Chapter 25

Screenshot-27They had made small talk for almost half an hour once the tea had arrived. Vaughn had talked of his mother coming to town in the next week. Marielle had blushed and giggled, and uttered the appropriate sentiments.

Screenshot-2Estelle and Charles. Well… Vaughn had been rather taken aback to see that all they had done was talk to each other.

Something inside him had coiled tightly when she had laughed, the sound soft and lovely, at something the blond-haired lord had said quietly.

Screenshot-7A hot, swift, jolt of jealousy had speared his gut when, a few seconds afterwards she had looked away, smiled…

And blushed.

screenshot-581In moments, the conversation around him faded into silence, and the only sounds in his head were of her. Of her soft sighs, her pleas to him…

Do you want to kiss me?”

The words haunted him then, just as they had haunted him for the past three weeks. It was unbearable.

Screenshot-49In his dreams she would whisper such words against his lips, touch his skin with an innocence so charged with unknown wanting that he would wake up sweating, aroused and furious that he had dreamt again of her.

Always of her.

Screenshot-203He had tried everything he could think of to forget her, recalled the passion he had felt with others, remembered the thrill of having a different woman every night.

Those were the days.

Screenshot-47But he didn’t believe those words anymore.

He had never felt this way about any woman. His body begged for her touch, for release and pleasure, and so much more than that…

Screenshot-25And now, watching her laughing, smiling, blushing with another man… it was agonizing.

It was… wrong.

Screenshot-32The thought of a man touching her, just like that bastard Linwood had done, made him blind with white hot fury. He felt the beginnings of something similar begin to smoulder in his gut.

He had to do something.

Screenshot-33“Vaughn?”

Charles was watching him, a look of concern crossing over his features. Don’t do anything stupid, it seemed to say.

“I was just suggesting that I take Miss Murphy for a stroll in the garden…”

Screenshot-16He turned back to the governess and smiled in a way Vaughn had not seen him do in years.

Something was definitely not right there.

Screenshot-30“That won’t be necessary, Landgraab.”

Vaughn replied, crisply, before he could even think about what he was doing.

“I would like to speak to Miss Murphy myself, if I may.”

Screenshot-34He felt, rather than saw, Estelle’s gaze fall upon him. Felt the surprise and confusion in her eyes. Her voice echoed around the spacious room:

“Well maybe we could all go for a stroll in the garden togeth—”

Screenshot-109“Alone.”

Vaughn interrupted calmly.

“There are things that we must discuss.”

Screenshot-9Marielle’s grin returned ten-fold.

Charles Landgraab’s did not.

Screenshot-57“Excuse my forwardness, Miss Murphy, but might I talk with you in private?”

It was the first time in weeks Vaughn had addressed her directly. He was strangely displeased when she did not seem flustered at all.

Screenshot-80“Of course.”

She said, looking resolutely back into his eyes. He had expected –wanted– her to blush.

Screenshot-142Several moments of silence passed between them. Vaughn utterly forgot the presence of the other two humans in the room.

He utterly forgot what it was he’d even asked her.

Screenshot-39“Then,” Charles’ voice permeated, “I shall take Miss Harrington out to view the gardens.”

The debutante bounced up out of her chair. She grinned with untempered glee.

“We shall!”

Screenshot-15Thankfully, they left the room without another word, though Vaughn saw Charles look back anxiously as they went out the door, obviously wondering whether leaving was an irrevocable mistake.

But leave, they did.

Screenshot-86When Vaughn finally turned back, he saw the governess looking out of the window. The Viscount studied her face briefly, tried to read her eyes, her thoughts.

He could see nothing.

Screenshot-55His own anxiety was blinding him. Christ, what was he even doing? Why had he called her in here?

Just say something.

“You look well,” he said casually. “How have you b—”

Screenshot-26“I know what it is you’re going to ask me.”

The governess broke in plainly.

“I give my permission for you to propose to Marielle and consequently consent to anything you may wish to propose thereupon.”

Screenshot-63Vaughn blinked. Not entirely what he’d been going to ask her but good enough.

