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Authors: Mary Williams

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Historical, #Romance, #Historical Fiction, #Historical Romance

The Velvet Glove (9 page)

BOOK: The Velvet Glove
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Kate had momentarily allayed such zest to a minimum. Though his experience of women was considerable, he had never before been so completely swept off his feet, or wanted any of the feminine beauties languishing after him to be a wife.

But that first moment at the dance he had known.

She was the one.

More than that.

She was the only one he
’d want as future mother of his children. So it had to be marriage, and he’d determined in some way he’d manage in time to wipe her wild schoolgirlish heart free of any faint sentimental yearnings for that golden boy the Hon. Jon.

So far he realized he
’d half succeeded but there was a lingering faint shadow still there.

Hence the brooch that had cost him many thousands, and he knew when he saw the light in her eyes, the sudden joy of gratitude and passionate welcome, that he was on the right track.

A challenge lay ahead of him, combining his own male existence with a satisfactory love life ending any doubts at all that his wife was his completely.

No regrets or shadows from the past.

No Jon.

 

 

4

 

The heady sweet-scented days of spring were followed by a warm summer during which Rick made considerable effort to keep Kate contented and as satisfied as possible in her limited existence due to approaching motherhood. It was not an easy period for either of them. With Rick
’s enthusiasm for his new business projects still occupying much of his mind, the effort of dealing with his wife’s ever-changing moods frequently chafed and caused an inner irritation which drove him to spending more than usual time at the stud or actively busying himself on the farm. After periods of physical activity in the open air he managed to put things into proportion and returned home ready to tackle Kate’s complaints and unpredictable bursts of quick temper with apparent equanimity.

He thought frequently that if she had to
cope with more household matters she would feel better and life would be more harmonious. But the housekeeper, Mrs Rook, whom he’d employed for years with a competent staff, made any efforts on Kate’s part in the running of the home quite superfluous. In any case, Kate was not naturally interested in everyday chores. Except for arranging flowers and other such ‘lady-like’ occupations, she was completely satisfied by her nominal status as Mistress of Woodgate and content to leave domestic matters for those employed to see things ran smoothly.

Cassandra, on the other hand, had done her best at the beginning of her marriage to please Jon, and prove herself efficient in household management. But, with her humble background and no knowledge whatever of Wentworth standards and manner of living, Jon very quickly realized her shortcomings and insisted on employing a well-trained housekeeper with two other servants and a man, although at that period, finances were strained, and he could ill-afford the upkeep.

His one hope was that Cassandra in time would be able to adjust better to her new role as wife – not only domestically, but in bed.

For months he managed outwardly
to stifle his disappointments – the tormenting irritations and frustrations of which Cassandra appeared completely unaware. Romantically and sentimentally she could reciprocate. But, good God, he thought frequently, surely she couldn’t be so completely ignorant of what a normal man needed and expected from a wife?

Grudgingly, he had to admit to himself that she was very like her paintings
– naive and dream-like, with a childish yet effective capacity for evading down-to-earth issues. It was as though something in her was forever ready to slip away, and escape before he had a chance to confront her with any material problem.

In a sense this was true, though Jon had not the slightest idea of the reason. But Cassie knew; from the earliest days of her far-away childhood she had known, but had manag
ed somehow to erase it from complete recognition – the terror that loomed in the past as a shadow, formless but indestructible – the ‘thing’ she could share with no one – not even Jon –
especially
Jon.

So the days passed, frequently tense with expectancy for Kate, dream-like for Cassandra whose visits to the Tree Studio became more frequent causing an inner irritation to Jon who only managed with difficulty to curb outbursts of quick temper.

Very occasionally he met Kate by chance, who by late August was wearing long capes to disguise her full figure, but Jon was not deceived.


Are you aiming to become a nun, Mrs Ferris?’ he asked pointedly once with a slight one-sided smile.

Kate
’s brows met crossly above her eyes.


Are you intending to be insolent, Mr Wentworth?’

