Truce: The Historic Neighbor from Hell, Page 28R. L. Mathewson
After several minutes she was able to sit up straight. Her stomach twisted with worry. She was late. Three weeks late to be exact. For the first week she’d thought it was the stress of her situation. It had happened before, but never for this long. Now she was sick in the mornings and sometimes during the day. She did her best to hide it, but soon someone was going to notice. Then her life would change forever.
“I’m fine,” Elizabeth mumbled to herself in the hopes that by saying it that it would somehow make it true. Her father had been putting off allowing her to visit her north estate, but no longer. He was going to let her go in a few days. He’d promised and this time she was going to hold him to his word. Until then she had to hold it together.
She walked back to the bed, hoping she could lie down for a few minutes so that her stomach would have a chance to settle down. Before she could lie down, the odor of the spilled tea hit her hard once again. She ran back in time to the pot and finished emptying her stomach. She was fine. Everything would be fine. Things would be fine, she told herself not really believing it for one second.
* * *
Robert pulled open one of the drawers on his side of the desk. He and Elizabeth had come to an unspoken understanding about sharing the library. They each had their own side of the desk and no one peeked. It was rather comfortable. She was just as neat as he was so he didn’t mind sharing the space.
He stared at the ledger in front of him without really seeing it. His body felt ripped in half. He desperately wanted to go back upstairs and crawl back in bed with Elizabeth. Four weeks and he was addicted to her. He couldn’t fall asleep in his own bed. He’d tried several times and each time he failed miserably. As if to prove his point, he would fall asleep almost immediately when his hand rested upon her hip.
This was bad. This was very bad. He needed her too much. His body yearned for her in every possible way. He enjoyed her quick wit and sharp tongue. She could be funny and he knew that she was kind. This was beyond horrible. He hated the woman. She was his enemy.
He was such an ass. This situation was intolerable. He couldn’t take it anymore. Every day he had to fight back the urge to punch the suitors that came calling. He had to sit back and watch James attempt to woo her. It killed him. Sometimes he would disappear all day and night only to come back to her like a sailor to a siren and curl up with her. He needed her more than his next breath, and he hated her for it. He hated this power she had over him. He was going to leave and soon for his own sanity.
The library door suddenly slammed shut. “Are you crazy?”
He looked up to see Elizabeth holding his pocketknife. His gaze quickly shifted to the closed door as he stood up to go open it. Being found with her in a closed room could end with a trip to the church and he wasn’t having that, not with a woman who hated him.
“Are you? What’s wrong with you shutting that door?” He made it to the front of the desk when she stormed up to him, holding up his knife.
“Guess where I found this?”
He shrugged. “I haven’t a clue,” he said as he reached for it, but before he could take it, she dropped it in her gown pocket.
“For the past three weeks I’ve been haunted by a ghost,” she announced.
Hmm, she couldn’t be talking about him, because he’d been crawling into her bed for the past four weeks. Of course she might not realize that he’d been doing it for that long. It was probably best not to correct her on the time frame, he decided.
“Oh?” he asked in a bored tone.
“Mmhmm, seems I have a ghost crawling into bed with me. Odd, isn’t it?”
“I would say so. You would think the ghost would have better options. ”
She slapped him somewhat hard on his shoulder. “Ow!”
“Good! Now explain to me why you’ve been coming to my room!”
A knock at the door was their only warning that they were about to be caught. “Hide!” he hissed.
She threw him a furious look before she scrambled to do just that since being found alone with him in a closed room was not an option. Throwing him one last glare, she quickly moved around the desk and ducked beneath it before he could stop her.
“Not there!” he hissed.
Elizabeth ignored him and crawled under the desk. With an irritated groan he sat down in the chair and moved his legs beneath the desk. This desk really was large, he mused. He was a tall man and his legs were situated comfortably beneath the desk and he could barely feel her. He knew that she was there of course. He could practically feel the rage pouring off her. She was effectively trapped now, he thought with a small grin, liking his advantage probably more than he should.
“Come in,” he said, pretending to be working.
James walked in. “I thought I’d find you here. ”
“What can I do for you? Come to learn how to run an estate?” he joked, chuckling at his brother’s horrified expression.
It always amused him that his brother, who was the heir, lived the life of a second son. He didn’t take anything seriously, had absolutely no interests in learning how to run the estate that he would one day inherit and he spent all of his time with women, cards and living with absolutely no purpose. James was living the life that Robert should be pursuing, but it just wasn’t in him. He liked running his own estate, working up a sweat and creating things with his hands. He’d never fit in with society or in his family. He didn’t act like the son of an Earl and probably never would. He liked being his own man. He just wished that it wasn’t so damn lonely sometimes.
James paled. “Good lord no! I’ll hire someone for that. ” The way James said that like he would need an estate manager soon caught Robert’s attention.
“What’s going on?” he asked cautiously.
James sat in the chair in front of the desk, throwing an ankle across his knee. “I’m getting married. ”
“Oh?” Dread filled him instantly. “Who?”
“Who do you think?”
“Just tell me. ”
“Lady Elizabeth, you dolt. Who else have I been courting for the past month?”
Elizabeth shifted and moved closer to the opening to listen. The desk was so thick that it muffled some of the sounds. She pushed between Robert’s legs and waited. He spread his legs for her automatically so that she could sit comfortably.
“Did you ask Elizabeth yet?” Robert asked. She could feel the tension in his body.
James chuckled. “No, I’ve asked her father and he approved. All that’s left is to ask the lady herself. ”
“Do you love her?” Robert asked. He had to know.
James laughed harder at that. “No! Can you imagine? I don’t even love my mistress!”
Robert had to stop himself from wincing. She was digging her nails into his legs. He reached down and gently pushed her hands off his legs quickly, hoping that James hadn’t noticed the movement.
“If she says yes, are you going quit your mistress?” he asked, more for her sake than his.
James chuckled. “Very funny. Give up Andrea? You’re crazy. I had to wait out three other men to get her. No, I’ll keep her on the side. ”
“What about Elizabeth?” Robert asked. Elizabeth was wondering that as well. Not that she was going through with it. She wasn’t. James was like a brother to her now. It would simply be too disturbing to marry him.