Chapter 10

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Jacob lay in bed, unable to sleep. He was alone in his uncle's townhouse, except for the butler. He'd even sent Marcel away for the night.

Why was is so bloody hot?

He kicked at the sheets tangled with his limbs impatiently and got up.

He sauntered down to the study and popped open a bottle of wine. He usually preferred whiskey, but his uncle's cellar here was poorly stocked.

Jacob settled down in the large, overly stuffed chair and drank directly from the bottle. Today he needed to drink because every time he closed his eyes, he thought of Olivia.

It was as if she'd bewitched him.

All he saw was her wide, blue eyes. The way she looked at him...

Her goodness and his attraction to her just made everything harder. When he'd planned this, he hadn't thought that he would imagine her in his bed-completely naked and utterly desirable. The visions in his head made his body clench with longing.

Maybe he'd seduce her after all. It wouldn't be much of a challenge-it was clear that she wanted him just as much as he wanted her.

But what he wanted from her didn't just stop with the pleasures of the flesh. He wanted her to laugh with him and he wanted to learn her secrets, share his. And that troubled him immensely.

Lust, he could deal with. But this was new territory to him, one Jacob would've been more amenable to wander had her father not been the villain in his life.

The more time he spent in her company, the more he weakened. It was unfortunate that their lives had to be entwined thus, that he'd have to deceive her when the time came, but that didn't make this any less necessary.

He hadn't heard from his uncle in a week-since his kiss with Olivia in Hyde park and that worried him. Jacob was unable to deny the pleasure he felt in Olivia's company. He'd gone out of his way to meet her this week and was rewarded by her smiles each time. He hadn't kissed her again, they'd been surrounded by people at all times.

More than once, he'd run into her in the company of Lord Archibald Compton. The annoying prig refused to leave her alone. Maybe Jacob could've been friends with the man under different circumstances-maybe if he hadn't turned into a hard hearted bastard. Not to mention, the sight of Olivia laughing with him made his blood boil.

Jacob stroked his beard thoughtfully. He wasn't jealous, was he?

He needed to put some distance between them, to restore his equilibrium, to remember his purpose.

It was time he visited his uncle.

Meanwhile...

Melissa had arrived at Raynham manor with little more than the clothes on her back. She'd left that very night. And in her haste to leave, she'd packed the bare minimum.

It was still dark when she'd reached. The servants had been shocked by her visit, but they were unfailingly polite, recognising that she was someone important.

"I need to see the viscount. Immediately," she stared at the butler. Melissa knew she had to bully her way into the house.

"But my lady, the viscount is unwell and not attending callers at the moment. Perhaps if you came at a better time-"

"Now," she cut him off, walking past him without care.

She heard the butler sigh in defeat. "He's put up in the second room from the stairs."

She nodded once, regally.

It took a lot of effort not to race up the stairs. She only hesitated for a moment before opening the door. She shut the door behind her softly and walked towards the bed. The fire still burned in the hearth, allowing her to see the sleeping form on the bed.

He stirred when she reached him. Her mouth opened in a silent gasp at what she saw. He'd been so strong, now he was pale and thin-barely a shadow of the man he used to be.

She brushed the greying hair on his temples and he stirred again. "Is it time for my medicines already, Freddie?" came his frail, sleepy voice.

Melissa didn't reply, she wasn't certain she could speak just now.

He pried his eyes open and blinked up at her. "I'm in heaven, aren't I?" He mumbled sleepily, his dry lips pulling up in a smile.

"You wish," she grinned suddenly, unable to contain the joy of seeing him. He was alive-barely so, but that could be rectified easily. She'd make sure!

"Good gad! Melissa?" He tried to sit up but slid back down with a groan. She nodded and helped him sit up. She held a glass of water to his lips and he drank greedily.

"What are you doing here?"

"Why looking after you, of course."

"Yes, well...but-how?"

She had to laugh at his confusion.

"I'm not letting you go, my love. Not this time," she whispered.

Tears seemed to fill his eyes. "Not a day has gone by when I didn't think of you," he murmured, taking her hand in his weak ones. Melissa rolled her eyes.

"I'm serious," he chuckled. "I never touched her, you know. I married her for my father, but I never touched her."

Melissa sat down on the bed with a thud. Had he really...? All this time, she'd thought he'd forgotten her. She'd thought that she'd made a mistake by loving him so.

But she'd been wrong. The sincerity in his eyes told her that he spoke the truth.

"It might not matter anymore. But I might die anytime and I wanted you to know the truth."

"Hush. You're not dying," she said sternly.

"I love you," he said, bringing her hand to his lips.

"I know," she nodded, trying not to jump with joy. He chuckled again and she massaged his temples, putting him to sleep again. "Sleep, my love."

It had been twenty five years since she'd last been so close to him. And every single day had been a living hell. Oh she had her family, her niece who was like a daughter to her and the London society which adored her. But she hadn't had him. Every time she'd see him somewhere, at a ball or occasionally in the theatre with his wife on his arm, it would feel like someone had taken a knife to her breast. He had tried to talk to her after he'd married, but she'd rebuffed all his efforts. The entire ton was aware of the estrangement between the Viscount Townshend and his Viscountess, but that had brought her little satisfaction. After her anger had subsided, she'd realised that no matter how hard she tried, she'd never be able to forget him. She'd decided to never marry. But she had wanted him to be happy.

And George had been just as unhappy as she. They were both miserable without each other but their circumstances...

Melissa sighed. There was no point in fretting over the past. She would make the most out their time together. There was no one to stop them now-his father and his wife were in their graves.

She sat staring at his dear face the remainder of the night.

But when the sun rose the next morning, Melissa was sure of one thing.

George wasn't dying because of a cancer.

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