When the front door slammed hard against the frame, Angela jumped, but Elizabeth was calm; calmer than she had ever been in her life. She had a child, Marcus’s child. Whatever happened she would protect it; she would ensure that it experienced nothing of the life, and the lack of love, that she’d known.
“They are here.” Angela stood at the sound of voices. Elizabeth rose too as the door to the drawing room was thrown open. It was Marcus, not Jason, who stood there.
There was no pleasure in his eyes. His face was like a thunder-cloud, anger oozing from every pore. Yet even so warmth surged through Elizabeth. He had been her place of security and comfort weeks ago, the feeling held. When she saw him it felt like seeing a light in a window, in the midst of a storm, a light which reached out and beckoned, calling this is the way home.
“Come, Angela, let us leave them to speak alone.” Jason appeared behind Marcus, and lifted a hand to encourage Angela to move away.
Marcus said nothing as Angela walked across the room, he merely watched her, and then, when she’d past him, he turned and clicked the door shut behind her. He did not immediately turn back, but rested his palm against the wood for a moment, leaning against it and breathing in before he finally turned back. His gaze was sharp and aggressive. She had only seen him in this mood once, and that had been the night he’d come out of hiding and dragged her across a ballroom to shout at her for flirting with other men.
She tugged at the ribbons of her bonnet as she became aware of her appearance. She was still dressed for the outdoors. Her hands shook as she pulled at an end to try to loosen the bow only to pull it into a knot. Marcus still said nothing and merely watched as she untied it.
How did a person have a conversation like this?
When she slipped her bonnet from her head her hair tumbled down her back and over her shoulders. She had merely wrapped it up and tucked it beneath her bonnet, not pinned it, because she had been in a hurry.
She gripped her bonnet firmly, terrified of how he would receive her, desperate to find the right words, yet there was no easy way to say what she must. “Marcus, I am carrying your child.”
“So Jason said.”
She had expected shock, or at least some exclamation, but nothing had prepared her for the cold indifference she faced. He knew… and he had still come in here and said nothing…
He said nothing now, merely regarded her with anger and disdain.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. She wished to get away. She did not want to face this – to face the folly she had made of her life – falling in love with a man who returned no feelings for her. “I have made a mistake in coming here. You must forgive me. I should not have come. I shall go immediately. I am sorry to have bothered you.”
The woman was still dressed in her walking attire, as he was still in his coat. She was like a damned apparition, pale, uncertain, the image of the Elizabeth he had first known, but not the Elizabeth he had first known. This woman was cold, callous and calculating, beneath that shy act she had.
Yet even so she was a sight for sore eyes. He hurt just at the vision of her. He had never seen her hair fully loose. She may be guilty of all the accusations he had made of her in the past week, and deserving of all the names he’d called her, but he could not deny her beauty. It sent him reeling, spiralling into memories he’d tried his hardest to forget. She looked deliciously dishevelled, vulnerable and in need of him, as no one had ever needed him. His heart ached as though it bled. But then he remembered how this woman had deceived him – how she could play him. This was just another ploy to win him, his title and his fortune…
Winding up her hair into a coil she slid her bonnet over it again and tucked the wisps away with shaking fingers.
A ploy, he told himself again. He had never seen her hair down, she had only revealed it to entice him further.
“If you will excuse me, Your Grace,” she mumbled, turning.
“Not yet. Not so quick, Elizabeth.” He stood in front of the door. “I have things that I would say to you before you leave.”
She froze at that, looking at him as though she did not understand his anger.
“I do not excuse you.” Marcus pressed. His irritation and disgust growing with each moment – he could not believe that she was still trying to play with him… He leaned towards her face with scorn. “I heard, Elizabeth. I know everything.”
She took a step back, looking at him as if he were mad, and reacting as if he’d raised a hand to slap her.
He straightened to his full height and his hands lifted to clap her, briefly, then fell to his sides. “I applaud you. You have led me a merry dance, and I have believed every bloody word, every look. All of it. All of this act to obtain my wealth. Did it begin with that adorably quiet girl? Or that dress? That dress, that night, the one which no other debutante would ever wear. I was duped completely, Elizabeth, entranced. If you had not begged you knew that I would never have touched you. Wonderful.” He put his hands together again for a second ovation. “Beautiful. You should become an actress. It would suit you in so many ways.”
Her chin rose, expressing defiance as she stood against him, her body denying that she’d done wrong.
“It was not planned. None of it was planned. That is not true. You spoke to me. I never approached you.”
