This story is set in the late 1800s. I apologize for any glaring falsehoods to the times, but it was the time frame I needed. Don't let the idyllic start fool you, there is a story coming.
This is completely different from my other stories, so if you are familiar with them you are forewarned. Then again, my stuff really refuses to stick to a genre. Enjoy!
The air was crisp and scented with pine and raw earth as we rode through fields and woods that gorgeous April morning. Gerald, that is Fitzgerald Montgomery Chalmers, III, had been courting me for just over six months, and I was sure he had intentions. Still, when he chose a spot beside a pretty pond to rest and relax, I was surprised when he dropped to one knee to request my hand. Surprised and thrilled!
"If you will have me, Camilla, I would like very much to make you my wife," Gerald asked, taking my breath away.
All I could do was nod my head as the tears began to flow and Gerald stood and took me gently into his arms, kissing the top of my head. When I had settled enough to speak, I said, "Of course I will be your wife." Then he kissed me on my lips, which I had never felt before, and it was quite intoxicating.
Gerald was perfect. He stood a dashing figure, taller than average, thin yet muscular, with short blond curls, blue eyes, and a fetching mustache. He was also the sole heir to the Chalmers' Estate, and as his father had died not long after we began courting, he was a very rich man (or so I was told by my father, who always knew these things.)
As the second daughter of a moderately successful businessman, my prospects were not unlimited, but not without merit. My entire family had been mildly surprised, but highly pleased, when Gerald requested permission to call on me after we met at a local cotillion. He claimed that my beauty and intelligence set me apart from all of the other debutantes, and wished to become better acquainted.
I had always considered myself very average, but to hear Gerald speak of it, I was extraordinary. He claimed that while my height was not exceptional, my figure and carriage elevated me heads above the other young women. He said my auburn waves caught the light with shimmers of gold and bronze, that coupled with my emerald green eyes, made me shine like fine jewelry. He often called me the jewel upon his arm.
With only a few weeks left until our scheduled Wedding in June, Gerald had become especially attentive. While most men show little interest in the planning of the nuptials, Gerald had wanted to be a part of almost everything, so he had been in my home nearly every day, often staying past the hour when my parents would retire for the night.
On several of these occasions, Gerald had begun to push the limits of propriety. His kisses began to be quite arduous, and he had attempted to touch me in ways only my husband should. He argued that he practically was my husband, so there was no harm in it. Still, I was somewhat relieved when he told me his best friend from University would be arriving shortly, and that he would likely be tied up with him most evenings until the wedding.
Liam did arrive the following day, and both men joined us for dinner that evening, at my parents' insistence. The pair could not have been more dissimilar. Liam was a hulking man, several inches taller than Gerald, and broad-chested in a way that made him appear massive. His hair was a longish mass of shiny, nearly black waves, and his dark eyes seemed to pierce you to your very soul. While his face may have been handsome in an angular, chiseled way, he wore a constant scowl that turned everyone away from making more than a few attempts at pleasant conversation. In short, he was actually quite scary!
After dinner the men retired to my father's study for a drink, and my mother and I went to her sitting room to sew on my bridal gown.
"Well," my mother began, "Liam seems...intense, don't you think?"
"That is a nice way of putting it," I returned, shaking my head, "He's quite off-putting."
"Yes. It makes me wonder how he and Gerald ever became friends. Did Gerald tell you anything about that?"
I thought about it for a moment, but couldn't recall Gerald ever mentioning how they had met or what drew them to become close friends. "No, he never said."
Mother was quiet for a bit, then responded, "Men often change quite a bit during and just after University. Perhaps they were more similar when they met."
That seemed to settle the discussion and we continued to work in companionable silence until we heard the men emerge from the study.
I rushed down the stairs to say goodnight to Gerald. He opened his arms to me as I nearly fell off the last step, launching into him.
"Umph," he let out as I slammed into his chest in a most un-lady-like manner, "I love the enthusiasm, Camilla, but you may wish to be careful when flying down stairs," he laughed, sliding his hands up my sides and grazing my breasts as he set me upright, then leaving his hands with both palms against the sides of my bosom as he perused me, winking slyly.
