And so I folded up my letter – the first written word I have ever received from my husband – and tucked it away in my journal. Still clad in my wedding clothes (for he had requested that I leave them on so he might be the one to take them off me), I slipped silently through the door joining my dressing room to that of the bedroom I was to share with my new husband. And there I stopped, taking in the sight before me.

Christopher stood in front of the fireplace, watching the low flames dancing brightly. It was hardly cool enough for a fire but it helped to make the room feel warm and safe. He had removed his uniform jacket and boots and stood leaning against the mantle with his left forearm, his right hand in his pocket. He looked completely relaxed and at peace. He was doing exactly as he said he would – waiting for me.

I walked as quietly as possible until I stood at his back. I then slid my arms around his waist and leaned against him, breathing in his scent. We had been granted far too little time for touching and I hoped tonight would change that.

He relaxed just a little more at my touch and I used the opportunity to not only hug him firmly, but to begin exploring him, learning his body. He was warm, probably from standing in front of the fire. His shirt was soft under my fingertips but concealed a firm abdomen and chest. I felt a sudden urge to pull his shirt from his breeches, to slide my hands over his warm skin and I blushed at my unexpected aggressiveness. I did not even know if it was appropriate for me to act like this. When my hands stopped moving my husband turned to look at me and seemed to realize my trouble.

He leaned down and kissed me gently before putting his hands in my hair and beginning to feel around and pull out hair pins. "Please," he said, "do anything you want my love. My body belongs to you. Explore it, touch it, taste it." When my blush grew deeper at the images his suggestions created in my head he leaned down and whispered in my ear, "I promise I will do the same for you."

His voice, so deep and smooth, created a burn in me; that same burn I had experienced in the past when he would kiss me, the one I do not understand. It was like I was on fire in places that were not meant to burn. It confused and excited me.

Christopher continued pulling pins from my hair, running his fingers through it, even burying his face in the heavy mass and breathing deeply, as though he were going to drink me in. His inattention to my hands gave me the boldness to do as he asked and I slipped my fingers under his shirt, lightly skimming them across his belly. I held my breath when I felt the muscles under my fingers tighten and then release. Emboldened, I slid my hands higher. My husband moaned under my fingertips.

I was startled when he stepped back from me and abruptly pulled his shirt over his head and tossed aside before returning to stand in front of me. He took my hands and pressed both of them against his chest and watched my face as I looked at him.

I do not think I have ever seen a man without his shirt on before. My husband is beautiful. I gently moved my hands up to his shoulders, feeling his nipples tighten under my palms as they passed over. My fingers stroked up his neck and across his chin, stopping to smooth his lips before beginning a downward journey again.

My eyes followed my hands, marveling at the sight in front of me. Christopher had a small amount of hair in the center of his chest which my fingers tangled in briefly before they moved lower, where they found another trail of hair which became thicker the lower it went. When my hands reached his waistband my eyes went back to his face.

His eyes were closed, his hands hanging at his side, clenched into fists, and his teeth were gritted tightly together. He almost looked as if he were in pain and I stilled, waiting to see if all were still well between us. Truth be told, I did not want to stop. I wanted to uncover every inch of his skin because I wanted to see my husband and to know him completely.

So I waited and he shortly opened his eyes and gazed at me with so much love I could barely breathe. "Why did you stop?" he asked, capturing my hands in his and bringing them up to kiss my palms. Each kiss sent a jolt through my body where it joined the fire, which seemed to be getting closer to the place where my legs meet.

"Because it looked like you were in pain. Was I hurting you?" I inquired, pressing one hand against his cheek and sucking in a breath when he turned his head to nuzzle his lips against it. What an amazing thing it was, I marveled, to be in love.

He chuckled low in a way that sent more heat to my inner fire. "No, my love, not pain. I am just trying to control myself around you. The closer we get, the stronger my urge to simply take what you are offering, and I am determined you will enjoy this evening as much as you can." He reached for the collar of my dress and began stroking my throat down to where my chest was rising and falling with every breath I took. "So don't fear – what you are doing is very pleasurable to me and I am delighted you are curious enough to explore me. It gives me great joy to suffer like this."

His head bent and he kissed my throat where his fingers had just been, then the upper slope of my chest, then each of the softly mounded curves of my breasts. Instinctively my hands came to the back of his head and pressed him where he was. I gasped when I felt his tongue brush along each curve and slip under the edge of my dress. I couldn't hold back a groan and I felt him smile against my skin in response.

When he raised his head his hands went to the back of my dress and began fumbling with the laces holding it closed. "But perhaps before you continue your exploration," he murmured, "I might be given permission to help you out of your dress?" I could only nod my head, electrified and yet nervous at the thought of removing my clothing before any man. But this was my husband, I reminded myself, and it is his right to see you, just as you have seen him.

