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I drank deeply of the wine my cousin had provided for the afternoon. She told me it would calm my nerves. "Princess Sabeline," I murmured daydreaming about the title I would regain after I wed. I was no longer a princess under English rule, yet I still was to the people of my father's province.
Due to the unrest within the Welsh provinces, an agreement had been made between the king of England and my father. He promised that my marriage would secure a better alliance between Wales and England. Though my father relinquished his title of prince to the English king, he retained all of his authority of his province, and was given, instead, the title of baron in exchange for the king's protection.
I took another long swallow as a man with shoulders nearly as wide as the door entered the room and offered my cousin a ravenous kiss.
My impending marriage on the winter solstice, a beloved celebration of our people, to a Marcher lord had precipitated my cousin, Margaret, to come for a visit. While here, she arranged an afternoon of "instruction" for me to learn of the intimacies between a man and woman. Two years and one week older, she had always served as my older sister. Over the years she had taught me many things, so I had accepted this suggestion.
Nonetheless, virgin that I was, I had misgivings. Margaret winked at me and handed the man, one of my father's castle guards, two long strips of sheeting. In fascination, I watched as he tied the end of each piece to the bedposts and draped them over her naked body. She wrapped each end several times around her wrists and lay back, her arms stretched wide.
Margaret's plump breasts proudly thrust upward, their twin nubs puckered already with arousal. Her lover was imposing in both height and strength. He stood at the end of the bed and looked over his shoulder at me with a wicked grin, then leisurely removed each article of clothing until he stood fully naked before us. I knew 'twas meant to tease Margaret, yet the effect was not lost on me.
He crooked his finger at me and arched his brow, summoning me to join them. I swallowed and raised my cup, declining respectfully. I had not consumed near enough drink yet to participate directly in this sensual romp, though the wine had relaxed me enough that I could observe with rapt enthusiasm.
The guard shrugged and turned his attentions to my cousin, who awaited him with a wanton grin.
He was powerfully built, with dark hair cropped close, and a day's growth of beard. His thighs were firm and corded and his buttocks, tight. From behind, he was a remarkable sight, and when he lifted his knee to the bed, what jutted from between those great thighs made my heart falter.
I redirected my gaze to the breadth of his shoulders, his powerful muscles bunching as he moved over my cousin. His hands, twice the size of Margaret's, caressed her thighs, her breasts. Engaged as far as I could be without actively participating, I lifted the cup to my lips and missed my mouth entirely. The pungent liquid drizzled down the front of my kirtle. Thankfully, my cousin and the guard were preoccupied and did not notice. I set the goblet aside, my hand trembling.
Margaret's lusty groan brought my attention back to the bed where she writhed together with her lover.
"Will you not change your mind, Sabeline?" Margaret asked. A gasp tore from her throat, a result of the man's lavish attention to her exposed flower, and she did not wait for my response.
Margaret yanked on the tethers, rising to meet the man in a fierce kiss as he shoved her back on the bed and covered his body with hers. He squeezed her breasts hard, causing Margaret to wince and then ask for more. His mouth teased, feasting on her flesh, as if she were a succulent peach.
They spoke so low I could not make out all of what they said. Still, I was mesmerized as I watched their limbs entwine, the firelight glistening off their fevered bodies. I tried to imagine how I would measure up in Lord Benedict's bed. What soft murmurings would I speak in his ear?
"Tell me you want me, sweet woman, and I shall make you see the heavens," her lover growled, bringing me back to the moment.
From beneath his powerful body, I heard Margaret's giggle. Her knees parted wide and he wasted no time in pushing roughly into her as her ankles locked around his waist.
He held her hips, driving fiercely into her as Margaret's hands gripped the ties attached to her wrists. Her body writhed as he bucked against her slick folds, pushing harder in his determined fervor.
I was frozen, lost in the utter look of pleasure on my cousin's face. Her perfect mouth opened in arousal, mating briefly with his tongue in a passionate kiss. With each lunge, her sighs grew louder, melding with the deep baritone of the guard's sighs. Her sun-kissed hair, a mass of unruly curls, fanned out haphazardly across the pristine white pillows each time her head hit the bed.
"Such a fine cunt, milady," the formidable guard spoke between clenched teeth as he dominated her body.
I was so highly captivated that I could not turn away. I admit, for a fleeting moment, I wanted to leap in the middle between them.
"Are—you—watch—ing?" Margaret's words were choppy as she tried to speak against the force driving at her body. Braced against the tethered strips holding her at an upright angle, she glanced at me before her head lolled back and she emitted a loud cry with her release.
I felt the blood leave my face as I watched the guard shove his ample phallus thrice more into my cousin and then collapse upon her like a sack of potatoes. My mouth was dry despite the wine and in direct contrast to the dampness betwixt my legs. I realized that my knuckles were white from gripping the arms of my chair.
There was no intimacy given after and none required, I suspected, as the man rolled off the bed, unknotted one of my cousin's restraints and began to dress. Margaret released her bound wrist and stretched languidly on the bed, rubbing her forearms as she gazed at the man's backside.
"I shall see you are rewarded handsomely for your efforts," she purred.
He grunted but flashed her a grin as he strode toward the door. "Good day, miladies," he spoke with a slight bow as if he had delivered a message, then shut the door quietly behind him.
Margaret scooted off the bed and drew her robe around her, cinching it at the waist. She poured herself a cup of wine and sat in the chair across from me.
"Well, what say you, cousin? Were you served well by this instruction?" she asked, raising her cup to me before taking a sip.
I averted my gaze, knowing the heat of my face had nothing to do with either the blazing fire or the drink. I took a healthy swallow of my wine to give me time to recover from the rapid beating of my heart. "It appears most pleasant, cousin. Did you enjoy it?"
