It was almost sundown when the carriage reached the cottage by the cliffs.
"Wait here, Danner," Porphyria told the driver. "Water the horses at the spring. And don't disturb us even if the sky is falling."
"Yes, mistress," said Danner.
Porphyria followed the path to the cottage door, but hesitated before knocking. She looked toward the cliffs. Maybe I should just throw myself over the edge, she thought. Maybe that would be a better way to do it. But instead she knocked on the door, and when it opened she went in without waiting to be invited, or even greeted.
Hester moved out of the way, wiping flour-covered fingers on her apron.
"Oh yes, don't stand on ceremony, please do come in," she said, smirking.
Porphyria had to duck a bit to fit through the doorframe. She was a great, tall woman, with strong arms and broad shoulders and a hard face, and yet she was often called beautiful. Last season a duke wrote a sonnet in tribute to her golden hair. She called the verses "quaint."
Hester was petite and delicate, but gentleman of every stripe stayed away from her despite her charms, and her name was never mentioned in polite circles.
Hester went back to her kitchen and continued rolling out dough on the sideboard. Porphyria stood, arms folded, waiting for the other woman to say something, and when she didn't Porphyria coughed as loud as she could.
"Well? Why are you here?" sad Hester, without looking up.
Porphyria took a wooden box from her handbag and set it on the countertop. Hester smeared flour on it as she picked it up.
"What's this?" Hester said.
"Open it," said Porphyria.
Hester did. There was a diamond necklace inside. "How...pretty," she said.
"It's priceless. It was worn by my mother at the coronation. Just one of those stones would buy all the land from here to Marblehead Hall. It should be more than enough for what I'm asking."
Hester turned the necklace over in her hand. "I'm sorry," she said, "but I wouldn't have a thing to wear with it." She dropped it onto the dirt floor.
Porphyria scowled, although she had expected this. "If that's not good enough then what is?"
"You know my price," said Hester, continuing to knead the dough.
"I will not pay it."
"Then you will not. It's your decision."
"I'll just find someone else to help me," Porphyria said, turning as if to leave.
"But there is no one else. You've traveled all over the isles and even to the continent, but found no one who can do what I can."
Porphyria turned back. "How do you know that?"
"I know," said Hester.
Porphyria seethed. Hester said nothing. She separated the dough into pans, singing under her breath.
"If I agree," said Porphyria, "do you promise to give me what I want?"
"You know I will," said Hester, without looking up.
Porphyria went to the window. She felt ill. She took many deep breaths. Her eyes burned, but she refused to cry. It wasn't too late. She could still turn back, go home, forget all this. But to go back to that old empty house alone, and to know that she would be alone always...
"Fine then," she said.
Hester stood up straight. "We have a bargain?"
Porphyria bit her lip. "Yes."
Hester picked the necklace up off the floor. "I'll keep the jewels too, if you don't mind?"
"Not a bit."
Hester hung her apron. She washed her hands in the rain barrel, then took her hair down, one layer of auburn curls at a time. She took Porphyria by the hand (her entire hand disappearing in the great woman's palm) and lead her into the little bedroom. She turned her back as Porphyria undressed.
After several minutes it was clear that Porphyria was having trouble with her layers of undergarments. Hester covered her mouth to keep from laughing. This went on for some time. Finally Hester said: “Let me help you.”
“I don’t need help!” said Porphyria, struggling with her petticoats.
“Plainly you do,” said Hester, moving behind the other woman and undoing the snaps and buttons. Porphyria made a noise very much like a growl, but kept still long enough for Hester to undo everything she could not reach herself.
Hester stripped Porphyria down to her chemise, and then Porphyria pushed her away, sitting on the edge of the thin mattress, hands knotted in her lap. Hester undressed by herself, and then both women stared at one another, unsure what to do.
Finally, Hester leaned in and kissed Porphyria on the lips. Porphyria nearly fell off the bed, recoiling. Hester kissed her again, with a bit more force. Porphyria’s body went rigid. It was like kissing a blacksmith’s vise.
Hester sighed. “This is not going to work,” she said.
“Wait!” said Porphyria.
“No,” said Hester, reaching for her dress. “It won’t work. You don’t love me.”
“Did you expect me to?”
