It was said quietly enough that some part of Jack's dozing mind decided that it could be safely ignored. He hugged his pillow just a bit more tightly.
A bit louder. More insistent. Less ignorable, but Jack did his best to hold onto sleep. A sharp elbow in his ribs put paid to that notion. "Ah!"
"I want to talk to you," Stephen said.
"I would never have smoked it," Jack grumbled, closing his eyes again.
"Quickly now; before Sophie gets back with our coffee."
That opened Jack's eyes for good. There was something in Stephen's tone… "Why, what's amiss, brother?" He searched Stephen's face anxiously, but could find no clues. That was a bad sign in and of itself. He reached out and took Stephen's hand in his.
"I cannot go on as we are, Jack."
Jack's heart plummeted. "But, last night…"
"Was wonderful." Stephen squeezed his hand. "Very nearly perfect."
The pleasant ache of Jack's body agreed with that assessment. "Yet you wish to give it up," he said dully. "I don't…"
Stephen was shaking his head vigorously. "Indeed, I do not. Never in life could I wish to lose what you and Sophie have given to me so generously."
Jack wrinkled his brow. "Then speak to me plainly and stop beating about the bird in the hand, Stephen. Whatever may be wrong, we can try to repair it."
They both heard Sophie's step on the creaky bottom stair.
Stephen said quickly, "Listen, Jack. Here is the thing…"
Humming a little tune to herself, Sophie pushed the unlatched bedchamber door open with her hip, balancing the tray of coffee carefully. She had heard the murmur of voices as she approached, but all was silent as she entered. Her cheerful smile, directed at the two men in the bed, faded a little. Jack, red of face, was looking at the ceiling, and Stephen, a trifle pale, was staring at the floor. They'd not quarreled, surely?
Sophie set down the tray and stood at the foot of the bed, hands on her hips. "Are we being naughty?"
Jack turned even brighter red, and Stephen made a choking sound. His face also flooded with color. Neither man could quite look her in the eye.
Sophie shook her head fondly. "Well, then, tell Mother all, and you shall have your coffee when you have kissed and made up."
They both looked at her then, and she saw at once that she had been wrong about the quarrel. "What on earth have you two been up to while I was in the kitchen?"
Jack cleared his throat. "Just talking, dearest."
Stephen went back to staring at the floor.
Jack shot him a glare and continued, "Stephen… That is to say, Stephen and I… But the decision will be entirely yours, sweetheart, I promise you!"
Sophie bit her lip to keep from smiling. This was beginning to sound intriguing! A tiny shiver of excitement ran through her body. The three of them had done so many wonderful things to and with each other, but it was sounding as though something new was about to be presented for her consideration. Something very, very naughty.
She crossed her arms and tried to appear stern. "Certainly the decision will be mine!"
"Yes, yes," Jack soothed.
Stephen looked up from his study of the hearth rug. "Sweet, here is the thing." He looked at Jack and fell silent again.
Jack rubbed his forehead with the back of his hand and sighed. Visibly stiffening his spine, he blurted out, "Diana is to be told."
Sophie blinked several times, aware that her mouth was hanging open. "What?"
"I cannot bring myself to keep it from her any longer," Stephen said, sounding almost sulky.
Sophie gripped the bedpost. Was this really happening?
"He must tell her, or end this." Jack looked at her anxiously.
"Why… why, Stephen, of course… That is to say… This is between you and Diana. This is not my decision to make." Sophie's heart was pounding. She wondered what expression was on her face. She couldn't tell.
Jack and Stephen looked at each other. Oh, what did that look mean?
"I feel quite certain that Diana will not mind, not in the least," Stephen said. "That is, she will not mind for me. I mean to say, she wants my happiness. Marital fidelity is not, er, is not of the utmost…"
"I'm sure you feel the same," Sophie managed to choke out.
Jack gave her a sharp look and held out a hand to her. "Darling."
She smiled at him, a little shakily, and nodded to show that she was all right.
Stephen looked at her with great earnestness. "As I say, Diana will not mind for me. But I believe she might mind for herself. For what she is missing." He looked at Jack, and back at her. "Do you understand?"
Sophie understood perfectly, but paused to give some consideration to whether she should torment her lovers by making them spell it all out.
Stephen took that decision out of her hands. "I know my wife. She would wish to join us." He managed to sound quite pathetic, although the two spots of color on his cheekbones told Sophie a different story.
It was out! He had said it! Sophie clapped a hand over her mouth and bent forward at the waist.
"Sophie! Sweetheart!" Jack flung back his covers and crawled to the foot of the bed. Stroking her hair tentatively, he said, "No more need be said; it was a foolish idea. We would not dream of causing you distress. You must forget that this was ever mentioned. Dearest Sophie, shhh."
Stephen wished himself a thousand miles away. He had not thought there was much hope, but he did know Diana. He had had to ask, or face the unthinkable possibility of Diana doing the asking herself.
At this precise moment, though, he was not quite sure how that could have been any worse than the current situation. He had loved Sophie as a friend and a cousin and a lover, and to cause her any pain was to cause himself equal pain.
Her shoulders were shaking now as Jack continued to pet her, trying frantically to soothe her.
Sophie raised her head and straightened up. Her face was red. Her eyes sparkled with unshed tears. She took her hand away from her mouth. Jack sank abruptly back onto his heels.
