Read The Gentlewoman Online

Authors: Lisa Durkin

The Gentlewoman (25 page)

“I only have one more question.” He stood over her.
“Let’s see who I shall ask. Eenie, meenie, miney, mo.” His finger ticked back
and forth from her to her father. He stopped at her. She looked into his eyes.
They seemed clouded. She hadn’t noticed that before.

His hand ticked back to her father. “I’ll ask your da,
love. Maybe he’ll be honest with me.” He skipped over to her father and stood
next to him. He made a show of bending at the waist and pretending to whisper.
His Irish brogue made her sick now.

“Oh Dad, oh Dad, is our little Rory Elizabeth with
child?”

Every cell in her body flared with adrenaline. She tried
to lift herself but had no purchase with her one good arm. It was like trying
to lift solid iron. She began to breathe erratically again.

Aidan pulled the tape from her father’s mouth in one loud
tear. “I’ll ask again, Da, does our little Rory have a bastard in her belly?”

William Morgan breathed heavily. His teeth clenched, he
answered in a deadly growl. “No, she does not.”

“Wrong answer!” Aidan announced. “Let’s give them another
try.” He sashayed over to Rory and lifted her head by her hair.

“Wife, are you knocked up with my whelp and didn’t bother
to tell me that information?”

Tears ran down Rory’s cheeks. She didn’t want to risk
their lives by lying, but she’d be damned if she was going to tell him about
her baby. God only knew what he would do. Fear throbbed throughout her chest.
She breathed quickly.

“Please, Aidan, I need water,” she begged.

“Answer me!” he screamed so loudly into her face that her
battered head rang anew. “Are you pregnant, Rory? Tell me the fucking truth,
you whore! Did you get knocked up?”

“No!” she cried.

“What’s that? I can’t hear you! Are you pregnant, Rory?”

“No!” she cried again and he dropped her head with a thud
to the floor.

He stood to his full height and as she opened her eyes,
she saw him pull the knife from the sheath at his waist. He looked down at her
and laughed.

“Wrong answer, love.” With a hop he swung around and
planted the knife into her father’s chest. She screamed and tried to lunge at
him, dragging herself across the floor. Aidan came forward and kicked her in
the stomach before returning to her father’s chair and stabbing him again and
again. She could hear him choking and gurgling as he drowned in the blood
entering his lungs. Aidan moved behind him and looked into Rory’s eyes.

“This is what you get when you lie to me.”

Aidan dragged the knife across her father’s throat, all
but severing his head.

Rory screamed and closed her eyes. She didn’t open them
for a long time. Maybe she was dreaming. Of course, this was a dream. She
opened her eyes and she was in a room filled with bright light. She blinked
several times and the room came into focus. She was in her bedroom in Bay
Village and the sunshine was flooding through the glass wall. She turned to
look at what time it was but she couldn’t see the clock. She turned the other
way and Roan was standing over her bed. She screamed as she saw that he had his
knife poised over Jackson, who was asleep beside her.

 

Rory’s scream woke Jackson and he grabbed his gun from the
nightstand. Checking his surroundings, he silently stepped into the hall and
put his ear to the door. He nudged it open, leading with his weapon, and burst
into the room. She screamed again, writhing in the bed, soaked in sweat and
gasping for breath. He dropped his weapon and grabbed her shoulders.

“Rory, Rory! Wake up!”

She awoke with a gasp. Wide eyes looked around, trying to
gain her bearings. She looked into Jackson’s eyes and her hands shot forward,
firmly embracing each of his cheeks.

“Oh God, you’re here! You’re alive!”

“I’m here; of course I’m here.” He hugged her tightly and
rocked her back and forth. She quickly jerked back from him and stared into his
eyes. Just as quickly, she grabbed his face again and kissed him hard. He
kissed her back.

“I thought he hurt you. I thought he hurt you like Aidan
hurt Daddy and the baby…” She trailed off and looked at him with wide eyes. “He
killed my baby,” she cried.

“It’s okay. I know. I know how he hurt your dad and I know
about the baby.” He held her firmly. “Nobody’s going to hurt me. I’m right here
with you.”

“Oh thank God.” She held him with all her strength, coming
up on her knees to squeeze his neck. “I don’t know what I’d do if he hurt you.
I don’t know how I’d live with myself if he hurt you.” He could feel her tears
on his neck. His heart broke for her.

“Rory, listen to me. I’m not going anywhere. Nobody’s going
to hurt me. None of this is your fault; you know that? And your father’s and
baby’s deaths weren’t your fault either.”

She backed up and looked at him. “It
was
my fault. I
lied to him. He killed Daddy because I lied about the baby. I just wanted to
save the baby.” She broke down sobbing and Jackson could barely understand what
she was saying.

