"I don't know yet. It would be a damned sight more convenient if you hadn't lost your memory."
He shrugged. "It's hardly your fault."
Where was the tender stranger who had taken care of her last night and this morning? She found it hard to believe that this was the man who had held and comforted her, rubbed salve on her bruises, and tucked her in bed as a parent would a beloved child. Now he seemed forbidding and utterly unapproachable. He was angry with her but she didn't know why. The realization made her feel more lost and confused than before, if that was possible. He was all she had--she couldn't bear for him to be cold to her.
"You're displeased," she said. "What has happened? Have I done something wrong?"
The questions seemed to soften him a little. Although he didn't quite meet her eyes, he exhaled deeply, as if releasing some unpleasant pent-up emotion. "No," he muttered with a quick shake of his head. "It's nothing."
Perhaps he had learned something about her that he didn't like, Vivien thought, and anxiety made her entire body tauten until all her muscles quivered.
"I'm frightened," she said, and brought her clenched hands down to her lap. "I keep trying to remember something, anything about myself. Nothing is familiar. Nothing makes sense. And knowing that someone hates me enough to want me dead--"
"For all he knows, you are dead."
"No woman could have possessed the strength to strangle you with her bare hands. Moreover, your personal history includes very few women. The great majority of your associates have been men."
"Oh." Why wouldn't he just tell her what needed to be said, instead of making her ask him questions? It was a form of torture, having to stare at his stony face and wonder what secrets of her past had brought her to this incredible situation. "You said...I might not like some of the things you would tell me about myself," she prompted unsteadily.
Reaching into his coat pocket, he extracted a small book bound in dark red leather. "Have a look at this," he said curtly, placing the volume in her hands.
"What is it?" she asked warily.
He didn't reply, only stared at her with a restless gaze that conveyed his impatience.
Carefully she opened the book, discovering page after page of neat feminine script. There were lists, names, dates...It took a half minute of reading before she encountered a passage so explicit that she snapped the volume shut with a mortified gasp. Her shocked gaze lifted to his. "Why in heaven's name would you show me such a thing?" She tried to hand the book back, but he did not move to take it. Casting the object to the floor, she regarded it as if it were a coiled snake. "Whom does it belong to, and how does it pertain to me?"
"Mine?" An icy feeling crept over her, and she pulled the length of cashmere more closely around herself. "You're mistaken, Mr. Morgan." Her voice was clipped and cool with outrage. "I didn't write those things. I couldn't have."
"How do you know that?"
"Because I couldn't!" Startled and offended, she gave him a look of rebuke.
When he spoke, his voice was flat and quiet. "You're a courtesan, Vivien. The most notorious one in London. You've garnered a fortune from your talent."
She felt her face turn stark white. Her heart pounded frantically in her chest. "It isn't true," she cried. "The book must belong to someone else." "I found it in your terrace house, in your bedroom."
"Why would I...that is, why would any woman write such things?"
"A tool for blackmail," he suggested gently. "Or perhaps it was just the only way you could keep track."
Vivien left her chair as if she had been jolted out of it, letting the cashmere lap robe drop to the floor. Wincing as pain shot through her bound ankle, she hobbled backward a few steps, needing to put some distance between them. "I didn't do any of the things in that book!"
To her chagrin, Morgan's gaze swept over her, and she realized that the firelight shone through the muslin, illuminating every detail of her body. Hastily she pulled handfuls of the loose gown in front of herself, clutching the folds to her midriff. "I'm not a prostitute", she said vehemently. "If I were, I'm certain I would know it in some part of myself, but I don't becauseit's not there . You're absolutely wrong about me. If this is an example of your investigative abilities, I am not impressed! Now...now go out and ask more questions and do what is necessary to find out who I really am."
Morgan rose from his own chair to follow her. "I can't change the truth just because you don't like it."
"Not only do I not like it," Vivien said, breathing hard, "I reject it entirely. You arewrong, do you understand?" To her humiliation, she wobbled off balance, her weak ankle refusing to support her.
