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.
At 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.
What 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.
“Well, when in Rome…” She muttered to herself.
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.
She turned to regard a very attractive gentleman. Under his simple grey demi-mask flashed the most vividly blue eyes she had ever seen.
For some reason, talking coherently seemed rather a chore when one was pleasantly warmed by bubbles upon bubbles of champagne.
“Irving Linwood, at your service, Miss…?”
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).
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?”
Not at all like Vaughn’s smile.
She really should never have drank anything at all.
She giggled. It is a strange thing, losing the ability to control your own thoughts…
“Indeed. Let us find it together, shall we?”
He 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.
They 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?”
“Somewhere more secluded, my dear.”
He answered, and for the first time, she could hear the crooked smile in his voice.
To her annoyance, he followed her anyway.
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.
She repeated, slightly more obviously. Of course, he clearly hadn’t heard her before.
“My dear, you can stop playing coy with me. We are alone now.”
Panic gripped Estelle.
“N–No, you’ve misunderstood—”
“Oh, I don’t think so.”
He 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.
Without warning, his hands left her shoulders and roughly groped at her chest.
He stumbled back with an unattractive “OOF”, and she bolted.
Nobody could see them from the house.
“You little bitch! Do you honestly think I’m going to let a lowly governess reject me?!”
“Oh yes, I know exactly who you are. I’ve had my eye on you this whole weekend.”
“You try to pull another stunt like that again, my love, and I’ll make this very unpleasant for you.”
She tried to shout, though all that left her throat was a croaky sob.
She saw him grin in the darkness, feral and frightening.
When Vaughn had smiled at her, she’d melted. When he’d touched her, her skin had warmed where his fingers trailed….
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.
Then she was numb.