I bend my back and take the rose. My fingers avoid the thorns and move it closer to my face. I close my eyes and sniff it.
The perfume is strong, it tickles my nose in a mix of sensations, as if an entire collection of different spices were before me.
It’s almost perfect.
Footsteps on the wood. I turn my head: the man has entered the gazebo. He looks right and left.
- Are you sure this place is safe? We are close to the mansion…
- No one ever come to this corner of the gardens, except for me and my maids – I move some steps towards him. – Do not worry: my brother will never know you have been here.
I smile and point to a table and a couple of wicker chairs.
- Please, Sir, sit down. Can I offer you a cold beverage?
He nods. I pour some drink from a carafe into both our glasses. He takes the glass, moves it closer to his lips… and stops. He holds his breath. His eyes are on me.
I smirk and drink my beverage in one gulp.
He blushes and drinks it too.
- T-thanks… it’s really good.
- It’s an infusion of roses. Old family recipe – I put the glass on the table. – Your phone call was… interesting, Mr…
He takes a deep breath. His face takes some colour back and his expression recovers some arrogance.
- My name is not important – He crosses his arms. – I have been sent here from a collective of people who prefer their identities to stay anonymous for now. All I can tell you is that they are high profile members of Romanticorp Inc or that they have family ties with the Malaspina. All of them share a great unsatisfaction regarding the latest decisions of your brother…
I move my hands on my laps and cross my fingers.
- His marriage with that sabercat girl, Aria…
If I focus, I can remember when I saw her at their marriage, how she walked with clumsy steps to the altar and the mane of red hairs that emerged from the bridal veil.
A beautiful girl indeed and it looks like she is making my brother happy. Too bad I am not into furry women: it would be so funny to take her from Romantic and make him sink in despair…
- Yes, that was the last drop: Marrying a not human girl? From what I saw she is the kind of girl I would like to take to bed but… - he stops. His little mouth open in a trembling smile. – What the hell was he thinking? Did he really think there will have been no consequences?
- My brother uses something different from his brain when he “thinks” – I take the carafe and pour more beverages for us both. I look into the man’s eyes – A condition that I think is common amongst males…
The man narrows his eyebrows. He keeps looking at me while drinking.
- The opinion of my principals is similar to yours. They think your brother is not worthy of leading both the company and the family, so they are preparing a plan to… put him in a condition to not be a danger for their interest and put in command someone way more capable…
He looks at me and smiles. I give him back a smile, filling his cup once more.
- I would be flattered by your proposal… If I wasn’t sure that, whoever the men who sent you are, they are not the kind of progressive people who likes having a woman as their leader. More, I am sure they don’t esteem me at all.
His smile melts under his surprise. He cleans his forehead from the sweat that it’s drooling on his skin.
- M-miss, I can assure you that…
I grab his right wrist.
- Shhhh… I am not stupid, you know? I have already understood what they want from me – I whisper, tightening my grab on him. – They want a cute face to put on the front of both the company and the family. A beautiful puppet, ready to dance while they pull the strings from behind the scenes.
The man bites his lips. On his jacket, darker shrouds of sweat start to form.
- Fine, maybe you are right: my superiors don’t want to change one master for another. They want someone available to obey them, keeping the role of a formal leader – He smiles again. His lucid skin makes his mouth look like a slug. – After all, the hate you have for Romantic, it’s well known. You should love the idea of taking his place…
- Maybe, but why should I offer myself to your little golpe? Why should I choose to become your pet?
The man fills his cup by himself and looks at me on the edge of the glass.
- Cause it’s the only chance you have to better your condition, refuse it and you will stay here forever, closed in your garden. A neglected no one – he drinks a sip. – This is simply the only choice you have.
My eyes looked beyond him, to something lost in my memory.
- There is always a choice. All that matters is having the guts to take it.
My father is behind his desk, reading an ancient book. I see his lips moving without producing a sound.
I close the door behind me and move a step towards him.
