Reckless in Innocence
Reckless in Innocence
(an early Jane Lark story that is not at all associated with the Marlow Intrigues)
~ Read the earlier parts listed in the index
Elizabeth was sitting on the cushioned windowsill, looking out at the rain which fell in sheets across London. Lord Percy’s rooms were small. He had a bedchamber and dressing room for himself, where Elizabeth had spent her nights since she’d arrived, sleeping in his bed, alone. Then there was a living area which served as a sitting and dining room, where she had spent her days like this, staring at the street, the people who passed by, and the weather.
She closed her eyes.
She had never really been religious, her parents had never encouraged regular visits to church but in the last three days she’d longed for belief in some all-powerful deity, some power of good to have faith in, someone who could save her from her fate, if she pleaded with them.
She’d realised on the first day that this was not Lord Percy’s home. It was a place in which a man would keep his mistress and if it were not for the small amount of his clothing in the dressing room she would have thought he’d taken the rooms for her benefit alone.
She rested her fingers against the cold, misty glass. Lord Percy had probably kept a dozen mistresses here through the years.
What would happen if she did not please him? She’d never thought about that before. When they had arrived here he’d barely shown her the room before he left and he had not called upon her in the three days since. What if he decided he did not want her? Where would she go?
She would not think about it. She could not. She must take each hour and each day as it came.
She turned to look about the room. The books she’d borrowed were in a stack on a chest, she’d read them all. She could not hide in here forever. She ought to take them back. If she took them back she could learn where Lord Percy’s rooms were and learn her way from here to the places she knew. If she did that then she would have more opportunity to go out. These rooms had felt like a prison cell. She needed fresh air, and she needed to take a hold of her life again. What good was there in sitting here, sulking and longing for a different outcome?
She rose from the window seat to collect her cloak. It felt entirely odd to put it on herself, without Abigail’s aid. She picked up her bonnet, put it on and tied the ribbons, refusing the sense of overwhelming loneliness which swept about her. Then she put on her gloves and picked up the books.
It felt the strangest of all things to walk out of the door alone and cross the landing of the common area which provided the access to Lord Percy’s rooms. She lifted her chin, held her shoulders back and charged herself with bravery. It was ridiculous that she must need to feel brave simply to walk out onto the street and yet her heart raced as she progressed down the stairs to the front door. A man in livery stood there.
“Is it not a bit wet to be taking the air, miss? I’d go back up.” The doorman bowed slightly as she descended the last few steps of the staircase.
Elizabeth clutched her books against her chest and shook her head. Her life had always been lonely but now she felt it keenly, it was a pain in her breast. She had no one who cared for her, no defender, no companion – anything could happen now.
When she walked closer the doorman moved, but not to step aside, he stood right in front of her.
“I’d go back up, miss,” he said again as he formed a physical wall of muscle before her.
There was nothing obviously unusual or threatening in his stance, yet something about it made Elizabeth wary. He was too close, too informal and too large a man. She took a step back, so that she did not face his chest and could look up at him without feeling snared. “I am not bothered by the rain. If you would excuse me?”
He did not move. “I’m sorry, Miss, but I must insist. It is not the weather for strolling.” His posture stiffened, making him taller still. He no longer looked as though his position in front of her was natural, it was a barricade. He did not intend to let her go.
Am I a captive here then? “Excuse me,” Elizabeth repeated sharply, testing her ground, as she stared at the man.
“I’m sorry, miss, but the gentleman instructed me, you’re not to leave unless you’re in his company. You cannot go out alone. Tis for your safety.”
Elizabeth gripped the books tighter, as though they were a cliff to cling to. “Am I a prisoner here?” Lord Percy has not visited in three days. “Am I to be secured here as though I am in a jail?” Her words were spoken in confusion. She’d deemed it that, in the last few days, but she’d thought her words imagination.
“You must speak to the gent, miss, not to me. I dunot make the rules. I obey them.”
“Please move aside!” Elizabeth ordered in frustration. “I cannot speak to Lord Percy when he is not here?” When the man still did not move, Elizabeth’s anger soared. “Move aside!” Although it was not truly anger, it was panic.
Six feet two in height, in comparison to Elizabeth’s five feet six inches, the man was a mass of solid, bound muscle – ox-like. Undaunted, Elizabeth tried to push past him. At her attempt to move him the man simply smiled and then knocked her aside, sending Elizabeth off-balance. The books slipped out of her hands as she tumbled backward. She ended up sprawled in an undignified manner at the doorman’s feet, with the books spread about her.
