Actions

Work Header

The Countess

Chapter Text

December, 1893

A wedding was imminent. It was her own wedding, the idea of which made happiness flutter deep inside of her. At nineteen, Lizzy Midford was a woman of great and renowned beauty. By most, she was no longer called ‘Lizzy’, though she used to so fervently insist upon it, most opted for a more mature nickname now, though her father still insisted upon the childish nickname, and her brother had settled upon ‘Bess’ as his new preferred name for her (perhaps because she hated it so much). She was thrilled at the prospect of finally being made a bride and fulfilling her duties as the Countess Phantomhive, wife of the Queen’s Watchdog.

Anticipation thrummed against her ribcage all during her family vacation in America. The six month stay in Chicago had been fun and strange and had given her a vision of the world outside of England, which had always left her already vivid curiosity running. She hoped such excursions would be common during her marriage, as she knew Ciel often travelled to unique destinations, and the thought of anything happening to her while she was the Lady Phantomhive gave way to an even deeper yearning. She had thought of this day for far too long not to be caught up in the idea regularly.

Upon her return to England, preparations for the marriage quickly began. The wedding venue was chosen (it was the church in London where she and her family spent each Sunday morning with a guest list ten miles long), the reception would be held at the Midford Estate, and from there they would go immediately to the Phantomhive townhouse. They would stay in the townhouse for only a short time. Usually, one would depart immediately after the wedding to go on their honeymoon, but because the pair was likely to go abroad, a steamer or train with their destination was less likely to be available with that sort of immediacy.

Elizabeth had also not yet decided upon a destination for their trip. She had at first considered some great romantic city like Paris, but the thought occurred to her that her betrothed may prefer some place more exotic. He had friends from India and China, and she knew he had gone to Paris several times in the past/ So she decided she would inquire into his desires during the celebration of his eighteenth birthday. Surely he had some place he wanted to go, and so far she had been the decision maker on all parts of the ceremony, even though the burden of the costs was placed entirely upon her groom. She wanted to find some way to placate his own desires.

Thus, she decided that that night she would ask him, finally, after not having seen him since she left for America in April that year, where they ought spend the first few weeks of their new lives together.

Elizabeth took special care getting dressed on this day. As always, her carefully honed dress conformed perfectly to the popular styles of the day without ever blending in. In fact, her visit to America had leant to many fashion reports in newspapers and magazines concerning what she’d worn on a night out, or during a meeting. She had become quite the fashion icon - a title she certainly deserved. Elizabeth needed help doing up her corset, the boning and thin laces no easier to do up, even if the Royal Worcester claimed they were infinitely more comfortable than other garments of the same type (Elizabeth begged to differ, a corset of any type was a difficult contraption, even if she appreciated it aesthetics and the silhouette it helped to create). Once Paula had helped her accomplish that task, she was on to the more important parts. She tucked a pale pink shirt waist with puffed up leg-of-mutton style sleeves into the matching skirt and tied a silk sash about her slim waist, accentuated by the foam pads at her posterior to sharpen the S-line of her silhouette.

Older as she was, she no longer wore her hair in the pair of pigtails. Instead, her waist-length golden tresses were curled carefully and pinned in a bun by a bejeweled decorative comb. A crown of little curls was styled atop her head, giving the illusion of bangs (though Elizabeth refused to actually cut them in, deciding that fashion changed far too often for that). She missed the massive skirts of her childhood, but decided not to look old fashioned and opted for the more desirable styles of the day, though she secretly wished the style would return. Elizabeth didn’t dwell on her fashion desires and returned her focus on her dress, fastening her dangling pearl earrings powdered her face appropriately.

Finally finished with the arduous task of dressing, she descended her staircase and went to find her father. She found him, predictably, in his study.

“Papa,” Elizabeth smiled. “I’m going to go to Ciel’s now. You said you had a letter for him?”

Alexis looked up from whatever he was so intently focused on to smile at his daughter. Elizabeth had always thought his smile was quite a strange thing. Alexis Midford didn’t have a particularly kind face, his brow heavy and a frown set in his sunned skin seemed to never falter. But when he looked at Elizabeth, the hardness in his features dissipated, and it was such a strange transformation that it always struck her with a sense of familial pride.

“Yes,” He nodded, plucking a thick envelope of an expensive stock from a drawer and handing it to her from where he sat. “Be careful, Lizzy,” He said kindly.

Elizabeth smiled in return, “Always. Where is mama?”

“Check the gardens.”

As suggested, Elizabeth checked the gardens, and sure enough Frances was there. Her attention was on a gardener, keeping a keen eye on them to make sure no harm came to the plants, knowing that with the wintry weather, much of them were hard to read. Since their last gardener had moved away, the Midford’s had had no luck finding a new one with the same eye and skill of the prior. To say Frances was picky was an understatement.

When Elizabeth called out to her mother, the gardener visibly loosened at the loss of her gaze, going about pruning the plants as any with the knowledge of such a thing would. “Mama, I’m off to Ciel’s.” She told her.

“Ah, of course. It’s his birthday, isn’t it?” She said it as if she didn’t know. Elizabeth wasn’t sure when her mother’s distrust of Ciel began, but she chose to look past it.

“Yes, and I’ve planned a dinner. Something simple, since he still refuses to celebrate.”

Frances smiles finally, “Nothing you do is simple. Should we wait up for you?”

“No,” Elizabeth hoped her rising blush didn’t poke through and show on her powdered cheek. She had no deviant ideas planned, but the closer she got to their wedding, the more she found her thoughts edging near dangerous territories. “It will be past dark, but I plan to be back before morning,” Elizabeth promised.

After saying her goodbyes to her mother, Elizabeth called for her carriage and was soon on her way to the Phantomhive manor, Paula at her side as always.

Sebastian had put up with her insistence to decorate the mansion and design the menu for Ciel’s birthday, as he always seemed to. Sebastian greeted her at the door with a low, respectful bow, taking the coat she’d donned to keep out the December chill.

“Thank you, Sebastian,” She smiled sweetly, excitement twinkling in her emerald eyes. “Where is Ciel?”

“In his office,” The butler told her, his voice as measured as ever. “I think he’s hoping you’d forget.”

She laughed earnestly, “I would never!”

“Shall I call for him?” he offered, but Elizabeth held her hand up in dismissal.
“That’s alright, I can go get him.”

When she was younger and so very hyper and easily excitable, she would have vaulted from her spot, running like a bullet towards her intended. But, she insisted on maturity. She had changed since she was a prepubescent girl, and she wore her young adulthood as prettily as one may have thought, though it was perhaps unexpected of her. She walked calmly up the large flight of stairs and through the winding halls of the mansion.

