fill up my senses like a night in a forest,
Like the mountains in springtime,
Like a walk in the rain, like a storm in the desert,
Like a sleepy blue ocean.
You fill up my senses, come fill me again.
Come let me love you, let me give my life to you,
Let me drown in your laughter, let me die in your arms.
Let me lay down beside you, let me always be with you
Come let me love you, come love me again.
Let me give my life to you,
Come let me love you, come love me again.
Emma had fixed herself a drink and settled in with her music to try to get the rest of what she hoped would turn out to be Belle’s love story.
Her father motioned persistently for her to go out and see who was in the parlor.
Belle sighed and put the beans she was working with onto the table. She got up, not bothering to wipe her hands off or smooth her hair.
Which one of her silly would-be suitors would it be?
She went into the parlor.
Her heart skipped a beat. The man was standing with his back to her. His slim form was encased in a simple black jacket but cut from elegant, expensive material, his unkempt brown hair with its fine streaks of grey, the gold handled mahogany cane . . . .
He turned and smiled at her.
Oh he looked so . . . so solid.
“Miss French. I must apologize. My business has taken far longer than I thought it would. I half-expected to come here and find that you had become betrothed to another. Everything I had to arrange is now . . . .” he didn’t finish. She had flung herself into his arms.
“I have missed you so much! I don’t care who knows! I don’t care how big a scandal it will be, please, please let me come back to work for you! I love you!” She was standing on her toes and trying to kiss him.
“And I love you, Miss French.” He was holding her by her arms, not quite allowing her to kiss him, smiling down into her watery eyes. He lifted one hand to move her hair back from her face. “Please let us sit down,” he told her and led her to the sofa.
He sat down next to her, holding her hands.
“Miss French, I have been involved with some rather difficult legal procedures. You are aware that my first wife recently returned from the dead. Her arrival necessitated me getting my marriage to Madame Cora annulled and then. . . and then . . . Miss French, my first wife petitioned for a divorce and was granted it.”
Belle sat quietly taking everything in. “So you are no longer married” she finally asked, “to anyone?”
“I’m not. Uh. . .” It seemed like there was something else he wanted to say but he hesitated.
If Belle hadn’t known the man better she would have thought him nervous.
He began talking again, carefully choosing his words, not meeting her eyes, “I have talked with your father and he has reluctantly granted his permission for me to. . . for me to. . . “ he stopped again. He released her hands and reached into a vest pocket.
“I had this especially made for you.” He handed her a small box.
She was trembling but somehow managed to open the box. Inside was a golden ring embedded with three small sapphires.
“The blue stones match your eyes,” he added.
She looked at the ring. She looked at him. “Master Goldark?”
“I believe under these circumstances, that it would be acceptable for you to address me as Rumach and, with your permission, I would like to call you Belle.”
“Master Gol. . . . Rumach, are you . . . ? Is this. . . ?”
He was still turned away from her, “Miss Fre. . . Belle, I know that I am not worthy of you—your father and I am definitely agreed on that much. But without you in my life, there is no joy, no light, no warmth. You make me want to be the best man I can be and I. . . I love you beyond all measure. I would be honored if you would agree to be my wife, if you would accept my proposal of marriage.”
Belle just looked at him, stunned.
“Belle?” he was now looking at her, looking concern when she hadn’t responded. “Will you marry me?”
She reached her arms around him, “Ohyesohyesohyes! Of course I will!”
And he kissed her, at first gently but then with a growing hunger. She remembered how well her body responded to his touch and she felt herself melting into him. He felt so good.
She pulled back, “When?”
“When can we be married? I don’t want to wait!”
He chuckled. “Well, I was hoping you would feel that way. I was presumptuous enough to go ahead and get us a marriage license. We can be married whenever you like.”
“Tonight?” she asked. “I’ll tell my father. We’ll go to the minister.”
“You don’t want to wait and have a wedding with all your friends. . . ?”
“I don’t want to wait. I want to be with you,” Belle told him. “I don’t want to wait a second more to be your wife.”
And so it was that Belle (with a hastily packed bag), Rumach and Maurice rode over to the minister’s house in Rumach’s carriage. The minister’s wife and Billy served as witnesses.
