Quiet within his own darkened bedroom, Jacob lay quietly staring mindlessly up at the ceiling. What had he been thinking when he touched Serena that way? Where had he found the nerve to speak to her so boldly?
Never in all his years had he dared to speak with a woman the way had with Serena tonight. Where had those emotions come from? It wasn't as though he didn't know she was already pledged to another man, and he knew better than to flirt with danger that way. Common sense should have warned him against spending time alone with her in the game room before it even happened. But, for some reason he hadn't thought better of it at the time.
Since the moment he'd allowed himself to touch her by the door, he'd been haunted by the knowledge that he shouldn't have been alone in there with her. Why it hadn't occurred to him hours before was beyond comprehension. What a stupid, selfish move it had been on his part.
If others had respectfully accompanied them, there would have been no awkward moments like the one they shared by the door. Even now as he remembered, he could feel an unexpected stab of pleasure hitting him as he thought of that willing look in her eyes. It should never have happened!
He had tried to erase the memory of it from his mind as they continued to play the game, but it was difficult at best. Somehow they'd moved past that momentary lapse of sanity, and though he brought the laughter back to her eyes, he couldn't help but regret that she was not single. There was some strange aura about her that he found very appealing. He truly enjoyed spending time with her.
Lying in bed now, reflecting on the evening, he fully regretted allowing himself to feel anything for her at all. She was engaged and beyond his reach. Nothing but the eventual headache could come from starting a relationship with her, no matter how innocent their conversations were. It was foolish to believe otherwise, especially since he could no longer say his motives were entirely pure.
The facts were undeniable. When the day came that Serena spoke her vows to her new husband, Jacob would be left with nothing gained for his efforts. The most that would come from starting a relationship with Serena was eventual disappointment. It was a dangerous game to play. Why would he want to suffer such misery twice in one lifetime? Once should have been more than enough...
Only a year and a half ago he had been devastated to realize how painful it could be to love a woman who was fated to marry another man. He had been beaten within an inch of his life for crossing such boundaries, but the pain of his physical injuries had been minimal in comparison to his emotional wounds. He had never thought anything could hurt so much as losing a beautiful woman to another man.
At the time, he had been infatuated with a shy young girl who came to visit Damon Manor. It seemed a harmless thing to be so smitten with her, but he'd been nervous about showing his affection to her. Amazingly enough, she had never even been aware of his desire for her. He had always admired her from afar, uncertain at the time to do more than follow her from a distance. But sadly, that girl had been attracted to Caleb. If anyone had cared to notice, it would have obviously seemed an impossible situation. Jacob was infatuated with a girl who wanted to be with his brother. Ironically though, Caleb took no notice of either of them, since he was still deeply in mourning over the loss of Elizabeth. It had been sad situation all the way around.
His involvement in the triangle came to a bitter end when word of his infatuation somehow escaped the manor. Incredibly, the girl never even caught on to the fact that he was in love with her, but someone else had. Somehow, her father had learned of his attraction for her, and he came after him with a vengeance. Jacob simply disappeared into the night, not to be heard of again for weeks.
He never even saw it coming. Out of the blue, three men whom he had never seen jumped him, and they dragged him several miles into the woods. Heavily outnumbered, he had been no match for them. They'd told him to stay away from the girl, telling him that she was meant for another man. Before it was over and they left him there, bleeding and humiliated, he was approached by one last individual. Her father appeared above him, looming in the darkness he laid on the forest floor.
"Stay away from my daughter. She is not meant for you. Take this as my only warning to you. Go near her again and I swear my men will find you. Cross me again and see what happens to you. You will not be the only one to suffer for scandalizing my daughter, I promise you."
Jacob didn't doubt the man's word at all. He'd been humbled by the experience, unable to shed his fear for having been caught so off guard. And, he never so much as batted another eye in that girl's direction. It amazed him to think that girl still remained unwed to this day, but he knew who she was intended for.
He'd kept his silence about the attack that night, and he'd never mentioned a word about the threat to his life. It had been a great lesson for him. He knew that if the attack was discovered, the reason for it would also be revealed, and that would only make him feel worse. That is why he'd held his silence and refused to tell Caleb where he had been during the days as he began recovering. Not only would it become a great spectacle if Caleb learned about the attack, but far worse? He would die a death of humiliation if she ever turned pitied eyes on him for what he'd been made to suffer. The fact that he had been unable to defend himself was an incredibly cowardice trait. It had been a humbling experience.
Jacob shut his eyes and flipped over onto his stomach as he attempted to try and sleep. Frustration ate at him as he tried to force the thoughts from his mind.
Why in the world couldn't he find an attractive single woman to love? When would the opportunity to do so ever arrive?
Women never seemed to give him notice. He had always played second to Caleb in that area. He could sympathize with some of Serena's feelings towards Kyra in that respect. He knew Caleb held no real interest in women since Elizabeth's death. There was no competition between them for a woman's affection, at least not on Caleb's end. It was just an unfortunate fact of life that women were naturally attracted to Caleb and that was that. The women who lived on these lands looked toward Caleb now that he was a bachelor once again.
Jacob had never really cared for the most part. He had only been attracted to one woman over the past few years, and she was well beyond his reach. He had been taught a very painful lesson in that area. Why he would let himself fall for another woman who was already taken was a mystery.
There was no help for it, he mused with a sigh. He was destined to remain single! Fate had proven that time and again.
Much as he tried to stop thinking about it, he found himself wondering where he had found the nerve to touch Serena that way. He had never done anything so bold in his life.
He groaned aloud now, flipping over to stare at the ceiling once more. He couldn't allow this to continue! He enjoyed Serena's company immensely, but it must be ended. He could not allow a repeat of that incident to take place. Serena was taken and that was that!
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