Marian knew if she hadn't moved closer to Harold when they shared kisses against the tree, she might have remained blissfully unaware of exactly how much her music professor desired her. But in her passionate haze, she had pressed against him, and when her lips captured his in a brazen kiss, Harold had instinctively responded and pulled her even closer. At that moment, it had become impossible for Marian to remain unaware of her fiancé's obvious arousal.
There had been a time when contemplating such a thing would have filled her with revulsion. That a gentleman would press himself against her in such a way was unthinkable. Even more unfathomable was the idea that she would find it enjoyable and would welcome or even encourage it.
But as she cast her thoughts back to what had occurred earlier that day between them, Marian realized she hadn't been filled with disgust. Quite the contrary, she had found the sensation thrilling, even, dare she admit it – pleasurable. A hot burst of embarrassment rushed through her, but she couldn't deny the truth of it. When Harold pulled her flush against him, she was somewhat aware of the faint hardness pressing against her even through the fabric of her skirt. But when he began to insistently move against her, his desire was clearly communicated, leaving her with no doubt about of intentions. Innocent though she might be, Marian was well-versed enough in literature and poetry to recognize the firmness pressing against her for what it was.
However, what had shocked Marian the most was her response to his brazen overtures. Never in her life had she imagined she'd be bold enough to mold her body to a man's and engage in… Marian felt her cheeks crimson as she recalled exactly what she and Harold had done. But as her initial embarrassment faded, the librarian realized that not only had she enjoyed the sensation of her fiancé moving against her and witnessing the extent of his desire for her, she wanted to experience it again. And soon. An image of lying supine beneath Harold as he slowly removed her clothing and trailed kisses down her bare skin flared in her mind, and Marian shivered with both delight and awe.
Apparently, the physical side of love could be just as compelling as the emotional side. It was a startling realization for the librarian. Her years of daydreaming of a white knight had never included such passionate an embrace as she and Harold had shared today. But with Harold, it seemed passion was to be a natural aspect of their love. This frightened Marian a little, but if she was to be honest with herself, it also intrigued her, and the librarian found herself suddenly impatient to experience every facet of a life intertwined with Harold Hill.
The sound of the grandfather clock echoed throughout the parlor as Marian quietly considered him for a long moment, and Harold almost said something when he witnessed the dull flush of embarrassment followed by an unexpected and somewhat off-putting display of surprise dance across his librarian's visage. But the music professor had promised himself he'd allow Marian to come to a decision by herself, and he'd be damned if he broke that promise. Not when it concerned their marriage. So, he sat back and waited, desperately hoping she'd agree. His heart thudded in hopeful expectation when the corners of her lovely mouth finally lifted in a faint smile.
"You do realize what you're asking?" Marian murmured, still a bit hesitant despite her promising expression.
Grinning foolishly, Harold nodded and leaned forward to capture her lips in a fervent kiss. When he pulled away, he gave her an impish smile. "It means I'll be able to do that whenever I want." He ducked closer and placed his lips against her throat and began nibbling again. "And this."
Tracing kisses along her neckline, he smiled against her skin when he heard her soft sighs. And when his lips inevitably found their way back to hers, he obliged her with a deep kiss that communicated the love and passion he felt for the woman who had rescued him from a life of solitude.
Several minutes passed before the heavy slam of the screen door jolted them from their embrace, alerting them that Mrs. Paroo had returned to the kitchen. They quickly moved apart, although Harold refused to allow Marian to retrieve her hand from his grip, tightening his fingers around hers when she tried to do so.
Marian's mother entered the room and sat in her chair to resume her knitting, a sly smile tugging at the corners of her mouth – no doubt fueled in part by their flushed complexions, Harold surmised.
Turning to Marian, he grinned and gave her hand a squeeze. "Do you want to tell her, my dear?"
When Mrs. Paroo looked up, intrigued, Marian's excitement burst forth in a radiant smile. "Mama, Harold and I have decided to move our wedding to next month."
"Darling, that's wonderful news!" Mrs. Paroo said just as joyfully, looking pleased, but somehow not surprised, at their announcement. Harold chuckled. Marian's mother was much shrewder than he often gave her credit for. He should have known the older woman would have expected this. Especially if Marian had shared details about what had happened earlier.
As the two women launched into fervent discussions about what would need to be done to accommodate their new date, Harold absentmindedly fiddled with Marian's ring, twisting it back and forth on her finger; and when he felt Marian's thumb gently trail across his palm in loving response, Harold suddenly realized that even a month was going to seem an eternity. But after all he and Marian had weathered, Harold knew he had it in him to patiently wait until the day arrived when they would finally be married, and he could freely love Marian without restraint.