While Rumach gave the minister a generous donation for his trouble, Belle had a brief moment with her father.
“Belle,” her father was concerned.
“I’m going to be all right, father. I love Rumach,” she told him.
“Are you sure, really sure?” her father wanted to know. “He’s so much older than you. And he’s a rather difficult man.”
“I’m really sure. He will take good care of me. He’ll be a good father to our children. He really, really loves me.”
Maurice French shook his head. Rumach Goldark was certainly not the man he would have chosen for his daughter, but the man was well off and did seem to care for his daughter. Hell, the man appeared besotted with his daughter.
“If he ever hurts you, you know you will be welcome back home, under my roof.”
Belle nodded and managed to give her father a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Billy dropped the newlyweds off at the new Storybrooke Inn and went on to take Maurice home. As per Goldark’s request, Billy would return to the Inn, stable the horses and stay in one of the smaller rooms.
Alone with his new bride, Rumach had to ask, “Your father, is he’s worried I’m going to beat you?”
Belle smiled at him, “More or less. He recognizes that we love each other and as someone who married for love himself, he wants me to have the same thing. But no, he doesn’t trust you, not entirely.”
The two moved around the spacious room, the best the inn had to offer, not looking at each other. Despite having been married before. . . twice. . . Rumach was beginning to feel increasingly nervous.
This wife, well, he was well and truly in love with her. But she was much younger than he was and he was concerned if he would be . . . enough. Especially now, since he was feeling an element of eagerness such as he had not felt since he was a much younger man.
Belle’s eyes were shining and she was smiling at him, her simple smile nearly sending him over the edge. At this moment, Belle was eager for the next step. She was quite in love with her new husband and trusted him completely. He would take care of her.
“Belle,” he began. “If you don’t want us to . . .”
“What?” she asked innocently.
“I don’t want to rush you into a. . . into a . . . uhm . . .”
Belle touched a finger to his lips, “I want to be a full wife to you,” she told him. If she didn’t know any better, she would think he was more nervous than she was. How funny! She had never seen this side of the man before.
“Let’s get something to eat first,” he told her, anxious to divert them both. “I don’t believe either of us have had an evening meal.” He instructed her to stay in the room and he would go down to the Inn’s kitchen and find them something to eat.
Belle took the opportunity to change into a delicate blend of creamy silk and lace, a nightdress she had inherited, one of her mother’s few possessions. There was a mirror in the room and she was a bit embarrassed to see how much the clinging silk revealed. She could see the outline of her legs, the flair of her hips, the swell of her bosom. Her mother had been a bit taller than herself and the gown pooled in a lacy froth around her feet. She considered greeting her new husband in the figure-hugging gown but lost her nerve and covered herself with the matching long jacket. It offered her considerable protection and would shield her from his heated gaze.
When Rumach arrived back in the room, carrying a tray with bowls of stew, bread and coffee with milk, he couldn’t help but notice her change of attire.
“It was my mother’s,” Belle explained. “I thought it was appropriate.”
“Very,” he confirmed. “But you know I would think you lovely were you wearing a burlap horse blanket.”
They sat across from each other eating their supper, taking small bites. Nibbling. Occasionally looking at each other but then hastily looking away.
“Plain fare,” apologized Rumach, “but all that was available at this hour.”
“It’s fine,” Belle told him, but in truth, she didn’t taste a bite. She was much more focused on her new husband, watching him tear off a piece of the bread to soak up some of the juices of the stew, wondering, having some idea of what those fingers were capable of doing to her.
Rumach was little better off, watching Belle as she would spoon stew into her mouth and then pull the spoon out of her mouth . . . her perfect, soft, moist, little mouth.
He realized that he was beginning to sweat. He needed something to distract himself.
“Belle, why don’t you take your hair down,” he said the first thing that came into his mind.
Belle reached up and unfastened her hair. It fell down past her shoulders in chestnut brown strands, waves of rich silken treasure. Her eyes peered at him between the unruly tresses. Her eyes had turned a dark blue in the light of the candles of the room.
He sighed. That didn’t help. The woman looked like she had just sat up in her bed!
Well, in for a penny, in for a pound.
