Lust is Easy

Hybel 25, 1013

Mark hadn’t been this nervous since … since …

Good Lord, when had he been this nervous last?

It had to be when he was courting Helena. Yes — that was the last time he had flirted seriously with the possibility of rejection. He had never been all that afraid that Wei Li might reject his advances. Mark Wesleyan was a fairly wealthy man, well able to afford Wei Li’s attentions whenever he wanted them. She wouldn’t turn down his coin, so he always had that failsafe.

But tonight … tonight she might reject him. Or worse, she might accept him for all the wrong reasons.

And that wasn’t even counting everything else that had gone wrong today …

However, what he was doing tonight was more than enough to make Mark nervous, and so he would focus on that. For Mark was not a fool. He knew he was courting public snickers and ridicule, bringing a woman like Wei Li to a nice place like this. And the tongues would clack twice as loudly since it hadn’t even been a year since Helena’s death. They would say that he was moving on too soon, or that he was disrespecting her memory.

Mark, however, had known Helena rather better than the tongue-clackers. And despite all of their problems, he knew one thing. Helena wouldn’t want him to wait. Not on her account. Life was too short.

That was the thought he clung to as Wei Li made her way through the door to the restaurant, silhouetted in the last rays of the setting sun.

She looked almost as nervous as he felt, wringing her hands in and out of each other! But what cause could she have to be nervous? She wasn’t the one running the risk of …

She was a — lady of the night. In a nice restaurant. Being seen in public with one of the wealthier merchants of the kingdom. The tongue-clackers could get to her, too. And they might be able to make her suffer more than they would make him.

Still, at least … well, at least they had each other? At least Mark had some idea of how to comfort a nervous woman. “Wei Li!” He smiled and stepped closer, kissing her on both cheeks. “You look beautiful tonight.”

Wei Li laughed. “I look just as I do every night.”

“Well–if that isn’t so!” Mark laughed as carelessly as he could. Damn it! He’d managed to mess up within the first half-dozen words! He had intelligence, he had to — where did it go when he talked to Wei Li?

“But if you think I look beautiful tonight, then you must think I look the same every night — and that, Mark, is the kind of compliment, sincerely given, that most women would gladly trade every last jewel to hear.” She smiled gently at him, dark eyes sparkling. She was a treasure. Why hadn’t anybody married her? There had to have been a time before she became what she was, a time when even a coward like him would have been throwing himself at her feet and begging for her hand.

“But enough complimenting of me,” Wei Li went on. “How are you, Mark? How was your day?”

Oh, Lord. He did not want to go into that.

“Mark?” Wei Li asked in some alarm.

“Eh …” He tried to laugh. “That can wait until we’re seated. Don’t you think?” he asked, almost pleaded. Even better, they wouldn’t discuss this at all, and he could forget the morning he had had —

No, that wouldn’t do. She’d hear about it soon enough — everybody would — and it would be wrong and cruel to keep the knowledge from her out of some childish desire for a perfect evening. If he wanted something — something more than the relationship between whore and client, then he needed to take the first steps toward that himself.

However, in the meantime, he could busy himself by talking to the hostess and procuring them a table.

At least the hostess didn’t do anything in word or deed to suggest that there was something amiss with Mark and his female companion. She must have been some kind of paragon. Or, more likely, she didn’t care who her patrons brought with them, as long as they behaved themselves, ordered expensively, and came with enough money to pay the reckoning.

The hostess led the way to a fine little table tucked neatly into an alcove. And as soon as they were seated, a young waiter made his way over to their table with bills of fare. Mark couldn’t help but watch the waiter and Wei Li. Had he … Had she …?

Well, if either of them had, they didn’t show it. Wei Li began to peruse the bill as Mark placed an order for a flagon of Reman white wine. “Order whatever you like,” he said as the waiter disappeared to fetch the wine.

Her eyebrows rose. “You are certain?”

“Of course I’m certain. What — you think I can’t afford to take a nice lady out to a dinner as nice as she is?” Mark laughed. But the hollowness of it rang and echoed through the restaurant, to his ears. Oh, he could afford this. There was no question of that. But … how, given what he and Joshua had discovered this morning?

Wei Li heard the hollowness, too. Delicate black brows furrowed. “Mark? Is something wrong?”

