IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) ((ifaw.org) works around the globe to rescue and rehabilitate animals, end illegal wildlife trade, and conserve habitats.
We collaborate with local communities to create sustainable livelihoods that benefit both people and animals.
Thanks to your support, IFAW rescuers and veterinarians are there to rebuild koala habitat in Australia, save whales and dolphins entangled in fishing gear, help Ukraine refugees get to safety with their pets, and protect animals worldwide.
I’m supporting this charity in honor of all the dogs I’ve had in the past, and one animal that isn’t even real. When my life-long mate died, I was torn by the emptiness of the well-used recliner chair where my love would never sit again. My son brought me Cheetah, and announced that now I had an emotional support animal. Oddly enough, he was right, at least in the case of the chair. Now every day I set Cheetah there, where I pretend he can watch the birds and squirrels out by my bird feeders, and somehow it does help me that the chair is no longer empty. (Don’t tell anybody that I also put Cheetah on the otherwise empty pillow beside mine in my bed.)
Onward with the story I’m sharing, which actually isn’t about animals, real or imaginary, so “Kit in Boots” is my only excuse to pair it with this charity. You know the drill: I'll pay my charity $1 for every hit on this blog, and $2 for every comment.
Kit in Boots 4571 words
Kit gazed into the miller’s open grave and vowed silently that Puss would be forever buried with him. As the gravediggers shoveled earth over the coffin, she thought of tearing off her drab, shapeless gown and shawl and tossing them in as well, revealing the shirt and breeches and, yes, even boots, she wore beneath, but some of the mourners would enjoy that scandal all too much. Just a few more hours and she could shed entirely the life she’d led.
What lay ahead…well, the course of a new life was always unclear, but she knew where to begin the search for all that she wanted, and needed, whatever the price. A certain memory drove her on, so vivid yet unreal that by now she could scarcely tell what was truth and what was dream.
There had been high winds hurling cold spray from the waves on that moonlit night as she tramped along the shingle beach. In her few rare hours of respite from tending the old man, she often walked two miles from the inland village to feel that wind, and space, and illusion of freedom. Sometimes she yearned toward faraway places she had heard of beyond the sea. But this time, a great dark figure on the low cliff above had been watching, clutching his hooded cloak about him so that even his eyes could not be seen, though she felt their gaze like a searing touch.
Kit’s hedge-witch mother had given her little power and less instruction, but enough that she could to feel the aura of fierce desire emanating from the brooding watcher. It inspired a tremor of fear, yes, but a wild, wanton impulse as well that made her spread her arms and let the wind blow her threadbare cloak out behind her and mold her damp, shapeless dress tightly against her very shapely body. Long hair whipped about her face at one moment and streamed free like a banner at the next. She flashed a look of challenge, a laughing invitation, upward to the cliff-top; he raised an arm in salute, letting his cloak rise in the wind like a mighty wing—and then he turned and was gone. Kit had waited on the shingle as long as she dared, shivering in the cold wind yet burning with anticipation, but he had not come.
Even now, by the graveside, she yearned to feel again that aching intensity, that fierce power and irresistible force of nature that might yet be bent to her own desires. She would begin her new life by searching out the mysteries surrounding the man on the cliff. In the harbor town of Rockbay, she knew, they called him the Ogre, but had little more to tell, though he had taken residence in the old castle on the coast more than six months past.
The diggers signaled Kit that they had finished. She tossed a handful of daisies onto the new-turned earth. The old man had been kind, in his way, taking her from the workhouse at fifteen to keep house and cook for himself and his three sons. Five years later, as he’d grown ill and blind, she had nursed him through his last days. If calling her “Puss” and stroking her tangle of hair the color of a ginger cat soothed him, so be it.
But no one else should claim that liberty. Rolfe, the middle son, had tried, and still bore the scars of her claws. He had tried a good deal more than that, in fact, and Kit had chosen to give in to him a few times, on her own terms; satisfying a man she despised might be a useful skill some day, and learning to satisfy herself, since he could not, was a valuable lesson as well. Having soon wrung from him what little he offered, she fended him off once by force and afterward when necessary by twitching her fingers to make his old scars burn anew. Her mother, who had come and gone unpredictably throughout her childhood, had at least taught her a few tricks, bare essentials for survival, just as her poacher father had taught her the survival skills of trapping and snaring wild game before he’d been hanged for shooting deer.
