Golden Desire Ch. 08byopels©
Recognizing one of the paintings on the wall, she stepped close to admire it while unfastening her wrap. She pulled the fabric from her shoulders and felt the warmth of the room whisper across her bare skin.
Nicholas stood in the shadows of the hallway, trying to control his breathing, in complete awe of how beautiful she looked. He drew in a few deep calming breaths before entering the room. "Victoria, I'm so glad you came. And may I say you look absolutely breathtaking tonight. Where ever did you find that magnificent gown?" he asked, his eyes drinking in her deep cleavage.
"Thank you Nicholas. This gown was given to me by a friend," she replied mysteriously.
"There's a woman in this town who dresses like that?" he asked.
"She used to, not anymore."
"So, is this intoxicating gown for my benefit?" he asked, with a twinkle in his eye.
"No, it's for mine," she replied. Stepping towards him, she said in a low voice, "Tonight I want you in my power, under my spell."
Lowering his tone to match, he replied, "Well, I think it may be working, I'm feeling utterly bewitched." His hands skimmed along her bare arms.
"Now, now, Mr. Andrews. You promised to be on your best behavior tonight," she admonished in a teasing voice, but didn't step away.
"And what if I break that promise?" he asked, his voice still low, as his arm slowly snaked around her waist.
"Well, then, you won't get any pie," she replied, her voice full of suggestion.
He threw his head back and laughed. "I certainly don't want to miss that, so if you will please excuse my bad behavior," he chuckled, removing his arm from her waist.
Their dinner was delightful, exactly what she had been missing. The witty, flirtatious conversation came so easily to them both, the months they had spent apart seemed to disappear. As Mrs. Fraser had promised, Nicholas was entranced by her in the seductive silk, his eyes often dropping to her gown, scanning her almost bare shoulders, dipping to her deep cleavage. She leaned forward often, on the pretense of listening closely to what he was saying and stared deeply into his inviting green eyes.
As the pie was being served, he asked her in a low voice, "Have I behaved? Am I allowed to have my pie?"
Smiling she answered, "Yes, you've been delightful company tonight. You're allowed."
Lifting a forkful to his mouth, he murmured, "And then I can misbehave."
"Not if you want me to come back," she warned, still smiling.
As the dishes were cleared away, he invited her back to the parlor. "Have you acquired any new paintings since I left San Francisco?" she asked looking at the one on the wall she had been admiring when she first arrived.
"No. I was so busy with selling the hotels, gambling houses and my home that I haven't had time," he answered.
Somewhere in the house a clock struck ten o'clock, reminding her of the hour. "It's been a wonderful evening, Nicholas. I've been longing for one like it for quite some time. Thank you," she said.
"Does this mean you're leaving?" he asked, clearly disappointed.
With a small smile she replied, "Yes, I'm afraid the evening has come to an end all too soon."
His hand reached out to caress her cheek. "It doesn't have to be over," he whispered, moving closer to her.
Gently removing his hand, she replied softly, "No, Nicholas. I'm not staying."
"But you will come back?" he asked, trying to keep the edge of desperation that he was beginning to feel out of his voice.
"Yes, I'll come back. Is your offer of a carriage still available?" she asked smiling up at him. "I really don't feel like walking home."
At the door he gently ran his hands up her bare arms. She had her wrap in her hands and was about to pull it about her shoulders when he stopped her.
"Not yet," he murmured as his hands tenderly wrapped around her arms. He gently pulled her to him and she willingly tipped her face to his. Their lips met hungrily, the desire for each other they had been holding in check all night suddenly coming to the fore. He pulled her tight, wrapping his arms around her, relishing in the feel, smell and taste of her.
His tongue sought hers through her parted lips as she circled her arms around his neck, her fingers tangling in his hair. Her senses filled to overflowing with him and she knew in that instant that she could never marry Daniel, that Nicholas was the only man for her.
Her determination from earlier in the evening, that things would be different from San Francisco came back and she gently pulled away. She looked into the flames burning in his bright green eyes and almost faltered. No, she would not end up in his bed tonight.
Hearing the carriage pull up outside, she whispered, "Good night, Nicholas," before draping her wrap about her shoulders and slipping from his arms and out the door.
