A Woman of Good Reputation

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 5 (v.1)

Submitted: May 02, 2007

Reads: 669

Comments: 4

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Submitted: May 02, 2007

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"Where have you been?" she asked, frowning in evident disapproval, as she sat up on his bed.

Stephen stood in his doorway and continued to gape at her. She looked too delicious for words, slightly bedraggled, sprawled out on his bed as if she were the most wonderful gift of his lifetime. If only she were not glowering at him. "What are you doing here?" he asked.

"This is the only way I can contrive to see my fianc" she retorted, sulkily.

He would have her, he thought. He had had a miserably bad day, he had drunk a bit too much at the club, lost a bit too much at the tables, and he wanted this woman badly. She had been plaguing his dreams at night, and even in his dreams she was always just out of his reach. He would have her, here, now. He walked into his room and swung his door closed. "As you had vowed never to marry me, I was not sure I was actually your fiance. Or that I would be received in your house."

"Is that the reason why you turned down my dowry?" she demanded.

Stephen paused in the motion of shrugging out of his coat, then finished, dropping the coat negligently to the floor. "Who told you I turned down your dowry?" he asked, pulling at his cravat. He was relieved he had told Bunbury, on his way upstairs, that he required no assistance. There would be no interruption for the task.

"My father. What are you doing?" Her eyes were wide, the lamplight gleaming off of them as she watched him.

"I am getting undressed," he answered. "It is late. I am taking your hint, and coming to bed."

"My hint?"

"Yes. You see, you happen to be in my bed. And I think this is a wonderful idea."

He had tossed off his cravat, was unbuttoning his shirt.

She had to get out of this room, she thought. But, if she stayed, would he do that wonderful thing again? She swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. Her heart pounded furiously in her chest. She cleared her throat. "My lord," she managed. "You cannot possibly mean to-"

"You had all the fun the other night," he told her, his gray eyes fastened on her as he removed his cufflinks. "It was bloody unfair."

"You really should watch your language in front of me, my lord," she said, as he eased out of his shirt and she was confronted once again with the masculine beauty of his chest.

"Stephen," he reminded her, as he walked toward the bed. "My name is Stephen, remember? Just so you know what to say when you climax. I am not particularly excited by the idea of you exclaiming ‘my lord' in my arms. It is Stephen."

He stood over her. She was sitting up in the bed. Her skirts were in enough disarray that he could see the trim kid boots hugging her ankles. She had one finger keeping her place in Macbeth. And she had been in his bed, waiting for him, when he had come home. A bloody miserable day. And the unexpected presence of this woman in his bed had made everything worthwhile. It was an extremely frightening thought, and yet he could not deny it.

And he did not lean over and kiss her either. He had meant to simply tumble on top of her and drive into her. He had done too much desiring her to go slowly, take his time. But he sank onto the bed beside her and looked at her curiously. "Why did you come here to see me tonight?"

She looked at him. He was still as impossibly handsome as she had remembered him. The lamplight gilded his hair. And his gray eyes were impossible to read. His eyelids were heavy over them and half-closed as he watched her. She shivered suddenly.

"Are you cold?" he asked, his voice husky. It rasped over her skin.

She shivered again. "No," she whispered, finding she could not make her voice any louder. "But I am scared."

"Scared of what?" he whispered back.

"Scared of you. I am marrying you, and I know nothing about you. And you will not even come to call on me. I could not have our marriage be the occasion of our second meeting, my lord."

"Stephen," he corrected her, breathing his name softly over the skin of her cheek, as he closed her eyes and breathed in her scent.

"Stephen," she repeated, his name a sigh. She closed her eyes, feeling suddenly safe.

He shuddered with longing. He wanted to devour her. "I am sorry I did not come to call on you." His voice did not sound like his own, it was unsteady, harsh with his desire. He had never experienced a lust so urgent. "I truly did not believe you would receive me favorably."

"I would not have," she assured him. "But I will receive you even less favorably now when you call on me tomorrow than I would have had you called on me yesterday."

