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The Mystery of the Hunting Cottage

Chapter Text

1923, Hunting Cottage on the Moors, Derbyshire

Lord Thorington and his charming young wife had been married for four months, when they were to host a grouse shooting party. The weather at the moors was cold and windy, and it seemed that most of the company were in foul mood. Mr. Balinson, Lord Thorington’s barrister was suffering from aches in his legs; the London guests of the Thoringtons - including a famous theatre actor, known by the name Archibald Baggins, and a well-known psychiatrist Ian McGrey - had lost interest into the hunt quite quickly, due to the biting wind climbing under their clothes, and water squelching under their boots; and despite the efforts of Graham Dwalinson, Thorington’s gamekeeper, little was achieved. Everyone hurried to the big house, to warm up at the log fire, and to partake to food and punch.

Lady Thorington was a young Irish woman, petite and lively, but not liked by Thorington’s close circle. She was a daughter of Thorington’s business associates, and the marriage was told to be more of a convenience, than of passionate nature. Their behaviour in public had always been perfectly civilised, if a bit cold. After their wedding they had spent two weeks in Egypt, and after that they had settled in a perfectly proper social life, each of them rotating in their respective circles, both perfectly respectable and respected by those around them.

The shooting party, on the other hand, continued to disappoint. Upon arrival to the house the company had discovered that the preparations hadn’t been complete yet. As it turned out, the temporary staff sent by the agency was incompetent, while Mrs. Dorison, the housekeeper was ill, bedridden in her small cottage in the nearest village.

Once again, Lady Thorington had shown herself a perfect example of a woman of proper class, and food and drinks were organised in the dining room within half an hour. She was known to be strict but fair with staff, and loved by the latter. The punch and the sandwiches were followed by a dinner promptly, and everyone seemed content, and the hunt was quickly forgotten.

While men left for the gun room with their drinks, Lady Thorington and other ladies had tea and a pleasant conversation in the small library.

And that was when the maid came to inform Lady Thorington that the central heating system of the main house had broken down, and in the nearest two hours the temperature in all rooms was expected to drop.

Once again, with her usual composure and dignified bearing, Lady Thorington organised rooms for all the guests in the small inn in the village, as well as with a few well-respected local families. She also allowed the staff to go back to their families, and somehow in two hours her husband and Lady Thorington were the only two people left in the house. A repairman for the boiler was to come in the evening of the next day, as he would have to take train from the nearest town. On the other hand, both the master and the mistress’ bedrooms had large fireplaces in them, and after a short discussion the Thoringtons decided they could try their luck with staying in their house overnight.


Lady Leary climbed under the heap of blankets she had gathered on her bed. She had taken off her corset, but decided against changing into the silk pajamas she had brought with her. The thought of the cold silk on her skin made her shiver. She had kept her brasserie, the tap pants, the slip, and the stockings, and then pulled over a large button-up sweater. At the moment, the fireplace was providing her with sufficient warmth in these garments, but she was feeling rather pessimistic regarding early morning hours. She had an unfortunately slender built, and tended to be cold in the best of accommodations. The house was hardly one of them at the moment.

Lady Thorington pulled her knees to her chest, wrapped her arms around her legs, and ordered herself to go to sleep. And then a polite but decisive knock came to her door.

Lady Gwendolen, known to her closest friends as Wren, felt astonished. Unless the visitor was a burglar - who would hardly bother to knock - that would be her husband standing behind that door. And that would be most unusual.

There was only one reason why Lord Thorington would come to his wife’s bedroom at this hour. It wasn’t a matter out of the ordinary, but the circumstances didn’t point at such possibility. Lord Thorington indeed visited his wife’s bedroom, and it were conjugal duties that he would seek in this case. In accordance with his general even and methodical disposition, Lord Thorington would come at the same time, half past eleven, unless otherwise occupied, and always on Thursdays. It could perhaps be explained that it was caused by their wedding and consequently wedding night having taken place on a Thursday. Lord Thorington was after all a man of habit and admirable internal discipline.

It was Wednesday, and a quick look at the clock by the wall informed Lady Leary that it was ten to ten. That was indeed confusing.

She then shook her head and smiled to her own silly musings. Clearly, there was some other, much more probable matter that her husband needed her to attend to. Perhaps, he was looking for a warm water bottle, or another blanket.

“Come in, please,” Wren called to him, and sat up on the bed, pressing the blankets to her chest, feeling to her own astonishment rather shy.

They had been married for almost four months after all, and that would amount to eleven Thursdays. And during their first two weeks, on their trip in Egypt, they shared the bedroom, and there were three ‘Thursdays’ during each of those weeks. To summarise, they had had intimate encounters fifteen times, and he was very much familiar with her in a state of undress. And there was a thick sweater on her at the moment. She couldn’t quite explain the blush torturing her cheekbones even to herself.

The door opened, and John Thorington walked into her bedroom. He was a large man, wide shouldered, with a stately, proud posture, and a confident bearing. He had dark hair, silver starting to frost his temples and the soft waves above his forehead; piercing blue eyes; and a patrician profile.

“I seem to be encountering problems with my fireplace,” he pronounced in a low voice, in his habitual manner addressing the main point from the start. “It has filled my room with smoke.” His tone was full of indignation. “And even before it, it hadn’t provided sufficient warmth.”

Wren quickly asked herself whether he expected her to address the chimney conundrum herself and immediately; and she felt a small inappropriate giggle to rise in her. She of course suppressed it, but she had to admit to herself that the view of him in his pajamas and the robe, his hair disheveled, face displeased, was somehow amusing. It was surely the strangeness of the situation that was affecting her.

“Would you like to join me in my bed, John?” she asked, and he nodded quickly and approached her. She then noticed a bottle and two glasses he held in his hands.

Lady Gwendolen had an unfortunate inability to drink spirits. She could indulge in a small amount of brandy - which was what her husband had brought with him - but nothing more than a few sips would be wise for her to partake.

She shifted, freeing room for him on the right side of the bed, and saw him frown lightly.

“Do you mind if I take the left side?” he asked, and Wren gave him a studying look.

She now recalled that indeed in those two weeks in Egypt he had slept on the left side, which served her perfectly, since she always prefered the right side. She also now remembered how uncomfortable sharing bed with him was. There were two reasons for her predicament. Firstly, she was feeling endlessly uneasy in his presence, their bodies separated only with two layers of thin undergarments. Secondly, her husband had an immensely high body temperature. Even lying on the very edge of the bed in the resort hotel, she could feel the heat radiating from his skin. The latter, to think of it, would be most fortunate at the moment.

He climbed under her blankets, and Wren picked up a pillow offering it to him.

“I sleep without one,” he said, in a surprised and slightly peevish tone, and the same strange hysterical amusement rose in her.

“Well, I wouldn’t know, would I?” she joked, and he gave her a side glance and for some reason took the pillow. He tucked it behind his back, and settled, sitting up, his back leaned onto the headboard.

“I feel frozen to my bones,” he grumbled. “I think we should have a drink first.”

“Isn’t it what they suggest to skiers in Alps? I reckon, that’s what those rescue dogs have in their little barrels,” Wren answered, and then saw him slowly turn his head to her to give her a disbelieving look. “In actuality, the St. Bernard dogs do not wear those barrels on their collars. It’s an invention of a painter named Edwin Landseer, about a century ago...” Wren trailed away, having understood the preposterousness of her behaviour about fifteen words ago, but unfortunately unable to stop.

She did have an overall unfortunate habit of becoming immensely talkative when nervous, but she had managed to conceal this fact from her husband or any other acquaintance of hers until now. Her family knew and found it endlessly entertaining. Judging by the slightly raised eyebrow, Lord Thorington didn’t.

“Shall we have this drink?” Wren asked in a feigned cheery tone. “The sooner we fall asleep, the more chance we have to sleep till morning.”

He studied her for a few more seconds, and then poured the brandy to both glasses. One was half full, clearly prepared for him; hers contained just enough for her to feel its effect but not to lose consciousness.

He was still lifting it to his lips, when Wren toppled the content of hers into her mouth. To say that she wasn’t trying to conclude their day as quickly as possible would be an erroneous statement. The drink burnt her palate and then the throat, and she couldn’t hold back a small raspy cough. Her husband froze with his lips on the rim of the glass. Gwendolen hastily put the glass on the bedside table and slid down, under the blankets.

It was probably quite inappropriate just to turn her back at him, but she decided that the situation was queer enough for some formalities to be abandoned.

“Well, good night, John,” she muttered, and was ready to turn to face the other way, when his low voice stopped her.

“What about those Alpine dogs and small barrels?”

Wren looked at him in shock. She had slid down so much by then that it was only the upper half of her face that was sticking out from under the blanket. He had a bored expression on his face and was seemingly preoccupied with studying the content of his glass, half of the brandy having been drunk already.

“They portray St. Bernard dogs with barrels of brandy on their collars, but that’s not true… They don’t… wear them… And alcohol would cause only greater and faster damage to a person stranded in snow...” Wren muttered, and he gave her a quick look from the corner of his eye.

“How do you know? Are you particularly fond of St. Bernard dogs?” His tone was still even and disinterested. Wren wasn’t quite sure what to think of his odd attempts to continue their conversation.

“I am not. I’m not fond of dogs in general,” she answered slowly, but then quickly corrected herself, “I do like them as a species. They are… loyal and a pleasant company. But I have a reaction to dog’s hair. I just read it somewhere. I do read a lot… And then remember it all since I have this peculiar memory...” She realised that the brandy she had so unwisely gobbled up was starting to affect her.

He took another small sip, his eyes still distant, and she decided that was the end of it. She mumbled some more ‘good night’s’ and turned on her side, her back to him. He hadn’t moved, still drinking his brandy, and she wanted to remind him to turn off the lamp near him, but decided against.

She closed her eyes and willed herself to sleep. It proved quite ineffective. Firstly, one of her stockings slid down and was now bunched up around her leg, unpleasantly pressing under her knee. Secondly, her thoughts whirred, one replacing another; perhaps, from the drink; or perhaps, from just how bizarre the situation was. Thirdly, she felt a little bit sad. Clearly, her marriage wasn’t quite the most successful kind, considering that she had just called sharing a bed with her husband “bizarre.” Fourthly, she felt acutely aware of his presence, starting from the fact that the bed keeled under his weight; and although it was perhaps only her imagination, she was as if keeping herself from rolling down towards him, all her muscles tense. She could also feel the warmth they shared under the covers; as well as the smell of his cologne had found its way into her sensitive nose. She was familiar with it of course; but in her bedraggled state it didn’t remind her of the instances when she’d catch it during their social outings, for example, in an opera loge. She was suddenly overwhelmed with intrusive memories of Thursdays.

The proceedings were more or less repeating themselves every week. He would knock politely at her door, and wait for her to let him in. Once she had her “special time of the month,” so as soon as he stepped into the room, she informed him that she wasn’t well. He just nodded, wished her quick recovery, and left the same way.

