View Full Version : Waistcoats and Wainscotting ~BHM, Historical Romance

Xyantha Reborn
03-27-2016, 09:15 AM
The third instalment in the series

Book 1 - Cravats and Coat Tails (http://www.dimensionsmagazine.com/forums/showthread.php?t=83345&highlight=cravat)

Book 2 - Reticules and Retinues (http://www.dimensionsmagazine.com/forums/showthread.php?t=116490)

Chapter 1

The wooden door did not creak even faintly as his hand met the surface. It swung wide at the casual push, but was halted in the progress of crashing-to by an object half way through the other side. Kicking it slightly, Geoff frowned down at it blankly for a long moment, uncomprehending. It was a black riding boot. He did not recall leaving his boots out this morning. In fact – he leaned down slightly, eyes narrowing as he assessed the shape. In fact - that was not his boot at all!

The realization of the meaning – another man’s boot on his bedroom floor – caused him to jerk upright. His eyes felt wild, bulging in disbelief as they landed on the bed.

His bed.

Where his wife lay, entangled in the arms of another man.

The world spun as his fingers clenched around the door frame - half to hold himself upright, half to mollify the overwhelming urge to tighten them around the throat of the woman that the law and God had bound him to for life.

The other man was facing away from him, thrusting deep within her. Sounds of pleasure escaped from between clenched teeth, the lamps casting soft shadows over them both. His breeches were off, but his shirt was still half on. Slim arms were moulded against that tanned back, fingernails biting into the exposed flesh.

There was a small part within him that desperately hoped that approaching the bed would reveal something, anything, other than the truth. A maid, a stranger, anything. Approaching on shaking legs, Geoff stared on, aghast and disbelieving. His wife moaned and cried to the heavens, her legs wrapping around the other man’s waist to draw him deeper.

His wife, who had claimed she could not come to church due to her ‘cold’.

His wife, who had always refused to take him to her bed after their consummation.

His wife, who opened languid eyes and began giggling, then laughing. Apparently helpless to control her mirth, she leaned her head against the bed, laughing until she was gasping. The man above her looked rather disconcerted at this change in mood, but following his lover’s pointed finger over his shoulder, began to chuckle too.

The sound of their laughter raked against his skin. Stop it!

The laughter distorted, echoing, making him clasp his hands to both sides of his temple until he thought he would break it like a melon. STOP IT!

The constant humiliation, the continual breaches of basic trust and respect, the laughing…

They WOULD stop! He found a statue in his hand, raising it above his head and bringing it down on their laughing faces…

He awoke with a jolt, shoving his heavy torso upright to gasp in the cool night air.

That was not what had happened. That time, or the countless other times his wife had cuckolded him.

Never, in all their years of marriage, had he ever struck her with his hand, let alone beat her with another object. Why he always struck out at her in his dreams was something he could not fathom. And although he always woke up before, something deep in his ample gut told him that in those dreams, it was not just one strike by his hands. And although that had been but the first time, and his shock was as it had been at that time, the deep anger following was something that had arisen out of continual cruelty.

For some reason, his mind dwelled unmovably on her infidelity in his hours of slumber. A time meant for rest and peace had become a source of unbearable agony. It was uncommon for him to get even a handful of hours of sleep on a good night, and the constant exhaustion and haze had settled about him firmly.

Geoffrey’s gorge rose at the memory of his dream, so similar in all of its iterations, and he rolled over to sit on the side of his bed to brace his hands on his knees to hang his head. He would have rested his elbows on his knees and held his head, but there was a physical impediment in his lap. Wiping the back of his trembling hand across his mouth, the fat mangazed down at it and wondered how he could envision that hapless limb inflicting so much harm. That is not who I am, he desperately cast out, squeezing his eyes shut in despair.

People supposed guilt was a sign of pain. But, in truth, there was nothing so painful as having to bear a lack of guilt.

Guilt was, if nothing else, self fulfilling. You could wallow in it, martyr your soul to the cause, lash yourself to feeling better. But to feel nothing, when one should feel… that was something else entirely.

He should be sorry for his loss. He should mourn for his dearly departed wife, and pray for her safe arrival at the gates of heaven. God bless her soul, and all that.

The truth was, he revelled in his freedom by day, dreaming horrid scenes by night. He was glad she was dead, and although he bowed his head in proper contrition, his soul would not join in. All he could truly feel was relief, the removal of a painful burden.

Instead of feeling grief stricken, he was stricken with guilt at feeling nothing but relief at her passing. Freedom from a marriage not only loveless, but from a wife who cuckolded him. Who brought other men into the marriage bed, rather than tolerate the touch of his skin on hers.


“Good afternoon, Geoff.”

His old body seemed particularly cumbersome, and his head ached acutely. With the realization he was no longer alone, he pushed aside his cares with a firm mental sweep. With a slight turn of his head and a wide smile, Geoff acknowledged his guest. “Good morning. Or should I say afternoon.” Harry had retired for a nap to sleep off the remaining headache. “Are you ready to eat? I hope you can stomach something. It will do you good, after last night.”


Harry looked rather worse for wear, swaying slightly on his feet as he squinted. At least his guest looked more groggy then in pain. Some warm food and drink and he would be right as rain.

“Come on then, this way.” Proceeding the other into the private dining room, he seated himself. Under normal circumstances he avoided eating in front of others. Harry, he suspected, would not judge him. In fact, he would be willing to wager that his young friend had more than a typical passion for his lady’s plump form. There was a tendency, well hidden to casual observers, for Harry to follow each bite to her lips. If Geoff had not suspected it with Kitty, then had it confirmed with Raoul’s courtship of her, he might not have seen it himself.

Ah, Kitty…

It wasn’t often that Geoffrey found himself in deeper waters than he could handle, or had anticipated going. In that way, he supposed, he was rather like Clarice. However, his actions all those months ago at the engagement ceremony had come with many unexpected twists, turns, and entrapments.

Actions which, given events, he utterly regretted.

Not that he did not thoroughly enjoy the company of his new young friend, and he would be sore to lose him. But that loss would be nothing in comparison to the gain of a beautiful wife. A woman who he had held a deep and abiding affection for, for over a decade.

The little drowned rat he had scooped out of his pond had blossomed over the years, and her gentle beauty caused an ache deep in his chest every time she smiled up at her husband. That smile could have been his!

At first she had been a capricious little brat who bothered him with her constant shadowing. Even on his dark days, the man still felt a rueful twitch in his lips when he remembered Kitty trotting after him on errands. Her bright green eyes glinting as she told him he was the ‘handsomest’ boy she had ever seen.

Then a rangy filly of a girl, all knees and elbows with eyes too big for her face. She had grown more awkward then as society began leaning on her for proper behaviour. He had not had much time for her then, he admitted. He was too busy trying to find a wife – he had had no time to entertain his neighbour’s daughter.

A smile with no humour spread over his face, and he took a deep swallow from the cup in front of him. Little had he known that the wife he had been looking for was in front of his very eyes. If only he had waited just a few more years, this becoming, shy and glowing young woman would have been his. Kitty would be hanging on his arm, her hands caressing his skin.

If only he had been able to overlook the shape of their estate, to see beyond a heavy dowry. But then, he had been too young and not nearly worldly enough to realize what he was about. Fool.


Blinking, he transferred his gaze from the blinding morning rays on the wall to Harry’s worried face. “Beg pardon, I was lost in thought.”

The other man had it bad, the previous evening’s events aside. His face looked revenged, eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep. He had forgotten – or refused – to shave this morning, and the dark shadow along his jaw scraped the hand that rubbed it. “I am not particularly hungry…”

Geoffrey shrugged. “As you will. I for one am famished. After last night, I need some solid food in me.” Filling his plate with a modest portion of food. “You can watch me eat, if you prefer,” he chuckled. “I am sure I put on quite a show.”

Harry flushed and ran a hand through his hair. Those intense grey eyes settled for a moment on his stomach, and he seated himself abruptly.

It would have been foolish to be offended at the other man’s taking note of his bloated form. It was so unlike his own, and inherently obvious to the casual observer. “So. Dare I ask - what are your plans?”

“Plans?” the other man echoed, chasing an egg around his plate with his coffee spoon in a curiously childish gesture.

The grease on his lips was delicately dabbed away. “In regards to Miss Belltaunt, of course.”

Features darkening, Harry scowled. “I told you – I am through with her.”

“I see.” The clock above the mantel ticked away, filling the silence. Observing the other man, Geoff felt a surge of compassion for him. It was the same surge of compassion that had overtaken him as he watched the same expression of longing and pain on an almost identical face months before.

In their own ways the two brothers tempers, although unlike, shared many similarities. Harry, when happy, was all smiles and carefree. When sad, he turned dejected. Raoul’s temper was not nearly as steadily happy as his sibling’s, but when happy he overflowed with mirth and impish good humour. When vexed, it darkened into anger. Their volatility and obsession over the objects of their affection were eerily similar.

Ignoring the small part of his brain which prodded him, reminding him of the pain that his last ‘help’ had caused, he opened his mouth. “If those are indeed your plans… Why don’t you stay with me for a few days? I suspect it will be impossible to avoid seeing Clarice often if you are under the same roof as Kitty.”

Wide grey eyes rose to his face. “You do not have to – ” Gratitude and embarrassment warred in that face.

“Harry.” When he was sure he had his attention, Geoff smiled. It was soft, but made sure it held a gentle rebuke. “Kitty and I have always been good friends. You are making her crazy with worry for you, and tearing her apart with feeling she has to choose between her brother, and her friend. She has never had the opportunity to have a female friend of her own age. If nothing else, will you let me put her mind at ease by taking you off her hands for a few days? Besides, I quite enjoy your company. In fact, you will be doing me a service by staying and distracting me from my own thoughts.”

A deep exhale caused Harry’s shoulders to slump. “I would like that,” was the quiet admission as large hands played with his spoon. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” he responded before biting into the slice of ham.

The usual silence, awkward by its very nature, stole about them. It was the silence of two private men who had opened to each other in their drunk hours. Neither could fully remember what each had said, nor fully forget what the other had said. Subjects were reviewed and discarded as perhaps striking too close to a nerve laid bare by alcohol.

At last, Harry spoke. “Tell me – what was my sister like as a child?”

A deep chuckle slipped out. “A treasure, and an annoying little thing. Did either of us tell you how we met?”

The other man’s shoulder lifted in a vaguely depreciating manner; perhaps, but please go on.

“Our properties adjoined each other. I was already a boy grown by the time she was born. We had met, but the age difference meant our young social circles never truly crossed. I was also not much of one for foot races, riding, fishing, and the like.” Patting the side of his bulging stomach, Geoffrey laughed. “I was more of a sit in the window and read a book with a pastry type of boy. But I loved swimming after dark. When the sun had warmed the pond, and it felt all the warmer for the cool night air. Well, wouldn’t you know it, but one day the little neighbour girl was playing on my dock.”

Mobile lips twitched, and Harry chuckled himself as if envisioning it.

“Full of self righteousness, I was about to go give the little brat a piece of my mind and threaten her with telling her father…when she slipped. I don’t think I’ve ever been so terrified, or moved so fast in all my life.” The feeling of his stomach dropping to his knees as her pale form disappeared, and the air leaving his lungs in shock had been the only thing keeping him from crying out. “Everything worked out fine. Fished the little minx out…” Handsomest boy ever…

“How did you tell her parents? Or was it a secret?” Harry interrupted his thoughts.

“Eh? Oh. Told them she seemed to be sleepwalking. I had to get her dry of course - I couldn’t hide the incident itself. But the fact that it was not in fact sleepwalking was a secret between us for years. Of course, Katherine was even more obsessed with the water after that. I taught her to swim; more from fear of her drowning than affection I admit. I had nightmares about coming out of the house in the morning and finding her little body, face down in the water. Those lessons were a harder secret to keep, but the sleepwalking story continued to smooth over any little inconsistencies that might have gotten us caught.” And only increased her young hero worship.

The younger Nottingham cast a glance at him from under lowered lashes, but bit down on what he was going to say.

Geoff had a feeling he had admitted more of his affection than he had meant to last night, and tensed. Although they had the start of a promising friendship, all sorts of awkwardness might arise, given that Harry was her brother.

Instead, he cast about with his eyes in quest for a new vein of conversation. “And your wife, when did you meet her?”

The vision of her laughing at him from under the other man flashed through his mind. “I met her at twenty three. Our estate was in a rough way. I married for money.” It came out more brusquely than he intended, and he cleared his throat, adding, “Not an uncommon thing, I think.”

“Indeed not,” Harry murmured.

Again, an uneasy silence followed. One should not speak ill of the dead. Feeling it incumbent to start the next tract of conversation, Geoffrey smiled, tilting his head. “And you – what do you think of your sister?”

True affection suffused his eyes, and Harry grinned. “I love her. I may not have known her long, but I love her.”

The truth of the emotion recommended the other man to Geoffrey even more. “She and Raoul seemed like they hit it off quite strongly. I am surprised he is not here with her. Why did you come back to town with her?”

Face too still, body unnaturally stiff, the other man gave a strained chuckle. “It was high time I found a wife.”

Geoffrey generously buttered his bread, studiously examining the creamy texture, as if abruptly fascinated by the commonplace item.

Now fumbling slightly, Harry spoke again. “And Raoul had business to attend to.”

A small nod, and another studious study of the butter. At times, it was better to not speak, than to speak to gain information.

“Family business,” Harry managed eventually, halting his disjointed mumbling by putting his cup to his lips.

The buttered bread tasted heavenly, dulling the rotting sensation in his gut caused by over imbibing.

“With our Aunt.” Exhaling sharply, he inhaled again, looking relieved to have spoken the words out loud. As if relieving himself from the burden of secrecy. “Kitty does not know,” he added.

A secret. Feeling his brow arch in interest, he bit into his bread again. “Well, I hope he resolves it speedily. Kitty misses him fiercely, I am sure.”

The inoffensive square of cloth on his lap was again creased and folded as the other fiddled. “He is coming,” he admitted.

“And yet you do not seem particularly happy about it,” his host observed over the rim of the coffee cup.

“Things between us have never run particularly smoothly…Kitty has helped repair some of the damage…” Again, that grin tugged at his lips. “She knocks our heads together every time we quarrel. I swear, between her and Martha we are kept well in line…” After a few more moments of silence, and resuming chasing his egg, he spoke again. “He wants me to marry for money.”

Clarice has money. And you love her.

The words were utterly unspoken, but Harry raise his eyes and flashed a warning look as if they had been.

Carefully not-smiling, Geoffrey raised his cup to his lips again.

“Geoffrey.” There was a tone of warning, and of exasperation in that one word.

“Harry,” he acknowledged, biting his tongue to keep from chortling at the other’s growing agitation.

The younger man seemed to be struggling to supress a smile of his own “Stop it.”

All innocence - “Stop what?”


Now wounded innocence. “But I have not said a word!”

His glare faded into soft laughter, and Harry scrubbed his face with both hands, groaning. “How can you be so blasted cheery all the damn time!”

03-27-2016, 05:43 PM
I literally gasped out loud when I saw that you'd posted this. I'm SO EXCITED!

03-28-2016, 04:38 AM

I've been waiting for Geoffrey's story and perspective ever since he first appeared!

Xyantha Reborn
03-28-2016, 07:50 PM
*stares patheticaly at her typo of "romance" in the thread title* agouderia...can you fix that? It is going to bother me like crazy haha

03-29-2016, 01:39 AM
*stares patheticaly at her typo of "romance" in the thread title* agouderia...can you fix that? It is going to bother me like crazy haha

Fixed! :)

I didn't notice the typo myself though.
First of all I was so thrilled to find the new story about Geoff to pay too much attention to format.
And from my reading it also made perfect sense: "Romane" means 'novels' in German, so as it is the third novel of your series - my brain just signaled 'makes sense'.....

03-29-2016, 06:19 AM
I finished that first part then found myself gasping for breath -- apparently I'd been half holding my breath through that conversation!

I'm having a hard time keeping an appropriate work-face on at the moment, I just feel like grinning madly that this part has gotten off to such a tantalizing start :)

04-03-2016, 11:54 PM
ohhh yesss <3 <3

04-15-2016, 12:46 PM
I think I was excited for this before you even posted it - and now I want MOAR! ;)

Xyantha Reborn
04-24-2016, 01:55 PM
Chapter 2

The dough beneath her hands was losing the formerly grainy texture and beginning to become smooth and pliant. The colour is beginning to lighten as well, Margaret noted with abstracted satisfaction.

There was something particularly soothing in making bread. Something that absorbed the attention, focusing all the sounds and noises into one little ball. The feeling of the flour slowly combining, changing from disparate ingredients into a cohesive and uniform mass never ceased to fascinate her, just as the act never seemed to fail in soothing. Something about the soft texture numbed the constant grating on her nerves.

“Thank you,” she murmured to the footman without raising her eyes. The man did not pause in the motion of scooping up the little puffs of flavour, simply turning and bearing them silently upstairs. The response was belated; he was already out of the room, but murmured an acknowledgement as he ascended the stairs. Working with him was not so bad, Margaret reflected, peering after him. He was a taciturn fellow, and seemed to find speaking unnecessarily as wearying as she did herself. He also had a way of keeping out of her way that avoided causing her any undue stress. He never loitered in the kitchen, merely sweeping in and out.

Setting the dough aside to rise, the heiress turned her attention - along with her flour covered hands - to the next task. Everything in the kitchen was clean and orderly. The jars were arranged just so, and everything was appropriately labelled and positioned. Taking the chicken out, she began the task of running her hands over the damp skin, searching for any little pricks of feather that may have been missed. Light pink, pebbled skin moved under her palms, and –

A sound behind her caused her to turn - the man had returned. There was no point in troubling herself about his name, he would be gone soon enough. “What is it?” she frowned, wondering if the pastry had needed to cook for longer. They certainly had not been burned. The way he was standing in the doorway caused her anxiety to rise, and she shifted, trying to avoid demanding he step aside.

“There was a gentleman in the room with them,” he announced. “I could not catch an eye to see if it was appropriate to serve at that time. I do not know if they want the infamous Raoul Nottingham to stay,” he muttered by way of explanation.

Now intrigued, Margaret finished washing her hands and wiped her them on a cloth, all the while peering at him. “Raoul Nottingham.”


Martha had spoken fondly of her master, speaking with not just the pride of a servant, but almost the affection of a mother. In fact, she had spoken of him so often and so clearly, Margaret felt oddly compelled to greet him. It was an unusual emotion, and took her by surprise. Well, he practically was Martha’s boy.

Untying her apron, she brushed her hands over herself quickly to loosen any settled flour. “Give the tray here.” Another reason she liked this particular chap was that he never argued with her. Instead, he simply placed the tray in her hands and stepped aside to clear the way for her to exit the kitchen.

Overcome with curiosity, Margaret stole up the stairs, careful to twitch her skirts out of the way as she ascended. As usual, the transition from servants’ hall to the main floor came with a shocking rush of sensation; the air smelled of books and street, of marble and sweat, of carpet and wood. The sound, when she pushed open the door, was unnervingly loud and close, but a deep and unfamiliar laugh drew her forward.

As the door swung closed, cutting her off from her sanctuary, she swallowed, fingers tightening on the tray. Peering into the mirror against the opposite wall, she saw the back of wide, dark form. Steeling herself, she turned and stepped sharply into the room.

“Of course, that is what I said – ” Movement swirled around as someone twirled in place

Fabric rustled, and someone was half-heartedly humming a tune.

“Have you been to the park this week?”

Several things clinked, people pressed near her.

“Yes – ”

“I, ”

The things on the tray chattered along with her teeth as she realized that they had closed about her, and that there was no direct route back to the door. This had been a bad idea – she had just been so curious!

“Clarice -rung for refreshments?”

“Of course – ”

“- take a turn yesterday – ”

Shame rose up at her own incapability. Both her mother and father simply could not comprehend how overwhelming even family parties could be, let alone society. She was so blinded with sudden terror that she almost walked right into that broad, dark back she had seen in the reflection. Jumping back with a muffled shriek, Margaret felt her eyes flash up to his face. Any irritation one might have felt must have been allayed somewhat, as he began apologizing.

Oddly enough, Margaret found him rather soothing. Despite his height and breadth, he seemed oddly amenable. Something about the way he positioned his body when speaking to her almost cut the rest of the room off. And unlike others who spoke to her while turning away, this man faced her when speaking. Rather than feeling connected and disconnected from one word to the next as the object of her scrutiny turned it’s head about, speaking to the air and even turning away, Raoul stayed completely focused on her.

Those grey eyes fastened on hers, examining her features intently. His words were projected and pitched for her ears alone, and when she murmured an acceptance, he averted his eyes just enough that the stare was not intimidating.

His averted gaze suddenly seemed to drop to the tray in her hands. “Oh my,” Raoul suddenly groaned, bending over.

She was so unusually focused on him, she could see his throat move as he swallowed, pupils dilating, his nostrils greedily sucking in the smell. As he deeply inhaled, his stomach pushed out, then deflated as he exhaled.

Something shivered within her, and she found herself growing unaccountably warm. He was exactly like Martha had described, if more rounded. Dark eyebrows slashed over grey eyes, and a strong nose, mouth, and chin finished off the look. That look might have been stern, except that those brows were slightly raised in excitement, eyes wide and tongue protruding from the corner like a school boy. “I made these,” she told him, feeling pleased that he seemed so captivated by them.

Raoul Nottingham mumbled something indistinctly, glancing at something to his side before turning back with a torn expression. “Did you?”

“Yes.” Suddenly recalling that he might not know who she was, she added, “I am Margaret.”

His lips curved in a big smile, eyes still on hers. “And I am Raoul Nottingham.”

“I know.” Clarice faded into her peripheral vision – she could tell by the hair and width. It filled her with impatience to be gone, and she raised the tray slightly. If she stayed, Clarice was sure to begin to try and talk to her, and the thought filled her with aversion. “Take one.”

It took another moment of rapid glancing before he made his selection, but when he did, the man’s reaction riveted the eldest Belltauntchild to the spot, an odd sort of flutter going off in her stomach as something clenched within her. After winking at her, he slid the morsel in his mouth, a deep groan of satisfaction reverberating deep within his chest as he held the food on his palate, eyes fluttering in ecstasy.

Just as Margaret was about to make her escape, her father spoke at her elbow. “Don’t forget to offer this to the rest of the guests,” he rebuked.

Hitching a shoulder against the unwelcome intrusion, Margaret nodded. If she disappointed Papa now he would come downstairs later and invade her sanctuary to rebuke her. Moving quickly, she proffered the tray and avoided their eyes as much as possible. Conversation was beginning to pick up again, making her head buzz and nerves rattle.

Martha’s boy – man, really – had been tracking her progress with a hungry look in his eye. When she slipped by, a large hand darted forward to expertly snag another morsel. Face feeling tight, Margaret finally escaped to the hall, learning on the wall to gather her breath and energy.

Paulina’s voice said something, but Margaret could not quite make it out. Whatever it was, it seemed to displease Raoul, for he bit out, “I fear that our opinions differ greatly here. For my own part, I have the utmost respect for my cook, who was also my nursemaid, and has been the most loyal friend by family has ever had. I would do anything for her.”

True. And Martha would do anything for him. But what had brought this up?

“And Margaret is out sister, not a servant.” Clarice said, apparently explaining.

Ah, then. It had been about her. Vexed, Margaret rolled her eyes. She had not wanted Raoul to think badly of her, but he had sounded angry about something…had she done something to displease him?

“And she seems lovely,” Raoul interrupted her thoughts. Glancing up, she caught his penetrating eyes meeting hers through the reflection of the mirror, and he gave another one of those wide, saucy winks. His right hand unconsciously rested on the side of his stomach.

Unexplained heat rose to her face, and she fled back to her kitchen. Comforting closeness and the smell of fire greeted her, the unpainted walls a glaring contrast to the opulence on the other side of the swinging door.

The footman glanced up when she entered. “And – what is he like?”

“He is Raoul.” Martha had assured her that she would like him, should they ever meet. And from that, Margaret was not inclined to disagree.

“You refuse to leave the kitchen on most days, and even refuse to eat with the family. You hate strangers, and yet the minute you hear one of the biggest Rakehells is in the drawing room, you dart up? You are an odd one.” the man observed. “You do know that, yes?”

It was time to prepare the dough for another rise. Perhaps she could make another loaf of bread. Even if the family did not eat it, she could always take it to the poor kitchen. Yes, making a loaf of bread was exactly what she needed to calm her nerves and cool her still hot face. “Yes. I know that,” she murmured, mind already elsewhere.

That was where she had seen Katherine! It had tickled at the back of her mind for days now. Of course...

Xyantha Reborn
04-24-2016, 02:01 PM
You may notice some inconsistencies...bide your time..they will be explained ;)

Xyantha Reborn
04-25-2016, 06:38 PM
Chapter 3

He could feel his eyebrows attempting to crawl into his hairline, and it took a concerted effort to keep them steady.

When Raoul Nottingham had first made his reappearance back into society, he had been lean. Not as lean as Harry, but thick shoulders and arms heavy with muscle had flared out above a hard, if not slight, waist. After he began seducing – Geoffrey was not fool enough to use the word courting, even in his own mind – Kitty, he had softened noticeably. By the time they were married, the man had a distinctive pot forming.

Young ladies had giggled, some vindictively celebrating his loss of form as he took firm steps towards marriage. Others shook their head at the loss of so fine a figure. It had only been a few months since he had seen the man, but he had certainly…blossomed.

No stranger to the ways of overindulgence himself, Geoffrey’s eye judiciously noted the most recent additions, understanding the amount of hedonism required to puff up so significantly in so short a period of time. His arms, once straining the fabric with muscle, seemed now to fill them with fat as well. His legs too, appeared thicker and softer. But the most noticeably differences were the now clear double chin, rounded cheeks, and distended stomach. It was still nothing compared to Geoff’s own rolling belly, but it was still a belly.

Raoul noticed his look of scrutiny just as he bit into a mouthful. Cheeks flooding with red, he coughed delicately. A momentary pause gave way to a shoulder hike and a continuation of his meal, however.

Not being one to either harp on another or to pretend to be blind, Geoff merely commented how married life agreed with him. For it was true. Besides the bursting seams, he looked enormously content, his eyes softening along with his waist.

Beyond any rapid physical changes that Raoul Nottingham had undergone, simply watching the two brothers was proving to be an interesting subject.

Harry appeared to be as vibrant as his brother. Although his disposition appeared to be more naturally happy, he seemed firmly under the thrall of depression of spirits. Or, rather under the thrall of a certain one, Clarice Belltaunt. The only reason the young man seemed to be shaking it off at all was his brother’s presence. They seemed to relentlessly and unconsciously jockey for position, taking little swipes and snips at each other.

“Well this is awkward,” he murmured at last, unsure how the two were to back down from the precipice that they had put themselves onto. Both men’s normally swarthy features had reddened, and their large fists were clenching, eyes flashing lightening across the table. Not that he could blame the emotion in Raoul. Having experienced the pain of having your woman cheat another man…it was agonies. Let alone your brother stealing your woman. So why Harry appeared so incensed was something he was less able to comprehend.

Prior to Raoul’s interest in Kitty, Geoffrey had not been more than introduced in passing to the elder, and had never met the younger. Of course, he had seen and heard of the darker side of the older sibling, whose quick temper had landed him in fights, even as his quick wits landed him in bed with the fairer sex. That side had been diametrically opposed to his behaviour when he had come back to down and began pursuing his now wife. And here was yet another facet; adoring and doting as he spoke of his wife.

It stuck in his craw…just a bit. Having never experienced even the glazing of the joy the other expressed, Geoffrey could only nod and smile as if he did understand, all while the other dwelled on his wife’s beauty, intelligence, and the joy of having her as part of his life. There was a knot of something green and sinister deep within his chest, a knot he struggled to shove deeper.

“Congratulations – I mean, condolences on your loss,” Raoul chuckled at last, raising his cup in a toast.

The laugh that bubbled up was impossible to supress. Even Kitty had handled the subject with delicacy. But instead of feeling incensed, or offended, Geoffrey felt a tightness in his chest release. When Raoul leaned across the table to grip his forearm, the other sent him a look of such deep understanding that heat rose up. There was no avoiding the fact that Raoul, at least, was highly aware of Martha’s infidelities.

Of course, perhaps Raoul had been yet another that Martha had tupped. Peering into dark grey eyes, Geoff tried to discern if that was the case, but guilt or even awareness was absent.

Harry was casting an odd glance between them, but Raoul ignored his pointed interest, leaning back and sipping at his drink. For his own part, Geoffrey found himself unable to speak for a moment.

Raoul seemed to sense it, for he immediately turned the conversation to their Aunt.

Beyond any byplay, this was news to Geoff, and he found himself listening with keen attention as they discussed her apparently fraudulent activities and the poor funding of their estate. Wide jaws bunched at the sides as the brothers ground their teeth in unison.

It was impossible to fully suppress his unease. Mainly because it was impossible to set aside the part he had played in Katherine’s marriage. It had seemed a good match, all things considered. But to learn of the hard times they were under… What had he gotten Katherine into? Had his intervention been the cause of locking her into a marriage without material comforts?

But, as his own marriage had proved, material comforts were not the be all and end all.

Conflicting emotions rioted as his eyes swung between the two. On account of Kitty, he wanted to back up Raoul’s clearly sensible plan of a quick marriage to Clarice. After all, he did adore her. But then, he admitted as his eyes swung to the haggard face of the other, material comforts were not the be all and end all. As his own marriage had proven. For as much as Harry seemed to adore Clarice, she did not seem to return his fascination, and a loveless marriage was not something Geoff could not, in good consciousness, recommend to anyone.

Harry’s nostrils finally flared, his lip curling in clear derision at the thought. “All I am saying is; do not throw that pressure on me, simply because you didn’t want to fulfil it yourself.” Seeming to feel the other’s smile, he demanded, “What?”

“I respect you,” the fat man murmured after a moment of thoroughly choosing his words. “I admit that I married for wealth and connections. It was the worst decision I have ever made. Yes, I was able to buy more and I was invited to bigger events. I got the reward I was seeking. And yet, I would give nearly anything to exchange those years of hell.” Fighting the urge to smile, he somberly nodded in commiseration of the other’s sentiment. “Money is trouble. You are right. Don’t marry Clarice.”

Both men must into laughter as Harry automatically corrected him, confessing his wish to marry her – if she would have him. The youngest of the three turned scarlet and cast an accusatory glance at them both, mumbling into his drink.

What a strange family.


“Geoffrey!” Kitty’s soft, glad voice cried softly from his elbow.

It was impossible not to return some of the innate happiness that shone in her green eyes. Those upturned eyes that still seemed so kind... “Kitty, dear. How are you this evening?” His chest seemed to tighten, and his eyes sting at the reminder that she was farther from him than ever.

Twining her arm around his and allowing it to rest firmly against his plump side, she patted his forearm with her other hand. “Geoffrey, dear - he is driving me mad.”

Unwilling to hazard the fifty-fifty guess between her husband and her brother, Geoff contented himself with an “Oh?” and a raised brow.

“Harry is just a tangled mess right now, is he not?” she queried softly, even as her eyes found him, leaning against the wall with a darkly introspective countenance.

Dancers swirled about to their left, and Geoff found himself stiffening in his breeches as Katherine inadvertently pressed into him to avoid the crowd. “He is indeed,” was the abstracted response he was finally able to articulate.
“I do not know what to do,” she finally admitted, heaving a heavy sigh that had her bountiful breasts straining.
Clarice was surrounded by her retinue, dimpling and laughing. Tapping a gentleman on the forearm with her fan, smiling coyly. One would have taken her to be completely ignorant, or at least uncaring, of Harry’s attention. Except that one had watched her carefully since his friendship with Harry had begun to blossom. And whenever she thought herself alone and unwatched, her gaze would turn, cheeks turning pink as she nibbled on her lower lip.

Unlike Harry, who was a recent acquaintance, Geoffrey had known Clarice long enough to understand some of her more minute mannerisms. Although not giving Harry a great deal of encouragement, she did not treat him as she did her other suitors. The man seemed to stimulate her almost to piquancy, and yet draw her attention back again and again. Transferring his attention back to his partner, Geoffrey smiled. “And what do you think we should do about it?”

The look she cast up spoke volumes. “They are both being such…block heads! No, do not laugh, it is true! I do not understand them. Clarice most of all. I can see the same sort of love Raoul has for me in the way that Harry looks at her. And I swear that she likes him…” Trailing off, she pursed her plump lips and cast a gaze of frustration across the floor at her friend.

“Not every woman is in the position you were in.” At her flash of surprise, almost looking nettled, he continued. “You were on the market, looking for a husband. So when your perfect mate – ” Shut up, he warned himself, sipping to cover the pause “Came along, you had but to accept his advances. I think you forget that Clarice is not in that position.”

Now pouting, she turned her face away in displeasure. “I had not forgotten it. Clarice had said something similar. But if that is true, why does she act this way? I am beginning to love her dearly, but I feel sometimes as if I do not know her at all!”

Harry had pushed away from the wall, stalking across the floor. Clarice paused in her conversation, eyes tracking his strong back.

“Clarice Belltaunt is more than just a woman,” he murmured closer to her ear, smiling to cover his serious words. “She is the right hand man of a very, very rich man, and an heiress. She has liberty, power, and the trust to wield her judgement. Not to mention that she is intelligent, well learned, and considers herself an equal to any man.”

“Do you think she is pretty?”

The question clearly caught him off guard, for he rocked back on his heels with a blink. “Oh, yes, of course she is. And even if I did not think so, it is clear that Harry thinks she is.” Reaching out, he gently pressed her fingernail away from her teeth. “And I have not seen you do that particular vice in many years.”

She looked sheepish, then laughed. It was followed by a sigh. “I miss those days.”

The days where you used to run across the field to me in your little dress? The afternoons you spent laying in the grass at my feet as I read? The evenings we spent as I held you safe as you explored the water? “Dwelling on the past is never healthy. And besides; your future is so much brighter. You have a husband now.”

At the mere mention, her lips curled up and her glance strayed to her husband. “I never got an opportunity to thank you properly,” she murmured as she turned back to him. “Raoul told me how you helped breach the wall of protectors so that he could make his proposals…”

That same bitterness rose up, and swallowing it down, he kissed her hand. “I could not do less for you, dearest.”

Jittering her foot in a nervous display of energy, she ground her little teeth. “I want to assist Harry in the same way! I want it with all my heart!

“Some things are best left to take their natural course,” he murmured.

So why he was once again playing intermediary was beyond him.

The plump woman had a particularly sour expression on her face. It appeared Harry had directly rebuffed her. Clarice had not only the pride of a female, she had all the pride of a male, and Geoffrey would no sooner call her on her conquest than he would any other man. Nodding to the wine in her hand, he raised a brow. “It appears that the wine has soured somewhat – is it bitter?”

Daggers darted his way, but her lips gave a telltale tug. “Yes – it is the wine,” she responded dryly. “I was just watching Harry dance; I was not aware that he was such a good dancer.”

It was not often that Geoffrey found himself speaking to someone who could double entendre and verbally repartee as well as Clarice, and he mentally applauded her ability to both acknowledge his tap and snap out her own admission so subtly. When he expressed his surprise at her ignorance, considering the number of times Harry had asked her, her lips thinned in a clearly supressed smile.

But she appeared tired. More than just fagged, a sort of weariness hung about her, as if suffering from some ailment. Fetching her a chair despite her protests, he eyed her. Kitty was not wrong; the woman was pretty. Large eyes with a dark penciling of eyelashes. Expressive brows…but although each feature was excellent, it combined to make a face as interesting as it was pretty. And she was rather more plump than his own tastes ran.

Bringing up the subject of how much he owed to her brought up all the humiliation of the past, despite her quick and unequivocal request to cease mentioning it. Even if they both never spoke of it again, how was it possible he could forget it?

Even as he thought it, his own motives became clear to him. As much as he adored Kitty and liked her brother, his true allegiance must lie with the woman who had saved his reputation and his financial future. What did Clarice want?

Several probing questions caused her to rear back in surprise. “So, you are another who says to marry for love?”

For some reason, Kitty rather encompassed his notion of a loving wife. Imagining Clarice in that capacity was oddly jarring. “No – but where money is no object, marry for mutual affection and respect.”

“But it is an object,” she admitted after snapping her fan briskly.

And Harry had been right! Geoff mentally tipped his hat to the man, rather surprised.

“I will not marry her for her money,” Harry had snapped on multiple occasions. “She would hate me for it!”

Personally, Geoffrey had never given it much credence; this was the woman who had put down a great deal of money just to reverse a disaster that would have destroyed him – with no provocation, and no ask of anything in return. The idea of Clarice being unwilling to have her own funds, for her future family’s estate, had seemed ludicrous. But apparently, Harry had been right.

Opening up his mouth to tell her of Harry’s good qualities, including his refusal to even consider her financial state as a benefit, he was overridden by the brother shamelessly interjecting himself in the conversation. Frustrated, he clamped his mouth shut, wondering again why he had tied himself up so closely in a family whose affairs had absolutely nothing to do with him.

Xyantha Reborn
05-01-2016, 03:43 PM
Chapter 4

He had never felt generally joyful, but his spirits were particularly depressed tonight. Perhaps it was Katherine’s husband, come back and recapturing his wife’s undivided attention. Or mayhap it was Harry, brooding about. Or, most likely, it was the fact that he was utterly alone.

Coming home late, he stared up at the dark façade for a moment before entering. After slipping off his coat and removing his hat, he had stared up the staircase with a feeling of dread. She is not here, he had reminded himself. He had not been beyond this foyer for some time, and it felt odd to be in his own house once more. Tentatively stepping past the threshold, he reacquainted himself with the layout and features of his own rooms. The old rug had been removed for a garish design, but the furniture was still the same. He could still remember sitting on that blue chair when he first brought his wife home.

Never beautiful, but at least less acidic, Martha had gazed at him with a sort of resigned disgust as he seated himself. Her pinched features had tightened, a momentary spasm crossing her features. Approaching the faded fabric, Geoffrey gingerly lowered his ass down, only to realize there was not room for his overly substaintial person. A low chuckle broke out from his throat as he tried to reverse his motions, succeeding in freeing himself after a brief struggle.

His brow knit for a moment as he turned to view the rest of the room. Whatever was depressing him so, it certainly was not his empty house. Even now, he often cringed in anticipation of Martha’s loud and indignant squawks, or her venomous hisses as she abused the people she had seen that evening. Making with his usual slow deliberation towards the stairs, he let his hand rest on the railing.

A candle was proffered. “Would you like anything else?”

The third stair still creaked, and he pressed his foot into it several times before responding. “No, that will be all, thank you.”

“Very good.”

In order to lift one thick leg up the stair, he had to shift his weight and belly over to the side, then do the opposite to raise the other leg. That big growled with far more hunger than something so well fed should have been able to produce. The aggressive sound was born out of several weeks of low intake. It was not that he purposefully set out to eat less, but Geoffrey generally found his appetite muted. Even if he did set out to eat, he more often caught himself staring into space than finishing the last mouthful.

Pausing a moment on the landing, he took several steadying breaths before continuing. Perhaps it would have been better to bring Harry, in daylight, he reflected as long shadows grew and died by the light of the candle in his hand. But tonight he was doing his friend a turn. A favour that would involve a certain amount of discomfort on his own side, and he needed to remind himself of…things.

The door opened under his gentle push, just like in his dreams. There, however, the similarity ended. No sexual depravity was being enacted on his bed. No humiliation awaited, only silence and memories.

The room was still, silent, and rather stuffy. One of Martha’s dressed still hung, ready to be worn. Her cosmetics and scents still crowded the little table with the mirror. Everything about the scene announced that she would fly in, berating him, at any moment. Yet, his rational mind knew she had passed on. He had watched her paroxysms, standing by her as the physician was fetched. She had been feeling ill all morning, complaining of fatigue and stomach pain. By the time she tried to rise from poking at her meal, her face was pale, and she was wheezing in agony. Even so, she had given him such looks of hatred, almost as if the devil possessed her, when he tried to help or offer water.

“Given how vivid my dreams have been lately, I almost feel as if I am tempting ghosts,” Geoff murmured as he edged further into the room. Her contorted face, full of rage, flashed through his mind just as a lone draft caught his candle. It danced wildly before winking out. “Balls,” he yelped, heart in his throat. Having a healthy dose of the superstitious, he backed out of the room by feel, groping the door shut and hurrying down the hall as soon as he could.

“That is it. I am selling, selling, selling,” he repeated rapidly as he descended the stairs far more rapidly than usual. Setting the metal on the table, he did not wait to put on his jacket. Simply clapping his hat on his head, he let himself out with his coat still over his arm.

When he arrived at the doors to the whorehouse, he saw Harry leaning against the wall, looking dark and furious. “I still think this is a damn terrible idea,” he announced without preamble.

The light from overhead cast Harry’s eyes into shadow. “She is not the only woman in the world,” he growled in return. “Sometimes a man needs to do what a man needs to do.”

Granted, but why ‘a man’ needed another man to go whoring with him seemed an odd thing. Stepping into the hot, pungent interior, he blinked rapidly to adjust his eyesight. “What is the etiquette?” he drawled when Harry looked back at him.

