Lady Jane’s Desire – Sassa Daniels

It was beginning to feel as though this tedious lecture would never end. For more than an hour now, Lady Jane Walters had sat and listened politely as her brother-in-law and his wife berated her for failing to hold her new husband’s interest. While she nodded occasionally to show she was still paying attention, they droned on endlessly about her responsibilities to the family she’d been born to and the one she’d just married into. Did she not realize being abandoned by her husband immediately after their wedding night made her the talk of society? Had she no concept of the shame being heaped upon the whole family because her husband preferred the company of rakes and harlots to that of his new bride? Of course Jane understood how embarrassing the situation was. Andrew had left her here by herself before the blood of her innocence had even been cleaned from the bed sheets. His abrupt departure from the marital bed was a humiliation she felt keenly. She must have done something to drive him away but had no clue what it was. Completely inexperienced in matters of intimacy, she feared she’d displeased him. She wasn’t sure whether she’d participated in their lovemaking with enough enthusiasm, or too much. Perhaps he’d have preferred her to lie still even as her body willed her to move with his. Having to contemplate her failure was bad enough without her in-laws descending to heap stinging criticisms upon her shoulders. As her red-faced brother-in-law Henry paused for breath, Jane was at last able to get a word into the conversation. “I do not know what you expect me to do, Henry. Andrew’s actions make his feelings plain. He has no desire to remain shut away in the country with me.

He would rather seek his pleasures in London.” “His pleasures!” Henry scoffed. “And what depraved pleasures they are. You do realize what he gets up to?” As a matter of fact she knew more about that than she ought. Jane shifted uncomfortably in her seat, hoping her prig of a brother-by-marriage wasn’t about to start detailing her husband’s sexual proclivities. She’d been told all about what he enjoyed doing with women. Her dear friend, Lizzie, who’d never spoken about such things before, warned her Andrew had colorful tastes when it came to the bedchamber. Just not her bedchamber. That was a pity because, for reasons she didn’t fully understand, Jane was intrigued by the whisperings she’d heard. Her husband liked to tie women up, apparently.

He spanked and whipped them with all manner of implements from what she gathered. It sounded outrageous and yet the thought of being utterly at his mercy did funny things to her insides. She thrilled at the idea of having her bottom receive the full force of his discipline. She wasn’t sure why she found that was so appealing. Perhaps it was the lure of the forbidden. “It is a wife’s duty to beguile her husband, so he does not stray, Jane.” Her sister-inlaw’s insistent tone broke her out of her thoughts. “She must charm him so utterly with her beauty and grace that he cannot bear to leave her side.” Jane fought the temptation to roll her eyes as Henry nodded in vigorous agreement. She’d known before she married Andrew that the match had been arranged, in part, because his family thought she might use her feminine attributes to persuade him to curb his debauchery.

There seemed little chance of that. It was clear to Jane that Andrew had married her only because the time had come for him to sire an heir. She was to be his pretty, docile brood mare and nothing more. Whatever charms she held beyond her big blue eyes and perfectly proportioned figure, the man was clearly oblivious to them. He had no interest in her as a person. She doubted he much liked her. What other conclusion could she draw from his sudden disappearance back to the brothels of London? “The marriage has been consummated?” Henry asked, his tone demanding a response. “You have performed your duty?” The impertinent questioning brought a blush to Jane’s cheek. “Henry, that is such an indelicate thing to ask.” Clarissa admonished him before turning to Jane and fixing her with an inquisitive stare.

“You have, haven’t you?” “Yes, Clarissa.” Jane did lift her eyes to the ceiling now. “Of course we have.” “Oh, well, that’s something,” Henry said. It had been quite something alright. Jane bit her bottom lip as she thought about it. She’d always imagined her wedding night would be an ordeal. Nobody ever spoke about what happened between a man and woman unless it was in riddles. She’d never really understood the coded words and euphemisms but the sympathetic glances her female relations had cast her way during the wedding breakfast hadn’t inspired confidence. Fearing the worst, she’d been pleasantly surprised when Andrew was gentle with her, attentive to her needs.

