I know it's been a while since my last submission. Frankly, I'm not too sure what to do with Darkest Temptations. There is a lot of confusing elements within my characters that I have already released. I need to find a way to make it work. Anyways I was reading around Lit and came across several different stories. For me I have always been interested in historical romance. I'm not quite sure why. Anyways I hope you guys enjoy. No promises but I have been working on another story.
All comments and feedback are appreciated.
Elaine Lancelot rushed downstairs to meet her long awaited brother. He had been gone for nearly half a year and he returning home near to midnight did not deter Elaine in her conviction to see him at all.
"William!" she cried as she saw her brother shedding his coat and handing it to the butler. He looked positively radiant. William's blue eyes met with Elaine and he grinned.
"Elaine!" he exclaimed, "I didn't think you would still be up."
"I do not think that even if you were home I would go to sleep any earlier!" Elaine laughed. William eased a smile on his face. "Yes," he said slowly rubbing his eyes, "I suppose that bit is true."
"Would you like some water?" Elaine asked.
"Why don't we have a light snack together? You seem to be bustling with energy."
Elaine nodded. "Do you have much to tell me?"
"Of course, come. There is definitely much I have to tell you."
The two walked down the long hallway that was filled with paintings. Elaine's favorite was the painting of a waterfall and lake and large rolling green hills in the background; that painting had always represented freedom to her. Elaine and William continued past the paintings and walked by a flight of stairs that led to the second floor. They then turned left and walked down the hallway where the dining parlor was at the very end of the hall.
"What do you want to eat?" William asked Elaine as they sat down at the large table.
Elaine paused before answering, "Just a cup of tea and a few crackers."
William nodded and rang a bell, shortly after their chef arrived. He had been expecting Lord William earlier that day and had purposely stayed up for Lord William's return. "What can I get you Lord William?" the chef asked.
"Elaine would like to have a cup of tea and crackers, I would like the same."
The chef nodded, "Yes Lord William."
As the chef walked away Elaine asked her brother, "I always wondered how the chef made our crackers. They have just the right amount of crunch and saltiness."
William nodded his head. "So when was away in Cambridge I discovered something very interesting."
Elaine raised an eyebrow. "What is it?"
"It appears that you are to be engaged soon."
Elaine's eyes widened with disbelief, her hands lay spread on the table as if she were angry. "Me! Engaged! To whom?"
"The Duke of Bradsforth, Lord .... Lord.... uh...." William stammered his eyebrows burrowed in concentration, "Lord...― I think I have forgotten the duke's name!"
Elaine laughed but the smile quickly faded and was replaced by a deep frown. "That is a shame," she stated dully, "The season has yet to start and here I am with already a marriage prospect. I was hoping to have more time to myself. Marrying at twenty years is a bit too soon, don't you agree Will?"
William shrugged. "I never understood your conviction of having more freedom. You have already had tons of scandal around you. First with Lord Drew, then Lord Thomas, then it was... who was it? Oh yes it was Marquees Rutherford. All you do it hang around with men. I don't think the Duke would want his future wife like that; your honor may be on the line. Why not try to meet the duke first?"
Elaine shook her head vigorously. "I've heard horrible rumors about the Duke, I even have enough information to question his honor."
William took in a sharp breath. "What do you mean?"
"I knew a girl once― Will you mustn't tell anyone." Elaine continued when William assured her he would keep his word. "Do you remember Victoria? Well she and the duke had been friends for a long time. It wasn't until he was swayed by her beauty that he seduced her into his bedchamber."
"Victoria!" William cried out, "What did the Duke tell her afterwards?"
"He said he already had a prior engagement but when Victoria asked of the lady's name the Duke said he had forgotten her name."
William growled. "It is fortunate that Victoria has not been caught. No doubt there would still be several men willing to wed her but I doubt she would be satisfied with any of them."
Elaine sighed desperately. "Will you must help me, surely you can't marry me to that rake! You could let me be free, I could go to America!"
"No," William said sternly, "I do not think that your reputation is any better Elaine. If you remember you had only ended the season early because of all that scandal. I still don't understand why you don't wish to marry. Anyhow I will see to the Duke and try to become acquainted with him. Perhaps Victoria had misunderstood his intentions and persuaded him herself. We must hear both of them out."
