Link to chapter 1 http://theromanticqueryletter.blogspot.com/2009/10/absolute-write-book-review-members-and.html
Chapter 2 http://theromanticqueryletter.blogspot.com/2009/10/huntley-harlequin-undone-that-came.html
Chapter 3 http://theromanticqueryletter.blogspot.com/2009/10/huntley-would-be-harlequin-undone.html
Chapter 4 http://theromanticqueryletter.blogspot.com/2009/11/huntley-intended-harlequin-historical.html
Chapter 5 http://theromanticqueryletter.blogspot.com/2009/11/huntley-would-be-harlequin-historical.html
Her mother had some of those very concerns.
“I was not even aware the two of you were acquainted,” her mother said once Sheppard informed them of Theodora’s willingness to marry him.
“We met briefly at Lady Derby’s ball earlier this spring,” Sheppard explained.
“And your family will have no objections to you offering for a lady left in disgrace?” the Viscountess continued suspiciously.
She loved her daughter but entertained no delusions of the circumstance of her current standing and did not want her blindsided should that indeed be a possibility.
“My choice is mine alone to make,” Sheppard said with authority.
“I’ll take that to mean that you have yet to tell them.”
“Don’t interrupt Theodora,” her mother chided without falter, “It’s my duty to see that you come to no further harm and there have long been rumours of an expectation from the Spencers for their Eloise.”
“Now, my dear,” the Viscount said with pacifying hand on his wife’s arm. “This is cause for celebration not fretful suspicion.”
“You’re right of course,” she agreed with measure. She was convinced that something was afoot but would never do anything to shame her daughter. That did not mean she would not uncover what it was they were hiding from her. “I’m certain Lord Monthermer would not have come if he was expected elsewhere.”
“The Spencer estate borders my grandfather’s principle seat in Brighton and it is true that our families had hoped I would consider Lady Eloise for marriage but I assure you, I’ve given them no reason to believe me so inclined,” Sheppard offered.
“When will you present Theodora to your family?” the Viscountess asked to her husband’s horror.
“His lordship has given us no cause to question his word, my lady and we will treat him with the respect he deserves,” the Viscount admonished.
“My lady,” Sheppard said into the ensuing silence. “Be assured that I do not take offence, in fact I completely understand your apprehension after all you’ve been made to endure these last weeks but please know that my intentions are honourable.”
“We know it,” the Viscount said with a slightly embarrassed smile.
His wife reiterated his point and soon they were on to talk of wedding announcements, an engagement ball and a wedding date. They all agreed that in light of recent events it aught to be a small wedding with family and a few friends six weeks hence. She would be presented to his family in the coming week and there would be an engagement ball hosted by her parents.
It was all very tidy and within an hour, Sheppard left a solemn Theodora in company with her parents. They would marry six weeks later at St Mark’s near Oxford Street in front of God and five dozen of their nearest but barring a few very scandalous carriage rides the two were no allowed one moment alone together.
There was, after all, a wedding to plan and when she complained that she knew nothing of him, her mother said with authority, ‘You will have the rest of your life to get better acquainted with him.’ Still she could not help but be apprehensive.
She tried getting him alone for a few minutes at the engagement ball and again before, they attended the theatre with his grandfather and her parents but to no avail. Then on the afternoon she was summoned to his Aunt Gertrude’s without any effort on her part, he turned up to escort her home.
The tea had been brutal. It was a week before the wedding and she had gone alone because her mother – who, by the way, had turned into a wedding-obsessed lunatic – was too busy organizing the wedding breakfast with her new French chef to attend.
Her father, that Judas, didn’t even get out the carriage to see her inside. He delivered her to Lady Derby, a swarm of Sheppard female relations, the elegantly understated nineteen year-old Lady Eloise and the new Baroness Somerset in Berkeley Square. They had all smiled prettily at her when she arrived and made pleasant enough conversation until she could take it no more.
It was outrageous that they invited Violet after what she and Daniel had done to Theodora. It was very bad ton to have them in the same setting without first alerting her and only her pride and breeding stopped her from creating a scene.
