She waited tensely, listening to the quiet movements behind her, then released a sigh of relief when cool cream again touched her back. Apparently he hadn’t finished there. She shivered as his breath skimmed her shoulder and stirred her hair. He had moved closer. I can almost feel the heat from his body , she thought vaguely; then his hands ran up her sides again. This time, however, they did not skim the sides of her br**sts; they slid right under her arms and closed over the generous mounds.
Arms dropping away, Helen stared down at what he was doing, spreading whole handfuls of the salve over her br**sts. This wasn’t part of the bargain! He was only to do my back , some bit of her mind cried out, but Helen wasn’t listening. Her eyes were glued to his hands as they massaged and caressed, squeezing so lightly that salve oozed through his fingers, then rubbing that excess on the undersides of her br**sts. He was most meticulous, not missing an inch of skin. He even applied it to her n**ples, rolling them between salve-covered thumbs and forefingers.
A soft "oh" slipping from her lips, Helen found herself leaning backward. It wasn’t until she felt a hardness nudge her bottom that she realized he had removed his leggings and was applying the salve while nak*d. A sudden picture of how they must look popped into her mind, and Helen closed her eyes with a moan. Oddly enough, shutting her eyes only seemed to intensify her other senses. She was keenly aware of his chest rubbing against her shoulders, his legs brushing her own, his pelvis grinding gently against her backside.
As he suddenly stopped, she couldn’t hold back a murmur of disappointment.
Helen obeyed that husky order automatically, turned to find him squatting to scoop up more lotion. She felt a moment’s discomfort when he raised his head and peered up the length of her nak*d body, then shifted to kneel before her and glanced down at her feet.
"Brace yourself on my shoulders," he ordered, then bent to lift one of her feet onto his knee.
She was grateful for her hold on those strong, wide shoulders a moment later as he began to massage the salve into her foot. It tickled and put her off balance, and she stumbled slightly, releasing a small giggle as he slid his fingers between her toes. Her laughter faded as his hands skimmed up her leg, gliding over her calf, her knee. Her hands tightened on him as those fingers slid higher up her thighs, his eyes following. She was terribly aware of how open and vulnerable to his eyes this position left her body.
A moment later, the side of his hand nudged against the center of her. She bit her lip and closed her eyes as a rainbow of startling sensations shot through her. Once again, she found herself startlingly disappointed when he stopped what he was doing and set her first foot back on the floor.
Opening her eyes, Helen watched him scoop up more salve, then catch and lift her other foot for the same treatment, applying the ointment to every bit of her foot, her ankle, her calf and upper leg. Then he started up her thigh. This time, however, when he reached the top, he did not stop. The hand on the inside of her leg continued higher, spreading salve before it. Helen gasped and stiffened as he massaged the very core of her, the salve seeming cool against her overheating flesh. She was so concentrated on what he was doing, she didn’t even notice when he urged her foot off his knee, setting it back on the floor before rising before her. She did notice when his lips closed over hers.
Helen opened her mouth eagerly, inviting his invasion. He accepted the invitation with an ardor that increased her own, continuing to rub one hand between her legs, his fingers slick and hot.
She felt him cup her breast briefly and arched into that, even as she moved against his hand, but he released her and slid that hand down and around to cup her behind, squeezing and kneading there briefly.
As his other hand slipped from between her legs to cup her other buttock, she groaned in disappointment, but it turned to a gasp as he lifted and spread her thighs, pressing her up and around him so that she straddled his waist as he crossed the room.
He tumbled them both down onto the bed, and Helen quickly realized that he was as slick and salve-covered as she. So, perhaps she had been wrong; he did not seem to mind getting messy. Their bodies slid across each other, their legs tangling, then untangling as he kissed her again and again, devouring her mouth with his own.
"Spread your legs," he murmured. Enraptured, Helen quickly did so, sighing and gasping when his hand slid between them. Oh, yes, she liked this, she thought vaguely as she raised her pelvis upward into his touch. Oh, yes. Yes, she – Oh!
