Forced into intimacy with a man who seeks revenge, Saphira finds herself falling in love with her abuser, the Marquis. The Marquis’ own feelings for her seem to heat up, but would he give up his revenge for a true love affair? Saphira needs to know more about him and therefore wants to meet with the one man who knows more about the mysterious Marquis than she does – Inspector Jeremy Simmons. The Marquis keeps her locked in a tower and under permanent surveillance, but Saphira manages to come up with a plan, which is not without danger. The stake is high if the Marquis discovers her intention, since he’s threatened that her betrayal would unleash a new measure of his wrath. Will Saphira be able to carry out her plan, or will the Marquis catch her?
“Zed and the boys” keep lurking outside the door to my chamber. After at least twelve hours locked in the tower I recognize each of them by the way they stomp the vestibule. They must be around five.
By noon I’m chewing on my fingernails, desperate for a way to get out and meet Jeremy. I sit on the end of the bed under the ragged canopy, patting my foot on a loose floor tile and fraying my own nerves. They say Necessity is the best teacher, so a minute before the clock on the wall strikes twelve, a solution lights up in my head.
I hurry to the wardrobe, throw the doors open and pick an outfit worthy of a lady – two-piece suit with fitted jacket and pencil skirt, a creamy white. There’s hardly anything casual in the old creaking thing, and I suspect the choice of clothes is customized to suit my future husband’s tastes. My future husband. My heart flares at the thought.
The outfit enhances the difference between my middle and the hips. The skirt combined with varnished stilettos make my legs seem long, and the golden bun I’ve learned from Mum to pull out fast makes me look even taller, but after I bang on the door and Zed answers I lose the illusion of being a grand presence. Zed is as tall as the Marquis, which places his face half a head above mine despite my stilettos, the steel look in his eyes making me shift from one leg to the other and seek my words in my purse.
“Uhm. Kieran said I should tell you if there was anything I needed. I need to see him.”
I’m still pretending to rummage inside the designer purse hanging from my forearm when I hear Zed speak for the first time.
“That name. You shouldn’t say it.” He sounds like the big, overly broad-shouldered Frankenstein-looking servant from the Adams family. Deep voice, no inflections. I look up at him, but keep my eyes on his cheek, not the steel bullets his irises seem to be.
“Here he’s known as the Marquis of Vandenesse. And it should stay that way.”
“I’m not the only one who knows his name.”
“You’re the only one I hear use it.”
I nod at Zed and look down.
“Very well then. Please take me to him.”
I expect more resistance, so I’m surprised when Zed doesn’t pose any. He removes himself from my way, motioning for me to walk ahead of him. His men, at their turn, walk before me without needing to be told, guiding me down the narrow spiral stairs that have yet to be cleared of cobweb and humidity. This place has once been Catherine Lancaster’s home, it’s older than the Queen’s jewels, and its walls seem to be crawling with insects and mould. I shudder when we finally reach the ground floor and emerge into the wide reception hall.
The men keep around me, marching down the corridors and halls like a badass squad escorting a V.I.P., which annoys me more with each step. Truly “encumbering,” like the Marquis had put it, suffocating and strenuous, since not for one second can I forget myself and act normal. I have to keep the film of dignity I retained after they saw me hanging from chains in the dungeons, subject to the Marquis’ lust. I keep my back straighter than ever, my chin up and my attitude contained.
But when one of the men pushes the heavy double doors to the Marquis’ study, revealing my fiancé in conversation with Pretty Lauren, I can no longer keep back. Fury shows in my face for sure, and I can’t even remember if the man knocked first or not.
“Well, well, well,” I say and stalk to them in an aggressive catwalk prance that escapes my control. “Isn’t this an interesting visit?”
I stop by the Marquis, looking straight into his black eyes that make my legs feel weak. Still, the anger gives me a weird kind of nerve. I curl an arm around his lower back, the fabric of his suit caressing my palm as I brush over it, and raise my chin to invite him for a kiss. This can end badly, very badly, I realize. He doesn’t look like he intends to lower his handsome face and kiss me, which would make me stand a fool in Lauren’s eyes, but after a few seconds’ hesitation I realize it was just the stun. His lips press warm and soft on mine, making a buzz start in my lower belly, his bittersweet scent acting on me like a drug.
