Sofia convulsed through an orgasm, falling back to the bed with a groan. Valtteri kissed her neck, breathing heavily.
“By the gods,” Sofia panted. “That’s not impotent.”
Valtteri snorted a laugh, kissing her cheek and then her mouth. Sofia nipped his lip hungrily.
“You are exquisite,” Valtteri said. “I don’t think I’ve ever come like that.”
She grinned. “Me either.”
Valtteri collapsed beside her on the bed. Sofia cuddled up to his side, her fingers grazing his skin; he caressed her hair with one hand and held her waist with the other.
“You’re highborn,” she whispered. “Even the men who pass through here with a drop of noble blood think they’re too good for me. But here you are.”
His lips met her forehead. “Here I am.”
“Valtteri, you’re so handsome…”
He laughed. “What? So?”
“I just can’t believe it.”
“You’re beautiful, Sofia. We aren’t unevenly matched in that respect.”
She giggled. “But we are in other ways?”
He brought a hand to her stomach tickle her; she squirmed and laughed, pushing him away half-heartedly.
“I’m in over my head,” Sofia said. “I liked you, in the pub, but now…”
“Now I’ve realized all that you are, and I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“I’m not heir to the princedom. Not really.”
“It belongs to you, and your father was obviously mistaken.”
“Even so, he’s made his choice.”
“Do you not want it back?”
He frowned. “Gods, I don’t know. Probably. My entire life has led up to it, after all.”
Sofia cuddled closer to him. “Maybe he’s counting on you giving up. I barely know you and I can already see you’re reserved.”
Meeting her eyes, he said, “I suspect so. I just don’t know what I can do in answer. It’s too humiliating.”
“Never let him win. It doesn’t have to be obvious intransigence, but still relatively clear that you don’t accept his decision.”
“Sofia, where were you educated?”
She blushed. “Hush.”
“I’m serious—you don’t speak like you’re of common blood.”
“Maybe I’m not.”
“So should I expect to be run through with a sword some night when your betrothed comes back to claim you?”
Sofia laughed, running her fingers over his stomach. “No, nothing like that. If you must know, my family were very wealthy merchants in Panyamur.”
“I’d like to know a lot of things about you. Everything, perhaps.”
Her cheeks tinged pink again. “Why?”
Valtteri stared at the ceiling, shaking his head. “I haven’t been with a woman in ages. I’ve barely connected with anyone in years. I feel like I’ve been running since I was seventeen, and I’ve never taken the time to catch my breath. The fact that I even care enough to know you feels extraordinary to me.”
Sofia peeked up at him, and he kissed her, confident and hesitant in equal measure. She seemed open at any given time, to his advances and his honesty, but he couldn’t help second guessing himself; only the lack of guile in her eyes made him think she genuinely liked him after his experiences with noblewomen.
“I wouldn’t object to knowing each other a little better,” she said. “But to what end?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted.
“I could never be anything more to you, right?” Sofia grimaced. “Gods, this conversation is ridiculous. We’ve slept together once. I’m sorry.”
“It’s not ridiculous,” Valtteri said. “It’s hardly wrong to want some assurance from a man who’s been with you outside marriage. Women really get a bad cut of the deal with all that.”
“Any man who marries me would know I’m not virtuous,” Sofia said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t bother with him. These noblemen and their obsession with virginity…”
Valtteri chuckled. “Yes, it’s quite silly.”
“But I shouldn’t even be asking you for anything. I already knew last night that if you left me this morning, nothing would have changed for me. I just…”
She wrinkled her nose. “Like you. It surprised me. I thought you’d be terrible once I got you into bed.”
Valtteri smiled a little. “Terrible?”
She made a face at him. “Well, if not in bed, then certainly spoiled and demanding. Like other nobles.”
“I make a habit of not being like the others. Some of my brothers don’t try so hard, and it only reinforces my resolve.”
“I thought you’d be difficult to talk to once I got you out of the pub. Or so obsessed with bedding me that you’d stop being charming.”
“I’m glad I could prove you wrong.”
“But now I like you, and I shouldn’t.”
“I like you, and I shouldn’t either.”
“Why not?” she asked playfully.
He grinned. “Well, since you insist I don’t give up my inheritance, there might come a day when I would have to marry. And she would have to be of the old blood, by our laws.”
“So one could say we have no business being together at all.”
“One could say.”
Sofia bit one side of her lip, and desire surged in him; he kissed her, esurient. She returned his enthusiasm.
“When was the last time you did something you weren’t supposed to do?” Sofia whispered between kisses.
“I can’t really remember,” he murmured.
“I’m not sure I’d like to be an experiment.” She hooked a leg around his waist, rubbing against him. “But I have a feeling I can be convinced.”
“You’re no experiment,” he said. “I like to think my breeding makes me a little more honorable than that.”
“Noblemen aren’t honorable,” Sofia said. “Not with women like me. You’re forging a new path for your kind.”
He smiled, cupping the nape of her neck. “What would you have me do, Sofia?”
She grinned wolfishly. “Fuck me. And then maybe we can talk about other things.”
Valtteri nursed a novel sense of freedom when he laughed with her. “I think that can be arranged.”