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The mare that Éomer presents his bride-to-be with is golden, with a mane as white as freshly fallen snow. Lothíriel coos over the creature, a gentle hand with all animals, as Éomer beams and looks on with a masculine pride that he has never known before. She is not a delicate woman, full of face and body, ruddy cheeked with the same dark hair, fair skin and brilliant eyes of her kin. He treats her carefully however, and while she has seen him lift his sister, round and pregnant with child, and spin her around, he seemed almost cautious to touch her, as if she would break under his rough caress.

It drives her slightly mad. She wants his attention, his touch. She is used to sport, swimming and occasionally wrestling with her brothers. He is surprised when he sees that wicked spark in her pale blue; she removes her kirtle—he is too breathless to oppose the action—and swings herself aback the mare, pulling her white silk skirt up above her knees so she does not have to ride sidesaddle. “Race you,” she dares, and before he can halt her, she is spurring the horse on, galloping down the rough, muddy road.

There have been floods in the valleys, and the mare’s hooves kick up clods of wet, heavy mud as she rides, laughing freely. There is a pit in the lane, where the water has washed a ditch into the mud, and she jumps it easily, glancing behind her to make sure that Éomer is giving chase; she is not looking where the road bends, where there is another deep gully. The mare begins to jump instinctively, but shies at the last moment, dumping Lothíriel in the surprisingly deep, dirty water.

Éomer races to her, her name a panicked cry on his lips. He throws himself from his saddle and wades into the water, which reaches his thighs, before he realizes that the hitch in her shoulders is not brought on by maidenly sobbing, but by barely suppressed laughter. He reaches her, helps her to her feet, for she had been floating, treading water. Her cheeks are red with the embarrassment of it, but her face carries a sheepishly pleased smile. His eyes hunt over her, searching for injuries, his large hands cupping her cheek, her neck, beneath the fall of wet obsidian locks, across her round shoulder, where the water has caused her chemise to cling. She feels for a moment as if she might be in for a scolding, and nearly pulls away, but he throws his golden head back and laughs, the sound filling the glen in a delighted roar.

But they are looking at one another now, and she becomes suddenly aware that more than just her soft shoulder is showing. Her skin is as white as her chemise is, but her nipples are a warm, dusky pink, and they are pebbled dramatically, poking out boldly from the adhering fabric. Her breath leaves her in a gentle gust as he cupped the generous swell of her breast, her back arching impulsively as his warm thumb brushes back and forth against the puckered nub.

Her eyes drift shut and he is suddenly lifting her effortlessly in his strong arms, carrying her from the muddy pool to a higher patch of grass that is as dry in the noonday sun as it could be, though she drips enough to cause little puddle of her own. His kiss is hot and rough, cupping her chin and jaw in his hand as his mouth falls to the pale curve of her neck, to her throat, where his tongue laves at the hollow at its base; despite her chill, and the difference between the water’s coolness and his tongue’s heat, she is now squirming with warmth that seems to radiate from the bottom of her belly.

He is golden all over, she notes as he drags his tunic up over his head, down his tanned chest right to the place where his silken hair disappears along the waist of his hose. Her mouth dries immediately as he tugs at the laces loosening them enough to push them down his muscular hips, to free his cock, which was all but rending the suede in its eagerness to be released. It is magnificent, stretched to its full length, bobbing slightly with his movement between his brawny, horse-rider’s thighs. More gently he draws her chemise over her head, placing burning kisses along her creamy skin, raising more gooseflesh than the coldness of spring had. He laps at her nipples until they are so hard, she is whimpering, his hand between her thighs, rubbing at the whorls of ebony curls there, feeling her wetness spread over his thick fingers. She can imagine nothing so wicked—until he puts his fiery mouth there, licking, tasting her readiness fervently, until she is on the brink of some abyss she cannot name.

He draws back at the last moment, and their eyes meet; she is blinking back tears, but he understands that they are not tears of shyness, or of fear, but of desire. She is not the porcelain creature he had feared she was. He is about to take her, when her glances strays to a meadow where her mare is grazing. Éomer’s stallion is coming up behind her, sniffing the air and then at her, tasting the heat between them with his tongue. He mounts her from behind, and Lothíriel’s breath leaves her. Her mind is spinning with devious ideas, and needs, as she rolls onto her white stomach and raises her backside to him. He hesitates for a bare moment, and then thrusts into her like that, from behind.

There is no blood; she is too much a rider for that. But there is no denying that she is a maiden, for her sheath is tight around him as he pushes into her, tenderly, making sure she adjusts to his crude invasion. His cock, pulsing with his lifeblood, slides against her honeyed walls, throwing sparks along her skin, from the inside out, stoking that molten fire in her belly. The discomfort melts away as he continues to stroke in a steady rhythm, until his absence is more painful than his presence, and she is moving back against him. His kisses the nape of her neck, the joint where neck meets shoulder; brushing her hair aside, he presses hungry kisses to her cheek, to the corner of her full, pink mouth. His clever fingers glide around her buxom hip and find the place within her nether curls that his tongue had found before, that small ember that his fingertips stoke into an inferno.

She’s gasping, and that precipice rushes up to her more precariously than the last time, and she is tumbling over it, her hands fisting in the dirt, him riding her hard now, seeking his own end. Her insides clasp him ardently, sucking him deeper into her womb when finally, with a growl, he releases, spending again and again in white-hot floods. It overflows from her, white against white thighs, steaming as it hits the cool ground.

He wraps her in a horse blanket when they are through, and when her trembling, and his own, is done. They lay in each others’ arms, their loving far from done. Their lifetime together ahead of them, each now willing and passionate to spend it in the other’s company.