"Would you like me to parade you in front of witnesses who will swear on the Bible that you are Vivien Duvall?" Morgan asked harshly. "Would you like to go to your house and see the nude painting of yourself on the bedroom wall? I brought back some of your clothes--would you care to try them on and see how they fit? I can dig up mountains of proof for you." He caught her as she tried to stumble away from him, his arm locked firmly behind her back.
Vivien whimpered as he brought her against his massive body. She wedged her arms between them, her head falling back as she stared into the face so high above hers. His ribs were as sturdy as frigate timbers beneath her cold hands. He imprisoned her between his powerful thighs, holding her steady.
"Even if I am Vivien Duvall," she said stubbornly, "you can't prove that I did all the things in that book. They are made-up stories."
"It's all true, Vivien. You sell your body for profit." He didn't seem any more pleased about the idea than she. "You go from one man to another, taking what you want from each of them."
"Oh, really? Then who, exactly, is supposed to be my latest protector? Where is he, and why haven't you sent for him?"
"Who do you think he is?" Morgan asked softly.
The words sent Vivien reeling. She was openmouthed, dazed, suddenly limp in his grasp. "No."
"We've been lovers ever since you left Lord Gerard. I've visited you in your town house on several occasions. We've kept things discreet, but we were on the verge of drawing up a proper contract." Grant told the lies without a shred of guilt. The deceit would hardly hurt her, after the sordid life she had led, and it served his purpose. He wanted her, and this was the most expedient way to have her. "Then you and I are..." She choked on the words.
"You're lying!" Vivien strained against him, pushing, twisting, but his arms were like steel bands. Soon she was exhausted by the fruitless struggle. She couldn't help but be aware that her movements had aroused him. The hard protrusion of his masculinity pressed high against her stomach, branding her with its aggressive heat. How in God's name could she have been intimate with this man and not remember?
Trembling, she collapsed against him, leaning full into the long, muscled length of him. She was too exhausted to move. A pleasant mixture of linen and spicy shaving soap clung to him, and she breathed deeply of the fragrance. Her head fell to his chest, her ear pressed to the resounding beat of his heart. "You're wrong," she said, too bewildered to cry. "I'm not that kind of woman. I just can't be."
He did not reply, and she realized that he was so convinced on the matter that it didn't merit arguing. A flicker of fury intruded on her confusion. Very well. She would not further exhaust herself by denying the accusation...Time would certainly prove him wrong.
"What do you want from me now?" she asked in a thick voice. A shiver chased down her body as she felt his hand move over her back, the heat of his palm sinking through the muslin.
"I'm going to keep you here," he replied, "for your protection and my convenience."
His convenience? That could only mean that he intended to continue their previous arrangement, regardless of her memory loss. She glanced over her shoulder at the oversized bed that had seemed such a haven until now. If he planned to take her tonight, she wouldn't be able to stand it. She would flee the house and run screaming through the streets in her nightgown. "I can't oblige you tonight, if that's what you're planning," she said rebelliously. "And not tomorrow night, either. And not--"
"Hush." For the first time a note of amusement entered his voice. "I'm not such a bastard that I would inflict myself on you while you're ill. We'll wait until you're well enough."
"I won't want to ever again! I'm not a prostitute."
"You'll want to. It's in your nature, Vivien. You can't change what you are."
His matter-of-fact statements infuriated her. "I won't want any man from now on. Especially not you."
Her defiance seemed to trigger something inside him, unleashing a grim determination to prove something to her...and to himself. Swiftly he pulled her into his arms, before she had time to think or react. He carried her to the bed and deposited her on the neatly folded-back covers. His dark face obliterated the glow of the fire as he leaned over her.
"No," Vivien gasped.
There was a cruel edge to his mouth, but when he fitted his lips over hers, the kiss was soft, slow, utterly consuming. He placed his hands flat on the mattress on either side of her head, not touching her with any part of his body except his mouth. Had she wanted, she could have rolled away from him easily. But she stayed beneath him, transfixed by the sweet, hot flowering of sensation that spread rapidly and made the downy hairs all over her body rise. She lifted her hands to his face in a halfhearted gesture to push him away, but he angled his head and kissed her harder, and any thought of resisting him disappeared. His tongue ventured inside her mouth, teasing, stroking. He tasted of coffee, and some pleasant masculine essence that lured her own tongue to respond timidly. The feathery touch seemed to excite him. Breathing deeply, he twisted his mouth over hers in long, searching kisses, each one more tender and intimate than the last. Vivien relaxed helplessly beneath him while a heavy, delicious ache formed in her br**sts and low in her stomach and between her thighs. Her dazed mind no longer comprehended what was happening, or even cared. All that existed was sensation, every part of her focused on the consuming heat of his mouth.
