"I don't think there should be further intimacy between us," she forced herself to say. "At least not for a while."
Although his face was suddenly expressionless, she sensed that he was preparing a score of arguments. "Why not?" he asked.
Gathering the robe tightly around herself, she summoned as much dignity as possible. "I would rather not explain right now."
To her relief, he did not pursue the matter...though it was clear that he was very far from agreeing with or accepting her statement. Instead, he gave her a smile brimming with charm. "You're not getting away from me, you know," he said softly.
Vivien suppressed a rueful laugh, somehow both moved and alarmed by the realization that he was determined to win her. She allowed him to escort her to the bath, where a row of towels had been set on a warmer by the fire, and the enameled hip tub had been liberally filled with steaming water. The burgundy robe was so long on her that it formed a silken train, and she scooped up handfuls in front to keep from tripping on it.
"I'll assist you with your bath," Grant offered.
"No, thank you," she said firmly. "I want a few minutes of privacy. Please."
"I'll be waiting in the next room."
As Vivien soaked in the bath, letting the hot water soothe her minor aches, she wished for a moment's respite from the worries that plagued her. However, nothing would keep them at bay. Questions tormented her repeatedly, as she wondered just who--and what--she really was. Certainly she was not a gently born aristocrat's daughter...she didn't feel herself to be a member of the nobility. But she was not a courtesan, either. She had no name, no family, no memory. She was foundering once again, feeling utterly insignificant, frustrated, and helpless. What if she never found out who she really was? Would it be possible to create a new life for herself, never knowing what and whom she might have left behind--friends, family, perhaps a man she had loved?
A maid came to help her from the bath, bringing with her a gown made of rich green cashmere. The simple garment closely followed the lines of her figure and fastened at the left side with a gold clasp. The narrow sleeves were finished with green ribbon, as was the wide shawl collar. The plunging neckline of the gown had been supplemented with a snowy white lace inset that contrasted crisply with the soft jewel-toned cashmere. The maid braided Vivien's still damp hair and pinned it in a heavy coil at the crown of her head.
After thanking the maid, Vivien went to the door of the bedroom where Grant waited. She hesitated before entering, trying to gather the courage to ask him the nagging question that weighed on her mind. She was almost afraid to learn the answer. However, it served no one, least of all herself, to behave in a cowardly manner. The truth must be faced squarely, no matter how unpleasant it might be. Squaring her shoulders, she went into the room. Grant had been seated in a chair by the window. He stood immediately, his gaze flickering over her. "How do you feel?" he asked quietly.
She tried to smile, but her lips felt too stiff. "I think..." she began, and swallowed hard. "I think there are some things you haven't yet told me, aren't there?"
His expression revealed nothing. "Such as?"
"I would like to know about your relationship with the real Vivien."
After seating Vivien in a damask-upholstered chair, Grant sat next to her. He leaned forward, bracing his arms on his knees, and contemplated the coals on the grate for what seemed to be an unduly long time. And when he finally spoke, Vivien did not like the scrupulous way he seemed to be considering his words, as if he were preparing to present a nasty situation in its best possible light.
"All right," Grant finally said, sliding a narrow-eyed glance at her. He sighed and rested his closed fists on his knees. "You have every right to know about my behavior concerning Vivien Duvall...but first let me say..." He paused as if he found it difficult to speak, and a muttered curse escaped his lips. "Dammit. I've done bad things in my life--I could write a list of sins a mile long. Some of them were done for the sake of survival, and some were out of pure selfish greed. And I have regrets. But of all the sins I've committed, I don't regret anything half as much as the fact that I lied to you. And I swear on my life--no, on my brother's grave--that I never will again."
"What did you lie to me about?" Vivien asked softly, shivering as an icy lump of dread formed in her stomach.
His gaze arrowed to the hearth, and he didn't answer.
As she watched his granite-hard profile, understanding dawned.
"About Vivien Duvall?" she guessed. "She was never your mistress...is that it? You never slept with her, as you claimed. But why?" She regarded him with raw bewilderment. "Why would you lie about such a thing?"
