At the bottom of the stairs, Roderick stared after his wife, his mouth agape. “Arabella.” Her name was a command, but Ella ignored him and, with as much dignity as possible — given her deplorable state — continued up the stairs, her boots squelching with every step. He stood, rooted to the spot, the faint ticking of the clock in the study counting the seconds. There was a loud bang… a door slamming. She had walked away from him. Not only that, she had upbraided him and, Roderick — while flabbergasted she possessed the mettle — grudgingly admitted had done so with consummate eloquence.
When had Ella become so… independent? Roderick was not sure that was quite the right word, mayhap… self-assured sat better. Whatever it was it gave him a jolt. He had to confess she was nothing like the woman he believed he had married. Had she always been this way? Had he been so blinded by anger at his father’s refusal to listen to his argument that he missed seeing Ella for who she was? While trying to rid his head of disquieting theories, Roderick followed his wife upstairs.
He burst into her bedchamber without knocking.
“Ella? Are you in here?” His quietly spoken enquiry fell into the stillness. There was no reply. Three strides brought Roderick to the doorway of her dressing room. About to repeat his question he was brought up short by the sight which met his eyes.
His words died on his lips.
Ella was climbing into the bath, speaking to someone he could not see. The steam from the water rose in lazy coils around her naked form, as though deliberately veiling her from his stupefied gaze. Roderick had never seen his wife undressed. Their coupling was carried out with the least amount of finesse possible — a quick fumble under blankets and nightgown revealing just enough skin to get it over with. There was no romance, no intimacy, and now this. He could not look away, riveted by her curvaceous figure. Through the vapours her skin resembled fine porcelain, and her hair tumbled around her bare shoulders in riotous abandon. Deuced, if his hands did not itch to be entangled in the curly tresses. He watched Ella sink beneath the water, a small amount lapping over the sides onto the wooden floor.
Soundlessly, and before Ella became aware of his presence, Roderick backed out of the room. He had his hand on the door when Meg appeared with a cloth to mop the spilled water. Her eyes grew wide like saucers when she saw him, but Roderick put his finger to his lips and shook his head. She dipped a curtsy and nodded her understanding.
Roderick slipped away, his head whirling, while other parts of his anatomy throbbed… painfully. What the hell was going on? The logical explanation was because he was missing Honora, for he certainly was not attracted to Ella.
Author of historical fiction and romance, Rosie Chapel lives in Perth, Australia with her hubby and three furkids. When not writing, she loves catching up with friends, burying herself in a book (or three), discovering the wonders of Western Australia, or — and the best — a quiet evening at home with her husband, enjoying a glass of wine and a movie.