“No. But I expected you to be a little more convincing." Hester looked out the window. "Do you remember when my mother stood at this window and watched us play down on the rocks?
"Do you remember when your father took you away and made you promise not to come back, telling you that you should never associate with our kind? Do you remember that day?"
"Yes," said Porphyria. Her voice was cold.
"I loved you even then. I think about that day every time I look out this window. Do you know what it was like for me when you went and married that man, and went to live at Marblehead Hall, and left me thinking I would never see you again?"
She looked at Porphyria.
"I could have had you for myself if I'd wanted. I could have forced you to believe that you love me. I have that power. But I didn't, because I wanted you to be happy. I did that for you. And you can't even do this one thing for me, when you need my help."
Hester shook her head. "I gave up a lifetime," she said, "and you won't even give me a night."
“Give me a chance!” said Porphyria. Her words came between little hiccups, like restrained sobs: “I have never...done...this before. It is not easy. But I'm...willing, if you'll just help me!”
Hester had never heard this tone in Porphyria's voice before. It almost sounded like pleading. Hester drummed her fingers on the windowsill, thinking.
“Maybe I should make it easier for you?” Hester said.
“What do you mean?” said Porphyria.
Hester went to a shelf on the wall and took down a round box. She drew a pinch of something that looked like crushed rose petals from it.
“Taste it,” she said. “Just a little.”
Porphyria came no closer. “What is it?”
“Something to help you.”
“I don’t need your witchcraft.”
“If that were true, you would not be here. This will make it easier for you to forget.”
“Who you are, and what you’re doing, for a little while.” She held her hand higher. “Taste it.”
Porphyria looked uneasy. Hester touched the substance to Porphyria’s lips, and as soon as she did Porphyria felt lighter. She sighed, and then swooned, closing her eyes as she fell onto the bed. She was not sure where she was all of a sudden, but she felt too good to care.
Someone touched her bare arm. It felt very good. Only when the touch became more insistent did she open her eyes. Someone else was in the bed with her, she realized. Who was this woman with the auburn hair and brown eyes? Porphyria was not sure, but the touch of her hand was soft, and warm, and sensual.
Porphyria closed her eyes again. She felt the other woman removing her last few underclothes, but did not object. The sensation of silk against her skin was thrilling. Once naked, she stretched like a cat.
She forgot that Hester was there as soon as her hands went away, and then when she was touched again she experienced the surprise of finding another occupant in the room all over again. When Hester kissed her she examined the sensation of another pair of lips, decided that she liked it, and responded in kind.
Hester was momentarily alarmed when Porphyria's strong arms wrapped around her as tightly as they could. For a second she feared she would not be able to breathe. Porphyria's tongue darted into Hester's mouth, and then she bit Hester's lower lip.
Porphyria's hands pawed Hester's undergarments, and Hester only just managed to slip out of them before they were torn. Both women tumbled naked across the bed, limbs entwined. The night air became sultry and hot.
Outside, Danner wondered, idly, how much longer his mistress would be.
Porphyria writhed on the bed. She felt like she was on fire. Every thing that so much as grazed her sensitive skin jolted her. She could concentrate on nothing for more than a few seconds before becoming distracted by something else.
She kissed Hester again, filling her mouth with the taste of the other woman. It was good; the more she had, the more she wanted. Hester barely caught her breath between kisses. She broke off long enough to kiss Porphyria's neck, tongue moving in a circle. Porphyria's red, red lips opened and she moaned. Hester cried out as nails raked her back.
Hester's tiny, shapely breasts were pressed to Porphyria's ample bosom. Her little fingers cupped Porphyria's breast and squeezed as her teeth grazed the tip of one nipple. Porphyria convulsed. She took hold of Hester, strong fingers fondling her body, and Hester gasped, shuddering.
"Take me," Hester whispered, "I'm yours."
Porphyria's hand slid between Hester's legs as Hester's tongue flickered out, licking her nipples one by one, lapping around and around them before flicking the tip. Porphyria pressed on the back of her head. Hester began to suck. Porphyria's hand pushed against Hester's sex. Hester whimpered, whispering between the darting movements of her tongue:
"Take me. Take me! I belong to you. My whole body is yours. Own me. Use me. Do whatever you want with me."
