Legends of Amacia: Mysteries of Tiamat

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Intimate Fears in the Night

Stopping at the bedroom door and stepping aside with a bow, Hannibal gestured to the door. “Lady’s first,” he chimed.

“Why thank you,” Selina replied, stepping into the bedroom. “You’re always such a gentleman.”

“I wasn’t always like that,” Hannibal admitted, following her into the bedroom. “Once upon a time long ago, I was a despicable cad who only looked out for number one, going to great lengths to insure my position in the world. I was a blind stupid idiot for doing that.”

Selina turned to Hannibal, dropping her duffel on the floor. Draping her arms around Hannibal’s neck, she gazed deep into his eyes. “You shouldn’t demean yourself like that,” she chided softly. “You’re a good man. Don’t let the past ruin your life. The Lord forgave you for what you did. He said so. You should do the same.”

A sigh escaped Hannibal’s lips as he wrapped his arms around Selina’s waist, pulling her close. “I know, princess,” he replied. “But it’s so hard to let go of it. I perpetrated such great evil in my younger days it’s hard to forget it. I’m continually haunted by it.”

“You don’t have to forget,” Selina purred. “You have to forgive yourself for doing those things. Forgetting will just lead to more heartache because it’ll lead you to falling back into those same traps again. Only when you forgive yourself will you be able to remember it without it causing this distress I’m seeing in you right now.”

“Again, your logic is flawless,” Hannibal crowed. “The Lord’s right. You truly are what I need now. Please, help me let go of this obsession with my dark past.”

“Only you can do that,” Selina declared. Hannibal’s heart fell at her words, as did his expression. “But,” she quickly added. “I can help you get to that point where you finally let go of that darkness. All we need to do is love and trust each other completely. Do you trust me enough to let me in to help you, Hannibal?”

Hannibal suddenly remembered every time she asked him to let her into his life, including the last one just a month earlier. Each time, he had some excuse as to why he couldn’t let her in. “Oh dear,” Hannibal murmured fearfully, feeling an icy chill race down his spine. “You ask a hard thing, Selina; a very hard thing. I really want to let you in, I truly do but I fear it and you. It doesn’t make any sense. I love you more than anything, but I’m so afraid to let you in that I’m shaking.”

Selina noticed that his hands and arms trembled as he held her, his body tense as a rubber band pulled too far. “I can see that,” she murmured. Selina removed her arms from around his neck and pulled him into a full embrace, releasing a soft velvety purr that reached to the core of his mind and body. “You love so deeply, yet fear so much,” she declared. “You mustn’t fear me, my prince. Unlike all those other women in your past, I’ll not hurt you in any way. You must release this baseless fear. It’s not of the Lord. It’s the enemy trying to keep you isolated and alone. Don’t let the Darkness win, my prince. Release this fear and pain! Release it!”

Selina’s words settled into his mind just as her purr reached his core. The tension in Hannibal melted away as tears suddenly burst from his eyes with the sobs that rose from the depths of his soul. “Oh, my precious angel,” Hannibal wept, “You have finally reached me in my prison! I’m such an idiot! Please help me break these chains that hold me back!”

“I don’t need to,” Selina purred with a smile. “You’ve finally freed yourself of this dark fear I’ve seen on you from the moment we first met. It’s kept everyone, including me, at arm’s length. But now our love has smashed those chains to bits! Now, my prince; will you let me in to help you? I want to help you in all ways.”

Hannibal wiped the tears from his eyes as a feeling of great peace settled on him. “Yes, my beloved feline angel,” he replied. “Please come in and help me conquer myself.”

Selina kissed him gently on the lips. “I will help you, my prince,” she purred, “because I love you more than my own soul. We both are splendidly wounded. Together, we shall heal each other’s wounds and finally be one. Come…let’s take the first steps together. I helped you overcome your fear of letting me in. Now I must do the same by facing the fear that holds me back.” She paused for a moment; her demeanor becoming very subdued, even fearful as she peeled off her gloves, throwing them down on a nearby chair sitting next to Hannibal’s dresser. “It’s something that’s terrified me for years that I’ve hidden from everyone, including dad and you,” she whispered, her trembling voice and tone betraying a secret, deep-seated terror. “Just thinking about facing it makes me break out into a cold sweat while my heart races. I want to run away, but I can’t. I…I have to face it this time. There’s no choice, not after you just conquered your fear. I have to; I have to face it if I’m to have peace.”