Elizabeth knocked on the heavy door of his office, and at the sound of his voice, she entered.

“Sebastian, is - oh, Elizabeth.” He took her in with a sweeping glance before turning his uncovered eye back towards whatever he held in his gloved hands. “How was your trip,” Ciel asked, clearly trying to ignore the reason she’d come.

Elizabeth was having none of it. “Much too long,” She started walking slowly towards him and rounding the desk.

Ciel looked very much the same as he always had, though now he stood just barely two inches taller than her in heels (which was just tall enough for her to also donn her own heeled shoes instead of her usual flats, though it brought them to almost eye level). He was still thin, though his shoulders were broader, and he wore his hair now combed back away from his forehead in slick waves. But he was still very much Ciel, as he had always been. Still stubborn and curt, and still a complete workaholic. Elizabeth was used to it, and she was finding new ways to wiggle in behind that façade. Elizabeth smiled when she was finally standing before her, pushing aside the paper in his hand with her index finger and stepping close enough so that she was the only thing in his vision.

With a tender kiss to his cheek, she whispered a cheery “Happy birthday,” and much to her surprise, he actually pressed his hand to the small of her back and kept her near him. She denied the blush hotly climbing from the spot that he touched.

“Thank you,” He said somewhat reluctantly and pushed closer so as to capture her lips in a genuine kiss, giving her that which she alone always seemed able to coax from him during things like this - his cooperation.

The kiss had already lasted too long to be appropriate, Elizabeth decided, so she tapped the envelope that she had almost forgotten she’d had in her hand to his chest. He finally released her from his grasp and cleared his throat. The blonde before him Taking the envelope from her, he listened as she began to explain.

“From my father. I don’t know what it is, and I’m not here to find out. I’m here to celebrate,” she took a careful step back from him and clapped her hands together. “So let us get to it!”

Elizabeth hooked her arm in his, bright eyes trained on his always firm face. She led him excitedly back through the halls. In the large dining room, they found Sebastian waiting beside a set dining table. The spread was immaculate, though it wasn’t designed to be as immaculate as an actual dinner party, since it was just the pair of them. She wanted something intimate, something that would be reminiscent of the nights they would spend together.

The butler pulled out their chairs and pushed them in towards the table as he usually did, with Elizabeth sat at Ciel’s right hand. Elizabeth talked all about her trip to the United States, while Ciel listened with his usual look of utter disinterest. Even with that look, he still spurred the conversation on, keeping it firmly off of him. They ate their chicken fricassee while they talked - or, at least, while Elizabeth talked - and sipped at a Claret Sebastian had picked (Elizabeth wasn’t good at wine pairings, though she wished she was).

Suddenly, she stopped, glittering eyes focusing inquisitively on her fiancé. “Oh, Ciel?”

“Hm?” His lone eye settled on her.

“I was wondering, since I planned most of the actual wedding, if you’d like to choose where we went afterwards?”

“Afterwards?” He asked, as if he’d never considered the ‘after’ part (he absolutely had).

Elizabeth laughed at his general cluelessness. “Yes. The honeymoon?”

Ciel’s eye darted from her to Sebastian, who was standing at her left and pouring more wine into her etched wine glass. These particular glasses had been a gift from the queen, the stem braided around a thin strip of gold. Elizabeth followed his gaze up towards the butler, wondering if something on his face had caught Ciel’s attention. Nothing seemed out of place, his eyes closed and his lips curled into that same strange smile. She considered that maybe Ciel was following the custom that only the best man would know of the destination, outside of the bride and groom themselves, but upon realizing that Ciel likely didn’t have a best man - or that the ever present butler was likely to be with them on their honeymoon either way - she denied that thought.

With a furrowed brow, Elizabeth turned again towards Ciel. “Do you not have some place in mind?”

“No, I thought you would want to pick-”

She was fidgeting now, her shoulders moving as she rolled an edge of the tablecloth between her thumb and forefinger. Elizabeth looked at him with pleading eyes, “You’ve been so many more interesting places than me,” she insisted, trying her best not to sound too much like a child, “I thought maybe you’d do a better job choosing a place to go because you’re so much more experienced than me.”

Ciel straightened a little, watching her pout and plead like she did when they were kids and she was having trouble getting her way. Sebastian offered a knowing smile from over her shoulder, and Ciel knew Sebastian would just later assert that ‘she’s right, of course’ and that he ought just choose some place anyways, and so he mulled it over quickly.

Hoping to stifle her growing upset, he offered a suggestion: “What about Venice?”

The romantic in her sprung forward, and her pitiful gaze brightened completely when he spoke. “Venice would be wonderful! I had a friend who went there on her honeymoon,” She smiled brightly, and his own smile - which appeared only slightly disingenuous - appeared in response. “Are you sure? Because if so, I ought begin planning immediately!”
“I’m sure, Elizabeth. Venice would be a nice place to spend our… honeymoon.”

Feeling secure in herself, Elizabeth settled back into her chair, and the soon-to-be-married pair went back to their meal.

After they ate, they went and played a game of chess while Sebastian played them a song on his violin. Elizabeth won, presumably fairly - though Ciel would later insist he allowed her to win - and was soon after walked to the door to be escorted home by Paula before it became so late that any talk of indecency could emerge.

Elizabeth immediately set her mind to the task of designing the itinerary for a perfect Venetian honeymoon.

Chapter Text

January, 1894

“Are you excited, Miss?” Paula’s voice, kind and thick with her accent as always, came from behind her.

Elizabeth’s eyes were closed, her face relaxed as Paula carefully worked to style her curls in place, little bejeweled violets and live orange blossoms holding each molded ringlet in place. “Of course I am,” A slow smile spread over Elizabeth’s lovely features. “More than excited,” She felt Paula carefully place her floor-length blonde reseaux veil onto the crown of her head. Then, she felt the pressure of her wedding tiara. She hadn’t seen it yet, but it had been designed specifically to be renowned as the tiara of the Countess of Phantomhive, and Elizabeth knew that when she was finally able to see it, it would fill her and everyone who saw it with awe. The kokoshnik style tiara was heavy on her head, and she knew its foreign design had incorporated sapphire to mirror that which her betrothed famously wore, as well as diamonds and pearls. She’d seen kokoshnik before, and her mother had explained the choice for this style was because she didn’t want to mimic the wedding tiaras of the royal family, since their titles were by gift and not by blood. The Russian style was chosen because of her father’s distant roots. Elizabeth questioned none of it.

