Angel watched the curtains that had yellowed with age sway in the evening breeze. It was such an innocent act; she nearly forgot where she was. She heard the man at her side rouse and closed her eyes as she cursed herself again for what she had done. She had never in her life believed herself capable of this but she'd done it. She'd had an affair. She pulled the sheet around her naked body and stood up looking around for her dress. When she had concocted this ridiculous plan it had all made so much sense. But now, in the not so happy after glow, she understood the idiocy of it all.
The man, Damien, reached for her and stroked a finger down her spine. The gesture, which she was sure was supposed to be soothing had the completely opposite effect. It only reminded her of what a harlot she really was. "I must go." She said jumping to her feet, continuing to hold the sheet to her chest.
"Why did ye not tell me ye be an innocent? I would'na gone through with it had I known." He moved, sitting up on the bed. Angel ignored him and hoped if she continued to do so, he and everything that had happened this night would disappear. She shoved her feet into the dress and managed to slip the sleeves onto her shoulders. She tried but could not lace her back herself. She fluffed her hair out and let it fall over her back. Her long blonde hair would hide most of her back from sight. She needed only to get home undetected. She bent to grab her shoes when she felt Damien grab her hip. She squeaked in surprise and he chuckled.
"I intend only to help ye lace ye're dress." He slid her hair over one shoulder and began pulling her lace's into place. The fact that his fingers moved smoothly over the intricate pattern, told her that he had experience in such matters. Angel looked around and grimaced. The fact that they were here told her that he was experienced enough. He was quiet for a long while and she thought that maybe he was going to let her leave in peace. Although peace was not an appropriate word since she was anything but peaceful. But he disappointed her.
"Why? Ye should have told me." He sounded disapproving and Angel bristled under his tone. Moving away from his hands, he was finished anyway, she placed herself on the edge of a chair and pushed her feet into her boots.
"Because, you would not have been with me had you known. It's of no consequence now." She finished lacing and stood. Damien's hand shot out to grab her wrist.
"Do ye know what ye've done? No one will have ye now. Ye be ruined for another."
Angel watched him open his mouth again and before he could do anything foolish, such as ask for her hand, she shook away his concern.
"I shall be fine."
Angel turned to leave but his commanding voice stopped her in her tracks.
"We shall marry."
She turned and looked at the man with whom she had shared her body. He was devilishly hansom, brown hair that shagged a bit in his face, and sparkling green eyes. His strong jaw was sporting the beginnings of a beard, and his head was held high as he made his declaration. He was noble at heart, and Angel wished, not for the first time since meeting him, that they had met under different circumstances. She let her gaze drift to his still naked chest and blushed a bit. Until today she had never seen a naked man before, and today would probably be the last so she let herself enjoy the sight. His shoulders were bunched and she could tell he was already regretting his decision to offer for her. Well, it was just as well that she was going to save him a lot of trouble. When her gaze roamed to the sheet covered portion she forced her eyes upward.
"We shall not marry, it is not necessary."
Angel turned again and applauded herself at how well she was holding up considering her world was crashing down around her ears.
"No. It is unnecessary, because I am already spoken for." She turned to him and leveled him with a stare. "I am already married." She expected him to look relieved or disgusted but instead she saw only surprise. Before he could call her back again she quit the room. She moved swiftly in case he decided to try and follow her, but she suspected that she had seen the last of him. She looked both ways carefully, making sure to hide her face before she entered the unmarked hackney. She covered her face as the tears finally fell from her eyes. She could not believe what she had done. And why she had done it. A silly idea indeed! She let herself weep until she arrived at her home. She sighed as she exited the cab. Walking quietly through the door, she knew that tomorrow would come all too soon, and that was soon enough to destroy her life.
2 months later
"I just don't understand how this could happen." Steven said pacing his study. She and Steven had been married 7 years now, and she knew it to be a nervous habit he pursued when he was upset, frustrated or angry. She wondered which he was feeling at this moment.