- Did you ask to see me, father?
He does not answer. He doesn’t even raise his sight from the book.
I don’t move: I know he would not approve if I get closer to him. I just stay still, counting my heartbeats, trying to ignore the fact that they're getting louder for every second that passes. I take some breaths, looking around me to not focus on the fear growing at the edge of my consciousness. The libraries were full of ancient books. The heraldic tapestries hanging on the walls, near the photos of my father shaking hands with politicians, bishops, military and other people of power.
- Where were you yesterday afternoon?
His voice interrupts my stream of thoughts. He hasn’t raised his face from the book, but I am sure he is studying every single movement of my body.
- I was at my dancing lesson, father.
His tone has not changed at all. He is accusing me with the same tone he could use while he is talking about the weather.
- I am not a liar, father. If you don’t believe me, you can ask the teacher.
- I did. I had to insist, but she admitted that you had paid her to fake your presence at her classes and that you have done this for months.
I close my fists.
- She is lying: why do you believe her words more than mine?
- Cause she just confirmed what I already knew: that you are secretly following your brother’s lessons. Especially the ones about economy and politics.
He closes the book. The noise makes me do a little step back. He raises his sight to me. His eyes look into mine, like he is trying to penetrate directly into my brain.
- Why did you do that?
My heartbeat increases. My breaths get shorter and faster. But I am able to hold his gaze and speak with him in a firm voice.
- You should tell me why he can study these things, while I have to learn singing and dancing.
He raises an eyebrow and sighs.
- We are preparing him to become the next ruler of this family, so there are things he needs to know.
- But I am smarter than him! Everything Corrado does, I can do it better – I move a small step towards the desk. – Please, father, give me a chance to show you what I am capable of! Let me earn a more suitable position.
He sighs again. He lays his head on a hand. The wrinkles on his face relax.
- Christine, this is not a matter of earning something: you and your brother received your roles with your birthright, like pieces on a chessboard – he stands up and walks to an ancient marble chessboard on a nearby table. He takes the white king, a small ivory statue depicting a roman emperor – See? This king has done nothing to deserve his role, still, from the moment you put it on the board, he becomes the most important piece of all.
- And what piece am I, father? What will my role be in all of this?
He turns his head a little and shrugs.
- You said you are smarter than your brother… can’t you guess the answer by yourself?
I bite my lips. What are you preparing me for? While my brother is educated in dealing with the company’s business and the political relationships of the family, my parents want me to learn singing, dancing and taking care of my beauty… they always tell me that they want me to be a “perfect lady”…
I open my eyes wide.
- You… you want me to be a bargaining chip!
My father put the white king back on the table.
- When the moment will come, you will help us sign an important pact that will increase the political or economic strength of our family.
- And how should I do it, father? By marrying a target? Seducing him? Or maybe… by fucking him?
- I don’t like how you are talking to me, Christine - He curls his lips. – You need to realize how important this will be for all of us. You are born for this.
- Have you ever considered if this is what I want? – I scream. – I will not be sold like a cow! I will not accept it!
He rushes at me. His face red and his chin trembling. I take a step back, but he grabs my neck and pull me on him. I try to push him away, but he is much stronger than me.
- What you want is nothing. What we all want means nothing! The only thing that matters is what is good for the family! - He forces me to turn my head and look behind me. A fresco with the heraldry of the Malaspina Family stands on the wall, the rosebush full of red roses… and sharped thorns. – We are born to serve the family, not to be served by it. This means recognizing our role, accepting it and doing our best to accomplish it!
I gasp. He tightens his grip on my body even more and forces me to look at him.
- Do you understand now, Christine? Will you do your duty?
I spit on his face. His surprised expression was a mirror of mine when we both realize what I have just done. He slaps me in the face, making me fall to the floor. I cough and try to rise on my elbows. A trail of blood drools from a wound on my lips. I turn my head to see my father cleaning his hand with a towel.
