Reckless in Innocence
for my Historical Romance readers <3
© 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
“Has something special brought you in here, Your Grace?” Elizabeth hovered at the parlour door, her fingers woven together at her waist, “It is odd for you to appear when I have no other male guest.” What was he up to now. She was becoming tired of his constant observation, when he did nothing but stare.
Marcus handed his gloves and hat to Abigail, who stood beside him, already carrying his outdoor coat across her arm, then he looked at Elizabeth and grinned, broadly. She was inclined to smack the smile off his pretty face.
“I shall ignore your acerbic tone. But were you waiting on me, Elizabeth? Your maid has not yet announced my arrival and I am already welcomed, and so warmly…”
Elizabeth winced at his sarcasm as a giggle escaped Abigail’s lips. The maid bobbed a curtsy to him to hide her mirth.
“Or did you think that I was Lord Percy? Perhaps that is why you came out to meet me in the hall, believing it would be him you were welcoming?”
“It was precisely the opposite. It’s because I knew it was not Lord Percy. Abigail’s introduction carries a completely different pitch when it is Lord Percy, and she’s inexperienced so I came to see how she managed with her welcome.”
Marcus turned to the maid.
Abigail had become crimson beneath the wisps of brown hair escaping her white cap.
“You do not approve of Lord Percy?”
Abigail blushed harder.
“Very sensible. Keep it that way and try to make your mistress see sense.” He winked at Abigail.
He was such a flirt.
“I will fetch some tea, Miss.” Abigail bobbed a second curtsy looking as if she wished for a hole to slip into. She hated managing callers, that was why Elizabeth had come out, because she knew Abigail was uncomfortable in the company of many of her father’s guests. But it was true, she also hated Lord Percy.
“Thank you, Abigail.”
The maid bobbed another curtsy in her direction then she turned away and disappeared below stairs.
Elizabeth looked at Marcus. “Now you have finished teasing my maid would you care to tell me what does bring you in here?”
He walked forward, the leather soles of his boots squeaking on the oak floor which Abigail had recently waxed.
He was dressed in beige unmentionables and a dark brown morning coat. Too well dressed for a mere ride; he had not called in in passing, and he had not been sitting outside astride his horse merely to glare at her door. Elizabeth did not move.
His expression was full of humour, and a half smile slanted his lips.He looked as he had when she’d first begun speaking with him.
“I have come with an invitation for you.” He held out his hand as he reached her, encouraging her to re-enter the parlour.
Her sewing lay on a small table beside the sofa.
Elizabeth crossed the room and sat. She assumed she was meant to rise to the word, invitation, and become excited, but she was wiser than she had been, and she was not going to let him play with her. “You will forgive me, Your Grace, if I continue my work while we speak; it is rather early and I have things to do.”
Marcus grinned at her, a jovial smile. She hadn’t seen him smile like that in weeks. It turned her blood to water.
“By all means, Elizabeth. May I sit?”
“Yes. Your Grace.”
He occupied the winged arm chair opposite, looking as handsome as ever. He filled the room with his intensity whenever he came in. When Percy was here her concentration was always dragged to Marcus, even when he did not speak. Her treacherous heart and soul still focused on the man.
He sat forward in the chair, his elbows on the arms and his fingers clasped together, while Elizabeth sewed a stitch in the repair she was making to one of her father’s shirts.
When Percy was here Marcus simply sat back, covering his mouth with a hand, watching and listening but never joining in the conversation. “When we’re alone, may we forget this pretence of formality? We know each other too well for it, after all. Call me Marcus…”
Elizabeth glanced over at him. Why? What was he up to? “Very well. Marcus, please tell me what has brought you in from your sentry point outside?”
She’d used his first name but her words resounded with the distance of formality. She had grown so cold with him. He wished he could hold her now and make her warm to him again; kiss the little pulse which throbbed at the base of her neck. But it would lead to things he should not do.
In his defence though she was even more beautiful in anger, when her cheeks had roses and her blue eyes flashed with impending storms.
“As I said, I have an invitation. I am retiring to the country for a few days. My brother and his wife are accompanying me, and a few of their friends have been invited. I thought… No. I hope, you will join us?”
