This is taken from near the middle of the book where Blackburn, our hero, is having Elspeth / Miss James our heroine, sketched and measured in preparation for designs to be made to tattoo her body. Blackburn is entering the room after giving Elspeth time to get started and to display some sensitivity that Miss James may find it uncomfortable to pose naked if two men are in the room straight from the onset.
Blackburn gave them forty minutes before heading up himself. More than enough time for them to be well underway into the life drawing and for Elspeth’s nerves to have settled.
As he neared he heard her laugh. A relaxed sound that fluttered around him like a promise of happiness. A sound she never made for him.
His jaw tightened. He braced, like he had always braced when facing the realities of the world and they were usually that he wold never be given, if he wanted he would have to take.
Outside his upstairs parlor he stood at the door and listened, his heart, oddly beating faster than it should.
“Adam, you’re tickling me.”
Adam? His body stiffened.
And then that laugh again. A rich sensual ripple of… enjoyment.
Blackburn pushed the door open to find Mr. Patterson to be exceptionally handsome and with this hands around Elspeth’s waist, his cheek pressed against her soft white belly and a tape measure somewhere in the mix.
Mr. Patterson was now laughing, Elspeth had her hand on his head grinning.
Everything inside Blackburn stilled. The confirmation of her virtue not days past stopped him from doing anything dramatic. Years of training stopped him from doing what any other man from where he was born would have done. After all he was a tactician.
“Am I interrupting?” His voice was artic. “It seems I am in the wrong room for a rendering of my Canvas.”
Mr. Patterson hurriedly disentangled himself from Elspeth and stepped away.
Elspeth’s hand fluttered to her waist and then dropped. The softness in her face from just moments before replaced by a strained, tight look. The look she saved for him.
His brows drew together and tension pulled across his shoulders.
“Adam… Mr. Patterson was measuring me,” her voice challenged him to find the wrong in it. He had after all arranged for her to be sketched naked and measured by said Mr Patterson.
Mr. Patterson was at the rendering he’d done and began walking it over to him.
All Blackburn saw was her too fast breathing, the flush over her skin, the distended nipples. That soft line of her scar in the blond thatch at the apex of her thighs. Cold fury at the idea that Mr. Patterson now knew of that small scar pulsed behind his temples.
Blackburn looked at the rendering.
Elspeth shone off the page. And, it was complete, front, back and sides. An impossible task in the time they had just spent together.
“That was fast.”
“Well I took the liberty of starting at home. I know Elspeth… Miss James so felt confident to start the drawing without her.” It was clear that the young Mr Patterson was an idiot and was perhaps looking to be maimed. The thought of them as a possible couple, that Elspeth had wondered what it would be like to be the focus of Mr Patterson’s affections was again oddly flammable to his equilibrium.
“You were confident you could draw her naked from memory?” Blackburn stalked towards the young man. This was not about love or affection, this had to do with ownership and sexual access. Blackburn understood very clearly that had he and Elspeth established their sexual relationship these odd feeling would be less likely. Being possessive of his sexual partners had never been an issue for him but not having what he wanted and seeing someone else closer to getting it had always irked him.
“Oh for God’s sake.” Elspeth stepped down from the pedestal and grabbed a robe from the nearby chair. “You are being ridiculous.”
“Am I?” Blackburn watched as she covered up her skin, which by the way was his now. Every square inch of it.
He looked at Mr. Patterson who was scarlet. Elspeth, it seemed, was impervious of Mr. Patterson’s wayward thoughts. Or the implication of it.
“I just need the measurements and I am done,” Mr Patterson said.
Blackburn raised an eyebrow and shot Mr. Patterson a look that had the man stepping back. There were men in London, who for very little would break a mans fingers at every bone.
“Perhaps you could take the measurements?” Mr. Patterson hurriedly suggested.
“Perhaps you are done?” Blackburn took another threatening step towards the soft spined fop and the apparently not so brave Mr Patterson moved quickly to collect his things.
Elspeth huffed from behind him as if he was the oaf in the room and not the pandering Mr. Patterson. Well, she would be making very different sounds in a moment.