Manon woke when Bessy knocked and entered the room with a tray of tea and toast.
“Sir Lucian’s compliments, miss; and would you join the gentlemen in the breakfast room when you are dressed?” the girl said in a cheerful voice.
“Thank you, Bessy,” Manon answered, glancing surreptitiously around the room. She was lying naked under her covers, and she was terrified the maid would find out.
He was not here. Understanding why did nothing to dampen down the wave of burning grief that washed over her as disappointment struck. He had left her after he lifted her up to the heavens and gave her the most exquisite pleasure in the world. It was done, over, gone, as he said it would be.
As soon as Bessy disappeared into the adjoining dressing room, Manon slipped out of bed and hurriedly donned her nightgown. It had been tucked under her pillow, no doubt by Richard before he stole out of her room in the dead of night.
While Bessy assisted her with her bath and toilette, Manon relived the pleasurable events of the previous night.
Richard had disappointed her, she realised as she thought back over their night together. Even with her lack of experience, she knew there should have been more to their consummation than what had taken place. He had denied himself and her of their ultimate closure. By bestowing infinite pleasure upon her but not asking that his needs be satisfied in return, he had indebted her to him. Manon had not been Richard’s equal during the most notable event in her life, her initiation into lovemaking. The guilt was overwhelming. He had said that he loved her, so why the incomplete act? She should have known there would be no further intimacies after he told her to sleep. She was determined to experience love with the man she loved more than life itself, even if they were doomed to be apart.
Richard listened to Jéhan’s French-cum-English chatter with an absent mind, only partially engaged in the conversation between Lucian and the boy. Wide awake at six in the morning, he had gone out for a long ride on one of Lucian’s excellent horses in an attempt to shake off his black mood. Afterwards, he had come back exhausted, but not in the least relaxed. Even the hot bath and the excellent attentions of Lucian’s valet, Travers, who had groomed and dressed him in an impeccable manner, had not been adequate to restore his peace of mind.
It was all for naught. The previous night, he had not slept after he went back to his own room. The image of Manon’s sensuous body, the feel of her perfect femininity in his arms, the glory of her pleasure – it all played over and over in his head. Adding to that the frustration in his own lack of fulfilment, it was enough to put him thoroughly out of sorts. Leaving her after their joined experience had been the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.
He was a man in the prime of his life, and denying himself satisfaction had never been his strong point, especially when he had not been with a woman for a long time, as was the case now.
In addition to that, Richard had another, more poignant issue to come to terms with; he loved Manon, with a depth of feeling he had never experienced for any woman.
Manon’s youth, her innocence and her eagerness were extremely hard to resist. Despite her twenty years, Manon was still an innocent, a matter that astonished him, given the fact that she had lived in Paris. In the minds of many young Englishmen, Paris was the city of freedom, of the mind and of the body. Richard had visited France and Paris only once before with his father, just after he had graduated from Cambridge, five years earlier. The impression the city had left on him had been one of sheer debauchery and gaiety, and the women had seemed to have no boundaries at all. Yet amidst all that sin, Manon had remained pure and untouched. That was remarkable enough in itself, he mused.
The door to the breakfast room opened to let his tormentor in. Merciful Lord! What an image she presented! Someone must have lent her some attire, for she was dressed exquisitely in a fresh morning gown of pale green muslin, sprigged with tiny moss green hearts. The neckline modestly revealed the onset of her breasts, not enough to be indecent, but sufficient to be utterly teasing. Her glorious auburn hair was swept into a heavy coil at the nape of her neck, held together by a silver filigree net, and strands of carefully arranged curls graced her face to perfection. That face, Richard noticed at once, though of a faultless porcelain complexion, was set in a solemn, almost grim expression. Manon’s chin was raised in defiance, and her green eyes were cool and detached. Her lips, usually rosy and full, were now a thin line of challenged rejection. But in the back of his mind, he could only remember her sounds of pleasure.
By Jove! She was not taking his approach towards the situation well at all. Richard stifled a sigh and braced himself for what was to come.
Manon barely had time to glance around the pretty, sunny room before her little whirlwind of a brother jumped up from his chair to throw himself into her arms.
“Manon! We are going to Brighton today, and Luke says I can pick a toy in the shops! Is that not grand?”
Jéhan’s speech was a confusing gibberish of French, laced with the occasional English word he had picked up randomly. He was overexcited, Manon noticed. Therefore, she gently admonished him in his native tongue.
“Calme-toi, mon chou! You will injure yourself before long, and what would I do then, eh? Now, go finish your breakfast, and behave.”
While her brother darted back to his seat at the round breakfast table, the two men rose and bowed to Manon. She curtsied and addressed them in perfect English, with only the slightest accent.
“Good morning, gentlemen. I hear we are bound for Brighton. Might I ask, Uncle, what your plans are for today?” She smiled brightly at Lucian but did not look at Richard, lest her grief would show in her gaze.
Richard, to her disappointment, did not rise to the bait. He traversed the room in three strides of his long legs and offered her his hand. “Good morning, niece. May I escort you?”
Manon took in the magnificence of his appearance with a barely stifled gasp. He was clad in light grey silk breeches, with white silk stockings and black slippers. His shirt was of the finest white linen, and under his perfectly cut, dark blue frock coat, he wore a white silk waistcoat, plain and unembroidered. The whole was topped by the froth of lace on a white neck cloth, arranged in an intricate knot. He was neatly shaven, which brought out his clean-cut, granite jaw, and emphasized the strength of his features. His hair was brushed away from his brow and tied in a thick tail on his back. His sparkling blue eyes were eying her coolly. Manon had never seen his eyes take that deep blue colour before. It was most enticing, even with the brooding stare they gave her. She lowered her gaze to his mouth, which was pinched and colourless. And utterly forbidding.
