The vicar was a stout man with kind eyes who reminded her quite a lot of her father. That wasn’t the only reason that Penelope turned a red heretofore unmatched in brightness when Colin, upon being given leave, kissed her as if they weren’t standing in a church in front of one hundred and fifty of their closest friends and family. It did not, however, help matters.
One of Colin’s hands was at her waist, thankfully hovering just above her bottom, and his other was on her cheek, cupping gently as he tilted her head to allow him better access. Penelope could muster very little resistance to Colin. A few weeks of love and affection — even including one breathtaking night of intimacy — didn’t really stand up against a dozen years of desperate, unrequited longing, after all. Not that Penelope didn’t appreciate those weeks; it was beyond understatement to say that she did. He just took getting used to was all; knowing that those bright green eyes and those smiles and those broad shoulders were available for her to do more than surreptitiously admire took getting used to.
Not yet being so acclimated, Penelope was left with little choice but to sway into her husband’s embrace — her husband! — and kiss him back. Her hands curled in the lapels of his coat, but it wasn’t until Penelope made a rather indecent noise after Colin did something quite new with his tongue that the vicar politely cleared his throat. Mr. and Mrs. Bridgerton finally broke apart.
Colin held her pressed close to his side as they turned to face the assemblage. His grin was so wide and satisfied that Penelope could not help but to smile as well. It was Felicity who began applauding, knocking the crowd out of its shocked stupor. The polite ovation that followed went a little rowdy towards the end when someone — Colin’s brother Gregory, Penelope thought — whistled quite loudly.
Penelope’s color did not return to normal until a ways into the reception.
The trip back to Colin’s home in Bloomsbury — their home, and oh how lovely that sounded in her head — seemed unreasonably long. Penelope was bursting with energy, some of it nervous, but, much to her surprise, most of it merely eager. They’d situated themselves quickly, Penelope tucked against Colin’s side as his arm encircled her waist, her cheek resting against his shoulder. He was uncommonly quiet and Penelope would have worried if contentment hadn’t been painted all over his handsome face when she looked up at him.
The carriage rolled on and Penelope fidgeted with her hands. Colin’s legs were stretched out in front of them, or at least as far as his height would allow, which was not very far at all. The toes of his boots pressed against the bottom of the opposite bench. Lightly, hesitantly, Penelope set her fingertips against his knee. It was a small thrill, but such a profound one, to know that he was hers to touch.
At first, Colin made no reaction, but when she moved on to lightly drawing patterns on his thigh, he tensed. She paused briefly before her hand started its idle work again, and Colin drew a sharp breath, then released her waist and grabbed her hand. He brought it to his mouth and kissed it, then turned it and soundly kissed her palm as well before firmly lacing their fingers together and returning their hands to rest, still, against his leg. Penelope tried not to feel injured that he clearly hadn’t liked her first attempt at casual affection, especially since he’d taken such pains to stop her in the most loving way possible. Still, it stung a bit, and as the carriage slowly trundled along — of course there would be traffic — Penelope waited a few minutes before leaning against him again.
The fabric of his coat was soft on her cheek, and she could feel his heat even through the layers. She turned slightly, just enough to breathe in his scent, intoxicating as it was, and, again, he tensed. Penelope exhaled heavily, then bit her lip. Well, this wasn’t starting off very well at all. Either she couldn’t do anything right or Colin was in a mood. Neither was at all an appealing prospect, and for neither did she have an immediate solution in mind. She did determine, at least, to stop expressing her anxiety by worrying her lips with her teeth since she could feel them chapping. She licked them, then a second time, and Colin fidgeted. He was looking at her, green eyes intent, and she wasn’t certain how long he had been doing so. Instinctively, she bit her lip again.
“Penelope,” he said softly, nearly a plea, “please stop it.”
“I’ve not done anything,” she protested indignantly. Colin was definitely in a mood, and, as it turned out, Penelope did not at all appreciate it. It was their wedding day for heaven’s sake.
His brow furrowed; he pursed his lips.
“No, you haven’t,” he admitted, and before her surprise wore off, his voice dropped lower, and he continued: “But you’re making me want to do things.”
“Oh,” said Penelope and everything slotted fantastically into place. Her smile was shy, but her words were not.
“Then do them.”
“Don’t tempt me,” he said. She wasn’t sure whether he was even aware that he was leaning more closely to her. Their noses were a hairsbreadth from touching.
“What if I want to tempt you?” Penelope returned.
His eyes widened, and it sent a shiver of delight through her. Colin took a deep breath.
“I think I’ll sit over here,” he said. Before she could blink, he’d extricated himself and sat on the other bench opposite her, legs crossed and arms folded.
