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Delaford looked more glorious that afternoon than it had ever looked before.

The sun was just beginning to creep behind the hills, sending golden light across each window and surface.

Marianne would never admit it to him, but it was obvious that some extra care had been taken due to her arrival.

Two rows of uniform servants stood outside waiting for them, each bowing politely as Marianne and Brandon left the carriage.

“Heavens” she whispered. “Even at Norland we only had ten servants”

“But this estate is slightly larger” reminded Brandon. “You’ll notice the garden staff are here also, that is what has raised the numbers”

“Oh” agreed Marianne, “it shall take me a day or two to place the right name with the right face”

“They are eager to know you as you are to know them my dear” he urged, walking them forward to meet the head butler.

Marianne rather wished he had not, but the older gentleman was most sincere.

“Marianne, this is our butler Laine, he has known myself since I was a child, he served my father for many years,” said Brandon.

“What a pleasure it is may I say, Sir, to finally greet a Mrs Brandon” the butler smiled.

“You will now have a mistress to answer to” remarked Brandon. “How will that fair I wonder?”

“Most pleasing Sir” replied Laine.

“It is a pleasure to meet you Mr Laine” smiled Marianne, she gently reached out and touched his hand. “You must thank your staff for their hard work, I have never seen the house look so fine”

Laine looked rather overcome with such tenderness, “You are most kind Madam”

“Miss Marianne” she urged, “Please”

After several more introductions, Marianne’s head was getting full. Names and faces would undoubtedly become mismatched.

When it was finally time to enter the house, Brandon quite in-line with tradition, though coming as a surprise to her, lifted her into his arms and carried her over the threshold.

He nuzzled a kiss onto her neck and whispered, “Welcome home”

With a tease, she remarked, “Home? I do not know the location of anything, apart from the library”

“It will become easier to find your way around, I promise,” he replied. “Besides I have a room to show you”

Marianne led by his hand travelled towards the staircase. She always felt that the upper level of someone’s home was very intimate. Visitors did not normally gain access unless it was required. Being led to this area by her husband felt strange yet inviting. The start of a long list of intimacies they were yet to share.

He stood by a closed door, obviously preparing a speech.

“I was not sure where you would like to sleep and rest,” he said. “I had this room prepared, as I believe some women prefer to sleep away from their husband's if...well acts of marriage are not taking place”

“You can, of course, share a room with myself, I would enjoy that very much,” he added quickly.

Marianne smiled. “Christopher, I wish to spend as much time with you as possible, even in rest”

“Then you please me” he replied. “This room can be to whatever purpose you wish”

He opened the door and allowed her inside.

It was as fine as her home at Norland, coloured paper and panelling on the walls, light-coloured furnishings and a large fireplace.

“The windows face full west,” he said. “The evening sun casts a fine light into here, or so I'm told”

Marianne admired each and every item, she could not find a way to express her gratitude. “My dear this is too good for me”

“Nonsense” he replied. “Only the best”

The large bed in the room did look inviting, Marianne brushed her hand over the bedclothes, sighing at how soft they felt.

“Where are we to sleep?” she asked, her cheeks warming. “I do not wish to seem ungrateful”

“You possess many virtues Marianne” urged Brandon. “Ungratefulness is not one of them”

With a smile, she took his hand and the pair entered a second room.

A little larger than the first, but no less fine, if lacking perhaps a feminine touch. As the bedchambers of men unattached tend to be.

She was almost surprised to see a little clutter and dare she say, un-organisation amongst his belongings.

He seemed slightly embarrassed by this. “Old habits die hard I am afraid. My letters never end up where they should”

“Oh do not worry” she replied. “I am glad I am not the only one who can never find a place for them”

Conversation dwindled for a moment until both tried to speak, only to speak over one another.

After insistence bounced back and forth for a time, Marianne was prevailed to say her piece. “I just wish to ask, with whom and where do I undress?”