He was doing exactly what he said he would do, and that was to treat her in an avuncular way. In a distant, cold way. Very well then. Richard had admonished her about their future behaviour, and she would play that game until she could speak to him alone. Knowing how much she loved him, she would hold her tongue and not embarrass him to another person present.
“Ah, my dear Manon!” Lucian hailed from his seat at the table. “I have saved you some toast and tea, and a chair at my side. Would you do me the honour of sharing my breakfast?”
“It would be my pleasure, Lucian,” Manon replied, inclining her head and ostentatiously ignoring Richard’s proffered hand. She inwardly grinned when she saw a flash of anger though instantly suppressed in his blue eyes. Gathering her skirts, she glided towards the table and sat down next to Lucian, whom she favoured with a genuine smile.
During breakfast, Manon and Lucian struck up a pleasant conversation between the two of them, leaving Richard to listen and respond to Jéhan’s many questions about England, and about Brighton in particular. Better that way, Richard told himself. Let her get better acquainted with a suitable man like Lucian.
The meal ended soon thereafter, and Lucian announced that he and Jéhan would go and see if their carriage was ready. “I promised Jéhan I would show him the litter of puppies one of my dogs threw last week,” he apologized himself to Manon. She smiled at him.
“Jéhan, do be careful, mon chou. Do not disturb the mother too much, will you?”
“I will keep an eye on him,” Lucian winked.
The sudden silence took them both by surprise, so Manon asked her uncle if he cared for another cup of tea. Richard shook his head. “I would like to inform you, niece, about your prospects.”
Manon’s surprise showed, but she asked in a level voice, “Prospects, Uncle? I was not aware that I had them.”
“Your circumstances and Jéhan’s have changed in the last week, Manon. Since the death of your father, I have become your legal guardian, and, of course, Jéhan’s too.”
Manon hated the cold formality in Richard’s voice. She felt irritation growing but made an effort not to reveal it. “As you undoubtedly know, Uncle, I will reach my majority on the third of October. I have no means to support myself yet, so I am grateful that you are kind enough to provide for my brother and me until I find a new situation. In the weeks to come, I intend to search for a suitable position. I am sure that I could…”
Richard could not bear it any longer. After the first shock of hearing Manon’s suggestion that she would find paid work, he was so taken aback that he had not been able to react, but now he raised his hand to silence her.
“Manon, I fear you have no real grasp of who you are. You and Jéhan are members of the de Briers family, my dear. Lily de Briers, your mother, was my sister. She would have inherited her share of my father’s money, had she not died when Jéhan was born. In his will, my father bequeathed that share to you and Jéhan in equal parts. When you will reach your majority, you will have access to twenty thousand pounds, Manon, and the same goes for Jéhan when he turns twenty-one.”
Richard realised he had to give Manon time to absorb this, so he waited before going on. She seemed stunned and utterly shocked by what he just told her.
“I do not understand,” she finally said. “Why was that money not given to my father, as my mother’s husband, immediately after her death? He was her legal heir, at least, according to the French law.”
“I am afraid English law works quite differently, Manon. Unless your mother had made him her heir in a will, Thibaut nor you or Jéhan, for that matter would have inherited. I am fairly sure that Lily would not have made a will, since she would not have needed one in France. The only way that you or Jéhan could inherit money that came from my family is if my father, as head of the family, had bequeathed it to you. My father was an honourable man, Manon, and he did his duty towards Lily’s children because he loved his daughter.”
Richard paused and waited for Manon to nod her understanding. “Good,” he continued. “As I recently told you, I found the letters your father sent to mine over the years. In one of these, your father asks that the money be put into a trust fund. He deemed the situation in France too dangerous for him to have that money in a French bank. Remember that in 1788, when Jéhan was born, riots had already started over King Louis’s excessive spending. My father agreed but requested that he be kept informed about the situation in Paris. According to our solicitor, Mr Brownslow, my father begged yours to come back to England. The three of you would have been welcome at Bearsham manor. I read in your father’s letters that he was planning to do so, Manon, but unfortunately, he did not have a chance to carry out his plans.”
Manon’s head had begun to swim from what she heard. How had all this been going on without her knowledge? Why had her father not confided in her?
“He never said a word,” she whispered, in a small, pitiful voice that tore at Richard’s heart. He hastily continued. “Read his letters, Manon, and all will become more bearable. I will ask Mr Brownslow for my father’s letters, of which he has copies. I should have requested them after my father’s passing, but I was too anxious about you and Jéhan, and I wanted to ensure myself that you were safe. All these facts must make you realise that you are now a de Briers, Manon, and so is Jéhan. That brings on adjustments that you must be prepared to make. If you would consent to hear what I propose, I would be most grateful.”
Manon looked up into his face for the first time that morning, Richard realised and her eyes were large with apprehension. So he continued, “You will require a lady’s maid. Bessy Crampton has agreed to come with us and act as such until we find someone else. Her mother lives here in Romney, and Bessy does not wish to be separated for too long from her. I told her not to worry and promised her a large reward for her services. As I mentioned before, you will have need of a female companion. When we arrive at my Brighton townhouse, I will go to an agency that provides suitable candidates. In her capacity as a chaperone, this woman will then accompany you to social events and parties. She will also instruct you in the accomplishments that English society demands of a young, unmarried woman. I have no doubt that, by the time you reach majority, you will have become a perfect English lady. Smart and beautiful as you are, you will able to reach every goal you set for yourself, once you have access to your money.”
With a jolt of joy, Manon registered what Richard had just called her. She was half French after all, and she instantly picked up on it, smiling surreptitiously at him. “So you find me smart and beautiful, Uncle?”
Her smile broadened involuntarily when a deep blush crept over his cheeks.
“Damn it, Manon! Will you behave like the grown-up woman that you are and not like a schoolroom chit enamoured with her dance teacher? Matters are not going to be easy in the weeks to come, and I will not tolerate any inappropriate behaviour, do you understand?”
