Won by a Duke
The ball room was inconceivably over crowded. Lady Cardarish had excessively over filled her guest list and every occupant of the house was now feeling the effects. Edging towards an open door Dorian Kellett resisted the urge to sink his head into the bowl of punch that lay on a table near him. Uncomfortable trickles of perspiration ran from his hair line down the back of Dorian’s neck and his cravat felt as though it would like nothing more than to strangle him. He calmly squeezed past other guests and entered the next room in search of a cooler climate to reside in for a little while. His hopes were to no avail, this room was as congested as the previous.
Dorian inclined his head to a new acquaintance; Robert Kentley. The Kentley’s had recently come to London, acquiring a house of vast proportions, this and the knowledge of the family being built up of three wealthy and handsome sons meant that London’s daughters were competing for the families attentions. They flocked around, parents encouraging their offspring to dance and play, sing and make clever conversation in order to coax one of the Kent’s to desire them for a partner. Mr button, Mr Hue and Mr O’Brian went in expiration, sent by their nagging wives, to the gentlemen and discovered the so-called important things such as fortune, status and their most inner interests that went past hunting and cards.
Dorian bit back a chuckle as he watched the fortune hunters at work,
“Hurry back my love, make haste to tell us of the gentlemen,” a lady whispered to her husband who walked away rolling his eyes. Miss Carrie although having no children of her own was also eager to learn news of the newcomers, she and Frances Roberts commissioned Mr Roberts to go and talk to one of the Kentley’s.
“What do you want to know in heavens name?” He cried “Anything of importance will surely come into public knowledge in time.”
“We cannot wait for that, you must go now and speak to the eldest, he is the heir you know.” Miss Carrie lowered her voice as she spoke.
“But I’m about to have a game of Quist, go yourselves and ask what you will.”
“Father! You must go and not us, you know mother sharn’t be happy if she knew you had slighted the importance of finding out the age of each son!” Frances spoke quickly and a wild look appeared in her eyes at the prospect of intruding into the Kent’s conversation herself. Mr Roberts sighed and took off across the room, his lazy pace was not a comfort to the ladies who were barely containing their excitement.
Dorian caught sight of a passing acquaintance, a Miss Fetler, he did not wish to become engaged in conversation with her, his patience was wearing thin. Quickly Dorian turned away to leave but it was too late, Miss Fetler had seen him and was approaching, sighing his name across the heads of people. Irritated Dorian turned and gave his best fake smile.
“Why Miss Fetler, how do you do?”
She curtseyed ridiculously low, leaning over slightly so that her small bosom was pushed up to it’s advantage. She looked up at him with a glint in her eye. Here was a woman who knew what she was doing when it came to the other sex. Dorian remained unaffected by her charms.
“Your Grace, it is lovely to see you sir. I had hoped that Lady Cardarish had included you in her invitation.” This comment was an ignorant attempt at flirtation, as being the wealthiest Duke in area, Dorian would never be slighted. Miss Fetler would have known this and that knowledge was likely to have been behind her own motives in attending.
“Who didn’t she include I wonder?” Dorian remarked without humour, casting a glance around at the red faced people who were clustered in every available space. Even as he spoke he could feel the weight of another guest pressing against his back as they tried to manoeuvre round.
“Oh! Mr Kellett, how rude you are to speak so, though I know it is all in jest.” Miss Fetler tinkled her laugh, a girly ripple that was as exaggerated as the rouge colouring her cheeks. Miss Abigail Fetler was a pretty woman of good fortune and clearly her family thought that catching the Duke of Len Bourne would be a very profitable connection. Dorian had considered Miss Fetler as a woman to secure for a wife simply out of convenience but then decided against it, her scheming and outrageous games had altered his opinion. She, along with the other women of his vast acquaintance didn’t realise that his heart was one not to be touched nor his fortune for that matter. “I do love a ball, and I see that there is dancing in the next room. I daresay you are a splendid dancer Mr Kellett, indeed I believe I saw you dance at the Havilles house.” Abigail chattered and fluttered her eye lashes, Dorian registered the hint but was by no means tempted to dance with her, especially in these uncomfortable conditions.
“I do beg your pardon Miss Fetler but I must excuse myself,” with a slight bow Dorian rushed off before Abigail could say anything else and left her stunned at his abruptness.
Dorian weaved in and out of the unbearable throng of guests, going through room after room, each one full. Finally he came to a deserted corridor. Everywhere else, glasses of fine wine were replenished in plenty by almost invisible servants, situated to follow orders of their ladies and gentleman, not to comment or analyse the vast intake of alcohol. There were no servants here and therefore no guests. Pulling open a door, Dorian jumped into the room and shut the door behind him. Finally a refuge. Breathing a sigh of relief as a cool breeze washed over his face he opened his eyes. He was in a study of some sort, book shelves lined the walls and it was peaceful here, a room not included in the party. Then Dorian almost jumped out of his skin as he saw that he was not alone in the room. Standing near the large open window was a figure of beauty.
“I’m sorry sir, I should have made my presence known immediately. You startled me too.” the vision said and Dorian recognised that voice. Miss Evelyn Lorne. She turned fully towards him and dipped a slight curtsey. Dorian had seen Miss Lorne, at a distance, many times, but her beauty never failed to astound him. Standing as she was, bathed in the light of the moon and two candles that sat on the desk near her, she was breathtaking. Her raven hair was swept up with a scarf and her dress was a brilliant peacock blue. Dorian swallowed, trying to keep a grasp on his countenance.
“Miss Lorne, I beg your pardon for disturbing your privacy.” Dorian bowed and continued “I was looking for a little peace from the crowds. I see you have found the sanctuary that I sought.”
“Indeed, I myself was too warm out there, but this breeze is quiet refreshing.”
Dorian knew that with no chaperon, it was unwise to stay. If anyone should come across them together in an empty, dark room, far from the other guests it would cause a stir. However he was intrigued, never before had he been alone with Miss Lorne, and he did not want to end their chance meeting just yet. Unlike Miss Fetler and the other young ladies here tonight, Miss Lorne was very interesting, she did not chase after young men, she didn’t have to, Miss Lorne was never short of admirers. She was a well educated lady, and talented, once he had walked into an assembly to hear her performing on the piano forte in front of a small audience of friends and he had been amazed at the quality of her voice, despite these meetings, Dorian had never spoken with Evelyn for a substantial amount of time.
Crossing the room to stand by her side Dorian pulled the curtain back slightly to allow the full advantage of the night breeze to sweep over him. Miss Lorne’s eyes darted to the closed door and she looked a little hesitant, no doubt thinking along the same lines as himself but she not remove herself from the room.
“I wonder at you looking for a little privacy Mr Kellett, are you not enjoying the nights festivities?” Evelyn asked. Something in the way she held her head as she spoke made Dorian suspicious of her seemingly simple question.
“I have not been having a particular good time I’m afraid.” he replied, wondering why she herself was alone in the study.
“I wonder at the meaning under your question, Miss Lorne? You seem surprised to find me shunting the society here?”
Evelyn hesitated a moment before answering.
“I am surprised.” she admitted “I understood Sir, that you only came here tonight because Miss Fetler was on the guest list. Is she not your soon to be intended?”
Shocked to the bone by this Dorian felt his voice rising as he demanded “On whose authority do you have that information?”
“Why, Miss Fetler herself” Evelyn replied more shyly than her other boldly spoken statements, even in the dark Dorian could see her looking uncertain as though she had said something out of her place. “Forgive me sir, I had not intended to distress you, merely to congratulate you. I do beg your pardon, perhaps I was mistaken…” she stumbled into silence looking at the floor, clearly worried that she had upset him. Dorian’s heart went out to her, she was rather young. Nineteen at most, eight years his junior and she had no doubt meant well.
“Pray no need to apologise Madame, but let me assure you that there is no understanding between myself and Miss Fetler, nor any intention of an understanding coming into being. I am merely here to avoid the heat, but perhaps now I may tax the same question to you, why are you hiding away in a study rather than flirting and dancing like the other young ladies of your age.”
At once a sadness entered Evelyn’s eyes and she looked a little more than uncomfortable.
“It is the flirting and dancing that I avoid, Sir.” She replied quietly. A strand of hair had come loose from it’s confinement and now hung across her right cheek and Dorian felt the desire to tuck it back into place, to feel if it were soft, to perhaps brush his fingers against her cheek as he did so. Dorian, shocked at his sudden trail of thought, took a slight step back to prevent himself from doing just what he wished to. Evelyn took the strand herself and slipped it back beneath her scarf with her long dainty fingers. Dorian felt himself grow hot again.
“Am I to understand Miss Lorne, that you do not then, welcome the attentions of men?” He asked and on finding his voice abnormally husky, cleared his throat slightly, and smiled at her. He wondered what led her to shun the party when a lady as herself both beautiful and well educated would never be without companions.
“Not exactly Sir.” she hesitated before going on “But the company of one particular gentleman is unwelcome, that is to say, I do not encourage his attentions.” Still she cast her eyes down frequently, as though she were a servant rather than a lady. Dorian wondered at her feelings of inequality. Did she believe herself very far beneath him?
“Who is the gentleman may I ask?”
Evelyn paused, she looked uncertain again, as though she ought not be speaking of this to him, but Dorian was intrigued now. He wanted to learn as much as possible about her.
“His name is Vincent Randell, he owns an estate in York.”
“Yes I know Mr Randell.” He was a pitiful man, of little sense and he was a compulsive gambler. That estate at York had lost a lot of it’s prosperity since it fell into Vincent Randell’s hands. “Why do you hide from his attention?”
“He is a single man, and a good friend of my father’s. He has been around my family a lot this past year, I rather wondered if…if he and my father had…had discussed certain matters.” She trailed away and Dorian understood immediately. It could just be that Randell desired Miss Lorne, or she could be right and her father had entered into negotiations with the man regarding a marriage.
Dorian made no comment and did not ask any more questions regarding the matter. Instead he leant casually against the wall and surveyed Miss Lorne, she repeatedly glanced up at him then looked away as if she were looking at a bright light.
“If you are not enjoying yourself tonight, why do you not leave? I’m sure you have been here a long enough period of time to not be seen as slighting Lady Cardarish if you were to take your leave now.”
“Indeed, I wish I could jump into my carriage and be away but alas I am at my sisters dispense. She is here and enjoying herself very much despite the infernal crowds. I must wait to escort her home.”
“I see.” Evelyn smiled a little flicker of her mouth that brought a dimple to her cheek “I am very concerned myself for when my own younger sister comes out. She is but sixteen but my father plans for her to come into society very soon. I worry that I will not be able to look after her well being half as well as I do now.”
“I’m sure your sister will follow your good example when it comes to handling herself at events such as this. You yourself are very young, are you not to be out in company?”
“I am older than some of the other young ladies here tonight” Evelyn spoke with a hint of dignity entering her tone “Mrs Beecham has been married a full year and she is only seventeen.”
“I beg your pardon Miss Lorne, I did not mean to offend you. I merely meant to enquire after your age? If it is not too bold to do so?”
“I am nineteen sir, and may I ask your own?”
Dorian chuckled at her throwing the question back at him.
“I am seven and twenty.”
“Oh! I thought…” Evelyn halted in her surprise and her complexion darkened.
“I…I just thought you were…slightly older than that.” she mumbled and looked very uneasy, Dorian found himself enjoying her embarrassment, attempting to keep a hold of his laughter he said,
“How old did you believe me to be, and indeed, am I that haggard in my looks that you are so shocked to find me still in my youth?”
“Sir…I did not mean…”
“What did you not mean?”
“You are not haggard sir…I merely meant that you have such an authority, an air, I’ve seen it before, people follow your orders without delay or question, I thought that control only came with time.”
“So you were not referring to my poor appearance?”
“Oh no Sir…please do not think I meant…not at all Sir.” As Evelyn stuttered in her apologies Dorian found that he was enjoying this and he smiled down at her.
“You don’t think I’m hideous then.”
“Sir, you know you’re a handsome man I’m sure.”
“So you find me handsome Miss Lorne?”
Now she looked utterly uncomfortable, she shifted slightly and refused to meet his gaze. She bore none of the signs of usual flirtation and appeared to be unable to handle the situation.
“You know that yourself Mr Kellett,” she murmured uneasily.
“I know no such thing, but I’m glad to hear your opinion on the matter.” Dorian couldn’t keep the smile off his face, he was flirting with her and she was becoming increasingly embarrassed. Unable to contain himself any longer Dorian coughed on a chuckle and Evelyn’s head shot up and she finally met his gaze with a piercing one of her own. She knew now that he was toying with her, and was not happy with the revelation.
“I do not believe you need my good opinion Sir.” she said a little snappishly
“But you give it so beautifully in your clumsy explanations, you try to repair the damage you think you’ve done by mistaking my age and meanwhile give away that you find me handsome.” Dorian outwitted her
Evelyn frowned up at him, she was clearly annoyed by his toying with her emotions.
“You have many other women who would fall at your feet and shower you with compliments Mr Kellett, ladies who would like nothing more than to hang on your every idle word and praise your sickly coloured cravat and brash jewels.” she said hotly eying up his rings and jewelled pin with distaste “However I am not one of those ladies and I would thank you not think that I am”
Dorian was surprised at her sudden confidence and keen ability to insult him and found himself feeling a little ashamed of embarrassing her. She was not so much the demure flower she had no doubt been brought up to be, she had a much more passionate character.
“I do not believe you are one of those ladies Miss Lorne. You are far too good and precious to sink to such low methods to win my favour.” Dorian saw her expression soften a little at his compliment but she endeavoured to retain a stony persona towards him and he could see that she was uncertain as to whether he were still teasing her.
“Your favour, is not something I wish to have Sir. Now if you will excuse me I must rejoin my mother in the ballroom, I expect we will be leaving soon. Good night Your Grace.” She swept into a curtsey, an elegant movement that was graceful and without the sly tricks of Miss Fetler.
Dorian followed Evelyn to the door and opened it for her.
“Good night Miss Lorne.”
Once she had left Dorian returned to the window and tried to get her image out of his head, she was very beautiful, but there was something about Evelyn Lorne that intrigued him, he had never felt such a powerful pull to a woman before. What she had said about Mr Randell had concerned him. It wouldn’t be surprising if her father had planned a match for her, but it would be a terrible shame if a wonder like Evelyn Lorne was stolen by a worm like Vincent Randell. He hoped that she was mistaken and Mr Randell would pass by without effecting her life very much. It was nothing to do with Dorian anyway, why should he care who she was married to, but even as Dorian thought this, the sinking feeling of dread that settled in his stomach contradicted him.
* * *
Evelyn stood next to her sister in front of their bedroom mirror and they smiled at each other. This masquerade ball had been much talked of by all of their acquaintance and they were eager to be off. Sophia was Queen of the day whereas Evy was Queen of the night.
“I’m so excited Evy” Sophia announced as she pulled on her gloves. “I hope I get asked to dance. It would be for shame if I were to sit all night and never once have a partner.”
Evelyn laughed at her sisters worries, she had no need of them, Sophia was a very pretty girl and would not fail to attract attention. That was what worried Evelyn the most, keeping her sister from the seductive glare of renowned scoundrels. Tonight was only Sophia’s second ball.
“Pray do not agonize yourself sister, you will be much admired and sought after I’m sure.”
“Like you, I hope.” Sophia giggled “That evening at Mrs Barn’s house, I could not turn around without seeing some gentleman or other after your attention” Sophia spoke gleefully but Evy only laughed and shook her head. “Truly sister, you are too modest.” Sophia persisted. Hearing their mothers call the two girls rushed from their bedroom and hurried down the stairs.
The two sisters walked into the large room together, they were ambushed immediately by a swirl of colour and people in masks. No one was recognisable. Sophia had dressed in a white gown with tiny blue Forget-me-nots embroidered on the lace whereas Evelyn, being her opposite had wore a tight corset piece, laced with blood red ribbon and decorated with black lace. The skirt of her dress was black silk and her mask covered her eyes and complimented the costume, she certainly looked daring but at occasions like this it was expected to act untoward. Evy had worn her hair down as many of her acquaintance had only seen her with it pinned up. Indeed no one should recognise her, at least hopefully, Mr. Randell should not.
Letting go of Sophia’s arm, Evelyn moved through the crowd but kept a trained eye upon her sister who was engaged in dancing with a gentleman immediately. Evy scanned the large room, as she walked around it, her identity hidden behind her mask, it occurred to her after a short while, that she was looking for a particular person. Dorian Kellett should be here tonight, but if she would recognise him in this swarm of disguise she could not say. Then a hand pressed into her back as a man softly said behind her
“Would you care to dance?”
Evelyn did not want to abandon her search for Mr Kellett but she agreed to dance in the hope of enquiring if this gentleman knew how Mr Kellett was dressed.
The man led her to the open space for dancing and she saw that his mask concealed the majority of his face, leaving only the colour of his eyes and mouth visible. As they danced the man enquired after her name and Evy bit back a gasp as she recognised Dorian’s voice. Her breath caught at the realisation that she had found him and how handsome he looked even with a mask covering his face. Dorian wore a loose white shirt, a royal blue coat with golden buttons and cream breeches tucked into knee boots. Evelyn knew that she could quite happily look at him for the rest of her life, he was the most handsome man she had ever seen and she wasn’t alone in her feelings. Whenever she had seen Mr Kellett, women had been drooling in his wake. Even the mature married ladies, usually full of good sense, turned weak at the knees with his easy charm.