She cried out in amazement as her body suddenly convulsed, her legs clamping instinctively around his hand and squeezing as a series of spasms rocked her body. She was aware of his hand slipping away, but was too wrapped up in the sensations convulsing her to care. Then he nudged her legs apart, slid between them and pressed into her.
Helen’s eyes opened in shock at this sudden intrusion, and for a moment she feared he would not fit, but he pushed all the way in with one hard thrust that caused the tiniest pain within her. She glanced at his face to find him watching her; then he bent to kiss her again, and began to rock against her.
Pulling himself out, then pushing back in, he began to show her even more wonderful sensations than she’d known could exist. Helen clasped her arms around his shoulders and held on as he took her on a wild new ride.
The knock on the door sounded early. Too early. Hethe grunted, rolled onto his shoulder sleepily, and bellowed, "Go away!"
The knock sounded again, louder this time, and he shifted grumpily. "I said – "
Hethe paused, his mouth hanging open briefly, his eyes sharpening on the body in the linens next to him, his wife. Memories of the night before suddenly filled his mind, and his mouth closed, curving into a satisfied smile. He had performed magnificently, last night, if he did say so himself. And more than once.
Aye. It had been rather impressive. They had made love all night and had not left the room once. They were well and truly married now, and there was no doubting it. Perhaps Templetun would finally leave him alone.
His gaze slid up the linens to the mass of golden tangles poking out of the top. There was no sign of a face, just those curly tresses poking every which way. Hethe’s smile softened. His wife was so adorable.
Sexy as hell, too, he added, his gaze sliding back along the curve of what he presumed to be her side and waist. Scooting forward in the bed, he pressed himself against her back, his hand resting on her hip and rubbing it through the linen.
She moaned and shifted against him sleepily, pressing herself against his erection which had suddenly sprung to life.
He knew the exact moment she woke up. Her body went quite as stiff as a board, then she flipped onto her back, tugging the linen down to stare at him. Hethe managed not to wince at the sight. Her face was streaked with dried ointment, and her hair, having dried while they slept, was a holy mess about her head.
She gaped at him briefly, then tugged the bedclothes back over her face.
"What are you doing here?" she asked. Her hair trembled in syncopation with that muffled hiss from under the linens.
"I am your husband, and this is my bed," Hethe answered with a laugh, then slid his hand up her leg a top the linen, then along the inside of her thigh. His voice was husky when he asked, "Surely you haven’t forgotten already?"
For a moment, she was as still as death; then she released a breath she had been holding, the linen billowing a bit as she did. "I did."
She pulled the cover down to peer at him consideringly. He arched an eyebrow as her gaze slid over his shoulders and chest, then across the bed sheet that still covered him from the waist down.
Hethe fancied he spotted a spark of desire in those blue eyes of hers as she found the bulge in the linens that signaled his own. She had opened her mouth to speak when another knock sounded impatiently at the door.
"Come in," he called out cheerfully, chuckling when Helen ducked beneath the linens again with a squeal of dismay. Rolling onto his back as the door opened, he eyed a timid Templetun with amusement. The man was hesitating by the open door, sniffing the air cautiously.
"You needn’t worry," Hethe told the king’s chaplain dryly. "The healer, Mary" – he made himself recall and say the girl’s name; it was time he started being a proper lord around here – "she used some herbs in the bath that stopped the itching and removed the smell." His gaze slid to the lumpy linen beside him and he added slyly, "The girl appears to be much better than the healer employed by Tiernay."
An outraged squawk sounded from beneath the sheet, which Helen pulled down far enough to glare at him. "My Joan is as fine a healer… better even than Mary. Although," she added quickly, "while Mary needs more training, I am sure she will be as fine as Joan someday."
"Then why was my Mary able to get rid of your scent, whereas your Joan could not?" Hethe taunted.
"Perhaps Joan thought I wished to keep it," Helen answered sweetly, and Hethe burst out laughing. A small, reluctant smile tugged at her lips, too, before she glanced past him. She promptly flushed bright pink at what she saw, then ducked beneath the linen again.
Hethe glanced toward Templetun, his eyebrows rising as he saw that William was with the man. He supposed his first had been stuck out in the hall when the king’s man had hesitated at the door, but Templetun had made his way cautiously into the room once Hethe had assured him there was nothing to fear. His first had apparently followed.
