Chapter twoA Chapter by Trish Farrell
Magdelaine Chelmsley has the world at her fingertips. Enjoying the newly built Chelmsley hall and what she hopes to be an immensley successful season. But what you plan doesn't always happen.
Had Magdelaine not lazily idled the early morning away dreaming of the previous evening, she might not have shied away from the garden earlier or even have skipped over the parlor games this afternoon. But now as she sat back watching the Duke of Raithmoore as he pried yet another admiring female from his arm to convey her to her mother, Magdelaine smiled inwardly. True he had been in the lady’s company for long past the half hour, but he had kept his lash lowered glances for her, and her alone.
Going to bed last night, Magdelaine had not known whether the man was staying nearby or at Chelmsley itself, or if he had left for his own home after the ball. She didn’t ask her mother, who she knew thought that perhaps a little hanging back would gain more attention from such an exalted gentleman. But again he was here, showing his handsome face while she was in the midst of a rambunctious game of dice. He’d hovered nearby for the duration and only left when Lady Crosby had deluged him with her attentions. But now he was safely alone from that lady now and headed in Magdelaine’s direction.
“Lady Magdelaine, I was hoping to see you this afternoon, but had given up hope amidst so many guests occupying your time.” he said, his warm voice spreading over her like honey.
“Your Grace.” Magdelaine replied, lowering into a curtsy. “It was quite the crush, was it not?”
“Indeed it was. I am sure your father has found himself quite successful at this type of function, especially with the help of his loving lady. Quite remarkable, your parents.” The duke said.
Magdelaine was caught mesmerized by the blue of his eyes. Framed as they were by long, lush lashes any woman would trade for, his orbs had the most unusual way of pinning you to the spot with their intensity. Melting from the reality of his words and sinking into remembrances of his kiss of last night, Magdelaine was lost to him.
“My lady?” he said. He must have noticed her lack of listening skills.
“Hmm, what?” Magdelaine answered, hoping reverently that she had not offended him by not hearing him.
“I had asked if you might free for a stroll in the garden. But perhaps I have been mistaken.” Bowing gracefully, the Duke of Raithmoore began to back away.
“No, not at all your grace. That is to say, you are not mistaken, I am free.” Magdelaine hurriedly assured him. Ninny! She must be more careful in the future as to not upset him, lest all of her plans of his attentions would go awry.
When his smile assured her of his confidence in the matter, she smarted slightly. Of course he knew she was interested. Who wasn’t interested in a duke? By gads the man was probably as rich or richer then the king himself, and handsome… the word barely covered him. He was the best looking thing in London, Magdelaine would bet.
“I hope that you recovered nicely from our interlude at the balcony last night?” he whispered into her ear as he leaned into her with his arm bent for her hand.
“Indeed I did, your grace.” Magdelaine answered. She was sure she had almost succeeded in halting the blush she felt creeping up from her bosom. Such a nice kiss it had been, too. He might do it again, kiss her that is.
He led her through the hall which was strewn with people coming and going from the gardens, and out into the garden to the rear of the house. Heady scents of roses and earth permeated her senses as she bathed in the warm sunshine and his attentions. Lifting his hand slightly to some of the other ladies who saw them, he bowed his head at each couple they passed, but did not stop to chat. He was steering her towards the eastern garden which lay a few steps down from the main one.
“I thought perhaps, a bit of privacy. We might see where that kiss could have led.” he said.
The man was quite bold in his attentions, no doubt. But that is what she had wanted. Not a mealy mouthed man who stood around to do her every bidding and hoping that she in return, would award him with a chaste kiss. She knew this tall man to be of consequence with the ladies, had heard the rumors of his amorous attentions to her older friends and of those rumors of his liking for widows. But she, new from the schoolroom had had little hope of ensnaring his ardor, until last night.
Having made up her mind upon coming to Chelmsley that she would not be the shy miss so many others were, she had hoped reverently that he had accepted the invitation. She squashed her shyness around him and tried hard to act like she knew just what she was doing. He had been her first kiss, and he had known it. But she had hoped that with a freer dalliance, the man might decide she was good for him and perhaps she would latch on for a marriage proposal.
“Would kissing you once more be out of the question?” he said, his voice husky.
