Authors: Jillian Eaton
Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Regency, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Historical Romance
This book is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
by Jillian Eaton
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author.
“Marcus, I want a divorce.”
Marcus William Thomas
, the seventh Duke of Kensington, looked up from his ledgers to stare dispassionately at his wife. She gazed back at him unflinchingly, her rosebud mouth set in an uncompromising line and her sapphire blue eyes alight with a stubborn glow he knew only too well.
When Marcus first met Catherine Nettle at her debut ball four years ago she had been the most fetching girl in the room. He had been drawn to her almost immediately, entranced by the bewitching curve of her lips and the musical sound of her laughter. Unfortunately, womanhood had only served to take his wife from enchanting to breathtakingly beautiful.
She was petite, almost ethereally so, with a willow like build, soft ivory skin, and a tousled waterfall of gleaming blond hair. This morning she was dressed in a blue gown that accentuated her nipped in waist and delicate features. Her hair was swept back in a loose chignon and pearl earrings hung daintily from her ears. The earrings had been his wedding gift to her, and she had taken to wearing them only when she wanted something.
“No,” he said flatly before turning his attention back to the row of figures he had been calculating. A slim hand descended on his desk, grasped the ledger, and plucked it away. “Catherine,” he sighed. “You are being childish. I do not have time for one of your tantrums this morning.”
A golden eyebrow shot up. “I do not have tantrums, darling, I have moods. Now I have all the paperwork in order. All I need is your signature.”
“For the third time,” Marcus grinded out, “we are not getting divorced.
It is simply not done. Now give me the ledger and get the bloody hell out of my study.”
,” Catherine corrected him, holding the ledger just out of reach. “But it is done. We do not love each other, Marcus. We never have.” She gazed at him beseechingly; her blue eyes swirling with emotion.
Marcus wondered absently if she would begin to cry. Catherine was a magnificent actress, a talent he unfortunately had not discovered until after they were wed. Following their first tumultuous year of marriage they had more or less gone their separate ways. He lived at Kensington estate during the winter months while she flitted from ball to ball in
, and she came to the country with the rest of the
during the summer while he conducted his business from the city. It was a convenient arrangement. Or at least it had been until she got the ridiculous notion of divorce stuck in her head.
For the past two weeks she had hounded him like a dog worrying a bone, even going so far as to follow him from London to Kensington, something she had vowed never to do barring some kind of life threatening accident, where upon she had informed him she would most gladly come to the country to attend his funeral.
With distance between them Marcus could begin to forget what his wife smelled like. What she tasted like. He could focus on her bad traits, of which there were certainly plenty to choose from. He could even begin to ignore the pitiable, embarrassing fact that he was still irrevocably in love with a woman who, by all accounts, despised the very ground he walked on.
Now, however, she was there every time he turned around.
In his study, in the dining room at dinner, in the stables with his favorite mare.
She had become a second shadow, one he neither needed nor wanted. His wife was driving him mad.
“I will be leaving to visit Woodsgate on the morrow,” he said as sudden inspiration struck. Wondering why he had not thought of it sooner, his mouth curved in a faint smile. Catherine may have left the luxury of her
townhouse to follow him out to the country, but she would never traipse halfway across
to go to Woodsgate, a small, downtrodden fifty acre hunting lodge that had been left to him by a distant uncle. “I do not know how long I will be gone. It would probably be best if you returned to
in my absence.”
Catherine echoed. Her lips parted in dismay. “What in heaven’s name for? You have not been there for nearly two years.” Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You would not be going there to avoid me, would you Marcus? That would be very ill mannered of you.”
“And what if I am?” he snapped, standing in one smooth motion to lean into his desk with long arms well muscled from years of riding. “What are you doing here, Catherine? What is all of this? I have told you, there will be no divorce and that is the end of it! Now do as I say and get out.”
“No!” she shouted back, taking him by surprise. Even when she was in the throes of one of her infamous tempers, his wife rarely raised her voice.
“No, Marcus,” she said in a calmer tone. “You will not ignore me this time.” The sun streamed through the gossamer curtains at her back and illuminated her entire body in a soft, otherworldly glow. She looked like a furious fairy queen bent on ravaging war against her enemy: namely, him.
Sweeping his dark hair from his forehead in an agitated gesture, Marcus turned and crossed to his liquor cabinet in the corner of the room. He poured two shots of his finest scotch and downed them both in rapid succession.
“Drinking before noon?” Catherine sneered. “How like you, Marcus.”
“Acting like a bitch before noon?
, Catherine,” he countered swiftly, keeping his back to her. He heard her gasp of indignation and then his left shoulder exploded in pain. Whirling, he realized she had hurled the bronze stature of a nude woman he kept on the corner of his desk at him. Catherine had always despised the statue; she never imagined it was modeled after her.
