As the heavy oak door to the sitting room opened, the candle flames flickered in unison, casting shadows that danced like spirits along the walls and ceiling.
The room was nearly silent, but for the crackling flames in the grand hearth, and the muffled sound of voices and song that floated down the hall from the ballroom where his guests enjoyed the lively entertainment.
Rey’s ears perked as the melodic murmuring was silenced by the shutting door.
They were alone now. She could feel his presence, his very energy reached out to her from across the room. She didn’t have to look to be sure, there was no mistaking the way she felt when the Lord Ren, her Ren, was near.
For a moment she worried they would find themselves in the middle of a scandal, but his absence would go un-noticed as the guests’ bellies were full of expensive champagne and good food. And as always, no one expected much from the sweet quiet girl who lived a life unseen by the rest of the village.
Rey looked back to the flames, watching them lick the stone walls and reach up into the chimney. The heat that warmed her face and bare arms and the small twin swell of her breast raised high by her dress, was suddenly matched by the heat of lord Ren’s body, who had come to her without making a sound.
Shutting her eyes, Rey let an involuntary smile settle on her lips. They’d been talking of this moment for so long. Coming so close… now that the time had come it seemed almost dreamlike. In this dim smokey room, they would share a private moment before rejoining the party.
And as she felt the burning touch of his fingertips gently slipping up her arms, she thought back to the moment the man had come barreling into her life.
The lord Kylo Ren came to the country side quite suddenly, like the rolling grey clouds of an unexpected storm he rushed in and purchased the Alderaan estate with the ease one takes in buying a nice hat or new cravat.
Of course the village gossip had started instantly, and he’d been bombarded with invitations to dinners and parties thrown in his honor so quickly, Rey wondered if he’d even managed to unpack his belongings.
Everyone wanted to have him at their table first, eager to uncover all of his wealthy secrets. And the man had an abundance of both.
As the lady of Naboo Manor, Rey had lived next to the impressive grounds of Alderaan her entire life but had never known anyone to actually inhabit the estate. She rightfully assumed there were few who could afford it. And her lord grandfather wouldn’t say much about the family that used to live there except that he did not get on with them at all, and in voicing his opinion stated that “surely whoever desired a home formerly inhabited by such miscreants could not be a person of good morals or taste”.
At one point she’d stood upstairs in the library windows, watching from afar as a black coach went rushing past their small manor to the estate and again found herself wondering who he was.
“Get away from there!” Her grandfather snapped. She sighed, watching until the canopy of trees hid the carriage from view.
Pulling herself from the window to focus on him she replied with bubbling frustration. “We could try to be neighborly grandfather.”
The ancient lump that was her only relation sat in his chair, heavy as a stone, but small and withered from a life that seemed to go on and on and on…
Rey eyed his open book which lay over one frail thigh and noted that he hadn’t picked it up all morning. Instead he would sleep and wake long enough to stare off, angry over some argument forgotten by all but him, or find reason to snap demands at her.
“Neighborly is what you are to someone worth knowing.” He shot back. "He is not.”
Rey crossed her arms, brows furrowed with the burden of his hot temper. “You don’t know that because you don’t even know who he is.” she said with some exasperation.
“I don’t need to know who he is.” He said, his voice pitched high with age.
“No, but maybe it would do you some good to venture out beyond these walls, or even extend the invitation to him.” She knew her words would be lost before they could reach his stubborn ears.
He did ignore her, but already in a foul mood the quick conversation had set him off on some long winded rant about why a man must never be told what to do by a girl or be forced to go traipsing through the forrest to meet a stranger.
And there she’d left him, because she’d had enough of it, and because today was a Tuesday, which had been her day for shopping for years now.
Having lost favor with all but a few fellow villagers as well as a great deal of money in bad deals and broken partnerships due to a raging temper most could not endure, her grandfather had reduced them to a life wanting and it had been that way for as long as she could remember. The cold rooms, simple food and dusty drapes drawn to block out any light or the hope it may offer was all too familiar.
The sad truth that Naboo Manor had once been a great estate, would haunt her mercilessly. Seeing it dilapidated and overgrown in spite of her best efforts frustrated Rey to no end as she was a woman of strong will who had undeniably inherited her grandfathers burning temper. The villagers liked to say it wasn’t their management that kept the place running, but their combined stubborn tenacity that willed it to stand year after year.
Their lowered living did not afford them the luxury of employing more than a butler, the occasional maid, and their cook, which left Rey to do her own shopping. Though truth be told she enjoyed it and could not imagine sending someone else out to purchase her things, few and simple as they were.
As Rey gathered her basket from the kitchen hook and put on her hat, she opened the side door and took a deep breath, filling her lungs as she stepped out.
The air had been damp that day, the sun dim behind a wall of grey sky and a dense fog which made visibility low.
Something felt off as she walked along, but she could not place it. She’d taken the path and had known these grounds since childhood, nothing scared her here. However she found herself looking over her shoulder more than once with the strange feeling that she wasn’t alone.
She’d shrugged it off and distracted herself with thoughts of her shopping list and how to stretch her few coins.
Almost to the end of the lane, she heard it then. The sound of horse hooves nearing quickly. When she turned there was nothing, no horse or rider, but still the sound came. She stopped and peered through the mist trying to make out any sign of life but to no avail.
“Hello?” She said eyes darting back and forth. And then back again. There, just feet away, to her left and off the path between the trees, a beast of a stallion came breaking through the mist, and on its back a dark rider.
Rey gasped and stumbled out of the way nearly falling as the rush of air blew her hat off, freeing loose strands of hair to whip at her face.
She caught herself before she could hit the damp ground and grabbed her hat, quickly rising up to watch as they disappeared into the swirling mist almost like they’d never been.
Hand to heart, Rey stood breathing heavy, too shocked to move. Who would ride like that with nothing to run from, she thought, He could have trampled me! She gave a huff, offended by the reckless behavior.
Angry as she was though, her curiosity got the best of her and she found herself lingering on the spot, unsure of how she’d move on and ignore such a strange encounter,
When she finally resigned herself to letting the mystery be, the horse and rider appeared again.
The man brought the horse to the path and pulled up on the reigns, circling the animal to a halt.
He leaned forward and whispered calming words in its’ long ear, ignoring the beasts’ protest until it gave one last defiant blow through its’ large nostrils and stood still.
And then he turned his attention to the girl standing in the middle of the lane
The flush that came on surprised and embarrassed Rey, and she hoped he wouldn’t notice, but to pretend that he wasn’t the most alarmingly handsome man was impossible.
Hair as black as a starless night framed his face in thick waves, his dark wild eyes settled on her own, and she felt a violent stabbing at her heart. His full mouth set in a stern line parted, as though he might speak, but he stopped himself and looked her up and down.
Rey was suddenly very aware of her dress that had gone out of fashion some time ago, and of her simple hat and hair pulled back in a plain but practical chignon. Her eyes darted down surveying the dull fabric and muddy boots, but then she took a breath and raised her head not yet ready to feel inferior to a man she knew nothing about. A man who clearly had no sense of decorum, though she herself sometimes despised the many etiquettes of life, there were still simple manners that should be respected.
“I did not see you until it was too late.” He finally said without the slightest sign of a hello. “You’ll forgive my behavior.” He commanded.
His voice was deep and the cadence strange, strange in a way that made her take a step closer. She gave a curious nod and peered up at him.
“I accept your apology.” She said pointing out that he’d given none. She turned her nose up at him and squared her shoulders. “But, I must say, there is a perfectly good path for riding.” She suggested nodding towards the well worn stretch.
His brow raised slightly as he rubbed the neck of his horse.
“I’ve not yet ridden through these woods, and I want to explore every inch of them, if that’s alright with you.”
Rey swallowed and found words hard to come by. She could only give a curt nod and pull her basket closer. “Forgive me, I’ve not seen you before.” She said fairly certain of who he was, but, she was still entitled to a formal introduction.
He understood and relaxed a bit in the saddle as he said, “I believe I am your new neighbor.”
“My Lord.” She said with the hint of a curtsy.
He returned the gesture with a hesitant bow and looked up to eye the road ahead. “Have you no carriage to take you to town?” He asked.
Rey glanced over her shoulder noticing for the first time just how far she had to go. “No but I do enjoy the walking.” She said politely.
He seemed to think about this for a moment before a certain look of annoyance washed over his face. “Very well, Good day, miss…?”
“Palpatine.” She answered.
With a final assessment of her person, Lord Ren turned the horse, gave a command and went galloping off into the grey, leaving her speechless on the road.
Lady Rey spent days thinking of that bizarre encounter. She would walk silently down the halls of the dark house, eyes glassed over as she remembered the way he looked at her, the way his black boots shone against the dark flank of his horse. How the leather of his gloves creaked when he tightened his grip on the reins.
His voice was still so clear to her, as though the moment happened each morning. Still, she would not see him again for some time.
When they did at last find themselves in close proximity again it was at a small gathering held by the Lady Holdo.
Rey sat amongst the women of the village engaging in polite conversation, grateful they didn’t shun her, no thanks to her grandfathers' best efforts to see them cast out from society.
It was a perfectly normal night, made all the better by a steady flow of good wine. The conversation was a bit stiff, but there was always her friend Rose.
Eyes scanning the room, Rey finally found the young woman who might have been the only person in the place capable of making her genuinely laugh.
“Excuse me ladies, I see the Lady Tico and I must speak with her,” She announced politely.
As she turned to set her empty glass on the drink table, Lord Ren was announced.
A pregnant hush fell over the guests. People found themselves peeking around the shoulders and heads of their friends to catch a glimpse of the still illusive man.
Ren came stalking into the room eyeing them all quickly. His fiery gaze paused but once when he spotted Rey sitting amongst a host of women . She looked up at him somewhat startled by his appearance, fingers tight around the stem of her empty glass.
And then, as he seemed to accustom to doing, he took the drink that was offered and settled into a corner letting the curious ones come to him.
Rey noted just how quiet he was, only answering questions or giving very short opinions on things that she couldn’t always hear from across the room. He never smiled, never seemed to find any joy in anything at all. His black hair and black eyes were as dark as his demeanor, which was something she found to be off putting if not completely unattractive, no matter how pleasant he was to look at.
Through the many monotonous conversations, Ren didn’t look at her, though she’d lost sight of Rose and stayed sitting near the piano with the other ladies, which put her in plain sight of him should he choose to look.
The only time they spoke was when the Lady Holdo decided she would go and greet him and perhaps somehow aware of their silent connection, invited the younger lady to accompany her.