“Well…” He began, fairly taken aback. “That is—”

“I have something else to say.”

Screenshot-20His eyes darted to her hands, to her fingers clasping the fabric of her dress in a way he recognised. She was nervous now. A sense of foreboding settled in the pit of his stomach.

Screenshot-64Don’t go to her.

A voice in his head commanded.

Don’t go near her. Don’t comfort her. Don’t touch her.

Screenshot-17“Until the wedding…” she continued, avoiding his gaze resolutely. “After the wedding… I’ve been thinking, and I… I think it best that I leave the Harrington’s employ.”

Screenshot-65The words, undisguised, bare, struck him without warning.

He hadn’t… he hadn’t expected this.

Screenshot-105“I know what is expected of me, but I hope you understand why I cannot stay on in your household as Marielle’s ladies maid, I…”

She faltered, but was seemingly desperate to finish.

Screenshot-85Finally, she looked to him, her eyes determined, her voice hushed.

“I… hope you understand why I could not do such a thing.”

Screenshot-62The words cut him, pierced his gut over and over again, until he could only stand there in shock from what he had just heard.

He hadn’t expected her to leave.

“Why?”

Screenshot-35“You know why.”

The words were filled with a silent plea:

So don’t make me say it.

Screenshot-51Of course he knew why. He knew that if they were in the same house together, for months on end, that something would eventually happen. One of them would break.

They may not have talked in three weeks, but the attraction between them was still burning; unbearably hot and impossible to ignore.

Screenshot-88As he looked at her now, he could only remember the times he had held her body close, felt the warmth of her skin. His hands physically twitched at the thought of exploring her body again, of feeling every inch of her.

Not being able to speak to her for so long had only made him ache more deeply for her.

Screenshot-114She heaved a sigh: half-relieved, half-pained.

“I will start making arrangements from tomorrow. After everything that’s happened I hope you’ll agree that this is the best way to say goodbye.”

Screenshot-68“Goodbye?”

He found himself repeating. He could barely speak. He didn’t understand.

“Estelle, I never intended for you to leave, I—”

Screenshot-18“Don’t call me that.”

She snapped.

“It’s no longer appropriate.”

Screenshot-31He couldn’t help himself, he approached the sofa where she sat.

“Estelle, please—”

Screenshot-94Stop!”

She stood to evade him.

Just… stop. There’s no point in doing this again. I don’t know why you asked to see me alone but it was absolutely inappropriate and—”

Screenshot-98“I only intended to ask for your consent!” He countered defensively, irritation building up behind his eyes like a bad migraine. “I didn’t expect you to start going off on one about running away!”

Screenshot-161“Running aw—!” She cut herself off with a sound of indignation. “Well if you only wanted my consent then why couldn’t you have asked for it in the company of Marielle and Charles?!”

“Because I thought you’d appreciate the privacy. Christ, I’m only trying to be a bloody gentleman.”

Screenshot-97“And of course I didn’t want to interrupt your little conversation with, what did you call him? Charles.” He drawled the name cruelly, attempting to make the governess feel humiliated. “From the way you were blushing at his every other word, I thought it best to leave you to it.”

Screenshot-99The governess’s mouth popped open, blushing profusely. “I— That is… that is none of your business, Lord Landgraab and I are acquaintances and nothing more.”

“Then why in God’s name are you calling him Charles when we both know you despise first name terms?”

Screenshot-106“Because!”

She began with confidence, though faltered somewhat.

“Because I… he is a gentleman and has shown me great kindness of late.”

Screenshot-172White hot jealousy beating hard through the Viscount’s blood. He found he could not control the darkening of his gaze. Or of his words.

“Great kindness. How exceedingly generous of him. Well, I’d be wary of Charles’ ‘kindness’, if I were you.”

Screenshot-143Tension wafted through the room.

Tight.

Hot.

Screenshot-38Unable to ignore the sudden hostility exuding from the man opposite her, Estelle’s lips parted once again as if to say something, as if to defend herself.

But she appeared utterly lost for words.

Screenshot-95She took several steps away, where a thick chord hung from the ceiling, attached to the bells in the kitchen where the servants awaited instruction.