- Sum Mala Spina Malis. Sum Bona Spina Bonis: don’t forget our motto, Christine – he pants. – If I cannot convince you with the roses, then the thorns will do the job.
Looking into his eyes, I clean the blood from the chin using my bare hand.
- I am no pawn.
- So… have you decided?
The words of the messenger shatter my memories. I look at him and shake my head.
- I am no pawn.
He cleans his forehead with the back of his hand. Sweat drools on his neck, reaching his wet shirt.
- You are not the only candidate for this position, Christine: if you refuse, my superiors will just ask someone else and you will regret your arrogance - His hand shakes as he fills his glass once more and drinks the infuse in a single sip.
- Oh, I don’t think I will do it – I smirk and move my right hand closer to his, caressing it. – What I think is that you are about to tell me the names of all your principals.
He gets pale.
- This conversation is over. I… - I grab his hand. He tries to pull it back, but I keep it in place. - I will…
I smirk. I start caressing his wrist with the index of the other hand.
- You will do exactly what I want. You want to do it…
My hand moves on his arm… on his chest… on his cheek. He pants and trembles.
I giggle: he looks like a mouse squirming before the sight of a snake.
- It looks like my special recipe has finally started to have its effect… it took longer than I expected, though. I will have to work more carefully on the next generation of Messalina’s Roses…
- B-but… you d-drink the infuse too…
I caress his chin with a thumb. He trembles and lets out a soft moan.
- Didn’t your principals tell you that our Malaspina shares a genetic resistance to poisons, venoms and toxins? My constant work on deadly roses makes my body even stronger.
I stand up and walk to him. I sit on his lap and look into his eyes. His breath gets faster and faster and his heartbeat skyrockets.
- Do not worry: my special creation will not kill you. It will just make you more… suitable for my goals.
He pants. His body tenses as I start to unbuckle his shirt and undo the knot of his tie.
- So… why don’t you start by giving me your name?
He bites his lips, closes his eyes and tries to slow his breath. I smirk and pull his head to my neck, lulling it. I feel him relaxing and taking some deep breaths of my perfumed body.
- L-Level… my name is Level…
- Awww… what a cute name…
I take his head in my hands and kiss his lips. He closes his eyes and ceases every resistance left.
I open his shirt button after button and caress his shoulders. I move my hand down, sinking my red nails in his skin…
- You belong to me now.
- You will give me all the information I need and you will do everything I will tell you to do.
He nods again.
- Be a good pet and I will reward you in ways you can’t even imagine…
My scratch goes deeper into his skin. A drop of blood crawls on his chest.
He moans and opens his eyes wide.
- Yes! Yes! I am your p-pet and you… you are my mistress.
- I am your Queen, Level – I take the drop of blood on the tip of my index and use it to draw a heart on his chest. – Your Queen of Hearts.
· Hello, all you beautiful people of Erofights and welcome Christine in the “story canon”. She is a fundamental part of the lore of Romantic, so you should see her more in the future;
· Christine was the first alt I made on EF after Romantic. At the beginning I just thought about a mean and cunning person, used to fake a shy attitude to seduce people into doing her will. With time, I gave her a proper backstory and a more complex psychology: If all will go as planned, I will show you more of them;
· Speaking of things that didn’t go as planned… I knew I promised you a new saga! Sadly, we (yes, I said “we” 😉) had some problems and need to slow down the writing, but the first story is still in progress and I hope to give it to you soon;
· I made Christine in order to play with someone who wanted to have a game with me using a female character but, at the time, I didn’t know how to make a new character so… for more or less and hour Romantic and Christine were the same person. I should still have somewhere the DMs of males who messaged Romantic asking for a lewd game… disappearing as soon as he turned back in blue.
· A great thank you to Level for his cameo. Since he was the first pet of Christine, I thought it was right to have him appear in her first story.
 “I am an evil thorn for the evil ones, a thorn that does not sting for the good ones”