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A Family to Love

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Leopold Kramer
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm

Joined: 11 Feb 2018
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Can Be Found: The Ducal Manor in Ansburg
1103.44 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:50 pm    Post subject: A Family to Love Reply with quote

((Warning: The following contains some adult content.))

Life at Rift Fell was very different for the newly-created Kramer family. They were a nobleman's daughter and a coffee merchant, uprooted from their homes and locked together in matrimony for the sake of their niece and nephew, who needed a mother as much as protection from harm. The children were taking to the royal palace remarkably well, kept mostly unaware of the actions being taken against the men that had stolen their parents from them, but Leo and Esme were painfully aware of every development. Yet somehow, they too were finding their own even keel together, as husband and wife.

Neither had spoken of their feelings just yet, but there were covert glances and shy smiles; tangled fingers and tender kisses; whispered endearments and shared dreams. All of these things boded well for a happy marriage, even if they were off to a slow start.

But there was more for them to do than simply learn to love one another and parent two small children. Though not yet officially invested with their waiting titles, they had been given the guardianship of the ducal estate of Ansburg, with everything that entailed. This meant hours spent on paperwork, catching up with everything her father had been unable to do since he had fallen ill. It was tedious, but at least it was done in company.

Though he was only a simple coffee merchant, Leopold seemed up to the task. Maybe it was the fact that he was accustomed to hard work, or maybe he was just too stubborn to give up. Either way, he knew he had to make this work, one way or another, not just for the children's happiness and well-being, but his own and Esme's, as well. And though he hadn't admitted it or even realized it yet, he was already well on his way to reaching that goal. If only he was bold enough to ask her if she felt the same.

"Enough," Esme said suddenly, sitting back from the desk with a shake of her head. "We have been doing this every day for a week, it can survive being left for an afternoon." She offered Leo a faint smile. "I think we have earned the right to a little leisure time, don't you?"

He glanced her way, the quill in his hand poised over the inkwell. "Leisure time?" he echoed, a hint of a smirk touching the corners of his lips. "Whatever is that?" he teased, as if she was speaking a foreign tongue, which she obviously was not.

She laughed, flicking a tiny ball of parchment at him. "Oh, my darling, you will have to learn that being an earl includes leisure time," she told him, the endearment coming without a second thoughts. "It's practically a requirement of the job."

"Is it?" he asked, still looking amused, as he lowered the quill to rest upon the table. The endearment did not go unnoticed - the likes of which were becoming increasingly common between them. "Then, why was I never informed of this 'til now?"

"I should imagine everyone thought you were already aware," she answered, a flickering tease in her smile. "After all, you are of the city classes at heart. Don't you all believe that all the nobility is good for is shooting ducks and lying around looking pretty?"

"Ah, but as you might guess, my dear brother's wife was kind enough to inform me otherwise," he told her. "What sort of thing did you have in mind for our leisure time?" he asked, reaching for her hand to tangle his fingers with hers. His expression was warm with affection, a hint of longing in his eyes, though he had not yet made any untoward advances.

The rosy bloom on her cheeks was familiar by now, the sign of her own soft longing unspoken thus far. "Nothing, to be truthful," she admitted quietly, glancing down at their tangled fingers. "I simply ... I wanted to spend time with you. Time that doesn't have accounts and obligations and duties piled through it."

"Very well. What shall we do?" he asked, at a bit of a loss. Did she want to spend time only with him or with the children, too? A game of chess seemed out of the question. A picnic, perhaps? He couldn't help but let his mind wander to other thoughts, more private thoughts, thoughts he knew would make her blush. But then, he adored that blush. He forced those thoughts away before they got the best of him. It was the middle of the day, after all.

"I ... I don't know." Esme glanced about the room as though looking for inspiration. Whatever she was looking for, it seemed to come to her. "No, I do know," she corrected herself. "There's a view I want to show you. We can't take the children until they're bigger, and I don't believe anyone else goes there. Rolanda didn't even know where I was talking about."

"A view?" he echoed, brows arching upwards with curiosity. He wasn't sure what kind of view she was talking about or where it was located, but he trusted her and more importantly, wanted to please her. "All right. Is there anything we need to bring with us?"

She shook her head, her smile suddenly bright with enthusiasm. "Just yourself." Rising to her feet, she gave his hand a gentle tug. "That is, if you do not mind climbing a few stairs."

"I do not mind," he said, a smile tugging at his lips as he moved to his feet and pulled her up with him. He did not bother to add "So long as you are with me," though the words rang unspoken inside his head. "Lead and I will follow."

It was a surprisingly long walk, and peppered here and there with Esme giggling and pulling him into doorways to avoid being seen by this servant or that council member. She couldn't remember having had so much fun since those first days she had spent visiting Leo and the children. It had been just a few months ago, but it felt like a lifetime. When, at last, she reached the appropriate tower, the steps took them winding up, up, up, right to the roof and into the blazing sunshine, at the very highest point of the castle with only a two-foot high stone railing to keep them from tumbling to their deaths.

He, too, had laughed as he followed her through the castle and up the winding staircase to emerge at last on the roof, blinking in the sunshine. He lifted a hand to his forehead to shield his eyes from the sun and take a look around.

It was a breathtaking view. From here, they could see the circular layout of the castle and its grounds, resting in the midst of sparkling blue waves. To the east was the land itself, the sprawling city of Carantan with its market places and docks and busy streets; to the west was the wide expanse of the sea itself. From up here, it was possible to believe there might be no one else in the world but they two.

All Leopold could manage to say when faced with that breathtaking view was a quiet, "Oh." How was it possible he had lived all his life in Carantania and had never before seen the capital city in such a way as this?

"It's lovely," he murmured, as he turned to take in the view in all directions. Lovely and isolated and safe.
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Leopold Kramer
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm

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Can Be Found: The Ducal Manor in Ansburg
1103.44 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Avila found the way up to this tower when we visited here as children," Esme said softly, her raven-dark hair whipped gently by the breeze off the sea. "We used to come up here whenever we were a little overwhelmed by the court." She smiled, shaking her head. "I never thought I'd come back here."

"Because of the memories? Or because there was no one left to come here with?" he asked uncertainly, knowing it was likely a little of both. But he was here now, and he wasn't going anywhere.

She was quiet for a long moment, her arms hugged close about her waist as she looked out to sea, enjoying the clean air and warm sunshine. "I never thought I would ever love anyone enough to want to share it with them," she said in her soft way, barely seeming to notice what it was she had just told him.

He said nothing for a long moment, as if he needed a moment to take that in, to understand and absorb what it was she had just told him. Was she trying to tell him she loved him? He laid his hands against her sides, slowly, carefully easing his arms around her waist, almost as if he was afraid she might break.

"But you're sharing it with me," he told her quietly, his voice a whisper in her ear, his breath warm against her neck.

Her eyes fixed on a distance dot that might have been a ship, Esme tensed only a moment as Leo's hands drew over her sides, as he leaned into her back to encircle her in his embrace. His breath on her neck sent a longing shiver down her spine, her head turning toward the whisper against her ear. "Yes, I am."

Had he understood her correctly? She had not said that she merely liked him, as she'd claimed when they'd wed, but that she loved him. She had never shared this view with anyone else but her sister, until now. Until him. And yet, he had to be sure.

"Are you-are you saying you love me, Esme?" he said, almost afraid to ask, afraid to hope.

"I-I ..." She hesitated, afraid now that he did not want to hear these words from her. It had been a spur of the moment decision to bare her heart, to take the risk that he might reject her love altogether, one she could not now take back. "I do. I am. I ... I hope you don't mind it, too much."

"Esme," he said, turning her gently to face him, tipping her chin upwards to meet his gaze. "How could I possibly mind when I feel the same?" he asked her, watching her, studying her expression and waiting for the moment she'd realize that he loved her, too.

"You -" She stopped herself from uttering the words that suggested she disbelieved him, hopeful eyes daring to rise and meet his gaze as her hands uncurled to rest against the soft velvet of his coat sleeves. "I know I am not the wife you would have chosen," she told him softly, "but I will love you all the days of my life."

The middle of his brows furrowed in confusion, before smoothing out, his expression softening. "You are wrong, my love. There is no one I have ever loved or could love more than you," he told her, the warmth of affection in his eyes echoing his words. An almost playful smile touched his lips then, "Except perhaps for the children," he added, though the love he held for them was much different than what he held for her.

