The Lady Dunnesbury
By Mavis Applewater
Disclaimers, Yes, I know who they look like and trust me it isn’t them. This story and its characters are the sole possession of the author and may not be reproduced, posted or sold without the author’s permission. So there! If for any reason, real or imagined you are uncomfortable with graphic descriptions of a loving, sexual relationship between two or more consenting adult women then do me a favor and do not read this story or anything else I have ever written. If for any reason it is illegal for you to view such material then please go away and don’t come back until it is no longer a crime for you to read my work.
A special thanks to my beta reader Mary.
As always this is for Heather.
Abigail felt nervous as she sat in the back of the carriage that was leading her to her new life at Dunnesbury Manor. In just a few short days she would marry Lord Andrew Wethersfield Dunnesbury and begin her life as Lady Dunnesbury, a role she secretly dreaded. Others would probably scoff at what she considered her plight. She glanced over at Prudence her plump, elderly maid. She knew that Prudence would think she was a fool for wishing to find love instead of marrying the son of one of richest men in the country. But it was love she sought and would probably never find.
From the moment Abigail could comprehend the written word she secretly devoured books. Her favorites were romantic in nature that told tales of young women following their hearts only to find true love and steamy passion. Naturally she kept her reading material hidden from prying eyes. It was made clear to her at an early age that she need not bother with an education beyond maintaining her good manners and good looks. Reading, she was instructed, would only ruin her pretty green eyes and cause wrinkles. It broke her heart to have to resort to tearing pages from books and hiding them in the sleeve of her dresses.
Despite Prudence’s obvious admiration towards Andrew, Abigail found the man to be a complete bore. There was something else about the younger Lord Dunnesbury that she found unsettling; there was coldness to the attractive man. Something in his brilliant blue eyes gave the young Abigail a most unsettled feeling. “Miss Abigail,” Prudence’s stern tone broke her out of her misery. “No frowning you will get wrinkles. It wouldn’t do if you look sullen on such a joyous occasion.”
“No it wouldn’t would it?” Abigail muttered in a bitter tone.
Abigail adjusted her lace gloves as she felt the carriage jerking to a halt. “Now what?” Prudence fumed as Abigail rolled her eyes. Prudence was in many ways a very demanding person. She once berated a coachman for taking the long way to reach a destination despite the fact that the poor man had already explained to her that the bridge was out. Still Prudence did not accept the man’s explanation. True to her nature the plump woman began banging on the wall of the carriage demanding an explanation.
Abigail sighed heavily as Prudence’s demands for an explanation grew from a bellow to a piercing screech. Abigail said a silent prayer that the road leading to Dunnesbury Manor had suddenly vanished making it impossible for her to ever find her way there. “Prudence, I am certain that Smothers has a very good reason for stopping,” Abigail offered in hopes of silencing the woman.
“Nonsense,” Prudence dismissed as she reached for the handle on the door.
The sounds of hushed voices gave Abigail a start. “Prudence stay here,” Abigail, cautioned her. Prudence scoffed at the notion and Abigail’s worried expression. Before she could reach out Prudence flung the door open and was proceeding to lift her heavy frame out of the carriage. “Prudence something is amiss,” Abigail pleaded as the woman huffed and grumbled. The sound of her maid shrieking did not come as a complete surprise to the young Abigail.
“I tried to warn you,” Abigail grumbled as she heard the sounds of men laughing. The small blonde gathered up her skirt and decided to face her fate. Her heart was pounding as she slowly stepped out of her carriage. Her escort was nowhere to be seen and the coachman Smothers was kneeling on the ground as a caped masked man held a pistol to his head.
The young woman trembled as she watched the elderly man cowering in fear. She looked around to find that were seven of them all dressed in black, donning black hats, which cast a shadow over their already masked faces. She could feel their eyes on her as they looked down at her from their horses. Prudence’s face was beat red as she glowered at the thieves. “You will rue the day you mistakenly decided to cross Lord Dunnesbury,” Prudence proudly professed as Abigail winced.
“Prudence keep quiet,” Abigail chastised her in a hushed tone as she pulled the plump woman away from the villains. One of them climbed down off of his steed. His blue eyes burning into Abigail as he approached her with a confident swagger. “Prudence,” She cautioned the angry maid once again as the older woman puffed out her chest in defiance.
“You’d be wise to heed your mistress’ warning,” Came the surprisingly sultry warning from the approaching rogue. There was something in the timber of the highwayman’s voice that sent a sudden shiver down the young blonde’s spine.
“I will not be spoken to in this manner by a commoner,” Prudence objected indignantly.
“She is your servant is she not?” The tall man in black leather inquired as Abigail simply nodded in response unable to tear herself away from the man’s fiery gaze. “Again I strongly suggest you heed your mistress,” The rouge insisted as he continued to close the gap between them. “Your bold proclamation has already informed us that you are not merely simple travelers, but most likely hold a rich bounty.”
Abigail could see Prudence’s face growing pale as the tall dark stranger towered above her. “So you must be the wedding party?” The man added thoughtfully.
“No, I’m simply a lady in waiting,” Abigail lied in an effort to protect herself and her servants.
“Liar,” The rouge snickered. “The crest on your fine carriage gives you away. Where is your dowry fine lady?”
“You will find what you are seeking in the back.” Abigail conceded simply wishing to escape the situation without bringing harm to anyone.
“Abigail,” Prudence scolded her. “Without your dowry Lord Andrew might have a reason to renege.”
“Prudence be quiet.” Abigail finally commanded as she secretly hoped that she was indeed giving the boorish Lord Dunnesbury a reason to call off the wedding.
“Yes, dear Prudence do be quiet,” the rogue, scolded her maid much to Abigail’s delight. “If the young Lord Dunnesbury is incapable of seeing that his prize is this fine young woman and not her father’s money then he is a fool.” The rogue explained as he motioned to his companions to search the carriage. “No the true treasure is not the gold.” the rogue added as he tucked Abigail under her chin with his leather-clad hand.
The young blonde jerked her head back in defiance. “Yes,” the rogue continued in a throaty tone as he ran the back of his hand across Abigail’s pale cheek. “You are indeed a treasure. One, which I am very tempted to claim for myself,” Abigail flinched from the man’s touch, which was not as unpleasant as she would have expected it to be. The warmth spreading through her body was confusing the young woman.
“Take your filthy hands off of her.” Prudence demanded.
