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
“How is Miss Derwent?” Marcus strode across the room when the doctor entered with Angela.
“There is no serious harm to Miss Derwent or the child, Your Grace. She must rest though. I have advised her to take bed rest for two or three days and afterwards she must take things easy, she has been badly bruised. I will call again tomorrow to see how she is. Your Grace, Lady Campbell.” He bowed to each of them.
“Thank you, Dr Saunders.” Marcus shook the man’s hand. Relief brimming over inside him. “Would you like a drink before you leave?”
“Thank you, but no, I should be going.”
“I shall see you out,” Angela responded quickly.
Marcus followed them, but in the hall, he turned to the stairs. As his hand gripped the newel post of the banister Angela called back across her shoulder. “Leave her to sleep, Marcus. It is what she needs.” His foot hovered for a moment on the bottom step, but then as Angela turned back to speak to the doctor, he immediately continued his ascent. He could not wait.
He entered Elizabeth’s room a few moments later. He had not knocked. If she was resting he did not wish to wake her. He shut the door quietly. For a minute he stood there watching her. She lay beneath the covers, curled towards him, her head on the pillow and her eyes closed. Her skin appeared the same colour as the sheet, she was so pale, except for where the cruel purple bruising stained her cheek. He breathed deeply. This had been his fault. He did not expect to receive her forgiveness. He walked over to the bed, took her fingers from the covers and brought them to his lips. “Sorry,” he whispered, even though she was asleep.
Elizabeth heard Marcus’s whisper, “Sorry.” His warm breath ran over the back of her fingers. and then he laid her hand back on top of the covers.
She was too tired to respond, too exhausted, uncertain and ready to cry. Nor did she open her eyes. She listened to him move away, then the door opened and closed. It sounded like a silent goodbye.
He’d cradled her in his arms all the way to his brother’s home, but he’d not said anything other than to use her name over and over again while he brushed the hair from her forehead. She’d fallen asleep in his arms. She turned over slowly, pain lanced through her side and a tear stain streaked down her cheek.
She did not really wish to be alone. But the worst thing was, she did not know what Marcus wanted. Did he want her? Or had he only come to save her?
She cradled the pain of that thought – too tired to contemplate it – then tumbled into the escape of the darkness of sleep, still silently weeping.
Elizabeth leaned back onto the pile of pillows Angela had placed behind her back. Elizabeth’s movement was stiff. She ached all over from Lord Percy’s rough treatment, and one shoulder burned with a sharp pain where she’d pulled free from his hold. Yet despite the pains she’d slept for hours missing breakfast and luncheon. When she’d woken Angela had been sitting beside her, working quietly on a piece of embroidery, she’d set it aside and then ordered Elizabeth a light repast. Elizabeth’s stomach had growled embarrassingly when it arrived. She’d hardly eaten for days let alone slept, due to her fear.
She thought of Marcus – of how he had held her in the carriage, and come and kissed her hand and apologised so silently.
“Would you like a cup of tea, Elizabeth?”
She nodded in answer to Angela’s question as a smile lifted her lips a little, but the smile died and fell as pain seared through the cut from Lord Percy’s ring, and gripped at the bruising on her cheek. Misery clasped in her throat too, as though the tears she tried to hold back became a lump she could not swallow.
“Marcus has asked to see you. Will you let him in?” Angela handed Elizabeth the china cup.
Elizabeth met Angela’s gaze. She had discovered a friend if nothing else. Hope slipped into Elizabeth’s blood as she answered. “Yes. I wished to see him.” Her heart pulsed harder. “I thought that he’d gone.”
“Gone… Nonsense. He has not left the house, nor slept, since he brought you here, in case you should need him.”
The cup in Elizabeth’s lap wobbled on its saucer. “Is he angry with me still?”
“Angry…” Angela smiled slightly, the look sympathetic. But then her eyebrows lifted and she shook her head with an expression of frustration. “Did he say nothing to you when he brought you here?”
Elizabeth shook her head in reply as the tears rose from her throat and gathered in her eyes.
Angela leaned forward for a moment and patted Elizabeth’s forearm. “He is not. I believe he is angry with himself however. Love can change a man.”
“He does not love me. He told me he wanted nothing more to do with me the night I came here.”
“Ah, la! Men! They do not know their own minds. It has been love with Marcus from the beginning. If he told you anything else then he has been lying to himself. A man does not spend every day beside you if it is not love. He has been camped out here too, waiting on a moment of your time. He snuck up here when you were sleeping but did not wish to wake you.”
“It is not due to love. It is because of guilt. That is why he hovered near me for so many weeks before he invited me Larchfield.” Elizabeth’s gaze fell to her stomach, as she felt colour touch her skin. “He did not know about the child, but he felt guilty because of the cause of it.”
When Elizabeth looked up, Angela was looking at Elizabeth’s hand. Elizabeth had unconsciously begun to hold the cup with one hand, while the other stroked across her stomach.
Angela looked up. “And so he should feel guilty. He also feels guilty for bringing you to Lord Percy’s attention – and he should feel guilty for that too.” Angela’s retort was sharp, and the little nod she gave Elizabeth said that she was glad Marcus felt guilty. “But now I think he wishes to make things right, and do what he ought to have done long ago.”
“He will offer to marry me.”
“Yes, of course.”
“I do not want him to ask me. I do not want him to feel forced to marry me. He will hate me if he does.”
Angela leaned forward and gripped Elizabeth’s hand, as it lay over her stomach. “He does not hate you, and he will not. You misjudged Lord Percy. Do you not think that you are also, perhaps, misjudging Marcus?”
