Part Seven

Archie shivered as the sweat cooled on his bare skin. Raising his head, he brushed his lips over the soft white shoulder that was turned to him, and felt it chill and smooth as marble. With his free arm, he reached down to carefully draw the tangle of sheets and covers up over them both.

"Mm. Better," she sighed.

"I thought you were sleeping," he whispered, burying his nose in the crook of her shoulder. Her hair was springy and soft against his cheek; the wayward strands curling up to tickle his nose. His scent was all over her, and he breathed it in through his mouth in gulps, like a wild animal. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close, bringing his knees up under hers so that the entire lengths of their bodies touched, her sleek back molded to his chest, her small, soft bottom pressed into the curve of his belly.

"I have to go," he sighed, and the sound was distressed, like a soft moan of despair.

"It's all right. A few minutes more."

"Tomorrow," he whispered. "Tomorrow, I have to go."

The past few days had been as timeless, as unreal as a dream, and he felt he had wandered through them almost as a man asleep, his responses slowed, his wits dulled. The conversations of others were muted, his surroundings blurred, as if he looked at them through a watery glass. Only she was real. She filled his vision; the sound of her voice rang in his head and vibrated in his chest. In every waking moment his muscles, his bones, his blood knew the feel of her body as if laid over with an enveloping cloak of her.

How could everyone not know? How could they look at him and not see the flush of knowing, the fever brightness of his eyes? Riding out with the ladies that morning to view the old castle ruins he was astonished that everyone could behave so normally. He watched her, riding ahead, side-by-side with Alice, laughing and chatting as if the world was just the same as it had always been.

She wore a riding costume of deep red wool, decorated down the front of the bodice and along the long, tight sleeves with scores of tiny gilt buttons. The close tailoring emphasized her exquisite slenderness; her waist looked impossibly tiny, the whole of her completely irresistible---and maddeningly desirable. As the party passed through the relative darkness of a thick stand of woods, he fantasized wildly about catching her up and pulling her down from the back of the pony. As the others rode on, unawares, he would lay her down on the deep, fragrant, moss of the forest floor. With his mouth, he would muffle her little protests, and with his hands, he would push those perfectly tailored skirts up, and up and then, oh then, she would cry out for him as he buried himself yet again between her long, snow-white thighs.

Tonight, as she lay, very real, sated and sweet in his arms, he had boldly confessed his fancy.

"How very exciting," she whispered, running the tip of her forefinger over the line of his mouth. "I think I should have liked that very much!"

He laughed. "Why do I think you seriously would? You'd dare anything, wouldn't you?"

In the near darkness, he could scarcely see her smile. "Certainly, there was a time when I would have," she said, after a moment.  "But no more. As dearly as I love a gamble, I have learned that sometimes the risk is simply too dear."

"Mm." He mused. "And bedding the younger brother of your dearest friend, I don't suppose…?"

She giggled. "My dear love, I am only human! A woman can only withstand so much in the way of temptation. You have heard of Eve?"

"What on earth does that mean?" Archie inquired. "The devil! Don't tell me you find a thrill in seducing me right under Alice's nose!" More giggling. Impatiently, he seized her wrists, and holding them above her head on the pillows, gave her a little shake. "George!"

"I won't deny it does add a certain spice," she said silkily, running her foot up the inside of his calf. "But confess, Archie. Is it not the same for you? Tell me you would not secretly love for your brother to know you've had me."

"I would not---!" he started to protest, then sighed sheepishly. "It isn't anything like the same thing," he said quietly. "You love Alice."

"Yes, I do." She tried to lower her arms, and he released her immediately. With cool fingers, she pushed the soft, waving strands of loose hair off his face. He could almost feel, rather than see her smiling at him in the dark. He wanted her again. He always wanted her. It would never stop, would never go away. How was he going to leave her? Justinian was another world, a million miles, a hundred years away. How would he ever live?

"Already," she said, "I think you know me almost better than I know myself. How can I explain myself, Archie? I do love Alice. What can I say? She is so good and I am so…" she laughed again. "Not!"

"Ah," Archie said. "It's that itch of yours is it?"

"Exactly," she purred. "You see, you do know me." Silky arms crept round his shoulders. "Inside and out."

