by juou no zan (女王のザン)
Lord Clifton was perfectly polite and decorous during their wedding. He was a well-mannered gentleman at the banquet, attending to Karina’s drinks and serving her with impersonally impeccable manners. Karina was the one making mistakes and making the people around them laugh or smirk knowingly. They probably thought she was an eager young bride, fumbling around her handsome, well-connected older husband.
He was handsome. He was well-connected. And he had made Karina nervous for years with the way he looked at her. The way he looked at her once they were alone after their wedding was much the same as it had been when Karina first got old enough to be considered a young woman instead of a child: like she was a desirable morsel, instead of a person.
When Karina had been an adolescent, it frightened her. Lord William Clifton was several years her senior, and had a reputation for being ruthless. She’d been nervous around him even before he started looking at her in a manner that implied he was thinking about pushing her down onto a bed. After that started, she had gone to some lengths to (unobtrusively, politely) avoid being alone around him.
Yet now Karina couldn’t honestly claim the way he looked at her did not also excite her, just a bit. She was a healthy young woman who’d waited years for her wedding night, after all, even if Lord Clifton made her nervous.
When they left the wedding banquet, Lord Clifton’s grip on her was gentle only until they were out of sight of any other people. Once they were alone in the castle passageways on the way to their new shared chambers, he pulled Karina to him and all but crushed her against his chest while he kissed her. Lord Clifton kissed her roughly, hungrily, with one possessive hand on the back of her neck, mussing her elaborate trailing tresses, and the other hand clutching at one of her buttocks.
His own position at court was quite secure without marrying Karina, although she was certain Lord Clifton would not hesitate to play on the connections Karina’s father offered. Karina’s father seemed to think this was primarily political for Lord Clifton, but Karina knew better. He married her for this, for her body. Perhaps it was a little bit about possessing something beautiful and desirable, that no one else could have. Lord Clifton was a generous patron of several talented artists, on the condition that he always saw their works first and had his choice of which things to purchase and display.
Lord Clifton only kissed Karina in the hallway a few minutes, though it was long enough for his member to grow hard and begin to press against her, discernible even through the layers of clothing they both wore. Karina’s face was hot when Lord Clifton pulled away from kissing her.
His gaze dropped to her body, then raked back up it to her face. His eyes were still dark and heavy with desire. At least now, whatever he did would be considered legal and legitimate. This fact did not soothe Karina as much as it might have, but it did make her feel less ashamed of the part of her that enjoyed his attention. He smoothed her hair where he had disturbed it, and murmured, “Beautiful.”
Karina couldn’t keep herself from blushing harder and dropping her gaze. Lord Clifton gave her buttock a final squeeze, then resumed his prior pose, pulling Karina along by her wrist through the castle at a brisk pace.
She didn’t have time to look around her new rooms when they arrived. Lord Clifton threw the bolt across the door behind them, and quickly pushed Karina toward the bed on the other side of the room. She was flat on her back before she knew it, with him looming over her, pulling the laces on her gown loose. He kissed her hard while he yanked down her bodice and exposed her breasts. His hands on her chest were rough, groping her almost painfully. Karina tried not to squirm, but it was difficult to hold still.
Lord Clifton finally drew away from her mouth to press firm kisses to her jaw, her neck, the top of her chest. His beard tickled much more when he kissed anywhere other than her mouth. He brushed his teeth across one of her nipples before he latched onto it, and Karina couldn’t keep herself from making a desperate noise. Lord Clifton looked up at her and grinned, smugly. He reached down between her legs before Karina could react, and froze when his hand made contact.
He reared back and flung Karina’s skirt up over her hips. “What the hell is this?” he demanded.
Karina’s stomach turned and she felt as if the bed dropped away beneath her. “What do you mean, my lord?” she asked, although she was unpleasantly certain she knew what he meant. “Father said he spoke to you.”
Lord Clifton frowned up at her face. “He said you were unable to bear children. I assumed he meant you were barren.”
Karina blinked away the sudden prickling of tears in her eyes. He didn’t look disgusted, at least. Mostly Lord Clifton looked confused. Karina said, “I’m sorry, I would have said something sooner if I had realized–“
“Hush,” he said sharply, and Karina snapped her mouth shut. He looked her over once more. It was more thoughtful, but not entirely devoid of the possessive hunger he had looked upon her with since she was barely a woman. Karina didn’t think she’d ever felt so exposed before, her gown pulled aside to reveal both her breasts and her penis. She felt like she should have known better; even Lord Clifton’s obvious lust for her wasn’t enough to overlook the way she’d been born. Of course it wasn’t.
Except then he trailed a hand along her inner thigh, looking at Karina’s breasts, before he lifted his eyes to her face and said, not as a question at all, “You do consider yourself a woman.”
“Yes, my lord,” Karina said. She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping to keep the threatening tears from falling. She had thought she wouldn’t need to have this conversation. She had never wanted to have this conversation with anyone, let alone while half dressed in her new husband’s bed. If it had to be had at all, it should have been before now, before they were even married.
“And how were you planning on fulfilling your wifely duties?” Lord Clifton asked.
Karina’s face heated. “However you wanted, my lord,” she said. “That is, I thought…I thought you knew, and would have your own preferences.” She didn’t quite dare say she didn’t think she’d have much of a choice.
“Hmm,” Lord Clifton said. The bed shifted, and his weight left it. “Finish undressing yourself,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”
He was gone, the door thudding shut behind him, before Karina could bring herself to open her eyes. She was embarrassed and confused, while certain parts of her body were still expecting to consummate her marriage with a handsome, if somewhat frightening, man. Karina sat up to pull off her gown and wriggle out of her shift. She untied her garters and removed her shoes, then her stockings as well. She had just started to wonder where she should put her discarded clothing when the door opened. She yelped and spun around to put her back to it.
“It’s me,” Lord Clifton said. Karina heard him throw the bolt again, and relaxed a smidgen. He said, “Get back on the bed.”
Karina crawled onto the bed at once, and only hesitated a moment before rolling onto her back. That was how he’d left her, and how he’d wanted her before he noticed her penis.
Lord Clifton set a smallish bottle on the table beside the bed. Karina had left her clothing in a pile on the floor, which he swept aside with one foot before he began unfastening his jacket. He stripped out of his jacket and shirt, then untied his hose and pushed them down his hips. He sat down on the edge of the bed to pull off his boots and hose. Karina didn’t think he was completely erect anymore, but his prick was still somewhat hard, which she thought was promising.
When he was completely naked, Lord Clifton crawled on top of Karina again. He cupped one of her breasts in his hand and squeezed, then bent down to kiss Karina once more.
