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Authors: Jillian Eaton

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Regency, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Historical Romance

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BOOK: A Brooding Beauty
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Marcus had been charming, attentive, and loving; everything she ever dreamed of finding in a husband. After their initial introduction she had been consumed by a whirlwind romance of dancing, long strolls through
Hyde Park
, and secret, passionate kisses. When he proposed four months later she readily accepted. Both of their parents had approved of the match, as had the entire
Ton
.

It had been, Catherine reflected as she leaned against a towering oak tree and hugged her arms to her chest, the perfect fairytale.
Until everything changed.

She could not say exactly when they had begun to grow apart. Perhaps it started when Marcus had gone across the Atlantic to
Boston
for six months, despite her pleas for him to stay. He had left her alone in Kensington and she remained for as long as she could, but she had still been a young woman of eighteen and with nothing to occupy her time, had returned to
London
within the month to enjoy the rest of the Season sans her husband. She knew there had been rumors, and accepted the blame as her own for she had done nothing to dispel them.

She now accepted that a small part of her had been hoping to lure Marcus home with her lascivious behavior, but if he received any of the letters she wrote him, hinting in not so subtle detail at her exploits, he gave no sign.

When he finally did return he was aloof and standoffish; nothing like the man who had made love to her the night before he left and vowed to think of her every moment of every day until he returned.

That had been, Catherine thought with a sigh, three and a half long years ago. Since then they had only seen each other once or twice a year, and then only in passing. Because of their lengthy separation she had thought Marcus would be delighted at the idea of a divorce, and quite frankly she could not imagine the reason why he wasn’t. She even knew he had a mistress, a red haired widow who stayed with him in
London
and whom he visited often in the country. He thought she had one as well, but she didn’t. She had certainly entertained the idea, as it was not uncommon amidst the
Ton
for married women to share a bed outside of their husbands. In fact, it was often quite encouraged. But when it had come down to it, Catherine simply could not make herself. She may have been a flirt, but she never had been – and never would be – an adulteress.

“I need to be free of you Marcus,” she whispered, only daring to say what she truly thought out loud in the privacy of the woods where nothing save the birds and the squirrels could hear her. “I cannot remain married to a man who despises the very sight of me.”
I cannot remain married to a man I love
. The words echoed in her head, but she could not force them past her lips. Some things could not be spoken out loud, even in seclusion.

Lifting the hem of her skirts from the forest floor Catherine turned and started back towards the estate, her forehead set in three fine lines as she worried what to do next. There was no telling how long Marcus would remain at Woodsgate. The man was stubborn as an ass, and she had no doubt he would stay away just to spite her. In fact, she was certain of it.  

“But he cannot stay away,” she mused, a smile dawning slowly across her face, “if I go to him.”

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Catherine was soundly regretting her decision to travel halfway across Scotland when, two weeks later, she found herself stranded at the foot of a mud strewn hill with a broken carriage and an irate driver who barely spoke decipherable English. It was also raining, great big buckets of rain that had soaked her clear through to the skin in a matter of seconds after she left the carriage to investigate why they had stopped so suddenly.

“Sir, excuse me. Excuse me, sir!” she called into the rain, and when that failed procured a white handkerchief from the pocket of her cloak and waved it wildly in the air to get the driver’s attention.

A short, squat man with a shock of red hair and a bulbous nose, the driver had barely spoken two words to her since she had hired him in Carlisle to take her all the way to
Falkirk
, the closest town she could find on a map to Woodsgate.


Woot
do ye want?” the driver asked, looking up crossly from where he was crouched next to one of the back wheels.

Unfamiliar with carriages and the reasons as to why one might stop working, Catherine took a hesitant step forward and, careful to keep her skirts out of the ankle deep mud, ducked her head to get a closer look at the wheel the driver was hovering over. It just looked like a plain wheel to her, a little muddy around the rim but certainly usable.

“Are you certain it is broken?” she asked. “Perhaps it is merely stuck.”

Shooting her an incredulous look beneath his bushy red eyebrows, the driver reached out and grasped one of the large inner spokes. He gave it a good yank and when it popped free he waved it angrily in the air, advancing on Catherine with deliberate steps and shouting something she could not hear above the pounding rain.

“I… I see it is broken! I shall certainly pay to repair any damages and if you would be so kind as to call me another carriage I will – oh! HELP!” she yelped as, in her haste to back away from the infuriated driver, her ankle caught around a root and she went flying backwards into the muck. Unable to save herself, she landed with a loud “oomph” and looked down at her dress in shocked dismay. Splattered with mud and dirt and other brown things she did not even want to contemplate, her maroon traveling habit was ruined beyond repair. As were her leather ankle boots, fine silk gloves, and brand new lace and satin trimmed bonnet. At least, she thought with a grimace as she pulled one hand free of the muck, the three trunks she had filled to the brim with dresses, bonnets, and unmentionables were safe and dry inside the carriage.

Climbing awkwardly to her feet, she shoved a lock of hair behind her ear and lifted her chin to look back at the driver – just in time to see him taking her last trunk out of the carriage and heaving it to the side of what
Scotland
laughably called a road.

“What in the world are you doing?” she shrieked. Her arms waved madly as she stumbled down into the ditch after her trunks. Managing to grasp the brass handle of the smallest one she gave it a mighty heave, but the mud had taken hold of it and the trunk refused to move.

“Get back down here this instant!” she demanded, rounding furiously on the driver who was now sitting atop the carriage. Plunking her hands on her hips she tossed him her haughtiest glare, a glare which had never failed to send servants scurrying to do her bidding, but this odious man was not so easily cowed.