For such an imposing figure of a man, he’d been unexpectedly tender. He’d taken time to let her become accustomed to him. At first, he’d placed the lightest of kisses on her neck, and assured her all would be well. His fingers had explored her body with such care and consideration she had, just for a moment, been able to fool herself into thinking he might actually love her. When his body had finally joined with hers, Andrew had soothed what little pain there was with the gentlest of caresses. His sweet lovemaking had made it all the more bewildering that he’d chosen to desert her the next morning. He hadn’t even bothered to leave a note to explain himself. “Well, that is something,” Henry said, rising from his seat and pacing over to the fireplace. “He needs an heir, Jane. The family must endure.

” Jane felt a momentary pang of sorrow for Henry and Clarissa who exchanged a mournful glance. In almost six years of marriage, they’d failed to conceive a child, making it more important than ever that Andrew perform his duty as head of the family and father the next generation of Walters. “I shall write to him and ask that he return to me post-haste.” It would mean swallowing her pride, of course, but perhaps an emotional entreaty was what was required to bring her husband back home where he belonged. “No, no,” Clarissa said firmly. “That will not do. You must go to London and confront him directly. Use all your powers of persuasion to make him forget about these cheap women and bring him back to Blackfolds with you.” “Yes,” Henry agreed, effectively backing Jane into a corner, “go to London. Stay at Grosvenor Square.

He will not be able to ignore you if you are residing beneath the same roof.” Jane sighed heavily. London? She’d only just escaped the pressures of the endless social whirl that came with life in the city. She hated being the center of attention and gossip about her would be rife. People enjoyed nothing more than a juicy scandal, and she had no idea whether she would be welcomed or shunned. Her failure as a wife might cause her friends to turn their backs on her. Of course, if they did, they would not be true friends. Jane detested the pitfalls of navigating the ton. The thought of rusticating up here in the country where fewer eyes were upon her was a much more appealing prospect. Pursing her lips, she narrowed her eyes.

Her expression must have been fiercer than she imagined as her sister-in-law suddenly rose from her chair and smoothed down her skirts. “Well, think about it, Jane,” Clarissa said carefully as she signaled to her husband it was time to withdraw. “If you can bring Andrew home, the entire family will be forever in your debt.” Jane got up from her seat and exchanged polite goodbyes with her in-laws, even though she felt anything but civil right now. Her ingrained good manners wouldn’t allow her to tell them to go to the devil, no matter how fervently she wished they would. As soon as the door closed behind them, she sunk back down onto her seat. London — urgh! Could she cope with the humiliation of going among her friends with her marriage such a resounding failure? It was only three short weeks since they’d attended her wedding. Could she bear to prostrate herself at her husband’s feet and beg him to return to her? She took a deep, restorative breath and let out an unladylike snort. There really was no other option. Andrew had to be brought to his senses before he frittered away the Walters fortune and tarnished the family name irrevocably.

Knowing it was more than likely her maid was hovering outside the door, having had her ear pressed to it the whole time Henry and Clarissa were here, Jane called out to her. “Paget!” “Yes, my lady.” The woman raced into the room with unseemly haste and bobbed a halfhearted curtsy. Jane arched an eyebrow but said nothing. There was little point reprimanding the older woman. Paget had a long history of insolence and would have been dismissed from any other household years ago but Jane was fond of the woman. She’d been with her since she was a young girl and had offered a shoulder to cry upon when needed. And, anyway, she was the only one who could tame Jane’s unruly curls. “Pack our bags, Paget,” she instructed. “We will be returning to London.

” “London, my lady?” The maid’s brow furrowed and no wonder as it was less than a month since they’d left the city with plans to remain in the country at least until Spring. “Yes, Paget, London.” Jane tried to inject some enthusiasm into her voice but failed miserably. “It seems I have a husband to retrieve.”

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