It took all of Grant's self-discipline to remain there beneath her steady, clear-eyed scrutiny. It had never been difficult for him to own up to his misdeeds. He had always cheerfully rationalized his mistakes and pointed out to himself and everyone else that he was, after all, only human. However, this was something he couldn't blithely skim over and forget. He had set out to take advantage of someone--a woman--and what was worse, his petty vengeance had been taken out on the wrong person. Guilt thickened his voice as he answered.
"I wanted revenge because of a lie Vivien had spread about me among the London gossip circles. On the night I found you and brought you here, I decided that I would sleep with you--her--as a salve to my pride."
"And then what were you going to do? Use and discard her? Hurt her in return for the embarrassment she caused you?"
He gave a single shamed nod. Vivien inhaled sharply. Perhaps it should have made her feel better that another woman, and not she, had been Grant's intended target. But it didn't. She didn't want to think him capable of such pettiness, such dishonor. And it hurt dreadfully to realize that what for her had been an act of giving had been for him only an act of revenge. "I see."
"No, you don't."
"The fact that I was injured and helpless didn't matter to you," she murmured. "In fact, it made it easier for you to take advantage."
His eyes gleamed with frustration, and she sensed the sudden boiling of his emotions beneath his controlled surface. "It all went wrong from the beginning. You didn't behave like the woman I thought you were."
Vivien's calmness evaporated as she was filled with a sense of utter betrayal. "You were the one solid thing in the world, the one person I could trust...and you've lied from the very beginning."
"Only about our supposed affair."
"Only?" she repeated, angry that he was trying to minimize his actions. "What if I had indeed been the real Vivien, and I were every bit as promiscuous and self-absorbed and unlikable as you expected? That doesn't excuse your behavior at all."
"If I had known who you really were--orweren't --I would never have hurt you."
"But you have," she said bitterly.
"Yes, the damage is done." His voice was flat and unemotional. "And all I can do now is try to make reparations and ask your forgiveness."
"Not my forgiveness," she corrected. "Vivien's."
Grant stared at her as if she had suddenly gone mad. "I'll be damned if I'll go with my hat in hand to that woman."
"That is the only reparation I'll accept." She stared at him without blinking. "I want you to apologize to Vivien when you find her, for your cruel intentions toward her. And I'll forgive you ifshe does."
"Apologize to Vivien," he repeated, his voice rising to a thunderous pitch. "But I didn't sleep with her. I slept with you."
"What if you had indeed slept with her as you planned? Would you feel sorry then?"
"No," he snapped.
"Then you would not regret manipulating and deceiving someone if you thought he or she deserved it?" Her face was taut with disappointment and censure. "I would not have thought you capable of such ruthlessness and small-mindedness!"
"I said I was sorry, dammit!" "But you're not," she replied gently. "You don't regret having come up with your horrible plan...you only regret that you didn't hurt the person you had intended to. And I could never love a man who behaves in such a manner." It almost gave her satisfaction to watch him struggle to control his spiking temper. Closing his eyes, he somehow managed to stave off an explosion, although his color heightened and his jaw vibrated with a visible tic.
"It's time to leave," he finally said. "I've sent word ahead to Linley."
Although Dr. Linley's fashionable residence was within walking distance, Grant had ordered his carriage to be prepared. The ride was silent, uncomfortable, and mercifully short. Vivien glanced frequently at the huge, aggravated male in the seat opposite hers. Grant seemed to be in a state of battened-down consternation, more than ready to do battle--except there was no one to do battle with.
She suspected that he was considering their argument and silently debating the points she had made. She longed to say something else, to soften him with a few pleading words...perhaps even try to coax him into agreeing with her. However, she kept her mouth tightly closed. He must resolve this issue on his own. She knew that he had no liking for the real Vivien Duvall, but that didn't excuse his own actions. A man wasn't entitled to lie or take advantage of others merely because he didn't respect them.
They reached Linley's town home, one of a long row of Grecian-fronted residences adorned with immaculate white plasterwork and columns. Grant helped her from the carriage and escorted her up a small flight of steps, and they were immediately welcomed into the house by the butler. Dr. Linley awaited them in the library, a small but tidy room lined with oak bookcases and furnished with shield-backed Hepplewhite chairs and a matching table.
