Chapter 1

Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Rape, Heterosexual, .

Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - In the wake of his first born's death, the elderly Lord Ravenshire scrambled to not only groom his second born into a suitable heir, but also to keep his family fortune. William of Ravenshire had never wanted the burden of the inheritance, but when he finally returned home, he would find a beautiful stranger who might just change his mind. PREQUEL TO HEART'S DESIRE

The shimmer of light appeared on the far-off horizon, barely illuminating the immobile figure sitting by the edge of the rocky cliff. The tumble of clouds absorbed it, looming low until she felt her heart thumped with the fear of small spaces. The waves crashed regularly onto the rocks below, their steady rhythm calming. The wind howled into her ears, batting against her already numb body, the fabric of her cloak snapping about in the air under its fury. She closed her eyes, breathed the salty air deeply and opened herself until she was lost in the sound of the crashing waves.

She had wandered to the cliff late last night when she couldn't fall asleep.When she closed her eyes, all she could see was his face the last time she saw him alive.

The first cry of the gull startled her out of her meditation. Opening her eyes, she saw that the sky was now stained with a bloody red, the sun rising quickly to chase away the darkness — all the darkness except for that which was in her heart. A storm is coming, she thought, although she did not need the red sky to know that. She had spent all of her life by the pounding sea, and knew its mood like an old friend.

She watched as the strip of gold on the water came closer. A line of pelicans started their day, gliding low over the shimmering surface, their bellies almost skimming the water. Cries of the birds peeped between the slivers of silence before the waves crashed.

Holding herself tightly, she rocked back and forth, letting out a scream that was only heard by the stoic cliffs.

William Ravenshire was urging his mount on at a break-neck speed. Though it would be dark soon, he still had a stretch to go before he could rest for the night. He had been traveling for many days now, and had many more to go before he would reach his destiny. Not for the first time, he cursed his brother's untimely death. If you ask him, autumn was a damn inconvenient time to die. It was a busy time for everyone, regardless of occupation. Though William thanked the gods that he was spared the labors of the fall harvest, he had responsibilities overseeing the purchasing of winter supplies as a general in the King's army. Mohana Mountain was barely hospitable at best, and completely merciless during the winter months. Henry's death had him scrambling to delegate his responsibilities to aids with questionable ability. William hated to think ill of the dead, but the death of his alienated brother could not have come at a worse time.

He received his father's summon last week and had started out for Ravenshire almost immediately. Since his regiment was camped in the middle of the Mohana Mountains, his father's letter did not reach him until much too late. He hadn't been able to attend the funeral, if it was indeed held as his father had specified in the letter. As he moved with instinctive ease with his mount, his thoughts drifted to his late brother, whom he hadn't seen in years.

He and Henry were never close, though not for the lack of trying on his part. As a boy, William followed his older brother around vigilantly. It was before he found Henry kicking a dog one day, a ragged and starved dog that had wandered into their garden. Outraged, William fought Henry, though he was much smaller than him at the time. He lost the fight, but their father was so furious when he heard about the fight that he sent Henry to Pelicana the next day, partly to intensify his training as Second Counselor, partly to separate him from William. It was the last time the brothers lived together, but the problems between them did not stop. William knew about the gambling debts that Henry often ran up, and the bunch of ruffians with whom he passed the time. It seemed that the older William grew, the less respect he had of his brother.

Perhaps he ought to feel guilty about thinking ill of the dead, but he could not lie to himself well enough to be convinced that he actually missed his brother. He was wary, however, of the title that he might receive from Henry's death. Part of him prayed fervently that his father would relinquish the title to a public election, because he sure as hell did not want to be Second Counselor. Unlike Henry, who had been groomed for the position ever since he was in his cradle, William had not a clue about politics or the Royal Court. Gods help him, he would count himself lucky if he managed to keep his family estate in order after his father passed. He couldn't expect any more of himself.

As he crossed the fields, peasants looked up at the noise, shielding their eyes from the piercing afternoon sun to squint at the traveler. William, occupied with his black thoughts, did not notice as the dust flew under his mount's hooves, his cloak bellowing behind him like a banner.

Lucia closed the door behind her, clutching the cold knob long after the lock clicked. Tiptoeing quietly across the floor, she tried her best to minimize the water that was dripping onto the floor. She congratulated herself when she reached the stairs to her room, but an "ahem" quickly deflated her spirit. Maria, her childhood nurse, stood behind her, foot tapping and hands at her waist.

