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Authors: Jillian Eaton

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BOOK: A Lascivious Lady
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From inside his carriage across the street, Traverson watched in silence as a well dressed gentleman ascended the steps to Josephine’s townhouse and knocked on the door. For the third time he consulted his pocket watch, noted the late hour, and tucked it away.

When the door opened and he saw Josephine’s silhouette, his breath caught as every muscle in his body drew taut. He waited for her to close the door. Waited for her to tell her late night visitor he had the wrong address. Waited for what felt like an impossible eternity…

Traverson’s heart sank in his chest like a stone when the man slipped through the door and closed it behind him. From this distance he could not hear the words exchanged, but then again, did he really need to?

He had been wrong. Terribly, irrevocably, embarrassingly wrong. Josephine did not love him. She did not care for him. She would never be faithful to him. More fool that he was for ever believing otherwise.

Slumping back against the carriage seat, he stared down at the single yellow rose he held between his fingers. Yellow, because he knew it was her favorite color. A rose, because it was the only thing that came close to equaling her beauty. His hand closed reflexively around the stem. A hidden thorn punctured his thumb, and with a curse he opened the door and flung the rose outside where it landed half in and half out of a puddle on the cobblestone.

“Tom, let us drive on now,” he called up to the driver.

“Are ye sure?”

Traverson stared hard at the townhouse. The front parlor was dimly lit from a single candle, allowing him to see no more than shadows. When the light went out, he swallowed hard and rubbed a hand down his face, drawing the skin tight. “I am sure,” he said quietly. “There is nothing left for me here.”

“If ye say so,” Tom said doubtfully. Traverson could hardly blame him. They had spent the last day and a half on the road, going through four teams of horses to get here as fast as possible. And now, after less than five minutes, he was ordering them to leave.

He heard the familiar creak and rattle of the harness as Tom gathered the reins and prepared the team to move on. And then he heard something else. Something that sounded alarmingly like…

“Did you hear that?” he asked, already half out of the carriage.

“Aye,” said the driver, steadying the horses with a firm hand. “Sounded just like a woman’s scre—”

“Josephine,” Traverson breathed.

Josephine swung the heavy lamp wildly as Lord Penny attacked. It caught a glancing blow off his temple which he merely shook off before he grabbed her, his fingers digging cruelly into her shoulders, his breath fanning hot across her face. He smelled strongly of cigar smoke and brandy, the combination enough to make Josephine gag as she fought him off, swinging the lamp again and again until he knocked it out of her hands with one hard strike of his fist.

Forgetting her promise not to make a sound she screamed when he lifted her off her feet and tossed her on the bed like a rag doll, then screamed again when he lurched on top of her and pinned her to the mattress, the weight of his body forcing her breath from her lungs.

Gasping she bucked her hips, struggling to dislodge the dead weight on her abdomen, but Lord Penny merely laughed and grinded himself hard against her as his hands snaked up to close around her breasts, pinching her nipples through the thin cotton of her nightgown.

“Stop it,” she shrieked, slapping at his face with both hands. Panic had set in, and with it the mind numbing fear that came with being completely overpowered. She could not think. Could not move. Could not breathe. Bile rose in her throat, the taste of it metallic and bitter. “Stop, please stop,” she begged when he continued his sexual assault, undeterred by her whimpering pleas.

Without warning the bedroom door flew open and crashed into the wall, the sound of wood against plaster echoing like a gunshot. Lord Penny turned to see who it was and Josephine seized the opportunity to twist sideways and pick up the lamp she had dropped.

Arms trembling, Josephine raised the dead weight high above her head and had the pleasure of seeing Lord Penny’s eyes flash white with alarm right before she brought the heavy lamp crashing down. It cracked against his skull and he slumped forward, dead or unconscious she did not know, nor did she care.

Scrambling out from beneath him she fell off the side of the mattress and used one of the bedposts to pull herself up. Unable to see clearly for the tears blurring her vision, she catapulted around the edge of the bed and slammed into a solid wall of muscle.

When she felt arms closing around her she struck out on instinct, her fists pummeling everything within reach, until through the blank, all encompassing panic she heard a soft, familiar voice repeating the same thing over and over again.