Hethe started to sit up, pausing when Helen immediately began to squeal and claw for the linens he was dragging with him. Biting his lip to keep from laughing, he shook his head and pushed the covering away, then stood up and grabbed for his breeches. "What are you doing here, William? I told Edwin to tell you – "
"Leicester and his Flemish mercenaries are captured. The king released us," William explained.
Hethe grunted as he pulled his breeches on; then straightened, picked up his tunic and headed for the door. "I needs must speak to Stephen."
"He is not here," William said.
At the same time, Templetun protested; "Now, just a moment, my lord."
Hethe paused and glanced from one man to the other. He decided to deal with Lord Templetun first.
"What?" he asked the man bluntly.
"Well." The king’s chaplain appeared taken aback at Hethe’s sharp, challenging tone. "W-we have not settled this yet."
"Settled what ?" Hethe asked, turning his tunic about in his hands. The shirt was inside out from when he had tugged it off last night. He took the time to put it right side out.
"The bedding," Templetun snapped. "I must be sure – "
"Good God, Templetun!" Hethe interrupted, a little annoyed at the man’s persistence. He was like a dog, sniffing about where he wasn’t wanted. "What do you think I was doing up here all night? The minute Mary managed to remove my wife’s smell, the problem was solved. The marriage is consummated. Now let it go." He turned his attention back to his tunic, before glancing sharply back up to add, "Actually, now that I think on it, there is no need for you to waste your time here any longer. I am sure you must be eager to return to the king’s side."
It was an invitation to leave Holden, and not a subtle one. Lord Templetun scowled slightly, then peered toward the bed. "Lady Helen?"
A moment passed; then she lowered the linens enough to peek out from them.
"Is the marriage consummated?" the old man asked quietly.
She nodded, her forehead and the tops of her cheeks turning pink with embarrassment. Templetun hesitated briefly, looking unsure whether to believe her or not; then his gaze suddenly sharpened and moved from Helen’s salve-streaked face to Hethe’s chest. He relaxed at once.
Glancing down, Hethe saw what had soothed the man’s worries. His torso was streaked with dried salve. Hell, his whole body was probably streaked with the stuff, as was hers. The linens were quite a mess, too. They had been having a rather jolly romp, after all. Hethe looked over at Helen to see that she had also noticed the telltale marks of their activity.Flushinga bright red, his wife fell back, pulling the bedclothes over her face with an embarrassed groan.
"Very well," Lord Templetun conceded with satisfaction as he moved to the door. "William, you are my witness. These two both admit that the wedding is consummated. The marriage stands. I shall be leaving immediately after I break my fast."
"Have the servants bring up a fresh bath," Hethe called after the man as the door closed behind him. He was wondering if Templetun had heard and would do as he asked when William’s shifting drew his gaze.
The knight was sidling toward the door. "Where is Stephen?" Hethe asked abruptly, bringing the man to a halt.
Sir William grimaced. "I am not sure. He had something he said he had to take care of. I know he left the bailey on horseback," he answered slowly, his gaze moving between his liege’s grim countenance and the lump on the bed. "Is there a problem?"
"Aye." Hethe crumpled up his tunic, tossed it on the foot of the bed, then began stripping off his breeches. As he had suspected, the dried salve covered him everywhere. He had to clean himself up. He couldn’t go around looking like this.
"What sort of problem?" William asked, and Hethe scowled at the thought of his underling’s treacherous actions.
"He has been doling out punishments unsanctioned by me."
Hethe nodded at his first’s shock. "That is what was behind Lady Helen’s letters of complaint. He has been abusing his power here and blaming it on me."
"Stephen?" William asked doubtfully. Hethe could fully understand the man’s incredulity at such a betrayal. It was hard to believe. But there was no reason for Helen to lie about what she’d told him.
Besides, while he had not ordered those punishments given, Hethe did have a vague recollection of letters from Stephen mentioning the incidents she had listed, requesting directions on how to deal with them. He didn’t recall what orders he had given the young knight, but knew it had not been to cut off anyone’s hands, br**sts or legs.