"Steven, relax. She doesn't need this kind of stress in her condition." Selena scolded. Steven immediately stopped his pacing and sat on the sofa next to his lover, placing a kiss to the top of her head almost absently. Even after 7 years it still broke Angel's heart. Almost 8 years ago Steven's family had been on the verge of bankruptcy thanks to his father's gambling habits and he had been in desperate need of money to keep his family afloat. Steven had been hopelessly in love with Selena, and had been planning to marry her, before he found out about his family's financial state. The only thing he could do was marry a lord's wealthy daughter to dig his family out of the mess. Angel had been that wealthy daughter. He put up a good show and courted her for a few months. Of course she had easily fallen in love with the charming Lord. But after a chance encounter with Selena, Angel could tell that his heart permanently belonged to the other woman. So she purposed a deal to Steven. If he agreed to marry her, it could be a marriage in name only. He could be with Selena in every way that mattered and her family would give him all the money he required to get out of debt. Her only condition had been that he give her a child. She wasn't asking much. Just one child. In truth she wanted many children, but she knew that laying with her once to give her one child would be difficult enough without her being selfish. But in seven years Steven had never once come to her to fulfill his promise. Angel had been content to wait, until Selena began having children. At the present moment she had three. And it had broken Angel's heart. Every time she saw one of their children play in the yard or laugh in the hallways, she wished it were hers. All she had ever wished for was to have a husband and children. She knew what she had gotten into when she married Steven, but she had foolishly believed he would keep his promise to give her children. When it became quite obvious that he would not be upholding his end of the bargain she had gone out to find a man who would get her with child. That was where she had met Damien. Oh her plan had been foolish. The idiotic dreams born of a silly little girl. Who would ever have guessed that her plan would actually succeed?
"I'm so sorry." Angel said hanging her head. Really, what more was there to say? She'd had an affair and now was expecting with another man's child. A part of her felt that she was justified. Steven had a Mistress, why couldn't she have someone too? But her heart squished the ridiculous idea immediately. Angel loved Steven. It didn't matter that he loved Selena. She had disgraced him and now had to live with what she'd done.
"No. I'm sorry." Steven rose from the couch and kneeled next to Angel's chair. He placed a gentle hand on her arm. "Angel, I am so sorry. You have been nothing but kind to us. Generously allowing Selena and the children to live under our roof with us when others would have them hidden away like a dirty little secret. And all you ever asked was for one child to call your own. I drove you to this." He took a deep breath and looked her in the eyes. She did not see anger there, but instead she saw what she always saw in her husband's eyes, affection. "And so, we shall claim the baby as mine. No one besides the three of us ever have to know that it's not."
Angel felt the tears spring to her eyes as she threw herself in her husband's arms. This was why she loved him. He was such a good man, so honorable and decent. He could have screamed and made a fuss but instead he calmly accepted the situation. She would raise this baby, and although it would not be Steven's, her baby would still know him as its father. And he was a good father. He already was great with his other three children. He would be again with hers. Never mind that it wasn't really his. Steven would not be so callous as to punish a baby for her mistakes. No, her baby would be loved. Everything was going to be okay.
In the back of the restaurant, Damien sat at a table swirling his ale around while he waited for his brother. Damn Caelan anyway. He'd been waiting for an hour now. Ach, he should have known his baby bro was lyin when he promised, 'I'll just be a moment. Go have an ale. I'll be right behind ye.' Hogwash. He idly tuned in to the conversations flowing around him. What else did he have to do with his time?
"Have you heard? Molly is writing for the tribune."
"My husband is going away hunting again this weekend."
"Do you suppose it's true? That the 'Virgin Lady' has finally been touched by her husband?"
Damien set his cup down and turned his head to hear better. This was a conversation that actually appeared interesting. It was taking place two tables over on his left side. An old biddy with blue hair and a pink bonnet sat with her back to him and across from her sat an equally old woman wearing a yellow sun hat.
