For disclaimers, etc., see Part One.
** NC-17 WARNING **
Night had finally fallen when at last Anton and her new bride were escorted to their chambers for the evening. The chaplain led the ritualistic procession through the Manor, up to the newlyweds chambers where he witnessed the consummation of their joining by having them lay down, still clothed, in their marital bed while blessing them and praying that their union be fertile and prosperous. Of course, it was all in vain, but no one would ever know that.
Anton fairly jumped out of the bed once the chaplain and his small entourage left the chambers. She closed the heavy wooden door and breathed a deep sigh of relief. The most arduous part of the day was finished. She could at last relax, if only a little.
Hearing the rustling of covers behind her, she remembered that she wasnt alone. Not only that, she remembered that she still had one final duty to fulfill. She turned around and her eyes immediately found the startled ones of her new wife.
My wife... Im married, she thought incredulously. Perhaps, instead, the most arduous part was just beginning?
Gwynneth quickly dropped her eyes, and Antons heart plummeted to her stomach. What was she to do now? Just leap into bed and take the girl? She wasnt quite ready for that, and she was fairly certain that her wife wasnt either. Her new bride had no experience with bedding rituals, and Anton dreaded having to make all the decisions. Nevertheless, she pushed herself to say something.
"Shall I summon your maid to help you change into your night clothes, my Lady?" Anton said, her voice echoing softly off the chambers stone walls.
Gwynneth absorbed the sound of her husbands raspy, but surprisingly soft voice. Again, it was not what shed expected. She was slowly starting to think that Anton may not be a carbon copy of Aldred, as she had feared. Of course, the night wasnt over yet.
"Whatever you wish, my Lord." Gwynneth repeated, mindful of her duty to submit to her husbands every desire and command, whether it be directly given or not.
Anton merely nodded in return. She wanted to say that she didnt wish it at all, but she knew that this was what Gwynneth was supposed to say. The girl seemed to have been trained well, at least. Curiously though, Anton found that she didnt really care. The Lady was inexperienced and obviously scared, and Anton wanted to make sure that she was gentle with her, lest she frighten the girl and start their relationship off on the wrong foot.
After deeming that a reasonable amount of time had passed for her new wife to prepare for their first night together, Anton slowly made her way back to the chambers where Gwynneth was surely waiting for her with much dread. Anton had to admit that the feeling was mutual. It wasnt that her new wife was unattractive on the contrary, Gwynneth was positively lovely it was that being forced to join with someone tended to dampen any kind of natural sexual attraction one might feel. Anton couldnt imagine what Gwynneth was thinking. Not only had the young woman been practically sold off and betrothed to Aldred, but after his surprising death, she was then unceremoniously passed on to Anton, and the two of them were rushed into a hasty marriage purely to save the alliance between their fathers. Anton at least had some experience in the bedroom; she couldnt fathom what her young wife must be feeling at the moment.
In fact, Gwynneth was pacing back and forth in her chambers, worried sick about anything and everything. Would Anton be as gentle as his voice seemed to indicate? Or would he be like Aldred? Docile in appearance but cruel and hurtful in actuality? Although Antons looks were similar to Aldreds, their physical stature was very different. Where Aldred had been moderate in height and slender as a whippet, Anton was quite tall and seemed to be a bit more muscular. Gwynneth remembered the feeling when she touched his rough, callused hands. They were swordsmans hands... Anton was a warrior a revered knight. The young Lady didnt know if this would prove beneficial or detrimental for her.
Mostly what she worried about was what her new husband would be like with her, physically. How would he join himself with her? Would their sexual coupling be quick and abrupt? Or long and painfully drawn out? Would Anton be harsh, cruel and abusive with her, as Aldred had been? Would he laugh at her, curse at her, and call her hideous names? Would he hold her down and brutally thrust himself into her so that shed have to bite down on her lip to keep from crying out in pain? And what would he say if she did not cry out? What would her husband think when there was no blood or evidence of her deflowering? Would he realize that she was not a virgin? Would he sense that she had been despoiled by another by his own brother? Just as Gwynneths eyes began to fill with fretful tears, a soft knocking sounded at the door.
She jumped, knowing who it was... knowing that the time had come. Her stomach surged and she placed a hand over it, forcing herself to calm down. She swiped at her eyes quickly, "Come in," she called out, her voice cracking under the strain of the moment.
Anton opened the door, peering inside. The room was dark, save for a few candles that provided a scant bit of light, and a small fire which burned in the hearth on the far side of the room. Seeing her bride standing there in her sleeping robe looking wild-eyed and panic-stricken made Antons stomach lurch.
"My Lord," Gwynneth said quickly, her nervousness glaring.
"My Lady," Anton said, her voice calm and quiet as she gave a slight nod. "Are you ready?"
No! No! Gwynneth screamed inside her head. Instead she dropped her eyes and answered with a dutiful nod and a tremulous, "Yes, My Lord."
Anton approached the bed as her wife climbed in and settled herself down on the plush bedding. Having already ridded herself of her heavy wedding tunic, Anton wore only a silk blouse and her trousers. She sat down on the edge of the bed, stripping off her long leather boots and loosening the buttons of her pants. The leather phallus that shed equipped herself with felt uncomfortable within the confines of her tight pants, and she couldnt wait to get rid of it. First, however, she had to put it to use.
Oh God, she thought to herself.
Turning around and lying next to her wife, Anton propped herself on her side and observed Gwynneths position. The young woman lay on her back, her posture absolutely rigid, hands clenched tightly at her sides, wide eyes staring up at the ceiling. The fear that must be going through her had to be tremendous. Anton wished that she could ease it somehow, but doubted that she could. Perhaps the best thing was to just hurry up and get it over and done with. She let her eyes wander over her wifes supine figure before returning them to her face. The young woman looked strained and her features were taut. Her cheeks were slightly flushed and her lips were parted slightly as she breathed in an erratic rhythm.
Seeing the obvious tenseness, Anton reached out and touched the tips of her fingers to her wifes cheek and chin. Gwynneth flinched in surprise as Antons touch wandered along the delicate, supple skin. Looking up at the widened aqua eyes that now blinked rapidly, Anton whispered, "You are very beautiful, My Lady."
Gwynneth wasnt sure what to say; she hadnt expected Anton to touch her face or talk to her. Still, she managed to whisper in return, "T-Thank you, My Lord."
Scooting closer, Anton reached down to grasp Gwynneths long nightgown and slide it upward, exposing her lower body. Gwynneth immediately tensed, and she closed her eyes, cursing herself inwardly. She did not want her husband to think her a skittish, terrified colt, yet she could not show that she was accustomed to coupling either. It was a fine line she had to walk.
Anton placed a hand on her wifes exposed thigh, feeling the warm skin and the subtle trembling within the small body. She moved her hand around, stroking and admiring the soft, satiny feel of the young womans flesh. She was indeed lovely. Lovely, but still scared. Anton wracked her brain to think of a way to calm the blonde.
Finally, leaning in close again, Anton dipped her head and gently pressed her lips to Gwynneths. "I shall try not to hurt you," she whispered, surprising herself with the sincerity of the statement.