Penelope pouted. She didn’t like to think of herself as prey to such childish occupations, but she knew very well that, in the moment, she most definitely was. Colin’s sudden and extremely belated respect for propriety was as shocking as it was frustrating. And really, how could a bloody carriage move so slowly? Was the driver pulling it himself?
“It is not as if we’ve never misbehaved in the back of a carriage before.” Penelope sniffed, petulant. “This very carriage in fact.”
“Which is why,” Colin said, looking almost pained, “I know all too well that if we start, we will not want to stop when the carriage does.”
He was probably right, Penelope reflected, remembering the heady feeling of him pressing her into the seat cushions, how much she’d just wanted to keep rolling about London all afternoon if it meant that he didn’t have to stop all the incredible things he’d been doing.
Yet and still.
“But unlike last time,” she said reasonably, “it would only be a brief pause.”
Colin grimaced, and his eyes darted away from her, then back again. He was very clearly trying to decide whether or not to say what he was thinking. Penelope stared at him, wide-eyed and curious, and he sighed.
“Starting and then pausing, even briefly, can be extremely… uncomfortable for a man,” he said at last.
Penelope raised her eyebrows and her lips parted, but Colin rushed ahead.
“Please don’t ask,” he said. “Not here.”
“I don’t like not knowing things, Colin,” she said, ignoring the way he snorted in amusement. “Especially if they hurt you.”
At this, he did look chagrined.
“It’s… a good kind of pain,” he explained. A smirk made its way back to his face. “Particularly if one knows there is to be imminent relief, but all the same I’d rather we didn’t start,” and here his smirk grew wolfish and his eyes hungry, “until we are ensconced in our bedchamber where we will have absolutely no need whatsoever to stop at all.”
Penelope found herself very suddenly breathless, but, she decided, it was a good kind of breathless.
When at long last the carriage came to a stop in front of their destination, Colin was up and through the door so quickly that he nearly bumped his head. That, however, was nothing compared the haste he demonstrated in picking Penelope up by the waist and then setting her on the ground instead of helping her out of the carriage properly. Penelope might have scolded him (she’d nearly lost her hat) if it hadn’t been so funny.
They kept up a dignified, if quick, pace into the house, where the butler ushered them into the entry hall. There in a perfectly straight line, stood the entire household staff. The butler, having dealt with Colin’s coat and Penelope’s pelisse, took up his place at the head of the line. Colin opened his mouth, then closed it, and Penelope knew that somewhere between the reception and their arrival, he had entirely forgotten the necessity of introducing his new wife to the household staff and the staff, of course, to their new mistress. Penelope could hardly blame him; it hadn’t exactly been at the forefront of her mind either.
He covered with a bright grin, as was his way, though she doubted anyone present was fooled.
“Dunwoody,” Colin said jauntily, then bobbed his head in her direction, “Mrs. Penelope Bridgerton neé Featherington. Dearest, Dunwoody.”
Dunwoody bowed, but before Penelope could make any response Colin waved his hand in a sweeping gesture at the rest of the line and announced: “Staff, my wife.”
He looked to Penelope with a smile so desperately charming that she thought it might actually help smooth over the rudeness that he was currently perpetrating.
“Wife, the staff.”
Penelope tried not to smile at the variety of confused looks with which this was greeted, though her blush could not be stifled.
“Mrs. Bridgerton and I shall retire now,” Colin announced, his hand already at the small of Penelope’s back to guide her towards the stairs. “You may all return to your duties.”
They were halfway up the stairs when Colin paused and turned back.
“Dunwoody, send up some food in a few hours, would you?”
They didn’t make it three more steps before Colin paused again.
“Just knock and leave the tray, if you please,” he added.
Dunwoody’s “of course, sir,” floated up to them just as they made the landing.
Had Penelope been less preoccupied she would have been very interested in comparing Colin’s bedchamber here, in his own home, to the one kept for him at Number Five -- to see what indicators of adult independence differentiated it from the room of a youth who hadn’t struck out into the world quite yet. It was the sort of thing that fascinated her, the stories that even something so simple as a room could tell.
But, as it turned out, she hadn’t any interest to spare for that as she was indeed extremely occupied with Colin’s tongue in her mouth and his hands on her bottom, pressing their bodies as close together as they could possibly get while still clothed.
Not that they would be clothed for very long. Colin’s waistcoat had gone before the door had even finished slamming shut, and it had been Penelope who tugged eagerly at his cravat until it gave way. He released his hold on her long enough to pluck at the buttons on her dress, which he’d pulled down and bunched at her waist by the time they tumbled into the bed.
“Those were, without doubt, the longest two weeks of my life,” Colin grunted, able to speak now as he’d paused in his zealous attentions in order to tug off Penelope’s shoes and then his own. He climbed back into the bed, crawling over her and capturing her mouth with another searing kiss.