“Silence.” The rouge’s voice finally demanded as his icy blue eyes bore into the annoying woman.
“You will pay for this,” Prudence hissed before she spat at the tall dark thief. “Lord Dunnesbury will exact his revenge and I will cheer as your sorry hide swings from a tree.”
“You are a foolish old thing,” the rouge laughed with delight. “Gentleman Jack will never bow to the house of Dunnesbury.” Abigail’s heart was pounding as she heard the rouge announce his name. Gentleman Jack was well known in the area. The highwayman seemed to live to disrupt the House Of Dunnesbury.
Prudence failed to listen to Gentleman Jack’s warning and continued to curse the rouge as he inspected the small chest of gold and jewels that were the payment the elder Lord Dunnesbury would receive in exchange for accepting Abigail into his family. Smothers was pleading from his kneeling position for the maid to be silent, but she would not heed his warning. The woman who had raised Abigail was far to devoted to her new master.
“We will take this mere pittance.” Gentleman Jack sneered as he stared coldly at Prudence. “Bound and gag the old bitty,” He demanded as two of his men roughly
clasped the bellowing Prudence. “Take the horses and I will take the treasure. You?” He
That I will return his bride untouched once he pays a more appropriate price for the return of such a treasure. And inform the Lord that it was the Lady’s maid’s insolence that led me to take this action.”
“Please,” Abigail pleaded as the thief led her towards his horse while some of his men unhitched the horses from the carriage and the others bound Prudence to a tree. Seeing the obese maid squirming as her face turned a lovely shade of scarlet was the only pleasurable aspect of Abigail’s new plight. “I beg of you Sir I will be of no use to you.”
“I trust that I could find many ways that you would be useful to me, m’ lady,” Jack purred as he assisted her up onto his steed. “Alas unlike your future husband I am a man of honor and will return you to his unworthy arms unharmed if he complies with my demands.”
Abigail shivered as Jack climbed up behind her and wrapped his arms tightly around her waist. “Close your eyes,” the rouge whispered hotly in her ear. She choked as her flesh felt hot from the feel of his breath caressing her skin. She closed her eyes. Her senses reeled as she felt soft silk covering her eyes. “Wouldn’t do for you to know where you are going.” Jack whispered once again sending a tremor through the young blonde’s body.
The journey seemed to take a long time. Jack and his men never uttered a word as they pushed their horses harder in an effort to distance themselves from the scene of their crime. The only sounds Abigail could hear was the constant clomping of the horses hoof beats as she felt the sun retreating from the sky. Her body grew cold as she felt and heard the sounds of twilight approaching. She shivered from the cold.
Her body warmed slightly as she felt something warm and heavy wrapping around her body and Jack’s arms returning to embrace her. She grew weary and agitated as the journey continued. Her agitation only grew as she became increasingly aware of the fact that the only comfort and solace she felt was the arms of her captor wrapped around her body.
Gentleman Jack’s touch was so comforting that the kidnapped woman actually drifted off to sleep in the rouge’s embrace. “Awake milady,” was whispered in her ear, “We have arrived.” Abigail moaned as the words drifted through her sleepy mind. Suddenly the events of the day came rushing back to her. She tried to snap her eyes open only to discover darkness. Her heart was filled with a sense of panic as she tried to reach up and touch her face. Her wrists were captured in a tight hold. It was then she remembered the blindfold her captor had placed over her eyes.
“My apologies,” Jack whispered once again as Abigail strained to hear something that might calm her fears. “I will assist you, but I must insist that your eyes remain covered.” Abigail was far too frightened to answer her captor as she felt her body being jostled and her feet touching the ground. She listened carefully as he led her slowly towards some kind of shelter.
Abigail’s heart was pounding against her chest as she allowed herself to be escorted to the cold ground and her hands bound in front of her. She had to confess that the tether wasn’t hurtful as her tiny hands rested in her lap and her body leaned against a cold hard surface. She listened to shuffling and the sound of flint being struck. She could smell wisps of smoke and the damp night air as she felt her body warming from the flames she heard flickering not far away from her body.
As she listened to her surroundings she could hear more shuffling as her mind fitted together the puzzle pieces of her situation. She felt a heavy garment covering her body and she fingered it lightly. She realized that the rouge had covered her in his cape. She also became frighteningly aware of the fact that she was now alone with her captor.
“My apologies once again,” came the lilting voice of her captor that made Abigail’s body react in the most curious manner. Her stomach clenched and there was a strange warmth spreading through her loins. “I wasn’t prepared for guests therefore I have little to offer you for dinner.”
“I am not hungry,” Abigail, confessed she felt her stomach churning with nervous anticipation as she contemplated her fate. “I think being abducted on the way to my wedding gathering has left me without an appetite.”
“Yes,” the rouge agreed in a soft tone. “I can understand how the day’s events might be upsetting. I assure you that kidnapping you was not my original intention. It was that infuriating woman, and that you truly are the only thing of value I found today.”
“Alas I am a prize.” Abigail muttered in a bitter tone.
“Far more than you realize,” came the husky response. Once again Abigail’s body trembled in response as she felt her captor’s body settling close to her own. “You truly are a treasure.”
“Or a pawn,” Abigail grunted with displeasure. “Your exploits and displeasure with The House Of Dunnesbury are well known Sir. In all likelihood Lord Dunnesbury will not accept my return. Stealing his bride will wound his pride.”
“I know,” Jack, purred into her ear and her skin prickled in response. “Yet, if he is arrogant enough to refuse reclaiming you, then I shall just have to keep you.”
“And do what with me Sir?” Abigail squeaked in response as she felt long fingers caressing her face. The touch of his leather-clad hand had invoked a rush of emotions in the young girl, and now his bare hand was further fueling the flames stirring inside of her.
“I can think of so many things,” her captor’s voice caressed her ear as she felt soft long hair brushing against her skin. Abigail was surprised by the length and softness of his hair. She gasped as she felt soft lips tenderly caressing her neck. “I could show you.”
“And what of your promise?” Abigail choked as her bosom began to strain against the material of her dress. Never before had the young woman felt her body pulsating and her breasts aching in a painfully urgent manner.
“I can pleasure you to the point of making you call out to the heavens without tearing your veil,” Jack boasted in a sultry tone as she felt his hands drifting along her body. “Yet I would never knock on your door without an invitation.”