Now Rolfe would be off before the funeral dinner had entirely cooled. He would ride the horse that was his only inheritance in search of a fortune to be made by any means possible, a rich widow or tradesman’s heiress being his preference. The local rich widow had already been appropriated by his oldest brother, Willem, who inherited the mill and had grand plans to expand and update it with his wife-to-be’s wealth.
Just a few more hours… Kit drew a deep breath and turned from the grave. She had already prepared the dishes for the customary dinner, more bountiful than the family could have afforded without her skill at snaring rabbits and pheasants. Now she must serve the guests, clean up afterward, and then she’d be free to go. More than free. The rich widow had no intention of sharing the house with Kit, being shrewd enough to recognize her allure for men in spite of Kit’s own attempts to conceal it. The wedding had been delayed only until there was no more need for her to stay and nurse the old man.
Free, except for one detail.
“Kit?” The youngest boy, Jotham, turned back from following his brothers. “Are you feeling all right?” His blue eyes filled with honest concern. He had a kind nature, a handsome—some would say pretty—face, flaxen hair, and very little sense. Kit merely surveyed him without answering. “I mean…” Jotham hesitated. “Well, Father said that I must…must stick by you. Help you, I suppose, although I don’t know what I’ll do myself.”
Yes, that one detail. “Take care of the boy,” the miller had pleaded on his deathbed, and what could she do but promise? There would be no place for him, either, in his brother’s house. The widow had a certain partiality for pretty boys, and Willem had no intention of sharing.
“I will work out a plan,” Kit told Jotham, “but you must do everything exactly as I tell you, or I’ll leave you to your own devices. Do you understand?”
“Oh…yes, of course.” Jotham’s face eased in relief. He was in the habit of being led by Kit.
“And tell no one, no one at all, about anything I do or say.” She steered him along the path back toward the mill and the house.
“No one.” He nodded vigorously, then nearly stumbled, and stared down at her feet. “But Kit, you’re wearing boots!” He looked harder. “My boots!”
It was too late too arrange her skirts to conceal them, so she pretended her carelessness had been planned. “Yes, the boots you outgrew before you were fourteen.” She raised the skirt higher. “And your old breeches as well. But that is just the sort of thing you must not reveal to anyone, or I will wash my hands of you, and use them to good purpose first!” She raised one fist, and Jotham, whose ears she had boxed more than once, flinched.
“See that you remember,” Kit said in a milder tone. “Now go to the house, eat your dinner, make proper responses to those offering their condolences, and then pack up all the belongings you can easily carry in a pack on your back.”
She strode off ahead of him, feeling as though the boots were carrying her into a different life, as a whole new person.
Without Jotham to consider she would not have paused at the mill longer than it took to retrieve her own meager bundle of belongings, already packed. As it was, she finished her work with unobtrusive efficiency, feeling the tug of the boots and her own deepest yearnings, tinged with darkness, all the while.
“Meet me in an hour in the copse past the mill,” she whispered to Jotham at last, and was off and away before anyone else noticed she had gone.
Before the hour had passed Kit heard Jotham approaching, and stepped out from the trees to meet him.
“Who…what…” he stammered in astonishment, in spite of the hint he’d been given. Kit was every inch—every visible inch, at any rate—a young man, or a boy on the cusp of manhood. Her hair had been cut short to about the length a pageboy might wear, and brushed to a smooth, gleaming russet. The clothes that had once been his were of good quality, if somewhat out-of-date; the breeches, shirt and jacket fit her slender figure perfectly, with only the aid of some inner binding about her breasts. Jotham’s mother had favored and indulged him while she lived, dressing him above his station; now even his Sunday-best suit worn for the funeral was a hand-me-down from his brother Rolfe.
“We must find positions, you and I,” Kit told him, “and I refuse to consider any that I might be offered as a woman.”
Jotham nodded. “Yes, I had thought about seeking a position at a wealthy man’s estate, but worried as to what you would do.”
Kit’s surprise was nearly as great as his had been. There was hope for the youngster yet. “Good! Have you chosen a first place to apply?”
“Well,” he said, “the few manor houses nearby are too small. That huge dark castle on the north coast might need staff…they say he has none but a housekeeper and a deaf-mute gardener…but they also say he is an ogre who can transform from hideous beast to man. Nothing could make me approach him! So…” here a blush rose on his cheeks…”my only choice is to try those foreigners renting the fancy villa to the south.”
Kit knew at once what he was about. “Ah yes, the royal something-or-other from the minor princedom with an unpronounceable name. And his very beautiful daughter.” Not a bad idea, even if Jotham was so obviously smitten with the girl. He would make a fine—and tempting—figure as a footman. “Let us both try our luck, and meet again in three days at dusk where that old fisherman’s shack was half blown down in the gale last summer.”
