A new dawn crept through the partially opened drapes of William’s room, touching and stirring him from the depths of a dream he didn’t want to remember. Last night’s events had kept his mind awake into the wee hours of the morning. Despite his sluggish body, he pulled himself from his exhausted state and climbed out of bed. The refreshingly cool air stroked his skin, awakening him even more. With half-closed eyes he reached for his robe, wrapping the silk garment around his body before ringing for his manservant. A cool bath would bring him alert to the new day.
His servant carried up buckets of water and filled the copper tub. Once relaxed in the liquid comfort, William’s foggy memory of the previous evening claim
Mercedes placed a shaky hand over the erratic beat of her heart. Once the door slammed, announcing William’s departure, she breathed a sigh of relief. Thankfully, she hadn’t humiliated herself in front of him by crying. He thinks I’m Kat, she tried to reason, but her trembling body would not listen to rationale. Changing his mind was most important. If he couldn’t trust her, he wouldn’t allow her into his life so she could spy on him.A nudge of guilt stemmed in her heart for the deception, yet when she remembered the way Kat had pleaded…begged for Mercedes to make William pay for ruining her twin’s life, Mercedes hardened her heart once more. Kat had been a loving woman at one time unti
It had been several hours since the sun had lowered in the western horizon. William rubbed his eyes, trying to decide what time it was. His guess; three in the morning. Maybe four. He climbed out of bed after tossing and turning for some time and walked to the window. A sheath of black cloaked the land, lightning flashed in the distance, followed by a low rumble of thunder. Storms had always soothed him, and he was content to sit and watch.He parted the curtain just enough to witness the slashes of light in the sky and made himself comfortable in a heavily cushioned chair. The storm advanced in slow degrees, rumbling and stamping its way across the peaceful landscape. Several times his body relaxed, but the persistent roar of thunder jol
Mercedes rode the horse hard toward the next town, not stopping to give the animal a breath or even take a rest herself. The cool breeze from last night’s storm stung her cheeks, dried her lips, and unraveled the ringlets in her hair. She didn’t care. This was her only form of release. She couldn’t let William see how his nearness affected her. For that matter, she couldn’t let anyone see.When she pictured William’s wounded face, guilt gnawed at her conscience. It seemed he’d been the person truly wronged. But he wasn’t the one who had gone mad and died, either. She must remember her sister above all else.
Mercedes hesitated to leave her bath of luxury that evening, but the cold water threatened to turn her skin to prunes. Towel drying herself, the lilac-scented soap assailed her senses, reminding her of home. Right after her father’s death, she’d boarded up his cottage on the outskirts of Bristol, and prayed all would be fine when she returned. She missed the neighboring cottages and yearned for the closeness she had with the families living nearby—families she considered part of her life.She pushed away the disheartening thoughts and changed into an evening dress. Although no guests had been invited to the supper meal, she wanted to look her best. Of course, the selection of dresses in her sister’s closet didn&rsq
Angry voices woke Mercedes from a most pleasurable dream. As her mind slowly came alert, she still experienced the tingling of William’s lips on hers, and his fingers across her neck. In her dream their kiss hadn’t been interrupted, and he’d caressed her neck, her shoulders, and down her bosom. In her dream, his lips had followed the trail of his hands. Now awake, she scolded herself for becoming so infatuated with her sister’s husband.Mercedes’ mind argued, reminding her Kat was dead. But she countered back, telling herself Kat would be turning in her grave if she knew what th
The glare from the sun hitting the window stung William’s eyes as he peeled them open. He scowled at the men occupying his bedchambers, but mainly at Captain Wilkes. “What is the meaning of this?” William demanded.The soldiers aimed their wide-eyed gaze at Mercedes, seemingly perplexed and at a loss for words. William glanced over his shoulder at his wife. He sucked in his breath. In the light, she created an alluring silhouette. Although her face was scarlet, she looked absolutely breathtaking. Raven hair wildly framed her head. Her modest white nightgown was such a contrast to her hair. She appeared as pure as newly fallen snow. How could she look that way when she was exactly opposite?
The following week Mercedes stayed home and played games with the children. She and James formed an attachment, but Lizzy proved more difficult. The adorable little four-year-old child played with them, but still refused to speak.Stepping into the role of woman of the house, Mercedes enjoyed planning the daily meals and organizing the staff, just as she’d done when she was married to Fredrick. Doing something productive took her mind off her worries. At first most of the servants seemed afraid of her, but as the days flew by, they warmed up just as James had. Mercedes dared to ask them questions about
William stared at the plate of eggs, sausage and honey-scones his servant placed in front of him. Not in the mood to eat, he couldn’t stop thinking about his wife’s actions with Brandon Kennedy last night. Gabe had overheard the conversation between Kennedy and Mercedes and had spied on them from another room to see how Kat handled Kennedy.William shook his head in confusion. What was his wife up to now? For heaven’s sake, she lied to his business partner! That in itself was out of the ordinary. William’s very charming wife would never snub Brandon, even in front of her husband, yet lately she had done it twice. Once when Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy had come for dinner, and yesterday when she thought nobody was