An Undeniable Passion Ch. 05byopels©
A month later she received a note from the dressmaker informing her that there was a problem with one of her gowns and she needed to come to the shop right away. A fabric that had been ordered was not going to be available and she needed to choose something else. Her father was also going into town so she went with him with the intention of hiring a cab to bring her back home. The wind was coming up as the carriage was brought around to the front of the house.
Catching a flash of her engagement ring as she pulled on her gloves, he said, "Perhaps if you are going into town unaccompanied you should leave that here. If you are alone some unsavory character may see it and try to take it from you."
She agreed and quickly ran upstairs and placed the ring back in its velvet box.
"You best be quick at the dress shop, dear. It looks like a storm is coming in," Gregory said as he helped his daughter into the carriage.
It was already beginning to rain heavily when she was dropped off at the dressmakers. She pulled up her hood and held the cape tightly about herself as she rushed from the carriage into the shop.
The alternate choices of fabric were laid out before her and she was trying to make a decision quickly for she could see through the window that the wind was getting stronger and the storm was gaining in strength. She quickly chose a beautiful watered silk in light mauve and asked if a cab could be arranged.
The dressmaker sent the boy who worked in the stock room out to find her one. After twenty minutes he arrived back, soaked to the skin, and announced that due to the weather he couldn't find a single available cab. The dressmaker sent him into the back to warm himself by the stove. "My father had a meeting a few streets over, I'll go over there and return home with him," she said to the dressmaker.
"Are you sure you should go out there, miss? You'll be soaked and you'll probably ruin your slippers."
"I can stand getting a little wet and I wore these ones today specifically because I wouldn't care if they got ruined by the rain. Don't worry, I'll be fine," she said pulling up her hood.
She stepped out of the shop and was stunned at how hard and cold the rain was. The wind whipped her cloak about her and blew her hood off. She tried to see through the rain but the storm was much worse than she had thought. She stumbled down the street, trying to reach the offices where her father was.
Her hair had blown in her face and she was having a great deal of trouble seeing and suddenly realized that she had missed the corner where she should have turned. She tried to go over a block and back but lost her sense of direction and made another wrong turn and couldn't figure out how to get back to where she wanted to be.
She could barely see more than a few feet in front of her. With fear swelling in her breast she turned round and round desperately trying to see through the rain and the hair in her face. She didn't recognize any of the buildings around her and had no idea where she was. She continued to blindly stumble down the street and almost fell more than once.
She didn't know where she was going or even if she was headed in the right direction. Here eyes filled with tears causing her vision to blur even more. She tried to clutch her soaking cloak about her but it offered little comfort. She was soaked to the skin and trembling with the cold, her fear threatening to turn to terror when suddenly a small but luxurious carriage was beside her. The door was flung open and a voice inside shouted at her to get in. Without thinking twice she gratefully climbed inside.
She sat down heavily on the lushly upholstered seat and was attempting to pull her hair out of her face. She was in such a state that she could not even see the other inhabitant of the coach. "Thank you so much for your assistance," she said breathlessly. "I didn't realize the storm was so..." she trailed off as she stared into the warm hazel eyes of the man sitting opposite her.
"Why Miss Templeton, I didn't even recognize you. What are you doing out on the streets in such wicked weather?"
"Good afternoon, Mr. Stratford," she replied in what she hoped was a cool voice. "I was attempting to meet my father so that he could escort me home, but I had underestimated the strength of the storm. Thank you for your assistance." She was soaked through and began to shiver.
Drake picked up a blanket that was on the seat next to him. He moved across the small space and sat next to Virginia, draping the blanket about her shoulders. "You're cold," he said simply.
Having him so close to her set her pulse to racing and her breath became uneven. "Th-th-thank you," she managed to stammer, partly from the cold and partly because his close proximity unsettled her so. What was it about this man that did this to her?
She was suddenly aware that it was quite improper for her to be alone in a carriage with him. However, under the circumstances it was understandable. She asked him to take her just the few blocks to her father's meeting but he refused.
"You're soaked, you need to go home and get out of those wet clothes. Now where do you live?"
