They’d been married not quite a year, and those months had been quite happy for Marianne. Colonel Brandon, Christopher now, was truly the best of men, and was proving to be a wonderful husband. He delighted in pleasing her and generally indulged her flights of fancy. He grounded her, though. He helped her see the wonder and beauty in his calm nature, and the delights that could be found in the patient and mundane. When she had agreed to marry him, it was because she truly felt that he was the best for her, and that she could make him happy. He was a wonderful friend, had always been, and what greater happiness could there be than making a friend happy? Marianne knew he loved her, that his devotion and adoration of her was unmatched, and although she didn’t love him in that same passionate, wild way she had Willoughby, she cared for him deeply. But now, all these months later, Marianne couldn’t possibly say why she had loved Willoughby and although she couldn’t exactly tell you when her feelings towards Colonel Brandon had begun to change, she could tell that what she felt was growing and hoped one day that she could say that she loved him in return.
Tonight, they were having a dinner party. The usual was in attendance, with Mrs. Jennings and her lot, as well as Elinor and Edward. Elinor was expecting their first child and would soon go into confinement and they all decided to have one last dinner party before then. They were all in the sitting room now, conversation flowing about easily while Marianne played the piano. While she played, she was busy watching Christopher. He was sitting on the sofa with Edward, Elinor in an armchair nearby. She adored that Christopher and Edward got on so well since she couldn’t bare to live a life without having Elinor close by. As they talked, Edward said something that must have been amusing because Elinor covered her mouth with a demure laugh and Christopher laughed, smile wide and face lighting up in good humor. It struck Marianne rather hard. She had never in the past thought of Christopher as anything more than passably handsome, but now, looking at him alive with joy and friendship, he was simply beautiful. Her stomach did a swoop, heart skipping. Her fingers missed the next note and she stumbled over the next few trying to right herself before stopping completely. Everyone stopped talking, all eyes on her in question, but she didn’t look away from Christopher. His amusement faded quickly, concern quickly pulling his brows down as he stood and started her way. That didn’t help things because the intensity with which he was looking at her made her stomach tighten and a giddy feeling filled her chest.
“Marianne, darling, are you alright?” Christopher asked gently, coming around the piano so that he could kneel down at her side. Marianne smiled, letting out an embarrassed giggle.
“I am perfectly well.” She assured him. “I just got distracted. This music requires too much focus, apparently.”
“You’re certain?” he pressed, and Marianne placed her hand on his shoulder. It was rare that she initiated tactile affection with him, but she always enjoyed when he touched her, and touching him seemed the most pressing thing at the moment. His eyes flicked to her hand on him, then back to hers.
“Most certain, husband.” She promised. “I think I’ll take a break from playing, though. I’d much rather talk with Elinor.”
Christopher stood upright, offering his hand to her to help her up from the bench. Though she didn’t need the assistance, Marianne placed her hand in his and let him assist her. It was hardly the first time he had held her hand, but something about it right now sent a thrill up her arm. His hand was large, warm, the skin just a bit rough. Marianne flushed at the remembered feelings of that hand on her skin when they were in bed together. Christopher was a restrained man, and that transferred over to their lovemaking as well. She followed his lead always, and though she greatly enjoyed the times they joined like that, it was never as blissful as she’d read in some of the books she wasn’t supposed to read. It felt good once she got used to it, and Christopher always found his completion, though she had yet to conceive. While she always kept her nightdress on, his hands would occasionally find her knee or thigh beneath the fabric and the rasp of his skin on hers always brought goosebumps. She adored it, and now the rest of her body suddenly ached to feel his hands wherever she could get them.
“Marianne, are you sure you’re alright?” Elinor interrupted her rather inappropriate thoughts. “You’re awfully flushed.”
“I’m fine, truly.” She waved her sister off, giving a dip of her head to Christopher as he rejoined Edward to take back up their conversation.
“Why are you looking at Colonel Brandon that way?” Elinor asked, hooking her arm through Marianne’s elbow and guiding her to the empty sofa.
“In what way?” Marianne blinked, and fixed her attention on her sister. Elinor smiled a small, knowing smile.
“How is your marriage, Marianne? Is Colonel Brandon treating you well?”
“Yes, Elinor.” Marianne grinned; cheeks still warm. “He treats me very well, and you know this.”
