by: A. K. Naten
For disclaimers, etc., see Part One.
With the help of tonics and plenty of rest, Gwynneth began to feel a bit better over the course of the next week. She still felt ill some mornings but figured it was just a nagging influenza that would eventually go away. She made her rounds and met with the steward and all the staff and servants, gradually acclimating herself to the routines of the Manor and its people. Wextony was proving to have a more casual, laid-back atmosphere as compared to Weldon, and Gwynneth envisioned herself being happy there.
She had not been intimate with Anton since they'd arrived. This was mainly due to their move, his busy schedule, and her illness, but Gwynneth was beginning to miss the little private moments that they had shared. Although they spoke with each other and ate most meals together, she longed for something more than just her husband's physical presence. Anton was kind and attentive toward her whenever he was around, but mere words didn't seem to be enough to satisfy whatever it was the young Lady unwittingly craved.
Gwynneth was seated on her bed brushing her long hair as night fell. She'd dismissed Alice hours ago, wanting some time alone to read before retiring for the night. A knock sounded at her door and she bade the visitor entrance. She was a little surprised to see her husband's dark form enter the room, and a tiny tingle of anticipation coursed through her as she watched him walk toward her.
"Good evening, My Lady," Anton greeted softly.
"Good evening to you, sir," Gwynneth smiled, her nervousness escalating.
Anton came to stand in front of the blonde, "I didn't have an opportunity to speak with you this evening," she began, "I wanted to inquire as to how you've been feeling?"
Gwynneth looked up at her husband, feeling a surge of energy race through her as her eyes took in his tall, strong countenance and uniquely handsome face. "I'm feeling better, thank you." She wondered if he was genuinely concerned, or if he was asking her because he wished to be intimate with her. The thought suddenly filled her with an unexpected sense of excitement.
"Very good," Anton said, her voice nearly a whisper. Standing so close to the beautiful blonde was wreaking havoc on her self-control. The room smelled of lavender and herbs, and the burning candles cast a soft, yellow glow on everything. Anton wanted Gwynneth desperately, but she wanted to be sure her advances would be welcomed, particularly since she hadn't been able to spend much time with her new wife.
The journey from Weldon had been especially arduous for Gwynneth, and once they'd arrived at Wextony, Anton had been overwhelmed with tasks and matters that needed immediate attention. She didn't like being so out of touch with Gwynneth, especially while she was feeling poorly. Anton very much wanted to rekindle the gentle flames of attraction she'd sensed blossoming between the two of them while at Weldon; she'd missed their private moments together. Blue-green depths studied her intently, and she reached a hand out to touch her wife's angelic face.
Gwynneth's eyes fluttered shut at the sensation and her stomach lurched suddenly. Oh please, not now! She thought in panic.
Anton leaned down and touched her lips to Gwynneth's, kissing her softly. "I wish to be with you, my wife... if you will have me." she whispered against the younger woman's lips.
Gwynneth's heart began to pound as a blast of confusion fought with the arousal that filled her. Why is he asking me this? She worried.
"Yes, of course," Gwynneth managed to reply, reaching out to take hold of Anton's hand. "I am here to serve you, husband." she added dutifully, wondering why he would not realize this already, and thinking that it was a bit late to be asking any kind of permission.
Anton sat down on the bed beside her, shaking her head slightly, "No," she began, looking earnestly into the beautiful, oceanic eyes. "I do not wish for you to think that way. You are not my servant; you are a Lady, and you are my wife."
Gwynneth's brows drew together as she stared in disbelief.
Anton subtly squeezed the hand that still held hers, "If you do not desire to be together, I want you to say so, Gwynneth. I don't intend to be the kind of husband who simply takes what he wants, regardless of his wife's wishes."
Gwynneth stared, dumbfounded, her husband's respectful words and intentions rendering her momentarily speechless. When she regained her senses at last, she was tentative, but assured, "I-I do wish to be with you... Anton." She whispered her husband's name aloud, and it felt good. ...It felt right. He answered her with a smile and a long, tender kiss.
They laid back against the bed and kissed slowly at first, then more deeply as their desire quickly escalated. For the first time, Gwynneth returned her husband's kisses with enthusiasm, which delighted Anton. She pressed further, devouring Gwynneth's perfect lips and invading the recesses of her mouth with an eager tongue. When the blonde released a whimper, Anton pulled back, thinking that it was too much for the younger woman.
Looking into her wife's eyes, Anton leaned down and placed a delicate kiss on slightly swollen lips. "Don't be afraid of this, love," she whispered before kissing her again.
Gwynneth nearly swooned at the term of endearment, and her heart thundered so loudly in her ears that she thought she'd mistaken the words. Perhaps that was why she said what she said next - perhaps she thought that Anton couldn't hear either.
"I'm not afraid of this, husband," she whispered back to Anton, "...not anymore."
Anton stopped abruptly and opened her eyes wide to stare at Gwynneth. For a split second, Gwynneth thought he was going to chastise her. But when his mouth slowly curled into a small smile, she breathed a sigh of relief.