Manon fixed him with a serious gaze, but made her voice gentle when she replied, “What I feel for you is not some silly schoolgirl puppy love, Richard. It is a feeling that glows deep within me, a feeling of safety when you are near me. Of awareness when you enter a room, and all my senses acknowledge your presence. Of belonging together when I think of you. Of joy when you smile at me. It is love, Richard, pure and simple.”
She shook her head, smiling at him. “We do not choose whom we fall in love with, Richard. We do not choose love; it chooses us. I know that, whatever may yet come to happen in my life, or whomever I choose to be my husband, I will always love you. I might come to love my husband in time, and I hope I will, but I still will always love you.”
Looking directly into his eyes, she continued, “I know what you did last night, and why you did it. You wanted me to go to my husband untouched. Thank you for that, Richard. I am so sorry that I put you through this, that I put myself through it, too. Nevertheless, it has indeed happened, and I rejoice in it. It is a memory I shall cherish for the rest of my life. I am prepared to do as you have asked, Richard. From this moment on, you are again my uncle, and I vow to behave in a manner that will make life easier for us. You have my word, Richard, the word of a de Briers.”
The only words Richard could utter, were a strangled “thank you”. They both rose simultaneously and left the room together, Richard to summon the footman to collect their travel bags and Manon to go to her room and find Bessy.
THE ENGLISH GAME which Netflix will stream in all
|New series The English Game streams from March 20th at Netflix|
The male part of the cast is exquisitely strong led by two of our dear hunks Edward Holcroft (as Arthur Kinnaird – known as the ‘First Lord of
|The mini series will air in six hourlong episodes|
Football’) and Kevin Guthrie (as Fergus Suter from Glasgow, who is often considered the first recognized professional footballer) next to Craig
|Kevin Guthrie, Ben Batt, Craig Parkinson, Ed Holcroft lead the cast|
Parkinson, Ben Batt, Henry Lloyd Hughes, Gerard Kearns and Daniel Ings! Jamestown star Niamh Walsh leads the female part of the cast
|Kevin Guthrie plays the Scottish footballer Fergus Suter|
alongside Kate Phillips and, sadly, Charlotte Hope (who judging by the trailer, is as bad here as she was scandalously atrocious in the god-awful
|Niamh Walsh returns to TV after Jamestown epic drama|
Spanish Princess). It is interesting that the actors who play the footballers trained at Trafford Training Centre in Carrington, the training ground of
|Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes is producing the series|
Manchester United. They had to play in the 1880s style that is different from the game today. Check out the beautiful trailer below and tell us what you think:
To Squeaks, it felt like hours since Sarah hopefully escaped the house. Suddenly, her door burst open. Whoever it was, did not have a lantern with them.
Squeaks coward in a dark corner of the room, hoping the open window would not be noticed.
“Where is she?” Came a booming voice.
Squeaks could hear him moving about the room as if searching for her or a missing charwoman. That must mean that Sarah escaped, she thought. Being in a crouched position, she could see a dim light coming from the open door. She debated whether to run or not. The other man was somewhere. She had heard him return. Squeaks sensed the man in her room was coming her way and made a dash for the door. She was quickly subdued with her nightshift being ripped from her body. The man put his rough hands on her breasts.
“What have we here,” he asked in a playful voice.
“Nothing that belongs to you.” Squeaks started kicking his shins. She remembered her father telling her what to do if any man approached her with violence. As she swung her foot into his groin area, she felt her arm snap. He hollered louder in pain than then she did. The second man entered the room carrying a lantern.
His brother was writhing on the floor while Squeaks tried again to slip past him to the door. He easily caught her by the throat and lifted her onto the bed. “Did my brother try to have his way with you, pretty lass?” Placing the lamp on the table, his hand still in a stranglehold around her neck, he felt her breast, finally resting his hand between her thighs overtop of her undergarment.
“You know, my brother is selfish. He took both lasses first. I had to take second. That won’t work three times. He began to rip her underwear off but not without a fight.
Squeaks tried to fight back with her one arm, but she wasn’t succeeding in her own defense.
“Brad, you idiot,” came from the brother on the floor, “that charwoman you hired has escaped. We don’t have time for the wench.”
Unclenching fingers left her neck and private area. Brad backhanded her, knocking her unconscious against the wall. Her mouth bled badly from her teeth cutting the inside of her lips. The two men left the room.
It took Squeaks a few minutes to focus. She struggled with the pain in her arm, face and was gasping for air. She would never survive the next round. She felt like she was going into a coma. Her mind whirled. Any of the hundred drivers she had met or seen was capable of doing what just happened to her … and she hadn’t seen the worst. She knew men were much stronger, but the power they could actually wield against a woman fighting shattered her image of how she could protect herself. Why are women so weak? Now, she understood Kip’s obsession with protecting her or any woman. She’s not sure if she fainted again.
Kip heard his kitchen door open and men talking. Kyle returned with Inspector Marshall.
“Kip, you seem to have a plan. Do you mind sharing it with me or shall I endeavor to find her with my men?” Marshall cautioned.
Before answering, Kip looked at Kyle, who was holding a bag. “Stokes is gathering what he has in the house,” said Marshall.
Kip took the bag from Kyle and opened it, first pulling out a hank of her beautiful black hair that he loved so much. The apostles silently flinched in sorrow for Kip. Unable to grasp the enormity of what he was holding, he laid her hair in front of her sketch on the mantel. It looked like a shrine to those who saw it.
“There’s a note, Kip.”
Dropping the bag to the floor, he unfolded the note and read it. Mary swirled in his mind, bidding for his attention. He fell into the nearest chair. Holding his head, seemingly in a trance, he watched the images she produced for him.
“What’s wrong with him?” Asked the Inspector.
“We don’t know, but he’s done this before. Just wait. He’ll tell us something after he faints.”
