For as naughty as Edward is in his son’s book–Her Sudden Groom–he hasn’t quite developed his full sense of impropriety in his own. Don’t get me wrong, he has his moments, but that’s not what I’m going to post. Instead, I think I’m going to post what just might be one of his most tortured moments…
After their guests were gone, she excused herself to go wait in her room. Today was Wednesday, the night Edward normally sought entry to her room.
Ever the observant lady’s maid, Georgie helped her into the appropriate nightgown and left Regina alone to wait for her husband. Would he come? She dismissed the thought immediately. Of course he would. He wasn’t the one who’d had his heart broken today. He wasn’t in love with her, nor had he ever been. For him, nothing had changed today. There was no reason for him not to come.
Just as the clock struck eleven came the soft knock at the adjacent door and with it fear’s icy grip settled around Regina’s heart. What if now that she knew the truth, he’d cease the charade and would no longer be the gentle lover he’d been in the past; but instead be aggressive and demanding? Her blood turned to ice in an instant.
He’d never seemed the sort who’d purposely hurt her for doing something to his disliking, but now that all was exposed…
She sucked in a sharp breath and opened the connecting door.
The room was as dark as it always was when he came to visit and all she could see of him was the outline of his form and the side of his face. Without a word of warning, his hands settled on her arms just above the elbows like they always did when he came to visit her at night.
But this time, it felt different when his hands touched her.
Before, they’d felt warm and loving, and now they just felt hard and cold, devoid of any real sense of love and affection―similar to the way her father tried to be affectionate when circumstances dictated.
She jerked at the thought. “Forgive me,” she murmured as his fingers tightened a fraction on her upper arm, helping her keep her balance. The firmness of his grasp was different, too. He’d never held her so tight. Was he angry with her for jerking at his touch? Her lower lip quivered on its own accord and she dug her teeth into its tender flesh to hold it steady.
“Regina,” Edward whispered, leaning his head closer. His lips landed awkwardly against hers. He pulled back. “Is something the matter?”
“N-no.” She forced her teeth to relinquish her lip and cleared her throat. “No. Perhaps we should…” She took a hard swallow. “The bed,” she whispered.
Regina twisted out of his grasp and padded across the room to her bed. There was a sense of safety, albeit a small one, in being in her bed where she could dig her fingers into the sheets and hold on until it was over, as her aunt had instructed. For now that she was about to share intimacies with a man who didn’t love her, her aunt’s advice just might be helpful.
Nervous, she tripped slightly when her foot got caught in the length of that billowing nightgown she was now thankful for and clumsily climbed into her bed, tangling the fabric around her feet.
Instinctively, she kicked her leg to work out the heavy tangle and set herself free.
“Are you all right?” Edward asked.
She stilled. Did he sense her discomfort? She nearly sighed. Only a fool wouldn’t be able to see how overwrought she was. “I’m all right,” she lied. She licked her lips and waited for him.
Slowly, he approached the bed and shed his dressing gown. Though it was dark with only the low glow of the moon offering any amount of light, Regina lowered her lashes, unable to force herself to look at him. During his previous visits, she’d let all of her shame vanish and would watch him remove his robe, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. But not now. Now it seemed inappropriate somehow. Indecent.
The mattress dipped under his weight as he joined her. His hand found her hip and she jumped, startled.
“Forgive me,” she whispered.
He moved his hand from her hip to the side of her stomach then let it drift down to her side again. “There’s nothing to forgive,” he murmured against her ear.
Regina fisted her hands into the counterpane. She could do this. All the other ladies in England did this and so could she. It was Edward. She’d shared intimacies with him many times before; it was no different this time.
But, yes, it was. This time there was no illusion of deceit that he loved her. Her hands clenched tighter. This time his touch wasn’t the same. He was touching her in all the same places and with the same movements, but for some reason, they didn’t excite her body as they had in the past. Instead, they felt practiced as if everything he’d done all along had been insincere. And perhaps everything had been, to keep up the pretense that he had married her for love.
Her heart slammed in her chest and her body jerked on its own accord. Whether because of her unnerving thoughts or Edward’s unnerving touch, she’d never know.
“Regina,” he said, brushing his lips across her cheek.
Only yesterday, the gesture would have melted her on the spot, but not tonight. Instead of relaxing against him or moving her face to grant him better access to her cheek, she squeezed her eyes shut and said a silent prayer that he’d be done soon.
Tears filled her eyes. Everything her aunt said had come true. As much as she’d never believed herself capable of finding Edward’s touch repulsive, that is exactly what it was. And because of what? Because he didn’t love her. That wasn’t anything new. She squeezed her eyes shut tighter to hold in the tears. Nobody in her life had ever loved her. Not her father, nor her brother, and now not even her husband.
Edward’s lips moved dangerously close to hers, eliciting an uncontrollable tremble.
Immediately, Edward’s hand stilled and his face pulled away from hers. “Is something the matter?”
At her hip, one of his fingers idly tapped. “Have I done something you dislike?”
“No.” It wasn’t really a lie. It wasn’t necessarily his kisses and caresses that she hadn’t liked, but the fact that he’d lied to her. And she didn’t even dislike that. She loathed it. “Pray continue.”
His finger stopped its tapping and he heaved a deep sigh. Dropping his head into the pillow, he pulled Regina against his warm body.
What was he doing? Sure, he’d held her many times before—but only after they’d finished being intimate, never before.
She peeked at his face through her eyelashes. His eyes were shut. Did he intend to fall asleep without…without…?
The following minutes stretched into what felt like hours, and finally, deep breathing and soft snoring filled the air.
Obviously, this scene came after Regina learned the truth of their marriage, but what’s most important about this scene was that it was here that Edward realized just how deeply hurt Regina was by it all.
[Oh, and did you notice that their “day” was on Wednesday…just like Wicked Wednesday…. I can honestly tell you that by the end of the book, it wouldn’t have mattered what night of the week it was for these two, formality disintegrated in the flames of their passion. But I did find it humorous today when I went to post this that their ‘day’ happened to be Wicked Wednesday–I’m sure that was definitely an Edward thing.]