“I don’t know why we’re discussing this; I’m ringing the bell pull. You shouldn’t have called me here. I can only hope that we can forget this and—”

Screenshot-36Without considering the consequences of his actions, Vaughn strode briskly across the room behind her, catching her arm as she reached for the bell pull and hauling her back firmly.

Screenshot-41She made a noise of surprise, but didn’t struggle as he set her in front of him effortlessly, so they were face to face. It was only then he fully comprehended what he had done. She stood, barely a nose-length away from him, her body practically running along his.

It’s just like the night of the masquerade, he realised.

Screenshot-24“Sorry.” He breathed. “I just need you to listen for a moment, I—”

“Please let go of me.”

“Estelle—”

“Let. Go.”

Screenshot-128“You have thirty seconds.” She said, plainly. “Then I’m leaving. Or screaming until somebody comes here.

Understood?”

Screenshot-29“I…”

He began anyway, hesitantly, nervous for the first time in… well, years. He was definitely regretting pulling her so close.

His mind was filled with only one instruction: kiss her. For god’s sake kiss her.

Screenshot-30“I’m sorry for shouting, I didn’t intend to. I had only… I had hoped, since the masquerade, that your hatred of me had eased. I had hoped, like a fool, that you’d forgiven me for everything.”

His hands twitched at his sides, desperate to run the length of her arms.

Screenshot-198“But if you haven’t, then I can only apologise once more for everything that’s happened between us, for every time I have wronged you, and for every time I have wronged Marielle. She is lucky to have such a loyal and caring companion.”

Screenshot-149Estelle watched him, her gaze exploring his face. When she seemingly realised he was being sincere, she exhaled unsteadily, saying a quiet:

“Thank you.”

Screenshot-154“Is that… all you have to say?”

Perhaps she hoped it wasn’t.

Screenshot-120“Don’t go.”

Her eyes came up to meet his at that moment, full of sadness, full of… pain.

“I have no choice.”

“There is always a choice, Estelle.”

Screenshot-146“No, no there isn’t!”

She whispered anxiously.

“Please don’t make me scream for the servants, I really can’t do this—”

Screenshot-150Please.”

She choked, covering her face.

“Please don’t look at me.”

Screenshot-123Listen.

He had been thinking about what he was about to say for weeks now. Weeks. Despite the fact he had denied her the day after the masquerade, he had been… reconsidering. Wondering…

Screenshot-144They could be together, he thought. They could have something, if it were only in secret. But secret was enough, it had to be. If she stayed on in the house, he could make her his mistress. He could see her every day. And every night.

They could have something.

Screenshot-135He took her face in his hands gently, but with a desperation he could not hold back.

“I am looking at you. I’ve been looking at you every single day for the past three weeks. For months now. I can’t help myself.”

Screenshot-43“Every time I was with Marielle, I ached for you to walk with us. I ached to look at you. Ached to watch you.”

No—”

“And I know you watched me, too, Estelle. I know you did.”

“I didn’t, I—!”

Screenshot-44“After the night of the masquerade I thought we could put everything behind us. But I can’t. I can’t… forget the way you taste. Or the way your skin feels. I can’t ignore the fact that I want you more than anything I have ever wanted in my life.”

Screenshot-132“I cannot stand the thought of another man touching you or making you blush. I can’t stop thinking, dreaming about that one night where I had you beneath me.”

The governess let out an almost imperceptible gasp.

Screenshot-138“Just now, you asked me not to make you scream, but darling… making you scream is all I can think about.”

Her body swayed slightly into his. Jesus, he was fast losing what little self-restraint he had. What was he doing?

Screenshot-130“Stay.” He breathed.

Her eyes remained closed.

“I thought we put this behind us…”

Screenshot-141Vaughn stared at her lips, desperately trying to quell the hunger inside him.

“Christ, I want you.” He said without even meaning to. He felt her body shake once more. His mouth hovered millimetres from hers.

