Excerpts from the Book

After the Storm

Margaret stood at the long window of the drawing room scanning the darkened mill yard for the figure of her husband. She wore the violet gown from the Master’s dinner several weeks ago, although Dixon had left a few fastenings in the back undone to accommodate her growing middle.

She watched intently for the first sign of him, feeling foolishly like a schoolgirl in her anxiousness. How was it after these many months of marriage she should still feel so hopelessly in love, thrilling at the very thought of him walking through the door? She doubted it would ever change; her longing to be with him throughout the day had not abated since they had returned from Helstone.

She smiled at herself. She was glad that Mrs. Thornton had offered to dine with Fanny this evening for if propriety would allow it, she was certain that she would await him at the window like this each and every day.

Her eyes strained against the darkness until at last she caught her breath to see him emerge from the mill and cross the yard. Her stomach fluttered as he approached the house and she turned away to move nearer the drawing room entrance.

“You’re home!” she welcomed him as he appeared through the entryway, throwing her arms around his neck to kiss him.

He received her kiss with some surprise but returned it with swift vigor before turning his head to furtively glance in the direction of his mother’s usual seat.

Margaret laughed at his discomfiture. “She’s not here. She is dining with Fanny tonight,” Margaret answered his unspoken question with a mischievous smile.

He sought her lips again to return her audacity, kissing her thoroughly now that he knew they were alone. “And what are your plans for me?” he asked in a dark, low voice upon releasing her.

“You will have to wait and see,” she answered somewhat breathlessly as he towered over her with a glint of lust in his eyes. She gathered her senses and gave him a saucy smile before taking his hand and leading him upstairs.

“I thought it might be pleasant to make a grand affair of your birthday and take you to dinner and dancing at the Westford Hotel,” she explained as she climbed the stairs ahead of him. “You have an impelling charm when you are set amidst society; you quite naturally command the attention of all those around you,” she continued as they walked down the hall.

She stopped just outside the door to their room to finish her speech. “However, beneath such a gracious and sociable exterior, I am quite certain you are truly a quiet man who much prefers the privacy of his own home,” she concluded, gazing at him with affection. With her last words, she opened the door to usher him in.

Mr. Thornton stepped inside, taking in at once the seductively inviting atmosphere. A candlelit table was set for two in the open space beyond their bed, and a fire crackled and spit in the fireplace near the foot of their bed, casting dancing shadows across the crimson walls and over the broad surface of the bed. The thin, golden panels of the papered walls glinted in the wavering light. After surveying the scene with growing rapture, he looked to his wife in wondrous adoration.

“It is just as I should have liked,” he murmured, gathering her into his arms to bestow his thanks.


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