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Suspecting that an army officer has had carnal knowledge of one’s husband and knowing it for a fact, Arabella discovered on reflection, were two quite different things. She did not know what to do with the information, which she could hardly share with any one else. It seemed to her that she and Jonathan must discuss the matter, rather than burying it in silence, but she was not entirely sure what she wanted to say.

Some people, no doubt, would have expected Mrs Strange to weep and storm on making such a discovery, to load her husband with reproaches and to wring from him a solemn promise never to see the villain again. But Arabella did not think of Grant as a villain, though she was not entirely without resentment towards him this morning. It was clear from Jonathan’s account of his kindness that Grant had been a good friend to him, and that he would not have survived his time in that accursed Peninsula without him.

Moreover, she did not think that extorting a promise from her husband not to see Grant again would do much good. If any thing, it would be more likely to make Jonathan hanker after forbidden fruit. She had confidence enough in him not to fear that he would break his marriage vows again with Grant now that he was home with her, but three years was a long time. Whatever had been between them in the Peninsula was unlikely to have been only a passing fancy. Their bond belonged to a world she did not know, and to which she had no guide. If she demanded that Jonathan choose between them, she knew he would choose her; but the damage such a demand might do in itself was not something to be risked lightly, particularly if there was another way of dealing with the situation.

Perhaps the solution lay in treating Grant as a friend rather than as a rival. Arabella did not intend to tame or torment him by parading their domestic happiness in front of him; they did not want a Werther on their hands. Any friendship between the three of them must find a way to acknowledge what had happened between him and Jonathan, or they would run aground on the shoals of denial, but how was this to be achieved?

Her own words in the act last night had brought Grant into their bedroom, into their bed: Is this how he fucked you? Did he make you beg for it? It had stirred her as well as Jonathan, and the memory of it stirred her again now, a slow ache starting between her thighs. She knew that Grant’s image would be in both their minds the next time she fucked him, an additional sharp salt heat in their coupling.

What would it be like to witness the two of them together, not just to imagine it? A jolt of desire went through her, making her catch her breath: dear god, she was soaking wet at the thought of it. Playing with fire, she told herself sternly. No respectable wife would dream of allowing such a thing, much less inciting it. But she had never cared much for respectability, and her body’s greedy response was too strong to be ignored.

She would not tell Jonathan what she had in mind, not yet. She would merely suggest that he invite Grant to dine with them, very soon. Meanwhile, there was Jonathan asleep beside her, when he could be awake and pleasuring her. It was high time she did something about that.