Kip closed his eyes, and the room went silent. First, she showed him the one-eyed man in the room with Squeaks. He jumped to his feet, pacing the floor with his eyes closed, fingers rubbing his temples. Everyone took a step back giving him room. As the image broadened, the one-eyed man was holding her bloodied nightshift. All went blank after that except for the number twenty-seven. Without realizing it, he kept repeating 27, 27, 27. Kip collapsed to the floor after that. Matthew and Lucas rushed to him as he was opening his eyes.
“Give me a few seconds, men.” Kip laid there and collected his thoughts and strength. Everyone was staring at him.
“The one-eyed man has her; he has a glass eye,” he said, looking at Marshall. She is still alive, but she’s been injured in some way, and I believe she’s stripped of most of her clothing. Excuse me for a minute or two.” Kip took the steps, three at a time, to the upstairs.
“Dear God, what he must be going through.”
There was silence in the room.
“Did anyone hear him say twenty-seven? I thought I heard him repeat that.”
“Can someone explain what’s going on with him,” inquired Marshall.
“We don’t know. He just showed us this tonight. See these drawings; this came from his head, he said. He says they are exact drawings of who we are looking for. Kyle can testify to the coach.”
“So what did the note say?” Someone asked.
“The Inspector picked it up from the floor and read it to them.”
“It sounds like she may still be alive,” Marc replied.
“I am sure Kip, and I put no credence in that part of the statement.” The inspector added.
Kip came down the stairs asking what time it was.
“Quarter past 2:00 a.m.”
Hiding in dark doorways, because of the increasing streetlamps, Sarah felt she was finally in the better part of town. The streets were full of coachmen ferrying home the society after their evening out. She tried hailing a few coaches, but no one would stop for a person dressed as her.
Sarah would have to think of another way.
One coachman, having delivered his riders, was coming through town and saw a body lying in the road under a street lamp. Quickly pulling on the reins and setting the brake, the horses stopped in time. Another coachman coming the opposite way saw it, too, and stopped.
The first coachman knelt down to discover it was an older lady who may be injured. Suddenly, the driver felt his lapels being yanked, shocking him to the point of almost dropping her. The second coachmen assisted him in the carry.
“Do either of you know a driver, names Kip?”
The two coachmen looked at each other. “Yes, we do. What is it you have to say about him?” They inquired as they placed her on the curb.
Sarah pulled out a scrap of paper and handed it to the second man.
“It seems to be from Squeaks, saying she has been kidnapped. She is on Hanbury Street but gives no number. Zac put the lady in your coach,” said Perkins. “We must find Kip.”
“Let’s get to the park, lads. Inspector, are you coming with us? You will likely need to arrest me before the night is over.” Kip proclaimed with unfaltering resolve. “Just don’t get in my way.” He walked to Warrior like a knight approaching his noble steed. He was ready.
Arriving at the park, many drivers were waiting. There were over fifty, talking in groups. Some had horses. Others had their coaches. Everyone seemed to be armed, which surprised Kip. Again, tears came to his eyes in the darkness. This friendship overwhelmed him more than they could possibly imagine.
All the drivers parked and tethered their horses. They made a circle around Kip. There were in-service and independent drivers coming together for Squeaks.
“Thank you, gentlemen, for the help you are extending tonight to find Miss Dorset. To let you know what we know, I’ll start with telling you that Lord Stokes has a doctor with him because he has had chest pains. Clyde Dorset is going to have a breakdown, I fear. We have just received a ransom note, so there is hope that Squeaks is still alive. I know that she has been kidnapped by the same men who murdered Miss Caldwell. We have narrowed our search area to Whitechapel. I hope you may have seen the sketches of the men or coach we are looking for. If not, Marc has them in his coach. We do not have an address, but we do have an hour, and we do have Squeaks’ Army. She once said to me with all the help offered to her, she felt like she was building an army. Little did she know how true that would come to be. Detective Inspector Marshall shall be riding with us tonight. Is there anyone here that knows the Whitechapel District well?”
Several drivers raised their hands.
“Please come forward and help coordinate the search areas. It seems we have about 50 men here.”
“There are two coaches approaching. They are traveling fast.” Someone shouted. Everyone turned in that direction. The two coaches entered the park but had to park far in the rear. “That’s Zac. It looks like he has an old woman with him.”
“Make way,” Zac was heard shouting. He had to hold up the woman, so another driver took her other side.
“Kip, this woman has brought a note from Squeaks. She was hired to feed her, but Squeaks made her escape for her life. Here is the note. Her name is Sarah.”
Kip took both of Sarah’s hands in his as he faced her. “Was the lady alive when you left her.”
“She were, yes. They cut off her hair and broke her nose.”
Gasps came from the crowd surrounding them.
“She ain’t going to be alive long, though. I overheard them. They gots some kind of ransom note. I heard them say she and I would be dead before morning. They was going to hang me in the stable.”
“So they have a stable?”
“Aye, it’s around back. It’s really a shed. There are no doors on it, only a roof. You has to go down the back alley to get to the opening in the back.”
“Thank you, Sarah.” Kip read the note out loud.
“How long has it taken you to get this to us?”
“Maybe 2 hours. I didn’t know which way to get to the good drivers as the little Miss called you blokes. She told me to look for the brighter streets with many lamps.”
“You will be well rewarded. I’d like you to rest in the carriage you came in. We must find the young lady immediately.”
“You better hurry before they have …their way … with her, is whats they said. I knows what they meant.”
Kyle stepped up and took the lady by the arm and escorted her back to Zac’s coach.
Unexpectedly, Kip was overtaken by his sister’s swirling image. He stopped speaking in mid-sentence and held his head. He fell to his knees and closed his eyes. Mary was beautiful. She looked gay and happy as he had remembered her. “What do you want me to see? Show me what you wish me to see?” The drivers heard him pleading.
The drivers milled around talking among themselves at this strange sight.
