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#Fluff
bucky-central · 15 hours ago
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Take It || B.B One Shot
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Pairing: Bucky Barnes x avenger!reader
Summary: You surprise Bucky with a new pair of leggings.
Featured Characters: Bucky Barnes, Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, Steve Rogers
Word Count: 3k
Warnings: Established relationship. Pure smut, 18+ Only minors DNI – heavy breeding and daddy kink, slightly rough but passionate sex, not as rough as I usually would write. Fem!reader.
A/N: repost of a fic on my shadowbanned account buckybarnesangst
Being with Bucky Barnes was everything you dreamt and hoped it would be. He was an incredibly passionate and attentive man. Never had a man before spent so long getting to know the rhythms of your body; searching for what made you tick and what made you sing. You had never cum before you met Bucky, something he relished in and took pride in at all times.
Bucky could never understand how modern men, or even men back in his day for that matter, never tried to please their lovers. They all took but they never gave. Bucky got off when you got off, and that fact alone meant you spent many days and nights with his rugged and devishly handsome face between your soft thighs.
Bucky had been gone with Sam on a recon mission for 2 weeks, during that time you felt like you were slowly dying, the ache between your legs was growing each day, longing for your big strong super soldier to come home and reclaim what was rightfully his.
You and Natasha had been watching tik toks to pass the day away before his return tomorrow, when you stumbled across a new trend. Apparently, people were going mental for a certain pair of leggings that did miracles for your ass. Luckily for you, you were already graced with a huge perky ass, and Bucky definitely was an ass man, well he has an everything man, your tits, your neck, your lips and your thighs. He worshiped you as if you were a goddess and your pussy was the alter.
Nat ordered you a pair of those leggings much to your dismay.
“Thank me later after you get absolutely railed. R.I.P to Y/N’s pussy”
“Nat!” you laughed as you smacked her arm.
“What? You know damn well the effect this will have on him. Doesn’t a part of you want to see what he will do?”
“I mean, yeah, I guess. Okay - fuck it, do it, what time is he coming back?”
“He should be back tomorrow morning; I’ve ordered the leggings for same day delivery so you have enough time to try them on and get ready” Nat smirked.
The following morning Nat, Steve, and Tony were all in the kitchen, when you strolled in wearing your new grey leggings, Nat had let out a wolf whistle causing the two men to look in your direction.
“Damn, Y/N!” Nat shouted as she motioned with her finger for you to spin around.
As you did, giving the three of them a prime view of your perfectly cupped ass, the material snugging tightly, Steve choked on his drink whilst Tony patted his back. “Christ Y/N, I think you might give Terminator a heart attack” Tony laughed.
“Do they look good?” you questioned, still unsure.
“I plead the fifth” Steve said as his face blushed beet red
“What Cap means to say is holy shit, that ass tho” Tony replied
“Tony” Steve scorned him monotonously “but urm yeah, I agree with Tony, you might actually give Buck a heart attack”
“I think I’m just going to take my breakfast back to our shared room, I don’t think it’s going to be a good idea to have an audience when he sees me”
“R.I.P, Y/N, gone too soon” Natasha cried as you strolled out of the room causing the other two to laugh in hysterics.
Friday had notified you in time that Bucky was back and the quinjet had landed, you quickly checked your appearance in the bathroom mirror, once you were satisfied that you looked good, you stepped out and made your way back to your kitchen as you continued to make lunch for the two of you.
You suddenly heard the tell tale beep of the scanner granting Bucky access to your shared living space, you let out a steady breath to calm your nerves and heard the sound of familiar footsteps as the door creaked open
“Hey babydo-”
Bucky immediately cut himself off as his eyes zoned in on your perfectly supple ass being tightly hugged by the grey fabric.
Bucky dropped his bags to the floor with a loud and echoing thud
“Oh my fucking god. Doll” he mumbled to himself.
You went to turn around to greet him but were met by a growled “don’t you fucking dare turn round” as the super soldier dropped to his knees crawled forwards and immediately began to grab and kneed at your ass cheeks.
“Do you like them? They’re new” you sang as you bent slightly forward and wiggled your hips so your butt would jiggle. Bucky let out a pained moan at the sight, biting his perfectly plump pink lips “Oh doll, you know I worship your ass, but this?” he slapped your cheek hard as he watched it continue to jiggle, letting out another moan “this? This is like a fucking gift. I can’t wait to unwrap it and absolutely destroy it” he said as his tone grew darker.
You let out a small whimper as you squeezed your legs together, Bucky noticed and slowly stood up from his position on the floor, dragging the front of his body up past your ass and back as he wrapped his thick arms around your middle and rested his chin on your shoulder, peppering heated kisses along your sweet spot.
“You’d like that wouldn’t you, babydoll?”
You nodded pitifully as you continued to whimper, Bucky spun you around sharply by your hip, grabbing your chin harshly, squeezing your mouth as you looked up into his lust blown irises with clouded doe eyes “oh baby, have you missed me? Because I sure as shit have missed you” his dark baritone voice dropped an octave as he looked down towards your cleavage.
Not being able to take the teasing any longer, you lunged forward grabbing the back of his neck and pushed your lips to his, he responded instantly clashing his mouth against yours as you gasped and moaned. With your mouth momentarily open he rushed at the chance to push his tongue into you, you both moaned as your tongues battled against each other, tangling together in a battle of dominance, one where Bucky would always come out as the victor.
You cried at the loss of his warm mouth as he cradled your head in his large hands, nibbling your ear and sucking the sweet spot of your neck, causing you to gasp and throw your head back as he demanded more access to the treasured place that made you sing for him. And what a song it was.
“baby” he whispered into the crook of your neck as he rutted his hard and growing bulge against your clothed core.
Bucky harshly cupped your ass, and squeezed aggressively, you relished in the pain as you groaned out thinking of the delightful crescent-shaped marks that would soon form bruises in their wake.
“Bucky, please, I need you” you begged. Bucky growled at your desperate tone, grabbing the backs of your thighs as he held you, using his vibrainum arm to sweep the counter of its contents as they clashed to the floor a percussion of instruments adding to the symphony of sounds you were already making together. He gently placed you on the kitchen island as he began to tear your new leggings to shreds.
“Bucky” you shouted, “those were brand new!”
“Shut up” he demanded “I’ll buy you new ones. Ones in every colour, now shut up and let me see that pretty pussy. I’ve missed her so much”
Bucky resumed his earlier stance on the kitchen floor as his large unforgiving hands trailed the apex of your thighs, he tugged them closer to him causing your back to slam onto the cold marble surface making you gasp.
“and you’re not wearing any panties? You’re a dirty fucking slut, but you’re my dirty slut, aren’t you doll?” he cooed sweetly
“Yes, Bucky, oh god yes” you threw your head back at his words.
Bucky pressed his face into your core “god, baby, you smell so fucking good. Always so sweet, do you still taste as sweet as I remember?” without warning Bucky flattened his tongue, dragging the wet fleshy muscle from your opening to your bundle of nerves, you let out a quiet sob as he did so.
“You taste so good baby, still as sweet as I remember. I just wish I could live in-between your thighs forever” he growled once more as he dived in, acting like a man possessed. The sounds of him slurping up your sweet nectar as it trickled out of your core would have been enough to make you explode, but his tongue once again joined your clit as he began to drag his skilled tongue around it, sucking harshly.
Your hands flew to his short brown locks, gripping tightly as your thighs squeezed against his head, Bucky moaned at the feeling, loving the pain of your pull and the squashing push of your beautiful soft thighs against the sides of his face.
Your grip tightened as you felt the familiar build-up of heat and tension in your abdomen, a tingly sensation tickled throughout your whole body as your eyes began to roll back and your body began to spasm and convulse
“Oh god – oh g-oh, Bucky, Bucky, please – oh god, I’m gonna cum please baby please can I cum oh FUCK” you chanted.
Bucky’s voice was mumbling against your core, the vibrations further adding to the overwhelming pleasure you were experiencing.
“Already, doll?” he mocked, his icy blue eyes staring back at you as he continued his ministrations “go on, fucking cum for me, cum all over my face, I want to fucking taste you baby, can you be a good girl and cum for me?”
“oh god, OH GOD – I I I- I’m cumming, oh FUCK” you screamed as your whole upper half lurched upwards, pulling onto Bucky’s hair even harsher, he hissed at the sensation but continued to let you use his face for your pleasure as you slowly rode out your descending high by grinding against his tongue.
Bucky groaned against your core as he sucked the remainder of your sweet nectar.
“You’re so fucking beautiful” he sighed as he stood up open mouth panting against yours, blown black with lust orbs gazing into your exposed and vulnerable soul.
“I need to be inside you right now” he demanded as he left no room for argument, ripping his belt from his pants in one swift motion, tossing it to the side as it joined the mess on the kitchen floor, unbuckling the button and zipper of his pants and dropping his black boxers so they rested against his thick hard muscly thighs, he took his large length in his hand as he began to pump up and down, breathing heavily into your mouth as his eyes fluttered shut.
Spitting on his hand and spreading it around his tip and shaft, he inched forward as he lined up with your core, slowly moving to press in.
“Wait, wait!” you shouted holding his shoulders
“What? What is it? Are you okay?” he searched your eyes frantically, panicked by your reaction “did I hurt you?”
“I forgot to take my pill this morning, let me take it”
Bucky groaned feeling his dick twitch against his hand at the thought
“No” he said
“No? What do you mean no. Fine, go get a condom”
“You’re telling me your soaking wet pussy is ripe and mine to claim and you want me to wrap a fucking condom around it? No thanks, I want to fucking cum inside that pussy, doll” he demanded as he slowly pushed into you.
You moaned loudly “Bucky, did you not hear me?” you panted as he began to edge himself in further as you struggled to accommodate his length “I didn’t take my pill, if you cum inside me I will get pregnant”
“oh fuck” he whined as he bottomed out inside of you grunting as he continued to thrust slowly and deeply inside of you, the tip of his engorged member kissing your cervix
“did you just get harder?” you gasped staring into his eyes once more.
“You can’t talk about shit like that and not expect me to take the opportunity. You’d look so fucking sexy carrying our baby”
“oh fuck” you cried as you threw your head back, Bucky latched onto your neck immediately nibbling your ear as he whispered to you “don’t you want that, baby?”
“god, yes, yes that’s all I want”
“good.fucking.girl” Bucky grunted as he pounded harshly into your weeping core with each word.
You had no idea Bucky felt this way, you had no idea he even wanted kids, let alone with you. But the thought of it made your heart soar. You loved your man to death, and the vision of mini Bucky’s and Y/N’s running around the tower made you teary-eyed.
“Fuck a baby inside me, daddy” you teased
Bucky’s thrusts immediately picked up pace as he pushed into you deeper than ever before “oh fuck baby, don’t say things like that, you’ll make me blow my load way too soon and I want to take my time with you tonight”
“But, daddy” you whined and batted your eyelashes in feigned innocence as you continued to pant against his mouth. “don’t you want to fill me with your cum?”
Bucky clenched his jaw, “is that what you want? You want me to fill this pretty little pussy with all my cum? You want to feel me for days? Have a little piece of me growing inside of you? You want to make me a daddy, baby?”
You moaned at hearing him refer to himself by that pet name you loved so much
“You want to be fucked like the little slut you are? Want me to use your holes, fuck you till you can’t walk right the next day?” Bucky began to slam into you even harder, his pelvis smashing into yours, you no doubt would have large bruises there by tomorrow morning.
“Yes daddy, yes!”
“God, I fucking love it when you call me that”
“Well, if you cum deep inside me daddy, it’ll become a reality” you teased him
Bucky lunged, wrapping his vibranium hand around the delicate expanse of your neck
“Oh, it’s going to happen alright, by the end of the night I’ll make sure you’re carrying my child, I won’t let you leave the goddamn bed until you’re dripping with so much cum that you physically can’t take anymore”
Your eyes rolled back into your head at his filthy words.
“aww, baby” he mocked in a soothing voice “are you all cock drunk now? Has daddy got you drunk on his big thick cock?”
You simply moaned in response. Unable to form a coherent sentence at the pace at which Bucky was pounding into you.
Bucky stuffed three of his fingers in your mouth, forcing you to choke on them as drool slipped from your mouth.
“god, you’re such a fucking slut yo- oh fuck, goddamn doll, you’re pussy is squeezing me so fucking tight – that’s it baby, baby - you gonna fucking cum?”
You nodded pathetically “Please, daddy, I’m your good girl, please let me cum please, daddy, daddy, daddy” you began to chant nonsensically.
“Go on babydoll, let me feel that pussy squeeze my cock, milk it baby, come on, there you go-” he soothed gently “that’s it, baby, that’s, god I can feel you pulsing around my cock, you’re such a good girl. So, fucking good for your daddy” he babbled as he continued to rock into you without mercy.
“Daddy isn’t going to last much longer, kitten” you whimpered at the thought of his cum filling up your fertile womb soon.
“Fuck, baby, you want daddy’s cum? You want daddy to make you a mommy?”
“OH FUCK – I’m gonna cum again!”
“You dirty little slut, is the thought of daddy making you a mommy going to make you cum? You like the thought of me filling you up with cum, owning your womb, watching your tits and belly swell as you carry our baby? Go ahead baby, daddy is right behind you, come on baby come on”
“that’s it there you go baby, oh fuck – da-daddy’s gonna cum” Bucky groaned into your neck as his thrusts began to grow sloppy following an irregular rhythm as he chased his own high
“come inside me daddy, I wanna feel it, please daddy put a baby in me” you cried, tears forming in your eyes as the pleasure was too overwhelming for you having cum three times tonight already.
“fuuuuuuuccck, baby, fuuuck, take it, doll, milk my cock kitten, take it come on fUCKING TAKE IT” Bucky roared as he pressed into your harshly one final time, his legs shaking as he struggled to hold himself up on the cold counter.
Bucky leaned back, slowly pulling out as he watched his fresh load seep out of your bruised and swollen hole.
“Oh baby, look at that, you took so much, what a good fucking girl” he praised as he took his finger to scoop some of your mixed juices and held them to your mouth as you took it with fervour, licking up the sweet and salty goodness
Bucky moaned at the sight, feeling his dick harden again “god, I fucking love you”.
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wanderlust-t · 22 hours ago
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Chrysa darling, could I humbly request some angst or good ol’ hurt/comfort with this prompt?
"Where is that scar from?" "This one? I think you gave me that."
Possibly Geraskier with Jaskier having the scar? Though whatever floats your boat is fine, I’m just a greedy me and love all your words 🥺💛
aaaaa nat!!!! thank you so much for this prompt my dear!! it sent me into a spiral of ideas but i made something clear out of them so there you go, some hurt/comfort and eventual fluff for you!! 💜
wc: 917
"Where is that scar from?" "This one? I think you gave me that."
Jaskier says it's a curse.
Always, when they ask him, and he says no more, because that's truly all he knows. That's all he cares about. And if there was a time he knew more, if there was a time that he tried to break it, it was too long ago, and it had failed.
Sometimes he remembers tears in his mother's eyes as she looked at him, bittersweet, and the scar on the inside of his palm stings ever so slightly. He remembers taking her hand.
He doesn't have many scars, fortunately. Fortunately, life hasn't hurt him, not like it has hurt others. And if it tried, he fought it back, always, fought back another mark on his skin for his naive trampled feelings that didn't matter at the end of the day.
He doesn't have many scars. One across his side where his little sister used to hug him, carved there forever after she died. One down his spine, short, just under the fingers of failed lovers. A few faint ones on his shoulders, his hurt pride during the first years of performing.
A deep one, just over his heart.
Geralt hasn't seen that one. The others, he had asked for when he first saw them, and Jaskier had told him. He could never have imagined.
Geralt hadn't seen that one. Yet now, as they lie side by side in bed, basking in the melodic silence of the love unspoken, and as he runs his fingers over Jaskier's chest, he lingers. And sees it.
And Jaskier swallows.
There's a frown forming between Geralt's brows, one Jaskier longs to kiss away, and he knows he can lie, of course he knows. The way the witcher's touch makes him shiver as it strokes wounded skin, the way he looks at him, amber eyes flooding with worry and questions, almost let him.
"You didn't have that one before," Geralt says and there's a hint of fear in his tone, a hint of guilt for not being there. He couldn't have been. He was the one to walk away. "Where is it from?"
Jaskier looks at him, and smiles because, oh, how can he not, with Geralt right there in his arms. "It's... nothing," and his voice quivers ever so slightly, but sounds normal in his ears. Not to Geralt though. Geralt knows him. He watches as his eyes pierce him, stare as though they will pull the answer out of his lips. And it really isn't necessary, they've had their time to heal, they've had their time to fit their pieces back together.
It should belong to the past. It shouldn't matter.
Geralt's touch almost stings.
A deep sigh and Jaskier averts his gaze, looks around the room as though to find a creek into the walls to slip into and disappear. He swallows. "I think..." It's okay, he tells himsef. It has been okay for a long time. For him. He huffs, humourless, and lowers his look. "I think you gave me that one."
A pause, and Geralt almost flinches. The sheets ruffle loudly and he draws back, mere inches, and suddenly he's so far away. Funny. Jaskier never thought silence would be so deafening.
There's a veil slowly falling over the witcher's eyes, and Jaskier thinks it's similar to the grey clouds that had been over him when he was going down the mountain alone. Geralt looks at him, and he's still like a hunched statue of guilt drenched in the morning sun. "Oh," he whispers and suddenly the kisses he left on Jaskier's lips taste bitter.
And Jaskier wakes.
He doesn't want them to be bitter. He doesn't want Geralt to walk away, not this time, he won't allow it. Because this time, it really doesn't matter. It doesn't matter more than his love.
And if love itself scars like that, he's happy to bear its marks.
"Jaskier, I—"
"No." A momentary dread fills Geralt's gaze and Jaskier smiles, and reaches out his hand to cup his face. He reaches out, and he's close again. "I don't need an apology. I didn't need it before, and I don't need it now." Gods, Geralt is so beautiful. His eyes are burning. He shakes his head. "You don't have to be sorry for me to love you, dear, especially for something none of us control. I won't ever accuse you. And well," he chuckles now and it's so easy, loving him, it was easy all along, "you're scarred all over, Geralt. Can't a poet bear his scars too for the sake of love?"
Geralt squints at him and finally, finally the veil is gone. In its place, a faint smile, fond. H turns slightly and places a kiss on Jaskier's palm, on the light mark there. Then, he leans and trails his lips over his heart, over the scar, like a path to somewhere he wants to find out. Jaskier's breath hitches in his thoat. He shivers, closes his eyes. Gently, he tangles his fingers through Geralt's hair.
He can feel Geralt smiling against his skin. "As you wish," he whispers and his voice is so soft as though to melt the kisses and seal them on his heart. "But I will still try to heal them."
Jaskier laughs and slightly tugs at Geralt's hair to make him raise his head. "Stubborn witcher." He looks into his eyes, his curved lips, almost daring. Loving. And, grinning, he presses their lips together. "You already have."
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writing-fanics · 14 hours ago
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Abuela seeing her teenage son Bruno falling in love in the same way that she and her husband did, wishing that the tragedy would not repeat itself , the same thing happening terribly as in the movie. When Bruno returns, abuela, who had maintained closeness with the reader, find's out that she maintained communication with Bruno through the rats. This makes her happy, but also guilty for intruding on their happiness.I don't know why I hurt myself with this. Have a nice day!
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(I’m sorry but out of all the request I’ve gotten this is my favorite. This fits Bruno’s character so well.) not much dialogue since I’m making it like the flashback of abuela and Pedro but less as sad
Super angsty beginning but fluffy ending also long opening
I’m changing it a bit hope you don’t mind.
1917 Colombia
Bruno Madrigal, a seventeen year old, reserved, and kept to himself personality. His gift and the facts that basically his only friends are rats, he didn’t talk much to people. Hw didn’t like to leave his room either. Sometime his mother Alma would have to get him out of there.
Today is one of those days. He already hated his room, the amount of stairs he had to climb each day, and down another. Alma wanted her son to meet people, make some new friends. But she didn’t know how hard it would be seeing his gift was the ability to see into the future.
Telling people such future only made them see the negatives, tell someone their fish is going to die. They point a finger in his direction. So making friends was off the list. Yet he wanted to make his mother proud, so hesitantly left the safety of his home and went out into the village.
A festival was going on and crowds of people, gathered around in one spot. (Y/n) groaned in annoyance, trying to push through the crowd. “Excuse me,” She said, shoving through the crowd but people still blocked her way.
“Pardon me. I can’t see.” She exclaimed, maneuvering her way through the crowd. She sighed, giving up and walking towards a nearby lamppost and climbing up took look at the festival ahead.
‘Dos oruguitas enamoradas’
Her gaze shifted towards another lamp post nearby, seeing someone around her age wearing a green poncho. He looked out of place but she smiled towards him, waving.
‘Pasan sus noches y madrugadas’
He was taken back slightly, but smiled waving back at her sheepishly. She giggled, looking at him. Almost falling off the lamppost catching her balance. He chuckled, seeing how clumsy she is. He didn’t know why but he had butterflies in his stomach. Her welcoming smile drew him in.
‘Llenas de hambre’
She smiled as a butterfly landed on his nose, laughing out loud. He blushed slightly watching her laugh. But then laughed as the butterfly flew towards her, landing on the tip of her nose.
‘Siguen andando y navegando un mundo’
He chuckled and she giggled, but only falling off the lamppost landing on her bum. He stepped off the lamppost rushing towards her, hoping she’s okay. He found her laughing on the ground, the butterfly in her hair.
They smiled at each other as he helped her up, forgetting about the festival. Sitting on the water fountain, eating some arepas.
‘Que cambia y sigue cambiando’
She smiled hearing him talk about himself, and he smiled hearing her talk about herself. Both seemed to have so much in common, “No Bruno, your gift is amazing don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.” She said, placing her hand on his shoulder.
Alma was coming to get Bruno since it was getting late, and needed to bring him home. But was shocked to find him talking with some girl, both obviously completely enamored with the other. Like how she met Pedro, all those years ago. It still felt like it was yesterday, but was only seventeen years ago when she lost him.
‘Navegando un mundo’
(Y/n) giggled, placing her hand over his hand. Her heart skipped a beat, as did his. “Maybe, I’ll come by your casita and see my future?” She said, and he looked at her nervously.
“N-No, you wouldn’t like your future. What if your hair falls out? What if you find something out you didn’t wanna know?” He mumbled. She placed her hand on his cheek, calming hi down.
“If I lose my hair.. I lose my hair. I be upset with my vision Bruno. Whatever happens happens.” She says, rubbing his cheek.
‘Que cambia y sigue cambiando’
They both smiled before standing up, and him taking her home. Alma stood there unnoticed, she didn’t want what happened to Pedro to happen to them. She’d never forget that night, and she didn’t want her own son or (Y/n) to go through the same pain she went through.
(Y/n) looked around noticing more butterflies, “I’m happy we met Bruno.” She said, and he looked down at her a blush spreading across his cheek. “M-Me too.” He stammered.
‘Dos oruguitas paran el viento’
They’d meet everyday and every night, talking about their day. As well their families. Getting to know each other more falling deeper and deeper in love with one another. Alma on the other hand was worried, paranoid of what could happen to her sons relationship.
She truly didn’t want what happened to her to happen to him, and this girl she’s enamored with. (Y/n) had came over for her vision, going to Bruno’s room and once she saw the stairs. She immediately helped him create a elevator like system to get up the stairs faster.
‘Mientras se abrazan con sentimiento’
‘Siguen creciendo, no saben cuándo’
(Y/n) smiled, taking his hands as he began to use his gift. Watching as his eyes turned green, the circle of sand surrounded them. As the vision appeared, she gasped seeing her and Bruno together happily married.
Three figures around them, a tall one, and two little ones, children. Bruno blushed, now knowing his future with her. The vision appeared as a jade green glass, he took it in his hands. And sat down next to her, she smiled in awe looking at the vision.
“This is amazing!” She exclaimed, touching the glass. Looking at the image of her and Bruno together with their three kids. “You’re amazing!” She said, looking at him.
‘Buscar algún rincón’
Time around them seemed to stop, as they leaned in towards each other. Their lips inches apart before finally connecting, her fingers gripped his curly hair. While his hands wrapped around her waist, she no they didn’t want this moment to end.
‘El tiempo sigue cambiando’
She moved her hands towards his cheek, as they parted. Both blushing, “Um, can I keep this?” She asked, looking at him holding up the vision. “Of course.” He said, and she smiled giving him a peck on the lips.
“Hm, I can’t believe this is our future together.” She said, in awe. Her fingers tracing over the image of the three children.
“I don’t even know them yet but I’m already in love with them.” She said, crying softly looking at her future children.
“They’re so beautiful.” She says, leaning against his shoulder.
‘Inseparables son’
‘El tiempo sigue cambiando’
Bruno was about to leave to meet up with (Y/n), when Alana stopped him. Telling her son about how she thinks that girl isn’t the one for him, which he’s taken aback by. Since she’s been coming by a lot more often since they started dating four months ago, “But mamá, I love her.” He said, and she nodded understandingly but was holding her ground.
“But mijo, don’t you want her to have a future she deserves?” She asked, and Bruno looked down remembering the vision he had. She has a point from what he saw they didn’t end up having kids until they were in their early to late fifties or fourties‘.
“I-I want her to be happy.” He said, looking down. (Y/n) made her way up the casita, smiling. “Hi casita!” She said, giggling. Holding a present in her hand for Bruno.
‘Ay oruguitas, no se aguanten más’
She noticed Bruno sitting on the stairs, “What’s wrong Mi amor?” She asked, placing her hand on his cheek. He could barely look at her, not wanting to see the heartbreak that he was about to force them to endure.
He pulled his head away from her, “Hey, what’s wrong?” She asked, again.
‘Hay que crecer a parte y volver’
His heart already ached having not yet said a word, “I’m sorry, b-but we can’t be together anymore.” He said, and it was as if her heart stopped.
She couldn’t process what he just said, “W-Wha?” She whimpered. Tears welling up in her eyes, as her heart began to ache as well. Her entire body shaking, “B-But? Bruno!” She shouted, reaching out for him but he just backed away.
He couldn’t look at her for if he even peeked a glance, he’d burst into tears. “Please, Bruno what about our future together?!” She pleaded, her face bright red. He shook his head clenching his fist.
“It’s some stupid vision that you’ll forget about!” He shouted, at her and she gasped in shock, hearing him call the vision stupid.
‘Hacia adelante seguirás’
“Y-Yeah, I guess it was stupid. I guess everything I said to you was stupid. How much I loved the future that we were going to have is stupid!” She shouted, at him tears brimming her eyes.
‘Vienen milagros, vienen crisálidas’
“You’d really think I’d want to have a family with you?!” He shouted, and she gasped hands covering her mouth. As she couldn’t stop crying she almost couldn’t breathe then she threw the present at him, and ran out of the casita sobbing.
Bruno fell to his knees sobbing into his hands, his mother came towards him to place a hand in his shoulder but he bolted up the stairs and into his room slamming the door shut.
(Y/n) laid in her bed sobbing, staring at the glass vision before she stood up and smashed it on the ground. Shattering it. Then falling to her knees immediately regretting her decision sobbing as she held the shattered pieces of the faces of her children as they slowly faded away from the image.
‘Hay que partir y construir su propio futuro’
( few weeks later )
‘Ay oruguitas, no se aguanten más’
(Y/n) laid in her bed, crying still not over the break up. She loved him with all her heart, and was excited for their future. Together. But now she didn’t even know if she had a future, having it all been shattered literally. Her mother knocked on the door, “Mija, you need to eat.” Her mother said, and (Y/n) shook her head.
“I’m not hunger mamá, please.” (Y/n) said, in a depressed tone. Her mother sighed leaving the food on the dresser, and closing the door. (Y/n) whimpered, leaning her head into her blanket sobbing.
‘Hay que crecer a parte y volver’
‘Hacia adelante seguirás’
The squeaking of a rat caused her to sit up, noticing a rat with a huge piece of paper in its mouth. It scurried up into her bed and she took the paper from its mouth. Opening it. It was a letter from Bruno.
Dear Y/n,
I know I’m the last person you wanna hear from right now. But I’m so sorry for the pain I’m causing you. I was just afraid that our future wouldn’t be the one you truly wanted, and I felt like you deserved better than me. I did it because I love you. More than anything in this entire world. I’m so sorry.
(Y/n) cried reading the note, then reached for a new piece of paper on her nightstand.
Dear Bruno,
What you said to me absolutely broke my heart. I absolutely loved our future together. The three beautiful children that we’d eventually would’ve had I’d already fallen in love with. But now I know that future will never for to true.
My dream was to always find someone who’d love me for me. And share our lives together and have a family. I thought that was you but I guess I was wrong. You do deserve me Bruno. We both deserve each other. I’d do anything for you.
Tear drops deep through the paper.
I love you Bruno and I always will.
‘Vienen milagros, vienen crisálidas’
‘Hay que partir y construir su propio futuro’
So they sent letters to each other, for years. Eventually continuing their relationship through those very letters, and the once shattered glass vision the image of children appeared once more.
(Time Skip)
(Y/n) smiled, seeing Bruno again running towards him wrapping her arms around him. “We’ve actually been in contact with each other.” She says, smiling kissing him on the cheek.
Everyone was in shock, especially Alma. Seeing how happy they’re together feeling years of pent up guilt, for trying to break them apart and succeeding or so she thought. After rebuilding casita, and hopefully Bruno’s room having less stairs. He finally proposed to (Y/n) who accepted it of course.
Alma was happy too, seeing how much the girl her son loved so much. Reminded her of her late husband, especially in how they met. (Y/n) smiled, placing her forehead on Bruno’s shoulder while crying at how her future was about to come to fruition.
“Bruno, I do have one thing to tell you.” She said, looking at him. and he turned to look at her, “What?” He asked.
She smiled softly placing her right hand over her stomach, “I’m pregnant.” She said, and Bruno’s mouth dropped. As well as everyone else’s. Alma smiled, placing her hand on her cheek and hugging her. Apologizing for trying to break them apart years ago.
I didn’t cry while writing this you did.. hope u enjoyed
(Note: yes Bruno did sneak out of his house to see y/n which eventually led into them doing the dirty)
186 notes · View notes
catlqnd · 18 hours ago
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Trickster Uncle
•Pairings: Camilo Madrigal X Reader
•Warnings: X
•Summary: When you help The well-known Madrigals Prophecy man a few times. Who knew he would help you with your tiny crush towards one of his Nephews?
•Requested by: @life-hater39

||UNEDITED||
It was fun being alone in the woods.
I mean no one would ever bother me since they were busy with other stuff. It felt like I could finally catch a breath of fresh air.
I gripped the pocketknife in my hand as I carved yet another tiny drawing into the bark of the wood. Backing away slowly with a smile as I finished.
It was a carving of a cat, because there was literally nothing better than carving random none sense into wood.
I pocketed the knife, prepared for a long walk home. I glanced up as the storm from before cleared a bit, wiping the itchy water from my brow, I let out a sigh.
“ACK?!" I yelped as a sudden force pushed into me. Letting out a long wheeze, I stared up at the fifty year old Madrigal. Bruno.
“Oh- It’s just you.” I grimaced as the mud stuck to my hands and my new shirt. Giving the man a lighthearted glare. He glanced over his shoulder constantly, and I gave him a confused look.
“Oh.. this is bad, very bad.” He mumbled to himself before finally noticing me. His eyes lit a slight green before back to normal, he bent down and pulled me up. Earning a quiet thankful response.
“What’s wrong?” I touched his shoulder in hope to ground him back to earth.
The way we met wasn’t too pleasant.
It was around my second time exploring the woods, when suddenly a mischief of rats swarmed at my feet trying to grab the saltine crackers in my pocket.
Little did I know I found them swarmed at the man in-front of me now, he later yelled at them about it not being his sisters food and so it wouldn’t help his foot.
Apparently he went outside for the first time in years and sprained his foot. So I had to drag him all the way to ‘Casita.’
Ever since that day they two of them would meet up, me giving him food once and awhile when he needed it.
“Casita, Casita is gone.” He pulled his hands against his face. I gave him a small look.
“..perhaps we get you a drink and some sunlight-“
“I’m not going insane.” He affirmed, taking a deep breath before his panicked face spiked again.
“I’ll show you,”
“Hold on Bruno I know your not actually going insane,” I bit back a ‘probably.’ And the man seemed a little set on showing me the broken house.
So we went on a small little hike all the way up to the residue left of the house. Bruno pushed back the leaves lightly and perked in through the gap at his family.
“-Mirabel!-“
“Abuel..one..ow..”
Bruno’s small smile fell into one of a frown as he listened on. I sat in boredom as he pushed away from the ferns.
“Oh dam- mierda! Alma, My mother, is going to kill my niece if I don’t fix the story about the prophecy to her.” He pushed back, mumbling about a horse before chasing away. Leaving me in utter confusion and alone.
Shrugging softly I stepped out from behind the leaves he was using to eavesdrop with. Patting down my dirty clothes, I glanced up to see a boy around my age grumbling to himself.
A girl nearby him shot up suddenly in my direction, causing him to look with her. I smiled softly at them before walking away to head back home.
Until I heard crunching of leaves behind me, I held back a groan before turning around and seeing bright brown eyes.
“Ah! Haven’t seen you in awhile,” The golden boy, Camilo Madrigal greeted me after saying my name. I let out a small chuckle before letting him open me into a hug.
“Haven’t seen you in a while! Thought you went and abandoned me.” He chuckled, punching my shoulder softly.
“Sorry just saw you and,” I waved to the now destroyed Casita, “decided it be best to have your family deal with that for now.” I watched as he let out a small sigh, quickly forming into a grin.
“But, Hey, madrigals and I can do anything.” He smirked, I let out a tiny smile before rolling my eyes.
“Alright Mr. Amazing, I better head home.” I ignored his mocking sad face before stopping at the front of the used to be entrance.
“Psss-“ I turned and my eyes widened when I saw Bruno staring at me with a mischievous grin.
“So, little Camilo Eh?” Ignoring the slight burning in my cheeks I pushed him away. “Oh please Rat-Man, we are just friends.”
“Sure.”
-
It’s been a few days since the people helped restore Casita and I was lazily waiting around at the market helping out. I didn’t feel like hiding in the woods lately, and I also got to spend some time with the madrigals.
“Sorry,” I peered out from over some boxes at the familiar voice of a Madrigal running past people. A scrawny elder man running a few blocks behind him, on the edge of breath.
The Third youngest Madrigal called my name as he sprinted up to me. “My Tío said you needed some help with the boxes.” He puffed out his chest pridefully before transforming into Luisa.
Suddenly, it seemed like the world got dark as ‘someone’ pushed into the shapeshifter and I felt my head spin as he quickly went threw multiple shapes before his hands were on either side of me. Technically trapping me into the corner.
“Tienes que estar bromeando- What the hell Tío?” He backed away from the wall, allowing me to stop my thumping heart from escaping.
“Oopsies?” He look mildly sheepish before his eyes lit up again and he walked towards me. Now in the middle of me and Camilo.
“You know Y/N, Camilo has said quite good things about you” he teased.
What the hell is he talking about, I glanced at the shapeshifter for help, only to see him starting at the man with a little blush on his face. We glanced at each other and I felt the puzzle pieces click.
“Oh,” my face felt like it was on fire as we stared at eachother. Bruno slowly backing away with an joyful grin.
“So.. Want to kill him?” Camilo, still with blush on his face, glanced at Bruno, who’s face paled.
I chuckled, “gladly.”
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bluhr · 11 hours ago
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[ SURPRISE ]
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pairing : p.sunghoon x reader
synopsis : you and your boyfriend — sunghoon — are long distance, so for his birthday his best friend, jake gets you to fly in as a surprise.
genre : fluff . long distance relationship . non idol au .
warnings : fluff. like FLUFF. a kiss is exchanged . uhm, not much really .
wc : ~1.2k
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You had never been this nervous in your life. Like palms sweating, body shaking nervous. Sighing and groaning, you turned your head and quietly banged it up against the wall of the busy airport. No one was paying attention.
“Uh. You good?” An Australian voice came from behind you and you nearly split, soul from body. “I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you.” Turning you saw Sim Jake, just the guy you were expecting.
With a hand on your heart you nodded, “I’m fine. Just a little on edge.”
The boy chuckled and offered his hand for your suitcase. “Ready to go?” You nodded again and silently followed him out of the airport and into his parked car waiting for pickup.
“I’m so excited for him to see you! He has no idea right? Like he hasn’t texted like, he knows? It’s really hard to surprise Sunghoon. That dude knows how to read me like a book, he can sense anything, but this. This. I think I got him.” Jake bounced around like a puppy and you couldn’t help but smile at him. He was rushing around his house getting everything in order for Sunghoon’s arrival. The rest of his friends would be here soon, and you were still nervous, but felt more calm in Jake’s presence. Having acquainted yourself more on the way to the apartment.
You had flown in all the way from the states to visit your boyfriend of one year. You met Sunghoon and his friends last year on their school trip to visit abroad, you and Sunghoon meeting in an elevator at the Empire State Building. You hit it off immediately, the boy being someone you felt you could talk to for hours and when he had to go home it was devastating for you. Yet, he had kept his promise of never forgetting you, and around two months later, you were in a relationship.
It was hard. Very. Could be draining or lacking sometimes, but you would never trade Sunghoon for anyone and you knew he tried his best. That’s all that mattered. So naturally, of course when Jake provided you with the opportunity to visit, you couldn’t turn it down.
“Okay so the rest are going to be here soon! Can you help me decorate the cake?” Jake tapped you out of your thoughts and pointed to the kitchen which held the two layer cake.
“Yeah of course!” You hopped up from your spot and followed him to the kitchen, joking along the way.
About half an hour later, it was a full house. Five other boys were wandering around fixing and adding things to the party atmosphere, like balloons and streamers, banners and embarrassingly cute pictures of Sunghoon placed in random parts in the house. You laughed at their antics and even got to become familiar with more of them. You had briefly met all of them in New York but it was only for a few seconds, before you and Sunghoon went on a little date that wasn’t really a date because you had just met the guy at the time. They were as fun as Sunghoon said.
