*SPURIOUS*~~not genuine, not authentic or true...
"Men, some to business, some to pleasure take; but every man is at heart, a rake..."
In 1819 England, a young woman creates havoc in the life of a notorious rake...
"Men, some to business, some to pleasure take; but every man is at heart, a rake..."
In 1819 England, a young woman creates havoc in the life of a notorious rake...
Cynthia Bloomington walked toward the servant's quarters of the Duke of Trencolm's Estate. She had secured a temporary position as a nurse to the Duke himself, who, it was whispered, was injured in a duel that had taken place only two mornings ago in London's Hyde Park of all places.
She was down to her last farthing, so this position was indeed a Godsend. Thank goodness she checked in at the agency one last time, and this position was available. The Duke of Trencolm, Gabriel Grayson, was agitated and disgusted. 10 duels he had fought, never had he sustained any injury. Affairs of honour were common for the Duke, as he was a notorious rake, and all 10 duels were the result of the Duke cuckolding some other male member of society.
The Duke preferred swords. This time however, his luck had run out, and he took a severe gash to the leg. Now he would be laid up for 3 weeks or more. Cynthia was shown into the drawing room where his grace was sitting in a chair, his legs propped up on the stool. Dear heaven, he was as handsome as she had heard rumoured.
His face had a hard-set cruelness about it, she had also heard he had a fearsome temper. No doubt the reason for the constant duelling.
"You there!" His grace thundered. 'Don't stand about gaping, light this fire!" Cynthia walked over and did as she was bid. She stole a glance at his grace and his face was twisted in pain. Perhaps pain was the cause of his ill-mannered temperament. Or perhaps this was the way he behaved at all times.
Thank goodness this employment was only temporary, she thought to herself. "What the devil is your name?" Gabriel frowned.
"There is not the slightest bit of equality between us Cynthia. I am the master, you are the servant, you will address me with the proper respect. 'Your grace' will be at the end of every sentence you address to me, understood?"
"Yes your grace, I would prefer you call me Miss Bloomington."
His grace snorted aloud. "The devil you say!" He said in his iciest tone. "Any other instructions for me?"
"Yes your grace, you should be in bed, I was told by your housekeeper that the Doctor advised you to stay in bed for at least three weeks, yet here you sit, in obvious pain, I can see the tension on your face." Cynthia said firmly.
"The tension in my face is from your colossal impudence!" Gabriel leaned back in his chair and eyed her closely, his face harsh and cynical. She bit her lip, she no doubt would find herself on the cobbles momentarily. "MISS Bloomington," He spat. "I am seven and twenty, I have held my title the last 8 years since the death of my father. It has been sometime since anyone addressed me as if I were a naughty schoolboy. It will be a long time before I tolerate being spoke to in such a manner again."
Cynthia had no response to that.
"I'll be damned if I am going to lie abed for weeks. The footmen can carry me up and downstairs as long as my leg pains me. Now, that dress you are wearing is foul. See the housekeeper about getting a proper uniform. Then come back here. Understood?"
Cynthia curtsied stiffly. "Yes, your grace." Gabriel watched her go, noticing she held herself straight and moved gracefully. She hardly seemed a serving girl, she dressed the part of course, but she spoke with the cultured cadence of a lady. Perchance a lady who had fallen on hard times? This may prove to alleviate his boredom for the next 3 weeks, he can't have his friends camped out in his drawing room constantly, perhaps this pert little miss will stimulate his mind. The housekeeper showed her to a small room where she would be staying, and gave her a crisp, fresh uniform to change into. She exhaled deeply. So far, she managed to pull it off. Her only claim to nursing skills was seeing her mother through a lingering illness over a two year period...poor mama.
Well, at least she had a roof over her head and a warm bed and three meals a day for the next while. She wondered what her duties would be the next three weeks...fetch and carry, she supposed.
She sighed and headed back down to the drawing room. Cynthia crouched down next to the Duke. "With your permission, your grace, I would like to look at your leg."
Gabriel grunted his assent. She very gently touched the leg and could feel how swollen it was. He flinched, but did not say anything. He was no doubt in a great deal of pain.
She gently pushed up his loose pant leg. "The bandage needs changing. The housekeeper says the Doctor will not be back until tomorrow that is too long to wait for it to be changed. I will dress the wound afresh."
"What are you waiting for?" He snapped with irritation. "If you intend to maul my person, get on with it." Cynthia sat on the stool. "I do not intend to maul you, your grace, but to make you more comfortable." She began to slowly and gently unwind the bandage. She cleansed the wound with warm water.
Gabriel was watching her closely through half-closed eyes. "You are new to London?" He asked.
Oh dear, she had hoped he would not want to amuse himself by probing into her past. "Where did you come from?" he asked pointedly.
"From a long way away." She said quietly.
"You are a lady." He said, it was a statement not a question.
"Not really, just well brought up." she replied, continuing her task.
When Cynthia finished, he motioned her to take a chair next to him. 'Where?"
