by A. K. Naten
For disclaimers, etc., see Intro.
Unable to sleep, Anton arose at daybreak. Last night's intense bussing session with Gwynneth had severely shaken Anton's resolve to take things slowly, and she was determined to talk to Victor about if, and how, she could be intimate with her expectant wife. The only problem was, Anton felt terribly uncomfortable discussing such a personal matter with the elderly doctor. To overcome her unease, Anton reminded herself that Victor, her lifelong friend and confidante, knew her like no one else. He'd brought her into this world and was one of the few who knew nearly every detail of her life. She could trust him.
As she sat down to eat her morning meal, Anton began to rehearse her conversation with Victor, but she was soon interrupted by a courier bearing an urgent letter from a neighboring province. The message was one of several Anton had received over the past few months informing her that a number of manors and small provinces in the land were being plagued by a group of murderous bandits. The group was rumored to be part of a small army that was lead by a fierce warrior named Liam. Liam was one of the few remaining sons of Wesley of Rencor - the former warlord who overthrew King Joffrey two decades ago and took the throne, ruling the region for many years with greed, violence and cruelty until the War of Insurrection removed him from power.
It was reported that Liam's little army was growing each and every day, and that he thirsted for the same power his father had years ago. His forces were no longer a mere nuisance - they were now threatening to conquer the provinces one by one. Because of this, the Lords of the besieged provinces were asking for assistance, and Anton's allies were calling on the Marquess of Weldon and his forces to join in the fight.
Anton's mind became filled with concern as she sat and ate her morning meal alone. She would need to inform her mother of the worrisome war developments, and...she would need to tell Gwynneth. Anton hadn't had occasion to join in a battle for a long time - certainly not while married to Gwynneth. She wondered how her wife would react to the news. Then again, she knew that Gwynneth was certainly accustomed to having her brother, Gerrod, go off to battle. In fact, Gerrod and his knights were part of the allied provinces, and they would be taking part in this battle, should it come to that. Anton held onto the hope that someone would come up with a diplomatic solution to the problem, and war could be avoided. Still, the Marquess dreaded having to tell her young, pregnant wife that she would most likely need to go off and fight someplace, for an unknown length of time.
Once she'd finished her meal, Anton decided that before she sat down to begin planning maneuvers and strategies for a possible conflict, she would first find Victor and speak with him.
Anton took her time in reaching Victor's domicile. She was still hesitant about speaking to her old friend, but her need to know urged her forward. It was still quite early and she felt badly about the hour, but she knocked on the physician's wooden front door anyway.
Victor's sleepy, grizzled countenance greeted the Marquess, and the older man immediately feared something was wrong. "My Lord? What is it?" Victor asked anxiously.
"Nothing, nothing. Everything's fine. I just needed to seek your counsel about, uhm...an issue."
"Yes, of course, My Lord." Victor opened the door wider, waving Anton inside. "You'll have to forgive my appearance. 'Tis a bit earlier than my normal time for receiving patients."
"I apologize. Shall I return later?" Anton said, walking back toward the door.
"No, no." Victor waved, "Come and sit down." They both took a seat in front of the fireplace. "Now then, what can I do for you?"
Anton drew a deep breath, "I wanted to speak with you about...Gwynneth."
"Yes. Is she well?"
"Yes, oh yes. She's quite well. Much healthier, I think."
"Mm yes. I've noticed a distinct improvement in her appearance. Her color is better and she seems to at last be putting on weight. Whatever you're doing, it appears to be working wonders. Well done." Victor nodded approvingly. "It is good that the two of you have made amends. She seems happy again."
"Mm, yes. I believe she is," Anton nodded. "I mean, I hope she is."
Victor noticed Anton's discomfort - had noticed it from the start. "And you, Anton. Are you happy too?" The physician asked carefully.
