The Reclaiming of Ivy Leavold (Markham Hall Book 4)

BOOK: The Reclaiming of Ivy Leavold (Markham Hall Book 4)
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Copyright © 2015 Sierra Simone

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews.

 

This is a work of fiction. References to real people, places, organizations, events, and products are intended to provide a sense of authenticity and are used fictitiously. All characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and not to be construed as real.

 

Cover by Date Book Designs 2015

 

For my husband,

who made fatherhood sexy and motherhood easy.

 

“Julian?”

“Wildcat.”

“I think George is asleep.”

I raised myself up on my arms to peer down at the baby nestled between us. We had taken our son out for a picnic today, and after Ivy and I had eaten and Ivy had nursed George, we’d all laid down on the blanket to stare up at the sky—George waving his tiny, dimpled hands the entire time.

But Ivy was right. With a belly full of milk and his mother and father on either side, he’d drifted off to sleep, his hands up by his round little head, his small curved lips parted. I could hear the barely audible snores issuing forth, and I adjusted the light blanket around his chest. Ivy said I was abnormally preoccupied with keeping him warm, but despite his chubbiness, he still seemed so small and fragile to me, even at four months old, and the thought of him being uncomfortable or unhappy for even an instant made me viscerally upset. So I made sure his every need was accounted for—that he only had the softest clothes, that he was never more than a few steps away from his mother, that Ivy had everything she needed while she rocked and nursed him in our room.

Ivy was curled around him now, looking up at me with the kind of wild look that made me wonder if she was all human, and I half imagined that if a stranger should stumble upon our makeshift den right now, then she would snap and snarl at him like a wolf.

It made me want to pin her to the ground and fuck her while she snarled at me.

In fact, my biggest struggle right now was that everything about Ivy—already perfect for me in every way—had somehow managed to become even more perfect since George was born. Her body, always beautiful, was now ripe and lush in a way that made me hard constantly, in a way I couldn’t articulate to her whenever I tried. It had something to do with her fuller, heavier breasts, overflowing in my palms when I cupped them. And something to do with her hips that now flared enticingly out from her waist. And also the impossibly soft skin of her stomach, etched with slowly silvering marks that evoked the primal nature in me, because
I
had caused those marks, and it made me want to plant my seed in her again and again and again.

But more than her new body, it was
her
, her fierce maternal protectiveness, the frankly spiritual way she and George were bound together—it was impossible to explain without being either completely carnal or completely maudlin and so I gave up trying. Instead, I had tried to show her with my lips, with my hands, and—after the physician had given his consent—in the more traditional married fashion, although I’d be lying if I said that things had been the same after George’s birth.

How could they be?

But how ironic that when I desired her the most, she seemed to desire me the least.

“Come here, Ivy,” I murmured and she did, although not before kissing the tufts of George’s raven hair and adjusting his blankets.

She crawled over to me and I pulled her down, so that she was flat on her back and I was propped up by her side, able to caress her neck and collarbone. But the moment I reached for the hem of her skirt, a tension settled over her that I’d gotten used to these last few months, a whole-body anxiety that had never troubled her before, even when she was a virgin. I’d tried to coax her past it, tried indulging this new fragility, tried talking around it, but it hadn’t abated in the twelve weeks since we’d resumed having sex and I was starting to worry that maybe it never would, that maybe that part of my wildcat had died the moment George had been born.

“Be honest,” I said, looking into her dark eyes. “Does it still hurt? I can use my mouth…”

She shook her head, closing her eyes. “It doesn’t hurt. Go ahead.”

Go ahead?

Like I was a customer at a brothel and she was just the forbearing whore? What the fuck?

No. No, that was not going to stand. Not with me. Not today.

I pulled my hand out from under her skirt and pinned both of her wrists above her head, rolling on top of her to keep her still while I spoke, my hard cock growing harder at the feel of her underneath me. “Do you think that you’re just a machine to me? That I only want to fuck you in order to satisfy myself?”

She opened her mouth but I cut her off, leaning down so that my lips brushed the shell of her ear. “I’d rather use my handkerchief than an unwilling wife. Do you understand?”

“Julian—”

I rolled off of her, our perfect afternoon punctured by my frustration. Frustration with her, yes, but mostly with myself. She’d given herself over to me, body and soul, and it wasn’t just a gift—it was a responsibility. It was my duty to resurrect the Ivy Leavold who was a woman, more than just a mother, but how to resurrect someone who flinched whenever I touched her? Who was as glassy-eyed and passive in bed as a timid schoolgirl?