She could not see the point to whatever it was that they were attempting now that the wedding was only days away. It was clear they had meant to terrorize her but what she couldn’t understand was why they had waited so long.
Why not make the attempt once they were told in the days before the announcement was made public, when it could have made a difference?
She couldn’t make sense of it but she was through pretending she wasn’t wise to their attempt and decided to goad them into revealing their hand. Theodora took a breath then addressed their leader, Lady Gertrude Derby, “I feel nothing but gratitude at your efforts on my behalf and thank you profoundly, my lady,” she said in an instant of guarded silence.
“You’re welcomed and most welcome, dear,” Gertrude said with a practiced smile.
“It’s a kindness I shan’t forget and though I will never be able to repay it in kind, I shall the instant I’ve settled into marriage, extend just such an invitation to each of you,” she said with relish.
With her duty to her hostess out of the way, she proceeded to needle a reaction from them for though, she might never have their friendship she would have their respect.
“Particularly you, my dear Lady Eloise,” Theodora said to a collective intake of watchful breaths. “I understand from Sheppard that your parents’ estate in Brighton is but a stone’s throw away from Huntley’s where we will settle once married and since I have no friends there I pray we could be friends.”
“I’m certain we would be brilliant friends,” Eloise said with a charming smile, “Though I doubt it will be in Brighton for you see it’s my hope to be married by season’s end myself and I can’t guarantee it will be to a gentleman who resides in Brighton.”
“Of course, how silly of me. Do forgive it.”
Eloise didn’t get chance to reply for just then Lady Derby’s butler arrived and announced Sheppard who entered the room took one look around and issued a terrifying glare to his aunt. He exchanged pleasantries with all before taking the seat next to Theodora.
A move that would act as forerunner to a mass exodus of sorts. He could see what they were about and had taken a hard line, that much was clear the instant he entered. In the end, it came down to either staying and supporting Gertrude or leaving and not alienating the future Marquess Huntley.
In less than ten minutes, only Violet and Eloise remained at Gertrude’s side. All the others made quick their excuses and ran for the doors once they were gone Sheppard offering Theodora his arm with, “Come my dear, I’ve come to see you home in your father’s stead.”
Gertrude made as if to rise and see them out but thought better of it after a punishing look from Sheppard. Once outside in the carriage Theodora asked, “How did you know to come just then?”
“I saw your father at White’s and he told me he had delivered you there for tea though from the looks of things when I arrived I’m not so sure you needed me there.”
“No, it was good you came and offered your support. It lets us all know without doubt where you stand.”
“Surely you don’t question my fondness for you?”
“I have nothing but questions about what it is you do feel for me,” she said honestly. “I feel your eyes on me when I’m out of your reach and it is as a caress so I don’t doubt that you ache for me. I know that because I feel just so about you.”
“And you feel there is fault in what there is between us?”
“I don’t know it’s enough to base a marriage on and I feel that it is probably what your aunt objects to.”
“Gertrude’s only quarrel is that I’m out of her control,” Sheppard with weighted patience. “As for the rest it’s honest in a society where people marry for fortune, heirs and because someone trapped them into it. I’d gladly settle for the honesty of our shared lust for each other.”
“The honesty of lust is as good a place as any to begin I suppose,” she agreed.
She was not fully sold on his reasoning but would push no further today for he had just publicly declared his support for her. Besides, him saying what he did showed, he cared enough for her to offer words of assurance. That and she hadn’t seen him outside a public setting for well over a month.
He grinned at her as if he guessed her train of thought and she smiled then said, “There isn’t time Sheppard. Park Crescent is but a moment from Berkeley Square.”
He wasn’t listening. He had come with something specific in mind and had instructed the coachman to take the scenic route. He pulled the curtains while holding her arrested with an unblinking gaze and she pulled her bottom lip between teeth in a sort of give.
“I lay awake at night for want of the taste of you,” he said into the expectant silence. “Will you allow me to taste you sweetheart?”
She couldn’t have imagined such a thing when she shook her head in acquiescence. It was benediction and unholy worship. Him kissing her lips in prelude and tender promise before exposing her breast where he suckled until her womb quivered. She clasped him to her bosom and pressed her lips to his brow.