For some reason, he was gentler this time. He kissed her like he was trying to draw her out, to get her to kiss him back. Karina wished she knew what he was thinking. He wasn’t planning to annul the marriage, or he wouldn’t be moving forward with consummating it. Had her father offered him that many concessions to wed her? Or did he not mind after all, now that he wasn’t surprised? Karina had believed he might not, when her father claimed he was understanding about her circumstances. It didn’t seem out of the question that his lust for her could survive her peculiarities.
Again, Lord Clifton eventually pulled away from her lips to kiss her neck and upper chest, before returning his attention to her breasts. At some point, he clearly forgot he was attempting to be gentle, because he returned to sucking and squeezing her flesh quite hard. Karina couldn’t quite keep herself from squirming this time. She didn’t try very hard to hold back her moans, since Lord Clifton had seemed to appreciate them before. She could feel his cock heavy and hot against her thigh, and wished she knew if he minded that hers was also full and smearing wetly against his stomach.
He finally left her breasts and moved back up to kiss her lips again. As he moved up her body, his cock brushed against hers, and she groaned into his mouth. He ground down against her hips. Karina never thought just having her cock pinned between her body and that of her husband would feel so good.
Lord Clifton pulled away and reached over to the table, where he had set down the bottle he’d left to retrieve. He said, “I think this will be easier with you on your hands and knees.”
Karina realized what must be in the bottle and was glad she could roll over so he couldn’t see her blush yet again. She got up on her hands and knees, feeling almost as exposed as she had earlier. A few moments later, she felt one of Lord Clifton’s hands rest on her hip, and then something warm and slick brushed against her arsehole. She bit back a gasp.
Karina knew this was something people did. She had made some careful inquiries and muddled her way through enough untranslated books to have a grasp of the mechanics of sex between two–people without vaginas. She had assumed it would be something her future husband would want to do, in lieu of the more traditional intercourse she was incapable of. But she hadn’t quite believed it would feel good.
Perhaps it was because she was already aroused, but the slide of Lord Clifton’s fingers against the outside of her arsehole was nice. It wasn’t really as pleasant as having her cock trapped between their bodies, but it was hardly something Karina would have to tolerate, or grit her teeth against. He pressed a finger into her, and Karina shivered.
“I wasn’t expecting to be doing something for the first time on our wedding night,” Lord Clifton said, sliding his finger deeper into her. “But then,” he went on, “I hadn’t considered the possibility I had any virginity left to lose.”
Karina wasn’t sure what to say to that. She wasn’t sure if she should say anything while she had her new husband’s fingers inside her arse.
After a few strokes, he added another finger. It felt as if he was spreading her open. It was embarrassing and strange, but not wholly unpleasant. When he was up to his knuckles inside her again, he felt around a bit, as though he was exploring. Karina’s face burned, and her cock felt heavy where it hung down beneath her.
Lord Clifton withdrew his hand entirely. Karina’s stomach flipped over from nerves. She hoped he wasn’t already going to put his cock in her. She may have only gotten a brief look at it, but she’d felt it against her body enough to know her husband’s cock was somewhat larger than a mere two fingers. Then she heard the sound of a bottle being uncorked again and relaxed. She was not surprised to feel his fingers rub against the outside of her arse again, and almost anticipated the hot stretch of her body around them.
Three fingers did not fit inside her as nicely as two had, though certainly the way they forced her body to accommodate them was better preparation for something the size of a cock. Lord Clifton chuckled behind her, and Karina realized she had been rocking back onto his hand. She wanted to cover her face, but she couldn’t spare a hand to do so.
“Oh, don’t stop,” he murmured. “It’s nice to know you’re enjoying yourself, after all.”
Karina forgot to keep herself from snorting her amusement, and then froze.
“I said it was nice, not necessary,” Lord Clifton said, also sounding amused. “I always intended to make you enjoy it eventually.”
Karina wondered if he’d meant to say he intended to make sure she enjoyed it eventually, and then decided, him being who he was, he hadn’t. Although to be fair, if one assumed her cock getting hard and wet would have meant her cunt would have been equally interested in sex, she would certainly have enjoyed him fucking her even if he was being rather selfish.
Her face felt hot enough to fry an egg as Karina rocked back to meet Lord Clifton’s fingers. He said, “Good girl,” and Karina’s hips jerked. He chuckled, and Karina would have felt like crying if she hadn’t been so desperate to keep being fucked.
Finally, Lord Clifton withdrew his fingers. His other hand left her hip, and she heard him rustling around with something. She had to concentrate on staying up on her hands and knees, instead of dropping to her stomach to rub against the bedspread. He hadn’t touched her cock at all. She didn’t expect him to, really, but having it pressed against him had felt very nice, and that was generally how she handled this sort of thing herself.
He moved around on the bed behind her until she could feel the warmth of his body between her legs, right behind her arse. He set one hand back on her hip, and she felt something hot and rather thicker than his fingers slide between her cheeks. She expected him to line up and push in right away, but he hesitated.
After a moment, Lord Clifton said, “I’ve never done this, so you’ll have to tell me if it hurts.”
“Yes, my lord,” she said.
“I mean it,” he said, sounding cross. “I don’t know what I can and can’t do this way. If you had a cunt, I’d know what was actually likely to injure you and what was simply uncomfortable.”
Karina frowned to herself. “Oh,” she said. When he still didn’t move, she said, “I will tell you if it hurts, my lord.”
“Good,” Lord Clifton said. Then he finally started to push into her.
Karina’s entire body felt hot. It didn’t hurt, exactly, but it was intense. She could certainly see how it might hurt, if Lord Clifton had been less careful about opening her up. She also had no trouble understanding why people would do this willingly, despite the inconvenience and mess. Everything felt hot and stimulating and almost overwhelming. She was only dimly aware of her cock, with the rest of her body lighting up in response to the intrusion. She almost felt it more in her scalp than in her cock, which made no sense at all.
“Christ,” Lord Clifton murmured behind her. He put his other hand on Karina’s hip and slowly pulled her to him. Karina half wanted him to go faster, to start really fucking her, and half wanted him to go slower so this would last forever.
When his hips met her buttocks and his cock was completely inside her, Lord Clifton took his hands from Karina’s hips and bent down so he was also on his hands and knees, his chest pressed to her back. It shifted the way his cock rested inside her, and Karina moaned and wriggled. He brought one of his hands up to play with her breasts again, while he nosed aside her long hair to kiss the back of her neck. Karina felt full, even bloated, but also restless and unsatisfied. She hadn’t expected much consideration from Lord Clifton on their wedding night, and found she was almost annoyed at receiving it. Yes, it was probably good he was moving slowly and carefully, because unlike another woman, her body was not made to easily accommodate his cock, but it was frustrating and embarrassing. It simultaneously reminded Karina of the ways in which she was unlike other women, and of the way he had immediately treated her differently after he found out about it.