George stirred, legs beginning to kick under his blanket. I sat and scooped him up in my arms as Ivy watched, cradled him one-handed as I gathered the remains of our picnic back into the basket.

“The sky looks like rain. I’ll meet you inside,” I said, not bothering to modulate the shortness in my voice. I regretted it the moment I saw Ivy look away, blinking quickly and clearly stung by my tone.

Fuck. Just—
fuck
.

A moment ago, we’d been in a dreamy summertime heaven, us and the perfect creature we’d made together, and now I was angry and she was hurt and the baby was awake, so I couldn’t address either my throbbing headache or my throbbing erection.

George yawned and then made one of those soft cooing noises that babies make which undo every wrong in the world. I melted. This was my wildcat, the mother of my son and heir, and I would learn to be patient with whatever this was, and to do that, I first needed to apologize, although the idea of apologizing for telling the truth chafed at me. Before George, I would have spanked her ass for being so distant with me. I would have fucked her until every confession, fear, and fantasy poured forth from her soul, and I would have punished her until I saw my bride flicker back to life.

But this was after George, and after George had new rules I didn’t understand yet.

“Wildcat…”

She’d stood and was now folding the blanket, facing away from me. “It’s fine.” She turned, tucking the blanket into the basket. “You’re right. It does look like rain.” She plucked George from my arms without looking at me. “We should get moving.”

That night, after Ivy and George had fallen asleep, I went downstairs to the library, where I poured myself a glass of Scotch and sat down behind my desk.

My headache had remained, dull and low, making me irritable all through dinner and beyond, and I’d done my best to stay quiet and out of the way, lest I wound Ivy’s feelings again.

But it wasn’t in my nature to be quiet and out of the way. It wasn’t in my nature to let things fester and lie hidden. This current situation was untenable and it had to be rectified, but I, for once in my life, had no idea how to proceed. I stood and paced around the library.

This was where I had first kissed Ivy. I’d wanted to stop myself, I’d wanted to hold back, because she’d been placed in my care and it was my job to protect her from men like me. But God, she’d been so delicious that night, so full of righteous fury when I’d told her not to fuck me in order to have a roof over her head, and then she’d slapped me, her eyes blazing and her lips parted…

Well, it was no wonder I lost control, was it?

And here—here was where I’d proposed to her, fucked her into saying yes. She was the most beautiful when she was the most defiant, and I’d relished her submission all the more for the fight that came before it, I’d relished her yes more, knowing that she hadn’t given it passively, that she’d given it only when I’d flayed her open with my touch. And the night I’d taken her ass by the fire—it’d been the night that had driven home for both of us how necessary our dynamic was, how it managed to sate and complete us in a way that was as indescribable as it was vital.

My dick stirred at all these memories, and part of me debated simply using my hand to relieve this growing ache—it seemed wrong to go wake Ivy when she and George were asleep, just to force her into doing something she’d be reluctant to do. I got as far as unbuttoning my trousers and closing my fist around my cock when I realized exactly how ridiculous I was being right now. Masturbating like a schoolboy when my lovely wife was upstairs, just as unhappy as I was, and rather than face our problem head on, I’d rather skulk down to the library and come into my handkerchief.

How furtive.

How pathetic.

How
weak
.

Determination settled itself like a pile of coals in my belly, hot and urgent. Where was the man who’d claimed the wild and untamable Ivy Leavold? Who’d mastered her? Had he died at our son’s birth too?

No.

No, he had not.

 

George was the perfect baby.

I knew very little about babies, but I was given to understand that they cried often, slept never, and that I would need a nurse to help me with mothering. But I refused to allow Julian to hire a nurse; the moment George had peered up at me with those huge, wise eyes, I knew there was no possible way I could let another woman care for him. He was mine, and like any mammal with her young, I guarded him jealously. Julian was allowed into our little world, of course, but even then, I sometimes felt like he was only a half presence.

And I hated that. But at the same time, I didn’t know how to invite Julian in. I would think about going to him during the occasional lazy spell in our afternoons, but then George would wake up from his nap. I would want to enjoy dinner with him, but then George would nurse relentlessly the entire evening. And at the end of a long day of changing diapers and swaddling clothes, of nursing and playing, I would sometimes just want to be alone, by myself and without a single soul having any claim on my body or my time…even Julian.