She gave him the address and he stood to relay the information to the driver. He was so tall he had to stoop when standing in the carriage. He then returned to his original seat across from her.
She clutched the blanket about her but was still shivering.
"Why don't you remove your cloak? You'll dry off faster that way," he said, rising once again and sitting next to her. He removed the blanket from her shoulders and assisted with removing her cloak. Virginia thought she might faint from having him help her do something so similar to disrobing even if was just her cloak. He laid the drenched garment on the bench across from them. Her gown was plastered to her body and she noted that his eyes took in every detail. Even though she was still shivering she began to feel very warm.
"Could I have the blanket back please?" she asked quietly, not daring to look at him.
"Certainly," he replied. He draped it around her shoulders but his arm lingered across her back. He gently pulled her tangled hair out from under the blanket and smoothed it back from her face. "Do you feel any better?" he asked quietly.
She looked up at him and saw the heat in his eyes. She quickly looked away and replied with a shaky voice, "Yes, thank you."
"I hope you don't mind, but I inadvertently placed your wet cloak on the other bench and as that seat is now most likely soaked, I will have to sit next to you for the remainder of the journey," he said removing a damp tendril of hair from her face.
Virginia's heart was pounding so fast she again thought she might faint. He's just a man she thought. Just like Charles. So, why am I reacting this way? Why am I so hot and yet so cold at the same time? Drake was sitting slightly sideways on the seat with his arm across the back of it, looking at her.
"Why are you staring at me Mr. Stratford? Am I such a sight?"
Smoothing her hair again he said softly, "Yes, you are quite a sight."
Suddenly the carriage jolted and dipped sharply to one side throwing Virginia right into Drake's arms. Her face was pressed against his neck and he had his arms around her. She had instinctively put out her hands to brace herself and they had fallen onto his thighs. It didn't register right away where her hands were and as she breathed in the dark woodsy scent of him she squeezed her hands.
Drake, also overcome by having her once again so close to him, just held her to him, not daring to speak, not wanting to break the spell. But when her hands squeezed his thighs, the sudden heat in his loins told him he had to get her off of him.
Gently pushing her back, just far enough so that he could see her face, he asked, "Are you all right?"
With his face only inches from hers and her head swimming from being so close to him she didn't trust her voice. She nodded wordlessly and just stared into his warm and inviting eyes.
The carriage was still tilting sharply to one side. Drake pushed her up further and said, "I should check what's wrong with the carriage. If you could be so kind as to remove your hands from my thighs."
She looked down at her hands and snatched them away as if he were suddenly on fire. "I'm so sorry," she gasped.
He rose and placing a finger under her chin he tipped her face up to his. "I'm not." He flashed her a wicked grin as he pulled his own cloak about him and stepped from the carriage.
She looked out the window and saw that one of the two wheels of the carriage was broken. It appeared to have struck a large rock that was hidden by the muddy streets. The driver of the carriage was unharnessing one of the horses as Drake climbed back into the carriage.
Virginia was attempting to sit properly on the upper end of the slanting bench and keep the blanket wrapped around her. Drake sat sideways next to her, his back resting against the lower side wall of the cab. "We've broken a wheel and the driver is riding home to fetch another carriage. Until then, we are stuck here." He watched her with some amusement as she struggled to remain on her end of the seat. "I won't tell anyone if you would prefer to lean against me instead of struggling to sit upright," he said invitingly.
"First of all Mr. Stratford it is the height of impropriety that I am sitting in a carriage with you at all without a chaperone, and now without even the driver present. To lean against you is unspeakable," she said haughtily.
"Come, come my dear. You are clearly uncomfortable, you're also wet and cold. You should just come here and rest and keep warm."
He certainly was warm as she had noticed before when she had been thrown against him. And after her struggles out in the storm she was tired. But what he was suggesting was impossible.
"Perhaps if we just switched ends. You could sit up here and I down there," she suggested.
"But then Miss Templeton, I would want to rest against you," he said with a grin and a glint in his eye.