"Yes." Anton answered, noticing Victor's concerned expression. "Yes, I'm happy, Victor. We're getting along splendidly. In fact...well, I suppose that's what has brought me here." Anton fidgeted in her seat as Victor frowned and waited. "You see, we...uh," Feeling agitated and uncomfortable, Anton cleared her throat and stood up, pacing back and forth as she struggled to compose her thoughts.
Victor remained silent as he watched the young Lord's nervous actions.
Anton finally stopped and turned to face Victor. "We've been getting along very well. So well, in fact, that we've begun to..." she faltered again. "We've begun to...grow close again. And we've reached a point now where we want to..." she raised her eyebrows and looked expectantly at Victor who merely nodded, a bemused half-smile on his face. "And, well, you see, I'm uncertain just exactly what it is we may or may not...do." Anton arched her brows again and Victor smiled broadly.
"Are you asking me if you may make love to your wife, My Lord?"
Anton's shoulders fell and she released a sigh. "Yes, that is it." Victor chuckled and slapped his knee. Anton frowned and huffed aloud, "I don't find it humorous, Victor. I know nothing about the intricacies and proper handling of a woman when she's pregnant, for heaven's sake."
"No, I suppose you don't, My Lord." Victor stood up, still chuckling, and padded over to fetch a cup of water. Anton stood and stared impatiently while he returned to sit again. "I'm sorry, Anton. Forgive me if I appear to be taking this matter as anything less than serious." He smiled at Anton, who finally relaxed and sat down again. "I understand your fears, and you are quite correct to have them. An expectant mother needs to be treated with the utmost care and delicacy." Victor paused as he drank from his cup. "However, a pregnant woman is not without needs. In fact, women are frequently more lustful and passionate when they are with child."
"No - Really?" Anton frowned in surprise.
"Oh yes." Victor nodded. "I'm not certain as to why. Perhaps it is due to the tremendous changes the female body goes through as it harbors and grows the babe...I don't think anyone knows for sure. At any rate, I'm sure Lady Gwynneth is feeling rather emotional and has increased desires, as this is quite normal. She would probably welcome some intimate attention from her husband." Victor cocked an eyebrow at Anton, whose cheeks colored at the words.
"Mm yes, I suppose." Anton frowned, trying to conceal her embarrassment.
"You should not be fearful of fulfilling her needs. The only words of caution I can give you are that you should take exquisite care to handle her very gently."
"But, the...activity won't harm the baby?"
"Not if you're extremely careful. Avoid pressing on her abdomen, of course, and don't penetrate too deeply."
Anton's cheeks flushed again and she cleared her throat and stood abruptly. "Yes, well...I shall be sure to take care then. Thank you, Victor, for answering my inquiry." She reached out and briskly shook hands with the physician. "As always, you've been most helpful."
"You're quite welcome, My Lord." Victor almost laughed again at Anton's stiff mannerisms and obvious discomfit. He knew that she had probably fretted over having this discussion, but Victor thought it was a chivalrous gesture on Anton's part, as well as a sure indication of the young Lord's tender feelings for her wife. They walked to the door but before Anton exited, Victor reached out to touch her arm. "Anton," the physician said as the Marquess turned back. "I truly am glad to see the two of you happy once again."
Anton smiled softly, relaxing just a bit, "Yes. So am I."
Relieved to have finally spoken with Victor and obtain the answers she sought, Anton leisurely made her way back to the manor. She stopped to chat with people here and there, most of them inquiring after the Lady Gwynneth and wishing the noble couple well on the upcoming birth of their first child. Anton took all the good wishes in stride, continuing in her role of the proud father as she smiled and thanked people politely. Deep down inside, she harbored the wish that all her actions could be authentic. She still hated the deception but, as always, knew that it was necessary.
