Dídac arrived at the courtyard of the Castell de Amontoní with all the mortal joy there was to feel in the world. Crossing the property line onto the estate, he had felt something akin to delirium, and as the coach pulled around to the main doors, he thought he understood what the purpose and meaning of life was. The expression of it could be summed up in his fiancée’s very name.
When the coachman opened the carriage door and Dídac stepped out into the warm late summer air, he decided that his life, his real life, would begin at his ascension up the path to the castle doors. His every step reaffirmed this notion, and when he had finally arrived at the doors, he could not help but believe he was the most fortunate man alive.
Every footfall through the cavernous castle, with its legendary burgundy and sapphire marbles cut with gold, reverberated endlessly down the corridors like the most powerful step a human could manage. That delicious clacking sound from his boots upon the stone seemed to carry on forever.
The footman who led him to the designated drawing room did not seem to care much that this was the beginning of Dídac’s life. The pallid-skinned man seemed as if he would just as easily have taken a nap as walk upright. In fact, Dídac was certain that if the stiffly uniformed man were not actually moving his legs to and fro, he might easily have been mistaken for dead.
The living corpse shrouded in his white, starched collar and perfectly cut uniform finally came to the point, pulling back the door from the music room where Veronica was waiting, and where Marcelina rose to receive Dídac. They both looked as lovely as any two women could, he thought.
“Ah, welcome once again, señor,” Marcelina doted. “I believe you grow more handsome with every day that passes.”
Dídac felt the sting of embarrassment as he tried to make his way successfully to the waiting sofa.
“It could only be true because every day the world grows more beautiful with you in it, my lady.” He managed the genteel prose from his subconscious alone, drawing the woman’s hand to his lips.
“Ever the gentleman, not to be outdone with compliments,” the Marquesa beamed. “And you remember my niece, señor? I believe you proposed marriage to her once?”
“Yes, but must I do the same again? Perhaps I forget that I should beg her again and again each passing day.”
“Señor!” the embarrassed girl pleaded, indecisively permitting him to kiss her sweetly on the lips, his utter need to do so at once startling them both.
“Well, what opportunities won’t the young man take under my roof?” Marcelina teased, inflicting a boyish self-consciousness in Dídac that he gladly received with the woman’s toying recriminations.
Veronica was just as embarrassed as he. It took only seconds for Marcelina to realize as much. Indeed, she thought, they most certainly needed their time together.
“I can see my presence is already worn out,” she smiled. “Maybe it would be better if I left you in his company, dear. It seems he has already chosen which one of us he wishes to charm and which one he wishes to adore.”
“Marquesa!” said the boy, flustered.
“No, no, I don’t need cannon fire to notice your strides. I trust you will do me the courtesy of entertaining my niece for the afternoon, señor. I have other things which must be tended to.”
“Of course, Marquesa, it would be my honor.”
“Hmmm, good,” she whispered, raising up on her toes in to kiss him on his blushing cheek and promptly exiting the immense room. The heavy door shut by the footman echoed loudly, making a permissive impression upon Dídac.
He hadn’t been alone with her since the night of the storm, when somehow, they had stolen away to be together on the patio for those few moments. It was a strange sensation to have this opportunity handed to him by the girl’s guardian.
Veronica smiled at him, releasing the smallest laugh she could, and reached out to take his hand to lead him to the sofa where she had been seated.
Dídac didn’t know if he liked this, being with her alone, without even the lowliest of the servants in the room, this cavernous parlor which could consume the Armada’s flag-ship if it wished. It was all too perfect; perhaps it was all too contrived. It nevertheless made him nervous, the whole situation. But he did not care too deeply about any of his reservations. He was prone to thinking too much as it was, and this absentmindedness invited Veronica to beat him to the first word.
“I’m so glad you came today. I love having you here,” she whispered sweetly. All her past awkwardness in speaking with him honestly was blessedly lost.
He was overcome by these sentiments. They rendered him speechless and he tripped on his own words, unable to get even one of them out. He smiled and reached to take her hand to his lips.
“I love you so much,” he said, embarrassed that they were the only words he could bring himself to utter. He had so much else he wanted to say to her. It was truly an insult that he should praise her so little.
“And will you come back tomorrow to say that again to me?” she teased, adoration consuming her eyes.
