|The Games We Play
by Fanta C ©
was split into 8 parts. Jump to any of the segments from here:
swiped at the tears that were beginning to dry on her cheeks. "I am
quite fine," she assured him politely before changing the subject.
"Laird MacDuell, why is it that you're the head of a Scottish clan,
have a Scottish name, yet don't speak with a Scottish burr?"
"I was wondering when you would notice. My father, Ian MacDuell, was laird of the clan MacDuell until he stepped down, bestowing me with the title four years ago, an uncommon occurrence I assure you. I expected to take over after his death. My mother, Rebecca Sinclair, lived in Northern England. When she was seventeen she met Ian and they fell in love. From the letters that she wrote they were soulmates, meant to be together forever. After a very short courtship, my father asked my mother to marry him. She agreed and they consummated the marriage before it occurred. That's when she became pregnant with me. Unfortunately, her parents weren't about to let her marry a Scot who was below her station in life. Since she was already with child, they had to bribe a man, who was in need of money, to marry her, child and all."
"Her parents had her married the day before she was to meet Ian to elope. When she didn't show up the next day, he was crushed and assumed that she hadn't really loved him. He returned to Scotland and married a girl who had been in love with him her whole life. He had no heirs by this woman, who eventually died in childbirth, the child with her, and came in search of my mother, hoping against hope that he would find her. He had been searching for explanations, wondering if his life would have been different had he married her."
"When he found her she had been staying at my London townhouse. My stepfather had been dead for two years. He knocked and the maid let him in. She led him to the parlor where my mother and I were enjoying a game of whist. When she looked up and saw him standing there, she fainted. For a moment I thought that he was going to fall as well. He just stood there staring in disbelief at me while I tended to my mother. You see, I looked just like him with the exception of the color of my hair, which I inherited from my mother."
"Eventually, my mother came to and we all sat in the parlor talking about what had happened so many years ago, for there were a lot of questions to be answered. He had been so excited when it finally sank in that I was his son. And to make a long story short, he and my mother are now happily married and living in Glasgow."
Isabella sat back, staring at Gavin in shock. The story had touched her heart so deeply. To find your true love like that, after all those years. She thought it was the most romantic story she had ever heard. Only Marcus and Emma knew that she was a pushover when it came to romance. Not that she would ever tell Gavin. He would tell Nicholas, who would use romance as a way to try and make her a docile wife.
She kept silent for the remainder of the journey to Briarwood. She was glad that Gavin didn't try to get her to talk, she was busy forming a plan in her mind. Nicholas didn't want Marcus at the wedding. Well, he was going to be in for a surprise. She was going to invite, not only Marcus, but the two hundred people of the Ton that she was acquainted with, as well. She just hoped that the chapel was large enough to accommodate all the people. It was going to be the most talked about wedding of the Season.
She took her time looking around Briarwood. When she had first arrived she hadn't expected the estate to be so large. Gavin informed her that there were over one hundred bedrooms in the entire home. There were also quaint cottages scattered over the estate that could also be used by couples. Nicholas' estate expanded over fourteen hundred and fifty acres.
After a thorough examination of the rooms, taking in all the space, she decided that there would be more than enough room for all the people she planned to invite to the wedding. The nice thing was that Nicholas wouldn't be able to do anything about it because by the time he returned they would already be here for the ceremony, and he couldn't very well kick them out. He would be branded as rude and impolite and very few would wish to pay visits again. She couldn't wait until she got started on the preparations, because she planned on having the grandest wedding imaginable, at Nicholas's expense.
The next day she met with the seamstress in the main parlor and began looking over designs for wedding dresses. It took a while but she finally settled on a simple white silk gown with a plunging square neckline that exposed an ample amount of her breasts. It had puffy, capped, shortsleeves and the skirt was white silk with a three foot train. Instead of a veil she chose a halo of white roses with white ribbons trailing down the back where they would fall to her lower back.
