1. An Interlude
My lord lays the pouch aside and lifts his eyes to mine. His face is as resolute as at my first view of him standing before his door and awaiting my arrival and, by this I know the time has come.
The first touch of my lord's lips is tentative, slow and soft, almost as if he discovers for himself the way of it. His hands remain in the lap over which he leans and I know not what to do with my own but clasp the bench so I may not fall. When he breaks the kiss I must catch myself, for in seeking his lips I am unbalanced.
My lord's face is solemn and his hands gentle as he sweeps my hair from my face to lay its length upon my back. There he studies me, gauging my mood. The fine brush of his fingers makes me long to see him smile and feel his kiss again. Though willingly he bends to press his lips to mine, his face does not soften and he does not smile. And yet, his hands come to grasp my shoulders and draw me near, and mine have found their way to his arms, to clasp cloth warmed by the flesh it covers.
My lord's breath plays upon my cheek where he rests his head. I can do little but lean against him, for his fingers of one hand are deep in my hair and he brushes my shift off my shoulder with the other. He has pulled the cord that gathers the linen about my neck and the shift lies loose upon my breast. There the cloth falls to my arm and I am all but bared to my lord's gaze. I had thought his look falling on me would make me wish to curl in upon myself and hide behind my crossed arms, but it is not so. I wonder only what he will do next.
I am not disappointed, for my lord skims the tips of his fingers upon the skin he exposed, bemused, it seems, by its softness. Ah, his touch is as fire upon me and my breath comes from me fast and strong. My hand has found my lord's knee and, of its own, slides up and over his thigh to press the tender muscle beneath. He does not protest, indeed, at the touch he gathers me to him so he might press his lips against skin only his fingers have yet explored.
Almost chaste, his kisses seem; a mere brush of warmth from his lips and tickle from the graze of his beard on my neck that is gone as soon as it alights. His touch is deft and unhurried. This, he has done before, and I wonder at the woman who had found joy in the sound of his soft kisses and watched my lord turn his head so he may press his lips to the base of her throat. His kiss lingers there but briefly before he proceeds ever downward. As he goes, he winds his fingers in the front of my shift so that he might drag its neck down out of his way, and his kisses follow.
Incited by the sweetness of his lips, I weave my fingers into my lord's hair and push it aside. I wish to see his face and the mouth that teases my breast. The tip of his nose presses against me and the lids of his eyes have fallen until all I can see is a faint glimmer beneath them. His look is more beautiful than I had had wit to imagine and the sight sends a thrill shivering down my limbs.
As if he knew I watched and he found delight in it, he chose then to descend upon the very tip of my breast and the surprise sends me gasping. This, it seems, he has not done before, for his hands tighten upon me at the sound and my lord pauses to glance up at me. I know not what he saw, but his eyes seem to burn through to my very heart. And then the fire is gone, for my lord turns away to kiss the nub of dark skin as he had my lips just moments before.
There, he uses mouth and then tongue to discover for himself what might make my breast rise in shortened breath or squirm in blissful agony. Ah, it is too much. I cannot be still, but my lord moves with me, his grip tightening as his hand comes to cup soft flesh. Now he is truly suckling upon me, and I know naught but the scrape of his lips and teeth and the hand that brushes my shift from my knee.
Ah! I did not know! Had I thought my heart could stand aside and be full only of duty? I am a fool! So warm and so sweet his lips as they slip across my skin. So hard and supple the muscles of his back and neck beneath my hand. So tender the fingers that seek softer flesh. So strong the heat that builds within me. Ah, I am lost, so lost.
His hair brushes upon me as he moves. At the touch, I look down and find my lord's eyes closed and his brow furrowed, his movements all but in a drowse, so heavy is he with pleasure. Then his hand touches upon a most tender place and, so long had I yearned for this, it is enough.
Ah, I feel much exposed beneath my lord's eyes. But before I can turn my head his lips are upon mine. Aye, he had drawn away and fallen still, his gaze wide with wondering when I had cried out, but he is still no longer. Though slow, my lord's lips are no longer gentle. They press upon mine and demand my response. For a long moment, I cannot move, so overcome am I. My limbs seem of wool soaked in warm water, heavy and limp and unwieldy to lift.
