Sense and Sensibility (2008)

Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, and Dominic Cooper star in screenwriter Andrew Davies’ adaptation of the classic Jane Austen tale of love and class conflict. Marianne Dashwood (Wakefield) has fallen deeply in love with John Willoughby (Cooper), yet despite their feelings for one another the wealthy Willoughby is considered an improper suitor for the financially destitute girl. Marianne’s sister Elinor (Morahan)’s pleads with her sibling to end the romance or risk becoming the subject of gossip in their chatty social circle, all the while struggling to suppress her own romantic disappointment. So how does one find happiness in a society where the rules are set according to status and money? Perhaps a winning mix of sense and sensibility is the key to striking a harmonious balance, and living a life without regrets.


 

 

Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Thirty-Five

Dear Reader, this is the last installment for Dearest, loveliest Meg. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.

Margaret_001

 

Chapter Thirty-Five

Before I could even draw another breath, Douglas enfolded me in his arms. I settled comfortably against him and, while I began tugging at the bows of my dressing gown, Douglas hissed in sudden disagreement.

“Oh no, my little vixen! Uncovering your exquisite body will be my privilege!” His voice was shaking with suppressed need. An answering tug of desire sprang to life low in the area between my thighs and heat suffused me as Douglas carried me to his bed. He placed me on my feet then shook off his trousers. My eyes roamed over his bare form; what they saw pulled at every nerve in my body! Oh, sweet Heaven, he was magnificent!

With few manipulations, Douglas undid the fastenings of my dressing gown and pulled it from my frame. As his fingers loosened the bows of my nightgown, he held my gaze with his own – a very earnest one.

“My love, are you certain of this? You can only pull away up until a certain point, Margaret. Beyond that point, I will no longer be able to draw back. Do you understand?”

“I do, Douglas. I do not want you to hold back any longer. I want you completely as my lover and beloved.” I almost lacked the breath to finish my sentence!

Soft flicks of his fingers removed my gown from my shoulders and it slid silently to the floor. Douglas’ gaze reflected my own as he let it roam over my naked body.

“Sweet Mother of God, Meggie … you are exquisite! I have imagined you in my dreams but nothing could have prepared me for this lovely sight of you.”

Warmth and desire spiralled up from low in my belly and my toes curled with need. My stomach seemed to be sucked empty with ache as my eyes roved over Douglas, head to toe and back. I extended a trembling hand to him and he took my hand to lace his fingers through mine. Without words, he led me to his bed and invited me to lie down between the silk sheets and rest my head upon the silk-rimmed pillows. Easing down beside me, Douglas settled his long, lean body against mine – a complete unison of touch.

He leaned upon his elbow and slowly began roaming his free hand over my now very trembling flesh, from my cheek and neck, to the swell of my breast and the flatness of my stomach to the curls of my womanhood; his touch sparkled fire all the way down. I caressed his shoulder in needy return and revelled in the long, smooth muscles of his torso under my palm. A sudden urge to kiss him flushed over me and I succumbed, attacking his mouth with a fierceness I did not know I possessed. In the blink of an eye, his arms were around me with a grip as tight as I could stand! His tongue ravished mine in a dance of love as old as mankind and I pressed myself against him in a desperate need to get as close to him as was possible. Mounting need made me wriggle and writhe against the hardness of his manhood until I was almost driven over the edge with impossibly hot desire. Oh, this play of flesh was delicious! I never could have suspected this!

Suddenly, he was on top of me, and, for an instant, the weight of him pressed the breath out of me. Then I instinctively adjusted my position to accommodate my body under his pressure and it felt marvellously good! Under my own eager volition, I parted my legs and arched up to be even closer to him. Blood pounding in my ears and a sweet ache churning in my belly, I felt my heart stop when the tip of his length probed for the opening of my secret place. I moved slightly and, all of a sudden, felt it slide inside and fill me completely and somewhat overwhelmingly. I gasped when a sudden sharp pain made me clench my inner muscles in response.

“Shhh, shhh, my heart, lay still. It will only be a moment, the pain will pass,” he most lovingly whispered. His lips soothed mine in a deep, warm kiss and I relaxed again as I returned his kiss. The pain subsided as abruptly as it had come. It was replaced by a strong, throbbing sensation of sweet, churning desire. I moved my hips up and down, seeking a position that brought me closer to Douglas than I ever felt before. He gasped and uttered a low, long pleasurable groan.

“Meggie, I cannot keep back … I must have you now, my sweetling.”

“Have me, then, Douglas, my love … please …”

Douglas’ hands slid around to cradle the back of my head and again he kissed me while his hips started to move gently against mine. Every move of his powerful body brought on a sensation of ever growing and well-being of excitement. The rubbing of his hard chest against my peaked, oversensitive nipples not only increased my desire but also, at the same time, pained and pleasured me to the extreme. I was driven higher and higher on the waves of seething pleasure and suddenly, was pushed over the edge into a sea of swirling, bright white lights. I was spun into the spiral, warm, exquisite ripples of delight drowning me! It was impossible bliss! How could I recover from this? Did I even want to?

