An Undeniable Passion Ch. 03byopels©
The courtship continued throughout the month of January and into February with teas and walks and carriage rides, all properly chaperoned by either Lucy or Violet. Gregory, however, didn't readily approve of Violet acting as chaperone. He knew of her mischievous streak and love of adventure and didn't quite trust her to ensure that nothing improper happened during Virginia's visits with Charles. Violet's presence was merely for the sake of propriety, he trusted his daughter to ensure that nothing indecent occurred.
With Virginia's growing fondness of Charles, most of their debts were now paid off, and Gregory's mind was much more at ease. He still had the money from the remaining trust fund and although it didn't supply a very generous income, it was enough to keep things going as they were for now. Until Virginia was married. Perhaps he should invest the capital he thought. No gambling, no long shots, something sure and steady. He could sell the townhouse and dismiss most of the staff after she was gone, using the excuse that he no longer needed a large house full of servants. He could get by with a smaller residence and just a man servant. Satisfied with his decision he decided to treat Virginia to lunch in town.
"Oh, father lunch with you would be wonderful, but I already have plans with Violet."
"Well then, I will just have to take you both out for lunch. You don't mind me intruding on your plans, do you?" he asked.
"Oh no father, not at all. Violet will love to see you."
They took the carriage to pick Violet up and as she climbed into the cab she noticed Gregory. "Why, Mr. Templeton, are you joining us for lunch?"
"Yes, I thought I would treat you two to lunch." With a wink he added, "It's the only chance I get to hear all the gossip."
"Oh, Mr. Templeton, we never gossip," Violet said, exaggerating a shocked expression. "We only talk of the weather and discreetly inquire about the health and welfare of our many acquaintances," she continued, barely containing a giggle.
"Ah yes, health and welfare," Gregory said with attempted seriousness but unable to suppress a smile. He may not always approve of Violet Adams but he had to admit she was great fun.
They enjoyed a delightful lunch, where the girls did gossip but not nearly to the degree they would if they had been alone. Gregory thoroughly enjoyed himself and was for once able to forget about his troubles. He gave Virginia a little more money suggesting they visit a café and get some hot chocolate. He left them the carriage and took a cab back home.
"Your father was certainly in a good mood today. He's been a bit glum lately," Violet said sitting in the café, sipping her hot chocolate.
"Yes, he hasn't been himself for awhile now. Maybe he's finally snapping out of it."
"Do you think it may have something to do with your romance with Charles?"
Virginia said, "It might. He is happy about it. He had to work so hard to convince me to give Charles a chance. I'm glad he did."
"Could it be that you're falling in love?" Violet asked eagerly.
Virginia sighed, "No, Vi, it's not love. I am fond of him but there's no excitement. I'm not sure what to expect but I thought it would be more thrilling. Maybe I'm expecting too much. Maybe this is how it's supposed to be."
"Do you know how he feels about you?"
"He acts as though he's fond of me as well," she hesitated before continuing. "Don't you think there should be some passion? That I should be just dying for him to kiss me? He hasn't even tried you know."
"I do know. I've chaperoned you many times and he has been a perfect gentleman. Maybe next time I should turn my back or manage to leave you alone for a few minutes and see what he does," she said with a wicked gleam in her eye.
Virginia tried to act shocked but could only giggle as a blush crept into her cheeks.
As they were leaving the café, Violet asked, "I wanted to stop in at the dressmaker's today. Mother has promised me a new gown and I'd like to look at fabrics. You have such good taste, please come with me and help me choose."
Virginia was agreeing to accompany her as she stepped out of the door. She was speaking over her shoulder, not looking where she was going and collided with another customer coming into the shop. A strong hand grabbed her arm to steady her and she found herself yet again face to face with Drake Stratford.
"Why Miss Templeton, how nice to bump into you again," he said in a low voice. "You may recall we met several weeks ago under very similar circumstances."
Virginia needed no reminder of who he was and once again she was drawn into those beautiful hazel eyes. Her breath quickened and her heart began to pound in her chest. She was so spellbound by him, she didn't even notice that he had drawn her closer and that she was pressing herself against him until his arm crept around her waist. She caught herself but hesitated slightly before pressing her hands against his chest again but could think of no other way to quickly free herself. She hurriedly pushed out of his embrace and blushing furiously, brushed past him into the street. Much to her frustration she could hear his laughter behind her as she stalked off. Violet rushed to catch up to her.
"Well that was rather rude of you," she chastised Virginia.
"Did you see what he did?" Virginia almost shouted. "He...he...molested me! The nerve of him!"
