Douglas spoke very little as we went for a ride on horseback through the midday countryside. Dragon seemed skittish and Douglas used the pressure of his thighs to control the stallion so that my placid mare could keep up with him. The sun was high and shined down on us with considerable heat. I wanted to know where we were going but I was reluctant to brake Douglas’ solemn silence. Soon I saw we were heading towards Watcombe Manor.
As always, the signs of extreme neglect as a result of Wilkinson’s indifference filled me with sorrow and yet, at the same time, with a determination to make repairs as soon as possible. I wanted Watcombe Manor restored to its original beauty, as was right and just. Therefore, I was glad to see a handful of gardeners busily occupied on the lawn and in the rose garden. No longer capable of keeping silent, I exclaimed.
“Oh, Douglas! You have people working already! How good of you! I will be so pleased when everything is put to rights again. Watcombe is such a beautiful place and it deserves to be in excellent shape!”
Again Douglas’ reaction surprised me. He did not reply, just nodded agreement. What was his meaning? Did he not wish to talk about Watcombe’s restoration?
We entered the stable yard and a young boy came running to take our horses. Douglas greeted him with a cheerful shout.
“Hey, young Richard! How are you settling in? Do you like working in the stables?”
“Yes, my lord, I do!” the boy answered eagerly and in a heavy Devonshire accent.
“Good! Give the pair of them some hay and water and unsaddle them, will you? We will not need them for a couple of hours,” Douglas commanded. He began walking towards the house in his long, easy strides and I hastened after him.
“Douglas, why have you brought me here? Have redecorations in the house also started? I had hoped you would consult me so that I might give my opinion about …”
“Meggie, will you please be silent?” my rake interrupted, taking me by the hand, so that he could pull me with him up the stairs to one of the first floor bedchambers. I gasped in awe when I entered!
It was a magnificent room with a high ceiling intricately worked out in beautiful pastel shades. Each high window had a balcony facing the rose garden. The walls were decorated with panels of flowered silk in a soft shade of pink framed with gold. The floor was a rusty brown parquet that gleamed from extensive waxing. A thick Aubusson carpet of the finest mint green silk covered the fine wooden boards; it muffled the sounds of our footsteps. A large four-poster bed with matching curtains and silken bedspread occupied one of the walls. The rest of the room was furnished with small cupboards and cabinets in Empire style. A little settee with matching seats and coffee table was placed near one of the windows.
“Oh, how charming!” I exclaimed. “What an absolutely lovely room!”
“It will be ours, Margaret. It used to be my parents’ chamber and I know for a fact they have been very happy in here. After my mother’s death, my father had it sealed shut. He did not want to have anything changed from the time when my mother decorated it. Yesterday, I had it opened and cleaned again.”
“Yesterday? But, when? Did you not sleep at all, then, after we were rescued?”
“No. I considered this of the utmost importance, my darling, since I wanted it ready for you after we marry. Do you like it, then?”
I jumped into his outstretched arms. “Oh yes, Douglas! I adore it!”
“Good, I hoped you would because … well, this is where I will teach you about lovemaking, darling. It would be unpleasant for you if you disliked the room, would it not?”
“L … lovemaking …” I stammered, looking up at him. He was holding me in his embrace with mischief in his eyes yet smiled sweetly.
“Yes,” he said softly, “after we are married, of course. But first, I will give you a short yet well-needed lecture on the procedures of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, just by way of an explanation, mind.”
“N … now?” I squeaked, suddenly feeling equally excited and frightened.
“Now. Please go and lie down on top of the bedcovers for me, sweetheart.”
A lump formed in my throat and I was unable to swallow. The constriction became a flash of heat that rushed all the way down to the tip of my toes. My stomach muscles seemed to buckle and a fluttering of my pulse made my legs tremble. I held on to Douglas for support as my knees grew weak. My rake’s smile widened and he picked me up as if I were weightless. In two strides he reached the huge bed and gently laid me down.
Douglas stretched out beside me and cupped my face with one hand. Sparkles of mischief were dancing in his blue eyes, causing my pulse to speed up.
“Now, Meggie, I want you to listen very attentively because this is important for our future marital intercourse. How again did you describe the cows’ mating ritual?”
“Well … you know what I said … the female’s backside is presented to the male for him to insert his … apparatus and impregnate her with it … have I got that correct, Douglas?”
“Very correct, my sweet.” His mouth was twitching in an attempt to smother a laugh and his eyes were dancing with mirth. “We will do that too, one day. It can be very satisfying for the male, in this case, me. But not at the beginning, my love, not when you have yet to learn what is most pleasing for the lady.”
He tilted my face upwards so that I was forced to look deep into his eyes. His gaze was soft and somewhat unfocussed. The blue of his eyes was very dark and his breathing seemed harsher, his voice hoarse.
“For your first lesson, my love, I will teach you this …” His hand left my face, took one of mine and guided it downwards to the junction of his thighs. A shock hit me when I felt …
“Heavens …” I breathed as I probed the length of it, marvelling in its steel-like hardness. I felt its pulsing heath, even through the doeskin of his breeches. It was highly exciting and I stroked it harder, my body responding in thrilling arousal. Although I was careful and shy, I nevertheless seemed to cause pain to Douglas- he suddenly moaned and braced himself against my body. But his mouth was warm and firm and started roaming over my throat and neck.
