The Darkness of Love
Genres – Romance/Paranormal, Romance/Vampire
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Lord Gregory Stockton is a powerful and respected businessman embracing the modern era of the Victorian industrial revolution. He owns a grand and beautiful manor complete with a repertoire of servants and a charming attractive young wife. The only thing he lacks and desires is an heir to the family estate.
Lord Gregory knows he can never produce a child, for he is a vampire, and his wife and servants know nothing of his secrets. However, there may be other ways to provide an heir for his estate. Lord Gregory notices the subtle growing romantic attraction between his wife and the handsome young stable hand Marcus Scott resulting in the humans becoming unwitting pawns in a vampire’s game of lust, love and control.
Publisher – Chances Press
The air in her bedroom was cool and sent a chill up and down her slender body. She had grown familiar with the almost icy atmosphere in her husband’s home during the two years they had been married. Indeed the very mood inside these rooms seemed to reflect his often-volatile personality. He had never consciously hurt her, not in any real sense, but there was always that potential, lying beneath his calm exterior, as though he were a serpent waiting to strike. She could not complain about him, for Lord Gregory Stockton was a most attentive husband, and Sarah was extremely lucky to have secured his affections. He was a very affable gentleman in many ways, but he confused her.
Sarah found herself pacing the room like a caged animal, desperate to be released into the wild. Her pretty blue taffeta day dress was tight, stiff, and restricting; yet it fit her petite body in all the right places, accentuating her small bosom and curving gracefully over her hips to drape softly on the floor. The dress was specially made by the finest designers, along with the rest of her wardrobe. Her husband had been determined that his young wife would be the perfect showpiece for his estate and his reputation. She wore her soft golden curls pinned up in a diamante hair clip, and would shortly add her matching blue hat ready for her morning horse ride around the grounds.
Thinking about her daily exercise brought her mind back to young Marcus Scott, the stable lad. Well, he wasn’t really a lad at all; he was a young man of around twenty-five years, older than Sarah herself. She was only twenty-three, and becoming painfully aware of her lack of child bearing during her marriage. This fact was further accentuated every time she visited her mother on the neighbouring estate, and Sarah was increasingly irritated and upset at the admonitions that it was her own fault. Lord Stockton certainly did not seem affected by his lack of heirs. Indeed he never broached the subject, and Sarah knew that it was nothing to do with his being embarrassed or awkward about it. Far from it. He was a most attentive lover, and that was another area where she could not fault her husband.
But it wasn’t her husband that she was thinking about on this fine spring morning, with the sun shining through her windows and offering to warm her cool body. She found herself drifting over to look out at the garden, and her view of the green shrubs and trees, the flowers that were now starting to bloom in the warmer weather, and the distant lake upon which the sun sparkled and which would be the focus for her horse ride with her beloved pet Penelope. Again her thoughts returned to Marcus, as she pictured him gently stroking Penelope’s flanks with long, firm strokes of the grooming brush. He was truly at one with the Stockton horses, and each animal seemed to respond to him with love and gentility.
Sarah’s heart lurched in her chest as she spied Marcus walking across the gardens towards the lake. His dark blonde hair was slightly long and tucked behind his ears, where it fell in soft waves to his neck, always inviting her to run her fingers through it. He was already tanned from working outdoors, despite the fact that it was only April, and his simple white shirt, brown corduroy trousers, and leather waistcoat, together with the serviceable black boots he wore, seemed only to accentuate the curves and muscles of his very masculine physique. Her mind wandered as she imagined what kind of a lover he could be, so wild and passionate, yet so gentle at the same time…
“Daydreaming again, my dear?” Said the silky, sensual voice of her husband.
Sarah jumped, a hand flying to her throat at the deep sound of Gregory’s voice. She turned, flushed with embarrassment at being caught in such a reverie, and she smiled politely.
“Oh you frightened me, Gregory!” she chided, fanning her face with a hand, “I didn’t hear you enter the room.”
She glanced out of the window and then looked at her husband.
“Yes,” she said, “the garden is looking splendid this morning, and I was just about to collect Penelope for my morning ride. How are you?”
Lord Stockton was a formidable yet completely attractive figure standing before her. He wore a classic but very fashionable black suit and white shirt, with a crimson waistcoat and tie that offered a splash of colour to his pale skin. His dark eyes roved over her body, and she shivered at his very direct gaze. He could always elicit such a response in her, and she anticipated his next move with a mixture of anxiety and excitement.