“Belle, why don’t you let me see what you have on under that pretty jacket.”
Belle dropped her eyes and carefully undid the ribbon holding the neck of the jacket together. She then, still moving slowly, unfastened the sash and the jacket fell open. Very leisurely, she slid the shoulders off and allowed the jacket to slither to the seat of the chair.
Good lord! The nightdress revealed all her charms, leaving the merest whisper to the imagination!
He’d had enough.
He stood abruptly and held out his hand to his new wife, “Come,” he ordered.
He led Belle over to the bed. Standing, he began to kiss her, his hands tracing down her arms, then slowly pulling her against himself. With just a little encouragement, Belle, tenuously at first, but with growing confidence, began to undress her husband, removing his jacket first. It dropped to the floor. Then she unbuttoned his form-fitting vest and it followed the jacket. Next, the silk ascot was untied and pulled from his neck. He somehow managed to stand stock still while she fretted and fussed with his clothing. She nervously began to unbutton his shirt and pulled it from his body. Finally the undershirt was lifted up and over his head. He was now clad only in his soft brown pants which were still tucked in his black boots.
Belle had a satisfying amount of his body revealed to her for the moment. She was fascinated with his body, so different than her own. She was interested with all of his angles and found herself touching the hard planes of his body, the sinewy muscles on his arms. She often would lean in to press her lips to him.
She stopped at one point to look up at him, her eyes glowing. She let him know that he tasted good. He grabbed her and kissed her harshly, hungrily, pushing her onto her back onto the bed. She relished the feel of his body against hers, the weight of him pressing her into the mattress.
He pulled up and, now positioned over her, he cautiously began to slip the thin straps of her nightdress down her shoulders. Belle’s eyes had widened and he sensed that there was an increasing element of fear mixed in with her excitement and her arousal.
“Belle, you are a beautiful woman, the most beautiful, brave and intelligent woman I have ever known. I want to see you. Please.”
He sounded so desperate, she couldn’t bear to stop him, to disappoint him. She bit her lip and nodded. He slipped the straps down her arms very slowly revealing her body to his gaze. He traced around her breasts, first with his fingers, then with the palm of his hand. He pulled the nightdress down her hips and her legs, pulling it away from her and, just as softly, he pulled down her underwear baring her completely to his sight.
Belle felt that somehow she should feel embarrassed or humiliated but there was such admiration in his eyes, it made her feel special and powerful. He stopped to hurriedly pull off his boots and with her bright eyes on him, he clumsily unbuttoned and somehow managed to shed his pants and remaining undergarments and drop them, leaving them where they had carelessly landed on the floor, joining his other clothes. Back in the bed with her, he then began to caress her and all the feelings she had felt in the carriage began to return. But this time her response came more quickly. She was more eager, more understanding of what was to come. She closed her eyes and enjoyed what he was doing to her, allowing the delicious explosion of feeling, the waves of throbbing pleasure to overcome her.
He held her closely afterward. She managed to ask him, “There’s more, isn’t there?”
“Yes my dear,” he promised her.
“I’m not completely naïve, Rum.” She liked how his name came so easily to her. “I’ve been around farm animals all my life. You’re going to put a part of your body into me.”
He nearly choked, strangling on his own spit.
“Is that not correct?” she asked him, ingenuously.
He was close to sputtering, “It’s correct. I’ve just never . . . it’s correct,” he wasn’t quite sure how best to respond to his brilliant, but innocent little wife.
“I’ve heard that it will be uncomfortable, even painful, for me.”
“Oh, my sweet, what happens between a man and his wife, especially when they love each other, it's wonderful. The first time, well, there may be some . . . some discomfort. I shall endeavor not to cause you any pain, but . . .” he took a deep breath. He would so have to hold himself back. “there may be some. . . discomfort this first time. You know I don’t want to hurt you. I never want to hurt you.”
“Of course you don’t. I suspect that practice will help improve how things go and make things easier for me,” she said brightly. “I shall endeavor to prove myself an apt pupil to your tutelage—you have much more experience in this matter than I do.”