“He’ll be all right in a moment,” shouted Matthew.
Just before Kip fainted, the number twenty-seven returned. Round and round it went in his mind, like a carousel. He collapsed. Lucas and Matthew ran to him and pulled him into a standing position. It took him a moment to focus. He pulled out Squeaks note.
“Listen up, men. I believe we will find her at 27 Hanbury Street.”
“What happened, Kip,” someone asked.
“I have a small gift of sight. It’s only recent but it has been steady and true, For the second time today, I kept seeing the number twenty-seven. Squeaks note says she’s on Hanbury Street. Where are the drivers that know Whitechapel?”
Kip had a street map ready from when he was learning. The former Whitechapel drivers showed everyone where Hanbury Street was.
“If I could have everyone’s attention. We will fast-pace from here to Hanbury Street. It’s unfortunate that people are abed. We should be a sight. When we get within one block of Hanbury, I would like to hear everyone whistle sharply, like we hear all day. That is intended to get their attention and move away from Squeaks to the windows. This should buy us another minute or two. We will encircle the block to prevent any attempted escape. Myself, the Inspector and several others will go through the front door. Those near the back, break that door down. Inspector, do you have anything to add?”
“These two men will be armed and prepared to fire. As will be expected, they will know they cannot escape the house and will find Miss Dorset and use her as a shield. We may have to negotiate, but I doubt that. We just want to be able to prevent them from shooting her. They will have no compunction about pointing a gun to her head, hoping we will let them go. I’m asking everyone here not to act hastily. That is all.”
“Tomorrow, the world will see us as more than mere drivers. All set men? Let’s drive.”
PEGGY SUE by Buddy Holly. Buddy’s death, and two other singers, inspired the song “American Pie”.. the night the music died – when their private plane crashed.
|Blithe Spirit arrives this spring / USA release as yet to be announced|
True love never dies. Literally in the first delightful trailer and poster for Studiocanal’s fantasy comedy BLITHE SPIRIT which will spirit its way into UK cinemas this May starring Judi Dench and Dan Stevens alongside Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann and Emilia Fox. Judi Dench plays a spiritualist medium who holds a seance for a writer (Dan Stevens) suffering from writers block but accidentally summons the spirit of his deceased first wife which leads to an increasingly complex love triangle with his current wife of five years. The movie does not have a release date for Northern America, but will hit parts of Europe from June.
Manon’s proposition made perfect sense. Richard’s logical mind acknowledged Manon’s words, and his foolish heart welcomed them, of course. It was true that he loved her, and he knew beyond all doubt that she loved him back. Despite the fact that he knew they could never be husband and wife, Richard was overwhelmed by true, unmitigated happiness, because his Manon loved him. His Manon? Yes, it was the undeniable truth. She was Lily’s daughter, and Lily had been the light of his life. Manon, so like Lily, had come to fill the hole in his heart that had been gaping since Lily’s departure.
Richard needed to think clearly, he knew. He needed to assess the consequences of what might come if he decided to make love to Manon, something he most dearly wished. With infinite tenderness, he cupped her face in his hands and lifted it up so that she could see his eyes. “My sweet Manon, before we decide to do this, I want to be certain that you fully understand what you are about to do. Once we have made love to each other, there will only be one option open to us. I will be forced to keep my distance from you again. We will never be allowed to express our true feelings, not by a word nor by a gesture. Not even, dearest, by a look. If people became aware of the love we harbour, we would be outcasts. We would end up in prison for incest.”
Manon saw nothing but love in those beautiful eyes, now a soft violet because of the desire she knew he must feel. She felt the same desire welling up in her heart. She focussed on communicating this glorious feeling to her darling. She smiled, and Richard was lost. Her beckoning rosebud mouth parted to reveal her small, even white teeth. He dipped his head, but she met him halfway, touching her lips to his.
A shock, sharp and intoxicating, sparkled between them, and fire spread like lightning, head to toe. Richard’s lips were firm and warm and utterly beguiling. He tasted like spice and sweetness intermingled, like chocolate combined with cream, like genuine, uncompromising male. It was heaven! She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her body against his, eager, desperate to feel all of him.
The movement set Richard’s senses alight with an intensity he had never felt before. She was so soft, so feminine and, he realised, so trusting in the way she gave herself over to him without fear or restraint. Conscious of the fact that Manon was still untouched, he would have to be tender and cautious. But as much as he wanted her, all of her, he could not allow himself to take her chastity and leave her impure for her eventual husband. It would ruin her. Oh, why did it have to be this way? He considered the moment and acknowledged their unbridled passion, which left them teetering on the brink. He struggled to regain a fraction of his control. There was only one possible way he could proceed. It would not be all that it could be, but it was all that it ever would be.
Gently skimming her lips with his tongue, he heard her rapt intake of breath, shallow and quick. She tensed in his arms when he slowly parted her lips, but she did not withdraw. Instead, she pressed herself even closer, a gesture that caused sparks of pleasure to run down his spine. Plundering the soft, sweet cavern of her mouth, he drank in her taste of raspberries and cream, of pure, undiluted woman.
She was unique, she was Manon, and his body knew her for what she was – his own woman.
He allowed their kiss to continue for just a few moments longer, then broke it. Gently he scooped her into his arms and carried her all the way up to her room.
Manon could not think of anything but Richard’s strong arms sweeping her off her feet and up the stairs. Her heart beat fast and loud. Her pulse raced. She was aware of the heat coursing through her veins, and of the eager anticipation of what was to come. She embraced it whole-heartedly. Any possible qualms were laid to rest, any objections ignored. She would be his, completely his, and she welcomed it with all her being.
Richard put her down beside the bed and slowly, reverently, as if she were some goddess to be worshipped, began to undress her. First her dressing gown was removed, and then Richard’s tender hands brushed the straps of her flimsy satin robe from her shoulders. It pooled at her feet with a faint whispering sound.
