BHM The Rocky Road to Highcastle [BHM, romance, historical]

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The dessert course, following the cutting of the cake, was also the beginning of the time when the bride and groom may depart for the evening. Still, Juliet had taken a piece of wedding cake for herself, and insisted Guy had a slice of his groom’s cake as well. He had debated turning down the slice given to him, but he noticed the way Juliet seemed to operate with a more nervous energy the closer they got to the end of the night. So he accepted the cake, and took his time enjoying it, which seemed to relax her.

Still, soon, it was time for Juliet’s first night in Stormgrove. Guy had offered a lavish honeymoon they might depart for right away, and Juliet had admitted to him she’d prefer a little time to get her feet under her as mistress of Stormgrove - and to ensure her animals would be properly looked after during her departure, as well. So they had put a pin in his promise, with life in Highcastle as a married couple awaiting them immediately.

“I had your bedroom set up in the adjoining quarters to mine,” Guy admitted once they were inside, the well-wishings and laughter from outdoors fading with the heavy oak front door. “If you would prefer to move it, you are more than welcome to do so. I just thought, for convenience-" but he cut himself off, blushing a little, wondering if that was even an appropriate thing to say.

Juliet’s already flushed expression also deepened into a darker red.

“Oh! I’m sure that will be fine - I appreciate the consideration, and look forward to seeing it. I wasn’t expecting my own - or, um…I mean, I look forward to seeing it,” she repeated, brushing an errand curl away from her forehead.

A maid took Juliet to her room, to assist her with removing her wedding gown. Guy dismissed his own valet, feeling more than able to handle his own disrobing, and more than ready for a moment of quiet. As he slowly undid the buttons on his vest, Guy kept a careful eye on the door - not to the hall, but the door connecting his room and Juliet’s.

A slight exhale of relief was involuntarily uttered as he shrugged off the vest and undid the now definitively snug button on his pants. They burst open enthusiastically, and he tried to ignore the disgruntlement that rose up at the sensation. He ignored his desire to sit and rest, allow his belly to fill up the space it so greedily asked for, and continued to move slowly and deliberately as he undressed. He hung his wedding clothes, and changed into a white undershirt that hung loose on his arms and only revealed the deep indent of his bellybutton when he sat in a certain way. The casual pants he wore with it didn’t have a button, as it was intended for under clothes, and was a little snug - but was also blessedly stretchy, and so Guy was reasonably comfortable. He sat on the bed, his heart in his throat and his hand lightly tracing the indent on his underbelly made by his wedding pants.

A slight knock on the door caused Guy to get quickly to his feet, first clasping his hands around his back and then adjusting to clasping them around his front. Both ways he felt rather large, but at least with the latter, he was a little covered. The door creaked open slowly, accompanied by Juliet’s hesitant voice:

“Guy? Are you…?” She trailed off before he saw her, but Guy took it up.

“Yes! Yes, please, come in.”

The door swung open the rest of the way, and Guy saw his bride in a mid-length white chemise - lace accenting the short sleeves and the trim on the bottom, her long strawberry hair pouring around her shoulders in loose curls. In that moment, he wanted to express the depth of his feeling and just how much the moment meant to him - but instead, his breath caught and he merely uttered a low, startled:

“Wow.”

Still, Juliet smiled at this - relief melting some of the nerves in her face. She took another hesitant step towards him.

“You’re worthy of the exclamation yourself, husband.”

“I don’t believe that for a moment,” Guy said, his tone warm but wry, reaching out to take Juliet’s hand in his own. She hesitated only a moment before she squeezed it back. “How are you feeling, Juliet?”

“A bit nervous,” his bride admitted, her free hand twisting the fabric of her chemise. “I was hoping I was hiding it well, but…can’t be perfect at everything, I suppose.” Guy exhaled a laugh.

“It’s all right. I’m a bit nervous too.”

“Why?” Juliet asked, her tone switching to near-enough panic that Guy blinked in concern, pulling her a little closer. Juliet leaned her front into his side, pressing against his strong chest and soft middle, taking a breath to calm herself. “I’m sorry. It’s just that my mother…she…told me you’d know what to do.”

It took Guy half a second to understand her meaning, and uttered another low chuckle.

“Oh, no, I do. It’s not…well. It’s just that…” he tried to think of an explanation for his nerves that wasn’t the whole truth, but Juliet’s trusting and concerned look broke down that wall. He sighed. “Honestly, I told myself I wasn’t going to over-indulge tonight - and instead, I did just that. I had just hoped not to go into our first night together quite so…stuffed.” Guy trailed off, very lightly patting his soft side with his free hand. Juliet watched, blinked, then looked back up at her husband.

“Oh, Guy! I don’t care about that. Listen-“ she sat on the edge of the bed and tugged Guy down with her. He followed carefully, sucking in as best he could. “I also told myself I wouldn’t over-consume on the champagne, to stay as present as possible, and…I also did just the opposite. Parts of the reception will likely be a blur to me, and I’m terribly frustrated at myself for letting it get away from me. But…we’re going to be doing this, together, for a lifetime. You will overeat sometimes. I will over-imbibe. So, who cares if we’re getting that experience out of the way a bit early on? It doesn’t change my opinion of you, and I hope…the same can be said of you?”

“Of course,” Guy said, feeling the nervous tightness in his chest loosening into a familiar warmth that Juliet often elicited. “I am just glad you had fun. I’m happy to fill in any and all blurs.”

“And I’m happy to make you feel better as needed,” Juliet replied, giving Guy a half-smile as she lifted her free hand. Before he quite realized her intention, Juliet had placed its soft, warm palm on the dome of his belly and begun to rub slowly, gently. He felt stirrings deep inside, a combination of comfort and embarrassment.

“Oh, no, that’s okay, I - I am not sick or in pain,” Guy assured her, feeling a blush creep up his neck as he took her hand off his middle and into his other hand, settling it in his lap. “Though I appreciate the consideration, it’s not - something you should have to deal with.”

Juliet’s brow furrowed, and he saw a but forming on her rosebud lips. Partially to get the conversation off his body, and partially because he absolutely needed to, Guy leaned in and kissed her. Every other moment their lips had met so far had had to be brief - but this time he was able to build from a soft, sweet brushing to a deep connection, scooting just a little closer to wrap an arm around her shoulders as Juliet shivered and leaned into him, her body melting with an enthusiasm he had never experienced before in a partner.

After a great day, it was going to be a great night.
 
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Chapter Seventeen

A few weeks later, Juliet was lying in bed, in the half-dream state where the light streaming in through the windows had started to stir her - but her mind was hungry for a few more minutes of rest, so she kept her eyes closed. But soon, it wasn’t just the sunlight that dragged her up from the depths - it was an audible groan and soft curse from her husband’s tongue. Stretching her entire body quietly, Juliet stifled a yawn, then peered up from the bed to see what the commotion was.

Juliet may have had her own bed, and bedroom, but almost all nights she slept in the grand four-poster bed in Guy’s room. Not that her own wasn’t grand and comfortable - but even on nights when she crept back into it due to Guy’s soft snoring or an anxious thought that suggested perhaps she needed to, Juliet just stared at the ceiling. It wasn't the same. Feeling her husband’s large, soft body in bed next to her quieted Juliet’s mind and body in a way that allowed her to sleep, and genuinely rest.

Mostly.

