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
Marcus gripped Elizabeth’s elbow and leaned close to her ear. “Would you like to play cards?” She did not turn from her perusal of a family portrait but jerked her arm free.
“Are you angry with me?” Marcus questioned in response.
She shook her head, but she did not turn to look at him. “I am not angry.”
She was angry. She regretted last night, he knew she did. “You did not come down for breakfast, you have avoided me all day and you did not speak to me or look at me throughout dinner.”
“I was engaged in talking to Lord Fitzherbert.”
“The man is the biggest bore. You cannot have been engaged by his conversation, that is a lie Elizabeth. I thought last night we had established a bond in which we would tell each other the truth.”
“The truth, Marcus? If we are speaking truths, then you must tell me one first. Why did you bring me here?”
He looked hard into her eyes, his body only inches away from hers. He wanted to touch her, but his brother, his sister-in-law and their friends sat directly behind him. The whole day had been like walking on the fragments of glass he’d shattered on the floor last night; she’d given him no opportunity to speak with her alone and something had changed in her manner. She was angry with him, he was certain, despite the fact that she denied it, and if that was the case he could not blame her. If she had had any good feelings left for him, then he’d soiled them.
He’d cursed himself for drinking so much from the moment he’d woken with a throbbing headache, his mind full of memories from his hours in the billiard room. But in daylight, and sober, he knew his behaviour had been appalling. Though he would not deny that he’d wanted it to happen, and deep down he knew he had brought her here to seduce her with his home as much as his body. But now he’d succeeded in his seduction the taste of success was sour. He did not want it to change things between them. Nothing had changed. He would not take her for a wife or a mistress.
So why had he brought her here?
To prove to himself that he could? To prove it to others? To make love to her one last time? To know that she was with him and no one else?
The answer was all of these, yet where did it lead him? Into the same dead-end he had faced in that conservatory at the Phillips’ ball.
He studied her face as she looked past him, to avoid meeting his gaze. She knew his feelings. She did not want to give him a chance to smooth over their interlude yesterday because she knew that really he had nothing to say. But what of her?
Last night she’d participated with passion and emotions as moving as his, but today she was as cold as ice and only God knew her thoughts because she would clearly not share them with him. If she had expressed her anger it would be better than this silence. He deserved her anger but he did not know how to respond to her silence.
“We cannot talk here. Walk with me.” Catching her elbow, Marcus led her to the French-door which opened onto the terrace. Pulling down the handle, he pushed it open, looking back to see his sister-in-law seat herself at the pianoforte and Henry Castleton stand at her side to share a ballad.
Elizabeth walked only two paces from the open door, so that they could still be clearly seen from within the room, then she turned to face him.
Marcus moved to take her hand, then looked toward the well-lit room and dropped his fingers. How could he explain to her how he felt?
“I do not know why I asked you here, Elizabeth. Though I will admit I want you for myself. It is hell to see you stand up with Percy or anyone else, but I did not intend it to be like this.”
“Then what did you intend?”
“I do not know.” He shook his head and lifted his shoulders in an offering of uncertainty.
She sighed deeply.
“You are angry with me.” Marcus asserted, studying her face.
“No, I am angry with myself for being so susceptible to you.” Her reply was a high-pitched whisper as her gaze scanned his face. “I should return to London. I should go.”
“We travel the day after tomorrow.” Marcus felt his brow crease into frown. He had not thought she would leave.
“Marcus, this is foolish…” How to explain love to a man who had probably never loved anyone in his life? She was not angry, she was everything but angry, madly in love, totally horrified, thoroughly foolish – let down and alone. But not angry. Deep down she now knew she could never be wholly angry with him. She wanted to lay her hand against his cheek now and feel his lips turn to kiss her palm.
But he did not love her in return and it hurt too much, to have given all of herself to him only to be rejected again.
“You neither need me, nor want me. I should go.”
“Did I not show you last night how much I need you? Tonight you could come to my room, or I to yours.”
“I will never understand you. You told me plainly, you do not want a wife and you would not choose me as a mistress, so there is only one conclusion I can draw, that this is just a game to you, just entertainment. You warn me against Lord Percy yet you are worse than him. At least he offered me security in return if I favoured him.”
Marcus’s face contorted with a look of disgust as he gripped her forearm. “I am not…” He stopped, and looked at the open French-door, remembering their audience. He let her arm go, then spoke more quietly. “I am not the same as Percy, and swear to me you have not given him any favours.”
“It is none of your business. And you say that you are not like him, but tell me, then, what of London? If we continue this, what happens when we return to town?”
Silence. He had nothing to say. There was no profession of love. No future.
A smile pulled her lips open, the smile of the experienced, worldly woman he’d made her, not the shy innocent Elizabeth he’d first found. “I have no need for a casual lover, Your Grace. Excuse me.”
She turned her back on him and fled into the darkness. She could not return to the room.
Entertainment! She mocked herself in her thoughts. Damn fool woman that I am, she was the entertainment for his boring visit to the country. She was merely a greater sport than hunting.
“A man can change his mind, Elizabeth! If a woman is willing to come to his bed as a mistress, a man can change his mind! I would rather that you were mine than his!”
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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