Douglas’ hoarse cry reached the depths of my isolated bliss and I felt his body stiffen and harden as he ground his hips against mine under the strength of his long-lasting release. My inner muscles responded as they clenched around him and, once again, a fresh wave of pleasure rippled through me. It was even more exquisite than the first and I threw my arms around his lean waist to keep him close to me. My face resting against the hollow of his shoulder, I inhaled his unique, manly scent, saturated with the flavour of orgasm. I desperately longed to preserve the marvellous sensation! He collapsed on top of me with a gasp for breath, hurting me a little with his dead weight, yet I did not care. It felt so good, so right.

 

We stayed in that divine position for a while, revelling in each other’s warmth and closeness. Then Douglas’ mouth was upon mine and he whispered:

“Am I crushing you, my sweet? I will move away and …”

“No!” The thought was simply unbearable! I did not ever want him to move away from me and abandon me to loss and cold!

Douglas chuckled and the low rumble sent a new stir of pleasure up my body.

“I will be of no use to you, darling, for quite a while. I need to recover a bit.” And, with a sigh of utter well-being, he rolled over onto his side and drew me to him, so that I covered him now. Our bodies had, however, disconnected which filled my eyes with sudden tears that spilled over and down my cheeks.

“Do not weep, my sweetling. I know you must be in a bit of pain but it will not stay that way. The sexual deed becomes easier in time until there is only pleasure.” His big hands gently caressed me as he said this.

How could I put this remark to rights and tell him that it was the unbearable loss of him that prompted my tears? He would think I had become a sorry wanton under his lovemaking and that would not do. Or would he?

“I should scold you, my rakish lord, for not giving me all this sooner! How could you keep this heavenly experience from me? Shame on you, my lord!”

Douglas quickly stole a kiss from me and then grinned wickedly.

“So you liked it, my vixen? Well, why am I not entirely surprised about that? I knew from the start what a shameless creature you were! You and those cornflower blue eyes of yours, fluttering those lashes at me and beguiling me unabashedly from the first moment we met! Maybe I should punish you for seducing me tonight and send you to your room, right now!” He could not hide his impish grin!

“I am not moving from this bed, Douglas Spencer, and neither can you. Now, show me that I am about to shackle myself onto a real man and not a mere green boy!” I had to suppress my laughter.

Before I could finish my sentence, I was again back on the mattress and immediately convinced of the strength of my beloved’s bedside skills.

****

Epilogue

 

As I recall the events of those August days of the previous year, I now cannot fathom how I lived through the last two that preceded our wedding day. I still shiver under the onslaught of all the different feelings that besieged me then – anticipation, fear of discovery and bliss, being only a few of them.

We were married August twentieth as planned. After an agonizing time of two long days in which we could not keep from finding ways to be alone and touch, kiss and arouse each other like young fowls in springtime, a mutual agreement was decided on which not to share a bed again before our wedding day. It was hard as hell and, yes, we barely manage to live through that time of exciting agony.

The day of our wedding was a glorious, warm, sunny one. It was fragrant with the scents of harvest and the joy of storing food away for the coming winter. Everybody was in high spirits, from stable hands, to our maids and footmen, to family and friends. Everyone wanted to share our joy and happiness.

Edward Ferrars performed his clerical duties to perfection and pronounced us husband and wife in Watcombe Manor’s chapel after we spoke our wedding vows. Douglas, now Baron Watcombe, slid his mother’s wedding ring onto my finger. His eyes glistened with emotion and I wept uncontrollably while he kissed me before the assembled congregation of my family, friends and servants. After we exchanged our wedding vows, they all cheered us whole-heartedly .

After our wedding breakfast, Douglas and I slipped away and sneaked to our bedchamber where we renewed our physical union for the rest of the day and night.

 

I do not think – in fact, I am sure – I shall ever tire of my husband’s marital attentions. Douglas never ceases to amaze me with new ways of arousing and pleasing me and I dare say I am returning his caresses in just a most satisfactory fashion, since he does not complain from the lack of attention.

My hand is resting on the slight swell of my stomach, where our child is just now beginning to stir into life. An ever so tiny ripple goes through me, like the caress of a breeze over a field of barley -very fluttering but oh, so real! If everything goes well, I will be a mother come Christmas.

The sound of booted feet on the hall way marble causes me to turn to the morning room’s door in eager anticipation! An instant later, it is thrown open under the forceful hand of my husband.

“Dearest, loveliest Meg ….” he breathes, just before he wraps me and our child into his loving embrace. Our life together is just beginning!

The End

Please join me next week for a continuation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Will Anne and Wentworth finally be happy?

A Magical Letter

Persuasion_2007_DVD_Cover

Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Thirty-Four

Margaret_001

 

Chapter Thirty-Four

Before I could even draw another breath, Douglas enfolded me into his arms. I settled comfortably against him and, while I began tugging at the bows of my dressing gown, Douglas hissed in sudden disagreement.

“Oh no, my little vixen! Uncovering your exquisite body will be my privilege!” His voice was shaking with suppressed need. An answering tug of desire sprang to life low in the area between my thighs and heat suffused me as Douglas carried me to his bed. He placed me on my feet then shook off his trousers. My eyes roamed over his bare form; what they saw pulled at every nerve in my body! Oh, sweet Heaven, he was magnificent!

With few manipulations, Douglas undid the fastenings of my dressing gown and pulled it from my frame. As his fingers loosened the bows of my nightgown, he held my gaze with his own – a very earnest one.

“My love, are you certain of this? You can only pull away up until a certain point, Margaret. Beyond that point, I will no longer be able to draw back. Do you understand?”

