Natalya felt horrible nerves on the morning of her wedding day.
As she stood there in front of the mirror looking at her beautiful image, she felt overwhelmed. Maria’s chambermaids had done a magnificent job with her hair, layering it with braids into a beautiful crown on top of her head. The necklace around her neck was an array of diamonds and amethyst that matched her earrings and rings. Everything about her appearance was perfect from head to toe!
Yet, she felt completely troubled.
Could she really be so selfish to feel this happy when Linda had been killed? And Robert and Estelle abandoned? They must have agonized for weeks after she disappeared! And here she was elated to be marrying Lord Gabriel Devall.
Maria and Eleanor had been helping her get ready. They quickly noticed when the bride’s eyes began to cloud with emotion. Maria excused the chambermaids. Then she went to Natalya’s side along with Estelle.
“Darling, what’s wrong?” Eleanor asked.
Natalya shook her head. “I can’t be happy. I can’t. Not after all that horrible things that have happened because of me.”
“Why would you say that?” Maria asked taking Natalya’s hand.
“I abandoned Robert. My aunt is in danger and Linda… Linda is dead because of me! I don’t deserve to be happy.”
Eleanor smiled, realizing the depth of Natalya’s feelings for her son. “But it’s okay to be happy. After all you’ve been through you do deserve to be.”
“I wish I could believe that,” Natalya whispered. “Gabriel is only marrying me because of the mess that I’m in. And is that fair?”
“No man looks at a woman the way Gabriel looks at you unless he feels something deeply for her,” Maria said.
“He didn’t have to marry you to protect you,” Eleanor said. “He could have found another way.”
Looking at her soon to be mother-in-law, Natalya let the words sink in. Gabriel didn’t have to marry her he wanted to.”I want him to be happy. I don’t want him to get hurt.”
“Trust him. He knows what he’s doing,” Eleanor reassured her.
Nodding, Natalya collected herself. Gabriel did know what he was doing.
Don’t forget, she thought. Robert didn’t want you anyway.
She inhaled slowly. Then let the air out even slower. She would be the best wife she could be. And once she was Lady Devall she could help her aunt and put Peter in jail where he belonged.
In moments she would walking through the halls headed for the chapel. The thought of Gabriel made her stomach flutter. He was waiting for her!
Again she felt joyous and guilty at the same time.
When they made it to the chapel her heart began to pound in her chest. Two guards pulled the heavy doors open. Lead by Eleanor and Maria, she made her entrance into the room. The music began to play softly and everyone rose to their feet.
And then Gabriel’s eyes fell upon her in awe. It was that moment she knew without a doubt that she belonged with him. That he did in fact love her. She smiled and emotions flooded her. He raised his hand to her and she went to him.
The audience smiled as she passed them by. All Natalya saw was Gabriel though. Waiting for her to become his wife. She couldn’t get to him fast enough. Her world, her very life was him! No matter what happened from this moment on, that would never change.
Finally she reached him, took his hand and her place with him. She stared into his eyes. Lost in the peace she found there.
“You are breath taking,” Gabriel whispered. “Absolutely beautiful.”
Natalya blushed. “As you are milord.” He smiled at her. Anything he wanted she would give him.
The priest took them through the ceremony. Everything was perfect, from the winter flowers that decorated the chapel to the afternoon sun that filtered in through the color stained windows behind the alter. She took in everything as Gabriel recited his vows to her. Vows she still couldn’t believe he was making.
Finally Gabriel was able to kiss her. She closed her eyes, letting the heat from his mouth wash over her. She felt her body tingle and pressed against him instinctively. He gently pushed her back.
“Tonight. I promise tonight,” he whispered. He slipped his arm around her waist. Together they walked back down the aisle. Everyone cheered as they made their way to the hall for the reception.
“To Lord and Lady Gabriel Devall!” Sinclair yelled. Eleanor was wrapped around his arm, crying tears of joy.
It was the happiest moment of Natalya’s life! Lively music played as the celebration began. The wine flowed freely amongst the guest. Gabriel showed his wife off on the dance floor. She laughed in his arms, just as happy as he was. And no one could take her away. He pulled her close as they danced a lively waltz. Neither one of them thought about what tomorrow would mean. For tonight they would just think about each other.