“What do you mean?” She had doubled over and wrapped her
arms around her midsection, sobbing hard. He ran his hands over her back,
trying to comfort her any way he could.

She looked up at him. “He asked Daddy if he knew I was
pregnant. Daddy said I wasn’t. Then he asked me and I lied too. I said I wasn’t
pregnant. I just wanted to save the baby. I wanted it so much…” She trailed
off, sobbing again.

After a moment she continued, crying and hoarse. “That’s
when he…he stabbed Daddy in the chest because somehow he knew. He knew all
along that I was pregnant and we were lying. I don’t know how he knew. But he
stabbed Daddy and he wouldn’t stop! I couldn’t get to him because I couldn’t
get up. Oh God, the blood, Jackson…and then he came for me.”

Jackson grabbed her and held her against his chest. He
closed his eyes and remembered the pictures he had seen in her file. She
thought herself responsible. No wonder she hadn’t recovered.

“Rory.” He leaned back and looked into her eyes, his hands
on either side of her face. “Rory, did your dad know you were pregnant?”

Tears streamed down her face as she stared at him with those
big brown eyes. “Yes, he knew. I told him,” she sobbed.

“He must have wanted to save the baby too. He tried to
convince Aidan that you weren’t pregnant. He lied too, Rory, not just you. This
isn’t your fault.” He held her tightly.

She stilled as she thought about what Jackson said. He
pressed her head onto his shoulder.

Jackson held her for a long time. After her sobbing eased,
he stood and gently lifted her into his arms. He took her into his bedroom and
laid her in the middle of the big bed. He returned to the guest room and
retrieved his gun, tucking it back in the drawer. He went into the bathroom and
got a wet washcloth and glass of water. Returning to Rory, he gently wiped her
face and waited for her to finish drinking. She watched him solemnly.

After putting away the washcloth and glass, he returned to
the bed. He lay back and pulled Rory to his chest. He held her tightly and kissed
her head.

“Try to sleep, baby.” He kissed her head again as he felt
her muscles relax and melt into him.

Chapter Twenty-Four

 

Rory didn’t have to open her eyes to know exactly where she
was. She had missed waking to this. She loved the feel of Jackson’s warm skin,
his masculine scent, and the sounds of his calmly beating heart. She snuggled
against his side and ran her hand slowly over his rock-hard chest.

She rather begrudgingly admitted to herself that he had made
sense at dinner last night. It helped to hear that his feelings for her had
developed separately from his political plans. She didn’t know why something so
simple had to be said out loud for her to believe it. But she did believe him.
Especially when he said he loved her. She was on the committee, it was done,
and he was still beside himself declaring his love for her, standing by her
through this bullshit. She didn’t want to be without him again. She was in love
with him.

And she felt…happy about it, joyful even. This gorgeous man
was in love with her. A smile spread across her lips even as she cursed herself
for not listening to him the first time he tried to tell her. She had been
stubborn and stupid, so convinced it was hell raining down on her again.
Although she still didn’t relish the committee.

Her breath caught at the memory of her nightmare. She played
it back in her mind. Why had she never thought of her father’s denial of her
pregnancy? Both of them had lied to Aidan about the baby, not just her. Aidan
had said not to lie to him or he’d kill them. Daddy had lied too. They had both
tried to save the baby. It didn’t feel like absolution, but it was different,
as if she weren’t alone with what happened.

She was terrified Jackson would be hurt. And he had read her
file. It made her sick to think of it. He knew how bad it had been, and about
the pregnancy. Her forehead wrinkled as she winced at what he must have
thought, the photos he had seen. He had read it before they had spent their
first night together, before he had touched her. But he had still wanted her.

Her hand caressed his chest and lightly followed the dark
line of hair down his stomach. She felt the velvet skin covering hard muscle
there. She also felt his very erect cock bobbing up and down. Such a beautiful
body. Such a beautiful man, and yet she thought she was most attracted to his
heart. That was how she knew.

“I do love you,” she whispered.

She felt him start in surprise. He reached down and tilted
her head back, his look awestruck. He searched her face with his eyes before
taking her lips in a soft, warm kiss. When he pulled back, he searched her face
again.

“Can you say that again?”

She smiled brightly. “I love you.”

He stared at her for a moment before closing his eyes and
squeezing her so tightly she couldn’t breathe. When he pulled back he had a
wide grin on his face.

“Thank you…I mean, I love you too… Are you sure?”

“Well, I could reexamine my feelings if you want me to.”

