The reflection in the unfamiliar looking glass was that of Margaret Thornton, recognisable in feature but not in name to the woman who beheld it. It was her; her face, her eyes, her hair, her lips and it was her heart that was beating quickly within her chest. Margaret Thornton. She silently applied the name again to her new acquaintance in the mirror and felt her heart fluttering in recognition. She smiled softly, turning away from the glass, her hands reaching for the pins in her hair.

Margaret looked around the small dressing room John had escorted her to moments before. Her trunk was open in the corner and the soft colours of her trousseau and recently discarded shoes and stockings, seeming to be at odds with the dark , masculine features of this room that had been John's domain for all these years. She removed the last few combs and pins from her hair and placed them on the dresser, then pulled her dark curls over her shoulder and began to unfasten the long column of tiny buttons at the side of her dress. She flexed her fingers to try to stop them trembling. It was not fear that made them shake, she knew that, but nerves? Anticipation? Trepidation?

John had turned to watch her come towards him in the church that morning, tall in his dark suit with eyes that captured her in their steel blue gaze. He had smiled softly as she stood by his side, and then turned to face her and repeated the marriage vows in his low voice. Promising to love her, to honour her for all their lives. Softly, meeting his eyes she had promised the same and now her left hand bore a new shining band of gold that nestled against the ring John had given her only weeks before.

And now, and now . . . her heart pounded as her eyes fell on the beautiful lace nightdress that lay draped over the trunk. Suddenly the thoughtless rhythm of her hands on the buttons faltered. She twisted her neck, looking down at the small fabric covered bundles. Some thread had worked loose from one of them, combining with a frayed edge from its covering preventing its release. Margaret remembered Dixon having to fix a button on the dress that morning just before they had left for the church – this must have been it. She tugged gently, nothing. Pulled harder, but the threads tightened. It was almost as though Dixon had stitched the covering to button AND dress such had been her haste. Margaret's eyes fell on John's shaving kit, laid out on the tall dresser, there were some small scissors in amongst it, and she picked these up. But, twist as she might, she could not get a good enough view and the threads she did cut did nothing to ease the situation. As a desperately futile solution, she lifted the skirts of her dress and unfastened her heavy petticoat, hoping that it would give her extra room inside the dress. She steadied herself with a hand on the wall and stepped out of the billowing layers. But, as she had anticipated, the little extra space afforded by the absence of the petticoat's numerous layers and thick waistband did nothing to ease her situation.

What to do? She was reluctant to rip the dress merely to save her pride. She ran through pointless options; maybe one of the maids was still awake downstairs? Maybe Mrs Thornton? But, Margaret remembered, Mrs Thornton had left to spend a few days with Fanny. Margaret took a deep breath, she knew to whom she must go.

John stood barefoot in front of the fireplace, his back to the dying embers in its grate. He had removed his jacket and cravat and now, hands in his pockets, he surveyed the room. He was unused to seeing it so alight. This had been his bedroom for so long now that he knew it's every shadow and dimension and would regularly navigate it in the dark, but tonight. Tonight was different. This was to be Margaret's first night here, with him, and he was anxious that she feel comfortable. He suddenly smiled to himself, how could he possibly hope to put Margaret at ease when his own fluttering nerves were so apparent in his fidgeting hands and dry mouth?

All those snatched kisses and stolen moments together had been but fleeting, always limited, always interrupted, never enough. But now, now there would be no interruptions. There would be no panicked departures, and suddenly the confidence he had found in the intimacy of their kisses and touches diminished as it was held up to the searching expectation of a wedding night.

John's restless hands absorbed themselves in unbuttoning his waistcoat, interlacing and overlying in a comforting routine. He had laughed at Margaret's constant playing with her engagement ring when he had given it to her, but now he found himself reaching for his own new gold band, twisting it gently around his finger. It's presence gave him calm and some restoration of confidence; his wife may be new, but the woman who owned the title was one he had loved from the first moments he saw her.

The door to his dressing room opened, and he looked up. The sight of Margaret crossing the room towards him immediately quelled the last fears of expectation, she was so beautiful she took his breath. Her long hair, finally freed from its neat coils and plaits hung in heavy curls over her shoulder. Her perfect face shone in the soft light from the candles.

'I need your assistance' Margaret's voice softly broke into his thoughts.

