Lucien sat at the kitchen table, sipping his tea and holding the afternoon edition of the newspaper. But his eyes weren't following the words on the page. He couldn't seem to look away from the woman bustling about the kitchen, scrubbing the counters and putting away food and washing the dishes. He must have sat and had lunch hundreds of times while she worked around him. There was just about today that drew his attention to her more than usual.
Jean didn't notice anything out of the ordinary that afternoon. Her mind was preoccupied with the various tasks she'd set out for herself that day. Lucien didn't have a case he was working on, and he'd seen to all his appointments before lunch. Normally he wasn't around this much, and as such, he'd been distracting her all morning. She tended to his patients and made sure that everyone was well looked after. Which meant that the vacuuming and the dusting were delayed. And it was supposed to get very hot that day, and she wanted to water her plants in the sunroom before they roasted.
"I want to clean your study today," she informed him, remembering that it had been a while since she'd checked on the levels of dust and clutter in that room. "I don't like going in when you aren't home, but when you're here, you seem to always be in there."
"You needn't feel like you can't go in there, Jean. I have no secrets from you," he told her.
She turned and smiled softly. He didn't need to say that, but it made her happy that he had. This new closeness between them since Adelaide was still taking some adjustment. Jean was finding that she quite liked it.
Lucien held out his hand to her. She came over to place her hand in his, and he brought it to his lips, caressing her wrist with his fingers.
Jean reveled in the feeling of it, wanting to melt into the floor. But she cleared her throat and took her hand back. "Right. You stop that. I have work to do." She bustled away again.
He chuckled and went back to his paper, trying to remember what story he could have possibly been interested in.
A moment later, Jean returned to the kitchen, placed her hands on his shoulders for a squeeze, and pressed a soft kiss to his temple before rushing out of the room again.
Lucien was stunned for a moment. She was growing bolder in her shows of affection, and he loved it. He'd been as timid with her as he could since they'd come home from Adelaide. Being in Ballarat put her on edge in a way that she hadn't been when they were out of town, away from prying eyes. But ever so slowly, she'd become more and more comfortable with his expressions of affections, even now going so far as to initiate some of her own. He sat there at the table, grinning like the lovesick fool he was.
Jean had retreated to the sunroom following her impulsive action. She tried to focus her attention on the plants, willing the blush in her cheeks to go away. It wasn't like her to do something like that, not in broad daylight. She was embarrassed and didn't want Lucien to get the wrong idea, but more than that…she was a little mortified that she'd enjoyed it so much. And she wanted to do it again. Her mind from wandering to imagining kissing him in the kitchen and in the sunroom and every room of the house. He was ever so good at it. And Jean reminded herself that she needn't be embarrassed of such things, not anymore. She was allowed to feel this way now. She was allowed to kiss him if she wanted to. And she certainly wanted to.
"It's supposed to get rather hot today, isn't it?"
She jumped at the sound of his voice. It was as though he'd felt his ears burning from the lascivious thoughts he'd interrupted. "Oh, yes, I think so," Jean replied distractedly.
Lucien wandered around, inspecting each and every plant. He felt her eyes follow him. It became almost a game to see how long he could stand to prevent them from making eye contact.
"Can I help you with something?" she finally asked, confused as to what on earth he was doing.
"No, I'm fine. You just keep up with your…" He trailed off, waving his hand in her general direction.
Jean did her best to ignore him, but she didn't feel very comfortable having her employer stand over her shoulder, watching her every move. Though she was reminded that he would have no idea whether or not she was doing an acceptable job, as he had no clue what she did all day. He'd never paid any attention before. The physical closeness of him, while inconvenient for her work, wasn't an entirely unwelcome feeling to her personally.
She finished with her plants and made her way into the study. Best get that out of the way first. And to Jean's dismay and equal delight, Lucien followed her into the study. Perhaps he had work he wanted to do. Yes, that had to be it.
