Reckless in Innocence
for my Historical Romance readers ❤
© Jane Lark
Publishing rights belong to Jane Lark, this should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
Reckless in Innocence
The tears clouding Elizabeth’s vision slipped on to her cheeks and traced a downward path, a light sensation like the touch of Marcus’s fingertips.
She’d thought making love with Marcus would be wonderful and moments of it had been. But for other moments had felt sore and awkward and now she ached horribly between her legs – and in her heart…
What did “I’m sorry” mean?
That he was sorry he had done it? That he was sorry for her?
It was supposed to have been a beautiful thing. A wonderful memory. It did not feel beautiful, though. She felt dirty now, and the liaison had seemed sordid.
He’d left her here.
She’d wanted to grab him and pull him back to her, to feel his kiss again. To feel him hold her. To feel his touch before the moment he had entered her and it had all turned sour.
He had not looked at her as he’d secured his flap.
She slid from the table and smoothed out her skirts.
There was still some stickiness between her thighs.
Her fingers shaking, she lifted her bodice. She shivered.
Now she was confused.
His touch had still been gentle when he’d cleaned her thighs, but he had felt distant, even though he was close, and the tenderness she had known in his eyes for so many weeks had not been there any more. His gaze had been hollow and he’d not smiled.
Why had he not smiled?
Had she made the wrong choice?
No. She refused to regret it. She had expected nothing more. She had achieved what she’d wished. And yet… It had not been how she’d imagined.
She glanced at her reflection in the dark glass of the conservatory, her dress was a little creased, but there was no other sign… Nothing to say that she had sinned. Nothing to show that she had recklessly given her virginity away.
What had she hoped he would say? I love you. Marry me. I have to have you. Is that what she had really hoped in her folly. But certainly what she had never imagined was for him to say, “I’m sorry.”
She did regret.
She did not wish to, but she did…
What a naïve fool she had been.
She was nothing – the daughter of an impoverished, drunken, Baron.
Marcus was a Duke – and a rake. He would not choose her for anymore than a physical liaison – and she had offered him this tryst, all he had done was accept.
But what now? What came next? Nothing?
She left the room quickly and quietly.
She did not look for him in the hall, or the ballroom. If she saw him, she was afraid he’d ignore her now.
She hurried to find her mother who was in the card room. Of course. Was there any doubt.
Elizabeth took a seat against the wall near her.
Elizabeth turned her head and hid her face behind her gloved hand.
Marcus, the Duke of Tay, was handing a woman down from a carriage on to the path ahead. The woman was beautiful, dark-haired and clothed in a scarlet and blue tartan walking dress, with a frivolous scarlet bonnet, bedecked with scarlet feathers and bows.
What on earth had Elizabeth been thinking? Why had she done what she’d done? She had known nothing of Marcus beyond the ballrooms she’d met him in.
Had she really thought that a man like Marcus would make love to her and never lay with woman again? He’d barely spoken to her after he had ‘touched her’ as she’d asked, nay, begged him to do, and then he’d left with all haste.
Yet she’d still hoped this morning to see his card on the silver tray by the front door or to hear him knock and request to take her out for a drive.
Her fingers dropped a little from her eyes so she could see him. He looked wonderful. His colouring was so dark, and she remembered the depth of his brown eyes and his long black lashes as he’d looked at her in the shallow light of the conservatory. A spiral of pain circled down through her body, as it remembered the places he’d touched her and the things he’d done.
A blush burned in her skin as she looked at the woman who was as dark in colouring as Marcus.
Why had he even looked twice at Elizabeth when he associated with women like this? He was not simply the most notorious rake, he was the most notoriously handsome man in the ton. But he’d done more than look at her.
Elizabeth had stopped moving to stare at them, but she was jolted from her awe when her maid, Abigail, bumped into her and dropped the armful of books she’d been carrying.
As Abigail scrabbled to pick them up, Elizabeth squatted down too.
She was terrified that the scene would draw Marcus’s attention. She helped Abigail gather the fallen books they’d just acquired from the lending library.
When she rose, with books in hand, she dared to look and see if he had passed, only to find herself facing Marcus with his lady friend clinging to his arm.
