Mr Thornton Takes a Wife – Part Twenty-Four

Chapter Four – Targeted

That night Margaret felt so tired she wanted to retire right after dinner. Hannah had already done so, partly because she wanted John and Margaret to have some time on their own. John was still working on his logbooks when Margaret rose from the settee.

“John, would you mind if I go to sleep? I need to lie down, my … well, my back is hurting. No, no, don’t worry, it’s perfectly alright!”, she added when she saw the look of panic on her husband’s face.

“Shall I come with you, darling, help you into bed?”, he asked, his voice full of concern.

“No need to, dearest, just finish your work. Dixon will assist me.”

In their bedroom Dixon was waiting to help her mistress undress as she did every night. Although Margaret had told her numerous times that it was unnecessary to wait up for her, the trusty old servant wouldn’t hear of it.

“Pardon me, missus, but you don’t look all that well to me! Are you sure you’re doing the right thing in exhausting yourself in that way caring for all those sick people? I mean that’s what doctors are for, isn’t it?”, Dixon grumbled in her own blunt way.

“Dear Dixon, yes, it is the right thing to do. You should see them, these people, they are so poor, so devoid of hope it breaks my heart. I can help them so that’s what I will do.”

“Yes, and try killing yourself doing it, I’m sure!”

“Not if I can help it!” a deep baritone voice sounded from the doorway.

They both turned around to see John standing there. Margaret laid her hand on Dixon’s arm and chuckled. “Go to bed, Dixon, I’ll be fine.”

The maid left and John took his wife into his arms. Margaret rested her head against her husband’s broad chest and sighed.

“Poor Dixon! She always disapproves of what I do.”

“But she’s right, dearest. You are killing yourself working so hard and it breaks my heart to see you struggling day after day.”

John’s hand was stroking the back of her neck and it felt so good, Margaret thought, closing her eyes. How wonderful that this good, fine man was hers! Feeling the strong beating of his heart against her cheek was so soothing and exhilarating at the same time that she wanted to stay then and there for the rest of her life.

“My lovely sweetheart,” John whispered, “come, let me help you to bed. You need to rest.”

Fighting the feelings she kindled deep in his heart and body, John led Margaret to their bed. He began pulling out the pins from her gorgeous hair, letting it fall down her back. Next he undid the buttons of her dress and helped her step out of it. As always, the sight of her slim, perfect body made his own body instantly react but he checked himself. Margaret was pregnant and under the threat of a miscarriage. He should not have intercourse right now, at least until they were sure she would keep the baby. So he contented himself with loosening her corset and helping her into her nightdress. He was, however, infinitively glad that she had her back to him.

“Shall I brush your hair for you?”, he asked, his voice slightly hoarse.

Margaret turned around. His blood started rushing fiercely when he saw the look in her eyes. The next minute she took hold of his arms and laid them around her waist, nearly breaking his strength of will by doing so.

“No,” Margaret whispered, “what I want is you making love to me …”

Her hands went up to his face, drawing it nearer to hers and teasing his mouth with hers. He was breathing heavily by now, forcing himself to keep back.

“Margaret … we shouldn’t … the baby … it’s not right …” She didn’t answer but started to ease his coat from his shoulders.

“Please, Margaret, …” Now she was unbuttoning his waistcoat and his shirt and …

“Margaret, stop, I …” Her hands were on his bare chest now, kissing and stroking, setting on fire every inch of it. Still he was fighting, drawing on every bit of reserve he possessed but she didn’t stop, began loosening his trousers instead. Abruptly he stepped back, causing her to fall onto the bed.

“Come, my love …”, she breathed, “please, come? It’s been so long since we have loved each other.”

“Margaret, what if we hurt the baby? We …” John swallowed back the huge wave of desire threatening to choke him.

“John, listen to me, my love? I want this baby as much as you do. Oh, yes, I know you do want to become a father, I’ve seen it in your eyes, heard it in your words. And I want to become a mother with every fibre of my body, but John, not at the cost of everything! When carrying this baby to full term means that I cannot make love to you for nine months, then I have to draw a line. I cannot be without you for so long, John. I will not. If it is God’s will that this baby be born, then it will. If it is not, then so be it. I will not give you up at any cost, dearest.”

When she drew him onto the bed next to her and placed his hand onto her exquisite little breast, John was done in for and surrendered.

 

The next day Margaret felt rejuvenated, better than she had felt in a long time. Even the sight of the long line of sick people didn’t tamp down her happiness. The thought of their blissful lovemaking the night before still sent shivers of pleasure down her spine. John … what a man he was, so tender and yet so fierce and proud! So skilful, too. Her cheeks were suffused with heat when the memories came back to her. God! She was so completely in love with her handsome husband!

The day dragged on, even though she nor Mary had a single spare moment left. Margaret was teaching Betty and Jenny how to do things, such as the dressing of small wounds or preparing and applying poultices on bruises and chests. The two girls, for that was what they were still, had some trouble understanding what was required of them but they eventually would be of great help, given time. When December’s early dawn set in and the air was growing colder, Mary sent the remaining patients home, promising to call on them later, that night.

“Margaret, go home. We have done our share for today. You need your rest, with the baby underway.”

“Oh!”, Margaret exclaimed, “if there’s another person today mentioning the baby, I swear I am going to scream!”

She had startled Mary and hastened reassuring her. “Sorry, Mary, but I’m sure you understand?”

Mary smiled. “I do, Margaret, I am just one more of those annoying, interfering persons, isn’t it?”

“No,” Margaret replied, “not you, Mary, never you. Now, you go home and prepare Nicholas’s dinner. I’ll lock away the supplies and then go home myself.”

They were done cleaning up so Mary left for home. Margaret collected the medicines and bandages into their basket, closed up the infirmary and went to the office at the back of the factory hall. John had a small storeroom there, where he kept his cash money and ledgers for the night. It had a sturdy iron door but no windows as it was built inside the inner factory wall. John must still be around, she thought, because the door of the store room stood ajar with the key outside in the lock.

Humming under her breath with happiness, Margaret entered the room and put the basket on one of the shelves.

She was about to turn around and leave when the iron door fell close and she was thrown in complete darkness.