The night was beautiful and engaging. Tiny dazzling lights garnished the sky like perfectly roughed diamonds. Marguerite was on the balcony of her room, admiring the starry sky and extravagant gardens underneath. Avalon was breathtaking. It was like Garden of Eden, Ancient Rome and Renaissance Italy all in one. Marguerite didn't know what pleased her about the city more. She had seen a great deal of beauty in her life but nothing could compare to the enticing beauties of Avalon. The rooms were wide and full of light, soft beds covered with silk canopies, beautiful pictures in gilt frames and antique mirrors decorated the walls.
The bathrooms had both hot and cold running water, the towels were thick and very soft, colorful soaps and essential oils lined the edges of the bath. The endless halls of the castle were so intertwined that they reminded Marguerite of a big maze. The architecture of the castle was fascinating in its own way. Marguerite could recognize a little bit of Greek influence here, a little bit of Roman influence there and it even had Egyptian art entwined in the walls.
During the day the birds sang, the streams gurgled and the air smelled of wine and roses. It was a Paradise, a city made for lovers and reaching ultimate pleasures. Even harps played in the background. All of that threatened to overwhelm Marguerite's senses but she loved it. She deserved it. She allowed herself to enjoy it. After she had helped Veronica destroy Mordren and save the Plateau, she deserved this little bit of bliss.
Tonight Roxton was arranging a lovely night for the two of them. He had filled the bath with Marguerite's favourite soaps and oils and lit the candles. When he came out to the balcony she was wearing nothing but a thin, silk bathrobe. His hands instinctively wrapped themselves around her.
"The water and wine are waiting" he whispered into her ear in a low voice and kissed her cheek and neck.
"Good" Marguerite breathed the answer as her hands rested on his. He had been so sweet and gentle over the past couple of weeks; whispering the words of love as their bodies melded and proving his love and devotion with more than words. Marguerite turned around to face him, her slender arms travelling gently up his arms to rest on his shoulders.
They looked at each other expressively for a moment, anticipating the sweet delights that were to come, and kissed. It was a small, simple kiss, before Marguerite broke the embrace and guided her beloved in direction of bathroom that adjoined their sleeping chambers.
There was a bottle of wine on a bath's panel with two glasses already filled. Roxton was first to enter the bath and Marguerite gladly followed. The rose petals were all over the surface of the water and it smelled and felt wonderfully. A wide smile of sweet satisfaction spread across her face when the pleasant warmth of the water touched her body.
It was very stimulating; Marguerite's pulse rose and her breathing became heavier. She comfortably set down, next to Roxton.
They took their glasses and she asked "What shall we drink our toast to?"
He watched how the wine soothingly rotated in his glass as he searched his mind for the perfect words. He then looked at her with a smirk and said:
"How about the fact that we're getting married? It's the best thing that will ever happen to both of us and it definitely deserves a toast. Wouldn't you agree? "
Whenever he spoke like that she was always surprised and confused for a moment. The idea of them becoming husband and wife was still breathtaking and mind-boggling, even if she had said "yes" to his proposal a fortnight ago. Marguerite knew it was crazy and impossible, and it could never work, but it was deliriously wonderful, and of course it would work.
She quickly regained her poise and stared deeply into his eyes, searching for the signs of mendacity, but she found only love.
With a smile she raised her glass "To marriage!"
"To marriage" He repeated the words and was about to kiss her when she pushed back.
"You do know what we will have to work extra hard to make it all work?" She asked with a sincere look in her eyes. "
"Marriage is never easy. Ours certainly won't be, considering I don't plan to be a lady of leisure who does nothing but sit around all day. I intend to do some actual work".
"Of course, You will be overloaded shopping and tea-parties, I'm sure. "He joked and Marguerite teasingly slapped him on the chest.
"I'm serious, Lord Roxton! If I decided to retain my independence and provide my own income to the household, you wouldn't mind that, would you? "
"Well, I don't see why that would be necessary but if that's your wish, then of course not; I will support you. Just tell me what you had in mind." He was genuinely curious.
"A small jewelry business, that's all I'll say for now. All those little gemstones that I've collected over the past three years should be put to good use. Besides, Veronica and Ned have agreed to participate in my little venture as well."
Roxton looked at her suspiciously. "They did? Why?"
