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wished to go abroad. This morning she was tired and listless and looking for excuses.
She would send for her aunt, she decided. Aunt Letty liked town better than the country anyway, and
would be quite happy to be summoned. She was, in fact, more like a friend than an aging relative  and
therein, perhaps, lay the problem.Helenahad numerous friendly acquaintances and could turn several of
them into close friends if she wished. She did not wish. Friends, by their very nature, knew one intimately.
Friends were to be confided in. She preferred to keep her acquaintances at some distance. She certainly
did not need a friend in residence. But, paradoxically, her friendless state sometimes became unbearable.
She procrastinated, however, even about writing the letter that would bring her aunt home. She stood
listlessly at the drawing room window, gazing down on the gray, windblown street. She was standing
there when she saw him coming, walking with confident strides toward the house just as he had walked
away from it last night. He wore a greatcoat and beaver hat and Hessian boots. He looked well-groomed
enough, arrogant enough to be a duke. But that firm stride belonged to a man who had all the pride of
knowing that he had made his own way in his own world and was successful enough, rich enough,
confident enough to encroach upon hers.
She hated him. Because seeing him again, she felt a deep stabbing of longing in her womb. What she had
allowed last night  what she had initiated  was not so easily shrugged off this morning. Her hands curled
into fists at her sides as she saw him turn to approach her front door. She stepped back only just in time
to avoid being seen as he glanced upward.
So he thought he had acquired himself a mistress from the beau monde, did he? As a final feather in his
cap? She supposed that a mistress from her class might be more satisfactory even than a wife, though
perhaps he thought to acquire both. The Graingers would not have shown such interest in him last evening
if they had not heard somewhere that he was both eligible and available.
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He thought that because he had given her undeniable pleasure last night she would become his willing
slave so that she could have more. She swallowed when she remembered the pleasure. How humiliating!
The door of the drawing room opened to admit her butler. There was a card on the silver tray he carried.
She picked it up and looked at it, though it seemed an unnecessary gesture.
Mr. Edgar Downes.Edgar. She had not wanted to know. She thought of Viking warriors and medieval
knights.Edgar.
"He is waiting below?" she asked. It was too much to hope, perhaps, that he had left his card as a
courtesy and taken himself off.
"He is, my lady," her butler told her. "But I did inform him that I was not sure you were at home. Shall I
say you are not?"
It was tempting. It was what she wished him to say, what she intended to instruct him to say until she
opened her mouth and spoke. But it was not to be as simple as that, it seemed. She was on new ground.
She had done more than flirt with this man.
"Show him up," she said.
She looked down at the card in her hand as she waited. Edgar. Mr. Edgar Downes.
She felt very frightened suddenly  again. What was she doing? She had resolved both last night and this
morning never to see him again. He posed far too great a threat to the precarious equilibrium of her life.
She had spent six years building independence and self-assurance, convincing herself that they were
enough. Last night the glass house she had constructed had come smashing and tinkling down about her
head. It would take a great deal of rebuilding.
Mr. Edgar Downes could not help. Not in any way at all.
She could no longer possibly deny that she wanted him. Her body was humming with the ache of
emptiness. She wanted his weight, his mastery, the smell of him, his penetration. She wanted him to make
her forget.
But she knew  she had discovered last night if she had been in any doubt before that  that there was no
forgetting. That the more she tried to drown everything out with self-gratification, the worse she made
things for herself. She should not have told Hobbes to send him up. What could she have been thinking
of? She must leave the room before they came upstairs.
But the door opened again before she could take a single step toward it. She stood where she was and
smiled.
* * *
At each of his professions in turn Edgar had learned that there were certain unpleasant tasks that must be
performed and that there was little to be gained by trying to avoid them or put them off until a later date.
He had trained himself to do promptly and firmly what must be done.
It was a little harder to do in his personal life. On this particular morning he would have preferred to go
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anywhere and do anything rather than return to Lady Stapleton's house. But his training stood him in
good stead. It must be done, and therefore it might as well be done without delay. Though he did find [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]