When Juliet asked Guy whether she had fulfilled her wifely duties, in all those attempts over the weeks they’d been married, he always assured her that she had - but there was a pause there. An unspoken but. And he never complained, but she felt terrible.

The night of their wedding, Juliet had loved the feeling of Guy on top of her - even as he struggled to keep himself at least partially held up, to avoid causing her any discomfort, he’d explained softly. Juliet tried to assure that he needn’t try so hard, that she was sure she’d be fine, but Guy had only shook his head and tried to resist looking at the way his arms shook with the strain of his weight on each side of her. As he had insisted on leaving his undershirt on, that was an easy enough sight to avoid.

But despite the lovely feeling of at least some of Guy’s weight pressed against her, Juliet’s nerves had manifested in such a way that what her friends had told her was “just a little pinch at first, then fine” was FAR more than that. It didn’t help that Guy’s manhood seemed to be on quite the large side, even compared to the rest of him, and he had barely begun to enter Juliet before the harsh gritting of her teeth turned into a cry of pain that convinced him to stop.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she had told him more than once - and Guy had never allowed her to stew in concern or feel responsible.

“We have a lifetime,” he reassured her. “We will figure it out. It’s okay, my love.” Which had at least elicited a small smile from her.

So every night, they would try to get a little further. And despite all of her attempts to relax to where the muscles of her body would follow, Juliet was stuck firmly in her head, panicking that it may never work the way it did for others. The more she had those thoughts, the more painful it got. As a result, their progress was slow going.

“I am happy just to be close to you, whatever you need,” Guy would say sincerely each night, and Juliet would kiss him - eventually steering them into position. A voice at the back of her head told her that taking a break, stepping away to clear her mind, might do wonders more than what she insisted on now - but she was fixated, and ignored it. Juliet had never been particularly skilled at walking away when she wanted something - and in this case, she desperately wanted to be the best wife possible. So the march continued.

If nothing else, she would say it was worth it to get to wake up each morning next to Guy. On this particular day, it was a Sunday where most of the staff was off work - and Juliet could tell from the sun streaming through the windows that despite it being a late fall morning, it would be a beautiful day.

Her gaze finally landed on her husband at the foot of their bed, the source of his groans clear after a few blinks to get the sleep out of her eyes. Guy was attempting to squeeze into an old - very old, if she had to guess - day suit, one she had never seen before. He was attempting to button the sage green pants under his round belly, and was turning in an attempt to get a good angle - which afforded Juliet a view of just how tightly they pulled across his thighs and rear, as well as just how far apart the buttons actually were from coming together.

He must not be able to see, from above his belly, Juliet realized at the same moment as Guy saw that she was awake. Juliet’s playful half-smile dropped as Guy dropped the flaps of his pants, his forehead and cheeks heating up to a low pink under her gaze.

“****,” Guy said, and Juliet couldn’t help but giggle at hearing her husband curse for one of the first times. “Sorry! I thought you were…did I wake you up? Oh, God…”

“I was already waking up! It’s okay! But what are you punishing yourself for, dearheart?” Juliet asked, allowing herself a little cheekiness as she scooted to the end of the bed and took the end of each button into her own hands, tugging them lightly (and futile-y) towards each other while also pulling Guy closer to her. “This is far too small.”

“I know,” groaned Guy as he gave in to the tugs and sat next to his wife. “Or, I do now. It’s just such a nice day, and since we don’t have the staff I figured I’d risk an old getup from spring to save myself the embarrassment if it didn’t work in front of someone else. That…was foolish of me.”

“No! No, it wasn’t. We all…well, bodies change, you know,” Juliet said, knowing she was verging on babbling but not wanting her husband to withdraw due to a topic she knew he was sensitive about. “Since it’s just us today, I doubt you need to worry about an entire suit. What about the pants from the brown day suit you wore to dinner at my parent’s, and you can keep the undershirt on, and then a jacket? That should be fine for us to walk about the grounds, wouldn’t you say?”

“I suppose,” Guy admitted, smiling at his wife ruefully. “We’ll see if I can still squeeze into those.”

Juliet went into her own room to dress for the day, picking up on her husband’s shyness to try another potentially snug fit on while she was still in the room. She dressed very casually too, with a brown day dress over a white chemise and a cream and floral patterned pair of stays. It went with the brown of Guy’s pants and suit jacket, when he hesitantly knocked and entered her bedroom to get her approval.

“I think this will work just fine! You look very handsome,” Juliet told Guy honestly, taking in the tight (but genuinely attractive) cut of the pants along with the swell of his belly in the undershirt right below the jacket, which he could always button up if anyone else came across them. Guy smiled ruefully, but didn’t argue with her.

“Well you look…ravishing. And that’s putting it mildly,” he said, wrapping an arm around Juliet’s waist and pulling her in for a soft kiss on her neck. Juliet exhaled a happy sigh as he did, enjoying - as always - the scent of him as she got to nuzzle into his comfortable yet firm chest, and soft yet broad middle. All too soon, however, he let her go and offered her his arm to take.

“Shall we have breakfast before our walk?”

“Fainting with hunger may put a damper on our trip, so yes, let’s.”

“That’s certainly true. Can’t have you wasting away in your first weeks in Stormgrove.”

“Oh, I meant you! But it’s good to know you care.”

Both laughed, with some exasperation but mostly love, over the exchange as they made their way down the stairs.

At the breakfast table, Juliet was finishing up her plate of eggs and toast when one of the few servants on duty entered carrying a letter on a tray. Guy, who was also partaking in some back bacon, thanked the young man before opening it with his breakfast knife (slipping Juliet a wink as he did) and scanning the letter.

Juliet peered out the windows in the dining room, taking in the beautiful surrounding landscape of Stormgrove’s grounds as she brushed crumbs off her hands. She couldn’t wait to go lazily explore with her new husband. But as she turned to say so, she saw Guy’s face as he read the letter was now completely devoid of color.

“Guy? Who is it?”

“It’s Edward, my brother,” Guy replied, as he very slowly folded up the letter. Juliet caught just a slight tremor in his hands as he did so. “He and…his wife…are coming to pay us a visit next week.”
 

lurksville

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Locked myself out of my account again lol but I finally gave in and reset because I needed to tell you that 1) I check this thread at least twice daily, 2) this story is perfect 3) I’m so glad it didn’t end with the wedding and 4) I hope it goes on forever … or at least quite a while longer!
 

lurksville

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More please?
Also. Just wanted to say that I never see Juliet’s “first times” experience anywhere in media… but I’m grateful to see it here. I think it’s important to portray different experiences so people don’t feel so strange and alone if they don’t fit the common tropes :p
 
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More please?
Also. Just wanted to say that I never see Juliet’s “first times” experience anywhere in media… but I’m grateful to see it here. I think it’s important to portray different experiences so people don’t feel so strange and alone if they don’t fit the common tropes :p
Okay same and I was really worried it would ruin things for people so this means a LOT. Thank you!

I’m working through the rest of the story as we speak and it should come shortly! ❤️
 

agouderia

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More please?
Also. Just wanted to say that I never see Juliet’s “first times” experience anywhere in media… but I’m grateful to see it here. I think it’s important to portray different experiences so people don’t feel so strange and alone if they don’t fit the common tropes :p
Excellent observation lurksville! I really liked that too, because it is so realistic and true to period.
After all, period fiction is set in a time with no sex education and almost no access to information about the issue. For many women - even those who actually were able to marry for love instead of the norm of being thrown into an arranged marriage - their wedding night was a traumatic experience, not passionate fulfillment.
 

lurksville

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Okay same and I was really worried it would ruin things for people so this means a LOT. Thank you!

