Heart of Stone Ch. 03bypsyche_b_mused©
3. To Be With You
Even though the weather was still warm, the days were growing shorter and it was only a matter of time before the weather turned completely. None of that mattered to Mary though because Mr. Scott had notified her aunt's house had sold. In the beginning Mary hadn't been certain if she should stay, now the thought of going back seemed wrong. She knew one of the reasons for that feeling was Aiden, even if most of that time she told herself that feeling wasn't entirely logical. What couldn't be denied though was that she had grown closer to him with each passing night.
They still worked to locate the others, though now she knew for certain that four had been destroyed. Those that remained of the eight original names and two more that he had been able to remember were completely unaccounted for. It was as if they never existed. Mary had begun looking for them as fine art pieces, but that was slow and tedious since private collections were just that, private. Their owners didn't tend to post pictures online. She'd posted several messages on discussion boards in hopes someone; somewhere might give her a lead.
The situation was made even more difficult by the fact that she had no idea what any of the missing ones looked like. She had tried to mention this to Aiden tactfully by asking if all of his kind were so handsome. If she had been looking for a realistic statue of a man everyone reading her message would know what that meant. Since gargoyles were creatures of fantasy to most people, there was no such thing as a "realistic gargoyle". She had hoped to be able to post a description of him. Unfortunately she found out that his kind were a great deal more varied than humans. She would worry about what to do if she found a likely candidate with the right provenance when that happened.
The library was another project that continued to frustrate both of them. Between them, Mary thought they must have explored every inch of the house, including the attic, even though it didn't fit Ambrose's description of 'downstairs'. They did find several of his journals and Mary had started to read through them, hoping that he might have left more clues without realizing it. After Mr. Scott called though, all of that had been put aside for a bit. She went into the village and bought a new dress, the first new item of clothing she had ever purchased for herself without needing someone else's approval. She supposed it would still be considered conservative by most standards, but the soft pink garment hugged her slim frame in all the right places. The short sleeves fluttered lightly around her arms, an impression that was echoed by the knee length skirt. Her hair, which she never wore in any particular style, was twisted into a simple, but flattering bun. She was admiring the effect when Aiden came in. He looked confused at first.
"Are you going out for the evening?" He asked, keeping his distance. Mary had noticed that in the past few weeks he had grown almost possessive. She had become friends with a couple of the ladies from the village and he didn't mind that, but if she met with a man for any reason he seemed almost angry. It was beyond her why, she had no interest in any of them.
"No." She smiled. "I just found out today that Aunt Patrice's house was sold."
When Mr. Scott first discussed the idea with her she had been reluctant. It was the only home she had ever known, but she knew that she didn't want to go back either. She decided that if she went back, there would be plenty of other houses to choose from.
"You will stay then?" A smile was beginning on his full lips.
"If you don't mind." She felt a blush color her cheeks. "I think this is your house more than mine."
He smiled broadly and pulled her close. As he lifted her off of her feet his lips came down on hers. Mary whimpered softly at first, her body tense against his. Still, the touch of his mouth made her head spin and her heart race and she slipped her arms around his neck. Slowly he lowered her to her feet again. His lips left hers and Mary gripped his arms, her body trembling as she looked up at him.
"I have frightened you." He said softly, his thumb stroking her deeply blushing cheek. The tip of the single talon grazed her eyebrow lightly. She lowered her eyes and leaned against him.
"At first." Mary said, her voice quivering. His arms wrapped around her.
"And now?" He asked softly, one hand cradled her head. Mary looked up at him.
"Now I don't know what I feel, but I know it isn't fear." He picked her up and walked out onto the balcony. The night was unseasonably warm, but but there was a chill in the air. Mary relaxed against him until she noticed he was heading directly for the railing. "What are you doing?"
