Jako was gazing at her from the other side of the room, and for the first time this evening he seemed to see her. A smile twitched across his face. “When was the last time anyone mentioned to you, gnädiges Fräulein, that you are a very attractive young woman?”
Klaudia felt as if her breath had been knocked clear out of her. She couldn’t remember anyone ever saying that to her. “I – I – can’t remember….” She stammered.
Jako smiled again and cocked his head. “You are, you know? ‘though you don’t make nearly as much of yourself as you should.”
As if Jako had just noticed that Klaudia’s glass was empty, he took the bottle from the mantel and came towards her. He bent over as if to pour and then turned and pressed his lips to hers.
She hadn’t been expecting it. She’d never been kissed by anyone before. And for almost four weeks Jako himself had ignored her almost entirely – nothing more than the occasional stiff nod. But now he had the tray out of the way and onto a side table. He pressed her against the back of the chair and set his own wineglass aside. Then he slipped his hands into her hair, pulling it down from its neat pins. At last he pulled back and considered her. “You have such beautiful blonde hair. You are much prettier with it down,” he told her, smiling.
Klaudia was completely confused. She had never been looked at by a man like this before – certainly not by a man like this. She honestly didn’t know what to do.
Jako read her confusion easily and he laughed. Smiling, he poured for both of them and put Klaudia’s glass right into her hand. His face was close to hers, so close she could smell the wine on his breath, and he spoke very low and caressingly. “You seem surprised, gnädiges Fräulein; didn’t any of your noble friends ever pay court to you?”
She shook her head and tried to explain. “We, my family, have terrible debts, you see, the whole estate is mortgaged and—”
Jako cut her off with a quick little kiss, then drew back smiling deeply at her, his eyes just inches away. “What do I care about your father’s debts, liebes Fräulein? You are what interests me. Do you know how often I have thought about you these past weeks? I wanted to see you, but I let duty get in the way. But after what happened today – I need you. Need a sympathetic ear, and the comfort that can only come from a woman’s smile – a woman’s touch.” He reached out and stroked the side of her face.
It was wonderful. Klaudia felt herself in a fairy tale. Here she was in a romantic French Chateau with Gobelins and wine – and the most thrilling man she had ever met in her life was telling her he needed her. She lifted her chin just a fraction, and Jako accepted the invitation willingly, kissing her again, more passionately this time. Without even realising what she was doing, Klaudia lifted her arms and slipped them around Jako’s neck. Part of her felt that she was alive for the very first time in her whole life.
By the time she crept back up to her room under the eaves, Klaudia was already having her first doubts. It had all happened so fast. She had wanted to kiss and be kissed. She had even welcomed the invitation to go up to his room, so they could be somewhere where no one could just walk in on them. She had wanted to lie with him in the moonlight and listen to his compliments and feel his caresses forever. But at some point she realised that he wanted more, and then it was hard to say “no.” How could she explain that she didn’t want that just yet? She had tried, but he had silenced her with kisses, and his hands had done things to her body that she really didn’t understand. It had hurt a bit too, but then again, his very ardour was a compliment – wasn’t it?
She was reminded of novels she’d read in which the hero needed his sweetheart so desperately that he couldn’t wait. In the novels, couples made love in all sorts of unlikely places. But what could be more romantic than under the canopy of an eighteenth-century bed? Or more exciting than being desired – desperately – by a man with a Knight’s Cross? It had been intoxicating – and, of course, they had drunk at least two bottles of wine between them by then. Or rather, she had drunk most of it….
Oh, dear. She was slightly dizzy and queasy, and really didn’t feel all that well. She accidentally knocked something off the dresser as she tried to wriggle out of her tunic.
Rosa growled something from her bed.
“I’m sorry!” Klaudia whispered, adding apologetically “The Herr Gruppenkommandeur asked me to have dinner with him and—”
Rosa sat up and turned the light on. She took one look at Klaudia and knew exactly what had happened. She wasn’t really surprised – except that Klaudia had made such a point about still being a virgin and being unable to imagine doing “it” before she married and all that. But Rosa was fairly cynical by now, and so she just remarked, “So that’s what’s been keeping you up until the middle of the night! I should have known.” She flopped back down on her bed and turned on her side, the bed making loud squeaking noises as she squirmed once or twice to make herself more comfortable.
“It’s not what you think—” Klaudia protested. “We had a glass of wine and—”
Rosa sat up again. “So, where’s your tie? And what happened to your stockings? Look, I don’t care if you sleep with Arschinger or not, but don’t try to make a fool out of me! I wasn’t born yesterday!” And with that she flopped down again, turned on her side and pulled the covers up over her head.
Klaudia hastened to undress, worrying now about how to get her tie back so she wouldn’t be out of uniform tomorrow. Somehow Rosa’s reaction made it all seem so common – as if it hadn’t been wildly romantic and exciting after all.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish