Authors: Jennifer Connors
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Regency, #Time Travel, #Historical Romance
A Lesson in Pride
A Lesson in Pride
Published by J Connors Publishing, LLC
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.
All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Connors
Cover design by Darren Connors
I find writing dedications to be one of the hardest things about being an author. There are so many people who help me, encourage me and support me. In the end though, it is my fans who make me continue to write. Thank you.
Ginny laid against a bank of pillows, refusing to open her eyes. She reasoned that until she did, she could pretend that she was home. There was comfort in pretending she had finally made it home to her small house, cozy bed, flushing toilet. She considered the contents of her refrigerator. Since she had just returned from vacation, the appliance would have been somewhat bare, but she knew she could have found something good, something familiar. Of course, she always had her small stash of peanut butter cups in her bottom drawer.
Stubbornly, she kept her eyes firmly shut as she reached out with her other senses. The bed was soft, with cotton sheets and way too many pillows. Ignoring any thought that made her certain that she was still living other people's lives, she smelled the air instead. A light floral fragrance made her remember the garden she and Colin had cultivated.
Colin. How long ago had that been? So many husbands ago, so many opportunities to live another's life. Stretching her mind, she tried to picture his face and found that though she could recall many details about her second husband, his face was beginning to fade from her memory. A melancholy washed through her at the thought. She might not have been truly in love with him, but she had liked him a great deal. In a lot of ways, he would have been her perfect mate, if she'd been given the chance to explore that future. But she hadn't. Like she hadn't with Ian, Colby, Oliver, Spencer, Matthew and most recently, David.
Her heart sank as she remembered each man in turn. Seven men, seven marriages, seven times she had to leave without ever being given the benefit of saying good-bye. Seven men she'd been intimate with, more times than she could count. Not to mention Nathaniel, Captain Northwood and Nicholas. She'd been intimate with them as well. The math screamed slut, but Ginny wouldn't let that be what bothered her the most.
What bothered her the most was the sound of the fire across the room, the smell of flowers and the feel of the bed all confirmed what she most wanted to hide from. She was still not home, about to play a part in yet another production of “Somebody Else's Life.”
For a childish moment, Ginny thought that if she kept her eyes shut, she would not have to do it again. This at least elicited a smile on her face. Like peek-a-boo with her nieces and nephews, the world would not cease to exist because she refused to see it. Unfortunately, whatever drama that was supposed to happen would still happen. Whatever man she was supposed to “fall in love with” would still come calling.
Maybe if she moved things along quicker, she could move onto what might be her real life again. Ginny's smile grew as she considered that there couldn't be many more times that she lived other lives. Though the settings changed and the characters were different, her life was very much static. Could it continue so? She thought not, or perhaps she merely hoped not, but it was something to cling to.
Taking a deep, cleansing breath, Ginny prepared to open her eyes to this new world. After seven times, she was well versed in what she needed to know and what she needed to do. She might screw up on occasion, but it always worked out in the end. She would be confident and secure. She would be tough and bold. She would get through this and get back to where she belonged.
Ginny opened her eyes and looked around her. As she took in her surroundings, she realized what was happening. It was clear as day and her breath caught at the thought.
“What the hell?”
A roaring fire in the hearth. Candles lit around the room. A bucket with a bottle of wine or champagne on a table with two glasses. The clues were adding up quickly, and Ginny did not like what they alluded to. Looking down, she saw the final piece of the puzzle. A long, white satin peignoir draped on her body like a flowing gown.
Oh crap! Oh crap! Oh crap!
she thought frantically as she sat against the mountain of pillows. The sound of the fire was being drowned out by the rapid beat of her heart. She had no idea who she was, but she knew beyond a doubt that she was a bride and this was her wedding night. Any moment, a man, a stranger, was going to walk through one of the doors and demand his connubial bliss.
As common as it was in some cultures that a bride not meet her groom until their wedding, it did not matter to Ginny. She had no illusions of some romantic setting, being wooed by some man whose name she didn't know yet. Parts of Ginny's body clenched in fear. She'd had sex with so many men, but she knew every single one of them. She knew their names, their backgrounds, and their faces. There was always some connection, no matter how small, before she committed her body to them. But this? This was disturbing, unconscionable, and scary.
Even as the fear flowed through her body like lava, hot and slow, Ginny couldn't move. She was rooted to the bed, unable to run away or hide. Her mind screamed at her to leave, but her body refused to obey. Was it her character keeping her still? Whoever she was, she knew far more than Ginny did. Perhaps Ginny should trust the character. Perhaps her memories would come to her and Ginny would realize that her alter ego was deeply in love with the man about to enter this room.
The thought gave her comfort, as she was finally able to take a breath again. It would be fine. She had nothing to fear. Leaning back against the pillows, Ginny was just beginning to relax when the door across her room opened. Sitting up, Ginny watched in anticipation of her mega-hunk. If he truly loved this girl, he would be gentle and understanding. He would wait if she asked, hoping to put her at ease. All would be well.
