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A Just Dessert

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Letter to Harriet Vane, March 10, 1936

My dear Harriet,

The weather in Berlin remains abominable. I am afraid a storm on the horizon is inevitable and can only hope we shall be able to face it together, back at home on our shores.

On the brighter side, I believe I'm wearing out my welcome, and there is a slight chance for the FO to grant me my papers more swiftly and willingly. By Jove! The temptation to make a blunder of things here just for the possibility to get away from this insanity-ridden country is truly agonizing.

Believe it or not, even Bunter thinks the way I treated some swine of a party official lacked my usual decorum. Of course, he wouldn't show it for the world. The worst part is, I'm afraid he's right, so it’s probably fortunate that duels are not the fashion here any longer.

But enough about these sad sorrows!

Thank you for sending me your new draft of ‘The Sapphire Isle’ in your last missive. It was a well-needed distraction from all this accursed business. I must say that while I've found the trials and tribulations you put your James Lancaster through truly fascinating, I suspect your publisher, as one of those pure souls who assumes only villains have the prerogative to be one-handed, will be less impressed.

Well, damn the man! What the hell does he know? If he's going to be ridiculous, we shall find the ‘Sapphire’ another home. Perhaps you'll allow me to buy you a publishing house. I beg your pardon, my dear, my last sentiment is only proof of my sorry state. I hope you know I will never buy any of your books, not even a single copy. Do forgive my silly outburst; forbear to judge, for we are sinners all, et cetera.

To return to our topic, I am extremely interested in hearing Brianna’s point of view on the whole conundrum. She strikes me as a woman with a perfectly good sense.

Please express my love to England, will you? I find myself utterly besieged by longing for that cold and gloomy island. In my head, all will be gay when noontide wakes anew The buttercups.

Now more than ever, yours,

Peter.

 

Letter to Lord Peter Wimsey, March 15, 1936

Dearest Peter,

My poor, long-suffering hero, your distress is evident and compelling, but the ridiculous notion you’ve expressed strikes me as the last drop in the goblet of your troubled head. I have no heart to reproach you, though, and so solemnly acquit you, dear Mr. Rochester, of being an intolerably indulgent English husband.

Your observation about Brianna made me think long and hard about the matter, and to understand that I, too, would like to know her thoughts about the difficulties both she and James must face now. So – believe it or not – I am now rewriting the second half of the book, so we can see the story through her eyes. Thank you for that timely remark. Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, do still require us to meet the deadline, so I expect to be fairly occupied.

Your mother is in good health and spirits. We had dinner earlier this week and she told me about that fortnight you spent in the stables, trying to save a sick foal. It made me think all kinds of soft and sweet things about you, and so, as fair punishment for submitting to such a wifely state of mind, I am determined now to take those terrifying riding lessons you threatened me with on the shore at Wilvercombe.

In anticipation of your opinions on all these sensational reports. And also of other things. Do not presume this cold and gloomy island is the only one who is feeling the lack of your presence.

Harriet.

 

Letter to Harriet Vane, March 16, 1936

Darling!

We heard your lord and master is out of the country and you are finally abandoned to the graces of your old friends and their bad influence.

Be a doll and come see us. Syl is absolutely dying to see your new frock, and I'll admit to some curiosity about fresh gossip on the Duke's family tree. It's always so amusing!

Do come to tea on Tuesday, it will be only us.

E&S

 

Letter to Eiluned Price and Sylvia Marriot, March 19, 1936

My dear bad influence,

Thank you for the lovely tea, it was so good to see you two happy and content in one another. I do hope I succeeded in shocking your senses with the frock and gossip both.

As for my male belonging, he'll be coming home tonight and after duly taking time for some tyrannical husband behavior, we will gladly have you two for dinner.

Peter has promised to act according to his status and gender and provide every kind of amusement he can muster merely by being a man.

Though he does put his foot down on sugaring his coffee.

See you both soon,
H.

 

***

Harriet woke up in the early hours of dawn to the scents of fresh coffee and something buttery and delicious baking.
She stretched luxuriously under the covers and displayed a show of admirable restraint by not kissing the sleeping man next to her, not running her fingers through his soft hair, and not claiming her due after almost three weeks of separation.

Instead, she gently patted his arm and quietly got out of bed, wrapping a velvet dressing gown over her nightshirt.

The appetizing smells enveloped her fully when she stepped into the kitchen to see Bunter pouring some of the thick hot liquid into a small cup.

"Good morning, Bunter," she said, arresting her tongue before she accidentally uttered the 'dear' which would only upset the good man. "Slept well, I trust?"

"Good morning, my lady. Very well indeed, thank you. May I inquire about my lady's night?"

"Oh, I haven't slept better in weeks! Are those your cheese scones, Bunter?"

"Indeed they are, my lady," answered Bunter, setting some cream and butter on the carefully arranged plate. “Might I suggest a cup of coffee while the scones bake?"

His demeanor was as cool and even as always, but Harriet knew that baking was a passion Bunter indulged only while harboring an exceptionally bright mood.

"Bunter, you are a marvel. I'll take the coffee in my study."

