The Brat Chapter Seven

Murie moaned in relief as her husband kissed her back. She'd sat there worried and anxious and . .. well... really, terrified of what was to come, but then she'd recalled her dream and knew that if he would just kiss her, all would be well. However, he'd not hurried to accomplish the task, and finally, panicked to the point that she was ready to hop out of bed and flee the room, when he'd turned to her, she'd simply taken the matter into her own hands and kissed him herself. Fortunately, he'd not been offended and after a brief pause, slid his arms around her. She felt his tongue slide insistently along her lips, and she opened for him as she recalled that dream kiss. As in the dream, his tongue immediately slid inside, and Murie moaned as it rasped over hers. Balan tasted of ale and the beef they'd had at the feast, and she quite liked the combination, but then she forgot all about it as his hand found her breast under the linens.

Gasping, Murie found herself arching into his touch as excitement tingled through her.

"Oh, husband," she breathed as he broke the kiss to run his mouth to her ear. Her eyes popped open with surprise at the heat this caress unfolded within her. She'd never thought of her ears as good for anything but hearing. Apparently, that wasn't so. She tilted her head slightly to give him better access, and her gaze landed on the chest across the room. She blinked with surprise as she recalled the horseshoe and rabbit's foot she'd collected for the wedding night.

Murie immediately tugged free of her husband's embrace, probably only managing to do so because she took him by surprise.

"What - ?" Balan's question ended on an oomph as she unintentionally kneed him in her scramble to get out of the bed. Realizing what she'd done, she removed her knee, ending up straddling his hips over the furs as she eyed him with concern.

"I am sorry, my lord. Did I hurt you?"

Balan released a small whimper but shook his head. Relieved, she smiled and continued her rush over to the chest. Dropping to her knees in the rushes, she threw it open and began to dig under the clothing for the items she sought. She'd hidden them under her gowns so Cecily wouldn't see them.

"What are you doing?"

Murie glanced to the side with surprise when she realized he'd followed and now stood beside her, a frown on his face as he watched her digging frantically through the chest.

"I put... Oh dear," she murmured as her gaze got caught on the appendage jutting out from between his legs. It hadn't seemed nearly so large when they'd put him in the bed . .. nor had it been red and angry-looking. She must have really done damage when she'd unintentionally kneed him.

"My lord, you are all swollen and red. I did hurt you," she said with alarm, catching the bobbing member in her hand so she could take a better look. It was difficult to see if she'd done any damage with it waving in front of her face like a priest's finger during a lecture.

Murie heard him groan as her hand closed around it, and she took this as a sign that he was sore.

"Is it tender?" she asked with concern, glancing up at his face. Balan's eyes were squeezed shut, but popped open at her question, and he stared down at her with disbelief.


"Well, 'tis swollen from the blow you took," she pointed out.

"Blow?" he asked faintly, and she leaned closer and gently blew on him to help ease any stinging she may have caused. His flesh was very warm. Hot, even, as wounds often were.

"Aye. Would you like me to rub it? Would that help, do you think?" she asked, glancing up at him again.

Balan stared down at her incredulously. "Rub it?"

"Aye, as I would a sprained ankle or - " Her explanation became a startled gasp as he suddenly tugged her to her feet. The gasp stopped when he covered her mouth with his, and Murie's thoughts halted as their bodies came together and he thrust his tongue into her mouth.

Moaning, she let her hands slip up his arms and held on as he kissed her most thoroughly. Truly, these kisses were even better than the ones of the dream. In her dream, her breasts hadn't been rubbing across his chest, her nipples tickled and excited by the small,springy hairs there. And in her dreams, his injured appendage had not been pressing insistently against the apex of her thighs, causing little jolts of excitement to course through her and a heavy, pooling sensation in her lower belly.

Balan's hands slid down to clasp her behind, and he lifted her suddenly, rubbing her center most aggressively against his injured limb. Murie groaned at the sensations that suddenly rioted through her, but she reluctantly broke the kiss to gasp, "I should look at your wound."