She looked over at the wet bench across from them. She was just beginning to dry off and she didn't want to sit on the wet bench. She looked at Drake again and thought I must be developing a fever or going mad to even consider this. Before she knew it she was saying, "Do you promise not to tell anyone and to not molest me in any way?"
"I already promised not to tell anyone," he said.
"What about molesting me? Can I trust you?" she asked warily.
"To molest you? Oh, I most certainly can do that," he replied wickedly.
"To not molest me," she admonished.
He looked at her for a moment, the heat burning in his eyes, before he said, "I can only promise to try. I am a man of strong will, my sweet, and you are very tempting."
"Please try to restrain yourself," she said coldly as she held out her hand so that he could assist her. She managed to twist around and lean her back against him and keep the blanket around her.
Gently rubbing the wool against her upper arms he said into her ear, "There now, isn't this better?"
She had to admit it was more comfortable than struggling on the other end of the pitched seat and he was rather warm. "How long will it be before the driver gets back?" she asked.
"Oh, I should think it will take at least an hour. Horses will need to be prepared for the other carriage plus with the weather it will take longer than usual."
He wrapped his arms around her, clasping his hands in front. This sent a flurry of butterflies swirling in her stomach. "Could you please lower your arms, Mr. Stratford?" she said, fighting to keep the tremor out of her voice.
"Ah yes, if I remember correctly, you don't much like having my arms around you," he said teasingly, referring to their two previous encounters. He lowered his arms and placed one arm along the back of the seat and the other hand on the bench next to her.
With the drumming of the rain on the roof of the carriage and leaning against his warm chest, Virginia soon drifted off to sleep.
Drake looked down at her as she lay sleeping against his chest. He gently smoothed back a loose curl from her forehead. Even soaking wet she was breathtakingly lovely. He lowered his face to her hair and inhaled her scent. She smelled fresh and sweet.
Her hair was beginning to dry and curly red tendrils were spread all around him. He knew he shouldn't, she would most likely be furious if she awoke, but he wrapped his arms around her again. He had told his driver to take his time returning with another coach. He wanted as much time alone as possible with this lovely young woman. He didn't know much more about her other than her name and that she had a fiery temperament, but somehow she had captured his heart. He couldn't stop thinking about her.
When he had first seen someone struggling down the street he knew he should stop but when he saw that mane of fiery red hair escape the hood of her cloak he immediately ordered the driver to stop. Being in the right place to rescue her was indeed a stroke of luck.
Gently he pulled the blanket away from her, his eyes scanning her body, fully revealed by the sodden dress still clinging to her. Very softly he ran his hands across her shoulders to rest on her upper arms. Looking down over her shoulder, he very gently trailed his fingers across the upper part of her breasts, surprising himself with how much he enjoyed this illicit touching.
His fingers rose and undid a few of the buttons at the neck of her bodice. Feeling emboldened by her continued slumber, he undid a few more until he glimpsed a swell of breast through the opening. He opened another couple of buttons until the top of her corset came into view. Spreading the fabric, he lustily gazed at her exposed flesh, gently rising and falling with her soft breaths.
Catching himself and knowing how she would react were she to awake and find herself in such a revealing state, he reluctantly began to do the buttons up again. He only had a few more to go when suddenly a bolt of lightning forked down from the sky with a loud crack followed by a rolling boom of thunder. Virginia started awake, frightened by the sounds. She clutched Drake's arms tightly. "What was that?" she asked in a scared voice.
"Just a bolt of lightning and then thunder," he said soothingly into her ear. "Nothing to be frightened of."
She held his arms tightly around her, and again started as another bolt of lightening lit the gray skies. She squeezed her eyes shut and tensed as the thunder boomed.
"Don't tell me you're afraid of thunder and lightning," he said. How lucky he had been to fasten her dress when he did, he thought to himself. Although, she was so frightened by the sounds of the storm that she most likely wouldn't notice right away.
"The noises are just so loud and seem so close," she replied.
"Well, you're safe here with me," he said reassuringly. "How about to take your mind off the storm, why don't you tell me what you were doing in town?"
She hesitated and then relaxing slightly, she said, "I was at the dressmakers, choosing fabric for a gown."
