But it was precisely Morgan's weaknesses that interested Vivien. He appeared to have so few of them. He was a private, seemingly invulnerable man who did not like to talk about his past. Vivien couldn't help wondering what secrets and memories were contained in his carefully guarded heart. One thing was certain...Morgan would never trusther in that way.
Vivien was well aware of Morgan's contempt for the life she had led before her "accident." It was obvious that he did not like or approve of the woman she had been, and she could hardly blame him, as she felt exactly the same. Unfortunately, in the course of his investigation, Morgan seemed to be uncovering more unsavory facts about her. He had admitted that he had been questioning the people who knew her. It appeared that whatever they had told him had been neither especially helpful nor particularly pleasant.
Frowning, Vivien tried to push the depressing thoughts to the back of her mind. She held on to the back of a nearby chair to preserve her balance as Mary fastened the velvet gown. Her ankle had healed rapidly, until it was almost as good as new, except for an ache that occurred when she stood on it for too long.
"There," Mrs. Buttons said in satisfaction, standing back to view Vivien with a smile. "The gown is lovely, and the color couldn't be more perfect." Carefully Vivien made her way to the dressing table mirror, which afforded a three-quarters view. To her surprise, the housekeeper was right. The deep black-cherry velvet made her skin look like porcelain, and brought out the ruby fire of her hair. Black silk braiding trimmed the modestly high neckline. More lengths of silk braiding defined the vertical slash that went from neck to collarbone, affording a subtle glimpse of white skin. No other adornment marred the simple lines of the gown, except for the puffs of black silk that edged the hem of the flowing skirt. It was an elegant garment, suitable for any lady of quality. Vivien was relieved to discover that she owned some clothes that did not proclaim "courtesan" to everyone who saw her.
"Thank goodness," she murmured, giving Mary and Mrs. Buttons a self-deprecating smile. "I feel nearly respectable."
"If you please, Miss Duvall," Mary said, "I should like to brush out your hair and pin it up proper. You'll look every inch the fine lady then--and won't Mr. Morgan be pleased to see you turned out so well!"
"Thank you, Mary." Vivien made her way to the dressing table, pausing to pick up the length of damp toweling discarded from her bath.
"No, no," the maid scolded, rushing forward at the same time that Mrs. Buttons did. "I've told you, Miss Duvall, you're not to help me with such things!"
Vivien surrendered the towel with a sheepish smile. "I can pick up the linens just as easily as you can."
"But it's not your place," Mary said, ushering her toward the dressing-table chair.
Mrs. Buttons stood close to Vivien, meeting her gaze in the mirror. The housekeeper smiled pleasantly, but her eyes were speculative. "I don't believe you're accustomed to being waited on," she remarked.
Vivien sighed. "I don't remember what I'm accustomed to."
"A lady with servants would never think to straighten a room or pour her own bath, even if she forgot every blessed fact in her head."
"But I know I had servants." Vivien picked up a stray hairpin from the little box Mary had brought, and traced the crimped edge. "At least, I did according to Mr. Morgan. I was a spoiled creature who did nothing except..." She stopped and frowned in confusion.
Mrs. Buttons watched as Mary brushed out the shining length of Vivien's rich red hair. "You certainly don't behave like a 'spoiled creature,'" the housekeeper said. "And in my opinion some things about you would not change no matter what has happened to your memory." She shrugged philosophically and smiled. "But then, I'm hardly a doctor. And I can scarcely keep order of what's in my own head, much less divine what's in someone else's."
Mary dressed Vivien's hair in a simple style, pinning a braided knot atop her head and allowing a few sunset wisps to curl around her neck and ears. Enjoying the feeling of being properly clothed and turned out, Vivien decided she would like to visit some other part of the house. "It would be a treat just to sit for a while in a room different from this one," she said. "Is there a small parlor or perhaps even a library downstairs? Does Mr. Morgan have a few books I might be able to look at?"
For some reason the question caused the housekeeper and the maid to exchange a smile. "Just a few," Mrs. Buttons replied. "I'll show you to the library, Miss Duvall. But you must take care not to injure your ankle again, and you mustn't tire yourself."
Eagerly Vivien took the woman's arm, and they made their way downstairs step by careful step. The town house was exceptionally handsome, filled with dark panels of mahogany, thick English carpets underfoot, clean-lined Sheraton furniture, and fireplaces fitted with generous slabs of marble. As they approached the library, the air was rich with the smells of beeswax, leather, and vellum. Sniffing appreciatively, Vivien entered the room. She wandered to the center and turned a slow circle, her eyes wide with wonder.
