Jennifer didn't resist her bridegroom when he approached her, his hands gentle as he undid all the ribbons and bows from her wedding night attire. His words were soft in her ear, his breath warming her throat and it was all she could do to just stand there and let him have his way.
When he carried her to their bed ... when he lay her upon the scented pillows and stepped back to gaze at the beauty of her nude form, she blushed. With that blush, he closed the draperies hanging from the top of the canopy, enclosing the two of them in the privacy of the marriage bed.
Light from the fire blazing in the hearth slipped through an opening in the drapery allowing both of them to see each other clearly. As he disrobed, it was Jennifer's first glimpse of her husband's unclothed body and she was amazed at the beauty of his naked form.
"What shall I call you?" she asked when he lay beside her.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean ... when we are up and about, I refer to you as Your Grace, but here in this place, that seems so ... unnecessary."
"Marcus," he murmured. "Call me by my given name. It is Marcus. You didn't know that?" There was a touch of laughter to his words and without thinking, he gathered her into his arms to hold her tight.
"This is nice," Jennifer responded, the feel of her husband's muscular chest against her soft breasts an unexpected pleasure.
"Very nice," he agreed.
"What else will you do?" she asked, remembering her maid's advice to let him do what he would do in their marriage bed and not to complain.
"I will love you." The simple words held little meaning for Jennifer. She knew there was a physical closeness between a man and his wife but the actual act remained a mystery. She had no choice but to acquiesce to his wishes and demands. Time was on her side; eventually, she would make demands of her own.
He was gentle when he breached her maidenhead, restrained in his initial thrusts. When her breathing turned harsh in his ear, he stopped altogether, waiting for her to calm before he resumed their first joining. And when the act was done, when they had consummated their vows, his kisses followed. His mouth on her throat, a hand at her breast and his arms surrounding her.
She felt empty and full at the same time. It was worse than she thought it would be - there was pain - but it was also better than she hoped for. And in that confusion, she sighed ... dropped her head upon his shoulder and slept.
The Duke was more than satisfied. Jennifer hadn't resisted the inevitable. She hadn't been the most willing participant but neither had she fought him. She was an innocent on the brink of pleasure and he thought how satisfying it would be for both of them as he taught her all the ways they would enjoy that pleasure.
In the morning she ached. The soreness between her thighs reminded her of what they had shared, the slight mauve tint to her breasts another indication that his hands had possessed her along with his body. She blushed at what had occurred and with that blush, she heard his soft laughter.
"You are awake, are you not, my Duchess?" he asked with a wicked grin, his head propped on his hand, his eyes enjoying her lovely form. "You are awake and ready for me?"
"Ready?" Jennifer asked.
"For more loving," he replied and gathered her into his arms.
"We are going to do this again?"
"Yes, again," he murmured as his hands began the sweet act of exploration.
"How many times? Do we do this every day?"
"As often as we like and right now, I like very much," he whispered, turning her onto her back and resumed the discussion with his lips ... down between her breasts, pausing at her belly while his hands lifted her hips closer to his mouth.
"Ohhhh ..." she sighed when he brought her to full pleasure. "That was ... that was ..." At a loss for the right words, she sighed again and when she realized he was staring at her face, she pinked from head to toe.
His laughter rang out at her reaction and he hugged her, rolling back and forth with her until they almost fell off the bed. "You are a naturally sensuous woman, my sweet, and I, for one, am blessed for that. Now ... my turn," he announced, as he pushed her onto her back and made his way between her thighs.
It didn't hurt as much this time - a dull ache that Jennifer knew would fade. There was more pleasure and silently, she hoped that pleasure would increase each time he entered her.
"This part of marriage is nice," she told him when he rolled onto his back, tucking her into his side.
"And the rest?" her husband asked, suppressing his laughter at her innocent honesty.
"I don't know. We shall see."
"Shall we break our fast here in our chamber?" he asked, changing the subject. They were currently at peace with each other and he did not wish to open a discussion of what their marriage would be like. Jennifer had opposed this union. She had been an unwilling bride. At the moment, she was content. He wanted to enjoy that contentment while it lasted.
It didn't last long.
"Let us eat here. If we go below stairs your mother will be there. She does not care for me."
It was true. The Duke's mother had opposed the marriage of her noble and very wealthy son to a mere Baron's daughter, a poor one at that. Their union would do nothing for their peerage. She conceded that Jennifer was attractive, modestly educated, and mannerly. But she had shown an independent streak when she fought the Duke's courting of her, balked at marrying him and was definitely not the biddable wife the woman wanted for her only son. She decided to take matters into her own hands prior to the wedding and had firmly explained the "rules" of the dukedom to her future daughter-in-law. When she told Jennifer she would guide her in all things, Jennifer smiled sweetly at her words and replied that rules were made to be broken and perhaps, it was time for her future mother-in-law to move to the dower house.
"My mother takes a bit of getting used to," the Duke agreed.
"So do I," Jennifer said pointedly. "You will have to decide which of us runs your home, your mother or your wife. Which will it be, your Grace?"
"I will not throw my mother out of the home she's lived in all her adult life."
"You have a dower house," Jennifer told him as she raised a finger to count her thoughts. "She's always known you would someday wed." The second finger was raised. "She's known about this marriage for weeks." The third finger was raised. "And mothers leave their sons to their wives."
As she raised her fourth finger, her husband covered her hand with his and pulled her to him. "Forget my mother," he murmured. "Let's stay here so I can concentrate on you, my wife."
Again, he loved her. Again, he touched her in ways that brought both of them pleasure. Again, he murmured that their love would grow and their life together would be sweet for both of them.
Remembering her maid's advice and knowing her husband was content with her, Jennifer wondered if this would be one of those times to make a small request ...
"Would it be all right if I speak to cook about the evening meals?"
"Of course," the Duke replied. "She should be cooking the foods that please you."
"Would it be all right if I ride one of your horses?"
"Of course," he agreed again. "Be sure to take a groom with you so you will learn the trails. I would not want you to get lost," he smiled, "and I shall ride with you when I can."
"Would it be permissible to see to the dower house and make sure it is comfortable for your mother?"
"Maybe," he paused. "Let me think about that."
"Think quickly, your Grace," Jennifer said softly. "Your mother or your wife? If I am your Duchess, I will not be set upon by your mother at every turn."
"I need to give more thought to this," the Duke replied, surprised that Jennifer had been so bold and at the same time pleased that she was not fearful of expressing her views to him.
"What is there to think about? You knew you were going to be wed. Are you saying this is the first time you have given thought as to where your mother would live when you brought a wife home? Tell me, your Grace," Jennifer spit her words. Her angry temper bubbled over and was in full force as she hurriedly rose from the bed to don a robe. "Which is more important to you? Being my husband or remaining your mother's little boy?"