“I do. He loves you far too much to treat you otherwise.” Elinor agreed, then leaned in a bit closer, a serious look on her face. “But tell me, how have your feelings for him changed? I haven’t seen you so enamored since…”
“Yes.” Marianne cut her off, not wishing to hear the name that was to come. It didn’t bother her, her feelings for Willoughby long since faded, but she didn’t want Christopher to overhear and have his pride hurt. “I,” she looked over at Christopher. “It’s different. He’s…well, he’s everything to me. And I to him. I could imagine no other man to bestow my heart to. And I rather think it’s too late for that, anyway.” She added with a happy laugh. “Christopher has my heart, and I am glad for it.”
“You love him.” Elinor said, and even though it wasn’t a question, Marianne nodded.
“I do. Truly. I love him.”
The night eventually dwindled down and their guests made their way home. Marianne, finished in the kitchen speaking with the maid, made her way into the sitting room to find Christopher. He was standing by the fire, one arm braced on the mantle and his other arm by his side, a glass of brandy in his hand. One leg was bracing his weight, the other on the hearth with his knee bent.
Had his legs always been so long? Had the lines of his figure always been so pleasing? Long and lean with such clean lines, he was stunningly made. How had she ever thought him average? How had she not seen how handsome he was? The youthful and boyish Willoughby didn’t hold a candle to him.
Desire. That was what Marianne felt. She wanted him. It was a yearning, a deep sort of hunger and need to have him. She wondered if her stoic, quiet Colonel Brandon would let her.
“Darling?” Marianne said, and Christopher looked away from the fire and at her. Whatever had been occupying his thoughts faded away and that soft, loving look filled his countenance.
“Everything settled?” he asked, stepping away from the fire and finishing off the last drought of his brandy.
“It is.” She nodded, the reached out a hand towards him. “Come to bed with me.”
He swallowed, surely noticing the timber of her voice and how it seemed more than just an innocent invitation. Setting his empty glass on the side table as he passed, he came to her, placing his hand in hers. Marianne wrapped her fingers around his, then pulled his hand to her lips, placing a kiss on his knuckles. Christopher inhaled unsteadily but when she looked up at him, he simply smiled at her. Without saying anything, Marianne led him up the stairs and to their bedroom. Once they entered, she dropped his hand to close the door as he went in and lit the lamps at the bedside even though the fire in the hearth gave the room enough light. Pressing her back to the door, she watched as he removed his boots and then went to work on his jacket.
“Wait.” She said suddenly, pushing off the door to go to him. Christopher’s fingers froze on the buttons, eyes flying to hers.
“What is it?”
“Nothing.” She smiled, putting him at ease. “Just…would you allow me?” she asked, motioning to his hands and his coat.
“Allow you?” he repeated in confusion.
“Yes. It’s just, well I remember my mother always used to do this for my father. I would like to do it for you, if you would allow it.”
With a second’s hesitation, Christopher let his hands fall to his sides and nodded, though she could see the heat building in his face. His eyes watched her intently as she came closer, fingers nimbly slipping all the buttons from their holes until his jacket was parted. Running her hands up his chest, Marianne pushed the wool from his shoulders and Christopher helped by shrugging it off and allowing her to pull it free of his arms. Folding it in half, she draped it over the back of the chair in the corner. When she returned to him, she noted that his chest was rising and falling a bit faster than normal and he was still watching her every move.
“I can be your personal valet.” She said softly, teasingly, as she went to work on the buttons of his waistcoat.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a valet.” He remarked and Marianne peaked up at him.
“Then I’ll be your first.” She held his gaze as she finished the last button, letting the waistcoat part. Pressing her hands to his chest, she let her gaze fall to what she was doing. His chest was firm beneath her palms, rising and falling with his shallow breaths. Letting her hands slowly slide down, pushing the waistcoat out of her way, she felt the expanding of his ribs, and then stopped at his stomach where it was just a bit softer than his chest had been, though she could feel his muscles tense. She heard him swallow, and then clear his throat.
“I doubt valets spend quite so much time removing a waistcoat, my dear.”
Marianne laughed. “I do believe you are right.” Sliding her hands back upward, she pushed the garment from his shoulders and this time simply tossed it in the direction of the chair before she went to work tackling his cravat, which soon joined his waistcoat near the chair. With his neck revealed, Marianne let her fingers trace a line from his jaw to his shoulder, feeling the roughness of his beard stubble give way to smooth skin. This time she could feel it when he swallowed.
“Marianne,” he said her name softly, his voice somehow deeper than it normally was. It sent a stab of want through her. Marianne bit her bottom lip, her own breathing coming rather short and rapid. Sometimes, when he was inside of her, she would start to feel this burning in her lower belly. It wasn’t pain, it was a sweet feeling, a feeling that made her want to feel more. She could feel that now and she tightened her thigh muscles to try and appease it, but all it did was inflame the sensation.