“Josie, calm down… You are safe. Josie, my sweet Josie, I have you. I have you now. You are safe.”

Her arms dropping to her sides like lead weights, she lifted her chin and blinked away her tears. “Traverson?” she whispered. “Is it really you?”

“Yes,” he said simply, “it is.”

With a little cry she threw herself at him and he encircled his arms around her trembling body, cocooning her in safety and warmth. Pressing his lips to her hair he kissed her once, twice, three times while she trembled against him and struggled to control her gasping breaths.

“I have you now,” he repeated, caressing her spine with broad strokes of his fingertips. “I have you and I am never letting you go again.”

Sniffling back the last of her tears, Josephine offered him a watery smile. “That is fine with me.” Reaching up, she cupped his jaw and stood on her tiptoes to draw him towards her for a sweet, lingering kiss that served to settle her nerves and her mind. With one last shudder she glanced to the bed where Lord Penny lay sprawled face down. “He forced his way in and dragged me upstairs. I was so very frightened,” she admitted, sagging back against her husband.

“You knocked him out cold,” Traverson said proudly. “I could not have done better myself.”

“You shot him in the leg,” Josephine recalled.

“No less than he deserved, bastard that he is. Come downstairs with me, love. I will make you a cup of tea. Tom will take care of Lord Penny.”

“Tom?” Josephine queried as they made their way to the living room and locked themselves in. “Your driver who used to be a boxer?”

“One and the same,” Traverson confirmed. “He drove me straight here from Kensington.”

Curling up in one of the couches that faced the fireplace, Josephine waited patiently as Traverson stoked the low burning embers back to life before disappearing into the kitchen to fetch a pot of tea. When he returned she motioned for him to sit beside her and he did so hesitantly, perching on the very edge of the horse hair cushion, his lanky frame doubling over as he rested his elbows on his knees.

“Traverson,” Josephine began quietly after taking a sip of tea. “Why did you return to London?”

“I wanted to see you,” he said.

“Just to see me?” she said, disappointment fluttering low in her belly. She had been so certain…

“No, not just to see you.” Taking Josephine’s hands in his and staring deep into her eyes, Traverson said simply, “To ask you to take a chance with me. I cannot promise we will be perfect together, but I know for a fact that we are broken apart. Be with me, Josephine. Be with me as a wife is with her husband. As a woman is with her man. And I shall give you every piece of me.”

“I do not need every piece,” Josephine said, her voice catching on the emotion that swelled within her throat. “I require only this—” she placed her palm across his heart, “—and this,” she finished, using her other hand to cup him intimately as a devilish grin flitted across her lips.

Laughing, Traverson gathered her in his arms and pulled her forward until she was sitting comfortably in his lap. Nuzzling the curve of her collarbone where he knew her to be the most sensitive, he whispered, “I believe that can be arranged, Lady Gates. First, however, I have some news to share with you.”

“You do?” Josephine started to trail her fingers along Traverson’s thigh, but he caught her hand and, raising it to his lips, delivered a kiss upon each knuckle.

“I do,” he said firmly. “First thing in the morning all of your things are being moved from this house.”

“They are?” she said, stiffening slightly with alarm.

“They are. We will be starting a new life, in a new house. One I purchased just this evening, in fact. A lovely brownstone on the corner of Higgins Street and Reynard Avenue.”

“A new home and a new husband,” Josephine murmured, relaxing into him. She recognized the address, of course. It belonged to the house that sat right next to Catherine and Marcus’. “What else could a woman possibly wish for?”

“You are quite spoiled,” Traverson said gravely.

“Yes, well, best you figure that out now,” Josephine said with a haughty toss of her head. “And let it be known that I expect presents at least once a month. Oh, and Traverson, dear?”

“Mmm?” he said, finding himself distracted by her nightgown which had slipped to reveal one bare shoulder.

“Do you think I might get another one of those beetle pins? They really are quite dear.”

“I shall shower you in beetle pins,” he promised before with a playful growl he rolled her beneath him, taking care to cushion her head beneath his arm, and Josephine, for the first time in her life, said the three words she had been waiting to say to that one special man who would steal her heart.

“I love you.”

BOOK: A Lascivious Lady
12.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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