"I don't know dreary. If she has a child, then I suppose the proof will be in the pudding, as they say. I had thought she was barren, but perhaps she really has remained a virgin all this time."
"Odd that Lord Windsor would marry her and then have children with his Mistress only. Do you think the 'Virgin Lady' is horribly scarred under her dress?" The last was uttered in a hushed tone, but since Damien had been listening, he picked it up.
"Tis possible I suppose, although, it would really be a pity. With her beautiful long blonde hair and charming smile, she is a gorgeous woman. I hope her child gets her coloring."
Damien felt like someone slapped him. They couldn't be talking about the same woman-
"Mm, don't forget those green eyes, she truly was blessed inside as well as out, she has the personality of a saint, allowing those bastards to live in here home with her. I don't care if they are in the servant's quarters. That's still a little to close for comfort."
"I agree. Do you know I heard he does not even sleep in the same bedchamber as his wife? It's rumored that he sleeps in the servants rooms with his Mistress."
"Can you imagine? The lord of the house sleeping on a hard pallet next to the dogs?"
"Tabitha!" The one woman squealed to the other. Damien stood up a little too quickly and knocked his chair over. He got questioning looks from patrons that were near him but he simply picked the chair up and dropped a few bills onto the table before walking out of the bar almost mindlessly. If what he'd heard was true, the woman they described sounded an awful lot like the woman he'd spent the night with a mere two months ago. And now this woman was expecting a child? Could it be his child? A woman who was virgin but also married. Aye. Long blonde hair and beautiful green eyes. Also aye. How many women in this town could fit all of those criteria?
"Hey Damien! Sorry it took me so long, I was talking to this lass and she-what's wrong with ye face?" Caelan stood a mere foot in front of him, but he was too wrapped up in his own thoughts to pay his little brother any mind. What was he going to do if the lass was bearing his child? He could not leave a bairn here to be raised by another. He had to find out if the lass he'd been with and this….Lady Windsor, were one and the same. Mayhap it be nothing more then a coincidence. But even as he thought it, he shook his head. Damien dinna believe in coincidences.
"Hey? Ye okay?" Caelan asked again waving his hand in Damien's face. Automatically Damien swatted the hand away.
"I've something to attend to. I'll meet ye at the hotel on the morrow." Damien had many a thing to do. First he had to find out where the Lady lived, then if she be the same Lass he'd tupped then….well, then the two of them would be talking. But he had to figure out a way of sneaking in undetected. He hardly thought that the lass would let him into her home if he simply knocked on the door. She would more then likely send him away, claiming not to know him. And he would not let her get away with that. She would see him. Whether she liked it or not.
"Safe journey then. I'm gonna see if I can interest that lass in a home cooked meal." Caelan smiled devilishly and Damien laughed.
"Ye canna cook if ye're life depended on it."
Caelan smiled wider. "Of course no. I want her to cook fer me." He waved as he turned back the way he'd come. Damien almost called him back to warn him to be careful. But Caelan was no stupid. He knew to be cautious when he was with a lass. Hell, Damien did too, but something about that night…It was like he'd been compelled to finish inside her sweet thighs. He could no more have stopped if his very life depended on it. And that was another thing he had to figure out. Why this strong attraction to her? Oh, Aye she was beautiful, but he'd had his share of beautiful lasses and never been as captivated as he had with this one. From the first moment he had laid eyes on her he knew he would have her. But he had been expecting to have to seduce the beauty. But after a brief hello, without even his most charming of smiles, she had grabbed his arm and practically drug him up the stairs herself. He'd been more then willing, but at the time he'd been too clouded by lust to wonder at why an obviously upper class lady had been in that seedy place to begin with.