“OKAY EVERYONE! HE’S COMING, HIDE!” Jake shouted waving his arms around like a lunatic. Everyone immediately dropped their voices to hushed whispers and went to find spots to hide. Jake pulled you aside and smiled, “I have a spot for you.”
He placed you in the bathroom and told you not to come out until he texted you to. So there you sat on the bathroom counter, picking at your nails and taking deep breaths every now and then. Insecurities began to sink in, what if he realizes he doesn’t like me as much in-person?
Shaking your head, you listened and heard the door open and a ton of “Surprise!”s followed by the popping of confetti. You smiled wide when you heard his voice. And just like that, all the rotten feelings you had were replaced by butterflies. You heard his laugh and your heart slowly melted. You couldn’t wait to see him, you wish Jake would text you already.
And as if on cue, your phone buzzed and you fished it out of your pocket to see a text message flash across your screen:
Jake : Come out!
You clicked your phone off and took one last deep breath, before turning the knob slowly and slinking out of the bathroom quietly.
Sunghoon’s back was turned toward you and the boys were all talking loudly to cover any loud noises you might make. Jake spotted you from his spot in the kitchen and winked. You smiled, and then snuck around the boys and found your way to the couch. Sunghoon still preoccupied, by Riki giving him his birthday licks on the arm, didn’t notice a thing.
“Wow. You’re getting old. Twenty?” You spoke up. Sunghoon whipped his head to your direction and if only you could replay his exact face over and over, which Jake being Jake and probably videotaping — you probably could. “Surprise!” You said.
It was a look of confusion then to one of shock. The boys all parted and watched as you stood up and gave your boyfriend a smirk. Now, Sunghoon was never one to be extremely touchy but in that moment he just wanted to hug you and never let go. And so he did.
Rushing toward you he pulled you into a hug, his arms getting tighter with each second.
“What are you- When did you- How?”
“Happy Birthday Sunghoon!” Jake bellowed from the kitchen with the birthday cake in hand. He started to walk with the candles lit, and all of you began to sing. Sunghoon looked to the cake then to you, scared you might fade away. That this might be a dream. You held onto his hand and stepped to the side so he could have the moment, but he kept you close, latching you into his side.
Once the song finished, Sunghoon blew out the candles in one big breath. Everyone cheered and Jake went back to the kitchen to cut the cake, while the others broke off into their group to talk. Leaving both you and Sunghoon alone.
“Happy Birthday love.” You smiled and brushed a hand through his hair. He held your hand close to his face and it was then you saw small tears.
“I can’t believe you’re here. I should’ve known something was up when I didn’t receive a good morning text or even happy birthday right at 12 a.m. my time.” He laughed and pecked your forehead, pulling you into another hug. “I wished for you.”
“Hoon, that’s bad luck to tell me your wish.”
“But it’s true. I want you. Forever. You and me.” He intertwined the both of your hands and placed a kiss on your lips. It felt nice. You had never kissed Sunghoon until now. His lips were soft and them against yours, it felt right.
“We can have that.” You assured and leaned into him.
“Aye! Lovebirds! Get in here! It’s cake time!” Jake called. The two of you laughed and head toward the kitchen.
Sunghoon wrapped his arms around your waist and guided you to the kitchen. You felt happy, really happy. All the nerves completely gone. Everything was right.
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taglist !
@faetarou @junityy @scintillasofbeomgyu @jminacious @envirae @baekhyunstruly @yangyanghq @youreverydayzebra @w3bqrl @changmin-wrlds @rinyx
a/n : happy birthday sunghoon :’) you keep biaswrecking. stay in your lane. but also this made me soft bro. like writing this ,, made me so soft. ALSO i used international age instead of korean.
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@bluhr all rights reserved © 2021
PLEASE DO NOT MODIFY TRANSLATE REPOST OR COPY MY WORK
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talkfantasytome · 15 hours ago
Note
Congrats on 500, lovely!
What about “quick! Kiss me!” for some Nessian fluff? ♥️
Ahhh, thank you so much! 💕 I went through the ringer with this prompt, let me tell you. Once I figured out the overall concept/idea, I had a thought on how to use this that I absolutely loved. Then, as I kept thinking about how I'd incorporate it, I couldn't picture in my head executing it well. Drove me nuts and had me reconsidering and thinking of other ways to use it, but I didn't love any of them as much. So, I decided to just give it a try, and I have to admit, it came out far better in writing than I had imagined in my head! May not be perfect, but I'm happy. 😄 Anyways, ramblings of a mad woman over...fic time!
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Nesta and Cassian start to try and one-up each other on who can be more nice, but it ends up doing far more than that.
Warnings: None | Word Count: 7,827 | Read on AO3
a/n: When you get to the part where there's an embedded link to the sweater, if you click on it, just imagine it's two separate sweaters. 😂
The mentioned quote is from The Wolf Wilder, by Katherine Rundell.
Also, for those who would care to know, this fic has a Christmas theme to it even more than a winter one or a general holiday one.
Other prompts included answered/shown in:
Passive-Aggressive Niceness Competition | You Remembered? | Naughty List | Early Present
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Nesta's eyes remained closed as she felt herself fade into consciousness, whatever dream she'd been having whisking out of her mind with each breath.
She sighed loudly as she lifted her arms above her head for a big stretch. Her back arched off the bed with the movement and a squeak escaped her lips as she held it.
Finally a bit more awake, she let her eyes flutter open, her room already bright from the morning sun.
Nesta stretched again as she stood from her bed, shivering slightly at the cold air and rushing to slide on her plush robe over her nightgown. As she tied it up, she finally looked out the window to see a thick, extremely unexpected layer of snow on the ground.
"Crap," she breathed before she rushed to another window to get a look out at the front of her house. She groaned loudly at the sight, the shimmering layer of white that should take her breath away. Instead, it filled her with dread, realizing she'd now be spending a chunk of her Saturday shoveling the driveway.
Dragging her feet, she made her way back to her room and started on her morning routine. She was in no rush to get outside. As much as she loved a chilly, snowy day, curling up by the fire with a nice hot chocolate and a good book, she wasn't a fan of the responsibilities that came with owning her own house when it snowed.
Once she was bundled up in a thick, grey sweater and jeans with fresh breath, a clean and moisturized face, and her golden brown hair twisted into one long braid, Nesta went into her kitchen. She threw a frozen breakfast burrito into her toaster oven and then started on her tea, filling up the kettle and setting it on her stove.
She was just going through her collection of tea bags when she heard a scraping outside that had her head snapping toward her door.
Her face scrunching in confusion, Nesta approached her door cautiously, peeking out the window next to it to see where the noise came from. She let out a small sigh of relief at the familiar figure before the questions started flooding her mind.
Nesta opened the door, crossing her arms to shield herself from the cold as she stepped onto her covered porch, thankful most of it had remained dry. She looked out over her driveway to the tall, muscular figure in the middle of it, shovel in hand. He wore jeans and a sweatshirt beneath that same leather jacket he was always in. His shoulder-length, black hair was left down, held into place by the Velaris Rangers knit hat he was wearing, equipped with a snowflake pattern against the deep, purple fabric and a sparkling, fluffy, silver pompom on top.
"What the hell are you doing?!" she called out to him, the chilly air nipping at her nose.
Cassian paused, turning his head to look up at her, a cheery smile on his face. "What does it look like I'm doing?" he asked, his voice slightly louder than normal so she could hear him.
"Trespassing!"
She heard his laugh float across the air, felt it caress her cheeks in a way that would have made her blush if she weren't already so rosy from the cold. "Is that what you call it when someone does you a favor?"
Rolling her eyes, she groaned, "Cassian."
"I'm shoveling your driveway, Nesta," he explained, somehow sounding both amused and exasperated. "I was already out, doing my own, figured I'd help and do yours, too."
She couldn't stop the look of surprise that spread across her face. Cassian wasn't a bad neighbor. A bit annoying, but only because he always tried to talk to her whenever he saw her and would check in on her regularly and complimented her all the time and flashed her a smile that seemed to cause a hitch in her breathing without her permission. But no, he wasn't a bad neighbor. When he had friends over they were never excessively loud. If he was throwing an actual party it always ended at a reasonable hour. He never parked in other people's driveways, nor did he let anyone coming to work on his house block them. And he'd let her know if he saw something weird or suspicious on her property.
Begrudgingly, Nesta might even admit Cassian was a good neighbor.
This, however, is not something a good neighbor does. Maybe they might shovel a bit where their two driveways meet, but Nesta's house was behind Cassian's, so her driveway was ridiculously long. Much larger than his. Good neighbors keep themselves from becoming nuisances; they offer small acts of kindness, little favors that will be paid back over time. They don't take it upon themselves to do one of the worst chores imaginable at great inconvenience to themselves, especially without being asked to help.
"You really don't have to do that. It's my driveway."
Cassian chuckled softly. "I know, but I can't get to the gym. Thought I'd find some other way to put all this muscle to use." He flexed one of his arms and it had Nesta shaking her head slightly, even as a small laugh escaped her lips. She could've sworn Cassian's face lit up at the sound. "Besides, I know you hate doing it."
Something warm began to spread within Nesta, as if she'd just taken a sip of her tea. But she didn't have time to think about it, not as she remembered the kettle still on the stove and rushed inside to take it off the fire.
It got her thinking, and before she knew it Nesta was pouring the water into two travel mugs and placing tea bags within them as she slid on her boots and a jacket.
Bracing herself, she stepped back outside, hands now full, and shut the door behind her before carefully walking toward Cassian. His brows were furrowed as if he were contemplating something of the utmost importance in his mind as he shoveled, but still he heard her walking toward him.
"Thank you," she said by way of a second greeting, holding out one of the mugs for him.
His lips spread into a wide smile as he accepted the tea, though his eyes never left her wind-kissed face. It sent Nesta's heart thundering and made her eager to dart her eyes away. To look anywhere but his gaze.
"Thank you," he breathed before taking a sip. "What tea is this?"
"It's a mint chocolate herbal mixture I found at some market once. One of my favorite winter blends."
He nodded, taking another sip. "It's nice. Sweet, but still fairly subtle."
"I figured you may not want the black caramel blend." Nesta gave him an amused smile as she sipped her own tea, allowing it to warm her just as his words had earlier.
"You might be right," he chuckled. "But I'd drink this one again, though nothing trumps standard black tea for me."
"You would be that guy."
"Oh, I'm a lot of things, Nes." He winked at her and it had something fluttering deep within Nesta in a way that was entirely unacceptable.
Sure, Cassian looked like a god. But he was obnoxious and nosey and saw way too much of what Nesta liked to hide. It was dangerous. He was dangerous, and Nesta really wasn't one to flirt with danger.
Usually.
"Pretty sure I've told you not to call me that," she reminded him, keeping her voice flat and even.
"What, I don't get any privileges for shoveling your driveway?"
Nesta quirked an eyebrow just as the corner of her lip on the same side twitched upward. "Is that what you're doing? Hoping to earn special privileges?"
He laughed freely at that, throwing his head back slightly with the force of it. "Not at all, though I wouldn't be opposed. I'm just being nice and neighborly."
"This goes beyond being 'nice and neighborly', Cassian."
"It does not. You just have a hard time understanding the full extent of the concept of being 'nice'." He flicked her nose with a gloved finger and it had Nesta scrunching her face.
She swatted his hand away. "I'm nice!" He gave her a face that could only be read as, Seriously?, and it had Nesta rolling her eyes. "Well, I can be. With people who deserve it."
"Oh, you wound me." Cassian was fighting a laugh as he dramatically placed a hand over his heart.
"Enjoy the tea." She narrowed her gaze at him and then pivoted on one foot, storming back into the house to finally eat her breakfast.
Cassian clearly didn't know what he was talking about. Nesta could be nice. So what if she had a bit of a sharp tongue? That didn't mean she didn't know how to be nice. Clearly, she just had to prove it.
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"You're joking!"
Cassian sighed, holding the phone to his ear with his shoulder as he scrubbed his dinner plate. "No."
"You're telling me you skipped out on joining Az and me for lunch to shovel that bitch monster's driveway?"
"She's not a bitch, Rhys," he groaned, now setting the dish on the drying rack, finally able to put his hand to his phone. "She just doesn't like to be fake. There's a difference."
"Cass, she once called me a pompous, preening idiot who only studied Psychology to learn how people will react to what I'm wearing and how I look." Rhys's voice was low and entirely unamused.
Cassian couldn't help but laugh at the reminder. "I mean…was she entirely wrong?"
"Oh, shut up!"
He was still laughing slightly as he began to walk around his living room, a bit too energetic from the day. Too wound up from what may have been the best interaction with Nesta he'd ever had. He wanted more, and almost went to talk to her when he was done. But he was pretty sure he'd heard shouted cursing coming from inside, so he opted against it. Plus, his only excuse would have been to return the travel mug, and he really didn't want to do that.
Cassian knew he should, but how could he when it reminded him so much of her? Just a simple travel mug with the quote: 'The set of her chin suggested she might have slain a dragon before breakfast. The look in her eyes suggested she might, in fact, have eaten it.' It was as if she'd given him a piece of herself, and even if it was meant to be temporary, Cassian was going to hold on to it forever. To cherish it, in case it was the only piece she ever offered him.
"Cassian?"
Rhys's voice pulled him from his reverie. "Yeah?"
"I said: If you like her so much, why don't you just ask her out?"
"Oh…" Cassian expelled a loud breath. "Because I don't think she'd say yes."
"Then why not move on?"
"Because I'm not sure she would want to say no," he sighed, scratching his head with his free hand.
Rhys paused for a moment. "I can't tell if that's poetic or just fucking cryptic."
Laughing again, Cassian barely heard a knock at the glass doors behind him that led to his backyard. He looked up to see Nesta standing there, looking adorable all bundled up in a big, puffy vest over a fleece sweater.
"Hey, I gotta go. We'll have lunch soon. Not on a day where we were gifted a full foot of snow, yeah?"
"Wait, Cass-"
He didn't hear the rest as he hung up the phone, flashing Nesta a smile. Cassian sauntered over to the door and slid it open, stepping aside to let Nesta into his house. A respite from the cold.
"To what do I owe this pleasure?" he asked after he shut the door, spinning to face Nesta.
Nesta held up a plate in her mitten-covered hands he hadn't noticed she was carrying. "I made you cookies."
"You…what?"
Her lips twitched into a small smile as she huffed out a laugh. "I. Made. You. Cookies. A thank you, for my driveway." She shoved the plate at him far harder than most would when making such a nice gesture, but Cassian managed to catch it quickly before she completely dug it into his stomach.
"Thank you. And what exactly brought this on?" He felt his lips spread into a half-smile as he watched her, his eyes trailing the wisps of golden brown hair that had fallen out of the messy bun she was wearing. They framed her face beautifully, dancing against her beige skin and rosy cheeks.
"I told you. I'm thanking you for shoveling my driveway."
Cassian raised an eyebrow, giving her an incredulous look. "I thought that's what the tea was for?"
"You did my whole driveway," she countered, as if it explained everything.
"I did." Cassian's smile turned into a full on grin, taunting and playful. "You know, Nes, if this is an attempt to prove you can be nice, I don-"
"Oh, just shut up and accept the cookies." Cassian couldn't help but chuckle at her words and the sharp tone, in polar opposition to what she was trying to do. But, that was the Nesta he knew, and he loved it.
"Thank you for the cookies."
She gave him one stern nod and then a small smile broke out on her face. "They're gingersnap."
"Really?" he asked excitedly, looking down at the plate. "Those are my favorites!"
"I know."
Cassian's eyes snapped up to hers, his face softening as he stared into that sparkling, blue-grey gaze. He'd told her that, once. It must have been at least three years ago, just a few months after she'd first moved in. He invited her to the holiday party he was throwing - he, Rhys, and Az rotated who threw it each year - and was at the point of attempting to use the food to convince her to come. He'd promised there would be mountains of gingersnaps for that reason, though she didn't sound at all interested until he moved on to a guarantee that Az's girlfriend would be bringing peppermint bark. He's pretty sure that was the only reason she showed up - go figure she and Gwyn ended up becoming fast friends while Cassian still could barely get her to say hi to him.
And yet…there he stood, a plate of gingersnaps in his hand.
"You remembered?"
Nesta's smile widened slightly, brightening her entire face. Cassian could swear her eyes were actually twinkling as she looked at him. "I suppose I did."
He couldn't take his eyes off her. Couldn't stop gaping, not even as her smile shifted into a smirk and she said, "Far more personal than shoveling someone's driveway."
The words seemed to hit Cassian in the gut as a choked laugh escaped his lips. He was torn between amusement and despair. Was that really the only reason she'd done this? Chosen those cookies? It still meant she remembered his favorites. But…he was thinking she'd picked gingersnaps solely for his enjoyment. And now he couldn't tell if it was for that, or if it was solely to tease him and make a point.
Which is probably exactly what she wanted.
"I did remember that you hate that chore," he argued roughly, his voice a rasp.
"Oh, please Cassian. Who doesn't hate that one?"
He felt his eyes darken as she scoffed, and then he was trailing his gaze down her body, taking in every curve. Her outfit didn't exactly show them off the way some of her other clothes could. But, the cream of her sweater looked heavenly against her skin, and the pink that remained in her cheeks was tantalizing him in a way a soft flush really shouldn't. Plus, no amount of layers and down clothing could cover that generous bosom that Cassian had fantasized about far too many times.
She looked like a true snow bunny, and Cassian couldn't help but imagine what it might be like to get her to join him up at his small ski lodge. Alone, snuggling on the couch by a large fire. Teaching her to snowboard, maybe. Then finding other ways after dinner to completely tire her out.
He kicked those thoughts from his mind, not wanting to get too lost in them while Nesta was right in front of him.
Cassian placed the plate of cookies on the end table beside his couch and took a step toward Nesta. "So, you're saying that my favor wasn't as nice as yours?"
"I'm not saying anything." She shrugged, her voice light and amused. "Just that I made you your favorite cookies."
"How about I take you upstairs, then? To prove just how nice I can be, too."
He heard Nesta's breathing hitch, watched her throat as she swallowed heavily. Something in her demeanor changed entirely, her body stiffening, her smile falling. He even thought he could hear her heart start to beat faster, though he may have been confusing it with his own, which was definitely racing.
Nesta schooled her features soon enough, only just too slow to keep Cassian from noticing the shift.
"I doubt it would compare," she shot back, her voice a bit breathier than she likely meant it to be. It had Cassian inhaling sharply, summoning thoughts of hockey and blood and other things that would help him maintain control over a certain appendage.
"Only one way to find out."
That had Nesta huffing out a small laugh. "Goodnight, Cassian. Enjoy the cookies."
He followed her toward the door, holding it open as she started across his snow-covered lawn. "I definitely will!"
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A week passed, and every day Nesta found herself doing yet another unrequested favor for Cassian because he just wouldn't stop. And she couldn't let him win.
Earlier that day, Cassian showed up on her porch with a full case of her favorite Sauvignon Blanc. Likely in payback to Nesta leaving an entire rack of his favorite beer at his back door the day before.
So now she was standing at his island counter, helping him wrap presents so that he'd have some under his tree as part of her offer to help him decorate for the party he was hosting that night. Apparently 'Christmas trees just look better with some presents under them.' And Cassian was so trusting, he'd never consider putting out fake presents when having a large number of guests over.
She wasn't paying much attention to the task. Cassian was doing the wrapping. Nesta was more like an assistant. His 'little helper', as he kept saying - he even tried to put her in an elf hat to match the Santa hat he was wearing, but Nesta firmly shot that down.
Instead, she was trying to figure out when exactly she'd gotten to know Cassian so well. She hadn't realized she was taking note of everything she learned about him. And yet, Nesta wasn't sure she'd ever forgotten anything either. It seemed like she could remember every conversation they'd had, every little fact about him that he shared.
His favorite color? Red - preferably in the ruby, blood, or garnet shades, but anything that wasn't too light and pink or too brown would do. His favorite movie? He liked to claim it was 'Remember the Titans', but it was 'The Lion King' that he watched at least once every three months. Go-to takeout? Chipotle - not because he thought it was real or authentic Mexican, but he thinks it's spiced well and he likes the portion sizes and how easy it is to get double meat.
She knew he played hockey throughout college and had the chance to go into the professional league but chose instead to work as an architect. However, that didn't keep him from staying in shape, and he still followed the Rangers religiously. He was, apparently, a complete cliché in high school and totaled his first car within a month of getting it. But since then he'd become an exceedingly careful driver of both his truck and his motorcycle. She even knew that he spent his Tuesday and Thursday nights volunteering at a youth center, teaching the kids various forms of self-defense. Boys and girls.
Nesta could count on one hand the people she knew as well or better than Cassian, and it had her spiraling a bit. Was it because he was an open book? Did he just share too much about himself too often? Or was she paying more attention than she realized? And why would she do that? Unless she…wanted to know. And if she wanted to know, then…
She tried not to think about that. Cassian was her obnoxious yet amusing neighbor. The one who could make her laugh, but could also do with learning how to keep to himself a bit more.
"Scissors?" Cassian requested, holding his hand out as Nesta stood there, staring at no spot in particular on the chair on the opposite side of the counter. She handed him the scissors and barely heard the sound of him slicing the paper. Her eyes were glazed over, her mind racing. "Tape?"
Absent-mindedly, Nesta started tearing pieces of tape, holding them out for him. He used them quickly and then started on the ribbon.
"Finger?" She put her finger on the present and moved it a bit until she felt the cross section of the ribbon. "On the count of three. One…two…three!" Nesta yanked her finger out just as the ribbon came down.
"Great! Now, quick, kiss me!"
Nesta turned almost robotically, took his face between her hands, and pulled him down as she lifted herself onto her toes, pressing her lips to his.
It wasn't until she'd pulled away and was again looking at the chair that she realized what she'd done.
With widened eyes, Nesta pivoted on him, her focus now entirely on Cassian and what was happening in that moment. "What the hell?!" she asked, gaping at him as he shook with laughter.
"I just wanted to see what would happen," he explained, a wide smile on his face. "You were so…far away. I thought it might snap you back."
Nesta swallowed, nodding slightly as her eyes shrunk back to normal and her face fell into a more subdued look as she sighed, "Oh." She didn't know why a wave of disappointment was crashing through her. Why a pit seemed to sink into the depths of her stomach. But she kept her face flat, showing nothing more than indifference. "Odd experiment."
Cassian looked at her with furrowed brows, his head tilted slightly as his hazel eyes seemed to bore into her. "I figured it was a bit of a win-win." A smile slowly grew on his face. "Either I snap you back to reality or I get you to kiss me." He winked, another laugh bursting from his lips. "Seeing as I managed to do both, I must be a genius."
"Or just lucky."
"Oh, very lucky, Nes." He took a step closer, less than six inches separating their faces. "But, you weren't totally there for it. Perhaps we should try again?"
Nesta felt her eyebrows raise, her lips twitching up at the corners. "Excuse me?"
"Well, I mean…you weren't exactly present. It's like our friend Gale would say: 'It's like kissing someone who's drunk. It doesn't count.'" Cassian was grinning now, the gold in his eyes sparkling with amusement.
"Our friend Gale? As in Hawthorne?"
"You're the one who told me the books were better than the movies," he said. "What was I going to do? Not read them?"
She rolled her eyes, shaking her head slightly. "The books are always better than the movies."
"Yes. Because now I can discuss those with you too. And, since you're back, shall we do as Gale would suggest and try again?"
"You do realize that's not at all the point he's making? Right?"
He shrugged and laughed again. "That didn't answer my question, sweetheart."
"What would you rather I say?" she asked. Nesta could feel her mood lightening with each jab. Could feel her body warming slightly, her heart beating again at its normal pace. "Oh, please Cassian, let me kiss you. I'm devastated that I couldn't truly appreciate our first!" She let her head fall backwards a bit as she brought the back of her hand to her forehead, a dramatic gesture to accompany the swooning tone she used.
Cassian took in a deep breath and then stepped closer, moving them a bit so she was pinned against the counter, his hands resting on either side of her, caging her in. "I wouldn't be opposed," he whispered, his voice rough in a way Nesta hadn't heard before. It sent her heart racing, her mind beginning to wander toward thoughts she found herself needing to suppress more and more often in the past week.
"Well, t-too bad." She hadn't meant to stutter the words out, for her tone to be breathy. She attempted to cover it up by huffing out a laugh and lightly shoving him away with an amused smile.
Cassian played along, but she didn't miss the knowing look he gave her before chuckling with her and exaggeratedly stumbling back.
"That was the last present," he declared. "This place really does look great. Thank you for the help, Nes."
She looked around the open-plan area, the foyer and living room only separated by the large fireplace and chimney in the center of the room. There were pine garlands strung up on the railing to the stairs, a massive tree over in the corner, a few tables bedecked in matching, holiday-themed tablecloths with nutcracker and other Christmas-like centerpieces, and tons of red and green. It was, honestly, just on the right side of being tacky, entirely thanks to her. Were it not for Nesta, Cassian likely would have hung those cartoon cut-outs and put out multiple singing and dancing Santa and Mrs. Claus pairs.
"No problem. You know me. Always happy to help." She grinned over at Cassian as he let out a true, loud laugh. He threw his head back with the movement, as he liked to do, and Nesta couldn't help but eye his now-exposed neck, wonder what it would be like to trail her tongue up its column.
She shook her thoughts away before Cassian looked back at her and said, "I'm not complaining." He offered her a softer smile that warmed Nesta's chest. "Are you coming tonight?"
"Of course. As if I'd miss a party with Gwyn's peppermint bark."
"You know it's a Christmas sweater party, right?" he asked, following her as she made her way toward the back door where she'd left her boots and a wrapped box.
Nesta pulled on her boots as she replied with an, "I do." She then picked up the box and faced him again. "And, speaking of, this is for you. BUT!" She yanked the box away just as it brushed Cassian's fingers. "You can't open this and put it on until just before the party. I mean the-first-guests-are-arriving-now just before, okay?"
"That is the weirdest rule about a present I've ever heard." Yet despite his words, Cassian was giving her a half-smile, watching her and the present intently.
"Promise?"
"I promise."
Nodding, she placed the box in his outstretched hands. "Good. I will see you later, then."
"Is there a reason for this present I should be aware of?" he wondered as she slid the door open and stepped onto the snow-covered deck.
Nesta turned and looked up at him, happy to have an excuse to take in his face again. She loved the way it lit up when he was challenged and intrigued, how his gaze gleamed with joy and excitement. It was almost as arousing as when his eyes darkened and his rough lines grew even more intense.
"I already told you. I'm nice." She sent him a wink before pivoting and walking back to her own house to get ready for the party.
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The present was mocking him.
Everywhere Cassian turned, there it was, just waiting. Staring at him. Begging him to be opened.
It probably didn't help that Cassian carried it around with him for the rest of the day. He never even left his house, but if he left a room, the gift came with him. It was as if he feared it might get lost if it was ever out of reach.
It was as taunting as that kiss had been.
Gods, that kiss!
Even with Nesta's lack of mental presence it was still one of the best damn things Cassian had ever experienced. Her lips warm and soft, her fingers delicate yet electric, sending a spark through him at every point of contact. The moment she'd pulled away Cassian had wanted to grab her by the hair and bring her lips back to his, claim her mouth before he claimed every other part of her body.
He could only imagine what it might be like if Nesta wasn't operating on auto-pilot. How it would feel to have her truly kissing him. And he couldn't help but hope he might get that chance.
It was stupid, he knew, to let himself hope. This was Nesta Archeron, ice queen, impossible to fully read, and the woman he was certain would one day be his demise. Without even trying she had him by the balls, and somehow Cassian lived for it.
And yet, in the past week something had changed between them. There had always been a spark, a bit of a flirtation. Times Cassian thought he was getting close only to be pushed away - if he was lucky. But it was different this time. She didn't seem to be pushing or punching or kicking. She wasn't just retaliating or reciprocating, but some days Nesta was initiating, and Cassian barely knew what to do.
Tonight, however, he really couldn't be thinking about that. He had a party to host. One he couldn't screw up. His brothers would never forgive him.
So he cooked and prepared, the gift never out of his sight even as he tried to distract himself.
It didn't really work. And with each passing hour grew more anxious, the desperation building until he heard a car pull into his driveway. Running to a window, Cassian looked out to see Rhys's car crawling into a park and let out a massive sigh of relief.
He went back into the kitchen and ripped the paper off the box, practically tearing it open to find a neatly folded Christmas sweater inside.
Pulling it out, a laugh escaped Cassian's lips as he looked over the red knit sweater. It was lined with green at each opening and had a few white and green, knit, horizontal patterns on it, such as snowflakes, Christmas trees, and even a big bow in the center at the top. However, the main show was the large words that said 'ON THE NAUGHTY LIST'. 'Naughty' was even emphasized with bolder lettering knitted into a large green stripe instead of the red of the rest of the sweater.
He could hear his brothers and their girlfriends walking up the steps, so he threw the sweater on, a massive grin on his face, and chucked the box and wrapping paper into his recycling bin quickly. He was just rounding the counter as his first guests - and co-hosts - walked into the house.
He greeted them excitedly, leading them into the living room area where he expected most to end up.
"Cassian, the place looks great!" Feyre exclaimed as he took their coats and put them in his office.
"You can thank your sister for that," he said, coming back in and helping Gwyn get a platter for her peppermint bark before he started to load the tables with the various plates he'd prepared.
Feyre and Rhys both snapped their gazes toward Cassian as Feyre asked, "Really?!"
Cassian nodded, unable to keep his smile in check. "Yeah. She was here for a few hours around midday, helping out with decorations and everything."
"That's so great! Does that mean she's coming tonight?"
"According to her. Though we may have Gwyn to thank for that one." Cassian threw a wink at the copper-haired girl. "You know how Nesta is about your peppermint bark."
"Why do you think I made so much this year?" She motioned to the platter that was practically overflowing, pulling a laugh from Cassian, Az, and Feyre.
Rhys, on the other hand, just sighed a, "Yay…"
"Oh, hush," Feyre scolded, nudging him in the stomach.
"I told you we could bring her gifts tonight."
"And I told you that I am seeing my sister on Christmas whether you like it or not." Feyre glared up at Rhys in a way that had him shrinking slightly and nodding.
Deciding he'd rather not end up in the middle of whatever may or may not be about to go down, he moved closer to Az and Gwyn to join them. They were wearing matching 'Mr. Claus' and 'Mrs. Claus' sweaters that were adorable as fuck and had Cassian's smile only growing. But he wasn't the only one focused on the sweaters.
Gwyn was staring at his, her eyes wide and full of something that seemed like shock.
Before Cassian could ask, Az was slapping him on the shoulder. "Great sweater. I appreciate the realism you're bringing to the traditional Christmas sweater party."
"Ha ha," Cassian grumbled.
"That is what I was going for," a familiar voice explained from behind Cassian.
He turned around and froze in place, completely struck dumb by the sight.
There, just before him, stood Nesta, looking like an angel. She let her hair down partially down for the party, half of it braided into a crown around her head as the rest fell in loose curls. And the way the light hit it - she honestly looked like she had strands of pure gold in her honey brown hair. She was smiling gently up at him, but in those storm cloud eyes he could see a spark of mischief he was certain his own gaze was answering.
However, what really hit him in the gut was her sweater. The perfect opposite to Cassian's in every way. Where his was mostly red, hers was green. His green accents? Hers were in red. And instead of 'NAUGHTY', her sweater stated she was on the 'NICE' list. A matching set, and it sent his heart racing straight toward her.
Cassian could barely remember where he was, or who else was around him, his focus entirely on Nesta.
"Nesta! You look great!" Gwyn cheered, giving her friend a hello hug.
"Thank you! And same to you. Love the sweaters." She flicked her eyes between Gwyn and Az. "Very fitting. But, I wish you'd worn wigs."
Gwyn's eyes darted to Az, a scowl spreading on her face. "I wanted to."
"And I'm not sorry I said no," Az said with a shrug.
That sent Gwyn reeling, and the two of them broke away to taunt and tease each other, leaving Cassian with Nesta. However, before he had the chance to say anything, Feyre was there, practically jumping on her sister with a squeal.
Nesta laughed, the sound nuzzling Cassian's neck as he watched the two girls embrace.
"I'm so happy you came," Feyre sighed as she squeezed her sister tightly. "And…" Feyre paused, looking Nesta over before her gaze, so similar to Nesta's, flicked to Cassian and then back to Nesta. "You're matching Cassian."
"Technically, he's matching me."
"Technically, Nes here planned the whole thing and told me nothing." Cassian threw his arm around Nesta lightly, a thrill speeding through him when she didn't pull away.
Instead, she tilted her head to look up at him and gave Cassian a smirk. "I just thought it was a message everyone needed to see."
Cassian knew it was meant to be a challenge. Knew he was supposed to shoot something back at her. But in that moment he couldn't. He couldn't move or breathe or even think. All he could do was stand there and stare into those eyes, dancing with delight; take in that gorgeous face, merry and bright and tender. He almost fell to his knees at the way his heart swelled, at how his stomach flipped when her lips relaxed into a small smile that he knew was just for him.
She held his gaze and Cassian didn't dare look away. Not until a commotion at the front door snapped them both back to reality.
Sighing, Cassian went to greet his guests as Nesta gravitated back toward Gwyn. By the time he was back in the living room, the two girls were already situated by the fire, plates full of chocolate and other sweets, gossiping as if they hadn't seen each other in years.
He resigned himself to playing the host, knowing only an idiot would interrupt Gwyn and Nesta when they got like that.
Before Cassian knew it, almost two hours had passed. He'd barely seen Nesta in that time, stopping and chatting with all those who showed up. He knew Emerie would have found Nesta and Gwyn almost as soon as she got to the party, but now she was in the kitchen with Mor, her blonde girlfriend sitting on the counter, caged between Emerie's arms. He decided to look away quickly despite knowing neither of them cared who saw what they were about to do.
He looked out over the living room, thanking the Mother for his height. He could see his brothers currently betting on the outcome of an arm-wrestling match between Helion and Tarquin - apparently they were at that point in the evening, and it told Cassian he needed to check the cooler outside to see if the beer needed refilling.
Cassian was about to give up and go see what Jurian and Lucien were chatting about when he finally spotted her against the wall beside the back door. Her eyes were darting all over the room, her lips having fallen back into that indifferent grimace he knew so well.
He felt his face scrunch as he wondered what might have brought that on, but it didn't take long to figure it out. Not as he laid eyes on the man who stood before her, attempting to engage her in conversation. His arms were flat by his sides, but he was standing in a way that seemed to block Nesta from the rest of the party. Cassian knew Nesta could handle herself, and that she'd likely tear him a new one for stepping in, but he couldn't help himself. Not as he saw the slight hint of panic in her eyes.
"Nesta!" he called out loudly, ignoring the looks he got from the other guests as he pushed his way through them toward her. He took up the spot just beside her, his eyes not leaving hers for even a second. "There you are. I've been looking for you."
"Is everything okay?"
"Oh, of course!" Cassian gave her a wide smile, waving his hand as if he were swiping the air away. "I just think we need to let everyone see our sweaters in all their glory - together."
She huffed out a laugh, shaking her head softly and looking toward the ground. It provided Cassian the opportunity to look at the man in front of them. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't pleased by the shocked, almost fearful look in his eyes as he took in their matching outfits.
"Tomas," Cassian ground out, looking the shrinking man over.
The mousey brown haired man gave Cassian an awkward nod. "Cassian. Good to see you. Great party."
"Thank you." He didn't bother trying to hide the tension in his voice. "I don't recall inviting you, though."
"Eris said it was an open house."
"It's not."
"Noted." Tomas looked between Cassian and Nesta again and took a step back. "I'll just be going then."
Cassian waited until Tomas was out of eyesight before he turned to Nesta. "Sorry about that. Hope you don't mind me stepping in." He rubbed the back of his neck, suddenly feeling a bit sheepish, even without Nesta glaring at him.
Instead, to his surprise, she offered him a small smile. "It's okay. I'm just glad to be rid of him. I know I should be telling you off, but honestly, he gave me the creeps and I didn't feel like I could get away without making a scene. Which I didn't want to do."
"Just doing my part as the king of being nice." He threw her a cocky half-smile, his entire body relaxing as she rolled her eyes.
"I'd remind you that I'm the nice one," she countered, pointing at her sweater for emphasis.
Cassian leaned one hand against the wall, sure to keep his body perpendicular to it so Nesta always had an out. "Well, after that, perhaps we should trade sweaters, because I think I'm in the lead now. Besides…" he leaned in so that his lips were at her ear and whispered, "I wouldn't mind seeing you be naughty."
A hmmm escaped Nesta's lips in a low, sultry tone that had Cassian throbbing beneath his belt. "How do you know that's not what I was hoping for when I gave you that sweater?"
That was enough to break his restraint. Cassian's free hand was suddenly gripping Nesta's waist as he pushed her against the wall. She gasped loudly, the corners of her lips curving upward as he held himself flush against her.
"Like this?" he growled.
He inhaled sharply as she trailed her hands up his chest and around his shoulders, settling them at the nape of his neck. "It's a start."
Cassian felt his eyes darken, letting out a hiss as he lunged forward and captured her mouth with his.
To his great surprise and delight, Nesta didn't pull away. Instead, she seemed to tug him closer to her as she brushed her tongue against his lips in a silent request. One he was all too keen to answer.
He kissed her ardently, his grip tightening at her waist as his other hand left the wall, his fingers gripping her hair at the back of her head. She moaned at the feeling and Cassian pressed himself harder against her, leaving no air between them.
There were no words, nothing Cassian could compare this kiss to. It was wholly new. It was the first read through of a book that would become an all-time favorite. The first glimpse of the ocean in person. Finally reaching the peak of a mountain or the overlook of a new hike.
It took his breath away, to hold Nesta so close, to feel her lips moving against his, to feel her body heat-
"CASSIAN!"
He started, jumping back as Nesta pulled away, a frown falling on her face as she looked around toward where the shout had come from.
Cassian groaned, knowing exactly whose voice that had been. "Go away, Rhys."
"But, we need you! Tarquin is, surprisingly, undefeated and I've lost too much money. I need you to whip his…arm…" Cassian didn't miss the slight slur to Rhys's words, not that he bothered even looking at his brother.