Mark tried to laugh it off again. “Ask questions like that, my dear, and any well-meaning gentleman might be excused for thinking that you have your doubts about the depth of his purse.”

Wei Li tilted her head to one side. “But you know that is not what worries me.”

… Damn. She was too smart by half, that one.

“Can it wait until the wine comes?” Mark finally settled for pleading.

She blinked, but she nodded. And, mercifully, before more than a few awkward seconds had passed, the waiter came with their flagon.

And of course, once the wine came, they had to order. Wei Li requested prawns seared with lime, Mark chose the more pedestrian fried chicken. There was something to be said for comfort food, after all.

Before Wei Li could ask again, Mark lifted his goblet. “A toast?”

Wei Li’s eyebrows rose, but she nodded and lifted her glass. “To …”

“To friendship,” Mark answered. “And to more than friendship. And to — seizing the day, and the night, because we never know what tomorrow will bring.”

Carpe diem?” Wei Li asked, raising her glass.

Mark blinked. “You know Reman?”

Half a smile poked at one corner of Wei Li’s mouth. “I … spent some time in Reme.”

“Truly? You’ve never mentioned that before.”

Her eyes dropped. “It … was not a happy time in my life. I prefer not to dwell on it.”

Mark blinked. “Oh …” Well, a gentleman wouldn’t press. He smiled, wan, and raised his glass. “To carpe diem.”

“To carpe diem,” Wei Li repeated. They clinked goblets and drank.

Though as Wei Li brought the goblet down, there was a little frown on her lips. Mark panicked. Was the wine too sweet? Too dry? Did she not like white wines?

“You know,” she mused, “I am not sure that was entirely grammatical.”

“You–what?”

“To carpe diem. You see, carpe is a verb, and even though diem is a noun …”

Mark laughed. “Goodness! Ah, Wei Li, talk to my Heloise — talk even to my Rob — about grammar and all that … stuff, but don’t talk to me! I can’t tell a verb from a hole in the ground.”

“Mark! Of course you could.”

“Well, maybe I could, if I wanted,” he chuckled, “but I don’t really want to.” He sighed, but it was a contented sigh. “I–truly I don’t know where Rob and Heloise get it from. Helena was never much interested in book-learning. And Lord knows that I wasn’t, either.”

“Perhaps there was a grandparent?” Wei Li asked. “That kind of interest can sometimes skip generations.”

Mark considered that. “It’s … it’s possible. I never met Helena’s mother. And my own mother was very devout. I remember her reading the Book of Wright all the time.” He paused. “It was the only book we had.”

Wei Li looked about to reply, but their food came, forestalling her. As soon as the waiter was gone, though, she leaned forward. “And … you have more books, now?”

“Do we ever!” Mark laughed. “Some fathers worry about their children eating them out of house and home. I always worried about mine reading me out of house and home!”

“Oh, I don’t think that is possible.”

“You haven’t met Rob and Heloise! Heloise especially. She never saw a book but she wanted to read it cover to cover and dissect every argument in it. I knew before she was seven that I’d have to be sending her to Camford, too, along with her brothers — I’d never forgive myself, otherwise.”

“That is very good of you, to invest so much in a girl’s education. Most fathers wouldn’t.” Wei Li smiled. “Is she married now?”

“No–no. She joined the Sisters of St. Allegra. In Camford. When she writes — well, she sounds happy.” Mark sighed.

“Is that … bad?” Wei Li asked.

“Well–it’s not what you want for your children, is it?” Mark asked, then kicked himself. How would Wei Li know? She didn’t have any–

She did have children. He remembered her pregnancies. But she never spoke about what happened to the children that resulted from the pregnancies. They must have been at the orphanage. Mark flinched. How could she do that? He could have never held his own child in his arms and then given him up. He couldn’t even hold another man’s child in his arms and give her up.

“I–I mean,” Mark hedged, “you want — you want your children to have everything. Every kind of happiness there is. I wish she could have had a family along with her studies.”

Wei Li shook her head. “I do not see why she should have to choose.”

“Well, in Camford, they won’t let you teach unless–”

Wei Li shook her head. “No, no, I understand — your Camford. Your religion.”

Your religion?

