Jean's gasp was soft and quiet, and he smiled, just a little, as he set the box down upon the table and lifted the necklace from inside, gently looping it around Jean's neck before neatly fastening the glittering diamond clasp, placing a kiss just above where it rested at the base of her neck. On reflex she lifted her hand, fingertips trailing gently against the smooth pearls. Strands and strands of them, pale white and softly gleaming, highlighting the elegant curve of her neck, brushing against the tops of her breasts, drawing his attention there as he rested his chin upon her shoulder and gazed down at her in wonder.
"Do you like it?" he asked her, feeling her shiver in his embrace as his voice rumbled through his chest where it pressed against her back. Almost a year they'd been married, now, and he was still hopelessly captivated by her, and somehow, by some mercy he could not comprehend, it seemed she felt much the same way about him.
"Like it?" she responded, reaching up with one hand to gently cradle his cheek while with the other she continued to caress the pearls that kissed her skin. "It's beautiful, Lucien, but it must have cost a fortune."
Her tone was somehow both admonishing and awestruck, and Lucien grinned like a schoolboy. Trust Jean, he thought, to know the difference between a fake and the real thing the moment she touched it. He had in fact spent a great deal of money on the necklace, and he was beside himself with glee.
"There's more," he whispered, catching the lobe of her ear between his teeth for a moment before he turned away, reaching back into his box of treasures.
Jean spun to face him, the color high in her cheeks, her smile gentle and sweet. It was not very often that Lucien had the opportunity to shower his wife with gifts; in many ways, Jean was still a farmgirl at heart, practical and thrifty - though she had no cause to be, now that she was a doctor's wife - and she did not approve of him lavishing expensive presents on her. Today, though, today was her birthday, and Lucien felt that on this one day, surely, he should be allowed some clemency. She deserved the world, his Jean, and he was determined to give it to her.
Carefully he reached out and fastened the matching three-strand bracelet around her delicate wrist, lifting her hand to his lips when his task was through, full to bursting with joy at the look upon his wife's face.
"Oh, Lucien," she said again. Her grey eyes sparkled as they flickered from his face to her wrist and back again, and he found himself thinking, not for the first time, just how very lucky he was to have this woman in his life, to have her love, her company, her steady guidance, for all the rest of his days.
Grinning fit to burst now he let go of her, watching as she gazed in wonder upon this latest offering from the doctor to his beloved. Jean was always the picture of demure perfection, slim and graceful and elegant in whatever ensemble she put together, but Lucien was determined that tonight she should outshine every other woman in the room; given that Susan Tyneman had brought it upon herself to throw a party for Jean at the Tyneman estate with a veritable who's-who of the local elite in attendance that would be no mean feat, but as he watched her now, he was certain that when she entered the party every eye would be upon her. Even in her plain, knee-length skirt and soft white blouse she looked to his eyes every inch the princess. The pearls were just the icing on a very beautiful cake.
"And one last thing," he said, struggling to contain a laugh at the look of sheer incredulity that crossed his wife's features as he spoke.
"No, Lucien," she said, shaking her head. "It's too much."
"It's not as much as you deserve," he told her, reaching once more into the box. "But it's the best that I can do."
He took her right hand in his own, and gently slipped the ring onto her finger; a single, natural pearl, huge and lovely and almost beyond price. The pearl had belonged to his mother, though Genevieve had worn it on a chain around her neck. The local jeweler had nearly fainted, when Lucien brought it into his shop and requested it be set in white gold and flanked with diamonds. When the man ascertained that Lucien was, in fact, completely serious, his face had taken on a zealous glow, and the piece that he had created was absolutely stunning. As beautiful as the ring looked in the shop, however, it was nothing compared to the vision of that same ring sitting proudly on his wife's exquisite hand.
"Happy birthday, my darling," Lucien murmured.
Jean, looking very near to tears, flung her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly.
