BtQC – Chapter 26
As Brenna entered her rooms, Torrie was waiting for her. “Oh, my lady, isn’t it exciting? You’ll be seated at the head table this evening, and with Sir Garan! Which gown will you wear?”
Brenna hadn’t even considered what she would wear to the feast and ball that night, but saw that Torrie had laid three dresses out on the bed for her to choose from. They were stunning jewel-toned confections made of silks, velvets and brocades and covered with jewels and exquisite embroidery, and Brenna fondled each one, considering her choices. She settled on a gown of deep emerald green silk with a fitted bodice and sleeves and a full skirt that flared out at the hips. It laced up the back and had a simple, scooped neckline and long tippets of black silk at each elbow that matched a band of black silk along the bottom of the dress. It was trimmed with a row of onyx, emerald and hematite beads along the neckline and cuffs and Brenna was drawn to it because it had less corsetry and frippery than the other two gowns. “This one, I think,” she said, picking up the gown and turning to Torrie. “I have always been partial to green.”
Torrie clapped her hands with delight. “That will set off your eyes perfectly! Now, let me draw your bath … if it pleases you, of course,” she added, remembering her station.
Brenna smiled at her, enjoying her excitement and enthusiasm. “Yes, dear, a bath is just the thing. Thank you.”
She bathed and washed her hair, enjoying the warm, scented water and daydreaming about attending the feast and ball with Garan. What she really wanted was to be alone with him, of course, to feel his strong arms around her and his kisses enflaming her with desire. It had been many weeks since they’d made love and with him so close now, Brenna longed to hold him, to caress him, to feel their bodies join and their passions rise. I will have to be patient just a little while longer, she told herself as she stepped out of the tub and dried off with the towel Torrie held out to her.
Once dried, Torrie helped her to dress, lacing up the back of the gown snugly to show off her full curves. Brenna was a bit uncomfortable with how low cut the gown seemed to be, but Torrie assured her that it fit perfectly and set about clucking and fussing with Brenna’s hair, brushing it until it hung in soft, loose waves about her shoulders and placing a simple circlet of diamonds and emeralds across her brow. Brenna waved off Torrie’s attempt to rouge her cheeks and lips or ring her eyes with color, as she had seen the other ladies of the court wear, but let her slip soft, black velvet slippers onto her feet. Finally, after some protest, Brenna let Torrie place an exquisite necklace around her neck, its teardrop-shaped, emerald pendant hanging just above the swell of her breasts over the neckline of her gown.
Brenna stood up from the dressing table and turned around to face the full-length mirror on the opposite side of the room. Torrie stepped back and squealed with delight as Brenna stared into the mirror, dumbfounded. A beautiful, elegant, and barely recognizable woman stared back at her, equally dumbfounded. Brenna turned slightly from side to side, noticing how the dress seemed to change from green to black as it caught the light from different angles, and she walked closer to the mirror, touching the crescent tattoo on her cheekbone to be sure it was really her. Yes, it was really her and she was really dressed like a lady of the court. Brenna had to admit that the ensemble was quite becoming and wholly out of character for her. Would Garan like it? It was certainly different from the plain, serviceable gowns she’d brought with her from the Abbey.
The Abbey. What would Mother Yoshiko and the other priestesses say if they could see her now? Even though it had been less than a year since she’d left them, so much had happened to Brenna since then. She’d changed and grown in ways she’d never expected. Could she ever go back to that life? Did she even want to?
“My lady, it is almost time to go downstairs,” Torrie said, bringing Brenna back from her daydream.
“Yes, of course,” Brenna replied. Torrie handed her a black shawl shot with jet beads to wrap around her shoulders, but Brenna waved it away. She left her rooms and headed toward Alamara’s, arriving just as the Queen was emerging from her dressing room. Alamara was dressed in an immense gown of burgundy and hunter brocade with a full skirt and tall starched half ruff in the back. Her hair was piled on top of her head in a cavalcade of braids and curls around her crown and she wore several long strands of pearls that wrapped around her throat and hung between her ample cleavage and down the front of her bodice. Brenna marveled once again at how magnificent her friend looked and how easily she seemed to have taken to a life of privilege and elegance as Alamara extended her hand.
“Oh, Brenna, look at you! You look simply stunning! Emeralds suit you, dear,” Alamara said, smiling broadly and holding Brenna at arm’s length to get a good look at her. “You will be turning all the men’s heads tonight, especially one in particular, hmm?”
Brenna blushed at the compliment but said nothing. She still hadn’t told Alamara or anyone else about her history with Garan and wasn’t sure she was ready to confess just yet. Something told her to bide her time and observe first, and she trusted her instincts.
They walked downstairs together, a gaggle of attendants trailing behind them. They entered the Great Hall to a burst of applause and Brenna was dazzled by the hundreds of elegantly dressed and coiffed revelers. The hall was awash in candlelight and the tables had been arranged in a horseshoe shape around the edges of the hall to make room for the dancers. Brenna was still taking in the sights and sounds of the room when she heard a familiar voice just behind her.
