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Lady by Chance

By Cheryl Bolen

If consummation was what the woman wanted, then she would have it, Haverstock vowed angrily as he paced the masculine chamber adjoining hers. He would take her swiftly, with no allowances for pleasuring her. Wife she may be in name, but name only. He would satisfy her legal whim and be gone. He had other matters to see to tonight.

After an adequate amount of time for her to ready herself, he rapped at her door, then entered. The room's only light came from a fire glowing in the hearth and a single taper beside her gilded bed. She was in the bed, propped up on mounds of lacy pillows, her freshly brushed hair hanging loose around her lovely face. She wore a white lace gown buttoned to the neck and looked impossibly innocent. He held back a snort, doubting her innocence. The woman was the daughter of a whore and was herself most likely a cheat and a thief. Certainly no innocent.

He would not accord her gentlemanly courtesies. "You are to remove your clothing, madam," he said, his voice as clear and cool as an icicle.

Her eyes widened for a hint of a second, then she moved to the edge of the bed, blew out the candle and began to unbutton her gown.

"I want the candle lighted," he said harshly. "I am your husband, and I want to see what I'm getting." He scooped up the candle, strolled to the fireplace and relit the wick from the flames. Walking slowly back to her bed, he watched her lift the gown over her head, then clutch the coverlet to hide her breasts, her face flaming.

He set the candle on the marble top of her bedside table and leaned over her, lifting her chin with his finger. "I cannot believe the former Miss De Mouchet blushes over the prospect of displaying her lovely body."

"It is just. . ." Anna whispered, "I did not know this act was performed . . .totally naked?"

His laughter shook the room. "Yes, my dear, we shall perform the act totally naked. I pity your former lovers if they were denied the pleasure of your entire body." His hand moved from her chin, down the slope of her chest, where he flicked off the covering and cupped a full breast while his thumb plied her pink nipple.

"There have been no lovers, my lord," she said in a shaky voice.

He removed his hand and met her bewildered gaze. "Do you mean to tell me you're a virgin?"

All he saw were her huge, brown eyes staring at him like a frightened doe as she nodded.

"So you say. There are ways a man can tell if a woman has been with a man."

She lifted her chin and spoke in a voice now devoid of shakiness. "I'm very happy to learn that. Then I will be exonerated of at least one odious deed."

"Oh, but my dear," he said, sitting beside her on the bed and stroking her breast, "there is nothing at all odious about the deed."

"Then you've done this before?"

He guffawed. "God in heaven woman, I'm thirty-two years old."

Softly, she asked, "How old were you the first time?"

He remembered the fair Denise at Oxford and smiled. "Eighteen."

She spoke in a whisper. "I am eighteen, too."

He struggled with himself not to feel sympathy for her. He would soon know if she was a whore.

Her eyes flickered to his hand as he kneaded her breast. "I suppose this a ridiculous question to ask one's husband, but what is your first name, my lord?"

A smile curved his lips. "Charles."

"Have you ever had a mistress, Charles?"

"That is no concern of yours, my dear. I vowed to your priest tonight that I would forsake all others, and I intend to keep at least that part of my vows, provided you satisfy my bedroom needs."

"I will endeavor to try," she said softly. "Oblige me by being a good teacher."

He got up from the bed and blew out the candle.


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