She heard him chuckling. “You are amazing. I suppose this is my punishment for falling in love with an educated female.” His eyes gleamed, “Ah, but perhaps it is my reward. You are going to be a source of never ending delight and astonishment.” He became more serious. “Belle, I’m going to do my best not to hurt you, but there will likely be some outright pain when I penetrate you this first time.”
“I’m not afraid,” she assured him and welcomed him when he changed positions, lying with his weight on her.
He put every ounce of will power he had into tempering himself but she was so warm and so delicious.
Her eyes widened as he penetrated her and he felt her fingernails digging into his arm. She did not cry out but had gasped and closed her eyes. There had been a few quiet tears. He had stilled himself and kissed away her tears, soothing her, before continuing. Belle had marveled at their closeness, the sheer intimacy, feeling as if she was part of him . . . and he was part of her. She felt loved and protected, safe and cared for. Watching him as he focused his entire masculine force into her, trying, but not entirely succeeding, in curbing his own desires in his efforts not to cause her any more discomfort than he had to, and, finally, feeling his life stream pour into her, Belle had never felt more connected with another human being. It was the most invigorating experience of her life.
Afterwards, he got a warm, wet cloth and helped to clean her up.
“Do you think we made a baby?” she asked him. She was blushing as he used the cloth, rubbing her in tiny circles as he washed away the red-brown stains of her virginity.
He was startled. “It’s possible. Would you want my baby?” he asked quietly.
“I would,” she told him smiling. “I would.”
“Then, I hope we made a baby,” he told her. Oh lord, the picture of Belle swelling with his child, his sweet Belle becoming the mother of his son or daughter. The idea was both heartwarming and erotic.
They nestled together, entwined, Rumach considering but opting not to press his new bride for further intimacies.
“I was a bit concerned by the amount of bleeding. I remember that Milah had bled only a little. You seem all right?” He was worried if he had perhaps injured his young wife.
“I am,” she reassured him. ”Maybe a little sore.”
“It has suddenly occurred to me that I may not have been Milah’s first; that she might have duped me with a vial of pig’s blood and a show of innocence. I wasn’t experienced enough myself to have detected the difference.”
“You’ve been with a lot of women?” Belle asked.
“Not really. I was faithful to Milah when we were first married and I’ve been faithful to Cora, although I did come damn close to straying with her as you well know. I never liked paying women for it, so, no, not a lot of women.”
“Just the two?” she asked him.
“Well, I didn’t say that,” he admitted dryly.
“Uh hum,” Belle responded, knowing he wasn’t going to be any more forthcoming. She was lying almost on top of him, on her side, one of her arms and a leg draping over him. It was a very comfortable position. She felt herself drifting off.
Belle awoke abruptly. It was early dawn, with just the first hint of light on the horizon. She looked up at her new husband, enraptured. He was still asleep, his features more relaxed, making him look younger in his slumber. His breathing was slow and regular.
She couldn’t help herself. She lifted up the covers to look at her husband, including that part that he had thrust into her the night before.
“Pleased with what you see?” she heard him, his voice barely above a whisper.
“Why does it look different sometimes?” she asked him.
A smile skirted his face and he opened one eye, “It depends if I’m resting or if I’m . . . “ he wasn’t sure how to put this to his new wife. “Oh dear lord, Belle, I’m not comfortable talking about such things.”
“Even with your wife?”
“Especially with my wife!”
“I think that when you are interested in being . . . close to me, it becomes larger and harder,” she shared her observations.
He blinked and then managed to stare at her. He’d known she was an extraordinarily bright and observant young woman when he’d decided to ask her to marry him. . . when he had fallen in love with her.
“Like now. It seems to be getting larger,” and she put her hand on him.
“Belle!” he was astonished at his young wife’s temerity.
She seemed to realize something. “You like for me to touch you there, like I enjoy it when you touch me!” She began to experimentally move her hand along his length and breadth.
“Belle, this is a dangerous game you play,” he warned her.
“How so? Will you put me on my back again? I told you that I thought we would need to practice,” she chattered on. “Would this be a good time?
“Are you always so chatty in the morning?” he asked her.
She considered, “I have no idea. I’ve never woken up with anyone in my bed in the morning.” Her eyes darkened. “Do think that I’ve always been this way or that perhaps our activities of last night have created an excess of nervous energies . . . “
“Shut up,” he told her, rolling on top of her and he began kissing her.