The flush had returned to her cheeks, an old friend by now that constantly betrayed her warm heart toward him. His addition made her laugh softly as she leaned into him. "I should think not," she agreed. "They had you first. I would be ashamed to come close to supplanting them."

"They adore you," he assured her, smiling warmly. Was it any wonder the children loved them when it was their parents' siblings who were raising them? "I thank the Goddess every day that you came into our lives," he confessed, his forehead coming to rest against hers. He was a very pious man, but it seemed he did have a little faith - or perhaps she had just restored it.

"I am the one who should thank Her," Esme murmured, closing her eyes as he drew her brow to his. "Without you, I would be alone in all this. I could not bear it if I did not have you to keep me standing tall."

"You need never be alone again," he whispered back. Even if something were to happen to him, she'd still have the children to love and care for. It was almost a blessing that they were not royals; royals had too much responsibility and too large a target on their backs. Their only responsibility was to her father's estate and their siblings' children.

Shy eyes opened to look up at him, a gentle tremble rippling through her form in his arms. Then she seemed to take her courage in her hands, rising up on her toes to brush a tentative kiss to his lips, almost afraid to do more than hint at such affection.

Leopold was only too happy to return that kiss, his arms going around her waist to hold her close. He kissed her again, deeper this time, passion igniting like a flame at the gentlest of touches. He had been gentle and patient with her these last weeks, but he was still a man with a man's needs and desires, and at that moment, the only thing he wanted was her.

She gasped against his lips, as much enflamed by the passion sparking inside her in answer to his as she was surprised by it. She had never thought such a strong feeling could ever be hers; clearly, she had just been waiting for the right person to spark her heart. There, on the roof of Rift Fell, Esme kissed Leo with all the love and longing in her heart, heedless of the breeze that whipped at clothes and hair.

Leopold pulled her closer, his lips searching hers with eagerness and longing. He could feel the change in her, as her shyness fell away, replaced by love and desire and even passion. It was as if they had just been waiting for the right moment to ignite the spark of love between them, and now that it had been lit, the flame was growing stronger with each kiss and caress, with each passing moment.

But no amount of love and longing could keep her from remembering where they were. Esme giggled against his lips, shaking her head as she drew back just enough to speak. "Surely you don't intend to continue this on the roof, love?"

"Surely, I do not," Leo teased in return, an amused smile lighting his face. "Though I am quite certain no one can see us," he whispered in her ear, before touching a feather-light kiss to her neck.

"B-but ..." Her objection trailed off into a soft sigh as his lips found her neck, unconsciously arching into him. She was deeply susceptible to his touch, it seemed, untouched by any man before him. If he kept this up, she would give him everything right there and then.
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Leopold Kramer
Young Wyrm
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Can Be Found: The Ducal Manor in Ansburg
1103.44 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Despite his obvious desire for her, he knew this was not the time or the place to claim her as his wife for the very first time. No, that required the kind of patience and tenderness that he could not give her here on the castle roof. "Later," he whispered again, touching another kiss to her lips, as if to seal that promise.

A little relieved to note that she would not be deflowered on a roof beneath the summer sun, Esme blushed as he kissed her, drawing her fingertips over his jaw gently. "What would you like to do now, Leo?" she asked, not quite able to keep herself from nuzzling close. "We have the afternoon to ourselves."

"We could retire to our quarters," Leo mildly suggested, a small teasing smirk on his face. He had grown weary of paperwork, at least for today, and they had earned a respite.

Innocent of exactly what he was suggesting, Esme smiled her sweet smile. "We could," she agreed. "I am sure Marna would not mind bringing us some lunch there, and we have a balcony of our own."

If anything, he seemed amused at the fact that she hadn't realized his meaning. "Lunch, of course," he said, trying and failing to hide the mirth from his face. After all, he didn't want her to think he was poking fun at her or found her too naive.

She cast him a curious smile, tilting her head for a moment. His expression suggested she had missed something, but she didn't know what. Gently easing herself from his arms, she wound her hand into his, twitching her skirt out of her way as she headed back to the stairs.

He did not bother to explain, only offering as innocent a smile as he could muster, as he took her hand and started back toward the stairs with her. "It is a lovely view," he admitted, though he was hardly talking about the view at the land and sea that surrounded the castle.

"Shall we come back another ti - ... oh." And there was that blush once again, accompanied by another of Esme's soft giggles. "You really are awfully charming when you set your mind to it."

"Am I?" he asked, looking not only amused, but a little surprised at that statement. "And here, I wasn't even trying," he said, giving her hand a soft squeeze, before slowly leading the way back down the stairs, careful so she wouldn't fall.

"I refuse to believe you do not know how handsome and charming you are," Esme insisted as they walked down through the twisting tower. "Surely it is an asset that has served you well in business?"

"I'm afraid my clients are more interested in the quality of my coffee than in my charms, which is as it should be," he replied, still scoffing at the idea that he was handsome or charming. He had been adequate enough as a merchant to provide for his household, but he had not been known as a lady's man. "On the contrary, I find it hard to believe that you do not know how beautiful you are."

She laughed quietly, shaking her head. "I know I have enough beauty to make use of it," she corrected him, "but I will never believe I am the equal of Avila. She was almost the Goddess made flesh."

"Avila was lovely, yes, but she was not you," Leo said as together they slowly descended the stairs. He knew she missed her sister, as he missed his brother. He knew, too, that they could not replace them, but only try to do their best in their place. "I often wonder what would have happened had I met you before my brother met her."

"A double elopement, perhaps?" Esme flickered a teasing smile at him as they reached the bottom of the steps, drawing him out onto the long gallery. "I do not think my father would have exiled all four of us."

"Perhaps not," he agreed, though their lives would have been very different. Perhaps they would have inherited the coffee business, while Ernst and Avila would have joined her father at the castle.

"Or perhaps we would have hated one another on sight," Esme suggested with a shrug, not wanting to think of how much better, easier, their lives might have been had she been with Avila when her sister met his brother.

"Do you really think so?" he asked, looking at her dubiously. He did not think he could hate her under any circumstances, but if they had met years ago when their siblings were still alive, it might have been different, as they'd been different people then.

"No, I do not," she admitted quietly. "But thinking of how our lives could have been so much better ... hurts my heart. I don't want to linger on what might have been."

"Better?" he asked, unsure if that would have been the case. "I am not so sure how lives would have been better," he said, though he wasn't sure he could explain why exactly.

"A life where my father accepted Avila and Ernst's love, where they were welcomed back home; where you kept the business you love and I joined you ..." Esme shook her head, forcing a smile. "It does not matter."

"A life where Avila and Ernst lived with your father at the estate, while we lived in the city," he said. It wouldn't have been a terrible life, but to think of a home without Matias and Anna made his heart ache, even if they would have had Avila and Ernst back.

Esme fell silent as they walked along, an ache in her heart for her sister's loss. It was a wound that would never fully heal, she knew, quietly berating herself for letting this feeling overtake her when other feelings should have held sway.

Leo, too, fell silent, his own happiness clouded by conflicting feelings of guilt and grief. There was nothing they could do to bring their siblings back; all they could do now was try to do right by them and raise their children with love and kindness.

"What do you say we drop in on the children?" he asked, suddenly feeling the need to see the children he loved as dearly as he would his own. There would be time later for he and Esme to explore the passion they'd set free on the rooftop.

She brightened at this thought. "Yes, I think ... I think that is a marvelous idea," she agreed with warm enthusiasm. "Perhaps we should cancel their lessons for the afternoon and spend some time together, all of us."

"I like that idea. Do you think Hilde will mind?" he asked, though he knew his housekeeper, who also often served as nanny, best. And why would the woman mind? She hardly had a day to herself without two rambunctious children in tow.
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Leopold Kramer
Young Wyrm
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Can Be Found: The Ducal Manor in Ansburg
1103.44 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"We could invite her to come with us," Esme suggested, though it was likely that Hilde would take the opportunity to have an afternoon off and return in time to help put the children to bed.

"We could," he agreed, though he was leaning more toward letting the poor woman had an afternoon to herself. "What do you think about a picnic?" he asked. It was something he and the children had enjoyed doing back in Angsburg, when he'd had the time.

"We could go down to the beach the queen showed them," Esme mused, her spirits beginning to lift with the prospect. She squeezed his hand. "I will go and arrange food. Meet me in the rose garden?"

Though he'd imagined an afternoon spent enjoying a romantic tryst, they weren't postponing it forever; just for a few hours. "Perfect!" he told her with an enthusiastic grin. It was a perfect day for an outing, and they had all earned it. "I will be there," he promised, touching a kiss to her lips.