James made a toast to the bride and groom. Not to be showed up, Maria made one too. Adding a blessing of sons to the Devall family. Laughter erupted in the room as Sinclair shouted, “I’ll drink to that!”
The dinner was served promptly after the initial celebration. It was a colorful assortment of seasonal fruits and vegetables, meats, cakes and pastries. Tiffany had out done herself with the little time she had to plan! Everything was absolutely beautiful!
Natalya grabbed a round powered cake from a plate full of them and took a bite. Simply delicious.
“Oh Natalya!” Maria took her free hand in both of hers. She was all smiles and laughter. “What a beautiful bride you make! You’re glowing!”
Natalya stuffed the remainder of the cake in her mouth. “Am I?” she said with a full mouth.
Laughing, Maria nodded her head. “Yes! I’ve never seen you so happy.”
Natalya swallowed. “I’ve never felt happier. I can’t believe I’m Lady Natalya Devall!”
They laughed together.
“Come! Let’s join the dance!” Maria pulled Natalya away from the table and to the floor with the rest of the guest as they whirled around in time with the music.
Natalya was married to the man she was falling in love with. She hadn’t allowed herself to admit it, but she was. He had taken her out of despair, washed away the pain and fear that she’d been living with. He made her feel at peace. How could she ever repay him for everything he’s done for her?
She found herself in the arms of one of the towns noblemen, Thomas Hornsby, who was an excellent dancer.
“It is an honor to have you as our lady,” he said as they danced. “Lord Devall is a good man. He deserves a beautiful woman such as you.”
“Thank you. It is an honor for me as well.”
“And… if I may?” he asked hesitantly.
“You may.” Nothing could ruin Natalya’s mood.
“I am glad… that you are safe and well. News of your disappearance reached our town.”
Except, maybe that. Natalya kept smiling, she didn’t know how, but she did. He genuinely looked sorry for her. And she didn’t suspect him to be a spy. Once the marriage announcement was made everyone knew who she was.
Still, it wasn’t easy to talk about.
“Thank you for such kind words.”
“I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I won’t mention it again.”
Relieved, Natalya continued to smile. “Thank you.”
He began talking about his wife and three beautiful children as if he never brought up such disturbing memories. She fell into the conversation with ease until the song changed and they parted ways.
A servant passed her carrying a tray of glasses filled with wine. She grabbed one and sipped slowly.
Gabriel was the next smiling face she saw. She smiled too, extending her hand to him. He took it, kissed her knuckles ever so gently. Immediately she felt the ache between her thighs. How she wanted him to touch her! To lift her skirts and caress her!
She blushed at how indecent her thoughts were. He was her husband now and it certainly was okay to have such thoughts about him.
“Natalya, you have no idea how badly I want to carry you out of here right now,” Gabriel whispered in a husky voice.
Oh, but she did!
“Well, milord, you have to wait. It wouldn’t be proper,” she whispered back, secretly hoping he would.
Grinning, he pulled her body against his, holding her firmly. “I can’t wait to sink into your body.”
Shuddering, she closed her eyes as his voice sent chills through her. He kissed her shoulder sensually and she instinctively pushed her breast against him, begging for more.
“Easy,” Gabriel chuckled, gently pushing her back. “We have all night to explore that passion.”
They mingled, talking with anyone who made it close enough to them to do so. And every time he touched her she imagined her naked skin against his. Imagined his fingers inside of her, caressing and stroking her.
She wanted to be alone with her husband. Wanted to feel that magic he made. To hell with being proper!
An hour later the celebration was still going strong. Many of the guests were well into their cups. It truly was a good day. Which is why no one seemed to notice when the newlywed couple quietly left the celebration to retire to their bed chambers.
They fled quickly through the halls, eager to reach their destination. Once they made it to the door Gabriel swept her up into his arms and carried her into the room. He kicked the door closed.
His mouth crushed hers as he laid her down on the bed. She wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him close. She wanted him so badly. That she didn’t care about removing her clothes. She was desperate to feel his touch.
“I want you now,” Gabriel groaned in her ear. He’s pushed the top of her dress down, spilling her breast free. He squeezed her nipples firmly with his fingers.
Natalya gasped. “Then take me Gabriel,” she breathed.
