tagRomanceAt Any Cost Ch. 04

At Any Cost Ch. 04


For the next four days, they slept in the same bed, but Derek did not make love to her. Nor did he spend all his time at his club drinking. Instead, he locked himself in his study, doing what, Vivian did not know. He said little to her, though when he did speak, he was formal and polite, which contrasted greatly from the hot-tempered man she first met.

On a brighter note, Annie proved to be a great asset. Though she was six months pregnant -- Vivian had the doctor summoned to examine the girl -- Annie worked hard, always smiling brightly and willing to lend a hand. Each morning, Annie dressed Vivian's hair in a new fashion that even Vivian wouldn't have been able to create.

Mary Lerner, the wife of Derek's associate did call on her. Upon arriving at teatime, Mrs. Lerner insisted that Vivian accept every invitation.

"You'll be the talk of the Town, my dear. Trentham was simply the Eligible Bachelor until he married, even with his reputation."

"Reputation?" How many times had people, even Derek himself referred to his reputation?

Vivian had lost count, yet no one seemed to want to elaborate.

"You mean he was a rake?"

Mrs. Lerner, a woman of considerable beauty and understanding eyes gazed at Vivian for a moment.

"You had better ask Trentham himself for the full story, my dear. Trentham was anything but the usual rogue."

Sadness filled Vivian so suddenly, as it occurred to her that Derek might never open up to her.

"Don't look so glum, my dear. Everything will work out." Mrs. Lerner squeezed her hand comfortingly and smiled. "Accept the invitations. Have Trentham escort you, and believe you me you will be a smash. Oh, it will be wonderful. I cannot wait for it."

Vivian hesitated.

"I don't think Derek likes crowds very much."

"He will when his wife is out and about."

She highly doubted it, but she planned on bringing it up as they were going to bed. She was brushing out her hair at the vanity, having had it moved from the other room. She dismissed Annie early in the evening after seeing the girl yawning several times.

Derek was sitting against the headboard of the bed, watching her through half-closed eyes.

"Derek...I was wondering if you'd like to attend a ball tomorrow evening." She asked, putting down the brush. She turned in her seat to look at him. "I have already accepted the invitation and Mrs. And Mr. Lerner will be there."

Something in his eyes told her that he wasn't thinking about the ball at all.

"Come here, Vivian." Was all he said.

Nervously, she complied, and padded over to the bed in her white nightgown. He made a gesture to come closer. She climbed onto the bed as he pushed away the covers to reveal his erection. He slept naked, she had discovered nights before.

She made to straddle him, feeling him tuck in between her legs, but not entering.

He looked at her as he lifted a hand to touch her face tenderly, tucking a long lock of hair behind her ear. He ran his fingers lightly over her cheeks, let the pad of his thumb touch the ends of her eyelashes. His fingertips brushed over her parted lips like light kisses. It didn't take much for her to become aroused, for his gentle touch seemed to do it.

Skillfully, he unlaced the front of her nightgown and pulled down one sleeve to reveal a pale smooth shoulder. She let out a sigh as he leaned forward to touch that skin with his hot mouth. His lips trailed to her collarbone, nuzzling her neck until he moved up for their mouths to meet.

She met his kiss enthusiastically, realizing how she missed him so. Going days without his lovemaking had made her wonder if he'd lost interest in her. Yet he kissed her now with such fervor, the idea hardly seemed valid.

She arched to him, causing a deep groan to escape him. He lifted her up and entered her swiftly, both of them moaning at the same time. He pulled the nightgown off her as he thrust up inside her.

Derek's kisses were endless and he teased her, building up her pleasure with his hands and mouth, taunting her nipples into sensitivity. She rode him, setting the pace, feeling him fill her so deeply.

Suddenly, he rolled her beneath him and thrust into her languidly, eliciting a soft cry from her lips. He never looked away from her, wanting to see every little expression, hear ever cry come from those pretty lips of hers. He wanted her slowly, though his cock felt ready to spill. He wanted to ram himself into her until they were desperate for breath, but he wanted this to build and build until it was ecstasy.

She was arching toward him, urging him to take her faster with her legs wound around him. He only smiled at her and took her mouth with his, teasing her with his patience.