It was not very often that Lucien Blake was rendered speechless. Loquacious to a fault, his tendency to babble on about any given topic, to assert himself into any conversation regardless of whether or not his input had been requested, had caused him more problems than he cared to admit. Regardless of the moment or circumstance, he always seemed to have a clever quip ready and waiting, some insightful piece of knowledge or insight he was bursting to share. At this particular moment, however, he was quite simply incapable of making a single sound.
The party had been a great success; Jean had shone, the picture of timeless elegance in her fitted black dress with its soft, lacy sleeves, the pearls he'd given her completing the picture to perfection. Susan Tyneman had nearly turned green with envy, and Lucien had preened - discreetly - at the sight. Jean was, to his mind, the best of women, and though life had been unkind to her in the past, he was delighted to see her as she was now, strong and brave and lovely. The party had been fine enough, he supposed; there had been champagne and desultory conversation, but his only memories of the evening were of Jean, Jean laughing with her hand wrapped in his own, Jean soft and warm in his arms as they danced, Jean glowing beneath the sparkling lights. No matter where they went, no matter what they did, Jean was always the center of his world.
And now, oh now, she was a vision.
On the other side of the room she stood before her vanity; she'd carefully slipped free from her dress and hung it off to the side before returning to the mirror to pluck the pins from her hair. The sight she presented was heart-stoppingly erotic, made all the more electrifying by virtue of the fact that she wasn't even trying to seduce him, hardly seemed aware of the weight of his eyes upon her. Beneath her dress she'd worn a soft black slip, cut low over her breasts, trimmed in fine lace. The hem barely covered the swell of her ass, and his eyes traveled over her, following the expanse of soft, smooth skin just above her lace stocking-tops. Her make-up and jewelry were still in place, the pearls shining softly in the dim light of the room. Her position provided him the perfect view of her, as he took in the sight of her from behind and then glanced into the mirror to see her face, her expression intent as she continued to faff about with her hair, and then his gaze traveled downward, to where her neat breasts strained against the confines of her slip and bra.
Perhaps his wife had sensed the heat of his gaze, for her eyes flickered up to the mirror, and caught his own there. She smiled, softly, no doubt recognizing the desperation on her husband's face.
"Lucien," she said, her voice so low it sent a shiver coursing down his spine.
Still no words would come to him, and so she turned to face him, her dark curls hanging loose and soft around her face. There was nothing Lucien wanted more in that moment than to go to her, to tangle his fingers in those curls and draw her into his arms, this fierce beauty he was lucky enough to call his own, but then she did something he did not expect, something that left him rooted to the spot.
Without a word she reached down and caught the hem of her slip in her hands, slowly dragging it up and up, letting him watch as inch by perfect inch she was revealed to him, until she threw it off to the side. Jean was left standing then in nothing but her underthings, all soft and black, and her new pearls. The sight of those pearls against her skin, the weight of them resting so gently at her neck and her hand and her wrist, while she wore nothing else save a few scraps of black satin, had the blood rushing to his cock in an instant.
"Come here, Lucien," she murmured.
He didn't need telling twice. He crossed the room in three long strides, his hands coming to rest upon her hips as if they'd been drawn there by some magnetic force. Beneath him his wife smiled, reaching out to rest her palm against his cheek.
"Thank you," she whispered. "This was a perfect day."
"It's not over yet," Lucien growled in response, unable to hold himself back a single second longer. With his palms flat against the scorching heat of her skin his hands ghosted around her hips to the small of her back, cradling her close as his lips descended upon hers, gentle but insatiable, the sight of her, the warmth of her, the softness of her sighs stoking the flames of his desire ever higher.
There were so many things, little secrets, tiny intimacies, that Lucien had discovered over the course of their marriage, so many things he had never known about his wife before they shared a bed, so many things he was both shocked and delighted to uncover as they set out on this new journey together. And while he would be hard pressed to name his favorite discovery, the knowledge that Jean could be as passionate, as wanton, as needful as he was certainly very high upon the list. From their first night together she had revealed this new side of herself, this piece of her heart she had kept tucked away for so very long, this willful, desperate wildness she reserved for him alone, and as her body arched against his own, her nails scraping against his scalp as her hands pulled his mouth even more firmly against hers, he smiled against her lips, as much in love with her now as he had been on the day they wed, if not more so. Her tongue was insistent, sliding against his own, the taste of her invading his senses, and he pushed her back against her dressing table, hungry for more.
