03-Welcome to Huntingdon

Huntingdon Keep was not large, but it was far from being a 'homely house' as Julian had indicated. Like many old Roman fortifications it was built up on a man-mad mound with very steep sides. The wall made a pentagon, and each corner had a three story tower clearly outfitted to resist a siege. One corner, however, had an honest tower, a minaret in design, a spire that rose up to a lofty ten stories, whose gallery was topped by a burnished brass onion dome. It was a bit wider than a true minaret, and if one had to guess, it could serve a small observatory. With the mound, the tower could likely see all around for miles. The walls and all the stonework, were white, some of it marble, some of it cut stone. There was no moat, but a narrow causeway rose to ironbound gate, which could be broken by a drawbridge.

Julian smiled to see it all, and began to lead her towards the main gate.

Aurora focused on the structure in front of them at the sound of her name. Her eyes widened as she took it all in. It was all there, just as she had foreseen, though she had doubted what her inner eyes had been telling her. She had never seen a place such as this in Briton or France. Something about the tall tower tugged at a distant misty memory that she finally had to let go.

Her eyes lit on the man who called this place home. "I think you must be the master of understatement. House indeed." Now that he was not looming over her, her equilibrium had returned.

Julian smiled, "The house is within. The fortifications are here to serve my people. I do not keep serfs, at least not in the standard means. They are all freemen, tenant farmers. They work the land, and make their sales, and pay me rent. I organize them a bit, so talents are pooled. I keep a farrier and blacksmith here, and encourage itinerant smiths and craftsmen to visit the villages. They're good folk and loyal, and they work hard." They arrived at the causeway, and Aurora could see sheep in the field, and a few clearly armed men riding the roads in sight of the walls. The minaret flew a white flag with black striking hawk upon it, and she could see that the armed men wore matching white tabards. "I invest in the people, the people invest in the land, and so the safety of the land is in their best interest. I handle the taxes, so the King leaves my folk alone. it has worked for me, for us, so far."

The bridge was raised behind them, it would be lowered again to gather the sheep inside the walls. The courtyard was neatly divided;there was a pen for the sheep, a small paddock for a handful of colorful horses, a barracks that seemed too large for the men at arms she had so far seen, and a few other outbuildings. There was a Roman style outhouse, kept heated if the curls of smoke from the cleverly integrated chimney were any indication. The 'house' itself was also of white stone, and constructed plainly, though it was a simple rectangular shape with its own inner courtyard, with two floors, and several chimneys. "We are lucky. The original Romans tapped underground springs. We have running water, hot and cold." Julian looked up, and gestured for a stableboy to take the horse and handed his bow and quiver off to an older man that met them.

He reached up and took hold of Aurora's hips, and helped her to the earth. Then he took her hand, "Come, we'll miss the sunset." Julian began to lead her briskly towards the minaret. People greeted him, and made way with smiles on their faces.

Aurora had to move quickly to keep up with Julian's long brisk strides. She tried not to think about how small her hand was his; which was difficult as his strong and calloused hand enveloped hers in its grip.

"You built this?" she inquired, clearly impressed. It made more sense that a man who had traveled outside France and Briton had come up with this place.

"Yes, the tower was inspired by Turkish Mosques that I saw. It's too stout to be a true minaret, but I wanted room at the top. The rest is fairly Roman. I took a fair bit down, and rebuilt on existing foundations, or made new." There was a building beside the minaret tower that look liked an enclosed water wheel. It was made of wood, with a door set in it. "We'll have to take the stairs, the two lads that run the lift for me will be helping bring in the sheep, and tending the other animals." The the oak door opened for the Earl, and he led her up a spiral stair that circled the inside walls of the tower. Cast iron posts , through which velvet covered ropes had been run, served as the only railing as they ascended. Ornately carved wooden rails, depicting all manner of mythological creatures, kept occupants of the observatory from stumbling down the stairs.

If not for the fact that he was still holding her hand and leading, Aurora would have lost a good hour just studying the handrail.