"I hope you have a good explanation for this," she started, staring disapprovingly down her nose, even though she was a good head shorter than Lucia. Still, the little woman instilled fear. Maria humphed again, "Especially if you don't want the housekeeper coming after you for what you've done to her newly waxed floor."

Lucia swallowed guiltily, thinking about the trail of puddles she had left. Meekly holding out her hands, a sign of a peaceful greeting, she said, "I was out for a walk and the thunderstorm took me by surprise." She tried looking remorseful, visualizing a picture of a wet puppy in her head which she hoped somehow transferred to her face. "I didn't mean to stay out for such a long time."

Maria snorted, shooing her up to her room. "Don't think I don't know what you're up to," she said, throwing a towel at Lucia. "Acting innocent is hardly going to mollify Betsy's wrath. Lucia, you know how she feels about her floor." She tisked from the wardrobe. Waving the sleeve of a gown at Lucia menacingly, she said, "You better come up with a better excuse for Betsy. Meanwhile, your father had requested your presence in his study."

Her heart lodged in her throat, pumping wildly. "Did he say what it was about?"

"No, he wouldn't tell me something that important. I think it had to do with your betrothed. A messenger came from the Lord of Ravenshire this morning, you know."

The breath whooshed out of her lungs. She dropped to her mattress, clutching the towel and stared blindly at Maria.

"Well, don't just sit there," Maria ordered impatiently. "Put on your clothes and go see your father."

Her father's study had scared Lucia when she was little. It didn't help that her brother Adrian used to tell her that their father buried their other siblings who had trespassed their father's domain under the floor. It was years before Lucia realized that the study was on the second floor, making highly doubtful that any dead bodies could be buried there.

Contraire to the thrilling tales, however, Lord Aubren had always encouraged his children to explore the selection of books in his study, provided that they kept out of his papers and his desk. Lucia read the same books as her brother, though her father spent more time training Adrian for his position on the Counsel. It wasn't that Lord Aubren was particularly radical. Though he agreed that a woman's place was to raise children, he felt that it was also important that Lucia gained a basic understanding about finances and politics, at least enough to have an inkling of her future husband's situation. His own mother was a young widow who had no inkling of her dead husband's income and debts. Lord Aubren spent a good part of his life rebuilding his family fortune and good name.

But he also supplemented her education with the fine accomplishments that young women ought to have: dancing, music, art, literature. He hired a whole team of governesses through Lucia's life to compensate for what her dead mother couldn't teach her. And Lucia, the ever complacent daughter, dutifully excelled at most.

Her great-grandfather, who refurnished the manor, had an austere taste when it came to his study. The walls were paneled with heavy oak, and the bookshelves, made of the same wood, were ornate with carved talons and snarling heads of griffins. It was fantastic work, if not a little oppressing for a study. Lucia used to study each face carefully, tracing the smoothness of each beak. She could never quite reach the two griffins perched on the top of each shelf though, but they were magnificent from what she could see. Some had their wings opened, some tucked close to their body, but there was no doubt that they were meant to guard the books. She sometimes imagined that their eyes followed her as she browsed through her father's collection.

Regardless of the season, there was always a fire in the fireplace when her father was working in the study. Living by the damp sea his whole life, the elderly First Counselor suffered from rheumatism. His wide arm chair had a hook on the back for hanging his cane. The elderly Lord Aubren kept the throw that Lucia knitted for his fiftieth birthday on his chair, its cool blue sharp against the dull walls. It kept his knees warm while he worked. It was now thrown across his lap.

"Lucia," her father said, waving at the seat across his desk to indicate that she should sit. It was a familiar ritual, one that she had known ever since she remembered. Praise or punishment was met out on this chair. Lucia sat, her eyes apprehensive. Laying down his reading glasses, Lord Aubren looked at her. "The Lord of Ravenshire sent a messenger. Apparently, he had received a letter from his second son, William, indicating that he would arrive to the estate in a few days."

"He missed the funeral," Lucia quietly said.

"Well, that can't be helped," her father said impatiently. "William was out in the mountains with his soldiers in some godforsaken place and probably didn't get the news until it was too late."