Lord Clifton finally began to rock out of her, and that was somehow both better and worse. It was more uncomfortable, stopping just short of being painful, but also somehow more enjoyable despite the discomfort. As he drew his cock out of her, it brushed against something that made Karina’s vision go white. She cried out and twitched beneath him, and his cock again pushed against what felt like the inside of Karina’s cock.
Karina’s perception of events was somewhat hazy from there. She knew Lord Clifton pushed her face and chest down onto the bed at some point, leaving only her lower half propped up on her knees. It would have been humiliating, but somehow that angle put that exquisitely sensitive spot inside her body in a position for Lord Clifton to brush it every time he moved in and out of her, and Karina couldn’t bring herself to find anything that felt that good humiliating.
After Karina let out a particularly loud moan, Lord Clifton said, “You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?”
“Yes, my lord,” Karina said.
“Good,” he said. “Now that you belong to me, I intend to have you as often as possible.”
Karina shivered, which made her clench down on the cock moving in and out of her, which caused another ripple of pleasure to move through her body. “Yes, my lord.” It was a good thing he wasn’t trying to do anything but have sex with her, because she’d probably agree to anything he said just now. Not that she had much left that wasn’t his already.
Granted that Karina had no practical experience with sex, and most of the helpful advice aunties and nurses had tried to give her since her engagement to Lord Clifton was announced was not applicable to her, but Karina was rather expecting her new husband’s being a decade older than her to mean he would take a little while to finish. He was certainly not a virgin, and he was only a young man in comparison to the members of the court who were of similar rank to him, but it only took a few minutes of dedicated thrusting before he was driving into her with the frenetic urgency of a man about to come.
Karina whined when he finished, because she wasn’t quite there herself. Lord Clifton settled on her back, pressing her down into the bed, and sluggishly slipped one hand beneath her hips. She jolted when he touched her cock. She couldn’t keep herself from jerking her hips forward, against his hand, although she knew that was a bad idea without discussing what he was and wasn’t okay with.
“You’re so wet,” he murmured, sounding surprised.
“Please, my lord,” Karina begged.
He hummed, then proceeded to stroke her off in a ruthlessly efficient manner. Karina spent quickly and powerfully, clenching around his softening member, which was still inside her arse.
Lord Clifton rolled off her back and dropped to the mattress beside her. Karina collapsed onto her face, then had to squirm out of the sizable wet spot on the bed linens beneath her. Lord Clifton chuckled, and pulled her against his side. She went, although she was surprised he apparently wanted to cuddle.
Her surprise lessened when her new husband reached down to cup one of her breasts again. “So how is it,” Lord Clifton asked after a moment, “you came to have such tempting tits when I presume the cock came first?”
Karina’s face warmed. Under the guise of getting closer to him, she turned so she was facing away from him. He took advantage of her adjustment to roll onto his side to press against her back and slide his other hand onto her other breast. Karina said, “I used to get an elixir from an apothecary to provide the feminine humors my body doesn’t make on its own.”
“Used to?” he asked.
“He moved to France,” Karina said. “None of the other apothecaries Father spoke to knew how to make it.”
“Hm,” Lord Clifton said. He squeezed her breasts almost absently, as though it was merely something to do with his hands while he thought. Karina was certain her flush deepened. “Is that something you would like to have again?”
“Yes,” Karina said at once.
“I’ll see what I can do,” he said, and pressed a kiss to the back of her neck.
Karina wanted to ask why he would do something like that for her, but she supposed that was looking a gift horse in the mouth. Besides, why shouldn’t he want a more feminine wife? Even if he’d taken her peculiarities in stride, it surely wasn’t as if he wouldn’t support an attempt to make herself more to his liking. The fact that it was more to her liking as well was probably a secondary consideration for him.
One of his hands skimmed down her ribs and stomach to the short, wiry hair between her legs. He petted the hair there, not even touching her penis, yet Karina felt it take an interest. Between one of his hands continuing to caress her breast and the other resting quite near in proximity to her cock, she was already feeling as if she would be ready for another round as soon as he was. Lord Clifton said, “I have known a few men in a similar state as you, though of course in the other direction, and some of them expressed a desire to be rid of the body parts they thought extraneous. I don’t know if anyone since the Amazons have attempted breast removal, but it occurs to me that gelding is practiced on humans as well as animals.”
“So it is, my lord,” Karina said, when he paused long enough that it wanted a reply.
“Is that something you would want?” he asked. “It might be strange, to fuck a woman with nothing at all between her legs, but then, so is fucking a woman with a cock.”
“If you would prefer it, my lord.”
Lord Clifton made an irritated noise. “You may be my wife,” he said, “but it is still your body. You need not do anything on my account.” He squeezed her breast. “If you were going to, my request would be bigger tits, but you seemed amenable to that on your own.”
“God, yes,” Karina blurted, then flushed. After a moment, she added, “They were…more sensitive. When I had the elixir.”
“More sensitive?” he asked, tugging on Karina’s nipple and making her moan. “I should enjoy that as well, I think.”
“Yes, my lord,” Karina said. She had wondered, before the apothecary moved away, if she would be able to climax only from having her breasts touched, and if that might help mollify a husband who didn’t want much to do with her cock. Then she’d run out of the elixir, and though she retained most of her breasts’ size, they had grown less sensitive. She fancied they were less full than they had once been, as well, though her nurse had assured her they looked the same in her gowns.
Karina had thought of castration before, as something that might make her elixir more effective. Eunuchs were said to run to fat after all, and a little more fat on her chest and thighs would be welcome enough. They were also said to have soft skin, and not grow much facial hair. She was a little disappointed she had not thought of it before her voice dropped and her body hair came in, for the male sopranos they had on the continent were said to be quite beardless in addition to retaining their childhood voices. Karina’s voice wasn’t especially deep, and her hair wasn’t terribly dark, but very little made her feel less like a woman than needing to shave her throat every few days.
She still wasn’t entirely certain why Lord Clifton was asking, apart from curiosity she supposed, but it would hurt nothing to tell him the truth at this point. She said, “The testicles are the source of male humors in the body, and I would enjoy having fewer of those. I suspect it would make the elixir work better, as well.”
“Yes, with fewer male humors to overcome, the female humors provided by the elixir should be more effective,” Lord Clifton said. “Gelded animals certainly have lower male humors.” His hand on her pubic bone slipped lower, to just brush his fingers against the root of her mostly-soft member. “And this?” he asked. “You seemed to enjoy my hand on you well enough.”
