Chapter Three

Chapter Three

A Chapter by Colleen Kelley

 

      Samara awoke slowly the next morning. The sky was blue and bright outside her window, and the seemingly never-ending snowstorm had indeed stopped at last. Betty flurried around the chamber, humming softly to herself. Having relit the fire that went out during the night, she was poking at it with a long iron poker to ensure that it kept crackling merrily. Seeing the poker, Samara blushed in mortified remembrance, then sat straight up in dismay as memories of the night before came crashing down upon her.
      It felt like a dream, yet she knew it wasn’t. She had indeed lay naked in Cade Badgley’s arms, on her very own bed, trembling with pleasure as he had done those things to her with his mouth and his hands. She had kissed him, and she had cried out her delight. What must he think of her? Despite the fact that she rode her horse astride, and she liked to swim naked in the pond and had even gotten drunk on her father’s brandy on several occasions, she was still Lady Samara Haughton. She was still a girl of blue blood and good upbringing.
      Miserably, Samara realized her little game had gone too far. She had thought merely to inflame the earl of Easton, since he had annoyed her so with his constant staring. But perhaps she had given him the wrong idea. He was, after all, the one to enter her chamber uninvited and proceed to help her bathe! What kind of girl did he think she was, anyway?
      A ruined one, said a voice in Samara’s head, and she knew it was right. She had daringly teased and played with Cade Badgley and now he thought she was the castle w***e, despite the fact that she was the earl’s daughter.
      Groaning, Samara sank back against her pillows and shut her eyes. She could not go downstairs to break her fast with her family and their guests – it would be mortifying. She would never be able to lay eyes on the earl of Easton again. At least she had the small consolation of knowing that she had sent him off unfulfilled, but he should never have been in her chamber to begin with. And she definitely should not have shown herself to him, and let him do those things to her – oh, but they were delicious, and Samara knew that even if she had tried to stop him, she would not have been able to.
      Hearing Samara’s groan, Betty turned from the fire and peered worriedly at her mistress.
      “Are you all right, my lady?” she asked.
      “My head aches a bit,” she lied. “I don’t think I’ll be able to join my father and sisters for the morning meal.” She turned her head and hoped her voice sounded convincingly weak.
      “You just stay in bed then, my lady,” Betty said. “I will go get a tray for you in case you get hungry in a bit.”
      “Thank you, Betty,” Samara said.
Once she was alone, Samara let the previous night’s events wash over her. She recalled every graze of Cade’s fingers, every flutter of his soft lips against her bare skin. She remembered how his touch seemed to burn her, and how she had strained for more. She closed her eyes and his face – his beautifully sculpted face, with its sharp angles and planes, its straight nose and chilly blue eyes, its thick brows and sensuous mouth – swam through her consciousness.
What was wrong with her? she thought. How had she suddenly become a wanton? There had been men before. Well, perhaps not men, but there had been boys from the stable, and village boys, and even a few male cousins – they had all tried, and been rewarded with a hard slap for their efforts. What was different about Cade Badgley that made her want to stand naked before him?
Because he is a man, the voice in her head whispered. Samara bit her lip and pulled the coverlet closer to her body, so that it nearly enveloped the lower half of her face. She would not see Cade again. She would not leave her chamber until he had gone, and taken the noble lapdog cousin with him. There was still the risk that she would see him on his lands, since they were neighbors, but she thought to persuade her father to let her go to court for a few months. It was obviously time she found a husband, and perhaps there would be some eligible men at Queen Mary’s court.
Betty returned with a tray for Samara. There was a small loaf of bread and some cheese, an apple and a cup of cider. Samara was ravenous, but did not want Betty to know, so she ate slowly.
“Yer papa’s gone with the earl and the viscount back to Easton Castle with the men,” Betty gossiped as she put away Samara’s violet gown from the night before and took out new clothing for the day ahead. “He won’t be back till tomorrow night. They left at first light. The snow has stopped, but it’s mighty cold out, I’m thinking. Will you wear the red wool skirt today?”
“Yes, please, Betty,” Samara answered. “And wool stockings, too. The chamber has a chill despite the fire.”
She thought as she slowly ate her breakfast. So Cade had not wanted to see her, either. Well, that was just fine. What had happened between them was an accident, a misunderstanding. In her innocence she had thought they were but playing a game; in his experience, he had taken her for a w***e. That was all right with her, as long as she never again had to lay eyes on the earl of Easton.
She was glad she had told Betty she was ill, because the maid left her alone for the better part of the day. She just did not feel ready to face anyone, although no one currently in the castle knew that she had nearly shamed herself the night before.
Cade was feeling sharp pangs of shame as well, as he rode with Hayden, Lord Haughton and the earl’s men-at-arms back across the countryside to Easton Castle. However, he was not ashamed at nearly having compromised the earl’s daughter. Someone else had obviously already done that, and it had happened a long time before Cade had appeared before her. No, he was ashamed that he had let himself be fooled. Lady Samara was nothing more than a tease, and he had failed to see it. Instead he saw a beautiful woman who was experienced, and willing, and he had let her weave her seductive web around him until he could not think straight, couldn’t think of anything but having her. Then, when he was so close it seemed there was no turning back, she had shoved him out into the cold hall, achingly unfulfilled, locking the door against him and forcing him to retreat to his guest chamber. Thankfully he had encountered no one along the way, for his desire would have been prominently and embarrassingly displayed for all to see, and that would not do. It had taken hours for his arousal to dissipate, and even now, his horse’s gallop was causing mild discomfort to his groin.