Penelope slid her hands up under his shirt where it’d come untucked, fingers trailing over his abdomen, then around to his back, where his muscles bunched as he held himself above her. He groaned deep in his throat and Penelope smiled.
“You have no idea how much I’ve wanted you,” he said against her chin, into the curve of her neck.
Penelope was aflame, her whole body aching. She lifted her hips to press against his, unable to contain the gasp as his arousal rubbed against her, even through their remaining layers.
“I rather think I do,” she said.
He pulled back to meet her eyes, his face radiant with affection.
“You are amazing,” he said before kissing her again as he began to work her dress the rest of the way down her hips. She lifted so that he could pull it off, then clicked her tongue at him when he tossed the gown haphazardly over his shoulder. He gave her a lopsided smile.
Penelope pulled encouragingly at his shirt, but he’d stopped and was just staring down at her. She lay before him in nothing but her stockings and the wispy chemise of silk and lace that had at least half a dozen relatives amongst her trousseau. Acquiring them had been a nightmare of extremely embarrassing fittings and her mother’s invariably backhanded compliments, but, Penelope thought, her heart beating so very fast, the way Colin was looking at her now made it all worth it. His eyes were wide as he drank her in, and his countenance was soft, awestruck, as if she was a dream that had suddenly sprung to life before him — one that he thought might disappear into the ether again at any moment.
It was enlivening to be looked at in such a way, as if one was a wonder. And thus enlivened, Penelope began to tug his shirt over his head. Coming back to himself, he helped her, and his hair got adorably mussed in the bargain. Penelope ran her fingers through it before lacing them at the back of his neck as he leaned down to touch his lips to hers. His fingers skimmed along the hem of her chemise, then up her thighs to the tops of her stockings, which he peeled off just slowly enough to make her shudder with need.
The straps of her chemise were next and they slipped, whisper-soft, against her shoulders. Colin pressed a kiss into the hollow between her breasts, bared as he pulled her chemise down. The pleased noise he made vibrated against her skin as he took one nipple, already hardened, into his mouth. He laved it with his tongue as he palmed her other breast, grasping and kneading it with frequent pauses to impudently tweak and pinch the nipple.
“C-Colin,” she gasped, her back arching as her body tried, without her leave, to press itself closer to him.
“Mmm?” he asked, mouth not leaving her breast, though it was clear he knew that she hadn’t anything actually coherent to say for herself.
Instead, she grasped at his waist. He switched his attentions to her other breast, and chuckled softly as she keened in protest when he lifted his mouth from her. Penelope drew her fingers along the light trail of hair that disappeared into his breeches before carefully unbuttoning them. He was straining against the fabric in a way that she didn’t imagine was at all comfortable given their chat earlier in the carriage, and he inhaled sharply as she released him. This was followed by a low, ragged groan as she ran her fingers, testing, along his length. He was hot and so very hard, his skin smooth under her fingertips. He groaned again, his facing pressing quite suddenly into her bosom, and Penelope looked at him in alarm.
“Does this hurt?” she asked.
“No,“ he said forcefully, shaking his head. “But-“
The denial was all she really needed. Emboldened, she wrapped her hand around him. His hips jerked suddenly as he thrust against her and, surprised, Penelope nearly let him go. Nearly, but not quite. Tenacious, she slid her hand along his length, down then up, and watched his entire body shudder as he attempted to hold himself still.
“God, Penelope,” Colin gasped, then nipped at her chin, kissed ardently along her neck. Oh, how incredible that made her feel. How oddly powerful. As she continued to stroke him, he balanced his weight on one forearm and she thought he might reach for her hand, to grab her wrist as he had weeks before to warn her away. Not there. Not yet. Later. Later. But it was later now and they needn’t ever wait again. Penelope squeezed him, just once, and his arm dropped back to the bed as his breath stuttered.
“Faster,” he whispered, like a surrender.
She obliged him, and his hands wandered her body, along her hips and thighs, kneading her breasts again as if struggling for purchase while she continued her ministrations. His mouth fell open before long, his lips only just parted, and Penelope watched him, enthralled, as his eyes screwed shut. He tensed, then trembled, gasping out unintelligible sounds all mixed up with her name and just a hint of blasphemy as he reached completion and spilled himself on the bed as well as, unfortunately, a bit onto his breeches, still mostly on as they were.
Colin rolled off of her and collapsed onto his back beside her, out of breath. Penelope missed his heat and his weight above her, but after he pulled his breeches the rest of the way off and dropped them on the floor, he propped himself up on his side and scooted closer to her, one arm resting heavily about her waist. He gazed down at her, eyes heavy-lidded, then nuzzled quite sweetly at her cheek.