As for the other nine times he would come in, sit on the edge of the bed, and give her a questioning look. She would give him a nod, or a smile, or both. After which, he would toe off his slippers, untie his robe, fold it carefully, and put it on the chair near the bed. She’d move, giving him a chance to lie down, and he would slide under the covers. She was dressed in a nightgown and not pajamas, since she was aware of what was to transpire, since she owed a calendar. He would then take off his trousers wiggling under the covers, with the same reserved, slightly peevish expression as he wore at any hour of any day, and then he would lie on top of her. Another questioning look would follow. All nine times Wren would give him a nod, or a smile; but she secretly wondered what he would do if she didn’t. And then she would answer to herself with firmly certainty that he would just roll off, put his trousers back on, and calmly leave through the door. But she always agreed, and shift her knees, and pull up her nightgown - and for one simple reason.

It is important to note here, that Lady Thorington didn’t consider herself an amorous, or passionate woman. She was in no way resistent either. Since early age, she had been accepting the view her family had on her character: she had been considered meticulous, somewhat fastidious, but compassionate. She had approached her marriage with Lord Thorington in her usual manner, and accepted their conjugal duties just as any task her marital life had put in front of her. She wanted to do well, but she was not going to lose her head over it.

And everything in the Thursday night seemed to agree with her conviction. After a light pleasant kiss on her lips, her husband would press his member to her vulva, push in, not roughly but decisively, and then would start moving in rhythmical deep thrusts. It was rather pleasant, if not somewhat repetitive.

Gwendolen wasn’t naive either. She knew that physical aspect of marriage varied from couple to couple, and that there were people out there who not only craved such pleasures, but were unhealthily addicted to them. Lady Gwendolen Elizabeth Thorington, Marchioness of Enedwaith was in no way one of such depraved people.

And yet there was this one little thing.

She was shaken out of her stubborn attempts not to think about ‘that one thing’ by a soft clank of a glass being put on the bedside table, and then the room grew dark. Her husband shifted, invisible but nonetheless very much present; the bed moved; and then he pulled at the blankets a bit, without taking an unfair amount, but clearly trying to find a comfortable position, and then he grew quiet and still. Gwendolen slowly released the breath she didn’t know she was holding.

They lay in silence for a few minutes, and Gwendolen realised that was quite enough. All her composure and upbringing aside, she just couldn’t stand this torture anymore. She twisted her body, grabbed the stocking, and jerked it up her thigh - consequently, pressing her backside into the fully erect member of her husband.

“Oh dear, I’m sorry… It’s just that my stocking slid, and I...” she mumbled, mortified, and then slowly retracted her backside, straightening up her body under the sheets.

“It’s quite alright,” he answered in a strangely hoarse voice. “No harm done...”

“Good night, John,” she hastily added.

“Good night, Gwendolen.”

Sadly, that was the aforementioned ‘that one thing.’ After about seven minutes of thrusting in her, his torso supported on his elbows, his eyes closed, and his face serene - she had to confess to sometimes peeking - his movements would grow faster, rougher; and that was when she would start feeling the pressure growing in her lower stomach. Again, she was hardly naive, and was aware of how some women received some sort of rapture like pleasure from fulfilling their marital duties. Wren doubted she was one of them, but these few minutes at the end of their coition were very much rewarding. He then would make the last few, already jerky movements, and then freeze for an instant, or two; and then she would feel the warm splurge of his semen inside her. He sometimes just groaned, sometimes it seemed that he almost spoke, his lips moving; and then he would fall on her, his nose pressing to her shoulder - with a coarse ‘oh Gwendolen’ exhaled into her skin, his heavy scorching body suddenly pressing her into the sheets. These fifteen ‘oh Gwendolen’s’ and the surge of some unfamiliar, unidentifiable emotional ecstasy she felt in those moments was exactly what she was trying so hard not to ponder at the moment. Unfortunately, she heard him pronounce her full name so rarely that the task proved itself impossible. He said ’Gwendolen,’ and her body reacted.

She squeezed her eyes, and started taking shallow measured breaths in. It helped little. Combined with her name pronounced in his low masculine voice, the memories of that instant that her backside came in contact with his erection were just too much for her to put her mind onto something else. It was none of her business, and quite an odd question to consider for a proper woman; but she suddenly wondered what the mechanism and the schedule of male arousal could be. Surely, based on observations of other natural process, she could hardly imagine an organ to follow a calendar, which meant it was her husband’s mind that arranged for their duties to be fulfilled so regularly. And since she could hardly have misinterpreted what she felt in his trousers, it meant that, firstly, he did experience sexual excitement on other days of the week; and secondly, that he was aroused currently. The latter led her to an interesting consideration. Was it possibly that he wasn’t just aroused due to biological reasons, but it was caused by her proximity? Wren tried to remind herself that she had drunk, and surely, that was the reason for her current preoccupation with all these inappropriate questions, but what harm could come from thoughts?

Lord Thorington shifted heavily near her, with a displeased noise, and then the mattress bobbed gently, making Wren instinctively sink her nails into her pillow. It was indeed a bizarre sensation, she had to admit. She had only shared bed once in her life, in the weeks in Egypt with him. She would have assumed before she’d be irritated, feeling out of control, intruded on, just as she did in Egypt; but with him here she felt warmer, and even his weight nearby felt comforting. She felt a sudden urge to touch him, and discarded the thought as preposterous. What would she do? Turn around and put her hand on his shoulder? Kiss him? Or she could stay the way she was… but if she shifted her body, her backside could once again press to his erection. Once the realisation came that she was indeed indulging in unrealistic sensual fantasies, she scolded herself, reminded herself that it was indeed the brandy that was causing it and nothing else; and with this thought she decided to put this ridiculous transgression behind her.

And then with a small displeased noise Lord Thorington rolled off the bed, making his wife’s body jump up, and stomped somewhere. She discreetly opened one eye and peeked. He was leaning down to the fireplace, rummaging in the logs with the poker. Two things struck her. Firstly, she was oddly mesmerised by the view of his backside. Secondly, none of his actions made sense, or was even remotely necessary. He was, put simply, flogging the poor logs in a bout of bad temper.

“What in the Lord’s name are you doing?” she asked, her tongue loosened and mind muddled by brandy and the firm buttocks encased in tight pajama trousers.

Lord Thorington froze, still in the shape of an upside down capital letter L, poker mid air.

“I was… cold. I’m adding more logs.” His tone was as cantankerous as ever.

Wren was torn between pointing out that he hadn’t been doing any such thing, and going back to pretending to sleep.

He neatly placed the poker on the stand, and headed back to bed full of dignity. He climbed under the blankets, but didn’t go back to sleep. Instead, he poured more brandy in his glass, and proceeded to drink it, his eyes trained on the fire.

“Is there something bothering you, John?” Wren decided it was her wifely duty to inquire.

“I’m perfectly alright,” he answered, and she asked herself why she expected a different answer.

“Alright, then. Good night, John.” That would be the third time she was saying it.

“Good night, Gwendolen.” Wren sighed, and resumed her position under the blankets.

“Would you like another drink?” Wren’s eyes flew open from the sound of his voice. That was getting ridiculous! Except for some momentarily odd thoughts, she was behaving most properly, while he seemed to be affected by some sort of absent-minded madness. He certainly knew she didn’t drink, and in any social occasion he had always made sure she was not forced by circumstances into it. And they had already said their ‘goodnight’s’ - thrice!

Wren sat up and gave him a judging look. She was going to remind him of her reaction, when he suddenly muttered in an even, bleak tone, “Could we pretend it’s Thursday?”

It took Gwendolen two purposeful blinks, and a small head shake to fully perceive the meaning of his question.

“I beg your pardon?” she breathed out, and he finally turned his head to meet her eyes.

“Would it be agreeable for you to pretend today is Thursday?”

To be continued...

Chapter Text

“Would it be agreeable for you to pretend today is Thursday?”

Wren felt a certain degree of admiration for a man who was capable to pronounce this sentence with a serious expression on his face.

“Do you have a certain aversion to other days of the week, John?” Wren asked with sincere curiosity.

“No, all days are the same to me.” He sounded apprehensive at the prospect of being accused of such preposterous opinion.

Wren, spurred by the unfamiliar feeling of being isolated from the outside world in a small cloud of intimacy with him, couldn’t help but ask, “Then why Thursdays?”

The night was indeed full of surprises. First, she found out that he was prepared to brutalise inanimate objects due to some mysterious mood changes. Now, she was presented with spectacle no less astonishing and otherworldly than the Temple of Abu Simbel - John Thorington blushed. Feverish rosy tone spilled onto his cheekbones, and he swallowed, his throat bobbing, and muscle dancing on his jaw.

“Current medical specialists advise to… enter physical relationship with one’s wife no more often than once a week. A Thursday seemed like a favourable day for it.”

“Why?” Wren would never admit to the strange mischief rising in her, but she had just realised that he wasn’t aware why.

He blinked, and seemed to now ponder the question, looking somewhat lost.

“I do not know...” he muttered, and then emptied the remaining half glass of brandy into his mouth.

That was decisively the end of Gwendolen’s reserve, and she burst into laugh.

“We were married on a Thursday, John. And consequently, we have entered the aforementioned physical relationship on a Thursday. I assume you have developed a… habit.” He looked completely stunned, and she laughed some more. “And yes, could I have some more brandy, please?”

He tore his eyes off her with difficulty and poured her a generous size drink. Wren picked up the glass and took a small sip. That was perhaps enough. She was feeling more and more inebriated and uninhibited with each moment, and in this newly found merry amused state of hers, she didn’t want it to change or go away.

“So, Gwendolen?” he asked her, and she hummed asking for clarification. “Would it?”

“I beg your pardon?” Clearly, he thought there was a question she was to answer, but her head was swimming in some sort of pleasant mist and she just couldn’t recall what it was.

He gave out a loud peeved sigh, and somehow she found it rather funny. And that was when the first of all those suppressed giggles escaped her.

“I’m sorry, John. I do not remember the question.”

“Are you… afflicted, Gwendolen?” he asked, his eyes widening in astonishment, which caused her to burst into a series of small happy giggles. Apparently, her being ‘afflicted’ was something out of the realm of possibility for him.

“Not too much, John. I’m afraid, I just find our current situation rather… unusual. What was the question?”

She saw him press his lips in a strict line, and he drew his eyebrows together slightly. Perhaps, he felt she was mocking him, but in her newly found careless mood she only wanted the two of them to have a pleasant evening.

She decided a small liberty was allowed, and she patted his hand on the blanket. He immediately stared at it.

“So, John, what was..?”

Wren didn’t get a chance to finish her question, as Lord Thorington made some sort of a jerky movement, seemingly trying to put his glass on the table, but eventually toppling it over so that it rolled and fell on the carpet with a soft thud; and then he turned to her, and for some inconceivable reason, leaned sharply ahead. Their foreheads met, and Gwendolen emitted a small pained whimper.

She pressed her hand to the spot where a goose egg was surely growing, and gasped, “In the Lord’s name, John, what was this?”

The blush previously only observed on his cheekbones, now flooded the whole cheeks, and Wren couldn’t tell in the dimness of the room, but she would assume his ears burnt as well.

“Um… I’m sorry...” he mumbled, and Wren rubbed her forehead.

“That was most unusual...” Wren shook her head. “Surely, just my forgetfulness didn’t justify this… ram treatment.”