“Please Sir,” she gasped as she felt his hand cupping her breast. Her body arched in response as she felt a dampness gathering in her undergarments. “I do not understand.” She stammered as she felt her breathing becoming labored as her nipple hardened from her captor’s caress.
“But you want to.” He played with her as his kisses moved from her neck to her cheek lingering dangerously close to her lips.
Abigail was lost in confusion as she felt herself leaning into his touch and her body arching against his. Adding to her confusion was the softness of his face as his cheek brushed against her own. His lips and scent of his body pressing softly against her lacked a certain roughness that she had expected. It was almost as if he wasn’t masculine, but more like a woman in his touch.
Lost in the darkness she felt the buttons and stays of her gown being freed. “I could if you will grant me the pleasure of bringing you the release your body is craving,” he murmured against her skin. “I will stop if you request me to do so.” he promised as Abigail’s mind spun out of control. She felt the chill of the night air as her skin was exposed. She was lost in a need to feel his hands on her body to touch and see her mystery lover as well. She knew that she should push him away and refuse the rouge’s advances. Still her body refused to obey as she felt soft lips brushing against her own.
Jack’s lips were warm and inviting as they moved tenderly against hers. Not at all how she expected a man’s lips to feel as she gave in and returned his kiss. In the darkness she could feel his hands cupping and massaging her breasts as his tongue caressed her lips. She gasped as she parted her lips. Abigail was stunned as she felt his tongue slipping between her trembling lips. Not fully understanding what he was doing her own tongue greeted Jack’s.
She melted into Jack’s touch as she felt his body shifting until his leg was pressing against her thighs. Still Abigail was amazed at how soft and tender he felt and again she was confused by the raw aching need brewing inside of her and how his body seemed unlike what she had expected. His hands explored her body exposing more of her flesh to the cool air and his touch. Again she was confused and amazed at his soft tender touch. In some ways she felt as if she was caressing herself.
Abigail’s thighs parted as she felt her pulse racing. She struggled against the tether that kept her hands bound. She wanted to free herself and tear off her blindfold so she could see his face. His kisses drifted from her lips to her chin and then down her neck until he was tracing the swell of her breasts with his tongue. As she released tiny whimpers of pleasure her mind tried to picture what Jack’s face looked like, strangely her vision of him was decidedly feminine.
Abigail refused to dwell on the curiosity of her unusual picture as she allowed her body to respond to Jack’s touch. She cried out as she felt his tongue flicker across one of her nipples as his long silky hair tickled her skin. Nothing in her privileged upbringing had prepared her for what was happening as she felt her lover’s lips capture the bud.
Abigail felt her hips swaying searching out for his body as he suckled her breast eagerly while his long fingers teased the other. The dampness between her thighs grew into a raging river as she tried to brush her body against her lover’s soft inviting form. “Jack,” she moaned as he continued to feast upon her. “Please allow me to see you.”
“I can not my love,” Jack murmured against her skin. “Keeping my secret is the only way I can remain free.”
“Then tear my veil and let me know all of you.” Abigail pleaded as she felt Jack’s firm thigh pressing against her womanhood.
“Again I must refuse,” Jack whispered as his mouth continued to feast upon her breasts. “He does not desire to be the one to be granted such a precious gift. Yet if I take your innocence you will be scorned. I refuse to bring your downfall.” Jack confessed as his mouth left her body and his hips began to sway in rhythm with her own.
Abigail felt her body trembling as a strange pounding began in her ears. She felt Jack’s hot breath on her face as her body rocked urgently against his. “Allow me the gift of touching and tasting your hidden treasure,” he gasped as she trembled against him. “Your pearl my love.”
“Anything.” Abigail conceded as she felt his hands caressing her.
As they thrust against one another the feel of his body once again confused her. There was something decidedly missing. The thought flew from her mind as she felt her dress being lifted up to her waist as his body moved lower. She was gasping and quivering as she felt her undergarments being lowered. There was something about being trapped in the darkness that frightened and excited her.
She felt his hands gliding up and down her legs and his breath on her thighs. His fingers gently glided along her swollen nether lips as his soft silky hair covered her stomach like a blanket. She cried out once again as she felt his touch brushing against the bundle of nerves as he moaned. As he parted her she understood what he had meant by her pearl. His touch was gentle as he stroked her sensitive nub. His touch grew as her hips sway in rhythm with his fingers.
Abigail was gasping for air as her body rocked as she raised her hips in an effort to find relief from the sweet torture. She felt his hands on her backside and her body being lifted as his breath neared the blonde patch that covered her maiden hood. The tickle and then the long sweeping feeling gliding along her passion made her body cry out for more. “What in the name of . . . Oh my God!” She screamed out in pleasure as she felt Jack’s mouth feasting upon her.
The musky aroma of her desire filled Abigail’s senses, as she was lost in a haze of passion as her lover released her. She was void of thought as her lover pleasured her over and over again as she cried out to the heavens and sang the rogue’s praises. Her body finally collapsed as her mind filled with flashes of crimson. She could feel Jack turning her onto her side and the ruffling of clothing. She moaned as she felt Jack nestling behind her. He wrapped his arms around her in a comforting embrace as she felt her skin being painted with a wetness that filled her with a renewed desire.
Her hips matched her lover’s rhythm as Jack swayed against her. Abigail could feel her body once again nearing the edge as she yearned to feel her lover exploding against her. The blonde rolled over onto her stomach as she felt her lover straddling her backside. Jack rode against her body as she matched his needy rhythm until her lover cried out as each of them toppled into the abyss.
Abigail awoke the following morning after sleeping contently in her lover’s arms. She was confused as her eyes blinked open and she was granted a view of her surroundings. The blindfold had been removed and the remnants of last evening had been washed from her body. Her hands were still bound as she looked around the simple shack she had shared with Jack who had his back to her as he buried the fire pit. She felt a stab of disappointment when he stood and turned to her. His face once again masked by the black silk scarf that covered everything but his eyes. “Good morning,” he greeted her in a warm inviting tone. “Did you sleep well milady?”
She failed to respond as her eyes scanned Jack’s narrow frame. “It couldn’t be?” she said absently as the pieces fell into place. “Could it?” as her gaze met Jack’s inquisitive stare. She was shocked as she continued to look deeply in those eyes. It was suddenly all to clear to her, Gentleman Jack was no gentleman in fact she was quite certain that he wasn’t a man. “Why has no one seen it before?” She pondered as she smiled up at the taller woman.
“Seen what?” came the muffled response as blue eyes danced with curiosity.