He regarded Rey as stranger, which yes, she was, but still… she’d hoped he would catch her eye when no one else was looking, or perhaps even a secret nod to say, yes hello it was me who nearly killed you on the lane that morning. But no, he just bowed to her curtsy and acted as though their very uncouth first encounter had never happened.
Rey was beginning to think me might be an incredibly impossible man.
Feeling a flush of anger rise up her neck, she crossed the room, leaving him to his corner and rejoined the other ladies trying not to think of it, though she did very casually glance over to watch him off and on.
Lord Ren seemed to find himself in small circles of very important men that he seemed completely unimpressed with.
They would chatter on, and he, apparently capable of only a glare or frown would stare at them as they spoke, no doubt imagining them choking on their lofty aspirations. He had the distinct air of a man secure not only in himself but of his place within this world and everyone else either bored or angered him.
He was also among the wealthiest here, or so she’d heard. But there was something else. A sense of pride that seemed to run very deep. He carried the sort of life confidence typically saved for royalty, and she found herself wondering who his people were. What sort of union produced a man like this.
Rey couldn’t help but smile when she saw him come very close to full on pouting the longer the night wore on. He clearly hated the benign conversation of his peers and something about watching him squirm amused her so.
Finally the Lady bid farewell to her guests and the carriages were called.
Rey and her grandfather thankfully climbed inside the coach lady Holdo had given them the loan of for the night.
Once settled Rey sighed, feeling the tingle of too much wine in her limbs. She looked up through the little window at the stars as the old man signaled for the driver to go forward.
The carriage lurched and began its' crawl with a lovely crunch over the pea gravel drive.
Like the body segments of a caterpillar the coaches moved in turn until Reys' led the way to the tree lined path that would take them home.
As they rounded the large stone fountain that sat bubbling in the middle of the carriage way, Rey innocently eyed the other passengers until she spotted the somewhat vampiric figure of Lord Ren through the open window of his own black carriage. He had his eyes fixed firmly on her and she wondered how long he’d been watching.
Of course, now that the night was over and he could not be cornered into a conversation with the woman he sought her out.
Rolling her eyes, Rey looked away, bothered by him. But the moment was fleeting and his gaze far too flattering to be ignored, no matter how much she wanted to.
She found him again, quickly before the coach driver steered them to the straight path ahead and the connection would be lost.
Encapsulated in the dark, Rens' pale skin was illuminated a soft blue in the moonlight. A stunning contrast to his dark features and hair.
She could not place the look on his stoic face at first, but then just as she was beginning to loose sight of him, she realized that the only word to describe the way he looked at her, was hungry.
Rey lay in bed that night, her tiny fire keeping the chill at bay, thinking of the way he’d gone all night ignoring her, stone faced and cold only to look at her as though the sun would not rise the next morning without some sign of affection from her.
Being the sort of woman who did not appreciate the playing of games, not of this sort, she’d given him no such comfort and the memory of his haunted gaze was the last thing she saw before closing her eyes to sleep that night.
The problem with seeing the man again was that now Lady Rey found herself thinking of the Lord Kylo Ren more than ever.
The excitement and frustration brought on by their interactions was unmatched, which made her feel desperate to experience the thrill again, and more.
However, as the days passed without another run in, normalcy returned though she clung to her daydreams of him riding up on that beautiful stallion, which made her feel as foolish as a girl still under the care of a nurse. Try as she might to ignore the fluttering of her heart, flutter it did. And without him galloping across her path, or gazing at her on moonlit carriage rides, the dull days seemed more gloomy, the ticking of the hall clock irritating as she busied herself with menial tasks.
So when a knock came from the front door and their butler Soames answered , she found herself stunned to see Lord Ren himself standing in their vestibule.
“Lady Palpatine.” He said in his curt way as the butler took his coat and hat.
“Lord Ren.” She replied, her voice sounding small even to her own ears. “This is most unexpected. What brings you to Naboo?”
He accepted her offer to follow into the parlor.
“Tea please.” She gently ordered the butler who bowed and disappeared.
Ren looked around a bit confused for a moment. “Do you not know?” He asked eyeing their worn furniture and drab trappings.
“Know what?” She asked with some trepidation.
Both lord and lady turned to watch as Lord Palpatine came shuffling into the room.
Ren gave a deep respectful bow and watched as the man sat in his high backed chair near the fire, his black coat too big, billowed like a cape around him.
“Forgive me Lord Palatine, but I believe I am five minutes early.”
“Which makes you late!”
Rey rolled her eyes at him before giving Ren an apologetic smile. “He is quite obsessed with time. Something to do with respect…” She said softly with a shrug.
“Do not whisper about me girl. Away with you, we have business.”
Wide eyed, Rey looked from Ren to her grandfather. This was odd to say the least. The old cretin despised Ren for nor reason she knew of, other than the fact that he lived in the home of Palpatines former enemy. And her grandfather was famed for holding onto his hate no matter how unfounded, for years. Strange that he would suddenly change his ways. Unless at some point they had made a connection? Perhaps at Lady Holdo’s party? She’d only left the room for a moment but it must have been long enough for them to speak. Still…
“I’ll stay thank you.” She said and sat in her own spot near the window. She wanted to know just what was going on.
“Please, don’t send her away on my account.” Ren offered, going to the small couch across from Palpatines chair
“You?” Palpatine raised his chin to look at Ren, his old eyes sparkling with something that could be mistaken for amusement, though Rey was sure he was incapable. “No Ren, she must leave if we are to talk of things beyond the comprehension of a woman.”
Rey felt a rage surge through her that threatened the mans life. She hated him, hated him the way one hates the worst qualities in themselves, which meant the feeling ran deep. It currently threatened to consume her, but when she realized both men were watching her, she cleared her throat and sat up straight smoothing her skirts. Her emotions had the awful habit of showing on her face when she least wanted them to.
“And what things might those be grandfather?” She said composed. “Talks of politics? Talks of money? The things I see to everyday in my letters and ledgers?”
Ren very nearly smiled then but managed to keep his solemn face as he turned to Palpatine, curious of the reply.
“And who taught you to do such things?”
“If you’re implying it was you…” She sighed “I pride myself of the things I am capable of my Lord.” She said turning her attentions to Ren “Such as teaching myself how to run a household, no matter how small.”
Palpatine bristled at this throwing his hand up in disgust. “She thinks she knows so much.” He turned his pale small face towards her, his eyes narrowing until they were no more than two beady black points “You. Know. Nothing. Leave! Before I have this man throw you out”
Rey’s arms tingled with a rush of adrenaline. She glanced at Ren who’s expression had not changed in the least. He just looked at her, distant, not a touch of sympathy.
“You would have a stranger in our home treat me so cruelly?” She asked standing. “No need” Her voice was calm, collected. “I’ll go, I’ll leave you to your guest. But I will not forget your insult Lord grandfather. I will not forgive it.”
He made an obnoxious sound, waving her away as she crossed the room.
“Lord Ren.” She dipped quickly before rushing from the room.
The doors shut behind her and Rey stood shaking, her anger nearly outdone by her hurt. The old bastard would drive her to violence one day.
And he just sat there… she exhaled before taking a deep slow breath to quiet the storm inside her.
“Tea m’lady.” Soames said coming towards her with the tray.
Still a bit wobbly, Rey glanced up. He saw her face and his own fell, sympathetic to whatever injustice Palpatine had done her today, as he did most days.
“Go on in, I will not be joining them.” She said managing a weak smile.
“Yes m’lady.” He said with a deep bow before he went through the doors.
Lord Kylo Ren looked over his shoulder as the butler entered.
Beyond the ragged man carrying tea, he spotted Rey turning from the room, her head down as she walked away.
His shaking fist tightened on his thigh as he turned to face the old man again.
“Whiskey in it Soames!” Palpatine ordered. The butler bowed and took the tray to the sideboard.
“Now, lets get right to business, I do not have time to engage in frivolous conversation.” He croaked.
Ren studied him, eyeing the way the weight of his world seemed to pull the skin from his bones, and the way his malice seemed to seep from his yellowed eyes.
How the Lady Rey had come from this creature was beyond him, but that was not his concern. He was only here because he’d been told to come.
“Yes my Lord.” Ren said sitting back. “ I’ve been sent a letter from the supreme leader himself instructing me to make contact with you.”
“Yes, yes of course.” Palpatine mumbled accepting the whiskey with a splash of tea from Soames. “And did he tell you why?”
“No my Lord”
“Well, it seems we have much to discuss.”
“Yes my Lord.”
“But first, let me ask you a question.”
Ren looked up at the man simultaneously rejecting the tea.
“How long have you been looking at my granddaughter?”
“Don’t play the fool with me boy. The supreme leader may see much in you, I however have seen nothing but a sniveling child sent to do the work of a man.”
His jaw clenched but he ignored the jab. “Lady Rey is a beautiful woman, that’s all”
“Yes, well, she’s not for you. She’s not for any of you.”
“Yes my Lord.”
“Yes my lord, no my lord.” He mocked him and scoffed, shaking his head “They said you had a fire in you something fierce. I’ve not seen it!”
“And pray you never do.” Ren replied cooly.
“Oh!” Palpatine laughed. “Oh, a young bull feeling the weight of his balls!” He cackled. You feel big hmm? You feel even bigger, threatening an old man?”
“I know who and what you are. You can take my threats” Ren shot back unfazed.
Palpatine noted the younger mans reserve and grumbled something. “Indeed.” He sniffled and took another drink “She is beautiful, and strong, too much for you. Prove me wrong and perhaps I’ll allow it.”
Ren bowed his head accepting this though he did not take the old mans' words to heart. He had never been in the habit of asking for permission.
“Now. About your reason for coming here in the first place.”
Ren listened, but as Palpatine went on and on, he couldn’t help glancing over his shoulder at the open doors wondering if she might pass by again.
He snapped to attention. “Yes, I’m listening.”
“And you’ll complete the order before the end of the month.”
“Yes my Lord, of course.” He said nodding to confirm that the plans were still set in place.
“Good. Now, leave my house, let me sleep. You’ve taken too much of my energy as it is."
“Of course.” He said standing, glad to be rid of the little boil.
Leaving the room, Ren looked around the old manor wondering how it all fell apart for Palpatine. This house had once been beautiful, now it was as ruined as its' master, no matter his position in this new order.
“You’re finished then?”
Ren spun to find Rey standing at the top of the stairs bathed in the only beam of sunlight breaking through the dirty glass panes behind her.
She came down the steps keeping her distance, allowing him to see her beautiful face clearly.
“Yes.” He said unable to say more
“Well, I hope it was a worthwhile endeavor”. She said and bowed before turning to leave.
