Written by: Mikami
Warnings: Viewer discretion for naughty frolicking. Click the back button, kiddies.
The guest list for the celebration of Eugenie Wilson Caldwater's thirty-fifth birthday was the longest one that Alice Munro had ever seen. She may have only seen it frantically waved around by her Aunt Mary across the room but there was no doubt in her mind of its prestigious length. She wondered how her nerve-racked aunt expected to entertain that many people with only her, her sister Cora and Cousin Eugenie himself as the hosts. Then again, her cousin's birthday and sudden arrival in the Americas were reasons squashed together to have another extravagant gathering by Mary Hallet. Her aunt had been a socialite in London and spared no expense bringing her lifestyle to Albany.
Alice felt the breath abruptly escape her lungs as her handmaiden, Anne, tightened the laces of her corset. Gripping the wooden post of her bed, Alice squeezed her eyes shut as her mouth hung open, seeking air. Corsets were a cornerstone element to an English lady's appearance but donning the cursed things in the first few minutes were what Alice hated the most.
"There," said Anne with a sense of accomplishment. "That should do it."
Nodding quickly to get rid of the temporary dizziness, Alice managed to glance over her shoulder and gave her handmaiden a weak smile.
"Thank you," she wheezed. "I'm sure by the time the celebration begins, I'll have learned not to breathe and all will be well."
Anne chuckled and began helping her into her panniers and petticoats.
"Nonsense. You've been wearing this garment for the majority of your life and I find it hard to believe you haven't gotten accustomed to it," she said.
Alice drew in another tight breath as Anne fastened the side hoops.
"I have but one never really gets accustomed to the first few moments. Or maybe it's just me," she replied tightly.
She heard the handmaiden laugh again when she crossed the room to the bed where Alice's new dress lay waiting. It was the latest modern design brought back by her Cousin Eugenie from London. Upon his arrival he presented it to her in a large box and gloated about how he chose it specifically for her—that the dress beckoned to him beyond the glass windows of the shop and was magically filled with her essence. Alice found only amusement in her cousin's flowery recollection but was dazzled by the garment all the same.
"Your cousin has exquisite taste for a gentleman," exclaimed Anne, holding up the dress.
"That he does," said Alice.
The gown was the color of blush wine, a golden peach silk embroidered with tiny, intricate patterns of pink. It was fitted with tight, elbow-length sleeves trimmed with cream-colored lace and ribbons over separate engageantes. The skirt was embellished with additional flounces to give the gown more volume and bravado, while the ruffle-bordered neckline was lowered to show off an ample bosom.
Anne was helping the youngest Munro daughter into her gown when Cora stepped through the doorway into the room.
"Alice, are you about ready? Aunt Mary has been tending to the first guests that have arrived," said Cora.
"Almost, Miss," smiled Anne as she made expert work of the back buttons.
Alice gave Cora a bright smile and nodded toward the dress Cousin Eugenie brought back for her sister. It was a crimson beauty, trimmed with cream and gold, showing off Cora's swanlike neck and complementing the chocolate darkness of her hair as well as her fiery spirit.
"You look stunning," said Alice with a smile.
"Why, thank you," Cora replied and walked over to the vanity. She picked up the ribbon and lace choker and fastened it around her younger sister's neck. "Anne, would you go to the salon and tell our Aunt Mary that we'll be down in a few short minutes?"
Anne nodded obediently and left the women to themselves.
Alice turned to Cora and smoothed her hands over the gown's skirts. "You don't think this dress is too flamboyant do you?"
"You already know the answer to that question," Cora smirked.
Alice snickered. She knew her sister retained a simpler but elegant taste for fashion. The crimson gown from Cousin Eugenie wasn't exactly her preference but the gold embroidery was subtle next to the deep red so Cora decided to comply.
As the older Munro sister gave her appearance a last assessment, she spied Alice's continuing smile out of the corner of her eye.
"And what is that for?" she asked when Alice's smile turned smug. Her younger sister glanced quickly at the door and then stepped closer to her.
"Is Nathaniel attending?" she almost whispered. Alice's grin widened at the sight of the slight blush on her older sister's cheeks.
"Come now," Cora said, pretending to brush off Alice's sly inquiry. "Somebody like Nathaniel wouldn't be caught mingling with such people. He's already expressed his views, with humor I might add, on their social habits."
"How come that doesn't surprise me," said Alice lightly. "But you could have asked him to accompany you."
Cora shook her head and was amused by her sister's teasing. "Not worth it."
