Nothing had ever felt quite so strange to Simon as preparing to be wed. So much of his life had changed in such a short amount of time. He was having to visit lawyers, completely turning around all he had done on his father’s affairs. He had taken up residence in his own house in London, rather than Lady Danbury’s home, so that he might make certain it was prepared for his wife, upon their eventual return to society. He had had to send a letter to the housekeeper at Hastings, to be certain that they were aware he was to be wed.
Everything was so urgent, given they only had three days, and everything felt short on time, except…
Somehow, Simon also had all the time in the world.
He joined Will for boxing, took a Promenade with Daphne, sat with lawyers and bankers and housekeepers, took tea with Lady Danbury, sat at the club with Anthony… and yet still, all he could do was think. Think about his father. Think about his marriage. Think about his wife.
Well, his soon to be wife. It was painfully obvious that he was being kept from her, by both Lady Danbury and her mother. They were allowed their short Promenade, during which time the older ladies were never more than a step behind, and then she was whisked away to another appointment. Apparently, the fitting of her dresses and completion of her wardrobe were of the utmost importance.
In the rarest of moments that they could speak without anyone overhearing, Daphne had whispered to him that her mother kept her in the sitting room most of the day, not allowing her out of her sight, and that her mother had announced they would receive no visitors. He had quite the idea as to why it was.
It was because they knew that Simon could not be trusted… because the next time he had Daphne alone, he would not waste his time.
He had tasted her once, just a brush of it, and now, he was a man that was dying of thirst. He was dying from lack of her. He craved her, her laughter, her smile, her affection, her touch. Each day, Daphne wore long sleeves and gloves, her hands and forearms never exposed, and it was rather obvious that Daphne had not been the one to select her wardrobe.
They were under careful watch, so no impropriety could occur, and yet, had not both women encouraged it, before their engagement. Honestly, these two had flipped so quickly in their schemes, no longer allowing them the opportunity to have a moment alone together, allowingthem to… explore .
Any more than three days of waiting, and Simon would go mad.
On his final morning as a single man, Simon had gone to Will, simply pummeling the raised gloves, working out his frustrations. While each day before it had been a frustration of a sexual nature, today, Simon felt a sense of dread. It had been with him from the moment he awoke, and now, as he was getting dressed for the wedding, he felt true fear.
Had he told Daphne enough? He had told her of the vow, yes, how he had intended to never take a wife, nor have children, but had he explained enough as to the why?
She wanted a happy home filled with a family, a marriage based on love, a husband that desired her above all things, and he could give her that, but the children… could he be a good father? Could he be the sort of father she imagined for her children? His father had not even been one in name, had barely recognized him, had not bothered to pay for his education nor even respond to his letters.
Would Simon do that? Would he have a son and heir, and then not be a good sort of father? How could he follow an example when he did not have one? If Anthony’s father was alive, he might have known the man, would have been able to emulate his behavior towards his youngest…
The only thing Simon knew was how to be was a rake. A well and proper rake. And now that he was to be a father, he felt himself lacking. Inadequate. Broken. A failure and an embarrassment.
He wanted to go to her, to stop this now. He would never be enough for her, would never be what she needed. Daphne deserved someone strong, someone that she could rely on, while he doubted himself even now, mere hours before their wedding.
But, there was no stopping this. They had the license, the church was booked, the reception was prepared, and Daphne… Daphne was at her home, being prepared for their wedding.
He could run. God help him, he could do it. He could run, and it would be an embarrassment in the ton, but he could save her a life of pain. He could do it, except…
He well and truly was selfish. The thought of leaving now, of never seeing Daphne again nearly brought him to his knees. He loved her. He loved her smile, the sound of her voice, the way her eyes lit up, how she played pianoforte, how she had hopes and dreams, and how she trusted him with them.
How could he think to leave her now? Selfish indeed for she should have a husband that would never falter, particularly now…
Tonight. He would tell her tonight of his fears and if need be… he would work something out. He had to, to save her the pain of seeing the failure that he truly was.
The walk to the church was long but needed, keeping Simon centered as he entered to see the church was well decorated. He was the first to arrive, although within a few minutes, Will and his wife, his Godmother, and his soon to be wedding family all entered. Simon took his place at the front, waiting for her, waiting for his Daphne, trying to stamp down his fears.
They were all forgotten when he heard everyone behind him rise, and he turned to see Daphne, on her brother’s arm, walking down the aisle.