I’m working through the rest of the story as we speak and it should come shortly! ❤️
No way you could ruin it! Honestly that story choice made me fall in love with this even harder which I didn’t think possible :p
 

Xyantha Reborn

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Ok, I am unfashionably late to this party. I am also anxiously bopping up and down on the balls of my feet and whimpering pathetically for more. Plzplzplzplzplzplzplzplz!

Also, as a women who has pain during the "entry" part of intercourse, this definitely is realistic and resonates. I remember my gyno asking how sex was and I was like "we just take allllllll the time in the beginning and the poor guy needs to wait while my body gets over itself" lol
 
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Chapter Eighteen

The day before the younger Seaborne brother and his bride were meant to arrive at Stormgrove, another letter arrived announcing a delay. Their new visitation time was pinpointed as after a fortnight, but within a month. As Guy slowly read the announcement aloud, Juliet had to stifle a scream that rose within her at the news. She didn’t want to see Caroline, of course, but delaying the inevitable felt significantly more exhausting than just getting it out of the way.

Not to mention, Juliet had to hope the end of the visit would also bring about the end of her new husband’s soft withdrawal. It didn’t seem to be from her personally, though it was hard not to take it that way - but from everything. Ever since reading the first letter, Guy had gone quiet. He had set down his perfectly cooked slice of back bacon, then barely seemed to look at any food that was put in front of him again. He ate in nibbles, which felt like an absurd word choice to apply to her imposingly large husband, but Juliet didn’t know what else to call it as he took tiny bites until he could reasonably excuse himself. He would retreat to his office to work, and Juliet felt she barely got glimpses of her husband during the day now, at best.

Juliet always looked forward to the evenings - the opportunity to be close to Guy, to feel his softness and strength, and inhale his natural scent of musk and a smooth wood. Guy would take her in his arms as they snuggled into the four-poster bed, and she would melt - it never failed to relax her.

Mostly.

But after the initial holding, and kissing, when Juliet would determinedly try to initiate more - Guy now gently shook his head.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he’d say, his voice low.

“I don’t mind, really! It’s part of my job, after all,” Juliet would try to assure him, but that would seem to be the wrong thing to say. The room was only illuminated by moonlight, so it was hard to tell, but Juliet thought she saw sadness in Guy’s eyes as he merely shook his head again.

She listened and respected his refusal, but after the letter announcing Edward and Caroline’s delay, she continued the script that night.

“We can’t just not try,” she whispered, something hard twisting in her chest.

“I know,” Guy said back, his volume matching hers as his thick fingers traced slowly up and down her pale arm that rested on her side as she faced him. Goosebumps prickled out over her skin from the combination of his touch and the crisp fall air. “But not tonight, Juliet.”

Juliet swallowed a when and a why and the loudest, scariest thought of all - what will I even have over Caroline if I can’t do this for you - and buried her face in the soft crook of where Guy’s arm met his chest. He squeezed her as she did so, and Juliet risked a squeeze back on her husband’s thick side, where she rested her arm above his sleep shirt. Unfortunately, she still felt Guy stiffen and suck in, despite it doing little to nothing for diminishing the round curve of his rolls and love handles that she felt beneath her fingers.

Still, Juliet wasn’t quite prepared for another difficult conversation, so she didn’t mention it. A sigh and snuggle later, she gave in to the loose grip of sleep.
 
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“Enough,” Juliet said to Guy, firmly and perhaps a bit more harshly than she had originally intended.

It was nearly three weeks later, and the arrival of Edward and Caroline was imminent. Juliet and Guy were in the sitting room, occupying two high-backed cushioned chairs by the fireplace. Juliet had been attempting to read, while Guy simply stared into the fire - after looking at the cheese plate that had been set next to him as though it may rear up and bite.

“Guy, enough,” Juliet repeated, closing her book for good as she stood up, her frustration spilling over into physicality. “Your brother and sister-in-law arrive in a few days, and you look like the ghost of yourself.”

“I doubt that,” Guy replied somewhat wryly, a weary smile crossing his face.

“Do not brush me off! I am your wife, and I will not watch this any longer,” Juliet said, practically shaking. She was never one to mince words, but this was the first time she was attempting to truly put her foot down in her new household. “You’re pale, exhausted, and shrunken - and perhaps that is your goal? To greet Caroline smaller than you were on our wedding day? But Guy, I can assure you, this is not an improvement.”

Guy’s dark eyes met his wife’s thundering green ones in surprise.

“Juliet, I’m not…I don’t care what she…” Guy trailed off, not because he wasn’t speaking the truth, but because his memory of Caroline’s parting words to him rattled to life at the discussion. He sighed, slowly. “I’m sorry. It hasn’t been intentional - not this time. My nerves around the visit are…heightened. And many things that I normally enjoy, like food, and…well. Other things. Are difficult if not impossible to focus on with this looming.”

“I understand that,” Juliet replied, carefully, sitting back down and putting her pale fingers on her husband’s thick, exposed wrist. “But some things, like eating, aren’t merely for enjoyment. You must partake.”

“I know. You’re absolutely right. And truly, I do not care what she or anyone else but you thinks of me and how I conduct myself. But I still find certain…insults…coming to mind lately as I go to eat. And it all turns to ash in my mouth.”

Juliet looked at Guy with slightly furrowed brows, and he continued in the face of her confusion.

“I know I told you a bit about my father and his…unique…punishments. But I never told you about the specifics of my attempted engagement to Caroline, did I?”

Juliet shook her head.

“It’s a bit of a long…but, well. I’ll still start at the beginning. After a childhood in a household of such extreme control under my father’s rule, I found I couldn’t do it for myself when I left and had no one to stop me around food. Much of my young adulthood was…very indulgent. More so than even now, if you can imagine,” Guy said, allowing a wry joke to slip in as he opened up more vulnerably than he had in recent memory. Juliet said nothing, merely holding his gaze. “About five years ago, however, I began to shape up. The attentions from women I had gotten were notably less sincere as I rounded out, and I was tired of the jabs in business settings as well as personal ones. Even if they were more well-meaning than my father’s snarling about my being a puff-guts throughout my childhood, I had a hard time separating them out for awhile.” Juliet flinched imperceptibly at the insult for a rotund individual, her mouth setting hard at the thought of leveling it at one’s own offspring.

“So, through rather exhausting work, I lost much of my excessive roundness. Not entirely - I’m not certain that’s possible - but enough that the positive attentions returned. And that’s when I met Caroline.

“I was entering a time in my life when I was ready to be more serious, and as she was…appealing…and rather determined, I found myself attached to the idea of keeping her around. We courted for a couple of years. In that time, as I grew more certain of our life together, I let the hard work of keeping my leaner frame slip from my mind. I could barely keep up with it and work in the first place - and now that there was some pleasure to pay attention to, something had to give.”

Juliet’s flinch at this was more noticeable.

“I’m sorry,” Guy said, surprise and concern furrowing between his brows as he put his other hand atop her own that rested on his wrist. “Shall I stop?”

“No,” Juliet replied. “Please. Continue.”

