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Training Lady Townsend(12)

By:Annabel Joseph

“It would be okay for you to...to do things quickly,” she said. “You don’t need to take the time to p-pleasure me.”

His caresses stopped. He looked down at her and sighed. “I do need to take the time. It’s difficult to accomplish this properly if I don’t.”

“If only you understood how uncomfortable this makes me. I don’t wish to resist you, but...”

She cringed as he drew away. She expected a slap or a scolding, but he only lay back and rested his head on his arm. He stared at her a long time, his expression impossible to read.

“I’m not like you,” she whispered. She sounded cowardly, like the mouse everyone called her.

“You could be like me,” he said, moving closer again. “You could be exactly like me, and feel all the pleasure I feel, if you’d only allow yourself to do it. But they’ve drummed you so full of lessons on primness and propriety, and goddamned ladylike restraint.” He added a few more swear words that made her face burn. “They’ve raised you to be ‘good,’ to be cold and ashamed, and I’m the one who suffers for it.”

“I’m sorry.” He was so impassioned, so very angry with her. “Perhaps you could do what you must to get me with child, and then find your necessary pleasures elsewhere. I wouldn’t mind.”

His expression darkened even further. “Am I that awful? Honestly?”

He looked so irritated, she feared he would spank her again. “I’m trying to be a good wife. Since I can’t meet your needs—”

“Since you won’t meet my needs, you mean.”

She rested a hand on his shoulder. It was a pure act of courage, to touch him when he was in this mercurial mood. “I want to bear children for you. I mean to do it, but the rest of it...”

“It’s not your fault that you’re this way.” He sat upright and barked this out in a singularly frightening fashion. “It’s not your fault you’ve been raised to behave like some pure and precious vessel. All your cloying little friends are the same. It’s a damned shame, to my mind. A bloody damn waste of everyone’s happiness.”

“I agree,” she said quickly, to mollify him. His cursing disturbed her, but not as much as the thought of another spanking. What did he mean by a pure and precious vessel? She was being a lady, a creditable wife. She was in bed with him, wasn’t she?

He made a sound halfway between a mutter and a growl and climbed atop her, nudging open her legs. She felt his heavy, hard thing probing at her entrance and braced for pain, but he didn’t thrust inside. He kissed her instead, a soft, tender kiss that stole her breath and made the throbbing start again.

“My lord,” she said against his lips. He moved inside her a little bit, and her body tensed to accommodate him. A small plea escaped.

“Remember, I said it won’t hurt as much today,” he muttered. “And if you truly wish it, I’ll be quick about things.”

She nodded, her heart and her head full of too many conflicting impulses to form words. As uncomfortable as this act made her, there was something fascinating about it too, something that made her want to pull him close and cling to his shoulders. She supposed it was the very fact that they were joined together in such a close and intimate way. When else did this happen in life?

Her husband entered her, sliding in until their hips met, and then he went still inside her, staring down at her. As he promised, there was no pain like yesterday, only the nagging, stretching ache. She wished she could like this joining, but it was so strange. She held onto his shoulders and lay very still as he moved in her repetitively, in and out, cradling her beneath him. His body seemed a hard, dangerous thing, but his kisses and caresses were so gentle.

As she pondered duty, and marriage, and babies, he tensed above her, and his breathing changed. He let out a ragged gasp and went still, shuddering as he propped himself over her. His organ pressed all the way inside her, holding her pinned to the bed.

Tears formed in her eyes. She was very afraid she would never come to like this. It didn’t hurt, and he was careful, but it seemed violent and uncivilized all the same. She was made to be a mother, a pillar of society, not a wanton in the bedroom. She knew it would be best to let him satisfy his needs elsewhere, as much as that offended her sense of decorum. Other husbands did so, in a discreet fashion, although her father disapproved of the practice.

Lord Townsend was nothing like her father.

After a moment her husband drew back, withdrawing from her body. The space inside her felt empty and cold. So did her soul. I’m sorry, she wanted to say. I’m sorry that I’m not warmer to you. This is just the way I am.

