tagNovels and NovellasMarrying for Money Ch. 12

Marrying for Money Ch. 12

byharemgirl©

The next day, life began to return to its normal state at The Meadows, as the staff labored to remove all traces of the ball. Pieces of furniture were moved back to their original locations, the yards of decorative fabric were taken down and carefully stored for future use, and the huge house was once again cleaned and polished to a sparkling sheen. Steven and Trevor resumed their normal duties, directing the planting and cultivation of the fields, overseeing the care of the livestock and buildings, and attending to the endless flow of paperwork required for running the large estate.

Amanda and Leanna enjoyed a much deserved day of rest before resuming their usual activities. The bond of friendship between them, while still new, grew stronger with each passing day. They soon learned that they shared a similar sense of humor, and it was not uncommon for them to dissolve into fits of laughter while they were busy collaborating on the numerous daily decisions that had to be made. There was no longer any friction between them concerning the planning of menus or the allocation of resources, and all the inhabitants of the plantation benefited from having two such clever women involved in running the household.

The estate flourished as never before. Even the elements seemed to conspire to help the Grayson family, providing just the right amount of rain and sunshine and moderate temperatures. Still, Trevor could not shake a growing sense of unease. Some nights as he lay awake long after Leanna was sound asleep. He experienced the same feelings of dread as a sea captain on a red dawn. In his gut, he knew that this was the calm before the storm.

To satisfy his protective urges, Trevor enlisted the help of the household staff, taking them into his confidence to ensure that his wife was never left entirely alone. He arranged it so that someone would always be nearby in case Leanna needed their assistance.

A week after the ball, Eliza sent a note asking to bring Miranda for a visit. Trevor was instantly suspicious of her motives, and his first instinct was to refuse. Though he couldn't voice his fears, he didn't want Eliza anywhere near his wife, he simply didn't trust her. However, Leanna wouldn't hear of refusing. With her gentle persistence, she persuaded him that a luncheon would be appropriate, and Trevor finally relented and allowed her to make the arrangements.

On the appointed day, Eliza arrived with Miranda, and for once, Eliza was respectful to Leanna. A delicious repast was shared, and then the family and their guests adjourned to the music room, where the tall windows afforded a picturesque view of the grounds in early spring.

Eliza was determined that Trevor should take an interest in the child, and she directed Miranda to sit beside him on the settee. Eliza extolled the child's virtues, gaily chattering about Miranda's interests and talents as Trevor, Leanna, Steven and Amanda politely listened, rarely able to get a word in edgewise. Under a thin veneer of politeness, Eliza managed to drop numerous hints and catty remarks, doing her best to get under Leanna's skin and undermine her relationship with Trevor.

Leanna remained unruffled as she let the nasty comments roll off her back. Sitting in a chair to Trevor's left, Leanna and made every effort to be hospitable. The fact that her husband was inclined to reach for her hand, often giving it a reassuring squeeze and her a warm smile, made Leanna's task of polite endurance considerably easier.

Throughout the afternoon, Leanna continually found her interest being drawn to Miranda. Almost against her will, Leanna was charmed by Miranda. The child was beautiful, obviously inheriting her delicately perfect features from her mother, but she was painfully shy. To Leanna, the reason for the child's shyness was obvious, for Eliza was forever stopping in mid sentence to chastise Miranda in strident tones. The child sat with her large, round blue eyes down turned and listened as her mother kept up a steady stream of dull conversation. When Miranda did chance to glance around, her eyes usually traveled to Trevor, and it was clear that she was curious about him.

Growing bored with her mother's monologue, Miranda eventually wandered over to the piano and looked wonderingly at the gleaming keys. Leanna followed her and gave her a warm smile when the girl began to sidle away. Leanna knelt down to be at the child's level. "Would you like to play it?" she asked her softly.

"Miranda," Eliza said harshly, "come away from there and for heaven's sake, don't touch the piano. I'm sure Leanna doesn't want your smudgy fingerprints on it." The last thing Eliza wanted was for Miranda to become friendly with her rival.

Leanna gave Eliza a cajoling look as she answered quietly. "Of course I don't mind if she plays it. Please let her."

When it looked as if Eliza were going to refuse, Trevor quietly intervened. "It's alright, Eliza. Leave her be." Trevor's tone was low but brooked no refusal, and he gave Eliza a warning look.

