I was drinking a bit (maybe more than a bit) of wine while I wrote this so I think it may be a bit over the top and just plain stink but I’m going to remember that this is a FIRST DRAFT and will worry about the “stink-age” factor with the second draft. My goal here is to finish the story.
Ensconced in a little parlor at the back of the house with a pot of tea between them and a bottle of brandy to lace it with, Glorianna and Sylvie sat in deep leather chairs flanking the fire. It’s crackling warmth creating a cozy safe haven for the two women.
Glorrianna and Sylvie had enjoyed decorated this solitary room with masculinity in mind. Although they both adored the rest of the house, decorated to suite their feminine desires, this room alone they had furnished with the comfort of a male domain. One that they would have, in their past marriages, not been welcome in. Hence the appeal in creating the space. It was dark paneled and book cases flanked either wall beside the fireplace with it’s mahogany mantel. There was a massive bulky desk in the corner and the windows were covered in deep burgundy brocade drapes. It should have smelled of cigars but as neither women smoked a more feminine scent prevailed. That could not be avoided as it was the domain of two women. But the leather and rich wood and books worked to create the atmosphere they had desired. Only on close examination would one notice that most of the books contained on the shelves were those that would appeal mostly to women. Both Glorianna and Sylvie were surprised by the comfort they found here. It was a favorite spot for them to talk over the day each evening.
Sylvie handed Glorianna a delicate china cup liberally laced with fortifying liqueur. “Now dearest, lets discuss this development.” Sylvie was the one person who knew all of Glorianna’s secrets. Her dreams, her past and her hopes for the future. The two women had always been in tune and it had been quite natural with the death of Henry to set up residence in town together.
“Oh Sylvie,” Glorianna said with a little hiccup of tightly held back tears, “I don’t want to talk about him!”
“Well that was all fine and good when ‘that man who must not be named’ was a specter of your past. But darling he is not in the past anymore when he is now quite clearly in the present.” Sylvie said gently.
“He broke my heart,” Glorrianna said on a tenuous whisper.
“I know sweetheart. The scoundrel has a lot to answer for.” Sylvie said bitterly. “I’ve a notion to hunt him down and demand satisfaction. If only people still dueled!”
“Silly,” Glorriana said with a half harted smile, tears pooling, “MEN dueled not women but I thank you for your ferocity.”
“In any case,” Sylvie said, “what do you think has brought him to London now? He’s been safely away in the wilds of Cornwall all this time, why do you think he is here now?”
“I don’t know,” Glorianna replied bitterly, “perhaps his wife…” she said the word wife with such vehemence, “needed new gowns or some such.” She took a fortifying sip of her laced tea, “She’s been here before with her mother you know.”
“No dearest I didn’t know. How did you?” Sylvie asked with an arched brow.
“She likes Madam Veroux’s designs as you know I do as well. I had visited Madam a few years ago and overheard her mentioned by one of the seamstresses. She had apparently just visited with her mother.”
Sylvie poured more brandy into her almost empty tea cup completely omitting the tea. “Oh dear. What did you hear”
“Only that she was beautiful and charming and her figure was perfect for Madam Veroux’s latest designs.” Glorianna sipped again almost choking on the virtually pure alcohol in her cup. “I wanted to die Sylvie. Right then and there just curl up in a ball on the floor of the dressing room and die it hurt so much.”
“Do you think that was her at the meeting?” Sylvie asked.
“It had to be,” Glorianna replied woefully. “did you see that woman? So elegant, slender and tall! She looked perfect with him.” Tears now escaped her eyes, “Oh Sylvie, if he is back in town for good how am I ever going to go out knowing that any minute I might run into them? I couldn’t stand it,” She hiccuped trying to force back the tears, “just seeing him across that huge room it was like time rushed back and I wanted to fling myself into his arms. Then I had to remember that they were not arms that would welcome me. Oh why have I never been able to forget him? I hate him for that!
Sylvie made a sympathetic sound and touched Gloriannas hand encouraging her silently to continue.
“How can I hate him and still so absolutely long for him?” Glorianna no longer able to hold back her tears sobbed openly, “I have tried so hard to forget, tried so hard to move on. Poor Henry was the result of those first attempts. But even know I still dream about him Sylvie.Every night I still feel his touch and experience his kisses” She turned a desperate look to her friend, “and then I wake up and realize it’s just a dream and cry myself back to sleep.”
“You loved him desperately,” Sylvie said softly coming around her chair to enclose Glorianna in a light hug.
“I love him and I hate him for loving him. I thought over the years I had made some progress in pushing him to the background but tonight has surely proven what a failure I’ve been. One glimpse and it’s as if eighteen years hasn’t passed.”
“It was a shocking surprise honey.” Sylvie said gently rocking her.
“What am I going to do?” Glorianna whispered.
