|Subject: Honor on the Field, 8
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Date Posted: Tuesday, November 08, 07:18:56pm
In reply to:
's message, "Honor on the Field" on Tuesday, November 01, 08:53:54pm
Samuelle stood in the small closet that served as Nikita's office and wished there were enough room to pace. He knew seeking this meeting was unfair, but he had realized two hours into a sleepless night that he would never forgive himself for not at least asking if she would have any interest, even the slightest, in coming with him.
When he heard the door open, he schooled his features into such composure as he could manage and turned to face Nikita. The early dawn light drained her already pale skin and hair of color, making her seem almost ghostly but for the vivid blue of her large eyes.
Nikita pushed the door to, leaving it just enough open that Belinda and Rouen's man Walter could see them both, then looked at Rouen. His eyes were hooded and difficult to read as the light from the high window was behind him, and his face was still. He was silent for so long that Nikita began to wonder if he had summoned her here just to stare at her once more.
Now that the moment was upon him, Samuelle hesitated, wondering if perhaps he had misread things terribly and was about to embarrass her and himself. After the pause grew too long and Nikita started to look indignant, he forced himself to speak. "The Prince wishes to leave soon, or I would not have begged to see you so early."
Nikita nodded her head in acknowledgement, but said nothing.
Samuelle took a deep breath, then plunged into the breach. "I know your ambition is to win a husband, but, is there any chance you might consider joining me?"
Hearing the words she had dreaded, the offer she had come to refuse, and despite the voice clamoring deep inside her head for her to deny him, Nikita’s tongue froze in her mouth and her throat was a dry as dust and she could make no sound.
Seeing nothing but Nikita's eyes widen, Samuelle hurried on, anxious to press his case. "I can't offer you marriage, but I can offer you other things Nikita. I can give you wealth and all that goes with it; travel and participation in a wider world. I can free you from your father's home. I can offer you," here he shrugged uncomfortably, but since it was the only thing he thought she might really be interested in, he opened his arms in supplication and finished, "myself."
Staring at him standing here, his arms wide open as though he expected her to walk right into his embrace without even a moment’s hesitation, her throat was so dry she could only manage a hoarse, "As your companion."
To her irritation, her breathy whisper did not carry the disdain she had intended.
Keeping his own voice low, fully aware of Walter and Belinda's figures hovering just beyond the half-opened door, Samuelle said, "Yes. My leman. My lover."
Rouen's voice, quiet and thick, rolled across her skin like velvet. Even as he said the words she could imagine it. His lover. What she might feel in his arms, with his lips on hers and his hands on her skin, what she might feel in his bed with his hard, lean body arching over her own. Nearly trembling from warring desires she shook her head in denial, desperate to block out the images, frantically reminding herself that this was not her dream and she would not let him make it so. "Please. Don't ask me that my lord."
Samuelle kept his voice as low as hers, but filled it with all the urgency that had brought him here to pursue the only woman he had ever met that he wasn’t willing to leave behind. "I am asking. I would be honored if you would consent to be my companion, and join me in my journeys."
Suddenly aware of how close they were in the cramped space of Nikita's closet; Samuelle could see the rise and fall of her chest, the rapid beat of her pulse in the hollow of her neck. The warmth rising from her body reached his and he instinctively leaned toward it, soaking in her closeness, glorying in how her nearness warded off the early dawn chill. Looking into her eyes, he could see her forming the rejection he had told himself to expect, but as his body reacted to her presence, he knew he could not let her go without a struggle. He redoubled his efforts, holding her eyes with his as he leaned closer, blocking any avenue of escape with his body and whispered softly, "You should start calling me Michel; I did just ask you to be my lover."
Rouen leaned so close to her she could feel the heat of him, and it was all she could do to keep her hands at her sides when she longed to touch his face, to feel the rough scrape of his morning beard against her fingers. The room was lighter now, and when she met his eyes she could see all the shades of green that threaded through the irises; she could see him calling to her to abandon herself to him and never look back. "Like the archangel," she breathed, "St. Michael, warrior of God."
