An Undeniable Passion Ch. 23byopels©
Late the next morning, Virginia was supervising the cleanup of the house when there was a knock on the front door. She opened it to find Thomas standing on the verandah. She stiffened when she saw him but invited him in.
"How are you feeling my dear?" he asked, leaning forward to kiss her cheek. He looked at her with surprise as she avoided his lips and took his coat instead.
"I'm feeling much better, thank you. Is that why you're dropping by?" she asked, leading him into the sitting room.
"Yes, I was a bit concerned since you didn't say goodnight before you went to bed last night. And you said you were suffering from a headache earlier."
"Yes, I had something on my mind, that was causing some worry," she murmured.
"I tried to see you before I left, but Stratford wouldn't let neither I nor Doris up to your room. He quite rudely insisted that we leave, as a matter of fact," he said indignantly.
"And why did he do that?" she asked him.
"I'm certain I have no idea," he replied.
"Yes you do, and so do I," she snapped.
"My dear, what do you mean?" he asked nervously, worried that Drake had told her about his confession and that she believed him. Well, he could easily turn that to his favor.
"You know very well," she said evenly.
"Dearest, I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," he replied calmly.
"Do you deny that you're only courting me for my money?" she asked bluntly.
He looked at her, affecting an expression of profound surprise and shock. "Of course I deny it! I care about you a great deal and am not interested in your money. I'm sure you know that I'm quite well off myself and am not in need of any money that you may have," he assured her.
"I did suspect that you were wealthy, but I'm beginning to think otherwise."
"You're beginning to think otherwise? Whatever would give you that idea?" he asked, doing his best to appear thoroughly baffled.
Looking him straight in the eye, she stated simply, "You."
He now was truly confused. "Virginia, what are you talking about?"
"I was on the upper terrace during your conversation with Drake last night. I heard everything," she said, watching for his reaction.
The blood drained from his face and he felt sick. He had known how he would handle it if she had said that Drake had told her, but she had heard it all straight from him. His mind worked feverishly, desperately trying to think of an explanation for what he had said. "My love, I only said those things to anger him. I'm sure you know there is no love lost between he and I and I was only trying to get a rise out of him."
She rose and looked down at him. "I don't believe you. And I think you should go."
"Please Virginia, listen to me. I truly didn't mean anything I said. I'm sorry if you got the wrong impression, but..."
"I would like you to leave now," she said interrupting him.
"I demand that you listen to me," he stated, refusing to rise from his seat.
"And I demand that you leave," she replied firmly.
"I am not leaving until we resolve this misunderstanding," he said, his voice rising. He heard a quiet cough behind him and turned to see Drake standing in the doorway.
"I believe Miss Templeton asked you to leave," he said quietly.
Thomas took one look at the anger burning in Drake's eyes and decided not to press the issue any more today. Finally rising, he turned back to Virginia. "Please, my dear, give it some thought before you make any rash decisions. I'll come back in a few days and we can talk about it."
"I don't need to think about it. Good bye Thomas." She turned and swept out of the room, leaving through the door leading to the back hallway.
"Ogilvy," Drake said, standing aside so that Thomas could pass.
He roughly brushed past Drake and retrieving his coat from a couch in the foyer he quickly left the house, climbed into his waiting carriage and was gone. Drake watched him leave and then went to the library, suspecting that he would find Virginia there. She was curled up in a chair, with a blanket pulled around her.
"Is he gone?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied, kneeling by her chair and stroking her hair.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"I thought he might not like what you had to say and would need some encouragement to leave, so I made sure I was around."
There wasn't a fire in the grate, so he quickly set about lighting one and soon a rosy glow settled over the chairs and sofas gathered around the fireplace. He sank into the chair next to hers.
"Drake, I was wondering. Since Billy's going to be gone for such a long time, would you mind staying on in the house with me?"
"Stay here? Just the two of us?" he asked, surprised that she would risk such an impropriety.
"Yes. Just the two of us. Oh, I know it isn't proper, but I don't care. I'd feel safer with you here. Especially now, with Thomas likely so angry with me. Both of us really."
"Yes, I'll stay, if that's what you want."
"Thank you," she said, looking at him gratefully.