“Yes,” she said, because even at the memory, it was starting to plump again. It would have been more embarrassing had Lord Clifton’s interest not been growing steadily more apparent against her backside. “I have little quarrel with my cock, and I hear complete castration sometimes leads to incontinence.”
“I mind it less than I would have thought,” Lord Clifton said. “It helps that it’s yours,” he added, pressing another kiss to the back of her neck.
Karina had always assumed Lord Clifton’s interest in her was purely physical. It seemed as though that might be untrue, at least partially. She was baffled, though not displeased. She had simply always thought his interest stemmed from her looks. It wasn’t as though she had much else to recommend her at the time he started looking upon her so hungrily.
Lord Clifton murmured, “Roll over so I can kiss you properly.” Karina did so at once. He pressed against the front of her body as tightly as he had the back of it, and cupped her face in his hands. She could say many things about Lord Clifton, some less positive than others, but Karina could certainly not say she had any doubts her new husband desired her.
Karina’s life was not appreciably different at court after her marriage, apart from staying in Lord Clifton’s rooms and sitting with him at meals. While at court, he didn’t have a household for her to manage. Karina’s main responsibility as Lady Clifton was to go to bed with Lord Clifton whenever he wished, which was fine. She’d been apprehensive about it before the wedding, but she found she enjoyed his attentions even more than she expected to.
Lord Clifton was a busy man, with actual responsibilities at court beyond “entertaining the prince”, so Karina spent very little time alone with him outside of their bedroom. It was not what she had pictured for her marriage when she was younger, but it was at least functional.
A week after the wedding, Karina took a midday meal with her father. Afterward, they walked around the castle garden together. It was the first time they’d been able to speak in relative privacy since before Karina’s wedding. Karina asked about the household, the servants, and how her father was getting on without her. He had not been at court without his wife or children since he was a young man, and he had much to say about how odd it was.
When Karina’s father finished updating her on all that had happened since she married, he asked her, “And how are you? How is your husband? You are not dissatisfied, I hope.”
“No,” Karina said. “He is still a somewhat vexing man, but he treats me well.”
“Good,” her father said. He patted Karina’s hand where it rested on his elbow. “Your brother was concerned I let a man so much your senior marry you.”
“He’s not that much older than Peter,” Karina said, which was what she’d written back to her brother when she got his letter. Peter also offered to duel Lord Clifton if he treated her badly, which was a foolish, if kind, offer. Lord Clifton had fought real battles, while Karina’s brother Peter had not. She continued, “It hasn’t been a problem.”
“Good,” her father repeated. They took a few steps in silence. Then Karina’s father said, “Forgive me, my dear, but someone ought to ask, and since your mother, God rest her soul, isn’t here to do so, it falls to me: Has he been fulfilling his duties in your marriage bed?”
Karina blushed. “Yes, father,” she said. “Although speaking of which, what ever did you say to him before the wedding? I thought you told him what to expect, but he was quite surprised when we–you know. The first time.”
“Are you sure?” her father asked, frowning. “I thought I was rather clear.”
“Very sure,” Karina said flatly, recalling the cold fear that had gripped her. “He thought you meant I was barren.”
“Oh,” her father said. His frown deepened, and he looked back at Karina with concern. “I suppose that could have–damn. I’m sorry, I thought he took my meaning. But it did turn out fine, did it not?”
“It did,” Karina allowed. “It seems he’s known some others like me, which I suspect helped.”
“Is that so,” her father said. He patted her hand again, and smiled. “Well, I’m glad it wasn’t a problem, and that he treats you well. As much as I miss having my daughter around.”
Karina squeezed her father’s arm. “I miss you, as well.”
A month after their wedding, Karina returned to their chambers alone after supper, since Lord Clifton had some business to attend to before he could retire. She set a glass flask of water in front of a candle to light her lap, and picked up some mending. Her husband was not as hard on his clothes as Karina’s father was, but his garments tended to be finer, so she took a little longer over mending them to make sure they looked nice. He had not asked her to do it, but he had seen her at it more than once without telling her not to do it, which Karina took as permission.
When Lord Clifton finally returned to their chambers, he handed Karina a small green glass bottle.
“What is this?” Karina asked, turning it around to see if it had a label of some sort.
“Your elixir,” Lord Clifton said, undoing the fastenings of his jacket. “The apothecary suggested one spoonful every day for a fortnight, to see how effective it is, before you start taking more.”
“Oh,” Karina said. “Thank you, my lord.”
“It smells like piss, so I’d request you wash it down with something before you kiss me,” he said. He leaned over to kiss her, brushing his lips against hers. Surprising herself, Karina reached up and caught the collar of his open jacket to keep him from pulling away. She stretched up to kiss him again, opening her mouth to entice him into deepening the kiss.
It worked, and he rested his weight on the arm of her chair to settle in and kiss her more thoroughly. Karina dumped her mending in her sewing basket and kicked it aside. She felt him smile against her mouth before he pulled her up out of the chair and wrapped his arm around her waist. He didn’t quite scoop her up and carry her to the bed, but Karina’s feet didn’t make much meaningful contact with the floor before she was on her back beneath him.
Karina had always anticipated the physical part of her marriage being the hardest part. She’d been lucky her father had been supportive and even found an apothecary to make her elixir. Finding a man who didn’t mind the way she’d been born might have been easier if, like a commoner, she could marry for love, but her family’s status made that unlikely. Karina expected to have a purely political marriage, or to have to allow her husband to have a mistress. She expected she would be lucky if her husband actually had sex with her, let alone desired her.
But by far the part of being Lady Clifton that Karina was most comfortable with thus far was this part, in Lord Clifton’s bed. It was easy as well as enjoyable. Apart from that initial stumble when he hadn’t known what to expect and Karina had feared he would change his mind, they’d had no trouble at all. Lord Clifton wasn’t shy about telling Karina what he wanted from her, and while Karina would hardly say he liked her cock as much as he liked her breasts, he clearly didn’t mind it. He often stroked her off while he fucked her, and more than once he’d rutted against her, taking both their cocks in hand at once.
This evening was no different in that respect; Karina eagerly responded to her husband’s kisses and touches. She cupped the bulge in his hose, rubbing it with her hand, even as he loosened the laces on her gown enough to get his hands on her breasts. Unfortunately, it wasn’t trivial for him to fuck her properly, but he was often satisfied rubbing off against her, or between her thighs, or even between her breasts, despite the fact they weren’t really large enough to envelop him. Karina wasn’t especially surprised Lord Clifton did not reach for the bottle of oil that now lived on her nightstand, instead hiking her skirts up and slipping his cock between her thighs. Karina knew now how tightly to press her legs together to make it good for him, and he groaned into her mouth.