Having received the reassurance that the young Lady was not afraid, Anton seduced her wife with abandon. They kissed lasciviously as she slipped her hands beneath Gwynneth's nightgown, letting them roam over the luscious, nubile landscape that was her wife's body. She pushed the boundaries, raising Gwynneth's gown up high and sliding her hands up past the younger woman's stomach to feel the satiny softness of her full breasts. Gwynneth gasped aloud at the overwhelming sensation, and Anton enjoyed her look of wide-eyed shock. She wanted to shock her. She wanted to push the dainty beauty over the edge and make her cry out in unbridled pleasure. It was not what they were supposed to do, but Anton no longer cared.
Wanting to go where she hadn't dared to go before, Anton turned her full attention to her wife's breasts, moving her head down to place soft kisses between them before taking one of the hardened nipples into her mouth. Another sharp gasp filled the air and Anton grinned against Gwynneth's pale, velvety skin. Pushing further, she let her lips slide over to taste the other breast, reveling in its supple warmth and silky texture.
Gwynneth's heart was hammering so harshly in her chest that she thought she might faint. What in the world was Anton doing to her? He was touching her everywhere, and placing his lips upon her! It was unheard of! It was forbidden! It was... lustful... and sensual... and... it thrilled her to no end. Her breasts seemed to be especially sensitive and tender, and with every flick of Anton's tongue, she could feel her sex convulse and her body respond.
Encouraged by Gwynneth's soft, breathy panting and squirming motions, Anton settled herself between her wife's legs and quickly reached down to undo her pants and withdraw her phallus. Gwynneth released a long, lingering sigh as Anton pushed inside her and immediately began a slow, steady rhythm.
The young Lady clutched at the bedsheets as Anton moved above her. She felt her pleasure climb higher and higher until it seemed that her body hovered again on that unknown precipice. She also felt the return of the urge to grasp her husband and cling to him. How terribly inappropriate and wanton would it be for her to do that? She wondered as she fought to restrain her desires.
Feeling a primal need to be closer and deeper, Anton reached down to grasp one of Gwynneth's knees, and then the other, encouraging her to bend and raise them up. Anton braced her arms wide and began to move her hips again, using longer, deeper strokes as she pushed with her whole body.
Gwynneth's mouth opened and she gasped aloud at the feeling, realizing how this action increased the contact and heightened the sensations even more.
Anton bent down and kissed Gwynneth hungrily, holding her face close, "Does it feel good to you, love?" she asked, her raspy voice hitching from her erratic breathing.
Gwynneth hesitated, unsure what she should admit, if anything. "I-I...," she looked into her husband's smoldering eyes, "Yes, husband... it does," she said, inhaling and exhaling raggedly.
Anton smiled and kissed her again. "Put your arms around me," she instructed the younger woman, "pull yourself to me so that we might feel one another completely."
Gwynneth was relieved that she was being given permission to hold on to Anton as she'd been desiring. Still, she raised her hands slowly, uncertainty plaguing her mind.
Anton sensed her wife's hesitation. "Touch me, Gwynneth... I want you to," she encouraged, "I want you to feel me."
Gwynneth obeyed and looped her arms around her husband's neck and shoulders, resting her hands upon his taut back. Anton smiled and kissed her as she increased her thrusts, eager now to reach the pinnacle of their journey.
Gwynneth began to breathe in short, jagged bursts as she gripped Anton's shirt tightly and closed her eyes, absorbing the multitude of feelings that filled her body and soul. She found that she had a natural instinct to lift her hips upward to meet his, and she was amazed at the sensations that flowed through her... her husband's hardness gliding in and out of her... his soft lips upon hers... the tickling of his hair as it brushed against her face... the maddening jolt that shot through her body when her sensitive nipples scraped against his shirt... the relentless throbbing that filled her sex. The young Lady was overwhelmed.
Anton loved the feeling of Gwynneth's arms around her as the petite body pressed against hers. She could feel herself surging with desire as they moved in tandem and crept closer to the height of their pleasure. Feeling the beginning stirrings of her release, Anton reached down with one hand to touch Gwynneth intimately and bring her to climax as well. She wanted them to share it, and she wanted to show her wife just how wonderful it could be.
Shocked to feel Anton's fingers stroking her at the same time he plundered her, Gwynneth struggled to keep from shrieking out loud. She was overcome by powerful, sweeping feelings, and soon, quite unexpectedly, her back began to involuntarily arch up off the bed as her body was seized by a series of explosive spasms. Unable to contain herself, she released a short, strangled cry of surrender, her fingernails unconsciously digging into Anton's back as her very first orgasm tore through her young body, shattering her swiftly and thoroughly.
Hearing and feeling her wife's release, Anton gladly let hers come as well. Gritting her teeth and jerking her hips, she let the waves crash over her again and again as her hands clutched and held Gwynneth's body tight. She finally collapsed, barely able to keep her full weight off the smaller woman.
They both laid there, panting, exhausted, and unable to speak. Gwynneth's arms remained wrapped around Anton's shoulders; she wanted to hold on to the feeling of warmth and security that the closeness provided.
