Avelyn moanedand clutched his shoulders tohelp keep her balance, onlyaware that it left her linen free to drop to herhips when Paen continued hisdownward journeyunimpeded.
When Paen’s lips moved over the slope of her breast to catch one aching nipple inhismouth, Avelyn gasped. Her feet pressed flatagainst the wall as her bottom lifted rightoff the ledge,pressingher more intimately against him. She could feel his hardness rub against her through the linen still covering her lower body. It felt so good, she foundherself again grinding her lowerbodyagainsthis.
Avelyn thought she heard Paengrowl;thenhe groundback against her and she let her head fall backwith a groan. Thenthecool air touched her still damp nippleand she liftedher head witha shiver, glancing down as he kissed a trail down her stomach that almost seemed tomake those musclesbuckunder her skin. Gasping for breath and feeling off balance as hisshoulders lowered out of herreach, Avelyn clutched at the fur that had covered the window. She didn’t seemto have enough breathto protest as he kneltand usedone bandaged handto brush asidethe linen gatheredaround her hips.
With her very center now revealedtohim, Avelyn opened her mouth ona gasp of protest, then nearly choked ashe urged her legs further apartand pressed hismouth toher.
"Dear God!"Avelyn’s h*ps lifted oftheir own accord, herbottom risingoff the ledge again. She was now a bundle of confusion and sensation. Her mother had nevermentioned this when instructing her aboutthe wedding night. Nor had she mentioned the burning tensionbuildingdeep inside her.
Avelyn was positive that she would go crazy if Paen didn’t stop whatever magic hewasworking. She wasequallypositive that if hedidstop she woulddie. She wanted to close herlegs andstop him, and at the same time to push hisface tighter against her and grind herselfagainst him. Hedidn’t stop, and – realizingshe was tugging thoughtlessly at his hair – she pulled that handfree and grabbed atthe fur hanging to the sideof thewindow, pullingon the materialand using it to lift herhips up again untilher body suddenly exploded with the pleasurehe hadbuilt in her.
Screaming, Avelyn pulled on the furs and threw her headback… just intime to see the fur come tumblingdown over thethem both.
Avelyn wasvaguely aware of Paen struggling topush the fur off of them with his bandaged hands; then he was standing between herlegsagain. She threw her arms around him,clutching him close andevenwrapping herlegs around his h*ps as she pressed her face into hisneck, her bodywracked with shiversand sobs. She felt as if she’d come apart,as ifhe were the only solid thingin the world to hold on to.
Avelyn felthis arms wrapcarefully around her back as he moved in closer,and she groaned as hishardnesspressedagainst the stillsensitive area betweenher legs.
Paen groaned too, then suddenly urgedherfaceupandclaimed her lips in akiss.
Avelyn kissedhim back passionatelyand arched against him. Theybothmoaned as their bodies pushed even closer together. Theaction made herrealize that the pleasure mightnot yetbe over. Then Paen shifted and she felt him nudge against her.
"Hold on," he whispered, then plunged into her. Avelyn cried out, her body instinctivelyrecoilingandrising upward away from the pain she knew to expect.
Paen inhaled deeply, forcing himself to remain completely still. He wanted to move. His body was buried deepinher warm heat,and he desperately wantedto move, butheknew he shouldn’t For Avelyn’s sake it was better if he gaveher a moment to adjust.
"Why, that hardlyhurtatall,"Avelyn saidwith surprise, and Paen pulled back enough to peerdown at her face. Her expression was one of amazement.
"Iwas expectingrealpain, butthat wasbarely more thana pinch," she explained and smiled widely, then wriggled experimentally against him. "It does feel odd, though. "
Paen ground histeeth together as shewriggled again; then he leaned his forehead againstthe top of her head and breathedslowly in and outto stopfrom pounding in andout of her likehis body wasurging him to do.
"Husband?" she asked suddenly.
"Aye?"he got outbetween clenched teeth.
"Isthatall, then? Are wedone?"
A short laugh slipped from hislips and he straightened,drawinghimself out ofher as he said, "Nay. "
"Oh," Avelyn gasped. "That is… er… nice. "
She looked perplexed, and then surprised when he plunged back into her.
"Oh, thatis… er…"Shepaused as he withdrew againand murmured another "Oh. "
Recalling hiswife’spenchantfor chatteringonthe ridehere, and fearing she might feela need todo the same while riding him, Paencaughther mouthina kiss as he withdrew again.