After he spent–on her shift, thankfully, not the gown itself–he shifted his weight to one side of Karina and wrapped his hand around her cock. He pulled away from kissing her to better hear the noises she made, which never failed to make Karina both embarrassed and sensitive. “Mm,” she said, trying to keep herself quiet, although she knew he liked to hear her. He bent down to nip at her earlobe as he continued to stroke her, and Karina cried out. “Ah! My lord!”
“Wife,” he murmured into her ear, squishing her foreskin over her slit.
Karina shuddered and gasped. “Husband,” she gambled, and was rewarded with a loud groan in her ear. “Husband,” she repeated, rocking up into his grip. “Husband, please, please, husband!”
Unfortunately after the caution Lord Clifton displayed, spending on her shift instead of her gown, Karina’s come shot out with more force than usual and got all over her gown. Lord Clifton chuckled and divested her of it, then kept going and pulled her shift off as well. When she was naked in their bed, Lord Clifton looked over her body. “Beautiful,” he murmured, and Karina blushed. “Not that I’m not interested to see what your elixir does,” Lord Clifton said. “But you’re already so enticing it hardly seems fair.”
Karina averted her eyes and murmured, “Thank you, husband.”
Lord Clifton groaned, and bent down to kiss her. He swiped his tongue across her lips, and Karina wondered if he would want to have her again already. He pulled back and said, “Would that I had fewer duties, and could spend more time in our bed.”
Karina didn’t want to say that she agreed, for that would make her sound so wanton, but she did. She especially wished he had more time and energy to fuck her properly, which she so enjoyed. Perhaps if he didn’t have meetings even after supper, he would be more inclined to take the time to open her up and use her that way.
He got out of bed to undress himself, and brought the pitcher over from the washbasin to pour her a drink. He really was much more solicitous when they were alone than Karina had expected.
Karina gulped down her water, parched, as ever, from the panting and moaning she inevitably did when her husband so much as touched her. Lord Clifton returned the pitcher to its place by the basin, before climbing into bed next to Karina. He placed a hand on her hip, then stroked down her leg, his fingertips brushing the sensitive skin of her inner thigh. She shivered.
“God’s blood,” Lord Clifton swore, and pulled Karina down next to him. He kissed her again, then said, “I never thought I would wish to spend less time at court.”
If they were at Lord Clifton’s family seat in the country, he would have far less to do each day. After all, his steward handled it all in his absence. They could spend all day in bed, if they wished.
Lord Clifton smiled, and kissed her again.
Karina wished he would have her again, which she was certain was also wanton of her. Instead of saying that, she asked, “Is there something I could do, to make it easier for you? That is, if time is why you so rarely take me like a proper wife, I could…prepare myself. Ahead of time.”
“You need not trouble yourself,” Lord Clifton said. “I am perfectly satisfied.” He furrowed his brow for a moment, thoughtfully, then smiled again. “Unless that was a request,” he went on, “in which case, I would be delighted to indulge my lady wife.” Karina buried her burning face in his shoulder. Lord Clifton chuckled, and brought up a hand to stroke her hair. “I didn’t realize you enjoyed it quite that much,” he said.
“I always enjoy our time in bed,” Karina admitted, forehead pressed against her husband’s shoulder. “But I do like having you inside me, and I shouldn’t complain if we did so more often.”
“I wonder if you’d be able to admit it aloud if I said I wouldn’t until you did,” Lord Clifton said. Karina frowned into his chest. “Lucky for you,” he went on, “I no longer have that kind of self-control. I certainly wouldn’t complain if you did prepare yourself ahead of time. If nothing else, I would know what you were expecting.” Lord Clifton combed his fingers through her hair, which had started to come loose. “Here I thought I was making things easier on you,” he said.
“You what?” Karina asked.
“It is somewhat hard on the recipient,” he said, letting his hand drift from Karina’s hair to her back. “As much as you seemed to enjoy it, I thought the aftermath might make it less pleasant.”
He couldn’t have been avoiding something he enjoyed for her sake. How did that align with the man who had been so indifferent to Karina’s comfort when they were freshly wedded? His hand on her back slid lower, to squeeze her buttock. Hiding her face once more, Karina said, “What discomfort there has been afterward mostly served to remind me of…how I came by those particular aches.”
“I see,” Lord Clifton murmured. He squeezed again, harder.
“It’s also my understanding that it grows easier with repetition,” Karina said, although maintaining the thread of conversation was growing more difficult as her body responded to her husband’s touch. “Like most physical activity.”
“Truly, it would only be to your benefit if I fucked your arse more often,” Lord Clifton said.
Karina couldn’t have brought herself to say such a thing, but it was far easier to say, “As you say, husband,” and turn her face up for a kiss.
After kissing her and groping Karina’s arse until she was again fully erect, Lord Clifton pulled away. “Fetch the oil,” he told her. Karina scrambled to comply.
One annoyance of being at court was how many people were always around. At Karina’s father’s estate, few people were there apart from her family, and the servants and retainers she knew so well they may as well have been family. Lord Clifton had no close family to speak of, although Karina knew his steward was a distant cousin, so apart from guests she or her husband invited, she would also have the run of the place at his country home.
At court, however, Karina couldn’t get away from the many, many people the prince needed or wanted around. At least the people the prince needed around were busy doing their duties; courtiers vying for the prince’s favor were at as much liberty as Karina herself was, which meant her attempt to spend a quiet afternoon in the library examining the Italian tapestry that had just arrived was spoiled by the arrival of several young noblemen. They were second and third sons, or else their families were in such precarious positions that seeking royal favor was a worthwhile use of time for their heirs.
“Oh please,” Lord Hasgood was saying as they walked into the library. “Clifton is an up-jumped, merchant-minded boor who feels himself at liberty to be rude because he does too much valuable work to face any consequences for his discourtesy.”
“What a terrifically rude thing to say when his wife is in the room,” Karina said, turning around.
The young men around Lord Hasgood looked either alarmed or abashed, but Lord Hasgood himself scoffed. “It’s not as though it isn’t true,” he said. “And why should you care? Your marriage was obviously a political match.”
“A grown man should know better than to speculate about the status of someone else’s marriage,” Karina said. “I suppose that makes you a fool as well as a boor.” Lord Hasgood frowned. “In any case, I shall thank you to keep your opinions of my husband to yourself when I am around to hear them. I certainly have no need of your uninformed prattling.”