“All right. Of course, I could sense Caroline beginning to pull away. I chalked it up to relationship growing pains, perhaps frustration at the lack of a marriage proposal. I told myself when I finished some business that occupied much of my time, I would make it official. And I did. Or…I tried.

"During this intense stretch of work, there was excessive snacking to relieve stress. And it showed. I wasn’t as large as I am now, obviously - or even as large as I was when I first began to reduce, all those years ago. But I had firmly passed from soft to perhaps chubby, or…more than that. Still, I didn’t think too much about it, until the night I proposed to Caroline.

“It was impressive, actually,” Guy allowed a weak chuckle. “The extent to which she mirrored my father in word and action that night. The insults, the looks of disgust-”

Both Juliet’s lips and her hand on Guy’s wrist tightened.

“I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was. I assumed…rather foolishly…that an engagement was all that was needed to set things right, and bring Caroline back to me. But it was my first truly romantic entanglement, not merely physical - sorry- ” Guy blushed as he realized the implication “-and I was inexperienced in that regard. I suppose I still am,” he said with a half-smile and squeeze back on Juliet’s hand. “And I…trusted her. When I should not have.

"But I don’t imagine it was a coincidence that Edward had just arrived in London, handsome, thin, and newly out from under my father’s thumb. So the…the triumph in Caroline’s accusations that I had gotten too fat to possibly truly love her, and certainly too fat for her to love me, that I didn’t understand at first - it became clear when the wedding to my brother was announced. She had an excuse to leave, and claim what she thought she actually wanted. A…better version.

"Soon after, my father passed, and I was Baronet on top of my other work. I sold the Darby estate as soon as possible - which still took quite awhile - and purchased a home for Edward and Caroline with half the proceeds before coming to Highcastle and occupying Stormgrove. I bear them no ill will, but have still heard the ringing insults from Caroline and my father in my ears more recently. They’re never gone completely, but this visit has…brought it up. For so long after the move to Highcastle, I had ignored my feelings, and had barely looked up - until you.”

“And now they’re surfacing,” Juliet said, quietly confirming.

“Yes. But…nothing that makes me feel in any way less towards you. It’s entirely my own doing.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Juliet’s response was gentle, not accusatory.

“I didn’t want to make getting through the inevitable visit with her even more difficult. And…embarrassment. Also, I suppose, the inexperience for what I ought to be discussing with a wife I care so deeply for,” Guy said, his tone sincere but somewhat halting as he worked through his thoughts.

“I want to know,” Juliet assured. “I want to know it all - you’re my husband. By miraculous choice. I don’t want you to struggle with anything alone.”

“Thank you, Juliet.”

“You’re welcome, Guy. Now…and I hope to never have to say this again…will you please straighten up and eat some damn cheese? I don’t want to have to invite Levi over so we can bully you together.”

“Yes, my lady,” Guy said around a half-smile, taking a bite from the cheese plate next to him that looked as though he was actually tasting it. “God forbid, my lady.” Juliet smiled, relieved, and leaned back in her chair - one finger stroking gently up and down her husband’s wrist as he reached for another piece with his free hand.
 
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Chapter Nineteen

Two days and three nights later, Guy was looking more like himself. He had color back in his round cheeks, and life back in his dark eyes. As they stood in the front hall to receive Edward and Caroline, Juliet noted that Guy’s anxious tick of tugging away his vest’s buttons from his round middle had surfaced, but at least he looked healthy and happy. After their talk in the sitting room that night, Guy had still struggled a bit to eat his fill, but with his kitchen staff preparing light, delicious meals and Juliet encouraging, he had persevered.

Still, after his third swipe in a matter of seconds to trace his snugly fitted buttons and fiddle them outwards, Juliet took his soft hand in hers. Guy offered her a wane smile in thanks.

“Are you ready?” She asked her husband.

“Absolutely not. And you?”

“Oh, I am not even close.”

Their slight exhales of laughter were interrupted by the front door opening. As Edward and Caroline entered on the heels of one of Stormgrove’s servants, who bowed and stepped aside as the door closed, Juliet saw the family resemblance in her brother-in-law instantly. Edward was fairer than Guy, with lighter caramel hair that sat closer to and straighter on his head than his brother’s, and his eyes were a deep blue rather than brown. Still, despite that and his much leaner frame, Edward and Guy shared a startling similarity of features. Guy’s jawline and waistline may have been softer than his brother’s, but the position of their cheekbones, the broadness of their shoulders, and gentle white smiles were nearly identical.

Next to Edward stood his bride, Caroline, taking in the expansive entrance hall with wide eyes. Wild horses couldn’t have forced Juliet to admit to Caroline being beautiful, or even something adjacent. But she certainly was striking. Her dark eyes appeared arguably too big for her pale face, which was somehow simultaneously round and at different points angular, and it was surrounded by wavy, cascading black hair. She was easily half a foot taller than Juliet, with an incredibly dramatic hourglass figure that close inspection would reveal to be the diligent work of a high quality corset.

In fact, despite Guy’s reference to the rest of his family’s money troubles, all of Caroline’s clothing was of a startlingly high quality. Juliet had on a sage green day dress, and she knew it was a decent style and brought out her eyes, but it was nothing compared to the look in front of her. The deep red of Caroline’s gown shone in the light, highlighting the dramatic red of her lips, darkness of her hair, paleness of her skin, and of course - the impressive curve of her bust and hips. To fight against the chill of fall, a fur cape of ermine white was draped over her shoulders, contrasting the black lace that edged the sleeves and hem of the dress. A matching glittering ruby hung on her neck, and practically all of Caroline’s fingers had rings of silver and stone.

Before either host could speak up, Caroline’s wide gaze had completed its roving investigation of the hall, and landed on Juliet. At which point, Caroline pounced.

Juliet froze as Caroline’s arms wrapped harshly and entirely around her. Her mind shrieked with panicked alarm, but she couldn’t make herself move as Caroline squeezed and exhaled: “Sister!”

As soon as Caroline’s grip loosened, Juliet removed herself from it, stumbling slightly back as she stared at the woman in shock.

“Oh, I do apologize, Lady Darby - it’s just such a pleasure to meet you!”

“Mrs. Darby,” was all Juliet said in response, her tone even. She felt herself being steadied by a large, soft hand on her back, and looked gratefully to her husband - whose facial expression was carefully blank, but his eyes betrayed a similar bewilderment.

Edward Darby took a step towards Juliet, subtly placing himself between his wife and his sister-in-law. “It’s an honor to meet you, Lady Darby,” he greeted with a bow of his head, his voice a slightly higher version of Guy’s. “My brother is truly lucky to have found such a lovely wife.”

“Thank you,” Juliet replied, her stomach twisting in some discomfort at the flattering words - and at the way Caroline was gazing at Guy.

“And in Highcastle, too, of all places!” Caroline trilled. “Who would have guessed?”

“Why is that?” Juliet asked, a very slight edge creeping into her voice. But Caroline ignored her, stepping forward to take Guy’s arm on the other side.

“Guy - oh, sorry, Sir Darby - I am simply dying for a tour of Stormgrove’s grounds. Will you indulge me?”

Guy looked at her as though she had grown two heads.

“I-I suppose…after you are settled, we could all take a turn around the gardens?”

“Oh, Edward and the servants can get us all unpacked. I’m quite ready to go now!”