"With the children, I hope," she countered, drawing her fingers against his cheek before pulling away. It would not be hard to gather a basket of food for the small family to enjoy.

"Of course, with the children! Silly girl," he said, laughing. Whatever it was that had darkened their moods, it seemed to have lifted, like the sun coming out from behind storm clouds.

With that, they both went their separate ways, if only temporarily - he to steal the children away from their tutor and she to put together a food basket. It wasn't long before he arrived in the rose garden, two excited children in tow, one on each side of him, holding each of his hands.

Esme was waiting by the fountain, wrapped in a soft shawl, a large basket in her hands that had to contain more than food. She smiled at the sight of them making their way toward her, laughing as Anna waved her free hand excitedly.

"Aunt Esme, we made a mess!"

"Made a mess?" Leopold echoed, brows arching upwards curiously at the little girl at his side. He had no choice but to let go of the children's hands as they rushed away from his grasp to greet their beloved aunt.

"With sand and water and red stuff that made the sand go pink!" Anna exclaimed, pottering at speed toward Esme.

Their aunt, used to this sort of greeting by now, set the basket down safely behind her as she dropped to one knee to greet the pair of them. "And why were you making pink sandcastles inside?" she asked in amusement.

Matias skipped over, skidding to a halt just short of colliding with his aunt and his sister. "For fun!" he explained. "But Uncle says we can make even better sandcastles at the beach!"

Leo shrugged and smiled. He wasn't wrong.

"We certainly can," Esme agreed, somehow managing to include herself and Leo in the prospect of building sandcastles. "And I have towels and clean clothes for both of you, in case you decide that sitting in the sea is a good idea."

Matias' eyes grew large at the prospect of actually cavorting in the sea, as if the prospect of building sandcastles wasn't enough. "Can we?" he asked, looking to Leopold for confirmation.

"Yes, of course," Leo replied with a chuckle. "What is the point of going to the beach if one does not go in the water?"

Rising to her feet, Esme picked up the basket, offering her hand to Matias. Anna, when given the choice, always clung to Leo's hand, generally because he could be relied upon to pick her up at a moment's notice.

"We have all been working very hard," Esme said as they headed for the ivy-covered wall where the door down to the hidden beach lay. "We deserve a little time to have fun together."

"You and Uncle haven't had much time for fun lately, have you?" Matias asked, with a much too serious look on his face. There never seemed to be enough time for fun anymore, but he did not blame them for it. He knew there were things they must do as adults that prevented them from enjoying too many days like this one.

Leopold frowned at the question. "Perhaps we need to make more time for fun," he suggested.

"No, I suppose we haven't," Esme agreed, catching Leopold's eye with a faint flush on her cheeks. "We can certainly make more time. We should set aside at least two days in the week when we can all spend time together doing something fun. How does that sound?"

Two days wasn't much, but to two children who adored their guardians and didn't see them nearly enough, it was more than they could hope for. "Really?" Matias asked, a hopeful look on his face, though he didn't want to be disappointed. Leo met Esme's gaze with a warm smile of his own. "I think that is a wonderful idea."

"And we will make sure to have breakfast and dinner with you every day that we can," Esme added, handing the basket to Leo as she reached to open the little door that lead to stone steps and down to a very private beach.

Anna beamed happily at the whole idea. "And put us to bed and everything?"

"I do not think that is too much to ask," Leo agreed, taking the basket from Esme, Anna still clinging to his other hand. "We are a family now, and family is more important than anything else," he said, vehemently believing that.

"It is," Esme agreed, letting Matias lead her down the steps to the little cove. The tide was out, and the sun played over the sand, turning it soft and warm and dry above the line of the surf. "Oh goodness ... what a beautiful spot."

"It is lovely here," Leo agreed, taking in the view as he took a deep breath of the fresh, salty air. "Perhaps we should come here more often," he said, so long as the royals didn't mind them visiting more often.

Anna was tugging on Leo's hand, straining toward the water. "I want to paddle in the water, Uncle Leo!" she declared impatiently.
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Leopold Kramer
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm

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Can Be Found: The Ducal Manor in Ansburg
1103.44 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Esme chuckled softly. "Asking nicely and remembering to take your shoes and socks off might help, Anna."

"Yes, and do not go far," Leo agreed, turning his attention to the little girl at his side. "The tide is out now, but you do not want to be caught in an undertow," he warned. Of course, he and Esme would be right there watching, and the children were unlikely to get into any trouble, so long as they didn't go in too deep.

Matias was already breaking away from Esme's hand to tug off his shoes and socks.

Anna pouted, heaving an exaggerated sigh. "Please can I go and get my feet wet without my shoes and socks on, please?" she asked in a put upon voice.

Esme bit her lip, leaving that one to Leo.

"Yes, you may, but stay near your brother and do not go far!" Leo insisted, a stern expression softening as he tweaked her nose. "Now, go on and have fun, but remember what I said!"

Given permission, Anna beamed, thumping down onto the sand next to Matias to pull at her shoes and socks. Esme chuckled, reaching to take the basket from Leo and remove the blanket from within it.

Despite his stern expression a moment ago, Leo turned to Esme with a smirk and a mischievous wink, as he moved to help her spread out the blanket on the warm sand. "Hilde is going to hate me," he murmured, with another chuckle.

"And why is that?" Esme asked, bemused by the idea of Hilde being anything but charmed by her employer. The ties that bound them were closer than mere money, after all.

"The sand," Leopold explained, an amused gleam in his gray-green eyes, as he took up a handful of the stuff and sifted it through his splayed fingers. Sand wasn't a bad thing when it was dry, but wet, it would stick to everything.

"Ah, yes ..." Esme laughed softly, easing down onto the blanket comfortably. "Their baths tonight may be a little gritty, come to think of it."

"No doubt about it," Leopold replied with a grin.

"Uncle!" Matias called from the direction of the water. "Come swim with us!" he urged, waving his arms enthusiastically and spraying water everywhere.

Thankfully, Anna knew she couldn't swim, staying in the surf up to her knees. But she, too, turned to wave hopefully at Leo. "Come and swim, Uncle Leo!"

Esme turned a rather cheeky smile onto her husband. "I do believe you are being summoned."

"It seems so," Leo replied with a heavy, long-suffering sigh. "Do you mind?" he asked, as if he needed her permission to join the children in the water. He had a feeling it would be very improper for her to do so, but he did not have to worry about such things so long as he remained clothed from the waist down.

She laughed, shaking her head. "Of course I don't mind," she assured him. "I will even come and join Anna in the shallows, if you feel you can control yourself over a glimpse of my bare ankles."

"It will be difficult, but I will do my best," he teased, eyes bright with amusement and perhaps even happiness. He winked at her again before bending to tug off his own shoes and socks.

She laughed again, delicately raising the hem of her dress and petticoat to untie the ribbons on her slippers and discreetly slip her stockings from her legs. "You are terrible for my self-control, Leopold," she informed him sweetly.

His gaze couldn't help but stray to the peek at her bare leg, reminding him of the kisses they'd shared only a short while ago on the castle roof. If not for the children, he might have indulged himself in helping her remove those stockings, but he did not quite trust himself to do it without losing his own self-control.

"Is that such a bad thing?" he asked, as he shed his the first layer of clothing and tossed it onto the blanket.

"When we are looking after the children, yes," she informed him with teasing amusement, rising onto her feet to loop the soft folds of her velvet overskirt up and out of danger's path. The silk petticoat could survive being wet and dried in salt sea water.

"We are only wading in the sea, Esme. There is no scandal in that," he pointed out, not bothering to mention that they were not only properly dressed but married. He shed his waistcoat then, tossing it, too, aside before starting on the buttons of his shirt. It seemed ridiculous to have to wear so many layers in the middle of the summer, but at least it was respectable.

"And so long as we remain in control of ourselves, that is all the children will see," she pointed out laughingly. One hand twitched the long petticoat up and out of her way as she picked her path down to the water's edge, stroking bare toes over the wet sand before daring to join Anna in the shallow surf.

He watched her a moment longer as she made her way into the water, if only to get her toes wet, chuckling to himself in amusement. Though he had not said so, at that moment, he thought she was nothing short of adorable. He knew he was in danger of falling ever deeper in love nor did he care, throwing aside all his carefully-controlled emotions of earlier days. Shedding the last layer of clothing above the waist, he gave a shout and dashed toward the sea to splash in the water.