Evelyn knew him but he did not recognise her. Beneath her mask she could be anyone.
“My name sir, is a mystery, I would be breaking the rules of tonight’s game if I were to tell you my identity.”
“Indeed you are right. How careless of me.”
“How do you find the music tonight sir? I understand the Miss Oliveton is performing now, has she not a delightful voice?”
“Very pretty,” he agreed, “although I must say, my ears have heard a much sweeter voice.”
“Perhaps she is of your acquaintance, have you heard Miss Lorne at the piano forte?”
Evelyn was so startled at his remark that she lost her footing and Dorian’s arms came out to steady her. His touch set her whole body on flames.
“I’m afraid I have not sir” Evy replied as innocently as possible.
“She sings passionately.” Dorian remarked.
“You speak fondly of the lady?”
“Yes. She appears to be perfect in every way. I daresay I like her very much.”
“Then pray why do you not find her out this evening and tell Miss Lorne from your own lips, of your good opinion?”
“I fear she would not welcome my praise.” Dorian murmured his eyes piercing into Evelyn’s.
“Oh sir, I’m sure you are wrong. I myself have seen you without your mask and find the result very agreeable.” said Evy boldly. Being hidden as she was Evelyn felt confident to flirt with Mr Kellett, whatever she might say tonight, he would never know that it was Miss Lorne who spoke.
“Thank you Madame” he said quietly. He looked down at Evelyn Lorne and could barely contain his grin. Her disguise was good but not good enough to fool him, he had known her instantly. Despite the erotic bodice that she wore and her long black hair falling in a silky curtain down her back. He knew this was the shy, subtle Miss Lorne who he had frequently dreamt about of late. “May I say Madame that your own costume is by far the most beautiful that I have seen tonight. The ribbons on your bodice give much for a man to think about.” Dorian said, his voice low as his eyes wandered to the considerable amount of cleavage that she possessed. He watched as she blushed and dropped her gaze, long dark lashes fanning out outside the confinements of her eye mask. Dorian smiled at her blushes. He was not vain enough himself to wish for admiration but the way she had complimented him had given him a burst of pleasure. He had never before cared for what the other sex thought about his looks. Until now.
“Your skin looks so soft, I wonder if it would be like the silk of your gown to touch.”
Evelyn looked up at him, a little surprised.
“Mr Kellett, you are a scoundrel to talk so.” Despite her words, Evelyn’s eyes were full of mischief and daring that set Dorian’s heart thumping.
“And you are a minx for looking up at me in such a way that sets my skin alight”
“Oh” Evelyn’s sigh of surprise was sensual in all her plain innocence and when she looked up Dorian could see the desire in her eyes. Stark and undisguised, her gaze roamed over his face until finally resting on his mouth, Dorian was entranced by her. They now stood stationary, the dance having come to an end, but made no attempt to move away from each other. She did not look away from his lips an act that caused his mouth to dry. He slipped his tongue over his bottom lip to moisten it and caught his breath as Evelyn’s eyes widened and darkened.
Dorian’s attraction to her intensified inexorably as he realised that she may desire him as much as he did her.
“You are quiet Madame? What are you thinking may I ask?”
She did not hesitate in her answer, looking up at him under her lashes she said
“I was wondering if your lips would be soft.”
“You have been wondering how my lips feel?”
“Yes” Evelyn’s cheeks flushed but her gaze remained steady on his.
“If I were to kiss you?” he asked. She didn’t answer and Dorian continued in a murmur, “you want me to kiss you?”
Evelyn felt that while hidden behind her costume she could flirt with him without shame, and she replied with a simple breathless.
Dorian smiled and knowing he was unable to keep control of himself if this scandalous banter continued, looked for a distraction. Seeing his sister, centre of attention in a crowd just behind Evelyn, he waved his hand and beckoned her over. His sister Louisa, wore a mask that only covered one eye and half of her forehead and a blonde wig fell to her knees. She had come as Rapunzel tonight and many men were trying to prove themselves as her prince. Pushing his brotherly concerns to one side he took Louisa’s hand and pulled her gently into Evelyn’s view.
“May I present my younger sister to you,” he said as both ladies bobbed curtseys “Louisa this is Miss Evelyn Lorne.”
Evelyn almost stumbled back at the Dukes introduction. He knew her. Despite her costume, and he had acted as though he did not recognise her at all. What a brute! Evelyn thought and then inwardly twisted in horror as she thought of all the flirtatious things that she had said to him, believing she was safe in her unknown identity. Keeping herself composed as her governess had taught her Evelyn engaged Miss Kellett in conversation, complimenting her gown and gloves and ignoring Dorian altogether.
“Please do call me Evy.”
“And I am Louisa, good evening.”
After a few minutes Evelyn found that she liked Louisa very much. She was an educated, lively young lady of seventeen and Evelyn enjoyed her company a great deal. Dorian had shrank back slightly the past five minutes or so but he came forward now and touched Evelyn’s elbow. Louisa excused herself in favour of dancing with a man who had come to claim her hand and Dorian took Evelyn’s arm.
“It is hot in here. Let us take a turn outside.” he said in her ear and before Evy could refuse he steered her out of the room and into the gardens. Once they were out of earshot of the other few guests who were outside Evelyn tugged her arm free and faced him, a fierce look in her eyes beneath the mask.
“You knew me! All that time and you led me to believe you had no idea who I was.”
“Ah but Miss Lorne, you were deceitful yourself, refusing to give me your name even when I mentioned Miss Lorne to be an accomplished musician.” Dorian smiled wickedly and saw Evelyn’s shyness return as she grew ashamed at her previous behaviour. Was it possible she had not identified herself because she wanted the opportunity of flirting with him without compromising herself? Dorian wondered hopefully.
“Why did you not tell me who you were?” Dorian asked. They had strayed further from the house than the other guests and were verging on needing a chaperon to make this meeting respectable, but still they wandered further. Instead of answering Evy kept her eyes cast down and shot a question at him.
“Why did you not tell me that you recognised me sir?”
Dorian decided that he ought to be honest.
“Because I wanted to know what you thought of me, and I succeeded in discovering that you want me to kiss you.” he answered daringly.
Evy’s head shot up and that previous lustful look returned to her face for a moment.
“I…did not…” she stuttered and looked away embarrassed
“Yes?” Dorian urged her.
“I did not know that you knew me” she mumbled.
“But you were speaking the truth? You want me to kiss you?”
“Sir I…I must go” Genevieve began to run off but Dorian caught her arm and gently pulled her back so that she was close to him. He couldn’t explain this undeniable need but he didn’t want to let her go.
“My lady please, do not run away.” Dorian spoke softly and loosened his grip on her arms, gently stroking his fingers up and down her forearms though the fine silk of her gloves.
Evy’s eyes lit up at his touch but she looked weary, she was a lady after all, not a common chit who was used to being alone with men. Evelyn looked up at him, her eyes were fathomless, a brilliant olive green. Dorian cursed the mask that she wore, it prevented him from appreciating the full beauty of her face, he wanted to rip it off. He wanted to rip off her whole gown. The tempting rise of her breasts with every breath that she took, was driving him crazy with longing.
“You must be hot in that mask, please will you permit me to remove it?”
She began to shake her head but then consented since he knew who she was any way. Turning her back to him Evelyn bent her head and Dorian lifted up the curtain of her wavy dark hair, he undid her mask and pocketed it before brushing her hair across her shoulder and gently running his finger tips over the back of her neck. He heard her gasp of surprise and she span around quickly. Seeing her face devoid of the mask took Dorian’s breath away. She really was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and yet she was so young. Reaching up Dorian took off his own mask.
“Sir, I really must return to the party,” her voice was a whisper. “We have come so far from the house.”
Dorian detected the shiver in her words and realised that he intimidated her.
“Do not fear me Miss Lorne, if you wish to return to the house I will of course escort you back.”
“I am not afraid sir.”
They were speaking in low voices that increased the intimacy between them and Dorian felt his temperature rising. His curly hair fell down into his eyes but before he could brush it aside Evelyn’s hand came up and pushed the locks back herself. Her hand was warm and soft on his skin and Dorian took a sharp intake of breath. Evelyn seemed entranced herself, as she moved her hand away Dorian caught it and moved it back to the side of his head where he slipped it into his hair. Evy didn’t pull away, she ran her fingers through his hair and Dorian felt himself harden.
His body was demanding that he take her in his arms and have her. Now! Oh how he wanted it. Dorian forced himself to repress his urges. He was not a savage. He was a gentleman, and Miss Lorne was not a whore, she was innocent, a virgin, and she was young enough to be seduced by him without being at much fault herself. He must stop this now before she saw how much her light caress had aroused him. Moving away from her he cleared his throat and said “I think it is time we returned to the house.” Silently Evelyn walked back with him, not taking his arm but walking a good two feet away. Once they entered the house, Evelyn’s father and sister found her out and said they were preparing to leave. Catching sight of Dorian, Mr Lorne came forward and issued an extravagant bow.
“An honour my lord.”
As Mr Lorne and his younger daughter moved away to collect their coats, Dorian caught Evelyn’s hand. Bringing it to his lips he pressed a kiss upon her knuckles.
“A pleasure seeing you again Miss Lorne, as always.”
Dorian saw Evelyn’s sister eyeing him with suspicion and he turned away and quickly left the room. Evelyn stared after him. His kiss had been quick and light but her fingers tingled from it.
“Evy, where’s your mask?” Sophia asked and Evelyn realised with a start that Mr Kellett had kept it, and taken it away in his pocket.
On the journey home to their house Evelyn thought about the nights events. Inexperienced as she was when it came to men, Evy was sure that she had seen desire in the Duke’s eyes. The way he had pressed her hand to his head, as if he could not bear to be without her touch, and she had told him that she wanted to kiss him! Evy wasn’t sure what the Duke was thinking or feeling but one thing she was sure of, was that whatever was going on between herself and Dorian Kellett, had only just begun.
“And the horse was so much trouble I found it better to sell him, I confess I have never had the way with horses as some men have.”
Evelyn half listened to Mr Randell drone on and on with meaningless chit chat. She was sure her father had hinted to Mr Grove that Mr Randell was her soon to be intended and was confident that was the only reason why Mr Grove had included Mr Randell in the invitation to his house. Hopefully the men would go out shooting soon and she could escape from him. The Groves eldest daughter, Charlotte stood up and excused herself from the parlour, hearing one of the maids causing a fuss outside and left Evy with Mr Randell and Mrs Ward. Mrs Ward was half blind, half deaf and snoozing away in her chair, making her a poor chaperon. It seemed that Mr Randell thought so too and took advantage. Grasping Evy’s hand in both of his own he said heatedly “My dear Miss Lorne, I must take this moment to tell you that I think you look utterly splendid this afternoon.”
Evy practically recoiled, she could not say the same for him she was afraid. Mr Randell was not a good looking man, but he also had no other qualities to recommend him. His spindly fingers were bony and cold against her own flesh, his piggy little eyes roaming over her and Evy knew she must remove herself from the room before she became ill. Jumping up she declared
“Mr Randell, I do beg your pardon but I must see if Charlotte needs my assistance, do excuse me.” Evy rushed from the room and ran down the corridor certain that he would try to follow her, any moment left alone with him was an opportunity for his weak attempts at courtship to be excited or worse, for him to propose! And she really couldn’t stand another minute with him.
Evy entered the library and shutting the door, leant against it, her breathing uneven from running. She kept her eyes closed and pressed her ear to the door in case Mr. Randell should have seen which direction she had turned. Hearing no sound outside Evelyn sighed in relief, finally she had some privacy.
“A’ hem.” Evy jumped as someone coughed behind her, spinning round she watched as a tall figure emerged from the shadows. “Hello Miss Lorne.” Dorian Kellett smiled at her, amusement swimming in his eyes. “From the way you entered this room I’d say you were hiding from something, or someone?” There was a chuckle in his voice as he regarded her. Evelyn had not seen Mr Kellett since the night of the masquerade and was startled to see him here at Charlotte Groves house.
“You are correct sir, I have not had a peaceful moment all day…” just then Evelyn heard Mr Randell calling her name, he was close, surely he would check the library. Seeing an alcove hidden by a floor length curtain Evelyn rushed to it. “Please don’t give me away,” she begged before hiding behind the curtain. The library door opened and Evelyn heard Mr Randell speak.
“Oh, good day my lord. You haven’t seen Miss Lorne have you?”
Evy held her breath.
“No sir, I’m afraid I have not. Have you looked in the gardens?”
“Ahhh, good idea! I’ll do just that.”
Evelyn exhaled the breath she had been holding as the door shut and she heard Dorian say
Dorian tried not to lose himself in the gratitude in Evelyn’s eyes as she emerged from behind the curtain, it would be so easy to forget himself and his place again, now that they were alone once more. It did look as though Mr Randell’s intentions towards her were marriage. If her father had put this in place it was unpreventable no matter how much Evelyn hid away from the stupid man, however he had seen the desperation in her eyes and the slight degree of fear, here was a woman who knew her fate, and was very unhappy with it.
“I did not know you were here Mr Kellett” said Evelyn stepping forward.
“Mr Grove invited me for an afternoon of shooting.” Dorian replied taking in her pinned up hair. Wearing it up showed off her neck and collarbone but down it had made her look wild and carefree, Dorian found himself liking her hair better when it was down.
“Mr Grove is very agreeable, his daughter Charlotte is my good friend. She is a very accomplished artist.”
“Yes, so her parents keep reminding me, amongst praising her other talents.” said Dorian ruefully and Evelyn bent her head, but Dorian saw the deep dimples of her smile. “If you are such good friends with Miss Grove, you will also know that her family are trying to ensnare me.” He went on. Evelyn laughed, that rich wonderful sound, nothing like the irritating tinkling of the other ladies he knew.
“Sir, you should not speak so” she said and pressed her lips together to prevent giggling at the image of Dorian being dragged by the ankle to the church by Charlotte.
“But it is true.” he argued.
Evelyn smiled up at him and Dorian once again felt the need to hold her, kiss her. Dorian looked away from her face, certain that she would see the lust he had for her in his eyes. In an attempt to distract himself from his treacherous thoughts Dorian asked
“How did you find my sister when I introduced you?”
“Oh very much. I enjoyed her company” Evelyn answered happily.
“I’m glad. Though seldom do I find anyone who does not like my sister once they are acquainted.”
“You dote on your sister then?”
“Yes. I spoil her” Dorian admitted. “She was the apple of my fathers eye and he charged me with her wellbeing when she came out.”
“That must be a tiresome occupation?”
“You seem to have managed very well with your own sister.” Dorian observed.
“Ah but sir, I am a woman and therefore choosing gloves and attending social events is required in my nature. Whereas you I am sure, find such things tedious?”
“Only when there are no pretty young ladies to make my troubles worth while.” Dorian saw Evelyn’s eyes spark and was sure she was remembering their time in the garden, at the ball. Indeed it had been all Dorian could think about these past few weeks. He had kept her mask, but he couldn’t explain why, he had taken it out of his pocket and thought about her before tucking it inside a wooden box on his desk. Despite vowing to himself to stay at a respectable distance from Miss Lorne, Dorian found himself moving closer to her side. “We never did finish our discussion in the garden.”
“Regarding you wishing me to kiss you.” Dorian said slyly. His words had the effect Dorian wanted, Evelyn looked away, her cheeks blushing
“Are you still wondering if my lips are soft?” he asked lowering his voice and stepping closer to her. Evelyn didn’t answer, nor look at him and Dorian waited. One kiss was all he wanted. Just to know how she would feel against him. What could be the harm in one kiss? he thought.
“Are you still wishing for me to kiss you? You betrayed your thoughts once before, you must be honest with me now.” he persisted and still he waited, a simple step away from her. Then he heard it. A mere whisper barely audible.
It was enough. Dorian closed the gap between them and slipped his arm around her waist. Startled Evelyn looked up wide eyed, her lips slightly parted in surprise. Dorian took advantage of her shock to bring his mouth down to hers. The first touch of their lips was tender and lasted but a moment before Dorian slipped a hand into her hair loosening the pins there and brought his mouth back to hers. He felt her surprise before she melted into his embrace. She returned his kiss with an uncertain tenderness and her hands slowly and gently rested on his chest, feeling his thumping heart beneath. When Dorian touched his tongue to her lips he heard her sigh and he tilted her head back to that he had better access to deepen the kiss and devour her mouth. Slipping his tongue past the barrier of her lips he could not prevent himself from groaning, she tasted and felt so good, he was aching for her. Evelyn’s soft sighs fused the fire in him and Dorian felt lost in the pleasure of her lips. He broke away first but held her face in his hands, breathing heavily.
Evelyn looked up at him, her eyes hazy with desire, her mouth was pouting and had turned a deep pink colour from the pressure of his own.
“Mr Kellett?” she chocked in wonder.
“Please call me Dorian. I want to hear my name on your lips.” Dorian murmured, his voice husky, he surprised himself by his words but when Evelyn whispered his name he felt his groin heat even more and he whispered “Again”
“Dorian.” Evelyn sighed it and Dorian moved in to kiss her again when a loud bang from outside made them jump apart. One of the servants had dropped something. Then Dorian heard Mr Grove searching for him. It was time for the gentlemen to go hunting. With a longing glance back at Evelyn, Dorian left the library his fingers shaking ever so slightly.
The next three weeks were torture for Dorian. One kiss. That was what he’d told himself, that was what he’d had. He had thought it could do no harm, how wrong he was. Dorian had found since that day in the library that one kiss wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.
