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tempted with a smile

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Sidney had learned one thing in the months since he had earned Charlotte’s affection; love brought with it a sharp need.

She hardly had to do anything at all for him to feel the quick bite of want which so often took him by surprise. Just now they were at the beach with his family and she was laughing with Mary, the sound carrying on the wind which wrapped her dress around her legs and molded itself to every curve of her body.

He had endeavored to be a gentleman during their courtship; he had fumbled enough in their acquaintance, he did not want this to be another item to add to the list of things he’d done wrong. But damn him if it wasn’t one of the hardest things he’d ever done.

With the white of her dress clinging to her thighs in a way which gave him a dozen indecent thoughts, it was difficult not to drag her back to the house while it was empty of his family members. He’d take her upstairs to her room-he’d never seen it, but he did know its exact location-and kiss the salt off her skin from the ocean spray.

He imagined licking down the line of her neck, to the décolletage hinted beneath the linen of her dress. Sidney wanted to fill his hands with her, to cup every soft line with his palms, he wanted to- “Sidney!”

His name, shouted just a few feet away by his elder brother, brought him back to the present. He cleared his throat and hoped his train of thought was not evident in any way. “Sorry? Did you need something?”

“We’re heading back for dinner,” Tom answered, his gaze curious. “But it would seem you’ve traveled much further than home. What on earth had you so preoccupied?”

Sidney risked a quick glance at Charlotte who was studying him as if she wasn’t sure what he was about. “Business back in London,” he lied easily. “But I’ll endeavor to stick to the here and now.”

Tom nodded and gathered up his wife and children, but Sidney held back as Charlotte walked across the beach towards him. He tried a smile to convince her all was well, but she knew him entirely too well for his own good, and looked completely unconvinced. “Is everything well?”

“Yes,” he answered honestly, framing her face with his hands. This time, his smile was much more honest as he leaned forward to press a kiss to her forehead. “Everything is perfect. Shall we follow the others back to the house?”

She nodded, reaching up to circle her small fingers around his wrist. “But perhaps we could take the long way around?”

Sidney laughed and took her hand, pressing a kiss to the palm before looping her arm around his so they were locked together. “Whatever you like.”

Her smile would keep him going for the rest of his life.

She didn’t ask about his lie on the beach as they walked, though he kept waiting for her to bring him up. Instead they talked about her family and his, about her plans for the next summer’s regatta, about how Lady Susan had once again insisted Charlotte come for the London season.

Sanditon was a quiet town, and on occasion he missed the pace of London but he understood Charlotte felt wildly out of place in the city so he found himself feeling more and more at home at beach side resort.

But he suspected that had as much to do with Charlotte as anything else.

The rest of the evening went on as most of their evenings did; Arthur and Diana compared ailments, Tom discussed the possibility of asking the new Lady Babbington for an investment into the museum he was thinking of building.

Sidney murmured at all the right parts, laughed when he was supposed to, but the desire which had piqued on the beach refused to be dismissed and his walk Charlotte had not helped matters. He could feel her body beside his the entire time, her fingers clutching his arm through the fabric of his jacket making him think of all the other ways she might cling to him

At this point, if things didn’t wrap up soon, he’d have to excuse himself to his rooms to ease his own suffering.

Thankfully, Arthur and Diana were worried about catching insomnia, a concept which made everyone else at the table muffle their laughter, and begged off coffee and dessert. Once they left, Tom and Mary retired to bed and Sidney had every intention of bidding Charlotte good night at the foot of the stairs but she stopped at the bottom of the steps and studied him in the low light.

“What were you thinking about on the beach? Because it wasn’t London.”

He was surprised to hear her ask the question, certain she’d already forgotten about it. “Nothing of import, I promise.”

“Oh,” and she looked almost disappointed, and perhaps a little flushed? “I thought maybe you’d had some… particular thoughts.”

The way she spoke the words made him think she’d somehow discovered what had been on his mind throughout the night. “Particular thoughts?”

She opened her mouth to answer but stopped herself, pressing her lips together and gesturing to the door which led to Tom’s office as if someone might overhear them even though nearly everyone was abed at this time of night.

