TITLE: A Close Shave
AUTHOR: Susan Zell
DISCLAIMER: All characters from "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World" series are the property of John Landis, Coote/Hayes, New Line Television, and The Over The Hill Gang. (Plus or minus some of the above depending on whose fingers are in the pot these days.) No profit has been made by this venture. I've only borrowed the explorers to tell yet another Lost Tale. Blame Roxton; he made me do it! Him and those damn braces and that strong scruffy chin!
SUMMARY: Marguerite assists Roxton in some daily masculine duties.
SPOILERS: Small references to my previous fan fiction "Reasons Why."
TIMELINE: Sometime early second season
TYPE: Romance, Humor
WARNINGS: Sexual innuendos and situations
A CLOSE SHAVE
By Susan Zell
It was a serene Sunday morning. Marguerite Krux almost forgot what one was like. Lately, a moment's peace was hard to come by on the forgotten plateau. She swore that the small band of lost explorers couldn't sit down for more than an hour's rest before some other horrid situation befell them.
Which is why Marguerite was more determined than ever to relish this small brief respite, no matter what. She was in the process of departing her small, cramped bedroom and making her way to the upper levels and a cup of hot tea when she heard a mumbled curse.
A smile immediately broke over her lips as she recognized the frustrated voice. She walked softly to the room from where it came and saw Lord John Roxton standing in front of his small mirror which was pinned to a support beam. He wore his pants with the braces drawn up over bare broad shoulders and nothing else save for shaving soap spread sporadically on his face.
Marguerite watched him mesmerized, enjoying the ripple of muscle that stretched across the line of his shoulders as the man tried awkwardly to get the razor up with his left hand to scrape at his scruffy jaw line.
His right hand was bandaged and splinted and quite useless at the moment. The hunter had broken two fingers and dislocated a third during some fisticuffs with four apemen yesterday while protecting Professor Challenger. Marguerite hadn't realized just how hampered the British lord would be without the use of it in his daily duties.
Another muttered curse erupted as the razor held at too sharp an angle sliced into his skin, a small patch of red appearing on his face. The first curse was then followed by a few more, some of which surprised even the heiress.
Marguerite slipped inside the room. "My my, Lord Roxton. Wherever did you learn those phrases?"
Roxton spun around and then muffled another expletive. Marguerite Krux was the last person he wanted to deal with at the moment. He turned back to the mirror and scrutinized the damage with a tender probe of his fingers, wincing. "What do you want, Marguerite? I'm busy."
Marguerite chuckled, circling the man and taking pleasure in the spectacle. "Yes, I can see that. Busy trying to commit seppuku, it would appear."
Roxton regarded her in annoyed confusion.
She answered his unasked question knowing he would not invite her to explain. "It's the ancient Japanese ritual of committing suicide. Though usually it's done through disemboweling, not cutting one's jugular." She grinned wickedly at him.
Roxton grunted with a twisted grimace. "Why am I not surprised you would know that ghastly bit of trivia?"
Marguerite shrugged and came up behind him, so close she could almost feel the heat rising off his bronzed skin. She longed to touch it, wanting to feel the hard cords of muscle that lingered beneath the surface. Instead she sighed and met his superstitious gaze. "So, is this something you normally practice in the morning, or do you need some help?
"I can manage thank you."
Brusque and stubborn to the core, she thought. "You know, if you are thinking of leaving the treehouse today, I'd recommend not shaving. The smell of blood will only draw the raptors straight to you."
Roxton's scowl grew tighter. "Why don't you go pick on Malone this morning?"
Undeterred, she came around in front of him, fascinated by a spot of soap on his chin that was traveling down the length of his neck as he angled his head to try again and shave. The soap wasn't nearly the thick lather it should be; again he had been hampered by not being able to use both hands to properly whip up the lather. "Don't worry so, Roxton. He'll have his turn. Right now, I'm more interested in helping you."
"I'd rather have a tribe of cannibals help me. Go away, Marguerite." He tried to see around her without much success. Her mass of dark wavy hair was in the way.
"Oh, do try and be adventurous, Roxton. It won't hurt … much." Her teeth flashed a predatory grin. She picked up the razor strop and examined it critically and then nodded her approval. Roxton took special care to nurture it with a cream on a regular basis. It kept the leather soft and supple. The man was fastidious about certain things: his guns, his tea, his hair. She couldn't help the small giggle that escaped her. Thankfully, Roxton hadn't heard her.
She plucked the razor from his hand. "Well, now let's see if we can get this done properly and with as little blood shed as possible."
Still skeptical, Roxton's only comment was, "That's highly unlikely now that you're involved."