The observatory had a central fire, and was open to the air all around. A balcony encircled it, and there were levers to unfurl awnings as needed. The room was warm, and filled with philosophical equipment, the most impressive of which was a brass telescope of impressive size. Julian led her to the east, where the stone was waist high to him. The sun was setting over Sherwood, splashing colors across the forest, turning green to gold and crimson. "How do you feel about being abducted now?"

She slowed at the telescope, wide eyed and open mouthed at something like that being in the middle of well, nowhere. She had only read about those herself, and that he had one in his home was mind boggling. Again, it was only his leading her that made her move. At the rail, her eyes went to the forest and she gasped softly. "Oh… Julian," she breathed as her free hand came to rest on the low wall that came almost to the middle of her ribcage. If she didn't already know she wanted more with him, she would have offered to sleep with him at that moment just to be able to spend a few days in that tower.

Julian smiled at her expression, and covered her hand where it rested on the wall with one of his own. "This is my retreat. This is where I come to read, to think, sometimes to test a theory." He met her eyes, no longer watching the wondrous sunset. "Sometimes I just like to come here to enjoy the view." It was clear that Julian did not mean the sunset, at least not in that moment. He could already tell that she understood what she was seeing, from the instruments, to the telescope, even the tower itself. He had known that she would, and she had been the first he brought here. The local lords threw does at him left and right, fine for the stags hereabouts, but Julian was a predator; a lion needed a lioness. "Stay awhile, there is much here worth seeing."

For a moment, the scholar in her lit up like a Beltane fire. But then the struggle started and he could see it play out in her eyes. She was sorely tempted. But convention held what he was suggesting was totally improper; Aurora did not have maid, parent, or chaperon to stand for her. If this —relationship took a turn for the worse, Aurora would be forced to leave Nottingham. But also, there was something more then that.

"Julian," she said quietly. "I…" she paused, biting her lower lip. "I do not think there is any point in pretending that there is not some interest between us that has nothing to do with books. I do not want you to have any reason to believe that anything that might …develop between us is nothing more then gratitude for the opportunity you are offering me.

Julian reached out and gently touched her lower lip to keep her from worrying at it. His hand cupped her face, as his thumb traced her lower lip. "You are thinking too much." He smiled, more honestly and obviously than he had before. "Do I seem foolish to you? Have I done anything this day that would give you reason to think that I would be willing to entertain your affections for anything less than your desire to give them, whole and unfettered by the chains of arranged necessity or gratitude?" Julian shook his head, "Stay. I will assign you a very strict maid if that would assuage your concerns for propriety." Then, without further preamble, he kissed her soundly — there more than ten stories above the earth, with twilight spreading across the sky — and loosed her red-gold hair from its bonds, sinking his fingers into it as he leaned her back to kiss her with more vigor. When it broke, he straightened to his full height, and grinned into her eyes. "Supper?"

Dazed, it was all she could do for a moment to stand there and blink at the man. The kiss had come so quickly on the heels of his words she hadn't had a chance to process them before he had stolen her ability to think.

"Quoi?" she asked breathlessly.

Julian smiled and left her there to recover her wits. Carefully, he moved the telescope to where she was. It was on a solid tripod, with small wheels that allowed him to move it across the polished stone floor. He gazed through it, pointing it at the moon. He offered her his hand, "This looking glass is based on the work of Abū Alī al-asan ibn al-asan ibn al-Haytham, a very wise man from Basra in Mesopotamia. I have his book, Kitab al-Manazir, and another copy in Latin, De Aspectibus." Julian showed her how to look through it, and how to use the mechanical wheel to adjust the focus. "Have a look before we go downstairs."

She was still not back to herself when he moved her to the telescope. But it was enough that she could get excited about what he was showing her. She leaned in and peered through the eye piece, straightened and adjusted the view. Aurora took a step back in amazement. She turned her wonder on Julian. "How do you not spend hours just looking through this wondrous thing?"