Pausing, Cora let the thought of Nathaniel Poe at one of her aunt's extravagant parties wash over her. A laugh escaped her lips, realizing how silly and choked to death he would look in London's finest fashion.
"A frock coat and yards of fabric would do nothing for his level of comfort. Besides," Cora let on furtively. "He may be visiting me later."
"Oh, I see how it is," Alice's eyes narrowed with another grin. "After that, you still have the nerve to ask ME where I go during 'odd times' as you so put it?"
"I haven't said anything that alludes to going out at odd times."
Cora raised an eyebrow. "In any case, you shouldn't be talking. I'd say you're quite guilty yourself."
Alice's mouth hung open in a cross between amusement and being caught off guard. Before she could say another word, Cora gave her a triumphant smirk and turned on her heel, promptly exiting the room.
The only thing her sister's teasing jab created was a wider smile on Alice's face. She briefly put a hand to her lips and snickered in spit of herself. Then she hurriedly followed Cora to the party that waited.
The main part of Cousin Eugenie's birthday celebration was held out in the front courtyard where the majority of guests spent their time. Each person was in one way or another linked by business, distant family or social hierarchy. Parties like these were excellent to create new bonds and those ties would eventually determine the key roles in the upper class of the new world.
The decorated expanse of celebration stretched out before Alice as she lifted her skirts and entered the courtyard. She smiled politely while pursuing her sister through the throngs of guests.
"Ah, there you two are!" exclaimed Aunt Mary. She reached out and took both Cora and Alice by the wrists, dragging them toward Cousin Eugenie and some guests.
"Miss Cora, Miss Alice," Cousin Eugenie greeted, kissing them both on the cheek. "I am positively enthralled at how beautiful you both look in those gowns. Forgive me for boasting about my selection of the garments but for my enchantment to go unexpressed would be a crime."
"I quite have to agree," beamed Aunt Mary. She turned toward a high-ranking officer in a festooned red coat and an elderly woman in a powdered wig. "Mr. Richard Worsley, Mrs. Henrietta Faulden, these are my two nieces, Cora and Alice Munro, daughters of the late Colonel Munro."
"How do you do ladies?" said Mr. Worsley giving a slight bow while Mrs. Faulden nodded. "I served with your father when we first came to the Frontier. I was grieved at the news of his death but his merit as a leader overshadows the tragedy."
"Thank you for your thoughtful words, sir," Cora smiled. "We hold any kind gestures toward our Father's memory close to our hearts."
"The honor is mine," he said.
As Mr. Worsley began to ask Cora to recall the details of the parley between her father and Louis-Joseph de Montcalm from her point of view, Alice had a feeling the conversation was going to take on both a military and political sway. While Cora was never involved in such matters, she did pride herself on being aware of where the future of New England lay. Cousin Eugenie had excused himself to talk to a pretty redhead in an ice blue gown while another gentleman named James Peale joined in Mr. Worsley's discussion.
A servant came up to offer Alice a glass of champagne and she refused. As the two men broke off into their own discussion about military matters, Cora appeared more at ease speaking with Mrs. Faulden about settling down in Albany. Aunt Mary left her nieces to their own devices as she went to greet more guests.
Alice sighed inwardly as Aunt Mary's elegant company seemed to float around her in titters and exchange. She stood beside her sister observing other people—one woman a few feet away didn't look more than twenty but she was holding tightly to an arm of a man that was twice her age. Another group was comprised entirely of ladies chatting about the latest gossip. Alice didn't know anybody at the party and she always did wish she was as engaging as Cora.
"And what about you my dear?" Mrs. Faulden's voice snapped Alice out of her reverie.
Alice blinked and then smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry, I must have floated out of my body for a moment."
Mrs. Faulden returned the smile. "That's quite alright, child. I was just asking Cora if she has an 'intended'. I wanted to know if you have one as well."
"Oh…well," Alice said, stealing a glance at Cora. "I…wouldn't really say so."
"Heavens child, why not? You're almost twenty and this is the prime of your life."
"Because we tend to just talk. We do enjoy each other's company," Alice found herself saying.
"I see. Well, talking is a way of courting you. If I might say so, I think you're an odd one if you haven't noticed that already," tittered Mrs. Faulden as she swiped a glass of champagne from a nearby servant.
Cora gave the elderly woman a quick smile. "What my sister was saying was that perhaps she and the young gentleman haven't reached that point yet. Alice has always been perfectly versed in the conventions of courtship. My father made sure of that."
