Nine – Coercion
As her capturer kissed her, the onslaught of his mouth was so fierce it was overwhelming her!
Violent disgust threatened to choke her as his lips were crushing hers and his tongue was invading her mouth with uttermost cruelty. She must not show this to him!
Suddenly the memory of another kiss was coursing through her and with it, the sheer delight she had once felt as Fredrick kissed her. Frederick! Frederick Wentworth, her betrothed, her one and only love! And she … she was Anne Elliot, engaged to be married to Frederick and this cruel assailant was William Elliot, her cousin, with the morality of a chimpanzee and the cold heart of a snake!
Frederick … dear, sweet, kind Frederick … who was restored to her after so long a time and whose kisses, full of deep, thrilling love, awakened a fire in every fibre of her body …
Oh, yes! Anne knew what to do to fight off this fiend that was of her own family and blood!
She applied herself fiercely in answering that assaulting kiss of Elliot’s, even though her nausea was putting up its ugly head . Think of Frederick, who must be going mad with worry! Let Elliot think you believe him! Make him lower his guard. Try to break free and return to Frederick.
Elliot unexpectedly released her with a gasp.
“Christ, Anne! Where did you learn to kiss like that?”
Anne smiled innocently at him.
“Why, my dear sir, I would not know! Was it you who taught me this, maybe?”
Elliot’s hand loosened the back of her head though she was still trapped in his arm like in a vice. It travelled up and down her neck with soft stroking, brining loath in its path. She kept her pasted smile on her face, desperately thinking of Frederick.
Her ordeal, however, was far from over. Elliot’s hand now wandered to her breasts, bare and corset-free under the cotton nightgown.
The list of Dr Widdicombe’s patients covered four pages of a large ledger, each page containing three columns. Sifting through it took long, tedious hours and interrogating the persons, attached to these names, would take even more hours, equally long and tedious. The outcome of such an interrogation did not guarantee success in finding Anne either. Many names on the list were acquaintances of Wentworth’s, some were even friends. The very thought of interrogating them did not sit comfortably with Wentworth nor with Constable Jeffries.
Wentworth’s mood was at its deepest. Anne was now missing for three whole days and the chances to find her were shrinking by the hour. It was abundantly clear that someone was determined to harm her, possibly kill her. Witnesses, who could have given a clue of her whereabouts, had systematically been eliminated. They knew she was hurt and had possibly suffered a head injury, according to the boot boy’s tale.
No, Wentworth mused, the answer to this riddle lay not within action but within reflection.
What were the motives that were invoked when a person became a target to some other devious and criminal mind? One of them could be money; many a person had been murdered in order to gain an inheritance or to steel valuables. Anne was poor; her father had squandered away his income from Kellynch. She had received a small bequest after her mother’s death but that was but a minor allowance.
Another motive could be revenge over an insult or some other deed that incited a bad person’s rage.
Again, Anne had done nothing wrong in her whole life; she was the finest of souls with a kindness to everyone she met. Always had she put herself aside for the good of others, even if those others had bad intentions towards her.
Sighing deeply because he saw no solution to his trouble, Wentworth decided to go and talk with Harriet Smith, Anne’s best friend. If anyone knew his beloved even better than he did himself, it was Mrs. Smith, he thought.
“Mmm … so soft and round,” Elliot’s voice hummed. His hand cupped her breasts through the fabric of her nightgown and caused Anne to shiver in repulsion. He, however, mistook it for delight and grew bolder. His finger were fiddling with the buttons at her throat!
“Dear sir,” Anne managed to whisper, “what kind of girl would I be, should I succumb to your subtle seduction? Would you not despise me if I should allow you to take the most precious thing a woman can give? Her purity, her virginity, something she may only give to the man she loves on their wedding day?”
Elliot eyed her in a strange way, unbelief and suspicion in his gaze.
“So … you remember loving me?”
Anne gave a shrill peel of laughter.
“No … dear sir … I cannot lie to you about such a delicate matter, but I do recall a presence in my former life of a gentle and kind man, who loved me and respected me and wished to make me his wife.”
“That was me, Anne! Do you recall that evening some five days ago, at a concert, where you were unwell and went out to take some air? I followed you and declared my love to you; I proposed and you accepted. Your father and sister were overjoyed and we started making the preparations at once.”
His face was now alight with eager enthusiasm. He took her by the shoulders to lift her up and kiss her when he noticed only now that she was still tied op the bed.
“Ah!”, he grunted and began to loosen her bonds. Anne’s heart was beating frantically; she would be free!
Suddenly the door opened and Anne recognised Penelope Clay, standing there with deep hurt on her still pretty face, at seeing her lover with his hands all over Anne. Elliot turned his head to Penelope in exasperation.
“What is it, woman? Can you not see I do not wish to be disturbed?”
“I beg your pardon, William, but you have a visitor. Sir Walter and Miss Elizabeth are downstairs asking to be received by you.”
Elliot hastily stood and ushered Penelope out of the room. He threw a long look at Anne, as if debating what to do, then thought the better of it and left. However, he did not forget to turn the key in the lock.
Anne took a deep breath and gathered her strength. One of her hands was free!