"Madonna …"

And she subtly shivers, her fan unsuccessfully shielding her face in tight control, as a calloused hand sweeps over the delicate skin of her ankle, fluttering her eyes shut without words. The man below her, on his knees in reverence, does not utter a single sound, continuing the thorough assessment of her pale flesh, and she digs her fingers into the rich material of Master Cesare's chair—although the iron mask is still in place, the beak sliding up her quivering leg like a snake, she absorbs the carnal want that radiates off the heat of his palms, not as much as the revelation that she cannot perceive half of her sensibilities when he touches her so; and she demands such a riot, to rake her nails down the folds of his heavy black cloak while he presses his thumbs into the arches of his feet in absurd wonder.

"Madonna," he whispers, the smoldering gaze behind his metal facet speaking volumes. "Madonna …"

She quickly stops him before he moves, sweeping her fan upwards to cover the evidence on her cheeks—there is neither a game of chicanery nor a pretentious act, for she speaks sans control for the first time, her voice raw and her anticipation suffocating. "Do not—"

A caress once more.

Mollification wears down the slants of her shield. "Maestro Borgia will return shortly, dottore." Biting her lip, she tastes the tang of blood, cool air teasing her exposed feet, as if the other had unleashed his own medicine; primal awareness, the entirety—and she had never fallen ill until now, her torn decision bleeding into the atmosphere around them. "He will—"

"—see that I am treating your enigmatic condition, milady." His voice is gutturally surprising, the reverberations a means of seduction through nature—analyze, conclude, take, experienced hands lingering on her insoles in complacent reassurance. "The examination is crucial."

Breathless anticipation.

"And I am naught but a humble servant, eager to please."