My blush was surely crimson as I regained my footing and took a slight step back, in the hopes of being released from his embarrassing touch, but finding he only held tighter, pulling me back towards him.
"I didn't want you to leave without saying goodbye," I squeaked out, leaning into him for a light hug to hide my face. He slipped an arm securely around my waist and tugged me closer, kissing me below my ear before releasing one hand and half-turning to speak to my parents.
"Goodnight, Mr. and Mrs. Corbett. Thank you for your hospitality. Dinner was superb as always," he said, smiling to them before turning us both for the door.
Liam spoke low to them as well, but I couldn't make out what he said as Gerald was licking my ear as we walked to the door. The feeling when he did these things was both stimulating and unsettling, but I did not wish to make a scene in front of my parents, so I continued out the door with him still nuzzling and lapping my ear and neck.
Once the door was closed behind us, Gerald turned me abruptly and held me tightly to him as he pillaged my mouth with his tongue. The first time he had done this I had shrieked in surprise, but I was now somewhat used to this from him. I did not quite understand its appeal, but I was patient with a few moments of the behavior for his benefit.
Liam cleared his throat and I jerked back, having almost forgotten his presence in the replay of every evening for the last two weeks. Gerald was having none of that. He turned his head only briefly to say, "Get in the carriage if you like," before he returned to nibble at my neck and attempt to run a hand over my breast.
I caught his hand, as usual, attempting to pull it down and grip it in my own, but he was persistent. "Camilla, we will have so little time to be together over these next couple of weeks. Why do you insist on playing such a prude?"
I happened to glance over Gerald's shoulder at this point, and saw an even deeper scowl split Liam's face. I felt dirty under that disapproving glare and pushed Gerald away more forcefully than I meant to.
"Camilla!" Gerald exclaimed, affronted by my rejection, but I couldn't stop glancing at Liam's censuring face. Gerald grabbed my face in his hand with a biting grip, shocking me back to my fiancé. "Don't push me away!" he said, angrily, "You are to be my wife in a fortnight, and I will not have you behaving this way!"
Gerald had never yelled at me, and he had never spoken to me as if I was his servant! I was confused and a little fearful, and tears welled in my eyes.
Gerald saw the tears and relented, "I'm sorry, my Camilla. I did not mean to shout. Come here darling," he murmured as he drew me back into his arms, caressing my back and whispering love into my ear.
Liam 'harrumphed' before setting off down the steps and entering the carriage waiting in the drive.
"I think your friend wishes to go," I said tentatively to Gerald.
"Yes. He has been quite the killjoy so far," he said with a level of disgust that surprised me. "I will try to stop round a few times this week to see you," he finished, kissing me on the lips again before following Liam to the carriage. "Goodnight, my love," he called out softly before closing the door.
I waved as the carriage pulled away, but I had trouble smiling. Gerald's behavior concerned me. I could nearly concede his point that we were almost married, so increased intimacy was not as much an issue, but we were still NOT married, so I couldn't see why he could not wait a couple of more weeks. Even more worrisome was his reaction to me pushing him away! His outburst was bewildering, but the way he had held my face, with such anger and strength, alarmed me.
I re-entered the house to find my parents discussing Liam as they stood in the hallway. I overheard my father say he was actually a very intelligent and thoughtful fellow if you got him talking about social and business reform, or the role of representatives in government. Apparently Gerald and Liam diverged greatly in opinions formed since college, and father said he would not be surprised if they did not continue as friends much longer, since they no longer agreed on much of substance.
Mother asked what Gerald had to say about reform, and father just laughed. He answered that Gerald had as much interest in reform as any other man from old money and even older power had -- none. That is when they noticed me walking softly towards them.
"Well, my dear, it is late, and you should get plenty of rest these next couple of weeks before the wedding. We wouldn't want a bride with bags under her eyes now would we?" my father asked jovially, giving me a gentle hug before aiming me up the stairs. I wanted to ask him more about the discussion the men had had, but he likely would tell me not to worry my pretty head about it, so I gave mother a kiss on the cheek and continued on to my room.