"Oh ye of little faith," she tsked.
"Yes, but lots of experience."
her thick eyelashes at him above the lifting of her sinful smirk.
"Sit down." She motioned to the chair behind him, becoming all business. With back and forth motions and alternating sides of the razor, she used the leather side to sharpen the razor and the linen side of the strop to straighten the edge of the blade. Her rhythms were sure and precise. It was obvious she had done this before.
Yeah, right before she murdered her prey in their sleep. Oh boy, Roxton thought, what the hell am I doing? Haven't you learned by now, old boy, that this woman is highly unpredictable when she has sharp grooming implements in her hand?
His hair was still short thanks to her malicious temper. He racked his brain quickly, trying to determine if they had had any serious arguments lately. Only about a dozen since yesterday. He gulped rather loudly. Thankfully, she didn't turn but only continued to hone the blade of the razor with a loud scraping sound.
With a steel resolution, he comforted himself with the fact that Marguerite wouldn't be rash enough to kill him outright. And the only thing she could do to publicly humiliate him was to shave him badly. Well, one nick and she'd be out. That he promised.
The surface of the blade chose that moment to reflect the morning sun as Marguerite lifted it up to inspect. She picked up a sheet of scrap paper on his desk and slowly drew the blade's edge across it. It was like a hot knife through butter.
Roxton couldn't help it; he gulped again.
This time Marguerite smiled at him with eyes that held nothing but mischief. Roxton changed his mind. He made to rise. "Let's forget this. I can go a few more days without…"
A firm hand kept him in the chair. "Really, Roxton, I would have expected a braver front from you."
"Facing a horde of blood thirsty apemen is one thing. Facing you holding a sharply honed razor, my dear, is quite another."
"I promise to be completely professional," she pledged.
Roxton eyed her dubiously and craned around to see the hand behind her back. Marguerite let out an exasperated huff and held out both her hands, fingers spread wide apart.
"Good, let's get started." She turned back to the basin and poured fresh hot water from the kettle into the bowl. The steam rose up and filled the small area, fogging the tiny mirror. She plunged a towel in the water and then wrung it out, hissing a bit as the heat of it scaled her fingers. Then she turned and wrapped it around Roxton's face. He nearly leaped out of the seat with a yowl. Marguerite anticipated it and leaned on his shoulders, keeping him seated.
"It will soften the whiskers," she told him, her lips dangerously brushing his ear.
"And sear the skin," he snapped, panting as the initial pain waned. "You could have let it cool a bit."
"Just relax," she cooed, concentrating now in creating the lather. She plunged the thick brush into the hot water to make the badger bristles pliable. Taking his shaving mug in the other hand, she began to whisk the bristles of the brush in quick circles around the shaving soap within, building up a rich lather.
The thick, shaving mug made of fine bone china was shaped like a pitcher with the top closed off to hold the soap while holes positioned below it allowed for drainage. It kept the soap dryer and cleaner. The mug was cracked and worn with use but it was the same one he had brought with him to the plateau years before. She loved to watch him use it and had many times already. He just didn't know it. She took great pleasure in playing with it now.
But eventually she gently unwrapped the warm towel from his face and found his green eyes centered on her every move and filled with trepidation and wariness. They cut through her cool demeanor and peered into her very soul. It took more effort than she liked to look away. What did he think she was going to do? Murder him? She tried to put him at ease with a smile but that only seemed to worry the man more.
With the soap now thick and frothy in the mug, she used the brush to scoop some up and smear the lather over his face, massaging his short whiskers with a gentle circular motion, taking care to avoid looking directly at him.
Roxton hated to admit it but he found her ministrations to be very relaxing and gave into the pleasant sensation. Leaning back in the chair with a weary sigh, he allowed the heat and her steady hand to lull him into a drowsy state.
Then his mind flashed on a pair of sharp scissors at a secluded pond and he realized just how dangerous dozing off was. This time he'd keep the upper hand and pay attention to what the little viper was doing. A haircut was one thing, a slit throat was entirely another.
Marguerite could feel the subtle changes in the man's neck muscles as she lightly held the back of his head while she worked. It was obvious he was on edge. A pity really. This was going to be fun, a great deal of fun, for her anyway.
She continued her actions on his small growth of beard until it was yielding and smothered with creamy lather, replacing the dark shadow on his face with one of white. Then the brush and mug was set aside. Marguerite's thin fingers plucked up the razor and turned back to her charge.
Roxton had to fight against squirming in the seat at the sight of it, gleaming and honed to a fine sharpness. Then he met her eyes; they were still filled with mirth and impiety.