Anna let out a cheer as her uncle dashed into the waves, clinging to Esme's hand in half a foot of lapping surf. As for Esme, well ... she had never seen Leo without a shirt before this moment, unexpectedly dry in the mouth at the tempting vision he presented to her.

Matias laughed as his uncle joined him, and the pair started to splash each other in earnest, whooping gleefully like a couple of children.

It was a bright, silly sort of afternoon, filled more with laughter than anything else. Only when the sun began to dip down and shadows form did the little family decide to return to their rooms in the castle, barefoot and damp, and grinning from ear to ear.
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Leopold Kramer
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Can Be Found: The Ducal Manor in Ansburg
1103.44 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not to mention, full of sand. Hilde really was going to kill her employer, though only figuratively speaking. "We must do this more often!" Leo said, his eyes and face brighter and happier looking than he had been in a while. Of course, the color in his cheeks was likely to due sunburn.

Anna nodded happily from her perch on Esme's hip, tired but glowing and all smiles from their fun afternoon. "Do we have to have a bath?" she asked hopefully, glancing from Esme to Leo.

"I think you do, sweetling," Leo replied, tapping her nose affectionately. "You wouldn't want to get sand in your bed. It's scratchy," he said, lunging close to tickle her sides, just for fun. "Hilde will never forgive me if you go to bed without a bath. You, too, Matias."

"Yes, sir," Matias replied obediently, scrunching his nose thoughtfully before adding. "Thank you for today. It was fun!"

"We will have to take a bath as well, you know," Esme added, to soften the blow. "I can still feel the sand between my toes!"

Anna giggled, hugging her neck as they picked their way toward their suite.

"I'm very glad you had fun, Matias," Esme said softly. "We shall definitely spend more time together, as a family."

"Will you take a bath together?" Matias asked, with childish curiosity. Leopold coughed at the boy's unexpected question and glanced furtively at Esme, at a loss for an answer.

Cheeks ablaze with rosy embarrassment, Esme bit her lip to soften her smile before she answered. "It would certainly save time, wouldn't it?" she answered, trying to keep her tone as light and innocent as Matias' had been. "Though I am uncertain if we would both fit in the bath."

"Never you worry, lad," Leopold said, quick to regain his composure and reaching over to ruffle the boy's hair. "We will be scrubbing ourselves as clean as the two of you." He did not bother to add whether they'd be doing that alone or together. Maybe if he was lucky, Esme would at least wash his back, which was starting to feel hot and itchy.

As they reached their quarters, Hilde was waiting for them, hands on her hips and a stern smile on her face. "Look at the sight of you all," she declared. "I can't leave any of you for a moment, can I?"

"We had fun, Hilde! We went to the beach and we swam in the sea and made sandcastles and had a picnic!" Matias declared, eyes still bright with excitement at the day's events.

Leopold offered a sheepish smile for his housekeeper. "Sorry, Hilde, but we did have fun."

"And just look at the state of you," Hilde added, rolling her eyes fondly at the children. She reached out to take Anna from Esme's arms. "Every one of you needs a good bath, and you, Master Leopold, look as though the sun's touched you in ways that'll itch tomorrow."

"I beg your pardon?" Leopold said, brows furrowing at his housekeeper's remark. He was only feeling mildly itchy, but hadn't given it much of a thought as yet. He was the only one of the four of them who had shed his shirt.

"Sunburn," Hilde said firmly. "So you wash with cooler water, and use the aloe to ease the burn. And you, little ones, are going to come with me and not fall asleep in your baths. Lady Esme, you can take care of the big master."

"O-oh, ah ... thank you, Hilde." Esme's blush deepened as she glanced at Leo.

Leo frowned. Hadn't they promised to tuck the children into bed? He wasn't so much concerned about sunburn as about that. "Do you think we could pop in to say good-night?" he asked his housekeeper uncertainly, as if it was her choice and not his.

The woman raised a brow in amusement at his uncertain tone. "You're all in need of supper too," she pointed out with a grin. "An hour to wash up and get the sand gone, and you can have your evening all to yourselves. My stories don't compare, it seems."

Leopold couldn't help but smirk. "Thank you, Hilde," he told the woman gratefully, though he was, in fact, her employer and master of the house, not the other way around. "You hear that, children? One hour to wash up! You'd best hurry!" he said, clapping his hands to send them on their way.

Anna squealed as Hilde spun about, both of them chasing Matias into their shared little bathroom to make use of the luxurious bathing facilities.

Esme smiled indulgently, chuckling to herself. "You should bathe, too," she pointed out to Leo. "I only need to wash the salt and sand from my feet."

"Should I?" he asked, that teasing smirk still curling his lips. "Shall I summon a servant to wash my back?" He didn't think he was so much in need of a bath, if not for the salt and sand that was starting to aggravate his sunburn.

Esme flushed, glancing away. "I-if you do not mind it, I could ... wash your back," she offered shyly, biting her lip as she avoided his gaze.

"You could, but do you want to?" Leopold asked, his voice and expression softening, as he reached over to turn her face back toward his. He did not want to force her to do anything she didn't want to do, after all, and though they had been married for a little while, she had not yet seen him fully naked.

"I ..." The blush was growing darker, but there was a smile on her face even as she avoided his eyes. "You will need help, and ..." She bit her lip, closing her eyes as she blurted out her real feelings. "That is a view I do not wish to share."

He arched a brow, more than a little surprised at her reply. He also noticed her blush and worried once again that he was asking too much of her. "I was teasing, Esme. I do not wish you to do anything you do not truly want to," he told her, reaching to take her hands in his.

Reassured by the warmth in his voice, the wrap of his hands about hers, she opened her eyes once more, that smile still there as finally she met his gaze. "Have you forgotten our time on the roof so soon?"

"I haven't forgotten," he assured her, a warm smile on his face as he leaned close to refresh both their memories with a tender brush of lips against hers. "There is nothing to fear, love. I would never knowingly cause you harm."
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Leopold Kramer
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She sighed into his kiss, more than happy to kiss and be kissed for a tender moment. "I did not think you would," she assured him. "But if you are not clean before the children are, they will never let you live it down. I should find some aloe for your skin, too."

His smile deepened in amusement. "I fear I may be in danger of being spoiled," he teased, though he didn't seem to mind the idea. He'd had his fair share of hardship, especially after his brother had died, and the children had been left in his care. It wouldn't do his ego any harm to be spoiled every now and then.

She laughed, ushering him toward the bathing chamber that was attached to their own bedroom. "Go and rinse the salt and sand from yourself, darling," she told him firmly. "And do not forget to put pants on before you come back in here to be seen to."

"Yes, ma'am," he replied obediently, a little amused at the way she was taking charge of his care. No woman had ever cared for him in such a way before, since the death of his mother. He had not even realized how much he'd missed it until now. Off he went to do her bidding, shucking his clothing and doing his best to rid himself of salt and sand.

As for herself, Esme didn't realize she was doing anything more than what anyone else might do. She had learned how to care for others from her own nannies and governesses, simply putting what she had seen others do into practice in the hope that it was the right thing to do. While Leopold washed himself clean of the beach, she laid fresh clothing out for him, and set about wiping her feet and ankles clean themselves before shucking from her own clothing to replace it.

When at last he emerged from the bath, he had a towel wrapped around his waist, but no pants as he was in need of a fresh pair. His hair was damp and curling about his neck, his torso an unnatural shade of pink from the sun.

He found Esme lacing a simple overdress at her breast, her hair left unbound after brushing the salt from it. She turned toward him, and instantly stilled, her eyes wide at the sight of his body so displayed. "O-oh ..." Swallowing, she took hold of herself. "Your shoulders ..."

"I know," he said, with a slight shrug of said shoulders, as if in apology. "I suppose it was foolish of me not to wear a shirt." And yet, it was only sunburn. It would hurt for a few days, maybe blister a little, and then it would heal. There were worse things than sunburn.

"Sit down." Esme rolled her eyes, reaching for the aloe extract as she moved to join him. "You are a walking cautionary tale for Matias about the dangers of undressing in front of women." She flashed him a mischievous smile as she spoke.

His brows arched upwards in confusion. "I am not sure what you mean." He understood how he might serve as an example of why one shouldn't cavort in the sun too long without the proper covering, but what did that have to do with women?

Gently spreading the cooling ointment over his back and shoulders, Esme giggled softly. "Well, just look at what happened," she murmured. "You undressed in front of me, your skin was burned, and now you are all but naked with my hands all over you."

