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
“Lord Percy.” Elizabeth stepped back and acknowledged him with a curtsy.
“Elizabeth.” He said, in greeting, as he entered the room. “It is good to see you. You are looking remarkably pretty. I am glad to see you have dressed for the evening for me.” His hand rose and his fingers touched her cheek. “Beautiful, like porcelain. I have never seen someone so fair with not a single blemish. You have taken great care to look after your skin. I have wanted to touch it for a very long time. I have imagined it often.” His gaze fell to her lips, then lifted and searched her eyes for some response to his words. He was trying to move her in some way.
All she felt was fear. She had no passion for him as she had for Marcus.
He turned away.
“How are you, Elizabeth?” He glanced around the room as he slipped off his coat.
When he turned back, he held out his coat, treating her like a maid. She took it. Then he lifted off his hat and held that out.
While she hung up his hat and coat, he strolled across the room and dropped into a chair by the fire.
Elizabeth turned to face him. “I am well enough, Christian, although I am surprised you have not called on me earlier,”
“Missing me, aye?” He set his hands on the arms of the upholstered chair and looked up at her, his voice and his expression holding a note of sarcasm, not pleasure.
Elizabeth crossed the room and sat down in the seat opposite him, perching on its edge.
“You may sit, if you want to,” Lord Percy drawled, his sarcasm becoming cutting.
A frown pulled at Elizabeth’s brow. Was he telling her that she needed to ask for permission to sit in his presence, even though these rooms were her home now?
She schooled the anger his response fired through her and bit down on a retort. She needed to manage this conversation carefully. She felt as though she was on tiptoes. Her hands were shaking. One palm lay against her stomach as the other curled into a fist in her lap as she kept her back rigid and her whole body tense. “Christian… I was going to return my books to the library today -”
“I shall do it for you. If you give them to me, I shall have someone drop them off tomorrow.”
“I would sooner deliver them myself, then I may choose some more. There is very little to do here.” Her lips pursed as she waited for his response. His gaze studied her face. “May I take them myself tomorrow?”
“I am pleased that you are asking for my permission.”
“I did not realise I had a choice. I have been told that I am a captive here unless I am accompanied by you.”
“I do not want you wandering about town unescorted. Any number of scoundrels are about.” He held her gaze and was silent for a moment. She thought that he would be generous, and was about to agree to take her, but then his gaze dropped. He glanced to where her palm lay resting against the curve of her stomach and his expression twisted into a look of hatred as his voice flooded with vehement anger. “If I let you wander about town, Elizabeth, what would you do then? Live off my funds and still go to Tay for your entertainment!”
A chill swept across Elizabeth. The hair rose at the back of her neck and her fingers gripped the arms of the chair. Her body willed her to get up and run but her mind told her she could not. Where would she go? How could she evade the door man?
“Yes, Elizabeth, I know about the child, Tay announced your condition very proudly in White’s. I opened a wager, you see…” The anger in his voice had reduced and he seemed to be enjoying watching her response. She could not hide the pain which sliced through her. Lord Percy knew it would hurt her to hear that Marcus had bragged of her condition. Marcus had betrayed her, but she had known that. “…The wager was for your virginity. Does that surprise you?”
She shook her head. She had known of the bet too, although she’d never thought it serious. Lord Percy had hoped it would shock her. He was playing with her tonight, amusing himself. She was sport for Lord Percy as much as she had been sport to Marcus.
“Such a beauty, Elizabeth. So badly chaperoned, and so easily courted. Of course when I began the wager you and Tay were very much at odds, or so it appeared. Clever of him to make it look as though he did not care, and I never thought for one minute you were interested when he did pay you court. You always seemed annoyed with him. So you may imagine my surprise when the man boldly announced that he’d taken the wager, and not only that, but he had the proof – you are carrying his bastard.
“I had your letter in my hand. The bloody letter that would have won me the wager. That is why I did not reply at first, Elizabeth. I did not wish to be made a fool of, not once I saw the real reason for your change of heart. Tay had set you aside and you needed someone to bring up his bastard. Not I, Elizabeth.” He shook his head and drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair, lifting his eyebrows in expression. “Compassion is not in my nature.” He stopped speaking then and looked to the bureau across the room.
“Fetch me a port. The glasses and the decanter are in the bureau over there.” The expensive piece of furniture was the distinctive colour of satin wood. He had not made his bet for money; he did not need the funds, he’d pursued her for fun – for sport. That was all she was to these men of greater society. She crossed the room and poured his drink, as he’d asked, then turned around, holding the half-full glass in one hand.
Lord Percy smiled at her and rested his shoulders back against the chair. “You are thinking, why have I taken you then? Why have I brought you here? I saw the notice in the paper, about your father being declared bankrupt, then your second letter came. There was something in the tone of your desperation that made me think. I admit I found it entertaining to know that Tay had left you in such a mess. Your circumstance seemed quite just to me. Then I realised the most entertaining and just situation of it all, Tay’s child could be mine.” He smiled at her as though he was talking of the weather. “Imagine his child brought up by me. I could turn it into anything I liked, good or bad.”
Elizabeth’s hand lifted and pressed against her throat. “The child is mine.”
“And mine too, now you are here. You have put yourself in my hands, Elizabeth, and so the child also.”
The blood drained from Elizabeth’s skin.
He held his hand out and clicked his fingers, in an expression which called her forward with his drink, as a man might call a dog forward.