“Lady Palpatine.” He called.
She turned to him with the look of a woman who had been broken into pieces again and again, with only herself to put them back together he imagined.
The sadness in her eyes could not be concealed behind her earnest effort to smile and it tore at him, like a little bird scratching at the fabric of his coat, pecking through his flesh to pierce his heart.
“My Lord?” She asked when he didn’t respond.
She was not his mission, but she had become something of a secret obsession.
It was not healthy to worry over this woman so much. He looked away to find Soames waiting at the door with his coat and hat. “It was…”He looked back at her confused face. “I am happy to have seen you again.” He blurted.
Her expression melted to a look of doubt. “Thank you?”
He nodded then and turned to leave afraid to say much more.
Rey watched him walk away to gather his things. Ren swung the long heavy coat over his shoulders, arms slipping in easily. With the black hat snug on his head, he took a moment to look over his shoulder, his profile elegant in the shadows.
She chose to smile at him this time.
He almost returned the gesture.
And then he was gone.
Alone with her grandfather again, Rey tried but of course no answers would be got from the old man. He brushed her inquiries about Rens' visit aside as one does a bothersome child. She gave up after a few attempts over meal times and decided that she would eventually find out but that it must have been nothing more than her grandfather trying to better his status now that “proper” money had moved into the village.
He did however seem to be in a better mood than she was used too and it was strange to say the least. He actually greeted her in the mornings and said goodnight as she went to the stairs after dark
Soames and cook seemed alarmed by this development as well, but it was welcome in the otherwise somber home.
Luckily, escape from these strange days came in the form of a lovely visit from her dear friend Rose just two weeks later.
Lady Tico came to Naboo Manor uninvited knowing she was always welcome at the Palpatine door, proven by Rey’s enthusiasm as she flung her arms around the womans' neck nearly knocking her pretty hat off.
Roses' family was well regarded in the village. Her father had been a decorated general in the kings army, but died of a fever some years ago leaving Rose and her sister a comfortable sum and a life of warm welcome by their peers.
Rey loved her dearly and was thankful for the friendship of a woman as strong and carefree as Rose.
“Gods but I am glad to see you dear Rose!” Rey said wrapping an arm around her friends' shoulders to escort her inside.
They shared tea and some little cakes that weren’t very good, of course Rey knew not to worry about things like that with Rose, she cared nothing for the state of their wealth or the lack of it, just for Reys' friendship, which made her a true friend indeed.
Sensing Rey needed to get away from the manor for a bit, she suggested they go into town. The day was too bright for staying indoors and they could both use the air.
The two young women strolled through the bustling village center, casually popping into the shops they knew well but hadn’t visited in some time.
As they left the milliners, arm in arm, deep in humorous conversation, Rey, very nearly walked into the solid wall of Lord Rens' chest.
“I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you there.” She rushed, cheeks hot with embarrassment. A quick flash back to their first meeting came to her, the humor of the roles reversed not lost on Rey.
Glancing up she saw a look in his eyes that gave her pause, but she did manage a quick curtsy.
“The fault was ours my Lady.”
Ren wasn’t alone. Standing beside him, about a foot shorter was a more traditionally handsome man with beautiful black skin and a bright smile. Had he not been walking with Ren, he would have cut quite a figure.
Still flustered but always ladies, Rey and Rose waited for an introduction, however Lord Ren seemed to have forgotten himself and instead was staring intently at Rey.
She cleared her throat and gave a tiny nod towards his companion.
Blinking, Ren lowered his gaze and stepped back to present his friend. “My Ladies, forgive me this is my friend Mr. Finn.”
“They both dipped and bowed smiling at the man whose eyes seemed to sparkle with the sort of internal joy one does not come by easily. Rey found him to be the most genial man.
“It’s lovely to meet you sir. Are you here visiting the village?”
“I am, just for a few days, and then I’m off on some new adventure.” He said and smiled at Rose whos' ears perked at the word. She was a restless sort, always ready to dart off to experience something new.
Rey did admire it, but she felt the need to stay put just a while longer, her grandfather needed her, as much as he insisted he did not, as did their estate.
“Rey?” Rose gave her a friendly nudge.
“Oh, excuse me, I was lost in thought for a moment.” She said a little jumpy. But when she looked up at Lord Ren, a look of understanding passed over his usually stoic face. The way it softened his features made her pulse quicken. But this was different from the way she’d felt during their other encounters. This felt like the beginning of something, like some tiny flame had been lit. A spark of hope? But hope for what exactly. The man was young and unwed but still a mystery to everyone. Even she was still uncertain of him and he’d been inside her home.
“Perhaps we may call on you, and you can tell us more of your plans for your future endeavors.” Rose said to Mr. Finn who seemed delighted by the idea.
“Wonderful plan, don’t you think Ren.” He said looking up, smile broad, eyes beaming.
Ren scanned them all before he squared his shoulders. “Perhaps.”
Finn smiled and sighed dismissively patting Ren on the chest. “We will send word as soon as we are fit for company.” He told the two Ladies.
Rose and Rey agreed with genuine excitement and bid farewell.
“How do you suppose they know one another?” Rose asked, the girls turning in unison to watch them walk away. Rey bit her lip, her eyes narrowed at the sight of Rens black hair and jacket like a cloak around him, and shrugged. “I think there are many things about that man that we may never know or even understand.” She said softly before smiling at her friend. “But for now, let’s finish our shopping shall we.”
Much to Rey’s surprise, invitations did indeed come.
She’d been sitting with her grandfather in the library reading quietly when Soames came in carrying the silver letter tray with a single packet for her. Fortunately Palpatine was nodding off and didn’t notice.
She thanked the butler and took the letter, opening it as quickly as she could without making a sound when she saw that the initials pressed into the wax seal read “KR”
Sitting up at attention, her book forgotten, she scanned the page quickly, and it was clear to her what it said, but the rush, the incredible heat that rose up from her belly and spread like wildfire through her arms and legs stunned her.
Had she read the words wrong? No, but she had to read them again and let them resonate.
Slipping quietly from her chair, Rey trotted through the grey rooms and the dim hallway fleeing her grandfathers watchful eye.
She pressed the letter to her chest as she flew up the creaking staircase, her eyes shutting as she calmly sat on the worn and dusty brocade cushion.
This had been her place since childhood. The window seat at the top of the stairs where she could watch the goings on below and look out to the pale moors over her shoulder.
The maid was never instructed to shut the curtains here, and it was here that she would read his words again.
I hope this letter finds you in good health and high spirits, though I am convinced you have never had a solemn day, and so I say, no, request you, brighten the mood of this empty house and honor it with your presence.
An invitation has been sent to your friend the Lady Rose Tico as well and it is my sincerest desire that you will both join myself and Mr. Finn for refreshment this Friday, the 12th at two o’clock in the afternoon.
I hope it is not too forward of me to say, that I think of our encounters often. Even when occupied with matters of importance, my wandering thoughts are most often of you. I look to the future with hope for what may come of this friendship.
There is a light in you, my Lady that few posses and many will try to claim. All I ask, is that you allow me to bask in your brilliance but for a day.
Lord Kylo Ren.
She pressed her fingers to her lips keeping any sound at bay but her heart would not quiet. It beat with the steady drumming of a thousand horses.
Shaking her head she inhaled deeply before opening her eyes again to see the stroke of his pen, the long thin lettering, the way the ink pooled with his signature.
She must have looked like a dragon hoarding treasure, but appearances did not matter to her at the moment. The letter was most precious to her.
Funny, she thought looking out the window to the endless ocean of pale green long- grass. She’d had plenty of suitors as any Lady who is out in society might, but they were never to her liking or standards. Not because of money or station, but because of quality, and all had been lacking. Then this one comes along in the most unruly way and she could not rid her mind of him.
Surely a man able to bring on such bold emotions through nothing more than words on paper could be a man worth knowing?
She felt it deeply but still there was something about him that struck her as a bit… dark. Still, she would not turn the invitation down and she would not leave him unanswered.
Hurrying to the desk in her rooms, Rey grabbed paper and pen and began to write slowly, mindful of the words she chose.
Ren was sitting at his desk when his butler Edmonds came in with the mail. He glanced at the letters, ignoring those of little interest, but two caught his attention immediately.
One bore the sigil he’d been waiting to see amongst the endless stacks of letters, the other one did not.
He ignored the blood red seal of The First Order, and instead chose to pick up the thin paper closed with a simple dot of bright red wax.
He opened it to find the fluid lettering of a woman’s hand, easy to spot without a word read, but as soon as he started and he realized what he held, Ren took a moment to rise and go to the window where his mothers chair sat.
Lowering into the seat that was a little too small for him but still able to bring some comfort, he began to read again.
I have received your letter and your invitation, and I can say most assuredly that nothing would make me happier than to accept.
I find myself remembering our fleeting moments shared in dark carriages, doorways and fog covered paths with fondness. Each unexpected, but all most welcome encounters.
Please know that a friendship between us is most important to me and I look forward to continuing in our getting to know one another.
As for what many will want of me. I am a Lady of free will, I alone choose my company and no other. And so I say with certainty, that I choose to spend more than an afternoon with you.
Lady Rey Palpatine.
She would be his undoing.
Years he’d spent building his reserve, finding ways to pour his anger and hurt and darkest feelings into his work, and this one girl, no, woman, could bring him to his knees.
He’d felt it from the moment they met, her looking at him as though he were a monster in the forest. He felt her rage directed towards him and it alarmed him to see his own fire burning so bright in another.
Rubbing his chin as he sat in thought, Ren smiled a bit remembering when she’d nearly plowed into him on the street. She had a bad habit of blushing and going saucer eyed, but it was sweet, especially coming from a woman who seemed quite capable of being anything but.
She was unaware, but he knew things about her now. He’d heard things. Been told things directly by her own grandfather and all had peaked his interest, but to know her in the flesh…
He sighed and crossed the room placing the letter in his top desk drawer, happy for the acceptance of his invite, resigned to busy himself with work for the next two days.
Slowly, he looked to the other letter, it’s pages thick and it’s blood red seal calling to him. He knew there would be no rest for him until the the day came.
Realistically, it was just tea, and as far as anyone else knew, just tea with friends and neighbors, but… she would be near him, for an extended period of time, in his home.
Gods, but she had nothing to wear.
Rey spent entirely too much time worrying over which dress looked the least worn and which could pass as something modern but allow her to still feel like herself. Once she’d reached peak tizzy, she stood in the middle of her mess and had a laugh. Enough was enough. Lord Ren would just have to accept her as she was or not at all.