Yer
bluidy
trunks are too heavy, ye wee daft lass.
Meh
horses
canna
pull wit
em
,” he shouted down at her. Giving his team of matching bays a sharp crack with the reins, he hooted something in his native tongue and the carriage began to move.

“What? What did you say? Stop, I say. Stop RIGHT NOW!” Unable to believe she was being stranded in the middle of
Scotland
, Catherine tried to run after the carriage, but her rain soaked skirts and the deep mud held her captive in the ditch and by the time she managed to haul herself out, the driver and carriage had disappeared over a hill.

“Oh damn and
blast
,” she cursed, stamping her foot in pure frustration. More mud splattered up, covering her cheeks and the tip of her nose. “Perfect,” she muttered, her shoulders drooping in defeat.
“Just absolutely perfect.”

The rain was not relenting, and it was starting to get dark. Soon the sun would set completely and although Catherine did not know very much about
Scotland
, she did know that even in the middle of summer the nights got very cold. She would have to find shelter before she caught a chill and, with her luck, pneumonia.

Promising her trunks she would return for them soon, she gathered up her water logged skirts the best she could and struck out down the road in what she prayed was the right direction.

 

The wind was howling fiercely and the rain lashing bitterly against the windows as Marcus stood to put another log on the fire. A quick glance at his pocket watch revealed the hour to be well past midnight, but despite his bloodshot eyes and the shadows beneath them, he did not feel tired. Moving to the narrow stretch of windows that looked down across the valley he watched the storm in silence, his thoughts hidden behind a mask of indifference.

He had been sleeping poorly ever since he had come to Woodsgate, and for that he blamed his wife. He could not close his eyes without seeing her face. He could not walk into the bedroom they had once shared without inhaling her scent. It was here they had come after they were wed and it was here she had shyly given him her innocence. She was everywhere and no where, haunting him as no ghost ever had.

Perhaps he should simply grant her the divorce and be done with it. She would return to
London
and he could remain at Kensington in peace and quiet. Their paths would rarely, if ever, cross. But that would not, he grimly suspected, purge his ever present thoughts of her.

Suddenly feeling restless, Marcus turned to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a glass of scotch. He knew he drank too much, but it was the only thing that seemed to numb the ache inside of his body. Settling into a generously upholstered leather chair that faced the fireplace he sipped the drink slowly as he wearily contemplated what had brought him to his point.

He and Catherine had been so bloody happy in the beginning. It had been his fourth season, her first. Initially he had been drawn to her because of her beauty, but his interest had only been further aroused by her charm and wit. She was intelligent and amusing; entertaining him endlessly with stories and poems during the long walks they took with each other in the beginning of their courtship. When he had stolen his first kiss from her in the shadows of
Vauxhall
Gardens
during a ball she had actually slapped him full across the face, and then had the gall to lean forward and kiss
him
. It was, Marcus realized with a faint smile, one of his fondest memories of her. Taking another liberal sip of scotch, his expression abruptly darkened as he recalled the events that had transpired shortly after their wedding.

 

He had brought her to Woodsgate for their honeymoon, where they frolicked like children during the day and learned the secrets of each other’s bodies by night. His wife’s shyness had thrilled him, but it had been her sensuality that stunned him.

Marcus had never claimed to be a saint, and had bedded his fair share of women before marrying Catherine. He had anticipated his wedding night to be filled with tears and vapors, as most virgins were wont to carry on in some dramatic fashion before and after the deed was done, but he should have known better. Nothing about Catherine was ever typical, and their wedding night had been so exception. She had winced when he penetrated her, but then it had been her grasping arms, not the thrust of his hips, which had drawn him into her fully.

“Do you want me to stop?” he had gasped, his face strained with the effort of holding himself back. Her sweet, innocent kisses and wandering touches had aroused him beyond measure and it was all he could do to stop himself from taking her like some rutting beast.

Unable to express the feelings that were building up inside of her she had looked up at him pleadingly and with a low chuckle he had dipped even further inside of her before pulling back out, causing her eyes to round and her breath to catch.

“Is that all?” she had whispered, her voice thick with ill disguised disappointment.

“No,” Marcus had replied huskily as he lowered his head to nuzzle between her breasts. “That is most certainly not all. Climb on top of me, darling.”

“On top of you?”
 

“Yes. Like this,” he had said as he deftly rolled them both over and held her astride his hips. Her hair had rained down like a golden waterfall, grazing the tips of his nipples as she remained poised above him, uncertain of what to do next. Capturing her lips in a searing kiss that left them both breathless, Marcus gently positioned her over his swollen manhood.

“You can… do it like this?” she has asked uncertainly.

His grin had been positively wicked. “You can do it any way imaginable, love. Now ride me. Yes, that’s it. Oh, yes,” he had gasped as she established a thrusting rhythm with her hips, “yes,
just
like that.”

 

Five short days later they returned to Kensington and Marcus had resumed his strenuous work schedule. Unlike many of his peers, he understood that industrialization was growing and times were changing. He did not want to merely sit around and use up everything his ancestors had gotten him by way of titles and bloodlines; he wanted to invest in new inventions and new ideas. For that, he needed to go to
America
.

He had not planned on being away from his new bride for so long. When he received Catherine’s letters he had browsed through them and put them away in his desk drawer, too preoccupied to read them in their entirety. Perhaps if he had he would have been prepared for what he would face upon his return. As it was, when he came back to discover his wife was not at Kensington where he had left her, but was rather in London indulging in a myriad of 
tête-à-têtes
with unmarried (and a few married) men, his fury and jealousy had known no bounds. He had left her in the city with barely a word spoken between them, and thus their separation had begun.

BOOK: A Brooding Beauty
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