Pre-Arranged Love Ch. 15byle_kitty©
I'm honestly not sure where to start. It's been way too long since I've posted and so much has happened. I hope you guys are well and if you've found this ch. I hope you find it an enjoyable read.
To Jim, my editor and dear friend, thank you. :)
I want to say a bit more... but feel free to skip onwards. For writers, it's always exciting for other people to read and enjoy their work, at least it's true for me but perhaps it's because I'm an amateur. At first the stories are written for ourselves but when readers become involved, it becomes a lot more.
So if you've ever voted, favourited, commented or left feedback... thank you!
Daybreak broke with chittering birds, the rising sun casting the landscape in a sea of waking colors accompanied only by the sharp taste of fresh air. I frowned, the dreaminess of being only half-conscious diffused. My eyelids fluttered as the last vestige of the dream-world faded and last night's events brought my mind to a state of full wakefulness. My breath hitched and I opened my eyes. The curtains had been pulled apart and the morning light shone into the cabin without abandon. Instinctively I reached up an arm to shy away from the sudden light my eyes had not yet adjusted to.
A soft gasp parted from my lips and I sat up abruptly. The sheet was already pooled around my navel and I turned to see Llewellyn seated in the chair by the bed, an easy smile playing on his lips. His hair was tousled slightly and the sunlight brought out the streaks of gold in it. The flush in his face hinted that he had been out already, his linen shirt parted in a V neck. Before I could carry on my observation he sat himself on the bed and proceeded to lean forward to kiss me. His hand came around the back of my neck, cupping me gently as his lips descended over mine... softly and with a sweetness I didn't think I had felt before.
My heart leapt. Opening my mouth to him I invited him in... enticing him... and his tongue darted across my lips to swirl against mine playfully. I wrapped my arms around him, circling his neck with every intention of pulling him back to bed with me. It was at that point Llewellyn broke the kiss, pulling away. Confusion swept over me and I looked up at him unable to understand his rejection.
"If we continue... I'm afraid I won't be able to stop," Llewellyn murmured.
I smiled, laughing a little as I leaned in to whisper, "But I don't desire you to stop."
A soft chuckle greeted my ears and Llewellyn brushed his fingers across my cheek, "A tempting offer my sweet Callie but the day is young, I would enjoy it with you before we return."
"Return..." I repeated his word, an uneasy feeling settling in the pit of my stomach.
Llewellyn brushed a strand of my hair behind my ear, "Shh... it will be alright Callie. Trust me." Llewellyn smiled as he got off the bed, "Breakfast is ready my lady."
I laughed, allowing Llewellyn's words to ease away my fear as I reached for the breeches discarded on the floor, only to have Llewellyn tug them away, "Not the breeches."
I looked up to find a strange expression on his face and fought back the urge to laugh. In a tone of amusement, "Then what am I to wear?"
A grin spread over his face, "Perhaps nothing?"
I stared at him before I realized he was quite serious. "No, hand me the breeches."
The mischief in his eyes gave him away and I made a lunge for the breeches only to have him pull them out of reach, his laughter spilling around me. An arm snaked around my waist and the impact pulled me against his chest. The sudden contact made my breath catch and I felt the light touch of his lips brush against the sensitive skin on my neck, trailing soft kisses towards my collarbone before he brought his lips to my ear, "But no one will see you here. Surely, you wouldn't deny me?"
I tried to remember how to breathe properly, "Please... Llewellyn..."
I felt the shudder on his breath, the tip of his nose running down my cheek and I arched my neck instinctually, no longer in control of my own volition.
"Llewellyn... stop..." I barely heard my own whisper.
"I don't want to let you go." His murmur whispered across my skin as his arm tightened its hold around me momentarily before he released me with a wistful sigh, "But you will find suitable garments in the closet."
I let out my own breath, not sure whether I was relieved or disappointed. Eyeing the closet I looked at him suspiciously before walking over to it, pulling it open only to gasp at the wide array of kirtles and corsets displayed before me. I spun around, accusing, "An entire wardrobe?"
Llewellyn spread his arms seemingly in a gesture of innocence, "I can promise you I had nothing to do with it, I suppose the Staffordshire servants thought it was necessary".
There was no denying the self-satisfying tone in his voice.
Giving him a final glare I resigned myself to my fate and briefly shifted through the numerous gowns and kirtles that the servants had seen fit to place at my disposal before pulling out a light emerald kirtle. Turning around I held it up, "I enjoy the color of this one. What do you think?"