Karina swept past them and out of the room. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t known about the lack of esteem certain groups had for Lord Clifton, but for Lord Hasgood to defend his remarks as true and something Karina needn’t concern herself with was absolutely appalling. Yes, it had been an arranged match, but Karina took her vows seriously. Even if Lord Clifton wasn’t a much kinder and more affectionate husband than Karina had expected him to be, it would still have been her duty to defend him when people were audacious enough to badmouth him where she could hear. It was particularly irritating to hear the self-important complaints of others about her husband’s lack of tact when she knew first-hand how considerate he could be.
What did Lord Hasgood think kept the court running, anyway? The prince’s self-indulgent whims certainly didn’t. Without Lord Clifton collecting taxes and hearing petitions from lower courts, the prince would hardly have the money to throw his feasts, or the peaceful realm to benignly neglect without fear of discontent. Karina’s husband did a great deal of smoothing things over with men in offices who would otherwise bother the prince directly, who would then certainly make things uncomfortable for the courtiers.
After an interaction like that, Karina once would have sought out her nurse or her friends, in order to complain to a friendly ear, but it wouldn’t be especially appropriate to complain to a woman in her father’s household, and none of Karina’s old friends were presently at court. Most of them had been married before Karina had, and were at their country houses. Well, she could certainly complain to Lord Clifton about it, she thought, and began to look for him. She searched a few places she thought it likely her husband would be at this time of day. He wasn’t in the hall with the prince, and he wasn’t out in the yard with the guards patrolling the castle.
Lord Kirby’s oldest son, a helpful boy that was going to be eaten alive by the court if he didn’t learn who his father’s friends were, spotted Karina looking around the yard and told her Lord Clifton had gone to the Green Parlor to speak with one of the ladies there.
The ladies who frequented the Green Parlor were enough older than Karina that she felt awkward spending time with them. She had spent an uncomfortable afternoon in the Green Parlor a few days before her wedding, being advised by very well-meaning ladies who didn’t want her to lack feminine advice. Still, she would feel more comfortable there with Lord Clifton at her side.
How much things could change!
Karina set out for the Green Parlor. Lord Hasgood’s comments certainly put the way he didn’t bring his wife to court in a different light, she reflected. Karina wondered if the poor woman really didn’t wish to come to court, or if that was simply Lord Hasgood making an excuse to keep his own unsuitability as a husband secret. At least that would be better than him openly failing to be a dutiful husband.
Karina turned a corner and spotted Lord Clifton ahead of her. She opened her mouth to call out to him, then registered who was on his arm. It was Madame Thornsen, whose position at court came from being the mistress of one of the prince’s most trusted advisors. The advisor was on the continent, gathering reports from church officials in France, but Madame Thornsen had ingratiated herself into court life to sufficient degree that the prince had extended an indefinite invitation to her. She made no secret of her former line of work as a prostitute.
Karina told herself there were many reasons for Lord Clifton to speak with Madame Thornsen, and it was ridiculous for her to doubt her husband at all, when they went into a door at the end of the passageway. And Karina realized this was the passageway off which Madame Thornsen lived. They had just gone into her rooms together. Alone.
Karina turned around and headed back to her own chambers. Well, her husband’s chambers, though there was no helping that. She almost wanted to go to her father, but he wouldn’t be in his rooms at this hour anyway, and she was supposed to be a woman grown. God, she’d told her father Lord Clifton was good to her, too. How foolish she would seem if she went crying to him now.
Karina blinked away the prickling of her eyes. She took the stairs up to their rooms. She was glad she had no plans that required her to remain in public the rest of the day. She wished she could get supper sent to her, but that was such an imposition if she wasn’t ill, with how far away their chambers were from the kitchen and serving hall.
In their rooms, Karina grabbed her embroidery hoop and sewing basket. She took it over to the seat beneath the window that got such good light in the afternoon, and settled in. The repetitive pattern of her project was soothing, and she could almost entirely fill her head with thread-counting.
Perhaps an hour later, the door opened. Karina didn’t glance up; she knew from the sound of his steps it was Lord Clifton. “There you are,” he said, and crossed the room to her. She buried her needle in her work and looked up then, as he bent down to kiss her. Karina didn’t quite dare to pull away, though she thought about it, and only sat stiffly as he pressed his lips to hers. Her stomach churned. How could he go into Abigail Thornsen’s rooms, then come back to their chambers and kiss Karina as though nothing had happened?
When he pulled back, he looked…not exactly annoyed. Karina would have thought it concern, but for what she saw earlier. “What’s the matter?” he asked, brushing aside a lock of her hair that had escaped its plait.
“Nothing, my lord,” Karina said. It should have been nothing. The day after their wedding, it would have been nothing. She shouldn’t have expected anything else, after all, even if he was somewhat indulgent. He’d expected certain things from his bride, and he hadn’t gotten them. It wasn’t Karina’s fault she’d been born without a cunt, although she supposed it also wasn’t truly Lord Clifton’s fault he still desired one.
“You’re not still bothered by what that fool said in the library, are you?” Lord Clifton asked.
Karina had forgotten entirely about Lord Hasgood and the library. She blinked dumbly at Lord Clifton for a second before recalling it. “Oh,” she said, and felt horribly like laughing. It hardly mattered, did it, if people thought Lord Clifton married Karina for her father’s political connections or for her pretty face, or for any reason at all. She wasn’t what he wanted.
Lord Clifton frowned, looking yet more concerned. Karina felt a mad urge to hit him over the head with her embroidery hoop. “That isn’t it,” he said. He quirked his lips in a wry half-smile. “And I was so pleased to hear about your quick wit in response.”
“I am glad I am capable of meeting some of your expectations, my lord,” Karina said. She lowered her gaze once more to her embroidery.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Lord Clifton asked.
“Only what I said, my lord,” Karina said. She found where she had buried her needle, and pulled it out of the fabric. “I should hate to be a disappointment in all respects.”
Lord Clifton knelt in front of her, making it much more difficult to continue avoiding his eye. Karina kept her gaze fixed firmly on the motif she was stitching. He asked, “Why the hell would you be a disappointment in any respect?”
Karina tried to keep a placid expression on her face, but she wasn’t sure she succeeded. “Please do not make us both into fools, my lord. As understandable as it may be, I’m afraid I have not yet made my peace with your taking up with Madame Thornsen.”
“‘Taking up’…?” Lord Clifton laughed. That was so unexpected Karina jerked her head up to look at him without intending to. “Gossip travels so quickly at court,” he said, bemused. “I thought you knew better than to heed it.”
Karina’s temper flared. She stowed her needle in her fabric once more so she wouldn’t stab herself with the shaking of her hands. “I saw you,” she said. “It isn’t gossip, I saw it with my own eyes, and I didn’t think you’d be so false as to deny it!”