“I wasn’t trying to… ram into you. I tried to kiss you,” he grumbled so quietly that Wren unconsciously leaned closer to him to hear.

And then she remembered the question he had asked. It was concerning a Thursday, and a possibility of her pretending it was one tonight.

Wren giggled, which made him press his lips only more tightly, and his overall disposition to grow more surly. She could clearly imagine him roll himself into his half of the blanket and grumble yet another ‘Good night, Gwendolen’ out of it like a petulant child.

She moved a bit closer to him on the bed and gently tapped his shoulder. When he didn’t react - his eyes still narrowed and as if attentively studying the roses on the wallpaper - she cupped his jaw and turned his face. Again, that was surely the brandy pushing her to act so freely.

She decided not to repeat his mistake, since clearly kissing someone without warning didn’t wield fortunate fruit, so she moved even closer, while he continued staring at her flabbergasted.

The skin on his jaw was warm, and there was some pleasant, very gentle scratching sensation, and she realised it was the stubble that had grown out through the day. Since she was already behaving outside the norm she decided to indulge and carefully rubbed the side of his chin with her thumb, exploring the stubble further.

He jerked under her hand, but apparently having learnt his lesson he slowed down and leaned in. His lips pressed to hers, and she had to concede that, firstly, that was tenfold more pleasing than that one feathery kiss she would receive each Thursday; and secondly, their height difference was very frustrating. He was bending his neck; she was stretching hers up. And then he slightly parted his lips, and Wren forgot the aggravation.

He then moved away, and she heard him swallow with difficulty again.

“Gwendolen, would you please lie down?” he asked in a raspy voice, and Wren should have known better than allow her mouth divulge the first thought that came to her mind.

“But it was going so well!”

She then pressed her hand over her mouth - but of course, it was too late.

“As opposed to what?” he asked in a low voice, his eyes growing sober and cold.

Gwendolen was quite sure that apologising would be futile. She searched her mind for possible ways to salvage the remnants of the nice moment that they had just shared, but she doubted there were any.

“Gwendolen, do I understand it right that you are expressing your displeasure regarding our marital passion?” he asked in a mannered tone, and Wren seemingly had lost the rest of reason, and muttered, “Well, calling it ‘passion’ would be an exaggeration, wouldn't it?”

Silence hung above the bed, and Gwendolen felt quite certain she had just caused a grave discord in her marriage, but she just couldn’t seem to find any remorse in her heart.

Lord Thorington was exhaling small shallow breaths near her, and Gwendolen dropped her eyes to the blanket.

“Gwendolen...” he pronounced slowly, and she was now aware that he could pronounce her name in a way that wouldn’t cause some sort of small hidden excitement to stir in her core. “If you were in any way dissatisfied with our conjugal relations,” he droned on in a dull tone, “You should have let me know directly. And I have only proceeded in accordance with what the current...”

“Yes, what the current medical specialists suggest,” Wren finished his sentence, unseemly interrupting him, in a somewhat irritated tone. She then sighed, gathering her bearings. “I have no complains, John. And I apologise for my words. You’re right, I am indeed… afflicted, and was out of line. It is just I have enjoyed our kiss, and I didn’t want it to end.” She offered him a soft smile, hoping that flattering him would erase the unpleasant incident out of his mind faster.

It seemed to bring positive results. His face softened, and he picked up her hand. He then gently patted it in a considerate gesture. That was certainly a large step for him. He was not an affectionate man.

“It is quite alright, Gwendolen. I believe we should leave this misunderstanding behind us, and proceed.”

Wren, somewhat lulled by the gentle patting, jerked her face up.


“Yes,” he answered, clearly not understanding what she found so confusing. “We seem to be in agreement regarding counting today as a favourable day for our intimacy.” Wren watched him in disbelief. After a small pause, his face lit up as if some fortunate idea had just come to his mind. “And since you enjoyed our kiss, I’m sure we could dedicate some time in our sexual intimacies to such pursuits.” Judging by a very self-satisfied smile, Lord Thorington thought himself a very clever and a very kind man at the moment.

And on any other day, Lady Gwendolen would find his opinion most favourable, and perhaps, would have expressed her eager agreement and gratitude, but the evil of alcohol consumption was still poisoning her blood, and the said blood, bearing the imprint of generations of disreputable profligates, boiled up.

“I am sure, there is hardly any need to bother to waste any of your precious time on these pointless… pursuits, John,” she sneered venomously, and he winced away from her. She did sound very much enraged. And again, she just wasn’t feeling any regret. “And now you will have to excuse me, I am rather fatigued. I’m afraid you will have to follow your usual schedule, and wait until tomorrow night for your… satisfaction.”

She then rolled on her side, jerked a blanket over her shoulder, and hissed, “Good night, John” - for the fourth time that evening.

No ‘Good night, Gwendolen’ followed, but she didn’t expect any. There were a few moments of silence; and then with a long irritated exhale, Lord Thorington settled down on his side of the bed.

Gwendolen’s heart was beating frantically in her chest, and her own words rolled and bobbed in her mind for the next few minutes. And then she grew certain she hadn’t said everything that needed to be said. And again, the brandy was still coursing her blood.

She sat up with a jerk and glared at her husband’s back.

“You have nothing to reprimand me for,” she addressed his shoulder, her voice tense and ringing. “I have always fulfilled my duties like a proper wife would. My behaviour in social circumstances and in our marriage is impeccable. I don’t find our relations that unpleasant, but I’m not going to be pitied and consoled with a few moments of begrudging attentions from you.”

After a long pause, which consisted of Gwendolen glaring at his back, and him being still and quiet, she lost patience and poked his shoulder with her index finger. She had never in her life poked anyone with anything! Surely, it was the brandy!

He made a displeased low sound, and sat up. Without turning to her, he stretched his hand to the pillow, and Wren realised he was going to leave the room. She would like to say that her next actions were caused by her concern for his health and potential dangers of sleeping in another room, but that would be a lie. In her strange mood, she only wished to continue their dispute.

“We haven’t finished our discussion, John,” she drew out in a menacing tone. “I am not in any way, as you put it, dissatisfied in our intimacy. I do not require any changes to be made in the proceedings. I even find your persistence regarding Thursdays acceptable. But I would like for you to promise to refrain from your patronising attitude further on. It is simply degrading. I understand that what transpires is hardly an act of love between us, but I’m quite satisfied with my name being mentioned in it, if only once.”

Lord Thorington’s back continued to express cantankerous displeasure through her heated speech, but once she pronounced the last words, her voice giving out her unfortunate emotional state, he slowly turned and looked at her frowning.

“I beg your pardon? You aren’t making any sense, Gwendolen.”

The wall of the admirable composure around Wren’s emotions built through the years of strict upbringing was now cracking. She should have stopped before she divulged any more; but it was indeed her Achilles heel, and sadly, she had already allowed the memories flood her. Her lips trembled.

“It matters not. All I’m asking is for you to remain just as unaffected as you are in our intimacy, and stop pretending that...” Her voice broke, and she turned away from him hiding her face.

“Gwendolen...” He sounded somewhat irritated, but also somewhat scared. Men were after all utterly terrified of women’s tears, as Wren’s mother had warned her. In her mind, Gwendolen could wholeheartedly agree with her husband - she was behaving like a mad woman. And yet she couldn’t help it.

“Stop saying my name!” she hissed at him. “You’re only making it worse!”

“But it is your name. How am I to address you?” he asked, and she wondered if it were disgust that she would now see on his face. She normally had the same reaction to anyone losing their composure so completely.

“You could call me Wren just like everyone else. Save ‘Gwendolen’ for special circumstances,” she scoffed venomously, and suddenly Lord Thorington, most respectable man in high society, characterized by perfect manners and most admirable breeding, made a sound that could only be described as a growl.

“Gwendolen, I demand you explain your sudden preoccupation with your name, and me pronouncing it...” He raised his voice, and Wren whipped her face towards him again.

“You say it at the end of our intimacy! Every single time! And it excites me!” she as much as shouted at him, and then she fell onto her pillow, and a sob burst out of her.

She had just ruined her husband’s opinion of herself; possibly, her marriage; and she still couldn’t take herself under control. She made a small distressed noise, and then another sob made her bury her face deeper into the pillow.

He would surely take his pillow now, and leave to another room... and he wouldn’t come the next day! When the thought came, she sobbed even louder. Perhaps, it was time to admit she was looking forward to Thursdays.

A heavy warm hand lay on her shoulder. He hadn’t left!

“Gwendolen...” His tone was soft, and she stilled. “Please, look at me...”

“I can’t...” she muttered into the pillow. “I don’t know what came over me… I feel so ashamed...”

“Look at me, Gwendolen.”

Wren made a small distressed noise, and then slowly sat up, still not daring to lift her eyes.

“I don’t think I understand what you’re speaking of, but I truly wish you no distress, and if you could explain unemotionally what afflicts you...” He was speaking in a pacifying, slightly uncertain tone, and then his scorching palm brushed at her upper arm. Gwendolen sniffled unseemly.

“I…” She realised she truly wanted to explain to him, but she couldn’t quite put her own frustration into words. Just a few hours ago if asked, she would have said she was perfectly content in her marital life, and fond and proud of her distinguished husband. She felt endlessly sorrowful now, earning for something she had no name for, and still crying. “I do not know myself, John…” Something was indeed missing in her life, and she felt its absence so very acutely at the moment - but she knew not what it was.

“I apologise...” she mumbled in a weak voice. “I have only myself to blame for this calamity of the evening, and I shouldn’t have drunk the brandy, and...”

“Do I… actually say your name?” he suddenly asked, in an unnaturally nonchalant voice. “On Thursdays… Do I... After we...”

“Yes,” Gwendolen whispered. “You do. Do you not remember?” She gave him a confused look, and saw his face blank, his eyes distant.

“I do not. I hardly remember… the ending. And then my mind sort of wakes up, and I leave.”

He did. After a few seconds of lying still after his sexual release, he would pronounce a very decorous ‘thank you,’ withdraw, get dressed, and leave.

“Oh...” Wren had nothing better to say. “Well, it is quite… fascinating.”

Suddenly, she felt even more forlorn. So, the one moment she cherished in her intimacy with him, the one moment when she felt that it was something more than a habit, or a convention for him - that one moment happened without his participation.

“You said it excited you...” he slowly pronounced, and she sighed. It was all so much more painful now.

“I’m sorry, John. I was not myself...”

“So, you do… get excited...” he continued his pensive musings, and Wren pressed her head into her shoulders shamefully.

“I’m sorry...”

“Gwendolen...” He now addressed her, and the tone was not at all pensive. It was different, but Wren wasn’t sure what it was, since she had never heard it before. The voice dropped lower, and gained a certain velvet cadence to it. Something stirred in her at the sound of it.

“Yes, John?” she whispered, her eyes still lowered in repentance.

“Stop apologising.”

She jerked her face up and met his eyes. His gaze was attentive, as if he was seeking some answer in her features, and she was going to apologise again, but then bit her tongue.

“Why does it excite you?” he asked in an even, inquisitive tone, and Wren felt blush burn her cheekbones.

“John, should we speak of it...”

