A little later we were sitting in the tub, which was filled to the brim with water and bath foam. I sat with my back against Malachy’s chest and leaned my head on his shoulder while my hands rested on both sides of the bathtub.
My legs were bent, so my knees were poking out of the water. Malachy used them to draw small, invisible circles on it with one hand while daydreaming. It tickled a little, but I didn’t want to ruin the moment by giggling.
I let the day repeat itself in my head. The delicious breakfast in a cozy atmosphere, the many charming shops, the sensual time in bed with Malachy...
That gave me an idea, or rather a topic that I should have touched on a little earlier. Malachy and I had had unprotected sex for several times, now. Consequences in the form of a pregnancy were not that unusual.
Oddly enough, he didn’t seem to care at all. Or maybe it was expected of me to get pregnant as soon as possible. After all, it was one of our obligations to provide for heirs to the throne...
I thought about how I should address the topic and decided to start with a harmless topic before grabbing the bull by the horns.
“Malachy”, I said in a voice as scratchy as if I had been gargling with whiskey for years.
“Hm...“, he hummed in a low voice. In my position, I could feel the vibration emanating from his chest with every word he spoke.
I cleared my throat before continuing.
“I noticed that many of the people in the village eyed us curiously, today. Is it always the case, that the people of Norha whisper about visitors? Was that the same with Sophia? You said that she had explicitly chosen the small town of Norha to spend quality-time with Matteo without being disturbed.”
Malachy took a deep breath. Then he answered in a calm voice:
“Sophia has spent a lot of time in Norha and made friends with many people here. Since she did not have to take care of the affairs of state, she was not required to be in Atonia. She and Matteo were very popular and appreciated here. All people of Norha were in mourning, when they heard of her tragic death.
I haven’t been here since. That was over two years ago. Of course, many people from Norha recognized me immediately and my, or better said our presence here is something to talk about. But don’t worry. It’s harmless. They mean no harm.
When we get back to the castle, it will be different. There, gossip is used specifically to denounce or hurt others. Sophia learned that the hard way. It was not nice, what was whispered about her and Matteo behind closed doors.
But you don’t have to worry. You’re my fiancée, that’s a huge difference. I will protect you, no matter what.”
There was one thing I couldn’t get out of my head in Sophia’s story. In a low voice, almost a whisper, I asked him: “Do you know what happened to Matteo?”
Malachy let out a loud sigh.
“I have no idea. Rumor has it that he no longer lingers among us living, but unfortunately I was never able to find out what exactly happened to him .”
There they were again, the rumors.
That these were a problem, especially in the highest circles of the Aristocracy, did not particularly surprise me. I had already come into contact with the sneaky, courtly talk in the castle several times.
That was something that couldn’t be changed.
People would always talk, if only to be distracted from their own boring lives for a short period of time.
These thoughts gave me an idea. Maybe I could use the courtly gossip to my advantage, but I would worry about that when the time had come.
Right now, there were more pressing matters to be discussed.
I took a few deep breaths to prepare myself for the next topic.
Again a thoughtful, deep ’Hm’ left his lips.
I nervously folded my hands together.
“I, well, we should bring up the topic of babies...”
Another monotonous ’Hm’. But suddenly he seemed to come to his senses.
“Babies?” I heard the confusion in his voice.
He didn’t make this easy for me - of course not.
I exhaled in resignation, letting my shoulders slump to the floor. I hadn’t even noticed that I’d hunched them in my nervousness.
“Yes, babies... or rather said a possible pregnancy on my part...”
He seemed to be startled. I felt his abdominal muscles tighten all of a sudden. Now I was getting really nervous. How would he react?
I got the answer to that question very quickly, because Malachy threw his head back and laughed out loud.
I moved a little away from him and turned to him as much as I could in the secluded space of the bathtub.
Had he lost his mind? I was getting angry. How could he be so amused about such a serious subject?
Malachy noticed my changed mood very quickly and raised his hands calmingly in the air in front of him.
“Sorry love! Sometimes I forget how innocent you are about certain things.”
His statement only fueled my anger, which he could clearly see in my facial expression.
He quickly closed the short distance between us and caressed my cheek soothingly.
“Do not be angry with me. It’s just so ironic. I think you’re the only person, who makes me feel even worse about my inadequacies, than I already do.”
Now, he had lost me completely.
Don’t get Aristocrats pregnant by having unprotected sex?
Malachy burst out laughing, again.
“Did I say that out loud?” While speaking these words, I turned scarlet and Malachy grinned at me in amusement, while he nodded, thereby affirming my question.
He responded in very amused tone, “Don’t worry, love. The mechanism is the same with Aristocrats, just as it is working everywhere else.”
Then he kissed me and leaned back in the bathtub.
“Come back here, love. I will explain it to you.”
I obeyed his request, but couldn’t help myself from mocking him with the words: “Is the strong, unshakable James Malachy Stuart embarrassed by this topic?”
Without a word, he shrugged his shoulders, which I took as a small admission of shame and that made me giggle nervously.
After a short while he continued.
“It is not that easy for the members of the ‘House of Regents’ to have children. We don’t really know why that is the case exactly. Dr. McKinay thinks that this is kind of natural compensation for being so overpowered in our abilities.
Maybe nature, or God, whatever you want to believe in, doesn’t want there to be too many of us.
In short, we are nearly infertile. That an aristocratic couple like my parents, who are both 100% pure-blooded, are blessed with two children at the same time, is a reason for immense joy.
Sophia and I are, or were, almost 120 years apart.
As weird as it sounds, this also has it’s advantages. Precisely because we have problems reproducing ourselves, women are not disadvantaged as possible regents of the Aristocracy, as is the case with humans.
One is happy if there is any offspring at all, especially legitimate offspring.
Don’t get me wrong darling, I would be overjoyed if you were pregnant. The chances of this scenario are extremely slim and if you were pregnant, despite the circumstances, then you will make me the happiest man in the whole world!”
Okay, now I could understand why he had laughed so heartily earlier, at least partly.
“Okay,” I replied monotonously and slightly embarrassed and let myself sink a little deeper into the water.
Why hadn’t I spoken to Amie about this?
This conversation felt suspiciously like an educational talk and wasn’t it a bit late, considering the circumstances under which we had met... and then on top of that with Malachy...
My thoughts stopped on Amie - Amie and Darius.
Then I threw the liberality of the Aristocracy, just mentioned by Malachy, into the balance and replied: “Well, the Aristocratic Society is not quite as liberal, when it comes to equality between Full-Bloods and Half-Bloods.”
Malachy took a deep breath and nodded in agreement.
“Yes, unfortunately not. But that’s a topic for another conversation.”
He wrapped his arms around my stomach, hugging me closer and kissing me tenderly on the spot behind my ear. I was only too aware of our nudity.
But I also didn’t want to let myself be distracted so easily from this topic, not even from his incredibly sexy and naked body.
“Don’t you want to change anything about this situation? Just think of the blatant injustice and the sad destinies that were caused by it and still are.
What about Sophia and Darius and Amie? Shouldn’t people be free to choose who to spend their lives with?”
Malachy sat up a bit and crossed his fingers with mine.
“Maggie, darling… Basically, I absolutely agree with you. But it is a process, which cannot be implemented overnight and that will meet with a great deal of resistance, powerful and dangerous resistance.
Let’s enjoy our time together here as long as we can. When we get back, we can talk about new political ways, but for now I have other things planned for you.”
No sooner had he uttered these words, than he covered my neck with a shower of hot kisses, cupped my chest with his free hand and playfully pinched my nipple.
I responded immediately to his advances and pressed my back tightly against his torso.
The time for conversation was over.