A/N: Hello, lovelies! Welcome. A huge thank you to: Makrciana, C. M Gate, XantheXV, TinkerbellxO, missyclone, Leysha Gisel and dionne dance.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Libertine.
"I heard what you said. I'm not the silly romantic you think. I don't want the heavens or the shooting stars. I don't want gemstones or gold. I have those things already. I want…a steady hand. A kind soul. I want to fall asleep, and wake, knowing my heart is safe. I want to love, and be loved."
― Shana Abe
This isn't my bed.
That was the first thought that came to her and nearly rolled off the tip of her tongue as soon as she gained awareness. She wasn't sure how long she had been sleeping. Hours, maybe days. The last thing she remembered was John's panicked eyes, her wild heartbeat and the slick feeling between her thighs. The blood.
Her eyes snapped open with a start and her hand flew to her stomach. Her fingers parted wide and grasped the covers, knuckles curling, looking for the flesh underneath through their incessant shaking. Relief flooded her as soon as she felt the solid bump that was still attached to her abdomen. The faint flutter of life beneath her hand brought her peace. A soft breeze blew through the half open window and the bead of sweat that had pooled above her brow, near her hairline, slid down her forehead like blessed rain upon sand. She closed her eyes briefly and raised her hand to wipe away the sweat from her skin.
She's still inside me. She frowned at her own thoughts.
She? Where did that come from? Pushing that thought away, she took deep, slow breaths in an attempt to regain her bearings.
Gradually, her heartbeat slowed down and her eyes darted up. She gasped.
"Weren't expecting me, were you?" Alcock's crooked smirk greeted her and she felt her cheeks flushing with color. When she spoke, her voice was scratchy.
"Is this a dream?" she mumbled and the servant looked around.
Her sleepy eyes roamed the large chamber and the blazing fireplace.
"This is not my chamber."
Alcock took a step back and she watched as he leaned down to step into his discarded shoes. Had he stayed with her all along?
"Aye." His eyes avoided her face.
Frowning, she tried to sit up. His large hands flew out to grab her shoulders.
"None of that. You are not allowed to move. The physician gave very strict orders." He fished a piece of parchment from the bedside table and she gazed at it briefly before her eyes darted about.
A large pitcher of water and a glass were seated next to the half burned candles. On the floor, right next to the Earl's bed, was a basin filled with steaming water and a towel was hanging from a spare chair.
"What does it say?" she focused on Alcock because her thoughts were becoming too much. She didn't want to understand the Earl's actions. Not just yet.
Aren't you curious? Where is everyone? How many days have passed? Why has he put you in the master chamber?
"I have absolutely no idea. Can't read." Alcock broke through her thoughts as he discarded the parchment and smiled sheepishly. "But you cannot get up."
She swallowed hard. "What happened?"
Surprising her by pouring her a glass of water, he shrugged. "Apparently, a little blood and you go faint." His eyes were flashing with mirth and she cracked a smile.
"You're a liar."
"No, I am not."
She narrowed her eyes. "How long must I stay like this?"
"Until the child is here. Step aside."
Alexandra blinked at the blur of movement that was the short woman walking towards her. Narrowing her eyes, she parted her lips ready to speak.
"I do not care for words, child." The woman husked in her thick, hoarse voice. The gray of her hair was peeking through her carefully arranged cap and her eyes were too lively to be called old. Alexandra had seen that woman before.
"You, send word to your master and bring her something to eat."
Alcock flinched and stepped back, obviously relieved to be allowed to leave.
The covers were yanked off of her and the cotton of her nightdress was pushed up to her hips.
"Open." A severe tap and her thighs fell open for the woman's searching fingers to dip in between. She hissed when pressure was put onto her left inner thigh.
"Not my fault." The woman said shrilly and Alexandra blinked.
None too gently, the woman, who was probably a midwife, prodded her with experienced fingers.
"I know you." The words slipped from her mouth in a small whisper.
"Is that so?" The hand was gone from between her legs and she quickly closed them.
"I don't know you." The woman pointed out. "What house do you work for?"
Alexandra shook her head to clear it and ignored the question. "You're not a physician."
The woman threw her head back and gave a hearty laugh. "Heavens, no!" Wiping her hands on the towel that was hanging from the chair she smirked. "Name's Hattie. You never answered my question."
Alexandra pulled the covers back over her lap. "I am not a whore." She muttered and the woman eyed her like an alien thing.
"Well, look at that. You are not, are you?" she snickered. "So how did you come by that?" she gestured to her stomach and Alexandra felt the need to place a protective hand over her abdomen.
"How do you think?" she answered back with whatever cheek was left in her.
Hattie placed her hands on her hips. "If it weren't for me, your master's strays would be begging the streets for money." Her dark gray eyes moved over the Earl's furniture before she whistled. "But this one seems quite lucky."