"In an orphanage, a good one. I must have been fathered by someone who wanted to see me decently raised." She lied smoothly.
"Hmmm." The duke replied. She silently prayed that would be the end of her interrogation.
"Well Miss Bloomington, how do you intend to amuse me for the next three weeks?"
Cynthia felt her stomach lurch, the man was incapacitated, and there was no suggestive note in his voice. She remained, however, distrustful. She had heard men of the aristocracy liked to amuse themselves with servants or other women of the lower classes. She would not be one of those!
Cynthia stood suddenly. "Perhaps if I read to his grace..." she walked over to the nearby bookcase and looked over some of the titles.
"I daresay you will not doubt chose a volume of sermons..." Gabriel grumbled irritably.
'Would they do you any good, your grace? It would probably not curb your desire for duelling, or improve your reputation." Cynthia said smoothly.
Wretched impertinence! Gabriel thought to himself, but he was amused nonetheless. "Are you afraid of me and my reputation?" Gabriel asked pointedly.
Cythia opened the book. "I do not know your reputation, your grace." But she could guess.
"I was challenged to a duel two days ago, for having...ah...relations with a married lady. It was not the first duel I have been involved with. I am known as an unprincipled and dangerous man." Gabriel stated firmly.
"Spoken with pride, your grace?" Cynthia questioned.
"I do have some principles. I have never ravished a servant, or a woman under the protection of my roof. Does that reassure you?" Gabriel sniffed.
"Most assuredly, your grace. I shall read some poetry, perhaps it will calm his grace." Cynthia did not get very far when Stockton the butler entered the room. "Begging your pardon sir, but Viscount Charles Drewson is here, shall I show him in?"
Drewson, finally, some company! Gabriel wondered how he was going to be immobile like this for the next 3 weeks, he was an energetic man, and this laying about was tedious to the extreme.
"God yes, show him in!"
Cynthia stood, snapping the book closed. "I shall leave your grace."
"You will not," he said, raising an eyebrow. "You will remain here."
The Viscount burst into the room, "Where's your claret, Trencolm?" he asked, looking about him.
Gabriel motioned to Cynthia standing in the corner. "My nurse will fetch it, Drewson. Miss Bloomington, ask Stockton to bring the claret and the brandy and some glasses, please."
The Viscount chuckled. "'Please?' A new word in your vocabulary?" Cynthia nodded and headed for the door. The Viscount looked up and glared at her, cocking an eyebrow. "A beauty in hiding, Tren?" He said quietly, as she left the room.
"A servant, under the protection of my roof, Drew." Gabriel replied.
"Ah." The viscount understood, off limits, not only to Gabriel, but any of his guests. It just isn't done. "Why the need for a nurse, old chap? You aren't suffering from some feverish malady." It was a good question. Gabriel smiled slightly. "Not sure, she has a damnably annoying habit of answering back, and I have a need for mental stimulation for the next couple of weeks. She will suffice."
The Viscount laughed. "Since when did you ever need a woman for mental stimulation?"
Gabriel thought for a moment. "Listen Drew, ask around will you? See if anyone knows of a 'Bloomington'. That is the pert little nurse's name that is if she gave the right one. There is more here than meets the eye."
The Viscount laughed again. "Oh I daresay, a mystery, cloak and dagger stuff! Consider it done, Tren!" Almost a week had gone by, and Cynthia was indeed correct, she fetched and carried, occasionally changed the bandage, but that was it. Her main duty seemed to be to amuse the Duke. But after a week of reading, cards and chess, he was very restless.
He had questioned her some more on her past, and she in turn was vague. He spoke a little of his upbringing, He was the only child of an arranged marriage, his mother and father barely lived in the same house, maybe seeing each other 3 or 4 times a year. 'A civil and amicable arrangement' he called it. He must have grown up very lonely, she surmised. He spoke of his mother's many lovers as if it were a normal part of life. And his father kept a mistress in a separate residence. No wonder he was such a rake, living up to the family's reputation. Did all the aristocracy live so? Cynthia wondered sadly. She thought of her own parents, how much they were devoted to each other. She felt a few tears cluster on her eyelashes. How she missed them both.
Gabriel's guesses about Cynthia were close to the mark, she was not of the nobility, but she did come from a well-off family...or at least, they were well off.
Gabriel interrupted her gloomy thoughts. "Does it reach your waist? Or just above?"
Cynthia looked up. "My hair? Just above...it is only hair."
"Only hair...only spun gold. The sort of spun gold any man would love to run his hands through, Cynthia." Gabriel said in a deep voice.
Cynthia froze, her finger trembling on the chess piece. "I have not given you permission for such familiarity, your grace."
Gabriel laughed low in his throat. 'Why do I put up with your impudence? You are my servant."
"But I am not your slave, I can leave at any time, nor will I put up with your lascivious intent in speaking about my hair. Do not deny that there was suggestiveness in what you said about it." Cynthia said, her voice quivering with anger. Gabriel stood, grunting as he put a little pressure on his leg. "I will not deny it, I try to always speak the truth, Miss Bloomington. Have Stockton fetch some brandy, I desire a drink."
