“Your wife is one of the greatest beauties I have painted,” Orsini informed Logan, who had come to watch a sitting in progress.
“Mr. Orsini,” Madeline protested from where she was posing, “you mustn't embarrass me—”
“She has an unusual quality,” Orsini continued earnestly. “Sensuousness mingled with purity. A bewitching child-woman.”
Unused to such lavish compliments, Madeline fixed her gaze on the floor. “Yes,” she heard Logan say softly. “That's exactly what I see in her.”
When Madeline was able, she visited the Capital for an afternoon, watching rehearsals and even helping with line readings. Logan didn't seem to mind her presence. In fact, he readily admitted that he liked knowing she was within his reach. “It saves me from having to imagine what trouble you might be getting into elsewhere,” he told her dryly.
Madeline enjoyed spending time with the theater company, who were not offended by the sight of an expectant woman. Accustomed as they all were to pregnant actresses who continued performing on stage until their sixth or seventh month, the employees of the Capital treated Madeline with a relaxed attitude that made her feel accepted and comfortable.
Best of all were the evenings when she and Logan would relax together after supper. They spent hours reading and talking until Logan finally carried her to bed. It seemed that the fragile bond between them was growing stronger. Madeline began to think that she was slowly winning the battle, regaining Logan's trust…until the day that her illusions of happiness seemed to matter.
Sunday morning proceeded in the usual fashion, with a lavish breakfast and coffee, followed by Madeline's solitary attendance at church and then a few hours spent with Logan in the private family parlor. Logan pored over a play folio, making notes and corrections, while Madeline warmed herself near the tiled stove and did needlework.
Glancing at her husband's dark head, Madeline was unable to resist going to him. She dropped the bit of embroidery to the floor and stood behind his chair, her hands resting on his broad shoulders. “I despise needlework,” she said, bending over to nuzzle the warm space behind his ear.
“Then don't do it,” Logan replied, turning a page of the folio.
“I have no choice. All respectable married women do needlework.”
“Who wants you to behave respectably?” he asked absently, trying to focus on his work. “Don't read over my shoulder, sweet. I can't concentrate.”
Undeterred, she slid her arms around his chest. “You shouldn't work on Sunday. It's a sin.” She pressed two or three soft kisses where the column of his throat met his hard jaw, and felt the sudden throb of his pulse against her lips.
“I'm about to commit a worse one,” Logan replied, dropping the folio and twisting in the chair to snatch her into his arms. Madeline shrieked with laughter as he pulled her into his lap. His hands roamed intimately over her body. “What do you consider an appropriate activity for Sunday, madam?…This?…Or perhaps this… ”
Their play was interrupted by a knock at the door. Madeline struggled from Logan's lap, pulling hastily at her skirts and retreating to the pool of heat near the tiled stove. A footman entered the room and brought a note on a silver tray to Logan. Grinning at Madeline's attempt to appear composed, Logan took the note and dismissed the servant.
“Who is it from?” Madeline asked, returning to Logan as he broke the seal.
“Apparently an acquaintance I met through Lord Drake.” Frowning, Logan read aloud, “…Iam distressed to relay some news concerning our friend Lord, Drake. Knowing of your close friendship with him, I felt certain you would wish to be informed at once…” His voice faded, and his gaze continued to move rapidly across the page.
Madeline stared at him while he finished reading silently and sat like a statue. “Logan?” she asked tentatively. He didn't seem to hear her. Reaching for the half-crumpled note in his hand, she pried it away. A soft, pitying exclamation escaped her lips as she read the letter. It seemed that Andrew, Lord Drake, had attended a water-party on the Thames the previous night.
Sometime during the revelry, Lord Drake had fallen overboard, but no one had noticed until early morning. Although the private yacht had been thoroughly searched, there had been no sign of him. The Thames would be dragged, but often in such drowning cases the body wasn't discovered for days.
Gently Madeline touched her husband's stiff shoulder. “Was—is—he a strong swimmer? Perhaps he managed to reach shore—”
“No, he couldn't swim well,” Logan said, his voice hoarse. “He was probably too damned drunk to even try.”
Her hand settled on the nape of his neck. “Logan, I'm sorry—”
He jerked away from her, his breath hissing between his teeth. “Don't.” A visible tremor ran along his back. “I want to be alone.”