"Derek!" She cried out, her nails digging into his back. He reveled in the stinging of her nails, and pulled almost all the way out only to bury himself to the hilt inside her. He continued to do this, taking her with deep strokes, then shallow ones.

Her muscles started to clamp down on his cock and feeling his own orgasm take hold, he let go of his patience. He started to plunge into her wet warmth, mindless. Vivian cried out. He could feel his cock swell, his swollen balls lift and then everything exploded. He let out a groan and drained himself inside her.

Derek held her even after she fell asleep. For a long time, he remained awake, watching the firelight dance across her face. For the first time, he found himself fascinated with a woman's features. He took the time to memorize the way the tip of her nose lifted a little and the tiny little birthmark just on her left jaw line, the things he never noticed before.

His wife.

"You will always be taken care of." He whispered, brushing his finger over her cheek. "I'll see to it."

As if sensing his melancholy mood, she snuggled closer to him.

Derek closed his eyes to sleep, but his mind moved rapidly over what he could do to make her happy. He wanted to make her happy so badly. Diamonds. She'd like diamonds. And pearls, strings of it to match that pretty pink gown she wore the other day. He made a mental note to stop by the jeweler's in the morning.


He was up at the crack of dawn and walked down instead of having Dean wake up so early. The jeweler's shop was just opening up for the day when Derek slipped in. The man who owned it beamed and immediately came over.

"Lord Trentham, it is a delight to see you. How can I assist you?"

Derek's eyes scanned the glass cases, dismissing those too gaudy for Vivian or too simple. He wanted something exquisite and rare.

"Diamonds." He said simply. "My wife and I are attending a ball tonight...I don't know what she will be wearing, but I'm sure diamonds will be appropriate."

The man nodded firmly and led the way to a display case.

"Indeed, my lord. Might I suggest a necklace or a bracelet, then? Ah, here we are."

Displayed against dark velvet, was a collection of sparkling diamonds in different cuts and styles.

"That'll do." Derek pointed to a bracelet with diamonds fashioned like laurel leaves.

"Might I add congratulations on your nuptials? She must be a fortunate young woman." The man said, wrapping up the bracelet.

Derek refrained from making comment. Instead, he looked around once and then said, "I want to commission something. Several things, a set of jewels, you see. In pearls and emeralds."

"Indeed, my lord." The man's face broke into a smile. "Well now, if you have some time this morning, we can discuss a design you would like..."

An hour or so later, Derek walked home in time to join his wife for breakfast. She was already at the table, going through the morning post, looking the perfect picture in her pale green day gown. Her hair was cleverly dressed up with pins so that several wisps of curls framed her face.

Silently, Derek walked in, sending Sykes a look as he did so. He set the jewel case down in front of her and took his seat. Vivian paused, staring at the velvet case for a moment before lifting her eyes up to him.

"Open it." He said. He wanted to see the look on her face. She did and her eyes widened in surprise.

"Oh my," she gasped, staring down at the bracelet.

He found himself chuckling and reaching over to take it out of the box. He grabbed her wrist and started to fasten it together.

"You didn't have to buy me that."

"I wanted to." While he was at it, he leaned over and kissed her. "Good morning."

She smiled. "Good morning."


His good mood didn't last too long.

The ball was overly crowded and he felt stifled. He'd give anything to be out on assignment right now. If he wanted to feel suffocated, he'd rather it be inside a dank, moldy abandoned buildings than in a room full of dressed up hens.

The whispers started the moment he and Vivian arrived. Their host was Lady Kissington, apparently a woman of some distinction and had a say on who got an invitation to Almack's. He could understand why there were hushed voices, but he glanced at his wife to see if she did. She seemed to ignore it and held her head up high.

As the evening began, Derek noted how beautiful his wife looked. She wore a rose satin gown with a wide neckline that revealed ample cleavage, much to his delight. The diamond bracelet sparkled on her delicate wrist and he noted silently, a few women in the room eyed the piece with envy.

Thinking she was safe with Mary Lerner to be introduced around, Derek took himself to the edge of the room, where he was able to observe more than participate.

"Now tell me," Jacob Lerner said casually. "With a wife as beautiful as yours, why aren't you dancing with her?"

Derek made a sound, but did not answer. He let his eyes roam over to Vivian, who was talking with a group of women.

