Whitney's days were filled with contentment. Whenever possible she would curl up in a corner of Clayton's spacious study during the day, reviewing the household accounts, planning menus or simply reading, stealing surreptitious, admiring glances at him as he leaned back in his chair, going over the correspondence and reports on his business ventures. Occasionally, Clayton would look up as if to reassure himself that she was there, and grin at her, or give her a quick wink before turning his attention back to the business at hand. In the beginning, Whitney had never dreamed that he might like having her here. This was his private world where he talked about staggering amounts of money with his business agents and gambled in investments that she soon realized were amazingly perceptive and prudent. He liked this work, though-he didn't have to do it. He told her that one night. And Stephen told her once that in the last five years Clayton had nearly doubled the vast Westmoreland wealth. He even handled Stephen's investments for him and-surprise of surprises-now her father's as well.
She loved listening to him meeting with his solicitors and business acquaintances. She adored the thread of quiet authority in his voice as he spoke with them. He was so quick, and sure, and decisive. He was also devastatingly handsome, she thought with a burst of pride whenever she looked at him. She felt cherished and protected when he was near-safe and loved.
When she went shopping in town or to a play with Emily, she missed the sound of his voice, his warm glances and engaging smile.
Her nights were a celebration of their love. Sometimes he lingered over her as tenderly as he had on their wedding night. Other times he teased her, deliberately tantalizing her, making her tell him exactly what she wanted; then there were tunes when he took her swiftly, almost roughly. And Whitney could never decide which way she loved the most.
At first she had been a little frightened of the stormy, tumultuous passion she could arouse in him with a kiss, a touch, an intimate caress. But it took very little time before she was shamelessly glorying in his bold, virile masculinity. She was his-body, heart, and soul. She was at peace with her world.
She was also pregnant five months later. Now when Clayton slept cradling her in his arms, Whitney lay awake feeling both excited and vaguely distressed. Her monthly flux was three weeks overdue, yet for several reasons, she postponed telling Clayton. Therese DuVille had confided to Whitney at the wedding that she was going to enjoy the rest from her husband's amorous attentions that being enceinte would provide. Therese might be looking forward to it, but Whitney definitely was not. On the other hand, she didn't want to risk harming the baby if such might be the result of their continued lovemaking. To complicate things, Clayton had never voiced any desire for children, although it seemed to Whitney that all men must want children-particularly men with titles to be passed on to their heirs. When she missed her second monthly flux and began to experience occasional queasiness and the yearning to nap in the middle of the day, she was positive, but still she held her silence.
One day shortly thereafter, as Whitney went upstairs to change for their daily break-neck gallop across the open countryside, Clayton stopped her on the steps. "Khan is favoring his right leg a little," he said with a peculiar gravity, mingled with profound gentleness in his voice. "Suppose we go for a walk Instead, little one."
Whitney hadn't noticed Khan favoring his leg at all, and there were dozens of other splendid mounts at the stables, but she didn't question his decision. She was a little relieved because they always rode at such a hell-for-leather pace that she shuddered to think of what might happen if she fell, and she hadn't been able to think of a way to suggest they slow down without telling Clayton why.
That night, Clayton's lovemaking took on a new pattern that repeated itself consistently thereafter. He would arouse her until she was delirious with wanting his possession, and then enter her with painstaking gentleness, penetrating deeply, but slowly, withdrawing lingeringly. It prolonged the inevitable moment of joyous release unbearably . . . and very pleasurably. It also provided Whitney with the rationalization that such a gentle invasion of her body could not possibly be harming their baby.
The next week she took herself firmly in hand and told herself she was being ridiculous. In the first place, she was bursting with her news. In the second, if she delayed much longer, her own body would provide nun with the announcement of his impending fatherhood. Accordingly, Whitney went to London and purchased six tiny items of infant apparel at a particular shop. Immediately upon her return, she set to work in earnest with the embroidery thread in the privacy of her rooms.
She summoned Mary and Clarissa for an opinion of her needlework and said with a sigh as she produced her handiwork, "Amazing, is it not, that I could master Greek and not this?" Mary and Clarissa, who were both secure in their positions in the household, took one look at her embroidery, then looked at each other and collapsed on the bed amidst shrieks of laughter.
By dinner the next evening, Whitney was finally satisfied with a "W" she had embroidered in blue on the collar of an unbelievably tiny baby gown. "This will have to do," she sighed to Clarissa.
"When are you going to tell his grace that my baby is going to have a baby?" Clarissa asked with fond tears sparkling at the multiple creases at the comers of her eyes.
"That isn't quite what I planned to say to him," Whitney giggled, giving Clarissa a pat on her wrinkled cheek. "Actually, I'm not going to tell him at all-I'm going to let this tell him," she said, indicating the little infant gown. "And I think tonight after dinner will be a perfect time." With a gay, conspiratorial smile, Whitney tucked the little gown into the drawer of her desk beside her stationery and trooped down-states for dinner.
She waited until Clayton had finished his port after the meal and they were sitting in the white-and-gold salon. Feigning absorption in her book, Whitney sighed. "I can't think why I have been feeling so tired lately." She did not look up and so missed the look of gentle pride and laughter that Clayton beamed on her.
"Can't you, sweet?" he asked cautiously. He thought she knew she was with child but he wasn't certain, and if there was a chance she feared childbearing, he wanted to spare her the worry as long as possible.
"No," Whitney said in a musing tone. "But I wanted to answer my aunt's letter tonight and I have just realized that I left it in the drawer of my writing desk upstairs. Would you mind terribly getting it for me? Those stairs seem like a mountain to climb lately."