One finger slid inside Hester, then two. She was wet and hot, and she clenched around the invasive touch. She rocked back, breath quickening. Porphyria smiled as she pushed harder. Hester whimpered.
"Oh God!" she whispered, as Porphyria thrust a finger up into her again and again, causing her sex to quiver and ache. "Oh God, oh God, oh God!" she repeated. She was sweating all over. Porphyria's other fingers nudged her clit, and she almost passed out. She was pushing down with her hips now, chasing Porphyria's touch whenever it retreated.
"Do you want more?" said Porphyria.
"Yes!" said Hester.
Porphyria slipped a third finger inside. Hester's eyes rolled back. Her body jerked and twitched. She tried to move but it was difficult, as Porphyria rammed her fingers up inside each time she did, reducing her to a writhing mess. She fell onto her back, legs splayed, fingers knotting the blankets, at Porphyria's mercy.
It was hard to say how long this went on for. Hester was coming down off her climax when Porphyria grabbed a handful of her hair, dragged her up, and, before Hester could say anything, pushed her face between Porphyria's thighs. Hester gasped and was nearly smothered. Her lips parted instinctually and they met something wet.
She pushed her tongue against the slit, licking it. Porphyria grunted. Hester opened her mouth, fixing her lips to those, and ran her tongue inside, tasting the inner rim, then went deeper. Porphyria grunted again.
Hester opened her eyes and watched Porphyria's breasts quiver with each breath. She was grinding against Hester's mouth. Porphyria set the tip of her tongue between her teeth, eyes closed, brow furrowed. Her breathing came in slow moans and little sighs, and then there came a deeper, harder panting sound, and an insistent growl from somewhere in her throat. Eventually she was crying out, wordless animal screams.
Hester moved her head up and down. Her tongue lapped over and over. She was legitimately afraid of what Porphyria might do if she stopped, so she concentrated entirely on the moment. Her fingers massaged the Porphyria's inner thighs, her calloused fingers moving along the pale, delicate flesh of the other woman's gleaming white nakedness. She tasted wetness. She found Porphyria's swollen, trembling clit and engulfed it with her tongue.
The entire bed shook as Porphyria threw herself against the mattress. Her hands clawed Hester's back. Hester didn't stop. Porphyria ached all over. She was burning up inside. She tried to push the feeling out, but there was always more of it.
She screamed: "More!"
Hester went faster. Porphyria was covered in sweat, twitching all over. She buried was screaming non-stop now:
"More, more, more!"
She pulled Hester away and slapped her across the face. Hester blinked, stunned, and then Porphyria pushed her down again, and her mouth opened again, and they went on like that until Porphyria shuddered and screamed her last and collapsed, exhausted. Hester wiped her mouth and took a deep breath, then kissed Porphyria one last time, risking being crushed in another embrace.
They lay side by side for a little while. Then Porphyria's stomach lurched, and she ran across the room, reaching the window just in time. She spat bile into the weeds and brush. Hester rolled over on the bed.
“Sorry. I should have mentioned that can happen, once it’s run it’s course.”
Porphyria tried to reply, but the pain made it too hard. Eventually she settled down.
“I don’t remember anything. Did we..." Porphyria said, and then realized that she was naked, and sweaty, and sore. She felt sick again, but dressed herself without incident. Hester seemed bored as she watched, sliding back into her own clothes.
Porphyria did not look at Hester, or seemingly anything at all, after they left the bedroom. She stared at the floor, and muttered:
"Well. You're paid. Now give me what I came for."
Hester went to the mantle and removed a loose chimney stone, taking a small leather bag on a chord from behind it. Something rattled inside. She put it into Porphyria’s hand.
“Is this it?” Porphyria said.
“If this is a trick-”
“Then you know where to find me,” said Hester.
Porphyria put her cloak on and left. Hester watched her from the door, but Porphyria did not look back. Her coachman had fallen asleep waiting for her.
“Danner!” she said, waking him. She climbed into the cabin. “Harness the horses. We’re finished. Back to Marblehead Hall.”
“Yes, mistress,” he said.
“The workman, they should have arrived by now?”
“And they’re reliable, and know how to keep their mouths shut?
“Yes, mistress.” Danner climbed into the bucket.