"She'll manage better without me." He answered

Lerner paused. "She'll need you there for her, Trentham. You're her husband."

"She'll have an easier life."

Lerner arched an eyebrow. "Is that what you think?" He gestured to the young men making their way to Vivian. At first, Derek wasn't at all bothered by it -- but it gave him pause when one of the young men dared to let his lips linger on Vivian's hand a second too long.

"Bloody hell." He muttered. But he wasn't able to cross over to her, for the man started to lead his smiling wife onto the dance floor.

"Calm down." Lerner sounded amused. "It's only one dance."

Only it wasn't. Suddenly, Vivian became a smash at the ball and every man was vying for her attention. As one dance ended, she would be led back to the floor for the next by another partner.

Derek watched every man intently, making sure none of them overstepped their boundaries. There'd be hell to pay if one of them did.

Finally, late into the evening, he could stand it no more. He managed to reach her before the next dance started.

"Let us get some fresh air." He said curtly, his eyes on the young buck who was about to ask for his wife's hand. Derek tucked Vivian's hand into his arm and led her out into the cool night.

She was smiling and leaned against the balustrade with a sigh of contentment.

"Oh, I am having such a lovely time. Thank you, Derek."

She looked utterly beautiful in the moonlight and seeing that smile touch her eyes, all his jealous anger dissolved. Her pulled her into the shadows and brought her close.

"Was it necessary to dance with every man who asks you?" He asked huskily. He had her trapped between him and the balustrade.

"I like to dance."

"I'll dance with you."

Excitement shone in her eyes and she was about to pull him back into the ballroom.

"Let us go then. The music is so lovely."

He kept her firmly within his arms. Brushing his lips over her cheek caused a delicious shiver to run through her body.

"I was speaking of a different sort of dance, Vivian. One where you...and I...are naked."

He started to nibble at her, holding her closer so she could feel his arousal.

"And all I see, all I hear...is your voice calling my name over...and over again...as I plunge into you."

He hadn't planned on feeling this turned on so suddenly. Now desperate to have her, he grabbed her hand and dragged her down the steps toward the walled garden, a small one that still allowed for them to hide away.

He yanked her behind a hedge and brought her against the wall.

"Wrap your legs around me, Vivian." He whispered harshly into her ear. He pulled at her skirts as she did so. Undoing his pants, he brought out his erection and lifting her, sank deeply into her wet warmth.

He silenced her moans with his own mouth, taking her fast and deep. He was mindless with desire and the possibility of someone finding them just added to their passion. Vivian's nails dug into him as he moved within her. Blindingly, her muscles clenched around his cock tightly. He thrust up and emptied himself inside her

Derek wanted to stay inside her all night, but unfortunately, they were attending a ball.

Vivian trembled slightly in his arms as he set her down gently. He straightened out his clothes and gave her a lingering kiss.

"Let's return home. You can dance at the other balls you've accepted invitations to." He suggested, his voice still husky. She leaned in close to him -- and this warmed his heart for a reason he could not pinpoint.

"Yes, let's." She answered.


Lord Garner watched the couple slip away from the back, jealousy rising inside him. He remained behind a hedge, wanting to let the night air cool both his anger and arousal before he went back inside to the ballroom.

The little chit was supposed to be his wife, not Trentham's. He berated himself for being so patient with her before. When he had requested Vivian's hand in marriage, he had thought to offer her time to get used to the idea, had even hoped that if he spent enough time with him, she would come to care for him.

His fists clenched at his sides as he recalled her soft, throaty whimpers as Trentham took her against the wall like a common whore. Vivian deserved so much more respect than that. She was a well-bred lady who deserved to be made love to on a bed covered in the softest sheets.

But his cock throbbed in pain, distracting his anger. He had so wanted to be the one to take her virginity. He had looked forward to being the one to initiate her. Now he was jealous of Trentham for taking her to wife.

To think he had saved himself these past few months for her -- avoiding and eventually dismissing his longtime mistress. To even think her kind nature would see past his looks.

Lord Garner was not a handsome man. He was plain with no real features to recommend him, save for his eyes, which even at best were a shade of wilted green grass. His lips were thin and tended to curve naturally in a sneer, making him look angry when he really wasn't. He had not the social graces as most men of his acquaintance, for he tended to keep to himself and when he spoke, sometimes stammered.