She wanted him to squirm. He could see that in her eyes as well. By bloody hell, he would not! He immediately stilled and let his own eyes crinkle with a touch of humor and a sly, come hither look, even though he knew he could very well be waking the sleeping giant.
She only smiled and leaned over him. "Relax, Roxton."
Yeah, right! he thought.
Using one hand on his forehead, she tilted his head back and to the side, offering her a clear path to the right side of his face.
Not to mention my throat, he mused, bracing himself.
Her long fingers held the razor lightly but with a distinct amount of control. The coolness of the steel touched Roxton's face, and despite the warmth from the towel and the lather, it still sent a shiver down his spine. Marguerite drew the blade steadily down his cheek, making sure she went with the growth of the bristles, never against them for a cleaner, smoother shave. The harsh rasping sound hung in the air between them.
Then the blade lifted and filled his vision. Roxton drew in a sharp intake of breath.
But Marguerite merely drew a finger down what she had wrought. "Smooth as a baby's bottom," she told him.
Or yours, Roxton thought wickedly, controlling the impulse to lift his hand and cradle that which was so near to him.
The heiress leaned back and rinsed the blade in the hot water, swishing it back and forth roughly in the bowl. When she straightened, she held the razor up and it glistened in the sun, clean and sparkling once more. It quickly returned to his skin and scraped across it like before, only this time along the edge of his jaw, hugging the curves of his face. Her delicate fingers kept his head angled slightly up and away from her, keeping firm control of him but with a touch that was barely discernable. Still, his face was seared by her contact. He wondered if red marks dotted his skin where her fingertips touched him.
Each time the razor's edge was drawn across his skin, Roxton felt a chill, but it wasn't one generated by fear. No, it was much more sensual, the kind of crazy chill one got from hearing a scary story at a campfire's glow. It almost bordered on pleasant; though he'd be loathe to tell Marguerite such a thing.
It was easy to see she was enjoying herself; whether it was the act itself that brought her pleasure, or the fact that she was relishing she had the upper hand, he had no idea. Most likely both, and more the latter than the former, knowing her.
Still, Roxton found himself relishing her touch, intimidating and dangerous though it was. She was skilled in the art, and immediately that raised more questions in Roxton's mind. This wasn't a talent a woman picked up nonchalantly.
"Where did you learn to do this?" he asked. "Who was your guinea pig? Not your father."
Her expression tangoed with some odd emotions. First it almost seemed sad, but then it resumed its normal haughty, impish manner. "Shaving a man's beard is something you learn as an adult, Roxton." Her voice held a hint of sensuous impropriety.
The implications of that statement hit Roxton like a brick wall. A surge of jealously reared its ugly head and he clenched his jaw against it. What did he care? Marguerite never made it a secret that she was a woman of the world and had tasted its bounty in more areas than just its wealth.
But jealous he was. And deeply so.
There was something about Marguerite Krux that drove him to want to possess her, master her, own her, body and soul. And he was willing to pay the price and have the same done to him, so long as she was the one doing the mastering. It was their little game and his blood flowed hot in his veins every time they danced this dance. He'd dance with the devil if it meant having her near him, touching him.
But in his heart he also knew that mastering Marguerite was not the path to take. She was not one to be tamed by force, despite what his masculine instincts demanded. No, Marguerite Krux would be tamed only by love and kindness tempered with infinite patience. It was as simple as that.
But, by God, the woman drove him to the bowels of madness with her sexual teasing. She was standing so close to him that her breasts, peeking just above the racy V in her barely buttoned blouse, bobbed in front of his limited vision. If the razor she was holding wasn't so close to his throat, he might have been tempted to thrust his face down into them and nuzzle them to his heart's content.
He almost jerked in his seat as that licentious image blazed a trail in his brain, and elsewhere.
She looked down at him quizzically for a split second, and then grinned, as if knowing exactly what had flitted across his typical male mind. She flicked the lather off the blade with a subtle twist of her wrist. Roxton swallowed reflexively, his jaw clenched tight and his eyes bore into hers, darkening with barely restrained passion.
But she took no further notice. Instead, her fingers pinched the bridge of his nose and tilted his head further back. Away from her chest, Roxton realized despondently.
"Stiffen that upper lip, Roxton," she told him.
It took a few seconds for his distracted brain to wrap around what she had actually asked him before catching on. He obeyed and felt the cool steel slide down over the skin right under his nose. Damn, she was good. Not even a knick, he thought, despite the subtle ridges and indentations still present. How many times had she performed this ritual for someone else? Were they husbands or lovers?
