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
Elizabeth bent to look at herself in the mirror then dropped down on to the small stool in front of her dressing table. She looked hideous. She had dark crescents beneath her eyes. No wonder he did not really like her. She picked up her hairbrush and began to run it through her fine hair until it crackled with static and clung against her damp cheeks, where tears silently drew their damp path.
When he had spoken to her in the gambling club he’d not even shown any sign that he had lain with another woman hours after he’d made love to her. He had no conscience. He had no heart. beneath the face he had shown her these last weeks, he was callous and cold.
How could she love a man like that? Her head was convinced she should not, that she could not, but her heart… and now her body, oh they were much harder to convince.
She had known it even before she’d foolishly begged him to touch her.
Of course, plain Elizabeth Derwent was of no real interest to him. She had only ever been a diversion; that was all, a pleasant diversion.
But it still hurt to know he had not even appreciated the gift she’d given. Had she been that inept?
“What occurred between us should not have happened.” She hated him for saying that.
But she had expected nothing more, so why did it hurt so much that he had shunned her?
He must think her a silly girl.
Yet she was nineteen… twenty years, in six months time. She was not young any more. She dabbed the linen sleeve of her nightgown against her cheeks. She was too old for tears. It was time she gave up self-pity. Time she showed Marcus Campbell that she did not care what he thought. Time she proved that the world did not revolve around that splendid physique and charming smile.
The new Elizabeth, the no longer innocent and foolish, Elizabeth, would control her own life, and if Marcus could use women as he wished, then surely she could use men. She would show the Duke of Tay how little she needed him.
“Miss Elizabeth Derwent was stunning last night, did you see her?”
“Did you hear that she allowed Peter Weston to walk her about the garden alone? They were gone a while. Their absence was noted by the entire gathering.”
“I have never seen a woman with such a flawless complexion.”
“Quite a diamond is Miss Derwent.”
“Quite a diamond and utterly reckless.”
Marcus leaned forward in his seat at White’s, beckoning for a refill of port. He could not help but tune his ears to the conversation beside him no matter how he tried to focus his thoughts on the newspaper in his hands.
In the month since he had laid down his intentions to Elizabeth, or rather lack of them, he’d heard her name time and again.
He had virtually become a recluse to society. It had even occurred to him, he could hide by occupying his seat in the House of Lords, God forbid, he had never sat in it and he never intended to. So his sole entertainment was his own company at White’s, and as now, there was no safe haven. He was subjected to constant descriptions of the woman. It appeared that Elizabeth was not a woman to pine. Instead, she had set the London season into a whirlwind of gossip and expectation. Every single man with hot blood seemed in a frenzy for her.
“Of the first water; a heavenly combination.” One of the men chimed.
Marcus read another headline.
“You have obviously not heard the latest gossip on the subject of Miss Derwent though?” The others had clearly not because no one replied.
Marcus’s eyes followed the article he tried to read, as he reached to take the replenished glass of port, then brought it to his lips to sip the rich liquid.
“Lord Percy has opened a bet in the book. He has put his name down to take Elizabeth Derwent as a lover before the season is out. He has given himself odds on his ability to break in the young virgin and challenged any man to race him to her bed.”
Marcus had to swallow hard to prevent himself from spitting the liquid from his mouth, coughing several times before he could draw breath. My God, he should have warned her about Percy, but the man had never been a threat when her eyes had always turned to him instead. Folding the paper, he threw it upon a table at his side. Now of course, without his company, it was obvious she would accept the court of Percy.
Anger washed through him like a high tide. He would kill the man, and if he had touched her… Damn it, if any man touched her, he would have them strung up by the neck. He could not just sit by and allow Elizabeth to ruin herself. He may not want her for himself but he would not allow her to throw herself away on any scoundrel. She deserved better than Percy.
Thus that evening he found himself out of hiding and on the hunt for her again. He found her after calling in to three separate affairs. She was among a crowd of men, three deep.
Longing, desire, regret, anger and envy all warred for a piece of him.
“Miss Derwent!” he barked from the edge of her court, knowing damn well that she knew he was there and ignored him. “A moment.”
“Why, Your Grace…” Her eyes turned to him with a mocking expression, her tone holding a mocking note. The cluster of men about her looked at him. “…I am sorry. I cannot say it is a pleasure to see you.”
She sounded like a stranger as she polished off her words with a shrill laugh, and then offered the men about her a smile that gave Marcus no respect, practically dismissing him as a nobody. He was a Duke.
He stepped forward, entering her harem of men, and touched her arm. She did look back but it was with a sharp expression
“Forgive me I cannot spare you any of my time, I am having the most entertaining discussion with Mr Harrington and his cousin…”
Marcus was not willing to be played like the rest of these men. He did not do such things. He’d lost patience with this game, elbowing those she talked to aside he caught hold of her arm, eyeing her companions harshly. “If you will excuse Miss Derwent, gentlemen, I am afraid our discussion is far more urgent than she is aware.”
Marcus pulled her away from the group and led her across the middle of the empty dance floor, his fingers gripping her arm probably over tightly, propelling her towards the seclusion of a window seat….
More to come…
If you cannot wait until next week for more of Jane Lark’s writing there’s plenty to read right now 😀
and until October the 27th many of the books are on sale in the UK and the USA from $1.99 and 69p
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 ~ A second Free Novella
Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback
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