He stopped dead in his stride. He could have ignored her and walked on, but he did not. Yet probably for the first time in his life, she guessed, Marcus Campbell, the infamous Duke of Tay, seemed to find himself short of words.
The heat of colour flaring in her cheeks, Elizabeth moved to walk around him, eager to escape, as he merely stared.
His deep voice stopped her, she could hardly cut him. Clutching the books to her chest, she felt as though she was falling. The books in her arms were something to cling to.
Marcus lifted a hand to take hers in greeting. She looked at it, uncomprehending, for what seemed an age when it was probably only a moment. Then shifting her grip on the books, she finally offered her gloved fingers too. He clasped them, his grip gentle –the embrace so light his fingers barely touched hers.
A sudden memory pierced her thoughts – of his fingers following the fabric of her dress and sliding to touch the skin of her breast, then she felt the slow trail of his fingertips along her thigh. Her hand trembled in his before she pulled it free.
The look she caught in his eyes told her that he knew the things she’d remembered. She tried to see what he was thinking, what he thought of her now, but she could not judge. He was too good at putting up a screen when he wished.
“Your Grace.” Elizabeth forced the words from her mouth. But her voice quivered, like her fingers had when he’d held them.
“Are you well, Miss Derwent?” His voice gave away nothing of his thoughts, or what had occurred between them last evening, away.
“Quite… quite well, Your Grace.” Elizabeth fought the quiver in her voice, trying to appear as unaffected as he seemed. “As you see, I have been to the library to obtain some books to pass my time. I really ought to get home before mother misses me.”
Her cheeks heated with an even deeper blush. What an idiotic, childish, thing to say. He would think she was pining for him, that she must fill her time with books. Her mind would not be able to focus on a book, anyway, it had just been something to do.
The lending library was the only place she had to absorb her thoughts. With a father who had no funds to spare she could not pursue the much preferred option of shopping.
Elizabeth’s gaze strayed to the woman on Marcus’s arm.
They were shopping…
An emotion she had never known before gripped at her innards – envy.
“I am glad we met. It is good to see you, Miss Derwent.”
The strong and sincere emphasis of Marcus’s words set her heart racing as she looked at him again. But he did not introduce her to the woman, and there seemed nothing she could say in response. Nothing which would not sound hopelessly gauche.
He reclaimed her fingers, swiftly, and then touched the back of them to his lips, making her heart pound. “Good day, Miss Derwent.”
It was a dismissal. Rejection.
The kiss had been the epitome of propriety… It broke not one single boundary cast in the stones of society – and yet last evening…
His touch felt intimate as she remembered his lips against her skin. Her skin burned again and was probably a similar red to the scarlet his female friend wore. She pulled her fingers free.
“Good day to you, your Grace.” Elizabeth bent into a graceful shallow curtsy, and then rose and stepped past him without meeting his gaze again.
“If I did not think it so idiotic for a young girl to fall for such a notorious rake, I would say she has a penchant for you, Marcus, dear.” The woman’s voice carried on the air as Elizabeth hurried to create a distance between her and them. Yet she could not quite help herself, she turned and looked back.
The woman leaned against him and patted his arm with her other hand, laughing in a shrill voice.
“The young lady made her come out this season, and is not so young, Angela, dear. We have met a few times, but I believe if she held any regard for me it is now most certainly lost…”
In the eight and twenty years of his life, Marcus had never known a moment of such excruciating discomfort. He had never in his life been lost for words as he had just been. The girl had tied his tongue in knots. Her hand had felt so frail and small in his and her embarrassment had been palpable, visible in her heightened colour and her reluctance to even speak with him.
She had seen him first and tried to avoid his attention.
Damn it, if she had been anyone other than a debutante they would have spent the day in his chamber, making love again and again, but instead he had coldly abandoned her and fled.
Desire had tightened in his stomach regardless of their folly the night before. Despite the sense of guilt he had carried ever since, it seemed his body was unwilling to feel contrite and desperately wished for a repeat. But his conscience was clamouring too loudly, it would be heard.