“I do, Douglas. I do not want you to hold back any longer. I want you completely as my lover and beloved.” I almost lacked the breath to finish my sentence!

Soft flicks of his fingers removed my gown from my shoulders and it slid silently to the floor. Douglas’ gaze reflected my own as he let it roam over my naked body.

“Sweet Mother of God, Meggie … you are exquisite! I have imagined you in my dreams but nothing could have prepared me for this lovely sight of you.”

Warmth and desire spiralled up from low in my belly and my toes curled with need. My stomach seemed to be sucked empty with ache as my eyes roved over Douglas, head to toe and back. I extended a trembling hand to him and he took my hand to lace his fingers through mine. Without words, he led me to his bed and invited me to lie down between the silk sheets and rest my head upon the silk-rimmed pillows. Easing down beside me, Douglas settled his long, lean body against mine – a complete unison of touch.

He leaned upon his elbow and slowly began roaming his free hand over my now very trembling flesh, from my cheek and neck, to the swell of my breast and the flatness of my stomach to the curls of my womanhood; his touch sparkled fire all the way down. I caressed his shoulder in needy return and revelled in the long, smooth muscles of his torso under my palm. A sudden urge to kiss him flushed over me and I succumbed, attacking his mouth with a fierceness I did not know I possessed. In the blink of an eye, his arms were around me with a grip as tight as I could stand! His tongue ravished mine in a dance of love as old as mankind and I pressed myself against him in a desperate need to get as close to him as was possible. Mounting need made me wriggle and writhe against the hardness of his manhood until I was almost driven over the edge with impossibly hot desire. Oh, this play of flesh was delicious! I never could have suspected this!

Suddenly, he was on top of me, and, for an instant, the weight of him pressed the breath out of me. Then I instinctively adjusted my position to accommodate my body under his pressure and it felt marvellously good! Under my own eager volition, I parted my legs and arched up to be even closer to him. Blood pounding in my ears and a sweet ache churning in my belly, I felt my heart stop when the tip of his length probed for the opening of my secret place. I moved slightly and, all of a sudden, felt it slide inside and fill me completely and somewhat overwhelmingly. I gasped when a sudden sharp pain made me clench my inner muscles in response.

“Shhh, shhh, my heart, lay still. It will only be a moment, the pain will pass,” he most lovingly whispered. His lips soothed mine in a deep, warm kiss and I relaxed again as I returned his kiss. The pain subsided as abruptly as it had come. It was replaced by a strong, throbbing sensation of sweet, churning desire. I moved my hips up and down, seeking a position that brought me closer to Douglas than I ever felt before. He gasped and uttered a low, long pleasurable groan.

“Meggie, I cannot keep back … I must have you now, my sweetling.”

“Have me, then, Douglas, my love … please …”

Douglas’ hands slid around to cradle the back of my head and again he kissed me while his hips started to move gently against mine. Every move of his powerful body brought on a sensation of ever growing and well-being of excitement. The rubbing of his hard chest against my peaked, oversensitive nipples not only increased my desire but also, at the same time, pained and pleasured me to the extreme. I was driven higher and higher on the waves of seething pleasure and suddenly, was pushed over the edge into a sea of swirling, bright white lights. I was spun into the spiral, warm, exquisite ripples of delight drowning me! It was impossible bliss! How could I recover from this? Did I even want to?

Douglas’ hoarse cry reached the depths of my isolated bliss and I felt his body stiffen and harden as he ground his hips against mine under the strength of his long-lasting release. My inner muscles responded as they clenched around him and, once again, a fresh wave of pleasure rippled through me. It was even more exquisite than the first and I threw my arms around his lean waist to keep him close to me. My face resting against the hollow of his shoulder, I inhaled his unique, manly scent, saturated with the flavour of orgasm. I desperately longed to preserve the marvellous sensation! He collapsed on top of me with a gasp for breath, hurting me a little with his dead weight, yet I did not care. It felt so good, so right.

 

We stayed in that divine position for a while, revelling in each other’s warmth and closeness. Then Douglas’ mouth was upon mine and he whispered:

“Am I crushing you, my sweet? I will move away and …”

“No!” The thought was simply unbearable! I did not ever want him to move away from me and abandon me to loss and cold!

Douglas chuckled and the low rumble sent a new stir of pleasure up my body.

“I will be of no use to you, darling, for quite a while. I need to recover a bit.” And, with a sigh of utter well-being, he rolled over onto his side and drew me to him, so that I covered him now. Our bodies had, however, disconnected which filled my eyes with sudden tears that spilled over and down my cheeks.

“Do not weep, my sweetling. I know you must be in a bit of pain but it will not stay that way. The sexual deed becomes easier in time until there is only pleasure.” His big hands gently caressed me as he said this.

How could I put this remark to rights and tell him that it was the unbearable loss of him that prompted my tears? He would think I had become a sorry wanton under his lovemaking and that would not do. Or would he?

“I should scold you, my rakish lord, for not giving me all this sooner! How could you keep this heavenly experience from me? Shame on you, my lord!”

Douglas quickly stole a kiss from me and then grinned wickedly.

“So you liked it, my vixen? Well, why am I not entirely surprised about that? I knew from the start what a shameless creature you were! You and those cornflower blue eyes of yours, fluttering those lashes at me and beguiling me unabashedly from the first moment we met! Maybe I should punish you for seducing me tonight and send you to your room, right now!” He could not hide his impish grin!

