The heat from the fireplace felt good against the terrible cold she felt deep within. Would she ever feel warm again? Robert’s death, and the Northumberland storm that drenched her during his funeral, had depleted the small amount of physical strength she had remaining after tending his illness through these last months.
She struggled to absorb enough heat from the flames before her. She stepped closer to her bedchamber hearth. With deliberate motion she removed the pins from her hair, placed them on the mantel. The fall of her hair brushed the nape of her neck as it cascaded down her back. Slowly she slid the rose-colored silk wrapper off her shoulders, down her arms. It clung to her legs as it sank in a heap onto the lush Oriental rug.
Heat. The heat was glorious. And she was so bereft. So desolate. So lonely.
Was this to be her life as a widow at only one score and eight? Emptiness? Unrelenting emptiness?
She wrapped her arms around herself smoothing them up and down her skin. She longed for a human touch but there was no one, still no one, to caress her.
How she longed to hear Robert’s voice guiding her, his words caressing her. Always gentle. Always kind. Teaching without touching, hoping for his own response though none ever came.
Now he was gone and she had failed to give him the one thing he had needed -- the one thing he had wanted.
No matter what he had asked, she had done. To no avail. Their marriage was never consummated, the boy child never more than a hope, a wish, a dream.
If love were enough, her current plight would be different.
But she could not, would not, fail him now.
There was still something she could do. Robert’s heritage had been strong. His titles and lands bequeathed to his family by King Henry VIII. For three hundred years his family had protected the lands, valued its people. She now had sole responsibility for the estates and all its people. She had to move quickly before Damon came to take over the reins.
God help them all if Damon became The Marquess of Rutherford. Surely the coffers would be bankrupt in less than two years and all of the people relying on the effective functioning of the estate would be left without shelter or hopes of income to support their families.
It was a heavy burden.
And she must now bear it alone.
But right now all she wanted was warmth and relief. Relief from the sorrow, the burden and, most of all, the loneliness.
She wished Robert were still there to guide her, but she would have to rely on her memory of his preferences.
Lifting her arms, she slid her hands under her tresses to fan them wide then let them drift to her back. Rolling her head gently, she basked in the soothing feel of her silken locks caressing her skin.
She slid her hands over the smooth skin of her thighs, her stomach, then cupped the weight of her breasts. Her hands felt good against her own flesh. She rubbed her soft palms over her breasts, felt her nipples harden. She pinched them gently feeling them grow harder still.
Heat rose from within.
She massaged the warm orbs relishing the stirring deep within her. Once again her hands moved over her stomach, then back over her buttocks.
She dropped to her knees before the soothing heat of the fire as she ran her hands over her thighs then between them.
Her body ached to be touched, but there was no one else to touch her.
She parted the folds of her most intimate place and slid fingers along the swollen nub she found there.
Fire surged from her woman’s core, through her body. Her breasts swelled. Her face flushed with heat.
She rubbed again and again. Her breath quickened, came in gasps. She fell to the carpet, her knees up, her legs spread wide. Two fingers sought further fulfillment, sliding into her private, warm, wet place. She sighed in ecstasy as her heart beat a rapid tattoo. The heat of the fire warmed her tender skin even as her fingers worked their magic.
More. She wanted more. She needed more. She needed the intimacy, the passion, the climax.
The thrills rose within her as her body started to convulse. “Robert!” Gasping for air, her release rolled through her. In moments her hands fell to her sides, her legs, just seconds before taut with sexual tension, relaxed to the carpet.
It took a while for her heart to slow, her breathing to return to normal. In some ways, she was sated as she moved to her bed and slid beneath the covers.
But in other ways, important ways, she still felt cold and empty. And, alone.
And the burden was still there.
She would have to take drastic action and quickly, if no one outside the estates were to question the birth of an heir in nine months time. She needed to leave tomorrow. She had to get to her brother and their family lands as quickly as possible.
Surely Thomas still had a rake or two from his past minions to solve her dilemma. And, since he would never know as to what purpose he was being put to use, what would such a rake care that his seed would save the estates and lands of another, more honorable man than he? Why should he ever need know?
With no further actions to be taken before morning, Morpheus overcame her. With exhaustion her sleeping potion, she slept deeply and dreamt, dreamt of a faceless man who would bring joy to her days and passion to her nights.
This is the first book in theThe Order of The Crimson Lotus Series.