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Letters to Emily

Two years have passed since Lady Emily’s beloved Maxwell went to fight in the war. With only letters and one hot night of loving to keep her warm on the coldest of nights, she tries to embrace the future after learning of his death at the Third Battle of Picardy. One way to forge forward is to marry his twin brother, Marcellus Alexander Wynwood, The Marquis of Blackthorn, a man she does not love, but one who rouses dark needs in her.

Marcellus wanted Emily from the first moment he saw her two years ago but had watched from a distance as his brother Max charmed her into falling hopelessly in love with him. In her state of grief over Max, Marcellus ensures her needs are met, breaking down her barriers, tormenting her with wicked erotic loving as he slowly binds her to him.

Despite this, he fears he will lose her once it is revealed that her beloved Maxwell lives. Marcellus prays Emily can surrender to his needs and soul deep desires, and accepts the scandalous lifestyle he shares with his twin.

Chapter One

England, West Oxfordshire

December 1918

20 October 1916

Dearest Emily,

The cry of the dead haunts me. The battle at Flers-Courcelette is one of the most horrific I have fought. The carnage and the grief are palpable. Many lives were lost: sons, fathers, brothers, all my comrades. Terror is a constant companion I sleep with, nightmares of what I’ve had to do to protect you, to protect my fellow countrymen. My sanity is preserved only by the joys I found in your arms, the passion I tasted from you. The screams, the horrors are chased with visions and memories of your sweet wildness in my arms, of how you gripped me with your tightness, how you cried my name in passionate release, how you loved me unreservedly. I dream of returning and making you my wife, and I hold close to me the gift that you bestowed on me before I left. I love you, my heart and my reason.

Your love, Maxwell Wynwood

It was the season to be jolly, but Lady Emmeline Isabella Langford felt everything except merriment. A deep loneliness haunted her. Her hands trembled, and Maxwell’s letter fluttered to the carpeted floor. She dipped, motions mechanical, crouching to pick it up. She gently eased out the wrinkles. It had been read hundreds of times by her, the blotched water stains testament to the emotions it ushered her through. She wished for his arms to hold and to comfort her, to wring cries of pleasure from her shadowed and tormented mind.

She rose and went to the sofa closest to the crackling hearth. She sank in the sofa’s plush depth, reading Maxwell’s letter for the last time before she would walk down the aisle into the arms of a man she did not love but who roused her desire. It mattered not that their wedding date was set several months in the future. To have any semblance of a happy life with her new fiancé, she needed to banish the old, release the ghost of the past, and embrace the future.

The words swam before her eyes as tears gathered behind her lids. Emily folded the letter, not needing to see the words that wavered; she knew them by heart. Her soul whispered them late at night when she only had memories of him to keep her warm, to slide her into pleasure when she caressed herself. Oh Maxwell! She held tight in her heart the bittersweet memory of their night of loving.

The door of the library creaked open, and she lifted her head. Coldness seized her, but it had nothing to do with the draft that crept in. Marcellus Alexander Rochester Wynwood, the Marquess of Blackthorn, heir to the Dukedom of Harcourt, twin brother to her beloved, strolled into her safe haven.

“You have not been to dinner. I brought you a light respite.” The sensual drawl had her heart stuttering, and she nodded, watching him enter with the tray.

His gaze bored into her and she could feel the intensity that vibrated from it kissing her skin with hunger and fear. He laid the tray with sliced ham, cheese, honey-crusted bread, a small teapot, and a cup on the black lacquered table in front of her.

“Thank you,” she murmured, fighting not to sink into the raw magnetism of him.

Her eyes widened when instead of leaving, he sank into the sofa beside her. Her pulse galloped, and she poured some tea with trembling hands. Why did he linger? He had always excused himself after being assured she was comfortable.

She threw him a small, quizzical smile and wrapped her fingers around the steaming cup, welcoming the warmth. The sensual lines of his mouth curved as he looked at her. He was so sinfully handsome and darkly seductive, he took her breath. Her womb clenched, and mortifying heat stained her cheeks.

“You have been withdrawing more and more as Mother organizes our nuptials. She informed me that she tried to plan your trousseau today, but you objected,” he said, his gaze not leaving her face.

Wariness crept through her as she met his gaze. “I… I… Lady Harcourt is very gracious, and I feel awful for being so boorish. But I needed a few moments, which I fear translated to me being ensconced in the library for hours.” She set her teacup down and clasped her hands.

He glanced at the folded letter beside her on the sofa. “Is that one of Maxwell’s letters?”

She winced and snatched up the letter, then crumpled it in her hands. “Forgive me…”

“Please do not, Emmeline.”

She swallowed at how he said her name. He always used her full name and not its shortened version. She sighed. “Yes, it is. There are times when I am compelled to read them all. It is as if I cannot stop myself,” she admitted.

A look of regret slashed his face and then disappeared. She frowned, contemplating what he could be regretful about.

“A day does not pass that I myself do not mourn for him. It is fitting that you remember everything about Maxwell. I know how much you loved him.”