“This is the happiest day of my life.”

“It shows,” Paula smiled, though her Lady couldn’t see it. “You’re absolutely glowing. ‘Nd you look every bit a princess.”

“Thank you,” She smiled wider, “I only hope Ciel feels the same as me.”

A thoughtful hum came from her maid. “He’s never seemed very excitable, but he’d have to be blind not to realize what a treasure you are, and how much goodness you’ll bring to him.” Paula had quite a few thoughts on the goodness which the Phantomhive manor very desperately needed, but despite the liberties the maid took with her lady, she never dared speak those thoughts.

“I know that you’re right,” She sighed. “I worry still.”

Paula didn’t chastise her overactive fears again, instead clasping her rivière necklace of matching sapphires around her thin neck and telling her she could finally open her eyes.

When she did, any fear she may have harbored that her seemingly ever-distant betrothed may not lend her his attention even after marriage all disappeared. She realized that she would make the most wonderful lady of the house, no one would be able to deny that. In high society, she would call all attention to her like a modern day Georgiana Spencer.

Elizabeth stood from her place in the French gilt wood vanity chair and looked at herself more fully in the mirror. She’d seen her dress already, but the image of it all together, with her hair done up with the little violets and orange blossoms and her magnificent, dramatic kokoshnik tiara and heavy veil glittering with its pale silk like a gossamer spider web spilling down her back and settling on the floor in a train of no short length. It blended into the silk of her wedding gown almost perfectly.

Her dress had been inspired by their Queen Victoria and the cabinet photo she’d had done some years after her marriage to Albert, though the differences were apparent. Elizabeth had allowed her own tastes, rather than fickle fashion trends, dictate the makeup of her dress. An ornate flower pattern trailed the puffed parisian bustle and lined the collar of the scooped, low collar and the off the shoulder sleeves. A long drop pearl was pinned to just below the collar where a slight ruching of fabric separated this layer from the tight, boned bodice beneath it which was pinned almost seamlessly to the inside of her heavy white skirts. She wore low heels so she would stand even shorter beside of Ciel, though the look was hardly childish since the height of the heel couldn’t be seen beneath the hem of the skirt. She looked angelic, her skin bright and pale and her golden hair a glistening halo about her face, where her ever present cowlick had been matched on the other half and pinned loosely over her ears. The only part of said ears which could be seen were the pearls matching that which was pinned to her bodice.

“I wish I could look like this everyday,” She remarked, running delicate hands over the shining fabric.

“Like a princess?” Paula asked. Paula herself was dressed more fancily than she usually might, but it was more appropriate now. She was essentially being promoted, going from Elizabeth’s caretaker to her Lady’s Maid, a considerably higher position in the house. And thus, Paula herself looked the part of a proper lady.

“Yes,” Elizabeth nodded with a smile.

It wasn’t much longer before she was called down to take the carriage through the early morning city towards the church, and there a layer of her veil was turned to cover her face. The procession of guests was as elaborate as their immense wealth to allow. Almost everyone in attendance had the title of nobility, everyone dressed the part, looking no less fanciful despite the demand for quiet colors and muted looks. Though it was doubtful anyone could have rivaled the bride even if they dressed in their fanciest of gowns. Her parents beamed with pride as they helped their daughter from the carriage they had all ridden in together, and Elizabeth was escorted into the vestibule where bridesmaids, Sebastian, Ciel’s groomsman (who Elizabeth didn’t know well enough to remember the name of), and her groom.

He had in fact noticed her. Everyone had. She was certainly hard to miss, but she was glad he seemed so content to stare at her as he was. He couldn’t see the smile that plucked her cheeks and the hot rush of pink that darkened her skin, but she curtsied in greeting, and Alexis cleared his throat.

With Ciel’s attention back on the parents of the bride, Alexis motioned to the ushers. “Shall we?”

Ciel nodded, offering his bent arm to Frances as the ushers made their way first down the center aisle. The bridesmaids and groomsmen followed, and then Ciel and Frances. Alexis and Elizabeth were last and she glanced shyly about the room, glancing over the faces both familiar and unfamiliar. Elizabeth was never one to be considered shy, but this moment seemed so intimate to be shared with such a massive group of people. But in the same breath, she didn’t mind. This was the most important day of her life. It was the day she’d been working up to since she was a child. The greatest day of her life - she wanted everyone to see. She wanted everyone to remember it.

Alexis left Elizabeth at Ciel’s left, joining her mother at her side. They began to say their vows and Elizabeth feared she was speaking too loudly or too hastily, her excitement getting the best of her. Ciel seemed perfectly indifferent, responding in his usual measured manner. It was all doing a number on her nerves.

Their wedding bands, both eighteen karats of gold, with Elizabeth’s holding a large sapphire surrounded by diamonds, were given to them by Elizabeth’s cousin on her father’s side. The couple carefully placed them on the others ring finger, and just like that, they were married.

They were taken to sign their names in the parish registry, and then the couple was hounded by friends and family that wanted to say their congratulations.

Calmness didn’t come until the bride and groom, along with Sebastian and Paula, were shoved into their carriages to be taken to the Midford Manor for the reception. Once in the safe quiet of the carriage, Elizabeth had Paula turn over the part of the veil that had hidden her face from the guests, carefully repositioning her kokoshnik atop her head.

“You look lovely,” Ciel finally said, their forms being jostled gently as they were driven through London.

This time, she knew he could plainly see the blush bloom across her neck and cheeks.

“Thank you,” She smiled brightly, “So do you - handsome, I mean!” she corrected quickly, holding her hands up and laughing a little as she rectified her wording. He’d always chastised her for calling him ‘cute’ so now she shied away from anything diminutive (when she remembered, anyways).

He offered his own thin smile, a stifled laugh just barely audible. “Yes, yes… So, when do we go to Venice?”

“On Thursday, we’ll take a train from London. It should only take a few days, and we’ll be there by Monday.”

“Good…” He nodded.

Feeling the impending silence which would descend on the car - likely for the rest of the ride of Elizabeth didn’t stop it - she turned her gaze upon the ever present butler.

“Might I ask you a question, Sebastian?” She asked, voice quieter when she spoke to him than when she spoke to Ciel. He always made her nervous, even though she knew she could hold her own against him if need be. They’d fought when she was a child, and she’d only grown more talented in her arts since.

“Any time that you please, Lady Phantomhive,” He bowed his head, his smile as sharp and unsettling as ever.

Her stomach fluttered and her heart did somersaults when she heard her new name so casually.

“I was wondering if you would help me spar while we are in Italy? I doubt I’ll have access to any of the clubs.”