Lying in bed Dorian looked up at the ceiling cursing his inability to sleep. When he heard the door creak open. Turning his head he watched in amazement as Evelyn Lorne entered his bed chamber. She silently came to the side of his bed dressed in a white shift and put her finger to her lips bidding him to be quiet. Then she slipped into bed with him and hooked her leg over his hips, straddling him. Dorian gasped as he ran his hands over her hips.
Waking up from the dream Dorian restrained himself from weeping into his pillow with lust. He had these insufferable dreams so often now he could barely stand it. Dorian was ashamed of himself, why should this woman create such a reaction in him? Dorian had remained celibate for over two years now, partly because he did not want any news of his being a scandalous seducer reaching his sister and giving her a bad example and partly because no woman had he met of late whom he truly desired. Until Miss Lorne. Confound it, he could not get Evelyn out of his head. Dorian sat up in his bed and sighed. He had considered breaking his vow and visiting one of the whore houses of London but it wasn’t a paid harlot that he wanted. He wanted Evelyn Lorne, beneath him, warming his bed, those long legs wrapped around his hips. Shaking his head, Dorian sank back into his pillows. He had to forget the woman. He would forget her.
While Dorian was cursing his attraction to Miss Lorne and trying to forget her, Evelyn herself was having no trouble in forgetting him, she had more distressing matters to occupy her mind. Not a week after her wonderful meeting with the Duke, Evelyn’s father approached her with the news she had feared she would receive.
“Mr Randell of Dashby Hall in York has requested your hand in marriage.”
“He has not asked me.” Evelyn replied, dread filling her stomach
“It was unnecessary. We have been planning the match for quite some time.”
“And am I to have no say in the matter?”
“What say have you got to have? You would not refuse him.” Mr Lorne replied barely looking her way as he shuffled papers on his desk.
“Father please, I cannot marry Mr Randell. I beg you…I cannot…”
“Enough!” he cried “You will marry Mr Randell and fulfil your duty to your family. Do not be ungrateful girl! It’s good of Mr Randell to want you, I’ve had numerous offers for your hand before now and his is clearly the most agreeable match.”
“It is settled!” he roared and Evelyn knew by her mothers face that there was no use in appealing to her. Evelyn retired to her room where she proceeded to weep uncontrollably into her pillow until Sophia came in.
“Dearest?” she said softly, sitting by her and stroking her hair in a childish, tender way. “Don’t cry. Is it really so bad?”
Evelyn sat up and looked at her precious young sister. How could she look out for her when she was carted off to York?
“Oh Soph, I’m to marry Mr Randell.” Evelyn sobbed. Sophia tried to hide her look of disgust but Evelyn saw it. “Oh god I can’t bear it!” Evelyn exclaimed “to be condemned to a life with that…that parasite!”
“Oh Evy, I’m so sorry. Is there nothing that will sway father from his decision?”
“No. Nothing. I must do as he bids me. We women have no say.” Evelyn muttered bitterly “And once father relinquishes his hold over me, I shall be condemned to follow the orders of Mr Randell.”
Sophia looked thoughtful for a while.
“What about the Duke you spoke of? Could he not be after your hand? A Duke is far better than a mere gentleman.”
“Oh Soph, you are mistaken. The Duke of Len Bourne has no interest to marry me. No what he felt was a passing folly I believe. Needless to say he has had enough opportunities to prove otherwise and he has not.” Evelyn said her own words hurting her more than she would like to admit. Sophia nodded her eyes shadowed with sadness.
“I suppose that once you are married and settled I shall be next. At least while you were still single I need not have worried of whom father will give me to.” The two sisters looked at each other and in all their sadness and fear for each others futures, cried together.
Dorian read through the invitation once more. Another ball with Lady Cardarish. He had meant to refuse the invitation but then thinking that the crowds and heat would be worth the suffering if Miss Lorne was present, especially if he could steal a few private moments with her, he had charged his servant to find out if the Lorne household were to attend the party. Lord help him, despite all efforts he could not forget her. From the dark waves of her hair, to her shy manners Dorian had never felt so drawn to a woman before.
His man returned and sought him out.
“Ah Rogers, you’re back, what news do you bring?” Dorian asked him.
“Your Grace, the Lorne family are not to attend sir. They have quit London in favour of their daughter’s marriage”
Dorian felt a sudden knot rope around his stomach.
“Marriage?” he exclaimed
“Yes sir, I have it on good authority that Miss Evelyn Lorne is to be married to a Mr Randell. The wedding is to take place a week Monday and the couple will travel directly to his estate in York.”
Dorian felt his insides twist painfully and he turned away from Rogers. He was unexplainably distressed by this news. Evelyn was to marry that worm after all. She wouldn’t have had a say in the matter. Dorian shook away the dread he felt and refused to contemplate what it was. He felt sorry for the fate that was before Miss Lorne and that was all. There was nothing he could do. Perhaps marriage and motherhood would suit her well. Perhaps she would adjust to her new life, and he would have to adjust to his without her and her blazing kisses.
Three weeks later, Dorian entered the drawing room and was greeted heartily by the majority of men there. Mr Rodes, an old friend of the family immediately invited him to join them at a game of cards. All the women of the house were tucked up in bed and the brandy was flowing liberally, the boisterous banter of men filling the smoke filled room. Dorian then caught sight of the table and seated directly opposite the seat Mr Rodes had indicated was none other than Vincent Randell. What was he doing here? He had been married no more than a fortnight he should be at home with his wife, not gambling away their ever decreasing fortune. Dorian took the seat and eyed Randell with dislike and envy. Perhaps he could use Randell’s gambling problem to his advantage. Dorian was a good card player, he had the money to spare if he lost whereas with Randell there was only so far he could go before he turned desperate.
Dorian was right. Before long the card game had turned very intense, the more he put in the pot the more Randell put in, soon Randell had lost so much, some of the other men advised him to pull out of the game but he wouldn’t hear of it, just as Dorian had hoped. Dorian played and won, then lost then won it all back again, eventually only him and Randell were left playing and Dorian knew that Randell had nothing left. He was throwing vouchers onto the table to supplement his wandering money supply. He was playing with thin air. If Dorian won this last turn of cards Randell wouldn’t be able to pay him. He would be more than deeply in the Duke’s debt.
“Okay gentlemen, cards up.”
Everyone was watching unblinking, everyone was hanging on this game wondering what the outcome would be, most of them already knowing. Dorian could see Randell was hot under the collar, fear in his eyes. He couldn’t afford to lose to a man like the Duke of Len Bourne. Randell turned his cards and Dorian smiled, a slow menacing smile of a man who had won.
“No. No. No” Randell’s colour drained from his face “I…I haven’t…I can’t.” he stuttered and blanched. It is a pitiful thing to see a man so deeply consumed by something, and with nothing left, that he knows himself that he must beg. “I haven’t got the money.” Mr Randell said, and a few of the men began murmuring amongst themselves “I…I have horses…you can have my horses” Randell began stuttering
“Horses are of no value to me” Dorian said in a cold tone, the authoritative air that Evelyn had spoken of rising up.
“I have land, part of my estate”
“I already have an estate larger than yours in Derbyshire.”
“I have nothing else to give you!” he cried his eyes resembled those of a mouse in front of a cat. “What do you want? I’ll give you anything you want!” Randell declared desperately. Dorian felt the eyes of every man in the room on him, wondering what he would settle for. He would be called a scandalous rake for this but he didn’t care. He leant back in his chair and surveyed Randell with contempt wondering what his reaction would be.
Dorian spoke calmly and slowly
“I want your wife”
The silence was errie for a long moment before Randell staring at him murmured.
“Your wife Randell.” Dorian repeated “I will consider the debt paid if you give me your wife.”
One of the men present, a Mr Edward Lucas, intervened here.
“Come now Kellett! You can’t be serious?”
“I am serious.” Dorian didn’t take his eyes off Randell as he spoke “Are you acquainted with Mrs Randell, Edward?”
“Well…yes to some degree.”
“Then you should understand my proposition, as would any red blooded male who set eyes on her.” Dorian saw the flickers of some of the young men’s smiles from the corner of his eye and knew they were silently agreeing with him. “So Randell, I will forget every penny you have put in the pot, under the condition that you give me your wife. She will no longer belong to you…”
“Kellett! This is absurd, you can’t…”
“Stay out of this Lucas! It’s none of your concern.” Dorian shot at him furiously and the man fell silent. “She will be in my possession and come and live with me at Len Bourne to do whatever I wish her to.”
Dorian waited, picking up his glass he swirled the brandy around before taking a deep sip. He could see Randall’s mind ticking it over, Dorian could tell he wasn’t considering saying no. He was wondering about the disadvantages of such an agreement.
“Vincent, you’re not considering this?” Mr Lucas sounded appalled that a gentleman should consider such an arrangement, especially without even consulting his wife about it.
“Well?” said Dorian looking up at Randell.
“Excellent!” Dorian exclaimed delighted. He downed the rest of his drink and shrugged into his coat ignoring the stares of everyone in the room he said to Randell.
“I’ll expect Evelyn to be ready with her belongings on Wednesday afternoon. I’ll set out after you, that should give you the two days travelling and an hour or so to relate tonight’s events to her. Ensure she is ready to leave, I will be arriving in my carriage at one O’clock.” Dorian then turned and addressed the room. “A splendid evening gentlemen, thank you.” He left the room feeling happier and more triumphant than he had in months.
“You are to leave here Mrs Randell.”
Evelyn didn’t understand. Vincent stood in the parlour, his hands clasped together. He had only arrived a few minutes ago.
“What do you mean?”
Mr Randell clasped his bony hands together not meeting Evy’s gaze.
“The other night I lost rather badly in a few games of cards.” he began to explain “I lost much more than I could afford and were therefore forced to compensate my losses by exchanging the money for you.”
Evelyn couldn’t believe her ears. She didn’t care for Vincent Randell and she had thought life could get no worse for her but to hear that he had betted her away like a common coin was unbelievable.
“You betted me?” she exclaimed
“You were the only thing the man would except. I had no choice.” Mr Randell argued.
“So you betted me away.” Evelyn repeated in utter shock “To whom?” she demanded. Evelyn couldn’t believe a gentleman of good character could have arranged this.
“Dorian Kellett, the duke of Len Bourne. He will be here within the hour to collect you.”
Evelyn couldn’t believe it. Dorian Kellett had done this, why? His intentions couldn’t be honourable. What did he mean to do with her? Then she remembered that day in the library and how she had fell into his arms without much thought. Evelyn shuddered wondering what was waiting for her at Len Bourne.
Evelyn waited with her trunks outside the house. She couldn’t stand waiting inside, it wasn’t her house despite now being known as mistress there. A large emerald green coach approached pulled by brilliant black horses, Evelyn felt as though this was her ride to the gallows or even yet to Hell, and when the carriage stopped, out climbed the devil himself. Dorian looked every inch the handsome, rich Duke that he was. Stepping out of his well furnished carriage in his expensive clothes with a look a triumph on his face and at that moment Evelyn felt a surging hatred towards him. This man had bought her, in a disgusting game of gambling. He had even less consideration and respect for her than her father had shown when forcing her to marry the worm that resided inside the house behind her.
“Mrs Randell, a pleasure.” he said bowing low to her, a seductive smile on his lips. Evelyn would not curtsey to him. He did not deserve the respect, Duke or not. Instead she surveyed him coolly and let her eyes tell him what she thought of him. Mr Randell, on hearing the carriage approach, stepped outside.
“Welcome your Grace, could I interest you in some refreshment before you take your leave?”
“No thank you.” Dorian replied Cordially. “If Mrs Randell is ready we shall leave immediately.” As he spoke the footmen were lifting Evelyn’s trunks onto the carriage roof securing them with rope. Dorian paused before adding a little hesitantly, “I’ll let you say your goodbyes.” he turned away slightly to view the scenery and Evelyn gave a startled, brash laugh. What did he expect, that they would passionately embrace and share a few words of undying love? Heavens, the insect of a man who was her husband had not once even bedded her! Not even on the night of their wedding. She was still as much an inexperienced virgin as she had been at thirteen.
Turning to her husband, Evelyn picked up her hand case and glared at him with a considerable amount of distaste.
“Good bye” she said bluntly and turned towards the carriage. “You will want to write to my parents informing them of the change in my address.” she said over her shoulder. Dorian came to her side, unable to hide a slight smile that played on his face. He held out his hand to help Evelyn into the carriage. Where her hand pressed into his it burnt but she wasn’t going to show it. She kept a stony expression and looked determinedly out of the window as they went away.
Dorian sat opposite Evelyn as the carriage pulled away and observed her hardened features. The look she had thrown at Randall had been enough to douse any mans pride and make him wither at her feet but the look she had given him as she entered the carriage had been so much worse. The journey to Derbyshire was a long one and if Evelyn did not object he planned on travelling the night through. If she was intent on keeping up this cold, silent persona it was going to be a very tedious journey.
“You are not sorry to be leaving York I hope?” Dorian asked lightly, hoping to draw Evelyn’s attention from the window. She did not look at him but replied a simple,
“Have you ever been to Derbyshire before?”
“I can assure you, it’s a very pleasurable place to be.” Dorian said but Evelyn continued to stare out of the window. “I thought we would break and change horses at the Nettle Inn and then proceed to travel through the night if you do not oppose the idea?”
“Not at all.”
“Once we arrive at Len Bourne you will have the run of the house and grounds.” Dorian went on “Anything you may require you need only ask.” he assured her. She didn’t thank him and Dorian began to feel that his attempts at conversation were fruitless, then Evelyn turned towards him and said
“And what will your family think of this scheme? Will their Grace welcome me into their home?”
“I have not explained, I do beg your pardon.” Dorian began “My mother prefers to stay in London since my fathers death, she and my sister have a house there. They will not be at Len Bourne on our arrival.”
“I see” Evelyn replied coldly.
Dorian’s hopes of Evelyn being drawn out of her silence, were dashed as she went back to staring out of the window. There were no shy blushes now, no repetition of the words your Grace as if she were an underling. Mrs Randall’s opinion of him being a great man who demanded respect had clearly changed.
“Did Mr Randall explain our arrangement?” Dorian asked and Evelyn looked back at him with a calculating stare.
“He explained that he gambled beyond his means and therefore I was put on the table, at your request.” she shot her last words at him in accusation and had Dorian a little flustered and uncomfortable in a way no one had made him feel since he were a little boy.
“Yes” he replied trying to keep any shame out of his voice, “and you understand our agreement, that you are no longer under the control of your husband…”
“No! I am now under yours. Mr Randall; did not elaborate further than explaining that I am to live with you at Len Bourne, but I can imagine what position you have in mind and what the role entails. You’re certainly not bringing me to act as kitchen maid!” She said all this very fast and with a deep loathing in her voice that made Dorian squirm in his seat. He wanted to shoot something back at her to defend his honour but what had she said that wasn’t true? It was indeed his plan, and had been from the beginning of his card game, to install Evelyn as his mistress at Len Bourne, with her consent of course. He should never consider forcing a woman into his bed, but her enthusiastic response to his daring kiss, and her prior flirtation had assured him that she was willing and desired him as much as he did her. He wondered now at her reluctance, being married three weeks she couldn’t be a virgin and despite being so young she had a wanton quality about her.
“It is a long journey ma’am, if we keep up this sparse conversation it is going to be an even longer one.” Dorian remarked. Evelyn regarded him frostily but seemed to think he was right, better to have conversation with a brute than none at all. However her choice of topic was not much to his liking.
“What are my duties to be while I am at Len Bourne? Will I need to consult the ladies of the whore house to learn their tricks?” she said sardonically and Dorian flinched at her bluntness. What was the woman about? She had kissed him with passionate abandonment and let her desire show, he had saved her from a loveless, poverty ridden marriage and she was treating him as if he were a loathsome rake who was dragging her, kicking and screaming, to the bedchamber. Evelyn’s cold attitude was biting into him, should she consult the whores! How could she think such things of him? Dorian in all his pent up anger and frustration decided to let her think what she liked. She appeared happy enough to accept him as a heartless villain.
“Your duties will be carried out in my bedchamber” he shot out spitefully and relished at her look of surprise and disgust. “I expect you to be warming up my bed and you will do so without complaint, is that understood?” he said. When she did not answer he barked the question out causing her to jump.
“Is that understood!”
“Yes” she murmured without looking at him.
“Yes sir, if you please Madame. I have won you fairly from the worm of a husband you have and you belong to me now.” Dorian stated unable to hide the delight this notion brought him “I will expect you to treat me with the respect a husband and a Duke of my rank requires.”
“Yes sir” Evelyn’s voice was barely audible and she kept her head bent away from him. Dorian leant forward and taking her chin in his hand tipped her head up gently to meet his eyes.
“You will look at me when speaking, do you understand?”
“Yes sir,” she said looking into his eyes, despite his harsh words, Dorian felt a melting inside of him, a man really could drown in those eyes. He saw a flicker of her past desire light in her face and dropped his hand away as if it had been burnt. So the lust was still there, he thought. He would tap into it and he would take her when she wanted him to and not a moment before.
Evelyn scolded herself for being such a fool. Here was a man who had bought her like a horse and was planning on breaking her like a horse, to take her from a young free creature and turn her into an obedient servant. Yet Dorian only had to touch her and she melted. How could she still desire such a man? But Evelyn knew that she did desire him. A night alone with the duke and her reputation would be ruined, how could she enter back into society after this?