Then, with a swift breath, I turn to my lord and plunder his mouth in return, grabbing the thick cloth of his tunic as if I have no intent of e'er turning him loose. The kiss is deep, our lips open to each other so that, by chance, the very tip of my tongue brushes his. My lord startles with the contact, pulling away and regarding me with a stunned look. I am lightheaded and dumb, unable to speak. I, who had kissed naught but my aunt or pressed chaste lips to my father, know little of what to say, for this, my aunt had not prepared me. But it is not words my lord next requires of my lips, for when he lowers his head, my lord gives himself over to the sweetness of tasting my mouth as he kisses me and I return the caresses with equal fervor.
There we sway with the pressure of our kisses until my hands are wrapped in my lord's hair. The weight of his dark tresses is as silk as it runs through my fingers. Emboldened by the warmth that rises from his breast, I pluck at my lord's lips with my own, drawing the tender flesh in, suckling upon it and playing upon it with my tongue. He nigh jerks up from the bench when my hand runs to the top of his thigh and caresses what I find there. Perhaps I should not have come upon him so swiftly. But now I know why my aunt spoke of this, for when my lord settles and I might return my attentions to him, he slowly goes limp and breathless as if deeply adrift in pleasure. Ai! His lips are as plums warmed by the late summer sun and I want only to suck out their sweetness and lap at the juice that may run down my chin. I want none of it to go to untasted.
Of a sudden, my lord's lips leave mine and he holds me away from him so that I may not follow. He speaks but few words, and that in a voice so low and thickened I hardly know what he says.
"Come with me."
And so I followed my lord up the stairs, his hand gently tugging on my fingers where I trailed behind him.
Once there, he seemed intent upon putting me at ease, expecting to see the fruition of all my fears played out before him. But when he would pull on the ties that closed his long vest so I would not need stand before him bare while he was yet clothed, I did not wait for him. I wanted to know what it felt to have my lord's hands upon my bare skin. I wanted to see where his look would linger. Swiftly I lifted the hem of my shift and, pulling it over my head and off my hair, tossed it aside. Aye, his look was not grim, nor did he speak of duty, nor sacrifice for the sake of defense against the Shadow. His face soft with desire, he watched as I then brushed his fingers away, and put my hands upon him, untying and parting and throwing aside.
As my fingers worked upon the fastenings keeping my lord from me, his hands brushed through my hair and settled upon my waist, but not for long. They wandered to my buttocks, where they were bold and sure in their fondling, as if he had thought long upon what way he would touch a woman should he have the chance.
I did not linger in the undressing and I cared naught for the clothes. Soon he stood before me with naught between us, and he was beautiful.
Sinew lay taut under warm skin; shoulder and arm and thigh sculpted by my lord's labors. He stood before me and suffered my touch, waiting, it seemed, for me to know him better before he led me to his bed. For that, I was grateful. No scar, though it be drawn and red, could mar the beauty that was my lord in his nakedness and I would know the feel of each plane and curve, tender flesh and rough callus, smooth skin and man's thin fur.
My lord guarded against the pain he may cause me, until he himself was sunk so deep he could no longer attend to the effects of his fervor. But there was no need. When he would gentle me to my back, I pulled him after me. When he would hold his body away from mine for fear of crushing me with his greater weight, I wrapped myself about him so that he pressed me into the bed. And when the time came and he would push in slowly and with great care, I laid my hands upon his hips and pulled myself to him. For I had no hurt, no discomfort. I felt only pleasure and the warmth of skin on skin, and wondered at the tales my aunt told of blood and the need of forbearance. But even had there been hurt, I would have endured it, if only to hear my lord moan as he did when he first sank deep within me.
Mine was not the pain to be borne that night and, it seems, my lord had planned poor defense against it. For, even in the height of the pleasure he took, somewhat of grief and longing stole over his face. And when we lay drowsing and sated, he gently saw me comfortable, then turned away.