“I am not moving from this bed, Douglas Spencer, and neither can you. Now, show me that I am about to shackle myself onto a real man and not a mere green boy!” I had to suppress my laughter.

Before I could finish my sentence, I was again back on the mattress and immediately convinced of the strength of my beloved’s bedside skills.

 

Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Thirty-Three

Margaret_001

 

Chapter Thirty-Three

At Watcombe Manor we were immediately greeted by Mother, who came out of the drawing room with her arms full of cloth samples.

“Margaret, for Heaven’s sake, where have you been? Marianne’s seamstress is here to see to your wedding gown! God knows we have only so scarce a time to have it finished for the day after tomorrow!”

“But Mama, that is impossible! How can poor Madame Grenier finish it so quickly? No, come with me. I will show you what I had in mind for my gown.”

I took the two of them up to the bedchamber which would be mine and Douglas’ after our wedding. The previous night, I had not been able to find sleep and decided to investigate the contents of the large dressing room cupboards. To my great surprise, I found them filled with gowns and accessories. A closer examination revealed an old- fashioned cut and fabric. The richness of the cloth, and the excessive fine taste of the finishing touches of the dresses, told me they must have belonged to Phoebe, Douglas’ mother. Appalled as I was, realizing that Sir Matthew must have kept his wife’s personal wardrobe for all these long years, I nevertheless could not help myself from extracting a few of them out of the closet for closer inspection. Stunned with unmitigated appreciation, I eventually chose one of them for my wedding gown.

The gown that I now tried on brought forth gasps of beatific surprise from Mama and Madame Grenier told me I had chosen well. The fabric was rough silk, shimmering with every step I made, and its pale blue colour reminding me of forget-me-nots, enhanced the blue of my eyes to perfection.

“Hm …,” the seamstress remarked. “We will have to remove the crinoline, I suppose. The gown will still be too full, so I guess I will have to close the skirt front. We do not want to see the underskirt. It is no longer in fashion. The neckline is very fetching though, and if I remove the lace rushes of the sleeves, which will allow the fabric to reach beyond your elbows, I believe I can make puffed sleeves out of them. Oh, Mon Dieu, just touch that silk! It is exquisite!” The seamstress could not hide her enthusiasm.

So it was. Measurements were taken and Madame and her girls went to work. I escaped and decided to check on our unfortunate guest, Douglas’ half-sister Amata. I had lodged her in a set of rooms on the third floor where the guest rooms were located. That way the maid she would eventually come to employ, would be sleeping in the dressing room. For the moment, Amata could not bear human company. She howled at every person WHO entered her room and hurled objects at them, especially my Douglas, which gave me great sorrow. At first, I was the only one who was allowed to approach her but my impending wedding took too much of my time and I felt chagrined by it. I liked Amata and wanted her to become a full member of society again.

Upon entering her room, I found Amata sound asleep in her bed. Elinor sat beside her in a chair, doing her mending. My sister motioned me outside. We withdrew to the downstairs drawing room.

“How is she, Elinor? She has not been given any laudanum, I hope. The poor creature has been drugged long enough, at least in my opinion.”

“No, Margaret,” my sister emphasized, “ she is sleeping in a normal way. Amata passed a quiet night and ate a good breakfast. She still needs a great deal of rest so I read to her from one of Mrs Radcliffe’s novels, which she seems to like. It kept her peaceful and she went back to sleep.”

“Oh, Elinor, what am I going to do with her? She seems to resent Douglas extensively. It hurts him because he wants to do her right. It is all such a befuddled, confounded mess!”

Elinor put her arms around me and hugged me for a while, which made me feel better just a little. Then she spoke softly. “Meggie, just give me a chance to talk with Edward. He is a very good listener and he will know what to do.” “Yes,” I replied. “Yes, that is just the thing, Elinor. Talk to Edward.”

 

The day seemed to wear on interminably and I busied myself with wedding preparations, all the time longing to see Douglas at dinner. He was away from the manor all afternoon on estate business but sent for me around five. I hastened to the library where I found him in the presence of his business man and of Mama.

“Ah, Margaret, your betrothed and I have been discussing the wedding arrangements. You will be pleased to know that His Lordship has settled a yearly allowance for you of 7500 pounds. You will now be able to keep up a proper standard of living.”

I turned to Douglas in astonishment, my eyes widened.

“Money, Douglas? There is money to settle on me? How is that possible? I thought your cousin had squandered it all away!”

“Meg, with all that has been happening during the last days, I have not had the chance to tell you about the cache of stocks my father had kept. Jack and I have been searching for them after I found his diary. That is also how I knew where to go look for you. He wrote down the story of his relationship with Mrs Bernard but kept hidden Amata’s existence. He settled a small allowance for her in a will that postdates the one that favoured Wilkinson. So I would have inherited the title and estate after all. He just omitted to inform his lawyers of this later will. Meggie, we are not rich but we have a little nest egg to get us started re-establishing Watcombe Manor.”

I just could not fathom what I just learned. All this dreadful business had just been for nought? Douglas had had no need to be married before he turned thirty after all? I must have looked confused for Douglas came to me with concern.

“Meggie, my heart, what is it? Are you unwell?”

“No, no, it is only that I am stunned, baffled, and in need of air! What a development of affairs this is! Mother, we will now be able to surround you with all possible comfort and …”

But Mama interrupted me and what she said baffled me even more.