“You aren’t going with me? What will you do?” Jotham’s concern was touching.
“Oh, I’m all for the dark castle. And the ogre. Those are more to my taste,” Kit said, and strode off without a backward look.
Even the boots and the freedom of breeches did not quite give her the courage to brave the castle yet that night. In any case, it would be impolite. She could see a light in the castle, high in a tower; if the man had been alone, she might yet have risked all, but with a housekeeper present it would be a different matter.
Kit paced on the shingle beach near the castle for a while, imagining a watcher’s gaze on the slender legs and hips so brazenly displayed by her snug breeches and short jacket. After a while she even seemed to sense such a gaze, but that was impossible. This night the sky was dark and moonless, and only the faint phosphorescence of the now-placid wavelets showed her the boundary between land and sea. Even if there had been moonlight and a watcher, he might have been deceived by her disguise, and thus shown no interest. But oh, to feel this freedom and be swept by desire; to be exposed, vulnerable, and yet strong, meeting passion with passion, and returning bruise for bruise, if it came to that!
Eventually Kit trudged up the narrow path to the clifftop, rather enjoying the mild discomfort of breeches dampened in the crotch, and pausing at the top to add to the sensation by stroking her own so-accessible limbs. She followed the path back toward the town and the abandoned fisherman’s hut, which had still enough wall and roof in one corner to provide some shelter, and there she spent the night.
At a civilized hour of the morning Kit stood at the castle entrance, bearing a brace of newly-snared pheasants as a gift. There was no knocker or bell-pull to be seen; perhaps she should seek out a tradesmen’s entrance at the rear. But the forbidding iron gates swung open at her approach, with much creaking and grating. After one glance back at the brightness of the day, she plunged on through the stone arch into a dim walled courtyard.
A massive wooden door in the inner building swung slowly open, though there was still no one to be seen. Kit hesitated a moment, thinking of old tales meant to frighten children, then shrugged and stepped on through into a corridor with reassuring light at its end.
The room she entered was indeed well-lit, and comfortably furnished. The woman seated by the hearth seemed at first glance old, fiercely ugly, and forbidding, but Kit could see beneath the illusion; her mother had often used one very similar, though not as skillfully.
“Well,” said the pleasant woman of middle years--though Kit could not be certain whether that too might be an even more skillful illusion--“so he was right. You do have a touch of magic about you. I had thought his judgment was swayed by his desires.”
Kit struggled to maintain a cool exterior, and proceeded with her planned speech. “Indeed, Ma’am? I’ve merely come to apply for employment, since my old master has recently died. Have you need here of a page, or footman, or even gamekeeper?” She lay the pheasants on the hearth. At the housekeeper’s raised eyebrow, she added, “these are from the common heath, not any nobleman’s estate.”
“Have you other skills?” The woman’s amusement was clear, as was the fact that Kit’s disguise had not deceived her. “Did you not nurse your old master through his final illness?”
“I did,” said Kit, since it was clear that her past was no secret here, “and kept him alive and comfortable far past any expectation of the doctors or his family. Past any desire of his family, indeed, though they would not dare to admit that openly.”
The housekeeper surveyed her long and thoughtfully. Kit did not try to conceal anything about herself, but finally blurted out, “Is it an invalid’s nurse that you need here?” It was far from what she had wished for; then again, one never knew.
“Not precisely. Or, rather, not in the common way, but you might yet be of use. Sometimes pleasure can heal flesh and mind better than any medicine, or even magic.” She rose. “Come along. You must meet the Master, something he both wishes and dreads. We shall see how much you can endure. They do call him an ogre, after all.” Kit, though she could seldom read minds, caught a further thought from the housekeeper’s mind, no doubt intentionally unguarded; Once they called him General, the savior of his country! And she, his wife, with her mincing, dainty ways, called him her hero, then turned away in revulsion after that last battle. Gold enough they gave him, as though that could ever heal such wounds!
Kit felt chilled and heated at the same time. She followed along a corridor and up winding stairs, only asking, “What shall I call you, Ma’am?”
“Mrs. Thorne,” the housekeeper said over her shoulder; then, turning for a moment to face Kit, added with a hint of menace, “and do not try the sharpness of my barbs!”
“Yes, Mrs. Thorne,” Kit answered meekly, understanding her perfectly. “My name is Kit, but I can sheath my claws when I wish.”