It was mid-morning when the Marquess finally entered the manor's castle, and she immediately headed up to her chambers to begin drafting letters to her allies in response to the urgent messages she'd received earlier. The leaders of the allied provinces would have to come together soon to discuss the situation with Liam's army and the possibility of war. Anton figured they would most likely gather at Weldon, as they had in the past, which meant she would have to notify everyone and begin making necessary preparations. As she began writing letters and making lists, she mentally noted all the things that would need to be done. The knights who served her would have to be rallied, the militia would have to be mustered and briefed on whatever military situation might develop, supplies and provisions had to be gathered...
A sharp knock on the chamber door interrupted Anton's thoughts and she sighed at the intrusion. "Come."
Marina opened the door and entered. Her face wore a tense, worried expression. "Anton, a courier came to call while you were gone." She waved a piece of parchment in front of her. "There's talk of war here. What in heaven's name is going on?"
Anton sighed and ran a hand through her hair. She was annoyed that her mother read the letter that was obviously intended for her, but that was a minor irritation at this stage. "A situation has arisen. We may have to go to battle to quell it."
Marina stepped anxiously toward her daughter. "What sort of situation?"
"Some of the outer provinces have been suffering from continual raids. A small band of thieves was thought to have been the culprit, but now it appears that the small band is really part of a larger organization - an army, if you will - which seems to have arisen out of the ashes of Wesley of Rencor."
"What?" Marina was aghast.
"Wesley's youngest son, Liam, is rumored to be leading the army. And their intent, I daresay, is to conquer all the outlying provinces one by one. Apparently, Liam wishes to follow in his father's footsteps."
Marina clutched her chest. "Merciful heaven."
Anton nodded. "If we don't stop him, he could very well succeed."
Marina drew a deep breath and sat down in a chair. Silence filled the room before she spoke again. "You're going to convene a meeting here with all the allied forces, I suppose, and decide whether or not you'll make war against him." The Marchioness Dowager stared at the floor as she spoke, more in statement than question.
"Yes. We need to move quickly. Surprising Liam with swift action would prove the best maneuver, I feel."
"Mm." Marina nodded, still staring at the floor. "It never seems to end, does it?" She lamented, finally looking up at her daughter.
"No, I suppose not." Anton gave her a sad half smile.
Marina frowned as something occurred to her. "Have you told Gwynneth yet?"
Anton sighed. "No, not yet. I-I'm not sure how to tell her exactly. I'm afraid it shall upset her terribly."
"Of course she'll be upset. War is an upsetting situation." Marina snapped. "She's going to have to become accustomed to it, just as I did."
Anton frowned at her mother, surprised by her sudden shift in temperament. "I'm not sure it's something anyone ever becomes accustomed to, Mother." Anton glared but Marina looked away. "I'll speak to her today. I must tell her that we'll be hosting visitors and I must make certain she knows what to expect while I'm gone. I don't want her to be too overwhelmed."
Marina huffed. "She'll be overwhelmed alright. She won't know how to work at anything that doesn't involve sewing or writing letters."
Anton glared at her again. "She will understand perfectly what she needs to do. She is well aware of her duties and responsibilities."
"Hmph, nevertheless, I'm sure she has no idea of the numerous complexities involved in a long-term absence."
"I have complete faith in her." Anton approached her mother so that Marina had to look her in the eye. "And I expect that you will honor my wishes and lend her your full support, Mother."
Marina sighed and rolled her eyes, "Of course. Why wouldn't I?"
"Because you haven't as of yet, and because you've been nothing but critical of her since she set foot inside this castle." Anton's voice grew louder and more firm.
"That's not true."
"It is true."
Marina huffed impatiently. "Well I can't help it! She's too young, too naïve, and too inexperienced to handle the affairs of the castle while you're here, let alone when you're gone! She's barely eighteen summers old; she doesn't fully understand her role. To this day she lacks in her responsibilities as Lady of the Manor!"
"She may be young, Mother, but she isn't incapable. And she would learn more if you would help her rather than constantly find fault with her!" Anton sighed with exasperation and wearily rubbed her face. "Please, I need to know that you shall help Gwynneth take care of Weldon while I'm gone."