“That was not supposed to happen,” he breathed, moving around to nibble at her ear.
“Wasn’t it?” she asked saucily, then giggled as he flicked his tongue against her earlobe. “I was under the impression that that was the whole point.”
“No,” he said, affronted, “that was… premature and rather embarrassing.”
At this, Penelope reached up to gently cup his face.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” she said with great feeling. “I liked watching you.”
His expression softened and his thumb stroked soft circles against her belly.
“I was meant to watch you,” he said gently.
“You still can.”
His brow furrowed, then just as quickly relaxed and he smiled, one of his huge, brilliant Colin smiles, and said: “I suppose I can at that.”
Then, his hand abandoned its design-making on her belly to pull the last of her clothing away. He stroked her belly again briefly as she lay bare before him, then his hand dipped low, past the thatch of wiry curls and directly to her center.
For two full weeks, she hadn’t been able to forget for a single moment the way he’d touched her there. She’d lay in bed, night after night, frustrated and aching and wishing he was there beside her until she’d no choice but to touch herself, attempting to mimic what he had done so deftly. It wasn’t quite the same — rather lonely, actually, without Colin to smile and moan along with her, to kiss her and make her feel so wickedly desirable. Not to mention that though she had hands, of course, there were other parts of him that she really had no means to duplicate.
He stroked along her opening, then pressed the pad of his thumb to just the right place, working in tight little circles as Penelope writhed beneath him. He bent his head to kiss along her throat, then between her collarbones. Penelope’s toes curled against the linens as she anticipated him returning again to tease and torment her breasts, but after a brief kiss to each of her nipples, he moved on. His fingers still played at her core, and though she lifted her hips, nudging against him, he would not push a finger into her as he had before.
She moaned, partly in pleasure and partly in frustrated desire, as he licked a strip down her belly and circled her navel. Then, much to her dismay, he removed his fingers. Penelope’s head shot up as she stared down the length of her body to see what he was about, her eyes falling on him — he stared defiantly back at her — just as he replaced his fingers with his mouth.
Penelope cried out in surprise, then, as he swept his tongue against her, in bliss. He laughed — she could feel it — then suckled at her mercilessly, his tongue swirling around and around that spot, that little nub about which, amongst all the things no one had ever bothered to concern her with, Penelope most regretted her ignorance. She would tell her daughters everything, she decided. It would likely be mortifying, but nevertheless when they were of an age she would tell them. She would not raise her daughters to live in ignorance as she had and-
“Oh, Colin,” she yelled. It sounded half a sob as he took two fingers and parted her further, lapping assiduously at her. She jerked against his mouth, limbs flailing, and Colin wrapped one arm about her thigh, holding it in place, and lay the other along the length of her torso, his hand coming to rest between her breasts. His mouth never left her.
It was an exquisite pleasure, bordering on pain, and her entire body felt raw and sensitive and terrifyingly alive. Then, when she thought she could take no more, he hummed against her, the vibrations shooting through her. Her body tightened unbearably, she was throbbing against his tongue, then finally, ecstasy flooded her limbs as her release took her. Colin held her tightly as she gasped out her pleasure. When her vision cleared and he lifted his head, he was smiling.
Penelope took a shuddering breath as he climbed back up her body to lie beside her. With a cheeky grin, he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand before kissing her. Though, still waiting as she was for strength to return to her body, she barely puckered her lips.
He drew his hand through her hair where half of it had fallen completely from its coiffure during their exertions, and she hoped, suddenly, that neither of them rolled over on any of the pins in the night. His gaze was so rapt, so serious, that she had to look away. Something in her twisted, and she just could not bear it. Who was she, Penelope Featherington — just Penelope Featherington — that anyone should look on her that way? Sometimes, most of the time, having everything she’d ever wanted, everything she’d ever dreamed of, was a source of boundless joy. But other times, it felt fragile and false, as if she’d cheated some way because she was not the sort of woman for whom such things were meant.
Then Colin, Colin with his talented tongue and his timing so perfect that it rivaled how poor her own was, stroked her hair again and said: “I love you so much.”
Everything else went away. He pressed closer to her, kissing her shoulder, her neck, her chin. And even though her body, in its satiation, still felt a bit like there was honey flowing in her veins, heat flashed through her.
“I love you so much that it feels as if I’m going mad,” he continued, “as if- as if a body can’t possibly contain all of it.”
“I love you too,” Penelope said, though it felt so inadequate. So, she leaned up and kissed him, hard, and his lips parted, his tongue darting forth to sweep against hers.
This couldn’t be normal: to want him so much, so urgently, to have him, and then immediately want him again. Colin shifted yet closer somehow as he licked back into her mouth after taking a brief respite to drop a peck on her nose, and there, firm against her thigh, Penelope felt his renewed interest. Well, at least they would be abnormal together.
