Marquess’s alternative arrival home.
“Enough!” Vane roared and suddenly everything stopped.
The dog that could not have been tamed by two footmen, Isabel, and a maid, plopped down, all attention on his master. Isabel, who still tugged on his collar, propelled forward and fell to her knees.
Millie halted with brushes in the air, and even the dust seemed to settle in the room. The servants froze in their spots.
“What in the bloody hell is going on here?” Vane asked in a murderous whisper.
“Lady Isabel was teaching me color,” Millie said innocently.
Isabel narrowed her eyes on the treacherous child.
“Call Mrs. Ainsworth, please,” Vane asked one of the maids. The poor girl scattered away as fast as she could.
Isabel slowly got to her feet and scrubbed her disheveled hair away from her face.
“My lady?” Vane addressed her emotionlessly.
Isabel licked her lips, unwilling to cower under his stare or look away. “Welcome home, my lord.”
Before Vane could say anything more, Mrs. Ainsworth appeared in the hall.
“Mrs. Ainsworth, please take my daughter to her room and order for the bath to be prepared. Rogers, please, take Button for a turn about the gardens.”
“But Papa!” Millie looked at him pleadingly.
“Not now, Millie. I shall talk to you later. Do as you’re told.”
The girl pouted but did not argue. How in the world did he do that? One stern look, one low command, and everyone obeyed. Even the dratted dog, who didn’t seem able to sit still before, now happily wagged his tail, patiently waiting to be escorted into the garden. Isabel was about to cry from the sheer frustration. She had failed. Completely. Absolutely. Miserably.
She did not deserve such treatment from the little girl and her dog. She did not deserve the antagonism. And more than that, she certainly did not deserve the scolding from her husband, which she was quite certain to get.
She felt like a little girl who’d done something wrong and awaited her punishment. She had not felt this way since she was in her schoolroom. What had her life come to?
As soon as the last person left the room, the marquess turned toward her. “Please, explain.”
Isabel looked around the messy hall before meeting the marquess’s eyes again. Her hands shook, so she hid them in the folds of her skirt. “What exactly would you like me to explain?”
“What happened here?” he growled.
Isabel squared her shoulders. “I think this is rather self-explanatory.”
“It is really not.” Vane crossed his arms on his chest, and cocked his head to the side, showing with his entire appearance that he was not leaving this hall until he got a satisfactory explanation from Isabel.
Well, there was really no satisfactory answer. How did she explain that a sweet six-year-old turned into a monster and destroyed the old mansion in a matter of hours?
“What happened is…” Isabel looked around the hall again, only this time in helplessness. She wasn’t on top of things. In fact, she wasn’t on top of anything.
The perfect lady, the exemplary hostess that she was, in the battle against a six-year-old girl and her dog she had lost. And now she was reprimanded by her husband like a schoolgirl.
She was not a schoolgirl. She was supposed to be a mistress of this house. She was supposed to have everything under control. Oh, Lord! Her eyes filled up with tears and her lips began to tremble. What a mess. “What happened is…” she said again, only quieter.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, you are not going to cry, are you?”
Of course, I am not going to cry! She was just about to say just that when tears sprang to her eyes and a hiccup erupted from her mouth. She covered her mouth with her hand and shook her head.
Vane raised his eyes to the ceiling, then fished out a handkerchief and came toward Isabel. She still tried to hold on to her tears and refused to look at him. As he came to stand only a foot away, Isabel raised her eyes to his, thinking he would offer his handkerchief to her.
Instead, he took her by the chin and started wiping at her cheeks. This tiny act of kindness was what broke her steely resolve.
Tears streaked down her cheeks freely now as she started to sob.
With a sigh, Vane took her into his arms and held her close. Isabel cried into his coat, hiccups erupting from her throat. She could not say anything, not that she wanted to. She trembled, and it was as if all her sorrow suddenly poured out of her.
The unfortunate incident with Stanhope at Evie’s ball, the side-glances, and whispers by the members of the ton, the way Vane treated her before and more importantly after the wedding.
It wasn’t easy being a mistress of an estate. It was doubly difficult when everyone regarded her with mistrust. And now when she thought she’d finally gained the trust of her tenants and servants when she thought the life was changing for the better, the little girl demeaned her in every way possible.
And if Vane had been cruel, if he’d berated her and yelled at her, she’d be able to hold it together just enough to give him the piece of her mind. But as he held her close to his chest, she did not want to fight and argue anymore. She just wanted to be weak. She wanted to be comforted.
Oh, how he must have been disgusted with her. She tried to push away from his chest, but Vane tightened his arms around her, his hand running up and down her back in soothing caresses.
“Shh…” he whispered against her hair. “Stay a moment.”
When Rhys finally arrived at the house, what he saw made him freeze in shock. The picture before him was as terrifying as it was comical. Millie was waving the brushes around, coloring his dull hall in vibrant colors, Button was crushing everything in his way, while Lady Isabel struggled to contain the animal as much as he could.