The other man gave him an odd look before several ladies descended upon them, drawing him into a corner.

When they began to put hands on him, their dead eyes and smudged makeup made his soul tremble. “Enough,” he said quietly. “Enough!” He repeated more firmly, raising his hands to placate them.

They withdrew as a bunch, but allowed him to step closer to the bar. If he had felt depressed before, his soul felt utterly worn, here. The interior was dirty and damp - and the women no better. Some had sores, others coughs. Their eyes looked almost predatory in their hunger, their flesh just a lure to bring in their prey. There was a reason that Geoffrey had not resorted to this, even in his most desperate hours. There were women of the night who kept a far greater standard than these poor girls. Courtesans and even those of a ‘clean, country girl’ bent. Harry, however, had seemed determined to sink himself as far as he could, in choosing this establishment.

The women were hovering nearby, assessing which of them would be most likely to entice him. Unfortunately for them, there was no room for arousal – only pity. Geoff turned to the man behind the bar. By uniform, he was an innkeep, if not by trade. “Food for all of these ladies,” He ordered, handing over the requisite coins.

“They get fed,” the man grumbled, glowering down at the money as if suspicious that by completing the request, he would be admitting to a fault.

“I don’t doubt it.” I absolutely doubt it. “But, you see, I cannot enjoy myself until I see these lovely ladies enjoy a good meal.”

“Oh, ‘es a talker,” one of the other women cooed, as if suddenly falling upon a particularly adorable puppy. “Come on then, love, tell us your stories. I’m a great listener,” she added with a broad wink

Round face filled with dismay, he looked from one to the other. Perhaps staying in that house for the night would have been preferably. Martha had, if nothing else, refused to touch him or allow him to touch her.

Good gods, Harry, hurry!


It had taken several long baths to convince Geoff that he was clean from simply being in that establishment, and he still felt soiled as he stepped into the hall several days later. A familiar face caught his eye, and he sighed.

The former Miss Chelsey moved across the floor with an innate grace. The normally rather serious expression that usually guarded her face had softened into a sort of gentle joy. Although joy indicated an overwhelming burst of happiness – this was a sort of inner buoyancy that lifted her spirit to be displayed through her sparkling eyes.

The thick man across from her grinned in a rather wicked manner, saying something as they drew near that caused her emerald eyes to widen fractionally, then shake her head with a rueful smile.

Alone, as usual, Geoffrey fiddled, grasping and releasing his own fingers. His beautiful little Kitty no longer sought his arm. It had been such a small thing, and yet somehow represented a closeness that he had never fully comprehended until it was gone.

Once, Kitty had confided to him, “There is very little difference between those poor women on the street and women of the upper class. In both cases, our soul and liberty is purchased. We both know there are men whose tastes and tempers are not what they ought to be; I do not just want to find a husband. I want to find a man who loves me.”

He had not known that delicate Kitty was aware of men whose sexual predilections were rather on the shady side of things. Although her father’s temper had grown rather rough in the subsequent years after Mrs. Chelsey’s death.

Even if Martha had died a year ago…

Even if Kitty had not met Raoul…

Would he have been able to please her? Truly please her?

Despite her happiness at seeing him, and her pleasure in his company, Kitty had never bestowed that hungry look on him. Never, in all their years of acquaintance, had Geoff made her blush and flush as she did with her husband. Although she had often pressed uncomfortably close, she had never stroked his arm or swayed towards him in that subtly wonton way. Having long suspected that she would not mind his size, he felt rather sour as her hands touched Raoul’s new additions in a rather appreciative manner as they approached.

“I know, I know,” Raoul murmured to her as they came within feet of the refreshment table. His rumbling voice had a rueful note as he explained, “But the farmer’s daughters and wives were so persistent in their demands. How could I refuse to enjoy their cooking?”

“How indeed,” Kitty laughed, grazing the backs of her fingers along the bottom of Raoul’s swollen middle through his waistcoat.

“You did tell me to enjoy the food,” he added, broad face looking boyishly unsure for a moment.

Kitty filled her cup and raised it to her lips. “And did you?” she asked impishly after a swallow.

“Uh-huh,” he admitted, eyes lidding. “May I confess something else?” Leaning down, he murmured, “Then I went home and ate Martha’s cooking. I kept thinking about your little hands on me every night. It drove me mad thinking about you touching me, and waking up to nothing. It was as if a void had opened up within me, and I could only fill it by eating…”

They drifted away, but if the heated look sent his way was any indication, his wife clearly approved his recent additions, hanging on his every word.

Turning his eyes back to the floor, he exhaled. “Good god,” he groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. There really was no woman for him. He had made a selfish decision to marry for money, and had paid for it with years of agony and humiliation. “Might not have been perfect for her…” he breathed.

Under his gaze, his belly took up a portion of his lap. His fat man breasts creased, sweat accumulating under them. His fat arms made the shoulders of his coat pull, and his thick thighs strained the seams of his pants while sitting. Transferring his gaze back to the couple, he saw his old flame pinch Raoul’s growing double chin. “…But she was the only one right for me.”


If the other men’s expressions were any indication, the short shriek of dismay from behind them caused a similar jolt to crash through their frames. As one, they turned to look back down the path in time to see pale arms disappear beneath the surface on the pond. Almost instantaneous in their thoughts and actions, all three darted towards the water that they had been meandering from.

His heart thundered in his chest, fear and exertion causing him to pant as he made for the water as quickly as his thick legs would take him. In their combined terror for her wellbeing, both Geoffrey and Raoul moved their well-fed bodies at a faster clip than either had done for some time. Although it was nothing compared to the athletic, sprinting dash of the younger brother, who moved as if the devil himself was nipping at his heels. Before Raoul had reached the halfway mark, Harry had already speared through the dark water.

Eyes darting, Geoffrey sucked in ragged breaths. The old, thin planking that led out into the water was listing dangerously to one side, nearly touching the water. Clarice was nowhere in sight, but Kitty’s pale face and dark hair was above the surface, thank God. No maiden in distress was she, however. The impetuosity and daring that had nearly killed her as child had resulted in her being a strong swimmer. Unable to move her legs, she utilized her arms, turning half onto her back as she drifted closer to shore.

“Don’t you dare,” she hissed at her husband over her shoulder as she managed to pull herself to the shallows, lifting her head above the waves created by Harry’s dive. “It is ridiculous enough that I am wet. I swear to God that if you jump in after me….!” The normally quiet woman looked ready to spit nails, or come out clawing like a wet cat.

Her husband teetered comically on the edge of the water, arms wheeling as he struggled to halt his forward momentum. “Kitty!” He rasped, looking like he was about to disobey against his own better judgement.

Katherine’s eyed widened, and her mouth compressed. If looks could kill, that would have been one of them. “If you think of jumping in to ‘save’ me I swear…!” She left the threat hanging as she tottered, struggling against the weight of her garments.

Apparently her semi implied threat was sufficient to prevent a dramatic dive to save her, but her husband paced the water’s edge like a restless wolf. As soon as she was within reach, he snatched her up with a grunt, cradling her against his torso as heavy water poured from her dress.

Now that she was safe, Geoffrey put his hands on his hips, gasping for air. “You are well?” Now that the panic was easing, the urge to laugh was nearly overwhelming. If she had been injured, it would have been different, but if her expression was any indication, the only thing hurt was her pride. Turning his attention to his left, he saw that Harry had Clarice in his arms and was kicking them back towards shore.

“Yes, I just wet through,” she responded crossly after struggling to wring out the parts of her dress within reach. “You can put me down,” she added to Raoul, who was puffing. Her garments clung to every curve and valley, and Geoffrey was surprised to see how plump she was. Not that it was unbecoming in the least. Water was still sluicing off of her, adding to the weight.

Still ignoring her protests, Raoul turned serious eyes to the only man of their party unengaged. “Geoffrey, fetch help.”

“I don’t need help,” Kitty immediately rebutted.

He strode on, grinding his teeth. “Ignore my wife. She is clearly irrational.”

“Clearly…?” She puffed like an angry cat, bristling. “Oooo!”

Her husband cast a hard look down on her. “You just fell into a filthy pond full of cold water. You have been feeling ill for weeks now. And you refuse to be seen to?”

The look he received in return for his concern was full of scathing irritation rather than gratitude for his concern.

The irony of the situation was not lost on their observer. Years ago, he had held the very woman – well, child at the time – in his arms. Unless he was wildly mistaken, she had held some affection for him - for years. That his wife should die just after Katherine’s marriage, and that another man should be scooping her up made him want to crawl back to his room and not come out for a year.

“Where the hell did you learn to swim?” Raoul growled as he carried her, water pouring from her, to the carriage. When she named Geoffrey, Raoul cast him a look that was two parts gratitude, one part surprise, and one part jealous suspicion.

Knowing that the jealous suspicion was more than a little warranted, he forced his face into blandness. Geoffrey turned his attention to the other brother. First he was dreaming of violence, and now he was lusting after a married woman. If Raoul saw his eyes, Geoffrey was convinced he would learn it all. And despite wanting to tuck tail and leave all of them…he rather liked this odd family.

“Raoul, I am not injured. I am just cold and wet. All I want to go home and get into dry things. Was Clarice injured?” Kitty added, casting her glance about for the other woman.

“Harry has her,” Raoul snapped. “Let us worry about you, shall we?”

05-02-2016, 12:16 AM
Poor Geoff :( he needs a cute little kitty himself. As much as I like Raul and Kitty together I would love to see her with Geoff :D I'm horrible I know, want to ruin perfect marriage

Xyantha Reborn
05-06-2016, 05:15 PM
Chapter 5

She was almost on top of her before she recognized her. “Martha!”

Turning, the short, round woman broke out with a wide smile. “Margaret, dearling, how are you?” she demanded. She looked the same as she had the day they met, but for more grey in her hair and happy wrinkles that radiated out from her eyes in delight. In all other points, she was immutable.

She was as solid as a boulder in a river. People seemed to part around her without even being conscious of it. Her steadiness dulled the unease that being out in public always caused. Even in the shades of predawn there was enough bustle to make her twitch.

That sense of constancy and security allowed the taller woman to submit to the brief kiss on the cheek and equally brief hug with only the smallest sign of discomfort, for her hand twisted in her skirt. “I am well, Martha. I had not expected to see you back in town so soon - I thought you had gone to the country.”

An affable nod answered. “Yes, but Katherine came back.” A sort of smirk ran over her face as she chuckled. “And oh, my boy simply cannot be without her!”

“Oh yes,” she realized, the connection occurring to her belatedly. “Of course. I saw Raoul myself – I should have realized that you would be back.”

“No need to fuss, Margaret. You know I have no need to stand on those social formalities. Indeed, he is back in town, and as tetchy as a badger! Apparently his little miss fell in a pond and now the sky has fallen. He sent a man himself to come fetch me the minute it happened. I just arrived, and thought I would make a few purchases. If she does have a cold, we shall get her right with good food!”Gently drawing her taller companion to the side to clear the isle for other shoppers, Martha placed hands on her plump hips. “You look troubled, dearest. What is troubling that pretty little head of yours?”

Margaret smiled. Some things never changed. The older woman had this way about her that made it seem like she would lash out like a protective mother goose if anyone so much as eyed her gosling.


The streets were so, so crowded. They had come out on purpose to see a troop of performers. Papa’s new wife was trying to spoil her into loving her. Papa had told her to walk on her own like a big girl, but when a man pushed by, Margaret lost sight of him.

All the coats and hats looked the same; there was no way to distinguish which one was her Papa. And no one seemed to notice or care that she was being pushed about – they merely looked at her as both sexes drifted by.

“Papa?” she cried, staring around wildly. Flashes of clothing past her, blurs of countless faces. He had been holding Clarice to see the performers more clearly as they approached. He had been beside her just a moment ago. He could not have gotten far – where was he? Oh, Papa!

The rattle of carriages, the clop of hooves, and the drone of countless voices drowned out even her thoughts. What should she do? Should she stay here? Would he come for her? Should she try and go home? Which way was home?

“Yes my dear!”

“No, I – ”

“Indeed - ”

“- that is what I told the sorry chit - ”

“Pies! Pies!”

It smelled of mud, and dirt, and the odor of hundreds of bodies. “Papa? Papa!” The blue sky seemed to whirl overhead, the grey earth below. A countless sea of faces and bodies surrounded her, pressing on her until her heart felt it would burst in her chest.

Sheer panic overtook her. In that moment, it did not matter what came of it, she could not be here an instant longer! Turning again, she pushed through the crowd, wrapping her arms around herself and closing her eyes against the onslaught. Sobs wracked her, and she kept choking out calls for her Papa, forcing the sound out past the lump in her throat. Suddenly, she walloped into a soft form.

“Shh, dearling,” a voice above her murmured. “You just have a good little cry, then tell me what is troubling you.”

That had sounded like excellent advice, given that there was no way she could have stopped the hysterical sobs that had wracked her.

“Keep your pretty little eyes closed. That’s a dear. No one here but me and you. You stay with me and I wont let no one bother you, you hear? What is your name?”

“M-Margaret Belltaunt,” she stuttered. The woman was soft and warm, and she cradled her softly against her big bosom and stomach, rocking lightly. She smelled like sun and freshly baked bread. When Margaret was finally able to breathe without crying, she pulled back and gazed up at her rescuer.

Warm eyes met hers with a smile, and the woman took up the edge of her apron to pat away her tears. “There now, Margaret. You are safe with me. Did you lose track of your parents in this awful crush?”

Another tear leaked out, and she dashed it away impatiently as she turned her head to –

“Now now,” the older woman scolded. Taking up her hand in a firm hold, she towed her towards a shop. “No looking at those awful people. You just hold onto my skirt, you hear? Whenever you feel unsafe, you just grab my skirts good and tight. You hear me? Just look down at my skirts, and pretend like we are the only ones here.” She bustled forward into the store, allowing the door to close on most of the din. “Your parents will be along shortly to collect you, I daresay.” One callused hand rose to gently pet the younger’s hair.

It felt incredibly safe to stay, tangled in her skirts, the fabric clutched tightly in her hands. Even the smaller crowd in the shop broke like waves before the bow of a ship as the busty young woman stepped smartly through. Those that did not were given a brusque request to move – and they were so startled that they seemed to obey in spite of themselves.

Peeking past her skirts, she realized that they must be in a spice shop. Hundreds of smells assailed her from the jars on the shelves. Above them, sprigs of unknown plants hung. Overwhelmed, Margaret buried her face in her skirts. The woman smelled like cloves and flowers and bread.

They were just at the counter as the goods were packaged, when the door opened again. The little bell tinkled, drawing her notice. “Papa!” Margaret cried, dashing forward to throw her arms around him.

He nodded down at her, allowing her to cling for a moment before pushing her gently away. “I’m glad to see you are safe. Your Mother will be worried about you.”

“She is not my mother,” Margaret objected, scuffing a toe as tears rose again.

“Enough, Margaret!” Was the curt instructions.

Wincing, she shuffled after him as he turned on heel to exit. “Goodbye…” she called, waving a little over her shoulder. “Thank you!”

The buxom brunette winked and wriggled her fingers. “Goodbye, little miss.”

As they were leaving, a little boy darted into the shop, almost tripping Papa. He pounded up to her with little arms raised to be carried.

“Well, hullo, little Master. What has my handsome little man been up to, to be so dirty about the hands?”

“Mekkin pies,” the plump youngster replied with the natural, slurred authority of a three year old. He cast a curious glance over his guardian’s shoulder as he was settled on one sturdy hip. His dark locks were in his eyes, and he tossed them back to regard her with grey eyes, shadowed with a thick pencil of lash. “Whossat?”

“Never you mind, Raoul. And don’t you dare let me catch you sticking those dirty fingers in your mouth, unless you want me to wash that mouth out with soap!” And she gently smacked his hands away, despite his wailing protests. “You be quiet, or your Father will hear!”

That instantly sobered him, and he ran a sleeve across his watering eyes. “I’ll be a good boy…Promise!”

The door swung shut. Before Margaret had a chance to let her eyes adjust, she was being shaken heartily by Papa’s wife. “Don’t let me catch you running off like that ever again, do you understand me?”

“Yes, I understand.” If I ever run off, I need to not get caught. And I hate you. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!


A gentleman tipped his hat. “Excuse me, ladies.”

A quick step cleared the way, and Margaret remembered to try and smile. “Nothing is wrong with me,” she answered. “Katherine was not the only one who fell. My sister was with her, and she is also ill.”

“Good food.” Martha advised. “Nice, stout, healthy meals, and staying still in bed will fix her up better than any medicine.”

Staying still in bed did not appear to be an issue. Clarice had not emerged for days now. Margaret specifically avoided the details of her family, but even she could see that her father was in a strange taking, as was her father’s wife. “I no longer want to be in this store,” she announced, feeling an abrupt and overwhelming urge to no longer be in this place.

“Nor I,” Martha agreed instantly. “Let us pay and then be gone.”

Being with her was so much easier than being with others. She never said things she did not mean, only to become vexed at her. Like Raoul, she always turned to look at the person she was speaking to. Unlike her sisters, she did not begin speaking, turning her face away so that half of the message was lost. “Will you come back to the house? My house,” she added belatedly. “My family’s house,” she amended once again.

It was in a tone of real regret that the other demurred. “I should be getting to Raoul. Invite me over another time though, will you? Your lovely kitchen gives me the tingles all over!”

Navigating the streets at this time of day was not too bad. This was the hour for errands. After even the latest partygoers had gone to bed, and far before they rose to tea, the streets were filled with men and women walking with brisk steps as they went about their day. Once the day warmed, the streets would begin to crowd, the smell would rise, and the murmurs would rise to a cacophonous volume. But for now, there was a sort of peace in the early morning grey.

Signs creaked in the brisk wind that picked up, carrying little bits of trash in its wake. Flicking her head to push her bangs out of the way, the young woman appeared lost in deep thought to the casual observer. Only a close inspection would have revealed the white knuckled grip on her basket, and the eyes which grew slightly wild when passing through a knot of people.

Slipping in through the back door, Margaret quickly tied on her apron and began the process of breakfast. There was something special in personally the produce she used. Martha used to say that what made her own food so special was that it was done ‘birth to grave’. Mother nature birthed the food, but the cooks were the ones who raised it and nurtured it into its full potential before sending it off to be consumed.

This kitchen was her home, her fortress, and her life. It had been meticulously designed by her; from the placement of the counters to the size of the cabinets. It was impeccably clean; no clutter marred the counter. Each jar was in a specific place, accorded just for it. Unlike the fancy furniture and carpeting above, the luxury in this room would only be understandable to other cooks. It was the material comfort of top quality materials, arranged in the most efficient way.

The sun was streaming in through the open door, the light creeping across the floor with a resolute yet infinitesimal slowness. The ovens were all on, however, so the interior was snug. Once this dough was ready, she would close the door. The draft would do no favours to her loaf. Looking down caused he bangs to slip into her eyes, and she blew them out of her face with a upward huff of her lips.

This was her abode; here, even her family rarely intruded. She was left at peace, at liberty, at -

“Excuse me…”

Jumping, she whirled at the sudden voice. It was soft and cordial, and it sent shivers racing from the tip of her head to her toes.

“I apologize, I knocked, the door was opened…I know it is incredibly rude…”

Swallowing hard, she stared at the trespasser’s round face as her heart pounded in her chest. Her stomach had swooped down somewhere in the region of her knees, and she could not seem to quite find the breath to speak.

He smiled, his tow headed locks falling over twinkling blue eyes in a look of cherubic abashment. “I am Geoffrey Telford…”

“I know,” Margaret whispered, feeling the old butterflies take flight. They battered wildly against their prison, sending eddies of warmth to her cheeks. The man was as insufferably gorgeous as the first day she had seen him.

Rays of sunlight caught in his hair, which almost seem to shine like a halo over his head. He took half a step inside the threshold, turned his face away from the sunlight streaming into his eyes, and shook out his hair with a careless hand. “I truly do apologize for the intrusion. I know that Kitty stayed over as Clarice’s particular friend…do you remember her?”

“I do,” she mumbled. As her eyes fell, they revealed that she was covered in flour, and it had crusted around her nails. Belatedly shoving them into her apron pockets, she swallowed. Why, whenever they met, was she never at her best?

He sounded relieved when he sighed, “Oh good.”

The scuff of his boot as he shuffled another step forward caused her eyes lock onto his shoes, and the deliciously thick legs above them. He was, however, blocking the door, and her eyes flicked repeatedly towards the open door behind him. I wish he would clear the doorway, she moaned. But If I say anything, he might leave!

Fortunately, the man seemed to sense her unease. “If it is not too irregular…not too much of an imposition…may I tarry for a moment?” And at her nod, added, “And where would you like me, so that I am out of the way?”

A shiver caused goosebumps to raise all over her forearms. “Just over there,” she mumbled, jerking her chin at a set of high stools in one side of the kitchen where trays of pastry were cooling. Stumbling after him, she huddled on the stool, staring at his thick thighs. No! Do not stare at his legs! She tried to look up, but they just landed on his massive middle. Jerking them away, she fastened them on her own hands, folded resolutely in her own lap.

“Again, I apologize – ”

“Please stop apologizing. It is making me uncomfortable.”

He laughed at this. It was a warm chuckle that caused his round middle to quake lightly.

Her mouth instantly dried, the moisture rushing to other parts of her body.

“Well, let me just bring it forward. Kitty and Clarice were walking in the park the other day, and fell into the pond. I wanted to see how Clarice Belltaunt was.”

“Oh. Is Katherine’s baby safe?” Margaret inquired, glancing up.

The man blanched. Recovering quickly, however, he paused, exhaling a wordless noise after inhaling to speak. An odd expression flew over his face, and those blue eyes quizzed hers. “How…? Why do you think she is with child?”

Clasping her hands tightly in her lap, the eldest Miss Belltaunt struggled for words at his direct gaze. “I…she…that is to say…she was sicking up every morning. And would not partake in any wine. She had said to her maid, that she had been sicking up for the past few months every morning. Did I say something wrong?”

He swallowed, sticking his tongue between his lips for a moment as if gathering strength. “Wrong? No, not at all. Well. She seems to be fine, so I think so. And how is Miss Clarice Belltaunt?”

There were too many possible answers to such a broad question. Did he mean physically? Mentally? Emotionally? Her sanity?

Seeming to sense her confusion once more, he smiled. He had nice teeth, and his smile always made those round cheeks bulge. “I am mostly concerned for her health.”

That was easier to answer. “She hurt her chest. Thomas comes to give her drafts every day.” Why had Geoffrey come to ask about Clarice? How did he know Katherine?

“And emotionally – how is she? Is she happy?”

“Clarice has never been happy,” Margaret responded casually, without thinking. A muffled sound made her look up. “What?”

Geoffrey’s eyes were dancing as he struggled to keep from laughing. After several moments, he simply let it out, whooping quietly until his eyes teared and he was gasping for air.

Each huff of laughter caused his belly to shake, and he had covered his eyes, shoulders shaking in his mirth. Taking the opportunity to gaze, Margaret saw that the fabric covering it was slightly loose, but even that could not disguise the sheer volume of man under the shirt. It appeared so soft, so luxurious. Her hands itched to knead it.

Eventually calming himself, he sighed, still smiling. “I apologize. Your honestly caught me off guard, and is incredibly refreshing.” There was an abrupt squeal.

It was loud enough that they both noticed. Geoffrey flushed as Margaret looked around, blinking.

Another squeal, and realization dawned on her face. “Oh, you are hungry!” she cried softly. Much in the same way that others would have cried oh, you are injured! Instantly shifting forward she pulled the tray of pastries closer. “Please, eat.”

“Are you sure?” He queried, again flipping his locks out of his eyes. At her nod, he took one and carefully bit into it. Instantly, he made that same noise Raoul had. When he opened his eyes, his impromptu hostess was gazing at him with hooded eyes. “Delicious.”

“Please, eat as many as you want.”

Margaret was so enraptured with watching his plump fingers capture a morsel and deliver it to his lips that she quite forgot to feel shy.

He seemed to have acquired some of it, however. When his hand reached out and scraped the empty pan, his already ruddy cheeks darkened further. “Oh, damn,” he swore, looking quite upset.

“Do not worry!” Margaret hastened to assure him, jumping up. “There is more!” And fetching the other tray, she carefully laid it atop the now empty one.

Instead of looking relieved, he still looked upset. “Thank you, but I should be going. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me…and for the most excellent food...” And with that, he manoeuvred his thick body off the stool and took his hat in hand.

And just like that, he was going to waltz out of her life again.

“Will you….will you come back tomorrow?” Margaret blurted as he was about to cross the threshold. “Perhaps...perhaps I can learn something to help you..?"

His handsome face softened, and he stepped back towards her. “Would you do that for me?”

“Of course I will,” she stuttered, fighting back light headedness as he pressed grateful lips to her knuckles for a moment.

The touch sent ricochets of tingles all over her, warming her from the inside and causing her blood to pound in her veins in a disturbing way.

He had a distinctive way of walking, his thick thighs combating for supremacy. From behind, thick love handles pushed out over his hips. Once he had waddled out, Margaret bit her lip as she looked down on the hand he had held, feeling a surge of joy –

Her eyes rolled towards the ceiling in exasperation, her fingers curling into frustrated claws. She still had flour dough on her hands! Glancing at the doorway, she groaned. “Why am I so incapable of doing the most simple things?”

05-06-2016, 05:45 PM
This makes me so happy! (I've been waiting for some Margaret/Geoff romance to start ever since Margaret was preening about Raoul's compliments on her food.) Margaret is such a dear! :)

Xyantha Reborn
05-07-2016, 04:17 PM
Some of my characters demand their own stories, or explanation of their past...Geoffrey was so nice and unassuming that I simply had to tell his tale!!!

Xyantha Reborn
05-07-2016, 04:17 PM
Chapter 6

If someone were to have asked him, “Geoff, how are you feeling?” he would have answered; “Odd. Very Odd.”

But off course, no one thought to ask him.

Harry was beside himself with distress for Clarice. Having heard nothing about her health and safety, he seemed to assume the worst. Geoff’s reassurances did not seem to count for much, as they did not come from her own lips or hands. Only concern for his sister kept him in the house at all. And the other brother was nearly as beside himself with worry for his wife, who was indeed pregnant.

There was no way to articulate the cascading emotions running through him. But above all, he blessed Margaret. Her disclosure allowed him to take in the information calmly. When the physician came down and told them, it did not take him as a thunderclap - as it did Raoul. It allowed him to properly moderate his expressions. Without that forewarning, Geoffrey did not know how he would have reacted.

He was also pleasantly stuffed, courtesy of Margaret’s excellent cooking. His stomach felt full and heavy, and made him feel much calmer than he would otherwise have been. It had been weeks since he had indulged, and all he wanted to do was lay down in torpid repletion.

It even allowed him to cope with Raoul turning to him, thanking him and calling him family. Though he had no idea how to respond to that statement. “I will never forget your assistance. Without your help, I might not have my wife – and a son on the way.”

“Daughter!” Kitty bellowed over the railing, although there was amusement in her voice.

Geoffrey forced a half smile to his lips, inclining his head to mask his features. Well, this is dreadfully unpleasant…It was as if life was not content with simply knocking him down, but it needed to kick him between the legs again and again.

A glance at Harry showed some lightening of his mood.

The thinner brother gazed after them with affectionate smile ghosting around his lips. Turning his eyes on Geoff, he sighed heavily. “Well. I am glad she is safe. Now, if only I could have similar assurances from Clarice.”

Unwilling to give him hope which might only result in disappointment, the heavyset man refrained from disclosing his possible lead. Instead, he poured another thumb. “Drink up, lad. We will find out the truth. And besides. You are about to be an uncle.”

The word seemed to strike Harry with special force, and a true grin spread over his face. It was roguish as well as impish. It was rather unfortunate that Harry was so down about the mouth, because he was far better looking when in good spirits. “Ah, I never thought of it that way.”

Both men sat quietly for some time. Harry, it would be safe to assume, was back to brooding over the object of his obsessive affection. Geoff, for his own part, was mulling over more pleasant reflections. Eventually rousing himself, the older man pressed Harry’s shoulder. “Good night, my friend.”

When Geoffrey stripped down for bed, he ran absent hands over his wide, heavy stomach. Hefting it in his hands, he dwelled for a moment on Margaret’s amazing cooking. Hopefully she did not think him utterly porcine, what with gorging himself silly. But then, at his weight, who was he attempting to hoodwink? Of course he was a big, fat pig. His upper arms wobbled slightly as he reached outwards around his gut.

At least she had not seemed too offended. She was an interesting woman. With her height, she could have looked imposing. With her elfin, slender build she could have looked graceful. With her thick, glossy hair and dark eyes she could have made herself a beauty. And yet somehow, she managed to represent none of these things.

Although tall, she had a way of holding herself that made her seem smaller. A sort of unconscious hunch to her shoulders, and a quiet way of moving about. And her eyes, so dark brown as to appear black in the shadows, were cast down so often that she almost gave the air of a child. And she looked dreadfully uncomfortable in her own skin, hiding those pretty eyes under heavy bangs, twisting her hands in her skirt and looking anywhere but at him.

When he sat on the bed, the silky skin of his lower belly slid across his thighs, pooling between his legs. Even leaning back on his arms did not cause any loss of contact, but allowed his breasts to slump to the side. He had eaten so much that when he left the Belltaunt kitchen he had been forced to carefully mince his way home, as each step threatened to push a burp through his lips. His stomach, empty for so long, had been deliciously heavy. The skin tingled from the internal pressure, his insides felt pushed about to make room. And the heavy sway of his belly as it shifted had seemed immoderately pleasurable. Glutton, he had scolded himself.

It had not been long since his wife’s death, but it felt as if an eon had slipped by. Getting caught up in the whirlwind of life that seemed to swirl between the Nottinghams and the Belltaunts, every day seemed spoken for. Even tomorrow, he would be going back to that beautiful little kitchen to speak with Margaret again. Glancing down at the pale pillow of flesh before him, he felt his cock twitch at the thought of eating more of her delicious food.


Just because the food was there did not mean that he needed to glut himself on it.


“I made these for you,” Margaret murmured in her throaty, smoky voice as he entered the kitchen, blinking against the sunlight. “I was not sure what you would enjoy…so I made one of each.”

An inhale made his mouth explode with saliva, and he swallowed it back as his eyes adjusted. On the little table where they had sat the day before lay several small pies. Which, if his nose informed him correctly, were quiche. He salivated, almost tasting the rich custard on his tongue. “Oh, you should not have gone to the trouble.” When he was able to rip his eyes from the glory before him, he saw her looking rather crushed. “Although your little pastries were so delicious yesterday that I dreamed about them,” he hastened to add. He had also dreamed of waking up next to Martha’s cold corpse, but that was neither here nor there. It seemed like his mind was determined to torment him.

Her downcast expression lightened somewhat, and she took the seat on the same tall stool as yesterday. “I love cooking,” she murmured haltingly. “I love seeing people enjoy my cooking…”

“I loved your cooking,” Geoffrey said so empathetically that she blushed. Her skin was not only pale, it had a delicate transparency about it. Her veins were visible under it, her pulse visible in her throat. That dusting of red was the only colour in her face. Besides of course her lips, which she occasionally caught in her teeth, causing them to look full and red. “I just did not want to make you feel socially obliged to feed me just because I am imposing on your time.”

“I do not do that.”

The response was odd, and made him peer at her more closely. “Do what?”

“Feel socially obliged. I am terrible in public. That is why Papa does not take me out anymore. I do not say the right things at the right times. I hate crowds, and dislike dealing with people.”

Brushing his hair back with a fat finger, he peered even more closely. “Margaret,” he sounded slowly, as if puzzling it out aloud, “Are you a Belltaunt?” Although formed as a question, it was more of a statement.

“Yes,” was the simply reply as she pressed a fork into his hand.

Damned fool. He had snuck in the back door, and instead of making friends with a kitchen maid, had accidentally revealed himself to Clarice’s sister. Made a fool of himself by stuffing himself, and even more so by not knowing who she was. Margaret Belltaunt…something tickled in his mind, but fluttered out of reach.

He had thought it odd at the time, that she would introduce herself by her given name. She would, of course, have thought he knew who she was, and was clarifying which of the sisters she was. Taking the fork at last, he felt the unfamiliar heat of a blush spread to his cheeks. “I am so sorry – you do not look like your sister,” he managed at last. Overcome with anxiety, he quickly cut a mouthful and stuffed it into his mouth.

“I know.” After a moment of silence, she peered up through those heavy locks. “Do you like them?” Her voice was rather small.

Geoffrey was desperately trying to avoid eating the whole thing, but his tastebuds were alive, and his stomach audibly screeched its protest at his slow consumption. “Oh, yes, very much,” he murmured fervently. Also, it kept him from further insulting her by giving his mouth another task.

“I made them all for you.” Again, one shoulder rose shyly, and she flashed her dark gaze at his face.

The idea that one of the daughters of the richest families – and one to which he owed everything to – had purposefully set out this bounty made him feel oddly. “And I suppose I should eat them all?” Her answering smile made him groan internally, but what was he to do? She was taking the time out of her day to converse with him. And had seemingly taken time out of her morning to cook, specifically for him. Such generosity could not be ignored – not that he had even the slightest wish to. In an impossibly short period of time, the first quiche lay in his stomach. Patting his lips with a small cloth, Geoffrey felt his face burn in shame. For, despite the rich flavour and heavy nature, his appetite was only whetted. After feeling uncomfortably full all day, the slow fires had sprung to life. He had awoken with a long familiar growling, pangs of hunger stabbing him from within. “Well, that was absolutely delicious,” he declared.

Her disappointment was palpable. “You…do not want to try the others?”

What was he to do? Sliding the next one closer, he served himself a hearty portion. “How is your sister today?”

“The same as yesterday,” Margaret replied with rather an air of indifference, seemingly focusing on assessing his enjoyment of her cooking.

The flavour burst on his tongue afresh, and he closed his eyes against the onslaught of hedonistic pleasure it brought him. “Would you mind if I asked you why she has not sent our letters any reply?”


Again, flummoxed, he opened his eyed to regard her before realizing that she had, technically, answered his sentence correctly. He had asked her if she would mind, not the actual question. Biting back a smile he swallowed the bite in his mouth. “Why has she not responded to our letters?”

“She has not gotten any letters.” When Geoffrey paused in the act of putting the forkful into his mouth to gaze inquiringly at her, she offered this little tidbit. “Papa has taken all the mail and letters in hand.” Abruptly changing the subject, she flicked her glance at his breakfast. “Do you like that one too?”

“I cannot decide which I love more,” he replied honestly. Overcome with curiosity, he added, “How did you learn to cook like this?”

“I had a very good teacher,” she answered softly. “I spent a great deal of time learning. And food speaks to me – I understand it. I listen to it.”

“Food speaks to me too. It says ‘eat me, eat me!’” Geoffrey chuckled. “And given my size, you can see I listen to it as well. And unless you stop me, I fear this last quiche is not long for this world.”

As if the disarming reference to his weight was permission, she shot a curiously bold, slanted glance his way, seeming to take in every bulge and roll. Her gaze lingered on his face, and she reddened before dropping it. “I am very glad you enjoy my cooking.”

Geoffrey had thought, perhaps incorrectly, that her lack of eye contact and abrupt responses was a sign of painful shyness. But there was a lack of apologetic air, and a bold turn to some of her phraseology that seemed to contradict that assumption. Tugging the third pie closer, he gave her his most disarming smile. “I am going to enjoy this deliciousness – but please, while I do…tell me about your Papa. Why has he taken the letters in hand? Why would he refuse to let Clarice see a simple inquiry after her health? Is he angry with Kitty?”

Margaret Belltaunt watched him consume her cooking with an oddly contented look before answering in her usual, broken way. “Clarice stuck Paulina.”

He coughed on his mouthful. “She – what?”

The woman across from him simply raised delicate shoulders, canting her head on her long neck. “Paulina is rude. Clarice does not like it. The servants say that Paulina destroyed her room. Clarice struck her.”

Geoffrey tried to control his brows from arching skyward, but failed miserably.

Margaret gazed at his fork for several moments, and when he had taken it up again, continued. “Papa was furious. I heard him say that Clarice had offended several important people, and her behaviour was unbecoming. That she had been given too much freedom and discretion.”

“Miss Belltaunt…”

An odd grimace passed over her face. “Do not call me so.”

“…Margaret…it just seems quite odd. My friend, Harry, is beside himself with worry for her. He is desperate to know what has happened, and why.”

Tilting her dark head, she eyed him closely. “Then why is he not here himself?”

Excellent question. Geoffrey had found himself oddly unwilling to invite anyone along to this tête-à-tête. And besides, what good would it have done? Harry was in such a fuss that he was likely to have scared this delicate creature before him. “He is pursuing other leads,” he answered instead, covering any oddity with another insertion of food into his maw. “Besides,” he added, recovering himself. “I did not want to share this feast with anyone.”

Her eyes were hooded as they met his own, disconcertingly unblinking. “But you did not know I was going to cook these for you.”

“Ah, but my excellent judgement informed me that all your food was likely to be delicious. And I have been proven right.” And he was becoming comfortably overfull on it. Not only was it a significant portion of food, it was also sinfully heavy, stretching his insides pleasantly. Another slice of the third pie remained, as well as nearly half of the second. A deep inhale brought on a sudden pang that had him pressing a palm into his side. “Tell me about yourself,” he said with an encouraging smile.

Her eyes fixed on a knot of wood on the table. “There is nothing to tell,” she whispered, lips barely moving. Her eyes snapped up as he gave a great hiccup, then groaned. It brought on another hiccup. By the fifth one, she had brought him a glass of fresh milk. “Drink,” she urged.

There was only one way he had found to be rid himself of the blasted things. Tilting up the big glass, he relentlessly swallowed again, and again, and again without pause, until at last it was empty. “I am sorry,” he murmured after he had caught his (blessedly hiccup free) breath.

She murmured something indistinctly, her cheeks again painted with the rouge of embarrassment. “I am the one who is sorry,” she muttered. “I wish I could have learned more to please you.”

Again, that odd phraseology. “I am pleased. Very pleased. I am passing my morning in the most pleasant way imaginable – with excellent food and a beautiful woman.”

“I am not beautiful.” Margaret replied flatly, turning her head away abruptly.

“Says who?” Geoffrey replied indignantly. That was not the immodest boasting of a debutant, but the heart wrenching denial of perceived truth.

Startled, her hurt eyed met his. Her mouth parted and those eyes filled with water.

“Damn,” he breathed. “I seem to offend you every few sentences.” He sighed, the winced. “Shall I leave you?”

A sniff and deep inhale answered as she tried to master herself. “But…but you have not finished,” she protested, jerking her chin at his breakfast.

He gazed over at the remainder. He glanced back at her. “If it pleases you,” he murmured fretfully, slowly and methodically eating every bite. Several bites from completion, he had to pause. Panting, he cast a glance to his companion.

She was watching him with a tremulous and happy smile on her lips.

When he finished the last bite – how could he not, with her gazing hero worship his way? – Geoffrey was forced to support himself on the table, inhaling carefully around the brick of fatty food in his stomach. “I should probably go,” he murmured, but grimaced when he shifted. His shirt and coat felt tight against his swollen flesh, and every motion sent warning thrills through him.

“Stay for a while…please?” she urged softly, twisting her apron in her hands.

He obliged. More from necessity than anything else. For, given his druthers, he would surely have fled.

But the Miss Belltaunt was oddly solicitous, becoming more communicative as his torpor increased. “I would like to assist you,” she concluded. “But I do not know how…”

Geoffrey had an idea, but he needed to involve at least one brother. Margaret’s original observation had more than a dash of truth to it. He was playing a part in this love drama, but he could not, and should not, be responsible for the execution. He had found a path, and it was now time to turn the reins over to another.

Once he could stand.


Margaret seemed to feel their presence behind her. Twisting around, she blinked in surprise at their proximity, then seemed to experience a second start at having to tilt her chin up. She was a tall woman, and only very tall men towered above her. Which only made him feel even more rotund and homely.

“Hullo there.” Raoul grinned, crossing thick arms above a bulging stomach. “I’ve been waiting to catch you out for quite some time.”

She seemed as if trying to interpret his tone, or his words. Something about his inflection did make it sound quite naughty. Eventually, she stepped to the side, her hands nesting in her skirts. It was not the shunning of acquaintance, but looked rather more like a precursor of great stress.

“Well? Can you guess why?” he pressed.

After a moment of due consideration, she darted a glance at the taller man. “You want more of my pastries?”

His grey eyes lit up, and he licked his lips unconsciously. “Yes! I mean, no! I mean, yes, I would love more of your little bites of puffed heaven, but no, that is not why I have been trying to catch you for the past few days.”

“Oh. Then I do not know why,” Margaret shrugged, ready to turn away. A gentle touch on her elbow halted her.

The elder brother steered her to the side. “You know my brother is in love with Clarice, yes?”

“I do not know it.” Margaret cast her glance to Geoffrey, seeming to find something encouraging in his presence.

