True Pretenses: Deleted Scene #3

Ash sneaks through Lydia’s window in the dead of night. Rated NC-17. I am very fond of this scene, but it just took up too much space, and a friend convinced me that the country is much, much darker at night than I can imagine.

“Which room is yours?” he asked. She pointed readily to a darkened window.

“Does your maid sleep by you?”

She eyed him. “You won’t repeat this to anyone?”

It smote him, that she thought he might boast of his conquest. But why should she trust that he wouldn’t? “I swear I won’t,” he said soberly. “Not for anything.”

She glanced about, and then leaned towards him. “She sneaks out at night,” she whispered. “Between midnight and five, you’re almost certain to find me alone.”

It dawned on him that she had made him promise to protect her maid’s reputation, not her own. And a moment after that, it dawned on him she had invited him to sneak into her room at night, if he liked.

[sometime later]

Ash knew he shouldn’t go; there was still nearly a fortnight until the wedding, and the more times he did this, the more chance of being caught. Besides, it was cold and wet and he was bound to get colder and wetter scrambling over the wall that ran around her brother’s property. If she was thinking of changing her mind, she might not even let him in.

The reasons not to do it were all very neat and orderly in rows, but Ash swept them carelessly into his pocket and forgot about them. All his instincts told him she would let him in, and then she wouldn’t change her mind, because she wanted him.

The wall presented no difficulty; unlike a town wall, it was low and broad and more for show than anything else. The trick now was to not get shot as a poacher. He wasn’t too worried. He’d asked her about poachers, and listened to a mass of information about poaching laws, the local JPs, her father’s preference for hunting over shooting, the young men of the neighborhood who most resented not meeting the legal qualifications to shoot, and so on, from which he’d picked out that there were five gamekeepers, who mostly kept to the coverts, and three well-fed dogs, all of them notorious for barking at squirrels.

So he’d struck up a conversation with a gamekeeper who’d come to stir the pudding, and managed afterwards to be introduced to the dogs in question. Even if by some mischance he came across them, they would likely refrain from outright eating him.

Still, he made his way carefully, putting as many trees and hedges near his path as he could but walking without sneaking, hands in pockets, so that if someone were to catch a glimpse of him, they would take him for someone who had a perfect right to be there. It was past midnight when he came within sight of the house. The house was completely dark, but the lawn was flat and that was no guarantee no one was looking out a window. This was why there was so much less crib-cracking in the country: burgling in London, you had cover everywhere you turned.

There was nothing for it. He strode boldly across the grass to the window Miss Reeve had pointed out. It was barely a risk, but it was enough of one to raise his spirits rising and get his blood pumping.

He slid off his boots and overcoat and hid them under a hedge before stepping onto the thin strip of grass that ran between the house and the hedges. His stockings were immediately soaked, but it couldn’t be helped. She had left the shutters open, but the window was shut against the cold and so were her bed curtains.

He tapped ever so lightly at a pane of glass. Nothing. He did it again, and on the fourth time, the bed curtains swished aside and Miss Reeve’s face appeared in the gap. She smiled when she saw him. That was nice.

She ran an orderly household; the grooves were oiled and the window carefully painted. But a sash-window always had some warp, especially in wet weather—give Ash a good old-fashioned casement any day. The window rose jerkily but more or less silently until there was a two-foot gap, and there it stuck. She bit her lip. Ash grinned and motioned her back. This house might have been made to enter by the windows.

The basement rose several feet above ground-level, and the arched basement windows were covered in iron lattices and set into a wide, ridged ledge that ran under the ground-floor windows. Not only that, flat bas-relief columns rose from the ledge to flank each window. Even wet, the plinths made a decent handhold. He clambered up and went through the window feet-first, landing silently in the room. He quickly pulled off his stockings, dried his hands and feet with them, and set them on the sill so as not to leave wet footprints on her carpet.

She put her palm over his ear. He knew it must be ice. Immediately she began to tug at his coat. He pulled it off, and, very glad he’d chosen to wear drawers today, looked a request at her to remove his pantaloons too. They had a damp, dirty patch where he’d sat on the ledge, and were sure to mark her sheets. She hesitated a moment, and nodded. She waited for him to hide his things under the bed (in case any need of hiding there himself should arise) and crawl between the sheets before climbing in after him and pulling the curtains shut.

As a boy, Ash and his bedmate had huddled together like rats, hands in each other’s armpits. It had been wonderful on a cold night, but he didn’t imagine Miss Reeve would think much of it. No doubt the servants heated her bed with a warming-pan before she got in it. So he lay on his back and waited to warm up before touching her.