She walked through the chapel telling the wedding planner what she wanted done. Each of the pews was to have a bouquet of pale orchids on them and she would also carry them as her bouquet. She wanted candles to be lit in a row along each wall.
The bridesmaids, her sister Emma and her childhood friends, Elizabeth, Selene, and Amelia, were going to wear lavender silk gowns with capped sleeves. They would be carrying bouquets of white roses.
She had the invitations made up and in the end she invited a hundred and seventy- five people, which would fill the church almost completely to capacity. All the rooms of the house were prepared to receive company and a week before the wedding guests began arriving.
It seemed like everywhere Isabella went someone wanted another tour of the grounds or wanted to go horseback riding. Thank the Lord that her mother and sister were there to help her with the everyday job of arranging entertainment and meals for the guests.
As the wedding day came closer and closer, Isabella's nerves began giving her more and more trouble. She had butterflies fluttering madly in her stomach every minute of the day. Much of it was in anticipation of Nicholas's return. He would no doubt be furious that she had invited so many people for the wedding, but then, that had been the plan. To get him angry. Maybe angry enough to call off the wedding.
Gavin had been a big help over the week, running to pick up any last minute preparations that were needed. He had also volunteered to see the priest to the estate. He had also been helpful in calming Isabella's fears. Not a substitute for Marcus, who had arrived just the day before, but very helpful anyways.
She finally found a moment alone so she curled up on the window seat in the bay window in her bedroom. It was there that Marcus found her, hiding. She had seen Nicholas's carriage pull up and quietly snuck away from her parents and the guests to hide until he summoned her.
Marcus came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. "Bella, I've never known you to be afraid of anything, so why are you hiding from your betrothed? He came in the front entrance moments ago, shocked to the toes to find his house invaded with guests. I take it that you weren't supposed to invite anyone to this wedding?"
"I just wanted to get a little revenge. He said that I wasn't to invite you to the wedding. I could have lived without all these other people being here, but he had no right to insist that I not invite my best friend."
"So that's why you've been nervous ever since I got here. Well, Bella, I must say that you're in quite a fix. But I can't help you with this one. It's between you and Montgomery." He bent down and kissed her on the cheek. "I better go. If I'm not mistaken I believe that he's headed this direction, and I have no desire to be in the line of fire. Good luck."
Just as he left through her private salon, Nicholas stormed in through the bedroom door that led to the hallway. His evergreen eyes flashed dangerously with an inner lightening that was meant for her. She cringed inwardly when he began to advance on her like a menacing panther ready to pounce on its prey.
"H-H-Hello, N-Nicholas," she stuttered inanely as she rose to stand before him, trying to get a grip on herself and stand up to him as she had so many times before.
"I come home to find a house full of guests that were not supposed to be here, roaming through the halls and congratulating me on my impending marriage. I was even told that I made a wonderful choice in a bride and that you were the epitome of goodness, a perfect hostess, making sure that everyone stayed entertained until the wedding. And then when I finally find you, all you can say is 'hello Nicholas'!" he stormed, beginning to pace the room. Agitatedly he ran a hand through his thick golden blond hair. His hands clenched and unclenched at his sides as if he was trying to make sure he controlled his anger and didn't take it out on her.
He glanced at her, taking in her wide eyes and trembling lips. She was pallid and shaking. Her skin was drawn tight over her prominent cheekbones and she looked like a fragile porcelain doll that would break at the slightest touch. He had come in here ready to do some yelling, but now that he was looking at her, he couldn't see himself doing that. She didn't seem like the Isabella that had defiantly walked away from him after making frantic, passionate love. She didn't seem like the rebellious Isabella who defied him at every turn. There were times that he liked the rebellious Isabella. She had a fire and passion to her that no other woman he had ever met possessed. But right now she just looked vulnerable and upset.
When he started to walk toward her he saw her flinch, as if she expected him to hurt her. Slowly he took her hands and she gazed at him, her eyes reflecting her confusion. He led her to a chair where he sat down and pulled her onto his lap.
