Marguerite St. Just….non, non. Maintenent, elle s'appelle….now, now her name was Lady Marguerite Blakeney. Lady Blakeney sat in the sumptuously appointed room of the Inn des Cygnes, the finest inn remaining along the troubled main road between Paris and Calais. The political upheavals surrounding her, miniscule and immense dramas that were still being played out by Republican and Royalist, peasant and priest, brother and brother, father and son, these were not the foremost in her mind at this key moment in her life.
She had spent hours of her life caught up in such dramas, both on the street and on the stage of La Comedie Francaise, and the height of political, artistic and scientific debate had been heard in her Salon on the Rue Richelieu. She was brilliant and beautiful, acclaimed and sought after. And now, she was alone.
She had few female confidants, and none that she had trusted with her plans. None she had trusted to know her intimate secrets either, so she would have no advice to quell her fluttering nerves. So, she sat at an exquisite gilded dressing table, no lady's maid to come to her aid, and ran a silver brush with nervous hands through her auburn hair. She supposed she had a right to be anxious. Tonight, after all, was her wedding night.
After a year of on and off courtship, with a dozen other suitors of greater charisma or intelligence, though few with greater wealth, she had accepted the proposal of Sir Percival Blakeney, baronet and acknowledged highflyer of British society. He had an inane laugh that had set her brother's teeth on edge, and made the most ridiculous comments. But, he was tall and broad, with a handsome face, and mostly lazy blue eyes she had on occasion found herself lost in. For, that was the crux of it. She was in love with him. For all that the on-dits would say that she had escaped to England for safety in the arms of a man richer almost than the Prince Regent himself, the truth was, there was something in those eyes, a passionate intensity that she only glimpsed rarely, but it was something so alluring that it had utterly captivated her heart before she could do aught to defend herself.
So, she had married him that morning, without pomp or ceremony, in the simple blue dress that he'd once said made her eyes look like roses. Which of course, was utterly ridiculous. But, that was her Percy, and the whole of the Salon had guffawed at his happy moronic display. Later in the week, he'd gifted her with a copy of love poetry translated into French from Arabic. When she'd opened the book in her boudoir, the book had fallen open to the most beautiful poem to a cloistered princess whose love was likened to obtaining an elusive blue rose.
He was dumb, but he was not so dumb.
Now, she'd linked herself to this man before God and mankind. Sir Percy Blakeney, a man who she did not truly know, would come into this very room, and expect to act as her husband.
And she was terrified.
He had not yet even kissed her. She did not know if the secret intensity that she felt within him would lead to a violent passion, or a soft gentleness. Would he be a good lover, or simply take what he wanted from her? Would he be shocked by her condition? Disappointed?
Her thoughts scattered as she heard a light knock on the door.
"Entre, s'il vous plait," she hoped her voice did not shake. She was an actress after all. Some say, the greatest in France, perhaps in all of Europe. If that was the case, then certainly she could face a man such as Percy Blakeney with a calm demeanor.
She glanced up in the mirror, and she took in at once his face and hers. Her heart shaped face and sweet lips, to which sonnets had been composed, were tinged a pale pink upon seeing that strangely intense gaze take in her features. His blue eyes were possessed of a heat that thrilled through her veins, chasing away any lingering chill from the room.
"Good evening, sir." Her breath caught in her throat, and she could force no more words past her lips.
"Good evening, madam." His voice sounded a touch deeper than its normal timbre, and she risked her own composure by indulging in the thought that he might be as affected by this night as she. In truth, she had no idea what he expected from her. Expertise perhaps? Knowledge in the bedroom equal or surpassing her knowledge of politics, or literature or language?
Surely he would not be expecting a shy, unworldly, convent-educated young mademoiselle.
"Milord, I wish to make you aware that in the past…"
He knelt at her side, and her gaze turned to look, not at the reflected image of him, but at the real Percy. And whatever it was that she had wanted to say was drowned in those eyes. She could not put words to what she saw there, but all the protestations of adoration she had received by countless suitors were swept away. Eternity and infinity, alpha and omega, everything was there, but only for the briefest moment.
His eyes shuttered again, regaining their heavy lassitude which gave his countenance an air of bland idiocy. His gaze fell to her small pale hand, which he took with care in his own, much larger one. He raised it to his lips, and kissed her bare knuckle with a soft brush against her skin.
How such a simple act could give her goosebumps, make her hot and cold, tense and relaxed all at the same time, ah, that was a mystery of l'amour, n'est-ce pas? What was not a mystery was that he turned her hand over, and against her open palm touched his lips with increasing fervor, until she felt those full lips open and the darting heat of his tongue trace against her life line.
She had been kissed by many men, but always it was she who was in control. Playing a game to maintain her position as the Belle Reine du Theatre, or promoting an accomplished and promising protégée for a position in the burgeoning government, or to a prospective patron. She was a master of flirtation, of promise, of allure and innuendo.
And this man made her feel as though she was close to fainting. She fairly threw herself into his arms, and finally, those lips and tongue were touched to her own, and she lost all sense of time and place. There was only the taste of him, the texture of warm skin, the gentle nips of teeth, the hot sweetness of mingled breath. Her eyes closed, and she knew not when she was pulled up from kneeling with him on the floor, only that suddenly she was now lying on the turned down sheets of the large bed, and he was over her, gazing down at her with eyes that had again become distant, his fingers caressing the side of her face.
"Well, madam, I've never been married before. But, I suppose I'd best start off doing this part of the duties, wot?"