"We've only just met, Ma Petit; how do you know I do not?" Julian smiled and wheeled the telescope back to its usual place. "I keep the fire here tended. In the winter, I have to put it away or it would be ruined." He offered her his hand again, "Come, supper is waiting, thanks to Paulette, and you will want to meet Beth. She is the grandmother of three, Mother of two, and a widow. I am fair certain she can kill a man with a rolling pin. I think you'll like her."

"Obviously you do not," she replied tartly. "Else you would not have time to roam the woods pretending to be a highwayman." She hesitated a small moment before placing her hand in his again. "I would like to freshen up and change before dinner, please."

Julian nodded, "True, but before that, I might have been here." He led her back down the stairs, not hurrying. He let her look at whatever she liked for a time, before urging her on with a smile. Once out of the tower, he walked with her to his house, entering through the front door, which opened on a long hall with tapestries and various treasures that a well traveled man might accumulate. He had a young man run off, and the same lad returned with an older woman dressed in the house colors, and clearly a member of the house staff.

She had been intensely studying an alabaster vase from one of the tables with her free hand and set it down carefully when she heard the approaching pair. Aurora turned to face them. She hadn't even consciously realized Julian was still holding her hand.

"This is Beth, she oversees the Kitchen and Maid staff." He smiled at the old woman as she curtsied. "Beth, this is Aurora, a Lady once of France, and late of Nottingham. At least you can practice your French."

Beth smiled warmly at Aurora, "Welcome to Huntingdon, m'Lady. His Lordship tells me you were after washing, please come with me."

Aurora returned the smile a trifle nervously.

She turned to Julian, "And off with you, m'Lord, the bath will be off limits until the lady is done. I've already sent a basin to your room." With that she gestured for Aurora to follow her.

Aurora couldn't decide if she should laugh or what. She settled for smiling at Julian as she gently slipped her hand from his so she could follow this woman. Apparently His Lordship had no use *at all* for women without spines.

"I did not know what you would need, and I'd not have anyone go through m'Lady's things, so your saddlebags are waiting in the guest room. Get your things, Dear, and I will take you to the Bath. It's worth the seeing, and there's time yet for supper."

Aurora nodded and hurried in to get her things, tossing the yards of purple fabric over her shoulder and wrapping everything in else she needed in her undergown before rejoining Beth with the bundle clasped in front of her. "This is an amazing place," she said a little hesitantly as they started walking to the bath. Beth might not be inclined to discuss her employer with a strange woman. "He is a rather exceptional man, oui?"

The house itself had roman style columns and arches, but was also decorated in a fashion that was decidedly local. Tapestries abounded, as did statues, and weapons from all over the known world it seemed. The first floor could be considered the utility floor, the hall, the kitchens, and the laundry were all on the first floor. The Library, she was informed as they passed the double doors, was two stories tall, the first floor was open to the one above, and it was lined with shelves that held not only scrolls and parchments, but bound books as well, a treasure trove of books.

She was shown the door that lead to the covered walkway that led to the outhouse, and was rather proud that it had running water and heat. From there, she was shown the Bath. It was a Roman Style bath, the entrance was on the second floor, and beautifully tiled with a celestial mosaic on the ceiling, and a fanciful undersea mythological mosaic in the large bath basin itself. Steps descended into the steaming water, and there was room for three loungers, and racks for towels and robes to one side. It was supported and heated from a special room on the first floor.

Beth was not a tall woman either, though she was a bit taller than Aurora still, she walked with the stopped shoulders of one that had worked, hard, for much of her life. She still seemed spry enough, she neither groaned nor grunted when she moved, nor was she overly thin, but she was likely a bit more plump and hearty in her youth. He hair, done up in a bun, was almost slate gray, a hue that absorbed rather than reflected light. Her skin was wrinkled and pale, and she had very strong looking hands, hands built to spank the backside of impertinent grandchildren. Her nose was hawkish, and her eyes were dark and alert; old she may be, but her mind was still very sharp.