In truth, Simon did not know how much he believed in God. God could be so cruel to take a mother from her most wanted son, to give a boy an impediment, to take away his mother but leave him his father, to take away the Bridgerton Patriarch that was so loved… But now, now that he saw Daphne, he could believe.
He had done so many things wrong in his life, failed in so many ways, but it had all been for a reason, not for lack of trying. He had wanted to be a good son, to not be a disappointment, to be smart and funny and charming, but it had never been enough. He had simply been the broken son. If there had been another option, he never would have been made the Duke.
And yet, now he was receiving his greatest reward, Miss Daphne Bridgerton as his bride.
She was a vision. Perfection. Grace. She was so very lovely that it hurt to look at her, and then their eyes locked, she smiled at him, something bright and brilliant and something for him and him alone. He smiled back without thought, without pause, because he loved her, and that was something he should tell her tonight as well.
He should tell her that he loved her, truly. That he loved who she was, and who she could be. He loved her hope, her optimism, her determination, her stubbornness… He loved her above all things. He loved her more than anything else. He loved her more than he hated his father. More than he missed the mother he had never had.
He loved Daphne Bridgerton, and he would tell her tonight.
Anthony brought her to him at the end of the aisle, and Simon could not look away from her, not even as she finally looked from him to the Archbishop, who was personally overseeing their ceremony. All he could do was look at her and smile.
Daphne had been in hell the past three days. To think, Simon had initially wanted to spend a month apart! Even now, she was dying without him nearby, and that was with them enjoying a short walk the past two mornings. It was not enough, however. She was not getting enough of him.
No wonder newly wedded couples took to the country for a few weeks, or even months… surely it was because they could not stand to be apart. After their wedding, she would never be apart from Simon again, so long as she could help it.
Of course, they would likely have separate bedchambers, and he would likely take off for hunting trips or business or to head to town, but surely… she would think of something. Of some way to keep him close to her.
She had been practically locked up the whole time, her mother keeping a constant eye on her, which was beyond frustrating. Her mother was clearly working up to some sort of important conversation, but never seemed to manage to just, spit it out! Instead, her mother would simply praise her for marrying for love, and for falling in love with a Duke at that, as though Daphne had any choice.
She would love Simon no matter his rank or circumstance. Of that, she was certain.
It meant that she was counting down the very hours until their wedding, and it was only sheer exhaustion from the previous two nights that Daphne was even to sleep the night before the grand event. She had spent each night frustrated, frustrated because she missed Simon, but also frustrated for a different reason.
She had tried touching herself each night, as she had done before. She had sought out the place she had touched herself, explored where Simon had done so as well, except now, she was unable to reach any sort of pinnacle. In fact, it nearly hurt, her hand cramping and her belly aching. She had given up each night, more and more frustrated, until now, she wanted to cry.
She wanted to cry even as she was dressed for her wedding, knowing that she must still wait so long until she was with him again.
It had to be mental. A mental block of some sort. Daphne had to compare it to the pianoforte and her own attempts at writing music. It could be so close, just there on the edge of her mind, and yet, her fingers would be unable to play the correct notes, the chords sounding off and the rhythm too fast or slow. Normally, Daphne would walk away and return to the bench at a later point, but this was not a tune on the edges of her mind - this was her body, begging for release, and unable to achieve it.
Her mother had clearly noticed the look on her face, for as they were about to leave, the woman had pulled her aside, concern clear as she looked down at her daughter. “Daphne… if you are having doubts about Simon, you should know, your father and I-”
Daphne wanted to know nothing of her mother and father. Now that she knew what it was, between husbands and wives, that could produce so many children, she found she had no interest in hearing of what occurred between her mother and father to cause so many to be born.
“Mama, I am having no doubts about Simon. I am simply ready to begin my life as his wife. I know the reception is important, but we shall have to spend our first night in an inn, and I…”
She did not want to spend it in an inn. She wanted to spend it in his bed. With no one around. Anywhere. Just the two of them.
“Oh my dear, I am quite certain the Duke will have separate rooms for the two of you, so that you might relax. There will be plenty of time for your marriage bed once you have arrived at your new estate. Is that what has concerned you? Fears of the wedding night?”
Daphne did not want to say otherwise. There was no fear. None at all. No, instead, Daphne felt ill because she wanted it, desperately. Her body had felt so empty ever since his last touch, and her stomach had been unable to keep food down due to her nerves. She wanted him completely, wanted their bodies to become one, wanted to know what it was to have him fill her… but instead, she was being forced to wait.