“Of course,” He assured her. “If it’s what you want?”

A nod, “It is.”

 

Once at the Midford Manor, the breakfast and reception went as they do. Elizabeth talked to everyone, complimenting her friends and families and dodging their playful questions about the destination of her bridal tour. None of them actually expected the answer, but they all nudged her and teased as family does. A few of her female friends expressed their jealousy, noting how handsome Ciel had become, and she nodded and took their compliments happily. He was handsomer than he had been in his youth, but he was still very much Ciel.

During the reception, he chatted with the businessmen in her family, talking business, making plans, doing her cousins and her cousins husbands favors. He did all the things that Ciel does, and when she spoke to him, it was much the same. He listened with what seemed like the patience of a saint without ever really saying much in turn, and she babbled on happily in fear of a silence befalling them that she didn’t quite want to deal with. Every once in a while he would offer her a caress to her back or his knuckles would brush hers, and she would smile and stick close and let her fingers slide over the fabric of his sleeve, but their attentions were otherwise elsewhere.

So, when they finally made it to the Phantomhive townhouse and Elizabeth was swept away by Paula to dress out of her wedding ensemble, she wasn't entirely surprised that Ciel stayed downstairs with his butler.

“Are you nervous, Milady?” Paula asked, untying her skirts as she began to undress Elizabeth for her.

“Nervous?” She asked, helping Paula with the ties and buttons.

“Yes – about consummation.” Her maid whispered the last part, cheeks pinkened.

“O-oh, um, no, of course not.” She was and it could be heard in her voice. A million thoughts crossed her mind, many she’d contemplated before. What if she didn’t please him? Or he didn’t please her? What if it really did hurt, as Mama had warned?

“You aren’t?” A thought crossed Paula’s pretty features and she gasped, “The pair of you haven’t already-”

Elizabeth quickly cut her off, “No! Of course not. I just don’t think I should be worried,” She tried to convince herself. “Ciel is kind-“ Paula’s lifted eyebrow made her add, “To me, I don’t think he would be…” Elizabeth cleared her throat. “Ungentle.”

Finally stripped, Paula asked. “Shall I fetch him, then?”

Elizabeth shook her head, her still-pinned hair flouncing around her. “He’ll come if he wishes. I’ll redress and take down my hair. You should ask Sebastian where your quarters will be here.”

Her maid nodded, giving her a reassuring smile before slipping from her room.

Alone, Elizabeth looked about her, going to one of the trunks that had been brought earlier and rifled through it for one of her gauzy muslin gowns and slipped inside before sitting in front of the vanity that had likely been moved in for her. She wet a thin cloth and used it to wipe the powder from her cheeks and brow before setting to work unpinning her golden curls.

As her hair came undone, the shiny ringlets framing her face, she felt her nerves twitching in her stomach. Paula had tried to comfort her before, and surely Paula - the great beauty she was - had experience with these things? She was not entirely naive, though she may often act and look the part. Perhaps, Elizabeth thought, she should have taken Paula’s advice. But the thought of her having any advice to give Ciel - who was surely just as inexperienced as she - and she was too embarrassed, afraid he would think her improper. The knowledge she did have would have to suffice.

She moved away from the mirror, a shaky breath revealing her thoughts to the silence of the bedroom. She wondered where her husband was, why he had yet to join her, and hoped he had not made plans outside of her. Maybe he was having a similar conversation with Sebastian as she’d had with Paula. She hoped he had accepted the advice. If that meant he would lead her, and she wouldn’t have to fumble in the dark, she’d be thankful he’d endured the awkward conversation.

A rap at the door drew her from her thoughts, and she jumped a little. Her hands fidgeting with each other at her hip, she paused, considering whether she should pull her housecoat over her exposed form. Figuring she needed to get used to being exposed like this, she finally spoke up.

“Enter.”

Chapter Text

As expected, it was Ciel who opened the door. Still donning his wedding outfit, she assumed he had spent his time outside of the room talking to his butler rather than preparing himself. Still, Elizabeth’s heart lept into her chest at the sight of him. She’d always thought he was handsome, his smoky, almost black hair brushed back out of the way of his angular features, the single revealed eye pale and searching.

When his gaze finally landed on her, she wondered if he felt the same hiccup that she did, nervousness spreading through the pit of her stomach and out through each of her limbs. She almost didn’t hear him say her name as he walked inside, closing the door behind him. There they were, alone in the bedroom they would share in the coming days. Elizabeth knew her duties and it roused a feeling within her she’d only felt a few times before, though for the first time it would not be her own curiosity which brought her satisfaction.

Elizabeth had a lot of fears concerning that, few of which had been quelled by the prodding she’d put Paula through in the days previous to their union. Consummation was not something she’d ever voiced her fears over, but she’d heard such stories and been privy to warnings and complaints from friends who’d found mates in the months and years prior. It was supposed to hurt, she’d been told. Gentleness was not something many men knew, especially not of their station. She’d heard mostly of the rutting brutes that her friends had turned into husbands, and though Ciel was rarely harsh or cruel to her, one could hardly say he was affectionate. She hoped it wasn’t true, that they were all simply unlucky in such endeavours, and that her own husband would be as gentle and as giving as the men in the novels she’d read about. Though none had included bedroom scenes as explicit as she thought the real thing would be, how could any thing as sweet as the kisses shared between the lovers within lead to anything less than wonderful?

She drew her bottom lip between her teeth, shifting nervously under his gaze. Ought she say something? Reach out and touch him? Encourage him to touch her? What if it was to forward and it called her purity into question? She wished she knew more of her husband’s desires before this moment, wished she knew what she should do to have this go as it ought.

Ciel stepped closer, hesitating a few times before he was finally before her. After a long moment of standing in the silence of the candlelit room, he leaned at the waist to capture her plush lips in a curious kiss. It was as chaste as all their others, at least at first, but then curiosity spurred by their legal union and the privacy of their room seemed to push him forward. One of his hands, the skin smooth from disuse, came to cup her cheek. The other went to her waist, a careful placement used to gently draw her closer so that they were pressed together. She let her own hands come up, sliding along the expanse of his chest until her arms were wrapped around his neck.

It was a curious feeling, his lips pressed hard against hers, the opening and closing of mouths as they got used to this new freedom. Even curiouser was when his tongue darted out, having a feel for hers. She wasn’t sure how she felt about it, though when she mimicked his motions, his own opinion on the matter became quite clear. Elizabeth could feel it, pressed between them as they kissed, and it made her cockier. She tugged at him, lifting herself on the balls of her feet to continue their passionate kiss. The movement of her hips against his drew a moan from him.