“What are you doing?” he finally finished and Marianne looked up at him. That careful restraint he always had was beginning to crack, she could tell. He wanted just as she did, but was confused as to this change in her conduct towards him.
“I am touching you.” She whispered. “Is…is that alright?” Perhaps it wasn’t. Perhaps he preferred a demure wife, one that followed and didn’t take the lead. Maybe she was being too forward for him.
“Of course.” He breathed. “So long as you are doing it because you want to. You needn’t do anything you don’t want to with me.”
Marianne nodded, fiddling with the laces of his shirt just below his throat. She didn’t know how to voice her want, her desire. Instead, she looked up at him and hoped he would see it for himself. “I want, Christopher.”
His breath shuttered out, a look of surprised awe in his beautiful eyes. A smile twitched at his lips and he gave a nod.
“Then, by all means, proceed.”
So she did. Taking her time, Marianne turned her attention to pulling his shirt free of his trousers. Ignoring how she was starting to shake, she pressed her hands under the loose fabric, letting her fingers touch the warm skin of his stomach. Then she pressed her hands flat against his sides, pushing upwards and taking the shirt with her until Christopher lifted both arms and helped her remove it. He balled the fabric up in one hand as she caressed over his shoulders, and then down his upper arms. When she reached his elbows, he dropped the shirt to the floor.
“Christopher.” She again brought her hands to his chest, running her fingers along the hair there. The sight twisted something inside of her. “You’re…” she shook her head, trying to find the right word.
“Old?” he offered in a self-deprecating voice that she knew was meant to lighten the moment. She would have none of that.
“Beautiful.” She corrected, looking up at him so that he saw how serious she was. “Would you mind sitting on the bed, please?”
Christopher nodded, moving to the bed and sitting on the edge. Marianne knelt at his feet, lifting each in turn to remove his stockings, letting her fingers trail over his strong calves. But Christopher stopped her, taking her by the upper arms and urging her to stand.
“I don’t want you at my feet, Marianne.” He explained when she gave him a confused look. “I don’t want you on your knees for me.”
Marianne nodded, stepping closer so that he was forced to spread his knees apart to allow her space. Resting one hand on his shoulder, she let the other move to the back of his neck, playing at the ends of his hair that always curled against his collars. His eyes closed at the feeling, head tipping back into her touch. Unable to resist, Marianne dipped her head and pressed her lips to his in a chaste kiss. Christopher very nearly gasped, but didn’t pull away. She kissed him a few more times before he started returning them and with every lingering touch and pull of his mouth, she wanted more. Threading her fingers into his hair, she tilted her head to the side and kissed him deeper, daring to let the tip of her tongue come out to lick his upper lip. A noise broke in his throat, deep and rough and it encouraged her to open her mouth further until he did as well and allowed her tongue to slide against his.
Marianne was the one gasping this time, her knees nearly buckling beneath her. Christopher felt that, and his hands were at her waist, steadying her. Wanting more, she wrapped her arm around his shoulders and pressed further into the kiss and into him until she wasn’t sure who was kissing who. Her lips tingled, desire making her dizzy, and she clutched at him harder. It was becoming harder to breathe.
“Christopher.” She gasped his name, pulling away. His face was flushed, lips swollen and glistening in the firelight. With his eyes half lidded and heavy, all Marianne wanted was to kiss him again. But there were more pressing matters at hand.
“I’m sorry, darling, I got caught up and…”
“Hush, you.” She stopped his rambling apology. “I need your help. It’s getting harder to breathe.” She turned her back on him, looking at him over her shoulder. “Help me with the laces.”
Licking his lips, Christopher wiped his hands on the thighs of his breeches before standing up behind her. Facing forward again, she tried to maintain her breathing while he loosened the laces, giving her room to take a deeper breath. She thought he’d finish it off and help her out of her dress, but instead she felt him go still behind her, his breath warm on the back of her neck. It excited her even further, but she did wish he would move on.
“Might I take your hair down?” he eventually asked, a fingertip touching just behind her ear where a curl was laying. She shivered from the small point of contact.
“You may.” She whispered.
With careful fingers and gentle tugs, he removed the pins from her curls without tugging on her hair until it fell about her shoulders. To her great surprise, he gathered her hair into one hand, draping it over one shoulder. Then his lips, warm and gentle, pressed to that same spot just behind her ear. Her belly tightened, heat flooding her veins and making her heart pound as well as a certain other pounding between her thighs.
“Christopher.” She moaned around his name. “Please, the laces. I can hardly get a breath.”
