The Bride of Larkspear
I SHALL BEGIN WITH A DESCRIPTION of the bed, for one must make the setting of a book clear from the first line. It is a bed with a pedigree. Kings have slept on it, noblemen have gone to their deaths, and brides beyond count have learned, at last, why their mothers ask them to “think of England.”
Tonight another bride will receive her lord and husband on this bed in the manner ordained by God. My bride, the woman I have desired for nearly half of my life.
The bedstead is constructed of oak, heavy, stout, almost indestructible. Pillars rise from the four corners to support a frame on which hang heavy curtains in winter. But it is not winter; the heavy beddings remain in their cedar chests. Upon the feather mattresses are spread only sheets of French linen, as decadent as Baudelaire’s verses.
Fine French linen is not so difficult to come by these days. And beds with pedigrees are still only furniture. What distinguishes this bed is the woman standing next to it—her back against one of the excessively sturdy bedposts, her wrists tied behind.
This being a work of Eros, she is, of course, naked.
My bride does not look at me. She is determined, as ever, to shunt me to the periphery of her existence, even on this, our wedding night.
I touch her. Her skin is as cool as marble, the flesh beneath firm and resilient. My hand on her chin, I turn her face to look into her eyes, haughty eyes that have scorned me for as long as I remember.
“Why are my hands tied?” she murmurs. “Are you afraid of them?”
“Of course,” I reply. “A man who stalks a lioness should ever be wary.”
A lioness—the way I always think of her, a creature of power and danger.
Earlier in the day she had been dazed, her eyes almost vacant, as we went through the motions of the hasty wedding ceremony that bonded us as husband and wife. It was as if she could not believe that her life had taken this particular turn, this disastrous plunge into the abyss.
But now that we are alone, in the midst of one of the most pivotal encounters of our lives, she has chosen to display neither hesitation nor fear. Instead her eyes glitter with calculation, as if assessing how she might turn being tied to a bedpost into an advantage for her.
“And what does that man do when he has caught said lioness and put her in her cage?”
It is high summer, but a fire has been lit in the grate. Her skin glows in the firelight. I brush aside a coppery strand of hair that has fallen before her eyes. “He teaches her that captivity can be wonderfully enjoyable—and trains her to become a tame house cat, a sweet, willing little pussy.”
Her eyes narrow at my not-so-subtle double entendre. “Lionesses do not become house cats—or have you not heard?”
My hand travels down and skims her rib cage. Her gaze follows my touch intently. As my knuckles brush the side of her breast, she shivers.
“Why belittle your ability to change?” I ask. “It is only your first hour of captivity.”
That we are sparring heartens me. We had spoken barely two words to each other during the rail journey to Larkspear Manor. She stared out of the window and I had pretended to be interested in my newspaper. I have a habit of needling her, but suffocating inside our rail compartment, I could find no lighthearted words to ease the tension, nor enough cruelty to remind her that had she listened to my advice and been more prudent in her conduct, she would not have needed to marry me to avoid being cast out.
She had been similarly silent and stoic as we dined underneath a thirty-foot-high ceiling, at two ends of a table so long we might as well have been on opposite shores of the English Channel. That resignation had remained in place even as I’d disrobed her, exposing her beautiful body inch by inch.
But now that I’ve tethered her to a bedpost, the lioness has reawakened.
“Surely you don’t take me for a silly female who doesn’t know her duties. You will have everything from me that a wife owes her husband.” Her tone is light, but there is a challenge to her voice. “Or is this the only way you can get other women to sleep with you?”
I smile in genuine amusement at her charge. “Do you want it to be the case, my dear? Would that make our wedding night more exciting?”
She pitches a haughty brow. “Can anything make a tonsillectomy more exciting?”
I rest my hand at the indentation of her waist. “How about when you find out that you won’t be getting a tonsillectomy, but instead a most pleasurable night of lovemaking?”
“And do you expect that by the end of this magical night,” she answers in a sardonic, yet almost seductive whisper, “I will have turned into your pet, your sweet, willing little pussy?”
Her words, her insolence, her soft, rosy lips as they move in speech—lust swells in my blood.
“Yes.” I step closer, my lips nearly caressing the shell of her ear. “Maybe not by tomorrow morning, but by the end of the week, you will be thinking of my lovemaking day and night.”
I do not feel quite as confident as I sound. But if this is a battle, then I might as well approach it as the ancient Greeks did, with much boasting of victories to come before a single chariot had been unleashed.
My bravado is not without its intended effect: The pulse at her throat accelerates; her breasts rise and fall with greater rapidity.
I am reminded of the one time we kissed, six months ago. She’d panted afterward, entirely out of breath, even as she glared at me.
I want to make her pant again. I want to make her lose herself entirely.
Perhaps she intuits my intentions, for she inhales sharply. “You are a pervert, Larkspear.”
I bite gently on her earlobe. “And you are just the sort of woman to appreciate one, Lady Larkspear, whether you realize it or not.”
Copyright © 2012 by Sherry Thomas. All rights reserved.