She moved almost in a trance as she gave it to him, then she stepped back and stood beside the hearth, her mind spinning with questions of escape. To whom? To where? How?
“Sit down, Elizabeth, there is no need for feminine dramatics, you have nowhere to go but here and you will simply hurt the child if you worry.” He smiled unnervingly. “And we do not wish to hurt Tay’s child, do we?”
Elizabeth returned to sit in the chair opposite him, perching on its edge once more, unable to relax. “You will not harm my child. I will not let you,” she whispered, not looking at him but staring at the floor before his feet.
He laughed, but it was in an odd, mild tone. Her gaze returned to him.
She was sure he would describe his look as benevolent as his smile lifted to a grin, but to her it had a slant of madness. “I do not think I’ll need to harm it. It will be entertaining enough to have Tay’s child as my servant and its mother as my whore, especially when she had shunned me for the father. But I am good enough for you now, Elizabeth, now that you are desperate and Tay has deserted you.” He tapped his leg. “Come and sit with me here.”
Caution and uncertainty gripped as nausea in her stomach. Was he entirely mad? He did not seem at all normal.
“This is part of our bargain, Elizabeth.” He laughed, again, but now there was an edge of cruelty in the pitch. “Come, Elizabeth.” His voice dropped to a lower conciliatory tone. “I wish to hold you for a moment, that is all.”
He was charming her. She had heard the same sincerity in the speeches he’d given to her before any of this. His sincerity had only ever been an act.
“Sit with me. You have a roof over your head and food on your plate. Your child shall not be harmed. It is not so great a price to pay – to give a cuddle or two in return.” He waited, not saying more, allowing silence to be her persuader.
She rose. She felt unable not to. She had agreed to this, and at this moment she did not dare to offend him, she was too afraid of what else he might do if she offended him. She had offered him this, by requesting his help. She would fulfill her promise and act her part too, and then tomorrow she would think about how to get away.
When she stood before him, he lifted one hand, and with the other, tapped his knee. Elizabeth took his hand and sat on his thigh. His arm encircled her waist, his hand gripping her hip and then he slid her closer.
“You must give me kisses, Elizabeth. I think that kisses are definitely within our arrangement.” He was taunting her.
She closed her eyes and leaned forward to press her lips gently against his. His arm held her more firmly as his lips pressed back hard against hers. It was nothing like the kisses of desire she’d shared with Marcus. There was anger in this, the press of Lord Percy’s lips was brutal. The pressure lifted but then his teeth caught at her lower lip, and did not nip but sank into the soft skin. When he ceased biting her he let her go and pushed her off his lap.
She fell onto the floor at his feet.
Elizabeth did not try to rise, she stayed where she was, her fingers touching her lip. Blood ran through them and across her palm, then dripped onto the skirt of her pale blue gown.
“You see, Elizabeth, now I am good enough for you I find you uninteresting. Pregnancy is such an ugly thing.” His chin lifted in a way which implied he’d seen something that was in bad taste. “In fact now I have you here I think you are not good enough for me and as I may take or leave you I shall leave you for tonight.”
Anger and shame burned in Elizabeth’s skin.
“How the proud can fall,” he whispered. “I only wish that Tay cared for you; it would have been far more entertaining. I could have flaunted you before him and taken pleasure in watching him squirm. Sadly he doesn’t seem to give a damn.” He sat forward in the chair and reached out to brush his fingertips across her cheek as he’d done when he’d arrived. “I owe his family this. When the child is born, I think he’ll take an interest. I still hold the tool for revenge. The Campbells are too soft-hearted not to care for a vulnerable child.” He fingers slipped away as he sat back and sipped his brandy, still watching her, as though there was nothing at all odd in his behaviour or his cruelty.
She did not move from the floor, but sat there her fingers pressed to her lip, which throbbed in time with her heartbeat as he stared at her while sipping his brandy until his glass was drained.
Then he stood.
She still did not move. She had learned from her father, it was better not to present any defiance to a man who was violent.
He smiled as he looked down at her. She felt like his dog again. “No matter, Elizabeth, you have brought me some entertainment this evening. I only wish though you had brought your maid; I could have used the girl while you had the bastard in your stomach.” He walked across the room and set his empty glass down on the mantle, then turned back and suddenly reached out.
He gripped her arm, causing pain to shoot along her nerves as he pulled her to her feet. His other hand clasped her chin like a vice and then he kissed her, bruising her lip, knowing that it hurt her. But there was no anger in the kiss, it was simply a firm press of his lips against hers. Then his fingers touched the juncture of her legs and pressed her clothing against her shape, rubbing her there.
She pulled back, shocked by the intimate touch.
He let her go and laughed before turning away. “I don’t know when I will come back, Elizabeth.” He picked up his hat and coat, then added, “For now, I have other entertainments to draw me.” He turned back and looked at her coldly. “Goodnight.”
The door clicked shut behind him.
Elizabeth grasped a cushion to smother the sound and let out a screech of pain into it. Then she tossed the cushion at the door. It was an unsatisfactory complaint and yet she did not have the courage to do more.
Did she deserve this? No. She should not have come here.
Her fingers touched her swollen lip. Her mouth was full of blood. “You warned me, Marcus,” she whispered. “You and Abigail, and your sister-in-law; you all warned me. I should have listened.” A self-mocking smile stirred her lips. She flinched from the pain of it.
For the second time in her life she had made a dreadful, reckless, decision and she was paying the price.
To be continued…
If you cannot wait until next week for more of Jane Lark’s writing there’s plenty to read right now.
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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