He waggled a thick finger at her, catching the mild and yet flat inflection of ‘know’. “Don’t you play word games with me, little missy. Geoffrey told me he had seen you yesterday – he must have informed you how desperate my brother is to know that Clarice is well.”

Margaret gazed up at him blankly. What did he want? Her expression seemed to say.

When she only blinked up at him, Raoul continued. “Geoffrey told me that your father is redirecting all her letters from her. Knowing Clarice, she would probably work herself too hard and not heal. But it is quite important that we get one, specific letter to her.”

Geoffrey took mercy on her, stepping forward and catching her hand in his. Her expression of agitation and mild confusion fell away, and she cautiously raised her eyes to meet his. In the sunlight they were a rich, dark, and fathomless. “We would be in your debt if you would carry a letter to Clarice directly. Bypassing your Papa. Will you do that for me?”

Glancing between them for a moment, she looked down. “Yes,” she murmured faintly. “I will do that for you, Geoffrey.”

05-07-2016, 05:20 PM
Eeeeee! This is everything I have been waiting for! You tell the most beautiful love stories in the most honest and vulnerable ways. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

05-08-2016, 12:38 AM
These two are gorgeous together. I think I might be in love with them.

05-09-2016, 05:02 PM
Your writing is wonderful

Xyantha Reborn
05-09-2016, 05:56 PM
Aww thank you guys :blush:

I'll be posting a new chapter by the weekend I hope!

05-09-2016, 09:15 PM
This is the bit I was looking forward too.

05-13-2016, 07:22 AM
Have I mentioned how much I love historical/period romances? You do it really well and in a really interesting way. There's a great mix of old school slightly flowery/misty language, but with a modern eye on it. Very cool. :bow:

Xyantha Reborn
06-21-2016, 02:12 PM
Sorry all, life got busy! I am devoting some time to these fellows and ladies in the next few weeks!

Xyantha Reborn
06-24-2016, 08:06 PM
Chapter 7

“I think I may have found a way to help,” Geoffrey announced gleefully as Harry trotted down the stairs of Raoul’s home. He had been tarrying at the front door, unwilling to enter, but seemingly incapable of taking himself home.

His friend looked utterly grim and harrowed, but a flash of something lightened his features at the words, his shoulders straightening. “Oh?” the young man replied with an air of false casualty.

That lightening continued, albeit interspersed with flashes of something far darker and dangerous than anger, as the heavyset man recounted the agreement he had received from Margaret Belltaunt.

The younger Nottingham brother’s handsome features grew serious, a muscle in his jaw flexing as he thought, his grey eyes hooded through clenched brows. “Thank you, my friend,” he murmured, reaching out to briefly clasp the other man’s shoulder. “But I confess, I still cannot comprehend this. What could be his motive? Why is her father suddenly reading her mail? Or preventing something as simple as a well wish from reaching her?” He paced back and forth on long, muscular legs for a moment. His pensive face rose to regard Geoffrey. “And why would Margaret just agree to do this? Raoul said something about her – is she not an oddity?”

The first questions were the easier to answer - even if the answer seemed suspect. The latter were less simple. Why was Margaret willing to help? Geoffrey had been worrying at that bone for a while now, and had no better taste in his mouth than gristle. She did not seem overly fond of her sisters, nor particularly worried about Clarice. As for being an oddity…she was rather unique. Geoffrey could not recall meeting any woman like her before. It was only after blinking several times the older of the two realized that he had not yet responded, and made a negligible reply. Abruptly changing the subject, he added, “Were you aware that Margaret Belltaunt is the family cook?”

Harry looked deep in thought, his eyes twitching from side to side, his mouth opening and closing. His mind was clearly racing, his large hands twitching.

Damn. There was no use talking to Harry about anything other than Clarice at present, it seemed. “Oh – Margaret also indicated that anything given to her will probably end up being read – so it should be as bland and innocuous as possible. We should take care to avoid getting her into trouble for assisting us,” he added, feeling anxious on her behalf. “She really is a sweet girl for doing this.”

The soft look on her face recurred to his mind’s eye. Calling her an oddity made her seem ignorant, unsociable, and other horrid things. Margaret was none of those things. To him, she appeared incredibly shy and sweet. Some of her odd behaviours seemed to be more of a result of panic than anything else. On several occasions, Geoffrey had witnessed the same unconscious flaring of the nostrils, rolling of the eyes, and clutching at her skirts. It had happened in the crowded market, but also the last time the met.

A blush rose to his face, heat washing over his features, as he recalled inadvertently crowding her in the kitchen as he rose to take leave. It has difficult not to crowd people in general, given his stature. For the first time in what seemed to be years, Geoffrey felt a twinge of regret for his size and the discomfort it seemed to cause Margaret Belltaunt.

A frown settled over his features as both men turned to walk down the lane. Harry was not the only one who found this situation odd; and the more the surface was disturbed, the deeper the mysteries seemed to become. Why was the heiress to a large fortune slaving away in the kitchen? He racked his brain to recall seeing her alongside Clarice, but was unable to satisfy himself on that score.


Papa’s wife was here. The irritating woman had finally made her obligatory visit to the kitchen to announce her presence. The horrid creature seemed to do everything possible to agitate her; standing in the doorway to block the exits. Spicing the air with her overwhelming perfumes until air itself was a scare commodity. Purposefully touching, moving, and disarranging her carefully constructed counters. When Margaret began to put things to right, the woman seemed to purposefully shift things even more, as if to spite her.

Finally, the other woman left. Standing alone in the kitchen, the young woman clutched the edge of the counter with trembling fingers, blinking back the burning sensation behind her lids. Her heart was still thundering, and it took several long minutes for her to recover herself enough to even consider leaving her haven.

“Need anything else, miss?”

“No. I will take this to my sister myself.” And suiting action to words, carefully scoped up the tray. The hidden entryway that signaled the end of her domain was pushed open, and the eldest Belltaunt daughter peered left and right before padding forth. The opulent carpet underfoot muffled her steps as she made her way by rote to her sister’s apartment. It has taken longer than Margaret had anticipated to deliver the letter into her sister’s hands, as there always seemed to be someone in the room with her. Today, however, the large room was devoid of any other person.

Upon entering, Margaret saw her sister reclined on the bed, her face turned to the window. She was motionless, not even seeming to notice that Margaret had entered. The curtains were opened to allow light into the room, but the air was stuffy. “Clarice.”

The other seemed to rouse, shifting weakly about. “Margaret? What is the matter, dearest?”

“Nothing is the matter.” Shutting the door behind her, she placed the tray on the bedside table, cracked open the window, and turned back to the invalid. Clarice looked pale, thin, and spiritless.

Margaret could not tolerate Diana, who bounced and whirled around in a highly disconcerting manner. Paulina was insufferable. Out of the three, Clarice was the only one Margaret could tolerate being in the same room with. Clarice, at least, made an effort to be civil. It was as if she understood in some small measure the difficulties that Margaret must endure, being the only daughter of Papa’s first wife. And of the constant pressure placed on her to conform to a world that she did not belong in. And, the one time that Margaret had required her assistance, it had been given most selflessly. It was that spirit of goodwill which had convinced her to act - over and above any wish to please Geoffrey. Withdrawing the piece of paper from her apron pocket, she proffered it. “This is for you.”

The other extended her plump hand, carefully opening it.

Margaret was just about to elaborate on the sender when Clarice’s eyes filled with tears, and she covered her mouth with a shaking hand. “Oh, Harry…”

She had told Geoffrey that there was no way she could absolutely guarantee it not being read either before, or after delivery. Curious to see what could have so clearly told Clarice who the sender was, she stooped to examine the paper herself. On the page was a sketch of her sister. “Papa gets your letters,” she murmured in response to a murmured question, eyes going over the strokes and wondering how someone had the talent to take all those little lines and make them into so lovely a portrait.

When her sister demanded if Kitty had been here, Margaret straightened. “No, but Geoffrey has. And Harry. I like them,” she added, fervently hoping that her tone was neutral. It would not do to upset her sister about memories of things gone by.

Fortunately, her sister either did not hear, or did not recall her involvement. Inward strength seemed to suffuse her as she requested Margaret to relay a message in return.

It was far more than she had bargained for, and the whole thing was becoming quite burdensome…


Her agreement had been predicated on the assumption that executing a simple message would be simple. Several obstacles appeared, however. One was that the streets were crammed in preparation of the city celebration. Even her early morning visits to purchase necessities for the kitchen now resulted in her scrambling back to her kitchen as fast as possible. Once there, she clutched the edge of the counter until the tears stopped flowing, her heart calmed, and her sweaty palms dried.

Another was that Harry was rather intimidating, and his brother scarcely less so. The idea of going to meet them made the coward in her curl. There was one person, however, who she was not opposed to seeing again.

His address was still branded in her memory, and before long, the familiar visage of the house imprinted itself once more on her eyes. A thought occurred to her as she stepped across the street. It was far too early; he would, perhaps, still be in bed.

The mere thought of the man wallowing indolent in bed made her toes curl, and she quickly clutched at her skirt to steady herself. There were not many things that she was accomplished in, outside of the kitchen, but she was a patient women. She would wait.

“Madam,” a voice murmured behind her as she loitered, nearly half of an hour later. “Can I help you?”

Shifting her basket to the other arm, she shook her head. “No, I am just waiting until Geof – Telford is awake,” she corrected herself.

The man was standing disconcertingly close, his mein vaguely threatening. His rather small eyes narrowed as he assessed her clothing, stance, and voice. “Lord Telford does not live here,” he enunciated, apparently finding her lacking.

Now that was a lie. She knew very well that these were his residences, and that this was where his horrid wife had lived. Her mouth opened to retort, but the other was already speaking.

“His late wife did,” the other added after a pause. “Is there a message you want to leave for him?”

She shook her head. “The message has to be given to him in person. If you will kindly give me his address, I will be off directly.” The scandalized look that flashed over his face took her aback until she realized what he must suspect.

“Can I please ask you to step inside? I will bring him the message that you wish to speak to him, and I will bring you his response.” His tone seemed to indicate he doubted a favourable reply.

Although the idea of being in a strange house was not very palatable, her feet were beginning to ache, and the man seemed quite determined. Besides, she reminded herself. My reason for being here is legitimate. It was Geoffrey who asked me; it is natural that I should bring him the response.

Natural, indeed.

The slim woman accompanied the man into the house, where she was directed to the sitting room. He dispatched a man to run the message, keeping an eye on her, as if he suspected that at any moment she might slip the silver into her handbag. Or maybe it was the large package she held carefully in her lap.
His presence disconcerted her far more than his suspicion, and she soon ignored him entirely. If Margaret had been the gloating type, she would have seen the other’s look of embarrassment at his treatment of her when Geoffrey himself arrived. Instead,Margaret was too involved in re-memorizing all of the details of the sitting room to notice. She was so lost in thought that she jumped when Geoffrey materialized before her.

“Margaret!” he cried, seating himself next to her. He moved with customary quickness, so unusual for a man of his width. “Are you well? What is wrong?”

That width was covered in a dark green jacket, and that fabric did nothing to hold back the sheer warmth of his bulk. The buttons strained as they struggled to contain the swell of flesh beneath. “I…beg pardon?” She eventually managed, jerking her eyes up to the cherubic face with the soft blue eyes, framed with spikes of white, and those tow headed locks falling onto his forehead. His round cheeks bunched as he spoke.

After a moment, the man patted around, then withdrew a clean square from his pocket. After a moment, he leaned forward to gently dab at her eyes.

It was only then that Margaret realized she was crying. Taking the cloth from him, she pressed it into one eye, then the other. “I apologize,” she sniffed. “I was just remembering…just remembering…” Geoffrey’s handsome face was close enough that she could clearly distinguish all of his lashes, and see his pupils and blue eyes clearly. His round face covered with a worried frown. “It is nothing. The streets are just quite crowded.”

“Why is there no tea?” he asked in quiet displeasure, turning his face towards the rude man who had admitted her. “James?”

“Of course, right away.” And he hastened out of the room.

He gently took both of her hands in his. They were so warm, compared to her own. They were warm, and soft, and he gently stroked her own hands in a way that made her realize why women wore gloves. Who would have known that the feeling of his strong hands caressing her could make her feel so weak, or grow so dewy betwixt her thighs?

The last time that she had been in this house, it had been rammed full of people. The furniture had all been vacated to make room for dancing, and it had been alive with light, noise, and smells. Now, it seemed more like a tomb. There was no joy, no family, no life here. This house did not match its owner at all. That man was right; a man full of such warmth, love, and life could not bear to live in this crypt. Abrupt warmth on her cheek made her start, and direct her eyes back to him.

“Margaret, are you sure you are well?”

“Yes. I delivered the picture,” she blurted, face continuing to warm until his hand seemed positively cool. “Clarice wanted me to deliver a response. I agreed.”

He smiled, though it did not touch his eyes. His mouth curved, but no lines radiated from the corners of his eyes. “I am very pleased, very pleased indeed. And what did she say?”

“She said that she needs Harry.”

“And the lad will be over the moon with hearing that, I can tell you,” he chortled, slapping a thigh. “But why did you come here to deliver the message?”

“Because this is where I thought you lived,” she whispered, looking down at the floor. “The last time I was – ” Her throat closed about the words in order to keep her vow. Gathering her wits about her, she bit her lip. Why had she delivered it to him? “Because I had to see you…” Heat scalded her cheeks.

Something shifted in his face. Some indefinite softness stole over his already soft features. That roll of fat under his chin bulged as he looked down at the floor. Some inward emotion exposed itself in a glow across his skin. The response, when it came, was dry and rueful. “Of course. I was the one who requested this of you, so who else would you come back to? Soon enough the two birds will be together, fly the coop, and then I shall be off myself. I wish them best of luck, but I think that I have done more than any reasonable man can expect me to do.”

Something coiled about her organs, squeezing in a most painful way. “Where…where are you going?” she gasped, clutching at the parcel in her hands. After all this time, was she only to have a handful of moments with him?

“Well, I will be going to my country home to the north,” and he named the location. “You might have heard of it referred to as the Orchard. It has been called the Orchard for so long the name has stuck, though Martha desperately hated both the location and the name.” Rousing himself from his introspection, he heaved a sigh big enough to inflate the ball in his lap. “What do you have there?” He asked, gesturing to it.

This was not how this was supposed to have happened! A quarter of an hour previous, Margaret would have thought to have formed no expectation on this meeting, but that was clearly not the case. Keen disappointment made her silent. And a feeling of injustice against the unfairness of the world made bitter bile rise up. He was not supposed to simply leave!

Wordlessly pulling back the cloth on the basket, she sighed.

His jaw slackened as the yeasty warmth of fresh bread and pastry eddied forth from the interior. Snaking out one finger, he minutely tilted the basket towards him, making a sound of wordless appreciation as fresh butter, clotted cream, and jam met his eyes. “Oh, Margaret! You really should not have. I have not eaten, and am feeling quite voracious.”

She was displeased. She was not happy. She would not be swayed in her disappointment. Not when he dug deep into the basket, tearing off a chunk of bread like a child, and taking a big bite. Not when he gave a little moan that made her heart flutter. Not when he found the knife and began slathering each bite alternately with jam, cream, and butter. Not when he bit into each bite with such gusto.

It was when he had eaten the last bite – and pouted. That petulant gesture on a grown man, who had just eaten his way through her entire offering, softened any anger against him. “I am sorry I did not make more…I will make more next time.” Except there would not be a next time.

“It is I who should be sorry, big lout that I am. More than once now I’ve made a fool of myself over your cooking, eating every bite when I should be just having a taste. I sincerely apologize for my lack of control. Why are you smiling?” he demanded.

“I take your ‘lack of control’ around my cooking as the highest compliment,” she murmured, trying and failing not to preen.

Geoffrey’s pale brows drew together as he tried to digest this information. “Well, I am pleased that you are pleased,” he managed eventually, even if he did sound puzzled.

It was not long afterwards that she found herself back in her own kitchen. Geoffrey had an engagement, and so had been forced to cut their meeting short. She was in no cheerful humour, and a sort of grimness had fallen over her as she tried to calm herself.

What had she expected? It did not matter, for he was to be gone on the morrow!

The dough under her hands failed to soothe or calm her flayed nerves. After working it into a ball, she picked it up, hurling it with all her might into the wall. It stuck, quivering, for a moment, before peeling itself loose and falling to the floor.

“Margaret, please. Control yourself,” her father said from behind her. Stepping into the kitchen, he gazed around the orderly environment with his usual lack of disapproval.

Margaret made sure there was nothing for him to comment on. Turning slowly to gaze at him, she waited for him to speak.

“Clarice will be going north to our estate early tomorrow. Can you please make sure that the driver has food and drink, as well as Clarice? I do not anticipate them stopping, so it should be easily eaten.”


“Everything is well with the kitchen? You are satisfied with the new layout?”


Unlike his other daughters, who shared their mother’s short stature and stout forms, Margaret was a feminine version of their father, with her mother’s eyes. They shared the same brown eyes and thick black hair – well, it had been black in his younger days. Beyond the superficial similarities of countenance, they also shared the same height and lanky build. Perhaps it was this remembrance of old times, but the man could scarcely tolerate being in her presence. Neither rubbed along well, and usually accommodated each other by staying far away from each other.

“Have a good night, Margaret.” A pause of several moments, a gritting of teeth, and then he was gone.

When his footsteps had retreated, she realized he had probably been waiting for a return wish of a good night. Oh well. Scopping up the dough in her hands, she suddenly began tossing it like a ball from hand to hand. Well. North, was it?

Xyantha Reborn
06-25-2016, 08:04 AM
Chapter 8

There had been no planning, at least not to the degree that was usual for her. Something drove her out of her sanctuary and into the carriage. She had not felt anything so strongly as the day she had lost Papa in that crowd. It was an instinctual urge, a guttural cry from the soul.

The ride had been long and confining – two things which were almost guaranteed to set her into a panic. Her mind was so preoccupied, however, that she only remembered she was in the carriage several minutes in an hour. It whirled on several points; her father’s odd behaviour, her sister, Geoffrey, and this force which had driven her into the rain.

“Love, why aren’t you screaming?” Clarice asked, staring at her with some amazement.

“I am thinking happy thoughts,” Margaret replied absently, struggling to retain a mental place in her musings.

“Well, why are you here?” she demanded next.

Margaret assumed by ‘here’ that her sister was referring to the carriage. What was she supposed to do – walk? “I need to be in the carriage to get to a destination, as walking would be impracticable.”

As she had lain down in her own bed, she had abruptly comprehended that Clarice’s wedding – be it now or in future – would invariably remove her from the house. Being the only one that Margaret tolerated, the idea brought on a sort of bleakness. When the sky was lightening in the predawn, she was still grappling with the idea. For, once Clarice married, Paulina and Diana would be sure to follow suit. Paulina indeed already seemed to have found a suitor in that man with the broken nose. That would leave just her, Papa, and his wife.

The idea made her shudder. Not only because of the idea of close proximity, but also because neither had an appetite, appreciated her cooking, or liked entertaining. Which meant she would be reduced to cooking small, bland meals. Never experimenting; or at least, her experiments would never be appreciated. And without that, what was the point?

“What did Harry say when you gave him the message?”

Opening her eyes, Margaret gazed across the seat at her. That train of thought slithered away, and embarrassment rose. She had not given the message to Harry, but to explain that would open herself to more cross questioning. And how could she articulate any of it to Clarice, when she was unable to think it clearly herself? “I cannot think happy thoughts when you keep after me with questions,” she said, hearing testiness in her own tone.

Her plump sister settled back, heaving a sigh before wincing and applying a hand to her chest. Below her heavy wrapper, her body swayed with the carriage most enticingly.

Margaret dimly realized that she was no longer herself, and that her gilded cage was no longer a sanctuary. Turning her face, she gazed at her sister again. The plump form reclined against the seat, her pale face turned towards the window. Did Clarice feel the same way? Papa had certainly made her life a cage without even the luxury of gilding, lately.

Margaret would be the first to admit that she had no experience in love. Clarice, though younger, definitely had the upper hand. Though, when she her if she loved Harry, the response was odd. How could Clarice say she loved him, yet not know how she knew it was true? When pressed for an answer, all she would say was, “Yes, I love him. I feel more comfortable with him than with anyone else in the world. I have complete confidence in him. And he loves me.”

If that was the definition of love, two out of the three were most definitely true of how Margaret felt for Geoffrey. Always had, even after all these years. That feeling made it irresistibly to mention Geoffrey among the list of people who were steadfast, loyal, and true. The mention, however, seemed to rouse her sister, and Margaret was forced to settle back into quiet to avoid talking either of him, or of the reason she was here.

That same guttural cry from the soul sounded again, the pressure building as they stepped into an inn. Moments before relief had slid over her limbs at the prospect of being out of the carriage confines. But on arriving, that same pressure had appeared at the inn, urging haste back into the carriage.

No delay. Not here. Not now. Go. It seemed to say.

Go where? She could have demanded in return.

That pressure created even more of a panic than the prospect of another carriage ride. When Clarice mentioned driving through the night, she readily agreed. That force immediately subsided. The decision must be right, Margaret finally decided.

She was sitting in the darkness, staring down at her long, thin hands, and comparing them to Clarice’s plump digits, when the whole carriage thumped, and slid, listing, for what seemed like a very long way. “What was that?” Margaret demanded as both of the women slid down the seats to the listing side. “There is nothing he can do,” Margaret whispered after the coachman tried to assure them it would be right in a trice. Clarice had not seemed to notice, but Margaret’s downturned eyes had seen that the coachman actually stood almost thigh deep in water.

Both women huddled together, silent and deep within their own thoughts. Margaret reached deep in herself to feel that driving force, to tell her what to do. But it was torpid, lulling even her panic into a calmer state. It is as it should be, it seemed to say.

After what seemed like hours, the door was flung open and Harry’s face appeared. Of course! Margaret nodded to herself. He would take them ashore. Yet, after gathering Clarice in his arms, he left.

The other part of her which was not full of stress was not even surprised by the abandonment. That also, was how it should be. Or at least, how it always was. Again, Margaret shook the slumbering pressure. “What now?”

Wait, was the comfortable reply.

The rain against the roof of the carriage drummed incessantly, partially drowning out even her own chaotic thoughts. Before Clarice had been taken out, the rain had almost had a three beat tempo. There was no rhythm now, just pandemonium above her. The hollow thump of each drop only increased in speed and volume, cutting her off from the rest of the world as effectively as an island shorn asunder from the mainland. The sounds of the coachman and the horses faded away. Despite the cacophonous assault on her ears, Margaret could not help but notice absently that the rain sounded differently to her left, where she could see it swallowed up by dark water through the open carriage door.

Margaret gazed down at the rug on her lap. As with always, looking at the little details calmed her. When the sun had peeked through for a moment, the flowers had lit up in a fantastic riot of blue, lavender and pink, nestled in artistic rendering of leaves. As the sky had darkened, the colours had faded to black and grey, the pink darkening to a maroon. On the border, on the left side, there were several errors in stitching that drew her eye. Focusing her vision on the stitches, she endeavoured to calm her racing heart. Her lips parted, and she sighed, closing her eyes. “I don’t want to be alone,” she confessed, a single tear slipping down her cheek.

Warm skin cupped her face, fingers gently molding around her cheekbones. Her eyes flew open. Riveted in shock, she stared into a solidly familiar face. Blue eyes tilted as round cheeks bunched in a grin, causing a double chin to push forth merrily. Heart beating madly, she tried desperately not to fall into his eyes, or get caught up in the feeling of his strong hand, and the contrast given by the soft skin surrounding such a firm touch. “Telford,” she managed at last.

“Geoffrey,” he corrected, eyes dancing. “And what would you be doing here?” His lit from within eyes sparkled, and his wide mouth was curved into a smile of welcome. His ruddy cheeks were made pink from exertion, his breath heaving and deflating his round stomach. The garb was typical – black and white. Or, it would have been white, but wet dirt had seeped into the fabric, making it grey. Martha gave a slight shake of her head, her mind for a moment unable to comprehend how he was standing on water. A long glance revealed that he was standing in some sort of boat, bracing his upraised hands on the roof of the conveyance. The boat bobbed, and he had to shift to keep his balance. It made his stomach thrust into her space. “Come now, take my hand.”

“I cannot.” What if she fell? She could not swim! She would drown! And he would try and force her into the boat, oh God!

“Shh, dove.” With a swift motion, unusual in so large a man, he slipped into the carriage beside her. “Then I will wait with you until you can.”

Surprised, she loosened her grip on the seat, glancing up at him through her bangs. He would not force her? “…What if I cannot?”

“You can. All in good time.”

The carriage lurched suddenly, the view of the water approaching alarmingly close. The tilt caused Martha to slide straight into her impromptu companion. Softness engulfed her, dampening the overwhelming sensations around her. For one heartbeat she struggled to hold herself back, but with the next allowed herself to meld, boneless, into his body. Burying her face in his soft shoulder, she shut her eyes tightly. When he spoke, it felt like she could feel it rising straight from his soul, reverberating through his body and into hers pleasantly. “Margaret?”


“I am going to step into the boat – all you have to do is hold onto me. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she answered, turning her face up to gaze at him. Those blue eyes were so close that she could see his blonde lashes sweep down as he blinked. “But I am afraid,” she confessed, arms tightening into him. Every bit of his body welcomed her touch, cradling her.

“Of a little water?”

She nodded, shivering in delight as his arms came about her. When she was a child and the nurse had tried to hug her, it felt confining and instantly struck panic into her. Geoffrey’s arms seemed to cradle, not confine.

“Trust me. I swear that I will not let anything happen to you.” He certainly looked trustworthy. Nodding into his chest, where she had returned her face, she tightened her arms around his neck. There was a few moments of dizzying motion, and then his arms gently released her.

“I am standing in the boat – you can let go now.”

A shake to the contrary. She could not. Her arms were seized about him, panic stiffening every muscle.

After a moment and a few muttered oaths, she felt the fat around her surge. His stomach bulged into her, his chest almost suffocating her as she sunk deeper into him. Unable to stop herself, she moaned against his neck when she turned her face up for air.

“It is fine,” he murmured, stroking her now soaked head. “All is well. You can sit up now; we are both in the boat. I am sitting.”

Another shake of the head, and Margaret nestled in deeper, terrified he would rip her from him. Below her knees, hard, reassuring wood pushed back. Even if it was lurching in a disconcerting manner. One gentle hand pet her head slowly.

“I cannot row us back without my arms free,” he reasoned, hands still caressing her head.

She whimpered when he pried her lose. Her distress did not have time to mount higher, however, as he merely turned her about to face away from him and settled her firmly on his lap.

“There now. Lean into me,” he murmured into her ear.

Resisting the impulse to sink into his gorgeous form would have taken more self-control than Margaret had ever posessed. Reclining back into the soft support of his torso, she squeezed her eyes shut even more tightly, turning her face to nestle her face against his neck. “Just – please – do not let me go!”

“You just hold tight to me.” Was the unflappable response.

Margaret was just beginning to enjoy the sensation of curling into him, his broad, buttery soft stomach proving a living pillow to recline on. Who had known it would be so soft, so supportive? Her hands itched to touch it, only held around his neck by fear of slipping into the dark depths. Even that neck was plump, and she caressed a lock of pale hair between her fingers. A moment later the bottom of the boat scraped, jarring her into opening her eyes.

“There. Already ashore.” He gathered her into his arms and stood with a grunt.

“Where are we?” Margaret asked as he stepped up the path leading to the house. She blinked against the heavy rain, seeing a great big house heavy with creeping ivy. In the back stood row upon row of fruit trees, and in the far back field what looked like animals roamed.

“Home. Welcome to the Orchard.”

06-27-2016, 05:37 AM
Ahh! Keep going, this is great!

06-27-2016, 07:52 AM
Amazing story. Can't wait for more

06-29-2016, 11:51 AM
could I have some more please :eat1:

06-29-2016, 04:58 PM
So excited to see what happens between these two!

06-29-2016, 07:07 PM
I'm joining the chorus of yassses :smitten:

Xyantha Reborn
07-08-2016, 07:09 PM
I luv all of you!

Xyantha Reborn
07-08-2016, 07:10 PM
Chapter 9

“I am thinking that I will be off tomorrow, or the day after next at the latest. I am tired of the city and want to be at the Orchard as soon as may be.” And be away from all of you, he added privately.

Geoffrey had woken in no cheerful humour, as illustrated by his nearly snapping at the butler on the way out of the hotel. The night, which never passed peacefully, was spent churning over the events of his life. The spiral of his thoughts sunk him lower and lower as he reviewed critical junctures in his life and finding only malcontent in his own breast. And the events of the past six months only added insult to injury.

He had no idea how he had become so thick with the Nottinghams and the Belltaunts, but he wanted out. Enough.

“I would love to see the old homestead!” Kitty cried, her bright green eyes shining with hope. Turning in her chair to her husband, she smiled. Her pregnancy seemed to fill her with inner life and vitality, rather than making her pale and wan.

When those beseeching orbs turned to him, Geoffrey felt his heart sink to about the level his waist at the idea of bringing his pregnant childhood sweetheart into his home, along with her husband.

She continued blithely. “I believe I told you that Geoffrey and I have been lifelong friends? His lands abutted ours. I have not seen the place since…” Her soft voice trailed off, and her eyes fell to the polished floor before rising again. “Since my father sold the house.”

It sank to about the region of his knees, and a groan was almost pulled out of him as his good breeding overcame his resentment and better judgment. “Of course.” And giving himself over to the façade, allowed a smile to ghost his lips, and he crinkled the corners of his eyes. Many people thought the smile originated about the lips, but the eyes were what people often forgot to move when miming pleasure.

Kitty’s husband was no more proof against her charms than Geoffrey was. The heavyset man had been fully enjoying his breakfast, eyes as focused on his plate as if it were a book, only glancing up at their conversation. When that look sprang across the room at him, Raoul swallowed his mouthful of egg, eyed his wife with shrewd grey eyes, and finally nodded. “If Geoffrey has no objections, we can pass by it on our way home.” His deep voice sounded quite authoritative, as if it was already a decided thing.

And what if he did object, Geoffrey wondered. None of them seemed to consider for a moment that recently widowed as he was, mayhap he would like to be alone. Alone, in his country house. With no more wife to burden him. The idea of being in his actual home – not his house in town – filled him with a feeling of lightness and liberty. And to have that first sweet repose sullied by guests?

Harry had finally slept, but there was an irrepressible restlessness about his feet, a half insane whirling of thoughts behind his grey eyes. His thin face was haggard, but at least shaved. “And are you all to go?” he demanded with sudden violence, turning from the window with his arms clasped behind his back. He had been staring down into the street for some time now, gaze locked on nothing and everything.

Raoul rose to his not insignificant height, put his cup down, and moved to the window to join his kin. “Harry. I thank you for taking Kitty away from the house until I could deal with our Aunt. And I appreciate that you have affection for Clarice….”

The thinner man’s face spasmed at this description of his emotion, but remained silent.

“…Yet circumstances have changed. With our Aunt no longer in our home, and with Kitty with child, I want to be home with her. She should be at home, resting. I am sure you can understand that,” he added in a mild yet cajoling tone.

Pinching the bridge of his nose between strong fingers, Harry nodded. Eyes still closed, he released his grip and exhaled deeply. “I understand. You should go.”

Raoul crossed his arms over his round belly.

The view of his waistcoat straining to cover the flesh beneath made Geoffrey slide a habitual hand down his front to check that all was in order and all button’s accounted for. Crossing his arms made him look ridiculous, and was a gesture he always avoided.

Not so Raoul Nottingham. “And so should you.” When his sibling shook his head, his big hand rose as if he wanted to clasp the other man’s shoulder. His voice, robust and friendly with Geoffrey, seductive and teasing with his wife, softened. “There is nothing you can do here. You know this.”

“What am I supposed to do?” Harry snapped, dark brows contracting. “Just stand by as she is taken to the country, out of my grasp?”

“Yes. God forbid that you should go to the country, where she will be going. To be there at the same time. That would be nonsensical!” Raoul retorted, his own brows contracting into a mirror image.

Geoffrey, who was watching the byplay with morose self-indulgence, watched as Harry swallowed back his words, his stern face assuming the abashed look of one who realizes they are acting the fool. A dark flush sprang to Harry’s cheeks, and he sagged against the frame. “I cannot think straight,” he murmured. “You are right. I will accompany you, at least as far as Geoffrey’s. I should be thinking more clearly. Since when have you been the clear headed one?” he added in a lost tone.

Instead of looking offended, the fatter man nodded seriously. “Yes, you always were the planner, it is true. I dislike the position of being forced into being reasonable; buck up and assume your role, so that I can assume mine.” And a roguish smile flashed over his handsome features, and his deep eyes danced before sobering. “To Geoffrey’s, then home so I can be with my bride.”

The moment for objection had past. To object now would have made him a boor. Instead, Geoffrey frowned down at the expanse of belly in his lap, moodily reflecting on the delectable cooking his palate had lately reveled in. That ball gurgled deep within, reminding him of his hunger, and he slid a hand down the soft acreage to soothe the beast.

Harry seemed to have heard one of the more violent growls, for he darted his eyes at the origin with an odd look on his face.

Yet another thing he would be unable to do with guests; dispense with the formal attire and be comfortable.


Despite the uncomfortable state of the roads, the motion soothed the already exhausted man into a torpor. The vibrations reverberated through his form, causing his flesh to ripple and jiggle sensually, occasionally giving a bounce at a particularly hard bump.

That mass of fat also squealed in a rather alarming fashion, and hunger radiated through him. Margaret’s offerings had only whetted his dormant hunger, and his belly now demanded to be placated. Sliding his hands across the expanse of flesh, he pressed deep to subdue the pangs.

A pang of regret seized him, stabbing far deeper than his gluttony. Unlike the other men, Geoffrey rode with the ladies. He had not ridden since quite a lad, and the reason for it rested heavily on his thighs.

Outside the window, Raoul and Harry were barely visible as they rode alongside the carriage. And except for the familiar landmarks - the ancient stone wall on one side, then the little valley, and finally the bridge – Geoffrey would not have known where they were. The rain had begun to come down in torrents almost from the moment they had set off. No spare transportation was to be had for love nor money, and so the two men continued to ride, their heads bowed against the rain.

Across from him, the two women, Katherine and their housekeeper Martha, slept propped against each other. What a wonder, that both Raoul and Harry let themselves be brow beaten by this square, plain faced matron. Yet it was clear that there was some sort of special history between them, for the two gentleman called her by her first name, and the woman treated them more like her children than her employers.

Eventually, sleep pulled him under and away from his half-hearted musings. Dreams of stone walls thick with lush and heavy ivy, the shining leaves blowing in the wind as the pebbled path crunched beneath his feet. Of sunlight and moonlight glittering across the pond. Of little insects landing on the surface, creating minute circles of motion on the glass like surface. Of little white blossoms in the spring, magically transforming into heavy fruit. Beautiful green eyes gazed at him, her little snub nose crinkling as she took a big bite. Her peaches and cream complexion, and her laughter as she trailed him like a slip of a shadow.


They had barely arrived when Harry lost his temper. And Geoffrey had no more time than to send a concerned look at one of his favourite chairs as it fell aside before the other two men moved to the window – and then darted out into the rain after a few quick sentences.

His surprise at their inconsistent behaviour was, perhaps, somewhat dulled by association. Or mayhap it was comparatively less when he saw a carriage had slid from the road, almost straight into his pond. Luckily, the portion near the road was shallow and weedy. And thus despite being firmly mired, none had drowned.

“Is all well?” he cried as he rowed himself over, determined to be of whatever assistance he could. He certainly was not the first to arrive. His voice was lost in rain, however, and Geoffrey looked at the older brother in wonder.

The former rakehell seemed more at home soaked to his skin and working with the coachman than he had ever appeared in ballrooms. The large man had been taking the horse’s heads firmly in hand while the coachman worked at the ties.

“Leave the carriage,” Raoul half shouted. His naturally striking presence also had a natural air of command. Not the command of rank, but the natural leadership of men. “There is no use for it. Just free the horses and be done with it for now!”

Geoffrey’s shock gave way to astonishment as he watched the younger brother manhandle his lady into his little boat and lose not time in taking her to shore. Being the more fit of the two brothers, he had quickly overtaken Raoul and had ripped open the door impetuously, leaving the other to manage the rest of the business.

Blinking rain from his eyes, the fat man had heaved a sigh, a feeling of resentment rising as he was once more pushed into assisting. Clarice – for Clarice it was – would need her clothes from the roof. Plump as she was, none of the clothes Martha had would fit her.

Did it make him an awful person, so feel resentment that his friend seemed to have been given a second chance? In all likelihood…

His astonishment gave way to stillness as he slid his boat alongside the carriage to assist Raoul with the horses before removing the luggage. Instead of blank interior, a solitary figure huddled, as far away from the listing side as she could with wide, unseeing eyes. The spray from the rain did not touch her yet, but the damp caused a little curl of hair at her brow.


Well might he have asked. What was she doing here? But the woman did not seem to hear him. Her dark brown eyes, though wide open, flicked aimlessly. And although she looked composed from a distance, as he drew nearer, he could see her fists were buried deep in her skirts, and she rocked herself in a childlike motion.

“Margaret,” he tried again, pushing his face into the carriage tentatively. When that got no response, and growing concerned by the pallid tone of her skin, he carefully laid his hand to her cheek to check her pulse and temperature.

The touch caused her to gasp in a deep breath, turning eyes almost blank with terror to his face. She was a hairs breadth from hysterics, if he was any judge, and something about the way she was holding herself told him without words that she was used to being physically forced to do what she could not endure. Instead, he climbed into the carriage with her. An ill-advised move, for it caused the carriage to list even more. He was just drawing breath to curse himself when his arms were full of woman.

That lady might look thin and standoffish, but what curled into him was all soft, pliant, gentle woman. She seemed to mold into his body as if it were a second skin. Although the ledge of the door was cutting into his arm painfully, he barely noticed. His heart seemed to beat to the same panicked rhythm as the rain, and he felt a stirring which caused him to flush.

That stirring and flushing only grew worse as he managed to maneuver them out of the carriage and into the boat. Geoffrey was, and had never been, under any illusion as to the state of his own swollen body. But never had he been made so aware by physical sensations. Margaret almost curled about it until it was in her lap as well, her arms twined about his neck immovably. Her breasts pressed into the top of his stomach, and as she curled tighter her thigh brushed against the sizeable mound of fat between them.

Yet, when she moaned into his neck, he could almost have convinced himself of something else. Her pale face was turned up to his, her pupil and iris appearing as one in the dimness. The rain caught in her lashes, which Geoffrey just noticed were unusually long and fine. And the rain trembled on her parted lips. The rain which was soaking her, and perhaps might result in a cold. Shifting her so that his arms were free, the fat man put his wide his back into it as he rowed them to shore.

The master of the house struggled to retain the façade that he could carry Margaret safely inside. The heroic man. Bah. He was no man at all.

Humiliation pricked its claws deep. Both Harry and Raoul seemed to carry their females with a sort of effortless ease. Margaret Belltaunt was light and pliant, but his lungs burned from his dash to the shore, his arms from rowing, and now both his legs and arms trembled alarmingly. Yet Harry had ridden for almost two days in the rain, and moved as if it were nothing at all.“Can you walk?” He murmured to the sopping women in his arms. Dropping her seemed more and more probably by the second, but what was he to do if she said no?

Luckily, she nodded and set herself down with his assistance. “Thank you.”

“Not at all.” The problem now, was that he could not walk. His eyes seemed to have glued themselves to her form…and it appeared she did not wear a corset. She had been described as thin, but that word was clearly misapplied. Shapely apple sized breasts stood out proudly from her long, lean torso. A subtle flaring of the hips created a discernable ‘V’ that pointed straight to her sex. And before she peeled her skirts loose from her flesh, the fabric clung to the longest, most shapely legs he had ever seen. “Please,” he mumbled, finding himself hoarse.

He almost tripped and fell on seeing how the dress clung to the sweeping curve of her spine, lovingly cupping two perfect globes. Tearing his eyes away, he looked around for Kitty or Martha, but neither were to be seen. What to do with her? The servants had not even arrived, for he had given almost no notice of his coming. He had certainly not planned on having guests. After a pause, he gently urged her up the stairs to Martha’s room, limping after her.

It felt odd, to be in this house with others. For many years now, this had been his escape from his wife, and he was used to be alone in it. If Martha did visit, it was only briefly…and for a pointed purpose. The old wooden staircase creaked as they ascended it, and he glanced about, wondering what she was seeing.

The back of his neck burned as he saw with new eyes the threadbare rug, the well-loved but well-worn wood panelling. Did she see that the walls were conspicuously bare of paintings? Or that the wide halls were unadorned by statues, tables, and artifacts?

Margaret broke her silence as the man gently pushed open the door to his wife’s room. “Geoffrey?”

“Mm?” He answered, moving inside to start the fire. Would she notice the oddity, that he would do this, and not a servant?

“Thank you for rescuing me. I do not think anyone would have, if you had not.”

