Reckless in Innocence
Reckless in Innocence
~ Read the earlier parts listed in the index
While Elizabeth paced the floor in her bedroom, Abigail stood still at the door. Elizabeth had not needed to tell her maid what Marcus had said. It was obvious that he’d refused to give his support.
“Is there anything that I may do, Miss?”
Elizabeth did not answer, she could not, her mind was a spinning top.
“Miss?” her maid urged again.
Elizabeth stopped her pacing and looked at the younger woman, she felt as though the world had collapsed inwards, self destructing. She had brought this on herself. Touch me. What a damned fool notion that had been.
How could she blame him for denying her? She could not, she could not because all this had been her fault.
But there was one thing she could do. She had one option left. Seeing as His Grace no longer cared what she did, he could hardly hold her to her promise.
“I will write a letter to Lord Percy. You must take it to him.”
“Not tonight, Miss. It is too late tonight.”
Too late. Elizabeth quickly calculated the hours that must have passed and realised that it must be nearly midnight. Too late, Abigail was right. It was too late to send her onto the streets. “Tomorrow then, Abigail.”
Tomorrow felt like forever away, and the night endless, as she laid awake, her fingers lying over the child in her stomach – Marcus’s child. When morning dawned her eyes were shadowed and her body sluggish as Abigail came to help her dress. But she knew what she must do with a cold certainty. It was not what she would have done by choice, but it was what she had to do to give her child security. She must accept Lord Percy’s offer to keep her.
But hours later her plans had borne no fruit and Elizabeth paced the floor of the parlour, as she had paced that of her bedchamber the night before, unable to just sit.
“If you do not stop, Elizabeth, you will wear the rug to threads!” Her mother looked up from a card game of patience, irritated by Elizabeth’s constant movement.
Elizabeth sat down, but in moments stood up again, unable to stay still. “What is the hour, Mama?”
“Just past noon, I believe. What are you waiting for?”
“I asked Lord Percy to call.” Her blue woollen shawl slipped slightly from her shoulder, and Elizabeth quickly pulled it back, knowing that it hid the open buttons at the back of her dress.
“You look ill, Elizabeth. Is there aught wrong?”
Elizabeth glanced back at her mother, gripping her shawl to stop her hands from fidgeting.
Ill? No, she was not ill. Shivering, she drew the shawl about her further.
If Lord Percy took her in, as she had requested in her letter, then it would not be to help her, it would be as his mistress and there would be a debt to pay, a debt she would pay with her body, a debt she would not welcome. But what choice did she have? She had thought of no other.
“Elizabeth, did you hear me? Is there aught wrong?”
Her eyes focused on her mother. Would her mother be able to think of something else? Could she offer Elizabeth another chance? Her parents had never helped her, other than in providing food and clothing. Would they help her now? A lifetime in her father’s household had seemed like purgatory a week ago, but now… Her situation was different. Her needs were greater and the possibilities had narrowed.
She made a swift decision. Perhaps another reckless choice. She would tell her mother.
As hopeless as Lady Derwent was, perhaps there was an answer that had not occurred to Elizabeth. Perhaps her father would care for the child?
“Mama, I am with child.”
Her mother stood and the pack of cards she held slid from her grasp. The playing cards tumbled to the floor, scattering across the Chinese rug, all about her feet.
“I have won the wager, Tay, the lady is mine.” Percy waved a piece of paper in the air before Marcus’s face, as Marcus crossed the hall of White’s. “I will be able claim it within the week.”
The wager? Marcus stopped. She’d promised. Elizabeth had sworn to him that she would have nothing more to do with Percy. “What is this?” Marcus looked at the piece of paper which Lord Percy waved. Was that just another lie too, that she had never liked Percy.
“Your ploy obviously did not work, Tay. Whatever you did to Miss Derwent at Larchfield she returned desiring me. She has written to inform me that she intends to accept my offer. Read it for yourself.”
Marcus took the letter. He did not know her writing so there was no way of knowing if it was hers. His gaze fell to her signature first. It was signed Elizabeth.
Dear Lord Percy,
I am writing to you, my Lord, as I have given more thought to your proposal. I regret that I so rashly set it aside. I have given your offer greater consideration and I find myself more tempted. I wish to accept. I would be grateful if you would call today, as early as you are able, to discuss such an arrangement in more detail. Forgive me, but I must request your urgency in this matter my Lord, and expect you before noon.
I shall await you with much eagerness, and anticipate your honour and discretion in not discussing this with anyone.
She’d taken the next best option beyond him then. Marcus folded the letter in half, unconsciously, and glanced at the clock. Ten after one. Percy had fulfilled neither request. Instead of going to her, he was bragging about his luck in White’s.
Loathing was the only word to describe Marcus’s feelings. He loathed the man, and if he did nothing and let this happen Percy would have Elizabeth. Percy would sleep with her and wake with her, and spend his days idling in her company.
Marcus’s gaze reached to the ceiling. Lord, he hated her as much as he loved her. He still seethed with anger at her skills of manipulation, but no matter how many times he’d listed all the reasons why he should not, he still loved her. He could not stand the knowledge. She deserved this bloody fate; she deserved a man such as Percy, but he could not bear to think of her with him.
Marcus gritted his teeth. He would not think of it. She had seduced him for his money. The woman he was in love with was not real. The woman he loved had been a lie.
Marcus thrust the letter back at Percy. This was her choice. He wanted nothing more to do with Elizabeth Derwent – and this was her choice – if she recklessly wished to ruin herself – it was her choice. He repeated the words as a chant laying all blame on her; she deserved a cruel, sadistic bastard like Percy. They would suit each other. He’d warned her half a dozen times. If she did not choose to heed him… Yet he still could not really wish that fate upon her… Damn it.
“Within the week, Tay, within the week, she shall be mine and the wager won,” Lord Percy gloated.
There would be hours to regret his words once they were spoken, but Marcus could not stand to see Percy’s look of victory. He’d take great pleasure in wiping the satisfaction from his face. There was another way to keep Elizabeth from Percy’s clutches. “I am afraid I have to disappoint you, Percy.”
Percy looked crestfallen, his face a picture that Marcus would love to preserve.
Marcus merely stared at him, speaking the truth without words.
“You took her virginity at Larchfield… You won…” Percy paused in his speech and Marcus watched the man’s internal calculation. “But it cannot be proven. You have no proof.”
Losing a wager was a shame that no gentleman sought, and Marcus could see that Percy was measuring his desire to lie and win against whether or not Marcus would announce his own success. Marcus knew Percy too well to believe for a moment that he could bear to know that he’d lost and pretend to have won. Percy was an evil bastard but he was prideful too.
Marcus smiled. Here was the blow that would seal the Campbell family’s revenge. “There, too, you are wrong. There is proof. Take on Elizabeth Derwent and you shall take on my bastard too. Elizabeth Derwent claims she is with child, my child.” Not for one moment did Marcus believe the claim was true, but if Elizabeth could play the card then so could he…
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