Seeing her blank face, he softened. Reaching out to pat the back of her hand, Lord Aubren said to his daughter, "Look, I understand that Henry's death has distraught you and that, understandably, you need time to mourn. It was too unexpected, but we must all move on eventually."

He had no idea, Lucia thought.

Clearing her throat, Lucia asked, "What did you want to talk to me about, father?"

Seeing the distraction for what it was, Lord Aubren went forward with his agenda. "Very well. As you know, it is of course best in our family's interest for you to still marry into the Ravenshire family. The Count had informed me that he is sending for his younger son William to come home to claim what would one day be his title. As soon as he arrives, I would like you to visit them, and somehow convince the younger Ravenshire that marriage would be best for both families." He paused, giving her a stern look. "This is very important for us, Lucia. Don't make any mistake."

"I understand, father."

But her heart filled with dread. Unlike Henry, she had not seen William since they were both children. What will he be like, she wondered. What kind of person is he, and how will marriage ever work between them?

The old Count Ravenshire looked out the window in his study, which had a fantastic view of the ocean. It was almost dark, and the autumn rain had started again, pattering on the glass rhythmically. The window faced the west, but the clouds obscured the sunset. The count thought that the churning water properly resembled his inner turmoil.

His first born was gone. There was a hollow grief at the thought. Perhaps if he had been a more attentive father, the outcome would have been different, he thought. Though he wouldn't say that he was a terrible parent, he acknowledged that he could have done more to keep Henry from going down the path of destruction. It was too late, he thought. With a resolute snap of the wrists, he shut away the view of the churning sea, drawing the curtains closed.

Unlike most in his station, Ravenshire had married late. But when he did, he was the most devoted of husbands. He had loved his wife dearly. Though she had not given him an heir until ten years into their marriage, they had been happy together; the harmonious couple envied by every member of the court. When Henry was finally born, Ravenshire thought he wanted nothing more in life. They raised their son carefully, certain that they may not have another child ever again. To the surprise of everyone, Lady Ravenshire presented her husband with another sun seven years later.

The spare. William had cost him his wife. Now, however, the Ravenshire family's entire hold on power depended on this son, who had no sufficient qualification. Gods help us.

A hurried knock rapped against the door of his study. "Enter," he snapped, in no mood to be disturbed. His butler appeared, a flush creeping steadily up to the receding hairline of the older man as if he had run to his lord. He clutched his chest, and for a moment Ravenshire feared he might collapse.

"What is it, Walter?"

The man gasped for breath. "My Lord, your son William has returned."

Ravenshire's eyes sharpened. "Where is he, Walter?"

"He was unsaddling his horse as we speak, my Lord."

With Walter struggling to keep up, Ravenshire swept down the elegantly curved stairs that landed in the reception hall that opened to the main doors of the manor. A figure was unfastening his wet cloak while a manservant was bringing in a saddlebag from the rain. When the figure stepped into the candlelight, Count Ravenshire saw his second-born son for the first time in years.

William's white-blond hair glowed gold in the light, the hair that reminded the elderly Ravenshire so much of his wife. The icy blue eyes, Ravenshire knew, belonged to him. The military life had wired his slim frame hard with muscles. His face had lost the soft curves that had characterized his boyhood, turning it into the face of a man. A man Ravenshire wasn't sure he knew.

"Good evening, Father," the stranger who was his son said.

Ravenshire nodded. "We weren't expecting you," he said. "It was reckless of you to travel this late into the night. The horse could have easily thrown you, and you could have broken your neck."

William smiled thinly. It was commonly known that his father had no love for him, always blaming him for his mother's death. He could see that their time apart had not changed his father. Not that he was expecting any different.

"As you can see, I am still quite alive. You needn't worry about being heirless for some time, although I just may fall ill if I stand here wet for much longer," he said dryly.

Lord Ravenshire stepped closer, clasping his son awkwardly on the shoulder. "Of course. I will send someone to draw up a bath for you. Where the bloody hell is your manservant?"

"Don't need one," William said, already heading towards the stairs.

Flustered, Ravenshire ordered Walter to tend to him. He sighed heavily. As a child, William's presence reminded Ravenshire of his loss. He saw his wife in the way William cocked his head and the way he smiled. Now, all that was left of his wife's legacy was that mop of white blond hair and the slim built. Too much time had passed between them. William had become his own person, a person that Ravenshire feared that he would never know.