"Because Veronica understood it would benefit Roxton family estate to have an extra source of income, in this new era where a lot of families are being forced to cut down and Malone acknowledged it was for the best if I became his publisher. He'll have all the literary freedoms he requires."
Roxton laughed with beguilement. "I don't believe you! You manipulated our friends!"
"I haven't manipulated anyone. The deal was fair and square on all sides." Marguerite responded angrily.
"Now… shall we drop this conversation for tomorrow and enjoy the rest of this evening… undisturbed?" She put away their glasses on the panel and leaned in for a kiss. He obeyed and she felt his arms move around her as the kiss deepened. Gradually he proceeded to her neck and shoulders and as the things heated, she commented "At least we don't have to worry that our passion will fade away any time soon."
He raised his head to look at her eyes. They were bright with desire and wide with expectation. "There's no chance of that ever happening." He said and showered her with a series of gentle kisses.
This wasn't the first time they made love in the bath. It had become their favourite place. Marguerite would position herself on top of him and they would stay like that until the water completely cooled. After that they would continue their love making experience on the bed.
Each time was unique and ecstatic experience on its own, but tonight he was taking her to paradise on a whole new level. As soon as they hit the bed, he started a long, secret journey down her body, exploring her every inch with his lips and tongue, until he reached the sole centre of her womanhood. She hadn't anticipated that forbidden pleasure. It was the wildest and most intimate kiss of all the kisses.
"John, that feels… incredible."
Moments later, he proudly lifted himself over her, and she instinctively wrapped her legs around him. He loved how she moaned his name each time they made love.
"Oh, John… Oh, John… Lord Roxton!" When she was saying his first name it meant he was doing something right, but when she was screaming his title and last name it meant he was driving her crazy.
During the act and immediately after, they held onto each other as the world would burst apart if they let go. Even in the aftermath, after they had drifted down from the heights of ecstasy, they wouldn't let go. It was the most profound union of mind, body and soul and they wanted to stay like that forever. Nevertheless, they stayed like throughout the night.
It was almost dawn when they finally fell asleep and almost noon when they woke up. They knew they were late for breakfast again and should probably get up, but they just couldn't bring themselves to do it. It was much more enjoyable to be lazy and stay in bed and cuddle for a little while.
"I love finding out how creative you are." Marguerite commented, remembering the sweet delights from last night, as her fingers moved across his chest in steps. "Your love-making skills are unmatched."
Roxton gloated, his ego like a proud lion. "I'm so glad that you enjoyed it, 'cause I'm saving the best bits for our marriage."
She raised herself on an elbow and starred at him suspiciously.
"Really? With such self-confidence, my lord, I can hardly wait." He was about to kiss her again when she gently pushed away and sat on the edge of the bed.
"I think it's time to get up, don't you? I'd like to avoid awkward glances from our friends, plus I'm starving."
"It's understandable. You've worked up a good appetite." Roxton teased and Marguerite shot him a look of disapproval.
"I don't like vulgar jokes."
"I'll make a mental note of that. I'll make a mental note of everything in fact. How you look in the morning, how you dress…" He ran the backs of his fingers up Marguerite's back.
"Why particularly?" She asked with a sardonic glint in her eye.
"Because I want to acclimate myself with the routines and rituals that will govern the rest of my life."
Marguerite smiled, she felt amused, knowing that although he was speaking from the heart, the routines and rituals of Avalon significantly differed from the life they were going to lead once they returned to England.
For instance, when Marguerite slid from Roxton's arms and went to open the heavy wooden door of their sleeping chambers, two attractive Avalonian girls were standing outside. Marguerite let them in and they weren't a bit shocked at seeing Marguerite completely naked as she moved across the room and finding Roxton just as exposed, on the bed. Such behaviour was perfectly normal for Avalon. They were an Epicurean society. For them the meaning of life was indulgence in sensual pleasures; having luxurious tastes or habits, especially in eating, drinking and making love.
The two girls were Marguerite's maids and they were here to help her dress. Not that Marguerite would have needed any help if she was wearing 1920's clothes, but Avalonian dress required at least two girls to help the lady in and out of her daily attire. It had ancient Rome aesthetics to it.
Today Marguerite chose a long, dark green gown with high waist and reveling her shoulders and décolletage. Girls styled her hair in a style that much resembled the one she wore two years ago when they were stuck in an enchanted castle.
They also put a tiara on her head, other jewelry around her neck and arms and even a golden biceps bracelet around her right arm.