Evelyn knew of some women who played the part of being a rich mans mistress and when the man tired of her he would buy her off. Would Dorian pay her off? How long before he discarded her. A week? A year? Or longer? Could she stand it? Would she be able to bear lying with this man at his command? From her bodies treacherous reactions to the Duke, Evelyn thought she might bear his kisses very well, but she had no prior experience. Would he be angry that she did not know how to please him? Evelyn knew barely anything of men and the relations between man and wife.
They stopped to change horses and Dorian helped Evelyn down from the carriage. As she came down her foot slipped and she tumbled forward but Dorian grabbed her around the waist and held her before setting her feet on the ground. She was breathless from his touch, his face was a whisper away from her own, if she tilted her head back, their lips would almost be touching. Dorian stepped away from her and suddenly took her hand and led her around the side of the carriage.
“Mrs Randall” he whispered “It is improper for us to be travelling alone together, for such a distance, especially if we are to travel through the night. To avoid compromising you we must act as though we are related. Do you consent?” he spoke in hushed tones and Evelyn was very conscience of the fact that he had not released her hand but held it lightly in his own. She could not see the point in lying about their relationship when she was to be his mistress but she agreed. “We will be brother and sister then, for an hour” Dorian smiled and continued, “you must stop this sir business for a time then and call me Dorian, and I shall call you…what shall it be Evelyn or Evy as I once heard your sister call you?”
“Either is fine” she answered.
“Very well.” Dorian held out his arm for her. “Then shall we go in Evy and take some refreshment?” he spoke sweetly and Evelyn took his arm in a sisterly fashion. She might as well play the part well Evy thought.
“Yes brother, I am quite famished.”
Evelyn began to see the advantages of being in company with a Duke as soon as they entered the inn. Once the landlord heard Dorian’s name he was all smiles and eagerness to be a help. They sat at the best little table by a window and servants ran around after them. Once they were seated and eating steak pie, potatoes and warm freshly cooked bread Evelyn leant over slightly and remarked in a low tone “They provide good service here. They seem very eager to please you?”
Speaking even lower Dorian replied.
“Everywhere, people are eager to please when you have a good name and a pocket of money.”
Evy nodded slightly and took a chunk of bread, popping it into her mouth she sighed in contentment.
“Hmmm, I love freshly baked bread, this is still warm.”
Dorian was entranced as he watched her eat, she truly was delectable, and so ill educated in matters of men. Seeing her innocent expression as she broke off another miniscule chunk of bread, Dorian knew that she had no idea how alluring she was. She seemed completely ignorant of her effect on men, indeed she had not turned her head at the lustful stares of the men who were seated in the inn. Suddenly the door opened behind him and Dorian saw Evy’s expression change to one of shock as she stared wide eyed over his shoulder. Turning Dorian saw a woman clad in a rather revealing dress and a painted face. The prostitute entered the room and winked at a couple of men, she was holding scrolls in her arms.
“Anyone to buy a piece of art!” she called and before the landlord could prevent her the woman opened out a scroll and held it up high for all the room to see.
It was a painting in bright colours of a man and woman naked and in the throws of passion. The man had one hand in the woman’s hair and the other on her naked visible breast. Her legs were wrapped around him and her face was in full view, her mouth open in ecstasy.
“Here now, woman. You sell your goods else where. My customers are respectable people.” said the inn keeper. Dorian looked back at Evelyn, she was staring at the painting, unguarded fascination and horror in her expression. He resisted the urge to laugh, she was so young and innocent. The woman clearly knew nothing of such things.
The land lord rushed the harlot out, but Dorian saw one man discreetly rush out after her.
“You look very uneasy Evelyn. I do hope the woman’s goods did not distress you?”
“I…they…I” Evelyn stuttered and faltered and Dorian’s heart skipped a little at her crimson face.
“Have you never seen such a thing before?” he asked
“No” Evelyn went back to eating her pie but her eyes told him that she was thinking about the picture.
“Apart from selling themselves, the women of the night also document some of their experiences in paintings. Despite the landlords talk of respectable people, half the men in here will have a painting similar to that one.”
Evelyn looked up at him.
“Do you have a painting like that?” she asked curiously taking him off guard. Dorian chuckled grinning down at his fork that he held.
“No.” he answered and Evelyn narrowed her eyes at him until he admitted “I did once. When I was still at school, my mother found it in my room and scolded me to the heavens.”
Evelyn smiled but she looked troubled and Dorian wondered what was wrong.
“What are you thinking?”
She hesitated before saying,
“What we saw…in the picture..is it…is that normal? Do such things really happen between men and women?” Dorian smiled at her naivety
“Did your husband not do that?”
At his words Evelyn blushed and looked away, shaking her head. Dorian enjoyed teasing her and he went on.
“Did he not please you?”
Evelyn looked positively scandalised at his words and did not answer. Dorian could imagine for himself that this woman had not experienced a good lover. He would soon change that.
After they had eaten they re-entered the carriage but Dorian sat next to Evelyn rather than take the seat opposite. Sitting like this meant that they were very close and Dorian could feel the warmth of her body next to his.
“When are we expected to arrive?” Evelyn asked, turning towards him and Dorian was struck by how close their faces were but Evelyn was still keeping to herself and although being perfectly respectful was not friendly towards him.
“Some time in the night, ten perhaps eleven O’clock”
“May I write a letter when we arrive?” Evelyn asked.
“Whom do you wish to contact?”
“My sister Sophia, I would like her to hear of my circumstances from myself.” “Of course, I will show you to my study in the morning.” “Thank you” Evelyn replied and Dorian feared that she would become silent again but instead she asked “when did your father die?”
He was surprised but glad of something to talk about.
“More than two years ago. Since then I have managed the estate.” Evelyn simply nodded her head and Dorian asked about her own family
“You appear to be very close to your sister?”
“Yes.” Evelyn confirmed “I have no other siblings and…we…she is the only friend I have in the family.”
“Your parents?” “My parents did not care about forcing me to marry a man who I detested who then proceed to sell me to a man with nothing but money and good looks to recommend him.” Evelyn stated bluntly “They wouldn’t care if I were dead as long as I died in the name of duty to the family.”
“I have more than money and looks to recommend me Madame, as you will soon learn.” Dorian replied hoping it were as true as he believed. He wanted Evelyn to like him for himself. It began to get dark outside and the gentle rocking of the carriage began to make Evelyn’s eyelids droop. She yawned and Dorian could see that she was struggling to stay awake.
“I know it is not ideal to be travelling so late in the night but I permit you to use my shoulder as a head rest if you should like to sleep a little.” Dorian spoke softly and considerately but Evelyn shook her head.
“No thank you sir. I am fi…fi…ne.” her last word came out in a yawn and Dorian chuckled softly. “Please Madame. Anything to make you more comfortable is an honour.” he murmured. Still Evelyn shook her head but a few minutes more and she sleepily dropped her head to his shoulder, and a few moments after that her eyes drifted closed and Dorian shifted slightly so that her head rested on his chest and her body leaned into his. Lifting a hand up he stroked her hair away from her sleeping face and smiled at her.
Evelyn woke to Dorian’s hand shaking her shoulder gently.
“Evelyn? Evelyn wake up.” She opened her eyes, the curtain of the carriage window was drawn but as she sat up, Dorian leant over her and pulled the curtain back. “Welcome, to Len Bourne.” he said. Evelyn gasped as she took in the house, even in the moonlight it was magnificent, two iron brackets were at the entrance, lighting the doorway with crackling fire. The carriage stopped and Dorian helped Evelyn down. In moments they were inside and Dorian was leading her up a large staircase, a candle in his hand. Evelyn was scarcely conscience of the turns they made and the doors they passed until Dorian opened one and led her through it.
Leaving Evelyn at the doorway, Dorian proceeded to light more candles to illuminate the room. When he had finished he came behind her and took the cape she wore from her shoulders. The room was huge with two very large oak desks, and shelves of books. There was a little iron grate for a fire and a thick rug lay in front it. Evelyn was surprised that the room wasn’t a bedroom. Evelyn felt a bundle of nervous fluttering erupt in her stomach as Dorian shed his own coat and discarded it before coming to her.
“I have informed my servants that you will be residing here and they will be ready to do your bidding.” Dorian said as Evelyn walked across the room to look out of the window. She shivered and rubbed her arms, Dorian came behind her and ran his own hands up her bare arms intending to warm her. Evelyn breathed deeply pressing her lips together and tried to keep a control of her emotions. Evelyn felt that she had coped fairly well with the situation, first that her father had put her in with the marriage and then what her husband had arranged for her. Now that she was here, in the Dukes house, in a dimly lit room with him the enormity of what she was here for hit her and as Dorian placed a kiss to her shoulder and then to the nape of her neck, Evelyn could not contain her feelings anymore and she burst into tears.
Dorian was more than shocked as he heard Evelyn’s broken sob. He stilled his hands and turned her around to face him. Her head was bent but he could see by the candlelight that tears were running down her cheeks. Dorian’s insides knotted and he wanted to hold her and kiss her tears away.
“Evelyn, please, do not cry” he pleaded but she wept more and Dorian saw that she was shaking from head to foot. He brought his hand up intending to wipe the tears off her face but Evelyn flinched and Dorian recoiled, realisation smacking into him. She was afraid of him. Her tears were the startling example of it. “Oh Evelyn. Please don’t fear me. I promise you, while you are here no harm shall come to you. I didn’t mean to frighten you just now. I beg your forgiveness, I got carried away. I meant only to warm you.”
Evelyn looked up at him, her beautiful face bathed in orange light. “I never meant to scare you. Please don’t cry, I can’t bear it.” Dorian begged, he couldn’t explain it but it pained him to see her so distressed, perhaps it was because she was so young, he felt protective over her.
Dorian spoke softly to her as he would a frightened horse “May I wipe your tears away?” Silently she nodded and Dorian gently took her face in his hands and wiped his thumbs across her cheeks stroking away the moisture there. When she had calmed down Dorian looked into her eyes. “Do not fear me Evelyn. I know I was an awful brute to you on the journey here but only because you would not hear my explanation. I had your husband agree to give you to me because I hoped I was saving you from misery with him. You forget that I witnessed your decided dislike of the man before your marriage. It is true I had thought of having you here simply for my own pleasures but if you are unwilling to submit me to your bed I shall leave you. There is a room prepared for you just two doors from this one.” Dorian pressed a kiss to Evelyn’s forehead and moved away from her. Turning he left the room.
The next morning Dorian waited for Evelyn in the breakfast room and rose to his feet when she entered led by a servant who disappeared at once.
“Good morning.” Dorian said “I hope you slept well?”
“Yes sir, thank you.” Evelyn stood before him and Dorian realised she was waiting for his permission to sit down.
“Please sit, eat, I am sure you are hungry. You need not wait for my orders, treat this house as though it is your own.”
“Thank you sir.” said Evelyn as she sat down.
“You need not call me sir any longer.” Dorian said and Evelyn nodded but said no more and Dorian took the opportunity to take in her appearance. He had charged the maids to carry Evelyn’s trunks to where she slept and wait on her every need. Dorian took in her hair that was up, tied simply with a ribbon and the brown dress that she wore. His eyes took in the absence of jewels and the ragged, faded appearance of her dress and realised that her blue gown that she had worn yesterday and at the ball when he had found her in library, was probably her one and only best. He vowed to himself then that he would purchase her some new clothes.
He frequently saw women draped in jewels and expensive material without deserving such luxuries. Here was a young lady whose beautiful throat deserved to have jewels around it, and Dorian was going to be the one to give them to her.
“After you have eaten, would you like me to give you a tour of the house? Then you may write to your sister.”
“That sounds lovely, thank you sir” she halted hearing her mistake.
Evelyn hesitated before correcting herself
“Dorian.” she said the softly and shyly as though afraid of it and Dorian felt his neck grow warm. He loved the sound of his name when she said it. Dorian led Evy around the house, assuring her that she was welcome to take books from the library and play his piano forte whenever she wished to. As they went through the house Dorian gave his arm to her, and she shyly laid her hand on his arm, Dorian took it and pressed it closer to the crook of his elbow. Since his short speech the previous night Evelyn had warmed to him and slowly seemed to be gathering more courage when she spoke to him, meeting his eye fully and not faltering in her speech. Soon she was telling him all about her childhood with Sophia and her governess, and Dorian soon found that she had been charged to act demurely and to be quietly obedient when in the company of men by her parents. He also discovered that this was not at all Evelyn’s true character. Dorian introduced her to each and every servant that they passed and Evelyn liked the way he knew all his servants and tenants by name and treated them with such amiable respect and kindness. He certainly did not act as she thought a Duke would.
Finally he left her alone in his study, and Evelyn wrote her letter to Sophia.
My Dearest sister,
I am no longer residing in Dashby Hall. I am in Derbyshire, I’m to live with the Duke of Len Bourne. Pray do not be alarmed. I have had no choice but to come here as what I presume to be Mr Kellett’s established mistress. Nothing has occurred of that nature yet, I will keep you informed weekly as to my health and situation. I have not written to mother or father, I daresay Mr Randall will inform them himself of what has happened. I would commission them for help even if I wished for it, they will do nothing I am sure to change my situation. Let me assure you that I am safe. Mr Kellett is very civil and attentive, I find his company more than bearable and Len Bourne is magnificent, particularly in comparison to the insufferable Mr Randall that I have left.
Your loving sister, Evy
Evelyn did not seal the letter but carried it with her as she searched for Dorian. She found him in the stables. He was brushing a beautiful brown mare and with his hair tousled and wearing only a shirt, breeches and boots he looked very handsome and simple. Like a poor farmer rather than a wealthy man. Remembering Mr Randall’s infernal talk of never being able to handle horses Evelyn asked
“Do you break them yourself?” “Most of them. My own horse I raised from a foal.” Dorian replied looking up at her.
“You enjoy working with horses then?” “Yes. Can you ride?” “Yes, but I haven’t got a horse so I am out of practice.”
“We must go riding together. I have shown you the house but there is a lot of land to this estate I would like you to see.”
“I would like that” replied Evelyn smiling. Dorian decided he must give her a horse of her own, and would let her choose one before they rode out together. Seeing the paper in Evelyn’s hand Dorian commented
“You have finished your letter?” “Yes, I wondered perhaps that I shouldn’t seal it in case your lordship wishes to censer it?”Dorian laughed.
“Censer it for what exactly?”
“Means of escape.” Evelyn replied uncertainly. “In case I was pleading to be rescued.”
Dorian looked at her, one eyebrow raised.
“And if you were pleading your case to someone, would they come to your rescue?”
Evelyn shook her head
“I do not need to read your letters Madame.” He said and Evelyn pocketed the note and stood watching him. “Rescued.” Dorian muttered smiling and shaking his head. Evelyn frowned at him.
“I am your prisoner am I not?” She demanded and watched as Dorian silently debated his answer.
“I would not like you to think that you’re denied freedom, however I did pay for you, I won you fair and square.”
Evelyn grew angry at his easy manor of talking about such a terrible thing as winning her in a game of cards. She huffed angrily.
“So I belong to you?” she said haughtily and Dorian stared at her.
“You may leave whenever you wish.” he replied “But I’m sure you will not go back to Randell, and you have said yourself your parents will not help you. So what do you propose? You leave here and become a gypsy beggar?” Dorian asked and Evelyn looked up at him uncertainly. “You really don’t have much of a choice.” he said and Evelyn knew he was right. “I thought we might go into the village today.” Dorian said, abruptly changing the subject “I have some business to do there and we could purchase you some new gowns.” Instead of showing signs of pleasure at the prospect as Dorian had hoped, Evelyn cast her eyes away in embarrassment
“I haven’t any money with me sir”
“Dorian please, and I meant that I would buy you some new things, if you do not object that is?”
Evelyn was about to refuse when she looked at her old gown nibbling on her lower lip.
“Perhaps just one new gown.”
Dorian would happily buy her a hundred new gowns if he thought it would coax her into his bed but he knew Evelyn wasn’t a woman to be bought. Despite how much his body ached for her, he must give her time. He wanted her to come willingly into his arms or not at all. Walking back to the house together Evelyn suddenly stumbled on a rock and Dorian pulled her close to him to keep her from falling. She looked up at him and Dorian saw that desire again. He wanted to strangle himself for his ridiculous lack of control. One touch from her and his whole body was scorching, screaming out for more.
Evelyn didn’t look away from him, and she didn’t release her grip on his shoulders where she had grabbed onto him as she slipped. Dorian’s face was inches from hers. He so desperately wanted to kiss her. To feel those lips once more. Bending his head Dorian pressed his mouth to hers, keeping his eyes open he saw first the surprise and then the desire light in Evelyn’s own eyes before they drifted closed and she slid her hand up Dorian’s neck and into his curly hair. Dorian deepened the kiss and felt the pulse of need run through his body. He ripped himself from her and took in several deep breaths, backing away further with each one.
“You would do well to stay away from me Evelyn.” He warned ruefully “If you do not wish me to lose control. I’m sorry.” he strode away and Evelyn watched him go wishing he would come back and finish what he’d just started.
Sitting in the carriage an hour later Dorian watched Evelyn in silence. She was not looking at him but was removing her gloves. Once they were off she lifted her hand up and began pulling pins from her hair that had come loose. She ran her fingers through her hair and Dorian wished that it were his hands roaming though that silky mass. She began to retied her hair up but Dorian leant across and caught her hand stilling her movements.