She was nervous now, worried at appearing foolish for not wanting to ruin her dress. Embarrassed that she was having to conduct this strange unplanned interruption, and John, so handsome in his white shirt, unbuttoned waistcoat, and dark trousers, unnerved her more. Memories of kisses and caresses they had shared in snatched private moments filled her mind; his mouth on her lips, his kisses on her neck, his hands round her waist, his fingers on her shoulders and throat. She dropped her eyes for a moment to compose herself.

'My dress,' she began, meeting his gaze once again. 'The buttons, one of the buttons is caught on itself.' She searched desperately for more a more eloquent description, but words trailed away before her. She tried again. 'Could you cut the threads?' and turned so that John could see the buttons. She held out the small scissors to him.

John took the familiar scissors from Margaret's outstretched hand and bent down beside her. His fingers fumbled with the strange fastenings, and he steeled himself as he slipped his hand inside the half open dress so that he only cut the silk dress, not what lay underneath. He felt the stiff material of Margaret's corset on the back of his hand, trying to concentrate on the threads and not the building realisation of just how close he was to her body.

'There', he said as the fabric covering the button fell away. He stood up, placing the scissors on the table as Margaret twisted her head round to see the fastenings, exploring with her fingers. The short sleeve, already low on her arm, slipped further pulling the neckline of the dress with it. Her shoulders turned slightly towards him, and his eyes swept over her long neck and throat, remembering her skin under his lips, and then down her chest to the edge of her corset which was now visible. He had picked up on her anxiety and therefore did not wish to rush her, but, but should he give in to want and embrace her now? Pull her to him and kiss her and touch her and love her and . . .

'Thank you' again she broke his thoughts. She looked up at him, as though unsure of what to do. To leave and return in the delicately stitched lace nightdress? Or to stay?

They both stood motionless, both hearts pounding, both aware of only this moment. Finally together, finally alone. It was then, looking into John's eyes that Margaret realised he was just as nervous and as anxious as herself, just as full of trepidation. But also needed her and wanted her, desired her as much as she did him. Such an exact and beautiful mirroring of her own feelings soothed her fading embarrassment and worries. Looking up at him, she took a breath.

John watched as Margaret's hands flowed to her side and and began to unfasten her dress. Her fingers resuming the rhythm, button by button, looking up at John as she did so, her large eyes steadfast, but a little timid.

John was momentarily transfixed. He watched as his exquisite Margaret stood so shyly yet so resolutely in front of him. The dress became looser as Margaret's hands went further down her waist stopping at her hips. Her fingers went up to her shoulders and slipped the sleeves down her arms, John's eyes following every movement, making Margaret feel as though her skin was being softly caressed by unseen hands. She pushed the dress down, over her hips and it pooled around her feet. She stepped out of it and met John's eyes again.

And stopped.

Margaret's shyness suddenly took over again and her fingers refused to move. John, his heart thumping, stepped forward and took Margaret in his arms. Raising her chin gently with his fingers he placed a soft kiss on her mouth, he felt her relax against him, finding her safety in the familiarity of his caress. John's lips touched her forehead, her cheeks, he pulled her nearer, loving having her body so close to his. She closed her eyes, confident once more in their shared passion, his hands cradled her face and she melted into his kiss.

John shrugged out of his waistcoat, and gently pulled away from Margaret. He reached for the hem of his shirt, and began to pull the fabric over his chest and up over his head and arms. Margaret watched as the lines of John's body she had drawn and redrawn in her imagination were made real; his stomach and chest, his long arms, his broad shoulders and long neck, all sculpted and shaped with gently curving muscle.

John twisted out of the shirt and let it drop to the floor. Running her eyes longingly over his body then stepping forward, Margaret laid both hands lightly on his chest and traced his contours with her fingers. Her touch trailed lines of pleasure over John's bare chest. His skin shivered under her fingers and then a gentle kiss on his throat sent a tingling tremor through him. He pulled her to him as her hands stroked up and down his back, his lips sought hers and then began a path of kisses from her sweet mouth to her chin, down her neck to the small hollow at the base and then along her collar bone.

Margaret trembled under his warm kisses, a sigh escaping from her throat as she tilted her head allowing John's mouth to trail lower, she felt each kiss as it fell, anticipated the next as it came closer slowly closer to the curves of her breasts still tightly enclosed. John's hands were straying to her back and the laces of her corset, exploring the bow tucked into the small of her back. His mouth returned to hers and she felt his fingers pulling at the tight fastenings, then his hands were on her waist and gently he turned her so that she had her back to him.

