A Changing World
While Lorenz slept like the dead, Leonie spent a restless night. He put off a lot of body heat, and she ended up tossing one of the blankets onto the floor around midnight. The thought of him reading erotic manuals in order to learn to please her made her smile into the darkness. None of her previous lovers had cared much about her enjoyment. But none of her previous lovers expected her to wear fancy dresses and act like a grand lady.
And yet…Lorenz seemed to have moved past who he wanted her to be and finally accepted who she was. As much as she hated to admit it, that changed everything. Making love with him hadn’t been the same as with other men. It had been better, more meaningful. Once Lorenz improved his stamina, well, she got hot again just thinking about it.
Maybe she shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss what he was offering.
Leonie woke with the dawn and watched Lorenz sleep for a while. Her thoughts swirled and collided and finally drove her out of bed. She went to the kitchen and requested breakfast—so strange, to make requests like a noble would—and hurried back to the warm bed. Lorenz groped for her in his sleep and pulled her tight against him. Tears pricked her eyes.
When he finally awoke, she was waiting. His eyelids fluttered open, and the softest, sweetest smile she’d ever seen him make curved his mouth. She couldn’t help but kiss him then, despite the scrape of his whiskers.
“Good morning, my love,” he murmured, running his fingers through her hair. “Thank you for last night.”
Leonie kissed his hand. “How are your injuries?”
“I am sore but well.”
“I hope we didn’t strain you.”
“No. In fact…”
Lorenz kissed her neck, his hand wandering down her stomach. She caught it before it reached between her legs.
“I have something I want to say first.”
Lorenz withdrew his hand, eyebrow raised.
“I know you’re the one who paid off my debts,” Leonie said. “And sent money covering the cost of my education to my village.”
Lorenz’s mouth flattened into a line.
Leonie sighed. “Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out? Really? It’s just the sort of ‘noble’ thing you would do.”
“My apologies if I’ve offended you.”
“No, it was nice of you. I like not having to worry about it anymore. It’s just I don’t know how to repay you.”
“It was not a transaction; it was a gift. One to make your life easier, because I love you.”
“I guess what I’m saying is I don’t see how I can make your life easier. You know I care about things being equal and fair.”
“It is one of the many values we share. However, you do yourself a disservice. You help me be a better leader by challenging my assumptions and providing a different perspective. You add your expertise by directing troops. You are competent and level-headed. To put it simply, you make me happy. I enjoy your company no matter the situation.”
“I don’t have great manners. I’m not a good dancer.”
“I doubt those things are beyond your capacity to learn.”
Leonie fell silent, head resting against his chest. His heart beat slow and steady. His arms were strong and gentle. He made her happy, too. Maybe he was right, and she could help him after all.
“Okay,” she said, throat tight. “Let’s do it. Let’s get married.”
Lorenz chuckled and squeezed her. Then he slid out of bed—she didn’t miss how tenderly he moved—and dug something out of his clothes. When he returned, he went down on one knee, naked beside the bed.
“This was not how I imagined renewing my proposal, but you have taught me to be flexible.” He smiled and held out a ring. “Leonie, will you marry me?”
“I just said I would.”
Leonie softened her words with a smile and extended her hand. He slipped the ring on her finger. It was gold engraved with stylized vines and a modest green gem set in the center. Classy but not fussy. Seemed like he took her tastes into account and not his when he chose it. That was a good sign.
“I am the happiest man in the world.”
He slid back into bed beside her, and this time she let his hands wander where they would.
“Do you think we could merge my remaining troops into the Gloucester forces?” Leonie asked before she got too distracted.
That was the last piece of the puzzle for her. She let her thoughts of the future drift away and focused on what Lorenz was doing with his hands. Oh yes, he was a very quick study.
And this was only the beginning.