Our life long
“Our honeymoon will shine our life long; its beams will only fade over your grave or mine.” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
“She’s my wife,” I say, the words thrilling me as I'm sure they always will.
“Tá sí go hálainn—she’s a right beauty,” Seamus gives me a nostalgic smile. “You’re a lucky man. I’ll let you enjoy her in peace.” He says as he rises and claps me on the shoulder.
“Thank you. And for your company,” I call out as he shuffles away.
Angelique and I are currently in Ballyduff, one of two Irish villages where the Bain family once lived. We visited, the other, a fishing village called Tramore, two days ago. According to Grace, no relatives remain in the area, but I decided to bring Angelique anyway. I wanted her to experience the places that Rory's father and grandfather had described to him and that he, in turn, had shared with her. Ballyduff and Tramore dictated my choice of Waterford Castle as our base for the third and, sadly, last week of our honeymoon.
The last two and a half weeks have delivered some, if not the, happiest times of my life. Only becoming a Thorne and having Angelique return my love and then agreeing to marry me compares. Our honeymoon and the time away from Boston have benefited us both as individuals and as a couple. We felt at peace from the moment we landed in Florence. Finally, finally, we could leave the stress and publicity of the Cordi trials behind and concentrate solely on ourselves—on each other.
We held hands but spoke little for the nearly two-hour drive to our destination. I think Angelique, like me, was soaking in the beauty and tranquility of the landscape and appreciating the fact that we were alone and a world away from the stresses of the last months. We arrived at our little villa around mid-morning. The middle-aged couple, Tonio and Lucia, who own and manage the place, welcomed us. They left us to unpack and explore the spectacular location that would be home for the next week. An hour later, Lucia returned with a platter of locally grown fruit and freshly baked pastries we learned are called sfogliatelle, made by her Neapolitan mother-in-law. She included two café lattes, which Angelique decided she’d try instead of tea. “When in Rome,” she remarked about her change in habit. Lucia departed, wishing us a 'felice luna di miele,' happy honeymoon.
“This is delicious; I’ll get fat if I’m not careful. Perhaps I should stick to fruit,” Angelique commented after swallowing her first bite of the ricotta-filled delight.
“I know just the way to avoid that,” I suggestively offered. She blushed but had held my gaze. “I can’t wait,” she said, thrilling me with her growing confidence.
We showered after our late breakfast and napped because we were both feeling tired— from jet lag mostly, and from the hectic month leading up to our wedding. We woke around two-thirty and then, after some discussion, decided to make the short drive for a cursory exploration of the old city.
Winding up the steep road, Angelique asked about Orvieto’s history, and I shared what little I knew; that it’s halfway between Rome and Florence Also, that the city, carved out of the impregnable rock face, just like our villa, is a thousand feet above the valley floor. "Orvieto was a major center of the Etruscan era," I added.
"When was that?" she asked.
"Around 700 to 400BC, I think. The archeological museum displays artifacts from that time."
"Can we visit?"
"Sure. We should see The Duomo too. It's supposedly one of the most spectacular cathedrals in Italy and took thirty years to plan and three hundred to complete."
“The sense of history awes me,” Angelique said.
“Me too. I get that all over Europe,” I told her.
Thanks to Lucia’s directions, we easily found the parking lot, and the elevator deposited us on Via Rupe, close to the Duomo as she'd described. We started our tour there, and together, Angelique and I marveled at its Gothic facade and alabaster interiors. The highlight for us was visiting the cathedral’s Chapel of San Brizio to see the frescoes dating back to the fifteenth century. We wandered the main street after, hand-in-hand, planning future trips to see and learn more about the wondrous place.
We returned to the villa late that evening and showered before settling on the patio to watch the sun set over the ancient city and enjoy the antipasto platter Lucia left us. I opened the bottle of regional red that accompanied our food and poured myself a glass. Angelique opted for the locally bottled mineral water we found in the fridge but, at my urging, tried several sips of wine. My body stirred as I watched her full lips close over the rim of my glass.
“I want you,” I said.
“I’m yours,” she answered.