“Are you-“ he began, his breathing already becoming labored. “Do you-“
Whatever his question, he could not manage to voice it, and, with a strangled groan, he reached down between her legs and fondled her. Penelope made a more wanton sound than she’d ever imagined herself capable of, and this was all the answer Colin appeared to need. He moved atop her, pressing their bodies fully together, and Penelope spread her legs wide as he fitted his hips between them. He reached down to position himself, and then, slowly, pushed forward.
She tightened her legs about his waist and pulled him forcibly closer. He made a startled sound that ended with a moan as he slid fully into her. And oh. Oh. How was it possible that it felt even better this time? Before, it had started off just a touch odd, and she’d needed time to adjust to being stretched so around him. This time though, there was that feeling of fullness, but the discomfort was all but disappeared. It was as if her body knew now, what to do, what it needed, and it, like Penelope, only wanted more of Colin.
He bent again to her breasts as his hips began to rock against hers, but as the rhythm of their lovemaking took him, as Penelope arched her hips up to meet his, he seemed incapable of lavishing the attention that he might have wished. Penelope grasped at his shoulders, slid her hands down to his hips and clenched at his bottom, urging, and Colin gave up on anything but driving into her and covering her mouth with desperate, sloppy kisses.
“Oh, Penelope,” he gasped, and she cried out as he hitched one of her legs higher on his side, causing him to hit an angle that made her eyes roll back. “Penelope, Penelope.”
He was close. She had watched him so studiously earlier that she already recognized the signs. Her own body was quickening as well, the tightness and heat roiling at her base, and he too must have noticed some indicator. Colin reached between them, worrying at that little bundle of nerves with his thumb, and Penelope convulsed around him. She muttered his name into his shoulder as she clung to him, and he lifted her by her bottom, slightly changing the angle again as his hips continued working for a few minutes more before he shouted her name as his release shook him.
They collapsed into the bedding in a heap and Penelope welcomed that drowsy daze that came over her as they lay sweaty and tangled in each other. It was a few minutes before either of them was compelled to move, and, even then, it was only so that Colin could pull out of her and Penelope could free her hair from where it had been trapped under his shoulder.
Colin pulled the coverlet up over them and smiled in an exceedingly smug fashion, which Penelope could only fault him so much for given that he’d probably earned it. He clasped her to him tightly, and her head rested against his chest where she could hear his heart thumping as it slowed to a normal rate.
“Now, aren’t you glad we didn’t attempt to do all of that in the carriage on the way here?” he asked.
Penelope considered it.
“Yes,” she said, “but I’d still like to try it some time.”
He spluttered, and it turned into a laugh as he pressed a kiss to her brow.
They’d dozed for less than half an hour when the knock came at the door. Colin was immediately alert at the promise of food, and he waited only a few seconds for the sound of Dunwoody’s footsteps retreating before jumping out of bed and cracking open the door to retrieve the tray. He didn’t bother to put on any clothing to do so, and Penelope would have teased him for it had she not been enjoying the view.
He lifted the well-laden tray and managed to wiggle back under the covers before balancing it on his thighs. There were neat little sandwiches and an assortment of cheeses and fruits, even a pile of biscuits, and in one corner a small pot of tea and two teacups. Obviously, Dunwoody was well used to bringing Colin late night snacks.
“I’m ravenous,” he declared, already halfway through one sandwich and reaching for another.
“Shocking,” Penelope said lightly.
Colin swallowed, then leaned over and kissed her loudly on the cheek.
“You exhausted me, woman,” he said. “I’ll clearly need to keep my strength up.”
On cue, she blushed. Colin laughed merrily.
“You can eat too, you know,” he noted after eating the majority of a biscuit in a single bite. He bumped his shoulder into hers playfully when she made no immediate response.
She really was feeling peckish. She had been far too distracted to really partake during the reception and, obviously, they had been busy through dinner. But there was that voice in the back of her head that sounded distressingly like her mother which, no matter how long she lived or how fed up she became or how often she ignored it, always seemed to pop up at the most inopportune time.
Debutantes were not meant to eat where gentlemen could observe them. Spinsters could do what they liked. But wives? Penelope was not so sure.
“I wouldn’t want to interrupt. The two of you seem to have a rapport,” she said, indicating Colin and then the tray.
Colin considered this, then seemed to immediately perceive it for the stall tactic it was. He put down his latest half-eaten sandwich and picked up a rather savory bit of cheese.
“Open,” he commanded, just brushing her lips with it and Penelope took a not-insignificant bite. It was rather silly, she decided all in a rush as she chewed, as if a woman could live the rest of her life not letting her husband see her appetite. So many things about life and the expectations of it were silly, but each time she realized another bit it had the feeling of an epiphany all the same.