Sidney opened the door and Charlotte walked inside, turning to face him as soon as she was in the middle of the room. “You had a look about you, one I’ve seen in the recent past on Lord Babbington’s face. He gets this far off look in his eyes, gets quiet, and within a few minutes he takes his wife aside and they leave shortly after. I know you’ve been to a… boarding house, so I know it’s something you’ve wanted in to the past. Is it me?”

“Yes.” Her face fell and he cursed himself for always picking the wrong words. “But it’s not because of the reasons you might. I don’t do much more than take your hand because I don’t trust myself beyond that.”

Realization flared in her eyes and he heard a quick catch in her breath as her fingers tangled with themselves. “Oh.”

“I’m trying to be a gentleman-“

“Well, stop it.”

His mind emptied of all thought for a full three seconds before he fully registered what she had said; and more importantly, what she meant. “I beg your pardon?”

Sidney imagined she was gathering her courage when straightened her shoulders, but it was briefly distracting because the pose did amazing things to her breasts. Her cheeks were red when he pulled his gaze back to his face. “I want you to stop being a gentleman.”

“You do?”

“I saw what you were thinking on the beach,” she informed him and there was something about the pert, almost teacherly way she was addressing him which made him want to lay her down on the carpet and ravish her. “I confess my own thoughts have traveled the same road a time or two.”

He didn’t doubt her, not the way she was looking at him with dilated eyes and shallow breaths, and still he found himself asking: “They have?”

“You forget, Mr. Parker, I’ve seen you.” She paused and gave him a pointed look, giving them both a moment to remember the day at the river. “And I’ve hardly limited myself to reading philosophy; if you know where to look, there are all kinds of wicked stories to read.”

“Charlotte?”

She smiled and if he didn’t know her better, he’d have called it coy, but instead it was merely the sexiest thing he had ever seen. It was pure confidence; confidence in who she was and confidence in what she wanted. “Lady Denham had an eclectic collection in her library, and seeing you in all your, shall we say glory?, hardly helped matters. So please, Sidney, stop being a gentleman and kiss me already.”

He felt marginally offended by the accusation. “I’ve kissed you.”

“Yes,” she conceded, stepping closer and it took everything in him not to step back. He refused to be the prey backed into a corner, but he had the uneasy feeling he no longer had control of the situation. He mentally scoffed at himself, as if he’d ever had control over anything when it came to Charlotte. “But you’re so careful about it, as if you’re afraid to scare me away. I want to you to kiss me as if you’d die if you didn’t because sometimes that how I feel. Like I’ll die if I don’t kiss you.”

She swallowed, and he knew Charlotte always held a touch of insecurity and he saw it briefly in her eyes when she looked away. “Unless I don’t inspire that kind of passion in you.”

Sidney didn’t trust himself to come closer, but he allowed his gaze to travel the length of her and hoped she could somehow feel his eyes on her skin. “When we were on the beach I thought about undressing you. I spend an absurd amount of time thinking of what you must look like beneath your dress, what you would feel like beneath my hands. Beneath me.”

As if pulled to him by a string she stepped forward and he put up one hand, not to hold her back, but to stop her for a moment. To warn her. “If you touch me, you’ll likely be starting something which will be difficult to stop.”

“I hope you don’t stop.” Her eyes focused on something just behind him, “But you should lock the door first.”

Heat and want and desire made him instantly hard and he took a moment to make sure he was under control before stepping towards the door to his brother’s office, the lock sliding into place with a decisive click.

When he turned back to his fiancé she was licking her lips, her eyes touching every inch of him. “I will admit that while I’ve pictured this particular scenario, in this particular place, I have to confess to little practical knowledge.”

He smiled at the phrasing, so quintessentially Charlotte he would have recognized it anywhere, but there was a line in her little declaration which gave him pause.

“I’ve been kissed,” she clarified at his questioning looking, her voice holding a slight tease at the admission. “I just haven’t been kissed ardently.”

If he wasn’t so immeasurably aroused he would have laughed. “Well I promise, you’re about to be kissed quite ardently.”

“Show me what you’ve got, Sidney Parker.”

It was a taunt, and a playful one at that, but Sidney was not in a particularly playful mood. He reached out and wrapped his fingers around her arm, it felt like lightning shooting up his arm at the contact, and he pulled her towards him. She stumbled against his chest, the softness of her giving against the hardness of him.