Leo slowly lowered himself into a chair, surrendering himself to her ministrations, all too aware of the gentle touch of her fingers against his back and shoulders, as well as the lovely figure she'd presented as he'd stepped into the room. His brows arched upwards again at her claim, finally realizing she was teasing him in her own way. "I do not understand how this is a bad thing," he said, though he knew he was probably in for a few uncomfortable days until the burn faded.

"Not once did I say it was a bad thing," she pointed out in amusement, carefully working her way down his arms with the ointment. "How painful is this at the moment, Leo?"

He shrugged his shoulders without pausing a moment to consider. "Not very painful. A little itchy, perhaps," he admitted, though sunburn tended to take a few hours before the pain really made itself known. Sailors and dockworkers were accustomed to such things, but for a coffee merchant who rarely spent much time in the sun, the next few days might prove a little uncomfortable.

"We will keep the aloe close for the night, then," Esme mused, quietly accepting that he was unlikely to enjoy being touched for the next few days. She offered him a soft smile, blushing just a little as her hands spread the ointment over his chest.

"I'm sorry, Esme," he said, sounding sincerely contrite. The kisses on the roof seemed an almost distant memory, but he wasn't about to let a little sunburn come between them. He caught her hand and brought it to his lips. "Can you ever forgive me?"

She smiled, tilting her head toward him. "We have waited this long," she reminded him. "A few more days will not kill us." Her thumb stroked over his lips affectionately. "And now you should get dressed."

"It might kill me," he murmured to himself, with a heavy sigh as he rose to his feet, though he had no one to blame but himself. "Thank you, Esme," he told her again as he turned to face her, though he did not explain what it was he was thanking her for.

Stoppering the bottle, she paused, looking up at him in confused surprise. "Why the thanks?" she asked. "Is this not what any loving wife would do?"

"Not just for that," he said, taking a step closer and reaching out to touch her cheek in a gentle caress. "For everything." Did he really have to be more specific? "Thank you for-for loving me," he said, the words awkward on his tongue.

Careful not to lay her hands on the pinkest of his skin, Esme rose onto her toes to touch a tender kiss to his lips. "You never need to thank me for that," she whispered to him. "I could not stop myself, even if I were to try. I love you, Leo."

Instead of smiling, his expression was serious for once, realizing how lucky he was to have this woman in his life and to be able to call her his wife. "As I love you, Esme," he told her quietly, the first time he'd said so in so many words to her or to any woman.

A low giggle made itself known from the door. "Did Uncle Leo forget how to put trousers on?" Anna asked, her voice betraying an enormous grin as Esme snorted with laughter.

Leo had been just about to kiss Esme again when that giggle interrupted them. He frowned but the frown didn't last. How could it with Esme laughing and Anna giggling? Instead, Leo put his hands on his hips in an attempt to look angry, which would probably only make them laugh all the more, especially since he was only wearing a towel. "Have you forgotten how to knock, little miss?"
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Leopold Kramer
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Hildy said to come and get you because there's cheese and toast and milk," Anna informed him sweetly, not bothering to answer the question.

Esme's smile warmed. She paused, touching another kiss to Leo's cheek. "Join us when you can," she murmured to him fondly, turning to whisk toward the door and usher Anna out.

He sighed as Esme ushered Anna from the room, frowning now that he'd been left alone. He hadn't meant to be short with Anna. In fact, he'd only been teasing her with his feigned irritation, but now he felt guilty about it. He glanced at his shoulder, wincing a little as he touched his reddened skin. The aloe felt cool against his skin, but he had a feeling he wasn't going to like wearing a shirt for a few days. There was nothing he could do about it now though, but endure it. Before long, he was dressed and going in search of his family and supper.

Hilde knew the little family well enough to know that they had been snacking on their picnic lunch all afternoon. The scene that greeted Leo in the living room was of Matias and Anna sitting in front of the fire as Esme toasted cheese and bread on the end of a toasting fork for them.

Leopold paused a moment to take in the domestic scene before him, realizing in that moment how truly lucky he was. Yes, he had lost his parents and his brother and his brother's wife, but they would all live on in the precious lives of their children, and if they were so blessed, he and Esme would one day add to the family with children of their own. For a moment, he found himself overcome with emotion, the scene before him blurring, as he blinked back tears. So long as they were with him, he would never be alone in the world again.

"Careful, Anna, it's hot," Esme warned the youngest as she set a couple of toasted slices down for the children, gently nudging Matias before loading the two pronged fork again. She glanced up, her smile softening as she caught sight of Leo.

Matias was almost completely focused on the toasting of his bread and cheese concoction, oblivious to the fact that his uncle and father figure was tearing up at the sight of the little family gathered near the fire. Leopold dashed a hand across his face to wipe away any hint of tears, meeting Esme's gaze with a smile of his own. Instead of the usual layers of clothing, he was wearing only a simple white shirt, open at the neck, pants, and shoes.

"Have you saved any for me?" he asked, almost shyly.

"There's plenty to go around," Esme promised him, nodding toward the plate on the floor between the three of them. Toasting cheese and bread didn't take long, after all. Anna beamed at her uncle, mouth full of cheese.

"I'm sorry I was cross with you, Anna," he told the little girl, as he folded his legs to sit down beside them. She did need to learn how to knock, but he hadn't meant to appear angry with her.

Swallowing, the little girl reached over to pat his hand. "S'all right, Uncle Leo," she assured him sagely. "You have a ouchie. Ouchies always make me grumpy."

"Yes, well," Leo murmured. "It's no excuse," he said, a hopeful smile forming on his face, relieved Anna wouldn't hold it against him. "It was a fun outing though, wasn't it?" he asked, his smile widening. He could not recall having had so much fun in a very long time.

"Can we go to the beach again sometime, Uncle?" Matias asked, hopefully once he was finished toasting his bread and cheese.

Leo's glance flickered briefly to Esme, as if searching for a reply before answering the boy's question. "Yes, I think so, but next time, I will wear a shirt."

Esme bit down on a quiet laugh, passing him a slice of the toasted treat fresh from the fork.

"Hildy put some cold stuff on my face and it doesn't feel all tight anymore," Anna volunteered.

"Yes, that is what your aunt was doing when you came to fetch us," Leo explained, though that was not entirely true, as Esme had been finished spreading aloe over his torso before the little girl had interrupted.

"What about you, Matias?" Esme asked gently, sweeping the lad's hair from his brow with light fingers. "Did you get sunburned today as well?"

Matias shrugged as he took another bite of his cheesy toast, mumbling a response through a mouth full of food. His nose was and cheeks were indeed pink, but it didn't seem to be bothering him much.

Leo smirked at the boy's lack of response and concern. "Your nose is a little pink," he told the boy.

To be fair, Hilde had likely slathered both of the children in too much aloe. Far better to be overprotective than to miss a trick, after all. Esme licked her fingers neatly, glancing at the plate. "Would anyone like some more?"

"Why can't we stay here, Uncle?" Matias blurted, once he was finished chewing and swallowing that mouthful of cheesy toast. "I like it here," he said, seemingly unaware of the fate that awaited him.

Esme glanced at Leo warily, holding out another piece on the end of the fork as Anna climbed into her lap. "We will have to go back to Ansburg from time to time, Matias," she told him gently. "We're responsible for the people there; they deserve to know we still take an interest."

"Ansburg is boring," Matias grumbled, frowning. "Rift Fell is a real castle! There's a tower and water and everything! There's more rooms than you can count. And you can see for miles all around. It's amazing!"

"Ansburg is home, Matias," Esme said softly. She didn't force the point, understanding that a boy his age couldn't be expected to value duty and responsibility yet.

"What did you think of the manor?" Leopold asked, his gaze flickering momentarily to Esme. There was something they knew that the children did not - at least, not yet.

"The manor?" Matias echoed, furrowing his brows as he looked between his aunt and uncle. There was something about the way his uncle had asked that question that made him suspicious. "It's big," he admitted, though not as big as Rift Fell.

"It's where I grew up," Esme told him, hugging Anna as the little girl sighed and cuddled into her. "Where your mother grew up. And it's where my father, your grandfather, lives, although he is being brought here to Rift Fell for a while."
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Leopold Kramer
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Matias' eyes widened at the implications of his aunt's statement. He was young but he wasn't stupid. "Is that where we're going to live?" he asked, looking to his uncle for confirmation. It wasn't Rift Fell, but it was a lot fancier than the little house they'd shared in Ansburg.

"Your grandfather is very old, Matias," Leopold told the boy. "Someone will need to take his place someday." This wasn't quite how he'd wanted to tell the boy, but he had asked.