"Oh, what I wouldn't give to be molested by a man like that!"
"Violet!" Virginia gasped. "You shouldn't say such things!"
"But Ginny, he's so roguishly handsome. How can you resist him?"
"He is rude, improper and no gentleman!"
"I know! That's what makes him so irresistible!"
"Charles would never behave like that."
"Maybe he should. I noticed how you reacted to Mr. Stratford. You were rather captivated," Violet said suggestively
"He...he...just caught me by surprise, is all. I didn't notice that he was in the doorway," she stammered. Although she had to admit, at least to herself, that the way her breath had caught in her throat and the way her heart had started to pound just by looking into his eyes was the way she wished she felt when she was around Charles.
Drake stood in the doorway and watched as Virginia stormed off down the street with her friend desperately trying to catch up with her. He couldn't believe his good luck by literally running into the flame haired beauty again. Ever since their initial meeting, the way she had felt in his arms kept intruding on his thoughts. And those big green eyes had haunted his dreams. So, when he found himself again staring into those emerald depths he forgot himself and didn't even realize that he was pulling her closer and that she was complying, until just before she pushed herself out of his embrace. He could not help laughing when he saw the flush that rose in her cheeks as she pushed past him out of the shop.
A few days later was Virginia's next date with Charles. She asked Violet to chaperone as she didn't know if Lucy would leave her alone with Charles even if she asked. Together, the two of them hatched an innocent plan of seduction.
"Winter is so dreadfully dull, don't you think?" Virginia asked Charles as they sat in the parlor of his house looking out into the snowy street. "I can't wait to see flowers again," she said wistfully.
"Flowers? Why, I have a green house and it's full of roses. I grow them myself," he said proudly. "Would you like to see them?"
"Oh yes," she replied eagerly.
He stood and was leading them out of the room when Virginia turned to Violet and winked. They entered the humid green house and it indeed was full of beautiful roses. As they began to tour through the bushes, Charles proudly related the history behind each one. He was trying to create his own hybrid and had just launched into an explanation of the complicated procedure when Violet put her hand to her head.
"Mr. Thompson, Virginia, I'm sorry but the fragrance from the flowers is overwhelming. I must leave or I fear I'll faint." She turned to leave and added, "Continue the tour, I will wait for you back in the parlor." Wagging her finger she admonished, "Now behave yourselves."
Virginia looked nervously at Charles and gave him a shy smile. He, however, dove right back into his explanation of creating a new variety of rose. She gathered her courage and interrupting him she said, "Charles, may I ask you something?"
Thinking she was going to ask him a question about rose growing he eagerly replied, "Certainly. What would you like to know?"
"Well, as you well know we have been...seeing each other...for almost two months now, yet other than continuing to ask for my company you haven't given any indication of your feelings for me."
Confused by her statement, he didn't know what to say. "Well, of course I've grown fond of you, Virginia."
No longer able to contain her frustration and curiosity she stepped closer to him and said, "We're alone now. Don't you want to kiss me?"
Finally understanding what she meant he said, "Why yes, we are alone, aren't we?" He wrapped his hands around her arms and gently pulled her to him. As his lips descended onto hers, Virginia waited for the same sensations to consume her as they did when she had run into Drake. His lips pressed briefly against hers before he released her.
"Absolutely nothing." The two girls were back at Virginia's townhouse and she was telling Violet about the kiss. "I didn't even blush."
"And you blush so easily. Was it a bad kiss?" she inquired.
"No, I don't think so. And I do not blush easily!" Virginia stated.
"I know how to make you blush," her friend teased. "Just think about Drake Stratford holding you in his strong arms at the door to the café the other day," she said dreamily.
Much to her chagrin, a blush did creep up into her cheeks. "It's a blush of embarrassment, that I was caught in such a compromising position. And a blush of indignation that he behaved so improperly."
"You were the one who behaved improperly," Violet said, continuing to tease. "I saw the way you were wantonly pressing against him. And don't deny that you weren't," she said gleefully.
"I was not pressing myself against him." Trying desperately to find another explanation for her actions she said, "I was only trying to keep my balance after bumping into him."
"Oh yes, of course, that's what you were doing," she replied, rolling her eyes.
Virginia's blush only deepened.
"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone," Violet said with a giggle.
Virginia tried to scowl at her, but couldn't help from laughing.