“You look ravishing,” Garan said softly, his lips almost touching her ear. Brenna shivered at his nearness, closing her eyes briefly. She turned around to see him standing directly behind her, dressed in a deep brown leather doublet and breeches that fit close to his body, showing off his muscular frame. His shirt was the color of cream and it was open at the neck, offering Brenna the merest glimpse of his broad chest. He wore brown leather boots that reached up to his knees and a richly embroidered cloak was draped around one shoulder and tied across his chest. He doffed the small flat cap on his head and bowed over Brenna’s hand, pressing it to his lips and looking up to capture her gaze as he did so.
Brenna caught her breath at the sight of him. She had never seen him dressed this way and he looked every inch the dashing courtier. He stood then and turned to Alamara, bowing and kissing her hand as well. “Your Majesty, you are particularly stunning this evening,” he said and Alamara beamed down at him.
“You are a sight for sore eyes, Sir Garan,” she said and flashed Brenna a knowing smile. She moved to take Garan’s proffered arm, but Sir Briance interrupted them.
“Now just a minute, young squire,” Briance said, a look of mock gruffness on his face. “You may have won the day today, but I still bear Her Majesty’s favor. You have your own lady to escort.” He stepped in front of Garan to offer his arm to Alamara, and Garan backed up with an exaggerated bow.
Alamara laughed with delight. “Now gentlemen, don’t fight. You’re right, of course, Sir Briance. Sir Garan, I will save a dance for you later in the evening. Walk with your lady.” She smiled up at Sir Briance, taking his arm and flashing another knowing glance in Brenna’s direction.
Brenna slipped her arm in Garan’s, relishing the now familiar tingle of his touch. They made their way to the head table at the far end of the hall, taking their seats so that the evening’s festivities could begin. Brenna noticed Victice and Yvette take their seats on the opposite end of the table as well, but she refused to let them spoil her evening.
There were multiple courses of food, barrels full of wine, singers and dancers, jugglers, and bards for the revelers’ amusement. Briance and Garan told funny stories from Garan’s time as a squire, and Alamara was her ever-charming and gracious self, chatting amiably with Victice and Yvette, greeting well-wishers warmly and smiling indulgently at Sir Briance. Brenna was glad to see that he had been invited to sit at the head table as well, for he seemed to be the perfect gentleman and consort for her friend.
Brenna, however, only had eyes for Garan. He seemed to find little excuses to touch her throughout the feast, and his every touch stoked the growing ache in her loins for him even more. His eyes seemed to devour her and when he leaned close to whisper in her ear, “You smell delectable,” she nearly leapt upon him right there at the table. Instead, she took another sip of her wine, her eyes feasting on the delicious sight of him.
When the dancing began, Garan pulled Brenna to her feet, leading her to the dance floor. She hadn’t danced since before she had entered the Abbey and felt self-conscious at first, but Garan pulled her into his arms and guided her expertly across the floor and she soon forgot everything but the closeness of his body and the rhythms of the music as they swayed together. One of his hands rested against the small of her back, pressing her hips against him and the other clasped her hand, holding her bosom against his chest. She slid her free hand up around his neck as he leaned down to whisper in her ear, “By the gods, I am on fire for you. You have completely bewitched me. I have thought of nothing but you since the moment we parted. I want to throw you onto the table and make love to you right here, present company be damned.” His lips grazed her ear and Brenna moaned softly, her own loins throbbing for the want of him.
She tilted her head up, her breath against his ear causing him to shiver. “But what will Her Majesty say? You’ve promised her a dance this evening.”
“Her Majesty has Briance to entertain her,” he growled and Brenna glanced over to see Alamara laughing with delight as Briance glided across the floor with her. “I doubt she’ll miss us. Come on.” He released Brenna suddenly, taking her hand and urging her out a side door.
They found themselves in a dimly lit hallway. Garan pulled her into his arms again, kissing her roughly. She resisted for only a moment before giving herself over to her passion, entwining her arms around his neck and deepening the kiss, pressing herself against him as tightly as she could. They heard a door close somewhere in the distance and Garan broke off the kiss reluctantly, taking Brenna’s hand again and leading her along the hallway. He came to a door and opened it, looking into the room before pulling Brenna inside. He gathered her up in his embrace, pressing her back against the closed door as she kissed him again, feeling his erection bulging against his breeches. His fingers deftly unlaced the back of her gown as she opened his doublet and slid her hands under his shirt, their mouths still pressed together. With her gown loose, he slipped her breasts up over the top of the neckline, cupping them in his hands and pulling one nipple into his mouth. She threw back her head and gasped, pulling his head closer. He soon captured the second nipple, brushing his thumb lightly against the first and sending a bolt of pleasure through her that ended deep within her. Her hands found his breeches and unfastened them, freeing him as he groaned and found her mouth again.
He lifted her skirts and pulled at her drawers, as Brenna wrapped one leg around his hips. He drove into her and she cried out, meeting his thrusts as they clung together, his strong arms supporting her as she leaned back against the door, matching the intensity of his passion. His thrusts nearly lifted her off the ground and she clung to him, urging him deeper into her and feeling her climax nearing. She was engulfed and completely surrounded by him, the press of his chest and groin against her, the scent of his skin, his sounds of pleasure, the taste of his lips. Her passion exploded then, radiating out from the center of her being to every cell, every atom of her body. She cried out his name and he came then too, his own pulsing waves of orgasm causing him to gasp and crush her to him even more closely than before.