It was humiliating to think of someone reading that note, and she tried to imagine who could have been in her desk. Two days ago, when she had joyously tucked the little infant gown in the drawer for Clayton to find, the drawer had been neat and no one, other than Clayton, had been . . . Oh, my God!
Whitney half rose from her chair-she had sent Clayton to her desk and asked him to find her aunt's letter. "And you found this," she breathed aloud, as if he were in the room. "Dear God, you found this." Her hands were shaking and her mind was reeling as she tried to concentrate on what Clayton might have made of what he had read. She forced herself to look at the note as if she had found it, instead of written it. The date. They had promised to celebrate, each year, the date she had come to Claymore, and the note was dated just one day before that. Reading this, Clayton would wonder if-no, believe-she had come to him that night because she thought she was pregnant! That would hurt him deeply, because he had told her once that nothing she could ever do would mean more to him than the way she had come to him that night because she loved him and wanted him to know it.
Very well, then the next thing she would wonder about, if she had found the note, was whom it was meant for. Getting up with the note still in her hand, Whitney began to pace agitatedly back and forth. Based on Clayton's reaction, he must have thought the note bad been meant for someone else. All right-but he knew he had taken her virginity that terrible night and she could have been carrying his child as a result of that. How dare he be so angry merely because she might have turned to someone else for help or advice! Well, why shouldn't she have done so-after all, when that note was written they weren't even on civil terms with each other. Why, she could have been writing to her father or her aunt or anyone! But judging from the violence of Clayton's reaction, he obviously thought not.
He was torturing her this way because he was hurt. And because he was angry that she might have turned to another ... another man ... for help. He was hurt. And jealous.
"You fool!" Whitney hissed into the empty room. She was so relieved and so happy that she could have flung her arms out and twirled around. It wasn't because Clayton didn't want their baby! Yet weak with relief though she was, she could also cheerfully have killed him!
He had done it again! Just what he had done the awful night he had dragged her here. He had accused her of something in his mind, tried and convicted and sentenced her, without ever telling her what crime she was accused of committing. Without ever giving her an opportunity to explain! And now-and now-he actually believed he could just set her aside, move to another wing of the house and pretend that their marriage was as dead as if it had never existed.
Whitney was shaking with relief and quaking with determination. This was the last, the last time his temper was going to explode against her before she was given some explanation for the reason first!
And if Clayton thought for one moment that he could love her as deeply as Whitney knew he did, yet turn his back on her and coldly walk away, well, he was now going to learn differently. How could he be so wise, so intelligent, and actually think he could set her aside in anger, no matter what she did-or what he thought she did?
Somehow, some way, she was going to make him explain why he was acting this way. Whitney didn't care how it came about or how he did it. He could hurl the accusations in her face, for all she cared. In fact, she thought with a sad smile, that was undoubtedly how it would happen, because she was not going to plead with him to explain; she had tried that already and it did no good. Which left her with no choice but to force his hand, to make him angry enough or jealous enough to lose control completely and confront her with what he thought she'd done.
And when he did, she would coldly explain about the note. She would make him grovel at her feet and beg for her forgiveness. A brilliant smile dawned across her features. Oh rubbish! She would never be able to do that. She would explain as quickly as she could and then fling herself against his hard chest and feel faint with joy and longing when his strong arms went around her.
But for now, she had to make herself be anything but meek or sad. She would be charming and gay until Clayton missed what they had together so badly that he couldn't stand it. She would goad and needle him gently at first, and only if that didn't work would she force his hand by making him truly angry.
The Clifftons were having a huge affair tonight. Whitney couldn't be sure whether Clayton still meant to go. But she did.
She dressed with great care in an emerald-green gown she had ordered in Paris on their wedding trip. It was the most revealing gown she had ever worn and she smiled to herself as she put on the emerald and diamond necklace and matching bracelet and ear drops. "How do I look?" Whitney asked Clarissa, twirling around.
"Bare as the day you were born," Clarissa decreed with a censorious state at Whitney's bodice.
"It's a little less than I normally wear," Whitney agreed with a faint twinkle in her eyes, "but I don't quite think my husband will want me going anywhere without him in this gown, do you?"
In a rustle of emerald silk, Whitney swept into the drawing room. Clayton was pouring himself a drink at the sideboard, his tall, athletic frame resplendent in midnight-blue jacket and trousers. In contrast to the deep blue superfine, his shirt and neckcloth were dazzling white. He looked unbearably handsome. He also looked utterly furious as his insolent gaze swung over the shimmering green gown and froze on the daring display of tantalizing flesh swelling above her bodice.
"Where," he asked in a low, ominous voice, "do you think you are going?"
"Think I am going?" Whitney repeated, managing to look extremely innocent, despite the seductive allure of her gown. "We promised to go to the Clifftons' tonight. I would love a glass of wine, if you wouldn't mind," she added with a languorous smile.
Clayton jerked a bottle of wine from the rack built into the cabinet. "That's too damned bad, because we aren't going to the Clifftons'."
"Oh?" Whitney said as she crossed to bun to take her glass. 'That's a shame, for you will miss a splendid party. I have always thought the Clifftons' parties are the most delightful of any in..."
Clayton turned slowly and perched a hip on the cabinet beside him, one leg swinging idly, his weight braced against the other foot. "I am not going to the Clifftons'," he told her icily. "And you are not going out tonight at all. Is that clear enough, Whitney?"
"The words are quite clear," Whitney told him. She turned, carrying her glass, and swept regally off to the dining room, trailing emerald silk in her wake. She was crushed. Clayton wasn't going to take her to the Clifftons', and he wouldn't let her go alone.