Months of proper courting, and this was the closest they had been and it still wasn’t close enough. Sidney hooked his arm around her waist so he could pull her in closer, till nothing separated his body from hers except for a few scraps of fabric which could easily be discarded.

Till she could certainly feel the evidence of how desperately he wanted her.

With his other hand he touched her face, brushing away the loose strands of her hair before burying his fingers in the softness. He should tell her how much he loved the way she always wore her hair down, tell her how he loved the way she looked after the wind had toyed with it on the beach.

Later, he promised himself as he pressed her his mouth to hers, he’d tell her everything later.

Kissing her was like being windswept, as if he was out on the ocean in the middle of a storm, and she was the anchor keeping him from being lost.

But oh, how longed to be lost in her.

There was no delicacy, no gentlemanly restraint, there was only need and she responded as if she’d been waiting a lifetime for him to kiss her just like this. When she made a small sound in the back of her throat, a kind of purring noise, he was spurred on by it. He walked her back until she hit the desk, her body pressed between them.

He pressed his tongue to her lips, thought about getting on his knees and thanking God for the blessing which was Charlotte Heywood, but that would require he stop kissing her and he certainly wasn’t going to do that any time soon. Not when her mouth was warm and she tasted of red wine.

“How am I doing?”

“Quite respectable,” she quipped, but her voice was breathless as she said it, her hands gripping onto the fabric of his vest as if she could somehow pull him closer.

He’s not sure if she meant it as a dare, but that was certainly how he was taking it; he put his hands on her waist, her curves were so abundant his fingers weren’t even close to touching. He wanted to disrobe her so he could kiss and touch and taste every inch of her body.

Sidney lifted her up and set her on the desk, his brother’s papers crinkling beneath her. “You know how I hate to disappoint you,” he teased back, stepping between her legs. He trailed his hands up her calves, catching the hem of her dress in his palms.

“Oh, yes,” she smiled, her bare fingers running through his hair. “It’s your very best quality.”

His hands continued up her legs until the scratchy fabric of her stocking gave way to the silkiness of her skin; there was a soft exhale from Charlotte which gave him pause. He waited for her to say something, or perhaps to push him away, to express doubt. Charlotte had never been one to stay silent in the face of anything, so he waited.

“Don’t stop,” she whispered, curving her fingers around the back of his skull in order to pull him closer. It was a quiet command, an unspoken request he was happy to comply with. Sidney kissed her again, licking into her mouth and nipping the full bottom lip which had tempted him from the first.

As he was swept up in the kiss, in the need to touch her, his fingers fumbled at the garter keeping her stockings in place, pulling at the ribbons so they rolled down her legs to catch on her feet. He had unlimited access to her legs, his fingers tracing the lines of her calf, her knee, her thighs.

He followed the line of her jaw to her neck; licking and biting and being overwhelmed by her response. The gasps and little moans, the way her thighs tightened on her hips when his fingers slipped beneath the thin drawers she wore beneath her white dress.

“I want to touch you,” she whispered even as she angled her neck to give him better access. He bit lightly at the curve, just above her collarbone, and she arched into him. “Sidney, please.”

 

Everything was overwhelming, and Charlotte never wanted it to stop.

Sidney was between her legs, his hands everywhere as his mouth did wild and wicked things to her mouth and neck. But it wasn’t fair for him to get to touch her while he was still fully clothed.

She remembered the way he had looked when she’d come across him on the beach, remembered the brief glance she’d gotten of the acres and acres of skin.

“I want to touch you,” she told him without thinking, pleasure shooting through her body as his teeth scraped against her skin. “Sidney, please.”

He leaned away and she missed the closeness of him but it allowed her to drop her hands from his head to slide down his shoulders and rest on his shoulder. “By all means,” he murmured, his voice low and achy, and she hoped such a sound meant he was as wildly affected as she was by their brief interlude. “Do what you like.”

His hands were still beneath her dress, his palms moving up and down her thighs. It was distracting, but she would not be deterred, her shaking fingers reached up to unbutton his vest to reveal the cravat tied just below his throat.

“I’ve constantly wondered what you would feel like,” she admitted as she pulled the knot loose and unwound it from his neck, dropping it on the ground. She continued undoing the gold buttons until the last one was done. “What would you feel like? What would your skin feel like beneath my fingers?”