Now he wondered at it. It was obvious the lass had been a virgin, so why would she go to that place and choose him of all the people to find her pleasure? And he was ashamed to admit that she had not found pleasure. He hadn't known she was still an innocent so had no been gentle when he entered her. Of course when he realized he tried to sooth her but the damage was done. He'd offered to back away but she had wrapped her legs around his waist and told him to finish. Why? She was obviously still hurting and it dinna appear that she was having fun, so why had she done it? Of course he could see all this in retrospect but at the time he had been so consumed by finding his own release that he had thought she was enjoying his attention. He ran a frustrated hand through his hair and cursed himself for a fool. He was not a green lad any longer! He should have seen what was so clearly in front of him. But something about her….he stopped his wayward thoughts and strode into the busy streets of London. He was gonna find her. He was gonna have all of his questions answered. And he was gonna show himself that he was no controlled by his desires.
A few hours later Damien stood in the shadows next to the home of Lord Windsor. It had not taken him long to find the information he needed. Apparently Windsor was well known. He lived on the corner of Maple Boulevard and had quite a nice stretch of land, gained from his own investments, if the gossip was to be believed. Apparently his Da had been into gambling but the son had no such affiliation for it. Once he'd set his affairs to right using the money he'd gotten from marrying the lovely Lady Windsor, he'd began making all the decisions regarding his family's money usage. He'd done well for himself. The only thing he lacked was a legitimate heir. But apparently that was no longer the case since Lady Windsor had been announced to be with child. His Child. Damien was certain of it. Luck had been on his side this afternoon and he had caught up with Lady and Lord Windsor as they were shopping. He remained back so as no to be seen but he could clearly see them. If one dinna know different he would think the pair of them were no more then friends. Oh he regarded her warmly but his eyes lacked the love that should have been shining there. Gossip stated that he reserved all his loving to his Mistress. So why now would he take his wife to bed? And conveniently after Damien had already had her. When he had seen her again he'd felt like he was punched in the gut. All the air had left his lungs in a whoosh. She was just a beautiful as he remembered her. More so, since instead of the nervousness that had colored her that night at the bar, all that played across her lovely features now were love. For even though the Lord dinna love her, the Lady dinna seem to have the same problem. Her love shone clearly in her eyes every time she looked at him.
Damien had followed them home and had waited a few hours. It was nighttime now and the house was starting to quiet down. He slipped silently into the garden and around to the side of the house. He knew that the main bedchamber was on the left side of the building. Quite obvious since it was the only window with a balcony. He watched as the light in the window went out. Most of the lights were out now. The only lights on were those in the servants quarters. He snagged the side of a trellis that was growing near the window and gave it an experimental tug. It seemed sturdy enough, but if he put his weight on it and it broke then he'd not only be flat on his bum, but he'd also no doubt be discovered. He sighed. There was no help for it. He had to get into the house.
He began climbing and luckily it held all his weight. He climbed quickly less it decide to change its mind and bring him crashing down. He reached the balcony and swung his leg over the side. He silently tsked. It was entirely too easy for a robber to steal into this home. He moved to the double doors and slowly tried one. It opened without any pressure at all. Did this man care nothing for his wife's safety? Or was he hoping that someone would abduct the lass? Well, either way, the Lord would soon learn the hard way that if he wanted to keep what belonged to him he would have to guard it more closely. Damien quietly crept into the room and slid the door closed behind him.
Angel's eyes snapped open. She'd heard something. She pulled the covers closer to her chin and tried to reassure herself that she was being silly. Of course there was nothing there. It was times such as these where she longed to have her husband in the same chamber with her. Steven would chuckle softly and promise all was well.
Angel sat up. All was not well at all. That time she had most defiantly heard something. Scrambling to the night side table at her right she turned the lamp on. Angel squeaked out in surprise to find someone actually in her chamber. The silhouette of a man was in the corner of her room, nearest the double doors. Drat! She should have locked them. Steven had warned her repeatedly about doing so, but she hadn't thought anyone would ever actually dare to come through them while she was at home!