He squatted down, instantly becoming out of breath as he worked to start a flare of fame. “That is not true.” Finally, a spark. “There we are.” After nursing it into life, he carefully turned and rose. When he turned back, Margaret was turning about in a circle, taking the room in. “I am sorry – if I had known we were expecting guests, I would have had everything made ready. Do you need anything?” At least there would have been a fire.

The woman blinked, seeming to rouse from a deep reflection. “I…well, dry clothes?”

Stepping to the closet, he placed plump hands on the door. Inhaling a deep breath, he tried to think, but his mind was a tumble of thoughts and feelings.

“What is it?” the soft voice behind him queried, seeing him pause.

“These were my late wife’s…It might be bad luck…”

“Nonsense.” For the first time, Margaret’s voice held a hint of exasperation. “What do the rich families think become of the clothing? After all the valuable bits are removed, the clothing is usually given away or sold. What is too damaged to mend becomes rags, and the rest are usually sold again. It is just cloth.”

At least she was not squeamish.

Or, there might be nothing in it, Geoffrey added to himself as he gave a tug at the door. Luckily, some investigation showed several articles of the necessities.

He was just about to bow himself out of the room when Margaret caught him with a piercing flash of a dark brown eye. “Yes?”

“I…you…” She swallowed. “Nothing.”

“I will speak to Kitty about assisting you as soon as I find her,” Geoffrey assured her, making sure that a wide smile curved his mouth. “For now, stay warm by the fire.” He was just bowing himself out of the room when he was transfixed.

Perching lightly on the edge of a stool, the new fire licked the edges of her frame. Unconscious of his glance, the woman reached up to her head. A moment later, a waterfall of thick tresses tumbled down her back. Made almost black by the rain, it contrasted sharply with the pale skin of her face. Another movement and more heavy locks joined the first, falling past her bottom right to the floor. She tilted her head back, exposing the pillar of her throat and delicate collar bones to the flames.

Dear God…

Margaret slid graceful fingers across her scalp, shaking that sea of silk across her back with raw sensually. A sensuality that was made all the more irresistible because totally unconscious.

07-09-2016, 01:03 AM
Ahhhhh I'm so excited! This is great! Thank you! :)

07-11-2016, 07:42 AM
Amazing, amazing, amazing! Can't wait to read more, poor Geoff needs some love

07-13-2016, 02:14 PM
I'd fallen behind in my reading -- which meant I got more to read now :D Lovely!

08-11-2016, 01:36 PM
This is the most amazing story eveeeeeeer. I've re read it again today and I'm
Seriously begging you to continue

Xyantha Reborn
08-12-2016, 01:45 PM
Sorry for quiet, I have been working on this and hope to post a new chapter by the end of this weekend.

08-12-2016, 04:15 PM
Sorry for quiet, I have been working on this and hope to post a new chapter by the end of this weekend.

Take as much as you need, anything you write is a pleasure to read 🙌🏻

Xyantha Reborn
08-14-2016, 06:53 AM
Chapter 10

Two pairs of eyes darted his way with varying degrees of shock and disbelief. Geoffrey felt an odd pang at the sudden shift in Katherine’s expression.

His childhood sweetheart had once gazed at him with affection and dancing eyes. It was not so long ago that he had forgotten the sweetness. Since marrying her husband, her looks had cooled. This, however, caused a pang. Her expression fell, and she turned her pale face into her Raoul’s sleeve after casting him an accusatory glance. That quick shot revealed a sudden loss of respect, an air of oh, how could you?

The cause of that look gazed impudently at them, a wide grin splitting his chubby face in half. Blue eyes twinkled above that wide grin, and a thatch of white blonde hair half fell into his eyes.

When she turned her face away from him in displeasure, Geoffrey felt the mild need to explain die away. Something in him felt sour and acidic, and he almost triumphed in seeing how easily her opinion of him shifted. Of course. That was how it should be, he mused. There was no longer any hero worship.

All of this was not the boy’s fault, and so the owner of the house cast a wry smile at the lad. The fat man had to choke back a snort of laughter as the boy drew out some nibble from his pocket and began to devour it, never removing his sky blue eyes from the guests. It was not just in appearance that they were similar!

The tall man on the other side of Kitty finally tore his eyes away with a disapproving air. “Kitty, shall I wait for you here?”

“No,” his wife replied. “Geoffrey showed us our room. As soon as I am done I will come to you.”

“I apologize about the state of the place,” Geoffrey ventured yet again, refusing to acknowledge their huffy looks or pointed silence. “We are unused to guests here, I confess. We never keep the place ready.”

Katherine seemed to feel how weak his excuse was, and forbore making any comment. That silence did not extend to the accusatory light as her eye flicked from the child, to him, and back.

That feeling of humiliation pricked again, but before he could reply, she was inside the room to help Margaret undress.

“So.” Raoul rumbled, wet hair still plastered against his tanned face from his efforts outside. “It was this bad, was it?” Those shrewd grey eyes flicked from the dust in the corners, to the conspicuously bare walls.

So much for subtlety. Geoffrey’s eyes fell to the discolouration on the floor, where carpet had rested for generations. Years of sun had bleached the wood, leaving a highly conspicuous bare spot where the carpet had been removed. He gave a terse nod. A clap on his shoulder made him raise his eyes.

Raoul offered him a smile. “It does a man good to see that his estate is not the only one in a bad way.”

In his own personal misery he had quite forgotten that the other man’s estate was in a dire way. Of course he would understand the signs.

“Chin up, man.” The taller man glanced again at the child, who was still leaning against the wall and examining them with a quiet entertainment. “Besides. It was providence that lead us here, and Clarice as well.”

No doubt. What else could have lead the women to his very door, after forcing them here as well? Yet he felt less wonder at the event, than dispassionate curiosity as to why providence continued to punish him.


The amber liquid in the decanter was slowly lowering, but the awful noises continued to assault his ears.

At least, they were awful to him.

It was an old house, and sounds had a way of carrying through the conspicuously empty corridors, and bleeding through the walls. And although comfortably large, it was hardly meant for entertaining. The sounds of sexual pleasure resonated quietly from the rooms across the hall.

A heaving sigh caused the large belly in his lap to inflate, then deflate. Geoffrey stared down at it, wondering what it would be like to be so fit as the two Nottingham men. Even Raoul, who Geoffrey had thought gone to pot, easily rode all the way here, helped to unhitch the horses and then to carry the baggage in. Even now, he was engaged in what sounded like strenuous exercise.

Geoffrey had found Raoul a dark humour when they met in society. His marriage, though not long, had significantly mellowed his temper and raised his spirits. It was hard to dislike a man who was open handed and honest. It was even harder when he seemed to like you, and understand…certain circumstances. Though there had been mild disapproval for an instant expressed in his contracted brows, but Raoul’s expression had soon mellowed.

Tapping a finger against the rim, the solitary figure raised the glass to his lips and drained the last mouthful. Lips drawn against the burn, he sniffed, glancing around the chamber. Other than the bed and sideboard, it reflected his life and lifestyle. Empty. No pictures, no personality touched the walls or adorned tables. There were two tables. One served as his wash stand, the other as his desk. The papers on that desk rustled a soft herald just before a lovely summer breeze floated through his open window, caressing his hot skin.

Pushing off carefully from the bed, Geoffrey made with careful precaution along the open floor to the window. Below and beyond his window stretched his orchard, whose sweet smells had drifted in on the breeze, tempting him over. Thick grasses waved like the sea, and a swirl of dust on the path whipped itself into a foot high funnel before collapsing with a sigh. In spring those little trees would be heavy with blossom. That bloom had faded, leaving the hint of sweetness to come in a few weeks.

No one else understood his love for this place. The others had nodded at the fields, acknowledging its quaintness. Well, almost no one. Glancing through the wall at his late wife’s room, he recalled how she had relaxed in his arms as she took the scene in, unconsciously inhaling the sweet fragrance. Then again, maybe she had never been to the country. Her father almost never left town, after all.

He never should have gotten involved. Not with the Belltaunts, not with the Nottinghams, not with the Chelseys. None of them. He felt that he was being punished, but that it was disproportionate to his crimes, or his help. Perhaps his helping was his crime, he thought with sudden inspiration. It was the only thing that made sense.

His eyes remained open far after the bottle lay empty on the table, and far after the sounds had died away to murmurs, and then to silence. He was a pathetic old man who could not shake Margaret from his thoughts. Instead of grieving, he was lusting. That fall of hair…! Geoffrey wanted to wrap his fist in it and kiss that neck until she…

Closing his lids resolutely, he bit down on the snarl that wanted to burst forth from his lips. Why must he always torture himself?


Those thick bangs which normally hid her eyes instead shadowed her heavy lidded look. She looked like temptation incarnate. Her small, pert breasts were hidden behind a wave of hair which cascaded over her shoulders and tickled his chest and stomach

“Margaret,” he breathed, reaching out with a trembling hand to caress her face.

Of course, on the other side would be another man, and she would laugh as she turned away.

She nestled into it, eyes half closing.

Raising himself up with difficulty, Geoffrey glanced on the other side of her for the other man. None appeared, and his head was impossibly heavy, so he collapsed back. Doing so caused his flesh to wobble, and never had he felt the sensation so clearly as when the mass reverberated against her skin.

Ah, this is to be one of those dreams, he murmured to himself. It would not be the first time that he dreamt of his marriage night, when he revealed himself to his wife and she laughed and recoiled from him. Just like Martha, Margaret would recoil…

But though his dream maiden shuddered, she drew closer.

Gossamer strands caressed his fingers as he drew them through her tresses. This dream would end badly, he knew, but until then it was impossible not to partake of the bounty before him. Her skin was warm beneath his hands, and a breeze stirred the hair along her face. The moonlight tumbling in through the open window highlighted her body intermittently as clouds danced across the sky outside. “Margaret,” he breathed again.”

“I am Margaret,” she affirmed in that odd way he liked so much. When he chuckled, she tilted her head. He loved that tilt too, and kissed her nose. “I like that, do that again,” she breathed, eyes wide.

Oh god, so sweet. Drawing her closer, he kissed her nose, her cheeks, her forehead, her mouth. When he drew back, those dark eyes were wide and solemn.

“I liked all of those things,” she informed him.

“I am too close, I crowd you,” Geoffrey realized suddenly when he had to draw his head back to bring her face into focus. She only shook her head, and he jerked in surprise as he felt her hands on him. Fat as he was, he often felt warm, even when his flesh was cold to the touch. Her hands felt hot as they caressed his side. His big, fat, side. “I’m sorry,” he blurted, seeing as though for the first time, how his stomach rolled out from his body as he lay on his side. How the sack of heavy flesh hung at his hips, and how it creased his side.

“You do not crowd me,” Margaret reiterated. After a moment, she asked, “Why have you stopped touching me? Should I stop touching you?”

Why indeed? This would end at any moment. Every moment was precious. Allowing his hands free license, they roamed over soft skin, skimming over her sides. She was not robust like other women. It felt like he held a dove in his hands. Pale skin covered delicate bones, making the fingers appreciate the areas of lush womanhood even more.

Scenes flashed before his eyes, and he longed to freeze time, to extend this brief pleasure, but it flitted forward beyond his control, disjoined pleasurable scenes following each other.

Her head fell back with a shocked gasp when he allowed himself to cup one of those pert breasts. Struggling to his hands and knees, he jumped in guilty surprise at her noise of shock. That belly he had been glaring at lay firmly on her, holding her in place. “Am I crowding you?” he asked the siren spectre.

This was where the dream would end, he knew with savage certainty, and placed hands on her hips to hold her more firmly in place. His first attempt at threading the needle failed, and he swallowed. He was not so much of an innocent that he did not know the basics, he told himself as nerves mounted. Geoffrey blindly reached for that heaven, but he was unable to see past this god forsaken, blasted, gut was in the way! This, this was how this dream was to end, he realized in sudden clarity. Fat, old flapadoodle - unable to have a woman in life, or in dreams -

Shock ripped through him as a quick touch on her part sent him plunging into hot, tight, heaven. The beauty beneath him gave a brief cry, body spasming, before moaning softly in satisfaction.

Had to finish this before something else went wrong. The only thing that was in the way was this great belly, and he stared down at it crossly. Not even in his dreams would it have the decency to be gone. The lower swell was half caught between them, preventing him from sinking up to the hilt into that warm, tight heaven which had always denied him.

Margaret moaned again and slid her hands around his belly’s width, freeing the flesh to tumble onto her own stomach and chest. Digging his feet into the bed for traction, he move in her, even as his arms gave out and he sunk more and more of his weight on her. A detached part of his mind wondered that she did not panic at being trapped, but then gave himself up to the sensations as he closed his eyes. Do not wake up, do not wake up, he prayed.

Having only ever felt his own hand, the feeling of her slick sheath tightening around him was unbelievable, and he had to freeze as his pleasure threatened to culminate. No, no, no, this could not end so quickly!

The little witch under him had different plans, and her hips began rocking beneath him. Within moments he collapsed beside her, breathing hoarsely, back aching and fingers numb from gripping the sheets.

Good god!

Margaret sucked in a great big breath and then edged closer until she was firmly ensconced in his blubbery side, her big black eyes -


Opening his own eyes, Geoffrey gave a low cry of pain and grief as the last dregs of his dream fled, replacing pleasure with the pain of a hangover. Removing his arm, he lay limp for a long moment, breathing deeply. There was no woman in the bed next to him. The curtain flapped lightly in the early morning breeze, a promise of heat to come already easily felt. His empty room sat as empty as it had when he lost consciousness.

Throwing off the sheet, Geoffrey bit back a yelp of pain. Every muscle and bone ached, but it was not that which caused his distress. Carefully peeling off the fabric, he stared down at the second most incriminating substance in the world, which had affixed the fabric to his balls.

Blue eyes darted left, then right, and then stared at the bed, widening. Pulling the fabric away from the bed, he discovered the most incriminating substance in the world. He stumbled in place, catching himself on the wall.

08-15-2016, 12:24 PM
Wow! Oh wow! Arrrgh! Best cliff hanger ever!!

08-15-2016, 03:31 PM
Yasss, love the update. As always, can't wait to read more 😏😏

08-18-2016, 08:02 PM
Oh wow. *starry eyes* I've been rooting for Geoffrey from the beginning, and now that I know more about Margaret I've basically just been metaphorically yelling "KISS ALREADY" at the screen of whatever device I'm (re)reading from at the time. You've developed such unique and nuanced characters in this series I JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH.

Seriously, though, I've reread this like 17 times, not even exaggerating.

08-19-2016, 01:51 PM

Seriously, though, I've reread this like 17 times, not even exaggerating.

same! It's so addicting

Xyantha Reborn
08-19-2016, 02:21 PM
:wubu::blush: ty!!

Have a few more chapters sketched out, i hope to post another chapter this weekend, but its a pretty busy few days...I will try!

Xyantha Reborn
08-22-2016, 06:38 PM
Chapter 11
Five years ago…

Backing away from the dance floor where her father had abandoned her, she turned to look for Clarice. Her sister was discernable by her bulk and was surrounded by half a dozen men across the room. Turning her head the other way, she cast about for her father, but could see nothing except a sea of black and white. Whimpering, she withdrew and tried to exit the room.

“I never wanted to be here,” she panted to herself. “He should have known better. This happens every time!”

Bodies pressed in on her until she could barely squeeze through. Her reckless movements causing her to be inadvertently trodden on, pushed, and sustain several elbows. The tight space made her throat tighten, her lungs seize, and her vision swim. A sea of vaguely featured faces leered at her as she searched for the exit. The smell was overpowering; a mix of food, alcohol, sweat, and perfume.

Pushing forward with even more heedlessness, she lurched free of the press, stumbling as momentum propelled her forward. Catching her balance and burying her hands in her skirt, she pushed blindly on until the sounds of laughter, voices, and music was muted into an angry buzz. Margaret pressed herself against the security of a wall, feeling fabric meet her hands instead of the solidity she had depended on. “Oh!!” she gasped as she stumbled back, arms pin wheeling for balance.

She caught herself on the window sill at the last moment, her hands tingling from the impact. Sucking in deep breaths of the night air she raised her face to the sky as one hot tear, and another, then another seared down her face. Dark eyes darted behind a curtain of shimmering liquid, and she choked down her sobs until almost no noise escaped her clenched and bared teeth. The idea of anyone finding her was intolerable. Sinking to her knees on the cool floor, she rested her face against the wall. “I wish I was dead,” she sobbed fervently. “I can’t get out, I can’t get out, I can’t get out…” her voice forced into a high whine against the tightness in her throat.

A movement of the curtain, the sound of a foot, and a clearing of someone’s throat caught her attention. She froze, eyes wide, tears dancing on the ends of her lashes and obscuring her sight. Unable and unwilling to look up, she stared down at the floor, waiting for the disappointment and remonstrance of her father.

“Good God, are you hurt?” an unfamiliar male voice demanded, and in an instant he had lowered himself with a huff beside her. “Shall I call for help?” he inquired breathlessly.

Thank God it was not her father! “No!” the heiress to a large fortune croaked pathetically, her shoulders heaving with supressed distress. “No, no!” He would make her leave, or find her father who would make her dance! Her thin fingers clutched the window sill tightly, and she ducked her head, hunching a shoulder in unconscious defense. To her right, the dark fabric of his coat sleeve interposed itself across her vision. Humiliated, she ducked her head farther.

The face that he met hers with was as soft and gentle as the touch on her chin he used to turn her face. The contracted brows were a light dusting of colour under a head of thick, white-blonde hair that tumbled into his eyes. Those bright blue eyes met hers, and the stranger blinked rapidly several times as if to dispel sympathetic tears of his own.

Margaret had not paid any attention to his frame - until her face was buried in his sleeve as she crumpled into him. It was as inviting and comfortable as her bed. Warmth, comfort, and a solid padding supported her. His arms came up, his warm palms carefully clasp her arms. Margaret was no fan waving admirer of the male form; in fact, men scarcely drew her notice. This, however, pleased her senses in the way food did a deep craving. His form had seemed large; substantial. It was that, but also warm, soft, and giving. It was like crying into a pillow…

“There now,” the man murmured in a husky voice after several minutes, and several clearings of his throat.

He would push her away, she needed to be strong and stand up –

The man shifted his weight on his knees, but only murmured; “Just close your eyes and pretend for a moment that you are the only one here. No people, no music, no pushing, no noise.”

She was such a child, despite being the oldest. She throttled back on her crying again until no sound emerged. A strange need to please rose, along with the depressing realization that he probably thought her a simpleton.

“What is that? You are going to have to walk out eventually – no point in holding back if you still feel upset. Better to just have your cry out now, eh?”

Something about those words struck a resounding chord deep within her, and she fell limp against him as she sobbed like a child. He was so solid and comforting. The mere idea of leaving this little recessed curtain filled her with dread, and panic. Her father would come, and then he would take her back into the ballroom, and then - !

“Just breathe,” He murmured softly. “If you don’t breathe you will faint. And stop saying such things – no one will take you away until you feel better – not in my house.”

His house? Startled, Margaret raised her tear stained face to his round one. If this was his house, this was Telford, the man who her sister has struck the bargain with. The bargain that was the whole reason for this celebration. All of a sudden she realized how handsome he was, and blushed deeply, her eyes falling. When a cloth was proffered in her field of vision, she took it to carefully dab at her eyes. Under cover of the motion, she darted her glance up at his round cheeks, which rounded more as he smiled, clearly delineating his double chin. Clearly. He was so close that she could see him clearly - and she shrank back in greater confusion at the proximity.

The man next to her gave a deep groan as he shifted his weight, his round face reddening as he compressed his length. Turning his back to the wall, he slid down it to take a seat beside her.

Surprised, she raised her head to see that he had hooked his ankles over one another, resting his hands across his large paunch, and looking as settled and comfortable as could be.

“I cannot leave you like this,” he murmured. “I will wait until you feel well, or until you tell me if there is someone else who I can fetch to assist you.”

When he turned his head to the right to observe her, twinkling blue eyes sent a jolt through her chest and into her stomach. “You…you will not force me to go back?”

He looked perplexed, a line appearing between his light brows. “Force you? No. There is no need to move until you are ready.” Settling his head back, he observed the curtain for a long moment, which flapped lightly in the breeze. In the distance, a raucous laugh burst out. “Blasted hot in there. Too many people. I’m not surprised you were upset – but it is much nicer here, is it not?”

“Yes – it is,” she whispered, fascinated to find herself calming. Several minutes elapsed with only the sound of his breathing. Something about the sound excited her, and Margaret soon observed him out of the corner of her eye, and finally peered at him. The blonde man next to her was as puffed and round as dough. His broad stomach rounded out to fill part of his lap. His thick arms and chubby fingers were laced near the top, as if it would be uncomfortable or impossible to clasp them at his waist.

The man seemed to feel her scrutiny, eyes crinkling at the corners, but he said nothing. If anything, he seemed to settle back more firmly. His eyes cast themselves her way several times, but he neither stared, crowded her, or spoke. The man – Geoffrey Telford – eventually met her gaze with lips twitching. “Now then, you seem calmer. My, what an intense gaze you have – I rather feel like a worm! Tell me - what had you so flustered?”

She dropped her eyes. “I do not like people, or crowds.”

“Nor I.”

“And I do not want to be here!”

“Nor I,” he agreed with a quiet fervor that most men reserved for ‘amen’. After another pause, he again turned his head to observe her. “I fear that we have not been introduced – I am Geoffrey Telford.”

“Margaret,” she stuttered in return, feeling an odd dizziness rise as he pressed his fingers into her knuckles. How strange it was, to be sitting on the floor with this man! After his brows twitched, she realized she must have said something wrong, but was baffled as to what it was.

The sounds of rapid footfalls came up the hall, and a low sob was heard. Geoffrey scrambled to his feet, and pulling back the curtain, slipped out. His voice sounded low and urgent as he called out – “Alice!”

The footsteps halted.

“What mischief is in the air tonight?” The man demanded. “Alice, come here.” It was said in the tone of a master to a well known servant. A tone, though not rough, expected obedience.

Footsteps approached closer to where Margaret sat, still startled. “I - am sorry,” the girl whispered. “I thought to leave…before…”

The man who had so recently comforted Margaret instantly softened his voice. “What is it now? Did she yell at you for some trifle? Did you pick out the wrong necklace for her to wear? Did you not – ”

“No, no,” she gulped. After a pause, she blurted. “I am dismissed!”

“The blazes you are,” he retorted instantly, his tone turning to steel. “Under what pretense does my wife use to try and force you out of my house? Was a single hair out of place?”

“I am with child.”

Margaret raised her eyes to the curtain, where two rough outlines were visible against the flickering light.

Seeming to recover himself, the thicker shadow passed a hand over his face. “With child.”

“It is no one’s fault but my own, I was stupid, so stupid. It was all my fault. I should have known, I did not know, I – ”

“Alice.” When she tripped to a halt, he continued. “Is this the babe of the young butcher you are betrothed to?”

The young woman’s voice was almost a wail of pain. “Yes! Were. Not anymore, he -”

The sounds of several doors opening and closing made them both turn. “Come here.” Taking her hands, the shadow paused. “You are not going to leave my employ. Do you understand me?”

Her voice quavered “But – ”

“Am I understood? Good. I will not have a young woman banished from my house for…what happened.”

“H - oh,” she stuttered, half sinking to her knees. “How – ”

“You would be surprised,” Geoffrey replied dryly. “Now. You are going to go to our country home. You will be taken care of. I will not let this child be put to the streets, do you understand me? Once you have had your rest period, you will remain in the Orchard. You will tend the house, and raise the boy as healthy and blooming as the apples themselves.” He had spoken quickly, and now paused for an answer.

“Geoffrey!” A female voice called. “You are wanted in the dining parlour.”

“Here,” Geoffrey called back in a voice of resignation. Turning back, the shadow stepped towards the curtained alcove. “I must go. But before I do, may I impose on you for a favour?”

“Anything, anything,” the woman whispered.

“Stay with this young lady until she is well. The crush has been too much for her. When she is recovered, take her out the side door and help her fetch the carriage.”

The curtain was drawn back, and a pretty face with light brown eyes and hair gazed down on Margaret. “Of course,” Alice murmured, sinking to her knees as if barely aware of her surroundings. “But – why? Why are you doing this for me? I do not deserve it…”

Geoffrey Telford pulled the curtain back farther, his face shadowed. “Because sometimes other people deserve to be happy, even if you are not. I will make the necessary arrangements on my end. Good night, Alice. Have a safe journey.” Blue eyes softened as he transferred his gaze to Margaret. “Good bye, Margaret. It was a pleasure meeting you. I hope to be introduced under more favourable circumstances in the future.”

With that, he was gone, and both women turned mutually upset faces to one another. “Why are you crying, miss?” Alice asked, patting in her pocket for a handkerchief. When found, she offered it courteously.

She shook her head. Raising the square Geoffrey had left with her, Margaret sniffed. “Because I am useless and cannot function in normal society. My father forced me out tonight, when all I want to do is be at home cooking!”

“Cooking?” Alice exclaimed, staring at her. “Doesn’t your family have someone to do the cooking? Oh,” she cried, face reddening. “Beg pardon!”

“My family has me to do the cooking,” the heiress replied without rancor, raising her head. “Why are you crying?” She returned, remembering her manners at the last moment.

“The missus discovered I am with child and told me to leave…the master is such an amazing man!” she exclaimed, light brown eyes shining with worship.

“Is it his?” The idea displeased her unaccountably.

Alice looked shocked, round eyes widening further even as her mouth opened in an ‘O’. “No indeed! Never! The master is far too good to lay his hands on one like me, even if his wife is a terrible harpy. No, my sweetheart, he…” her eyes watered, and she looked away. “He said it wouldn’t be so bad, seeing as how we were to be married soon, and all. When he learned I was with child, he cast me aside, and said it wasn’t his. But it is his!” she cried, then froze.

Margaret opened her mouth to ask her a question, but had it quickly covered by the other women, who looked terrified. The young woman raised her forefinger to her lips silently, and turned glistening eyes to the curtain. A door unclosed at the end of the hallway, and a pair of steps were heard coming up the hall.

“I don’t care,” a hard voice snapped.

“Martha, be sensible – ”

“I would rather die than allow him to spend one more night in that trollop’s bed!”

The masculine voice chuckled. “It isn’t as if you’ve been enjoying his bed – you haven't slept with the man yet. Who gives a damn if he finds his pleasure elsewhere?” The sound of kissing followed, then a slap.

“Do not push me, Richard, unless you want to see how ‘insensible’ I can be. We might have a financial arrangement, but anything else is out of the question. As to your question – I will not have his disgusting body touch me, but that does not give him the right to humiliate me. Alice will be gone by morning, and I wouldn’t be surprised if her body was found in a ditch somewhere. Perhaps we could come to a new arrangement, if that came to pass,” she murmured throatily.

Two big tears rolled down Alice’s face, and Margaret stared at her in horror.

The speaker stepped close enough to the curtain that her shoes were visible. Pushing herself to her feet, Margaret turned to look at the woman as the curtain pulled back.

Small, hard eyes gleamed at her over a thin nose and cruel mouth. “What are you doing here?” she cried, jerking back in surprise.

“Taking some fresh air,” Margaret replied, the hair on her arms and the back of her neck rising.

“This part of the house is not open to…guests. Please move along the corridor and take your last right.”

Margaret stood her ground, stubborn nature rising. “Geoffrey said I could stay.”

“Geoffrey, is it!” She cried with an unmistakeable emphasis on the familiar term. Turning to the man behind her - “Westmore, did you hear? Geoffrey said she could stay! Did Geoffrey pay you enough to entice you to his bed? No need to look so shocked dear. You look as if you have been rolling in the hay.”

Clarice had reminded her that her ‘inadvertent familiarity’ would get her into trouble some day. Her face heated as the words belatedly made it to her brain. Had he – what?


Alice squeaked and rose to her feet at the viper’s hiss.

“I told you to be gone!” Martha’s already hard face contorted, and she took a quick step. Snatching her forearm in a hard grasp, she yanked the young woman forward. “I – ”

“Leave my friend alone,” Margaret ground out, taking the other arm of the terrified woman.

“Your ‘friend’. And who would you be, you little hussy? Hiding in the corridors waiting for your lover!”

Margaret often forgot that her family, and family name had power. When she did remember, she often purposefully failed to mention it, not wanting it to be a factor in her dealings. She had seen Martha once or twice before, when they were signing the contracts. Her liking had not grown with time, and she was so irritated at the vicious, angry presumption, so heart sick at the hurt she caused poor Alice, and – and - !

If she had ever experienced the bite of jealousy, she would have understood the emotion better. But as it was, all she could do was stand to her full height, stare down her nose at the other woman, and pronounce. “Margaret Belltaunt.”

The other woman’s face instantly paled, and she released Alice. “So that is how Geoffrey secured this deal. Slept his way into your family? Why do you think men like him stray?”

He had been so nice, so comforting. So perfect. Not only to herself, but to Alice as well. Why was this woman so cruel? Is this what he had meant when he said he could not be happy? “No,” she replied absently, mind full. “Although I am given to understand that husbands who are dissatisfied with their wives often stray. Or if they are barren,” she added belatedly.

Shaking her head, she sighed.

This night had been exhausting, and if she did not leave with Alice, she would be forced to walk through that crush again. “I am going to leave now,” she announced, hands shaking, and face alternately heating and cooling. “And Alice is coming with me. Come, Alice.” Alice stumbled past her former mistress, the hand Margaret retained as cold as ice in her grasp.

“If you think for one instant that I will let this, this, this, farce continue, you should be locked up for life!” Martha nearly shrieked behind her. “This will not stand, do you hear me? I would rather see our every ship burn to the ground than let him have another!”

Another? Another what?

08-22-2016, 08:47 PM
Ooooh intrigue! This new story is phenomenal!

08-23-2016, 03:45 AM
Omg you are amazing, this story is phenomenal!

Xyantha Reborn
08-27-2016, 06:56 PM
Chapter 12
Five years ago…

Alice’s departure had been delayed several days, as the Telford’s carriages happened to all become damaged. The coincidence was commented on by others as a misfortune. Alice trembled.

The poor woman was so frightened that Margaret assented to her staying with them, and even made arrangements for her to be dropped off at the Orchard – as their own would be heading out in several days in that general direction. Though Alice confessed that she did not expect to live, not when she was within her grasp. Yet, when questioned why she went, Alice only answered that otherwise, death was all but certain for her and her babe.

Her kitchen was her solitude, her comfort, her sanctuary. This was the place she went to in order to clear her mind and calm her nerves. It was impossible to shake the feeling of connection she had felt last night. Clarice called her cold, and perhaps she was. In the moment, all she could do was exist, to take in everything that happened around her. It was the way she always was, and always would be. But afterwards...

The past two days her head had been full of him.

Geoffrey Telford; the only person in the world she felt this way about. Others went through life like a babbling brook, slipping through heedless and painless. Her existence was not so. It exasperated her family to no end, but every sound, every flutter, every reflection, every smell seemed more vivid to her. The minute she left this room her senses and nerves were bombarded, grated, and rubbed raw.

Speaking with others was a chore. Many people over her life had tried to school her in the art of conversation, but all failed. Margaret could simply not bring herself to feel the slightest bit of interest in the pleasantries and comments that were the hallmark of every interaction. Those who tried seemed to quickly become exasperated with her. Her father, sisters…even they seemed to find her irritating. No matter, as she found them exhausting.

Geoffrey had not stared at her so disconcertingly. He had not loomed over her or invaded her space. He had not been upset with her for crying – that she marvelled at most of all. Clarice and her father regularly scolded her when she fell so deep into panic that she wept. They swept her feelings aside under the banner of histrionics. Geoffrey had looked…worried. He had encouraged her to cry, made her feel safe, and provided her an exit from his house that did not force her through the crush.

And he had done it without making her feel less than. It was not like when Clarice rolled her eyes and called for the horses, or when her father’s cheek would twitch. And oh, his person…

The heiress was aware that there was some sort of social requirement to be thin, but given her general disregard of societal opinions, that was quickly swept aside. Her criteria for acceptance was simple; do I like that? And oh, she liked him. The round shape of his face, the padded comfort of his arm… She had curled up with her pillow last night, trying to recapture that feeling, but it was a pale comparison.

Margaret raised her eyes from her dough to where her guest perched on a stool. Ostensibly she was repairing some garment, but it was hard to imagine how much repair could be accomplished, when Alice kept twiddling and poking and twisting the fabric so. Occasionally, she pressed her hand to her abdomen, lower lip trembling.

The other woman dashed the back of her hand across her eyes. “Miss – Margaret?”

She kept her eyes fixed on the other woman from under her bangs, waiting patiently for the next words. It was not too bad, having her in her kitchen. After the first day of her bumbling attempts to help, her guest stayed where she was put. Her nattering was not a severe annoyance, as she seldom required a response to her rambling gossip.

After a moment, Alice took her look as an invitation to speak. “What do you think will happen with the Master now?” At her hostess’s flat gaze, she swallowed. “I suppose your agreement has fallen through…”

This was where the exhaustion came from. “What?”

“I just can’t believe it. I can’t believe that she had so much resentment. Granted, no wife likes to be spurned, but then she began it. And he could not have done better than you – and a good investment besides…to burn down all your ships…”

Under stunned fingertips, the dough slowly slumped onto the counter. “The ships burned down? Our ships?” And, a moment later, louder, “What?” What did this have to do with Geoffrey?

“Yes’m. Heard it just as I came in. They are just putting out the flames now. I have no proof, but who else could it be? They say every Belltaunt ship is burning. They have been trying to put it out for hours! Some of the others caught, but they say the target is clear. Just because he dallied with you? It seems like insanity!”

With her first confusion cleared, the second rose to the forefront. “Who dallied with me?”

Alice turned her kind but rather vapid face towards her hostess. “My master! Geoffrey Telford.”

Blinking, Margaret stared at her until the other woman paled and swallowed. After turning this information over several times to try and discern what Alice had just told her, her brows flexed. “You think that him – and I?”

The other woman paled until she looked ill. “I - Well – I – that is to say…That is what you told the missus…”

Margaret frowned, casting her mind back over that night. It was pretty well seared into her memory, considering that it had been the first time she felt comfortable out of the house, was the first time a man had touched her, and the first time she stood up for herself instead of fleeing. “I did not tell her any such thing! Why would you think that? And why would you think that she thought that?”

Despite looking like she was putting her head on the block, the other slowly began. “Well, you were hidden in their private corridor in the bay window…and your dress and hair were dishevelled…and he particularly asked me to see to you…and the way he looked at you…” Trailing off, she fiddled with the cloth on her lap. “And then, when the missus came, she saw you like that.” She swallowed hard. “You even used his given name! And then you intimated that he slept with you because she was unsatisfactory for his needs and because she was barren! ”

“I did not say that – she asked me why I thought men could stray, and I simply answered. And when she said that she believed we were involved I told her that she was mistaken!” Why did people always say she said things that she did not? Or claim they had told her things that they had not?

Alice cast a pitying look on her. “Oh, that isn’t what she believed. I guarantee you that she was convinced of the opposite. You looked so proud, like you did not care one jot at being discovered! Do you remember her carrying on as we left? She said it, then it happened!”

Margaret knew she often had difficulty navigating conversations that Clarice found simple, and wondered if she was missing something in this conversation. “You think that Martha Telford burned our ships down – because of that? But nothing happened! I spoke the truth!”

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the truth is, just what people believe is the truth. And whatever you want to believe – all the ships are burnt to a crisp, all the cargo that was loaded is gone, and once they investigate…well. There will be charges and shame that not even the master can escape.” Her eyes filled with tears. “What will become of us?”

“I do not understand your question. You will go to the Orchard. And I will look into this.”


The smell of burning was discernable as soon as Margaret left the kitchen. Ashes tumbled across the ground many streets before she was in view of the dock. Above the city, everywhere she could see, hung a hazy, acidic film.

Slipping down to the water was harder than the heiress imagined – the crush of people, guards pushing back. Keeping her face to the streets, she flitted glances up only to ensure she was not about to be run over. Several routes were attempted, but the woman was rebuffed or halted by sheer bodies. Finally, stepping to the side, she threw back her hood and sucked in a lungful of air. It burned, and she coughed. She would have no luck getting in this way.

She frowned. Something felt different. Although irritated, she was not feeling panicked by the crowd. Although halted, she was not feeling trapped. Buoyed by a purpose, she gazed about. Was Geoffrey here?

One of the guards brightened, spying her face. “Miss Belltaunt! This way! Thank goodness, a sensible head is needed! I am glad you have been sent.”

Sensible indeed. The naked bones of ships thrust through the surface of the water, erupting from the floating debris like the last thrust of a drowning man. Margaret shuddered, wrapping her shawl around her more tightly. It was hard to imagine one person wreaking this much havoc, this much damage…

Why would Martha have done this? Even if she believed Margaret capable of such actions, did she truly suspect her husband of the same? Burning the ships would hurt Martha far, far more than the Belltaunts. Why would she do it?
Pattering down into the gloomy office, Margaret gazed at the familiar face of Alan Griswald. “Not one ship is left?” she asked directly.

The older man’s deeply grooved face eased somewhat, the grim line of his mouth softening at her entrance. “Your father sent you, did he? Good man, I was just about to dispatch a letter. I would have done it sooner, but all hands were needed to stop the blaze.” Indeed, the man was covered from head to foot in ash and soot, giving him an unsettling air. “Your timing is excellent. I was just about to have an investigation launched – ”

“Do not bother.” She suspected who is was. Who else could it be? What could they do anyhow? “Was anyone hurt?”

“Not beyond the usual bumps and bruises, thank heavens. A few minor burns, but naught that time will not heal.” Putting his cap back on his head, he eyed her. “Are you sure you don’t it? It was your ships that were targeted, plain as day. Someone had it out for your family.”

“And the Telfords,” she murmured absently, thoughts still trying to grasp why Martha would do such a thing.

“Ah yes, I almost forgot about that. Poor man, this will ruin him.”

At the statement, Margaret swallowed. “Why?”

Thick fingers stacked and pushed items into order on his desk. “He invested all he had.”

“If the culprit was caught, would it make a difference?”

“Ah, well. You were probably right before. If he was poor he would be as good as dead, his life in a workhouse or hanged. If he was rich, he’d lose everything to repay the amount, destroy his family, and it still wouldn’t make it right.”

So if Martha was not caught, that charming man would be destroyed. And if she was, Geoffrey would be destroyed. How was this just, how was this fair? At least if his wife was not discovered, he would not lose his estate... “Leave the investigation to my sister – Clarice will have it taken care of.”

At the mention of her sister, the man’s stern face relaxed. “Aye – that she will. Lovely lass will put this to rights in a jiff. Well, if you want to keep this quiet, damages will have to be paid out – and right quick.”

“How much?” And at the sum he named, she nodded. “Leave the work to my sister – and I will take care of the funds directly.”

Sometimes, you could make others be happy, even if you could not be happy yourself. Even if Martha Telford was tried and convicted. How could that help Geoffrey? He did not deserve to be ruined, simply because he had tried to comfort her. And Margaret had no qualms acknowledging that neither her dowry or the thought of Martha convicted gave her any bliss. Giving up something that gave her no joy, to give the hope of salvation of another? This felt right, and Margaret was as emotionally decisive in her likes, as her dislikes.


“Dear God, Margaret, what have you done?” It might have been phrased as a question, but the delivery was more of a shriek of horror.

The slender woman jumped in shock, bowl falling from her frozen fingertips to crash upon the floor. She had been humming to herself, enjoying her kitchen and her recently reacquired solitude.

For several heartbeats both women stared at the fragments, breaths heaving. Clarice was the first to break that ringing silence. “Margaret – what have you done?” she demanded again.

The older sister’s eyes flicked to the side as she frowned. “Um,” she finally exhaled, her face a mask of concentration. “Well, I have finished preparing the ducks, and am just about to begin the – ”

“Not food!” Taking the kitchen entry by storm, the plump sibling skirted around the broken crockery. “What have you done with this Telford business? What has he done?” When the other woman only cocked her head, the other’s lips firmed, breasts swelling dangerously under the inhale of an impending harangue.

“He has not done anything wrong. He does not deserve to be punished!”

The inhale was exhaled abruptly. “What are you speaking of?”

Margaret glanced up from her stoop, a shattered piece of the bowl in her hand. “Geoffrey. He does not deserve to be punished. He was only trying to help.”

Clarice brought a trembling finger to her temple. “Dearest. My love. Dove. Today we suffered a great loss. When I went to speak with Mr. Griswald, I was shocked to learn that my sister had already visited him. And, rather than engaging the law, bribes were being distribute and damages erased. My shock, however, was nothing to when I went to the bankers, only to learn that the amount withdrawn was QUITE substantial, and taken out of your own dowry. I ask again – what have you done?”

“I had the damages paid for out of my funds. You should not be angry.”

“Why, why can she not answer a simple question?” She muttered. For some reason, the other woman looked like she wanted to throttle her, her round cheeks red, and eyes wide. “You prematurely withdrew some investments, but that is besides the point. Why did you do this?”

“Because this incident was my fault.”

“You burned down the ships.”


“Then who?”

“Martha Telford.”

