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
Read the earlier parts
Leaning against the balustrade of the broad terrace which ran the length of Larchfield, Elizabeth looked out across the gardens. The night was cool and the air fresh. She had not realised how much she’d missed the clean air and sweet scents of the country. It was pleasant here, quiet as London could never be, and she remembered home; the cold manor with cobwebs in every corner. It was even cold in summer, and in winter she had to wrap up in several layers of clothing to keep warm. The single fire in the kitchen range was the only one that had been lit for years and it did not keep the entire manor warm. Often, as a child, she’d spent her evenings in the kitchen by its side, watching the scullery maid wash dishes.
But remembering her home with its worn drapes and faded wallpaper, which was peeling from the walls from the damp, made her feel so out of place here. The avenues of perfectly clipped hedging and trellis, stretching out before her, punctuated with fountains and statues of god like men and women, only highlighted how distant her life and her status was from Marcus’s.
And everyone else here was respectable. The Campbells’ friends, Lord and Lady Fitzherbert were travelling back to their estate; they’d met Marcus’s brother and his wife soon after the two couples had married. Then there were the Everetts and the Castletons, both gentlemen Marcus and his brother had known since school. They were all as quiet as the country – brought up in wealth and comfort by parents who neither gambled nor drank to excess.
Her eyes reached to the furthest fountain and then the lake and the meadow beyond and beyond that there was a wooded hill.
“Do you like it?” Marcus’s voice rose behind her and made her jump.
Elizabeth pulled her woollen shawl closer about her shoulders. She had come out here to be alone, because the conversation within the drawing was beyond her. It was the conversation of wives, and the men had been left at the table to drink their port. “The sunset is indeed beautiful tonight.”
“I did not mean that, Elizabeth, and you know it. I meant my home. Do you like my home?”
“Our manor house is small. My father has fifteen acres left. You know our circumstances; why would I not appreciate the wealth you have, Your Grace? But I do not envy you it, if that is what you are asking?”
“It was not a trick question, Elizabeth. I did not ask it to taunt you. If you even consider envy I shall return you to London.” He took a step closer to her. “Will you call me Marcus while we are here? When two people are as close as we have been it seems ridiculous that you, Your Grace, me.”
She looked at him. The sky above him was shaded from dark to light blue and behind him the red rim of the sun slipped beneath a distant hill, and about it the sky was red and gold, it cast his face in shadow, she couldn’t see his expression. “Why did you bring me here?”
He was silent for a moment as he looked at her face, which he must be able to see in the last violet-blue of the sunset.
“To keep you away from Lord Percy and the other scoundrels you entertain.”
She did not wholly believe him, there seemed something more to it, something spoken in the clipped pitch of his voice.
Elizabeth turned back to the view and watched the blackness to creep towards them; already she could not see to the edge of the wood. But then a white flash danced across the meadow beyond the pleasure garden and her eyes adjusted to the last light of dusk. “Look, Marcus, look. It’s a red deer.” She pointed to the distance.
Marcus moved closer behind her and leaned to her shoulder, to look along her arm and see where she pointed, while his hand rested at her waist. “I see it. Look, there are more. I can see another two.” He straightened but he did not move away and his other hand settled on her waist too.
“And a stag. Do you see the stag? His antlers are magnificent.”
“I see him. Those antlers will be upon my wall soon if we go hunting tomorrow.”
Elizabeth turned and flung the flat of her fist at his chest. “You dare harm that poor creature, Marcus Campbell, and I shall never forgive you.”
Marcus caught her hand. Smiling broadly in the wicked way which had melted her heart from the first moment she’d seen him, he took her hand to his lips and kissed her wrist and when her hand fell open, his lips touched her palm.
Elizabeth shook her hand free and stepped away from him, her thoughts confused.
Was he playing with her? What was this? He had not touched her in weeks.
No, oh no. Had he brought her here for this, for a repetition, to make her his again, in a physical sense? But he’d said he did not want her as a mistress.
Her heart slammed against her ribs at the very idea, warring between anger, fear – and hope. But even if he decided he did want her it would not be as a wife, and she had learned her lesson. She’d given her heart to him once and he’d ripped it up. Giving herself to him had been reckless and foolish. “I will retire,” she whispered, stepping back again. “I am tired. I did not sleep well last night.” She did not wait for his response; instead she turned and walked away.
Marcus turned away as she left and looked out into the pitch black of night now that dusk had passed.
When he’d seen her standing here in the half-light he’d wished that he could paint, that he could capture that moment of her beauty. Why had he brought her here? He hardly knew why himself, other than it was easier to keep her away from Percy on his home ground. Liar, you brought her here, because you wanted her here.
Elizabeth was the only woman who had ever affected him beyond a superficial lust. A need for her pulled at his senses, a very deep need. He felt like an addict and he was tired of sharing the woman.
He sighed into the night. Elizabeth’s beauty and the beauty of his home were matched – things he desperately wanted but would never claim.
Home. What a damned fool word to describe Larchfield. This place had never been a home to him, not when he was a child and certainly never as an adult. In fact he had only returned to the property twice in all the years since leaving school. He paid his man of business to manage it, actively avoiding the need to do anything for it, and that had included visiting the place. He kept it on for Jason’s children, not his own.
Damn it, why do I care if she likes the place?
But he had meant that question. He’d brought her here to like it, to see if she liked it. Yet who knew why? He did not.
To be continued…
Over the Christmas holidays I’ve been busy checking the last edit of the next book in the Marlow Intrigues which is out on January, 22nd, The Dangerous Love of a Rogue, but boy does it make me realize how simple this story which I wrote years ago was, this is so different to what I’m writing now, but it was never intended to be anything other than a Mills & Boon monthly, I don’t think I would be capable of even trying to write one now as my word counts extend and extend… 😀
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 the actual order is listed below ~ and click like to follow my Facebook Page not to miss anything…
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all ~ The paperback would be a lovely stocking filler 😉
Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ A Free Novella #2.5
The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ A second Free Novella #3.5
Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback and, yes, there are more to come 🙂
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