Constance from Whispers Collection #1

What woman, I wondered, could win Edgar’s heart without losing hers in turn? Whoever that woman was, I resented her. I thought her unworthy of his love.

Excerpt From Constance

As a man of healthy appetites, I have always despised—abhorred—women like Constance Ashley. To this day, when I see some stiff backed, stern-faced female on the prowl for the slightest sign of someone else’s joy in the physical, the core of me goes cold. Such women mean to stamp out every last drop of cheer by dint of a cold and spiteful eye or, if need be, an unpleasant word in a receptive ear. It was into that category of women that I’d placed Constance Ashley. Deservedly, I thought.

A year ago I’d not have been able to say with certainty what she looks like. My eyes slid off her every time as my attention skated past her to women with more color. More life. I paid no attention to her. None. Likely there were dozens of times when we were within feet of each other, and I was blind to her.

At that time, this was the truth about her: with even the slightest attention to clothing or hair, she’d have been a striking woman. Enough, I dare say, to have caught my attention. But she was a bland, drab thing who dressed as if her life depended on blending in with her surroundings. In the main, I’d say she succeeded.

Here’s another truth. When circumstances were such that I did notice her, I thought if her mouth weren’t so prim her spectacles might have lent her a fey charm. But her mouth was willfully harsh, and, through the lenses of her spectacles, the cold and inhospitable sea of her eyes sapped the last bit of warmth from a man’s soul. So I thought.

Constance Ashley in the throes of passion was, to say the least, impossible to imagine. God knows I’d never imagined it a year ago. Little wonder no one courted her despite her coming from a good family with money.

Allow me to describe her. Neither tall nor plump nor slim. She left no curls or tendrils free to soften her features. Face oval, skin clear. Her nose is unremarkable, but ripe is the only description for her mouth. Ripe as figs in the moment before they must be plucked. Chestnut hair. As I hinted—didn’t I? I meant to. She ought to have been compelling and wasn’t. She’s a small thing. Delicate, even. I’d say no one noticed her, but that wouldn’t be so.

At that time, I’d never spoken to her beyond rare niceties. Why would I? Thus, when I came to know more than her name, my prejudice against her, though hardly fair, was firmly in place. I disliked her clothes, her looks, and her voice which, when I heard it, was low for a woman’s, and I especially disliked her absolute refusal to make friends among the few who thought to befriend her. I used to wonder why she bothered to leave home.

I’ve an acquaintance with her cousin, Edgar Ashley. He’s the youngest of our set, about twenty-five. All of us, in one way or another, wish to be like Edgar. He has style without ostentation, intelligence without vanity and wit without malice. His fine-boned looks are the sort women call beautiful. He’s a woman’s man, he’s that pretty, but I can tell you, he has a wicked right cross. A gentleman in all respects. Superior.

In short, if I’d been asked, which I wasn’t, I would have replied that Edgar and his cousin could not be more different.

With a face and physique like his, he could fuck any woman he fancies. If he ever did, he was discreet about it among his friends. Edgar’s nature, of course. It had long been my impression that there was disappointment in his past, and that he’d been faithful to his love despite her failure to return his feelings. What woman, I wondered, could win Edgar’s heart without losing hers in turn? Whoever that woman was, I resented her. I thought her unworthy. Unfeeling.

I confess this to you: if I’d had a name, if I’d known who it was, I might have seduced her and walked away from her all on my own. It’s easy to imagine deliberately breaking the heart of a woman one does not know. Although I believe myself capable of such behavior, I might not have done such a thing in life, had I known. Might. Not to the extent I imagined, at any rate.

We had the habit, my set of friends, of nightly meeting at Edgar’s flat upon a standing invitation. We’d gather there to sober up if we were drunk or become drunk if we were sober, or play cards and talk until morning light drove us reluctantly home.

A year ago, when the name Constance Ashley summoned for me no pleasant associations, someone who’d had too much to drink—I don’t recall who—asked Edgar if it were true his cousin managed his uncle’s business.

Damned question. Impertinent. Something that ought to have stayed locked behind the fellow’s lips changed the course of my life.

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