Chapter Fourteen (completed)
Rowena tried her best to fall asleep but to no avail. She kept tossing and turning, listening for the slightest sound coming from the cradle where her baby daughter was sleeping. At some point, she lay just watching her child. Her baby was still without a name, Rowena realised with a shock.
She sat up and swung her legs over the mattress edge, wincing at the stab of pain in her abdomen. Gingerly, Rowena stood, supporting herself by holding on to her bedside table. Her legs seemed to hold her upright, thank God. Carefully, she dragged herself to the rocking chair next to the cradle, and eased herself down in it. Three lamps were burning in the room and one of them shed a dimmed light over her baby’s round little face, with its perfect nose and rosebud lips. One tiny hand had slipped the confines of the wrappings to curl around the edge. So perfect, so rosy white, with minuscule little nails topping the chubby fingers.
“My little one,” she murmured. “I do not know you, yet to know you, I must give you a name.” Tenderly, Rowena touched the little hand with one finger, and then startled when the miniature fingers grabbed the finger and squeezed it. The delicate eyelids opened to reveal dark blue eyes staring straight into hers. Rowena smiled. “Did I wake you, my darling? Forgive me, my little one.”
The baby gave a great yawn, then mewed. Rowena’s heart lurched and she lifted her little daughter from the cradle. The rosy lips contorted into a scream, so loud that Rowena hurried to free her left breast. Recalling what the nursemaid taught her about breastfeeding, she put her nipple into the baby’s mouth. The infant greedily closed her tiny lips around it and suckled vigorously.
The milk did not start flowing immediately, so Rowena massaged her breast, and all the while, the baby suckled. It was a relief to Rowena when the milk finally flowed, causing her child to mew again, this time in contentment.
As she contemplated her daughter’s beautiful little face, so full of concentration upon being fed, Rowena whispered, as in a dream. “Emma Rose … thus will you be named, my love.”
He was a despicable cad, a miserable rogue, Alex mused. How was it that the sight of his wife, suckling her infant daughter, had the power to arouse him to such an extent that it robbed him of breath? Her full breasts, creamy white and youthfully firm, their nipples peaked into a delectable reddish brown – oh, she was woman in the most explicit of ways.
He shied away from the dressing room door and quietly closed it lest she caught him spying on her. That would be most embarrassing, and he was embarrassing himself quite enough, at this moment. He hastily shed his dressing gown and curled onto his bed, drawing his legs up. One touch only brought him to completion, the force of it bringing him near to death. His breath came in short, harsh gulps and his heart felt like it would jump from his chest. Damnation, but he was as clumsy as a green schoolboy.
Later he was lying on his back in his rumpled bed, musing over his very uncharacteristic behaviour of late. He had always been a rational man, reflecting over his deeds before he performed them, weighing every step before he took it, yet lately he had acted impulsively, almost impetuously with a woman he had met only scarcely a month ago. He had married her, for heaven’s sake, bestowed a part of his worldly goods upon her, and even acknowledged her bastard child. His father would have horsewhipped them all from his land in the blink of an eye. His father would have disinherited him, but then his father had despised him from the moment he was born. That, he vowed, would not be so for little Emma. He, Alex Raventhorpe, fifth earl of Ketteridge, was her father and would protect her and her mother, as long as he lived.
He needed to find that ruffian, as soon as possible.