Clarice jerked back, astonishment visible on her wide eyes and slack jaw. “What – why would she do that? Do you understand that they have committed everything to this venture? Why would the woman cut off her nose to spite her face?”

“Yes, I understand that everything was invested. Alice said Martha did it because she believes that Geoffrey and I are lovers.”

“Lovers? Who is Alice?” she muttered, her brows threatening to climb into her hairline. “Why would she think that?”

Margaret told her of the circumstances, and Clarice groaned. “I would like to tell you that you are fanciful, but I do not know anyone as vindictive as Martha Telford. I still cannot comprehend why you did this, however!”

Taking out a new bowl, Margaret began making desert once more. “I do not understand your confusion. I did it because I wanted to. Because I believe this to be my fault. Geoffrey is a good person.”

“He is a good person – and he will never know how lucky he is,” Clarice bit out. “No one can know of this, no one – do you understand? If you want your efforts to be effectual, you must never speak about Geoffrey, the ships, your dowry – nothing!”

“Who would I talk to?” Margaret asked with genuine curiosity.

“It does not matter!” Her sister cried. “You’ve done enough! I will clean up this mess, and you will never do this again!”

How could one give away their entire fortune twice?

She raised her fat finger threateningly, as if sensing the thought. “And I will work on rebuilding your fortunes. I hope to heaven that Papa doesn’t find out, or…” she shuddered. “Good god, the problems you have created! One cannot just circumvent the law - and now you look like an accomplice! And for what? A man you met once in a hallway, who treated you with basic courtesy? What is wrong with you?”

Margaret had no answer for the question that had been asked of her since childhood; the question she asked herself at least once a week.

08-28-2016, 03:34 AM
Oh my God the plot twist! Once again, you're an amazing writer, I'm deeply in love with your characters.

Xyantha Reborn
09-08-2016, 12:28 PM
Chapter 13

Did you sleep well?”

Geoffrey whipped around, mouth opening in unconscious defense. The accusatory tone he imagined was not reflected in Harry’s expression, however.

“Ah, not well then?” the other man appeared sympathetic, and also more at ease than the day before. The tightness visible in every feature was gone, and he had that same air of deep satisfaction that his brother wore. “Surely the doctor can prescribe some draft to help?” Harry’s stay in town had acquainted him with his friend’s poor sleeping habits.

“Those drafts make me feel like I wake with half a foot in the grave,” he mumbled, trying to maintain eye contact. What if…? “How is Clarice? What are your plans?”

Spared the requirement of carrying the conversation as the other man spoke, the fat man sat down on a chair, still shaken from this morning. Nothing could have happened. Nothing had happened.

And yet, the sheets. But then, it was not the first time such a thing had happened to him.

Then there was the spot of blood. But then, he had a cut on his finger from the night before he had not noticed. Mayhap that was it.

He had not seen Margaret yet. Perhaps another man would have searched her out immediately. Geoffrey, however, could not imagine any positive outcome, and his soul shook at all of the options he could think of. If it had been a dream, raising the subject would make him a laughing stock.

“Have you seen Margaret?” Harry asked suddenly.

His head flew up so fast his neck cricked in protest. “No, why?”

His friend’s eyes slanted his way, his brows briefly contracting in a look of inquiry. “Clarice was wondering how her sister was settling in, that’s all.”

“I - No, I only just came down. You are the first person I have seen today.”

The other man nodded amicably, his eyes straying over his host’s thick shoulder. “I cannot thank you enough,” was the fervent murmur. “I do not know how to thank you enough. Clarice, good morning.”

“Be as insufferably happy as your brother,” Geoffrey advised absently, his thoughts already wandering back to more important subjects.

If it was not a dream, it would need to be addressed. But how did one broach the topic that he had dreamed of her in the most intimate way? Oh, not to mention he had been so drunk that he could not tell if it truly happened, or even most of the details. Either it was crass in the highest degree, or mortally insulting, as he would have taken her virginity without even remembering the event. Or both. Good lord, what was he to do?

“Geoffrey, you look white as a sheet. Are you well?”

Roused once more, he looked up to see that Clarice had joined Harry on a chair opposite him. She looked quite substantial, and appeared very conscious of it. She seemed equally conscious of the younger Nottingham’s gaze roving her form. Eddies of emotion rose up visibly in the form of an occasional blush. Her expression was searching, but held none of the accusation Geoffrey’s paranoia half expected. “I…no. I think I will go out for a walk to clear my head.”

“Margaret and your woman – Martha was her name? Have already commandeered the kitchen. We shall have some lovely breakfast, if they do not harm each other first.” At Harry’s glance of confusion, Clarice pursed her lips and raised a shoulder. “My sister’s place has always been in the kitchen, and she does not...get on well with most. Will you not stay to eat something?”

Geoffrey smiled as the plump woman turned her face to him. The idea of eating made him feel ill to his stomach. “I thank you, no. I will take something after my walk. ” Walking to the front door, he rested his head upon the wood before letting himself out. Belated manners reminded him how uncalled for it was for him to have guests, and have one of those guests prepare the meal, only to leave them to partake of it alone. Morose indifference soon replaced the emotion, reminding him that they had forced themselves upon him. Besides, he was no fit company.

And what if Margaret came up? Good god, what scene might arise? The other options he was mentally skirting around were even less palatable than those he had already cringed at. What if he had forced himself on her? He could not believe it of himself, but he trembled lest it was so. Bile rose into his throat at the very thought, and he raised his hand to his lips with shaking fingers. He willed himself to remember anything which might indicate it, but could not trust himself.

The bright sun that had initially blinded him highlighted James grinning up at him. “Well, hullo,” he greeted the boy.

James grinned and trotted beside him as he took his way round the side of the house, towards the orchard. After a few steps the boy thrust a small, warm, and rather sticky hand into Geoffrey’s.

Even if he had truly made love to her, and she had not been…unwilling. What then? He had taken her maidenhood, unmarried, while in ‘grieving’ for his wife. He could not even remember much of the night before. What kind of beginning would that be? For he would have to marry her, of course. But it could not be done before the end of the grieving period, or else it would shame both of them.

If she would even have him. She had a family, money, and seemingly no need to mingle in society. If Clarice was any indication, she might just laugh in his face.

Again, what if it had not even really happened, but was some mad dream…?

The small boy quickly became distracted, jumping after the occasional butterfly, chasing the song birds, and romping under the trees. Geoffrey watched with a sad smile, surreptitiously wiping his hand on a cloth once the sticky little paw was out of it. “Are you happy I am home?” he asked the boy.

A smile and a nod, and then James was off, galloping towards the back pasture where the sheep raised their heads to eye him with curiosity and excitement. A few of the young lambs kicked up their heels in joy, bounding towards him with small bleats and loud cries. Geoffrey rested a foot on the fence, gazing on as he romped with them. The idea of children lead his mind down a new path. Assuming it had been true…what if she was with child?

His mind had slowly been resigning itself towards the belief that it had not been a dream. He never had the fortune of dreaming such pleasant things. And the feelings he had experienced were not of a kind to be brushed aside as insignificant. He had never been man enough to have them before.

What if she was hurt – upset, crying?

The fact that he stood, outside, as far from her as he could get, showed how craven he was. “Coward,” he growled, staring down at his middle with a fixed frown on his face.


Geoffrey found enough tasks to keep him busy until dinner time. There was the gardiners to meet with and all of the critical staff that had been retained for the maintenance of the property. There was the tour of the property, where he noticed with a critical eye that several fences needed mending, and the encroaching woods needed to be pulled back from several pastures.

When he entered the house, Kitty greeted him with a somber look. “Dinner is just about to be served. Hurry and change. We have much to discuss.”

His stomach had been in such a knot all day that he barely felt hunger. At this look and these words, it tightened still farther. The fat man quickly took himself upstairs to wash away the dirt and sweat of the day. He dragged his feet on the way back, chewing on the inside of his cheek and puttering around in the hallway for as long as he feasibly could. Finally entering, he found the others ready to sit down.

It had been years since such food had been laid on the table, and the two women seemed to have spent the day ransacking his things, because the cloth had been cleaned and draped over the table and the fine china was out. Harry and Clarice stood to his right, Raoul and Kitty to his right. As he entered, the soft conversation stopped, and they all turned to look at him.

Perspiration broke out over his forehead, and he swallowed several times to try and moisten his dry throat. It was worse than he had thought, he thought wildly as his gaze fell on each. He –

“Geoff, man, are you sure you are well?” Harry asked, half rising in concern.

“I have been in the sun all day,” Geoff murmured, looking at the other man. “Where is Margaret?” he nearly gasped, taking the glass that was put into his hands.

She stepped into his view. “Here.”

His gaze fastened onto her, and his heart seemed to pause in its beating.

Those black eyes gazed up at him through thick bangs, but as the woman raised her face, a soft smile was revealed. No accusatory glance pierced his breast.

His heart resumed beating.

None of them seemed sensible to his panic, and they all took their seats once more.

“I still cannot believe that you are sitting down with us,” Clarice commented as she took the first mouthful of soup, her eyes turned towards her sibling.

Margaret did not answer. Dark eyes turned down to look down at her own bowl. She was seated next to him, and Geoffrey saw her thin hands tighten in the fabric of her skirt, well out of sight.

“Why - is this such a strange occurrence?” Harry queried.

“Oh, Margaret hates being in company. Apparently the country has brought out a new side of her disposition!”

Geoffrey longed to say something to put her at her ease, but could think of nothing. That dark hair had been against his skin. Those delicate fingers had gripped his flesh as -

The object of his scrutiny raised her eyes to meet his from under that fringe of dark hair

He swallowed, face heating. It was not often that she made direct eye contact, and her liquid brown eyes looked mysterious in the dimmer light. If Margaret’s sister was as bold, sweet, and tangy as an apple, Margaret herself was the delicate and understated blossom. Clarice was hardy, vibrant and round as that same apple – her sister was as pale, her skin as delicate as the bloom itself. Her skin had been petal soft, her pulse fluttering lightly against her neck. What was he to say to her? He had half hoped that he would be able to catch her alone, later. At some point. His actions today notwithstanding.

“Yes. Apparently the country reveals new sides in everyone,” Kitty drawled, her tone acerbic and pointed.

It was so unlike her that Geoff could not even think of a reply. In fact, it reminded him so strongly of his late wife that he could only blink in shock. He recognized the look on her face, and inferred her meaning as clearly as the others did.

All except one. “What do you mean?” Margaret asked into the sudden awkward silence.

Clarice flushed for the indelicacy of her sister. “We can talk about it later – ”

Suddenly frowning, head rising as if only just scenting the tension in the room, Margaret looked around. “What do you mean?” She demanded again curtly.

After several attempts to turn the conversation, Kitty finally overrode her friend. “You’ve said yourself that you need to speak clearly with her. Margaret, sometimes love children are sent to the country.”

Margaret waved an impatient hand. “What do you mean?” she demanded yet again.

Once again Geoffrey was struck with how literal Margaret was. It certainly made some situations more awkward, but part of him wanted to chuckle and rub his hands together at how sweetly simple she made life.

“Have you met the little boy?” Kitty finally asked, unable to avoid a direct reply. She gazed deep into her soup. “The one with the blonde hair and blue eyes?”

“Yes.” After a moment of heavy silence – “You think he is Geoffrey’s child. He is not.”

Her tone was so stout, so steadfast, and delivered with so much conviction that Geoffrey stared at her, as astounded as the rest – but for a different reason.

Clarice spoke up, voice deceptively soft. “Margaret, dearest – ”

“James is the son of Alice. Alice used to work in Geoffrey’s home in Town as a maid.”

“Margaret!” Clarice bit out, inhaling sharply as her eyes flashed daggers.

Margaret ignored her, appearing quite as heated as her sister, for once. “Alice was engaged – she had a lapse in judgement, and got with child before the marriage. Geoffrey had her removed here, and maintains her. He did not want her to be forced to live in more degradation than her decision already put her in. He would not let her be unhappy just – ” her lips closed resolutely, cutting off further words.

Kitty stared, her green eyes wide. “How - how do you know this?” She looked rather strickened, and darted an embarrassed glance at her host.

Margaret inhaled and exhaled with equal deliberateness. “I know this because I live in their world. You live in the ballrooms and breakfast parlours of Town. You think you know everything about everyone. I may be in the kitchen most of the time, but above stairs isn’t the only place that information lives!”

All were staring at her as an awkward silence fell. After a moment Raoul cleared his throat, attempting to turn the conversation.

One pair of bright blue were fixed on her still. They narrowed, his gaze raking her fore and aft. “You,” he suddenly breathed, recognition dawning on his face for the first time. A sort of half smile crept onto his face, and he rocked his fat body forward in sudden interest.

Another shy glance was his answer, a pink flush across thin cheeks.

Unbeknownst to either, a set of intelligent hazel eyes flicked between the two, judging, weighing, observing.

"Clarice, you simply must try this," Harry murmured, drawing her attention back.

"I cannot eat off your spoon," she commented, scandalized.

"Why not?" he returned, using it to indicate his brother, who was hanging off his wife's every bite, barely noticing that she seemed to feed him three for every one she took. "Kitty does not seem to have any objections. You will find us woefully informal," he breathed, sliding a hot palm up her thigh. "Very...tactile."

She growled in vexation, unable to follow her sister's conversation. "I will make you pay for this!" she hissed half heartedly.

"Promise?" her husband to be whispered, his breath hot against her neck.

09-08-2016, 01:55 PM
I'm really just repeating myself but this is the best story ever, you're magnificent, I love Geoff and Margaret and I love you for writing it. This story is so complex, so amazingly written and such a pleasure to read.

09-08-2016, 10:36 PM
If Margaret’s sister was as bold, sweet, and tangy as an apple, Margaret herself was the delicate and understated blossom. Clarice was hardy, vibrant and round as that same apple – her sister was as pale, her skin as delicate as the bloom itself. Her skin has been petal soft, her pulse fluttering lightly against her neck.

So, this gorgeous simile... *swoon*
Bestill my poet's heart. I continue to be amazed and delighted by this story and your writing. :bow:

09-09-2016, 02:31 PM
Oh Xy, so lovely, so crafty - I'm totally with Undine - I had the p-word in my head too (uh, poetry).

Keep doing what you do! :bow:

Xyantha Reborn
09-10-2016, 06:52 PM
Thank you!!!!

And the responses absolutely help keep us writers motivated (or else we - or at least me - think that maybe no one likes it.)

09-10-2016, 10:57 PM
Dude, this is brilliant. I didn't like Margaret to begin with. After reading your stories a few times over, she's now my favourite character.

The way you are writing these characters is brilliant, the story is solid and interesting, I'm a massive fan of what you've done with this! Please keep doing the same amazing job!

09-28-2016, 03:55 PM
Can I kindly beg for more?

Xyantha Reborn
09-28-2016, 04:59 PM
I'm sorry! Wil tey and get one out soon!

09-30-2016, 11:37 PM
I'm sorry! Wil tey and get one out soon!my friend who has been checking this thread every day will be glad to hear that.

10-03-2016, 05:48 PM
my friend who has been checking this thread every day will be glad to hear that. and by friend, I mean me :D

Xyantha Reborn
10-05-2016, 06:53 PM
Chapter 14

The master of the house loitered outside his own room.

The same cowardly emotion that has driven him out of the house that morning had risen once more in the form of an apprehensive lump in his throat. Margaret had not outed his boorish behaviour as they dined – for, by her looks, something had indeed happened last night.

That should have relieved him. And yet, it did not.

The domestic conversation at dinner had completely eradicated any ability to talk of anything personal…and it suddenly seemed that there was so much to speak of. And to think of – he had not recognized Margaret Belltaunt as the same panicked belle at his house party all those years ago. She had been done up, trussed and dressed like all of the other young women. Although years had slipped by, Margaret looked younger than she had that night. Then, her dark hair had been smoothed back from her pale brow, whereas she now peeped up at him from a fringe of hair like a child. She had been dressed in expensive fabrics, whereas the Margaret of today dressed in well made, but simple garments. And of course, her face had been red from heat and tears - as contrasted with the quiet, dignified woman he had seen so much of recently.

Nothing in either her physical appearance or demeanor had given the connection away before. Yet, as the words had been rapped out in that soft yet implacable voice, Geoffrey had realized that there was only one other person who would have known the events of that evening. That evening had, of course, been fixed in his mind for several reasons. Not least of all because the following day he had lost almost everything. And although that sort of behaviour that his late wife had demonstrated that evening was not uncommon, it had been a unique enough circumstance to fix it keenly in his mind.

Finally pushing the door ajar, he slipped inside. A wave of exhaustion crashed into him as he realized what a long day it had been, and how little he had eaten. Swaying on his feet, he moved towards the wash basin. His clothing stuck to him as he tried to peel it from him. One article at a time landed in a heap at his feet until he stood naked in the last dregs of the sunlight.

Thick forearms met chubby upper arms that shook and wobbled lightly with the motion of his scrubbing. The pale flesh of his thighs dimpled as he shuffled about. Raising his arms one by one caused the corresponding chunk of flesh on his chest to rise up and flatten before sagging back down onto his belly. Without clothes, seen in the slowly diffusing light, it looked as soft and heavy. As the sun slipped away, the golden hair on his chest stopped glinting, as did the patch of hair leading from his paunchy navel to between his hips.

Rinsing the cloth, Geoffrey moved on to his legs, aware of how his stomach touched his thighs as he bent forward. About how the sacks of fat over his hips shifted in a contrary beat to the rolls of fat that spread under his arms and onto his back. As he slid the cloth down his sensitive skin, he shivered. Good God – Margaret had seen his bloated form. A prickling shame heated his neck and made him roll a shoulder uncomfortably.

It had been a while since he purposefully looked into a glass while bare. It had never been a pleasant sight, but destructive curiosity drove him forward – what had she seen, last night? Turning and stepping forward with the heavy, shuffling stride of a man who would rather be doing anything than what he was about to, he approached his glass.

While walking, his round ass bunched and shook with each step. His thick thighs, still damp, firmly slid past each other. Free from restraint, everything bounced, shook, and shimmied. The man seemed to feel it too, keeping his eyes closed and face averted until the motion calmed into stillness.

One lid raised, revealing a tired blue eye. The muscles around the eye winced, as though trying to protect the sensibilities of the orb within. Geoffrey inhaled, lifted his head, and opened his other eye. The corners of his lips pulled down as his nostrils flared in clear distaste. After a quick but thoroughly punishing perusal, the man threw himself onto his bed with a groan.

What was he going to do?

When he woke – when had he gone to sleep? – the moon was up, but the night not far advanced. As usual, his jaw ached from clenching and grinding his molars in the night. At least no dream chased him from the shadows of his consciousness; all he could recall was unpleasant feelings.

A noise sounded. More alert now than moments before, he sat up. Now that it was repeated, that same noise had been what had roused him from his sleep. Stealing quietly from the bed, he quickly pulled on his breeches and moved to the door that separated his apartment from hers for better inspection. It was such a thin barrier, he reflected. When the sound occurred again, he realized that it was the sound of moving furniture across the floor, followed by muttering.

The plump hand raised, curled into a fist to rap, and then lowered. The action was repeated several times as the owner changed in complexion from red, to pale, to red again. When the sound of a strangled yelp sounded, he swallowed hard. “Margaret?” he called in a low voice, face near the door. “Are you well?”

The door almost immediately unclosed, as if her hand had been upon the latch already. Tall, thin, and hauntingly beautiful in her simplicity, she stood before him.

Words failed upon seeing her. What must she have thought of him, these past weeks? She had clearly never forgotten him. His good breeding and common courtesy cuffed him cruelly, to have not known her to be Clarice’s sister, or recognized her from their own meeting. Forgotten, relegated by all, including him. A casual good turn done years ago had clearly made more of an impression on her brain than his. Stronger emotion nipped the heels of the weaker; anger faded to guilt in a flash as he baldly acknowledged that any kindness he had done her that day had clearly been undone by the events of last night. No one other than Margaret, he was sure, could have endured what he forced on her, then continued on with such poise.

She had said nothing tonight. Neither had he. Indeed, what could he say? Something needed to be said, it was certain. His eyes were averted, but when they finally shifted to her, they opened wide.

The willowy woman before him was clad in the thinnest possible nightgown, so thin that rather than covering for modesty, it clung to the point of eroticism. “Margaret.” He had not intended that raw need fill his hoarse voice. There had been no intention to touch her. But somehow she was in his arms. As she melted into him, she let out a noise which instantly aroused him.

Ineptitude. Inexperience. Geoffrey, the married man, had never kissed a woman. Yet never had he wanted to more than now. When she twined her thin arms around his neck, her small but pert breasts pressed into his chest and her face drew closer. She seemed to fit into him perfectly, draped across his front. Her words roused him from his fantasy that he could feel her nipples against his chest, through the intervening cloth.

“Geoffrey…” Her pupils were huge in the dim light, so stark against her pale skin.

Instantly freezing, he swallowed. Draw back, man! What are you about? Have you no more control than a rutting animal? Have you –

“Kiss me? Like you did last night,” she added in that oddly soft, yet direct way. “Here,” she added after a pause, turning her head to offer her neck to his lips.

Demanding little creature, Geoffrey thought in amazement. Ever a mark for pleasing women, he found himself automatically, eagerly obeying. Supple, soft skin met his lips as he leaned in. Her warm scent tickled his nose and he groaned in anticipation, arms curling round her tightly.

“No, no, not here.”

Or not. His arms sprang open instantly.

“The doorway, crowded,” she murmured fretfully, disengaging enough to step back.

Geoffrey was a self-acknowledged coward, and would have slunk back into his own room but for the pressure from her hand in his. Submissive to her direction, he was lead deeper into the room. The furniture seemed to mock his entry as he was lead to…her side table. He turned to face her in astonishment.

Margaret’s features were clearer in the light of the candle. She gave him her smile – a small tug at each corner of her mouth with a decided softening around her eyes. “You hardly ate today,” she stated in a voice full of reproach.

He had, hadn’t he? “I…did, did I not?” The rebuke was that of a person who has gone to a great extent and had not received due praise. Every other time she had cooked for him, she had waited to hear his appreciation. All of those meals in her own kitchen…. Had he even thanked her for dinner? The dinner that she, his guest, had made for him, her host? It was all so hazy.

“You did not,” she countered, ticking off each of his offenses on her delicate fingers. “You did not stay for breakfast, or eat anything. You did not come in during the afternoon, and Martha said you took no basket. None of your men – I cannot remember their names yet – said you took no food or refreshment while out with them today. And you barely touched anything tonight.” Stepping aside, she lifted the lid off of something with a mild flourish.

His taste buds immediately announced their approval by a rush of salivation. “Margaret – you…did not have to cook something else for me.” Abruptly realizing he was without a shirt, in her room, he straightened, sucked his paunch in, and took a step back.

She raised her dark eyes to his, moving a predatory step to intercept his retreat. “Of course I did – you did not enjoy the food I made today.”

“No!” he hastened to say, for although everything had tasted like ash tonight, he could very well recall everything he had eagerly gorged on in her presence. “I was just…distracted.” How could she be so cool? He wondered as he watched her carefully plate a hefty portion. How could she lean into him and moan with pleasure? Not with him. Never with Geoffrey Telford. What in him made her reserve melt like frost under a mid-day sun? He did not need to look down to recall the bloated image he had viewed before sleep.

But a more pressing matter than his own insecurities forced themselves through his lips. “Last night…”

The elegant women straightened, moving towards him with mild curiosity, plate in hand. “Yes?” Stopping before him, she offered the plate to him.

Loath to yet again gorge himself in her presence – for he was certain to, if he began – he made no effort to take it. At the same time, a wave of fatigue struck him so soundly he swayed on his feet.

“Sit.” She commanded with quiet authority, pointing to the single stool with a long finger. She appeared as implacable as any assured conqueror in history, and he soon capitulated. They needed to discuss this, even if it was under her own rules of engagement.

To his surprise, she knelt between his knees. Using one of his broad thighs to balance the plate, she carefully stretched to put the morsel to his lips. When his lips did not stir to take it, her eyes slitted, lips compressing. “Put this in your mouth,” she nearly growled, staring fixedly into his eyes. It was a surprisingly direct look from a woman who avoided eye contact in general.

A strangled laugh broke from his throat as he stared down at her. He swallowed, choked on his own spit, and then obediently opened his lips. Warm fingers slipped the morsel onto his tongue. Familiar pleasure ricocheted through him, causing an unconscious sigh of delight to pass through his lips. That exhale was stopped by the tentative press on his lips. Opening eyes that he had not realized were closed, he realized she had risen up to kiss him.

“Your heart is beating so fast,” her seductress murmured in a tone of wonder, one hand splayed over the region in question. “Mine is as well,” she added with sweet simplicity, taking his hand and placing it on her own chest in demonstration.

Yes, it was. He could feel it thunder rapidly, and he was as out of breath as if he had tried to run a footrace. Her lips were so soft, so pleasing against his. The way her breath mingled with his own, and how her nose brushed his… “Margaret, we have matters to discuss,” he managed at last. His hands, however, would not release their retaining grasp on her slender waist. He tugged her closer.

Picking up the plate, the woman sat on his vacated thigh as though she had done it dozens of times previously. “Of course,” was the agreeable response, followed by another morsel.

When his mouth was free, he began again. “Last night…”

He had expected shame, or anger, or even embarrassment. Instead, she caught her underlip between her teeth, eyes going heavy lidded. Her gaze dropped to his body, and she again made that noise that caused his mind to blank. “Last night?” she urged after a moment, recalling him to his purpose.

“I was very drunk,” he blurted, then cursed himself for a ham handed fool. “What I mean is, I do not recall as much of last night as I could wish…”

“Mm,” she murmured absently, eyes tracing every roll and fold on his torso.

Several long moments passed while the master of the house waited for her to make a comment. His hands were busy stroking her hip bones. Holding his hands by sheer force of will, he heaved a sigh of frustration that caused her to wriggle oddly. “Margaret, for pity’s sake, help a man out!” And stop blasted staring at me as if I am some sort of experiment!

No encouraging word fell from her lips. No fluttering feminine grace to help him. Instead, she popped another mouthful of food into his mouth. “You need to eat more, and talk less,” she advised him with the hauteur of a physician administering instructions to an intractable patient.

He could strangle her! Snatching the plate from her, he shoved the remaining bites in, swallowed, and glared. The glare only increased when she calmly handed him a glass to wash the meal down with. “Margaret. My dear.” Something in his own tone struck him as offensive, and he swallowed the rest of the sentence, wondering why that tone sounded so familiar to him. Gentling it, he took her hands in his. “I need you to focus.” She was in fact focused on him, but the attention was rather not to the purpose.

“I am listening.” And she dutifully raised her eyes to his.

“We had intercourse last night, did we not?”

“We did,” the woman on his lap affirmed with a shocking lack of the delicate emotions the fairer sex were said to have.

Dear god, he had known it, but to hear it…! “Then you understand that I have compromised you in the most villainous way imaginable. Margaret, we must marry.”


“What do you mean why? You are an unmarried woman. I have compromised you!”

She gave him a thinly veiled look of annoyance. The look of one who is waiting for another to finish their sentence. And? – it seemed to say.

“I will not force you to marry me,” he finally ground out through clenched teeth. Long moments passed with no reasons. Of course, he had known she might refuse. But to have to sit through it. While, by the by, she was still perched impertinently upon his lap. Finally, he grated out, “As much as I want us to be wed, I will not force you.” For the idea of being bound to this lusty woman was not unpalatable. He had received more affection in the past weeks than in the years of his marriage. What if there was a child?

At the last words, her face stilled, then transformed. “You…want to marry…me?” Her luminous eyes met his once more, her cheeks high with colour. “Me?” she repeated, as if there could be another person waiting in the wings to swoop in and take her place.

The shift made him blink, and his brain raced over their conversation with an internal groan. He knew better than that! Margaret always responded best to straight questions, direct intentions. You are an unmarried woman who I have compromised? A fact, but not even a question. The fact that he did not want to force her into marriage? Ditto. And that tone of exasperation that had thrilled his nerves earlier? That was the same tone in which Clarice spoke to her sister.

His eyes burned and his throat tightened at her look of shy, hopeful adoration. “Of course I do. But,” he added, supressing the raw emotion that had risen up. “It has only been a few weeks since my wife passed away. I cannot…in good conscious, act quickly without ruining your reputation. There will be questions; rumours. Besides, your sister will want the spotlight for now. Will you wait a few more weeks?”

She looked devastated; her shoulders slumped, her eyes dropping to the floor. She even rocked herself back and forth several times, like a child.

Geoffrey bundled her closer. Oddly, she did not seem to protest the proximity. “Only a few weeks,” he reiterated, making his voice soft and soothing. “You seem upset – surely a few weeks will not change your mind,” he added with a wry laugh. “Or maybe, with time to think, you will decide against the idea…”

“I will never change my mind.” Was the oddly firm response. Then, oddity and Margaret went hand in hand. “I simply…” She cast a fragile look up at him from where she nestled in his arms. “I very much wanted to…touch again. As we did last night. We do not need to wait weeks for that, do we?” was the wistful inquiry. One warm hand slid down his sternum, between his breasts, followed the curve of his belly to his lap. Her eyes flickered up, lip once more caught between her teeth.

“No,” he gasped out. Her warm little hand seemed to be everywhere around his member – he wanted to thrust his hips until she grasped it. “No need to wait at all!”

How had she made this so damnably easy for him? Why had she made it so easy? Was this really what other men had in their wiv – pleasure spiked. Later. Enough thinking. Enough talking.

Xyantha Reborn
10-05-2016, 06:56 PM
I have a few more chapters ready (but I am being called away by my own BHM to feed him and watch deadpool, apparently).

Juiciness to follow in due course...

and LOL @ Goreki

10-06-2016, 12:39 AM

10-06-2016, 05:22 AM
juiciness to follow in due course...

music to my ears 😍

10-06-2016, 08:16 AM
This chapter of the saga is truly delicious.


Xy you are an amazing writer. Thanks so much for this.

Xyantha Reborn
10-08-2016, 07:42 PM
Chapter 15

“Were my suggestions helpful?”

The tall woman blushed, hiding her expression by turning away. “Very much. Thank you.”

Last night Martha had cornered her in the kitchen. They had known each other far too long for something so important to go unnoticed.

Martha was a country grown, square faced woman. As earthy and wholesome as the place she came from. A keen glance out of her dark eyes, a few pointed questions, and she had her answer. “And what are you going to do about it now?” She had asked comfortably.

“I do not understand your question,” Margaret had murmured, turning an egg over and over in her hands. Her mind was too busy spinning around the feeling of his thick, slick flesh sliding over her. How he had so reverently stroked her, murmuring in an awed tone. How he had filled her inside to the point of bursting, and how his flesh had been everywhere about her; his thick thighs thrusting against her, his arms caging her. And how his large stomach had lapped against her.

God, that feeling!

“What I mean is; you’ve loved that man for years. You’ve got him cornered; are you going to snap him up? Make him your husband,” Martha had clarified at the other’s blank look. “Or have you had enough of him, after your tumble?”

“No, I will never enough.”

“Well then.” And the other woman had grinned, taking the egg from her hands. “Let Martha tell you a bit about how to please a man…”

“What suggestions?” A deep voice inquired, making them both jump.

The older woman was the first to recover her composure. “Never you mind. And sit yourself down on that chair out of our way. We have enough work on our hands without a great bull like you knocking things over. I swear, this house may not a great big thing, but it is more than us two can manage. I cannot wait until the folk Clarice hired get here. Speaking of being here.” And she turned her stout body to eye her master with affection. “Why are you are here?”

Raoul sat on the stool indicated, crossing his long legs at the ankles. An irreverent yawn met her irreverent look, his response as casual as her demand. “Why else would a man be driven from his bed so early in the morning? I am hungry.” And the plump man gave a roguish wink at the younger woman, who coloured and turned away. “And it will be forever until the others come down to eat. Come, Martha, do not be stingy.”

His housekeeper’s sniff, however, did not seem particularly forthcoming. Margaret silently fetched him several rolls.

The plate has scarcely touched the table before one was snatched up. It steamed under his fingers, making him yelp and insert the damaged digits into his mouth. Undeterred, Raoul slathered a generous portion of butter on each half. Quickly inserting one into his mouth, he blew around the steam. “’ank hoo. Ah, hot!”

“You could wait until it was cool,” she commented dryly, yet fascinated by his voracious hunger.

He cast her a scandalized look in return, still exhaling heat. “No indeed! Martha’s rolls are the best rolls I have ever eaten – and they simply must be eaten piping hot. And these are particularly good.”

The slender woman watched as he again smeared the knife against the spongey surface. “Not Martha’s rolls - those rolls are made by me,” she said placidly before returning to the eggs before her.

Raoul inhaled in surprise, made a squeal of pain as the hot pastry connected with his throat, swallowed reflexively, then gave a muted roar of pain as the mass slid down his throat. Diving forward, he snatched the milk from beside Margaret’s elbow, who jumped in surprise. Unceremoniously putting his lips to the edge, he greedily gulped several mouthfuls of cooling liquid. “Ahhh!”

Martha was glaring at him over the edge as he lowered it. “You great lout! You greedy boy! You’ve ruined it!”

“What do you mean? I only took the smallest possible mouthful.” His lips were ringed with thick white, and his pink tongue stole out, like a cat.

“Well – we cannot very well serve that to anyone else, now, can we?”

He stilled, looking vaguely guilty. “Huh. Well then. Waste not, want not. ” And, hitching a wide shoulder in a half shrug, the man again raised the container to his lips. As he chugged, a thin line of white escaped his lips, snaking down his stubbled cheek and neck. As he tilted the jug up for better access, his round middle seemed to grow wider, tauter under his shirt.

“Oh, you bad child!”

Margaret followed that line with her eyes. That shirt was so thin that as it tightened, the dark divot marking the lower half of his stomach became apparent, the swollen flesh puffing about it. In fact, she was so engrossed in watching Raoul’s stomach slowly firm and bow out that for several moments, she missed Geoffrey standing in the doorway.


He had thought that this sort of murderous anger was solely confined to his night terrors. But he wanted to knock that container out of Raoul’s hands, shove him off that chair, hurt him. Which was foolhardy, as Raoul was a trained to spar, and fat as he was, was still miles more fit than Geoff had ever been.

Blue eyes narrowed, nostrils flaring, he watched as Margaret’s dark eyes hooded, her gaze traversing the length of Raoul Nottingham’s frame. Those dark eyes which had gazed on him last night with such abandon, now seemed engrossed in memorizing the details of another man.

Nottingham lowered the jug with a gasp. His cheeks reddened after a silent burp passed through his puffed cheeks. Then he hiccupped. Then he did it again, louder, and with a wince.

“Serves you right!” Martha said, stalking forward to plant a hard finger into the man’s swollen middle.

Hiccuping ever few seconds, he paused long enough to voice a complaint over the rough treatment, hands raising to cradle his wound.

“Katherine would not be pleased to see you chugging and glutting yourself down here!”

“Indeed not – she would be quite upset not to have witnessed it herself.” Or at least that is what the murmur sounded like - if Geoffrey’s ears didn’t deceive him. “Well if you will give me a few more rolls I will be on my way.” And he lurched to his feet, stomach straining against his shirt. As he hiccupped the mass lifted, dropped, and jiggled.

Margaret swallowed, her pink tongue moistened her lips, and she gave an involuntary little shudder.

Geoffrey’s fingers tightened into fists, and he stepped forward. His brain was buzzing with anger until Margaret said;

“No. The remaining rolls are for Geoffrey.”

Ignoring the faltering voice, or rather attempting to charm the speaker, Raoul grinned and ruffled his thick hair. “Come now, Margaret. Be a dear. Geoffrey couldn’t possibly need all those rolls.”

“They are for Geoffrey.” Margaret reiterated more firmly.

“He is a big fellow, but he doesn’t need all those rolls. Spare me three?” And he patted the side of his middle with a puppy dog look.

“You are a big fellow too,” she retorted, her face deepening into a brilliant shade of red. “And I could not spare one.”

“Ah, indeed I am. But you see, I am a growing boy.” And he placed one palm on either side of his belly. Giving it a heft, he winked one of those slate eyes, rimmed with long lashes. “And I have to assist my wife in eating for two.” Her resolve seemed to falter for an instant. Sensing weakness, the man stepped beyond her with one long stride, arm extended to take his spoils. The next instant, he recoiled with a yelp, cradling his hand.

“I said…the rest are for Geoffrey.”

“You little chit…” For half a heartbeat Geoff thought the man was going to lash out at her, but he only narrowed his eyes and stared as he nursed his other hand. “Now where did you learn to do that, I wonder?” And he cast a glare at Martha. “You are a terrible influence.”

“T’wasn’t the first time she’s rapped you smartly, and I daresay it wont be the last," She replied placidly.

Any retort or inquiry he was about to make was interrupted by,“Geoffrey!”

Margaret had noticed him in the doorway. An odd hitch and flutter in his rather wide middle made him pause a moment on the landing. Her normally sombre face was brimming with a small but delighted smile. Would they notice something off? “Good morning, Margaret. I apologize for coming down so early, but I find myself quite hungry after walking about all afternoon yesterday. Do you happen to have a bite I could take now?”

Raoul, still nursing his hand, narrowed his eyes at him. “Morning, Geoff. I was just saying to the ladies how you couldn’t possibly need all these buns,” gesturing to the half dozen or so that sat behind Margaret’s staunch guard.

There was no reason to poke the badger, but he found himself saying, “Oh, I don’t know, I am quite famished.” And he took a seat beside where Raoul had taken his. Immediately several rolls were supplied, as well as clotted cream, jam, butter, and milk.

Raoul glared, seating himself to consume his last roll with no good grace. Geoffrey had never been on the receiving end of the other man’s aggression before. It now showed its face in a jutted chin, clenched jaw, and hard eyes. A sort of quiet, roiling violence brimmed behind the casual seat the man took.

The rolls were in fact delicious; the perfect mix of crusty, flakey, moist, and chewy. Now, normally Geoffrey would have stopped at two if alone. But stirred by something inexplicable, he found himself shoving a forth, then a fifth inside his mouth.

Margaret’s gaze slowly stopped flick towards Raoul, focusing with unblinking intensity on the Geoffrey. Her breathing shallowed, her lids half shadowed her eyes, and her lips parted.

Finally placing the last between his lips, Geoffrey cleared his throat, eyeing the man next to him. Quickly downing the glass, he reached for the other jug. It had been a long time since he had done this, and almost slopped it over himself at one point. Hidden from view, his eyes closed at the tight sensation spreading pleasantly through his middle. As he gulped, he seemed to fill every nook, every cranny. It was as if the bread expanded even further until he was filled to the brim. As he lowered the jug, three sets of eyes regarded him.

“Well, I hope you gentlemen are pleased with yourselves,” Martha exclaimed, placing plump hands on her plump hips.

Impossibly, his stomach felt like it was tightening further. With each pulse of flesh, a pulse of familiar pleasure jolted into his crotch. A quiet pat showed him it was as taut on the outside as it felt inside. Tight as a snare drum. The master of the house shifted, eyeing his rival.

Perhaps rival was not the best term, but Raoul gazed at him as if he had just thrown down a gauntlet. And Geoffrey could not disagree as he locked eyes with him. “Well, I suppose I had better get back to Kitty,” he grumbled, eyeing the remains of the crumbs. Raoul’s stomach gave a muted grumble, and he rubbed it soothingly while half pushing himself to his feet.


Turning back towards Margaret with a raised brow, he suddenly grinned as he accepted his consolation prize. “I take it back. You are wonderful, Margaret.” Her face flushed as he took the basket on his arm. One long arm snaked by her body to take up another jug. Ignoring Martha’s shriek, he backed out of the kitchen, arms raised. “You are the one who said fresh milk would be good for her, Martha! I am only being a dutiful husband!”

Husband. Shaking his head of the remaining fog of jealousy, Geoffrey felt his face heat. Of all the men who might be his competition, did he really suspect for a moment that it might be Raoul? Raoul, who clearly doted on his wife? Who worshiped the ground she walked on?

Turning his face to Margaret, he watched her as she watched Raoul leave. It expressed a sort of wry affection, mayhap some appreciation, but nothing like the way her eyes kindled from within when she gazed at him. “I should go upstairs.”

“Why don’t you go with him, Margaret.”

Geoffrey felt his blood turn cold, and he swung around to stare at the housekeeper. He had told her it should be a secret…had she told her sister? Why did he even care?

“No need to look that way, Master Geoffrey. I’ve known Miss Margaret since Raoul was knee high. She didn’t say a thing at first – I guessed. Now, it isn’t my place to judge. But.” And she made a vague gesture upstairs. “Seems like I did my boys right in my advice to them, given that they both found their womenfolk. If I was to give advice – which I wouldn’t, seeing how it isn’t my place and all. But if I was, I think there couldn’t be much harm in enjoying oneself for a few days while the others are distractedly in love. Life is too short not to take our comfort where we find it, you ken?”

His throat loosened, his blood began flowing again. She would not sound the alarm. “And if I was the type of man to take advice, which I am not. What would you recommend for keeping this whole thing quiet for a trice?”