“What I do not understand is why your Church insists that those with the best minds should serve it, and why they should not have families. In Smina, those who have the best minds, those who choose to become scholars, they are encouraged to have families. Where else is the next generation of scholars to come from?”

Mark blinked. “Er … I never thought of it that way.”

Wei Li smiled and took a sip of her wine. “People here never do.”

Mark wondered what else he and his compatriots had never thought of.

“So,” Wei Li asked, still looking at him archly over the rim of her goblet, “are you ready to talk about … what it is that is bothering you?”

He stared at her. He had gone — how long? — without even thinking about that! But now Wei Li had brought it all back …

Mark could do nothing but slip into the last refuge of a Wesleyan man in distress: laughter, of a kind. As lightly as he could, he replied, “Well, we were robbed this morning!”

Wei Li dropped her goblet. “What?”

Women never seemed to take that kind of humor well.

“Well, burgled, technically,” Mark went on, trying to reassure her as best he could. “And it was the stables. Not the house.” He wouldn’t be able to joke if it had been the house — with him sleeping in it, with Joshua and Cressida sleeping in it, with the children sleeping in it. “And–and, don’t look like that, Wei Li! Would I be this calm if I was standing on the brink of disaster?”

“You were robbed …” Wei Li repeated through white lips.

“Burgled. And all that was taken was a pair of old nags — Flossie and Walnut — barely worth more than what the tanner would pay for their hides. We lost more money because we couldn’t do business today because of … well.”

Mark still couldn’t believe that was all that was taken. The robbers — burglars — whatever could have taken Marcellus, their prize stallion. They could have taken the whole bloody stables! And they could have taken all the silver, all the property deeds Joshua had collected for his bank and kept in the office. The office was the first place Joshua had run to after they realized the theft, but the lock on the door hadn’t even been touched, and not so much as a copper coin was out of place.

Who would risk running their neck into a noose for horse thievery just to take some old nags?

“And old Matthias should be fine,” Mark went on. “Brother Andy says it wasn’t that bad a tap on the head. He should be right as rain in a few days.”

“Matthias …?”

“Our night watchman,” Mark answered. Who they would shortly be pensioning off. Twenty years ago, a single night watchman had been more than enough for the stables. Now … well, no more.

Besides, twenty years ago, old Matthias had been thirty.

Wei Li continued to stare at him. “How … how can you be so calm? So jovial? You were — you were robbed!”

“Burgled,” Mark corrected. “And … well, it could have been worse. A lot worse.” The robbers, whoever they were, hadn’t gone near the house. They hadn’t gone after Joshua’s bank, all the money that didn’t technically belong to Joshua but was his responsibility to keep safe. What had they been thinking, keeping it in the stables with only old Matthias to guard it at nights?

“And …” Mark looked at his plate and shrugged, unable to meet Wei Li’s eyes. “It’s what Josh and I will be discussing, nonstop, for the next … Lord only knows. Until we find a solution. Lord help me, I just want a break.”

Wei Li didn’t answer at first. Mark looked up, wondering what he had said that was wrong.

He found her smiling at him almost impishly. “And a break you will have.” She blew him a kiss.

Mark beamed.

As if on cue, suddenly the delicate strains of the harp filled the restaurant. Wei Li looked behind her, trying to find the source of the sound. Then she turned back to Mark. “Dance?”

Mark’s mouth opened. He hadn’t danced — really danced in … in years …

Aw, what the hell?

“I would be delighted,” he replied. He stood and extended a hand to Wei Li. “Shall we?”

“I believe we should.” She giggled, carefree as a girl, as she rose.

He led her closer to the harp, remembering only at the last moment that dancing had never been his strong suit. The most he could manage was to hold his girl and sway mostly in time to the music. Helena had always been impatient with that. But Wei Li — even with the added awkwardness of Mark not quite knowing where to put his hand, given the enormous bow she wore on her back — didn’t seem to mind. She even smiled.

Mark pressed her a little closer and smiled back.

This — this was happiness that he hadn’t known in a long, long time. He had the most beautiful woman in the establishment in his arms. And unlike those days years and years ago, when it had been Helena there, this most beautiful woman in the room seemed to like being there. She wasn’t looking around, searching for a better prospect. She seemed happy where she was. And Mark was happy with her there.