“Well for one,” Sylvie said coming around to sit again, “you are going to be prepared. Tonight was an unfair shock. One that will not sneak up on you again.” Sylvie took a sip of her now tepid tea. She made a face and poured more brandy into her own cup. “You will go on with your life as planned and put that loathsome man out of your thoughts.”
“Remind me what the plan was Sylvie?” Glorianna questioned in a defeated voice.
“Oh honey,” Sylvie said in a comforting voice,”to find a lover, one who will sweep you off your feet and make you forget to ‘that man who must not be named’. Now tell me about who you met tonight.”
Their conversation continued in a bout of reluctant giggles as Glorianna described her meeting of the young dashing doctor and the rougesh inspector. She forcefully pushed him away. He did not belong in her present life and he would not intrude upon it she swore to herself.
Glorianna was happy that she was able to put Sylvie at ease with her talk of the men she had met tonight but as she lay in bed alone, curled up protectively around her pillow she could not help but think, “Vaughn, oh Vaughn I still love you so,” and drifted off to sleep, her pillow damp with tears.
She was married. What could he have expected Lord Vaughn DeWinn thought. That she’d waited for him? He thought with a self depreciating chuckle, swigging a long swallow of whiskey. She was lovely who wouldn’t have swept her up? He had abandoned her hadn’t he? It wasn’t the first or the millionth time he’d punished himself for up and leaving her without a word.
He had been young, barley twenty and a coward. He had been an ass he reminded himself broodingly as he paced his study. He had been forced by his impoverished family to uphold the contract they’d made with Mr. Howard his fathers business partner. He had given in too easily he thought. Once the hated marriage had taken place he had purposely exiled himself and his bride at the family estate in Cornwall.
She had hated Cornwall and she had hated him. Hated his big body and big hands. She had said their was nothing elegant or handsome about him and had loathed him on site. But she had followed along with the contract forced as he had been. They had both been so incredibly unhappy. They both had been so young but he had also been so stupidly, weakly incapable of standing up to his family. It was his fault that they were both so unhappy he was sure.
If he had been lordly and elegant. If he had been able to love her his wife might have been happy but he could not, he had already given his heart and he wasn’t likely to gain it back. Becoming a recluse in Cornwall was the one thing that he could do that his or her family had no say over. And there he had stayed. Cut off from the world, cut off from her. A self protection of sorts.
His wife had quickly come to hate him not only for his looks but for his self imposed exile during their marriage. She had visited her parents and friends frequently and went to London often but he had always refused to go. He had done his duty. He had broken his own heart. He had sired an heir on his unwanted wife, what more could they demand of him?
And then she had died. His unwanted wife had died a ridiculous death. She had caught a cold which turned into pneumonia and she had passed. After years of strife and yearning all he could think was that he was free. He should feel guilty but he didn’t. He mourned not for her death but for the years that had been wasted for him for the life that he had dreamed of living, a life with her. The day after his wife’s funeral he had left Cornwall. To start over,to start his life in London.
God seeing her tonight was not just a shock but an visceral seizing of his heart. He knew she lived here for most of the year and had thought that they might run into each other now that he was back in town. He hadn’t decided yet if he’d try to find her but he had certainly not expected to come across her so soon in an environment such as the Royal Society of Photography. He had been totally unprepared.
She was beautiful he thought. A tiny goddess with silver blond locks so thick and curling he itched then and there to cross the room and sink his fingers into them. He could remember as if it were yesterday and not the lifetime of eighteen years ago that he had had the privilege to wind his hands through those tresses, holding her sweet face immobile for his kisses.
In the second that he had spotted her across the room he had had a vision, a recollection of tracing her dark winged brow with his fingers. Those dark brows and lashes so in contrast to the rest of her light coloring. They surrounded her miraculous blue eyes. Again he thought the contrast should be wrong but instead made her face arresting. Her tiny figure her remembered well holding, caressing. A body so perfect but rendered in a frame so small. He remembered towering over her, wanting to protect her, always afraid of hurting her with his huge ungainly hands and bulky body. He had always been so gentle with her. He remembered his desperate wanting of her but so fearful of breaking her.
As a girl of eighteen she had been breathtaking, Vaughn thought, as a woman in her thirties she was stunning. And then she had run away with her friend. Their eyes had met for one fleeting moment and then she had run taking all of the light , warmth and air with her.
Vaughn had felt like a breakable shell in that moment. She hated him. She hadn’t forgotten him but it was with hate she remembered not love.
Vaughn gripped his glass of Claret so strongly that the fragile glass shattered in his colossal grip. He hurled the remains into the fire and slumped into a nearby chair. He must find her, he thought, the idea of going one more day since he’d seen her would be like repeatedly ripping out his heart. He wanted to know she was happy, content, loved. He wanted selfishly to see her one more time.