So the first time we’d made love after George was born had been difficult for me. I was sore, yes, but that wasn’t the problem. It was more like I couldn’t bring myself to be present, like I had already bled all of myself out for George and I had nothing left to bleed for my husband and certainly nothing for myself. But I wasn’t a fool—I knew that Julian needed sex the way most men needed food.

The way I’d used to need it, before the baby.

I had never wanted to be one of those meek, frigid women. But I didn’t know how to stop it, and the more gentle and patient Julian became with my reluctance in bed, the more I pulled away, which made no sense, I knew, but it still happened. As if his patience and tenderness exacerbated everything I had come to dread about sex—mostly, that I had to service my husband’s needs along with my baby’s and I couldn’t. I couldn’t be everything for everyone, I couldn’t give and give and give of myself endlessly and not ever be replenished, but when he was so kind and so attentive, it made my selfish needs feel all the more selfish, because what woman wouldn’t want a husband like my Julian?

When I woke the next morning, George was stirring in my arms, rooting into my chest, and with a yawn, I sat up and nursed him through the vent in my nightgown, running the fingertips of my free hand over the soft crown of his head. He looked up at me, one chubby fist reaching for my face, and I caught his fingers with my lips, nibbling on them until he pulled off and made the squeaky, chuckling sounds that were his laughs.

I heard a deeper laugh from the corner of the room, and I turned to see Julian observing us from an armchair, his head braced against his hand. “I love his laugh,” Julian said. “Do you remember how at first, he’d only laugh in his sleep? And now he laughs all the time.”

I nodded, looking back down to George, who’d started nursing again and who’d also decided that he was no longer sure about being awake. His eyelids had closed and after a few more pulls, I recognized the lazy half-sucks of a sleeping baby.

I raised my eyes back to Julian, to remark on George’s predictable display of sloth, but when I caught his gaze, my throat went dry. I don’t know how I knew it—how I could even tell the difference—but I did. The adoring father was gone. In his place was a man I hadn’t seen in months.

“Put George in his cradle, Mrs. Markham.”

His voice—raspy and authoritative—was also ice cold, the same voice he’d used whenever he punished me, something that hadn’t happened since before George. And the
Mrs. Markham
—so distant. So demanding.

I shivered, fear lacing my blood, but I did as I was told quickly and without question, settling the snoozing baby in his cradle. After I finished, I turned and faced my husband, who made an impatient gesture indicating I should come stand before him.

Even in my nightgown, I felt completely naked as I approached his chair, even more naked as his eyes raked indifferently over me.

“Take it off,” he said.

I quickly shrugged out of my nightclothes, eager to make that look go away, eager to see his eyes blaze with lust instead of this hooded displeasure. But once it was off and he examined me from head to toe, I was given no reaction, no appreciation, not even a flicker of interest.

“On your hands and knees, facing away from me,” he commanded, and I obeyed, my cheeks flushing with hurt and shame and—as I assumed the desired position and as a bored foot nudged my knees farther apart—arousal.

He wasn’t touching me, he wasn’t talking to me, and since I couldn’t see him, he possibly wasn’t even looking at me, but all the same, heat flooded my body, the humiliation of this position quickening my breathing, setting my pulse to a thready race.

I waited, waited with an agonized sort of desire, waited for him to spank me or caress me or speak to me, but there was nothing, no movement, no rustling, no indication that he even cared about me arranged before him like this, my pussy exposed and growing slick with want. For the first time in I couldn’t remember how long, I wasn’t thinking about the baby, I wasn’t feeling heavy and ripe and soft—too soft to be touched. I wasn’t thinking of Julian’s needs. I was only thinking of my own needs, my swollen clit and my tight nipples, and there was a high whine building at the back of my throat, a needy noise that I couldn’t stop.

Why wouldn’t he fuck me? For once, I wanted this—wanted
him
—and he was just sitting there, looking at me. Where had that gentle, patient lover gone, the one who had seemed so intent on pleasuring the mother of his child? I was ready for him, and he had gone away, and now I was miserable with the need to be fucked.

“Two things,” Julian said, breaking the silence. “Two things will change, starting today. First, every morning I will dress you. Do you understand? Not your maid, not yourself. Me.”

I shivered. The last time he had dressed me, he’d spent the day depriving me of sex…only to share me with his best friend later that night.

“The second thing. You will give me one hour of your time, every evening. No questions asked.”