This was pretty splendid already: down bed, down pillow, down quilts. This bed was, without question, the softest, warmest place he’d ever been in his life. She’d been sleeping here before he woke her. Heat lingered in the fine linen sheets.

Her hand crept towards him. Ash thought she’d be embarrassed if she accidentally put it on anything sensitive, so he put out his hand to meet her.

She took it between both of hers, chafing it a little. Then she pulled and squirmed and before he knew it he was wrapped around her, her heat pressed all along his cold front and his hand pressed flat against her warm belly.

Ash’s heart swelled. Setting his other hand—the one no one ever knew what to do with when lying together spoon-fashion—under his own hip so it would be warm too when they moved on to other things, he poked his cold nose into the back of her neck.

She squirmed a little, huffing a laugh, and he kissed her with his cold lips. He got the edge of a ribbon, and with a few more kisses divined that she was wearing the malachite beads he’d bought her.

She’d worn them to bed. Was it sentiment, or had she worn them because she knew he might come and see them? Either possibility was wonderful. He was too happy to stay still and wait.

Lydia had never been so close to another person in her life—well, except for Jamie when he was a very small boy, and that was a long time ago and didn’t count. Mr. Cahill’s body surrounded her, the two rows of buttons on his waistcoat nestling on either side of her spine. Everywhere else, only two layers of linen separated them.

His hand moved. She held very still, not wanting to do anything that might discourage or distract him. He trailed his hand down her side until he reached her bare knee and slowly raised the hem of her night-dress by sliding his chilly hand back up her leg. She shivered, and he paused. No, that was a good shiver, she thought, but she couldn’t say it out loud. They had to be quiet.

The thought made her smile. She basked in an island of warmth in a cold room, an island of happiness in a sad house, a glorious secret in the dark.

Nodding, she put her hand over his and moved it up to her hip. She thought he would stop there, but he didn’t. He slid his hand up, tangled in her nightdress, until she had to turn onto her back and raise her arms for him to slip the linen off entirely. It was cold, but he pushed the counterpane back, raising himself on his elbow to look at her. She couldn’t see more than his face than his jawline and the darkness of his eyes, but she had spent enough time looking that she could fill in the details.

He dove for her and sucked at one of her nipples. His mouth was hot and his lips were still freezing. She gasped silently. Oh. Oh God. Probably she shouldn’t let him do this, but she was going to. She was going to let him do whatever he wanted because this was the most wonderful thing she’d ever felt. She spread her legs in mute appeal, and he put his hand there. I love your hands, she thought. I never knew I could love hands so much.

He pulled off with a tiny popping noise that was somehow a private joke between them. The air teased and tickled her as he left a cold-hot trail down her breastbone. His thumb rubbed her most sensitive place. She was going to spend already and it was too soon. She pushed his hand away and felt for the ends of his cravat. He helped her, his waistcoat and shirt and drawers following, tucked under the bed with his other clothes. He was naked, oh, he was naked, and it was even better than she had imagined. She rubbed her nose in the curly dark hair on his chest. She wanted to put her mouth absolutely everywhere, feel the texture of every part of him.

She gave him a shove, so that he sprawled broad and dark and inviting across her pale sheets. She rolled and rose above him on her knees. That put their—their parts—in close proximity. Could they…would they…?

“Pennyroyal?” he whispered, and she shook her head. He shrugged and grinned, a flash of white in the dark. Curving one hand around her waist, he tugged hard. She fell forward with a thump, her hands on either side of his face, her braids tickling his ears. He took himself in hand, and rubbed the tip of his male part right across her—her—she didn’t know its name but, oh God, it was all that existed in the world. Oh, oh please, please.

Her hips bucked and her eyes squeezed shut. His hands guided her up and down his shaft. She thought he shook beneath her, she felt his breath puffing in her ear, but she couldn’t think about him, couldn’t do anything but move desperately, focused on that one point of contact. How could his flesh feel so hard?

Scattered words rose to her lips and went unspoken: perfect, yes, thank you, oh—oh, thank you, now—she buried her face in his shoulder and mashed her hips down and shivered and quivered. Abandon, this was abandon, but she couldn’t even remember what she was abandoning. She clung as close to him as she could get as pleasure shook her out, ripped her apart at the seams, and pieced her back together with all her brightest, best parts facing out.

Rolling onto her back, she thought how beautiful the dark was, how absolutely lovely night-time was. Her inner walls contracted one last time, like a stray firecracker…no, not the last time, they did it again, and again half a minute later. Mr. Cahill breathed heavy and fast beside her. She turned her head to kiss his shoulder and then, driven by a mysterious but irresistible impulse, bit him lightly.

