Charlotte handled the servants with a grace they seemed unused to. The Ashewoods were not cruel employers, but Mellicent was a harsh woman. Bennet's escapades were well known, and William-generally regarded as the most proper-was rarely here. Bennet approved however, he liked the gentle way in which she handled the help, felt it to be genuine. Odd that he found it so warming to the spirit. Though she spoke her mind, at least more so than many women, around her peers, she seemed different with those beneath her. Did he deserve a woman like that? Would he break a woman like that as William seemed to imply?
With the sudden feeling of discomfort that thought brought, he turned his attention back to the sky while the women laid out a blanket and set out a small sampling of breads and cheeses. One opened a bottle of wine and poured two glasses. Lelantos still soared above them, riding the currents and searching for prey. Bennet turned back to see a picnic scene set before him and attempted to shrug off the slight unease his mind had created. There was enough to worry about in life, he knew the kind of man he was, and he was learning the kind of woman Charlotte was. It would fall into place or it wouldn't, and for now, he greatly enjoyed being with her. It would be enough.
"Marvelous!" He offered, twitching his lips upward. He took the offered cup, the maids immediately withdrawing with their duty done for the moment. "Shall we sit?" Bennet moved, carefully sitting and then stretching his legs out beneath him onto the blanket, resting on an elbow. "A perfect day for this." He extended his wine glass for cheers with Charlotte before taking a long sip of the nectar. "Do you find this an odd courtship, Charlotte?" The question surprised him as it tumbled from his mouth, he had been thinking it but hadn't truly intended on speaking it. "I only mean...that we know we are to be wed, yet we go through the song and dance as if none are the wiser about it. I have never been good with doing things properly, and well, perhaps that is why I wonder." With another woman, he could perhaps view this as wining and dining, and then perhaps he'd have company for the night. Yet with her, he was not allowed to do so. He knew, that barring the prevention of a scandal which could hold real ramifications in other aspects of his life, he would bed her that night and hold no regrets. If they were wed in a week, in a month, the bedding would be required. Why not now?
Lottie was very pleased to have managed to make it past her mother in her looser corset and small bustle. It was hardly worth calling it a bustle, but it was. But it meant that she could actually get herself down to the ground on her own, and move and sit as was comfortable. And she could probably get herself up, though it would be much easier with Bennet's help. That he would surely give. So she settled herself, lower body facing him, her torso turned so she could still watch the sky.
She toasted with him easily and used that moment of drinking to hide her surprise of his question. That was not at all what she thought he might bring up as they sat there, left alone. Finally, she looked away from the circling bird and back to her betrothed. "Don't you wish to know me some before you say your vows?" she asked with a little head tilt, smiling at him a little bit. "I know I do. I can't really say no to this marriage, even though you could find yourself another wife. But that does not mean that I do not wish to know my husband a least a little bit before we are tied together for ever. And is that not what courting is? Getting to know one another."
Looking away from him, she sighed heavily. "I do not wish to marry a stranger." She was quite for a moment after that though it seemed she had more to say still. Finally she spoke, but she still didn't look back at him. "So perhaps it is a little strange, and I'm sure it is hard for you..." she trailed off some, letting him figure out what she'd meant b that. She knew it was hard for him. She could tell him the type of man who didn't hear no often. His kisses said that very clearly. And she was going to tell him no on some things. "But I am enjoying it.
"Can I ask you something though?" She didn't wait for him to reply and forged on ahead, looking back at him at last. "Please, always be truthful with me. I will always be truthful with you, I just want the same from you. If I annoy you, or you wish something of me... Don't pretend like you don't. Ask me. I might still say no, but I want to know. Alright?"
He couldn't help but feel like he had offended her with his statement, though that hadn't been his intention. Looking into her eyes as she spoke, Bennet couldn't help but feeling a stir of emotions he was unaccustomed to. She spoke so freely of her one request, one she likely thought simple, but which he felt as heavy weights. She wanted honesty? She didn't know what she was asking for. He drained his glass of wine and provided himself with a refill. Lelantos had yet to make his kill which meant he would need to answer her.
