This was cut from an early version of A Duchess in Name (it was still called The Forgotten Duchess back then). It takes place shortly after Andrew persuades Victoria to give him another chance, at least, in the bedroom. Poor Victoria, despite her determination to keep things strictly about procreation, is finding it hard to compartmentalize!
Victoria came into the breakfast dining room to find Louisa and Emma were already well into their morning meal. Arriving so far after the rest of the household put her out of sorts. She was used to being up with the earliest scullery maids. When she thought back on why she was late to breakfast, her face flushed and her fingers fumbled at the pin on her collar. Remembering Andrew’s kisses and hands, his lean, hard body pressing down on hers as his groan of ecstasy reverberated in her ear, sent all her rational thoughts scattering.
It had been five days since the night in the parlor when he’d kissed her and asked if they could start again. Five nights was perhaps more accurate, since she now measured time in nights. Five nights of Andrew in her bed, loving her body over and over, all night long, only to wake her in the morning to start again. She felt utterly exhausted and completely alive. She perpetually lapsed into daydreaming and often caught herself fixating on some fascinating new aspect of her husband’s person. His wrists below his starched white cuffs as he ate his soup at dinner, the solid curve of his throat as he tilted his head back on the sofa to listen to Emma play, the bunch and flex of his thigh muscles under the black wool of his trousers. She never knew there were so many beauties to be found in the male form, or that the sight of them could reduce her to a trembling mass of need.
“Victoria? Are you quite well?”
Louisa’s polite question startled her out of yet another erotic daydream.
“What? Oh yes. I’m well. Only… thinking.”
Louisa looked back down at her plate with a sly smile. “Good.”
“I’ll just…” Victoria took a step, stopped, and then started again. “I’ll just get something to eat.”
“You should do that,” Louisa said.
Victoria blindly filled her plate at the sideboard, not caring what she chose, and took a seat next to Emma.
“The coddled eggs are delicious,” Emma said. “Cook makes them just the way I like them.”
“What? Oh yes, the eggs. She is very good. Yes.”
“Good morning, lovely ladies.” Andrew’s wry comment from the doorway sent a shock through her body. Every nerve stood at alert at his nearness. Victoria swallowed thickly and tried to focus on buttering a piece of toast, when really her mind could only think about Andrew, all his beautiful parts, and what they could do in concert with each other.
He stopped behind Emma and leaned down to kiss her cheek. “How are you, poppet?”
She scowled. “Don’t call me ‘poppet,’ Andrew. I’m much too old.”
He laughed. “Very well, Lady Emma. I’ll remember that next time.”
As he moved to cross behind Victoria, he reached out to touch her shoulder, a small, insignificant movement that made her burn for him. He stopped behind her, hesitated a moment, and then rested both hands on her shoulders, leaning down and kissing her just in front of her ear, lingering a moment too long to be proper.
“Good morning, Duchess.”
She closed her eyes, resisting with everything in her being leaning back into his touch and his kiss. Just when she thought she wouldn’t be able to help doing it, he stood back up, squeezing her shoulders briefly before releasing her. The fingers of his left hand trailed across the back of her neck as he moved away and took his seat at the head of the table. She raised her eyes to his as he settled. He gave her a warm, intensely intimate smile as the footman moved to pour his coffee.
“Sleep well?” he asked her, cocking one eyebrow.
She fought to suppress her grin, since he knew very well she’d gotten precious little sleep with him the night before.
“Quite well, thank you.”
“Really?” Now he raised both eyebrows. “I suppose I’ll have to see to that.”
She stifled a laugh as Andrew hid behind the morning paper. Louisa and Emma were suddenly very absorbed in their breakfast, studiously ignoring the outrageous way their brother was flirting with his wife. Victoria finished buttering her toast. She should have been embarrassed, horrified, scandalized. Instead, she was suffused with the most sublime satisfaction of her life.
“Mr. March would like to inspect the oats today.”
Victoria blinked, trying to follow his train of conversation. “Pardon?”
Andrew looked up from his paper with a sly smile, as if he knew exactly what consumed her thoughts. “Mr. March. Our land agent. He’d like to show us the progress he’s made with the irrigation in the western fields. They’re growing oats. If you’re up for the walk.” Andrew set his paper aside with exaggerated care. “Come to think of it, Victoria, you look a little tired. Are you sure you’re quite well? Perhaps you should retire to your bedroom to rest. I can come up to check on you in a bit.”
She bit the inside of her cheek trying to school her features into obedience. “I don’t require a rest right now, thank you. And I would love to tour the oats with Mr. March.”
“And me,” he added quietly.
Louisa and Emma finished their meal, since they’d been at the table much longer than Victoria and Andrew, and began to discuss Mr. Arbuthnot’s next visit, scheduled for later that afternoon. Emma had several hours of practice planned before his arrival and Louisa wanted to finish her letters to her school friends. With a flurry of youthful ruffles and excited chatter, the two of them exited the breakfast room.
As soon as they were gone, Andrew leaned forward and swept Victoria’s hand off the table, bringing it to his mouth and kissing her fingertips.
“Andrew! The servants are still here.”
“I don’t care. You’re my wife. It’s entirely proper.” Andrew was finding a growing satisfaction with uttering those words. My wife. This gorgeous, radiant, sensual creature was his wife. He felt like he’d awakened into some sublime dream.
“Mr. March will be here at any moment.”
“Then I really don’t care,” Andrew murmured, kissing her fingers again and surreptitiously drawing the tip of her index finger into his mouth. He loved the way her perfect rosebud lips fell open and those startlingly green eyes grew hazy and lust-filled. Her breasts strained against the fine cotton of her neat cream blouse and he imagined everything that lay underneath— the luscious swells pushed up by her corset, the delicate chemise barely restraining her pale flesh with a concoction of lace and ribbons. His mouth began to water and he feared they were fated to make it no farther than breakfast today. He wanted her desperately. It was a hunger never fully sated. His hand was still holding hers, gripping it tightly, and now her fingers were curled into him as well.
“Victoria…” his voice was a low strained groan. He was about to ask her… beg her… to come back upstairs to her bed where he could strip her bare and savor her again, for hours, all day.
“Your Grace, Mr. March has arrived.”
Borne stood at stoic attention just inside the breakfast room doorway, eyes focused on some imaginary spot on the far wall as if he hadn’t just walked in on the master of the house about to accost the mistress of the house over the toast and marmalade.
Andrew groaned, feeling himself hard and straining as he shifted in his chair. “Please tell Mr. March we’ll join him shortly.”
Victoria pushed back from the table and stood, her hands going to her hair to smooth it, even though it was already perfect. He shot to his feet and hooked an arm around her waist, pulling her back to his chest and dipping his head to whisper in her ear.
“You don’t know how close I was to dragging you back up stairs.”
She reached back over her shoulder to cup the back of his neck, her nails scraping softly in the short hair there.
“As close as I was to begging you to drag me upstairs, I’ll wager.”
He chuckled and pressed his forehead to her temple. She was remarkable. Intelligent and witty, even when she was bringing him to his knees with lust for her.
“I suppose we’ll have to postpone that thought.” He released her body but stretched out his hand, offering for hers.
“Shall we go meet Mr. March and see what he’s made of our oats?”
She paused for only a moment before placing hers in his and walking at his side towards the library.