Storming the Castle Page 1

Author: Eloisa James

Series: Fairy Tales #1.5

Genres: Romance , Historical

Loading...

Chapter One


The residence of


Phineas Damson, Esq.


Little Ha’penny, Lancashire


Late Spring


Not every fairy tale begins with a prince or a princess. Some begin with a kiss that turns a man into a frog, or a tumble on the road that turns a basket of eggs into scramble. They begin with the realization that what was once tall and handsome is now green and croaky.


My story belongs in that category, because it wasn’t until Miss Philippa Damson gave her virginity to her betrothed, Rodney Durfey, the future Sir Rodney Durfey, Baronet, that she realized exactly what she wanted from life:


Never to be near Rodney again.


It was unfortunate that she realized this significant point only now, standing in the barn and readjusting her petticoats after giving Rodney her most prized possession. But sometimes it takes a clear-eyed look at a man sprawled in the straw at your feet to realize just how you feel about him. One moment of weakness, ten minutes of discomfort, and now she was a woman. She felt different.


Meaner.


“Damn, that was nice,” Rodney said, making no attempt to straighten his clothing. “You’re as tight as a—” His imagination apparently failed him. “A lot tighter than my hand, anyway.”


Philippa wrinkled her nose. “Don’t you think you should get up now?”


“I waited so long that it took all the strength out of me. It isn’t every day that a man loses his virginity, you know.”


“Or a woman,” Philippa pointed out, using her fingers to comb bits of straw from her hair.


“My friends have been poking around from the moment they got a stand. You’re not innocent anymore, so it doesn’t matter if I’m blunt, I reckon. I saved myself for you. Didn’t want to get a disease.”


The etiquette her mother had taught her did not foresee this particular situation, but Philippa said, “Thank you.”


“If you aren’t the prettiest thing with your hair shining like that in the sunlight,” Rodney said, stretching. “I’m about ten times as much in love with you now, Philippa. And you know I’ve loved you ever since I saw you the first time, ever since—”


“Ever since you saw me in church when I was seven years old,” Philippa said drearily.


“You were like a little angel, and now you’re a bigger one. And your bosoms are heaven-sent, all right. Damn, but I could do that all day.” He reached toward Philippa’s ankle, and she moved back just in time. “Shall I climb up to your window tonight? I know you never let me before, but the banns have already been posted at St. Mary’s, so it seems as if—”


“No,” Philippa stated. “Absolutely not. And you should cover yourself. What if one of the stable hands returns?”


Rodney peered down at the limp pinkish thing he called his own. It was draped across his thigh in a way that made Philippa feel positively ill. “I bet I’m the biggest man you’ve ever seen.”


Philippa rolled her eyes and started braiding her hair.


“ ’Course you never saw anyone else,” he added. “I know that. You were a virgin all right. Of course you were. I had to force my way, you know.”


She did know, and the recollection made her grind her teeth.


“Though I did right by you too,” Rodney said, as oblivious as ever.


“You did what?”


“Didn’t you notice when I tiddle-taddled you?” he asked. “Diddled you right where I was supposed to, giving you women’s pleasure. I expect we’ll be making love two or three times a day in the next year. I expect we won’t even get out of bed in the next few weeks. Not even to eat. My daddy planted me in the very first week of his marriage, and I aim to keep to the tradition.”


If Philippa hadn’t already made up her mind, that would have done it.


She was not going to marry Rodney Durfey. Even though he had told the whole village at age nine that he would marry her or no one. Even though she had spent her girlhood being complimented by those who thought she was the luckiest girl in the world.


Even though she had given him her virginity, which rendered her, for all intents and purposes, unmarriageable.


Just at the moment, she had absolutely no problem with that idea.


“I’m leaving, Rodney,” she said.


“Won’t you kiss me good-bye?” he said, his blue eyes still hazy.


“No.”


And she walked out, feeling—as her nursemaid would have said—meaner than a barnyard dog. As she walked away, she realized that it wasn’t an entirely new sensation. She’d been a little angry at Rodney for a long time.


After he’d made his famous declaration in St. Mary’s Church, Little Ha’penny, no boy ever looked at her twice. She was “that lucky Damson miss,” destined to be the next Lady Durfey. What’s more, no one ever asked her what she thought about Rodney, about his pale blue eyes, or his round buttocks, or the way he looked at her heaven-sent bosom.


Her mother had died the summer before, clutching Philippa’s hand and repeating how glad she was that her little girl was taken care of. Her father had told her over and over that he was grateful to have been spared the expense and bother of a Bath season or—even more onerous—a trip to London to be sponsored into society by her godmother.


The Damsons and the Durfeys had always celebrated Yuletide together and walked to the front of church together at Easter. When both ladies in their respective families passed away . . . well, Sir George and Mr. Damson, Esq., simply kept trudging side by side as they had before.


Their children’s marriage would place Damson land in the hands of the baronet, which everyone, including Philippa’s father, agreed was a good idea.


“My land runs alongside his,” he had told her once, when Philippa complained that Rodney had stolen her doll and chopped off its head. “You two will be married someday, and this is the boy’s way of showing affection. You should be happy to see how that lad adores you.”


Everyone had always told her just how she should feel, from the time she was seven years old: lucky, special, celebrated, and beautiful.


Now, though, she felt nauseated.


She also felt like running away. Her father would never understand if she told him that she’d changed her mind about marrying Rodney. It wasn’t as if she could claim Rodney was cruel, or bestial, or even unlikable.


And the moment her father found out what had just happened in the barn—which he would, because Rodney would stop at nothing to marry her—he would deliver her to the altar no matter how fervent her protests.


No, if she wanted to escape Rodney, she would have to run away.


She took a deep breath. Why on earth couldn’t she have figured this out yesterday rather than after that unpleasant episode in the barn? She’d never granted Rodney more than kisses until this afternoon. Instead, she had drifted along like a twig caught in a stream, not really visualizing her life with Rodney. The nights with Rodney.


But now . . . there might be a baby. She walked back to her family’s trim house, so different from the garish brick monstrosity that was Durfey Manor, worrying about the possibility.


She loved babies; she always tried to steal away from tea parties and find her way to the nursery. What’s more, she had spent her happiest hours with her uncle, a doctor in Cheshire, who allowed her to accompany him as he ministered to village children.

Next