Merciful Lord! She was exquisite. She was slender, but round and curvy in all the places Richard liked a woman to be. Her breasts were gorgeous, her areolas a soft, puckered pink, and her nipples firm and red like ripe strawberries. He cupped his hands over both of them, revelling in the delighted gasp she took. When he stroked the nipples with his thumbs, she gave a small, whimpering moan. He felt it right down to his fully erected penis, his groin tightening further.
“That is … Oh, God! That feels incredible…” Manon breathed. “Please, do not stop!”
“I have no intention of stopping,” he said hoarsely, letting his hands slide to her slim waist to roam over her firm buttocks and back to her tight stomach. Her thighs … Oh, heaven! The skin was like velvet, and beneath it, her muscles were firm and soft at the same time. When his hands reached for her folds, she stopped him.
“Now it is my turn,” she said, placing his hands alongside his body. “Let me discover you, my love.”
A slight smile on her lips, Manon began unbuttoning Richard’s shirt, brushing the skin of his tanned chest with every button she undid. He reacted with little gasps at first, but when she placed her palms on the wide expanse of finely chiselled muscles, Richard groaned, his eyes closed in delight. Emboldened, Manon explored the surface under her hands – soft skin covering hard muscles. So enticing, so beautiful. Her fingers traced the lines of his collarbone and went down to skim his nipples, flat and hard under her touch. She followed the light dusting of coarse black hair that encircled the nipples, then let her hands slide down to where a thin line of hair disappeared beneath the rim of his breeches. Her breath now coming in short gasps, Manon undid the buttons of the flap, which proved rather difficult with the bulk of his arousal pressing against it. She had it open now.
Oh, sweet Jesus, but he was large, long, and hard! Manon had never imagined it would be like this. For a moment, she hesitated, not sure if she would be able to receive him.
Richard immediately sensed her anxiety.
“Go and lie down, my sweet,” he whispered. “I will finish undressing and come to you.”
His avid eyes followed every movement of her long legs, her round buttocks, her pert breasts, as she climbed onto the mattress to lie flat on her back, her limbs stretched out alongside her body. Richard quickly kicked off his shoes, stepped out of his breeches and peeled off his stockings. He lowered himself beside Manon and let the entire length of his naked body touch hers. She eased closer, pressing herself against him, skin to skin.
“Now, my darling,” Richard crooned, “let me worship you.”
He turned onto his back and lifted her atop him. She was on her back, too, so that his aroused member slid between the crescents of her buttocks. With slow circling movements, Richard stroked her arms, her shoulders, her breasts, carefully pinching the nipples. He revelled in the little whimpers that escaped her and felt something akin to triumph when quite spontaneously she parted her legs further until they rested on each side of his thighs. That gesture left her fully open to his touch, and he smiled to himself.
She was on fire, Manon thought. It flared up wherever Richard touched her, and it grew hotter and more intense, as he worked his wicked way down her body. His fingers were everywhere at once, it seemed, never resting, never still. They brushed the sensitive skin of her inner thighs, and the air left her lungs in a low cry. How was she to bear this? It was torture – slow, wicked, exquisite torture. Then, in one smooth caress, Richard slipped a finger into her folds. She cried out when liquid fire began warming her womanly place, and only grew hotter when another finger followed. He moved his expert fingers to draw slow, languidly exquisite circles into her folds, stroking deeper with every turn. Occasionally, he flicked her sensitive bud, and she cried out once more, not knowing how to find that coveted pleasure he seemed to spur on and on. Whispering sweet nothings in her ear, he drove her higher and higher up the slope of pleasure, and she had to draw in deep breaths just to keep up with him. Finally, he pushed her over the edge. Stars exploded behind Manon’s eyes, as warm, liquid flames consumed her from the inside out.
It was everything, it was incredible. The waves of delight rolling over her, again and again, Manon fought to catch her breath, yet all she could do was drift along that sea of pleasure and drown.
Richard turned them both onto their sides, wrapped his arms and legs about her and drew the covers up. She would be exhausted, he knew. Too many new and highly exciting experiences.
“My darling,” he crooned, “sleep, my sweet, sleep.”
With a small sigh, she slipped into sleep. Richard felt her lithe body relax against his, and he closed his own eyes for a brief period of respite. It was unbearably hard to keep himself from going further with Manon, but she was, as his conscience was screaming at him, his niece, and therefore forbidden.
He had done what she asked. He had shown her what it was to be loved, to experience pleasure. It would have to be enough. More than that he could never teach her.
|The series arrives March
Dragon and Puss in Boots’ Will Davies adapted the six episode series which stars Amir Wilson in the lead role of a young boy who holds the fate of the kingdom in his hands when he embarks on a quest to deliver a secret message, David Wenham as Sir Tiuri the Valiant, Jakob Oftebro as Crown Prince Iridian, Jack Barton as Foldo, Jonah Less as Jussipo and Ruby Serkis as Lavinia.
is set in a fantasy world of three kingdoms, following 16 year old squire Tiuri. When he answers a desperate call for help, he finds himself on a perilous mission that could cost him his life.
|The new series will air in six hourlong episodes|
He must deliver a secret letter to the King who lives across the Great Mountains. Tiuri must abandon his home, break all the rules and leave everything behind – even the knighthood he has dreamed of for so long. The
|The series is based on a beloved children’s classic from Holland|
future of the entire realm depends on the letter and Tiuri must trust no one and keep his true identity secret. Above all, he must never reveal what is in the letter.
|The series will hit ITV next month!|
We did not really expect that the first major period set drama of 2020 will arrive to us only in March, but the broadcasters have been very mean to us in the first two months of the year and thus BELGRAVIA will be the first of the bigger costume series to launch the new decade when it starts airing in March on British ITV and then from April 12th over at Epix in USA. Produced by Carnival Film it will air in just six hourlong episodes with Jamestown’s John Alexander directing the whole saga based on Julian Fellowes‘ 2016 book of the same name set in the 19th century when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders the emerging industrial nouveau riche.
|Belgravia will move to Epix on April 12th!|
The story set in the London high class of 1840s, actually begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when the Duchess of Richmond throws a party in Brussels for the Duke of Wellington. Among the guests are James (Philip Glenister) and Anne Trenchard (Tamsin Greg), who are living on the profits of newfound trading success. Their young daughter Sophia (Emily Reid) has caught the eye of Edmund
|The series is a six episode adaptation of Julian Fellowes’ novel Belgravia|
Bellasis, the son and heir of one of the richest and most prominent families in England. Twenty five years later, when the two families are settled into the newly developed area of Belgravia, the events of the ball, and the secrets, still resonate.