When the need to breathe overcame him he abandoned her lips in favor of dropping suckling kisses against the smooth column of her neck; the need he'd felt in the early days of their marriage to color her skin with marks of his own making had not faded, as such, but he had learned to curb his impulses for the sake of her fiercely guarded privacy, to sink his teeth into her in places where others could not see, and the sounds she made each time he did only served to heighten the pleasure for the pair of them. With that in mind he did not linger too long in any one particular place upon her neck, at least not until his lips came into contact with one of the pearls that comprised the fine necklace she still wore. While Jean's hands wove between them, intent on his belt buckle, his lips wrapped around that little pearl, drawing it into his mouth along with the skin beneath it; his wife's hands froze and a low moan escaped her, her hips bucking against him, catching his arousal between them and setting his head to spinning.
"Lucien," she gasped, and the sound of her voice sent a thrill through him.
His hands slid down her back as his mouth continued to dance along the line of her necklace, kissing Jean and the pearls both with equal ardor; he caught her bum in his hands and lifted her easily, her legs locking tight around his hips at once. This was another of his favorite things about her; Jean was fierce and strong and brave, but slightly built, and he had strength enough to carry her wherever he wished, and she trusted him enough to let him do it. They fit together so well like this, her face on a level with his own, her tender heat blistering against his lower belly where she ground forward against him, desperate for whatever friction, whatever relief she could find there. His hands traced the shape of her over her skimpy undergarments, finding purchase on the smooth skin of her thighs above her stocking tops as still he kissed her, as she sighed and melted in his arms.
He turned them, and in a few short steps had Jean tumbling onto the bed, her dark curls falling loose and soft against the soft white sheets, her eyes burning at him as she watched him towering over her. The picture she presented, in her pearls and her satin and her lace, her skin softly glowing and begging for the touch of his lips, was almost more than he could stand, and so Lucien hurried to tear off his own clothes, eager to feel the heat of her against him, skin on skin.
Apparently Jean was just as eager as he; as he struggled with his buttons she deftly removed her bra, but when she reached to unclasp her stockings he simply had to stop her; he tossed his shirt to the side and caught her wrists in his hands, pressing her back against the mattress until she was laid out flat on her back, strung taut as a bow beneath him.
"Wait," he breathed against her lips, kissing her once, fiercely, before his mouth traveled once more over her necklace and thence descended the plane of her chest, his lips setting a course for one rosy pink nipple.
She whimpered, just a little, as the heat of his mouth overwhelmed her, arching beneath him to press herself more firmly against his questing lips, straining against his hands where they still held her wrists captive above her head.
"Leave the stockings on," he grumbled against the swell of her breast, releasing her hands so that he could continue the process of removing his trousers while still he teased her nipple with his tongue. It took some doing, sliding his trousers off his hips while she shimmied out of her knickers and his mouth refused to abandon her breast, but they managed, somehow, and in a moment her hand closed around his throbbing hardness even as his own fingers slipped through the thatch of dark curls at her center, intent on finding her core. They groaned together, then, as with hands and lips and quiet words they encourage one another still further; when Lucien could bear it no longer he tumbled down beside her on the bed, and Jean was upon him in an instant, grinning at him wickedly as she straddled his hips, painting his belly with her wetness.
"Christ, Jean," Lucien groaned as his wife ran her hands over his chest, as the soft material of her stockings rubbed against his skin. "You'll be the death of me."
She smiled down upon him, this angel made flesh, the skin of her chest flushed pink with arousal beneath those pearls that kissed the tops of her breasts. They did not often make love this way; Lucien was rash, and impulsive, and more often than not he took the lead between them, desperate for her. Sometimes, though, sometimes Jean's need of him matched his own desire for her so completely that she would take charge, eager to find her own pleasure in his arms.