Hopefully, not until tomorrow.
“Let us go, mama. It shall all be resolved soon enough.”
That had seemed to settle her mother, and then it was a whirlwind, Daphne climbing into the carriage, and then arriving at the church. Rose had accompanied, to make certain that her veil was perfectly set, and when the doors had opened, Daphne had entered on Anthony’s arm, to see both her family and Simon’s friends rising at her entrance.
But all Daphne could see was him.
Simon. Simon, her soon to be husband. His eyes locked with hers, and all she could do was smile at him, smile so brightly her face hurt, until eventually, she was at his side. She barely even noticed her brother, and as they turned towards the Archbishop, she had to force her eyes forward, knowing that soon… she would be able to look at him as much and as often as she wanted.
It was impossible to pay attention to the sermon about love and matrimony, despite it being so short. Instead, Daphne’s eyes kept going back to Simon. Her gaze would shift towards the side, and then her head would turn slightly, and then she would see him doing the same, his gaze turning towards her. They would both smile, and then look forward once more, trying to pretend they were paying attention.
They were certainly fooling no one. Just as their ruse, it was likely apparent to everyone that they could not keep their eyes off one another.
She felt Simon turning towards her, and Daphne did the same, her eyes lifting to look at him. He was doing his best to try and not burst from his smiling, and Daphne could not help it, she laughed softly, knowing the Archbishop would likely consider her a silly girl.
It was no matter. This was a marriage of love, of passion. A marriage that could not wait a month. A marriage between two souls that desperately loved one another, for even though the words had not passed between them yet, what else could it be?
She watched him as his hands went to her glove, and he carefully pulled at the tip of each finger, until eventually, he slid the entirety down her arm. A shiver ran down her spine, and she gasped, her lips parting. His eyes lifted to hers, and they stared at one another as he withdrew a ring from his pocket. She did not look at it, did not even care if it was simply a piece of string, for that did not matter.
What did matter was that Simon was sliding a wedding ring onto her finger, his eyes locked with hers, and the Archbishop was announcing them as husband and wife.
The man had barely finished the last word before Simon was pulling her close, his hand never leaving hers, his thumb pressing to the top of her ring as he drew her in. His lips pressed to hers, and it was hard but fast, a simple press and then he was pulling away. Tears began to fill her eyes, but it was not fear, nor was it nerves, or even desire.
No, her heart felt to be bursting in her chest.
Everyone behind them applauded, and they turned together, fingers interlocking as they held hands between them, his thumb rubbing the back of her hand as they looked towards everyone. She was married. She was the Duchess of Hastings. And Simon was her husband.
There were congratulations and hugs, cheek kisses and an introduction to the couple that Daphne did not know, and then Simon was leading her out of the church and towards his carriage, which she had never before seen him use. He, not a footman, helped her within, and she noted that it was a covered carriage, not an open one as was tradition.
Once they were within, they both waved at the rest of their party, who was to meet them at the Bridgerton hope for the reception, where the rest of the ton was waiting. Daphne could not help but to laugh as her youngest siblings all cheered their loudest, and the carriage began to move, taking them from the church and towards their first stop.
As soon as the church was out of sight, however, Simon was reaching over to either side, tugging the curtains closed, and then dropping onto his knees on the floor of the carriage, his hands going to the bottom of her skirts.
“Simon, what are you doing?” she gasped, watching him. His hands were already underneath, and he was tossing the skirt higher with his exploration until even she could see the top of her stockings. She had a good suspicion as to what he was doing, but -
But surely not! Not in a moving carriage, with footman and a driver, and-
“I have five minutes, and I intend to make the most of it,” he said, grinning up at her before he moved face first between her legs.
Daphne had not know what to expect, his face between her legs, but at the first touch, she was already gone. Simon had her legs drawn up over each of his shoulders, his hands holding up her skirts, and she had wondered what it was he would be able to do with himself, given how he already seemed so occupied. She was wrong, though, to think that anything could stop her husband.
Her husband. Oh god, her husband had his face between her legs, and he was sucking her nub into his mouth, tugging at it with his teeth, lapping at it with his tongue.
It was too intense from the start and she nearly shot up from her seat, gasping so loudly she was certain everyone outside could hear.
He gave her some respite, though, his tongue dipping lower, so low she was embarrassed, for was that not the place that blood and children came from? Yes, he had touched her there before, but with his tongue! He hummed with delight as his tongue dipped in, and she could suddenly feel the appeal of it.