He had to wonder — what else did he need?

He leaned closer, tested a teasing kiss. When he pulled away, Wei Li was smiling. Bolder, he leaned in and kissed her again. She was warm, inviting, responsive.

That was what decided him. Because there was a voice niggling at the back of his head — if he didn’t ask her now, when would he next get the courage? As Helena would point out, you only lived once, and you never knew when your time would be up. The monks would say that was why you had to be penitent and self-denying all the time. But Helena would say that was why you needed to live.

He pulled away. “Wei Li … I have a question. And–and I don’t want an answer now. I want you to think about it.” If he was going to be rejected, he didn’t want it to be tonight. And if he was going to be accepted for the wrong reasons, he didn’t want it to be tonight.

Her eyebrows arched. “Very well …”

Mark let her go and stepped back. “Wei Li … have you ever thought about … about it just being you and me? I could support you, you know. Not as well as — well, not as well as some could. But I could keep you comfortable. And happy, I hope.”

Wei Li blinked. “Mark … Mark, are you suggesting …”

“I don’t — I don’t know what you’d call it. But — but I could get you someplace to live. Someplace nice. And an allowance, for dresses and food and … and whatever else you might like to spend it on. And — and it would just be you and me.”

Wei Li kept blinking. She brought a hand to her lips and gasped. “This — this is not just business to you, is it? Or even pleasure?”

Mark shrugged, aware though he was of the flush creeping up his cheeks. “I don’t think there’s any secret in that.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Wei Li whispered. “I don’t –” She bit her lip. “My friends …”

“You don’t have to — to say anything, yet. Please, don’t.” Mark tried to smile. “Think about it. And, when you have an answer …”

He reached forward and took her hand, brought it to his lips, and kissed it. “Well — you know where to find me.”

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14 thoughts on “Lust is Easy

  1. Well, isn’t that interesting! So Mark took the plunge. (And it looks like so did Simon.) I’m glad. I’m probably going to be alone in that. Nobody else seems to be that fond of the idea of them together, but hey, she’s not going to be able to be a brothel occupant all her life, unless she doesn’t live that much longer, and there are worse people out there than Mark. πŸ˜›

    You can see shades of Josh in how Mark’s handling being burgled. He’s got the same gallows humor. I suppose, actually, it’d be more you can see where Josh gets it, I’m sure that Mark had that sense of humor first.

    Hmmm, well, we’ll have to see what this all comes to.

    I liked the comments about Heloise and Rob reading him out of house and home. I could see that. Especially as books are not cheap.

    • Mark did indeed take the plunge — but look! You’re hardly alone! (And hey — maybe now that Helena is no longer with us, that’s changed people’s opinions. Cheating is wrong, but you can’t exactly cheat on a dead spouse.)

      Yeah, I imagine that the gallows humor of the Wesleyans all comes straight from Mark. I guess they do have the philosophy that if you can’t do anything about it, and if things could have been worse, well, you might as well laugh about it. It’s probably a healthier method than Rob’s method of dealing with what can’t be helped (brood, and brood, and brood some more).

      Yes, Heloise and Rob could very well have read them out of house and home! I think Mark’s finances were probably saved by Mother Julian/Mother Hildegard being willing to lend them books. (Hey, they could have been hoping to get little Churchlings. Alas for them that that didn’t quite work out.) Still, now Mark has a nice little library — Darius, Ned, Baby Belle and any further babies ought to have a great start to their education just by reading what’s on the shelves.

      Thanks, Andavri!

  2. Ooh, a kept woman! Wei Li is moving up. Now all she has to do is wheedle some nice jewelry from him as a pension plan and she’s all set. Maybe they can even have a few kids? (Well, keep the kids, anyway…) This is pretty great for her – I’m sure Mark can find her an apartment or something near Marigold’s, too, so she can visit whenever and not have to be lonely.

    Question one: will Wei Li finally be able to afford a new dress? I don’t think I’ve ever seen her out of that dress, except when she’s been, er, out of that dress. ::cough::

    Question two: are you going to be adding new girls to the brothel?

    Question three: does Albion have werewolves and/or ghosts? There are vampires, plantsims, servos, and aliens/fey so I’ve been wondering if the other life states are going to make an appearance. (Tangentially, is Leona going to meet Bigfoot?)