“What do you mean?” Hannibal asked in amazement, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “How can you be afraid of me? You’re utterly fearless! But I can see right now that you are so scared you’re shaking just like I was a few moments ago. What is it that has a powerful fearless woman like you acting like a little girl afraid of the dark? Please tell me so we can break its power over you.”

Selina sat down beside Hannibal on the bed and gazed into his eyes. Her arms and hands trembled as she touched him on the knee with her left hand. “Hannibal; you love me, but do not know me,” she murmured in a deeply troubled tone. “I’m not the powerful fearless cat you think I am. You must understand that we’re far more alike than you realize. I haven’t let anyone get close to me other than my father since I lost my fiancé many years ago. I love you so much, but like you, I fear to let you in. I fear I may be hurt again. Throughout my life, people have betrayed and hurt me again and again because of who and what I am, trying to use me to further their selfish goals. Again and again, alleged friends turned on me when I wouldn’t help them further their ambitions. As a child, I was tormented and teased mercilessly by my peers because of my piercing intelligence and position as heir to the Kaitian throne. Even after I grew up my peers continued to hound me because I never allowed them to control me. I’ve been hurt too many times like that for too long to let it happen again.

“But now things have changed. I found you: the one soul destined to be my mate who has accepted me for me. Even now, you treat me with great kindness and respect, not forcing your will upon me as so many others have tried to do. Yet the fears caused by a lifetime of mistreatment by others continue to plague me. It’s not fair. I finally find the one soul meant for me and my fears paralyze me, keeping you at bay. I want you more than anything, Hannibal, but I’m scared to death to let you in, just as scared as you were…maybe even more so. Just telling you this has me shaking like a leaf and I’m becoming nauseous; see.” She held out her trembling arms for Hannibal to see. He also noticed her face paling significantly, making her look ill. “I’m so scared now that we’re married that nothing seems real,” she admitted. “It’s literally making me sick. I have to do something about it but I don’t know what.”

“Oh Selina,” Hannibal cooed, putting his arm around her. “I had no idea you were so vulnerable. And I do relate…I truly do. Is this not the same fear you just helped me break? But even now, seeing you like this scares me.”

“How so?” Selina asked.

“It scares me because of how much alike our fears seem to be,” Hannibal declared. “I was scared like that because of my dark past, but you appear to have an equally dark past that haunts you too just as much. I’m sure it’s not as despicably violent and evil as mine was, but I know it torments you just as much. I can clearly see that. We both must remember that the Lord put us together as mates. He knows and now I know for sure that we truly need each other. We have wounds only our soul mate can heal. These fears are a perfect example. I’ve always been able to help people with their fears, but never my own. Just a few minutes ago, you helped me face my fear of you. It’s one of the greatest fears I’ve yet deal with, and without your help, I’d still be holding you at arm’s length, just as you’re doing now to me. You helped me. Now it’s time I returned the favor. As you said, these fears are not of the Lord, so we must obliterate them. We must release them back into the black abyss from which they came. Do you follow me?”

“Yes,” Selina replied, wrapping her arms around Hannibal and holding him close. He could feel her trembling body as he gently but firmly held her.

“Release this fear and pain,” Hannibal said softly. “I’ll never knowingly hurt or betray you, ever. You’re my beautiful angel: my deliverance from the world of darkness, pain, heartache, and despair. Let me be the same for you, princess. As you said, we’re both splendidly wounded. Only together can we dispatch these fearful demons that torment us and mock our weakness. Now tell me; what fear haunts you the most? You can tell me. I won’t make sport of it. I promise. Only by telling me will you be able to overcome this beast. I know more about fear than most people because not only have I fought it all my life, I’ve actually used it as a weapon against my enemies. I know how fear works. Only by sharing and facing it can you not be taken by it. You reminded me of that lesson a few minutes ago when you helped me face my fear of letting you in. I let you in. Now, as you said, you must do the same. Let me in, Selina, as I let you in. I’m here for you. What scares you so much right now that the world has become a living nightmare?”

“I…it’s so crazy,” Selina murmured, her voice trembling.

“What’s so crazy,” Hannibal asked innocently.