"And I still can't decide which I love best." He placed his lips over the spot behind her ear where the blood pulsed and the skin was so fine, he could almost taste its salt-metal tang. Her hands roamed languidly over his shoulders and back. He was iron hard again, already. He shifted himself, imagining ruefully that if he did not, he might just break the thing in half against her hipbone!

"Sweet Archie," she sighed, seeming to ignore, for now, the hot weight that lay upon her inner thigh. "Have no fear. In truth, I would rather die than hurt Alice. Or you, my angel.  Think: if all I wanted to do was cause a stir, I'd have done better to have seduced Alistair!"

"Gawd!" he burst out laughing, in spite of his distracting discomfort.

"Caroline would have me drawn and quartered!" she crowed happily.

"Oh, I think she'd want to do the honors herself," Archie said. "Some things can't be left to servants! After all, it is next to impossible to find good help in this day!"

"Quite right!" George responded. "And she'd want to find a good, dull knife for the disemboweling!"

"Knife? She'd use her bare hands!" As if to illustrate, he jabbed his fingers into her ribs suddenly and began running them up and down her heaving sides. She gasped and began squirming desperately, trying vainly to escape the assault.

"Oh! Oh, Archie don't! I cannot bear to be tickled!"

"It's the least you deserve!" he teased, delving mercilessly into the slightly damp, delicate place under her arms. "You wicked thing! Despoiling my innocence for your own amusement!"

"But I deny it! Oh, stop! Archie, I mean it! Oh!" She bucked hard underneath him and managed to throw him off just enough to allow her to roll onto her stomach and wriggle out from under him. Laughing, he pounced on her yet again, pinning her to the mattress.

"Ooph!" Pressed face-down into the thick feather tick, her voice was muffled. "Er-aw-ing eee!"she squawked.

"Pardon?" he inquired innocently.

"Et ongh un ee!" The feel of her under him, wriggling and squirming, her little buttocks riding snugly against his hips, was terribly exciting. He raised his upper body a bit, so as not to squash her completely, but at the same time he pressed his throbbing manhood rather urgently against the backs of her thighs.

Breathless, she raised her shoulders as best she could, and turned her face to the side. "Are you going to let me up, sir?" she demanded.

"Shall I?" he whispered. Inspired, he raised his hips a little, allowing his heavy, swollen member to drag slowly along the crease of her buttocks. A tiny mew escaped her lips.

"Oh, does that tickle?" he asked. He rose up on her, deliberately letting the pulsing tip of the heated rod skim the velvety backs of her thighs. Back and forth, up and down.

"Devil," she sighed, laying her head upon her folded arms. From somewhere, a tiny gleam of light caught the sparkle of her eye.

"You called me your angel." He bent and softly kissed the back of her neck, her shoulders, the smooth, fragrant plane between the blades. Her hair fanned dark upon the white linen. Her form beneath him was but an outline of pale, glowing flesh and enticing shadows. Gently, he pressed his knee between her thighs, pushing her legs apart.

"What are you doing?" she asked dreamily.

"I don't know," he replied softly. "Learning?" Holding himself above her with one arm, he let his hand slide between her legs, seeking out the damp, spongy burrow, and when he found it, allowed his long middle finger to slip inside the folds, going deep into the warm, slithery passage. Pushing in, and in, he marveled at the feel of the muscular walls surrounding him with tiny contractions as he made his tender explorations.

Slowly, he stroked inside her with long, deep, even thrusts that mimicked the way he would move inside her when their bodies were joined. Her body trembled. He listened to her quickening breath. She wanted him; she was excited for him, he knew. The very idea made him groan and he swelled even more, throbbing against the downy softness of her legs.

"Mmmmm," she let out a long, keening sigh as she raised her bottom a little, tilting her sex a little upward, arching like a cat having it's back stroked. He let the finger slip out of her and glide forward along the slippery crease to gently caress the curiously swollen little knot of flesh she had told him was as sensitive as his own cock.

"Oh, yes, Archie," she whispered hotly. "Oh, go on, darling!" She pushed herself up a little on her hands and spread her legs further, offering herself. It seemed to him that he could easily enter her in this position, and the sight of her round little white bottom thrusting up at him in such a way was almost too great a temptation. He ran his hands up over the smooth whiteness, dipping in to the narrow curve of her waist. Leaning in, he bent forward. The ends of his hair slithered along the valley of her spine.