“Good,” said Porphyria, and it was the last thing she said the entire trip back.
"Heave gents, heave!" said Danner. Rain dripped into his face from the brim of his hat. His boots squelched in the mud.
"Begging your pardon sir," said one of the workers, "but we've been heaving all night."
"Then perhaps you lack proper motivation," said Danner. "Move that box or you forfeit your pay."
The worker scowled, but wrapped the rope twice around his hands and braced himself against the fence to pull harder.
“Danner, why aren’t they finished?” said Porphyria. She stood under an awning, watching the workman pull at what looked like a great trunk that had become stuck in the mud. They were at the gate of the little churchyard on the other side of the estate, trying to pull the box out and load it into the waiting wagon.
Danner took off his hat and rung it out. “We had a problem with some of the men. Half of them refused to work when they found out they would have to open the mausoleum. The rest had some trouble moving the coffin on their own. They've almost got it now."
“Have them take it to the old stable on the east side, the empty one,” Porphyria said. “Make sure that none of the house staff are around to see them.”
“Yes, mistress,” said Danner. “Shall I dismiss them after?”
“No. Send them to the kitchens. Wake the cook and give them whatever they want, then tell them they can sleep in the other stable tonight, and that tomorrow they’ll be paid to take the coffin back to the crypt and seal it up again.”
"Back?" said Danner.
"Yes, back. Do you have any objection to following my orders?"
"No, mistress, none at all."
"Good." Porphyria watched the men work. "I suppose you're wondering what this is all about, Danner?"
"Not at all, mistress," said Danner. "I do your business and I mind my own."
"Good answer. Did you turn out the old servants?”
“Yes, mistress. There’s not a single person in the house who worked here while your husband was alive.”
“Excellent.” She paused. “I think it’s time for a drink. Take care of this lot, then join me in the study, will you?”
Twenty minutes later Danner changed his clothes and knocked on the study door. He sat on the red velvet couch opposite Porphyria, sipping the absinthe she poured for him.
“Well,” she said.
“This seemed like a good occasion to talk,” said Porphyria.
“Indeed, mistress? Whatever about?”
“You’ve been...very faithful to me, Danner, these last few years.”
“I’ve been able to rely on you for everything, and I appreciate the services you’ve rendered me. All of the services. And the discretion around them.”
“There’s no need to thank me.”
“I didn’t,” she said, though she smiled as she said it. "And do you have any regrets, Danner?"
"None whatsoever, mistress."
"Not even about those mausoleums that you had a hand in filling?"
"It had to be done, mistress."
"Yes," said Porphyria, looking far away. "It had to be done. I'm lucky to have you around, Danner. It's hard to find good help these days.
“Nevertheless,” she continued, “as much as I value everything you’ve done, it should be noted that, as of tonight, certain improprieties in our relationship must be discontinued.”
Danner's heart sank, but didn't show it. "That is entirely your decision, mistress. I serve in whatever capacity you deem suitable."
“Yes. But you see Danner, that makes me a bit nervous.”
“Yes. To put it bluntly, I’m just not sure if I can trust you now that certain...choice rewards are beyond your grasp.”
Danner nearly spilled his drink. “There’s no need to worry about that-”
“And the thing of it is Danner, you know all of my secrets. I don’t like it when any person knows too much about me.”
Danner’s palms were sweating.
“Given everything that's happened, I’m afraid we have to part ways. Starting tonight. Starting right now, actually, unless I miss my guess.” Porphyria looked at her nails.
Danner rolled the absinthe around his mouth. Something tasted funny...
“Ah,” he said, after he swallowed. “Oleander.”
“A good choice, mistress. I didn’t even notice it.” His limbs felt heavy. “But what do you intend to do with the body? I won’t be around to dispose of it.”
“You already have. You'll be in the coffin when the workman seal it back in the vault tomorrow. You’ll lie next to the Grey family’s ancestors until the end of time. A fitting reward for all of your service to the great old house, don’t you think?”
Danner's vision tunneled. Even now, he had to admire her thoroughness. It was her most charming quality. She patted his hand. “For the record Danner, it was...nice, while it lasted. Nice for what it was.”
He tried to answer, but his throat closed up.
