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
Tutting, Abigail held up the soiled garment. “Lady Campbell’s habit is stained.”
“Yes, Abigail, I know. Do you think that you can clean it without anyone seeing? I dare not give it back to Lady Campbell as it is.” Elizabeth looked at the small oval mirror on the dressing table, speaking to her maid’s reflection. A frown creased Abigail’s brow as though the task to rid the dress of the water mark would not be easy.
“I shall try, Miss. I will do my best.”
Turning her gaze back to her own likeness, Elizabeth picked up the silver-backed brush which lay on the dressing table, then began to stroke it through her hair from her crown to her shoulder.
Her gaze traced the path Marcus’s fingers had taken across her face. The weight of the brush brought her hand back to the top of the dressing table. She was not sure what he saw when he looked at her. But there had been something in his eyes today. She let go of the brush and her fingers traced the same path his had taken, lingering on her lips.
What game was Marcus playing?
He had made it quite plain that he did not want her for a mistress, nor want her as his wife. Then why had he followed her about London and then brought her here? For sport. The words were a war cry, she had to continue to only see the bad in him because when she saw the good it melted her heart.
Marcus Campbell did not want her, did not love her, and she must not love him, because if she let herself love him again her heart would be shattered for eternity.
* * *
Elizabeth was seated opposite Marcus at the dinner table. She was unable to eat. He did not take his eyes from her throughout the meal, and she sought not to look at him, but when her gaze passed across his he would smile. She echoed his smile because she did not know what else to do. It was as if he sought to recreate those early days when he had looked at her across a room all evening and they had shared smiles. Her stomach turned over. Too much had happened between now and then.
Lady Fitzherbert, who sat beside him, continued to talk as though Marcus was listening, Elizabeth could hear her, and yet all Marcus did was nod occasionally and stare at Elizabeth.
“Ladies, it is time to withdraw.” Angela set her napkin down beside her plate and stood. All the women rose then, and in respect the gentlemen took their feet. Elizabeth wiped her lips with her napkin, set it down and stood too.
When Angela passed her husband, her fingers touched his shoulder and his captured hers and stopped her. He pressed her fingers to his lips then when she walked on he let her fingers slip free.
When Angela turned, as she reached the door, to smile at all the gentlemen before leaving, Elizabeth glanced back. Marcus watched her with so much passion in his eyes that it sent a spiral of deep pain and pleasure through her core. He was too easy to love when he looked at her with eyes full of admiration and longing, and she could not deny the feelings such a look evoked within her.
“Promise me you will not to be too long, gentlemen?” Angela called.
“I am afraid I cannot promise, darling.” It was Jason who answered. He and Angela acted as though the party was theirs, and the house theirs. Jason was even seated at the head of the table, which was odd when Marcus was the Duke. “We are retiring to the billiard room. I would suggest you do not expect us for the remainder of the evening. Ladies, enjoy your evening. Henry, we will take the port and brandy there.” He even ordered the servants as the host…
While it would be natural for Angela to accept the role of hostess as Marcus did not have a wife, it was strange that he let his brother take the role of host.
The other gentlemen nodded respectively at the women. The women behind Elizabeth said their good evenings as Elizabeth glanced back at Marcus.
It felt as though she was his and he was hers among this group of couples, especially when he looked at her as he was. Perhaps that was all that it was, that being the only two with out a partner made him cleave to her.
Had he planned it to be like this?
She asked herself the same recurring question… Why?
Marcus smiled and nodded at her then formed a sentence with his lips which she did not understand at first. He mouthed the words again. “I will escape as soon as I may.”
Why? Despite the fact that any desire he might have to see her was both dangerous and foolish, warmth still flooded through her. Her body hungered for any crumb of attention from him. Elizabeth hung back as the women walked into the drawing room, and the men filed out of the dining room, talking and then laughing.
Marcus caught her looking and smiled. Yes. Just as he had used to do in London.
Had something changed between them? She wished to let herself believe, if only for a moment, that Marcus actually cared for her.
“Elizabeth.” Angela looped her arm through Elizabeth’s, drawing her back from her wool gathering. “My brother-in-law can be a little lascivious. You must ignore his behaviour. If it disturbs you then please tell me and I shall throw a proverbial bucket of cold water across his head to calm him down.”
“Marcus can be a saint when he chooses, but unfortunately it is very rare that he chooses to act even remotely saintly. It is in general his choice to deliberately take the wicked path. Have you known him long?”
“Since March. Not particularly long.”
“No, but long enough to change the man completely. Did you know that this is the first time Marcus has brought any woman to his home?”
Elizabeth’s forehead creased. Why was Angela saying this? Did it mean he had feelings for her…
“Marcus does not come here. He did not have a happy childhood. I think that he has brought you here to chase away his ghosts, whether they are real or imagined.”