Frowning Elaine nodded. "Very well, but the men you mentioned were only friends, acquaintances actually. Just because they have... different reputations in respect to women it does not mean that it should be scandalous," she defended.
"Then why are you worried about marriage to the Duke if you claim ignorance?"
"If he is to be my husband I expect loyalty."
William frowned, "You will have a difficult time finding a husband."
Elaine shrugged, "Tell me of your other business then."
"Ah, well Charles stopped by and inquired about you. He wanted to know how you were."
Elaine raised an eyebrow. "Charles? As in the Marquees of Kensington?"
William nodded. Suddenly a knock at the door sounded and the chef walked in. "Lady Elaine," he said placing on the table a small, intricately designed china plate, "Lord William."
"Thank you Emerson," Elaine said.
"It is my pleasure." Emerson, the chef, said. He quickly exited the kitchen room, probably very eager to sleep.
Elaine took a sip of her tea. "I will never tire of English tea or English crackers."
William smiled. "Indeed it seems so."
Elaine gave a desperate sigh. This was going to be a problem, a huge problem. Elaine wondered what she could do to rid herself of this man. How could she escape― then it struck her. She would flee. If the Duke of Bradsforth couldn't find her then all would be well. Elaine was determined to escape this marriage. If she got married, even to anyone else, her freedom would be beyond limited. There would be no more staying up late until midnight chatting with her brother. She would not be permitted to drink brandy. She would be prohibited from playing cards. Furthermore she would feel like a little girl's toy, except that she would belong to a man. Her husband would just dress her up and expect her to attend balls and bear heirs for him. A dark frown crossed her face when she realized that she would have to bear children. Children by themselves were fine; it was the pain of child-bearing that she despised and feared. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to Elaine. Elaine did not want to have the same fate.
William munched quietly on his snack watching Elaine intently. There was no doubt in his mind that his younger sister was thinking of a possible way to escape this engagement. "If what you said is true Elaine," he started, "Perhaps I could help you call off the engagement."
Elaine broke away her train of thoughts. "You would help me go to America?" she asked astonished.
William laughed, "As if. No, but if we accept more invitations to more balls and evening parties I'm sure other gentlemen would be more interested. After all we are a rather beautiful family."
Elaine stared at William. "Your time at Cambridge must have really influenced you. I don't remember you ever saying that before."
"Yes, I suppose," William pondered. He then looked towards his left and saw that it was almost one in the morning.
"Will, I do think it's time for bed now," Elaine remarked also noticing the time.
"Yes, I will see you tomorrow. Would you like to go riding at ten in the morning?"
Elaine nodded. "Yes," she grinned.
William said he would stay a few more minutes to help clean up. He didn't want to wake the maids for such a simple task.
Elaine made her way up the stairs. Her body was tired but her mind was undoubtedly awake. A prior engagement! Ha, she laughed, as if she would give up her freedom. Elaine wasn't the least persuaded by the pretense of freedom that the women had in England. Everything was to their husband's whim. If there was scandal surrounding a man, nothing would happen to him. His position in the king's court, his estates, his place in society, everything would be kept unharmed. However, if a woman were to have scandal, not only would her husband or all prior engagements be called off but society would ruin her. The woman would be cast out from all places. She would have to work on her hands and feet to earn a living; no woman deemed respectable would be capable of doing that.
Elaine reached her room and opened the door. She walked to her desk which was placed at the opposite side of the room away from her bed. She slumped down into her large, comfortable chair. How could she possibly manage to force the Duke to call of the engagement? Elaine thought of confronting the Duke but she pushed the idea away immediately. If the man was drawn to beauty there was no doubt that he would want to keep her. Elaine did not think that she was beautiful, but she knew she wasn't ugly or common either. She did not want to take any risks.
Finally after hours of thinking Elaine's mind was starting to tire. She slowly walked over to her bed and fell on top of it. She pulled a few thin layers of blanket over her and quickly fell asleep.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Leighton Astor awoke. The sun's rays hit his eyes and quickly he turned away from them only to be greeted by a warm body.