"I have something to show you." He said, stepping up onto the railing. Mary hid her face as he stepped off of it as easily as she would step off of the landing on the stairs. She braced herself for the impact with the ground, but it never came. She raised her head and saw the dark ground slipping past below them. His wings beat rhythmically and she pressed closer against him. She had never considered the fact that he flew, let alone that he would take her with him. Mary began to relax in his arms. When she had just about caught her breath he descended into what looked like a pool of unbroken darkness. His arms never lost their stable hold on her as he shifted the orientation of his body. Mary barely felt the change as his feet touched the ground again. He sat down and let Mary rest in his lap.
"Did you think that I would drop you child?" He whispered, a small smile on his lips.
"I guess it's a little silly but I never pictured you flying." Mary said, her eyes adjusting to the darkness slowly. Now that the wind was no longer rushing in her ears she heard the soft sounds of water lapping at a shoreline. She realized that they were sitting in the middle of a small lake on an island that was little more than a pile of rocks. They were surrounded on all sides by trees, and she heard the soft rustling of the breeze in the undergrowth.
"I should have warned you." He spoke softly, letting her look around. The longer they sat there the more Mary's eyes adjusted. The starlight sparkled off the surface of the water and she could pick out the shapes of individual trees and shrubs along the shoreline.
"Where are we?" She asked finally, her voice as quiet as his. She didn't want to break the stillness of the place.
"I do not think it has a name, but we are still on your property. This place is all but inaccessible by ground because it is surrounded by brambles." He stroked her arm, his head rested against hers.
"It's beautiful." She said, feeling her heart start to race again.
"You are beautiful." He lifted her chin and even in the darkness she could see his eyes.
"It's just the dress." Her voice quivered.
"No, it is not. It is the lady wearing it." He leaned close to her, his face inches from hers. "I do not wish to frighten you again." Mary moved forward, her lips brushed his very lightly and lingered. His hand held the back of her neck and his tongue caressed her lips.
Mary moaned softly and turned to face him more. Her lips quivered and then parted under his gentle insistence. She felt his soft growling moan as much as she heard it, his tongue slipped into her mouth and began to carefully explore. Mary found that she could hardly breathe. It was as if the world itself had stopped while his mouth was on hers. After what seemed like a blissful eternity he moved away from her. Mary relaxed against his chest, her eyes closed. He held her carefully.
"I have brought no other here." He said after several minutes of silence. Mary looked up at him.
"I'm honored." She whispered, unwilling to trust her own voice.
"I am honored. That you would wish to stay, and that you overcome your disgust and revulsion to allow me to be close to you. I swear I will ask you to indulge me no further. Even one so warm would not wish to compromise herself any more, I fear I have pushed you too far already."
"I'm not disgusted by you." Mary was shocked to hear him say such a thing. "And I don't feel compromised." He smiled softly and brushed a stray lock of hair from her face.
"The conventions are well known child. Were it ever to come to light that you have allowed me even this much closeness you would be disgraced. I could not tolerate knowing I was the cause of that."
"I don't know what conventions you mean, and neither does anyone else." Mary was near tears, suddenly afraid of losing him.
"You mean that the knowledge of my kind has been so completely eradicated?" She could barely see his face, but from the sound of his voice she knew he was hurt. Mary stroked his cheek softly.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said it that way." She moved away from him a little. He pulled her close again.
"You have accepted my presence so easily that sometimes I forget you were shocked by my existence in the beginning." Mary relaxed against him. "I must think on this further."
For a time they sat in silence, though how long Mary couldn't say. She was relaxed against his chest, simply enjoying the closeness and the feeling of his arms around her. His tail wrapped around her leg, gently massaging her calf.
"We should go back." He said finally. She heard the note of regret in his voice.
"Why?" Mary was reluctant to move away from him, knowing at least for these few minutes he hadn't pulled away from her. Her arms tightened around him.
"Because you are shivering child." He smiled down at her and stood again.
Four nights later Mary woke screaming from a nightmare.
"Child you are dreaming." Aiden knelt next to her bed and held her eyes with his. After a moment she slipped her arms around his neck and curled up against him. Without hesitating he lay down with her, Mary curled up against his firmly muscled body. He wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and reminded her that she was safe.