As if in response to the question his fingers tightened on her thighs and she wiggled against the touch, wanting more. But wanting to touch him beyond anything else.

She pushed the vest off his shoulders, briefly taking in the muscles beneath the thin linen of his shirt. “I’ve never undressed a man before. It’s rather a unique experience.”

He huffed out a laugh and she looked up to see a small quirk of his lips, but his eyes were intensely on her. She noticed then that he was completely still between her legs, beneath her hands. “Is everything alright?”

“Yes,” he answered immediately, but his voice was as tight as his muscles. He moved his hands up and down her legs, his touch featherlight so she wanted to lean into it, into him. “Do you enjoy this? The way I touch you?”

She was startled by the question, having thought it was perfectly obvious. “Yes, of course.”

“I promise it’s at least that pleasurable for me when you touch me,” he murmured, leaning in to kiss her as if he couldn’t help himself. When he would have pulled away she followed, keeping the kiss going when he would have stopped.

She shifted further to the edge of the desk, her fingers fumbling with his shirt as she kissed him. Remembering how he had used his tongue, she tried to emulate it, pressing her tongue to the seam of his lips and something about it caused a reaction in Sidney.

He removed his hands from her legs and wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tight against him, and she could feel his arousal pressed against her most sensitive areas. Pleasure flooded her body, and she hated every piece of clothing which separated his body from hers.

“Off,” Charlotte ordered, pulling the shirt out of his trousers. “Take this off.”

Sidney leaned back and pulled at the back collar of his shirt, tugging it off and dropping it to join the pile of his clothes at his feet. “Touch me.”

She was happy to comply, putting her hands on his shoulder and sliding them down his chest. He was so warm, so soft, and she would have been happy to look at him for a hundred hours but she couldn’t when he was kissing her with such fervency.

Like he was breathless and she was the last bit of air left in the world.

She’d asked him to kiss her ardently, and with the last bit of sane thought she possessed, she thought he had long since passed that standard. He kissed her with passion, with desperation.

With love.

Sidney pressed his erection into her, a steady rhythm which made her frantic as they kissed and touched and suddenly it was easier to breathe. He’d managed to undo the buttons at the top of her dress while he kissed her, and was pushing it down her torso to reveal the chemise beneath.

His hand covered her breast, and she was briefly embarrassed because she was so large, but he made a sound in the back of his throat before declaring, “Christ. You’re fucking gorgeous.”

She dug her nails into his shoulder blades when he bent his head and took her breast into his mouth, the sensation so new and erotic she felt the world tilt on a new axis. Gasping, her back arched, her hand going to the desk to give her something to anchor to.

The hot, wet heat of his mouth set her body on fire; the flat of his tongue licking her nipple and his teeth scraping against the sensitive nub. Her other hand reached up to cup the back of his neck, to hold him there, and while he used his mouth on one breast he used his hand to massage the other.

She felt desperate for the climax, and reached between her legs in a way she had only done in her rare moments of privacy.

“Let me,” Sidney entreated, brushing her hand away and finding the slit in her drawers to get to the wet center of her body. His fingers brushed against her and she jerked against his hand, overwhelmingly sensitive already. “Is this for me,” he asked, his voice rough. “Are you this wet for me?”

“Yes,” she answered, now gripping the desk with both hands, the wet chemise plastered against her nipples which were hard and aching.

Her entire body ached and wanted, and Sidney was the only person who could give her relief.

The pads of his finger moved between those private lips and she could feel the slick slide of his finger inching closer and closer to that hard bud she’d learned gave her the most amount of pleasure. But he didn’t touch it, only teased her with his hands as his mouth continued to pleasure hers.

“Sidney, please.”

“You want more?” he asked, and she’d have hit him for the slight taunting in his voice, but she wanted him too much.

“Yes.”

And before she could finish the word he slid a finger inside and it was an indescribable feeling, to be filled but not full. He moved slightly, just a knuckle or so out and then back in again.

“Fuck, you feel so good. Can you take another, sweetheart? Take one more,” he entreated as he pulled his finger out, sliding two in its place. He kissed her as he pumped his hand, her hips matching his movements, her breath becoming ragged the closer she got to the peak.

