in this room, with the storm raging about them and the resigned look in her blue eyes, it was easy to forget who he was and why he was here.
An agent of His Majesty’s government, posing as an elderly butler, whose sole purpose was to keep her safe.
Except he wasn’t old, he wasn’t a servant and the one person he might truly need to keep her safe from could well be himself.
Delia bolted upright in the night. She gasped for breath. Her heart thudded in her chest, her blood pounded in her ears. The dark engulfed her, surrounded her, overwhelmed her. For a moment, she had no knowledge of where she was or what she was or who she was, existing only in the terror of being totally and completely alone.
She clenched her fists, breathed deeply and willed herself to calm. She should be getting better at this: unidentified, unreasonable emotion akin to fear had jerked her from her sleep every night since Charles’s death. And every night she’d lain awake for long hours struggling to determine exactly why this awful feeling gripped her.
In a rational part of her mind, she knew there was nothing to fear here save the dreadful loneliness of being without the people, the family, who had always surrounded her. Indeed, she’d decided it wasn’t fear so much as an overwhelming sense of guilt that she could ignore during the day but had no defense for during the helplessness of sleep. Still, identifying the problem had done nothing to vanquish it. Tonight was different. Tonight, with the slowing of her pulse and the ease of her breath came determination. And anger. Sharp, unreasonable, unrelenting anger. It was past time to settle accounts that had nothing to do with banks and bills and property.
She threw off the covers and stalked across the small bedroom that adjoined Charles’s through a dressing room. She flung open the door of the dressing room, hesitated for no more than a heartbeat, then slammed open the door leading to Charles’s room.
The storm had passed, the sky had cleared and enough moonlight streaked in through the tall windows to turn the masculine room, with its costly, massive furnishings and heavy, expensive, damask hangings, into a faded watercolor in varying shades of silver-grays and blue-blacks. She hadn’t been in this room — his room — since the one night she had shared his bed.
Fury drove her to the very center of the chamber. “Enough, Charles, I have had quite enough.”
The words came of their own accord. “I will not continue to play this game. I have given you six months in return for one mere night. My debt is paid. You are dead and I am sorry for it, but I am not to blame. I shall not feel guilty for one moment more because of your death. Nor shall I continue to berate myself because there was no love between us. I, apparently alone among us, thought at least there was affection.
“I would have made you an excellent wife. I would have done everything in my power to make our lives together good and happy.” She wrapped her arms around herself and stared into the darkness.
“Why did you marry me? I didn’t demand it. I didn’t even expect it. I realized full well what I was doing when I came here to your bed. I am not a fool, I knew what the consequences would be. And for that acknowledgment, I credit you.
“You made me see a side of myself I had never known. From the very beginning, I was a different person with you. You drew something out of me I never suspected existed.” Her anger rose with her voice. “I was confident and flirtatious and, blast it all, Charles, I was passionate with you. Not just in your bed but in my life. You made me feel as if I had never lived before, and I liked it. I liked the secrecy and the adventure and the illicitness of it all. I liked making my own decisions, choosing my own path regardless of the restrictions of propriety. It was glorious. I shall not give it up now and I shall not let you take it back from me. I shall not be the