The moonless night is how he finally is able to persuade her into the water. On nights like this, the only way to tell the difference between sand, sea and sky are the stars spilled in swirling lines overhead. Their light is too faint to be reflected in the water, however, and so the only way to tell the demarcation between land and sea is by touch.
It is a warm night with barely any breeze — unusual for the seaside. Claude has done a lap of the water out fifty paces and back. Edelgard can only see his form, tall and lean, silhouetted against the starry sky until he gets closer and she catches the gleam of his eyes, putting her in mind of a cat of prey. A languid cat of prey as he reaches her and leans down for a slow kiss, dripping seawater over her clothes and face.
She indulges him for a moment, then pushes him off laughingly. "You're getting me wet."
"Oh, am I?" His teeth flash white in his amusement, but he goes easily, flopping down next to her in the warm sand. She makes a face at him.
They lay on the beach in silence for several minutes and just when Edelgard wonders if Claude has fallen asleep, he stirs and props himself up on one arm to look at her. "Are you sure I can't tempt you into taking a quick dip?"
It's not that Edelgard isn't tempted, because she is. As usual, her full complement of clothes is proving far too warm for the climate and the sounds of the tides lapping the shore is incredibly enticing.
But. She bites her lower lip. There is barely any light with which to see and Claude had specifically left their guards behind for this foray. Artemisia is sleeping peacefully on the cliffs above, possibly dreaming of the day when her master no longer cajoles her into these whimsical late-night outings.
Edelgard smiles wryly at that. Now she is projecting her thoughts onto his wyvern.
None of this escapes Claude's eyes, of course. "Share the joke, princess."
"I'm thinking that we should perhaps let Artemisia sleep a little longer," she says, taking off her gloves. Although his resting position does not change, she senses Claude perk up at that action, knowing that it means he's won. "Help me with the back."
"Gladly," he murmurs, sitting up quickly and giving up his air of nonchalance. He makes short work of the delicate series of clasps and buttons holding her dress closed and soon Edelgard is pushing it off her shoulders and getting up to step out of the discarded pile of red tafetta on the sand. Her pale skin, coiled argent hair, and sheer cotton shift makes her glow ethereal even in the unilluminated darkness. He understands on an intellectual level (with acute furious clarity, in fact) why Edelgard remains highly reluctant to bare any part of her body, even to him, but seeing her now, as always, with her strength and sheer fucking willpower mapped out in the scars across her skin, Claude can think of no other word for her but beautiful.
"Well?" she demands imperiously, bravado an instinctive cover for the awkwardness she feels.
He laughs — he secretly (or not so secretly) loves her at her most domineering. Especially when it is a result of him successfully tantalizing her into trying something outside of her comfort zone. Rising, he takes her hand and leads her to the water's edge. In the process, she sheds her shift, leaving her with just her underwear as they step into the cool seawater. Goosebumps prickle her arms.
Edelgard is not a strong swimmer, but Claude is and he keeps one arm around her as they venture out further, supporting Edelgard's body in the cradle of his arms. Once they reach a depth where the water just laps her breasts, where her feet can still just barely brush the sandy floor, he stops. Checking in. Edelgard appreciates it, taking a moment to savour the delectably cool water around her and marvel at the way the world seems to have shrunk down to just the two of them beneath an impossibly vast sky through which a river of stars course.
Presently, she becomes aware of a hardness nudging against her thighs. When she looks back at him, he looks almost sheepish. "Ah, I'm afraid that is outside of my control, princess. Pay it no mind."
But she does pay it mind, can feel her own body reacting, a tightness and heat beginning low in her stomach and spreading from there. She tangles their legs together and leans in for a kiss, arms tightening around his neck.
"Edelgard," he breathes against her lips, "you cannot be teasing me right now."
She smiles, pressing more light kisses to his face. "And if I am, Prince Khalid?"
Her use of his title and proper name draws an involuntary groan from him and she relishes the triumph of drawing any involuntary reaction from this man who is always, always in control.
She yelps as he suddenly hoists her up until he can reach her throat and collarbones, her legs instinctively wrapping around his hips. Two can play this game, his tongue seems to indicate as it licks across her throat, nibbling lightly down to her nipples, hardened from a mixture of arousal and the sudden coolness of leaving the water.
"Claude —" Her soft moan is strangled as he takes one breast into his warm mouth, alternating between suckles and scraping teeth. She writhes against him in the water, the last threads of control starting to slip away, desperate for friction.
He relinquishes her nipple to grin up at her, eyes shining with amusement and lust in the dark. And even though she is the one who began the provocation, she frowns down at him, trying to press down against his arms that hold her up.
"Patience, princess," he says, stroking one hand up her thighs and into her underwear, pushing it aside to reach her trembling clit. She hears her own cry as though coming from somewhere else, lightning storms playing out across her body as he strokes her expertly. His fingers, callused from the bow, have always been clever and she is aware of herself making small, carnal sounds as he works her clit and slit, adding a pinch every now and then to make her truly keen.
His broadening smile only makes her want to fluster him in return and her fingers tangle in his hair as her mouth descends on his with a vengeance, licking inside until they are both panting against each other. Dimly, she is grateful that Claude is so strong and so good in the water.
"Claude —" This time her voice carries an urgency like a warning.
And Claude obliges her (and himself) by lowering her onto his rigid hardness, thrusting upwards into her warmth with a soft grunt. She gasps at the brusque entry — not unwelcome though, as she grinds herself down, feeling the fullness of him inside her. He is well-endowed and she feels herself, even after all this time, stretching to accommodate his girth in an exquisite burn, enhanced by the seawater. The buoying waves are a guide to their movements against each other.
"El, El, El," he pants and every call of her most intimate pet name from his lips sends her higher. She does not know how she can possibly get wetter in the ocean, but she does.
"That's the idea," he has the wherewithal to grin up at her. She responds by raking her short nails down his back, eliciting a soft hiss. He nips her collarbone in retaliation.
"Fuck," she repeats, with feeling. She works her hips with more fervor, bouncing on his cock in the water, rubbing her clit against his coarse hairs. This is an abandon that she almost never permits herself. "I — Claude — close—"
"Shhh," he breathes against her ear, still setting a punishing pace, his stamina holding as impressively as ever. "Come for me, El, princess, gorgeous. Majesty."
Her vision explodes white at that last word, her legs clamping down around his waist, as she comes in an intense wave of pleasure so strong it veers dangerously into pain. He pumps into her a few more times, rhythm collapsing, and then pulls out to spill into the inky waters.
She remains entwined around him, mouth resting at the sensitive spot below his right ear and he continues to hold her up dutifully, catching their breaths.
"I love you," she whispers suddenly, the words pressed into his skin like a prayer.
Claude stills abruptly as he registers that and they dip an inch into the water before he catches himself and continues to kick his legs to keep them both afloat. "Are you trying to drown us, princess?" he asks with a shaky laugh.
She smiles into his neck, knowing he can feel it, and tightens her arms, feeling him returning the gesture around her waist.
"I love you too."
(He ends up eating her out on the beach afterwards and getting a mouthful of sand for his troubles, but it is worth it to see her lose all self-consciousness in the pleasure he brings her, squirming against the wet sand and his tongue.)