"Later," he muttered, nipping at her chin then kissing her again. Giving up for the moment, Murie followed the urge to wrap her legs around his hips, her feet hooking one over the other for purchase as her arms tightened around his shoulder. She began to kiss him back, her tongue meeting his and slipping into his mouth. The shift allowed his appendage to poke at her most private area, and Murie wiggled tentatively against him, using her hips and thighs to do so.

Her movements seemed to affect Balan strongly. Growling deep in his throat, he started to walk to the bed, but then Murie recalled the items in her chest and let her feet unhook, and she dropped away. Caught by surprise, Balan could not stop her from thumping to her feet on the floor.

"I have to get the rabbit's foot and horseshoe," she explained, trying to race around him.

"What do you want with a horseshoe and a rabbit's foot?" he asked, sounding a little grumpy. He caught her arm.

Murie turned back to explain, but she paused at the sight of him. He looked quite adorable, with his hair all mussed from her fingers and his lips swollen from her kisses.

"Murie?" he repeated, giving her arm a gentle shake. "What do you need with those items?"

"Oh!" She blinked and smiled. "They are good luck charms said to increase fertility." She tried to tug free of him again, but he wasn't releasing her.

"Leave them," he ordered, drawing her back against his chest.

"But - "

He silenced her protest with another kiss, this one more determined. When he released her waist to slide his hands up to cup her breasts, she sighed in defeat and forgot about the charms. She could use them the next time, she assured herself. He'd begun to knead.

When he broke their kiss, she was at first disappointed. But then his mouth dipped down to cover one of her nipples, which she saw had become swollen and erect as they only did when she was cold. She started to protest, then jerked up onto her tiptoes and cried out with surprise at her body's response. This was . . . this was . . .

"Oh, husband," she breathed, leaning back to make it easier for him and feeling the edge of the bedside table against her bottom. Balan's response was to draw on that nipple and then nip it teasingly. His hands slid to her waist and ran lightly over her bottom and hips. Murie found herself twisting first one way and then the other, then thrusting her hips forward, her thighs opening slightly as he clasped her bottom.

Balan dropped to his haunches before her, his mouth trailing over the suddenly quivering muscles of her belly and then along the outside of her leg, then drifting to the inside of her knees and urging her legs apart. His mouth moved slowly up along the inside of her thigh.

Murie gasped for breath, little mewling sounds emitting from her lips, her bottom resting more heavily against the bedside table and making it rock as she shuddered and bounced against it. She came to rest fully upon it, however, when he suddenly caught her legs and drew them over his shoulders, burying his face into her center.

Murie cried out and clutched at the edges of the table, her fingers digging into the wood as his tongue ran over the very core of her. This was . .. this was ... Oh! This had to be bad. Nothing that felt this good would ever be approved by the church, she was sure.

But as Balan continued to lave and pleasure her, Murie didn't care what the church thought; she only cared that he didn't stop, didn't end this wicked torment. And then it was suddenly too much; she was going to explode, and she wanted him to end it. Panting out a protest, she released the table and grabbed at his head with one hand, her fingers tangling in the soft strands of his hair and tugging insistently. Balan ignored her wishes, and instead of stopping, stepped up his actions until Murie gave up trying and grabbed the table again, her hips lifting and thrusting of their own accord. She rode the waves he was creating in her. Suddenly she stilled, her whole body pausing, every fiber straining toward something ... and then she bucked against him with a scream as the explosion she'd feared arrived, sending her body into convulsions she'd never before experienced.

Murie was not really aware of Balan allowing her legs to slide off his shoulders or his rising before her, though she did instinctively clutch at his arms when he stepped between her legs, but she was completely unprepared when he suddenly drove his swollen appendage into her still-quivering body, filling her as she'd never been filled. She gasped against his ear, her body stiffening around him, and Balan paused, merely holding her for a moment.

"Are you all right?" he asked after several heartbeats. Murie let her breath out and turned stunned eyes to him.


Balan hesitated, then asked, "Does it still hurt?"

"Does what hurt?" she asked with bewilderment, for truly she had no idea what he was talking about. When she recalled that it was supposed to hurt the first time, she blushed. "Oh - nay, my lord husband."