She opened her mouth to scold him for standing, but looking at his hard-set face, she changed her mind. "Yes, your grace."
"And I would advice you, not to be so disrespectful in future, I can only be pushed so far without retaliating."
He watched as Cynthia left the room. The past week he had tried to worm some information out of her about her family, her past, and ended up telling things about his upbringing and childhood he did not want to think about, let alone share with someone else. He came close to baring his heart.
He preferred to believe he had none.
A week later, Cynthia could not locate the Duke, when she finally found him in a room she had never been in, his private study. To her great surprise, he was painting! And he was standing! She thought with some irritation. "You were told to keep your leg still and elevated, your grace." Cynthia said.
Gabriel jumped. He quickly put aside his paints and brush. "I grow weary of sitting like a statue in a park. All that is missing are the pigeons sitting on my shoulders!" He snapped.
Cynthia tried to hide her grin. "Nevertheless your grace, please take a seat at once, I must insist."
Gabriel growled and limped over to the settee.
"There, happy now?" He said, exasperation in his voice.
"That is much better, your grace. I have a tray for you, some fresh coffee, I will go get it." Cynthia smiled. She went and placed it next to him, then sat in the loveseat opposite, his eyes never left her, she felt his hot gaze upon her skin. The last several days she was becoming quite aware of his maleness, it made her uncomfortable. There was a tension between them, that even with her inexperience in such matters, she recognized.
"I suppose I should turn over a new leaf now, should I, now that I am leading such a sedate life. Become the rarest of all social phenomena a reformed rake? Defy my heritage? Marry a saintly woman and retire to my country estate and raise a brood of brats, live happily ever after in a monogamous relationship?" He snorted aloud at the absurdity of it. "It would be a fine thing to behold, I am sure..." Cynthia said quietly. "You are rubbing your leg again, your leg is hurting, is it not your grace? Shall I make you more comfortable?"
"Why is it when you say such things, I forget any idea of turning over a new leaf, and feel very unsaintly indeed?"
Cynthia glared at him. There was that tension again; it was happening far too often, he delighted in making suggestive remarks, looking at her through his hooded eyes, teasing her, affecting her.
She was affected, the sight of him, the very thought of him--quickened her pulse. The careless touch of his hand, those long elegant fingers, made her ache for more. Later that night, after retiring to her rooms, Cynthia was restless. She did not feel the need for sleep. She noticed a huge bookcase in the Duke's study; perhaps she would find a book to amuse her. She walked down the stairs and into the study.
She stopped, and smiled. There was the Duke, painting once again. Apparently he was restless as well. Gabriel sensed someone in the room, he turned, it was Cynthia. She was smiling at him warmly. She glanced at the canvas. "You are really quite good! Have you had lessons, your grace?"
His eyes narrowed. "I dabble, nothing more." He shrugged. He quickly put the paints down again.
"Why does your talent embarrass you? Why do you act so nonchalant when I bring it up?" Cynthia asked. "You don't know my family." He smiled slightly. "I was not encouraged to pursue the arts in any form. My father caught me once, and a received a sound tongue lashing, and forever kept it hidden after that."
Cynthia was mortified, the hard, cynical, dangerous rake, having all traces of his sensitive, artistic side smothered out of him, by an ignorant father. How awful!
"What about you Cynthia, did they teach you the arts at that orphanage of yours? Encourage you to embrace any talent you may have possessed?" Gabriel said in a low voice.
She lowered her head. "Yes, your grace. I can play the pianoforte, a little...I dabble."
Gabriel smiled. "You ought not have come down, you should have went to the library to select your book. You have caught me at a bad time..." He reached and took her hand in his, his long elegant fingers stroking hers. His eyes were deep, fathomless.
They were alone...late at night, no servants about. She tried to pull her hand free. "Yes..."
"Don't go," Gabriel said in a low, husky murmur. "Don't leave me yet." Those elegant fingers soon began to caress her cheek, igniting a flame there, that flickered and burned. She revelled in the physical sensations of his touch, Fool! She hissed to herself.
But the thought was without conviction. He pulled her close and kissed her. Cynthia felt as if she were falling into a pool of warm water. She could not resist, she returned the kiss, as best as she was able. She had only been kissed once before, by a business associate of her father's who wanted to court her. But that all changed when...when...she could not form rational thought, his kiss was too devastating to even think. "Ah, Cynthia...how flushed your cheeks are. You are quite the wide-eyed innocent dove, are you not? Where as I am nothing but a rake, you think that kiss beautiful, but it is merely what an experienced rake can make a woman think. It is not beauty, but lust...raw desire. Go to bed now...alone." His eyes twinkled, but his voice was harsh.
She curtsied stiffly. "Good night, your grace." The next afternoon, Viscount Drewson stopped by for another visit. "On your feet Tren? Recovered at last, are you?"