Gwynneth opened her eyes and stared at Anton, taken aback by the softly-spoken sentiment. "Thank you, My Lord." She said, not really knowing how else to respond.
Anton dipped again and kissed her wifes rosebud mouth slowly, tenderly, hoping to convey as much reassurance as she possibly could. When they broke, Anton saw that Gwynneths eyes had filled with tears before they quickly closed tight. She felt like an animal for doing this. Closing her own eyes, Anton told herself just to get it overwith, and quickly. Taking a deep breath, Anton slipped her fingers into the warm spot between her wifes legs, making Gwynneth jump and gasp aloud.
Cursing herself again, Gwynneth clenched her jaw tight and gripped at the bed clothes, willing herself to just lie still and say nothing. Realizing what was to come next, she began to tense with anxious, wretched memories. When Antons warm hand touched her knees and urged them apart, she held her breath. When fingers again slipped down in-between her thighs and slid through her womanhood, she inhaled sharply. And when one of the fingers first pressed against her opening and then slowly pushed inside, Gwynneth finally whimpered softly.
Anton immediately paused her motions and looked up at her wifes closed eyes and contorted face. "Are you alright?" she whispered, worried that shed hurt the girl already.
Gwynneths eyes opened and she locked onto her husbands piercing blue, "Y-Yes," she stammered, again surprised by his concern.
"Do you want me to stop?" Anton asked.
Gwynneth hesitated, "N-No, My Lord," she stuttered, shaking her head.
"Are you certain?"
Gwynneth faltered again. Is he really asking me this? She wondered incredulously. "...Yes." she said, taking a deep breath and fighting against the tears that now screamed for release behind her eyes.
The answer didnt sound very certain to Anton, but she knew that it didnt matter anyway; this was just another duty that they had to fulfill. Anton ran her eyes over Gwynneth again, noticing the rapid rising and falling of the girls chest and the throbbing pulsation of the artery in the crook of her neck. She was more than uncertain; the poor thing was terrified.
Deciding not to prolong the agony any further, Anton maneuvered herself in-between Gwynneths legs, nudging her thighs open with her knees. Reaching down into her trousers, she grasped the phallus and withdrew it, quickly guiding it to Gwynneths sex. Holding her breath, Anton pushed inside as gently as she could.
The younger woman released a soft sound that was a cross between a whimper and a grunt. Anton paused for a moment but then forged ahead, placing her hands on either side of her wifes shoulders as she moved her hips and pressed in further. Gwynneth was so completely distraught that she almost didnt feel the tight, burning sensation that filled her as Anton pushed deeper. She knew that she should relax and not fight it, but instead, her body tensed and constricted around the intrusion.
Anton could feel the tautness of Gwynneths small body as everything clenched tight. As she drew her hips back and pushed in again, the younger woman released another quiet, whimpering groan. Anton stopped her movements and shifted her eyes to look at her wifes face. Gwynneths cheeks were flushed bright red and her eyes were squeezed shut as she breathed in short, shallow bursts. When she sensed Antons face hovering above her, she opened her eyes, realizing, shamefully, that she was involuntarily fighting him.
"Am I hurting you?" Anton whispered, holding her face close to Gwynneths.
Gwynneth faltered again, unsure of what she should admit or say, exactly. "N-No," she whispered, averting her eyes and feeling her face flush further as tears continued to well and burn in her eyes.
"Do you want me to stop?" Anton again asked, unconvinced that her wife was not in pain. She had never caused a lover pain, and she certainly didnt want to start now.
"No... no, My Lord," Gwynneth said, knowing of course that she did want to stop, but also knowing that she could not. "...Im alright."
She looked up and again felt consumed by Antons intense eyes. They were watching her, looking for any signs that she wasnt telling the truth. Gwynneth felt herself pale under the scrutiny, and a shiver ran through her body. She knew they had to do this, so she willed her body to relax. Keeping her gaze locked with her husbands, Gwynneth felt as though a strange communication passed between the two of them as Anton again began moving slowly in and out of her.
Feeling her wife relax a bit beneath her, Anton leaned her head down and kissed Gwynneth again, softly, sensually, hoping to calm the younger woman and reassure her in whatever way possible.
The young bride closed her eyes and tried not to think about what Anton was doing to her, but the soft kisses that he was bestowing on her lips made it nearly impossible. A strange warmth flowed through her body and her heart began to pound erratically as Antons tongue swept across her lower lip. She found herself fiercely clutching the bed clothes to keep from making any noise.
Anton began to increase her thrusts, making them longer and deeper as her body began to heat up and become stimulated. A deep, pulsing sensation began to consume her lower regions as the harnessed end of the phallus rubbed against her repeatedly, and her eyes soon slid shut. Her breathing became more labored, and she could feel a sheen of sweat dampening the back of her shirt.
Gwynneth felt the fiery heat radiating from her husbands body as he moved above her. When his warm lips began gently kissing and suckling under her chin and along the length of her neck, her eyes flew open and she wondered what in the world he was doing. Before she could worry too much, however, Anton groaned and his body went completely rigid. It only lasted for a moment before Gwynneth felt him relax and withdraw himself from her depths.
Releasing a deep breath, Anton let her forehead fall down to rest on the pillow beside Gwynneths head while she continued to suspend her body weight by resting on her elbows.
It was over. She was done. Thank God, Anton thought with relief.
After a few moments of heavy breathing, Anton finally pushed herself up and away from her wife, breaking their contact and ending the encounter that was a strange mixture of torture and pleasure.
Gwynneths sex pulsed in an odd way, and she could feel her muscles throbbing and convulsing. Her heart thudded so loudly, she was sure Anton would hear it. The reverberations sounded in her ears and her head suddenly swam in blackness.
Without saying a word, Anton scooted herself over to sit on the edge of the bed, her secret carefully hidden from the younger woman. For a moment, she wasnt sure what she should do. She looked back over her shoulder, venturing a brief glance at her wife. Gwynneth had pulled the covers up over herself and lay there clutching them tightly, her eyes closed again.
"Are you alright, My Lady?" Anton asked as she re-buttoned her pants.
Gwynneth opened her eyes and shifted them to her husbands, "Yes, My Lord." She whispered in a strained voice before dropping her gaze self-consciously.
Anton paused and drew a deep breath. She wanted to say something else, but had no idea what. "I shall return to my own chambers for the night." She finally said as she stood up. Gwynneth didnt answer, but she was quite relieved.
Anton turned and looked down at the small figure lying motionless on the bed, "Goodnight, wife," she whispered, bending down to place a gentle kiss on Gwynneths lips before turning away.
"Goodnight, husband." Gwynneth replied shakily. The emotions that had been building inside her suddenly flared to life, and Gwynneth felt tears instantly spring to her eyes. As soon as Anton left the room, the dam burst and the tears spilled out, flooding rapidly down her fair cheeks.
