DÉSIRÉE WITNESSED JAMIE IN a wide range of moods during their two-year marriage, but she'd never seen the emotional collapse like the one he suffered after Scott's death. He was devastated, bereft by the loss. While Jamie kept his true lifestyle hidden from his father, the two men shared a lifelong bond that remained unbroken to the end. It was inevitable that Jamie felt his father's passing deeply.
While Jamie tried to be a rock for Shannon, he surreptitiously consumed large amounts of straight whiskey during Scott's viewing at the mansion. Désirée watched him carefully, concerned by his uncharacteristic behaviour. She fully understood and shared in his grief, so rather than interfere with his temporary need for alcohol she kept an eye on him.
Brose noticed Jamie sneaking drinks from the sideboard, too. He approached Désirée, whispering in her ear. "Maybe the two of you should stay at the mansion tonight. I don't think Jamie's in any shape to trek down the hill to the cottage, and he should be close by in case Aunt Shannon needs him."
Désirée agreed. "I'll tell him."
By the time the viewing was over and guests were leaving the mansion, it was nearly ten o'clock at night. Désirée followed Jamie into the foyer, where he sat down by the staircase. Tears streamed down his cheeks, and his mouth was slack.
"Why don't we stay here tonight?" she suggested. "That way you'll be close by in case your mother needs you."
Jamie looked up at her, his eyes bloodshot and weary. "You're right. We can stay in my old room on the third floor."
"Why don't we go upstairs now?" she urged. "You need to get some rest."
He nodded, grasping her hand.
Jamie's former room on the third floor of the mansion was much as he left it before moving to the cottage a decade ago. A small sitting area led to the bedroom, which was spacious and decorated in cream, brown and gold colours. The carpet was dark brown, with gold-braided fringes. Two high-backed chairs flanked the cream and red-bricked fireplace, while French doors overlooked the east corner of the estate.
He sat on the bed. "Good God I'm smashed," he stated flatly. "I'm sorry, Désirée. I didn't mean to drink so much whiskey, but every time I looked at Daddy in the casket I threw back another shot…"
"Don't worry about it," she said gently, kneeling down to remove his shoes. "I wish there was more I could do to ease your pain. Scott was such a wonderful man. I'm going to miss him, too."
"He adored you," Jamie said, a sob catching in his throat. "He told me you were like a breath of fresh air."
Désirée set Jamie's shoes aside. She stood up, touching him on the shoulder. "Let's take off your pants and shirt so you'll be comfortable."
He allowed her to undress him, arms and legs like rag dolls. She pulled down the bedcovers, pushing him back onto the pillows. She tucked him in, and then gathered his clothes from the floor. She folded his pants and shirt neatly, placing them on a chair by the fireplace and returned to his side.
He watched her, his eyes droopy. "Thank you for taking such good care of me," he said wearily. "I don't know what I'd do without you now."
"Hopefully you'll never have to find out."
He was quiet for a minute, his eyes closing. Désirée thought he had fallen asleep when he spoke again: "I know I told you we'd get divorced after two years, but do you mind if we stay married awhile longer?"
She was startled. When their second wedding anniversary came and went last July without mention of a divorce, she clung to the hope that Jamie changed his mind. She was more than willing to stay married for as long as possible.
"We can stay married forever if that's what you want," she replied, gazing into his open eyes. "You know I love you, Jamie. I'm always here for you."
He fumbled for her hand. "I was hoping you'd forget about my promise when our second anniversary came about, so I never mentioned it. As crazy as it sounds considering the circumstances, I enjoy being married to you and sharing a life. But it's not fair to you, Désirée. I've no right to keep you from your own life, from finding a man who'll make you happy in all ways that matter. Since I can't be a true husband to you in the physical sense, I can't very well ask you to stay with me."
"But Jamie," she pleaded. "I'm very happy. You're not keeping me from my life because I'm living it now. I realize it sounds equally as crazy considering my past, but I'm perfectly content without a succession of men in my bed or the endless round of parties back home. I love right now, and wouldn't change anything even if I could. Please believe that."
He was moved by her words, and knew she meant them. "I do believe you, and I feel the same way. However, whenever you feel the need to be free just say the word. I'll never hold you back or keep you legally shackled for my own selfish reasons."
