Heart of Stone Ch. 04bypsyche_b_mused©
First of all, I want to thank all of you who commented on the previous chapters. I'm so glad that people are enjoying this story.
One thing I would like to address that's been mentioned a couple of times now, is that there is a certain level of discomfort with Aiden referring to Mary as 'child'. Part of it is his age in comparison to hers (as one of you suggested), the other part is that Gargoyle culture is very paternalistic. That comes out a bit more in this section, and will become even more clear as the story goes on. I would tend to call him a loving Dominant with a few issues to work through. :) I hope you all continue to enjoy!
4. A Period of Adjustment
When Aiden returned the next night Mary was curled up in bed. She had changed the sheets that morning, but she spent most of the day closeted in the large room nursing the deep ache. As soon as she saw him Mary snuggled against his chest. For a few moments, he held her in silence. One hand stroked her back softly and the other wandered over her body, stroking her legs and arms. His lips found hers and Mary pressed close against him. It seemed like it had been an eternity since he left. Even though she had been sleeping part of the time, she still missed him.
"Are you ill this evening?" He asked when her body was molded to his.
"No. I was just a little tired." She didn't even sound confident to her own ears. He lifted her chin.
"Are you are in pain?" Mary saw the concern in his eyes as clearly as she heard it in his voice.
"No." She said quickly.
"I cannot abide being lied to, child. But, I know that your shyness runs deep so I will ask again." Her head was held lightly in one powerful hand, the only way to avoid his eyes would have been to close hers. "Are you in pain?"
"Yes." Mary whispered, a little shiver coursing through her. He held her close and allowed her to hide her face against his chest. She relaxed against him.
"Are you still bleeding?" One hand drifted down over her back, down over one slim thigh and up under the hem of the nightgown. Mary tensed when his fingers reached into the waistband of her panties.
"Not anymore." Mary's voice trembled.
"Good." He started to tug them down.
"No!" Mary's fear was obvious in her voice. She pulled away but his arm locked around her waist. "Please, I can't."
"Mary." His tight grip made it impossible to struggle away from him, his eyes held hers. "I will satisfy myself that you are not seriously injured, but I will do no more than that."
"I'm alright, I just ache a little." Mary knew struggling with him was a waste of energy she didn't really have at that moment. She rested her head against his chest.
"I have never known you to remain in bed through the day, not even when you are ill. That you did so today concerns me." His grip loosened a bit, then a bit more when it became clear that she wasn't going to pull away from him again. He stroked her back softly. His hand went to her panties again and he tugged. "Lift your hips." Mary bit her lower lip, but she couldn't quite force herself to move. He kissed the top of her head. "I do not wish this to be a test of wills child, but it is as much about obedience as it is about injury." Obedience and honesty were the two most important obligations a female to her mate. At that moment, she wanted to protect him from the truth and protect herself from his close inspection.
"I'm embarrassed." She couldn't look up into his eyes, but she hadn't moved to remove his hand from her panties either. His large hand spread out over her hip.
"I am your mate, child. You will learn that you have no need to hide from me." He tugged lightly at her panties again and Mary lifted her hips. He slid them down her legs and Mary moved off of his lap. He opened her legs wide, and gently tugged her open completely. Mary whimpered sharply, his lips brushed her inner thighs and she tried to relax. After a few moments more he let her go and pulled the nightgown down again. Mary snuggled against his chest and he stroked her back.
"You are in more than a little pain." He said finally. Mary couldn't find her voice, she simply nodded. He kissed her softly and then left her. She could hear him stirring up the fire so she left her panties where he had tossed them and watched him from the doorway. He smiled and held out his hand to her, Mary moved toward him and let him wrap her in his arms.
"Why did you feel you had to lie?" He asked when she relaxed.
"Because telling you how much pain I'm in makes it sound like I regret it," She whispered. He lifted her chin and kissed her lightly. "And I don't."