She was racing for it.

“Calm down,” he murmured as he slowed his hand and she felt the orgasm slipping away from her. “There’s no need to rush.”

And then he started it all over again.

Kissing her, loving her breasts, all the while his fingers moving inside her to draw out the pleasure. She worried the residence of the house would be able to hear her as she said his name over and over but she no longer cared.

“That’s right,” he was murmuring, encouraging her as she moved against his hand and then his thumb brushed against the center of her pleasure and the world exploded with fireworks.

He kissed her to drown out the shout which had been in her throat and surely would have woken up everyone in the house.

“That was easily the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

His fingers eased out of her and she felt bereft, and it occurred to her that he had not gotten his pleasure. What would it feel like to be filled completely by him? To feel him move inside her?

She needed to know what it was like to be with him, in every way.

“I want you,” she told him. While his words were open and vulgar and unbearably sexy, hers were stuck somewhere in her chest. Instead of speaking the need, she used her actions, reaching for his trousers.

He covered her hand with his, stopping her movement, but when he met her gaze with his she all felt the power of his need. “I don’t want to pressure you.”

“I trust you,” she told him, her voice steady despite the breathy little gasps which escaped her lips. “I want to be with you.”

“How am I to hold against that?” he asked, and something about his smile made her feel unequivocally loved and wanted. A wonder that desire could look so soft on a man’s face. “Put your legs around my waist.”

She did as he said, locking her ankles at his back, and he lifted her off the desk and moved to a clear spot on the rug to lay her down.

He was on his knees, resting his weight on his ankles.

Sidney picked up one of her legs and undid the laces of her boot, pulling it off and then he slipped off the stocking. She would have thought he’d move to the other shoe but instead he brought her ankle to his mouth and the sensation of his lips there was so lovely.

He bit and kissed his way up to her knee and then stopped, switching to the other foot and repeating the pattern.

“Are you still with me,” he asked and she nodded, lost in a lovely post-climatic haze. It was as if she was dreaming and she hoped to never wake up, to stay in this moment with Sidney loving her forever.

“I want to hear you say it, Charlotte.”

“I’m with you, Sidney.”

He nodded and pulled at the waist of the dress, drawing it down and off her body, leaving her only in the chemise and drawers which he also divested her of.

“I can’t believe you ever thought I found you undesirable,” he said with a shake of his head. “How remiss I have been. You are the most desirable woman I have ever beheld. How has it been I have known you for as long as I have and haven’t properly ravished you?”

“You can make up for lost time,” she assured him, bizarrely confident in her naked state with him looking down at her.

“I intend to,” and he leaned down to kiss her knee, and then the inside of her thigh.

She was briefly confused, “I thought you were going to-“

“Oh, we’ll get there,” and his grin was all wicked promise in the candlelight. “But first things first.”

His mouth continued to kiss up her leg, and there was those bites again, little pricks of pain mixed with the pleasure which drugged her.

And then she realized what he was going to do.

She had read of it only once, and the description was so vague as to be useless, and when his lips pressed again the dark curls between her leg she stiffened.

“I just want to taste you,” he whispered, his fingers once again toying with her. “I promise you’ll enjoy this, but I need you to relax.”

Charlotte nodded and tried to focus on the beating of her heart, of his body between her legs and his fingers building her pleasure once more. She closed her eyes and gave herself over to the feeling, wrapped up in the warmth of him.

And then she felt his mouth on her mon and everything went white.

Just as he’d kissed her mouth, with teeth and tongue and lips, he kissed her between the legs.

She arched into his mouth, her fingers clutching at the rug, and gasping at the sharp pleasure shooting through her body. Sidney’s arms were beneath her bent legs, his hands coming up to press into her hip bones in an attempt to keep her still.

He feasted on her, it was the only thought she had as he sucked on that hard little pearl.

“Sidney,” she pleaded, the pleasure too much for her to handle.

After she entreated him he withdrew his finger, sliding only one inside her, curled it, and pressed against the soft tissue inside her until he found some secret spot she hadn’t even know she possessed.

Combined with his tongue, which continued to taste her, she shattered.

When she opened her eyes she saw Sidney fumbling with the flap of his trousers, and she wanted to sit up and help him but she had no bones left in her body. She was all softness and could almost swear she was glowing.