Marina didn't say anything. Instead, she glanced away.
"You know that I shall help her. Everyone is going to have to help her. That shouldn't be your primary concern."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I don't think you need to fret about what your wife and I do while you're gone. What you should be concerned with is what will happen if you don't return."
"What the devil are you talking about?" Anton frowned at her mother's cryptic words.
Marina fixed her daughter with a grave look. "Anton, you know as well as I that Earl Clarendon and his brute of a son are waiting in the wings to descend upon this castle like a pack of scavenging vultures."
"What?" Anton's eyebrows furrowed further in confusion.
"If something were to happen to you-"
"Nothing is going to happen to me! Why do speak this way? What are you trying to say?"
"I'm saying, that if something were to happen to you - may God forbid it - but if it did...there would be nothing to prevent the Earl or Gerrod from taking Weldon from Gwynneth...or from me, for that matter."
Anton gave the older woman an angry, shocked look. "T-That's not true. They are our allies. Indeed, I have fought alongside Gerrod numerous times!"
"Oh Anton, please! The only reason they allied with us is because they want Weldon for themselves!"
"But that's ridiculous...there is no way they could simply acquire Weldon!"
Marina hopped up out of her chair and came to stand in Anton's personal space. "They can if they marry into it."
Anton's mouth dropped open and she stared at her mother in disbelief. Finally she blinked and turned away, sitting down in a nearby chair. "No, that...that cannot be. Our houses married simply to build an alliance...to seal an agreement...the Earl wasn't scheming for anything beyond that."
"Anton," Marina sighed, "do not tell me that you've never wondered why the Earl was so agreeable, even eager, to allow his daughter to marry one of us...why he paid us so handsomely for the privilege, even after Aldred was killed and you were put in his place. Surely you must have considered the possibility that the Earl and Gerrod have motives other than a mere political military pact."
Anton stared at the floor in disbelief, her head shaking slowly. "But, father...father wanted an alliance with them...he would never have married our houses if he'd had doubts."
"He did have doubts; he didn't trust them completely. But his desire to bind himself with someone powerful and secure our military might overrode any sense of hesitation he felt. He wanted to believe that the Earl was a man of his word, and he convinced himself that it was better to be bound to Clarendon by blood ties rather than by friendly words alone. He allied with them, but he never trusted them entirely. I myself was always averse to a marriage with their house. I never wanted their blood to mix with ours."
"You were against the marriage?" Anton asked incredulously.
"Yes, I certainly was!" Marina snapped. "Gwynneth is nothing more than a spy, placed here to inform the Clarendons of our every move! They're nothing but a bunch of murdering, money-grubbing heathens! Why, rumor has it that the Earl had both of his wives murdered simply because he grew tired of them!" She threw her arms out in gesture. "What's to keep them from killing off all of us?"
Anton's brow creased further and she shook her head. "Gwynneth...a spy? Great God, Mother, you're speaking madness!"
"Am I? I see her writing letters nearly every day. One can only imagine what they say and to whom they are sent."
Anton glared at Marina. "I don't want to hear any more of this. I refuse to believe that Gwynneth reports to her father and brother about anything that goes on here. And I refuse to believe that Gerrod would try to usurp Weldon from Gwynneth, from his own sister! If I were to die, it would be all she'd have. He wouldn't take that from her."
"Wouldn't he? He could swoop right in, pretending to help his poor widowed sister, and take over everything if he so desired. Who could stop him? I certainly couldn't, and Gwynneth would never stand up to him."
Anton's eyes flew up to meet her mother's, "Yes she would."
"She would not, Anton! Gerrod is her family, her blood! She would do whatever he wanted! They probably already have a plan in place!"
Anton shot up out of the chair. "No! You're wrong! Gwynneth has come to love Weldon. She would not hand it over and simply walk away! Her allegiance is to me, not her brother or father!"
