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
Marcus leaned back in his chair. He had a conscience. He had thought himself immune to conscience where women were concerned, yet it was definitely guilt that kept him drinking, and guilt could only stem from regret, and regret could only stem from recognition of doing wrong – he had definitely wronged Elizabeth Derwent.
He drained another glass and topped it up again. He’d never intended his dalliance with Elizabeth Derwent to go as far as it had.
He must have earned the title of the most outrageous rake in the ton now. What had possessed him to seduce a debutante?
But then was it truly he who had done the seducing? Her eyes had followed him across the halls and chambers of society for weeks, and last tonight she had eased herself against him as they’d waltzed with the artistry of a courtesan. She had scandalised the tabbies. Yet he could have held back.
He should have held back.
If he’d known the truth, he would have done.
He brushed his fingers through his hair. His hand shook.
His conscience, which had not spoken to him in years, was shouting condemnation.
He’d taken her virginity, taken her innocence.
But she had not behaved with innocence.
He’d thought that she was not a virgin when she had encouraged him to touch her, not that she was as guilty as him of wanting more, but now he heard her words again in his thoughts, he understood. I am not innocent. He had deliberately twisted her words to satisfy his small amount of honour. He’d immediately presumed she’d gained experience away from town – away from the risk of scandal.
But he had known and denied the truth when he’d touched her. She’d been too hesitant in her response. He had convinced himself it was otherwise merely to take what she gave – what she had offered and given willingly – touch me.
Damn those words. They were haunting him tonight.
The girl he’d seen this morning, though, in the street, was not the one who’d said them. The girl this morning, had been full of regret. She had not even wished him to touch her hand, let alone her body…
Damn the girl to hell, with her subtle seductions. What had happened had been her fault.
And yet she would have the memory of that glass house for the rest of her life. It had been her first time – a woman of society should save the making of such a memory for her marriage bed – her wedding night.
Why the devil had she done it?
He’d given her half-a-dozen chances to back out of it too – asked her if she wished for him to stop, but those wonderfully seductive eyes, clouded with desire, had merely looked at him, as if he was mad, begging him on.
If he had an ounce of decency in his soul he would be knocking on her father’s door pleading for her hand. But he could not bring himself to do that. He would not be shackled.
It had always been the joke between himself and Jason, his younger brother, that he would provide the inheritance and Jason the heir.
Damn it there was no way he would endure a woman’s tongue as sharp as his mother’s. She had hounded his father until she’d driven him to the grave. He’d hung himself to escape her for God sake – why would any man risk the same.
His father’s image hung from a corner of the room, a rope around his neck as his body twitched. Marcus drank another full glass and reached for the bottle.
That image had never left him. It never would. It was behind his every thought, his every action.
To the point that he would seduce a debutante and leave her high and dry rather than risk the parson’s noose?
Damn it. And seduce her, he had. His conscience yelled at him to stop denying it.
He’d faced himself in the shaving mirror at dawn, and told himself abruptly, he was – a cold-hearted bastard.
She had been inexperienced, a virgin pure and simple.
She was not that now.
He could not blame her for asking in innocence for what she could not understand, not really.
How was an innocent young woman of nineteen able to see the consequences of flirting with a rake?
She must have expected more, been harbouring dreams of romance.
Older woman knew and played the game, they had learned, like he, that romance was a fiction, a fairytale. There were no streets paved with gold in London, and there was no happiness in a marriage bed.
Yet there had been no sound of expectation in her words. She had not hinted or asked for anything beyond the physical connection of their bodies.
Touch me. Such a damned simple request.
That was the thing which had always been so refreshing about Elizabeth she had not once discussed marriage or sized up his fortune and his title. They discussed flippant things – things which made her laugh and he had liked her laughter. He liked the sound and the way her eyes shone when she did so. She had been the first uncomplicated woman he had met. It had been no hardship to dance and speak with her, it had simply been amusing…
Damn it. He slammed his empty glass onto the desk. If he was going to get foxed he may as well do it amongst friends, at least then his thoughts would not dwell on the many attributes of Elizabeth Derwent.
An hour later, Marcus strolled into White’s and glanced about the leather winged armchairs, seeking someone he knew.
“Do I detect you are hiding, brother?” Marcus called back as he turned with a broad smile. “I was told that you had promised to be home by dinner. To think I was escorting your wife about town, fulfilling the thoroughly boring duty of standing at her side as she thumbed through fabrics and feathers, while you are merely avoiding her and getting in your cups.”
“Not so much avoiding. I was busy, as you know, but perhaps I have spun my day out a little. Well yes, come to think of it, I admit it. I am avoiding my wife. She has taken it into her head to redecorate the house and the conversation is constantly… which do you prefer, this shade or that, this pattern or the other, this style or…”
“You need not carry on. It is not me you need to make excuses to. If you wish to offer up excuses, I suggest you go home to your wife.” Marcus threw himself into the vacant chair beside his brother
“It is late to see you calling at White’s, Marc. You are usually off about town by now?”
“To tell the truth, Jason, I am in no mood for town and debutantes tonight.”
“Debutantes?” Jason’s eyes widened at the bitterness he must have heard in Marcus’s pitch, and amusement twisted his lips into a smile. “Why on earth have you any concern for debutantes? I thought you always steered clear?”
“I do.” Marcus snubbed the thought of speaking to his brother. This was scandal beyond any he’d stirred up before, if he ever spoke it aloud.
He could do one thing for Elizabeth Derwent now – he could keep quiet. “That is exactly what I mean. I cannot stand the season. There are girls at every turn desperate for a match, any man is game, even a self-professed bachelor and an appalling rake. If I have to look at one more pair of fluttering eyelashes, and listen to anymore simpering voices, I swear I shall start throwing their owners into the Thames.”
“Surely you are not afraid of being trapped? You would not even entertain any of them with a second glance.”
When Marcus was silent, Jason looked at him askance and added, “You are out of character, brother. You are not telling me that you are tempted?”
“Not in the least, Jason. Not even by the most charming of girls.”
Jason raised an eyebrow at that. There had obviously been a certain errant tone in the pronunciation that evoked query. Jason would never have heard him complain of debutantes before, and certainly never known him insinuate that he found any one of them charming. He did not normally even speak of them, let alone think of them. Until Elizabeth…
“Well then, what would you say to getting lost somewhere for an hour or two, in a place where debutantes would certainly never dare to go? I am in no mood for an early night perusing wallpaper samples. I fancy a card game with heavier stakes than White’s can offer me. Are you up for it Marc? Will you join me?”
He was definitely, he was up for anything that would distract his mind and silence his conscience.
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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