"My father may even give up his duties because of his age and illness," Esme said, still speaking gently. "Your uncle and I will have to go back to Ansburg to look after the estate and the city, and we would be dreadfully upset if we had to leave you both behind."

"Why would you leave us behind?" Matias asked, looking more than a little concerned now. As excited as he was about Rift Fell, he didn't want to live there alone and certainly not without his family.

Esme smiled gently. "We would never force you to go anywhere unless it was for your own safety," she promised him. "If you wanted to stay here, we would allow you to. But we would miss you dreadfully."

"But I ..." Matias stammered, looking for his aunt to his uncle again, blinking back tears. "I want to stay with you," he said, appealing to his uncle, at last - to the man he had come to love like a father. "I want us to stay together."

Leopold smiled and reached over to ruffle the boy's hair. "We want that, too, Matias. No one is going to take you away from us. I promise you that."

"Oh, darling, we would never part from you unless you wanted it," Esme promised him, reaching over to stroke the boy's cheek. "We're a family, and we love you. Our lives would be so much poorer without you."

Matias lunged toward Leopold, burying his face in his uncle's chest, only choosing him because Anna was practically snoring in Esme's lap. Leo wrapped an arm around the boy, a worried expression on his face. What would the boy do when he learned he was next in line to be Duke of Ansburg?

"It's all right, lad. We're a family, and we're always going to be a family," he assured the boy.

Esme leaned over, kissing Matias' hair gently as Leo hugged him. "Shhh, little love," she murmured. "No one is going anywhere without everyone else. I promise."

Matias lifted his head, tears shining in his young eyes and looked again from one to the other. "The queen told me I'm supposed to be duke someday," he confessed, though he knew he wasn't supposed to. It had been weighing on him a long time, and he just couldn't keep it to himself any longer.

Esme sighed softly. "And did she tell you that you won't have to do anything but wear the title until you are a grown man?" she asked softly, fairly sure the young queen wouldn't have left that out. Serafina might be young, but she had been very good with the children thus far.

Matias nodded his head. "Yes. She said it will be years before I am duke and that I have a lot to learn before that," he told her, wiping the tears from his face.

Beside him, Leopold frowned worriedly. His hopes of a simple, uncomplicated life for his brother's children was not to be, but he could at least do his best to protect them and make sure they had a happy upbringing before responsibility found them - or at least, found Matias.

Esme's fingers swiped gently over Matias' cheeks as she smiled. "And you will never be alone," she promised him faithfully. "You don't need to worry about these things for a very long time, sweetheart."

Matias nodded, sniffling back tears. "But we'll always be a family, won't we?" he asked of them both, eyes worried but hopeful.

"I promise you that, lad, but we can't stay at Rift Fell forever," Leopold told the boy, as gently as he could.

The boy nodded again, a small smile on his face. "I know, so long as we are together," he said.

"We will stay together," Esme insisted, inching a little closer to slide her arm gently around Leo's back. On her lap, Anna mumbled and yawned, smacking her lips as she nestled in closer.

"It's been a long day for all of us," Leo said, glancing at Anna, asleep in Esme's lap. "What do you say we tuck you both in, so you can get some rest?" he asked, though he could just as easily have decided it without asking.

"Will you see us to bed?" Matias asked, looking from one guardian to the other.

"If you want us to, of course," Esme assured him. "Though I may need a little help standing up." She laughed softly. "I don't think I can stand up while holding Anna without dropping her."

"I'll take her," Leopold volunteered, reaching for the little girl while Matias climbed to his feet.

"She snores!" he declared boldly, a grin on his young face.

Giggling, Esme lifted Anna into Leo's arms, unsurprised when the little girl just cuddled into her uncle. Pulling herself onto her feet, she looped an arm about Matias' shoulders. "Well, so do you," she informed him. "No one snores worse than your grandfather, though. He sounds like a tame thunderstorm."

Matias giggled at the comparison. "Uncle Leo snores, too, but not that loud!" he declared with a grin, his small hand finding its way into Esme's. It had been a long day, and they were all tired, but it was a tired well earned. "Thank you for today. It was fun!" he told them both again.

"We will definitely do it more often," she promised him affectionately as they slipped into the children's shared bedroom. It wouldn't be long before Matias and Anna would have to have separate rooms, but for now, it had been deemed better for them to share a space at night. As Anna sighed, sinking into her covers with another yawn, Esme drew back the covers on Matias' bed.

"Sleep well, little love," Leo whispered to Anna as he tucked her in and brushed a kiss against her cheek. In some ways, she reminded him of Esme, though she was, in truth, Avila's daughter.
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Leopold Kramer
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1103.44 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Matias yawned as he climbed into bed and drew the covers up over himself. "Good night," he said to them both.

"Good night, sweetheart." Esme bent to kiss Matias' forehead, smiling down at him for a long moment. "Sweet dreams."

Matias' eyes drifted closed almost as soon as his head hit the pillow and his aunt tucked him in. Leo moved over to slide an arm around Esme's waist as they momentarily watched over the pair of sleeping youngsters.

"I couldn't love them more if they were my own," he whispered, more for her sake than theirs.

"I know," she whispered back, tucking her own arms about him gently, careful not to press too hard or rub his shirt against his sensitive sunburned skin. "Neither could I." She tilted her head back to meet his gaze. "And what shall we do now, I wonder?" she asked, mischief and amusement showing in the twitch of her lips. He was in no state to enjoy his marital pleasures tonight.

"You could minister to my sunburn again," he suggested, mirroring her look of mischief and amusement. He doubted a case of sunburn would have stopped him from enjoying his marital pleasures, but he wouldn't force the matter.

Esme rolled her eyes, moving to draw him out of the children's bedroom in case they disturbed the new sleepers. "If I touch you in the wrong way tonight, it will hurt you," she reminded him. "I have no wish to hurt you, Leo. We can be patient."

"I'm not sure you could ever touch me in a wrong way, Esme," he told her, that hint of amusement still in his eyes, but he knew what she meant. He sighed, his arm still wrapped around her as he escorted to their chambers. "I do not believe my lips are sunburned, at least," he said, with a sidelong glance at her face.

"So long as we do not forget ourselves, I see no harm in trading kisses," was her soft answer, tempered with a sweet, if shy, smile.

His smile widened at her reply, happy for any affection she might offer, even if it only left him frustrated. "I do not think I will forget who I am," he teased, though he knew what she'd meant by that.

Esme's giggle was warm and surprisingly loud in the quiet rooms, her hand covering her mouth in case she disturbed the children. "Dear heart, if I thought a kiss from me had the power to make you forget who you are, I would never kiss you again," she teased him in return.

"That would be disappointing," Leopold replied with a grin of his own, as charmed by her girlish giggle as he was by her attempt to be quiet. "Honestly, Esme, I'm fine. It's just a little too much sun," he told her, dismissing his pain as nothing to worry about.

"And in a few hours, you will be restless and itchy, and your temper will be dreadful," she pointed out to him, shaking her head with a smile. "I love you, but I will not be responsible for irritating your sensitive skin tonight, darling."

"My temper?" Leo echoed, brows furrowing. "How can you know what my temper will be like?" he asked, doubtfully. He had been a little short with Anna, but it had been mostly feigned. He could not imagine himself ever being short with his wife for any reason, especially not a simple case of sunburn.

"Because Anna is absolutely right," Esme told him sweetly. "When someone has an ouchie, they get grumpy."

"It's not an ouchie," Leopold argued, sighing as he realized he was not going to win this debate, so there was no point in trying. "We will just have to see, I suppose," he said, secretly vowing not to get grumpy just to prove his point.

She smiled at him, glad he had conceded the point. After all, she could be just as stubborn as him when she set her mind to it. She reached up, gently stroking her fingertip down his pink nose. "You are an adorable grump."

He wrinkled his nose at her, mirroring a habit of Matias' and making him look more like a schoolboy than a grown man. "I do not recall when I have been grumpy in your presence," he said, a little defensively.

"You are a little grumpy right now," she pointed out in amusement, tweaking his nose gently before slipping away, moving back into the living room to pour a drink of cool water.

"I'm not grumpy," he insisted, mostly to himself as she had already slipped away from him. "I'm not. I'm just ... irritable," he said, though he didn't really think he was even that. He followed her into the living area, still sulking a little. "Can I ask you something?" he said, once he had joined her.

"Of course," she assured him, turning to slide a cup into his hand before pouring another for herself. She faced him, curious interest flickering in her eyes. "What can I do for you?"