Eliza could hardly press the point without appearing rude. She gave Leanna a brittle smile. "Well, alright, but only for a little while, Miranda. Then, you need to come back over here and sit beside your Daddy." Not wanting Trevor's attention to be centered on Leanna, Eliza turned to him and resumed her prattle.

Ignoring the others, Leanna turned back to Miranda and smiled once more as she repeated in a kindly tone, "would you like to play it?"

There was a long silence, as Miranda watched her, trying to decide if she should talk to this beautiful lady. Just when Leanna had begun to fear that the child wasn't going to answer her, Miranda whispered in a barely audible voice, "I don't know how."

"Hmmm," murmured Leanna, with another smile. "I could show you, if you like."

This elicited the tiniest of smiles from Miranda, and she nodded her head in agreement. Leanna placed the bench where the child would be able to reach the keys, and they sat down side by side on the seat. Leanna showed her the correct way to place her hands, and Miranda curved her dimpled, chubby hands, doing her best to imitate Leanna's more elegant finger position. Leanna patiently showed her how to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, speaking in encouraging murmurs and sometimes placing her hand over Miranda's to show her the notes. Slow progress was made, but after several minutes, the child was able to plunk out the tune by herself.

Miranda turned astonished eyes up to Leanna, obviously proud of her accomplishment. For the first time that afternoon, her tiny lips curved into a genuine smile.

"I did it," she whispered in awe.

Leanna gave her a glorious smile as she whispered a reply. "That's wonderful! I'm sure you are going to be a very talented musician."

Eliza was getting increasingly annoyed as she noticed that Trevor's attention kept straying to the pair at the piano. "Okay darling," Eliza said shrilly. "We're tired of listening to that endless pounding. Now come back over here and behave yourself."

Leanna noticed that Miranda's smile promptly evaporated, and she scampered to return to her seat beside Trevor. Leanna suppressed a sigh of irritation, and also went to rejoin the group.

The afternoon passed without further incident. As they all stood in the foyer chatting while Eliza and Miranda were preparing to leave, Leanna knelt down once more and smiled at Miranda.

"I hope you will come to visit us again."

Miranda gave her a shy smile and whispered, "Me too. I like you."

Leanna grinned, replying in a conspiratorial whisper, "I like you too." Conscious that Eliza was watching them with rising ire, Leanna stood up. Glancing first at Trevor, Leanna turned to Eliza and smiled hopefully. "Perhaps you would like to come again," she offered, spreading her hands palm up, "maybe in a week or two."

Eliza was finding it very hard to maintain her uncustomary civility, but she managed a brittle smile and gave a noncommittal response. "Perhaps. I have a very busy schedule, but I will let you know."

Eliza made it sound as if she were doing them a huge favor. Taking a firm hold on Miranda's hand, Eliza turned to leave before she remembered and abruptly turned back. Giving her daughter's hand an impatient shake, Eliza harshly admonished her.

"Miranda darling, you didn't say goodbye to your Daddy."

Miranda remained mute, looking up at Trevor with frightened eyes. Feeling slightly awkward and not wanting to put the child on the spot, Trevor gave Miranda a small bow and a warm smile.

"Goodbye, Miranda. It was very pleasant meeting you today. I hope you will soon come again."

When Miranda still made no reply, Eliza gave an exasperated huff and towed her daughter out to their coach. As Trevor, Leanna, Amanda and Steven stood helplessly on the front porch, Eliza scolded the child incessantly until the pair was out of earshot. The Grayson's heaved a collective sigh of relief as they watched the coach rolling down the drive.

Later that evening in the afterglow of their lovemaking, Trevor and Leanna lay side by side in the huge bed, gazing at each other. Trevor brushed a gentle finger down her cheek.

"I was so proud of you today, the way you handled Eliza and Miranda," he whispered hoarsely.

Leanna gave him a questioning frown. "Why? I didn't do anything special."

"There aren't many wives who would be so warm and friendly, given the circumstances." Trevor looked at her wonderingly. "You are the most generous and caring woman I've ever known."

Leanna's smile was radiant as she plumbed the sapphire depths of her husband's eyes. "Well, it's easy to be generous and caring when all my dreams have come true."