"I could say the same," she murmured, although she was gladdened by his words. "If you find someone you want to spend your life with, I'll never deny your freedom."
He closed his eyes again. "Thank God that's settled. I really need you, Désirée. I'm trying to be strong for my mother, but I'm destroyed inside. I loved Daddy so much, and admired and respected him. I wanted to tell him the truth about myself a long time ago, but I was afraid of disappointing him. Now I'll never get the chance to come clean with him…"
"Don't you do that," she whispered fiercely, putting her finger to his lips. "Don't rack yourself with guilt, Jamie. You did what you had to do, and there's nothing wrong with it. Scott loved you, and that's all that matters. Don't torture yourself with what-if's, not for one minute."
"I'll try," he said sleepily. "C'mon, Désirée, get into bed. We need our rest for tomorrow."
By the time she removed her clothes and slid into bed next to her husband, he was already asleep. She lay on her back for a few minutes, listening to the even rhythm of his breathing. She realized with some irony that it was the first time she and Jamie shared a bed since their wedding. At the cottage, they had separate bedrooms. Foofer bunked with Jamie, while Guido and Geena slept with her.
The past two years had been a whirlwind for Désirée, flying by too quickly for her liking. While she undeniably banked a strong sexual desire for her husband, she accepted the fact he was a gay man and instead concentrated on developing their strong friendship. There were many layers to both of them, some deeper than others, making their marriage a continual journey of discovery.
She sighed, rolling on her side toward Jamie. He was still breathing evenly, hand resting on his chest. "At least he doesn't snore," she thought with humour. She reached over and placed her hand on top of his, closing her eyes.
She wasn't sure how long she'd been sleeping when she felt a warm and gentle caress exploring her body. At first she thought she was dreaming. She had been celibate for so long, her body must be responding with natural instinct to the attention.
She heard Jamie moan her brother's name and almost recoiled in disgust. Then she relaxed, tempering her initial reaction. If Jamie thought he was touching Jack instead of her in a hazy dream, why not let him?
The feel of Jamie's hand on her bare flesh sent Désirée's mind into a tailspin. His caress inflamed her long-held passion. Every one of her nerve endings felt alive, tingling from head to toe. He reached along her thighs, his feathery touch travelling across her taut breasts. She drew in her breath, a wave
of desire making her body tremble.
Jamie was obviously having a vivid dream about her brother, probably fuelled by his vulnerable emotional state and the copious amounts of whiskey he consumed.
"I don't care," she thought. "I've wanted Jamie in the worst way possible for a long time. What does it matter of he thinks he's making love to Jack? I'll finally benefit from something my bastard brother started."
Jamie ran his hand down Désirée's belly, stopping at the triangle between her legs. She felt ready to explode from anticipated pleasure as he pushed aside her nether lips and plunged his finger inside her.
She didn't dare speak for fear her feminine voice would jolt him awake. He removed his finger and began kissing her neck, down to her full breasts. Summoning her courage, she reached out and touched his body. She felt his hardness, realizing he was ready to take her.
Without a word, she gently straddled him. He entered her, thrusting upward with sudden force. A mindless pleasure overtook her as he moved within her, moaning as he thrashed his head back and forth.
She thought their union would be brief, assuming Jamie was as sex-starved as she was. As their coupling continued and he showed no signs of slowing down, she revelled in every thrust. She threw her head back and couldn't stop herself from letting out a small moan. Making love with Jamie was better than she ever imagined, better than with any man who came before him. She didn't want the pleasure to end.
When they finally reached their mutual climax, it was as if a thousand stars exploded over their heads. She felt herself drowning in the ecstasy of the moment, sinking to a level of glorious contentment she had never known before.
Désirée quickly rolled to his side, resting her head on his chest. She could hear his ragged breathing, which slowly came to an even gait within a few minutes. He didn't say a word, didn't lay a hand on her. She peered at his face, expecting to see him looking at her, but his eyes were closed. "How could he sleep through such thunderous rapture?" she wondered to herself. "The earth definitely moved, at least for me."
She rolled on her back and stared at the ceiling, a smile on her face. No matter what happened between them from this moment on, she would always have the memory of their first and likely only night of connubial bliss. If she had to, she could feed on the memory for a lifetime.