The young Lady was overcome with a multitude of feelings, but what gripped her immediately was the fear that they'd done something terribly wrong. Granted, she didn't know much about having sexual relations, but she was fairly certain that they'd broken quite a lot of rules by kissing, touching, and having relations the way they just did. Her husband had touched her for reasons of sheer pleasure, and she had responded in a blatantly lustful manner. Moreover, she had enjoyed it immensely. In addition, Gwynneth feared that Anton would be unhappy about her involuntary reaction of clawing at his back like an animal.
As though reading her mind, Anton lifted his head up. They locked eyes, blue on jade, unspoken words hanging between them. When Anton gently smiled at her, Gwynneth couldn't help but smile back in relief. As a gesture of additional reassurance, Anton leaned in and tenderly touched his lips to Gwynneth's, calming her further and binding their hearts closer together.
How was it, Gwynneth wondered, that she was able to trust Anton and feel safe with him already? How was it that she actually enjoyed coupling with him when she really knew so little about him? They were still strangers in so many ways, and yet when they came together, Gwynneth could feel the undeniable connection. It amazed and perplexed her, to say the very least.
As the days passed, Gwynneth and Anton grew more comfortable with each other, both in and out of the bedroom. The young Lord came calling to his Lady's chambers nearly every night now, and Gwynneth not only welcomed his visits, she looked forward to them.
To Gwynneth, Anton was turning out to be a wonderful, attentive husband who respected her and never made her feel inadequate or unimportant. He was gentle and reverent when it came to their coupling, and he never failed to take her breath away with his intensity and passion. Life with him was turning out to be nothing like she'd expected, and almost everything she'd ever hoped for.
In her wildest dreams, Gwynneth would never have suspected that the intense, aloof stranger she married would turn out to be such a tender, devoted partner. Even though Anton always seemed to keep a careful reign on his emotions, he never lost his temper nor showed great anger toward anyone. The young Lord talked easily with his Lady whenever they took leisurely walks around the manor grounds together, and meal times became favorite moments to openly share thoughts and catch up on the happenings of the day.
Gwynneth felt like Anton treated her more like a friend and lover rather than a mere token wife, and she adored him for it. Anton even touched her affectionately in public, often bestowing small kisses on her cheeks or forehead. In fact, neither of them seemed to be able to stand near each other without physically connecting in some way. A hand placed on an arm, a gentle caress along a back; both made subtle overtures that showed they had genuine feelings for one another.
Anton noticed the changes in her wife and marveled at how the youthful, naive girl she'd married had quickly blossomed into the woman of her dreams. Gwynneth was still somewhat shy and unsure of herself, but she was turning out to be a very capable Lady of the House as well as a most passionate and eager lover.
With only a little encouragement from her husband, Gwynneth was able to throw caution to the wind and let herself go to experience everything Anton offered her. She trusted him and let him guide her however he desired, in whatever way he wanted. She gladly followed his leads, being rewarded with incredulous ecstasy time and time again.
It was a whole new way of life for her, in more ways than one.
Gwynneth moped around the manor one evening, missing her husband and feeling lonely without his presence and companionship. Anton had been gone for a few days while he made a required appearance at the King's court, on behalf of his ailing father, and visited the small vassal towns that surrounded Wextony. It was the first time they'd been apart, and Gwynneth was surprised that she longed for Anton as much as she did.
She had just decided to turn in for the evening when Charles, the manor steward, came to tell her that a messenger had just arrived from Weldon. It seemed that Lady Marina was sending urgent word to Anton requesting him to come to Weldon immediately. Marquess Edgar's health had apparently taken a turn for the worse and things looked grim.
Charles suggested that a small party be sent to intercept Anton and inform him of the situation. Gwynneth agreed, even though she wished that she could somehow go along. If Anton went immediately to Weldon, there was no telling when she'd see him again, and it pained her to think of it. Nevertheless, she gave Charles her approval, and the messenger was dispatched again with word that Lord Anton was being summoned and would arrive at Weldon as soon as possible. The only thing Gwynneth could do now was to sit back and wait to receive some kind of message from her husband.
Gwynneth waited four days before receiving any news. When a courier at last arrived at Wextony, it was to inform her that Marquess Edgar of Weldon was dead.
Anton had sent word requesting that Gwynneth join him at Weldon immediately. Everything and everyone at Wextony was in an uproar as Gwynneth frantically packed to go and be at her husband's side. She couldn't imagine what Anton must be going through at Weldon, and she was eager to see him and offer whatever assistance she could. She only hoped that she would survive the journey without becoming terribly ill again.
Gwynneth still was not feeling well, and after Anton had left the manor, she had finally relented to the pleas of her ladies maid and had summoned the physician to help her find relief. Victor Bergen, an older gentleman who had been Anton's personal physician since childhood, gave the young Lady a thorough examination, probing her, testing her, and asking her all sorts of highly personal questions. He didn't tell her anything specific about her mysterious illness, just that it would pass eventually, and that she needed plenty of rest and nourishing food.
To Gwynneth's surprise, Victor informed her that he would be traveling to Weldon with her. The Lady politely informed him that this wasn't necessary, but Victor insisted that it was. Gwynneth wasn't entirely certain that she trusted the elderly man, and she wondered if perhaps there was another physician she could see once she reached Weldon. However, she couldn't be bothered with that at the moment; right now, her only concern was her husband.