Balan smiled faintly and then withdrew from her body, and Murie found herself clutching at him with her hands and legs around his hips, trying to stop him. Before she could protest, however, he was sliding back into her, and she dropped her head to his shoulder and moaned.

"Pray, do that again," she whispered as he paused once more. Chuckling softly, Balan caught her under the bottom. He lifted her from the table to turn and lay her across the bed, coming down on top of her without their needing to separate.

"Do you like this, wife?" he asked as he withdrew and thrust again.

"Aye," Murie moaned, flattening her feet on the bed and thrusting her hips into the action. "I am sure 'tis a sin in the church's eyes, but aye, my lord, I like it very much."

"So do I," he whispered against her lips, then covered her mouth with his and thrust his tongue into her even as he thrust his hips forward once more. The two of them fell silent then but for moans, sighs, groans and growls, working together toward what Murie now knew was a sort of heaven. She cried out again as he took her there once more, but this time he cried out too and went as well.

Murie woke to find herself curled in her new husband's arms, her body semi-excited once more. It shouldn't be, she thought sleepily. Her husband had woken her twice in the night, reaching out for her in the dark and covering her mouth with his, even as his body shifted to blanket her. He was a most vigorous lover, and she couldn't help thinking that the horseshoe and rabbit's foot may have been efficacious despite not being under the bed. Mayhap just being in the room was enough to have an influence. A tingling in her breast distracted her from such thoughts, and Murie stretched on her side with a little sigh as she became aware of her husband's hand moving over it. She'd awoken several times to find him cupping her breast in his sleep, but now he was not asleep - or if he was, he was having interesting dreams. His hand was not simply cupping her; it was holding her, lifting, kneading, and his thumb was rubbing back and forth over an already erect nipple.

Murmuring his name, she shifted, pressing her bottom backward into her husband's groin and smiling as she felt his semi-erect state. The horseshoe and rabbit's foot were definitely working, she thought with a sigh, reaching back to find and clasp him in her fingers. She'd soon realized that the red, swollen state she'd thought she'd inflicted with her knee had nothing to do with injury, and had quite enjoyed it each time it had occurred. Now she ran her hand down the length of him, encouraging him to return to that state again.

Balan caught her by the chin and turned her head to the side for a deep kiss, then suddenly rolled away from her out of bed. Startled by his sudden abandonment, Murie sat up in bed and watched with amazement as he moved to the basin of cold water from the night before and began to quickly wash himself.

"My lord? Are we not going to ... ?" she began uncertainly, then paused and blushed, incapable of giving voice to her expectations.

Balan tossed the damp linen he'd been using to wash himself into the basin, then walked back to bed and leaned on it with his hands to bend down and kiss her on the lips. It was a very quick peck, ending before she could respond. Then he straightened and turned away, saying, "I promised Reginald I would meet him in the bailey this morn to practice at swords. We have neither of us been getting any practice since coming to court."

"Oh." Murie gave a little sigh of disappointment and slid out of bed to move to the now abandoned basin of water and perform some quick ablutions of her own. "Well, Emilie is expecting me this morning as well. So mayhap it is for the best." Balan chuckled and moved up behind her. His leather leggings pressed against the back of her thighs as he wrapped his arms around her, and he kissed the side of her neck.

"I am very pleased with you, wife," he whispered into her ear.

"You are very enthusiastic in your duties, and I like that." Flushing, Murie pushed his arms away and moved over to snatch up the fresh gown Cecily had laid out. She pulled it on over her head and moved to the door, saying a tad stiffly, "Well, I am pleased to hear it. 'Tis a wife's place to please her husband." Ignoring his chuckle, she pulled the door open, relieved to find Cecily there, hand raised as if to knock.

"Just in time, Cecily," she said, smiling at the woman. "I will need help with my laces."

"Of course, my lady." The maid followed her into the room as Balan tugged on his cotehardie.