She nodded. She glanced from the sword hung high on one wall, to the stained glass windows that replaced half of the other wall, to the royal purple drapes, and finally to the massive bookcase behind him. She berated herself for being a coward, then met his gaze. “I cannot seem to escape the pain that is bottled inside. I lament that Maxwell was taken from me. From us.”

Marcellus shifted closer. “It has only been three months, Emmeline, and I imagine that you hurt even greater than I. Scream if you must,” he reassured her, his regard piercing and intent.

She smiled and tried to ignore the feelings he roused in her. Looking at him always made her feel hot and shivery all at once, which made her feel as if she had betrayed her beloved in some way, given she had them before Maxwell went away to fight in the war.

“I doubt I could have loved Maxwell more,” she said firmly. “I understood how close you were. But I thank you for such kind sentiments, Marcellus.”

“May I?”

Her heart jerked when he indicated the letter. A blush heated her entire body as she stared at him, scandalized. She had never shared the contents of Maxwell’s letters with anyone. A strangled groan trapped in her throat; she could not share the letters with the intimate details embedded in them. Yet darkness hovered in Marcellus’s eyes, which she wanted to ease. She gave the letter to him and started to eat, desperate for the distraction.

His eyes glinted, a smile creased his lips, and broad shoulders she’d not realized were tense relaxed. She observed his face as he read Maxwell’s words. A lock of hair drooped over Marcellus’s forehead. She had to restrain herself from testing if it felt as soft as it looked. He had always worn his hair in a queue, pulled back from his face and secured at his nape, whereas Maxwell had shorn his close to his scalp.

She had accepted marrying Marcellus. Wartime did not allow for extended mourning, but he was generous enough to accede to her wish for time. It was expected of her to grieve in silence and go about as if her whole life had not been uprooted. She knew she would mourn Maxwell for all her days, but his letters had made it clear: he had wanted her protected, loved by his brother.

Her hands trembled, the teacup rattled as she waited in agonizing silence for Marcellus to finish.

She had been shocked that he wanted to marry her. He proposed just one month past the death of Maxwell. Ravaged by grief and disbelief, she had slapped Marcellus. How could he have wanted to touch her when Maxwell had been her everything and she his? Then memory had teased; she had seen Marcellus the night Maxwell told her good-bye. She’d felt the caress of eyes watching her. Her gaze had shifted from Maxwell’s head buried between her legs to the arch doorway where Marcellus stood ensconced in the shadows, watching with a searing gaze of lust.

Shock had ceased her breath, and then arousal, painful and destructive, had surged, devastating her. All Marcellus had done was observe as Maxwell loved her with his tongue, and then, with languorous strokes, rode her deep and hard into the bed, but so slowly. Marcellus had seen as she lost all decorum and wailed in pleasure. She’d been scandalized and a little hurt thinking that Maxwell knew. But she’d often wondered if it had been her imagination, only her mind’s fevered fantasy. Maxwell had not spoken of it, and neither had Marcellus.

“You need to eat more.” His low murmur of concern had Emily lifting her eyes to his face. He still stared at the letter, but he was aware that she only picked at the food.

“I am full, thank you.” She tried to smile politely and failed.

“Eat more, or I will feed you,” he said in a firm tone.

She snapped her spine taut, meeting the calm resolve in his gaze. She flushed, knowing he was perfectly serious. She nodded and ate half of everything on the tray and had two cups of tea. He had become so adept at taking care of her needs.

Emily froze in startling realization. He’d been there when she received the devastating news, and had been there in every moment since. He ensured she ate daily. Ensured her dearest friend, Leah, was situated most comfortably in the palatial country manor whenever she visited, for weeks at times, despite how stridently he protected his privacy.

He had done so many things to draw her out of her misery and self-pity, but she’d still been too self-absorbed in her grief to realize it until now. The late-night games of chess. The teasing as he taught her how to drive. His presence as he accompanied her to the hospitals where she nursed the wounded, never berating her for wanting to help in any way she could, never telling her that as a lady she should not dirty her hands, as her father had screamed.

He’d always been there, always protecting, always her secret desire and shame.

EMMELINE DID EVERYTHING in her power not to meet his gaze. Marcellus knew he had been very gentle with her, slowly easing her to his touch and his presence. He needed her with a visceral ache that had him gritting his teeth as his cock tightened painfully.

He must have made a sound, because her gaze shifted to his, flicked over his body, and then widened at his obvious state of arousal. Green cat eyes almost eclipsed her face; her mouth worked, and no sound came. Amusement rushed through him when she regained her composure, smoothing her face into a blank mask. Always the lady. He wondered how she would react if he made her aware he could see the wild fluttering at the base of her throat.

“Thank you for trusting me to read such an intimate letter, Emmeline.”

Red stained her neck, but she held his stare. There it was, the inner strength he had seen from her since the start of the war. It could not have been easy for her, to sit only a few feet away from him, knowing how the letter and her presence affected his body.

“I have more. I can share those with you that are… less intimate,” she offered with a tentative smile.