Every impulse in her body prompted her to stay, to comfort him, but Logan didn't want her. He was shutting her out of his grief. It was the worst hell imaginable to love someone who didn't want it. If he did have feelings for her, he fought them at every turn.'madeline stared at his dark head and couldn't stop herself from touching his hair. “Logan, what can I do?” she whispered.
Madeline's hand fell away, and she left the room without looking back.
For the rest of that day, and most of the next, Logan closed himself in his room and drank. The only time he spoke to Madeline was to tell her to notify the Capital that he wouldn't be coming to work. His understudy would take his place in the performance the following evening.
“When will you return?” Madeline asked, staring into his set face and liquor-glazed eyes. She was met with a stony silence in reply, and he shut himself away in his room once more. He didn't want her company, nor anyone else's. In spite of Madeline's pleas and the trays of food she sent upstairs, he refused to eat.
Worriedly Madeline asked Mrs. Beecham if Logan had ever behaved like this before, and the housekeeper hesitated before replying. “Only when you left him, Mrs. Scott.”
Madeline colored with guilt and remorse. “How long did it last?”
“It took one week for him to drink himself insensible, and another before he would begin to eat properly again.” Mrs. Beecham shook her head in sincere puzzlement. “That I could understand, as we all knew how he felt about you…but this…I wouldn't have guessed that he cared so much about Lord Drake. I don't like to speak ill of the dead, but the man was a ne'er-do-well, may he rest in peace.”
“It must be because they grew up together. For some reason Logan felt responsible for him.”
The housekeeper shrugged. “Whatever the cause, the master has taken his passing very hard.” Her sympathetic gaze touched on Madeline's strained face. “He'll put himself to rights eventually. Don't distress yourself, Mrs. Scott. It's not good for a woman in your condition to worry.”
That, of course, was easier said than done. How could she not worry when her husband seemed determined to drink himself to death? Late in the evening of the second day, Madeline gathered her nerve and went to his door, turning the heavy brass knob and discovering that it was locked. “Logan?” she asked, knocking quietly. As she had expected, there was no reply. She knocked a little harder and heard a muffled snarl from within.
“Stop scratching at the damn door and leave me in peace.” His voice was filled with ugly undertones that raised the hairs on the back of her neck.
“Unlock it, please,” Madeline said, trying to sound composed, “or I'll get a key from Mrs. Beecham.”
“Then I'll wring your neck like a Christmas goose,” he returned, sounding as if he would relish the process.
“I'm going to wait here until I see you. I'll stand here all night if necessary.” When there was no reply, she added in a moment of inspiration, “And if something happens to the baby, let it be on your conscience!”
Madeline braced herself as she heard his heavy footsteps. All of a sudden the door was unlocked, and she was snatched into the room with a violent jerk.
“There's nothing left of my conscience,” Logan said, slamming the door, closing her inside the shadowed bedroom with him. He loomed over her, huge and dark, his hair rumpled, his breath rank with liquor. He wore a pair of astonishingly wrinkled trousers; his feet were bare, and his muscular chest and shoulders, naked. Madeline couldn't help shrinking back, alarmed by his appearance. He seemed capable of almost anything. His mouth twisted with a sneer and there was a wild, desperate gleam in his bloodshot eyes.
“You want to play the dutiful wife,” Logan said thickly, “and pat my shoulder while whispering platitudes in my ear. Well, I don't want comfort from you. I don't need it. All I need is this.” His hand caught in her bodice, his fingers delving into the hollow of her cleavage, and he pulled her hard against him. His hot mouth, surrounded by wiry bristle, scoured the tender skin of her throat.
Madeline sensed that he expected her to protest his crude fondling, but she slid her arms around his neck and relaxed against him. The gentle yielding seemed to be Logan's undoing. “Damn you,” he groaned. “Don't you have the sense to be afraid of me?”
“No,” she said, her face pressed against his hot, smooth shoulder.
Abruptly he let go of her, breathing in unsteady gulps.
“Logan,” she said softly, “you're behaving as if you're somehow to blame for your friend's death. I don't understand why.”
“You don't need to.”
“I do, when you seem bent on destroying yourself. There are many people who need you…and I happen to be one of them.”
