Parliament's Big Ben struck seven as Elizabeth came in from the cold. The bite of the wind had numbed her face. She stepped into the cozy parlor where the aromas of both sweet tobacco and garlands of evergreens battled for dominance.
Thank goodness the trusty housekeeper had tended the fire. She stood in front of the welcoming blaze, sensation slowly creeping back into reawakened nerve endings.
With the oil lamps extinguished and only firelight to guide the eye, the room was aglow with golden light reflecting off the tinsel, the tree ornaments, and she and Harold's many treasures. She surveyed the elegant furniture, the oil painting above the hearth. It was a portrait of her wearing a long, flowing, blue gown.
Harold had commissioned the work during the first year of their marriage and hung it over the fireplace on Christmas day five years ago. How prim and proper she looked in the portrait. Who would have guessed the ribald thoughts that trundled through her head while she was posing.
Elizabeth would much rather have had a series of reproductions picturing Harold ravaging her in several different ways, like in the book she had once given him. She had purchased it from a peddler in a disreputable section of London where ladies were not supposed to go and presented the book of illustrations to Harold just after their first Christmas, New Year's Eve to be exact.
She'd hoped it would give him some ideas. It certainly had given her plenty. She tingled, not from the cold, but from the memory of the night when they were ever so ungentlemanly and unladylike. The pleasure they found in unbridled sex must have shown on their faces following their intimacies as there acquaintances often looked askance at them.
A pleasant sting returned to Elizabeth's rosy cheeks and the fire began to warm her body through the clothing. Soon she would be warm enough to peel off layer after layer until she stood before the hearth wearing nothing but an inviting smile.
Maybe she should place a few strands of tinsel in her hair. Or maybe she would twist the ends of two metal ornament hangers so she could hang tree ornaments from her nipples. It would be a saucy touch for Harold when he came through the door, to see his warmed, peeled, and decorated Christmas Eve present anxiously waiting.
She glanced at Harold's writing desk and the polished cherry-wood pipe resting in its stand on a nearby end-table. The pipe had been a birthday present. She thought of filling its bowl with his favorite tobacco blend and lighting it.
A naked woman with a pipe in her mouth. That exotic sight would certainly give him a moment of pause.