Murie was silent as Cecily worked at the lacings on the back of her gown, her eyes eating up her husband as he finished strapping on his sword and boots. Cecily finished with her lacings and caught up Murie's surcoat to drop it over her head. When the cloth was pulled down from in front of her face, Murie blinked in surprise to find her husband standing in front of her. He smiled at her expression and bent to kiss her most thoroughly, despite Cecily's presence, then started for the door, only to pause and swing back. Returning to their bedside, Balan picked up a small dagger there and slid it into his belt, then glanced down and paused, eyes widening with surprise.

"Odd, I thought I had lost this," he said, bending to pick up something from the floor.

Murie glanced curiously at the item. Her eyes widened as she saw it was the cross she'd found in her room the morning after she'd dreamed of Balan. She'd had Cecily set it on the table, but apparently it had gotten knocked off onto the rushes at some point last night. She didn't have to think hard to guess how.

"Hmm, it must have been caught up in my clothes," he commented, and fastened it around his neck; then he stopped to press another kiss to her now cold lips on his way out of the room.

Murie stared after him, pale and shaken.

"Is that not the cross you found the morning after you dreamt he came to you?" Cecily asked quietly.

"Aye," she breathed.

Cecily was silent for a moment then said, "I did tell you I saw him lurking outside in the hall that night."

"Aye," Murie repeated.

"You do not think he - ?"

"Aye!" Murie cried, and hurried for the door, her only thought that she needed to speak to Emilie. Her friend would know what she should do. She always knew what to do. She would help fix this.

"Slow down," Emilie said with concern moments later when Murie burst into her room and babbled a stream of nonsense.

"Tell me slowly. I do not understand. Balan found a cross in your room?"

"Aye. Nay. Aye, but..." She paused with frustration, took a deep breath to calm herself, then started again. "I found a cross in my room the morning after the dream. I thought nothing of it at the time. I did not know whom it belonged to, but thought perhaps it had fallen from someone's throat in the hall and gotten caught in my skirt and fallen off by the bed as I disrobed ... or perhaps a servant had lost it while cleaning the room."

"Aye," Emilie said patiently. "I understand."

"Well, this morning while he was dressing, Balan spotted the cross on the floor and - "

'You left it on the floor?" Emilie said in surprise.

"Nay, I put it on the table. It must have got knocked off somehow," she said, blushing as she recalled what Balan had done to her on the table and just how it had probably gotten knocked off. Giving her head a shake, she went on: "Anyway, he picked it up, saying he thought he'd lost it and that it must have simply been caught in his clothes. And then he put it on." Emilie nodded. "He has worn the cross ever since his father gave it to him some years ago."

Murie scowled impatiently. "Do you not see? It was his cross ... in my room . , . the morning after I dreamed he came to me and kissed me."

"Ah." Emilie sat back. "I see. You think it was not a dream at all, but that he came to you in person and kissed you in your bed." She paused, looking startled, and then exclaimed, "Before you were married! Why, that is scandalous. That is - "

"Not a dream at all," Murie said grimly, trying to return to the point. "I did not dream he was there; he w as there. Why?" Emilie blinked. "Why?"

"Aye. Why? We had never met before. I had never even seen him before I woke up to find him kissing me. But it was the night I was supposed to dream of the man I was fated to marry, and I woke up thinking that was him!"

"Oh, I am sure that had nothing to do with it," Emilie began, but she was looking concerned.

"Nay? Then why did he come in and kiss me - a veritable stranger?"

"Mayhap he was drunk and stumbled into the wrong room, and when he saw you sleeping there he was so overcome he could not resist kissing you," she suggested.

"Cecily told me the day after the dream that she'd seen Balan lurking in the hall when she left that night. I did not think anything of it at the time, but now . .. Lurking in the hall does not suggest he stumbled into my room by accident."

Emilie was frowning. "Murie, I prithee do not overreact to this. I am sure there is a perfectly good explanation for everything."

"Like what, pray tell?" she asked dubiously.

"I do not know," Emilie admitted. "And you will not either until you ask Balan. Just ask him."

Murie was silent for a moment, then stood with a small nod and moved to the door. "Aye, I shall ask him if he was in my room that night and why."

