The Bed You Make
Chapter 40
~ Somebody Told You wrong ~

After haughtily correcting Dara on her choice of address, Jacqueline proceeded to invite herself to join them. Boldly she dragged a chair from the adjoining table to a place just beside Stefan's seat. He leveled a cautionary glance at the intrusion on his evening. Jacqueline ignored the warning. She was intent on gaining his sympathy over the supposed hardships of her newly widowed life.

Jacqueline had married the Count de Mardors a little over four years earlier. At the time, de Mardors had just celebrated his ninety-third birthday. It was not his first ride on that particular merry-go-round, as the Americans were fond of saying. Jacqueline was his third significantly younger wife; to everyone's surprise, de Mardors had outlasted the previous two.

The details of those marriages were available thanks to de Mardor's staff of indiscreet servants. It was a poorly kept secret that, despite the Count's advanced age, he insisted on daily conjugal encounters with his brides. The women were never allowed to go anywhere unaccompanied; de Mardors would not chance them deciding to find physical affection from a man less aged and more virile than himself.

The first young bride lasted almost two years before she supposedly grew tired of de Mardors futile attempts at intercourse. His second bride did not make their first anniversary. Jacqueline, Stefan mused, was spared by the Count's death from having to make a similar decision on her future.

<"I am so terribly alone, Stefan."> Jacqueline spoke to him in his native tongue. Stefan suspected that it had less to do with accommodating him and more to do with excluding his wife from the conversation.

"I am sorry that your grief leaves you lonely." Stefan deliberately responded in English to the new widow's dramatic proclamation. "But you are certainly not alone, Jacqueline. Your children no doubt wish to be of some comfort to you at this time. Have they returned from University to be with you?"

Jacqueline's eyes darted to Dara. <"I don't need my children right now. What I need is some … adult affection."> After a beat in the conversation the Countess pushed on. She did not bother to whisper, content in the discovery that Dara quite obviously did not speak Russian. <" I need to know what it feels like to be beneath a real man again.">

The stinging rebuke Stefan prepared to deliver in response to Jacqueline's last remark was sidetracked by a movement from his wife. For several seconds Dara stared down at her lap before glancing over at Stefan and offering him a humorless smile. He was so curious about the action that he nearly missed the small object she placed in the center of their table.

<"…after night of enduring that soft, pale part of him. It was horrible, Stefan."> Jacqueline had mistaken Stefan's silence for permission to continue. <"Forced to suffer through his pathetic fumbling, his sloppy kisses…"> She shuddered dramatically and then placed a manicured hand atop his. <"I know that you know how to love a woman, Stefan. You proved that to me many times over."> Jacqueline leaned in. <"I have been hungry four long years but I am not selfish. I will do for you all the things I know you enjoy…">

*Jacqueline - pronounced Jack-leen