“Leave it down?” he entreated and seeing Evelyn’s questioning look said “I like it loose.” Evelyn complied and her black waves fell to her hips. It was silky and pitch black, Dorian imagined it spread across a white pillow and withheld a sigh. Dorian pushed the thought away and concentrated hard at looking out of the window himself. Even when he did not look at her he could smell her. The rose honey scent of her hair. Dorian was relieved when they left the carriage and entered the dress makers shop.
There were already some women in the shop but at once the assistant took in Dorian’s expensive clothes and hurried over.
“Yes sir may I help you?”
“We would like to purchase some gowns and gloves…”
He was interrupted as one of the ladies in the shop recognised his voice and turned around. It was Miss Candence, a blonde, pretty woman who lived close to his own estate. Her father was a widower with ten thousand pounds a year. Miss Isabel Candence was a confident, spoiled woman of two and twenty and had always shown her interest in Dorian very openly and about four months ago had approached him, very seductively and proposed that she would happily except the role of being his lover. Dorian had been shocked at her sudden proposal, Isabel was a lady and he had thought her virtuous despite her shameless flirtation. Despite Isabel being a close acquaintance Dorian did not desire her and rebuffed her advances easily.
She strode up to him now, a curving sensual smile on her lips. She completely ignored Evelyn and pushing the assistant aside carelessly Isabel laid her hand intimately on his arm. “Dorian, darling where have you been all this time.” she cooed “Bad man for not calling on me now that you are home.” she tinkled that annoying trill of laughter Dorian despised as she playfully scolded him. They were well acquainted but not well enough for her to address him so informally. He bowed very slightly and said stressing her name.
“Miss Candence, I only arrived last night.” Isabel detected his formality but was not put off, Dorian noticed that Evelyn was hovering in the background and drew her forward into Isabel’s view. “May I present Miss Lorne?” he said forgetting that she was now Mrs Randell “Evy this is Miss Candence of Calder Lodge.” Evy curtseyed whereas Isabel merely nodded her head and ran her eyes over Evelyn’s dress, a clear show of thinking Evelyn to be her inferior. Evy had changed her clothes before they left and had put on one of her best day dresses, a simple creation of emerald green that complimented her eyes, she felt perfectly well dressed to be addressing a new acquaintance and was ruffled by Miss Candence’s apparent dislike of her.
Isabel turned her face away from Evelyn and leaned in closer to Dorian. Despite being dressed finely in a fashionably cut gown with pearls weaved into her hair, Dorian could not help thinking that her small breasts barely filled out the bodice and her hair which was fair was dull compared to Evelyn’s midnight tresses.
“Is your sister not with you? I do hope she hasn’t broken too many hearts in London? I do long to see her.” Isabel rattled on and Dorian almost laughed at her comments, Louisa disliked Isabel with a passion, they were not friends no matter how much Miss Candence pretended otherwise. Isabel tinkled again and fluttered her eyelashes.
“No, my sister is not with us. She remains in London with my mother.” Dorian spoke clearly ensuring Isabel understood that Evelyn was there un-chaperoned. He wanted her to stop her silly flirting. Isabel’s eyes darted to Evelyn and back at him but she said nothing. The shop keeper drew Evelyn away to show her a light pink gown with gloves to match, Evelyn looked back at Dorian questioningly, unsure as to what he was prepared to purchase for her. He smiled back encouragingly. Isabel regarded him coolly before picking up a scarf and saying
“What do you think of the quality of this your Grace?”
“I’m sure you have a better knowledge of such things” Dorian replied but Isabel was not to be swayed, she wrapped the fabric once around her fingers and brought her hand up to stroke the material across his cheek. She did it slowly and licked her lower lip at the same time. Dorian was unmoved, had the woman no shame? He stepped away from her and Isabel looked put out that her action hadn’t produced a reaction. Dorian saw her eyes dart down and seeing no bulge in his breeches she frowned. Evelyn was watching them and by the look on her face she had seen the transaction and was hurt by it. Dorian realised that Miss Candence was deliberately giving the impression that they were intimately connected with one another and cringed when he saw that she was succeeding.
Evelyn felt slightly ill, Miss Candence was clearly well acquainted with Dorian. The way she stroked his cheek in open abandonment, in full view of the whole shop. Evelyn felt inadequate next to Miss Candence with her expensive gown. No! Evelyn thought fiercely, why should she let herself be cast aside by such a brash woman? Despite anything that may have happened between Dorian and Miss Candence in the past, it was her, Evelyn, who was by his side now. It was her he had paid a great deal of money to have, and it was her who was at this moment buying things with money out of his pocket.
Bringing herself up to her full height, Evelyn pushed her bosom out and selecting a bonnet she had admired said sweetly,
“Dorian, do help me with this bonnet.” She walked forward a few steps and then stopped and waited, determined that he should come to her, and he did. Smiling Dorian came to her and took the hat, he slipped it onto her head and tied the ribbon, as would a servant. Leaning back he took in her appearance and nodded approvingly.
“Good” Evelyn replied happily “I would not wish for you to buy me anything you did not like.” Evelyn felt triumph run through her as she caught sight of Miss Candence’s face. Evelyn had just revealed that Dorian was paying for her purchases. Evelyn removed the hat and laid it on the counter.
“And will you like the gown and gloves Madame?” The shop keeper asked and Evelyn subtly looked up at Dorian who nodded and the assistant laid them on the counter. Enjoying herself now that she was in the lead, and Miss Candence was being over shadowed, Evelyn lifted the sleeve of a yellow evening gown.
“Dearest what do you think of this?”
Dorian did not shy away from the use of the endearment, he shook his head with a frown and said.
“Oh no, I hate yellow.”
Evelyn pressed her lips together at this in amusement, as Miss Candence was wearing a yellow dress at this very moment, however Isabel was not so easily over shone, she walked forward as Evelyn turned to look at an evening gown and selected a baby blue one instead of the yellow, and paired it with some white ribbons and white gloves and Miss Candence continued talking to Dorian.
“My father is holding a ball this Friday, I shall ensure an invitation reaches you.”
“Thank you.” he said, although he knew Isabel had no influence at all over her fathers affairs. Mr Candence was a lively, intelligent man despite being unfortunate as to have such a daughter who was excessively spoilt by her mother. Turning back to Evelyn, Dorian saw her looking wistfully at a gown of shimmering material. It was bronze with hints of green that would show whenever the fabric moved. Dorian knew it would look wonderful on Evelyn’s lithe, curvy figure. He moved so that he was directly behind her and put his hands on either side of her hips. He felt her tense and then relax into him and he whispered coaxingly.
Evelyn hesitated and then shook her head. The dress cost a lot more than the other two she had on the counter. The shop keeper wrapped up their purchases and put them into boxes.
One of Dorian’s footmen came in and collected the boxes and Evelyn, meeting Isabel’s eye said charmingly
“A pleasure meeting you Miss Candence, I do hope you will join us for dinner soon at Len Bourne once we are more settled there.” Evelyn left the shop but Dorian stayed and spoke to the assistant indicating the bronze gown.
“That gown there, wrap it up please and have it sent to Len Bourne.”
“Yes your Grace, but didn’t the lady say she didn’t want it?” The shopkeeper said hesitantly.
“Yes, but her eyes said that she did.” Dorian answered. The shop keeper smiled and Dorian inclined his head to Isabel before leaving. Evelyn was waiting for him at the carriage.
“I have a short errand to run Evy, I shall not be a moment if you would like to wait in the carriage.”
“Of course.” she answered happily and Dorian waited for her to be seated in the carriage before hurrying across the road. He wanted to make sure she did not see where he was going.
He entered the jewellers but to his dismay saw that Isabel had followed him there. Ignoring her he walked up to the counter and addressed the man.
“I’m looking for a ladies necklace, something with emeralds.”
The man went to get his merchandise and Dorian felt Isabel’s eyes on him.
“Something for your sister Sir?” she asked slyly.
“No, for Evelyn. A surprise to go with that gown.” he answered levelly.
“She’s very lucky. You are spoiling her.”
Dorian heard the venom in Isabel’s voice and recognised jealously in her eyes.
“She deserves to be spoiled.” Dorian said without hesitation “She is a remarkable woman.”
“She must be, to be so high in your favour. Pray how old is she?”
The salesman laid out three necklaces each sporting emeralds and after considering them for a while Dorian selected one with subtle but valuable stones weaved into a golden chain. He paid and left, eager to get back to Evelyn.
Back in the carriage Dorian observed that Evelyn was quiet and thoughtful again. He had been surprised and pleased with her conduct in the dressmakers. Isabel had been very disagreeable, barely acknowledging Evelyn and flirting outrageously with him. Evelyn had done wonderfully, making her presence known like a true high bred lady and she had daringly made her intimate relationship with Dorian clear. Issuing the invitation to dine with them had been glorious, only a wife and Duchess of Len Bourne could have acted so, but now, Evelyn was silent and Dorian wanted to know what was running through her head.
“Are you alright Evelyn?”
She turned and smiled but it didn’t reach her eyes and Dorian knew something was wrong. Then she asked quite bluntly.
“Was Miss Candence your mistress?”
Dorian stared at her in shock before realising that the way Isabel had acted must have given that impression.
“Miss Isabel Candence was no more my mistress than the coachman.” he answered honestly.
“It did not look that way.” Evelyn persisted and Dorian took in her sour expression and realised with a start that she was jealous. Jealous of the idea that Isabel had been his lover?
“Why should you care if Miss Candence was once an addition to my bed?”
“I don’t!” she cried indignantly
“It doesn’t look that way.” Dorian retorted smiling cheekily, before he took one of Evy’s hands in his. “If you must know, Miss Candence did approach me once with the offer to be my own personal whore,” Evelyn flinched at the word but Dorian continued, “however I was not tempted by her and she never once entered my bed, I give you my word miss Lorne.”
Evelyn looked at him enjoying the warmth of his hand in her own.
“You forget sir that I am married, and my name is no longer Miss Lorne.”
“Indeed you are right, however you no longer belong to Mr Randall and so it is of little importance.”
That evening, Dorian dismissed his servants and on seeing Evelyn leaving the drawing room herself, took her hand.
“Evelyn?” She turned and Dorian found himself at a loss for words. “Good night” he said softly and let her go. An hour later Dorian sat in his favourite place in front of the crackling fire, cradling a glass with a dash of brandy in his hand, when the door creaked open causing him to look up. Evelyn stood at the door wearing only a white shift. The loose, long sleeves and untied neck made her look like a virgin bride, a ghostly apparition of beauty. Dorian found himself wondering if this was one of his dreams when she spoke.
“I could not sleep. Do you mind if I sit with you?”
Dorian shook his head silently and Evelyn came in shutting the door behind her. The only light came from the fire and it glowed on her shining hair that was down and flowing down her back. She sat down next to him on the thick bearskin rug and Dorian thought again how beautiful she was.
One sleeve fell from her shoulders and Dorian leant forward, taking the fabric in between his fingers he meant to replace it but was caught in the moment when he heard her sigh. His fingers then worked of their own accord, lightly stroking the bare flesh of her shoulder, and he found himself leaning across. Evelyn looked at him in wonder but didn’t move away and Dorian pressed his lips against her. Evelyn sighed, opening her mouth to him. Dorian could not keep himself from moaning when her hand ran up his chest and found the undone buttons of his shirt. She slipped her hand onto his bare flesh and Dorian sighed against her lips as she stroked the sparse hair there.
Pulling back Dorian drew in a deep rattling breath, his arousal was evident, jutting out against the fabric of his breeches. Evelyn leant forward, her eyes misty with lust and Dorian met her halfway, kissing her more deeply and harder than before. She kissed back passionately and Dorian groaned, a deep throaty sound that urged Evelyn to lean into his arms. Dorian looked at her and ran a finger over her bottom lip.
Warm, wet, hot.
The stab of desire went through him and Dorian forced himself to slow down. He didn’t want to scare her off.
He tugged her chemise down and gasped at the sight of her naked breasts, round and high, her nipples standing out proudly, he bent his head taking one in his mouth. Evelyn gasped at the sensation and ran her fingers through his hair as Dorian’s hand moved down her neck and cupped her generous breast in his palm rubbing his thumb over her nipple in tantalising circles. He stopped to look into her eyes, ensuring that she was happy with what he was doing. Slowly he eased her down so that she lay on the rug leaning over her he murmured in her ear
“Will you be my mistress?”
Evelyn’s voice was soft and she sighed.
Dorian removed his shirt and quickly shed his breeches. He was hard as stone and he saw her eyes travel over his body and widen when they saw him, long and hard and nestled in curly dark hair. Evy’s lips parted, evoking an erotic vision of those full lips locked around him.
Dorian lay down next to her and drew her close to him. Sliding a hand down her body he rested it at the conjunction between her legs, feeling her soft curls beneath his fingers. He slipped his index finger lower and felt her hot and slick and moist. Her eyes were wide as he touched her and Dorian wondered how it had been for her with Randall. He did not like to think of her with another man and pushed the thought away.
“You are so beautiful.” He said, his voice deep with lust and need. Evelyn sighed and bit her lip, worry in her expression, as she blushed a deep crimson.
“Oh don’t be shy.” Dorian murmured “I want to hear the noises you make” He leant down and kissed her nipple again, running his tongue over it until she gasped loudly. Closing his eyes, Dorian lost himself in the feel of her hands as she ran them over him feeling the soft skin stretched over hard muscles. She was hesitant in her exploration of him and Dorian remembered how innocent she was. When her hand hovered over his sex she looked at him with a questioning glance.
“Yes.” He encouraged her “touch me.”
Evelyn pressed a finger to the tip of him and then gently stroked it down the length of him.
Dorian sighed and tried to keep himself from pushing further into her hand. Slowly Evelyn stroked him and in her purity didn’t realise what sweet torture this was for him. Finally she wrapped her fingers around him and he moaned.
“Is this right?” she asked
“Yes.” he moaned again and begged “More.”
She complied and Dorian felt his self control slipping away. He wanted her. He wanted to be encased in that warm wet core. Moving over her Dorian parted Evelyn’s legs and hovered there in the middle of them. Slowly, gently he pushed in and gasped.
“Oh, you’re so tight”
Evelyn gave a little whimper of pain and Dorian felt her body stretching, letting him in. He felt her break and gasped again.
Pulling back in surprise Dorian stared at the beauty in his arms.
“Don’t stop” she whispered sensing his retreat “Dorian please.” His name on her lips was enough to keep him there. He eased further into her and slid his hands into her hair, gripping it. He drew out slightly and then back again, Evelyn’s moans spurring him on as he rocked his hips.
Dorian moved faster and Evelyn followed his rhythm arching her back as he went through a series of long, hard strokes. Evelyn clung onto him, her hands gripping the back of his shoulders, her fingers running into his curly hair, gripping it. Together they rose higher and Dorian thought he’d die with the sweet joy of it. He felt her body’s tension and cried out, swearing as she tightened around him.
“Oh, Oh Dorian!” Evelyn cried out as her pleasure heightened and Dorian felt a rush of emotion towards her. Never had he felt so close to a person, such a binding intimacy. Harder and faster he thrust, grinding out her name and he knew he couldn’t hold it any longer. Dorian spilled into her as she finished her own explosion of pleasure and her cries softened to sighs of satisfaction she looked up at him, amazement and wonder in her eyes. Dorian caught his breath and grinned down at her, she looked at him as if he were a god. Gently Dorian pulled away from her and eased her into his arms snuggling his face into her neck.
“Dorian?” she whispered when she could find her voice.
“Is it always like this?”
Dorian smiled into her hair.
“It gets better.” he promised and standing up he roughly pulled on his breeches and led her out, naked and up the stairs to his bedchamber.
Evelyn woke to sunlight pouring from the window onto her face.
Dorian lay beside her sleeping. One arm was raised above his head and the other rested on Evelyn’s hipbone. She watched him and wondered if she would ever truly know him. One moment he was the grand Duke of Lenbourne; an intimidating man who everyone respected and slightly feared. But now, and last night he had been Dorian; A man who worked with his own horses, shared stories of his childhood with her and took her to a place she couldn’t describe. She couldn’t believe she had gone into his arms and his bed willingly, but she didn’t regret the loss of her virtue. Indeed when she went from her bed to be with him she had not been thinking innocent thoughts. He looked at her in such a way that she could only describe as being desire. Had he seen the same look in her eyes. Had he seen more? Evelyn knew that there was more and she wondered if Dorian had ever been loved before.
As Dorian woke up he felt around for her, his eyes still closed and Evelyn sidled closer to him, her naked body tangling with his. Dorian wrapped his arms around her and opened his eyes. He gazed down at her sleepily as if he could not really see her and then when his eyes focussed he could barely believe she was really there.
“Did you sleep well sweetheart?” he murmured and Evelyn smiled, her heart soaring at his use of the intimate endearment.
“Very, thank you.” she answered. Dorian closed his eyes and buried his face in her hair, the fingers of one hand lazily stroking her hip. Suddenly his hand stilled and Dorian looked at her once more, his eyes questioning.
“Evelyn. Last night…it was your first with a man wasn’t it?”
Evelyn didn’t look back at him as she answered
Dorian swore and looked pained by the confirmation.
“But you’re married” Dorian began but Evelyn cut him off.
“We never consummated the marriage. He seemed to be in no rush and didn’t even share the bedchamber with me. The evening after our wedding he received a message summoning him to London, on some business.”