    • Wei Li does have the opportunity to move up! And I’m sure, if she accepts his offer, she’ll manage to bargain for some kind of pension/safety net. Wei Li is no dummy, and Mark isn’t stupid either. However, fair warning: if she chooses to take him up on that offer, she won’t be moving out until the end of the round. I just find it easier to move Sims around then. (Also, if she takes him up, she’ll be moving into the same building that Rosette is in now, and I’ll have to do some fixing on it, which will involve getting Rosette and her kids OUT … you see where this is heading.)

      Answer one: Yes! I just need to find one that I like. With a mesh that doesn’t clip absolutely everything.

      Answer two: Probably (if Wei Li goes). I’d call them Glasonlander refugees, but they’ll probably be townies/AL Bohemians, because why create a new character file if I have plenty of options available?

      Answer three: Both of them are possible in the Albionese world. I do want to get a werewolf, although I still have to figure out who this might be. Ghosts, however, might be a pain to photograph, because I don’t know if it’s possible to control them. So we might not ever see ghosts.

      Tangential answer: Not on this voyage! She’s not going near where Bigfoot is. But somebody from Albion WILL meet Bigfoot. πŸ˜‰

      Thanks, alveus!

  3. Aww, this was sweet! πŸ™‚ I’m glad Mark didn’t want an answer right away, for all it’s a good thing he’s explicitly made his feelings known now. We’ve had hints that Wei Li does have at least some feelings for Mark, but she does have quite a bit to factor into her decision and she’ll need the time to make it.

    The horse thieves have struck! Should be interesting to see how the plan turns out…

    I liked Wei Li’s musing on the Church wanting the best and brightest minds for themselves (and preventing them from making more best and brightest minds–to keep the percentage of people questioning the Church as low as possible, no doubt?). Not that I can see Heloise wanting a family at this point in her life, or possibly ever, but I could certainly see someone like Galahad wanting to be a daddy. Oh, wouldn’t the Church love that? Little Galahads running around, posing questions Brother Tuck doesn’t want to answer, sewing seeds of thoughtfulness during Sunday School sessions. Things could get especially interesting if they had headstrong, not-exactly-devout Angelique as their mother… πŸ˜‰

    *not-subtle hints are not subtle*

    • Yeah, Wei Li will need a bit of time to make her decision. Which is good — it shows she’s really thinking and weighing all of her options. And Mark will respect that. πŸ™‚

      Yes, it should be interesting to see what goes on with the horse con! πŸ˜€

      Lol, I don’t think the Church is entirely in the business of lowering the collective intelligence of the population through selective breeding. First of all, they aren’t that smart, and secondly, they do need more best and brightest to absorb and run the Church! But yeah, co-opting potential questioners is a part of their strategy — we saw Brother Andy musing that the best way to contain a mind like Galahad’s is to keep it busy with stupid problems that really don’t mean anything in the real world. If the Pascalians can more or less openly adopt that strategy, who knows what other branches are doing?

      Your not-subtle hints are indeed not subtle! I will take them under consideration. πŸ˜‰

      Thanks, Van!

  4. Good for them! I don’t know how Wei Li will explain it back at the brothel (besides maybe ‘working retirement’), or what Marigold’s going to do with one more girl leaving the staff (well, except keep an eye out for Glasonlander refugees), but good for them! I’m not a fan of girl-as-reward, but this is also guy-as-reward and anyway, he’s loved her for a long time, and if she’s not in love with him, I think she loves him well enough in a ‘dear friends with benefits’ kind of way.

    Someday they probably do need to talk about the orphanage thing, though. Even if it’s only so Wei Li knows Mark would probably willingly provide for her future children even if they weren’t his, and so Mark knows Wei Li would rather give children to a stable home than have them taken away while she screams. (Plus, the protection of a wealthy man would keep her out of that situation again, if she caught pregnant and wanted to keep the next one.)

    • Working retirement is one possible explanation! And hey, all Wei Li would have to do is point out how wealthy he is, and I don’t think Marigold, Tambu or Mirelle could argue with her choice. This is the best chance any of them could have for a comfortable retirement.