“Of course.” He rumbled, mouth staying just there beside her ear while his hands worked the laces on her dress until it was able to be pushed off her shoulders. Taking over, Marianne quickly pulled her arms free and shimmied the dress off her hips. Christopher held her elbow as she stepped free of the material, and she kicked it off to the side. Without her having to ask, Christopher pulled her back to him and started to work on the laces of her stays until they were loose and she pulled it free, dropping it on top of her dress. Undoing the tie at the back of her petticoat, Marianne was free of it as well before turning to face Christopher. It was the least dressed she had ever been in his presence and she suddenly felt very nervous about moving forward. As always, he picked up on her emotions.
“It’s alright, Marianne.” He touched her cheek gently. “We can stop.”
“No.” Marianne shook her head, looking up into his eyes. “I don’t want to stop. I’m just unsure as what to do.”
Christopher gave her a small half smile, head tilting to the side. “What do you want to do?”
Marianne thought about that, placing her hands flat on his chest while she did so. “There is a peak that you reach when we are together. A blissful release. Yes?”
One of the things Marianne enjoyed the most was seeing her calm Colonel Brandon blush, as he did now. At first his eyes slid away from hers, but before he spoke, they returned.
“Yes. Where did you learn such a phrase? Blissful release?” he lifted a brow knowingly. “You’ve been reading improper books, haven’t you?”
“Books on your shelf, Colonel Brandon.” She reminded him with a grin. “And in these improper books, it talks about how a woman can feel the same bliss. Is that true?”
“I don’t know, Marianne.” He smoothed the hand on her cheek down her neck, watching as he did so, until he was tracing light patterns on her upper arm. “I may be quite your senior, but you are the only woman I’ve ever laid with. Men in the army talk, though, and even though I never put much stock into the bragging of soldiers, I think perhaps it can. Do you…do you not enjoy when we are together?”
“I do.” She said urgently. “Oh, of course I do. But I feel this…ache down here,” she placed her hand just above her pelvis. “And I think you can help me.”
Christopher didn’t say anything, but he did bend to kiss her. It wasn’t the sweet, chaste kisses they normally shared. It was more intense, his tongue making its way into her mouth and stealing her breath. While they kissed, Christopher let his hands cup her hips. As she wrapped her hands around his neck, pulling him closer so that her body was pressed against his, he began to fist the fabric of her shift, causing it to bunch up and reveal more of her legs. She could feel the brush of his breeches against her and she knew then what she wanted, and that was to feel his skin against her. Pulling away, taking a small step backwards, adoring the way Christopher swayed towards her. Grasping the bottom hem of her shift, she tugged it up and off, dropping it onto the ground. It was a struggle to look at him without a stitch of clothing, but she managed it. He was near panting now, jaw unhinged and eyes everywhere. Without knowing what else to do, Marianne stepped into him again, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pulling him back down for more kisses.
It was a strange desire, to want to rub herself like a cat against his naked skin, but that was the only thing she could think to compare it to. The hair on his chest that arrowed down his stomach tickled her sensitive skin and it only served to make her want more. She could also feel herself growing heavy between her thighs, a wetness pooling there. Her breasts ached and pushing into him made it feel better.
“Marianne, darling.” Christopher pulled away; one arm wrapped around her back keeping her against him. “Lay down.”
Climbing on top of the covers, she lay her head on a pillow and watched impatiently as Christopher fumbled with the clasp of his breeches with shaking hands until he could finally push them off. She looked at that part of him that had been inside of her before, a place she’d never looked before, and she felt her body tighten with the need to have him inside of her again. With that long-legged grace of his, he crawled onto the bed next to her. They came together again, more heated kisses that were growing less restrained and more passionate. Like she always did, Marianne let her desire lead her and she drew a leg up and over his hip, moaning into his mouth as the throbbing center of her slid along his thigh. She thought briefly to be mortified at how wet she knew she was making his leg, but Christopher returned her groan, his hand grasping her hip and tugging her even closer, shifting his leg further between her own and allowing her to rub against him. It felt wonderful, but she could also feel his hardened member pressed against her stomach and she wanted him inside her.
All the other times they’d come together, Marianne had been laying on her back, under the blanket with the oil lamps all blown out. Christopher would always lay above her, keeping all of his weight off of her and when he was finished, he would roll over to lay next to her. Marianne didn’t want that tonight. She wanted to see him, feel him. She wanted to touch him and watch him as they came together, and hopefully find a measure of the bliss they talked about in the books.
