“Will, please, let me,” she said in her most seductive manner. “I want to feel you—all of you—against me.” She tried again, but Will moved up on one elbow.

“No, honey, just leave it.”

“Will—”

“Beth, leave it be.” There was a bit of an edge to his voice.

She paused, staring into his eyes. “Will, I know.”

“What?”

“I know,” she said with emphasis. “I know what happened to you.”

It took a moment for Will to understand her words. His eyes grew wide as he cried, “Who told you?” Beth tried to take his hand, but he resisted. “Tell me! Was it Charles?”

Beth frowned. “Will Darcy, I’ve seen your scars.”

“When?” he gasped.

“At the B&R, the night of our … discussion. I helped Anne and Bartholomew carry you to your room after you fell and hurt yourself. It was while we were putting you to bed that I discovered your injuries. Our talk gave me reason to believe that it happened while you and Charles were prisoners, so I badgered Charles until he told me all.”

“All?”

“Yes.” Her eyes filled. “I’m so proud of you.”

Will fell back onto the bed, face up. “Being beaten isn’t something a man’s proud of.”

“It is if he did it for the reasons you did.  Oh, you and your stubborn pride! Why can’t you accept gratitude for what you’ve done?”

“I didn’t do it for gratitude.”

“No, you didn’t. You did it for love.” Darcy jerked his head around towards Beth. “Love of your fellow man. You did it for Charles and all the people he would minister to as a doctor. You made an unselfish sacrifice of your own body for people you would never know, just because it was the right thing to do. How can I not be proud of you? I think that’s when I began to love you.”

Will didn’t say a word. He only looked at her in wonder.

“I … I began to really think about who you truly were. I knew all my previous opinions were wrong, so I had to start somewhere. That was as good a place as any. Here was a man willing to lay down his life for another. That same man vowed his ardent love for me. How could I not feel something for that? How could I not think about what I had done to deserve such a man’s attentions and admiration?” She softly kissed his cheek. “My darling, darling William. The moment I saw those blessed scars, I could do nothing but begin to love you.”

“I—” He was interrupted by a kiss. “I don’t really understand.”

“Neither do I, but it’s true. Now, help me take off this infernal nightshirt.”

Reluctantly, Darcy helped his wife strip him of his garment. Beth tossed the shirt away, to join her nightgown on the floor.

“Now,” she said when the task was done, “roll over.”

“What? Beth—”

Her eyes and voice were firm. “Roll over, dearest.”

Darcy shrugged his shoulders in defeat and rolled over onto his stomach. Beth drew a breath before pulling the covers down, exposing his back to the flickering light of the fire. She bit her lip to prevent any exclamation of alarm and forced herself to view the damage.

Darcy’s strong, wide back was covered with overlapping white scars, each outlined in pink. She slowly reached out and touched them. As she expected, they were as rough as they appeared. Instead of drawing back, she moved her fingers over the expanse, touching each and every line.

“Does it hurt?” she asked softy.

Darcy’s voice was slightly muffled by the pillow. “No. It … it feels … strange. I don’t really feel things on my back right since it happened. It’s like there’s this … cover on my skin.”

Beth’s eyes filled again, imagining the pain he must have endured. “How did you rest while you where healing?”

“I didn’t rest a whole lot at first. Charles tried to get something to help me sleep, but there wasn’t any tonic or such for prisoners. I was on my stomach for weeks.”

Beth’s tears flowed freely now, thinking of Will’s weeks of agony. The tears fell from her face onto his back, and she massaged them into the damaged skin. The story of the woman who bathed the Savior’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair came to her mind. In a way, she was doing the same, Beth thought, and she stopped holding back, allowing herself to cry softy, anointing Will with herself.

“Beth?” Worry resonated in his voice.

“I’m fine,” she answered with a sniff. “Don’t move—please.” Her hair was not as long as the woman from Luke’s Gospel, certainly not long enough to use as a towel, so she lay prone on him, warming his skin with hers and worshiping his skin with her body as he had worshiped hers with his hands and lips. She did not recoil from the roughness against her cheek; instead, she closed her eyes, thanking God for the gift of this man and for sparing him so long ago so that he could become hers.

The pair remained that way for a time until Darcy began to move.

“Are you uncomfortable?” Beth moved her head.

“No. It … emm … feels good, to tell you the truth.”

She smiled in understanding—the coarseness against her nipples was having a very pleasant effect upon her. She understood now how desire felt, what it meant, and what she needed. She needed him. Slowly she began to move, undulating on his back, pleasuring herself and her lover. She heard him groan, only belatedly realizing that it was but an echo of her own moans.

Her kisses and touches were too much for her husband. In an instant, he had turned over, his manhood proudly erect. “Thank you, sweetheart, but now it’s time for me to return the favor,” his voice playful as he reached for her. She laughed dodging his hands, when inspiration struck her.

“No! Will, stay still.”

Darcy actually whined. “Darlin’, you’re driving me loco.”

“Will, wait … let me.” She had no words that she was comfortable to share with him. She could only show him. She sat, straddling his thighs, studying his body.

“Beth, what are you—”

“Hush,” was all she could say. She gingerly reached out and touched that intriguing part of him that had brought her such pleasure, first with her fingers and then her hand.

A moment later, she mounted him, his gasp assuring her that he had no objection. She began to move, as only a practiced horsewoman could, mimicking his earlier motions. Her hands on his chest were covered by his at first before they sought her breasts. She cried out as he joined in her rhythm. Faster and faster they moved, Beth now throwing her head back, focusing on an itch that seemed to grow to ever-greater heights. Between the fire in the grate and the one in her soul, she was perspiring, her mind locked on a foggy goal just out of her reach. Closer and closer she worked, harder and harder she rode.

With a mighty cry, Will grasped her hips, and holding her close, rolled them over, pinning Beth once again on her back. Supporting himself on his arms, he began his loving assault, driving his wife out of her mind. The pinnacle she tried so hard to reach was near … and then she was there. Beth screamed as she took her pleasure for the first time, as wave upon wave crashed into her senses. Just as the intense vibration began to recede, she was taken over the edge again by her husband’s own release.

“Beth? Beth, are you all right?”

Beth’s eyes fluttered open at the sound of Will’s worried voice. “I’m fine,” she managed.

“Good. I was … concerned there … You weren’t moving.”

“I have no intention of moving.” Will nodded his acknowledgment and began to roll off her, something Beth was averse to at that moment.

“As you wish, Mrs. Darcy.” She could make out his grin in the firelight.

“I lied to you before.”

“How’s that?”

“When I said I never felt better. I had no idea.” Her smile grew bawdy. “If it gets much better than this, I

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