Marcus shrugged. “What mother would take their innocent daughter to a gambling den? You went there deliberately after that night, and last week you said, no, in your room as though you were innocent and then like the coquette came to me dressed only in your nightgown. Perfectly timed, Elizabeth. So tempting. I nearly took you as my wife. You even admitted to me you only chased after others to make me jealous.” He laughed loudly, with detest for his own weakness. It had a bitter, not a humourous, sound
She walked forward and reached about his hip, to grip the door handle. “I would never have accepted you.”
Perhaps she thought, or hoped, that he would move out of her way. He did not.
“Liar.” His fingers gripped her chin, pulling her straight and lifting her gaze to meet his. “If that is true, why did you come here tonight? What good would there be in telling me that you have my child if you do not intend to make me care for it?” He smiled, the same threatening grimace he’d earlier thrown at his brother. He was cold inside, and the look he gave her felt like he cast ice at her. “You should not lie, Elizabeth, it does not suit you. You should not lie about your intent, and you should lie about the existence of a child… I will not be tricked.”
With that he’d had enough. He would let her go, let her walk from his life, and this time he was determined to forget her.
Letting his fingers fall from her chin, he stepped aside with a callous glance to the door. “Now you may go.”
She did go. She fled. Not looking at him as she opened the door and rushed out.
And that was an end to it.
He walked across the room, his breathing hard and fast, as his heart pounded out a heavy rhythm in his chest. He gripped the mantle over the hearth with one hand and leaned over the fire, holding his other to the heat, with his head bowed.
Someone opened the door behind him.
“You sent her away?”
It was not an end then; there was still the recrimination from his family to be faced.
Marcus looked back. Angela was standing before the open door. “The girl is a liar.” He turned around and straightened his back to meet her disapproving gaze.
“At least you have a brother who has a heart. He has sent for the carriage to take her and her maid home.”
“Then you married well, Angela.” Marcus was unmoved. He knew the truth, Angela did not. Damn it, there was no point in remaining here. He walked across to the door. “I should leave.”
“Jason will wish to speak with you.”
“That is why I should go.” He gave her an uncertain smile, as he moved to pass her, but Jason appeared behind her.
“Coffee, Angela, please. I believe my brother does not have a clear head.”
When Angela turned and left, glancing at her husband, Jason entered the room.
He closed the door.
Marcus felt as though he was being penned in.
“You said you will do nothing for her…”
“She told you…”
“It was easy to guess from her expression.”
“It is a lie, Jason, I can assure you. I overheard her father. The whole seduction was planned. The girl’s family is poor. Her father used her to fish for a gullible, wealthy man, and I was he. Hooked, Jason, that was I. Well I will not be landed and left to bloody flounder.”
“I see a frightened young woman, Marcus, not a temptress, nor a schemer, and you are not as indifferent as you act.”
“Quite so, dear brother. Did I say that I was indifferent? I admit I am not indifferent at all. Unfortunately, I am madly in love with Elizabeth Derwent, but I am not about to be duped. Do not look at me that way, like you despise everything that I have done.”
“Not everything, just this. You are not the man I thought you were, not the elder brother I looked up to. Perhaps mother was always right. Perhaps you have the same wastrel character as our father after all. Mayhap it is Elizabeth who will be glad that she has had a lucky escape this day?”
Marcus glared at his brother, he was deliberately wounding him. “You know how to drive a blade in. I had not realised how harsh you could be. But it will not change my view, because I know what I heard, and I know I am right in this.”
“Angela has been patient with you, and the way that you have lived your life. I am lucky in my choice of wife that she has loved my brother as much as I, but she cannot forgive you this. You know that this is close to her heart. She will not stand by and watch you destroy that girl. You will not be welcome in our house again.”
Marcus shut his eyes for a moment, shutting his bother out. He’d always thought that nothing could come between himself and Jason, but Marcus’s will for self-destruction through debauchery had achieved even this supposedly impossible feat in the end. He opened his eyes and looked at Jason. It did not matter. He would not change his mind. “As you wish.” He nodded, in a formal harsh solute. “This is goodbye then.”
Jason did not respond, he merely stared, looking his disgust, and the lack of softness in his gaze told Marcus this break was irreparable.
Another fault he could curse Elizabeth with for the rest of his life. There was no more to be said. Jason stepped aside.
They shared no parting words as Marcus walked past and out of his brother’s life. Marcus should have always known this was where it would end. His mother had prophesied it and now it had come true. He was an outcast, not respected and not loved, not even by his own family. He was a self fulfilled prophesy.
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 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
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 ~ 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
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