“I do not understand.”
“Then perhaps you should ask him.”
There was no chance to ask him, though, because the men did not come to the drawing room, no matter that he had said he would escape.
When she retired, early because she did not feel comfortable among the woman, Elizabeth closed the bedroom door and leaned back against the wood. Angela was kind but Elizabeth still found her periods alone with the women awkward; she struggled for things to say because she had nothing in common with them. They spoke of things they had done and bought, Elizabeth could only speak of dreams and wants and longings.
She felt desperately tired and a strange feeling turned within her stomach
A flint flared on the other side of the room, it’s reflection shining in the mirror on the dressing table. Elizabeth straightened and turned to look as a candle flickered into life.
“Marcus, what are you doing here?”
“I needed to see you.”
“Could it not wait until tomorrow?”
“No. I find myself too impatient with you. I need your company tonight and tomorrow will not do.” He walked towards her. “I cannot stop myself from thinking of you. Do you know how perfect you are? I like your skin.” His fingers lifted and reached out to brush the highest curve of her breast as it pressed against her bodice. “Your hair is like gold thread, and as bright as the harvest moon tonight?” His hand lifted and his fingers pulled a single pin from her hair so that a lock fell to her shoulder. “I cannot stop myself. I want to touch you.” His head lowered. “To kiss you,” he said over her lips.
There was a heavy scent of brandy on his breath. She pulled back and stepped away. “You are inebriated.”
“Not entirely inebriated. All though I shall admit to being a little foxed.”
“Whatever you wish to call it, you have been drinking, Leave me alone. Abigail will be here soon.”
“I sent her away.”
“You did what? You had no right!” When he tried to step closer again, she pushed his shoulder, trying to push him away. He did not move. “She will think we are lovers!” Her palm pressed against his hard chest over his clothes.
“We were, Elizabeth. We could be again.” The glint in his eyes and the twist of his lips was positively devilish. “I would welcome such an arrangement for tonight, it is what I need. I would make it satisfying.”
“No, Marcus!” Was he mad?
She pressed both her palms on his chest and shoved. He stumbled back.
“I will not be your sport because you are foxed and alone in the country, with no better woman than I to play with.” Elizabeth turned, grasped the door handle and pulled the door open. “Now go, or I shall scream the entire house down and everyone shall know you are here.”
“You would ruin your reputation.”
“You know full well it is ruined already.”
Unrepentant, Marcus caught her about the waist and hauled her close as his head lowered. She turned her head away and so he kissed her neck then breathed into her ear. “Hear me out. I need you tonight. I need you to keep me company. I do not wish to be alone. Have pity on a man who is afraid of the dark.”
He was urging her with persistence but he was not forceful and his voice was jocular, but she had heard what Angela had said. Did he truly want her to help chase away his ghosts? Perhaps there was more to this than selfishness and greed.
More to what? He had asked her to share his bed, nothing more.
He was seducing her senses and her soul again.
If Marcus Campbell had any ghosts to shed they were his previous conquests.
“No, Marcus.” Her hand pressed against his shoulder pushing him away. He went, letting her go and stepping back.
“If you change your mind, I will be in the billiard room, sharing my night with the port.” His fingers cupped the side of her cheek and then he stole a brief kiss, before finally strolling out and walking away.
Elizabeth tugged on the bell pull, feeling as though she had passed through a storm.
She could see Marcus in her minds eye as clearly as if it was this evening he had sat upon a sofa with a look of annoyance, while the sounds of the gaming hall continued about them. He had been so cool towards her. He did not want a wife and he did not want her for a mistress, but he had asked her to be his lover again tonight and she had refused.
Elizabeth’s fingers touched her lips as she crossed to the bed, the fabric of her gown rustling as she walked. She sat on the edge of the bed and her hand fell. What would it be like to lay with him in the warmth and comfort of a bed? How would it feel to be naked beside him, beneath him, his whole body caressing hers?
Her mouth became dry.
“Miss.” Abigail appeared at the door. Elizabeth had forgotten that she had not closed it behind him.
Elizabeth stood. She had never been angry with the maid before, but she was angry now. “Why did you leave His Grace alone in my room?”
“The Duke was insistent, Miss. He said that you would not need me.”
“Well, as you can see I do need you, and I would be grateful if you ignored the Duke’s instructions in the future. He had no right to send you away.”
“Yes, Miss.” Abigail blushed, reddening to the roots of her hair. She must be assuming exactly what Marcus had intended.
Worse her assumption was exactly what Elizabeth had done, once.
To be continued…
If you cannot wait until next week for more of Jane Lark’s writing there’s plenty to read right now 😀 And if you have read them all already, then there’s another treat out now, you can begin devouring, The Dangerous Love of a Rogue
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The Marlow Intrigues
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
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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