John carefully pushed Margaret's long hair over her shoulder, off her back, placing both hands on her shoulders, running them down to her waist. Now he made quick work of the tight knot and Margaret felt the sweet relief as the corset loosened slightly, and then John's hands pulling at the laces, as impatient as she to remove it. She pushed the hooked fastenings on her stomach together and they came apart, the corset fell into John's hands and she heard it hit the floor.

John pulled her into him, pressing her back into his chest thrilling to the sensation of her soft chemise against his skin. His hands explored her waist and hips as her fingers reached for his neck, twisting her head to lay a trail of kisses. Margaret felt John's hands coming further up her body, in a long sweeping motion, his fingers found her breasts and her nipples responded quickly to his touch through the thin cotton. She leaned back into him quietly moaning with pleasure, her neck arching her head onto his shoulder, helpless for a moment under his perfect, intimate touch. She must kiss him again, the need pulsated through her and she turned to face him again, pressing her mouth on his.

John responded with a need as fiercely passionate as her own, his hands gathering the length of her chemise to her waist. Briefly they stepped apart and John pulled the garment over her head. Immediately she clung to him again, feeling his heart pounding in his chest as her own thumped against her ribs. His hands touched her bare back, stroking up from the waistband of her drawers to the curve of her shoulder, loving the flow of natural contours of her body now freed from the false constraints. He could feel her hands on his own back, once more trailing waves of pleasure on his skin and he sighed in to her kiss.

John's desire drew all the breath from Margaret and she momentarily pulled away, her forehead resting against his, lips still so deliciously close. She looked into his eyes, as dark with passion and need as she knew her own must be. Her hands trailed along the waistband of his trousers, coming to a stop at the fastening, her fingers resting against John's fluttering stomach. She looked down as her hands fumbled clumsily with the buttons cautious as her fingers slipped inside the the thick fabric to ease each buttons release, feeling John move beneath them. John tilted his head back, closing his eyes as he felt Margaret's hands against his stomach and the thin cotton of his drawers. The last button was undone and John was aware of Margaret's lips once more on his chest and neck, lifting his head he met her gaze again.

His beautiful Margaret. He did wish to possess her after all, but wished to be possessed by her with just as much fervour. Wanted her to know that he loved her, how he loved her, how she had invaded his thoughts and his heart. He ran his hand gently down her body once more, she kept her eyes on his, unashamed, trusting. Her hands had returned to the waistband of his trousers, now resting low on his hips, but had done no more. Waiting.

Keeping his eyes on hers, John reached for her hands taking them in his own. Slowly he began to move towards the bed, senses pulsating and shimmering. He sat on the edge, removing his trousers as he did so. Then he reached for her hands once again, looking up into her face.

Margaret stood in front of John, her now slightly trembling hands held in his warm fingers. She had never loved him more than she did at this moment, her trust in him was total. She knew only a very little of what was to come, and yet as looked down at him she knew he would never hurt her, that the fire she saw in his eyes was love of the purest kind, that the warmth growing within her was for him.

John moved back slightly, pulling gently on Margaret's hands so that she came closer, then onto his lap, her knees either side of his hips. His mouth found her neck, and she moaned softly with pleasure as his lips wandered lower, brushing the curves of her breasts. She arched her back as John's kisses reached her nipples once again lost in his caress. She felt his hands at her waist, then on the ribbon that fastened her drawers. With careful slow movements John loosened the ribbon slipping his hands under the thin cotton and around to her back.

Margaret's hands flowed up and down John's back, caressing his neck and rumpling his thick hair. She sought out his mouth with hers, needing his kisses as reassurance, a familiar touch and passion upon which to build these new sensations. John leaned further back, gently pushing her hips so that she slipped off his lap and sat on the bed, his right arm curved under her back supporting her as she lay back on the pillows. Her drawers sat loosely on her hips and she arched her back to release John's arm, reaching out for him, wanting him to continue. But also wanting him to stay just as he was; so close to her, his stomach on hers, his mouth kissing her, his hands so gentle on her body.