Rhys had spent the entire day worrying that his daughter needed saving from his new wife. He had not considered even for a moment that it was the other way around.
Now, as he stood in the middle of the ruined hall, cradling his crying wife in his arms, he felt oddly at peace. What a strange feeling to have, indeed.
He ran his hand up and down her spine, comforting her. But he felt his heart slowing down and his breathing even out as well. Somehow, holding his wife in his arms had a calming effect on him.
She was warm and soft, and fit perfectly in his arms. Rhys lowered his head and took a whiff of her floral-scented perfume.
They stood like that for a moment more, their breathing evening out and coming out in unison. The tranquil effect she’d had on him was slowly replaced by a stir of desire.
Rhys slowly edged her away before she felt his erection against her thigh and handed her his handkerchief.
Lady Isabel let out a hoarse chuckle and wiped at her cheeks. She looked around the ruins they were standing in the midst of and groaned. “I shall better start cleaning this up.”
Rhys nodded. He swallowed the large boulder lodged in his throat. Somehow he was loath to leave her. But he needed to speak to Millie and make sure she was unharmed, although it seemed like she was doing most of the harming.
Just then, Lady Isabel looked at him, her eyes rounded and her mouth slightly open. She covered her mouth with her hand and a chuckle left her.
Rhys looked down at his appearance, his cheeks heated in embarrassment. What did she see?
“What happened to you?” she said with another chuckle.
Rhys just now remembered that he was indeed covered in dust and grime from helping the villagers and then from the long road on horseback.
“Not anything unlike what happened to you,” Rhys said with a smile. “I shall leave you to your cleaning.” I need to clean up, too.
Rhys couldn’t as well show up at Millie’s room looking like that. He needed to clean himself.
But since Millie was likely the one occupying the bath at the moment, there was only one alternative left. The blissfully freezing stream.
Scroll down for one more scene (Slight steam warning)
Thank you for reading the alternative scene from “An Offer from the Marquess.” I hope you enjoyed it!
Be sure to pre-order book 5, An Affair with the Viscount.
Alternative waking up scene
Isabel woke up to a languid, pleasant feeling. A hand slowly glided up her thigh, and she moaned.
“Good morning,” Rhys murmured from behind her, his voice hoarse and sleepy. He curled his fingers over her skin, tickling her thigh and making her giggle.
“Good morning,” Isabel said and turned her head to look at him.
Rhys kissed her on her cheek and shifted closer to her. His hot shaft poked against her bottom. Isabel shivered pleasantly, and a peculiar ache originated at her center.
She wanted him. She wanted his shaft to fill her as it did the night before.
Rhys kissed her on the neck, then bit her lightly. His hand rounded her hip and settled between her legs. Isabel caught her breath.
Rhys swirled his fingers, finding moisture there, and grunted in approval. His other hand traveled from under her and he cupped her breast.
Isabel arched her spine, bringing the head of his shaft closer to her in the process.
“Is something wrong?” she whispered.
“No.” Rhys bit on her earlobe. “Nothing is wrong, my darling. You just make me so hard, it is impossible for me to control myself.”
“W-Why would you want to control yourself?”
Rhys chuckled and licked her on the shoulder. “Good question,” he rasped, the warmth of his breath making her shiver.
Isabel moaned and rocked her hips back. His tip entered her body, and she whimpered.
“Yes,” he rasped and thrust into her.
Rhys circled her nipple with his hand while holding her hips and thrusting in and out of her in an unrelenting rhythm. Isabel felt hot, the sweat streaming down her body as he kept on his pace. She wanted to crawl out of her skin, but she also wanted something more.
Rhys’s fingers bit into her flesh as he kept on thrusting, the sound of his hips meeting her bottom reverberating through the room. Isabel whimpered, feeling frustrated and needing some kind of completion, needing something.
A knock on the door startled them both.
Rhys stilled, holding Isabel close to him. “Whoever it is, get out!” he growled.
“Rhys!” Isabel half turned to him. She was shaking from the sudden interruption, but she felt uncomfortable from Rhys’s rudeness.
He kissed her on the neck. “I’m sorry, darling, I just—Argh!”
With a groan, he withdrew his length and rolled off the bed. Isabel drew the sheets higher over her body. Rhys looked at her with a mourning gaze and ran his hand through his hair.
He quickly put on his breeches and stalked toward the door.
“What?” His voice was sharp.
Isabel sat up. What could have possibly happened?
Rhys murmured something in a level voice, then slunk inside. He closed the door and leaned his back against it, his eyes closed.
“What is it?” Isabel asked, with a pucker between her brows.
“Your brother,” Rhys said, then opened his eyes. “Viscount Gage is here for a visit.”
Thank you for reading the alternative scenes from “An Offer from the Marquess.” I hope you enjoyed them!
Be sure to pre-order book 5, An Affair with the Viscount.