. “I know you didn’t have an opportunity to sell your wares due to your reaction this week. It was I that bought you the food which resulted in your illness – it is I who should take responsibility. I will purchase any remaining pelts at fair market value. I will have my assistant leave your items at the inn. Best of luck.” And with that, the door shut. She heard him thud down the stairs, heard his voice as he paid the innkeeper – then he was gone. Her anger pooled away as quickly as it had flared. Finishing her dressing numbly, the young woman sat on the edge of the bed, put her face into her hands and wept. She knew she had a bad temper, but she had never regretted it more so than now. Part of her – the part that had picked herself up off the ground when her family’s farm was repossessed – kicked her cruelly. He was unsuitable. You know it to be true. What is the point of trying to soften the blow? He said it himself. There wasn’t a thing he could have done or said to have convinced you. You obviously don’t want him. Even if it wasn’t meant to be, she had never wanted to send him off like that. No matter what he said or thought, she knew there was something special between them. He genuinely seemed to appreciate her, his eyes softening as he listened to her attentively. And she knew how she felt about him. That was the problem. There was no room in her life to go gallivanting off with someone who did unlawful acts. Her pride revolted at the very idea. It was better to have driven him off now, while she still cherished affectionate feelings, than to have broken her heart and spirit. If he had asked her to join in a heist, or in some smoke and mirrors show…would she have surrendered all of her better judgement and ethics to join in, simply for love? She stood abruptly, patting at her hot cheeks. Take the money he offers you, she told herself firmly. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move along. Ritcha had to wait several minutes for the red blotches to disappear from her cheeks, and for her eyes to stop shining. Her stomach was telling her that she had not eaten for several days, and her head ached acutely. When she had gathered her courage and strength, she stepped into the street. Casting her eyes up and down the lane, she saw Talon’s wagon moving her way. The throng of exiting fairgoers pushed at her, forcing her against the wall. Raising her gaze, she stared at him, chin trembling. Stay strong. Don’t give in. His distinctive form looked gorgeously plump, sitting on the bench of his wagon. He was wrapped in his open greatcoat and his belly bulged aggressively into his lap. Piercing eyes met hers, and her stomach swooped in response. After jerking a grave gesture of acknowledgement in her direction, he tossed a bag of coins at her as he passed. His gaze returned to the road, and he flicked the reins, forcing his mares into a slow jog that pushed through the crowd. The thief didn’t even look back. His overhanded toss in her direction caused the bulging pouch to whirl through the air, the ties loosening. Ritcha watched in helpless horror as the neck of the pouch opened and coins spilled, glittering, through the air. The bag landed at her feet and she snatched at it with a desperate gasp. Her throat closed on the cry as passerby’s snatched up the coins that had fallen. Within moments, his cart was out of sight around the corner and only four coins remained in her numb fingers. She stared down at them, panic rising. Desperation impelled her forward, forcing her through the crowd. “Wait!” she cried. “Wait, wait!” Talon’s wagon was just rumbling through the gates after the guard’s inspection. “Wait!” She cried again, lunging for the wagon. She could have sworn he turned his head, but he didn’t slow the cart. The guards pushed her back with rough hands, telling her to wait her turn. “Wait,” she whispered. The back of his cart shrunk slowly as she stared, numb. The crowd jostled at her as she waited for her turn out of the gate. She began to laugh quietly, hysterically. There went all her clothes and supplies, too. Briefly, she considered sprinting after his wagon and claiming all of her gear. It would be the most sensible thing to do – swallow her pride and get it done. The lack of coin she would figure out later, as long as she had her tools. No. The mortification of even seeing him again would be too much. If he softened instead of yelling…she might just give in, she knew. And then she would hate herself forever. But without her clothes and tools, how far could she get? How long would it take her to rebuild her life? Until she got back on her feet, what other skill could she do without the tools of her trade? A growl rose in her throat. She hated that man! Every time he waltzed into her life, he left it in tatters. As she passed through the gate, she resolutely turned her heel and walked the other way down the road. This is your penance for sleeping with him, she told herself. Better to have to rebuild yourself now than years from now. Be thankful you snapped to your senses. He will be no worse for wear than his pride smarting. You have once again had to restart your life. Idiot. You deserve this..