“Yes, again and again.” He couldn’t help it, he must kiss her once more. He brought up her hand, which he still possessed, and gently turned it to kiss her wrist. Dídac held his lips there forever, not wanting to stop, hoping somehow, he might kiss her so until the afternoon was ended, when her aunt would surely return to send him home.
Veronica died over and over in this way, it seemed for hours, though it was hardly that long. They were mere seconds. And though they drew out when she was inside of them, when they were through, they seemed so final that bursts of adrenalin assaulted her, she fearing that they might be the last perfect seconds she would ever have.
“I haven’t written anything in days, I’m afraid. Forgive me,” he pleaded gently. “My father... he has required my assistance. I haven’t had any time to myself.”
“I haven’t written today yet, I wanted to wait and see what you would say to me. I never know what to write anymore. Nothing ever happens here. I wasn’t sure what you wanted me to tell you, if...”
“Anything,” he stopped her. “Anything at all you would write to me, I would love.”
She worshipped him for uttering this. Dídac had said it more than a few times in the past, but it certainly sounded better each time. His eyes were too beautiful; she might blurt out something embarrassing at moments like this, she thought. Veronica seemed not to possess the slightest hold upon herself when his eyes studied her in their innocent adoration.
“What do you do for your father?” she asked, snapping herself back to reality in fear of the delicate disaster waiting upon her words.
Dídac looked down and paused. How to put it, he wondered. He truly did not want this question to lead to a conversation, the idea of it made him anxious. “Nothing terribly interesting. He employs me as an ornament, that’s all.”
Why did he use that word, he wondered? He knew it would lead him to this miserable conversation over his relationship with his father. But then that was it, wasn’t it, that he was too bitter about being his father’s ‘ornament,’ and he couldn’t find a way to lie or even stroll gently around it. He had to use the word ‘ornament.’ It was precisely what he was in his father’s small world.
“Darling, my father and I do not agree on many things, surely you understand.”
Veronica was embarrassed, but she didn’t know why. Something in his tone rang of embarrassment, and her body translated the sensation from his language, though the words said nothing of his true measure of pain. Still, she could feel it.
“I’m sorry, forgive me. I am aware of it. It’s just...”
He felt terrible, terrible that he had done this to her, embarrassed her for nothing but selfish insensitivity. All his pettiness closed in upon him and he bitterly remembered his happiness of only a few moments before.
Dídac again lifted her hand again to his lips. He must do something, he thought, to correct the moment. It was ridiculous that he should spoil this day with obscene self-pity.
“No, it is I who am sorry! Forgive me, I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Veronica smiled sweetly and he understood that she would put the moment behind them.
The hours melted away afterward, though the bitter aftertaste of his initial acrimony would still linger in Veronica’s mind for hours after he would leave. The truth was that they were both far too happy to care about anything, really. They had each other alone now, and this comfort was better than anything either of them had known.
Dídac had managed to kiss her hand more than a few times, he simply couldn’t help the matter. It must be done, he thought. And eventually he had been able to kiss her on the lips once more before the Marquesa had returned. He had let her feel the warmth of his lips as he pressed them to the girl’s, softly at first and then harder, moving to rub them sensuously to his satisfaction. He had seen it done this way many times by his older brothers, and he loved being able to finally feel the magnificent sensation of holding her small frame in his arms.
But the moment had come to an end, and Veronica was happy even when Marcelina came to check on them before dinner. The meeting had been like a fine meal that would remain in her memory for hours after he would leave.
“My, but how happy you both seem. Just look at you! I had thought you would be bored to death of each other by now. Four hours! Surely, you’ve run out of conversation,” she teased them.
Veronica was momentarily flustered by her aunt’s words, though Dídac only felt a certain pride on account of them.
“Darling, you must excuse yourself now. Go up and take a nap before dinner. I will talk to our young gentleman for a bit longer and then see him to his carriage for you.”
Veronica thought it the perfect gesture, and she reached to kiss her aunt on the cheek before giving her hand to Dídac one last time. She scurried out of the room as quickly as she could.
Dídac had watched the girl’s every movement as she left. Marcelina had scrutinized his rapture with Veronica’s steps, loving him all the more for his devotion to her niece, even as the girl was out of his sight.
“And how did our afternoon carry off, dear? The smile on my niece’s face spoke volumes for her, but how did it fare for you?”
“It was wonderful, my lady, truly. I enjoy your house more every time I am invited.”