"So what does your young gentleman do?" Mrs. Faulden said, recovering.
Alice looked down for a moment as a pair of warm, dark orbs and a streak of long raven hair flashed in her mind's eye. A secretive smile crept upon her lips without her knowledge.
"He's a tradesman of the Frontier and reaps his wares himself," replied Alice.
"Forgive my sudden effrontery but I thought a woman like you preferred a soldier or an officer. Most of the young ladies I know are already involved with such men," Mrs. Faulden remarked, sipping her drink.
Exchanging looks with Cora, Alice felt the elderly woman's tone take on a hint of superiority mixed with surprise. Clearly, Henrietta Faulden was truly bourgeoisie at heart if she was to make comments about the higher class becoming involved with that of a lower station. Alice didn't want to dwell too much on that, let alone reveal to Mrs. Faulden that her affections were reserved only for a young Mohican.
"He's considered a soldier as well," Alice added. "He served for a time with the colonial militia at Fort William Henry right before my father gave up the post to the Frenchman."
Alright, maybe that's stretching it a bit, the thought passed through Alice's head. The Mohican trio may have never joined the colonial militia but Alice made allowance since they enabled the courier to reach General Webb at Fort Edward. In her estimate, they were practically soldiers—they carried weaponry, supplies, possessed skills for survival and fought like any man that had a duty to protect.
Alice's modest vouching didn't seem to convince Mrs. Faulden nor remove the lifted eyebrow from her now haughty-looking facade. She nodded at Alice looking almost thoughtful.
"If one's preference suits one's personality, then by all means," she said with a smile.
Cora pursed her lips for a second, noting the passive aggressiveness toward her younger sister.
"Mrs. Faulden," Cora cut in, steering the elderly woman away, "I'd like you to meet Miss Elizabeth Forster and Mr. Samuel Waldegrave. They're both very influential to the second largest shipping service from London to the new world."
Alice watched as Cora expertly handed the woman over to her desired sort of company. In an instant, it was like Mrs. Faulden had completely forgotten about Alice and her story. Cora then excused herself and made her way back over to her sister.
"Colonial militia?" she said, then smirked. "Nathaniel would have loved to hear that."
Cora patted Alice softly on the shoulder and went on her way to find Cousin Eugenie. As her sister disappeared into the throng of guests, Alice was left standing in the middle between groups. Mr. Worsley and Mr. Peale had vanished, as did her Aunt Mary. Sighing, Alice picked up her skirts and headed toward the house.
She didn't remember when Aunt Mary's extravagant parties became so tedious all of a sudden. It didn't make sense because she used to enjoy every waking moment of it when she was in London. All of her girlhood friends were still an ocean away so maybe that was one of the differences. It all boiled down to one point—things haven't been the same since that day on the George Road.
There were still groups of guests clustered inside the salon. Alice thought she spotted Cousin Eugenie dart by as she stepped over the threshold. She was greeted by people she didn't know and she smiled at them politely. There was even a young and handsome officer that eyed her admiringly as she made her way through the room.
Alice didn't give him a second look and continued on, passing several rooms. Eventually she ended up in the kitchen.
"Miss Alice. Is there something wrong?" Anne exclaimed, looking up from shelling peas.
"Oh no, no," Alice reassured her. "Aunt Mary was just sending me to check on the meal. But I see she has nothing to worry about really."
Before Anne or any other servant could reply, Alice made a hasty exit and left them wondering why she chose to pass the kitchen door instead of going back through the house. Then again the passage around the house actually took a shorter amount of time to the front, especially now since the indoors were filled with guests. Shrugging to themselves, the servants continued on with their work.
Outside, Alice slipped through the side and between some large crates in order to make it around the house. Down the short alleyway she could see glimpses of the guests out in the front courtyard but from where she stood, pieces of their laughter reached her ears. Alice walked further away from the front and the kitchen door, which was situated at the side of the house. Rounding around some crates, the alleyway opened up to the backyard, the garden and a few yards of woodland area before it was walled off by posts.
Standing at the mouth of the alleyway, Alice inhaled deeply as the noise of the party lowered from distance. The air seemed clearer in the back, the space wider and more inviting. She let her arms drop and relax at her sides as her eyes slid closed. A warm breeze wafted softly against the exposed skin of her neck and a faint smile touched her lips.
"Are you sure they won't miss you?" came a low voice from somewhere in Alice's vicinity.