Gabriel winced. "Hardly, but I will be damned if I will lay about. Makes sense to exercise the leg, and I intend to do that. Tell me, what have you found out about the nurse?" "Not much. No one in our circle knows of any one named 'Bloomington'. So if that name is correct, she is not of the aristocracy. My next tact is to inquire among the nouveau-rich, that class of people who made their fortunes by commercial means, not through hereditary ties. If she is as well spoken and educated as you say, she may be from one of those families." Drewson explained.
Gabriel raised an eyebrow. "'Those families'? Really Drew, how snobbish of you. But I appreciate your thoroughness. Come, let's have a drink by the fire, the pain in my leg is becoming unbearable!" Later that evening, Cynthia approached the Duke; she had seen little of him all day. But is was time...
"It is time I looked for other employment. I have less than one week left here, not that I was really needed. You never needed a nurse, your grace."
He looked up at her. "You would leave me then, would you Cynthia?"
"I must, you know I must." Cynthia whispered.
"To go where? You have no place to go, you told me so yourself. I cannot let you go, can't you see I need a nurse?" He said firmly. She did not want to leave; her insides ached. But she knew she could not stay. He was right; she had no place to go, back on the streets, trying to survive. Living hand to mouth...no, she did not want to go, not from him, nor his house.
"I suppose you must leave here after last night," he said abruptly. . "But you could live somewhere else, where we could see each other daily, away from prying eyes, would you like that Cynthia?"
Her heart froze. Where was her outrage? It was obvious what he was proposing. She could not possibly misunderstand his meaning. It was disgusting...or was it? He was looking steadily at her, his eyes dark. "I would look after you, Cynthia. You could live well, in style. A decent allowance."
Cynthia met his gaze. "In exchange for lying with you..." she said softly.
"I have a certain expertise, can you tell me in all candor you have not thought of sharing a bed with me? Do I repel you? Be honest, I will know if you lie."
What could she say? Of course she thought of it, almost from her arrival. Repelled? Hardly, quite the opposite. But she would not tell him, not for any inducement.
"I hardly see what the point is of discussing such a matter. It is not important to what you are proposing." Cynthia said coldly. Gabriel thought for a moment. "Quite right Cynthia, this is merely a business proposition, I am not trying to seduce you, not yet. You need a home, income and sort of security. You have needs; I have needs. I have need of a mistress. I have been with out one for a long time. I have even taken to cornering nurses in my study and stealing kisses. I need someone I can visit at my leisure, someone I desire. I desire you, Cynthia."
Cynthia was considering the offer. She could not believe she was doing so, but her situation was dire. The alternative was to grub out some horrid existence on the streets.
"Well Cynthia?" he questioned after a long period of silence. "What do you say?" "There is to be a contract. We will discuss and agree to terms. In the meantime, I cannot stay here. Is there a house? Are you one of those gentlemen who keeps houses for their mistresses? I will move there for now." Cynthia stated.
Gabriel smiled. "Of course I have such a house. I will see you are taken there tomorrow morning with two servants. I have a feeling you will be driving a hard bargain, my dear, never have I had a mistress who insisted on a contract."
"Then more fool they..." Cynthia said. "And I am not your mistress yet...your grace." Outside the drawing room, away from the Duke, Cynthia exhaled deeply. She began to tremble. All her bravado and courage left her. What has she done? Insisting on a contract!? Well, her late father would have been proud, he raised her to have a sound business sense. But it was more than that...She would not have to leave him now. She would lie with him, outside wedlock, she would be his companion...a mistress. Why wasn't she more horrified? Close to two weeks had passed since Cynthia was whisked away to his ''other house.'' He had had it for almost four years, it was in a respectable neighbourhood, and he had it decorated and furnished at great expense.
It was a house of which Gabriel was fond; it had a lot of pleasurable memories.
But as soon as he crossed the threshold, knowing that Cynthia Bloomington was to be his mistress, he felt a little uncomfortable. He wanted her, in all the usual ways, almost from the moment she first talked back to him. But the idea of her being his mistress did not seem to fit. Cynthia was nervous to the extreme, for 10 days she had been inundated with dressmakers, hairdressers and servants, Never had she been so fussed over. Now the duke sent a note saying he would be dropping by on his way home from the opera to discuss the final terms of their contract.
Would he then make his demands once she signed on the dotted line?
She walked into the parlour and drew a sharp breath. How handsome he looked in his formal wear, she was so used to seeing him in his dressing gown. His leg was all but healed, he walked straight, with hardly any limp, she was gratified to see that. Gabriel could not believe the vision standing before him. The green silk gown complimented her creamy white skin. And her hair. It was everything he imagined it would be. He would insist she wear it down at all times.
He sighed softly. "Enchanting, my dear Cynthia." He motioned for her to sit on the loveseat. 'Shall we discuss the contract?"
