Sara breathed, inhaling his scent. She loved the way he smelled, loved the way it surrounded her, consumed her. She loved the way his musk mingled with his sweat and hers as they made love. When he went into the bathing room, she would press her face to his pillow and simply inhale his presence.
His hands ran over her. She loved his hands. The way they skimmed over her body, teasing her nerves, controlling her body and guiding her through her pleasure.
His lips. Oh how she loved the way he kissed her, kissed her body and tasted her. There was no comparison in the world.
He hovered over her, kissing her deeply as he entered her. He thrust without hesitation, possessing every inch of her. He thrust hard, soothing the surprise by gentling his kiss. He thrust again, the headboard hitting the wall. Again, and another hit. He quickened into a steady rhythm, the knocking growing louder the harder he thrust.
Sara lifted her head, her eyes opening. The knocking continued. “Miss Collins?”
She blinked, her eyes becoming adjusted to the darkness. A shaft of light pierced through the window curtains. It was a dream. Her bones ached with incomplete lust.
She sat up. “Yes, Anna.”
The door to her room opened and the young maid stepped in. “You asked to be woken in time for tea.”
“Yes, thank you.” Sara sat for a moment, watching Anna move through the austere bedchamber. She opened the wardrobe and selected a dress to lay out. Sara stared at the small wardrobe, seeing her six dresses swallowed by the emptiness, despite the wardrobe’s small size.
You should not have to wear serviceable dresses.
The wardrobe closed with a bang, startling her. Sara’s gaze moved to the floor, the threadbare carpet showing patches of the bare floor underneath. Her toes flexed, remembering the plush carpet of Cloverfields.
Anna was speaking. “Mrs. Knightly asked me to tell you to not dally today. She is expecting a visitor today.”
A visitor? For a brief moment, Sara had the foolish thought Nathan was coming to Ridgestone. But he had no reason to. He had said they had to go on as before, as though Cloverfields had never happened.
He would not come here.
She rose from the bed and retrieved her brush, running it through her hair. “Who is expected?”
The brush stilled in her hand. It struck her that she hadn’t thought of the vicar for several days, not since she had confessed to Nathan about her dislike for governessing.
Anna gave her a conspiratorial smile. “He’s been here often while you were gone. Asking about when you were expected to return.”
Sara swallowed, her throat dry.
“George says he’s making a cake of himself, but I think it’s sweet.”
She resumed brushing.
“Miss Hurst, she’s none too happy about his visits. Mrs. Knightly, she agrees with me.”
Sara’s smile was weak when she turned to pick up her yellow dress. “This is a nice choice,” she murmured. “Thank you.” It was the dress she was wearing the first time Nathan kissed her.
It slid over her head in silence, the memories deafening.
“The yellow goes nice with your hair,” Anna continued. “You ought to look your best for when Mr. Pomeroy asks you that question.”
Oh dear heavens, that was the feeling the poets wrote of. Of a heart breaking.
But it was what she wanted, what she had hoped for months now. Marriage to the vicar would take her away from governessing. She would be able to spend her days doing what she enjoyed, visiting the sick, seeing to the church and vicarage. Eventually becoming a mother. It truly was what she wanted.
So why was she hesitating? Why was waking up at Cloverfields more appealing? Was it the luxurious bed? The way the sunlight poured through those windows? The feel of Nathan’s arms around her as he held her close? His smell—good heavens, his scent was intoxicating.
Sara forced herself back into the conversation. “I doubt the question you are alluding to will be forthcoming today.” She hoped, prayed it would not—she needed to sort things out before forced to make such a decision. A fortnight ago there would have been no issue; everything was different now.
She was different now. There was no denying it. And it was all Nathan Grant’s fault.
Anna giggled as she tugged the laces at the back of her dress closed. “Ye never know. Me mam always says to be prepared for anything, that’s why you should always wear clean petticoats.”
“Anna!” Sara admonished.
The maid dropped her head. “Apologies, Miss Collins. I forgot myself.”
Sara took a steadying breath. “Be more mindful in the future, please.”
She smoothed the dress over her waist and hips and turned toward the door. She hesitated, glancing at her small bed with its thin mattress and nondescript coverings. How much more she would prefer to sit there, taking tea with Nathan and his rare, boyish grin flashing at her than down in the drawing room with her friends. And possibly Mr. Pomeroy.
Damn you Nathan Grant.
Sara made a mental note to pray after tea.
How had this happened? Nathan held up his glass of whiskey, staring at the fire through the amber liquid.
How had his life become one a poet would be proud of? Lamentations abounded in his head. My arms ache for her, my eyes are starved for her, my lips long for her.
The whiskey disappeared and he grimaced against the bite. He had not partaken in many spirits since before the May charity fair and he found his throat needed to readjust to the potency of his preferred vice.
She wanted the Goddamn Bloody Vicar. That was abundantly clear. Even if she didn’t, she entertained no thoughts to a more established relationship with him. She had enjoyed Cloverfields, he was certain, but that was it.
What could he offer her anyway? He would be damned if he brought her to London as a politician’s wife to her to such a life, only to watch the innocence and sincerity he loved so much about her drain away. He knew instinctively that she would not be content with an idle husband—not after desiring a vicar active in his godly work—but politicking was all he knew. True, he did have Cloverfields, and now Windent Hall, but he had no experience in being a landed gentleman.
Cloverfields had once been a self-reliant estate. It was where his family’s money had come from, but there had been none to take up the reins since her death so long ago, not with his sights on the prime minister’s office. Could he manage it? It would mean relying heavily on Taggert for the foreseeable future, but it would be worth his pride to have Sara in his life, to be followed with miniature versions of her—and him of course, but mainly her.
With a disgusted snort, Nathan drained another glass of whiskey before refilling it. This is what happened when one allowed a female to crawl beneath one’s skin. Dreams of the impossible.
He was no longer needed. Or wanted. The only thing he could do was ensure that she married the Goddamn Bloody Vicar. At least one of them should be happy in their lives.
Damn you, Sara Collins.