He smiled back at her but was wondering in his mind how long it would be before she was mad at him again.
Thomas stormed in the front door of his house, shouting for Doris. He quickly strode into the library and poured himself a large brandy. Doris calmly walked in the door and saw him gulping the liquor.
"What is it Thomas?" she asked worried. Her usually flustered manner was nowhere in evidence, she was calm and very much in control.
"That damn Stratford! Ruined, it's all ruined!" he exclaimed, taking another gulp of his drink.
"What are you talking about?" she asked, still calm, but beginning to feel a sense of dread creeping over her.
Trying to catch his breath, he said to her, "Do you remember the conversation I overheard at the Christmas Ball between Stratford and Virginia?"
"He knew I was below! He arranged it so that I would hear them. So that I would know about what happened between them!" he almost shouted.
Puzzled at what he was talking about, she asked, "But I don't see how..."
"Then last night, I foolishly told him that we're destitute and I'm only interested in her for her fortune..."
"But you said that even if he told her, she wouldn't believe him," she reminded him.
He looked Doris straight in the eye. "He didn't have to. She was on the upper terrace. She heard everything."
The blood drained from her face. Trembling, she sank into a nearby chair. "How did you respond?"
"I tried to talk my way out of it, but she wouldn't listen. And then he showed up and told me to leave." He took another large gulp from his glass.
"Thomas, what are we going to do? She was our only hope," she said with despair.
"I know sister, I know." He poured himself another drink. "Do you know what upsets me the most? I was very much looking forward to breaking her. She's so strong willed and that moment when she fell completely beneath my control would have been so sweet. Now I shall never know it."
Doris was lost in thought for a moment and said slowly, "Perhaps you still have a chance." She looked up at him, hope glimmering in her eyes. "Appeal to her romantic side. Tell her it was the money at first, but now you've discovered that you've fallen in love with her and can't live without her. Say you don't care about the fortune, that it's hers and always will be. Then when you marry her, you simply change your mind and take it for yourself. She'll belong to you and therefore will have no power to get it back.
He looked at her thoughtfully. "That just might work. I'll give her a few days before I go talk to her." He smiled to himself as he took another sip of his drink.
"Well don't wait too long. I'm going to have to let some more maids go this week. If I have to let many more go, I'll be doing the laundry myself."
"Can't you just fire the senior servants and hire new, young ones at a starting wage to save money?"
"You're only suggesting that because you've deflowered every maid we have and you want a fresh batch to prey upon," she said with disgust.
He laughed wickedly. "Oh sister, you know me too well. Who were you planning on dismissing?' he asked.
"Some of the chamber maids. We don't really need so many."
Taking another long sip of his drink he said, "I'll take care of it."
"You?" she asked surprised. "You've never taken part in any staffing functions before."
"Well, this time I shall. Let's begin right now. Send in the first one."
She stared at him suspiciously before leaving the room. A few minutes later there was a timid knock at the door. At his summons a young maid of about twenty entered. She bobbed a quick curtsey.
"You wished to see me sir?" she asked, clearly nervous at being summoned.
Thomas looked her up and down, trying to recall his previous encounter with her. He suddenly remembered, it was in his study. He smiled at the recollection. She had put up quite a struggle.
"What is your name, lass?" he asked.
She looked up at him with surprise, obviously startled that he didn't remember her name after what he had done to her. "Rosy, sir," she said, her face coloring.
His arousal was evident as he asked her to close the door behind her.
Ten minutes later he was buttoning his breeches as the young woman lay across a large desk, pulling down her torn skirts and quietly sobbing. Thomas had been rough with her, venting his frustrations with Virginia.
"Quit your blubbering," he snapped at her. "And get off my desk."
She slowly slid from the table and went to leave. She was almost at the door when he spoke. "By the way, you are discharged immediately. Pick up your final pay from the head housekeeper."
She stopped and turned her tear streaked face to him. "Discharged, sir?" she asked, clearly surprised.
"Yes, discharged. Pack your things and go," he said impatiently.
"Yes, sir," she said quietly, turning and leaving the library.
Doris came in a few minutes later, her disapproval clear on her face. "Did you discharge her?" she asked.
"Yes, I did," he said with a wicked grin.