Her eyes flew open, suddenly feeling a rush going down her arms and into the very tips of her fingers. She turned around and was faced with a pair of warm, dark eyes and a smile to match.
"I could be hauled off by Indians and they still wouldn't notice," she said with a widening smile.
Gripping her skirts tightly, Alice ran forward as quickly as her gown allowed and threw her arms around Uncas. Suddenly hungry, she took his face between her palms and pulled him down into kiss. He met her with parted lips, already moistened with anticipation as his hands slid around the silk bodice of her dress.
"I counted two weeks," Alice said when she pulled back, breathless. "You're so late."
The corners of Uncas' mouth lifted when he put his forehead against hers. With calloused hands framing her face, he dropped kisses along her brow.
"Sorry," he said with a smile in his voice. "We got sidetracked on our way back from Can-tuck-ee. Elk was scarce in the area and we didn't have the number promised to a small group of English traders based near Albany. My father, my brother and I had to go a little out of our way to get the rest."
"I see," said Alice, tightening her hold on him.
"Why so worried? Did you miss me that much?"
He was teasing her. Alice smacked Uncas lightly on the arm and buried her grin into the side of his neck.
"Oh, you're terrible," she laughed.
Taking a step back from her, Uncas had cocked his head to the side to survey her present state of dress. With his arms trying to hug every inch of her that he possibly could, Uncas only embraced steel boning and yards of fabric. He also craned his head to the side to look around the house and heard faraway voices of celebration.
"What's the occasion?" he asked.
"My Cousin Eugenie's birthday but my Aunt was the one that decided to have this party. She'd use any excuse to have something like this."
Uncas nodded thoughtfully and began circling her.
"What are you doing?" Alice eyed him, interested.
He made one full round of speculation, taking her in from head to toe. Without meeting her curious eyes, he studied Alice with a quirky little half-smile on his lips. When he stopped in front of her, Uncas put down his rifle and traveling satchel.
"I don't think I've seen you wear something like this before," he commented. "I have to say it looks kind of silly."
Surprised, Alice put her hands on her hips. "Oh really? Cousin Eugenie brought it back for me from London. I'd say it looks rather nice and you Sir, can tell me what you find silly about it."
Uncas shrugged and looked pointedly to where the panniers jutted out from the sides of her hips. "That looks deceiving. People will wonder if you're really shaped like that."
"That's nonsense. Only people who aren't familiar with the style may question but everyone at the party is more or less dressed the same," she replied lightly.
"So just around the house I'm going to find an entire crowd of strangely shaped women?" he said, craning his head toward the alley again.
Alice laughed out loud and grabbed his hand to pull him behind the crates, out of eyeshot from the crowd at the front of the alleyway.
"And another thing," he continued. "That garment isn't suitable for most everyday activities. You don't even look comfortable."
Alice could see his dark eyes wandering over her throat and chest, spying her minimal heaves to subtly take in as much air as she needed.
"It just acts to slim the waist and provide a better posture," she said, smoothing her hands over the bodice. Alice peeked up at Uncas and could see his amused skepticism over her claims.
"Besides," she added. "A dress like this isn't worn for every day."
"Still looks silly."
Alice made a little sound in her throat, yielding to the playful argument.
"Well, it's alright if you don't like it. You don't have to wear it," she said matter-of-factly.
"Which is why I'm asking why YOU do," he replied.
"I think it's very beautiful and I'll admit, a bit uneasy. Then again, beauty and pain have always been intertwined when it comes to looking elegant."
Alice couldn't help but chuckle at the puzzled look on Uncas' face after her last statement. She understood that the words 'beauty' and 'pain' were at opposite ends of the spectrum in his world.
"And the whites call us savage," he said under his breath.
Putting his hands around her waist again, Uncas' palms skimmed the boning of her corset and he looked down intently at her face. Contentment had woven itself into every feature, from her forehead to her chin. It was the kind of look he was used to seeing in his dreams and through the days when they were apart.
"Can you feel this?" he asked, lowering his voice. His hands continued moving along her middle.
Alice slowly opened her mouth, unsure of how to answer. She did feel the slight pressure of movement but due to the bodice's fabric, the corset and the chemise she had layered, Alice couldn't sense much of his ministrations. When she realized this, she suddenly grew frustrated.
Uncas felt the shift in her demeanor by seeing the increase of depth her eyes. He watched her gradually shake her head and then ran his hands higher, asking her again in silence.