The corners of her lips turned up, and crinkles radiated from the corners of her eyes. “Oh, boyo. You can’t hide this.”

They couldn’t? Why?

“Because you’re both happy.”

And that is so unusual?

“And that, Geoffrey Telford, is something I ain’t seen in you in all the years you were with your old wife. Oh, I know all about it. We gossip and watch from the shadows, servant folk do. And as for happiness - I don’t think Margaret has ever tasted it. Can you two hide this, and pretend to be civil and polite? Oh, aye. Can you hide how you come alive when each other is in the room…?” She shrugged. “Why do you want to hide it anyhow?”

Harry had told him that speaking to Martha was like confessing. Under her direct, mothering way, Geoffrey found words slipping from him without premeditation as well. He twined his fingers with Margaret’s. “I’ve never had anything precious before. I want it for my own, at least for a while, before life tarnishes it.” Nothing good in his life lasted. If this was going to be the only draft of happiness that was to be his, he would glut himself gulping it down, drinking every last drop from this poison cup until it was stolen from his fingers! And maybe, if he damaged this situation enough, it would be thought good that he could retain the shattered remnants of it.

“Oh, Geoffrey Telford.” She shook her head with a chuckle. “You can’t tarnish a heart of pure gold. Now. Off you two go. Get out of my sight. Shoo!”

10-08-2016, 08:31 PM
The happy dancing that I am doing right now does not translate well.
Thank you!!!!

10-09-2016, 09:13 AM
So so so happy! Two updates in such a short time! I'm dancing that happy dance alongside Goreki!

Xyantha Reborn
10-10-2016, 07:00 AM
Chapter 16

Geoffrey lay in his bed. There was something amiss, however, something to his right taking up space on the otherwise normally conspicuously empty area. Rolling over, he realized there was a form – a person, covered in the bedclothes.

With the sort of numb, inevitably movements of a dream, he grasped the edge of the sheet and pulled it down.

Martha Telford glared at him, her pinched features drawn even more tightly under a knit brow. The hard lines of her face deepening in displeasure.


“I told you, you would never be happy!” she hissed. Before his eyes, her skin began to sag, moulder, and fall from her bones entirely. Reaching out a rotting limb, she grasped the side of his head. “You will always be mine!” she hissed before her body collapsed into a cloud of choking dust…

“NO!” Geoffrey shouted, lurching up in bed. As his heart thundered and his chest heaved, a warm, not skeletal hand gently caressed his head. Turning, he gazed down on his living bed fellow.

Margaret gently tugged at him until he collapsed back, then weaved herself under his arm. Laying her head on his chest, she listened to his heartbeat over the pounding rain, which had once again picked up with full force. “You had night terrors yesterday, as well,” she murmured, sliding long fingers through his hair. “What were they about?”

“Martha.” He replied shortly. He felt out of sorts, unsure of what to do with the affection being lavished on him. “Telford,” he added belatedly, realizing once again that was the only name he had ever heard the Nottingham’s housekeeper and cook called.

“Clarice’s mother said that night terrors are guilt for things we should have done – penance sent from above. I had many as a child.”

The tone, so simple, so gentle, made him turn his head. The words niggled at him. Why would such a young thing feel that she deserved such punishment. And - “Clarice’s mother?”


“Not your mother?”

“By law she married my father. But she will never be by mother.”

Now this was interesting, and a welcome distraction. Horizontal once more, he ran a finger down her smooth jaw. Was she a love child, born out of wedlock? It would explain the sort of half antipathy her family had towards her. However, the idea of cold Mr. Belltaunt having a passion of any sort made a snort rise. And the tone in which Margaret had uttered ‘never’ was stronger than any tone he had heard from her. A sort of guttural, visceral rejection of the connection. “Was Clarice cruel to you when you were a child?”

“She was a baby. All babies are selfish, but never cruel. No, even as she grew older she has never been cruel. My other sisters, yes.”

So she was the elder. Why had he never heard of her? Long fingers stole from his hair, to his cheek, and down to his soft chest. Although he would not wish Margaret’s breasts larger for the world, it was rather disconcerting to realize his own breasts dwarfed hers. Martha had always had a view choice barbs ready regarding his form. To have it be touched like this…

“I have tasted happiness,” Margaret broke out suddenly, raising her eyes to meet his. “What she said was wrong – I have tasted it. Not often, but…”

Yes – tasted. He knew how it felt to whet ones thirst on that cup. “I have – but only since I’ve met you.”

“Oh.” An eddy warmed her face and caused her to nestle closer, hiding her face in his shoulder. Giving a murmur of content, she relaxed. Her left hand walked down his plump arm, then slid down the side of his stomach, giving one startling squeeze before going quite flat. “Do you often dream of Martha?”

“Unfortunately. Never in a pleasant way.” Holding her tightly in his arms, he stared out over the top of her head. How much did she know? How much did he, Geoffrey, want to know how much she knew? Clarice knew more of his life than he could wish. The fact that Raoul’s Martha seemed to have insight made him wince. “How much…do you know about Martha? About my marriage?

At her telling hesitation, he sighed. “Do not bother to answer that. Martha and I were married many years ago. At the time, I thought her a well bred, well educated woman of fortune. When younger, she was quite pretty,” he added, standing. “And I felt myself lucky.”

“Why lucky?”

Bending, he lifted his clothes from the floor, where they had slipped from the chair. “Our marriage was not what it ought to have been from the start. It was a farce of a union, never consummated. By me, at least. Martha took many, many lovers into her bed.” Yanking on his shirt, he gnashed his teeth until they ached. “Being cuckholded is never a pleasant thing, even if you despise the one doing it.” His frenzy of dressing wound down as arms slipped around him from behind. They could not meet due to the breadth of his gut, but they slipped under his shirt, caressing his flabby middle lightly.

“Please – do not leave.” Her soft voice broke from where she had it buried in his flabby shoulder. “I am sorry I displeased you by speaking of her. Please do not leave. I will not speak of her again, I swear!”

“I am not leaving…” Geoffrey murmured, gently capturing those wandering hands and pressing them into him lightly where they sat. She gasped from behind him, and her nipples poked him as her back arched. What did he do to drive her so wild? “This just did not feel like a conversation to have unclothed…”

“I wish we had every conversation unclothed,” she whispered fervently.

Turning in her arms, he laughed down at her serious yet happy face. “Ah, Margaret. Are you trying to tempt me back to bed?”

She nodded solemnly, tugging at his shirt. When he allowed her to take it off, he followed behind her meekly until he was ensconced back in his bed, her raven hair spreading over his chest as she kissed it lightly. “Do you think you might dream of me, someday?”

“God, I hope not. I’ve never had a nice dream,” he confessed in a low tone, shuddering at the thought of beautiful, affectionate Margaret being cruel to him. Those dark eyes, penciled with the finest shading of lashes. Rather than staring up at him warmly, they would glare down with as extreme iciness. These subtle curves, entwined with another? She squeaked, and he released his grip on her. The only nice dream he had thought of had been no dream, but reality.

“You do not think less of – "A latch unclosed in the room next to his. Geoffrey suddenly raised his head, gazing through the wall intently. There were voices within Margaret’s chambers. One hand came up to cup her face, his thumb over her lips. Briefly removing his touch, he placed his index finger to his own lips before settling it back to hers. She nodded, eyes also staring through the intervening panel.

“Margaret, dear?” Clarice’s firm footsteps could be heard entering the adjacent room. “Ah well. I will find her somewhere. It is not important.”

Another pair of footsteps, these decidedly male, followed her a few steps into the room. “What was it you wanted to discuss?”

Geoffrey heard the sounds of her skirts shifting through the slightly ajar intervening door. Damnation.

“Harry and I are going to be wed today – ”

“Are you indeed? This is a surprise, but I give my hearty congratulations to you both.”

She seemed to sense his levity, for her tone was rather severe. “None of that, Raoul. This is serious.”

“Then I give it my full ear.” The tone was scarcely less laughing, but was said warmly enough.

“It is unlikely that my father will give me what is due to me, given the circumstances of our marriage. That being said, my only personal resources are not…inconsiderable, given the financial situation of your house.” Silence reigned for a moment. “I wanted to speak with you because – oh, drat it. Raoul, I will not simply give my money away. If money vanished once, another influx of money certainly will do little good in the long term. But I would be more than happy to assist in decision making that would prove helpful.”

Another silence reigned, broken by the breathing of the two in the bed next door. Margaret scarcely looked interested in the conversation happening so close to them. Her eyes were roaming his face, a smile hovering around her lips. Geoffrey was himself unsurprised, but listened with tented ears for Raoul’s response. The man was so changeable, his temper so volatile, that Geoff could not decide what response was most likely.

His tone, when he did speak, was cool and restrained. “So you say my estate has been mismanaged – ” he spoke over her fretful murmur, “And that you will not assist the family financially. Good. I had something different in mind in any case.”

Clarice sounded as surprised as Geoffrey felt. “I – you did?”

“Indeed. You see, neither Harry nor I put together have the business acumen or financial sense that you have in your little finger. When you oh-so-subtly say that we would fritter your money away – you are probably right. The thought galls, I admit, but then, you have a proven history of money management. You appear shocked,” he added in a droll voice.

“I am unused to men being so reasonable,” she responded faintly.

A hearty laugh met this sentence. “Clarice. You will find the Nottingham’s are a strange people, full of strange ways and isms. We are used to strong women in our life, who are very competent. Can I begrudge acknowledging you the master you are, or be offended when you point out that you are more experienced? No. And I cannot imagine Harry having anything but respect for your intelligence.”


“Mayhap. Clarice, you are very shortly going to become my own dear sister, and the godmother of my future child. Why would I want funds from you, when I am hoping to capitalize on the addition of your knowledge?”

“I…do not understand…” Clarice murmured.

“I’m hopeless at it, so do not waste your breath trying to explain figures and sums to me. But Kitty’s shows a surprising aptitude. I know that Harry has told you of how our Aunt has almost single handedly ruined us for her own profit, and to tie us more closely to her. It was Kitty who saw the clues at the outset. I teased and tried Harry about marrying you for money, but it is not your purse that I am interested in, but your brain.”

Margaret grinned below his fingers, making him blink down at her.

“Can I ask you to bring your wealth of experience in getting our estate back up and running properly? I will, of course, give you full discretion to act as you see fit.”

The grin under his thumb widened, her eyes dancing merrily. What in…?


“You do not have to say anything now. I did not want to interrupt your marriage with thoughts of work. I feel you will be…otherwise engaged for some time. And I know how humiliating this must seem, after the funds and investments you were handling on behalf of your father.”

“No. Not at all.” In fact, Clarice sounded immensely pleased, as if only waiting to be alone before rubbing her hands together in glee. “You will find,” she added, mimicking his earlier tone and words, “That the Belltaunt women are independent to a fault, and love power.”

“You?” was the aghast inquiry, followed by another low laugh. “Come Clarice.” A step sounded, followed by two kisses. “Welcome to the family, Clarice. May God give you the strength to deal with our insanity.”

Now she laughed, a low, musical sound that Geoffrey had not heard before. A comfortable laugh, not designed for any particular listener. “Thank you. We will talk more of this tomorrow – Kitty or Harry may have objections to your plan. And for now, I need to get ready for the ceremony. It will not be long before Papa is aware of where we are. After his recent treatment of me, I do not want to face him as a single woman.”

“Why did he – ”

“I do not know.” Her voice was hard, now. “But, Raoul - no one crosses a Belltaunt.”

“Or a Nottingham,” he added with a growl. “What do you think he will do?”

Their voices began to fade as they walked down the hall. “Well he will be furious. And I assume he will come himself to try and convince me away – and of course, it will be too late. But Margaret? He will take her back to town, to be sure.”

Margaret’s smile had faded, her face bleached white. Despite being curled into him, she shook with cold. “I will not go back. I will not!” She whispered fiercely, giving credence to her sister’s admission of their independence.

Geoffrey stared at her, his own shock dulling his brain. Of course. Why hadn’t he seen this coming? Their reprieve was temporary. Any day, any hour, their father would arrive. Clarice was old enough that her marriage would be held valid, and Raoul was likely to break his arm if he were to try anything. But Margaret? Unmarried? She would, of course, be taken from him.

No wonder Harry had looked so harrowed, so wraith-like. The idea of losing Margaret left him feeling gutted, empty. “You will not be leaving.” He said, scarcely recognising his own voice. “This is your home, now, and you are mine.”

10-10-2016, 01:19 PM
Omg you're too good! Thank you :wubu:

ALS Again
10-14-2016, 03:26 PM
This story is amazing, Xyantha! I have returned from a long hiatus and had the pleasure of reading this beauty. :smitten:

Xyantha Reborn
10-15-2016, 07:43 AM
Good to see you again! Did you forget your password too (again) lol? That is how I was reborn!

Xyantha Reborn
10-16-2016, 03:09 PM
Chapter 17

“Alice!” There was real pleasure in Margaret’s tone, and she even tolerated a quick embrace from the other woman.

“Margaret! What are you doing here?” The other woman exclaimed. She had grown quite plump over the years. Her face had lost its harassed lines, growing round and rosy cheeked. Her arms, bosom, and stomach pressed into the taller woman as she leaned past her own girth.

Margaret stepped back and gave a smile. “My sister is marrying Harry.”

Nonplussed, Alice seemed to try and determine for a long moment if she was being dim, or if the other woman had truly spoken nonsense. After a pause, she shrugged her round shoulders. “Well, you shall tell me all about it as I get myself settled in. I’m told we have guests, and there is most of the house still to make ready. I wonder that he didn’t send a note that he was coming – I would have been here, but I was so excited to go into town. You know that I never went back – not with the threats and all. But since that risk is quite gone and cleared up, I thought I would go and visit my family. It was quite nice to go, but I daresay I like the country a vast deal more. There is such smoke, and noise, and crowding. I left James behind – I thought it would be too much for him. And I worry with his not talking. Has he been much trouble? How many guests are there?”

Martha, who had turned at the other’s entrance, now blinked at the bustling energy and copious words. “Your boy has been no bother at all.”

James grinned at the trio from the stool he had been placed on. His little feet kicked the legs rhythmically. His hands were held in front of him, sticky with the preserve that he had been given to occupy his incessant, but silent curiosity. He grimaced and squirmed a bit, but returned the gesture when his mother kissed his cheek.

“Just call me Martha,” she added as the other woman introduced herself. “I hope you are not offended that Margaret and I have quite taken over your comfortable kitchen.”

“Not at all! Alice chirped. “I hate cooking myself, and I know how much Margaret enjoys it! How many guests do we have? I should look into their rooms and tidy up! There are never any guests here, so there is only skeleton staff in the house. Mostly it is the work hands and such that come by for the occasional dinner. Most of the house has been shut up, and I act as maid and cook. I hope me being gone has not caused too, too much trouble,” she finished with a pensive face.

“There are six upstairs including your master, but only four rooms. I found a spare room just around the way,” and she gestured with her spoon, “and made myself a comfortable little nest. “My master and his family are a simple folk, for all they are so grand. I think Miss Clarice Belltaunt has had a bit of a struggle, but she is hardy.”

Alice blanched. “Clarice Belltaunt? Is here?” At the other’s looks, she shook her head, bustling away. “Don’t mind me! I had better get to work!”


Geoffrey felt his neck burn as Clarice stood before his front door, waiting for it to be opened. Hastening forward, he quickly performed the needed service. “I apologize, Clarice. The house is not properly staffed…”

“Nonsense.” Recovering herself, the heiress smiled brightly. “I am just not used to such comfortable informality. I am told by both Harry and Raoul that I should come to expect such things. They are more…informal, it seems.”

“I believe they are,” he agreed with a wry smile. Face shifting towards gravity, he jerked his chin outside. “You are off to be wed? Are you sure you do not want us – ” He coughed at the way the words sounded aloud. “That is to say - me, Margaret, Martha to attend?”

“Indeed not. This is a business arrangement. All I need is the appropriate witnesses and signatures – none of the attached nonsense. I want this settled before my father has time to react.”

The partner or her upcoming ‘business arrangement’ came down the stairs two at a time. His hair was tousled around his face, his grey eyes dancing wickedly. He looked so much like Raoul had used to, before his waistline began to rapidly increase. The similarity had been increased by the line that had appeared between his brows. A consequence of his worry and care over the previous weeks. When he reached his bride-to-be, he gathered her up in his arms and kissed her soundly.

Geoffrey grinned to see the woman melt, then stiffen and push him away. Her colour was high, and except for the splash of red across her plump cheeks and dancing eyes, one might have thought her furious.

“Harry! How many times must I tell you not to do that! What will people think! For shame!”

And he ducked his head in mock apology, that grin still in place.

It was good to see the man enjoying life again, and Geoffrey offered his hand readily. “Congratulations to you both. I understand that Margaret will be preparing a particularly splendid meal.”

“Thank you,” Clarice dimpled. “If you see Kitty and Raoul, tell them we are off.”

They turned to go. Harry’s face was aglow in pride and attachment. Although Clarice’s emotion was less radiant, there seemed to be a strong affection in the quiet way she took her husband’s arm. If Harry loved her, then that was all that mattered. “There was something I wanted to say…” he began, then swallowed.

Both of them paused on the threshold, gazing back with curiosity.

His mouth opened, but his tongue stilled.

I would like to marry your sister. No. Too soft.

I am going to marry your sister. No. Too firm.

Your sister and I are to be wed. No. Too abrupt.

Bah! There was no way to say this without inviting a hundred questions. How did this come about? How long has your courtship been? Are you a fortune hunter?

At the last, his mind stilled. Fortune. He had not even considered that. Margaret’s personality was so far from an heiress – yet, she was. How was he to justify himself in any way that did not appear avaricious? Grasping? Crass? Not to mention woefully insensitive of his late wife’s memory.

Indeed – Clarice, in the past two days I have conveniently come to realize that I appreciate your sister. The behaviour that both you and society find irritating, I find charming. And of course, there is no rush to be wed, other than the fact that I have compromised her. As a guest. In my own home. After a very fleeting acquaintance, with no courtship. After my wife just happens to release me from a marriage that has driven my finances into the ground. So as you can see, your sister’s fortune is nothing to me.


Shaking his head, he forced a smile. “I am so, so glad that you have come together. Regardless of the circumstances. I wish you health, happiness, and joy, my friends.”

Harry stepped back to grasp his forearm. “Thank you, my friend. This has been made possible because of you - ”

He hadn’t done a thing, really…

“ - and I hope you find your own wife soon. You deserve to be as foolishly happy as Raoul and I.” The sounds of steps on stairs made them turn.

Kitty was aglow with health and with joy for her friend. And as Raoul had been repeatedly reassured by the professionals, he only looked mildly concerned for his wife, rather than looming over her protectively. As Kitty and Raoul slipped by, the former planted a kiss on his cheek. “I agree with him, Geoffrey.”

The fat man gazed after them, his forced smile fading into a more natural expression. Damn. Perhaps this could be done quietly, silently. It might be easier to ask forgiveness, than permission. Was it worth throwing over his friends, and removing himself from society? He had to admit, the idea of living out his days, here, without the stress and noise, did have a certain appeal.

“Good morning!” Alice chirped as she bustled around the corner. “I had no idea there would be guests, or I would not have taken leave to go into town!” Her round face was creased with worry, and she bobbed a few half curtseys to placate her nervous energy. Even with a cleaning smock on, she still looked as cheery and comfortable as ever.

The master of the house smiled as her son skidded around the corner to hug his legs. “Not at all, Alice. Please do not waste another instant thinking about it. I understand that Clarice has hired some staff to attend her here, including a physician for Katherine. They should be here shortly.”

“Is she ill?” she inquired directly, a protective hand landing on the blonde head of her son.

“No indeed – she is with child.”

Alice’s eyes lit up, and she hugged herself in delight. “Oh! A child! Well, I shall be on the lookout for these new arrivals, and will tell you directly when they come!”

“Thank you, Alice. I will be in my room.”


That was where he intended to be, and yet found himself enticed into the adjoining room. As they lay tangled in the sheets, he slowly caressed the velvet skin of the long leg draped over his hip. “Margaret, we should be married soon.”

She raised her head from where she was dropping soft kisses on his chest. “I still cannot believe you want to marry me,” she replied in her normal, measured tone. “A few months ago you were married. A few weeks ago you were as untouchable to me as if you were still married. Then Harry and my sister met; and they brought you to me. I feel…” and she placed her hand on her heart, deep in thought. “Grateful. I like Raoul, I always have. And I like Harry now too.”

A green dagger slipped between his ribs, and words slipped from his lips before he could stop them. “Oh, I saw how much you liked him this morning!”

She nodded, not hearing or understanding his tone. “I knew him when he was just a boy. Martha is the one who taught me to cook,” she added, smiling. Her dark eyes went distant before focusing again on him. “There were times I wanted to resign myself to death, when I was a child. Martha helped me make it through those days.”

Geoffrey’s jealousy melted as fast as it formed in the face of this new information. “And how did you know Martha? And how could you know Raoul as a boy? He must be older than you by five years, at least!”

“I was six when he was three. I met Martha on the street one day. I sometimes…” her eyes filled with moisture, and she swallowed. “There are times when being around people is too much for my constitution.” It had the sound of rote repetition, and she quickly fell back into her normal voice. “When Papa remarried, I was very unhappy. I did not want the things most children did. Toys and books and sweets did not placate me. When he discovered that all I wanted was Martha, he tracked her down.”

It would be easier to track someone down when money was no object. “And she helped you become happy again?” Geoffrey had not acknowledged her remark about taking her own life, but was deeply upset by it. Her emotions ran deep was, though often unexpressed. Deeply unhappy to most women might have been the inability to go for a stroll due to rain. The delay of a dress. To Margaret, deeply unhappy was the wish to extinguish everything. For others, they might be happy at the prospect of seeing an acquaintance. For Margaret, it meant utter joy and bliss.

Margaret smiled, hiking a slim shoulder. “Yes. Martha never thought I was a strange creature, or asked me to do things that I cannot do. And she never treated me as if I was important due to my family money. If I did something wrong, she yelled at me – but in the same way she yelled at Raoul. That was bearable.”

“I want to make you happy.”

The woman pressed her whole frame into him, curling her arms around his neck. “You do make me happy. When I am with you, I feel like I am an ordinary person.”

Well, at least he somewhat pleased her. What was he to do with that sentence? “An ordinary person? What do you feel like normally?”

“Broken. Useless. Strange. Alone.”

“You are not – ” he growled emphatically, “- broken, useless, or strange. And certainly not alone. Why would you say that?”

She curled her face into his flabby chest. His fat never seemed to repulse her. “I was alone, before you. No one wanted to be around me – and for the most part, I preferred their absence. No one likes to be around me for long. They say I am uncanny, and make them feel uncomfortably. They say I have strange mannerisms and manners. And I suppose I do; for I find everything they do strange. And I am broken, and useless. Clarice is the one who is useful, and whole.”

Was that jealousy in her voice? No. Rather, the emotion seemed to be a mixture of wistful admiration and self loathing.

“I am bad. I want to be good. I try to be good. I cannot even do the things a child can do,” Margaret added with a resigned sigh. “That night when we first met, I was supposed to be smiling, and dancing, and everything a woman should be. They try every few years, but I fail every time,” she muttered. “Instead, I cried, and ran, and hid. Worse than a child.” Her voice, as she began to recite took on the wooden cadence of words often heard. “I am useless. I have no self control. I have no useful qualities. I am broken, and shall never find a husband. My place is out of sight.”

Rage roiled deep in his gut at those who had told her these things until she believed them. She was so strong, to have withstood the onslaught of such words, of such hate. The quiet forbearance she had for the hurt committed on her. Who had told her this? Clarice? No. She could be casually, offhandedly cruel, but she could not have inflicted such venom. “Margaret.” He shook her lightly until she looked at him. “You were crying because you do not like crowds. Many people do not.”

“But others do not cry and panic!”

Both of them ceased speaking at the sound of wheels up the driveway. The others had gone on foot; who was arriving? Margaret quickly stood, her willowy frame light by the light streaming through the window. “Someone is getting out of a carriage,” she replied to his low inquiry. “I think it is Harry?” she ventured after squinting into the light.

If they were coming back in a carriage, something must have gone terribly wrong, for the church was quite close. Standing and joining her at the window, Geoffrey frowned in consternation at the scene below, then cast a peculiar glance at the woman next to him.

The man stepping out of the carriage should have been familiar more to her than to him. And if his hat was enough to shade his features, the large crest on the side of the door should have been a dead giveaway. “Margaret…that isn’t Harry. That is your father.”

10-16-2016, 09:09 PM
:smitten: Oh my god!

10-17-2016, 02:43 AM
😱😱😱oh my god what now! 😱

ALS Again
10-17-2016, 11:44 AM
Good to see you again! Did you forget your password too (again) lol? That is how I was reborn!

I got too worked up in Hyde Park, and one comment led to another . . .:blush:

10-28-2016, 02:18 PM
🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼😭😭😭🙏🏼🙏🏼 I can't take it anymore 😭😭😭😭

10-28-2016, 03:03 PM
I love this whole series so much but this is definitely my favorite couple.

11-04-2016, 08:49 AM
*cry cry cry cry cry a lot*

Xyantha Reborn
11-04-2016, 09:18 AM
Sorry luvs! Work has been an absolute shite show that has left me too exhausted to write. I'll get back on this soon, i promise!

Xyantha Reborn
11-07-2016, 08:14 AM
Okie! Have 3 days off this week, so expect some words coming at you soon =p

11-07-2016, 08:43 AM
Okie! Have 3 days off this week, so expect some words coming at you soon =p

Yes yes yes!! Can't wait! 🎉🎉🎉

Xyantha Reborn
11-10-2016, 10:44 AM
Chapter 18

By the time Geoffrey had thrown his clothes on, smoothed his hair, and made it into the hallway, he was already sweating and flushed. Voices echoed up the bare hall, unmuffled by carpeting, tapestry, ornament, or picture.

Poor Alice sounded like she was about to have a fit, her voice gasping and terrified. “If you please, sir, I will fetch some refreshments for you and my master while you wait in the – ”

“I do not please.” Mr. Belltaunt’s voice was often brief to the point of being terse, but there was now an added hard edge to his very clipped words. “I will stand until she arrives.”

He had to remind himself repeatedly; he does not know about Margaret - he is only looking for Clarice. Be calm. Do not give away your own guilt, or it is done. Stepping into view, he feigned surprise. He so often feigned his expressions in company that the raised brows, slightly widened eyes, and the startled-but-rapidly-falling-into-pleasure-at-his-company look feel into place naturally. “Mr. Belltaunt!”

The tall, lean, visitor was standing several feet back from the entryway, his cane in one hand. When he heard him speak, he did not turn to face him. Instead, his head turned slowly, eyes boring into the object of his scrutiny in a positively predatory way. “Telford.”

The mild disdain in his voice, and the way his guest’s eyes roved about with a damning judgement was nothing to the other sound in his voice. Something about the way the name was uttered sent chills up his arms, the hair on the back of his neck rising. Before Geoffrey could think of what to say, the other man began again.

“Where is my daughter? I understand that her carriage was mired in your…pond.” The word was spoken with some contempt. “I thank you for your hospitality on her behalf and trust - as I have received no letter - that she was not injured, and this lack was merely an oversight?”

“She was not injured, although she had a chill from the rain.” Not entirely a falsehood. She did have a very mild sneeze. “I apo – ”

The butt of the cane ground into the stone below it. “Thank you. I also see you could not send her on her way, as you have no carriage. I have arrived, however, and can take her away without losing much daylight.” The disdain of his surroundings once more stiffened into that raptor gaze as they landed on the fat man, who had just reached the last stair. “Where is my daughter, Telford?”

He could not lie or equivocate. Or rather, he could and either be found out, or be proven a liar in mere moments. For a quick calculation of time proved that by this time they would have been married and on their way back. Clarice had been militant in these particulars. Geoffrey let out the breath he had been holding. “She is at the local church, sir.” Stepping forward, he reminded himself that as reasonable as Mr. Belltaunt was reputed to be, he had locked up his daughter. And not just any daughter – from what Geoffrey had been given to understand, Clarice ran his business and informant network. He was not a man to be trusted, at least not anymore.

The other’s tall frame went quite still. Margaret had gotten her physical features and height from her father, whereas Clarice had inherited his armoury of piercing glances. And mannerisms – Clarice had that same stillness when deeply angered and offended. “At the church, is it? Let me guess. Harry Nottingham just happened to be at your house when my daughter’s carriage had an accident?”

“As hard as it may be to believe – yes.” Geoffrey still had a hard time believing the circumstances had so aligned to bring them all together. Not just at this moment, but at every moment since Kitty’s arrival in town last Season.

Click. Click. Click. Three deliberate strokes of the cane upon the floor as he stepped forward three precise paces. “And you expect me to believe it is mere happenstance that you, a good friend of Katherine Chelsey, introduced her to Raoul Nottingham? Do not look so surprised, old chap. News has a way of falling into my lap. It is no secret that you parted the seas for their union.”

“I – ” All he had done was assist Raoul to getting to her to make his proposals – nothing more.

“And then, is it not…convenient, that Raoul’s own brother sets his designs on my daughter? And that you insinuated your way into my house to facilitate it?” He thrust his free hand deep into his pocket, scowling at the floor.

He does not know, he does not know! “It is true that I did what I could to help my friend, who truly adores your daughter.”

“Margaret is easily mislead. She does not have the fortitude, education, or experience to make the correct decisions. She is easily panicked, and absolutely hates the carriage. She often has to be sedated to take long journeys.”

Geoffrey felt his skin ripple in anger at his tone. At the vindication of soft confessions of hurt so recently whispered against his chest. “Sir! – ”

“Silence. So what did you coerce her with, to force her into that carriage? Are you bent on ruining my entire family?”

Force? Ruin? “I have no urge whatsoever to ruin your family, or hurt your daughters in any way. I have the greatest respect in the world for them, and my involvement in this business was trying to facilitate Harry making his proposals to your daughter. Because she had been removed from society,” he gently prodded.

“That is MY decision!” In the ringing silence from that roar, Alice whimpered, turning her head to the left to look out the door at a shadow on the step. “I am her father. I will decide what is best for her. You had no right! No right! Besides - you expect me to believe any word out of your mouth? You, who ruined everything for us?” Giving the accused no time to speak, he sneered, raising the hand not holding the cane to point at the accused.

Alice shrieked, then fainted. The thump of her body sounded loud.

Geoffrey froze, staring down the black pupil of the barrel, mind blanking at this quickly escalating situation. Dear God, had the man lost his mind? What could possibly unhinge him so? Once again the questions rose up; what could make a man this powerful care about the marriage of a daughter? A daughter who he had explicitly advised that the rank of her suitor did not matter? What could fluster and coerce him into locking his daughter and business right hand? And then to come to his own house and point a pistol at him? “Sir, she should be back shortly. I believe we can discuss this when she returns.” A shadow moved behind the man, and he swallowed, speaking louder in case it was the group, returning from church. If the man was mad enough for this, who knew who he might shoot?

“You think I do not know what is going on? Do you really think that you are man enough to stare me down? The man who could never even consummate his own marriage? Whose wife cuckolded him nearly ever night? You think that I do not know all your dirty secrets? You think to fool me?” His voice had been rising with each word, and his last bellow echoed in the hall.

“Father!” Margaret’s voice broke from the top of the stairs. “What are you doing?” she cried, real panic in her voice.

“You,” he ground out. “I thought you would have been with your sister.” The gun wavered alarmingly as his attention shifted.

A small, highly irrational part of Geoffrey grew offended on her behalf. Such a tone! Of course Clarice was his favourite, but Margaret was still his daughter. “Margaret, go back to your room.”

Her father growled, waving the gun in a most disconcerting way. “No, let the little trollop join you.”

Trollop? Glancing behind him, he realized that Margaret was still ruddy faced, her long hair flowing down her back, and her clothing dishevelled. Damn. “Please, Mr. Belltaunt. Please believe me when I say that I am not trying to fool you. Clarice left this morning to be married to Harry, and will be back shortly. Your daughter is of age, and an heiress. I am in no position to tell her what to do.”

“You’ve had your eye on our money for years,” he sneered. “Propositioning my daughter – and when she refused you, trying to sabotage our ships! I do not know what you blackmailed her with to cover it up, but nothing scandalous stays quiet forever. Things have moved beyond that point, it seems,” he muttered to himself.

Nonplussed, Geoffrey blinked, casting a look over his shoulder at Margaret. Was her father drunk? His aim was wavering. When had he ever propositioned Clarice? And why would he had sabotaged them? He and Clarice both knew Martha had done it. He had actually learned of it from Clarice herself. And there had not been time to question how, or why, let alone blackmail. The plump heiress had sailed into his home, calmly informed him of what had happened, what was being done to cover it up, and that it was never to be spoken of again. Her only ask was to keep his wife as far away from her family as possible – something he could not refuse her. Geoffrey had suspected that Mr. Belltaunt had been kept in the dark but…he owed their family a debt, not treachery!

A crisp, familiar tone sounded from the doorway. “Dear Papa, he never propositioned me, and he certainly did not blackmail me. Raoul, be gentle with him.”

Gentle did not seem the proper descriptor for the sounds of pain echoing just outside the door. “It only hurts when you squirm,” was the deep growl. “I’ll shake you better if you do that again,” Raoul warned. “I’ll break your god damn arm to match your face!”

Her dear Papa was rather wild about the eyes, gun wavering as he fought the urge to turn and defend himself from a man who sounded more than a little incensed. “Not you - Margaret!”

The stair squeaked. “Margaret, stay where you are,” Geoffrey snapped.

“What the devil…?” Harry exclaimed. “Clarice, get back!”

Clarice stepped into Geoffrey’s field of vision, and into the corner of her fathers view. “Papa, what about Margaret? Why are you here? And with a pistol?”

At another time it would have been fascinating to see how the tone of her disappointment and disapproval brought a flush to her father’s palid cheek. Now, all Geoffrey could do was glance behind him and make sure Margaret was not coming any closer.

“This man has ruined our lives for far too long, Clarice. I do not know what they have threatened you or your sister with, but we can withstand it.”

Clarice looked nonplussed, her plump cheeks hollowing as she sucked on her tongue in thought. “I think you have been misinformed about matters.”

Brown hair shook. “No. Clarice, I know you tried to help, but your actions have made everything so, so much worse.”

Geoffrey and Clarice exchanged a baffled look. Behind his now wife, and out of sight of her father, Harry shifted closer with a murderous look on his face.

“You should have come to me when Telford tried to force himself on Margaret. You should have told me when he burned down our ships out of hatred.”

Ever practical Margaret spoke first; the others were too flummoxed to form a coherent response. “Geoffrey never forced himself on me. He did not burn down the ships, either.”

“Tell me he has never lain with you, and I will believe you.” Apparently her father was aware of her incapacity for telling falsehoods as well.

“I cannot.”

Harry and Clarice both shot Geoffrey scandalized and hurt looks. From outside, Raoul let out a grunt of surprise, and Kitty gasped out loud.

There was no shame or regret on Margaret’s face, which was a balm to Geoffrey’s unsettled emotions. This conversation was all very well, but the gun was still pointed at him!

“What I can tell you that it was not Geoffrey that burned the ships down.”

A long moment passed, where the audible squeaking of teeth being ground sounded out. At last, grudgingly, her father asked, “Then who was it?”

Instead of immediately answering, she closed her lips into a thin line and glanced at her sister.

The plump woman sighed and waved a negligent hand. “Go on, then.”

Thus given permission, she gave a brief and understated account of the events of that evening.

To corroborate her sibling’s position, Clarice added a few points for consideration. “Papa, think. Why would Geoffrey be the one to have the ships burned? Yes, his marriage was unhappy, but it had been unhappy for years. In all the gossip you had ever heard, did you once hear of him straying from his marriage vows?” Pausing, she sighed. “So why would he lay aims on dear Margaret, and then become so angry – that he destroyed his family? Remember, Papa. Geoffrey invested everything. He was the one who took on the risk in that venture. He had the most to lose by its failure, and the most to win by its success. You know Martha Telford was bankrupting them. Look around,” she added, waving at the bare walls.

All of this talk was humiliating, Geoffrey fumed. Turning to look back at Margaret, he was reassured somewhat by her look. Maybe he would be able to show his face – in five years instead of twenty-five.

The gun was finally lowered somewhat. Either due to the bearer’s arms becoming tired, or his slightly soothed mood. “That still does not tell me – who did it?” her father demanded impatiently. “If not Geoffrey, than who? I infer from Margaret’s story that Martha was jealous. I am not surprised, and she was as nasty a creature as they come. But who did it? I cannot imagine her physically involving herself. Like a spider, she merely plucked the webs.”

Clarice shrugged helplessly. “We do not know. A hired man, I suppose.”

“Oh – it was Westmore,” Margaret replied with calm confidence at the same time as her sister spoke, folding her hands demurely across her waist.

11-10-2016, 10:09 PM

11-11-2016, 08:10 AM
Amazing as always :wubu:

11-11-2016, 12:49 PM
So exciting!!

11-17-2016, 02:41 PM
I love how this is weaving together, so amazing :happy:

Xyantha Reborn
11-25-2016, 07:26 PM
Chapter 19

“Westmore!” Clarice cried, her eyes flaring as wide as they could go. “What? Why would you think so?”

Margaret looked unsettled at being the singular focal point for all of their attention, hiding behind her bangs and casting her eyes to the floor. She muttered something indecipherable, looking away as if regretting her words. The poor woman’s pale skin flushed, then paled again. Her dark eyes darted, and she shifted towards the bannister. Her thin hand settled on it – seemingly less for support, than as a means of locking in her escape path.

“Speak up!” Her father barked, making his daughters both jump. His normally calm face was mottled, his agitation appearing in the deep furrows of his brow and in the twitching of his fingers.

She began to show signs of stress. Now that he was accustomed to her ways, Geoffrey was able to spot the warning signs of her discomfort. Others saw her actions as a manifestation of her oddities and instability, but Geoffrey had become more and more convinced that she acted thus under stress – and other reasons. As Geoffrey watched, her thin fingers fisted in her skirts, and she began rocking side to side slightly. Her normally pale face bleached of more colour under the duress, and she even stuttered a few times.

His heart gave a jolt in his deep chest, his stomach clenching to see her in pain. Even in the scant hours – lord, how could it have been so few? Geoffrey shook his head in disbelief at it all. Well, since her arrival the heiress had begun to act comfortable. Not just generally, but to act more like this was her own home than her grand house. And it pained him immeasurably to see her revert to this state of unhappiness.

When her dark eyes rolled towards him in silent supplication Geoffrey found himself hastening back up the stairs to her, ignoring the pistol and the group behind them alike. The man could shoot him if he liked; he would not abandon her to stand alone. Standing between her and her father, he gave her a reassuring smile, hoping that she would not notice how thin stress made it. Just because he was ignoring the threat did not mean it was past. “It is quite alright, my dear,” he murmured. Lightly stroking the back of one hand with his thumb, he leaned in. “I will not let him take you. Raoul will not let him take you, nor Harry,” he added when she look unconvinced.

Drawing in a deep breath, she clutched his hand and nodded. Rather than speaking to her father, she addressed herself to Geoffrey. In the quiet of the hall, her quiet voice was discernable, if faint. “He said that he did it.”

“I NEVER!” Westmore bellowed from outside, then gave a cry of pain. “Unhand me! There is no need to be so rough!”

From outside, threats and promises rumbled from a deep chest, and the sounds of an unsuccessful scuffle were heard. Feet shuffled, there was a rending of fabric, and harsh breathing. At least, it would seem to be unsuccessful, from the evil chortle that Raoul Nottingham gave at the conclusion.

When Geoffrey’s eyes met Clarice’s, there was an indecipherable light behind them. The wheels of her mind were clearly churning at a full gallop.

Mr. Belltaunt’s brows had threatened to climb into his hairline. To say he looked blatantly disbelieving would be an understatement. “What possible motive could the man have?” He demanded. “He was not involved in our transaction in any way!” The only benefit to his apparent shock was that the weapon between his fingers was now fully pointed at the floor, his arm having gone limp at the words.

Margaret tilted her head over his own at this demand as if trying to puzzle out a sentence spoken in a foreign tongue.

Geoffrey ignored her father’s sound of frustration; the man’s question had been unclear. How could the man not know how to communicate with his own daughter after years of being with her? Instead, he asked a more straightforward question. “Who did Westmore confess to?”

She scuffed a foot on the stairs, glancing up at him with more discomfort than she had evinced in days. “He…he…told Martha Telford...”

“And how would you know that?” her sister cut in. Her arched brows looked ready to climb into her hairline. “Who would have told you?” Clarice’s tone was scandalized, and also contained more than a hint of territorial irritation. She considered herself the ultimate spymaster; to have another learn what she could not clearly rankled.

“Servants. Servants talk,” Margaret murmured, now completely avoiding eye contact by turning her head away and hiding in in the lapel of Geoffrey’s coat. Despite that, her own tone held the slightest whiff of her own irritation. Her hand, still in Geoffrey’s, was both cold and damp.

He caressed them softly.