"Very well, my lady. Will there be anything else?"

"No, thank—actually, yes. Bunter, please take the day to your leisure. You must be in need of some time to yourself." The poor man must be exhausted

He was starting to protest when she added: "I promise not to oblige his lordship's every whim so that your absence will be noticed and your return appreciated."

"That is quite unnecessary, my lady, I assure you…"

"Now, Bunter, I do insist. You took such good care of his lordship in Berlin, it was an awful time for you both, I'm sure." Please, allow me to take some care of you too, you stubborn man.

Bunter still looked hesitant, so she smiled at him, conveying in her voice and expression all of the affection and appreciation she felt for this man who’d become a true ally in her year of marriage to his master.

"Take the day to rest. Please. Perhaps go to the galleries? Miss Fanshaw tells me there's an Edwin Smith, photographer, whom you would find interesting, I think."

She noticed the corners of Bunter's mouth twitching slightly, the crow's feet of his eyes deepening.

"Very well, my lady. Thank you."

"Excellent! There is no chance I could persuade you to let Lord Peter manage his morning grooming by himself, I gather?"

Bunter managed to look aghast by her inferring the possibility even existed. "With my lady's permission, I shall attend my morning duties as always."

"Oh, very well then." She'd take what she could get. "Do tell his lordship he can find me in the study when he's awake."

 

***

About three hours later, Harriet decided she had waited quite enough.

She turned from the desk, where she’d worked on her novel all morning, determined to wake her lord to fulfill his husbandly duties, only to find him standing there, leaning lightly against the door frame. He was wearing an impeccable grey suit and looking at her with an expression that made her heart flip and land in a wrong place entirely.

"How do you, pretty lady?"

His voice sounded somewhat rough. She wasn't sure whether from sleep, or something positively different.

Peter strolled into the room, closing the door behind him, and took her in his arms. Being almost the same height, their eyes met, and Harriet swayed a little, leaning into him, feeling the fresh excitement kindling between them.

She wrapped her arms around his neck, and Peter kissed her brow lightly.

"l see the studious Miss Vane," he said, and kissed the tip of her nose, "has been working hard since sunrise." He nibbled at her earlobe, sending shivers down her spine, "And how is poor James fairing? Will Brianna take him at last, crippled with both injury and horrid relatives? I am deeply concerned!"

Peter continued to plant soft kisses along her jawline and neck until his lips found the small hollow at the base of her throat and stayed there for a long moment of probing and tasting.

"Oh Peter, you don't think I would allow someone's horrid relatives to stand in the way…" Harriet tangled her fingers in his hair, messing up the perfect coiffure and pulling gently on the fair strands. "But I do find it hard to let them alone. Brianna ought to have some difficulty to overcome by herself first, I reckon."

She tilted her head back to grant him full access to her collarbone.

"Have a heart, Harriet!"

Peter, it would seem, was perfectly content to continue thus for hours, but Harriet became impatient with the slow teasing and decided it was high time for the independent woman to take command from the smug aristocracy. Her very much not shabby tiger craved its prey. She placed a firm finger under Peter's chin and lifted his face to hers, pressing their lips together in a much more demanding manner.

Taking her cue, Peter's kisses also became more eager. His hands roamed about her body, slipping the dressing gown from her shoulders, and he sighed, with both longing and relief in his voice, "How I have missed you, my Harriet."

"My lord," she managed to whisper into his mouth and felt Peter shudder as always when she used his title on similar occasions.

Then Peter took a step back and asked, with a familiar mischievous smile in his eyes, "Now, what would you have of me, domina?"

Harriet leaned back on her desk and returned his smile, brimming with anticipation for what would come next. "Such magnanimity..." She said, and added in the most severe tone she could manage. "Undress." 

Peter swallowed audibly. "Obediam, magistra."

His eyes never left hers as he slowly disposed of his coat, waistcoat, and tie. When he stepped out of his slippers and stood there in his shirtsleeves and trousers, she motioned him closer and gently pushed him down. Kneeling before her, he immediately took hold of her ankle and she felt slim fingers climbing up her shin, then knee, then inner thigh.

"Now, my lord, you mustn't hurry."

"Oh, tu m’enivres," he breathed against her body, "tu enivres mon sang et mon esprit, domina." The husky whisper became muffled when soft lips followed warm hands and Harriet gasped, burying her fingers in his hair, keeping him close as his mouth reached its destination.

"Oh Peter, dearest, yes. Just so. Don't stop."

His clever, experienced tongue made her moan and arch, hot mouth and wandering hands causing her to throw back her head and cry out with fierce delight. When the sensation became almost too much, she once more pulled on his hair lightly, tilting his head up, only to see her desire reflected in his ravenous gaze. With his admiring eyes on her, and his mouth redoubling its efforts, a trembling wave of satisfaction washed over Harriet, drowning her in pleasure and leaving her tender of body and full of heart.

 

***

"Peter."

"Heart's desire?"

"I'm afraid we made quite some noise."

They’d slid carefully to the floor and now lay on the thick carpet, his head resting on her stomach, so she felt more than heard his quiet puff of laughter.