"Yes, your grace." she said in a hushed tone. "So what are your demands, Cynthia? You will receive an allowance six times what you were getting as my nurse. You will have your own carriage and servants, you may clothe yourself in whatever you wish and direct the bills to me. As for jewellery, I think I will purchase that. I will take full financial responsibility of any children borne from the liasion, Have I missed anything?" Gabriel stated.
Cynthia felt her heart grow cold. Children!? She really was inexperienced. "How many children do you have?" "I have none, most women who are under my protection are quite versed on how to prevent such an occurrence. I assume you do not. You have never been with a man, have you?"
Cynthia felt her cheeks burn with embarrassment. His gaze was very direct, and probing. Never had she heard people speak so in all her years. Truly the aristocracy was debauched, no question.
"No, I have not. I am sure I shall bear the degradation." Cynthia said, her voice shaking. Gabriel sneered. "I see, ashamed, are you? Such degradation to bed down with a rake. Is what you are about to agree to so shameful to you? Then why did you agree? If I wanted such a dalliance, there are numerous places I can go for that". His face was twisted in anger. "I want someone with whom I can relax, give and receive pleasure with. A companion." Now Cynthia felt her anger boil. "If I sign the contract and become your mistress, your grace, I will neither be ashamed or proud. I will be taking the practical step of securing protection. Now, my terms are you are to give me an allowance for five years, whether you tire of me or not, which you no doubt will after a matter of mere months."
Gabriel snorted. "I see, and what if I do not tire of you, what then? Do we negotiate a new contract? Here is all I ask, have relations with me whenever I can persuade you, I will not insist on obedience, because it was your damned impertinence that attracted me to begin with. I will have my man draw up the contract."
Both sat very still. "I will not come here again Cynthia, until you send for me. I will assume that when you do, you will be ready to fulfill the contract to it's full extent, as will I."
Cynthia whispered, "Yes, your grace..."
Gabriel sighed. "I cannot have you 'your gracing' me, when we are alone, you are to use my name...Gabriel."
She had not known his name; no one ever used it in her hearing. "Gabriel..." she said softly.
Cynthia glanced at him, his look softened briefly after she said his name, but the hard mask soon reappeared.
He rose, grabbing his hat and walking stick. He bowed stiffly. "I await your command." Another week went by, The Duke's personal secretary had dropped by a few days ago with the contract, after reading it over closely, she signed it, and was given a copy for her own. It took her two days to summon up the courage to send a note to the Duke that he could come at his convenience. Now that he was recovered, she knew he was much away from home, no doubt in London with his large circle of friends.
She was pacing, trying to refrain from looking out the window every 10 minutes.
Finally she saw the broad-shouldered Duke walking down the sidewalk toward the house. She felt a burst of joy, and fought the desire to run to the door to greet him. She stood stoically, waiting for the maid to show him in. He strode into the parlour, crossing his arms, his eyes fixed on her at last. His eyes burned with a hot, intense light that she had not ever seen in his eyes before. A man come to claim his mistress no doubt?
"So Cynthia, ready to fulfill the contract at last?" He said quietly.
"You will not be staying the night...will you?" Cynthia asked.
"Why, am I not allowed to come here for other reasons, like perhaps, tea, conversation, or just to sleep? It is my house, I have a key."
Cynthia drew a sharp intake of breath. It would be like a real relationship. It was too seductive a thought. "Would...would you like to see the bedchamber now?"
"To inspect the new furnishings, or to consummate the contract?" he said in a husky voice. "I...I am your mistress." Cynthia said softly.
Gabriel gazed at her through the mirror. She looked so nervous. "Yes, so you are." he replied. "So you are ready for consummation then?"
"Yes...your grace, I mean...Gabriel." she whispered. Her kness felt as if they were ready to give out.
"Then let us go." He took her hand and led her to the bedroom.
Now in the bedchamber, Gabriel just stood and stared at her. Feelings that were quite foreign were rolling through him. Not desire, though it was there, it was more of a yearning or longing. The only other time he felt this way is when he painted. Hearing her use his given name, stirred these feelings in him.
He had suggested it, calling him Gabriel. He had never done so with his other mistresses. He smiled at her. His other mistresses called him by his title as did everyone else, including his parents.
He remembered how shaken he was to first hear his name on her lips over a week ago. He did not expect it to evoke such a feeling of intimacy. Is that what he yearned for, intimacy? Someone calling him by his name. He lifted her small delicate hand to his lips and kissed it passionately. Her hand was shaking. He would have to be very gentle and considerate with her, but he was with his mistresses anyway. But with Cynthia, he would be more so. "You are mine..." he said in between the kisses.
"Yes Gabriel, now I am yours, according to the contract." She replied softly.
"That piece of paper..." he chuckled. "I want you to want me, Cynthia. Not for the house, the money. ME~Gabriel. Or tell me you do not and I will leave you in peace to live in this house for 5 years." She stood silently for several moments. He had not really cared before if his mistresses wanted him. It had always been a matter of pride with him to give pleasure where he took it. He had not cared if they wanted him, or the dark, dangerous aristocrat.
He had never been 'Gabriel' to anyone before, not his friends, his family.