This, I balked at. “But George—”

He brought his hand down against my ass and I yelped.

“I said no questions.” His hand stayed against the spot he’d just smacked, and I found myself pressing into his touch, wanting more. “But since I think you should know the arrangements I’ve made for this, I will tell you,” he said. “I’ve hired a nurse, for that one hour only. She used to mind Silas’s nieces and nephews, but she moved back to Stokeleigh to care for her mother, and Thomas and Charlotte Cecil-Coke gave me a glowing recommendation of her.”

Some strange woman was going to take care of my baby? No. No, I didn’t like that idea at all. What if he needed to nurse while she was with him? What if he needed to nap and she didn’t know the way he liked to be rocked by the window?

No, that would not do, but the moment I opened my mouth to protest, Julian was down on the floor with me, his hand clamped over my mouth so I couldn’t speak.

“Now, I know that you aren’t about to contradict me, Mrs. Markham.” He leaned forward to speak in my ear. “George is my son, my heir. Do you really think that I would entrust him to someone who wasn’t completely vouched for and completely capable? Do you really think that my love for him is so much less than yours?”

I suddenly felt ashamed. Julian was right. He wouldn’t hire a nurse that couldn’t care for George as well as we could. And George was old enough that he could easily go without nursing for an hour.

He released his hand from my mouth. “For this one hour, wildcat, you will be completely mine. To do with what I want. Your mind and your heart and your body. They will be with me and nowhere else. Is that clear?”

I nodded, and another
crack
sounded through the air. I moaned.

“I want to hear your voice. Now answer me—are my directions clear?”

“Yes,” I whispered.

“Good. Now stand up. It’s time to get dressed.”

“Dressed?” I whimpered, knowing what that meant. That meant no relief for the swollen ache between my legs.

“I won’t ask again.”

I stood unhappily, as he went and gathered my clothes. He dressed me then, and with a casualness that was almost cruel, he let his hands graze against my sensitive skin as he worked. His fingers brushed past my stiff nipples, lingered around my thighs, and after he laced my nursing corset tight, he grabbed me by the waist and pulled me into him, so that my back was pressed to his front, his erection grinding against my ass.

He wrapped his fingers in my hair and yanked my head to one side, and then he bent forward and scored the skin there with his teeth, biting and sucking and nibbling from my ear to my collarbone until I was slumped against him, knees weak and panting hard.

And just as quickly as it started, it stopped, his wicked mouth moving away from my neck. I whimpered again, but he paid me no mind, tugging a dress over my body and deftly wrapping my hair into an elaborate bun, which he quickly pinned up.

“I have some business to attend to in Scarborough today, so I won’t be back until dinner,” he told me, stepping away and eyeing my form, as if to admire his handiwork. “Bessie Knope, the nurse, will be here shortly before dinner, and I’ve already directed our housekeeper to acquaint her with the house and George’s nursery when she arrives. All I require is that you be in the dining room at seven. Understood?”

“Yes.”

He gave a short nod and grabbed his jacket from where it had been slung over the chair. He walked out of the room, pausing only to drop a tender, affectionate kiss on the sleeping George’s forehead, and then I was alone.

Bessie Knope ended up being precisely the person I would have myself hired to take care of George. She was a plump, patient woman in her fifties, and when she took a squirming George into her arms and started crooning to him in a soft, playful voice, the pair bonded so quickly that I almost felt jealous. But any jealousy I might have felt was immediately quashed by the insatiable, unbearable lust that had dogged me all day. More than anything, I wanted Julian to come home, drag me into the library, and fuck me until I was too sore to walk.

That’s not what happened.

At seven, right after nursing George and handing him off to Bessie, I sat in the dining room, my heart pumping fast. I wanted Julian—I wanted Julian’s body—but I was also nervous. Wary. A little frightened of him even. And that made me want him all the more.

But when he came in to the dining room, he came in with a packed basket of food and handed it to me, along with a pocket watch. I looked up at him, confused.

“Your hour…or rather,
my
hour…tonight will be spent alone by the stream in the woods.”

I blinked, still not understanding, and he smiled.

“You have spent every waking and sleeping moment with George since the day he was born. But I remember a woman who longed for freedom, for the outdoors, for time to ramble and explore on her own. So tonight, you are your own dinner partner and your dining room is the forest you love so much. I’ll see you in an hour.”

BOOK: The Reclaiming of Ivy Leavold (Markham Hall Book 4)
13.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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