He pressed his cheek against hers and the threatening tears nearly overflowed. Then he rose without a word, gathered up his clothes, and crossed to the door. He turned back to her before he left. “Good night, grasshopper,” he said. “Sleep well.”

Chapter Five: Hemmed In

Aurelia tried to act as if everything was perfectly fine as she took tea in Townsend House’s parlor. Her mother and sister-in-law had come to call, and her mother’s friend, the Dowager Countess Overbrook, who happened to be the aunt of the man she loved. Lord Warren’s sister Minette had come too.

But not Lord Warren.

Aurelia had learned months ago, through Minette, that the Earl of Warren’s given name was Idylwild. His sister called him Wild sometimes, and if Aurelia had been fortunate enough to have him for her husband, she supposed she would have called him Wild too. Instead she had a husband named Hunter. Taken together the names amounted to Wild Hunter, which was rather off-putting when one thought about it. Such savage names for two refined, titled gentlemen. The thought of savagery brought other memories. A spanking. Rasping words. A hard, probing invasion...

“How does married life suit you?” asked Minette brightly, once the older ladies had spoken at length on the grandeur of her new home and the smart china setting. “Have you quite settled in?”

Aurelia didn’t know what “quite settling in” signified, but she replied just as brightly, “Yes, I am very settled in.” When the ladies looked at her as if she ought to say more, she added, “Marriage is an interesting thing. There is so much to learn about the other person.”

Minette made a face. “Don’t learn too much about Lord Townsend. You might not like what you—”

“Minette!” her aunt said.

“I was only teasing. Anyway, everyone knows men are—”

“Minette, you are not old enough to know what men are.” The dowager scolded in earnest now, and Minette fell silent to take a sip of tea.

“I know exactly what you mean about getting to know the other person,” Georgina said kindly. “I’ve been married to Brendan for a year now and I still learn things that surprise me. Lovely things, of course. Why, just yesterday both of us learned a wonderful surprise.” Her sister-in-law went pink and looked at the duchess.

The older women caught on more quickly than Aurelia or Minette. “You are increasing? Do say it’s true, Georgina. What does Severin think?”

“Oh, he’s ecstatic. We both are,” she said, placing a hand over her still-flat waistline. “Our child will arrive around Christmas.”

“A blessed gift indeed,” said the dowager countess, then her gaze skimmed to Aurelia. “Soon you’ll be in the same condition, and you will be a grandmama twice over, Emmeline.”

Her mother flushed with pleasure. “I hope so.”

Aurelia flushed too, but not with pleasure. More like fear, anxiety, dread.

“Now I’ve got to get Warren wed and set up in a happy home,” the dowager said in a tone of forbearance. “It’s difficult to find quality prospects these days. The ladies throw themselves at my nephew, quite blatantly begging for his hand, but few of them are up to snuff.”

“He is such a handsome young man, like his father.” The duchess clucked in sympathy for her friend and began to list some possible candidates for Lord Warren. Aurelia sat very still, trying not to upend the tea tray in a fury of despair.

“But our matchmaking cannot be interesting to the younger ladies,” the dowager said when Aurelia’s spoon rattled against her cup.

“Aurelia, why not take your friends for a walk in the garden?” suggested her mother. “And Lady Overbrook and I will plan our social machinations over tea.”

“Social machinations sound fun,” said Georgina with a grin, “but a walk outside sounds better. What do you think? Minette? Aurelia?”

Aurelia stood and agreed with a sigh of relief. She would lose her mind if she had to sit and listen to Lord Warren being paired with this lady or that. Minette was a ball of energy and had already crossed to the door.

“Minette,” the dowager said, wagging a finger. “Do not be a nuisance to Lady Townsend and Lady Severin.”

Aurelia envied Minette her mischievous spirit. Lord Warren also laughed often and had a twinkle to his eyes. Aurelia had curried Minette’s friendship to try to catch the attention of her brother, and while it had been in vain, she hoped they would stay friends.

And Georgina, soon to make Brendan a father! Her sister-in-law chattered on about pregnancy and babies as they strolled in the gardens. It was warm, but not unpleasantly so. When they came to a shady area with oak benches they agreed that Georgina must rest. As they sat shoulder to shoulder, Georgina turned to her in confidence.