With a suddenness that stunned her, Morgan tore his lips away and pinned her with a simmering gaze. "You see?" he said hoarsely. "Now tell me what kind of woman you are."
It took a moment for Vivien to understand what he had said. Ashamed and furious, she rolled to her side. "Go away," she gasped, pressing her hand over her exposed ear, blocking out any words he might utter. "Leave me alone."
He obliged at once, leaving her curled on the bed in a silent huddle.
Barely aware of where he was going, Grant made his way downstairs, his mind overtaken by questions, sensations..."Vivien," he muttered more than once, the name alternately a curse and a prayer.
He found himself in the library, a haven of leather and oak, fitted with comfortably worn chairs and specially designed bookcases. The cases were fronted with beveled glass, and brass grillwork on the bottom shelves. He collected books obsessively--anything between two covers would do. The stacks of newspapers piled on desks and tables often moved Mrs. Buttons to complain that the house was the greatest fire hazard in London.
Grant never sat for a quiet moment without a book or paper close at hand. When he wasn't working or sleeping, he read. Anything to keep himself from thinking about the past. On the nights when regrets lingered in his head like ghosts, driving out all possibility of sleep, he came to the library and drank brandy and read until the words blurred before his eyes.
Prowling past the shelves of leather-bound talismans, Grant sought something to divert his attention. His fingers trailed lightly over the cool, shining glass doors, opened one, brushed over a row of books. But for once, the touch of leather repelled him...His hand ached for soft female skin, for silken hair, for round br**sts and hips...
He caught sight of his reflection in the glass, his face set and miserable.
Turning away with a groan, Grant went to the sideboard fitted between a pair of small matching cupboards. One of the cupboards was used as a cellarette for wines. He rummaged in the cabinet until his hand closed around the flattened lozengeshaped body of a brandy bottle, sloshing with dark liquid. Uncorking it, he drank directly from the bottle, the fullness of expensive French brandy rolling down his throat. Waiting for a familiar warmth to spread in his chest, he felt only emptiness.
His mind returned to the image of Vivien, the sweetness of her mouth, the innocence of her response. As if she weren't used to kissing, as if she were an awkward but willing pupil in the hands of an experienced teacher. All an illusion. "Innocence," he muttered with an ugly laugh, and poured more brandy down his throat. Vivien was prime quality goods to be sure, but she was a whore nonetheless. And he was a fool for feeling protective of her, wanting her, and worst of all,liking her.
He sat in an armchair and braced his feet on the edge of his desk, and silently acknowledged the mortifying truth. If he didn't know who and what Vivien was, he would be mad for her. What man wouldn't? She was lovely, intelligent, and seemingly vulnerable. Her response to the news that she was a courtesan had been a perfect blend of anger and bewilderment. The way an innocent woman would react. His instincts and his brain had rarely given him such opposing messages, and the few times they had, he had been inclined to trust his instincts. But not in this case. He knew all about Vivien's unique brand of faux innocence. It didn't matter how she behaved at present, she would sooner or later revert to character.
Therefore, he couldn't let himself be taken in by her.
But hell and damnation...it wasn't going to be easy.
Vivien curled up in one corner of the acre-wide bed, fuming and worrying until she finally drifted into a fog of oblivion. But there was no peace to be found in sleep, only a bizzare dream that became increasingly sinister.
She hurried through a shadowed street, pursued by faceless strangers. Occasionally she paused to laugh and taunt them, then turned and ran just before they reached her. Approaching a bridge, she climbed onto the embankment wall, surmounting a pier topped with a bronze statue of a river deity. The men below her clamored to reach her, climbing after her, but she laughed throatily and kicked them away. Suddenly, to her horror, the massive bronze statue beside her began to move. Huge metal arms wrapped around her, imprisoning her in a cold merciless embrace.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com