“Gwendolen, you have started this preposterous conversation, and now you will answer my questions.” He was known to be persuasive, determined, and deadly in his stock dealings, and now Wren felt she was getting the taste of his famous willful character.

“I…I think it is because I feel at that moment that it is me you are with,” she whispered, once again hiding her eyes.

“I am with you. There is certainly no one else in the room.” His sardonic tone was frosty. Gwendolen took a shuddered breath in.

“It is just… it is a natural thing between a man and a woman.” Gwendolen had read the book on marital relationship approved and given to her by her parents. She wasn't naive! “It is necessary for both the man’s and the woman's health, but it is also… rather medical.” Her usual stubbornness was waking up, and she spoke more firmly, “And I feel any other could fulfill my function.”

“Function?” There was disbelief in his tone.

“Yes. To receive you,” she carried on, blushing and stammering, but he asked, and she was not going to shy from the truth. “But in those moments I felt you remembered it was me… Except, now it turns out you did not...” She trailed away mournfully.

“Gwendolen, that is absurd. Of course, I do remember that I am with you, and that you are my wife.” He was back to his usual peevishness, and she nodded, accepting that they just didn’t understand each other.

“And it is not… medical,” he continued his lecturing. “It is exactly as it is prescribed by the specialists. It is not too often, not to overtax your body, and I’m not forceful, to avoid causing you any harm.” Wren just nodded again. He was apparently dissatisfied with her reaction, and exhaled loudly. “Gwendolen, you say you don’t want any changes to our intimacy, but you’re clearly distressed. Then you make claims that I cannot understand. You need to propose some practical steps here, otherwise we will not solve this aggravation, which is clearly present although you state it isn’t.”

Wren was now feeling cold, and a light headache was setting in - it was the brandy evaporating from her blood, no doubt - and only because of this new miserable state of her, did she answer so openly.

“I do not wish to make any changes, because any changes that we make will be just a result of our agreement. They won’t be an expression of any genuine feeling. And I prefer our current cold, but at least honest way to any sort of false affection.” She rubbed her forehead, feeling dull pain pooling behind it. “We are an example of a very successful marriage, if only built on mutual admiration and social compatibility, and I prefer to preserve it. Allowing any sort of unreasonable emotion in it would be… foolish.”

She finished, and took a deep breath gathering her bearings. She realised she still sounded distressed but she hoped he heard the meaning, and not the tone. She wouldn’t want to seem unreasonable!

He was now sitting, leaning on the headboard of the bed, seemingly lost in his thoughts, and Wren was intending to ask him if they could consider the discussion closed, when he turned and looked at her.

“I think I understand now,” he stated slowly, and Gwendolen braced herself. He most likely didn’t, and she was hardly looking forward to the continuation of this conversation. “You feel I come to you out of necessity, and although you accept it, you do not enjoy it.” Wren gave him an astonished look. Perhaps, he did understand!

“I do enjoy it,” she quickly tried to reassure him. “It is not at all unpleasant...”

“I sincerely hope you would inform me if it were, Gwendolen, because I would hate to be a man to brutalise his wife,” he gave her a sharp remark back, and she energetically shook her head.

“No, John, of course you are not!”

“But you said it was medical and didn’t reflect any genuine affection,” he continued in a business like tone, and Wren regretted his precise memory. “And yet, Gwendolen, I have to assure you I am sincerely fond of you.” He gave her a long meaningful look, and she suddenly felt shy under it. She opened her mouth to reciprocate, but he was the first to speak, “Please, let me finish. I am afraid, you have wrong ideas of what it is like for a man to be intimate, Gwendolen. It is, as you said, a natural process, and it is rather… straightforward. It might feel medical to you, but it is what it is.”

“But surely, before and after you could...” Gwendolen was once again unable to control her talkativeness. She then sharply closed her mouth, expecting more displeasure from him.

“Could what?” he asked, frowning.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have… I speak of something I know nothing about, and it’s not my place…” she mumbled, but he moved closer and gave her a glare.

“No, please, do enlighten me, Gwendolen, what it is in your opinion I could do that I am not doing presently, what would make it less intolerable for you.”

“You are twisting my words!” Wren’s backbone was seemingly being regained with astonishing speed. “I never claimed our intimacy to be intolerable. It is very much pleasant, especially once you stop impersonating a fully mechanised water pump, and actually do what seems to come naturally to you!” And to think of it, she could still remember the times long gone when she still thought of herself as a proper reserved lady. “And I was going to say that you could touch me, or kiss me, or at least look at me, if it is indeed me you think about while satisfying your carnal appetite.” That was surely the end of it. And since she had nothing to lose, she added her last argument, “I felt excited when you said my name because at those moments I could believe that you felt a miniscule of desire for me, and not just perceived me as an instrument of sexual gratification on Thursdays nights, and a wife of convenience at any other given time.”

She then decided that he had had a jolly good idea not that long ago, so she grabbed her pillow and started decisively climbing off the bed, when his strong large hand locked around her wrist.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Wren! It is cold in any other room, and even in this one the temperature is rapidly dropping...” She interrupted his boring lecturing with a bitter laugh, and pulled her hand back, which he of course, as a true gentleman immediately let go. And then she realised that he had called her Wren.

“It’s absolutely foolish to go anywhere right now...”

“You called me ‘Wren,’” she muttered, and he stopped mid sentence.

“Have I? Well, everyone else does.” They were frozen in some odd half poses on the bed.

“You never do.”

“I prefer Gwendolen. I think it suits you better,” he answered in an impatient tone, and went back to ‘cold room,’ ‘stay here,’ and so on, but she wasn’t listening. He was right, of course, and she was cold even after sticking out one foot from under the blankets. Besides, he didn’t seem that angered.

She pulled the leg back under the covers, and decided that hiding behind composed facade - given, none of them would find it believable at this stage - was her best option.

“Alright, I will stay, and we will go to sleep now. It is probably midnight by now,” she announced decorously, and immediately lay down, pulled the blanket over her shoulder, and squeezed her eyes.

“Damn with it, no, we won’t,” he barked behind her, grabbed her shoulder, and rolled her on her back. “We will finish this ridiculous conversation, and straighten out our marriage.”

She stared at him, while he continued to glare daggers at her from under stormy brow.

“And how do you propose we do it?” she asked defiantly, and that clearly discouraged him enough to make him open and close his mouth twice, without making a sound.

“Well… You will list your concerns...” he started in his usual methodical manner, “And I will address the reasonable ones.”

“Oh, and what about unreasonable one?” she couldn’t help but ask venomously.

“I trust you to not make any of those,” he deadpanned, and Wren almost rolled her eyes in exasperation in an unladylike gesture.

“John, that is preposterous...”

“Alright then,” he stated heavily, as if addressing the Chamber of Commerce. “Let’s start with those you have already voiced.”

Wren was going to object, when he cupped her face, just as she had done a few hours ago, turned her face towards him, and kissed her - firmly, and somehow very much differently from what their previous kisses had been like. He then lifted his head and gave her a piercing look. He was clearly asking for an encouragement, or rejection, just as before, but the tone of it was utterly new - he looked angry, uninhibited, and - Wren almost couldn’t believe it - taunting. Wren couldn't give him either response, since she was currently staring at him in shock. He made some low noise in his throat, and leaned in again.

Wren of course knew little about kisses. He, on the other hand, was an obviously quicker learner, and this time his efforts were longer, more sophisticated, and endlessly more rousing. Gwendolen melted in his arms like the best Gloucestershire butter.

He then lifted his head again, and she saw that he looked dazed, and that she disheveled his hair. Both discoveries seemed very much rewarding to her.

“And now to the next point in the list of your complains, Gwendolen.”

Chapter Text

And then his palm lay on top of her right breast. Gwendolen’s body jolted, and her breath hitched.

“I believe touch was among the things you mentioned were lacking in our relationship,” he whispered, and she felt utterly confused, her mind muddled by his proximity, and the heavy hand covering her breast, and the attentive expression on his face, his eyes as if scrutinising her reaction.

Gwendolen assumed such action wouldn’t be surprising in passionate physical relations, and was in fact to bring pleasure to both participants, but his inquisitive look in addition to the fact that there were a few layers of clothing separating her skin from his, created quite an odd effect.

Gwendolen giggled. It was a long shrilly string of uncontrollable little giggles, and then she pressed a hand over her mouth. The fingers of the hand on her body twitched, and she expected him to jerk it off.

“I’m so sorry!” she squeaked, with all honesty having nothing to say and no way to explain to him why such was her reaction; but contrary to all her assumptions - that he would get offended, and pull his hand back, and never touch her again - he suddenly gently squeezes her breast.

Gwendolen was intent on apologising again, but all that came out was a muffled ‘humpf’ since he pressed his mouth over hers again. Gwendolen had to concede at this stage that she was jolly confused about what was transpiring in the room.

She was enjoying his kisses, that much couldn't be argued. But she could not surmise why they were happening! It wasn’t that he was infatuated with her, was it? She was his wife of convenience, and she had apologised for all her silly words, and they seemed to have moved beyond all this discussion of their conjugal duties! Surely, the matter could be considered reserved! He had always shown so much restraint and level-headedness - and coldness, to be frank - that she just couldn’t understand what it was that he was trying to achieve here!

He shifted closer to her on the bed, without moving on top of her, and she felt his leg brush at hers.

“Gwendolen,” he murmured, and lifted his face, looking into her eyes again. There was still scrutiny in the expression of the blue irises, and Wren blinked frantically. “Are you enjoying this at least a bit?” There was irritation and exasperation in his voice now, and all Gwendolen could do was to nod jerkily. “You don’t look so...”

“I just can’t see why you would do it...” she answered in a small voice, and that was when he sharply took his hand off her body.

‘Oh please, don’t!’ burst out of her without any intention on her part. That made him tilt his head, and in an odd wave of panic all Gwendolen could come up with was to wrap her arms around his neck and pull him down.

His elbow, which he was supporting himself on, looming over her, twisted, and he landed on her with all his weight. He emitted a coarse exhale, Wren squeaked. He then started rising, his hand thrashing on the sheets near her, and he finally lifted his torso.

“I’m sorry!”

“Good Lord, Gwendolen, would you stop apologising,” he grumbled, and Wren realised that she was once again close to tears.

“I can’t! I feel like I’m… discouraging you, and I’m scared!” Her voice broke, and she wanted to cover her face with her hands, but couldn’t since his left arm was across her body - without touching - as he was pressing the hand onto the sheets near her right side.

“That’s preposterous, Gwendolen! You couldn't possibly be scared of me! I would never force you!” His tone was bordering to angered now, and he started pulling the hand back, rolling away, and Wren grabbed it, not letting him.

Through the confusing and the unpleasant headache setting in her temples, she suddenly realised they were looking at the issue from quite different angles. She couldn’t understand why he would make these advances, while he was concerned with something quite different. But what was it?

“No, of course not! I’m scared you would stop! Please, John...” She wasn’t sure what she was asking for, but at least he stopped moving away from her.