“No, my darling, I am not planning on living at Watcombe Manor. Marianne needs me more, especially when the baby arrives so I am taking up quarters at Delaford, Meg. A newlywed couple has no need for a mother-in-law to living with them.”

 

Sleep eluded me, yet I again lay tossing and turning in my bed that night. On the other hand, Becky was sleeping like a baby on a nearby cot. Her snoring made it hard for me to find my own sleep. I rose and donned my nightgown. Maybe a glass of milk would restore me. The house was deathly quiet when I stepped into the corridor and directed my footsteps toward the stairs. A thin, faint line of light glowed from under Douglas’ bedroom door. He must be wide awake too, I mused. In an impulse I laid my hand on the door handle and pushed it down. The door opened soundlessly and I sneaked through it. In a chair by a fireless hearth sat my rake, clad only in a pair of loose cotton drawers. The sight of his bare chest – with the candlelight dancing over the smooth expanse of muscle – wreaked havoc with my already precarious self-control.

“Margaret!” His soft outcry was followed by a gasp as he swiftly rose from his chair. Two long strides brought him to me and I threw myself into his arms, aching with a sudden and overwhelming need to touch him, feel him and lose myself in him!

“Meggie, oh, my sweetest girl! What are you doing here? Darling Meggie, you have to go! Seeing you in your adorable nightgown is too much for me, my sweetling. Oh, the feel of you …” He gasped his words, his hands were roaming over my body, starting flames wherever they went. I made my decision then and there – tonight, I would become his!

I pushed my trembling body against his hard and demanding physique. Douglas groaned and buried his face in the soft mass of my long, curling hair. I let my hands wander downwards to touch the rim of his trousers, only to revel even more in the silken smoothness of the skin beneath it, as my trembling fingers pushed down the fabric. Douglas gasped when I bared him, my own breath catching at the feel of his hard length – steel and silk in one. Irresistibly, my eyes were drawn from his narrow hips and flat stomach to the ebony nest of curls beneath from where his proud manhood lifted proudly. The swift pulse of his life’s blood raced against the palm of my hands when I cupped him. I looked up to meet the darkened blue of his eyes. They glistened with unmitigated desire.

“Prove to me that you love me, Douglas. Take me to bed, here and now, and make me your own.”

 

Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Thirty-Two

Margaret_001

 

Chapter Thirty-Two

My poor Douglas sounded so bitter that my heart ached in sympathy. He was right. Sir Matthew, who begot at least one illegitimate child, surely had no right to cast off his only son over one misstep. While being held prisoner at the Bernards’ house, I discovered the result of Sir Matthew’s own misstep, Amata, the daughter he had with Mrs Bernard before her marriage. We had taken in Douglas’ half-sister at Watcombe Manor after the fire destroyed Nicholas Bernard’s house. The poor creature was in no state to be left on her own after thirty-six years of imprisonment. Indeed, for that was the length of time in which Amata Bernard had been locked up in a dismal, almost cell-like room, she with no education at all with only in the company of a nurse, who was more of a jailer to her than a companion.

“What are you going to do about Amata?” was my next and obvious question.

Douglas turned to me with sad eyes. “What is there to do for me but to care for her as best as I can, Meg? She is – to say the least – emotionally disabled and with little wonder, after the way she has been treated, locked up like an animal. I must confess I have no idea as to how we are to deal with her. She refused the help of the nurse she had for all those years. As you well know, she threw a chair at her when the woman tried to come into her room. And she definitively abhors me, does she not? She cannot abide looking at me or being in the same room with me, even though she never set eyes on me before the day of the fire.” Douglas, I knew, hoped for an answer to the problem Amata caused. His compassionate nature could not bear the distress she was in.

“Yes, I do know. I reckon it has something to do with the Spencer name. Amata has been persuaded of thinking that name to be the personification of evil. It is a good thing, though, that Elinor took matters in hand and managed to sit with her for a few hours, yesterday.”

“Oh, if anyone can help poor Amata, it is your sensible eldest sister. Of that, I have no doubts at all.” He paused and gave me an odd little look before he shrugged his shoulders.“Meg, I have been such a fool. I thought my father was an honest and righteous man with firm principles. I have been cursing myself for hurting him so badly by what transpired with Christina and I considered myself no less than his murderer when he died before I could beg for his forgiveness. Now it seems that he was just a fake and a liar and no better than me.”

I had no comment to that, knowing full well that Douglas was still in shock over what he learned these past few days. Not for the first time did I become aware of the awe in which he had held Sir Matthew until recently. I recognized the feeling for it was one I myself had experienced at my own father’s demise. How I had loved and respected Father, only to learn that he had left us to my half-brother’s mercy for our survival!

“Douglas, what about Bernard and his mother? Does anyone know about their whereabouts?” My betrothed shook his head. “No, they seem to have fled after the fire. I do not care where they are, Meggie. People like that should be severely punished but I am afraid the authorities would have no charge to lay upon them, should they be found.” I could see anger in my love’s eyes.

“What do you mean, they cannot be charged?” I enquired.  “They abducted me and they held poor Amata a prisoner for years!”

“Meg, use your head!” he said, looking quickly at me. “You are very well aware that a female relative, living in the house of her half-brother, has no rights to speak of. Amata cannot sue Bernard and his mother for treating her like a recluse and you cannot prove that you were taken by force. It is Bernard’s word against yours, my love, and he was, up until now, a respected member of Torquay society for generations past.”