"It is a simple reality, child. Not an accusation." He sat down and she moved to curl up in his lap but he held her back. "Remove this first." He fingered her nightgown and Mary blushed deeply. She started to lift the hem of the long nightgown but hesitated. She handed him the blanket and he smiled. It still took Mary several minutes to undress as he watched, but the feeling of his warm body against hers and the reassurances he whispered helped her relax. He wrapped the blanket around her and Mary melted into him.
Mary resumed her routine after a day of healing. When she received the auction catalog three weeks later, she actually thought that she might have a good candidate. The carving was just as fine as Aiden's appeared to be and the bit of research she had done on the owner told her that it was at least possible. When Aiden saw the photos he agreed. It was a large object, and an expensive one, but her Aunt's lawyer had severely underestimated the accounts that went with the estate. Even at three times the estimate, it was barely a drop in the bucket.
For the next few days Mary found herself at loose ends. She filled her time with reading and took long walks on the trails in the woods. On returning from one of those walks Mary tripped on a broom Maggie left in the hall. In the effort to catch herself she stumbled against the side of the stairway. She felt a panel give and and then open. She knew that Mrs. March had the day off, and Maggie had left an hour ago. Carefully she opened the panel. As soon as it was open wide enough Mary saw a light switch and turned it on. At first, nothing happened, but with a soft buzz a chain of lights came on, illuminating a stairway.
Mary got a flashlight, just in case, and the ring of keys from the library and started down the stairs. She knew she must be going down into a part of the cellar, but aside from a thick layer of dust, this part looked recently maintained. The stairs were a similar stone as the ones leading down into the main part of the basement, but these were much more roughly assembled. Mary placed her feet carefully as she made her way down the twisting staircase. She heard nothing except her feet on the stairs and her breathing. The silence made her heart beat faster, but she forced herself to move slowly. Finally she made it to the bottom and found herself in a short hall. The thought of this being yet another wine cellar flashed through her mind, but it hardly seemed likely that it would be hidden behind a secret panel.
Mary walked down the a short hall to a heavy oak door, grasped the handle and pressed on the thumb lever. The mechanism protested with a grinding sound and the hinges reciprocated with a loud screech, but the door opened. The smell of old, dusty paper hit her first. Mary turned on the flashlight and swept the beam into the dark space. She walked into the silent space and turned two small, green lamps that sat on either end a long wooden table.
The light was dim, but it was enough to let her see that she was standing in a large library. Some of the shelves faded back into darkness. She directed the flashlight beam toward the back of the room and barely saw an enormous portrait on the murky back wall. It was similar to one that hung on the the wall in the sitting room. There were three other tables like the one she was standing in front of. She turned on the other lamps and the room brightened with green-tinged golden light. Mary started scanning the books next. Some were very very old and bound in unfamiliar leathers.
Most of the titles were in languages she couldn't read, a few were in English, but the titles still meant nothing to her. Mary glanced at her watch and realized that Aiden would be waking soon and he preferred her to be there when he did. Mary left the lights on and turned to leave, but she stopped when she noticed an envelope on the first table. She perched on the edge of the chair and picked up the thick envelope. When she opened it she realized that the letter wasn't very long, it was just that the paper was unusually fine.
"To Mary Beeson (or her descendant):" It began. The handwriting was shaky in places, but whoever wrote it seemed to have gone to a great deal of trouble to make it neat. She looked ahead to the end and saw that it was signed 'Ambrose'. Ambrose began by introducing himself and apologizing that he hadn't been able to bring her here from the beginning. Then, he began to explain about Aiden and his situation. The final page advised her what he had tried to release Aiden, and suggested what she might try next, after gaining some competence with magic. He had instructions for that as well.
Mary reread the letter and set it on the table in front of her. She glanced at her watch and realized that it was already after dark. She left all the lights on and made her way up the stairs as quickly as she safely could. She met Aiden coming down the main stairs and he looked displeased. He had never hurt her, or even threatened to, but he had told her that in his culture it was acceptable for a male to punish his mate physically. Neglecting such a simple request was certain to anger him.
"Mary-" The tone in his voice made her tremble.
"Please don't be upset with me." Mary could feel her heart starting to pound. She was standing one stair below him and while she always had to look up at him, she felt even smaller than usual at that moment.