He took the cup from her, frowning at the thought of the question that had been worrying him, unasked, for a while. "I assume you know how to run a duchy," he said, the question implied in the statement.

Esme's smile faded, but she nodded. "I do, yes," she said quietly. "I have been doing most of the work since my father fell ill, before Earl Rivers sought to take all power from us."

"But I do not," he confessed worriedly. "I know how to run a business, but that is all. Has it occurred to you that you have followed in your sister's footsteps in marrying a commoner? I am woefully unprepared for this kind of life. I do not even know what is expected of me." He was not of noble blood, after all, but he wanted to help as much as he could; he just wasn't sure how.

"You are learning, love," she reminded him. "You cannot expect to know everything in just a week, and we will always have assistants and advisors to help us." Her fingers twined with his, trying to offer some reassurance. "All you need do is be yourself. I will not leave you to walk this path alone."

He nodded, hoping he was worrying for nothing. He knew they had plenty of time to ready Matias to take over the dukedom one day, but he himself did not have as much time. "It is a lot to think about," he admitted quietly as he settled himself on a couch, patting the spot beside him.
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Leopold Kramer
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1103.44 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Darling, you have successfully run a growing business for several years," Esme pointed out, easing down onto the couch beside him. "I am not familiar with the ins and outs, obviously, but I would imagine it is not so very dissimilar to running a duchy."

"Perhaps," Leopold admitted, that worried frown still in place. "Don't misunderstand me, love. It is not that I wish to usurp your place. I only want to help, if I can," he told her. He had never been interested in power or politics, but he was an adequate business man and was hoping he could at least put those skills to good use.

"Leo, working together we can get so much more done in a far shorter time," she pointed out. "We can spend more time with the children. And either one of us will be able to deal with an emergency, rather than such action having to wait for the appropriate person to be available."

"Yes, I know. It is just a little overwhelming is all," he confessed. Not quite as overwhelming as being left alone to run a business and raise two children on his own though. He had never really been alone in that either and had come to depend heavily on his housekeeper for help.

"No one expects you to take so much on that you become overwhelmed," Esme promised him. "Not even my father would expect such a thing. You will be a very capable guardian for the estate, but what comes first is your guardianship of the children."

He considered her words quietly a moment, glad to have her reassurance and relieved that she, at least, believed in him. "Yes, I know. The children are of the utmost importance," he said, in agreement.

She smiled then, glad to feel him calming down a little from that spike of worry and tension. Soft lips touched his cheek affectionately. "They love you, and you love them," she murmured. "That is all that truly matters."

"I adore them," he said, confirming her statement. He had already told her that he couldn't love the children more if they were his own, and he knew she felt the same. "I'm glad they had fun today. They deserve to have fun," he told her, a smile touching his face.

"I was thinking ..." Esme mused, nestling a little closer to him on the couch as her eyes turned toward the fire in the hearth. "We should establish some sort of routine. That mornings are for work and lessons, and afternoons are for family, perhaps."

He took a sip of his water, before cradling the cup in his hands as she settled close. He turned his head toward her, smiling at her suggestion. "I like that idea. I know they are going to need tutors - especially Matias - but I do not want them to forget what it is like to be a family."

"Then we should talk to their tutors tomorrow and determine their schedule," she said thoughtfully. "It will be good for us, too. It is too easy to lose an entire day to work."

"That is true," he agreed, smiling warmly. "We will be a family. We are a family," he said, believing that was true already and vowing not to let anything tear their family apart - not politics, not plots, not duty, not anything.

"And I shall get on with hiring a steward for the estate, and another to liaise with the burgomasters of Ansburg," she added. "The sooner we can begin delegating, the better it will be for everyone concerned."

Leopold reached over to set his cup on a nearby table before turning to face his wife, an almost amused smile on his face. "Have I ever told you how amazing you are?" he asked, tapping a finger against the tip of her nose.

She laughed, her nose scrunching under the tap of his finger as she leaned back. "I hardly think I am so very amazing," she argued. "If I were, I would have done all this before we got started this week."

"How does the saying go?" He mused thoughtfully, that looks of amusement still on his face. "Better late than never?" He reached for her hand, moving to his feet. "Come, wife. Time for bed."

Setting her cup aside, she let her fingers slide over his palm, rising to her own feet at his bidding. "Would you like more aloe on your skin before we settle to bed?"

"That is not what I had in mind," he admitted with a smirk, though he would not stop her if that was what she wished to do.

"Oh, really?" Laughing softly, she let him tug her along to the bedroom. "And here I thought I had won that conversation easily." She was not above deliberately poking where he was most sore to make her point.

"You forget that I was wearing pants," he reminded her, waggling his brows suggestively. Those his torso might be sunburned and sore, nothing below his waist had endured any injury.

"So I am not allowed to touch you above the waist?" she asked rather sweetly, though her face was beginning to glow with that familiar blush. She hadn't expected he would be this determined to finally consummate their marriage.

"Certainly, you may touch me above the waist," he replied, looking a little indignant. "I am not a child. I will not break." Besides, she'd have to touch him above the waist if she wanted to apply more aloe to his affliction.

Esme giggled quietly, shaking her head at his indignant response. "Darling, you are a little ridiculous sometimes," she told him, her voice rich with tenderness. "Take off your shirt, I want to check your back."

"My back? What is wrong with my back?" he asked, feigning innocence, though he knew perfectly well that if his shoulders and chest were sunburned, it was likely his back had suffered the same treatment.

She eyed him in amusement. "Nothing like what will be wrong with your back if you do not let me look at it," was her answer, proving that - for all the upper class manners and gentleness - she was definitely a little sister as much as he was a little brother.

He lifted his brows, a little taken aback by her unexpected assertiveness. "Shall I take that as a threat?" he teased back, the merest hint of a smirk on his face.

"I think you should take it as a guarantee," she countered through her smile, green eyes alight with affectionate mischief even as she drew away to close the bedroom door in their wake.
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Leopold Kramer
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm

Joined: 11 Feb 2018
Posts: 18
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Can Be Found: The Ducal Manor in Ansburg
1103.44 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Who am I to argue with that then," he replied, letting her win that debate, at least for now. He waited until she closed the door before tugging off his shirt, the sunburn even more apparent now that a few hours had passed.

"Oh, Leo ..." The coolness of her fingertips brushed over the enflamed skin softly as she studied his back. "Are you sure this is not painful?" Reaching for the aloe bottle once again, she began to smooth the ointment over his back with delicate hands.

Thankfully, he was facing the other way so that she could not see the grimace on his face at the pain the merest touch caused him. "Not in the least," he lied, doing his best not to flinch as she smoothed the ointment over his back, which at least took some of the sting out of it for a little while.

"You wouldn't be lying to me to spare my concern, would you?" she asked with deceptive innocence - she could feel him tensing beneath her touch.

"Would I do that?" he asked, not quite answering her question as he didn't really want to lie to her. Though she couldn't see his face, she could probably hear the remorse in his voice. "I'm sorry, Esme. I-I've ruined everything."

"Oh, darling ..." Her sigh was pepper with a soft laugh, accompanied by the rustle of her skirts as she moved around him to catch his eye. "You have hardly ruined anything," she told him firmly. "We have waited this long. A few more days is not so very much to ask, is it?"

"I so wanted to make your first time special," he told her, that remorseful frown still on his face. Still, given that he presumably had a few more days to plan, perhaps he could still make that happen.

Her palm lay tenderly over his heart, careful not to press against his sore skin. It would be uncomfortable enough for him when he laid down to sleep. "It will be special no matter what," she murmured through her deepening blush. "Because it will be you."

"I love you so very much, Esme," he told her, his voice soft, as he covered her hand with his own and leaned close to touch a tender kiss against her lips. He had already waited a lifetime for her; a few more days wasn't all that much to ask for.

She rose onto her toes as he kissed her, lips curving in a loving smile even as she answered the affectionate touch with her own. But she couldn't even embrace him, not without causing him pain, not tonight. "As I love you, Leo."

He smiled at last, reassured by her own profession of love. "I promise that when the time comes, I will be gentle," he told her, gentle fingers tracing her cheek. "You must not be afraid to tell me if I am hurting you, or what you need from me."

"I am sure you would never hurt me, but I will hold to that promise," she answered softly. "As you should, too. I know I am small and weak compared with you, but I could still hurt you."

He smiled, doubting she could hurt him, even if she wanted to, but touched by her concern for him. "So long as you don't break my heart. That is all that I ask."