Llewellyn came over to take the kirtle, "Anything that pleases my lady." He inclined his head with a smile dancing on his lips before he laid the kirtle on the bed.
I suppressed my laugh but Llewellyn compelled a smile out of me before I turned back to the closet, picking out a corset and a chemise.
As I placed them over the bed Llewellyn came up behind me, his arms snaking around me lightly, a husky quality to his voice, "Allow me to help you dress."
I laughed, memories of the first time he had dressed me coming to surface. Reaching up to wrap an arm around his neck I turned my face up to him, his lips to brush over mine before I murmured, "What shall I do for you in return then?"
Llewellyn sucked in a breath and I smiled at the rise I had coaxed out of him, "My sweet Callie, you have learned to play a dangerous game." A low husk and a smile accompanied the sound of his voice, "Very well, rest assured, I will collect payment."
Heat suffused my skin, pooling between my legs as I tried to keep my breathing steady. Llewellyn chuckled as though he knew what he had done to me and I pursed my lips, determined to win.
Shifting out of his embrace I reached for the chemise, turning around as I held it out to him, a coy smile on my lips, "I believe this garment is first in order."
Llewellyn inclined his head in mock courtesy as he accepted the garment. Wordless I pulled my arms up, allowing him to slip it over me, devious thoughts running through my mind and yet, the blatant brush of his thumb across my nipple as he pulled the garment down caught me completely unprepared. A chuckle greeted my gasp but Llewellyn was already turning me around, his lips brushing over an earlobe, "Now hand me that corset."
I reached forward to pick up the corset, desire coursing through me at his simple command; the thought of what he might and could do to me enough to make the warmth between my legs arch higher yet. I took a steadying breath and closed my eyes, focus...
The corset slipped from my fingers and Llewellyn carefully fitted it over me. I sucked in a breath as his fingers tightened the laces, brushing tantalizingly over my waist and lingering at moments longer than necessary. I smiled at the tease, arching a little to accommodate him but it was the feel of his lips dipping down my neck, his tongue darting across my skin in a soft caress that made me arch instinctively, leaving no question as to what state my desire was in. A moan slipped from my lips unbidden and Llewellyn chuckled.
I blushed furiously, realizing what Llewellyn had done.
"Yes love, be careful how you play with me." Llewellyn kissed the skin near my collarbone, his voice infused with the faintest trace of amusement before he murmured, "I think we can forgo the hoses today, so the next garment in order would be that kirtle."
Llewellyn slipped in front of me to pick up the light emerald kirtle. I raised my arms and he lowered it over my corset, dropping to his knees as he pulled it down over my hips, attaching it to the corset with the laces. At that point he gently grasped my hips, bringing his head against my abdomen. My lips parted in surprise as I realized what he was hoping to hear.
With a sigh he stood, "Callie... "
I pressed my fingers to his lips, unwilling to let reality intrude upon our moment, "Shh."
Llewellyn smiled and tugged me forward, "Come then."
His fingers brushed over my cheek, "You look lovely, my sweet Callie..."
I smiled at his endearment.
His eyes sparkled with a hint of mischief as he opened the cabin door, "And the day awaits us yet."
Laughter spilled from me as he pulled me forward, his hand warm against mine, gentle yet firm in its hold and somehow I knew he wouldn't let go. A strange feeling of warmth and giddiness spread through me and I picked up our pace, running as I knew how to run; alive with the intoxicating taste of freedom. The touch of grass beneath my feet brought back all the familiarity of the place and Llewellyn's warm laughter spilled around me as flashes of memory imprinted themselves in my mind and I took my own path down the green meadows to the clear lake as it kissed against the sandy shore.
Llewellyn's arms wrapped around me as I curled my toes into the warm sand, his chuckle bringing his breath whispering across my skin, "You certainly know how to run like the wind."
"Yes," I agreed cheerfully.
His throaty chuckle made me smile and we stayed that way for a few moments, content in the warmth of a lover's arms. I closed my eyes, basking in the delicious feeling of being where I was before Llewellyn's voice drifted through my thoughts, "Take a stroll with me."
His fingers curled through mine as we began walking. Stretched out before us were miles of the sandy shore as it followed the generous arc of the lake. Tranquility set in and we walked in silence, languidly as our feet sank into the sand. Yet despite the peace that had settled around us, my thoughts inevitably strayed to darker places as the events of recent days replayed themselves in my head.