In two strides Gregory stood in front of her, but slightly concealed in the shadows beside the window. He always avoided sunlight, declaring that it was not suitable for a gentleman of his stature to allow his skin to darken like the working-class men. His black hair was neatly combed and he was freshly shaven, and Sarah marvelled as always at his exquisite cheekbones and finely chiselled jaw. He smelled cleanly of soap and shaving cream, and something else that was just him. All of it sent her stomach into knots of excitement and anxiety. She almost reached up to touch his face but stopped herself, always awkward because of her mother’s very strict training in etiquette. A lady should never openly fondle a man unless invited, no matter whether he was her husband or not.
Of course, Gregory could freely touch his wife whenever he chose, and now he took the opportunity. He very gently touched her cheek with the back of his fingers, and she shivered at the icy temperature of his skin. He smiled and spoke in a gentle voice.
“My dear, I am sorry,” he said quietly, “I forget how sensitive you are to cool temperatures. Allow me to warm you.”
He slid his hands down her sides, smoothing over the rich taffeta, and she stood very still, enjoying his caress despite her embarrassment at his bold behaviour. Resting his hands on her hips, Gregory lowered his handsome youthful face and tenderly kissed her rosebud lips. His body reacted as it always did to her tenderness. She was delicate, so beautiful, and always so compliant for him. His teeth itched as his fangs fought to free themselves, and it took all his self-control not to bite her white skin, and drink deeply of her sweet blood.
Sarah melted into his embrace willingly, always enchanted at his affections, and when he moved away she was gasping slightly with the exertion. Gregory laughed and regarded her with a naked look of pure adoration.
“My darling girl, you are so precious,” he said, “I adore the way you react to my touch. But I detain you from your horse ride. I will attend to some business in my study and will see you at lunchtime in the Drawing Room.”
He gently kissed her forehead and then turned and strode out of the bedroom, so confident and powerful. Sarah waited for her breathing to calm, and then turned to the large dressing-table mirror so that she could tidy her hair and smooth her clothes, fixing her small fashionable hat in place, and adding a pair of soft white kid gloves. Then she walked slowly and carefully out of the bedroom and down the sweeping staircase, her heart racing at the prospect of seeing the young, strong stable lad very soon, and her mind in a whirl of confusion that she could find two men so equally attractive.
Feeling refreshed after his visit to the lake on such a beautiful, fragrant morning, Marcus was whistling softly to himself as he gently groomed Penelope’s glossy dapple-grey coat. She was such a gentle mare, and very like her mistress, always eager to please and so beautiful to behold. Ah yes, young Lady Stockton certainly was a beauty! Marcus had harboured a desire for her ever since Lord Stockton brought his young bride home two years previously. And while he knew that nothing could ever come of his passion, he indulged in fantasies of what might be if the gentle Lady Stockton should return his feelings. Marcus felt his muscles contract and his body tighten at the thought of what he could do to her slender body, and of how her soft skin would feel under his hands and lips. He would be very gentle with her if given the chance, because she was so timid, and he imagined she would need some coaxing to enjoy the pleasures he could offer.
“Good morning, Marcus!” chimed a beautiful feminine voice.
“Marcus jumped and dropped the grooming brush, embarrassment sending a flush to his cheeks as he saw the object of his affections framed in the doorway to the stables.
“Good morning, my Lady,” he stuttered, “I am so sorry, I didn’t see you arrive.”
He ducked his head and she laughed gently and replied.
“It is alright Marcus,” Sarah said, “I could see that you were daydreaming. I trust it was a pleasant vision?”
It was Marcus’ turn to laugh, but with further embarrassment. If only she knew!
“Yes my Lady, a most pleasant daydream,” he replied, “Penelope is all ready for you. I will just fetch her saddle.”
He picked up the grooming brush and walked over to the far wall where the leather saddle was hung along with all of the others. Sarah couldn’t help but admire his lithe body as he walked purposefully across the room and deftly handled the heavy leather. He was slender but muscular, and softer somehow than Lord Gregory, although she couldn’t explain it.
Shaking her head to try and remove these wickedly immoral thoughts, Lady Stockton entered the stable and gently stroked Penelope’s nose, whispering in the horse’s ear as Penelope duly ducked her head to welcome her mistress. Sarah turned as Marcus approached with the saddle slung over his strong shoulder, and she stood back as he expertly placed it on the horse’s back and fastened it firmly in place. Then he led Penelope out into the yard, following Lady Stockton as she walked carefully over the uneven ground. Sarah waited patiently while Marcus fetched the wooden stepping stool that she used to alight the horse, and he once again checked that the saddle was firmly in place and all the straps were fastened properly.
