The following is a vignette written for the Northern Rain blog tour. It first appeared on Janet Taylor’s blog More Agreeably Engaged. It is also published on Goodreads, in celebration of the release of the audiobook produced by Stevie Zimmerman. This will be the last of the republished vignettes, and a drawing for the final audiobook giveaway will be held on December 7. Be sure to comment!
This honeymoon vignette picks up where the main story of Northern Rain leaves off, on the first morning after John and Margaret’s marriage. I hope you enjoy this peek into their married life. – NC
A New Day
The black nothingness of sleep vanished in an instant as John Thornton snapped to alertness. His vision blurred for only a second until his eyes focused on the unfamiliar surroundings. Some inner sense, even in the very depths of his slumber, had kept him aware, but now he awoke to a new impression of disorientation.
Within half a heartbeat, he was searching to his right. His arm flexed and his wild, dizzy hope was rewarded. For the first time in his one-and-thirty years, he had not wakened alone.
His entire being wished to cry out in transports of joy. It was too glorious a thing for him, that the truthful light of morning unveiled not the mechanized tasks of his solitary day, but the beautiful communion of one to share in his life. She curled trustingly into the crook of his arm, her lashes brushing the flesh of his shoulder in her dreams. She had melded to him so completely in a precious few hours, without reserve or fear, or- God forbid- shame! The prior night’s tender congress had united them in body and spirit, introducing them both to wholehearted vulnerability such as neither had ever imagined.
Now, as his spellbound gaze traveled slowly over the sleeping form of his wife, he knew her in strange, intimate new ways. He had always been a keen observer of every aspect of this woman, but in the gentle afterglow of their nuptials, he drank in the minute details which he had never before been privileged to witness. That little flicker of her eyes within their softly closed veils; the scarce trembling of her nose as some powerful feeling passed through her dreams; the delectable little freckle he had discovered just at the base of her collarbone…. Each new detail, each little whiff of her soft breath stirring through the sensitive hairs on his chest- all was his alone to cherish. Even in quiet repose, her graceful presence bestowed upon him riches beyond compare.
He longed to rouse her, to be the one to witness that moment when she shifted from dreams to wakefulness, but it was too delicious to bask in her peaceful warmth. Sweet, clinging arms draped over his chest, binding him to remain as her comfort in slumber. He began seriously to contemplate how many days a man could live without taking the trouble of leaving his bed. Wedded life, he decided with a grin, held more infinitely delights than he had yet dreamt of exploring!
His perfect euphoria battled with his growing urgency to partake of her loving eyes, and smiles meant only for him. He craved the reassurance that she would be pleased to find herself in his arms, in the luminous revelation of their first morning together. Wishing to draw out his efforts to wake her, he began gently- so softly that he thought she might not even perceive him.
He turned his face somewhat, so that his breath might send warm draughts through her loosened hair. He delighted in watching the prickling flesh of her arm across his chest, proudly reveling in his ability to unnerve her. It was only fair, after all- he had been discomposed and off his balance since their very first meeting! It had been an awakening of sorts for him- the staggering realization that she held him in such power as he had never known, and that there was no place he more desired to be.
Daring more now, he rocked closer to her, nuzzling down her neck with whisper-soft kisses. A sharp intake of her breath was the signal he awaited. He drew back, aching to be the first sight of the day which drew her focus. Her lashes fluttered, and a luxuriating sigh cleansed away the last traces of sleep before she fully left behind the perfect serenity of dreams. A subtle curve lifted the corner of her mouth, and slowly, as if intentionally tormenting him, her languorous eyes opened to him.
He could not contain the guileless pleasure beaming over his entire face. “Good morning, my wife,” he murmured, yet his smile was so intense that he could scarcely command his lips to form the words. How long had he desired to utter that very phrase to her? That such a privilege should be his was still incomprehensible to him. Margaret Thornton’s cheeks warmed, and with a hint of shyness, she nestled her face contentedly into the hollow of his shoulder. “Good morning, John,” came the muffled answer.
He traced the soft tips of his fingers over the luscious form beneath the counterpane, tickling sensitive new places. With some delight, he felt her tense beside him as she fought back a wave of bashful giggles. Smiling more deeply now, he broadened his explorations and waited for some more forceful reaction from her. Perhaps he had been expecting her to at last cry out in protest, or to grasp his hand to compel him to stop. In that, he had underestimated his bride.
Her hand moved unexpectedly to torment his side, seizing him with the irrational desire to bark out in sudden laughter and leap away from her. “Why, John, whatever is the matter?” she asked in false innocence. “I only return your affections!”
“I shall take more care in the future,” he returned gruffly, stilling her devilish little fingers by pressing them tightly to his chest. “I would prefer your attentions to be of quite a different sort.”
With a demure smile, Margaret shifted her posture and retreated to her pillow. She reclined invitingly, a teasing curve to her brow and a modest flutter to her lashes. “I give you leave to try a different approach, sir,” she sighed.
