Read A Brooding Beauty Online

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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When she swept past him he did not try to stop her, nor did he turn to watch her go. Instead he knelt to pick up the mangled daisy she had carelessly discarded and shoved it in his pocket. It still had one petal left.


Catherine made it halfway to Kensington before sobs overwhelmed her petite frame and she cried out her heartache inside of the small bouncy carriage with its musty velvet interior and one squeaky wheel.

It had taken all of the strength she possessed to keep from falling to pieces in front of Marcus. She had kept waiting for him to take her in his arms and kiss her senseless. To erase from her mind the hateful things he had said and done with words of love and adoration. She even thought she had seen something in those gray, stormy eyes… a flicker of compassion, a seed of yearning, but she had been mistaken. Marcus did not yearn and he had no compassion. Not for her. Not for anyone or anything. He was a cold man, a man incapable of basic human feeling, and she was well rid of him.

A fresh torrent of salty tears poured down her pale cheeks as she remembered how he had flung his paramours in her face. She had drawn so far into herself by that point she hadn’t even known what she was saying, only that she had to find a way to leave before she crumpled at his feet and begged him to love her. The knowledge of how close she had been to doing just that terrified her. Catherine would never humble herself to anyone, let alone her own husband, a man who held her in such low regard he could not look upon her face without contempt gleaming in his eyes.


The carriage reached Kensington just as the sun was setting. When Catherine emerged her tears were gone, but her face was unnaturally pale and her eyes lined with red. The sight of her lady’s maid waiting at the side of the carriage drew a wan smile from her, and she clutched Hannah’s arm as they made their way up the cascade of marble steps and into the dimly lit mansion.

“You looked exhausted, mum,” Hannah observed, her wide set brown eyes narrowing in suspicion. “You did not go to visit your cousin in
, did you? You went to
instead. Oh mum, why would you do such a thing?”

Under normal circumstances Catherine would regale Hannah with tales of her journey over steaming cups of hot chocolate, but not tonight. Tonight she just wanted to crawl into bed and never come out again.

“Please draw a hot bath,” she said tiredly. “And begin packing my things. I will be returning to
in the morning.”

?” Hannah repeated, her plump lips parting in dismay. “But you have only just arrived here, mum.”

“Yes, and now I wish to return to
,” Catherine said, more sharply than she had intended.

Hannah’s face fell, and her shoulders drooped as she walked away after mumbling a quick ‘yes mum’.

Catherine had never been so short with her maid before. She hesitated, uncertain whether to go to Hannah now or later, before deciding she was in no shape to make amends. Tomorrow would serve just as well to apologize for her atrocious behavior, after she had had a good night’s sleep and her emotions were back where they needed to be: locked up tightly where no one – least of
– could get to them. 

She slowly climbed the winding staircase and went directly to her room. Adjacent to the master bedroom it was her favorite room in the entire mansion, mostly because it was the only room that showed a female influence. She had designed it herself, choosing shades of blues for the walls and cheerful yellows for the curtains.

The room had been decorated with the intention of becoming a nursery, and Catherine’s mouth fell into a flat line of regret as she perched on the edge of the bed to unlace her boots. What plans she and Marcus had had together.
First to marry, then to raise a family and live happily ever after.
How simple everything had seemed then, when their hardest decision had been how many children to have. He had wanted four, she six.
As long as they are all girls with blue eyes and golden hair, we shall have as many as you want
, he always used to tell her. 

How naïve I was
, she thought with a bitter smile. Naïve and hopelessly foolish, to think fairytales came true. Now she knew the truth of it. Fairytales existed to soothe fretful children. They were not real, and they certainly never came true. 

When her bath was drawn she slipped readily into the hot water. Her body ached in places it had not ached in for three years. Marcus had always been so considerate after they made love. He would draw
her a
bath and carry her to it, washing her body and rubbing away any lingering soreness from their arduous lovemaking. Often he would climb into the tub with her and she would languish against him as his hands became intimately reacquainted with the places they had just touched. Before the water grew cold he would carry her back to their bed and lay her down ever so gently, and his lips would press against her –

Stop it
, Catherine ordered herself fiercely. She sat upright in the tub and her skin puckered where it met the cool air.
Stop it right now. Marcus does not love you any longer. You will think of him no more.

Hannah reappeared to fold a towel beneath her head so she could recline all the way back in the claw foot tub, but flitted away in an angry huff before Catherine could thank her. Forcing herself to draw in a deep, calming breath she closed her eyes and relaxed down into the rose scented water, letting it glide in a silky caress over her knees and shoulders. Within minutes, she was fast asleep.


Lips traced a tantalizing path down her neck and between her breasts. They closed around her nipple and drew it into a hot mouth with a tongue that swirled and teeth that nibbled. Catherine writhed beneath the delicious onslaught and arched her spine, offering herself with the wild abandon of one who desperately craved more.

She was rewarded with hands that swept down her body to her thighs, before they slid between her knees to pull them gently apart. She yielded easily to the quiet pressure and when a finger slipped into the soft velvet core of her she couldn’t help but moan. The first finger was joined by another. They began to slide in and out in a sensual rhythm that had her crying out before her mouth was captured and devoured with bold, sweeping strokes.

Fire licked through her, burning her from the inside out, and she began to move in wild, mindless abandon… spurred on by the crude, naughty, utterly imaginative things her lover was whispering huskily in her ear as his fingers continued to plunge and stroke.