The image of the man perched in the tree with his bow aimed at me drove itself through my head, his cry as Llewellyn's precisely shot arrow brought him tumbling down. And then what had happened? The men who answered to the Outlaw Prince had promised to investigate the matter... I frowned, their allegiance was no small matter... it would explain how Llewellyn had been able to find me. But if that was the case, then it would follow that Llewellyn knew the Prince. I turned it over, recalling the conversation between Llewellyn and Monsieur Pierre I had overhead in the library; that was the first mention of the Prince... the hooded figure flashed through my head and my eyes widened as the pieces clicked together. I stopped.
Llewellyn came to a stop beside me, turning to me as a questioning look preceded his question, "What's the matter?"
"Llewellyn..." I stared at him, the idea that this was impossible raced through my head, the clues I had not picked up before seemed obvious now, "You know the Prince."
It was a statement yet I needed him to confirm it.
Llewellyn's eyes widened and I watched as comprehension dawned. He jaw set, caution carefully covering his emotions as he replied, "Yes."
I took a deep breath, his answer wasn't a surprise yet some part of me was reeling. This had something to do with me and where I was concerned, the past followed close by on my heels, "Who is he?"
Time seemed to stop as Llewellyn met my gaze, penetrating, searching as though he needed to know I was okay. I could see the moment something in him shifted and his lips parted to whisper two very familiar words; "Alexandir Stafford."
Emotions washed over me and my head reeled, assaulted by a cacophony of feelings I had no words for. Shock? Elation? Anxiety? I tried to take in a breath, the stranger that I had come to know in my few scattered memories seemed to belong to somebody else, confined to a past that held no more substance than a dream, yet somewhere deep in my subconscious a girl cried, lost in the relief that her brother was not dead. My legs gave way and I slumped, a soft cry tearing unbidden from my lips.
Llewellyn's arms caught me before I could fall, "Callie..." His hand brushed gently through my hair, his voice soft, laced with the touch of his usual concern, "Callie?" I pressed my head against his chest feeling the rhythm of his heart, squeezing my eyes shut as the pounding in my own heart began to return to normal. Alex was alive...
"Come back to me love."
"I never... thought..." My voice cracked, hoarse and choked with emotions I hadn't even known existed, "I never thought he would be alive, I don't know what to think... I just --"
Llewellyn lifted my chin cutting off my words with a soft kiss before he pulled away, his voice firm, "That's enough Callie. Don't think that you must have certain thoughts to think. Without your previous memories, I imagine your feelings at this time are quite difficult to understand but I promise you, all will be well."
His lips pressed a kiss to my forehead, pulling away as his thumb trailed down my cheek, catching my lips briefly before dipping under my chin, I glanced up at him and he smiled wryly, "Now that you know the Prince is your brother, let us put it aside and enjoy the rest of what this day has to offer. Yes?"
I nodded, glancing away as I tucked my next question aside; I would have to find out later.
Llewellyn laughed as his fingers caught my chin, bringing my face back, "Ok, I've seen that look on your face before and judging from experience it's more trouble than it's worth."
He sighed, smiling with resignation, "I should know better than to think your barrel of questions would have expired. So tell me, what was on your mind."
His attentiveness made me smile and I chuckled even as heat crept up my neck, surprising myself that I would still blush under his attention, "It occurred to me that Alex should have known that my uncle was the culprit. It doesn't make sense that he hasn't revealed Uncle Devon for what he is and what he had done."
Llewellyn frowned, his eyes narrowing in thought, "I hadn't thought of that, but now that you mention it, you're right."
His demeanor changed and he looked at me with a troubled expression that hinted his sense of urgency, "We should return."
Ice coursed through me, laced with the bitter taste of fear at his sudden change in plan hinting that something may be wrong, "Is it not just a matter of asking Alex whether he had known?"
Llewellyn looked at me, a worried frown etched over his forehead, his gaze dark, "Yes... and no. If he had known, then I wonder if he had anything to do with your disappearance... also -- this matter rests uneasy on my mind and I think the sooner it is cleared the better it would be for us."
He ran a frustrated hand through his hair, "We need to return to Abercorn but it is a three day ride from here, perhaps two if we ride fast except I don't wish to put you through that pace."
My heart did a little stutter at his concern before I frowned, not liking the pedestal I had been placed on for delicate things.