“Why not, husband?” Juliet spoke up, slipping her own arm gently into the crook of Guy’s elbow. “I could do with a walk.”

For the first time, a flash of irritation crossed Caroline’s face for just a moment before it vanished in a deliberate smoothing of her features.

“Excellent. It may be helpful for you too, Lady Darby! As you are still new here, are you not?”

“I…a bit,” Juliet said, frustration at her lack of immediate responses to Caroline’s little barbs settling in her throat. “But I know my way around.”

“Oh, of course you do,” Caroline assured, her tone heavily implying the exact opposite. “Now…” She gestured to a nearby servant to re-open the front doors, which he did, and Caroline began to drag Guy and Juliet forward. “Can someone explain to me the reason for so many goats and birds so close to this magnificent estate?”

Caroline’s mocking tone towards Juliet’s homegrown farm set her teeth on edge. As she looked back, she made eye contact with Edward, who smiled wanly and lifted a hand in farewell.

“Enjoy yourselves,” were his parting words as the door shut behind the trio.
 
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In her bedroom later that day, right before dinner, Juliet slowly turned in front of her mirror as Guy sat on her bed behind her.

“You didn’t mention that she is hardly thin herself,” Juliet said, tugging subtly at the high collar on her dress.

“I wasn’t certain it mattered,” Guy replied with a half-smile, watching his wife closely.

“Well, one can’t be both fat and a horrific person.”

“Only one or the other?” Guy said, his tone teasing.

“Not because they’re equally terrible. Just because if you’re going to say the sorts of things she said to you about having a stouter frame…well. Seems like she would have tossed the first stone despite her sins, is all I’m saying.”

“I see,” Guy said agreeably. “Are you well, Juliet?”

Juliet frowned in the mirror. She was uncomfortable, but not willing to go down to dinner looking so much lesser than her sister-in-law. Her gowns she wore for balls weren’t appropriate, and her day dresses and usual dining garments were much too casual compared to what Caroline had worn even just for travel. So Juliet had unearthed a very light green grown from her trousseau that her mother had insisted on including. It wasn’t Juliet’s usual style at all, with a scratchy high neckline along with uncomfortably long sleeves, but it was the closest she could think to being right for whatever Caroline had up her sleeve after arriving in such splendor.

Their time in the gardens had been just as unpleasant as any would have guessed. Juliet had realized one of her goats was hurt, and needed to peel off from the other two. By the time she realized it was just a rock in the hoof, easily removed, Caroline and Guy had vanished into the grounds. When they returned, luckily not too long after, Juliet had ignored the twisting in her gut as she asked how it was. Guy, his face a disgruntled red, had merely shaken his head as Caroline rattled on loudly about the undeniable beauty of Stormgrove. With one or two barbs thrown in about what a big job it must seem to Juliet, coming from the beginnings she did.

Uncomfortable.

“I am fine,” Juliet finally responded with a sigh, purposefully dropping her hands from her anxious tugging at the unfamiliar fabric.

Guy stood up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist as he got close. Remembering Caroline in her corset, which Juliet couldn’t fathom attempting to wear on the best of days, she sucked in under Guy’s warm grasp. But feeling her husband’s soft, broad middle press into her back reminded Juliet that she was being absurd, and she released the tension in her muscles. Guy, his head over hers in the mirror, smiled and laid a very soft kiss on her neck.

“You know that you are the most beautiful girl in the room whatever you decide to wear, don’t you?”

“Well, in this room, I do win by default.”

Guy rolled his eyes at her obvious snark.

“In any room, Juliet. Are you sure you wouldn’t like me to find you something more comfortable?”

“No,” Juliet said, covering her uncertainty with firm words. She brushed her hands over the lace overlay on her bust, then down along the more fitted silhouette that drew her waist in and hinted at the full hourglass beneath. She breathed out, slowly. “I am a Lady now, and I can handle some new fabric and this visit. You’ll see.”

“I never doubted you, but you needn’t do a thing you don’t wish to,” Guy assured with a half-smile as he took Juliet’s hand in his and spun her out away from him, then back into his arms. “Shall we?”

“I suppose we shall,” Juliet replied, wishing more than anything that they could just dine in their rooms - or, even better, that their house was their own again.
 
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Dinner showed that it was, in fact, possible to be even more uncomfortable. As the heads of the household, Guy and Juliet had to sit on each end of the table, across from each other. Between them sat Caroline and Edward, also across from each other. Juliet felt her fingers itch, partially from the dress’s lace, and partially from her inability to touch her husband’s thick thigh under the table when she got particularly antsy.

She had been right to suspect another outlandish outfit display from Caroline. The deep red gown had been replaced with one of pure black, matching her newly wrapped-up hair. The neckline plunged to show off more decolletage than even Juliet, who never considered herself a prude, would have dared to wear out of her room. The sharp lines of the dress’s sleeves and hips did a valiant effort to hide Caroline’s softness, as well as another corset working beneath - but not completely. Nestled in her cleavage was the same ruby, though some of the rings seemed to have been changed out - and her hair was held up with a golden comb, embedded with what appeared to be amethysts.

Juliet gleaned all this from only occasional glances, as she was determined not to stare.

As the table indulged in their main meal, roast duck in a particularly decadent orange sauce, Edward spoke up.

“Married life agrees with you, brother.”

Juliet and Guy both stiffened, but only briefly, for the broad smile on Edward’s face showed only sincerity.

“It certainly does,” Caroline added, brazenly tracing her dark gaze over her brother-in-law. Guy and Juliet made very brief eye contact - not long enough for anyone else present to notice, but long enough to convey their confusion.

“You look happy,” Edward added, taking another bite of duck. “And if these meals are also the influence of Lady Darby, then you’re an even luckier man than I thought.”

“Thank you,” Guy replied, sincerely but cautiously.

“It’s not really my influence. Guy’s cook - or, I suppose, our cook, now - knows exactly what she’s doing. We allow her open reign in the kitchen. I’d never claim to have a particularly refined palette,” Juliet added.

“Well, certainly still refined compared to mine,” Guy replied, flashing his wife a brief smile. “Whose palette is essentially ‘all’.”

“What luck to have such an excellent cook at your household!” Caroline spoke up at the tail end of Guy’s words, her voice several volumes louder than anyone else’s. Juliet, involuntarily, flinched. “She clearly knows what she’s doing! It’s so hard to find good help.”

“In…Sussex?” Juliet spoke up, raising her eyebrows in surprise. The area that Edward and Caroline had their home was near enough to London that the options for finding workers should have been immeasurable.

“I’m sure it isn’t so bad with a more expansive budget,” Edward spoke up cheerfully. “But the extra bits and pieces…we get by without them. And I certainly don’t mind cooking while we look.”

A quiet thump sounded from under the table, and Juliet and Guy caught Caroline’s wide brown eyes staring fiercely into Edward’s blue ones as she got his attention. Edward let out a low, uncomfortable laugh and continued.

“Apologies. I suppose those details aren’t…always appropriate dinner conversation.”

“Brother, you know you can talk to us about anything,” Guy said quickly, after another brief glance exchanged with his wife. Edward’s smile grew more sincere.

“And I appreciate it greatly, brother! For now, I’d like to talk about my excitement for the meals here. Truly, this duck is exquisite!”