If she had been any other woman he would have taught her what physical exploration really was. It was certainly not the appalling fully clothed affair he had treated her to last night. Though it had been pleasant, incredibly pleasant, it was not to the standard for which he was acclaimed. The standard that made the ton’s fast widows send him scented notes and, at the most extreme, play cards for his favours.
He glanced back, only for an instant, so Angela would not notice.
Elizabeth was walking away, with a quick, hurried stride. She had stared at him, trying to understand him – to understand what had happened between them and what would happen now.
Was she angry? Had she expected him to call on her? She’d held several books to pass the time. Had her thoughts been turning in circles all night, as his had done? The port had finally done the trick, and he had slept uncomfortably in the chair, eventually.
He’d won the war with his inner voice – he’d made the right choice – to do nothing. She could not have expected any more. What other course was there? Surely she understood. Certainly she had never expected an offer of marriage…
He suddenly wished desperately that Angela was not here, of all the days for him to accompany his sister-in-law shopping… but he had promised Jason he would entertain her.
If he had been alone at least he could have spoken to Elizabeth frankly, he would have taken her somewhere where they might have talked and explained to her that there could be nothing else between them, because he was incapable of anything else…
When she reached home Elizabeth ran to her room, threw her books on the bed and tumbled down beside them on her stomach. Then she buried her head into the pillow and cried.
“Miss, what is it? What is wrong?” Abigail hovered near, having followed her upstairs. The family’s maid of all work bent and touched Elizabeth’s shoulder.
Elizabeth ignored her, embarrassed by her out of character dramatics as she had been before Marcus.
“Is it about that gentleman, Miss? The one we saw in the street? If it is ought to do with him, shall I…?”
Heavens had she been that obvious?
Elizabeth turned and sat up. “No.” She wiped away her tears. “I merely have the headache.”
Of course it was obviously untrue, she had never run upstairs before and balled her eyes out so dramatically over illness.
But then this was an illness, a pain of the heart.
Yet she could not lay the blame at Marcus’s door; she had deliberately and recklessly set out to taunt the man and the outcome was exactly what she had wished for.
She’d simply never imagined that she would feel like this afterwards – so desolate – a hundred times lonelier than before.
It was too late, but deep down she knew, she’d longed for a fairytale. She’d hoped Marcus would fall, wholly and entirely, and profess undying love for her. That he would love her as much as she loved him. That he would hold her and tell her that he would never let her go. That he would rescue her from her family and save her from the choice of a life in service.
She shut her eyes as Abigail began putting the books away for her.
What folly. What a complete ninny she had been.
Who did she think she was to gain the love of a man like the Duke of Tay? He had probably lain with every beautiful woman in the ton. She had been nothing but amusement, something to pass his time as a book might…
Abigail looked at her again when the books were in their place upon a shelf. “Is there anything I may fetch you, Miss? Shall I bring your mother?”
Her mother? As if that acerbic woman could offer Elizabeth any comfort?
“No. Thank you. I am well enough now. It is just that I did not sleep last night. I am tired and overwrought because of it, I think I shall lie down for a little while.”
“Yes, Miss, you do that, then.” Abigail bobbed a curtsy, then left the room, closing the door gently.
Elizabeth turned and tumbled back on to the bed, and wept.
She felt as though she would never be able to sleep again. She was nineteen and her life was at an end. She had to leave London… Soon. Now.
Sitting up she slid off the bed and hurried to the bedroom door.
Then she ran along the hall and down the stairs to find her father’s newspaper and scan the advertisements for anything that would take her away from here, she had already applied for one position but she must apply for more. She had to obtain one quickly.
If you cannot wait until next week for more of Jane Lark’s writing there’s plenty to read right now 😀
To read the Marlow Intrigues series, you can start anywhere, but this is the actual order
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel
#1.5 Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ This Free Novella
#2.5 The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ Free and NOW available to pre-order from Amazon
and, yes, there are more to come 🙂 soon…
Go to the index
- the story of the real courtesan who inspired The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
- another free short story, about characters from book #2, A Lord’s Scandalous Love,
- the prequel excerpts for book #3 The Scandalous Love of a Duke
Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.
Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark
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