Greeting them pleasantly, Linley seated Vivien in an armchair by the fire. He smiled and brushed back a swath of blond hair that had fallen over his forehead. "Miss Duvall," he murmured, "you are not feeling unwell, I hope?"
Vivien opened her mouth to reply, then closed it again. She stared at him with hot color climbing up her face as it struck her that the main purpose of this visit was to discuss the unexpected discovery of her virginity, and its bearings on her case. How had she come to be in this ignominious position?
Regarding her with mild perplexity, Linley turned his attention to Grant, who was stone-faced. An inquiring glint shone in the doctor's gray eyes. "I had to cancel two appointments because of the message you sent this morning, Morgan," he remarked. "Would you care to explain the urgency of this visit?"
"There has been a new development in Miss Duvall's case." Grant half sat, half leaned against the edge of a heavy library table. "I assume you keep a file on each of your patients. I want to see Miss Duvall's, with no detail omitted."
"That file is only for my eyes and Miss Duvall's," Linley replied equably.
"It has relevance to my investigation." Grant paused in visible discomfort, his nostrils flaring. "Tell me, Linley, when you examined Miss Duvall...was she a virgin?"
The doctor's perplexed gaze flickered from Vivien's downcast face and back to Grant's. "Assuredly not," he replied, tugging at the golden forelock that had slipped over his brow once more. "Well, she is--or was, until last night."
Silence descended in the room. The doctor's face was carefully composed. "Are you certain of that?" he asked, contemplating them both.
Vivien flushed and refused to meet his gaze.
"I'm not a green lad, Linley," Grant muttered.
Linley strove for a matter-of-fact tone. "Then this is not the woman I examined. Vivien Duvall was in the earliest stage of pregnancy. When I saw her at your house, I assumed she had either had a miscarriage or had rid herself of the baby. I observed that there was no longer any enlargement of the womb and no bleeding. It was not my place to comment on her decision. And I wasn't looking for evidence of virginity."
"Christ." Absorbing the information, Grant glanced at Vivien. Her obvious lack of surprise at the news caused his green eyes to narrow suspiciously. "You knew," he said. "Somehow you knew about the pregnancy."
"It was probably Lord Gerard's baby," she said. "He told me while we were talking in the garden last night."
"Why the bloody hell didn't you tell me?"
"I knew what your reaction would be if you thought I had deliberately ended the pregnancy," she said. "You would have despised me. So I decided to keep it to myself for a little while."
Grant responded with a string of blistering curses and turned a threatening gaze toward the doctor. "The file, Linley. I'd like to see what other minor details you've been keeping from me."
While many men would have been intimidated by the irate giant before him, Linley displayed no unease. "All right, Morgan, you may view the damned file. But not until after I talk to Miss Duvall...er, that is, this young woman...in private."
"Why in private?" Grant asked.
"Because her welfare is my first concern. I've attended newly married women in hysterics after their wedding nights. I'd like to ascertain for myself if she is well, and it doesn't help her nerves--or mine, for that matter--for you to be charging about like an enraged boar."
"Nerves!" Grant's mouth twisted in a sneer. "Her nerves are fine." He glanced at Vivien's averted face with a sudden flicker of concern. "Aren't they?" he asked her.
She did not reply, only sat with her hands twisting in her lap.
"Out," Linley commanded briskly, seeming to enjoy the rare privilege of telling Grant what to do. "You're familiar with the house, old fellow. Go amuse yourself in the billiards room. Have a drink or a smoke. I'll send for you in a few minutes."
A warning grumble erupted from Grant's throat, and he left reluctantly. Vivien looked up warily as Linley approached her. She braced herself for censure, but found only kindness and concern in his gray eyes. Asking permission to sit in a nearby chair, Linley regarded her with a faint smile. "Beneath all that snarling and blustering is one of the finest men I have ever known," he remarked. "Morgan is accomplished in many ways, but not where women are concerned. That is, he is not usually a seducer of innocents."
"He wanted revenge for some slight that the real Vivien had done him," she answered dully. "He planned to sleep with her and then cast her aside."
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com