She couldn't help laughing a little at the thought of ever leaving him. "Your heart is safe in my hands, I swear it," she promised him, rising onto her toes again to kiss his lips.

"Then, there is nothing to fear," he told her, with a happy grin. He told hold of her hand to lead her toward the bed. Even if they didn't consummate their marriage, he was determined to show her he loved her in whatever way he could.

A little bemused by what felt like a beginning to something she was sure he was not up to tonight, Esme let herself be drawn to the bed, tilting her head with curious warmth as she considered him. "What is it you are planning, my mischievous mate?"

"Nothing that will cause me any pain," he replied, though it might lead to further frustration on his part. "Do you trust me?" he asked, as he came to a halt near the bed.

She frowned, wondering why he felt the need to ask. "Of course I do," she promised, uncertain quite what was happening now. "But why do you need to ask? It is not as though we have not slept side by side for a month now."

"Because even if we cannot make love just yet, I want to give you pleasure," he told her, explaining as carefully as he could. He lifted her hand to his lips and brushed it with a kiss, almost as if to show her just how gentle he could be.

Thorough bemused, Esme felt her cheeks on fire once again, a flame lit by the purpose in his kiss against her fingers. "But I thought ... I thought it was something that could only happen together," she protested, showing her ignorance as she did so.

"There are other ways, my love," he told her, that amused smirk appearing on his face again, suspecting he knew something she didn't. After all, he was a somewhat experienced lover, and the prospect of teaching her was an appealing one.

She was silent for a moment, considering everything before her. "Then it appears I am entirely at your mercy, dear heart," she said finally. "But if you hurt yourself doing this, I shall sulk at you."

He couldn't help but chuckle at her warning. "I do not think you need worry, love," he assured her, gray-green eyes bright with amusement and anticipation. This was more than he'd ever dared with her before, and it was for her benefit he was suggesting it. She need not even undress, if she didn't want to. He pulled her closer, fulfilling his promise to continue what they'd started on the roof. There was no harm in kissing her, and she'd seemed to enjoy it.

She certainly did enjoy it, surrendering easily to those kisses despite her uncertainty when it came to touching him. His chest and arms seemed safe enough to touch, though she knew she was trusting him to tell her if she caused him pain. But slowly her worried tension began to fade, washed away by the gentle build of warm fire from within.

He waited until he could feel her relax before carefully easing her down upon the bed, his kisses slowly drifting from her lips down along her neck, while his fingers worked the fastenings of her gown open. She could stop him at any moment, if she felt uncomfortable and he wouldn't argue, but he wanted to see just how far she'd let him go, just how much she trusted him.

There was no shyness in undoing her overdress, for they had shared a bed every night for a month, and as she slept, she wore only a thin chemise. It had taken time to grow used to that, but she thought nothing of it now. As his kisses drifted down over her skin, she found herself gasping, arching into him, afraid to grip as tightly as her fingers wanted to.
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Leopold Kramer
Young Wyrm
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Can Be Found: The Ducal Manor in Ansburg
1103.44 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Just relax, darling. And leave it to me," he whispered in her ear, before kissing her lips once again. Deft fingers worked her out of her overdress without too much trouble, allowing his hands to roam further than they ever had before. It hadn't been for lack of desire that he had never attempted this before; it was only that he'd wanted to be sure she was ready.

There were no stays to keep the warmth of his hands from her through the soft silk of her chemise, her own hands falling to grip the covers beneath her as her husband took charge of her desire. "But ..." she mumbled against his lips, biting down a fresh gasp. "What about ... about you?"

"Don't worry about me," he told her, between kisses. He had waited this long, he could wait a little longer, despite his obvious desire for her. "Just relax," he told her again, kissing her one last time, before he turned his attention to the rest of her body, eager to explore the uncharted territory that was Esme for the very first time.

She was entirely at his mercy, just as she had said, caught up in the tenderness of his slow exploration of her virginal form. As the skirt of her chemise rucked up and the neckline tugged down, she gasped and squirmed, biting down on her own knuckles to muffle the sounds that seemed terribly unladylike.

As unladylike as those sounds might be, they were working havoc on his body, though he made no complaints about it. All his focus was on her - on showing her there were more ways to give pleasure and more ways to make love than what she'd been told. That was all he wanted for now, just to please her and to show her in no uncertain terms that he loved her. And if in doing so, she learned there was more to love than making a child, all the better.

She had never felt anything like this, a sensation that seemed to reach deeper than her bones, stronger yet somehow more gentle than any other touch could possibly be, sending her shattering only to pull her back together as she panted in his arms. Forcing her eyes to open, she gazed up at him in dazed astonishment. "I-I ..."

In that moment, he had put everything - all of his own wishes and desires aside - to focus solely on her, with the singular hope that he could show her just what it meant for a man and a woman to make love. It wasn't just about consummating a marriage or making a child; it was about sharing and loving and giving something of one's self to the other. All he really wanted was to make her happy, to make her smile, to show her how much he loved her. If he'd accomplished that, with his kisses and caresses, with the rapt and tender attention he had given her, that was all that mattered. "Shh," he told her, touching a finger to her lips to silence her. "That is how much I love you," he whispered, before she had a chance to say a thing.

Esme almost whimpered, overwhelmed by the sheer force of warm tenderness Leo had bestowed on her, trembling in the wake of his purposeful touch. She seemed barely aware that she was far from decent, her chemise bunched at her waist from top and bottom, fingers gently stroking his jaw, his hair, as she gazed up at him. "I love you," she whispered back. "I-I will make it up to you, somehow. I will learn."

"No need," he assured her, touching another soft kiss to her lips before settling down beside her and smoothing the chemise down over her legs. "You already have," he told her, lifting his eyes to hers once again, a warm smile on his face.

She shifted, drawing the chemise back to her shoulders as she eased over to lie comfortably beside him. "Is there nothing I can give you in return?" she asked, surprised by how shy she still felt knowing he had seen and touched near everything she had.

"All I want is you," he told her, ignoring the way the sheets scratched at his back to focus on her face, his fingers in soft caress of her cheek. It hardly mattered that he had not joined with her this time, that his body was aching for attention. He would have her soon enough, and then they would be one.

She couldn't help giggling a little as she inched closer, touching a kiss to the tip of his nose. "Let that be a lesson to you," she murmured teasingly. "Swimming with bare shoulders is not worth it in the long run."

"Yes, dear," he replied with a smirk, reaching over to push her hair back from her face. "Have I ever told you how beautiful you are?" he asked, though he had only remarked on her beauty a short while ago.

"You are the beautiful one," she argued through an affectionate smile, nuzzling close for a long moment. "Handsome, I mean. You have a beautiful heart." She almost relaxed before a thought occurred to her. "Oh, my goodness ... you don't think the children heard me, do you?"

Leopold chuckled in amusement again, though he was genuinely touched by her words. "No, darling. They were exhausted. Try not to worry so much," he assured her. Anna had fallen asleep in her lap, after all.

Cheeks aflame again, Esme bit down on a quiet laugh, settling her head against the pillow. "How does your back feel?" she asked him, knowing the burn was worst where he couldn't see or reach.

He gave her a one-shoulder shrug, which in itself hurt, though he didn't complain. "It will pass," he told her, knowing it should only take a few days before he was no longer in pain. And there were worse kinds of pain than sunburn.

Esme raised her brow, unconvinced. "Leo ... how can I look after you if you persist in pretending you do not need to be cared for?" she asked pointedly.

Leo frowned at her question, considering a moment before finding an answer. "I suppose I am not used to being looked after," he replied. There had been no one to look after him but Hilde for some time now.

"You should get used to it," she countered firmly. "If you as my husband look after me, then I as your wife look after you. And I will keep doing it until you give in and let it happen."

He laughed, blushing a little, or perhaps it was just the sunburn. "Very well, wife. I will try," he said, at least promising to do that much. After all these years, it might take a while before he got used to someone looking after him, but he didn't mind.

She smiled triumphantly, pecking a soft kiss to the tip of his nose. "And do not forget to wake me if you cannot settle tonight," she added, nestling her cheek into the pillow with a low sigh.

"Yes, dear," he replied again, smiling as she sighed with what he hoped was contentment. He leaned over to brush a final kiss against her lips before settling back down. "Rest well, dearest, and know that you are loved," he whispered whether she was still awake or not to hear him.

"Only if you do." The words were barely more than a whisper, but they were whispered with a smile. Whatever else lay in store for Leo and Esme, they could be sure that they would face it together, two hearts and two hands and a family to love.
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