She chuckled. "It is a rare thing if I do not," she remarked with a wry grin.
I imagined Benedict's head between my thighs, his hands holding my hips in place as I had seen the guard do with Margaret. "Does it hurt? The intrusion?"
She cast a look to the heavens. I was certain my questions seemed naive, but I wanted to prepare myself for what was to come.
"A little the first time, but it is soon replaced with a much more delicious sensation." She tipped her head back and rested it on the back of the chair. Her smile was that of a content woman. A bit envious, I could not wait to experience such a delightful event. One concern shadowed my thoughts, however.
"Is there any truth, cousin, that a man prefers to wed a woman whose virtue is yet intact?" I asked. "I have heard that men prefer to marry a virgin." I glanced at her. "I mean no offense, of course." I appreciated my cousin's sexual freedom, I just wasn't certain I was comfortable with it personally. Still, I wanted to appease my husband-to-be in the best way possible, as the happiness of our union directly reflected on my father's good standing with the king.
"Now you wish to speak of virtuousness?" She laughed. "My poor innocent cousin. Do you not think that a man of Lord Benedict's rank and status would prefer a woman who would meet him thrust for thrust with the passion which he surely must be accustomed to?"
She arched her blond brows over her scrutinizing gaze. Where she was of fair hair and light blue eyes, I was of Scotch-Irish lineage, dark eyed and blessed with deep mahogany tresses. Side by side, we made a stunning spectacle.
"I speak only of things I have heard. That a man prefers a woman whom he can deflower himself," I said, wanting to understand why, if a man and woman cared for each other, it should make one gnat of difference.
"No one should be so naive," she responded staring into the fire. "Not even you."
I fell silent. Though I yearned to hear in detail more about her physical pleasure, I knew I would have to wait for the experience myself.
"So, is that all there is to it, then?" I asked. "A few moments of unbridled lust and then it is over?"
She glanced at me with a demure smile before she shrugged. "Pleasure can be found in many ways, silly girl. Depending on the enthusiasm and experience of those involved, the ecstasy can last for hours."
"Hours?" The thought alone caused me to squirm. "Do you think Lord Benedict will like me?" I asked, changing the subject as I tossed a new log on the fire.
"Lord Benedict? Do not fret over such things, cousin. You will learn over time what pleases him most." She smiled. "I cannot teach you everything."
"No, of course not," I responded quietly, hiding my doubts about my ability to please any man, but most especially Lord Benedict.
I carried my concerns close. I knew that there were those in my father's court who looked down on me. As the Baron Durwain's only living child, I was in line to inherit all of my father's land and his army as well as my mother's holdings in both Ireland and France. Given to my father when they married, his inheritance would have passed to his son. However, with the death of my brother at his birth and my mother's death shortly after, my father upheld the traditions of old and I became the benefactor of all his wealth.
Several proposals followed before the dirt was hard on my mother's grave, but it was by summons to the court of the English king, that I was to meet my future husband. I was not oblivious to the tensions in my country between the Welsh tribes and the English rule. By this alliance with a Norman Marcher lord, England would gain that much more security along its borders.
My first impression of my intended was not a favorable one, but I resolved to the belief that we had both been very young. Over these past three years, I was pleasantly surprised to see his letters had grown poignant, more heartfelt. I could not help but read them over and over and imagine the passionate and virile man who conveyed such affection. Far different than the man I met that summer at court.
"Shall I read again his last letter?" I asked as I stood to retrieve it from the pocket of my gown.
Margaret reached for a plump apricot. They were a wedding gift from the king. He would be sending in his stead his most trusted knight to serve as his witness to the marriage ceremony, as it was far too dangerous for him to leave England at this time. In accordance to Welsh tradition, my father had requested that the ceremony take place at Durwain Castle. Further, in compliance with my mother's dying wish, the ceremony was to take place on the winter solstice, her favorite time of year.
Chilled, I moved to the fur rug near the fire, sliding another warm pelt over my lap. I had taken Benedict's last letter from its secret place inside the wooden box that stored every letter he had sent, every gift of a single flower, now all dried and frail. I tugged at the ribbon I'd tied around the thick, folded parchment.
"Go on," Margaret urged impatiently as she drank her wine.
"'To my future bride,' " I began, glancing at her with a smile on my lips. "'I count my days in service knowing my victories pale by comparison to winning your hand. It has been months since I last saw your enchanting face. I confess yours is the last face I think on as I lie on the cold ground and stare into the night sky. It is the thought of lying at your side that keeps me warm, as the days grow increasingly colder. I look forward to the time when I may gaze into your beautiful eyes that remind me of the spices of the ancient lands. I remain, your ever-faithful and dutiful servant, Lord Benedict of Hereford.' "
I brushed my fingertips over the remnant of the wax seal left on the parchment. "What say you, cousin? Are these the words of a true heart?"
She sighed as she drew a fur over her feet and popped another apricot into her mouth.
"He is well educated, that much is evident." Her brow furrowed with her thoughts. "But a true heart, I cannot say."
"Does that not sound like a man enamored of the thought of being wed?" I asked, clutching the note to my breast.
She shrugged. "I am not sure, cousin, that any man is enamored of the ceremony as much as what comes after. Still, it is believed you can tell a great many things from a man's eyes," Margaret stated with a smirk. "I will reserve my judgment on this matter until then. Though I must confess, it is not only in the eyes that I find my interest."
"You are wicked, Margaret. I daresay if your father knew the half of what I know about you, you would be on your way to a nunnery by spring."
Her look of contentment dissipated and she eyed me with quiet determination. "Is that a threat, my dear cousin?"
"Of course not. Would I send away the only woman who can instruct me in the ways of men?"
She shrugged and poured more wine in her cup.