Lucia closed her bedroom door, turning her key in the lock. She never used to lock it, but circumstance had changed. Padding softly across the floor, she stood in front of the great pane of mirror. It had been a gift from her brother for her coming of age celebration, a symbol of her entrance into womanhood. The edge of the long oval mirror was framed with cherry wood, carved with elaborately twisting vines and flowers.

She stared at her reflection in the mirror, examining every line and blemish as women were prone to do. The cheekbones were a bit too high, her mouth a bit too wide, and her chin a bit too pointed. Her dark curls cascaded down, and her blue eyes contrasted strikingly against the plain canvass that was her face. Abruptly, she turned away from the mirror.

She wondered what Henry's brother was like. Though she had not known Henry very well before they were betrothed, she had met him a few times when she visited the Pelicana court. She did not remember ever seeing William in court. The gossip was that Lord Raveshire distanced himself from his son because of the trauma of his wife's death. Requiring no other heir, Ravenshire and Henry spent most of the time in Pelicana while William grew up under the care of servants. Ravenshire sent William to a well-renowned boarding school, expecting him to follow the path of all second-born sons of noblemen in becoming a priest. It was no surprise to anyone, however, when William disobeyed his father's wishes and joined the army instead.

At least with Henry, she had some hints as to what she was expecting. This stranger was a complete mystery, but if she were to succeed, she would have to play her cards right. It was fortunate that she had a good hand.

She blew out the candle and slipped beneath the bed sheet. She shivered as the cold fabric touched her skin. When she finally closed her eyes, she could see his face.

William felt every one of his muscles on his body after his bath. They were groaning in pain, but pain was an old friend. Slumping in an armchair before the fire, he sighed with satisfaction. It had been a long time since he had been this clean. Good old Walter was even kind enough to wash his back for him. For a brief moment, William considered getting a butler for himself, but dismissed the thought. It would be too impractical for his military lifestyle.

His old room was largely intact. The furniture was arranged the same way as when he was young. The mementoes he had collected were as he left them: in his desk drawers. When William pried a floor board, he was happy to see that it was still loose, and that his childhood treasures were still there, albeit a little dusty. A wooden horse that the stable master had carved for him. A leather ball given to him by a friend from school. A hair ribbon from his first love.

High on the shelves were his favorite books. Pages of the Illustrated History of Mohana Mountains hung on precariously to the threadbare binding. A dog-eared copy of The Adventures of Sir Hawthorn Tatum was laid haphazardly against Hero's Journey and Defenders of Erythal. His textbooks from school were on the bottom shelves, dusty and untouched since the day he brought them home. His gaze landed on Servant's Devotion: a priest's quest for truth, and involuntarily shuddered. William never understood how his father saw a priest's making in him.

It had been a long time since he had stayed under his father's roof. At least in his room, he had good memories to accompany him to sleep. He couldn't say the same for the rest of the manor. As a child, he had not understood his father's incapacity to love him. He tried everything to earn his father's praise, receiving none. As an adolescent, he defied his father at every turn. At the moment, he could honestly say that he felt indifferent towards his father.

Perhaps he should feel, at the very least, grateful towards his father, William thought dryly. After all, he was now going to inherit his father's property upon his death. Of course, he had no idea what to do with the estate and the title once he received it. His father never bothered to explain that kind of information to William. If he could find a reliable steward to manage his property for him, William would be free to keep his position as the general of the king's army.

It is likely that his father would demand him to produce a son immediately. William winced at the thought. He did not want to consider that particular obligation to his family. He appreciated women, especially their certain physical attributes, but William had no intention of binding himself for life to some rich aristocrat's ugly and snooty daughter. His impression of the ladies of the Royal Court had been anything but positive during those few times that he had entered Pelicana. If he could, he would avoid him like a plague.

His father had mentioned in the letter that Henry had been engaged when he died. The young lady was of a reputable house. William snorted, expecting the worst of anyone who was insane enough to be engaged to his brother. The woman must be a saint or a fool to endure his brother's less than perfect behavior. She must be rich, William decided, for Henry to agree to marry her. Henry probably wanted a deep well of funds to pay off his gambling debts. Pouring himself a glass of wine from his father's fine cellar, William toasted his dead sibling.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Romantic / Rape / Heterosexual /