"Did we lie down, because 'twas night? I am fairly certain we weren't half as noisy as we should. You’ve only called me 'my lord' twice this morning, and I intend to be a king, an emperor, and a god before I'm done."

She chuckled. "Is that so?"

He kissed the inside of her wrist, humming with a smug self-satisfaction that amused her immensely.

"You know, Your Majesty," Harriet said.

"Yes, beloved?" Now he started kissing her knuckles one by one.

With her free hand, Harriet traced the lines of his neck and shoulder, gliding beneath the silk shirt he still wore. "I gave Bunter the day off."

"You did, did you?" Peter's lips brushed her fingertips. "He was indeed apologetic this morning, something about 'her ladyship insisting'." Now his kisses traveled to her still covered stomach "Cruel woman! I hope you let the poor man sit down before breaking such awful news."

"I promised not to oblige you at all so that you’d be grateful and properly appreciative tomorrow." She rubbed the sensitive spots at the nape of his neck, making him groan softly.

"Mmm. Clever woman. And so I will be. We mustn't disappoint my Bunter." He planted a last kiss on her navel. "Now unhand me, oh sun of my life, I have something for you to not oblige me in."

Harriet released her hold, laughing from the sheer happiness of being near him and listening to him being himself - foolish and at ease.

"I don't understand how you can laugh after committing my coat to such dreadful use," he said, rummaging around for his coat which had, she admitted, been used for utterly improper purposes just now. “Bunter will never forgive you. Where the hell is that damnable thing… Ah!"

Peter produced a somewhat crumpled, golden envelope from his discarded coat's pocket. "Helen is showering us with attention it would seem." He showed Harriet the Duke of Denver's crest. "Again."

"Another formal dinner?" she deduced.

"Indeed, my dear Sherlock. And this time we’ll neither be seated together nor be allowed to talk to each other. Even during dessert!"

"Now that is truly appalling."

Peter met her eyes, a shade sheepishly. "Listen, dear heart, if you would rather not go..."

Harriet knew that his offer was genuine. But also knew she oughtn’t to be the reason for him to shun the responsibilities he felt so deeply committed to. "I don't mind it, darling. Helen is a foolish woman, but where's that wiseman, that would not be I."

He leaned in a little closer. "I am two fools, I know—For loving, and for saying so."

Harriet pulled Peter down for a kiss and he was distracted for a moment as her breasts, covered only by a thin layer of cloth, appeared to be in a perfect position for some fondling and tender teasing.

"As for what I rather," she said, pointedly, "I'd rather you got rid of whatever remains of your clothes, your Imperial Highness." And, setting an example, Harriet pulled her nightshirt over her head and leaned back on her elbows, waiting for him to follow.

Under her appreciative gaze, Peter slipped gracefully out of his trousers and shirt, kneeling between her legs, allowing her to enjoy the view of his smooth skin and lean muscles, earned by daily fencing and Jiu-Jitsu practice.

He placed a hand on her now exposed navel, his eyes on hers, matching her adoration. "God. I love seeing you like this. Is it odd to be so utterly besotted with one's own wife?"

Harriet stretched, delighted by his touch. "I think it is most unseemly. You should be ashamed."

"And so I am," said Peter, shamelessly taking her nipple into his mouth and sucking gently, making Harriet moan, "Oh, good God…"

Peter raised his head and looked at her, dazed with such unbelieving happiness that she had to laugh and kiss him again.

Then she cupped his cheek and, meeting his eyes with a smile, said in the same commanding tone as before: "I want to turn for you."

Peter's breath caught. "Dear Lord, woman. You will be the end of me. I am a willing slave of your desires, heart's lady."

"And they are not so weak to be restrained," laughed Harriet, and turned on her stomach under him.

Peter kissed up her bare spine and shoulder, making her quiver "I can't promise you a decent formal dinner, my lady," he murmured into her hair "but I can supply some dessert in advance."

Harriet rested her head on crossed hands and closed her eyes. "Mmm, and what a just dessert it will be."

He stroked her back with the tips of his fingers, then slipped a nimble hand down and between her legs. "Will you have me now, domina?"

Harriet sighed contentedly, melting into his caress, feeling their heavy, sweet readiness for each other.

"Yes, my lord, come to me. Come home."

 

***

Letter to Harriet Vane, left open by Harriet on Peter's desk for him to read, June 31, 1936

Harriet!

What have you done, witch?!

We haven't slept for two nights, reading 'The Sapphire Isle' you've sent us to each other. Sylvia cried. Even I have to admit to some strong emotions for your James and Brianna. Look here, the part where he makes her see herself through his eyes and love herself despite all her flaws… Di Mi! Spill the beans, H, has your Wimsey ever done such a thing? If yes, I will be forced to concede that he is a credit to his gender, as you claim. Don't take us wrong, we've always enjoyed your books, but this one was unique and written by an utterly satisfied person, we thought.

Come and celebrate with us! You can bring your property, he’s earned it. We'll even allow his lordship to be useful and choose the wine.

Hope to see you soon,

E&S

 

A note scribbled in the margins of the letter, after midnight:

Oh, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

Most definitely a claret, my dear gal.