“Yes, well, it’s certainly my pleasure to have a fine gentleman such as yourself here to keep us company. Tell me, how are you planning on managing to be all the way across town for so long? You won’t be able to see our young girl as often while at the university, hmm?”
Dídac was instantly wounded by her words, he hadn’t wished to think on his parting for so long. It amused Marcelina to no end, this hurt look which enveloped his face so quickly. It was perhaps more charming than anything else about the boy, that his every emotion was so quickly heralded by his face. It was a delicious bit of character that made the Marquesa adore the child as she had seldom had call to with anyone else.
He was beautiful, this young man, her niece’s Dídac. She could see it now more and more clearly. But he was not just beautiful, for certain. His face possessed the type of intoxicating glow and sensuousness that had always caught Marcelina in a spell. Such innocence under that fine, brooding brow, only to be forsaken by his sensuous feminine lips; it was all too much for her.
She moved closer to him so that her skirt was pressed against him slightly. She could feel his warmth now. Indeed, it was intoxicating.
“I want you to know that we love you here, my dear, the both of us. And you are welcome anytime you like; you certainly need not call in advance. You’re a son to me now, and I want you to understand how very much I’m in love with you.”
Marcelina’s words were riddled with a timbre that immediately set Dídac at unease, there was something entirely not right about them. She was close to him, too close for such a beautiful woman. And she was beautiful, as striking as any woman he had known. He realized that he did not like that she was whispering so close to him. He did not want to be looked at by her in this manner.
“You’re so beautiful,” she said, raising her hands to his soft hair, those gold waves which fell down to his shoulders, only to be contained by the soft blue ribbon at his back. “Too beautiful, perhaps.”
She moved in closer and kissed him softly on his lips. It was a kiss that was too sensuous to be held between a mother and a son, and too warm and long to be thought of in innocent terms. This was a sensation he did not like. She was almost kissing him as a lover might.
And when she had finished her first kiss, the Marquesa moved her lips to kiss him again. This time her behavior was unmistakable, she kissed him with a passion that couldn’t be construed in any other sense.
He couldn’t breathe, and all at once he felt her arms rising over his shoulders to hold him closer to her body. And without thought, his hands rose to hold her in return, receiving the kiss without reservation, though he couldn’t understand his cause. This was absurd, that she should kiss him so, and even more absurd that he was beginning to absolutely need her not to stop.
The kissing grew laborious and wet, as her mouth opened more and more to taste him. And try as he may, he could not keep himself from doing anything but give in to her. He felt her tongue brush him slowly and the sensation of her inside him set his whole body alive. He awkwardly felt the unmistakable hardness in his breeches. She was doing all this to him and he was powerless to stop it. Indeed, he was now assisting Marcelina in her seduction, allowing his mind to wander and his body to act of its own accord.
She broke from him for a moment and stared into his eyes, those crystal green windows gazing in sheer confusion, searching for a benign explanation for what was happening between them. Marcelina owned him now, it was etched clearly on his face, as were all his thoughts.
She reached down boldly to his breeches to find that hardness she knew must be there and relished in the strength of it against her probing hand. Dídac’s breathing stumbled when she did this; his body pushed against her, making the firmness of her rubbing intensify for him, and the heat there would be blistering if not for the fabric between them.
When she was satisfied, Marcelina backed away from him abruptly and simply looked upon the boy who was near to eruption from his madness. She turned and fastened her hand into the crook of his arm and pulled him gently into a very slow stroll to the doors of the room.
He was truly mad now, his mind racing aimlessly throughout the room, searching for something to anchor him back into the proper world. It was unimaginable that she had done this to him, he could not account for her.
But Dídac knew plainly enough what she wanted from him. Perhaps not what it fully entailed, but certainly what it was. He knew this as strongly as he knew there would be no way to stop himself from giving it to her. He could barely walk from the tension.
But she did not take him anywhere to be alone. She merely walked him to the door and called her footman for Dídac’s carriage to be brought around. When they had descended the steps successfully, she turned silently to whisper in his ear.
“Do not come back here tomorrow, but the next day. Arrive after eleven in the morning. And don’t write to Veronica at all this week. You will do as I say?” she questioned him plainly.
Dídac was dumbfounded. He whispered something of a ‘yes’ and stumbled into his carriage, finding it impossible to take his eyes off her as the driver pulled away.