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Much to her surprise, Elsie arrived back at their meeting point first. Normally she would have lingered in the village after posting her letter, she would have wandered into some of the shops, considered buying something totally frivolous before deciding to remain her usual sensible self. Today however was an entirely different matter; she slipped her letter into the post box and all but ran back to where she had left Charles, only to find that he wasn't there.

Her shoulders slumped at the discovery, she supposed that the sensible thing to have done would have been to have checked with him as to what business he had in town, instead of just assuming he had none. She shifted awkwardly from foot to foot as the cheerful tune of whistling hit her ears. Turning, her discomfort faded as she saw Charles come up over the hill. "Ah, I had hoped to be back before you," he told her.

"I was in a bit of a rush to get here," she admitted.

"You didn't wait long, I hope?"

"A few minutes. Did you get everything done that you needed to?"

He looked almost shamefully at his feet. "It wasn't important business." He dug his hand into one pocket and pulled out a small paper bag. "I simply had a craving."

He held out the bag and Elsie glanced in to the see the sweets nestled inside, she gave a small laugh. "You left me waiting for your sweet tooth?"

"It's not often I get to the shop and whenever I do get to the village I cannot help but indulge." Charles gave a small shrug at his admission.

Elsie linked her arm with his. "In all honestly it probably would have looked odd if you had just stood here. That and I would hate to deprive you of such a small treat." Her voice dropped to a teasing whisper as she continued, "Also now I know what to use if I want to gain any information from you."

"Wicked woman," he replied, smiling down at her. When she had first joined Downton, she had struck him as so serious, so dedicated to her role, and whilst the latter was true, over the last few weeks he had seen a different side to her. She could be funny, witty and irreverent with a small few and it delighted him that he was now amongst them. "Tell you what," he lowered his head closer to hers as they walked on. "If I promise to share them, do you promise not to divulge such ruinous information to anyone?"

She dipped her hand into the small bag, drawing out a sweet and popping it into her mouth as she looked thoughtful. "I suppose I might be able to be persuaded to keep such deep, dark secrets to myself." The fingers resting on his arm stroked at the material of his jacket and eyes wide with mock innocence, she told him, "After all imagine if it came out? The whole household could fall into anarchy if they knew all they had to do to butter you up was tempt you with something sweet.

"As much as I may enjoy the rare indulgence, I do believe that it would take rather more than a sweet for me to look the other way on most matters."

"And what if it was me who was offering them to you?"

"Like Eve with her apple," he mused aloud.

"I'm glad to hear that you've been paying attention in church, Charles, but it didn't quite answer my question."

He looked her over, some of her curls had worked themselves free from the intricate knot she'd pinned them into, framing her pale, porcelain face. Her dress, thought plan, brought out the colour of her blue eyes, the thin material clinging to the perfect curve of her waist. Her lips had fallen into a small pout as she sucked on her sweet, her eyes gleaming as she teased him. In that moment he did not believe that he could deny her anything, the thought shocked him and he knew that she couldn't know just how much she affected him. "If it was you, then I think I just might be in trouble," he replied carefully.

Elsie couldn't help but be delighted by that admission, that he wanted her as badly as she craved him. "I shall keep that in mind, use my powers for good only."

"I am much relieved." He could see the grand tower of Downton in the distance, poking above the tops of the trees that surrounded the grand estate. "So, tell me, what would you like to do with the rest of your day?"

"I do have an idea," she admitted as her eyes scanned the trees that lined the road until she spotted the small inlet. "Follow me."

His eyebrow arched quizzically as she led him along the small dirt path. "Where exactly are we going?" He asked finally, as they made their way through the thicket.

"Have you ever taken the time to explore?" Elsie questioned him.

"You mean trespass?"

She laughed at his stern tone. "We work here, so I'm sure that we're allowed to take walks around the grounds, so long as we don't get in anyone's way." Elsie shook her head as she smiled almost despairingly at him, always so concerned with the rules, with propriety. "Trust me, there's no harm in us being here."

"You've wandered the estate before then?"

"Are you going to reprimand me if I say yes?" She countered.

"Considering that I am now guilty of the same offence, it would same rather hypocritical of me to scold you."

"Very true." The twigs and leaves rustled underfoot as Elsie pulled him forward. "But I do not understand how you especially, someone who has grown up here, has resisted the urge to explore all this place has to offer. I think we should take that chance now."

He smiled at her exuberance. "So am I to take it that you actually don't know where you're taking me?"