Charles began a practice of kissing Virginia on the cheek when in the presence of others and placing quick, chaste kisses upon her lips if no one happened to be about. However, his kisses, even the stolen ones, never stirred any passion in her. True to what Violet had said, if she wanted to feel passion she only had to think of her embrace with Drake in the doorway of the café. She tried not to think of it, but as with the first time she had met him, she often found herself reliving the encounter without even realizing it. And more than once, she awoke breathlessly from restless dreams, dreams of which all she could remember were a pair of smoldering golden eyes.
More weeks passed and soon it was April. Virginia was having lunch with Charles in a sitting room of his mansion. They were chatting about how the weather was getting warmer and soon they would be able to go on picnics and go riding together.
"What are your plans for later this afternoon?" Charles asked her.
"I was going to go shopping with Violet. She is having some summer dresses made and I promised to go to the dressmaker with her," she replied.
"Do you know if your father is at home today?" he inquired.
"Yes, I believe he is."
"Good, I would like to see him." Taking her hand he said, "There is a matter I wish to discuss with him."
Virginia knew he meant to speak to her father about marriage and to ask for her hand. She expected her heart to soar, but she only felt a slight tightness in her stomach. She managed a shy smile as she demurely dropped her eyes.
Violet squealed with delight. "He's going to ask you to marry him?" The dressmaker, kneeling on the floor, attempting to hem her dress, gave her a sharp look.
"Yes, I think so," Virginia replied.
"Well, you don't sound very excited."
"I thought I would be excited, but for some reason I'm not."
"Oh yes. I forgot. You're still expecting the heavens to part and have the angels sing to you. Maybe true love isn't like that. Maybe it's approach is much softer and subtler. Perhaps it's only lust and infatuation that leaves a person all flustered and happy and excited. It's all very thrilling but it never lasts. Perhaps, what you have with Charles is the real thing. Something that can continue to grow and blossom."
The dressmaker glared at her again. "Please miss, you're going to have to stand still."
"Perhaps, you're right. It does sound more sensible." She sighed and then said with frustration, "But I want both. I want parting heavens, angels singing and true, lasting love. Is that too much to ask?"
Violet began to giggle, but stopped short as the dressmaker glared at her yet again.
Back out on the street they continued their conversation. "We must begin planning. What will your dress look like? I hear that in Paris women are actually having wedding gowns made. Isn't that deliciously extravagant? To have a gorgeous gown made to wear only once? Oh, and your trousseau. When you marry you get to have all the naughty lingerie. All the sheer peignoirs and chemises. No more cotton for you. From now on it will only be the finest, sheerest, dotted swiss silk," she said with a mischievous gleam in her eyes.
"Violet, you shouldn't speak about such things in public," Virginia said aghast. Looking about she said, "Someone might hear you!"
"Oh, no one is listening. When will the wedding be?"
"He hasn't even asked me yet. He only said that he wished to speak to father about something. It may have nothing at all to do with marriage. Perhaps it has to do with business of some sort."
"You said he placed his hand over yours when he told you."
"Yes, that's true," Virginia conceded. "Truthfully Violet, I'm not sure I want to marry Charles. I still think that there's a thrilling and exciting love out there for me."
"Speaking of thrilling and exciting..." Violet said, staring across the street.
She turned to see what had caught her attention. Her heart jolted and her breath caught in her throat. Across the street was Drake Stratford walking with another man. She felt butterflies in her stomach and try as she might she couldn't tear her eyes from him. She could feel his strong arms and chest in her palms as though she were again touching him.
As if feeling her eyes on him, he turned towards her. His hazel eyes met with her green ones and she began to feel a warmth growing in her stomach. The moment seemed to last an eternity before he raised his fingers to the brim of his hat in greeting. As he nodded his head to her, the corner of his mouth turned up in a grin and a sparkle glinted in his eye before he turned back to his companion.
Violet was looking up at Virginia. "So, what joyous hymn are the angels singing?" she asked knowingly.
She tore her eyes from Drake's retreating figure to stare at Violet. "Whatever do you mean?"
"From your reaction at seeing Mr. Stratford it appeared as though the heavens had parted and the angels were singing to you," she replied, her eyes dancing with delight.
"Are you suggesting that I am in love with him?" she demanded.
"Well, it may not be love, but there is certainly something there. You exhibit all the symptoms that you wish you had with Charles. Mr. Stratford hasn't even kissed you, yet look at how flustered you get just exchanging a glance with him from across the street." Looking sideways at her friend she continued, "I think you may be a bit infatuated with the handsome gentleman."
"That's absurd. I don't even know him. And he is no gentleman."
Laughing, Violet tugged on Virginia's arm and said, "Come, my contradictory friend, let's go look at gloves. I need new ones to go with my new dresses."