I had never taken undo interest in the political discussions that my father and various men had when visiting our home. I listened enough to know that the newly emerging merchant class desired greater freedom to engage in business, and greater representation in government, but I hadn't really listened to the reasons they desired reform. It struck me as surprising that my soon-to-be husband was politically opposed to my own father. But then, it made sense since Gerald came from a family of wealth and substance, while my father was the first in his family to live in town and become wealthy selling things made by others.
As I prepared for bed, I wondered idly what Liam's family history might be.
******************** The next couple of days went by quickly as I had final fittings for my trousseau and made the last decisions concerning the menu and decorations. The weather was beautiful and the gardens were nearing full-bloom, just as we had hoped when we had set our wedding date. The smell of lilies and roses wafted onto the terrace with the breeze and I couldn't have been happier.
I didn't see Gerald again after that strange night until three days hence, and then it was only to catch a chance sighting of him as he and Liam entered a tavern in town. I wondered at what his business might be in a tavern in the early afternoon, but not being familiar with the ways of men, I shrugged it off and finished my errands before getting home to find the house in an uproar.
The swathing mother had ordered for the terrace and dining room had come in, and was not the color she had wanted, and she was having an attack of the vapors about it. I was never one prone to the use of "the vapors" to get my way, and so I mostly ignored my mother and my sister when they indulged themselves that way. Instead, I told mother the slight color mismatched was of no import and to take a rest in her parlor until dinner and I would finish with the seamstress for her.
Just before leaving the room, mother turned to say, "Gerald and his friend will be joining us for dinner this evening. Please be sure cook has something planned for dessert."
I nodded, but inwardly groaned that we would be forced to sit through another meal with Liam's unpleasant countenance. Ah well, it was a small price to pay for Gerald's happiness. I did as I was bidden.
Gerald and Liam arrived at seven, both looking stormy. Gerald was seldom anything but pleasant, so seeing him look so sour was rattling. I escorted them into the library where father poured drinks and attempted to engage Gerald in a game of chess. Gerald refused bluntly and went to stand by a window staring out into the gathering dusk. Liam accepted father's invitation politely, but seemed distracted.
I went to stand beside my betrothed who ignored me for a minute before he snaked a hand around my waist and pulled me close. Glancing to be sure my father was facing away, he began to suck on my earlobe, a sensation I must admit I enjoyed, though his heavy breath in my ear was not so pleasant.
When he released my ear, he whispered, "I have missed you these last several days. Liam has become a bore and we are bickering non-stop. Perhaps you will concede to me to lift my mood this evening."
I was not sure what it was I would concede, but I did so want my sweet Gerald to smile for me that I nodded slightly in hopes of making him happy. It worked and he broke into a smile as he leaned forward to kiss me gently on the lips. That was the kissing that made my heart race, and my hands found their ways to his shoulders in a soft embrace. Suddenly Gerald pulled back and spoke over his shoulder.
"I need to speak to Camilla. We will be on the terrace," he said, pulling me to the door before I could state a reply.
Once on the terrace, he pulled me out of view of the windows and began to kiss me as he had been wont to do of late. His tongue rubbed insistently against my own and I tried to pull back a little before he choked me with his vehemence. He held me firm, but left my mouth to stream wet kisses down my jaw and neck. His actions so surprised me that I didn't fight him, and he must have taken that for my acceptance because while one of his hands brazenly cupped my breast, his other found purchase on my bottom, pulling me tight to a bulge in the front of his trousers.
I gasped and pushed against his chest, but his grip only tightened. He lifted his head to look me in the eye, saying softly, "Come, come, Camilla. It's hardly a week until we are wed. I just want a little taste of the delights we will share after that."
He massaged my breast roughly and I let out a small yelp which he cut off with his mouth covering mine. He pressed his arousal into my belly insistently as I tried to twist out of his grip. Finally I pulled free and stepped away so I was squarely in the view of the servants setting up the dining room.
"Have you been drinking?" I asked, aghast.
