An Undeniable Passion Ch. 20byopels©
Virginia heard muffled voices and tried to open her eyes, but it felt like grains of sand were scraping beneath her lids. She was laying on something hard but couldn't remember where she was. A shooting pain seared through her skull when she raised her head. Moaning, she put her head back down and tried opening her eyes again. Looking around she realized that she was in her sewing room and lying on her table. Recalling the brandy she had consumed, she tentatively raised her head again and with another groan held onto it as she sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the table. The half empty bottle sat on the floor and she looked at it with surprise. Had she drunk that much of it? No wonder she felt like this. She once again heard voices and was trying to figure out if they were inside her head or outside the door. She received her answer when the door to the room opened and Billy walked in.
"I thought I heard a noise in here," he said. "What are you doing on the table?"
"Billy," she whispered, "could you please stop shouting." She winced as she spoke, her own words too loud in her head.
"Are you alright?" he said approaching her.
"No, I seem to have a bit of a headache," she replied still wincing from the pain of her hangover.
He could smell the brandy on her and stepped back in surprise. "Have you been drinking, Ginny?"
"I just had a sip or two," she lied.
He took another step back and his foot hit something on the floor and knocked it over. Looking down he saw the half empty bottle rolling on the floor and picked it up. "Just a sip or two you say?" he said holding up the bottle. "How big were those sips?"
"Please, Billy. Stop shouting," she repeated still holding her head.
"I'm not shouting," he whispered to her. "Let me help you to bed," he said taking her arm.
She gingerly got off the table and said weakly, "Why is there a train running through my head?"
"They tend to make trips there when one has had too much to drink," he said with a soft laugh. He had experienced those trains himself on a few occasions.
"Bloody nuisance," she muttered. "They should close the tracks."
She heard a chuckle and looked up to the doorway. Drake stood there looking at her with an amused expression. He shifted into two and she blinked and the images blended back into one and but then split back into two. As she staggered towards the door she hissed at him, "Get out of my way, both of you."
That only caused him to laugh loudly and she winced at the harshness of the sound. She shot him a withering look that silenced him. As she walked down the hallway to the hidden staircase she asked Billy, "What is that man doing in my attic? I thought we had agreed not to tell anyone how to get up here."
"But I thought it would be alright to show Drake. And besides he said that you mentioned that the furnishings in his house are from your attic so he knew we could get up here."
"Thomas knows that we can get up here too, and we haven't show him the entrance."
"You don't trust Thomas," he reminded her.
She shot Drake a look and replied "And you think I trust him?"
"I think your questions about trusting Drake are different than those concerning Mr. Ogilvy," he said quietly.
She sighed heavily and muttered, "Just help me to my room," as she moved towards the doorway to the hidden stairs.
When she was in bed with a cold compress on her head Billy returned to the attic. He found Drake still in the sewing room, inspecting the dresses that she was working on. He was imagining how lovely she was going to look in them. Especially the one that he suspected was for the ball. She was going to be stunning.
He looked up as Billy entered. "Will she survive?" he asked with a smile.
Billy bent down and picked up the half empty brandy bottle. "I think so," he said returning Drake's smile and walking into the attic. "I take it things didn't go well this afternoon?"
"I think they went very well, indeed. She just didn't like the outcome." Trying to sound casual, he asked, "That amber pendant that she wears, she said she found it up here. Where was it?"
"You'll have to ask her about that."
"Why do you keep saying that? I ask you about your new-found wealth and you say I have to ask her. I ask about a semi-precious stone and I have to ask her about that as well. And you just said that there are rumors that there is a hidden treasure up here. Did you find it? Is that where your wealth is from?"
Billy swore silently to himself. He never was good at lying or keeping secrets. Drake was the most honest man he had ever met and he knew he could trust him with this.
Drake thought perhaps he had offended Billy and that he was going to walk out of the attic, but he stopped when he approached the doorway and reached up to the top of the frame. He heard a soft click behind him and when he turned he was astonished to see that a doorway had opened on the side wall.
"Don't tell Ginny, because she would have my hide, but take a look in there."