“I’m scared that if you see me as I truly am, you’ll not want me,” Selina wept, the terror evident in her voice. “I finally have you in the palm of my hand and I fear to truly reveal myself to you because you may reject me.”

“I suspect there’s more to it than that,” Hannibal surmised. “It’s okay to tell me what is really bothering you. You can trust me.”

Selina gathered her fleeing courage as she stared at the floor. “I’m embarrassed to even admit it but I’ve never really been with anyone before,” she admitted, “and the thought that I could not please such a kind noble man is a torment I can no longer bear.”

“Wait a minute,” Hannibal replied. “Are you telling me that you’re a virgin?”

“Yes,” Selina declared softly, tears streaming. “I’ve never mated with anyone before, not a single soul.”

“Oh,” Hannibal whispered as an epiphany struck him. “And you fear that because of that, I wouldn’t want you?”

“Yes,” Selina moaned emotionally. “That and the fact I’ve never exposed myself to anyone in that manner, ever. I’ve never even undressed in front of anyone other than the royal doctor on Kaitia, who happened to be a female like me. Not even my dad has seen me undress. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I never trusted anyone enough to do that.”

“Oh my precious feline angel,” Hannibal cooed, rocking her gently in his embrace. “There’s no reason to fear what you told me. Being a virgin is an honor in my eye. It shows you have great moral strength and character. Most humans throw their virginity away long before they’re mature enough to grasp what mating truly means. They don’t understand that one of the things that separate us from the most of the animals is being monogamous. They just don’t grasp the concept and as a result, procreate prolifically without any thought of who they may be hurting when they jump from one mate to another. But you have revealed that you don’t act like that. You had enough of a moral structure to want to wait for the right man or cat for you. It just so happens that I’m the right man for you. You should consider that a badge of honor. I do.”

“Really?” Selina asked.

“Absolutely,” Hannibal replied. “Being a virgin is nothing to be ashamed of. Can I tell you a little secret?” She nodded and Hannibal whispered, “I’m a virgin too, in the technical sense. Not once have I ever physically mated with anyone.”

Selina gasped in astonishment. “No,” she replied, “even through those dark times of your life you never mated?”

“Nope,” Hannibal insisted. “Not once, but it shames me to say that in the days when I was an agent of destruction, I witnessed first-hand how the Darkness perverted that most beautiful, intimate act of mating between two people meant for each other by the Lord’s will. I’ve seen things done in the name of love and mating that sickens my stomach and revolts my mind and heart. Witnessing the perversion and desecration of that pure act of love by the Darkness repeatedly over decades led to my fear of letting you in. Even now it haunts me and makes me wonder if I made the right choice by letting you in.”

“You fight it even now, don’t you?” Selina asked, stunned by the revelation.

Hannibal sighed deeply. “I do,” he admitted. “But I won’t back down and push you out now that you helped me to overcome that fear. Just because I overcame it doesn’t mean I don’t have to fight it anymore. Only when I find that true peace with my past and soul will I truly conquer that demon. Still, your courage and love helped me take that first step to destroying that devil. Now we shall take those same steps together to help you destroy the same demon within you.”

“Thank you,” Selina murmured. “But what about the other fear; how do I conquer that?”

Hannibal smiled warmly. “I think you know how,” he answered softly. “I too am very bashful when it comes to undressing in front of people. I won’t undress in front of just anyone. But you must understand that I’m not just a stranger off the street to you...not anymore. I’m your husband and even more important…your soul mate. You needn’t fear baring yourself to me and vice versa. But I won’t force you. I feel you’ll do that when you’re ready.”

“You’d do that for me?” Selina asked, once again amazed at Hannibal’s candor. “You’d wait until I could find the courage to bare myself to you?”

“In a heartbeat; you’re worth it,” Hannibal stated. “To be honest, even I’m uncomfortable right now getting completely naked with you right now, as much as I would love to. For one thing, it could lead to passions that may create trouble for us because of our vows. I’m not sure I actually trust myself in that position. Still, I can’t let that be an obstacle. I think I know what we can do to help alleviate this dilemma.”

“What?” Selina asked.