“Always,” she promised, and I carried her to the bedroom, where I removed her sandals and the long, flowing dress that tied at her neck with a bow. I kissed her breasts and delighted at her soft gasp as my lips closed around a rosy pink bud. My breathing stuttered when I moved lower and saw the tiny, black panties with silky pink laces at the back and sides. From the front, I would have described them as prettily demure, but, at the back, they exposed half of her delicious cheeks.
“What are you wearing?” I asked in a ragged voice.
“Knee-dropping underwear,” she giggled. “You said you liked them.”
“Oh, I do, Mrs. Thorne. Let me show you how much.” I kissed and nipped at those cheeks until she squirmed. I removed the tantalizing scrap of silk and discarded my clothes. Then, like I did the first night we made love, I lowered myself over her body and kissed and lapped at every inch of her back, neck, and shoulders. When we were both frantic, I eased Angelique onto her back and kissed her flushed cheeks and lips before making slow, languid love to my wife. Our whispered endearments turned to breathless panting, and increasingly frequent expletives on my part, as we fell off the cliff.
I woke to find Angelique sitting on the window seat carved into our bedroom wall. She looked ethereal, silhouetted in the dawn light with the shape of her body just visible through a diaphanous robe. I snuggled behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist as she leaned into me.
“Can’t sleep?” I asked.
“Just thinking,” she murmured and turned her head to kiss my jaw.
“How lucky I am; how happy I am. I love you, Adam, so much.”
“I love you too, more than my life. We’re both lucky, Darling, and blessed to have found each other.”
“We are,” Angelique agreed, and we sat silent, until I offered to make her a cup of tea. She declined and invited me back to bed, where I held her close. I thought she was ready to go back to sleep, but she reached up and kissed me tenderly.
“I want to make love to you,” she whispered.
“I’m yours,” I repeated her words and, raising her hand, rested it over my heart before moving it lower.
“Oh!” Angelique exclaimed softly when feeling my arousal.
“Make love to me,” I asked.
She did. Sweet, sweet, torturous love, which touched my soul while whipping my body into a frenzy. How, I wondered in a moment of clarity, does she do this—make me feel so much, want so much? Finally, unable to bear her torment a moment longer, I rolled her onto her back. Wrapping her leg around my waist, I plunged deep into her body. "Wait for me, I demanded hoarsely. Long moments later, Angelique moaned my name, and I strangled a curse as, together, we climaxed. Breathless and spent, I whispered my love and kissed her with all the passion I could muster.
Our lovemaking, since the beginning, has been earth-shattering, and our wedding night had been no different. Our first coupling had been emotional and tender. Our second, in the early hours of the morning, had been possessive, almost frantic. We’d both, it seemed, wanted to erase the memory of any others’ touch—from our partner and ourselves. For Angelique, something changed that night. It was as if, finally, she'd accepted that she deserves to be loved. And I, satisfied, finally, that she understood her past no longer mattered, claimed her more forcefully than I ever had before.
So, yes, our lovemaking has reached new heights. But, for me, each time I make love with Angelique feels like a seismic shift. It doesn’t matter when, or how, what the pace, I come away not only more sated than I’d ever felt before her but deeply moved. It feels like each time we come together, our bond is woven stronger, tighter.
We spent the remainder of our days in Orvieto sightseeing, enjoying the delicious food either found in local restaurants or from hampers Lucia and her mother-in-law provided. We discovered that while the ancient city bustles with daytime tourists, it’s quiet after dark. So Angelique and I made several evening visits. We’d dine at a newly-discovered restaurant and stroll the cobbled streets and lanes after, lamplight adding an extra touch of romance. We’d invariably find another spot to share a late glass of wine or simply to enjoy the thrill of looking out from the hilltop fortress. We remind ourselves that we're looking at the same scenery people had thousands of years before. Our nights and early mornings, sometimes even afternoons, we spent making love.