He heard her indecision in the low vibrations of her voice, and cautioned himself not to frighten her away by moving too quickly. "My mother had great hopes."
At that, the corners of her lips curled up in the briefest of smiles, and Samuelle gave up the battle with his conscience to let her decide without any unfair pressure from him. He leaned closer still, until he could feel her breath upon his cheek, and then with his gaze locked on hers, he stroked her full lips with his thumb. Emboldened when she didn't pull away, he swayed in and kissed her; at first a simple brush of his lips against hers, then lightly at the corners of her mouth, then slipping one hand behind her neck, and savoring the feel of the smooth warm skin he found there, he kissed her again, his eyes drifting closed as he increased the pressure of his lips on hers, lost in the sensations of her soft mouth against his, nearly shattering from elation when she leaned against him, returning his kiss with one of her own.
Rouen’s kiss was unlike anything she had ever experienced, so soft, so maddeningly brief; then when he kissed the corners of her mouth and she felt his full lips on her skin, the feel of it was so different than on her lips she was amazed. His hand slipped behind her neck, the rough pads of his fingers gliding up under her braid and making her shiver, and he kissed her mouth again, harder this time and her eyes closed of their own accord, blocking out all other stimulation so she could concentrate on her mouth alone, and she kissed him back because she could sooner have cut off her own hand than stop.
The touch of his tongue on her lips recalled her to senses and Nikita pushed hard against his chest, thrusting him away from her. Shocked and furious with herself and with him, she hissed, "Foul play my lord. Foul play."
Samuelle rocked back, knowing with a sick twist of his gut that she was right, instantly aware again of Walter and Belinda just outside the door and callow enough to hope they weren't aware of what he had just done.
He had already apologized so much to Nikita it seemed insulting, not to mention inane, to do so again, but he had no alternative. Looking anywhere but in her angry eyes, he said. "Yes. It was. Again, I apologize."
Her full lips curled in disapproval that made him want to cringe, and she looked as though she might cry. "Not a 'green' mistake either."
Feeling like an unprincipled seducer for the first time in his life, Samuelle could offer no defense of his actions, because there was none. Knowing his suit was failing, that it ought to fail, he had deliberately appealed to her basest physical needs, hoping they might override the very personality and character that he found so compelling that he wanted to take her with him in the first place. He was also acutely aware of Walter's disapproving aura seeping through the door. He had never regarded himself with as much self-disgust as he felt at this moment. Feeling more like a beast than a man, he slid his eyes away from her angry face and agreed, "No. Not green."
Her arms crossed protectively across her chest, her eyes glassy with unshed tears, Nikita raised her chin. "I will not bear bastards, my Lord. Not for you. Not for anyone. Not ever. I will stay in my father's house or go to the church rather than submit to that."
She spat out each word as though she could rid her mouth of the taste a lifetime’s worth of bile, her voice gone low and shaking with the intensity of her emotion. That she whispered what she would have roared only made her words that much more scalding.
All the impatient desire that had spurred him to seek her out even before the day was fully broken vanished in a wash of shame and in its place was only the ardent wish to comfort her in her distress, distress he alone was responsible for. He closed his eyes against her pain, against her anger, then forced them open for he would not have her think him a coward as well.
"You properly shame me, my lady. I hadn't even considered that.” He looked her in the eye again, “It does not matter at all that I would provide generously, does it."
Nikita thought it would have hurt less had he struck her. "No. Not at all. I have been the recipient of such generosity all my life. I will not do that to my children."
Samuelle didn’t flinch from her contemptuous glare, but it took an act of will not too. He also realized, too late, that he had not taken her dreams as seriously as he should have, despite encouraging them. And that he was not the only one. “Is your father aware of how you feel?”
Nikita turned away from him, he suspected so that he would not see her tears. “I told you. We have not discussed it. Ever.”
