Chapter One: Persie says no.
"Hallam." I whispered, trying to push him away, but his only moved his mouth down to my neck, kissing me with violent intensity. "No, Hallam." I insisted now, groaning as I fought with myself. "We can't do this."
"Why?" Hallam demanded, leaning back to survey me through dazed eyes.
"It's not right." I insisted, thinking Good god, why did I pick now to be a good person? Hallam seemed confused, dazed, blinking at me stupidly.
"You're married to my sister." I explained. "I'm a fallen woman-"
"No, you're not." Hallam corrected automatically and I smiled at his naivety.
"That's very nice of you to say, darling, but let's face it, I am. And despite how it may seem, I'm not interested in a fling."
I could see sense battling with desire on Hallam's face and his shook his head once, twice, to clear it.
"No, no." He pulled away from me and started to straighten his clothes. "Of course you're not."
I sighed and lent back against the wall, lifting my foot so it was flat against it.
"Oh, darling, don't look like that; you know I simply cannot stand it."
"Look like what?" Hallam asked stiffly, turning towards a mirror to make sure he was looking all well and good.
"Like a child who has been denied his toy."
I sighed again and reached forward to straighten his cravat. He tensed even more at my touch and the pain stabbed deep into my heart. I finished tying his cravat in silence then stood back, waiting him to leave in a hurry. But he didn't. He stood, standing there, like he wouldn't move, couldn't move. His gaze was fixed on my face and I tried to even out my breathing.
"You should probably go." I whispered, thinking anything but. "You must have lots of work to do."
"Yes, I do." Still, he did not move.
"And Agnes will eventually come home."
"Yes, she will."
Neither of us moved. Finally, repressing tears, I turned away and rummaged in the lower draw of the cabinet. I found my secret pack of cigarettes and fumbled for one, clumsily trying to light it with the matches that could've been found beside the box.
"Persie." His voice was so soft, I could hardly hear it.
"Please." My voice was shaky and obvious. I cursed myself. "I made the right decision. I was a good girl. Now you can go back to your perfect life and I can go back to mine." But my life is far from perfect without you. My mind whispered traitorously at me.
I heard him sigh then start for the door. The door swung open. My heart beat pounded. This was it. He was leaving me. I would never see him again except in corridors. We'd avoid each other, there'd be awkward conversation.
I deserve it, I suppose. I thought tearfully. After what I did in Germany. With the chauffer. With Frederick. It was what I deserve.
"Persie." His voice was smooth, yet sounded so strangled and out of place.
"Please." I begged him, removing the cigarette from my mouth and blow out a puff of smoke. "Please, darling. Just go. Don't feel you have to save me from myself." I gave him a watery smile, avoiding his sharp, all-knowing eyes. "I'm afraid I've already gone to rack and ruin."
"Don't say that." He gritted out.
"But it's true." I insisted, waving the cigarette about and making smoke trail out at the ends. "I suppose one day I'll meet some nice, standoff-ish bloke that cares only for an heir, and I'll marry him and have his brats and Agnes will be pleased and so will you."
"Over my dead body will you go to that type of man." Hallam hissed. "I will be far from pleased, Persie."
I gave him a smile and took a long drag of my cigarette, holding his gaze and trying to return to my usual domineer.
"Awfully splendid of you to say, Hallam, but really, one must be realistic. Agnes will be happy I've moved on with my life to my real role in society, and you will be happy that I've moved out and there will be no more awkward conversations. It will be like this little bump never happened."
"Is that what you will call me?" He demanded harshly. Suddenly, from standing across the room, he was in front of me, one hand on my arm, shaking me slightly. "In the future, when you are with this horrible man and surrounded by your fat children, is that what you will call me? A little bump in the road? Will you laugh about it?"
"Of course I will." I tried to sound flippant and at ease despite the slight shakings and the urge to burst into tears at any moment. "Just as you will when you and Agnes are surrounded by grand-children and servants."
"I will do no such thing." He shook me harder now, as if demanding my attention. Dropping my cigarette, I looked down and stared in horror at the hand that war wrapped around my elbow, trying to tug it free.
"Hallam, stop it, you're hurting me!" I cried.
He abruptly stopped, but his hand remained.
"I'm sorry, darling." His voice was unbearably soft and tender. "I didn't mean to hurt you. Please, just look at me. Let me see your eyes."
"Don't tease, I can't bare it." I whispered.
"Let me see your eyes." He insisted stubbornly.
I looked up at him slowly, as if thinking the moment I looked up, he would vanish into a puff of smoke. But he didn't. He looked straight into my own eyes.
"Oh, damn." He whispered.
"What?" I could barely hear myself.
"I can't resist you."
And his lips pressed down on mine. I clutched at him. He clutched at me. It felt like I'd die if he so much moved an inch away from me. But I could somehow tell that he wasn't going to. He shoved me against the wall and ran his hands through my hair, like he was trying to secure my face to his. I wasn't going to stop him this time. I wouldn't, couldn't. For the next hour, he was mine.
"Hallam? Persie! I'm home!" Agnes's voice rang out throughout the house. I could've cried. We pulled back and breathed heavily for a minute, eyes locked. I shoved him away first.
"Go back to your wife Hallam." I whispered. "It's the best thing to do for both her and you."
I didn't mention me. I didn't want to turn into a liar as well as a monster.