Everyone needed a role in life.
Mirabel was a mother and wife.
Octavia would never be either; she had no wish to marry and forfeit her independence. But she wanted something of her own. Some part of herself to linger, even when she was gone. A legacy? Perhaps.
“I am placing the idea of my scandal journal on a shelf in my mind,” she told her sister softly. “To be considered later.”
There. She was not misleading Mirabel. Nor lying. Not directly.
Her sister sighed, then cradled the pronounced lump of her belly that not even the careful drapery of her gown could hide. “Staying away from Jasper Sutton and the East End is for the best, Octavia. I am only concerned for your safety and reputation.”
Octavia knew that. But she also knew that she could not be happy carrying on as she was, now that she had known the lure of adventure. To say nothing of the sinful promise of Jasper Sutton himself…
Tearing herself from those wayward thoughts, she nodded, then gathered her sister in a hasty embrace. “I am safe, and my reputation remains untarnished. Thank you for fretting over me, dearest. You should get some rest now, and I shall as well.”
Mirabel hugged her in return, and the two ascended the stairs to their separate chambers. Within the privacy of her room, however, Octavia fairly itched for the freedom she had enjoyed one week ago. It had enabled her to steal away from her chamber and entice one of the young grooms to accompany her to The Sinner’s Palace—with the aid of some pound notes, of course.
Silence for a price.
Many people and their favors could be bought. It was a lesson learned from Jasper Sutton’s own lips. And it had given her a rare insight into such a man, one who was capable of rising from the rookeries to become wealthy and powerful, who cared for his siblings. She had no doubt he was ruthless.
But to her, he had never been.
She huffed a sigh and paced the carpets, telling herself she must not think of him now. Or perhaps ever again. Mirabel had not been wrong. Seeking him out had been dangerous and foolish of Octavia. All those risks, and she had not been able to convince him to help her.
Nothing but the memory of his cruel lips on hers.
Oh, but they had not been cruel at all, had they?
Octavia found herself at the window, staring down into the small courtyard behind Tarlington House, which her chamber overlooked. The moon was full, shining high, illuminating the branches of the tree she often admired by daylight.
The tree with branches beckoning to her.
Her heart pounded.
No. She could not. Did not dare.
Octavia had not climbed a tree since she had been a girl, back at Longford Hall, her father’s country seat. It had been years. And never had she climbed into a tree from a window, nor from such a height.
Mirabel had made certain there were servants about to prevent her from escaping with the same ease she had enjoyed before. However, Octavia was reasonably certain there would not be a footman stationed at the base of the tree.
One more chance, whispered a taunting voice in her mind.
One more chance to persuade Jasper Sutton.
One more chance to see her idea come to fruition.
And one more chance to kiss him.
Grimly, she reached for the window.
The woman before him was quite pretty. Beautiful, actually. If one preferred golden curls and rosebud pouts and generous breasts. Strangely, Jasper felt himself unmoved as he examined her.
Not even a stirring of his cock.
He would have thought the blasted appendage was dead were it not for the rousing manner in which it rose on every occasion his mind flitted to Lady Octavia Alexander. Which was not often.