The day he returned to her from that year-long period of absence, the day of their wedding, she had barely recognized him. Over the course of those last twelve months at sea, he had gone from youth to man, the man she would forever love more than life itself.

She hadn't remembered marrying a man quite so aristocratically formal, nor so devastatingly handsome. She would never erase the fleeting memory of how he looked when she saw him finally after those long months that crawled by like years; just across the altar from her in that horrendously distracting uniform, she could scarcely hear the words from the priest as he pronounced them man and wife.

He was just as tall, but seemed more imposing; just as strong, but seemed more powerful; just as intelligent, but so much more intimidating. The features of his face were familiar, but now appeared fully developed, as though what they were now simply what they had been striving to be all along.

She had thoroughly studied his person, as though seeing him for the first time, allowing herself to notice the little things about him that composed his body and mannerisms. His hair, his shoulders, his posture, his hands, his stride, his neck, his fingers, his voice...Oh heavens, his voice. If she would fight to keep from swooning each time he spoke her name, she would gladly accept it as her fate. His voice had shocked her when she first heard it after all that time. After so long, you begin to forget a person's voice, but she had prided herself in thinking she had never forgotten his - but she had been so wrong. It was considerably deeper, more intimate, a richer intensity, with an elegant fluidity about it that left her breathless. It had required that recurring lilt that she had only once heard from him before, and at the same time she was not aware that it would soon become one of his most endearing habits. If it were possible, she was smitten with him all over again. That was the night Liesl was conceived.

She fell limp in his arms as he carried her to their room, laid her on the bed, and tortured her. She was numb with nerves at the initial prospect of being bedded by this proud stranger, but as he released his every passion in her, there was no doubt in her heart that he was indeed her husband.

The mounting pressure that had been building up from the moment she had entered the room with him had become almost to great to bear. It seemed every last ounce of tension, energy, and heat in her body was rushing toward that point of fragile femininity that so often went unspoken of. She had the distant notion that she was on the edge of something but was unsure as to what. She had done her best not to think of him as the man she knew him to be. It had been, perhaps, rather foolish of her, but she had been afraid, intimidated by his very presence. In her effort it made it so much easier to imagine him faceless in the darkness. As her eyes slowly adjusted, however, it became harder to ignore the noble silhouette of his profile, his glowing eyes, his taunting half-smile...

The way he lingered on each part of her body, focusing his complete attention on a single finger, or a coin-sized space of skin. Each brush of his hands on her drawn out almost cruelly, eliciting her familiar gasp, her flesh flaming with the heat of his gentle touch. He carried on this way as though they had all the time in the world. And now they did. He had promised her that there was no need to rush - the night would wait for them, not the other way around...

She was utterly captivated by him, how he managed to thrill her so easily, with just the lightest caress, the softest kiss, the faintest whisper. His voice was velvet that night, the reverberations of his scandalous words commanding her to cling to his frame in desperation, dimly aware of the danger that just hearing her name escape his lips could cause her to cave in completely.

She had touched him, truly for the first time that night, feeling the energy of his body, navigating the tender pink gashes of scars earned in battle, reverently tracing complicated patterns across his chest, just to feel the artfully tainted smoothness of his warm flesh, awestruck at they way his muscles flexed and relaxed under the ministrations of her trembling fingers.

She had responded with such unfettered zeal when he kissed the inside of her wrist. It was a most curious reaction that he had been obviously fascinated with, and repeated the action several times to elicit the same response from her.

He had rendered her breathless in the directness of his bold gaze; the way his ice blue eyes melted into a brilliant cerulean as they dilated in response to her touch. And he had insisted on staring into her eyes, through everything. He had never looked away. It was so divinely terrifying. She would not hold under the tender pressure of his gaze for more than a few seconds at a time. It was unbearable - that way he looked at her. Those little blossoms always burst to life when he looked at her that way...that way that was neither frosted by isolation, nor clouded by desire. It just was. Such an honest, intimate, pure and clear gaze that possessed the sharpness of a blade, knifing open her very soul.

With every gentle press of his lips against hers, something like an unraveling rope inside of her loosened against her will, with each tender caress of his adroit fingers across her skin, another latch came unhitched, every affectionate word whispered in his deep, velvety voice made her breath catch and her mind fill with mellow white static. His hand came to rest beneath her breasts and her heart pulsed reflexively as though magnetized to his palm. The slow reactions inside of her immediately escalated to an entirely inappropriate throbbing.

The feeling she had thought to be fear made itself clearer in the absence of everything but their own two bodies tangled in slow, soft motions. She did not feel fear, but rather a sort of trembling anxiety for that which she anticipated to come. In a distressed glimpse, she watched his hand slide down her middle and pause just beneath her navel. She would never know whether it was the true action of his fingers passing below that point, or the mere thought that he was going to touch her there that brought her to a brink she hadn't been aware she was approaching. What followed was both the most agonizing and the most wonderful sensation she could have imagined.