"What frightened you so?" He asked once she had calmed.
"I was trapped somewhere, the basement I think." She pressed against him. "And it was so dark and I kept hearing things scuttling and shuffling around me. Then it felt like something was crawling on me." She began to tremble again and his arms tightened around her.
"You are safe now." He murmured softly next to her ear. One hand caressed her back through the light cotton of her nightgown.
"I was calling out to you in the dream." Mary closed her eyes and melted against his warm body. "I couldn't understand why you weren't there, I knew you would have protected me."
"Until my dying breath child." He kissed the top of her head softly.
"I'm sorry if I disturbed you." She yawned and arched against him.
"You did not. Though if you are no longer afraid I must take my leave."
"Why?" She looked up at him, her arms wrapped more tightly around him. He smiled down at her.
"Because, I wish to preserve your virtue." He kissed her forehead softly. "If I remain much longer I do not trust myself to do so." Mary blushed deeply and brushed her lips over his. He held her close and deepened the kiss. She sighed softly.
"Does the thought frighten you?" He asked softly.
"Yes and no." She looked up at him, her lower lip caught between her teeth. He stroked her back softly and lowered her eyes. "Mostly yes."
"And yet you would trust me?" He brushed the hair from her blushing face.
"Yes." Mary's voice was barely audible. His arms wrapped tightly around her for a long moment.
"It is late child. Too late for me to explain everything I need to explain and to take the kind of care that I need to take with you." He kissed her softly and got up. "Rest well, my dear one."
The next evening the weather had turned from warm and pleasant to icily cold. Mary curled up in front of the fire with a blanket around her shoulders and a hot cup of tea in her hands. At first she thought she had dreamed Aiden's late-night comfort and the conversation that followed. As the day went on though she knew that she hadn't. She didn't regret anything that she said, but the more she turned it over in her mind, the more nervous she became. She knew the mechanics of the act between two human beings. That seemed woefully inadequate too, but at least it was an idea.
She jumped when Aiden laid his hand on her shoulder. He looked at her uncertainly for a moment.
"I didn't hear you come in." She got up and curled up in his lap. He adjusted the blanket so that she was as close against his body as possible. Mary sighed softly and his arms tightened around her.
"You were deep in thought." He stroked her back softly, Mary closed her eyes and felt herself melting against him. She wondered how his body could be so warm when he had been out in the cold.
"I was just thinking about last night." She said. His hand hesitated.
"I will hold you to nothing you said child. You had just awakened from a frightening dream. Perhaps, in your fear, you said some things you had not fully considered." From his tone she knew he hoped he was wrong about her feelings.
"It's all I've been able to think about since you kissed me." She looked up into his eyes again and then looked away. "Please don't make light of that." The talons that could have sliced through her flesh with so little effort drew soft patterns over her back. It no longer made her nervous and she sighed, the tension residual tension her body.
"I do not make light of it child. If you were a female of my kind I would not have waited so long to take you as my own. I told you that I was mated before?" Mary looked up at him.
"Yes." Her fingers stroked his chest softly, enjoying the texture of his skin.
"I did not tell you that she never wished to be my mate." He wasn't looking at her.
"Then why did she agree?" Mary asked, a bit surprised that anyone would refuse him.
"She did not agree." He looked into her eyes. "Among my kind it is not the place of the female to choose. She is chosen by a male and must comply." Mary looked at him curiously.
"So a female doesn't love her mate? Ever?"
"I am not explaining this properly. Usually desire for mating was mutual, but from the moment I first set eyes on Bergit I wanted her. I should have listened when the elders told me not to force her, but I was caught up in selfish desire. I thought I could change her feelings and while she did what I required of her I know with certainty that she never cared for me. In the beginning it did not matter, as time went on though, I could see how much each touch hurt her. Still, I could not compromise my pride enough to release her. After I lost her, I did not think I would ever wish to have another mate, but if I did, I swore that I would be as aware of her desires as I was of my own. Perhaps now that you know I have treated another female so harshly, your view of me has changed. I could not allow you to think on this matter without the full truth to consider." Mary snuggled close against him and he held her tightly.