I couldn’t get enough of my stunning wife, and she did then and continues to make it impossible for me to resist. I have enough trouble keeping my hands off Angelique as it is, but she’s gone out of her way to torture me with an array of outfits, especially her underwear. Thoughts of those cheeky panties that, I swear, she ensures I see each morning before we leave torture me all day. And then there’s her romantic, often incredibly sensuous nightwear. I'm lucky beyond measure that Angelique shares my insatiability; otherwise, I'd almost certainly lose my mind.
We left our little villa after a week, sun-kissed and brimming with happiness and memories that will last a lifetime. Tonio and Lucia, our extraordinary hosts, invited us to return. “Bring the bambini,” Lucia said. Angelique smiled and blushed, and I promised we’d be back. We couldn't have wished for a more perfect start to our honeymoon or our married life. Orvieto gave us the seclusion we so desperately lacked at the beginning of our relationship. Our Italian sanctuary, carved from ancient rock, had all the beauty and comforts one could desire. It provided a sense of safety and tranquillity, something I desperately wanted to give Angelique, especially after the tumultuous time she’d been through.
“Are you going to tell me where we’re going?” she asked on the drive to Florence.
“Paris,” I stated nonchalantly.
“Paris?” she whispered excitedly.
“Paris,” I confirmed, my smile widening at her response.
If our time in Orvieto had been about ancient culture and seclusion, our week in Paris was about luxury and getting out and about in the city. Nights and early mornings we reserved strictly for ourselves; Angelique called it our 'cocooning time.' Except for the two nights we dined out, we left our suite each morning around nine, spent the day sightseeing, and then, in the early evening, returned to our hotel. After a relaxing bath or a shower, always taken together, we almost always made love, and later, we’d have dinner looking out onto the Eiffel Tower. We’d make love again, sometimes more than once, before falling asleep, wrapped in each other’s arms.
We used the Metro to get around and walked both sides of the River Seine. We visited the Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Orsay, wandered the streets, and ate in cafés and bars on the Left Bank, imagining we were walking in the footsteps of Picasso, Matisse, and Hemmingway. The next day, we walked the Champs-Elysées, took in The Louvre, The Arc de Triomphe, and Montmartre.
Angelique particularly loved wandering around Paris’ famous flea markets. Inspired by our mothers' outfits on our wedding day, particularly Mom’s vintage jewelry, she spent hours browsing the stalls searching for presents. One would've thought she’d discovered hidden treasure when, after peering in the window, she dragged me into a particular store. Inside, she haltingly asked about a piece in the window and explained that she wanted to purchase something for our mothers, who love old Hollywood fashion. The owner, who introduced herself as Anouk and blessedly spoke English, pulled out a drawer with what she called ‘exquis’ marcasite. Marcasite, she informed us, had been popular in Victorian times and later with Art Nouveau jewelry designers. Angelique purchased a set of marcasite and pearl earrings for Mom and a marcasite and sapphire brooch for Grace that she claimed would be perfect for securing a scarf. For Cait, she bought an onyx and marcasite bracelet, and for Mandi, Samantha, and Bronwyn, she settled on bow-shaped brooches.
Looking at me, Angelique smiled almost sheepishly. “To me, they symbolize the knots of friendship. I thought the girls could wear it on a coat or jacket.”
“It’s a lovely sentiment, Darling,” I said, touched by her thoughtfulness.
While Angelique wandered off, I silently communicated with Anouk to wrap a hair comb Angelique had stared at longingly. It was one of the most expensive marcasite pieces we'd been shown, and, as usual, she’d ignored her own desires. I surreptitiously handed over the cash, and Anouk smiled conspiratorially as she wrapped and then handed me the package before Angelique finalized her purchases.
Angelique refused to let me pay and left the store, delighted. She hadn't spent much, but I understood the satisfaction of paying with money you'd earned in a job you're proud of.
I'd arranged to take Angelique to see a production by the Opéra National de Paris Ballet Company on our last night and only made the announcement over breakfast that morning. Before telling her, I suggested a guided tour of the Palais Garnier. When she eagerly agreed, I confessed my plans.
She practically vibrated with excitement as we approached the majestic building. “It’s the home of the Paris National Opera Ballet Adam—founded in 1669. Did you know that? I’ve dreamed of coming here,” she informed me.