“Gwendolen, you compared me to a fully mechanized water pump...” he started, and Wren felt a painful pang of remorse. It had been so unseeming of her! And rude! “Which made me assume you felt something was lacking in our relations. Which in turn made me assume you didn’t object to...” He stumbled, and cleared his throat. “To making certain changes in the proceedings.” Was it blush she could see on his cheekbones? “I apologise if I misinterpreted, and took liberties.”

“You didn’t!” Wren rushed to reassure him. “Please!” Once again, she didn’t know what she was asking for, except she desperately missed the weight of his hot hand on her body. “Please...” She blinked, all her senses in disarray, and the accursed tears stinging her eyes again. He frowned, his face schooled in the usual conceited expression.

“Lord, Gwendolen, what are you asking for? I touch you, you laugh at me. I try to move away, you don't let me. What is it that..?”

“I don’t know!” she interrupted in a feverish tone. “Anything! Anything you wish!”

“Gwendolen, I’m a man of honour! I never wish to impose my wishes on a woman, and force her into anything she doesn’t offer willingly.” She saw that, although his face remained cold and sober, his eyes were now as much as burning. “I’m no brute!”

“But I am offering! Willingly!” In her haste to assuage his concern, Wren had no time to think of what exactly she was saying, and how inappropriately she was behaving.

He continued speaking, as if not hearing her, in the same lecturing tone of his, “I was pleased and surprised to find out that you didn’t find our marital duties distasteful, as I had always assumed previously, and you even mentioned ‘excitement;’ and yet now I’m starting to suspect that you were just mollifying me. And Gwendolen, the last thing I wish is to find out later that you - out of the sense of duty - allowed me to give into my animalistic urges, while you suffered through it!” His voice raised at the end of his speech, then he lurched, trying to liberate his neck out of the ring of her arms, and his hand out of the tight grasp of her fingers.

Wren’s head was spinning. Lord John Crispin Arthur Thorington had animalistic urges! How was it even possible?!

And to top it all, here it was, the underlying concern of his! He was worried to brutalize her!

She had to agree with him, the fact that she felt and admitted to being excited by his attentions was surprising, but to think of it now, perhaps she had just been industriously ignoring it before. And the admiration she felt for his looks and his physique. And the anticipation of Thursdays. And the longing for more than just him exercising his conjugal rights in accordance with the current medical advice. Oh, that was most shameful! And so depraved of her!

On the other hand, it seemed she was not alone in it! She wasn’t, was she? Was it possible that what he had just said meant that he was - perhaps - feeling something similar?! If only she could ask! If only she were brave enough!

But then she told herself to sober up and stop being so silly! Even if she understood him right, and there were some physical urges in him going beyond the weekly desires of satisfaction, those very urges were hardly aimed at her. It was perhaps a biological imperative to copulate more often in him - he was after all a healthy robust male. It had not - and couldn’t have - anything to do with her as a person and as a woman.

Some strange pain slashed across her stomach, and she inhaled sharply. Her hands were shaking, and she was thankful they were hidden from him. She clenched her teeth, gathering her bearings, while he was still trying to untangle out of her embrace.

She had but a second, and she was not going to waste it! She was Lady Gwendolen Elizabeth Leary Thorington, and she was not going to let herself crumble! She would deal with her own feelings towards her husband later!

All be damned, she was infatuated with him - what good was it to deny it now? Maybe, she hadn’t even suspected it a few hours ago, but she wasn’t going to let it ruin her life now! She was going to gain control over her preposterous misplaced passions and carry on!

“John, please, listen to me.” Her voice was shaking, but she hoped he would disregard it as any man would, and just believe the lies she was going to pronounce. “This night is so… unusual that I’m being most unreasonable. I would apologise, but I seem to do it it quite a lot tonight.” She gave out a unnatural chuckle. “Please, believe me, I don’t wish to cause any misunderstanding in our marriage.” She quickly composed a polished - so very empty - pleasant lie in her mind. “I have overcome my affliction by now, it’s quite alright. We can talk sincerely and directly now. And to start, I will tell you that no, of course, our relations aren’t at all distasteful to me. And yes, I do feel quite excited about them.” She gave him a fake empty smile. “And you are behaving most honourably in our marriage, do not doubt it, John. And… perhaps, if you wish, we could make our... meetings happen more often. Twice a week, perhaps? I’m certain it would be most… agreeable.” Her voice broke around the adjective, and her whole body started trembling from the devastating heartbreak she was feeling, so she released him and even moved away a bit, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

“Do you consider me an imbecile, Gwendolen?” he asked her in an even voice, and she realised that what she saw in front of her was the face of a completely enraged man. His eyes were narrowed, dark blue now, and then she saw muscles dance on the jaw.

“No, John, I do not,” she answered, feeling almost scared of him.

“Because it surely seems that you do. You haven’t pronounced a single sincere or direct word, and you are currently trying to put as much distance between us as possible.”

A childish ‘I am not!’ fell off her lips against her will, and he made a loud, coarse frustrated noise. Wren started quaking more profoundly.

“I’m disappointed in you, Gwendolen,” he pronounced slowly, and Wren’s throat constricted. “I always considered you a courageous woman who wouldn’t shy from a difficult task. You are daring and persistent when it comes to your charities and your social obligations, and I was hoping you would show the same qualities in this conversation.”

Shame and remorse flooded her mind, and she bit into her bottom lip.

And then, just an instant later, she paused; and quite a new thought came to her mind. Say, she suddenly lost all shame and all the composure bred into her, and spoke openly about her feelings and her desires - which no woman of class and taste would - wouldn’t that be quite a one-sided conversation? She couldn’t recall him disclosing anything that would constitute as intimate openness! And it’s not that he had anything to enlighten her on! What did he expect from her? To tell him she had lost her head over him and that she wanted him to feel the same way and touch her and kiss her and - perhaps - perform some other actions that she knew not about but saw and felt glimpses of in her vague feverish dreams?! And what would he answer then? Another of his mannered ‘thank you, Gwendolen’s?’ And what would it change? He would now come twice a week, perhaps, and his attentions would last longer. As if she didn’t feel humiliated and heartbroken enough already!

And what was she to do now? It’s not that she could say ‘You first!’ like children tended to when divulging their little secrets.

Her silence reserved this issues without her participation. He huffed some air out, and then slid down on the bed, turning his back to her again. Well, that was the end of it then.

Wren started crying. Since it was not an embarrassing or humiliating situation anymore - and those were the most torturous to her - and all she felt was dark endless despair, the crying was silent. She just lay on her back, feeling the hot tears running down her temples, into the small curls on the sides of her face. She was feeling almost surprised. After all, she couldn't ever imagine feeling so! She had never thought herself capable of falling in love! And hoping for something more than the proper, successful marriage that she had! She had been so proud of it! She had felt sorry for other women, and for their - as she thought then - silly emotions! And here she was, devastated by her husband’s absolutely proper behaviour!

“Damn it, I can’t leave it at that,” Lord Thorington suddenly grumbled, and jerkily turned, shaking the bed, and facing her. “Wren, are you crying?!” There was sincere shock in his voice, and somehow all she could answer was a whispered ‘Yes.’

“Oh, Gwendolen, I’m sorry, for whatever I said that hurt you, I’m sorry...” he started muttering, and she felt the tips of his fingers to brush at her shoulder.

“I forgive you,” she answered in a dull tone.

“Gwendolen, I… I don’t know what to say. I apologise, I was harsh, and unreasonable.” There was doubt in his voice, as if he wasn’t sure himself whether he had been harsh and unreasonable, and Wren wanted to tell him it was alright, but then she just assumed that if she kept quiet, he would just go back to sleep, and she would be left to her despair. “I never wish to hurt your feelings. I apologise...” he continued his concerned mumbles.

“I forgive you,” she repeated, hoping he’d feel this question was now closed and leave her be.

“Gwendolen, would you look at me?” He asked in a low voice, and she turned her face to him obediently. What she didn’t expect was to him to start gently wiping her tears with his thumb, and the remorseful expression on his face. “I was unfair, Gwendolen, I’m sorry. I was… angry that you didn’t return my feelings, and it’s unjust of me, and I had no right to reproach you. You behaved most appropriately, while I was being… an idiot.”

Wren had to admit that the fact that he even had attempted to analyse the situation was admirable. Men never did. She had been explained by her mother on numerous occasions that men only saw one side of every matter - and it was theirs, and the only right one.

He was perhaps scared into these efforts by her tears, but still, it was a valiant attempt.

And then she realised that he had just voiced his frustration caused by her not returning his feelings. That was confusing. There had been no conversation about feelings! And especially his feelings! She would have reminded him that he hadn’t said a word about feelings, but she was worried that instead of words, those would be sobs to burst out of her.

“I just wish you were a bit freer with me,” he spoke softly, and Wren stared at him flabbergasted. These were the words she most definitively least expected to ever fall from his lips! “I apologise for asking for more from you, but I swear I never wish to aggravate you. It just seemed that you weren’t opposed to us growing closer. I just… misunderstood what your desires were.” He gave her a small melancholic smile. “I’m sorry… for my unwanted advances. It’ll never happen again.” He then fished out her listless hand from under the blanket and pressed it to his lips. Wren continued staring at him, this time at the dark glossy curls on top of his head. He then let go of her hand and gave her an earnest look. “It’s just…” He breathed in, purposefully, gathering his bearing and probably searching for the right words. “If you ever feel you want more closeness between us, I’ll be waiting.”

“I’m confused...” Here was Lady Gwendolen’s unfortunate habit of divulging too much when emotional - but this time she allowed herself. A woman could tolerate such madness only for that long! “You’ve touched me, then you stopped, and I asked for more, and then we seemed to have a small argument, and then you assumed I didn’t want any of your attentions, although I said ‘please’ repeatedly, and now you’re saying that I’m not returning your feelings, which you haven’t mentioned or even hinted on! What sort of… phantasmagory is this?! What feelings are you even talking about?!”

“Gwendolen...” he started, but she was having none of it!

“In what fantastic realm is touching my breast an expression of feelings?!” she cried out, and sat up. He followed, probably not wishing to let her tower over him.

“I would assume it’s obvious, Gwendolen!” He raised his voice as well, in a venomous tone. “Anything that goes beyond the medically prescribed intimacy practices would be an expression of physical desire and passion, and I have already apologised for misinterpreted whether you wished for any! Do not make me repeat myself!”

“I said ‘please!’” Wren as much as shouted back.

“I will not be pitied and consoled with you tolerating me! I can keep my unreasonable lustful desires towards my wife at check!” he yelled into her face, and Wren froze gawking at him. He was as much as shaking, and she looked down and saw his hands clenched in giant tight fists on the covers.

“Haven’t we had exactly this conversation a few hours ago with me telling you I would not be pitied and consoled with your grudging attentions?” she asked in a bleak tone, feeling her heart thrashing in her throat. ‘Please, say yes,’ she was pleading to him in her mind, and she saw the exact moment the realisation dawned on him.

“We have...” he drew out, his eyes widening in shock.

“Yes, we have,” she confirmed, and they looked at each other.

“Gwendolen, I...” he started, and she held her breath. “I have a suspicion we will never resolve this ridiculous vexation if we don’t speak openly.”