Swiftly he had his hands up her skirts removing her stockings and everything else. She arched against him as his fingers slid between her moist lips, caressing that sweet spot. He suckled her nipples mercilessly. She reached between his legs and boldly rubbed the length of him.
It was the first time she had ever done it and it aroused him fiercely. He didn’t want to hurt her. Her first experience had been brutal. Though his fingers had been inside of her many times it wasn’t the same as his manhood.
But as he looked down at her, breast free, legs exposed, he just wanted to be inside of her.
“Please,” Natalya begged. “I want to feel you.”
That was the incentive he needed. He freed himself, allowing he tip to rub that throbbing bud.
Natalya inhaled sharply, amazed at the new sensation it created. She moved against it, winding her hips frantically. She wanted to spiral out of control like before!
“Easy my love,” Gabriel breathed against her breast. She was so slippery wet! “Savor it. Don’t rush it.”
That was the last thing she wanted to do. She didn’t know why, but she felt brazen. She didn’t want to hold back. She worked to remove his shirt. With his help she accomplished the task. She caressed his chest with trembling hands as he looked down at her with desire in his eyes.
“I want to be one with you Gabriel. Please.”
The sound of her sweet pleas were too much. He would give her what she wanted. What they both wanted. He lifted one of her thighs up to his waist positioning himself. Then he began stroking her gently, gradually opening her up.
It was a teasing pleasure for Natalya. She wanted him in her to stop that ache that she felt so deep inside. The way he stroked her hinted at a greater pleasure to come. Her hips moved with his, rising and falling in time with each other. He held himself up above her with his forearm while his free hand slid up and down the thigh of her raised leg. Her hands gripped his shoulders as she rolled her head back and forth.
Then he pushed himself completely inside of her.
Two things happened; She felt a searing pain burn through her and he felt her maidenhead give way.
“My God, Natalya,” Gabriel said freezing. Natalya froze too, holding on to him as the pain slowly subsided. “It hurts,” she whispered.
“Yes, I’m sure it does.” Gabriel expected her to be tight, but not intact. How could that be? She remembered being raped.
“Is it because its… been awhile?” Natalya asked.
Gabriel thought about it for a moment. “It’s because I just broke you maidenhead.”
Confused, Natalya looked in his eyes. “But… but that would mean…”
“That you came to your wedding bed a virgin.”
Natalya tried to remember everything. Peter was above her, between her legs, spitting vile words at her. She remembered him clearly lying between her legs, but not inside of her.
Gabriel slipped his arm beneath her, holding her close. “What do you remember?”
Trembling, Natalya felt her eyes burn with years of unshed tears. They flowed from the corners of her eyes like a river. It felt like a weight had been lifted from her heart! And she took a breath. A freeing breath of peace!
Holding her tighter, Gabriel wondered what she was thinking. He felt her tears on his cheek. “Natalya talk to me.”
“It didn’t happen,” Natalya cried. She closed her eyes. “I remember him laying upon me, but not in me.”
Gabriel rose up slightly so he could see her face. She cried uncontrollably, overwhelmed. “This is good news beloved. Why are you crying?”
Shaking her head, Natalya struggled to explain. “I… it’s just… I don’t know what to feel. After everything that’s happened to me. And then you, you saved me and I… I don’t what to feel.”
Smiling, Gabriel kissed her forehead. “It’s okay to be happy. You deserve it.”
“I… I…” she wanted to tell him how she felt about him.
“Yes?” Gabriel said, flexing himself inside of her. His loins still ached for her and he could no longer remain still. He wanted her writhing in desire beneath him. It was a blessing that she had been spared the complete violation of her body. He wanted to celebrate that new found discovery with her.
As he moved inside her, Natalya felt that ache blossom in her as well. Emotionally overwhelmed, the tears fell while her hips moved cautiously against him. He was large and she felt herself stretching to accommodate his size.
The pleasure/pain was confusing and alluring at the same time. She wanted him deeper because it was so good, but the further he pushed inside the more she felt that uncomfortable stretch.
“Don’t cry beloved,” he whispered, caressing her hips as he slowly stroked her. “We are one. Just like you wanted. It’s a blessing we didn’t expect but a blessing none-the-less.”