"Shall I send in the next one?" she asked, not looking at him.
He took a sip of his drink before replying. "Give me an hour before the next." He took out a cigar and lit it.
She glared at him before sweeping out of the room. Thomas tipped his head back and blew the smoke at the ceiling. He was very much looking forward to the remainder of the afternoon.
Virginia was running down a dark hallway. Someone was chasing her, but she didn't know who it was. Blindly, she stumbled along trying to keep her mounting terror in check, when upon turning a corner, she saw a light up ahead. Silhouetted against it was a man. He was tall, with broad shoulders and she somehow knew that he represented safety. She ran towards him and fell into his strong arms. Her pursuer disappeared into the shadows behind her as she looked up into warm golden eyes. She suddenly bolted awake from the dream. She was lying on the couch in the library, covered with a blanket. Drake looked over at her from the billiards table where he was playing by himself.
"Are you alright?" he asked, coming and sitting beside her.
She looked up at him, momentarily confused. "Yes, yes, I think so. Just a strange dream," she said shaking her head. "I didn't realize I had fallen asleep. What time is it?"
He glanced at the clock over the mantle. "It's almost one. You've been asleep for a couple of hours."
"Billy and Elizabeth haven't come back, have they?" she asked, sitting up.
Drake rose from beside her and walked back over to the billiards table. Chuckling he said, "I don't think we'll see them until this evening, or perhaps even tomorrow morning."
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Practicing. If I'm to be living with you I had better improve my game," he replied, teasing her.
"Why? Would your tender male ego be bruised if I continually beat you?' she asked, teasing him back. "Don't worry, I'll let you win every now and then."
"May I remind you, I won fair and square last time?" he asked indignantly.
She laughed. "There was nothing fair or square about that game."
He looked down at her skirts and spoke in a low voice. "Yes, you're right."
She walked over to the cue cabinet and removed one. "How about we play again? No tricks or distractions this time?"
Leaning on his cue, he asked, "What shall we play for?"
"I'm feeling rather confident today. How about the same stakes? We play to 30 and if I win, you have to stop calling me V, and if you somehow manage to win, I will kiss you."
"Sounds good. Ladies first," he said setting up the balls for her.
They played seriously, without taunting or distracting each other. The game was tied at 29 as she bent to take her shot. She neatly scored a winner, raising her score to 30 and winning the game. She laid her pool cue across the table and Drake momentarily hung his head.
"Well it looks like you've finally gotten your wish, my dear Virginia," he said to her.
She approached him, and looking up into his eyes, she replied, "I don't want you to stop calling me V. I've grown rather accustomed to it."
He took her arm and gently pulled her to him. "Well if you forfeit your prize, does that mean I get to claim mine?" he asked in a husky voice.
"Since we're playing so fairly..." His lips captured hers before she was able to finish her sentence. She immediately fell into the kiss, running her fingers into his hair and pressing against him. He pulled the pins from her hair and it cascaded down her back like a waterfall of fire. He gripped her tightly as the kiss deepened. His body was aching for her but he knew better than to take her upstairs. He was certain that she wouldn't resist, but a voice in his head spoke through the whirl of passion and warned him that she would only be angry with him again after. He gently pulled away from her, smoothing her loose hair back from her face and peering at her through his own hair, hanging in his eyes. He could see the passion and desire clouding her eyes.
"Don't stop," she murmured, turning her face up to his, offering her lips to him..
He swallowed hard and stepped back from her. "No, we had better stop or things will go too far," he whispered to her.
She opened her eyes and blinked several times. The clouds in her eyes cleared and she stared at him. Looking away she said in an unsteady voice, "Yes, I suppose you're right." She stepped away from him and went back to the couch where she slowly sank down.
Drake chuckled as he pulled his hair back. "If you continue to forfeit your prizes I may not bother improving my game."
"I'll make sure to ask for something I really want next time," she said with a smile.
"And what would that be?"
"I'm not sure yet," she said thoughtfully. "I'll have to think about it."
By nightfall, Billy and Elizabeth still hadn't returned to the house and Drake again spent the night in the room across the hall. Knowing that she was just a few feet away kept him from sleeping easily that night. He didn't know, of course, that she tossed and turned for a good hour as well before finally drifting into a fitful sleep.
