There's a very thin line between pain and pleasure

“There’s a very thin line between pain and pleasure, sweetie.” Rhodri’s voice trailed off as if swallowed by the forest’s heavy silence.

Aural stirred, tightening her hold on the hunter’s straight back. Pressing her head so near she could hear his heartbeat, his warmth seeped down to her bones, while his strong predator scent filled her lungs to blend with the musty smells of wet grass, decaying leaves and soggy plants lying on the ground. Yes, she felt alive, beautiful and powerful on top of his sturdy black stallion, riding across the woods on an ancient trail marked by hundreds of feet and hooves, visible despite thick vegetation and clustered tree branches doing their best to dim Astro’s bright noon light. Too excited to sleep a wink after last night’s sex, she had lain awake in the darkness of her bedroom remembering the shocking pleasure he had triggered with his mere touch, whether from a warm hand or a cold blade made no difference, suddenly revealing what she had desperately tried to deny. So what if her flesh stung from his incisions or ached from his repeated use of her most intimate parts? Aural could think of nothing else besides Rhodri and his mocking, knowing look that had turned her blood into liquid fire. Different from any other man, he had read and fulfilled her hidden desires in all their deviance, to flavor his unique sexual mix and melt her senses to a series of shattering climaxes. And today she treasured each and every scar like trophies won during her rebellion against conventionality. “But it’s not normal.” The gods knew she had done her best to suppress these cravings in the past. “Pain should have nothing to do with pleasure.” When he had mentioned the scouting trip before leaving the other night, Aural had manČaged to wriggle an invitation, and now surrounded by the living and breathing energy of the forest, her own bizarreness seemed even darker.

“Isn’t death part of life?” He straightened his shoulČders. “Or love part of hate?”
“I just can’t understand why I’d consciously seek pain.” She squeezed tighter against him.
“What’s there to understand?” Rhodri chuckled softČly as if she was a stupid child. “It’s a game.”
“How can pain and suffering be a game?”

“Because they’re just another way to get to pleasure, however untraditional it may seem.” Now his tone changed, becoming deeper and more elaborate. “You see, some people need it to reach pleasure, which is why it’s a game, provided you play it with the right partner.” His muscles relaxed. “Or do you think I’d go round carving whatever woman came my way?”

“I…” A shiver ran down her spine, the combined effect of his body heat and the mouth-watering image he painted. “Don’t think so.”
“Of course not, sweetie. It’s our game, and I could never play it with anyone else. That’s why I searched for you high and low.”
“And this…game of yours…is it just about sex?”

“What else is there?”

“Hem…” Feelings, but she could not bring herself to say it, a warning bell going off in her head without any logical reason. “I wouldn't know…just wondering…”
“About the foolishness women love to ruin their lives with?” Hardly fooled, his muscles tensed as she felt him grow cold and distant.
“No, I—”

“Feelings only spoil the game.” His curt, icy closure froze her, the question evidently a mistake she could not take back. “Damn!” After a momentary pause, Rhodri hit the saddle as if enraged at himself for being so touchy on the subject. “Look, I’m going to explain it once and for all, so listen close ‘cause I’m not going to repeat it. Is that clear?”

She shook her head in assent, rubbing her check against the coarse fabric of his shirt.

“Speak up.” Even if he must have felt her nod, he did not relent. “I didn’t hear you.”

 “Yes.” Hard as she tried, Aural could not keep her tone even. “It’s perfectly clear.”

“First thing about me, I love my freedom above anything else. The gods know we have enough ties in living as it is, without looking for extras.” Evidently wanting to emphasize his point, he moved forward slightly in order to detach his back from her hold. “Our game is going to be fun and exciting, but that’s all it is or ever will be…just a different way to have sex—nothing more, nothing else, no strings attached and for sure no feelings besides the very physical ones. It’s sensations I aim for, certainly not the soppy emotions you women use to trap men, which I advise you to steer away from if you plan on seeing me again.” Then as if realizing his tone had grown unduly harsh, he softened it. “Don’t get me wrong, sweetie. I like women a lot, and you happen to be the perfect play-mate—”

“How can you tell from just one time?”

“Oh, I don’t need seconds to know you’re the one I’ve been looking for.” He squeezed her hands pressed on his stomach. “I read it in your eyes yesterday at the marketplace, then confirmed it last night when your body did plenty of talking, and I am a good listener…”

Aural blushed violently, glad he could not see her face. “Then why are you telling me about—”

“Because women have the bad tendency to change when they fall in love. They let emotions control them, turning fun and games into commitments and duties. That’s what I don’t want, especially from you.” He sighed heavily. “I already have a lovesick puppy waiting for me at home every goddamn day and following me around with adoring eyes. I made her a Promise that I intend to keep, but if—the gods forbid—it should ever happen to
you, I’ll leave and you’ll never see me again for the rest of your life. Are we clear on this?” went cold inside.