The evening dragged on, the conversation staying more or less stable, with Juliet losing track of how many times Caroline stared at Guy from under artificially thick dark eyelashes.

The bone-weariness Juliet felt after only a night of their visitors was an unfortunate herald of the time to come.
 
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Chapter 20

Juliet and Guy are fighting.

“They have been here for a week already, Guy. How much longer am I expected to feel like a stranger in my own home?” Juliet asked, steadying herself against the back of one of the chairs in the sitting room that faced the fire.

“You’re not a stranger here, Juliet,” Guy said from in front of the other chair, standing between it and the fire, allowing his soft form to be alternately encased in light and shadow as the flames danced in front of him. “But I can’t ask my brother and his wife to simply…leave.”

“Why not? I would ask Nathan to, if he were also married to a harlot who couldn’t stop looking you up and down like a piece of prized meat for five minutes.”

Guy blinked at this, then glanced back at the door to the sitting room. It was shut, and had been since Edward and Caroline had left for bed, approximately 45 minutes ago. After dinner, they had all enjoyed some port near the fire before Edward had bid them farewell for the night. Caroline had followed, after a lengthy, regretfully longing look in Guy’s direction.

“Perhaps, but I wouldn’t ask you to. Nathan also lives in Highcastle. I haven’t seen Edward since…before his wedding. I know it’s frustrating, but it is still valuable time with my brother.”

“Fine, then can she just go? Finding dressmakers to put together a wildly inappropriate ensemble while having no money leftover for a cook sounds like it would take up a lot of time and energy,” Juliet said, her words coming out callously as she gripped the high-backed chair.

“You know we can’t ask just Caroline to leave,” Guy sighed.

“I believe it’s more akin to you don’t want to ask ‘just Caroline’ to leave.”

“Why…why would you say that?”

“Don’t insult me by playing the fool, Guy. A girl you loved is running around your house with most of her breasts out while making eyes at you. I refuse to believe that isn't at least a little...fun.”

“You don’t know how I’m feeling,” Guy replied quietly.

“What did you say?”

“I said that you don’t know how I’m feeling,” Guy said after a low cough to clear his throat, his voice carrying further this time.

“You’re right,” Juliet retorted. “But that response, or lack thereof, tells me more clearly than anything that I truly don’t want to know.”

With that, Juliet turned on her heels and left the sitting room. She swung the door behind her, but didn’t allow it to slam closed, leaving it open just a crack. Guy sighed and took his glass of port from the table next to the chair, allowing himself to slump down in front of the fire. It was his third glass of the night, but over several hours and on a frame as large as his, he felt only mildly tipsy. Enough to be at least a little more capable of managing the feelings that rose up in him.

The clock ticked by, Guy’s glass went from half full to nearly empty, and soon, from behind him, the door slowly creaked open. Guy’s grip tightened on his drink, he swallowed, and he turned as he stood - now facing Caroline, in a nightgown and sheer robe, her dark hair tumbling around her shoulders in a long wave.

“Guy,” she breathed, stepping further into the room. Guy stepped towards her to meet her, taking her arm just as Caroline moved to fully close the door behind her. She stopped and left the door open a crack, leaning into his touch

“What are you doing here?” He asked, releasing her and stepping back as though realizing he had forgotten himself. Caroline grinned.

“I wanted to speak with you…alone.”

“Why?” Guy asked, taking another step back, closer to the armchair. Caroline, whose full, low-hanging bust was visible through her nightgown, followed.

“Do you really not know?” She asked, her voice low, enticing.

“Not…not really, no,” Guy stumbled. “I mean, you made your intentions rather clear the last time we spoke alone.”

“I was a fool then,” Caroline said. “I have realized since just how much you mean to me - how much we mean to each other.”

“Caroline, you don’t mean that,” Guy said, distracting himself by fumbling for another glass of port. He poured one for Caroline, handed it to her, then turned back to refill his. A smile curling around the lip of her glass, Caroline took a drink, then sat in the armchair opposite Guy. Swallowing, Guy sat on his own chair and forced himself to make eye contact with Caroline - dark eyes looking into dark eyes.

“I suppose I understand why you think that, Guy. But I have been trying to make it up to you this week - to show you just how much I mean it.”

“By doing…what?”

“Haven’t you noticed the way I’ve been looking at you?” Caroline said simperingly, giving a flawless example with a flutter of her eyelashes as she peered up at Guy. “I admit it isn’t as much as I would have hoped to do by now - but time to ourselves is apparently quite a luxury here.” The bitterness tamped on the end gave Guy an imperceptible shudder. He had made sure to hurry him and Caroline out of the gardens as she seemed to ramp up to something important to say, and since then, he and Juliet had rarely left each other's sides. Except for now. Guy transferred his glass of port, untouched, from one hand to the other.

“Caroline,” he said slowly, deliberately. “I am much fatter now than I was when you rejected my offer of marriage. When you made it clear that my size, above all else, made our union a disgusting, impossible proposition. What could have possibly changed to make all of this-” he gestured to his plump body, clad in a snug, deep-purple suit “-suddenly worth it?”

“As I said, I was a fool,” Caroline said, deliberately not following Guy’s gesture over his body with her eyes. “I had poor priorities and even worse manners. I do apologize.”

“Even if that were true, and even if that were enough - we are married now. You to Edward, my brother, and I to Juliet.”

Caroline waved her pale hand in front of her face, as though to brush the words away physically.

“We both know that is a mere technicality for wealthy and powerful men. I’m certain you have many properties that Juliet could go to and be perfectly happy. Or…” Guy’s eyebrows shot up, as Caroline’s purring tone conveyed her true preference. “If you’d prefer to keep up the façade, simply find me a posh stay in London, and I will await your arrival whenever you can get away.”

“You would leave my brother to become…what, an occasional mistress?”

“Leave him, not leave him, whatever you would like, my love. As long as we got to be together at your convenience.”

“And you got to be in a lavish London dwelling,” Guy replied, his tone taking on a rough edge. Caroline blinked and touched the ruby around her neck.

“I’m sure you know, Guy, that it is no crime to require a certain…standard of living. One your brother has been unable to provide.”

“I’ve seen your home that was eventually purchased with Edward’s half of the Darby estate. It’s hardly a hovel.”

Caroline uttered a scornful laugh.

“No, but nor is it an estate, Guy. Because Edward couldn’t afford the upkeep. Why should I have to choose between beautiful gowns and a cook? Between jewels and travel? While you and your…farmer wife live so grandly? She doesn’t know how to handle it. But I would,” Caroline said, her voice growing more cajoling as it went on. She leaned forward, touching the edge of Guy’s sleeve. “Please. Let me try. Juliet and Edward would be fine.”

“So while making such tough decisions,” Guy said, standing to avoid her touch. “You came to the conclusion that suffering through, as I believe you put it back when I asked for your hand, the MOST embarrassing puff-guts in all of England-” he gave a harsh pinch at the roll of fat hanging over his pants, barely held in by his vest, as he spoke “-might actually be worth it?”

“God, Guy, who can remember what it actually was that I said?” Caroline replied, that hidden flash of irritation surfacing as she stood to mirror him. “It doesn’t matter. I didn’t mean it. I was distracted by Edward’s good looks, sure, but that’s not what’s truly important in life.”

“Money, and accessories, and servants - that’s what’s important?”

