She plucked several of Dixon’s delicious scones from the kitchen platter and placed them in a basket with a small jar of jam before she headed out the door, as she wondered if the Master ever took the time for proper nourishment.
Margaret relished her invigorating walk to the Princeton district, taking in the sights and sounds of all around her. She no longer felt like a stranger to the bustle and noise of the streets as she had a year ago. It was her city now, and she was proud to be a part of its promise.
When she arrived at the Higgins’ home, Mary blinked back tears at Margaret’s insistence that she take the offered dress to wear as a proper guest to the wedding. “If only Bessy could ‘ave come,” she moaned with wistful sorrow at her sister’s untimely death.
Margaret nodded in perfect sympathy. “Please tell Nicholas that he must come as well. Mr. Thornton has given his word that he may abdicate his duties at the mill for the morning,” the Master’s future wife explained, placing the printed, formal invitation to the wedding on the rustic table.
Mary nodded as she stroked the soft fabric and lace edging of the dress. She had never owned anything so delicate or pretty.
Margaret stayed awhile to talk and was pleased to discover that Mrs. Boucher was being treated for her ailments. If she seemed only a little better, it was well that she no longer took to her bed for days.
She bid a fond goodbye to her friend before long, eager to accomplish her final errand. The anticipation of seeing Mr. Thornton quickened her steps as she walked the streets to Milton’s largest mill. Her pace slowed as she entered the side of the factory near the Master’s office, as she suddenly questioned the propriety of her unannounced visit.
The door to his office was ajar. She knocked and pushed it gently open, her pulse hammering at her boldness. He was scribbling at his desk.
He looked up from his ledger to see who requested his attention. “Margaret!” he breathed as he began to rise from his chair.
“No, don’t get up!” she commanded with some force, gesturing for him to remain seated. “I do not wish to disturb you from your work,” she added as she secured the door behind her and drew closer.
“I thought perhaps you might not have taken the time to eat. I’ve brought you some scones. Dixon learned to make them from her mother in Dorset; they are truly delicious,” she babbled as she came around to set the basket on the desk beside him, doubting her own motives in coming now that she stood within inches of him.
She pushed back her loosely tied bonnet, letting it fall carelessly on her back before she began her task.
He watched her pull back the napkin and place it carefully beside the ledgers and documents that no longer held any interest for him. He stared, entranced, at the graceful movements of her slender fingers and hands as she laid out the small repast, handling each item she touched with a gentle finesse that spoke of everything soft and feminine.
The notion that these were the hands that would tenderly care for him in the days and years to come enthralled him. His gaze travelled up her arms, the form of which could nearly be seen underneath the gauzy fabric of her feminine blouse. Her full pink lips were loosely parted as she bent over her task, intent upon her purpose.
It was not merely desire but a palpitating need to feel her soft form against his that bade him to act. He grasped her wrists, and before he knew what he was doing, pulled her steadily toward him across his lap.
Mr. Thornton’s pulse pounded at his audacity and he closed his eyes to grasp at self-restraint. He had not been prepared for her appearance; her very nearness had been his undoing.
To hold her so intimately close to him after two long days of loneliness was a delicious torture. Moved by forces beyond his control, he began to nuzzle the skin behind her ear, breathing in her sweet scent as if he drew his very life force from her being. He kept still, one hand at her back, determined not to frighten her with any further claims upon her person, yet eager to gain her trust with utter tenderness.
Margaret’s heart beat wildly. Never before had she been so intimately situated with a man. She could not move, but closed her eyes to feel his warm breath on her neck, which caused shivers of anticipation to ripple through her every nerve.
|Daniela Denby-Ashe||as Margaret Hale|
|Richard Armitage||as John Thornton|