"Lass, dinna do something stupid, like scream." The man from the shadows said and Angel shook her head. Was he delusional? Of course she was going to scream! But the voice gave her pause. Where had she heard it before? The rough and thick voice seemed very familiar to her. The man attached to the voice took a step toward her. Foolish! Here she was in real danger and she was pondering a voice? She opened her mouth to let out the loudest scream she'd ever uttered when the man jumped toward her. She threw herself across the bed toward the door but it was in vain. The man was much faster then her. He grabbed her leg and pulled her back across the bed into his arms. One big hand came around her middle, the other over her mouth. Angel's heart started pounding madly and tears sprang to her eyes. What was he going to do to her? Kidnap her? Rape her? Angel shook her head. Not while there was a breath in her body! She managed to free one of her hands and curled her fingers into a fist and punched the man in the head. It was an awkward angle because he held her from behind but his hold became looser.
"Bloody hell lass! Will ye quit it? I'm nay here to hurt you. I wish only to speak to ye." The man cursed and Angel continued to struggle. She was not falling for that line. If a man simply wanted to talk, he would not have snuck into her bedchamber in the middle of the night. She used her free hand to try and pry the man's hand off her mouth so she could scream for help. But his grip was solid and not to be moved. More tears welled in her eyes, tears of frustration. This man was much stronger then her, it would take a miracle for her to escape. But she kept trying. She dug her nails into his hand and continued trying to pry him off.
"I tire of this game. You will cease this immediately." He said and Angel inwardly scoffed. He really was mad if he believed she'd lie back and allow this to happen. The man behind her moved and before she could even think to move he flipped her around and pushed her down onto the bed. Her back hit the bed and his body came over her. His hand was still firmly in place and he'd quickly grabbed both of her hands in one of his and held them tight to her chest. Angel closed her eyes. So he did plan to rape her. She tried to buck him off with her hips but he was just as immovable as before.
"Ye better stop that lass or there'll be more going on then just talking. Now open ye're eyes." He commanded and the tone of his voice made her obey. She snapped her eyes to his and gasped at what she saw.
"Aye. Ye recognize me now? If I take me hand from ye're lips, do ye promise nay to scream?" The man from that night at the pub lay atop her. Damian. She had never thought she'd see him again. What was he doing here? Too stunned to more then just stare she nodded numbly. Damian moved his hand less then an inch. Probably making sure she'd keep her promise.
"What in the world are you doing here?" Angel whispered furiously. What if someone came in and saw this? No. She'd already shamed Steven enough. She'd not add to that.
"As I said earlier. I came to speak to ye." Damian moved his hand to rest next to her head when he realized she wasn't going to scream like a ninny.
Angel shook her head. "Through my bedroom window? In the middle of the night? You a lucky my husband has not come to bed yet. He would have shot you. Still will if he catches you." Sure she was bluffing. Steven did not sleep with her. But Damian need not know that. The faster she got him to leave the sooner she could resume her normal life.
"Ye sleep alone. All the ton says as much. The Lord be in the servants chambers with his mistress. The look on ye're face says I be right." Damian moved his hand to cup her cheek and stroked his thumb over her lips which immediately sent a chill down her spine. But not out of fear. "Though I canna for the life of me understand why he'd seek his pleasure elsewhere when he has such a beauty as ye in his bed."
Angel's heart stuttered. No one had ever complimented her like that before. Oh yes she'd been called beautiful many times, but never by a man who was looking at her like he wanted to devour her whole. She brought her hands up to his chest and pushed. It was time to end this….whatever this was. From the very moment she'd laid eyes on him, she'd felt a pull. In two months that hadn't changed. But Steven was only just downstairs. The reminder of Steven had her pushing harder.
"We have nothing to talk about. Please leave at once. This is my husband's house and you are not welcome."
Damian's gaze hardened and he placed a hand on her belly. He rubbed over her flat stomach twice before he lifted his eyes to her again. "I'd say we have much to discuss since ye carry me child inside ye."