A Musketeer's Heart - Chapter Fifteen

Alexandra’s eyes snapped open. She listened for any sound that might have woken her, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Once she could distinguish shapes, she searched the opulent chamber appointed to her, part of a suite their royal hosts have had prepared for her brother. The chamber was unfamiliar, but nothing appeared out of the ordinary, no shadows moving. She sighed, and closed her eyes again.

Only to open them a heartbeat later. The sound came again. From the direction of the window. The partially open window. Was someone trying to get in? They’d have to scale the wall to get to the second story, and there was no balcony, but it wasn’t inconceivable someone might try. After all, her brother had been abducted just a few months ago too, they both assumed, prevent a treaty to be made. They’d be idiots not to try again, only this time with the man’s sister. What better incentive. And what a mistake.

Without lifting herself off the bed, she rolled out of it, dropping softly into a crouch. She didn’t bother with light, no need to give whoever was stupid enough to enter her chamber any indication she’d heard them, just grabbed her dagger, the only weapon Robert had allowed her to pack, and, back to the wall, slowly made her way toward the window. She tucked her body into the drapes and listened. It sounded as if her late-night visitor was only half-way up the wall, and judging by the grunts, the climb was quite an effort. It would take a while, so she leaned back, the dagger a familiar weight in her palm, and waited.

It hadn’t taken him as long as she’d predicted, and as soon as the man, it was a man judging by his build, pushed the window fully open and vaulted over the sill, she slipped behind him, and pressed the dagger against his side.

“This was a really stupid decision,” she hissed.

A heavy sigh, then his shoulders drooped. “I can see that.”

She frowned. She knew his voice. It didn’t explain what he was doing scaling the palace to her chamber, though. “What are you doing here?”

“Would you mind removing the dagger?” he asked rather amiably. “Getting stabbed wasn’t in my plan.”

“What was in your plan?” she snapped, the dagger still pressed to his side.

“Talking to you.”

“Talking to me.”

“Yes.”

“You couldn’t have done that during the day? Somewhere more...appropriate?”

“The dagger,” he reminded her.

“It’s the middle of the night,” she snarled and removed the weapon. “I was sleeping, your grunts woke me, I didn’t know who it was.” She stomped to the delicate-looking table beside the bed, and slid the dagger back into its sheath. “What did you expect me to do? Cowering underneath the covers isn’t my forte.”

She busied herself with lighting a candle, then, feeling a little calmer, turned toward him, expecting an explanation. Only to cock her head at his expression. “What?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest. She was losing her patience. If he wasn’t talking soon, she’d throw him out of the window. “Aramis!”

His name must’ve roused him from whatever fugue he was in. “Yes?”

She rolled her eyes. “You could’ve talked to me today.” He didn’t. So, why now?

His expression grew sullen. “You wouldn’t look at me.”

“What?”

“You wouldn’t look at me,” he repeated morosely.

“What does that have to do with anything?”

He glared at her. “I didn’t know if you wanted to talk to me.”

“And I didn’t know that you wanted to talk to me,” she retorted. “So desperately, even, that you decided to scale the palace wall.”

“You looked at me when Buckingham whisked you away after your chat with the Queen.”

This was getting more confusing by the minute. “You’re not making any sense, Aramis.”

“Don’t you think I know that, Alexandra?”

That got her hackles up. “No need to get prissy. You’re talking in riddles.”

He looked affronted. “I’m not prissy. And I’m not talking in riddles.”

“God, help me,” she sighed. “Forgive me, but I just don’t understand you.”

He cleared his throat. “My head’s a little muddled. It’s just—Well.”

Head cocked, his eyes roved over her body, and she finally looked down. Bit back a curse. The candlelight made her chemise almost transparent, and her arms crossed under her breasts— “Oh, do grow up!” she snapped, picked the candle and placed it on the hearth mantle, somewhere in between where they were both standing. Satisfied, she resumed her earlier position, arms akimbo, just to be on the safe side.

“That’s better,” he said. “And not better,” he added as a mumbled afterthought.

“Aramis,” she sighed. “Why are you here?”

He was instantly serious. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

There were many things she didn’t tell him. That she was getting a headache was one of them. “Can you be more specific? Why didn’t I tell you what?”

“That he was your brother.”

“You didn’t ask.”

“Alexandra,” he warned.

Hearing him say her name did strange things to her insides, but that was her problem, not his. “You should’ve heard the contempt in all your voices when you talked about the Englishman. I didn’t know how you would’ve reacted if you knew I was English as well.”

His countenance darkened as if she’d just insulted his honour. She guessed she did, but he didn’t press the matter. “I thought he was your lover.”

She wished he’d have pressed the honour-insulting matter. It was better than where this conversation was veering. “You were wrong.”

“You were a virgin, weren’t you.”

There it was. Alexandra suddenly found the carpet underneath her feet very interesting indeed.

“God, you were,” he breathed.

Steeling her spine, she met his eyes head-on. “So what if I was. I’m not anymore. End of story.”

“Jesus.” His eyes were tender as he looked at her. “You should’ve told me.”

“Why?” For a reason she didn’t know, the answer was really important to her.

“I would’ve been gentler. I would’ve prepared you better.” Something on her face must’ve betrayed the fact it wasn’t the answer she’d been expecting, for he chuckled self-deprecatingly. “Oh, no, I still would’ve had you. I was too far gone by the time to stop. You still would’ve lost your virginity, but I’d made sure you’d remembered it in a better light.”

She swallowed as her heart stuttered in her chest. He thought he’d hurt her, and though that first penetration had hurt, the sting had quickly disappeared, replaced by a feeling so indescribable, so overpowering, she still felt all warm remembering it. She was getting warm just now, the juncture of her thighs moistening, making her blush.

“There’s nothing wrong with how I remember it, Aramis.” Was that her voice? Was her voice really that husky? “You didn’t hurt me. You made me feel—”

“What?” he asked, urgency in his voice that had suddenly deepened, a strange light in his eyes. “What did I make you feel?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know. I felt...You just made me feel.”

“God, help me,” he echoed quietly, his hands balling into fists at his sides.

“Is that why you came here tonight?” she asked, a sick feeling knotting in her stomach. “To ask for my forgiveness? Because there’s nothing to forgive. I gave myself to you willingly.”

“Jesus,” he hissed. “No.”

“No, what?”

“I didn’t come here for that.”

She was tired. Tired of standing here, having to talk to him, look at him, knowing that, despite the fact she might wish he’d scaled the palace wall in the middle of the night to tell her he loved her, he’d only come to clear the waters between them. “Then why are you here, Aramis?”

“I missed you.” Judging from the bewildered expression on his face, the declaration surprised him as much as it had her. He chuckled and shook his head, as if resigned. “I missed you, Alexandra.”

She swallowed heavily, her heart racing, the beat hammering like a drum in her ears. Could it be? She mentally slapped herself. Of course he didn’t love her, she should stop daydreaming about that. But he wanted her, desired her, that was obvious. What was she waiting for, then? This might be the last chance she had of being in Aramis’ arms. She would leave soon, they wouldn’t meet again. She should live this night to the fullest, take anything he offered, and tuck it all away in her memory and close to her heart. He’d forever be hers there.

“I missed you, too,” she whispered.

Then she was in his arms, his mouth on hers, he was licking and nibbling at her mouth. She lifted her hands to his shoulders, brushed her fingers along his neck, tunnelled them into his hair, and parted her lips.

“God, I missed you,” he muttered against her lips, then captured her mouth in a ravenous kiss that she wished could last forever.


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