Malcolm scrabbled for the knife he hid beneath the windowsill, but he was too disoriented; it was not his own bed, the window was on the wrong side of him, and–
“Ach, Baby!” he groaned and fell back onto his pillow. “If you had come to kill me, I would be dead.”
“I didn’t come to kill you,” she whispered.
“I know that, stupid girl.”
But now that he knew that, he wondered why she had come.
They were at her father’s castle, come in honor of the visit of Malcolm’s elder cousin and namesake. Or rather, she had come for the guest, at her father’s insistence and, more pertinently, the insistence of the Duke; and Malcolm had come at the request of the King, who thought it a good excuse to send his squire to sniff out any secrets he could on the part of the German ladies.
But it was the middle of the night, though the full moon outside made the room eerily bright with its blue glow. And, if his eyes did not deceive him, she was wearing nothing more than her nightgown.
Stranger still, she had not come merely to lean over his bed and shake him awake. She had climbed onto the bed and balanced now on her hands and knees on the edge of it. Her head hung over him, and her hair trailed down to tickle his neck. This truly made no sense at all.
“What do you want?” he asked roughly.
“I missed you, Malcolm.”
“I missed you.”
She lifted one leg and swung it over his own two so she straddled him and kneeled above him. Malcolm tried to scramble away from her, but with her knees she had his legs pinned down beneath the bedclothes. He only succeeded in pushing the blankets down as far as his waist before she lay down atop him.
He was nearly paralyzed at first in shock. He had never experienced anything as agreeable as her warm weight pressing down upon him. Her slender body was not as heavy as it would have seemed, and he could still breathe easily enough with her lying on his chest. He had never thought that one could lie comfortably beneath the weight of a girl; he had thought she would be obliged to hold herself up with her arms, as he would have done if he had wanted to lie upon her. But, truly, he had never been so comfortable in his life.
She pressed her face at first into his neck, but when he finally dared to lay a hand on her back, she lifted her head and kissed him.
This too was inconceivable. He was beginning to suspect that he was dreaming. She was not merely allowing herself to be kissed, and nor was he obliged, as was more often the case, to chase after her lips with his own as she turned and turned her face away from him. No, she was most definitely kissing him, and he was most definitely being kissed.
He had been almost disappointed at first, for she held herself up upon her elbows to kiss him, and he had not wanted her living weight lifted from him so soon. But he soon found that there was something to be said for this too: now he could feel her small breasts brushing against his chest as they swung free in her thin nightgown. Truly, truly, he thought, he had never been – nor was it likely he would ever be – so comfortable in his life. It had to be a dream.
But if he was able to tell himself it was a dream, surely it could not be a dream?
He turned his face away from her and gasped, “Baby!”
She chased after his lips with her own.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I missed you,” she whispered and turned his face back to hers with one of her strong hands.
She had not kissed him so since they had stood on the tower at Thorhold after the Baron’s wedding. Even then, there was no doubt that he had kissed her and that she had merely responded to him, though willingly enough.
Was this what it was to love an elf? A long, frustrating pursuit rewarded twice or thrice a year with startling passion? But he did not think it had been so for his cousin Egelric and Sela.
He turned his face away from her again. “Baby!” he hissed. “You’re mad! What about your father!”
“He’s busy!” she growled with a fleeting anger.
“What do we do now?” she whispered eagerly.
“I don’t know what to do. You must show me.”
“Oh, Baby,” he groaned. “I think you did come here to kill me.”
“Either you will or your father will. What the devil am I supposed to do now?”
“I don’t know. I thought you knew.”
She giggled again.
“What’s gotten into you? I tried to kiss you goodnight and all I got out of that was a cheek.”
“You may kiss me now.”
“So I have. What are you doing here, Babe? Get off of me or it will be your father killing me for certain.”
“He’s busy,” she muttered, bitter again, but she rolled off of him and squeezed her body into the space between his shoulder and the wall.
“Busy doing what?”
“What do you think?” she hissed. “Their bedroom is directly below mine! I can hear everything! Everything!” She squinted her eyes shut as if that could prevent her from seeing the images that had been called up by whatever she had heard.
“Oh, Babe,” he sighed. “So it gave you some ideas, did it?” he teased, though it was clear that she was more furious than curious.
“No! I simply – simply – ” Her pretty lips turned down in a determined pout that seemed to declare a reply unnecessary.
Malcolm rolled over onto his side to look at her. He knew her better than he knew any girl, but she seemed quite another creature in his bed at night, in her simple nightgown, with her hair tousled, with the moonlight illuminating her delicate face and its familiar pout.
There must be more to it than the pleasure, he thought. He knew it must be so. He had lain with another girl once, and risen up and gone away again, and had not longed to stay and sleep with her. But now – how he longed to let her lie there! How he would love to wake up and find her there night after night, to look at her a while, and to lay a hand on her side, even if only to fall asleep again beside her.
He laid a hesitant hand on her belly, and, as if she had read his thoughts, she rolled over at once so that it lay on her side. Her eyes she kept closed, and so, as if she had read his thoughts, he could almost believe she slept beside him.
The last time he had been home, he had been introduced to the girl his twin brother was to marry. His father had said nothing about a girl for him, and Malcolm had not dared ask. But this year he would speak to his father, and not only ask, but tell him what he wanted. Then he would see.
“Babe…” he murmured. But then he did not know what to say.
At last she opened her eyes, and they were not soft. “Why can’t we?” she whispered. She put an arm around him and pressed her body against his again. “She did. They did. And they weren’t married.”
“Aye, Babe,” he laughed, “but then they were married the next day! Is that what you want?”
He spoke without thinking, and it was a cruelty to himself. She went limp and slumped back against the wall.
“Baby,” he whispered and reached out to touch her cheek. He did not want to lose her again so completely, so suddenly, so soon.
“I don’t know what I want,” she whimpered in a childish little voice.
He sighed and pulled her up into the curve of his arm. Now he was holding her, and she was only letting herself be held. “Do you want me?” he asked.
“I suppose so,” she quavered.
“And I want you. But you know you can’t come here like this.”
“So kiss me one more time and then go back to your bed like the good girl you are not.”
She let herself be kissed. It was not one more time, but a long time, for he found her too warm and soft and alive to be let go so soon. Her nightgown was nothing between his skin and hers. If she noticed his arousal, she neither mentioned it nor shrank away from it – but he doubted she knew it for what it was.
He finally had to let her go, or he thought she would have killed him as at first he had feared.
“Good night, Malcolm,” she said as she clambered over him and crept away, as silently as an elf.
Malcolm curled up around himself and stared at his own shadow on the moonlit wall. He felt lonelier than ever now that she had come and gone. He knew that tomorrow and for many months afterwards, he would think himself lucky if she let him kiss her cheek.