“I have looked forward to it.” Magdelaine replied honestly. She had to strain to keep her voice strong and sure, when in fact he made her knees quake and her limbs turn to jelly.
They were down near a stone wall which covered them from the entire view of the house and gardens. He had not steered her towards the bench, but to the wall itself where she now stood with her back to it. He looked predatorily at her, as if his ardor would swallow her whole. Great fissures of excitement began in her belly and trickled up her spine. He easily placed one hand on each of her hips as he lowered his lips to hers. Not a man to mince words, he also didn’t dally when taking what he wanted. When his supple lips slid over hers, she thought she would explode in the turbulence of emotion that welled within her. Pulling her closer to him, he wrapped his arms around her to hold her tight in his embrace. Lifting her arms to his shoulders, she opened her mouth beneath his and let her tongue travel the range of his lower lip. She would melt of ecstasy.
“Magdelaine, my love. You are by far the sweetest flower in the garden.” he murmured, his lips still only inches from hers. He led a trail of butterfly kisses along her jaw line to her ear, where he flicked his tongue along the shell.
She felt her stomach muscles clench in desire, her limbs melting of their own accord. If he didn’t stop, he would get that which he most desired and then probably be gone. A man like him wanted total satisfaction and she was only willing to bestow that upon the marriage bed. The thought stopped her cold.
“We must be careful not to carry our dalliances too far, Your Grace. As pleasant as they are, they could be my undoing and thus my great fall from grace.” she said demurely.
She wanted his attentions, all of them. But at what price? She could not, would not disgrace her parents. But neither did she wish to play the part of a teaser, only dangling bits in front his sumptuous face only to withhold for a proposal. It was akin to blackmail!
“Are you implying that just another kiss or two and you would deign to grace my bed?” he said, with just the tiniest hint of mirth.
He found her amusing did he? Looking up into his eyes, she realized that this man before her had to do naught but to whisper to just about any female and she would fall into his arms. Was the world so readily handed to him then? Not Magdelaine Chelmsley. She might be a mere earl’s daughter, but she was no tramp.
“Perhaps you have mistaken an innocent spring time motivation, Your Grace. I shall not fall into your bed willingly with a few mere kisses. But you must agree, you are an excellent specimen to learn upon.” she said saucily.
“It has been my experience that when a woman kisses such as you do, they wish more then a garden delight. More intimacy, more privacy.” he returned, his eyes glistening.
Evidently the man was no unused to insult that he could not recognize it. But he was putting a strain on her own proprieties. The devil was playing verbal swords with her, knowing that she could not, in her innocence win this battle.
“I do believe, Your Grace, that you had wished for a bit more then I am prepared or had even thought to concede to. Perhaps we should end our alliance at this very moment, lest you misunderstand again.” she said. Keeping her voice low and sultry, she wished no permanent removal from his person, but she did need to make sure he knew the rules. It would be up to him to decide if she were worth dangling after.
“Very well, my lady. I will escort you back to your parlor then.” he said. The duke’s voice was a band of steel.
He had obviously taken insult. This just would not do. Thinking quickly over the things she and her lady friends had discussed in ways of catching a man, Magdelaine was sure they had covered a conversation such as this. But what was it she was supposed to do next?
“So then, you are so shallow a male that a mere few kisses and a sharp word or two and you back away from the battle?” Magdelaine said, panic setting in. No, she couldn’t lose him… not without even having had him!
Magdelaine had not noticed before the slanted grin he possessed. It in itself was an enchanting thing. His face with his almost boyish grin in it’s handsomeness held her captive. She stared at him, unable to know why he entranced her so, and wondering why she hadn’t noticed the full danger of just a look from him, last night.
“A tryst is not a battle, my dear girl. If the female is not willing, then the male should be the gentleman and back off. There should need no pressuring. Both parties must be par for the course.” he said. He was obviously in full command of himself.
She did not have that luck. She would lose his kisses along with his interest. Why that bothered her more then it should have was, for the moment, beyond her. She had wanted to experience life. But to be almost heartbroken so early when the man she chose as her mentor did not want to play by her rules?
A stir had arisen above them in the main garden. There were unusual shouts, and Magdelaine could hear people scurrying about. It would be unseemly for people to be running about their garden on such an afternoon, or at anytime for that matter. Her attention drawn to the commotion, she waited only a split second before the duke’s hand was on her arm, leading her back to the house.