"George," he whispered through gritted teeth as the tip of his painfully swollen manhood grazed her warm, slick seam.

"Yes, oh yes!" she answered him, and he did not wait. Drawing back his hips and guiding himself with one hand, he plunged, filling her in one smooth thrust, gasping as he sank to the hilt. Georgiana arched and threw back her head, and the image of Malcolm's snuffbox, the painting of lady with the tiger, flashed in his mind. Like the tiger, he wanted to roar his triumph.

He felt huge and masterful; the angle of his penetration allowed him to go deeper, to feel every soft, sucking, steaming inch of her as he had never done before.

"Ohh…God!" His arms tightened around her waist to pull her up, tightly into his groin. He was never going to last; his buttocks contracted reflexively and he bucked against her wildly, unable to find his control. He held onto her as if for dear life, breathing raggedly.

Be still, he thought, closing his eyes. Just for a moment, be still.

He drew a long breath. And began to move again. More slowly this time, but damned if she didn't make it difficult for him as he tried to find his measure, rocking back against him, moving her saucy little rear ever so slightly from side to side in the most maddeningly provoking way.

Her hand groped for his, moving it from her waist and pushing it down along her belly, between her legs. Obligingly he cupped the soft little mound, pressing with the palm of his hand as he rode her, pumping harder now, and now faster, and faster.

"Yes, yes, yes," she panted in a quick rhythm, matching his pace. She urged him on. Harder. Faster. He knew her now. He could feel when she was near. With his fingers he parted her soft, swollen nether lips to expose her hot little nub.

"Yes?" he whispered, giving it a tiny flick with one fingertip, and then circling, stroking, in time with his pounding thrusts.

"Yes!" she cried and laughed as she exploded all around him. "Oh! You devil!"   

With a raw groan he sank deep inside her. He closed his eyes, and once again the emotion that ripped through him was all at once the most overwhelming joy and the most sublime agony. When he cried his own release, he knew he was her willing captive. Once more, her smell covered him, the power of her attraction marked him. He had felt the master, but no more. He had her in his hold, but it was she who held him.

He was lost.


***

 "Tomorrow," she echoed him.

He said nothing. In all of his life, he had almost never cried, but now he did feel close to tears.

"Archie?" The bedclothes rustled as she turned in his arms and snuggled close, slipping her arms around his waist.

He swallowed. "Mm?"

"You do know that I was teasing you, don't you? About Alice?" She kissed his chin. "I think you must know that not everything you have heard about me is true," she said. "Although some of it is."

"I don't want to know." Truly, he did not. The thought of her doing the things she did with him, lying, as she did now in the arms of any other man filled him with the pain of jealousy and grief. He did not want to think beyond this bed, this room, this moment, this hour. There was no time but now, no other but themselves.

"Your sweet sister saved my life," George said. "She kept me from destroying myself. She showed me the true cost was not to me alone and that I did have good reason not to throw my life away completely, as desperate and as alone as I felt I was."

He was not certain he wanted even to hear this confession. To know of her pain made his own heart ache and this, along with the sure and dreadful knowledge that very soon he must leave her, he feared would be more than he could bear. And yet she desired to give him her confidence. He knew he loved her, and never again could he turn away.

"You're speaking of your son?" He asked softly.

"My baby," she sighed.  "Charles. He might hate me yet for reasons I cannot help. He might have been taken from me, but he is my heir as well as Trim's. The barony of Keene will go to him after me. Alice convinced me that he needs me still; he needs to know he has a mother who loves him enough to live for him, to keep for him what will be his. And I do."

Archie didn't know what to say. He simply kissed her warm forehead and squeezed her more tightly.

"Would you like to see him?" she asked. "His likeness, I mean? May I show you?"

"Of course---" Archie replied, but she was already out of his arms, tossing back the covers and hopping down lightly from the high bed. He sighed and lay back against the pillows as her faintly white, naked form disappeared from his view into the grainy darkness.

When she returned after a few minutes, she had covered herself with a dark blue silk wrapper and carried a lighted candle and a rather large, inlaid wooden box. Setting the candle in the stand beside the bed, she clambered back up beside him.