“I would give you a kiss for old time’s sake, but I’m afraid it just wouldn’t be appropriate.
"After all, " she said, standing, "I’m about to be a married woman again.”
And that was the last thing he heard.
Porphyria rolled the body up in a rug, then slung it over her broad shoulders. She locked the door of the study, then went to the old stable on the east side. As per her instructions, there was no one in the corridor to see her. The rain had stopped.
The coffin lid was unscrewed but not removed. She had worried that one of the workers might take the opportunity to rifle through for valuables, but it seemed that Danner picked a trustworthy lot after all. Such a shame to have to let him go.
The lid was heavy, but she was a woman of unusual strength, and she popped it free after a little work. A sour smell greeted her. She picked up the shape wrapped in the tattered winding sheet and laid it on the ground then, panting from exertion, she replaced it with Danner's body and put the lid back on. She sat down on the casket, wiping her brow with a silk handkerchief.
Now, for the business at hand. She unwrapped the winding sheet, and looked at the shrunken, moldering form inside. She did not flinch. Why would she, when this was the man she loved?
She took the leather bag from around her neck. Unlacing it, she took out something that looked like a dried black walnut. There were more inside. Remembering Hester's instructions, she crushed the black thing in her palm. It left a stain.
She pried open the corpse's mouth, popped the crushed mass inside, and waited. First, the body quivered. Then the bones rattled. Porphyria backed up a step when the arms moved. Then the whole thing sat upright, jerking and twitching. It turned its head, joints creaking, and opened its mouth. The rags of its clothes disintegrated as it stood up, and now it was walking!
It came at her, one skeletal hand reaching out. Porphyria backed away. Was this how it was supposed to happen? Had she done something wrong? The dead thing came closer, making a horrible noise in its mouth, a low, sick grinding sound. Its empty eye sockets stared at her.
She closed her eyes. "Jonathon," she said, "please, come back to me." She waited for the touch of the ghastly fingers. It didn't come. She flinched in anticipation, but nothing happened. Then she heard a voice:
She opened her eyes. In place of the withered corpse was a young, handsome, virile man, dressed in the tattered remains of his funerary garb. His skin was fair, and his hair was long and dark, and his eyes were blue. His expression was one of quiet bewilderment. He looked around the stable, bemused.
"Jonathan!" she cried, and threw herself at him. He caught her with some evident surprise, and before he could say anything she was kissing him over and over again, repeating his name between half-hysterical sobs: "Oh John, John, John, John!"
It was several minutes before she could say anything else. She sank into his chest, crying, and he, astonished, put his arms around her until she recovered.
"I knew it would work," she said. "I knew you would come back to me, I knew it, I knew it. If you had any idea how long I've waited for this, everything I had to do-"
"Hello, miss," he said.
"John, this is-"
"John?" he said. "You keep calling me...John?"
She blinked. "Yes."
“Is that my name? John?” he said, as though trying it out.
She brushed his hair back, touching his face. “Yes dear, of course. You’re Lord John Grey.”
"I am?" he said. "And who are you?"
"John, it's me! I'm your wife!"
"You are?" He pondered this, eventually appearing not displeased with the notion. "And where are we?"
"Darling, don't you remember anything?"
"I don't seem to," he said. "I am sure I have never seen you before in my life. And I have no remembrance of ever being called John, although now that I think about it, I don't recall ever being called anything else either."
He furrowed his brow for a moment. "The last thing I remember is...being here with you. There’s nothing else.”
She looked into his eyes. "John? You can hear me, can't you? This is real, isn't it?"
He nodded, but his expression was blank. "Perhaps if you explain more, I will remember?"
She smiled. "Well darling, you've been...gone, for some time. Yes. For five years. But now you're home again."
"I see. This is home?"
"Yes. Oh, but you must be freezing in those rags! Here, put these on. They're yours, I saved them" She handed him a bundle of clothes. He seemed fascinated by the workings of the buttons and laces as he dressed. "Just as handsome as ever," she said when he was done. He smiled like a child.
She lead him into the house. Every other step she looked back at him, smiling. "It's no wonder you can't remember, you've been through so much. It will all come back to you soon darling, you'll see."
"Yes," he said, "I'm sure it will." He gaped when he saw the interior of the grand entrance hall.