Within the hallway there were ladies with their heads drawn onto their husbands shoulders, hiding tears. Panic seemed to permeate the house, the servants rushing to and fro with no obvious discourse. Magdelaine knew something was wrong, very wrong. But it evaded her as to what that could possibly be. She had seen no fire, heard no shouts of alarm. Now towards the front of the hall, Magdelaine heard two carriages rushing up the drive at full speed. People pushed forward towards the door to make their way out.
“The doctor has been sent for, but Handscomb said it was too late. The three of them gone already.” Lord Derby whispered loudly to a man standing beside him.
“Tragedy. And after all of this!” The older man said, sorrow in his wrinkled eyes as he looked at Magdelaine.
Their words confused her. What three were gone? Where had they gone too? And what in name’s sake was so terrifying that three people would have left the party? But, what was the doctor needed for? Ignoring the two, Magdelaine pushed her way out the front door. The throng that had accumulated murmured in low voices as she passed. One man tried to hold her back from the carriages, but she would not be derailed. Someone must get her father, he would know how to handle a situation such as this. Dread and panic spread through her. An accident had occurred. People were looking at her with grief stricken faces. Hushed whispering crowded her as she neared the carriage to look inside.
It could not be. Terror struck her heart as her eyes settled on a pink pair of heeled slippers. Her mother’s foot dangled sickly from it’s position on the bench inside the sprung box. The door had been opened by a man inside when it stopped. Fear gripped her chest and rode up her throat choking her. She could now see both of her parents spread prostrate on each bench. Neither of them moved, her father’s slippers had come off, his hosed feet pointing upwards.
“I’m sorry, mi’lady.” Someone said from her side. Her vision blurred, her ears roaring, Magdelaine fainted.
“Get her upstairs to her apartments.” Justin Augustus Mason, the Duke of Raithmoore, bellowed out to the servant standing nearest him.
He had the good fortune to stay at her side as she had pushed her way out the door. He also had the good fortune to catch her as she’d melted towards the ground after seeing her parents in the carriage. And as much as he would have liked to carry her upstairs, he knew his attention would be needed more here. Handing the quiet form of Magdelaine in his arms to a strapping young footman, Justin turned his attentions to the carriage.
“Get them inside, to the main parlor. But, we shouldn’t move them more then necessary. Is there a pulse for either of them?” Justin asked. Having gotten Magdelaine taken care of, he now would put this chaos into the best order possible. He had dealt with death before. Never a pleasant thing, but better for all concerned if all was in an orderly fashion.
“Petersburg went off for the doctor. He left right from the accident so hopefully he shan’t be long. As for them, I’m afraid there is no sign of life.” Jason Kimberly, Earl of Stanhope, said from within the carriage. His woolen gray eyebrows knit together in disbelief.
The stronger of the gathered men moved woodenly, transferring the bodies of the earl and his countess into the house. Shock ran prevalent throughout the throng, tears and muffled sobs of grief could be heard as the bodies passed through the entry hall of the grand mansion. One lady fainting dead away in the arms of her father. Justin pushed aside his feelings to organize the servants in order to keep the guests from ogling the dead couple.
“Has anyone seen to Lady Magdelaine?” Justin asked a passing servant.
“Her ladies are with her, your grace.” the small man answered.
“Very good.” Justin answered. At least he would not need to worry there. She would be taken care of until this mess could be straightened out.
The Earl of Chelmsley and his Countess were gently laid upon two long, elegantly clothed benches in the front parlor. Justin eyed them with disbelief of his own. His father had been great friends with this man who now lay before him. Always so lively, the earl had visited often before the late duke’s death. Justin had gotten to know this couple quite well, and although he had known they had had a daughter, he’d only met her once when she was but a child. But he knew her now, intimately more then others. He felt the sense of duty as it willed up inside of him. He wanted no permanent attachments, but he would see her through this tragedy before taking his leave of her.
