Growing up in Helstone, Margaret Hale had a limited social life, by choice, as she soon tired of the men who didn't seem to take her seriously. Men wanted to tame her and return her to the kitchen and leave big business to the males.
The attendant watched them slip into a back row and finished admitting the rest of the audience. He wasn’t sure who he should tell, when he saw Mr. Thornton.
“Psst . . . Mr. Thornton, do you have a minute?”
“Just barely, what is it?” John asked.
“Are we allowed to have women here, like a woman overseer?”
“Well, I didn’t ever think I’d hear that question. Did they give credentials?”
His presentation began. Margaret felt a shiver run down her spine listening to his voice. She was being enshrouded in velvet smoke, happily listening to John Thornton for the next 55 minutes. She found him interesting, very knowledgeable, and most handsome, too.
Looking over Thane’s shoulder, at the restaurant, purely interested in the aesthetics of the room, Margaret saw Mr. Thornton looking at her. Surely he is wondering if I am the one he spotted at his meeting last night, she supposed. As the night wore on, even with his lady companion, she caught him looking her way several more times, totally unabashed to be staring.
While listening, John was surprised at his own reaction to Miss Hale and her serious health situation. He felt a little flutter in his stomach to which he was not accustomed.
Allowing his friend, Dr. Donaldson, a few hours of needed sleep, John laid his pocket watch out on the table, so he would not have to dig for it through the night. It was now time for the next reading. Taking the thermometer and shaking down the mercury, he pulled back the canvas ice sheet. He hadn’t realized that she was naked underneath and quickly pulled the sheet back to a modest level. How beautiful was this woman, was his first thought.
(A few days later on a train together...)
“But I feel so warm all over. Are you sure it's not my fever returning?”
“Yes,” John smiled into her face. “I have that same warm feeling, too. You do not know what that is, do you?”
“Well, I think I am beginning to understand it, because the heat is becoming localized. Please, do not explain it to me, John. I think I’d rather perform my own experiments to test my theory. I am a fairly good troubleshooter,” she smiled.
John was fully awake, berating himself for all the harm he had caused both Margaret and himself, and in some other universe, Rose, too. He blamed it on not knowing his way around real love and passionately trying to preserve it. Never before having the emotions that had been running inside him lately had crippled his ability to think as he always had. He was lying there with his arm over his eyes as the clock struck two, somewhere in the distance.
He heard his door open slowly. In only a moment Margaret slid herself into his bed, not making a sound. He imagined she thought him asleep. “I love you, Margaret,” he whispered as he rolled to comfort her in his arms, straining badly with the want of her body but forbidding the pleasure.
“John,” Margaret said in hushed tones. “I want you to make love to me,” she said as she placed his hand on her breast, holding it there, beckoning him to explore.
He was undone. He seized her breast and massaged the fullness and hard nipple through her thin gown, finally lifting the gown from the hem and placing his hand directly against her skin. “Do not do this to me, do not let me do this, my love,” John said, in agonized pleading words
Margaret rolled slightly toward him brushing his thigh with her knee and discovered he was naked. She parted his thighs with her knee and continued snuggling close, allowing his rigid manhood to rub against her own belly. “This may be our only night together. Please, John.”
“Margaret, you must understand that I want you desperately, you can feel that, I know. That isn’t lust for you, but love for you. I believe that you have retained your innocence and virtue and I won’t do this, no matter how much we both want it. My heart and soul cannot bear it. I will take you only if I am free to take you, not before. Please do not make it any worse for me than it is right now, I beg you. Just let me hold you.”
“I wish you weren’t right about me, but you are. I feel if I had some experience in the sensual world you might not feel so guilty, but I cannot lie to you. I know you would get to the point of knowing I was a virgin and then hate yourself. I won’t let that happen to you. I will wait. I will wait for you forever. You will be the only man to bring me to that irrecoverable act of love. Hold me then. That will have to be enough. I do love you, John Thornton.”