His anger seemed to drain away, and he suddenly appeared weary and full of self-hatred. “Andrew needed me,” he muttered. “I failed him.”
Her gaze searched his ravaged face. “Is that what this is about?”
“Partly.” Logan picked up a half-empty bottle of brandy and sat on the edge of the unmade bed. There were liquor stains on the sheets and the Aubusson carpet, evidence of the last thirty-six hours of drinking. He raised the bottle to his lips, but before he could take a swallow, Madeline approached and took it from him. He made an unsteady swipe for the bottle and braced himself to keep from toppling over.
Madeline set the brandy aside and stood before him. “Tell me,” she said, aching to touch him. “Please.”
Looking like an exhausted child, he closed his eyes and hung his dark head between his shoulders. He choked out a few names…Lord Drake…the Earl of Rochester…Mrs. Florence…and then, in a halting stream of words, an incredible story emerged.
Madeline stood unmoving as she tried to understand what he was telling her. Logan said that he was the illegitimate child of Rochester and Mrs. Florence's daughter…that Andrew had been his half brother. She listened in amazement while he unburdened himself with the bitter honesty of a condemned man. It was clear that his grief and love for Andrew were mixed with devastating guilt.
“Why didn't you tell me before?” Madeline finally asked, when he had fallen silent.
“No need…you were better off not knowing. So was Andrew.”
“But you wanted to tell him, didn't you?” she murmured, daring to reach out to him, smoothing his disheveled hair. “You regret not having said anything when you had the chance.”
Logan's head dropped to her chest, and he rested his forehead against the fragrant softness of her breasts. “I'm not sure. I…Christ. It's too late now.” Sighing, he blotted his eyes against her velvet-covered bodice. “I should have done more for him.”
“You did as much as you could. You paid his debts, and you never turned him away. You even forgave him for taking Olivia from you.”
“I should have thanked him for that,” he said hoarsely. “Olivia was a deceitful bitch.”
Madeline winced inwardly, reflecting that her own behavior hadn't been much better than Olivia's. “Will you go to Rochester?” she asked, and she felt him stiffen.
“I wouldn't trust myself to keep from killing him. More than anyone, Rochester is responsible for Andrew's death. For making his life such hell that Andrew's only escape was inside a bottle.” A harsh laugh escaped him. “The cockneys have a word for a drunkard. They call him a ‘bloat.’ The same thing they call a drowned body. Poor Andrew—it suits him either way, doesn't it?”
Ignoring the macabre observation, Madeline continued to caress his dark head. “Come to my bed, and sleep,” she said after a moment. “Let the servants clean this room and air it out.”
Logan didn't respond for a long moment. Madeline knew that he was contemplating whether or not to go back to his brandy. “You don't want me in your bed,” he muttered. “I'm drunk, and God knows I need a bath.”
Madeline smiled faintly. “You're welcome there in any condition.” Her fingertips trailed down his bare, hard arm until she took his lax hand. “Come,” she whispered. “Please.”
She thought Logan would refuse. To her surprise, he stood and followed her from the room. The small victory eased some of her worry, but she was far from relieved. She was just beginning to understand the burden Logan had been carrying. No wonder he was suffering over Lord Drake's death. How utterly betrayed he must have felt, to have learned that the wealthy boy he had grown up with had actually been his brother. Neither of them had ever had a real home or a loving family…neither of them had ever known happiness.
Her hand slipped to her stomach, as if to protect the tiny life inside. Surely Logan would be able to love an innocent child. If he wouldn't accept her heart…at least she could give him that.
Logan slept heavily, occasionally twitching or murmuring in the midst of a dream. Each time he began to stir, Madeline soothed him back to sleep, guarding him through the night. In the morning, she tiptoed from the room and made certain that no one would disturb his continuing slumber. She bathed and donned a dark blue morning gown trimmed with white lace. After breakfasting alone, she spent an hour or two at her desk answering correspondence.
“Pardon, Mrs. Scott…” The voice of the butler intruded on her thoughts. He brought a calling card on a small silver tray. “A personal call from the Earl of Rochester. When I informed him that Mr. Scott is not ‘at home’ the earl asked if you would receive him, in spite of the unusual hour.”
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com