Brandon replied, “There is a maid who I can summon and you can do so in the room of your own or even in here, should we spend the night together”

His eagerness startled her somewhat, a look of nervousness crept over her.

He observed this and quickly retracted, “That is if you feel well enough and wish to come to me tonight”

Marianne nodded resolutely. “Oh yes, but-”

“But?”

“Perhaps some refreshments?” she said with a small grin. “I confess I ate very little of the food earlier”

He smiled and summoned the housekeeper. Shall I set the table Sir?” she asked.

“I do not think so” replied Brandon. “A small set in the library will suffice”

-

Marianne adored the library at Delaford.

The wooden panelling and hideaway corners reminded her of her childhood home. Of course, Brandon had a much larger collection than her own father, but she delighted in the idea of all the books being at her disposal.

As the pair sat and waited for the food and tea, Brandon became aware of her discomfort.

Though she was trying her best to hide it, the decision the pin her veil into her hair was perhaps not a wise one. Her head was becoming very hot and itchy, which made her continuous scratching rather unsightly.

She did not know which servant to summon and that left her frustrated, choosing to suffer in silence than admit her situation. Even when Brandon asked her what the matter was she denied there being anything wrong.

“My love” he observed. “That veil is not sitting well is it? We are not at the ceremony any longer, you can have leave to remove it”

Marianne finally gave in, “I cannot get it off”

Brandon looked quizzical, “Surely it is a case of lifting it…”

“No” cried Marianne. “Its pinned and I can’t find them all”

“Then let me assist you,” he said, rising from his chair.

“Oh,” she urged. “A maid could do it surely!”

“There are some tasks I will not be able to help with” he reminded her. “But locating pins I am sure is within my capabilities”

“I never meant that you were not able” cried Marianne, afraid she had insulted him.

He pressed a kiss on her forehead. “I am can tie a ladies shoe, tie a ribbon to stockings and even on occasion help with a hat, pins are my new task”

Relaxing, she smiled. “There should be quite a few, I won’t squirm I promise”

“And I shall endeavour to not prick you” he replied, looking at the elaborate structure of the headpiece.

Once the first pin lay on the table, Brandon grew confident.

Marianne felt the veil loosen with every moment, her head finally able to breathe.

Lifting the piece off her head, she gave a sudden yelp, “Ouch!”

Brandon moved no further, “Forgive me, I must have missed one”

The wayward pin was quickly discovered and laid with all the rest, at last, the heavy piece was removed.

“Thank you” she sighed, finally able to reach an itchy spot. “I confess I shall stick to bonnets, no headpieces for me!”

Brandon gave a small chuckle. He found the spot where the pin had grazed her scalp and pressed a kiss against her hair.

Perhaps she would have returned the gesture, but the arrival of the maid brought any such activities to an end.

Marianne since leaving Norland had been growing used to small, simple meals. Seeing the maid bring in more food than the two of them could possibly eat did not sit well with her.

Brandon saw the look on her face, “is it not to your taste?”

“Oh it looks lovely” she replied quickly. “There is just so much of it. I shall never finish it all”

Brandon laughed. “Nor would I expect you too”

“But is it not a waste?” She questioned.

“Once the plate leaves the table I have given leave to the servants to consume what they wish. The cook replates much of it for them” he replied.

“Oh,” said Marianne. “I see”

“So please,” urged Brandon. “Eat”

At first, she was ladylike and restrained with just how ravenous she was, gently placing bread and pieces of meat on her plate.

But as she saw Brandon having no intention of standing on ceremony, with some inelegance tossing a piece for fruit into his mouth, she smiled.

“A childish habit” he confessed. “We used to terrorise the matrons at boarding school, throwing food to each other”

“Mama would never let us” replied Marianne. “I very nearly choked on a cherry once, then she forbade it”

“Then I shall not give you cause to worry,” he added, putting a stop to the practice at once.

-

No sooner had the day started, had it come to an end.

Brandon gave Marianne some time alone before they were to rest, eager to not stifle her.

