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
“I have seen the book, Percy. I know of your wager.” Marcus leaned back in the leather armchair before the empty hearth at White’s, still gripping Percy’s coat sleeve, having waylaid the man as he passed. “As I said leave Miss Derwent alone.”
“Are you trying to push me out, Tay, is that it?” Percy challenged back.
Marcus took to his feet in answer, letting go of Percy’s sleeve. Standing beside the leaner man, he was an inch or two taller. “Believe what you wish to believe, but understand this, Percy, I will not let you touch her.”
“Surely that is Miss Derwent’s choice, Tay. I really cannot see that it should be any concern of yours, unless, that is, you are in it for the sport.”
“What I would wish to know, Percy, is whether you intend to give Miss Derwent the opportunity to refuse?” Jason walked behind Marcus then, and stood beside him, facing Percy, his eyes boring into the man, the air between them thickening with Jason’s obvious hostility.
Allowing his lips to curl into a smile, Marcus watched Percy squirm. The man cowered before Jason, and Marcus enjoyed the uncomfortable expression on Lord Percy’s face. There must still be a scar at Percy’s shoulder which was testament to the fact that Jason’s history with this man was turbulent.
Marcus had stood as Jason’s second on the heath in the mist of a November morning, six years ago. Jason had not shot to kill. He had struck Percy in the shoulder and the wound had been enough to put the other man off his shot but nothing more. Jason had intended to teach Percy a lesson, to send him to the country with his tail between his legs, but his retirement from the ton had only lasted one season.
Angela had insisted that the details of Percy’s indiscretions were never dragged up again. She did not wish rumours circulating in the parlours of London. Yet Marcus knew Jason’s wounds were also scars, memories that haunted and angered him. The reason for their duel would never be forgotten.
Percy withdrew immediately, bowing sharply at both men, but offering no word in parting.
“I should have killed that man.” Jason turned to Marcus, his expression one of restraint.
“If you had killed him, Jason, then you would be the one who had the conscience to live with and not he.” Marcus dropped into his chair, with a sigh, while Jason took the vacant armchair beside him.
“You know that I distrust Percy more than you, but we have not spent the last six years defending his intended conquests. Why are you defending Miss Derwent? Is there more to this?”
“There is nothing more.” There was no question that Marcus would discuss the details.
“Then let me say this, Marc. Perhaps your days as a rake are over. If you will not be honest with me, then be honest with yourself. There are more ways than one to keep the competition away. You know that you could offer for Miss Derwent. Have you considered it… marrying the girl?”
Providing his brother with a direct look that locked horns, like a stag, Marcus gave no hesitation in response. “Ankle irons are not for me. I have never promised you otherwise.”
“And yourself? Have you never promised anything to yourself Marc? Children perhaps? Do you never think of an heir, of returning to the family home? It looks more and more as though Angela and I cannot breed, so if you do not wed, there might be no heir.”
Balking immediately at his words, Marcus’s expression turned to one of distaste. Jason surely knew him well enough to know that he would never retire to the slow days of their family seat. He lived for women and racing, in the order they were stated, and as for settling down with just one woman, it would be like owning one horse, they were bred for their abilities, you needed more than one to appreciate the full range of equestrian skills – and he could never have a child. Jason was to provide the children. That had been their bargain.
Angela would produce in time.
Marcus’s fingers extended on the arm of the chair and then retracted to grasp the tacks in the curved leather. A shallow smile stirred his lips. Then again, he had not looked at another filly, human or horse, in nearly four months. Since when had Elizabeth captured his thoughts above all else? Guilt, Marcus, he told himself. Guilt. You owe the girl a debt, that’s all.
“A woman’s tongue is a cruel thing, Jason. I have never held any desire to shackle myself to one. You did not hear it as much as I. I would do not wish for a wife or a child and Angela shall have her time, it will happen for you.”
“I am not so sure, but regardless, you speak as though I was not there when you grew up… I heard it enough; Mother knew how to make her words sting.”
“And I have no intention of placing myself on the end of such barbs. I will not live as our father did. I will not chain myself to hell on earth.”
Jason leaned back in his chair, watching Marcus closely. Marcus knew Jason had always been tolerant of his nomadic ways as far as women were concerned. When they had been younger there was no shame in a wayward elder brother. Then he had met Angela and she, too, had disregarded Marcus’s indiscretions. Marcus had supported them both through the tumultuous times of their early relationship and, in return, Angela had always supported him. She never snubbed his women in the street, nor complained that his reputation affected hers. His brother and sister-in-law accepted him for who he was, he had never promised to change. He never could, the fear inside him was too deeply seated, too intense. Irrational perhaps? He did not dwell on that.
“You cannot blame the failure of our parents’ marriage on our mother. Father played his part.”
“Their marriage did not fail, Jason. Father took his own life to escape it. Must I go into the details?” Jason was certainly picking all the untouchable subjects today. “I would rather not discuss it, and especially not here.” Marcus snatched up his drink and swallowed the last of the burning brandy in one swift draught. “Good day.”
Mark stood and walked away.
Jason did not understand, he’d been younger. He had not seen what Marcus had seen. He had not found what Marcus had found.
The pain inside was a living, breathing monster in Marcus’s blood and bone as Marcus walked from the club. He needed to get away, get out of sight in case he let it show. In general he did not remember, in general he sought to forget… there was no way on earth he could ever face being wed. Never. He would not consider it. The idea actually made him nauseous.
To be continued…
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 ~ 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