As they neared Weldon, Gwynneth felt nervous about seeing Anton. She'd never really dealt with a family death, having lost her mother when she was just a small child. There would be a large, public funeral and burial, and afterwards, Anton would officially take over as Marquess. Gwynneth's stomach flip-flopped as she realized, quite suddenly, that they would be the new Marquess and Marchioness of Weldon. It would also mean that they would have to move and permanently reside at Weldon. All the casual comfort that she'd begun to enjoy at Wextony would vanish. She was being thrust into yet another role that she was inadequately prepared for.
When at last they reached Weldon Manor, Gwynneth was all too glad to escape the carriage and go in search of her husband. She didn't find him, however. Instead, she found the manor's steward who told her that Anton was in a closed-door meeting with the Marquess Dowager and the manor's chaplain. Needing desperately to first relieve her bladder and then lie down and rest, Gwynneth decided to retire to her chambers, requesting that her things be brought up to her later.
Night had fallen when Gwynneth was awakened by a knock at her door. Figuring it was the servants bringing her personal items to her, she walked to the door and opened it up. She was pleasantly surprised to find her husband instead. Anton looked exhausted and thoroughly washed-out. His hair was disheveled and his shirt was untucked, but he was a most welcome sight to the Lady.
"Oh, Anton," Gwynneth said with quiet intensity, wanting to throw her arms around him but hesitating because of the look on his face. It was a look of weariness, anguish, desolation, and something else she didn't recognize... it was something she'd never seen on her husband's handsome features before.
Gwynneth opened the door wider and Anton entered the room, saying nothing. The younger woman closed the door and turned around to find herself instantly enveloped by her husband's strong arms. Gwynneth gasped at the sudden motion, but before she could say anything, Anton's lips were upon hers, kissing her hard and deep. He seemed desperate to possess her as he backed her against the door and pressed the length of his body against hers.
"Gwynneth... dear Gwynneth," Anton rasped in-between kisses, "I've missed you, my love... I've needed you so." She panted the words, her voice tremulous and strained with a mixture of despair and want. She could not contain the powerful, unfamiliar emotions that flowed through her, and tears began to fill her eyes.
Gwynneth was shocked to see her normally stoic husband losing his ever-present control, but she quickly realized that what he needed was her comfort and reassurance.
"I'm here, my beloved," Gwynneth soothed, using the term of affection for the first time, "I'm here for you." She wrapped her arms around Anton's shoulders and they kissed with great emotion and passion as Gwynneth tried to ease her husband's cold misery and replace it with warmth and affection.
Anton's emotional breakdown and desperation soon turned from devouring her wife's lips to devouring her body. Without any preamble, Anton reached down and grabbed the hem of Gwynneth's nightgown, yanking it up as she pushed her knee between the young woman's legs. Sealing their mouths together in a deep kiss, Anton reached down to hastily unbutton her pants and withdraw her phallus. She quickly maneuvered between Gwynneth's thighs, planting her feet wide so that she could plunge herself deep within and join them together.
Gwynneth was flabbergasted that Anton would take her like this so unexpectedly, standing up against the door, but she soon forgot about the impropriety as her husband began to thrust into her hard and fast. Anton moved his hands down to grasp her bottom tightly, and within minutes, he was climaxing tearfully in her arms. Gwynneth continued to hold onto him as he relaxed against her, pinning her against the door. Several minutes passed until Anton seemed to regain control of himself.
"I-I'm sorry... forgive me, my love," Anton said, her voice muffled in Gwynneth's hair. "I couldn't... I-I didn't...," she drew back and looked at her wife shamefully, trying to explain her rash actions, but Gwynneth cut her off.
"Shh," the blonde shushed, placing a finger against her husband's lips and wiping the remnant tears from his red-rimmed eyes. "...It's alright."
Anton leaned forward and kissed Gwynneth tenderly. "I didn't mean to frighten you," she whispered with remorse.
"I'm not frightened," Gwynneth said, shaking her head slightly.
Anton stared at her wife, wondering when she'd evolved into such a beautiful, secure woman. Not caring to find the answer at that time, Anton quickly readjusted her pants then abruptly bent down and scooped the small blonde up into her arms, ignoring Gwynneth's surprised squeak as she walked over to deposit her onto the bed. Placing a reassuring kiss on the bow-shaped lips, Anton carefully slid her body between her wife's shapely legs and pushed the puffy nightgown out of the way again. One of these times, she vowed to remove the garment altogether.
Her hunger still unfulfilled, Anton broke the kiss and began to move down Gwynneth's body, trailing her lips along the silky flesh of Gwynneth's stomach and eliciting shaky sighs from the blonde. Continuing on, Anton let her lips graze over Gwynneth's hips and wander down to her thighs. Using her hands, she urged her wife's legs further apart and leaned down to place a kiss at the damp juncture of her inner thighs.
Gwynneth's whole body jumped at the sensation, "Anton!" she gasped, her hands flying down to grab fistfuls of dark hair.