“Don’t twist my words, Guy,” sighed Caroline, clearly making a conscious effort to not snap at him. “Besides, we both know that no one else, wife or no, is going to make you feel the way I have. Don’t you miss this?” She gestured over her form, finally unclad from all its contorting whalebone and flattering cuts. Her plumpness was truly pleasing, if not for who she was as a person.

“No,” Guy replied firmly, casting his dark eyes over towards the door to the sitting room. “I don’t.”

Seemingly in response to his words and gaze, the door creaked open yet again. This time, a somber Juliet stood behind it, holding a lantern and standing next to the person she had gone to retrieve as soon as she heard the footsteps of Caroline sneaking past her in the hall - Edward Darby.
 
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Caroline erupted, the rest of the room staying silent around her.

“Edward! Edward, I…why…? What are you doing here? I don’t know what you heard, but it wasn’t - What is this?”

“We heard everything,” Juliet replied as the outburst began to wind down, Caroline looking wildly in every direction. Putting the lantern on the table as she went, Juliet crossed to Guy and gave him a soft kiss as he sat back in the chair, exhausted.

“What…? What? You tricked me,” Caroline gaped, staring at the pair in blazing horror.

“In Guy’s defense, he really wasn’t sure it’d be that easy,” Juliet said, sitting on the arm of the chair. As best she could, anyway - even perching on just one buttcheek, half was off, and the other half was taken up with Guy’s plush love handles. “But yes, I suspected all it would take was one well-timed fight and opportunity to get you to lay all your cards out on the table.”

Edward, looking like a ghost of himself, merely watched from the doorway. Juliet’s mouth twisted as she saw him - over the last week, as her hatred of Caroline had grown, her affection for her brother in law had done the same. He didn’t deserve to feel this way.

“How could you?” Caroline demanded, seemingly of everyone in the room.

“That isn’t the right question, Caroline,” Edward said finally, quietly. His blue eyes were rimmed with red, and Guy heaved himself out of the chair to cross the room to his brother.

“Edward, we’ve set up another room for you to stay in. We won’t rouse the staff to arrange the carriage at this hour, but at first light…”

“Be ready to leave, in perpetuity,” Juliet said sweetly, lifting a hand in farewell to Caroline. The dark-haired girl seemed to weigh the costs of launching herself at the smaller blonde, causing both Darby brothers to tense in preparation to halt it - but in the end, Caroline merely swallowed the rest of her port in one go and stormed out of the sitting area.

“I’ll show you to your room,” Guy told Edward, and the pair exited after the former exchanged a relieved smile with his wife.

Guy and Juliet slept very well that night.
 
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“What do you mean, you’re leaving too?” Juliet demanded of her brother-in-law the next morning as the entryway to Stormgrove filled with more and more bags.

“This trip has been wonderful,” Edward said, haltingly, looking between a bemused Guy and horrified Juliet. “But we both must depart now.”

“‘Must’? Edward, you don’t need to go with her,” Juliet pleaded. “My brother is here in Highcastle, separated as well, as you know - you could stay together! There’s plenty of room - you could find sanctuary in Stormgrove, or wherever you’ve wanted to be.”

“She’s right, Edward. You’re welcome here as long as you wish,” Guy said, his tone serious.

“I thank you, brother, sister,” Edward said, inclining his head towards both. Caroline threw another bag in the entry in a flurry of curses, storming back out. “But…truly, I must go with Caroline.”

“Why?” Juliet asked, quietly, desperately.

“I have made my decision, and will stand by my lot in life. Caroline’s unhappiness…it is something I must take responsibility for, as her husband.”

“You don’t need to take responsibility for that monster,” Juliet gasped out, and Guy squeezed her shoulder in warning. He sensed his brother had made up his mind, and hurling insults wasn’t going to stop him. Edward swallowed.

“I-I know how it must seem. But I spoke to Caroline, and this is our choice. We will get by as needed.”

Juliet looked at Guy in desperation, and he crossed to his brother, placing a firm hand on his shoulder. One last try.

“You understand that you don’t have to do this,” Guy said, not as a question, but as a confirmation. Edward nodded.

“Brother, I - you know I wouldn’t have moved forward with my marriage if I had known the degree of your entanglement,” Edward said quietly, and Guy mirrored his nod with one of his own.

“I know. Perhaps we will both have regrets we need to live with, as I should have chosen to confide in my brother. But at the time…I…well, I couldn’t imagine verbalizing it to anyone or anything,” Guy admitted. “You are welcome to write, and to come back here anytime, Edward. Though…” Their eyes both flicked to Caroline’s wild form, dropping what must have been some of the last of the bags. She glared at them both before leaving to retrieve her final personal effects.

“I understand,” Edward said, not forcing his brother to verbalize that while Edward was welcome, Caroline was not. “Thank you, Guy.”

“You’re welcome. I hope…” Guy’s words faded as Caroline returned, and stormed towards the front door. “Good luck, Edward.”

Caroline snorted as she threw open the entrance to Stormgrove, at the end of which a carriage was waiting.

“And good luck to you, puff-guts, but mostly to your wife - shackled for a lifetime to an ever-expanding husband.” Caroline waved her hands around the expansive double doors, wide enough for at least 5 men to pass through, shoulder-to-shoulder. “What luck we were able to visit while you can still fit through your own front door.”

Caroline,” Edward uttered in a soft groan, but his wife didn’t hear it, as she had already flounced out and down towards their carriage. “I apologize. And will write soon,” Edward said, giving his brother a hug and grasping Juliet’s hands in his own briefly. With a small smile, the best he could muster, the youngest Darby followed Caroline down the drive - and then they were gone.

Juliet took Guy’s hands in hers as soon as Edward released them.

“I am so sorry, Guy,” she said, her voice trembling with sincerity. Guy knew she was thinking about if she had been unable to rescue Nathan from the clutches of Esther.

“I am too,” Guy replied, watching the empty space where the carriage had been moments before. “But if Edward wishes to stand by his choices…all we can do is support him. And being a blower is hardly akin to harming him, otherwise I’d happily kidnap him and stash him in Highcastle with Nathan,” Guy continued, using a bit of slang that referred to a disrespectful girl as a stand-in term for Caroline. “And I know it makes me selfish, but…” he turned and looked down into his wife’s light, concerned green eyes. “I have to admit I’m more than a little relieved that I get to be the one here. With you.”

“God, me too, Guy,” Juliet breathed, leaning her head against his strong, soft chest. As his arms encircled her, she did the same, as far as her grip would go around his broad middle. “Though, on an unrelated note, perhaps we should be discussing my jewel allowance.”

“Oh, God,” Guy laughed, releasing his wife and brushing off her own arms that squeezed into his plump stomach. “You know you can buy whatever jewels you could ever want. We just might have to trade our cook for it.”

Juliet let out an exaggerated gasp.

“Never! I shall go as desolate as the day I was born. Until I find a prince to seduce, obviously.”

The pair laughed, relieved, heartbroken, and everything in between, as they shut the entry to Stormgrove against one of the most exhausting weeks of their lives.
 
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This chapter contains some (mild) feeding and sexual content!

Chapter 21

“Oh,” Guy said, blinking at the tower of sandwiches in front of them. “That’s right.”