Marianne’s nerves however in her solitude had only grown. And with no Elinor to repress them she was certain that she would never regain any manner of calm.

She waited in her own room, a maid had come and assisted in the removal of her gown. She was glad for this, as nervous fingers have been known to dislodge buttons and tear holes.

Now all that covered her modesty was her nightgown and a softcover, tied at her waist.

She waited for some time, but no knock came. Deciding that no harm could come of admitting how tired she was to her husband. That if the said activity was going to occur it would have to take place within an hour or so, otherwise her anticipation would surely lose the battle against fatigue.

Opening her door, she jumped. Brandon stood on the other side, moments away from knocking.

“Oh,” she cried, quite startled. “I was hoping you would come”

Brandon smiled, “I got quite lost in my reading, forgive me, this hour is far later than I would have liked”

She watched his eyes lower, he had never seen her in so little. Noticing his gaze had wandered he pulled himself together, “Would you join me?”

Marianne took his hand and followed him to their room.

Despite the vicious rumours, she had little to no idea as to what to expect of this first night of matrimony. Her mother had only made mention that the activity brought on children and she would need to initiate it around her monthly bleed. Nothing of the physicality was spoken of.

Even the organs involved are not to be openly discussed.

Marianne knew where a man must go, but knew not what he possessed to complete the act.

Her Christopher could be hiding anything under his layers of linen.

Brandon seemed to sense this in her. Unphased by the foul remarks made by Willoughby he knew Marianne was a woman of honour and dignity, her raising in life would have kept her shielded from any such talk.

Despite the desire, he felt he wanted to ensure Marianne was well enough. She deserved the respect that just hours ago he had promised.

Her weary eyes were not easily ignored.

“You look tired my dearest” he observed. “You wish to rest?”

Marianne could not disguise how pleasant the idea sounded. “I do not want to disappoint you”

“How so?” he smiled.

“Christopher,” she remarked, stating the obvious. “Men want things on their wedding night”

“Well,” he replied, brushing a stray lock of her hair from her face. “This man is quite patient”

“To a fault” she cried. “I can will myself to stay awake”

“My dear come” he urged. “Rest”

She gripped his hand. “You are sure?”

Kissing her cheek he playfully shoved her towards the bed. “Go on” he teased. “Before I change my mind”

She gasped at his impertinence but took no offence.

As he approached the door she called. “Am I to sleep alone!”

“No” he replied. “I shall return in a moment”

Relaxing under the covers, Marianne wrapped her body in the soft linen. She sheets had obviously been changed but the lingering scent of Brandon had remained.

Determined to at least stay awake till he returned she kept rubbing her eyes with vigilance.

-

Gone for all of five minutes Brandon chuckled to himself, returning to find Marianne sound asleep.

As no martial activity had taken place, he had a sudden embarrassment at removing his clothing.

He went about as quietly as he could manage, first shedding his jacket.

Marianne was not quite as asleep as he thought. The opening of the door had roused her and she cracked open her eyes to see him expose his bare back.

Such a display of masculinity caused heat to rise to her cheeks.

Even though they were husband and wife, Marianne felt deceitful watching him in this manner.

When she saw his breeches beginning to fall, she shut her eyes tight and kept them that way until she felt the bed shift as he climbed in beside her.

He made no move towards her, simply extinguishing the remaining candle sending the room into darkness.

Wanting to at least share an embrace she pretended to rouse properly. “Christopher?” she whispered.

“Darling” he replied, “did I wake you?”

Marianne shook her head, “No, and I am glad but I cannot send you to bed without this”

“Without wh-

Pressing her lips against his own, she held the gesture for a moment.

Bradon sighed contently as they parted, taking the initiative he gently snaked his arm to her back. Urging her frame to rest on his own.

Marianne almost resisted his touch as it felt so strange. His hand felt warm on her back, the thin fabric concealing little.

Her head came to rest on his shoulder, his thumb softly smoothing the small of her back.

Feeling such a sense of safety and comfort, it did not take long for her to slip into a restful sleep.

-