“Bah!” I exclaimed. “How unfair!”

Douglas laughed and lay his arm around my shoulder. “Rest assured, my darling, when I get my hands on that rascal, I will give him a good piece of my mind! I ache to give him a good, old-fashioned thrashing, to say the least!”

Then, all of a sudden, he pushed me down onto the soft, mossy bank. In the blink of an eye, his long, lean body covered mine completely and the blue fire of his gorgeous eyes burned into mine.

“My dearest, loveliest Meg … have you not noticed that we are completely alone in this quiet and remote spot of the woods? I have a mind to do some wicked things to you, my love.” His mouth captured mine in a kiss that spoke of his ardent love for me and I answered him, fire being kindled in my belly, when I felt the proof of his arousal pressing against my most womanly place.

I tugged at his cravat and shirt, aching to touch his naked skin, the warmth of him already burning through both our clothes. My hands revelled and quivered when they found the heat of his torso beneath his clothes and I let them roam all over the smooth, satin muscles of his back. Douglas groaned when I unfastened his breeches, never releasing my mouth and inserting his hand into my bodice to cup one of my breasts. Oh, God! Pleasure began curling upwards from low in my stomach upward in a slow, hot spiral of desire. My fingers found his sleek, silken hardness and caressed it in rapt exuberance until Douglas moaned in pleasure!

“Meggie, please, stop! If you continue in that way, I swear I will not be able to hold back!” Douglas growled through clenched teeth. Clasping me to his chest with one arm, he fumbled with the front of his breeches. “Douglas, no! I want you, Douglas, I want you so much!” I was weeping with frustration and need but Douglas sat up and restored my clothing with trembling fingers.

“Meggie, I want you too but not like this, my sweetling. I want our first lovemaking to be sheltered in the closeness of our room, our bed, but not here, where anyone could happen upon us.”

With gentle gestures, he put back my stockings and boots before donning his own. “Tell me you understand, my love? Tell me you know I do this out of love?” His pleading was clear in his eyes.

I lay my hand against his cheek. “I do know, my darling, and you are right, of course. This would not do at all.” But it was the hardest thing I had ever done in my whole life. I vowed myself I would put an end to this nonsense, once and for all!

Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Thirty-One

Margaret_001

 

Chapter Thirty-One

Drat! What now, I thought, instantly feeling irritated and nervous. I hastily stood, tucked Douglas’ diary under some documents and retreated to the window to wait for Mother to enter. She did so but I instantly saw that she was not in her usual sour mood. She took a few faltering steps toward me, then stopped in the middle of the room; there was a deep concerned look on her face.

“Good morning, Mother,” I said, my voice level and face remote, determined to weather whatever reproach she undoubtedly would throw at me for living in Douglas’ house without being married to him yet.

“Oh, my sweet Meggie!” Her face was wet with tears, her voice quivering. Mother looked so very upset that I did not know what to think and I was about to say something comforting when she suddenly rushed forward and threw her arms around me and hugged me.

“Oh, my darling baby girl, I am so immensely grateful that you are unharmed! Oh, to think that you might have perished in that fire! Those awful, wretched people! And me playing their game with my stupid habit of trying to keep up appearances! Please, Meggie, forgive me? I have done you very wrong, my darling, but I will never do so again, I swear!” Looking at Mother’s face, I realised there was no doubt she meant what she said.

I was so utterly bewildered and surprised that I could not do anything but embrace her and hold her tight, when the door suddenly burst open and Douglas rushed in, a piece of paper in his hand.

“Meg, Meg, I have it! Here is our marriage license!” He took no notice of Mama, who hastily jumped aside, but instead swept me into his arms and whirled me around. “Oh, my darling, we can marry tomorrow! Edward Ferrars has agreed to perform the service and my cook tells me she can whip up a meal for a hundred people, if necessary! Meggie, please, let us get married! I cannot wait a day longer!” His mouth came down on mine and we kissed, oblivious to everything else but to savour each other. Douglas, my love! There was only him! I craved his hard, loving embrace, his firm, warm mouth, his body and most of all, the overwhelming love he gave me and the feeling I was his as he was mine.

A discrete cough abruptly tore us out of our bliss. Mother! Oh, my goodness, I feared  she would be absolutely shocked by our behaviour! Yet I was wrong! She surprised me yet again, by smiling so sweetly at us and my heart melted. I had not seen her smile like that since Father was still with us.

Douglas was the first to regain control.

“Oh, Mrs Dashwood, please forgive me for not acknowledging you were with us. I … I somewhat lacked propriety but … please, forgive me. It will not happen again.” Douglas was obviously embarrassed but Mother put him at ease.

“No, my lord, do not apologize for your display of love for Meg. I hope the two of you will always feel the necessity to show your mutual love for each other. It is only natural.”

Mother gave a small sigh that sounded so sad that, for the first time since Father died, I realised how lonely she must have been and how she must have missed him. I knew they had loved each other very much.

“Mama,” I said, stepping toward her and taking her hands in mine. “Is there something that concerns you? Is it my living here under Douglas’ roof without us being joined in matrimony?” Mother smiled and replied. “Yes, I am concerned about your reputation, as I always am, dearest. But I also understand My Lord Watcombe’s deep concern for you, after the abduction. So, I will allow you to stay here with him.”

