“You’ll have to leave here, of course. It would be impossible for us to keep this all from the girl,” said Marcelina.
An impatient darkness fell upon Eduardo’s face in response to the woman’s words, though she couldn’t have seen it as they lay in her bed together. The heat of their intercourse had barely become an exhausted ache in his loins by the time she had rolled away from him, wrapping herself within the soft linens that had become rich with the spiced musk of his spent body.
Eduardo was agitated that she would suggest such a thing. There was little doubt in his mind she had invented this excuse, a counterfeit reason to have him gone from here. Worse, she had done so only moments after using him in her bed. He understood quite well that she was using him for her pleasure and reluctantly accepted that the Marquesa de Amontoní was incapable of loving him. With an unemotional silence, she’d made him understand that it was impossible for her to love him while he was married to another, regardless of his wife’s knowledge of his infidelity, and regardless of the two ladies’ long friendship.
But now her words angered him, even if he had no one else to blame for being in this contemptible position. In fact, his anger seared in the interminable silence that followed her statement, though its sharp edge soon proved to be a fleeting emotion. Eduardo had long ago resolved that, in the end, what mattered to him most was the sweet comfort of his lover’s arms. He didn’t think it unreasonable that he should have the affections of both his mistress and his wife at every possible moment. After all, he was not a disagreeable man in the slightest. Never for one moment had he treated either woman with anything but affection, kindness, and respect. For he genuinely loved them both, at least as much as he knew how to. Quite madly, in truth.
But he didn’t share in either of their intellectual calculations, nor their comprehension and foresight of such outcomes. Those skills were quite beyond his needs, and likely his abilities. He had spent most of his life in naval service, far away from his family, sustaining a few precious memories of the civilian world with only the occasional letters from his wife or lover to keep the images alive in his mind. And at this inevitable moment, when his beloved Marcelina should insist that he and his family must leave Castell de Amontoní, Eduardo endured a disturbing instant of painful clarity in the soft and comfortably disillusioned existence he’d worked so hard to achieve.
“The child is already fifteen, señor. It’s out of the question. She’s lived with my sister all her life, when she wasn’t being cloistered in a convent for her schooling. I’ve no right to infringe upon my sister’s ethics, certainly not when it pertains to her own daughter’s worldly viewpoint. You can’t expect me to allow a child to be exposed to all of this. Her mother would never forgive me.”
Eduardo didn’t respond. There was nothing he could think of to say. He knew that she was both wisely correct and immensely wrong.
“I’m not prepared to have anything but the simple conversations I’ve relied upon with her. And if you think she won’t have the intelligence to see what’s going on here, then you’re mad.”
“My daughter doesn’t know,” he answered quietly, without meaning to intrude upon her pointless line.
“Your daughter is too foolish to notice anything around her,” said the Marquesa, raising her voice to overcome the first hint of debate from him. “She’s so self-absorbed that she wouldn’t realize if the Queen herself were to take up residence here. No, that’s a futile comparison. My niece is the only plausible intelligence in that entire family. She will see through all of this without exercising the slightest effort. There’s simply no other choice to be made.”
Eduardo heard the sound of her words but was no longer listening. He had reached a decision of his own. His powerful arms pulled her lithe body back to face him, bringing her eyes only an inch from his own. He kissed her softly on the lips, finding that sweet mouth and its delicious warmth again. Under the crumpled linens, his hand found its way to the wet warmth of her sex. He massaged her generously, bent on producing the deafening sensation that would break the tiresome guise from her face.
“I will not leave,” he answered her gently, allowing the woman to see the truth plainly in his dark eyes, quietly delighting in the sight of all resistance departing from his lover’s face.