Porphyria rang a bell by the central staircase. After a minute a tired-looking maid appeared.
"Wake the kitchen staff," Porphyria said.
The maid looked surprised. "Are you sure, mistress? You've had them up once tonight already."
"Don't talk back to me!" said Porphyria. "Do you see this man? This is my husband."
The maid nearly fell over. "Ma'am? Have you remarried? We had no idea, which is to say I had no idea, which is to say-"
"Wake the kitchen staff. Tell them to begin breakfast. The sun is almost up in any case. Let them know that they're cooking for the new master of the house. Don't just stand there catching flies, go!"
The maid gaped again, but hurried away.
Porphyria took Lord Grey to the dining hall, where he inspected each and every fork and candlestick on the table with rapt fascination while she talked the morning through, touching his hand every few seconds.
"This, of course, is Marblehead Hall," she explained, "built by your grandfather. You lived here all your life, except when you went to France for your education."
"I see," said Lord Grey, balancing a silver butter knife on his finger.
"I've kept everything in order here while you were away, and, oh darling I just can't believe that it's true, that you're really here again. I've missed you so much."
"I've missed you too, or I imagine I did," he said, tracing the pattern on the tablecloth with the utmost concentration. "Why did I leave?"
"Let's not talk about that now John. Let's just enjoy being together."
Lord Grey agreed that this was an excellent idea. At breakfast he ate enough for three men, and paid no mind to the open stares of the servants. After, Porphyria showed him the entire house.
"John, do you remember the garden? Do you remember when the duchess gave us this fountain as a wedding gift?"
"I may," said Lord Grey.
"John, do you remember it was this window where we stood together to watch the sunset our first night here?"
"Perhaps, just a bit," said Lord Grey.
"John, do you remember when I fainted here, and you carried me up five flights of stairs to my bed and then rode all night long to find a doctor?"
"I can just barely remember," said Lord Grey.
It was well past noon when they reached the bedchamber. Porphyria shut the doors, then threw her arms around Lord Grey's neck, kissing him. "Do you remember this?" she whispered.
He smiled. "Well, perhaps if you refresh my memory some more..." he said.
“Darling, you know you left before we could even have a proper wedding night?”
“I did? How monstrous of me,” said Lord Grey.
"Help me with this John," she said, indicating the laces of her dress. When her petticoats were taking too much time to remove she ripped them off instead, and she pushed Lord Grey onto the bed, climbing on top, straddling him with splayed legs.
"I've been waiting so long for you, John," she said.
"I would imagine so!" said Lord Grey.
"Of course, there have been others, but you must know they meant nothing. No one ever meant anything to me except for you."
"Of course," he said. She had stripped him half-naked before he could even think of objecting (not that he would), and she had his stiff cock in her hands, stroking it and running her fingers over the swollen head. His expression conveyed complete disbelief that he was, in fact, this lucky.
Porphyria had no patience to undress fully. She freed herself up just enough to allow access between her legs, tearing the silken fabrics when necessary, and then she guided him in, gasping as his cock filled her from one end to the other. She was still on top, and her head lolled to one side.
"Oh John," she said, "it's just like I imagined."
"Is it?" he said, face flushed. "I still can't quite remember everything."
"You will. I'll jog your memory," she said, smiling. Working her powerful thighs, she pushed herself up and down him. Her breasts jiggled with exertion, straining against her corset. She felt him throbbing inside of her, the pulse from his body giving her a deep and abiding satisfaction.
"Tell me when you start remembering," she said, kissing his fingertips and bouncing over and over. Up and down, in and out, slowly, from the tip all the way in. Lord Grey's eyes rolled back and he stammered something incoherent in reply
"Oh John," she said, quickening her pace. "Oh, God, the nights I've spent thinking about this, just this." She tugged the pins out of her hair, letting it fall. The bed frame groaned under the weight of their bodies and the constant, steady, rhythmic thumping.
Lord Grey felt hot and flushed, the heat generated by all this activity trapped under the layers of clothes he still had on. He worked as fast as he could to free himself from coats and shirts without disturbing Porphyria, who was riding him with single-minded abandon.