"Only a little," he answered sheepishly. He continued imploringly, "Camilla, you are so incredibly beautiful; I can't stand to be near you and not touch you. I love you, my dear, and just want to share that with you. Please come back here and allow me to kiss you."
He seemed calmer, and his face showed only love, so I stepped back into his arms tentatively. He kissed me gently, tracing my lips with his tongue while he threaded his fingers into the hair at the back of my head. This was the affection I enjoyed, so I relaxed into his arms a little and enjoyed a few moments of his ministrations.
When we separated, Gerald looked into my eyes and said, "I cannot wait to show you the joys of our bedroom," he paused, "and every other room of the house," he finished, smiling devilishly.
My mouth dropped open and I flushed at his presumption. He laughed lightly and took my hand, leading me back into the library where we were just being called to dinner.
Gerald was in a much better frame of mind, and Liam seemed to have relaxed as well, conversing with my father through the first course. I noticed Liam had a habit of giving people nick names of his own choosing, calling Gerald "Fitz", my father "Corbett", and eventually calling me "Cam". I was a little irked by it, but pretended not to mind as he asked how I felt about a piece of legislation under discussion. Since I knew almost nothing about it, I told him I didn't have an opinion.
"I believe women have as much right to know about and give opinion on our laws as men do," Liam said, looking hard at Gerald, "But I realize I am in the minority in that belief. Someday, women will not only vote, but will run for office," he concluded.
"Hah!" Gerald almost yelled, "But they will never be elected! Women are not cut out for politics, or anything else that requires an education. Why I love Camilla far too much to trouble her pretty head with the vulgarities of business and politics. I think women prefer to stay home where it is safe and they can control their own little kingdoms."
I had never thought about getting a further education, nor considered voting or any of the rest of those things, but something about the way Gerald spoke of me made me feel small, and I didn't like it. I spoke out, "But perhaps I would like to know more about business and the politics of our country. Would you deny me those things?"
Gerald looked affronted, and my father looked shocked. I noticed Liam looked a tad self-satisfied, if surprised. When Gerald recovered enough to respond, he said, "Well, my dear, I would tell you to let me worry about those things. I will let you know of anything that might affect you. And if you had questions about something you had heard, I would answer them for you, and explain the way things should be."
Liam huffed and shook his head, while my father nodded thoughtfully. Strangely it was my mother who spoke, "Yes, dear, as it should be. Your father is always happy to tell me about those things that affect us or our business, and that is all you really need."
I almost laughed at my mother's use of the word "our" to describe the business. I'm not sure mother could even tell someone what my father sold. She had no interest whatsoever in the business, her only regret being she did not produce a son to take over from her husband as he aged.
I looked at the faces around the table and decided to let it go. I didn't really think it was important, so I wasn't sure why I had commented in the first place. I was going to be the Lady of Chalmers Manor, and any other issues would fall under the auspices of my husband. That was how it had always been, and how it was going to continue to be, regardless of the ranting of Gerald's friend. No wonder Gerald was finding him tiring.
The meal continued with my father steering the conversation into safe areas for the most part, and mother and I remained quiet until talk moved to the upcoming wedding. I did notice Liam glance at me appraisingly several times, but he never spoke to me directly again.
After dessert the men went off to the study, and mother and I again went to her sitting room. I had already put the finishing touches on my wedding dress, so I was crocheting lace for my new home tonight.
Mother spoke, "That Liam is an odd bird! Have you ever heard such an idea? Women voting? And being elected to public office? What a crazy idea!"
"Yes, he does seem strange," I conceded before asking, "Have you ever wished you knew more about business or politics?"
"No!" mother exclaimed vehemently, "Why would I want to be bothered with that? I have more than enough to worry about taking care of this house, raising you and your sister, and caring for your father. I have no time for any of that other."
That was what I would expect. It is how I had been raised, and was likely how I would always live. So why did the ramblings of one irksome man have me wondering if maybe I was missing something? Dismissing the entire thing, I went back to my sewing until my eyes began to droop. We hadn't heard the men emerge from the study, so I thought I would just step out onto the terrace to let the night air refresh me so I could say goodnight to Gerald before he left.