“I’ll take the first step,” Hannibal declared. “I’ll partial undress for you. Besides, you have to know what you’re physically getting with me.” Hannibal promptly unbuttoned his shirt, taking it off. As he took it off, he said, “I must warn you this old carcass isn’t the most handsome thing to look at. I’ve had a very hard life and it really shows.” Throwing his shirt on the bed, he stood up and posed bare-chested for Selina, revealing his scarred chest and back. “See what I mean?” he asked, holding his arms out slightly to each side so she could see every bullet-hole, slash, knife-wound, claw, and bite-mark on him. “I’ve been through the meat grinder so many times it’s not funny anymore. My enemies have tried to kill me so many times I’ve lost count.”

Selina’s eyes grew round with wonder and concern. “Oh my god,” she breathed, standing up. “May I?”

“Yes,” Hannibal answered. “Go ahead. Touch me and see what the Darkness has done to me in their efforts to destroy me.”

Selina touched Hannibal all over his chest, arms, and back, feeling the scars as if she were reading them. “This is unreal,” she breathed. “I’ve been your friend for two years now and not once did I ever realize that you were mistreated so badly.”

“It’s the price I paid for the life I led,” Hannibal proclaimed. “The life of a warrior is not a nice one regardless of which side you’re on, and this canvas shows an accurate picture of that price. It’s also one of the big reasons I have the same fear you do. I feared you would not want me if you saw that I was literally damaged goods. Many of these physical wounds have unhealed emotional damage I deal with to this day.”

“Oh Hannibal,” Selina replied, embracing Hannibal gently. “You’re not damaged goods. You’re just a tough old cat like my dad who has seen more than his share of violence and war. It makes me realize how important our union really is. I also just realized how stupid my fear was. I was afraid to bare myself to you because I didn’t know how you’d react. But you have the same fear and overcame it, showing your scars to me…something that I know isn’t the easiest thing to do. You loved me enough to show me who you were.” A trembling sigh escaped her lips. “I guess it’s time I showed you who I am,” she stated softly, stepping back. “After all, it’s only fair. You’re my soul mate, after all. You have a right to know. Do you want me to strip all the way down?”

Hannibal caressed her cheek with his hand. “Only if you feel comfortable doing so,” he answered. “I’m sure at some point both of us will be able to strip all the way in front of each other. But that doesn’t have to happen now. That’ll happen when the time is right and we’re ready.”

“Thank you,” Selina whispered. She kicked her shoes off and unbuttoned the collar holding her evening gown up. With just a little push of her hand, the gown slipped off her frame, dropping to the floor revealing a white satin teddy and stockings. The teddy mirrored her gown in structure with a narrow collar holding it up and no back down to just above the waist. It fit to her frame perfectly with high-cut legs while keeping her chest and abdomen covered modestly, making it look like a single-piece bathing suit. She clasped her hands in front of her, blushing deeply.

“Whoa,” Hannibal breathed in amazement. “I thought you were beautiful before, but now…wow! You’re radiant! Your beauty staggers my imagination.”

“Do you really think so?” Selina asked hesitantly.

“I don’t think so,” Hannibal replied, cupping her cheek with his hand. “I know so. You’re the most beautiful creature in the entire universe.”

“I’d really like to believe that,” Selina stated. “But there’s something I have to show you before you can truly make that judgment.”

“You must believe me,” Hannibal insisted. “You’re beautiful beyond words. I wouldn’t lie about something like that.”

“If that’s the case, then look at this and tell me I’m still beautiful,” Selina retorted. She quickly unsnapped the teddy’s collar and bared her chest and belly to Hannibal. The snug fit of the teddy on her waist and hips kept it from falling off her. Hannibal’s eyes bulged as he saw numerous scars on her breasts, chest, belly, and sides that appeared to be burns, gashes, claw marks, knife-wounds, and bullet-holes. Some of the scars were very large and telling. The most prominent of the scars resembled four giant claws on a single hand eight inches wide that had tried to rip her open diagonally from right to left across her chest, starting near her right shoulder and ending almost at her left hip. Tears dripped from her eyes as she stared at Hannibal’s astonished face. She trembled, demanding, “Now tell me that I’m beautiful with all these scars, Hannibal! I’m not beautiful. I’m ugly. I’m a freak and know it! There’s no way you could love a freak like me!”

Hannibal’s astonishment melted away into the most affectionate look Selina had ever seen on him. A warm smile crossed his lips as he pulled her into a loving embrace. Kissing her on the lips, he said, “Nonsense; I see no freak here. You’re no more a freak than I am. I see a goddess of a cat who has survived a great trial, but didn’t come through it completely unscathed. You should be proud of those scars. It shows you are a survivor, like me.”