"I want you, Gabriel." she whispered softly. He was looking into her large blue eyes, they were moist, she meant what she said.
Gabriel took her in his arms and kissed her deeply.
This was not what Cynthia expected. This was far beyond a man and his mistress; this was a man and his beloved. At least, that is how it felt to her. Perhaps he was right, an experienced rake can make a woman feel anything. And she was feeling it, most deeply. "I will be gentle with you Cynthia, I will not rush you, we have all night. Do not be nervous." He whispered in a husky tone.
"You must show me how, I no nothing...of intimacies." She replied.
"It will be my pleasure..and yours." He told her, pulling her close. A sudden realization came to Cynthia Bloomington. Why she had taken the Duke up on his offer, instead of exploring more rational, practical ones. She understood why she accepted this arrangement without either outrage or horror.
She was in love.
He was so handsome, so beautiful. A strange word to use to describe him, but he was. And the way he was looking at her now, with such tenderness, all the hardness and cruel lines in his face had melted away. She was nervous, anxious, but she put her trust in him completely. She longed for this from almost the first time she saw him.
"Gabriel..." She loved saying his name.
He moaned and kissed her passionately. How could he sleep? Like what just happened between them meant nothing! To her, it was earth-shattering, life changing. She loved him, she gave everything of herself that there was to give...and yet he slept.
Cynthia's body still throbbed from his touch. She lay awake and listened to his deep breathing next to her. She could not move, she did not want to move. After about an hour, Gabriel awoke. He found that Cynthia was awake, and staring at him quite intensely. He sat up immediately. His thoughts and feelings were jumbled.
Her beautiful face was flushed, her lips rosy and swollen from his kisses. "Was I terrible?" she whispered.
"You are a lovely woman, Cynthia, I was well pleasured." He said without emotion. He smiled coldly.
The room was silent. "I see..." she said, her voice quivering. He could not tell if it was in anger or if she were about to burst into tears.
"I would advice you Cynthia, not to engage your emotions in this liaison, I would not want you hurt at the conclusion." Gabriel said coolly.
"I will take it under advisement." Cynthia replied, in a voice dripping with ice. "I thought perhaps you would wish to stay for dinner..." She said.
Gabriel stood and reached for his clothes. "No. I have a dinner engagement, then some infernal ball to attend. I did not come to stay."
The cold, hard facade was back, the man who was so tender and loving just that afternoon had disappeared. It was not going to be easy to be his mistress, the mood swings, his arrogant uncertain temper.
Cynthia got out of bed. "It is of no consequence. I have plans of my own." Gabriel dressed quickly. 'What do you do with your time, Cynthia?"
"I go into the garden out back." She said softly.
"Do you read? Are there any books here?" he asked. "I will see to it you have reading materials."
"You do not need to put yourself out on my account." she huffed.
He turned to face her, his face unreadable; he bowed stiffly and was gone. Without a word of farewell or when he would return again.
Cynthia felt desolate. It was only a few hours after Gabriel had left that afternoon that his footman arrived with two boxes of books. She had spent hours kneeling beside them, drawing them out one at a time, arranging them on the bookshelves in her private room. She was deeply touched, he had gone home and handpicked some volumes for her and had them sent over before he went out to dinner. If he had sent some expensive bauble, she would not have been half as pleased.
It was close to midnight, and she was still up reading in the parlour. To her surprise, she heard the key in the door; it was Gabriel, whom she did not expect to see again so soon. "How can I thank you for the books?" She said gently.
"A mere nothing." He shrugged. He looked around. "Where are the books, the bed chamber, the attic?"
"In the next room, I have converted it for my own use. I think of it as my den." Cynthia replied.
"Take me there." He commanded. He thought of nothing but her all through the dinner and the ball. He was truly sorry for his cold manner after their afternoon of passion. It was his only way to deal with the unknown feelings that rushed over him. Even now, he did not know how to show those feelings; all he knew is that he had to see her. "It is my room...this is where I entertain you, in the parlour. The bedchamber is where I fulfill my contractual rights. The rest of the house is my private domain." Cynthia said curtly.
The devil take her! Gabriel fought to keep his anger under wraps. Infuriating woman!
He bowed slightly. "Miss Bloomington, would you do me the honour of showing me the room?"
Cynthia snapped her book shut. "Very well." The room was Cynthia, it had a warmth and cozy elegance. On one wall was the books he sent over. She had the servants move the pianoforte into the room, he remembered she said she played a little. Embroidery sat on a nearby table, and to his great surprise, an easel.
"Do you paint, Cynthia?" he questioned.
"No, I got that for you..." her voice trailed off. Gabriel motioned for her to sit down while he lit the fire. " I wonder my dear, if you will allow me to paint you, there is much in your beautiful face I feel I could capture."
Cynthia looked into his face, it had softened, perhaps a trick of the firelight, but she believed he was genuinely touched by her securing an easel and paints for him.