Before their plan to catch Caroline in a compromising position that she could not deny, there had been arrangements made for an expansive high tea. Levi and Nathan were to attend, along with any companions they may have chosen to bring, so a meal was ordered for 8 people. They had canceled with Levi and Nathan after the success of their plan and departure of Edward and Caroline, with assurances of a rain check, but they had forgotten to cancel the food preparation.

“Goodness,” Juliet breathed. “Well, I supposed we’d better start. We’ll need to be done by suppertime, after all.”

Guy gave his wife a sidelong glance, who grinned at him as she took a seat not at the head of the table - but next to it, so she could be next to her husband.

“Oh, I missed this,” she sighed.

“I’ll ring to have some taken away,” Guy said, starting to move towards the door.

“Wait!” Juliet said. Guy paused and looked at her, curious. “Let’s…just see how we do, hmm?”

“How we do?” Guy said skeptically, looking over the huge spread in front of them. “I ought to change if we’re going to make a real attempt.” His day suit was on the brink of being uncomfortable snug - the buttons of his vest and waistline well fitted, but without any real room for even miniscule growth.

“No,” Juliet said, cocking her head and trying to hide a wicked smile. “Let’s see how those do, too.”

“What do you mean?” Guy asked, half-laughing as he took his seat. Juliet merely shrugged, watching her husband out of the corner of her eye with a particular sparkle in them. The dancing gaze of someone with nothing left to lose.

They each took a sandwich and a few side dishes onto their plates, and enjoyed a few bites - though Guy could still sense his wife’s eyes on him. Her energy that morning, and really since his brother and sister-in-law had departed, had been a particular kind of charged. He didn’t know how to read into it, but he decided to enjoy it nonetheless.

“Well this will never work,” Juliet said, pushing her plate out in front of her after finishing half her sandwich. Guy paused, mostly done with his first one, and watched her curiously. “We’re going entirely too slow to be finished in time for our next meal.”

“Juliet, of course I’m going to cancel-” Guy laughed, but was interrupted before he could conclude with our supper.

“So I think I ought to help.”

“Help?”

“You.”

“Oh…?”

“After all, we have the house to ourselves again…finally…” Juliet said, slowly standing out of her dining chair and moving closer to Guy’s, watching him carefully as though ensuring he didn’t bolt. “The servants won’t enter without our call, right?”

“No,” Guy said, his mouth suddenly very dry. “They won’t.”

“How interesting,” Juliet said, eyeing the limited space between Guy’s round gut and the table. She nudged at the legs of the chair, and taking her lead, Guy scooted them back. Once there was proper room for her, Juliet hitched up her floral blue day dress and swung her leg over Guy’s thick lap. Guy felt her settle on his soft thighs, pressing her heat into his fat middle, and suddenly he could no longer think.

“Wait,” he said faintly, subtle alarm ringing in the back of his head. “You know you don’t have to do this - this isn’t anything close to your, your job-”

“To hell with what’s my job,” Juliet replied, drawing a hand back through Guy’s rumbled dark hair. “I very much want to do this.”

“But why?” Guy breathed out, struggling to reconcile the way his body felt with the way his brain seemed to be signaling in traumatic panic. “Caroline was right, I am so fat now, and may well only be getting fatter, and - and shouldn’t we be working on that?”

“Working on getting you fatter?” Juliet replied with wide, innocent eyes, intentionally misunderstanding him. “I suppose if that’s what you want.”

“No! You deserve a husband who can fit out their front door. Or, or even every carriage door,” Guy insisted, flushing with the memory of the tight squeeze in and out of his father’s old carriage that he had done his best to bury.

“Guy,” Juliet said in a low reassurance, kissing and very lightly dragging her teeth across the soft skin of his neck. “I promise you that if you get even close to struggling with the front door, we will ‘work on it’. And to hell with tiny carriage doors, we’ll keep making our own. Or…helping with entering them as needed.” She winked at Guy, who blushed harder as she reached back to select a sandwich from the tower in the center of the table.

“I just think, Guy, we haven’t been having nearly enough fun. Don’t you think? Because your body is - God - it is so much fun. And I’m not certain I’ve done enough to convey that irrevocable truth. So I’d like to start here.”

A million rapid fire thoughts rose in Guy’s mind - why? Are you sure? Do you really want to? Me? Fun? How? Where? - but as Juliet scraped some whipped cheese off the side of the sandwich and put her creamy finger in his mouth, the thoughts instantly came to a halt.

“I will stop if you want me to, always,” Juliet murmured in his ear as she offered him a full bite of the sandwich that Guy hesitantly, happily, took. “But whatever the cruel voices of others are saying in your mind - I promise, they’re liars, and I want this very much.”

And with that, Guy gave in to the rolling waves of pleasure that had so far been held back by the dam of self-doubt.

“I should have changed,” he gasped after the fourth sandwich and seemingly infinite licks of sauces and sides off of Juliet’s fingers. The buttons on his vest were beginning to flash strained gaps, revealing the undershirt beneath.

“Oh, absolutely not,” Juliet said, offering him a lick off of her finger with one hand while she struggled to undo the top button of his vest with the other. “Now this, I can say for certain, is my job.”

Guy exhaled a low laugh of pleasure as the button finally popped open. Stirrings of insecurity still swirled in the back of his mind, but he knew how to read his wife, and the genuine pleasure she seemed to be deriving from the exchange absolutely overrode it. As each button slowly came undone, allowing him to breathe deeper, Guy gave a low gasp as the last one popped apart and his belly spread further into his lap - and into Juliet’s spread legs. He felt her squeeze, her knees at his sides all the way up to her center pressing into his soft flesh, and the heat made him feel so much desire he was surprised they didn’t both burst into simultaneous flame.

“Still hungry?” asked Juliet, her voice so breathless it was almost hard to hear.

“No,” Guy said hoarsely, but continued honestly, “but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still taste good.”

Grinning wickedly, Juliet swiped some frosting off of some nearby cupcakes, as well as some jam from adjacent tartlets, laying them delicately and deliberately in the cleavage afforded her by her dress. Unable to resist a groan, Guy didn’t have to be prompted before tucking in.

That day and into the night, Juliet and Guy did not have sex - not in the traditional sense. Instead of focusing on a specific physical outcome, they simply enjoyed. Food and mouths and limbs and more blurred together as they played, and the canceling of suppertime was quite forgotten about. Luckily, the servants of Stormgrove were smart enough to put two and two together, and decided not to knock or enter the dining room as very faint giggles and gasps trailed from it.

Over the coming weeks, the intimacy and joy it afforded continued, and escalated. When Juliet rolled over towards Guy at night, it wasn’t with an expectation or demand, but simply a hope and expression of pleasure. When Guy reciprocated, they didn’t leap right to him trying to insert himself. Only when her lips were beautifully, painfully swollen, the area between her legs so slick she feared it might never return to normal, did Guy first try one thick finger. Then later on, two. And when Juliet’s body learned that she could release and feel good as her husband entered her, only then did they come together fully - as the world expected.

But if they were both to be completely honest, most of the especially enjoyable bits were what surrounded that union of their bodies. Especially if it involved cake.

It turned out that Guy was right - they did have a lifetime.

And they did figure it out.


FIN
 
Joined
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Yassssss! Please tell me you having something else in the works???

I can't lie to you, part of the delay in getting the rest of this story out is that I totally do and my brain wouldn't be quiet about it long enough for me to focus in decent spurts. It might be a little bit coming but it's definitely close to fully planned!
 

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