He gave a burst of laughter, then sobered quickly.
‘Of course not. It’s just that I’m getting used to the breed nowadays.’


What breed? What do you mean?’

She hadn
’t intended to argue, even discuss anything with him. It was amazing to discover he still had the power to touch her emotionally in any way.


Nuns,’ he stated flatly, suddenly cold and hard-looking. ‘It’s Cassie, you know. She has quite a yen for them. Have you seen her little hidey-hole recently?’


Not for some time. I don’t go far these days.’


Hm! Well, you’d be surprised, I can tell you. No longer flowers and trees and fairies just that one woman in her cloak and cowl do they call it? – staring by the pool – that old slate pool. In every possible pose you could think of – staring at the sky, or sitting on a rock dabbling her hand by the stream – sometimes with her arms out but always with a simpering kind of holier-than-thou expression on her face. It’s not natural, that’s what I say. I tell you, Kate, she’s
imagining
things. There aren’t any nuns around here, not now It’s just an obsession she’s got, from reading so many legends, and thinking
she’s
some kind of Lorelei or something – Cassie herself.’ He stopped talking and looked suddenly downcast, grim.

Kate was nonplussed.
‘Oh dear. I’m sorry,’ she said lamely, and this, in one way, was true. It seemed incomprehensible almost that Jon of all people, who had seemed to have everything except wealth – family, looks, and sufficient glamour to stir any feminine heart, could become so downcast by a shy, quiet little thing like Cass.


I suppose we all have moods,’ she said lamely, adding probingly, ‘you – you
do
have the same interests, don’t you? You and Cass? I always thought painting was one of the things that brought you together. The art – and – and that sort of thing?’


Did you indeed!’ The sarcasm in his voice almost shocked her. ‘It rather depends on what
kind
of art, I’d say.’


Oh well, it’s none of my business,’ Kate said rather shortly. ‘I must be getting back.’ She brushed past him and heard him saying as she moved through the trees, ‘You always seem to be “getting back” – I’m surprised Ferris doesn’t put a halter about your shoulders.’

With her cheeks flaming she wheeled round quickly and said,
‘But you’re not Rick. Anyway if you did, I’d slap your face.’

Her heart was hammering as she half stumbled over some briars. He caught up
with her in one bound and placed a hand on her arm. She stood still, rigid with a conflict of emotion. ‘Oh Kate – Kate – you know I didn’t mean it,’ he said softly against her ear. ‘Be nice to me, Kate, I’m not a happy man at the moment.’

The temper died in her and, sensing it, he tweaked a curl nestling over her temple. She pushed his hand away.
‘You mustn’t, Jon—’


Why not? We’re cousins, aren’t we?’

She shook her head.
‘You know we’re not, nor ever could be. And if we were – even then – nothing could make this sort of thing right, I’m Rick’s wife.’


And I’m—’


Cassie’s husband.’


And if I wasn’t?’


It would be just the same.’

But would it?

This was the question that nagged her as she made her way back to Woodgate. Why was it so difficult sometimes to know what was right and what was wrong? Perhaps if she’d not been with child – but was it just
because
of her pregnancy that she still so easily got emotionally confused? It would have been so simple during that short interlude with Jon to have put her arms round him in an effort to comfort and ease away the bitterness – so wonderful to run her hands through his crisp blond hair – to let their tears mingle, and then ease his loneliness away. This was a sensation she’d never felt before. Was it just the motherliness in her? Or something stronger in her that just wouldn’t die?

I hope Rick
’s back, she thought, as she quickened her footsteps. I mustn’t doubt like this. I’m having his baby; I’m his wife.

But even when she lay with him that night, for a long time she remained restless and awake.

*

One of Kate
’s grumbles during the late summer and autumn months of pregnancy was boredom. As the time for the baby’s birth drew nearer Rick became more stubborn in curtailing her activities.


If only we could go to London for a weekend – you
did
promise,’ she said.


Later,’ he always said, ‘when everything’s over.’