She gave him a tender kiss before venturing down to his chest, leaving a trail of tingling skin in her wake. Her lips were like molten fire, trailing and teasing their way to all his most sensitive spots. When her lips enfolded his cock, hardened once again despite its recent activity, Trevor groaned.

"Are you too tired?" Leanna asked with a sly smile, lovingly licking his throbbing shaft.

Trevor groaned again but urged her mouth down on him. "Not if my sweet little whore still wants more," he managed through gritted teeth.

"Ummm, I definitely do," Leanna murmured.

She proceeded to show him just how much she wanted him, as she licked and sucked until he was gripping the sheets in clenched fists. When he couldn't stand it a moment later, he lifted her, set her on hands and knees and plunged into her. When he was fully seated inside her, Trevor shuddered with pleasure. He settled into a steady rhythm, loving the feel of her buttocks slapping against his groin.

Riding her as he gripped her hips and heard her appreciative moans, Trevor realized he would do anything to keep Leanna happy and safe. She had become his entire world. When he felt the muscles inside her convulsively squeezing his cock as she climaxed, he let go and poured himself inside her.

He waited for the last twitches to fade before he withdrew and pulled her head down on his shoulder. Leanna gave him one more lingering kiss before snuggling against his side to sleep.

Trevor held her for a long time, staring up at the canopy. He too felt like all his dreams had come true. In fact, the life they were building together seemed almost too good to last, and he desperately hoped his fears were unfounded. If anything happened to Leanna, his dream would quickly become a nightmare.

***********

Leanna was pleasantly surprised to receive a note from Eliza asking to arrange for another visit the following week. Leanna promptly replied with an invitation for another luncheon the following Wednesday. She was determined to do everything she could to foster a relationship between Trevor and Miranda, because she felt that the child clearly needed positive attention. In the late afternoon, Leanna sat with Amanda over tea, discussing the arrangements.

"I don't know how you can be so hospitable," Amanda sighed. "I can't help but wonder what I ever saw in Eliza. Now I know what a selfish, sneaky, manipulative woman she is. If it were my husband Eliza had set her sights on, I wouldn't allow her to set foot in my house, much less come for regular visits."

Leanna shrugged lamely. "I'm not doing it for Eliza, I'm doing it for Trevor and Miranda." Her eyes pleaded with Amanda to understand her position and her reasoning. "I don't want to do anything to stand in the way of Trevor getting to know his daughter. And besides, I feel sad for that child. She must be very lonely and unhappy." Leanna made a horrified grimace. "Can you imagine having Eliza for your mother?"

Both women laughed. "No," cried Amanda. "I don't even want to be around her anymore, I can't imagine having her boss me around all the time. How awful!"

"Ummm," Leanna sipped her tea as she murmured in agreement. "That's why I empathize so much with Miranda. I see these visits as a small thing I can do to try and make her life a little more pleasant."

Amanda shook her head at Leanna's thoughtfulness. "Well, I admire you, but I don't want to be around Eliza any more than I have to be. Now that I see how she really is, she wears on my nerves. Why, last time she was here, I almost chewed my tongue off trying to keep from telling her to shut up!"

Both women burst into uncontrollable giggles, and an occasional, very unladylike snort. When they finally calmed again, Amanda sipped her tea thoughtfully.

"I think I will take little Will into town on the day of the luncheon and do some shopping. That way, I won't have to sit around here again, listening to Eliza's incessant whining."

"Some sister you are," Leanna teased. "Just abandon me to go off shopping and leave me here to make small talk with Eliza!"

Amanda laughed again. "Better you than me!"

Leanna put the back of her hand to her brow and gave a mournful, martyred sigh, making her sister-in-law laugh all the harder. "Ah well, someone has to do it."

*************

When the appointed Wednesday for the luncheon arrived, the weather had turned nasty, with an ugly squall rolling in from over the ocean. Amanda refused to let her plans be changed, and she left for her shopping excursion a good two hours before Eliza was scheduled to arrive.

Leanna settled down to write some letters, feeling the need to send recent news to her brother. She had written to him twice before but had not received a reply. She sighed, reminding herself that it might be several months before their correspondence could reach each other.