Perhaps he had hoped too much for a woman of Vivian's beauty would care for a man like him. Nonetheless, he desired her still and began to unbutton his breeches. His gray brown hair fell over his forehead as he reached down to circle his raging cock, his other hand massaging his balls.

As his orgasm built, his heart ached for Vivian. She was no longer free to him. Yet it did not stop him from imagining, deep in his own fantasies that he was able to take her against the wall like Trentham had -- that he -- Lord Garner was her husband. He imagined himself buried inside her, of hearing her cry out his name and telling him she loved him.

Lord Garner let out a soft grunt as thick ropes of his seed shot out onto the low bush in front of him. With a heavy heart, he buttoned up his breeches and ran a hand through his hair, deciding to leave the ball early. He had only attended in hopes of seeing Vivian. Without her presence, nothing seemed worth it.


Lord and Lady Trentham retired early that night, leaving Annie to her own time in her room. She sat in a chair by the window, reading a page of the newspaper. Her stomach growled for the third time that evening, reminding her that she should have eaten a bit more at dinner.

It got to be too distracted and she wondered if there were leftovers. Cook was already generous enough with her helpings, but it seemed that she could consume enough food to feed an entire family.

She slipped on her robe and slowly went below stairs to the kitchen. She found Pete sitting at the large butcher's table. She froze in her tracks.

"I...I didn't think anyone would be up so late." She said lamely.

Pete had a plate of food in front of him and the sight of cold meats and bread only made her mouth water.

"I got hungry." He said simply. "Seems you did too, miss."

Annie felt embarrassed, but nodded. "I'll just grab myself an apple."

She started forward to the bowl sitting there with several green ones. His hand came out to catch hers and suddenly his large form unfolded from the chair. She looked up, slightly alarmed.

"An apple's not going to do it." He said. "Sit there." He indicated the chair next to him. For such a large man, he moved fast and comfortably in the kitchen. He came back to set a plate full of food in front of her.

"I remember my sisters eating like cows when they were carrying." Then he had the grace to flush from the neck up. "I didn't mean to compare you to a cow, miss."

She let out a laugh and started on her meal.

"Thank you, Pete. Do you still see your family?"

He shook his head, taking his seat again. Even sitting down, he made her feel tiny.

"They live in the country. I suppose most of 'em are married with little ones. I left home when I was ten. I got nine brothers and sisters."

She smiled. "It must be nice to have such a big family."

Pete grinned. "You are never without company. I liked it...suppose I should visit one of these days...see how my parents are doing."

They ate for a while in companionable silence and she thought it rather nice to have someone -- dare she say a friend to be there. Aside from the housekeeper, Mrs. Barts who still disapproved her previous employment, everyone else was kind to her.

After finishing her plate, Annie let out a yawn. She smiled sheepishly.

"I should be getting back to bed. Lady Trentham's got an early appointment tomorrow."

Pete seemed to hesitate, then nodded.

"I'll be wishing you a goodnight then, miss."

He got up because he'd seen all the rich gentlemen do it whenever a lady left the table. He watched her leave the kitchen.

Lord, she was beautiful, he thought to himself. Just like an angel with her halo of blond hair. She looked too young to be carrying a child, but then, who was he to judge?

Pete's fingers itched to do what he'd been doing all his life. He thought about the possibility of pinching a diamond necklace from a grand lady on the street. Oh, he'd never steal from his own employers. Lord Trentham was more than generous in giving him a job as footman. A diamond necklace could be sold back for a nice amount or even a pair of earrings -- enough to get him a ring.

He allowed himself to let the plan hatch in his own mind, though he had no real intention of going through with it. His days of thievery were over. But once in awhile, he let his imagination run, if to only relive them.

He did dwell on the thought of a ring. His wages wouldn't permit him to buy anything fancy. He made a mental note to check the jeweler's on his time off. A simple wedding band would do and he could even purchase two tickets to travel back to visit his family.

Satisfied with this plan, Pete started back to his own room, only to meet Mrs. Barts on his way up the stairs.

The woman was wrapped in a thick robe, with a mop cap over her hair. She looked positively matronly.

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