His murmured words affecting her every bet as much as his confident knowledgeable touch, so soft, so sweet, I will never get enough, you make me a glut, tell you like my touch, tell me you crave it, can’t live without it.
She can’t speak because his hands are on her naked breast robbing her of coherent words so all she is able to do moan in contentment but he’s obsessed by his need to hear her say she wants him.
“Tell me of your desire,” he says with eager nip at her tender erect nipple and she gasps her words lost to her passion.
“Tell me how to touch you so I may build in you the fire that you’ve started in me,” he pleaded with grazing teeth over her nearly painfully aroused nipple.
“Tell me not to stop.”
“Don’t stop,” she said her voice caught somewhere between excited rasp and adherent plea encouraging his hunger, “Don’t ever stop.”
He touched her and it was a memory long imprinted, left sedentary waiting for the feel of her to wake it. This woman was made for him, he could see it written in her flesh, taste it in her essence, feel her heart. She was essential to his survival, first breath, living soul, raw passion.
He was touching her as he did the afternoon she accepted his hand, his fingers cool and bold as they probed where she burned hot and wet. Then he held deliberately still, his eyes predatory and impassioned then he push up the hem of her frock until she was bare to his stare, appearing as an exotic flower in full bloom.
His heated gaze causing her to offer brazenly. Touching herself as he had done beckoning him with flush wanton flesh while the soft flare of her bountiful hips signalling both fertility and blatant sexuality. Sex pouring from her as she delighted in the liberty his adoration had allowed.
Sheppard could not look away, his eyelids heavy with want, his breath an eager pant as he watched without moving. Then he employed decisive movement, kneeling to burying himself between her legs. Kissing her unhurriedly, his tongue a light flicker over her aroused flesh, the delight of it transformed her breath to a shallow continuous gasp.
His ministration was sweet torment and Theodora couldn’t help but raise her hips to his kisses. Grabbing handfuls of his hair in both her fists, holding him prisoner as he laboured to bring her joyful end. He consumed her with fervent appetite pulling from her, breathy whispers, then his name. He rose, lifted her onto his lap, and cradled her in his arm until she came down from her rapture.
She was slow to rise her face nestled at his neck, the warm air inside the carriage now perfumed with what they had done and the musk from the tight, barely contained coil of his body rose to mix with it to drive once more to want.
She simply couldn’t get enough of him and pressed adherent little kisses along the exposed inch of his neck above his neck cloth. Pushing back his jacket and wriggling in her seat against his arousal then suddenly it was too much for him to bear. He pled with her.
“Be kind sweetheart,” he said with staying hand over her impatient ones. “I’ll come undone then there will be nothing left for us to do on our wedding night.”
“You’ve made me ravenous,” she said lustfully and pressed her lips to his ears then said, “Now feed me or I shall die.”
He captured her face in both his hands so he could look her in the eyes then he said, “Be sure for this here takes all my willpower and I don’t know that I’ll be able to stop if you proceed any further.”
Theodora’s answer to his lament was to lean in seductively and lick at his lips. Sheppard grinned then said, “You only say that because you haven’t given any thought to the actual logistics of it.”
“I said nothing,” she said innocently while bathing his face with hot breathy kisses, “I but offered motivation.”
“Yes well this will only work unless you are willing and able to take the reins,” Sheppard said with wet stimulating tongue over the soft firm flesh of her still bare breast. “What say you my sweetheart, to riding us both to oblivion?”
“You will show me how?” she asked running her fingers over his lips and teeth until he pulled one the roaming digits in his mouth and sucked on it then he said, “I absolutely will.”
Theodora took hold of his meandering hand and licked at his fingers then sucked on one of the ones he had used before to stimulate her to orgasm and it all but unravel him. Then she eagerly peeled off his jacket and waistcoat sending with them her inhibitions to rest in the corner. Kissing him breathlessly, squirming in his lap until he was forced to still her.
“What’s the matter?
“I’m over stimulated and you writhing in my laps is pulling at my control,” he explained and Theodora with mischief in her eyes wriggled deliberately in his lap. “You behave, or there will be nothing for you to ride to your greedy end.”
