In the Forest Lord’s personal chambers, a handful of servants put the finishing touches of aromatic petals in glass bowls and adjusted the velvet curtains. Perfumed potpourri livened the air, tickling Elenaril’s nostrils and threatening to make her sneeze.
She rubbed her nose with a handkerchief and sat on the bed, nervously waiting for the servants to make their exit. Somewhere behind her she heard the clinking of glasses as Omarion searched for a bottle of wine in a cabinet.
She knew what awaited. What he expected. But in order to perform her wifely duties she would first need some nerve. Courage. And that could only come from wine.
At long last, the servants emptied out of the bedchamber. With the closing of the door, she was sure she would hurl, but Omarion appeared beside her with just what she needed.
“To a future of hope,” he said and clicked his glass against hers.
Elenaril took a sip and gave a long sigh. Her feet hurt from having danced for hours in her heels. But the ceremony had been beautiful, the reception even more so, and although she wasn’t a queen she was able to eventually feel like one.
Omarion brushed aside her hair, gently flipping it over her shoulder. His stare was soft, non-intrusive, as he stroked her cheek and admired her face. “What are you thinking?”
“Not much, really.”
She took another sip of wine. When she brought the glass back down to her lap, he removed it, setting it on the nightstand.
“My fair lady,” he said softly. “I’m glad you had a good time at our reception despite the recent difficulties.”
He gently stroked the back of her arm, spreading tingles down her spine. The sensation was heavenly but the nerves kept her body rigid just the same. He scooted closer to her on the edge of the bed, the scent from his leathers coming in an arousing set of waves. Her limbs trembled. Her cheeks tingled. And a tiny groan escaped her lips when his mouth met with the expectant flesh of her neck.
Her fingers dug into his lustrous ebony locks carrying the spicy scent of cedar. Eyes closed, lips parted, she felt her body soften in response to his touch. He pulled away and returned her wine glass.
“Thank you,” she said in a stutter, unsure of what else to state or not. How could he tease her in this way? Wine. It cured everything.
“I hope you come to like it here,” Omarion said, loosening the leather straps bound in his hair. “Rivenfell may not be as glamorous as Caramil but it has plenty of charm.”
“I do like it,” she lied. “My brother believes he has inconvenienced me but I see a gift from Styr instead.”
Omarion’s lip twisted. “Let’s not speak of your brother this night.”
Elenaril nodded, her hand loosening its grip on the wine glass when he took it away again. “My lord, may I ask...”
But she couldn’t continue her sentence. How foolish and immature would she appear telling him that she was unwilling to go any further? He’d already been married once and only Styr knew how many other females he’d delighted in since then, making him leagues more experienced than her in these matters. These were not lessons she had received from her governesses. She wasn’t ready to share her body with him just yet.
He traced the smooth outline of her jaw. “Are you all right?”
“A little nervous, perhaps.”
“Is this something you want?”
Elenaril blinked, licking her lips. No one had ever asked her choice in any matter except the selection of music or fabrics. And yet here she was, on her wedding night, having come to the realization that she’d ignored the part of consummating her union with Omarion all along. What good would it do to put off the inevitable? Besides, the manliness of his muscularity and the genuine aura with which he carried himself turned her on. She was a woman of her word and her end of the bargain required she perform wifely duties. If she waited until later, all she’d be able to think about was when it would finally happen.
Best to become his now. And from the sensations he sent reeling through her body, waiting would be nigh impossible.
Get yourself together, Elenaril. You hardly know him.
She pushed his hand away. “If you ask my opinion, and it appears that you are, I’d prefer it if we didn’t consummate our marriage this evening.”
He let out a half-chuckle. “Really? And why is that, my dear princess?”
With all the self-control she could muster, Elenaril erupted from the bed and whisked the train of her gown to the side. Nose in the air, she said, “Because we’ve known each other for less than a handful of days.”
She met his gaze with the status of an equal, even though as her husband he now had authority over her. But she was finally free of Elu’s grasp and she wasn’t about to let another male win over her. At least, not right away.
“Did you expect me to bed you without hesitation?”
Inside, she kicked herself. The kiss he’d placed on her neck had awakened something primal within her. What would the rest of his touch bring?
“Of course not,” he said softly, rising to his feet and taking a hold of her hands. “I apologize for my forwardness.”
“Ours is a marriage of convenience. For my brother’s sake.”
Omarion brushed the back of his hand against her cheek. “Merely an arrangement, is it not?”
“Then as a proper arrangement it will remain without sharing a bed.”
“And how will we manage?”
Candlelight reflected in his eyes. “I will sleep on the floor cushions tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll have Sybil set up the room across the hall for you and that will be your refuge.”
It sounded lonely the way he said it, but it was better this way for the both of them. Not that she’d ever bring up his former wife in conversation but she couldn’t expect him to love her when another woman resided in his heart. Or so she assumed. And the fact that he’d wanted to bed her was certainly not strange, since males loved bedding, but she wanted to be the only one in his thoughts, the lone one he yearned for.
“The others will speak of us,” she said, knowing full well the servants would take the opportunity to gossip about them sleeping in separate rooms.
Omarion smiled and poured more wine into her glass. “Then you will come into my room each evening for a nightcap.”
Elenaril grinned. “They won’t suspect a thing, will they?”