"One of the largest rooms in the house," Mrs. Buttons said proudly. "Mr. Morgan spared no expense in housing his precious books in first-rate style."
Vivien stared reverently at the towering glass-fronted bookcases, the map cabinets embossed with gold letters, the marble busts positioned at each corner of the room. Her gaze fell to the tables loaded with books, many of them left open and piled atop each other, as if the reader had been called away hastily in the middle of an intriguing passage. "It's not merely a vanity collection, is it?" she asked aloud.
"No, the master is quite devoted to his books." Mrs. Buttons repositioned a comfortable chair by the cheerful fire and drew back a curtain to admit plenty of daylight. "I'll leave you to explore, Miss Duvall. Shall I send a tea tray for you?"
Vivien shook her head and wandered from one bookcase to another, her gaze rapidly scanning the enticing rows. The housekeeper laughed suddenly. "Until now, I've never seen anyone look at books the way Mr. Morgan does," she remarked.
Barely aware of the housekeeper's departure, Vivien opened a glass door and examined a row of poetry. Something strange happened as she read one title after another...Many of them seemed startlingly familiar, the words connecting in a way that made her quiver with surprise. Mesmerized, she reached for one of the books. She opened it, the textured leather binding soft beneath her fingers, and found a poem by John Keats entitled "Ode to a Grecian Urn."Thou still unravished bride of quietness...It seemed as if she had read the words a thousand times before. A door opened in her mind, illuminating knowledge that had been stored away until this moment. Thoroughly unnerved, Vivien clutched the open volume against her chest and grabbed another off the shelf, and another...Shakespeare, Keats, Donne, Blake. There were many other instantly recognizable poems, fragments of which she could even recite by memory.
The relief of rememberingsomething made her almost dizzy with excitement. She picked up and held as many books as possible, crowding them against her body, dropping a few in her haste. She wanted to carry them all to a quiet corner, and read and read.
On a lower shelf she discovered well-worn volumes of philosophy. Snatching up Descartes'sMeditations , she flipped it open and feverishly read a passage aloud. "There is nothing, among the things I once believed to be true, which it is not permissible to doubt..."
Vivien hugged the open book to her chest, mind swimming with chaotic impressions. She was positive she had once studied this book, these words, with someone she had cared for very much. The familiarity of the words gave her a sense of safety and comfort she needed desperately. She closed her eyes and clutched the book harder, straining to capture some elusive memory.
"Well." A sardonic rumble broke the silence. "I wouldn't have expected to find you in the library. What have you found that interests you?"
Vivien whirled to see Morgan filling the doorway, the corner of his mouth tightened in a jaded quirk that passed for a smile. The somber gray of his trousers and waistcoat was balanced by a moss-colored coat that brightened the antique green of his eyes. She stumbled forward in her excitement, anxious to share her discovery.
"Grant," she said breathlessly, while her heart raced in an uneven canter. A few books cascaded from her overburdened arms. "I-I found these...Iremember reading some of them...You can't imagine how it feels." A wild, frustrated laugh escaped her. "Oh, why can't I remember more? If only--"
"Vivien," he said quietly, his smile fading. He reached her in three strides, helping to steady the jostling pile in her overburdened arms. As Vivien read the frown of concern on his face, she knew that she must appear half mad. More words bubbled to her lips, but he hushed her gently.
"Let me," he said, taking the mass of heavy volumes out of her unsteady grip. He set them on a nearby table and turned to her. Clasping her shoulders in his large hands, he eased her against his body. He held her in a reassuring embrace, his hand smoothing over the back of the velvet gown and lightly rubbing the lowest point of her spine. As he spoke, his breath stirred the fine hairs at her temple. "Tell me what you remember."
Vivien shivered at the pleasure of being in his arms. "I know I've read some of these books before, with someone I was very fond of. I can't see his face, or hear his voice...It seems the harder I try, the farther it slips away."
"You've readthese books?" Grant asked dubiously, glancing at the ungainly pile beside them.
Vivien nodded against his chest. "I can even recite a passage or two."
Perplexed by his noncommittal grunt, she glanced at his skeptical face. "Why do you say 'hmm' like that? Don't you believe me?"
She was encompassed in his vivid, considering stare. "It's not in character for you," he finally said.
"I'm telling you the truth," she said defensively.