But then a figure entered the light and Ginny knew that she was not in a romance novel- but in one of the outer rings of Hell. The man coming toward her was no mega-hunk. He was short and as wide as he was tall. His face was difficult to make out, but she could see the rolls of fat under his chin. What hair was left on his head was thin and greasy. He shuffled more than walked and snorted as he made his way to the foot of her bed.
Ginny's eyes widened as he approached. Was there any possibility this man was a servant- sent in before the arrival of her actual husband? Unfortunately not, as Ginny spied a half-filled glass of amber liquid in his hand. Not many households would be tolerant of the staff drinking on the job.
“Well, my dear. Here we are.”
Ginny swallowed back the bile rising in her throat at the lascivious sound of his voice.
When she continued to be silent, he said, “Your father has made many promises on your behalf, my sweet.” The grotesque man let his gaze drop to her mouth. “Oh, the things I shall make that mouth do to me. But only after you give me my heir.”
Ginny trembled, still unable to move from the bed. Even in the poor light, she could tell he rarely bathed. His scent wafted toward her, alerting her to his unclean situation. Her mind pictured his face more clearly. He would be lacking teeth, his face unshaven and covered in pockmarks. She was making him into an ogre and was fairly certain that she wasn't far from the mark. To top it all off, she was going to have to have sex with him.
With her mind racing, Ginny couldn't ever remember being put in such a situation as this before. Even with all the work, she'd had mostly fun living other people's lives. She'd gotten to meet some really great men. It wasn't fair that she'd had to move on, over and over again, but she would gladly move on for the rest of her life in exchange for not having to be touched by the man before her.
He would hurt her, she knew. Worse, he would enjoy doing it. Whoever she was would die at the hands of this man. Not before he was able to commit heinous acts to her body and heap her with barrels of humiliation. Still, Ginny could not move. What was wrong with her?
“Now, let us see what I paid for. Stand up, girl.”
His voice was like the hiss of a snake, which should have terrified her more, but Ginny was surprised when her body began to move off the bed.
What are you doing?
she screamed in her head, begging her body to run away. She stood straight as a post, waiting for his next order.
Flicking his hand that held the drink, spilling half its contents onto the bedclothes, he slurred, “Off with it.”
For a moment, Ginny was reminded of
Alice in Wonderland
Off with your head
, screamed the Red Queen. That would almost have been more welcome to Ginny than what he'd actually meant. Her fingers shook as she reached up to untie the bow at the top of her nightgown. She trembled so violently that she almost lost the tie in her fingers. She watched the man as he smiled knowingly. He was enjoying her fear. Glancing down at his robe, the evidence of his excitement was more than apparent.
“Go on now. I've not all night, you know,” he laughed as Ginny pulled the string.
His laughter abruptly stopped and the lack of sound pulled Ginny from her trance. Examining his face, she saw that he was struggling to breathe. The man stepped back, closer to the fire, allowing Ginny a better view.
His one hand clutched his chest, while the other dropped the glass to the floor. Ginny moved forward to the end of the bed and watched in fascination as the hand that had held the glass was now swinging out for something to hold. His eyes searched until they met hers again, only this time they were begging for help. As before, Ginny stood rooted to her spot, unable and unwilling to be of assistance.
A second later, the big man fell forward, completely missing the chairs sitting in front of the fire. He never used his hands to break his fall. After hitting the carpet, a large whoosh of air expelled from his lungs, then silence reined again.
She stood for a full minute, just watching the prone body on the floor. Though it had been some time since she'd been called upon to use her medical expertise, Ginny watched in fascination at the man displayed on the carpet. Finally, when he still refused to move, Ginny approached quietly and knelt beside him.
“Uh, you okay?” she asked, in her heart knowing full well that the man had been dead before his body hit the ground. For some reason, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
Fighting past the revulsion of touching him, Ginny forced herself to roll the large man onto his back and check for a pulse. No sooner had she moved him had the man released his bowels, sending a foul stench to her nose, overpowering even the scent of unwashed flesh and drunken breath. Breathing through her mouth, Ginny reached down and felt his neck for any sign of life.
When no pulse was found, Ginny stood up and shook her head. Judging by his appearance, the man denied himself nothing. He obviously drank to excess often, ate himself stupid, and exercised rarely. He was a poster child for heart disease. Still, when she should have felt some sort of sadness over the passing of another human being, she could only feel relief. The death of this particular human being meant that she was not going to be touched by him-ever.
Ginny sat on the edge of the bed and stared down on the man with distaste. What was she going to do now? It was at that moment that the memories flooded her mind. She closed her eyes, allowing everything she needed to know to flow into her. After a few minutes, Ginny smiled.
“What a fucked-up life you've inherited this time, my dear,” she said out loud to no one except her dead husband. Oddly, he didn't feel the need to contribute.