I caressed her flushed cheek and kissed her upturned mouth. “I didn’t,” I confessed my ignorance, deeply gratified that I could realize one of her childhood dreams. I knew a little about the Palais, mostly from what I’d read or viewed online when planning our trip. None of that knowledge prepared me for the reality, however. Both Angelique and I were awestruck by the amount of history, the grandeur, and the sheer opulence of the place. From the Grand Staircase to the Grand Foyer, and the murals depicting scenes from famous operas by Mozart, Wagner, and Berlioz, all painted by Marc Chagall, we were bowled over.
We returned to our hotel around mid-afternoon to relax before having an early dinner in our suite and then prepared to leave for the ballet. Angelique’s beauty and her innate dress sense are undeniable. She's effortlessly chic, no matter what she wears, but that night, when she emerged from the bedroom, looking more sophisticated than I’d ever seen her. She wore a black, fitted dress that ended at her knees. Her legs appeared even longer, slimmer in the high, black stilettos. Her lace top, starting just above her breasts, showed tantalizing glimpses of flawless, ivory skin. She'd styled her hair into an intricate knot at her nape and wore no adornment other than her diamond earrings, my wedding gift, and her engagement and wedding rings. I hadn’t planned on presenting her with it yet, but even with my meager knowledge of women’s fashion, I felt the marcasite comb would be perfect.
“You take my breath away,” I greeted Angelique by brushing my lips over the knuckles on each of her hands. She blushed, something I’ll never tire of and a trait I hope she never loses.
“I have something for you,” I said.
“Adam, please, you’ve given me so much. I don’t need anything more.”
“It’s something small, Darling, I promise," I assured her and rushed to retrieve the velvet bag Anouk had packaged the comb in. Angelique’s eyes widened in disbelief when unwrapping it, turned to pleasure, and then glistened with emotion as she looked up at me.
“How did you know?”
“I saw you looking.”
“Do you notice everything?”
“About you, yes. Do you like it?”
“I love it, Adam, and I love you. Thank you so much— for everything,” she whispered tearfully. I kissed her luscious deep-red lips, something I'd wanted to do the minute she’d entered the room. I drew back reluctantly with the reminder that we had somewhere important to be.
“I thought it would match what you’re wearing,” I said, and she gave me a dazzling smile, left the room, and returned moments later. She angled her neck, showing me the comb tucked just behind her left ear. I felt rather pleased with myself for deciding to present it to her then because it looked truly lovely.
“It’s beautiful and looks just as I imagined it would. Thank you, M’fhíorghrá,” she said when I exclaimed how perfect she looked.
I enjoyed the ballet but admit to spending a good deal of time watching my wife’s expression. Her eyes remained glued to the stage, her hand gripping mine tightly throughout. I hoped she was enjoying the performance and not reliving painful memories or entertaining thoughts of what could have been.
During the second intermission, when I led Angelique to the Avant, an area for socializing, a male voice interrupted our conversation. “Angelique?” He sounded incredulous. I looked up to see a man I immediately recognized. His manner and his blue eyes, amazed and filled with hope, set my senses on high alert. I bristled with the need to defend what’s mine. A quick glance at Angelique only heightened the feeling. She’d paled, and her eyes filled with some emotion I found difficult to decipher in the short time before she turned to him.
“Luke,” she almost whispered, and my heart plummeted at her pained voice.
“It is you,” he answered, his face breaking into a smile—too wide in my view. “I’d know you anywhere,” he added, his eyes wandering over her almost hungrily. Knowing what he’d been to her, I wanted to snatch my wife away and then return to make sure he’d never look at her that way again. I reminded myself that Angelique loves me, that I’d once been grateful that her first time had been with someone who cared for her. But that was then, when he’d been far away and not staring at my wife overly familiarly. While my internal battle raged, Angelique grasped my hand tightly and tugged me forward.
