The Flighty Fiancee(9)

By: Emma Shortt

Lord Rockwell completed a circuit of the room, India still held tightly in his grasp and she was confronted once again with the imposing figure of her fiancé. How attractive he was, damn him. But then she wasn’t the only one who thought so was she? Her mind skipped back to the first weeks of the season at Lady Mardale’s ball and the old jealousy and anger filled her again. She tightened her hold on Lord Rockwell and saw a flash of surprise on his face. No matter though, he’d do nothing but dance with her, hadn’t her Papa said as much—all thanks to Bartholomew.

Bartholomew, who thought nothing of doing exactly as he pleased. Lady Mardale’s ball had shown her that. She’d been in the retiring room, fixing a flounce or something of the sort, she forgot now exactly what. She could remember though, straightening from her seated position, pleased to have fixed whatever was wrong, only to be assailed with the screeching tones of Mrs. Pennycrew, a widow of shady repute. Not wanting to have to converse with the woman India had stayed behind her screen and waited. How she wished she hadn’t.

“I see Bartholomew has been snared at last,” Mrs. Pennycrew had said. “I hadn’t thought to see that for some years.”

“Yes it seems so.”

Was that Lady Hammersmith? India leaned a little closer to the screen to fix the voice in her mind.

“I must say I’m surprised that he has chosen her.”

A tinkling laugh from the unknown lady who may or may not have been Hammersmith. “It does indeed baffle one’s mind. That brown skin of hers and those God awful freckles. Unconventional, just like her Papa.”

Anger, swift and shocking hit India. She knew some of the other ladies disapproved of her exotic looks and manner but up until now it hadn’t bothered her. She had her Papa and she had Bartholomew, what more did she need?

“Perhaps Bartholomew likes unconventional?”

“What Bartholomew likes is a woman who knows how to please him. I can’t see that chit being able to do so.”

Outrage followed the anger. India was not a sheltered miss and she knew exactly what they meant by ‘please’.

“And you’d know all about pleasing him?” Mrs. Pennycrew asked and India almost gasped at the tone in the older woman’s voice. Both teasing and sly it was oddly…vulgar, and for her to be talking about India’s fiancé, the man she was falling for every single day. India clenched her fists intent on pulling the screen aside and confronting the other women….

“Bartholomew and I have enjoyed time together, both in bed and out. He is a man well able to please a woman and he demands equal satisfaction.”

India halted.

“The things that man can do,” the woman continued, a satisfied sort of sigh in her tone. “One can only hope his marriage does not put a stop to it. I would certainly welcome him back in my bed.”

India had slumped back down on her chair, her head buzzing. The suggestion that Bartholomew would continue to ‘please’ others after they married was abhorrent to her. She rejected the very idea. Why would he when he could do those things with her?

Only he hasn’t, her mind whispered. He’s never tried to please you of for you to please him. And how she wanted him to. How she ached to feel his fingers on her constantly stiff nipples, to kiss his way across her neck and slip his fingers into her drawers….

Why doesn’t he want me to do those things with him?

The question plagued her from that moment. She tried to show him more affection, to illicit a response from him. Her dresses became tighter, lower around the bosom. She flirted with him in every way she could possibly think of. All for naught. Bartholomew showed no desire her and India realized the truth of it all.

The marriage of convenience.

And with that came something India had not suspected. Was it heartbreak? Disappointment? Or just plain anger? She didn’t know. But by the time the season reached full swing India had convinced herself she felt nothing for the man she was to marry. The conviction was shaky certainly, she could admit that, but she held onto it as hard as she possibly could. And if the dreams and the fantasies refused to fade completely, well that was to be expected wasn’t it?

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