“Thus with artless or sublime candour did she deliver her person and charms, increasing my happiness by sharing it. The intoxication was complete and reciprocal: for the first time mine survived the pleasure.”
from “Les liaisons dangereuses” Written by Choderos de Laclos and translated by Thomas Moore
Dominic, the Marquis Vidal and Mistress Mary Challoner were married at the English Embassy in Paris on a beautiful September morning in the presence of his parents the Duke and Duchess of Avon and her grandfather, General Sir Giles Challoner, among others.
The bride wore a sacque gown of cream-colored silk embroidered with pink rosettes, a matching hat, and delicately heeled shoes; she carried a bouquet of orange blossoms. She looked serene. The groom wore a matching coat with a large quantity of mechlin lace at the sleeves and throat, his costume complete with silk pantaloons, clocked stockings and heeled shoes with large diamond buckles. He kept pulling the lace at his throat.
“Vidal,” Mary whispered gently to him as she watched him tug at the lace for the umpteenth time since they stood before the pastor. "Stop pulling at your cravat."
“It’s too tight,” Vidal replied in a voice that was decidedly above a whisper. “Demmed valet--”
“Ahem,” came a cough from behind.
Vidal reddened and lowered his hand. He turned to the appalled pastor and apologized with grace. “Do go on,” he said.
Behind him, the Duke gave a slight smile; a mere upturn at the corners of his mouth.
The rest of the ceremony went off without any more interruptions by the groom. There were no tears.
“Oh, how could you curse at your own wedding, Dominique!” His mother scolded him as they made their way to the hotel’s banquet hall where the wedding breakfast waited for them. “I have raised you very badly, hein ?”
“Of course not, my child,” the Duke said calmly, taking his wife’s hand. He leaned in and whispered to her, “And he is no longer your responsibility. He is Mary’s.”
The Duchess glanced up at him with a smile filled with laughter. “That is so.”
“You shocked the vicar very badly,” Mary was saying to Dominic. “I don’t think he will ever forget you.”
Dominic looked down at his wife, taking in the curve of her brow, her shining brown hair (for she had refused it to be powdered, as he did) as it peeked out from under the brim of her satin hat, and the lips which were at the moment turned up with amusement.
His eyes darkened. “I shall fire Timms, for he made it too tight. I thought I would choke.”
“But you didn’t,” his wife replied and looked up at him with her lovely gray eyes. “You responded quite easily to the vicar’s questions.”
“Of course,” Dominic said. “I couldn’t very well remain silent at my own wedding.”
“So Timms shall remain in service,” Mary said practically. “For no one else shall have you; you are too careless with your clothing, your hair, your boots, your--”
“Yes, yes,” Dominic replied impatiently. “TImms shall remain with me.” He paused. “He said he preferred dressing me to Jasper Trelawney,” he said as he pulled out his wife’s chair.
“Of course he does.” Mary met his gaze as he sat down beside her, her beautiful eyes shining with amusement; with love; with something he couldn’t put into words. “You are an absolutely beautiful man, my lord”
These last words were said in such a low voice no one but Dominic could hear her. Even as he felt his own intake of breath at her blunt speech, he saw the flush rise from her neck to her cheeks. But she did not look away in maidenly modesty. She was flushed, not with embarrassment, but with the promise of later.
A stab of desire cut through him, and he tore his eyes away. He wanted nothing more than to pick her up and carry her up to their rooms right then and make love to her. He had never wanted any woman as much as he wanted his wife. But he forced himself to behave; to wait for later instead of taking now as he usually did. Mary would not like it if he grew impetuous and he was determined to win her approval. Still, he was not going to let her have complete control over his actions, and he was going to tell her so.
“You play in dangerous waters, my lady,” he murmured mockingly as he held up his glass of champagne to a toast he had not heard. “Do not take my compliance for anything other than patience.”
“Patience?” She let out a gurgle of laughter, as though responding to something Rupert said, which was usually worth laughing at, and nodded her head at her new uncle. “I don't believe that is part of your nature, and in this I doubt you will show much patience.”