"What on earth is all of that?" Archie asked as she lifted the lid of the box, revealing a curious assortment of objects arranged in its various velvet-lined compartments.

"Oh, all of my greatest treasures!" she said. "My lucky charms. I have been collecting them since I was a little girl. Just now I thought---" she looked up at him, a bit of a searching look in her deep green eyes. "I thought perhaps you might like to choose something to take away with you. Not as a remembrance exactly…because let us be frank, you aren't very likely to forget, are you?"

She leaned into him, nudging him with her shoulder, and he could not help a reluctant little laugh. "I hardly think so." He said.

"Mm. You hardly do a lot of things!" she insinuated wickedly.

"George!"

She laughed. "Oh, my precious, do I still shock you? How delightful!"

From the top tier of the box, she took a little velvet bag, drawn with a silken cord. Turning it upside down, she let a slim silver case, shaped like a long oval, slide onto her palm. "Here," she whispered, holding it out to him. "This is Charles."

Archie found the tiny clasp on the side that held the case closed and sprung it, opening it on its delicate hinges to reveal the interior. He leaned across her lap I order to hold the miniature a little closer to the light.

The tiny painting was of a little boy, still a baby, really, dressed in a long, white gown. It was a beautifully rendered piece of work. The child was chubby, smiling. His eyes were deep green in a ruddy-cheeked face. Flaming red curls stood out all over his head.

Archie laughed out loud. "I'd know him anywhere!"

"Isn't it marvelous?" George laughed. "He's Trim's son all right, but no one would know it to look at him!"

"Does he take after you in any other ways?"

"Oh, God, I do hope so!" she exclaimed, giggling, but then she suddenly grew very quiet. "But I don't know, Archie. I've never seen him again." She turned her head a little away from him, tossing back her hair. "I have spies, you know. They tell me he is happy. They say he is loved. They gave me the name of the artist who made this picture, and I bribed him to make me a copy."

"George…" he whispered, letting the case close softly in his hand as he slid his other arm around her. "Georgiana." She turned her face back to him and gently he kissed her upturned mouth, tasting the salt of a single tear. For only a moment she clung to him, then she pulled away, turning her attention to the wooden box that lay on the bed between them.

"And now," she sniffed. "You must choose a treasure!"

Pebbles. Seashells. A tiny, fragile bird's nest. Pieces of colored glass, washed to frosty translucence by the action of the sand and sea. Hare's feet and chicken's claws. Coins. Dried flowers and four-leafed clovers wrapped in crumbling, yellowed bits of paper. Bits of other things wrapped in still more bits of cloth.

"What's this one?" Archie asked. At first he thought it was just another beach pebble, but bringing it out and holding it in his hand he found a large, flattish, pale rose colored stone that nestled perfectly in his palm. It appeared to have been formed in the shape of a heart and polished smooth and shiny as glass. Holding it to the candle he could see that it was run through with veins, as a piece of marble, but that the veins glittered with the sheen of bright yellow metal. Gold.

"That," Georgiana explained. "Came from the very vein of quartz where was discovered a twenty-two ounce nugget of gold, in Avoca, very near my lands in County Wicklow, in the year before my son was born. Of course, as is the way of things in Ireland, there followed a great mad rush to riches, with everyone leaving their homes and occupations. Had not the harvest already been gathered in 'twas very likely a famine would have followed! And of course, also, as is the way of things in Ireland, it happened that the discovery did not prove commercial."

She laughed. "I lost a little money on the venture. But I had this little bit of rock made into this pretty thing. It feels lovely in your hand, doesn't it?"

It did. It was warming in his palm, and as he slid the pad of his thumb over it's silky smooth surface, he thought of George, the feel of her skin, the soft, fragile pink of the tips of her perfect breasts; of his fingers gliding over the warm, slick softness of her most secret places.

"Take it," she urged him, wrapping his hand in hers, closing his fingers around the thing. "Not as a remembrance. Only as something to keep, and to hold. A touchstone."

A curious, somewhat incorrect, but literal definition. He took her meaning.

"Thank you," he murmured. But it was only her that he wanted. To keep and to hold and to never let go.

"We will see each other again, Archie," she said, reading him. She looked into his eyes with an expression that was almost fierce.

"Don't be afraid," she said. "And I won't."

Go to Part Eight