Chapter 41

The snow had melted, and the temperature had become warmer, and still Charles held Elsie in his arms each night. He’d been surprised when she’d slipped into bed beside him the first night after the weather had warmed. It was still cold, but not so cold that a fire couldn’t keep Elsie warm in her own bed.

He enjoyed having her with him, sharing his bed, but it was getting harder to control his body’s reactions and to keep her from feeling his natural morning state.

Dear god, he was only a man!

He was doing his damnedest, but every night she crept closer to him in her sleep, some nights her bottom was pressed into his groin as she spooned against him, and he had to grit his teeth and wait for her to fall asleep, naming every wine he could think of to keep his reaction at bay until he could pull slightly away from her.

He had hoped for a reprieve when the weather warmed, but no such luck, and tonight had just been too much. So, here he sat in his chair in their sitting room, staring into the fire he’d built, wondering what the hell he was going to do.

Asking Elsie to go back to her own bed would hurt her and bring up questions he’d really rather not answer. Pulling his body away from hers in the night had the potential to hurt her as well if she woke, but at the moment it was all he could do.

Taking a sip of his scotch, he rolled his eyes, the woman was everywhere. If he couldn’t be physically with her, taste her as he longed to do, he’d drink the whiskey from her home country.

How had he lost his sanity and not realized it until this moment?

Elsie Hughes had somehow invaded every aspect of his senses – the Scottish witch. He smiled at that, knowing that she’d likely clap him upside his head for that one if she could read his mind.

“Charlie.” Elsie whispered, startling the man from his thoughts.

Charles started, suddenly looking up into the inquisitive eyes of his wife. “Is something wrong? A nightmare?”

Elsie shook her head, moving closer until she was standing between his thighs. Reaching out, she took his drink and downed the fiery liquid in one go then handed the empty glass back to him. She smirked at the look on Charles’ face. “What?”

“You downed that like it was water.”

Elsie shrugged. “I could use another,” she whispered as she reached out to caress the wayward curl from his forehead.

Charles wasn’t sure what to make of what was happening, but he turned in his chair so that he could pour Elsie another bit of scotch from the bottle sitting on the side table. Looking back up at her, he held out the glass, watching with wide eyes as she downed the drink once again. “Elsie? Is something the matter?”

“Yes,” she whispered, feeling the liquid courage starting to kick in. “A bit more, please.”

“Elsie, you’ll,”

Elsie shook her head. “No. I don’t get drunk, Charlie.”

Charles raised an eyebrow at that, but turned to do as she asked, once again handing her the glass and shaking his head as she threw it back, swallowing the liquid in one large gulp. “I’d be half smashed by now,” he muttered.

“I do have a problem, Charlie.” Elsie whispered as she reached out to caress his scratchy cheek.

“What is it?”

“I woke up alone. Why did you leave me? Have I done something wrong?”

Charles blinked in surprise. “No, Elsie. You’ve not done anything, at least,” he sighed and looked away from her, shaking his head.

“Does it have something to do with the way your body is in the morning?” she asked hesitantly, thanking the scotch for giving her the bravery to ask such a question.

Charles looked up sharply. “What?” he asked, blinking rapidly in surprise.

“I know you try to keep me from,” she bit her lip and took a deep breath before continuing, “from feeling, but I have.”

Turning his head away from her in shame, Charles wished he’d drank more. “I’m so sorry, Elsie. You weren’t meant to,” he shook his head. “I’m not trying to…I…it’s just…” he struggled then reached out to pour himself another glass of scotch. This time he was the one gulping it down in one go, gasping as the fire burned down his throat.

Elsie stilled his hand when he moved to pour more drink. “No, Charlie,” she told him gently, holding his gaze when he opened his eyes and looked at her. “I understand,” she whispered. “I,” she cleared her throat. “I talked to Isobel because I was confused about what was happening to me, to you, to us. Charlie, when I kiss you, my lips tingle. Where you touch me,” she shrugged. “Well, that tingles, too. I enjoy kissing you, very much, especially when you kiss me back. It hasn’t frightened me, though I can’t say that I’m ready to become your wife all the way, but I do want to kiss you and touch and be touched.”

