When they left she looked all around her, trying to assimilate what was happening to her. Clayton was actually casting her aside because their lovemaking had resulted in her pregnancy.
For the first time since last night, Whitney felt a surge of genuine anger. Since when was pregnancy entirely the woman's fault? And just exactly what had he supposed was going to happen if they made love together? Naive she might have been, but even she had known that this is how babies were made. She had half a mind to go storming back to his rooms and inform him of that!
The more she thought of it, the angrier she became. Putting up her chin, Whitney marched over to the bellpull and summoned Clarissa. "Please have my blue silk pressed," she said. "And have the carriage brought round after dinner. I am going out."
Four hours later, Whitney swept into the dining room. Her hair was twisted into elaborate coils entwined with a rope of sapphires and diamonds, with soft tendrils falling at her ears, If they were going to live like strangers, then they could live like friendly strangers. But if Clayton thought for one mo-ment that after she bore his child he was going to be permitted to come to her bed again and take up where they had left off before yesterday-well, he didn't know her quite so well as he thought!
Except that when he automatically came to his feet when she walked into the room, Whitney took one look at him and felt a pang of longing and need so strong that she felt faint. He was so splendid, so unbearably handsome that if he had just smiled at her a little she would have flung herself against him and begged him . . . but begged him for what? For forgiveness for loving him? Or for carrying his child?
Several times during their silent meal, Whitney was aware of his gaze resting momentarily on her breasts which swelled beautifully above the sapphire bodice of her gown. And each time Clayton looked away again, she had the feeling that he was more furious than the time before. She almost wondered if it were possible that he was the least bit jealous. After all, this was the first time that they had ever gone to separate affairs in the evening. The next time his gaze slid to her breasts, she asked innocently, "Do you like my new dress?"
"If you mean to display your charms to the world, it suits you admirably," he said cynically.
"Are you settled into your new rooms?" she asked.
Clayton shoved his plate aside as if her conversation had ruined his appetite and rose from the table. "I find them vastly preferable to the ones I occupied before," he said icily. Without another word, he turned on his heel and strode from the room. A few minutes later the front door closed behind him, and Whitney heard the sound of his coach pulling away. She felt deflated, ill and miserable. But she went to the Wilsons' party and purposely stayed until well past midnight in the vague hope that Clayton might not like her being out late without him, and would accompany her the next time.
She was weary to the bone but she woke up abruptly as her carriage pulled up in the Claymore drive, just as Clayton was alighting from his. They walked up the stairs together and Whitney could see the taut anger in the set of his jaw. "Continue to stay out this late and you will have all London gossiping about you within a week," he said tensely.
Whitney stopped with one hand on the door to her room. "I will not be able to go out in society once my condition becomes apparent," she informed him, and then out of sheer obstinacy, she gave her head a toss and added, "Besides, I was having a wonderful time!" She was not absolutely sure, but she thought he swore under his breath.
The next morning she went down to the stables and was bluntly refused a mount. She was hurt, confused, and angry. She was also embarrassed, as were the grooms who had to tell her that those were his grace's orders. Whitney was too distressed to reconsider her actions. Without a word, and looking very much like the young duchess she was, she swung on her heel and marched toward the house, through the front door, and down the hall to Clayton's study, which she entered without bothering to knock first.
He was in conclave with a large group of men seated in a semicircle around his desk. They all leapt to their feet, with the exception of Clayton, who rose with noticeable reluctance.
Smiling angelically at the circle of surprised men, Whitney said, "I beg your pardon, gentlemen, I didn't realize my husband had visitors." Then to Clayton who was standing rigidly behind his desk: "There has been a misunderstanding at the stables. No one there seems to realize that Khan belongs to me. Shall I tell them or would you prefer to explain?"
"Do not," her husband said in a terrible voice, "even consider getting on him."
"I am sorry to have interrupted your meeting," Whitney said, hot with embarrassment that he had spoken to her in front of strangers in that degrading tone. She stormed up to her room. This was madness, cruel, perverse insanity. Now Clayton intended to keep her from doing anything to occupy her tune. He wanted to deprive her of her smallest joys in life. She jerked off her riding hat. She hated wearing those silly hats when half the fun of riding was feeling the wind in your hair. She took two steps toward her dressing room, intending to change her clothes, and changed her mind instead.
She stormed back to the stables, gave the first groom who stepped in front of her such a haughty look of disdain that he stepped aside, and then she strode into Khan's stall. She curried him herself. She bridled him herself and then she inarched over to the rack where her saddle was kept and dragged it down. She gained courage with each second. After all, not one of them would dare to lay a hand on her to prevent her from doing what she had set out to do. It took three tries to swing the heavy sidesaddle up and over Khan's back, but she finally made it. She tightened his girth strap as best she could and prayed that it would be tight enough to hold, then she led him out of his stall.
Whitney rode for three hours. She was tired after the first hour, but she hated to go back. From the minute she rode off on Khan, she had known that Clayton would be informed of her action, and she dreaded having to face him.
She had expected a confrontation later; she had not expected to find Clayton waiting for her at the stables. He was standing there with one shoulder propped casually against the whitewashed fence, his features composed as he conversed with the head groom. Inwardly, Whitney quailed at the sight of him. She knew that relaxed, almost indolent stance of his was only a surface calm, beneath which was a murderous fury which he would unleash on her.
As she trotted briskly past him, Clayton reached out in a deceptively casual move and caught Khan's bridle, jerking the horse around to a teeth-jarring stop. His eyes held a terrifying menace and his voice was so icy, so soft, that Whitney's heart pounded in fear. "Get down!"