The newlywed Lady lay awake for hours, reliving what she'd just shared with her new husband and comparing them to the horrors of Aldred. She was overwhelmed by all kinds of thoughts, emotions and worries. Even though she knew Anton had to do what he did, and she really could not blame him, she still felt violated. Violated and used. She wondered if her husband had enjoyed himself at all, or was he as relieved about completing the dreaded task as she was?
Gwynneth wished that they did not have to have intercourse at all. Why couldnt they just marry and be friends with one another? Why did it all have to boil down to emotionless sex strictly for reproductive purposes? It seemed so barbaric. But then again, that was supposedly all men wanted... what did they care about emotions and love? They only wanted an heir; having any kind of feelings for their spouses did not matter. Gwynneth could only hope and pray that she became pregnant soon, for then she wouldnt have to put up with continually satisfying her husband in such carnal ways.
As she thought those words, an image of Antons piercing light blue gaze popped into her mind. The way he looked at her gave her gooseflesh. It wasnt a sinister or evil look, and it wasnt frightening either; it was just... disquieting. It was as though those eyes could see right into her soul, their eerie luminescence unsettling yet soothing somehow. As she thought about Anton, she invariably began to think about Aldred. She shuddered and closed her eyes, trying to stop the memories of the sadistic former Lord from invading her mind. Instead she tried to focus on Anton. She thought about the way he smelled clean and pleasant, with a subtle scent of perfumed soap, as compared to Aldreds stale perspiration and sour wine. She then thought about the way Antons body felt as it laid atop hers warm and somehow protective, rather than harsh and threatening. And his lips, as they touched hers soft and gently coaxing instead of rough and bruising. She rolled onto her back and stared up into the darkness of the room.
Anton was so different from what shed anticipated, but more than that, he was different from any man shed ever met. Gerrod had told her that Anton wasnt talkative, yet he repeatedly inquired about her well-being during their coupling. How unusual for a man to be so careful and considerate; it was unheard of... she would have never expected such a thing. All shed ever heard was that husbands cared little for their wives and released all their abusive frustrations on them. Indeed, the rumors surrounding her own mothers death pointed to her father and his foul temper as the cause.
But Anton didnt seem to be like that. Not only was he not harsh nor violent with her, but he touched her and kissed her repeatedly. She wasnt so surprised that he kissed her, actually, but she was surprised at how tenderly he went about it. His lips and face were so soft. Even though he lacked facial hair, she still expected that at least the area around his mouth and chin would be somewhat rough. Aldred had no facial hair either, but she remembered how his rough chin had scratched against her sensitive skin. She shuddered again, wondering if and when those horrific memories would ever leave her.
She thought that perhaps, once she was with Anton a few more times, the memory of Aldred would hopefully fade away. Not that she was eager to couple with Anton again, but it was infinitely better than coupling with Aldred had been. She found herself realizing that, while she did not look forward to serving her husband again, she did not hatefully detest the idea as much as she had earlier. Tonights experience with him had not been pleasant, but it wasnt dreadfully unpleasant either. It simply left her with a strange feeling. A feeling of what, exactly, she didnt know. She only knew that she was not afraid of him, as she had anticipated.
Perhaps her life would not be entirely wretched at the hands of Lord Anton of Weldon.
Anton couldnt sleep, so she ventured up to her favorite stone tower to take in some fresh air and clear her muddled mind.
All she could think about as she laid in bed tossing and turning was Gwynneth... her wife. The way she looked, smelled, felt, tasted... the pleasant memories both surprised and confused her. She had begun thinking that she might actually be smitten with the girl. It was ridiculous; theyd just met... shed been with her only once. Anton had not expected to be able to perform at all tonight. She feared that the girl would not excite her, and she would have to feign pleasure in order to complete the task that both of them were expected to carry out. But instead, she found herself captivated by the young womans delicate beauty and overwhelmed by the effect it had on her.
Anton had never been with a woman like Gwynneth before. Shed never lain with someone so innocent and inexperienced, and the only time shed been with a very young woman was when she herself had been young as well. Anton was troubled by the thought that shed been the one to spoil Gwynneths precious innocence, even though it was required.
The soft noises of discomfort that Gwynneth had made worried Anton at first, and she feared that it was all too much for the girl. But when those blue-green depths looked into her, there was something in them that told Anton that the young blonde understood that they had to do what they were doing. She saw no blame in her eyes, but she saw no sign of arousal either... not that Anton expected that. Wives were forbidden from showing any kind of lust or passion, and although shed heard that sometimes harmonious, loving relationships did occur between spouses, Anton certainly didnt expect to find herself in a situation such as that. She would consider herself fortunate if she and Gwynneth could simply be civil with one another.
So, Anton wondered, did Gwynneth hate her now? Would she detest her and avoid her whenever possible? Anton remembered the rumors that her staff had passed on to her earlier, when Aldred had still been alive. They had told Anton that it was obvious that Lady Gwynneth loathed her brother. Several servants reported seeing Aldred speaking sharply to the young woman, and others said that Gwynneth often glared at him with poisonous eyes. Anton had told her father that she thought it a bad idea to allow Aldred to be anywhere near the Lady before they were wed. She was surprised that the young woman hadnt fled Weldon Manor altogether. Still, she was left wondering if the Lady abhorred her entire family, or just Aldred.
As Anton looked out at the blackened night sky, she contemplated her future with Gwynneth. She was a fairly good judge of overall character, and after this evening, she had the impression that Gwynneth was an obedient, pleasant girl who would do as she asked and not give her any problems. However, that was only an impression; she really knew nothing about her young wife.
Tilting her head back, Anton stared up at the bright stars overhead, wondering how she and Gwynneth would interact with one another. Most of all, she wondered what the morrow would bring.
Anton arose early in the morning. Truth be known, she had wished she could sneak a bit of breakfast and then disappear for awhile before having to face anyone... but that wouldnt be possible. She had to first give Gwynneth her morning gift a thank you offering for the gift of her innocence that would fully seal their union before sitting down with her family and eating breakfast together. Anton thought the whole idea was ridiculous. To her, it was insulting to offer a woman a present for allowing someone to defile her. But then again, it was a custom, and Anton was learning that customs were always upheld, no matter how absurd.
Anton hadnt revealed her gift to her father or mother, having come to a decision only this morning. Shed come to the conclusion that she owned just one thing that could adequately support Gwynneth should she pass away before the younger woman. Realizing that she would have to live exclusively at Weldon one day soon, Anton finally decided, after lying awake most of the night, that it would make the most sense to bequeath her tiny, but beloved kingdom of Wextony. If she were to die unexpectedly, Anton had no heirs nor family to pass Wextony on to, and she wanted it to be taken over by someone who would care for it as she had. She surprised herself by already feeling a need to protect Gwynneth, and she thought that the young Lady somehow deserved the security that Wextony would provide. She felt a responsibility for her wife; whether or not it was just her husbandly sense of duty kicking in or something else, she didnt know. She only knew that, despite her misgivings about the marriage, something about Gwynneth called out to her, and she wanted to take care of the young woman. Anton just hoped that her wife appreciated and understood what the gift meant.
The doors to the grand hall suddenly opened and the Marquess and Marchioness entered, immediately pulling Anton out of her thoughts.
