Accidentally in Love(26)

By: Claudia Dain

“By accident?” she said. “That has a horrible sound to it. And I don’t like the way you make it sound that I have loved you for longer than you have loved me.”

“I didn’t think you’d care for that,” he said, kissing the tip of her nose.

“You have loved me for just as long as I have loved you. I was there. I should know what happened.”

“I accept,” he said, turning her so that her arm was tucked into his and they were walking across the shop to Mama.

“You accept? What do you accept?” she said.

“That we have loved each other from the first moment we met, that we were destined to love, that we shall live together in marital bliss in Wiltshire for as long as we live, and that you will rule my heart and my life as you always have done.”

She stood in front of Mama and did not notice. She stood in Kit’s arms with Kit’s vow ringing in her ears and through her heart.

“Always?” she said.

“Always,” he promised.

Emeline was never certain exactly how it happened, but Mama and Mrs. Culley were both warmly enthusiastic about their children marrying each other and not, as they had both planned for a lifetime, into the peerage.

The marriage took place in late September of the year of Emeline’s London come-out. Lady Eleanor Kirkland, Lord Raithby, and Lady Sophia Dalby were invited. They declined. Mama was crushed that she could not dangle the highest fruit of the aristocracy over her neighbor’s heads, but she carried on.

“I still can’t puzzle out why our mothers have been so blissful about the whole thing,” Emeline said, entwined with Kit on their bed, the sheets warm and soft, the morning sunlight casting the room in a golden haze, birdsong surrounding them.

Kit ran his hand up her skin from her hip to her ribs, and back down, and back up, lazily tracing her curves, nuzzling her hair, absorbing her into his very skin, it seemed.

“What could they say?” he said. “Close friends, neighbors, our lives knitted together by a hundred threads. Is your mother going to say to mine that I am not good enough for her daughter? Will my mother say a similar thing to yours? It was an impossible situation for them.”

“How thankful I am for that,” she said, sighing.

She buried her face in his chest, reaching up to run her hands through his long hair, running her fingertips down the planes of his face. His sharply defined aristocratic face.

“You are not sorry you did not marry Raithby?” he said.

She laughed. “Lord Raithby was never mine for the asking.”

“How could you know? You never asked.”

She inched up the length of him, drinking in his scent, the feel of his skin and hair, the rumble of his beautiful voice, and when she was nose to nose with him, when she had his beloved face cupped in her hands, she said, “Why should I want an English lord when a Greek god was mine for the asking?”

Kit kissed her hard, pulling her beneath him, pressing her down into the middle of their bed. “A Greek god, am I?” he said, when he lifted his head, grinning down at her. “Which god, may I ask?”

She pushed him off of her and scooted to the edge of the bed, her hair hanging down her back. Kit had told her just before their wedding that he could not describe her hair, that he did not know the name of its color. After an afternoon lying on a blanket beneath the tree where she had once taken a fall as a child, a fall in which Kit had rescued her, he had proclaimed the color of her hair to be honey in the comb.

Honey in the comb. How she liked that.

He pulled her hair and asked again, “Which god?”

“Is there a Greek god for stupidity? That one,” she said.

He pulled her back into bed by her honey comb hair, kissing her throat, her breasts, her face, her shoulders. At first she laughed. And then she sighed. And then, as always, she moaned.

“Eros,” she said, pulling his face down to hers for a long, slow kiss. “Definitely Eros.”