The cast also has Ella Purnell as Lady Maria Grey, Alice Eve as Susan Trenchard, the beautiful daughter of a successful merchant, and Harriet
|Harriet Walter and Tom Wilkinson are the Brockenhursts|
Walter as the Countess of Brockenhurst with Tom Wilkinson as Peregrine, Earl of Brockenhurst! Tara Fitzgerald, Richard Goulding, James Fleet,
|PhilIip Glenister, Tamsin Greg and Alice Eve are the Trenchards!|
Adam James, Paul Ritter and Saskia Reeves are also in the cast. Check out the Northern American trailer below and stay tuned for the exact airing date of Belgravia in the United Kingdom!
By 7:00 p.m., Kip was home with two sketched faces of the men who killed the Caldwell relative. It was apparent, only to Kip, that these men were responsible for Mary’s death and were currently holding Squeaks. He couldn’t let himself think about the worst. The four apostles plus Kyle piled into his sitting room, and Kip began his sketch of the old coach. Finishing in an exhaustive faint, the line drawing was an exact image of the carriage. His friends wanted to know how he did that, but he didn’t have time to make up something believable.
Kip drew several copies of each and handed them around to the gathered drivers. “I want you to show these to the Brotherhood. Inform them of who and what they are looking for. I am calling for all coachmen, who could help in the rescue of Squeaks, to meet us at the park at 3:00 a.m. Tell them they will be paid.
“Kip, none of us will take your money. You know that.” Marc reminded him.
“Squeaks is one of us now, anyway.”
“Are we going to Whitechapel, Kip?”
“We are. Should anything change overnight, I will take care of it myself or speak with all the drivers before dawn.”
“I am going to stay with you.”
“I think all of us will be with you through the night after we circulate your drawings.”
Kip’s eyes began to water, but the embarrassment would just have to be understood. None of the apostles knew the depth of his love for Squeaks, until now. It only was a fondness in their thoughts. The brother drivers, the union of fine gentlemen, were the army that Squeaks felt she was creating. Little did she know.
“I don’t know what to say, except thank you. Kyle, I promised Stokes that someone would be by his castle once an hour. If either of us has any news, we share it then.”
“I’ll do that, Kip.”
“Thank you. I want to contact the police, while you men contact all the drivers you see. Come back here when you can think of no one else.”
Kyle and the apostles left. Kip had lied about the police. He went to see his father.
Arriving at Lord Caldwell’s apartment, Briggs came from the stable.
“Lord Trevor, excellent to see you so soon. You have no coach with you, I see. Just your horse tonight?”
Yes, Briggs. We have a family emergency, and I must ride fast. Is father home?”
“Yes, milord. Your brother went home today.”
“Thank you. I’m just going to go in. No announcement.”
“Very well, milord.”
Trevor walked through the servant’s area and found the steps to the upstairs. His father was hunched over his desk reading documents of some sort. “Father!”
“Trevor, what’s wrong? How did your visit to Norcaster turn out? Scotch?”
“Yes, please. Squeaks has been kidnapped from her bed, nearly two days ago,” Trevor stressed in a helpless tone. “She’s been missing since yesterday morning, while I was in Norcaster. I contend it’s the same brothers, our former servants, we talked about earlier.”
“Sit for a moment. Please, this can’t happen to you again, or Miss Dorset. Oh my, God, I don’t know what to say. What can I do to help? Is there anything?”
“Yes, you can help.”
“Name it. It’s done.”
“It’s going to be four hours round trip, but could Briggs ride home and collect Inspector Marshall. I will be in trouble when this is over, and before you say anything, nothing will change my mind.”
“I see you have two pistols with you. Trevor, if I were a good father, I would warn you against what you are planning, but I am not a good father. You do what you need to do. I will stand behind whatever are your actions. All I care about is that you stay alive. I know if it came down to it, you would save her before yourself. Just save both of you. Do you have anyone to help you?”
“An army. Squeaks’ army. Probably, I will have forty to fifty drivers if they’re the men, I think they are.”
“Promise any monies you need to. We will pay anything if that will encourage them.”
“Father, they are a brotherhood. They will not take money to help me. Our problem is finding Squeaks before she is injured or dead. I am going to meet all the men coming to help at 3:00 a.m. If you have any word overnight, send someone with a note to Stokes. If you have the Inspector, tell him what you know. We will be at the Promenade Park.”
“Indeed, son. How is Lord Stokes doing?”
“Not well. The doctor is staying with him until this is settled. He is having chest pains. I’m not sure how much longer driver Dorset can hold up either. I will send a messenger to Stokes every hour for communication.”
“I will not go to bed. Have your messenger stop by here, now and then?”
“Thank you, father. Thank you for understanding that I may do something this noble family is going to regret.”
“We will regret nothing except my brother Nathaniel that started all of this. Goodbye, son.” Lord Caldwell walked over to Trevor and hugged him. “Come back safe and bring that young lady with you. I love you, son.”
“As I, you, father … Gus, too, of course. Tell him that if … if I don’t come back.”