"Anton," Lord Edgar greeted cheerfully.
"Father... Mother," Anton said as she rose to greet her parents and kiss her mothers cheek.
"How are you this fine morning?" Edgar asked. "And did you have a pleasant evening?" He said, lowering his voice and giving Anton an expectant look.
Anton blushed immediately. "Yes, Father, it was fine." She said, darting her eyes away.
"Yes?" Edgar continued, "Did everything work out to your... satisfaction then?"
"Yes, Father. Everything was and is fine." Anton replied somewhat tersely, closing her eyes and wishing her father would cease his line of personal questioning.
"Very good then. You have your gift for the Lady Gwynneth then, yes?"
"Very good," Edgar said, patting Anton on the shoulder.
Just then, Earl Leopold and his son entered the grand hall and everyone began making conversation. Edgar soon called out to his servant, ordering him to go and fetch the Lady Gwynneth and to retrieve the court clerk as well. As the servant skittered off, Edgar looked at Anton and smiled, pleased that all was going well. Anton wished that she could return his happy sentiment.
Gwynneth had arisen feeling as though she hadnt slept at all. In reality, shed slept only a few hours, having much trouble falling unconscious after her stressful wedding day and even more stressful nighttime activities. Her ladies maid came and helped her dress, outfitting her in a blue gown that accented her eyes beautifully. The older woman pinned her Ladys hair up behind her head and dabbed on a bit of makeup to help conceal the dark circles under her eyes. Looking into the mirror, Gwynneth felt every bit the grown up, married woman that she now was.
Heeding the call to appear in the grand hall at once, Gwynneth nervously entered the room to find the Marquess and Marchioness seated in two formal, high-backed chairs, and her father and brother sitting off to the side. Her husband was standing in one of the far corners and turned around to look at her as soon as her entrance was announced. His presence gave her chills, though not unpleasant ones.
"Good morning to you, Lady Gwynneth," Edgar called out.
"Good morning, My Lord," Gwynneth bowed slightly to the Marquess and then the Marchioness, "My Lady."
As Gwynneth turned to greet her father and brother, Edgar caught Antons eye and gave her an expectant look, nodding toward Gwynneth. He hoped that Anton didnt intend on ignoring the girl now that the wedding was overwith. He supposed it was understandable that Anton would be apprehensive about being married, but still, she needed to play the role of husband and play it properly.
Acknowledging her fathers silent instruction, Anton pushed aside her ambivalence and approached her wife slowly. When she reached Gwynneths side, the young blonde turned to bow to her slightly.
"Good morning, My Lord," Gwynneth said softly, her cheeks blushing a light pink as memories of last nights intimate coupling flashed through her mind.
"Good morning, Wife," Anton replied, reaching out to take Gwynneths hand and placing a soft kiss on her knuckles. Gwynneth immediately blushed harder and Anton felt pleased with herself.
Edgar instructed everyone to come to attention, then called for the court clerk to officiate over the reading of the morning gift. As the clerk began to drone, Gwynneth held her gaze down to the floor. Soon, however, it began to wander over to where her husband stood across from her. She lifted her eyes and immediately found them locked with pale blue. Anton pursed his lips in a tiny smile, and Gwynneth dropped her gaze instantly, embarrassed to have been caught.
As her senses returned to her, Gwynneth heard the clerks words and was suddenly struck dumb. He couldnt possibly be saying what she thought he was saying. She looked up at the clerk with a frown, unable to believe her ears. Anton, it seemed, was gifting the fiefdom of Wextony to his new bride; one-third ownership now, and full ownership should Anton pass away. Gwynneth was shocked, but the only reaction she gave away was to part her mouth slightly and blink her eyes repeatedly. She could hardly believe it. Wextony was Antons home... it was his own fiefdom. Though small, it had a fortified manor house and servants and a hearty population of farmers and craftsmen and workers. It even had its own collection of vassals and knights swore to fealty. This was more than just a small gift of thanks to Gwynneth; this was an assurance of security and support for a future that was often woefully rocky and uncertain.
Gwynneth had expected jewelry, perhaps money, even furniture, but not an entire fiefdom, no matter how little. The morning gift was meant to reflect the support and means of income a husband wished to bequeath to his wife. In reality, everyone knew that it also reflected what the husband thought of his wife the morning after hed had a chance to sample her. An unremarkable gift would mean an unremarkable woman. Gwynneth, therefore, never fathomed that Anton would think enough of her to bequeath her his own personal kingdom. Her father would be thrilled; it seemed that his political wrangling was paying off splendidly.
When she peeked a look at the Earl, he was grinning ear to ear. Gwynneth closed her eyes and let her face fall down toward the floor again. She couldnt help but wonder if some of the gifts lavishness was due to the untimely death of Aldred and the fact that the alliance had nearly been destroyed because of it. Was it given out of a sense of guilt or the need to make amends? She also wondered whose idea it was to give Wextony as a gift; The Marquess, or Antons? Was Anton a puppet who performed his fathers every wish? Or was her husband as strong with his will as he was with his warrior ways? She really had no way of knowing.
Breakfast was a loud, lavish affair, and Gwynneth was awed by the sumptuous foods, fine utensils and beautiful glassware that Weldon Manor possessed. Edgar chatted endlessly with Earl Leopold, Gerrod, and Anton while the Marchioness spoke with Gwynneth about womens things. Conversations ranged from reports of raids and rebellious internal strife at other fiefdoms to the planning of the meals and events for the coming week.
All through the chatting, Anton repeatedly stole little glances at her wife. The young woman was exquisite with her spun strands of gold pinned up on her head and her beautiful dress of shimmering blue. She still looked overwhelmed and unsure of herself, but Anton found her positively radiant and lovely, nonetheless.
Gwynneth was dimly aware of eyes watching her while the Lady Marina engaged her in polite conversation. She knew that it was her husband, but she wasnt sure if it bothered her, or excited her. She dared to dart her gaze over toward him a few times, but each time he seemed to be looking away. Gazing at his boyishly handsome face, Gwynneth observed that he wore his hair pulled back into a short ponytail today, making his facial features even more pronounced and striking. She wondered what he was thinking. She wondered what he would do with himself the rest of the day. She wondered when he would require them to be together again. No one had told her how to behave once the marriage was over, so she had to assume that Anton would tell her what to do, and when to do it. Glancing back over toward the Marchioness, Gwynneth wondered if her husbands mother would be someone she could speak with about such things, if she needed to. She needed some kind of mother-figure to confide in besides Alice, especially since her own mother had died years ago. Until then, she supposed she would just have to learn things along the way.
As the breakfast meal began to break up, Earl Leopold and Gerrod announced that they would be departing shortly. A small shiver of dread raced down Gwynneths spine at the news. Having her father and brother depart meant that shed be totally alone at Weldon with only a few servants to remind her of home. She would be completely dependent on the stranger who was now her husband.
It was still morning when Earl Leopold and Gerrod left for their home in Clarendon. Gwynneth fought back tears as she bade them farewell, and Anton watched with regret. She hated that her wife seemed to be unhappy, but she didnt know what to do about it.