“No, no, I mean, I just didn’t know if you felt the same
way… God, I’m so in love with you.” He kissed her deeply, his body engulfing
hers. He rolled on top of her, his hands cupping either side of her face. He
looked into her eyes. “You make me so happy,” he breathed, before taking her
mouth again.

He held her pressed against his body as if he didn’t want to
chance her getting away. His kiss was deep and slow. She instinctually spread
her legs to feel his erection against her silk-covered sex.

Jackson lifted and looked at her. “I have missed you so much.
Don’t ever leave me again.” Her heart leapt at his plea as he kissed her
passionately, rolling his hips into her. “Tell me again, please. I want to hear
it,” he begged as his lips went to her neck.

“I love you, Jackson.”

“Oh God, I love you too, Rory.” He grinded into her as he
kissed her hard. “You know what I want to do?”

“I have a pretty good idea, and I’m totally onboard.”

He looked deeply into her eyes. “I want to make love to you.
I don’t just want to fuck or have sex. I want to make love.”

It was her turn to look into his eyes with awe. She had long
ago given up hope of a man, let alone one who understood the difference.

“Yes, let’s make love,” she said, lifting to his lips, tears
slipping free as she closed her eyes. A lovely feeling of relief and arrival
stirred her emotions.

He gently tugged her shirt up and over her head. He caressed
her skin, his eyes feasting on her naked breasts. Their lips met and he palmed
her breasts gently, sensually rubbing across her nipples until they rose and
puckered.

He leaned to the side and ran his hand slowly down her body.
She wasn’t ashamed or alarmed when he touched her scarring. She didn’t give it
a thought. He worshipped her with his eyes and hands, warming her skin. Her
entire focus was on him and his on her, as he so gently set every part of her
on fire.

“I missed your gorgeous body,” he whispered. “I missed you.”

His hand dipped inside her panties and her hips lifted to
his touch. He slowly caressed her sex and impaled her, stroking her. She cried
out and he covered her mouth with his as he continued to finger her, his tongue
meeting hers slowly. She was quickly pulled to the brink of orgasm.

Just before she would have burst with climax, he abandoned
her and moved to the side.

“I don’t want you to come alone, baby. We’re going to come
together.” He moved back and peeled her panties off. He replaced his arm
underneath her and held her body to his again as she felt the blunt head of his
cock press into her, almost throwing her over the edge.

“Oh God, Jackson,” she gasped, and he looked into her eyes.
He pressed forward, inch by inch filling her until she held all of him inside
her. He groaned and hugged her to him tightly.

“Rory, I love you,” he breathed, pushing into her harder.

She felt worshipped and wanted him to feel the same.

“I love you too, Jackson.” His eyes closed in reverence and
he captured her mouth as he churned into her harder and quicker. She closed her
eyes and savored the feeling of him inside her.

“Please, Rory, open your eyes. Look into my eyes.” She did
as he asked and saw the love in his gaze. “Come with me.”

 

“Let’s get married.”

Rory’s head shot off his shoulder and he smiled into her
shocked face.

“Are you nuts?” she said.

“I’ll say it again, only for you. Why shouldn’t we get
married? We’re in love, aren’t we?”

She lay on the pillow next to him, their faces inches apart.
She looked into his eyes and could tell he was dead serious. She had to smile.
The idea of him proposing was crazy but made her heart sing. Such a beautiful
man. Yep, she was in love all right.

“Don’t you think you’re jumping the gun a little? We’ve only
known each other for a matter of weeks, and one of them we spent apart because
you weren’t honest with me. Don’t think you’re off the hook for that one. We
have some things to work through here.”

“Namely?”

“Namely the fact that I now sit on a committee I hate
because of your manipulation. There’s also my late husband’s crazy brother
following us around. Oh, and don’t forget the FBI, Homeland Security and Secret
Service agents practically living with us. All in all, I’d say this wasn’t the
best time to be making any major life decisions.”

He leaned up on his arm. “Actually, I don’t think there’s
ever been a better time. Everything is crystal clear to me, especially after
the last week. The thought of losing you is worse than almost anything else I
could imagine. I know what I want, Rory. I haven’t felt like this…ever,” he
said with a wave of his hand. “You remember when you said you were a means to
an end for me? Well, you are, my complete happiness.”

Tears filled her eyes. Nobody had ever said anything so
romantic to her. She leaned up and kissed him gently, burrowing into his chest
as he took her into his arms. She was trying to hold back her tears that were
of both happiness and fear.

“Tell me what you’re thinking,” he whispered.

“I don’t know,” she breathed. “I just feel like there’s so
much shit right now. I just want to get rid of all this bullshit.” She ran her
fingertips through his chest hair as she examined how she felt.