“This is not how I planned our first time,” he was saying as he pushed his pants down over his hips to his knees. “In my imaginings, there was a large bed and lots of candles.”

“How many times have we met here?” she asked him. “Does it not make sense we should meet here, just like this, for our first time? The place where I realized you might feel for me as I did for you.”

“I love you, Charlotte.”

It wasn’t the first time he’d said the words, and yet every time he spoke them, it was as if it was the first time. Like seeing the sun after weeks of rain.

“I love you too, Sidney.”

She could feel him at her entrance, felt as he slowly pushed himself inside her and she gasped as he stretched and filled her.

“You feel so good,” he told her, his voice a hard gravel. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You’re not hurting me,” she promised, and he wasn’t. He felt marvelous inside her, above her. She felt surrounded and loved by him. “It feels wonderful.”

He pulled out just a little and then slid back in and it was such a new sensation she didn’t know what to think, could only feel as she raised her hips up to meet him, her arms reaching up to wrap around him to keep him close.

Sidney continued to move above her and within her, his breath becoming hard as his words disappeared. She could not see much of his eyes, the light above them cast him mostly in shadows, but she would swear she could feel them on her.

As if he could not look away, as if afraid to do so.

Charlotte knew the feeling he must be experiencing, as she herself had lived through it only moments before. This was all too good to be true, and must be some sort of dream which would evaporate with the morning mist.

She reached up to scrape her nails along the back of his neck, the cords of his muscles tight with the effort it took to keep himself under control. “You feel so good,” she murmured as she adjusted to take him in deeper, the pleasure rose in her but she knew there would be no more climaxes for her.

This was for him.

So she kissed his throat, ran her hands down his back, and moved with his until she felt his rhythm and breath go ragged. “Fuck, Charlotte. I can’t hold back.”

“Don’t,” she encouraged, her entire body focused on him and the way he felt moving inside her. There was no way she could feel closer, more in tune, with another person. “Let go, Sidney. I’ve got you.”

He thrust inside her a few more times and then his entire body stiffened within her embrace and she heard a string of curses as he got his own pleasure.

“Christ,” he murmured, his weight settling on her. “It’s never been like that.”

“For me either,” she teased, her hands running the hair at the back of his neck. “But you are going to crush me if stay here much longer.”

He lifted himself onto his forearms and she was able to take deep breaths again.

When he looked down at her, his eyes were full of gentlemanly concern. “How are you?”

“I’m wonderful,” she answered honestly. “How are you?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been better,” he told her, lying down beside her, pulling her along with him so she was pressed against his side. “You’ve had a lot of great ideas, but if I may, this was your best one yet.”

Charlotte laughed and enjoyed the way his fingers and hands couldn’t seem to settle on her skin, as if, even now he couldn’t help but touch her. She sighed as did her own touching, her hands sliding up and down his chest, over his stomach. “I think I might have an even better.”

“You’ll have to give me at least twenty minutes.”

She laughed again, kissing his cheek. “What would you think about moving up the date to our wedding?”

He shifted on the rug next to her, pulling up his pants but not refastening them. Coming to the realization she was less clothed than he was, she looked around for her chemise. When she reached for it she caught the way her fiancé was watched, enjoying the way Sidney didn’t hardly blink as he did so.

Odd, she no longer felt any embarrassment about what she might have considered her overabundance. Whatever her own thoughts about her body, she now knew what it was to have Sidney worship her.

“Move it to when?” he asked, his voice wary.

“Would next weekend be too soon,” she asked as she pulled the fine linen over head. It hardly made her respectable, but if someone found their way passed the locked door she’d at least be covered.

Sidney laughed and sat up, one hand resting on his bent knee, looking like every rakish gentleman she’d ever read about in a novel.

She loved him desperately.

“Is there a particular reason why?” he asked as she curled her legs beneath her.

“I’m not about to wait another three months to do this again,” she told him honestly. “And honestly what good reason do we have to wait?”

“I think it might look a little suspicious if we suddenly decided to get married,” he pointed out, his hand reaching out to twist a bit of her hair around his finger. “They might think I’ve ruined you and you’re in the family way.”

“You have ruined me,” Charlotte pointed out with a smile, though it felt a bit like a smirk. “And could I not already be in a family way?”