"Good. I am sure it will all work out."

"Aye." Murie slipped out of her friend's room and pulled the door softly closed behind her. She then paused and peered around. She needed to talk to Balan, but this was a serious matter and must be approached carefully. She was married to the man now, with no way out until one of them died. This had to be handled delicately.

Most delicately, Murie thought as she moved up the hall. She would go for a walk and consider how best to approach the matter before confronting her husband. And then she would stop at the chapel and pray her husband's answers were acceptable and did not prove he was a tricky, cheating lord who had taken advantage of the St. Agnes Eve superstition to get her to marry him because he needed coin for his castle.

"Balan, there is trouble. Murie knows.!"

"Knows what?" Balan asked. He and Reginald had been headed back to their rooms, but came to a halt as Osgoode rushed up.

"That you were in her room that night. That it was not a dream," his cousin explained, his voice worried.

"Oh-ho. What is this?" Reginald asked with interest. Balan ignored him and said, "And she married me anyway?"

"Nay." Osgoode waved that possibility away with exasperation.

"She did not ken ere the wedding; she realized it this morning when you picked up your cross from the table. It had not been caught in your clothing; you apparently lost it the night you were in her room.

She found it the next morn and put it on the table. You must have lost it in your struggle with Malculinus."

Balan frowned, one hand rising to touch the cross at his neck.

"Nay. There was no struggle. But mayhap it fell off when I picked him up."

"Hmm, that is possible," Osgoode agreed.

"Oh, now, you have to explain this," Reginald said firmly. "A struggle with Malculinus? In Murie's room?"

Balan grimaced, but quickly explained the events of that evening to his friend.

Reginald nodded solemnly when Balan had finished and then glanced at Osgoode. "And you say Murie knows Balan was in her room that night, really kissing her?"

Osgoode nodded.

Reginald sighed. "This could be a problem, Balan. Murie will not be pleased if she thinks you tricked her into marriage. Neither will the king if he hears of it." His gaze suddenly returned to Osgoode. "How did you find out that she knows? Is word of it already spreading around court?"

"Nay. At least, I do not think so," Osgoode said. "I had my page follow Murie this morning, just to make sure Malculinus and his sister did not try to pull another stunt or cause trouble. He says she rushed out of the room shortly after Balan left, and he followed her to your room and listened at the door to what was said, then came to report to me directly after they spoke." Reginald did not look pleased to hear that Osgoode's page had eavesdropped through his door, but then neither was Balan pleased with the information obtained.

'You are not to set that boy on my wife again," Balan said with irritation. "She is my wife. If I deem she needs following, I shall arrange it. And she does not need following."

"Well, obviously she does," Osgoode argued. "Had I not commanded Robbie to follow her, we would not now know about this problem and could not do anything about it."

"That is true enough," Reginald pointed out, some of his annoyance fading.

"Aye." Osgoode nodded, then turned a raised eyebrow to Balan. "Now, the question is ... what are we going to do about it?"

Balan scowled for a moment, then said, " We are doing nothing."

"Nothing?" Osgoode squawked, and then rushed after him as Balan continued up the hall. "Balan, you have to tell her what Lauda and Malculinus planned. 'Tis the only way to make her understand that we never intended her to see you, that we only meant to stop Malculinus."

"I fear he is right," Reginald said with concern. "You really should tell her, Balan. She may be thinking all sorts of things right now."

Balan paused and turned to face both men with a weary expression. "Do you really think she would believe me?" Osgoode and Reginald exchanged glances, both seeming to realize it wasn't likely.

"Then what are you going to say when she asks you?" Osgoode asked.

"When she confronts me, I will admit I was there," he said simply.

Reginald winced, and it was Osgoode who spoke. "Can you not deny it? Can you not simply suggest you were there at another time? Claim you entered the room by accident earlier in the day when she was neither there nor sleeping. That you hadn't even realized it was her room, and - "

"I am not going to lie to my wife," Balan said firmly. "A marriage begun on lies is no marriage at all."