Slowly, without saying a word, his hand caressed her cheek, almost lovingly, before slipping behind her neck, his fingers weaving into her chestnut curls, as if testing its weight.
She didn't know what was going on. Her mind was whirling with confusion. She had expected anger but this. . . this was completely unnerving her.
His other hand came up to cup her other cheek and slowly he brought her face down toward his. Their lips met hesitantly at first, then with growing urgency as intense shocks of pleasure began to radiate through her body, beginning in her lips and shooting all the way to her toes.
Her hands tangled in his hair, trying to pull him closer. He thought he was going to go crazy when she began kissing him back. She was so passionate and natural in her ardor. He hadn't been prepared for the effect she would have on his senses. His hand moved down the front of her dress and he cupped her breast in his palm, chaffing the nipple into a hardened bud of desire.
"Nicholas," she whispered, her voice filled with desire, pressing herself against his palm, wanting more. The pleasure was pouring through her body and she returned his kisses wildly, her hands exploring his broad shoulders and muscled back, then sliding around front to glide over his stomach and chest.
Almost shyly she unbuttoned his shirt and slid her hands inside rubbing her palms over his flat nipples, tormenting him as he was her. He stopped kissing her and threw his head back letting the exquisitely pleasurable torture run through him.
Her silky soft lips spread butterfly kisses over his throat, before she climbed off his lap and knelt between his legs. He gazed down at her wondering what she was doing, but all thought flew from his head when her lips closed over his left nipple. She tangled her slender fingers in the golden hair that was dusted across his chest. When she flicked his nipple with her soft pink tongue he thought he would go out of his mind. His body was pulsing with arousal and if she didn't stop soon the marriage would be consummated before the ceremony.
Gently he tilted her chin up and looked into her clear amber eyes. He was startled by the emotions swirling in their depths. He hadn't counted on her becoming so involved in what was happening that her rejection of marriage would be forgotten. He also saw confusion and surprise twirling in the depths of her eyes.
Suddenly she jerked away from his hand and jumped up, turning away from him and wrapping her arms around herself. He could feel the struggle going on inside her. So he walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her from behind.
She stood there stiff as a rail for a moment or two, feeling his arousal pressing against her and for a moment the urge to turn around and pick up where he had stopped her was intense. But she didn't give into it and finally she leaned back and relaxed against him. Her thoughts were in a whirl. Ho could she have forgotten her purpose so quickly? She had wanted to anger him, yet when he was angry, she had backed down and become a frightened little mouse cowering in front of the house cat.
Then with just a few caresses she had lost herself in his arms, wanting the pleasure that had racked her body. She knew where things would have gone if he hadn't ended it when he did.
She had kissed him, wanting him with everything inside her, and he had caressed her into forgetfulness and passionate compliance. She had even been so involved that she had taken over ardently, eagerly caressing and kissing him in response.
What had she done? Each time he touched her she had made her weakness apparent. He now knew how to get her to bend to his will. All he would have to do is kiss her and she would give in to him, because she knew that she couldn't withstand him, no matter how much she wanted to.
"Bella," Nicholas crooned hoarsely in her ear. Shivers ran down her body at the feel of his warm breath dusting against her. Goosebumps broke out all over her when he brushed her thick waves of hair aside and placed a kiss at the base of her neck, near her shoulder. "I know that your first instinct is to resist me, but I wish you wouldn't. I want this marriage to work. I want us to be a family in all ways. I think I've been falling in love with you ever since I first met you. Do you remember? It was long before the night I took your innocence at the Attherton's ball. Your laughter, wit, and radiant beauty captivated me from the moment Amelia introduced us." His words were gentle and touched her heart more than she could bear.
She remembered being introduced to him at a dinner party that a mutual friend of theirs had given. He had asked her to dance and the whole night he had occupied her time, teasing her with jokes, whisking her around the dance floor, her only dance partner for the evening, causing the old biddies to gossip about their relationship.
"I know we've said things to anger each other, but I never meant them. You just made me so crazy, turning me inside out with feelings I had never known," he whispered.