It was strange, yes, and different, but she could feel his tongue lapping at her slit, lapping at the juices that were surely leaking from her. She actually rather liked it, how his tongue seemed to swirl against sensitive spots she had never known she had. His tongue slid up, and then again, it was at that little spot, the one she had rubbed at for seemingly hours with no result.
His tongue was so much different from her fingertips. It was almost as though he was playing with it, his teeth nipping at the sensitive skin and then his lips sucking again. Each suck, short as they were, had her rocking her hips. She did not intend to do it, but her hands went to her skirts, knowing no where else to put them. She wanted to touch him, touch the back of his head even, to hold him there or try to push him away, but she resisted, instead digging her fingers into the fabric.
“Please, Simon,” she gasped, and she had no idea what she was gasping for, but surely he would know. He seemed to know everything, from what she should do at night while alone to how to please her now, to drive her body wild. She could feel him smile against her thigh, his lips pressing to the inner skin there as he did so, and her eyes closed as her head fell back, feeling one of his now freed hands sliding down and around, near her buttox, and underneath her leg. His hand then trailed up between her thighs, to the very crux, and she felt one finger rubbing against her inner core, where his tongue had just been searching and lapping.
“Mmmm, what is it you desire?” he asked, his finger seeming to dip in, then back out with no other care. He must know, then, what it was she desired, even though she could not find the words. Not as he likely wanted to hear them.
“Complete me, please,” she cried out, and one of her hands went to the back of his head, trying to force him back between her legs. “I tried and I tried every night, and I could not achieve success. I dreamed of this, of you, and I am so close but so empty.”
She felt like crying, already on the verge of tears, and she tried to hide her shame, another few sniffles escaping her.
“Please, Simon! I just want to feel you in me.”
She was whimpering now, begging for that which she did not truly understand, and she knew that. Still…
He knew. She knew that he knew, what it was she wanted. His finger dipped back into that private slot again, and then a second one joined it. She could feel them dipping in further and further with each rotation, until Daphne could feel something… strange. Something within her, something pressing from inside.
She wanted to describe it, or to ask questions, but then his mouth was back on the sensitive nub, and she was lost. His fingers resumed their movement in her, no longer withdrawing, but instead stroking her. A low groan came from the back of her throat, she realized with horror, but there was no stopping what was to come.
And indeed, she did. The pressure of his fingers rocking inside of her, his lips wrapped around that sensitive spot he seemed to love to suck on most, his free hand pressing onto her lower abdomen, and Daphne could not help herself, could not stop what had been begging to be released for too long.
Her nails dug into the back of his head, her hips trying to rock and her legs shaking, and she felt a scream leave her throat at the power of it. There was no denying what was occurring within their carriage, but Daphne did not care, did not care about anything other than the pleasure she felt, the wave upon wave of tingling energy running through her body.
She felt energized but exhausted, her mind going fuzzy, and she could feel Simon’s tongue licking at her. She was surely dripping, needing a new gown at this point, but Simon did not stop, and she was still gasping for air, searching for words, for anything to say.
A few whimpers escaped the back of her throat as he continued licking, and she opened her eyes to look down at him, to see his gaze up towards her. There was a dampness on his face, but he looked completely and utterly pleased with himself as he sat back, licking his lips.
“What was… what was that?” she rasped out, her throat feeling sore and her voice still finding itself.
His eyes were still on hers and he was not moving, a grin spreading across his lips as he looked up at her, sitting back onto his heels fully.
“That, your Grace, was quite possibly the most magnificent thing I have ever seen. Truly, I shall crave you the rest of my days. The way you responded to me, your body…”
She saw him coming, and knew she could pull away, but Daphne was unable to move, unable to think as her husband pulled her skirts down, then pushed himself up. He sat on the bench beside her and then kissed her hard.
She could taste herself on his lips, and it was not what she had expected. It was not pungent nor sour, just something tangy, almost salty or savory? It was beyond description, but whatever it was, it was not unpleasant. In fact, it seemed to spur Simon on, that she was kissing him back.
Her lips parted for him, and she considered her next move, trying to not overthink, but knowing there had to be ways to return the favor…
There were three taps upon the roof of the carriage, and Simon withdrew immediately, his hand going to his mouth. He sucked at his fingers, three of them, and she could not believe that all three would have her juices upon them. He seemed delighted as he reached into his pocket for a kerchief, and wiped at his face, his hands, and then lifted her skirt once more to slide the cloth between her legs.
