Losing the Earl: Regency Romance Clean Read (Yearnings for Love Book 2) (5 page)

BOOK: Losing the Earl: Regency Romance Clean Read (Yearnings for Love Book 2)
10.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“I thought combat was the noblest thing a man could do. And you still haven’t answered my question.”

“Michelangelo’s painting the beauty of the Divine is the noblest pursuit of men. I’ve seen little of war in my life and that was too much.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Men who talk of the nobility of violence and killing, do so because they have never known the battlefield up close.” He looked at her then, something behind his eyes she couldn’t make out. “I feel your question about my willing to duel far too daring for a promised woman.” William smiled. Was it an invitation, or was he being polite and coy?

Mary could not take the risk in a room full of people. “I play, Samuel has much to learn, but there is something special about him under it all. He has some modesty in him. While he hides it, he writes sonnets, after all, he loves Shakespeare so much.” Mary knew her words were from her station and not from her heart. Samuel had written her a poem, but she knew it was out of character.

“If I may be so bold, I think your husband has reached his personal limitation—”

“Saying he is limited, that is too bold.” She stepped back. “Yes, I feel trapped by him,” she whispered in a rush, looking around, “but to hear you speak ill of him…You don’t understand what it is to be bound to station, to live to gratify the expectations of others. I have few options and if I rebelled it wouldn’t ruin just me, my family would be forever tarnished.”

“Forgive me; I was going to say his personal limitation with spirits. I believe I saw him grabbing your maid’s behind.”

Her heart sank. “Oh.” She felt her cheeks redden. William didn’t seem to notice, or pretended not to anyway.

They continued dancing in silence for a few moments before William looked back at her. “There are many things I can understand. From an abstract point of view, I understand your position. What escapes me is the very real idea you will have to spend the rest of your life with a man that does not match you. Even with something as basic as humanity, he has no heart.”

“He is royalty and my family wishes it so. I tell you this in greatest confidence; until I knew him, I wanted to be his bride.” She hesitated. She knew she was breeching propriety revealing thoughts such as these, but what did it matter? “The more I know him the more I am crestfallen at the proposition.” Mary wanted to say more. She wanted to tell him that she wished to discover him more as a person. But speaking the words would not change the course of her life.

For better or worse, such was her station.

Chapter 9





At dinner, Mary kept her gaze off Samuel in disgust. She didn’t look at William either. She worried someone seeing the way she looked at him would notice the feelings on her face. Instead, she discussed the weather with Lucy and Victoria, how the storm would have to be over soon. Surely, it could not last another day. 

William may not have perfect manners, or have within him royal blood, but he had wisdom about him. Despite his youth, he sought culture and beauty. Samuel’s pursuits were hunting, and he only felt secure when he could extend an opinion that communicated his dominance. This often blew up in his face because no one cared and he lacked wit. Samuel had appeared so handsome to her at first, but now when she looked at him all she could see was him in a brothel, cradling a laughing, faceless woman of pleasure in his arms.

William could walk into a ballroom wearing inappropriate attire and still be charming and kind.

Mary dismissed Dahlia once she helped her undress, later in the night. Soon after the thump of bare feet on cold wood softened by the occasional rug made its way to her door. With a soft rapping at her door, Lucy and Victoria centered. 

“You look like a sand castle awaiting the tide,” said Lucy.

Mary’s stomach tightened and tears welled up in her eyes. “He’s a pig. I overheard him saying how he would divide his time between brothels and me after we wed.”

“Well, Mary, I know that there are ways that women have to cope with situations like…” Victoria stopped herself, breathing in and looking for words to say.

Her friends just looked at each. As one they both leaned in to wrap her in a tight hug.

“It’s going to be okay,” Lucy whispered in her ear. “Maybe if you talked to your father…”

“My father is the one who arranged this. He wants this like a farmer wants rain for a drought beaten crop. He sees this as his way to meet better business prospects. I’m his only daughter, his only child, his only bargaining chip. A piece of property, and he’s a man who sees slavery as an abomination, but he doesn't see that I am a pawn to him. He’ll never change his mind.”

“You must have faith that better things can happen,” Lucy whispered.

“She’s right Mary, and if you say nothing to your father, then your fate is sealed,” Victoria added.

“It would be a scandal. I cannot suffer my family that. And as I discover what horrible man my betrothed is, I find someone who is a good man, who cares for human dignity, who I think would care what my feelings are. I don’t think he even thinks of me as a decent person. How could he with this oaf following me about?”

Her friends’ shared look of concern stare did nothing to comfort her. It felt hopeless. The tears that had welled up let loose in an emotional torrent. The sisters eventually left her to her own, trying to comfort her as they may.

Mary had no idea how long she cried for but sleep and exhaustion eventually overtook her.



They were on the high seas, on their ship. The boat his father had given them as a wedding gift. It has been a wonderful wedding.

“Where would you like to go today?”

 “China, I wish to see the port of Shanghai…”

“And while there I shall find you the most beautiful silks…” William turned towards his crew. “All hands prepare a new course, have your guns and swords at the ready, we head to Shanghai.”

“Why guns and swords at the ready?” asked Mary.

“The South China Sea is infested with pirates. If it is your wish to see the port of Shanghai, then that is our course.”

Mary took William by the hand and led him to the Captain’s quarters. As soon as the door closed behind, his arms encircled her, squeezing her as he kissed her neck.

