When dawn came to lighten the sky, Whitney turned onto her side, staring out into the early gray tight. She was alone in her bed, atone all night for the first time in their marriage. Clayton didn't want her baby. Their baby. Did he mean to disown it? Oh God, no! He couldn't-he wouldn't-why would he? Squeezing her eyes closed, she turned her head into the pillow. He was going to make her give up the baby. That's what he meant to do. He was going to get a wet nurse as soon as it was bom and send the child away to have it raised on one of his other estates, out of their way. Was his need for her so selfish then, so consuming that there was no room for their child?

A few hours ago, she might not have known how she felt about her pregnancy, but she did now. Clayton's rejection of her baby had brought on a tidal wave of protectiveness in her so fierce that it shook her to the roots of her being. She would never let him send their baby away. Never!


Whitney awoke very late. Her head was aching and she felt horribly sick and dizzy, but she made herself go down to breakfast. Clayton's place across from her was still set. "His grace said he had no appetite for breakfast, my lady," the servant informed her. Whitney ate a Spartan meal for the sake of the baby then went outdoors for a long walk.

She didn't know where Clayton was; he hadn't come into his room until just before dawn.

She walked through the formal rose gardens, vibrant with separate beds of red, white, pink and yellow roses, and then across the lush manicured banks of the immense lake where swans floated aimlessly upon the tranquil surface. Her steps carried her to the white pavilion on the far bank overlooking the lake, and she went inside and sat down on the brightly colored pillows strewn across the benches.

She sat there for two hours while her thoughts tumbled over each other, trying to reconcile the fact that she was the same person she had been only yesterday, that this was the same lifetime she had inhabited.

She went back to the house and slowly walked up the staircase, only to find Clayton's valet and three servants busily moving his clothing out of his room. "What are they doing?" Whitney breathlessly begged Mary. "Mary, tell me why they are moving my husband's things." She felt as if she were teetering on the brink of insanity.

"His grace is moving into the east wing," Mary explained, forcing herself to sound both brisk and unconcerned. "We'll move your things into his room, and your room will make a nice nursery when the time comes."

"Oh," Whitney whispered faintly, knowing she could never bear to be in that suite without Clayton. "Would you show me where his new rooms are? I'll have to ask him about tonight. We were to go out." Mary led her to an elegant suite at the far end of the east wing and kindly left her alone there.

Whitney walked slowly into the room. Clayton had been there today, but he was gone now. His shirt was thrown over a chair and a pair of gloves lay on the bed where he had tossed them. She wandered into the dressing room and ran her fingers over the onyx backs of his brushes and had to swallow back a fresh onrush of tears. She opened a wardrobe and tortured herself by touching his shirts and jackets. You could tell what broad shoulders were needed to fill those jackets. Such broad shoulders, she thought. She had always loved his broad shoulders. And his eyes.

Whitney was walking toward the door when he came in. Without a word he strode right past her, went into his dressing room, and began shrugging out of his jacket.

-- Advertisement --

She followed him, unable to keep the tears from her voice as she said, "Why are you doing this, Clayton?"

He jerked his shirt off but did not deign to answer her.

"Be-because of our baby?" she persisted in a whisper.

His eyes raked over her. "Because of a baby," he corrected her.

"You-you don't like children?"

"Not another man's children," he informed her icily. Flinging his shirt onto a chair, he turned, caught her elbow in a bruising grip and began forcibly escorting her from the room.

"But you must want children of your own," Whitney said brokenly as she was unceremoniously thrust into the hallway in full sight of a passing servant

"Of my own," Clayton emphasized in a menacing voice, He loomed over her with one hand on the door as if he were about to shut it in her face.

"Are we going to the Wilsons' tonight? I-I accepted their invitation weeks ago.

"I am going out. You can do as you damn well please."

"But," Whitney pleaded, "are you going to the Wilsons'? If you are ..."

"No!" he snapped. Then in a terrible voice, he added, "And if I ever find you in this room, or even in this wing of this house again, I will personally remove you. And I promise you, Whitney, you won't like the way I do it" The door slammed in her face.

Clayton stood rigidly still in the room on the other side of the dosed door, his hands clenching and unclenching as he tried to bring this new onslaught of fury under control. By dawn this morning he had managed to drink himself into near oblivion in his study. But not before he had carefully, coldly considered all the ways he could avenge himself for his misplaced love and trust. He would take a mistress, flagrantly flaunt her until Whitney teamed of her existence. Society would overlook a married man with a mistress; it always had. But Whitney would be caught in a vice. She'd not be able to go out alone very often without causing talk. And if she appeared with another man she would be publicly scorned and ostracized.

But even that wasn't enough. If she was going to bear a child, and he was going to have to give it his name, then by God he wasn't going to have to look at it and wonder whose it was! He'd send the brat away from his sight. But not right away. First he would let her keep the child for a year or two until she was deeply attached to it; then he would wrench the babe away from her. The child-that would be his ultimate weapon. He didn't care whether it was the result of her duty little liaison with her lover or whether it was the living proof of his own desires.

Whitney stood there staring at the oak panel. Her throat ached and her eyes burned, but she would not cry! The more she had tried to plead with him, the more pleasure he'd taken in verbally abusing her. Stiffly, she walked down the long hall to the sanity . . . no, not the sanity, this was all insane . . . to the safety of her rooms.

Mary and Clarissa were both working in the master suite, moving Whitney's clothes into the next room, and everything was in disorder. "If you dont mind," Whitney said, drawing a shaking breath, "I-I would like to be alone for a while. You can finish this later." They both looked so sad and so sympathetic that Whitney couldn't bear it.

-- Advertisement --