It took a moment for her to realize what that knocking meant-
“Simon, did you tell the footmen to warn us when we approached my house?” she asked, her voice becoming high pitched as she did so. “They heard us! What will they think?”
Simon, rake that he was, her rake, her duke , simply grinned at her. “What does it matter?”
She wanted to have an answer, she really did, except… except she still felt glorious, and perhaps it was sort of exciting, to have done it in a carriage while the world was just outside.
Simon reached over her, opening the curtains, and she recognized the houses, knowing they were near her own. She could hear the celebration already, people cheering for them, and she reached for him.
“Kiss me again,” she demanded, tugging him by the back of his neck.
He went to her, kissing her hard for just a breath before the carriage stopped, and then he was opening the door and climbing out, reaching back for her. Daphne took a deep breath, hoping no one knew… And took his hand, climbing out.
Simon had known it all along. His beautiful Diamond of the First Water, his Duchess, his perfect English Rose, his wife … she was fire. She was loud, and demanding, and not shy at all. Her legs had spread for him, so trusting as he sought out both their pleasure, and when he had pushed her closer to the edge, she had started rocking with him, her hand digging into the back of his skull.
Oh, he could not wait to have her in his bed, in a real bed . He would have her in every room of the house, across the grounds, anywhere he could get beneath her skirt. He would send all of the servants away, even the housekeeper, so that they could run around naked, never wearing a shred of clothing ever again.
He would have her on every surface, against every wall. Never would a time come he did not desire her, his beautiful Daphne.
God, he loved her.
Having her in the carriage had been a plotted risk, but it had been worth it. He knew that he was nervous for their first night together, and this was not his first time with a woman in bed. He worried she might be nervous, feel afraid… but she also knew how it could be, the desire, the burn, the yearning. Now, she had had her release… and he would wait for his, but it would be worth it.
She was radiant, now, as he climbed from the carriage and turned to take her hand. She immediately came to him, and he pulled her close, kissing her on the lips. They were no longer courting, no longer engaged, which meant that, while not really encouraged in public, he could kiss her wherever he chose.
After all, this was their wedding day, and he was a Duke. Society might dislike it, but, his wife was now the head of society, save perhaps for the Queen, but she had had the Queen’s approval, the Queen’s great achievement, selecting the crown jewel that was now a Duchess.
His Duchess. His Daphne. His wife.
He could not stop repeating those words in his head. He could not wait to repeat those words into her skin.
The fact that she was so willing to taste herself on his lips, was so open and free, it was unexpected. A part of him thought it was perhaps because he had started this sexual adventure with him teasing her to touch herself, and from there, she had simply concentrated on him for her sexual awakening.
Gods, he would be there every step of the way, teaching her to make her body sing, drawing every last drop from her, rocking into her body until she could not move, just moan and beg. He wanted her now, wanted to take her up to her room and have her…
But it would have to wait. The reception, first, and then they would start their journey. He could have her tomorrow night, have her in his bed, and then have her on the dining room table, in the library, on the grounds-
He was going to teach his wife how to chase her own pleasure, how to drag his from him. He was going to show her everything a wife was never taught, and he would enjoy every second of it.
He was the luckiest man in the ton, and he wanted every man to know it.
She was glowing, now, as they walked up the steps and entered the front hall, covered in white everywhere to celebrate their union. A beautiful display of foods lined the walls, a lovely cake in the center of the room, but he saw none of it, only his Daphne.
He accepted a glass of champagne and handed it to his wife, then took another for himself. Toasts would come later, and likely an announcement for their arrival already made, but first.
“Thank you for joining us! Please forgive us if we do not speak to you all this day, for I do not intend to step away from my wife’s side. I waited far too long to become her husband. Please indulge me in my desire to never be parted from her again.”
There was laughter and applause, and he looked to her, his perfection. Her cheeks were coloring red and she was still glowing, but she was beautiful. So ethereally beautiful. His wife. His Duchess.
“Your Grace,” he said, lifting his glass towards her. “I think I shall ask every dance of you at this reception.”
She smiled up at him, her eyes shining, no nerves, no fear, just complete happiness. Her glass raised, she took a sip, then finally answered. “That sounds practically scandalous. Whatever shall people think?”
He did not care, wrapping his arm around her middle, pulling her body to his. There were eyes on them all around, but he did not care. He was a Duke, she was a Duchess, and none could reprimand them. None would dare.
“Does it matter?” he asked, raising his brow.
She laughed, going onto tiptoes, kissing him again.