“I know not what you could have seen to upset you so,” Lord Clifton said. “I can not, therefore, deny anything, nor confess. I did speak with Madame Thornsen in private, but that isn’t evidence of anything untoward.”
Karina frowned. His reaction did not seem to be either that of a guilty man, or one who cared nothing for her feelings. “You went into her rooms,” she said.
“Yes,” Lord Clifton said, calmly, as though it wasn’t a damning admission at all. “I didn’t particularly wish for anyone to overhear our discussion, nor did Madame Thornsen, seeing as it had to do with her former profession. Don’t look like that!” he said sharply. “Are you so convinced our vows meant nothing to me?”
“I,” Karina said, and paused. A moment ago, she had been. “I don’t know,” she said.
Lord Clifton frowned, although he no longer looked so angry. “I suppose that’s an improvement,” he said. He laid his hands upon one of Karina’s knees. “I have never claimed to be a good man,” he said. “But I try to be an honorable one. I would not have congress with any other woman without first discussing the possibility with you. I would not even think of it unless we were to be separated for a significant period of time.”
Karina doubted any man ever gave such a practical explanation of faithful intent before. The way he provided for the circumstance in which he would break his vow paradoxically made her trust it more; it was such an unromantic oath. She put one of her hands over his. She meant to apologize for doubting him, but what came out instead was a small voice asking, “Truly?”
Lord Clifton smiled, taking Karina’s hand in both of his. “Ah, Lady Clifton, sometimes I forget how young you are.” She frowned again at that. He bent down to kiss her knuckles. “Have you ever known me to use false words to reassure anyone?”
Karina laughed at that, weakly, because she certainly had not. Couldn’t imagine it. Her husband was better known for hard truths than reassuring lies. “No, my lord,” she admitted.
“I would not start with you,” he said, and kissed her hand again.
“I am sorry for doubting you,” Karina said. “But if you weren’t with Madame Thornsen to–what were you speaking of?”
He smiled again, without any of the kindness of his last smile. It was a smile much like the ones that had led Karina to avoid being alone with him, before they were married. Now, of course, rather than alarming her, it made her sexual organs take a greater interest in the conversation. Lord Clifton said, “I thought it likely Madame Thornsen would know where I might find something to keep you open and ready for me. As luck would have it…” He pulled his hands away from Karina’s to pull open his purse. From within it, he pulled a smaller drawstring bag, made of silk. “She had a spare such device. Thoroughly boiled since its last use, she assured me, though I might feel better setting it in a fire for a bit, to be sure.” He opened the bag and pulled out what looked like a silver stopper for a rather large bottle.
“Oh, God,” Karina said, and buried her face in her hands. She thought he was fucking another woman, and all the while he was trying to find a way to more easily fulfill the sexual desires Karina had expressed to him. He’d consulted the court’s resident former whore on how to more easily fuck Karina the way she wanted, and she all but accused him of committing adultery.
Lord Clifton chuckled. He put the stopper back in its bag, returned the bag to his purse, and got to his feet. “You truly are a joy,” he said. “I didn’t realize you cared so much for me, Lady Clifton.”
Face hot, Karina said, “You’re my husband. It’s only right I should take issue with Lord Hasgood’s remarks, or the idea of you with another woman.”
“Mm,” Lord Clifton said. From the smug look on his face, he clearly knew that was an excuse. Still, how could Karina possibly admit she’d been so easily led by her own insecurities, and it had little to do with him? He had been understanding and accommodating, so much more so than she would have expected, and she had repaid that consideration with doubts.
Lord Clifton moved to the wardrobe and removed his jacket, hanging it over the door. Karina returned to her embroidery, feeling embarrassed and unsettled. As Lord Clifton began to wash his face and hands in the ewer atop the dresser, he asked, “Why do you think I wanted to marry you?”
Karina was less sure of the answer to that than ever. She said, “That feels like a question with a wrong answer, my lord.”
He chuckled again. “That would be unfair,” he said. “I asked what you thought about it, not for the objective truth.” He glanced over when Karina didn’t respond. “I will endeavor not to be upset, no matter what you say.”
Karina flushed once more. It felt as though their weeks of marriage had taught Lord Clifton all about how Karina thought, while she still felt out of her depths with him. She said, “I suppose because you like having pretty things.”
Lord Clifton laughed. “Not what I expected, but fair enough,” he said. “I would be lying if I claimed that was not a factor. But one of the things I’ve always liked best about you is how spirited you are. Even when you were obviously concerned about what I might do if we were to be alone together, you didn’t seem scared.”
“What?” Karina asked, startled. She wasn’t surprised to learn he was aware of the way she had avoided being alone with him, but she always assumed it was clear she was frightened. She was a little surprised, however, that he had something he liked best about her that wasn’t her looks. Less surprised than she would have been before they got married, she supposed; he showed her enough favor it was impossible to think he didn’t care for her at all.
He dried his face and hands with the hand towel next to the ewer, then laid it back out flat to dry. He went on, “I always thought if I did manage to frighten you, I would lose interest, but instead I found I couldn’t stand the idea I had made even you afraid.” He looked over at her, his dark eyes penetrating. “I don’t believe I have ever wanted any other good opinion as much as yours. Needed or found convenient, yes, but not desired for its own sake.”
Karina stared at him. She didn’t know what to say. She was unprepared for that depth of feeling for her. She swallowed, and said, “It wasn’t really you I was afraid of. On our wedding night, or today.”
“I know,” Lord Clifton said, still looking at her. “I don’t know how to convince you not to be. I typically find it helpful when people are afraid of me.”
Karina laughed. She set aside her embroidery. “Hearing it said helps,” she admitted, getting to her feet.
“Good,” Lord Clifton said. He walked back over to her and put his hands on her waist. “Does demonstrating how much I want you also help?” he murmured. Karina nodded. He leaned in to kiss her. When he pulled away several minutes later, he said, “I can’t say I’m pleased your father failed to communicate the situation before the wedding, but I have no complaints with you or your body.”
“You don’t miss it?” Karina asked. She knew that was vague, but even as dizzy with relief and arousal as she was, she couldn’t bring herself to say it outright.
Lord Clifton stroked her cheek. “My beautiful wife,” he said. “I spent years thinking of you while I fucked other women. It is better by far to have the real thing.”
Karina blushed again. She knew he’d been with other women before, but they’d never spoken of it. The idea he would take another woman to bed but picture Karina the entire time was flattering as well as arousing. “Husband,” she said, leaning into his embrace, which pressed both her breasts and her prick against him. “Fuck me?”