She watched something burn in his eyes, and felt her heart quicken. His scent of bergamot and ambergris grew stronger and she knew it was true: she was indeed playing in dangerous waters.
“You see, I am not quite the green girl you think me.”
In that moment she knew she had taken a wrong turn, for his eyes hardened and his thin lips tightened.
“What do you mean by that, darling,” he said in that silky voice that implied danger was imminent, emphasizing the endearment in a way that told her it was not at that moment at all endearing.
Anger flared within her, her eyes blazing. She tried to turn away, but his hand shot out and gripped hers. Not hard enough to hurt, but hard enough to let her know she was in his power physically.
“Let me go.”
Immediately his hand released hers and disappeared as he turned to his chantilly cream.
Relief and regret mingled within her. She had hurt him--unintentionally--but he had kept his promise to her. Compassion filled her as she watched him stare at his plate. He was still so much like a little boy, vulnerable and quick to assume. He needed reassurance, though she hoped that would not always be the case.
“You have mistaken what I mean, my Lord Vidal,” she said in a low voice, not looking at him as she spoon raspberry comfit on her plate. She liked it with creams. “I do not mean I have any practical experience. My virtue is very much safe and waiting for you.” She saw him look sharply at her out of the corner of her eye. “I only meant that I know much more than you believe me to know, how men and women love one another. I have seen I Modi --The Sixteen Pleasures.”
Dominic started, jerking his hand so hard, he flipped his chantilly cream onto his mother’s plate next to him.
“Dominique, why you are so clumsy?” The Duchess scolded as a server came forward and quickly wiped up the offending cream from the table.
“I apologize maman,” he replied, not looking at her. His voice was gruff and color crept up his cheeks. “Just a slip of my spoon.”
“You are behaving so strangely,” she said crossly. “I do not know what has come to you--”
“Over you,” The Duke interrupted smoothly.
“--come over you,” Leonie went on as though she had not been interrupted. “I think Mary regrets marrying you.” She looked to Mary for confirmation, and was quickly rewarded.
“No, of course I do not,” Mary answered firmly, picking up her champagne and taking a sip. She felt her cheeks flush “Indeed I am honored to be Vidal’s wife. More honored than he knows.”
“Prettily said,” Rupert’s voice sounded loudly from the other side of the table. “To Mary and Dominic.“
As they lifted their champagne, Mary leaned over and whispered into Dominic’s ear, so close her warm breath sent a shiver through him. “More honored than he will ever know.”
Dominic closed his eyes for a moment, and suddenly he felt like crying. How ridiculous, he thought with irritation, swallowing the emotion down where it lodged in his throat. A grown man crying over such a thing...honor-bah! Honor was a man’s realm, virtue a woman’s.
When the last of the cakes were eaten and the champagne drunk, Mary and Dominic were escorted to the lobby of the hotel where they were kissed goodbye (or in Dominic’s case, treated to a little ribaldry by his uncle), and sent upstairs where they were to begin their honeymoon before travelling to Italy the following week.
Left alone, Dominic offered his wife his arm, and silently they ascended the stairs to their suite. It was the second best set of rooms in the hotel, the first belonging to the Duke and Duchess; it had just as much to offer.
Dominic felt guilty at making the assumption that his wife was somehow not faithful to him, but he was also irritated that she had said something so provocative. What was it she had supposed he would think? He had not imagined dirty novels being part of her repertoire.
Mary’s heart thumped against her chest so loudly she was sure it was noticeable by all. They would soon be completely alone and she would be at his mercy. She was not afraid he would hurt her, but she did not know what to expect of him. He had not had that much to drink, to be sure; only a few glasses of champagne, so he would not have that gleam in his eye; the gleam that told her he was not quite sober. Still there was a tension in him that told her had not quite forgiven her gaff at breakfast.