"I'm a little busy," he spat, turning his face just enough to show Rhys he was addressing him. "In fact, I think it's time we call it a night."
Rhys stilled beside him. "What?"
"Yep. Party's over!" Cassian all but shouted the last two words, finally turning to look around at the living room. "Sorry friends, I love having you, but if we go on too much longer I'll end up annoying the neighbors."
The party had already cleared out somewhat, but the remaining guests grumbled slightly as they collected their things. Save for Az and Gwyn, who were both wagging their eyebrows at Cassian and Nesta.
Cassian turned back to Nesta, a hand resting at his waist again. "Except you…you stay," he declared in a low voice.
She smirked up at him, meeting his gaze, her own dark with desire.
"Well, what are we supposed to do now?" Rhys practically whined even as Feyre appeared at his side to tug him away.
Cassian didn't take his eyes off Nesta as he responded, "First, Feyre drives. Beyond that, I don't really care. Go sleep with your girlfriend, that's what I plan to do."
There were no more protests as Feyre captured Rhys's attention and led him out of the house, the last to leave.
Nesta tilted her head. "Girlfriend? I don't recall agreeing to that."
"I know," he grunted, pressing his body against hers again. "Let's call it a Christmas wish."
She sighed out an "ahh" as she lifted her head, the corner of her lips curved upward. "I suppose you have been fairly nice this year." She trailed her hands up his arms as she spoke, resting them right back where they'd been at his neck.
"Some might even say very," he purred, leaning down and pressing his lips to her neck.
She let out a sound between a gasp and a yelp at the feeling, which then turned into a soft laugh. "I guess Santa Nesta can keep it under consideration."
"Oh?" He dragged his teeth up the column of her neck. "Does that mean I have to wait until Christmas to see if Santa Nesta will grant my wish?" He nipped at her ear.
"I'm afraid so," Nesta breathed, her voice raspy in a way that had Cassian's pants tightening. "Though, you might be able to expedite the decision."
Cassian kissed down her jaw and then took her bottom lip between his teeth, tugging lightly on it. "And how might I do that?"
"Well, you see, Santa Nesta isn't as discriminating against the naughty." Cassian's eyes met Nesta's again, a flame dancing in them that sparked something deep within Cassian. "In fact, come nighttime, she often prefers it, and will likely grant many wishes to those who can be naughty enough to please her."
"Good thing I'm on the naughty list." Cassian kissed Nesta deeply, his hands brushing down her body until they reached her thighs. "I guess it's time to show you why."
He tightened his grip and lifted her easily. Nesta squealed at the movement, even as she wrapped her legs around his waist.
Cassian paused, staring up into Nesta's eyes, drowning himself in that blue-grey sea, admiring the way she seemed to shine beneath his gaze. Leaning in, he kissed her again, and then carried her up into his room and toward a new future he couldn't wait to begin.
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soobnny · 23 hours ago
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library hymns — park sunghoon. strangers to lovers
sunghoon wants to find out who keeps leaving him a blanket and a bottle of water whenever he’d fall asleep in the library or “i work in the library and i’m a little concerned for your health bc u never stop studying” (4.4k words)
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The wind picks up loose strands of your hair as you hurry towards the library of your campus where you’d worked every night for a few good months now. Today wasn’t any different, and you’re scrambling to make it on time for your shift.
Not that you’d miss much. Your 10pm-2am shift was often termed the graveyard shift — it was usually quiet which allowed you the time to do your homework or read a book you’d been meaning to for a while. At least that was the case when you first studied, but about a week ago, you’d had a constant visitor.
His usual setting? The campus library at 11pm. Cups of coffee hidden under the table in a weak attempt to conceal the fact that he was breaking library rules. He isn’t new to you at all - you’ve known him for a good few weeks.
“It’s that boy again.” muttered Wonyoung, with an amused look on her face. He usually frequented the library in the few minutes left of Wonyoung’s shift and almost the entirety of yours. He was mostly organized, sitting on the same table every night, a stack of books always piled on his table. You’d managed to get a small hint on what he majored, and judging by the glimpses you were able to steal on the cover of his books, you’d assumed he was majoring in Engineering.
Normally, you wouldn’t mind the lone student in the library until the crack of dawn. He was fairly attractive, and you didn’t mind having quite a sight to look at. Except, the dark-haired boy had a habit of falling asleep on the library table every night without fail, and you’re starting to get a little concerned for his health because - he never stopped studying.
You assumed it was because their major had started early this year compared to every other, filling the lonely halls of your campus with Engineering students since the month started. This must be a normal thing for them, studying until ungodly hours. And yet, every time your shift ended, you’d feel bad for leaving the boy with the cute smile sleeping with his arms as a makeshift pillow. So today, you took the liberty in buying the poor boy a bottle of water (you assumed he’d drank so much cups of coffee, he Needed water in his system).
As soon as you walked out of the library, the inky night and the scent of trees hit you. The hallway was dead, but that wasn’t a surprise to you at all. Shoving your hands in your pockets, you quickly make your way to the vending machine to purchase a bottle of water. When you head back to the library, the boy remains sound asleep so you carefully place the bottle of water beside his unopened books. Sharpie in hand and a small message of “stay hydrated and don’t forget to take a break from studying!” written on the water bottle.
For some dumb reason, the sight of the cute boy was enough to get blood rushing towards your cheeks and the hint of butterflies in the bottom of your stomach. Before you could possibly wake him up with your staring, you bend down to take away the empty cups of coffee from under the table to throw before tackling the remaining books you needed to sort through so you could end your shift.
It didn’t take Sunghoon long to realize the bottle of water and the little message that accompanied it once he had woken up from the slumber he did not mean to partake in. And in the few seconds of spotting it, an instant smile tipped on his lips and he’s quick to down the bottle of water.
Upon cleaning up the desk he had used up all night, he quietly checks out some of the books that were on his pile. Footsteps drew the attention of the working student and she peers up to assist Sunghoon in filling up the forms so he could take the library books home.
With an arm full of books, Sunghoon starts shuffling out of the library before coming to a brief halt by the door, and before the student could finish saying the mandated “Thank you, come again!”, he moves back to the desk and asks if she knew who kindly left him water when he had fallen asleep.
“Oh, yeah! ______. They work their shift before mine so I’m pretty sure they’re the one who left that. Would you like me to take a message?”
Trying to suppress a yawn, Sunghoon nods before shyly replying. “Please tell them thank you for their kindness.”
“No problem.” She shoots him a smile before busying herself with more mind-numbing tasks from all the students that had piled up to check out some books during the time she had been talking to the boy.
Sunghoon respectfully gives her a nod of acknowledgement and a small smile before pushing the doors of the library to head back to his dorm. When he walked into his dorm, he’s met with the sight of Jake and Jay who were claiming his couch as theirs, watching some crappy show on Sunghoon’s rented television with takeout littered on the table.
“When did the two of you move into my dorm?”
“We didn’t, but now that you say that… we’re considering.” Jay nudges Jake who’s nodding frantically at Sunghoon who was shaking his head.
“You fall asleep at the library again?” Jay yawns as he flicks through the channels and Sunghoon’s lips twitch at the thought of the mystery person who left him a bottle of water. Truth was, Sunghoon hadn’t exactly found the time to even entertain anything other than his studies, but the simple thought of a stranger telling him to take a break really pulled at his heart strings. He’s fighting the grin that’s threatening to show as he drops his books onto the free part of the table that wasn’t littered with trash.
“Oy, he’s doing it again. What’s got you smiling, have you been whoring out?” Jake sits up at the mere sight of a frantic Sunghoon who was shuffling around his dorm to try and hide away from his friends.
“I’m not whoring around.” Sunghoon is quick to deny their claims, picking up the trash to throw it out and doing his best to keep busy so he doesn’t have the time to truly entertain the thought of the stranger. “Yeah, you’re doing the thing where you keep yourself occupied to avoid telling us shit, which never works by the way.” The tone in Jay’s voice was bored, but Sunghoon knew that the both of them were throwing shit-eating grins at one another.
“Fine, it’s stupid anyways. There was this person who left me a bottle of water at the library, and I don’t know, it’s just… a good thing.”
“Oh my god, he IS whoring around. Yeah, they’re definitely flirting.” Jake is quick to his conclusions, throwing the remote at Sunghoon who is just as quick to catch it. “And to think you weren’t going to tell us. Who do you think you are?”
“Well, are you going to go back and avoid falling asleep so you can meet the love of your life?”
“I don’t think giving someone a bottle of water constitutes as flirting or being the love of my life.” Sunghoon swats Jay’s feet away when he tries to rest it on the table in front of the couch.
The room falls silent for a moment, before Jay decides to speak up again, a small smirk playing on his face as he gazes at Sunghoon. “What would Sunoo think of this?” Sunghoon’s eyes double in size and he shakes his head frantically. “Nobody is telling Sunoo anything. He’s going to find a way to get all their contact information and plan my wedding.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s the plan.”
“Why am I even friends with you two.”
“Because we’re nice to you, and we don’t spill your secrets… sometimes.” Jake throws a shit-eating grin at Sunghoon who rolls his eyes. “I’ll kick the both of you out if you speak one more word..”
They both raise their arms up in surrender at this, the pair snickering under their breath as Sunghoon joins them on the couch and they fall back into their playful banter.
-
You were making your way out of your last class of the afternoon when you got a text from Lia, the girl who would take over your shift after you left at a little over 2am.
From: lia!
I was told to act as a messenger for a boy. He says thank you for your kindness!
This sends a multitude of butterflies swarming through your stomach - the same butterflies that were trying to hide when you had stared at the cute boy earlier in the morning. It was almost funny how you’d never exchanged a single word with him and yet here he was, making you feel everything all at once.
You reason it’s because no other boy, a cute one at that, had paid you any attention and the concept of leaving secret messages through a friend was something that brought you a thrill. It was almost something that would normally be shown in those dumb romantic movies.
In all honesty, you had been yearning from a safe distance. It wasn’t that romance was all you wanted in life, but years without it tended to mess with your mind and you find yourself wanting it more and more every year. So sometimes, when the opportunity strikes, you’d wish upon a star to have the same time of excitement you’d normally get from reading fanfictions or watching cute scenes in movies.
Now that the opportunity had presented itself, the idea was clouding your mind and it allowed for you to smile at the most unexpected times of the day. It might’ve been an act of common human decency, but that didn’t mean you couldn’t allow yourself to fall into a frenzy at how the cute boy had taken the time to pass a “thank you” message for you.
You double check the message Lia had kindly sent you before falling into a swarm of students, with your bag hugged closed to your chest as you try to make it through the group of shuffling bodies.
Upon successfully making it out into the comfort of a small little coffee shop to seek comfort in their air conditioned air, you pull out your phone to reply to her.
To: lia!
it was the least i could do :> that boy’s been studying for weeks on end and falling asleep every! single! time! i kinda feel bad that he doesn’t take much breaks :/
Upon hitting send, you joyously walk towards the counter as a result of habit and order the same thing you usually get before moving back to your seat to do your homework. Perched on your seat, you start typing down on the essay that had been assigned to your class, glancing at the front door from time to time whenever the little bell would make its noise signalling that someone had walked into the shop.
The sun had only begun setting when the familiar bell rings and as another result of habit, your head tilts up. No one warned you that you’d be seeing the same boy from the library - he’s grinning at his friends as they made their way towards the counter and your typing just comes to a complete stop.
You don’t understand how he gets to walk around seemingly unaware of how attractive he is. Jesus Christ, his features up close was a sight to see, and you’d never seen anyone look that good just wearing a hoodie and some jeans.
You almost fall out of your seat when his eyes meet yours, and you’re quick to move your gaze back towards the screen of your laptop. If you’d kept your gaze for a few more seconds, you would’ve noticed the tiny smile he sent towards your direction.
From: lia!
He’s very cute too! I can see this transcending into something beautiful, and if it does, I’ll be the first to tell you that I told you so!
The message Lia sent back to you had you spiralling back into your brain, and you find yourself hoping that you’d be able to hear her tell you that she told you so really soon from now.
-
Sunghoon makes his way towards the familiar steps of the campus library - a path he’d taken way too many times before that if he were to be blindfolded, he could swear on his life that he’d still be able to navigate his way towards it.
The moment he enters the library, he’s met with the familiar scent he had grown to love over the weeks of his constant visits. He quietly greets Wonyoung as he works his way towards the desk he had deemed his home in the library.
He had found a new sense of comfort with the way a window was nearby and allowed him to look at what was happening outside of the campus, or the way the shelves were just an arm’s reach which allowed him the luxury of grabbing books without moving too much. It was his perfect spot.
It was only just 6pm and he had just left the coffee shop he had also frequented a lot to purchase his stack of coffee. He tried to consume them earlier in the night to allow himself to stay up and finally be able to meet the person who had been kind enough to think about his well-being, but he hadn’t known you had previously texted Wonyoung to tell her you’d be a few hours late into your shift that by the time you had walked into the library, he was fast asleep - prompted on top of his books and the usual empty cups under his desk.
And since that night, it had almost become a cycle that he’d try to stay awake to study and meet you halfway through your shift, but he’d always end up falling asleep. With that, he’d always wake up with a bottle of water beside his books (sometimes with an additional snack, or a blanket you had found locked away in the storage room). And every time, Lia would text you with his message of gratitude.
In the times that you did walk in while he was awake, he had found it particularly difficult to approach you, and you didn’t have it in you to approach him in fear that you’d be disrupting his studying.
Sunghoon could remember the day he first saw what you looked like, and it was obvious in the way that he looked at you that he was convinced you were an angel. He had recalled seeing you once and that was a few days ago at the coffee shop, granted that you didn’t have the same major and it would probably be very difficult to find you during the day.
He needed to shut his brain up, but it didn’t seem to want to listen to him.
Jay and Jake found out right away when Sunghoon had finally found out what you looked like. They had told him his flushed cheeks were a dead giveaway and that he didn’t normally put on a stupid smile when he walked into his dorm - stupid smiles were reserved for Sunoo or Riki, not the three boys.
“You do know you have to talk to them at some point, right?” Jay and Jake had once again found sanctuary on Sunghoon’s couch, snacking on the food Sunghoon had stocked for himself. “Yeah, where can I meet them?” Jake had pointed out teasingly, as if wanting to steal away the personification of angel from Sunghoon.
“Doubt they’d want to talk to you, they seem pretty interested in Hoonie.” When Jay had finished speaking this sentence, Sunghoon was quick to cover his cheeks with the back of his hand, shaking his head at Jay’s absurd theory.
“You guys are more obsessed with me talking to them than fixing your own grades.”
This resulted in a controller being chucked towards Sunghoon’s general direction and the claims that they were doing fine with school and that Sunghoon was just a coward.
And whilst Jake and Jay continued to harass Sunghoon into talking to you, Wonyoung was doing the same about how you should talk to him.
“You do know that sometimes, when he returns the blanket to Lia and when he sends off his thank you message, he always asks for you. She told me herself!” Wonyoung points at you accusingly as if you leaving early and not approaching the boy yourself was the reason why every time he’d leave the library, he looked like a kicked puppy when he realizes he can’t meet you.
She’s frantically making hand movements, confused as to why you just wouldn’t talk to the cute boy when he clearly wants to get to know the person who had been taking care of him when he was too busy tending to his academics.
And she couldn’t stress enough how attractive the boy was, emphasizing the deep undertone of his voice and his beautiful brown eyes that any person would get lost in - it even almost brought her to her knees but she had strictly reminded herself that she was supposed to be the wingwoman in this situation.
“He’s wise and quiet, and extremely sweet. You do know you probably won’t find anyone else who’d willingly send you cute messages and ask for you?” You try to move away when she threatens to hit you on the hip the moment your mouth forms something as similar to “no”.
“I know you want to talk to him.” She’s giving you a scandalised look at how you refused to budge, even with her extreme reasoning. Unknown to her, you had been thinking about it for a while but you almost always shy away when presented the opportunity.
After a few more minutes of terrorizing you and your time, she finally drops it in favor of the ice cream the two of you had just bought - now talking about her own adventures in finding men to talk to and talking shit about some of her rude professors.
-
A few more weeks into your daily routine, you found yourself waking up on one of those days when things just seemed to click. You were wide awake before your alarm (feeling oddly energized); your professors were strangely nice in your classes (Take that mom! You told her you knew you had it in you to be liked by professors at least a day in your life) and you found yourself making it in your shift in time (there were no swarm of bodies you had to get through).
It was a good day.
And in the routine of habit, your feet are moving towards the sleeping stranger, head once again tucked in the makeshift pillow of his arms. The gentle rise and fall of his back had become something that was comforting for you to watch (as creepy as it may sound) as it reassured you that at least he was getting sleep, even if it was cramped up at a table in the campus library.
With the supplies in your hand, you’re moving down to place the items you had carried with you almost every day since that one fateful night. The little message on the bottle was there, you had added in a little snack to accompany the water bottle and the blanket was placed on his back.
It was just another usual routine.
When you bend down to pick up his empty cups of coffee, you don’t expect to lift yourself up with a pair of eyes directly looking into yours. You would’ve fallen back if it wasn’t for how quick he was to grab your arm and steady you in place.
A grin was growing on his lips, and his eyes were so comforting to look at. You didn’t even realize you were just standing there, with your mouth agape, looking like a complete idiot.
“You’re a difficult person to find.” Wonyoung was right about the deep undertone in his voice. If his plan was to swoon you with his voice, it was definitely working.
You’re trying to speak but the words seem a little caught in your throat and it’s a little difficult to focus when he still has a grip on your arm. “I’m Park Sunghoon.” He tries again, eyes searching for yours and hoping he’d get a response from you. Hopefully, he hadn’t freaked you out enough for you to actually not speak to him.
“Hi.” Sunghoon’s grin seemed to increase tenfold upon hearing your voice, and if Jay and Jake were here, they would’ve noted how it was such an odd sight to see Sunghoon actually, genuinely smiling for once.
He pats the seat behind him and you take it after making sure that no one else needed help in the library - not that there was actually anyone else in there, which only seemed to increase your nerves. “______.” Your lips parted just enough to introduce yourself back at him, and he gladly allows himself to reiterate your name.
He decided he liked how it sounded when he said it, just as much as he liked it more when you said his name.
“I never got to personally thank you for taking care of me.” He runs his fingers through his hair, moving the books in front of him aside. You let out a little laugh at this, shaking your head as you swiftly respond. “That just makes me sound like a babysitter.”
“Oh, I know the feeling.” He shakes his head as flashes of when he was in highschool appears through his mind for a few seconds. In the few seconds where he falls silent, you allow yourself to really appreciate his beauty just as he did with yours whenever you were quietly working behind the library counter every time he’d walk in. “Look, I’m really glad I’m finally getting to meet you.”
“Did you know who I was the entire time?” You narrow your eyes at him accusingly and he shakes his head quickly. “No. Well… not at first.” The string of words he had just admitted sends a faint blush towards both of your cheeks.
“Are you disappointed the person who keeps leaving you water actually turned out to be me?” Sunghoon is quick to shake his head and deny your words, impulsively taking your hand into his to assure you that he was nothing short of happy it was you all along.
The warmth he radiated sends your heart leaping in your chest and the same butterflies to start tumbling in your stomach. “So, why didn’t you just approach me on the occasion that you hadn’t fallen asleep?”
Your question reminds him of the exact same his friends had told him, and it always echoed through his mind whenever he saw you.
“I was going to… but…” The blush on his cheeks only seemed to intensify and he found himself shaking his head towards himself. “I didn’t know what to say, especially after seeing you for the first time? I’m just a bundle of nerves most of the time - contrary to popular belief that I’m some sort of popular kid who can talk anyone up. It’s a little difficult to hold up to that when it’s you I’m supposed to be talking to.”
His words send you into another frenzy, and you’re convinced that Whoever was Above was apologizing for every single thing He did in your life by bringing you Park Sunghoon.
The flutter in your chest only seemed to increase when he offered to take you out after your shift, as if to return the numerous amounts of water and snacks you had bought for him in the few weeks of him sleeping there.
His eyes bore into yours, and when you nod your head, an uncontrollable grin starts forming on his face and he moves to get out from his spot on the table. “I’m going to throw these.” He motions towards his cup of coffee with a brief apology on breaking library rules. “And then I’m going to try and keep studying while waiting for your shift to end.”
There was no stopping the butterflies and the heat in your face and the nerves that were exploding through your system right now. And choosing to bite the bullet, you offer that the two of you just leave now - besides, Lia had told you she’d be coming in early for her shift and you only had a good few minutes left before yours ended.
He’s quick to pack his bags and follow you out of the library. “I’m probably going to need your number, when we make more plans together.” You try to say something in response, but choose to retreat by giving him your phone in a desperate attempt to cover your blushing cheeks.
The pair of you spoke about anything and everything, Sunghoon trying to get to know the person that had been feeding him, and you trying to get to know the cute boy you had been taking care of. He told you about his highschool, and his best friends. The topic ends up in him convincing you to take a selfie with him, where Sunoo criticizes Sunghoon’s selfie skills but still leaves room to tease his hyung.
And the night ends in good old fashioned laughter, good food, and a reminder from you that he should be getting more sleep. If you see his ass falling asleep in the crack of dawn in the library for the remaining of the month, you had threatened to take away your friendship rights. It seemed like a good enough threat for Sunghoon to start sleeping more. He does walk you to your dorm and he sends you a small little wave before walking back to his own.
And the next time the wind picks up loose strands of your hair as you hurry towards the library in time for your shift, you’re met with Sunghoon who’s lecturing you on why you’re late with two cups of coffee in his hand — one now meant for you.
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note. happy birthday sunghoon! might’ve cheated with this fic as i’d already written this for a different fandom and just tweaked it a little T_T
113 notes · View notes
writing-fanics · 16 hours ago
Note
hcs for dating camilo?
@confusedone I decided to combine your request
(Dating Camilo HC)
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(Sorry it’s so short I had a lot of work)
() He’d shower you in kisses every morning
() cuddling with him is absolute fun
() dancing with his is a blast as well singing with him too
() his family absolutely loved you as well inviting you to dinner almost every night
() he’d sometimes play pranks on you and you’d play pranks on him
() once you accidentally got lost in his room and he has to find you
() sometimes he’d disguise himself as you to get more food or to prank your parents
() he’d buy you stuff like dresses, jewelry.
() you two also would walk around the village trying food. Dancing in the center of the village singing
Just being with him is a blast and would make your day
192 notes · View notes
secret-ssociety · 17 hours ago
Text
ᴅɪꜱᴘʟᴀᴄᴇᴍᴇɴᴛ
No se habla de Bruno
Pairing(s): Camilo Madrigal x oc
Warnings: Light mentions of violence, sickness and forced displacement
Summary: The days have gone by, the Garcías have slowly gotten better and their house in Encanto is ready for them to live in it, but before they leave casita, Antonia has some questions Camilo is happy to answer.
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Julieta's food was truly miraculous, it only took a couple days of her magical meals to nurse Antonia back to health, unveiling a cheerful and hardworking young girl, with skin the colour of cinnamon and raven curly hair that went down to the bottom of her spine.
Her parents and brother had taken a little more time to get back on their feet, but after two weeks they were all ready to move into their new home and become a part of the community.
Little Mateo and Antonio ran around the house, oblivious to the fact that they would stop living in the same room the next day, while Toña walked around the house collecting the clothes that needed mending for the last time.
Ever since she had regained her health, she went down with the Madrigal children everyday to help build her family's house, but she still felt the need to somehow thank the family, so she sewed every hole they had in their clothes. Thank God she had a talent for the thread and the needle.
Her eyes... were still a bit of a problem, she wasn't as blind as she had been at first thanks to Julieta's bottle of eye drops, but her sight still clouded after a while and she had to rely on distinguishing nothing but shapes.
It was Mirabel that helped her when that happened.
"García," she encountered Camilo as soon as she got to the top floor.
Antonia was good at being quiet, not always waa there something to be said, but that didn't stop her mind of yelling things in the insides of her skull, one of them being how one of the benefits of getting her eyesight back had been being able to look at Camilo.
Before she had the chance to witness his shape shifting, she was mesmerized by how beautiful the boy in front of her was. His curls bounced whenever he walked and he had a permanent smirk that always threatened to make her blush.
"Madrigal," she sang looking at him, "you could just call me by my name like everyone else."
"I cannot."
"Why?"
"You said it yourself," he shrugged taking the basket from her hands, "everyone calls you by your name, I need to call you something of my own."
Camilo wasn't blind to Antonia's charm either, the healthier she got, the more her beauty could be appreciated. He couldn't ignore the small moles across her face or the way her eyes twinkled when she laughed, he would turn a million shapes just to hear her giggle.
"Hey," she exclaimed grabbing his ruana, "I fixed this three days ago," she motioned to the hole on the front.
"Oh, no, that's not the one you fixed," Camilo shook his head, "that hole is new." Antonia raised an eyebrow at him, wondering how exactly was that supposed to comfort her, until he finally looked at her sheepishly. "Give it," was all she said.
Maneuvering with the basket on his hands, he removed the piece of clothing and handed it to her. "Are you excited about the moving?"
"I really am," she answered honestly, with a ting of sadness in her voice. The only thing she wasn't thrilled about was the solitude that would storm her when the Madrigals were not under the same roof.
Neither one said it, but they were going to miss each other. Their houses were only a few minutes away one from the other, nothing in Encanto was at a great distance, but it wasn't like Camilo could sneak into the room that she shared with Mirabel every night and talk until the Sun rised once she moved out.
The three teenagers had spent most of the last two weeks together, working on the house, doing chores around the Madrigal residence or telling stories sat on Mirabel's room while Antonia mended clothes. The two cousins specially enjoyed hearing her talk about her old village, where she had grown up, which was right by the sea.
Antonia still remembered every part of it, it was impossible to forget how she woke up while it was still dark and ran to the beach to see the fishermen get into their boats, guide them into the water. Under the light of the dawn, they threw their nets into the ocean in the most picturesque image there could be. She knew that no place could be as beautiful as her home.
But after a while, melancholy took over her voice when the realization that she would probably never see it again struck her and the Madrigals knew the prudent thing was to stop asking.
"Although," she remembered, "there is something I wanted to ask before I left." Camilo raised his eyebrows, expecting her question. "What happened to that door?"
"What door?"
"Your tío Bruno's door."
Camilo widened his eyes and shushed her, turning his head sideways to make sure no one had heard her pronounce that name. "We don't talk about Bruno."
"Why not?"
"It's a touchy subject," he grimaced, "especially to my mamá." He looked down at Antonia and knew that her insistent eyes wouldn't find peace with such little information, so he sighed and motioned to his room, starting to walk without waiting for an answer.
He closed the door behind Antonia with his foot and walked up to his bed to leave the basket on it. Antonia was always amazed by Camilo's room, it was her favourite one.
There were a couple mirrors of different shapes and sizes spread around the walls, but the room as a whole was a big amphitheatre, which actually was pretty adequate for the shape shifter. The big lights on the roof moved around in, what she imagined, were Camilo's desires.
And the stage? The stage became anything he wanted.
"I don't know much about him, he disappeared a long time ago." Camilo said after a couple minutes, standing right in the middle of the room. "I believe it was the night of Mirabel's gift ceremony."
"Mirabel had a gift ceremony?" Antonia couldn't help but ask.
By then, she knew quite a lot about the Madrigal's blessing, how every child in the family, on the night of their fifth birthday, approached the door with their name on it, revealing their gift as they touched the doorknob. Plants had came down to cradle Isabela and filled her hair with flowers, a rainbow had appeared over Pepa's head and Camilo had turned into his abuela by accident.
But given that Mirabel still slept in the old nursery and lacked a magical gift, Antonia had assumed that for some special circumstance, her friend hadn't had the chance of a gift ceremony.
"Her door vanished into the wall as soon as she touched it," Camilo nodded, making the girl frown, "my parents say it took over two hours to find her after that. I honestly don't remember much of it."
"Do you remember your tío?" The boy shrugged.
"Very few things really. He could see the future, that was his gift, and his predictions were mostly not good."
"And...?" She insisted, making her companion roll his eyes with a giggle.
"Why are you so curious about it?"
"I have been since I first got here, but I hadn't had the chance to ask." She looked at him pleadingly. "Please, Camilo, no one else will answer."
Camilo let out a defeated sigh, but then looked at Antonia with a mischievous spark in his eyes that made her fear her choices. She didn't notice the lights of the room had gone down until the boy disappeared in the darkness and she realised the only source of light was the dimmed down spotlight right on top of her.
"Dolores says he was always mumbling stuff only he could hear, but if you ask me what I remember about Bruno..." Antonia turned her body into the direction of Camilo's voice, still not used to his theatrics. "Seven foot frame, rats along his back."
She felt him behind her back and she turned around to a seven foot tall pale man with unnatural green eyes and rats standing on his shoulders towering over her. His skin was a greyish colour, almost like the walls of a house before they are covered with paint, and he had dark dark circles under his eyes, the typical Madrigal curls were a tangled nest of raven hair on top of his head. The man Camilo pictured to be his uncle looked like a dead man.
"When he calls your name it all fades to black."
For a moment, Camilo was Camilo again, gesturing with his hands in a theatrical way and smirking mysteriously before disappearing back into the dark, leaving only the sound of his feet moving on top of the sand as a proof of his presence in the room.
The girl smelled the unmistakable scent of sand, looking around to catch a glimpse of the boy whose efforts to scare her were truly at the top of his game. A swish of sand here, a sickening green light over there and the sound of a rat running around, but she knew that she would not see the boy until he wanted to be seen.
"He sees your dreams and feasts of your dreams."
Antonia's heart clenched at her friend's darkling demeanor, but she knew better than to panic; behind the terrifying tall man whose hands were similar to claws, it was Camilo and he wouldn't do anything to hurt her.
Even as he tried to scare her, kicking sand into her ankles and running pointy fingers across her shoulders, causing her to stumble into multiple directions, he was still soft enough to make sure nothing of what he did could cause her harm.
"His nightmares seal your destiny and he messes with your head."
He, in the shape of his uncle, placed a hand on Toña's waist for a quick second, making her feet tangle into the sand. He catched her before she could fall and Antonia saw how close he was to her as he held her in his arms and the lights turned back on.
"Any more questions, García?" He talked softly.
"Why is your room so scary?" The comment made him smile, until he noticed she looked at him differently.
"Are your eyes clouding?"
"Yeah, a little."
"Alright," he helped her back on her feet and placed her hand on the inside of his arm, grabbing the basket once again, "where are your eye drops?"
"Mirabel's room."
Camilo nodded and they started to walk towards the exit of his room, but he stopped in his tracks right before opening the door. "Listen, I know it sounds like a simple ghost story to scare children with, but it really upsets my mamá and abuela to hear about people talk about him. No se habla de Bruno."
"No se habla de Bruno." Antonia agreed.
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albedoswifehusband · 20 hours ago
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can i request fluff alphabet f, j, l, m, n, r for zhongli, diluc, and xiao??
Tysmmmm!!
I went for the whole alphabet again, so this is under a cut for length!
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Zhongli
A = Affection (How affectionate are they? How do they show affection?)
-He's private about affection. He's mostly verbally affectionate but he likes holding hands and linking arms in public. In private he likes holding his partner in his lap.
B = Beauty (What do they admire about their s/o? What do they think is beautiful about them?)
-He gets lost in his partner's eyes very easily.
C = Cuddles (Do they like to cuddle? How would they cuddle?)
-he likes simple things like holding them in his lap with his head on their shoulder.
D = Domestic (Do they want to settle down? How are they at cooking and cleaning?)
-he's definitely the type to settle down and be domestic. He's good at cooking and cleaning but he doesn't actually enjoy cleaning he just enjoys when things look tidy.
E = Ending (If they had to break up with their partner, how would they do it?)
-he's gentle but firm. He leaves quite a bit of loose threads so it's frustrating for his ex how calm and normal he acts.
F = Fiance(e) (How do they feel about commitment? How quick would they want to get married?)
-he's a sucker for commitment. He's been married, widowed, and divorced many times in his life.
G = Gentle (How gentle are they, both physically and emotionally?)
-extremely.
H = Hugs (Do they like hugs? How often do they do it? What are their hugs like?)
-he enjoys hugs and gives comforting lingering ones that leave you relaxed and refreshed!
I = I love you (How fast do they say the L-word?)
-only after getting to know someone very well.
J = Jealousy (How jealous do they get? What do they do when they’re jealous?)
-hes not the jealous type but there are some things that get to him, such as excess physical affection.
K = Kisses (What are their kisses like? Where do they like to kiss you? Where do they like to be kissed?)
-his kisses are soft and sweet. He's partial to forehead kisses and kissing the top of his partner's head.
L = Little ones (How are they around children?)
-hes a little weird with kids but only because he talks in a way that bores them so they ignore him.
M = Morning (How are mornings spent with them?)
-he gets up really early before his partner and is often already done with his own breakfast and looking over history texts by the time theyre awake.
N = Night (How are nights spent with them?)
-dinner and a walk together.
O = Open (When would they start revealing things about themselves? Do they say everything all at once or wait a while to reveal things slowly?)
-he doesn't hide his godhood but he doesn't bring it up before it's partially figured out by his partner themself. He does lie by omission a lot though, you kind of have to weasel certain information out of him by trickery.
P = Patience (How easily angered are they?)
-extremely patient, he's almost never angry and even when he is he's calm about it.
Q = Quizzes (How much would they remember about you? Do they remember every little detail you mention in passing or do they kind of forget everything?)
-he remembers every little thing you tell him and everything he figures out from observation alone.
R = Remember (What is their favorite moment in your relationship?)
-theres a specific moment you went for a sunset walk on the docks he'll never forget. The sunlight on your form, the colors of the sky and ocean. It's exquisite.
S = Security (How protective are they? How would they protect you? How would they like to be protected?)
-very protective but he's not overbearing. He doesn't need protection but he won't say this.
T = Try (How much effort would they put into dates, anniversaries, gifts, everyday tasks?)
-he puts a lot of effort into these things. All of them.
U = Ugly (What would be some bad habits of theirs?)
-he gets so lost in stories and talking about history it's almost impossible to get him to shut up when it's important. There could be serious stuff happening that requires immediate attention and it takes five minutes to get his attention or for him to realize you've gotten out of there without him.
V = Vanity (How concerned are they with their looks?)
-enough to look professional.
W = Whole (Would they feel incomplete without you?)
-no. He's so used to time passing and losing people that he'll manage to go on with everything feeling relatively well.
X = Xtra (A random headcanon for them.)
-he wears hanfu undergarments to bed
Y = Yuck (What are some things they wouldn’t like, either in general or in a partner?)
-he can't/won't be around his partner when they eat anything with fish. I'm talking even having to brush theirwhole mouth thoroughly 3+ times before he'll kiss them or anything.
Z = Zzz (What is a sleep habits of theirs?)
-he sleeps flat on his back and doesn't care either way for cuddling. He appreciates the warmth of someone sidling up to him in bed but he's fine without it.
Xiao
A = Affection (How affectionate are they? How do they show affection?)
Not very. He's like a cat that both wants and hates attention at the same time. You've gotta play a little game of pretending like you're not paying attention to him while giving affection to him.
B = Beauty (What do they admire about their s/o? What do they think is beautiful about them?)
He thinks it's cute and sweet when they casually stretch. He likes seeing their tummy in a wholesome way.
C = Cuddles (Do they like to cuddle? How would they cuddle?)
Weird about cuddles he's stuff and awkward for a long time.
D = Domestic (Do they want to settle down? How are they at cooking and cleaning?)
-doesn't cook doesn't clean doesn't see the point in settling down. Old as shit and a bit pessimistic about relationships because of it and his karma.
E = Ending (If they had to break up with their partner, how would they do it?)
-its just awkward he says something wishy washy about how he can't see them anymore and then they just don't see him again unless they somehow strongarm him into it.
F = Fiance(e) (How do they feel about commitment? How quick would they want to get married?)
Nah.
G = Gentle (How gentle are they, both physically and emotionally?)
He's insanely gentle he wants to be gentle and he's gentle at heart he's so scared of being harsh because he was forced to be for so long.
H = Hugs (Do they like hugs? How often do they do it? What are their hugs like?)
-he loves hugs but he feels unworthy and he doesn't know how to not be rigid and awkward during them for a long time.
I = I love you (How fast do they say the L-word?)
-years.
J = Jealousy (How jealous do they get? What do they do when they’re jealous?)
-gets jealous easily. Cat behavior again. If you pay attention to someone in a specific way for too long he's about to shove his head under your hand.
K = Kisses (What are their kisses like? Where do they like to kiss you? Where do they like to be kissed?)
-accidentally rough. Basically you crash together a little too quick because he misjudges timing.
L = Little ones (How are they around children?)
-hes decent with qiqi but he's awkward around any others. Don't give him a baby he'll somehow drop it even with how he's good at catching people.
M = Morning (How are mornings spent with them?)
-hes up and waiting for his partner and kind of just follows them around during their routine.
N = Night (How are nights spent with them?)
-kind of just follows you through your night routine quietly, talking if you do.
O = Open (When would they start revealing things about themselves? Do they say everything all at once or wait a while to reveal things slowly?)
-hes closed off but you can slowly get him to open up completely.
P = Patience (How easily angered are they?)
-its a mix. He gets annoyed easily and is slightly impatient with some stuff but normal with other things.
Q = Quizzes (How much would they remember about you? Do they remember every little detail you mention in passing or do they kind of forget everything?)
-also a mix. It depends on the day and his chronic pain levels.
R = Remember (What is their favorite moment in your relationship?)
-he loves the day you went and had a picnic on one of the tallest peaks in jueyun karst's stone forest area
S = Security (How protective are they? How would they protect you? How would they like to be protected?)
-extremely protective but won't let you try to protect him.
T = Try (How much effort would they put into dates, anniversaries, gifts, everyday tasks?)
-medium. He has no clue what he's doing and doesn't know the importance of most events.
U = Ugly (What would be some bad habits of theirs?)
-he gets really snippy during bad chronic pain days. It's frustrating to be around him.
V = Vanity (How concerned are they with their looks?)
-not at all.