"What do you think?" Marguerite asked Roxton when the girls left.
"You look divine, like a Roman empress."
"And you look quite the dashing gentleman yourself, even if you are dressed up in your old boring clothes." Marguerite winked at him.
He chuckled. "Nothing in this world would make me put on tunic and a toga. I would feel extremely foolish in that get up."
"Then it's your loss." Marguerite teased. The couple looked at one another for a while, entertained, and then they reluctantly broke apart. Breakfast awaited, or should they say lunch… It was noon after all.
The dining table was set in the gardens, under a tent with long white canopies. By the time Marguerite and Roxton appeared, only Malone and Summerlee were still there. One of the charming young Avalonians pleasantly played the harp nearby, the sweet melody reminded Marguerite of medieval Camelot.
"You look absolutely stunning my dear." Arthur Summerlee commented, admiring Marguerite's appearance. The two of them had always been good friends and allies. He had a soft spot for her from the early beginning of their journey, and he never held any grudges against her, nor prejudice for that matter. He never thought her to be cold, empty or selfish. Instead he admired her for her virtues. He was also there to console her whenever she needed consolation. It had become their habit, after a difficult episode, to take a glass of wine and stand at the balcony of the tree house and talk. Oh, how she missed those talks and how deliriously happy she was to find him alive in Avalon. "The look of a Roman lady suits you. I notice that Lord Roxton can't keep his eyes off you."
"Oh, Arthur, you don't have to play the matchmaker anymore. I've already agreed to marry him." Marguerite replied, smiling. It was their little joke. Ever since they reunited, Arthur had taken upon himself to be the matchmaker and bring Roxton and Marguerite together. "What you and John have is something so right, so rare, so powerful. You belong together. It doesn't mean that you'll never get hurt. It doesn't mean you'll never face obstacles. But any pain you might feel will never compare to the regret that comes from walking away from love. So, don't do it, Marguerite. Don't run away. In the end, what is the point of goodness if there isn't some badness to overcome along the way?" He had said these words to her when he found her crying by the babbling brook in the farthest part of Avalon gardens. She had just found out her true identity and she was so confused with everything. Whether his words touched her or she had come to the same realization herself, she didn't know, but few weeks after that, she had accepted John's marriage proposal.
"You'll have to tell me all about the progress in your relationship," Malone said as he was scribing something down on a piece of paper, "Like, at what moment you realized you loved each other, at what moment you finally spoke the words and most importantly, how the proposal played out. My readers are going to love that."
After they had defeated Mordren and come to terms with what the Plateau really was, they all agreed to keep everything about Plateau a secret, in order to keep it safe. However, Malone had a brilliant idea to publish his diaries not in form of 'real events journals' but rather in a form of fantasy-adventure fiction. He'd just have to change the names of the characters, edit some crucial details, cut some boring scenes, add couple of new ones and voila! He would have his novel.
"Why don't you give more space to you and Veronica's relationship?" Marguerite asked, obviously provoked by his invasion of her privacy. She hated nothing more but when people asked her intimate questions. "Jungle beauty and the outsider; I'm sure it will be fascinating."
"No more than Gentleman Adventurer and Fem Fatale." Malone insisted. "It will be a hit, an instant classic. Listen to this: Sebastian is a handsome and noble gentleman with heroic motives and a lust for adventure and Catherine's a high class lady, who might appear to be proper lady at home, but out there, she's anything but proper. She's schemes and plots and always gets with what she wants. She's beautiful and dangerous and sometimes even deadly."
Marguerite was watching him with prim expression and she crossed her arms and shook her head in disbelief. Roxton on the other hand, was fairly amused.
"Does Catharine drink large amounts of coffee as well?" He joked as he helped himself to the bread and butter from the table.
"Oh, yes, tons." Malone answered and poured Marguerite a cup of perfectly brewed coffee that was waiting especially for her. "Here, Marguerite, just for you: black as midnight on a moonless night."
She gladly accepted it. "Thank you, Malone. You do have a way with words, I will admit that."
"And I'll admit that every great idea starts with great coffee, so I'll have another cup as well. Roxton?"
"Of course, I'll have one, too. Coffee and friends are the perfect blend."
Marguerite smiled at his words. She agreed. Coffee with friends was like capturing happiness in a cup. She enjoyed drinking it with the whole of her being. It was like a liquid hug to the brain.