John shifted slightly above Margaret, his hips lifting off hers. She slowly moved one hand down to his waist, wanting, not wanting. Once again, the reassurance she needed came from his kisses, her body softened underneath him and she curved her limbs around him. He felt Margaret move beneath him, her body warm and so beautiful as it began to respond completely to his touch. His lips trailed down her neck and on to her chest, taking her nipple in his mouth again, feeling her rise beneath him. She gasped as he kissed between her breasts and then down her front to her navel and onto her stomach. Her breath quickened as his fingers slowly moved her drawers further down her hips kissing each new area of skin as it was exposed, but then she stiffened slightly as his kisses trailed lower. Wanting, not wanting.

John stopped, but then gently resumed his path of kisses back up her stomach and chest, feeling her relax once more. He grazed his lips up her throat to her parted lips. Her kiss reassured him this time and she smiled up at him, lifting her body towards him as he pushed her drawers down over her hips and thighs. She pulled at the fastenings at his waist and felt them loosen.

Naked body touched naked body and Margaret was aware of only John. All she knew was him. The nerves in her skin fought to be under his touch as his hands explored her, her body ached for his kisses and each one caused her to shiver so deliciously. Sensation grew upon sensation slowly building inside her.

Margaret felt John move between her thighs and she bent her knees bringing her legs up either side of his. His hand stroked her throat and then tilted her chin, her eyes now level with his as he gently pushed against her and she felt her body softly give way.

Then a sudden jolt involuntarily ran through her, a gasp escaped her throat and she twisted her face away from him. Sharp, stinging pain, as strong and deep as the pleasure she had been feeling, overtook her. Then, it was gone as quickly as it had come.

John stopped, motionless above her.

'Margaret' his voice was low, his brow furrowed with worry. He was angry at himself for hurting her, mortified that she had given herself to him so completely and he had caused her pain, and that he had known this would happen. All those years of listening to drunken bawdy after-dinner talk had provided him with what, at the time, he had dismissed as untruths; '. . .women don't enjoy being with a man . . . women feel pain . . . women endure . . .'

But it was horribly true.

'No,' she whispered seeing the concern on his face her hand reaching for his cheek. 'No, I am fine.' Her gentle smile and her trusting eyes pierced his heart.

'I don't want to hurt you, I will not . . ' but her fingers covered his mouth catching his words. Her breathing had slowed from the panicked rush of moments before and the warmth between her legs remained, tempting, welcoming. But he would not, could not continue if Margaret would have to endure.

Margaret reached up and placed a soft, fluttering kiss on John's mouth. The pain had been so sudden, so unexpected that she feared her reaction may have been as much surprise and shock as pain. She could still feel John between her thighs and a calmness descended on her body, relaxed. Wanting, waiting. She kissed him again, how could she tell him? How could she reassure him? He responded as she coaxed his mouth to hers.

'Margaret' he whispered, his brow had softened, but still he was uncertain.

Margaret summoned courage to speak her heart 'John,' her voice was barely a whisper. 'I am yours,' her words shivered through him. 'I want to be yours.' Another delicious kiss from her broke down his resolve. But, he still looked deep in to her eyes as he moved again on top of her.

A fleetingly sharp sensation, but Margaret bit her lip and suddenly John was within her. He pushed gently inside her, moaning quietly as he did so, still aware of Margaret's pain. But Margaret was far beyond any pain, her body was flowing with pleasure, responding totally and completely to John. Loving him. Loving being loved by him. A deep sigh of happiness rippled through her, and she responded with sweet relief to John's kisses. He looked down at her, so deeply in love with her, his body alive with new sensations. John's movements became quicker, deeper, and he lost himself within her, knowing only her.

Margaret felt a small knot building low, low down in her, near John. Warmth then heat grew within her, expanding, bubbling. Then suddenly a release. Strong waves of shuddering pleasure rippled out from deep within her and she tightened around John, closing her eyes and letting out a stuttering, whimpering gasp as she did so. John pushed, sighing, moaning, once more inside her. His head dropped to her shoulder and she felt him shudder, so blissfully, within her.

Margaret slowly opened her eyes and turned her head towards John. She could feel his warm, quick breath on her shoulder. His body pressed heavily on hers, still within her. Her fingers fluttered on the back of his neck and he turned his face to hers. A kiss, so soft, against her parted lips.

John reached for her smiling mouth with another gentle kiss. Slowly, reluctantly, he lifted his body away from her, feeling her moan into his kiss. He lay close beside her, his hand on the beautiful face that turned towards him.


Really is the end this time! Thanks so much for all who have read reviewed!