“As to that,” Mrs Thorne said, “best keep them sharpened nonetheless.”
By that time they had come to a landing giving onto several doors, one of which the housekeeper unlocked with a key from the bunch hanging at her waist. Before opening it, she murmured into Kit’s ear, “Do not injure him more than the world has already done!” Then she motioned Kit through, backed away herself, and went down the stairs.
This was clearly a test. Kit braced herself for whatever might come, and entered a great room richly furnished but somewhat dimmed by heavy curtains at the windows.
“Sir,” she said to the dark figure seated at a desk, “Mrs. Thorne thinks that I may be of some use. My name is Kit.” She ducked her head just enough to show respect.
He rose slowly and came toward her, tall and powerful but with the gait of a man who refuses to limp, though his body demands it. His features could not be made out clearly, with such light as the windows provided still behind him, but she could see that a patch covered his left eye.
He circled her, and she stood still to let him assess her as he would. Desire was still apparent in his aura, and she felt it grew as his gaze swept along her legs so exposed by the breeches, but a profound loneliness was there as well, and sadness, and echoes of old anger. Even, possibly a trace of fear.
“So you’ve come to see the Ogre,” he said, a note of bitterness in his deep voice as he stopped at last in front of her. “Does he disappoint you?”
Kit took that as permission to look more closely. She was, at first, disappointed. His silver-streaked mane of black hair was striking, but his face was unremarkable, even bland, like a…yes, like a mask, as indeed it was, she realized; an illusion Mrs. Thorne must have provided, for Kit detected no personal magic in the man himself.
“Yes, I am disappointed,” she said. “I came to see the true man, beast and all. The man who watched me from the cliff. If I am to help you, and if…” she took a great daring leap into the truth, ”…if I am to achieve my own deepest desires, there must be no deception between us.”
His mask wavered just slightly; out of sympathy Kit looked away and pretended not to have already seen what he tried to hide. Not until he was ready to bear it. The cruel scars descending from his left temple along his cheek and neck and down under his collar evoked compassion in her, not revulsion
“I will begin the revelations myself,” she said, knowing that he had never been deceived by her disguise. “First this.” She unbuttoned her jacket and shed it, along with her muslin shirt. “And this.” The inner cotton bindings came off, freeing her breasts, their rose-tinted nipples tightening into thrusting points as he watched. “Not yet enough?” She bent and wriggled free of breeches and boots, and the stockings beneath, feeling her naked buttocks flush in the heat of his gaze. Then she straightened and turned to expose her full womanhood, slick dampening folds beneath a light furring of russet curls. “Enough now?” she asked, with all the challenge she had projected that moonlit night by the sea, and even more.
“Enough!” he said sharply, stepping back, though now she felt from him a surge of need pent up so long that it towered like a giant wave suspended above them.
“Not quite enough,” Kit said. “Your turn now for revelations,” and before he could prevent it, she reached up to his cheek below the eye patch and brushed the long scar with a touch so light, so tender, she doubted he could feel it, though he grasped her hand and pulled it away.
“Do not bait the lion in his cage,” he grated, his grip tightening until it was painful.
“It is the lion I came for, both man and beast.” Kit expertly extricated her hand. “I am strong enough to bear your anger and sorrow, as well as lust—but I must begin with the lust, or go mad!” Before he could resist, she dropped to her knees and reached out to the mighty bulge in his trousers. His growl of warning turned to a growl of quite another kind as she swiftly unbuttoned his garments and freed his demanding flesh. By the time her mouth was on his cock, sliding over all that could fit of its great length and thickness as her hands worked at the rest, he had given in to deep groans and rasping breaths. His hands wove deeply through her hair and pressed her face ever harder into his raging need.
The giant wave crashed over them. Kit’s ears rang with sounds like thunder and the screeching of sea birds combined. Her own need was still great, but elation at her new master’s release buoyed her up, and indeed it was mere moments before his desire began to revive. He pulled her to her feet, then crushed his mouth against hers and ran his hands roughly over her body, arousing her to the edge of pain. She scrabbled at his clothing until it was all in a heap along with hers, and skin could press against hungry skin. When he lifted her so high that he could tantalize her breasts with nips and bites, she wrapped her legs tightly about him, his cock hardening once more beneath her buttocks, and forced his mouth roughly onto her aching nipples, one after the other. She could hear herself growing shrill with the desperate need for more.