“How beautiful you are.” Abigail teased, as she wondered why the revelation didn’t shock her?
Jack released a hearty laugh as Abigail continued to gaze up at her in astonishment. “That’s a secret,” Jack cautioned her in a playful tone. “Sadly our time has come to an end.” Jack added in a disheartened tone as Abigail’s face fell.
“Please don’t send me back.” Abigail pleaded.
“I must,” Jack sadly admitted as she tugged on the leather grieve that covered her right forearm. “Lord Dunnesbury has paid a handsome price for your safe return.”
“Before you stole me away I was dreading becoming Lady Dunnesbury and now I fear that my dread as grown into utter hatred.” Abigail confessed.
“Hating the Dunnesbury clan is something I understand,” Jack muttered. “But I gave my word. And now I must return you.”
“Why do you hate them so?” Abigail asked as Jack assisted her to her feet.
“They rule this land like tyrants and they will stop at nothing to get what they want.” Jack tersely informed her.
“I know that the elder Lord Dunnesbury is strict but to invoke such deep hatred please tell me what they have done to you?” Abigail pried as Jack covered her eyes once again.
“Ask you husband about the scar on his arm.” Was all Jack offered before guiding Abigail out of the hovel.
She contemplated Jack’s words as they rode in silence. Andrew had a deep scar that ran almost the length of the inside of his left arm. Jack held her in a tender embrace as they rode her thoughts turned from Andrew to the previous evening. By the time she felt the horse’s movements cease she was a nervous wreck as she realized that she had not only been intimate with another just prior to her wedding, but her liaison was with another woman.
She was on the verge of tears as Jack helped her to the ground. “I won’t be far. I’ll be watching you and if he harms you in any way I will come back for you,” Jack vowed before placing a kiss on her cheek. Abigail tore off the blindfold and discovered Jack was gone and she was standing in the forest not far from where she had been abducted.
She considered fleeing and simply disappearing from the land making her escape before her father or the Dunnesbury clan could find her. She tore the tether from her wrists as she contemplated her escape. Before she could set her feet in motion she was surrounded by the escort that had failed her the previous day and her future husband glaring down at her from his horse.
No one spoke to her. They only gave her accusing glances as they whisked her away to Dunnesbury Manor. Upon her arrival she was shunned and dragged off to the physician who poked and prodded her in the most demeaning manner. It wasn’t until he boldly announced to a room full of people that she was still a virgin did anyone speak to her. Prudence was the only one who spoke to her.
“At least you were smart enough to keep that villain’s hands off of you,” the maid scolded her as Abigail redressed herself.
“You forced his hand,” Abigail hissed as she pointed an accusing finger at the stunned woman. “I shan’t forget that. Tread lightly with me old woman.”
“I . . .,” Prudence stammered in horror.
“You are my maid and it is time you acted accordingly.” Abigail fumed as the stress finally broke her reserve.
The scowl never left Prudence’s face, but during the wedding the maid managed to hold her tongue. Abigail prayed that her wedding would be a joyous event and her marriage would bring her happiness, and that she could erase the memory of Jack’s sensual touch from her mind. Her prayers went unanswered. The wedding was a somber affair after the events that had preceded it. Andrew was less than gifted in the matters of the heart and she hated her life.
She spent her days wallowing in boredom and her nights with Andrew feebly trying to plant his seed so he would finally have his heir. He grew more intent that she provide him with a son after his father passed on. His advances grew harsh. Finally she was with child not that it lessened her husband’s icy façade. The only bright spot was when she would look out her bedroom window after he had performed his duty. There in the dark moors she would spy the black stallion and its rider with the long flowing raven hair watching from a distance. “Why couldn’t he possess your passion?” She would ask herself each night as she gazed out into the darkness at her lover’s form as she tried to see her face that was clouded by the night sky and the distance.
One spring morning she found herself drowning in boredom and decided to take a ride across the expansive grounds that were her husband’s domain. She felt a strange sense of urgency as she took her mount and accepted the caretaker’s caution for her to remain close to the manor.
The hair on the back of her fair neck prickled with excitement as she led the gray mare towards the woods that surrounded the manor. She felt her heart racing as she felt driven to ride out to the small glen just beyond the edge of the property line. Her body quivered as she felt the familiar presence near her almost as if Jack was riding beside her. As her horse stepped out into the sunshine of the clover filled glen she wasn’t surprised to find the dark leather clad figure waiting for her.
Abigail frowned slightly as she noticed the mask that covered her face firmly in place. “Still shy?” she questioned the woman who only released a throaty chuckle in response as Abigail guided her horse to the tall dark woman.
Abigail’s entire being pulsated with desire as she felt Jack’s hands on her body as the tall woman assisted her down to the ground. Once her feet were planted safely on the ground she turned and wrapped her arms around Jack’s warm inviting body. “And how is married life treating you my fair Abigail?” Jack softly inquired the silk from the mask that was draped over her face brushing against Abigail’s fair skin.
“I hate it,” Abigail confessed with a weary sigh, as her hands drifted across Jack’s chest in an effort to feel what she now knew lay beneath the heavy material of the woman’s shirt. “Tsk,” she scoffed with disappointment as she realized that her lover’s bosom was bound with a heavy cloth in an effort to conceal her identity. “Why can’t I be permitted to see the real you?” She whimpered as her tiny fingers drifted up to the ties of Jack’s heavy cloak.
“We don’t have time,”
Abigail felt shameless as she molded her smaller frame against Jack’s as she dropped the heavy cape to the ground. She gasped when she felt something hard pressing against her midriff. “Have you grown something since our last encounter?” she asked in confusion as her hand drifted down to Jack’s trousers.
“My you are a clever girl,” Jack responded with a throaty laugh that sent a shiver up and down the young blonde’s spine. Abigail was intrigued by the new sensation as she cupped Jack’s mound in an effort to discover what was lying beneath the woman’s trousers. “And so eager.” Jack choked out as Abigail stroked the hard bulge.
“Show me?” Abigail pleaded desperately as she reeled with delight from the feel of Jack’s body trembling from her touch.
“Abigail you are a married woman.” Jack managed to choke out as she firmly clasped the blonde’s shoulders.
Abigail looked up her emerald orbs quickly drowning in Jack’s fiery blue gaze. “I do not belong to him,”
“Yes,” Jack murmured as she ran her fingers through Abigail’s soft golden tresses. “The Dunnesbury line must endure no matter what the cost.”
