The Baron’s Prize

Chapter 18: Sharing a Room

“I retire early, so I will have a meal sent to the suite for you two. This is a small house, and there are only two bedrooms. The other is mine.” Margaret looked at the duke. “Jensen?”

“Yes, Aunt Margaret?”

“You have the chance to make a good marriage out of this debacle. Don’t be a fool. A solitary life is a lonely life so talk to your husband, and listen to him. Forgive him for whatever it is that has hurt you. Don’t grow old alone, my boy. You deserve better than that.”

Jensen sat quietly with his hands clasped between his knees and head bowed. He finally looked up, tears in his eyes, and spoke softly, “I’ll try.”

“Trying is not enough. Fight for your happiness. I’ll tell you there is no doubt in my mind that your happiness lies with this giant of a man whose smile could melt your heart.

“Jared?”

“Yes, my lady,” he answered in a respectful tone.

“You quit doing the asinine things you’ve done so far. Take a good look at my nephew. He deserves your best, and I expect you to be the most understanding man he’s ever met. I also want you to make his love life incredible. I think you are probably more experienced than he is. Make love to him daily. Believe me, boy. He’ll stop fighting it and start wanting it.”

“Aunt Margaret!”

“I’m not a fool, Jensen. I can read your eyes. You have feelings for him, and you are fighting them. The heart wants what the heart wants. You will feel hunger, and you will not sleep well until you face this and accept it.”

The elderly woman rose to her feet, and both men stood. “I will see you both in the morning. If you are not showing signs of having been ravished, I will have more words with you.”

“Aunt Margaret, I…”

“No, nephew. Be the man you were meant to be before too many men robbed you of it. Jared, help him find that man. Good night, you two. If you follow me up, I’ll show you your rooms.”

+++++

As the door closed behind him, Jensen leaned against it and groaned.

“What do we do now?”

Jared was standing in the center of the room, staring at his husband. “Do you really want me to answer?”

The green eyes flashed at him, “What!”

“You’re not going to like my answer.”

“Try me?”

“All right. I noticed there are two bathing tubs over in the little alcove.”

“She’s as bad as the king,” the duke grumbled.

“Perhaps, but you’ve been traveling for days, Jen. I know you prefer to be clean before you sleep so I see no reason why we both can’t bathe while the water is hot. It’s not like we don’t know each other intimately.”

“All right.” Jensen walked toward the alcove and began to remove his clothing. The baron followed and proceeded to do likewise.

The duke bent over and felt the water temperature. Jared noticed the scars on his back for the first time. He took several deep breaths to calm his anger over what the 18 year old boy had dealt with. Jensen stepped into the tub and leaned back, his body going under the water. Jared followed suit.

The two men bathed and soaked in the hot water, reveling in its soothing effect. Jared reached for a towel and began to dry off. He noticed the duke watching his every move and felt his heart lift at it.

“There are two thick robes over here. I’ll bring you one.”

“I have a nightshirt.”

“Jen, let’s don’t start that again. I want to feel you next to me, not your clothing. I’ve seen more of you than you have. We sleep nude.”

The duke blushed red and reached for his towel. “It makes me uncomfortable.”

“Yes, but I imagine it’s in a good way.”

“No!”

Jared turned towards the man as he dried off. “You’re partially hard right now.”

“Damnation! I can’t help what my body does.”

“Your body is more honest than you are at the moment. Would you like me to take care of that?”

The green eyes widened in shock. “What? No.”

The baron grinned. “You say ‘no’ a lot, Jen, when what you really want to say is yes.”

The younger man shook his head and reached for the robe. He walked over to his luggage to search for his nightshirt. The baron smirked.

“I guess I’m going to have to do to this one what I did to the last one you tried to put on.”

“I don’t think you will,” came the reply.

Remembering what the countess and the Bishop had said, he hesitated for a moment and softly responded, “You’re right. I won’t.”

Pulling the nightshirt over his head, Jensen paused and stared at him in shock. “You won’t?”

“No, Jen, it’s up to you what you wear. I can tell you what I would like and what I want, but you have to make that choice.”

“All right,” came the quiet answer.

The duke headed into the living area and sat on the sofa.

“The next thing we need to do is eat. Our meal should be here soon.”

+++++

The countess, figuring that her nephew had eaten very little that day, ordered a meal consisting of steak, salad, bread, and a bottle of wine.

The table was small, making the meal cozier. Jensen ate fairly well, but the baron coaxed him into finishing the food.

“You’re too thin, Jen. It worries me.”

The duke snorted, but the baron continued. “I started out trying to break through your walls and I think you started to rely on me. I know I failed you. No…don’t speak yet. Let me finish. The day of the wedding, I was afraid you would fight Morgan’s commands. I threatened you to force you to give in to protect the estate. When you keened, I had to turn away because I was in tears. I felt that I had broken you. The thing is, Jen, he would have had people there to watch us consummate the marriage instead of a healer examining you in the morning. I could not put you through another state endorsed rape in the palace. I’m sorry it happened the way it did. However, I’m not sorry we made love and that it made both of us happy for a few minutes.”

Jensen bit his bottom lip and chewed on it, drawing the baron’s eyes towards his mouth. The man started trembling, a soft sob turning into a moan. Jared looked up from his mouth and saw the pain and heartache in the green eyes.

“Jen,” the baron spoke softly. “I love you, and I want the right as your husband to protect you, comfort you, and love you with all my heart and all of my body.”

The duke stood, trying to walk but stumbled. He landed on the floor with a soft keening sound escaping his lips. Jared fell to the floor next to him and pulled him into his lap. The younger man leaned into him, a hand clutching the warrior’s robe.

“I’m scared, Jared.”

“Let me hold you and allow me to bring peace to the fear.”

Jared could hear short gasps coming from the younger man, but he did not struggle to leave. The larger man set Jensen back down on the floor. He rose to his feet before leaning down to pick the other man up. Holding him close to his chest, he carried him into the sleeping area of the bedchamber. Leaning down, the baron reached for the quilt and pulled it back before placing his husband upon the bed.

Jensen was no longer trembling, but his eyes looked large in his face. Jared knew and now understood what it would require to lead his husband into the kind of marriage they both needed.

“Jensen, would you allow me to cuddle you close and give you comfort tonight? Just so you know that you’re not alone.”

The duke moved over on the bed, making room for the older man. Jared put on a clean set of smallclothes before climbing into the bed to snuggle against the younger man’s back. He wrapped his arm and a leg around him, holding him close. He heard the man sigh softly.

For the first time in months, Jensen Ackles, Duke of Avenleigh, slept the entire night with no nightmares.

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