"In this room, we can pursue those passions we enjoy, away from prying eyes, or perhaps you do not want me to invade your private haven..." Gabriel said.
"No, in future this room will be ours, a place of quiet and peace. You are invited to make yourself at home whenever you wish, Gabriel."
An unfamiliar emotion rushed through Gabriel...happiness. Over a week had passed, and he was constantly at Cynthia's side. He stayed overnight, they ate breakfast together, they spent hours in the den. Cynthia loved to watch him paint. Sometimes he would mutter obscenities when he was frustrated, but on the whole, he was at peace, enjoying himself.
She would sit quietly and read or do her embroidery, or play the pianoforte. They would take walks in the garden, and sit before the fire and talk for hours. It was sheer bliss. Then they would go to bed, that too, was sheer bliss. Gabriel was very much in a world of his own when he painted. In the past week he dared to do things he craved as a boy, paint, dream, write poetry. He was frustrated by his painting but also exhilarated. He was trying so hard to capture Cynthia's essence.
He was enjoying the novelty of being infatuated, and he told himself it was a novelty and soon would be over. Until then, he could not get enough of her. As for Cynthia, she had no doubt what her feelings were, she was totally and completely, and daresay, quite hopelessly in love. But she had no illusions as to their relationship. They could never marry. He never even hinted at it. She knew he was temporarily besotted with her and once the initial flush wore off, he would move on to another. She had to steel herself for that eventuality.
But until then, she would love him, cherish him, give him a safe haven that he seemed to desperately need. At last it was finished. He led her over to the canvas. "Come and discover the truth of my claim that I merely dabble. " He said gruffly, but he watched her closely for her reaction.
Cynthia gasped aloud. It was beautiful; he made her look beautiful. She had never saw herself thus, but to think he did made her flush with pleasure. It was an excellent portrait. "Gabriel, it is lovely."
"So I have done it, captured your essence, your inner light?" he whispered.
"I love it, because it is lovely and the fact you painted it. May I keep it? Forever?" Cynthia asked.
"If you want it, Cynthia," he said. "Do you?"
She turned to him and nodded, a few tears in her eyes. "Won't you be late for your dinner engagement?" She questioned.
"Dinner?" He frowned, then seemed to remember. "To the devil with it, I shall stay here and dine with you."
Cynthia's heart was close to bursting with joy. She went into his arms, and kissed him deeply. She did not know how much longer this infatuation of his would last, but she would savour every moment of it. Gabriel decided to go to his London townhouse for some more clothes; he was greeted by a greatly annoyed Viscount Drewson. "Where have you been? I have been here every day for 10 days, your man Stockton would not tell me where you were! Cloistered away with some new woman, I suppose!" Drewson saw the tightening of Gabriel's features. "So, it is a woman...God's life! Not that fetching nurse?"
"Be careful, Drewson..." Gabriel snarled. "I have information, Tren, that is why I have been trying to see you. The nurse is the daughter of the late Alfred Bloomington. He was the grandson of Sir Frederick Bloomington, Baronet. The title passed to his older brother, but his brother was killed. He never bothered to apply for the title. He owned Bloomington Shipping,"
"The man carelessly speculated; he lost his business. he died a broken man, leaving wife and daughter in poverty. They lived in some grubby room in the East End where she nursed her mother for close to two years, working where she could, until her mother died 2 months ago. You now own Bloomington Shipping."
Gabriel was stunned. Bloomington Shipping? He could not recall it! But then, he barely took notice of the many business dealings that was handled by his steward.
A baronet's daughter if the man had bothered to take the trouble of securing his title! All the evidence had been staring him in the face, she had clearly been brought up a lady, she spoke and bore herself with grace, she was literate, she played the pianoforte...had he truly believed her story for one moment that she was brought up in some orphanage? But what chilled him was that Cynthia had not trusted him enough to confide in him, where as he had bared his soul to her the last two weeks as he had no one else. Damn her! Gabriel fought to control his anger. "Why would they live in poverty? Surely they had relatives, friends?"
Drewson sighed. "I could find no family on either side. And as for friends...you know what it is like when one 'gets ruined', they are shunned, forgotten. No doubt their friends cast them adrift. I say, Tren, you look quite ill. You care for this woman?"
"Care? Look Charles, I cannot thank you enough for making inquiries. I will handle it from here."
How he would handle it was beyond him, he had had a gentleman's daughter, there was only one conclusion, he would have to marry her. She would be his wife in name, but she would soon understand that for the rest of her days, she would be less to him than a mistress. She lied! He did not return to her until the next night, he had gone to dinner and had one too many drinks, he was feeling quite foxed, liquid courage he supposed, enough to face her. He dispised her for lulling him the last few weeks into the belief he had found a friend, a soul mate and a bloody good bed partner. Inducing him to lower all his defences.
He decided he would not mince words. "It seems Miss Bloomington, you are not who you have presented yourself to be. You leave me no choice but to offer you marriage." His words, were cold, cutting and harsh. Cynthia sat very still. "Your...wife. So you have found out I am not some orphanage fondling? You think you owe me marriage because of my family connections? So it was alright to make me your mistress when you thought I was some poor unfortunate from the lower classes?"
