Read My Lord's Lady Online

Authors: Sherrill Bodine

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Short Stories, #Single Author, #Romance, #Historical, #Regency, #Single Authors, #Historical Romance, #FICTION/Romance/Regency

My Lord's Lady (7 page)

BOOK: My Lord's Lady
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Chapter 7

“Remember, it is never too late to embrace your feelings.”

Although Tildie’s words had been directed to Georgina, they now echoed through Vane’s head. Georgina entered the morning room dressed in a particularly elegant cream cambric morning gown, and he felt as if the sun came in with her.

The doctor was abovestairs giving the children a clean bill of health, and instinctively they had gathered together to await his news.

Georgina glanced in his direction, and nodded a good morning, avoiding his eyes completely, then took a seat near Tildie, who was pouring coffee. That odd disquiet he always felt in her presence was recognizable at last as a deep yearning. With her bold and forthright manner, she had opened him and his children to an honest freedom of feeling. But the habits of a lifetime were impossible to change in a day. Although he could no longer deride that easy style, the vivacity she brought to bear on all she did, he was not yet at ease with acknowledging his own deep feelings.

At this moment, watching her animated face as she conversed with Tildie, catching the musical whisper of her laughter, his safe icy bower, from which he’d looked down on the rest of the world for so long, seemed meaningless. He wanted to be a part of things again.

He actually took two steps toward her when the doctor was announced, Leticia and Lawrence right behind him.

“My lord, I’m pleased to say the children have done extremely well due to your excellent care. On the morrow, the quarantine will be lifted.”

The silence that followed his happy announcement appeared to bewilder the man. “Is something amiss, my lord?”

Vane could only wonder what the rest of the company was feeling. He, himself, felt a sense of urgency. Something must be done, and quickly, to keep Georgina here. “No. Thank you, doctor, for your happy news. Foweley will see you out.”

Flicking a curious glance about the room, he bowed to the ladies and quickly departed.

“This will be our last night together!” Leticia wailed, breaking the heavy silence. She ran to Sabrina and clung to her skirts. “I’m going to miss you ever so much.”

“Me, too!” Lawrence, always a model of deportment, forgot himself so far as to sit, uninvited, next to Georgina on the couch and lean into her confidingly.

“We have tonight! Let’s make the best of it!” Amesley forced a hearty chuckle. “What say you, Forry? Shall we let the children decide on a bit of fun.”

A light dawned. Perhaps Peter had inadvertently given him an opportunity. There was only one answer.

“I shall plan the festivities for tonight.”

His pronouncement brought a range of reactions, none flattering: Sabrina and Amesley shared a speaking glance, the children appeared crestfallen, and even Tildie pursed her mouth in a moue of speculation. Georgina just stared at him wide-eyed, her expression an intriguing mixture of vulnerability and apprehension, but perhaps just a glimpse of hope.

“I shall plan the festivities,” he repeated. “Lawrence and Leticia will assist me. We will summon you all when we are ready.”

Both children squealed with pleasure. He held out his arms, and they rushed to his side. As they strolled hand in hand from the room, he could feel Georgina’s warm gaze, and he could hear the faint crackling of his icy bower as it fell into pieces around him; freeing him.

“Egad, Forry surprises me!” Amesley looked as bewildered as she felt. “This is not in his style at all.”

“Laurentian may surprise us all before this day is over,” Tildie stated cryptically.

Sabrina’s brilliant smile radiated delight. “I think it is marvelous he asked the children to help, don’t you, Mama?”

Every one of them seemed determined to push her in a certain direction. She gazed at each rapt face in turn, hesitant to disappoint them, yet so uncertain of the future.

“I must confess I, too, am on pins and needles contemplating what may be in store for us. This Little Season has held nothing but surprises so far.” There, she hoped that was optimistic enough without giving herself completely away.

“I think it has been wonderful!” Sabrina danced about the room, finally stopping in front of her. “London is not at all the terrifying place I imagined. And if everyone is as kind as Lord Amesley and Lord Vane, even for all his sternness, then I eagerly await my Season.”

“I predict you shall be all the rage, Sabrina,” Amesley replied with gallantry.

Beaming at him, Sabrina shrugged. “It matters not, my lord. Regardless, I plan to enjoy myself to the fullest.”