Kneeling beside Phillip Chelmsley, Justin placed his fingers on the cool flesh of the older man. No pulse in his neck at all. But he looked indeed to be just napping, ready to awaken at any moment. Justin’s head bent in sorrow. He rose up and moved to the Countess’s side and did the same, with the same results. Her blond hair had been torn from it’s neat chignon and now lay at odd angles to her bruised face. Justin tenderly smoothed the golden wisps from her cheek and brushed his knuckles against her still soft cheeks. He knew he was not alone in the room, and was loath to show the tremendous emotion that was coursing through him, but could not help it. They were too young to die. So full of life. He had just been kissing their daughter.
“Stanhope.” Justin intoned.
“Your Grace.” Jason answered.
“Might I inquire as to what led to this?” Justin asked. He knew his voice was unsteady.
“A race of phaetons. Petersburg had brought his along to show off. Chelmsley and his wife begged it’s use. They raced against Horace Green. They were rounding the corner, just out of sight at the edge of Sherwood forest when the sounds came, by God but I have never heard horses scream like that. As if they knew of the devastation that was being wrought. By the looks of the scene, Chelmsleys phaeton hit on a rock, his wheel breaking off. The whole thing flipped. They had been thrown. Broke their necks instantly, I think.” Jason finished, his voice cracking ever so slightly.
“There was a third mentioned. Horace Green. What of him?” Justin asked.
“They were trying to extricate him from beneath his ride. They must have both collided, overturning Green’s as well. The indication was that he was dead.” Jason answered.
“Did no one witness the actual accident?” Justin asked incredulously. Surely if there was a group of people, someone must have seen it happen. The place was teething with people from the ball, most of whom had stayed in the area to return for more festivities today.
“I rode back with the earl, Your Grace. I have no idea if anyone saw the actual happenings.”
Justin chewed on this bit for awhile. It probably was not overly important that no one saw the incident. But it did niggle at his conscious just a teeny bit. He would certainly take his time to talk with each person who was in the lane at the time. Just so that he could answer any of Magdelaine’s questions when they arose.
Again his thoughts were overtaken by her.
So young and on the year of her first come out. She would miss that now, but he knew that more important to her… she would miss her parents. They had been unusually close. The Earl was quite indulgent to his only daughter, Justin knew. The Countess had painstakingly assured Magdelaine’s intelligence through a series of outlandishly expensive tutors, and finished the whole learning experience off with a year long trip to France this past year. He himself had heard the Countess speak on this subject many times during the past year as they had shared meals at Justin’s family seat. He had remained close to them even after his own father’s death, the reminder being a salve to his own grieving feelings of having lost his father as well.
“Your Grace. The doctor has come.” said the butler, Kibbs. His voice too belayed the grief with which he was dealing.
“Show him in, Kibbs.” Justin answered solemnly.
The smallish man that followed Kibbs into the room wasted no time in checking over the two bodies. He knelt over each, fixing his spectacles after inspecting the countess. The man seemed untouched by the death before him. Taking a rude instrument from his bag, he placed one end into his ears and held the other end to each unmoving chest respectively.
“The lord and his lady are both dead. I cannot say as to why at this very moment, but I suspect a broken neck for each of them as there are no signs of blood on either. Of course, I will need a thorough investigation of both bodies. Are there others?” The doctor inquired.
“One more. But I’m afraid I don’t know the status as he hasn’t been brought forth yet.” Justin answered. His body felt numb. He knew they were dead but having it confirmed by a physician had made his reality hit hard.
“As I passed by the accident scene, I stopped and examined the one they pulled from the phaeton. He’s dead as well. Quite mangled he was. I encouraged them to bring his body to my office as I have the proper things necessary for a thorough exam there. Besides, no reason to unduly upset the gentle folk here. He was not as serene looking a these two are.” the doctor said.
Justin’s temper was grated by the carefree way the doctor discussed these poor people. They were his betters, yet he seemed to have no compunction of respect. But then again, Justin thought, it must be a way of making dealing with death and sickness a little more palpable. Calming his ire at the little man, Justin then made the necessary arraignments to have the bodies moved to a small bedroom where they could be examined and readied for burial. He sent for the magistrate, and then inquired as to Magdelaine. When he was informed that she had yet to awaken, he asked the doctor to see to her before returning to his office for his instruments.