Setting the glass back down on the table, Charles pulled Elsie even closer until her knees were resting against the chair and rested his head against her, his arms wrapped around her waist. “My brave Elsie. I was so very afraid of frightening you, of making you afraid of me. I couldn’t bear that, Elsie. I couldn’t. My body is in that state in the mornings, and there’s not much I can do, but it isn’t only the mornings I have problems. Holding you in my arms, your soft curves fitted perfectly against me,” he swallowed. “My body reacts and I try my hardest not to. With you sleeping like you have been, it was too much, I couldn’t,” he shook his head. “Even naming every wine I’ve ever catalogued didn’t help, that’s why I’m out here. I was afraid you would wake and find that I’d pulled away from you and that it would hurt you because you wouldn’t understand why. I had thought that you would go back to your own bed when the weather warmed but,”

“Charlie? Do you want me to go back to my bed? I will if that’s what you want.” Elsie whispered as she combed her fingers through his hair, her body reacting strangely to the vibrations of his words against her.

“Oh no, Lass. That is not what I want at all.”

“Mmm,” she hummed. “Charlie, does the sound of my voice make you feel strange inside?”

Charles smiled and nodded against her. “My stomach quivers a bit, and my heart beats just a tick faster. Why?”

“That’s what’s happening with your words vibrating against me,” she answered quietly, smiling shyly when he looked up at her.

Taking her hand, Charles gently tugged until she was sitting across his thighs. He smiled at her when she looked up at him. “Maybe I want to cuddle.”

“We can do that in bed. I’m too,”

“Ah!” Charles stopped her and shook his head. “No, you’re not. If you truly don’t want to sit on my lap, I won’t force you, but I rather like it.”

Tilting her head, she reached up to caress his face. “I like it, too. Kiss me?”

Cupping her cheek, Charles caressed her lips with his thumb. “You’re sure?”

Elsie nodded. “Mmm hmm.”

Lowering his head, Charles replaced his thumb with his mouth, sighing into the kiss when Elsie responded. Her lips were soft and supple, pliant against his own as he gently coaxed her into a deeper kiss, paying attention to each little hesitation, trying desperately not to push her too far, and very grateful that she was situated so that she couldn’t feel his body reacting.

Elsie moaned as she pulled back to gasp for air. “Oh my,” she managed as she blinked up at Charles.

“Elsie? Are you alright? Did I,”

Elsie pressed a finger to his lips to stop him. “I’m fine, and no, you didn’t. That was,” she hummed. “Well, Isobel was right.”

Charles quirked an eyebrow at her. “Isobel was right? About what?”

“She said that kissing can be very enjoyable.”

Wrapping his arms tighter around Elsie, Charles squeezed her gently as his laughter rumbled out of him. “Are you trying to pay me a compliment?”

Elsie grinned as she blushed and nodded her head. “I am. After that, I think it’s a very good thing I’m sitting down. My knees feel a little weak. Isobel says what’s happening to me is natural.”

“It is. Just don’t let me do anything you don’t want, okay? If you stop me, I won’t be angry. It’s all going to be you leading me. I won’t force you. When you want more of this, or anything, I’ll be your willing partner.” Charles pressed a kiss to her forehead. “We should go back to bed. Neither of us will appreciate it if we fall asleep in this chair.”

Elsie, her eyes pooled with tears, smiled up at her husband. “I love you, Charles Carson…my oversized teddy bear.”

Charles laughed and carefully stood up with her in his arms. “Come on then. Your teddy bear needs to hibernate for a while.” He kissed her nose. “And I love you, too, Elsie Carson. So very, very much.”

Elsie sighed as she settled against his shoulder for the walk to the bedroom. “Charlie, let me down. You go ahead and get settled. I’ll be right there,” she whispered, nodding in the direction of the bathroom.

Charles couldn’t help but chuckle as he sat her easily down on her feet. “Serves you right after downing all of that whiskey.”

Elsie stuck her tongue out at him. “Go to bed.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” he mumbled as he gave her a mock bow which earned him a smack.

Elsie laughed as she threw her arms around Charles’ middle. “I love you. I love you.”

Wrapping his arms around her, Charles pressed a kiss to her head. “And I’m a lucky man for it.”

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