"You ventured out into this weather for that?"
"It's a special gown, for an upcoming ball." She knew at this point that she should tell him about Charles but for some reason she didn't. "The original fabric I had chosen is no longer available, so I had to choose something else."
"And what did you choose?" he asked, again stroking the hair back from her face.
His touch on her temple was so unexpected, she felt as though one of those lightning bolts shot right through her. She closed her eyes and sighed as she felt his hands lightly stroking her hair. She had thoroughly forgotten that he had asked her a question until he repeated it. "Well? What did you choose?"
"Choose? Oh, the fabric. A watered silk in light mauve."
He chuckled softly at her confusion. He liked that he was able to distract her. Another bolt of lighting cracked through the sky and she let out a small cry as she clutched again at Drake's arms. "It's alright," he murmured in her ear as she shuddered at the boom of the following thunder. Trying to distract her he said, "I'm sure you'll look absolutely delectable in that gown," he whispered softly in her ear.
His seductively whispered compliment sent a shiver down her spine. She once again found her breath quickening. "Thank you," she said softly.
"All the men at that ball will be dying to dance with you. You probably won't have a moment's rest."
She guiltily thought of Charles and how since the ball was to celebrate their wedding, she most likely wouldn't dance with any of the eligible bachelors. "Oh I don't know about that," she said. "Violet usually gets all the attention at balls and dances."
"Violet?" He questioned.
"Yes, Violet Adams. I was with her the first time we...met," she said.
He dimly recalled a dark haired young woman with Virginia that day. With Virginia totally capturing his attention he had hardly noticed her. "Oh yes, I remember now. I can't believe she outshines you. I barely noticed her...when we...met," he teased.
"Well, if she had been the one in need of assistance, you probably wouldn't have noticed me."
Once again whispering softly in her ear he said, "I'm not so sure about that. You're a very beautiful young woman."
With his breath once again tickling her ear, her breath caught in her throat. Drake silently chuckled to himself. Yes, he was very pleased that he could have this affect on her. He gently pulled the blanket down off her shoulders and pushing the hair away from her neck he said softly, "Very hard not to notice." His breath tickled the side of her neck, and she closed her eyes and sighed.
He trailed a finger down the side of her throat and heard her suck in a shaky breath. Struggling for composure she said, "Please, Mr. Stratford, you promised to behave."
"I only promised to try," he continued in the same seductive tone. "But I'm afraid, Miss Templeton, that I've been overwhelmed by your charms." With that he gently placed a kiss on her neck.
At the touch of his lips, she gasped loudly. The butterflies in her stomach tripled in size and a tingling sensation radiated out from where he had kissed her. He wound his fingers in her hair, holding her head to him and kissed her neck again. She clutched at his arms, knowing that she should demand that he stop but also not wanting him to. He kissed her throat again and this time she felt his tongue gently touch her flesh. Against her will, a small moan escaped her lips.
Encouraged by her reaction, he boldly slid the tip of his tongue down the entire length of her throat. Virginia's mind was in a whirl. She forgot where she was, she forgot about Charles and the betrayal that she was committing. Drake nibbled on her ear lobe and she softly moaned again.
He shifted in his seat and tipping her face up to his he gently pressed his lips to hers. She melted against him, surrendering to the feelings that were fluttering wildly through her. Her body pressed against his as her inexperienced lips submitted to his, letting him kiss her with a passion that sent her senses spinning. Tenderly, his lips urged hers open and his tongue gently outlined her lips. Her eyes flew open as she suddenly realized that things had gone too far. She pushed at his chest and tried to pull her head away but with his hand entwined in her hair he held her fast.
Feeling her struggles he pulled away and withdrew his hand from her hair. Virginia sat up and looked at him. She could see the passion burning in his eyes. They were the same eyes she remembered from her uneasy dreams. He reached out and touched her cheek. She shrank back. She was on the verge of falling back into his arms so that he could kiss her again and she couldn't allow that to happen. She was engaged to Charles she reminded herself. Yet why did she not want to tell him, this man who awoke such feelings in her, aroused her so?