“My dear Mrs Dashwood,” Douglas cut in. “May I offer you a room in this house, next to Margaret’s? No one will have to gossip about us when you are also in residence here. I also want to offer you a permanent home at Watcombe Manor. You cannot stay at Barton Cottage on your own with just two servants for company. They can have a position here if they desire. No need to turn them onto the streets.”

I was as surprised as Mama, to say the least! Douglas would take in my meddlesome mother in order to preserve my reputation and even have her after we married? Mama looked up at my handsome rake with stunned speechlessness and, after a moment, managed to stammer.

“My Lord, I … I am thankful beyond words! I shall gladly accept your gracious offer and ask my servants to move my belongings from Barton Cottage, this instant.” She turned on her heels and disappeared from the room.

“Douglas,” I asked, “why have you done that? You do not – in the least – have an inkling to what you have done!  Mama – even though I would love to have her save and well-provided for – is a fearsome busy-body and she will try and take our lives into her hands whenever she has the chance! We will not be safe in our own house, Douglas!”

My rake just chuckled, took me in his arms and spun me around yet again.

“Dearest loveliest Meg, no one but me rules Watcombe Manor, so keep that in mind. I might – on occasion – ask for your opinion on some matters – when the whim takes me, but I am the one and only one setting the rules. Your mama will have a suite of her own and a staff of servants to do her bidding but she will never tell me what to do. You, on the other hand, are a different kettle of fish! I am sure you will – in a short time – become the only ruler in this house.”

He tilted my head back and kissed me sweetly and passionately alike, setting all my senses ablaze in the space of seconds. His mouth released mine abruptly. Blue eyes burning with fire, his breath against my lips, he teased. “I will gladly transfer my ruling powers to you, my Meggie, as long as you keep me satisfied – between the sheets of our marriage bed, that is.”

Every part of my body tingling with need, I had to gasp for breath before I was able to answer yet I managed.

“Then I will make it my solemn task to lift those powers from your shoulders, my dearest rake, and as soon as possible.”

 

Of course, we could not settle the ceremony for the next day for there were too many arrangements that had to be made. Mother, who absolutely loved a nicely organized marriage, volunteered to make them. We agreed upon a near future date, August 20th, which was a Thursday and only two days away from Douglas’ thirtieth birthday. Mama stated that she would need those two days, as it was already the 17th. That left Douglas and me virtually alone during the days that proceeded our marriage. I was determined to spend them in a useful way by accompanying him on his daily trips to the estate.

On one of these days we had just visited several tenants, who were engaged in some new agriculture methods Douglas wanted to try. The morning and afternoon was satisfying and we returned home through the woods. The August weather was characteristically hot and I reckoned the temperature must have neared the 30 C. However, the vast height of the old forest trees effectively blocked the sun’s blazing rays. When we stopped at a large pool to water the horses, I could not help myself and dismounted. The water looked so enticingly cool and the pool’s bank so grassy and soft under the canopy of trees that I let myself down, pulled off my dusty boots and dipped my bare feet into the cool, green water.

“Oh, this is Heaven!” I exclaimed. “Come and try it, my love!”

Douglas quickly complied and gave a big sigh of sheer bliss when his long, strong-boned feet touched the water. We relished the first moments of blessed solitude we had not for days – what with the shocking events that had come to pass, before I decided this was the perfect moment to breech a subject that had been nagging me for some time.

“Douglas, tell me about your time on Jamaica please? You have spent ten long years there and I reckon they were not easy after what happened here.”

“No,” Douglas sighed. “No, sweetheart, they were downright awful, at least the first year was. I do not have a clear recollection of the journey on the “Bristol Maiden” because I was sick as a dog the whole six weeks of the voyage. I was too ill to even wallow in my misfortune and I lost two stone during the trip, dragging myself ashore like a man twice my age when I arrived in Kingston. My cousin John received me rather cordially, to my surprise. He did not seem to think I had crossed that big a line in England, just by lifting ‘some chit’s skirts’, as he called it. With Father’s bitter reproaches still ringing in my ears, I could not help feeling offended and crossed. During my first weeks on the island, I roamed the plantation in silence. I grimly sulked, ruminating the events which drove me out of my home and country. Eventually, I grew less bitter and took an interest in John’s business. He had been wise not to badger me into confiding to him my misfortunes. When I did tell him, his main comment was that Father was a fool, to let me go for such a minor misstep. I scolded him about that attitude but he persisted and has always done so. Now, after what we discovered at the Bernards’ house, I am forced to admit John was right about Father. Not only was he a fool but also a hypocrite. He must have been a womanizer in his youth, even more than I have ever been.”

 

 

 

 

Dearest, loveliest Meg – Part Thirty

Margaret_001

 

Chapter Thirty

Even when a stab of remorse pierced my heart, I could not, for the world, have stopped myself from reading Douglas’ diary. The thoroughly feminine urge of a woman, to delve deep into the secrets of the man she loved, washed over me. I wanted to know my Douglas and everything that was in his life.

This year’s diary’s first entries in January were about his stay with his cousin on the isle of Jamaica and reports about the tobacco plantation. I rapidly browsed through them, but the entries made little sense to me. Every now and then an entry appeared in black ink while the reports were in blue. Those entries were in some kind of code; there was always a sum of money, usually about two pounds, and initials, some of them recurring and others new. I could not figure out what they meant.

