Antonya paced through the western courtyard waiting for Velibor to turn up. She had worn the dress he loved most, and she had wished to make up with him, and tell him the news. She sat there for a while, and then gave up. How long had she waited for him and he had not shown?

She walked back broken heartedly towards her room. She was in the corridor leading up to her room, when she heard voices coming from the courtyard outside. Looking out through one of the many windows, she saw the general and Velibor deep in discussion. He glanced up in her direction, and she moved on quickly, pretending not to notice. Surely he despised the general, and here he was walking with him?

Antonya reached her room eventually, and sat on one of the chairs near the window. It was a fairly nice day today. The sun was shining, there was some blue sky. She walked to her wardrobe and began to sort through the clothes there. Half of this stuff is too cold for Moscow, she thought. Leafing through her many dresses, she found one of her old favourites. Full length and long sleeved, it was black with blue ribbons and silver lace. The tailor that had made it for her had said it was like the finest gowns that they wore in Great Britain. Maybe her parents would let her travel there one day, for this gown was truly beautiful. She called a maid to help her, and she dressed in it for old times’ sake. Her hair was done, and she smiled.

She decided to stay in that dress for the rest of the day, and returned to sorting through her dresses. Suddenly two hands wrapped themselves tightly around her waist and someone began to kiss the back of her neck. “I remember the day I first saw you” Velibor said, turning her around to face him. “You wore this dress, and it was the banquet for me and those who trained with me, in honour of our training being over. You sat there next to your father, watching me constantly with the biggest smile on your face!” She put her hands on his face, and she began to kiss him. He always tasted nice. Sweet like the strawberries that Lukas made, yet so strong and powerful. She savoured every bit of him, drawing him closer, all the while still kissing him slowly, passionately, wanting to devour him. He wrapped his arms ever so tightly around her, holding her so tightly he could feel every part of her. Her heart beat so strongly, and it only aroused his desire for her and made it grow stronger. Her small, delicate hands were in his hair, then on his shoulders.

He began to unlace the back of her dress, but she pulled away. “Please, not today Velibor.” She looked at him pleadingly, and he drew her in again, doing the lace back up, and kissing her neck. She laughed, and together they sat at the window. “I missed you Antonya.” He said slowly, his thick accent hypnotising her. She leaned down to hug him, resting her cheek on his. “I love you so much Velibor” she whispered softly in his ear.

“I’m sorry for missing you today Antonya, and meeting in the western courtyard. I got caught up.” Antonya sat back, studying his face. He looked back at her, questioningly, wondering what she was searching for in him. “Caught up?” She replied, trying not to accuse him of anything. She looked at him, knowing full well where he had been. “I saw you, and I know you saw me. I shouldn’t hide these things from you, I’m sorry.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her up for a walk. Together they wandered around the countless corridors and passages in the castle.

“I was trying to bargain with the general, so that if they do send me to the war, I may be in one of the less dangerous parts, so that I will surely come back to you. The conversation seemed to go okay.” She looked at him, trying not to laugh. She found it so funny that he didn’t know the general properly, he himself having been trained by the general for seven years. Surely he knew what the general was like.

They stopped at one the windows looking down on the town and stayed there a while. “Velibor, I love you, you know that.” He looked at her, staring into her eyes, searching the deep, mysterious hazel oceans that seemed trapped inside them. “What’s up Antonya? Please don’t be mad at me, or angry! I love you!” He drew her close and held her tight. She was cold, and his embrace brought some warmth, but nothing more. “You know how father and I constantly argue; and you know first hand him and mother don’t approve of us. Marco doesn’t care, but all this trouble with father is ruining his health, not to mention the stress of the war and all the townspeople.” “What are you trying to say Antonya? I don’t understand.” She looked up at his dark brown eyes, and studied his gently tanned face. “I … I don’t know how to say it Velibor. I love you! It’s not because I don’t love you!” She burst into tears and buried her face in his chest. He stroked her hair, and held her tightly. “Let’s go somewhere warmer and talk there.”

To cheer her up, he lifted up Antonya and carried her through some of the corridor. Putting her down gently, he pushed her against a wall and kissed her. “Antonya I love you more than the world. I want you more than anything else. I want to be one with you! I want to have you with me forever!” He pressed up against her and held her fast, kissing her so strongly. She felt his heart beating against her skin. How she longed for this!

They were closer to his room, so he took her there. Sitting close by the fire to warm her up, he lay on the floor next her and drew pictures on her leg. She lay down with him, and he held her. “I love you, Antonya” he whispered gently in her ear, his lips brushing against her cheek. Deciding against telling him, Antonya lay back and let Velibor lie on her. His hands caressed her body while he whispered softly to her in between kisses. She fell asleep in his arms.

He kissed her and kissed her, but fell back, the fire slowly lulling him to sleep. Gently he pulled off the outer garment of her dress, and lay it on the chair. She was so small and fragile when she was asleep! He lay back down next to her and stroked her soft, pale cheeks. Placing a kiss gently on her lips, he lifted her up and lay her on his bed, covering her with the sheets. He sat on the edge of the bed, stroking her face and talking softly to her. He stood and closed the door, then climbed into bed beside her, wrapping his arms around her and burying his face in the back of her neck. She smelled so sweet. Together they slept there.

Velibor woke first, hearing the sound of a maid entering to stoke the fire. He sat up, and glanced out his door. Across the corridor from his room was a window that looked out to the hills behind the castle. It was getting dark outside. The maid left, and Velibor shut the door. If he wanted Antonya, then now was the only time he was going to get her. Removing his shirt, he turned and face his sleeping love. She stirred in her sleep, and he rolled her over gently. She woke up, and he lay on top of her, kissing her softly and slowly. She returned his kisses with more power as she became more awake. Suddenly she realised what he was trying to do, and she sat up. He sat on her, wondering what she was doing. Looking at him with ears in her eyes, she got out of the bed, only to find that her outer dress was missing. “Velibor!” She cried, collapsing on the mat in front of the fire. “You promised me it wouldn’t be like this. When we were both ready is what you said!”

He looked at her, dumbstruck. Isn’t this what they both wanted? “But I thought…”he began, but stopped. He helped her up off the floor, and held her tight. Pressing her head into his chest, she cried. He felt her warm tears fall on his bare chest, and lifted her chin up. He wiped away her tears and kissed her softly. “I’m sorry Antonya” he said, tears welling up in his eyes. He helped her dress up again, and made a sorry attempt at fixing her hair. Luckily a maid had come to inform them that dinner would start soon, so he employed her help. Antonya did not smile for the rest of the time, and he held her in his arms, crying, longing to feel her return his hug, or return his kisses, but there was nothing.

She saw Velibor cry, yet felt unable to do anything. He hadn’t done anything to her, but how could he let it go this far? Her heart began to soften though, and she reached up brushed away his tears, holding his face in her hands. “I’m sorry” he whispered, as tears began to fall again from his eyes. She kissed him, and held him tight. He kissed her back, and pulled her in tightly. “You should dress.” Mumbled Antonya, as she was tracing the lines on his chest. How strong he was! She was sitting in his lap, and he lifted her up with him, and sat her down on the bed. Kissing her, he bent down to pick up his shirt and his coat. Eyes swollen from crying, he found it hard to do up the buttons, so Antonya stood and helped him. They kissed one last, long time, savouring every moment. “I promise that I love you, Antonya! I love you so much I cannot describe it with words…no act of love would be enough! Not even the stars in the sky, once counted could show by how much I love you!”

She smiled, and kissed him on the cheek. “Maybe after dinner then, my love.” she hinted, and left the room.