“But why – ”

Margaret was taller than him by a hand. Mounting and additional stair to gain height on her, he gently drew her to him. Geoffrey glared over his shoulder at Mr. Belltaunt. “I have more pertinent questions. Regardless of who did it, or why they did it – why the blazes would you lock Clarice up? Then come into my home – ” he emphasized, “Waving around a pistol and threatening? What could your possible motive be?” he demanded.

“How dare you speak to me that way!” Mr. Belltaunt inflated his chest like a songbird. From behind him, a shadow cast itself over the threshold.

Only Geoffrey and Margaret were clearly able to see behind the man, for Clarice and Harry stood rather off to his side. Harry more so at the rear, having begun to sneak behind him. Kitty was still outside, which left that dancing shadow to be Raoul, Westmore, or both.

It was both. Westmore was propelled through the doorway, his arm behind his back and held at an high, awkward angle. His rather sallow face was covered in sweat, and two bright spots of colour highlighted his cheeks. The man was no fighter, and he was breathing heavily, teeth clenched. He looked rather like the snake that would turn about to bite when released, than a prisoner. One of his eyes looked rather squinty – and a hint of a shadow around the orb indicated a colourful bruise approaching.

The fat man looked the least affable than Geoffrey had ever seen him. Granted, his experiences had been limited to a few parties and seeing him about town. Then, more recently, his mellowing as he and Kitty grew closer. That mellowing might have softened his heavy waistline, but it had not dulled his wits of strength much. He had grown so plump and placid that it was easy to forget that Raoul was a trained fighter, and had gotten into more than his share of brawls. Usually about conquests and honour, but that as it was. Despite being twice as wide as the wiry man in front of him, he looked anything but soft. One could almost see the muscles in his arms ripple, his shoulders bulging as he squeezed his hold. But it was his expression that gave Geoffrey shivers. It was the gleeful vindication of revenge coupled with a simmering rage that begged for a reason, any reason, to explode.

Westmore gave a squeal of pain directly behind Margaret’s father, who whipped about so fast his coat flared and his cane crashed to the floor.

Raoul’s dark head reared back in outrage at seeing the dark void of the pistol pointed at him. His shock faded into rage as he looked at the ladies in the room. “Devil take you, what the blazes do you think you are doing?” he roared at the top of his voice, stepping forward.

Geoffrey was not anywhere near the man, and felt the hair on his nape rise in response. In his arms, surprise rippled through Margaret’s slight frame.

Harry’s expression did not change, his calculating air unwavering as he waited for an opening.

Clarice took a step forward, hand raised to placate.

Kitty cried from outside, “Raoul!”

And Mr. Belltaunt, dark eyes stark in his pale face, flinched.

In the sudden silence left by the shot, Raoul gave a cry of pain, dropping his hold on Westmore to stare down in horror at the growing stain of red on his chest.

Xyantha Reborn
11-25-2016, 07:27 PM
Chapter 20

“Bloody get out of my bloody room and go to bloody hell you bloody…!” Raoul growled, looking about at home on the sheets as an irate bull. “I do not converse with men who shoot me!”

The thin face of the man across from him looked torn, as if the owner wanted to shoot him better for his impudence, yet also wanted to make his apologies known and accepted.

Rising from her bent position, Kitty cast a look of such loathing at him that Margaret was surprised that she did not hiss and claw at his eyes as well.

Clarice scarcely looked more forgiving. “Why are you still here? Haven’t you done enough damage?”

Margaret marvelled at her sister’s bravery. Never before had she heard her sibling address him so. Even when furious, she always ensured her tone was respectful. Now, not even affection softened her words.

At first, his face grew tight, his knuckles whitening.

Margaret stared uneasily at the cane across his knees, remembering all the raps she had received from that very article. Strong and pliable, it had been used on her until the men he had brought in had told him that it was not helping.

Finally, thin shoulders sagged and he swiped a hand down his face. “I did not mean to shoot him.”

“Yet you did mean to lock me up,” the plump woman countered harshly. “Cutting me off from business, family, friends. That was no accident.”

“Westmore came to me and told me he knew of my daughters’ involvement in covering up a crime. Of course, I did not believe him, and demanded proof.” His cheeks flushed an ugly shade of purple. “He was able to show evidence that my own family had covered up our own ships burning; paying massive bribes, and covering up their actions as part of the normal course of investigations. Investigations which never took place, as more bribes had been laid out. Westmore assured me that he would be more than happy to ensure that all the information he had would be destroyed; if I allowed him to marry into the family. And if I removed you from your role.”

“So he blackmailed you.” She sounded singularly unsympathetic.

His gaze lowered, then rose to meet Clarice’s. “Do you understand how ruinous it would be for us to be involved in a scandal that caused that much damage? Can you even begin to comprehend the legal ramifications of those actions? Let alone the precarious position it leaves us? Money is key, but even that can only bolster the reputation that is already there. Without that, we might as well be nothing more than pirates! And I still do not even understand why my daughters did this!” he cried, throwing his hands up in a way which clearly alarmed Harry, who took an intercepting step between his wife and his father in law.

Clarice, however, rolled her eyes at his earnest anger. “Margaret had a fit of histrionics the night before the fire. Remember how panicked she was at the press? How she ran off for a bit and none of us could find her? It seems Geoffrey found her and was comforting her. His awful wife saw them and assumed that they were lovers.”

Geoffrey jerked his head around to gaze at his soon-to-be sister in law, mouth falling open like a fish.

A shrug and look encompassed her next words. “She was clearly insane; she would rather ruin their lives than see him happy with another. Margaret does not speak untruth. If she said Westmore did it, I believe it. You are aware of Telford’s unhappy marriage? I can think of only one possible situation between Westmore and Martha Telford to elicit such a response on his side.”

Despite Margaret’s father knowing somewhat of the circumstances of Geoffrey’s shambles of a union, he hardly seemed to dwell on the particulars. Instead he changed tact, demanding, “Regardless; why would you two become involved in their spat?”

Because it was my fault, Margaret wanted to cry. And because I am not competent, I pulled her into the fray.

Her round face had worn an expression of mild annoyance, and now held more than a healthy dose of exasperation. “Papa, you cannot be so dense. What in heaven’s name could her motive be otherwise than responsibility. Yes – she told me that she felt responsible for the entire thing – no, don’t ask me why, her motives are mystery to me,” she snapped. “She is hardly sly, so when I found out she had already started the process, I decided it would be best to smooth the whole thing over. What was I to do? Leave a mess?”

Margaret was too busy looking at Geoffrey to listen much to her sister. He had the oddest look on his face. What was he thinking, to make the corners of his mouth turn down in that way? For those round cheeks with their rosy glow to dim? And for him to cease looking at her. Was he angry? Tears stung her eyes, and her heart began the frantic palpitations that preceded one of her fits. Oh, what if he was angry? Had she done wrong? Had she displeased him? She so wanted to please him – now more than ever. She would simply die inside if she had done wrong! She had never cared before what anyone thought of her…!

“You could have come to me!” her father bellowed. From the jerk both his daughters gave, it was an effective tactic because rarely employed.

From the bed, Raoul bellowed right back, overriding whatever impending herrange was signified by Clarice’s rapidly inflating chest. “As much good as it would have done them! What would you have done then that was any different than what you have done lately?” He grimaced, trying not to move the shoulder where the local surgeon had to recently been at the injury. The man was more used to sewing up wounds in animals than people, and was lucky that Raoul had been in too much pain to take umbrage to his terse, “Be still, damn you!”

Raoul was not done. He settled for venting his emotions in his hard glare. “I am a simple man. I fail to see a problem in this situation. Your daughter is married – congratulations. Your other daughter is about to be wed – and you do not even have to worry about a dowry, for it seems that it was already paid to Telford years ago in the form of money for the ships. And from what Clarice has told me, it sounds like Paulina will be shortly married to Westmore. His blackmail will be ineffective soon; for he can hardly escape involvement, having found evidence, hid it from the law, blackmail you with it – only to become embroiled in the same incident that he accused you of.”

The older man stared, slack jawed. Yet, a growing fury seemed to be growing in him as Raoul continued.

“You miscalculated, sir. I do not know how long you thought that you could effectually push Clarice aside, or even why you bothered. I have since ceased to care. You will find that their marriage is legal and binding. Your approval means little, as they are both of age.”

Instead of responding, their father turned a cold look upon them both. “It is not too late. Come home, we will find a way to resolve this. I will not have my daughters associated with a family of rakes who are indebted, or a man who could not even consummate his marriage, letting his trollop of a wife make a laughing stock out of him, and having so little control over her that she ruined them, and nearly us alongside them!”

Margaret took a step back closer to Geoffrey. She shook her head, hoping that Geoffrey would not let him take her. He still seemed deeply troubled, avoiding her gaze and standing utterly still.

Clarice cocked a brow with a cool look. “No. I think not.”

Their father rose to his full height, staring down at his previously favoured daughter. “There will be no money – no notice paid to you in society.”

“Oh!” she gasped, splaying a dramatic hand across her chest. “Not the cut direct!”

“You think this is a laughing matter?” he demanded.

Clarice smiled slowly. “There is a certain irony in it for me,” she admitted at last, casting a tender look at her new husband. “Now.” Smoothing her skirt, she offered her most distant smile. “If that is all, I believe you will be going…?”

Margaret felt a chill seep through her bones as he slowly turned his head to look at her. “No!”

“You are not married. You are under my protection,” he said with growing satisfaction. “They have no claim on you, and so you will be coming home with me directly. And – ”

“And then I will be making a lovely trip back into the city to charge you with attempted murder,” Raoul growled from the bed, lids looking heavy as the drugs began to take hold.

Mr. Belltaunt blanched, turning to the man with bulging eyes. “It was an accident!”

Harry finally spoke. “I do seem to recall you coming into the house with a loaded pistol.” He turned to his wife with an odd expression. “Clarice, my love, can you imagine any reason for a man like your father to come into a stranger’s house with a loaded pistol? No?” He gave a slow grin that was as threatening as his brother’s, but for a different reason. A slow, creeping, inevitable threat. “Because as I seem to recall it, Mr. Belltaunt hated the Telfords. And he burned down the ships to destroy their family. Of course, he couldn’t let it out that he had done such a thing, and so he commissioned his most trusted daughters to cover his tracks. When his daughters tried to come forward with the truth, he had Clarice locked up. When they escaped, he tracked her down to this house to murder her. My brother nearly lost his life protecting her,” he added with a dramatic flair. “Oh – and my favourite part,” he added, rubbing his hands together gleefully, “Is that you brought the man who blackmailed you here. Who, my brother told me, also has threatened my sister in the past.”

“I…you…I…” the man stuttered, looking almost unhinged.

Harry threw back his head and gave a loud, long laugh. “Sounds so much more believable than your daughter did it because she felt somehow responsible for it, destroying her future prospects of marriage by demolishing her own dowry. Then, on discovering your daughters had been involved, you came to ‘take them home’ with a gun, ending up by shooting the brother of the man your daughter wed without permission. And all because you feel your reputation could not take a hit? It does not truly sound like a plausible story to me. I prefer my version of the events.”

Hands shaking with rage, Mr. Belltaunt stood tall. “No money. None,” he managed, so angry spittle gathered at the corner of one lip.

The younger Nottingham cast his wife a glance. Receiving a nonchalant shrug in reply, he too shrugged.
“So - shall we see you out, or can you find your own way?”

After a while, they all heard the wheels churning on the drive. Yet all of them remained silent for several minutes yet, each processing in their own ways.

Margaret stared down at the floor, only now fully able to assess her racing heart, a dreadful weight threatening to smother her lungs. Her knees felt weak, jittering before her unsteadily. What had just happened? She could not think this quickly – what did all of this mean? What would happen now that her father was not here? He hated her, but she was not forced to do many things, anymore. What was going to happen to her?

When Margaret finally glanced up, Raoul was grinning at her from across the room. “Come here, mouse.”

Quickly passing to his side, Margaret let him draw her hands into his. They were stunningly warm against hers, making her shiver.

Though looking sleepy, he patted her hand. “You poor creature. See? You are family now. No need to be scared. We protect our own – never forget that.” Just as he used to do when he was a child, he tugged on her apron with a mischievous air. “So make me something to eat, won’t you? I took a bullet for you and your sister, you know!”

And just as she used to respond for his innocent applications for food all those years ago, Margaret ran a hand down his thick locks, bending down to press a kiss on his sweaty brow. When she drew back, he was staring at her – or rather trying to.

His grin slowly faded as he gazed at her. “I…know…you,” he managed, eyes sliding shut over a look of consternation.

11-25-2016, 09:08 PM
And this is why I've started *coughthreemonthsorsoagocough* checking this thread... let's say more than once a day.

Xyantha, this is brilliant. Thank you so much for continuing this story. As eager as I am for more of it, I truly appreciate the care and effort that you pour into it.

11-26-2016, 02:40 AM
I came for Goffrey and I stayed for the amazing story line. I've said it countless times but this is amazing and I love every single detail. You're great Xyantha, thanks a million for writing this masterpiece 🙌🏼

Xyantha Reborn
11-26-2016, 08:31 PM
Thanks guys, you are the best!!! :blush::blush:

And thank you for being patient!

Xyantha Reborn
12-03-2016, 08:22 PM
Chapter 21

“Well, I think this has all gone off quite splendidly.” The ‘invalid’ reclined back on his pillows, looking inordinately pleased with both himself and the general situation as a whole. And looking as much an invalid as he had two days ago, aside from an occasional wince and hitch of breath.

“You got shot,” his brother retorted from his chair. His muscular arms were crossed over his chest, and his long, lean legs were crossed at the ankle as he observed his brother glutting himself. “That is your idea of splendid?”

Raoul glanced up from his tray, cheeks bulging with the hearty stew he had requested Margaret make, claiming he had acquired a taste for it while Kitty was in town, having been fed it by multiple tenants. After his first bite he had rolled his eyes back and fell to it with a vengeance, making a sound so very sexual both Kitty and Margaret had fled the room. He rolled grey eyes now for a different reason. “It was just a graze – it is not as if it went through a lung, Harry.”

A penetrating look beamed from grey eyes eerily similar to those they encountered. “Our Aunt will not give us any inheritance,” he added, ticking off another point on a long finger. He was leaning back in a chair, booted feet casually pushing at the wall to force his chair back.

“Bah. What of it? Nothing recently has changed that, and I would not retract my decision for the world.”

“No, I don’t suppose you would,” Harry chuckled, corners of his eyes crinkling under his grin. “She truly is your match, brother. I never thought I would see the day, but she has you wrapped around her finger one moment, and has you as cowed as Martha with her spoon the next! But - you were relying on Clarice’s influx of money, where you not? Her father was rather clear on that score. I cannot see that having gone off according to your plans/”

Another snort. “I would prefer to have the one who makes money - than the money itself. That woman has brains – she will puzzle her own way out of this, mark my words.”

Harry watched as his brother dipped a hunk of fresh bread into the stew. “And so Geoffrey is to marry Margaret. I would not have thought her the match for him, but I will be very glad if he is contented with it. Do you think she forced him into it?”

The response was low but forceful, almost a growl. “No.” Raoul fastidiously wiped her fingers on the cloth on his lap, an odd look on his face.

“How can you be sure? Last night you said you knew her, but…how? Where? When?”

Raoul’s swarthy skin darkened further, a ruddy glow catching his cheeks and dwelling for several moments. “I thought I knew her when I saw her at the Belltaunts – I had just gone back into town and Kitty was there. She marched up and presented me with this absolutely heavenly dish of little puffs of –“ he coughed, interrupted his rapturous exposition at Harry’s expression. “Anyhow, she seemed so familiar to me. The way she looked at me too, as if I was a naughty child that she was not sure if she should hug or box his ears….” He grinned, taking up another spoonful and reflecting.

“And…?” his brother prompted.

“And? You were probably too young to remember, but one year our Father had gone away for a few weeks on business. Well. The power went to my head, and with no one to tell me ‘no’ to seconds and all that, I was quite the little rooster, strutting around that kitchen.” Another glow rose, and he gave a self-conscious pat to his stomach below the thin sheet before adding ruefully. “Not just to my head, but to my waist! I ate like a pig at the trough – just spent the whole time shoveling delicious food into my mouth – all the food that he would never let us have.”

Harry’s Adams apple bobbed, looking anywhere but at his sibling. “I remember,” he replied rather tersely, re-crossing his legs and pushing back on the chair until it balanced on its hind legs “I do not see what this has to do with Margaret Belltaunt.”

“Don’t you remember ’Gretty from that time? The young woman that Martha was training up?”

The front feet of the chair landed with a heavy thump. “Dear God. You must be joking.”

Raoul grinned. “Martha came up this morning and reminded me of it, and damned if I didn’t nearly burst a stitch laughing. Who would have thought that circumstances could weave just so?”

The younger sibling blinked. “What was the heiress of the Belltaunt estate doing in our kitchen?”

“Oh, Martha concocted some story about school. I don’t think her father was in any hurry to keep her – did you see the way he treated her yesterday? I treat my dogs better! It seems, Margaret and Martha had been corresponding for a bit, and one thing led to another. It was ‘Gret that was always on hand to make sure I was well seen to, even if it was before the sun had risen.” Unconsciously, his large hands splayed, stroking his gut. He blinked, grinned, and returned to his soup. “And you know what I am most pleased with?”

“What?” was the hoarse inquiry. Harry might have asked how Margaret and Martha knew each other, but he was too busy squirming in his seat.

“That my wife’s childhood sweetheart is once again ineligible. Damn if I don’t like and respect the man, but having him hanging around, knowing Kitty held a flame for him before…! The man seems quite besotted with her. And if he knows how to treat Margaret, she will make him a damned fine wife.”


Geoffrey leaned back against the wall, head pounding and spikes of too long hair obscured his eyes. The brother’s comfortable conversation was still ringing in his ears. Eavesdropping was not gentlemanly. But then, he hardly felt or looked the gentleman - he was overdue for a trim, he realized with the clarity brought on by a mind otherwise engaged.

It seemed he had been taken far out by the undertow, and his head still reeled with the information revealed.

Clarice seemed so sure that Margaret had been the one to put forth all of the money. Was she speaking truly? Why would Clarice lie? Yet, why would Margaret have done that for him, a stranger at the time?

He remembered that night, even if it had taken him a great deal of time to recognize Margaret of late. His wife had been having a liaison of some sort during the party. Geoffrey had caught her while looking for a letter in his room, and had left them in a strange taking. It was bad enough that his wife acted so, worse that she did it with no compunction, took no pains to make it tacit. But that night had been worse. While their guests had laughed and drank, danced and talked, his wife had been in the throws with another man.

At the time, the event that had stuck him most keenly was his wife’s vitriolic hatred of poor Alice. His mind churned sluggishly to recall specific hatred towards Margaret, but nothing came to his mind.

Could it truly be possible that such a chance meeting, such a basic comfort, caused Martha so much seething jealousy that she would do such a thing? Of all of the disbelief he was experiencing, none of it was directed at his late wife. She would be capable of anything.

He walked slowly through the corridors of his house, deep in thought. He had not seen Margaret last night – had been too cowardly to search for her. Or Clarice. He had spent the night staring into the fire, poking the wood like one tonguing a tooth abscess. Maybe the sisters regretted their actions – Margaret’s from an age ago, and Clarice from her fresh decisions. He found his courage flagging, having failed to locate Margaret in her room, the kitchen, or Raoul’s room. Maybe she was avoiding him.


Inhaling sharply, he glanced up to see the plump form of Clarice sashaying towards him, looking as comfortable and poised in his barren house as in the finest ballrooms. “Clarice.” Was she angry?

No – but determined. Stopping abruptly before him, she eyed him up and down. “You intend to marry my sister, of course?”

His neck heated at the reminder of his actions, and the consequences still formally unacknowledged. “Of course,” he murmured, bowing his head. At least the woman could not claim the ground on moral superiority on this, he thought with a rueful shake of the head.

“Good.” She stepped to the side, then paused, capturing his forearm with her hand. When he looked up, she had an expression that the other had never seen her wear. Careworn, relieved, and deeply affected. “I am so glad that it is you,” She confessed. “It seems right, somehow. Everything coming back in on itself, you know? I have been worried for as long as I could remember about her prospects. I cannot express what a relief it is to have her marry into the family.”

“But…I am not part of the family,” he reminded her with no little consternation. “Or at least, not until I marry her.”

“Psh.” She waved a negligent hand. “Geoff, darling, please, do not exhaust me with false idiocy and dissembling. We both know you are too intelligent for that. Kitty loves you as a dearest brother. Harry counts you as his closest friend. And Raoul himself has felt you part of the circle so long that he said ‘damn fine of the man to make his entrance into the family official!’ And I have had an interest in you ever since my sister cleaved our fates together – how could I dismiss her good opinion when it is so rarely bestowed?”

Family…? All of these weeks. The invitations. The intrusions. The becoming so deeply involved. Family. Cleaved. Family?

The woman leaned across him, making him highly aware of her plump and supple form, to kiss his round cheek. “I will be honoured to call you brother,” she murmured with a curling smile. “I know you will treat her well – you already have been, having known none of the history.”

History, indeed. “You simply must tell me all,” Geoffrey breathed, capturing her hand and gazing at her with supplication. “My head has been spinning for hours. I – I do not understand any of this,” he confessed in a low tone. “Why did your father come?” he queried, feeling unsettled. That shot…he shivered. The ending to that meeting might have ended so very differently.

Clarice Belltaunt – nay, Nottingham, appeared as unsettled as he but with rage. Her eyes flashed, still riled from the event the night before. She appeared for a moment as if she would vent that rage upon Geoffrey, but instead swallowed it back and sighed. “My father came because several contracts are under negotiation that I was the sole caretaker on, I assume. Without me being present he is at a severe disadvantage. Both contractually and in knowing the people. And despite casting me aside, he apparently does not want another to possess me. Nor should he.” He hazel eyes glinted with a grim purpose. “If this is my family, I will build it up, no matter what it takes. He has made a grave miscalculation. Now – what else you want to know?” She began slowly moving down the hall.

He felt unaccountably pity rising up for the man who would be made to suffer at his daughter’s hands…until he remembered the man’s treatment of Margaret. Suddenly, he felt a curious zest to see what Clarice planned to inflict upon him. “I…do not know…I cannot seem to wrap my head around any of this.”

The woman turned her face and examined him with an all too astute gaze. “My husband and brother speak far more plainly than…others. Once I got past the familiarity and shock, I find myself appreciating this openness as rather refreshing. So let me speak plainly. My sister has adored you for years. Probably since the first moment you met.”


The sound may or may not have left his lips, but the former heiress gave a sharp nod. “Indeed. Adored. Enough that the idea of any possible action of hers causing you pain or distress was intolerable.” Scrubbing a hand over her forehead, Clarice sighed. “My sister is one who thinks very much in extremes, Geoffrey. Either she looks at a situation and sees intolerable complexity, or she views the world in an overly simplified, childlike view.” Her lips curled again. “I think this family’s over familiarity, straightforward attitude and almost intolerable closeness will be rather enjoyable, actually.”

“But…why would she – Margaret – feel it was her fault at all? Clarice, all I did was find her in the hall and tried my best to comfort her, to wait for her to get her bearings and composure back! I swear I did nothing ungentlemanly!”

“From what I have since gathered from Alice, Margaret felt that none of it would have happened, if she had not been there. And so, feeling responsible, did what she thought was a simple fix.”

The idea of being loved from afar was absurd. Simple fix? Margaret had beggared herself for the passing comfort of an understanding shoulder?

“Geoffrey. Your wife was…” She pursed her lips. “The type of person who could do unforgiveable things, and yet expect perfect respect and faith in return. When she saw you and Margaret together, she assumed the worse. And to be honest, I cannot imagine why she would expect you to remain true.” Her gaze searched his, a colour rising on her chest. “Yet, in all my years, I have never once heard you tarnish her in any way, in deed or word. In comparison, my father has said unforgiveable things of your past relationship. Things that no simple apology can unsay.”

He waved a hand. What was the man’s words, compared to the situation itself? “I am not proud of my decision to marry her, or of the marriage itself. It was pain, a burden, and punishment beyond measure. Many would have found a way to throw her off…but that is not who I am. I cannot simply walk away from a life I have chosen, simply because I was not willing to wait for another. Chose her for the size of her purse, not the size of her heart.”


The red bloom on his cheeks was revealing, as was his pretending the word had not been spoken. “Assuming what you have said is true – why did you become involved?”

“Use your head!” She snapped, looking out a window, the sun defiantly contradicting the poor weather of only days before. “One cannot simply dump a fortune on something to drown out a problem. Papa was right, of course. In some things,” she muttered darkly. Rousing herself from her reflections she pierced him with her gaze once more. “I came in to work out the details of the cover-up, as he called it. Make sure the explanations were plausible. That the right people had been engaged to ensure it would never be spoken of. The last thing I wanted was for my sister to be taken away for insanity. To anyone outside the situation, you must understand what it would look like.”

In fact, he did not know.

Why must I be surrounded by dullards? Her expression seemed to say. “Harry painted a very different picture yesterday, given all that has since occurred. At the time, it would have looked as if Margaret had had the fire set, and thus had a deeply vested interest in covering cover it up. The reason for this action would be, of course, that you having an affair with my sister.”

Who would make that surmise? It was so ludicrous that he choked with laughter.

“Not to mention that my sister’s situation in society had gone beyond precarious into non-existent. Her ability to function is severely limited, and her ability to reason is deeply hampered – at least to those who do not know her. The way she communicates makes her seem dull – if she had been taken in for questioning who knows what might have happened!”

Geoffrey felt his hands go cold, and his neck heat. Stopping, he intoned, “Never, never speak of your sister like that again.”

The words were not threatening, but Clarice straightened in surprise. She turned to face him, mouth parting.

Geoffrey clenched his hands, drawing himself up. “Perhaps if your family had taken the time to understand and appreciate her, Margaret would not have felt so starved for attention that the passing comfort of a strange gentleman would drive her to perform so severe an action in the first place!”

Clarice’s eyes widened with anger, then immediately eased into a small smile. “Perhaps,” she acknowledged with an inclination of the head. “But then Harry, Kitty, Raoul and I might not have you for a brother – and my sister would not have a man so protective as her lover and guardian.” The flippant tone turned serious as she once again touched his hand. “I love my sister. But she deserves more than a sister’s love. The love that Kitty and I have from Raoul and Harry. The love of a husband.”

She sighed, lowered her head, and paused. “Margaret was not treated fairly – but neither did she take any pains to make herself lovable or approachable. You are right to hate how she was treated – I tried my best, but even so lost my temper far more than I ought to have done. But…I think that my sister would not trade her past, if it meant no future with you. Margaret does not love simply, easily, or my half measures. You are her world, Geoffrey. With you at her side she was able to stand up to Papa – I have never seen her do that. I promise you that I will try to watch my tongue. Go, spend time with her until we can make the necessary arrangements. Papa will not be back soon, not with Harry’s words still ringing in his ears.”

It was only a half apology, but it would have to do. Slightly mollified, he watched her turn to go. There was only one other piece of information that he needed. “Clarice - one last question, if you would be so kind. Why does your father hate Margaret so?”

Clarice, who had begun descending the stairs, turned and blinked. “Oh – Margaret looks exactly like his first wife, Margaret’s mother.”

“And for that he hates her?”

“No,” she replied coolly as she once more began descending, not bothering to look back as she took the stairs like a ship through swells. “He hates her for killing her through her own birth."

ALS Again
12-04-2016, 06:26 PM
Lovely! I can't wait to read more!

12-05-2016, 05:01 AM
Each chapter brings me such joy! Thank you Xyantha!

12-06-2016, 10:26 AM
This just keeps getting better!

Xyantha Reborn
12-07-2016, 11:10 AM
Chapter 22

“Margaret, dear.”

She stared at the other woman, confused. Her brain was still wrapped up, swathed in a thick layer of reflection. Her muddled mind refused to stay in the present, slipping back gleefully along recent memories, tendrils playing along the keys to reproduce a pleasant echo of the feelings. Unconscious of the action, her fingers carefully drew the object in her hand deeper into her skirt.

The sound of Raoul’s moan upon taking his first mouthful was still ringing in her ears when she slipped free of Katherine’s grasp, fleeing downstairs to the safety of the kitchen. It was easy to use the excuse of retrieving Harry and Clarice’s meal, who had also requested that it be delivered to their room. To self-reflect on how that sound had caused chills to run up her arms, tightening her breasts and dropping her stomach to the area of her knees was impossible. And confusing. Raoul was no Geoffrey, so why did her body react so?

A helper had been fetched from the local village but was so terrified that it was easier to leave the tasks of cleaning to the woman and simply bring the food herself. Shooing her out of the way and taking the tray herself, Margaret tiptoed through the house.

Not just a house…home. It was odd how much this house felt like home to her, Margaret reflected as she mounted the stairs. The tray was carefully balanced in both hands, and she had tread lightly to avoid stepping on her skirts. She had heard countless people sigh and slump in relief as they declared how happy they were to be home. The kitchen had been a safe room for her, but she had never felt comfortable in the house in town, nor her father’s country home. They were simply places to sleep, eat, and exist. Filled with bric-a-brac and the clutter of things only bought for their perceived value. Messy, disorganized, and needlessly difficult.

This house…Margaret squinted around her. This house was clean, homey, and welcoming. One did not have to retrench ones skirts to avoid knocking over a vase. Or feel that huge paintings might topple off the wall and onto oneself. There were not carpets to trip over. It was simple, tidy, and orderly.

She knocked on the door lightly, not wishing to alert Raoul of her presence. His questioning this morning had quite set her on edge, despite her liking of the man. There was no response, but she waited a minute more. After a moment, she heard Harry’s lighter tones coming from his brother’s room around the corner. With a mental shrug she eased the door open. Carefully nudging it with one hip, she walked to the side table to deposit the tray.

There was a large volume, a sketchbook of sorts, lying on the table. There was no room to put the tray down, nor could she hold it with one hand. A sigh of vexation left her lips, and she carefully eased the tray along the surface, nudging the book before it. Unfortunately, the book slid from the polished surface, cartwheeled off the edge, and landed in a heap her at feet with a thump and rustle.

She winced, hoping she had not caused damage. Bending down to take it, Margaret found herself hesitating. Looking when she knew she should look away. For a long moment, she bent at the waist, fingers hovering above the surface. Finally, she took it up, cradling it as reverently as many would hold scripture. The pages in her hand were not of text, nor of landscapes or animals.

They were of people. Sketches of people. Many to which she had an acquaintance, and to which she felt an immediate affinity at a guttural level. Sinking to the bed, she slowly turned page after page, her thin fingers hovering just above the sketches. The artist’s style was immediately recognizable, even if the author’s signature or choice of subject would have left her in doubt.

But it was not the subject matter alone which had riveted her attention. Something else caused her dark eyes to widen, then narrow, finally smouldering under their canopy of dark lashes. A heat rose from her belly, travelling up her chest and to her cheeks and appearing as a deep flush and heaving breast. That heat also spread lower, pleasurable tingles and whispers fluttering deep within her.

There were half a dozen pages she had recourse to in her perusal. Every time she passed these particular pages, her eyes half closed and a shiver past through her. A familiar face beamed up at her, the telltale straight locks falling over one eye. The artist had captured him mid laugh, and the wide curve of his mouth underlined his twinkling eyes. The pose was of him sitting in a chair, one booted foot resting on a trunk with a bent knee. The other foot was firmly on the floor.

What had him in such stitches was not discernable, but Margaret found her gaze returning again and again to his hands and torso. His was in a shirt, untucked. Each hand rested on side of his large belly, as if clutching it in laughter. Somehow the sheer size, the curve, the heft, had all been captured. Margaret could feel her own fingers twitch with excitement at the memory of how soft he really was. In the detailed sketch, one could see how his hands had sunk deep into the softness, causing it to overflow and bulge around each limb. Below his hold, his stomach swelled forth. The raised thigh had forced the bulge of fat to one side, and had also hiked his shirt up. A drooping curve of flesh could be seen dipping below the hem, the slightest shadow teasing at where his navel was almost in view.

The others were even more delightful, and she spent long minutes obsessively pursuing every line. Finally, the slim woman closed the volume and set it on the side table. Two steps away, and she was again before it. Her dark glance speared towards the door before opening the volume and carefully teasing a page free. “This is mine”, she whispered as she exited.

When she stepped back into the hall she felt as if the paper in her hands were on fire. As if every person could tell instantly that she held it. The fact that not another being was in the hall was irrelevant to that feeling.

Speaking of people…where was Geoffrey? Last night he had not been in his bed.

And…it had been lonely. As the long night had slipped by, she had woken several times, reaching for the slumbering form that was not there. Finally, she had slipped from her own bed and curled up in his, wrapping her body around the coverlet. Seeing his happy face on the page had caused a rusty clang to echo inside her, a newly discovered wish to be near another being.

Perhaps he was in his room now?

“Margaret,” Kitty asked again, stepping closer so that her face came into focus. “Can I speak to you? Privately?”

She was looking plump and pretty, Margaret realized. She had this glow about her as her hand reflexively came to rest on her abdomen.

Margaret licked her lips, her treasure still clutched gingerly between her index finger and thumb. The urge to take it had been overwhelming and undeniable, but being caught so immediately after her theft had her wanting to run right back to the kitchen. Oh, it had been a mistake! Yet, she shifted the hand out of sight. “Of course.”

Her pretty green eyes crinkled. “Raoul is currently holding court in our room, it appears. May we use yours?”

“Yes.” As they walked to Margaret’s room, the taller woman cast a curious look at the shorter. “Did I do something wrong?”

Kitty appeared startled, turning and regarding her companion with wide eyes. “No! Of course not! Why would you think that?”

So she had not seen the picture in her hand. Relived, and feeling selectively candid, she shrugged. “People only talk to me when I have done something wrong.”

Katherine placed a hand on her distended stomach. “Well.” After a moment of looking as if she was about to cry, she once again had a smile on her face. “That just means that I will have to speak to you every day – and not about things you did wrong!”

“Every day?” Margaret asked in no little dismay. Her kitchen would be crawling with people!

Kitty laughed aloud as they stepped through the doorway into her room. She half closed the door behind her. “Well, not every day if you do not wish it! Come. Lay down with me,” she urged, patting the bed.

Clarice had never done this, and after a long hesitation of deciding what to do, Margaret joined her. Despite her companion’s proximity, she did not feel boxed in and suffocated. Instead of leaning into her space or blocking her path, Kitty lay beside her, looking out the sunny window absently, a strange smile on her face. After a long silence, Margaret’s look of mild disturbance faded at this arrangement. “I do not feel crushed like this,” she confessed quietly, looking up at the ceiling. The paper she held was carefully placed on the bed behind her, out of sight.

“Good! This is the best way to tell secrets,” the other giggled. “Snug and comfortable in a soft bed.” Abruptly turning her body to face the other woman, she pillowed her head on her hand. “Speaking of soft. I saw the way you looked when Raoul was eating.”

Heat flooded her face, and she shook her head. Kitty did not seem angry, but there was an intensity about her that set off her unease. She had not looked, she…

“Oh yes,” Kitty chuckled. Placing her fingers under Margaret’s chin, she lifted the other’s face until she gazed deep into her eyes. “When he tried to sit up in bed and had to use his arms because his belly was weighing him down. The way he squirmed with delight and set upon his food like a starved thing. That sound…”

The both shivered.

Katherine noticed. Continuing, her smile widened as she leaned forward and lowered her voice. “The way his waistcoat strains after one of your big meals…how that soft lower belly rolls out from its prison, straining against his shirt. Those buttons of his were barely clinging to the fabric when we arrived! And now…” she paused, making a tsking sound.

Her companion was staring, caught on the other foot and blindsided.

“Two night ago at dinner, do you know that one popped right off? That is why he left the table last, so that no one would see the indignity. The only problem,” the other woman whispered very slowly, placing her lips closer to Margaret’s avidly tented ear, “Is that he just…kept…eating. Mouthful after mouthful of that tender lamb, until he ate every scrap on the platter. You should have heard him panting softly as if he had run a race. But he can’t really run races anymore, can he? Oh, and he cannot resist that bread you make either and he sopped up every bit of gravy on his plate with that thick, soft crust.”

Margaret was frozen, her lips parted. Her neck arched slightly as her breast heaved softly, and she made a sort of stuttered exhale, unable to speak or look at her companion.

Kitty almost laughed aloud at the look of aghast, squirming lust on the other’s face. Instead, she closed her eyes as she whispered softly right above the ear of her spellbound companion. “And then…you brought out dessert.” Her own voice hoarsened as she continued. “His poor trousers could hardly compete with your cooking. Did you hear that odd pinging sound? Remember when Harry looked up and asked what that that sound was? It was two of his trouser buttons flying off and skittering across the floor. He was sweating, and he complained that he could not possibly eat another bite.” Pausing significantly, she licked her lips. “But…it was pudding…his favourite.”

Margaret remembered how he had given a painful whimper, eyes widening in piteous greed as the large bowl was placed on the table. They had all left shortly after, leaving Kitty and Raoul languidly talking. Had he really been that stuffed? His eyes had looked a little glazed…

“No one else wanted desert…Raoul could not stand that it would be wasted. Once you were all gone, he abandoned his plate, pulling the serving bowl closer. He wrapped one arm around it, spooning each mouthful up. The second button on his waistcoat gave way, and his belly swelled out, pressing into the table, lapping it top and bottom. He was halfway through when he leaned back and opened his mouth. Like a fat, greedy, baby bird…he had me feed him at least four helpings of that rich pudding. He was so full he couldn’t get up for an hour, he could only moan…and lick out the bowl as I rubbed his poor, stuffed tummy.”

“W-why d-didn’t he s-stop when he was f-ful?” Margaret stuttered, her body alternating between sweating with heat and shivering with cold. The fire betwixt her thighs that had been kindled by the drawings roared forth. Not a fire, a flood. Raoul had grown quite plump as a boy, but shed the weight as he grew. Who could have imagined such gluttony from the man formerly so fit? Not an accident, but a purposeful decent into sin, gorging himself. Margaret raised her eyes and stared as if for the first time at Kitty’s face. And she had fawned over his bloated form, feeding him when his own gorging had long made the ability to move possible? An answering flood of heat made her give a moan before she tamped down on it.

A low laugh answered her. “He is a demanding glutton, Margaret. Do you know that when I met him he was as thin as Harry?” When Margaret’s eyes widened, Kitty chortled. “I fear he will make Geoffrey look thin in a few years!”

Margaret felt her body thrumming with an unknown tension, her nipples so tight and swollen she could feel the very weave of the fabric against them. “And you do not mind his growing fatter?” she demanded, disbelieving. No one else…appreciates…what I like in a man Margaret managed mentally, unable or unwilling to put a name to it.

“Mind? I love it. Just like you love Geoffrey eating, his plump body. Do you rub his stomach when he has overeaten?” Kitty demanded with blunt candor, nibbling on the end of one of her curls.

No! Never! “You - do that?” Margaret gasped, her cheeks flooding with red.

“Oh yes,” she responded affably. “I trace every one of those red and silver lines on his body. I love kneading his middle, kissing it…and I love how heavy it is when we make love.”

Margaret swallowed heavily, looking away. “Geoffrey does not like to overeat in this manner. He would not appreciate such attentions.”

Extending the curl between them, Katherine traced a pattern on her pale cheek. “Do you know that Geoffrey and I grew up here? My family’s property was just on the other side of the pond. I have known him for years, and I can tell you that he absolutely adores eating. He just likes to do it more slowly that Raoul does. Mark my words, get him distracted or reading a good book and he will eat himself out of house and home!” Her face softened, and she brushed back the thick locks that hid Margaret’s eyes. “This is important - does he know you adore him and his body?”

Margaret stopped herself from answering, because two distinct responses, at complete opposites, rose simultaneously and with equal force. Yes, he seemed to understand that she loved him, including his body. But then, there were also times where he refused to eat at all, apologizing when he finally did. And sometimes when she was touching him, he would capture her hands and redirect them. She certainly could not imagine worshiping his body like Kitty was describing…

Pressing a soft kiss to her cheek, she leaned back with a sigh. “Clarice and I differ in this area. She feels this level of honesty is damaging. I disagree. I say it is enlightening and freeing. Geoffrey had a joyless marriage to a terrible woman. I never knew how much you loved him until…well. And although I do not know you well, Raoul speaks very highly of you, as does Martha. And I cannot but adore the person who makes Geoffrey happy. He deserves to be happy,” she added fiercely. “Just realize that Geoffrey will never ask for what he needs. He is still a man in that respect.”

“And what are we speaking of – taking the entire sex in vain?” Harry asked jovially from the doorway. Toeing the opening wider he smiled at the two conspirators. “Thank you for the food, Margaret.”

Kitty whispered something in her ear that caused Margaret to regard him with a wide eyed stare. Those wide eyes quickly fell into a look of speculation that made Harry step into the room.

“Here now – what is this?” he demanded, stalking forth and eyeing the two. “Secrets, is it? I was not aware that the two of you shared such intense interests!”

“On some things, yes.” Kitty replied, sitting up and smoothing her dress ostentatiously.