He pulled back, and she worried suddenly that the noise had not been one of pleasure as she’d thought but instead of discomfort. Elizabeth fretted over the idea that she’d done something wrong, but this fear was quelled when Ciel pressed a tentative kiss to her throat.

This was foreign to him too, the exploration of her body coming to the forefront of his mind only momentarily. Curious hands roved the soft curves and taught planes of her body. Her muscles were so firm and formed beneath her gown, and the little gasp she released when his hands found her breasts pushed him onwards. Fingers rolled over the sensitive areas covered by thin cloth, his kisses covering her collar and cheek before returning again to her mouth. He wasn’t experienced in acts of love and Elizabeth could feel his hesitation in his exploration. He thought momentarily to be embarrassed, but knowing of Elizabeth’s loyalty, he figured there was little she would know either, and that she was likely just as virginal as he (perhaps moreso, as she was certainly more naive where so many men knew so much from the conversations had around them, and from the jokes they heard and advice they received).

Elizabeth let Ciel lead her to their bed, climbing atop slowly and going to sit before the mountain of pillows at its head. Ciel rid himself of his coat and she let her dressing robe slip from her shoulders, pushing it over the edge of the bed to fall to their floor. Untucking his shirt, Ciel climbed up to sit before her, his want straining against the front of his pants. She thought momentarily that she ought reach to undress him, but at the risk of seeming like a harlot, she stayed put, watching instead as he pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it aside.

He was still thin, pale, and untoned. The spattering of hair across his chest and stomach was one of few materializations of his manhood. That and his desire, which he seemed increasingly hard pressed to deny. He reached out, a hand slipping under the hem of her gown and sliding along the smooth expanse of her legs. Legs he’d never seen, but the thick musculature and strength had lent them to be beautiful. He’d only ever imagined the sight and feel of them and was not disappointed. He pushed onwards, hands sliding across her thigh, up her side and across her breasts, the gown following suit until he’d lifted it over her head and discarded it.

In the nude, there was no option of modesty for Elizabeth. She was there, bare before him, fighting off the urge to cover her sex with her hands. Proud though she was of a body which she had always considered fantastic, she couldn’t seem to channel that pride into this moment. She shifted, lifting herself into a position to bring him into a kiss. If anything it served to distract herself from her nudity, her vulnerability, and she was glad when he happily deepened it. His hands disappeared from her body, going instead to the buttons of his pants. Ciel made quick work of the item, pulling them off and letting them fall into the growing pile beside the bed.

She didn’t dare look down, but when he moved to reposition her on the bed and took each of her thighs into his hands, she couldn’t help but see. Having only seen a man in the nude when she was a child, bathing together with her brother for convenience's sake (and even that she was hardly old enough to remember), she tried to hide her shock. It was a strange thing, heavy and swollen with want, though not necessarily an imposing item. It didn’t seem the thing of nightmares some women seemed keen on describing it as, though having wielded weapons half the length of her made her think suddenly that maybe her earlier fears had been silly and misplaced.

Foreplay wasn’t a thing either of them had taken into consideration, though he was slow in entering her. The discomfort was undeniable, but not so terrible, and it didn’t necessarily hurt. A sharp gasp stilled his movements and for the first time he spoke.

“Are you alright?” He asked, eyebrow pinching, concerned though his voice was strained and his arms were strained in holding himself in this position.

“Yes,” She replied, a little breathlessly, and put her hands on either side of him. “You may continue, my darling, don’t worry.”

And he did, shifting so he was held up by his elbows on either side of her head. Ciel buried his face in her neck, breathing heavy as his hips rolled languidly against hers, pushing himself in and out in smooth, even motions.

His slowness, whether intentional or not, served her well. It allowed her to adjust, little noises of mixed pleasure and discomfort escaping her with each soft thrust. Her feet hooked behind his back, hands resting against his waist.

He continued his motions eagerly, speeding up as time progressed and pressing open mouthed kisses all across her throat and cheek before focusing the kisses against her parted lips, silencing both of their noises. The increased speed brought her more pleasure than pain, her mewls - though muffled by his mouth - came more often and were getting progressively louder.

It wasn’t long before he was spent, however, and he rolled from within her to lay beside her, chest rising with each ragged breath. Though she hadn’t been brought to the intense pleasurable end she’d experienced at her own hand, she wasn’t about to push him for more. Was it even expected of ones husband to bring the wife to such ends? She lay beside him, the fire between her legs and in her belly unquenched. But he had not hurt her, as she had been warned, and it hadn’t been a laborious or terrible experience that her friends experienced with their own husbands, so she felt no desire to complain. Not yet, anyways. Perhaps in his own inexperience, his pleasure had come sooner than it would in future endeavors.

Whatever the reason, Elizabeth was contented to press herself to his side, hand on his chest, her newly placed wedding band glinting in the golden candlelight.

Chapter Text

Hey guys !!! Wanted to stop in real quick and and make a little announcement that I’ve made a tumblr !!! i wasn’t creative enough to make a good url lol but it exists, so you guys should come and follow me / talk to me !!! it’ll be a good way to keep in touch and ask questions, since im so bad at keeping a schedule here. Thank you!!!

(url : officialelliejo.tumblr.com )

Chapter Text

Ciel awoke before his new bride, careful not to stir her as he blinked into consciousness. She was so close, the closeness something he had grown so very unused to in the past years. But there she was, his wife, pinning his arm to the mattress where it was beneath her throat. He could feel her steady breathing against his skin.

Her natural scent wafted off of her in gentle waves, mixing perfectly with the lavender scented perfumes she used and mixed with her lotions and creams. Ciel wondered how she knew how wonderfully lavender worked for her. Did someone else tell her, or was it her own thought that made it so popular?

He’d smelled it on her before, it was hard to miss when you got as close as they often did, even harder with her hair splayed out across his arm and tucked beneath his cheek this way. It wasn’t overwhelming, quite the opposite. It was just her.

Cautiously, Ciel brought his fingers up to her hair. He raked his digits through the golden locks, brushing it all over her throat. He dragged the soft tips of his fingers over her sunkissed shoulder, careful not to wake her. There was a great deal he’d wanted to say the night before, he hadn’t actually intended to come together with her when he’d gone to their room. But, seeing her in the state that she was in, denying the want he’d felt in steadier waves when she was around these last few years seemed impossible.