Spreading the deep blue silk skirts over the seat of the carriage, she caressed the sumptuous fabric. Mrs. Fraser had been right about the dress. At first she had thought that the power was to be over Nicholas, but she now knew it was for her. She had never felt so beautiful, so self-confident, so strong before. And that strength had enabled her to resist him tonight. To resist those warm green eyes, that low silky voice and most importantly, that deeply seductive kiss. Under any other circumstances, she would be in his bed right now.
A small shiver slid down her spine as she thought of that night four days ago, when she had found herself in his bed. It had been wondrous, but it wasn't going to happen again until she was his wife. Her heart skipped a beat as she thought of it. His wife. Yes, she loved him, she finally admitted to herself. She had been in love with him even before she left San Francisco. She just hadn't realized it.
Suddenly, she thought of Daniel. He had declared his intentions and she owed him an answer. Knowing it would be best to tell him as soon as possible, she vowed she would see him tomorrow.
When she returned home, she undressed and regretfully put the gown, shoes and jewels back in the box, ready to be returned to their owner. She ran her hand over the luxurious fabric one last time before covering it with tissue paper and replacing the lid.
She slipped into bed, where thoughts of Nicholas turned into dreams that made her smile in her sleep.
While Victoria had sat in his carriage, dreaming of being his wife, Nicholas was sitting in his parlor doing something very similar. Nursing a brandy by the fireside, he smiled as he thought back over the night. He had never seen her look more beautiful. The dresses she had worn while working at the gambling house had been just as revealing, but not nearly as seductively beautiful. And that deep blue gown had done something to her. She had been even more flirtatious and she had been able to resist him. He had been sure that the kiss at the front door would have melted her, but it had failed to do so.
He drank deeply, draining the glass. Had she realized yet that she couldn't possibly marry Daniel, he wondered. That he, himself was the only man for her?
With a sigh, he rose and after distinguishing the light, he climbed the stairs to his bedroom. He opened the door to his wardrobe and slid his hand along the top shelf to the back, his fingers closing around a small object. Closing his eyes, he held it for a moment before withdrawing his hand, leaving the item in its hiding place.
After stripping off his clothes, he donned a nightshirt and slipped into bed, drifting off to dreams of Victoria laying beside him.
The next day, Victoria carried the large box to the bakery to return it to Mrs. Fraser.
"Oh no, dear, the dress is for you to keep. I haven't worn it for many years. I want you to have it." With a twinkle in her eye, she asked, "Did you wear it? Did it work?"
Smiling, she replied, "Yes, I did wear it and it worked wonderfully. It took me until the end of the night to realize the true meaning of your note."
"Ah, you felt the power of the dress?" she asked, nodding her head.
"Oh, Mrs. Fraser, I have never felt so self assured or more beautiful that I did last night," she sighed. Caressing the top of the box, she said, "I have a bit of money saved. I should get some dresses like this made."
"Keep your money, dear. There's plenty more where this one came from. Besides, they take too long to make."
"But I must return the jewellery," Victoria insisted, suddenly remembering the sparkling pieces. "I can't possibly keep that."
"Consider it an early wedding present," she replied. "Come now, let's get to work," she continued briskly, tying an apron around her waist.
After work that day, she went with Mrs. Fraser to her home. In the sitting room was a stack of five boxes, all similar to the one that had been delivered to her the day before.
"I had been storing these in the attic," she said, indicating the boxes. "And now they're yours," she smiled. "I'm so glad they're seeing the light of day again. Or rather," she added with a wink, "the shadow of night."
Victoria ran her hand over one of the boxes, fingering the faded ribbon. "May I?" she asked.
Inspecting the small labels on the ends, Mrs. Fraser pulled one out and put it on top. "You should wear this one next."
After removing the ribbon and lid, and pushing aside the tissue paper, Victoria beheld another stunning gown in the deepest amethyst. "Oh, it's so beautiful," she breathed, caressing the beaded bodice.
"You have to be gentle with this one," Mrs. Fraser warned. "There's a tear here in the bodice that was difficult to mend due to the beading." With a mischievous smile, she added, "Mr. Fraser particularly liked this one."
Still staring at the gown, she asked, "What if he doesn't propose?" She looked up at her friend with worried eyes. "What should I do?"
