One Night for Love
PART I - The Return
PART II - Memory: One Night for Love
PARTV III - An Impossible Dream
PART IV - The Education of a Lady
PARTV V - The Education of a Lady
'LILY, I WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU.
Do you want it too?' he asked her.
'You must not be frightened,' he told her. 'Not at any moment. However far advanced in passion I might become, I will stop the instant you tell me to stop. Will you believe that?'
'Yes,' she said. 'But I will not tell you to stop.'
She knew that she would want to. Before he made love to her, she would want to stop him. Because once they were together, she would know. She would know if her dreams of love must die forever. And she would know if after all, he found himself repulsed by the knowledge that another man had known her since their wedding day. But she would not stop him. This—tonight, all of it—was meant to be, and she would let it be, however it turned out.
Published by Dell Publishing a division of Random House, Inc.
Copyright © 1999 by Mary Balogh
To Gayle Knutson,
a former student and present friend, who designed and created
my Web site in time for the promotion of this book.
Despite the early hour and the chilly weather, the yard of the White Horse Inn in
, was crowded and noisy. The stagecoach for the West Country was preparing to make its daily run. Few passengers had yet boarded; most were milling about anxiously to see that their luggage had been properly stowed. Hawkers attempted to sell their wares to passengers for whom the day would be long and tedious. Grooms bustled about their business. Ragged children, when they were not being shooed back into the street, darted about, feeding on the excitement.
The guard blew his horn, a deafening warning that the coach would be departing within a few minutes and anyone with a ticket would be well advised to climb aboard.
Captain Gordon Harris, looking smart in the green regimentals of the Ninety-fifth Rifles, and his young wife, who was warmly and modishly dressed, looked somewhat out of place in such inelegant surroundings. But they were not themselves passengers. They had accompanied a woman to the White Horse in order to see her on her way.
Her appearance was in marked contrast to theirs. While she was clean and tidy, she was undeniably shabby. She wore a simple high-waisted cotton dress with a shawl for warmth. Both garments looked well worn and well washed. Her bonnet, which had perhaps once been pretty even if never quite modish, had clearly shielded its wearer from one too many rainstorms. Its wide brim was limp and misshapen. She was a young woman—indeed, she was so small and so slight of frame that she might at first glance have been mistaken for a mere girl. But there was something about her that drew second, more lingering glances from several of the men who were busy about their various tasks. There were beauty and grace and some indefinable air of femininity about her to proclaim that she was indeed a woman.
'I must be getting into the coach,' she said with a smile for the captain and his wife. 'You need not stay here any longer. It is too cold to be standing about.' She held out both her slim hands to Mrs. Harris, though she looked alternately at both of them. 'How will I ever be able to thank you sufficiently for all you have done for me?'
Tears sprang to Mrs. Harris's eyes, and she enfolded the young woman tightly in her arms. 'We have done nothing of any great significance,' she said. 'And now we are abandoning you to travel on the stage, the very cheapest form of transportation, when you might have gone more respectably by post chaise or at the very worst by the mailcoach.'
'I have borrowed enough from you,' the young woman said, 'without indulging in needless extravagances.'
'It is still not too late to alter your plans, you know.' Captain Harris took one of the young woman's hands in both of his own. 'Come back to our hotel with us for breakfast and I shall write that letter even before I eat, and send it on its way. I daresay there will be an answer within the week.'
'No, sir,' she told him quite firmly, though she smiled. 'I cannot wait. I must go.'