W = Whole (Would they feel incomplete without you?)
-a little yes. He'll try to deny it as much as possible though.
X = Xtra (A random headcanon for them.)
-hes got genders
Y = Yuck (What are some things they wouldn’t like, either in general or in a partner?)
-he hates it when people don't care about their own safety. If you're too reckless it drives him crazy in the bad way he'll get into a lot of arguments about it.
Z = Zzz (What is a sleep habits of theirs?)
-he says he doesn't sleep but you can trick him into passing out with you to get some well needed rest.
Diluc
A = Affection (How affectionate are they? How do they show affection?)
-very affectionate just not as much in public. Hates pda other than sweetly talking to his partner and occasionally holding hands
B = Beauty (What do they admire about their s/o? What do they think is beautiful about them?)
-their mannerisms. He's sappy about however they act.
C = Cuddles (Do they like to cuddle? How would they cuddle?)
-yes. He will hold them as close as they'll let him, his comforting warmth relaxing their muscles. He appreciates being both a big and little spoon.
D = Domestic (Do they want to settle down? How are they at cooking and cleaning?)
-he wants to settle down but is scared of endangering them or leaving them widowed. He can cook and clean because of his well rounded upbringing but he doesn't do so often currently because of his staff insisting on helping with his workload
E = Ending (If they had to break up with their partner, how would they do it?)
-its messy. He's awkward and abrupt and heartbreaking.
F = Fiance(e) (How do they feel about commitment? How quick would they want to get married?)
-again he wants to but he's scared.
G = Gentle (How gentle are they, both physically and emotionally?)
-very. He's so sweet.
H = Hugs (Do they like hugs? How often do they do it? What are their hugs like?)
-loves hugs and gives the nicest firm warm ones with just the right pressure.
I = I love you (How fast do they say the L-word?)
-probably 6 months.
J = Jealousy (How jealous do they get? What do they do when they’re jealous?)
-not too jealous but he goes a little off the walls when his brother tries to make him pissed on purpose
K = Kisses (What are their kisses like? Where do they like to kiss you? Where do they like to be kissed?)
-warm and comfortable on the lips. There's some tongue but it's tasteful and not overwhelming
L = Little ones (How are they around children?)
-awkward with children he's too stoic and unapproachable to them. See klee's voiceline.
M = Morning (How are mornings spent with them?)
-hes groggy and has a nice huskiness to his voice as he wakes up and says good morning to you. He has work to do so you won't see him much after breakfast until bedtime.
N = Night (How are nights spent with them?)
-he comes home LATE. He takes a bath and often stumbles into bed without taking the time to dry his hair.
O = Open (When would they start revealing things about themselves? Do they say everything all at once or wait a while to reveal things slowly?)
-he reveals things slowly he's nervous things will make you uncomfortable or endanger you.
P = Patience (How easily angered are they?)
-fairly patient but can get heated a bit easily depending on the situation.
Q = Quizzes (How much would they remember about you? Do they remember every little detail you mention in passing or do they kind of forget everything?)
-he remembers a good amount!
R = Remember (What is their favorite moment in your relationship?)
-when you showed up with flowers for the anniversary of his father's death
S = Security (How protective are they? How would they protect you? How would they like to be protected?)
-extremely protective but not as bad as xiao.
T = Try (How much effort would they put into dates, anniversaries, gifts, everyday tasks?)
-he goes all out.
U = Ugly (What would be some bad habits of theirs?)
-not taking care of his mental health. He ignores so much of his trauma and it messes up a lot of stuff.
V = Vanity (How concerned are they with their looks?)
-decently. He needs to keep himself maintained and looking proper.
W = Whole (Would they feel incomplete without you?)
-yes.
X = Xtra (A random headcanon for them.)
-he likes saving interesting drinks for you to try
Y = Yuck (What are some things they wouldn’t like, either in general or in a partner?)
-he doesn't like when people try to tell him what to do especially regarding protecting mondstadt
Z = Zzz (What is a sleep habits of theirs?)
-he keeps his vision on his bedside table and grabs it in the middle of the night if he feels cold instead of getting more blankets
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laurfilijames · 20 hours ago
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Warmth and Solace
Pairing: Fìli x reader
Words: 894
Warnings: nudity, inclement weather, Fìli being undeniably sweet and warm. No smut! (I know!)
Summary: a storm rages outside, waking you up in the middle of the night only to relish in the fact that no amount of cold can stand against the warmth that is Fìli and his love for you.
A/N: this is a simple one shot to try to kick my muse into gear again. I’ve always loved sleeping while knowing there’s a bad storm happening outside, and who better than to display this feeling that with our golden boy Fìli! And if you haven’t been able to tell already, I’m weak for sleep intimacy.
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The wind was unrelenting. Snowflakes blew past your window in bursts, being tossed around by treacherous gusts, the dance they made mesmerizing you in your sleepy trance.
It was no doubt the sound that woke you, the blasts of frigid air howling and whistling through cracks in the outer wall of your bedchamber you hadn’t realized existed.
It had been predicted that the storm would be a powerful one, and here it was proving itself in the middle of the night. You could barely make out any of the scenery you normally admired even in the dark of night, the snow so thick and whipping around so forcefully it seemed as though everything beyond the mountain had been erased.
The thought gave you mixed feelings; scared at the power of nature but also in awe at being able to admire such a thing, thankful to be tucked away in your own little corner of the fierce world. You snuggled in deeper to your plush mattress, the warm furs that dressed it feeling welcome on your skin as you continued to watch the ever-persistent blizzard.
It brought an eerie sense over you; a vulnerability that the storm could break down the stone of the mountain and rip you from your warm bed, but at the same time you also felt a calm sensation ease that small fright, knowing you were safe and protected.
Deep breaths sounded from the sleeping form beside you, Fili’s heavy body reassuring as he continued his dreams completely unbothered by the wreckage that threatened just outside.
Your focus was now turned to him, the slow, steadiness in the rise and fall of his back that faced you contrasting against the erratic fury of the storm.
Although it was near freezing and the fire in the hearth was reduced down to glowing coals, Fili was all the shelter you needed from the biting cold.
You shifted so you were flush up against his back, the icy tip of your nose thawing on his flaming skin, and you couldn’t help but give a small smile at the wonderment that was his ability to produce fiery heat no matter the temperature.
His shoulders and arms stood out from the blankets, exposed as much as the peaks and slopes of the mountain that surrounded you, making you marvel again at his resilience.
Did he not feel the cold at all?
Your hand carded over his waist, his body warming your chilled fingers as you moved toward his fuzzy belly, his large hand automatically covering yours with a gentle squeeze.
“Did the storm wake you, amralime?” he asked in a hoarse and sluggish voice, smoothing his rough hands up and down your arm, instantly spreading heat through the parts he touched.
“Mhm,” you hummed in reply, the roar of the breeze almost drowning you out completely.
A strong gust blasted suddenly, shaking the fragile panes of the window, the storm reminding you once again of its power but also of the asylum of Erebor, the strong layer of solid rock a barrier from its peril.
You could see the silver of the beads at the end of Fili’s mustache glimmer in the cold, blue light as he shifted onto his back, a sleepy groan sighing out of his lungs. The frosty aura that overpowered the dying orange glow of your chambers matched the same icy hue you knew lay hidden beneath his eyelids, but only one brought you comfort.
His arms folded around you as he turned onto his other side to face you, enveloping you in a comforting embrace, his body forming a shield between you and the bitter conditions waiting to bite at your skin.
Fili pressed you against his chest, your arms locked between your hearts, your face nestled into the soft hairs that adorned his toasty skin. You inhaled his hot, sleepy scent; the smell so starkly different from the crisp, dampness of the cold that creeped into your room.
A muffled giggle escaped you and resonated through his thick upper body when he slung his heavy leg over yours, pulling your lower half into him so you were now completely encased by his naked form.
“You’re safe and warm, my love,” he said with sleepy assurance, kissing the top of your head once, then placing one on your forehead and then your nose before nuzzling his face into the small space between your neck and pillow. “Go back to sleep, it will pass soon enough.” His words tickled against the sensitive skin on your neck, and your heart made a flip at secretly wishing the storm would never end.
A tired smile pulled weakly at your lips as you looked out at the blizzard once more, this time thankful for the chaos it created, knowing you’d have many more hours trapped away in your bed with your One covering you with a possessive hold that no amount of bad weather could breach.
The snow continued to sway and swing to the song of the wind and it wasn’t long before soft snores purred out of Fili as he fell back into the solace of sleep, creating the perfect melody for you to drift away to. His limbs and muscles twitched and fluttered involuntarily, coaxing you back into your own dreams as the world lay quiet around you other than the storm.
———
Taglist
Everything: @guardianofrivendell @midearthwritings @cassiabaggins @lilith15000 @trishthedishofreis @linasofia @unbeatablecurlgirl @the-poldarkian @lathalea @enchantzz @blairsanne @legolaslovely @shalinizhara @fizzyxcustard
Fili: @shethereadinghobbit
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bucky-central · 15 hours ago
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NSFW ABC || Bucky Barnes
Got an exciting idea for a fic 
Going to be doing a NSFW ABC list for Bucky with links to each item mentioned so here is a taster -
The bolded lines are where the linked fics will go that offer a one shot or series based on the ABC drabble. There is already a fic linked in the example below ! woo!!!!
B = Body part (Their favourite body part of theirs and also their partner’s)
Bucky hated his arm, but over time it slowly became his favourite body part because you were obsessed with it so much. You loved the way it looked, the damage it could do, the noises it made when he gripped the headboard above you. You loved how it choked you, how it held your hips, and how it felt inside your sweet little cunt.
Bucky loved everything about you, but he definitely was an ass man. He loved burying his face in your tits, but he loved burying his face in your ass just a bit more. The sight of you in leggings or small little tennis skirts sent him into overdrive, the way your plump soft ass cheeks would curve by your thighs, the way your walk would show him a glimpse under your skirt as you bounced with each step. He loved spreading your cheeks wide open as he licked flat strips against your puckered hole. The first time he had done had shocked you, it was the first time you had ever worn a tennis skirt. It was pastel pink and short, you paired it with white thigh high socks and he couldn't get over how fucking good you looked. You were stood by the kitchen counter making lunch he saw you, he nearly choked on his morning coffee as he sauntered out of the bedroom. He quickly abandoned his drink and snook over to you, he knelt on the kitchen tiles, lifted up your skirt and groaned when he saw you weren't wearing any panties.
"Bucky, what the hell are you doi-AH"
your whole upper body lurched forward onto the countertop of the cold surfaced as he spread your cheeks apart and ate you like a man starved.
"fuck baby. how do you taste so good everywhere?"
After that day, Bucky couldn't get enough of your ass. Smacking it in public and around friends, letting everyone know who's ass it was.
On his birthday you had surprised him with a cute heart shaped gem buttplug and red lingerie, he lost his mind that night and you were never the same.
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soobnny · 6 hours ago
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TWITCH RIVALS
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chapter 6 — loose-lipped whore
☆.。.:* nothing is worse than getting paired up with a stranger for twitch rivals 2022, except maybe being matched with your very competitive ex boyfriend park sunghoon.
note: happy bday to our sunghoon! here’s a chapter of twitch rivals. i also wrote a fluffy fic for him if u guys wanna check it out ^_^
previous ⟡ masterlist ⟡ next
taglist: @from-xero @amakumos @forjusticeandspite @acciomylove @giyyuzz @msxflower @pixyseeun @luvddeonu @stoatwashere @sonjuyeonnie @bigtittietoji @yougeans @gongiz @leefelix-gf @emobeomgyu @aetalanta @meijiamikas @ja4hyvn @navsnct @hakuyeo @c9tnoos @yeonwon @diestheticu @hyuckslytherin @woniecore @coolcloudpsychichumanoid @tomorrowbymoa-together @woniebae @sunbokie @mykalon @jakehoongff @enhacolor @abdiitcryy @sunoo-bby @maeumiluv @koroktsuya @chirokookie @enfinity @clarakyunisageek @jnkhoon @yjwfav @baekhyunstruly @angelicncity @you-njinhwang @hazelhoon @mybabywearschanel @jungwonerz
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tea-stained-notes · 17 hours ago
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Bucky x Reader - Burn for you |  Chapter 1
Growing up, Lord Barnes and crown princess Y/N used to be inseparable. Now the common ground they once shared is long forgotten. But when they are pressured by their parents to find spouses, they come up with a ruse: They will pretend to be courting to keep their parents off their backs until they find their real matches. But what happens when their little game suddenly becomes all too real?
Yes, this was very much inspired by Bridgerton and especially the wonderful 'The Ruse' and ‘Burn For You’ from the unofficial Bridgerton musical. If you haven’t listened to it yet - excuse you?
‘Snooty McSnotwhine’ I straight up stole from some tumblr post. Also, the kingdom name generator from fantasynamegenerators.com was my friend for this one lol
Series warnings: eventual smut, angst
Chapter warnings: none 
Word Count: ~1300
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“You look bored out of your mind as usual.” I rolled my eyes before glancing up at the familiar smug face. “And your company is a treat - as usual.” He chuckled, liquor on his breath and raising a glass to his lips once more. I studied his profile. Earl James Buchanan Barnes, son to the Duke of Braewen. My constant involuntary companion since childhood. More foe than friend, but constant nonetheless. He caught my gaze. “Like what you see, princess?” “Just wondering how the maker wasted such a pretty face on such an insufferable character.” “Right back at ya.” He smiled, a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. Then he let them wander over the dance floor. Countless skirts and coat tails swirled beneath the candle-lit chandeliers. “So what’s this ball for again?” “Pampering the delegates from Galyra. Things have been more tense than usual apparently.” “Good thing you’re always well-informed, doll. No one ever tells me anything ‘round here.” “Because they know you don’t care.” “I care, I’m just busy,” he murmured, now focused on a pretty red-head in a snow white gown. She glanced over at us, visibly admiring James’s physique. Not that I could blame her. “Clearly,” I said. “Go ahead and seduce that one then. Lovely addition to your collection.” “Maybe later,” he replied with a shrug. “Got your eye on anyone?” “Not yet. I’ll probably keep to myself tonight, I feel a headache coming on. Might just be your presence though.” “Well, you know what they say helps relieve a headache.” “What’s that?” He gave me a wolfish grin. “One or two mindblowing-” “Hey, Bucky!” his friend Steve shouted. “Come here!” I moaned. “Maker, I hate that stupid nickname.” “I too prefer the wonderfully creative names you come up with.” He smirked. “What was it last week? Ah yes, ‘Snooty McSnotwhine’. I liked that one.” “Thank you, I do appreciate the acknowledgement of my excellent work.” “Buck!” Steve yelled. “Duty calls.” “If by duty you mean dumbfuckery, then probably yes.” James hid his smile in an exaggerated bow, then turned to join his friends. I tried not to stare at his retreating form. Truly, what a waste of looks on this cretin.
I was just about to sneak away to my sleeping quarters when my mother appeared beside me. She stroked my cheek with affection in her tired eyes. “Are you enjoying yourself, darling?” “Not so much.” She raised a brow. “Is that so? You looked very at ease with James just now.” “Mother…” “The two of you have always made such a lovely pair.” “You know we despise each other.” “I’m never quite sure I believe that.” I let out an annoyed huff. “Can I please be excused? I don’t feel very well.” “You seem perfectly fine. And if James isn’t the one for you, maybe one of the many eligible bachelors in this room is.” “Not again.” “Your father and I are not getting any younger, dear, and neither are you. It is time you found someone with whom you can begin a new chapter in our family’s history.” My fingers wound tightly into the folds of my dress. For the millionth time I cursed my fate of having been born as Kelon’s crown princess - and remaining without a sibling. “What about Marquis Stark over there? His fortunes would certainly be a welcome supplement to the royal reserve.” “He’s old, mother.” “Not that old.” “Twice my age!” “Oh my, I was not aware.” I couldn’t help but smile a little at her genuine astonishment. She meant well, but her matchmaking skills had always been lacking. “If I promise to talk to two of your ‘eligible bachelors’, may I be excused after that?” She sighed deeply. “You are impossible. You know you are merely delaying the inevitable.” “I shall take that as a yes. Thank you, mother.” I pressed a quick kiss to her cheek, then walked over to Viscount Barton. Not an actual candidate, but at least an endless well of knowledge for my archery training.
Half an hour later I was finally on my way out, eager for blissful quiet, when James sidled up to me, easily matching my stride. He smelled of smoke and I noticed some of his hair was slightly singed. “Do I want to know what you imbeciles got up to this time?” “Probably not.” “What do you want then? I was leaving.” “Obviously. Once more escaping from potential fiancés, huh?” We had reached one of the small side doors leading out of the ballroom. The assigned guard moved to open it and I nodded gratefully. “Your point there, Lord Barnes?” The door fell shut behind us, abruptly cutting off the tapestry of noise that had been grinding on my nerves. I took a deep breath, then started down the empty hallway, James on my heels. “A proposal.” I stopped dead in my tracks. “Excuse me?” “No, not like that!” He laughed. “I’m proposing… a ruse.” “What kind of ruse?” His eyes flitted around, taking in the guards scattered along the hallway. Without warning he took my hand and pulled me into the nearest room, a small library. “James, what the-” He lifted a finger to his lips to silence me, then closed the door. I crossed my arms and lifted my chin in defiance. “Explain yourself. Now.” The corners of his eyes crinkled with his smile. “Always so demanding.” “Don’t make me come up with a new insult for you, I’m too tired.” “Fine,” he groaned. “You’re not the only one having once again been assaulted by their parents tonight. You know, being the sole heir to the duchy and nearly thirty.” “So? Want me to commiserate?” “I want you to let me court you.” I paled. “What?” “Just for show,” he said quickly. “Just to keep our families and everyone else off our backs until we both find a suitable match.” “That’s absurd.” “Is it?” He was almost panting with excitement. “I think it’s a fucking excellent idea.” "James-" "Our parents are such close friends and they've always loved seeing us together. I'm sure they'd be over the moon at the prospect of joining the families." "And heartbroken upon finding out it was just a game." His features softened. “Not if we find true love with someone else.” “And what do either of us know of true love, James? No one’s ever held our interest for long. How would we suddenly find a perfect match in the few months until this ruse spirals out of control?” “Who says I know nothing of love?” Something dark sparked in his eyes. Frustration? Pain? I couldn’t quite discern it before he slipped on his signature crooked grin. “Have a little faith, princess. And never underestimate how much more desirable we both become when the window of opportunity seems about to close.“ I opened my mouth to retort but snapped it shut again as I considered his words. It really wasn’t the worst of ideas. Of course my mother would simply switch to bugging me about my prospects with James, but at least I wouldn’t have to endure endless introductions to men who were as indifferent about me as I was about them. He was right, his courting would probably attract the interest of the truly intriguing ones, those who liked to keep their options open until the very end - just like me. And if things became too difficult or risky, we could simply come up with some supposedly irreconcilable difference in opinions that made marriage impossible. I looked up at James, the fire in his cerulean eyes catching me by surprise. “Let’s sleep on it,” I said. “Come by for tea tomorrow and I’ll give you my answer.” His face lit up. I couldn’t remember the last time he had looked so happy in my presence. “I’ll be there.”
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jxnnx-s · 4 hours ago
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A Christmas With You
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Pairing: Hyunjin x Reader (female)
Synopsis: You had taken it upon yourself to help your sister out of society's shame, which involved insuring the infamous rake, Baron Hyunjin's undivided attention. Yet once in close quarters, you find yourself beholden to his smoldering advances.
Warnings: Baron Hyunjin, teasing, kissing, sexual tension, Regency thoughts on sex and marriage, Hyunjin is a fucking pervert, reader is very needy, and they just want to fuck each other but can't, angst, fluff, a brief mention of animal slaughter, fingering, unprotected sex, slight Felix x OC
Word Count: 34.5K
A/N: This switches between Y/N POV which is written in 2nd person and then to Hyunjin's POV which is in 3rd person. Writing from Hyunjin's POV was the most fun part of the story because I have never tried that style. I hope it doesn't get confusing, which should not be the case because I have divided the parts. Also, sorry for some long paragraphs, it got over 1000 blocks and Tumblr has an unnecessary limit.
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Thirty miles out of Carleton, the light snow turned to rain. For Hyunjin, Baron Hwang, it was a fitting end to a miserable journey. By the time the mail coach careened around a bend and slowed to a stop in the coaching inn’s yard, his greatcoat hung heavy with damp and a steady stream dribbled off his hat’s brim onto his nose. He told himself that even this was better than being inside the coach with Mr. Park, an odiferous gentleman whose fashionable garments did not mask a lack of washing. Hyunjin felt bad for the two elderly ladies inside who could not take refuge in the open air on the top of the coach. One had gazed longingly when he did so himself at the first stop outside London.
Now he climbed down to stretch his legs while the coach changed horses for the final stage of the journey. The other passengers hurried inside to warm themselves, but his mood did not beg for company. Rather he paced the yard for a few minutes, then took refuge under the inn’s eaves and watched the steady drizzle make tiny ponds in the dirt. Thirty miles more and he would be in another coach, this time with a warming pan and a fur rug, and with a velvet cushion under his butt instead of a board. No one would crowd him and no one would, heaven forbid, smell. After a pleasant afternoon ride through the country he would be welcomed into his cousin’s family for a week of unfettered opulence at someone else’s expense. And after that, an entire lifetime of comfort, if Chan’s plan worked. With such promise awaiting him at the end of this journey, he shouldn’t even notice the rain or smells or his sore hindquarters. He should be dreaming about the fortune within reach. So why wasn’t he?
He had begun turning his mind to the unfortunate answer to that question when a disturbance distracted him. Scuffles sounded around the corner of the inn. Ruffians were engaged in a fight from the sounds of it. He took a step in the opposite direction; then a voice caught him up short. “Unhand me, you rogue,” a woman hissed lowly before she gave a short cry. Any inclination to retreat disappeared. He pivoted and marched to the end of the inn, then turned the corner. And, to his surprise, found himself facing the end of a pistol barrel. He stared, frozen in place.
A young blond-haired man in a broad, rustic hat held the gun high, peering down its sights. Not that Hyunjin noticed him much, due to that pistol being so close to his face. Nor did he much note the bit of skirt disappearing around the back of the inn, although he observed he had been the victim of a ruse.
“You come this way now,” the man said, stepping back. At his lack of response, the man with the pistol, gritted his teeth, pulling the trigger slightly back. “I said this way. Are you looking to see me fire?”
Hyunjin took a slow step forward. “I was merely distracted by how very large and black this end of a pistol appears when it is all but up your nose.”
“A bit more now.” The man took another two steps back, ignoring him. Hyunjin paced forward, wondering if this man really would shoot, or was any good at shooting if he would. He could perhaps simply turn and run back around the building. The close proximity of that barrel to his head made him reject that rash idea. Even the worst aim would probably find its mark this close.
“I must tell you that I have very little money on me.”
The black eyes taking aim wandered a moment, up and down. “A gentleman like you should have enough.”
“You would think so, eh? Although, really, what is enough? I ask you, is there ever enough? Well, never mind. My situation is such that right now, on this day, I do not have enough, whatever your enough is. You chose the wrong gentleman. Now, Mr. Park Jin Young, when he comes out, is probably flush with blunt. He is the sort who always would be. I should warn you that he smells, so you won’t want to insist he follow you this closely. However—”
Just then the horn sounded, as the coachman warned the passengers of an imminent departure. Hyunjin cocked his head to see past the pistol. “I need to go now. What do you say we just forget about this? You go rob someone else, and I’ll be on my way.”
“You aren’t going anywhere.”
Sounds of feet and voices moving to the coach came around the corner. Hyunjin patted his coat, opened a button, and reached toward his purse. In doing so his hand hit the folded vellum tucked into his frock coat. “I’ll give you what I have, but I truly must return to the coach immediately.”
“I don’t want your money.”
“What then? My hat? It is a very good one. It is yours.” He removed it and handed it forward.
“I’ve no use for your mere offers.”
Probably not, he already had a rustic hat. Though this criminal’s speech lacked the tone and syntax one would expect of a pistol-toting thief. At some point this man had been educated, and at a fine institute.
“If not my hat and not my purse, then what do you want?”
No reply came to that. They stood there not speaking while the feet around the corner stopped landing and the voices muted. They were still facing each other in silence when horse hooves began pounding the ground and the mail coach rolled away, with Hyunjin’s baggage still tied to its back. Other wheels rolled, this time from behind the inn. A wagon came into view, with a woman wearing a large, deep-rimmed bonnet and heavy garnet mantle holding the reins. She let the ribbons drop, then climbed into the back.
“Get in.” The man waved the pistol in her direction.
“Are you abducting me?”
“I said get in.”
Hyunjin walked around the wagon and climbed in. The horse stood at attention. A very nice horse, from the looks of it. Deep chestnut, with good lines. Maybe six years old. Too fine to be dragging this wagon. Some bales of hay lined the edges of the open space of the wagon. The woman gestured for him to sit. Then she accepted the pistol from the man, who climbed to the seat and took up the reins. She sat on another bale, facing Hyunjin, the pistol firmly grasped in her hands.
“I know how to use it,” she said.
Her voice riveted his attention. Low, throaty, melodious, it was the voice of a mature woman but one still young. He peered at her through the drips of rain separating them, those coming off his hat and her bonnet, and all the ones between. He saw a face as young as her voice sounded. Not a girl, but not middle years yet either. Maybe early twenty or thereabouts, he guessed. Her hair, barely visible deep inside that bonnet, looked to be dark, and her eyes showed an arresting deep brown color. Her complexion appeared fresh and lovely and exceedingly lacked color, but in a good way, not pallid and unhealthy.
The wagon began moving. He waited to see if anyone was out in the yard. If so, he intended to call out for help and risk that pistol going off. She said she knew how to use it, but very few women really did. Unfortunately, the rain had sent everyone to shelter, even the grooms and inn’s servants. He could see some faces at the inn’s windows as they rolled onto the road.
“I don’t know what this is about,” he said, loudly enough for the man to hear, too. “However, you are committing a serious crime.” No reply came. “If you hope to ransom me, it won’t work. No one will pay. You will be stuck with my keep to no purpose.” Nothing. “I will be missed. My baggage is still on that coach. When it arrives and my property is there, but I am not, a search will be made.”
That at least caused the woman to blink. “They will decide you slipped and fell into the stream behind the inn and the rain washed your body down a way.”
Hyunjin laughed, intrigued by the woman's way of thinking; they certainly were not criminals. “You have a spirited imagination. They will think nothing of the sort. “
“It is the most logical explanation, and being lazy they will accept it. It will be weeks before they suspect something else might have happened. In the meantime, with Christmas soon, no one is going to spend much time looking for a stranger.”
“I am not entirely a stranger to these parts.”
“We know who you are.”
Did they now? “If you know who I am, then you know that you risk your necks with this rash act. I am a peer and the Home Office will involve itself if I disappear. My cousin is also a peer and he will not look well on you once you are discovered.”
“We know the power of the Marquess of Houghton. His view of us will not matter by the time he learns of this.”
So, he would learn of it, eventually. At least they didn’t intend to shoot him and bury him in a shallow grave. He had not led the best of lives, but even he did not deserve that. The rain fell harder. Hyunjin gave up trying to fight the results. He relaxed on the bales and let the weather do its worst. He speculated on what addlebrained scheme these two had concocted. The woman draped her mantle over the pistol and tucked her bared hands underneath. Hyunjin noticed how red and raw they appeared, scratched and calloused.
“You are both going to hang. How sad. It is a pitiful way to die. Have you ever seen it? I’ll beg them to transport you instead, but my cousin will insist you hang and a marquess normally gets what he wants.”
The man looked over his shoulder. “You talk too much. Watch him closely. He is trying to distract you.”
“I won’t be distracted. You watch the road. The rain is making parts barely passable.”
“I am not trying to distract her. I am just passing the time with conversation.”
“Too much conversation,” the man muttered. “It’s a wonder all those ladies can abide your company.” His voice was deep, and he looked fairly around Hyunjin’s age.
So, they did know something about him. “Where I come from, conversation is expected. I am considered clever, even witty.”
“Part of your charm, is it?” The woman offered a thin smile with the question. “In these parts we save talking for when we have something to say.”
If there was to be no conversation it could be a long journey. They turned off the main road and jostled down a much poorer one. The wagon bounced in and out of ruts. He began to stretch out on the bales, thinking a nap might spare him an hour of wet silence. As he did, he noticed that the pistol no longer aimed right at him but rather down at the wagon’s floor. The fingers holding it became visible as the mantle edged back.
“Have you no gloves?” he asked.
“Not ones fit for this.”
Not leather then. Knit. He sat upright and peeled off his gloves. Recently purchased but not yet paid for, the gloves with their softness had seduced him as surely as a woman’s velvet skin. He handed them toward her. The woman hesitated. She glanced at the man’s back, then took the gloves. She had to set the pistol on her lap in order to pull a glove on her left hand. It was too big, but the fine lambskin meant it would not be too clumsy. Still, it interfered with getting the other glove on her right hand.
Hyunjin leaned forward, took her hand in his, and pulled the glove on for her. He took the opportunity to push the leather lower on the fingers so it fit fairly well. She watched with wide eyes. She glanced once at her companion in crime, then down again at what he did. He picked up the pistol and put it back in her hand. She flushed at the evidence that he had indeed distracted her, but not with words. She grasped the pistol with determination while he set about making the glove fit better on her left hand.
He looked into her dark eyes, so in contrast with her skin. She was a pretty woman, with a face that would still be attractive thirty years hence, when the fashionable beauties of the day had long lost their prettiness. When she smiled a severity in her expression disappeared. He peered into the bonnet’s shadow while something nudged at his memory.
“What is your name?” he asked.
“Y/N.”
“I should not address you with such familiarity.”
“I would prefer that you do not address me at all.”
“Then I will pose a question while I have your attention. Have we met before?”
She just looked at him. The wagon suddenly halted. “What are you doing? Y/N, are you mad? We know he is a rogue and a rake.”
She and Hyunjin both turned their heads to where their escort glared over his shoulder. Not at their faces. His scowling gaze rested lower, where Hyunjin still held a gloved hand in his own. She snatched her hand away. Hyunjin lounged back on the bales and smiled apologetically. The wagon moved again. And just then, at that moment, the rain turned to snow.
~
You regretted that you had scolded your sister, Clara. Of course, the girl’s head had been turned by this man. Between his face and his charm, a female would have to be dead not to be affected. That you yourself had briefly succumbed could be blamed on nature, you are your character. You had assumed he would not dare anything with Felix only two feet away. You had also assumed he would not find you worth daring anything for. You had not counted on his being a man who flirted and dared for amusement, and perhaps to advantage himself in a situation like this.
That was the problem with carefully laid plans. They were based on assumptions. They had to be. You had convinced yourself that this would unfold how you needed it to unfold, and already it wasn’t working out quite that way.
You really wished you had taken the reins instead of Felix. You could manage this wagon just as well. Then you would not have to look at their captive. Now you could not avoid it, since you needed to keep this pistol on him so he did not jump off the wagon and run into the trees.
He had lain down now, to take a nap it appeared, with his hat cocked over his brow, but you could still see his beauty. His limpid dark feline eyes alone would command attention. They had humor in them, even when facing a pistol. The result was the finest of lines on the side of the eye you could now see. As for the rest of his face, his rather loud features and rather perfect skin made him appear to have stepped out of a painting, where the artist embellished reality by removing the flaws nature inevitably provided. And yet, now, with his eyes closed and his face in repose, he appeared harder than he did when he looked at you and smiled. Tired. Perhaps even a little weary.
Of course, he was a rake. With that face, what else could be expected? Women probably lined up when he entered a drawing room, all but begging to be painted. You realized that you had just found a way to excuse him for his horrible behavior. All because of one brief touch through a glove. A fine caretaker of the family honor you were! You would have to be on your guard not to let his manner and appearance lead you to question your plan on how to save Clara.
He opened his eyes, looked to the sky, then sat up. He removed his hat and shook off the snow, then brushed his coat. “Will we go much farther?” You shook your head.
“That weapon must be getting heavy. You can put it down for a while. I am not going to jump on you and take it.” So, he said. “I give my word as a gentleman. See? I’ll keep my hands above my head like this.” He waved his hands, then clasped them behind his head. “And I’ll cross my legs so any move will take time.” He entwined his legs together, hooking one boot around the other.
He appeared so comical that you smiled despite yourself. “I never thanked you for the use of the gloves. It was not in your interest to do that. If my hands went numb, I could hardly shoot you.”
“I would not know they were numb enough, however. With my luck today, I would take my chance only to have you shoot me dead in the road.”
“Shooting you dead would not be necessary. An arm or leg would suffice to stop you.”
He peered at the pistol, then into your eyes. “Are you that good an aim, that I might not end up dead by mistake?”
“I am that good.”
“I will take your word on that.” He looked at Felix’s back, then leaned in to speak quietly. “Would you tell me why he decided to abduct me? Was it just my misfortune to take shelter under those eaves, or is there a reason?”
Goodness, his face was close now, you could see all the light freckles sprayed on his face. Luminous in the overcast day. Your mouth felt dry as he licked his bottom lip, but you managed to speak. “He did not decide to abduct you. I did.”
“Truly?" His eyes held wonder, and he leaned back. "You seem fairly sensible, but the situation is ludicrous. What if I had not stayed outside in the rain under those eaves?”
“If you had not taken shelter, we would have found another way to do it. I had several plans.” One had been for her to enter the inn, flirt with him, and beckon him outside for a quick—whatever it was people did when beckoned outside. You had even worn a dress that might aid in that, hidden now beneath your pelisse and cape. Just as well he had gone to the eaves. You had not had much faith in that particular alternative. You had little experience in flirting, and no evidence it worked when you tried it.
“Why? As I said, no one will ransom me.”
“The marquess would not want to be known as a man who left his cousin to his fate because he was too miserly to pay a ransom.” There would be no ransom, but for now let him think there would be.
Felix turned the wagon off the road and onto the lane leading to Estrella Park. Lord Hwang turned to watch the new direction. “Are we going to that house up there?”
“We are.”
“What is it called?” You didn’t answer. The less he knew, the better.
~
“I’ll dry these out for you, and give the hat a good brushing.” The elderly, noble built man took the garments as if he were a valet. Only he wasn’t a valet, but half of a pair of Lords who greeted Hyunjin when he entered the low-slung stone house, with its two levels of windows and rambling wings. He did not miss that lacking a coat meant escape would become a good deal less comfortable. The man left, limping to favor his right leg. The young man did not follow Hyunjin in. She did, still holding the pistol.
“Warm yourself here,” said the other half of the pair, a short, petite woman in a big white cap and apron. She had lines of knowledge in her wrinkled face, but she wore an apron. Strange. She led him into a good-sized sitting room and toward a roaring hearth fire. Solid, serviceable wood furniture filled the room, with two high-backed upholstered red chairs facing the fireplace. A simple writing table in one corner held a thick ledger on its surface. The space appeared comfortable but far from luxurious, as if nothing new had been put in it for many years, though, it did speak of esteem presence. At least they did not stint on the fuel. He positioned himself to both dry and warm. The old woman smiled with satisfaction at his expression of bliss in experiencing the heat.
“May I know your name so I can thank you properly for building up the fire in preparation?”
The woman’s face fell. She glanced at Y/N, then said, “Mrs. Oh. He that took your hat is Mr. Oh, my husband.”
“I want you to know that Mr. and Mrs. Oh are not in any way involved in your being here,” Y/N said while she shrugged off her cape onto one of the red chairs. “They stay with me, and will help see to your comfort, but they are not a part of it.”
“That is good to know, but of little use to them. When my cousin starts looking for necks to stretch, he won’t care about nuances.”
Mrs. Oh blanched. She grabbed the cape and hurried out. “That was unnecessary,” she said.
“She should know the truth. She is here. I am here. I am a prisoner. She is helping imprison me. That is all that will matter.”
She untied her bonnet and cast it aside. Fire burned in her dark eyes. “You can frighten her as best you can and she will not be disloyal. She and her husband have been here for years, and are as good—Are you even listening to me?”
“Of course.” Hardly. With that bonnet gone and the fire blazing, he could see her distinctly through her thin clothing; unusual for a lady to wear outside her bedroom or her lover's. His initial perceptions of dark eyes and hair and smooth skin, of a pretty face that would be more notable as she aged, held. Only now those eyes were ablaze with annoyance and her head balanced just so on exact posture and her presence warmed him as much as the flames at his back.
“Then hear me when I say do not try that again. If you do, you will not eat well here.”
“Surely you are not threatening me with bread and water?”
“It won’t kill you. In fact, it might do you some good to lose a few pounds.”
“Excuse me?”
“I am not saying you are fat, only that you have a bit of baby fat, as men do when they leave youth behind and start softening in their middle years.”
“Excuse me?” Baby fat? Middle years? Softening? He was barely twenty-four and at most weighed five pounds more than when in university.
“Have I insulted you? Oh, dear. I do apologize.” She did not sound the least sorry. “Now you must come with me so I can show you your chamber.”
She strode to the entry and called for Mr. Oh. The man showed up a few minutes later. With a flourishing gesture, she bid Hyunjin follow Mr. Oh up the stairs. She followed behind them both. They trudged up to the attic level, and to a chamber intended for a servant. Rough plank boards and a slanted timbered ceiling contrasted with simple whitewashed walls. A low window broke through the eaves to provide a view of the countryside.
“You will stay here,” she said. “Your meals will be brought to you, as will water for washing and such. There is plenty of fuel for the fireplace, as you can see.” On her mention of it, Mr. Oh knelt to build the fire.
Hyunjin paced around the Spartan chamber. “What am I to do here? My baggage is gone. I have no clothing, no razor, no books, no anything.”
She turned to leave with Mr. Oh. “I will find garments and books and send them up to you. As for how you spend your time, perhaps some reflection and penance would be good for the soul.”
The door closed. A sound scraped against it. He waited a few minutes, then tried the door. It budged only an inch, enough for him to see that it had been barred. They had planned this for some time if they had constructed that to ensure he could not leave. He paced around the small chamber one more time. It had so little space that moving in it could not satisfy his restlessness. It was a damned prison. He tried the bed. At least the mattress had enough stuffing to cushion the ropes. He rose and checked a little wardrobe. It held nothing except a chamber pot.