What he needed was a stiff drink. No, an entire bottle. No one could have foreseen such sorrow that would befall this family. And even as mighty as his rank, Justin could not either. Nor had he been prepared for it. Having just buried his own father a year and a half before, he had hoped that he would not be dealing with the grief that death brought on a person again anytime soon. But he was here now, and he felt duty bound to the earl and his wife to see to their daughter. His thoughts tumbled at the thought of her. How would she cope?
“Raithmoore, how are you holding up?”
It was Arthur Beasley, a duke in his right that now asked after Justin’s welfare. A large man of obvious means, he had long ago given over to corpulence. His balding head and face were pinkened at the pressures of the day. Justin had little use for him or for anyone at the moment however.
“Steady.” he replied. He was at the moment downing his third glass of wine, for sustenance he told himself. But the truth was, if he could slide through the rest of this week without feeling much, he’d be doing alright.
“Hearsay says you’re in charge around here. So I thought to let you know that word has come that Lady Chelmsley as awakened. Quite distressed she is. The doctor is hoping to give her some sleeping drought to calm her. But she’ll have none of it. Threw him and her maids out of the room. I do fear the poor thing is shocked to her toe’s.” Beasley said.
Justin let his gaze settle on the older man before him. No doubt Beasley was happy that he was not the one being called on to hold things in Chelmsley at order. The man had always slunk away from any duties he had not thought fell directly to him, even in the house of lords. Certainly, now would be no different. Which was more then alright with Justin, as he would give no member of the ton any chance to tighten a fist around Magdelaine’s obvious inheritance. There were no other Chelmsley family members. Not even a far off, distant cousin. The title would pass to Magdelaine’s first born son. As for the lands and money, no one would know until the will was read.
“I will see to her.” Justin said. He had known he would need to face her. He only wished now that he thought of the best way to approach her. She should have the most say in the burial. Who knows if Chelmsley had left instructions for such?
Halting for a fortifying breath, Justin stood outside the bedroom door of Magdelaine Chelmsley, along with several servants and a very indignant doctor. No doubt in Justin’s mind that the stout little man was unaccustomed to being rudely uninvited to a patients chambers, such as he had been. He looked around at them, and reached hesitantly for the handle of the door.
“Get out!” Magdelaine screamed at the opening door. “I don’t need any of your vile medicines. Just leave me alone!”
Justin peeked his head just inside the door. What he saw shocked him beyond his own belief. Magdelaine stood squarely in the middle of her sitting room, dressed in a long night rail. Her golden hair down around her shoulders, looked frayed and utterly disarrayed. Her sapphire eyes sparkled with anger. In her hand she held some small porcelain object, certainly she awaited just a target to thrust it at.
“Lady Magdelaine, calm yourself. I have no droughts for you.” Justin soothed. His voice low and silky.
When she didn’t hurl the object in her hand at him, he eased the door open. Holding up his hands to show her that he carried nothing with him, Justin was surprised when she ran straight into his arms. Holding her tight to him, he squeezed ever so gently when the racking sobs overcame her small body. Bending slightly, he picked her up in his arms and walked over to the bigger of the two chairs placed in front of her fireplace. Sitting, he arranged her on his lap so that he could hold her securely while she kept her face buried into the crook of his neck. He knew that convention limited what ways he could comfort her, even being alone in her room with her at this very moment could be construed by vicious tongues to be a dent in her virtue. But damn them. She was alone in the world now. She needed someone who cared enough to listen and comfort her.
Justin didn’t say a word. He satisfied himself of her comfort by holding her close and gently stroking the long strings of her hair. He handed her a linen that he had taken from his pocket before picking her up. She took it after a moments coaxing, and held it fast to her wet face. Her great sobs of despair were now melting down to just a river of tears freely flowing from her eyes. She sniffled and blew her nose, straightening for only a moment before leaning against him and again burying her face.
“Are they sure? Could there be mistake? Are my parents really gone?” she asked in a bare whisper. With the words came fresh sobs.
“They are sure. I am sorry, Magdelaine.” Justin answered quietly. Hugging her close to him once more, Justin could swear that he heard her heart break.
“This is the absolute worse day of my life.” she said quietly.
© 2010 Trish Farrell
Shelved in 2 LibrariesAdded on January 27, 2010
Last Updated on January 27, 2010
AboutI have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I have read too many books to think about even adding up how many. My main area's of interest fall in historical romance with an occasiona.. more..
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