Accepting the challenge, he rolled close until he hovered above her. His delight shone clearly in that lopsided smile she adored, and he dropped to brush tender lips over her forehead. “Good morning, Margaret,” he whispered reverently, his tones growing husky and raw with desire.
Her hands caressed over his shoulders, and he slid his body down the length of hers until he could comfortably kiss those shapely lips. He lingered there, drinking in the intoxicating bouquet of her natural scent without the enhancement of soaps or perfumes. She was quite positively breathtaking in this native state- authentic and strong, yet beguiling and oh, so sweet, all at once!
His tender ribs were protesting more loudly the longer he remained thus. At length he was obliged to make a reluctant withdrawal, but not without wrapping himself about her so that she tumbled toward him as he went. Margaret tucked her face up beneath his chin, laughing softly and kissing his throat as she fell back into his embrace. A little frisson of sheer longing shivered up the back of his neck and pulsed through his body, driving the breath from his lungs. As on that very first day he had ever beheld her, she stole all of his rational thought and left him bereft of his powers of speech. No longer, thought he with a grin, was that a lamentable state of affairs. There were a great many means of communication which did not require words, and they were all permissible to him now!
With an eagerness he could scarcely contain, his hands began reacquainting themselves with each dip and curve of her glorious form, unfettered now by the trappings of polite femininity. His mouth he occupied in teasing the sensitive cleft below her jaw, slowly and torturously feathering light kisses up to the base of her ear. An unbidden groan of pleasure met his amorous assault, but then she seemed to collect herself. Her responses to his ardour cooled markedly, and she received his attentions with modest reserve.
Disappointed, and with mounting alarm, he drew back. She could not mean to go on so, responding to him only with diffidence! He infinitely preferred the woman he had held all night, whose throaty approval of his hopeful passion still rang in his ears and had echoed in his dreams. His troubled gaze swept over her beloved face, and then stopped. There, glimmering in her curved lips and faintly smiling eyes, he identified a spark of mischief. Some of the dread began to slip from him once more, as he braced himself for whatever frippery she was about to unleash upon him.
She cleared her throat. Though trapped beneath him once more in a shocking state of undress, she effortlessly assumed the airs of grace and deportment he had been treated to at their first meeting. “This is a very fine city, I hear. I am to understand the beaches are quite pleasant, and Lord Street is said to boast a number of notable dwellings. What did you wish to do today, my husband?”
“I am doing it, or at least I was,” came the pointed retort. He tightened his arms about her for emphasis. “I made a conscientious search, you may be sure, and I have ascertained that the most diverting entertainment to be had in all of Southport resides right here in my bed. I thought we should take our meals here for the rest of the week.”
Her mouth quirked. “In such a state of dress! You shall have the whole inn staff walking out in protest.”
His brow wrinkled speculatively. “All the more private, I should say. The notion has merit.”
She shook her head, chuckling. “I believe it would be somewhat… conspicuous… should we never emerge today.”
“I know that I should most certainly take note of that fact,” he grinned roguishly. “You must learn something of a businessman’s ways, Margaret. When important matters are at hand, one must apply all diligence, completely eschewing other pleasures, to see everything to a satisfactory conclusion.”
“And you intend to accomplish this feat today?” she inquired with all credulity.
“A number of times, I hope.”
“John! You are incorrigible!” She blushed crimson, and he indulged his feasting eyes for the first time in watching the heat traveling up to her face from savoury parts below.
“I shall continue to be so, as long as I am rewarded with such an exquisite reaction, Love!” he laughed. “It is high time I that I am able to discomfit you, as you always have me.” His eyes trailed suggestively down to where her shape pressed against his, and soon his hands made the journey as well. She drew a quick breath of fresh surprise at his touch, then her body sighed with pleasure against his as she relaxed. He kissed those pert lips, finding this a far more suitable conversation for the moment, until she pressed him away with a subtle nudge of her mouth.
“John,” she nibbled her lip coyly, raising her gaze to his through lowered lashes. “I think I shall go quite distracted if I am to be denied the pleasure of sea bathing. Whatever shall I tell Edith once she finds I have come all this way, only to skip such a famous attraction?”
A devious light came to his eyes, and his right cheek pulled into that dazzling, troublesome smile of his. “You shall be able to tell her that you enjoyed quite a different sort of bathing, for which you were never bothered to leave your room, nor obliged to engage in the activity alone.”
Southport, with its convenient location and charming amenities, remains a frequent vacation spot of Mr and Mrs Thornton of Milton. The couple are known to retreat thither at least twice per year for a week-end, with claims that Mrs Thornton finds the clean salt air refreshing to her spirits. It is perhaps curious, however, that when asked by those of their acquaintance for recommendations on favourite activities in the area, the only locale ever mentioned is a small, out of the way inn near the shore.