He disliked confinement of any kind. This would become annoying quickly. Already anger nibbled the edges of his mood. He bent to look out the small window. No tree outside, not that he could fit out the window easily. Down below, a stone wall held back the land from the foundations of the house and some steps that he guessed went down to the kitchen. If he jumped or tried to lower himself, he would drop four levels, not three. Only an idiot would risk it.
He threw himself on the bed. Penance, she suggested. She must know more than a little about him. As for her recommendation, plenty of penance awaited him if he found a way out of this cell. That alone was enough to dampen his rising indignation. In a manner of speaking, this ridiculous adventure was a reprieve, brief though he expected it to be. A small delay before he chained himself to a woman whom he in no way suited or even much liked. Even her fortune might not repay him for the life she would subject him to.
He went to gaze out the window again. The rolling land said they were still in middle of London and probably still north of the lakes. If he could escape, he could probably find his way to Houghton without undue time or trouble. He still had some coin on him, and his boots and greatcoat should keep him warm enough. He rather regretted not retrieving his gloves now.
Then again, he could stay here and reflect, as Y/N put it. Review his carefree life before he sold himself in marriage to that woman. He could reminisce about lovers recent and old, about big wins at the tables, and ignore the bigger losses, about indulgences enjoyed despite no money to pay for them. He could revel in the infamy that meant even rustics like the ones in this house knew who he was. Why not? And if he could get out of this chamber, the hills out there and the sitting room below offered some unexpected diversion. He did not know why he was here, and that alone was an interesting little mystery to be solved.
The scraping said the bar had risen. He sat up as the door opened. Y/N marched in and dropped a bundle on the bed. “Not the finery you are used to, but they should do and no one in society is going to see you. There’s a Bible there, and one of Mrs. Oh’s novels, and a journal or two. I added some newspapers. They are old, but not of London, so you may find them new enough. There are also a few necessities.”
He eyed the stack of garments and publications. “How long do you intend to imprison me?”
“Fourteen days if the weather holds. Longer if the snow keeps falling.”
“Until Christmas then.”
She nodded. “Precisely much.”
He would regret missing the festivities. A marquess knew how to do up Christmas smartly. Watching his nieces’ and nephews’ excitement always provoked a pleasant nostalgia, he loved children. They were innocent and did not know of the hypocrisy adulthood offered.
“You do not have to bar the door and lock me in. If I did not try to escape off the wagon, I won’t now. Nor would it do me much good if I managed it. I don’t even know where I am.” He smiled his best smile, to cajole her to reconsider.
For an instant her mouth softened at the edges and her eyes shone with new lights. Then her brow puckered while she glanced around the chamber to avert her gaze. She turned on her heel and left.
He returned to the window. Fifteen minutes later two figures came up the steps down below. At the same time, the wagon rolled into view. The two figures, all bundled and hatted against the cold, climbed on the wagon; then it aimed toward the rolling landscape. Mr. Oh had been driving the horse at the wagon. It had appeared that the young freckled man who abducted Hyunjin had climbed into the wagon. A third man worked here, too, however. The three of them flowed away, getting smaller. As they did, spots appeared on the crest of the nearest hill. The spots trickled down the land toward the wagon. Hyunjin squinted at the overcast, snow-filtered distance. Horses. A small herd of them galloped toward the wagon and its hay. The two men began throwing bales onto the ground while the wagon slowly moved. He gazed at those horses. He recalled how Y/N had looked familiar in some way. In a blink it lined up in his memory. He knew where he was and probably why he was here. The goal might be a ransom, but the motivation was revenge.
~
Heavens, but you were being a fool. That was what happened when a woman lived in isolation with no society and precious few friends, or a man to satisfy her needs. You turned into a puddle when a beautiful man gave you any attention, even if he did so for dishonorable purposes. You were supposed to be filling your father’s empty place, being clever and strong like him—not melting like hot beeswax when a bit of warmth entered Lord Hwang’s eyes. You threw another bale, harder than you needed, so hard that it made your arms ache from the effort and of course. old Mr. Lee noticed.
“Don’t you go hurting yourself,” he scolded. He set down the reins and began to rise.
“You stay there. You are the one who has been hurt.”
“Should have stayed with Mum,” Felix muttered beside you while he bent to lift a bale himself. “Don’t know why you think you have to do a man’s work when there are two real men here.”
Had Felix not been a childhood friend and if you did not depend on him so much, you might have put him in his place for that. Not that his place would be clear to either of them anymore. The very notion of places rang hollow these days. “You are not my brother, Lix, so don’t you dare scold me. I will do as I see fit and there was no reason for you and your father to stay out in this cold twice as long while you fed them yourself.”
“If the snow keeps on, we’ll be doing this every day for a long time,” Old Lee said. “Maybe Lix should stay here until it passes and not go off.”
“While Felix is gone, I will come out with you,” you replied. “He has to go. We can’t keep Lord Hwang in that chamber forever.”
“Why not?” Felix muttered. “It’s more than he deserves. I’d have let him sleep in the barn.”
“There was no way to bar him into the barn.”
“You know what I mean. No need to give him all that fuel and a fresh mattress. A bit of discomfort is due him. And you told Mum to cook enough for him, which seems too generous to me.”
“He will hardly be amenable to our demands if he has been freezing, eating gruel, and sleeping on a bad mattress.”
“She has a point, son,” Mr. Lee said over his shoulder while he maneuvered the wagon among the herd that now crowded them.
Felix bent to his bales. “Don’t be asking me to serve him, that’s all. I’ll not be bringing him meals, or playing his valet. You cater to his needs, Y/N, since you think it so wise.” His expression told you that he still didn’t like giving Lord Hwang comforts of any kind.
You could expect nothing less, you supposed. Felix had taken the situation with Clara very hard. He refused to blame her, which meant he had to blame someone else. Himself in part, for not watching over her better. Lord Hwang mostly, since a gentleman should behave better. Felix and you had been equals in play when you were children, but Clara had been the younger sister who needed protection.
“That’s enough,” Mr. Lee said, turning to eye how many bales were left. All around them the horses ate, necks bent low. “If it turns colder the pond over the hill will ice and we’ll have to break it up. Looks to be a bad few days ahead. They should be fine until tomorrow, though.”
Your gaze surveyed the little herd through the steady fall of snow. You lingered on an especially fine mare of dappled pale gray whose coloring blended with the landscape. Three years old now, Guinevere had the blood of champions in your and should be bred with a stallion of equal lineage come spring. The one that qualified in these parts was not available, however. At least not at a fee they could afford. One more reason to dislike Hwang and his family. You would think about every item on that list the next time he turned that disarming smile on you.
~
With dusk came cold. Hyunjin built up the fire. Enough snow had fallen that the hills shone white, reflecting the failing light. Jaehyun would know he was missing by now. Would he raise the hue and cry or tell himself something very ordinary had happened? He probably nipped up to a chamber at the inn with some woman, and missed the coach’s leaving while taking his pleasure. If so, it would be another day at least before the full significance of that unaccompanied baggage was acknowledged. Even then he would never guess who had his cousin. If he was right about where he was, he could walk to his cousin’s estate cross county in a day if the sun showed long enough to give him some sense of direction.
He had made the best of a bad situation all day, but as the light dimmed outside, he began to consider that had been a mistake. These might not be typical criminals, but that did not mean he should make this crime easier on them. He allowed his anger to rise. His food would come soon. One of the men would bring it up, he guessed. When that door opened and that fellow appeared, his hands occupied with the tray he carried, one push should send him sprawling. Once at a disadvantage, he would be easy to overcome.
Then, door open, stairs clear, a quick bolt to freedom. He’d take a horse from the stable and find a village, at least. He hoped his coat hung on a peg along the way, of course. Footsteps on boards outside the chamber. The scraping of that bar. He pressed the far wall and faced the door, ready to lunge when it opened. Only a man did not kick it back. Y/N maneuvered the door while she balanced a tray. She noticed him at the wall. “What are you doing? Preparing to overpower me?” She set the tray down on the bed. “Let us have it then. Do your worst.”
“My, you are suspicious.”
“You are coiled like a ferret preparing to jump, but you do know how brittle their bones are, right?”
He shrugged off his intentions. “I was not expecting you.”
“Obviously not. This is your dinner. It is quite good. I will tell Mrs. Oh you send your appreciation of her efforts.”
He went over and peered beneath the white cloths. “That would be Mrs. Anything-else-but-Oh. That is not her real name. You might have chosen something more original.”
“Her name is indeed Mrs. Oh. She told you as much, after all. It is astonishing you think it isn’t, despite the evidence of your own ears.”
“She could not remember it at first when you introduced us. With a name as common as Oh, I think it would be hard to forget if it really were hers.”
“Any name would be hard to forget if it were hers, don’t you think? Nor did she forget it. You flustered her, that is all.”
“So, you say. I say you gave her a different name in an attempt to obscure her identity. If I am to play a role in this farce you are writing, at least show some creativity. Mrs. Eon, for example. That would be a fine name.”
“You are all nonsense and that is a stupid name."
"And you are half-mad, at the least.”
She laughed in disbelief. “I am not the least mad. Do I look it?”
“You abducted a lord. Only someone addlepated or half-mad would do such a thing. As for Mrs. Oh, a new name will not help her, as I said. She is in the thick of it, same as you, and will swing beside you.” He angled his head so as to gaze below her chin. “Such a lovely neck to cater to. How sad it will be.”
“You do not frighten me.”
“I should.” He moved the tray to the little table near the window and set the one chair beside it. “Do you provide conversation as well as food, or am I to live in silence, too?”
“There is nothing to talk about.” Yet she didn’t leave.
“I think there is a good deal to discuss. Why I am here, what you hope to gain, what will satisfy you so I can depart—” He set aside the white cloth. “Whether this is not about me at all, but other members of my family. Many things.”
He glanced over at the last. She reacted, much as she tried not to. He proceeded to cut the fowl on the plate. It smelled delicious, but then he was very hungry. Y/N stood there for a ten count before speaking again. “Why would you think this was about your family?”
He casually chewed some pheasant. Mrs. Oh, if that was her real name, was an excellent cook. “I saw the horses the men were feeding.”
“If that held significance to you, maybe you are the one half-mad. Many farms in these parts have horses.”
“I expect some have several and I know some have whole herds. Twenty, thirty, even more. I thought it odd that you have seven out there in addition to the ones in the stable. More than you would need for farming and a household.” He looked over at her. “Too few for a farm that breeds them.”
Those dark eyes just watched him.
“Unless—” He helped himself to another forkful of food while he let the word dangle. “Unless there was once a much bigger herd, but it had decreased unexpectedly. Been sold off, for example.” Another bite. “Or suffered from a disease.” He heard a sharp intake of breath, like a backward hiss. He looked over. Flames in those eyes now. Her expression had tightened. “I knew I had seen you before,” he said. “You are Miss Lee. And, this,” he said looking around, “is Estrella Park.”
“You no doubt think you are very clever.”
He set down his fork and turned to her and her jaws were tightly clenched; the hate, she looked charming. “He had no choice. My cousin only sought to protect the other farms in the county.”
“We could have separated the ones that were sick. We could have kept them all here and let it run its course and kept others away. He did have a choice. He wanted to have them all killed.”
“That is too harsh.”
“He had bought Galahad and didn’t want another born who might challenge his champion. So, he tried to obliterate the bloodline.”
He wished he could insist Jaehyun would never do such a thing, but Hyunjin had seen his cousin’s ruthlessness on more occasions than he wanted to remember. He had also seen Jaehyun’s delight in possessing Galahad. In winning with him and in being the envy of the Jockey Club. Estrella Park had a long history of producing some of the best racing horses in England, slowly and carefully, until the strangling disease had taken hold here. “That was over two years ago. You are rebuilding quickly.” His memory reexamined those dots on the hillside and their sizes. “Ah. He didn’t get them all, did he?”
“It doesn’t matter. Even if we rebuild, it will never be the same. It broke my father. Not only financially, but in his spirit. He died last year.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“No one in your circles would know, since we don’t sell prize thoroughbreds anymore.”
“And now I am to pay for that? Is that why I am here?” If this woman schemed for revenge, this might be more dangerous than he had thought, she was a daughter of a nobleman after all.
She gestured to his table. “Finish that up. I’ll be back soon to take the tray away. Please have your boots off by then, so I can take them, too.”
“My boots?”
“You know who I am. You know where you are. You probably think you can walk to your cousin’s home. But I don’t think you will go out in that weather without boots, until you want your feet to be cut off from the frostbite.”
~
“He knows.” You informed the others of Lord Hwang’s clever musings while you all ate dinner. The meal was always late, due to the work the farm needed and the few hands to do it. “He saw the herd, and guessed the rest. Not why he is here. He has that wrong. But where he is and the family who live here.”
“Thank goodness,” Mrs. Lee said. “I’ll not have to pretend I have a different name at least.”
“You will. He doesn't know you are of noble blood too. And you, Felix—he’s barely seen you, so I don’t want him seeing you again until it can’t be helped.”
“I won’t even be here.”
“You still think to go?” Mrs. Lee asked.
“Surely not, Y/N. There’s snow and—”
“No more than four inches, Mum,” Felix said. “Of course, I’m still going. I’ll ride a horse and bring another with me.”
“A horse! Clara can’t come back on a horse!”
“Don’t see why not,” Mr. Lee said. “Safer than a wagon. Less bumpy, too. She won’t be jostled nearly as much. You take the chestnut mare, Yongbok. She’s mild enough and sure-footed.”
Mrs. Lee turned to you, exasperated. “We must wait for the weather to clear.”
“Then we contend with either frozen or muddy roads and lanes,” you said. “Listen to your husband. He is right. The horse will be safer even then.”
“I don’t like it.” Mrs. Lee passed around the platter of pheasant again.
“We could just leave her where she is,” you said. “Do you think we should? Let her stay with Aunt Eugene and let Lord Hwang go?”
Mrs. Lee immediately shook her head. “You be careful with her, Felix. You hear me?”
“I’ll be careful. If she is not doing well on the horse, I’ll hire a carriage. I have some coin.”
“Where’d you get coin?” Mr. Lee asked.
“Never you mind.”
You finished your meal. You drank the rest of your beer, then rose to help Mrs. Lee clear the table.
“You are not to worry,” you said when you were alone in the kitchen. “Once Clara is here, it will all settle into place. He’s a gentleman, and there are rules about these things for them. Remember how my father would do things he’d rather not because he was a gentleman, too, and honor counted for more than money?”
“It’s not money we expect from him,” Mrs. Lee said. “He may be a gentleman by birth, even a lord, but there’s been talk about him in the county since he was a boy and would visit his uncle. Wild doings. He never outgrew that either.” She shook her head and turned to the washbasin. “I hope you are right about all of this.”
“I am doing what my father would have done. Papa isn’t here, so it is left to me. I can’t call him out like a man would, but I can make sure he faces her, and accepts his duty. He will not be able to avoid her this way. He will not be able to put us off, or refuse to receive us, the way he could in London or at his cousin’s house.” Mrs. Lee sighed heavily while she lifted a hot kettle from the hearth. “Say, let me do the washing today,” you said, grabbing an apron off a peg.
“You need to go up and get that tray.”
“I’ll wash and you can get it. You will be getting the better half of the bargain. Bring some water, so we don’t have to take that later. And remove his boots from his chamber.” Mrs. Lee gave you a long look, lifted a pail of water, then headed to the stairs.
“Just take the tray and boots and leave,” you said. “Don’t let him draw you into a conversation. He will try to frighten you then. So, do not dawdle.”
“Is that what he tried with you? Made you linger so he could frighten you?”
“Something like that. It didn’t work, though.” The last was a lie. You did not want to talk about what had frightened you and how you had lingered in part to watch how the dusky light made him even more handsome, casting his face in silvery tones so he looked like a beautiful statue come to life. You plunged your hands into the water. You could be such an idiot at times.
~
Hyunjin woke with the dawn. He lay abed a good while, not wanting to relinquish the warmth of the coverlet. For a prison, the room had a comfortable bed. He finally cast the bedclothes aside, strode to the fireplace, and threw on some fuel. A blaze roared. He stayed there while it heated the small chamber and the pail of water, then went to the window and bent to look out. Already he could tell that the sun would shine today, but the frost on the window’s glass indicated it would not help much with the temperature. He judged there to be a good four or five inches of snow. While he took its measure on the wall below, two figures emerged from the house and climbed the stairs, bundled and anonymous. One hat looked like the same as that worn by his male abductor, though. That figure walked away, and the other returned to the kitchen door.
He washed, shaved, and dressed, deciding that his own garments would survive one more day. Those brought to him yesterday looked to almost fit, although whoever owned them was a bit stouter. Not as stout as the old man, but more so than the young abductor. While he would not buy the coats himself, they were of better quality than he expected, and the shirt had been ironed. The cravats had no starch and would only be acceptable in the most informal of ties. Still, no one intended to make him look like a rustic.
Having finished his day’s preparation, he pulled the chair to the door, sat, and examined the latch and closure. Last night, lacking anything to occupy him, he had begun testing the bar on the other side. First, he tried the razor but quickly nicked himself. One of the journals brought by Miss Lee had firm binding and was thin enough to press through the small crack, however. It seemed to him that when he slid it up, the bar had initially resisted but then risen a bit. Could he raise it enough that it slid down one of the makeshift ledges holding it on either side of the door?
He slid that journal through again. The bar rose an inch or so, but then he felt its weight defeating the journal. He pulled the journal out, lest it crumble and get caught, bearing evidence of his activities. Being right at the door, he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He swung the chair away to the table, and threw himself in it just as the bar scraped. The door opened.
Miss Lee carried in breakfast. That brought a smile to his spirit. Her absence last night when the tray was taken had disappointed him. She appeared fresh and bright and all business. The morning light cast her smooth complexion in the cooler shades, giving her a softer look. Her dark eyes and hair made a stark, memorable contrast. She wore the simplest of dresses in brown, plain wool with a white knit shawl tied around her shoulders, yet she appeared more beautiful and attractive than the ladies clad in diamonds and jewels in London's courts. She strode across the chamber and all but dropped the tray on the little table. “We all have things we must do today. It may be hours before anyone comes for this.”
He lifted the cloth and noted the food but also the implements. “If you leave the door open, I would be glad to bring it down myself.”
She folded her arms over her chest and lowered her gaze on him. “You must think I am very stupid.”
“Not at all. I give my word as a gentleman not to escape.”
“Would; that I could trust those words.”
“I have given you no reason to think you cannot.”
“Your whole life is a reason I cannot. Do you think we are so isolated we don’t hear about the gossip and scandals in London and elsewhere? Such stories are prized in these parts since they give people something to talk about.”
“What ones have you heard about me?”
She shrugged. “I can’t remember the recent ones.”
He laughed. “Are my scandals so bad that it embarrasses you to mention them?”
She flushed. “Fine. There was that problem you had with that actress you threw over who was going to kill herself, for one thing.”
“She had no intention of killing herself. She dined for a month over the threat of it, though.”
“And that family who accused you of breach of contract, and intended to see you in court.”
“Which they never did, because I had contracted nothing and promised even less. When I said sue or be damned, they went away.”
She set her hands on her hips and lowered her lids. “In the last eight months your name has been linked to three women at least, who were described as your ladybirds.” She had him there.
“Such friendships are apart from matters of honor, such as keeping my word.”
“Three. In eight months,” she reiterated bluntly. “Such inconstancy does not speak well of your character.”
“I can explain that, but the truth does not speak well of me either. Each of those ladies chose to end an alliance when she learned that I made a decision last year to no longer go into debt over women. With the lack of jewels and other expensive gifts I became far less charming to their eyes.”
She seemed to find that interesting. “So, you have begun to reform?”
He laughed. “I wouldn’t go as far as saying that. I merely decided not to owe every good tradesman in London.”
“Which has led to changes in your habits.”
“Of a sort.” He still owed money everywhere from his early adventures. Just not as much.
She smiled. “An important sort. You cannot be a rake anymore. Becoming domesticated probably has much more appeal now.”
That smile softened her whole expression. She might have just heard long-awaited happy news. “Domesticated? I don’t think—”
She was already at the door. “You should eat that before it gets cold.”
~
No one came for the tray. Morning stretched into midday. He read one of the journals, then looked out his window, left to his thoughts. He pictured the Christmas preparations taking place at Jaehyun’s estate. It would be the first time in years that Hyunjin had not attended those festivities. His father had brought the family each time, often braving worse weather than what lay outside this day. It had been a way to have good food and entertainment that their own family could not afford. If Hyunjin’s father had resented the better fortune of his older brother, he never showed it. Why should he? Having been named a baron in his own right, Hyunjin’s father had done better than most younger sons.
Of course, this year others would be at Jaehyun’s besides family. Mr. Moon had been invited along with his daughter Mia. Pretty Mia. Lovely, vivacious, spoiled, cruel Mia. She thought herself fit for a duke no doubt. Hyunjin wondered what her father had promised her to get her to agree to marry just a little above than average baron. Jewels, probably. A house in London for certain. A percentage of the profits of that canal partnership that her marriage would allow him to buy into with Jaehyun? It was a massive endeavor, with canals large and small, all over northern Houghton. If she received any of that, it probably would go into trust so her wastrel of a husband did not gamble away the money and stocks. He had overheard her berating her maid once. Mia’s words had sliced the poor woman’s emotions to shreds. The maid’s transgression had been minor but Mia’s criticism ruthless and hard. He had walked away, imagining that tongue turned on him every day, and not for his pleasure.
The movement outside caught his eyes, taking him back to his surroundings. The wagon came into view, beginning its little journey toward that hill. Only one figure on it today. Hyunjin wondered where the other two male were. The wagon stopped not far from the house. The driver stood and turned around. Hyunjin realized that someone had come out of the house down below him. Mrs. Oh’s white cap identified her. The two exchanged some words; then Mrs. Oh walked away, down the length of the house. Right before the driver turned to sit again, he turned his face upward, as if looking at the window from which Hyunjin watched. The same lips and dark eyes showed beneath the brim of the man’s hat before the figure turned. The driver was none other than Miss Lee. Why would she be going to feed the horses alone? The men must be occupied elsewhere. If Mrs. Oh had not returned to the kitchen door, the house might well be empty now. He grabbed the fork off his tray and headed for the door. Ten minutes later he walked through an empty house, in search of his boots.
~
The horses galloped down the hill. You stopped the wagon. Guinevere, never one to hold back her speed, led them. You climbed into the back of the wagon. You ached from yesterday’s chores and adventures, but this had to be done. You paused a moment and pictured your father and how being a gentleman never stopped him from lending a hand in the work if it was needed. Holding his memory in your heart, you lifted a bale and rolled it off the side of the wagon.
You had managed two more of them when you sensed movement on the snow behind you a split second before a horse and rider charged across the white expanse. Not Felix, who had left early this morning. Not Mr. Lee, whose bad leg had acted up last night and who rested now in the cottage he shared with his family. You knew how they both rode and would have recognized either one from a distance, even if you already knew neither would be riding here today. This rider sat on the horse differently. Expertly. You knew who he was. How had he escaped that barred room? Your heart sank at the evidence that he had managed it despite your precautions. Now he would ride to his cousin’s house, swear down information with a magistrate, and send them all to gaol. You wondered if you really would hang after all. The notion left a sick foreboding in the pit of your stomach.
The horse and rider aimed for the trees to the right of the pasture. In a few moments they would be gone. Suddenly they pivoted, turned, thundered right towards you, and stopped twenty feet away. Lord Hwang looked down on the wagon and you. One of his disarming smiles broke. “If you are the one man today, you must have been the third man yesterday.”
You turned to address one of the bales. “How did you get out of that chamber?” Your mind spoke the same question but added a few curses.
He dismounted and walked his horse to the wagon. He proceeded to tie it to the back. “If I tell you, you’ll make sure I can’t do it again.” You noticed he had found his boots, coat, and gloves. What a disaster. Not only had he escaped; he’d also proven you were hopelessly inept at executing your own scheme. “Where is the old man?” he asked.
“He hurt his leg a week ago and it has taken a turn. He needs to rest it more.” Old Lee had returned to helping her before he should have and now paid the price.
“And the young man?”
“On errands.”
Hyunjin climbed onto the wagon. “Then it is just you and me. You take the reins and I’ll take care of the hay.”
You swung one leg over the bench seat’s back, then paused, confused. “Why didn’t you keep riding? You could be well away by now.”
He lifted a bale and threw it out toward some horses. “I recalled that I gave you my word not to escape.” He turned that smile on you again. “I also wanted to see you in pantaloons.”
Your position, straddling the back of the seat, showed how you looked in pantaloons rather too well, you realized. You tugged down on your coat and finished your move so those pantaloons would be hidden while you sat. You heard a soft laugh behind you.
You moved the wagon and bales flew. “That should be enough,” he finally said. To your surprise, he climbed over and sat beside you.
“How do you know what is enough?” you asked. “Have you taken care of horses?”
“As a child I dawdled around my uncle’s stables. Now I make good use of my cousin’s when I visit. I find horses excellent society, often better than that in the drawing room.”
How well he put it. Few people understood what he meant, but you did. You had always had an affinity with your father’s horses and had learned to care for them while still a girl. That had made that horrible day when the men came with muskets all the worse and a tragedy from which you had never really recovered.
You turned the wagon and headed back to the house and outbuildings. Lord Hwang did not try to take the reins from you, even though he wore his good gloves now. He must have found them where you set them near the door. There really wasn’t enough room for both her and Hyunjin on the seat, which meant that they were pressed against each other. You inhaled the scent of the soap you had left him and noticed how those gloves fit his hands perfectly, as if molded to their strength with liquid leather. It made them look thinner and longer.
“I suggest we come to an understanding about my stay with you, Miss Lee.”
“I am listening.”
“You now know I can get out. I propose you simply allow that and spare me the effort of getting that bar up again.”
“Next time perhaps you will not stop before you disappear into the trees.”
“I will swear my parole. In olden times, when a knight was taken in battle, and was being held for ransom, he was not imprisoned. If he swore his parole, he had free movement in the house and grounds. He might join the household knights on hunts, and would eat at the high table.”
“We don’t have a high table. Just one. If you dine at it, you will dine with servants.”
“Which will save you and those servants the trouble of feeding me up in an attic.”
Considering most of the servants, if you could even call her faithful retainers that, could not serve anyone at the moment, his proposal had some appeal. “What happened if one of those knights broke his parole?”
“That rarely happened, because if it did the world would know that man had no honor.” To your shock, leather-encased fingers lightly touched your chin and turned your head until you were looking into the blackest eyes you had ever seen. “Whatever you have heard, whatever you think, I am a gentleman, Miss Lee. When I say I will not escape, on my honor I will not.”
Your chin and neck quivered under that touch. You could not pull your gaze away from his. Confusion swirled in your mind, and shock at your lack of will and growing ache between your thighs. You remained enthralled for a half minute until he released you, but that release was all his doing, not a matter of your demanding it. You snapped the reins to get the horse moving faster. You needed to get back so you would not feel his warmth against your side like this, and so you would stop stealing glances at that face of his. As stupid as you felt for again succumbing, you grasped the one good thing to come out of the encounter. You counted on his being a gentleman once he saw Clara. If he kept insisting like this that he was one, it would be impossible for him to refuse to do the right thing when that happened.
~
Miss Lee brought the wagon right to the stable yard. She hopped out with a quickness a dress would have denied her. The coat she wore had little length. It looked to be a boy’s coat, chosen so it would not drown her in fabric. That meant, however, that he had a fine view of how those pantaloons encased her legs and hips while she unhitched the horse. He climbed down himself and looked around. On the other side of the house, past the gardens, a cottage showed smoke rising from a chimney. Beyond that some livestock dotted two pens. He followed her into the stable, leading the horse he had ridden. A large structure, it had stalls for at least a dozen horses, all empty. The horse she now guided into one of those stalls was not the chestnut from yesterday. That horse was nowhere to be seen. Y/N came out to retrieve grooming supplies.
“I will do it. Some activity will be welcomed,” he said. She stood speechless while he pried the pail’s handle from her grip and removed the brush from her other hand. He took them into the stall. After a hesitation, she followed him. “It is a fine little herd you have there,” he said while he worked. “That bay mare is magnificent.”
“You know horses well.”
“I would not be a Hwang if I did not.”
“I suppose not.”
He glanced over at her. She still wore the man’s hat that had obscured her identity when he watched the wagon yesterday. Low-crowned and wide-brimmed, it cast her lovely face in a shadow, but her eyes’ brightness would not be defeated.
“Even so, I perhaps know them better than most Hwangs,” he added. “I advise my cousin sometimes. He would not request that if he did not think my judgment better than his. Which he does, grudgingly.”
“Did you advise him to buy Galahad?”
“He did not need me to tell him that Galahad was one of the finest horses England had seen in years. Your father’s eye was unsurpassed, and his patience finally rewarded.”
Hyunjin thought it a compliment. She did not react that way. “Galahad has been put out to stud now,” she said. “The fee is enormous.”
“That is the true value of a champion.”
“The bay you admired is from the same stock, only a different line.”
“Is she fast?”
“Not only fast, she has the heart for it.”
He might be discussing a horse with a member of the Jockey Club, so easily did they fall into the language of racing. She was saying that the mare had speed, and also the desire to win and the strength to stay the race.
“I asked your cousin to allow us to breed them. The mare and Galahad. I asked him to give us a lower fee, or to allow us to pay over several years.”
He kept the brush moving over the horse’s flank, but he knew what Jaehyun had said to that. Jaehyun was not famous for his generosity. “He refused?”
She nodded. “After what had happened, I thought—” She thought there should be enough guilt, or enough justice, that the owner of Galahad would help the farm that bred him rebuild.
Hyunjin picked up the pail and moved to the next stall and the other horse. He was pleased to see her follow him. “That was wrong of him,” he said while he used the brush. “However, if you think taking me will force him to change his mind, if you expect to see Galahad coming home over that hill, you will be disappointed.”
She turned up her face to him. A playful belligerence showed in her eyes and half smile. “I do not think I will be disappointed at all in abducting you.”
He regarded her while his mind tried to tease the meaning of her confident statement. It didn’t get far in such considerations because she appeared so lovely there in the most unconventional way. Those pantaloons, probably a youth’s, fit her nicely and showed the shape of her legs and most of her hips. The coat nipped at her waist and bulged higher where it buttoned over her breasts. His mind started removing that coat, then more and his eyes wandered shamelessly over her body. Her expression changed. Softened. She knew what he was thinking, and she was not running away. He needed no more encouragement than that. He followed his inclinations, as was the habit of his life. He strode across the space separating them, pulled her into his arms, and kissed her.
~
You should have turned and run, but you didn’t. Watching him groom the horses had mesmerized you. His hand, unsheathed from that glove, looked so masculine while it held the brush. The horse appeared in a state of bliss, as if she knew that a seductive man handled her. Even so, when he came toward you with his face firm and his eyes determined, you should have known what would happen and run. He was not for you, and you were not for him, and the last thing anyone needed was for this kiss to happen. Yet it did happen, and you found herself breathless with astonishment, shock, and delight. The last was very bad of you. You had no business enjoying that kiss, delight should never wash over you when he's holding you. None at all, for many reasons. Yet you did, too much, and his embrace warmed your inside and outside. His arms became a shelter, an enclave of comfort, intimacy, and excitement.
The kiss itself seared your heart. It had been years. Forever. Your memories of girlhood kisses had grown so dusty from age that you might have been untouched. One year had been a long time and that man wasn’t the best at it. Certainly not this man who had kissed too often and knew too well how to do it. You had no defenses. You had not even realized you needed any. So, you permitted it too long, submerged in happy confusion that blocked any intrusion from your conscience. He pulled you closer yet, leisurely encasing your lips and brazenly played with your tongue. His hand fussed at a button on your coat. Your better sense reasserted itself and saw what you were doing. Indignation met a wall of sadness, but you still pushed away from him and staggered back.
Nothing about him apologized. Not words from that mouth or regret in those eyes. If anything, he appeared as if he would follow your steps and embrace you again. You backed up more, lest he try. “You should not have done that. You know it, too.”
“I am not well schooled in self-denial, especially when it comes to an intriguing, lovely woman like you.”
“I am not a woman to be a plaything to a rake. I am insulted you thought I might be.”
“It was an honest expression of honest desire, Y/N, not a search for a plaything.”
“I think it was a calculated strategy to have me drop my guard in other ways, and to petition for release. A man, like you, does not have any need of a woman like me.” You strode away. “Do not do it again,” you said furiously over your shoulder. “Good heavens, wasn’t one Lee daughter enough for you?”
~
Since she did not march him back to his attic chamber at the point of a gun, Hyunjin decided that meant she had agreed to the terms of his parole. Since her departure indicated she would not want company he chose to remain outside and investigate the property further. He walked closer to the cottage beyond the garden. Smoke still rose in a ribbon from the chimney. He thought he saw Mrs. Oh’s face peer out a window at him. Perhaps the lovely couple lived here, rather than in the big house. It was the kind of privilege only afforded by nobleman to the married colleagues, and valued ones at that. He retraced his steps and walked around the stable. Beyond there lay a large paddock surrounded by sturdy fences. Fifty horses would fit in it easily, perhaps as many as seventy.
This was where it must have happened. He pictured the space teeming with horses, all pacing and noisy because they sensed the danger. Within a half hour all of them were dead, shot by men at close range from behind the fence. Unable to defend themselves, they had stampeded around the paddock in a frenzy. He had been invited to participate in that carnage. As if anyone would want to shoot thoroughbreds like that, as sport. Too many had volunteered. Jaehyun had joined in. To add to the injury, they had left the remains for the Lee family to deal with. He had assumed Y/N had abducted him as part of a plan of revenge for that day. From her parting words in the stable, however, it seemed he may have been wrong.
Wasn’t one Lee daughter enough for you? He propped his boot on the bottom rung of the paddock’s fence and looked into the enclosure while he considered the accusation embedded in her words. She believed that he had kissed her sister and perhaps done more than kiss. Hell, he didn’t even remember she had a sister. All the same he searched his memory for another Lee from this area. Calling up every female met at parties and assemblies would take too long, so he took the opposite approach and tried to remember all the women he had at least kissed in the last three years.
That alone meant reviewing a good number of faces. Try as he might, he could not picture anyone with the last name of Lee of this descent. It was possible she had used a different name. It was also possible that his memory failed him due to his being foxed when the meeting occurred. He often claimed that never happened, but the problem with drinking to the point of obliterated memories was that one did not remember what had and had not happened, including one’s state of inebriation. The wind had risen by the time he concluded he could not prove he had never kissed another Lee sister. He made his way back to the house and entered through the kitchen door, where he shook the snow off his boots and hung his greatcoat on a peg next to the coat Y/N had donned earlier.
He wandered into the kitchen. Mrs. Oh could not be found there, but something delicious smelling cooked in the hearth in a cauldron. He found the stairs and went above. His departure had been hasty. Now he took his time. Besides the large sitting room, he visited a small library and a chamber that served as a study or office. A morning room, long and narrow, stretched across the back of the house. A dining room could hold a decent party. It was an old house, and handsome in its way. More dark wood panels than was fashionable now. Dark papers on the walls, too, and a few floors paved in tiles instead of boards. He judged it to be a couple hundred years old at least. He settled into a stuffed chair in the library with a book on thoroughbred breeding. Since it was a topic of interest, he soon became engrossed. So it was that Miss Lee arrived without his awareness. He only realized her presence when the scent of the household soap reached him. She had changed into a blue dress with little adornment.
“I hope you did not give up the pantaloons on my account. There’s no reason to stand on ceremony with a prisoner.”
“It had nothing to do with you.”
“For whom then? From what I can tell no one else is here.”
“Of course, others are here. Mrs. Oh—”
“Some food awaits in the kitchen, but she does not. I think she went home to her little cottage.” She made no retort to that. So, they were alone here, as he thought.
“You should be up in your chamber,” she said imperiously.
Perhaps so, if they were alone. “This, suits me better.”
“It is not for you to say.”
“I swore my parole and will do so again if you want. If you insist, I live all day in that attic, go get your pistol, because I will not return there until I retire otherwise.”
“If you give me cause, I will indeed get that pistol. Just so you know.”
“It was one kiss, Y/N. I am not going to assault you. However, since you mention it, I apologize for succumbing to the impulse, small though the transgression was.”
“Small? It was very, very wrong of you, and you know it.”
“I know it was wrong. Not very wrong, let alone very, very wrong.”
“I can’t believe you insist on that. Considering my sister—”
“Ah yes, your sister. What is her name again?”
She gasped. “You are a terrible, incorrigible, conceited man.” She gathered her composure. “I am having dinner at six o’clock. If you go down to the kitchen at seven o’clock, there will be a meal waiting for you. After you eat your meal, return to your chamber. You can carry your own water up. Since you have sworn your parole and have free movement, you don’t need us to serve you.”
Then she was gone in a flourish of plain blue wool and flaring beautiful eyes.
~
You left the study at six o’clock and walked down to the kitchen. This was where the household had taken their meals ever since your father died. Carrying food up to the dining room seemed an unnecessary elaboration. It had been much easier to join the Lees below.
Redolent now with the smell of ox bone stew, the kitchen had been improved so Mrs. Lee could cook for everyone at Estrella Park. The table had space for fifteen to sit and during the good times the helpers from the stable and fields would come in, washed and tired, to take their meals there. Some remained long after they could be paid, mostly for the cooking. Eventually, however, financial realities had seen even those loyal retainers find other situations. Only the Lees remained now. We know nothing else, Mr. Lee had said. You can’t do it all yourself anyway. So it was that you found a new family in them and they all shared the same impoverishment.
At least Clara had been spared the worst of the deprivations. You always found a way to buy her new dresses and for six months kept a carriage just so Clara could visit friends without arriving on the wagon. Their aunt and uncle had joined in the plan and invited Clara to spend time with them in Carleton while they doted on her and gave her something of the life she was supposed to have had.
You peered into the cauldron that Mrs. Lee had left simmering. You ladled out some stew, then carried your plate to the table. You found the bread baked in early morning and set it on a board near your plate. You drew some beer from the keg, then sat to eat.