A single tear slid down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away.
He wished she would say something, anything to let him know what she was thinking. She had seemed to be as much involved in what had happened as he had been.
Finally, unable to take the silence anymore, he turned her to face him. "Would you say something, Bella? I can't read your mind."
She looked up at him and saw the sincerity in his eyes. Within a half hour of his arrival home she had come closer to him than she swore she would allow herself to. Pushing her tumultuous feelings to the back of her mind and heart, her eyes became hooded, shielding the emotions that had been swirling through them just moments before. "Really Nicholas, I'm quite fine. I don't know why you would worry so. It's not like what we were doing affected me any more this time than it had the last times we came together." Her heart cracked at the words, but they had to be said. She couldn't get close to him. Not when he was the man who was taking away her freedom. She just wasn't completely sure that her freedom was worth this. She didn't know if it was worth giving up Nicholas' love. But the decision had been made and now it was out of her hands.
His eyes flashed dangerously and a muscle began to tick in his clenched jaw. Anger poured through his body, replacing the arousal that had, moments before, been coursing through him. Her words lashed him, throwing him off balance for a moment, but he vowed that her words wouldn't wound him permanently.
He had told her parents that she was to be used to breed an heir for his title, but he hadn't wanted them to know that he loved her, not when he hadn't told her yet. And now he had told her. He told her that wanted her, all of her, to surrender unconditionally to him. He wanted her passion, her joy, her sorrow, and her pain. He wanted to share his life with her. And with a couple of sentences, she had destroyed those wishes and he had come to a new drastically different conclusion. As soon as he was assured that she was with child he would leave. He owned two Indian palaces and estates throughout England and Scotland. Maybe once he was far enough away he could put her out of his mind, he could forget that he loved her, forget the face that he knew would haunt his dreams for some time.
"Very well, Isabella," he said, drawing himself up, standing rigidly in front of her. "For a moment I thought that we might be able to make our impending marriage work, but I see that I was mistaken. I deluded myself to think that I loved you. That you could love me too. What a fool I was. You must have had a great laugh at my expense. I wonder, how many other men have fallen under the impression that they are in love with you? Were you a proficient tease when you were young, tempting boys into arousal then pulling back and saying no? Tempting them into giving their hearts to you then crushing that heart beneath your foot. I can imagine you like that."
He strode to the door and put his hand on the doorknob. But before he left he turned and faced her, his face expressionless and unreadable. "Since you find me lacking, I will not touch you more than is necessary to produce a child. Once you are with child, I will be leaving this place. You may stay. A staff will be left to see to your comfort. When the child is born, I will return and take him or her with me. They will be raised in my care." Without a backwards glance he walked out, leaving Isabella staring at the door that slammed in her face. Never before in her life had she felt so alone and hurt. But she refused to give into the tears that threatened to flood down her face at any moment. The feelings of guilt and sorrow wouldn't leave her heart, no matter how much she willed them to. Feelings of remorse bubbled through her as she realized that she may have just made the biggest mistake of her life. Nicholas was not a man to make idle threats. Had she just ruined her chance for some sort of happiness?
His words pounded through her brain, bringing pangs of pain to her. "I love you." Three simple words that should have made her deliriously happy, ruined her day. For a while after their second time together she had dreamed of him riding up in his carriage like a white knight and saying those words, taking her from her parents, marrying her and starting a family with her. That dream had faded years ago, but now it was coming true, only she wasn't sure she wanted it anymore. She didn't want a marriage where she would be a wife that was easily dismissed. She wanted to be treated as his equal, vital in the decisions that they made.
She curled up in the chair where Nicholas had been sitting moments before. It was still warm and slightly indented from his presence. She wrapped her arms around her legs and rested her forehead against her knees, closing her eyes tight, trying to block out the repetitive words that echoed through her head; I love you . . . I love you . . . I love . . . I . . .
was split into 8 parts. Jump to any of the segments from here:
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