Drake cautiously entered the small room and peered around. Billy entered behind him and holding their lanterns high, he opened one of the chests. He pulled out a bag of gold coins and opened it so that Drake could see the contents. Drake reached inside and pulled out one of the coins and held it to the light. "It looks like a coin but it's unstamped," he said with wonder.
"Yes, that's why we're able to keep it. There's no way to tell who it originally belonged to," Billy said with a smile. "These trunks are full of them." Indicating the others, he continued, "Those are full of silver." He then pointed to a smaller one. "And that one has silver too and jewels. That's where I got the diamond for Lizzy's ring, and where Ginny found her pendant." He was silent for a moment as Drake looked around in wonder. "She said that since she wouldn't have any of this without me that she would split it with me. That's why I was able to ask Lizzy to marry me. Otherwise it would have taken me a long time to be established enough. I owe Ginny a great deal."
They exited the room and Drake said, "So, not only are you wealthy but so is Virginia."
"Yes, even more than me. She's keeping most of it, of course. She's real happy about it because it gives her security. I think she really likes the feeling of independence."
Drake recalled what she had told him about having to marry Charles because her father had gambled away all their money. Yes, she would cherish this more than most would.
"Well, I should get out of here. I don't want to be around when she gets up. She's most likely still mad at me, so I'll be off." He headed towards the hidden staircase and the two men made their way down. As they exited he glanced at Virginia's closed bedroom door for a moment before turning and heading for the second set of stairs. At the front door, he said, "Thanks for showing me around Billy."
He was riding back to his house, pondering why she was drunk and concluded that it had to be because of what happened between them earlier. The fact that it had unsettled her so much that she had sought out a drink was indeed a good thing.
Several days passed without them crossing paths. Billy was over at Drake's and she was upstairs in her sewing room, when she heard a carriage approach. She looked out the window and recognized it as one belonging to the Ogilvy's. She headed for the stairs searching her mind. She was certain that they didn't have a date today. She greeted him at the door.
"Hello, Thomas. Won't you please come in."
He entered and removing his hat and coat he returned her greeting. "Good morning Virginia."
"What brings you by?" she asked, showing him into the sitting room.
He sat on the couch and said, "Well, it's actually Doris who insisted I come."
"Doris? Why didn't she come herself? I would have been happy to see her," she said.
"She would never admit that she was so curious. But she was pestering me so much that I came just to silence her," he said, a smile teasing at his lips.
"What about?" she asked, baffled as to what Doris could be so intrigued about.
"There is a rumor that a man is living in your out-building. A very handsome and mysterious man. Doris is going out of her head about it," he said with a laugh. "If something happens in this area and she doesn't know all the details, it drives her mad."
"And you in the process," she added with a smile.
"Yes, so could you please save my sanity and tell me who this man is, if indeed he exists."
"Oh yes, he exists alright. His name is Drake Stratford, he's the Captain of the Aurora. The ship that this farm is named after. It was involved in the harbor fire a little over a week ago and sustained heavy damages. It's at the ship yard right now awaiting repairs and in the meantime, he is living in the out-building."
"And you don't mind having this sea-captain living out there?"
"Mr. Stratford is a very respectable man. He's not your typical sea-captain. He's quite the gentleman," she said, surprising herself with her praise of him.
"Are you're friends with him as well?" he asked.
"Yes, I am. I was acquainted with him in Liverpool through Billy," she lied, making the story up as she went along. She suddenly heard two horses outside and prayed that it wasn't Billy and Drake. She did not want to introduce the two men.
She looked up as the door opened and realized that her prayers had gone unanswered. The two men entered and Billy poked his head in the sitting room. "Hello Mr. Ogilvy. I thought that was your carriage outside."
Thomas stood to greet the younger man and said, "My sister has been hearing rumors about a man living on the property and was driving me to distraction about it so I thought I would come out and see what it was all about."
"Well, you're in luck. Here's the man himself," he said indicating Drake.
Billy made the introductions. "Mr. Thomas Ogilvy may I present Captain Drake Stratford. Captain Stratford, Mr. Ogilvy."