Marina just gave her daughter a grave look. "I wish I could believe that, Anton, but I cannot."
Anton was angry now and quickly stepped toward her mother. "You constantly doubt her and criticize her every move...you continually knock her down and then stand by and watch as she struggles to rise back up...you condemn her because of her lineage when she has committed no treachery against us! You know nothing of her, Mother! You have no idea what kind of person she is! You only see a foolish, naïve girl, but I'm the one who knows her! And I see so much more than you do, Mother! So very much more!"
Marina, having waited through Anton's outburst with quiet patience, said calmly, "You only see what you want to see because you're attracted to her and she fulfills your needs."
Anton, shocked by her mother's heartless words, was speechless for a moment. Gathering herself quickly, she straightened up and looked the older woman straight in the eyes. "No, you're wrong. I see what I see because I love her."
Marina was now stunned. She knew that Anton fancied Gwynneth, but she never would have thought that she'd say she loved the girl. The two of them stood and stared each other down for a few moments before a fuming Anton finally turned away.
The Marquess thought for a moment before turning back to face Marina. "You have forced me to take steps and make demands on you that I never wanted to make, Mother."
Marina's eyes narrowed as she looked at her daughter and waited to hear the demands.
Anton walked up to stand directly in front of her mother so that their noses nearly touched. "I am the Lord of this manor, and as my wife, Gwynneth is the Lady of this house. She speaks for me and acts on my behalf when I am gone. Whether you like it or not, you will defer to her from now on. You will amend your attitude, and you will show her the respect and authority that she deserves. Do I make myself abundantly clear?"
Marina glared at her daughter. "Perfectly, My Lord." Her voice was full of contempt.
The two of them stared at each other fiercely until Anton finally turned on her heel and walked out the door.
"Hmph," Marina muttered aloud in the now empty room, "You think you love Gwynneth, but the question is...does Gwynneth love you, Anton?"
Anton was furious. Furious and upset by her Mother's words and accusations. How could she think such awful things about Gwynneth...sweet, innocent Gwynneth. What proof did Marina have to give rise to such accusations? Had she seen something Anton hadn't? Anton knew that Marina sometimes had a tendency to overreact...was that all this was? An exaggerated reaction to a few silly notions in her mind? Anton didn't know.
The Marquess kept replaying the questions that Marina had raised about Gwynneth's writings. It was true that the young Marchioness wrote quite a lot. Anton knew that she kept a journal, and she had seen her wife scribbling away on pieces of parchment too. But she had never given it much thought. Gwynneth was a learned woman, and Anton had just assumed that she enjoyed writing, as a sort of hobby. She never considered that Gwynneth was writing to anyone about anything in particular. And she never considered that the younger woman might be writing to her father or brother.
It can't be. I refuse to believe it until I see it with my own eyes. Anton thought angrily as she walked about the castle in search of...something. As she made her way down a hallway, she rounded a corner and nearly ran into Gwynneth's handmaid, Alice.
"Oh! Forgive me, Milord." Alice bowed and stepped out of Anton's path.
"Quite alright, Alice. Tell me, is Lady Gwynneth in her chambers?"
"No Milord. I believe she's in the sitting room. She's been busy sewing some clothes for the wee one." Alice smiled happily.
Anton forced a half smile and stumbled for something to say. "Ah, I see. That's...very good."
Alice noticed her Lord's tense demeanor. "Is everything all right? Shall I go and fetch her for you, Milord?"
Anton held a hand up, "No, no. Everything's fine. Thank you, Alice." She skirted around the maid and continued swiftly down the corridor.
Determined to find some way to prove her wife's innocence, and secure her own piece of mind, Anton reached Gwynneth's chambers and went inside, closing the door behind her. She leaned against the heavy wood door, still mulling over her mother's accusations. Could it be that she did not know her wife at all? Could Gwynneth really be deceiving her? Pushing away from the door, Anton began frantically searching her wife's room for evidence; specifically, for letters. It wasn't long before she turned up a cache of well-inked parchment lying beneath the book that she recognized as Gwynneth's journal.