“Any business could have been put off in honour of bedding your wife.” Dorian said in contempt.
“I don’t believe he was eager to.” Evelyn said quietly “He did not seem disappointed at going away. You saw yourself that he stayed in London rather than coming back to York.”
Dorian sighed sadly.
“You were an innocent, and I have taken it from you.” Dorian said sadly, guilt leaking into him. “Evelyn if I’d known, if you had told me, I would have never…I wouldn’t have. I beg you to forgive me…I”
“Do not distress yourself” Evelyn said hastily “you did not take my virtue from me, I gave it to you. Willingly and happily.” Evelyn paused for a moment and then went on “I am sorry if you were displeased. I did not know how to…”
Dorian silenced her by putting a finger to her lips.
“Evelyn, never believe that you did not please me. I have never felt the way you made me feel last night. Incredible doesn’t begin to describe it.”
They lay together for a while, silently enjoying the sensation of being close, then Dorian said “I would like nothing more than to stay like this with you all day, but we must dress, we are expecting company.”
As Dorian got out of bed Evelyn felt a swirling dread churn in her stomach. People coming. Guests, friends of Dorian. What would they think of her?
“Who is coming?” she asked and couldn’t keep the disappointment out of her voice.
“You do not seem pleased. I had thought you would be eager to meet with my sister again.”
“Yes, I wrote to my mother when we arrived inviting her and my sister to come here. Also some close friends of mine. Do you object?”
Evelyn had not a bad temper, but she was very distressed at the coming of Dorian’s family and his casual easiness did not reassure her.
“What are they going to say? Your mother, how will I be able to face her. When I have been here two days un-chaperoned?”
Dorian was now half dressed, as he pulled on a shirt he said
“No one will have any idea of your being here these past few days.” he reassured her. “I will arrange for you to go on a short carriage ride with a servant, when you return, everyone will be here and it will look as though you are just arriving yourself. Your reputation will not be compromised, I will not allow society to shun you.”
Evelyn was touched by this but felt uneasy
“But the shopkeeper and Miss Candence know that I have been here.”
“We will say that you stayed at an inn with my servant until my mother arrived to be chaperone.”
Evelyn thought about it and agreed. For the sake of her reputation she had no choice.
When Evelyn returned to the house after her carriage ride it was just how Dorian had said and no one suspected that it was all false. Dorian’s mother was at first glance a fine lady and showed all the signs of aging gracefully. Evelyn thought that she must have been quite a beauty in her youth. The Dowager Duchess’s proud appearance belied her nature, she was in fact a cheerful, friendly woman like her daughter and she welcomed Evelyn enthusiastically.
“Hello my dear, it is an absolute pleasure to meet you. Do sit by me, we must become the best of friends.” Within half an hour Evelyn, Louisa and Marigold Kellett were all chattering and laughing continuously.
“But Mrs Randall, is your husband not with you?”
Dorian saved Evelyn from answering.
“Mrs. Randall, is getting an annulment mother.” Evelyn managed to conceal her shock at this sudden scheme and said nothing. Marigold merely nodded her head and then turned to Dorian.
“I have just thought Dorian, I have heard the most scandalous talk about you in London.”
Evelyn felt suddenly ill but kept her expression passive, Dorian did not even blanch.
“Indeed, no doubt I can guess what it is and that the matter has been grossly exaggerated.” Dorian remarked.
“I do hope so” Mrs Kellett said reprovingly but then giggled and Evelyn began to see that Marigold would love nothing more than a little scandal.
“Pray tell us the truth of it Dorian.”
Dorian looked at Evelyn and said,
“With Mrs Randell’s consent of course, for it mainly involves her.”
Evelyn was nervous but trusted Dorian and so agreed with a smile. Dorian turned to his mother and sister who were leaning forward eagerly. “Mrs Randell was forced into the arranged marriage by her father, but Mr Randell was called away immediately after the wedding and so the union was not consummated. I knew of this when I played a game of cards in London of which Mr Randell was a member of. He lost very badly and to compensate him I offered to take Mrs Randell off his hands.”
“But why should you do such a thing Dorian?” his sister asked suspiciously with a sly smile on her lips.
“Mrs Randell is a dear friend of mine.” Dorian answered confidently “I knew she was unhappy with her fathers choice and when the opportunity came to rescue her from a life with Mr Randell, I took it and collected Mrs Randell from York before the option of an annulment was deterred.”
“Well, I am very glad of it to be sure.” exclaimed Louisa “If you were in York we wouldn’t be able to be such good friends” she said to Evelyn who smiled happily.
Dorian’s other guests began to arrive then. Two gentleman, one handsome, but none as glorious as Dorian, Mr Benjamin Anston and Mr. Thomas Delcroy, with them were two women, an old widow who was a companion of Marigold’s and her daughter Lucy Delcroy, Thomas’s wife. They had recently had their first child who was with them, a baby girl with Thomas’s eyes. Evelyn liked Dorian’s friends exceedingly, they were all charming, she fell easily into a routine at Len Bourne and even began to look forward to Miss Candence’s ball. On the evening of the ball Dorian knocked softly on Evelyn’s door and entered with a box in his hands.
“I thought you would like something special to wear tonight.”
Dorian laid the box on the bed for Evelyn to open and as she did she gasped as she took in the shimmering material of the dress she had admired in the shop. He handed her a second box containing the necklace and Evelyn kissed him and let him put it around her throat. Dorian left her to get ready, silently smiling to himself as he walked to his own bedchamber.
As soon as they entered the Candence household Louisa weaved Evelyn through introductions with everyone present and whispered facts about them secretly in her ear.
“Mrs Rogers son has eloped with a maid and they’ve disinherited him…Susan Filly is engaged to the clergyman Mr. Osborne…Mr Hogget, the handsome one, yes, he’s around thirty nine, he keeps a mistress in London with two of their illegitimate children…” Evelyn was enthralled listening to Louisa’s vast knowledge of everyone and realised that she must be the source from where Dorian received his knowledge of societies secrets. Louisa was exceedingly popular and soon Evelyn was equally adored. Everyone, but a sour faced Miss Candence, found Evy very agreeable and soon she had young men asking her to dance. A fresh faced man of twenty with boyish good looks approached her and Evelyn knew from Louisa that his name was Duncan Bright and he was a Viscount and was adored by all the single young ladies. Once he began talking to her Evelyn understood why, The Viscount had a charm and a devilish glint in his eyes, Evelyn believed that this man however young, had had his fair share of lovers.
Duncan had brown hair and a moustache that suited him very well and although Evy didn’t feel the same light headedness that she did when Dorian was near her, she found that she liked Duncan a lot and when he asked her to dance the first with him she agreed. He walked away bearing a wide smile that the other ladies did not overlook. Just before the dancing was about to take place Dorian came to Evelyn’s side. She had not spoken to him since their arrival and was glad when he found her out.
“Will you dance with me?” Dorian wore such a smug expression of self assurance that Evelyn almost enjoyed replying in the negative.
“Oh but Sir, I am already promised to Viscount Bright for the first dance.” Evelyn watched as Dorian’s eyes flashed to Duncan who was approaching and back to Evelyn, he faltered but a movement before composing himself.
“I see, I should have made haste to secure you for myself. I did not know you were sought after so desperately that a man needs to prearrange you before the event takes place. Excuse me.” Dorian bowed and strode away but only to stand and watch as Duncan led Evy to the floor. Duncan was very amusing and Evelyn laughed a lot while they danced, an act that made Dorian even more put out, Evy may have shown true uninhibited desire for him but she never laughed so much as she did with the viscount. Dorian wondered at this when a sudden morbid thought came to him. Was he too old in Evelyn’s eyes? He was eight years her senior, but did that effect how she saw him? Dorian had never thought of himself as growing into a tuckered out old man. He was still in his prime at almost twenty eight, he was as handsome as he had ever been, but did Evelyn think that?
Duncan asked Evelyn if she would continue dancing through the next song and when they began, the ladies who were seated began murmuring, Duncan Bright had never danced with a lady more than once in the same night and his particular interest in Evelyn was intriguing. Dorian watched as Duncan flirted with Evelyn and observed other men vying for attention. He grew more and more angry and irritable and upset that Evelyn was not giving her attention to him. Seeing her talking, dancing and being merry with other men had an effect on Dorian that he did not like. He had always controlled his temper well and never lost it but seeing Duncan touch Evelyn’s arm lightly and hand her a plate of something Dorian wanted very much to smash his face in. Would Evelyn like Duncan so much then?
Isabel Candence was singing at the piano forte and when she finished everyone applauded. Moving towards her unthinking Dorian asked her to dance and seeing her eyes light in evident victory, knew that her fancy for him had not worn out. He danced with her and when he saw Evelyn’s face turn towards them he held Isabel a few moments too long in his arms. Once the dance ended Miss Candence wished for fresh air and together they walked out into the garden and stood talking in a secluded part of the shrubberies.
“I had forgotten how well you danced your Grace.” Isabel said sweetly leaning towards Dorian so that he could smell her perfume, it was overwhelming and sickly compared to Evy’s soft scent of Lilies. Dorian cursed himself silently, Isabel was a pretty, well educated woman, why did she not arose him? Evelyn needed only to smile, to touch him innocently in passing and he was at her mercy. Dorian tried to listen to Isabel’s flirtatious chattering but found himself wondering what Evelyn was doing, was she dancing again, was she laughing with the Viscount?
A sound close by made Dorian begin to turn his head but at that moment Isabel fell forward stumbling on an imaginary stone and Dorian instinctively caught her. He meant to let her go as soon as she was steady but Isabel said rather loudly
“Dorian, someone might see!”
Dorian confused, let go of Isabel’s arms and saw her gaze trained over his shoulder, a venomous gleam and an evil smile curling on her lips. Dorian turned and saw Evelyn standing watching them, shock and pain in her eyes. She did not move, she stared and stared in disbelief and Dorian knew at once what he looked like, what Isabel had made them look like.
Dorian hastened away and started towards Evelyn but she chocked on a sob and just as he registered the moisture in her eyes she fled. Isabel! The conniving evil little¾
Dorian cursed her and himself. Why had he even danced with her, why had he gone outside? Dorian caught up with Evelyn in the corridor and made to grab her arm but she jumped away from him, bumping into a table and almost knocking over a vase of flowers in her confusion. She didn’t say a word to him and she didn’t have to. Her expression hit Dorian so hard it felt like a hundred fists smacking into him. Pain. Uncontrollable pain swimming in her eyes.
“You lied to me!” She chocked out emotion clogging her voice.
“Evelyn, it was not as it seemed, I promise you.” Dorian began his thoughts scrambling as he tried to think of a way to explain.
“I saw you, I saw the way you were holding her.” Evelyn threw at him disbelief in her voice. “I’m nothing to you am I?” she cried
“That’s not true.” Dorian declared but before he could say anything, a hand full of guests spotted Evelyn and being too merry and too drunk, no one noticed her distress and in moments all evidence was gone from her face and she received Mrs Hodgett gracefully.
“My dear would you give us the great pleasure of hearing you sing? The Duke has told us countless times of the brilliance of your ability” Evelyn shook away the praise modestly but consented to play and moved to the piano to select a song. Dorian tired to control his whirling mind. Why should she be so hurt? When he had been made to endure watching her be an object of desire for so many men tonight. Her attentions to the viscount had been unbearable. Then Dorian’s mind counteracted the argument, was it her fault she was beautiful and lovely? Would she have come to him if she could? Dorian thought of her coming outside alone, had she been searching for him? Only to find him in the arms of another woman. A woman who Evelyn had believed to be his former mistress. Dorian’s rapid thoughts were put on hold as Evelyn sat at the instrument and began her piece. Everyone grew silent and listened intently, more so than when Isabel had sang, something that Miss Candence, now back in the room, did not overlook. Despite Isabel having a slightly better degree of education, Evelyn’s voice was sweeter and rich as she sang the melancholy tune. When she finished the whole room was filled with applause and exclamations.
“Wonderful, absolutely incredible…so moving…such talent”
Dorian was so consumed in watching Evelyn that he did not realise Louisa had come to his side until she spoke quietly enough for only him to hear.
“You are in deep my brother.”
Tearing his eyes away from Evelyn, Dorian turned to Louisa.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I see the way you look at Evelyn Randell, no one else would suspect it but I know you too well, I have never seen you look at anyone the way you do her.”
Dorian was startled at Louisa’s observation.
“What do you mean Louisa?” he asked sharply
“I think you’re exceedingly fond of Mrs Randell, more than you’re willing to admit.”
“I find her very amiable, I…”
“Amiable!” Louisa exclaimed laughing “Oh tosh Dorian. You’re completely besotted with the girl.”
“Don’t be ridiculous Louisa” Dorian answered, but deep down knew that she was right and Louisa knew it too.
“Don’t patronise me Dorian.” she scolded “You know that you cannot lie to me. I have seen the way you are with Evelyn, and perhaps you are too blind to see it but I can tell you, she looks at you the same way”
“And what way is that?” Dorian asked sarcastically.
“Like she’s in love with you.” Louise said seriously and moved away leaving Dorian out of balance, his emotions in turmoil. Could it be true? Could Evelyn love him? Was he in love with her? Dorian feared he already knew the answer.
Dorian wanted to speak to Evelyn but the journey home consisted of two carriages and Dorian was made to go in the second with Thomas and his wife, while Evelyn travelled with the rest of the party. Once Dorian arrived home he was informed that the party of the first carriage had retired to bed and the rest of his guests agreed to do the same. Dorian stayed up in the quiet of his study drinking brandy not caring that his glass got fuller and the bottle drained empty. He was angry and upset in a way he hadn’t been in years, since his father died. He had acted foolishly tonight, getting so jealous and letting his temper get the better of him. Miss Candence had put on her show and got the result she wanted. Evelyn had been hurt. Dorian realised what else had been in her expression when she saw him and Isabel together. Betrayal.
A knock on the door dragged Dorian out of his reverie, Evelyn? Had she come down to him?
“Come in” He called and felt a heavy wave of disappointment as a servant entered.
“A note just arrived sir for Mrs Randell.”
Dorian took it and the servant left, he hesitated before ripping it open, it read:
Dear Mrs Randell,
I would like to invite you to dine with me and my mother tomorrow evening.
I look forward to seeing your smile again.
Dorian fumed, his lips pursed, his anger at a peak. He downed his brandy and crushing the note in his palm cast it into the fire. Dorian left the room and headed upstairs. Dorian tapped lightly on Evelyn’s door, she did not reply so Dorian whispered through it. “Evelyn, it’s Dorian, may I come in?” Still she did not reply and Dorian wondered if she was asleep. He opened the door anyway. On entering he saw that she wasn’t asleep, not even in bed. She sat in her night gown on the edge of the bed and looked up at him blankly as he shut the door behind him. “Evelyn?”
Evelyn looked at Dorian and knew at once that he was drunk. She had seen her uncle drunk and making a fool of himself in London many times. Dorian approached her, his expression fierce but Evy didn’t flinch away from him, she no longer feared him, or his touch. Dorian brought a hand down and stoked a finger along her jaw line she jerked her head away.
“Evelyn.” Dorian chocked out, but didn’t say anymore, his face showed his hurt that she had shied away from him. He saw her pained expression and then suddenly a determination that entered her eyes. Evy stroked her fingers through Dorian’s hair and tilted her head into his hand. She wanted him to be with her, drunk or not. She wanted to please him and kiss away any memory of Isabel Candence.
As Evelyn lay down Dorian lay on top of her. Her breasts crushed against him and he moaned no longer conscience of what was really happening. He was angry and he wanted to bed Evelyn and release these feelings inside him which he couldn’t understand. He wanted to know she was his. Dorian stumbled out of his clothes with Evy’s help and then taking her wrists he held her down on the bed. He kissed her roughly, and Evelyn bucked her hips up against him. Dorian wasted no time and entered her immediately, rocking his hips against her hard and fast. Dorian’s hands ran down from her wrists and held her hands instead, crushing her fingers with the strength of his grip. She didn’t flinch in pain, she sighed and arched her back and Dorian had his way with her roughly and afterwards he held her in his arms like she were a precious gift.
When Dorian woke it was late, the sun up. Remembering the previous night and he cringed. He had been a fool, had gotten jealous and hurt her feelings then he had gotten drunk and bedded her. Dorian was surprised Evy hadn’t fought him off last night for he certainly hadn’t been gentle, fuelled by anger and desire he had acted like an animal and had her with as much force and carelessness as any wild beast. Dorian felt ashamed of his actions and knew he must explain to her. He leant up in bed and realised that Evelyn wasn’t there.
Getting up he quickly threw on his clothes and dashed down the corridor to his own room where he dressed in fresh clothes and ran a comb through his curly hair. He checked his watch and saw that it was past eleven and he had missed breakfast. Hurrying down the stairs he found Louisa sitting in the drawing room with Benjamin. Ben greeted him warmly joking about the lateness of the hour but Louise did not smile at him. She shot him a scornful look and standing said,
“Do excuse us Mr Anston, I need a word with my brother.”
Ben looked puzzled but nodded and Louise stalked from the room looking very much like her mother and Dorian followed. As soon as they were out of ear shot Louisa turned on him. “What did you do last night?” she demanded and Dorian almost recoiled wondering if she knew about his and Evelyn’s secret intimacy.
“What do you mean?”