He groaned, kissed her, and walked her blindly to their bed. They both stumbled a bit as they went, but caught each other and didn’t fall.
Karina began to hike up her skirt as soon as she was on the bed, but Lord Clifton caught her hands, then went to the laces of her gown. Something about being undressed felt even more intimate than him simply hiking up her skirts. He pulled her dress open, then also loosened the laces of her shift. He slipped his hands under the clothing to cup her breasts, before pushing her clothes off her shoulders. Karina wriggled out of her dress and shift as best she could, and while she did so, her husband took off his shirt.
Karina wondered if it was inevitable women of her station developed a taste for the way their husbands looked. She didn’t remember having much of an opinion about what a naked man should look like before her wedding. Now, Lord Clifton removed his shirt and Karina drank it in, her body automatically responding. Of course, she did often have sex right after or right before he did so, which might account for the association.
When Karina was naked and Lord Clifton clad only in hose, he pressed her down into the mattress and kissed her. Karina wanted very much to keep kissing him, but she also wanted his cock inside her, and that had thus far been somewhat awkward to manage.
He pulled away from her mouth, nibbled his way down her neck, and settled in at her breasts. She had not yet been taking the elixir again for long enough to notice any effects, but she could imagine the way this would feel when they were once again more sensitive.
Lord Clifton kissed the space between her breasts, then her stomach, and then somehow his lips were on Karina’s cock before she even realized what his aim was. “Oh!” she said, trying to keep her hips from jerking. He licked the liquid from the tip of her cock.
Karina had used her mouth on him before, and he never seemed hesitant to stroke her cock or let her rut against him, but Lord Clifton had never before been the one taking her cock into his mouth. He did so now, and Karina felt as if she was going to spontaneously ignite. It was so hot, and wet, and entirely unlike a hand. She had wondered, with his cock on her lips, what it would feel like to be on the receiving end of that act, and found she could not have imagined it adequately.
He tapped her thigh, and when she looked down at him, to where her respected, responsible husband had his mouth stretched around the head of her cock, he caught her eye then rubbed two of his fingers together.
“Oh!” Karina said again. “Yes, please, let me–” She twisted to grab the bottle of oil from her nightstand and passed it to him.
He pulled away from her cock to sit up while he slicked his fingers up. While he did so, he said, “Don’t ever think I would rather have a cunt to fuck than you.” He pressed one finger inside her. “Especially,” he added, bending down once more, “when you are so eager to have my cock inside you anyway.”
Lord Clifton fucked her with his fingers while he licked and sucked on her cock. The combination drove all thought out of Karina’s head. She only barely remembered to say something when she felt her peak nearing. “My lord,” she panted, “I’m very close.”
He pulled away just enough so that his mouth was free, but his lips still brushed against the head of Karina’s cock when he spoke. “Go ahead,” he murmured. “I think I’ll be fucking you whether or not you’re done.”
Karina groaned and squeezed her eyes shut. True to her word, it didn’t take long before she came, spending in Lord Clifton’s mouth while she spasmed around his fingers. He kissed her hip bone and twisted the fingers inside her. Karina cried out.
She was near tears when he finally removed his fingers and replaced them with his cock. Despite her own cock’s limp indifference to this turn, the rest of Karina’s body lit up with pleasure. Lord Clifton pulled her legs over his arms as he leaned over to kiss her. Karina’s thighs burned with the unaccustomed stretch, but the feeling of his lips against hers at the same time his cock was inside her was too wonderful to credit her thighs’ complaint.
Evidently, sucking Karina’s cock and fucking her arse with his fingers got Lord Clifton all fired up as much as it had Karina, because he did not last quite as long, pumping in and out of her, as he ordinarily did. He pressed his face between her breasts as he filled her with his seed. Karina wrapped her arms and legs around him as though she could somehow get him further inside her.
When Lord Clifton stopped shuddering in her embrace, he kissed her sternum, then carefully disentangled their bodies. He set the discarded bottle of oil back on the nightstand, and laid down next to her.
Karina felt happily wrung out. Lord Clifton pressed his face into her hair, wrapping his arm around her middle. He had not only married her for her looks and his attraction to her, she remembered. That made her warm and confident enough to ask, “Husband? If it’s been years, why did you not ask for my hand sooner?”
“I intended to,” Lord Clifton said. “But when you came of age, your mother had just died. It wouldn’t have been appropriate. Then your brother’s wedding occupied your family’s attention for so long.” He made a small, discontented noise. “Your father would not consent to a long betrothal.”
Karina rolled over to face him. “You asked him?”
“I did,” Lord Clifton said. “I tried to make it clear I was willing to wait, but he didn’t seem inclined to believe me.”
Karina set her mouth. “Peter probably advised him against it,” she said. “Evidently he didn’t care for how much older you than me you are.” She rolled her eyes. “I wish Father had thought to ask my opinion.”
“Oh?” Lord Clifton murmured, brushing the hair back from Karina’s forehead. “You would have told him to accept me, then?”
“No,” Karina said honestly, and her husband smiled. He really did like her when she was being rude and willful. She added, “Not at first. But if I had known you were interested to the point of asking multiple times and accepting a long betrothal, I would have been less concerned. As well as more interested in saying yes.”
“Perhaps if you had been less diligent about avoiding me, we could have discussed it,” Lord Clifton said.
Karina tilted her head down specifically so she could look up at him through her lashes. She asked, “And would that have been before or after you despoiled me, my lord?”
“Mm, I don’t suppose you’d believe me if I said before,” he said, smiling again. It even made his eyes crinkle at the corners. “And it wouldn’t have seemed very sincere if I professed my admiration while fondling you.”
“Not especially,” Karina agreed.
“I bet you would have believed me well enough after I discovered your cock and made it clear it made no difference to me,” he murmured. “All I would have had to do is tell you what a beautiful girl you were, and you would have let me do anything I liked.” Karina shivered. He was right. It had been affecting enough on their wedding night, with her a woman grown and knowing her own mind, to find it made no difference to him. If Lord Clifton had managed to corner her during the years she spent avoiding the possibility of being alone with him, and continued to want her regardless of her misbehaving body, Karina wouldn’t have put up much resistance at all.
He brushed his lips against hers. “If I’d realized there was no way for anyone to tell you’d been deflowered, and no risk of getting a child on you, I would have been much more persistent.”
“You’re a terrible man,” Karina said, though her tone belied her words.
“You don’t seem to mind overmuch,” he said. “Does that make you a terrible woman, or simply an easy one?”
“Yes, how terribly foolish it is to enjoy being doted upon,” she said, before she could resist no longer, and closed what little distance remained between their mouths.