"Honesty? In a marriage? My, you are a progressive thinker Charlotte." He smiled as though he was joking with her. "I will be as honest with you as a man can be. I am glad you will be so open with me, I want to know what you want, and give it to you if I can." He restrained himself from reaching out to her again, certain that doing so would make him want much more than she was willing to give. "I had never considered the fact that I would be marrying a stranger, marriage tends to be for life after all. I always thought that would be plenty of time to come to know my wife. But...I feel I already know you so well." His eyes traveled the form of her body and he did not attempt to hide that he was doing so. He hoped to see her blush once more. "The way you smile, the nervousness you try to hide. I did warn you of my impatience if you recall." He had said a lot, but he wasn't quite done and lunged forward, "I would not feel this way about any other woman. I thought I'd be terrified at the prospect of jumping into such unknown waters, but Charlotte...I will court you, and hope to sweep you off your feet."
He arched his eyebrows, aware he could have come off as absolutely ridiculous with his talk, but he also knew his capabilities with wooing. It had to balance out in his favor. "So tell me my dearest, right now, if you could have anything you wanted and I could provide it, what would it be?"
Bennet got his wish, his look did make her blush. Though it wasn't quite as bright as it might have been the night before. She couldn't deny that she liked when he looked at her. He wasn't the first man to look her over like that, though he was surly the blodest of them. And he was also the first who'd be able to, eventually, fullfil the thoughts that came with that look of his. And that was not a bad idea to her. Which only made her blush more.
She was glad that he was willing to be honest with her though she felt that he might not be as honest as she really wanted him to be. Small steps, eventually he'd be totally honest with her. She chewed at her lip some as she thought about his question. What could he really give her right now? There wasn't anything that she wanted that she thought she should ask for now. And she didn't really want much of anything anyways. At least not anything she thought he might ever say no to.
"I don't know," she said at last, lips pursed some as she looked back to him. "I honestly don't know. I don't really want for much. What about you, Bennet? What do you want that I can give you?" Part of her knew what he was like to say, but she still wanted to hear it from him. Hear it out of his mouth that he wanted her. She also knew that she was pushing her luck with teasing him, but she figured she could chance it today. At the very least today.
Bennet cocked his head in surprise. No request for anything? Not even a trinket, or flowers, or for his undying love and devotion? True, he had not really expected Charlotte to be the empty-headed fluff to request the last, but to hear her say she desired nothing was interesting. But she had called him Bennet, was that the first time? It burned and chilled his heart, to feel the reaction his name coming from her lips caused.
"I will have to give you things until you know and can tell me what it is you prefer in that case. Perhaps a necklace first," He couldn't stop himself this time from quickly but delicately running a finger along the side of her neck in indication of his words. "Then flowers in your rooms, in such amount and variety, it would take you days to name them all or know their meanings." His eyes sparkled in the sun and his hand dropped down to cover hers. "Your own horse, the first of what will be many." Lelantos screamed suddenly, a high piercing sound, that Bennet knew meant he had finally begun to hunt. "Your own falcon to bond and train." He smiled, though not casually or politely. There was a bite of something more to it, a desire. She had asked, hadn't she? "But I am a simple man with simple and sometimes base desires, my dear." His eyes searched hers, wondering if she had not known his answer, if her innocence ran that deep. He did not think so, perhaps this was what she wanted to hear after all. It emboldened him, brought out the brashness he had been warned to smother and hide at least until they were married in the eyes of God and man. "Damn the pomp and circumstance, Charlotte, all I would ask for is you." He short and throaty sound erupted from his throat. "But before you tell me that you are already mine, I am enough of a cur to want you in a way only those married are meant to enjoy."
He had meant to say it more straightforward. He had heard himself uttering it in his head. I want you to come to my bed. Now. Not later. But looking at her, his tongue had misbehaved. Bennet had never been one to beat around the bush, he said what needed to be said, in the most blunt way possible so as to leave no room for loopholes or misunderstanding. He almost felt like some romantic fool from a poem or love story. But if it worked, well, perhaps he would have to read more of the sappy trash he wrote off as being for those without true charm.