Stephen's breath was ragged with the effort of not kissing her senseless. "Am I calling on you tomorrow?"

"Yes."

"Excellent," he said, before finally letting himself capture her mouth with his own.

The self-inflicted torture had been well worth it, he thought. He had never felt such shattering pleasure over just a brush of his lips against a woman's mouth. Desire throbbed through him, demanding, compelling. He wanted her sprawled underneath him, he wanted to be deep inside her, and he wanted the sound of his name in her voice, breathless with pleasure, urging him onward.

She deepened the kiss. He had had some idea to torture himself some more, to tease, but she dropped Macbeth onto the bed beside them and lifted her arms around his neck and opened her mouth and sparred past his tongue, dipping triumphantly into his mouth for the first taste. Stephen groaned, felt his self-control snap with a sharp crack that he thought should have been audible. He pushed her backward, trapped her underneath him, slid her legs apart.

"Stephen," she gasped, pulling her mouth away from his.

"Don't," he muttered, thickly, trying to recapture it. "Let me kiss you. I am not nearly done kissing you." He felt drugged with her, desperate with her.

She kept dodging him. "Will you do what you did the other night?"

"Yes," he said, impatiently. "Yes, yes, yes-Anything you want." He sank his mouth onto hers with a growl of approval. She answered with a delicious whimper, sliding even more fully underneath him.

His bedroom door opened. His father's voice said, "Chesham-"

Beneath him, Abigail shrieked and pushed at him, pushed him away and off her.

"Damnation," Stephen growled, pulling his hands through his hair in frustration. He scowled at his father. "What?" he shouted at him.

His father lifted his eyebrows at Abigail. She was still completely dressed, in the rather subdued walking gown she had been wearing, but she had been well and truly kissed and looked that way. He looked back at Stephen with disapproval. "Forgive me. I did not know you were in the habit of entertaining your mistresses within your townhouse."

"His mistress!" exclaimed Abigail, in hot indignation, scrambling off the bed.

"Not now," Stephen told her.

She ignored him. "I am most certainly not his mistress." Abigail lifted her head at a noble tilt and looked down her nose at the Duke of Camberley.

Stephen would have been amused were he not absolutely furious.

His father narrowed his eyes at her. "You need to be taught some manners. How dare you address me that way."

Her eyes widened in shock. She looked at Stephen. "You will allow your valet to speak to me this way?" she demanded.

Once again, something Stephen would have laughed at. Except that he could not imagine laughing ever again in his life until he finally got enough time alone with this woman to truly have her. His father was sputtering with his anger. "He is not my valet," Stephen said, wearily. "He is my father."

"Oh." Abigail looked at his father then. "Oh. I apologize, your Grace. But I was just chastising your son that it would have been good of the two of you to come to call on me."

"Call on you?" said the Duke, clearly thunderstruck.

"Yes. Stephen, won't you present me?"

"With pleasure," said Stephen, grimly. "This is Miss Bienville."

The Duke stared at her. "You are Miss Bienville?"

Abigail bristled a little. "Yes."

"But what are you doing here? Well, I suppose it is fairly obvious what you were doing here. Does your father know you are here?"

"My father seldom knows where I am," said Abigail, proudly.

"A fact which I am sure your future husband is delighted to hear. Come, my dear. It is late. I will see you home."

"Home?" said Abigail. "But-"

"Home," said the Duke, firmly.

Abby was upset. She had wanted more of Stephen. More of his kisses and caresses. More of the groans he made when he kissed her. More of the way his voice was rough and his eyes were sleepy. She looked helplessly at Stephen.

He looked back at his father. "You will give us two minutes first."

"I do not think that wise."

"There is little I can do in two minutes."

"I will give you one minute," his father decided.

Stephen slammed his bedroom door in his face and turned back to Abigail. "Had you said you were my mistress, he would have let you stay."

"But I am not your mistress," she pointed out, offended.

"Maybe not," he retorted. "But I would be in a much better mood at the moment if you were."

"You will call on me tomorrow?"