"I'm surprised, but it doesn't change anything." He lifted her chin so that he could look into her eyes.
"I have taken one by force and regretted it. I cannot bear the thought that I might lose moments like this because of my avarice for more."
"You aren't forcing me. I never thought I could feel so safe with anyone, I just don't know HOW to be more to you." She blushed deeply and hid her face against his chest.
He lifted her chin and Mary realized that she was trembling. His lips found hers carefully and Mary melted against him. Her lips parted easily when his tongue brushed them. Mary sighed and stroked his tongue hesitantly. The soft growling moan vibrated his chest and his arms tightened around her. Slowly he retreated. Mary realized her heart was pounding, she looked up at him uncertainly. She opened her mouth to speak but he shook his head.
"We both need time to learn the ways of the other, and I wish to give you time to reconsider. If it is still your desire, I will take you as mine on Winter Solstice Night." Mary nodded and relaxed against him again.
In the weeks that followed they spoke at length about what he expected from his mate, she told him what she knew of the ways of husbands and wives and how the world had changed for women. It was clear even early on that it wouldn't be easy to blend the two distinct cultures. Mary was just becoming accustomed to having her own freedom and she resisted the amount of control he thought he should have over her. He resisted her demands to retain her own life. Even though she had the entire day to do what she wanted he still seemed to know if she was hiding something from him. She disliked hiding things, but the modern world made some things necessary that a woman might have been sheltered from in ages past.
In the first week of December their points of friction had worn smooth and he asked again if she was certain, after there being such tension between them, that she wished to be mated to him. Mary was certain of her feelings, what they hadn't discussed yet was how precisely they would be joined. She could hardly walk into the village church with a gargoyle on her arm and whatever beliefs he had there were no officiants left. When she gathered her courage he explained gently that there was no ceremony, that it was the act of coupling and the intent behind it that bound them together. Mary had blushed deep crimson. She had carefully avoided thinking about the physical aspects of their relationship. She was curious, and she wanted to please him but none of those things kept her heart from racing at the thought. Deep down, she worried the act would be impossible.
During this quiet time, he had begun to hold her as she fell asleep. At first, Mary had a difficult time relaxing. Even in her long flannel nightgown with the high neck she felt exposed. He patiently whispered reassurances and stroked her back until she relaxed. After several nights she curled up easily against him and drifted off.
Finally, the day arrived. Much as Mary tried to keep herself calm, even Mrs. March noticed that there was something different about her. Mary wasn't exactly certain that the housekeeper believed her denials, but then, it wasn't really the older woman's business.
Mary sent her home early and tried to eat a bit of dinner, but found nothing was appealing. She took a long, hot bath and put on a simple white cotton chemise. The low neckline tied over her full breasts with a narrow, white silk ribbon. Similar ribbons acted as narrow straps with bows tied at the tops of her shoulders. A row of tiny pearl buttons ran from just under the ribbon to the ruffled hem just below her mid-thigh. The cotton was sheer enough to make any other garments obvious and she wore none. Mary's hands trembled so much when she tried to put her hair up she brushed it out and left it loose around her shoulders. She fussed in the large bathroom for a few more minutes when she heard the balcony door open. Her stomach turned over and she closed her eyes to catch her breath. After a few minutes she had calmed enough to trust her legs. She walked out into the large room.
At first, Aiden didn't notice her. He had turned the electric lights off and was just finishing lighting candles. The room had a soft, golden glow that highlighted his muscular body as he moved. She noticed a large enamel bowl on the bedside table and recognized it as one he had asked her for several days ago. She had wondered why he wanted it at the time, but she hadn't asked. Mary felt rooted to the spot as she watched him. When he finished he noticed her standing there and the smile that touched his lips turned to a look of concern.
"You look terrified child." He crossed the room to her slowly.