He offered his hand but the sarcastic smile on his face spurred her to refuse it. Instead the oaf caught hold of her arm and hauled her roughly to her feet. “My you are haughty for a whore.”
When he let her go, he smiled, wryly. “Forgive me, miss, but the gent was quite specific. I cannot let y’u leave. I dunot mean to hurt y’u, miss, but no matter, y’u cannot go. The gent would have my hide.”
A whore? Was that all she was now?
Elizabeth swiped at the skirt of her dress with her gloved hands, brushing away invisible dirt, as she thought, trying to work out what to do. When she straightened she glanced back, looking up the stairs. Was Lord Percy really holding her captive? Why? She looked back at the doorman.
For whatever reason, it was clear she should not stay here.
Marcus’s and his sister-in-law’s warnings rang through Elizabeth’s head. What did they know? What had Lord Percy done in the past? What would he do to her?
“Would one of the house maids be able to take these books, they should be returned to the lending library, in Portman Street?” It was an excuse to try to send a message through one of them. If she put a note into one of the books she could ask for them to be delivered to Marcus’s brother. He would help her.
“No, miss, I’m afraid not.” The doorman’s tone had become a stiff denial again.
“So I am a prisoner here then?” she whispered in shock, stepping back again.
“If I were you, miss, I would do what the gentleman wishes. In my understanding, y’u made y’ur choice. If you want the gent to keep y’u in your finery and pay y’ur rent, you must do just as he says. Now, look…” his eyes widened, “I’ll say nothing to him this time. I’ll not tell him you tried to go out. But if you try again, I shall have to say.”
Elizabeth looked from the doorman to the door. She’d made a mistake coming here. She heard Marcus’s voice. How many times had he warned her about Lord Percy? He had known the man was capable of cruelty, but she had not foreseen this.
Her gaze lifted to the doorman’s face. “Forgive me.”
“Aye, miss.” He nodded, relaxing back into his innocent pose.
She squatted down,collected her books from the floor, then rose and turned away, trying to walk steadily and not appear to flee, her heart thumping and her mind racing, searching for possibilities. There were none.
Instead of searching out new books from the lending library she spent the afternoon sitting in the window seat once more, fingers pressed to the pane of her prison cell, looking out.
When dusk fell she changed for dinner as she had done every night, in case Lord Percy came. He did not.
Elizabeth asked the maid who served if she would be able to take a letter. The girl refused. This truly was now her prison.
As the evening past after dinner she paced the floor of the living room, not knowing what to do, while her fingers ran across the goose-bumps on her arm, as she stroked from her upper arm to her elbow, comforting herself. This was all so strange.
Lord Percy had courted her daily before she’d gone to Larchfield, and now she was here, his, he did not come at all.
Was that it? Was this all something to do with her going to Larchfield? Was Lord Percy angry with her because she’d gone away with Marcus? Certainly he’d not agreed to this arrangement to help her. And she did not think it common for men to lock up their mistresses. A man did not keep a woman prisoner if his intent was good. How long would he keep her here? How long would it be before he came? She walked to the window, it was dark. Why would he not let her out? Why keep her prisoner?
She walked over to the table and sat down on the chair where she’d eaten, perching on the very edge as she looked at the cold cup of coffee which she’d left untouched. Her heel tapped a steady rhythm on the floorboards as her hands clasped in her lap. She rose again and walked to the hearth, then back to the table, turning to follow the same path that she’d walked most of the evening.
The clatter of horses’ hooves echoed from the street outside, permeating through the window. She went to look down at the moonlit street. A hired carriage had stopped before the building. It was him. She knew it. But why would he come in a hired carriage? “Why not his own?” She did not trust him. There was no trust in her anymore.
Elizabeth turned away from the window as her heart raced at a gallop and stood before the table where the three armed candelabrum burned. Her hands clasped at her waist as she waited.
His knuckles rapped on the door and despite being prepared, she jumped. But there was nothing to do but welcome him. These were his rooms.
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’ve read them all already, then there’s another treat available for preorder, The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel is available in the Magical Weddings Boxset and all the books together are only $0.99 or 99p
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 Marlow Intrigues
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all
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