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 had dressed for dinner, as usual, yet the night was not usual. It was not usual at all. She could not stop her hands from shaking. She had struggled with the buttons of her dress, and broken a saucer when earlier a housemaid had brought up some tea. Her fear was fast descending into terror. She had chosen this. It was her own reckless folly that had led her here. If only she had never made that foolish proposition to Marcus. She had grown up a dozen years in the last six months. Yet she could not regret having known and loved Marcus, it was her fault, her choice, which had made it turn sour. Yet it was remembering the hours he’d favoured her, which kept her going now. She would escape this and then she would think only of the child she carried.
She looked out the window.
It was very dark.
Would Lord Percy come? He’d not returned since he’d called two nights ago. There was no knowing when he would come back, and that was as much torture as wondering what he would do when he did – and she that was what he wished – to fuel her fear.
She crossed to the window seat and sat again. She’d spent hours sitting here. It was worse in the dark, there was nothing to see, just the image of herself reflected back. Her fingers touched the shining onyx window pane. Where was Marcus? Did he still think of her at all?
Marcus rested his shoulder against the lamp-post across the road from the solicitors’ office and watched his brother walking along the street. Jason had volunteered to break in. He had been inside Coulport’s office and had seen Coulport draw out Percy’s file. He knew the inside of the building, the room and drawer to go to. There was no question that it should be Marcus who was left to watch for passers-by, but the lack of action was excruciating.
Jason looked across his shoulder and lifted a hand. Marcus acknowledged his signal in a like fashion, then Jason climbed across the railing and disappeared below pavement level to reach the cellar window.
Marcus looked left and right, searching each end of the street, then he looked at the windows of the buildings either side of the solicitors’ office. No movement.
He was no saint but theft had never amused him, even at the age which school boys saw it as a game to play, to break into a master’s office for a dare or a jest. Elizabeth would have seen the humour in this, if she could see him now, a shifty looking character hiding in the shadows of the street. She would think him mad. His blood warmed just to think of her, of her smile, the sparkle in her blue eyes. He would think of her laughing until he found her. He could not think of anything else.
Jason had disappeared from sight.
Furtively Marcus looked up and down the street once more. Jason would be prizing open the cellar window, he’d had a knife concealed in his pocket like a damned ruffian. Marcus wanted to laugh, his nervous tension leaking out. He licked his lips as he glanced up and down the street again. The properties were mostly businesses, but there were a couple of houses with light behind the curtains. His heart thumped. Somewhere about there would be a night watchman wandering through the streets.
It seemed as though it was an age before Marcus finally saw a light move within a room at the front of the property. It was Jason. Marcus looked about again. No movement. If anyone saw the light then it would give Jason away. If he was caught, then Marcus would step forward. He would not let Jason take the blame alone. How would that sound in the ballrooms of the ton, or the tables at White’s? The Duke of Tay and his brother caught breaking into a solicitors’ office.
Marcus’s heart thumped even harder. The need for action reared inside him again. He wished he’d volunteered to go in, it would be better to be hunting for any information than to be standing here impotent. If anyone did come along he could do little but distract them and hope Jason had chance to get away.
At the sound of a coach drawing to a halt outside, Elizabeth rose to her feet. Her heart raced as she tried to see through the darkness. There were lights on the coach and in the glow she could make out a man climbing from within. Lord Percy. Her pulse thumped more heavily. Elizabeth heard Lord Percy dismiss the driver of the hired carriage. He intended to stay then. She felt sick suddenly, her senses were alerted to every sound beyond normality as she heard the welcome of the doorman, and footsteps on the stairs. She did not move. There was nothing she could do; nowhere to run.
The door handle rattled, and then a key slid into the lock. She had forgotten that she’d locked it.
The door swung back and Lord Percy strolled in. “Elizabeth, why did you lock me out?” He lifted off his hat and set it aside.
Her heart thumped too hard, leaving her dizzy, making even that simple question impossible to answer.
He removed his coat and threw it onto a chair near the door.
Her fingers gripped together at her waist. “I was about to retire.”
He walked further into the room and smiled, throwing her a devilish, provocative glance. He looked in his cups, it was an appearance she was used to in her father.