I looked again at the smooth, naked skin in front of me before turning so he could easily see the laces he was determinedly working at. It was surreal, I thought, to have anyone but Elinor or Marianne helping me with my dress. "Why is it so complicated?" he asked, not even half way down the back of the dress yet. I couldn't help but laugh.

"Tradition states," I told him, "that the more valuable the item, the more well-wrapped it will be. Do you doubt the value of your gift because it is hard to get out of the wrappings?" I could feel him momentarily still behind me, then his head rested against the top of my spine and I could feel his breath wash down the back of my open dress. He kissed the exposed skin before murmuring "No" and continuing with the ribbon.

He finally reached the bottom when he turned me around and carefully pulled at my sleeves, dragging the dress off me. I stepped out of it and laid it across the back of a chair before straightening once more. His eyes roamed across my body, taking in all my remaining garments. Though I felt exposed without my dress I was still mostly concealed from his anxious gaze. He groaned a little, shook his head, and then reached out to begin working at my petticoats. His grin was mischievous when he looked at me. "Do not worry darling, I will get you out eventually." I giggled and helped him find all the ties and laces as we removed layer after layer until the corset came off and I was standing before him in only my shift, which was of the finest linen so thin you could see right through it.

He simply stared and I did not know what I should do. Uncertainly I asked, "Am I… I mean… are you… happy?" His eyes shot up to mine and the look in his eyes was like being caught in a storm. So much emotion raged there but I could see it was good emotion and then I was lost as he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around me and kissed me in a way he never had before.

His mouth was open and his tongue touched my lips and then slid past them to explore my own mouth. Our tongues met and fought and he nipped my lips and sucked them into his mouth. It was so passionate, so overwhelming I couldn't even think anymore. I clutched his shoulders when I felt him lift me and carry me over to the bed. He set me down as if I were priceless china, his lips never leaving mine.

I started when I felt his hand on my foot and he released my mouth to look at what he was touching. Both hands explored every inch of my right foot before moving up my ankle, my calf, my knee. He stopped and kissed the back of my knee before continuing his journey and I felt so feverish from his touch and kisses I was barely aware he was pushing the shift up, exposing me to his gaze.

It was when he stopped moving that I opened my eyes. He was staring at what he had uncovered and I suddenly felt self-conscious of my near-naked state. His eyes moved to my face and recognized my burgeoning panic. They warmed with compassion as he spoke.

"Don't be embarrassed," he said. "You are so beautiful. I could never have imagined you so perfect."

He continued lifting the shift and I moved to my side so he could reach the strings that tied it closed. In moments it was on the floor and his hands were on my naked skin, rolling me back so he could see me.

I was distracted from my discomfort at his gaze when I realized his eyes were glossy with unshed tears as he looked at me. And I wondered; could love bring a man to tears?

Then his hands were at my waist and sliding up my ribs and gently holding and stroking my breasts in a way that brought the fire in my belly back to life. And his mouth was on me, suckling like a child at my breast and I could only cup his head and thread my fingers through his hair and hold him there because nothing felt more right. I barely noticed when one hand slid back down my body until he boldly touched me between my legs. It was as if he'd touched a lit match to me and all the fire that had been slowly building rushed to that area, causing my hips to lift and arch, seeking to increase the pressure.

I felt embarrassed, unable to control my body's reaction to him but Christopher looked neither shocked nor offended. Instead he seemed rather pleased from his position at my chest, his eyes watching me as he continued to touch me in a way I never knew could be.

A moan rolled out of my throat when he slid a finger inside and I was confused at how wet it felt down there. Then the thought became irrelevant when he slid back in with two fingers this time and his thumb began to rub against that fiery place and I went rigid with feelings I've never had before. A scream escaped my lips as my hips arched off the bed and I flailed under his body, so caught up in sensation I couldn't even consider if it was meant to happen or not.

When the room stopped spinning I opened my eyes to find my husband hovering inches above me, with a delighted smile on his face. "I have never seen you so beautiful," he said, and in my bliss I didn't see any point in arguing with him. And yet, I had to know…

"Was that supposed to happen?" I asked, a little unsure of myself. Christopher nodded and asked, "Did you like it?" He suddenly seemed uncertain of himself and I was anxious to encourage him that I had indeed enjoyed whatever it was we had just done. I pulled him down for a kiss and then whispered in his ear, "I did. Can we do it again?"

He laughed and straightened up, gesturing at his breeches, which he was still wearing but which seemed considerably tighter than they were earlier. "Perhaps you can help me?" he asked with a mischievous look on his face. I rolled onto my knees, newly aware of my continued nakedness but with my husband gazing upon me like some kind of delicacy it was hard to be self-conscious. I reached for his buttons, feeling a little bewildered, having never removed a man's pants before. Fortunately it was self-explanatory and far simpler a process than unlacing my dress had been for him.

I slid off the bed and stood in front of him before pulling the garment apart and sliding my hands inside, pushing the fabric down his body much as he had removed my dress. I concentrated on my task to keep from noticing what I uncovered as I kneeled on the floor and helped him disentangle his feet. Once that was done I leaned back and took him in, now clad only in a pair of knee-length linen drawers. I reached for the string tying them shut, loosened the bow, and drew them off.