Anton touched the papers with hesitant hands, feeling torn between invading her wife's privacy and discovering the truth. I'm only doing this out of absolute necessity, Anton told herself. It didn't make her feel any better, but she forced herself to pick up the letters and look at them.
Gwynneth's handwriting was delicate and precise. The inked words were neat and flowed gracefully across the pages, giving them an artful, dainty look. Anton noted that the dates were all recent as her eyes quickly scanned the pages, looking specifically for any references to the Earl of Clarendon or Gerrod. She saw nothing of the kind. Instead, what she saw was her name, over and over.
...I fear that my husband grows weary of me already. Though we have made
strides in rebuilding our battered relationship, Anton still seems to pointedly
Anton frowned and flipped through the sheets of parchment, reading another passage.
...When our hands touch, I feel as though my skin is afire. When our lips touch, I
feel a surge of heat race through my body, as though the flames are consuming
me alive. We go no further than these most chaste, delectable kisses, though I
wish for so much more. Alas, I fear Anton will think me wicked and depraved if
he knew of the bawdy desires of my flesh. It is a sin to harbor such thoughts, even
about one's own husband, but I cannot stop myself.
Anton flipped to another, earlier sheet and read more.
...Anton avoids me. I fear he finds me loathsome and repulsive. Not only do I
represent the worst kind of sin, but I grow more and more hideous every day.
As my body swells, he is surely reminded of his brother's crime and of my
weakness. He detests the bastard that dwells inside me. My whole being repels
And yet another.
...I feel so utterly alone. I have no one to confide in, save Alice, and she cannot
possibly understand the darkness of my heart. The Lady Marina treats me as
though I am a plague to her, and to her son. I feel as though I don't belong. My
life here is a travesty. The brief happiness that Anton and I once shared is gone
and I mourn its passing every day.
Anton's mouth hung open as she at last pulled her eyes away from the letters - letters that were, as it turned out, written to no one. Gwynneth had simply been pouring her heart out onto the pieces of parchment, not writing secret messages to her father or brother.
Filled with a mixture of anger and shame, Anton replaced the letters and walked over to Gwynneth's bed, where she sat down heavily, her head falling into her hands. The Marquess sat like that for a long time, her mind swirling with thoughts of regret and feelings of sorrow.
So deep was her anguish that she never heard the chamber door open, nor did she hear the footsteps that approached her. Only when a hand lightly touched her on the shoulder did she flinch and look up. Eyes of deep, vibrant sea-green looked at her with great concern.
"Husband?" Gwynneth asked softly. Alice had told her that Anton was looking for her, and that he seemed distressed. Seeing him sitting and holding his head, looking so mournful, she had to agree. She was surprised to find him sitting in her room. "Were you looking for me?"
Anton struggled with her thoughts. She didn't want Gwynneth to know that she had just been rifling through her personal things. "Uh, I...I suppose so." She half shrugged.
Gwynneth regarded her husband curiously for a moment before sitting down beside him on the bed. Clearing her throat nervously, Gwynneth ventured forth, reaching out to lay a hand on Anton's arm. "Are you troubled by something?"
"Troubled? Yes...I believe I am."
Gwynneth tensed for a moment, fearing that Anton's trouble had much to do with her. "Is there any way in which I can help you? I mean...I'm uncertain what use I might be to you, but...if there is anything I can do..."
Anton quickly turned her head and pinned Gwynneth with steely eyes, "You are useful to me, Gwynneth. And you do help me. Your mere presence is a balm to my soul, truly."
Gwynneth's cheeks flushed and her hand fell away from Anton's arm. "You flatter me unnecessarily, husband." Her mouth twitched with a nervous smile.
Turning to fully face her wife, Anton reached out to grab her hand. "No, I speak the truth. You should not doubt yourself. And I am truly sorry that I have been remiss in showing you your worth."
