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God in heaven, it had come. This was the day.
Opening her eyes, Jacqueline Ross saw soft sunshine falling in blocks across her bedroom, the sky outside her window a vivid blue.
Sitting up, she shook back her long hair and stifled a surge of nervous excitement as she reached for the bell pull. Already she was trembling in excitement, she thought ruefully, and the ceremony wouldn't be until late afternoon.
That was when she would become Lady Trevor, the bride of the sixth Earl of Hallworth. It was hard to believe that she could be so lucky as to actually marry for love when so many of her friends and acquaintances were forced to accept arranged unions based on financial and social reasons. The fact that her future husband was gorgeously handsome, infallibly considerate, and considered the catch of the season, made it all even more like some romantic fable in which the princess finds her heroic and dashing prince and they live happily ever after...
Tonight, she thought, her face heating, she would truly become his wife in every way.
"Good morning, miss." Her maid, Mary, bustled in with a tray, her smiling face reflecting Jacqueline's own joy. "It's a lovely day for a wedding, if I may say so."
Propped back on her pillows, Jackie agreed dreamily, "It's like a dream come true."
"I feel as if I'm trapped in a damned nightmare," Adam Trevor admitted in a strained voice, walking slowly across his study to stare out the window at the mockingly beautiful sky. Not a cloud in sight, he thought with cynical despair, when it would have been much more appropriate to his mood to have dreary droplets of rain cascadingdownward in an interminable downpour. "It's my damned wedding day, for God's sake."
Behind him, his brother sat in a shocked silence. Adam could almost feel Alex's effort to grope for words ... not even the right words, just anything to say to a man who had just admitted such a devastating secret. If their roles were reversed, he would also be speechless. Finally, Alex murmured hoarsely, "I assume you have been to more than one physician."
Without turning around, Adam replied wearily, "Hell, of course. Though, quite frankly, it isn't the most enjoyable thing to explain to anyone, even a doctor, that you are having trouble functioning as a man. I am also not anxious to have others know this--I'm sure you can sympathize with that sentiment." Slowly turning, using his cane, Adam felt the flush of a ridiculous shame climb up his neck. "They all say the same thing. When I was injured in the accident six weeks ago, the damage to the groin muscles probably restricts the blood flow in that ... crucial area." His smile was a twisted parody of the real thing. "All I know is that when I hold Jacqueline in my arms now, I feel the same ardent desire, but my body doesn't respond as it should. I just don't get ... hard. I couldn't believe it at first ... I have always tried to be so careful that she never noticed my reaction whenever I touched her, and believe me, I reacted as any man would."
"I'm sure. She's a very beautiful woman. However, as a gentleman, you can't really touch her yet; maybe your body knows that ... have you tried someone else?"
"Yes," Adam's face tightened, he could feel it despite his quest for control. "One of Eleanor's best girls ... a luscious brunette courtesan with undeniable talents. I was both humiliated and unsuccessful. Apparently, this does happen to some men from time to time, and she seemed to think nothing about it. I pretended to have imbibed a great deal of claret, and she laughingly tucked me into bed. Needless to say, it had never happened to me before, and that's when I became truly concerned."
"Does Jacqueline know about this ... this problem?"
"She's innocent, of course, and has no idea there's anything wrong. Hell, she's the last person I would ever tell." Adam added harshly and honestly, "You're my brother and there's no denying we're closer than most siblings, yet it sorely grates on my pride to admit this to you, much less to the woman I love."
"Jesus." Shoving himself abruptly to his feet, Alex crossed the room and fumbled with the brandy decanter. "I don't care if it's still morning, I need a drink."
"Pour me one, too," Adam muttered. "God knows I need one for the next part of our conversation."
Dashing brandy carelessly into snifters, Alex walked over and handed one to him, furrowing his brow. "Next part? Please tell me the doctors predict you'll recover."
The brandy burned going down and hit his empty stomach like a slamming fist; he took such a big gulp. Adam coughed and responded grimly, "They think so."
Sinking back into a leather chair, his long legs sprawled, and carelessly dangling his glass from long, elegant fingers, his brother asked cautiously, "Only think so?"
"No assurances. There is a lot of swelling still, and torn muscles take time. That could be the problem ... they think it is, and as it mends, the inflammation will hopefully subside and not impede the vessels necessary for normal sexual arousal." Adam took another deep drink of the bracing beverage in his hand and tried to sound matter-of-fact. "But ... it's possible I will never again be able to achieve an erection."