The Marchioness was leading her daughter-in-law away for a tour of the manors kitchen when she turned back to Anton, who was intent on sneaking outside to get away for awhile.
"Anton," The Lady Marina called out, stopping Antons escape.
"How long will you be staying at Weldon? A few weeks, perhaps?"
"Im afraid only for a few days longer." Anton said.
"A few days! Why only a few days?" Marina protested.
"I need to return to Wextony, Mother."
"But you are needed here! Your father needs you!"
"I am needed at Wextony as well. I have matters that must be attended to; I cannot stay away any longer." Anton insisted firmly, her brows furrowing in slight anger. She wasnt happy that her Mother would argue about this in front of Gwynneth.
Lady Marina read the firm tone in her daughters voice. She wouldnt push the issue in front of the young Lady Gwynneth, but she would speak to Anton later, in private. "Very well. Leave if you must, but your father will be expecting you to return shortly. You must start fulfilling your role as heir to Weldon." The older woman chastised.
Antons face darkened, "Yes, Mother... I know full well about the roles I must fulfill." Her voice was low and bitter, and the message she spat was clear. The two Weldon women stared at each other for a moment as the room became full of tension. Gwynneth was keenly aware that unspoken words of anger were being exchanged between her husband and the Marchioness and it made her dreadfully uncomfortable. She was shocked that Lady Marina would even dare to speak to Anton in such a way, and her eyes darted nervously back and forth between the two of them as silence reigned.
Having had enough of her mothers verbal assault, Anton broke the stare. "Im going hunting," she announced. "I shant return until nightfall."
Lady Marina clenched her jaw tight, wanting to give her impetuous daughter a piece of her mind, but knowing that she shouldnt do such a thing in Gwynneths presence. Anton was being rude, and she intended to let her daughter know it sooner or later.
Seeing that her mothers only response was to glare at her, Anton turned on her heel and abruptly walked out. She didnt really feel like hunting, but it was as good an excuse as any to get out of the manor for awhile.
As she watched the disappearing figure of her daughter, Lady Marina sighed aloud. Turning to look at her daughter-in-laws perplexed face, she smiled, "Gwynneth, my dear, let us go outside in the gardens. I believe you and I have some things to discuss."
It had been four days since her father and brother left, and four days since shed spoken to her husband. Gwynneth interacted with her mother- and father-in-law every day, taking all her meals with them while Anton remained curiously absent.
Lady Marina had tried to enlighten Gwynneth as much as she could. They had taken several pleasant walks around the manor grounds as the Marchioness casually offered tidbits and advice about Anton and his disposition. Lady Marina told her that, although Anton had a tendency to be moody and aloof, he really was a kind, considerate soul underneath it all. Gwynneth wanted to believe her, of course, but she didnt see how a warrior a slayer of men on the battlefield could be kindly. The Marchioness also gave her subtle suggestions as to how she could best serve Anton, and she outlined both Gwynneths and Antons expected responsibilities now that he was the heir to Weldon.
Despite her lingering feeling of bewilderment, Gwynneth was grateful for her mother-in-laws informative words. It was obvious to her that Lady Marina, though obediently subservient to her husband, was a learned woman who knew a thing or two about running a kingdom. Gwynneth felt like the older woman provided at least a little insight and background about her husband, and it helped her feel a bit more comfortable about what her role was to be. Still, the fact that Anton stayed away from her continued to make her anxious and insecure. She caught only fleeting glimpses of him here and there as he came and went, hunting, or riding, or whatever it was he did when he disappeared day after day. They exchanged nods and very small, polite smiles, but that was it. Gwynneth thought that she longed for her husbands presence and attention, but she couldnt be sure. She only knew that she didnt understand the feelings she was experiencing.
As each night passed without a visit from her husband, Gwynneth wondered how long Anton would stay away, and why? Was he bored with her already, after only a week of marriage? Was she so displeasing that he simply couldnt bear to be with her again? Or did he have another mistress on the side whose company he preferred? Anton had been very civil toward her, and Gwynneth thought that things had gone reasonably well between them the night of their wedding and the morning after, but perhaps she was wrong?
She confided in her ladies maid one evening, spilling her concerns and woes to the older woman when she could no longer stand it.
"I dont think ye should worry, Milady," Alice said in her pleasant lilt. "Everyone knows tisnt a pleasant ordeal for a woman; perhaps ye should even be thankful that ye dont have to submit to his urges every night."
Had it been unpleasant? The young Lady had to think for a moment. "Its not the... unpleasantness that worries me, Alice," Gwynneth began, "its the fact that he seems to intentionally stay away from me. If he avoids me during the day, he shall never come to me at night."
"Tisnt yer fault, Milady," Alice said, "Tisnt unusual for a husband and wife to come together only once or twice per fortnight. If its more than that, the wife should be happy to know that she pleased her husband enough to garner his repeated attentions." The maid explained with a small smile. "And if the husband wants to sleep in the same bed with her all night, why, the wife should consider herself held in very high esteem indeed."
The small blonde considered the older womans words. "But what if he doesnt come to me again within a fortnight... what does that mean then?" Gwynneth fretted.
Alice pursed her lips, contemplating her words carefully before she spoke. Her young mistress was vulnerable and confused, and she didnt want to hurt her in any way. "I think, Milady, that Milord is... preoccupied, with other matters," she began. "I believe that ye havent done anything wrong; I believe he is just overwhelmed at the moment and has many things on his mind. Perhaps once ye both return to Wextony and he is surrounded by his home comforts, hell come to ye again."
Gwynneth sighed, seemingly satisfied with her maids answer. "I suppose youre right, Alice, although I dont quite understand it. If the point of taking a wife is to produce an heir, I dont see how Im going to do that all by myself." The young Lady sniffed.
Alice hid her smile. She wondered if perhaps her Lady found that coupling with her handsome young husband was more of a pleasant venture than she cared to admit.
Gwynneth was sitting up in her bed, reading and writing by candlelight, when a knock sounded at her door. Her heart immediately leapt into her throat and she hesitantly called out for the person to enter. As Anton entered her chambers, her heart began to pound mercilessly. Her husband was dressed in a black shirt and black pants and his hair was damp and loose. Gwynneth swallowed against the lump in her throat.
"Good evening My Lady," Anton said quietly, smiling at the younger woman.
"And to you, My Lord," Gwynneth responded, her voice tinged with nervousness.
Anton stared at her wife for a moment, absorbing her soft, serene beauty and telling herself that she had been a fool to stay away for so long.
The truth was, she wanted to be with Gwynneth, but not for purely carnal reasons; she was genuinely drawn to her. She would catch glimpses of the blonde here and there, each time feeling a sense of longing grip her heart, as well as an urge of lust tighten her loins. She wanted to go to the young woman; she wanted to seduce her and take her, every night if she could. Not only was it surprising that she harbored such lustful intent and thoughts about someone shed just met, it was almost unheard of to feel that way. Anton knew that wanting someone in such an intensely sexual way was frowned upon, and indeed, the church forbid couples from having relations purely for the sake of desire. And besides all of that, she still felt ashamed to be duping the poor girl about her true identity.