You mean the baby. That means months ahead. It would be different if we could have moved – gone somewhere else to live, somewhere with proper grounds. It isn’t as if you couldn’t afford it. There’s nowhere to walk here except that square of lawn at the back and the rose garden. It’s such an ordinary
dated
sort of house. So
Victorian
.’


So are we. It was my father’s choice; he had it built to his own design. It’s considered an extremely fine combination of Jacobean and nineteenth-century style.’


But we are so near the road. Why couldn’t there have been a pool or something, and little copses and terraces?’


So that you could tumble down them? Anyway, I didn’t realize before you had such a keen sense of architecture or liking for ornate grounds.’


Not ornate. That’s what I think is so – well, tasteless somehow, about Woodgate –the pointed roofs and long square chimneys, a strange mixture—’ She broke off with a sigh. ‘I wish—’


I know what you’re wishing,’ he interrupted curtly. ‘For an ancient stately home similar to the Wentworths’ – somewhere traditionally grand-looking surrounded by hundreds of useless acres, inconveniently situated as far from Lynchester as possible. Well, my darling, you’d better forget it. This place suits me. Easily accessible to the city for quick business meetings and on the very edge of the forest. There’s the farm, and the stud. Good God! Why can’t you be satisfied?’

She pouted.
‘You just don’t understand.’


I understand perfectly. You have a mania for being spoiled. Well – I’m willing to oblige, up to a point. You’ve got the whole of the second floor already redecorated and furnished to your taste for the baby and the nursery quarters. You have a nanny and staff booked to take charge when the time arrives. If there’s anything else you can think up, you’ve only to say. And’ – he smiled with a hint of mischief – ‘I’ll give it my most serious consideration. Just so long as you – behave, like a good girl and young wife should.’


Oh!’ Suddenly irritated, she flounced away. ‘Don’t talk to me as though I was a child. Sometimes I hate you—’

He strode after her and caught her to him.
‘No you don’t, Mrs Ferris. And one day I’ll make you take that back. One day I’ll make you love me.’

For a moment his lips were firm and hot on hers, then he released her quickly and strode from the room.

For some inexplicable reason she wanted to cry, although she could not say why.

*

Early in November of that year, Kate surprisingly gave birth to twin girls. Rick, who’d expected and looked forward to having a son, was nevertheless delighted. Kate’s first reaction was of shock.


Two
?’ she gasped when the tiny babies were shown to her. ‘
Mine
?
Both
of them?’

When the truth had sunk in, and she
’d recovered sufficient strength to study them she could still feel nothing but astonishment. She had no rush of motherly love or desire to suckle them or have them close. All she wanted was to be quiet and sleep, away from the quaint monkey-faced little creatures who made her feel as though she was in the midst of a squawking menagerie.

She was extremely exhausted. The double birth had not been easy and she half-hoped she
’d slip into unconsciousness then wake up and find none of the last hours had happened, and that she was back in her bedroom at Beechlands, her old home.

For the next two days she was lethargic and appeared to take little interest in the babies, feeding them only when necessary, then wanting them taken back to their
frilly cots. Rick did all he could to cheer her with lavish gifts and compliments, praising her courage, and the beauty of his daughters. She took no notice.

Then, suddenly, on the third day she came alive again, and for the first time since their arrival, smiled.

The nurse had just left the room, and Rick was standing at the bedside. Kate finally touched the forehead of one baby peeping from its white shawl. ‘Aren’t they funny little things?’ she said.


They’re beautiful,’ he answered, ‘and so are you.’


Now don’t flatter. I must look a sight. I’m sorry I’ve been such a dreary thing – and I’m sorry one isn’t a boy. I know you wanted a son—’


My dear love, I wouldn’t change these two for any male Ferris in the world.’ There was a pause before he said, ‘Plenty of time ahead for—’ He broke off.

Her expression clouded.
‘For what? Go on, tell me, but don’t expect me to go through all this again.’

BOOK: The Velvet Glove
11.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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