"You've read Descartes," he remarked, every syllable edged with disbelief. "I should like to hear your opinion on Cartesian dualism, then."
Vivien thought for a long moment, inwardly relieved to discover that she understood the question. "I suppose you're referring to Mr. Descartes's theory that spirit and matter are separate entities? That we cannot rely on our senses as the basis of knowledge? I believe he is correct, and I think..." She paused and continued more slowly. "I think the truth is something you recognize with your heart, even when the evidence seems to prove otherwise."
Though Morgan's expression gave little away, Vivien sensed that she had surprised him. "It seems I'm harboring a philosopher," he said, his eyes suddenly glinting with humor. He set the book on the library table and reached for another on the shelf. "Tell me what you make of Locke, then, and his differences with Descartes."
Vivien took the book from him and spread her small hand on the morocco leather binding. "Mr. Locke argues that the human mind is a blank tablet at birth...doesn't he?" She glanced at Morgan and received an encouraging nod. "And he claims that knowledge is founded in experience. Thought can only come after we learn through our senses. But I don't think I agree with him entirely. We are not born blank slates, are we? I think some things must exist in us at birth, before experience begins to work upon us."
Morgan took the book from her and replaced it on the shelf, and turned back to her. Unaccountably gentle, he tucked a stray wisp of red hair behind her ear. "Can you tell me what other books are familiar to you?"
Vivien went to another set of shelves and began pulling titles from the tidy rows...history, novels, theology, and drama. She began to stack them in a second heap on the table. "I'm positive I've read this one, and this, and these...Oh, and this was one of my favorites."
He smiled at her enthusiasm. "You're remarkably well read for a woman who never reads."
"Why would you say such a thing?" she asked in surprise.
"Lord Gerard assured me that you dislike reading."
"But that can't be true."
"You're a chameleon, Vivien," he said quietly. "You adapt to the taste of whatever company you find yourself in."
"Then you're suggesting that I concealed my enjoyment of reading and pretended to be stupid in order to attract Lord Gerard," she said.
"You wouldn't be the first woman to use that ploy. Many men are made uneasy by an intelligent female."
"Is Lord Gerard that kind of gentleman?" Reading the answer in his face, she sighed heavily. "Every day I learn something new about myself. None of it pleasant."
As Grant regarded her downcast head, he was assailed by a strange yearning he had never experienced before. He had been so certain of who and what Vivien Rose Duvall was...and she kept confounding him.
His gaze skimmed over her in a thorough survey. The sight of her in the velvet gown, a red so dark it approached black, caused a response that was alarming in its intensity. He had never once allowed himself to imagine that somewhere in the world there might be a woman who was not only beautiful but intelligent, kind, and unaffected. The fact that he seemed to have found her in Vivien was astonishing. He was again uncomfortably aware that if she had not been a courtesan, had he not possessed his prior knowledge of her true character, he would be mad for her.
The neat auburn upsweep of her hair revealed the daintiest pair of ears he had ever seen, a vulnerable neck, a delicate jaw that made his fingers itch to investigate the soft curve. He murmured her name, and she looked up at him with clear, deep blue eyes that contained no hint of guile. Remembering how wickedly seductive her gaze had once been, Grant shook his head. "What is it?" she asked.
"You have the eyes of an angel." His gaze searched her face until a tide of pink crept over it.
"Thank you," she said uncertainly.
Grant took her arm in a gentle grasp. "Come with me."
As he drew her to a chair by the fire and urged her to sit, Vivien glanced at him warily. "Are you going to question me further?"
"No," he said, a reluctant smile tugging at his lips. For now, he was going to ignore all the contradictions about Vivien and allow himself to simply enjoy being with her. A beautiful woman, a fire on the hearth, a roomful of books, and a bottle of wine...It might not have been every man's idea of heaven, but God knew it was his.
Carrying an armload of books to Vivien, he deposited the stack on the floor near her feet. Seeming to understand that he merely wanted to spend some time with her, Vivien began to sort through the pile, while he pulled a bottle of bordeaux from the sideboard and opened it expertly. After filling two glasses, he sat in a chair beside Vivien and handed one to her. He noted that she sipped the wine immediately, without the usual ritual of those accustomed to sampling fine vintages...no swirling of the glass to test the aroma, or the rivulets that the English called "legs" and the French more poetically referred to as "tears." As a member of the beau monde, Vivien should have been experienced at such a ritual. However, she did not look like a worldly courtesan accustomed to the finer things in life...she looked like a sheltered, naive young woman.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com