That green-eyed monster rose again and his eyes hardened a bit. It sometimes ate away at him to think that she had done such things for other men. It's not that he wanted a virgin flower; no, in fact, he had had his fill of those in London society, all propriety and impeccable etiquette. No, he relished Marguerite's experience in the richness and decadency of living. It rivaled his own. She had tasted the wonders of an exotic life, and it had molded her into a beautiful and exhilarating woman that could match his own thirst for excitement and adventure.
Mysterious and alluring, that was Ms. Krux. But the male animal in him demanded she forget about all others. He was hers now. She just didn't know it. Well, maybe she did and that's why she always extended her claws and raked him hard, just to show she was no one's property. He smiled at the image. Yes, she had bloodied him on more than one occasion. And he always responded to it with the same mantra as before: "anything that isn't worth shedding a little blood over isn't worth the getting."
He said it once and he still held to it firmly today. He'd endure anything if it meant that she was close to him, and that someday she would see him in a trusting, more tolerable light. It was obvious there was something between them. It manifested daily in they way they fought, teased and argued with each other. He just wished it would extend farther than that, something more physical.
That didn't include dangerous grooming implements.
The razor slid down the length of his neck. His head was arched so far back it was beginning to ache. He didn't dare swallow. If his adam's apple bobbed even slightly, the blade would cut it away. He concentrated instead on watching Marguerite, confident that he would be able to discern any foul play in her expression and act accordingly to save himself.
"Almost done," she whispered, deep in concentration.
He didn't dare respond, but froze like a deer in the African brush when a lioness's scent drifted on the wind.
With a final scrape, she perused her handiwork, while her fingers trailed lightly against his still sensitive skin. "Not to shabby, if I do say so myself." She caressed his cheek and practically purred with pleasure.
Roxton finally swallowed and took an intake of breath, something he had forgotten to do the last minute or so. Smelling deep of the shaving soap and Marguerite's own distinct scent of jasmine and lavender, it almost made his head spin with its heady aroma. She was still leaning over him and as his head came back down; it placed their lips well within contact parameters.
"See," she said huskily, her rosy lips bobbing just slightly beyond his reach, "there was nothing to be afraid of. I'm perfectly tame."
"Tame is not a word I'd use to describe you." he responded in a low, deep voice.
"And yet you survived the encounter. Perhaps your perceptions of me are all wrong, Lord Roxton." Her head lowered so that her white teeth were hovering now just above his throat.
He could barely breathe again. "Perhaps they are."
Her face rose again and this time dipped her lips so close to his that her warm breath caressed his cooling face. "Then this was time well spent, making you see the error of your ways."
"Yes," he murmured. He leaned forward to kiss her soundly, sure that was what she wanted, loitering there the way she was, enticing him. His arms rose to embrace her.
But then she slipped aside from his encircling grasp, leaving his lips tingling as hers merely brushed against them, like a rose petal against the flesh, so soft and supple that one can scarcely discern its touch. Roxton barely suppressed a moan of discontent.
God, how he wanted to ravage those full lips again, like they had before, each time an experience more pleasant that the last. But she was still in full tease mode and there would be no addition to those lasting memories. Not this time anyway. His disappointment was plain.
"Well, my work here is done," she announced gaily, ignoring his obvious frustration. She stood upright and set the razor ceremoniously by the bowl. "I'll leave you to tidy up and rinse your face."
"Shave 'em and leave 'em Marguerite, eh?" he growled.
She smiled at Roxton's deliciously pouting expression. She made a show of being an overburdened deity with a deep sigh. "I'm needed elsewhere. Perhaps Malone could use some of my invaluable assistance. Cheerio!" Departing in a swirl of khaki skirt and dark curly hair, the only thing that remained of her in the room was her delighted laughter.
Roxton shook his head. "Run, Neddy boy, while you can," he muttered, drawing a hand over his newly exposed throat. The skin was smooth and nick free. Even the best barbers in London had rarely given him as close a shave as he had just received. She was good. She was very, very good.
He held up his injured hand. It wouldn't be properly healed for another few weeks yet. How many more shaves would he need before then? Suddenly he found himself eagerly counting the days.
That is until he heard Malone's infuriated shout and curse of "Damn it, Marguerite!" The rest was lost in a subsequent crash and a masculine howl of pain.
The hunter scowled. Maybe he'd grow a beard instead.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: To my good friend, Suse, who is blessed enough to have a husband that still shaves the old fashioned way. Hell, I'd be in the bathroom watching my husband perform that duty every day too. Thanks for the help! You're a godsend! And thanks to Ralph Fiennes in "The End of the Affair" for inspiring me.