In the end, her simple yellow dress won the war. She put it on and paid it no mind. There was so much more to her than a dress after all … or so she kept telling herself as she studied her reflection in the mirror.
For a moment she wondered what he saw when he looked at her so intently. She knew that she was attractive, but it had never played a large role in her life.
People who saw her treated her with the sort of polite geniality a woman with handsome features and a sweet disposition could expect.
Lord Ren looked at her like she was the only woman alive.
The thought made her flush and an absent minded smile spread over her dark pink lips. Feeling every bit the woman she was, Rey turned a bit to check her hair which was up in a braided bun on top of her head, a few dark tendrils hung over her small ears brushing the tops of her collar bones.
Satisfied, she gave herself a confident nod and left the room, her dress floating behind her as she trotted down the stairs.
Rose was right on time and came smiling from her carriage. Rey greeted her with a hug and the two chattered on until they decided to walk the few miles to Alderaan. It was an easy choice as the late morning was lovely and carried the promise of an even nicer afternoon.
Of course, not be be forgotten, Palpatine’s angry shouts of disapproval came after them, but they skittered away ignoring his ridiculous warnings about reputation and young women galavanting across the moors.
They went on with a bit more energy than usual, especially after Rose was able to confirm that they were the first to be invited to Alderaan. There had been many dinners and teas for Lord Ren to attend but so far, only once had he extended the offer. Rey tried not to read too much into this, but after his letter how could she not.
Eventually the worn path split off to the right and they followed it to the topiaries that marked the entrance of the estate.
Rey managed to keep her calm and engage in some harmless gossip with Rose, but by the time they reached the large double doors, she thought her heart was going to pump right out of her chest. The anticipation of this day was going to kill her, she thought with a little sigh.
Ren’s footman answered quickly. He was a tall thin man with a square face and large nose and he welcomed them in with a bow as they passed, taking their hats and shawls.
Rose entered with her usual eager positivity, however Rey hung back feeling something else entirely.
It was real now. Not just a lazy daydream in her window seat. She’d crossed over into his world and as she turned a slow circle, her eyes drawn up and in, the feeling of being consumed by him made her feel unease. No one had ever brought on such a strong wanting in her before. It was overwhelming, almost as much as this home.
To call the entry, grand, was an understatement. In its’ sparse decor, one could really take in the artistry that built such a manor.
Its’ sweeping stone walls left any visitor feeling very small. Aiding in this effect was the imperial staircase that rose up before them in dark oak, as wide as a room and looming as a mountain.
The mezzanine ran the circumference of the entry and gave anyone with the higher ground a perfect view of the goings on below.
Rey noted the way the dark wood and grey stone let only a minimal amount of sunlight through, in spite of the beautiful windows that ran from the stair landing to the ceiling.
Overall, a stunning, moody space that made her want to explore its’ halls and discover all its’ secrets. Was the Lord who owned it aware of the self projection he’d put on display, she thought with a sly grin.
The girls spun to find Mr. Finn approaching with a wide smile and his arms open in welcome.
Rey thought he looked like a candle burning in the dark.
“Thank you for the invitation” She said kindly.
“Ah, save your thanks, it was Ren who insisted we set a date, but don’t tell him I told you so.” He said with a wink. Rose giggled, but Rey sank back a bit, feeling the delicious excitement in knowing this was Rens' idea.
The sound of a door shutting upstairs and far away raised the hairs on the back of her neck.
As Rose and Finn chatted, Rey listened to the heavy footsteps nearing.
She looked over her shoulder, up to the black balcony and waited.
Ren appeared quite suddenly from a dark hallway, their eyes meeting as he walked along the mezzanine.
“Ah, there he is.” Finn announced.
The three of them watched as he rounded the corner to the steps. The feeling of having all the air sucked from her lungs as he descended made Rey dizzy, but he was even more dashing within the familiar confines of his estate than he was on mist covered lanes and candle lit ballrooms.
The crisp white shirt and perfectly laid cravat he wore, deepened the black of his jacket, pants and boots, most notably, that thick head of hair, as black and shining as a crows wings.
As Ren touched flat ground and neared, she thought he looked more like a prince than a Lord, and not in the romantic sense of the word. He carried himself in the manner of someone so far above his station the idea of being placed in society at all seemed comical.
Though he didn’t smile, he seemed less distant than he had before and gave a bow to Rose. “Lady Tico.”
“Lord Ren” She said a little breathless. it seemed Rey hadn’t been the only one to admire his entrance.
Rising up, he turned suddenly focusing on Rey completely. “My Lady,” He addressed her intimately.
Dear god, he was bold!
Rey glanced past him to Rose and Finn, one amused the other intrigued, both looks interchangeable. She met his gaze again and lowered in respect.
How could she respond any other way, her heart would not allow it…. And here we are, thinking of the heart already, she scolded herself as he offered his arm to her.
“This way." He said and she accepted, slipping her hand around the crook of his arm, allowing herself to be led down the hall, Rose and Finn not far behind.
“Alderaan is more beautiful than I could have imagined,” Her eyes could not stay on one alcove or tapestry for too long, she was trying to take in every hand carved detail they passed.
Ren glanced at her, a bit stiff but with a light in his eyes. “ You’ve brought a glow to these dark halls, I’ll say that for it.”
She looked up at him, strong nose high in the air, hair obscuring a clear view of his most striking face. “I have been looking forward to this.” She said softly hoping only he could hear.
“As have I.” His reply was very matter of fact, but she noticed the way his lips twitched with the threat of a smile. Rey lowered her head quickly to hide her own wide grin. Caught you, she thought feeling every so slightly giddy.
Ren led the procession through the wide doorway and showed Rey to a lovely chair of green silk and pale pink floral embroidery. He gave her hand a small squeeze before she sat, the resulting flush in her cheeks impossible to hide.
Rose and Finn joined them, busy with chatter of some far off place both had somehow managed to confirm a visit too, before they could even sit.
On the opposite sides of the busy talk, Ren and Rey found one another again and the looks exchanged were nervous but excited.
Two maids were ushered in with tea, though Ren opted for a small glass of port.
Rey let the warm delicious liquid calm her as she settled into her seat all too aware of the way Lord Ren watched her with a sad sort of smile clearly birthed from some fond memory. She wondered what she’d done to bring on such thoughts, but that would have to wait.
“Lady Rose.” Finn said in his boisterous way. “You’ll be happy to know I’ve brought a few of my finest treasures with me today. All from my last journey to the desert. The people I met there were wonderful and gifted me a few trinkets and items I’m sure you’ll enjoy!”
Rose lit up with anticipation and nodded emphatically. She could hardly contain herself as he waved them over to the long desk closest to the window.
Rey set her tea down and followed her friend.
Laid out on display were things that she recognized but had been made from such exquisite materials.
A comb of bone, a bowl of what looked to be jade but when held up to the light became nearly translucent. Rose ran her fingers along the impossibly soft fabric of a scarf with a squeal of delight.
“This is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever touched!” She said.
Smiling, Mr. Finn picked up the bright orange fabric. “May I?” He asked.
Rey giggled a bit, stepping back to watch as he draped the fabric around Roses' shoulders, and quickly swooped it up and over her hair leaving nothing but her pretty face exposed.
“This is how the Tuskan women wear it. The scarves protect them from the sun and sand.”
“You look beautiful.” Rey offered with a wide smile.
Rose blushed and gave a little spin before Mr. Finn helped her unwrap.
Noticing an absence, Rey looked over her shoulder to find Ren sitting near the fire, one long leg crossed over the other, casually holding his drink.
Expecting to find him judging their joy, Rey braced herself, but instead she saw a look of true contentment.
He was such an easy man to look at when he wasn’t brooding and cold.
She imagined curling up beside him like a cat, small and happy and safe…
“I say, would you like to try?” Mr. Finn asked.
Rey gave a start and shook the daydream, “Oh! Yes, yes please.”She said with an earnest smile.
Swathed in the silk, she felt like a foreign princess as Rose clapped approval and Mr. Finn gave a boisterous call.
“What do you think Lord Ren?” She asked turning to him with a coquettish smile.
He took a swallow of his drink and eyed her head to toe.
As the moment went on too long, Rey’s smile started to fade, Mr. Finn cleared his throat.
“Perfect,” Ren finally said, shaking his head every so slightly as though he couldn’t believe there was any other option. His voice had been light, as though the word stuck in his throat.
Rey’s body responded in a way she’d never felt before. The gentleness of his voice had reached across the room and stroked the skin of her most hidden places. She took a shaking breath, her hands sliding across her belly and neck as she felt so very naked standing before him.
“Let me help you” Finn said assuming she wanted the silk off.
She nodded a thanks before returning quietly to her seat across from Ren.
“Lunch is served My Lord.” Edmonds said from the doorway. His announcement ended the unblinking gaze shared between them.
“I had it set up on the veranda,” Ren said somewhat awkwardly “I hope you approve” He was addressing her as though no one else was in the room and she found his boyish delivery sweet, if not unexpected. It became clear then, that everything happening today was just for her. Rose and Finn were a nice addition, but everything would have been done just the same if they were alone.
She nodded and took a last sip of tea. “That sounds lovely.”
The morning warmth had indeed delivered a perfect afternoon. They were given a cloudless sky and brilliant sun with the strong scent of spring in the air.
From the food, to the wine, to the comfortable familiarity the four of them seemed to find so easily together, Rey knew before their goodbyes could even be said, that today would become a lasting memory.
At one point, Ren even laughed out loud while Mr. Finn told a particularly funny story. Rey almost choked on her drink at the sound, but it was delightfully infectious.
After lunch, the gentlemen offered a walk through Ren’s gardens which both ladies were happy to accept.
Their stroll was just shy of a leisurely. Rey felt so at ease amongst the manicured hedges and mature trees, bird song distant but constant, and those two glasses of wine flowing through her veins.
She nearly laid her head on his shoulder as they walked arm in arm. But no, not yet, she would not let go all her inhibitions, instead she let her head hang back, the sun kissing her lips and cheeks.
He was watching her, she could feel it. He was eyeing the long line of her neck and the soft skin of the space just behind her ear… she opened her eyes and looked up at him hoping he understood that she wanted him to look.
The understanding was made and passed between them, as they silently resigned themselves to their wonderful fate.
In the peace of the gardens, Rey slipped her hand further around his arm to pull them closer in confirmation.
Ren did smile then, a slow, pleased gesture that she adored.
Glancing back, she laugh a little and shook her head watching Finn and Rose playing with some funny toy he’d brought from a trip to the mountains. They were in their own happy world, and had conveniently stopped just before the vine covered archway and trellised tunnel that led to this small clearing.