With the leg she had over his hip, Marianne used the leverage to roll him onto his back so that she was astride him. Christopher looked up at her in shock, but he let her do as she would. Rising up on trembling thighs, she scooted up and over him so that she could take him inside of her. It felt different like this, like he was somehow deeper inside of her. She gasped, throwing her head back and gripping tightly to his chest, her nails pressing into his skin.
“Lord have mercy.” Christopher whispered hoarsely. “Marianne, my love.”
Beyond words, Marianne simply hummed in pleasure. Easing the tension in her fingers, she looked down at him and just the look on his face was enough to have every part of her tensing with the need to move, to drive this ache away. Rocking her hips forward, a bolt of mind-numbing pleasure raced through her, so she did it again. Christopher groaned, long and low, and his hands grabbed her knees, then ran up her thighs until he could hold onto her hips. He helped her find a rhythm, encouraged her to go faster and to press harder. His hips lifted into her, touching further inside of her, and Marianne couldn’t contain herself. She cried out, chin dropping to her chest as she was overcome with bliss. Christopher sat up then, one arm around her back and the other grasping her buttocks to keep her moving while he continued thrusting up into her. That’s when it snapped, that tightly strung cord of pleasure inside of her, and her entire body tightened onto his, muscles pulsing rhythmically with each wave of pleasure.
The world tilted and in her pleasure numb state, she thought she was falling until she felt the bed beneath her. Opening her eyes, she found Christopher above her, face taunt with need and still hard inside of her. Marianne blinked a few times, then cupped the back of his head, her other hand sliding down to rest on his lower back. Licking her lips, she nodded, lifting her hips into his. A deep noise rumbled in his chest and then he was pushing back into her, thrusting harder than he had ever dared to before. He buried his face into her neck, arms shoving under her so he could hold her tighter. Her whole world then was him, and what they were doing. Nothing else mattered, but then Christopher murmured something that she was quite certain was profane, hips pressing into her as he found his own release.
He rolled off of her, but this time he took her with him. For the longest time they simply held each other, occasionally kissing and touching until they were calm again.
“Would you like some water?” he asked, rolling off the bed. Marianne watched in avid interest as he found his night shirt and put it on.
“Yes, please.” She got up as well, feeling a little tender between the legs as she found his discarded shirt on the floor and put it on. Christopher filled a glass from the water pitcher on the table near the fireplace, eyes on her the entire time. Marianne flushed, sitting on the edge of the bed and accepting the glass when he handed it to her. Then he sat next to her, reaching over to take her hand between the both of his as they sat in silence for a moment.
“Please don’t think I didn’t enjoy what happened between us.” He started. “But, where did this come from? I am under no illusion that I am an especially desirable man that inspires such passion in women.”
“Oh, but you are wrong.” Marianne insisted. Sitting her glass on the table next to the oil lamp, she turned to him, pulling her legs up onto the bed so she was on her knees next to him. Taking his face in her hands, she pressed a kiss to his lips before pulling back. “Christopher, you are. You are lovely and handsome and I can’t imagine ever desiring anyone they way I desire you. Don’t you understand?”
“Understand, what?” he asked, holding gently onto her wrist.
“That I do desire you. I am attracted to you. Christopher, I love you. You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever met.”
His eyes went a little wide, hand tightening on her wrist. “You love me? Marianne, you don’t have to say that because you think you must. Your affection and companionship is enough.”
“I say it because it is what is in my heart. I say it because it is true. I love you. I love you.” She pressed another kiss to his lips. “I love you.”
Christopher groaned, then cupped the back of her neck, bringing her in for another, deeper, kiss. One that threatened to start everything all over again. Not that she was exactly opposed to such a thing.
“I love you, Marianne.” He said, forehead pressed to hers. Marianne laughed happily, dropping more kisses to his cheeks and nose.
“I love you, too. I will always love you, my dear Colonel Brandon.”
“You needn’t ravish me every time you wish to tell me, though.” He brushed his nose against hers. “I would be just as happy to hear it over breakfast or before I leave on errands.”
“Yes, I think I shall tell you every chance I get now.” She shifted so that she was sitting in his lap, arms tossed around his shoulders, happy as could be. “But I will still ravish you from time to time. I think you rather need it.”
“Quite.” He smiled, that sweet blush prominent on his high cheekbones.
“Let us go to bed now.” She yawned. “I find I’m rather tired.”
With a kiss pressed to her forehead, Christopher urged her up and off his lap. While she snuggled under the covers, he doused the oil lamps before joining her. There was no respectful distance kept between them tonight. Tonight they were a tangle of sated limbs, and Marianne fell asleep with nothing more than a keen excitement to wake up the next morning just so she could see her beloved Colonel Brandon again, and she could tell him once more how much she loved him.