“He fills his house annually with knights from all over Europe and England, but he has not discussed with you their potential interest in your future? My interest in you?”
She shrugged, but still didn’t turn to face him. "I don't blame you for your surprise, my lord. You must be forming a very low opinion of my father - but until you, he has always done his best to protect me from such interest."
“The way he protected you from that ass Peplow?”
Nikita scowled at him over her shoulder. “I was surrounded by men who would have killed him for what he did, had I asked them too. What further protection could I possibly need?”
“He’s done everything short of strip you naked for me, Nikita.”
Nikita raised her eyes to the window slit, and saw that the sun had already turned the sky blue. Given the truth of his words, she could not turn to look at Rouen when she tried, again, to defend her father. “He has never, ever behaved like this before.”
Samuelle regarded her profile steadily for a long moment as he reviewed the last three days, from his own rash behavior the first evening to Phillip’s significant smiles and Edward’s fond tales of Nikita’s childhood on the tourney circuit. The conclusion was obvious, once he stopped thinking with his groin and started thinking with his head again. "I am Rouen."
Nikita turned to look at him, glad at last to be able to poke at his dignity, now that her’s was so thoroughly shredded. "Yes. You are reputed to be very rich. And my father’s social aspirations are very expensive."
Rouen blinked, and when he opened his eyes again, his face was cold and closed and his voice clipped when he spoke. "I am sorry. I should have thought."
"You couldn't have known." She looked down at her feet as she tried explain her father’s choices. "I suspect, too, that my father was as aware as you of my reaction to your presence. I am sure he felt consulting me was needless, as I was certain to find such an arrangement satisfactory."
"With your permission, then, I will take my leave."
Nikita nodded. “Of course.”
As he stepped for the door, Samuelle turned back, overtaken by the need to do something, anything, to mitigate the damage he had done to her dreams simply by entering her life, quite uninvited and most definitely unwanted. She was looking at him and their eyes met, and for once searing second he wanted to sweep her into his arms and kiss her until she begged him to take her with him and damn the consequences, her naïve and hopeful dreams, and Edward and Phillip, all of it, to hell and back, but honor held him still. Instead, he said, "I will always be your friend, Nikita, and if you ever need anything, anything at all, that I could provide, please don’t hesitate to call on me."
"Thank you," she whispered.
Her image would be ingrained in his memory for many months to come, standing tall and slim, composed and beautiful, her chin held high and her hair turned gold by the first rays of the sun striking through the high window slit. She looked to him like all the heroines of all the Nordic tales of elves and magic, danger and escape, glory and passion, that had kept him awake and dreaming as a child. He wanted her more than anyone he had ever wanted in his life.
He nodded farewell, and left the room.
After Rouen exited, closing the door behind him, Nikita sank weakly onto her stool, folded her hands across her mouth and wept as silently as she could. She cried because she was a bastard, because she couldn’t remember her mother, because she couldn’t rely on her father, because she had never felt so alone in her life. She cried because she was literally shaking with fury that he should have insulted her, flattered her, wanted her so much that he had asked her for the one thing he should have known she would never give.
She cried because she had no idea how to rid herself of what he had done to her. She cried because she wanted him, too.
With cold water on her face and Belinda’s soothing fingers re-braiding her hair, Nikita was able to stand on the front steps with her father as the Prince’s party took their leave, Rouen assiduously avoiding her gaze the whole time.
As they watched the horses vanish around the bend, her father sighed and said, “Well, I had thought Rouen might offer for you, child. He seemed quite taken. More’s the pity. He would have provided extremely well for you.”
Her voice sounded dead to her own ears, but her father didn’t appear to notice when she replied, “Well you know how it is with the great lords, Sir. Their fancy is as fleeting as their whims.”
In the long winter months ahead, those words came back to haunt her as she tortured herself with the fear that indeed her charms, her character and her person were so inconsequential that he had forgotten her as soon as he turned the bend in the road.
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