The mass of pooling heat burst suddenly and came washing over in beautiful, violent, waves. He gently forced her thighs apart against her instinct and penetrated her in what she had worried would be a dreadfully painful act. The pulsing pleasure that still held her fast had drowned out all receptors of pain. All she felt was the quick, tender pierce as he efficiently fractured her virginity.

He grasped almost desperately at both sides of her waist, thrusting against her in a most uncouth manner that she found horribly fascinating. His ragged, uncontrolled breathing as he settled atop her was so frighteningly uncharacteristic of him, so exquisitely foreign to her ears, the threateningly arousing sound pushed her to lose herself all over again. Hot rapids of blood rushing through her veins, some flowing sensation of unfed desire stirring restlessly within her core. Subconsciously, she released a soft cry of suppressed ecstasy which he quickly covered with his mouth. She was petrified with pleasure.

Indecent images of fierce violet flames, shattering glass, and waterfalls of boiling water flooded her mind as she collapsed beneath the wonderful weight of his body in the heaviest, most luxuriant level of gratification she could ever know.

Blanketed with his warmth, her arms slid loosely from around his neck as her sensitive flesh prickled with searing goose bumps.

His delving, husky whisper of those three simple words resonated softly in her ear and a feverish flush crept over her body. She was too weak to respond, her senses worked to their last level of tolerance.

She watched him sleep through lidded eyes, in a halcyon daze. His face was almost puerile in the soft aquamarine light of early dawn. The notion that she could see him this way every night if she so wished was so absurdly inconceivable - that they could spend any night like this, stripped to nothing but their wedding rings. The thought that she belonged to him completely was unceasingly alarming to her fragile mind. She was his.

Her pulse took days to settle after that night. From that point on, just looking at him in any setting made her blood to rush to uncharted areas of her heart, soul, and body. While around other people who regarded him simply for his commanding presence, his title, his status - she entertained herself with the thought of how wonderfully scandalous it was that she was this man's only lover.

Agathe bent to kiss her husband's cheek as he was seated at the table on the terrace, immersed in writing a letter. "Writing a novel, darling?" She questioned with amused tiredness. He had been writing for nearly half an hour now. "If so, it had better be about me..." She added teasingly.

He looked up at her with a gentle glare, and she giggled softly.

"Why don't you sit down?" He asked considerately, gesturing to the chair across from him.

"I'm more comfortable standing." She assured and leaned against the back of the chair, watching him from across the table. If she paid close enough attention, she could see his eyes move ever so slightly back and forth as he read across the page. She distractedly followed the path of his pen as it moved fluidly across the paper. His handwriting was elegant in a rapid sort of way, though not always legible. She loved the way he wrote his "G"s. He had a habit of giving them a sort of calligraphic tail that made them stand out from all the other capital letters. She liked them because they reminded her of a treble clef starting a stanza of sheet music. When he signed his signature, the G took on a very fitting command over the rest of the name. It looked powerful, elegant, yet still quick, the stroke of the ink never planned. She watched as he scribbled the familiar, robust series of strokes that marked his signature at the end of the letter. He set the pen down and lifted his head in that intrinsically proud way as he carefully folded the letter and tucked it into a dark red envelope. He exhaled deeply and opened another telegram as he assumed a more relaxed position in his chair, bringing his wine glass to his lips as he lazily read over the lengthy page.

She sighed airily as her eyes climbed the back façade of their villa.

"What is it?" He asked with quiet interest.

"What on earth are we going to do with such a large house?" She revealed her thoughts with a question.

"We're working on it." He responded, smirking cryptically at her.

She let his words soak in for a moment. "You mean I'm working on it." She corrected crisply, biting back her smile.

He stared forwardly at her, "Well, I worked a bit too..." He said slyly. She flushed vividly.

"Hm." She remarked with dry skepticism to distract herself.

"Unfortunately, unless I'd be willing to let you borrow my "Y" chromosome for the evening, I don't think there's any way you will appreciate it."

She giggled genuinely at his comment and shyly bit her lip.

"Oh, you're not convinced?" He asked tautly. There was that lilt again. Why did he have to do that?

She raised her eyebrows at him.

"I'll work harder next time..." He promised, eyeing her darkly.

Her heartbeat hitched. "I'm sure you will."

He lowered his gaze to her rounded middle which she had previously referred to as "awkward and unflattering." He couldn't help but smile. To his eyes it was anything but.

"What do you think we should name our first child?" She asked conversationally.

"Our first child?" He repeated, feigning surprise. "And just how many children do you expect us to have, Agathe?"

She moved her hand to cradle the underside of her belly. "As many as you think you can handle, Captain."

He smirked and settled against the back of the chair, studying the stack of telegrams he had written responses for, then tossed his pen down on the table.

"I've just answered seven of these letters, and I believe by now I've had about all that I can handle." His obscenely blue eyes sparkled mischievously under the sunlight.

She smiled in complete acquiescence. "Seven it is then."

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