He was right, she knew he was. Maybe it was the wine she consumed that gave courage to her tongue to speak what her heart was afraid to say. Afraid to reveal.
He pushed himself in deep, pausing before he pulled himself almost completely out.
”No wait,” she said, grabbing his hips and pulling him back inside. She sighed, trembled.
“You like it deep?” Gabriel breathed against her neck.
Arching her hips upward, Natalya replied, “Da!”
His strokes quickened and she felt a wave of heat wash over her. It was impossible not to thrust back! She held on to him as he rode her feverishly. There was nothing more that she wanted than to be his. Now that he was, she didn’t know why she was ever afraid.
“Gabriel,” she moaned, trying to get the words out. “I need you so much!”
“And I you beloved.”
Really? He really needed her? She wasn’t just a burden or obligation?
No you fool, she thought. He needs you.
He slowed his strokes to a teasing pace. How could he do such a thing? She needed him, all of him, to conquer that horrible ache that made her body want him so desperately. It was maddening the way he taunted her!
“Oh,” she gasped, feeling that familiar swirl rising in the center of her womanhood. “Gabriel!”
Her cries were satisfying. Gabriel wanted her fever pitched, writhing out of control. He wanted her to know this was how a man made love to a woman. He lifted one breast to his mouth, drawing one nipple between his teeth, nibbling lightly. Her back arched, pushing her breast into his mouth. He suckled hard.
“Gabriel!” Natalya cried out.
Chuckling, Gabriel let her breast be. “Are you happy?”
“Yes. More than happy!”
Gabriel felt his own release coming. “More than happy?”
“Da. I’m in love with you.”
Staring at her, he realized she wasn’t the only one. He’d loved her since the moment he saw her again.
“Did you hear me milord?” Natalya asked worried.
“Aye,” Gabriel whispered. “And I love you too beloved.”
Kissing her, he gripped her hips firmly and stroked her to a shattering climax. Then shattered himself, spilling his essence into her. He felt her nails rake down his back as she cried out for the last time.
He rolled from on top of her, pulling her against his chest. “Was that what you desired?” he asked grinning.
Natalya smiled also. “Yes milord. Did you find much pleasure?”
“Immense pleasure. I feel I may need to take you many more times tonight.”
“You, milord, can take me anywhere you like.”
“You must be deep in your cups to have brazen tongue like that.”
“Liquid courage milord.”
“Indeed!” Gabriel rolled onto his side. She looked at him. He caressed her cheek. “You are the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen.”
“You have me now. No need for flattery.”
“It’s the truth.” Gabriel kissed her lips softly. She responded by pushing her body against his. “Wait.” He stripped completely out of his pants. Then helped her out of her dress.
Tentatively, she touched his chest. She hadn’t really looked at him before. Opting to close her eyes and just feel him. But seeing him so intimately was something wonderful all by itself. Her fingers gently pulled the hair on his chest. Then moved down his abdomen to that glorious rod.
“Touch it,” Gabriel said huskily.
She did. Her small hands enclosed him. He was hot and hard, pulsating. She began stroking him, slowly, amazed at how rigid his body became.
“Faster, beloved. Harder.”
She did as requested and watched as her husband’s eyes closed. His features grew strained. He inhaled sharply, rolling himself on top of her. Sliding between her thighs. Her knees parted.
“That’s it,” Gabriel groaned as he entered her. “Open for me.” His hand wrapped in her hair. He brought her mouth to his.
How had he lived so long without her?
After their love making, he lowered himself back down on top of her. “Beloved, I am utterly yours.”
Natalya felt her eyes water. “And I yours.”
Natalya was staring at the ceiling when Gabriel woke a few hours later. The room was chilled. The fire burned low. He got up to put more wood in the fireplace, stirred it, making sure it caught. Then went back to bed, climbing under the heavy covers with her. She closed her eyes and curled against him.
“What’s on your mind?” he asked, wrapping his arms around her.
Slowly Natalya opened her eyes. They were filled with sadness. “I am grateful that Peter didn’t succeed in raping me.”
“Then why do I see such sadness in your eyes?”
“I think… I think I know why he didn’t succeed.”
Ah, she realized what happened that night, Gabriel thought. He had his own ideas but he wanted to hear what she thought. “Go on.”