But sure enough, as she started to go around with the feather duster, he just sat himself down on the sofa on the far wall, watching her every move. She tried to ignore him, but this was getting silly. Flirting in the sunroom was one thing. Quietly staring at her was quite another.
"Lucien, why are you following me around the house?" she finally asked, her hands on her hips in annoyance.
"I wanted to watch you work," he replied innocently. "Am I bothering you?"
"Yes, actually. You're getting in the way," she snipped.
He had to purse his lips to keep from smiling. "I am sorry, Jean."
She sighed heavily. "And why do you want to watch me work?" Something told her that he wouldn't leave her be until he got to explain what he was doing.
"I think it's time for more intimacy between us."
"Lucien!" Jean's eyes went wide, matching her scandalized tone.
He couldn't help but chuckle. "No, that isn't what I meant. Sex and physical affection are perfectly wonderful in their own right, but there's much more to intimacy than that. I mean…emotional intimacy," he explained, looking for the right words.
Jean put her feather duster down and sat in the chair across from him. "Alright, so how does staring at me while I dust give us emotional intimacy?"
Lucien regarded her with a smile. "It's the little things as well as the big things. It's sharing important experiences of the every day. I want to know what you do in the house all day, cooking and cleaning and gardening. I want to go to church with you, because it matters to you. I want you to be more a part of my work. Going with me to investigate and help me more with my experiments and such."
"I think that would be nice, actually," Jean agreed.
He sat forward and continued, "I want us to share time and space, sitting on the sofa with you in my arms, holding hands as we walk down the street, have a soft kiss goodnight, and fall asleep side by side."
Jean felt butterflies as he spoke those lovely words. It was as if he had seen into her daydreams about him and described them all aloud. "Yes, that's what I want, too," she whispered. Her face was growing warm. It was frightening to admit that to him, yet so freeing all at once.
"Come here," he requested gently, holding his hand out to her again, as he'd done in the kitchen earlier.
She acquiesced, coming to sit beside him on the sofa, allowing him to hold her hands.
"Jean, I've realized that you know many of my demons, that I've confided in you about the hardships of my past. But I must confess that I've been remiss about inquiring after you. I don't want to pry, of course, but I do hope you can tell me more about your life one day. I want to know all your hopes and all your fears. I want to try to make all your dreams come true, and I want to know all your pain, not to try to heal you but, I suppose, just to know every part of you." As he spoke, Lucien realized he was rambling. He was coming on too strong, he knew. Jean wouldn't want him to make an emotional fool of himself like this. Any second, she would let go of his hands and stand up and make some kind of excuse to leave the room.
But that isn't what she did at all. She leaned in and kissed him. Jean did let go of his hands, as he expected, but it wasn't to put distance between them. Quite the opposite. She threw her arms around his neck, pulling him closer.
Lucien was taken by surprise but quickly recovered. He took her in his arms, encircling her slim waist and letting his hands travel up and down her back underneath her cardigan.
Jean eventually had to come up for air. "How's that for intimacy?" she quipped breathlessly. She kept him close, resting her forehead against his.
He laughed and placed feather kisses on her nose and cheeks and chin. "I wasn't expecting that, though it was quite a nice surprise. You see? I'm learning more about you every minute."
"Mmm," she hummed in agreement. "Lucien, I do want all those things, too. I didn't think you did."
"Why is that?" he asked, frowning.
Jean sat back slightly, still in his arms. "My marriage to Christopher was full of love and passion and excitement at the beginning. We were so young, we didn't know better. But as time went on, we were busy with the farm and our boys, and all of the other went away. We were partners, working side by side in our lives. Nothing more. I didn't think…" She had to steel herself for this admission. "I didn't think a grown man would want any of that. It is just silly passion for hormonal teenagers and characters in the cinema, after all."
Her words saddened him deeply. Lucien stroked her cheek. "No, it isn't. That silly passion is what makes love the most wonderful thing in the world. And I can't speak for other grown men, but it's everything I want. And I don't want it with anyone but you. I just feel a fool for taking so long to realize it."