He gave her an expectant look, but Wren stayed still and silent. She was scared, and apprehensive, and had every right to! She was not going to open her heart to him first, and damn him being disappointed in her cowardly nature! She had a lot to lose, and if he wanted openness, he was to work for it!

“Gwendolen, I’m madly in love with you,” he said in low voice, and a harsh exhale burst out of her. That was surely more than she expected! A bit of lust perhaps - he had mentioned some ‘unreasonable lustful desires towards his wife’ - but being in love with her?! Never! “I do not know what to do with it, and with my desires - and I am being quarrelsome,” he grumbled, and she continued gaping at him, hopefully without her face reflecting how exuberant she was growing with each moment. “And a blithering idiot!” he added in an irritated tone. This time she knew his displeasure wasn’t aimed at her. “And I tried to hide it, and every Thursday it’s been torturous because I would wish for more, and...”

Wren decided that it was quite enough, and he had worked for it, and had deserved his reward.

He was still making more of his declarations, as if keeping them to himself had been difficult and now they were pouring out of him, but Gwendolen wasn’t listening. She rushed ahead, wrapped her arms around his neck, and pressed her lips to his. That sufficiently muffled him, and then he embraced her back, and kissed her passionately.

After a few moments - Wren couldn’t tell if those were seconds, minutes, or hours - he started withering, sliding down into the blankets, pulling her with him. Wren had just discovered that when kissing one could catch a man’s bottom lip between one’s own lips, and couldn’t care less whether their position had grown of more horizontal nature.

And then he pushed his hand under her sweater, and there was only the slip and the brasserie between his hot palm and her skin now, and Wren jerked away from him, gulping air. That felt quite different from his previous effort with the same part of her anatomy. This time it felt as if she were scalded by boiling water head to toe - in a surprisingly good way.

“Does it not feel… good?” he asked in choked voice, and Wren moved back to him.

“It does. I was just… surprised.” She gave him a shy smile. “Please...” She then remembered what catastrophic results her previous ‘please’s’ wielded, and was going to say something else, but he wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her into him.

“Gwendolen...” A shiver ran down between her shoulder blades from his low voice rolling over her name. “I am going to explore, and you will let me know what feels good. And no more shying away, alright?” His tone was firm and authoritative, and Wren tingled head to toe. Just a nod was once again all that she managed.

A hand lay in her waist, then slid under the sweater at her back, and she felt his fingers dance up her spine. That certainly felt good. She arched into him and timidly searched for his mouth. He caught hers, and the hand splayed on her back. She was melting into the kiss, when the hand started a slow journey back, down to the waist, and then onto her backside. That was when she considered the prohibited shying away, because there was a great risk she would want to return the gesture, since she had always been - and hiding it from herself - quite excited at the thought of his buttocks - and if he touched hers, wouldn’t she have the right to touch his?

And then his palm was on her hip, and moved along the thigh, and his fingers brushed her skin above the stocking that had slid off, and she mumbled ‘oh Lord’ and panted and pressed her forehead to his chest, hiding her face and squeezing her eyes.

“Gwendolen?” he asked, and to her terror she felt the fingers stop, and she couldn’t allow it!

“Please, more,” she whispered pleadingly, and the hand reversed its direction again, and went up - this time sliding under the tap pant leg.

And then it was on her buttock - but on the naked skin this time.

Gwendolen made a whimpering sound that she had never heard from herself - and had never expected to.

And then her husband suddenly released her. There was no contact between their bodies, and she jolted in panic, her mind so muddled that she couldn’t summon that she needed to open her eyes to appraise her surroundings.

And then her eyes flew open - at the very last moment to see him dive under the covers and the blankets they were covered with.

“Oh!” she squeaked, and then he shifted, and rummaged, and wiggled some more, and she realised that he lay down and his head was above her stomach, the blankets tenting. His face showed up, and Wren felt almost terrified from the embarrassment, and excitement, and arousal.

“May I move your clothes?” he asked decorously, and she giggled. And then remembered that he thought she had laughed at him when last time the bout of these strange giggles had escaped her.

“Please, please do!” she rushed to answer. “And I’m not laughing at you! It just happens! I can’t help it.”

“Perhaps, it’s a normal reaction in a woman,” he answered, his face lowered, his hands busy with her stocking. Gwendolen couldn’t care less if it were. His hands brushing at her skin and the warmth of his body near her legs was impaling her ability to evaluate.

Both stockings had been removed, and he splayed the palms on her legs and proceeded to rub them up and down, from the soles of her feet to the hems of the pants, not venturing up. Wren hoped that he wasn’t venturing up yet.

“Gwendolen?” he murmured, and then shifted, and she felt his lips pressed to her thigh. She was decisively unable to answer. “Gwendolen?” She made a hum noise. “Are you enjoying it? I’m mad about your legs, but perhaps you’d like me to direct my attention elsewhere.”

He sounded so methodical, and Wren was feeling so aroused that once again a giggle was the only answer he received.

“I’ll take it as a positive evaluation of my efforts,” he stated, and Wren nodded, although perhaps he couldn't see it - he was kissing her thigh again.

More kisses followed - peppered onto the knees, while his strong fingers caressed her calves, and onto the thighs, making something shake in her lower stomach. Perhaps, he indeed approved of her legs. To think of it, had he ever even seen them?

“I’m too warm,” she heard her own voice, and realised she indeed was. Perhaps, for the first time in her life, and in the most astonishing circumstances of an unheated hunting cottage with only one small fireplace burning - she was hot.

“Good,” he postulated, and then his hands slithered under her sweater, along her sides, over the slip, and he pulled, making her lift her upper half. The sweater shifted up, shielding the world from her for a moment, and then it was off. And his face was suddenly in front of her, and she stared at him.

He threw the garment aside, cupped the back of her head, and pulled her into a deep kiss, making her arch into him. She was feeling warm, and as if liquid, as if she had spent hours in the sun, and her head was spinning, and her skin was heated up.

He then placed her back onto the sheets, and pulled blankets over both of them. He then dove back under them, and then she felt his fingers on the straps of the slip. He pulled at them, making them slide off her shoulders, and then something hot pressed over her breasts, through the lace of the brasserie. When she realised it was his mouth that was caressing her, she couldn’t keep a loud lustful moan in. The mouth stopped its efforts, and Wren bit into her bottom lip to prevent any of the further moans to slip out.

The blankets moved, and rose, and his disheveled head popped up. His eyes were shining, and there was some unfamiliar grin on his face. It was animalistic, quite uncivilised, and became him immensely.

“You seem to have enjoyed that, didn’t you?” he asked, and Wren’s first impulse was to deny it. But before she could speak he leaned and placed a small kiss on her lips. “We agreed you’d let me know, Gwendolen.” His tone was - Lord Almighty! - sounding playful. Gwendolen quickly thought through her options.

Her husband did have a sense of humour. It did seem sometimes that he didn’t, and in their relationship they had never explored it - but she had seen him joke - and most wittily - and appreciate other people’s humour. She only hoped it wasn’t yet too early for teasing in this wonderful new something growing between them.

“I don’t remembered agreeing on that. You ordered, and I was too aroused to disagree with anything you said,” she pointed out in a flirtatious tone. And then she saw the most wonderful thing - his eyebrow hiked up, in a whimsical playful gesture, which she had only seen a few times, and only when he would be enjoying a pleasant conversation with his closest friends. And this time it was still a bit different - more flirtatious, more intimate. As if of a special kind reserved only for her.

“I’m in love with you, John,” she blurted out, the silly nonsensical woman that she was, ruining the playful moment between them. He froze, his eyes suddenly going blank.

He then blinked and look at her again.

“I’m glad,” he answered simply, and she exhaled in relief. And then the eyebrow jumped again! “That won’t save you from what is happening now, though.”

Gwendolen felt acutely enamoured with him yet again, but this time she kept it to herself deciding that she’d rather let him continue with his… exploration.

“Gwendolen, I’m of the opinion that some of your clothing items could be excessive already,” he murmured, sliding back under the blankets.

“Your robe first,” Wren blurted out, thus finding out that her inability to keep her speaking under control would aggravate in intimate situations of positive kind.

There was some moving about under the covers, and then she saw him push his robe from under them onto the floor. Through that his hand peeked for only a moment, and disappeared again. And then there was more shifting, and the hand showed up again, with the top of his pajamas, which followed the robe suit.

Wren felt like breathing out, ‘Oh Lord!’ but couldn’t manage even that much.

And then he lay down onto her legs, and she confirmed to herself that yes, that was his chest she felt weighing on her and heating up her skin. There were firm muscles, hot skin, and - oh Lord! - coarse hair!

To be continued...

Chapter Text

A/N: I'm back to this story! Repressed 1920s couples are properly tickling my pickle these days :P


“Gwendolen,” Lord Thorington murmured, and Wren emitted a small questioning sound. “I will require your consent and your guidance here. How would you like to proceed?”

Gwendolen lifted her head and looked at her husband in astonishment. She would assume that it was quite obvious at this stage of what was transpiring that she could hardly make any contribution into the planning of their current pursuit. She was overwhelmed, confused, and as if inebriated.

Lord Thorington continued studying her face, the blankets tenting on his head, and it was quite an unseeming position for him - he looked like a boy secretly reading a book in bed, as if straight out of the advertisement for matches that Gwendolen had seen in the papers. The view in front of her was most charming, Gwendolen had to admit.

“I have to say I’m at loss at what you’re refering, John,” Wren spoke shyly.

“I’m being most free with you, Gwendolen. And I would like to continue these actions, but I would say we have reached sort of crossroads.” Thorington sighed, and Gwendolen’s body jolted. She could feel his heavy and - oh Lord! - hairy chest weighing on her legs. “We could either proceed to perform our usual conjugal duties...” Wren wondered whether expressing her absolute lack of desire to do so was appropriate. “Which I would rather not,” Thorington noted, and Wren suppressed an exhale of relief bursting out of her. “Or we would have to venture into other pursuances, which I’m afraid you would find nothing but shocking.”

Lady Thorington felt her skin flush head to toe, and even the thought of how depraved this excitement was, couldn’t stop her from licking her lips in anticipation.

And then she had to ask herself - and immediately her husband, since she seemed unable to take herself under control this night - a rather unpleasant question.

“How much experience in the aforementioned shocking… pursuances do you have?” Her voice was scratchy and disagreeable.

The night was indeed full of surprises, since Lady Thorington had to admit in shame that she was feeling nothing less than jealous. That would be most fascinating if it weren’t so excruciating!

Lord Thorington shifted in unease, and Gwendolen’s emotional discomfort intensified.

“I have to admit to a certain degree of perverse interest in these matters,” Thorington finally muttered, obviously unable to meet her eyes, and Gwendolen’s fists clenched. “Gwendolen, I do not wish to frighten you, or upset you. I have always endeavoured - and always will - to shield you from my beastly urges...” His face was remorseful. “I only wish to satisfy your needs. You have mentioned my actions to be mechanical, and I full-heartedly agree with you. But believe me, they were such only out of my desire to restrain myself... I needed to control myself, not to give in to my true desires!”

“And your needs?” Gwendolen asked in a tense voice. “How are they satisfied?”

Thorington lifted his eyes and gave her a confused look. And then his bright blue eyes widened.