Paen’s baser instincts werestillurging him forward, andPaen was still tryingto restrainhimself for hersake. Avelyn didn’t appear toappreciate that. Herlegswere wrapped around hiships and her hands clutched at him. Hecould onlycontrolher with hisarms, andthen only cautiously, because he was hesitant tobang his injured hands and allow pain to dampen anyof thisfor him.
Paen’s good intentions died abruptly when his wife suddenly dugher nailsinto his behind, very obviouslyurging him tomove faster. Hegave in to his desire then, drivinghimself into her with quick, hardthrusts, encouraged by Avelyn’smoans into his mouth and the way she wasarchinginto him. Thensuddenly shetore hermouth from his and threw her head back with a scream as shebuckedagainsthim. Paenfelt her squeeze around him, drawing himdeeper into her, then roared with his own release.
It wasn’t until he had collected himself enoughso he could stopleaning on his wifethatPaen glanced over her shoulder atthewindow. The parchment wasopen a crack. Someone must have opened ittoair the room on theirreturn and forgottento closeit. He wondered if anyonehad heardthem. Paen’s gazedropped to the bailey, and hestiffened at thesight of the audience below. It looked as if half his father’s men were standing staring up at the window,and he found himself grateful that the fire across theroom had burnedlow enough that allthey could possibly seewere shadowy figures. Then one of the men moved forward, separating himself from the restandPaen squinted at the familiar form. it wasn’t until the man heldup histhumb in a gesture of approvalthatPaen recognized his father.
Groaning, he briefly dropped his forehead to his wife’s shoulder, then was suddenly gripped by concern that she might glance over her shoulder and realize they had been seen. Knowingthat Avelyn would be terribly embarrassed to realize their first time had notexactly been aprivateaffair, hetightened hisarms aroundher waist and lifted her offthe ledge.
"Husband!You will hurt your hands!" she cried,tightening herarms around his shoulders and knotting her ankles around hisback to keep from being dropped.
Paen said nothing, but backed away from the window until thebacks of his legs bumped the bed; then he fellback, tumbling themboth on top ofit. Avelyn squealed as they fell,then laughedbreathlessly as he turnedthem on theirsides to face each other. He staredat her, noting that her facewas flushed withcolor, her eyes relaxed and smiling. He was just thinkinghow beautiful she looked when Avelynsuddenly frowned.
"What is it?" Paen asked.
"We did not… the linen… it…" Shepaused, flushing withembarrassment,then managed to get out. "The linens are usually hung up as proof of the bride’s innocence, and so thatall may know the marriagewas consummated, but we did not…"She let her words trail away and glancedtoward thewindowledge.
"Ah. " He bit his lip. "Well, Iwould not worry. Ido notthink anyone willdemand proofthat the marriage was consummated. Iam sure they will accept my word for it. "
"But – " Avelyntriedto protest, but Paensilenced her with a kiss, then slid his arms out from under her and shifted to lie properly on the bed. Oncecomfortablyon his back,he held hisarms open to her.
"Come – pull thelinens up and sleep. "
Avelynhesitated, then crawledup tolie beside himand pullthe linens and furs over them both. Afteranother hesitation, she layher head on his chest. Paen closed his arm aroundheras her hand crept up to rest tentativelyonhim.
He was juststarting to doseoffwhen shelifted herhead and beganto speak, but Paen used his forearm to press her head backtohis chest and simplysaid,"Sleep. "
He closed his eyesand pretended tosleep himself. After several moments, he sensed her relax againsthim. Whenasoft snore emitted from her, he smiled to himself, finding it utterlycharming. His wife snoredlike a sailor, he thought with something like affection, and pressed a kissto the topof her head. Relaxing into the bed, Paen peered up at the drapes overhead and smiled. He’d managed the consummation and – even withoutthe use of hishands – succeeded in givingher pleasure. Damn, Iwas good, he thought.
Avelynwoke to a tingling sensation inher rightbreast. Smiling, she murmured sleepily and stretched on herback, her body arching upward into the sensation.
When she opened her eyes, she found herself staring down at the top of her husband’shead.
Morning sunlight glinted offhis darkhairas he laved and suckled at her breast.
Moaning, Avelyn slid herhands intohis hair, scraping her nails lightly across his scalp before letting them drop down torun across his back. He raised his headto peer at her. Realizing she wasawake, Paen shifted upher body, halflying on her as he kissed her good morning.
Avelyntook half a moment to worry that herbreath might be unpleasant,then decided that if he didn’t mind, shedidn’tmind. It was a delicious wayto wake up, made moreso when he slidone knee between her legs and presseditagainst her.
Avelyn moaned and archedinto thecaress, her body tingling with eagerness.
