Page 28

Lenora stares at my hand, and ever so slowly she reaches out and places her small one in mine, playing along.

“It’s nice to meet you, Edward.”

I bow my head.

“The pleasure’s all mine.”

I take a seat on the bench and gesture for her to stand.

“Now you.”

“Oh, yes, right.” She stands, fiddling with her hands, and her pink tongue darts out, licking her lips. The Queen is adorable when she’s nervous.

“I’m Lenora Celeste Beatrice Arabella Pembrook. But you can call me Lenny . . . as long as no one is around to hear you say it. I’m a queen, so, you know, most days . . . I rule.”

I want to clap for her. Well done, sweet, funny girl.

“We should probably say something nice about each other now—a compliment. That’s what people do when they first meet, yeah?”

Lenora nods.

I look at her face and try to think of something she hasn’t heard a thousand times before. Something as true as the day is long.

“You’re the prettiest lass I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw you, I felt like I’d been the one thrown off a horse—you knocked me on my arse. You’re fierce and funny and the choices you’ve had to make haven’t been easy, but you’ve carried on. I admire that. I admire you.”

A shy smile kisses her lips when she takes her turn.

Her eyes drift over my face, my cheeks, my nose, my mouth. “I’m not going to tell you that you’re wickedly handsome, even if it’s true. I think you already know that. You’re brave and bold and more honorable than you let on. You fascinate me, even when you’re just sitting there breathing. You always have. I want to know you, Edward. Every piece and part that makes you, I want to know.”

It’s the best compliment I’ve ever received. Full stop.

I stand and offer her my arm—like a gentleman.

“Take a walk with me in the garden?”

Lenora slips her arm through mine.

“That would be lovely.”

The sky is darkest navy now. I guide her down the lantern-lit path, and the air is heavy with jasmine and rose.

“What’s your favorite food?” I ask.

“Shepherd’s pie. And you?”

“I’ll eat anything.” I shrug.

After a moment, Lenora asks, “What is your favorite time of year?”

“Summer. What about you?”

She grins sheepishly. “Winter.”

We stroll silently a bit more, until I ask, “Favorite color?”

“Yellow.” She tilts her head up to me. “You?”

“I’m partial to gray.”

Lenny stops dead in her tracks. And pulls her arm from mine.

“Oh no, I take it back—this will never work. Definitely not.”

I laugh.

“What did gray ever do to you?”

Her smile is small and secret—a pretty lock I can’t wait to open.

“It’s a long story.”

I move closer, and brush back a hair that’s come loose from her bun.

“I’d like to hear that story. Will you tell it to me?”

Our eyes meet, and it feels like the ground and the air and the stars shift all around us. Becoming something different. Something new.

“All right.” Lenora nods.

And I nod as well.

“All right.”

AFTER OUR TALK AT THOMAS’S GRAVE, things change between Lenora and me. Slowly . . . and yet not slowly at all. The closeness, the intimacy that’s been building, flows freer, easier—like the swelling bud of a flower whose time to bloom has finally come.

There’s no stopping it—and why the hell would anyone want to?

One afternoon I go to her office, because I see now the direct approach is better with her. Laying things out, discussing them fully—Lenny gets uneasy when she’s caught unawares.

And for what I have in mind, I want her very, very aware.

She looks up from behind her desk when I walk through her door without knocking.


I dip my head. “Hello, Lenny. Are you busy?”

“Not so much. Just reviewing some documents.”

I glance at the clock on the wall and out toward the window.

“No meetings scheduled?”


“Excellent.” I nod, then stick my head outside the door to tell the guard, “We’re not to be disturbed.”

I shut the door behind me. And then . . . I lock it.

Those gorgeous gray eyes flare so very wide, I feel it right in my cock.

Leisurely, like a cat stalking, I approach her desk, letting my gaze drift down over her butter-yellow chiffon top with its cute, prim collar.

“You’re looking very pretty today, Lenora.”

“Thank you. You look very pretty too.”

She giggles when she realizes what she’s said.

Sometimes I forget just how young Lenora is. How sheltered and unworldly. Inexperienced. But at moments like this—when the faintest blush stains her cheeks and the plump mouth that I dream about at night smiles so shyly—she reminds me.

“I’ve been thinking about something—almost constantly, actually—and it’s something we need to discuss.”

Her head tilts with curiosity. She stands.

“This sounds serious.”

My aching balls couldn’t agree more.

I sit on the cushioned chair, leaning back—watching her every move—while she moves to the sofa just across from me. Lenora sits prettily, legs crossed at the ankles, hands demurely resting in her lap like the gracious lady she was raised to be.

“What would you like to discuss, Edward?”


And she flinches so hard she almost comes out of her seat. I smirk shamelessly while she unleashes her fiercest scowl.

“Must you call it that?”

“I really must, love.”


“Because I like the word. I like the way it sounds—the specificity. The heat.”

“Can’t we refer to it as . . . the marriage act?” She seems proud of herself for having thought of it.

“God, no.”

“Why not?”

“Because ‘the marriage act’ sounds like something your great-grandparents did a hundred years ago. And no one wants to think of old granddad and grandmum when they’re talking about fucking.”

Lenny covers her face with her hands.

I take mercy on her. “We’ll come back to the names for things another time. We’re getting off topic. For now, let’s compromise. We’ll call it . . . sex. Or making love.”

She nods, agreeing. But her little hands are now clasped together so tightly, her knuckles are white.

“Lenora . . . are you afraid of making love?”

She looks down at her hands. “This is a very personal conversation, Edward.”

I make my voice go gentle. Soothing. “I’m going to be your husband. We’re going to belong to each other in every way. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. This is something I need to know for you, something I want to know.”

Her hands relax and her shoulders loosen, just a bit.

“I’m not afraid of making love. It’s just . . . unfamiliar. I don’t really know how it’s done properly.”

“You don’t know how it’s done as in . . . you don’t know how it’s done?”

I make a visual depiction with my fingers—forming a circle with one hand and penetrating it with the finger on my other.