“But it makes me ugly!” Selina insisted. “How could anyone, you included, want a scarred freak like me?”

“But I do; I want you just as you are, Selina,” Hannibal answered instantly. “Your scars are a badge of honor, like your virginity. In fact, I think it makes you even more beautiful.” He reached out to touch the claw scars on her right breast. “It gives you an exotic quality that sends shivers down my spine. I love them and you. It shows me how special you really are.”

Selina pushed Hannibal’s hand away, stepping back and turning away from him. She folded her arms in front of her trying to hide the scars. “Don’t patronize me, Hannibal,” she balked, tears running down her cheeks. “You can’t possibly want me all scarred up like this. I’m a monster! I’m ugly!”

As Selina turned her back to him, Hannibal noticed some smaller scars on her back, which were not as obvious or as numerous. He stepped up behind her and wrapped his arms around her from behind, firmly but gently holding her. His hands felt the claw scars on her belly and a chill raced down his spine. “No, don’t touch me!” Selina begged, trying half-heartedly to get out of the embrace. “Please don’t hold me like that. You deserve better than the freak I am!”

“Shhh,” Hannibal murmured in her ear. “It’s okay, baby. I’m not going to hurt you. You have to release this pain. It’s poisoned you for far too long. Release it, Selina. You’re not ugly. You’re beautiful, even with your scars. It makes me realize how right you were when you declared how alike we were. Please, let me in to help you bear this burden. I can see it’s about to crush you.” He suddenly let her go and turned her around, taking her by both hands and holding them at chest level while looking her in the eye. “You’re such a noble, sensitive soul with so much love to give,” he said softly. “But you’ve been deceived by a demon; an impish little voice in your head telling you that you’re ugly because of these scars. It lies to you, Selina. Kick that little imp in the ass by not believing the lie. You’re beautiful in not just your mind and heart, but in your body as well. Your beauty comes from within, not from the outside. Let go of this lie and release this pain. Please, release this pain and horror and cast it into the abyss from which it came.”

Selina shook her head sadly. “I don’t understand,” she moaned. “How can you say that after seeing my wrecked body? A chance encounter in a war zone years ago ruined my life and scarred me forever. How can you still want me like this?”

A wry smile crossed Hannibal’s face as he let go of her hands and gestured to his chest. “Ahem…I can ask the same thing, you know,” he countered. “Compared to you, I’m a calamity. But I can plainly see you accept my scars. Why don’t you accept your own as I do? Beauty, ugliness is all in the eye of the beholder. And it doesn’t come from the outside, but from in here.” He pointed to Selina’s heart, adding, “It’s from here that your true beauty shines, not from your damaged mauled body. It doesn’t make any sense to me why you can’t see that.” Hannibal’s face exploded in realization as he suddenly saw the problem plaguing Selina. “Oh my goodness,” he breathed. “I get it now. This is why you feared revealing yourself to me. You thought if I saw that you weren’t perfect, but damaged goods like me that I’d reject you. Isn’t that right? It’s okay to tell me the truth. I’ll love you whatever you say.”

After a lengthy pause while Selina refastened the teddy around her neck covering her scarred chest and belly, she broke emotionally and sobbed, “Yes, yes! I thought that. I believed you’d leave me if you found out that I had been seriously injured and scarred for life.”

“Oh princess,” Hannibal cooed, holding her hands. “This fear has poisoned you for ages. Look at me.” She looked into his eyes as he said softly and deliberately, “I accept you as you are…scars and all. You needn’t worry about being scarred. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s who you are. Yes, you’ve been grievously wounded, mauled, and scarred physically and mentally, just as I have. But it’s not the end of the world. You survived, as did your beauty. Believe me when I say this, I know how such grievous wounds can mess with your mind in a bad way. You needn’t let it do that any longer. You’re a beautiful, kind, and loving cat, full of surprises and wonder. I’d never let something as silly as a few scars come between us when we’re so perfectly matched. I love you just as you are. Let this fear go. It’s held you back long enough. Send that devil back to the darkness where it belongs.”

“You really want me after seeing my mangled body?” Selina whimpered.

“Are you kidding?” Hannibal chimed. “I’d be a fool to turn my back on you because of those scars. They’re just as beautiful as the rest of you, actually giving you some character and an exotic air that I never noticed before. It’s breath-taking. Those scars make you look like a tiger in a way and you know I love tigers.”