Tears swelled in her eyes. “Linda must have stopped him.”
“She saved you,” Gabriel said. He brushed her hair out of her face.
“But had she not interfered she’d be alive. Why does everyone I love die?”
Gabriel kissed the top of her head. “None of this is your fault. Your uncle has preyed upon your family and he will pay with his life.”
Natalya thought about her aunt. The poor woman. “I was supposed to die with my parents,” she said softly. “I was poisoned too.”
“We all were. But you weren’t supposed to die. You were supposed to live for me.” Gabriel looked at her. “I wouldn’t be complete without you.”
Natalya sighed. “When do we go back?”
“We’ll leave in three days and stay in London for the season.”
“We’ll see Robert when we go back,” Natalya whispered thoughtfully. She didn’t know what she was going to say to him. He refused to help her.
“Will that be a problem for you?” Gabriel asked carefully.
“No. He refused to help me after all the promises he made to me.” Natalya felt hurt and angry.
A twinge of jealousy touched Gabriel. “You still care for him?”
She looked up at him. His eyes darkened and she wanted to reassure him that his place in her heart was unmatched. “I do care for him. He was my friend and… and…”
“You love him.”
“Da, but as a friend.” Natalya reached up and caressed his face. “I have never loved a man the way I love you Gabriel. You have been so good to me through all of this. I didn’t think I could trust anybody again, but I know I can trust you.”
Staring at her, Gabriel briefly entertained the idea of telling her the truth.
“I’ve never been this happy before. Not even with Robert.”
Narrowing his eyes, Gabriel asked, “Do you mean that?”
“Everything I’ve done has been for you. I just want you to be safe.”
“I know. That’s why I fell in love with you.”
Gabriel kissed her. She fell asleep in his arms while he thought about the trust he was abusing. It would come back to haunt him. He knew it would.
“I’m going to miss you,” Maria said hugging Natalya.
Sinclair and his army were preparing to leave for New Castle. Maria would be under the protection of the Devall’s until her father’s debts were situated. She released her entourage to go back to Spain, keeping only two people to accompany her. Natalya smiled at her friend. She would miss Maria as well.
“Go and be safe.” Natalya kissed her cheek.
“And you be safe too,” Maria said. She smiled at Natalya. “You deserve happiness. Don’t let anything destroy it!”
“Come now,” Eleanor said from her carriage. “We have a long ride ahead.”
Maria looked at Natalya. “Fair well my dark haired sister.”
Natalya laughed. “You too, my fair haired sister.”
Maria went to the carriage to join Eleanor. Gabriel was speaking with Sinclair at the head of the convoy. Natalya watched, wondering what they were discussing. She made her way to the carriage where Maria and Eleanor sat, poking her head inside the door.
“Take care of her Lady Eleanor. She’s my new found sister.”
Eleanor smiled, happy at how close the two women had become. She had plans for both women to be her daughter-in-laws. She loved the idea of Wolfin and Maria. “I will take excellent care of her,” Eleanor promised. “You make sure you take care of yourself in London. I don’t want any harm coming to my grandchild.”
Natalya blushed. She’d only been married for one night! “Eleanor, pozhaluista. Children will come soon enough.”
Grinning, Eleanor raised an eyebrow. “I believe in nine months time.”
Natalya diverted her eyes.
“Oh, and Natalya, call me mother.”
Looking up, wide eyed, Natalya felt overwhelmed with joy. “Really?”
Being able to call this woman mother meant a lot to Natalya.
Eleanor caressed Natalya’s face. “Let my son make you happy.”
Natalya felt tears in her eyes. “I will. I promise I’ll make him happy too.”
“I believe you will.”
Gabriel came up behind Natalya and wrapped his arm around her waist. He felt good to her. She pulled her head out of the carriage and looked up at him. His green eyes were warm when they fell upon her. She wondered if their children would have his eyes.
Gabriel smiled at his beautiful wife. Then looked at his mother. “Father is ready to leave now.”
“Yes, I suppose he is. I will see you in the spring?”
Gabriel nodded his head. “Yes. We’ll come up in the spring.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear. Take care of my grandchild.” Eleanor winked.
Confused, Gabriel looked at Natalya.
Embarrassed, Natalya shook her head. “Please, don’t ask.”