Anton raised her head, "Shh," she shushed, quickly reaching up to cover her wife's shock by placing a deep kiss on her parted lips before returning to the feast at hand.
It wasn't until some time later that Gwynneth realized that the strange wetness on her husband's lips came not from him, but from her. Had she not been lying down on the bed at that time, she would have surely fainted dead away.
Gwynneth wondered what the hour was as she lay on her back watching the shadows flicker and dance along the ceiling of her bedroom chambers. Anton's body rested partly on top of hers and they both were very still, completely spent from their latest love-making exertion. Two times they had joined their bodies together and held each other tightly as they reached the heights of ecstasy in unison; all other time was spent just kissing and touching and reveling in each other's presence.
The young Lady had begun to think there was something dreadfully wrong with her as she laid there and quietly contemplated, her body still thrumming with aftershocks. Was it normal to feel so ravenous and enjoy coupling so thoroughly? Was it unheard of to fantasize about wanting your husband the way she always seemed to want Anton? Was it blasphemous to desire him every single night, and more? Was she nothing but a shameless trollop? Or did other women experience this kind of sexual hunger and neediness too?
She turned her head to look at her husband's face. Anton was relaxed and peaceful as he dozed beside her, his arm stretched casually across her mid-section, seeming to want to hold her and keep her close, even in a state of rest. Gwynneth wondered what he must have been feeling to cause him to come to her the way he had tonight.
She could tell that there was something very different about her husband as soon as he'd walked in the door. He had obviously been under a great deal of stress and was terribly upset, of course, but it was more than that. There was an intense aura of need and desperation that seemed to flow from him, and it resonated between them the whole time they'd made love together. Was it just because he was emotionally overwhelmed and needed an outlet? Or perhaps, Gwynneth secretly hoped, Anton just missed her and longed for her so very terribly? She really didn't know; she acknowledged that there were many things she still did not know about her husband.
Quietly reaching up with her hand, Gwynneth fingered a stray lock of hair that fell across Anton's forehead. He was an unusual, but beautiful combination of a man. It sounded strange, but it was the best way of describing him, in Gwynneth's mind. His cheeks held a slight tint of rosiness, and she quirked a small smile as she recalled the expressions on his face while in the throws of passion. Sometimes Anton smiled and kissed her tenderly; sometimes he closed his eyes and furrowed his brows in concentration; and sometimes he watched her and stared at her the whole time. Those times unnerved Gwynneth; the burning intensity of Anton's pale eyes was almost too much to bear.
She looked at his flushed cheeks again, recalling their softness. Gwynneth moved her hand to Anton's face, lightly brushing a finger along his jaw and marveling at the smooth, hairless texture. It was so... different. Some said that a lack of facial hair indicated effeminacy in a man, but Gwynneth could personally attest to the fact that this was not the case with her husband. Granted, the young Lady didn't mind the lack of hair and scratchiness, but it did make her wonder... just how old was her husband? Perhaps Anton lacked facial hair because he was much younger than she first thought? Gwynneth had assumed that he was a few years older than she was, but now, looking at him close up and unguarded, she wasn't so sure.
It didn't really matter anyway, and it wouldn't change anything if it were true. Even if Anton was just a mere teen, he was still the most kind, considerate man Gwynneth had ever known. He was beautiful, and he made her feel beautiful. The only way their love-making could be any better would be if she had the pleasure of feeling and touching Anton's flesh the way he felt hers. It was something she'd been thinking about more and more, but she knew that it would be exceedingly inappropriate to ask her husband to doff his clothing. The thought of their naked bodies merging together filled Gwynneth with incredible lust, but she forced the thoughts from her mind, lest Anton figure out what a wicked, insatiable wench she was.
Gwynneth grinned to herself, knowing that Anton would most likely not think such a thing at all. If anything, he seemed to enjoy and welcome her ever-emerging enthusiasm, which wasn't exactly what the young Lady had been expecting. Then again, nothing about her marriage or her husband had been as expected.
Anton had been so good to her, when he could have easily been so wretched. A strange twist of fate had caused her to be forced onto him, but instead of taking out any frustrations he might have felt on her, Anton had taken care of her and treated her with kindness and respect. He was never forceful with her, and he always made sure that her needs were met, as well as his. Her life with the young Lord was turning out so much better than she'd ever imagined.
Gwynneth wondered if Anton felt any kind of love for her; he had spoken love-like words to her, but was there any real meaning behind them? She was beginning to think that she felt love for him. The concept of loving someone was terribly foreign to her, but she was fairly certain that it was, indeed, what she was feeling.
The young Lady released a satisfied sigh and glanced again at her husband's face. He was completely still now, his breathing slow and deep. She figured that he'd fallen totally asleep, and as much as that surprised her, it pleased her too. She remembered Alice's comment about how most husbands did not wish to spend the entire night in their wife's bed. She smiled as she considered that her husband didn't seem to be like most others.