“So I’m not ugly?” Selina queried, slowly letting go of her mistaken beliefs and fears about her looks.

“Not by any stretch of the imagination,” Hannibal assured. “Even the goddesses of old would be jealous of you. You’re so very beautiful. And that teddy…wow! It’s so primal and sexy. It enhances your beauty six-fold. I love it and you with a passion!” Hannibal uttered a seductive rumbling growl to emphasize his approval of her that made her briefly chuckle.

When it finally registered to Selina that Hannibal truly believed she was beautiful despite her scars, her face lit up and she threw herself into his arms, kissing him passionately. Hannibal responded with equal passion, holding her close as the kiss ended. “Thank you, Hannibal,” she purred. “You did it! You helped me overcome my fear. Thank you.”

“You’re so welcome, princess,” Hannibal replied warmly. “At some point, I’d like to know how that actually happened to you, just out of curiosity.” Selina shuddered, her face falling in dismay. “But you don’t have to do it now since it appears to be a bad memory for you,” Hannibal added quickly upon seeing her reaction to the request.

“It is,” Selina whispered, “a very bad memory. I almost died when it happened.”

“Then don’t give it another thought,” Hannibal instructed. “I know very well how bad memories can mess up a happy day like today. Let’s not screw it up anymore.”

“I appreciate that,” Selina said, relief evident on her face. “I’m just not ready to share it yet.”

“I understand much better than you think,” Hannibal stated. “I’ll not pry unless you want me to.”

“Thank you,” Selina murmured, touching her forehead to Hannibal’s forehead. “You truly are a prince. Maybe at some point, you can help me heal that festering sore.”

Hannibal touched her on the chin with his thumb and forefinger. “It would be my honor and pleasure, princess,” he proclaimed. “Just let me know and we’ll tackle that beast together. By the way, how do you feel now?”

“I feel strangely good,” Selina admitted. “I’m not afraid now. What about you?”

“Same here,” Hannibal replied. “I no longer fear you or letting you sleep with me.”

“You mean it?” Selina asked.

“Sure do,” Hannibal answered. “But you’ll still have to be wary of me while I’m asleep. I occasionally have flashbacks while asleep and I can get very violent without knowing it. It’s one of the prices I continue to pay for the wars I was involved in.”

Selina cupped Hannibal’s cheek in the palm of her hand. “I understand, Hannibal,” she murmured. “I’ll be careful. You must do the same for me too for the same reasons.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Hannibal chimed. “Now I think it’s time for bed. I don’t know about you but facing our fears has wiped me out.”

Selina smiled warmly. “I know what you mean,” she agreed.

“I’m going to take a quick shower before coming to bed,” Hannibal declared. “You might want to take this time to reflect and settle in. I’ll do the same while I shower.”

“Okay,” Selina said with a nod as Hannibal walked away. He stopped at his dresser to pick up his pajamas before leaving the room. Minutes later, the sound of the shower echoed into the bedroom as Selina picked up her gown and carefully folded it. After sitting the gown in a chair next to Hannibal’s dresser where her gloves sat, she moved her duffel next to it. Returning to the bed, she turned the blankets down and situated the pillows. Sitting down on the edge of the bed with a sigh, she peeled off her stockings and tossed them over to the gown and duffel. The stockings landed perfectly on the folded gown. Another sigh escaped her lips as she looked at the floor with her hands in her lap, pondering everything that had occurred since she walked into the bedroom as his wife.

“God I love that man,” Selina murmured with a smile, looking towards the door. “We really do need each other. How could I have been so afraid to show him my scars? What a stupid thing to be afraid of. He’s more chewed up than I am.” A yawn escaped her lips and she stretched, reaching for the ceiling. “Oh dear me,” she purred. “I’m suddenly so tired.”

As she looked at the bed, a loving voice whispered in her ear, “Take off your teddy. It’s okay to be with him nude. Don’t let your fear stop you from revealing your true self to him.”

Selina looked around, seeing no one. “Is that you, Lord?” she whispered.

“Trust me, little sister,” the voice replied almost inaudibly in her ear. “Don’t be afraid to show him your innermost being. Both of you need to take off all your masks and let the other see you for what you are.”