The bitterness in Jack’s voice made Abigail tremble as she began to undo the ties of Jack’s trousers. “Enough about him and my sad fate,” Abigail pleaded. “Time is
our enemy. Show me?” She pleaded once again as she lowered Jack’s trousers to reveal the thick shaft held secured to her lover’s hips by a leather harness. “I never knew such things existed,” She gasped in wonderment as she ran
her fingers over the shaft. “Then again since encountering you
“We mustn’t.” Jack cautioned her as the tall woman continued to wrap her fingers in Abigail’s hair.
“I’m dying here,” Abigail confessed as her fingers continued to trace the smooth surface of the shaft as the scent of her lover’s musky desire filled her senses. “Grant me the gift of a few stolen moments with you.”
“You are wrong,” Jack corrected her as she guided Abigail closer to the shaft. “I am the one being offered a gift this fine day. Bestowing your favor on this worthless thief is more than I could ever dare dream of. And I am helpless to refuse.”
“Teach me?” Abigail pleaded with a whimper as she continued to stroke the shaft pleased by the feel of Jack’s hips swaying in response to her touch.
Jack was tender and her voice gentle as she instructed Abigail to trace the tip of the shaft with her tongue before capturing the smooth shaft in her mouth and suckling it. Abigail’s body was ready to burst into flames as she followed Jack’s lead. She clasped the shaft with one hand as took it in her mouth as her other hand rested on her lover’s bare hip.
Abigail had never suspected that performing such an act would drive her insane with desire as she teased and coaxed her lover until neither of them could resist the
-screaming deep inside of them. Her body was aching for her lover to complete her as Jack lay her down on the ground and lowered her undergarments. Abigail clutched her lover’s
shoulders tightly as Jack filled her with the shaft and pleasured her with long gentle strokes.
Soon the gentleness gave way to the fiery passion that was controlling them and they rocked against one another in a wild rhythm until they were crying out with pleasure. “I belong to you!” Abigail chanted as her lover continued to pleasure her until her voice and body grew weak. She clung to her lover’s body until the last waves of pleasure ebbed and they both knew their time together had once again come to an end.
The memory of the stolen moments she shared with Jack kept her from losing her sanity. A few short weeks later she discovered that she was finally with child. Thankfully Andrew seemed to vanish since his work was done. As the days passed her only joy was preparing for the arrival of her child and trying to pry information out of the staff regarding Andrew’s scar. She had asked him and he dismissed her question with a cold stare.
Abigail was wandering about the Manor when she spied Mrs. Grebes, one of the cooks. The older woman avoided her gaze. “Cook,” She beckoned the woman. “A word?” Abigail asked sweetly as she inquired casually about her husband’s scar. She knew that the woman had been serving the family since long before Andrew was born.
“Please Lady Dunnesbury do not ask me such things.” The older woman pleaded as she avoided Abigail’s gaze.
“Why?” Abigail pleaded.
“It was horrible.” The cook muttered before scurrying away.
The events that followed added to Abigail’s turmoil. She took ill and was lost in a fever. She lost her child. Still sick with fever her husband berated her before storming out of her bedchamber. The nurse was the only one who visited her as she fought against the illness and pain. “Ssh child you will be able to have a child.” The kindly old woman reassured her.
“You helped deliver my husband didn’t you?” Abigail asked as the woman mopped her brow.
“Yes, I was there the night they were born.” The nurse grumbled.
“They?” Abigail asked knowing that her husband was an only child. “Lily what are you talking about?” she inquired wondering if the older woman was confused. The sadness in the old woman’s eyes tugged at her heart. “What don’t I know?”
“The young Lord was born a twin.” Lily finally confessed exhaling several heavy sighs. “They were joined at the arm.”
“The scar?” Abigail encouraged her despite her weaken state.
“The Older Lord severed them with his sword to save his son,” Lily explained with disgust. “Then he ordered the bleeding girl cast off in the rubbish as if she was to blame for the circumstances of her birth.”
“He murdered his daughter to save his heir?” Abigail sobbed.
“Yes,” Lily choked out. “It broke Lady Dunnesbury’s heart. She passed on not long after that. The Lord was always a cruel man, his son’s no better. But I needn’t tell you that do I child?”
“No.” Abigail weakly agreed as she felt the fever once again consuming her tired body, unable to find the strength to resist she allowed it to consume her.
She fell into a fitful slumber the only comfort was the feel of familiar hands brushing her brow and soft words whispered in her ear. During the night the fever broke and Abigail awoke to find her hand wrapped in another’s. She blinked her eyes in an effort to adjust to the darkness. “I was right,” She mumbled as the raven head jerked up. “You are beautiful.”
“I came as soon as I heard.” Jack whispered softly as she squeezed Abigail’s hand.
“Why Jack?” Abigail asked as she brushed her thumb across the back of the brunette’s hand.
“Why am I here?” Jack asked in confusion.
“No why call yourself Jack?” Abigail laughed.
“Why not?” The brunette responded with a light laugh. “Honestly it was other’s who started calling me Gentleman Jack. Apparently I was very polite when I relieved them of their valuables.”
“I see,” Abigail, corrected her. “Why only the Dunnesbury clan and their associates?”
“Why not?” Jack shrugged as Abigail’s eyes drifted to the leather grieve.
They fell into a comfortable silence as Jack stroked her brow and Abigail drank in the dark woman’s chiseled features. “I must take my leave,” Jack finally announced in a voice filled with regret. “I will return and trust I will never be far away.” She kissed Abigail’s brow tenderly as she stood and headed towards the window.
“I know about the scar.” Abigail said as she coughed. She heard Jack’s footsteps falter and she turned and cast a troubled gaze down at Abigail.
“How much do you know?” Jack nervously inquired.
“I know about my husband’s sister,”
“Lily is a good woman,”
“No,” Abigail coughed once again. “Do you care for me?”
“More than I should.” Jack confessed.
“Would you remove the band of leather that covers your arm?” Abigail asked worried that she was asking for too much. “I wish to know the woman who holds my heart.”
Jack smiled as her arm retreated and she carefully removed the leather grieve. Abigail looked down at the exposed arm her lover was offering up to her. She bent her head and gently kissed the scar that mirrored the one on her husband’s arm. “I always said you were a clever girl.” Jack said with pride as she brushed back Abigail’s hair and began to recover her arm.