Gwynneth did wonder, though, if Anton had any mistresses. Even though it was a common practice and she had no right to feel jealous or demand anything, Gwynneth knew she would be terribly upset if Anton made a habit of keeping company with any other woman besides her. She'd never heard anything nor had seen any indications, and she hoped, quite selfishly, that her husband was too young to have a large repertoire of other lovers. Regardless of Anton's status with other women, Gwynneth felt honored that her husband apparently preferred to stay by her side, and she was happy that he seemed relaxed enough to sleep so peacefully.
Reaching her hand up again, Gwynneth lightly ran a finger over her husband's left eyebrow, tracing the small white scar that bisected it. The hand on her waist twitched and Anton sighed contentedly as he snuggled a little closer to her. Gwynneth smiled again and closed her eyes, grateful for her life, love, and strange twists of fate.
A strange noise greeted Anton's ears as she was pulled into consciousness the next morning. It sounded like someone coughing and gagging. As awareness dawned on her, Anton sat up in bed and looked around the room - which was not her room, she quickly realized - and saw Gwynneth bent over a small pot, holding her stomach and retching.
"Gwyn," Anton called out as she jumped off the bed, panicked by the sight and sounds. She hurried to her wife's side, slipping an arm around her waist and steadying the young woman. Gwynneth ceased retching and stood on shaky legs, allowing Anton to help her sit down on a nearby chair. Her face was dreadfully pale, and Anton immediately began to worry. Looking around the room, Anton spotted a pitcher of water.
"Are you still so ill, my love?" Anton asked as she wetted a rag and began to dab at the blonde's damp forehead.
"I'm afraid so," Gwynneth said, her voice hoarse and scratchy.
"I heard that Victor came along on your journey; has he been doctoring to you?" Anton asked as she poured a cup of water and guided it to Gwynneth's lips.
The younger woman held the water with trembling hands and sipped carefully. "He's given me some herbs and teas to help my sick stomach, but he says that what I need most is rest."
"Hmm," Anton pursed her lips together and darted her eyes away, "I suppose an 'overactive' night like last night isn't the best thing for you then... I apologize."
"No," Gwynneth frowned, suddenly fearful that Anton might stay away from her if she appeared sick and weak, "aside from the occasional fits of nausea, I-I feel perfectly fine." She insisted, shaking her head.
Anton made one more wipe across Gwynneth's forehead before kneeling down in front of her and fixing her with a knowing look. "You should listen to Victor. He's a wise man and a skilled physician. If he says you need to rest, then you shall."
Gwynneth dropped her eyes, "Yes, husband."
Anton smiled and ran a hand down the side of her wife's face. Even when deathly pale and sick, Gwynneth remained beautiful. "Come then," Anton said, standing and taking her wife's hand, "come and lie down in bed again."
The small blonde obeyed and climbed into the bed, allowing Anton to cover her with the blanket.
Anton leaned down to place a kiss on the younger woman's lips, "You need to rest... and I must go and continue to prepare for the funeral." Anton said, her demeanor abruptly becoming somber. Gwynneth almost felt ashamed that her illness made her momentarily forget the reason they were at Weldon in the first place. "I'll have a light breakfast sent up for you, and I'll come to check on you later."
Gwynneth watched as her husband turned and headed for the door. Her heart was suddenly full; full, but jumbled with mixed feelings of gratitude, sadness, happiness, uncertainty... and love. She felt like she would burst from the feelings bubbling up inside her.
"Husband?" she called out impulsively. Anton turned back to her. "...Thank you," Gwynneth said softly.
Anton's brows quirked in question, "What for?"
Gwynneth shook her head slightly, feeling embarrassed. "For... being so good to me... for taking such good care of me."
Anton walked back to her bedside and bent down to place a gentle, lingering kiss on her lips again. "I will always take good care of you, Gwynneth," she said with quiet sincerity as she held her face close and looked deeply into her wife's eyes. They kissed once again before Anton turned and left the room.
Gwynneth pulled the covers up to her chin and sighed out loud, grateful again for the good fortune of having such a loving, understanding husband.
As Anton descended the stairway from the second floor, she came upon her doctor, Victor Bergen. "Victor!" Anton called out in greeting, "I was surprised to hear that you'd made the journey to Weldon, but I'm glad you're here, old friend." Anton said, patting the elderly physician on the back.
Indeed Victor Bergen was an old friend. He had helped to bring both Aldred and Anton into the world, and had remained Anton's personal physician ever since, moving with the young Lord when she acquired Wextony Manor. Anton considered Victor a personal friend and confidante, and he was one of only three remaining people who knew the truth and the real life story of the second son of the former Marquess and Marchioness of Weldon.
"Your father was a wise ruler and a good friend, my Lord... he will be missed." Victor squeezed Anton's forearm, and the young Lord could feel tears prick at her eyes. "I'm afraid, however, that my journey to Weldon was two-fold," Victor added, "I need to speak with you... about your wife."
Anton nodded, "Yes, Gwynneth's been ever so ill. She said you've been treating her; what do you make of it? Is it anything dreadful or serious?"
"Well, no..." Victor paused; he really had no earthly idea how to tell Anton about his findings. "It isn't anything dreadful, but-" he began to attempt an explanation but was interrupted by a servant.