He laughed under his breath and whispered, “Handkerchief.” He leaned over the side of the bed to dig through his pockets, which afforded her a lovely view of his rounded backside. She wanted to reach out and squeeze. Why not? She did. He jumped, throwing her a laughing look over his shoulder.

It was dark and she was sated; she felt bold enough for anything. She put a hand on his shoulder and yanked him flat on his back, the bed curtains swinging shut. He bounced a little from the impact and lay obligingly spread out, arms wide, the dim outline of his male part bobbing. Oh, she wanted it inside her. Soon, she promised herself. It would be better to wait, anyway—if she bled, it would be too difficult to explain to the housemaids.

She leaned down and kissed his collarbone, explored his chest with her mouth and hands, thrust her tongue into his navel. He shook, his hips bucking against nothing. His hand rose and hovered for a moment before he laid it on her shoulder. His fingers twitched when she licked lightly down the line of hair on his stomach. His muscles flexed and contracted, and she smiled smugly as she teased him with kisses on the flat, smooth skin above the creases of his thighs. He thwacked her shoulder lightly, and she nipped his stomach in answer.

His breath shuddered, a silent groan. She wanted to make him wait longer, but she couldn’t wait herself. She wanted to know what it was like. She took his male part—oh, this was ridiculous, she knew the word. She took his cock in her hand, holding it steady.

“Handkerchief,” he gasped. She shook her head, her braids tickling his inner thigh. He shivered violently and nodded, “Yes, now, handker—”

She took the head of his cock in her mouth. His body arched like a strung bow. She had thought it would be stranger, even vaguely distasteful. It only tasted like skin—a little stronger, perhaps, with drops of salty, faintly bitter liquid at the tip. She moved her tongue side to side to taste it more fully, and he jumped, pushing farther into her mouth. His hand fell from her shoulder to fist in the quilt. She thought he was trying to hold still. That was probably a good idea, since she was a novice at this. She wondered if men thrust in and out of women’s mouths, using them as they would their channels. The idea made her nipples ache. When they were married—

How had everything she had to look forward to become when they were married? Well, she had better make the best of these six months. Lydia took him in as far as she could without fearing suffocation. It wasn’t very far, but he seemed satisfied—or rather, he made desperate little gasps that almost shaded into moans. Sliding her lips up and down, she rubbed her tongue against him.

His hand covered hers where it rested at the base of his cock. Even in his urgency he was careful not to crush her fingers. Only a few light strokes, and salty warmth pulsed into her mouth.

She nearly pulled off in surprise, but then he would laugh at her and say she should have let him get his handkerchief. So she clamped around him and held her breath until he seemed to be done. She swallowed cautiously. The taste was not unpleasant, but it lingered strangely. She would have liked a glass of wine to wash it away.

Mr. Cahill drew her up and kissed her, slower and calmer than she’d ever known him. He slid his tongue in her mouth, and she realized he wanted to taste himself there. He smiled, evidently terribly pleased about what she’d done.

For a brief, chilly moment she remembered her doubts that afternoon. Was he only proud that he had convinced a well-bred virgin to debase herself so far?

Did it matter? He kissed her forehead and rubbed her nipple lazily between his fingers, and she was hungry for him again. This lust was a crackling fire that would consume everything else if she let it: her pride, her principles, her—realizing she was alliterating, she laughed against his chest. He liked that. He always liked it when she laughed. She thought he liked her, and anyway she was too warm and comfortable to worry. He wrapped his arm around her and drew her in close.

“I have to go,” he whispered.

She went still.

“I’ll fall asleep if I stay.”

She knew he was right. This was enough of a risk as it was. She was glad he, at least, could be practical even in this moment.

She’d be glad in the morning, anyway. She held the counterpane to her chest and ran her fingers down his bare side one last time. He dressed quickly and gestured for her to open the window. Once on the ground, he pulled his overcoat and boots from beneath a hedge and set off, overcoat on but his boots under his arm until he judged it safe to put on. Oh, his feet would be wet, and his overcoat must be soaked. He shouldn’t have come. He would catch a chill, it could not possibly be worth it—

It had been worth it to him, though. It had been worth it to him to walk over an hour in the cold and dark and over an hour back in wet things, to spend that small space of time with her.

She left the window open a crack, to dissipate the scent of the things they had just been doing. After making sure as best she could that there was no sign of him left, she slid beneath her blankets and wished he could have stayed.

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