“You’ll have to leave here, of course. It would be impossible for us to keep this all from the girl.”
Marcelina did not bother to observe Eduardo’s incredulous expression as they lay in her bed together. The heat of their sex was still an exhausted ache in her loins and she 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 that the Marquesa was inventing this excuse, a counterfeit reason to have him gone from here. Worse, she had chosen to do so just after using him in her bed. He understood quite well that she was using him and accepted that Marcelina was incapable of loving him. It was impossible for this woman to love him while he was married to another, regardless of his wife’s knowledge of his infidelity, regardless of the two ladies’ long friendship, and regardless of her having no valid reason not to love him. Her words angered him, though he had no one to blame for being in this contemptible position.
His anger seared for moments even though it 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 did not 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 sweet affection and kindness. For he genuinely loved them both, at least as much as he knew how to. Quite madly, in truth.
But he did not 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 with only the occasional letters from his wife or lover to keep the images alive in his mind. And at this inevitable moment, when 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.
She did not wait for his protest; she had well perceived it before he managed to utter a word.
“The child is already fifteen, señor. It’s out of the question. She’s lived with my sister her whole 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 just to allow a child to be exposed to all of this. Her mother would never forgive me.”
Eduardo did not respond. There was nothing he could think of to say. He knew that she was both wisely correct and immensely wrong.
“I’m not even slightly prepared to have anything but the simple conversations I’ve relied upon with her. And if you think that she will not have the intelligence to see what is 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 anythingaround her,” said the Marquesa, not hesitating to raise her voice. “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.”
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 hands barely touched her outer thighs, his fingers drawing small circles upon the light blonde down there. Eventually, his hand found its way to the wet warmth of her sex. He massaged her as gently as he could, the sensation soon breaking the tiresome guise from her face.
“I will not leave,” he answered her finally.
She could see it clearly in his eyes as she fell, surrendering to his soft fingers. No, indeed, he would not leave. Marcelina had felt little confidence that he ever would, but there had been that moment seconds ago when she’d believed in the sound of her voice, the authoritative command she relied upon to be unimpeachable in this house. It was only a brief moment, but it had been enough to promise her some small hope of defeating him.
Marcelina had been prepared for his answer, anticipating that her surrender to both of their needs was inevitable. She had thought on it mildly for weeks, examining each angle and opportunity with little confidence. Her only choice was clear: she would make this child an Amontoní, make her a true Barcelonan in character and style, and make her the daughter she had dreamed of bearing all her life. And she would not fail to support the child in any respect. The enormity of this decision left Marcelina feeling as if she were at the threshold of a tremendous journey.
Eduardo’s fingers still tortured her with their delicious invasions, and she exhaled her final defeat. Losing her bearing, she felt her will sliding away through the deafening pleasure of this man. But it was settled, really, and there was no longer any reason to resist him.