Sarah brought the tray of food, the pencil and a scrap of paper to Squeaks room near half past 9:00 p.m. One of the men was getting ready to leave for somewhere. This was her best chance to get away. She unlocked the door and Squeaks cringed in the darkness. “It’s just me deary.”
“Did you bring the pencil and paper?”
“This is the best I could find.” Sarah handed a bit of paper to her. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t see no number on the house, but we are on Hanbury Street.”
“That will have to do.” Squeaks scribbled quickly. “Thank you. You may be saving my life and yours. I did use the chamber pot, so you have something to empty. Once you get outside, just start running. Begin looking for the brightest streets. The more lighting on the street, the closer you are to the center of London where the good drivers will be working. Ask a coachman if he knows Kip, the driver. If he says yes, give him the note. Then hide. If possible, he may take you with him so you can show the drivers where I am. When you can, come to Lord Stokes Castle for your reward.”
“I will, miss. I had thought that you could take off your slip and wave it out of the window in a while from now. I know you have them man’s undergarment on. At least, it’s something.”
“This is a man’s, is it?”
“Yes, deary. How old are you?”
“Old enough to have known better.” She hugged Sarah before she picked up the chamber pot. “Good luck to you. Stay alive.”
The front door to the old tenant flat was slammed shut and rattled the glass in Squeaks’ window. Dark had come, and the only light she had was from oil lamps burning in the two flats close by. She could barely see the street as there seemed to be only one street lamp near the corner. She kneeled in the chair watching dusk saying goodnight. The cool air felt good. Feeling her face, she knew her nose was broken. She had trouble breathing, and it was quite swollen. She imagined she was sporting two black eyes. For the moment, she still felt brave. Her father and Lord Stokes had always remarked about her spirit. Sarah had to make it to center London before her captors found out. Squeaks felt she could survive anything except a bullet. She listened at her door for any sounds of discovery, but all was quiet. “Sarah should be away by now,” Squeaks told herself. Her fate now lay in the hands of an old woman and a London coachman.
It was 11:15 p.m. when a young boy rapped on the Stokes Castle door. Morgan was there instantly. He asked the small lad to step inside. “Do you want to see the master of the house?”
“I don’t know. I was just paid to bring this bag to you.”
“Wait here. We may want to pay you, too.”
“Blimey, Guv. I’ll wait.”
Morgan took the cloth bag into the study where the vigil continued. “A young lad, who is still at the door, was told to bring this bag here.”
“Morgan will you look inside for us.”
“Yes, milord.” He untied the string and walked closer to a gaslight. “There is a note and something else.” Morgan gasped. “It appears to be Miss Squeaks’ hair.”
“Oh, dear God,” Clyde began whimpering.
“The note, Morgan!”
“Stokes. If you want this pretty little lady back, we want gold or jewels tonight. We haven’t hurt her too much, but she’s only got a few more hours. Fill this bag with enough for two men to live comfortably for a lifetime. If you contact the police, or the bag is light, I’ll place your little girl where someone will find what’s left of her. If you know of the Caldwell girls, you’ll know I’m serious. Send your driver on horseback to Regents Park at half 4:00 a.m. If he doesn’t return, she is dead. Someone will be in touch.”
“Bring the lad in here.”
Morgan brought the lad in who had his palm outstretched for a coin. “Lad, you will have to talk with the Master before he pays you.”
“Young man, where were you when you were given this bag to bring to our house.”
“I was near me home on Grover Street.”
“And where is that?”
“That be in Whitechapel.”
“Did a man approach you on his horse?”
“Aye, Guv. He rode me over this far and pointed to this house. Then he paid me and sped away.”
“Did he say how you would get back home?”
“No, Guv. I thought he’d be waitin’ on me, but he left.”
“I will give you 2 pounds if you wait here until morning, and we will find someone to drive you home. It may even be earlier than that.”
“Two pounds? How do I know you’re not lying to me like that other bloke?”
Stokes went to his desk and pulled out a box. From within, he pulled two notes being a pound each. “Here you are. You can put it in your pocket.”
“Bloody hell! I’m obliged, sir.”
“Morgan, take him to the kitchen and get him something to eat. Find one of the drivers we have left and ask him to come in here.”
Stokes would have to wait for another twenty minutes before the communication driver would arrive.
Kip, Kyle and the apostles were pacing around his flat.
“Why don’t we go down to Whitechapel and look for this coach ourselves?” Marc was anxious to free Squeaks.
“How badly, I want to do that, but I fear alerting them to our presence, driving up and down streets. If we go in as a band of drivers, by the time they realize we’re swarming the area, they may run, leaving Squeaks alive.”
“Kip, I know we would be doing this for Dorset no matter who it involved, but we didn’t have any idea of your deep feelings for Miss Dorset. We thought it a mild fancy. We will find her and find her in time. Believe me, brother.”
“I’m sorry, gentlemen. It all happened extremely fast. Primarily being brought up by her father, she wasn’t taught the politeness of society. She is pure naivety. She has welcomed me into her space with no hesitation, even hearing my weak discouragements. I am quite sure, once she is out and about, she will find a proper man.”
“You’re a proper man.”
“I may be proper, but there is much in my past that I believe would dampen her current interest in me.”
“You know we’ve never been interested in your past to much extent. We have relied on other skills and attributes you display. We’re comfortable with you. Will we one day find disappointment with you?”
“I can assure you, it is nothing like that. I do thank you for giving me space in my silence. Someday, you shall know what there is to know. I will say this much, and no one knows except Squeaks—and she’s only known for a day or two. I ran away from a death in my family that I was unable to bear. That’s all I will say.”
“We are exceedingly sorry for such an unfortunate incident in your life. We shall ask no more.”
“I’m going over to Stokes. Anything I should tell him?” announced Kyle.
“First ride to the Caldwell estate. If Detective Inspector Marshall is there, tell him of our plan and where we are. Bring him here if you can.”