"Should we move to thewindow ledge?"shegaspedwhen he shifted over her, resting hiselbows on either side of her head to prevent putting weightonhis hands.
Paen stilled, then for some reason gavea littlelaughas he shook his head. "Nay. I think we shall bypass the window this morning. "
"But – " Avelyn paused and glanced toward thedoorwhen a knock disturbed them.
"Who isit?" Paen growled, still on top of her.
" Tis David,my lord," the boy called through the door. "Yourfathersentmeup tosee ifyou areyet up. He said you were to ride out withhim to Rumsfeldtodayto have alook around. "
Paen rolled offof Avelyn with a sigh. "Aye. I am up. "
"Do you want me to help you dress,mylord?" Davidaskedthrough the door.
Paen sat up and reached for the bed linens, then paused at the sight of his bandaged hands.
Sitting up quickly,Avelyn snatched at the linens and furs and pulled them upto cover themboth,but Paen slid out from under them and stood.
"Did you bring myclothes, boy?" he called as he started across theroom,and Avelyn bit her lipat the sight of hiserect staff.
"Aye, my lord," came thepromptanswer.
"Come in, then. "
Avelyn managed totear her gaze from her husband and tuggedthe linens a little tighter to her chin as the door opened. Shewatched David enter, Paen’s clothing, boots andmail piledinhisarms. Themail told her that Rumsfeldwas far enough away that theyhad to guardagainst bandits or attacks. It took a moment before Avelyn recalled where she had heard the name before; then she glanced to her husband, making sure to keepher gazeabove his waist asshe asked, "Is Rumsfeld not yourmother’s birthplace?"
"Aye. Howdidyouknow?" Paen glanced back at her with surprise as David kicked the door closedwithonefoot, then carried his burdentothe chairbythe fire.
"Your mother mentioned it the dayafterwearrived here," she murmured. "She said the chatelain had diedwhile youwereaway. "
"Aye. Legere. He was old. "
"Is that why you are goingthere?Because theoldchatelain is dead?" Avelyn askedcuriously. "I suppose yourfather has to arrangefor anew chatelain. "
Paen paused besidethechair whereDavid had set his clothesand turned to peer at her, his expression chagrined.
"Iforgot to tell you," he realized.
"Tell me what?"Avelyn asked asDavid held Paen’sbraes open forhim tostep into.
Paen waited until his pants were on anddone upbefore answering. "Fatherasked if I would bechatelain there. "
"What?"Avelyn asked with surprise asDavid climbed onto the stooland Paen bent at the waist sothe boy couldwork his tunic overhis head. Onceit wasin place, Paen turned to face her with a smile, obviouslyexpectinghertobe pleased.
"Aye. He needs someone there he can trust,and he thinks it will give me more experience. "
When Avelynstared at him blankly, he explained, "I have beenawayon Crusade formuch of the lastyears. I am an expert at battle, butcould use somepractice at being lord ofthemanor. " He knelt to helpDavid get his heavy mailon, then gotto hisfeet andadded, "He also thought you might be happier if you had a home of your owntotake care of. "
Avelyn staredat him as he asked his squire where his belt andsword were. David had left it intheroom Paenusually slept in. Apologizing, the boy hurriedout of the chamber to collect it as Paen moved to the bed. Leaning over, he gave her a quick, passionate kiss, then straightenedandleftthe room, leaving Avelyn staringafter him.
Paen wastaking over aschatelain atRumsfeld. They would be movingthere. She would have her own household to run.
Avelyn felt the horror creep over her. Aweekago, she would have thought it was a fine thing and would havelookedforward to beingmistress of her ownhome. Her mother had taken great care toteach her allshe should know for the task. However, that had beenbefore Avelyn hadsomehow fallen under a cloud of calamity. Now, theideahorrified her. She would reduce Rumsfeld torubble within a week withher clumsiness, she supposed miserably.
"Rumsfeld is where Lady Christina grew up – ’tis her familyhome. When her parents diedsome years ago, itpassed to her and Lord Gerville. "
"Lady Christina was an only child," Lady Helenput in and her niece Diamanda nodded.
For her part, Avelyn remained silent, simply listening asthe trio walkedupstairs, headed for thesolar.
Theyhadjust left the hallafter breaking their fast. Paen and his father had already left for Rumsfeld bythe time Avelyn hadtaken careof her morning ablutionsand gonebelow. It hadjust been the four women and several hundred servants and soldiers at thetablesthis morning.
Of course,thefirst thing out of Lady Gerville’smouth had beenabout the move to Rumsfeld. Itseemed everyone had already knownabout it, including Diamanda andLady Helen. Avelynhadbeenthe last to know.