She caught one of his hands and stuck two fingers into her mouth, full red lips closing around them. She moaned and continued to push herself up and down, up and down, her outer lips gripping his shaft. He thought her quite wanton for a well-born lady, but he did not disapprove.
She was almost doubled over now, laying across him, her face only a few inches from his. Her mouth was open and she was moaning again and again: "Oh John, John, John!" He felt something stirring. Her expression was disarmingly intense. "John, I want you to fill me."
"I am!" he protested.
"No John, more. I want more."
She clamored off of him and turned away, moving to all fours and gripping the headboard. He thought she might leave dents in the oak. Lord Grey stripped off the rest of his clothes and positioned himself behind her. He put a hand between her legs, testing the wetness of her sex, and she moaned. My, my, he thought, rubbing his fingers back and forth.
"Do it John. I want more."
He sat up behind her, admiring the symmetry of her back and the firm, rounded flanks of her bare thighs and backside. He put the tip of his cock inside of her and grinned when she squealed. Easy does it, he thought, sliding in. She pulsed around him, and her voice died in her throat when she tried to talk, although he was reasonably certain that all she was going to say was his name again anyway.
He reached under her body and took hold of her generous breasts. What a sumptuous feast of a woman, he thought, as he began pumping her from behind. She was wonderfully receptive, and when he accented his thrusts by bringing his hand down on her flank with two solid smacks she cried out and trembled. There was incredible power in her body, but she felt almost helpless to him.
When he sped up, so did she. When he slowed down she matched. She never seemed to tire, or more accurately, she seemed to be in a state of constant satisfied exhaustion, her head lolling to one side, eyes closed, mouth open, a growling moan her one constant utterance. Her legs, hips, and shoulders rocked back and forth with machine-like rhythm.
He squeezed her hanging breasts, tweaking each of the swollen nipples. She whimpered. He dragged the length of his cock out of her, all the way to the tip, and then slid it all the way back in at the same time that he twisted them, pulling down. She cried out again.
Her arms gave out and she half-fell onto the bed, smothering herself in the pillows and arching her backside in the air. Lord Grey responded by going even faster. As afternoon became late afternoon he found himself exhausted. His limbs ached and his hair was drenched in sweat, but Porphyria showed no sign of giving out. Every little movement he made excited her more and more. She racked the headboard again, screaming
"Yes! Oh God, yes! Just like that! Fill me John, fill me completely."
"I will," he said, "momentarily I think."
"Oh yes, John, yes, yes!" She rocked back on him again and again, and he felt the pressure swelling, expanding, pushing, looking for release. She was going harder and harder, and in fact she had never decreased her pace even once, the entire process being one great quickening from beginning to end, until now she was going so hard and so fast that he believed she would harm herself if she continued.
That hazard was avoided when he felt himself swell and spurt, and she froze, keeping completely still, his cock buried halfway inside of her as it released. Her body jerked and twitched a few times, and her sex flooded, and he groaned and continued gushing up into her, and when he was done she fell over, grabbing him, rewarding him with kisses and caresses and words of endearment, and finally she fell asleep in his arms, and whispered his name in her sleep.
Three days passed, and Lord Grey professed to remember more and more. Porphyria followed him everywhere, constantly at his beck and call. He began to learn (or remember) the layout of the house, the names of the servants, and the details of his affairs. He commented how well she had got on in his absence, and she beamed.
He became a late riser because of the long nights she kept him up, and took to afternoon naps to recuperate from her daytime lusts. She never seemed to tire.
On the morning of the fourth day Porphyria woke, smiling, to the sight of Lord Grey's face, but her smile vanished as soon as her eyes were fully open. She felt cold all over, and hugged herself. Lord Grey put a hand on her arm and she pushed it away.
"Darling?" he said, "is there anything wrong?"
She looked at him. "I saw your face, John. I saw how you looked at me when you thought I was sleeping."
"You really don't remember me at all, do you? You don't remember anything, still?"
Lord Grey hesitated. Then: "No. I don't."
She got out of bed. "Why did you tell me you did?"
"Well, it seemed so important to you. And you were sure that I would remember soon anyway..."
Porphyria dressed in a hurry. "I have somewhere to go John. I'll be back in a few hours."
"Very well," he said. He was staring out the window, distracted. Then, as an afterthought: "Where are you going?"