“Convenient,” he joked. “Is that perfect timing on my part, or perhaps it would have been better if you had already been in bed, waiting for me and warming it up.” He turned away to seek out a drink, as the heat of a blush burned in Elizabeth’s skin. But she was reminded of Marcus, of that night in the billiard room, when he had been drinking too. She had been concerned then, her concern had been nothing to now. Marcus had always been tender and kind in the only way he knew how. Even when he’d discovered her parents’ plan to tie him down he would not have hurt her physically.
When Percy turned back, a drink in his hand, Elizabeth lifted her chin, claiming all her courage. “I have changed my mind.” Her voice would only reach a shallow whisper, as fear tightened her throat and trapped the words there. She said it again, louder, “I have changed my mind. I cannot be your mistress. I am sorry, but I am not happy here. I cannot…” Her heart thumped as she spoke, but just to say it, to voice her decision, sent an overwhelming rush of relief through her blood. She knew where she would go. She would go to Marcus, swallow her pride and make him believe her.
Lord Percy’s eyebrows lifted in surprise and then he actually laughed. “Is this a joke? Do you think that I would let you go? Do you think you have a choice?” He laughed again, a mocking callous sound. “You have no choice, you are mine now, for as long as I want you.”
It had taken years to stand up to her father. She would not be a victim again. She would not allow this to happen. Her chin tilted even higher.
A mocking light burned in Lord Percy’s eyes as he leaned towards her slightly. “If you try to defy me, do not think that I will let the child live.” The scent of alcohol carried on his breath, and the memory of her father’s anger washed over her. It was at this point, half drunk, but still capable, that her father had been at his worst.
Lord Percy smiled as he pulled away. It was a mask. There was no pleasure in it, or even amusement “If you expect me to keep Tay’s child you had better do as I wish.” His fingers touched her hair, then pulled a pin loose. A single tress fell to her bare shoulder, brushing her skin above her bodice. She wanted to run. She looked at the door, judging how quickly she could reach it verses the likelihood of his grabbing her before she opened it, and then she thought of the thug of a doorman below.
“That is better already,” he purred.
She would not bow to him, she would not give in – but if she played his game, if she chose to play, a better moment for escape would come.
“Very pretty, very pretty indeed.”
His fingers touched her neck. Elizabeth shivered with revulsion. A bitter flavour filled her throat. But when his hand slid lower and tightly cupped her breast, she could not help the instinctive reaction which made her jerk away.
Instantly his hand swung out. The back of his fingers caught Elizabeth’s cheek sharply. The blow stung, yet the indignity of it hurt her more. “You will learn not to deny me,” he charged, “you will welcome my touch, do you understand. You will smile and moan with pleasure for me.” There was madness in his eyes when he spoke. Do not think that I will let the child live. He’d meant it.
Her revulsion turned back to fear as his hand cupped her breast again, testing her. She held her ground, biting her tongue against the scream which flooded her throat. He did no more; proving only that he could, that he had cowed her. But he had not. He had not! She was merely biding her time and planning how to escape.
His hand fell away as a smirk played on his lips. “Go and get undressed, Elizabeth,” he ordered in a quiet threatening tone.
Her heart slammed against her ribs. Her fingers were shaking as she turned, her thoughts racing through possibilities as she entered the bedchamber without looking back. He did not follow. She shut the door. He did not doubt that she would obey. He thought his threats had persuaded her. That at least would work in her favour; this may be her only chance to get away.
She leaned against the closed door, praying he would not come in until he’d given her the time to change. If she stood beside the door, if she could find something heavy enough to knock him out, or at least daze him, when he came in she would have a moment, not long, but a second perhaps in which she would have the element of surprise and could hit him. It would give her a chance to get away. She did not think of the bully downstairs, she would have to cope with him when she faced him. But this would only work once, and only if she caught Percy by surprise. Perhaps she could catch the doorman by surprise too if she ran down the stairs.
She moved away from the door. She needed to find something heavy enough to hit him with. She opened the drawers, searching for something, but trying to be as quiet as she could, to make it sound as though she was merely preparing for bed. She had to hurry, though. There was so little time. He would come in at any moment.
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 “I you love Reckless, you will love the Jealous Love of a Scoundrel :D ” 99c 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