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
When she was certain that Marcus was out of sight, Elizabeth dropped from the table to the floor. She winced as she walked across the scattered broken glass, on the wooden parquet flooring. Sharp fragments pierced the soles of her feet.
“What are you doing? The floor is covered with glass.”
Her gaze lifted to his face.
His brown eyes glittered with a hazy look that said he had been drinking all evening. “I am going to my room, Marcus, let me go.”
He filled her only exit, standing in the centre of the door frame. She would not have the strength to get past him unless he let her go.
He stared at her, the decanter clutched in his hand. “Am I an ogre now then? Someone to be afraid of? Elizabeth, you are being ridiculous.”
He set the decanter down on a small round table just inside the door, then reached to lift her up off her feet.
“I will walk.” She evaded him.
“Damn it, Elizabeth, you are cutting your feet to shreds. I am wearing boots, let me carry you.”
Before she could argue, he had caught her up and sat her back on top of the billiard table.
He left her, and in a moment returned, with two glasses of dark honey coloured liquid.
“Have you ever drunk brandy before?” he asked, putting a glass on the green felt beside her. He then lifted his glass and took a mouthful of the brandy before setting it down on the edge of the table.
His fingers picked up her foot, curving about the arch as he looked at the sole and began to pull splinters of glass from her skin. “Then try it. It warms the soul.”
Knowing she could not escape, she picked up the large bowl like glass and sipped from it, if only to take her mind from the fingers which held her leg by the ankle and caressed her foot. The liquid was bitter in her mouth and it burned her throat like fire, she choked a little and set it down.
He took a handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it against her foot.
“Why did you walk in the glass?” His gaze lifted to her face, awaiting her answer.
“Why did you break it?”
“I told you. I am afraid of the dark. I was chasing away demons.”
“I do not believe that you are afraid of anything.”
“Then you do not know me well enough.”
He let her right foot fall and picked up her left. He pulled a glass splinter from the ball of her foot, then instead of pressing the wound against his handkerchief, he put it to his lips.
“You should take more care of yourself, Elizabeth.”
“So should you. You drink too much.”
“Every woman would say that of a man.”
“My mother has never said it to my father, and he is always drunk.”
“But you have said it to him… Yes?”
She shook her head. “No. My father is better drunk than sober. My brother and I were afraid if he did not have a drink. His temper is worse when he is desperate for another bottle. When he drinks it he is too weak to care for anything anyone does.”
“Then you said it to me because you do not want me to be like your father.”
His left hand held her foot, his fingers stroking the curve of the arch and his right hand reached for his glass of brandy. He lifted it to his lips and drank.
“I do not want you to drink because it does not suit you. I have never seen you drink like my father, or be drunk like my father. You need not fear that you would ever be like him.”
His forehead furrowed at her.
“Are you drinking to chase away your demons? Why? Are you hiding something, or escaping it?”
No one other than Jason had challenged his actions, or his thoughts. He let her foot fall from his grasp. He did not care to be judged.
“I am not…” Denial was the easiest response.
Elizabeth shifted on to the table and sat cross-legged, setting her hands down behind her and leaning back. Marcus drew a deep breath into his lungs as the candlelight turned her worn linen nightgown translucent. He saw the shape of her breast silhouetted in the light which shone through the cloth, and even the deep red colour of the nipple was clear through the thin fabric.
“I have tried all night to understand you, and I cannot. You make no sense to me at all.”
“Have I ever asked you to understand me.”
“Why are your brother’s friends here and not your own?”
“Hunting and country pursuits are not their thing, as much as they are not mine.”
“Hiding, Marcus, or running?” The girl was growing in confidence. He backed away and drew a cue from the rack. She turned her head, watching him. He threw her a smile.
“If you insist,” he sighed as he turned back, half laughing, but it was a weary sound. “The full answer; I have no real friends, not as Jason and Angela do. Cartwright, Armitage, Coulport, they are all acquaintances. We can take pleasure in each others’ company but there is no loyalty there.” He walked to the far side of the table and put down his drink, then lined up a white ball. He aimed it at a pocket and took the strike with a sharp hit. The white ball went charging into a pocket. He picked up another and placed it, then hit it so it spun and pulled back his cue allowing the ball to roll backwards into a corner pocket.
“What about you, Elizabeth? Do you have friends at home?”
“Father scared them all away, friends and tutors both. And my brother too, the minute he was eighteen.”
His lips caught up in one corner, but he was not smiling, he was not in a mood to smile.
“My turn to ask a question,” Elizabeth challenged. “Why do you keep Larchfield so well staffed and in such immaculate order and never come to stay here? Angela said that it is haunted.”
That caught his attention. He laid the cue on the green felt and walked around the table.
“Did she? Well Angela should learn to keep her thoughts to herself.” He was close to her, his glass in his hand, and he stopped to watch her.
“And you should share yours. You are hiding, Marcus, and running.”
An ache spread through his chest, a pain which ran into his veins. He wanted to untie her plait and spread her hair across her shoulders, comb his fingers through its length.
“Who are your ghosts? Tell me.”
He breathed deeply, swallowed the last mouthful of his brandy and set down his glass, then he reached out to pick up the glass at her side. “Do you want this?” He lifted the glass which he’d poured for her. She shook her head. He drank that too. But when he took the glass from his lips her fingers settled gently on his wrist.
“Hiding, Marcus?” This time the accusation was softer.
Yes, he was running from her internally, but his feet did not move. “My father and my mother.”
She looked surprised.
“They are my ghosts, I suppose. My father was not a drunk, nor a gambler, but he was a poor man in spirit. He was not wise, or strong. He could not manage his own house let alone the estate, and my mother hounded him with bitter words of condemnation to his death. He committed the unforgivable sin. He took his own life.”
“Here at Larchfield?”
“Yes. And it is not I who set the place up with a hundred servants and managed it to succeed as it does. That is my mother’s doing. It was all established in her will, to the last detail of how it should be. You see she knew me, Elizabeth, the worthless wretch who could not be trusted. As you know me…” The sound of humour he heard in his voice was bitter.
“I thought…” she stuttered, “I assumed… I mean I was a little jealous when I saw the house. I thought that you must have had a wonderful childhood in comparison to mine.”
“A house does not make a home, you should know that.”
“If I owned this house, I would be here always,” she mused. “Larchfield is the most beautiful place that I have ever seen.”
“Do you not like London?”
“No. It is too noisy for me.”
“I thought that you enjoyed the endless parties and routs now that you have partners to escort you. You take pleasure in setting everyone’s tongues wagging. You adore it when they stare. So do not try to tell me that you enjoy the peace of the country. You would miss the town,” He frowned a little as he spoke. It was probably the effect of the alcohol, but she was confusing him tonight.
She smiled in return. “You never really understood me, did you? You gave me something that I have never had. I admit I enjoyed the attention you brought me, I thought I liked it once, but in honesty the novelty has worn thin. Yet I am glad that I met you; that you spoke to me. That I had the experience of becoming popular.”
His finger curled beneath her chin and raised it. “If I had not found you then someone else would. I gave you nothing that would not have come to you one way or another.”
Elizabeth moved his hand away, but kept his fingers clutched in hers. “Notoriety. Did you not hear, Marcus? I am notorious, and it is with thanks to you.” The enthusiasm and humour in her voice told him she still thought it was a blessing and not a curse. She liked to rile those who judged her lacking. “I am surprised your brother’s friends will share a table with me at dinner.”
“Well there my hand beats yours. I believe that I have been notorious for years and my reputation spreads much wider, hence why my brother’s friends would no bat an eyelid at your fame.”
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 here’s the latest treat, ready to be devoured, 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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