"To see someone who has a lot of explaining to do," said Porphyria.
Porphyria pounded on the door of the cottage. Hester's lips were already set in a sneer when she answered.
Porphyria swung her arm and the riding crop hit Hester on the cheek with so much force that it knocked her down.
"You lying bitch!" said Porphyria.
Hester rolled over, clutching her cheek. Blood seeped between her fingers.
“You lied to me, you cheated me!” said Porphyria.
"Didn't it work?" Hester said, standing.
"Yes, for all the good it does me!" She almost hit Hester again. She set the riding crop on the sideboard instead. "He doesn't remember me, he doesn't remember anything!"
Hester smirked. "Why did you think he would?"
"Because that's what I wanted!" said Porphyria.
"Ah," said Hester, applying a towel to her face.
"You tricked me." Porphyria's words were black with rage.
"I did not. I said that a bezoar that old could cure a body of anything, even death, and it did. But I only promised to heal his body. You never asked about his soul. Even I don't know how to heal that."
"But you knew what I wanted, and you knew what would happen, and you didn't say anything! You didn't warn me!"
Hester looked away. "Why should I have, after you cheated me?"
Porphyria grabbed the crop up again. "Cheated? I gave you everything what you wanted, you disgusting slag!"
"No!" said Hester, coming at Porphyria so fast that she actually backed away. "You didn't, you didn't at all. I wanted you, but all you gave me was your body! So that's what I gave you; a body. Like for like."
Hester squared her shoulders, expecting another blow. It didn't come. Then she saw that Porphyria was actually crying.
"Isn't there any way?" said Porphyria. "Isn't there any way for me to really be with him again?"
Hester looked away again. The sight of tears on Porphyria's cheeks disturbed her. "I don't know," she said. And then: "I'm sorry."
Porphyria stood at the window again. She looked out at the cliffs.
"Hester," she said, "you really do love me, don't you? You shouldn't, but you do."
Hester laughed without humor. "Some days."
"Is there anything you wouldn't do to be with me, if you could?"
Hester shook her head. "Nothing except hurt you." Then she said: "Porphyria, what are you thinking of doing?"
"The only thing I can," said Porphyria. She went to the door, then stopped, came back, and, without warning, kissed Hester on the lips. Hester nearly fell over. Without another word, Porphyria turned and left.
She rode hard all the way home, and asked the first servant she found where Lord Grey was. He was at the sunny window in the study, reading, when she entered.
"John," she said, taking off her riding gloves, "I want you to listen very carefully. There's something I need you to do for me."
Lord Grey counted the seconds. He looked at Porphyria slumped in her chair, examining her vacant eyes and blue lips. He checked her pulse. Nothing. He picked up her empty glass and sniffed the inside.
"Ah!" he said. "Oleander."
After ten minutes were up, he reached into the little leather bag that Porphyria had given him and took out a black, nut-like object. Exactly as instructed, he crushed the bezoar in his hand. It left a black mark on his palm. He fed it into Porphyria's open mouth, then sat back.
He watched, fascinated, as her skin flushed pink, and her eyes began to move, and her limp limbs jerked like a marionette's, and then she began to breathe again, and all at once she was alive. She sat up, eyes shining, amazed.
"Who are you?" she asked, looking across the table at him.
"I am your husband," Lord Grey said.
She blinked. "You are? Are you sure?"
Lord Grey considered this. It was, all things told, a very difficult question. "You have always said so," he replied after some time.
"Oh," she said.
He kissed her hand, and she blushed.
"I am Lord John Grey, and you are Porphyria, my wife, and this is Marblehead Hall, my ancestral home, where we live."
"I see,“ she said. “Have we always lived here?"
"For as long as I can remember."
"Well then," Porphyria said, standing. "I suppose if things are as they have always been that we have nothing to worry about."
"Not a thing," Lord Grey said, and kissed her.
"To think," she said, smiling, "we are married, and yet it's almost like meeting for the very first time."
Lord Grey smiled back. "I thought the same thing myself, not long ago."
Porphyria picked up the little leather bag from the table. "What's this?" she said.
Lord Grey took it from her. He remembered the last instructions Porphyria had given him before drinking the poison.
"Nothing we will ever need again," he said, and threw the bag into the fire.