“That bloody well hurt,” he growled, rubbing his throbbing shoulder.
Her small chest heaving, Catherine crossed her arms and glared at him. “Good! I hope it did! I have said it before and I shall say it again, Marcus. I am not leaving until you give me what I want.”
In two powerful strides he was across the study and standing in front of her. Before she had time to react he curled one hand around the small of her back and yanked her against him until they were chest to chest, belly to belly,
to groin. He felt her sharp intake of breath and held her tightly as she tried to twist away. When she raised her small fists to strike at him he captured her delicate wrists in one easy swipe and smiled grimly. Enough was enough. He was done indulging Catherine’s fantasies of divorce. It was time to put her firmly in her place.
“Marcus! Let me go,” she protested, continuing to turn this way and that in a futile attempt to escape.
A sharp elbow caught him on the side of his head and he grunted, but did not lessen his grip. “No,” he said, his voice hoarse as her writhing attempts to free herself spurred an immediate reaction in the heart of his loins. “You are my wife Catherine, and while I know that notion no longer holds any appeal for you we took oaths before God. I will not break them!”
?” she cried desperately. “I am not one of your things to be put on a shelf and left to collect dust. We hardly see each other as it is. We… we have not shared the same bedroom in over three years.”
A fact Marcus was painfully aware of at the moment. Catherine kept her face turned stubbornly away from him, but he could see the slender column of her throat and the pulse that fluttered there, slight as a butterfly’s wing. The urge to lean in and nip at the exposed flesh, to nuzzle and lick and kiss the ivory skin, was so tempting he released her abruptly before he did something he would soundly regret later.
“As I said, I will be leaving for Woodsgate tomorrow,” he gritted out, stepping back behind the desk to hide his bulging arousal. “Return to the city and never speak of divorce again. I am done indulging your whims. I am your husband and you will do as I command!”
Catherine’s eyes rounded as twin blotches of color appeared high on her cheeks. Her mouth curled derisively. “I am not a dog, Marcus. You cannot simply order me to go here or go there and
me to forget things. Go to your rotting shack in the highlands. I shall still be here when you return. I will not stop following you, dearest husband of mine, until I get what I want. I will make your life a living hell!”
Slowly Marcus sank back down into his leather chair. His jaw rigid, he pinned his wife with a stare that had made lesser men turn and cower. Catherine did not
much as flinch. “Are you threatening me?” he asked in disbelief.
A smile curved her lips, but her eyes remained hard as diamonds. “Of course not, darling,” she said sweetly. “I am promising you. Have a wonderful trip. I will see you when you return.”
With a growl Marcus shot up out of the chair, to do exactly what he had not the faintest idea, but Catherine must have finally recognized the murderous intent in his gaze for in a flurry of blue skirts she fled the room, shutting the door smartly behind her.
“Bloody hell,” Marcus said wearily. Rubbing a hand down his face he turned to the liquor cabinet and poured another shot. He contemplated the tumbler half filled with scotch, staring long and hard into the amber depths before tossing it back with one hard swallow. Setting the glass down, he went to the front window and pulled one curtain aside to gaze out upon the lawn below.
He was not surprised to see Catherine crossing the evenly cut grass with long strides, her blond hair cascading down her back in a riot of curls and her small hands clenched in angry fists at her sides. With her back to him he could only imagine the curses she was filling the air with, and a smile rose unbidden to his mouth.
Even before their marriage Catherine had been vexed with a hot temper that flamed instantly and cooled quickly. Her favorite method for dissipating a bad mood was to go for a vigorous walk. There had been a time when they used to walk together hand in hand, teasing and laughing and saying all the things new lovers said.
, Marcus thought, his lips twisting bitterly at the irony of it all,
she walks alone cursing my name and I remain in my study cursing hers. What a conventional marriage we have
Brooding, he sat back behind his desk and turned over the next ledger.
As her husband suspected, Catherine
cursing his name as she stalked across the front lawn at a feverish pace.
“What an arrogant, pig headed, dim witted
” She crossed the stone drive and turned right; skirting the stables to head towards a trail in the woods she had walked many, many times before.
Beneath the canopy of broad green leaves, flickering rays of sun, and chirping songbirds she could finally let down her guard and take a deep, relaxing breath. Raising her hands above her head she pivoted in a slow, lazy circle, stretching out the muscles that had tightened in her back and neck from holding herself so stiffly in Marcus’ presence. The man brought out the absolute worst in her.
If she was completely honest with herself Catherine would be the first to admit the last thing she wanted in the entire world was to divorce her husband. It would be a long process, fraught with gossip and speculation. His reputation would be tarnished and hers ruined completely. But she simply could not
it anymore. The months of separation, the sparring words they exchanged whenever they were forced together, the way he insisted on ordering her about as if she were one of his poor servants instead of his wife. How different
it had been when they first met.