Alexandra's chest constricted with the implication. "You work for brothels."
Hattie's smile was less feral this time. "You seem offended…for a servant." Hattie's eyes settled on Alexandra's dress and white apron that were resting folded upon the armchair
Words clogged her throat and so she remained silent. "Your physician, gave you herbs. Before I came. That is why your head feels odd. It was to keep you asleep. There is no bleeding, but if you want to keep the child, you must remain in bed." She was already backing out of the room and Alexandra watched her in silence, suddenly too tired to ask more questions. The familiarity with which the woman spoke of the Earl was unnerving. She had felt like a clueless girl under the midwife's scrutiny.
This is nothing special for anyone but you.
She closed her eyes and listened to approaching footsteps. Whoever it was didn't linger. The door closed with a soft click.
The door slammed closed and she flinched, her body jerking off of the mattress for a second. He was merciless in the way he walked. He always had been. His boots were unforgiving upon the wooden floorboards. She could smell his scent from her place on his bed; something earthy and spicy. Probably something expensive given to him by his new wife.
She was never good at pretending. And he knew it. And he proved it with his next words.
"Saints are never good at lying." He deposited something heavy on the bedside table, something that clattered when he did so.
"Stop it or I shall leave."
Her eyes snapped open at the threat too quickly for her liking. Her skin heated under his heavy gaze. His nostrils flared as their gazes connected. Her body shivered even beneath the covers. It was probably because of her hunger.
"You are behaving childishly. I hate it." He walked around the bed and away from her. She swallowed hard as he ran a hand through his hair.
"Hattie upset you." He wasn't asking.
She shook her head even if he couldn't see her. "No." she spoke loudly and he leered at the window.
"Liar." He turned to look at her from over his shoulder. "Eat." He bared his teeth at her with that single word and her gaze moved to the tray he had placed upon the bedside table. Thick broth, bread and a small goblet of red wine.
Without a word, she reached for it, wincing as her numb arm muscles came into life. Placing it upon her lap, she started with cutting off some bread. She dipped it in the broth and her mouth watered.
His mocking snort was almost too much, but she placed it in her mouth all the same.
"Ridiculous." He pushed away from the window and started pacing. "A wise person doesn't need the opinions of others. A person can judge for himself." He paused. "Surprised? I read it on your journal. The one hidden under your pillow." He placed his hands on the mattress near her feet. "That was for me. Yet, you spend a day feigning sleep because you are too much of a child to reconcile with what you have."
He cocked his head to the side when her face heated in anger. "Pathetic."
"You are not denying whatever she may have told me." She fingered the glass of wine, briefly wondering if it was meant for her or for him.
"Why should I, Alexandra? You were never under the illusion that I was a good boy, were you?" He almost purred and she gulped.
"Good is not a word ever associated with you, my Lord."
He smirked. "You're worried about how many children I have fathered."
She shook her head. "No. I do not want to know. I-…"
"I couldn't give you a number anyway, my love. Because I do not know." He leaned forward, over her legs and grabbed the wine from her fingers. Taking a sip, he handed it back to her, watching her carefully.
"Women are fickle things when they want to. Brothels hold none of those women." He narrowed his eyes at her, laconically giving her all the answers she wanted to have.
"Am I supposed to be offended by that?" she murmured as she twirled the glass.
Tilting his head to the side he licked his lower lip in thought. "You fell like a corpse at the side of blood. You could not bear to have this child torn from you. You know so little of life. I despise you for that." He lightly kicked the foot of the bed and then motioned to the tray. "Go on."
She ignored him. "Why am I here?"
He gazed at the window. He pointed at it with his long fingers. "The only chamber that catches any of the scarce sunlight in this house. Largest fireplace in the manor." He turned to her. "Your little hole wouldn't be good for you and the child."
"Don't." He held a hand up to stop her. "I am going away tonight."
She froze. "Beg pardon?"
Heaving a sigh, he took a seat near her feet. "Mary was about to return from court. The only way to hide…this," He gestured towards her, "is to take her with me."
Her throat went dry.
He rubbed his eyes with the tips of his fingers. "Paris."
Alexandra looked at her lap. "Oh."
"I had promised her a trip. I think it is a good time to keep my promise while keeping you away from prying eyes, my mother's included."
Alexandra nodded while pondering on the fact that she had wasted most of their time together.
"I plan on moving you out of Woodstock." His words caused her to look up and she watched as he placed his hand on her knee, slowly moving it up her thigh.
"My house in London is deserted. No one stays there and my mother hates the city." His eyes trailed up her stomach until they reached her face. "No one will bother you there. The family's physician lives a few houses down and all your needs will be attended to until the child comes. He is a man to be trusted."
Inhaling deeply, she nodded and allowed her fingers to tangle around the loose sleeve of his overcoat.
His lips twitched as he allowed her to fumble with it. "Do you trust me?"