"I think not. I see you do not perceive how badly I want you. I fear I will go mad if doors keep opening while I am in the middle of-Bloody hell." He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes in sheer frustration.

Abigail opened the door, said, sunnily, to the Duke, "One minute more, your Grace. If you please." She closed the door again, turned back to Stephen, put her hands on his bare arm beseechingly. "Stephen, please come and call on me. I do not know how I will bear to be married to you without knowing more of you. And you of me. Won't you please?"

"It seems to me that you already know it will be no hardship to be married to me. Lots and lots of long, long days and nights with the door barred against intruders," he mumbled, half to himself, between gritted teeth.

"As delightful as that all may be, we will have to leave bed sometime, won't we?"
"No. Not necessarily. Not if I have anything to say about it. And, as the master of the house, I do."

There was something downright thrilling about seeing how badly this man wanted her. A secret sort of pride that he found her body appealing. "I shall promise you two weeks of my undivided attention in your bed, my lord, if you will pay a call on me tomorrow."

He eyed her for a second. "Is that so?"

"Absolutely." She surprised him by holding out her hand. "Shall we shake on it?"

He looked amused. "As Americans do?"

"Yes."

He shook her hand, held it, pulled her over to him, up against him. "Contrive to get us alone tomorrow."

"How will I do that?"

"You snuck into a brothel, climbed into my bedroom window. I believe, Lady Chesham, that you can do anything." He was actually enjoying the sound of Lady Chesham. "Contrive it."

"I will try." She was actually enjoying the sound of Lady Chesham. "A kiss before I go, my lord?"

She asked it so hopefully that it took reserves of will power he hadn't dreamed of to say no. He shook his head. "Not wise."

"I believe you are marrying a woman who is not entirely a lady," Abby ventured, hesitantly, after a second. "Does that worry you?"

"It is your loveliest feature, I do assure you."

The bedroom door opened. His father said, "I have given you two extra minutes, Miss Bienville. It is now time to salvage your reputation."

"Oh," she said, gaily, stepping away from Stephen. "It is fairly unsalvageable, I promise you. Until tomorrow, my lord?" She offered him her hand, in a coolly dismissive gesture.

He could not resist the chuckle. She looked collected and reserved at the moment. And yet, underneath it, she was teeming with passion. His fingers itched to grab her and stroke the passion to the surface, watching it warm her skin. He took her hand and leaned over it in a formal bow. "Good night."

"Thank you." She inclined her head a bit as she withdrew her hand and swept away from him.

Stephen went to lay on his bed and close his eyes and count to two thousand, hoping by the time he finished that his arousal would have subsided somewhat.

It was his third straight night of barely sleeping, and they were beginning to take their toll. Each day, he was progressively more out-of-sorts, and progressively more frustrated. He was annoyed that he had to go and call on Abigail, because he was annoyed by everything. He snapped at Bunbury, who could not set out an outfit that pleased his lordship. Bunbury said nothing, but Stephen fervently hoped that Abigail was able to steal them some time alone. He would waste no time on preliminaries. If he had to, he would simply push her up against a wall. He knew she was a lady who should be probably treated less roughly. He bloody well did not care.

His father took in his appearance from where he was sitting at the dining room table having breakfast and lifted his eyebrows.

Stephen ignored him, collapsing heavily into the chair at the other end of the table. "Coffee," he snapped at the maid, who was staring at him as if she'd never seen him before. She jumped, startled, and scurried into action, pouring coffee into his cup.

"I am sorry that I interrupted you," remarked his father, ironically. "But it is no longer any wonder to me that you are marrying the chit so quickly. I thought it was your eagerness to get your hands on your dowry. It turns out your hands are otherwise occupied. You cannot do these things with heiresses, you know, Chesham. How long has she been in your bed?"

"She isn't in my bed," Stephen grumbled, sugaring his coffee.

"She is... unconventional, to say the least. Do you know, when I dropped her at her house, she insisted on climbing into the window so that nobody would realize she had ever left?"

"She has a habit of tumbling through windows." Stephen sipped his coffee.

