Long, long ago, once upon a time…I’m not talking about the story, I’m talking about my writing of this story. My first published novel, a story close to my heart. I love the cover, the characters, the plot…I bet I can rewrite it now and make it better! Isn’t that always the case?!
“I told you I could give you up,” he said quietly, more than a hint of self-deprecation in his voice. Shaking his head, he snorted. “That I could walk away from what we’ve shared without remorse or sentiment.”
He paused. Raven held her breath. Butterflies whirled in her stomach, and she both dreaded and hoped for his next words.
Words she wanted to hear. The look in his eyes. What she wanted directed at her once more.
Raven rose from her seat and she stood to face Malcolm. He stood only a few feet away. Everything inside her longed to go to him, embrace him, kiss him. Never let go. Duty kept her rooted to the spot. A weight tightened her heart, intangible yet very real.
It tore her apart.
The life she could so clearly envision with Malcolm. The duty she could not leave behind.
“I’m sorry,” she heard herself say, surprised her tone remained even. She felt sick. “I revealed myself because you were in danger of discovery by that scum Beckett. You’re too good a man to be compromised by his sort. I trust you not to reveal my secret. As for,” Raven lowered her head slightly, “for sentiment . . . no. The world we live in—the world I live in—has no room for it. Things cannot go on as they have been. I’m engaged to Lord Moore. We,” she swallowed but didn’t waver, “were nothing more than a pleasurable diversion.”
Raven winced at her words. Malcolm didn’t so much as flinch. His lack of reaction made her unreasonably angry.
“Pleasurable, eh?” He straightened from the mantle, stalking closer with precise, graceful movements. Watching him warily, she dreaded what he’d say.
“Yes,” he mused, “I seem to remember the pleasure we shared. I remember you screaming my name. Panting for me. And I remember taking your virginity. Tell me,” he asked, voice smooth, eyes sardonic, “how will Lord Moore react on your wedding night when he discovers your deception?”
“Gareth will accept it,” she responded coolly. “It’s our way; the way of those you call Druids.”
Damnation. She hadn’t meant to tell him that. He looked taken aback, though only for a moment.
“I see,” Malcolm continued, composure back in place.
Raven turned away, unable to look at him. She walked to one of the side windows and opened the shutter. A faint breeze wafted gently on her face. The scent of grass and wildflowers floated over her. The sound of birds and their horses, just out of sight, were soft through the ache filling her.
She did all she could to maintain her indifferent demeanor. It crumbled around her in broken bits of memory and longing.
“With Lucien’s departure, there’s little reason for me to stay on.” Malcolm maintained a polite tone but she heard a note of bitterness. “I’ll depart for my own estate in the morning. Beckett’s items are on the table. You must tread carefully with him, Miss Drake. Murderers don’t stop.”
His shoes scuffed the floor as they moved away. No floorboards squeaked, and the air lay undisturbed. Some part of her was impressed with that, and wondered how she’d never noticed it before.
“You may inform Lucien and Lady Isadore . . . and Moore that my vote will be in favor of Granville’s reform.”
The door creaked as it opened, too long between oilings. It’d been over a week since they’d last met here. She supposed he hadn’t bothered and why should he? She’d broken it off, he’d agreed. End of it. Until today.
I’m a hypocrite.
“Good day, Miss Drake.”
The door closed with a faint click of its latch.
Raven continued to stare out the window, eyes blurred from tears. The sun slowly retreated from the sky, highlighting the few clouds she could see through the wood in scarlets and pinks. She knew the moon rose in a faint outline to the east, waiting to take dominion over the night.
Her hand shook, and though reluctant to tear her gaze from the tree line, she stared at it, a puzzle to figure out. A tear escaped her control, another, and another. She made no sound. Raising a hand to touch the wetness on her face, she saw it shook. She’d done the right thing, the only thing she could do.
Let him go.
Let him go.
Her heart wrenched, and her shaking hands gripped the windowsill. Only her grip held her up.
I let him go! Oh no, no.
She loved him.
Had done so for a long time despite the impossibility of them. Impossible. Foolish to allow the affair to start. She was an idiot love-struck girl endangering her people, herself. Breathing heavy, a sharp pain tore through her chest.
“Malcolm.” Her voice trembled, the barest of whispers. “I’m sorry . . . I do love you so.”
About Isabel: I write romance. I read romance. I talk, tweet, blog, and email romance. I don’t sleep romance because even my brain needs to shut off now and then. If you suffer from this affliction, join in the discussion!