Rebecca lay still and waited for the sound of the footsteps to fade and disappear—terrified that he may change his mind and return to the bedchamber for more. Her heart thudded, and her laboured breathing caused her throat to ache.
Her mind refused to take in what had just happened. It could not be possible.
When silence had reigned for at least five minutes, she dared to draw in a heaving breath.
Unfortunately, only her lungs seemed to function. Her limbs were uncooperative and lax, making her feel like a washed-out rag doll.
But she could not simply lie here, waiting for him to come back—or worse still, for some maid to find her.
Willing herself to be strong—to survive—she summoned every ounce of energy and pulled herself into a sitting position before surveying the room. Thick, red velvet drapes framed the window, while maroon walls made the room look austere and disreputable. More red velvet hung from the frame of the four-poster, further darkening the bed, hidden from view in the dark world into which he had forced her.
The shudder that racked her body came from the very centre of her being. If she agreed to his proposal, this would be her bedchamber and she would be countess to the man who had just ravished her.
But she would not agree to marry the man—not after what he had done—not after what he had taken from her. But what if she was with child? Then she would have to marry—and marry him. She wanted to vomit at the mere idea.
A memory came to her unbidden. She was dancing at her come out ball six years previously. A rather dashing young man, Lord John Winchester, had been her partner, and she had flirted and smiled coyly at him as they weaved through the intricate figures of the dance. Her white satin gown, decorated with tiny jewels and lace around the neckline and cuffs, had been her pride and joy—unlike the white muslin day dress she now wore, which would be placed in the fire at the first opportunity.
She had been so full of hope then—excited about what the future held. She could never have imagined it would be this.
Taking a deep breath and swallowing the tears that threatened, she lifted her gown, opened her legs and inspected the damage. A mixture of blood and his white fluid was beginning to dry on her milky skin—stark proof of her ruination.
The memory of the pain as he thrust into her, bursting through her maidenhead and riding her until he grunted and slumped on top of her with a satisfied grin, made her head spin. If fainting were an option at that moment, Rebecca would have succumbed willingly to the blackness.
She pushed her breasts back inside her chemise, stays and gown, ignoring the pain, the teeth marks and the discomfort of not having her undergarments put on properly by her maid. Thank heavens he had not ripped the gown as he’d man-handled her.
An image of Betty, her maid, tutting and grumbling as she took another gown below for mending flashed through her head. If only a ripped dress was her biggest problem now.
She opened her thighs again, grimacing at the stains on her chemise and underskirt and the wetness between her thighs. Struggling onto wobbly feet, she held fast to the mahogany post of the bed. Wooziness engulfed her. As she closed her eyes, trying to centre herself, she became aware of the offensive moisture running down the inside of her leg, no doubt ruining her stockings too.
She staggered through the door that led into the countess’s dressing room and located the entrance to the bathroom. Finding a towel and lifting her skirts, she scrubbed the soft linen up her legs, between her thighs and to her bruised and painful private area. She wanted to rid herself of his scent, his seed and every hideous memory that he had left with her. Self-preservation was more important. She must get out of Newthorpe House and back to the safety of her own home and family.
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