Elsie paused, her brow furrowing into a frown as she admitted, "Well, not exactly. I mean I've always meant to, I've just never got round to it."

"Well then, I suppose it's a good thing that I was curious as a boy and I did take the opportunity to explore."

Her head tilted to one side as she stared at him in surprised delight. "You are a man of many surprises," she told him.

He chuckled as he took her hand. "You're just lucky it's nearby." Charles studied the wooded area they stood in closely before pulling her to the left of where they had been standing. "This way."

"Should I be concerned that you're taking me deeper into the woods," she teased.

"You seemed quite happy when it was you doing the dragging."

Elsie laughed, clutching his hand tighter as she stumbled through the overgrowth, twigs snapping underfoot, until they stepped into a clearing. She gasped, blinking in the bright sunlight as she took in her surroundings. It was only a small section, but the area was grassy, with sprigs of colourful wildflowers clustered together in small crops, the sun filtering through the trees, bouncing off the variety of colours. "Oh Charles, it's beautiful."

His chest puffed out proudly at her words of praise. "I thought you would like it."

Sitting down on the ground, she patted the long grass beside her, indicating that he should join her.

Charles lowered himself carefully next to her, watching as she stretched out, disappearing from view as she lay back. He shuffled closer until he was almost looming over her. Her eyes were closed, a small smile on her face as she felt the warmth of the sun on her face. "Lie down," she instructed him, one eye cracking open momentarily. She waited until he had taken his hat off and was stretched out beside her before she asked, "When did you find this place?"

"When I was eight, I stumbled upon it."

Elsie turned onto her side so that they were pressed together. "Why do I feel as though there is more to that story?"

Charles shifted to face, his hand reaching out, curving around her hip. "Because there is, but it's not a story for today," he told her with a slow shake of his head.

She scanned his brown eyes, took note of the expression there and she reached up, stroking the skin of his cheek, stubble prickling her fingers. "No," she agreed. "Perhaps not today." She moved closer still.

The sunlight dappled across her smooth skin and Charles found he could no longer resist her. He kissed her, chastely at first, giving her the opportunity to pull away. She didn't, her fingers threaded through his hair, before dipping lower, pulling him closer to her. Her hands ran over his broad shoulders, revelling in the obvious feel of strength under her hands even as she yearned to feel the warmth of his skin seeping into her. She'd never felt anything like this before, had never wanted a man so badly.

His fingers nudged against one of the pins in her hair and Charles couldn't help but pull it loose, unable to stop it from falling out of his grasp, letting that thick curl of her soft hair twist around his fingers instead. He wanted to take out every pin, wanted to see her look dishevelled, her dark curls loose and wild around her, and he could not stop himself from giving into that particular need.

She let out a stifled gasp against his mouth and he broke the kiss only to drag his mouth down her neck, kissing and nipping at the thin skin there. Elsie sank further into him, running her hand through his hair, ruffling it, making him look ever so slightly unkempt. She wanted more, so much more, and her fingers moved to the buttons of his waistcoat, undoing them deftly, pushing it clumsily over his shoulders before she turned her attention to his shirt.

As his shirt fell open, he caught her hand. "Elsie, if you don't want to-"

Breathing heavily, Elsie gently pulled her hand free, pressing one fingertip against his lips to quiet him before running the flat of her palm against his chest, her fingers raking through his dark chest hair. "I do want to."

Charles groaned at her touch and kissed her deeply, pressing her back against the grass. He wiggled his hand underneath her so that he could undo the buttons of her dress, unable to resist any longer.

She freed her arms from the confines of her dress, letting it fall to her waist and she couldn't help but feel slightly apprehensive when she was no longer fully clothed.

His gaze raked over her, her corset pushing up her breasts, the curve of them apparent as they almost spilled out over her shift. He trailed his mouth down her neck, nipping at the spot that he knew would make her shiver and moan, press herself closer to him. Her curls brushed her pale shoulders, shoulders that were only covered by the thin straps of her shift.

His lips moved over her collarbone, sucking lightly at her skin before moving to her curve of her breasts. He felt her breathing ratchet up a notch and he silently promised that no matter what if she showed any sign of reluctance he would stop, of course he would stop. His fingers fumbled with the ties of her corset before he let it drop to one side. He heard her breath catch as his hand cupped her breast, his thumb brushing gently back and forward over a peaked nipple, his mouth still kissing her neck.

