Chapter 20

Screenshot-3A second chance… to make a first impression? Well, your clever wordplay is hardly going to manage that, Lord Afonsine.

True, Vaughn had been acting strangely all night, but this… this was very unexpected. It was almost as if he was trying to be… well, a gentleman.

screenshot-134At the same time, his painfully emotional confession of the night before still echoed through her heart and, in all honesty, part of her already felt that her perceptions of him were altering, though she was certainly loathe to admit it.

screenshot-96-1What was more, the memory of his touch was becoming dangerously vivid, and she hated the way her thoughts strayed to him constantly. She had grown to hate catching herself smiling at nothing, or imagining his sinful caresses at utterly inappropriate times.

Screenshot-6“A drink, madam?”

“Well, when in Rome…” She muttered to herself.

Screenshot-12Gulping down a fourth glass, Estelle viewed the room over the rim of the crystal glass, a little unsteady on her feet.

She tried to tell herself that she wasn’t searching for anybody in particular, that she wasn’t scanning every face for the Viscount’s arresting features.

Screenshot-22“Can I help you, my Lady?”

She turned to regard a very attractive gentleman. Under his simple grey demi-mask flashed the most vividly blue eyes she had ever seen.

Screenshot-27She smiled, lazily. “I daresay you can.”

For some reason, talking coherently seemed rather a chore when one was pleasantly warmed by bubbles upon bubbles of champagne.

Screenshot-24The gentleman bent gracefully, his lips deftly brushing her knuckles.

“Irving Linwood, at your service, Miss…?”

Screenshot-28“Murphy.”

She answered, plainly disregarding the fact that she really wasn’t supposed to tell anybody her name tonight (just in case they knew of her relationship with Marielle).

Screenshot-38“I see.”

He tucked her hand in the crook of his arm without asking her permission to do so.

“And how can I assist you this evening, Miss Murphy?”

Screenshot-14He smiled at her again, eyes glinting. Estelle couldn’t help thinking it looked slightly strained.

Not at all like Vaughn’s smile.

Screenshot-18Oh god, and now she was constantly calling the Viscount by his first name! And imagining his smile!

She really should never have drank anything at all.

Screenshot-29“Well, I would quite like to know where the terrace is. You see, I believe I require some fresh air.”

She giggled. It is a strange thing, losing the ability to control your own thoughts…

Screenshot-43Irving gave her a winning smile.

“Indeed. Let us find it together, shall we?”

Screenshot-44He had begun leading her away from the crush before she really realised what was happening, and found herself at the entrance hall almost immediately. The hand he laid on her shoulder pressed her forward the entire way.

Screenshot-46They passed several couples relishing moments of privacy away from the ton. Estelle briefly felt a pang of envy towards them, swiftly replaced by confusion when Lord Linwood led her in the opposite direction, down a set of steps that led onto the grass.

“I— er… where are we going?”

Screenshot-57The man holding her arm chuckled smoothly.

“Somewhere more secluded, my dear.”

He answered, and for the first time, she could hear the crooked smile in his voice.

Screenshot-49“I think here is fine… thank you.” Oh, how I wish my head would stop spinning. “I should be alright now.”

To her annoyance, he followed her anyway.

Screenshot-64After a moment of rather uncomfortable silence, Estelle turned round to see him still there.

Linwood didn’t seem quite so dashing in the darkness. The moonlight carved out his features a little too harshly, made his eyes a little too bright.

Sinister.

Screenshot-58“I’ll be alright now.”

She repeated, slightly more obviously. Of course, he clearly hadn’t heard her before.

Screenshot-59The stranger looked up at her, seemingly amused. He closed more of the distance between them.

“My dear, you can stop playing coy with me. We are alone now.”

Screenshot-68Suddenly very aware that she was indeed very alone with a complete stranger, barely dressed and not at all sober, Estelle practically leapt away from his touch.

Screenshot-62“Ah, so you want to play, do you? I didn’t put you down as one of those whorish types.”

Panic gripped Estelle.

Screenshot-61She flinched, gasping as her heart jumped into a heavy, rapid beat.

NNo, you’ve misunderstood—”

“Oh, I don’t think so.”

Screenshot-72He all but slammed his lips into hers, taking them roughly, almost painfully. She whimpered and pushed at his chest, to no avail. His hands travelled to her shoulders, gripped them hard enough to bruise.

Screenshot-74She ripped her mouth away from his long enough to protest a stronger:

No!”

Screenshot-89But she was swiftly silenced as he took her mouth again, savaging her lips. She beat and beat at his chest but he wouldn’t move. She screamed against his lips again and again.

Without warning, his hands left her shoulders and roughly groped at her chest.

Screenshot-88Her immediate reaction was what she should have done in the first place. She kicked him as hard as she could between the legs.

He stumbled back with an unattractive “OOF”, and she bolted.

Screenshot-84Unfortunately, he was exceptionally fast, and caught her so easily she cried out. What was worse, he angled them where the garden’s flowers concealed them both.

Nobody could see them from the house.

Screenshot-75Her eyes widened as he raised his hand towards her face. For a moment she thought he was going to slap her.

“You little bitch! Do you honestly think I’m going to let a lowly governess reject me?!”

Screenshot-94Instead, he ripped off her mask roughly, baring her face, her sullied identity to him.

“Oh yes, I know exactly who you are. I’ve had my eye on you this whole weekend.”

Screenshot-82He pushed her down, roughly, muffling her protests with a merciless hand.

“You try to pull another stunt like that again, my love, and I’ll make this very unpleasant for you.”

Screenshot-79His harsh whispers, the warm puffs of breath on her neck made her nauseous.

Stop!

She tried to shout, though all that left her throat was a croaky sob.

Screenshot-80“You are dirt! Do you understand?! You belong in the gutter, little better than a whore, and with less dignity. You should feel honoured that I want to fuck you.”

She saw him grin in the darkness, feral and frightening.

screenshot-6Fleetingly, she thought of the times she’d been with the Viscount, the times he had tried to seduce her, had kissed her, touched her.

When Vaughn had smiled at her, she’d melted. When he’d touched her, her skin had warmed where his fingers trailed….

Screenshot-91Vaughn hadn’t smiled like this.

When this… beast smiled at her, she wanted to slap him, and when he touched her… she turned to ice. This was so different.

So very different.

Screenshot-77Stop…” She whispered once more.

Then she was numb.


8 responses to “Chapter 20

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