see disclaimer chapter 1
Tessa was in the kitchen, sneaking a scone, when she heard Gus arguing with someone. A familiar, deep voice shouted, "Get out of my way, man! You will not keep me from her! I demand to see Miss Tessa, and I will not leave from this spot until I do!" She did not hear Gus response, but could imagine what he must be saying.
"It's all right, Gus. I will take care of it," she said sweetly, entering the foyer.
"What is the meaning of this, Tessa?" Leopold yelled, waving a piece of paper in the air. "I demand an explanation!"
"I will not explain anything until you cease shouting.
When he seemed to calm down a bit, she continued. "Perhaps, we should discuss this in private."
Tessa closed the doors behind her as Leopold preceded her into the study. She turned and waited for him to speak. He stood in the middle of the room, an expectant look on his face, waiting for her to explain. The silence between them was deafening. Leo finally spoke.
"I would like an explanation of this...this letter that you sent."
Tessa shrugged. "I thought I made myself perfectly clear. You have an outstanding balance and need to remit payment."
Leopold was outraged. "Are you suggesting that I do not take care of my debts?"
"No, Your Grace. I am saying you over looked it," Tessa replied calmly.
He wracked his brain trying to figure out how this came to be. "I truly don't remember any visit that I did not pay for. Do you have records I can look at?" His voice had a resigned tone.
"Of course I do." Tessa opened the large ledger and showed Leo his entries. He studied them for a moment, and then looked up at her, pain in his eyes.
His voice came out soft, hurt. "You are charging me for the time we spent together? He could not believe it had come to this.
Tessa's heart cried out, but she ignored it. "What we had was business, Leopold. Nothing more. I thought you understood that." Even to her own ears, she sounded exceptionally cold.
"I thought you knew that it was personal to me." Unshed tears sparkled in his eyes. "Tessa, I...I...why?"
She turned from him so he couldn't see her own tears falling unchecked. "It's business Leopold."
He saw her shoulders shake. She was crying? "Tessa, look me in the eye and say that it was just business."
"Why not?" he asked as he approached her. "Because you don't want me to know the truth?" He reached for her and spun her around to face him. "Because youre afraid to admit that you care about me? Tessa, what is this really about?"
"You are going to take a bride next week, Leo!" she blurted out.
Leo smiled. "Is that all? You should have just asked, Tessa. I would have told you that I have no intention of announcing anything. This is all my uncle's doing."
He looked down into her soft brown eyes. "That's not all, is it?" Tessa shook her head. "What more is there to discuss?"
She started sobbing, beating her small fists on his chest. "You took Cherie upstairs! After all the time we spent together, after you made me believe that I was something more than a two bit whore, that I was special, you took Cherie upstairs!" she shouted at him. "You made me love you and then you tossed me away like so much garbage." She slumped onto the rug that covered the wood floor. Soul wrenching sobs wracked her body. She had finally admitted that she loved him and it felt like it was going to kill her.
Anger rushed through Leopold. After what she had done, she held this against him? He started to walk out but her torment touched him deep inside so he turned to face her once again. "I did not do anything that you did not do first, madam."
Tessa frowned in confusion. "Leopold, what are you talking about? What did I do?"
"I thought I was different from the other men who come here. We all thought you were untouchable. Then you picked me. I wanted you so much and you let me in. But you let Edward in too. So much for the untouchable Miss Tessa." He flung the words at her like daggers and they cut right to her heart.
"Leopold," she still wore a confused expression. "I still don't know what you are talking about."
"I'm talking about coming in here and finding Edward in your arms!" he shouted. "Not an hour before, he was bragging how he had partaken of your services," Leo spat out, "and then I find the two of you in a cozy embrace!"
A bitter laugh was ripped out of Tessa. "That night? We are referring to the same night?" Leopold nodded tersely. "Leo, Edward was drunk and had been trying to kiss me. I was fighting him off when he stumbled and fell. I caught him. That is all that happened." She smiled up at him sadly. "I have not been with anyone but you. And nor would I want to be. You have ruined me for anyone else."
He was finding this hard to believe. Was it all a misunderstanding? "You speak truly Tessa? No other man has shared your company?"
Sable curls danced as she shook her head. "No one."
Leopold knelt in front of her, gathering her in his arms. "Darling, can you ever forgive me? I'm sorry I doubted you for even a moment."
"I can forgive you for that, Leo, but I do not know if I can forgive you for taking Cherie upstairs."
Leopold chuckled. "I had every intention of seeking revenge but I could not touch her. She was not you. We played cards all evening. As a matter of fact, she fleeced me." He paused, nudging her chin up so he could look in her eyes. "Did I hear you correctly? Did you say you love me?"
Tessa looked into hazel eyes that shone with hope. This man, this wonderful man had somehow broken through all her carefully erected barriers and captured her heart and soul. Leopold waited, breathlessly, for her answer. "I do love you, Leopold."
"Thank goodness, because I love you too." Leopold's lips met hers in a tender kiss. "I've missed you terribly," he murmured against the satin skin of her cheek. They held each other as if hanging on for dear life.
"You have no idea how hard it has been for me to go into my room, knowing you would not be joining me," Tessa whispered. "You left that model on my desk and I cried each time I laid eyes on it." Tessa rose, causing Leopold to do so also. She walked over and locked the big double doors. "Leopold," she said, turning slowly to face him. "I need you so much." She reached out a hand to him. "Please love me."
"I do," he replied.
"Love me now, here," she clarified. He took her offered hand, pulled her into his embrace, and claimed her lips. They sank to the floor once again. Clothing was pushed out of the way or removed completely. Questing hands sought warm skin. Lips sought out sensitive spots that wrung gasps from either of them.
Her ecstatic shout harmonized with his moan of pleasure as he drove his rigid staff into her wet center. Her hips matched his wild thrusts, both of them seeking fulfillment. A final plunge tore a triumphant yell from Leo's lips as he emptied into her. He was answered by Tessa's exultant cry as her climax overtook her, sending her quivering against him.
They lay wrapped around each other, floating on a cloud of sensual bliss. Tessa brushed a damp curl from her lovers forehead. "I adore you, Leopold."
He smiled gently and brushed his fingertips softly against her lush lips. "I will cherish this moment forever, my love. For this is the moment you gave me your heart. Rest assured that I would treasure your gift and always keep it safe. I love you, my darling Tessa."
He lifted her and carried her to her room. Evening was approaching. Tessa summoned Gus and quickly made arrangements for her absence that night. As they made love into the wee hours of the morn, neither one wanted to face the reality of what lay before them.