When they reached the door to their rooms, he opened it and allowed her to enter first. She turned and watched as the shut the door behind them. The latch locked into place with a rather louder click than it should have. Silence followed and neither of them moved. Mary met his gaze and lifted her chin. She was not going to let him run roughshod all over her, not on their wedding night. But he didn’t attack her as she supposed he would. Instead he regarded her with an inscrutable expression.
“I wonder, madam, how you came to see such a thing as I Modi ?” Dominic asked in that silky, dangerous tone that made her shiver with apprehension and desire. “It’s not something most English men have seen, let alone young and innocent females.”
“I went to seminary school,” Mary replied innocently as if that explained it all.
He frowned. “I was unaware the curriculum for seminary school included such texts.”
“Don’t be absurd, Dominic,” Mary said lightly, unpinning her hat and setting it down on the nearest table along with the pins. “Everything was very staid and proper, at least until the lights went out.”
His brow rose in surprise. “Indeed.”
“Girls talk,” Mary explained. “They talk of all sorts of unsuitable topics.”
“So you read this...illicit text with other girls, did you?” His gaze took a faraway look. “I never imagined such a thing.”
“No, though you would probably be appalled by what girls together with no chaperone will talk of,” Mary replied in amusement. “No, that happened when I went home with a friend for Christmas. Her father had a great library. I was about sixteen and was desirous to get my hands on any books I could, so I snuck down at night and read whatever struck my interest.”
“And the first thing you discovered was an erotic text?” he asked dryly, sitting carelessly down on the settee behind him, crossing his long legs at the ankle and leaning back, his arms spread casually on either side of the back of the settee.
He took her breath away; his careless grace only hid the volatile temper that lay right beneath the surface. “Of course not,” she smiled demurely. “I found it tucked away behind Locke and Hume.”
“Of course you did,” he muttered, flicking invisible speck from his coat, his long white fingers bearing only his signet ring. When he was finished, he turned his half lidded gaze to hers. “Most gently bred girls would have screamed and swooned. They would not touch such texts."
Mary smiled secretly at that. "I think you give us too little credit, my husband." It was the first time she had called him "husband" and she felt a little possessive thrill at using such an intimate term of address. It must have affected Dominic as well, for he fairly smouldered.
"And what did you think, darling?” His voice had grown soft and his eyes glinted. “Were you shocked? Frightened? I can’t believe the girl who saw such engravings was naive enough to pull the wool over the eyes of a libertine and think she would get away with it with no consequences.”
Mary’s eyes narrowed. “I said I am less innocent than you believe; I did not say I was completely without innocence, as you well know. I was naive and a fool.” She began to remove her gloves, delicately pulling on each finger, knowing he watched as she did so. Her fingernails were gently rounded and they had been buffed until they shone.
Dominic ignored that. “I asked you what you thought?”
Mary stilled. His voice was commanding; he would not cede to her. She felt the heat flush up her neck to her cheeks as she remembered the postures. She cleared her throat, feeling it tighten. “Paris and Oenone,” she whispered, feeling apprehension creep into the emotions swirling in her breast. “And Antony and Cleopatra.”
His expression didn’t change, but his breathing did, becoming ragged and short.
“Also Venus and Mars…” she faltered as his eyes flashed and he rose from his seat. She held herself as he moved towards her, anticipation flooding her blood.
“Why?” His voice was rough and it scraped her like flint, sparking a flame of aching desire through her belly. “Tell me why you like Venus and Mars.” He was close enough for her to feel the warmth of his person and smell his musk of ambergris and bergamot. Unable to stop herself, she closed her eyes, and tilting up her chin she let out a small, “oh!” but it didn't sound innocent. It sounded like the cross between a moan and a gasp.
Dominic responded with his own noise and her eyes flew open. He was close, so close, and he was staring at her mouth, his eyes so very dark.
She could feel the tension in him and it was almost unbearable. In watching him she forgot her own embarrassment and allowed herself to forget her gentility. She arched towards him, her eyes softening with all the love and desire she had for him. “Because I will be in control of your release and you cannot dominate me.”
