Another Pretty Nothing — Chapter 1

15 Feb

This is a continuation of the story I posted yesterday. A conflict has appeared and oh isn’t it lovely? I really wanted to write this because I’ve been on both sides of infidelity and they both suck, but I wanted to examine some of the feelings associated with being in a relationship where an infidelity (no matter how minor) has happened and some of the feelings and thoughts associated with that. I also wanted to see a hero for once who isn’t a sex crazed sex machine and a heroine who actually does crave physical intimacy. So I don’t know. Do you think these two crazy kids can work things out? Because I do!

“We shouldn’t.” Lady Rue Montgomery breathed, pushing Lord Benjamin Crawley away gently. In the five years since her marriage, Rue had declined more than a few very generous offers from various rakes but none had been quite as insistent or as handsome as Ben – or as persuasive. In truth, as much as Rue tried to be a perfect wife, a part of her longed to be seduced. And so she had gone against all her better judgment and agreed to meet Ben in the library at Heronhollow Manor during the house party thrown by Lord and Lady Sumter. When she had agreed, she had been feeling the effects of just enough champagne to make her feel bold and a little bit stupid. She had no such excuses for why she had come.
“Oh but Rue,” Ben breathed huskily, drawing her towards him. This was really getting quite out of hand. “I’ve been dying since I first laid eyes on you. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. You can’t send me away now.”
“I thank you for your compliments, truly.” She extracted herself from his grasp and backed away from him, accidentally pinning herself between him and a shelf, “however, you know I’m married – happily.” That last was a lie. Her marriage was polite at best and she could go days at a time without speaking more than pleasantries to her husband. Even Ben probably knew that, she strongly suspected it was the reason she had been so laboriously pursued by so many different rakes. Unhappy wives made, she understood, undemanding lovers. It was a path she had considered multiple times to alleviate her own loneliness and some of the boredom, but she felt the least she could do would be wait until their first son was born before she began pursuing other interests and wait she had – 5 long, lonely years and counting.
“Oh my love.” Ben was pressed against her again, whispering into her ear and breathing against her neck. Rue was surprised at how she responded to his words and his touch and his breath. It had been so long since she had been touched. “Don’t send me away, Rue.” She knew she should. This was stupid. They could be caught at any minute and Thomas deserved her loyalty at least for the life he’d given her, but all her better judgment and higher thoughts dissolved under the heat of Ben’s body and the smell of him wafting around her and robbing her of her senses like warm brandy.
She shook her head, wishing she wanted to dissipate the spell she was under. She whispered his name, intending it to scold, to send him away. But instead he kissed her. She had never been kissed like this, with passion and desire and longing. She felt as though she had been drugged. Her eyelids drooped as she succumbed to his spell.
He pulled away and she lulled against the shelves for support, savoring the cool breeze against her face, cooling her and restoring her senses. That was when she realized there shouldn’t be a breeze in the library.
Her eyes shot open and her gaze followed Ben’s to the door – which was open – and her husband, who was standing there with his hand on the knob and his lips drawn into a tight line.
“Well.” That was all he said, that one syllable. And then he turned on his heel and began walking down the hallway towards their suite, his footsteps echoing through her like the sound of her own damnation.
“Oh bugger.” Ben’s face had gone white and she imagined her own wasn’t much better. “There could be a duel over this, you know.”
“There won’t be a duel.” She whispered quietly, more to herself than him. She knew Thomas didn’t care enough about her to offer up a challenge, and even if he had he wouldn’t have wanted the scandal. Still, she took off down the hall after him.

Sir Thomas hadn’t known quite what he had expected to find by following his wife. If he’d been thinking at the time, he would have acknowledged that an affair was a distinct possibility, but Rue was always wandering off for general mischief – he had the thought that he had expected to find her snooping, looking at the art and the titles of the books. Maybe looking for a novel. He’d not expected to find her kissing someone else, and certainly not pressed into one of the sturdy bookcases.
He heard her footsteps behind him as he approached the door to their suite, but had no real inclination to slow down and make this easier for her. He swung open the door and entered, letting it swing close behind him with a satisfying bang – he imagined the look on her face with some satisfaction, before his traitorous mind returned to the look on her face earlier when someone else was kissing her. His stomach clenched in revolt. Oh, God.
He wanted to throw something against the wall and watch it shatter, but this wasn’t his house. He settled for impotently gesturing at random objects before throwing himself into a chair and running his hands through his sandy hair.
He heard the door open and couldn’t help turning to look at her. At least she had the decency to look like she felt remorseful – he was torn between the warring desires to make her suffer by letting her see how utterly destroyed he was and the childish urge to not let her know she’d hurt him. He decided to err on the side of childishness and tried to set his face into an image of stone rather than living flesh.
She shut the door quietly and stood at it for a moment with her hands behind her, looking for all the world like a chastised child preparing for her punishment. Then her composure broke and he saw tears begin to form in her eyes.
“Thomas…” She breathed his name more than said it out loud and began to move toward him.
“We are quite obviously leaving tomorrow morning.” He kept his voice clipped and hard even to his own ears. She froze – the only thing moving in the entire room were the already shed tears still making their way down her cheeks. Even the wisps of hair that had fallen loose from her coiffure stayed perfectly still. He tried not to imagine how they had come to lay against her neck like that, but the image came to him anyway. He really might be sick.
She finally nodded slowly.
“If that’s what you think is best.” So they were back to this. This civil docility that had marked every day of their marriage. He could live with that.
“All things considered, I think tomorrow morning is more than enough time for you to make your goodbyes.” He couldn’t keep the bitterness out of his voice this time. “Well, most of your goodbyes anyway.”
She flinched and he, for some reason, felt like a heel for lashing out like this.
“Will you at least let me explain myself?”
“What is there to explain, Rue? I am familiar with…with the sort of thing I saw.” He couldn’t bring himself to elaborate on that point. It just brought to mind more images he didn’t want.
“It’s never happened before, I swear it.” She moved to kneel in front of him. “I don’t know what came over me – I went there to rebuff him, I swear to you. I just…” she seemed to be grasping for words. He had a few. He decided to indulge a few of them.
“You just thought you’d let him take you against a wall first, Rue? Like a dockside whore?” She flinched at his language and he didn’t blame her. Though her late father was a third son and untitled, she came from a very good family. He doubted seriously she’d ever heard the word ‘whore’ spoken out loud before. Something about that gave him a cheap thrill. He could hurt her this way, at least, by shocking her sensibilities. He could think of whole lists of words she’d never heard nor seen, words to shock and hurt her. He could destroy her the way she’d destroyed him. It would all be so easy and there was no one to stop him. She was entirely at his mercy, dependent on him for everything. He indulged these dark fantasies for perhaps a moment longer than he should have. He suddenly felt the anger drain out of him and exhaustion take its place. This wasn’t the kind of man he had always prided himself on being. This wasn’t the kind of man he’d always wanted to be.
“Get up, Rue.” he sighed. “As I said, we’re leaving tomorrow morning. And I think it best if tonight you come down with a headache before dinner. I don’t think I can watch this particular drama unfold all night.” She nodded and turned to enter her chamber, but stopped at the door and glanced back at him.
“So that’s to be it, then?” Her voice was small, smaller than he’d ever heard it, “one outburst and it’s done? Without you even looking at me?” He squirmed in his chair and stared into the fire in response. If she only knew what he saw when he looked at her, maybe she’d understand why he couldn’t bring himself to do more than glance at her. He felt rather than saw her shake her head sadly and move into her chamber, shutting the door.


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