Patting her arm, the older woman soothed, "Don't worry, he will. I've seen the way he looks at you. He loves you. You even said that he told you he wants to marry you."
"I know," she said quietly. "But I'm still not sure."
"When do you see him again?"
"I don't know. What I do need to do is see Daniel. I have to tell him."
"Yes, that's true. He was outside the bakery yesterday while you were talking to Nicholas. From the look in his eyes he already knows," she said gently.
"Well, I suppose that will make it a bit easier," she replied, replacing the lid on the box.
"Come on, I'll take you and the dresses home in the cart and then you can go see Daniel."
After Mrs. Fraser had helped her carry the boxes up to her room, she stacked them in the corner, saving opening them for later. She had a feeling she would need something to cheer her up after her visit with Daniel.
She nervously sat in Daniel's sitting room waiting for him. Her gaze flicked about the room without really seeing anything. She had never been inside his home before and had been very curious about what it looked like, but due to the reason for her visit she wasn't really noticing anything. When he finally entered the room, he did not appear happy to see her.
"Good afternoon, Victoria," he said stiffly, seating himself in a chair and dispensing with his usual kiss on the cheek that accompanied his greetings to her.
"Good afternoon, Daniel," she replied.
Taking a deep breath, she was about to speak, when Daniel said, "I think I know why you're here." It was his turn to take a deep breath. "I was outside the bakery yesterday while you and Mr. Andrews were talking. I saw the way you looked at him and I also know you spent some time at his home last night." When she stared at him with a combination of surprise and confusion, he confessed, "Yes, this time I was spying."
He looked her in the eye and asked, "You love him don't you?"
She hesitated before admitting, "Yes, I do. I'm sorry Daniel, I've only just realized that I've loved him for a long time now. Since before I came here, before I met you. I kept telling myself that I didn't feel anything for him and that you were the right man for me, but when I saw him, when he kissed me, I finally had to admit to myself how I really feel."
He looked away and was silent for a moment. "I though we were right for each other as well. But I've recently seen a side of you that wasn't evident before. A highly spirited and very passionate side. When I first realized that there was something between you and Mr. Andrews I was determined to win you, but I now know that we are not well suited. I could make you happy for a short while but eventually we would both be miserable. You belong with him, not me," he finished quietly.
She stared at him with glimmering eyes. "I'm truly sorry if I've hurt you."
"You have but I'll be alright." He paused before continuing. "I've been offered a position at a bank in New York City. I'll be gone by the end of the month. I would appreciate it if you could hold off on any wedding announcements until after I'm gone."
"You don't have to worry about that, he hasn't even proposed," she replied.
He looked at her with an expression of surprise, "But he told me he had declared his intentions."
It was now her turn to look surprised. "He told you? When did you two discuss me?" she asked.
"That doesn't really matter," he said dismissively. "What has he told you?"
"Well, pretty much the same thing you said. That he wants to marry me, but he hasn't actually asked. I'm not even certain that he will," she said, a worrying tone entering her voice.
Seizing the opportunity, he asked, "Victoria, would you be happy with me in New York? A bustling city, full of art and culture, lots of women's clubs, a busy social life. Do you think we could be happy there?"
She stared at him with wide eyes. "What are you saying? You still want me to marry you?"
Much to her astonishment, he opened a drawer in a sideboard and removed a small object. He then knelt in front of her and opened a velvet box revealing a very pretty amethyst ring. Before he could open his mouth, however, she stopped him, "Daniel, no, please. I'm sorry, but I can't marry you. I'm not in love with you." The defeated look in his eyes brought tears to her own. "I love Nicholas, and he is the man I'm going to marry, even if I have to propose myself," she said softly.
He rose and after glancing at the ring in the box, he snapped it shut with a sigh. He looked at her and simply said, "Good bye, Victoria," before turning and leaving the room.
She saw herself out and slowly walked home. She felt badly for him but knew that what he said was right. For a few years they would be happy but eventually they would make each other miserable. When she reached the house, she went up to her room but even the prospect of opening the boxes of beautiful dresses didn't cheer her and she left them in the corner. Falling heavily into a chair, she leaned back and closed her eyes.
