“Good evening, Mr Thornton.”
His head shot upward as he heard her rich, melodious voice drift like a summer breeze across the drawing room. He felt his breath catch as his eyes came to rest upon the woman who came so placidly and gracefully towards him. He turned to fully face her, feeling instantly that undeniable empathy of the current that would forever bind him to her side. He repressed the urge to follow the compelling siren of his instincts to go to her, for he would not spoil the beauty of this moment. He could not help but stare, to drink in the very divinity of her presence. The flames that swayed so agilely upon the central apexes of the candles about the room and from the fire itself threw out an effulgent glow, ensnaring the highlights in her thickly coiled and bound hair, its shorter strands escaping to frame her face most becomingly. The rounded contours of her exquisite face caught the wavering light so that her eyes, fixed so soulfully upon him, danced and shone.
She had changed into a simple pale green silk gown that settled just off her shoulders and revealed to him the velvet slopes of her ivory shoulders and the full, unadorned beauty of her long, smooth throat. His gaze lowered, moving surreptitiously downward, unable to resist the sumptuous fullness of her décolletage that presented itself so alluringly to his covert gaze. He swallowed hard, lifting his gaze back to her face; he was utterly enthralled, completely disarmed. He saw her ring gleam and glisten in all its modest beauty and it reminded him of the day to come when he would place beside it the simple band of gold that would proclaim everything he felt for her. Her full red lips, so achingly sensual and which he craved to kiss with such languorous, delicious tenderness, uplifted dazzlingly with a flash of white at him.
“You look…” He paused, his eyes probing with implicit appreciation of the sublime vision before him. “Enchanting.”
A soft bloom lit her complexion as her gentle feminine modesty overcame her, for all her shining eyes. With regal poise she bowed her head in acceptance of his loving compliment. “Thank you. I am glad that you think that I will not disgrace you in front of your guests.”
“They are your guests too,” he replied, pertinently. Her formal position in the household as lady of the house may not yet have been conferred upon her, but he found it impossible to consider her merely as a guest. He wished for her to feel and to treat this house as her own, just as it would one day become. “Do not think me insensitive to the fact that you have a prior claim upon them.”
“I do not think you insensitive at all,” she said, moving sedately towards the nearest chair and sitting down upon it, her green silk spilling in a luxuriant cascade over the faded flowers of the carpet. “In fact, I think you very considerate in all that you have said and done since I returned to Milton.”
“I only wish for your happiness, Margaret. That is all.”
“You do not need to wish for it. It is yours.”
He moved forward and crouched before her chair as if to pay homage to her beauty, taking her left hand tenderly in his and lifting it so that her ring caught the light. “Do you remember this afternoon when I gave you this ring and you asked me if we could marry as soon as possible?” he asked, noticing the rather diffident smile flit across her lips, as though she was a little abashed by the resurfacing memory of her own forwardness. “Margaret, if you will agree, I will go tomorrow and apply for a licence for us to marry.”