The two men shook hands, each taking the other's measure, as Virginia looked on nervously. "I think I'll go make us some tea," she said, suddenly desperate to escape the room.
She practically ran to the kitchen and stood gripping the counter trying to calm her breathing. She couldn't imagine a more awkward situation. All she needed was for Charles to walk in to make it complete. With trembling hands she put on a kettle and began to look for something to serve with the tea.
Back in the sitting room, Drake was trying to be civil to Thomas but all he could think of was this man embracing and kissing Virginia. Jealousy swirled in his chest as he attempted to maintain a pleasant conversation.
Virginia returned with tea just as Thomas announced that he had to be on his way. She silently released a sigh of relief. "Would you please see me to the door, Virginia?" he asked.
In the foyer he said, "Would you like to come to dinner later this week? Doris has some ideas for your party that she would like to discuss.
"How about tomorrow, or is that too soon?" she asked.
"No, that's fine," he replied. "And perhaps we can find some time for just the two of us," he said in a low voice.
She lowered her eyes demurely, "That would be lovely," she murmured.
He gave her a quick kiss and said that he would send his carriage for her at six o'clock.
After he left, she leaned against the closed door and looked at the doorway to the sitting room. She didn't feel like facing them so she went around to the library. Without a fire in the grate it was cold in the room, so she quickly built one and snuggled into a chair with a blanket until the room warmed. She heard footsteps behind her and assumed that it was Billy, coming to look for her.
"Is he gone?" she asked. Without waiting for an answer she continued, "I'm sorry for not returning but it was so awkward that I just couldn't face him." She laughed and said, "I was thinking that all I needed was for Charles to show up to make it complete."
"Yes, that would have made it quite a party."
She started and turned, peering over the back of her chair. It was Drake who stood in the room. She groaned and sank back down.
He sat down in a chair next to hers. "Why didn't you want to face me?" he asked.
"I just explained that I felt the situation was very awkward," she said. "So what did you think of Thomas?"
Getting up and putting more logs on the fire he said in a tight voice, "I don't like him."
Smiling she said in a teasing voice, "Do I detect a note of jealousy in your voice?"
Turning to her he said, "It's more than a note. I wanted to tear that man's head off in there. Just the thought that he may have kissed you enraged me."
The strength of his reply startled her. "Well, your rage is well founded. He has kissed me," she said trying to rattle him.
Prowling towards her, his eyes burning into hers and said in a low voice, "And how did you react to his kisses? Were you able to resist him or did he set your passions aflame? Did you forget everything that was going on around you?" Nearing her, he leaned forward, placing his palms on the armrests of her chair, causing her to sink back in it. "Did you press yourself against him? Did you beg him to take you to his bed?" His breath brushed her cheek he was so close to her.
Unnerved and angered by his questions, she suddenly realized that she shouldn't have goaded him. She turned her head and said, "That is none of your business."
With a push, he rose, laughing darkly causing her to look back at him. "My guess is that he didn't even cause your heart to quicken. Only I can do that, right V?"
She got up and moved to the billiards table, suddenly wanting to be away from him. She ignored his question and didn't answer him.
He laughed again but this time she refused to look at him. "I'm right, I know I am," he said winding his way between the chairs and following her to the table. She backed away keeping the table between them. "You can't deny it V, I'm the only man for you."
"You're being rather conceited," she said haughtily.
He rolled a billiards ball across the table. "Do you know how to play billiards, V?"
"Yes, a little." In fact her father had taught her how to play at a young age. He loved the game and they had spent many afternoons playing.
"How about we play a game, and if I win, you admit that you love me," he said tauntingly.
She rolled a ball back across the table at him. "And if I win?" she asked.
He laughed as he walked over to the cue case and opened it. "I don't think that's going to happen." He selected two cues and handed her one. He set up the balls and offered her the first shot.
"What shall we play to?" she asked walking around the table to take her shot.
"Let's make it easy, shall we? How about 30?" he said.