The pattern stayed the same until February when Douglas made a note of a letter from his solicitors, announcing Sir Matthew’s death. From then on, he began preparing for his journey home:

 

Made an agreement with Captain Whitaker of “The Valiant Maiden”. She sails for Bristol in a fortnight and I plan to be on board. Cousin John and I are settling our business as I will not be back soon. He gave me the handsome sum of 1250 pounds, which I will need, once I am back in England. God only knows in what state I will find Watcombe Manor.

                Had a row with Regalia. She wants me to take her to England but John refuses to make her a free woman. Shall miss her. She was a good girl and gave me much pleasure. Could not take her with me since she is as black as ebony. I tried to explain it to her. Said I had barely enough money to keep me alive, let alone the two of us. Poor girl, she wept her heart out.

 

                Regalia, I thought. That was something I had to ask Douglas about. Had she been his mistress or was she just a prostitute he visited? I was a bit taken aback. This was certainly one side of my future husband I did not know. Was this what men did when they had no wife of their own? Or when they needed to lie with a woman and they did not have enough love from their wives? Would Douglas do this after we married? The thought was appalling! Again I realised I did not know much of life or men – a sudden sorrow pierced my heart.

 

The next entrance that drew my attention was made on April 25th:

 

Father’s lawyers again told me what I already knew – I must marry before August 22th or I will not inherit. What I did not know was that Phineas Wilkinson now lives at Watcombe Manor. Apparently, he has taken residence there when I left for Jamaica. Father never wrote me about that. I wonder why.

Yet, I can understand his need to have his heir under his roof and become acquainted with him.

Blast! If only Christina were still alive! I would have married her in an instant, provided of course, she was still free.

Oh, Christina … I never encountered anyone like her after I left for the Caribbean, though I tried hard enough! How well I recall my deep distress when I realised I could not give my heart again to anyone. Christina imprisoned it for the rest of my miserable life.

There have been a few affairs which gave me pleasure but nothing more. No attachment, only relief. That is why I was drawn to Regalia. She accepted me as her lover without asking for anything. I  paid her handsomely for her services and pretended not to see the hurt in her eyes. I liked Regalia but I did not love her. Love, for me, is forever forbidden.

 

Dear God! How lonesome Douglas must have been all these years! And how much he must have loved Christina ! That thought burned my heart like a brand.

No, Margaret, stop it! What nonsense! Douglas loves me now. He proved that on numerous occasions during the few weeks I was with him. With determination, I continued my reading:

 

                Moving to Devonshire today. Will take Jack with me, for he has nowhere else to go and I have grown fond of the boy. He is smart, witty and loyal. Could be the best friend I ever had. Oh, the irony!

 

April 30th, I saw. The next entrances were scarce. Mostly, they reported on how he had fitted the house and how he had to juggle his finances in order to pay his bills. May was uneventful. He visited Wilkinson and was received very coolly. He attended some parties in Torquay but found himself thoroughly rebuffed. Now, we knew that had been the Bernards’ work. I flipped the pages to the beginning of  June until I found what I was looking for.

 

June 4th. Had a most interesting experience today. Someone shot me and an angel came to my rescue. Her name is Margaret Dashwood, my dainty damsel. Margaret, Meg … Meggie. So beautiful and lively! She actually bullied me into letting her care for me and she did not listen to anything I said about her reputation. With the patience of an angel, she took care of my wound and brought me home. She stayed with me until the healing woman came. I had to banish her with my most stern attitude. Even then, she was very reluctant to go. But she had to. I am poison for dainty damsels.

 

An angel! He called me a bloody angel! Drat!

In my recollection, I had not behaved in a very angelic way, at least I had not wished to do so. How is it that no matter how much we try to present ourselves, people always seem to see the opposite side of us? I continued to read:

 

                June 8th. Feeling like bloody hell! My shoulder aches like the blazes and my spirits are as low as they come! The gypsy woman has come to look at the wound and she said all was fine and healing splendidly. Would that she could also make my spirits heal!

Oddly enough, I find myself being besieged by some strange mood changes – feeling black as the devil at one time and exhilarated with joy the next. The exhilaration usually comes when I think of Miss Margaret Dashwood, my dainty damsel, which is stupid, of course. She is barely out of the schoolroom and still very pure.

I do not understand myself in this. Except, of course, if this strange attraction is caused by the fact that I have never bedded a virgin and am now relishing the thought of it. Blast!

 

Oh, my sweet Douglas … so he was attracted to me from the start, at least physically. I would say it was a good start then. Physical attraction, and the actions that come with it, are a good start for any marriage.

 

June 29th. I am doomed. I have fallen for Meg and it took me nearly a month before it finally dawned on me. She came here tonight, half naked and confused and upset and … I did not know what to do; I just wanted to pick her up and take her to bed. I could not, though. My heart turned to water when I saw her distress. I did not trust myself to even touch her or take her in my arms, so I tried being cool and distant. I sent her home though my heart broke when I saw her leave in the curricle with Jack Twinkler. I think I love her.

 

Reading Douglas’ confession of love started a glow deep down inside me, and I swallowed. So he had loved me since that night, or perhaps even earlier? It seemed that both our feelings had risen and grown from the first day we met. And I, in my foolish inexperienced way, had had no inkling of that …

The study door opened to let Raleigh in. He bowed and solemnly announced a visitor.

“Mrs Dashwood of Barton Cottage, Miss!”