“We can only fix what we can control. We can’t control the
crazy bastard who’s stalking you, but we can go along with this and try to get
him out of our lives. They’ll get him and you’ll never have to worry about it
again.”

She snorted. “I’m glad one of us is sure.”

“Well, I am. And about the committee, I am sorry, Rory.” He
rolled over her so he could look directly into her eyes. “If I had it to do
over again, I would have told you what the party was after, what I was
originally after, right away. It just changed for me so quickly. I started
having such strong feelings for you that I was afraid you’d walk away if I told
you. In the end, that obviously backfired…” He trailed off. “I just didn’t want
to lose you, and I was stuck with what I had to do.”

She looked at him, considering what he was saying.

“Is it really that bad? Why do you hate that committee so
much?”

She was tempted to let his question go unanswered. But in
the interest of the full disclosure she needed with him, she made herself
respond. Besides, she should probably let him know everything.

She closed her eyes and spoke. “I guess it’s not the
committee that I hate. It’s the idea of being so close to those topics.” She
inhaled hard. “I don’t want to talk about what happened to me. I don’t want to
have to share it with the world.”

“You don’t have to talk about what happened to you.”

She snorted again. “You know as well as I do why your party
wants me on that committee. They want to use my story.”

“We can work around that. I’m going to take care of that for
you. I’m going to take care of everything,” he said emphatically.

She smiled indulgently at him. “Jackson, you know as well as
I do that’ll only go so far.”

He leaned back again and held her tight.

“You read my file,” she said meekly.

“Yes, I did,” he answered carefully and she was quiet again.

Finally she spoke. “Everybody knows my husband killed my dad
and tried to kill me. But only a handful of people know that I was pregnant.”
She closed her eyes. “I didn’t want anybody to know. I still don’t.” She wiped
away a loose tear.

He held her tightly, surrounding her small body with his.

“I don’t want the world to know that he took my baby.” She
forced herself to look up at him, her chin quivering. “Jackson, he took my
ability to ever have a baby.”

She watched as his eyes showed the realization of what she
was saying, and slowly reflected her sadness. He closed his eyes and held her,
squeezing her hard.

“I’m so sorry, baby, I didn’t know that,” he whispered. “I’m
so sorry.” He held her quietly until they both had control over their emotions
again.

“You know, it’s not your fault. You have no culpability in
that.”

She sat up and rubbed her face. She needed to move away from
this conversation. “Yeah, I have a hard time with that.” She looked at the
clock. “It’s Saturday. I should check on the men in my condo.” She started to
get out of bed and he grabbed her around the waist.

“Will you think about it?” He nipped her naked hip with his
teeth.

“Think about what?” she teased.

“Don’t make me spank your ass, baby…about marrying me.”

“Will you still spank me if I marry you?” she teased,
running her hand down his stomach and grasping his erection.

“Will that make you say yes?” he breathed, groaning and
pushing his hips into her hand.

“It’s certainly food for thought,” she said, pumping his
cock. “Speaking of which, I’m so hungry.”

He hissed as she took him into her mouth.

 

Jackson wouldn’t let Rory out of his sight. He insisted she
shower with him, not that it took much convincing. And he was sure to thank her
properly, on his knees with her thighs wrapped around his head. After they
finally dressed, she sat at the counter while he made them both breakfast. She
was wearing those jeans again, the ones with the ripped knee. The ones that
drove him insane with the way they hugged her shapely ass.

This was quickly turning into one of the best days ever,
even with the FBI crap. Now that he had her back, he admitted how scared he had
been that he had lost her. He was going to make damn sure he was never without
her again. He’d get her to marry him, and soon. She would be his forever.

As the bacon fried, he leaned over the bar and gave her a
quick kiss on the lips, nudging her nose with his. She smiled and wrapped her
arms around his neck, sinking her fingers into his thick hair.

“I need something from you,” she whispered, her forehead
resting on his.

“I’d give you anything.”

“I need a promise.” She peered at him with her big brown
eyes.

“Me too, that you’ll be mine forever.”

“Well, think of this as the promise that could lead to that.
But I’m very serious. And I need you to be dead serious with me. And honest.”

He stood up straight and looked at her. “Anything,” he said.
“Anything for you, Rory. I want you to be able to trust me.”

“I need you to promise me that you’ll be honest with me and
never involve me in any politics ever again. Unless we do something together
that we both want to sponsor or something.” She looked at him with her steely
gaze. “You can never use me again. I have to be able to count on that. I have
to know that you’re always honest with me and telling me the truth, the whole
truth and nothing but the truth.”

He looked adamantly into her eyes. “I promise you will never
be used again, by me or anyone else. I promise you I will always be honest with
you. I promise you will be able to trust me to take care of you for the rest of
our lives.”

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