She could tell he was indulging her, but he was about to get a big surprise, she thought to herself as she lined up her shot. He began to explain the game and the rules to her as she bent over and fired her cue ball at the red one down the table. She neatly scored a winner and stood up and smiled at Drake. With a surprised expression he removed the ball from the pocket and placed it back on the table. "A lucky shot, I guess," she said innocently. She continued to play scoring both winners and losers. Drake stared at the table with a stunned expression.
At one point she leaned on her cue and looked at him. "I believe I've scored 23 points. Perhaps we should now agree on what I'll get should I happen to win," she said smugly.
"Well, what would you like?" he asked suggestively.
"How about you stop pestering me about whether I love you or not?"
"Oh, V, I can't do that," he said with a sly smile.
"Alright, how about if I win, you stop calling me V," she suggested.
"But I like calling you that," he protested.
"Well, I don't like it," she replied.
"That's precisely why I like it," he said continuing to smile at her.
"Well, then, since losing means giving up something of value, I think you having to stop calling me V, is fair," she said.
"I want to change my terms as well," he replied.
"You don't want me to admit my undying love for you?" she asked with a mocking tone.
He approached her but this time she stood her ground. In a low voice he said, "No, that you are going to say of your own free will. Not from a bet over a billiards game."
Refusing to be unsettled by his nearness she looked up at him and asked, "Then, what do you want if you win?"
He caressed her cheek and whispered, "Just a kiss."
She swallowed nervously and stepped away from him. A kiss from him could be worse than having to admit her feelings to him. Their kisses always tended to get out of control and she never knew if she had the strength to restrain herself. She wasn't going to back down though. "A kiss it is then," she replied with a calmness she did not feel.
She was nervous this time as she leaned over the table. She misjudged and failed to sink the red ball, effectively ending her turn. Drake chuckled and adding his cue ball to the table began to take his turn.
She watched anxiously as he scored winners, losers and now that both their cue balls were on the table he was able to score canons as well. She watched him as he confidently walked about the table taking his shots and was reminded of the way he walked around the work table in the cabin of his ship. Recalling how on her first night in his bed she had awoken and been caught staring at his body as he worked on that table caused her cheeks to flush. Drake saw her reddening face and asked, "Why are you blushing?"
"No reason," she said quickly.
"Come now, do you always spontaneously blush during billiards?" he asked clearly not believing her.
"As a matter of fact, yes I do," she replied with mock seriousness.
"Tell me, what is it?" he insisted.
"If you must know, I was suddenly reminded of the way you walk around the work table in your cabin and I was blushing at the memory of how you caught me staring at you on my first night there," she said blushing again.
The image of her lying in his bed, with her hair fanned out all about her, suddenly struck him. He remembered feeling her eyes on him that night and when he had turned to look at her, her eyes were definitely on him but not his face. He had stared at her as her gaze had traveled all over his body, almost been able to feel her caressing him with her eyes. His breath caught in his throat at the memory.
"Yes, you were staring, weren't you?" he said quietly. He took a deep breath to steady himself as he prepared his next shot but was too distracted and made a bad play, sinking her cue ball.
She smiled and walked around the table to take her shot. Trying to unsettle her he said "You appeared to have been liking what you saw that night."
She made her play, scoring a canon, raising her score to 25. "Yes, Mr. Stratford. You're a fine physical specimen of a man," she said with a smile.
He continued his tactics by saying, "Yes, you proved that you think so the night of the storm, when I awoke to find you stroking my bare chest."
He saw that he had hit a nerve when she struck the ball badly, causing it to jump on the table. "Oh, my dear, that will cost you a point and it is now my turn again," he said with a smile.
His score was also 24 and she watched with dismay as he scored two canons in a row. His score was now 28. Quietly she said, "It looks as though you may continue to call me V."
He walked around the table in order to take his shot and asked her, "How is it that you know how to play this game so well? I should think it quite scandalous for a well bred young lady such as yourself to be so skilled."
"My father taught me. He loved the game but had no one to play with, so he taught me how. I couldn't even see over the table; I had to stand on a chair. My mother was furious of course," she laughed. "She said exactly what you just did, that well bred young ladies should not know how to play billiards." Her voice turned sad as she said, "It's one of the few memories that I have of her."