In the roaring silence that followed, she held herself still. His eyes fluttered and his breast rose and fell so deeply, she wondered if he might swoon. Elation flooded her, rich and triumphant.
She was magnificent and he was so swollen with desire that he was sure at any moment he would collapse to his knees, begging her to take him as she wanted. But that would have to wait. She was still a virgin and tonight was just the beginning. She already knew more than he had ever imagined, but knowledge was not the same as experience. It was the hardest thing he’d ever done-to stay where he was instead of catching her up in his arms and ravishing her as he longed to do-as he would have done not two weeks prior--for there was a beauty in this moment; something exquisite; something brief that once was gone, would never return. He would not do that to them, so he prolonged the moment.
“And you will.” HIs voice was hoarse. “But not tonight. Tonight you will trust me.”
“Yes,” she sighed. There was a slight loosening of her joints and she swayed, her head tilting to the side, eyes fluttering closed.
It was her surrender to him.
Slowly he slipped hands around her waist, feeling the slide of silk against his fingertips, and gently pulled her to him. He pressed his lips upon hers, kissing her lightly, feeling them cling to his own. He teased his tongue against her upper lip. “Open your mouth, darling,” he whispered, and when she did, he slid his tongue into her velvety mouth. She gasped and he felt her hands clasp his shoulders, fingers clutching at his clothing, pulling it away from his skin.
As he deepened their kiss, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her up against him, thrusting his hips against her, and his arousal, which stood out against his breeches.
“Dominic” she whimpered as he pressed kisses down her throat. “I never thought...Oh, Dominic.”
“Say it again,” Dominic whispered, sliding his hands up to her breasts and plucking her laces with agile fingers. He pressed his thumb against the tips of her breasts, wondering what color they would be. Luscious and pink? Or would they be a pretty tawny brown? “Say my name.”
“Dominic,” she murmured into his ear, sending shivers through him. “Dominic.”
They didn’t speak again until Mary’s robe was on the floor along with her petticoat, stays, and pannier. Dominic’s coat, waistcoat, and shirt soon joined them, and then they were clad only in stockings, breeches, and shift. Mary gasped as his hands slipped under her shift to press his fingers into the tender skin of her buttocks. He again lifted her up against him but this time there were no skirts or petticoats to hinder him, and when his penis nudged between her thighs, she lifted his head from where he was pressing kisses to her neck and stared into his desire-flushed face.
“What is that look, hm?” With one arm around her waist, he brushed the hair that had fallen down away from her cheek with the palm of his hand. “Is it frightening?”
“Oh, no,” She answered with a roll of her hips. He gasped at the sensation it sent through his cock.
“Let us to bed,” he muttered, spinning her around and walking her backwards to the lush silk-covered bed behind them. When her knees hit the edge, he pulled her shift up and over her head, leaving her bare before him, save only her silk stockings. Her skin flushed pink with desire and embarrassment. He brushed the small brown nipple of her right breast with the back of his fingers. “Oh, Mary,” he said, his voice shaking. “How lovely you are.”
Mary gave a shivery little laugh that was cut off in a gasp when his lips replaced his fingers and he pulled her into his hot mouth. She smelled of sugar and violets, intoxicating and warm. He felt her fingers slip into his hair and freeing it from its bag and queue. Then she shifted beneath him and he lifted his head to find her scooting backwards. When she reached the headboard, she lay down and opened her arms to him, silently entreating him to come to her.
Desire stabbed through his belly, and catching her gaze, he slowly removed his breeches, freeing his erection to her gaze. For a moment she looked with no expression, but then to his delight, her lips parted and her wide eyes flicked up to his.
“Do you see how much he wants you?” He said, taking himself in hand. “He stands before you in awe, desiring nothing more than to bury himself within your sweetness and seek his pleasure-and yours.”
“Yes,” she replied in a husky voice that sent shivers down Domninc’s back. She parted her thighs, revealing golden brown curls and beyond...ah! beyond...