"Oui." She answered simply, guiding her down the hallways. "The Earl of Huntingdon is like no one else, but he is a man for all that. Needs looking after, he does." Beth rolls her eyes. "Get him up in that tower of his and he'll forget to eat. I don't pretend to understand what his Lordship is studying, but of what use — what did he call it now — Astronomy — what use is Astronomy if it can't help you remember supper." Beth put a set of towels on a rack, and opened a vent. "These will be warm when you need them, Dear. There are brushes, soaps and oils on that tray there. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

The redhead was staring around in wide eyed appreciation. As she had been for much of the walk to this location. She finally pulled her attention back to the older woman. "Non. I mean, no." She smiled crookedly. "Although you may want to come by and pull me out if it gets to be close to dinner and I have not reappeared. I think I could probably forget supper myself soaking in a hot bath."

Aurora put her bundle down on a lounger and hung her dress from a hook before she started undressing. Under all those yards of fabric was the body Julian imagined would be, skin like alabaster and flawless. She picked up a brush before stepping into the tub with a deeply contented sigh.

As she finished freeing her hair from what was left of the braid Julian had loosened, Aurora couldn't help but smile. The man made her impossibly flustered and offkilter. But he also had woken a part of her that she had kept suppressed all her life. He made her feel like a woman, she decided as she brushed out her hair. She laughed silently to herself as she went through her bath. This alone was bliss. So much so that she lay back to just enjoy it after she was done washing herself and her hair and spread her hair over the side of the tub to dry.

It was how Beth found her when she came to fetch her; eyes half closed and a faint smile playing at the corners of the mouth.

Beth stepped into the bath and sucked her teeth, crouched by the edge, and splashed a bit of water at Aurora, "You're as bad as his Lordship, m'Lady." There was a hint of mirth in her voice, "Big lad that he is, went to change, and made the mistake of lyin' on his bed after his wash. Found him dead asleep, I did." She straightened with a sigh, and went to get one of the warm towels, before she stood waiting by the stairs to the bath. "You are both lucky that I am not inflexible, or it would be to bed without a meal in your bellies."

Aurora had the grace to look embarrassed. "Sorry. It has been a very tumultuous day."

She smiled, "His Lordship has asked me to act as your Maid, and in your best interest, while you are here. Said you were concerned with propriety, he did." Beth's tone seemed to indicate she thought the latter was more trouble than it was worth. "The Earl is a patient man. There's a story says he sat in a tree for one full week, waiting for the White Stag."

"I would not be surprised," Aurora said as she stepped out of the water and into the towel. "I apologize, Beth," she said contritely. "I have determined that proper and Julian do not necessarily belong in the same sentence, but it is different for women." She scraped her teeth over her bottom lip briefly. "And should things work out, well, the way I think we both would like, he should have a bride above reproach, do you see?"

"Please, m'Lady, there's no need for apologies." Beth wrapped her in the towel, and fetched the other to pat her dry, and help her with her hair. "M'Lord Earl is not complicated man, what he wants, he generally gets." She smiled gently, "Your concern speaks very well of you, m'Lady. We all care about Julian Longbow here, he's Lord, Father, Protector, an' Benefactor all in one. Very well, Aurora dear, I will treat you like my own Daughter. You can trust that I'll not let any daughter of mine be taken to any bed without first the promise being made. D'Accord?"

"Oui," Aurora smiled and then hurriedly added; "Not that I think he would take me against my will. I do not believe that of him. But, well," she blushed lightly. "He kissed me earlier, and I fear I quite forgot what my name was for a moment." She smiled again. "But it was very nice, and I would not be opposed to him doing it again."

Beth smiled, "I understand, and you are quite right. M'Lord has dealt quite harshly with even nobles taking such liberties in his lands." The old woman nodded and sniffed in a fashion that indicated that whatever justice Julian had meted out in the past, it was more than deserved. "Did he now? Well, m'Lady, it would seem that you have captured the attention of Le Célibataire of the region." She looked her over, "I do not think getting him to do so again will be a problem, Dear." Beth fetched her clothes and helped her to dress, getting the brushes for her hair. "His Lordship prefers a challenge, I think. La Belle Dame sans Raison does not appeal to him."

