Thus a week passed, a week full of pleasure and shame. Clara joined us for Sunday dinner, a vision in white satin trimmed with lace. She chattered about the book she were reading and the pictures she had drawn. She showed off her first words of French. All three of us gave her our full attention. When she finally tired and had been dispatched to bed, we adults lingered around the table. I savored the feeling of well-being and security, such a rare experience for me.
As I sipped my coffee, Peter turned to Rachel, his gaze a silent question. She nodded. Her husband stood and fished something out of his tight trousers. His emerald eyes sparkled in the light of the candles.
"Joan, we both want you to know how happy we are to have you with us. You are doing a magnificent job with Clara."
I felt my face flush hot as it usually did when Peter focused his attention upon me. "We've hardly begun, really. Also she is an excellent student, especially for a child so young..."
"It is not just her lessons," Rachel interjected. "She is far less moody. Already she has become attached to you."
Pride tempered my embarrassment. "Well, I am not one of those governesses who believe that they must remain stern and distant in order to inspire discipline. I have always felt that the way to stimulate a child's mind is through a strong, trusting relationship with the teacher."
"You have clearly won her heart," Peter said. "As you have ours. We have something for you, a token of our gratitude and affection." He pushed a small wooden box across the table to me.
"Oh, I can't accept a gift from you! I know your financial resources are limited, and you are already paying me a handsome salary."
"Please, Joan." Rachel placed her hand on top of mine and gazed into my eyes. "It would please us so much if you would take it."
How could I refuse? Slowly, not knowing what to expect, I raised the hinged lid. Inside, on a bed of satin, nestled a silver chain and pendant. Clearly it had been recently polished, but both the residual tarnish and the style suggested that the artifact was ancient. The asymmetric design, a rough teardrop shape, was fashioned from twining strands of silver. At first I thought that the knot was a simple abstract. It reminded me of carvings I'd seen on Irish gravestones in the British Museum. When I examined the piece more closely, however, I saw that it actually portrayed two entwined human figures.
"It is truly lovely," I said, looking up to find eager expectation in both their faces. "But it appears to be an heirloom. Are you truly certain that you want to give it to me?"
"Oh yes," Peter said. "There is no doubt. Allow me to help you." Before I could stop him, he was behind me, the necklace in his hands. He settled it in the hollow of my throat. It gleamed like the moon against my sober, navy blue bodice.
His fingers brushed my bare neck as he fastened the clasp below my chignon. Heat surged through me. My cunny was instantly molten. I held my breath. I knew, in that endless moment, that Peter was about to reach around and cup my breasts in his elegant hands.
I turned my desperate gaze on Rachel. Her eyes were wide, her lips parted. Spots of bright color decorated her normally pale cheeks. She knew. She knew what her husband planned and she was as aroused as I was.
The moment lengthened. I could practically feel his fingers kneading my flesh. My taut nipples pressed against my chemise, aching for the some roughness, a pinch or a pull, anything. Why did he make me wait so long?
"There," he said, circling around to see the effect. "Beautiful. It suits you very well, Joan."
The breath drained from my lungs. My limbs were rubber. Nothing had happened, nothing at all. I had been so certain. Had I imagined it all? Had he changed his mind?
I burned as though I had a fever. Sweat dampened my undergarments, along with more intimate moisture. I hurried to excuse myself, pleading a sudden headache, though I doubted that my employers believed me. Once in my room, I stripped to my chemise and drawers and splashed some of the icy water from my basin onto my flushed face. What was happening to me?