Looking up, she nodded.
He pulled his hand free and captured her chin between his fingers. "I will move you there myself. Tonight." Leaning forward, he caught her lips with his own. Too soon he pulled away and kissed her nose, then her forehead.
"Eat whilst I make arrangements. Hmm?" He pulled back and caressed the hair at the top of her head before he stood up. With a last look at her swollen stomach, he exited the room in long strides.
"Do not drop me." she warned drowsily as she wrapped an arm around Alcock's neck.
"Difficult task." He groaned as he picked her up and stood back from the carriage. "Sweet Jesus." He wheezed and she flushed.
"Do not bring God into this, you idiot. Walk." Rochester seethed as he smacked at his servant's arse with his walking stick.
"Ow! Why not? Me Lord?" Alexandra pushed back his hair because it was tickling her face and scowled.
"He doesn't favor me." The Earl muttered as he headed straight for the front door.
Alexandra tightened her grip around Alcock as they followed close behind Rochester. The night had fallen and the streets were dark. The house however, was illuminated and it did not look as abandoned as the Earl had suggested
Rochester didn't even have to open the door. As soon as he stepped foot on the last step, the heavy door was pulled open by a mousy servant. Her head was tucked close to her chest and her cheeks were flushed as the Earl shot her a severe look and then stormed inside.
"Upstairs to my room." He gestured with his cane at the staircase and Alcock paused.
"All those stairs?" he was panting, "Can't I have some assistance?"
Rochester's eyes didn't require a verbal commentary. They were a reprimand on their own.
Gritting his teeth, Alcock turned and faced the stairs, gazing at them solemnly. Sighing, he started climbing them. Alexandra felt sorry for him.
Once in the chamber, he placed her in the chair and stepped back, his hands on his thighs as he breathed hard.
"I would bring you some water if I could." She smiled at him and he nodded his head.
"Maybe I'll get to shag the girl. As payment." He winked at her, but when footsteps echoed in the hallway he straightened and cleared his throat.
"I shall be getting that water now." He gave a small bow and passed by the Earl who stood at the door.
Glaring at his servant, John stepped inside the room and closed the door.
"The girl's name Janet. She will remain here with you and Alcock." He spoke quietly and she seemed surprised.
"Alcock? You will leave him here then?"
"Indeed. Mary is not…particularly fond of male servants." He forced the words out and Alexandra blinked.
"Hmm." He seemed awkward standing there. From his posture alone, she was sure that his wife's dislike towards man-servants was not the reason for Alcock's presence in the house.
As she was studying him, she noticed that he was clutching something between his fingers, but her attention was drawn away from his hand when he started moving towards her.
"If there is anything that I must know while I am away, inform Alcock. He knows how to reach me, but you are not to write me a letter. You understand? I won't have people prying into my affairs." His voice held no room for objections and so she nodded dutifully, nervously twisting her fingers together.
He nodded back and his hand clenched and unclenched around its contents.
"There is something you forgot to pack when we left Woodstock." He murmured as he stepped closer.
She frowned and leaned forward. "What is that?"
Pursing his lips in that peculiar way of his, he unfurled his fingers and presented his open palm to her. For a moment, she was confused, but when the candlelight was caught on the two gems, she went still.
"Oh." She breathed as her eyes darted from Rochester's hand to his face and back again.
"You do not want them?" he cocked an eyebrow when she hesitated.
She quickly shook her head and reached out to take the earrings only to have him move them out of her reach.
"Say please." His lips were twitching and she sighed.
"Then I shall take them with me. Perhaps give them to someone else…" he moved to pocket them and she gasped.
He laughed and took his time in placing them in her hand. "Good girl." As she closed her fist around them, he grasped her wrist and with a light pull, he brought her up and into his arms. His cane was discarded as he secured one hand behind her back and the other trailed down her left leg. Grasping her firmly under the knees, he swept her off her feet. He kissed her and her yelp of surprise was smothered by his devious lips as he slowly walked towards the bed. Placing her upon it on her back, he threaded his hands in her hair, angling her head to kiss her more deeply.
He pulled back suddenly and she opened her eyes, blinking to push the haze of his touch away. Hovering above her, he trapped his bottom lip between his teeth and groaned.
"I shall be back in two weeks. Once Mary is in Woodstock, I will return here."
He moved away from her and she felt cold. "What excuse will you give? For my absence?" she asked softly and he stared at her.
Shaking his head, he raised his hands and started walking backwards, towards the door. "That's not your concern, now is it?"
She scowled and his eyes twinkled at her taciturn response.
"Behave." He ordered and then he smirked. "Miss me." He was out of the door with a wink.
End of chapter 36
Author's note: Thank you for reading. The chapter is a bit shorter than usual, but since I have the next one also planned out, I figured that this is a good place to stop for now. If you're still out there, then I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time.