"Non," Aurora agreed. "I did not think they would. He is far too much l'alpha, oui?" She picked up the veil she had brought and eyed it a moment before dropping it. To wear it now would be silliness. She dropped a necklace of green glass and gold beads over her head; a Green Man wrought in gold hung from the center. The wire of gold knotwork earrings were slipped into the holes in her earlobes. She let Beth brush out her hair again until it gleamed like liquid fire in the candlelight. "Leave it down, s'il vous plaît," she interjected when the woman started to braid it. "I like it down, and convention says that I may wear it so." It was Aurora's way of informing the other woman that she was a virgin, because only virgins were allowed to wear their hair unbound and uncovered. Not that she was a virgin, but it had been over 60 years since she had given it up to her first husband, and she hadn't lied about her late husband-the second one-being old. They had hoped a young and vigorous wife would rejuvenate him, but even had she wanted to, Aurora couldn't have made that happen; that marriage was never consummated.

Aurora set a gold band dotted with amethyst cabochons on her head and then turned to Beth. "How do I look?"

Beth raised a grey eyebrow, "I think you know very well how you look." She smiled, "You're going to have all the lads panting. I will have to keep my broom handy." Beth mimed hitting someone in the backside with her broom. "You look beautiful, Dear. If his Lordship dressed in what I laid out for him, he should be waiting." She smirked, "You will take his breath away. Come along then, we'll stop at your room, and I'll see your road clothes make it to the laundry. I've embroidery to do, so I will be in the Hall while you enjoy your supper with the Earl of Huntingdon."

"Merci," she smiled prettily. "It is my favorite gown," she confessed, smoothing a hand down the pleated lines of the long sleeves. "I have not had much occasion to wear it."

Julian was waiting in the Hall. It was a rather comfortable room, cozy even. The hearthfire cast its dancing light into the room, along with its warmth. It could easily be a much larger fire, but there was no need in that season. The house was naturally cool in the summer, and retained the heat in the winter, but the day had been warm enough not to require a larger fire. The table was hardwood, sturdy, with legs carved to resemble trees and vines. Furs covered a few chairs, as well as the bench seats where guests or retainers would take their meals when the main table was full. Julian was waiting near the heavy chair, covered in furs, that was the high seat.

His eyes found Aurora as soon as she entered, and with blue intensity, she was where his gaze remained. Julian was wearing a pure white bliaut, trimmed in black, with the striking hawk on his broad back. The garment showed off his size, and the breadth of his shoulders to good effect, and like her purple, the white made his eyes very bright as well. For a moment, he was silent when she arrived, his lips parted slightly in memory of the kiss.

Aurora could look at the hall later. In her memory years from that minute, that moment was not cluttered with details. There was only him, the way he looked at her that made the heat rise within her, an almost wistful disappointment that he had shed the leathers and leggings from earlier in the day that did not detract from her appreciation of those shoulders and broad chest. Suddenly flustered again, her fingers plucked at the inside of the long angel wing sleeves of her gown.

Julian cleared his throat, "Please, sit here." It was the seat to his right, nearby, with him at the head of the table. It was close, but not scandalously so for a supper that would only include the two of them.

She glided gracefully across the floor and to the indicated seat. As she moved the silk moved, trailing like a quietly slithering cloud and exposing the purple velvet of her small slippers. She came to a stop and smiled up at him. Her hands clasped in front of her to keep them from reaching for him, to give in that insane urge to run her hands over his chest. "You have a lovely home. Julian. Thank you for inviting me."

Julian took a deep breath and sat down as well. He leaned towards her, despite Beth's steely stare as she took a seat near the fire, taking up her embroidery. "You. Look. Beautiful." He smiled, "I thought that I had found a diamond in the woods today, it pleases me that I was right."

Aurora averted her eyes briefly, but her smile was pleased. "Thank you. You are very pleasing to the eye yourself."