Harry, in the meanwhile, had locked his gaze on the bed between Margaret and himself. His cheeks flushed, then paled. “Kitty, Clarice said she wants you – something about your opinion on the estate’s finances…? She said you have an appointment…?”

“Oh, I nearly forgot!” Kitty yelped, darting from the room. “Lovely speaking with you Margaret – think about my advice, will you? Just remember that you have me to talk to now!" Pausing, she turned at the threshold of the door, happy tears standing in her eyes. "Oh Margaret, it feels so incredible knowing I am not alone!"

The tall man stood, hands clasping his elbows behind him until she fled the room. Abruptly stepping forward, he pointed at the paper. “I don’t even want to know what advice you were given. I want to know - where did you get that?” He appeared quite incensed, eyes wild.

“I…found it…in your room…” Margaret confessed, picking it up as a knot formed in her stomach. She wanted this…! Having never felt possession before, she could put no words to the sensation.

“Damnit, do not be so distressed!” He snapped as he saw her begin to rock back and forth. Pinching his brow, he swallowed. “For God’s sake, I should have burned those weeks ago. No one can know about them! I can draw you more – better ones!” he added with desperate inspiration.

She eyed that teasing, peeping swell of flesh in the picture, imagining Geoffrey enjoying his food as much as Raoul did. “But I like these ones,” she murmured fretfully, one finger tracing the air above her favourite aspect.

Placing one hand on either side of her, he swooped down to inspect her face closely. “Why, you little minx,” he finally bit off, barking out a laugh. “Of course – why wouldn’t she,” he murmured to himself. He bored his light eyes into her. “Margaret, it is very important to me that no one else knows that I drew these pictures of Geoffrey. I will burn them – ”

“No!” she cried, starting bolt upright. “No! If you do…I will…” Realizing it had come out as a threat, she stumbled to an awkward halt, eyes wide.

He swallowed, wiping a hand across his face. “Arg! What do I have to do, to ensure that you will never speak of these blasted pictures again?”

Margaret looked at the drawing in her lap for several long moments. “There were six drawings…I should like them all,” she finally whispered.

“Done!” Harry agreed, about to straighten. His weight lowered onto his arms as his sister swallowed, leaned forward, and whispered something in his ear. He cocked a long leg and swallowed himself. “Truly?”

She nodded, leaning forward to murmur again in his ear several long sentences.

The man hung there, enraptured by her words. His eyes half closed, and he wetted his lips several times. “If I do this, you will never speak of those pictures, nor show them to another? And if anyone discovers them, you swear you will never breathe an inkling of my name?”

Her eyes dropped to her knees, her own boldness making her shy by reaction.

“Done and done!” was the decisive announcement, and his big hand engulfed hers. “We have a deal, ‘Gret.” Leaning down, he gave a deep chuckle. “Oh yes. I remember you. I clearly recall how you baked and baked…letting Raoul eat whatever he wanted. Making him everything he requested, no matter how ridiculous. Do you remember what the results of your cooking were? Rather similar to what your effect on his waistline has been recently, no? Wouldn’t it be curious to see if anyone else had noticed the correlation between your cooking and rapidly expanding waistlines? ”

Guilt bubbled up as a red flush on her cheeks. “I…” Feeling caged in, she stared at his chest . “I do not like this, you are too close.”

Harry grinned, kissing her brow. “And I do not like being blackmailed. Do not ever do it again, dear sister," he added with affectionate warning.

She was not alone, she repeated to herself when he left. There were others who were like her...at least in some regards.

12-07-2016, 03:19 PM
Seriously Xyantha I'm at lost of words. I can't think of anything I haven't said before. This is truly the best story I've read, and now they have a secret FA club. I love it so much it hurts lol

Xyantha Reborn
12-12-2016, 12:08 AM
Chapter 23

The man of the house wandered, listless, through his grounds. With his hands clasped behind him, he made an oddly ponderous sight as he strolled up the meadow and through the orchards. His large belly proceeded him, as did a scamp of a lad. Occasionally, he touched a stem or stooped to examine something more closely. Somehow he cut quite a dashing figure, radiating calmness despite his trundling form. However, that mien of peace would have been belief by the pain and confusion in the blue depths of his eyes – had anyone had been close enough to see them. Behind him a smaller twin version of himself now romped and roamed, occasionally able to draw an absent smile from the older man.

And he did feel old. Ancient, really. His hair was so pale that most would never see the silvery hairs that had begun to grow in at his temples. And without his beatific smile in place a little line of worry appeared, bisecting his brow. Those lips were turned down at the corners as he walked on, deep in thought.

So damn much had happened in the past few months, it did not feel real. A year ago he was married; and he was about to be so again. Margaret herself at times seemed the least real of it all. The elfin creature who had graced his bed and his arms seemed to have disappeared after her father left.

He had looked in the kitchen, in both her room and his, and even checked in at the other’s doors. Everyone always seemed to have just seen her, which lead him to conclude that she must be avoiding him. There was no way they could avoid meeting any other way; the house was so small they were all tripping over each other as it was.

“Ah, my lad, what am I to do?” he finally breathed, letting his gaze wander down the rolling hill to the house.

Blue eyes twinkled up at him over a wide grin, and he tilted his head in inquiry.

Geoffrey snorted. “If I tell you, you must promise not to tell a soul,” he whispered, bending over in confidence.

That grin widened further, and he nodded vigorously. Some thought the boy was daft because he could not speak; it was not true. The boy was intelligent and lively, just incapable of speech.

Gingerly lowering himself onto a stump, he pinched his brow. “I confess I do not know what to do about Margaret.”

The boy got a worshipful look on his face, licking his lips unconsciously.

“Yes, her food is delicious, isn’t it?” A stout nod answered. “I want to make her happy, but I do not know seem to know how.”

A rather scathing look was slanted his way, and he raised his chubby fist to level his index finger at the master.


A nod.

“You think I make her happy?”

A look of disdain passed over the young face, followed by an exaggerated rolling of the eyes.

Geoffrey could not help but chuckle at the familiar expression – for it was the same one he had worn at times. The boy certainly had a knack for imitation. “Ah well, from the mouth of babes, eh?”

They strolled back towards the house. Abandoning Geoffrey, the chubby shadow darted for the kitchen as the smells drifted to his eager nostrils. Following the steps to the door, Geoffrey shivered at the memory of the shot so recently fired there. That particular incident had turned out quite well, given what could have happened. He was loitering, reflecting on the incident, when a voice called his name. Stepping into dining room, he found everyone seated and just settling in to the meal. His eyes skipped over the familiar faces, looking for Margaret.

“She is just fetching something from the kitchen,” Harry informed him as he tucked his wife’s chair in. He smiled down at her face, contentment radiating over every fibre of his being. Obtaining her had done wonders for his constitution, restoring him to what Raoul and Kitty swore was his natural self.

“Ah,” Geoffrey managed, seating himself at the head. Raoul beamed back at him from across the table. “I see you are feeling better,” Geoffrey acknowledged with a forced smile.

Raoul’s shoulder was bandaged, and he gave it a wry glance before answering. “It hurts like the blazes but I cannot stand to be in bed anymore. Where have you been?”

Geoffrey opened his mouth to respond, then paused as the door opened. Margaret stepped through with a plate in hand, quickly depositing it on the table before shyly taking her seat beside him. At first she seemed uncomfortable but quickly calmed as Kitty, of all people, drew her into conversation.

The fat man served himself a portion of the duck but spent more time looking at his guests than eating. At opposite end of both the table and the spectrum, Raoul eagerly devoured anything within arm’s reach. If the man wasn’t careful he will be as big as I am, Geoffrey reflected.

Clarice was busy speaking to the brothers about her plans. Both brothers readily bent the majority of their attention on her, as did Kitty, who occasionally chimed in with an opinion or observation. She still appeared taken aback at the highly informal dining arrangements, often looking for a footman to serve her.

Why Margaret was watching Raoul as well, and with such avid fascination, perplexed Geoffrey. As did the odd, angry emotion rising up within him. She had barely glanced at him in the past five minutes. Her pale face was turned steadily in the other man’s direction, those dark eyes following the steady motion between plate and mouth. Wholly engrossed in the spectacle before her, she seemed to forget about anyone else at the table. He stabbed an innocent piece of vegetable on his plate in vexation, then let it drop with a sigh.

The loud sound finally drew Margaret’s notice, and she peered towards him. “Do you want any more?” she queried softly. She opened her mouth as if to say more, but instead looked down at her lap. Her incredible hair was drawn into a thick braid which wrapped over her shoulder and fell past her breast. She took it up and swished the end of it against her other hand, entirely fixed on her extemporized plaything.

Feeling oddly cross and woe betide, he shook his head. “No, thank you.” He was too tired to eat. The three bites he had taken had already sapped his remaining strength. All he wanted to do was sleep, but there was conversation that needed to be had with Margaret. Who seemed to want to look anywhere but at him.

Her expression fell, and she turned in her seat slightly. “You…do not like it,” she whispered, her eyes falling to his barely touched plate with a look of deep consternation, followed by what appeared to be pain. A line appeared between her dark brows, and her eyes clouded.

Not like it? It was…well, he couldn’t taste much at the moment, but every single thing she had ever baked or cooked was absolutely delicious. So it was both easy and true to tell her, “Margaret, that is not true. I enjoy all of your cooking.”

She did not answer, her eyes downcast to the surface of the table until a heady sigh escaped Raoul, who had leaned back in his chair with his hands clasped over his rotund middle. “Raoul, do you want more?” she asked him next.

The response was immediate and decisive. “Oh, yes, only as soon as I digest a bit. Just need to catch my second wind.”

Harry, who was still neatly working on his meal, raised his eyes with a smirk. “One has a second wind while eating?”

“Indeed!” the elder brother cried, patting his taut middle. Or at least the fabric straining to contain it was straining – that waistcoat looked like it might give up at any moment. “Martha is a wonderful cook, but I have to admit that Margaret takes the thing to a whole new level. We will be off soon; I need to make sure I stock up until I see her again!”

The pleasure of having the house to himself again was muted. The master of the house stared at Margaret as she squirmed, pleasure highlighting her cheekbones as she stared up the table at Raoul.

When she looked back at Geoffrey’s plate, however, she rather wilted in her chair. “I can make you something else if you do not like this…” she murmured fretfully.

She sounded so bloody sad that Geoffrey hitched his chair forward with a growl. So Raoul got all her smiles and blushes merely because he shoved the food back? Given how quickly he was consuming, he could hardly be tasting it, let along enjoying it. Eyeing her, he quickly and neatly devoured every morsel on his plate. Raoul made a production out of the experience; Geoffrey was quick, efficient, and neatly finished in moments.

Margaret’s attention was once again riveted on him. The thick locks she normally hid behind were starting to grow out, framing her pale brow and letting the light flicker in her eyes. Her expression, however, was still as fragile as the thinnest china plate.

“I do not know how you make every morsel taste this excellent,” Geoffrey told her, reaching under the table to gently take up her hand. “It is delightful, as always.”

She appeared startled at the contact, glancing down. “…Are you sure?”

Geoffrey felt his brows contract. “Margaret, I have never seen you this shy around me. Why are you so worried about what I care about your food?” At least she was looking at him again. As he took a second portion he caught a strange expression in those dark eyes.

She looked down, mumbling something, but her attention was once again snapped from him as Raoul gave a loud laugh, speared another slice of ham and leaned forward to devour it.

As she watched Raoul eat, Geoffrey watched her. Watched as her breathing shallowed, hitched. How her hand, still in his, alternated between hot and cold. The fat man beside her glared in a most frightening way at the man across from him, but none noticed. Why was she do damn distracted – he stilled, throat drying out as he went cold. His vision grew dark for a moment as his heart thundered in his chest.

Oh. Of course. Dear God, how had he been so blind?

For several minutes he struggled to stay seated. His body went cold even as he began to sweat, his vision darkening along with his mood. Before he could say something – in fact, he was so angry he doubted coherent speech could pass through his lips – he stood, murmured an apology and an excuse, and made his way out the door. He barely knew where his feet were taking him until he ended up in his own kitchen. Anywhere but with their cumulative overbearing presence.

The kitchen had changed remarkably in the few days Martha and Margaret had been at the helm. It now bore a rather startling affinity to Margaret’s own kitchen, with everything orderly and in its place. Of course, Geoffrey now understood that this organization sprang from more than a preference; Margaret’s vision was so poor she probably could not see most of the things in the kitchen. Her hesitation in acknowledging people until they were directly before her. Her panic at the press of strangers. And her obsessive behaviour in placing everything just so. Although mayhap not the sole cause, her poor sight was certainly a driving factor.

The clink of a glass and a laugh reached his ear before the door was shut, leaving him in silence. Martha, Alice, and her boy were down the hall. They would be at least a few minutes. The cellar was to the right, and he quickly stepped in and grasped the nearest bottle, uncaring as to what it was. As long as it would drown out the pain.

The same articles of food that had been brought upstairs sat in their respective nests, unplated. Although not hungry, a sort of emptiness gnawed at him, and he sat down on one of the high seats and put his head in his hands.

No one would want you…

Geoffrey knew he was considered weak by other men. A good beating was a sure way to bring a wife to heel. However, the idea of striking a woman left him feeling sick to his stomach, despite how much he had dreamt about it with Martha. But his inaction did not mean he was blind; he had seen the constant indiscretions.

That sparkle in Margaret’s eye as she looked at Raoul…

This was what he deserved for daring to hope, he reflected as he quickly opened the bottle and put the opening to his lips. His lips drew back at the bite of the wine rushing across his palate and causing his jaw to tingle. Following the swallow with the little puffs of pastry before him, he gave a bark of a laugh. All he had wanted was to have a woman who was his and his alone. Margaret had seemed to exemplify loyalty. Look at how she had selflessly given her own fortune. But it appeared the vices of the flesh were too much for her.


He tipped the bottle up again, cheeks hollowing as he sucked. And why wouldn’t she find the rakish good humour and handsome face of the other man enticing? He was bold, interesting…hell, he had even taken a bullet! And although rapidly on the increase, Raoul still was not match for his own girth. He snorted as he looked down at his own body. Compared to the two men upstairs he was about as exciting as a roll of unbuttered bread.


The inquiry was closer this time. Turning his fleshy face towards the intruder, he scowled. “Why are you here?” he demanded with uncharacteristic irritation. “Go back up and have enjoy your evening with Raoul.”

The tall, slim woman lowered her face, hands fisting in her skirts.

12-12-2016, 12:37 AM
Oooh, Geoffrey you biiiiiiitch!!!

Xyantha Reborn
12-12-2016, 01:18 AM
Chapter 24

Geoffrey put down the bottle and stepped forward, feeling like he wanted to shatter everything, trample over the shards of whatever passion was left in his breast until it was extinguished. “There is no need to restrain yourself – please, by all means, go back upstairs. Raoul can regale you about how wonderful your cooking is.”

Other woman might have cried out at his tone and manner, becoming angry themselves or expelling tears at the treatment. Once more Margaret proved herself indifferent to social norms. The dark head tilted, and her eyes fastened on his. “I am here because it is where you are,” she informed him in that dry, formal tone of hers.

The fat man presented his broad back to her as he turned back to the food before him. Several long moments passed as he methodically devoured the remaining three pieces of chicken. His left elbow was planted on the table, supporting his fleshy face in his hand. The other methodically moved, trying to fill that aching hole in the pit of his stomach.

He jerked in surprise at feeling her delicate form press into him. Those arms slipped around him, her breasts pressing into his shoulder, and her face softly nestled against his from behind. “Go away,” he snapped. “You want to be watching Raoul – so off with you!”

Instead of going, she nuzzled his cheek. “You are rather irritable tonight,” she observed placidly. “I do not want to be watching Raoul.”

“Oh? You seemed bloody interested in watching him all night!” Geoffrey growled, struggling not to let her touch and soft tone soothe him. Despite himself, his eyes half lidded as he speared into the pale flesh of the nearest potato. Given the scowl on his face, he was likely imagining it to someone’s face.

“Why are you being so cruel?” Margaret asked softly, pulling her face away to gaze at him with an expression of confusion. “I do not want to watch Raoul.”

He was being cruel because he wanted her to love him, not another, blast it!

She snuggled back into him. Her left cheek pressed into his right cheek as she too gazed down at the plate before him. After several moments of watching him devour everything before him, she shivered. A deep hum of pleasure escaped her, and she sighed. “Watching you eat fills me with pleasure,” she admitted abruptly.

Geoffrey suddenly became conscious of something his body had noticed immediately. He was not sure how she had managed to undo the buttons on his waistcoat, as her arms were not long enough to circle his massive girth, but the fabric now hung loose. Her cool hands had slipped between it and his shirt, caressing the flesh there softly. His body was already responding, and he found himself stiffening further as he became conscious of her breasts pressed into him. Instead of acknowledging her attempts to placate him, he scowled harder. “Oh, aye, and watching Raoul eat clearly fills you with pleasure too,” he sneered, pulling the carrots closer.

Margaret was silent for a full minute. When she finally spoke, it was slowly, deliberately. “Only when I imagine that it is you.”

He paused and turned his face towards her fractionally.

She kissed the side of his mouth, her lips whisper soft.

Still he resisted. “And why would you need to ‘imagine’ when I am sitting right there?”

Unwinding her hold on him, she stepped to his side and peered at him. “Imagining you happy is something that has given me pleasure for half a decade,” she returned unflappably. “And I am only good at one thing in my entire life. Cooking. Raoul appreciates my only skill.”

Well, he had been rather morose lately, he admitted as he shovelled the food back. His normal smile had slipped – and it appeared the only one who had noticed was the one that most thought as being the most unobservant. “It is not your only skill,” the fat man retorted instead of pursuing that thought. Turning on the high stool so quickly it creaked in alarm, his hands shot out to grasp her slim waist. “Why did you do it, Margaret?”

“Do what?” she sounded dazed as he dragged her closer. Her hands fell to rest on his broad middle to support herself, and she willingly wedged herself between his thighs.

“Interfere. Throw your dowry away.”

“Oh.” Considering the way her eyes were fasted on his gut, she was uncomfortable. Her gaze always fell when uncomfortable. “It was not throwing it away. I was never going to use it.”

“Never going to use it?” Geoffrey yelped as her hands slipped from the top of the curve, his flesh supporting her drifting hands. That swollen curve of flesh was hardly subtle. He struggled to hold himself still, to prevent himself from knocking her hands away. Margaret would not understand that it was unseemly to touch him there, and now was not the time to enlighten her.

“Correct. I was never going to marry.” Her cool tone was belied by a rising colour in her thin cheeks. “And…it pleased me to do that for you.”

“But why?” he demanded, blushing himself as he hands snugged between his heavy belly and his thighs. When he glanced down he blanched at how her entirely hands were covered.

“Why what?”

He couldn’t well think with her hands so close to… “Why did it please you?” he demanded hoarsely. “I do not understand your actions all those years ago. Why would you give so selflessly to a man who could offer you nothing? Why did you stay silent all these years? Why did you say nothing about it when I was at liberty and we met those weeks ago?”

Her eyes flicked side to side several times as she struggled to cope with the number of questions set before her. “It pleased me because I liked you very much, and the idea of you in pain hurt me. My actions were to prevent distress that would pain you. I do not think it was selfless when the money meant nothing to me; I was never to marry, so my dowry signified little.” Her responses continued, as if listing off the items for a recipe. “I stayed silent because it was my presence which had caused the issue in the first place. As I no longer had the means to rectify another situation, distance seemed appropriate. I said nothing when we met because Clarice required my promise that I would never speak of it.”

Geoffrey gazed after her, stunned, as she stepped away.

Quickly clearing the dishes, she brought out a cake and began slicing into the pale flesh of the interior carefully. When she felt his stare she raised her eyes. “I just need to bring this up – I will be back directly.”

Geoffrey stared after her, trying to formulate his thoughts into a question that she would understand and be able to answer. While he waited her pulled the remaining cake closer and methodically began to demolish it, enjoying how it dissolved over his tongue. Raoul was right – something about the way Margaret cooked truly elevated the art to a whole new level. It was as if she injected her passion for it directly into each article.

When Margaret returned, she looked quite harassed – distracting Geoffrey from his self-loathing that he had eaten four pieces of cake, and that only crumbs remained. “Is all well? You look flustered.”

Margaret actually stomped her foot in vexation. “Raoul was being irritating,” she responded curtly.

Geoffrey’s brain ceased functioning as the woman sashayed across the kitchen, planted herself between his thighs once more, and licked the corner of his mouth.

“You had some frosting just there,” she explained. “I wanted a taste, and it appears there is none left for me,” she added, casting a glance at the crumbs.

Swallowing, he ran a shaking hand across his mouth, trying to hold his lust down at the thought of that warm tongue busy elsewhere. “Margaret…”

“Kitty said that I am to tell you that I love you,” she interrupted. “I told her that you already knew, but she said that it was very important that I tell you again, and directly.” She smiled up at his stunned face. “So – I love you.”

“Do you now?” Geoffrey managed after a swallow. “And how long has this been true?”

She tilted her head, reflecting. “Since you held me when I was crying at your party. No one had held me like that before. Except Martha,” she added with a frown. “But it did not make me feel the same way as when you did it.”

“Are you sure?” he found himself needling, unable to let it drop. “Are you sure that Raoul never held you that way? I heard that you knew each other for a long time.”

Margaret actually snorted, shaking her head. “I am sure. Raoul has always been a child to me.”

Let it go, Geoffrey! “Yet you stared at him all dinner.”

“Yes – as I said, watching you eat gives me pleasure. I was imagining you eating like that – being happy like that.”

Watching him eat gave her pleasure? There had been a very subtle emphasis on the word pleasure that gave it a double entendre…

She leaned in, pressing her lips to his. “I like when we do that,” she whispered with a smile.

Slipping his hands around her cheeks, he met her eyes firmly. “You are sure you do not love him?” snapped hoarsely.

“Who is ‘him’?” Margaret murmured, blinking.

For a moment, Geoffrey understood Clarice’s occasional urge to throttle her sister. “Raoul,” he ground out.

“I do not love Raoul,” she stated with utter conviction, yet without the slightest trace of drama. “I have loved you and only you since the day I met you. I have never loved another before.”

Relief made his knees weak, realization washing away the remaining vestiges of anger and jealousy. How stupid was he? This woman was not his late wife. Here he was questioning her motives - when had given him everything – quietly, efficiently, selflessly, because she had loved him. Had watched him be with another for years, never interfering. And now that she was finally with him – he was suspecting her of…what? Indiscretion with a man who was clearly and utterly committed to his wife?

He crushed her to him. What the hell was wrong with him? Cooking was her passion – it was meant to be enjoyed. “You like watching people eat, eh?” He barely registered her nod, recalling those first visits to her grand kitchen, and her avid contentment and unwavering attention as he made a fool of himself. “Well no wonder Raoul catches your attention. He certainly does adore his food. I like your cooking as well, you know. Love it, really…but you know why I cannot eat as Raoul does, correct?”

She shook her head from where it was pillowed on his breast. Her arms had slipped into the hollows above his love handles, but below the roll of fat across his shoulder blades.

“I’m already too far gone to call myself anything but fat – but I know you would not want me to become even more round and flabby. I will endeavour to keep my appetite in check. I can and will enjoy all the food you prepare – but in moderation.”

The look she gave him was more like he had walked into her kitchen with muddy boots than an acknowledgement of a compromise. “Food is not meant to be enjoyed in moderation.”

His lips parted to correct her, but he swallowed back the urge, knowing it would lead them off-track. “Look at what happened tonight – I ate dinner, and then stuffed myself.” He gently prodded his taut upper belly, cringing ruefully.

Despite her cheeks burning red, she had on much the same expression that James had worn just this day. Are you dense? It seemed to say.

“All I can do is try to moderate my intake. Eat less and walk more. I will never be svelte but I can at least try to trim down a touch.” Her dissatisfied expression only deepened. “What other option do I have?” he demanded in frustration.

“The other option is just to be happy! To stop – this.” She waved her hands at him.

“I do not think you fully comprehend what I – ”

For the first time in his presence, her temper flared to life. “I understand! I may have…difficulties, but I am not an idiot!”

He tugged her head closer, kissing her despite the mulish cast to her features. “You are not, and I have never thought that. Ever.” She instantly relaxed into him, her fingers brushing his exposed sides. When the hell had his shirt come undone? “What I meant is that you…you…”

Her cool fingers meandered across a bulging love handle, traversing hills and valleys of flesh lazily.

“I’ll be damned,” he breathed the unspoken words on his lips dying as overdue realization stuck, heavy with its overdue payload.

12-13-2016, 01:46 PM
💞💞💞😍😍😍😍😍😍 Yassss! Go Margaret!

12-18-2016, 08:48 PM
:D yus!!!!!!!

Xyantha Reborn
12-20-2016, 10:00 AM

As one entered the front door, the open hall gave a silent salute of greeting. The rooms to the left and right also stood in a silent vigil. If one looked very closely at the staircase, they would see the dust of time, swirled lightly along the bottom of each bannister rail. The long hallways above were conspicuously empty. Nary a carpet or painting hung on the wall. Even compared to the Nottingham residence, it appeared barren of the artifacts of common living.

Below stairs, the kitchen too stood empty. The fire having gone out, a few cold ashes swept across the floor with a current of wind that snuck through a slightly ajar door. The door swung open on a stronger breeze, blinding the eyes and forcing the ears to compensate.

A laugh trailed lightly on the breeze, followed by a deeper chuckle. On the grassy field beyond the door, two forms lay against the green, green grass.

The obese, middle aged man, leaned over to kiss the other. His shock of blonde white hair flopped into his eyes, which crinkled merrily at his partner. “It still feels like a dream,” he whispered as he trailed the backs of his fingers along her cheek.

“I feel better here,” the woman responded with wistful happiness, turning to curl into his body. “Being with you, here, makes me feel normal.”

“Only normal?” he cried with mock anguish. Gently pulling her up to her feet, he kissed her deeply. For a man with so little previous practice, the recipient of his attention seemed to enjoy his slanted lips, returning his kiss and curling her arms around his neck. “Raoul and Kitty have their boy, and Clarice and Harry are building up their own little empire. And regardless of the reasonableness of it, Clarice seems inordinately pleased that her sister was married to Westmore.” He had his doubts about that, but Clarice’s cruel expectation of her siblings just deserts only made the subject more unpalatable. “But - we are finally alone. Margaret, I am so damn happy. I feel like now, finally, our story can really start.

Margaret blinked, tilting her head. “What do you mean?”

Geoffrey did not respond immediately. As was usual with Margaret, his jacket had come off at some point, and his waistcoat buttons had been teased open by slim, dexterous fingers. He shrugged the fabric off of his shoulders. “I just feel like our lives have been pulled hither and thither. That finally, we can just enjoy each other.”

His wife indeed seemed to be fully enjoying him, her gaze raking over his form. The spectacles that the oculist had prescribed had greatly assisted her vision…when she wore them. She often claimed that the sights around her were ‘too’ vivid, almost giving her a panic attack. The sight of a tree being whipped by winds could send her into a strange stare, overstimulated and unable to cope. Currently, she appeared to becoming overstimulated in another sense. Her slim back arched, unconsciously thrusting her pert chest forward. A gleam of approval shone from her eyes, making the object of her scrutiny chuckle and ruffle his hair self-consciously.

“And enjoy you I plan to,” he added more boldly, despite a rosy tinge heating his round cheeks. His eyes twinkled at her as he untucked his shirt and kicked off his boots.

“Oh. Oh,” Margaret purred, her hips rolling in unconscious invitation as he carefully freed her from her dress and divested her of her little shoes. He also removed her spectacles and laid them on her dress.

A deep chuckle escaped him as he kicked off his boots, highly conscious of his wife’s eyes caressing his body as he undressed. “I think this may surprise you,” he grinned. Scooping up her light form in his arms, he trundled around the low hedge.

The pond that abutted the road curved around the side of the house, shielded from view by a grove of trees on one side, and the house on the other. Between the road itself and this sheltered alcove was an old stone wall and a hedge on the higher ground above it. The surface shone brightly as the sky rained down its sunny glory.

Margaret felt him shiver, and immediately perked her head up from its usual resting place on his chest. “Why are we going into the water?” she demanded, hearing the sound of the water lap at his legs below her.

“Because, Margaret, you are going to learn how to swim today.”

“Why?” she asked again, giving a shiver herself as the cool water lapped at her dangling feet.

Instead of answering immediately, Geoffrey crouched, allowing the water to pour over them both.

The woman in his arms gave a shriek of protest, desperately trying to crawl up him to avoid the cold. When that failed, for the man was fully submerged except his head, she sprang away. Well, struggled upright under the weight of her underthings. When she glared, she looked remarkably like her sibling. “Geoffrey! I do not like – ” her words died in her throat as he stood.

Her own personal Adonis. If she had thought that seeing him naked was the epitome of sensuality, she had been sadly mistaken. His shirt was plastered to every portion of his torso, clearly outlining the wide curve of his shoulders and his soft arms. It also clung to the sagging curve of his chest, and clutched his wide belly. When he flipped his wet hair out of his eyes, his entire torso gave a tantalizing ripple, drawing his prey a teetering step forward, hands twitching to touch him.

Margaret licked her lips, eyes lighting up at this new angle to be explored. When she tried to take another step, however, her drawers tripped her. When she shot upright, spluttering, Geoffrey was already there, cupping her against him. The warmth of his body contrasted sharply with the cool water, and she pressed deeper into him. Yielding flesh supported her, as did his arms.

The sky was so blue. She blinked, realizing for the first time how wide open the heavens were compared to the clutter of life below. She was just a little raft, floating on the water.

How different was this life, than the one she had been living a year ago? She craved to make up for the years of lack of physical contact, laying her cheek against the warm, soft swell of middle that supported her. The mere idea of panicking, which any other circumstance would have immediately brought on, was negated by the feel of her husband’s skilled hold.

“You are well?” Geoffrey queried softly above her after some time.

“Mmm,” she assented. Her eyes, which she had closed for the better part of a minute, suddenly sprang open. That warmth and support had disappeared, and that odd feeling of floating – she flailed, but found herself instantly supported. “Oh!”

Her husband smirked down at her. “Do you think I would let you drown?”

“No,” she replied after a long moment of thought, as is seriously considering the question. “Why must I learn to swim?” she demanded abruptly.

Pale hair spiked as he freed one hand to run it across his scalp. “Margaret, I cannot have you live so near water and not know how to swim. If anything happened to you...” his voice died as he swallowed his words, realizing almost too late how upset they would make her.

“But most people do not know how to swim,” she observed, index finger swirling absently around his wide nipple until it contracted.

He shivered and held her closer. His expression was grave as he stared down at her. “Margaret, this is important to me. Please?” When she assented, his shoulders relaxed and he released his pent up breath in a long exhale. “Thank you. Besides, I want to…create new memories of this little pond.”

“New memories?” she queried, bringing her dark eyes up to meet his.

A dark flush spread across his cheeks, and he cleared his throat. “Did Kitty tell you that I taught her to swim in this very pond?”

She shook her head, a line between her brows appearing.

“Yes, well. I’d much prefer to look out at this pond and think of teaching you,” he finished diplomatically.

“Oh.” She seemed to consider this point, frown deepening. “I also would like you to think of me, not Katherine, when you look at this pond,” she muttered at last, folding her arms across her bosom.

Her husband seemed to be fighting a grin. “Margaret! Are you jealous?”

“I do not know,” she replied dismissively, flicking her fingers. “But I do not like the thought of you thinking of Katherine when looking outside every day. It displeases me. I would much prefer you to think of me.”

Dry, understated Margaret. She was jealous! Part of Geoffrey knew he should not gloat so, but it was so refreshing to be the object of jealousy. “Indeed. I do not want to displease you; so shall we get to it…?” he grinned, leaning over and raising her up for a kiss that curled her toes and made her nod lazily.


“I’m famished,” Geoffrey complained from his stool. “Oh, yes, wonderful!” he exclaimed as several rolls were placed before him. Flipping open his book, he reclined in his corner of the kitchen and munched on his snack. As his eyes flicked intently over the passages, his plate steadily refilled as if by magic. Engrossed, the fat man scarcely noticed until he looked over at the three rolls and realized that there were still three – despite having consumed multiple. “Margaret.”

His wife glanced at him, unabashed, from where she was carving the duck. “Yes, Geoffrey?”

“How many rolls did you put here?”

“I do not know, I did not count.”

His lips twitched and his nostrils flared as he fought back his amusement. Suspicious at her wording, and knowing her predilection to answer a straightforward question with a straightforward answer, he levelled his index finger at her. “Did you purposefully not count so that you could truthfully answer that you did not know?”

She appeared to be hiding her own grin, now. “Yes.”

He sighed, appreciatively running his hands over his round belly. The top portion of which was firm with food. That firmness rapidly faded into pure, soft lard as it passed his navel. He had been forced to let out his clothing, and he very much doubted that it could be done again. “Naughty thing,” he sighed again, fingering the offending roll of fat thoughtfully. It was not as if her ardour had cooled. If anything it had blazed hotter. And enjoying her food was easy to do. Raoul had not exaggerated her abilities. It was just…

“What is wrong?” the slim woman called softly, putting her ladle down and hastening towards him.

“Nothing,” Geoffrey murmured, blinking her into focus as she settled between his knees. “I was just thinking. I’m getting rather large, is all.”

“You have always been large,” Margaret informed him, making them both smile.

“Yes, but…”

“But?” She asked over her shoulder as she went back to preparing their meal.

“Is…is acceptable?” he gestured to himself anxiously.

His wife turned back, pausing from her walk back to preparing dinner. Her eyes fastened on his fleshy, anxious face. His round cheeks were padded in a muff of fat which drooped down under his first chin. When he grinned, his first chin sunk into his second, and when he spoke that second chin wobbled fractionally, both underlining his words and distracting her from his point.

Under his clothing his broad chest was adorned by two breasts much larger than her own. They rolled seamlessly under his soft arms into a roll of luxurious softness on his back. His nipples downward facing, as if astounded by the size of his middle.

That middle cupped his breasts and both supported their weight and shoved them to the side. Especially now, when full, the upper part of his stomach would dome up between them like a mound of swelling dough. That upper stomach curved down in a languid curve to his belly button, which dark and mysterious interior winked at her when unclothed. His lower belly was where she had seen his current increase in weight go. When she hooked her thumb into his navel and tried to grasp the whole expanse she no longer could – although trying and failing proved just as enjoyable as succeeding. His gut was not all out in front, however, and despite how much of it sagged forth onto his thick thighs, a goodly portion swathed his sides. That fat bulged from his deeply buried hip bones, widening dangerously and sagging over itself when unclothed, only to terminate at his spine.

His soft arms and thighs were not forgotten in this perusal – the sight of those thick tree trunks made her quiver, and she could not stop touching his wide arms at every opportunity. But it was the sight of him slowly stroking that burgeoning belly from top to bottom, of absently sliding his hands under the hanging curve, which was making her unable to respond. Was it acceptable? His waistcoat buttons strained to contain the swelling flesh beneath, nearly singing in their agony to bridge the fabric. Even with their heroic effort, little diamonds of white had appeared, his shirt peeking through each overtaxed buttons.

“Yes. Very acceptable,” she emphasized, eyes locked onto her swollen prey with a lusty glint in her eye. Remembering Kitty’s admonishment to express herself in more grandiose and expressive wording, she licked her lips. “Very handsome. Very…very pleasing.”

He looked gratified, settling back with a sigh. “I am glad.” He chuckled as his wife sashayed closer with an overloaded tray. Sunday was his favourite day; having dismissed the staff, he and Margaret took full advantage of their weekly liberty to romp uncontrolled through the grounds, and to be as informal as she wanted. “You are going to feed me until I burst free from this,” he added ruefully, plucking at the taut fabric across his middle. “I’d stop you - but I forgot how damned hungry swimming makes me…” He accepted a succulent bite, body relaxing in instant response.

For several minutes there was relative silence. He blushed when she lifted his belly, settled on his lap fully, and rested the flesh on top of her, but readily accepted bite after bite. For every one bite she took, she fed him several, dark eyes intent on his happy face.

Geoffrey was distracted by her ass shifting so close to his manhood, already anticipating a delightful evening in bed together. His timid, serious wife knew what she wanted in bed, and he never had to worry he was not pleasing her, for she would take her own pleasure. The sight of her tiny body being smothered under him was oddly satisfying. When he had turned her over to enter from behind, he had been forced to heft his huge gut and place it on her upper ass and back in order to gain entry. Her moan had made him pulse so hard he feared he would come directly. At least she was not disgusted –

A sound made his blue eyes fly open in consternation.

Before the sound of the fabric tearing had quite died away, several tings rang out. His lower buttons, having received additional strain as his belly slumped forward into the freed space from the rip, threw down the towel and separated violently. He stared down in horror at the sight, mouth falling open, his greedy lips shining with grease. This had never, ever happened, and Geoffrey jerked his shocked face towards his wife, stuttering out an apology. Instead of an apology, however, what came out was a rather weak excuse, “I just…become so hungry…when…when I swim…”

The one last button was relieved of duty as she gave a hard tug, causing the entire swollen mass to bob sluggishly against her. “Yes. You do. I believe we should swim often,” Margaret purred as her hot little mouth descended on his.

“You are sure this is what you desire?” Geoffrey murmured when she had pulled back. “You are sure you want a retired life, in an old country home, with a fat old man like me?”

“We are the same age.” She rolled her eyes. “And yes. I want to live in a home. With you. That is precisely what I want. Except…”

He cringed, expression still mortified.

“I rather imagined there being less fabric between us. Will you…?” she asked, gesturing to her back.

He undid the buttons with trembling fingers. “I waited a long time to have you, even though I did not know what I was waiting for,” he whispered into the silence.

“Was it worth the wait?” Margaret asked, her face turning to him in profile as she unpinned her hair, letting the dark tresses cascade free.

“Oh yes,” he murmured fervently. “But Margaret – here? In the kitchen?”

She swept her hands across the stuffed expanse of his middle. “I cannot wait that long,” she murmured throatily, quickly divesting herself of the remaining articles. Besides which, she thought as she eyed his tick-ready-to-pop state, it was unlikely that he could manage much motion. Instead, she leaned over the other table, glancing over her shoulder. “Perhaps…?”

He was already struggling to rise, nodding vigorously as he shed his ruined waistcoat. He began to hiccup as he removed his shirt, making him groan and wince after each one. The spasm made his belly twitch slightly, and he put both hands on it to stop the motion.

Margaret cast up her eyes and blessed Kitty and the advice contained in her correspondence. She murmured in pleasure as his hot skin made contact with hers, and she placed her palms against the wainscoting for balance.

“I do not want to crush you.” He sounded rueful, courteously sliding his waistcoat under her to pillow her head.

Her slim lips twitched. “I do.” And - were those not the words that all romance stories end with? Or, perhaps, as Geoffrey said - perhaps those were the words that every romance story should begin with.

12-21-2016, 05:56 AM

12-21-2016, 04:20 PM
Ahhhhh �� Everything good has an end but I wish this story would never. I'm gonna miss Geoffrey, he's my BAE

Xyantha Reborn
12-21-2016, 07:40 PM
Me too! I could write a lot more...I rewrote these ending chapters half a dozen times. When I wrote these Geoffrey just smiled, shook his head gently, and told me that their story was done. Then very gentleman-like showed me the door :p

I could write chapters and chapters more about these six, but in the end their core stories have been told, and they have moved on to live their separate, yet connected lives. I would just be writing for the sake of writing, and I have other characters clamouring to have their turn.

I hope everyone enjoyed this book, and the trilogy overall. This was a huge investment of time and energy, so the comments people gave me really helped push me through. I really appreciate the support and feedback - I love you guys!

12-22-2016, 12:05 AM
This was such a good story! Margaret and Geoffrey were so cute! I just loved the way you brought all three stories together; it worked out so nicely! :)

12-22-2016, 01:45 PM
Well, you already know I just loved it, but totally worth saying it again, I LOVED IT. All three couples had their own yin-yang nuances going on that was so well done.

"were those not the words that all romance stories end with?" so. perfect.

If you don't mind me picking, my favorite couple was Clarice and Harry (or their super couple name, Clarry? Harrice?) which I find interesting since I'm obviously more aesthetically aligned to Raoul/Geoffrey, and their wives' inclinations. But something about Clarice's smart, feminine-crafty, get business done thing, and Harry's 'affable yet ultra manly when he needs to be' personality just totally did it for me in the chemistry department.

Can't wait for those next characters to climb out of your brain and off of your typing fingers! :smitten:

ALS Again
12-26-2016, 09:22 PM
Wonderful writing, and a perfect ending!

Xyantha Reborn
01-03-2017, 02:59 PM
I like Clarry!
Does that mean there is a Kaoul/Ritty? And a Moffrey/Gargret?

I think Raoul and Kitty are still my favourite - but then I still feel guilty about leaving parts of their story untold...but Clarice was a pushy boss woman (oh yeah, she took right the hell over and Harry just let her until she played right into his hands, pretended like he hadn't been in a panic the whole time!) and Geoffrey was so damn patient and irrisistably sweet that I had to finish theirs too...