"Duty demands it my lady, no other reason." He snapped.
Those words sliced her heart. He wanted to marry her for duty, a sense of honour, not for her, not for love. "I think not." She said, she looked up into his cold, cynical face, feeling the full chill of his indifference.
"In a few days you WILL be the Duchess of Trencolm, you will live at Graystone, my country estate, where I may visit you a few times a year to ensure the continuation of the bloodline. Two sons should be sufficient to secure the succession. The rest of the time you may live as you wish, as shall I." Gabriel hissed. "I should have seen it sooner," Gabriel continued. "You convey such an image of sympathy and empathy, but you give nothing back. You induce others to confide, but you gave me nothing, nothing but lies. I have other calls to make, but I will be back in the morning, Be ready."
Cynthia rose, her body trembling. "I have hurt you, well, you have had your revenge. If my heart was not cold before, it is now. I gave and gave to you because your need was so great. I was not given a chance to reach out to you, to confide in you. Barely two weeks. Go, leave, you feel betrayed your grace? Well so do I."
His heart ached, the heart he was not suppose to possess. Was she speaking the truth? Did she mean to confide in him? He could not trust her. He would not trust her.
He turned and walked out of the house. Cynthia did not wait for Gabriel's return. As soon as he left, she went to pack her bag, taking with her only what she arrived with, taking nothing HE had bought for her, and left that very night. Over one month had passed; she managed to secure some employment at the docks, gutting fish 12 hours a day. It was enough to get her a room and keep her somewhat fed.
She tried not to think of him, but it was next to impossible, she still loved him. The door swung open suddenly. "Well, Miss Bloomington, found at last. I have had a devil of a time locating you, but locate you I have. It seems I am cut out for this type of work; perhaps I should start my own investigative firm hire my own runners. However, I digress. I am Viscount Drewson, the Duke of Trencolm's friend. He and I have been looking for you these past 6 weeks. He has been most frantic to locate you."
Cynthia was shocked at the sight of the elegant looking man standing before her. "Frantic? I highly doubt it. I will not come with you, my Lord."
Charles sighed. "Yes you will Miss Bloomington. Trencolm is a gentleman, even though he has a most unsavoury reputation, an unfeeling, arrogant rake, a wildness and desire to be the center of every brawl, like his father and grandfather before him. He has compromised you, and will marry you, he is most insistent." "He is not like that at all!" Cynthia cried. "He has a kind, gentle soul..."
Charles crossed his arms and smiled craftily. "So you do care for him, how quickly you come to his defence. If you feel this way, come with me. Marry him. You are the one woman I believe that can reach him, you no doubt all ready have, or why would he be moving heaven and earth to find you?"
Cynthia faltered. "I don't know..."
"You and I know his true heart. It is a secret we shall take to our graves. He does love you, I have seen it in his face. Come Cynthia, if I may call you thus. You are both in misery."
She could not deny his words. "I will come, your Lordship." After Drewson took her to his home to freshen up, he went to the house to drop her off. She walked into the parlour, Gabriel was obviously agitated, rubbing the back of his neck. "Good afternoon, your grace." she said softly.
How could she have run away? She knew, he had hurt her, his cold, calculating proposal of marriage.
He whirled around. "I have been searching London for you, and I am not 'your grace', I am Gabriel." he said coldly. "I have missed you..." he paused, and added with the intent of not showing her any vulnerability. "In bed, of course."
"Of course..."she replied tartly. "Where else could you possibly mean? So you still feel honour bound to offer for my hand? You insult me."
"You have always presumed to know my thoughts, Cynthia, do you know my dreams now, too?" Gabriel said quietly.
"You wish to marry me because it is the gentlemanly thing to do, like facing death in a duel. I do not want a perfect gentleman, Gabriel. I would prefer the rake." "Would you, Cythnia," his voice sounded like a caress. "Why?"
"Because the rake had some spontaneity, vulnerablity, and..oh what is the word?" she said, exasperated.
"Passion?" Gabriel offered.
"Yes! Passion, I prefer the rake, odious as he can be, he had passion. I will not have you acting the gentleman Gabriel, I WILL not!"
Gabriel began to smile; he walked closer to her and pulled her close to him. 'Will you not? I better kiss you then, to prove how much I am not a gentleman." "I have grown closer to you than anyone, we shared interests and conversation. We became friends and lovers, more than that. You taught me to feel again. Forgive me for my crass behavior, Cynthia, you taught me that there really is love."
A couple of tears spilled down Cynthia's cheeks.
"Marry the rake, Cynthia, love the man..."
She nodded. "Very well, we have reached an agreement..."
Gabriel grabbed her and kissed her deeply. "I will have my man draw up a contract..." He teased.
Cynthia's heart was bursting, she was to marry Gabriel, her heart's desire, her spurious rake...
~The Spurious Rake~
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