“Lord, Gwendolen, are you asking me whether I have a mistress?”

The absurdity of having this conversation in the position they were - him lying on top of her, half-dressed, while she was in her lingerie - didn’t escape her, but the green-eyed monster was devouring her mind and her heart. Were she less affected, she would find the irony in the fact that it was just a few minutes ago that she had confessed for the first time - to herself and to her husband - that their union was something more that a marriage of convenience for her. Having a mistress in the latter wasn't at all an unusual arrangement for men of his class. And before Gwendolen had been quite forgiving in her mind of the men who were known to do so - after all, humans were corrupted and flawed creatures. At the moment, Gwendolen felt almost livid at the thought. 

“You said yourself that you do not wish to subject me to anything but the medically prescribed physical intimacy," she said in a choked voice, "while you claim...”

“Books, Gwendolen, I read books,” Thorington interrupted her, and Gwendolen frowned in confusion. “Lord, Gwendolen, what sort of opinion do you have of me? I would never touch another woman!”

Remorse and shame immediately washed over Wren, and she covered her face with her hands.

“Forgive me, I had no right to...” Her voice broke.

“Gwendolen, were you jealous?” There was that even, seemingly disinterested tone she had heard from him more than once tonight - first, regarding the St. Bernard dogs, and then in the request to consider this Wednesday a Thursday.

“I’m sorry...” Gwendolen squeaked.

“Was that a yes, Gwendolen?” he pressed on. He could be so authoritative, previously with others, and now with her - but was she detecting hopefulness in his tone?

“You admitted to knowledge and interest in the area of carnal matters, and… I assumed you had personal experience, and...” she mumbled, and then added in a whisper, “Yes, it was a yes.”

He was silent, and she slowly lowered her hands. Behind them, she saw his calm, expressionless face, and she felt more apologies were due.


“I have an extensive collection of lewd literature, Gwendolen. It is a large - hidden - section of the library in our house. I have accumulated quite an assortment over the years, starting with Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, a copy of the first edition of the colonial Kama Sutra in the translation of Sir Richard Francis Burton, as well as the works of de Sade, von Sacher-Masoch, Rochester, Swinburne, and Lawrence.” He exhaled and then pinned her down with a direct look. “And I’ve never had any practical experience with the exception of the… Thursday nights we have shared.”

“But you seem so disinterested in the matter!” Wren squeaked. Her mood was growing increasingly better.

“I couldn’t possibly subject you to my abnormal appetites!” He seemed somewhat confused by her reaction. “Gwendolen, you have every right to feel revolted, and...”

“I do not,” Wren interrupted him, and he stopped, his mouth half open. “I have to admit I can’t even imagine a minuscule part of what those books most likely talk about, but… You’ve always behaved most honourably towards me, and… What exactly are the appetites we are talking about, John?” She wondered whether he would guess by her insistent asking for details that she was not feeling taken aback by his confession. Gwendolen continued hiding the fact that she craved those very details more and more with every passing minute even from herself.

“Gwendolen...” It was his turn to suffer from the furious blush burning on his cheekbones.

“John, as you have mentioned yourself, we are at a crucial point, where we need to… choose a direction.” Perhaps, if she continued bringing up logical arguments, he wouldn't notice her abnormal curiosity. “John, I trust you, and I feel completely secure with you.” Gwendolen gingerly lifted her hand and cupped his jaw. “You can be open with me. I am your wife, and I will endeavour to… accommodate you.”

“Wren, I do not wish to burden you with my… proclivities, and I do not want you to ‘accommodate’ me!” he exclaimed, once again drawing his eyebrows together. “And it is so much more difficult to retrain myself in the immediate proximity from you! I am only grateful it seemed to end fast when we… came together on our marital nights.” His face distorted in a distressed grimace.

“John, I have already told you I never found my duties distasteful. And what had been happening before you started this frustrating conversation… it was magical.” Wren felt embarrassed by her own admission, and cowardly shifted her gaze aside.

“Magical...” he slowly repeated, and Wren nodded, still without meeting his eyes. “So, should we perhaps... continue?” There was so much doubt and astonishment in his voice, that Wren dared to peek at him.

His cheekbones flamed, and his eyes burnt; and altogether Lady Gwendolen had to concede, she was married to an exceptionally attractive man.

“Perhaps, a bit of what you have read in your books could be allowed in a marital bed?” she asked carefully, and he gave it a thought.

“I have to admit to a certain quandary, Gwendolen. What if I proceed and cross the border of propriety without realising it? Certain things in those books are no doubt unacceptable in respectable marital relations, but some are… hard to evaluate.”

Wren chewed at her lips. It was becoming increasingly clear to her that her husband possessed the knowledge that she - shamefully - was feeling interested in. The unknown nature of the the advice they were giving on the carnal matters, made them only more exciting, and in the dimness of their bedroom, cut off from the rest of the world, she suddenly allowed herself to succumb to the curiosity.

“Well, perhaps we will have to rely on our sound judgement, John,” she answered softly. “Perhaps, you could apply some of the theoretical skills discussed in your books, and we should be open with each other. If one of us felt… discomforted by what’s transpiring, we would… stop.” A panicked though that he would stop and move away in case of yet another misunderstanding made her hastily add, “And then we could attempt something else.”   

Lord Thorington studied her face. He opened his mouth, but then frowned and pressed his lips in a stern line.

“I feel as if I were exploiting your feelings for me, Gwendolen,” he spoke in a dark tone. “And your impeccable sense of duty. I am elated you return my affections, and I do not wish to any way… jeopardize our accord at the moment.”

Gwendolen had always considered herself a sensible woman, and the most prudent thing in this situation was indeed to give what her husband was proposing a thorough consideration. They could of course return to their previous habits. She wasn’t naive and she understood that their Thursday meetings would now change at a certain degree. They both would be freer, and they had already established that several other activities besides the coitus itself were pleasing for both of them. So, perhaps they could retreat to the very first proposal Lord Thorington had made - and consider this Wednesday a Thursday, and proceed according to what the current medical specialist suggested, with certain modifications made, to accomodate their newly proclaimed cordiality towards each other.

And yet, a small flicker of inquisitiveness towards those mysterious sensual pursuits that her husband was apparently aware of, and more so, proficient in - though only theoretically - wouldn’t leave Gwendolen’s mind. It had already started working on the riddle; and a preposterous assumption after another would rise; and images flashed in front of her eyes. They were so very vague that she felt almost frustrated. After all, human anatomy was quite limited. What could possibly all those Greeks and the writers from the Jewel of the Crown offer as an innovative approach?

“Gwendolen...” her husband called her softly, and she blinked, shaken out of her confused thoughts. She met his eyes, and saw the question in them.

Gwendolen had to admit that it had not been her finally realised love for her husband, and the elation of him returning her feelings, and not even her sense of duty as a wife to satisfy his needs, that pushed her to pronounce the following words. It was the sensation of his scorching skin and the coarse chest hair on her shins that made her brush the tips of her fingers to his cheekbone and whisper, “I have no other reason to wish to explore those ideas you’ve read in your books, except for desire itself.” She bit into her bottom lip and gave him a pleading look. She could not possibly say more, but she begged him with her eyes to be the brave and the daring one among the two of them.

A tender smile bloomed on his face.

“My darling, darling Gwendolen...” He rose on his arms, and shifted up, now looming over her. A rush of cold air licked her flushed body, and she was only grateful when he once again lowered himself on his elbows, bringing his weight and the blankets down onto her.

He pressed his lips to hers, and she tentatively slid her arms around his neck. On Thursdays, she had always endeavoured to lie as still as possible, following the insistent advice in the books on marital duties stating that a man was not to be interrupted or disturbed during coition. Thus, Lady Gwendolen had tried to touch her husband as little as possible while he was moving above her - and the torture had been, she had to admit, acute. She had been unable to control her limbs on several occasions, and had placed her hands on his shoulders. And then, even through his usual pyjama shirt, she could feel the scorching skin and the muscles moving; and she would remember the sensations.

And now he was bare above his waist; and they had just agreed to be freer with each other - and she splayed one hand on his nape, while the second one slid around his shoulder, and some unknown muscle bulged under her palm. Gwendolen wouldn’t be able to ever express the exquisite pleasure this gesture had brought her.

They kissed for a few moments, and he was leaning on one elbow now, his left hand cupping her jaw, controlling the angle of her face in the most exciting way. Gwendolen found herself out of breath, and as if having drunk a few glasses of sherry.

Lord Thorington’s lips were moving more and more insistently, greedier; and Gwendolen was feeling some sort of craving as well. She was not quite sure what it was that she craved at the moment; but surely, it was some sort of development of the pleasure she was experiencing.

“John…” she breathed out, when his lips slipped to her jaw. He peppered small kisses, moving from her chin, towards her ear, and she squinted. It was all unknown, and most exciting! Some sort of sweet shudder ran through her body. And then his warm lips closed around the lobe, and she heard his teeth clank at an earring she’d forgotten to take off. The sound was sensual to the point of being obscene. “Oh John...”

Lord Thorington continued his exploration, his lips and - oh Lord! - the tip of his tongue sliding on her neck; and Gwendolen had trouble controlling raspy pants that were trying to burst out of her. His pelvis pressed into her center, and while his mouth travelled down her throat, onto the muscle between the neck and the shoulder, his hips were rocking, in an obvious imitation of a physical act. Gwendolen would have considered such lewd actions deplorable - hadn’t she been savouring the pressure and the heat. And then as if against her will, her knees fell apart, allowing him to put even more weight onto her sex. His hips jerked, and he thrust them sharply. Gwendolen could not hold back a loud moan.

“Gwendolen, do you want me to… halt?” he asked, meeting her eyes. Something told Gwendolen that he was hoping for a negative answer. She quite shared his sentiment - and shook her head, unable to speak up. He gave her a long studying look, but apparently her expression did not discourage him. “I think it is time we… advance in our efforts.” Gwendolen asked herself whether she was imagining a flirtatious note in his low velvet voice, but a slightly raised eyebrow confirmed her suspicions. She was in no state to reciprocate, though, all her body trembling and her words failing her.

And then her husband’s hand lay on her stomach, just above the waist of her pants. Gwendolen shuddered and gawked at him in astonishment - and anticipation.

“Up or down, Gwendolen?” Lord Thorington asked, and she wouldn’t be able to compare his voice to anything but the purr of the Bengal tiger Gwendolen had seen in the London Zoo. And then the meaning of his question reached her understanding.

“Pardon?” Lady Thorington squeaked, and her husband quickly kissed her cheek.

“We are exploring, Gwendolen. Which direction intimidates you less? Up?” He shifted his palm, sliding it underneath the slip that had bunched up during their previous efforts. The hand was so large and the span of the fingers so wide that it lay across the whole of Gwendolen’s solar plexus. “Or down?” he continued, and the hand moved lower, and under the waist of her bloomers.

“Up!” Gwendolen yelped in panic, and the palm halted.

“Gwendolen...” he softly spoke, and she quickly pressed her left hand over his on her stomach.

“But do not stop, please,” she whispered shyly, and he smiled to her with obvious relief.