Colin popped the remainder of the piece of cheese into his own mouth, and Penelope made a sound of protest.
“You just said that I could eat too,” she pointed out.
“We’re sharing,” he announced. “That’s what marriage is all about, wife.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, but he only grinned as he offered her a slice of melon. Penelope took a bite, but before he could pull the rest away, she grabbed hold of his wrist and finished it, her lips and tongue brushing against his fingers as she did so.
“Is that how we’re going to play this?” Colin asked, his voice gone strangely hoarse.
Shrugging was impolite so Penelope merely licked her lips with a smack.
Things deteriorated from there.
They took turns feeding, or often pretending to feed, each other — holding out some morsel for the other to get just a whiff or a taste, and then snatching it away. Colin took to sucking on her fingers whenever he could capture them, and his eyes went deliciously dark whenever she returned the favor. Their laughter and playful protests filled the room and with it, Penelope’s heart, which she’d already thought was full to the bursting.
“Colin!” she shrieked, then giggled. He’d nearly upended the tray, now resting on the bed, in his quest for the final biscuit, which she had captured and then unwisely teased him with.
“You’ll spill! There’ll be crumbs,” she warned him.
He feigned consideration.
“A bed filled with food and you,” he said. “I really can’t imagine anything I’d like more.”
Though, she noticed, he was slightly less exuberant when he pressed against her, his bare chest against her breasts, as he reached for the biscuit that she still held away from him.
“Certainly not a lap full of tea, I’d think,” she said. He let out a playful growl and nipped her shoulder as she switched the biscuit swiftly to her other hand to get it away from him.
“What a terrible wife,” he groused, “torturing me this way.”
His hair was mussed and eyes were dancing and his shoulders, the wide expanse of them, were still just a bit lighter than his neck and face, the last of his tan still lingering. Joy bubbled up inside of Penelope until she could no longer contain it.
“This is really happening,” she blurted out, then covered her mouth.
Colin didn’t laugh or tease, the import this observation held for her — and perhaps for him as well — clear. He only looked at her, then gently caressed her cheek.
“Yes, it is,” he said firmly, “and it will keep happening, forever.”
Penelope leaned into his touch with a contented sigh. Then, he plucked the biscuit from her fingers. He stuffed it in his mouth, though a bit broke off when she all but tackled him back against the pillows. He held her quite close then, and seemed even more unwilling to release her than he had the biscuit.
In the end, there were crumbs, though the tea didn’t spill on anything important. In either case, neither Penelope or Colin was much in the mindset to care.
Much later, Penelope woke in the dark. Colin lay beside her — or rather, half on top of her — snoring lightly. His face looked appealingly boyish in sleep, and Penelope could not resist pressing a quick, dry kiss to his mouth. Remembering him younger was always pleasant, even if the same could not be said for herself. Then, carefully, Penelope freed herself from his grasp — at some point in the night, one of his hands had come to rest quite possessively on her left breast — doing her best not to disturb him with her movements.
Eyes adjusting to the lack of light, she padded across the room, gathering a few bits of their discarded clothing as she went, before stopping in front of her hope chest. It, along with the rest of her things, had been delivered to the house early that morning, before the wedding. She rummaged briefly before withdrawing a dressing gown and draping it about herself, then making her way into the attached dressing room off the bedchamber. She lit a small candle; the flickering light was dim, but it suited her purposes. Then, she sat at the vanity — already fully stocked and arranged with her toiletries, putting into sharper relief how much she needed proper introduction to the staff — and began to see to her hair.
She didn’t normally make it a habit to fiddle with her hair in the middle of the night, but she and Colin had been alternately napping and exhausting themselves anew since the previous evening, so she wasn’t really so tired. More importantly, her hair would be completely impossible, more so than it already was anyway, if she left it till morning. Not to mention that she would have no help. Colin had, quite sneakily in her opinion, given her maid a full week’s holiday, beginning, of course, after the wedding. When pressed — quite literally as Penelope had been bearing him down into the bed with her body at the time — he had admitted that it was because he’d no intention of her needing to get dressed any time in the interim.
The complex twists and braids of her coiffure had become little more than a tangle, half up and half down, and Penelope hummed to herself lightly as she removed the remaining pins and began to brush it out. She had it just about ready to go into a braid that would better withstand both sleep and vigorous lovemaking, when the door to the dressing room cracked open and Colin peeked in.
He proceeded all the way in upon confirming her presence. He had acquired a robe of his own, in dark green silk, though he hadn’t really bothered to secure it closed. Penelope concentrated on not staring, though Colin had already caught her eyes casting up and down his body and winked.
“You really shouldn’t abandon your husband in bed,” he said as he came to stand behind her.