Marcellus doubted she knew how delectable she looked garbed in her black day dress. Her raven curls were pinned tightly in a severe bun, her alabaster skin looking ever paler against her mourning garb. Lips he knew had no rouge on them were kissed with a natural red ripeness, and she possessed the most beautiful green eyes with flecks of gold. She had high, graceful breasts, rounded hips, and long legs that would easily wrap around the high of his back and hold him deep inside her.

“I would love that, Emmeline. Please eat more. You’ve had nothing since breakfast.”

She broke off a piece of bread and chewed slowly, watching him with simmering awareness. She thought she hid it, but he saw it. And he understood the wariness. Max had been the smooth, seductive brother, the one that teased her, charmed her, the one she had fallen hopelessly for within a few weeks.

He scanned the rest of Max’s letter, and Marcellus felt his cock harden farther. The tightness that Max had written about was what Marcellus desperately yearned for right now. He wanted to soothe the hunger he’d felt from the first time he’d met her almost two years ago. But he needed her more so now to soothe Max.

As twins, they had a unique connection, so he could feel Max’s scalding agony, need, and loneliness. He flinched at the raging pain that tingled over his skin, the phantom caresses of torment, and knew it was Maxwell’s hell. He had to comfort his brother, and he knew the surest way was to sink into Emmeline, letting Max feel the heat of her, the tightness, hear the cries that would echo through his soul to Max’s when he took her. He wanted Max to feel what he should live for. Max had cried for her endlessly in his delirium. So if he could give his brother dreams of her, anything for Max to hold on to, he would.

Blood had stained Marcellus’s hands, and he’d sunk to levels that had even staggered him to protect his country and family as a spy for His Majesty. Yet the hardest thing he’d ever faced was to now seduce her. She had erected a wall of steel around her heart upon her beloved’s death.

When they had gotten the news that Maxwell died in the Third Battle of Picardy, she had screamed, tearing at her hair, and her agony had been a blow to Marcellus. The depth of her love for his brother kept him sane as he’d worked to find Maxwell. He had known his brother lived, for he would have felt the blow, the severance of the connection that bonded them together for as long as he could remember if Max was truly dead.

He tried several times to let her know that Maxwell was alive, but Emily could not understand. Not even their mother, who should comprehend more than anyone else, could understand. Only his father and uncle accepted his word and aided him. Emmeline had been inconsolable, and every night Marcellus had restrained himself from going to her, to banish her hoarse tears with pleasure.

“I am going to do something that may frighten you. If you resist, I will stop immediately.”

“I beg your pardon?” She straightened and paled.

Marcellus wished there was some way to ease her into what would happen in a few short minutes. She was smart, sensuous, possessed a wonderful sense of humor, kind, everything they wanted in their woman. She knew of his attraction to her, only imagining the surface need that he showed her. He wished he could seduce her how Maxwell had—charming her legs open with soothing promises of heated delights. Marcellus could not; his brother was relying on him too much. Marcellus hungered for her too much.

“I am going to fuck you in the next few minutes.”

She dropped the teacup from her hands, and it clattered to the carpet. She laughed, a sharp sound that ended as soon as it started. She surged to her feet and then slowly sank into the sofa, looking at him as if he were mad.

“I will try to be as gentle as possible, and I will only seek to bring you pleasure.”

Marcellus arched his brow as she continued shaking her head in denial. Her face flushed, and her eyes glittered with arousal and apprehension. Her gaze skittered to the door and then back to him as if judging if she could make her escape before he pounced.

“Make no mistake, Emmeline. I will be in you, riding you long and hard for the night. It will be rough at times, but you will howl my name in agony of desire and ecstasy. I wish I could offer you seduction, but you have known how I feel about you for months now. I wish I could explain what precipitated my actions tonight. But I can only tell you, I need you.”

Chapter Two

21 January 1917

Dearest Emily,

The only person I love as much as you is Marcellus. Do not let his cold, gruff exterior fool you, my darling. He needs your warmth and gentleness to rescue him as you did me. Marcellus craves your smiles, your generosity, that beautiful laugh of yours that steals into the cold corners of my heart and thaws it, filling it with sunshine. I beseech you more than ever, my love, to charm him away from the darkness that edges his soul, the darkness I can feel pressing in on him, choking the joy from his life.

Your love, Maxwell Wynwood

Emily’s breathe seized.

I need you. The words sank into her, terrifying yet intriguing.

“Surely you jest!” she burst out, mortified at the surge of arousal that burned in her veins.

Marcellus watched her with knowing eyes, and heat climbed her neck. She tried not to stare helplessly at his sensual mouth. The guilt surfaced, and she jumped to her feet and scampered away from him to face the windows that overlooked the rolling lawns blanketed with snow. The rhythmic scraping of the frozen brambles against the windows were the only sounds in the room. Even the crackle of the fireplace had hushed. She pressed her hands low on her stomach, praying to still the flutter of desire his words incited.

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Copyright © December 2014 by Stacy Reid. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

 

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