Elsie let her head tilt backwards, her mouth opening slightly as his hands and mouth kept exploring her. A shocked moan escaped her lips as his mouth closed around her breast, his tongue pressing the material of her shift against her.

Leaning forward she kissed him the top of his head, rocking closer against him, feeling his hips pressing against her, his excitement obvious.

He should be a gentleman he thought vaguely, should pull away and cover her, after all he had made her no promises of marriage, no proclamations of love and so he should not be taking advantage of her in such a way. And yet he could not bring himself to stop, after all he was not a gentleman and she had told him that she wanted this. That being said, he had no intention of treating her in the way he had treated the woman who he had had encounters with in the past when he'd been on stage, he would treat her properly and savour every moment.

He shifted her dress down off her hips and trailed his hands down her sides, gripping the curve of her hips as he slowly slipped the straps from her shoulders, pushing it down, freeing her breasts. If they had been somewhere else he would have bared her completely, but they weren't. She drew him close to her and he felt her breasts press against his chest, just as he'd dreamed so many times, he let his fingertips brush against the side of the full curve as he kissed her.

His hands were at her drawers now, slipping his hand through the slit, stroking the skin of her thighs gently, hearing her hiss at the sensation.

He ran the flat of his hand from her chin, down her sternum and over her stomach before clasping her firm thigh in his grasp, shifting her leg slightly and settling over her. His mouth found her breasts again as his fingers began teasing the sensitive skin of her inner thighs, feeling the flesh dampen as she squirmed.

Charles moved, his mouth taking hers once more as his fingers slid higher still. He felt her stiffen slightly as his finger slid through her wetness and brushed gently against the small nub he knew would give her pleasure. She let out a sharp gasp at the caress, her hips bucking slightly as her fingers curled into the material of his open shirt. Her head fell back, her mouth open as her breath started to fall in quick pants as he continued to stroke her, his mouth on her neck now as he urged her higher.

She buried her head in his hair, her moan turning into a note of surprise when he slid one finger inside her, hooking it slightly, pressing against a spot that made her muscles tighten and her hips twist, unsure if she was trying to get closer or get away from the intensity. His finger slid backwards and forwards over that one spot as his thumb continue to caress her.

Her eyes shut, she couldn't keep them open anymore, her hips were moving instinctively and a cry stuck in her throat as he slid a second finger to join the first. Her grip on his shoulders tightened, every muscle in her body feeling as though it were tensing up. "Charles!" she gasped as finally the tension seemed to burst and she felt the pleasure wash over her, she couldn't help but cry out and his mouth covered hers, trying to muffle the sound.

His fingers slowed their movement as the tightening of her muscles began to fade, eking out that last bit of sensation and he kissed her deeply, her fingers caressing his cheek.

She shivered as he shifted his hand away from her, and she stretched languidly as she tried to catch her breath. "That was..." She shook her head, unable to find the words to describe the sensation he'd wrought upon her.

Charles shifted, trying not to focus on his own ache, on how much he wanted to slide into her slick heat, to feel those muscles tighten around him. He swallowed heavily at the thought.

Elsie stroked his chest before moving downwards, tracing the outline of his erection through the fabric of his trousers. A groan caught in his throat. " don't have to."

"I know, but I want to."

His breath was falling in heavy pants as her fingers reached for the clasp of his trousers. He caught her hand as she fumbled, he knew she wasn't experienced and he didn't want to rush her. "As much as I want you," he told her gruffly, "perhaps today should be just about you."

"That hardly seems fair."

"If I find it fair, then you have no cause to complain."

Elsie felt the ache between her legs deepen, she didn't want him to stop there, she wanted him now. She wrapped herself around him, her leg hooking around his waist. "Is that what you really want?" She whispered in his ear. "To wait?"

He could feel the heat of her through the fabric of his trousers and he could feel his resolve weakening. "We should." He swallowed heavily, his tongue feeling heavy, leaden in his mouth. "If I ruin you, I can't take it back."

She moved her hips against him, her fingers lingering at the catch on his trousers. "I'm a housemaid, one day, God willing, I'll be the housekeeper, so explain to me what difference it makes if we do this? I'm not saving myself for marriage."

His eyes fluttered shut as he searched for a reason, then he felt her fingers deftly undo the catch to his trousers and he could no longer resist. He caught her mouth again, kissing her deeply, unable to stop himself, no longer resisting as she pushed his trousers below his hips.