The next morning, Virginia sat in the sitting room staring into her cup of coffee, when she heard horses out front. A few minutes later Billy and Elizabeth stumbled in the front door, laughing and kissing.
"Well good morning, you two," she called out to them.
"Morning, Ginny," they replied in unison, smiling broadly, walking into the room. They fell into a chair together, Elizabeth sitting on her new husband's lap. They began kissing again as if she weren't in the room.
She shifted uncomfortably in her chair, not sure if she should leave them alone or not.
"Well, well, you two certainly are a happy pair of newlyweds." Drake was striding into the room laughing at the young couple. They both smiled up at him, Elizabeth blushing.
"Thank you for the use of your home, Drake," Billy said.
"Think nothing of it. It is your house after all," he smiled back at him.
"Well, you can go back now and get out of Ginny's hair. I'm sure she's looking forward to having the house to herself finally."
"Actually, I've asked him to stay here while you're gone," she said.
Billy and Elizabeth both looked at her with surprise. "Are you sure that's wise? What will Thomas think?" Billy asked.
She stood and walked to the front window. Looking out, she said in quiet voice, "It's over with Thomas. I discovered some rather upsetting things about him and have since ended it with him."
Billy came up behind her and put his arm about her shoulders, giving her a sympathetic squeeze. "I'm sorry, Ginny."
"Thank you, but it's alright. At least I found out now and not later when it may have been too late to do anything about it," she said with forced cheer. "So, when do you leave?"
"In two days, Thursday. We haven't even begun to pack!" Elizabeth exclaimed. "I'm so excited about the trip. I've never really been anywhere before."
"I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time," Virginia said with a smile.
"This time you can sit back and relax and watch all the sailors doing the hard work and not have to get in there with them," Drake said.
"Sometimes I miss working on the ship," Billy said. "But with Lizzy by my side, I won't be tempted. She's all the temptation I can handle." He gave her a quick kiss.
They soon left to Elizabeth parents' home so that she could pack for their honeymoon. Virginia and Drake were still in the sitting room, enjoying a late breakfast.
"Do you miss being on your ship?" Virginia asked him.
"Not really. I'm used to spending months at a time away from her."
"Do you miss Liverpool?"
"I little bit. I had some friends there that I miss, but I would rather be here with you than back there with them," he said smiling at her. "Do you miss it?"
"I miss the familiarity of it. Not as much anymore, because I'm used to it here now. And of course I miss Violet terribly. But I guess what I really miss is just my life before Father died and before Charles. When we had money and it was just Violet and I enjoying ourselves, being young and carefree."
"But look at what you have now. You have a house, land, wealth. Even if your money in Liverpool hadn't all been lost, you wouldn't have all this. You'd be looking for a husband to provide that for you."
"If things had stayed the same in Liverpool, I'd be looking for a husband to provide me with love. That's all I ever really wanted," she said wistfully.
He almost pressed the point that that was what he was offering her, but decided against it. He would let it rest for now.
"I'm going to go back to the house and collect my things. I'll be back in a couple of hours," he said wiping his mouth and picking up his dishes to take to the kitchen.
"I'll come with you if you don't mind. I should take away the wedding night decorations."
Half an hour later they were riding out to the small house in the cart. "When do you think you'll be able to begin the expansion?" she asked, huddling in her winter coat.
"Well, I'll have to wait until the weather gets a bit warmer. With all the rain here during winter it wouldn't be a good time to start. So I guess it will be in the spring."
"Probably before Billy gets back. Have you two talked about what he wants done, or rather what Elizabeth wants done?" she asked with a smile.
"Yes, we've gone over that. I have a fairly good sense of their wishes."
"Can I help?" she asked.
He looked at her with surprise. "Well I guess so. I didn't think you would be interested."
"Well of course I'm interested," she replied as they pulled up outside the out-building.
He helped her down and said, "I think I can find something for you to do."
They walked inside and looked about. The young couple had left the house very neat and tidy. The romantic decorations were still up, along with the vases of flowers. She fingered one of the blooms. "I should have figured out a way to bring these back to the house. They're so pretty and were rather expensive, it seems a shame to just leave them here."