They were as alone as a respectable man and woman could be, and Rey felt the pressure of the moment urging her to say something.
Being a woman who was used to speaking her mind, especially having grown up with Palpatine, she did not shy away from this internal command and stopped walking to turn to him.
Rey was not short, she was in fact very proud of her height, but before Ren, she felt as tiny as a sprite. The same pleasant sense of safety and warmth she’d felt in the sitting room came back tenfold.
Her eyes went along up the lines of his fine clothes, past the hint of skin beneath his high collar and stock, over his full lips and to his eyes, that she now for the first time noticed were actually an array of greens and golds and browns.
His eyes were hazel, not black, not cold dark and brooding, but soft and kind and gentle.
Her hand was on his chest, very near his heart. She did not remember placing it there, but she would not move either.
He wrapped his fingers around her wrist, his other hand slipping to the small of her back, ever so slightly bringing her closer, were they stood in an unmoving dance.
“I hope you don’t think that I’m being too forward.” She said so softly her voice was as light as the breeze circling her skirts.
He shook his head a bit “No, my Lady. No, you can not be forward when your actions are encouraged.” He said and Rey felt her pulse quicken against his light touch. “I don’t believe I’ve been very open with my intentions because, I never meant to have any at all. Not towards you or any woman. That’s not why I’m here.”
She found herself gazing at his mouth as he spoke and she wondered what he might taste like.
“Why are you here?” She asked his lips.
Ren’s small smile made her look up to his eyes again.
“I have business here, but, you are quite successfully making me forget it all.”
She lowered her gaze sheepishly pulling away.
Ren let her go but not without trying to keep her.
“Then I shouldn’t be here. I don’t want to distract you from your work” She said turning away from him.
There was a pretty array of flowers amongst the bushes to look at as she waited for his reply.
“ And what if I find your distractions, your, presence in my life to be necessary?” He asked, his voice deeper than she’d ever heard him. It commanded her attention and she turned to face him.
“You don’t even know me, not yet.” She smiled though the truth of it made her hesitant.
“No, but I will.” He said with confidence.
Rey felt overwhelmed, like she had when she first walked into the manor.
What was it? Was she afraid? That didn’t make sense. He was not frightening in a traditional sense. But, whatever it was between them was so powerful she worried she might do something foolish. This man, this exquisite stranger had come into her life so suddenly, and had consumed so much of her thoughts, it didn’t seem right. But then, how could anything that felt like this not be?
“Don’t be afraid.” Ren said with kindness, shaking his head. And then he was suddenly very near her, his body blocking the sun.
She took a breath and looked up at him, her heart racing as his eyes narrowed and searched her face. “I feel it too.” His voice was laced with a deep understanding of what she was experiencing, as though he could read her very thoughts.
Rey exhaled, she wanted to nearly cry as he slowly grabbed her arms to hold her there, his lips coming down to meet hers, parted and ready.
“My Lord Ren!”
She gasped as he snapped up to full height, glaring over his shoulder.
It was his butler Edmonds.
“Forgive me my Lord, urgent news for you at the house. I thought you would want to know immediately.”
Ren held her firm as she watched the interaction.
“Who is it from?”
“My lord? I don’t believe I’m at liberty to say.” The older man said, eyes down so as not to insult his master.
Ren left her then with a speed she hadn’t expected.
He nearly stomped across the grass to the man.
“Who?” He growled.
“The Order. My Lord.” Edmunds said and gave a small bow.
Ren hung his head, his shoulders rising and falling with what seemed to be anger. She was unsure, she couldn’t see his face, but his body seemed as tense as a wire.
“Yes…yes, alright. Thank you Edmunds.” He said and dismissed the man.
Rey waited. It took him a while to turn back to her, but when he did, she saw a different man for a moment, a flash of someone with a rage inside him so awful that she nearly walked away. But, when he looked at her and truly saw her, that fire died so quickly she wasn’t sure she’d seen it at all. And maybe, perhaps, he had some bad business to deal with. She would not judge him too quickly, but she would not forget it.
“Forgive me” He said with a sigh and started to come to her again but thought better of it.
“It’s alright” She assured.
He nodded and took a few steps back to the arch. “Finn and Lady Tico are waiting for us, shall we go back. I’m afraid I do have to see to this.”
“Of course!” She said and quickly went to him.
“What’s wrong? Some sort of trouble?” Finn asked as they approached.
Ren gave a dismissive grumble. “I intend to find out. Will you come with me?” He asked clapping his friend on the shoulder.
“Of course.” Finn answered and they both looked back to the ladies waiting together.
“This is not how I wanted to say goodbye” Ren said stepping towards Rey so that she knew this was meant for her alone.
“I know,” She said understanding.
“Will you come again?”
“Is this an invitation?”
“Then I will come.” She said, and for a fleeting moment they were alone again in the little clearing. Her, completely enamored and him, hopelessly committed without a word being said. “And Rose?” She asked breaking the bond.
He blinked and looked over to Rose who was trying her best not to watch them “Well yes of course. Please.” Ren said stepping back to address them both. “I extend the invitation to you both. Perhaps Saturday. I’ll clear my day.” He said as though his words became law upon saying them.
Rey grinned and nodded. “I look forward to it, but please, go! I do believe Edmunds is going to start begging.” She said nodding past them.
Ren and Finn looked over their shoulders, Finn laughing a bit at the butler who was pacing and fretting in a way unbecoming of a man in his position.
“Until then.” Ren said to Rey and turned to take long strides across the grounds leaving her to wonder just what she’d gotten herself into.
“It seems a bit soon doesn’t it?” Rose asked as they turned onto the graveled path of the Alderaan estate.
Rey look up. Sunlight drenched the south tower peaking out from the trees still a mile away. It shone like a beacon guiding her back.
“Are you alright?” Rose asked.
Reys' attempt to assure her friend that she was fine was half hearted. Truth be told, Rose hadn’t said anything Rey wasn’t already thinking and considering the fact that Rose was not involved in this other than for the sake of friendship, Rey took her words to heart.
No romantic daydreams had clouded her vision.
And Rey felt like her head had been in a fog for weeks.
When he’d asked them back while standing in the garden, it made all the sense in the world, and then they’d left Alderaan and returned to reality. Her worry had set in by the time they reached the end of the drive. Because although the ladies traveled together, two unmarried women in the company of two unmarried men would have caused at least, an afternoons' worth of gossip. And though the opinions of the great houses in her village should not have mattered to her, they did.
Rey refused to let her foolish heart lead her down the path to complete expulsion from society. A life alone with her grandfather in that house would end her much quicker than a broken heart.
So why was she here, with Rose, walking right back towards him? Shaking her head she sighed knowing exactly what the answer was.
No amount of risk could stop her from finishing what they’d started two days ago. It had been blossoming for over a month, spread out over run-ins cut short and stifled conversations. And finally, after weeks of imagining it, she was here to be with him, she was here to receive the kiss that almost happened.
Rey’s breath grew short when she thought back to the moment and how close they’d come. It was completely agonizing to think he’d been that close to kissing her and the need to be near him again ached in her bones. Simply put, Rey was coming back because she must.
“I know, it’s a bit unorthodox,” She said slowly “But we did have to leave in such haste last time. Perhaps today we’ll have a proper parting?”
Rose eyed her sidelong. “If you think so.” She said, not an ounce of ignorance in her words. She knew what was going on, and while there was nothing forbidding the Lord and Lady from advancing their friendship, there was a way to go about such things and this seemed the least proper. In fact it was the fastest way to throw tradition aside and attract unwanted attention.
However, what Rey was still unaware of was the fact that for Rose, being near Mr. Finn brought out a side of her that she usually had to keep quiet. He allowed her to laugh loudly and express all of her thoughts on every topic. So while she worried for her friend, she also worried for herself.
At the house, the footman took them to the back sitting room where Finn was glaring at a painting on the wall and Ren stood with a sword at eye level pointing it towards the middle of the room, slowly turning his wrist as he examined the blade.
“Have we interrupted you?” Rose asked grinning.
Ren’s eyes darted across the room to find them smiling at him. Slicing the sword down at his side he tossed his hair back and gave a small bow.
“Lady Rose, Lady Rey. Forgive me, I just received a gift from an old friend and I was eager to see it.” Ren said walking to the glass case along the wall that held no less than six other swords.
Rey curtsied to Finn and followed Ren.
“You seem a natural with that blade,” She said watching as he placed it on the brackets and shut the glass display doors.
Ren gave a self deprecating laugh shaking his head.“It’s not that I am a natural, it’s that I have held a sword in my hand for so long I can’t remember a time that I did not.”
“All men must be ready to fight for their king” She said with a teasing smile.
Ren looked down at her, his brows raised slightly. “All men must know how to fight for themselves my Lady.” He replied, eying her profile.
Rey was examining each sword. Some were very old, the ones near the top were new and so sharp she could see the light catch on their lethal edge.
“You and my grandfather seem to agree on that.” She said casually.
He turned to her curious. Rey looked up, a mischievous look in her eyes as she spoke.“He may be an old fool, but he did know how to spot a gift when he saw one. So he was sure to see me trained, or at least he did when I was a girl.”
“You know how to wield a sword?” He asked almost dumbfounded.
She laughed and nodded. “Yes, I know, it’s most unusual, but he was an old man when I was born, with no use for a little girl. He never cared about having me learn the things I inevitably did learn from the maids and the cook, but he did like to see me fight with the boys from the village with our wooden sticks.” Her gaze wandered as she thought back fondly on the wild days spent running with boys too rich and too well bred to walk with her now “I was good, like you, a natural. I took lessons once a week until I turned thirteen and then we could not find…. reason, for me to continue.” Her voice trailed off at the end, surely alerting Ren to some underlying trouble, but she did not want to discuss that anymore than she had to.
“Your grandfather truly saw you trained?” He seemed to find this hard to believe. She was the most extraordinary woman but a lady of her station usually stopped at needle point with regards to wielding sharp objects.
“I can not say that I have ever met a Lady who may also be called a swordsman, but I am determined to see.” He said playfully, though there was a tone in his voice that made her bite her lip, and he smiled knowing the effect he was quite capable of having on her. “But, not yet, tea first?” He offered standing straight and turning with his elbow bent for her.
“Please.” She said accepting his arm.
They had tea in the parlor just as they did before, however as the small talk faded, Rey noticed that the mood was not exactly what it seemed when they first arrived. Ren was very quiet, not like he’d been the first time they came, but most notably was Mr. Finn.