“You were asleep,” Penelope reminded him, meeting his eyes in the mirror.
“Yet, I still missed you.” He leaned closer to impart this, and Penelope shivered.
“Well, I had to salvage my hair as I won’t have a maid for quite a few days,” she replied archly.
Colin had the grace to look slightly abashed, then his eyes darted about the room before resting on the one small candle she’d lit.
“Why’s it so dark in here?” he asked idly.
Penelope didn’t think before she responded. She didn’t consider how it might sound or what it might mean to him. It was instinct, reflex built up over a lifetime, and it wasn’t until she actually said it that it even occurred to her that perhaps she shouldn’t have.
“Mirrors have never been especially kind to me.”
Colin’s expression immediately grew so stormy, so angry, in the mirror that Penelope twisted around to look at him directly, half-convinced that it was a trick of light playing havoc with his reflection.
It was not.
“You are beautiful,” he said, voice gone hard, and Penelope realized that it wasn’t her with whom he was angry.
She touched his hand.
“I’m so glad that you think so,” she said softly, and it was true.
Colin, however, just shook his head furiously and grunted a “no” before grabbing the candle and lighting the sconces on the walls.
“Stand up,” he commanded, walking back over to her. Confused, Penelope did as he asked nonetheless. He stood behind her as he held her shoulders so that she would face the mirror.
“You are beautiful,” Colin repeated. “It is not what I think. It is what is.”
He stroked her hair, eyes boring into hers, even through his reflection. He gathered it in his hands then swept it over her shoulders so it trailed down over her chest.
“Look at your hair,” he said. “Thick and lush. Look at the way it changes colors in the light.”
He stroked her face, ran his thumbs along her cheekbones.
“And your eyes. I’ve never seen bigger eyes, or eyes more easy to fall into. Do you know the first time I wanted to kiss you, really kiss you?”
Penelope managed to shake her head.
“In the drawing room at Number Five, the day you read my journal. You were tending to my hand and you looked up at me with those eyes and I was lost.” He smiled in remembrance. “I didn’t admit it to myself then, but I was utterly lost.”
He leaned over her shoulder to kiss her ear, her cheek.
“And your pert little nose,” he continued, then sighed raggedly, “and your mouth. God, just made for wickedness of the best sort.”
“Your neck, that constantly begs for my kisses.” He capitulated then, pressing his lips ardently against the column of her throat, as he tugged at the fastenings of her dressing gown before slipping it from her and letting it pool on the floor.
“Don’t look away,” he whispered, urging, and Penelope did not.
“Your shoulders are smooth and slim,” he said, kissing each one in turn. He gathered her hair again in his hands and brushed it back so it no longer covered her. Then, he groaned and Penelope’s knees shook as he pressed more closely into her back.
“Your breasts are perfect,” he said very seriously. He brought his hands around to cup them, weighing and massaging them. “I could write entire volumes of poetry about your breasts.”
“Don’t you dare,” Penelope breathed, though the force of it was ruined by the way she arched her back to press into his hands. He laughed, then kissed her hair and the nape of her neck as his hands continued their tour of her body, leaving a trail of fire in their wake.
Colin gently caressed her belly, hands running over the little swell that she could never quite be rid of even after she’d slimmed down.
“Your skin is flawless,” he announced, “and your hands graceful.”
Suddenly, he darted around to grasp her bottom and she squeaked.
“If a more perfect derriere exists in the world-“ He paused. “No, impossible.”
“The flare of your hips drives me to distraction, and your legs are perfectly formed from your extraordinarily welcoming thighs down to your dainty, little ankles and the dainty, little feet attached.”
It had never occurred to Penelope that Colin had paid her ankles and feet any mind at all, but these were not declarations that invited contradiction. Not only because he clearly meant them with remarkable fervency, but because the way his hands were caressing her legs left her decidedly inarticulate. He straightened, and Penelope saw his intention in the curve of his smirk in the mirror just before he moved his hand down to touch her.
“And here-“ His voice was only a harsh whisper now. “Have you any idea how soft and sweet you are?”
Her limits reached, Penelope turned in his arms and kissed him passionately, her hands scrabbling at his shoulders as he pressed her back into the vanity. He was hard, she realized, as his open robe did not prevent him from jutting into her stomach, and she wondered how long he’d been so.
His hands smoothed down her back, across her bottom, then he took hold of her thighs and lifted her, setting her on the vanity without care for the multitude of bottles and accessories that were upset by it. Their kiss had grown nearly violent in its intensity, and he did not withdraw until he had pulled her slightly forward on the vanity. Then, he dropped to his knees in front of her.
Penelope banged her head against the mirror as he took his mouth to her. She really thought she might eventually injure herself permanently if he kept doing this without warning. Not that she would ever tell him to stop.