The woman next to him gave him a smile and wrapped her arms around his next.
"Not right now," Leighton protested, peeling the woman's arms away from him.
A frown crossed her face, "I have never heard the Duke of Bradsforth deny a woman before."
Leighton smiled, "Perhaps but there is a first for everything. You may lie here if you so wish but I have business to attend to. Although my time in London is long I still I have much to do."
The woman looked upset but didn't say anything more. She continued to lie in the bed.
"Good, I will see you tonight then love," Leighton said to her.
He got up from the bed and walked over to his bathroom. He noticed that warm water had already been drawn up for him. Leighton shed his clothes and then climbed into the bath. He splashed his face with water and scrubbed it until it was clean. He did the same for the rest of his body.
Two nights ago his brother, James Astor, had decided to pay him a visit only to remind Leighton that he would be engaged soon. Leighton scoffed; leave it to James to be the dutiful son of the Astor family. Leighton frowned at the idea of the engagement. Although he didn't mind marriage he certainly didn't want to be married to a ... well he wasn't sure how to put it. Leighton did however, want to know the girl. He wanted to give the girl a chance. His eyebrows burrowed together trying to recall what the girl's name was. Ah, that's right, Lady Elaine, the Duke of Avondale's younger sister. Certainly the girl was still young; he had never seen her before. If she was to be married to him soon, which meant she was probably nineteen as of now as the engagement said, then she would have had to have made her debut at least two seasons ago.
Perhaps he should attend the next ball; it was going to open season after all. Besides he hadn't been to a ball in ages nor had he ever seen Lady Elaine. He was sure that she would be there.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Ah," Elaine breathed out, "That was a beautiful ride; we should do that more often now that you are home."
William grinned. "You would have never had agreed to a ride before. Frankly I was surprised when you had said yes."
"W-w-w-ell," Elaine stammered, and then straightened up in her saddle, "I guess having you gone for half a year did make me lonely," she emphasize, "Besides with the season finished early and then me having to spend all that time alone, it did make me feel quite sad."
"You don't have to worry," William assured her, "I have bought a permanent residence in London."
"Really?" Elaine exclaimed, "I suppose the ball will be held in Lord Buckingham's manor, that is if the rumors are true, before the king buys it."
"Yes, the king apparently wants to buy the home so it would be closer to central London."
Elaine agreed, "That makes sense. It would be closer to Parliament anyways. When do we leave?"
"Today, but do not worry, I have already ordered everything for us so the clothes will have already arrived."
Elaine's eyes lit up. "That is amazing Will! I was started to dread packing for the trip," she breathed out relieved.
"Yes, I saw your face fall when I said 'today' you did not look happy at all. I was going to surprise you and make you pack but you looked so upset so I decided against it."
Elaine smiled. "If only you could do the same for that engagement."
William shook his head. "No."
Elaine kicked her horse and shouted to William behind her, "Last one to the stable has to pack!"
Elaine concentrated and pushed her horse forward. She heard William approaching fast. Elaine tightened her leg muscles around the horse's body and urged it to run faster still.
"Ha!" Elaine laughed when she made it to the stable.
She looked at William triumphantly. William nodded his head, "Yes you have beaten me. So what do you say to a round of cards?"
Elaine ignored William causing him to laugh. She knew he could beat her at cards with his eyes closed. William had been an expert card player since he was ... well Elaine wasn't even sure but it was long enough for her not to remember.
They arrived at London on the second day of their travel. Elaine stared at the new townhouse. It was stunning. She counted three floors. It was large for a townhouse.
"Let's go," William said to Elaine walking her forward.
Aurelia, Elaine and William's new maid opened the door.
"Lord William," Aurelia greeted.
"Hello Aurelia," William replied, "Is everything ready?"
"Yes my lord."
"This is my younger sister Elaine," William told Aurelia.
"Good morning madam," Aurelia greeted.
Elaine offered a kind smile. "Hello."
"Come," Aurelia said motioning for Elaine to follow her, "I will show you around."