"But you have to give some sort of explanation - "

"Nay," he said firmly. "I will not give explanations she will not believe. Nor will I lie. She has to learn to trust me. A wife should trust her husband, and Murie cannot do that until she knows me better." Turning, he started to walk again. "She will soon learn what I am like by living with me and seeing how I deal with her and others. Mayhap then, when I know she will believe me, I shall tell her about that night."

Sighing, Osgoode shook his head and fell into step beside him.

"You are in for a troubled marriage, cousin."

"I fear he is right," Reginald said with concern. "That being the case, might I suggest it is in your best interests to leave court as soon as possible." When Balan paused to peer at him, he shrugged and said, "If Murie is noticeably unhappy so soon after wedding, it shall surely draw the king's notice."

"Or she may run to him herself with the problem," Osgoode put in.

"Either way, you could incur the king's wrath," Reginald pointed out.

Balan frowned. "How would I explain leaving so soon? We are expected to stay another week."

Reginald shifted, then said, "I could go to Murie and tell her that I am worried about Emilie. That she is tired and drawn of late, and I fear for her and the babe and wish to get her home where it is less wearying and she may relax."

"All of which is true," Balan said. He cocked his head. "But how will that convince Murie to leave? Especially if she is upset thinking I tricked her into marrying me?"

"The two women are as close as sisters. While it has the unfortunate effect of making Emilie determined to remain until you and Murie leave, it will also ensure Murie puts Emilie's health and well-being above her own marital troubles. I would ask her to leave early and that our parties travel together to Reynard so that she will be there to help should a problem arise along the way."

"Which would solve both our problems," Balan said solemnly.

"I have seen you watching your wife with worried eyes."

"Aye. She is tiring much more quickly than she used to. She claims 'tis normal and she is fine, but..."

Balan placed a hand on his friend's shoulder and nodded.

"This is perfect," Osgoode said, drawing them all out of their somber mood. "Emilie will be home where she may rest, and Murie away from court and the king until this matter is resolved between you."

"Aye." Balan nodded.

"And, of course," Reginald added, "once at Reynard, your party is more than welcome to rest a day or two, or even a week before continuing on."

"I may take you up on that. I think Murie would enjoy it," Balan said. Then he frowned. "I am not so sure the king will take our leaving early well, though."

"That is a consideration," Reginald admitted. The three men were silent for a moment, each considering the matter. Then Balan sighed and said, "I shall have to broach the matter carefully."

"Aye," Reginald and Osgoode agreed.

"Come," Balan said, turning away. "We will have to think on this, and I think better with an ale in my hand."

Murie watched the men leave from the opposite end of the hall. She'd been looking for her husband and had just started around the corner to the hall near their chamber when she'd heard Osgoode hailing the two men. Pausing abruptly, she'd ducked back out of sight and listened to the entire conversation. Leaning her back against the wall now, she closed her eyes and allowed a small smile to curve her lips. Emilie had been right. It hadn't at all been what she'd thought.

So, the trickery had been Malculinus and Lauda's.... She shuddered at the thought of waking to find that man's lips on hers. She might very well have been fooled into marrying the deceitful lord.

But Balan had saved her from Malculinus's machinations. What a wonderful husband she had!

Her smile widening, Murie pushed away from the wall and started up the hall the men had taken, sure they were far enough away that she would not run into them. She wished she could say with honesty that she would have believed Balan if she'd had the chance to confront him and he'd told her the true state of affairs, but she feared he was right. In truth, she hardly knew her husband and might very well have taken him for a liar. Overhearing this conversation, however, had gone a long way toward increasing her trust in him. Not only had he had honorable intentions the night he was in her room, he'd flat out refused Osgoode's suggestion to lie to appease her. She had a good man for her husband. She owed St. Agnes a good deal for sending Balan to her.

Murie paused and pursed her lips thoughtfully as she reached the stairs. She was not at all upset about leaving court early. She too was worried about Emilie; besides, she had no great love for court. She only feared that the king could be difficult about such things and might not take Balan's request well if he used the wrong approach. She, on the other hand, had a great deal of experience in how to handle the king. She would deal with the matter for him.

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