Oh," she remarked as she bared him to her view. She didn't have a lot - or any - experience to compare him to, but he looked big, he was long and thick and even though she knew that he would fit, she wasn't entirely sure that this was going to be as enjoyable as she'd always imagined. Reaching out, she wrapped her fingers around him, watching in amazement as his head fell back and he groaned loudly.

His thumb flicked against her bundle of nerves again and Elsie bucked, her fingers digging into his shoulders.

Charles' eyes flickered off her face to where she was arching, her breasts on offer to him. Lowering his mouth he experimentally pulled on into his mouth, his tongue swirling round it as he'd done early, repeating the action with more fervour when her moans grew louder.

She felt him pressing against her thigh, hot and hard. "Now," she told him in a rush of air.

Elsie wrapped her arms around his neck, meeting his eyes for a moment as he pushed himself onto her. The excitement she felt faltered as she felt her muscles stretch almost painfully to accommodate him, a pained gasp escaping her.

For a moment Charles was barely aware of it, his head falling so that his forehead was pressed against her shoulder. "You feel so good," he almost slurred. He lifted his head and on seeing her expression, asked worriedly, "You want me to stop?"

"No," she assured him, "keep going."

His thrusts were smooth and his hands slid underneath her hips, tilting her, hitting a spot inside her that made her bite her bottom lip as she moaned in pleasure, the initial pain fading. Elsie tried to lift her hips but she kept doing it at the wrong moment. She smoothed her hands over his shoulders, wishing that she did not feel quite so clumsy.

"Elsie." She looked up and met his gaze. He lifted a hand and stroked away a curl that was resting on her cheek, leaning forward to kiss her.

The tension disappeared as his mouth explored hers, and finally their hips fell into rhythm, his large hand even going as far as to clasp her thigh and pull it high up on his waist. That simple action caused him to slide deeper and instead of feeling more uncomfortable she suddenly felt a spark of excitement travel through her, and she gasped, kissing him again, encouraging him on.

He brought his hand back to her clit again and pressed against it, she cried out again, feeling all the sensations she'd felt previously start to build up again. His breath was hot against her cheek and she could see the concentration and pleasure etched across his features and she knew he was close. She was getting closer to, her eyes shutting as a wall of pleasure seemed to surround her.

Suddenly she was crying out, her hips bucking and she heard him groan her name as she clenched around him, before pulling free of her embrace, spilling himself outside of her, his large shoulders shaking.

Finally he fell to the side, pulling her so that she could curl against him, the long grass hiding them from view. Elsie rested her head on his shoulder, glancing down at their dishevelled forms she gave a small laugh.

Charles stroked her shoulder as he asked, "What is it that is amusing you so much?"

"We hardly look prim and proper now, in fact I think we might be as far from it as you can get."

"Most likely." He kissed the top of her head. "No regrets?"

"None. You?"

"I would not call them regrets," he answered truthfully. He could not regret what had transpired between them, but neither did it sit comfortably with him. She was not one of the light skirts he had consorted with on stage, he felt uncomfortable with how he had taken her innocence and was offering nothing in return. "After what we've done today, you would be within your rights to demand marriage," he told her bluntly.

Elsie drew back from him at that, pulling her shift back over herself. "And what of your career?"

"If I need to then I shall walk away."

If he needed to. Elsie let out a hiss of breath at that, she did not want his offer of marriage, especially not one so grudgingly offered. She groped around grass for her hair pins with one hand as she pulled her dress on with the other. "Then you shall be relieved to hear that it is not needed," she told him.

Charles looked at her. "Are you annoyed at me."

"Slightly, your timing could have been better."

"I was offering marriage, I have ruined you after all."

Elsie got to her feet, quickly doing up the buttons to her dress. "I wish you would stop saying that." She glared at him. "I do not need your pity. I knew what I was suggesting and I accepted it." He made her feel as though she'd done something to be ashamed of.

He pulled up his trousers and began to fasten his shirt as he got to her feet, towering over her. "I did not mean to offend you. It is simply proper of me to at least offer-"

"Hang propriety," she snapped. "You have no wish to marry me," she stated.

"Well no, but..." He tailed off as he realised his mistake, saw her features tighten.

"Then do not offer." Her hands moved jerkily as she pinned her hair back into place. "I shall make my own way back to the house," she informed him.

Charles made to protest but she moved to quickly and he was far too dishevelled to chase after her. He muttered in annoyance under his breath, timing had never been his strong point, but this was taking it to a whole new level.