Chapter 6 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
This section is NSFW.
Temmin stumbled through the shadowed gardens, swatting away worshippers eager to be one with him. Where was the girl with the sapphire eyes? He should know her name, but what did it matter? Neya said she was his, he would find her, and when he did--
There! She was running towards him, she was in his arms, she was clawing at him. "Wait--wait," he said. He picked her up and slung her over his shoulder; passers-by cheerfully hooted congratulations. Where could he take her? He shifted her weight with a grunt and headed for a nook few knew about, where the grass grew long and bushes blocked the wind.
Once in the deserted nook, Temmin dropped the woman on her feet and unfastened the ties of her cloak as she did the same to the drawstring of his uniform trousers and took him in her hand. Her hands were warm, almost feverish in the spring night chill. He bit her neck, and she babbled something about Nerr. "You are mine, Neya gave you to me, you will be one with me," he growled in her ear. Far away in the back of his mind came the idea that his voice sounded different, as if it didn't belong to him, and that the woman was no stranger. He ignored these timid thoughts and returned his attention to the hooks closing her bodice. He tore the last few in his impatience and pushed her down.
The woman tossed up her skirts and Temmin fell atop her, rooting among the petticoats until he found her cleft. She worked at her white brocade corset until her breasts spilled from her chemise. He slurped a nipple into his mouth and shoved his fingers inside her, all the exquisite technique he'd learned in the last year forgotten in his haste and need; she made no objection, opening her legs wide for him and pulling at his shirt to feel his skin against her. Neya gave him this woman, ordered him to be one with her, and as he slid into her heat a sliver of the immeasurable ecstasy he'd found in Neya's bed a year ago pierced him. He buried himself deep inside the woman, she cried out, and they rocked together, spending over and over in infinite time.
Stillness reigned at the Keep the next morning. Most of the footmen went through their chores blinking and yawning, for while they'd been out the night before till all hours, work still waited in the morning. The pointedly energetic maids--all unmarried and thus assumed to be stay-at-home virgins--huffed at them to "move it along, you cock's egg, yer blockin' the way!" Just one downstairs maid looked suspiciously sleepy, and the widowed housekeeper Mistress Mannell wore a drowsy, happy smile herself.
Ellika and Sedra had spent a quiet night playing cards with their fellow unmarried ladies. ("It's so unfair I have to stay home!" Ellika had said. "Do be quiet and deal," Sedra had replied.) This morning they breakfasted early, alone in the cheerful morning room.
"Where d'you suppose Mama is? She almost never sleeps in, not even after a Spectacle," said Ellika.
Sedra's voice floated out of the inky depths of The Tremontine Spectator. "Don't know, El. There's always a first time."
"No surprise Papa isn't here, he's always out late on Spectacle nights."
"Oh, must you read at the breakfast table?"
Sedra folded back a new page with a rustling flourish. "Must you talk at the breakfast table?"
Ellika threw down her napkin. "I'm going to see what's the matter with Mama."
"You do that." Sedra groped for the toast rack with one hand, peering over the Spectator when her fingers ended up in the jam pot.
Ellika trotted up the stairs to her mother's suite and knocked on the door, but Miss Hanston turned her away. "Her Majesty is well but indisposed, Your Highness," said the brick wall. "I will tell her you inquired after her."
In fact, Miss Hanston had no way of knowing whether Her Majesty was well or not; she wasn't there. Ansella herself didn't know, either. She lay staring up at the canopy over Harsin's bed, clutching the covers to her chin and wondering what had possessed her the night before. The Shelstone girl had stood right there in front of her last night, and yet Ansella had gone to Harsin's bed as if all were well between them.
She turned toward her husband; he slept on, his face slack. It had been many years since they'd shared a bed, but asleep he still looked the same as he had on their wedding night--almost innocent, though she doubted Harsin had ever been innocent. He'd probably tried to seduce the midwife the day he was born. Her pride had slipped away with her clothes the night before; now she began gathering it to her like the sheets clutched to her chin.
Perhaps it would be wisest if she left. He would surely wake up wondering how on earth they'd made this huge mistake--she certainly had.
Ansella gingerly folded back the covers and slid from the bed, searching for something to cover her. Harsin's hand stopped her, his grip on her thigh gentle but firm. "Where do you think you're going, lady wife?"
She jumped. "Oh! I--I thought perhaps you'd sleep better were I to leave."
"Ansella, it's morning, I've slept enough. Come here."
She resolutely turned her mind against the hand stroking her thigh into cooperation. "Is that a request or a command, My Lord?"
Harsin removed his hand in surprise. "It's a request. Please, Annie, come back to bed. Just for a little while. Please." She returned to the covers but kept herself apart. Harsin pulled her close, pillowing her head on his chest. "I'm just asking for a little closeness with my wife."
Ansella raised her head. "You will forgive me my confusion."
He stroked her messy blond hair away from her face and drew her back down against him; his heart beat steady in her ear. "Our children are grown. Forgive me if this makes me melancholy and nostalgic for my youth."
She laughed slightly. "Harsin, we're hardly old. We're forty-two."
"Even so. I look into your face and I remember a different time."