Althea dressed with a fair amount of calm. Even though she had relieved the ache caused by the fantasy she had about Xavier last night, she could not say she felt sorry for doing what she did. A rosy smile pierced her cheeks, knowing she had experienced something she had never wanted to before, an intense satisfaction that only a warm body could give.
Instead of the dreadful nightmares of old, last night, after finally drifting to sleep, nothing had pierced the calm of her slumber. She had slept like a baby would, comfortable, content and secure in the acceptance that Xavier would be the one man she wanted within her body and it did not make her ill or scared or anything other than happy.
That sunny smile still in place, she opened the nursery door. Rosalind was not on the floor where she usually was upon waking. The girl was still in bed. Curious to why a child, often up so early would still be asleep, she carried herself further into the room and unwrapped the blanket from her.
Rosalind's lips were chattering. She sobbed, “Please replace the b-blanket. I am c-cold.”
Placing a hand to her forehead, she frowned. The poor child had a fever. Cold sweat popped out on her head in watery spots and her body was shivering like she had been dunked in freezing water.
Kissing her brow, she replaced the blanket. “Do not worry I will not be going far, I promise. I will be back as soon as I can, do you understand?”
Rosalind nodded. “Okay.”
Leaving the room as calmly as she could, Althea shut the door. She had not wished to worry Rosalind by telling her she needed a physician because the poor dear would have protested and that would have not helped the situation.
She walked down the hallway, turned the corner and continued down the corridor and went slowly down the stairs. The first servant she ran into was the brown eyed maid who had watched Rosalind while she had spoken to the Marquis.
“Excuse me Miss?”
The woman frowned scornfully. “What do you want?”
Her continued hostility did not make sense. She mentally shrugged, worrying too much about the girl to care. “I am sorry to have bothered you, but have you seen the Marquis? I have to tell him something important. It is about his daughter.”
She blinked, her expression turned serene. “Oh, maybe I can pass on the message then?”
The maid had not answered her question. She frowned. “I need to see him now. Rosalind is ill.”
She grabbed her by the arm and Althea reluctantly followed her through the halls, past all the doors in the front entrance and realized she was leading her to the Marquis's office.
She flicked her hand toward the closed door. “Check in there, he is almost always behind his desk this early in the morning. He is probably reading correspondence, that is what I assume leastways, not wanting to overstep my position by rudely asking.”
With a polite nod, she said, “Thank you.”
Instead of saying anything, the woman shrugged, simply walking away with a grin on her face. Not wishing to know why the maid was behaving so oddly, she knocked three times before the Marquis finally opened the door. She almost gasped when she saw his blood shot eyes and rumpled hair.
He pulled her inside with a long suffering groan, shutting the door behind her. Glancing toward the desk, she saw scattered papers all over the surface, and saw empty liquor bottles littering the floor.
Scraping his hand through his hair, he tugged at the strands desperately. “I tried stopping you know, I really did...”
He frowned groggily as he sagged against the desk, letting out another groan. “I am so sorry. I promised myself I would not frighten you by my awful manners and here you are seeing me at my worst again.”
She did not know what to do. If she wished to leave him be, it would be the polite thing, she could back away now and find the Marchioness, letting her check on her child. But, if she were to leave and he found out later through someone else that his daughter was ill, he would be upset. And not giving him that information could make him angry enough to let her go from her position.
“I will be fine my lord. Everything has been forgiven, if you recall. I have come here because I have something important I have to tell you. I went to check on Rosalind this morning and she is ill. She said she was cold and she is shivering violently. I believe she has a fever.”
The Marquis froze like a deer spotting a hunter with bullets. He blinked, like his eyes were clearing from a fog. “Thank you for letting me know. I will call upon my valet to set me to rights at once. I want you to go back upstairs and keep an eye on her until a doctor can be fetched. Can you do that Miss Mosby?”
She nodded. “Yes, of course, my lord. I will do so at once.”
Giving him a curtsy, she ran out the door, closing it behind her. A loud groan, along with a crash reverberated through the hall. She could only assume that he had ran into something heavy. Shaking her head at his bumbling ways, she began feeling sorry for him. The man obviously had problems that no one could solve. She certainly could do nothing to help him.
Going back upstairs, she went into the nursery, sitting by the girl's bed, holding her hand and pressing a cold cloth against her forehead hoping to reduce the fever a little bit. But, she feared before the night was through Rosalind would not be getting better.