"Child, I dislike waking alone, you know this." His large hand cradled the side of her head.
"I know, and I'm sorry. I lost track of time." Mary knew she should just tell him. Her racing emotions were scrambling her logical thought. He looked past her shoulder into the entry.
"And what is so important that you forget the needs of your mate? Or should I say who?" His voice was soft, but his eyes were intense when they turned back to hers. Mary didn't think she was going to be able to speak.
"I found it." She managed to whisper. His eyes narrowed.
"Found what?" He asked. Mary took a trembling breath.
"The second library." She said finally, lowering her eyes.
"Are you certain?" He lifted her chin, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. She began to smile as well.
"As certain as I can be." She grasped one of his large hands in both of hers. "Please, come and see." In that moment she needed to feel forgiven by him.
He followed her and at first she thought he wasn't going to be able to get through the small door but he managed. His taloned feet gave him more stability on the rough stairs and without a question or hesitation he picked her up and carried her to the bottom. The room itself awed him. It wasn't as fine as the rooms upstairs, but he walked the length of it, caressing some of the books gently as he passed by. When he turned back to her Mary was holding the letter.
"It's from Ambrose." She said. "I should have waited to read it-"
He pulled her close and Mary fell silent as she rested against his chest.
"No, child. You have never given me a single reason to doubt your feelings and yet, for a moment, I did." He stroked her back softly and Mary relaxed and settled closer.
"I guess I don't understand that. Even when I first woke you it seems like my world revolved around you. It's hard to say out loud, I just thought it was obvious." She blushed deeply, her body molded to his. Mary had begun to shiver in the cool air and he wrapped his wings around her.
"Bergit had another. He would have taken her as his mate, but ours is a hierarchical society. When I declared my intention he could do nothing but step aside." Mary sensed there was more, she waited for him to continue on his own. When he didn't she asked.
"Was that the end of it? I mean, he just accepted that Bergit was yours?" She stroked his back softly.
"No. Three days after Bergit and I mated I found the two of them together." He fell silent again, and held her tighter.
"What did you do?" Mary was almost afraid to ask, but she had to know.
"The only thing I could have done to save face, I challenged him and I killed him in combat. It was my right to kill her as well, but I chose to let her live. I beat her that night, and any time she showed the slightest inclination toward disobedience." Mary stiffened against his chest. "I killed everything in her that drew me in the first place. We began a cycle of hurting each other that continued until her death. I shudder to think of what we were doing to our son, and I fear making the same mistake with you." He held her tighter and Mary placed a soft kiss over his heart.
"I'm not her. You didn't force me to be your mate and I don't want to run away from you." Her voice barely audible as she looked up into his eyes, her lower lip caught between her teeth.
"I know child." His hand pressed her head against his chest. He unwrapped his wings and lifted her. Mary wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck She heard him turning the lights off. "And I fear that my insecurities will drive you away."
"Don't you want to explore?" She asked.
"Very much." He kissed her softly. "But this room has nothing to do with what I wish to explore." He carried her up the stairs but put her down so that he could get through the small door. As soon as the lights were out and the panel closed he lifted her again. This time Mary lay relaxed in his arms and he brought her back up to their bedroom. Mary had learned that when he was was most uncomfortable talking about something from his past was when he seemed to need physical contact the most.
He set her on her feet and Mary realized she was still gripping the letter. She tossed it on the desk and let him lead her by the hand over to the bed. He sat down and Mary straddled his lap, her arms wrapped around his neck, her body pressed against his firmly muscled chest. One arm held her tightly and the other hand caressed her back softly. Her lips found the side of his neck, she felt as much as heard his soft groan. His arm tightened and he found her lips with his. Mary's body responded to the hunger in his kiss, her tongue caressed his. When she pressed down against his hips she felt the bulge of his erection. The size of him still made Mary tremble but the desire to feel him inside her again was growing too.