She yelped, the force of his response taking her by surprise but when he began dropping kisses along her neck, tickling her cheek with his hair and allowing his hands to wander. . . . she had closed her eyes, enjoying his attentions.
“Open your eyes,” he told her and she complied looking steadily into his own eyes as he once again gently possessed her.
“Wonderful,” he heard her whisper as she clung to him, wrapping her legs around him, relishing his strength encompassing her.
He had never felt more welcomed, more comfortable, more safe that he felt in the arms of this woman.
The sun was full up when they reluctantly stirred.
Rumach was smiling. He felt satiated and inordinately proud of his efforts.
“You should smile more often,” she told him. “It makes you look younger.”
“Perhaps I should. I’ve never had much reason to smile,” he admitted. “Before you.”
“This is my first day as a married woman,” she told him. “I want to start off being a good wife to you. What shall we do today, husband?”
“I want to take you to Philadelphia. I have a house there and we can spend some time together, a honeymoon if you will.” Goldark had gotten out of bed and begun dressing himself.
Belle was excited. “Philadephia?! I shall be able to visit with some of Mr. Franklin’s grandchildren. We have been in correspondence. How exciting!” She was already up and out of the bed. “I packed only a little last night. Do I need to return home . . .” she stopped herself and corrected herself, “Do I need to return to my father’s house and get more clothes?”
“We shall take very little, only what we need for the trip. You will be wanting to get some fashionable clothes once we get to Philadephia and I shall arrange for that once we are there.”
“New clothes!” she couldn’t help but be excited. “When do we leave then?”
“Soon. I have to make one more trip out to the house and . . ." he winced but he did not want to begin his marriage with a lie. “I have to see Cora one more time to make sure she will be on her way. I think she has decided to move to Charleston in the Carolinas. I shall be purchasing a house for her and sending her a stipend.” He had finished dressing himself.
“I should go with you,” Belle offered, not willing to be separated from her new husband so soon and, wrapped in one of the blankets, she began to dress herself.
He turned and put his hands on her arms. “Listen, my darling. I don’t expect this to be pleasant. I don’t want you to have to have any more dealings with Cora. She can be rather. . . difficult. And this affair has been most difficult, most unfair for her.”
“But as your wife, I should be there to support you,” Belle protested.
“As my wife, you should do as I ask you to.”
“But Rum. . .” she continued.
“Belle,” he said as firmly as he could manage. “I want to keep you safe. You need to stay here and get ready for our trip.”
“But Rum. . . “ Belle persisted.
“Belle, we’ve been married less than twenty-four hours. I believe you promised to obey me,” he reminded her gently, his eyes twinkling knowing this would set off his fiery little wife.
Belle pouted but rose to the remark. “Someday women will insist that line be removed from the marriage vows,” Belle told him.
He raised an eyebrow and smiled, “You are so adorable when you speak nonsense,” he told her, kissing her on the forehead.
Belle prickled. This was too much, “Nonsense! You think that doing away with an archaic custom seated in male-dominated religious traditions that . . . “
Gold kissed her, soundly, on the mouth, stopping her argument. She melted into him and by the time he was finished, she was clinging to him, her eyes closed, her body limp and yielding, her hands clenched into the folds of his jacket. Had he not been supporting her, she would have slumped to the floor.
“Have I found the way to respond to your more outrageous statements?” he was quite pleased with himself.
Belle attempted to pull herself back to reality from the deliciously languorous state her new husband had produced in her. “You aren’t arguing fairly,” she finally managed to say.
He smiled and quickly agreed, “I’m not, my lady wife,” he told her. “Now, you will stay here and I will be back as soon as I can.”
“Kiss me one more time like you just did and I’ll let you go,” she wheedled and he promptly complied, and this time, prepared for the onslaught, she brought her arms around his shoulders and kissed him back.
When he finally ended the embrace he was smirking. “You are precious treasure, my dear.”
“I just don’t want you to go.”
“I’ll be right back, I promise,” he told her.
Belle watched him go.
A sudden chill shuddered through her.