“Do you see how she blooms for you? With longing and desire--”
Dominic let out a half whimper, half moan, and cut her off as he sought her lips with his as he covered her with his body. He pressed himself against her soft, wet, center, and when the tip found her opening, he almost forgot all he had planned in his need to thrust into her. The tip was already parting the folds of her flesh, but he tore himself away.
“Not yet!” he gasped, kneeling between her silk clad legs. “You are not yet ready.”
“No!” Mary moaned, reaching for him, her fingers grasping at only air. “Dominic!”
He clasped one of her hands within his and pressed eager kisses to her fingers and palm. “I want to show you the depths of pleasure there are to be had, so I must wait. You are not yet ready for me.” And not waiting for any response, he slid his hand down into the curls between her thighs, seeking out her clitoris. When he found it, she cried out and pressed herself into his hand. “That’s it, darling,” he whispered, captivated by the sight. “Right there...” He slid his finger inside her and she lifted her hips off the bed. After a time she became incoherent as the pleasure within her built. Her head moved back and forth as she thrust into his hand. Eventually, shuddering, she cried out.
He crawled over her, the feeling of her skin brushing against his cock, almost painful he was so tender and swollen, but he ignored it, for he would soon find his release. He settled himself between her legs, his arms resting on either side of her head. Her eyes were closed, her lips parted, and so he kissed her in an imitation of the very act he so desperately wanted to perform, his tongue pulsing inside her sweet mouth. In his ecstasy of her, all his resolutions to prolong his penetration fled and before he knew it he was pleading.
“Mary, oh Mary, I cannot wait any longer! Please, take me. Take me!”
Her eyes opened, and he gasped when he saw their color; their clearness; and the love that shone for him. “Then come to me. Come”
Her hands fluttered at his shoulders, and with a tenderness he had not yet expressed with her-for tenderness was vulnerability, and that had been unacceptable-until now-he took his wife’s hand, and lacing their fingers, pressed them into the bed beside her head. With his other hand he took himself and found the slippery opening between her soft thighs. As he pushed slowly into her, he took her other hand and pressed a soft kiss on her palm.
She was so well-loved, after only a moment’s struggle; a tightening of her muscles around him; a gasp; he slid into her, a moan of pleasure releasing from the depths of his soul. He was surrounded by a warmth and softness he had never bothered to consider before. Why had he never noticed how wonderful women were? How inviting their bodies; how much they gave when they took men deep within them?
A kiss pressed to his lips broke him from his thoughts, and he was looking down into his wife’s hooded eyes, a soft smile playing around the corners of her mouth.
“I have not hurt you?” he asked, for she had made no sound.
“No.” She kissed the corner of his mouth. “But you are so far away. Where did you go?”
“Nowhere. I am right here with you, adored one.”
“And will you move, or shall I-” she lifted her hips against his, causing his penis to slide even further into her.
Desire flooded him, and he no longer felt muddled. He withdrew and thrust, causing her to gasp as her eyes flew to his. “Shall you what?” he asked, feeling a return of the old aggression. He withdrew and paused. “Mary?”
“Nothing,” she moaned. “I shall do nothing!”
Euphoria burst through him, and though his need burned hot and his desire pulsed, he was in control. “Not nothing, my darling. Respond to me” He kissed her neck and stroked it with his tongue as he thrust into her again and again. “Feel me inside you.”
The lady was gone and in its place was the wanton. She was not ashamed of her lack of decorum but neither was she coy. It was so different from what he was used to, he could not help but be captivated by her face. Everything she felt was right there in her fluttering eyes; in the flush of her cheeks; in the way her chin lifted as she pressed her head into the pillow; on her lips as she bit them, parting them as soft erotic cries emerged.
In making love he had always given priority to his own passions. Though he knew how to please a woman, his own pleasure had always been more important. But looking at her he realized how much it mattered that she was equally, if not more, lost than he to the exquisite passion between them. His hand between them, he brushed her sensitive throbbing center and steadily let the pleasure build within him, neither rushing o prolonging it. He just let it be as it was. When agony was finally upon him, he cried out her name against her breast, a plea to let him go, and he wondered if she even knew what he was asking. He felt her hands slide down his sweat-slicked back to his buttocks, which she gripped, nails digging into his skin.
