Jeremiah sat at his desk; listless he scrawled on the paper in front of him. He should be writing a letter but he couldn’t. Everything seemed to fall apart around him and all that remained was regret. A useless emotion. But he couldn’t help it. He was a man of action and here he was, forced to wait.
If he were honest he would admit – albeit reluctantly – that fear and trepidation had coiled themselves around his heart. Jonathan’s health was deteriorating faster than anyone could have foreseen and there was nothing Jeremiah could do to save his brother. He was powerless in the face of a sickness that would lay waste to his brother’s body and mind. Jeremiah was a warrior: every battle required a strategy that it might be won. But here, no plan, no matter how perfect would work. That helplessness was a feeling he wasn’t familiar with. And he hated this acedia that seemed to have pervaded every inch of his being.
It was at the antipodes of what he had felt at the Club merely two weeks ago with Lady Thea – Theodora though he would never utter a word about it. The excitement and passion he’d experienced kept him awake at night even though he hadn’t been able to return to the Club since then. That the striking woman allowed him to serve her was a surprise. He had almost expected her to ignore him after his less than tactful innuendo at the Chesterfield’s ball. Yet, when he approached her, she let him. Everything about that night made him want more.
He remembered her hand fisted in his hair, grabbing a clump of it with a touch that was at once domineering and gentle. She was the first woman to ever make him lose complete control of himself with a mere word, not ever really touching him. In the aftermath of that night, he’d felt that something magical had happened though he wouldn’t have been able to define it. Still the moments with her were like cinders in the wind, impossible to capture and stop. Just like Jonathan’s life. No ambers to stoke and revive the fire.
He didn’t think the woman would ever let him come to her again. She hadn’t invited him to. She’d praised him but she didn’t let him worship her, as she should be. She hadn’t let him touch her beyond a gentleman’s touch. It left him with a sense of inadequacy he resented. She’d won their second battle of will. He had yielded. He could try and convince himself that it was pretending, but it would be a lie. She’d forced him to come out of his reserve, to let go of his iron control. He remembered her breath against his skin and he found himself distracted. Maybe it was better than this aphasia that wrapped itself around him, preventing him to move.
Jamison had entered the office without his noticing. He really was tired.
“There are visitors for you.” He raised an eyebrow. “Lord Dashford and his assistant I believe.”
Could she be here? Really? Without a chaperone? Why would Dashford be here? He stood.
“I shall receive them in the library.”
“Wouldn’t the parlour be more appropriate Sir?”
“Yes. Of course. Thank you. Please have Cook send us some tea.”
The butler bowed and left.
In moments he entered the parlour; his friend turned and once more Jeremiah spared a thought that Dashford’s moustache resembled more that of a walrus than that of a human being. He was spending way too much time with animals.
“Thornhill, what are you doing ensconced in an office? You belong outside, like one of the wild cats. I’d hoped to convince you to join me to the Museum.”
“I had to take a look at some papers.”
“Why? Your brother is most certainly an organized man.”
“That he is. But he requested my help.”
The lie didn’t settle well, but he wasn’t yet ready to let everyone know that Jonathan was so ill he could no longer sit at a desk. As he shook his friend’s hand, he cast a glance towards Dashford’s companion.
She had come; had she no care for her reputation? Alone with two men? There was concern in her gaze as he spoke. Had Philip told her anything? No the man gave his word. He took both hands in his and brought them to his lips. The slight flush of her cheeks told him exactly what he needed to know: she too wasn’t likely to forget the night they had shared.
“Good day, Lord Thornhill.” She considered him for an instant. Her fingers moved to his face but she didn’t touch him, as if restraining herself. “You look tired. Are you quite alright?”
How could she read that? He pinched his lips.
“I am my Lady, thank you for your concern. I have had short nights for the past couple of weeks.”
“Nothing serious I hope.”
She asked, her tone an example of generous worry. He wondered. Was she playing?
“Just dreams that have kept me… let us say bothered and unsatisfied.”
It was nothing, merely a little colouring at her neck, but she knew exactly what he spoke of.
“Forget about dreams Thornhill. Come with me to the Museum. Theodora, will you be alright going home by yourself?”
“No.” He growled.
She seemed puzzled. So did Dashford.
“What seems to be the problem, my Lord?” She asked with all the innocence in the world. She could almost fool him.
“It would be rude.”
“It is actually my carriage that brought us here so there’s nothing untoward. Do not concern yourself with me.”
Ah but that was the thing. He did. Only she wouldn’t let him. He pulled her hand towards him and kissed it again.
“Then until we meet again my Lady.”
She trembled under his lips. She would meet him again. He knew it.
A flash of jealousy. How did Dashford get to call her by her nickname? She noticed. Her eyes twinkled. She turned and left, taking with her most of the energy he’d felt since her arrival. What was wrong with him?
In response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s Wordle #130 prompt
1. Remain 2. Walrus 3. Acedia (sloth, laziness or indifference in religious matters) 4. Scrawl 5. Rathskeller ((in Germany) the cellar of a town hall, often used as a beer hall or restaurant. A restaurant patterned on the German rathskeller, usually located below street level.) 6. Cinder 7. Pull 8. Striking 9. Clump 10. Television 11. Coil 12. Antipodes (Places diametrically opposite each other on the globe. Those who dwell there.)