He shook his head, "Thank you for trusting me enough to agree to come. Abduction has its merits, but a willing and welcome guest is likely the best." Julian glanced to Beth, and straightened. "It is not mine alone, most of the staff helped me put it together, and I could not keep it running without Beth and Wayland."

She smiled in Beth's direction and then looked back at him. "It is good of you to acknowledge that. Most do not." She lowered her voice and leaned toward him, eyes twinkling. "You were right. I do like her. She splashed water on me when I was still lounging in the tub when she arrived."

Julian laughed, "Yes, she is — forthright, and I think amused by we 'children'."

Dinner was a feast; Already on the table were pickled onions, cucumbers, eggs, capers and whole olives, with manchets, and butter. Not long in arriving was Braised Beef with Mustard Sauce, Funges, Spynoches Yfryed, Bruwets arranged by color, consisting of veal, game hens with almond milk, rabbit in saffron and lamb with greens. Venison was last to arrive, and it was cut into steaks.

Aurora took at least a taste of everything so as not to offend the cooks. Clearly the venison was her favorite of the meats presented. The olives, she declared, were a delightful surprise.

As she was sipping from her wine, she smiled. "Did you have a nice nap?"

Julian glanced to Beth, who did not look up from her work, and then turned his gaze back to Aurora with a shake of his head. He smiled, "Yes, I did. I had been ranging for a couple of days, and after sending the men back with our catch, I decided to wander a bit." He met her eyes, "Did you enjoy the Bath?" His gaze was warm, as he considered how glorious she must have been in the warm water, her hair floating on the water.

Beth looked up as Julian leaned towards her unconsciously, and coughed.

Aurora ignored Beth, who apparently had a higher bar for propriety then even Aurora, and leaned slightly towards Julian and whispered. "Does she read minds?"

"It is not something I have thought to test. In truth, it is probably better that we do not know for sure." Julian replied quietly, reaching for a decanter so he could lean towards her as well.

She reached for the salt cellar, which kept her leaning in a bit. "I had a lovely bath," she said in a conversational tone. "Thank you. That room is glorious. Every home should have at least one."

Julian chuckled, "Indeed. Every home should. It was a pleasure to make, though I brought in an Italian artist for the mosaic." He smiled, "I likely would have napped there even more easily than in my own bed." He had eaten heartily, without haste, but in large portion. He seemed especially fond of the venison as well, and even now had the occasional olive or two as they spoke. "Will you be honoring me with your presence for at least a little while?"

She lowered her lashes briefly and then raised her eyes back to his. "Yes. Yes, I believe that I will. But we will have to go back to my cottage and collect a few more of my personal things. I do not like leaving my books and writings behind for long, and I will need more clothes."

Julian nodded, "We could make arrangements and send someone, if you like." He smiled, "If not, we will ride out with cart, and take care of it ourselves."

Beth cleared her throat. Aurora wondered when exactly she was going to get another one of those kisses if Beth hovered more then her own mother would have.

He sighed, "Beth will come along too, of course."

"I am sorry," she said with a small smile. "I will have to go. Some things are … hidden, you see."

Julian drank a bit of wine to wash his food down, and said. "If you are done, I have something else to show you."

Aurora gave a small smile to Beth before she turned back to her host with an utterly innocent expression on her face. "I would, I think," she answered lowly, a small blush rising in her cheeks even as she said it. "Like to see anything you want to show me."

Julian's nostrils flared, and for a moment, he had that same look in his eye that he had when he kissed her. There was, in truth, a moment when he thought he might grab her up, and whisk her to his room, but a glance to Beth banished the thought. He got to his feet, and offered her his hand again. "Then come with me, Aurora." He leaned over a bit, and whispered, "And quickly, Beth can only move so fast."

She giggled quietly.

He waited for her hand, and once he had it, led her out of the hall at a brisk pace.

Aurora moved quickly to keep up. "Where are we going?" she asked lowly with a laugh in her voice.