Then Sarah stepped forward and held out her hand to him, while gathering her skirts carefully so that she could climb into the saddle. She was very careful to regain her composure and remember her place, and Marcus was the perfect gentleman, holding her tiny hand in his larger work-worn one, all the while wishing he could remove her soft glove and kiss her fingers. He watched as she climbed onto Penelope’s back, and it took all his self-control not to wrap his hands around her tiny waist and swing her into the saddle himself. Was it just the sunlight heating his body so suddenly, or was it the wicked thoughts and desires he was harbouring for his mistress? Marcus knew the answer to that, and he also knew that he was playing with fire by even imagining such situations and experiences as were pervading his thoughts at this time.
He was roused from his reverie when Lady Stockton gently removed her hand and spoke in a quiet, commanding voice.
“Thank you, Marcus.” she said, “I will return in one hour if you will be here to take Penelope from me.”
He stepped back with difficulty, stooping to pick up the wooden stool, and he nodded, ducking his head obediently.
“Yes my Lady, I will be here.” he said, “Enjoy your ride.”
She nodded, smiled, and gently kicked her heels and clicked her tongue at Penelope. The horse obediently set off at a gentle trot, out of the stable yard and down the bridle path towards the lake. Marcus knew that they would ride alongside the water’s edge and into the wooded area beyond, taking a circuitous route that would bring them back to the yard on the other side. He had spent many a morning watching their progress from various hiding places in the undergrowth, all the while imagining how wonderful it would be to truly share his body with Lady Sarah. He ruffled a hand through his hair, let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, and walked back into the cool, dusty familiarity of the stable.
Back at the large stately home of Stockton Manor, a still figure was watching the exchange from his shadowy study window. Lord Gregory stood slightly to the side, hidden from view, but he could clearly see the stable yard from his vantage point. He was thoughtful, as he could clearly see from their body language that there was more than meets the eye to the young stable hand Marcus Scott, and his wife Lady Sarah. Yet he wasn’t jealous, or angry, or even possessive of his wife. He knew that she would never disobey him. Her mother had seen to it that she was raised with very strict ideals and morals, which explained her very docile behaviour. Sarah had been primed from a young age to be the perfect gentleman’s wife, free from suspicion and gossip.
Lord Gregory found himself wondering now whether he might use this situation to his advantage. He had had his suspicions about the stable hand from the first day he brought his wife home from the church. Marcus Scott had a reputation in the local village among the young women. He was a very handsome and eligible young man, but would not settle with any one woman, preferring to spend his evenings at the alehouse, fraternising with the bawdyhouse girls that lived in the rooms above it. Lord Gregory knew that Marcus’ mother, a cook in Stockton Manor, was forever trying to persuade her son to settle down and take a wife, worrying about his reputation and his future. But so far Marcus had resisted, and now Gregory wondered if it was because of Sarah.
Gregory watched Sarah and Penelope trot towards the lake, the sunlight helping Sarah’s lustrous hair glow golden, and Penelope’s flanks were silvered, making a nice contrast to her mistress sat resplendent and proud in her pretty blue dress. Gregory felt his body tighten with anticipation. It had been a week since he had shared a bed with his wife, and now he needed her desperately. He had been extremely busy with work, and now was concerned that he may need to spend some time at his offices in London, to put his affairs in order. What might happen at Stockton Manor in his absence? Would young Marcus take his chances with the Lady Sarah, or would he continue to resist, even though it was clearly becoming increasingly difficult for him?
A wicked idea alighted in Lord Stockton’s mind. He would never be jealous of his wife, because she gave him everything he needed, and he was not concerned in the slightest about society gossip. Indeed he already had a reputation in light of the decadent parties and social gatherings he would often throw at the Manor. His circle of friends and acquaintances ranged from impressive Lords and Sirs, and even to royalty as they travelled from London and Europe, and during these times of invention and enterprising business, they were all reaping the rewards of their financial endeavours. Gregory knew that Sarah never really enjoyed his parties. She felt awkward and embarrassed around his rich and eccentric friends, especially when they displayed such raucous behaviour after several glasses of rich red wine of an evening. But Sarah never complained. She simply smiled and stayed close to her husband, sheltering in his powerful presence.