So Anton had convinced herself that she should stay away. After receiving a chastising from both her mother and father, however, she was reminded that it would hurt Weldons relationship with the House of Clarendon if Gwynneth was to send word to her father that she was neglected and unhappy. Although Anton argued that Gwynneth would not do such a thing, Edgar nevertheless insisted that she spend more time with the young woman and take better care of her. So here she was, attempting to be better and join with Gwynneth again without making a fool of herself.
"I plan to leave for Wextony tomorrow," Anton said suddenly, wishing to avoid the issue of coupling for a moment. "You may go with me, or, if you prefer, you may stay here and await my eventual return."
Gwynneth looked at Anton for a moment. This was the most hed ever said to her at one time, and she wanted to make sure she gave the correct answer. "I-I will do as you wish, My Lord." She said with some hesitation.
Anton pursed her lips and withheld a sigh. Shed been afraid that Gwynneth would say this. She didnt really want to take the young woman with her to Wextony, but she knew that she couldnt very well leave her here either; her parents would be furious. As much as she was attracted to the young woman, Anton still felt uneasy being around her and carrying on with the farce that was their marriage. The thought of the two of them being all alone at Wextony quite frankly, filled her with dread. She knew that her mother, and even her father, had been coaching Gwynneth about her duties and expected roles, and she wasnt overly eager to break away from the diversion that her parents had been providing for her. Still, she had to return home.
"Well then, you should have your attendants pack your things at the first light of the morrow so that we may leave on time." Anton quipped, perhaps a little too sharply, as she returned her attention to her wife.
"Yes, of course, My Lord," Gwynneth said, bowing her head slightly. Anton seemed upset, and she feared shed said the wrong thing, though she couldnt imagine why.
Seeing her wifes bowed head, Anton felt bad for being cross. Gwynneth was her wife; she was supposed to spend time with her. The young woman had done nothing wrong, and Anton suddenly felt disgusted with herself for treating her as though she had. She needed to correct that.
Anton approached Gwynneths bed and reached out for the book that the younger woman held in her hands. "What are you reading?" She asked, watching as her wifes blue-green depths slowly lifted to look up at her.
Gwynneths eyes met her husbands vivid blue, and she faltered at the intense look she found there. "It-Its... my journal." She answered meekly.
"A journal?" Anton said, quirking a brow upward. "You write in it?"
Again Gwynneth hesitated, "Yes, My Lord."
Anton wiggled the book a little, "Whatever do you write about?" she asked, smirking slightly as she regarded the blonde.
Gwynneth was so taken aback by the question that she couldnt answer. Her mouth opened, but nothing came out.
"Do you write about me, dear wife?" Anton teased.
But Gwynneth didnt realize her husband was teasing. The tone of Antons voice suddenly reminded her of Aldred, and she nearly froze in fear, thinking that, at last, Anton was going to turn cruel and torment her as Aldred did.
Seeing the look of fear on her wifes face, Anton again felt bad for frightening the poor girl. She seemed to be doing everything wrong and nothing right. She reached out and touched Gwynneths arm, noticing the way the young woman flinched beneath her fingers.
"I ask you this only in jest, My Lady," Anton said in a low, hushed voice. Gwynneth looked at her, her expression still fearful. "Your journal is personal, and for your eyes only; I respect that." Anton added sincerely.
Gwynneth managed a nod and swallowed nervously, "T-Thank you, My Lord," she said, still regarding her husband warily. She wasnt sure what to make of the exchange; had her husband been teasing her?
Anton mentally kicked herself. She knew that Gwynneth was already feeling unsure and overwhelmed; now she seemed to be terrified. She sat down on the edge of the bed, very close to the blonde. As Gwynneth looked up at her again, their eyes locked and Anton sensed a spark of the connection theyd shared once before.
She reached out and grasped a small hand, "Do not be fearful, Wife," Anton whispered. "I shant harm you... I swear it."
Gwynneths eyes were blurred with tears when she felt the pressure of her husbands lips upon hers. Anton kissed her gently at first, then deeper and more passionately as he buried his fingers in her long hair and pulled her into an embrace before slowly laying her down onto the bed.
As Anton quickly discarded her boots, Gwynneths heart began to race in fearful anticipation of what they were going to do. She began to chant inside her head, trying to ease her panic and calm her racing nerves, this is Anton... this isnt Aldred... this is Anton. When her husband returned to her side, she felt his hands slide underneath her nightgown and trail gently up her legs, making her inhale sharply.
"Shh," Anton soothed, "Its all right... I shant hurt you," she repeated softly as she lifted Gwynneths gown up to her stomach, exposing the lower half of her body to the cool night air. Shifting herself for better access, Anton continued to run her fingers all over the warm, inviting flesh of her wifes stomach, hips, and thighs.
Gwynneths heart hammered madly inside her chest. The butterfly caresses that her husband was bestowing on her threw her into a tailspin. Panic mingled with arousal, and she couldnt get a grip on the overpowering sensations that flowed through her sensitized body.
Seeing the rapid rising and falling of her wifes chest, Anton stilled her movements for a moment and looked down at the younger womans flushed face. So vulnerable... so lovely, she thought.
She dipped her head and kissed Gwynneth deeply. "You are truly beautiful, My Lady," Anton rasped against her wifes parted lips.
Gwynneth could scarcely believe her ears. She was stunned but managed to whisper back, "Thank you, My Lord."
Anton kissed Gwynneth again and trailed her fingers down to carefully delve into her wifes sex. Finding a slight wetness, she was pleased that the blonde was at least somewhat aroused. Looking into oceanic eyes, Anton smiled and kissed Gwynneth deeply again, wishing to reassure her and silently convey how much she wanted her.
Gwynneth obediently went along with the kissing, not knowing exactly how to respond, but feeling encouraged that Anton was smiling at her. She was very aware of a sudden need she had to touch her husband. It was a distinct urge that begged her to wrap her arms around him and feel his gentle strength as he hovered over her. Gwynneth had the feeling that instead of using his size and strength against her, as Aldred did, Anton would use it to protect her. She was beginning to think that, rather than feel afraid of her husbands quiet power and dominance, she should welcome it. It was a strangely reassuring sensation, and Gwynneth felt her panic level drop ever so slightly.
Unable to wait any longer, Anton persuaded her wifes thighs apart and situated herself between them. Reaching down to untie her pants, she quickly withdrew her leather phallus and brought it to Gwynneths wetness. Looking into jade eyes, Anton pushed inside slowly.
Gwynneth bit her bottom lip, fighting to prevent the escape of a groan as Anton entered her. The tight, full sensation took her breath away until Anton stopped for a moment and came to rest on top of her. Leaning down to place soft kisses on her lips, he slowly began moving his hips back and forth, pulling himself out then pushing back in again. Realizing that there was no discomfort this time, Gwynneth was able to change her focus and concentrate on the strange feelings her husband was arousing in her.
