Jac whistled as she crossed the military pavilion, mind flitting between the fact the dining hall was serving her favorite that night—well, one of her favorites—and that in just a couple more hours, her men would be free for the night and all three of them for the next two days.
She had plans, and every single one of them involved nudity and her chest of toys. Although she and Myra had also conspired to take Charlaine to a play in the imperial theatre, and Allen had granted them use of the imperial box. She would have to wear formal civilian clothes, which were not her thing at all, but Allen and Tara had helped her before she'd even figured out how to ask for advice.
Honestly, being Allen's bodyguard was spoiling her absolutely rotten, but far be it for her to complain.
She came to a sharp halt and spun neatly on her heel, quirking a brow at the trio of men that came barreling toward her—with a familiar green leather book in hand. As they reached her, the one holding the book flourished it. "Well?"
Jac grinned. "I'm surprised it took you this long to hunt me down, Mistri."
"Oh, yeah, let me just stroll into the imperial offices and ask if I can trouble the High Consort's bodyguard to settle the matter of a few bets. Your impossible to find, Jac."
"Well I'm here now, so let's have it."
The trio cheered, and all around them a smattering of people stopped to observe.
Mistri opened the book to the appropriate page. "Do I need to read them off?"
Jac snorted. "What do you think? I'm more concerned people will think I'm lying."
"Nah," said one of the other men. "Everyone knows you're good for it, Jac. You've got no reason to lie."
"Yeah, when have you ever lied when it comes to sex?" Mistri asked. "I know firsthand just how raunchy and honest you can be."
Jac gave him a look. "Is that a complaint? Because I remember pretty clearly how loudly you begged for it."
Mistri rolled his eyes. "You and the whole floor, thanks for reminding me."
Clearing his throat, Mistri glanced down at the book. "Now then, first bet to be settled is…"
"This better not be about my ass," a husky voice said in Jac's ear.
She yelped, drove her elbow back, and knocked the person off their feet, whipping around—and freezing, hand on the dagger at her waist. "Pantheon, Charlaine! Don't sneak up on me like that!"
Charlaine groaned where he lay on the ground. "Damn it, woman."
"Don't 'damn it, woman' me!"
In reply, Charlaine kicked her legs out from under her and swooped in to pin her to the ground. "You should know my voice by now."
"I don't do well when anyone sneaks up on me, you ass," Jac retorted. "What are you doing out here already, anyway?"
Charlaine smirked, his good eye gleaming. "Oh, not happy to see me? Would that be because you're attempting to make money from placing unseemly bets on my ass?"
Jac scoffed. "First of all, that's not even close to unseemly. You should see the other bets in the book. Second, I collected on the fineness of your ass last week. Today I'll be collecting on my correct guesses about what you like in bed. Though sadly—" She broke with a yelp as Charlaine pinched her. "That's uncalled for!"
"You're uncalled for," Charlaine muttered, but with a smile finally rose and dragged her up with him.
Around them, the crowd had grown significantly, and Jac couldn't help but preen slightly at the looks of shock on the faces of those who clearly hadn't believe that Charlaine was her lover now—one of her lovers.
Charlaine held his hand out to Mistri. "Give me the book."
Mistri handed it over with an evil grin.
Charlaine read over the list of bets that pertained to what he liked in the bedroom, and heaved a sigh. "Do we seriously have nothing better to do than bet on how submissive or not I am in bed? And who's brilliant idea was it to bring sex toys into the matter? Nevermind, I don't want to know." He flipped idly through a few more pages. "Does the cook know about this bet?" He whistled at another one. "You better hope Lesto never sees this."
"Why do you think we hide the betting book when we don't need it? And made certain he wasn't on the premises before bringing it out?" Mistri asked, and snatched it back. "I don't suppose you can settle that bet?"
"On whether or not Lesto likes to roleplay soldier and pirate with his spouse? No. But you can put me down for definitely does, and they play pirate and captured soldier." He pulled a treasury note from his purse, stole Mistri's pen, and filled out the note before handing both over.
Mistri wrote quickly in the book and tucked the note into a red leather purse at his waist. "The winners of this pot will be able to buy drinks for the whole army by the time it's settled."
"Oh, my god, it's true," said a weak voice.
Jac turned to stare at a wide-eyed woman, clearly a foreigner by that almost translucent white skin and bright red hair, and her heavily accented Harken. "What's true?"
"That you Harkens want to know everything—will discuss anything openly, no matter how improper."
"What's improper about sex?" Jac asked, as baffled as ever that foreigners were so weird about that. "I've seen foreign armies, they talk about all the same stuff." Though it was true they did it furtively.
The woman just shook her head. "It's incredible. If we talked like this back home, we'd be disciplined for gossip and prying into private business."
"Nothing is private in Harkenesten," Charlaine said with a sigh. "And definitely not in the military." He crooked a finger at Jac. "You."
Jac grinned, slow and hot, as she dutifully drew closer to him. "Yes, Captain?"
"Oh, don't go there," Charlaine said. "I'm returning to our suite. Come find me when you're done collecting your ill-gotten gains."
"Excuse you, they were not ill-gotten, unless 'more' and 'harder' are now complaints—" She laughed delightedly as Charlaine swept her up and playfully swatted her ass before settling his arms around her waist. "Will you be waiting for me naked?"
"Guess you'll have to wait and see," Charlaine replied, and kissed her in that utterly filthy, all-consuming way of his that said he would be waiting naked, and he was eager to put his mouth to other uses. He also tasted faintly of Myra's favorite tea, which meant he'd been enjoying other kisses recently. Jac shivered.
When they finally drew apart, it was to howls and taunts and suggestions from the crowd. More than a few people had gathered around Mistri, who was writing furiously while his companions collected the money. Jac would have to find out later what new bets had been placed on her and her lovers—if only because Charlaine would be oddly mortified, like it was still a shock he was a popular subject of gossip.
"We'll be waiting," Charlaine murmured, and gave her a last teasing kiss before slipping away.
Jac admired the view until he was out of sight, then went to collect her winnings. She might not have guessed that he was so fond of oral, but she had rightly guessed that he liked being fucked, was hopelessly weak for breasts, and enjoyed being tied up.
Mistri snickered as she approached, motioning for the others to wait a moment. "Does he know about the new bet?"
"I'm still breathing, so what do you think?" Jac retorted. "Give me the goods."
"All right, all right." Mistri started reading off the bets, and once they were settled, handed off a treasury note for a sum that was many times more than Jac had ever earned as a soldier—and about what she made now in a year as imperial bodyguard.
Life was good.
Resuming her whistling, Jac waved in farewell, pocketed her earnings, and went to join her men.