A light drizzle began to fall outside as she finished the letter, glancing at the mantle clock to note that it had only been half an hour since Amanda left. Leanna was surprised therefore, when she heard the sound of a coach pulling up the driveway. Her forehead creasing in bemusement, Leanna went out onto the front porch in time to see Eliza's coach pull to a stop. Eliza waited to be helped down by her burly coachman and came briskly up the stairs, not pausing until she was beneath the portico. Leanna's confusion only intensified as she noted that Miranda was not with her mother. She turned to Eliza with a perplexed frown.

"Hello Eliza. Where is Miranda, and why have you come so early?"

Eliza hesitated and gave Leanna a somewhat apologetic smile. "Leanna, I'm so sorry to impose. Miranda was not feeling well this morning, so I'm afraid she couldn't make it for lunch. I was hoping instead that you and I might be able to go for a short drive." Eliza looked at her pleadingly. "I would like the chance to speak with you in private." Eliza delicately bit her bottom lip, looking shamefaced as she continued. "I feel that it is time for us to settle our animosity so that Trevor can enjoy a close relationship with his daughter."

Leanna delayed answering as she grappled with her shock. The very last thing she had expected to receive from Eliza was an olive branch. Leanna looked out at the sky, seeing that the weather appeared to be deteriorating rapidly and a steady rain was falling. She gestured into the house.

"It really doesn't look like a very pleasant day for a drive. Why don't you come inside and we can talk over tea?" she suggested.

Eliza looked down and wrung her hands. "I'd rather not talk where Trevor might come in at any moment and interrupt us." She gave Leanna another cajoling look as she continued. "When we were here last week, I could tell that you liked Miranda. For her sake, I would like to work things out between us. I'm only asking for a small amount of your time."

Leanna searched the other woman's face for several moments before she finally gave a small nod of acquiescence. "Alright," she murmured quietly. "Let me fetch my cloak and let Dora, the housekeeper, know where I'm going.

Eliza gave her a grateful smile and patted her arm as if they were the dearest of friends. "I'll find Dora for you and tell her we're going for a short drive while you run upstairs to get your cloak. That way, we'll have a bit more time to talk."

Eliza's gracious manner was so uncharacteristic that Leanna paused, feeling uneasy for the first time. However, she quickly dismissed the feeling, concentrating instead on the possibility that she might finally be able to work things out peacefully with Eliza. She nodded once more and hurried upstairs while Eliza went in search of Dora. In only a few moments, Leanna returned and followed Eliza into the waiting coach. The coachman whipped the horses into a brisk trot, and they lurched into motion.

Leanna cleared her throat nervously, unsure how to proceed. After several moments of stilted silence, she plunged in. "So Eliza, what did you wish to talk about?"

Eliza turned from gazing out the window and looked at Leanna as if she had almost forgotten her presence. She gave her a condescending smile. Her manner had altered drastically since they had entered the coach.

"Oh, many things. I must tell you that I think it is simply charming the way that you and Trevor have become so close." She ignored Leanna's puzzled frown and blithely continued. "Why, everyone is talking about what a loving couple you were at the ball. I just can't get over your attachment for one another."

Leanna failed to see where this topic of conversation was leading, but she was determined to be patient, hoping that Eliza would soon get to the point. "Thank you, Eliza," she murmured hesitantly. "I hope you know that I have never intended to cause you any pain."

Eliza's laugh was scornful. "My dear Leanna," she sneered, "you haven't caused me any pain, but you have caused me a great deal of trouble."

Leanna's unease magnified considerably, and she felt goosebumps rising on her arms as she looked into the other woman's narrowed eyes. She tried again to get the discussion onto a more productive track.

"Eliza, I thought you said you wanted to work things out between us."

Eliza gave her a cold smile, tilting her head to the side as she considered her. When she spoke, there was pure malice in her tone. "Indeed Leanna. That is precisely what I am doing. I have finally decided to settle things once and for all."

Leanna frowned. She knew with sudden certainty that she had to get away from Eliza. Leanna gave a quick glance out the window and saw that the coach was nearly to the gates that led onto the main road. It had begun to rain heavily now, and a strong wind was whipping at the trees. While she didn't relish the thought of walking back home in this downpour, she had certainly had enough of Eliza's company. Leanna leaned forward and rapped smartly on the roof as she called out to the coachman.

"Stop please, I would like to get off here!"

The coach never paused, and Eliza gave a cackle of glee. "Oh, my dear, he's not going to listen to any of your pleas. He has his instructions, and he won't stop until we get where we're going."

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