Aurelia took Elaine on a tour of the townhouse. The kitchen and dining parlor as well as the meeting room were all on the first floor. The second floor was the study that also had a small library and two rooms, each with a bathroom. On the third was one room with a bathroom.
"Are you to stay here?" Elaine asked Aurelia on the third floor.
"Yes," Aurelia replied, "Lord William has given me one of the rooms in the townhouse, I am very thankful."
"That was kind of him," Elaine said aloud. "Aurelia, do you know when the next ball is; I seem to have forgotten the date."
Aurelia's eyes lit up. "It is in two days madam. Would you like to see your new dresses?"
Elaine looked at Aurelia. She seemed very excited. "Of course, but why are you so excited?"'
Aurelia continued to smile. "My mother runs a shop in London and Paris. She travels often back and forth. We have five girls in the family and one brother. He is still young and we are putting in as much money as we can into his education. Although mother earns a very good living as a designer we have seven people to feed and take care of. It is very hard. I want you to see her work."
Elaine grinned. Aurelia must be very proud of her mother.
The two made their way down to the second floor and Aurelia crossed the room and opened up the large closet that William had designed for Elaine. Inside were several different gowns and daytime dresses she could wear.
"Would you like to choose one for the upcoming ball?" Aurelia offered.
"Thank you but why don't you do me the honor of picking out your favorite?" Aurelia grinned and turned back to the closet. She turned back again to examine Elaine.
Elaine noticed Aurelia's eyes scan over her face and over her light brown hair.
"Your eyes are very beautiful, hazel-brown is one of my favorite colors," Aurelia remarked.
"Thank you Aurelia," Elaine replied.
Aurelia turned back and picked out a royal blue dress for Elaine.
"Here Lady Elaine, should we try it on?"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Leighton entered Buckingham Manor with one intention. He was to find this Elaine... what was her surname? Suddenly he remembered. It was Elaine Lancelot, younger sister of the Duke of Avondale.
"Leighton?" a voice asked sounding very shocked.
Leighton turned around. "Edward!" he exclaimed, "How are you?"
The handsome man chuckled, "I'm surprised you are here. This is the first time that you have ever attended the open season ball."
"Well, I came for a reason."
Edward raised his eyebrows. "A lady perhaps, I suppose you will be busy tonight then."
"Did you want to talk?" Leighton inquired.
Edward shook his head. "No, I can visit you later at your residence," he brushed off airily when a woman caught his eye.
Leighton's gaze followed. The woman had light brown hair and was wearing a royal blue color gown. The sleeves reached a little below her shoulders, revealing her delicate upper form and exposing her neck. As the woman approached he noted that she looked younger that he had originally thought. He reckoned that she was around twenty to twenty two years, not too far from his twenty four years.
Before Leighton could respond Edward had left and went in the direction of the mysterious woman. No doubt there would be several men approaching her tonight; he would wait until later. Meanwhile Leighton decided that he would resume his search of Elaine Lancelot.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Leighton coughed lightly causing the mysterious woman in blue to turn around. Her eyes were a hazel brown; her skin was light and creamy. Leighton's eyes scanned over her body. She was tall for a woman; she came up to his shoulder.
"Hello uh Lord..." the woman stopped. "Sorry, may I inquire after your name?" she asked the man while regaining her composure.
"I am Lord Leighton," Leighton replied, "May I ask your name?"
"Lady Elaine," she replied.
Leighton raised an eyebrow. "Lady Elaine?" he echoed. "Could I know your full name?"
Elaine paused and then smiled. "You have no need of my full name; unless you can give me a just reason to know"
Leighton smiled. "I could give my full name," he offered.
Elaine's smile faded. "That is not a reason," she told him, "I asked for a reason not an offer."
Leighton continued smiling seemingly ignorant of her last comment. "Very well, since I do not seem to have a just reason I suppose I have to do with Lady Elaine. Would you care to take a walk with me?"
Elaine paused. "I would be delighted."
Leighton, who had frequented Buckingham Manor on several occasions, more on business dealings though, knew his way to the garden. He did not know why he had asked Lady Elaine on a walk, he wondered if she had even thought of her answer before she went out with him. Was she unaware of how judgmental the ton was?