A man's body is surprisingly different from a woman's I thought as I pondered what was in front of me. It was a little startling and yet remarkably fascinating. From my position on the floor I looked up at Christopher who was watching me intently.

"May I touch it?" I asked. He had said I was to explore and I wanted to do a good job of it. His eyes darkened at my request and he nodded sharply before speaking.

"Perhaps we should get in the bed? We'll both be more comfortable," he said as he helped me to stand. I've never gotten into bed naked before, I mused, as he pulled back the bedding and helped me in before sliding in after me. The sheets were beautifully soft as I moved against them.

I lay on my side, watching him get settled against the pillows, and then he reached out his hand to draw me in. He kissed my palm again and murmured against it, "You may do anything you wish."

Hesitantly I reached for his chest, beginning with slightly familiar territory. I explored each rise and dip, slowly working my way down his body, his eyes watching my every move. I paused briefly before touching the part of him that made him so different from me and was startled to learn it was like silk-covered iron. I sat on my knees so I could see it better, my long hair falling around my face, blocking his view of what I was doing. I grasped it carefully and heard him gasp, his hand coming to pull my hair back and thread through it.

I whispered, "What do I do?" almost embarrassed to ask such a bold question but desiring to know what he might want of me, what would make him feel as he had made me feel.

He groaned at my words but I could tell it was in a good way. The hand not holding my hair back came down and wrapped around mine, tightening my grip and showing me how to move. When he released my hand I glanced at his face and felt proud to see the pleasure I was giving him written across it. Suddenly he stopped me with his hand and a hiss from his lips. I could feel his pulse pounding in my palm and wondered what it all meant.

"You do not know the power of your touch," Christopher said, gently removing my hand. "Come, lay with me for a moment and let me strengthen my resolve before we continue."

Moving up to lie against him, skin to skin, was a revelation in itself. I did not know skin could FEEL so intensely and I exulted in it as I slid against him, his arms wrapping around me as I came to rest against his side and kissed him softly. We lay thus for several moments, sharing soft kisses, which became stronger kisses, and I felt the excitement in my body rising again, as it had earlier. Christopher moved over me and I thought I might melt from the fire in his eyes.

His lips moved across my face and down to my ear where he licked and kissed my neck and my shoulder. I gripped his back and arched up into him, anxious for something but not knowing what it was. His words whispered in my ear surprised me.

"What comes next, my love, is not so easy for a woman as it is for a man. I fear I will hurt you, but it is only for a moment, I promise." He drew back and gazed in my face, as though to gauge my response. I nodded at him to continue. "Once the pain passes, it will be marvelous; I will ensure it. Are you ready?"

Again I nodded and he kissed me fiercely, stoking my fire again. I could barely think let alone be fearful, so overwhelmed was I in the feelings washing over me from his mouth and his hands and his body, touching me everywhere at once it seemed.

Then I felt him between my legs and suddenly realized how all this worked. I spread wider for him and he carefully began to join with me. I felt full and tight and he continued moving, in a little bit, then out a bit, sliding deeper each time. He gave one sharp thrust and I knew the pain he warned me of, like a knife cutting deep inside. I tried not to cry out but tears spilled from my eyes as I clenched my arms tighter around him, hoping to still his movements.

He did still, and held me close, whispering into my ear words of love and comfort and I relaxed as I listened to him tell me all the things he loved about me: my courage, my compassion, my intellect, my beauty. The pain passed quickly, as he had promised and soon he was moving again within me and it was marvelous. My body was incited to move against him and it increased the feelings, the pleasure.

Elinor was right – it was amazing to be held this close by someone who loves me as Christopher does.

Then he slid his hand between us and pressed on that fiery place on my body again. Everything came to a standstill for a moment and then I felt as if I were falling from a high place and melting into a sea of sensation. I clutched him tightly as I cried out my pleasure. In my arms I felt him stiffen, then shudder, calling my name as he collapsed against me.

We lay for many moments, gasping for air, slowly coming back to ourselves after such a wonderful shared experience. He slid to the side and gathered me against him before pulling the bedding up to cover us. I was contented to rest against his chest, listening to his heart thud against my cheek.

His hand entwined itself in my hair and he pressed me closer. I could feel him draw a breath before he spoke.

"Are you well, my wife?" His hand stilled in my hair until he heard my answer.

"I am very well, husband. I do not think I have ever been more well in my life." I kissed his chest softly. "I could never want for more than I have in this moment."

He let out a breath and his hand resumed its path through my hair. "I know that of which you speak, my love. There is nothing more wonderful in all the world."

Journal of Emmeline Brandon

5 September

I am so happy! I love my husband with all my heart and he loves me. I only wish Father could have had a chance to meet the man I have married. I know he would have approved.

THE END.