"Beg pardon, Milord, but the Marchioness is requesting yer immediate presence in the great hall." The young man said, bowing slightly before turning to leave.
"Thank you," Anton replied with a sigh before turning back to Victor. "I'll find you later and we can talk then, hmm?" She clapped the older man on the shoulder and began to walk away.
"Yes, please do... it's rather important, My Lord." Victor called emphatically after Anton's retreating form, and the young Lord waved her acknowledgement before disappearing into another room.
Victor stared at the now-empty corridor. "...It's rather extremely important, my Lord." He whispered aloud to no one.
The funeral of Edgar of Weldon was lavish and well attended, and the great feasting period that followed seemed to drag on forever as people came from all over to both mourn and celebrate a man who was admired and respected by many.
Anton thought she would go mad. Her beloved father was dead, and the expectation that she control her emotions and appear stoic and strong was incredibly difficult for her. The realization that her father was truly gone pierced her heart like an arrow, and she found herself fighting back tears often. She suddenly felt very alone and uncharacteristically unsure of herself and her future.
The only thing she could really count on was that her beautiful wife was always there for her. Every night the blonde held Anton in her arms, using both words and actions to ease the young Lord's tension and soothe her troubled soul. Gwynneth's soft whispers and gentle caresses seemed to be the only thing that calmed and reassured Anton at all.
Once again, an enormous amount of pressure and responsibility was now heaped onto Anton's shoulders. She was now the Marquess of Weldon, and as her wife, Gwynneth was the new Marchioness. Lady Marina, emotionally bereft and completely shattered from first, the loss of her son, and now the loss of her husband, stepped back and assumed the title and role of Marchioness Dowager. She would now live her life in the background of Weldon as Anton fully took control of the affairs and management of the kingdom.
The days immediately following the funeral passed in a whirlwind of activity. Anton and Gwynneth's belongings had to be permanently moved from Wextony, and they spent a lot of time familiarizing themselves with the new routines and duties they were assuming. Anton was overwhelmed by the 'official' tasks that suddenly inundated her, and the stress quickly began to eat away at the little bit of sanity she had left. It felt like she rarely had a calm, quiet moment for herself, or her wife, anymore, and she despised that. In fact, it wasn't until several days after the funeral that Victor Bergen finally got to speak privately with the new Marquess of Weldon.
Anton was making her way out of the study room late one evening when Victor spotted her. "My Lord," the physician called out, waving to additionally catch the attention of the Marquess.
Anton sighed inwardly. It had been a long, exhaustive day. She wanted to spend some time with Victor, but she was so tired. Still, she turned and headed down the hallway in his direction. "Victor," Anton greeted when they finally met up and faced one another, "I haven't been avoiding you, my friend; I've just been so insanely busy."
Victor noted the washed-out countenance of the young Lord; it would make it all the more difficult for him to say what he needed to say. "Yes, I'm quite sure you have; I understand."
Anton smiled weakly and ran a hand through her hair. "I truly have been wanting to speak with you... my wife is still very sick. Whatever her ailment, the herbs you've given her don't seem to be working any more."
Victor pursed his lips grimly, "Well, no, they wouldn't."
Anton frowned and shook her head in confusion, "Whatever do you mean?"
The physician drew a deep breath and girded himself, "This is what I've been wanting to consult with you about, My Lord," he began, staring pointedly into Anton's eyes. "Your wife is not suffering from an 'ailment', Anton," Victor grasped Anton's upper arm firmly, "...Your wife is with child."
Anton just stared back at Victor. She'd heard his words, but her mind was unable to comprehend. "...What?" she finally whispered, her tone incredulous.
The physician nodded slowly, fully expecting an angry explosion from the young Marquess. "Lady Gwynneth is with child," he said again.
Anton still stared, her mouth opened, her eyes widened in disbelief. Her heart began pounding in her chest and her throat constricted painfully as her head began to spin with a hundred different thoughts and emotions.
Victor cleared his throat uncomfortably, "By my estimations, she could be anywhere from two to three months along."
Anton still didn't react; her eyes merely glazed over and drifted away as the words continued to assault her ears and penetrate her mind.
"I examined her thoroughly while you were away... I couldn't believe it at first, but all the examinations kept returning the same results," Victor continued carefully, uncertain just how much to say. "She said she'd been feeling poorly for some time... even before your marriage, My Lord." The physician cringed as he spoke the last statement. It would surely enrage the young Marquess.
"What?!" Anton said again, her head snapping back to glare at the doctor.
Victor nodded, "Yes, My Lord... she says she began to feel poorly a few days before you were wed. And when you made the journey to Wextony right after the wedding, she was quite sick, as you know."
Anton stared again; the shock was beginning to give way to hurt... to anger. If what Victor was saying was true, then Gwynneth - her wife - had been with someone else. ...Another man. Anton turned away from the doctor, unable to face him as the realization slapped her in the face and her world came crashing down around her.
Victor felt for Anton. He couldn't imagine what the young Lord was feeling, but he was certain of his diagnosis.
"By my estimations, the babe should be born sometime near the start of the Fall harvest season." Victor added solemnly.
