This scene takes place immediately after Rochester returns from investigating the fire in his bedroom. NSFW.
He held out his hand; I gave him mine: he took it first in one, then in both his own.
“You have saved my life: I have a pleasure in owing you so immense a debt…”
But there he stopped, and the cold dawn light seemed to freeze the moment into something sharp, bluish, unreal.
“Jane,” he said, and no one had ever said my name in such a way, a way that indicated knowing and kindness and curiosity. “Jane,” he said again, and I was closer somehow, a small step or a hair’s breadth, but it felt the closest I’d been to a man, indeed to any person, and then somehow we were closer again, to where my dressing gown brushed against the front of his nightshirt.
“Sir,” I said. “I must depart.”
“Yes, you must go,” he said, but he did not relinquish my hands.
“Do you know what it means to be in debt, Jane?” he asked.
I thought of Aunt Reed, of Lowood…of my position at Thornfield, which was comfortable but still earned entirely by my efforts. “No.” But I added, to be diplomatic, “I can surmise, sir.”
“Suppose you can,” he said, his voice an octave lower. “I meant it when I said owing you a debt was a pleasure, but I am not a man who lets his debts lapse. In fact, I tend to be quite prompt with them.”
And then his lips were on the back of my hand, warm and soft. No gentleman had ever kissed my hand before. No man had ever pressed his lips to any part of my skin, and I could not help but be shocked by how delicious it felt. Not merely the touch of his skin to mine, but the way it made my pulse race and my heart pound, and then he looked up at me with his dark eyes.
“Jane. Will you allow me to thank you now?”
I nodded before I could consider what he meant, what was wisest…which was of course to leave—I was nearly naked in my master’s room, alone and unchaperoned, lit only by an anemic dawn that spilled weakly through the window. But I nodded in spite of my conscience, and Mr. Rochester snaked an arm around my waist and pulled me closer. Our bodies were now nearly pressed together.
“Thank you,” he murmured, his face close to mine. “Thank you, Jane Eyre.”
And then he brushed his lips against mine, softly, barely, faintly.
The sensation sent tremors through me and buckled my knees—but my sensible mind reminded me that Mr. Rochester was a man of the world, that I should leave before I’d committed an act irresponsible or immoral or unwise. But then he did something else unexpected: he brought his mouth to my neck. At once there was heat and sensation and a feeling not unlike being tickled, but deeper and stronger and one that was connected to other parts of my body. I felt my nipples tighten under my dressing gown—such a strange and unanticipated reaction that I responded with an intake of breath.
“Do you trust me, Jane?” Mr. Rochester asked, his lips at my neck.
I nodded—involuntarily—for with these small bites and nips and sucks along my collarbone, the sensible part of my mind might fuss, but it could not find an outlet. My traitorous body responded instead with every atom of flesh, every fiber of skin and muscle and bone keening for something unknown, something only my master could give.
He pulled back, and the loss of his lips on my skin felt like the sky darkening, but then he untied the belt of my dressing gown, his eyes on my own the entire time. His long fingers slid the gown off my shoulders, down my arms, and finally off my body, until the gown was nothing more than a pile of muslin and repurposed lace on the floor. I was now in only the scantest of garments before him: my night-dress, a thing of thin cotton and hanging only to just below my knees.
Here, I balked and meant to pull away, to make my exit, but then he pulled off his night-shirt so that he was wearing nothing but the breeches he’d hastily pulled on to investigate the cause of the fire. The blue light from the window allowed me to clearly see the flat planes of his stomach, the lean muscles of his arms and shoulders.
Unable to resist, I trailed a finger from his shoulder to his elbow, relishing in the undulations of his deltoids and biceps. He caught my hand and kissed my palm. I shivered. He then pressed my hand against his chest and held it there as he looked me in the eyes. “Do you trust me?” he asked again.
“Yes,” I said, even though perhaps I didn’t. Even though I was still reassuring my conscience that I would be leaving at any moment.
He kissed my hand once more and then took the tip of my finger into his mouth and nipped at it gently.
…At any moment…
“You will leave this room with your virtue intact—in the sense that your body will be unimpeachable to any future husband. That is my promise to you.”
I quailed. This was immoral. It was wrong. I pulled away, but then Mr. Rochester moved my hand to his breeches, to the hardness underneath the soft fabric.
“This is what you do to me, Jane Eyre. Do you understand what torment this can to be a man when he must sit through hours of endless conversation and piano playing? Do you understand what a man needs when he feels like this?”
Oh, how I wanted to be worldly right then. I wanted to know what that hardness meant, how it tormented him, but I only knew the scantest details about the male species. I knew they had desires, and that female virtue was the only thing that could halt these desires. But then his hand found my nipple through my nightdress, and my thoughts ceased. He stroked my nipple, rolling it between his fingers and squeezing.
“Of course you don’t understand. It was foolish of me to expect you could. But feeling what you feel of me, I still promise to you that you will leave this room intact, a spotless bride. Now—” he palmed my breast and my knees grew weak. “—Let me thank you, my Janet. Let me repay this debt.”