The feel of his fingers along her neck made her want to shiver some, but she held it in, watching his face as his eyes followed along his touch before coming back to hers. He was going to spoil her rotten if he showered her with gifts like that. She could probably ask for anything at all and he'd get it for her without hesitation. She could have anything at all.
But she knew what he would say next. She could see it in that smile of his, see it in his eyes. The question was how forward would he be. How open and brash would his words be? Would he tell her bluntly, or would he be more coy about it, hide it in some flowery innuendo. She didn't look away from him. She didn't dare look away from him. She might not look back if she brought her eyes from his. There was a bit more heat flushing her cheeks now, but she smiled at him. He wanted her, he had almost said so in those exact words as well. And he wanted her now.
"Well I am yours already," Lottie said softly, laughing a little. She leaned towards him a bit more, smiling teasingly at him. "But perhaps you should talk my father into moving up the wedding then. If you are having difficulty waiting to have me." Her heart was beating fast and hard in her chest, she was sure that he could hear it. She was pushing her luck quite a deal with him and she didn't know how he was going to react to this level of teasing. He had warned her not to tempt him, but she couldn't seem to not. It was fun. She liked having the power to frustrate him. "I know it's rather hard..."
Bennet groaned, a sound mixed with frustration and desire. He should have known better, but it was not often advances were rebuffed. A small voice in the back of his mind grew quieter. The voice of reason and propriety grew smaller and fainter. She teased him, a game he was well aware of, yet it seemed it was one she would play for far longer than he cared to. "You are a cruel woman, Charlotte." Her heart thumping and thrumming only increased the wave of desire he had tried to dampen, the closeness of her face now to his only encouraged him.
His body responded all to willingly to her suggestions and words. Bennet rolled his upper body to hover over Charlotte. His eyes burned instead of smoldered, he grasped Charlotte's wrist and brought it to his lips, nibbling as he kissed it. It was with great restraint, he did nothing else, for he surely saw himself doing it in his mind. It would be easy to push the boundary more. "So very cruel..." He repeated once more before awkwardly breaking away to stand. The breeze would need to be freezing before he would be capable of cooling down. Instead, he took a few steps away from where they had laid.
He cleared his throat, began to speak, and then cleared it again. His eyes stayed focused on the sky, on Lelantos, or else he doubted he'd be able to pull himself away again. Fast burning fires consume quickly however, but Bennet knew that about himself. Never had a woman held his attention for long, and as the fire did indeed burn down, he felt a twinge of guilt. How long would he feel this way about her? Once the conquest was over would he grow bored? He knew the answer to that. So it was when he called out to her, his voice was somber.
"Lelantos made his kill. Are you ready for him?" He chanced a look back to Charlotte, a quick spike of longing causing him to turn his face once again.
She had expected a more forceful reaction than he'd given her. He had so easily given up. She was all he wanted. Her and her maidenhood. Yet he only groaned and called her cruel. True he had kissed and nibbled at her, but he had not asked her to change her mind. Why had he not? Did he only want her because he hadn't had her and not because he desired her for her?
The flush on her checks burned more at his words and she fought back a little smile. She truly enjoyed being able tto do this to him, frustrate him so. But it was a dangerous game to play with him and she watched him stand up and step away from her. Perhaps he did want her for her.
Charlotte finished her glass of wine and set it to the side before shifting to her knees. She knew it would be much faster, and much more graceful, if Bennet were to help her up. But she didn't think that would be helpful to him, trying to throw water on his fire. She'd seen the flash of it when he'd looked back at her again. So instead, she pulled her skirt out from under her knees, exposing a good deal of her legs from her mid thighs down before she scambled a little ungracefully to her feet.
Brushing her skirt down, she didn't bother to look up to see if he'd seen anything. She hadn't seen much of a point in putting on all her underskirts, and the only part of a cage was at her bustle. So her legs were rather bare underneath and he could have seen quite a deal of pale flesh. But she was just going to have to hope that he hadn't seen. She pulled her gloves back on and stepped back over to his side. He may not want her that close just then, but it was safer for her if she was. She watched the sky, waiting for the bird to return. "What should I do?" She asked softly, almost timidly.