Anton pumped her hips carefully, wanting the small blonde to get used to the feeling. She had forgotten how wonderful it felt to be connected to her beautiful wife like this. It was incredible. She could feel, hear, and smell everything, and her own sex began to pulse with desire as it received stimulation from the thrusting motions. Aroused but needing to feel more, Anton reached down and urged Gwynneths thighs further apart, opening her up so she could get as close to the younger woman as possible.
Feeling her husband sink deeper into her finally made Gwynneth gasp aloud. She gripped the bed coverings and squeezed her eyes shut as Anton released a soft moan and pushed his hips firmly against her. He was fully inside her, she realized in amazement. Her heart pounded erratically as her body began throbbing like never before. She felt flushed as the warmth of her husbands body melded with her own and her heavy nightgown suddenly felt suffocating. Her sex throbbed and her body pulsed and seemed to cry out for something, but she didnt know what. She only knew that she wanted desperately to grab ahold of Anton and pull him against her. She wanted him to shield her and protect her and keep her safe from everyone and everything. Tears began to sting her eyes and Gwynneth scolded herself internally for thinking such thoughts.
Anton placed her hands on either side of Gwynneths shoulders and began thrusting in short, swift strokes, each one bringing her closer to the edge. A fire started deep in the pit of her belly, and soon it swelled and burst into flames, engulfing her as she gritted her teeth and released a strangled groan of relief.
Her body collapsed downward, but Anton tried not to lay her full weight upon her wife. Instead she dropped to her forearms and nestled her face alongside Gwynneths head. The smell of jasmine and flowers filled her senses as she listened to the young womans labored breathing. Gwynneths heart still pounded harshly, and Anton could feel it thumping against her.
Gwynneth lay very still as her husband remained above her, resting himself as he panted warm and heavy against her neck. Again she felt the urge to wrap her arms around him, but again she made her hands remain motionless upon the bed. She squeezed her eyes shut, feeling her body ache as it continued to thrum insistently. Antons damp hair brushed against her cheeks and she caught another whiff of his familiar clean scent as he shifted and withdrew from her. Her sex convulsed from the movement, and she flinched noticeably.
Anton halted her movements, "Are you alright?" she whispered, looking intently at her wifes slightly furrowed brows.
"Yes," Gwynneth rasped in return, nodding but not opening her eyes.
Anton wasnt sure that her wife was being completely honest, and, she wasnt sure that the young woman had experienced any kind of pleasure at all. Her youthful body seemed to indicate that she was aroused, but the expression on her face said that she was uncomfortable and tense. Perhaps it was just Gwynneths inexperience... perhaps it would just take time for the enjoyment and pleasure to come... or, perhaps Gwynneth just didnt like it? Anton didnt want to think about that. She thought, instead, that it would best to just leave the poor girl alone, so she moved away, sitting herself on the edge of the bed and quickly tying up her pants.
Gwynneth briefly wondered what Anton would say if she asked if she could touch him. By now he must think me as exciting as a wooden board, she fretted inwardly. Then again, she wasnt expected to do anything more than this, was she? Her role was just to lie still and let her husband take his pleasure, and thats what she was doing. She wasnt supposed to do anything else... it wasnt proper for her to want anything more... was it? Her worrisome thoughts were interrupted by the feel of Antons hand.
He had turned back to her and grasped her nightgown, pulling it back down to cover her again. As she opened her eyes, Gwynneth locked onto her husbands gentle, light blue hue. They looked at her kindly, seeming to understand her distress rather than use it against her. Gwynneths heart skipped a beat as Anton leaned toward her and lowered his face to hers. Warm, pliant lips pressed against hers, and Gwynneth could not help it when her hand lifted and tentatively touched her husbands face. She was just about to withdraw the mutinous appendage when Anton suddenly brought his own hands up to cup her face and kiss her deeper.
For several minutes they simply kissed and allowed their hands to linger and learn one another. Gwynneth was amazed at the softness of her husbands cheeks, and Anton reveled in being able to connect with the beautiful blonde in such a sweetly intimate way.
For many hours after her husband left her room, Gwynneth remained wide awake. She marveled at the many unfamiliar sensations Anton had elicited in her tonight. The unexpected response of her body when he touched her... the smooth texture of his youthful face... the strange feeling of excitement that coursed through her when they kissed... and the odd way in which her body seemed to feel stimulated, yet unfulfilled at the same time.
As she stared into the dark void of her room, the young Lady touched her fingers to her lips, remembering the way in which her husband had tenderly tasted and caressed them.
She was falling for him. A man she barely even talked to, let alone knew, and she was becoming completely enthralled with him.
How could it be?
The next morning, as Alice helped Lady Gwynneth pack up her things, she couldnt help but notice that the young woman seemed to be in a more pleasant mood. She wondered if the young newlywed was excited for the change of pace that heading to Wextony would provide, or if perhaps shed been visited last night. The older woman smiled at the thought as she looked around her Ladys chambers and gathered up a few remaining things.
Just then, Gwynneth entered the room. "Alice, would you mind leaving me for a few moments. I need to lie down for a bit." The younger woman said as she walked over to her bed and laid down.
Immediately concerned, the maid rushed over to her Ladys side, "Does something ail ye, Milady?" she asked, noting Gwynneths pale face.
"My stomach feels a bit upset," Gwynneth said, "Im sure itll settle down in a minute or two."
Alice frowned, "Did this just come upon ye, Milady, or have ye felt ill for sometime?"
Gwynneth closed her eyes as her stomach churned again, "Mm, I dont recall, really. Its probably just nerves."
The ladies maid thought differently, however. "Shall I fetch the physician, Milady?"
"No, no. Ill be fine, Alice." Gwynneth insisted, her eyes still closed.
"Perhaps I should fetch Lord Anton and advise him that youre feeling poorly?" Alice suggested.
Gwynneths eyes flew open, "No!" she said quickly, "...No, thank you, Alice," she amended, regaining her composure. "Ill be fine in a few moments. Its just the excitement of going to Wextony. Ill be good as new once I rest, Im sure."
Alices mouth twisted in unspoken disagreement. "Very well, Milady." She said, turning and leaving the young woman alone to rest. As she closed the door, the maid paused, thinking that even though Gwynneth was certain it was nothing more than nerves, she suspected it could be something much larger indeed.
The trip to Wextony was lengthy, dull and cold. To make matters worse, Gwynneth felt terribly nauseous nearly the entire time. The carriage she rode in bounced and vibrated, and her stomach seemed to rise and fall with every jolt. The only bright spots of the trip were the times when theyd stop and Anton would fetch her out of the carriage so she could take a stroll and stretch her legs. She enjoyed the way her husband would link his arm with hers and walk around, chatting and pointing out something on the horizon or in the surrounding lands. He was very knowledgeable about the countryside, and the fact that he talked and shared things with her made her feel as though he was opening up to her at last. Whenever they stopped to eat or drink, Anton always saw that Gwynneth was taken care of first and foremost, even serving her himself several times. He almost seemed to dote on her, and it thrilled the young Lady to no end.