Her stomach growled, reminding her that she had missed dinner. After the time spent with Mrs. Fraser combined with the stress of her visit with Daniel, she had forgotten the time. She glanced over at her clock on the mantle to see that it read seven o'clock.
She was startled by a knock on her door. Her landlady Mrs. Williams stood with a tray of food. "You usually tell me when you won't be here for dinner so I figured I should save you some," she explained. "There's a note also, that came for you," she indicated a cream colored envelope discreetly engraved with the initials NA.
"Thank you so much Mrs. Williams," she replied, taking the tray. "I really appreciate it."
Only after she had eaten did she break the seal on Nicholas's letter. A smile crept across her face as she read. He thanked her for providing a most delightful evening and was inviting her back in a few days.
Her spirits now lifted, she finally turned to the stack of boxes in the corner and lifted the lid off the first one. It was ten o'clock by the time she had finally hung the last one in her wardrobe and had readied herself for bed. Finding herself utterly exhausted by the day, she fell into bed and easily drifted into a contented sleep.
That dinner was only the first of a number of very pleasant yet intimate evenings enjoyed by the two of them over the next few weeks and each time Victoria wore another of Mrs. Fraser's gowns. Nicholas was utterly dazzled and bewitched by every one but each night she managed to drag herself away from him and go home.
Their next dinner was more than a week away. He had explained that he was going to be busy overseeing some matters related to his new house and would not be free until then. The days seemed to drag by. Victoria was surprised at how excited she was about her next evening with Nicholas and the day just couldn't come fast enough.
The long awaited evening finally did arrive and it found Victoria standing in front of her wardrobe pulling out a most luscious gown. She had decided to wear a particularly daring garnet red velvet gown, trimmed with black velvet ribbon. It was definitely reminiscent of her card dealing dresses, except that the skirts were much narrower, revealing more of her shape. She stepped into the gown and nervously pulled the laces tight. Stepping to the mirror, she stared at her reflection and momentarily faltered. Should she wear this tonight? He had had trouble resisting her in the other gowns and they were quite sedate compared to this one. It's color alone was enticing enough without the revealing cut of it.
Shaking off her hesitation, she squared her shoulders and resolutely thought, I will wear it. If this one doesn't drive him to propose, then nothing will. She fastened the sparkling jewellery that went with the dress and stepped into the dark red heeled slippers. She drew her wrap about her shoulders and waited for the sound of Nicholas's carriage having finally stopped caring if tongues wagged or not.
When she finally arrived at his home, her nerves were tingling, her senses heightened. Something was going to happen tonight. She could feel it. Mrs. Rodriguez guided her into the parlor where Nicholas was already waiting.
After the housekeeper had left, he approached her and lightly holding her arms, kissed her on the cheek. Stepping back, he eyed her wrap still draped about her and with a sly smile, asked, "Well, do I get to see tonight's delicious torment?"
With a seductive smile she watched his eyes as she slowly pulled the shawl away. His reaction did not disappoint her. His eyes grew wide and he seemed to have forgotten how to breathe. His gaze hungrily roamed her body, from the deeply cut neckline revealing a good deal of the milky white skin of her full breasts, to the narrow skirts encasing her long legs and back again. As if in a daze, he took half a step towards her and then stopped. He finally drew in a shaky breath and released it, his full lips breaking into a smile.
"What are you trying to do to me?" he asked in a low voice, husky with desire.
Stepping close to him, she lightly trailed her fingers along his jaw. "I'm trying to entrance, entice and bewitch you," she replied, her own voice also seductively low.
He skimmed his hands over her bare shoulders and down her arms, pulling her to him, pressing her body against his. "You have me on all three counts," he whispered before pressing his lips to hers.
The intensity of his kiss did to her exactly what her gown had done to him. Her mind flew into a whirl and she lost all sense of reason, thinking only of the wondrous sensations that were being aroused by his lips.
She gripped his arms and flung her head back as his mouth tenderly sought her throat. His lips and tongue scorched her eager flesh as his head dipped lower.
Somewhere in the back of his mind a small voice reminded him that they were supposed to be having dinner. But then a tiny crescent of pink showed itself from behind an edge of black ribbon and the thought was gone.