"When you are married to her, you must do something about her shocking lack of decorum. It is highly inappropriate for the future Duchess of Camberley to be climbing into windows." Stephen said nothing. "You will not like it when she takes to breaching decorum with other men."

"She will not do so," Stephen announced, firmly.

His father hesitated, then continued. "She is an extremely attractive girl, Chesham."

"For the least attractive member of her set, yes," he agreed, dryly.

"The two of you will actually make quite a handsome couple. You have chosen well."

"I have not chosen anything at all." Stephen drained his coffee cup, lifted it in an indication of desiring more. "Things were chosen for me, by circumstances outside of my control, and, in my quest to differentiate myself from you by possessing honor, I find myself having to marry this chit."

"Do not be so negative," said his father. "There are some positives to the situation."

Yes, Stephen thought, reflectively, sugaring his fresh cup of coffee. There were some pointed positives to the situation. Abigail would be in his bed, and he would bolt the door against any intruders and collect his two full weeks and possibly then some, and no one would have anything to say about it, as it was merely his right as a husband.

"She is very rich," said his father.

Stephen blinked out of his reverie of the millions of pleasant ways he was going to enjoy Abigail as a wife. Rich, he thought. Yes, naturally, his father would be back to the money question. Stephen looked at him across the table.

"I came to your room last night, when I heard you come in, to apologize to you."

Stephen blinked. This was unprecedented.

"I am sorry I was harsh with you yesterday, my boy. I am sorry I told you that I wished you were not my son. You are an exceedingly gratifying son."

Stephen laughed. "Well, this is highly entertaining. You want my wife's money very badly."

"She is not your wife yet," his father warned him, eyes narrowed. "And I warn you, if you truly want to marry the chit, which it seems to me you do, you will not give me the opportunity to destroy your prospects with her."

Stephen leaned back in his chair. "Destroy away. I am only marrying her out of a sense of honor."

"A sense of honor, and of course there's a little lust thrown in there, too. I do not believe, with your sense of honor, that you get to slake the lust if I throw a wrench into your plans."

Stephen glowered at him across the table and considered. How badly did he want Abigail? Was it this badly? "I have already ruined her," he pointed out.

"I gathered."

"I must do the honorable thing here, regardless of what else I may feel for her."

"Not if I outrage her father enough that he decides to overlook the fact that you have ruined her."

Stephen's stomach, despite the hot coffee he was pouring down his throat, felt cold. Abigail did not want to marry him. Abigail would seize the opportunity. And then he would never have her, dammit. And he had to have her. Abigail plainly wanted him in return. Possibly she could be encouraged to let him have his way with her without demanding marriage in return.

Except that he would not be able to enjoy himself. He would feel bloody guilty.

"You were rash yesterday. You will tell Bienville so today when we call upon him. You have had the evening to think on it, and you have reconsidered the business with the dowry."

"Shall I also add that, on second thought, I have decided that the girl is really quite ugly, so the dowry had better be astronomical?"

"It would not hurt."

Stephen set his coffee cup down with a sharp, well-bred click of fine china. "I will not."

"Then you will not marry her." His father's eyes were hard across the table. "You will marry an heiress whose dowry you will take, I promise you, my darling son. And I hope that she is so hideous you must close your eyes to conceive your heir."

"I will never marry, then," he spat out. "If you take this girl away from me, I will never marry."

"Chesham." His father startled him by smiling at him in a suddenly benevolent manner. "Look at how I have maneuvered this situation to my advantage. You do not think I could maneuver any situation involving you to my advantage at your expense?" His father stood up. "You have never gotten the better of me, you know. And you won't, either. You have a girl you obviously want on her back, and I am offering her to you on a silver platter. I would take this offer if I were you. You will not get a better one."

"But-" began Stephen, feeling desperate to find his way out of the situation.

His father paused on his way out of the room. "We are calling on her shortly. I suggest you make up your mind by then." He looked at him pityingly. "Do you know the problem with you, my boy? Why you are so disappointing to me? You are simply so laughably easy to manipulate."


© Copyright 2018 Priscilla Darcy. All rights reserved.

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