The first day and night at Wextony passed rather quickly, although for Gwynneth, it was filled with continued nausea and exhaustion. Wextony was small, but beautiful, and as much as Gwynneth wanted to wander around and familiarize herself with everything, she could only manage to spend an hour or two away from her bedroom before she needed to lie down again.
The second morning after her arrival, Gwynneths illness escalated from feeling nauseous to full-fledged retching. All morning and afternoon she stayed in her chambers, alternating between lying curled up in a ball in her bed and emptying the contents of her stomach into the nearest waste receptacle. She began to worry that whatever she was suffering from was only getting worse.
Alice was concerned about her Ladys illness, but Gwynneth instructed her not to say anything to anyone. She didnt want to notify Anton, even though she hadnt seen much of him since their arrival. He was quite busy catching up with his staff and attending to the affairs of his household with his steward, and Gwynneth didnt want to disturb him. Besides, she feared that he would be displeased to find that she was lounging about instead of fulfilling her role as Lady of the Manor.
It wasnt until the fourth morning after their arrival that Anton realized something was amiss. As she sat at the head of the breakfast table, the young Lord wondered where her wife had been hiding the past few days. Granted, she had been distracted with trying to catch up on everything that had happened since shed been gone, but Anton was sure that Gwynneth would be out and about, getting acquainted with the manor staff and learning the routines of Wextony. However, after several staff members commented that they had not even seen the new Lady of the House, Anton began to wonder if something was wrong.
As she continued to eat her morning meal alone, Anton caught sight of her wifes attendant, "Alice," Anton called out, startling the older woman.
The maid scurried over to the table, "Yes Milord?"
"Where is Lady Gwynneth?"
"Shes, uh," the maid hesitated for a second, "Shes in her chambers, Milord."
Antons brows rose, "Well is she planning on leaving her chambers anytime soon? Perhaps to join me for a meal?"
Antons indignant tone made Alice flush with fear. She didnt want to disobey her Lady, but she could not deceive her Lord either. "Sh-She," the maid stammered, acutely feeling the demanding glare emanating from Antons eyes. "She hasnt been feeling well, Milord." Alice bowed her head slightly, feeling that she was betraying her Lady, somehow.
Anton was immediately concerned. "Shes not well?" Anton said. Alice only nodded in reply. "How long has this been going on?" Anton demanded.
"Since before we arrived, Milord." The maid confessed.
"Bloody hell," Anton cursed, tossing her napkin on the table as she pushed her chair back and stood abruptly. "I dont suppose it occurred to her, or you, to inform me of this?" She spat, now perturbed and incensed.
"I-Im sorry, Milord, but the Lady didnt want me to say anything. She felt that it wasnt necessary to disturb ye with it." Alice stammered rapidly, fearing her Lords wrath.
"Disturb me? I am her husband!" Anton shouted, not understanding why Gwynneth would keep this from her.
"Yes, Milord." Alice said helplessly, bowing her head and praying that she wouldnt be punished for this later.
Anton looked at the maids semi-cowering form and felt bad for being angry with her. She would probably need to apologize to the woman later, but right now, she only wanted to speak with her wife.
Gwynneth was floating in and out of sleep, her stomach still roiling and rebelling against her. Alice had been hounding her about seeing the physician, and after a bout of violent retching this morning, the young Lady was beginning to give the idea some serious consideration. A soft knock at the door pulled out of her sleepy ruminations. "Come in," she rasped.
Anton walked into the room to find Gwynneth lying on her bed, still wearing her night clothes. Her feelings of indignation from being excluded from her wifes welfare had dissipated on the short journey to Gwynneths chambers. If she was honest, Anton had to admit that it was partly her fault that she hadnt checked up on the young woman for herself. Now that she was face to face with her wifes pale face and hollow eyes, she knew that what Gwynneth needed was her concern, rather than her aggravation.
Surprised to see her husband and embarrassed at being caught lying down, literally, Gwynneth bolted upright on the bed quickly. Too quickly, in fact, for the motion made her head spin and she felt instantly sick from the dizziness.
"My Lord," she croaked, holding her hand to her churning stomach and praying that she wouldnt retch.
"My Lady," Anton replied as she closed the door. "Im told youre not feeling well," she said as she walked up to stand beside Gwynneths bed, "and you havent left your chambers nor have you been taking meals."
The tone of Antons voice was neither scolding nor mild, and Gwynneth couldnt tell what her husband was feeling. His face was blank but he stared at her intensely, making her blush with a feeling of guilt.
"Yes, I," she hesitated, darting her eyes away, "Im afraid I havent been sleeping very well, and Ive had an upset stomach these past few days." She said, venturing a tentative look up to see if Anton was displeased. "Im sorry for failing in my duties, husband. I shall try to be present at the noontime meal today."
Anton sat down on the side of the bed, much to Gwynneths surprise. "You neednt come down if you truly arent feeling well," she said gently as jade eyes slowly raised again to look at her. "Why havent you been sleeping? Is there something keeping you awake or bothering you?" Anton inquired softly, peering pointedly at her wife, who again dropped her eyes.
Gwynneth shook her head slightly, "Nothing is wrong, My Lord," she lied. "Perhaps it was just the journey from Weldon and the adjustment of coming to live here at Wextony. These past few fortnights have been quite a whirlwind of change for me, thats all." she said, her eyes darting up again to gauge her husbands reaction.
"Yes, of course its a change. Its a change for both of us." Anton replied, her voice gentle and low. She paused for a moment, contemplating her next question. "Tell me, Gwynneth," she began, "if you were unhappy, about anything, you would inform me of this... would you not?" Anton queried, carefully watching her wifes face for the response.
Gwynneth stared at Anton uncertainly. It was the first time he had ever addressed her informally, by her name, and she had to consider what it meant for a moment. Realizing she was still staring, Gwynneth quickly dropped her eyes again, "Yes, I... I would inform you," she answered, her face flushing slightly. "But I assure you... I am not unhappy." She wanted to be personal and add Anton, but she wasnt sure if her husband would welcome it or not.
Anton nodded, appearing satisfied with the answer. "Very well then. I shall have a tonic sent up to ease your sick stomach." she said as she slid off the side of the bed and stood to leave. Pausing for a moment, Anton stepped toward Gwynneth, who held her breath as he neared. Leaning down, Anton placed a delicate kiss on Gwynneths lips, then turned and began to walk away.
Gwynneths eyes quickly and inexplicably filled with tears at the tender gesture. Just as Anton reached the door, the younger woman impulsively called out, "Husband?"
Anton turned back to her, "Yes?"
Gwynneth paused nervously for a second, wondering if it was wise to be speaking to her husband like this, "Are you... are you unhappy at all?"
The question was quiet and tentative, and Anton realized that it must have taken Gwynneth a lot of nerve to ask it. She paused for a moment before answering. "I suppose... I am as happy as Im able to be." Anton finally answered.
The Lord and Lady stared at each other for a moment, then Anton finally bid the younger woman goodnight and left.
Gwynneth contemplated her husbands cryptic answer all night long.
...To Be Continued in Part 3...
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