“Sir—” my voice was breathy and strange, so much so I barely recognized it. He scooped me in his arms and carried me to the bed, still damp from the water I’d doused it in. He brought a blanket from the nearby trunk and set it underneath me.
“I won’t have you catching a cold.”
The gesture was tender…thoughtful. And before I could process what that meant—him thinking of my comfort—his lips were once more on my own, hot and searching. He slid a hand underneath my neck, tilting my face up to his, his tongue licking into my mouth. I found that lack of experience was no hindrance here; my body responded in kind, my own tongue probing and pressing against his, my traitorous hands daring to touch his bare back, which was firm with muscles and tense with desire. I slid my hands to the waist of his breeches and then further down, feeling the way his body curved from his back to his bum to his muscular thighs.
He sighed against my mouth and pulled up, gazing at me with his dark eyes. The blackish blaze of his stare did more to me than even his lips and tongue, and I found myself almost completely divested of thought and moral action. My good judgement, which had never deserted me through all my troubles, seemed as captivated as my baser instincts by Edward’s—Mr. Rochester’s—lust and skill.
He dipped his head once more, but rather than kiss me, he brought his mouth to my nipple, taking it in my mouth through the nightgown. The sudden heat and suction made me arch my back, breathing hard, my fingernails digging into his shoulders. He continued sucking and tugging at my breast, but a hand slowly traced its way up my leg, sliding under my night dress and moving from my calf to my knee to my inner thigh.
I must stop this. Had I not read of women succumbing to passion in similar circumstances? And of their lives being ruined by their lack of self-control? Surely, this was the specific incidence that those novels and essays obliquely referred to. And yet, the moment Mr. Rochester’s fingers found the most secret part of me, I found I didn’t care. His fingers brushed against my outer folds, stroking and caressing, and I spread my legs, wanting more. His fingers moved to the small nub of flesh that brought so much pleasure, and he gently worked it back and forth, back and forth, until my hands were twining tightly in his hair, and I found it impossible to breathe normally.
He slipped one finger inside of me, and I cried out, my hands clenching his hair harder.
“Please,” I begged, though I knew not what I begged for.
“I dare not do more,” he breathed against my ear. “I promised you that you’d leave this room intact. But you are so wet for me. So wet. And so tight.” That last he seemed to say only to himself, and the raw desire in his voice shredded the remainder of my self-control.
The hardness that had been pressed against my hip vanished as he raised himself up. He withdrew his hand from under my nightgown, and I wanted desperately to protest, but then saw that he now positioned himself so that his upper body was between my legs. He carefully raised the nightdress so that it rested above my hips. With my nakedness fully exposed to him, his lust was apparent. His eyes raked over my body and then he lowered his head and licked at my folds. For a moment, there was only softness and warmth. He slid his hands under my bum and adjusted my hips so that he had better access to my center, and then he began kissing my folds in earnest, his tongue probing and exploring, again working that bundle of nerves at the top that made my toes curl and my fingers clench around the bedcovers.
“You taste so good,” he told me. His tongue moved in circles across my clitoris; my muscles were tightening, my legs and my arms and my stomach. I felt like a piano string, so tightly wound that I might snap at any moment.
“Tell me what you feel, Janet,” he said, and his voice—authoritative, used to be being obeyed—left no room for disagreement.
“I feel strange, sir,” I said, barely able to keep my tone steady. “Like I might shatter at any moment.”
“I will make sure that you will,” he answered me, his voice almost grimly determined. “I mean to make you come back to me, every night if I have my way.”
The thought of that was so shockingly inviting, so lascivious, that coupled with his mouth returning to my center, I felt a new wave of fragile tension roll through me, and then a clenching at my core that was almost frightening in its ferocity.
“Sir,” I said, nearly panicked, “sir, I feel—”
The first wave of release crashed through me, and I cried out. He did not cease his attentions, rather he increased them, so that the second and third waves were more intense than the first, and I cried his name over and over again, feeling every sensation too strongly to bear, all sense of self leaving me in the crashing surf of pleasure until I was left limp, a golden glow settling comfortably beneath my navel.
Mr. Rochester was staring at me from between my legs, his lips parted, lust written plainly on his face. He crawled over me.
The experience had left me undone and uncertain but craving more, needing more. “Sir,” I whispered. “I am yours.”
He groaned and pulled away. “Don’t say things like that. You little English girl. You really have no idea what effect you have on me, do you?” He put his feet on the floor and reached for his shirt. I sat up as well.
As he stood, I could clearly see the source of his discomfort outlined by his breeches. “Mr. Rochester…”
“The servants will be awakening soon,” he said, “and the fire has left much to put to rights.” He handed me my dressing gown, and I slid my arms into the sleeves and belted it without looking at him, feeling a flush of shame crawl through me. It was just as the novels said: once the virtuous woman had proven herself unchaste, her lover would turn cold and disinterested.
As if reading my thoughts, he bent low and kissed me.
“I will expect you tonight in the drawing room, Jane.”
All feelings of doubt and shame fled before his kiss and his certainty, before his desire and his commands.