“Evelyn wasn’t herself on the journey home last night.” Louisa began “The moment we were alone together I enquired as to what was the matter and she broke down.” Louisa became red in the face and spoke forcefully like an old scorned woman rather than the seventeen year old that she was. “I nearly called for a doctor she was in such a state. Blurted out to me that she had seen you wrapped in arms of Isabel Candence! Well you might imagine my reaction.” Louisa snapped poking a finger into Dorian’s chest “You’ve always hated the woman! Now don’t give me any nonsense Dorian, I saw you dancing with her, what on earth were you about? You’ve upset Evelyn greatly.”
Dorian sighed running a hand over his hair.
“I was not wrapped in Miss Candence’s arms.” said Dorian exasperated.
“She threw herself onto me just as Evelyn came into view. She acted deliberately!” Dorian exclaimed angrily. “What did Evelyn say?” he asked and Louisa hesitated.
“She didn’t have to say anything.” she said “She was so upset it was clear what she thought.”
“Where is she now?”
“Mr Bright called early this morning, asked her to go for a stroll to town.”
Dorian’s expression darkened instantly.
“She was going to refuse.” Louise admitted “I told her to go, thought some fresh air would do her good, and Mr Bright is exactly that, bright and cheerful, he’ll take her mind off it.”
Dorian swore under his breath.
“He’s also a rake! He’s had half the women in London!” Dorian spoke inhibited and Louise gasped at his language.
“Dorian! I may be your sister but I’m still a lady!” she declared indignantly. Dorian ignored her and made to leave when Louise grabbed his arm, “Leave her. They have the Delcroy’s with them, he wont ravish her while in company. Just make sure you’re in better spirits for when she returns.”
Dorian followed Louisa’s advice and waited. It was agonizing and when he finally heard their arrival Dorian jumped from his desk and sped down the hallway. Evelyn looked up at him as he came down the stairs. The Delcroy’s bid him good day before entering the parlour, but Mr Bright remained in the hallway and bowed to Dorian.
Dorian debated throwing Duncan out of his house bodily but instead bowed politely.
“Mrs Randell?” Mr Bright turned to Evelyn “May I ask your answer to my invitation?” Taking in Evelyn’s blank expression he elaborated “Dinner, with my parents and myself. I sent you a note.”
“I’m sorry I did not receive it.” said Evelyn confused and Dorian felt a tug of guilt at reading it and then burning it in jealous spite. “Thank you, but I’m already engaged to go riding with the Duke.”
Mr Bright threw a look at Dorian. This was the first Dorian had heard of such a plan but he did not appose the idea.
“Another time perhaps.” Mr Bright bowed and left leaving Dorian and Evelyn alone.
“Evelyn, I need to explain” he began and Evy turned and regarded him coolly. Lowering his voice Dorian said “Last night, my behaviour was despicable, there is no excuse and I’m sorry.” Evelyn realised he was referring to his coming to her room and she brushed it aside.
“Do not blame yourself your Grace, I did not refuse you.” she said bluntly.
“Please allow me, also to assure you that there is no intimacy between myself and Miss Candence. I fully comprehend how last night’s scene would have looked to you, but please believe me I was a complete gentleman the whole time I was with her. She tripped and I caught her, I now believe it was no accident.” Dorian watched as Evelyn listened to his explanation. “If I wanted a different woman I could easily dispose of you.” he said bluntly “The truth is I don’t want anyone else.” Dorian came closer to Evelyn and took her hands lightly in his. “Please believe me, I never meant to hurt you. I was jealous and resentful of the attention you gave to Mr Bright.”
“I was only being agreeable.” Evelyn declared, “I wanted to come to you.”
Dorian quickly looked around before pulling Evelyn into his arms for a brief embrace.
“Of course.” Evelyn
Dorian confessed about burning the Viscounts note and Evelyn assured him that while Mr bright was very charming she wasn’t attached to him in any way. Smiling broadly Dorian went to prepare the horses for their riding.
At the stables Dorian led Evelyn to a chestnut horse with a black mane.
“He is a fine horse, I broke him myself, he’s to be yours.”
Evelyn looked delighted but murmured quietly, glancing down at her pale blue gown.
“You have given me so much already”
Dorian shook his head.
“It is pleasure”
The estate was indeed very large and the day grew hot. Coming to a stream which led onto a river Dorian dismounted his horse and helped Evelyn off hers. Dorian half stripped off his clothes leaving just his breeches on, and dived into the water. Evelyn watched him float lazily on his back and sat down on the bank. After removing her bonnet she hoisted up her skirt and rolled down her stockings. Dipping her bare toes in the water she sighed. Evy had discovered that when Dorian was alone with her and his family he smiled a lot more and was light hearted, he was not so intimidating any more.
The summer months were almost over and the nights grew darker and cold but Evelyn didn’t mind for she spent each one wrapped in Dorian’s arms. Despite enjoying every moment, the fear of pregnancy haunted Evelyn every month. How long could she play whore to a man she loved before he rid himself of her? She worried for the sake of her heart, and she worried for her situation, for Evelyn was entirely dependant on the Dukes generosity. Little did anyone know that was soon to change.
It was midday and the English skies were leaking. No one had ventured out and all the guests of Len Bourne were idly entertaining themselves, the men playing cards, the ladies either sewing or reading. Everyone was silently praying for a shot of excitement when suddenly the front door was banged upon, startling everyone. No one would call in this weather.
The post had arrived this morning. As unlikely that it was, that an interesting piece of news had reached them, the occupants in the room paused in their activities and listened eagerly for the maid to announce their unexpected visitor.
The visitors, for there were two, were a Mr Bartley; a stout, rounded man with a lot of hair tied back with a string. And a Mr Smith; a very tall, very thin, very bald man. As jolly and cheerful Mr Bartley was, Mr Smith was serious and morbid. Together they entered the drawing room and made a very amusing pair but the news these two strangers brought was grave.
“Mrs Randall?” Mr Bartley addressed Evelyn directly. “We have not been acquainted, I am George Bartley, I was your husbands steward.”
Evelyn frowned slightly as everyone else in the room attempted to continue their activities and found that their ears could not resist listening.
“Was?” Evelyn commented curious and confused at these men’s arrival. Mr Bartley looked a little uncomfortable and fidgeted with his top hat which he held in his podgy hands.
“Yes, you see…I’m very sorry to inform you that…your husband is dead.”
Evelyn was very surprised, but did not faint, which she suspected, by the expression of relief on Mr Bartley’s face, had been what he had feared.
“Yes, I’m very sorry Madame.”
Evelyn couldn’t believe it. She was free. No matter what, she’d never have to go back to Mr Randall. Evelyn sank into her chair a gesture that could have been interpreted for grief.
“How did he die? Was he ill?”
Mr Bartley’s expression grew more pained and took a seat opposite her.
“No Madame, Mr Randall was in London, he was gambling and it ended badly. Mr Randall was caught in a fight and…” he did not need to continue, Evy could imagine for herself what an idiot Randall would have been. As Evelyn took all this in, aware of everyone’s eyes on her, Mr Smith came forward.
“Mrs Randall, I have here Vincent Randall’s will. He had no living relatives whom he was on friendly terms with and no heir therefore the remainder of his estate in Kent and the sum of three thousand a year is yours.” Evelyn couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She was independent. “The estate is not what it once was, but with a steady owner and if the tenants were managed properly it could be an extremely profitable estate.” Mr Bartley continued and Evelyn fell into a daze.
Once the gentlemen had left, everyone congratulated Evelyn on her escape and her new fortune, everyone but Dorian who slipped away. Dorian sat in his study, his head bent over papers but he wasn’t focusing on the words, his mind was full of the days events and he was very disturbed by them. Randall was dead. Evelyn possessed all his remaining fortune. She was independent. She had no need of him or any other man. Dorian felt nauseas at the thought of Evelyn leaving at any moment. He had never intended to keep her with him at Len Bourne forever, but he wasn’t ready to let her go yet. Dorian almost gasped as a sudden tumble of emotions rolled around him, would he ever be ready to be without her?
A fortnight later Evelyn received a letter from her sister and ripped it open eagerly.
My Dearest Evelyn,
I’m so glad you’re happy in your new home. Mother and father know of your situation, they make no attempts of changing it. So you are to seek an annulment? But what will the Duke do with you? Are you to live there indefinitely? I am very worried for you. Mother has been accepting invitations for every ball and assembly taking place and a gentleman has been here often, the Earl of Stranford, perhaps you recollect him from when we were children? I do not like him dining so often. He speaks crudely to me when he thinks no one is listening, it makes my skin crawl. I do wish you were here, I fear fathers intentions for the Earl and myself.
Write again soon,
Putting the letter down, Evelyn shivered thinking of her sweet sister being subjected to the Earls attentions. Evy did remember him, he had come to stay with them when she was fifteen and he had frightened both her and Sophia. Evy remembered the man, almost as old as her father he had leered over the table to speak to her, his eyes darting to her small bosom and still child like face. Evy thought of how Sophia, only twelve then, had squirmed in her seat and gripped Evy’s hand beneath the table. The whole week the sisters had slept in each others room, fearful to be alone while the Earl was there and they had pushed a trunk against the door to prevent entry to the room.
Evelyn remained upset by Sophia’s letter for the whole afternoon and Dorian noticed. He watched Evelyn slip away from everyone and walk onto the terrace. Following her Dorian spoke softly.
“Evelyn?” She jumped slightly at his voice and turned around to face him. Dorian could see the worry that had been dominating her expression all day. “What’s wrong? You seem very out of countenance this evening.”
Evelyn didn’t hesitate before relating the letters contents to him. Dorian understood her worry and could see that Evelyn was very attached to her little sister. The Earl was a man Dorian was not fond of in fact he recalled how he had taken Louisa to one side the night before her coming out and had instructed her very seriously to keep a distance from the Earl. Dorian knew of the Earls habits, he was very good at playing the caring father figure in public but he enjoyed sneaking off and cornering shy girls who would keep quiet and not tarnish his reputation.
“Would you like to invite your sister here? She could stay as long as you wish.” Dorian offered. The delight in Evelyn’s smile raised Dorian’s heart and he quickly planted a feather light kiss on her cheek. Evy made no delay in writing to Sophianna but sadly when Sophia’s reply came it did not bring good news.
I cannot come, I wish more than anything for your comforting, but it is too late. Father has made a match between myself and the Earl. I have been hiding away in every corner of the house that I can find for since it was agreed the Earl has not left my side. He insists we no longer need an escort and tries to get me alone every chance he gets. I’m frightened Evy. I don’t think I can keep avoiding him, what should I do? I cannot marry him. I cannot. I would rather die.
Evelyn struggled to make out some of the words as the letter was written very ill and parts of ink had blurred with what Evelyn knew to be tear drops. Sophia must have been crying as she wrote this. It was then that Evelyn felt the presence of her own tears. She clenched her fists and wanted to scream. Sophia was scared and alone in London, and she wasn’t there to protect her. Evelyn wished she were a man, then she could truly protect her sister, as a woman she had nothing.
Suddenly Evelyn gasped, she would do something! She had a fortune of her own now. She could take Sophia away from her father and support them both. With Dorian’s help, Evelyn was sure she could do it. Leaping up she ran from her room and didn’t stop until she got to Dorian’s study, she burst in unannounced and was in his arms instantly. Evelyn didn’t care that she must look a fright with her tear stained face, and her hair loose, she buried her face into his neck clinging onto the sleeves of his shirt and sobbed. “Dorian, it’s terrible, Sophia is engaged to that monster. I’ve had a letter…she’s so scared…but I can help her can’t I?…now Randell is dead I can take Sophia away from London?”
Dorian was startled when Evelyn had run into his study clearly distressed and flew into his arms. He was even more startled by her stumbling words as she half sobbed, half ranted. Holding her tightly he stroked the back of her head until she was quiet and more composed, again he was reminded of how young and vulnerable she was. Stepping back Dorian sank into a chair pulling Evelyn with him so that she sat on his lap and he stoked her hair back from her eyes.
“Now sweetheart, tell me what’s wrong.” Slowly, more calmly Evelyn explained everything to Dorian who listened carefully and kept his arms encircled around her. When she had finished Dorian continued to stroke her hair and said “So, what do you want to do about this?”
Evelyn was surprised. She wasn’t used to people asking her opinion on important things.
“I want to get her away from there, I don’t trust the Earl, I don’t want to delay, I couldn’t bare for Sophia to be settled with such a man. I have money now. I can support both Sophia and myself.”
Dorian nodded slowly. He gently removed Evy from his embrace and stood up.
“You must write to your sister and tell her that we will collect her. I do not believe your father will let her leave, we must get her ourselves.” Evelyn nodded, knowing that she could never repay Dorian for his kindness. She scribbled a note to Sophia as Dorian said “We will leave for London tomorrow. We must be careful, not only will we struggle to obtain Sophia from your parents control, but also, once they know that Randell is dead, they will expect you to return to them.”
The next morning, before the sun had risen Evelyn and Dorian set out for London. Dorian had explained to his guests that he and Evelyn were to travel to London to Evy’s sister but said no more. Together they sat in the carriage a respectable distance from each other with a servant present as a chaperon. They were half way to London when Evelyn saw a figure on horseback charging down the road towards them. Curious at someone making such haste Evy leant forward against the window and squinted trying to make out the figure as he drew closer. Evelyn gasped as she recognised the boy on the horse and she called up to the driver.
“Stop the coach!”
The carriage halted and Evelyn flung open the door. The young man on the horse caught sight of her and leap off his stead, bowing. Dorian had now emerged wearing a curious expression and Evelyn answered his silent question.
“Dorian, this is Peter, he works in the kitchen at my fathers house.”
Peter looked from Dorian to Evy and then burst into speech.
“Mistress, your sister sent me here. I’m so lucky to have caught you, Mistress I understand that Miss Sophianna sent thee a letter, directly after Miss she ran away. I can’t say I blame her for your fathers plans for ‘er marriage were frightful if thee don’t mind my speaking so. But she’s gone Miss, she told only me and charged me to ride to Len Bourne and tell thee.”
Evelyn felt her heart pounding painfully, Sophia had run away. Gone, left the house and ventured into the streets alone.
“Where has she gone Peter?”
“Oh Mistress, I don’t know, I asked if she had somewhere to go but she wasn’t sure where she was going, said only that she had to escape and hide.”
“Oh Dorian!” Evelyn clung to Dorian’s arm for support “Where would she go? She hasn’t long been in society, she doesn’t know anyone intimately.”
“Calm down love.” he replied softly taking her hand “We’ll continue on our journey. No doubt your father will have led a search, we must discover her before he does.”
Evelyn thanked Peter, he was only a boy, about fifteen and had done so well in finding her so quickly. Dorian threw him a little bag that jingled with the music of coins and Peter grinned broadly.
“Why thank thee Sir.”
Dorian hurried Evelyn back into the carriage and they were off again, Evelyn feeling more anxious and scared than she ever had before, wished she could be closer to Dorian. Sophia was so young, and she was hiding somewhere in London. Evelyn prayed that she was alright.
Two weeks later, Evelyn sat alone at a table, an uneaten plate of food in front of her. She was in Dencall house, the house Dorian had spoken of, where his mother lived when not visiting other places. Louisa and Benjamin had joined them after a few days and were now at a concert but Evelyn had refrained from going. There was still no sign of Sophia, and Dorian was out searching for her. After their arrival in London Evelyn had soon received a letter from her mother. It related that Sophia had run away but expressed no sympathies, instead it was full of false remorse at the news of Mr Randell’s death and requested that since Evelyn was conveniently in London, she should come home, as her father would need to help her with documents and matters regarding the estate her husband had left her.
Evelyn was not to be fooled, she knew that her parents would try to trick her into signing over her new found fortune to them, therefore making her once again dependant on them and under their control. Evelyn ignored the letter and when another came she ignored that too. Suddenly Evelyn heard a noise from the hallway and rushed to greet Dorian who was dripping wet and hungry. He shook his head, silently answering her unspoken question. Sophia had not been found.
Dorian excused himself to change his clothes. The weather had recently taken a turn for the worse. November had begun and with it came rain, wind, and freezing nights. Evelyn couldn’t bare to think of Sophia out there, suffering the cold and living like a rat on the streets. Shaking such thoughts away Evelyn re-entered the dining room and waited for Dorian to return. When he did his hair was still wet but he wore new dry clothes and Evy couldn’t help but think how handsome he looked. He still made her heart flip over when he was near. Evy thought about how she and Dorian were such friends now, he meant so much to her, out of everyone, she knew that Dorian was the one person that she could depend on. He was doing so much for her, and he had no reason to, Evelyn wondered how she would ever manage without him.
She loved everything about him; the way he cared for his horses, the way his eyes twinkled when he smiled, his affection for his sister and his brother like banter with his friends. The way his mouth felt against her skin. Suddenly Evelyn felt faint as she realised that she didn’t just love everything about Dorian, she loved him! As she admitted it to herself it became clearer, when she had fallen in love with him she didn’t know, but she loved him now, utterly and completely. As soon as she felt the joy of her feelings Evelyn then felt a sinking, painful sadness. She could never tell him.
She was nothing more than his very secret, very willing mistress. Someone to share a bed with, someone who sneaked off before anyone could see. Dorian hadn’t asked her to marry him, he hadn’t before she married Randell nor after and he never would. When the Duke married it would be to someone worthy of him who was not so easy to jump into his arms and ruin herself at his command, Evelyn blinked away tears as she realised she would never find happiness, but until Dorian tired of her Evelyn knew she wouldn’t leave his side. It was the only place that she was truly content.