The full awareness of the limitations of Alice's gown were dreadfully apparent to her now, no matter how beautiful and elegant it was. At the same time, she could see the obvious interest Uncas had taken in toying with that fact. Her frustration grew.
"I don't think I'll ever understand English women and their mindset for clothing," he said, sweeping a hand over her breasts while bringing his mouth to her jaw line.
When Uncas stopped just a breath away, Alice whimpered quietly when she was unable to feel the direct impact of his touch. She'd been missing it greatly through weeks of no word from him.
A lock of his raven hair fell over his shoulder and swept the contours of Alice's neck. She reached up to entangle her fingers into the ebony glossiness and finding his face between her hands, guided him into another kiss. The sensation struck like fire and poured down her throat. She nibbled gently on his bottom lip, sensing his arms snake fully around her waist to haul her against him.
Uncas felt the hard press of her bodice against his stomach but pulled her closer. While his hands roamed the silk terrain of her back, he realized at the back of his mind that even if he wanted to remove everything she wore, he probably wouldn't know how without a knife. The Mohican kept the amusing little thought to himself and with a heightened enthusiasm for the woman he desired, Uncas trailed warm, open-mouthed kisses along her neck. His hand came up to pull down one of the gown's shoulders to expose her creamy flesh to the fiery path he created.
Her breathing coming out in growing pants, Alice sought out his other hand and brought his fingers to her mouth. She curled her tongue around his forefinger and then enveloped it in warmth, sucking and tasting. Alice felt him inhale sharply against her shoulder and his hips suddenly bucked toward hers. Pleased with his reaction, she also took in his middle finger and began to move up and down in slow, rhythmic rounds.
Uncas pulled back slightly to watch her, fascinated by how dark her eyes became. Those blue irises had pierced his ardently, revealing to him all her longings of days past. Alice was telling him what she wanted—begging him, even.
Extracting his digits from her mouth, Uncas stooped down and with the same hand reached under numerous layers of silk and petticoats. Without a word, he fused their mouths together again and ran his hand up her thighs. His fingers brushed more lace, then eventually soft, heated skin. He pulled down roughly at her knickers until they were almost to her knees.
Alice moaned against his kiss, eyes falling half-shut as his knuckles ran down the cleft of her pulsing center. Uncas moved his lips to the corner of her mouth, wanting to see her face with every motion of his hand playing underneath her gown. He saw her gasp when he parted her folds, making them slick with his fingers. Her head fell back against the crate behind them when he found the writhing bundle of nerves above her opening. Moistening it with the warmth of her womanhood, he slid his two fingers against it and rubbed her with varying pressure, causing her mouth to fall open.
It felt so good it almost hurt. Alice's hands were tightly fisted at the back of Uncas' shirt, but opening every once in awhile through growing desperation. His name tumbled off her tongue and into his hair as he stroked harder between her legs. Alice's knees were becoming numb and they buckled once, but Uncas had steadied her firmly with his other arm around her waist.
The building wave of pressure stacked itself higher within her shuddering body and Alice rocked her hips against his hand, pleading. At her request, Uncas complied, sliding one finger, and then another into her opening while keeping his thumb firmly on the rounded bundle of nerves. Alice's cry was muffled into his shirt, as her pelvis bucked hard into his hand. With his fingers stroking inside her, she felt like she couldn't breathe. The burning center of pleasure was hanging so heavily within, Alice thought she was going to pass out. Uncas's fingers thrust deeply against her inner walls, flexing and drawing tears from her eyes as she practically sobbed. It was unbearable; she was going to shatter.
Mingled with the sensation of his thrusts and the pressure of his thumb above her opening, Alice's breath was stolen from her body. She was utterly helpless when he had pummeled her to the peak of climax; he stood by her, holding every inch of her body close to his heart as she was blown apart by the explosion of fire and pleasure. Alice cried out—she wept into his neck, losing all sense of space and time and only knowing it was Uncas that held her. He wouldn't let her disappear.
Alice's sagged and shuddered into his body when he removed his hand. Sounds were numb to her ears in her state of amorous deliriousness. Her limbs were like rubber, almost void of any other sensation as she whimpered when he replaced her knickers.
With all the strength she could muster, Alice encircled her arms around his neck and looked up at him with a smile. He could see she was breathless but he didn't need any words from her. Uncas slowly moved downward and captured her with another kiss but it was slow, aching and full of devotion.
"They're looking for you," he said quietly.
"They'll have to wait just a bit longer," Alice replied with the exact same grin.