While still his happy self he wasn’t bouncing around, chatting about the habits of the jawa desert nomads. Instead he sat at the little table opposite Rose and spoke in a nearly somber voice.
She could not place it but something had happened and the men were trying to go on as though nothing was wrong.
“I trust everything sorted itself out after our quick departure Thursday?” She asked and took a bite of the tiny scone. Gods but that was good, her cook never bothered with adding enough sugar to anything.
He gave a nod. “Yes, thank you.”
Not ready to talk about it, she thought with a sip of tea. No bother, she wasn’t sure she cared, but she needed to know what was going on. “Are you planing to stay much longer Mr. Finn, you know Rose and I will miss you terribly when you do leave.”
Finn shifted in his chair and blinked looking down at his cup. “I will miss you all, very much.” He said and looked up at her.
Rey felt her blood run cold. “Mr. Finn, are you alright?” She asked, the look in his eyes was alarming.
He nodded and tried to smile. “Yes, just, sad to go.”
Rose was very smart but not always as intuitive as Rey, she did however pick up on her friends’ reaction and looked at Finn with worry.
“Mr. Finn has been asked to assist with a task neither of us are at liberty to speak of, other than to say it will be somewhat dangerous, but, it is his duty.” Ren stated.
Rey shot him a look. “What sort of task?” And what was that tone, she wondered. The voice of authority?
“I can’t say.” Ren replied.
“Theres just a little trouble with some of the negotiations in the south.” Finn offered.
“Negotiations?” She asked
“Finn.” Ren warned.
The other mans' eyes lowered, his head tilting to the side as though something pained him, like the lie he was about to tell was very hard to get out. “Simple, diplomatic negations my Lady, nothing for you to be too concerned with.”
“You seem concerned Mr. Finn.” Rose said and slipped her hand over his arm on the table. His eyes wide, he glared at her hand with a look of both heartbreak and excitement, when their eyes met it was clear that something more had been developing between them as well and had just been confirmed.
Rey had been so wrapped up in her own affairs she’d dismissed their friendly exchanges as nothing more than that. How clear it was to her now that she was not the only one here for a reason.
“Finn is one of our best men Lady Rose, you do not need to fear for him.” Ren said in an attempt to comfort her.
“When you say our best….” Rey searched his face looking for answers to this annoying puzzle.
“I mean ours. Finn belongs to the same order as I do.”
“And that is?”
“You don’t need to concern yourself…”
“So long as I sit at your table, I think I’m entitled to know with whom I dine.” She replied quickly shutting him down.
A shadow fell over Ren’s eyes as he straightened in his chair and set his tea down. He leaned back blinking as he thought this over, clearly trying to find the words.
“To put it simply,” He began. “We are loyal citizens of this nation who find its leaders lacking in the ability to keep us on course. Their path is one many of us can not follow.”
“Is this a political party?” She asked.
“It is, but I can assure you, we only have the interest of the people at heart. Which is why it’s so…bothersome “He said through his teeth “When we have to deal with these sorts of situations.”
Rey noted the way his lip twitched when he spoke, the quick raising of his brows suggesting he was holding back, and quite a bit.
Her heart was pounding. This was wrong, all wrong. But still she could not place why. Thinking back to the last village pamphlet she’d read about two weeks ago, she couldn’t remember seeing anything about a new political party. But then, she did remember seeing something on her grandfathers desk. A letter with a dark red seal and a sigil she’d never seen before. She’d skimmed over the first few lines and remembered something about a call to arms, but no one said those sorts of things literally. Did they? Could these be connected? She looked up at Ren again who was staring at her.
His jaw was clenched and the hand that rested on the table was balled in a fist so tight, his arm shook.
“My Lord.” She said alarmed and dared to reach out.
Her long fingers edge closer, slowly, hesitant to touch this caged animal. Ren looked down and watched her coming near him until she finally pulled his fist open and gripped his fingers. He looked up at her, still trying hard to keep his calm.
“Please don’t let my questions upset you so, I’m just curious.” She said soundly nearly hurt.
Ren looked away, breathing through his mouth for a moment before looking back to her. “It’s not your curiosity, that…upsets me. It’s your ignorance” He said, nearly spitting the words at her. “You should know what’s going on around you, and yet you have no idea.”
Rey yanked her hand back to her side, stunned by his rude delivery, but was she really surprised? Wasn’t this always the man he’d been. The same arrogant lord that almost trampled her, ignored her at the party, refused to defend her when her grandfather insulted her in her own home… it occurred to her quite painfully that perhaps he was not the kind man she’d seen under the cold facade. He was a powder keg of unruly passion and she the new obsession for him to consume and burn up. Rey could feel it in the air between them and she wanted to hurt him back.
“How should I know what silly club you belong to.” Her voice was cold, the sound of it shutting the formerly open door to her heart.
Mr. Finn grabbed Rens arm before the man could forget himself.
“Please, it is much more than that.” Mr. Finn offered.
“Clearly.” Rey said raising her brow.
“Maybe, maybe you could explain just a bit to us?” Rose offered timidly.
Finn smiled at her and let go of Ren. “It’s really not worth discussing now my lady.”
“He seems to think it is.” Rey said stirring the pot. Ren glared at her. “If your friend here is going off on a mission for your political party that could endanger his life, one that we, and by we I mean myself and Lady Rose, actually care about, I should think you might want to explain to us why you’re so adamant that he do so,”
Ren seemed to be considering this and looked at Finn who gave his friend a small smile as he shook his head no in a way assuring Ren that he did not have to say anything.
There was a deeper hidden meaning behind the gesture for certain, but she liked Mr. Finn too much to pressure him.
However Ren was another beast entirely.
“It’s called the First Order.” He said clearly. “I suggest you learn more about it. We grow, every day. More men and woman come to our side”
“Side? We’re taking sides now?” Rey asked.
He sighed and shook his head. “Yes, don’t be so obtuse. We should all take a side. The side of the king or the side of the people. Which do you think you might belong to should you be asked to choose.”
And now she was being obtuse? He implied she was too simple to understand the complexity of her own government. He implied she was a foolish girl and Rey wanted to slap him across the same mouth she’d nearly kissed two days ago.
Her own temper now reaching dangerous levels, Rey took a deep breath and thought about this.
“My Lord Ren, I will always choose the people over a monarch. But the monarch should work for the people.”
“And you think ours does?”
“In some ways, yes.”
“And what about all of the other ways Rey.”
She gasped. Rose nearly dropped her tea.
“Oh enough with the ettiequte.” He snapped. The sound of her name on his tongue still echoed through the room. “Who came up with these rules? Dead men from a dead past. I’ll call you whatever I want” He growled at her.
“You will call me by my title!” She shouted ready to jump to her feet.
“Your title will mean nothing if the current power has it their way.” He said trying to make a point without actually coming out to prove it which made her want to scream.
She was breathing so hard. This was ridiculous. How had they come to this so quickly! She had been completely enamored with him, and now he insults her and praises some secret order… at least she was fairly certain it was a secret. Perhaps she did need to learn more about it.
Still that did not excuse his horrible behavior.
Setting her sights on the man she cleared her throat. “I can admit to not knowing anything about this party. And I’m not too proud to set aside my own beliefs to learn about new ones or other opinions. I will find out more Lord Ren. That being said… you have proven yourself to be no true friend of mine. You are forward and rude. You sit here looking down on me as though I am some country simpleton, when it’s you, shut up in this grand palace angry at the world, who knows nothing. You have everything and still you carry such rage.”
“It’s almost like looking into a mirror.” He sneered at her.
Rey was beyond insulted, now she was hurt. Why would he think her to be anything like him.
But worse, what if he was right.
There was something so familiar about his brooding that she had to take a moment and think back to her own occasionally sour disposition. There were times she’d sit alone, thinking of how much she hated the world she lived in, how much she wanted to change it all. But she stayed, loyal to her home and her grandfather though neither seemed to care for her in return. The house crumbled around her as fast as the old man hardened his heart.
Still and again, this was not an excuse for his behavior!
“You’re impossible” She whispered feeling her chin quiver.
“No, I’m right… and so are you” He said nodding his chin at her admitting his own faults with few words.
She sighed hard and shook her head. But then he reached out and took her hand before she could pull away. It shocked her to be touched by him after their exchange.
“I told you not to be afraid. Of me, of this, of what the future holds for us.”
“Im afraid there is no future here.” She lied to him, and to herself.
His grip on her hand tightened.
“Is that so?” He asked, and she swore she saw him smile. He was looking at her like he had in the garden and she wanted to pull away and curse his name, but something kept her sitting there.
“Yes, please. Let go of my hand.” She whispered.
“Ren!” Mr. Finn was appalled.
“Search your feelings Rey,” He went on ignoring everyone but her “You know it’s true.”
“The only thing I know, is that you are a pompous ass and if you don’t let go of me, I shall… I shall take your new sword and, run you through.”
His eyes lit up and he did smile then. It was sinister and delicious.
Rey leaned in ever so slightly, unable to look away.
“Is that a challenge?” He asked.
She blinked rapidly, nearly unable to believe what she was saying, much less what she was about to do. “Yes.”
“Oh Rey, enough!” Rose said tossing her napkin onto the table.
“Yes, agreed, isn’t this too much.” Finn asked.
Ren shook his head still looking at her. “Are you sure?” He asked, his voice low.
Rey gave a defiant nod. “I will best you, and knock you off that bloody high horse.”
They marched down the hall side by side stealing glances at one another as they walked. Finn and Rose hurried behind them, their protests falling on deaf ears.
Ren took them down a back stair and through double wooden doors to an impressive open room. Not every house comes with a room just for sport, and she wondered how he managed to choose one that did.
Quickly, Ren took off his jacket tossing it to the floor and showed her to the armory chest. “Though I’m sure you’d like to end me today, I’m afraid I have my sights set on tomorrow.” He said and pulled two swords from their stand “Sparing weapons, to keep us both alive.” He said and Rey agreed quickly, accepting her dull blade.
It was long, just an inch too much, but she would adjust quickly.
“Finn, Lady Rose, Take a seat please.” Ren instructed them, though his focus was already on the woman who walked the room familiarizing herself with the weapon.
They obeyed if only out of morbid curiosity and went to the wooden bench in the spectator box at the end of the room.
Rey raised her arm and judge her piece. It would have to do. She was ready to make quick work of him no matter what she held.
Turning to face him, she began to circle her opponent not letting her anger cool. She wanted to face him with all of her adrenaline flowing.
Gods but he was big… no matter though. She knew she stood a chance at completely ruining the man.