He stared at her as if it hadn’t occurred to him, his mouth opening slightly at the surprise of the realization. His gaze fell to her stomach where she was almost certain she wasn’t pregnant, but she thought it almost hilarious the experienced gentleman had not thought about pregnancy when he’d laid her down on the rug.

She certainly had.

“The only thing we really need to account for is getting my parents here.”

That brought his attention back to her face, “Your siblings aren’t coming?”

“All eleven of them?” she asked, laughing. “Not hardly. My parents will come, and perhaps the two eldest. The rest will be looked after by aunt and uncle, that was the plan last I heard anyway. It would only take the distance of a letter to get them here.”

He seemed to be seriously considering the idea, and in the course of their relationship she’d learned it was better not to interrupt his thought process.

“We can’t do next weekend,” he finally said and she tried not to clap with victory as it sounded like he was giving in. “But perhaps a fortnight. That should give,” she didn’t way for him to finish the sentence before leaning forward and wrapping her arms around him in a hug. He was laughing as he finished, his arm hooking around her waist to keep them both steady and balanced. “That should give your parents enough time to get down here, and enough time for you to get a dress.”

“I don’t need a new dress,” she told him, pulling back but keeping her wrists loosely locked behind his neck. She enjoyed the feeling of his skin beneath hers and wanted to hold onto the sensation for as long as possible.

“Charlotte.”

She knew better than to argue when he said her name in that particular tone of voice. She certainly could argue with him, but it usually only ended up frustrating them both. Buying a new dress would hardly be a hardship.

“Alright, I concede.”

He kissed her, a brief and friendly thing which made Charlotte grin because he was hers and they could do things such as kissing and laughing and planning for the future.

What a wonder the world had brought her.

“I would recommend going to whatever modiste Lady Babbington went to,” he suggested as he stood up, reaching his hand out to help her to feet.

She took it, but watched him as he was being entirely casual for it to be natural. “I should?”

“Babbington said he was quite impressed with his wife’s attire on their wedding night.”

“Sidney!” she scolded, laughing even as she swatted his bare shoulder.

“We did not get into specifics,” Sidney assured her. “The lady’s honor was respected, Babbington just thought as a future bridegroom myself it was information I might want to have.”

Charlotte harrumphed, crossing her arms which immediately pulled his gaze. “I will consider talking to her.”

“Whatever you want,” he assured her, handing her wrinkled dress over to her. “Put this on and we’ll make sure you’re safely upstairs before anyone realizes you’re not in bed where you’re supposed to be.”

“I’m not putting on my dress just to take it off again in a minute.”

“Please,” he entreated. “I do not want anyone to think badly of you.”

With a sigh so he knew just how put she was, Charlotte began to dress. “But you do not mind if they think badly of you?”

He shrugged.

Charlotte slipped her arms into the sleeves and was about to button the front when Sidney stepped forward to do it instead. Who needed a maid, she thought giddily, when one had a husband?

“I don’t want anyone to think badly of you,” she told him seriously. “So you’ll have to dress as well before returning to your rooms.”

He smiled as he focused on his task. “Fair enough. Though I can’t say as I’ll be getting much sleep knowing you’re just down the hall.”

“If we got married this weekend,” she started, seeing her opening. “We wouldn’t have to worry about it for much longer.”

“Nice try,” he said as he took a step back. He picked up her shoes and stockings, his own clothes still in a pile by the desk. “Two weeks.”

Charlotte rolled her eyes but took her things from him. “I’ll write to my parents in the morning if you’ll tell Tom and Mary.”

“Perfect,” he leaned down and kissed her, warm and lovely and nothing like the prim little pecks he’d given her in the past. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

She rubbed her lips together, trying to press the feeling of the kiss into her skin to hold onto for later. “I love you, Sidney Parker.”

“I love you, Charlotte Heywood.”

“Parker,” she corrected. “We should get used to it.”

His face softened, his eyes tracing over her features. “I love you, Charlotte Parker.”

Her grin nearly broke her face. “Okay, I’m going to go now before I ravish you on the rug again.”

Charlotte walked to door, unlocking it and throwing him a smile over her shoulder. “Good night.”

“Night, love.”

And all was right in her world.