“It’s good I’m able to bring you to your knees the way you’ve done for me,” she said with a little pride and purposefully ran her hands over the rippling muscles of his flat stomach, wide chest and around his neck.
Theodora meant to do to him some the things he had done to her. She kissed him deeply and slowly, pulling his shirt from his trousers so she could drag her nails over the defined expanse of back. Then she lifted his shirt and suckled at his nipples, grazing over them with teeth and wet flickering tongue until he growled.
“You like that I think.”
“I love that,” he purred.
“Shall I?” she asked with agile fingers over the buttons of his trouser flap.
“Oh, yes,” he said enthusiastically.
Theodora impatiently unfastened the buttons and freed him from the confines, her cool excited fingers gingerly skirting over the taut silken skin of his masculinity. Sheppard tossed his head backwards his entire body tensed then shuddered and she tightened her grip around the shaft, rubbing her thumb over the sensitive tip.
“Christ Thea… You’re killing me,” Sheppard said with sweet baritone roar, his teeth bare, his eyes awash before capturing her hands as he covered her mouth with his, sucking on her tongue.
He fuelled her want with his desire. Kissing a line from her lips to the valley between her breasts, cupping, fondling, licking and sucking her nipples until she ran hot and wet between her thighs. Then she, with tortured whisper said, “I’d say it was time you showed me how to hold the reins.
Sheppard lifted Theodora so she sat astride and directly atop his throbbing erection. Her wet entrance poised over his demanding sex as he teased, nudging forward by inches until she impatient with want, impaled herself on the full length of him in one blindingly painful thrust.
They held a while, her face slightly pale, and his furious red as they both reeled from the penetration and had she been less aroused she might have reconsidered her position but she was ablaze and the bite of his penetration served only as fuel.
Sheppard was losing his footing waiting for Theodora to find hers. She was so tight and sweet around him it was all he could do not to explode. The she took a breath and rocked tentatively, riding him slowly at first getting the feel of him, adjusting her position in order to maximize the tiny waves of pleasure.
Tightening her inner muscles about him to pull him closer to madness while he flexed his thigh and grabbed her bottom guiding her with a supportive hand on her hips. Then she sunk her teeth into his shoulder pinching through fabric skin and muscle as her body tightened in response to the mounting agony.
He was magnificent.
He filled her completely moving with expert precision feeling, to her, at once, as velvet and steel. As their breath synchronized and ripples of ecstasy radiated from where the laboured together. Thrusting with long deep strokes, their bodies contracting, and perspiration falling while agony merged with pleasure. Then orgasm, she crying out his name, his blissful grunt.
“Honest and ours,” Sheppard said once they had recovered breath, “But by no means the only reason I wanted to marry you. I like you beside I’m mad for you and am half in love with you and the way you make me feel. My life until I met you had been solely about taking care of my family. You made me make room for me.”
“Only half in love… well it will at least give me something to work towards on our wedding night,” she said gleefully and kissed him with all the love in her heart.
They would go on two more such rides before their wedding only then a week hence and that only because her mother’s demands on them did not allow for more. Still, in spite of this and his dire warning of then having nothing left to do on their wedding night neither could wait to abandon their wedding guests for more private accommodations once the vows were spoken.
Harry left for America three months after their wedding. He wrote obsessively to their grandfather who missed him just as much and wrote back long rambling letters of complaint about his pending death.
Though Theodora never received apology from Daniel and Violet she forgave them after they fought courageously to take the love they found. It will never excuse what they had done to her but it freed her to find the happiness she now shared with her darling Sheppard and for that, she would always be grateful to them.
Gertrude still struggled with the fact that Sheppard did not marry the woman she felt perfect for him but she loved him and tried, although begrudgingly so, to accept Theodora.
Three months after their first anniversary Lord and Lady Sheppard Monthermer welcomed, into the world, their daughter Elena Grace a howling ink-black haired child and her brother Montgomery Maximilian with like hair, who seems to have a calming effect on his sister.
All are happy and well.
Part six of six
by Simone Ogilvie.
I'll have a new story for December,thanks for reading.