“Do they know?” Abigail asked as she watched her lover rising and moving away from her.
“No,” Jack softly explained. “Only Lily and my mother knew. They spared me from death and hid me away. Now I must take my leave before I endanger both our lives. Trust that I won’t be far away and I will return to you.”
“I love you.” Abigail whispered as her lover vanished out her bedroom window.
She was unclear if her lover heard her words or if Jack had actually visited her. As she slowly recovered Abigail often found herself wondering if the events of that evening had all been a dream her wishful mind had conjured up. Once her fever broke, Lily was no longer needed and was sent on her way. With the nurse’s sudden departure, Abigail was unable to find the answers to her questions.
The gloom of her existence grew as her body recovered and Andrew returned to her bedchambers. His determination to sire an heir only intensified since the loss of their first child. Naturally he blamed Abigail for the miscarriage and for her not becoming pregnant again.
Now he would stay in her bed until the morning, stealing the only solace she had in her dreary existence. With him grunting on top of her all night long each evening she was unable to peer out her window and see Jack waiting for her.
No one seemed to notice the Lady Dunnesbury growing more despondent with each passing day as little by little her spirit died. On one brisk morning she decided to go for a ride in hopes that the fresh morning air might lift her spirits. Or perchance that she would find Jack waiting for her.
Abigail’s hopes were quickly dashed when Myron the stable hand informed her that Lord Dunnesbury had forbidden her to take mount. The anger swelled inside of her as she stormed after her husband and mistakenly confronted him. As she looked up into his cold blue eyes she wondered why she hadn’t realized that Jack was his kin? Perhaps it was because her lover’s eyes were filled with warmth and life.
He explained in a condescending tone that riding was out of the question since she would soon be with child. She had never stood up to his tyranny before. The tall dark man was so taken aback from her sudden bravado that she was banished to her bedchambers until she performed her duties.
Abigail was locked in her room indefinitely or she produced a son. Her only visitors a cook or maid who only appeared to deliver her meals and Prudence who took great pleasure in demeaning her now captive mistress. Apparently her maid wasted no time ingratiating herself in the Lord’s good favor. Locked away from the fresh air and forced to perform her duties at night, which prevented her from stealing a glimpse of Jack the Lady of the house, fell even further into a dark depression.
Abigail began to fill her time with contemplations of how to end her existence. Late one afternoon she sat on her bed staring blankly out the window on the other side of the room, she counted down the scant few moments she had until her husband’s arrival. She felt dread in her heart as she watched the sun slipping slowly from the sky. Once it was dark, he would come. “Now that is not a happy face,” came the familiar sultry tone that sent a shiver down her spine. “I miss your smile.”
“Jack? How did you get in here?” Abigail blurted out as she spied her lover standing by the window she had been staring out of. “I never saw you?”
“You were deep in thought,” Jack explained as she approached the bed. “Not happy thoughts by the look of it.”
“Lower that mask?” Abigail desperately pleaded as she stood to greet her lover.
“My apologies but I must conceal myself,” Jack apologized. “I have come to ask you something?”
“Anything,” Abigail promised. “But you must hurry, he will be here soon.”
“All the better,” Jack chuckled. “It is about time I have a word with my brother. I honestly do not care for the way he treats his wife.”
“Nor do I,” Abigail agreed. “But now is not the time. I implore you for your own safety please leave.”
It broke Abigail’s heart to ask the brunette to leave her, but she feared for the woman’s safety. “I can not until I ask you what I came here to ask you,” Jack explained in a serious tone. “Are you happy?”
“You know I am not.” Abigail confessed as she wrapped her arms around Jack’s waist.
“Then we shall leave.” Jack brightly suggested.
“But how?” Abigail questioned her. “No it is not possible. Now you must leave. My life is over I will not end yours.”
“That is not your choice,” Jack corrected her as she placed her fingers under the blonde’s chin and lifted her face to meet her gaze. “I’ve come to bid you join me. I have decided to retire. The money I have liberated from the Dunnesbury family has been used to help so many people over the years. Still I did keep a sizeable share for myself. Call it my inheritance if you will. My man Roger is now Gentleman Jack and I am off to follow my fortune. I’ve hidden it well. Yet, the greatest treasure is still your favor. Come with me.”
“Yes,” Abigail offered without hesitation as Jack led her to the window. “When?”
“This very moment my love.” Jack offered as she waved her arm towards the open window.
Abigail stood on her toes in an effort to place a kiss on her lover’s brow when the door suddenly flew open. “No!” She shrieked in horror as her husband stormed into her bedchamber.
“What have we here?” Andrew demanded with a cruel smile. “Gentleman Jack in my wife’s bedchamber? I will finally have the opportunity to rid myself of the both of you.”
Jack guided Abigail safely behind her as the brunette drew her pistol. “This is much better. I do prefer leaving by the front door rather than scaling the wall once again.” Jack challenged the stunned man.
“You whore.” Andrew spat out at Abigail who was trying to get around her lover.
“You are not to speak to her in that manner.” Jack cautioned him as he took aim.
“I’ll speak to her in any manner I chose.” Andrew laughed.
Abigail finally pushed her way around her lover’s body. “Stop the both of you,” she demanded. “You wish to be free of us and so you shall. Let us walk out of here.”
“He can’t,” Jack argued. “It wouldn’t do much for his pride to simply allow either of us to escape.”
“How would your pride fair if the world knew that your father severed you from your sister?” Abigail challenged him.
“And?” Andrew dismissed her quickly. “She was draining my life. He did what any man would have done and saved his son.”
“You are a monster,” Abigail sobbed. “My only comfort is that I know that all men are not like you and your father, that and I know that you are unarmed and Jack is an excellent shot.” She added with a sly smirk as his face paled.
“Neither of you will leave this house alive.” Andrew boasted.
“Fine,” Abigail sighed as he reached out for her. “Jack shoot him.”
Jack laughed in response as Andrew pushed Abigail aside and lunged towards the rouge. Abigail watched the scuffle fearfully until it ended with Jack slamming the butt of her pistol into Andrew’s skull. He fell to the ground wounded but alive. “We must hurry.” Jack instructed her in an urgent tone.
As they raced through the corridors Abigail noticed that the servants merely stepped aside allowing them to pass. Some of them looked at Jack with fear; the others simply smiled as they allowed them to escape. There was, of course, one exception. Prudence tried to block their path only to be shoved to floor by the eager Abigail.