"I'm not finished with you yet," she told him, a wicked smile painting her features as she leaned down to kiss him, while at the same time raising her hips, one hand snaking between them, intent on finding his hardness. And then she did, and in a moment she was sinking down upon him, so slowly he was certain he would die before she was through. His hands found purchase on her thighs, the tips of his fingers brushing against the lace of her stocking tops, watching in awe and desperate need as she took him inside her, deeper, and deeper still until he was fully sheathed within her, the breath escaping her lungs on a little gasp of satisfaction. For all the rest of his days Lucien would carry the image of her above him tucked away inside his heart, a memory that burned brighter than the sun, the love that washed over them now so strong, so true, it could never be undone.
But then she began to move, and he was drowning, hardly able to keep his eyes open, so great was his pleasure, though he wanted nothing more than to watch her as she took her pleasure. With each downward thrust of her hips her breasts swayed softly, drawing his gaze and keeping it there as he watched the pearls bouncing against her skin. Still she moved, rocking against him, and his hands could remain idle no longer. He traced a path up her thighs, over her hips, along her sides, pausing for a moment to knead her breasts in his hands and drawing another gasp from her lips. With each touch of his hands her speed only increased until finally his hands settled upon her hips, guiding her movements as her face took on an otherworldly glow, as she drew ever nearer to her peak.
"Lucien," she gasped his name, and, recognizing his cue, he followed her unspoken order at once, reaching between them to the place where they were joined, finding the little bundle of nerves at her center and rubbing in time to the thrusting of her hips until with every breath she was moaning, louder and louder until she plunged herself down upon him one final time. Her inner muscles fluttered around his rock-hard length, hot and wet and perfect, and a breathy cry left her lips as she shattered above him, weightless and free and glorious to behold. Her whole body shuddered for a moment, and Lucien groaned at the feel of her release washing over him even as it did her, but then she collapsed against his chest, and the soft wet kisses she pressed against his neck combined with the change of his angle inside her overcame him utterly. With one arm slung low across her back he held her there against him, thrusting up hard against her once, twice, three times more until with a groan of his own he emptied himself inside her, her soft sighs a heavenly chorus in his ear.
"Jean," he whispered, his hands pressing against her skin, seeking out the heat and softness of her, wanting to prolong this moment for as long as he could. "My Jean."
"Yours," she answered breathlessly, her lips pressing against his neck, her tongue darting out to taste him. "Always."
It was sometime before either of them was capable of moving, and when they were, Lucien rolled her gently off him, watching the way her body moved beneath his tender touch, watching the way the pearls shone against her skin at her neck and wrist and upon her finger. When this evening had begun he had intended to give her a precious gift, and though the pearls were costly, he could not help but think that the gift she had given him, the gift of her love, was the most exquisite thing in all the world.
"I love you, Jeannie," he told her.
Beneath him Jean smiled, her eyes heavy-lidded and sleepy in the aftermath of their love making; she reached up with one hand to run her fingers through his hair where it was starting to curl at the end of a long day.
"And I love you, Lucien," she answered. "And I love my present," she continued, her free hand rising up to press against her necklace once more.
"Yes, well," Lucien said, trying not to smile too widely, "I do love the way it looks on you. But best not sleep like that, eh?"
Before Jean could respond Lucien set about carefully unclasping her necklace; he took it and the rest of her jewelry and stumbled from the bed, returning the lot to the wooden box he'd brought them home in. Then he turned his attention once more to his wife, unfastening her stockings with tender hands, rolling them down her legs while she sighed and pressed herself deeper into their bed. When Jean was finally bare Lucien took his place beside her, gathering her into his arms before covering them both with the duvet.
"Happy birthday, my darling," he murmured, pressing a gentle kiss against her shoulder. He got no answer; Jean was already asleep.
Lucien just smiled, and followed her off into dreams.