Nine – Entrapped
She had no means of escape now, Beth realised with a shock, nor did she wish to. She was where she wanted to be, in Stephen Fenton’s arms. The very weak reservations that started in her befuddled mind about why she wanted to kiss her mortal enemy, soon faded away when his lips wrenched open hers and his tongue invaded her mouth, claiming it in violent attack. He pressed her to his hard chest, and Beth swore she could hear her ribs crack but still she did not mind! She only tried to bring her body even closer to his – if possible.
Beth – at twenty-five – was still a virgin, yet her body instinctively knew what to do when Stephen’s passion demanded it from her. She longed for him to touch her in places that had always been secret and unspeakable. A low groan – from deep in Fenton’s throat – awakened such unknown sensations in her belly and beyond, that Beth shuddered in response. Oh God … Stephen …
“So, my sweet, you forgive me? And you want to prove it? Good …” came his smooth, enticing voice.
A bucket of iced water could not have been colder than the rush of horrified feelings that crushed Beth to the core! Forgive him? No, never! With a sob, she raised her knee right into the hard bump at the front Fenton’s breeches, pushed him hard so that he had to let go of her and ran like hell!
Stephen sank to the floor in a heap of misery and excruciating pain, clutching his assaulted groin with both hands. Bloody, damned, despicable chit! If he ever got his hands on her again, he was going to throttle her and enjoy himself immensely watching her choke! What a low, underhand blow that was, kneeing a bloke when he was fully aroused! It was bloody enough to mutilate him for the rest of his life!
After a few, agonizing minutes, he regained enough of his wits to drag himself to his cabinet, take out his bottle of whisky, serve himself a generous measure in a tumbler and gush it down. Ah, much better! Taking tumbler and bottle to his desk, he lowered himself gingerly into his chair, fully determined to drink himself into oblivion. The calming effects of the second glass, however, made him reconsider and instead, reflect on how he would punish Miss Beth Williams – aka Mademoiselle bloody governess Elle Guillaume – for her dastardly deed.
What would be the cruellest thing to do to her? Beth Williams knew she had been found out by him so she would be terrified of being either dismissed from his services or arrested on the magistrate’s orders. On the other hand, both those actions would afford her to move on from her life at Brixton Abbey. If she was dismissed, she could go and find another situation. But not at Brixton Abbey. If she was arrested, she would go on trial and maybe to prison. Away from Brixton Abbey. Away from him.
For some reason, that terrified him, so he would keep Beth Williams at Brixton Abbey – with him.
Stupid, stupid, oh so utterly stupid! Beth could not even begin to analyze the myriad of feelings that were clawing at her! Hot, scorching anger was one of them and it was directed at herself! She had let herself being kissed by her fiercest enemy without any restraint at all. Why? What in the world possessed her?
A small voice in her head jangled; ‘Because he is so very handsome and you are attracted to him, that is why!’
No! No, no, no, no! She could not be attracted to Fenton! Fenton, for God’s sake!
Oh, the confusion! Her head was spinning and her body was sore with suppressed … what? Beth grew so utterly cold that she feared her very bones might freeze; her body was aching with frustrated lust.
For Stephen Fenton.
Beth did not sleep a wink during the rest of that long, agonizing night. She lay listening to every creak and noise in the silent house, expecting at all times for a maid coming to knock at her door with the order that she pack her things and be gone, but it did not happen. When morning came, she rose and prepared herself somewhat hesitantly for a new day with her charges.
To her utter relief, she did not encounter Fenton all day. He also did not summon her to instruct her gone from the house, which puzzled her to the extreme. She worked through her usual schedule with the children, her normal routine taking over from her befuddled thoughts. Yet, when she returned from their visit to Granny Bradley, and the children were dressing for dinner, she ached to have a lie-down before she would meet her employer and his stern mother, just to regain her composure. When she entered her bedroom, she saw the item on her nightstand, and it was all she could do not to let her trembling legs give way. It made a pretty contrast on the white, marble nightstand top. A small, leather-bound booklet, red as poppies with the inscription in gold – Stephen Fenton’s Diary.
Henrietta, Dowager Baroness Brixton, covertly studied Stephen as he entered the dining room. She had not missed the signs of distress on her son’s countenance, signs that were increasing with every day that passed. Contrary to what her stern behaviour showed, Henrietta loved Stephen very much.
She knew he had been heart-broken when poor Florence died, blaming himself for steering their curricle away from a bunch of children crossing the road from the undergrowth with no warning. Stephen had loved his young wife very, very much and her death had left him devastated.
Henrietta had not much appreciated when he took in his bastards but she had understood nevertheless. Until he married again and begot another child, these two commoners were his only offspring. She was ready to follow his judgement in this and would stand by him, should he need it to be a little happier again.
To say that she was prepared to tighten the bonds with the children, was another matter altogether, but she would not neglect anything that made Stephen whole again.
For now, though, Henrietta could very well see that something was eating away at her son. He looked almost as pale as he had been after his return from France, and the dreadful fever had been consuming him for weeks. She could remember all too well those horrible weeks of mental agony when she had sat beside his bed, fearing that the fever would take him from her.
In addition to that, there was a restlessness in his demeanour that bespoke of a certain fear. Stephen was – very clearly – afraid about something and Henrietta knew what that was. The reason for all of this walked into the room at this very moment; the confounded French governess.
In a discrete, ladylike manner, Henrietta cleared her throat before addressing her son.
“If she is becoming a problem, my lord, you should dispose of her.”