“Yes,” Selina murmured. “I understand. Thank you, Lord.”

“Love him, little sister, and he will love you,” the voice echoed in her ear, fading away.

Selina removed her teddy and laid it on her evening gown in the chair. An icy chill raced down her spine as she realized what she was about to do: reveal herself fully to Hannibal as his lover and wife, scars and all. Another yawn escaped her lips as the bed looked more appealing. Crawling on to the left side of the bed, she stretched out, laying on her right side with her left arm resting comfortably across her hip. Propping her head up with her other arm, she gazed toward the door and waited, feeling amorous but very tired. Her eyes fluttered as drowsiness weighed heavily upon her.

Hannibal returned a couple minutes later wearing only his sweat pants. Seeing Selina lying seductively on the bed completely nude, he cringed with chills racing down his spine. His eyes grew wide as he saw her completely uninhibited from the crown of her head to the tips of her toes. Blush crept across his face with his smile. “Oh my goodness,” he chimed. “Look at this beautiful nude tigress on my bed. Whatever shall I do? How do I combat such raw power and beauty that has snared my soul?”

Selina laughed wearily and beckoned him with her finger. “Come over here and find out,” she replied in a seductive tone that betrayed her fatigue. Hannibal settled beside her and she promptly cuddled close, draping her arm across his chest while sliding her left leg over his leg. “Thank you,” she whispered, giving him a kiss on the lips. “Please hold me.”

Hannibal nodded, wrapping his arms around her. “How’s this?” he asked.

Selina shifted position so she could lay her head on his chest and shoulder. “That’s perfect,” she replied sleepily. “God, I’m so sleepy.”

“Me too,” Hannibal agreed, feeling his own body crashing from the fatigue. “But before the Sandman takes us to dreamland, what made you decide to sleep nude with me? I didn’t think you were ready to take that step.”

“I’m not sure,” Selina admitted. “Something just told me it was the right thing to do.” She rolled on her back, showing her entire scarred body to Hannibal. “Do you still find me attractive like this?”

“Oh yeah,” Hannibal murmured, propping himself up with his arm. “You’re perfect in body and mind. I’m honored that you want to sleep nude with me. It means you’ve accepted me and yourself, scars and all. I’m proud of you, princess.”

“Can you do something for me, Hannibal?” Selina asked.

“Anything,” Hannibal replied.

“I want you to touch my scars,” Selina insisted. “Feel my scars and body the way I felt you. Love me with your hands and lips.”

“Of course,” Hannibal replied, gently caressing Selina’s breasts, chest, belly, and legs. “Oh, what a crime it was to mangle this beautiful body of yours like this. I feel your pain, Selina. Let me make it better.” He started kissing each scar on her chest and belly as if she were a child and his kisses would make the wounds better.

Selina smiled warmly and broke out into a deep pleasant purr that reflected her pleasure. “I knew it,” she crowed softly. “You really are a sensitive soul that loves me for me.”

Hannibal stopped kissing her scars and looked her in the eye. “Is there anywhere else I need to kiss to make it better, princess?” he asked in a sultry tone.

Selina touched her lips and Hannibal pulled her into a passionate embrace, kissing her gently on the lips. Selina pressed her body against his and threw her leg over his hip while holding him tightly as they kissed. Hannibal stroked her hips and thighs as they shared the passion of their love. When the kiss ended, they lay on their sides, locked together in a tangle of arms and legs. Selina stared into his eyes with utter adoration. “Oh my,” she purred breathlessly. “You surprised me there, Hannibal, which isn’t an easy thing to do.”

“How did I surprise you, princess?” Hannibal asked, still stroking her thigh as it sat on his hip.

“Your sensitivity surprised me,” Selina replied, her tone glowing with affection. “You somehow knew exactly how to reach me and please me. God I love you.”

Hannibal patted her gently on the hip and smiled. “I was just following my instincts,” he admitted. “Besides, I’ve never really made out with anyone. I’m glad it was you. You’re just so scrumptious I couldn’t help myself.”

Selina chuckled at the comment, holding Hannibal tightly. “And so are you, my prince,” she replied. “You can kiss me like that forever. But now, I’m crashing and can’t stop it. Let’s go to sleep now.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Hannibal answered. They shifted to a more comfortable position and promptly fell asleep moments later in each other’s arms: their first night spent together as husband and wife.
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