“It’s lovely to see you, Luke. I’d like you to meet my husband, Adam,” she said. The love in her eyes calmed me. A profound sense of gratitude and wonder that I'd won her heart replaced jealous anger. Luke's eyes dimmed, but he recovered quickly and graciously extended his hand. We shook and chatted for a few minutes, during which Angelique explained that we were on our honeymoon. He was politely, if somewhat stiltedly, congratulating us when a petite blonde woman joined us. He introduced her as Danielle, his fiancée. They had, apparently, been engaged for three years and were also dance partners. I couldn't help wondering why they aren't already married.
An announcement asking patrons to resume their seats interrupted, and Luke hastily suggested that we four go somewhere after. “I’d like to catch up on your life,” he told Angelique with what I felt was a hint of pleading. She looked conflicted and bit her bottom lip as she gazed up at me. I freed the soft flesh with my thumb. “Would you like to, A mhuirín?” I asked.
“Would that be okay?” she questioned in return.
“Anything you need, Angelique,” I quietly assured her. She nodded at Luke but left me to make arrangements to meet at the base of the Grand Staircase after the performance. He said he knew just the place for a quiet chat and supper or dessert. Angelique and I didn’t have a chance to speak before the curtain rose, but she whispered worriedly, asking if I was sure about meeting up with them.
“It’s just that I didn’t return any of his calls after leaving Leipzig. It was unforgivable, and I feel I should do this,” she apologized.
“Whatever you need,” I repeated and kissed her temple just as the music started. She smiled hesitantly, and I realized, then, that she worried about my feelings. I resolved to cast aside my unwarranted jealousy. Angelique deserved an opportunity for closure with this man who, I could tell, had loved her, who may, quite possibly, still have feelings for her. Angelique’s confessed that she hadn't loved Luke but that she had cared for him. If things had turned out differently, she might well have fallen in love with him; still be with him. 'You’re the winner here, Thorne,' I told myself.
We walked the short distance to a little restaurant that Luke and Danielle, we learned, frequented often. They, like us, had already eaten, so we settled for dessert and coffee and, in Angelique’s case, tea. She was delighted to see petits fours on the menu and chose from the glacé selection—the iced and decorated kind I know reminds her of our picnics. Luke asked about her recovery, and Angelique factually related her prognoses and treatment. She praised Samuel, crediting him for her ability to walk normally and dance again. "Not professionally,though," she clarified.
Luke was noticeably relieved, but I read pain and regret in his eyes when he said how happy he was. Neither he nor Angelique mentioned her lost career or their time as dance partners. I answered his questions about my occupation and where we live. We asked and then listened as he and Danielle spoke about their careers as members of a minor, successful French ballet company. He told Angelique he still had ambitions to dance in New York, and she said she was sure he would.
“You were always a brilliant dancer, Luke,” she complimented him.
“You were magnificent,” he responded. Angelique blushed, and I could tell by his wistful expression that he'd been as enamored by that habit as I am.
He was affectionate and attentive toward Danielle, who is lovely and charming, and it was clear to me that he loves her. However, I know enough about people to realize that Luke Grantham hadn’t forgotten Angelique, that he might still regret losing her. I could tell by the way he looked at her and at us. He tried but couldn't hide his longing. Knowing my good fortune and that it came through tragic events and at his expense helped maintain my magnanimity. Under different circumstances, I would probably have enjoyed Luke’s company because he’s charming and likable, but I admit to merely tolerating it for Angelique’s sake. Perhaps when it comes to Angelique, I’ll never lose my inner caveman.
When I sensed her readiness to leave, I announced that we had an early morning start. We parted ways, and while Angelique and Danielle, who'd gotten along well, exchanged goodbyes, Luke addressed me. “You’re a very lucky man,” he said. Perhaps I imagined it, but I detected a hint of challenge. With great difficulty, I tamped down the desire to retaliate.
“I know,” I responded evenly.
He kissed Angelique's cheek, and I tried not to count the seconds his lips touched her skin. The hot, crawling sensation in my flesh stopped when, finally, he pulled back to look into her eyes. Relief flooded me when Angelique said it had been good to see him and wished him and Danielle well. She didn't mention keeping in touch, and I tried not to let my pleasure show as I said goodbye.