Shocked by her husband's words, Gwynneth could only stare at the serious expression on his face. "Y-You have not been remiss, husband." She swallowed against the lump in her throat. "On the contrary...you have been most gracious and patient with me. I only wish that I could repay your kindness."
"You needn't repay anything. You are my wife. The kindness should be inherent in the relationship."
"Should be, perhaps, but it rarely is." Gwynneth said shyly, "You are a much kinder husband than most."
Anton leaned closer, "I am only kind to those who are deserving," she looked at Gwynneth again, her voice soft, "to those I care about."
Gwynneth swallowed hard again, trying to read the gentle but intense expression on her husband's face. It seemed to her that he was trying to say that he cared for her. Her heart leapt at the thought, but before she could fully absorb the implications, she found Anton leaning toward her and bringing their mouths together.
They kissed tenderly at first, their lips gently pressing and sucking, but soon Anton increased the tempo, deepening the kisses as she slid her hands behind Gwynneth's neck and around her waist.
Gwynneth hesitantly brought her hands up to encircle Anton's shoulders, all the while emitting tiny moans and gasps as they continued to kiss. The little noises sparked Anton's smoldering desire and mixed immediately with the residual anger from the earlier upheaval with her mother. The explosive combination caused her passion to flare wildly, and she quickly urged Gwynneth to lie back on the bed. Moving partly atop her wife, Anton began to kiss and run her hands all over the petite frame, her mind solely intent on satisfying each other's need for release.
Gwynneth's heart pounded furiously as her husband kissed and caressed her roughly. This pleasurable foray was proving to be nothing like their prior ones. Anton seemed to be intent on accomplishing something this evening, and the Marchioness held her breath with the hope that they would perhaps quench their desire at last. When she felt one of Anton's hands trailing up her thigh and come to rest at the vee between her legs, she gasped aloud. Her husband paused his kisses and pulled back to look at her.
Anton breathed heavily as she watched various expressions play across her wife's flushed face. Dipping her head to kiss soft, swollen lips, Anton whispered, "I want to touch you, Gwynneth." She gently slid her hand down, fully cupping her wife's sex through the thin material of her undergarments. "I need to touch you."
Gwynneth emitted a low, breathy groan, "Yes...oh yes, Anton." she whispered against her husband's lips before he crushed their mouths together again.
Anton reached down and slipped her hand beneath Gwynneth's underthings, her fingers quickly finding their way to the warm, damp spot between soft thighs. Acutely aware of her wife's delicate condition and remembering Victor's advice, Anton made herself go slowly. She trailed her fingers lightly through and around Gwynneth's womanhood, teasing and touching. She thought she would go mad at the sweet, slow pleasure of it all, but was afraid to press further inside.
Gwynneth did not give quite so much thought to her condition. All she could think about was the exquisite feeling of her husband's hands as they danced all over her body. Her hips shamelessly gyrated against his hand and she dug her fingers into his shoulders as she clutched his shirt and pulled him closer to her, as close as possible. She wanted to feel the familiar weight of his body on her; she craved that comfortable reassurance.
Encouraged by Gwynneth's soft panting and the movement of her hips, Anton carefully slid his fingers into her, his palm pressing against the center of her pleasure. A cry escaped Gwynneth's lips as her body arched and a hand flew down to grasp the forearm that moved between her thighs.
Anton felt the gripping fingers and immediately ceased her movements and pulled back. "Am I hurting you?"
Gwynneth's eyes were mere slits and she shook her head. "No, no." She brought her hands back to grasp her husband's shoulders and urge him closer to her. "Please don't stop." She whispered breathlessly, her hands moving up and pushing their way into dark hair.
Relieved at her wife's words, Anton kissed Gwynneth deeply as her fingers returned to their snug home and she resumed her movements.