"Your 'estimations'?!" Anton hissed as she turned back around. "You and your estimations presume to tell me that my wife has been unfaithful to me! That she has lain with someone besides me!" Anton yelled, lashing out at her old friend as her anger began to erupt and spill forth.
Victor understood her anger, but it still made him cringe. "T-That would seem to be the case, My Lord, yes," Victor answered meekly.
"No!" Anton began shaking her head, "I don't believe it... she would never do such a thing... you must be mistaken!" she shouted, her voice echoing off the stone walls of the hallway as her temper escalated and her hurt deepened. "She's just been feeling poorly because of all the strain she's been under! First Aldred was killed, and then she and I had to marry unexpectedly, and all the moving and shuffling between homes... that's all! That's all it is!"
The elderly doctor took a deep breath. He'd expected Anton to be shocked and angry, but the hurt and betrayal in her voice was a surprise to him. He knew that, despite the unusual circumstances, the young Marquess had come to care for the beautiful little blonde. However, he had no idea just how deep the feelings and devotion apparently ran.
"I might agree with you, My Lord, however," Victor began tentatively, "according to Lady Gwynneth, she has not had her courses for several fortnights. Combined with the exams, the repeated retching, and the other physical changes she's been exhibiting..." the physician trailed off, hoping that Anton would see the truth and accept it, no matter how painful.
Anton collapsed against the cool stone of the corridor wall. She simply could not believe what she was being told. Her wife - no matter how much of a sham their marriage was - her wife had joined with another man. And, if that weren't bad enough, it may have occurred before their marriage. Her beloved Gwynneth had not been innocent... she had not been pure and chaste. Anton didn't know what infuriated her or hurt her more.
"I don't understand," Anton said, her voice low and somber as the pain and reality finally pushed through her anger. "How could she? How could she have done such a thing?" Anton questioned more to herself than Victor. "Who could she have been with before our wedding? Someone here? ...Someone from her home?" Anton voiced her thoughts aloud as her mind raced and she began adding up the facts and circumstances.
Victor had already added up the facts and solved the puzzle, however... or at least he thought he had. The question was, how to tell Anton?
"My Lord," Victor began tentatively, "Lady Gwynneth first arrived at Weldon more than two fortnights before your eventual marriage, correct?"
Anton frowned at the older man, "Yes, that sounds about right."
"During that time period, were there any men who might have had private access to her?"
Victor was certain that Aldred was the culprit. He was well aware of the former Lord's despicable reputation for womanizing, and he also knew that Gwynneth had been alone with him. It only took the questioning of a few servants to discover the disturbing facts.
"No man would have touched her! No man would have dared to be alone with her!" Anton instantly snapped, but then she stopped short as she began to think. "...Except possibly a servant, or perhaps... Aldred." As she spoke the words, her heart sank. She turned and looked at Victor, who was looking back at her with an expression that clearly stated his agreement. "You don't think...?" Anton began. Victor nodded his head slowly and continued to stare. "No... no! You're out of your mind, old man!" Anton shouted vehemently.
"My Lord, it's the only answer that makes any sense." Victor said, keeping his calm.
Anton shook her head, "Aldred would never do such a thing! He was disrespectful with his women, yes, but...," Anton paused, struggling with her own words and beliefs, "He would never take his own fiancee before their wedding!"
"Wouldn't he, Anton?" Victor asked quietly.
"No! No, he would not!" Anton felt her throat constrict and she turned around to face the wall, pounding her fists against it and leaning her forehead against the hard stone. She couldn't believe all this. It was like a nightmare. Everything just seemed to keep collapsing all around her, from every angle.
Victor felt for the young Lord, but she had to know the truth. He stepped toward Anton and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, "Anton," he began softly, "I've talked to some of the servants, and I spoke with Lady Gwynneth's handmaid, Alice." The elderly man paused, not wanting to deliver the crushing blow, but knowing that he had to lay out all the evidence. "They've all confirmed that Aldred was alone with Lady Gwynneth... several times, in fact."
Anton squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, refusing to break down and lose control. The feelings of anger, hurt, betrayal and fury warred for dominance inside her head, and she thought she'd explode from the lethal combination.
The feeling of fury finally won out, and Anton spun back around to face her once-trusted friend. "There's only one way to discover the truth," she said, her voice low and ominous. "I'll go directly to the source... I'll ask the only person who knows for certain."
Victor stared back at her, knowing full well what she would do and fearing for the person upon whom she would take out her frustration and anger.
Anton began to walk away but suddenly turned back to Victor, "Is Gwynneth aware of your suspicions?"
Victor shook his head, "No."
"Good. Don't tell her anything. Don't tell anyone anything."
Anton began to turn away again, but Victor called to her, "Anton..." The Marquess turned back to look at him darkly. "...I don't believe that Lady Gwynneth is to blame for any of this, My Lord... I believe she is innocent."
Anton stared at him with such cold, unfeeling eyes that Victor nearly shivered.
"I shall be the judge of that." Anton snapped, turning on her heel and walking away, leaving Victor standing in the hallway alone.
The old man sighed aloud, "Yes, I know... this is what I'm afraid of."
...To Be Continued in Part 4...
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