In the weeks since they first mated, Aiden had taught Mary to pleasure him with her hands and her mouth, and after initial hesitation she was a curious and willing student. She found that watching him enjoy her touch excited her almost as much as his soft touches did. In those days that surrounded Christmas, he limited those touches to soothing caresses. As time passed though, she lost some of the crushing shyness that plagued her at first and the discomfort in her body subsided while her desire for his touch grew.
He slid his hands up under her sweater, Mary pulled her arms out of it and tossed it aside. She reached behind herself and unhooked her bra, but she still hesitated to take it off. He pulled it away from her body carefully and Mary blushed a little as she looked down at her hard nipples. Her hands moved softly over his chest. He drew one needle-sharp talon lightly over her breasts, making her nipples harden even more and sending pleasant shivers chasing after each other down her spine. Mary closed her eyes and moaned when his lips found her shoulder. The soft and sharp sensations commingled and it drove her to distraction. Mary gripped his shoulders tightly and pressed down firmly against the thick pillar of his shaft. His teeth nipped at her shoulder and Mary arched into him more. Finally she could take no more. She gripped his hands and moved off of his lap, laying back on the bed and pulling him over her.
Aiden looked down at her and Mary stroked his cheek. Even though she had intended to ask for what she needed she found she didn't have the words. He kissed the inside of her wrist softly and settled next to her.
"You need not prove your commitment to me." He held her close and Mary noticed the chill of the room for the first time. He enfolded her in his arms.
"Why don't you think that I could want you just because you are my mate and I love you?" Mary felt her heart racing as she said it.
"I do not question that, child." He kissed her shoulder softly. "But I know how badly I injured you. I do not regret taking you as mine, but I do regret hurting you."
"I don't regret a single moment of that night, or the days that followed." Mary kissed him, sucking on his lower lip lightly. He moaned and tightened his arms around her. "I want to be your mate as a female of your own kind would be." Mary whispered.
"Gargoyle females are not so fragile." A soft pleasure growl rumbled through his chest when Mary opened his belt. His talons made the button and zipper on her jeans impossible. He had ruined one pair early on when he became frustrated and since then Mary opened them herself.
"Please." Mary whispered. She nipped his ear and slid one hand inside the loosened loincloth. Mary knew that one of her small hands stroking his thick shaft would do nothing but tease him, she also knew that deep down, as much as she wanted him she was still anxious.
"Finish undressing." He grasped her wrist and got up, shedding his single garment in seconds. Mary hesitated with her back to him. She was often naked with him, but she very rarely removed anything but a robe and usually then she was already hidden by a blanket. He was behind her in several long, silent strides.
"I'm sorry." Mary said softly. He moved her hands aside and pushed her pants and panties down, she stepped out of them obediently and he held her close.
"No need for apologies." He kissed the side of her head softly and Mary relaxed against him, his shaft pressed against her back. A shiver of need wrapped in nervousness shot through her but when he pulled the covers back Mary took his hand and got in, drawing him in with her.
Mary relaxed as soon as he pulled the covers up around her shoulders. His lips found hers and his hands went back to exploring her body. Mary forgot about her nervousness as the reactions of her body took over. She pushed him over onto his back and began to stroke him with both hands, her head moving down underneath the covers, licking and sucking at as much of the head as possible. She had learned to take the flared head into her mouth, but was unable to take any more than that. The movements of her hands and the pressure of her thumbs on the underside of his massive shaft brought him very close. His gasping growls told her that. One hand pushed her head away and the other pulled her body back up. He pushed her legs open and held them there while his tongue explored. Mary arched her back and squirmed against the bed as his broad tongue attacked her dripping opening. She was shocked by the speed at which he brought her over the edge of pleasure. She arched her back and pressed against his mouth, holding onto his curling horns and rocking her hips against his mouth until the intensity of the sensation subsided.
When her grip relaxed, Aiden pulled away and moved over her, his lips finding first one nipple, then the other and then her lips. Mary's back arched under him, her body relaxed, her fingers tracing the muscles of his chest. One of his hands slid under her waist and she took a deep breath, expecting to feel him start to push inside her. She was surprised when he moved onto his back, pulling her over him.