You wondered if Mrs. Lee had made any plans for their Christmas meals. Last Christmas had been barely celebrated, coming so close after her father’s passing. They should do more this time, lest they all lose the ability to experience the joy of the season. Of course, the amount of joy would depend on how things were settled with Lord Hwang and Clara. At the moment your optimism had dimmed considerably.
No sooner than you had eaten two bites than you heard boot steps on the stairs. You swallowed a curse, gritting your teeth instead. You had clearly told him seven o’clock and it was only ten minutes past six. Lord Hwang strolled into the kitchen as if it were a drawing room, looking ravishingly handsome and ever so charming. If you were a man you would find a way to wipe that vague amusement off his beautiful face. “I said seven o’clock.”
“I was hungry and the smell of that food permeates the house.” He went over and stuck his nose to it. “Ox bone?”
You sighed. “The plates are in the cupboard over there. You may serve yourself.” You ignored him as best you could while plates clanked and the ladle dipped. He carried over his plate and placed it right next to yours. While he went looking for a fork, you shoved his plate across the table. Boot steps behind you paused, then reoriented themselves around the table’s head. He settled down at his new place.
“Where did you get the ale?”
“It is beer.” You pointed over your shoulder toward the keg, then thought better of it and stood. “Don’t move. I will get you some.” You did just that, making sure it was not too much. You did not need this man imbibing more than a half pint at most. Left to help himself, who knew how much he would enjoy? You brought the crockery cup back and set it before him. If he thought it too little, he said not a word. You returned to your meal and he turned to his. You had wanted to dine separately so you would not have to talk to him. You would be damned before she entertained him now.
“This is very good,” he said. “You have a prize in Mrs. Oh.”
“Enjoy it while you can. Her husband normally hunts for fun and this is the result of his last venture out. He will not be able to do so for at least a week because he hurt his leg. He rose to help me too soon, but I have told him he must rest it for an entire week now.”
“What about the other one? The young man who helped abduct me? Can’t he hunt for you?”
You poked at your food, wishing you had refused to talk. “Not right now. He has other duties to which he attends.” It sounded like you were hiding something, even to yourself.
He was good enough not to press the matter. Silence fell again. “About your sister,” he said after another five minutes. “When am I supposed to have kissed her?”
You set your fork down hard enough that its contact with your plate rang through the kitchen. “You don’t remember?”
“I don’t think I do, no.” He cleared his throat. “I have been combing through my memories, and there is no estate Lee female among them.” He had the decency to at least look chagrined. “Perhaps her face—Does she look like you?”
“Enough that you thought you had seen me before. Her hair is not as dark and her eyes are blue, however.”
“I thought I had seen you before because I had seen you before. I am sure of it. At the country fetes my uncle and now my cousin holds. I come up for those, and you were at some of them.”
“I am well aware that you attend the fetes.”
Bold of him to even mention it. “I was not at the last one, to my regret. You did not remember me from a country fete years ago.”
“I did. One year you wore a yellow dress and were present when your father handed Galahad over to my cousin.”
You had indeed worn yellow that day. “My sister wore blue and was right next to me. Did you lure her with a memory of her garments, too? Tell her how memorable she had been? Flatter her into trusting you?”
“I am sure I did not. I regret to say, as I have already said, that I have no memory of her at all. Even her name.”
“Clara, you rogue. Her name is Clara.”
He pondered that name as if you had spoken German. “Clara, you say. Clara. Clara Lee? No, nothing.” He flashed that damnable smile of his. “There has been a mistake. I never kissed her.”
You came close to throwing your dinner plate against the wall. Instead you held on to the thread of temper that remained and stood, took your plate and cup to the sink, and left them there. “Please put your things in the sink before leaving,” you instructed as you passed him.
“You are angry because I don’t remember. Consider this, however. Perhaps it did not happen.”
His words caught you at the bottom of the stairs. That last thread snapped. She turned to him. “Oh, it happened. Nor was it only a kiss, you scoundrel. You seduced her. You got her with child, and you don’t even remember her name.” You turned on your heel and marched up the stairs, taking small satisfaction at the look of shock on his face.
~
A child? Was it possible? Hyunjin finished his meal not even noticing that he fed himself. All of his thoughts were on Y/N’s accusation. He needed more information. He put his plate and cup in the sink and went in search of her. He saw that the study door was closed and assumed she had taken refuge there. He tried the door and found it locked. “Y/N, open the door, please.” No sound or movement came from within. “Miss Lee, we need to talk. You cannot say such a thing and walk away.” Still no sound. Damnation. “See here, if I can break out of a locked chamber, I can break into one. Either that or I will wait until you retire and see you then and there.”
“You wouldn’t dare.” Her voice sounded muffled but close, as if she was right on the other side of the door.
“Wait and see what I would dare. I will not let you sleep until you have answered my questions. I deserve that much.”
“You deserve nothing except a horsewhipping. Would that my father was alive. He would have called you out. I wish I could in his stead.”
“Open the door, damn it.”
Nothing. He eyed the door, to see how firmly its hinges were embedded.
“Wait for me in the library,” she said. “We will talk there.”
He strode off to the library and cooled his heels half an hour before she arrived.
“Forgive me,” she said. “There was a letter I had to finish.”
The hell there was. She had made him wait just to prove she did not have to come at all.
She sat on a small wooden chair. “You have questions?” she asked primly.
“Many. First of them is: what makes you believe I seduced your sister?”
“She told me you did.”
“She named me?”
“When the evidence of her condition could not be ignored, she admitted to me that she had succumbed to the blandishments of the infamous rake Lord Hwang and you don’t have a brother. It was devastating news, but I don’t blame her. I blame you. She was an innocent and inexperienced girl. She would not know that your words were lies and your intentions nefarious.”
“I am not nefarious and I don’t seduce innocents.”
“Are you so sure? After an afternoon of drinking and whatever, have you never broken what remains of the few rules you claim to follow? Can you swear this?”
It was a hell of a question and raised once more the problem of remembering that which cannot be remembered. “It has never happened before. Not those rules.”
“Oh, not those rules. Because you are a gentleman, you mean. Even foxed, you would restrain yourself if those rules raised their flags. Of course, you did not really know her, however. You could have convinced yourself she was not forbidden to you, especially if your judgment was impaired by drink.”
She was proving adept at cornering him. “I am very sure that a mistake has been made. Perhaps another used my name.”
“Do you expect me to believe something so unlikely? That another scoundrel and rake was there and chose to behave abominably using your name? I am not stupid, sir.”
“Where was this seduction supposed to have taken place? When?”
“This year’s fete, as if you don’t know.”
“Since I was not involved, I don’t know.”
She stood abruptly. “Lord Hwang, my sister is not a liar. Given a choice of her memory and yours, I think it safe to say hers is more reliable. She has been seduced but once, and would remember the man. You have seduced so often that I doubt you can name even half of your conquests.”
“Other than youthful adventures at brothels, I can name every woman I have ever—um, all of my conquests, as you put it, although in truth in some cases I was the one conquered.” This was an odd conversation to have with a woman, but he saw no way to avoid it if she kept accusing him like she did.
“Then it appears either you are the liar, or you had a new experience yourself late last summer. Now, the evening wears on and I have work to do tomorrow. You will have to excuse me.” She swept out of the chamber, leaving him far from satisfied with what he had learned.
He followed her. “Do you have an image of her? A miniature, for example?”
“I do not. Nor would any image do her justice. She is very beautiful, however. I can see why you might have lost your head on seeing her.” She began mounting the stairs. “It doesn’t excuse you, of course, but it is understandable.”
The stairway’s shadows swallowed her. He watched until her footsteps disappeared when a door closed. She had tried and convicted him on her sister’s testimony. Nor could he swear he was innocent. There was some humor in being taken to task for a pleasure he did not even remember. It was the kind of devilish development that made the angels laugh. Less humorous was the way this revelation interfered with knowing Y/N better. He stood by the stairs, imagining her in her chamber. 'Nefarious scoundrel' that he was, he pictured her removing her dress and stays and finally her hose and chemise, revealing layer by layer the body he had surmised while she wore pantaloons. The mental pictures made him hard and half-convinced him to go up to her, stupid mistake though that would clearly be this time. He went in search of some spirits in the library, thinking that if he was guilty of sinning with Clara, he had definitely seduced the wrong Lee sister.
~
“He claims to have no memory of it.” You spoke after eating your breakfast. Mrs. Lee stood at the hearth, starting the day’s dinner. With no one hunting, the good woman had sacrificed one of her chickens to the pot today.
“Not something she would get wrong, it seems to me,” Mrs. Lee said. “A woman remembers the first time at least.” You thought anyone would remember every time. Except a rake. You imagined all those names and faces melted quickly from such a man’s memory. Lord Hwang’s claims to the contrary did not hold much credence with you. “He may refuse,” Mrs. Lee said. “What then?”
“I don’t know. I’m counting on him accepting responsibility when facing the truth of it here, where he can’t avoid Clara. Perhaps I am too optimistic.” If you were, this entire plan could end very badly for all of them. The logic of it had seemed unassailable when you had started down the path, but the pitfalls seemed to grow with each day. Increasingly Lord Hwang’s assessment that you were 'half-mad' to even attempt this looked correct.
“He seems a gentleman, for all his sins. A bit weak when it comes to women, is all. That is common enough. I’d not give up hope yet.”
“How is Old Lee faring?” You wanted to change the topic. You had spent much of the night debating the character of Lord Hwang and Clara’s fate.
“He’s saying he can get up and help you, but I told him he must rest that leg another few days.”
“I said a week. I want him well healed, not having it give him trouble for years on end. Don’t let him leave the cottage. If matters become dire about the food, I will go hunt.” You knew how. You just disliked it enough that you avoided it, if you could.
“I’ll keep close watch.” You wiped your hands on your apron. “This will just cook away like yesterday’s stew. It will be ready when you want dinner. Until then there is cheese and fresh bread and eggs if you want them. You can cook that much.”
Your lack of cooking skills had achieved infamy in the house. “Yes, I can do eggs.”
“I’ll leave the porridge warming here on the hearthstone for His Lordship. I cooked some salt pork, too, so he keeps up his strength.”
“He will find it, I am sure. I need to go out soon. It became very cold last night and I have to check the pond to make sure it didn’t ice over.”
Mrs. Lee swung her cape around her shoulders and picked up a pail with some of the porridge and pork. “You be careful. Don’t forget how Felix says to do it if you need to break the ice.”
“Don’t tell him I might be doing it. He’ll only worry.” With a nod, Mrs. Lee left.
~
You returned to your chamber and changed into the pantaloons and shirt. You pulled on half boots, wishing you had nice high ones like men wore. The snow would come over the tops of these, and your feet would be wet soon. You grabbed your coat off the peg below and let herself outside. The feeding could wait for afternoon. Right now, you just wanted to make sure the horses had water. They could eat snow, but it wasn’t the same. You saddled a horse and rode across the pasture to the hill. You crested it and looked down. The pond of several acres lay at the base on the other side, fed in part by drainage and also a small spring. As soon as you saw the pond, you knew you would be there for a while. Despite the overcast sky, light sparkled on its gray surface. You rode closer to confirm that it had indeed iced up.
You dismounted and took down the pick that you had tied to your saddle. You approached the edge, set your legs apart for balance, then swung the pick and brought it down on the ice with all your strength. The metal bounced off the surface. The ice did not even show cracks. You swung again. And again. You stopped to catch your breath. While you did Guinevere broke away from the distant herd and came galloping toward you.
You petted the horse’s neck and gave her nose a kiss. “Don’t worry, girl. If this doesn’t work, I’ll bring water out to you in pails on the wagon when I bring you dinner.”
The time and work involved in doing that made you lift the pick again. You eyed the pond. It seemed to you the ice was not as thick farther in. Five feet away from the edge water could be seen beneath the solid surface. You set your boots gingerly on the ice in front of you. It held solidly. You took another step. Then another. Not daring to risk more, you raised the pick and stretched forward while you brought it down with a satisfying thump. The tip penetrated the ice. Small cracks formed and water flowed through. You were congratulating yourself when a larger crack appeared, aiming right for you.
You turned even as you felt the ice on which you stood moving. All of a sudden it sank in one large mass, and your body followed. Bitter cold shocked you and the water dragged you down and back. You found some sense within your panic and fought to get your head above water. Relief flooded you when your face broke above the surface. Desperate, you grabbed at a big ice slab behind you that had not given way. Shivering and exhausted, you clung with all your strength, inching your body out a bit. Then you screamed, even though you knew no one would hear you.
~
Hyunjin finished his meal and returned upstairs. Silence greeted him with each step. No one was here, not even Miss Lee. It was early to bring out the hay, but perhaps she had done so. He dressed warmly in the garments she had loaned him and went to saddle a horse. Perhaps she could manage on her own, but another pair of arms would make it easier and he had nothing else to do. Nor would he mind a good ride. He paced toward the hill, looking for evidence of the wagon. It had not been in the stable yard, but perhaps it was stored elsewhere and she was not using it after all. He was about to aim for the trees, to explore the little woods there, when a horse appeared on the top of the hill. Pale and perfect, she was the bay Y/N had called Guinevere.
The horse rose up on her hind legs and pawed at the air. Then she turned and charged down the hill, right toward him, full speed. He had seen many horses race in his day, even the champion Galahad, but he did not think he had often seen a horse run this fast. She swooped around him twice in a large circle, then charged back up the hill, as if daring him to race. Even though the horse he rode was no match, he took off after her. She did not stop at the top of the hill but headed down the other side. He reined in his horse to see where Guinevere aimed. A large pond of several acres lay there, and beside it stood another horse. Once more Guinevere rose up and pawed the air. He looked at that pond, searching for a young woman in pantaloons along its edge. Then he saw her. Not on the edge. Inside the pond itself. Only her head showed, and the arms of that boy’s coat. His heart rose to his throat and he kicked his horse. He was out of the saddle in a shot, running to the pond’s edge. “Y/N!”
“Oh, thank God,” she cried.
His breath returned when he saw she was conscious, and alive. “Don’t move. Stay right where you are,” he called.
“I fear the ice I am holding will give way if I do anything at all.” Her voice broke while she spoke, and the rest came haltingly, while she cried. “It is very cold. Like being buried in a frozen world.” He stood on the pond’s edge and examined the surface while blood hammered in his head. His mind raced for a plan to get her out. “Don’t tell Felix,” she said, then swallowed a little sob. “He will be furious I fell in and blame himself.”
“I am going to blame you. What were you thinking?”
She muttered something about the ice not breaking and trying it a bit farther in. “I was never more than a step or two away from the ground.”
“You should have come and gotten me before you even came here,” he said, furious that their argument was probably why she had not. “You should have asked for my help.”
“If you could wait until I am out of this cold water before scolding me, I would appreciate it.” She sniffed, then added in a miserable little voice, “I really would.” The defeat and fear in her voice broke his heart. He tried his weight on the ice. It gave just enough for him to not risk it. Perhaps if he lay down . . .
“Are you standing on the bottom?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Do not come out here or we may drown together.”
It wasn’t drowning he worried about. “How long?”
She swallowed another sob. “I don’t know. It seems forever.”
He shrugged off his greatcoat. He lay down on the ground with half his body over the ice. “I am going to throw the end of this to you. Grab hold when you can.”
It took three throws before she grasped the bottom edge of the coat. “I have it now.”
“Can you hold tightly? I am going to pull you in.”
She cast off her wet knit gloves one by one, then twisted her hands into the coat’s fabric. “My fingers are cold and stiff, but I think I can hold it.”
“You must. Do not let go whatever happens. Even if the ice breaks in front of you, hold on.”
He began pulling the coat toward him, bit by bit. Ice fractured around her and she moved closer through the shards. He could plainly see the fear in her eyes. He kept pulling more of the coat. Finally, her body popped out of the water and slid toward him. He grabbed her arms, then the rest of her, and pushed himself back onto the ground, dragging her with him. Finally, he had her soaked body in his arms. The tears had their way then, and she shook while she cried from relief and cold. He took a moment to catch his breath, then stood and picked her up. Guinevere looked on. “She saved your life,” he said. He threw his coat around Y/N, then lifted her into his arms. “Now we have to get you to a fire and warmth.” He set her in the saddle of his horse, then swung up behind her. He grabbed the reins of her horse and began the way back, embracing her shaking body close to his.
~
He all but carried you up the stairs, and lifted you completely once you made the top. “Which door?” he asked.
You pointed to your chamber door. You would have answered with words, but your teeth would not allow it, they gritted so hard in order not to shake your whole head. You had never before been so glad to see this house, or so grateful to be alive. But you still felt as if you were submerged in that water. Cold. So very cold.
He carried you in, kicked a chair near the fireplace, and set you down. He bent and built up the fire, adding fuel until the flames reached high. He rose and turned to you. “Can you stand?”
You shook your head. You did not want to stand. You wanted to huddle here in his greatcoat because if you removed it you would freeze. He set you on your feet. “You have to get out of those garments. They only hold the cold close to your body.” He peeled away the greatcoat. You tried to unbutton the coat you wore, but your fingers would not cooperate. He took your hands in his, holding them in a little shelter of warmth that felt wonderful. Then he went to work on the buttons himself.
“I should . . . You should not . . .” you murmured while you watched his fine hands do their work.
“Hush now. I do not importune women close to freezing to death. As it happens, my skill at undressing women is vast, and my innumerable views of feminine bodies have jaded me. You are safer with me than with a physician.”
The cold seemed to be worse and deeper, down to your bones. You would do anything to stop it. You allowed him to strip away the coat, then the shirt and pantaloons. Somehow your nakedness became clothed in your nightdress. He wrapped you in a blanket he stripped off your bed. Removing the wet clothes helped, but not enough. You still shook. And you were still so tired and cold. You started to weep as a shudder ran through you. He moved the chair closer to the fire.
“Come here.” He sat in it and reached for you. “It will help, I promise you.” He set you on his lap and wrapped his arms around the bundle you had become. He made sure your feet were swaddled, then reached within the blanket for your hands. He took them both in his right one so his own warmth would seep into you. You cried hard then, out of fear for your close call and misery at your chills, out of relief that he had saved you and gratitude for the care he gave you now. He said not a word but let you weep until your emotions found some peace. Then you just gazed at the flames as very slowly, bit by bit, the worst of the cold began to pass.
~
She fell asleep in his arms, her head resting on his shoulder and her breath teasing his ear. He could put her in her bed now and pile quilts on her. With luck she would feel no ill effects of this misadventure. He kept her on his lap, suffering the heat from the fire and blanket, making sure she did not need more warmth and that her rest was a normal sort. The hands he cupped no longer had icy cold skin. He untucked the blanket a bit so he could see if any damage had occurred. Nice fingers. Tapered and slim. Not especially delicate. They showed the results of months of labor on this farm. Knit gloves would never spare her that. When he returned to London, he would buy leather ones and send them to her. If he had the fortune for it, he would send his men to do the work instead of her. Once she recovered, he would scold her severely for venturing onto that ice. It was not something to try when alone, no matter what she might have seen her father or anyone do in the past. When Hyunjin had not seen her at first, only her horse, when he had realized what Guinevere was trying to tell him, his blood had run as cold as the pond’s water. It would be wrong for such a remarkable woman to meet such an ignoble end. She stirred, and he thought she would waken. Instead she nestled closer into his neck. He held her closely while the flames subsided and both took and gave warmth with the body in his arms.
~
You opened your eyes to streaks of rose and orange outside your window. The sun must have come out and now set with a splendid display. You watched the colors peak and dim, then turned your mind to why you were in bed at dusk. It came back to you in a rush. The pond. The ice giving way and the cold water claiming you. Hyunjin finding you and bringing you back. Other memories joined the worst ones. Being held on the saddle. Being undressed. Being held in front of the fire. You sat up and looked around. He must have put you in bed once you fell asleep. You needed to thank him for all of it. After the way you had spoken to him while he was here, you wondered if you would find appropriate words. You rose from bed and padded to your little dressing room. You checked yourself in the looking glass. Lord, you looked a fright. You wrapped yourself in a long and heavy woolen shawl, slipped on some shoes, and made your way down to the kitchen to find some food.
Mrs. Lee bent over the cauldron. She looked over when you entered. “You are to stay in bed until tomorrow,” she said crossly.
“No one told me that.”
“I’m telling you now. And His Lordship told me, so he is telling you, too.”
“Where is he?”
“Out with the wagon. Feeding the horses. He left almost an hour ago, so will be back soon. I’d be in my chamber by then if I was you.”
“I am grateful to him, but please remember that while he is a lord, he is not our lord or lord of this manor.”
Mrs. Lee straightened and waved her ladle in your face. “You could have died. What then? What of this manor and of us and your sister? How often did your uncle tell you never risk going on the ice, no matter what?”
“I have seen him do it.”
“You are not him. He’s had over thirty years to learn how to do it right. And if you saw him, he was not alone, Felix would go with him. If Lord Hwang had not been here . . .” She turned away and lifted her apron to wipe her eyes. Mr. and Mrs. Lee and your parents were childhood friends. With the death of your parents, they took it upon themselves to take care of Clara and you.
You embraced her. “How did you learn about all of this?”
“He came and got me, didn’t he? Said you needed hot fluids, soup and such. Suggested tea, but we’ve none of that, of course. He asked your uncle what needed to be done with the horses besides bringing them hay.” She spoke between sniffs. “He may be terrible about women, but I’ll not hear a word against him after this.”
“Do you have any of that soup made yet? I could use something. I am hungry.”
Mrs. Lee pointed to the table and took a bowl off the shelf. “Chicken soup from the bones out of the stew. Should be hot enough.”
You spooned the rich liquid into your mouth. It warmed all the way down. Mrs. Lee sat beside you. “I was thinking just as you came in that he might be a good husband for Clara after all.”
Your heart clenched and memories jumped into your mind, of a kiss that should never have happened. “He is a rake. He will break her heart.”
“Yet he seems to know about horses. That would be a help here, it seems to me.”
“He isn’t a farmer or horse breeder. He is a gentleman by birth and a peer and more likely he will return to London with or without Clara. I would not build a lot of hope about him.” You spoke to your own heart more than to Mrs. Lee’s ears. The temptation to become sentimental about Lord Hwang was strong right now and you knew you had to fight it. Yet, he had saved you and taken care of you and perhaps even worried about you. Itemizing all the ways he really would not do under other than dire circumstances did not change the softness you felt toward him, much as she counted on it doing so.
“He chatted with your uncle a bit when he came to get me. Seemed he knew at least some about horse breeding. Not as much as your father, of course.”
Few men had known as much as your father. Even fewer had his natural talent for it, as if he could smell a future champion on first seeing it born. You had learned a lot just by standing by his side, but you could never duplicate his skill and instincts. You finished your soup and went above to return to bed. Perhaps Mrs. Lee was right. Maybe Lord Hwang would stay at Estrella Park and lend a hand to the horses. With time maybe he could even manage it all. He might even get his cousin to permit Galahad to breed with Guinevere. The idea should please you. Instead a heavy thickness lodged below your heart. You forced yourself to acknowledge the sadness for what it was. If Hyunjin took an active part here, you would see that face and those eyes daily—while he built a life and a family with your younger sister.
~
The next morning Hyunjin went down to the kitchen to see what Mrs. Oh had left for breakfast. He found porridge and crisped salt pork and coffee again. Hardly the variety or richness he would be enjoying at Jaehyun’s house right now, but he found it more satisfying. A step he now recognized came down the stairs. Y/N entered, dressed in gray pantaloons and a white shirt. The linen fell over breasts he doubted suffered the restriction of stays. She served herself some food and sat at the long table. “What are you doing up and dressed? You should be resting today, Miss Lee.”
“Any more rest and I would go mad.” She ate heartily, then gave him her attention. “I see they almost fit.”
He looked down at his garments. He had used the ones she provided again. “Well enough. Thank goodness for the braces, though, or these trousers would be down at my ankles when I stood up.”
She giggled. “That would give new meaning to your being an upstanding gentleman.”
“I will picture that now whenever a man is called that.”
“They were my father’s. He was similar in height, and an active man his whole life. There is a shorter coat than yours that you can use if you want to ride with me. I am going out and you can come along if you want.”
Eager now, he finished his coffee quickly. “Where are we going?”
“I thought I should see how the rest of the manor fares with this cold and snow.”
They saddled the two horses in the stable, mounted, and rode toward the hill. She pointed to her right. “Those woods are ours and are good for hunting. Fowl and rabbits mostly, but on occasion deer. We will go around to the other side this way so we stay in the sun.” That sun shone brightly, making the land glisten with sparkles of rose and blue. The snow softened all sounds, even the crunch of their horses’ hooves through the frosty surface. Little wind meant the cold was bearable, even invigorating. They rode around the north end of the woods and onto a fairly flat plain.
“It is an oddity,” she said while her arm swept the view. “It is as if the land just rose in one big mass. When we had the large herd, they tended to summer here but did not care for it in winter. There is water, but it is over at the far side, near our border. It is down a little cliff, however, so not convenient to horses.”
“It is a plateau then. Is it fertile?”
“Grasses grow on it, not much else. I doubt it could be farmed, but it might do for sheep if we wanted to build that kind of husbandry. Your cousin tried to buy it from my father, but I can’t imagine why.” Jaehyun had tried to purchase part of the Lee property? He had enough already, nor did this look to be a profitable patch. “Perhaps he sought to make amends.”
“My father would have none of it, no matter what the reasons. His solicitor offered again after my father’s death, but I refused, too. That was probably rash and sentimental. The money would have been useful.” She turned her horse abruptly and used her heels. Hyunjin followed and they walked around the land, around the hill, past the pond, and on. To the west he could see the horses.
“They appear well enough,” he said when his and Y/N’s horses slowed to a walk and plunged in among them. “Now this one here is handsome. I had not noticed him before.” The young stallion was almost black and maybe two years old. “Are you going to race him?”
“One or two races would be good, to establish his speed and value. The fees, however . . .” She pointed to two other horses. “More important is to breed the mares. Guinevere, and those two. We need to bring in other blood.”
“I disagree. If you race this one and he wins or places, Crestview’s name will be reborn. If you race Guinevere you will be famous at once. Even breeding the others will become easier as other farms seek yours out.”
“I know how it is done,” she said mildly.
“Of course. My apologies.”
She laughed. “You can’t help it. You are a man of business. Even Yongbok tries to tell me my business at times, and he is no baron.”
Hyunjin fell in beside her as they moved out of the herd. “Yongbok? Who is he?”
She turned to look at him. “Ah, that is right. You never learned his real name. He is the young man who helped me abduct you.”
He lined up his impressions of this Yongbok in his mind. Blond hair, blue eyes, attractive enough, and a lean build. Well spoken. All of that did not raise any jealousy. That he was a close friend, close enough to join her in a crime, did. “Where is he now? I haven’t seen him since that first day.”
“He went to bring my sister home. You didn’t think I had her locked up in the attic, too, did you?”
~
“I assume you have a horse in London.” Y/N had slowed her horse to a walk while they approached the house and stable. She spoke after he joined her. She had risen in the morning none the worse for her plunge in the pond. No fever or malady had taken hold overnight, to his relief.
“I do.”
“A good one?”
“He is a fine gelding. I have had him for four years.”
“With your eye, I would expect him to be better than fine.”
“He is finer than I could hope to own. Fortunately, my cousin believes that it won’t do to have a Prescott on anything except very fine indeed. There is the family reputation to uphold.”
She looked over. “Has he been so generous that you are in his debt?”
“Not financially.” There were other kinds of debts, however. Other ways to extract payment for generosity. Mia, for example. Jaehyun wanted Mia’s money in that canal project, but the two family did not really trust each other. They were too much alike. So, a marriage between families would serve as it always served, as a blood tie that proved good intentions. With an allowance dependent on Jaehyun, and other debts like the horse and social connections, Hyunjin was hard pressed to refuse. He had not thought about Mia for two days now and was surprised that the proposed match appealed far less now, when it had never appealed much at all.
“After you marry my sister, would you want to stay here and help rebuild Estrella Park? Would he object to any of that?” She asked it ever so calmly, as if the first part were a given and the second parts the only unknowns.
“Marry your sister?”
“Of course. That is why you are here. I thought you knew that by now.”
He had enjoyed this ride with her. He liked horses. He liked her. Now they were in a conversation about his future that ideally would be held elsewhere, if at all. She had brought him here, abducted him, to coerce a marriage with her sister. “Why didn’t you just write to me in London, explaining the situation and learning my reaction?”
“Would you have responded? I could not count on it. Nor could I depend upon your seeing her if I brought her there, or to your cousin’s house. More likely we would have been turned away. Now you will have no choice but to see her and hear her name you, and remind you of the truth of it. Then as a gentleman you will do the right thing.”
“Only if I truly am the man who seduced your sister, something I have no recollection of.”
“I think you will remember everything when you see her.”
He considered the implications of that while they dismounted and led their horses into the stalls. He left his and came over to help her unsaddle hers. “When will Felix have her back here so I can meet her?”
“You have already met her. However, she will be here in a day or so. So, you can marry her.” Y/N thought he had figured all this out. He should have. He would have if his thoughts had not become increasingly preoccupied with Y/N herself.
“And if I refuse?” He set the saddle on the beam where it lived. He turned to face her and saw her expression set in one much like that while she held him at pistol point in that wagon the first day.
“You will marry her,” she said. “I’ll not have my sister live her life in shame because you lacked courage. The border is less than a day’s ride away and we will go to Scotland and you will wed there.”
“And if I refuse?” he repeated with irritation.
“I promise that you will agree.”
“Or what? Am I to marry at the point of a sword? Or the end of a pistol? Who will hold either? You?”
“There will be no shortage of volunteers. I may now lack the courage, but others will not. You may think I am beholden to you, and might take your chances with me, but you would be mistaken to do so with the men.” She meant Old Lee and that other one, this Felix. The one who had not been here since the first day. Of the two, the young one would be the danger, not the old man.
“If you force this it will not hold. It will not be legal, Y/N. Contracts made under coercion are not legitimate.”
“There will be witnesses that say you were willing. You can go to the courts and claim you were forced, but it will be a very long time before you are heard and I don’t think any judge will believe you. I expect men say that all the time to get out of marriages."
She began walking to the stall’s entry. He blocked her path. “Why might you lack the courage? You had more than enough four days ago.”
“Because you have helped me. I think of you as a friend. It was probably a mistake to allow that, but after yesterday—it would be difficult to shoot you now.”
“I should hope so.”
“Now, I should go. You still need to unsaddle your horse.”
“Not yet.” He did not move. “Y/N, do you want me to marry your sister? Truly? Because doing so would be—”
“Be what?”
“Unnatural. She is not the Lee sister I want.”
Her expression fell. She looked away and visibly struggled with her composure. “She carries your child. You don’t get to choose.”
“Don’t I?” He lowered his head. “Don’t I, Y/N?”
“N-no.” Her voice broke on the word. She turned away.
He reached for her and turned her back. He lifted her chin so he could see her face beneath that broad brim of the man’s hat. He swept the hat away and looked into those moist captivating eyes that carried too much sadness. God help him—he bent and kissed her lips carefully. “She is not here yet, babe. At least let me kiss you while I can. Please, darling?”
“You should not.” She barely breathed the denial.
“No. But—” He brushed her lips with his again. She did not resist. She did not pull away. He kissed her again, fully. He took her in his arms. Sweet kisses, touched by salty tears. She embraced him awkwardly and kissed him back, but he felt the sorrow in her, the awareness that this could never be. She believed that and it kept his impulses in check. He did not want her doing more than this, which she had agreed to with that kiss, even if he wanted much more. The potential hopelessness of their passion affected the kisses and embraces and even the air around them. He made each kiss count because it might be one of a handful he would ever have. He lifted her closer so their bodies pressed together and he could feel her breasts and hips against him. He cajoled her mouth open so they might join more closely. “You will not—” She breathed out the command that was half a question, too.
“No. I promise.”
She believed him although she had no real cause to. And yet perhaps here, these last days, he had been a man she could trust. He only knew he had not been the man who left London, nor the one expected at his cousin’s house. He kissed her like he was going to stay here forever, riding the hills with her, grooming Guinevere for her first race, watching the seasons change on that hill.
The images added a poignancy to the pleasure the closeness brought him because at the heart of them was the promise of an emotion he would probably never have, at least not with this woman. He realized with both amazement and certainty that he would not want it with anyone else. He caressed her, down the wool of the coat and over the fabric of the pantaloons. She rose against him when he smoothed the roundness of her bottom with both hands, holding her close so he pressed against her. The sensation sent him careening into a drive for more. Despite his promise, he began calculating if one of the stalls had clean straw to serve as a bed. The familiar ruthlessness of his hunger caught him up short. He had made a promise, and if ever he kept one now was the time. He gentled his kisses again, calming them both while he did so. Yet the last one begat another, and another yet, because he feared there would be no more, ever. Somehow, with a final caress, he summoned the strength to step back and release her. She released him, too. They looked at each other briefly, deeply. Then he stood aside, heart getting heavy, and she walked to the house, tears rolling down her cheeks.
~
You tried not to look at Hyunjin all through dinner. At least you were not alone. Mr. Lee hobbled over from the cottage so Mrs. Lee could feed them all properly in one sitting. The men kept up a lively conversation about the horses while Mrs. Lee served you stew and dumplings and some boiled carrots dug up from the kitchen garden last month. You wondered if Hyunjin spoke so much in order to disguise how you did not talk at all. Your head was too busy for dinner conversation. In it you relived what happened in the stable and tried to reconcile yourself to the odd reality that you did not feel nearly as guilty as you should. He had asked to kiss you while he still could, and you had allowed it. You had done nothing wrong. Yet. Could you live here after that wedding took place? Watch him and Clara together? Be the strange older sister who donned pantaloons to help with the animals? Hyunjin would never tell anyone that for a day or so, before he married, he had kissed the wrong Lee sister, another woman. You would never tell anyone either. It would remain a fond memory of grabbing a little joy before it became wrong to do so. It all sounded so reasonable when you lined it up that way. So honest. Only in your heart you knew it had been wrong. You also knew that you would not be able to be the old friend of the husband, and sister to the wife. Your heart would break every time you saw them together. You might have to leave, if your heart did not take the next few days in stride. Leave this land and the horses. You could go to Aunt Eugene in Carlisle, you supposed, just as Clara had visited so often. Only Clara had been a marriageable young woman whose beauty compensated for her lack of fortune. You would be the spinster relative with no prospects and no money. It did not sound like an appealing life, but you would accept it if it meant Clara could be happy in her marriage. It would be wrong, so very wrong, to in any way interfere with that, even through the old memories.
“You must admit he is a fine-looking man.” Mrs. Lee leaned over to murmur into your ear while the men talked on.
You looked at the fine-looking man in question. “Yes, I suppose so.”
“Suppose so, do you? As if any woman would not notice. Of course, he knows it. Men that look like that always do.”
“Yes, he does.” And yet you did not think of him that way, especially in vain now. He knew his advantages but also his own flaws from what you had seen of him so far. He was no saint, but at least he did not pretend his weaknesses were virtues.
“I don’t think Lix will come around to liking him much for a long time. He may even leave here once we are done. He said as much to me last week. Said he didn’t want to serve a lying scoundrel who took advantage of innocent girls. I’m hoping you will talk some sense into him.”
Hyunjin kept glancing at your whispered exchange, even while he still regaled Old Lee with stories of races he had witnessed. He probably guessed they discussed him. You didn’t think you could convince Felix that this was not a 'lying scoundrel', much as you now disagreed with that description. Perhaps you would leave with Felix. You would take a few of the horses as your birthright and find a small plot of land to rent and start over with Felix’s help. You would not have to give up all you knew then or be a dependent relative. Old Lee began struggling to stand. Hyunjin rose to help him.
“I should walk him back,” Mrs. Lee said. “I’ll come back and clean up.”
“I can clean up. You take care of uncle.”
“I will walk with you,” Hyunjin said. “You can lean on me, Mr. Oh.”
Mr. Lee drew himself straight. He gave you a long look, then faced the baron. “My name is Lee, not Mr. Oh. My wife there is not a ‘Oh’ either, nor is my son, Felix. We have been here since before horses roamed this land and if you marry Miss Clara you are stuck with us, too.”
“Uncle—” you began.
“Nah, don’t, sweetheart. I’ll have my say. There’s things I want to know from this man before I accept his shoulder for support.”
“What do you need to know, Mr. Lee?” Hyunjin asked.
“Y/N here has run this place for over a year now, and done a fine job of it. She ran it the year before when her father was not himself. After you marry into the family, what are your intentions here? Do you intend to displace us all?”
“He can’t do that, uncle,” you said. “There won’t be enough money to displace anyone for a number of years still.”
“And what of her?” Mr. Lee angled his head toward you without acknowledging your comment. “Will you be expecting her to leave and you run the place?”
“A lot would depend on Miss Lee's will,” Hyunjin said. “However, it would be my intention that Miss Lee never leaves this land, and have a hand in its management as long as she chooses.” You were astonished by the ease with which he said that, as if he had thought it out already and decided your hand in the continued management was important. Did he think that little of the kiss you shared? A big smile broke on Mr. Lee’s face. He beamed a grin at his wife. “I told you I should come tonight. Share a pint with a man and it clears the air. You can stop worrying now, see?”
Shaking her head, Mrs. Lee threw on her cape and tucked a basket over one arm. “Share a pint with a man and there’s a lot of fool talk, seems to me. Come on now, and watch your way so you don’t break something with a fall.”
Hyunjin pulled his greatcoat off its peg, slid it on, then walked beside Uncle. As they left the kitchen and began up the stone stairs, you saw his arm go around the older man to ensure he did not fall on the steps. Such a gentleman. You closed the door behind them, then turned to the sink. Water already warmed on the hearthstone, and you poured it into two basins. You made quick work of the dishes and cups, then began scouring the cauldron. You were drying it over the fire when the door opened and he returned. He hung his coat and paced through the kitchen while you finished. The house all but quaked with its emptiness. The air grew heavy with your mutual awareness that you were alone here now and would be until early morning. “Am I going to have to bar you into that chamber again?” you asked while you straightened the crockery.