He carried her through another door into a second room. Soon a bed was beneath her, lurching under her thrashing body as she opened to him, begging to be filled. He responded with more than she had thought she could hold, thrusting hard, sending bolts of pleasure into her deep, ravenous core until her own wave hit, overwhelmed her, and receded in ripples of such joy that she scarcely felt his second eruption.
In the aftermath Kit noted drowsily and with gratitude that her ogre’s long scar, and several others she had not seen while he was clothed, ended well short of what had given her such piercing fulfillment. With one hand she stroked tenderly all down his body, noting the effort he made not to wince away.
“Does it still give you pain?” she asked gently.
“No. Or, at least, not enough to signify. But…how can you stand to touch me? To even look at me?”
She wriggled onto his belly and chest. “It is you yourself I see, and touch. Not merely certain parts—except when they are in a particularly interesting state.” She touched his cock, hardening yet again. Good. Let him not regret his moment of vulnerability. Better to distract him.
Kit reached up to the posts at the head of the bed. “What are these contraptions? Playthings?”
He tensed in quite the wrong way. “Cuffs and fetters. Restraints. There are times…dreams of battles…when I must…”
She could feel him retreating from her. “Well, all the better to have someone attend you who knows how to deal with them. Especially if you should wish to travel abroad, as I have always longed to do. Besides, I have also heard of such things used for pleasure. Perhaps you should show me…restrain me, punish me, have your will with me, test my strength. I might surprise you.” She saw his arousal revive, and knew, with a prickle of anticipation, that she had succeeded. If there had indeed been a test, she was sure that by now Mrs. Thorne would know that she had passed it beyond any possible doubt.
Two nights later Kit met Jotham at the abandoned shack. She was moving a bit stiffly, still savoring the soreness. “I have a most secure position,” she assured him. “How did you fare?”
“Oh, Kit, she is the most beautiful creature!” he gushed. “Sweet, and delicate…she thought all our countrymen were rough louts until she met me! They are leaving very soon for their own land, but I have hopes…”
“Hopes? Of going with them as a footman?” But Kit could tell already that there was more to the story than that.
“Well, at first it was like that, but when I told her I was the impoverished younger son of a nobleman, and my horse and fine clothing had been stolen as I swam in the sea so that I was reduced to common rags, and I had only applied as a footman because I had seen and loved her and wished to be near her…and when she told her father she would have no other husband…”
There was definitely more to Jotham than Kit had ever suspected. And possibly a good deal less. “Can this all be truly settled?” she asked dubiously.
“Oh yes. At least…I told him that my distant cousin owns the castle by the sea, and now he wishes to see it. I was sure you would succeed there, so if you could arrange to let them come at least into the gardens and have a cup of tea, saying that your master is not at home, my entire life will become a heaven on earth!”
Fools and their luck, Kit thought. And their wild, if sentimental, imaginations!
Two days later, while Mrs. Thorne served the guests tea in the castle gardens, the master of the castle was unfortunately indisposed. In fact, he was fettered to his bed, after Kit had pointed out that it was all very well to let loose the lion or ogre within, but it took even more strength of will to submit like a lamb, or perhaps even something as outwardly weak as a mouse. By then there was enough trust between them for him to acquiesce, and while tea and conversation were consumed below, Kit was in the tower making submission very much worth her master’s time. Among other delights, she had but to twitch her fingers toward a part of his body to make him writhe with remembered pleasure. If she had a few tricks, why not use them?
Six months later, in a great city on the continent, a wealthy and imposing figure strolled amidst the demimondaine with an assured bearing that made one overlook his scars and eye patch. The sleek and charming page so often beside him inspired sighs from both men and women, but their highest awe was reserved for the lady who sometimes hung on the gentleman’s arm, dressed in the finest and most severely tailored of women’s clothing in greens and bronzes that set off her shining russet hair. Either of those companions wore especially elegant boots suited to their respective costumes. No one was truly deceived, of course, but that made it all the more entertaining.
The chambermaids in the luxury suite at a first-class hotel were well-paid to refrain from gossiping about their household, though of course they did, especially about the rather specialized accoutrements of their bedchamber. After all, such fur-lined restraints were not unheard of in certain circles. No one bothered to relate how the lady, when the man occasionally tousled her hair and call her “my pretty puss,’ would stiffen for a mere second as at an old memory. Her lord would beg her pardon, earning a fond kiss and forgiveness. “ You may call me anything you like, my love,” she would say, “as long as I have such fine boots to wear.”
This story is so old that I can't even remember where it was published, so let's pretend it's brand new!
For the other Charity Sunday Blog this time, go to https://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com