Despite his inexperience, they’d both known enough for it to get underway easily enough. It was a feeling he’d not been expecting. He’d masturbated before, as all young men do, but sex had never been at the forefront of his mind. Though he’d flirted with temptation, he’d never wanted it enough - ahead of his other, more needier aspirations - to betray Lizzy in that way. He’d been happy to oblige virginity until they’d been wed, and though he’d thought it, he’d confirmed Elizabeth’s own loyalty the night before. And that, more than the sharp dip of her waist and the thick musculature of her thighs, more than how perfectly her breasts had fit in the palm of his hand, had pulled at his arousal.

The darkest corners of his mind loved it most. So pure an angel, so loyal to him - how easy to use her for so many personal advancements. How beneficial had this initially unwanted union become? But it was not all of him that thought so selfishly. He reminded himself of this as his fingers dipped lower, tracing the lift of her hip beneath the blankets.

As a youth, Ciel had often thought her annoying and selfish, a childish and abrupt brat with no sense of self preservation. He’d learned she was hardly like that - though her bubbly personality did annoy him sometimes - it was largely a show. An attempt to come off as cuter than she felt she was. It didn’t make him like her any more or any less (he had always liked her just fine, more so with the advancement of years and their natural maturation) to know that she compensated for what she found unendearing. It just lent to his understanding of her, something which none would say is anything less than a good thing in a relationship. He found her ability to make him fold to her every whim… frustrating… but impressive. None had ever managed such a feat, and likely none ever would. It was suggested to him once, by his aggravating butler, that this was because of that damning emotion called ‘love’. Remiss to admit it though he was, it wasn’t impossible.

He dared a kiss to the apex of her shoulder, mulling over the idea that he may, in fact, be in love with Elizabeth Midford - nay, Phantomhive. Would it be so terrible to love his wife? Perhaps, considering the man he was and the things he did. Perhaps it would be cruel to love her. But she loved him, and he knew well enough he already did not deserve such a kindness. Would it make him worse to deny her the pleasure of returned devotion?

Chapter Text

The couple’s first few days in Venice was spent the way the first few days of a wedding tour was meant to be spent.

Sun rolled through sheer curtains, unblocked by the velvet and holland curtains that hung in their English homes. Birds chirped in the trees outside and the entire home they had acquired for their time smelled of bread. Elizabeth was awake, bare chest resting against her pillows while she traced the little pattern on their sheets. She still existed in a state of marital bliss, content to writhe happily beneath her new husband as often as he pleased - which she found to be rather often. She’d learned not to expect certain things from him, but she enjoyed it well enough. And she certainly wasn’t going to complain or admonish him - it likely wouldn’t result in anything but his ire.

She dared a glance at him, his youth showed so plainly when he slept. Silky hair mussed about his forehead, thick eyelashes resting against flushed cheeks, his bare chest rising and falling with each steady breath. He stirred, turning his back on her suddenly. Elizabeth considered reaching out and touching him, tracing the dip in his back where, if he was just a bit thinner, she would be able to see his spine. He wasn’t quite so frail. Before she could make any movement to touch him, his arm reached out and pulled something from the bedside table. His eyepatch was in place swiftly and then it was him who was looking at her. She buried her blush in her pillow, embarrassed to have been caught watching him.

“Good Morning, Lady Phantomhive,” Ciel gave her the faintest hint of a smile, and it was enough to coax her from her shame.

She twisted at her waist, though the way he was sat had pulled the sheets away from her and denied her the modesty she still naturally sought. What proper lady would be comfortable lounging about fully nude, even before their husbands? It was a notion explained to girls the second they were old enough to understand it. Modesty was ladylike, and to be a Lady one must be ladylike. Ciel had never made motion to pull her arms away when she crossed them over her breasts, so she did not bother thinking he took issue with her modesty. He knew well enough who he was marrying when he did so. But this time she made no such move, allowing him instead to view her fully. He did so, watching her lasciviously, making a blush crawl down her neck. His hands twitched and he moved so he could press a curious kiss to her lips. Fingers danced across her ribs before seeking spots which were still hidden by the fallen sheets.

Ciel grabbed her by the crook of her leg, hiking it up around his hip and slipping into place. With a gasp, she almost wriggled away, but instead wrapped her own arm around his neck and pulled herself closer, breasts pressed to his own naked chest.

This position didn’t last, however, before his eagerness had meant she was on her back grabbing at the sheets, her heels digging desperately into his back. Her chest heaved, his lips kissing and sucking, leaving bright red bruises in its wake. She was so grateful her family was not here in Italy with them. How embarrassing to have to go each day to breakfast with such bruises? Though she was happy to wear the evidence of his affections in private.

She couldn’t help but wonder if Ciel had hoped that their multitude of couplings would result in an heir. Elizabeth would admit to herself that she felt she was still much too young to be a mother, too unused to adulthood to care as she ought for a babe. But this likely meant nothing to him, as he thought first and foremost about the estate, and presumably about his legacy and the continuation of his name, as it seemed every man did.

Deciding not to think about it, clinging to him instead, she moaned, gripping and scratching and begging to feel that release she’d not felt yet since they’d wed. She tilted her hips, trying to angle herself in a way which would bring her that glorious end. This new position seemed to be perfect, and with each stroke her body tightened and pushed nearer and nearer the edge of the cliff she wanted to throw herself over the edge of.

God, or perhaps rather Satan himself, had other plans. For when Elizabeth finally opened her eyes, her husband’s face buried against her chest and her hips still tilted just so, she realized that their bedroom door was sliding open. That damned butler stood on the other side, lips curled in that smug smile he always wore, and though his eyes were downcast, she couldn’t help but feel he was looking straight through her, through them both. But it was too late. Ciel’s movements had, finally, sent her over the brink - though more to her pleasure than her horror. Her legs quivered and her core tightened involuntarily. She pushed him, eyes caught silently on his butler. He gripped at one of her shaking thighs in surprise, lifting his face at the feeling of her constricting around him and pushing at his shoulders to see the horror on her face.

He followed her gaze, finding Sebastian on the other end. “Goddammit,” He hissed, pulling a pillow between them to hide their joined sexes. “Knock, Sebastian, you absolute beast.”
“A thousand apologies, my lord.” He made no move to leave, and now he had looked up at them, eyes trained on his master. Elizabeth tried her best to pull the sheets up around them - trying to hide her breasts and face, desperate to hide herself from view. “I’ve received word from Lord Ciccone, he requests your presence immediately.”

Ciel’s jaw clenched and he murmured a curse under his breath. “Leave us,” He dismissed before looking down at his wife. “I’m dreadfully sorry, Lizzy,” He sighed, kissing her quickly - then lingering for a second kiss - before sliding from within her.