She grasped at the edges of the vanity as he rolled his tongue against her, and when that provided unsatisfactory purchase, Penelope sank her hands into Colin’s hair and held on for dear life. He drove her to frenzy with each flick of his tongue, with the movement of his lips, how he knew just when to suck and even, on occasion, to bring his teeth to bear. Her legs were quivering and she was thankful for his forethought in having her take a seat, since she was certain she would not have been able to stand.
Her heels pressed into his back. He moaned against her, and she knew that she needed him now, to see his face, to kiss his mouth. Penelope yanked at his hair, then one of his ears when he did not stop.
“Colin,” she said, “Colin, please.”
He finally looked up at her, then clambered to his feet. She crossed her ankles behind him, trapping him in the cradle of her thighs, then reached for him. Colin required no other encouragement. He allowed her to position him, then slid home as her forehead fell against his shoulder.
He had one hand pressed against the small of her back and the other was braced flat against the mirror. The vanity shook precariously with force of his movement, what items had heretofore survived now joining their brethren scattered about the floor. Penelope lifted her head to kiss his face, to nibble at his lips.
“I will show you,” he gasped into her mouth, his breath coming uneven as he continued to push into her. “I will spend every day for the rest of my life showing you how beautiful you are.”
Penelope had already been close, so very close, and it didn’t take much more than the fierce love in his eyes as he spoke to send her falling over the edge. Colin cursed under his breath as he felt her finish, her body clenching around him, then muffled his own cry in her hair as he followed soon after.
“Every day,” he swore, once he’d begun to catch his breath, grasping her chin and kissing her. “Every single day, until you believe me.”
Penelope nodded, because that she absolutely did believe. Her emotions were raw, as sensitive as her body was now as she came down from her pleasure, but she could not doubt him when he looked at her that way.
“Then every day after that,” he said, “just on principle.”
The smile spread across her face before she had time to think and Colin made a satisfied sound before lifting her into his arms and carrying her back to their bed.
In the morning, Penelope retrieved the tray containing their breakfast, though she put on her dressing gown to do so and even called a thanks down the hall at Dunwoody’s retreating back. He turned sharply on his heel and bowed, then said “Madam,” lightly before turning away. He was a ways down the hall, so she couldn’t be entirely sure, but Penelope very much suspected that he had been smirking.
She and Colin had only left their bedchamber once: a few hours earlier when Colin had ordered a bath run for them — a single bath — while the bedding was changed and the room tidied. He’d done his level best to distract Penelope from her horror at the utter, and extremely incriminating, disaster they’d left of the room, and it had worked fairly well. But servants talked — they always talked — and Penelope wasn’t sure if she wanted to be quite so infamous before she’d even been properly introduced. Colin was, predictably, unconcerned.
Penelope hefted the tray with a soft grunt and walked back over to the bed, where Colin was sitting, watching her or perhaps the tray — or perhaps both — with great interest. He did, however, cross his arms and shake his head after she set the tray down on the bed and moved to climb in.
“Off,” he said simply, then waved his fingers at her dressing gown.
“Do you plan to always be a tyrant?” Penelope asked, though she did not hesitate to begin unbuttoning her dressing gown.
“Not a tyrant,” Colin protested. “We agreed on the rule. No clothing in the bed!”
Penelope dropped her dressing gown to the floor in one swift movement, her eyes on Colin’s. Though she did not manage not to blush, the way his jaw clenched and his breath caught still made her count it a victory. She crawled back into bed and snuggled up beside him, with perhaps a touch more wiggle than necessary.
They chatted as they ate, speaking of very little of consequence. Thank you notes they needed to pen for the wedding guests and when they might visit Number Five for dinner. One of her trunks had not been delivered the previous day, but because she couldn’t quite remember what was supposed to be in it, it didn’t feel especially urgent.
The drapes were closed, but the sun still peeked through the corners, between gaps in the folds, and Penelope had never felt more refreshed, despite the fact that her night had not been especially restful, all things considered. Impulsively, Colin pulled her onto his lap as she sipped her tea, and she made a great show of continuing to list off mundane tasks to which they had to see as he lavished her neck with affectionate kisses and nibbles. She spent a lot of time getting lost in the middles of sentences, as it happened.
“And I still- still- must be- oh- must be introduced properly to the staff,” she managed, getting the last few words out all in a rush.
Colin plucked her empty teacup from her hands and set it back on the tray.
“But not today,” he said, nuzzling at her chin.
“Colin,” she warned.
He dropped a kiss behind her ear, and her bones went liquid.
Still no resistance then, she thought with resignation. She really would have to work on that.
Not yet, she decided, as Colin’s hands began to wander, but eventually.
They had no need to rush.