“I don’t think so.” But he didn’t know for sure, from the sounds of it. It would help if excitement did not keep sparkling in your blood. It would be hell to deny yourself, and yet you must. “They are good people,” he said. “I am glad you had them with you these last years.”
“For what little they received in the bargain they were saints to stay. You must promise to take care of them.” He neither responded nor left. You felt him still behind you. Felt his desire reaching for you. What he contemplated could not happen. “You should go above now. You really should,” you said, keeping your back to him. No sound. Then slow boot steps, coming closer. You closed your eyes and tried to contain what that did to you. You imagined caresses like you had experienced in the stable, and hot kisses on your nape, and arms surrounding you. More. Much more, all over your body. Then, the steps stopped. After a second, they sounded again, firmer now, walking away.
~
Lord Hwang was gone. You accepted the truth after breakfast. He had not been down to eat while you were in the kitchen. You went looking for him afterward and finally ventured up to the attic chambers. The garments you had brought him and that he had worn yesterday waited on the bed, folded neatly. All of his own things had been removed. You ran out to the stable. Only one horse greeted her. Hyunjin had taken the other and broken his parole. You had been a fool after all, to believe him and trust him. He had lured you and charmed you and taken advantage, just like he had with Clara. Nor had you proven stronger than your sister. You had softened and melted and surrendered your good sense. He had not even had to try very hard. It would be a miserable Christmas now, not one with some joy. They would all spend the day waiting for the county magistrate to come and take them all to gaol.
You went about your day, doing the chores. Mr. Lee insisted on driving the wagon when they brought hay to the horses. You should have refused, but you needed the help. Neither he nor Mrs. Lee even asked where His Lordship was. Everyone agreed without words not to speak of the failure of the plan. In the afternoon, you took one of the muskets from the gun rack near the kitchen, mounted your horse, and headed toward the woods. Mr. Lee couldn’t hunt, so someone had to and it would have to be you. You had a good aim and brought down two pheasants before long. You tied them to your saddle and headed home. Just then the crack of another shot broke the snow-packed silence. You followed the sound to see a poacher lifting his prize off the ground. You trotted closer to warn him off. As you neared, you recognized the tantalizingly familiar greatcoat.
Hyunjin held up a large hare. “Mrs. Lee should be able to do something with this, I think.”
“Where have you been? I thought—”
He came over to your horse. “You won’t mind if I tie these here, will you? I don’t want the blood to get on my coat.” He looked up at you. As your mouth remained hung open, he chuckled. “You thought what? That I had run off? Old man knew I would be gone today. He is the one who gave me the musket.”
“I hope you got more than one hare if you have been hunting all this time.”
He swung up on his horse. “I only now started hunting. Since you did so well, I can skip the rest and go get warm.”
“Then where were you?”
He smiled. “Does it matter? I am back, true to my word.”
You turned and aimed back to the house. Your mood lightened with his return. You couldn’t stop smiling, your heart felt so bright. You had been imagining Clara giving birth to a child with no father while her sister faced a merciless judge. Also, you had been picturing her never seeing Hyunjin again. “It is a fine day again,” you said.
“I would prefer if it were summer.”
“You seem to do well enough in the cold.”
“I enjoy all seasons; not monsoon though, it pains me. But it rains anytime in London. And must I add, right now, if it were summer, you would not be wearing that coat that hide your breasts.”
You glanced down and blushed.
“And if it were summer the grass would be high and the air warm.” He stopped his horse and yours stopped, too. “I could take you to the other side of that hill and lay you down and find the buttons on your shirt and remove your pantaloons and see you, as I have often imagined, but not chilled from a freezing pond.” You dared not look at him. His voice, rich, clear, and quiet, entered your blood. The place where you pressed the saddle prickled until you wanted to squirm against the hard leather. It was wrong for him to speak like this to you. Scandalous. Yet you did not want him to stop. “I could kiss every inch of you, Y/N. Your mouth and neck, your breasts and stomach. Your thighs, high and pale. Everywhere. I could be with you the way I imagined all last night. In you.” You cringed at his words and stared straight ahead, barely breathing. He might as well be actually doing those things now, from the way you felt. “Do not tell me it would be wrong, darling. It would be right in every way. If ever in our lives it would be right, it is—” His voice stopped abruptly. You glanced over to see him squinting into the distance. You set your attention there, too, and saw what he saw. Two horses came from the northwest, off the road that wound toward Carlisle. “Who is that?” he asked.
“Felix.” You swallowed hard. “And Clara.”
~
He took a deep breath, as if the longest sigh in history wanted to emerge from him. Instead he moved his horse forward. “Does she know I am here?” he asked.
“She thinks she is coming home for Christmas. I asked Felix not to give her the particulars about your visit.” Visit, hell.
They drew near the house. The other riders had gone around to the front. He stopped the horses and reached over to untie the pheasants and hare from her saddle. “I am going to bring these to uncle so he can clean them for dinner. I will join you shortly. Don’t tell her I am here. Let it be a surprise.” He rode off while she continued to the house. She would enter through the kitchen, he assumed. Clara might use the main doors, but Y/N would be practical.
He dropped the animals outside Mr. Lee’s door. The old man must have heard, because he came out. “Hunting, I see. Should last us a few days.”
“Perhaps not. Miss Clara has just returned. I expect Y/N will want to feed her well on her first day back.”
Mr. Lee made a face. “Gave the girl airs, she did. That aunt of theirs made it worse, dressing the girl up like a doll. Nothing that can’t be changed, though. You go and see her and I’ll take care of these here and tell my wife the news.” He offered a man-to-man smile. “Been a while, eh? Eager to see her, no doubt.”
“You have no idea.” The only contradiction in the exchange was that Mr. Lee meant Clara, and Hyunjin, in all awareness, referred to Y/N.
He took his time making his way to the house. He went around to the front. He dismounted and tied his horse. He took a bundle from the saddle, then dawdled a few more minutes while he admired the snow-covered landscape. Finally, he let himself in the big door and removed his greatcoat. Voices came from the sitting room. Y/N’s low, melodious one and another higher, younger one. He tucked the bundle behind a bench in the reception hall and approached the door. Y/N still wore her pantaloons. Beside her on a divan sat a younger, softer, less starkly contrasted version of herself. He judged Clara to be twenty at most. She wore a richly colored sapphire dress of high quality and recent fashion. On a chair nearby rested a deep scarlet mantle and elaborate bonnet. His gaze stopped for a five count on her hands. She wore scarlet gloves. Lambskin gloves that fit her delicate hands to perfection. She appeared the grand lady of the house and Y/N the faithful retainer. He resented that far more than he should.
Y/N noticed him in the doorway. She touched her sister’s arm. “Look who is here, Clara. See who has come to visit.”
Clara looked over at him. Her brow puckered in confusion. Then her expression fell and her eyes widened. “Oh. Oh, my.” Oh, my, indeed. He advanced on them. He bowed. He even smiled. She just stared at him. Up close he could see the bulge that revealed her pregnancy, even though the style of dress disguised it well. He made a point of noticing it in a way she could not ignore.
Y/N began offering a story about his arrival that made it appear he had come of his own accord. He would have none of it. “Your sister is dissembling. In truth she and Felix abducted me, so you and I could marry. That is why I am here.”
Clara looked ready to faint. She even swooned a bit. A figure rushed out from a corner. Felix. Hyunjin had not even seen him there, sitting to the side. Now Felix hovered over Clara, worried. He glared back at Hyunjin. “She’s a delicate sort and the journey was long. You should be more careful with her and not give her shocks like that.”
“She is fine. Aren’t you, Clara? Thank you for bringing her home, Felix. Miss Lee, perhaps I could have a little time alone with my intended? She and I have much to discuss.”
Y/N rose. “Of course. Come with me, Lix. Give them some privacy. Perhaps you would take care of the horses we were riding, while you deal with your own.” Felix left grudgingly, with many dark looks over his shoulder. The door closed on them both.
Hyunjin gazed down on Clara. She in turn gazed down at her gloves. “Look at me, please.” She slowly raised her head. “There was always the slightest chance that your accusation against me was true. Now that I see you, I know it is not. You and I have never spoken before, nor even been in this close proximity. While we may have attended the same fete; we had nothing to do with each other. I know it, and you know it. So please explain to me why you told your sister that I am the father of your child.”
She finally blinked. Long dark lashes fluttered over her robin’s-egg blue eyes. “Well, you are the sort to do such a thing, aren’t you? And as you are a peer, and usually in London, and not known for constancy, no one would expect you to do the right thing by me.”
“You lied so that you would have a story regarding a man whom no one would openly accuse. Why not just name the real father?”
“I couldn’t do that. No one would believe me, and even if they did nothing would be done about it. He is married, you see.”
Ah. Y/N demanded a name, and the real name not only was of no use but also compounded the sin. So “Lord Hyunjin” was a convenient lie with, to Clara’s mind, no consequences. Clara did not know her sister nearly well enough. “Give me his name now and I will see what I can do to make sure there is at least a settlement to care for the child.”
She cocked her head. “I don’t think that will happen. He is not the sort to be impressed by such as you. Your, being a baron would be of no consequence.”
This man had truly turned her head if he had her believing that. There were few men who were not impressed by a lord. “His name, Miss Lee. I must insist that you share it, for the good of you, your child, and your family.”
~
You kept your ear to the keyhole, for all the good it did. A muffled conversation reached you, but not the words. At least they both were talking, and you could not hear Clara crying, so it must be going well. Hyunjin had appeared more lordly than normal when he entered that room. His frock coat and waistcoat had been brushed at some point, by himself you assumed. You had no idea where he procured the clean and starched cravat. You had noticed none of this while they rode back. His manner had been less than gentle with Clara, but then he would not be happy under the circumstances. Still, with time, they might make a good marriage. If that notion left your hollow, that was your own fault for allowing yourself to think of him as something other than your own sister’s intended. The door abruptly opened. You almost fell forward. You looked up to see Hyunjin lovingly gazing down, unlike before. “Did you hear?”
“I tried but could not make out the words. You should have spoken louder.”
He smiled vaguely and stood aside. “Your sister has something to say to you.”
You did not have to enter the room far to encounter Clara. Subdued and docile, you met your sister a few feet from the door. “I made a mistake,” Clara murmured. “It is not Lord Hwang. I am going up to my chamber to rest now.” With that Clara rushed past her.
You stood where you were, stunned. Hyunjin closed the door again. “How…?”
“She made an error. Leave it at that. Come sit with me while we decide what to do next.”
You wandered around the chamber, your mind all mixed up. You sank back into the divan. “So, who is it? That child is not a miracle. Some man—”
“Do not press her for a name. I know who it is, and there will be no marriage. Her seducer already has a wife and family.”
Your heart sank. “I have been most kind about this, but now I will scold her severely. Even a girl knows not to allow a married man to—”
“She will need even more kindness now, Y/N.”
You sighed heavily. “What is to be done? I suppose, if her condition was not noticed in Carlisle, that after the child is born, she can return there and try to make a life for herself.”
“It is unlikely her condition was not noticed. I saw it at once.”
“Then what?”
He shrugged. “She lives here, at her home, I suppose. She is not as delicate as you have led her to believe.”
“I have led her to believe?”
“You indulged her, then sent her to your aunt, who did so even more. Put her in some pantaloons and let her groom horses with you. If it is good enough for you, it is good enough for her.”
“You are angry that you were abducted and accused in error, and to no purpose. I understand that. We will give you one of the horses and you can go. You will be at your cousin’s by Christmas, easily.”
He turned his body so he faced you. “I think I would like to spend Christmas here. I went to the village this morning and sent a letter to my cousin explaining I would not be attending his celebrations. He will not miss me.”
So that was where he had gone. Yet he could still go to his cousin’s now if he wanted to. Only he didn’t. The implications of that teased at you. You dared not hope he dallied for your sake, and yet... “If you had told me you were going to the village, I would have asked you to bring back a few things.” It was a stupid thing to say, but all you could summon short of spilling out your relief and gratitude was that you would see him for a few more days at least.
“Like salt and flour? Mrs. Lee requested it. I also bought sugar and a few other provisions.” The last of the sugar cone had been used months ago. Mrs. Lee would be elated. It gave you joy that he would remain with you for a few more days. But Clara. . . “I wish we had family down in the Midlands or somewhere else far away and Clara could go there until the child is born. She might still have a reputation left afterward, and a life.”
“That is one way such things are handled. Another is the girl marries a man who accepts he will raise another man’s child.”
“That would take a handsome settlement, I assume.”
“Very handsome.”
“So that is not a choice either. Not that there is a convenient man about. I don’t think you are offering yourself.”
You began to stand, but he pulled you back down and leaned towards you. "Never, for I have my eyes set on another lovable lady. There will be no privacy on the floor with your chamber now. I assume Clara will sleep up there. The attic, however, is still my kingdom. Come visit me tonight and we will find a solution to the problem that was Clara.”
You looked into his eyes and knew they would not only talk through your family’s problem if you went to him. He might not have seduced Clara, but he had every intention of seducing the other Lee sister. You could not agree. You did not disagree. You stood; then on impulse you reached up and kissed his lips. An inner debate waited in the hours ahead, but you already suspected how it would end.
~
Hyunjin knew that kiss had not been a promise. It did give cause for optimism, so he spent the next hours in good humor. He set the sugar cone in the kitchen as a present for Mrs. Lee. Then he wandered out to the stable. Felix was finishing up with the horses. “Do you need help bringing out the hay?”
“It’s warmed up a bit and some snow has melted. They will find the grass now on the southern slope of the hill. No need to bring the hay.”
Hyunjin watched him move. The horses liked his handling, and one kept nibbling at his hair. “It was not me. She just told her sister.”
Felix paused. Then he lifted a hoof and inspected it. “Who then?”
“A married man. There will be no more abductions.”
Felix cursed. “Not much life for her now. I was at that fete. I should have watched her better.”
“Don’t blame yourself. She could have a good life if another man marries her. One who cares for her, and would not hold one mistake against her.”
“If you find that man, you send him to me.”
Hyunjin strolled over to the horse while Felix went around the other side to inspect another hoof. "Why not you?”
Silence. No sound. No movement. Then a blond head rose and looked over the horse. “She is a gentleman’s daughter. And I am that gentleman’s colleague’s son, a civil servant. That is all we are in truth. We may all eat at that table together, but we are not of the same place in life.”
“No one knows all the places better than I do. However, you are well spoken. As this farm rebuilds you will have more responsibilities. I expect in five years you will be of higher ranking. That is a servant, but of a different sort entirely. More like a solicitor is a servant.”
He laughed, shook his head, and moved back to the horse’s rear hooves.
“How did you come to be educated?” Hyunjin asked.
“Mr. Lee had me take lessons with Y/N. We’re about the same age. He told my parents to send me over in the mornings when the tutor held lessons. I wasn’t the best student.”
“Neither was I.”
His head popped up again. “No? Well, we have something in common.”
“Several things. That, and horses. I have wondered about something. Would you have shot me that first day?”
“I am sorry to say I probably would have. I was wanting to, so if you had given me the excuse—” He looked up again. “My apologies for all of that, seeing as how you were innocent.”
“Felix, is there any other woman you have ever met for whom you would shoot a peer? Would you have done that for Y/N? For the girl you first kissed?”
Felix smiled roguishly. “One and the same, ain’t they?"
"Y/N was your first kiss?!"
"Don’t tell her I told you. We were fifteen and curious. Wasn’t much to it. I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was, but she is like my sister, ain’t she? Now Clara—never kissed her. Wouldn’t dare even when she was old enough. I just knew it would have been different, though.”
“If you are in love with her, perhaps you should consider what I said about a marriage. If you do not see her as a sister, she may not see you as a brother. Raise the possibility with her, and give her time to think about it.” Hyunjin waited for Felix to deny being in love. When it did not come, he patted the horse’s flank and left the stable.
~
They had a feast that night with the hare and pheasant and even used the real dining room. Mrs. Lee made a honey cake now that she had enough flour. Clara ate sparingly. Most of the time she kept her gaze on her plate, although on occasion you saw her send resentful glares at Hyunjin. He noticed, too, but his spirits were so high he didn’t seem to care. He showed the humor of a man just spared from the gallows.
“A gentleman would have married me anyway,” Clara said that night while you brushed out her hair. “Then I’d be a lady and live in London and go to grand balls. Now I’ll just be a fallen woman with a baby who has no father.”
“Of course, he has a father. You named the wrong man, but you know the right one. If you tell me—”
“I can’t. Lord Hwang made me promise not to tell you.”
“He did, did he? I’m your sister. If you can’t tell me, whom can you tell?”
Clara sealed her lips closed hard. You guessed the answer. She could tell Hyunjin, which she had. So, he knew, but her own sister did not. That would never do. After tucking Clara into bed, you marched to the stairway and went above to the attic chambers. The attic’s door stood open. You peered around the threshold to see him sliding something under the bed. His coats were off and his shirt sleeves rolled up. A pail of water warmed on the small fireplace hearthstone. He looked over and saw you, before breathing a sigh of relief. “Why do I think you did not come up here to give me a kiss?”
You stayed at the threshold and crossed your arms. “I want to know his name.”
He shook his head. “I will talk to him, but you will only get trouble for your time if you do.”
“You know him, then.”
“I probably know most of the men who were at that fete who might impress Clara.”
“It is your goal to vex me.”
He walked right up to her. “Y/N, my only goal today, the single one that occupied my thoughts, was getting you to come up here tonight.” He reached around and closed the door behind her. “It appears vexing you was the path to success.”
The sails of indignation deflated at once. You looked around his cell, thinking it had been unnecessary to force him to live like this, especially after he gave his parole. You could hardly have him in the chamber next to yours, however. Who knew what ideas he might get? He took your hand and stepped back, leading you farther into the chamber. The tiny creases at his eyes’ edges subtly deepened, flaunting the mole under his eye.
“I amuse you,” you said.
“No. You charm me. You are adorable and precious.”
“I think, my lord, that your eloquence is the result of dishonorable intentions.”
He sat in that one chair, still holding your hand. “Not too dishonorable. Sit here with me so I can hold you again.” He drew you closer, then down so you sat on his lap. “We have many things to talk about, Y/N.”
“What things?”
“My next few days here, mostly.” His last days here, he meant. You kept your expression steady, but that arm embracing you and that face so close to yours almost defeated you. The truth about Clara had cut two ways. On one edge was relief that Y/N would not have to see the man you loved marry your sister. On the other edge was sadness that he had no reason to remain here now. “I have them all planned if you are agreeable to my thinking,” he said. “Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Mrs. Lee can start her cake. Felix and I will go hunting for Christmas dinner. You and Uncle and Clara can take the wagon to the woods and bring back some boughs of greenery.”
You had to smile at the thoroughness of his plan. “It will be a wonderfully festive celebration.”
“I think so. That will be the next day when we will all eat, drink, and be merry. The day after is the servants’ day off. Unless the household is to lack washing water and fuel and warm food, those who are not servants will have to serve. That means Clara and I will be servants to the rest of you.”
“Clara won’t like that. She will think I should be a servant, too.”
“You have served her and this legacy plenty. She will do it. Trust me.” He seemed very sure about that. You wondered what had been said while you listened at the keyhole. “Then the next day,” he began, then paused. You waited for the rest. Then the next day I will have to leave. “The next day, it is my turn to abduct you. We will make a little journey to Scotland, as you always intended. Only you and I will wed, not Clara.” You gazed down at him in the stillness. He gazed back, right into your eyes. Waiting. Searching. “I am no great prize, I know,” he said. “Other than my title I have little to offer except a reputation that will embarrass you and more debts than are for decent reasons. However, you have stolen my heart, Y/N, and given me more happiness and purpose these last days than I ever thought to know. I must at least try to convince you to be mine.”
He snaked his hand behind your neck and pressed just enough to bring your lips to his. He showed the kind of convincing he had in mind. You could have answered his proposal right then. The words were in your head. The warmth of that kiss undid you, however. Words became unnecessary. Intrusive. You accepted how the sweetness turned passionate, then almost desperate. You welcomed the way your blood sizzled and coursed down to your center as he kissed you. He nuzzled at your ear while he caressed down your side. “We will wait if you want, but I—”
“I don’t want to wait.”
Was that a thank-you you heard before his kisses pressed your neck in a dozen thrilling ways? Your mind narrowed to nothing except the sensations he created in your body, and to the building desire filling your body. You felt his breath softly fan your face and then your eyes fluttered close as you felt his lips on yours again—nibbling, sucking, teasing you. You allowed your hands to work on their own will, and they found their way around his neck, bringing him even closer to you if that was possible. His finger traced your jaw, making their way to your neck with such gentleness, goosebumps covered your entirety, sending wave of heat down your body. His caress smoothed over your breast so naturally that you almost nodded, it felt so right and good. He tantalized you with new pleasures so intense that impatience entered your joyous abandon. He took your bottom lip between his teeth, nipping at it. Then, he kissed your cheek, leaning in to whisper in your ear. "Can this come off, love?"
You nodded, heat creeping up your face. You felt his fingers on your chin like the day on the wagon, tipping your head upward. He was looking at you through lust-clouded eyes, yet they had so much care and love.
"Y/N, I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I ever hurt you. Please, tell me if you are uncomfortable with anything, okay?"
You smiled, leaving a kiss which felt chaste despite the atmosphere, reassuring him that you understood. The arm embracing you shifted and you felt your dress’s tapes loosen. Looking at you one last time for approval, he pushed the clothing down your shoulders.
“Stand here.”
He set you on your feet in front of him. The fire warmed one side of you and the cool of the chamber touched the other side, but the heat inside you came only from him and what he was doing. He slid the dress down until it pooled at your feet. He turned you to work the laces of your stays and removed them before he turned you back again. You stood there in nothing more than stockings and a chemise. The cloth of the chemise hung loosely off your breasts. You looked down at how they had grown heavy and full and how the tips had tightened against the sheer fabric which showed almost everything which was to be covered. You looked at his face, and he was clearly, in an unfiltered manner devouring you with his eyes. Your initial embarrassment gave way to boldness; the hunger in Hyunjin's eyes making you feel empowered. "Am I up to your imagination, Lord Hyunjin?"
His eyes shifted to your face, and he pulled you closer, between his thighs with a groan. "Even better." Before you could respond, he eased the chemise down until your breasts were naked. To your astonishment he leaned forward and licked at one tip and the sensation sent you reeling. “You have no idea how much I have wanted them in my mouth,” he spoke, nipping. He kept torturing you with his tongue and you tried your best to follow his lead—how his tongue licked short stripes, how he nibbled your skin. He took your breast into his mouth, but his tongue still flicked and aroused. Losing yourself into how he was ravaging your breast, you laced your hands around his head, tugging at his locks. To your surprise, he moaned, sending a vibration through your breast and straight to your core.
At his undulating touches, an irresistible urge to grind your hips in desperate attempts to satisfy the ache in your core washed over. You instinctively, rubbed at his crotch, eliciting a primal growl from him. He bit your nipple slightly, effectively stilling your movements. Then he pulled back. "May I take this off?" The level of consideration he displayed— asking you even when the two of you were hazed by lust— broke the last refrains you had put on yourself, if any.
"Yes, Hyunjin." You cupped his cheek. "And, you don't have to ask me anymore. I need you."
He just gazed at you for a second or more and you saw the swirl of emotions in his eyes. He pulled you for another heart-fluttering kiss while he pushed the chemise farther down your stomach until you were completely naked. You could barely stand now. You could hardly see. He pinched your nipples, a smirk forming on his face at your sharp intake of breath. "You seem to enjoy?"
Ignoring the pulse which throbbed low, between your legs, demanding more pleasure, beating a little drum of desire, you smiled. "You seemed to be eyeing them since forever. You must be enjoying yourself as well?"
He laughed, and his embrace lowered to your hips and caressed, then held, your bottom. His other hand slid between your legs and touched that area you needed him the most, his fingers skillfully stroking the sensitive skin, sending a searing, toe-curling wave through your legs.
Shocking pleasure overwhelmed you and you moaned. You gripped his shoulders so you would not loose footing from it all. Your mind cried whimpers of need and maybe your mouth did, too. You heard nothing except his voice while he moved you toward the bed. He laid you down and you blushed at the thought of being wantonly unclothed for him, his eyes unwrapping you like a snack to be eaten. Then, you grinned, feeling thrilled at the affect you had on him. He joined you in the bed and gathered you into his arms. “Does something amuse you?” he asked you, breath ghosting over your face as he intently scanned your face. “You have an impish smile.”
“I am thinking it was wise of me to demand Lix stuff the mattress. He thought you should sleep on the ropes alone. Or the floor.”
“It is not a bad bed. Small, but enough space for the two of us.”
Considering how you laid, it was enough space. His body lined yours and his chest hovered over you. His head dipped to kiss you and lead you back into passion. Leaving hot and wet kisses down your neck, your breasts (where he spent a moment longer, teasing at your breasts with his tongue and teeth), your stomach and the flesh below your belly button. He eagerly settled himself between your legs, caressing your body with confident, knowing hands. You felt a finger push your labia and then he slowly pushed his finger in your entrance. Your arched into the stretch and mewled as he began to thrust his finger in and out of you. You gasped when he added another. You moaned loudly, thrusting your hips into his hands.
"So eager, are we?" He asked you as he spread the space between his fingers, scissoring you now. He hovered over you, satisfaction plastered over his face, and he breathed into your ear. "You're so tight, love. I will have to take my sweet time to get you ready. How demanding."
Your walls involuntarily clenched around his fingers and he raised his eyebrows. Oh, how you would do anything to wipe that smug look off his face. He lowered back, but this time, with a thrust of his fingers, he flattened his tongue on your clit. You reached for his hair as he licked long stripes up your clit, and then alternating between sucking your nub or mouthing your clit, all the while steadily fucking into you with three fingers. You felt the pressure grow, a hollow pit at the bottom of your stomach tightening an unknown knot within you.
Your shyness fell away, and then your dignity, and finally your hold on yourself. You moaned from the pleasure, no care how loud you were, and it seemed that only made him find ways to make it better. His tongue touched and toyed at your folds until impatient desire had you grasping him with fevered need. "Hyun...jin...so close..." you whimpered, and he hummed.
"Let go, darling." And so you did, your hips buckling downwards as he pulled out his fingers, fully taking control with his mouths, lapping away your release. He crawled over you, pressing a sweet kiss to your lips and you melted in the softness he offered you. You tasted yourself on him, blushing at the fact. He pulled away from your lips, peppering your face with kisses. You laughed when he came back to kiss you on your lips. With enough strength, you pushed him off you, sitting up. Before he got a change to say anything, you climbed on his lap.
"You, my Lord, are wearing too many clothes." You pushed him back, such that he sat leaning against the headboard. He was eyeing you curiously. Crawling back over him, you ground your core on him. Hyunjin bucked his hips up, digging into where you wanted him the most. You felt his hands sneak up to hold your waist and you slapped them away. "The reins are in my hand," you stated, unbuttoning his shirt hurriedly— breaking some in the process. You leaned back to take in the glorious sight, his lips bruised and swollen from the kissing, face flushed red, and torn clothing hanging over his frame. You dived into his neck, kissing his flexing tendons, biting the smooth column of his neck, clumsily nipping at his collarbone and making your way down his sternum.
You pressed your lips tight trying to hide the satisfaction at the reactions he was proposing for you. You tore the shreds and traced your fingers across his abs: toned, defined and hard. You tapped his thighs and he unquestioningly opened them. You shifted backwards, lowering your face to kiss his skin, arousing him, just as he did to you. You bit the skin around his navel, then licked the area with your tongue to soothe the sting. He groaned, pulling your face up to kiss you. You let him, while slowly tracing patterns down, closer and closer to his waistband. You rested your palm on his evident bulge, giving it a firm squeeze through the trousers. Hyunjin moaned into the kiss, whimpering a "please" against your lips.
"Please as you must specify, Hyunjin. How else am I to know what to do?" You kissed his earlobe, palming his erection.
"Oh, God..." he groaned, "Take off my pants, Y/N."
"That's of better understanding." He pouted, jutting out his bottom lip. You were taken back by how cute he looked despite what you were indulging into. You swiftly undid the laces and pulled his trousers down. You gasped as his length popped free; of course, women lined up to get fucked. You ran your thumb on his red tip, collecting the leaking fluid. He watched you analytically as you brought your thumbs to your lips, cleaning your fingertip.
"For the love of God, Y/N," Hyunjin groaned and with that he pulled you for a messy kiss, and turned you over on the mattress. "Not today. Later," he breathed when you whined. He mounted you, finding ways not to crush you with his weight. He bent your knees, then rose high on tight, taut arms and began to press into you. You let the feeling of him on you register as he filled you slowly, but it still left you breathless— the delicious slide of his cock allowing your eyelids to droop with pleasure. You heard him curse under his breath as he felt your slick, velvety walls envelope; the desire to thrust making him tremble as he monitored himself. "Tell me when I can move." He just held himself there, stilled as your walls stretched, trying to accommodate his girth.
"You can– move." And with that, you broke the strings of Hyunjin's control. His kisses drew you toward abandon, a sense of depthless, mindless wonder and he was not going to let you free anytime.
"Look at me, love," his voice caused you to open your eyes, and you looked into the eyes of the most gorgeous man on this land, his hair mussed and forehead decorated with straining veins. "I want you to look at me, okay?"
You nodded, taking in the sinful image of his face when he withdrew just as carefully, then filled you again. And again. Even as it pained you, you did not emerge from the stupor of intimacy that filled your consciousness. Pleasure teased at you even within the soreness from the stretch. You could tell he was still restraining himself for your sake, you could feel the power building in him that he held in check.
"You're so pretty," he said as his fingers trailed down and between your legs, rubbing your throbbing wetness. Maddening sensations started to overwhelm the pain and you moved, rocking up to accept him, joining him in the hard, consuming kisses he dipped his head to give you.
His pace was dizzying, fast and calculating, so hard that you were sure you would be bruised from his thrusts. You moaned and his thrusts came harder then, punctuated with sensual deep rolls and then deliberate rough thrusts. You did not find that unpleasant and even urged him on with caresses and kisses because it brought you closer and banished the rest of the world.
You couldn't help but let your hand trail down to your core as well, and you played with yourself, under his watchful eye. His gaze spoke nothing but a carnal desire, his gaze on you following your every movement.
"So needy," Hyunjin cooed at you. "Is this too much for you?"
"No-o," you forced out a meek lie.
He raised his eyebrows, a dangerous smile setting on his face, and then he completely pulled out of you and his hands left your breasts which he had been squeezing. "Well, we can't leave a gentleman's daughter unsatisfied for too long."
You whimpered at the sudden emptiness, which was cut short when he drew you closer to his kneeling frame and hoisted your right leg on his shoulder. In one fluid motion, he thrusted back in, the new position making him reach deeper than before as his balls slapped against your pussy. You could feel the build-up, a tightening knot at the bottom of your stomach. Lightness washed your torso as you took ragged breaths in. He licked his fingers and rubbed your nub, then drew soft circles with his thumbs, all the while he kept whispering soothing words every time he rolled his hips forward.
"I-I am get-ting... Hyunjin... close, so clo-close." You weren't not sure if what you were speaking made sense but his low hum told he did hear you.
"You can come all over, angel," he spoke and you came wildly at his words. Your thighs itched to close but he held them open, as the pulsing and shaking led you to a pleasure-drenched intimacy.
You whimpered and moaned, now hyper aware of him as he continued to thrust in you. "Just a little longer, angel." You brought your hands to his arms, squeezing the tensed muscles to let him know you didn't mind. How could you? He had been so gentle with you and you doubted any man could be as sensual and caring as him. With your last energy, you clenched around his cock. Hyunjin gasped and his earlier thrusts came as sloppy, which made you know he was closer. You tried again, enveloping your walls around him and he stilled, before drawing himself out and thrusting in one last time as spurts of warm, white cum filled your battered pussy.
Hyunjin collapsed on you, his deep breaths falling on your ear as he nuzzled his head between your breasts. He really liked them, you assumed. You wrapped your legs around him, and your arms, too, and he remained inside you. You brushed his hair away from his face, wiping the thin layer of sweat on his forehead and he smiled. He tore himself away from you, looking at you with a tensed look. "Did I hurt you?" Ah, this man.
"Hyunjin," you put a warning hand on him as he started to move away, "You didn't even get close to hurting me. It was perfect."
He sighed with relief, and bent to give you a brief kiss. "Let's get you cleaned." You were going to hold him back, but he was already by the tray where clean towels were kept. When he climbed back on the bed you saw him lick his lips and then he ran his fingers across your folds, collecting his cum which had started dripping out of you and pushed it back. "All mine to see," he mutterd, cleaning you. You blushed from the intensity of his words and moaned when he threw the washcloth to look at your clit.
"What are you looking at?"
"How swollen you are and filled with my cum. Couldn't take a good look before."
You hit him on his arm at his obscenity and he laughed, lying next to you. Then, you turned your head so your lips touched his cheek, whispering words he needed, words you wanted to say but couldn't because of this blissful engagement.
“Yes, I will marry you.”
~
“Where did you get that, Hyun?” you watched while he stood on a chair and tacked a ribbon to the top of the sitting room door’s threshold. An apple hung within it and a mistletoe bough dangled at its end. It added a bright note to a chamber already decorated with green boughs on the windowsills and five thick candles awaiting dusk and lighting.
“A woman in the village had the ball and mistletoe. I added the other greens. I thought to catch you under it and steal a kiss.”
“I think you have had enough the last two nights.”
He checked the ribbon. “There will never be enough, darling.”
Perhaps not. One kiss became more with them. You had surprised him by arriving at his door last night. Still sore from your first time, you had not been able to stay away. He had been unable to deny you, although he displayed restraint and care again.
He hopped off the chair and pulled you into yet another deep kiss. “I think we should tell them today at dinner. Then we can do this whenever and wherever we want.”
You laid your head against his chest. You enjoyed a few moments in his arms and gentle kisses before the day’s Yuletide festivities began. Boughs of evergreens decorated the house. Down below Mrs. Lee finished her dinner and cake with Clara at her side. Clara had complained about the chores she was expected to do now, so Y/N gave her a choice in them. To Y/N’s surprise, the choice had been learning to cook. She looked through the frosted windows. Fresh snow had fallen last night but not too much, and now the sun shone on an unblemished blanket of white. “Felix is coming with a big log,” she said.
“Tell him to bring it in here to dry,” Hyunjin said.
She went to open the front door and call Felix in. He set the log on its end near the fire. “Should be fine in a few hours.”
He paused to look around the room, at the greenery and berries and candles. His gaze settled on the mistletoe bough for a long moment. “Stay and get warm,” Hyunjin said. “I’ll see if there is some hot coffee below.”
A little confused, Felix took position in front of the fire and pulled off his work gloves. Hyunjin left and shortly returned. “It will be up soon.”
“I’ll get some later. I still need to get the wagon and hay going, what with the snow again.”
“No, no, stay. You should take a few minutes on this day.”
Felix shrugged and turned back to the fire. Five minutes later, Clara arrived with a tray. She stopped right inside the door. “Has the king called on us? If not, I don’t see why I am carrying refreshments up those stairs.”
“Stay there. I will take it,” Hyunjin said. Yet he did not move. Over at the fire, Felix watched Clara. Y/N watched them all.
Felix looked above Clara’s head. With an expression of resolve, he made the few strides that brought him under the bough, too. He took the tray and set it down on a table. Then he did not steal a kiss. Instead he took Clara’s face in his hands and kissed her fully.
Y/N could not ignore the kind of kiss it was. Shocked, she took a step forward to stop him. A hand on her shoulder pulled her back. She looked up at Hyunjin.
Felix picked up the tray again. “I think I’ll drink this in the morning room. Why don’t you sit and have some, too, Clara? You have been working as hard as I have.” Wide-eyed and perplexed by that kiss, Clara followed him out of the room. Hyunjin smiled.
“Are you matchmaking?” Y/N asked.
“I appear to have a talent for it.”
“But Lix?”
“He is clearly in love with her. He probably has been for years. I am surprised you did not see it.”
“She will never marry a civil servant.”
“Well, you never know. Maybe she will fall for a mannered man. Besides, she knows his interest now. She has already begun reconsidering him, and how she views him. That will take some time, but—Who knows what she will do?”
Y/N stretched up and kissed him. “I will pray that the love she already has for him becomes that kind of love. It would be a wonderful conclusion of her misadventure. Is this a Christmas gift to me?”
“I thought of it as a gift to Felix and Clara.”
“The mere chance of this match lightens my heart, so it is my gift, too. Thank you, for this and everything else you have done for me.”
~
“I think that went well, don’t you?” Y/N asked. Her question broke the silence that fell after an energetic passion which had earlier left her screaming into the night on her release. Hyunjin hoped no one went running to her chamber to see what accident had overtaken her.
He doubted she knew she had done that. Nor did he think that she now congratulated them both on the artful sensuality of the last hour. They had announced their forthcoming wedding before dinner, and it made for a very merry feast. Afterward, in the sitting room while the Yule log crackled, there had been games and songs, then more of the Christmas cake.
“No one seemed too shocked,” she added. “Except perhaps my sister. She does not resent it, though. She only asked me later why I would marry such a demanding man.”
"Only if she knew how demanding you are in bed. Also, she is unhappy that I said tomorrow she and I would be the servants to the rest of you. She thinks you should join us because officially you are half owner of the manor.”
“She is correct in that. My father’s testament left it equally to us both. I should play the servant with you.”
“I have decided you will not. Not another word will be spoken on this matter.”
“My, you are demanding. And commanding.” She nuzzled his neck.
Both when necessary. He wanted Clara to serve Y/N, for once, even if it was in this mock fashion. Clara did not comprehend how her sister had lived and worked while she played the gentleman’s daughter. He doubted Clara had noticed the toll it had taken on Y/N’s hands. That thought had him feeling down beside the bed until his hand hit a bundle propped against the wall. He grasped it and pulled it up. “I have something for you.” He set the bundle on his chest right in front of her nose.
She sat up. “What is it?”