“You really must go?” She made no attempt to hide her unhappiness at the motion. She still felt mentally hazy from the pleasured end she’d felt, no matter the embarrassing circumstances.

“Believe me,” He stood, still clearly in need of attention, “I am no happier than you that I must go. But the things I must talk to Lord Ciccone about are incredibly important and he has put this off for much too long already.

“I see,” Elizabeth wrapped herself in the sheets. “When will you be home?” Her eyes tracked him while he dressed.

“I am not sure, truthfully. This shouldn’t be a terribly long meeting, but if it is longer than I hope, I shall send Sebastian home.”

She said nothing on that, not willing to admit that the butler with whom he spent much too much time with was not on the list of people she wanted to see. Certainly not now, not after that humiliating encounter.

That was a matter which she was not ashamed to discuss. “Ciel, you are married now. You must teach that man that boundaries are important. Unless you intend for him to interrupt us frequently? I’d rather not have any man but you seeing me in this state.”

Something - greed, perhaps possessiveness - flashed in his eye. Clearly he had no intentions of others seeing what was his in any such state either. He pushed grease through his hair. “I’ll talk to him. He ought not be so presumptuous about your comfort. And you’re right,” he went to her side, pressing his hand gently to her face before letting his fingers curl around her jaw and pulling her face to look at him. “I have no desire for him to look at you as only I should.”

Her lips parted, a little breathless. “Then he shan’t.” Elizabeth pressed her hand over his. “Hurry home. I’ve no desire to spend any day apart from you during our tour.”

Chapter Text

Left alone in the Venician townhouse, Elizabeth found that she had nothing to do when Ciel was away. She’d found a book in English nestled in the small library, The Sylph, an old copy accredited to a ‘Young Lady’. The leather binding was worn, cracked and well loved.

She’d never read the novel, but she was delighted to delve into something to keep her mind and fingers occupied. She read while Paula carefully brushed out the tangles from the night before. She figured, since she had no plans to go outside their townhouse so long as Ciel was away conducting business, she had no reason to dress in the elegant fashions she’d had brought with them, or had purchased specifically for their tour. The heavy velvets and beaded gowns and coats, and the stylish bustles and horsehair pads would be left for another day. She donned instead a soft muslin gown, one that reminded her of the olden days.

Though its beetle-wing embroidery and the taught back fastened with buttons and stays kept it in modern fashion, the cut of the gown and the ruffles of the thin fabric hinted at its inspirations rather plainly. Drawing inspiration from olden ladies, fashion icons from days passed, tended to be all the rage no matter the decade one dressed for. Empresses of fashion plates like old French royalty, or Brits like Georgiana Cavenidish, tended to swoop in and push designers in one way or the next.

Filling similar roles in the world of fashion, Elizabeth took pride in knowing exactly where her seamster drew inspiration.

This particular one was meant to resemble the wears of the Princess de Lamballe, with its daringly low neckline and puffed up sleeves tied twice over before ending just beneath the bend of her elbow. The gown was meant to make it look like getting dressed was beneath her, she still wore the whale-boned stays beneath the fabric, the corset giving rise to her bosom and keeping her breasts high against the edge of her dress so that the tops could be seen over the edge. Though a fashionable lady, Elizabeth refused to overtighten her stays. She was slim enough, with a tight waist and stomach with only the most sensible layer of softness, and she thought the bulges on even the slightest of women that came from pulling the pair of bodies too closely together was terribly unattractive and undeniably uncomfortable. The silhouette given, despite the hundred-year-old inspiration, was undeniably modern.

“Paula?” Elizabeth looked over her shoulder to where Paula was finishing buttoning down the back of her gown.

“Yes, miss?”

“I think I’d like to leave my hair down for today,” She decided, returning her gaze to her form in the mirror. Elizabeth pulled a few shimmering curls over her shoulder, the brushed out hair twisting lazily down her form.

Paula finished, her dark brows coming together as if it was a request she’d never thought her mistress would make.

“Certainly, miss, if it pleases you.”

A nod, then Elizabeth looked to one of the jewelry boxes she’d brought from London. “Should I wear a ribbon ‘round my neck, or perhaps this?” She pulled a ribbon, plain and velvet, as well as a platinum necklace with a large lavalier embedded with diamonds and emeralds - a gift from Ciel for one of her birthdays.

“If I’m honest, I think you’d rightly get away with wearin’ both.”

“Now that is an idea - here, help me fasten them!” Elizabeth rested the necklaces both about her collar, lifting her hair out of the way so that Paula could hook the necklace together and tie the ribbon in place.

“Thank you, darling Paula.” She admired herself once more. Clothes were Elizabeth’s reprieve from the world. An easy way to distract herself from the fact that Ciel had abandoned her amidst their love making - and from the worry that his business would often call him away from their marital bed. He’d been head of Funtom longer than he’d been her husband, so perhaps it only made sense that he would value it more.

Or perhaps not, and she ought to read his easy abandonment as something else. Maybe he took more pleasure at his desk, buried in contracts rather than in her. She’d hoped that they might at least return to London before he became bored of her.

Tutting, Elizabeth plucked the book she’d been reading from the dressing table. Best not to think about such things. It would only cause wrinkles.

She left Paula to do her cleaning and made her way downstairs. Paula was a dreadful cook, and since it was only she and Sebastian here with them, Sebastian had taken the duty on fully. Unlike lovely Paula, Sebastian seemed to have all of the most delicious recipes locked away in his brain. Elizabeth wasn’t even sure she would find food waiting for her in the kitchen. Ciel had hauled his butler off with him when he’d left, likely before Sebastian had set to the task of making sure that his master and bride would be fed.

 

At least she wouldn’t be forced to go hungry, as she discovered a loaf of bread - likely made that morning. Though it was hardly a sufficient way to break her fast, she happily took a knife to the loaf and stole away a few sizable slices. Plucking one of the jars of fruit butters - this one smelled of allspice and pears - from a cabinet, she carried her makeshift meal into the dining room and settled into one of the chairs. For a while she sat and ate her pear butter smeared bread and read from the book she’d stolen from the library, then she went out onto the balcony, watching the people in their gondolas floating by.

Leaning across the thick rail, she saw a few people walking beneath along the narrow path, women and men and children, dogs barking and chasing after boys with sticks. It was a beautiful day, one which seemed shameful to be spent inside. The ladies and their hats only served to make her jealous. Had she a friend in the city, or were her husband home, she may have made her way into the grand floating city. But instead she was left waiting, watching with envy.