It was too dark to see the face looming above her but she knew who it was. No one had ever touched her like this, kissed her like this,
her like this but her husband. A throaty moan shot up from the depths of her throat as she hovered on the brink of surrender.
The fingers inside of her intensified to a frenzied tempo that had her hips bucking and begging for more.
She cried out her lover’s name as release washed over her like a wave, sending her spinning into dark, tumultuous waters.


Catherine woke with Marcus’ name on her lips. She blinked and shot upright, sending cold water sloshing over the sides of the tub and onto the floor. Shivering, for the bath water had long ago gone cold, she climbed out and wrapped herself in a soft cotton robe. The covers of her bed had been drawn back and without bothering to comb the tangles from her hair or even dry herself off, she crawled beneath the heavy quilt and let the pillow dry her tears.


Chapter Six


Five Months Later –


For the first time since her debut, Catherine was not partaking in any of the balls, elaborate charity events, or intimate dinner parties that made up the Season. Surprisingly she missed nary a second of it, instead finding a quiet kind of comfort and joy from reading in front of the fireplace late into the night, taking strolls through Hyde Park with her friends, and spending time with her parents who had a residence only two streets over from her own.

From Marcus she had heard not a word and as the weeks turned into months she began to think of him less and less, until he only entered her thoughts once or twice a day. Despite her fervent attempts to the contrary she could not help but wonder where he was and what he was doing. Had he returned to Kensington? Was he spending his nights with someone else? Were they happy? Did he ever think about his wife?

“You are doing it again,” Grace chided gently, bringing Catherine back to the present.

The two friends were walking slowly through the middle of
Hyde Park
, their hands burrowed in fur muffs and their bodies layered in thick wool cloaks. It was late January in
, and winter had not been kind to the city. Their boots crunched over snow as they stepped to the side to let a sleigh pass and Grace teetered on a patch of ice before regaining her balance with a rueful smile and shake of her head.

A bit on the plump side with raven colored hair and sky blue eyes that bespoke of her Irish heritage, Grace was woefully uncoordinated. Her clumsiness was a bit of a running joke amidst her friends, but her potential suitors did not find it so amusing when she lit their sleeves on fire, spooked their
or – the worse yet – caused them to fall head first into ponds. As a result she was still unmarried at the rather advanced age of twenty four; a problem she seemed in no hurry to remedy.

“Doing what?” Catherine’s voice came out muffled as she gave the red scarf covering her face
a firm upwards tug
until only her eyes were visible.

“Thinking about Lord Kensington,” said Grace. Due to losing her scarf half an hour ago when she had fallen into a snow bank, her frown was clearly visible. “We have talked about this, haven’t we? More times than I can count! The man is an absolute scoundrel and you are lucky to be rid of him. We all agree.” By ‘all’ she meant, of course, herself, Margaret, and Josephine.

The four women fancied themselves the best of friends and had seen each through thick and thin since they met attending the same boarding school. They all would have been at Catherine’s side in a show of unanimous support had they been able, but Margaret had a touch of the flu and Josephine was on her honeymoon. Just married four days past, she had been whisked off to the coast of
by her new husband, Lord
Gates, and would not be back until the end of the month.

“I know,” Catherine sighed. She tilted her head back to study the skeletal branches that stretched above them, clacking and hissing in the wind. The sun was near to setting and the dropping temperature caused a shiver to race down her spine. “Are you ready to turn back yet? It is getting quite cold.”

Grace stopped so suddenly her right foot flew out from under her and had it not been for Catherine reaching out to grab her flailing arm, she would have flipped top over tea kettle. Too used to her clumsiness to become flustered, she snickered under her breath and squeezed Catherine’s arm through her thick red cloak. “What would I do without you? Come
let’s get you inside before you turn into an icicle. There is the cutest little tea shop right not too far off.
, I believe it is called, after the owner Matthew Twining. Not terribly original, is it?
And a bit conceited, if you ask me.
Why, if I ever opened a small bookstore I would never call it ‘Graces’. Could you imagine what people would say? If I ever meet Mr. Twining you can be certain…”

Catherine listened with half an ear as her friend rambled on. When they reached the small tea ship with its cheerfully decorated windows and cozy fire crackling away in the corner she followed Grace inside, pausing only to stamp her feet to get the excess snow off her boots and circulation back into her toes.

The shop was filled nearly to the brim with people who had also wanted to escape the cold, but they managed to find a small table near the fireplace that was unoccupied. Grace rushed around the side of the table to take Catherine’s cloak and hovered over her like an anxious mother hen as Catherine gripped the arms of the chair and readied herself to sit down.

“Do you need help?” Grace asked, fluttering her hands anxiously in the air.

“No, no, I am fine. It just… takes a bit… there.” Catherine sighed in relief as she plopped rather unceremoniously into her chair. Automatically her gloved hands curved around her burgeoning belly and a smile bloomed across her face as she felt a small answering kick. “The cold weather makes her feisty,” she murmured, more to herself than to Grace, but her friend possessed the ears of a fox and did not hesitate to respond.

“You should be lying in bed eating scones, not walking about in the snow,” she scolded, wagging her finger.

“I am healthy as a horse,” Catherine replied succinctly.
“And only five months along.
I refuse to lock myself away simply because I am expecting a child.” 

“You needn’t be so dramatic,” said Grace with a quick roll of her eyes. “It is called confinement, and it is practiced by every pregnant woman in
and beyond.”

“Except by those who have to work for their living, yet they somehow manage to have perfectly healthy babies without spending weeks inside their bedrooms.”

BOOK: A Brooding Beauty
10.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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