“I love that the world is an adventure for you…” He whispered the words against her neck as he continued kissing her with light touches. Undoing her dress, she felt the cool air of the cabin on her legs as the cloth fell. The contrast of the shaded air of the cabin and William’s warm skin made her heart rush. Her body pulled back and forth with her heart beat as he undid her corset as she then reached for a blanket to wrap around herself. Her skin firmed with chilled air and excitement. Smiling, she imagined herself a nymph –something from the myths of ancient Greece, a creature to temp jealousy. When her corset was undone, she giggled, running to the bed, clasping the blanket around her fully now.

His belt, weighted by his gun and sword clanked to the floor as it fell. Walking towards her, William began unbuttoning his jacket. He bent down to kiss the top of her head, then began kissing her neck again. Warm tingles of joy reacted at every nerve he touched. This was what marriage was supposed to mean.

Mary put her hand on his chest and gently pushed him back and watched his eyes lock with hers, awaiting her command. Unmoving he looked at her.

“My wife, have I offended you?”


“Do you want me to slow down?”


“What do you want me to do?”

“You’re doing it.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Sometimes, I just need to keep you in check. I would hate for you to rebel.”

He kissed her on the lips, “I cannot rebel when I must surrender to your love.”

“And I you.” She whispered.

His lips now firm against hers, she could hear herself breathing, enjoying herself.

Then there was screaming.

It made no sense, why was there screaming? She was confused, her thoughts a whirlwind of struggle to make sense of it.
she thought.

She knew that voice. It

A door slammed, and with the next scream Mary bolted upright in bed. Now fully awake, dream fast fading but knowing instinctively the yell had been real, she tried to make sense of it all. Pleasant thoughts of William still tickled her mind.
She’d only been dreaming.
But she’d think on that later.

Floor boards outside the room rumbled with running feet. Mary got up, the commotion priming her interest as she left the room. Guests gathered outside Lucy’s doorway, where she stood crying. Victoria held one of her sister’s arms. Mary ran to her friend and hugged her.

“Did you have a night terror?” Mary asked Lucy as she embraced her friend.

“No, something far worse,” she said between sobs. “Someone came into my room…in the darkness, they held me down…they got on top of me and tried to rob me of my maidenhood…” Lucy's face, hot with emotion, pressed into her shoulder as Mary sat in silence trying to take it all in.

Chapter 10





The entire household surrounded her crying friend. “It probably was our dark native friend,” said Samuel. “Of course, lacking any gentlemanly persona, it makes sense for him to attack this fair specimen of womanhood.”

Thomas looked at the ground and William looked at Samuel wide-eyed. They both said nothing for a moment, the charge hanging in the air.

“I think you should reconsider your accusation.” William said, “Why not ask the girl if she remembers anything about her attacker.” He turned to Lucy. “If you couldn’t recognize his appearance from the dark, maybe there is something else, like the sound of his voice?”

“There was something that reminded me of tar,” she said, nervously looking around, both nervousness and an air of challenge on her face. “I’m uncertain, but I think he smelled of tar.”

“Well, there you have it.” Samuel laughed. “It must be our dark friend, for he has the complexion of tar.”

Thomas shook his head, “You ain’t the first man speaking ill of me. You ain’t going to be the last man to speaking ill of me, but you will a man speaking ill of me, who wasn't anything memorable when doing it.”

“There’s a gaping hole in your theory. Thomas and I are splitting a bedroom and I awoke him at the sound of the first scream.”

“Surely, you would say anything.”

“If you would like to make another accusation, I would ask you to come right out with it.” William tilted his head looking at Samuel, waiting. Dozens of eyes bounced between the two men. 

Samuel’s father spoke, “Son, I think it best if you apologize—”

“Bullocks! This man’s servant tried to savage this woman and we are going to do nothing. This man seeks to impugn the simple course of justice by means of fabrication.”

“Thomas, would you like to challenge this man to a duel?” William asked, only slightly smiling.

“I’d like to get the local magistrate involved. I think we should talk to a higher authority.”

“Fine. Look I don’t care about your title, or for your attitude. We came here. Not as your guest, and not in your house. And we are faced with your shameful behavior and attempts at wit on our behalf.” William stepped closer, all seriousness now. “Now you dare attempt applying criminal charges to my friend when I know him innocent. Then you call into question my honor. You have gone too far and God willing you shall be done. Sir, if you insist on this path, then I wish to challenge your accusation and your honor. Now this is a grievous and serious matter. I shall give you the rest of the night to retract your statement and then let god judge us both in the morning by pistols. Unless you would prefer swords?”

“Samuel, do not enter into this, apologize to the man. It’s foolhardy, and illegal to boot. Nothing good will come if you do not apologize.”

“By no means father.” Samuel stepped closer still, answering his father but staring William hard in the eye. “I shall butcher him at sunrise and then deliver him and his servant to the hands of the devil for punishment.”

William sighed. “I hope you’re hungry sir, for after breakfast you shall sup on those words.” He turned to Lucy. “In the meantime should we not assign a guard to your door?”

Mary spoke up. “I will share my bed with Lucy tonight and I’m sure no harm will visit her.” She looked at her crying friend. “Would you like that?”

Lucy nodded.

Everyone left, whispering and casting back furtive glances.

Once alone, Mary led Lucy to her bedroom and pulled back the covers. With her friend in her bed, Mary put her arm around her. “You’re safe, I promise you.”

“Thank you for doing this.” Lucy whispered. She sounded better, but still looked pale.


Mary felt herself nodding off after all the excitement.

In the darkness of Mary’s dream, she’d become Lady Arthingworth. Her grand manor had an epic sprawl. She was downwind of him and could smell his cologne, the musk of deer and with a tar-like hint of ambergris. He wanted her… All she could think about was the women he’d shared himself with.

BOOK: Losing the Earl: Regency Romance Clean Read (Yearnings for Love Book 2)
10.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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