Jack led the blonde from the manor and down to the stables. Abigail was stunned when she discovered Jack’s steed and her mare awaiting their arrival with Smothers and Myron keeping a watchful eye. “Hurry.” Jack implored her as they took their mount. Abigail felt elated as she galloped after her lover into the night.
Their journey ended just near the docks and Jack whisked her on board a ship under the cover of darkness. “A stateroom?” Abigail noted in appreciation as she looked around while Jack began to undress.
“Nothing but the best for you my love.” Jack offered with a brilliant smile as her male attire began falling to the floor.
“Again I feel compelled to inform you that you are truly beautiful.” Abigail gasped as she drank in her lover’s naked body. She was just about to touch her lover’s glorious form when a harsh rapping on the door disturbed them. Abigail gathered up Jack’s clothing as the brunette wrapped her body in a robe.
The blonde hid behind the door as Jack slowly opened it. “Yes?” Jack barked to whoever was on the other side. Abigail was shaking as she pulled Jack’s clothing tightly against her body.
“My apologies Miss,” she heard Andrew’s voice. “I am seeking a horse thief.”
Abigail’s heart was pounding as she felt the hard metal of Jack’s pistol buried in her clothing. “In my stateroom?” Jack quipped in an indignant tone as Abigail freed the pistol and quietly dropped the clothing to the floor. Abigail’s hands were shaking as she readied the pistol while Andrew stammered out his apologies.
She began to relax as she realized that he was, indeed, dimwitted and was about to leave. “Wait,” he suddenly exclaimed as fear gripped Abigail’s heart. “Your arm? That scar?”
As Abigail prepared herself to defend her lover Andrew’s body suddenly came flying into the room and crashed onto the floor as Jack slammed the door behind him. “Don’t!” Abigail warned him as he started to rise and she aimed the pistol.
“It isn’t possible?” He stammered as he carefully climbed to his feet.
“He is an idiot.” Jack noted dryly.
“Apparently my love you got the brains as well as the beauty,” Abigail quipped. “Andrew be smart and leave us. You shall never hear from either of us again. Your wife was kidnapped by Gentleman Jack and is probably dead. Which frees you to find another bride. This time I would suggest that you find a woman who can at least tolerate you.”
“Why should I leave?” He laughed. “I have the both of you and I can condemn you.”
“Wrong,” Abigail sighed once again knowing her lover did indeed receive the intelligence her brother did not. “First you would need to tell the court that your sister stole your wife.” His face paled as he realized that he could never admit to such a thing. “She is your sister and I’m certain there are many who have known for years and would support her claim to Dunnesbury Manor. If she married her husband could claim half.”
“And brother you don’t have us since at this moment it is Abigail who is holding the gun,” Jack chuckled gleefully.
“She wouldn’t dare.” Andrew scoffed.
“Wrong,” Abigail coldly corrected him. “I hate you and have no qualms about ridding myself of your presence one way or another.”
Andrew’s eyes widened in horror as he focused on the gun barrel that was carefully aimed at his heart. Abigail was amused when Jack took advantage of the situation and delivered a blow to the back of his head sending him crashing to the floor. “Whatever shall we do with him?” Jack asked as Abigail blew out a sigh of relief.
“We can’t trust him not to follow us,” Abigail noted as she lowered her shaking hand. “His arrogance led him to do that once already. Although I’m not entirely certain it wasn’t the return of his horse he was really seeking,” Abigail pondered the situation for a moment. “I assume that you have friends amongst the crew?”
“Yes,” Jack confirmed with a smile. “How did you think you got on board unnoticed?” Jack supplied as she opened the cabin door. “Oh Brutus?” She called out in a playful tone.
Abigail nodded to the burly man who stepped into the cabin. “I have a bit of a dilemma.” Jack explained as she pointed towards Andrew’s crumpled body.
“I see,” Brutus noted as he stared down at the man. “And what is it you wish Sabrina?”
“Sabrina?” Abigail asked brightly.
“Problem?” The brunette inquired.
“It is as beautiful as are you.” Abigail informed her. “Now back to the matter at hand, Lord Dunnesbury.”
“Quite right,” Sabrina agreed. “I think is more than apparent that neither of us are really capable of killing him since we both had the chance more than once this evening and refused to do so. Brutus we need to get him off of the ship before we sail and for him to be kept occupied until we are half way across the ocean.”
“Anything for you.” Brutus readily agreed as he lifted Andrew up with ease and departed.
“I am exhausted,”
“I have a feeling nothing about you is uncomplicated,” Abigail teased her as she guided her lover to the bed. “I want make love to you but, . . .”
“We are both weary,” Sabrina concluded for her. “And we need to keep alert just in case your husband decides to make another appearance.”
“Rest,” Abigail instructed the brunette as they reclined onto the bed. “I just want to ask you one thing?”
“Yes, my name really is Sabrina.” The brunette yawned.
“Not that,” Abigail laughed as she laced her fingers in her lover’s long dark hair. “Where are we going?”
“I knew I forgot something,” Sabrina quipped. “With all the excitement and worrying about winning your heart I completely forgot to tell you about my ranch.”
“You won my heart the day we met,” Abigail reassured her with a tender kiss. “Now tell me about the ranch and why we need to sail there?”
“Our ranch,” Sabrina corrected her. “I bought a small ranch many years ago with my share of the money. It isn’t so small any more. Nothing like Dunnesbury Manor it is more of a home and it is productive. It is also in Australia.”
“Australia?” Abigail noted thoughtfully. “A new land for a new beginning. I cannot wait to see our new home.”
“Mother?” A voice disrupted Abigail’s memories as she stared out over the sprawling land that was the ‘Double D’ Ranch. She looked over at her son who was growing like a weed, as was his sister. The sail to Australia was romantic and passionate and oddly for Abigail nauseating. At first they had assumed that the blonde who had never sailed before was simply seasick. But the sickness continued after they had settled into their new life.
A visit from the local physician brought surprising news and eight and half months later they were blessed with a healthy son and daughter. “Yes, Jack.” She greeted their son with a smile.
“There is a man at the house looking for you and Aunt Sabrina.” He explained with a curious look.
“Who is he?” Abigail asked as she ruffled his dark black hair.
“Don’t know.” He shrugged.
“Where is your Aunt?” She inquired.
“Tess went to fetch her.” He explained as they walked back towards the main house.
“Fine let us see to our mystery guest then.” Abigail agreed.