“Oh, my love, my darling boy!” She finally whispered in his ear. “Come for me.”
And he did, and it was the most wonderful, exciting, pleasurable experience in his entire life. He could not remember a release so strong or so exquisitely long, not even when he had been young and green.
He hadn’t even noticed that Mary had not found her release-until she did-and it happened right as his own ended. He watched her through a haze as she clenched around him crying out quietly and shuddering beneath him. He stroked her temple; the tip of her nose; her lips. And when she opened her eyes to him, he kissed her until they were both making little sounds of pleasure. He was soft inside her, but he didn’t mind the feeling.
“Your darling boy, am I?” he murmured, meeting her soft gaze.
She smiled, her cheeks flushing slightly. “Well yes,” she admitted. “Sometimes you act like a spoiled child.”
He must have frowned, for she reached out and smoothed his brow. “But I have to tell you my secret. I always thought I could tame you.”
He stared at her, his frown deepening. “Tame me, madam?”
She ignored his temper and continued to brush her fingers through his hair. “Yes.” Then she sighed, and said, “Oh, Dominic, you are so beautiful.”
“While that is gratifying to hear, I would like to know how you plan to tame me.
His voice had lowered and adapted the silky quality that signified danger. But now the danger was tinged with erotic excitement, for Mary knew what pleasures were to be had and explored with him, within him.
“As I said before,” she replied in a husky voice, rolling them over so she was atop him, though he slid out of her as she did so. “I will be Venus to your Mars, and I will ride you until you cannot move.”
His eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared, and she could smell the ambergris on him as his skin warmed under her words and her own skin. His hands suddenly clenched around her buttocks and she could feel him twitch against her thigh.
“And how do you plan to keep me from moving you beneath me? For I am stronger-”
“I shall tie you to the bed so you cannot move. Of course you must play fair. You must not cheat.”
He froze. She wanted to tie him up? To the bed? Heat surged through him, and to his utter shock he was once again hard and ready for her. He had never been ready so fast after the first round of lovemaking. Without thinking he grasped her hips and lifted her; with a gasp from them both, she sunk down upon him smoothly and easily.
“Oh, Dominic,” she breathed, her playfulness forgotten. “Again already?”
He growled, “It is because of you.” But he was suddenly overcome with emotion he was not used to feeling-a melancholy joy that made him want to hold her. He sat up and enfolded her in his arms, pressing her against his chest. He kissed her hair, her forehead, her cheeks, until she kissed him back. Her lips pressed against his neck, his chest, his mouth. He surged against her and she leaned back and cried out. He shivered, feeling raw, and let out a string of the filthiest French curses he knew. It did not help eliminate that troublesome feeling. He felt so unlike himself, yet also himself. He was Dominic-he knew that. But it was a Dominic he had never known existed-one capable of intense vulnerability and tender emotions.
“Oh, Mary,” he finally cried out, unable to temper his feelings. “How wonderful you feel. How wonderful you are !” One hand was on her back and one between her legs; his cheek against her breastbone, he pumped into her, hips thrusting hard. When she at last wailed her release, shuddering like a tree in a winter storm, he followed like a bird in flight.
“ Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, mon Dieu !” He said into her heaving breast over and over again, unable to comprehend what just happened.
Mary said nothing, but stroked his hair, and kissed the top of his head with lingering, loving kisses, until he felt he could meet her eyes without having to look away immediately afterwards.
He slipped out of her and rolled them over so they faced each other. He had never been one to stay in bed after lovemaking, but then he had never made love to his wife, nor had he ever experienced anything remotely close to what they had just done together. He knew if he pulled away, something fragile would break. But even as he contemplated this, he found he didn’t want to break free.
And so-sticky and smelling of feminine musk and ambergris, violets and bergamot-the Devil’s Cub, finally having been tamed, lay his cheek against his wife's hair and held her close.