"To realize you wanted me?"
"Oh I knew I wanted you from the first moment I saw you," he told her with a devilish smirk. "No, I mean I've been a fool to take so long to realize that I love you."
Until that moment, Jean hadn't fully acknowledged how desperately she wanted to hear him say those words. Overcome with emotion, she leaned in to kiss him again.
This time, she sucked on his bottom lip as she tangled her fingers in his hair. His lips parted and allowed her tongue to slip in to taste him. She moaned into his mouth. They continued their passionate kiss as Jean's fingers moved between them, loosening his tie and fumbling with the buttons on his waistcoat and shirt.
Lucien was lost in the heady wave of lust, but he undersood what she was doing. He forced himself to pull away from her. "Jean, no, we can't." He stilled her hands and tried to redo the buttons she's managed to undo.
"Why can't we?" she challenged.
"Because you'll regret it as soon as we're finished."
"Only if you aren't any good," she fired back. Her turquoise eyes were dark with desire, and a sultry smile played on her lips, swollen from their kisses.
"Jean, please. You know you won't be happy about this tomorrow. And I don't think I could bear it," he confessed sadly.
She didn't want to tell him that his chivalry and concern for her virtue were making said virtue all the more difficult to maintain. But she'd made up her mind. He loved her. And she finally believed that he wasn't going anywhere. "Lucien, I'm not as much of a prude as people seem to think I am," she huffed in frustration. "Now, I'm going to tell you something I've never told anyone. I was a foolish young girl, overtaken by that silly passion all those years ago with Christopher. We didn't wait until our wedding night. We didn't even wait until we were properly engaged. And I didn't know it at the time, but I'm fairly certain that I had already fallen pregnant before we got married. But I'm much older and wiser now than I was then, and I love you, and I know what I want. And right now, I want you," she ended emphatically.
It took Lucien a moment to process all she'd said. Yes, he was certainly learning more and more about her every minute. His face broke into a wide smile. "You love me?"
Her expression softened. "Yes, of course I do," she replied reverently. Her fingers trailed down his chest, landing at the top of his waistcoat.
"And you're sure you know what you're doing?"
She gave him her playful little half-smile. "You'll just have to find out." Jean tapped his chest. "Now go lock the door and make love to me."
Lucien couldn't believe she was being so forward. But then again, he'd always believed the image of proper chastity she'd meticulously maintained as long as he'd known her. "You are a marvel, you know that? A bloody marvel," he laughed, leaning in to kiss her.
But Jean stopped him. "Lucien, the door!" she insisted.
"Oh, right." He bounded over to quickly close and lock the door. He turned to find Jean removing her cardigan. "Hang on, that's my job!"
Lucien returned to her and tossed the article of clothing behind him as he began kissing her again. He allowed his hands and mouth to explore her body, unhindered now by his lingering sense of propriety. After unbuttoning the top half of the buttons on her blouse, he kneeled in front of where she sat on the sofa and placed open-mouthed kisses on her newly-exposed chest.
He could feel her heart pounding beneath his lips. He paused. "Darling, your pulse is racing."
"Excited nerves," she answered, reassuring him. "Don't stop."
And with that final prompting, Lucien did as she asked.
Later, when they lay on the sofa catching their breath, their bodies slick with sweat, Lucien realized he'd been rather stupid in thinking that the emotional intimacy would be enough to sustain him. He wanted more of that, certainly, but it would come in time. Jean, it seemed, had needed their physical intimacy to break down those final walls she still kept between them. And he treasured every newly uncovered facet of her life just as he treasured every inch of newly discovered flesh on her body. The more he had of each, the more he wanted. And the more he learned of her, the more he loved her. Lucien had to accept that, finding each other after an entire first lifetime apart, he might not be able to know everything about her. But he would savor each and every thing that brought them closer together for the rest of their life together.