Ren was nearly distracted by the look in her eyes, and the way she licked her lips. She would throw him off his game if he wasn’t careful.
Rounding his shoulders, holding the sword out low, he looked past her brown almond shaped eyes and the way her breast rose up from her dress with each breath. She was his enemy for now, and he would treat her as such.
They began to circle one another, both graceful and mindful of their steps. A lock of thick hair fell in Ren’s eyes and he flung it aside, keen on keeping her in clear view.
Brow raised, Rey spun the sword in her hand. Her lithe wrist rotating with little effort, the sword swooshing in the air as it rounded again and again. She snapped it back with perfect control to prove a point. Her smile was coy, she knew what he saw and she was proud to show her skill to a man of such pride.
Watching her now, Ren did not doubt her training for a second and he applauded Palpatine for allowing it. In his wisdom the old man saw potential in her. A sort of given talent that made him ignore the ettiequte of the day and he’d actually paid some brave soul to train her. Because if he had not, Rey would have snuck off and learned on her own which would have done neither of them any good.
“You think they’d actually hurt one another?” Rose asked eyeing them suspiciously.
Finn shifted his weight on the bench feeling a little uncomfortable himself. “No but, after that display over tea, best keep a look out eh?” His pleasant voice laced with worry.
Rose flashed a nervous smile before her face fell into a scowl of concern.
Ren was walking around Rey, too confident, too cocky, an arm casually behind his back as if to imply he could beat her this way.
Rey, watching him from the corner of her eye spun with the grace of a swan, her strike lighting quick. Rose gasped, Finn slid to the edge of his seat.
Lord Ren turned with a perfect block, their swords clashing with the loudest clap of steel against steel.
Swords pressed at the apex, Rey pushed her full weight into the blade to keep him at bay. She glanced down and quickly place her palm flat on his chest, close to where she’d touched him in the garden, but in an effort to create enough momentum to push away from him this time. She succeeded, But Ren wanted more.
He advanced, even as she struggled to find her footing, but was surprised by her agility as she dodged his strike simultaneously raising her sword in two hands to block him.
Their eyes met again. He searched her face for a sign of weakness, for a reason to call an end to this parle but there was none. No, in fact what he saw was something else entirely. He saw that same anger as he had in the parlor but now there was a furious determination. She had the sort of raw energy he himself struggled to control, but control it she did. Only the clenched muscles of her jaw and that light in her eyes gave it away. It was stunning. He nearly forgot himself again but she was not finished yet.
Rey smiled then, deciding that if he didn’t want to play by the rules, she wouldn’t either. Her kick to his shin was so fast, she nearly stumbled, “That’s for calling me by my name without permission” She called after him with a little laugh.
Ren gave a shout turning away, giving her a false sense of victory.
He shot her a look over his shoulder, chest rising and falling rapidly with each breath as the tension grew. If she really wanted to fight that way, he’d show her how it was done.
“Dear god they will kill each other” Rose said gripping Finn’s forearm.
He gave her a reassuring pat and shook his head agreeing that this was going too far.
"My Lord! My lady! Well matched!” He called trying to end it. His words might as well have been the chirping of a bird outside. They heard nothing.
Rey reset her stance still holding that smile on her lips when she saw the look on his face change.
Lord Ren, recovered from her dirty blow, stood to his full height and looked down on her from across the room. Her heart raced, her grip on the hilt of her sword tightened.
He advanced with the speed and power of a freighter coming directly towards her, his sword held like an extension of his arm, ready to strike,
Rey’s stance wavered as she felt for the first time a twinge of fear.
He came up so quickly she missed her mark and he knocked the training sword from her hand grabbed her wrist and with the force of his body pushed her back, her feet trotting to keep her upright before she felt the impact of the wall behind her.
“Lord Ren!” Rose shouted.
Rey gasped trying to spot her sword on the floor but he blocked her view, all she could see was black, black and the pale fury of her opponent.
“Yield” He growled at her.
With a start she met his gaze and realized something then.
Being this close to him again, the fear faded from her like sunlight at dusk and in it’s place, the most overwhelming sense of want. It made her eyes widen, her lips part. She took a gasping breath and tried to ignore it but he was too much..
With his body pressed so firmly against hers, she could for the first time feel the tension of his muscled arms, his thigh, pushed between hers felt as solid as stone. His breath brushed her lips and collar bones. Was he bent over her or she lifted up to him? She felt dizzy.
“No” She whispered refusing to back down. “I bested you.” She dared. “Just as I said I would”
He quickly laughed that off and the grip on her wrist eased just a bit, “You think so?” He asked mocking her.
Rey raised her brow and directed her glance indicating he look down.
Ren hesitated for just a second but when he did follow her instruction, he found her free hand holding his small decorative dagger that had been on display in the cabinet, and it was pointed right at his stomach.
Eyes as wide at plates, he looked back up to find her wicked smile.
“Remove yourself sir” She ordered. “And let us finish this in a civilized way.”
Rens nostrils flared, his jaw so tight his head shook as he pushed away from her and went stomping back to his side of the room.
Rey ran and grabbed her sword, raising it in attack.
“Rey!” Rose shouted trying to stop her.
Grinning, Rey felt the impact of his block resonate through her arm. The look in his eye confused her for a moment, for what she thought was anger could have also been seen as something like lust and It spurred her on.
Over and over she would advance on him and he back at her. Their size difference seemed to matter not as she was quick and wild.
It drove him to insanity to be pushed so hard by a woman with such old techniques and he noted that she must not practice often, but what she did know had been put to memory. She really should practice more, he thought and lunged to end it with what would have been a deadly cut had she not spun around him, her back pressed against his own for just a fraction of a second, and instead actually touched blade, dull as it may be, to skin.
The cut was just on his shoulder but it stung his pride deeply. With a shout he turned and advanced again, sword raised high and ready to strike, only to be stopped in his tracks by Mr. Finn
“Do you actually mean to fight her this way! Cause her harm?” He shouted, hands gripping his friends shirt that had come untucked in the tussle.
“You must stop Rey! He is mad!” Rose pleaded with her friend who in spite of her best efforts was still under some trance and staring intently at Lord Ren.
Like two raging bulls they glared at each other, breathing hard, sweat trickling from his temple, a sheen across her flushed face. “You’re bleeding!” She snapped, angry that she’d gone so far and that he brought out this side of her. Why couldn’t this have ended while they still sat with some dignity over tea.
Ren glanced down, then back at the woman. Strands of his black hair clung to his face. He’d had enough and tossed his sword down with violence. It clattered as it spun and flopped across the room while he stormed off towards the hall.
“Forgive him!” Finn said rushing to Rey’s side.
She watched the man go before letting out the breath she’d been holding. Her own hair had gone into a floppy bun, her cheeks burned, her arms shook with unfamiliar use.
No instructor had ever made her fight that way before. No one had ever pushed her into such a delicious frenzy.
Without a second thought, Rey freed herself of Roses’ grasp and went running after him.
Entering the corridor she caught sight of him just as he slipped into a room near the back French doors.
Trotting down the marbled floor, her shoes clicking against the stone, Rey ignored the voice in her head that shouted for her to turn around and go back. She would not leave on these terms.
Rushing into the room, she instantly doubled back. “Oh!” Quickly averting her eyes, she steadied herself on the doorway as the last of his shirt slipped over his head and he turned to look at her.
“Why did you follow me” He demanded.
Not waiting for a reply, she watched as he tossed his shirt onto a bench and went to the little sink in the corner.
Looking about she realized this room had been used for many things. Judging by the layer of dust over the furniture, that was long ago. There was a piano in the corner covered in a tarp and an easel and some canvases against the far wall. A paint stained cloth was draped over the side of the sink.
There were signs that a happy life once existed in this room, and for a moment she wondered if Ren had been a part of it.
Opening the cupboard above the sink he pulled out a little box before crossing the room again. He sat heavy on the bench that looked as tiny as a stool under him.
“I-I….” She bit her lip unsure of what to say and watched as he angrily opened the box, found the little jar he’d been looking for and opened it to apply whatever medicine it held to the cut on his shoulder. “Oh, let me help you” She offered but he shot her a look that froze her to the spot. “You don’t need to be so ill mannered!” She shouted.
“Oh and you think you’re better?”
“What does that mean?”
“It means, that I was not arguing alone out there. That conversation could not have happened without a little assistance from you. And I certainly did not get this on my own!”
“I was merely asking some questions out of concern for my friend. You’re the one who got defensive and.. brutish.”
He gave a loud quick Ha! “You think I’m a brute, while you sit around defending a king who would turn his back on you if you stood bleeding before him” Ren shook his head, hair falling over his eyes. “ I’m a brute, but you’re the one who drew blood.”
“Because you wouldn’t stop.”
“You didn’t want to stop.”
Now she laughed. “You dare blame me for your horrible temper! I was simply defending myself.”
“Oh, I believe this was about more than defense.” He replied raising a brow.
She thought for a moment and rolled her eyes. “If it was, it was your fault for being so… so…” she gave an exasperated growl tossing her head back “You’re just a monster Lord Ren.”
“And you are an insufferable woman,” He replied with a cool tone.
“You need to leave me alone.” She said repulsed.
“ And you need a teacher!”
“A…what?” She asked confused. Of all the things… She crossed her arms waiting for an explanation. He really was the most impossible man.
Ren shook his head sighing as he shut the medical box and and looked up her. “You need a teacher. Lady Palpatine. How’s that for a title.”
Rey rolled her eyes with a huff.
“You’re naturally gifted with a sword,” He went on. “More than you even realize, but your style is dated and too predictive.”
“I literally just cut you…” She nodded towards the sparing room.
“No, yes… yes you did but that’s not what I mean. If a woman of your status has taken the time to learn this much and with such ability, how foolish is it to not continue, and to become better.”
“Oh I see.” She said, head cocking to the side. “And did it occur to you that perhaps I never would have given up my lessons had it been something we could afford. But bread or lessons is never a hard choice Lord Ren. Not everyone has the luxuries you’re accustomed to.”
He sat up straight and raked his messy hair from his eyes.
Rey shifted her weight and looked out the window trying not to find herself distracted by the sight but by all accounts he was perfect, and one does not look on perfection often.
She dared to peek back at him, at the way his black hair brushed his white shoulders, how his broad chest rose and fell with steady breath now instead of rage. His biceps flexed as he leaned his weight on his palms against his thighs and started to speak.
“Do I think you can be insufferable? Yes. After today…” He sighed and shrugged a bit. “But, you’re also extraordinary. With a dull blade and a sharp tongue.”