“When I am like this, Margaret, you are my master and commander. All I want to do at such a time, is this …” he whispered
The skirt of my riding habit was shoved upwards and Douglas’ fingers were suddenly stroking my leg in its silk stocking, from my foot and all the way up to my thigh. The touch of his cool fingers on my bare flesh caused a bolt of lightning to blast through me. I felt the muscles of my womanly place clench in response. I arched up to close the distance between that place and his hand, inviting him to caress me again as he had done the night before.
“This is how I prepare you, my darling, so that you will be ready for me when I … insert my apparatus. To do that I must straddle you while I’m gazing into your beautiful eyes or kissing you senseless.”
I heard Douglas say those words but was not really listening to him. There were too many lovely sensations that threatened to overcome me and I welcomed them eagerly. His hand was stroking me through the silk of my drawers; he was driving me mad with desire! In a red haze of mounting pleasure I rubbed myself against the heel of his hand and shuddered when it touched me just where I wanted it the most.
“Please, Douglas, do not stop … please …”
“Is this what you want, my love? And this? Or this?”
“Yes … yes … please …”
Waves of molten lava drowned me as my body shuddered in ripples of pure delight! It seemed to last a lifetime and I could not breathe, nor did I want to! I just wanted to feel like this for the rest of my life!
Through the sound of my blood, thundering in my whole body, I heard Douglas whisper. “This, my lovely sweetheart, is what I mean to give you, every time we make love. You are made for this, my love.”
I could feel him shiver and asked. “Are you cold, darling? We can draw up the …”
He chuckled softly. “No, my love, I am definitively not cold. Come here …”
He drew me very close and held me. My cheek rested in the soft hollow of his neck and my eyes closed in utter well-being.
When I came out of the blessed state of drowsiness, I found myself alone on the bed. I must have fallen asleep, some time before. A door in the far corner of the room was open and noises of splashing water came out of it. It must be a dressing room, I thought. I was tempted to go and investigate when the sound of a gasp, followed by a muffled curse, reached my ears. It was Douglas! Was he in pain? Had he hurt himself, or worse, had I hurt him?
“Douglas? Are you in there, my love? What is happening?”
“Do not come in, Margaret! Stay there!”
His panicked voice rang very clearly; his words, so powerful, prompted me to stay where I was. I did not understand, though. I was scared, too.
“Douglas, what is it? Can I help you?”
“No … no, all is well, my love. I will be with you in a few moments.”
When he finally emerged from the dressing room, I saw that his clothes were fully restored and Douglas looked rather composed, but also distant.
“There are some utensils in there, if you want to freshen yourself up,” he said. “I will be downstairs, waiting for you, my darling.”
With a smile, he left the room.
I was baffled! What I had wanted was that he would have stayed with me and talked more about marital intercourse. There were so many things I did not comprehend as yet.
The small dressing room had no windows and was upholstered in the same shades of green that were used in the main room. There was a large copper bath tub and a wash stand with a lovely basin and jar in delicate, flower-patterned china. A big bar of scented soap lay on a matching plate. I picked it up and found it was still wet from Douglas’ using it. Next to the wash stand was a wicker basket, meant for dirty linen. I opened its top and took out what was in it. It held a pair of doeskin breeches, the pair Douglas had been wearing when we went riding earlier this afternoon.
With trembling hands, I lifted the breeches and inhaled the sweet, enticing scent that emerged from it. Douglas’ scent, I realised, strong and masculine … To my surprise, I became aroused again. It was an exquisite feeling, deliciously powerful and intoxicating. My hands fondled the soft, cream-coloured material with relish. Then they encountered a most peculiar thing – a stain, still wet, and situated where the pants’ legs met.
My heart suddenly jumped with the awareness of what I was seeing and a bolt of pure, feminine joy shot through me! My dear rake lost control of himself, just by being intimate with me! Everything became very clear and all of a sudden! I had no need for further lessons in marital intercourse.
Recalling Douglas’ embarrassment of this, I solemnly swore I would never tell him that I knew of his embarrassment.
I cleaned myself up and righted my rumpled clothing. When I stepped into the bedchamber again, I noticed a large cheval mirror in one of the corners and was instantly drawn to it. Would I look different now, after having acquired this new insight on lovemaking? Would I even look changed if we had gone all the way, Douglas and I?
I stood in front of the mirror, straight as a measuring rod and utterly composed. I saw a not too tall, slender woman with a tiny waist, small breasts and slim limbs. The mirror reflected very small hands and feet and a heart-shaped face with enormous blue eyes, now the colour of a pale spring sky.
I took in my nose, short, straight and a bit upturned, which gave me the appearance of a young child. There were times when I hated looking like a child, especially when I was not feeling at all like one! My mouth was rather large but with nicely shaped lips, now slightly swollen from Douglas’ kisses. A surge of heath went down my spine at the recollection of his caresses – I suddenly felt absolutely, fabulously happy!