And, it turned out that she had guessed right.
A doctor had come inside an hour later shooing her out of the way with a brusque tone of voice, admonishing her to leave and not to return. He made her angry, and she told him so.
“You are a stranger to her. I want to be close by in case she needs me.”
With a dark scowl, the younger gentleman said, “You are in my way. Leave me to my work Ma'am, I know what I am doing.”
She argued, “But, sir...”
He refused to budge. “Leave now, or else I will tell the Marquis you are keeping his daughter from getting the care she needs.”
She huffed and flounced from the room. When the Marquis trudged up the stairs ten minutes later, she immediately told him of the doctor's rude manners, explaining everything they had said to one another.
He nodded, his voice stern. “I am sorry Miss Mosby, but he is right. Not only will you be in the way but whatever the girl has could be passed onto you, and I won't have it. You falling ill will do none of us any good. I forbid you from being with Rosalind until she is well. Do I make myself clear?”
Him barring her from the room, almost made her cry. With a deep breath, she nodded with her head lowered in deference to his authority. “Yes, my lord.”
He raised her chin with his fingers, forcing her to look him in the eye. “Since the girl is unwell you will have a couple of hours to yourself. Go outside, visit shops, I do not care. When you return I will be in Rosalind's room and you will not disturb me. Make yourself available in case I need to come get you.”
With a tiny nod, she replied, “Yes, my lord.”
His fingers dropped. “Go on, you are dismissed.”
Dropping him a curtsy, she wandered the halls as slowly as she could before dragging herself down the stairs. Her body began to shake as she entered the front hall. Xavier entered the hallway about the same time she did, he saw tears forming in her eyes. She shoved her hand against her mouth, turning away so he could not see her sobbing.
He must have heard, his hands grabbed her shoulders and she found herself herself within his arms. Holding close to his back, she cried for as long as she dared. His hands patted her back, rubbing his hands in soothing circular motions and a flash of memory had her stiffening, recalling the first time a man had comforted her in such a manner.
Closing her eyes, she told the nightmare image to go away. Xavier was not Theodore, he never would be. He cared for her she knew he did.
Holding her out at arm's length, he wiped her tears with the corner of his thumb. “What is the matter Althea?”
She saw genuine concern within his eyes and thankfully nothing else. With a sniffle, she told him, “Rosalind is ill. She has a fever.”
He shuddered. “Is she going to be all right?”
With a deep breath for courage, she shook her head. “I honestly do not know. I told your father as soon as I knew she was not feeling well. He sent for a physician. And, they are both with her now.”
Xavier rubbed her shoulders gently. “I am sure she will be fine. Do not worry.”
Althea gazed into his eyes, she wanted to believe him so much that her heart ached.
His hands stilled, he backed away. “What will you do since she is in bed? What did my father say?”
His retreat bothered her, but she wanted to let him know everything. “He told me I would have a couple of hours to myself and that he did not care what I did with those hours. But, I am not allowed anywhere near Rosalind till she is well, because according to him, I could catch whatever she has. But, I was with her for twenty minutes before the doctor showed, so it should not make a difference.”
Xavier shoved his hands into his pockets, chewing the inside of his mouth. “If you need a diversion you could always go for a stroll in the gardens outside. At least there you won't be far away in case you are needed. But, you will also have privacy to clear your mind.”
What she said, burst from her lips before she could take it back. “You could escort me like a gentleman. And, we both can keep our minds off things.”
He smiled gently. “Thank you for the kind offer. But, I do not think that is a grand idea.”
In case you have missed the story from the beginning here are the links:
Not Quite A Lady Part One: NotQuiteALadyPartOne
Not Quite a Lady Part Two: NotQuiteaLadyPartTwo
Not Quite a Lady Part Three: NotQuiteaLadyPartThree
Not Quite a Lady Part Four: NotQuiteaLadyPartFour
Not Quite a Lady Part Five: NotQuiteaLadyPartFive
Not Quite a Lady Part Six: NotQuiteaLadyPartSix
Not Quite a Lady Part Seven: NotQuiteaLadyPartSeven
Not Quite a Lady Part Eight: NotQuiteaLadyPartEight
Not Quite a Lady Part Nine: NotQuiteaLadyPartNine
Not Quite a Lady Part Ten: NotQuiteaLadyPartTen (This part is flagged for Mature Audiences Only)