Gwynneth's arousal grew quickly, her hands twisting in her husband's hair as her hips gyrated against his steadily stroking hand. She could feel the firmness of his manhood as he ground his pelvis against her hip, the friction creating a pleasant heat. Feeling the familiar pressure building between her legs, Gwynneth's eyes fluttered shut while blissful sensations began to wash over her.
Soon kisses began to fall apart and breathing became more ragged. Lips barely touched as they panted open-mouthed against one another. Anton increased the speed of her strokes and Gwynneth squirmed and whimpered more, her fingernails digging into Anton's back and shoulders as hips undulated faster.
As Gwynneth reached her climax, she cried out, grabbing Anton's shoulders and clinging to him tightly as she shattered and broke all around him.
Burying her face in Gwynneth's neck, Anton worked her hips harder until she too hit her peak, shuddering at last against her wife's body.
They both stilled, the only sounds in the room being their heavy, rasping breaths. After a few moments, Anton finally lifted her head and kissed Gwynneth softly. They broke apart and Anton smiled down at her. "You're beautiful," she whispered, dipping her head to place delicate kisses on her cheek and all around her mouth. "You're so beautiful, Gwynneth."
Tears immediately flooded Gwynneth's eyes and her throat threatened to close up tight. "As are you, Anton." She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and drew him against her again, "...As are you."
They laid on the bed in quiet bliss for a long time, their racing hearts and pounding pulses taking quite a while to subside. Finally Anton situated them so that she was laying on her back with Gwynneth snuggled up to her side, her blonde head resting on her shoulder. Anton knew that she had to talk with Gwynneth about the visitors who would be descending on their house soon, as well as the likelihood of her going off to war. She was loathe to disturb the air of peace and content that surrounded them but knew that she had to broach the subject.
Sighing aloud, Anton cleared her throat. "I'm afraid I have some distressing news to tell you, love."
Gwynneth's heart jumped at the term of endearment, but constricted at the other words. She tilted her head up to look at her husband as he continued to speak.
"Some trouble is brewing in the provinces to our north and west. A small army of raiders has been terrorizing the villages and manors...and its leader is rumored to be one of the sons of Wesley of Rencor."
"What?" Gwynneth bolted upright. "I thought Wesley and his spawn were all killed during the war?"
"No. Two of his sons were never accounted for. Liam, the youngest, is said to be leading this army, eager and determined to avenge his father, it appears."
Gwynneth shook her head and looked away. She was young while Wesley of Rencor was in power, but she remembered the War of Insurrection quite well. Her brother had fought in it, and she remembered fearing, every day, that word would come that he'd been struck down. Any thought or mention of fighting or war made her blood run cold. She turned back to look at Anton, "What does this news mean to us?"
"The provinces that are under attack are asking the neighboring provinces for assistance." Anton looked at her wife gravely. "Liam must be stopped." She resisted saying any more.
"How will he be stopped?" Gwynneth's heart began to thud in fear.
"I'm not sure. The leaders of the allied armies will have to convene quickly and discuss the situation. I've been asked to host the gathering here, at Weldon."
Gwynneth frowned and stared at Anton, "But that's all you're doing? Just meeting and talking?"
Anton reached out to clasp her arm, squeezing it gently, "Yes, love. For the moment, that's all we're going to do." It felt as though she was lying to Gwynneth, and Anton hated herself for holding back.
Gwynneth closed her eyes and nodded, telling herself to calm down and trust her husband. If anything else were develop, surely Anton would inform her.
"We'll need to act quickly and get the manor ready for visitors. I can count on you to handle the necessary preparations, can't I?"
Opening her eyes, Gwynneth nodded. "Yes, of course."
Anton reached up to caress her face, "Thank you." Gwynneth gave her a weak half-smile and Anton's heart nearly broke. She sat up and brought a hand around her wife's neck, pulling her in for a gentle kiss. "It will be all right, love, you'll see. Everything will be all right."
As they kissed softly, Gwynneth prayed her husband was right.