Dorian looked up from his plate of food and saw Evelyn not eating but sitting still and silent, mistaking her tears for being the result of fear for her sister Dorian leapt up. He pulled her from the table and into his arms.
“Evelyn don’t cry. It’s going to be alright, we’ll find her I promise.” His kindness made Evy’s heart ache, knowing that she wouldn’t have him forever she clung to him and wished he would take her upstairs for he hadn’t made love to her since they had decided to come to London. But he only murmured comforting words and held her.
That night before they retired to their separate rooms, Mr Anston and Louisa already having gone to bed, Evelyn asked shyly if she should join him in his room but Dorian only stroked the side of her face sadly and replied
“You need your rest. Goodnight.” Feeling rejected Evy went to bed alone and fell into a restless sleep. In his own room Dorian tossed and turned wishing he was with Evelyn. When she had asked if she should come to bed with him it had taken a lot of strength to turn her away and when he saw how hurt she was by his refusal it had taken every ounce of self control to go to his own room and not run after her. But Dorian had vowed to himself that he would keep a respectable distance between them. Once Sophia was found Evelyn would no doubt take her to York and begin her independent life. Dorian knew it was important to find Sophia but he couldn’t help feeling, very selfishly, that while Sophia was still missing Evelyn needed him. Once her sister was found Evelyn would leave. He must keep away from her, Dorian feared that if he were to continue their intimacy it would hurt him all the more when she left him.
The next morning Evelyn sat looking over papers regarding her new estate. She found a lot of it confusing being uneducated in what was deemed a mans work, however she was sure Dorian would help her with managing the estate if she asked him. Louisa sat playing at the harp in the music room and the soft notes were soothing Evelyn’s sore head. The ringing of the door bell put a stop to the music as Evelyn and Louisa came together to greet the guest who had called. Evy was very surprised when the maid announced.
Evelyn’s mother was now an unattractive woman whose once raven black hair had faded to a dull grey and whose once handsome features were marred by lines from continuous frowns and lack of smiles.
“Mother.” Evelyn curtseyed politely but remained cool and collected. Her mother was less civil.
“Evelyn, why have you not answered my letters?” she demanded. Louisa clearly felt the tension and excused herself. Once Louisa had left the room Evelyn answered.
“I felt no need to write ma’am.”
“No need! Are you aware of the scandal your sister has caused? When a match has been made for her, and you, why have you not returned home. Mr Randall is dead, there are matters to discuss.”
“There are no matters that I need to discuss with you.” Evelyn replied calmly.
“What kind of dimwit are you? Of course there are. You’ve inherited Mr Randall’s estate… why are you wearing pink? You are widowed, why are you not in mourning?”
“I was seeking an annulment when Mr Randell died and since our time together since the wedding lasted all of three hours I felt no need to mourn. And the Estate in Kent is not of your or fathers concern.”
Mrs Lourne looked outraged.
“You will need a man to manage the estate, sort out your affairs. You are alone now.”
“I will manage my estate” Evelyn pressed, “and I am not alone.”
Her mother was quick to unravel Evelyn’s words and laughed cruelly
“You cannot refer to the Duke, who owns this house?” When Evelyn remained silent her mother cackled. “He’s never made you an offer?” she cried in disbelief
“Of course not. And he won’t.” Her mother had no mercy as she spoke
“You are here in his house right now for his own amusement, when a man wants a wife he gets one. He is not wooing you, he’s bedding you! And that is all.” Her mothers harsh, crude words hurt Evelyn and she struggled to control her emotions. She called for the maid and said
“Mrs Lourne is leaving” turning back to her mothers shocked expression she said “ Goodbye mother.” Mrs Lourne had no choice but to leave, but the damage was done and Evelyn felt hurt and miserable, for what had her mother said that wasn’t true? As Evelyn stood fighting back tears she heard the door creak open and Louisa entered, from the look on her face she had been listening from behind the door the whole time.
“Evelyn dear.” she began kindly “Would you like to tell me the extent of your relationship with my brother?”
Evelyn confirmed her mothers words, and told Louisa the truth of how she had come to be a guest at Len Bourne. Louisa was not cruel or judging, she listened and when it came time for her to speak, took care with her words.
“I knew something was between you, I could see from the first moment that you loved Dorian. But this gambling business, buying you from Mr Randell is shocking of my brother. He’s never taken a mistress before.” Louisa looked very serious as she continued taking Evy’s hand in her own. “Evelyn, I must express my opinion, my brother is a kind man indeed, and wise, but with you I cannot say where his intentions lead. I have never seen him behave, as he does with you, before. I think he adores you.”
“You are mistaken. I’m sure Dorian feels nothing for me, perhaps he did at one time but it is extinguished now.” Evelyn replied miserably. Louisa said no more but developed her own thoughts and opinions on the matter and resolved that if Dorian hadn’t revealed his true affection for Evelyn by the end of the month she would speak with him and force him to admit his own hearts desire.
The end of the month came swiftly and Louisa saw Evelyn’s increasing unhappiness for both the loss of her sister and the uncertainty surrounding Dorian. The party that had been left in Derbyshire returned to London for the change of season and with them came their neighbours, The Candence’s. Isabel Candence and her father were staying with some relatives but despairingly were close enough to be invited to the same society events as the Kellett party. A ball was such an event, and the whole household could not possibly decline the invitation without causing a slight to the host. Louisa and Evelyn helped each other get ready, Louisa in a pink gown and Evelyn wearing a new deep purple dress that Dorian had purchased for her from one of the London shops.
Evy slipped on the necklace that Dorian had given her and let Louisa coil her hair up in intricate braids and curls, darted with tiny pearl decorations that gave the impression of a night sky scattered with stars. When Evelyn walked down the stairs to meet everyone Dorian couldn’t take his eyes off of her, she looked exquisite and he knew she would be the envy of every woman in the room. When they entered the ball room Dorian immediately engaged Evelyn in dancing before anyone else could and relished when she smiled up at him at every turn. He hoped the fun of the party would take her mind from being so worried about her sister.
Evelyn caught sight of Miss Candence and stepped a little closer to him, Dorian smiled down at her and indicated the piano.
“Will you perform for us Evelyn.” Evy blushed and smiled as she sat at the piano, as she began to sing everyone turned to see whose voice was so lovely and those unacquainted with Evelyn, showed evident adoration at her stunning appearance that matched her beautiful singing. Dorian caught sight of the men he had played cards with on his last trip to London and wondered how he was to handle protecting Evelyn’s virtue. It was common knowledge that she had been widowed as a virgin since she had been appealing for an annulment at the time, and was now considered a single woman by most, and being regarded very much a young maid many men were after her attention. Dorian cursed himself for speaking so carelessly when speaking of his reasons for wanting Evelyn when he was winning her at cards. Surely the gentleman who had been present would suspect that she was his lover. Evelyn was a lady, Dorian thought fearlessly, his lady, and he would ensure that no one ever spoke of her as otherwise. Dorian didn’t realise this was soon to happen.
When Evelyn rejoined his side and was being complimented by the people surrounding her, Miss Candence, in all her spite and jealously, took her chance, speaking loudly she exclaimed.
“A very lovely performance, you must be so proud Dorian that your mistress is so well educated!” Some of the guests stopped dead halting their conversations while others gasped in shock, Evelyn froze on the spot next to Dorian, but one guest was ready to steal the thunder from Miss Candence and give the two lovers a little push. Laughing heartily Louisa cried joyfully
“Miss Candence, what are you about? His mistress indeed! Evelyn is not a courtesan, she’s my brothers fiancé!”
Some people began nodding as if they had known this all along, Mrs Kellett looked positively delighted by all this scandal, in her own family too, others snapped there heads to look at Dorian, but he was ready to follow on from Louisa without a hint of this engagement being the first he had heard of.
“Indeed, who are your informants Miss Candence? You should not turn your head at such idle rumours.” Dorian said scornfully “I asked Evelyn to marry me when she came to stay at Len Bourne with my mother and I can assure you there has been no improper relations under my mothers watchful eyes.” The guests began to laugh at Miss Candence and her vile remark, some tutting at her outburst and soon the older ladies were adding in their own opinions.
“Of course they are engaged…I knew as soon as they came to London….look at how they have danced together…..everyone knows the story….she was seeking an annulment to marry the Duke….he loves her, that’s clear.”
Evelyn didn’t know how to react to all this, she wasn’t sure what to think. Had Dorian just said that to protect her reputation? Evelyn felt ill as she went over the possibilities, and didn’t feel at ease as they went home. Louisa rode alone in a carriage with Dorian who forced her to ride with him.
“If you’re going to lose your temper with me, for doing what you should have done a long time ago then you ca….” Louisa began.
“I’m not losing my temper.” Dorian interrupted and Louisa stopped and looked at him. “After what Miss Candence said, I would have declared that we were betrothed myself if you hadn’t gotten there before me.”
“Well, everything’s lovely then isn’t it.” Louisa said triumphantly but Dorian didn’t share her smile
“Louisa, I don’t think you understand what’s happened, what Miss Candence said was….”
“It was true.” Louisa finished for him “Don’t look so surprised Dorian, Evelyn told me.”
“It is true.” Dorian admitted guiltily “but now Evelyn can take care of herself, she doesn’t need to be with me, and I doubt she would be happy by your forcing us into an engagement, no matter how necessary it was.”
“Dorian, you are a fool.” Louisa declared “You think I can’t see that you’re smitten with Evelyn, everyone can see it! And you needed the push that you received tonight.”
“I’ll admit I have feelings for her, and I’m dreading the moment she leaves, but it’s inevitable that she will. She never wanted me Louisa, I forced her to come to Len Bourne, I doubt she’ll ever forgive me for ruining her like I did.” Dorian murmured sadly. Louisa sighed irritably and decided that the couple would have to realise each others feelings on their own.
The next morning Dorian came home and again shook his head. Evelyn began to think the worst when the bell rang again. The maid introduced a young man in a blue soldiers uniform.
The man was handsome but had hundreds of freckles on his face that must alter many women’s opinion regarding his appearance. Evelyn didn’t recognise him but Dorian welcomed him, and Evy saw that they knew each other.
“Lancing! Good lord it’s been a while. What are you doing here? Please let me introduce you. Grey, this is Evelyn Lourne, Evy this is Grahame Lancing.” Evelyn welcomed him and Captain Lancing wasted no time in breaking into speech. “It is to see Miss Lourne that I’m here for. I have news of your sister.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth Captain Lancing was ushered to sit down and he began his story.
“I found your sister after she ran away. I’m a naval officer ma’am and I helped your sister into hiding. When we heard that you were searching for her she sent me to come and assure you of her safety and bring you this letter.” Grey handed Evelyn the paper and she tore at the seal and devoured every word. Sophia wrote that she was safe and no longer in London. She spoke very fondly of Captain Lancing in such a way that roused Evelyn’s suspicions, and she eyed the young captain with narrowed eyes.
“When exactly did you meet my sister?” The man squirmed slightly but spoke confidently
“We met first a few years ago Madame, but your sister was not in society.”
“I see. What is Sophia’s plan?”
“You can ask her yourself, I have to sail off in a months time and dearly wish to leave Miss Lourne in safe hands.” said Grey and Evelyn smiled at his concern that appeared very genuine.
“She is staying with my cousins, if you would like her to be transferred from there to here I’ll arrange it immediately”
As soon as Evelyn saw her sister she felt a huge wave of relief and pride. Her little sister had taken her fate into her own hands and had done a good job at taking care of herself. After embraces and introductions and hearing each others stories it was very late and everyone retired to bed. Mr Lancing bid Sophia a short goodbye, but Evelyn detected behind his simple words a wealth of feeling that made her even more suspicious of their relationship. Putting her thoughts regarding Sophia aside, Evelyn turned to thinking about her own complex love affair. Waiting until she was sure that Dorian would be in bed she sneaked out of her own room and into his. He was asleep and she climbed into bed and lightly kissed his face.
Dorian woke up feeling warm and felt the stirring sensations of desire course through his veins as he registered the soft, curvaceous body against his own. Certain that he was still dreaming Dorian kept his eyes closed and Evelyn’s hands moved over his head stroking his hair, then he realised he wasn’t dreaming and broke away from the kiss. Dorian looked at Evelyn and frowned.
“Evelyn, what are you doing?” he whispered
“I…I was…” Evelyn’s speech faltered and Dorian moved away from her pushing her hands from him.
“Evelyn…” Dorian didn’t know what to say and said lamely “I’ll escort you back to your room.” At his words Evelyn suddenly turned away tears spilling onto her cheeks. Dorian was extremely startled and instantly tried to comfort her. “Evelyn? Evelyn what have I done? I didn’t mean to upset you.” Evy went on crying, burying her face into the pillow to muffle her sobs. “Evelyn please, what is it?”
“You don’t want me anymore.”
Dorian strained to hear her and was surprised by her words. Had distancing himself from Evelyn convinced her that he no longer desired her?
“Evelyn, of course I want you.” he said “Do you really doubt how much I desire you?”
“But you haven’t shared your bed with me in weeks. You’re tiring of me and then what am I to do?” Evelyn sobbed harder and Dorian couldn’t understand where her distress had originated from.
“Evelyn what do you mean? You don’t have to be afraid, you’re independent now.” It pained Dorian to say it but he knew it was true.
“I don’t want to be independent, I only want to stay with you.”
Dorian was sure he had misheard, he couldn’t believe it.
“Evelyn. Evy, what do you mean?” Evelyn was silent and kept her head turned away from him, cursing herself for her lack of control. “Evelyn please?” Dorian tipped her face to look up at him trying to read her eyes.
“I don’t want to be without you Dorian. I don’t want my own fortune as a lady, I’d rather be penniless and be your whore.”
Dorian couldn’t believe what she was saying, was Louisa right, did Evelyn care for him? Stroking her face Dorian smiled at her.
“Sweetheart, you have never been my whore. You have been solely and completely my love.”
Evelyn looked up at him wide eyed and Dorian continued. “I have only been keeping you from my bed because I believed that once we found your sister you wouldn’t need me anymore and would leave. I knew it would be too hard to bare if I kept you in my arms until the moment you left.”
“I’ve never wanted to leave you,” she replied and Dorian smiled
Evelyn hesitated her cheeks blushing
“Say it.” Dorian begged
“Because I love you.”
Dorian grinned broadly and pulled Evelyn closer to him, kissing every inch of her face.
“Oh Evelyn, I love you too.”
Dorian barely said the words before Evelyn’s mouth crushed his and her arms were around his neck. Dorian was surprised but pleased and responded to her enthusiastically.
Evelyn moaned softly in pleasure as Dorian rolled on top of her, slipping his hands around her he gripped the fabric of her nightdress as Evelyn arched her back. Evelyn sighed as Dorian held her tightly. Her breasts were pushing against him and she felt the familiar pull in between her legs as a spasm erupted within her. Dorian’s tongue slipped past her lips to touch her own and she stretched and bent her long legs around him. Dorian’s hand found her thigh and pushed up the material of her chemise. His hand was hot as he gripped her leg and pulled it up so that her knee bent and he could fit more comfortably in between her legs. Evelyn ran her own hands up Dorian’s naked back onto his broad shoulders that tensed and relaxed continuously as he rubbed himself against her. Dorian’s head was nestled in the side of her neck where he left a hot trail of kisses and gentle nips.
“Oh, oh” Evelyn moaned and bit into Dorian’s shoulder to prevent crying out.
“Sssh my love. Everyone sleeps on the same floor.” Dorian whispered but he grinned down at her, as he spoke.
“I want you. Please.” Evelyn murmured into his ear and gasped when she felt the long hard length of him penetrating her. Evelyn moved her hands down him and gripped him pushing him in deeper. Then she had to whisper to him to be quiet as he moaned and gasped. Evelyn felt her body tensing as her pleasure rose and then reached it’s peak as Dorian seemed to explode inside of her. Afterwards they lay snuggled up together and Dorian knew he had to ask now.
“I love you, I want you to be with me always as the Duchess of Len Bourne. Louisa has done a grand job of telling everyone you’re my betrothed already, but I want your consent. Will you be my wife?”
Evelyn answered with another long, wonderful kiss.
Three months later Evelyn sighed in contentment as she felt a little kick in her swollen belly. Sitting patiently she waited with Louisa who was in a fit of uneasiness pacing up and down the room.
“Oh Evy, I’m so nervous. He’ll give his consent I’m sure…there’s no doubt.”
“Of course he will. Dorian wants you to be happy and he thinks the world of Ben.” Evelyn said reassuringly. Ben had proposed to Louisa that very morning and was now asking Dorian in the respectable way if he could marry Louisa.
“What if he says I’m too young? He might make us wait.”
“Dorian knows how much Ben cares about you.”
Louisa opened her mouth to reply but then the door opened and Ben ran in and scooped her up. Evelyn smiled as Louisa laughed and Dorian entered grinning broadly, catching sight of Evelyn with a hand on her stomach he walked over to her.
“It looks like everyone is happy, my mother cannot stop smiling. A son expecting a baby, a daughter engaged, she’s in her element.”
“Oh Dorian thank you! I’m so happy” Louisa exclaimed running to hug him
“No man could take better care of my sister.” he said happily before kneeling down beside Evelyn and placing a hand on her belly. “Pregnancy suits you wife. I have never seen you look well.” Evelyn kissed Dorian and knew she had found her happiness.