Perhaps it was time he promoted the young stable boy to a position within the household. Marcus’ father worked as a groundskeeper, and Marcus still lived with his parents in their home at the gatehouse. Gregory could bring him into the house, thus throwing him into closer contact with Lady Sarah, and Marcus could take quarters upstairs with the rest of the servants. Indeed, Gregory was in need of another personal butler, and he would relish the opportunity to further educate this young man in the ways of gentility, and of course, the pleasures that could be gained from friendships with certain ladies of title and wealth. Yes, this sounded like the perfect plan. Gregory would never father an heir with Sarah; he knew that, even though she was unaware of the fact. But he could tutor young Marcus, and groom him to follow in his footsteps…
“Marcus?” A shrill female voice called, “Marcus! You are wanted at the house, quickly! The Master has sent for you personally.”
Marcus straightened up from where he was shovelling hay at the back of the stable. While Lady Sarah was out with Penelope, Marcus was tidying her stall and tending to the other Stockton horses, preparing them for their daily exercise. He dropped the pitchfork and turned to face one of the housemaids, young Mary Jones. She was a pretty girl, very innocent, with brown hair and green eyes. Marcus knew that she was attracted to him and he had idly wondered whether to take her for his wife. He knew that would make his parents happy, but something still held him back. He surveyed Mary now as she stood in the doorway, slightly breathless, her cheeks pink with exertion as she had hurried from the house. They must never keep the Master waiting when he ordered something; everyone knew that.
“Lord Stockton wants to see me,” he asked curiously, “Why?”
Marcus was confused and a little nervous, though he would never show it. No, he was always in control, never overwhelmed. He was a strong, brave man, and would always take charge of a situation when the need arose. Mary shrugged her small shoulders.
“I don’t know,” she gasped, “He just called me to his study and sent me to fetch you straight away. He said you are to go to his study because he wants to speak with you. Hurry!”
She turned back and hurried into the yard as Marcus followed more slowly. He looked towards the house as they walked up the path.
His heart sank as he realised that Lord Stockton’s study window overlooked the stable yard at an angle. Had he seen the exchange with Lady Sarah? Was that it? Dread suddenly ran through Marcus’ body. The Master had every right to turn him out without work or references if he suspected any improper behaviour on the part of the stable lad. What if Lady Sarah had become uncomfortable and had confided in her husband? Marcus had no chance against such a powerful man. It wasn’t simply that Lord Stockton was wealthy. He was a formidable man, and known for his rare but severe displays of temper. Marcus suppressed a shiver, and hurried towards the house with Mary, determined not to show his fear.
The house seemed ominous and oppressive as Marcus walked around to the kitchens at the back of the building, and to the servants’ entrance. Mary disappeared down the corridor to the scullery, leaving Marcus to walk through the passageway and into the large, airy entrance hall. This was a shadowy room, with a black and white tiled floor, dark oak panelling on the walls, and a wide, sweeping staircase with banisters of the same strong, dark oak. Marcus carefully climbed the stairs, his work boots sounding dull and clumsy on the polished wooden floors. Lord Stockton’s study was situated on the first floor, and Marcus knew of its location only because he had assisted with furniture removals in past years. Other than that, he never had any business within the house, except to visit his mother in the kitchens when he needed meals or was carrying game or food supplies.
The dimly lit corridor was lined with large portraits and paintings, all very austere and severe. Marcus shivered again but this time at the cool temperature within the grand house. He much preferred to be out in the stables and the gardens, with the fresh air and warm sunshine. In here it felt oppressive, musty, and it further unsettled his racing mind. He had walked past three solid oak doors that led into various reception rooms, and now he stood before Lord Stockton’s study door. Marcus took a deep breath and steeled himself for what was to come, determined not to show weakness no matter what happened. He straightened his clothes, ran a hand through his hair in an effort to smarten his appearance, then raised his right hand and knocked firmly on the door, waiting for the call from his master to admit him.
Author of adult paranormal romance series The Redcliffe Novels, Catherine Green was raised on books from a young age, and has happy memories of Saturday mornings spent in her small local library, devouring the contents of the shelves. Aside from the Redcliffe novels, Catherine has short stories published in YA anthologies Devils, Demons and Werewolves, and The Mirador Fantasmagoria, and she writes articles for websites including Write and Share UK. Catherine is also a freelance copywriter and copy editor.
Catherine has always been fascinated by the supernatural world, and it feels natural for her to write about vampires, werewolves, witches and other mystical creatures in her stories. She is a shaman in training and a mother of two (plus dog), with an interest in crafts and social history. Catherine practices Law of Attraction and truly believes that everyone can achieve their dreams if they can step beyond the fear of social conformity.
You can find Catherine on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CatherineGreenAuthor
Her blog is http://www.catherinegreenauthor.blogspot.co.uk/
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