      Hmm, I’m not sure I see the orphanage coming up until/unless Wei Li got pregnant — yes, strong couples do communicate about things like that, but I have a hard time seeing either Mark or Wei Li bringing it up. It’s something of a painful memory for Wei Li. But yeah, she’s in luck that if she does get pregnant, Mark will be completely ok with supporting Wei Li and any baby(s) she might have. So she should be ok there.

      Thanks, Hat! (Also, look at the next post — I finally got to use in a post one of your awesome recent creations! πŸ˜‰ )

  5. I was so sure he was going to ask her to marry him. *is disappointed in Mark* Still wondering if she likes/loves him enough to say yes though.

    when you have answer –> an answer?
    He reached forward and took her hand, brought to his lips –> it

    Totally unrelated, but I just read The Mists of Avalon, and boy, suddenly your sims’ family relationships are confusing! I kept going, whut, Morgause is Igraine’s sister? Accolon is a prince? Mordred is really Morgaine’s son? lol

    • I don’t think I see marriage being on the cards for Mark and Wei Li … I think Mark’s gone off that idea, especially now that Josh is married to Cressida is Mark doesn’t even have the excuse of “we need someone with two X chromosomes around.” This is the most socially-approved way for Mark to be with Wei Li.

      Thanks for the corrections! πŸ˜€

      LOL!! I do love that book! But a lot of the family relationships are the invention of MZB. I’ve not seen any other sources that cast Morgause as Igraine’s sister, or even any others that make Morgaine/Morgan/Morgana/whatever Mordred’s mother. Even most of the medieval sources I’m familiar with put Morgause in that role.

      However, I do have to take the blame for Accolon. He is of noble blood in the legends. I made him a peasant … for the dramaz. πŸ˜‰

      Thanks, Eva!

  6. I’m not sure she would be happy as a kept woman. She would miss her friends that live in the brothel. Then again, she won’t be young forever and the girls have all been thinking about that.

    • Who’s to say that Mark would keep her away from her friends? He can’t be with her 24/7. Plus, if he thought about it for five minutes, he’d realize it was entirely cruel to expect her to languish away by herself when he was off at his work or with his family. Mark’s not cruel; he wouldn’t ask that of her.

      Indeed, Wei Li won’t be young forever — that might be a good reason for her to accept. We will have to see.

      Thanks, Chicklet!

  7. Awwwwwwwwws! That was so great! I’m so glad he managed to ask! And also glad he asked her to really think about it. Even though I can hardly wait to hear her answer. ^^
    I really hope she’ll accept (or refuse) for the right reasons, though this is Wei Li we’re talking about so I have little doubt that she will. From a strictly rational and materialistic pov this isn’t an offer she can afford to refuse, but I really believe that Wei Li is not the kind of person to take advantage of someone. I think she would refuse rather than deceive anyone, especially Mark.

    I can’t see Marigold standing in the way of this either, though she will no doubt be less than happy about losing Wei Li’s contribution. But there’s even less doubt that she will be happy for Wei Li. And so will Tambu and I think even Mirelle. πŸ˜‰

    [quote]Oh, wouldn’t the Church love that? Little Galahads running around, posing questions Brother Tuck doesn’t want to answer, sewing seeds of thoughtfulness during Sunday School sessions. Things could get especially interesting if they had headstrong, not-exactly-devout Angelique as their mother… πŸ˜‰

    *not-subtle hints are not subtle*[/quote]

    I expect that is the kind of thing the Church has nightmares about. lol Delicious thought! *joins Van in hinting*

    • Bingo — if Wei Li doesn’t think she can do right by Mark, I don’t think she would refuse. However, I don’t think that she would see “being head over heels in love” with Mark as a necessary requirement to doing right by him. She can make him happy … and if he makes her happy, too … well, that might just be enough for it to be a sensible business, personal and pleasurable arrangement. Love can come later. πŸ˜‰

      Yeah, Tambu and Marigold would definitely be happy — and while Mirelle might not be able to understand why Wei Li would tie herself down to one man on a permanent basis, she wouldn’t begrudge her that if it makes her happy. Of course, if you’re a vampire-fae, you have a different understanding of “permanent” than any mere mortal … πŸ˜‰

      LOL! More hints! Again, I’m taking it under consideration. We shall have to see how things work out!

      Thanks, Ann!

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