Hayden, the all-knowing b*****d, had only raised his eyebrows sardonically at his cousin when they met that morning for their departure. Cade hadn’t said a word, but Hayden knew by his grimace that the earl’s beautiful daughter had not been the adventure Cade thought she would be – or, perhaps she had been too much of an adventure. Hayden knew better than to say anything to his cousin, for Cade had a reckless temper to which Hayden had been witness more times than he cared to admit. But he was wickedly glad to see his cousin taken down a notch, especially by a beautiful girl. As much as he loved Cade, and as close as they had always been, Hayden had always thought Cade’s arrogance could use a blow or two. Apparently, Lady Samara had delivered it.
Hayden knew that Samara was a virgin. She was too prickly, too high-strung not to be. Experienced women were less obvious, and more accommodating. Cade had had his share of women, but had never taken the time to understand them. He was impulsive, headstrong, and had left more than one broken-hearted mistress in his wake. It was always Hayden that had picked them back up, dusted them off and sent them back out into the world. It was Hayden they turned to when Cade retreated into his impenetrable shell. But it was never Hayden they loved.
He was honest enough to admit to himself that he was jealous of his cousin. But it was a good-natured jealousy. He had enjoyed the little prank he’d played on Cade, because he knew that it had done more damage to Cade’s ego than anything else. He’d known that Lady Samara could hold her own, and undoubtedly would against Cade’s drunken advances. He was only sorry he hadn’t been there to witness it, and pitied the first pretty, defenseless serving girl that crossed his cousin’s path when they got to Easton Castle.
Hayden chuckled to himself, and was rewarded with a black look from Cade.
“She’s the earl’s daughter,” he said softly, divining Cade’s thoughts, as usual.
“She’s a w***e,” Cade growled unhappily.
Lord Haughton, having lent his men to Cade’s cause, wanted to see the state of Easton Castle to determine if he could be of any further assistance.
“You were not exaggerating, Lord Badgley,” he said. “It will take my men the rest of the winter to make your castle habitable, but they will do it. I’ve loaned you twenty of my best men, and they will do the job for you.”
“I am grateful, my lord earl,” Cade said. “I do not know how I can repay you, but if there is ever anything you need, please do not hesitate to ask it of me.”
Lord Haughton nodded.
“I’ll be on my way, then,” he said.
“Won’t you stay the night?” Cade asked politely.
“No, no, my boy,” Lord Haughton replied. “’Tis not a long ride. I’ll be back to Bolingbroke Hall by nightfall.”
“At least allow me to send one of my own men-at-arms to escort you back.”
“Not necessary,” Lord Haughton said, smiling. “You need all of your men here. Just have one of your men saddle my horse, and I’ll be for home.”
Cade signaled to one of his servants and instructed him to find one of the stableboys to assist Bolingbroke. Once the earl was gone, and Hayden had disappeared into the kitchens to eat, Cade’s thoughts once again turned toward Samara. In his mind’s eye, her face scorned him – her beautiful, pointed little face with its long-lashed, glittering eyes and mocking smile. He saw her as clearly as if she were standing right in front of him, and he couldn’t take it.
Standing, he strode up the staircase and into his chamber, where a little red-haired maid was putting clean sheets onto his bed. She didn’t look like Samara – she was too short, and her face was round instead of catlike – but her hair was long, and he could tell that it was curly beneath her cap. He came up behind her and gripped her hard by the shoulder. She gave a little shriek in surprise, and turned to face him. She saw the desire smoldering in his blue eyes and her fear melted into easy acquiescence. He roughly pulled her gown from her body, noting with distaste that she was soft where Samara was firm, shapeless where Samara was gently curved. Her thighs were flabby, and her breasts sagged.
It didn’t matter. He nudged her roughly toward the bed, and when she lay upon her back in welcome, he rolled her over onto her stomach and loosed her hair. It spilled in a ripple of red-gold curls over her back, hiding most of her flaws and making it easier for him to imagine she was someone else.
Then he stopped. She was someone else, and he had no right to take his anger and frustration out on her. There was no doubt she wasn’t a virgin, and he wouldn’t be ruining her for a future marriage, but suddenly he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. He moved away from her but she stayed in position, reminding him of a dog waiting patiently for a choice bone.
“Get up, girl,” Cade said wearily. She turned her head and looked at him, confusion written plainly across her plump face. “I don’t know what came over me. I’m sorry. Please, just get up and leave me be for now.”
Her expression changed from confused to disappointed, then to deeply embarrassed, and so the maid gathered up her clothing and fled on heavy feet. Disgust surging through him, Cade collapsed onto the bed that had once been his father’s, realizing that now he would have to give the maid a better position to ease her embarrassment. He did not know her name, didn’t recognize her, but perhaps Margery would know. He had indeed given the chatty ginger-haired maid the coveted position of housekeeper upon Mrs. Hawke’s death, and she had more than proven her worth in the short time since. Yes, Margery would definitely know who the girl was, and would know of any available places to which he could assign her. He only worried that Margery would gossip about the reason for the maid’s promotion – but then, perhaps he could impress on her the need to be more discreet now that she was in a higher position. And perhaps she could persuade the red-haired maid not to disclose the reason for her own promotion.
Satisfied, and with the events of the last few weeks finally catching up with him, Cade drifted off into an exhausted, restful sleep.


© 2008 Colleen Kelley


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Added on February 6, 2008


Author

Colleen Kelley
Colleen Kelley

Media, PA



About
I'm 27, married to the frontman of an 80s tribute band and I live in an apartment barely big enough to hold all of my books. I read like it's my job - I'm never in the middle of less than 3 books at a.. more..

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