Beth proved that she could curse in French and Gaelic, as they rushed out of the hall. A couple of maids laughed at the incident, and at lease one page boy looked startled as his lord and Aurora dashed by.

"I want to show you something big." Julian smirked and led her down the hallways to the double doors of the Library. He shoved one of the heavy doors open, and tugged her inside, where only one candle burned. Before she could get a chance to see the room, he kissed her, picking her up gently and kissing her as fervently as he had in the tower. When he had done so, he lit another candle and another, so she could see the two story library.

Had she been aware of her own name at the moment, she might have noticed where they were. As it was, he had once again left her momentarily unable to process a thing.

"Julian," she breathed weakly. "Do you think maybe soon you might do that slowly? I believe I would like to enjoy one while your making me forget how to breath, not just after.."

Julian stopped what he was doing, a few candles in solid stands, and one lantern lit. The lantern was large, and placed before mirrors to spread its light further into the room. He placed down the smaller candle where he had found it, where it normally sat, and returned to Aurora. He said not a word, but kissed her again — slowly. He lifted her up, and held her about her hips, and kissed her like she was the only woman he had ever kissed, but it was not just a kiss. The way he held her, the heat with which he pressed her gently against the side of a cool hardwood shelf, for that moment, Aurora felt the whole weight of his regard.

Slender arms snaked around his neck, wrapping them both in a curtain of purple silk. The fingers of her left hand hesitantly carded through his hair and curled at the base of his neck. Aurora moaned softly against his lips, because she had never in her life been kissed like this. The heat of him against her made her whole being burn, spreading out from where the length of her pressed against him, and building a white hot fire in her belly.

Julian stopped himself just short of sliding his hands over her bottom, and giving those firm and shapely globes a squeeze. He simply supported her, his hands upon her thighs, which was scandalous enough. Her moan drew a soft growl of need from him, and she could feel the rumble in his chest, as she opened herself to him, and pressed against him. His hips moved slightly, unconsciously, before he could give it a thought. He held her there, his lips lifting from hers, though they remained tantalizingly close.

"Aurora, I want you. I would take you now if you allowed it, and marry you tomorrow if you wished it. But I want you." He kissed her again, just as fiery, if all too brief. "We will Court, briefly, we will keep it honest, but I will have you." Julian kissed her again, and this one was meant to last.

"Oh..," she breathed. "Oui, Julian," was all she managed before he was kissing her again and she was just starting to sink back into it.

Until the double doors shot open with a clatter, Beth's grandsons looking a bit embarrassed at being asked to do so. Beth marched in, reached up, and grabbed Julian by his ear, pulling him away from the shelf and Aurora. Julian grunted, and let Aurora slide to her feet, and went where Beth pulled, rolling his eyes. "Unhand me, Old Woman."

She made a small noise of protest when he was gone from her. But, really, there wasn't much she was capable of doing. She was still a bit light headed and was a bit dumbfounded at Beth's handling of the Earl.

"Old Woman indeed! You set me a task, Your Lordship, and drew my promise to keep it and I gave the Lady my word! Like my own daughter, said I." Beth glared at Aurora as if that were the truth. "Now bid the Lady good night, I will give her time to appreciate your Library, but you must go, since you cannot restrain yourself."

The redhead managed to look more contrite then she felt.

"Beth, this is hardly —"

"Julian Longbow, Earl of Huntingdon, would you have me fail at my task?"

"No, Beth. I would not have you break a promise to me or the Lady."

"Well, then."

Julian sighed, and shook his head in good humor, he bowed to Aurora, "Please take a moment to choose a volume for your room. I will show you more on the morrow, inform your Maid of any arrangements that must be made to care for your cottage and retrieve your things. He smiled brightly at her, "Good night, m'Lady."

Her smile was slow to start, but when he did, he got the full force of it for the first time. "As you say." She dropped into a right proper curtsy. "Good night, My Lord," said she, looking at him through her lowered lashes briefly before straightening. She watched him walk away before making a little happy sound and wafting off to look at his collection of books, forgetting all about Beth and her boys.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License