Rey almost forgot she was mad and nearly smiled.
“Untrained for too long” He said, voice rising as he nearly walked back the complement “But I believe it would do you some good to learn properly. Perhaps when that energy is released you’ll not fight me so viciously,” He said subconsciously reaching for his shoulder. “Or vocally. Perhaps even making you a better guest.” He jabbed.
Her brows raised and she huffed. “Is this some sort of ploy! Some attempt to get me to be a quiet lady? Oh yes, use my energy sparing so that I may be more demure for you? A bit easier to take tea with” She spat, lips curled back in disgust “Well I refuse to be contained sir. My grandfather knew better, and now you should too. Be warned, I am not…
She drew back, mouth shutting in confusion and then a little outrage. “Are you laughing at me?”
Ren let the last deep wave of hilarity wash over him before he sighed and stood, shirt forgotten.
He came to her, stopping just inches away.
Rey stepped back, but he was too quick, she could smell his sweat, his soap, feel the heat of him.. shutting her eyes for a moment she took a breath trying to ignore it..
“I am a jovial person Lord Ren but I will not be laughed at in such a way.” She continued but with much less gusto this time. Now when she spoke her words were light and her heart not in them. It was when he was this near, she could not focus on anything but him in the most primal way.
“My dear lady.” He said so gently that she opened her eyes to look up at him, her throat tight and her heart pounding. “I was not laughing at you. I believe, I’m just amused at the situation I find myself in.”
“Well, Ive been insulted, my beliefs belittled, physically abused and accused of financial bigotry all within the span of one afternoon and yet I can not ignore the fact that at no time did I feel anything less, than completely awed by you.”
“Oh” She sighed and looked away.
Ren reached up, his long finger crooking under her chin. He raised her head and with the lightest touch passed his thumb over her bottom lip. “Why must you torment me” He asked with a wavering smile, his voice strained in that way that clawed at her heart.
Rey inhaled deeply. She felt a tingling that originated in places she was embarrassed to think of as Ren bent down. His lips, which were much softer than she’d imagined, met hers with a slow building pressure.
This more than made up for the kiss that almost happened in the garden. She was almost thankful, it seemed the wait made it all the more incredible.
Ren pulled away just enough to really taste her. His tongue was warm and as skilled as his sword leaving her unable to control the small moans he seemed to pull from her body with his own.
The muffled sounds were exquisite to them both, if not a little embarrassing for her. No one had ever kissed her well enough to elicit much more than a smile.
As she melted into his arms, Rey relished in the way he used his mouth to calm her. He was so gentle, but how could that be. This same mouth had just been so vile. So completely horrible that she wanted to pull away and curse his name to remind him that she nearly hated him five minutes ago, but instead she slipped her hands onto his bare chest and up over his shoulders.
Ren took her by the hips and she was quickly reminded of his strength. The very same power that had come at her with rage was now steady and reassuring. He would use those arms to challenge her, and to hold her.
Arms that now wrapped around her waist until he lifted her up so easily that she broke from the kiss, startled. Her own arms instinctively went around his neck, her fingers lacing through his hair, as soft as the long moor grass, and pressed against the solid base of his skull. She clung to him, but he held her with such confidence she relaxed into a smile, fading into the kiss once more.
He couldn’t help but to match her happiness with his own and smiled against her lips. “This is a better way to settle our differences my Lady.” He mumbled making her chuckle against him.
Slowly, letting her body settle over his own, he carried her, one arm around the small of her back, the other hand slipping along the length of her thigh to hinge behind her knee. Ren walked her to the piano in the corner and sat her down.
It all made Rey a little restless. She knew more about finances and sparring than she did this, but she could not persuade herself to stop. After all she was very fast learner.
Her breath was coming in shallow gasps as he left her lips to kiss her neck and that spot behind her ear. She opened her eyes to look beyond him to the window and through it to the tress blossoming with spring colors. Learning or not, this was moving so fast.
“Ren” She managed. “Please, stop” She said, leaning away and pushing him from her. “I know it feels as though we do, but we really do not know one another.”
He looked down at the ground, his head on her shoulder for a moment before he rested his weight on his palms on either side of her.
“We’ve seen the best, and nearly the worst in each other. Neither have convinced us not to pursue this. You must know by now that I wish to know everything about you.”
Her mind raced with possibility and fear and delight. “My Lord, I, don’t know what you mean. Is this a formal declaration?”
He scanned her face, settling on her lovely brown eyes before reaching up to cradle her cheek in his palm. “Is that what you want?’ He asked with intensity.
Rey opened her eyes. She hadn’t even realized they were closed, but he was so warm… “I think so? I’m not sure. Forgive me but I can not forget all of the things that were said today.”
He sighed, taking his hand away. “I understand. And, for what it’s worth, I am sorry. I just, I’m a man of conviction, and I will not apologize for that. But, my dearest Rey. I am sorry for being such a… brute.”
She gave a little laugh and shook her head only ever so slightly annoyed. “If I need someone to teach me how to wield my sword, then you need someone to teach you patience.”
Brow raised, Ren eyed her up and down. “ Oh and who would you suggest?”
“I can think of a few options,” She said laughing as he tried to quiet her with a kiss. “There's the preacher,” She ducked to the right, too quick for him “He can show you many verses on the matter.” She nearly made it back the other way, but he grabbed her shoulders making her gasp and squeal as he nuzzled her neck. “Oh! There are the village tutors, they are always patient men” Rey’s laughter lowered to a moan as he pulled her close, her legs opening to make room for him. Ren grabbed her face locking eyes with her “My lord grandfather!” She continued stifling a laugh “That’s who! If ever there was a lesson on patience, spending a day with a man who never stops complaining but does it so slowly you nearly fall asleep between the words, now that is the perfect lesson for you my dear” She paused and looked at his parted lips, the urgency overwhelming “Dear man”
The kiss erupted from them. Hands grabbed and pulled, tongues fought skillfully. If any anger was left between them, it came out now in slow, deep movements that left them breathless.
Ren’s bare skin felt hot against her hands, the muscles of his back moving in waves as he pulled away to rise above her.
She looked up into his eyes and found them changed. In the garden she thought she saw a gentle man, during their fight she saw a monster, but the truth was not so black and white. He was many things, she could not condemn or pardon him yet. And the light in his eyes ignited a spark in her that promised greatness.
“Come here, to Alderaan, every day and I will teach you everything I know.” He desperately offered.
She smiled shaking her head. “ I don’t think that would work. Once a week perhaps?”
He nodded. “Once a week, but then you must come again for tea,”
“She visits his house not once but twice a week!”Rey said imitating the busy bodies of the village.
“Bring your chaperone I don’t care!”
“I have no one my Lord, I told you, we are not wealthy people.”
“Then I will come to you.”
“My grandfather would never allow it.”
His jaw clenched and he looked beyond her for a moment. “He will. Leave that to me."
Did he think himself some sort of magician. “My Lord if you can persuade that man to let you into our home to train me in swordplay then you may come to me as often as you like” She laughed as she raised her self up as straight as she could to kiss him.
“Rose!” Rey pulled away, her lips a deep red and a bit swollen. She peeked around Ren’s large frame.
“Oh Rey! Please!” Rose cried exasperated.
Lord Ren smiled at Rey and hung his head knowing it was over for now. “My lady.” He offered and quickly set her down on the solid ground. Rey brushed the wayward strands of hair from her eyes and bit her lip wondering if he’d let his thigh press into her like that on purpose. She shook it off and ignored the feeling between her legs.
“Rose.” She said again as composed as she could manage. “Yes, I’m sorry, we should be going.” She said as Mr. Finn walked into the room. He looked from one person to the next sussing the situation fairly quickly.
“My Lady” He said bowing to Rey before fixing his sites on Ren. “ Lord Ren, we’ve been looking for you.”
Rey followed her friend to the door, sure to take one last look over her shoulder at Ren, her beautiful sparing mate and now master.
He smiled for her before turning his attention to Mr. Finn who was loudly whispering his disapproval of his Lords behavior but not wanting to insult the lady.
“I can not believe what I just saw!” Rose exclaimed in the same soft but outraged voice as Mr. Fiinn.
She had her arm crooked around Reys’ almost as if she were afraid her friend might run off if she let go.
The lady Tico led Rey to to the front door picked up their shawls and purses and went to the door.
“My ladies” The butler said and bowed.
“Thank you” Rey said with a slow curtsey only to be pulled up and away by Rose.
“Don’t do that!” She huffed as the women broke out into the fresh spring air. “And please please never do that again!”
“I’m sorry Rose.” Rey couldn’t look her friend in the eye, she’d walked in and saw… and Ren shirtless, with her legs around him, she must have seen more than any unmarried lady ever had.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. The violence of it, the anger…”
“I don’t know, there is something dark in the man but there is light too,” Rey said dreamily as she trailed behind.
Rose spun, glaring at her friend. “It is not Ren that I speak of” She said and Rey stopped, instantly hurt by the implication.
“Rey. You argued with him, and then you fought him, challenged him! As any man would. I know you are not a conventional woman, and I love that about you, neither am I. But what just happened in there… if this were to ever get out. You’d been shunned from society! We’re lucky Mr. Finn is so dear a friend to Lord Ren and I am certain he would not want to see his reputation ruined either, but to put either of us in that situation…
She was deeply wounded and had every right to be so. Feeling a profound disappointment in herself, Rey ran to her friend throwing hers arm around her. “Oh forgive me sweet Rose, for you are my dearest, most loving friend! And to know that I caused you any harm would break my heart. I am truly sorry!” She pleaded.
It took a moment, but true friend she was. Rose rolled her eyes and shook her head before returning the embrace. “Please, don’t let it happen again.”
“No, of course not.” Rey reasoned emphatically. She pulled away smiling at Rose before glancing over to the house. “I don’t know what it is about him but he makes me feel so many things.”
“Possibly the hair, the eyes, the imposing way he stalks about, or perhaps the depth of his voice which seems to find its way into your very soul? She said casually.
“Rose!” Rey looked back at her friend a little stunned, until she broke into a hearty laugh that made Rey laugh too. “Did you actually believe you’re the only woman in all the village who has’t noticed him .” Rose said, laugh fading to a smile.
“He’s quite something. A bit too broody for my taste though.” She assured Rey with a nudge “Mr. Finn however, well he is just a delight.” She looked back to the house with her own version of a lovelorn sigh.
Both women stood gazing at the dark stone and vine covered walls of Alderaan manor minds on things that would see them cast out from every dinner party for life.
Shaking her head in defeat Rose sighed and took Reys' arm. “Shall we come back next week?”