"I can handle a fast two day ride."
Llewellyn cupped my cheeks, "I know Callie, but forgive me if I desire you and our unborn child to be safe."
My eyes widened and any clever comments that I might have had the wit to come up with disappeared on my lips.
The slightest of wry smiles crossed Llewellyn's expression, shadowed yet by his concern, "Lost for words, my sweet Callie?"
He reached for my hand, lacing his fingers through mine before continuing to walk, "I loathe the idea of leaving you but I can't send you back to Staffordshire. It seems the only option I have left is to send you to Alex."
Something in his words lit a candle of anger in me and I slid my hand out of his, "I am not a porcelain doll Llewellyn. Do not cart me off to my brother like a delicate possession."
I fumed, old feelings surfacing, "Is that what I am to you?"
Llewellyn looked at me, his expression taken aback yet when he spoke his tone was lightly laced with frustration, "No, Callie, you know that is not what I meant --"
"Then let me come with you!"
Llewellyn studied me intently and I watched as an intense array of contrasting emotions flickered across his features before he relented, his voice tight, "Very well, but you will remain within my sight or by God I will make sure you never set foot outside my estate again."
His tone held all the marks of severity and I arched an eyebrow, not entirely sure he was just bluffing.
He ran an agitated hand through his hair, "I am serious Callie. The fear of losing you is not pleasant."
For a moment I was stunned, had I really had affected him such?
"I won't leave your presence, I promise", I whispered softly.
Llewellyn's hand slipped through my hair, pulling me against his chest briefly before reaching for my hand, his fingers easily slipping through mine, "We should return to the cottage," he grimaced, "You need to don those god awful breeches again. Unfortunately I admit they make a good disguise."
I stared at him stunned before laughter spilled from me, clutching a hand to my waist as his expression soured further. There was something too raucously funny in that Llewellyn could still pout about what I would wear, given our current situation.
"Oh, laugh do you?"
Llewellyn tilted my chin, his blue eyes boring into mine, "We shall see how hard you can laugh when I have you back in Abercorn, safely ensconced in my arms, my sweet Callie, because you will be clothed in only as much as I desire."
His lips quirked slightly, a smile forming behind his dark expression as my mouth parted in surprise, "Oh."
My voice sounded husky by the time I had rearranged my thoughts and formulated an attempted snarky reply, "I suppose we shall see."
Llewellyn smiled good humouredly, "Of course."
~*~ Llewellyn had not been bluffing when he had indicated that it would be a hard two days ride. I slid from the saddle, grouchy from the saddle sores though determined yet not to voice a single sound of complaint. We had arrived at an inn and it would be another full day's ride before we reached Abercorn. I frowned.
Llewellyn dismounted and handed me the reins to Obrion with a soft murmur, "Don't be too long." It was my job to take the reins given my disguise as his squire.
I nodded before setting about tethering the horses to the post, watching as he strode past the courtyard and into the hall, the stiffness in his posture the only sign that he was displeased at having to walk away from me.
I finished tethering the horse Llewellyn had purchased for me in the event of making our guise more seemly and made my way into the hall. The sound of conversation being had was accompanied by the click of utensils; the smell of food and the subtle draft's of more unpleasant odors. I looked for Llewellyn, feeling out of place and irrationally worried that people would see a girl and not a squire.
I spied him at the end of the hall, presumable talking to innkeeper. He looked up, a small smile forming as he beckoned me over. The innkeeper glanced at me without particularly looking at me before handing Llewellyn a key, exchanging a few more words of nothing before walking away.
I fell in step beside Llewellyn as we ascended the stairs; silence our only guide before we found our room, "I've arranged for them to send up hot water and our meals."
I nodded, weariness washing over me as I slipped into the room. The door clicked shut behind me though I barely heard it, already drifting away on the semi-soft bed. Llewellyn slipped up behind me and I mumbled my appreciation as his hands slid over my back, kneading out tensions and my mind floated. It wasn't until a knock on the door startled me to wakefulness that I discovered Llewellyn had already dragged my breeches down and my shirt was halfway up my chest. I let out a mortified gasp as Llewellyn opened the door, half expecting the stranger to walk in and find me in my indecently clad state. After a terrifying moment Llewellyn turned back to me, his expression amused before he leaned down to pick up two big pails of steaming water, "Relax Callie, did you really think I'd let him come in to find you naked on the bed?"