and to finish, a huge pile of fluff. Mind the cliches don't trip you on the way through!

P.S a million years ago when this story looked very, very different a Very Kind Person on this site beta-ed it for me. It has changed a lot since then, but if you are still out there, I just want to say thank you and that you were awesome.

Chapter 9

Margaret lay beside John, her body resting against his, her head on his shoulder, her fingers tracing lazily along his chest. The blankets and bedding were luxuriously heavy on her skin. The candles on either side of the bed had burned low in their stands, casting small pockets of glimmering light across the room, all would need to be put out before sleep, the ones she had left burning in the dressing room too. But not, perhaps, right at this moment. She moved closer against John, stretching her arm across his chest to his shoulder, holding him to her. Loving this satiating stillness after the exquisite heat and passion of earlier.

John turned to softly kiss Margaret's forehead as his hand trailed along her side. His fingers followed the curves of her hip and waist then wandering over her back and up to her shoulder. His thoughts absorbed by the closeness of Margaret. Her body against him. Perfect, quiet intimacy.

Another kiss on Margaret's temple and then she felt John's smile against her forehead. Margaret lifted her head and looked at him, raising her hand to lay her cheek against her palm. John, so distractingly handsome resting against the pillows, his rumpled hair dark against the white linen, his steel blue eyes warm in the candlelight that traced gentle shadows against his body. Lifting her head from her hand she traced along his cheek, dropping her mouth to his for a kiss. She smiled down at him, her fingers entwined with his.

But . . . Candles! The thought of the unattended ones in the dressing room once again nagged at her conscience. She dropped her head to John's shoulder, knowing she would have to go. Not wanting to leave. But

'Candles,' she sighed raising her head

'Candles!' John laughed. After everything that had happened this evening, was that what she had been thinking about?! A deep lingering kiss assured him this was not the case and then Margaret reluctantly twisted away from him. Another swift kiss and she slipped out of the bed and into the chilled air of the bedroom. She shivered slightly and crouched to pick up her chemise from the floor, pulling it over her head as she crossed the floor. Quickly extinguishing the twin table candlesticks, Margaret then entered the dressing room.

John watched her go and then stretched and reached across to pinch out the candle on the opposite side of the bed. He sat up as Margaret came back across the room, reaching out his hand to bring her back to bed. As she neared him, John tilted his head slightly as he looked at her, pausing her movements. Was that . . ? The hem hanging low on her thighs. The fabric finding its drapes on her curves. The deep V of the neckline folding wide open against her collarbone before meeting between her breasts.

Margaret smiled awkwardly, her misidentifying which crumpled pile of discarded linen was hers, and which her husband's, discovered. 'Its . . . I'm . . . I thought it was mine.' She began to remove it, shrugging the loose fabric off her shoulder, but then her eyes met John's. His look once again pausing her movements, then that gentle half smile that always made her heart flutter.

'Leave it on,' he said, so softly. Gently tightening his hand on hers. 'And come here.'

Margaret swathed in his shirt, familiar cloth draped in a tantalisingly unfamiliar way. Seeing her body newly clothed in such a way made John feel as though he were seeing her again for the first time, as he had all those months ago.

John's arm slipped around Margaret's waist as her body curled against him, pulling her onto his lap. He kissed her soft smile then his lips murmured over her jawline making her shiver and sigh. He could smell the faint scent of her skin. Feel her body move as she responded to his touch. John looked up at her, reaching to brush her curls away from her face and Margaret tilted her head into his hand as his fingers twisted gently in her long dark hair. Loving his touch, his embrace. She lent towards him, her fingers stroking the back of his neck, her lips whispering kisses and loving words onto his shoulder and throat.

John closed his eyes as Margaret's kisses caressed his skin. His senses filled by her, his mind thinking of her; all those months ago when he had seen her for the first time. And fallen in love with her. And had barely allowed himself to hope. Until the night of the dinner party. When Margaret had smiled and offered her hand. And glanced back at him over her shoulder when Mr. Bell had led her away. And worn that light blue dress . . . and worn that light blue dress.

John's half remembered thought from earlier when Margaret had left the Slickson's Dining Room came back to him and he almost laughed at his realisation. It had been the same dress she had worn this evening. Smiling widely, he placed trails of lingering kisses on Margaret's throat and chest. He remembered now. That glance over her shoulder that night of the dinner party during the strike had given him hope. It had meant he had gone to go to bed that night thinking of Margaret, longing for her.

And now, now Margaret was here. His shirt slipping lower on her shoulders as she moved her body against him, tilting her head to kiss him. John tightened his arm across her back, holding her to him, loving her. His other hand strayed to the buttons on the shirt. One by one he undid them, trailing down Margaret's chest and stomach, his fingertips almost whispering against her skin, adoring her.

Deep, long kisses. John grasped the loose fabric of the shirt on Margaret's back, pulling it down off her shoulders and exposing her body. Margaret slipped her arms from the sleeves, losing herself to John's gentle touch and warmth. This night, doubtless, to become new thoughts and memories to distract her beyond redemption at the next Milton social engagement.