“Gifts. Small and hardly good enough for you. Useful at least, perhaps.” It had probably been a blessing to only have the village shops available. If in London, he would have been tempted to spend hundreds for jewels and luxuries. Thousands till he did not have any. For these small gifts he had enough, though. In time, with Y/N at his side and his one talent put to use with the horses, perhaps there would be more than enough. She took the bundle and felt through the muslin wrap. She petted the red silk ribbon that bound it together. “This alone would be enough.” It had been a day of laughter and joy and a night of unbearable pleasure and powerful emotions. A dark anger now threatened to ruin that, and he swallowed the reaction. He pictured his cousin and Mia today, living as if the luxuries they enjoyed were their due. Later, he thought. Not too much later, but not now. Y/N pulled at the ribbon and unfolded the muslin. She lifted a fur muff. “Oh, my.” She rubbed the fur against her face. “It is beautiful and I will treasure it. Not very practical for riding a horse, of course, but—”
“It is to keep your hands warm when you ride in a carriage.” She was good enough not to say she had no carriage.
“As for riding, keep looking,” he said.
She peeled back more muslin and squealed with delight. She lifted lambskin gloves and immediately pulled them on. “They fit perfectly. Like another skin.”
“You can pick up a farthing while wearing them.”
“I can also hold and shoot a gun.”
“That too.”
“There is something else—” More muslin and another squeal. “Good solid work gloves! You have given me a whole wardrobe for my hands.” She fell back into his arms and kissed him.
He held her against his body. “I never want to see you with red, raw hands again, Y/N.”
“I am surprised you found all of this in the village.”
“Most shopkeepers have a special drawer that rarely opens. Small luxuries await the right patron. I would have bought a wardrobe for your body as well, but that will have to wait for town.”
“I have nothing for you,” she whispered.
“You gave me yourself, love. There is no gift more precious.”
She rose on her arm and looked down at him. “Perhaps I do have something else.” She caressed down until she palmed his cock, licking her lips. “We might as well have that "later" now."
~
Two mornings later, you slipped out of Hyunjin’s bed while he slept. The announcement of your marriage had been met with shock, happiness, and good cheer, but that did not mean you could openly share a bed. He had not been in his chamber when you arrived the night before. He still had duties as a servant down below. A day of that, with only Clara to aid him, had left him working long into the night. Food from Christmas meant no one had to cook much, but the dishes still needed washing and the pots scrubbing. Clara had complained about having to help when you did not. It seemed unfair to her. To you, too, who again petitioned Hyunjin for her to be made a servant. He would have none of it. He meant to humble Clara, she knew, perhaps so she would be amenable to Felix’s eventual proposal. Mostly, however, he knew that Clara would live as a mother now, and if a peer of the realm could help groom babies, Clara could help groom chambers, all with Felix’s support.
You were in the kitchen with Mrs. Lee when Mr. Lee hobbled down the stairs outside and opened the door. “Riders coming up the lane. A carriage, too.”
You all looked at one another and shrugged. “I can’t imagine who it could be,” you said. All the same you went up to greet whoever was coming to your door. A coach and two riders on horseback drew closer. The riders wore livery. The huge carriage sported an abundance of brass and two liveried footmen. As it rolled to a stop in front of her house, you saw the escutcheon on its door. A footman hopped off the back of the carriage, opened the door, and set down steps. A man emerged. The face beneath his hat’s brim was a handsome face. His toned body held power. You gritted your teeth. This man would soon be family to you through your marriage, but you still hated the sight of him. One of the footmen came to her at the door. “The Marquess of Houghton has called for Lord Hwang.”
“Please ask him to come in and wait by the fire.”
“He intends to remain outside.”
“If he chooses to remain in the cold, so be it. He is welcome here. No one is going to assault him.” The servant looked shocked by the very notion of an assault on his lord. He returned to the marquess and delivered your message. The marquess appeared indecisive. The damp and cold won out over any inclination to stand his ground. He approached, bowed, and followed her into the house.
“Baron Hyunjin will be with you soon.” You ushered him into the study. “Will this do? The blue chair is very comfortable.”
He gave the chair’s seat a little brush with his gloves. “This will do.”
“I will leave you then. I have preparations to make for the day.” You closed the door upon leaving, hoping your father was not turning in his grave.
~
Hyunjin took his time dressing and going below. He had expected the carriage. He had not expected Jaehyun to be inside it. Y/N sat in the reception hall. “I put him in the study.”
“I did not expect him, if you are wondering about that.”
“I was wondering.”
“I would not invite him here, knowing how you feel. Now, keep the family in the kitchen. My cousin can be dramatic in his anger and I do not want witnesses to his histrionics.”
“Will he be as angry as that? He has no reason to hate us.” Someday he would tell her just why Jaehyun would be angry. Not all of it, though. It would take a while to decide what she needed to know. He entered the study and closed the door. Jaehyun glared at him from where he sat on a blue chair. A folded paper rested on the desktop within his reach. He tapped his finger on it.
“Hell of a thing to receive that. Good of you to let me know you were alive, at least.”
“I sent word as soon as I could. Did you have a good Christmas, secure in knowing I was safe?”
“Good enough, although Mia was distraught with worry even with the news.”
“The hell she was. She was indignant that I did not crawl, if necessary, to have the privilege of her company.”
“Now, we talked about that, and about the benefits of that match to you. Come back with me. All is not lost on that account.”
Hyunjin rested his hips against the desk’s edge. He removed a folded vellum document from his frock coat and set it down. “There will be no match. Here is the special license. You paid for it, so you may as well have it.”
Jaehyun fingered the vellum, then tossed it in the fire. Once more he tapped the letter Hyunjin had sent. “What did you mean by the threat in it?” He picked it up and read: “‘If you do not want your family, the peerage, and all the realm to know about Clara Lee, send your coach to her home two days after Christmas. I will explain all later.’” He threw it down. “Who in hell is Clara Lee?”
Hyunjin tossed the letter into the fire to join the license. “I had intended to have this out with you after I returned from Scotland, but we may as well do it now since you are here.”
“Of course, I am here, when my own cousin threatens me.” His voice boomed in the little space they shared.
“Swallow your anger until you hear something insulting and wrong. You seduced Clara at your county fete last summer. She will name you publicly if necessary. She was an innocent, and my guess is she hardly comprehended what you were about until it was too late.” He paused. “I will accept it was a seduction, and not something worse.”
“Are you judging me? You? That is a fine joke.”
“For all my sins, I never ruined an innocent. It isn’t done, and you know it. Worse, you did it as an act of revenge. Her father would not sell you some land you wanted. Her sister had just refused again. How much will it cost you to change the route of the canal you wanted to build there, with that land not open to you?”
Jaehyun’s face reddened. “Thousands. Fool man. Stupid woman. Stubborn, the two of them. I offered more than it was worth, too.”
“I doubt that.”
“So, you know of my little indiscretion. I don’t care.”
“I don’t think the gentlemen in your clubs will think it so little. I am sure your wife will not. She tolerates your mistresses. A bastard born of an innocent you ruined is another matter.”
Jaehyun’s face fell. “The girl is with child?”
“She is at that.”
His cousin recovered. “And the price of your silence is a carriage to take you to Scotland?”
Hyunjin sat in the other chair and stretched out his legs. “I am not so good as to stop there. I want much more than that. A settlement for the girl, for one thing. That is the only proper thing to do. Shall we say enough in trust to provide an income of five hundred a year?”
Jaehyun chewed his lower lip. “Only if she keeps the child. And if it is a boy, I want to see him from time to time.”
“I think that can be arranged. You will see him, but he will not see you. There is one other thing you must do.”
“There isn’t anything I must do, damn it. But let us have it.”
“Galahad.”
“I’ll not be selling you Galahad. Or giving him to you, or anyone else.”
“Not sell. This spring, however, you will send him here to be breed with some mares, so Estrella can rebuild its bloodlines and expand again. Two months of his services are all that is needed.” He averted his gaze. “I have chosen to believe you did not play a long game, and deliberately ruin the Lee estate with that massacre of his horses so he would be amenable to a land sale.”
Silence fell beside him. Jaehyun might have ceased breathing, it grew so quiet. He glanced over to see his cousin looking down at the carpet. And in that instant those blue eyes glanced up and their gazes met. Jaehyun might appear cowed, but a ruthless star sparkled in his eye. He had indeed played that long game. Hyunjin’s chest thickened. In that moment he knew that his dealings with Jaehyun would only be the most formal sort in the future. He would never be friends with this man again.
“What did you want that damned carriage for? Damned inconvenient to bring it. Scotland, you said.”
“In an hour or so I will depart, along with Miss Lee. Y/N. We are getting married.”
Jaehyun was on his feet in a snap. “The hell you say. I’ll not have it. It will be the end of the allowance you get. This family is a thorn in my side and if you marry into it, I am done with you.” He paced and ranted for several minutes. Hyunjin just waited. He saw the exact moment when Jaehyun’s good sense broke through the cloud of bluster in his head and he realized what this marriage meant. No more cursing then. Only quiet contemplation. That star began sparkling again. “If you are married to her, you control her land.”
“Not to sell. I won’t have that right, of course. But the use of it, yes, as her husband that will be shared, assuming her sister is agreeable to my intentions.”
“So, for a price you could allow a canal to go through that parcel in question.”
“Damnation, I suppose we could.” He feigned shock, then grinned. “Come to me in a month with your proposal. It might be better received if in addition to a payment, you gave us a share of that company.”
“I already have five partners.”
“So now you will have six.” He stood. “I must prepare for this journey. I trust you have a horse for your return, or another carriage down the lane.”
Jaehyun did not care for being thrown out. He rose in a huff and marched to the reception hall. At the door he paused. “The girl and my chi—”
“She will be well cared for. And I will see that Clara’s child is educated and raised properly, whether Clara marries or not.”
~
Gretna Green was not the closest Scottish town to Estrella Park, but the roads meant it was the easiest and fastest to access. Two evenings later Jaehyun’s best coach rolled into the center of the little town and its passengers stepped out.
Old Lee needed help from Hyunjin, but Mrs. Lee, excited by the day’s event and by her first real journey in years, simply jumped down. She tugged you aside. “I’m still thinking we shouldn’t have left them alone together. Felix has been giving her some long looks. I am afraid he is smitten.”
“I am sure they will be fine. We couldn’t all come, and Felix is of more use there than uncle would be.” You had not said one word to Clara to insinuate she had any concerns about Felix, but she had asked Hyunjin to speak to Felix himself. He had refused and insisted that Felix would know what to do. Considering Hyunjin’s history, you wondered what ‘know what to do’ meant.
The man in question came toward them with Uncle Lee.
“So, do we find the anvil?” He asked with a big grin.
“I think we can do better than that,” Hyunjin said. “Every village has a church. We will find it.”
That did not take long, since it was a small town. Hyunjin returned with the vicar in tow, after finding him in a nearby tavern.
“We don’t get many this time of year,” the vicar said. “I’m happy to witness your vows if you want, though.”
They entered the little church, cold and damp and dark on this overcast day. Evergreen boughs rested at the base of each window and around the sanctuary. You removed your muff and handed it to Mrs. Lee. Hand in hand, skin on skin, you and Hyunjin faced the vicar to say the vows.
When it was done, Uncle and Aunt clapped while you kissed. How, you can swear, you will never get bored of kissing this man. Then all of them filed back out to the open air.
“Did I hear tell there’s a tavern around the corner?” Uncle asked. “Seems to me this, calls for a drink of good whiskey to celebrate.”
“You two go,” Hyunjin said. “We will be there soon.”
You bid them a good find as Hyunjin held you close. Two snowflakes drifted down in front of your eyes. Then several more.
“Snow,” you said.
Hyunjin took both your hands in his and faced you in the churchyard. “I hope it snows every year at this time, to remind us of taking hay in the wagon and the views from the house.”
“I look forward to any future we have together. At Estrella too, I hope.”
“Of course, we will stay at Estrella. And I can predict the future for you. Estrella Park will soon be as great as it ever was, and we will have our own family. We will wed again, and my parents are itching to meet you; they haven’t seen you for so long. You and I will have at least two children, more if you can’t keep your hands to yourself, which you can’t. Clara will birth a baby; then she and Felix, judging by his eyes, will have more. At Estrella, our children will ride horses together and will play together. So much to do with you, my wife”
“Won’t you miss London? Your life was there.”
He kissed you. “London is in our future, too.” More snow fell now, dusting their garments. He took her hand and they followed the Lees’ path. “We will make long visits, so I can attend Parliament and you can enjoy the theater and parties and have time to order new wardrobes.”
He continued describing a life very different from what you had known, especially the last few years. An impossible life. You allowed his fantasy to sweep you up, however, and you laughed over the details as he continued giving them, a specific mention on how he wants a daughter who looks just like you so that he can see you in her.
You found the tavern and heard the sounds of cheer within. You reached for the latch and then paused; his words played in your mind.
“What did you mean by your parents haven’t seen me for so long?”
He smiled, turning to you. “So, you finally caught on.”
You narrowed your eyebrows, not understanding what he meant.
“Y/N, don’t you think I had plenty chances to escape while I could?”
“Well, you were being a man of your words, an idiot.”
He laughed, “An idiot might as well, but not enough to hand the pistol to my own kidnapper. I could have easily shot you in the wagon, escaped while I had the chance of riding your horse. I am not a man of high intelligence, but I don’t fall in love with my sinners, at least.”
“Hyunjin, what are you implying?”
“Oh, come on. You speak my name so sweetly, doesn’t it strike a fond memory?”
You thought if you had met a Hyunjin, but no memory stood out. “No.”
“Well, that’s reasonable. You never got good grades in history classes.”
You frowned, how does he know that?
“Hyunjin, don’t play around.”
“This hurts me, though, you know?” He put his hand on his chest and feigned a face of faux agony. “How can you not remember that we had met as children? Barely 10.”
“Met? As children, you say?”
“Yes!”
“That can’t be! I recall nothing of the sorts.”
Hyunjin reached for his back pocket and took out a piece of paper. It looked really old, creases on the paper. It had a purple thistle on it, the symbol of the Gretna Green institute. But what caught your attention as he unfolded the paper was a piece of leather you wouldn’t forget. Impulsively, you reached for it.
“Do you remember the Christmas special classes held here for three months? We had met here and were partners for horseracing. When we had won, you promised to meet on another Christmas holiday and that we’d wed here in Scotland.”
You gasped, the memories flooding in. He pulled you close as another customer approached the steps of the tavern.
You batted your eyes, looking back and forth between the leather piece and his face. “I feel cheated,” you finally spoke.
“Cheated?”
“You knew all along who I was. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wasn’t sure myself at first. More than a decade has passed, I thought you were not you, and the similarity of your name and face a mere coincidence. But then I saw the way you petted the horse, it was the same way you did as a child.” He brought his fingers to your nose, “First, you would bop the nose,” he said and then patted your hair down. “Then, you would soothe the hair on the neck.”
He leaned down to leave a feather-light kiss on your lips. "And lastly, you would kiss the horse.”
You remained stunned, you didn’t know how to accept that he was the same child you had promised to marry and now you were indeed married to him, not legally but still.
“Y/N, don’t tell me you’re planning to not say anything?”
“I-" you took a deep breath in, “I don’t know, Hyunjin.”
“Love, does it really change anything, other than the fact that I am not a freak who fell for his kidnapper. I might be weak for women, but I wouldn't care if I didn't love”
You opened your mouth to speak something, but really, did it change anything? You had fallen for him as a child, and even now, it was the same. Two weeks or fourteen days or one hundred and sixty hours or ten thousand and eight minutes or six million and forty-eight seconds might be short for someone to profess their love, but strangely for you, it felt right. You finally looked at him, and he was lovingly looking down at you. Nothing had changed.
You stood on your toes, kissing him and holding the leather horse reins on which he and you had engraved 'A Christmas With You'. He smiled into the kiss, speaking the same words, as if sealing what the two of you had.
~
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ellerosie2332 · 18 hours ago
Text
You Were Wrong
(Starts with..) Draco Malfoy x Reader, (Ends with..) George Weasley x Reader.
Angst to start with, Fluff. Set six years after the Battle of Hogwarts.
3158 Words
Summary: All you wanted was a child. The inability to have one tore your marriage apart. Thinking everything was your fault, you prepared to be alone. Until someone found you and told you that you were indeed not 'broken'.
Warnings: Infertility, divorce, arguments, mentions of mental health conditions, Pregnancy.
Y/C/N – Your Cousin's Name
(A/N: This is quite sad to start with but in the end everything works out for the reader. I can't say the same for the other characters but in life not everyone can be happy.
I had this idea as I was walking around after this happened to someone I know. They have given me permission to mention this. Sorry that there are so many time skips in this.
This is my own work. If any of this affects you feel free to leave me a message I don't judge.)
Tears streamed down my face as I stared at another negative pregnancy test. This is the latest of the many tests I had taken in the last few months. Me and my Husband Draco had been wanting children for as long as we had been married and for most of our engagement. With the pressure my mother-in-law had been putting on us to have children and my desperation to give my husband what he desires, my mental health had been getting worse. Every negative test is another step closer to a break down. I am starting to think that there is something wrong with me. Questions of whys surround my head. Why me? Why won't this happen for us? Why is there so much pressure?
Eventually I made my way out of the bathroom. Draco was on the bed looking at me hopefully. I just shook my head and looked down. I heard Draco sigh. The first few negative tests he would hug me and tell me we could try as many times as needed. That soon enough we would have a child. But as time went on, Draco got less and less affectionate. He would spend long hours away from the house during the day and then in the evening we would only be intimate when trying to conceive.
I was still head over heels for Draco. But I wasn't stupid. I could tell he didn't feel the same. Not anymore. I didn't want to say anything because I didn't want to face the fact that he was falling out of love with me. The woman who couldn't give him children.
Draco patted my shoulder as he walked past me, the negative pregnancy test in my hands. Before he walked out the room he turned and looked at me. There was nothing behind his eyes. He wasn't cold or void of emotion but there was nothing there aimed at me.
"I erm, I'm going out for a little while. Don't wait up." He spoke. I just nodded and let him go. Again, holding my tongue. Things weren't perfect between us but at least I had him. Right? Soon I drifted off to sleep not knowing where my husband was.
When I woke up he wasn't in bed. I walked downstairs to find him asleep on the couch. Why didn't he come to bed? I walked out of the front room into the kitchen. I started making breakfast for the both of us. Halfway through cooking I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around to see my husband behind me.
"Morning." I softly spoke.
"Yeah morning." He grunted back.
"Why did you sleep on the couch?" I asked him.
"Didn't wanna wake you." I could tell I wasn't going to get a straight answer out of him. We sat at the dining table for breakfast and Draco couldn't even look at me. As we continued to eat in a painful silence, I decided I had to speak up about what had been worrying me.
"Draco, are we okay?" I asked him.
"What do you mean."
"I mean you can't even look at me anymore. What happened to us?"
"Nothing." He said still not looking at me.
"Okay now tell me there is nothing wrong while looking at me. We aren't talking anymore."
"We are talking now."
I sighed and got up from the table. "I wish you would just tell me what's bothering you. We are meant to be married but it feels like you are a stranger now."
He didn't answer me.
"Is it because we are struggling to conceive?" I asked quietly. He didn't answer again but I could tell that's what it was. "I want kids as much as you Draco you can't shut me out this is happening to both of us."
"I know it is, but I can't help but resent you for it."
I let out an empty laugh. "I'm sorry okay. I can't help this." Tears filling my eyes.
"I know and that's why I can't look at you because I know it isn't your fault."
I started to sob. I wanted him to hold me like he used to. Whenever I was upset he would hug me until I calmed down. He didn't hug me though. He didn't make a move towards me.
"Do you still love me?" I asked him.
"Yes but.."
"But you are not in love with me."
He nodded. I took a deep breath.
"I suppose there is nothing I can do to change that?"
"No."
I nodded at him. "I want to fight for us you know. But I can't fight someone who has already surrendered."
I walked out of the room and upstairs to our bedroom. I waved my wand and all my stuff packed itself. I turned around and saw Draco standing in the doorway.
"I'll always care for you Y/N. Nothing will change that and if you ever need anything then please don't be a stranger." I nodded at him and walked over. I gave him one last kiss and a hug before I apparated to my parents' house.
My parents weren't home, so I went upstairs to my old bedroom and cried. My marriage was over only four years in. Me and Draco had been together since our fifth year at Hogwarts. After eight years together it was all over. I cried myself to sleep, thinking about everything.
**Two Years Later**
My parent had been a big help after the divorce. Draco kept true to his word, and we still kept in contact every so often. It wasn't a messy split and even though I still loved him, I realised that I too wasn't in love with him anymore and our divorce was for the best.
I was walking around Diagon Alley running a few errands for my mother after I finished my shift at the ministry when I saw Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. I immediately recognised it as Ron Weasley's older brother's shop.
I was never close to Ron in school. I stayed away from him because of the drama Draco caused. However, I had heard about what happened to his brother Fred. I felt bad for the Weasley's. I didn't lose anyone too close to me during the war so I couldn't imagine how hard that was for them.
I had to get a gift for my cousin's birthday. He is in his fifth year at Hogwarts, and I knew he enjoyed the odd prank or two. I went in the shop and immediately my senses were overwhelmed at all the colours and general aura of the shop. It was fairly busy in there with a few customers. I looked to my right as saw Ron stacking a shelf.
I went over to Ron to say hello. After the war I tried to make peace with everyone. No more arguing and fighting. I walked up to him, and he saw me as he turned around.
"Well, well, Y/N Malfoy to what do I owe the pleasure." He smiled.
"Oh, its Y/N Y/L/N again now." I said quietly.
"I'm sorry I thought you two were solid."
"Yeah so did I. Anyway, it's my cousin's birthday coming up and Y/C/N raved about how much he likes pranks, so I thought where better to get him a gift." I grinned towards the end of my sentence. Ron then went in detail about different pranks they sold and what they did. Eventually, I got him a Skiving Snack Box. I don't think my Aunt will appreciate it much but what are big cousins for if not to help get out of school.
I thanked Ron for his help and went over to the counter to pay for the items. Standing behind it was George Weasley. I hadn't seen him since the final Battle. I wasn't going to lie, he looked good. Very tired still but good. He smiled at me as I walked up to the counter.
"Well hello Mrs Malfoy!" He smiled.
"Actually, its Ms Y/L/N again. He frowned slightly at my sentence.
"So, you're divorced too?" he asked. I nodded sadly. I felt bad but I asked my next question anyway.
"I didn't know you were married; do I know her?" I then quickly added, "I'm sorry that's a personal question I didn't mean to pry."
He laughed. "Actually, it was Angelina Johnson. We bonded after..." he paused "Anyway we have two kids, Fred II and Roxanne. I see them every weekend when I'm not working" he said as he rang my items through the till. "Do you have kids?" I shook my head.
"That is actually the reason for my divorce." I told him "Me and Draco kept trying but nothing happened for us." I looked down at my feet. "I wanted kids more than anything, but Draco resented me because I couldn't give him children." I looked back up and smiled at him. He didn't look at me sympathetically like I expected.
"I'm really sorry about that." He smiled. "Look I know this might be out of the blue, but would you like to go get a coffee with me?" he asked looking shy. In all the years I had known of him I had never seen George Weasley shy.
"Yeah I'd like that a lot." I grinned at him.
"My lunch break is in five minutes but as I am the boss I can take it early" he winked at me. That simple action sent butterflies to my stomach. He came from around the counter and just quickly told Ron where we were going.
We talked for an hour about life in general. He told me about his kids, and I smiled at the thought. I could tell that he was a great father to them, and it hurt me to know that I may never have a connection with children like that. Soon enough it was coming to the end of his lunch break, and we started walking back to the shop.
"So, I really enjoyed this. I was wondering if you would like to go on a date with me?" He asked more confident than earlier.
"Sure, I would really like that." I agreed. I gave him my address and we organised a date. I was really looking forward to it. I hadn't been on a date since my divorce.
**3 Years Later**
George was a true gentleman on our first date which lead to another and another. We were now sitting at a table in a fancy restaurant for our third anniversary. George had asked me to be his girlfriend as he walked me home from our first date.
He was holding my hand as our food was served and we were talking the whole night. I was so in love with this man and even though I never thought I would love anyone other than Draco. I felt a stronger connection to George.
Soon enough dessert was served and before we started I looked at him and saw him looking nervous all of a sudden.
"Georgie? What's wrong?" I asked him starting to get a little worried.
"Hm nothing. I um.. I have something to ask you." He stuttered. I nodded for him to continue. He took a deep breath before he started talking again.
"After I got divorced I thought I would never love anyone else again and I am sure you felt the same. But when you walked into my shop three years ago I felt a connection. It has only gotten stronger since and it didn't take me long to realise I was in love with you." He paused as he got down on one knee and opened a ring box. "Y/F/N Y/M/N Y/L/N, will you do the honour of being my wife?" He asked. I felt myself crying as I nodded my head dramatically.
"Yes" was all I said. I could hear cheers coming from around the restaurant. Before he was able to put the ring on my finger I tackled him I a hug. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man.
**Six Months Later**
When me and George told our families, we had them gather at the Burrow. Our families got along really well, and wedding planning was done immediately. I had Roxanne, Ginny, Hermione and Fleur as bridesmaids and then my cousin and Fred II were ring bearers. Because I had been married before, I wore a dress with a pink tint to it. It fitted me perfectly. The flowers were blue and pink roses, and the venue was at my parents house.
Originally, Molly, as she insisted I call her as I was soon to be Mrs Weasley too, wanted us to go with the Weasley tradition of getting married at the Burrow. However, as George and Angelina got married there we both agreed that it would feel a bit weird. But close family and friends were going to go to the Burrow after the wedding reception and before me and George leave for our Honeymoon.
I had all my bridesmaids helping me get ready with Roxanne telling me I looked like a princess. It took a while for Fred II and Roxanne to warm up to me but me and George explained that I am not there to replace their Mum, but I love their Dad very much and that I was more of a friend to them.
Soon enough it was time to walk down the aisle and I couldn't be happier. Everything in my life was perfect. I was marrying the man I loved and for some reason this seemed more special than my first wedding. There wasn't a dry eye in the garden as me and George exchanged our vows.
"Y/N, I have known you since your first year at Hogwarts and never did I expect to be standing here with you now. I am so in love with you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. The way you are with my children gives me butterflies. I promise that I will love you forever and care for you as long as you will let me." He slid the ring on my finger.
"George, I am also surprised that we are standing here but in no way is it a bad thing. You have made me the happiest I have been in a long time. You brought me out of a depression which had consumed me for years and now there isn't a day where I don't want to see you smile as yours is the reason for mine. I love you George." I slipped the ring onto his finger.
The rest of the ceremony flew by and soon we were sharing our first of many kisses as husband and wife. The wedding reception was successful, and so was mine and George's first dance. Soon the guests all went home except my parents, aunt and uncle and cousin and George's family. We all apparated back to the Burrow where we spent the rest of the evening talking with friends and family.
When me and George eventually went to leave for our honeymoon I had Fred and Roxanne run up to us to say goodbye. I felt four little arms wrap around me. "Thank you for being our second Mum." Fred told me and I felt like I could cry. I knelt down to their height and gave them both a big hug.
Me and George had an amazing honeymoon which was obviously spent traditionally. When we got home I had some news for George. I had an appointment at St Mungo's after I was getting headaches and sickness in the morning. I had never been tested to see if I could conceive or not and neither had Draco. So, when I got symptoms of pregnancy I wanted to check it out. St Mungo's had told me that I was indeed pregnant. In fact, I was three months along so once I told George, we could tell our families.
Telling George was brilliant he immediately dropped to his knees and spoke to my belly. We then told Fred and Roxanne who were over the moon to be an older brother and sister. Our parents were ecstatic too and especially my mum who knew all about the troubles I had conceiving with Draco and how much I wanted to have kids of my own. Everything was amazing.
**Nine Months Later** (Sorry for all the time skips)
I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl three months ago. Me and George decided on the name Hannah Grace Weasley. She was our little miracle and even if I never had another child, with my daughter and stepchildren I felt like our family was complete.
I was standing in the shop with Hannah in my arms. I decided to see George at work to get out of the house whilst I was still on maternity leave. I was wandering around the shop just calmly watching everyone as they browsed and bought items. I heard the door of the shop open again and I saw someone I didn't expect to see there. Draco. He smiled at me as he saw me. I turned quickly so he didn't see Hannah and asked Ron to watch her whilst I spoke to him. Ron of course agreed as he love his little niece to pieces.
I turned back to Draco and walked over to him. "Hello Draco." I spoke with a small smile on my face.
"Y/N. How are you?"
"I'm good thank you. How about you?"
"I'm doing okay. I saw you through the window and thought I would come and speak to you. Are you free now?"
I nodded my head. I glanced back over to Ron who was slowly rocking Hannah. We walked to just outside the shop.
"Look Y/N, I have been wanting to speak to you for some time, but I didn't know where you lived as your Mum wouldn't tell me."
I slowly nodded as he spoke.
"Look I know we have been separated for seven years but do you ever think we called it off too soon?" he questioned.
"Um about that Draco..." I started. Ron then walked out of the shop.
"Y/N I think your daughter is hungry." I nodded at him and took Hannah.
"Daughter?" Draco choked. I nodded at him.
"I married George nine months ago and we had Hannah." I told him. He just looked stunned. As if he heard his name, George then emerged from the shop and wrapped his arm around me.
"Hello Malfoy." George spoke. Draco looked up in acknowledgement but looked down at Hannah again.
"Congratulations to you both."
"Bye Draco." I said softly and went back into the shop. Before I went in I heard George speak.
"You were wrong you know. To ever let her go."
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yelenabemylova · 21 hours ago
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wanda maximoff x reader: 3am
tw: sex, cl*nt
You woke up feeling extremely hungry and checked the clock, 3:07, great. Clint had made dinner and it was horrible, but you didn't want to be rude so you just claimed you weren't hungry so you didn't have to eat it.
As glad as you were that you didn't have to eat what Clint called a lasagna, you were feeling the emptiness in your stomach and regretting it slightly.
Gently, you shook your girlfriend's shoulder, "Wanda?" She groaned and pulled you closer to her, thinking you just wanted cuddles, "go back to sleep, printsessa."
"But I'm hungry," you sighed. "Don't leave, you're keeping me warm," she mumbled. "Okay, do you think Steve and Bucky are dating?" you asked her.
"Probably, now please go back to sleep," she kissed the top of your head. "Do you think the first humans were scared when one of them fell asleep?" you stared blankly at the ceiling.
"Mhm," she pulled the blanket over your head to shut you up. "Hey! What was that for," you pouted, surfacing from the huge mountain of blankets on top of you. "Shut the fuck up, it's 3am," she growled, burying her face in her pillow.
"Sorry," you shuffled away from her. "No, come back, I'm sorry," she wrapped her arm around you and pulled you over to her. You nuzzled your nose into her side, inhaling her familiar scent, "I love you."
She got up and walked over to the door, "I love you too, are you coming to get some dinner or not?" You quickly jumped out of bed, "yes, wait for me!"
You ran to the kitchen, where Wanda was already making some toast for you both. "Why do we react to tickling the same way we do pain," you wondered out loud. "Ask Tony, he'll probably know," the sokovian smiled at you.
"I smell food," Bucky ran into the kitchen like a child on Christmas day. "We're making food because of Clint's shit cooking," you giggled. "I'm glad I'm not the only one who hated it," he sighed in relief before getting a bowl and filling it with cereal.
After he put his milk in, he was about to take a bite when Steve ran up behind him and ate the cereal on his spoon. "Jerk," Bucky rolled his eyes. "Punk," the blonde chuckled before pressing a kiss to his cheek.
"Are you two dating?" you emerged from the darker part of the kitchen. "We are," Bucky smiled at his boyfriend. "Congratulations!" Wanda shouted from where she was getting nutella from the cupboards.
Bucky and Steve ate their cereal and headed back to the latter's room while you and Wanda chatted and ate your toast. You told her about what had happened in the compound while she was away on a mission but she wasn't really listening.
"Earth to Wanda? Hello?" you snapped her fingers in her face. "Marry me," she blurted out. "What?" you choked. "I'm so in love with you, it's insane. You make my life so much better, and I want to spend the rest of it with you by my side, y/n m/n l/n will you marry me?" she asked you.
"Yes!" you jumped up and hugged her tightly, crying tears of joy. "We can go get a ring tomo-" she began. "I don't need a ring, baby, I just need you," you kissed her softly. "Don't think I'm not getting you a fancy ring with Stark's money," she giggled.
"I'll be getting you one too," you laced your fingers with hers. "I love you," she kissed your hand. "I love you so much more," you looked up at her. "Impossible," she stared down at you with so much love and adoration in her eyes.
You stood on your tip-toes and kissed her, passionately. She wrapped her arms around your waist and you put yours around her neck, pulling each other closer.
She tapped the backs of your thighs and you jumped into her embrace, tangling your hands in her hair. She licked your bottom lip, asking for entrance, which you happily granted her.
You moaned slightly into her mouth as she carried you up to your room. She gently lay you down on the bed, kissing your neck and tugging on the bottom of your shirt, asking for permission to take it off. You quickly pulled it over your head and reattached your lips to hers.
Slowly, she trailed kisses down your chest, leaving dark marks all over your skin. You moaned as she took one of your nipples in your mouth, swirling her tongue around it. She switched to the other one, giving it the same attention before kissing lower and lower down your body.
She looked up at you to make sure you were okay with this and you nodded quickly, just wanting her to fuck you. She pulled your shorts off, gently rubbing circles on your clothed clit, "you're so wet already, baby."
"Fuck," you breathed out as she pressed open mouthed kisses to your core. In one quick movement, she ripped off your underwear and attached her lips to your throbbing clit.
"Shit, Wanda, feels so good," you moaned, pulling her face closer to you by her hair. "You taste so good, printsessa," she husked in her Sokovian accent, the vibrations adding to the pleasure you were feeling.
She inserted two fingers into you, pumping them in and out at a slow pace. You bucked your hips towards her hand, trying to make her go faster. Picking up the pace, she added another finger and sucked your clit harshly, making you scream her name as you came.
Wanda kissed you deeply, making you moan as you tasted yourself. She lifted one of your thighs before sitting on top of you, rubbing her cunt on yours. "Fuck," she threw her head back in pleasure as she started grinding down on you.
Feeling overstimulated, you could feel your second orgasm building up quickly, thankfully, Wanda was close too. "Come with me baby," she moaned in your ear. Your legs shook violently under her as spots of white clouded your vision, you felt euphoric.
She got a cloth and cleaned you both up before she lay next to you, your head on her chest. "I love you, my beautiful fiancé," she kissed your temple. "I love you too, my even more beautiful fiancé," you held her hand tightly. "Nobody is as beautiful as you," she pulled the blankets over you both, before you fell into a deep sleep, content with your gorgeous wife-to-be.
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spencerreidat3am · 18 hours ago
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Blurbmas day 4: Making Christmas cookies with Spencer!
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word count: 756
warnings: food, baking, pregnancy
Spencer frowns at the cue card I've handed him, glancing up at my, practically radiating excitement, face.
"World famous Christmas cookies? What would you like me to do with this?"
"You have to help me make them!!" I take the card from him and grab his hand to pull him up, but he doesn't budge.
"Yeah I don't think I can do that. Remember the last time I tried to help you bake something?" He gives me a pointed look and I can't help but look guilty.
I had gotten SLIGHTLY annoyed (Spencer considered it more of an intense rage) at having someone else in my space while baking. I ended up shoving him out of the kitchen and making the brownies myself.
We didn't bake together again.
"I won't get mad I swear! Come on! I confessed my love for you with this cookie recipe!" It was true. I had shaped the cookies to say "I love you' and decorated them with a chocolate frosting and sprinkles. When I presented them to him, he took one look at them and immediately started to cry.
"...Fine. But if you hit me with your spoon again I'm leaving!"
"I didn't even hit you that hard!"
Once I finally get Spencer into the kitchen, I task him with measuring out the ingredients as I grab them. Given his Ph.D. in Chemistry, I trust him with this. I focus on hand him what he needs and making sure he does it right.
"Crack the egg a bit on the counter before you crack it into the bowl,"
"I know how to crack an egg?"
"I'm just saying!" He gives me a look as I throw the eggshells away, but I ignore it.
The rest of the dough making goes smoothly, mostly due to Spencer following my instructions as diligently as possible. Whether it was because he wanted to not get smacked by my spoon again, or to just have good cookies, is unclear.
We're sitting infront of the oven now, watching our festively shaped cookies rise.
"We should do this more often..." He runs his fingers over my apron, smiling fondly at the little hearts on it.
"Sit by the oven?" This earns me a laugh from him. It makes my heart melt a little and his smile is infectious.
"No, silly! Make things together. I like it."
"You do?"
"Yeah! Baking is a lot like science. Plus I get to do it with you. That's two things I love in one activity." He grips my hand at this, playing with my fingers now.
"...Okay. Let's do it more. Although I can't make any promises about not being annoyed!" He giggles and hums, the beep of the oven cutting our conversation off as I get the cookies out of the oven.
We make our icing as the cookies cool. My colours are more pastel while Spencer leans towards a more holiday colour palette. Since it's us, we divide up the cookies and turn it into a competition. I can already tell I'm going to win but Spencer has always been a little too competitive to go down without a fight.
After we've both finished, Spencer is quick to insist on going first.
"Ready? Look!!" He turns his cookie to show the most adorable little set of gloves, with each of our initials on them.
"See! You get the one with my initials and I get the one with yours!" He giggles as he hands it to me. I can't help but tear up the tiniest bit, promptly scaring him.
"Wait wait wait don't cry! I-it's okay!" He nervously hugs me, rubbing my back as I sniffle.
"I love them so much..." I mumble through the tears and he chuckles.
"How about you show me your cookie yeah?" He holds my face in his hands, wiping my tears with his thumbs. I light up at this, grinning wildly as I grab it.
"Ta da!" I show him my decorated cookie. What was once a broken candy cane was now a pregnancy test, sporting two pink lines.
I can see the gears turning in his brain, but when they finally click he's hugging me so tight and spinning me around.
"We're having a baby?!" He practically shouts in my ear and I giggle.
"Yeah...We're having a baby"
"...Are you gonna tell me everything through cookies?"
"Yep!!"
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