Her sighs were interrupted by the sudden presence behind her. She stayed put, hoping it was her husband, coming to sidle up beside her on the balcony. Instead, a dreaded voice spoke from the doorway behind her.

“Careful, My Lady, it would be quite the tragedy should you fall over the edge.”

Though harmless in its phrasing, she couldn’t help but shudder. Did everything he say sound so menacing? As if he would take a great deal of pleasure if she rolled over the handrail.

Elizabeth turned to face him, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth. “I am sure you would be most affected. Is my husband home?”

Her dress suddenly felt much too revealing, if only because their early morning encounter. She held her hands in front of her, trying not to look as though she was intentionally shielding herself from his gaze - though he never seemed to look at her. His strange eyes always seemed to look straight through her, feeling as though he was staring into her soul, judging her every thought or desire.

Elizabeth wasn’t entirely sure when she became so uncomfortable with Sebastian’s presence. In the past, when she was still a screeching child who darted after Ciel everywhere he went like a bullet, Sebastian often stepped up to the plate, going to bat for her against Ciel’s boyish ignorance. She no longer needed his defenses and he no longer offered it. Now, he just watched her, waiting like a snake in the grass for her to trip and stumble and fall from grace. She knew he had dark intentions, she could sense it. The inhuman beast sharpened his claws for her husband, but now she’d joined the household, what would ever keep him from turning his sights onto her, even if just in Ciel’s absence. Her distrust remained in place, though she tried her best not to let any cruelty show through. It wasn’t in her nature.

And even so, she often found herself pushing it far off to the side. Sometimes, in moments of weakness, Elizabeth would forget herself and she would find herself drawn to Sebastian in the way that everyone seemed to be. He was enigmatic and frightening. So many people feared him, but all were desperate to know him better. Even if they were his superiors. Even if friendship was the sort of thing he was not allowed.

“No, My Lady, not yet. Though I suspect he will not be gone for much longer - he sent me to ensure you are well. Are you hungry?”

“I’ve eaten already,” Though it was the truth, she also very truthfully wanted a real meal.

As though he could hear her stomach rumble before it ever happened, he offered. “I cannot imagine whatever it was was very fulfilling. Shall I make an early dinner?”

Knowing she’d soon be betrayed by her own body, Elizabeth relented. “That’d be fine, yes.” A pause before Elizabeth spoke again. “Thank you.”

With a bow he started off. Unexpectedly, Elizabeth followed. Boredom was quite the powerful thing. Though every fiber of her mind told her that now more than ever she ought stay far, far away from him, she often found it was hard to deny that spark of vain attraction to him. Be it for sparring, simple inquiries (as his vast intelligence often quelled her curiosities), or a desire to watch someone do the work she knew little about herself.

She knew enough about food to prepare a proper menu, and she supposed if she were abandoned in a house with no option but to fend for herself she wouldn’t starve to death. Still, Sebastian seemed to be something of an expert. Everything he’d made in the stead of the Phantomhive cook was nothing short of a delicacy. It was always phenomenal, and she knew whatever he made today would be as well. So curiosity led her down the hall, trailing behind the dark butler down into the kitchen.

“May I watch?” Probably an unnecessary question, as what else would she be following him around for? He’d made no query into it, so it was doubtful he’d mind. Not that he was allowed to.

“Certainly, My Lady. Whatever pleases you.”

Propriety shifting, she hoisted herself up onto an unused counter, watching Sebastian from her perch.

“What would you like to eat, Lady Phantomhive?” His eyes twitched towards her for a moment, barely long enough for Elizabeth to even register the gaze, before his focus returned to his feet, dark lashes hiding ruby eyes.

“I am not picky.” She resigned, looking around for an idea of what was even available for the making.

“Shall I make you a proper breakfast, then? Since I failed to ensure you ate before I departed.”

“I would like that,” a nod. “Though, I don’t expect you to value my meals over my husbands own needs. You are his butler, after all. Not mine.”

Sebastian’s back was to her. She saw him pluck three eggs from an iron basket and wash them off with a wet cloth. “As I serve your husband, I serve you. Such was his order.”

“Oh? I didn’t know. Why would he order such a thing when I’ve got Paula?” The latter was mainly for her own thought, not for Sebastian to answer, and he knew that well enough.

“Would you like prosciutto, My Lady, or bacon?”

“Have we got a melon?” Before he could answer, she’d dropped off the counter and tapped her way through the kitchen, seeking out one of the white skinned fruits.

Once she found one, she held the fruit up victoriously. “Ah! Yes! Prosciutto it is.”

Sebastian reached for the fruit but Elizabeth quickly drew it in towards her chest, cupping it close protectively. “I’d like to cut it myself, if you don’t mind,” She explained, setting it across from him on the large preparing table.

“As you wish.”

“May I have a knife?” She asked, having not seen one laying out.

Sebastian seemed to produce one out of no where. It was large, longer than the fruit itself and curved like a sword of the orient.

“Must it be so big?”

“The blade ought always be longer than what you are cutting. The curve is so it can slice through fruit such as this easily,” He explained simply and she felt as though it was something she should have known sooner.

Carefully, she rocked the edge of the blade against the melon, pushing it into its flesh and slowly slicing through. It squished, juice bubbling up from its new wounds, and the smell which often accompanied summer quickly began to waft about her. She wondered if this was a scent which could be bottled. To smell like a ripe fruit, perfect for picking, seemed the most ladylike thing a woman could smell like. More natural, certainly, than the overpriced ambergris women donned these days.

The fruit snapped in half. Each side rolled onto its back, and though she had seen lives end at the beckon of her blade, she felt more success in this moment. Laughter bubbled up from her, a smile plastered across her cheeks.

Sebastian looked at her, though not in that eerie way that made her skin crawl, and it was a strange experience. The longest he’d ever looked at her, though all he did was that - look. She dared think there was annoyance in his gaze. Unsurprising, since she was after all interrupting what would normally be a routine procedure for him. But if he was actually annoyed he made no mention of it.

With a quiet clearing of her throat, she asked. “How should I cut it now?” Usually, when Paula or Sebastian sliced a watermelon or a honeydew for picnics, it was in slices or cubes, but paired with prosciutto it was almost always in perfect little balls. Elizabeth wasn’t sure how he expected such precision when he’d handed her the equivalent of a machete to get the job done.

He silently passed her a melon baller, finally turning his gaze off of her.

The prosciutto only needed to be cut which he did quickly in perfect, thin slices while the eggs cooked in a skillet over an open flame. He did everything impossibly fast. Everything was near done when she’d finished balling half the melon.

If impatience was possible with him, Elizabeth would have ran her course.