Abigail felt a sense of apprehension as she spotted the sweating man in formal attire pacing about the sitting room. Sabrina was sporting an equally curious expression as she joined them. “Lady Dunnesbury.” The man greeted them in a crisp accent.
“Children leave us,” Sabrina gently instructed them as they looked on with curiosity. “I said go.” She added in a firm tone before turning her attention to the strange man.
“You must be mistaken sir,” Abigail quickly intervened as she felt the fear from fifteen years ago returning. “Our name is Dunne.”
“My apologies,” the man quickly offered. “I know that after all these years this must be a shock. It surprised all of us as well when certain matters came to light. Lord Andrew passed on.”
“Good.” Sabrina hissed.
“My name is Rhodes. I was one of the Lord’s solicitors. Before his passing the last Lady Dunnesbury left him after she discovered that he was still married to the first Lady Dunnesbury,” the solicitor tried to explain. “She brought this matter to our attention since she wished to leave her husband without causing a scandal.”
“Just how many Ladies of the Manor have there been?” Abigail inquired.
“Four including yourself,” Rhodes explained.
“I do not wish to be included,” Abigail explained. “I am Abby Dunne simple rancher here in the new world. I prefer this life thank you very much.”
“I am afraid it isn’t that simple anymore,” Rhodes explained in a weary tone. “It has all been documented. Legally you are the Lady Dunnesbury and you and Miss Dunnesbury are the heirs to Dunnesbury Manor.” Sabrina’s jaw dropped. “We discovered everything.” He confessed in a hushed tone.
“I don’t want it.” Abigail spat out.
“Nor do I,” Sabrina agreed. “Besides we are women. We can’t take Dunnesbury Manor or the estate.”
“According to the law you could or your husband’s could. Unless, of course, the boy or your daughter’s husband wishes to claim the estate.” Rhodes explained. “They are Lord Andrew’s children are they not?”
“No.” Tess’ voice piped in from behind them.
“They never listen,” Sabrina muttered as they turned to their children.
“Can’t imagine where they get that from,” Abigail quipped as she waved the children in. “Come in this concerns you.” It was hard enough raising twin teenagers without feeling Andrew’s grip rising up from the grave.
“Jack by law you have the last word,” Sabrina informed him.
“Your father would have wanted you to rule at Dunnesbury,” Rhodes encouraged him.
“Mother we know who our parents are,” Jack reassured her as he and his sister smiled at her and Sabrina. “Lord Dunnesbury isn’t one of them. If it is alright with Tess I think we would like to leave the fate of his estate in your hands.”
“Tess?” Abigail asked her daughter.
“You always know what is the right thing to do,” Tess agreed.
“Sabrina?” She turned to her lover who in her mind held more of a claim to the manor than any of them.
“This is home,” Sabrina bluntly informed her. “Do whatever you wish.”
“Sell it, give it away none of us care,” Abigail dismissed him.
“Lady Dunnesbury?” He gasped.
“Don’t call me that it isn’t a pleasant memory,” she chastised him. “Now if you will excuse me we have chores.”
“This is highly unusual,” Rhodes stammered.
“We are a most unusual family,” Tess informed him with a bright smile that was so much like her Aunt’s.
“Good day, Mr. Rhodes,” Abigail dismissed him once again with a wave of her hand. “Now back to work all of you.”
“Quite an unusual day Abby,” Sabrina commented once they were alone in their bedroom after retiring for the evening.
“Every day is unusual for us,” Abigail laughed as she rubbed lotion on her legs. “I must say I am so proud of our little ones.”
“Not so little anymore,” Sabrina teased as she began to assist her lover by massaging her legs. “I always wondered what we would tell them when they asked.”
“They knew,” Abigail supplied. “I don’t know how, but they knew.”
“You don’t think they know that we met by me kidnapping you do you?” Sabrina blurted out.
“I pray that some things are still a mystery to them,” Abigail teased as she leaned into her lover’s body. “There are things that I wish to keep private.”
“Such as?” Sabrina questioned her in a husky tone as she guided the blonde down onto the bed and began to undress her.
“Such as,” Abigail began with a smile. “That we were half way to Australia before we were intimate without the aid of a mask or blindfold.”
“Yes, the good old days.” Sabrina teased as she tossed her lover’s nightgown to the floor and began to kiss her way down the blonde’s body.
“These are the good old days my love,” Abigail corrected her.
The blonde’s breathing was becoming labored as her lover captured her nipple in the warmth of her mouth and began to suckle it eagerly. Abigail murmured with delight as Sabrina teased her. She could feel her desire growing as she tugged on her lover’s nightgown. Sabrina reluctantly abandoned her exploration to shed her own clothing.
Abigail pulled her lover down to her and they began kissing one another deeply as their bodies became one. She could feel Sabrina’s desire greeting her own as they moved urgently against one another. “How I could have mistaken you for a man is a complete mystery?” Abigail confessed once the kiss came to an end and her hands glided along the supple curve of her lover’s body.
“I think you always knew,” Sabrina moaned as her pearl brushed against Abigail’s. “Deep inside of you, you knew.” Abigail could only groan in agreement as she pressed her thigh against her lover’s aching wetness. Their hips swayed in unison as their hands explored the other’s flesh.
With each thrust of their hips Abigail felt her need growing out of control. “You are still a treasure to me.” Sabrina gasped as each of them began to stroke the other’s nub urgently. The bed creaked as they filled one another with their touch each of them reeling from the feel of their lover’s passion filling their hands as their bodies danced together, and they became one until their passionate cries filled the night air.
Abigail’s body was still trembling as she guided Sabrina onto her back. Abigail straddled her lover’s body. She plunged her tiny fingers deeper inside her lover’s center as she teased her pulsating button with her thumb. Sabrina wrapped her long legs around the blonde’s body her hips moving in rhythm with her lover’s demanding touch. “I love you,” Sabrina whimpered as Abigail pleasured her.
“And I love you,” Abigail choked out before nestling her body between the brunette’s quivering thighs. The blonde drank in her lover’s wetness as she pressed herself against the mattress in an effort to release herself as her lover climaxed against her.
Abigail was drowning inside of her lover as they reached the crest. She felt her lover falling over the edge and she quickly followed as she buried herself deeper inside of the woman who had stolen her heart. Soon they were wrapped up in one another’s arms just as they had done every night since they had fled Dunnesbury, and held one another tightly as they listened to the beating of the other’s heart.
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