Screenshot-134“Give me a reason… one reason why we shouldn’t try.” So close to her lips now…

“Vaughn… after everything you said—”

“Forget what I said. I was wrong. We… We’ll have a place in the house just for us. A secret, away from the rest of the world. Marielle will never know…”

Screenshot-193Unfortunately, he did not realise, as he closed his eyes to finally kiss her, that hers would open, her mind would awaken from its sensual slumber, and her hand would rise from her side, draw back in the air and—

SLAP

Screenshot-181He staggered backwards in shock, his right cheek burning red from the violent smack of her hand. Estelle was breathing heavily, no longer from arousal, but from pure, sheer anger.

“What the bloody hell was that for?”

Screenshot-158“You just can’t help yourself, can you?! You are finally five minutes away from proposing to my charge, with my permission no less, and then you ask me to be your mistress? How many times do I have to tell you that I am not your toy! This is exactly why I’m leaving!”

Screenshot-174“I am not treating you like a toy, I’m treating you like a damned grown woman!” He countered, straightening. He was furious. Humiliated.

“You are treating me like a whore!”

Screenshot-187His face darkened. He approached her, large, intimidating.

“A whore? Oh really?”

Screenshot-189“And are you saying that on the night of the masquerade when you were begging me to take you, or when you were arching into my body, you didn’t react to me like one?”

Estelle only stared back, silent, stunned.

Screenshot-183A few seconds later, she found her voice.

“How dare you!”

“How dare I? How dare you! Three weeks ago you danced with me, you kissed me, you thanked me for saving your life, not to mention your dignity, and now—!”

Screenshot-176He threw his arms up in the air in a gesture of aggravation.

“Now you slap me and call me a cad for telling you I want you to stay?”

Screenshot-89“I do not owe you anything.”

She said, her teeth gritted.

Screenshot-96“Of course you don’t!” He agreed angrily. “You don’t owe me anything. Not a damned thing! But I’m putting myself on the line here, and you owe it to yourself to take a bloody chance. You owe it to yourself to give into your desires, for once in your life!””

The governess only blinked in reaction.

Screenshot-28After a moment, the Viscount shook his head almost imperceptibly. “I’m sick and tired with playing these games.”

Estelle gaped. “You think you’re the only one who’s tired? How do you think I feel?”

“I don’t know. Satisfied?”

Screenshot-27“I’m through, Estelle. Done.”

His stare was unflinching, intense and furious.

“Make. Your. Choice.”

Screenshot-113That gaze, fraught with a volatile mix of anger and sadness, told her all she needed to know. The decision she made at this moment would be final. He would stop chasing, stop asking, stop wanting.

It would be the end. She could end it all right now.

Screenshot-40

Or she could take a chance…

A/N: So, England is going through some CRAZY heatwave and I have become an actual puddle whilst writing this chapter x_x

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10 responses to “Chapter 25

  • Vinna

    cant waiiiiiiit to see what she does.

    *sigh* lots of good moments in this chapter. And there are few things i like more than reading the thoughts of a jealous man ^.^

  • LilyParker

    So gooooood! May I have the next chapter now, pretty please? 😉

  • vampireXheart

    I really want things to work out for them. But I don’t think that she would be happy being a mistress, not while he married, and ‘loved’ Marielle. Which begs the question if he can actually commit to something real

  • marsar2

    Wow, so many questions at stake here. Lots of repressed feelings…

    I think Vaughn has yet to learn how to compromise and/or make commitments. He seems sincere in his feelings for Estelle, but he can’t simply have everything in life. He’ll have to decide what are his priorities in life, whether to marry to please his family (who, btw, may not be deserving of his effort, especially his father), or to wholeheartedly choose love and accept the consequences.

    “Just now, you asked me not to make you scream, but darling… making you scream is all I can think about.” —–> Awww, I loved that Soooo sexy and so funny as well LOL.

    • Becki

      Wow, you are GOOD – pretty much everything you’ve just mentioned are things I fully intend to cover before the story’s conclusion!

      Yeah, I thought that line was super cheesey, but I just couldn’t resist putting it in – that sentence is my guilty pleasure 😀

  • Anna Marie

    Hey I was wondering when the new chapter would be up

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