Weaving his way out of White’s front door, a young man stumbled a time or two as he departed the Gentleman’s Club. He reached his right hand out to steady himself and held fast to his carriage.
He’d just released a long sigh of relief when a head popped out of the carriage’s window.
Impertinently she told him - “You there. Get away from this vehicle or I shall summon the authorities.”
Stephen found himself staring into the face of a woman—a beautiful young woman. One he’d never seen before.
What the bloody hell was she doing in his carriage?
“And the young lady?” Mrs. Brown queried, her disapproval apparent.
“Miss…my wi…wife, the new Viscountess, and I shall retire to my bedchamber.”
Elizabeth stifled a squeak. Her head turned quickly to stare at him. A wide grin spread across his face as he looked at her. Why had he said something so ridiculous?
He took her arm and started to move her toward the tall, winding staircase. Elizabeth held back, unwilling to go upstairs with him, but he tightened the grip on her arm and pulled.
Not wanting to make a scene, she followed. She glanced back to see the house-keeper standing at the foot of the stairs, the woman’s eyes clearly wide with surprise over the unforeseen announcement.
As soon as they entered his bedchamber and he closed the door, she rounded on him.
“How dare you make such a ludicrous statement? Hell would freeze over before I would ever agree to become your wife. I’m trying to avoid a marriage, not jump into one!”
He laughed. “Nor do I wish to wed, but my busybody housekeeper rushed out as soon as she heard a female voice. While speaking with her, it dawned on me I had no idea who you are. You never got around to introducing yourself, and I blurted out the first explanation I thought of.”
Elizabeth blushed. “Oh, well, I…ah, my name is Lady Elizabeth MacNairy.” She turned to take in her surroundings, wondering if her uncle’s actions had finally driven her to madness. She stood in a man’s bedchamber and had no idea who he was either! Despite the situation, she didn’t fear this gentle man. She turned back to face him and drew in a breath when she saw him removing his waistcoat. “And you?”
“Webber. Stephen Webber.” He moved to sit on the bed and began removing his boots. “Viscount Linden at your service, Miss MacNairy.”
He motioned to a chair beside a small table with a decanter on it. “Please, have a seat.”
Elizabeth sat, glad for the distance between them. Though she felt an instinctive trust in the Viscount, the realities of the situation were just beginning to sink in. “You said you could help me. Pray, tell me how?”
His boot thumped to the floor before he turned to her. “Later this morn, we’ll head to the bank to withdraw and protect your funds. For now, I am too tired to talk anymore. I need to sleep.”
“I know there is not much left of the night, but you mean to have me sit in this chair whilst you sleep?”
“Rubbish. You shall sleep with me.”
Elizabeth jumped to her feet. “I shall do no such thing! You said I would be safe. I should have known you would—”
“On the far side of the bed.” He swept his hand toward it. “It’s quite large, a bloody parade ground, actually. Place the pillows between us if you do not trust me. And unless you have other clothes hidden somewhere on your person, I suggest you remove your dress and sleep in your chemise. It would not do to appear at the bank in wrinkled clothes.”
Grumbling, he slipped into bed and pulled the covers over him. “It has been a long time since I’ve slept with any clothes on. Come to bed, woman. I am far too tired to ravish you.”
What a lie that was! Stephen closed his eyes, pretending to be fast asleep.
He heard the rustle of her clothes as she removed her dress. His manhood immediately hardened. The bed moved under her weight as she edged under the sheet, remaining near the rim of the bed. Bedamned! Why was he putting himself through this torment? All he had to do was roll over and slake his needs with her body. Her reputation had been ruined the minute she entered his townhouse, though he’d been too intent on playing the knight in shining armour to consider the repercussions. Pushing aside his conscience, his mind conjured images of creamy white skin and his hands filled with her full breasts.
Gads, he had to stop these thoughts. He’d promised her she’d be safe, and one thing he never did was go back on his word.
But it was going to be a long night.