A bit dizzy and really nervous I peel my lips off his, staring up into his hypnotic black eyes, hoping to read his feelings and having forgotten why I just did what I did. Lauren clears her throat, thus reminding of her presence and my reasons. With narrowed eyes I look at her sitting with her legs crossed and arms on the chair arms. She glares a misty green glare at me, her make-up flawless, the dark red dress that matches her hair too short. A pair of high designer shoes seem to dangle from her white feet. Her skinny legs are naked to mid-thigh, her silk dress draped over her pointy-boned hips. She’s always been skinny but sexy nonetheless, and jealousy would eat at my jugular in a mighty way for finding her with the Marquis if it weren’t busy eating at Lauren’s. The jealousy in her pretty greenish eyes is the exact kind of balm I need right now. I give her an almost involuntary satisfied smile.
“And to what do we owe the pleasure?” I inquire sweetly, nestling my cheek at my fiancé’s chest. My fiancé. The idea and the feel of him make my heart flutter, and I must admit this situation has just turned into something rather pleasant.
“Miss Lauren was just telling me about a property her father has for sale,” the Marquis answers in her place, his voice a ripple of chocolate to my senses. My lids feel a bit heavy, and I know he’s unleashing his opium-like powers on me, but I make every effort to resist.
“Oh, and he sent his daughter to discuss the deal. I didn’t know you were real estate savvy, Lauren,” I address her.
The Marquis’ hand goes around my middle, and now we’re standing cradling each other’s lower backs, leaning on his desk. He doesn’t intervene to save Lauren from replying despite her glancing at him repeatedly before doing so, and seems to enjoy my defending his position as my man.
“Nice banquet yesterday. Hopefully the wedding turns out just as good,” Lauren changes the subject and stands in one rather jerky move. She pulls nervously at the rim of her dress as if she’s embarrassed, and grabs her purse form the corner of the desk. For a moment there I think she acts like a mistress who’d just been caught by the wife. I remember her envious stares last night while the Marquis took me on exhibiting rounds among the crowd to save his image in front of the guests after I’d been seen leaving with Jeremy. Speaking of Jeremy . . .
“You seem to have a weakness for my fiancés, but not all of them fall for red.” I measure her with a despising attitude, and feel like a bitchy idiot only a moment later.
“Saphira,” the Marquis pulls the brakes in a serious tone, but I try my best not to let it intimidate me. My body wants to keep glued to his hard torso, but my mind tells me to act, and I do, even if only to prove that I still have a will of my own.
“I need to go to town,” I say in a breath, turning to him as if Lauren weren’t even there. He shouldn’t have any reason to refuse the brilliant lie that I came up with. “I need to see Vivien for some floral arrangements for the wedding. Zed and his boys can escort me, if you feel more in control that way.” – I intend to make the visit to Billy the Notary only a “convenient stop on the way.”
The Marquis must like my thinking so seriously of the wedding, since his beautiful marble lips draw in a smile like none I’ve seen on his face before.
“Wonderful then,” he says, and looks at Lauren with a sharpness that stands in contrast with the warm smile he’s given me. “Miss Vivien’s house is exactly where Miss Lauren was going right now too.”
I freeze. I glance repeatedly from the Marquis to Lauren, and I realize this was a command she knows she has to follow. She is to act as his spy and, unlike the Marquis’ men, she can follow me even to the toilet. Whether she’s bound to him because they’re sleeping together or because he agreed to buy her father’s property, I don’t know. But I know that jealousy is showing its big ugly snout again, and this time darn close.
Enjoyed this? Check out episodes of the prequel, Saphira, here, or the whole prequel in the Christmas Story Book for Adults, available here. Stay tuned for a further episode on Friday and, until then, enjoy all the quizzes (NEW QUIZ COMING UP TOMORROW!), stories and goodies available here especially for you.
NEXT EPISODE – Jealousy – Ep. 7 of The Marquis
PREQUEL – Saphira in the Christmas Story Book for Adults