Stephen braced himself for a tirade. He had it coming.
Sophie's mouth opened, and a peal of laughter rang out. Followed by another.
Joseph and Mary, the poor child was hysterical. Stephen pushed back the covers and prepared to go to her.
But Sophie came to him, and kissed him, and laughed some more. And he saw that the sparkle in her eyes was happiness, not tears.
Then he heard Jack laugh, and watched as Sophie turned her head to laugh back at her husband.
Jack fell onto the pillow beside him, looking as stunned as Stephen felt. "I don't know why, brother, but all is well."
Sophie climbed onto the bed and straddled Stephen, hitching up her shift so that she could perch herself atop his thighs. She reached to the side and took one of Jack's hands. "All is entirely well, my darlings. All is wonderful!"
Stephen slowly put his hands around her waist. "Your enthusiasm delights me as much as it confuses me," he said as dryly as a man in shock could.
Sophie blushed. "Well. I accused the two of you of being naughty a little while ago, but I fear I am the truly naughty one in this bed."
Jack straightened from his pillow at that, putting an arm around her shoulders and kissing her neck. "We generally approve of that, don't we, Stephen?"
Stephen squeezed her waist until she squirmed and gasped. "Generally, generally. What naughtiness have you been concealing, now, I wonder?"
Jack's hand slid down from her shoulder and crept beneath her arm to seize her breast. His fingers closed, and a bulge of snowy flesh peeped out at the neckline of her shift.
Stephen tugged at her. "Raise up." Her weight left his legs, and he pulled his nightshirt up to his hips, then urged her a few inches forward. When she sank back down, her warmth and wetness surrounded his growing arousal.
Jack was squeezing her breast rhythmically. Sophie tossed her head and sighed.
Stephen put a hand beneath her shift and placed his thumb at the top of her moist cleft. She rocked against it. Jack bit her earlobe. She balanced herself against Stephen's chest and fumbled for her husband's prick with her other hand, moving her hips steadily.
Stephen withdrew his hand and raised it up, laying it atop Jack's. Jack stopped squeezing her breast. Sophie whined and tried to grind against Stephen's hardness, but it was in the wrong position to give her the pleasure she sought. She leaned back into Jack and lifted her hand from Stephen to join the other two that were at her breast, trying to get them to squeeze her again.
"Naughty young ladies don't get what they want until they confess what wickedness they have been up to," Stephen murmured.
Jack grinned at him.
Sophie pouted charmingly. "Then maybe saucy boys don't get what they want."
"Saucy boys have each other," Jack pointed out, rubbing a hand over Stephen's chest.
Sophie rotated her hips, making Stephen's lashes flutter. "Diana is much naughtier than I am."
"Is she now?"
"Well, perhaps not much naughtier. But she is better at it."
They frowned at each other.
"We write each other long letters."
"You see each other nearly every day!" Jack exclaimed.
"Her letters are much better than mine," Sophie sighed. "Although you've certainly helped me improve, Jack dearest."
Stephen's eyebrows went up. The very idea of Jack helping anyone improve their letter writing…
Jack smacked his thigh. "Stories! Not letters at all! Your little stories!"
"You… and Diana?" Stephen tried to comprehend it. "She knows then?"
Sophie blushed prettily. "She detected an alteration in me. I wasn't going to tell her! I give you my word, Stephen. But she was amazingly quick at figuring the entire situation out."
"How on earth?" Jack asked.
"There's been an alteration in all of us," Stephen said, his lips curving into a smile at his wife's cleverness. "The she-devil!"
Sophie took his hand and guided it underneath her shift. "Shall I have my reward now? Or must I produce one of her letters to inspire you?"
Stephen's prick, which had diminished somewhat during this conversation, jumped back to life at that suggestion. "No, no," he answered. "Surely it would only be polite to wait until Diana is here with us to produce her correspondence." He pressed his thumb against her. "I feel certain I can convince her to bring your letters with her, as well. I long to determine the effect that Jack's guidance has produced."
"You may mock, brother, but I will have you know…" Jack cried out as Sophie squeezed his prick.
"Are you going to talk, husband, or are you going to use this?"
It was a question that required no answer. In a trice, Sophie's shift was draped at her waist, and Jack was lifting her hips so that he might enter her. Her lips parted in a long gasp.
Stephen dropped his hands from her waist and tugged lightly at her shoulders.
Sophie fell forward onto her right hand, and then her left elbow. Her body rocked with Jack's movements.
Stephen pushed at the neckline of her shift until one of her breasts was freed. He guided it to his mouth.
Sophie stretched herself forward, sighed as he laved her nipple with his tongue, and reached back with her right hand, seeking and finding his prick.
Stephen murmured his approval as her hand slid up and down, and bucked up into her warm grasp, rubbing at her arousal with his thumb.
Where would Diana fit in this, he wondered. Perhaps at Sophie's other breast. Or perhaps behind Jack, pleasuring him with her tongue. Or he might be in Sophie, and Jack in Diana, and the two women pleasuring each other…
Stephen was the first to spend, but his lovers joined him in quick succession.
What had they imagined, he wondered, smiling faintly as Sophie groaned against his neck, and Jack's sated body crushed them both.
And what wicked delights might Diana imagine in the future?