Elizabeth slid her hand free, and took a sip of tea, struggling to control her tears. Surely if he loved her he would have said so and he would not have turned her away when she’d needed him.
Yet Angela had warned her against Lord Percy, she had known his true nature, and she was closer to Marcus so she must know his. Elizabeth looked at Angela and asked the question she should have asked weeks before. “Why did you warn me against Lord Percy? What do you know about him?”
Hesitation hovered in Angela’s eyes. “I do not speak of it. I closed that door years ago. But I will trust you not to speak of it and perhaps it will help you to understand the Campbells’ capacity to love.”
Angela’s fingers brushed across her skirt, in a gesture of uncertainty, then she rose from the chair and sat on the edge of the bed, half turned towards Elizabeth, as if by sitting closer she would prevent others from hearing. Her fingers gripped her skirt and the covers beside her hip, as though she needed something to cling to. “My mother was…” She took a breath, fighting the emotion which Elizabeth could see in Angela’s face. “… the mistress of Lord Percy’s stepfather. Lord Percy’s father died when he was but a baby. Lord Mortimer was the father he knew. There are four years between myself and him in age. I met Lord Percy in London the year that he left the College in Cambridge. Lord Mortimer is my father. He had educated me and brought me up to be like a lady, even though I was illegitimate -”
At Elizabeth’s sudden in drawn breath, Angela waved her hand as if to dismiss the word as unimportant. But surely to have been illegitimate must have made Angela’s life difficult…
“His relationship with my mother was not well-known, but he’d raised me as his daughter, and when I came of age, he did not hide me away. I called him Papa in public. I am illegitimate, but then I did not understand what it meant, I lived a life that was no different to others. My father came and went, but all I saw were the moments we lived as a family, and the days I spent with him, and when I came of age he took me to the theatre and to Vauxhall, and other beautiful places, full of beautiful people. I never thought that anyone would look down on me because of the circumstances of my birth. I was full of confidence, believing myself no different.
“I did not understand the connection when I first met Christian. Papa introduced us at the theatre one evening. But Papa explained the relationship on the way home in the carriage. It was a shock, to discover the life I had thought was normal was a lie, and a my mother a secret my father kept. But he claimed we, my mother and me, were the family he loved. Christian’s mother, he claimed to have married for wealth, property and status. He said that men had to do such things. They could not marry who they wished, and he did not love Christian, who was not his real son.
“But I felt hurt, and in need of something to help me understand this new reality – I saw only that I had discovered a brother who I had not known of. We began to see a lot of each other. He would call for me at home and take me out in his curricle. He can be charming when he chooses and foolishly I turned to him to grieve for the family life I’d thought I had and felt as though I’d lost.” Angela took a breath and shivered a little as her gaze dropped to look at her fingers which clung to the bed covers. Then she swallowed before saying more quietly. “He took advantage of my distress in a way a man should not. He treated me badly. He thought he had a right to me, to use me, because my mother was his stepfather’s mistress.” She looked back at Elizabeth. “I trust you never to speak of this…”
Elizabeth nodded, as she bit her lip against the shock which made her wish to exclaim in horror. Poor Angela…
“He threatened me, and made me swear never to tell my father. He told me that people would know it was my fault, because of what my mother was. I believed every threat he made to me, and suffered it all…” She took another breath.
“Jason rescued me. We had seen each other only once before, when we had been introduced. He had been with his aunt. I met him in the street. I had just walked away from Christian’s rooms and I was crying. He asked what was wrong. But I could not speak, and so he took my arm and walked beside me a little way, then took me to a quiet park. We talked for hours. In the end I told him everything. He did not shun me. He offered to help me. He made a plan and the next day he and Marcus took me away. I married Jason four weeks later. I never thought that he could love me, not after what had happened, what Christian had done to me, but instead it has made him love me more I think.” Angela gripped Elizabeth’s hand again, and her gaze held Elizabeth’s with a steady reassurance. “The Campbells know how to love, Elizabeth, as many people do not. Marcus’s heart is pure despite how he has lived his life. He was wounded by his past, as I was, only differently. I believe he would have chosen to offer you marriage of his own accord, given time. Do not think he is merely forced by this circumstance. It was a choice that he would have come to on his own eventually. Without this it would have taken him far longer than it ought to, that is all. You love him, do you not?”
“Yes.” Elizabeth nodded once. “I have always loved him. But so many times it has felt like a curse not a blessing.”
“It will be a blessing. Let him ask and do not refuse… Give him the chance to prove his feelings for you. His feelings are not only guilt, I know it, yet looking at you now, how could he not feel some?” She let go of Elizabeth’s hand and rose, sweeping aside the things she’d just spoken, as though she brushed them back beneath the carpet of the past. “Shall I let him come to you?”
Elizabeth nodded. But she knew what the outcome must be. She could not accept him. She was not desperate, as Angela had been, not now she was safe. She could not take him when he did not love her, nor even really wish to marry her. Jason and Angela had offered to help, she must take that path instead, and Marcus would give her money for her keep, she knew that.
Angela was about to turn away, when Elizabeth’s fingers rose to smooth her hair. Angela turned back and caught hold of her hand. “You are beautiful, Elizabeth.”
Tears gripped at the back of Elizabeth’s throat as Angela took the cup from Elizabeth’s other hand and set it aside then turned to go and send Marcus up.
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 do not miss your chance for the great Magical Weddings summer reading box set, containing Jane’s super sexy story The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel “If you love Reckless, you will love the Jealous Love of a Scoundrel 😀 ” 99c or 99p
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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
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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