The door was open, but it opened a little wider suddenly. “Of course my daughter would love to attend, Your Grace.” Lady Felicity Derwent appeared at the door of the small parlour and she ushered Abigail and the tea into the room behind her.
Damn the woman’s intrusion.
Marcus rose to his feet and stepped forward to take Lady Derwent’s hand, to bow over, but when he straightened, his gaze turned to Elizabeth and her expression told him everything…
She had been about to refuse him and her mother had just forced her hand. Perhaps she did not care for him at all any more. He could hardly blame her, he’d scarcely treated her well. He would do what he could to make it up to her while they were away from London. He did not wish to share her with anyone else, and he need not in Kent.
“I should come with you, of course.” Lady Felicity took a seat. “Put down that sewing, Elizabeth, while we have a guest.”
“It is unusual for you to rise so early, Mama.”
Elizabeth’s tone was one of challenge as much as inquiry and Marcus heard the accusation clearly. He wished he could laugh at Elizabeth’s expression of impatience. She did not want her mother to come, and he could understand it. But nor had she wished to come.
She looked at him.
“…My sister-in-law, Lady Campbell, will be attending.” He glanced up at her mother. “She will gladly chaperon Miss Derwent, Lady Derwent.” Unfortunately for me, probably far better than you have ever done.
Marcus looked back at Elizabeth and passed her a conspiratorial smile. “If you would be happy with the arrangement?”
“And how will she travel, your Grace? We cannot spare our coach.” Marcus looked back at her mother, while Elizabeth began pouring out the tea.
Did she truly hear the inflection in her mother’s voice which suggested he should drive her?
Marcus looked at her as he answered, and took the full cup from her hand. “My brother and I will ride. My sister-in-law intends to take my coach. She will be glad of your company, Miss Derwent, if you would care to share her journey?”
The man was bending over backwards to glean her acceptance today. Too late. The words breathed through her heart. She was too long out of charity with him. He’d had his chance with her, plenty of chance. She did not want him to make up to her now.
Pouring a cup of tea for her mother Elizabeth let her thoughts revolt. She did not like the idea of spending several days with Marcus, let alone becoming cosy with his family. She wished her mother gone, she never appeared when Lord Percy was here, but as soon as Marcus arrived she was there to meddle.
Well if she hoped for an offer from a duke, there was no hope, and now Elizabeth knew there would never be one from Lord Percy either… no respectable offer anyway. He had proposed. He’d proposed last evening. He’d taken the opportunity of Marcus’s absence to lead her outside where they may speak alone and his proposal had been carte blanche. She had slapped his face and left him alone in the dark, and now today Marcus had come to make another proposal…
What game was he playing?
He’d made his position as clear as it was possible to make it – weeks ago. He did not want her as a wife, nor as a mistress, so why would he not leave her alone?
At least if he left her alone she might be able to forget him.
But to be in the same house as him for days… that would be cruel.
It had been difficult with him watching her like some dark avenging angel – knowing he was there, and knowing he was out of her reach. Being in a house with him day and night would be ten times worse. And why?
If he truly had no interest in her, then why?
Over the past few weeks it had seemed as if Marcus had been determined he did not want her, and yet equally determined no other man would have her.
Elizabeth sighed gripping her own saucer and carefully bracing her cup of tea. Her mother and Marcus were pushing her down an inevitable path. There was no running nor hiding from it, for whatever reason he had made this offer and her mother had accepted. But out of the two options she had left to her, if she must go, she would rather not go with her mother.
“I would be very grateful to Lady Campbell.”
“Excellent,” Marcus sounded glad as he leaned back to drink his tea.
Elizabeth watched his face, the slight smile toying with his lips, the warmth in his eyes as he looked back at her. His expression reminded her of their early days, whispering in quiet window seats at a ball. He looked truly pleased. He had orchestrated this. He had not wished her mother there either.
To be continued…
If you cannot wait until next week for more of Jane Lark’s writing there’s plenty to read right now :D
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 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 #1.5
The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ A second Free Novella #2.5
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