Her brow creased, and she shook her head as though to clear it from the haze of passion that she'd fallen into. But he set to, leaning over he and running sweet kisses along the expanse of her neck until he met the edge of her thin lawn nightrail. She reached up her hands to the neckline, and fought against the part of her that wanted to push this stranger away, and instead undid the tiny pearl buttons which held the bodice closed. She hoped that the blush that she could not suppress went unnoted in the dimness of the candlelight, but given his attention to her revealed bosom, she doubted he had missed it.
She could not stop the gasp that left her lips as his hands began to stroke the sides of her breasts, and then the whimper that followed when his lips captured her right nipple. Her hands folded themselves into curly blond hair and she found that she could not act, only react. This man, this strange man, had somehow gained her interest, her love, and, most remarkably, her trust. For, that was the most alluring thing, even more so than that elusive ardent power he held in his gaze. Now, for the first time wrapped in his arms, she felt safe. Heaven only knew why.
Soon she shocked herself by pulling impatiently at his idiotic British nightshirt, longing to know if his broad body was the result of artful padding, as so many men were said to do, or in fact truly him. It seemed impossible that a nobleman of leisure could possess the fine musculature that was highlighted by the tight breeches and cut away coats of fashion. But, then, with an arched eyebrow and another unreadable plunge into his eyes, he drew back, pulling her own thin gown over her head, and then, just when she felt incredibly vulnerable, with all of her pale flesh exposed to her husband, fear was replaced by shocked desire as he disposed of his own shirt.
As a actress and lover of the arts, Marguerite had seen the male form at it's finest, but never had her pulse leapt, her breathing turn harsh and shallow, her womanhood grow heavy with something which could simply be labeled need. A broad chest and narrow hips, powerful thighs and his… ne souviens pas….son verge, il est….
She could no longer think, only feel alternating waves of amazement and hunger. Her eyes closed when she felt his skin against her own, his chest against her breasts, his hardness against her stomach, his lips against her own. His fingers teased the fine hair of her sex, and her legs fell open to his touch. The sounds escaping her mouth were not the work of cunning and artifice, but simply honest reaction to the feelings she finally allowed herself unrestricted by calculation. His teeth nipped the skin of her neck, and the jolt made her arch into his hand and his fingers penetrated her further. Lost in his touch, she could make no sense of the English mutterings he made, but could feel that he was quickly reaching the edge of control. She knew what would come next, and somehow any fear had left her long ago.
She drew her legs wider as he continued to stroke her, knowing that he needed to find pleasure just as much as she. Nails dug into his upper arm, imploring him to finish whatever wonderful torture he was engaging in, but his only response was a blithe laugh, so dissonant with the utterly masculinity of his action, his Adonis-like form, but to her, it only proved that he was still her Percy, and he worshipped her. The last of her tension melted, and finally she could no longer fight the thrust of his fingers, the light strokes at her center, the warmth of his breath on the shell of her ear. She shattered.
When she regained her wits, she was prepared for him to complete their marriage. More than prepared. But, he still delayed. Why ever he was kissing his way slowly down her ribcage, across her abdomen, she knew not. She had heard things, what Frenchwoman had not, but surely a frigid Englishmen….
But Percy was not cold. He was fire made flesh, and when his tongue darted in to touch her clit, she rose to her elbows and stared in shocked fascination as the candlelight turned his hair to flame. But she could not watch for long…her head fell back, her throat and chest arched forward as bliss began to creep back into her blood. Her last conscious thought before she could think of nothing but the next stroke of his tongue was one of worry. Surely, he was not trying to do some kind of battle with nameless lovers of her past? He was the man she'd taken as husband, and no one else….
Her legs bent at the knee as her hips arched up to meet his mouth, she began to shake as a stronger, sharper petite morte came to claim her. And then, finally, she felt his hips between her quivering thighs, the hard tip of him against her wet heat. She opened her eyes, and once again, there was that look; those eyes so blue that no compass would allow her to find her way within them. She knew only that at this moment, she was his and it was the most wondrous thing in the universe.
When he entered, there was pain, but it was brief. She let out the tiniest whimper, but it resounded like the loudest bell of Notre Dame. He stopped, still as a marble statue though pulsing within her. His eyes shuttered again, long fair eyelashes brushing his cheeks. She felt fear quiver to life in her belly for the briefest moment.
When he opened his eyes, they held tears. And she knew, that although he had married her, had loved her, no matter what the state of her chastity, that with this small gift, he was completely and utterly hers. She wrapped her legs around him, pushing herself against him and begging without words that he should complete their union in every way. In each thrust, moving from gentle to more and more vigorous, she felt that for those minutes, she knew everything that needed knowing about the man whose name she bore. She knew he was kind and wise, passionate and brave, vulnerable and strong. When with a last ardent thrust they both soared to climax, his hoarse shout and her full throated cry mingled in rapturous harmony.
The world may think that Sir Percy Blakeney and Marguerite St. Just were mismatched, that she held in some kind of amused contempt, and he held her in gilded awe. They could not know how he humbled her with the depth of his emotions and the heights of his passion. They could not know of frantic, needful couplings in locked parlors when the ridiculousness of a London society ball forced them to retreat to the honesty of each others arms. They would not know of broken spirits and aching hearts when the downfall of the St. Cyr's was revealed in all its vicious terror. They would not comprehend the longing in every breath that Lady Blakeney would feel when it was all taken away. But that was in the future. For tonight, Marguerite Blakeney fell asleep with a smile on her sweet face, content that she had found something infinitely precious, and vowing that she would do everything in her power to keep Sir Percy Blakeney as in love with her as he was right now.