“Are you certain?” He leaned in; and surprised by her own boldness she pulled at his neck with her second hand. The kiss that followed was long and deep.

“Yes, I am certain,” she whispered when he released her.

The fingers slid and then danced a bit, finding their way under her lingerie, and Gwendolen waited.

“Darling, you aren’t breathing,” Lord Thorington murmured, and then chuckled. Gwendolen estimated that there was just an inch left between the tips of his fingers and her breast. It was a strange sensation - to feel her skin as if exposed for the first time, tingling and flushed - and craving his touch.

“I am both fearful… and excited. It is so odd, John...” It seemed that the longer the two of them stayed in this unusual sensual sequestration, the freer she was with him; and not only in words. Her right hand was still on his nape; and she shifted her fingers to remind herself of how pleasant his skin was.

Lord Thorington found her lips; and she readily met him. And then his hand finally advanced, and she found her breast enclosed in his large scorching hand, his little finger on her ribs, on the sensitive skin; his middle finger under the breast, pressing lightly; and then his thumb brushed on the inner side - making her gasp and then moan.

Her head spun; and she expected him to halt; and discuss what was transpiring - since such seemed their previous proceedings - but instead he dove under the blankets, and moved, shifting her clothes - and then something else happened, and Gwendolen couldn’t quite understand anything anymore. And then more pressure and warmth enveloped her breast, and some magical caresses were showered onto her skin; and she lost all sense and moaned and arched, seeking more closeness.

Both hands of her husband now moved on her torso, and she realized that he was bunching up her lingerie. Since Lady Gwendolen had the fortunate build; according to the modern requirement of the fashion, her chest was perfectly flat - she didn’t wear those thick restricting brasseries, just a thin silk one with buttons on the sides. And at the moment her husband seemed to have discovered them and his long and strong fingers were working quickly. She had just one instant to take a breath in, when the brasserie slid up, together with the shift.

And then Thorington’s hot, half open mouth pressed to her sternum, between her breasts, and she felt the softness of the lips; and the scorching breath; and the slight roughness of the stubble.

“Oh Lord...” she breathed out. He could not possibly be that bold, and skillful, and experienced! Gwendolen had always been a keen supporter of education; but how could one grow so adept and savant solely through reading?

The blanket moved, and Lord Thorington’s face appeared again. Gwendolen stared at him bewildered.

“Is it pleasing, Gwendolen?” he asked, his tone uncertain. “The books suggest… a prelude, and the woman’s… chest was listed as the first step in addressing her pleasure.”

“You do not have to!” Gwendolen squeaked. “You do not have to do anything that only serves my pleasure! I am quite content with less, as long as we both enjoy it. I assure you...”

“Darling, I’ve been dreaming of this since our first night.” He smiled to her, and Gwendolen blushed pleased. “If you are enjoying it, I would like more time… to explore.”

“Let me undress then,” she asked shyly, and he moved away, letting her take off the brasserie and the shift. She was surprised herself by the ease with which she bared herself before him. Perhaps, a thought of him dreaming of her breasts was flattering enough to make her wanton!

They lay down again, in the same position; and immediately his fingers - swift and tender - and his lips were on her skin; and an instant later they fluttered on her breasts. Gwendolen once again doubted whether her husband had been truthful when he’d claimed his knowledge to be purely theoretical, when the tip of his tongue drew a slow languished circle around her breast; and then in a tightening spiral he caressed closer and closer to the teat - and then he pulled it into his mouth.

“Oh Lord, John, oh Lord...” Gwendolen had been apparently mumbling for quite a while, but had only now noticed her own uncontrollable moans and pleas. Sadly, she couldn’t quite find any will to cease them. “More...”

“More of the same, or...” Lord Thorington asked in a low raspy voice, and suddenly his left hand was on the waist of her bloomers. Gwendolen might have considered cowering away from this new proposition, but his following words made her draw a shuddered breath in, “I have read a wonderful volume on the same sort of caresses you have just received, Gwendolen, but in quite a different location.”

Gwendolen hadn’t realized that she had had her eyes squeezed shut. They flew open, and she gaped at him in shock. It couldn’t possibly be true! People couldn't possibly indulge in such perversion, with exception of some that were ill with some sort of mental affliction!

“But...” She wasn’t quite sure what to say - and how to ask whether these horrid, lewd, but yet so titillating pursuits could be something her husband would consider.

“Would you like me to try, Wren?” Lord Thorington asked, slowly, keeping their eyes locked, and some sort of mesmerizing, commanding, luring fire burnt in his blue irises - and all Wren could do was to nod.

One long finger hooked over the edge of her bloomers, and she squeezed her eyes again. Half of her mind was still grasping to the remnants of her previous convictions and upbringing, and to the thought that if she lay still and didn’t in any way signal how much she was savouring his every touch, she could still pretend she was not a willing participant in this madness. The other half of her mind noted how all her body felt warm, and how every muscle trembled, and how she stretched in some sort of sensual languished earning - and how she lifted her hips to facilitate him undressing her.

His mouth had not travelled lower - as she had expected, feared… and anticipated. It was back on her breasts, this time the second one received its portion of kisses and licks. Those were the tips of her husband's fingers that she had apparently allowed access to her private parts - and she just couldn’t find any strength to disapprove.

Lord Thorington played the violin. Gwendolen had heard praises paid to him quite often; and although she sadly lacked any ear for music, she could appreciate the precision and the effortlessness with which his fingers moved, and the delicate elegance of his performances. And now Gwendolen decided that if this night were to end favourably, she would from now on feel constantly jealous of his Guarneri. It truly felt as if music ran through her body as an electrical current, making her writhe on the suddenly hot sheets, her head dropped back, and her toes curling.

Contrary to all her presumptions, Lord Thorington had not taken his time and had not proceeded cautiously and considerately. The tips of his fingers stroked, rubbed; and then something changed, and a jolt of almost painful pleasure shot through her body; and she assumed that it was indeed his finger she felt push inside her. She had been so aroused by then, her body demanding something she knew not what - and it turned out that this intrusion was exactly what she sake; and she moaned loudly and, forgetting all propriety, she shifted on the bed, searching for more relief.

And the pressure inside her grew, and by the movement and the stretching of her inner walls she guessed that his lordship had just added another of his fingers to his depraved actions; and now his digits were sliding in and out of Gwendolen! And he was moving them in an uncanny imitation of garden shears!

Gwendolen shortly asked herself whether this strange sensation currently almost fully impeding her mental capacities was indeed the peak of carnal pleasure that women were theoretically capable of achieving - when with a surprised exclamation of ‘but... oh!’ she indeed achieved the aforementioned peak.

Gwendolen opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling.

“I would like to read some of your books, John,” were the first words she was capable of.

No answer followed, and she lifted her astonishingly heavy head. Lord Thorington was lying in the same position, his eyes intent on her face, his lips softly parted. Gwendolen wasn’t quite certain what this facial expression of his signified. “John?”

“Have you even experienced this before?” he asked in a choked voice, and Wren shook her head. She was feeling so languished and content that even discussing her private sensual experiences seemed quite alright to her at the moment.

“That’s unfortunate,” Gwendolen's husband announced in a solemn tone. “It means we have no basis for comparison.”

A burst of gleeful careless laughter was her answer to him, and she dropped her head back onto the sheets. The pillow was missing, possibly having fallen off the edge of the bed while Gwendolen thrashed in throes of passion.

“I do not quite understand...” Lord Thorington started, but Gwendolen decided she was having none of that. She grabbed the nearest blanket, pulled it to her chest, shielding her quickly cooling down skin - she knew shyness and embarrassment were just a few instants away - and then she slid down on the bed, leveling her face to his.

“You do not quite understand what I find amusing?” she asked, and then - still in this odd unrestrained mood of hers - she quickly kissed his cheek. ”I couldn’t say myself, but perhaps it is just the contrast between what you have just done, and this charmingly scientific tone of yours.”

“But if you have nothing to compare your experience to, how are we to know if I have followed the instructions right?” He was still frowning, and Wren laughed again.

“John, if you think of my previous sensual pursuits - and those would be strictly limited to our nights together - and compare them to what is transpiring right now, do you truly think I could find anything lacking in your performance?” Truly, Lady Gwendolen postulated in her mind, she had lost all her sense - she was presently joking with her husband on the subject of marital duties.

“Perhaps not,” Lord Thorington answered and chuckled.

“Indeed so,” Gwendolen answered mannerly, and then she chewed at her bottom lip, gathering her courage, and softly touched her husband’s bare shoulder. “John?” He hummed in response, his face pensive again, eyes fixed on the headboard. What he could possibly pondering so seriously, Gwendolen could not gather.

He then sighed and looked at her. “Are you feeling… scandalized, Gwendolen? I’m trying to evaluate whether what we have just done has in any way demeaned you as a woman of your stature.”

“I sincerely hope it does not!” Gwendolen exclaimed without thinking. “I do not feel a tinge scandalized; and to be frank, I still think as long as we both find no fault in these pursuits… we could continue.”

“Now?!” Lord Thorington asked in shock; and Gwendolen shortly wondered if there was some obstacle for them to continue that she was not aware of. Her strange giddy state was dissipating; and she surely could not find any nettle in herself to ask him for clarification - no matter how much she hoped she could reassure him that the alleged obstacle was non-existent.

“Do you not require rest?” Lord Thorington asked. Gwendolen, meanwhile, was preoccupied with the attempts to stop trying to see his upper half. Only his left shoulder was peeking from under the blanket, and she craved to see - and Lord forbid, touch - more.

“I would say I’ve never felt that refreshed and energetic,” Gwendolen deadpanned, and watched her husband’s eyes widen in astonishment.

“That will require further research,” he stated, going back to his scientific frowning. “I was led to believe that the rapture has to be succeeded by a period of inactivity. After all, I personally find myself quite exhausted after… such event.”

“But you are a man,” Gwendolen pointed out, and he gave her a suddenly brightened look.

“You’re right. It is a different mechanism. And quite an ingenious if you think of it.” Gwendolen just could not fully accept his inquisitive approach to the current topic of their discussion, and she emitted a small snort like laugh.

He gave her a side glance, and the corner of his lips, visible to her, curled up.

“I would not be that bold as to laugh at me, Gwendolen,” he drew out in a suddenly lower voice. It had gained some sort of a velvet cadence, and made Wren’s heart flutter - as well as caused a certain agitation in her other organs. “It only means that I could bring you over that threshold as many time as I wish.”

Gwendolen suppressed a squeak that was threatening to escape her. She pressed her knees closer, and gave him a feigned defiant look. “I am sure after a few… rounds, even these sensations can become less exciting.”

“Oh, but I will take my time...” he answered, his voice dropping even more. “It will not be the crossing of the finish line that I will endeavour for; just the process.”

Gwendolen swallowed sudden knot in her throat. His burning, hungry gaze slid along her neck, to her exposed collarbones, and lower, to what was currently hidden under the sheet. Wren gathered her bearing, and shifted closer to him on the bed. Her nose almost touched his, and their eyes met.

“I will try to endure it like a wife of an Englishman is expected to - with courage and honour,” she whispered. “But I’d rather you let me try this time. Surely those books of yours had some instructions for me as well.”