Admiration flared in his eyes. Unbelievably, Georgina watched Sabrina favor him with a dimpled smile. Her shy daughter had come a long way in these past few days, and no doubt the gallant young man across the room had everything to do with that. She caught a speculative glance in Tildie’s dark eyes, and could nearly see the wheels turning in her active mind. But it was way too soon to be thinking of bridals for Sabrina. She had months to plot a happy ending for her, but only hours to make a decision about her own future.

She had practically worn a path in the cream carpet of her bedroom when the knock finally came on her door. Still it startled her, and she paused, not ready to face what came next.

She had declared them a mismatch—his stern correctness was annoying, his cool air of detachment too heavy a barrier to break through. Yet the tingling sensation of awareness she felt in his presence and the pleasure his mouth and hands had awakened in her could not be ignored. She considered herself a strong woman who had always known her own mind, but now she stood, buffeted by doubt.

What would be gained, what lost, by throwing her bonnet over the windmill, and following the dictates of her heart?

The second knock was louder and a childhood tattoo. Dum dah de dum dum. It couldn’t be him! She rushed to the door and flung it open.

Lawrence stood at stiff attention, although his face was split in the widest grin she’d ever had the pleasure of seeing.

“Lady Sherbourne, I have come to escort you to our party.”

He offered his arm, this miniature of his father, and she took it, glad for the moment of respite.

“What kind of party have you arranged?” she asked, burning with curiosity and a strange premonition.

Little flames of excitement lit his eyes to a brilliant blue. “It’s a surprise!”

Surprise was mild compared to her feelings. She came up short in the ballroom doorway. Stunned, she gazed around the room in disbelief at the changes he had wrought. The others were already seated on thick coverlets spread upon the floor.

They were to picnic again, but tonight they would do so in a bower of loveliness. Trees in tubs from the greenhouse were placed strategically about the room; pots of flowers—roses, pinks, and cornflowers formed a meandering pathway through them.

Leticia had a lap full of yellow and white flowers. Somehow Vane had conjured up daisies! She was busily wreathing crowns for everyone.

Moonlight filtered in through the long windows bathing the room in fairy silver. She had eyes for no one but Forry. Tonight he wore no cravat and his shirt lay open at his throat. He stood under a young birch, propped in a characteristic pose, but his eyes were full of questions.

Instinctively she knew he had done this all for her. He wanted to prove he appreciated the life she had brought into his household, the joy she had restored to him and his children. She marveled at the depth of his understanding of her fears.

“Now that you have arrived, we can begin,” he drawled, motioning her to sit beside Tildie, who was wearing an expression like a cat who had just licked clean a saucer of cream.

Georgina was content to watch him quietly orchestrate, by just a flick of his hand, a picnic feast beyond perfection. Each course was carried in on a silver platter—smoked salmon, roast partridge, sweetmeats. Champagne was served in the finest crystal; Leticia and Lawrence drank their lemonade in a toast to many more picnics. Innumerable removes followed, in fact she lost count, for she found she wasn’t really hungry at all. After a laugh-filled hour, it was time for dessert.

A footman carried in an enormous covered platter. Even the children couldn’t guess what delight might be in store. He lifted away the cover to reveal a simple bowl of apples.

There was a collective breath of disappointment from everyone but her. Looking at the red fruit, she was reminded of the day he had saved the little apple girl—perhaps that was the moment her feelings had first softened toward him. Had he felt something special that day, too? It seemed so long ago.

She lifted her eyes and found his gaze resting on her face. More relaxed than she’d ever seen him, sprawled across a blanket on his side, he looked so vital, so desirable, she felt her heart skip a beat.

Without a glance at the others, he said softly, “Now the games shall begin,” never taking his eyes off her face.

A great wash of pleasure crashed over her, causing her limbs to feel like loose strings. If Lawrence hadn’t helped her to her feet, she wasn’t certain she could have stood.

“We are playing hide-and-seek,” Lawrence announced importantly. “I choose Lady Sherbourne to hide.”

“And Father will seek!” Leticia chimed in, nearly quivering with excitement.

He covered his eyes, with a great show of reluctance, and began to count.

Her heart was pounding, her insides a whirl of fearful anticipations. Bemused, she could think of nowhere but the cabinet where she had hidden once before.

Between his spread fingers, he watched Georgina step into the cabinet.

“Father has a surprise for Lady Sherbourne, so we must leave them alone now,” Lawrence whispered with great importance.

“Yes, we must wait for them in the parlor,” Leticia added, urging Tildie and Sabrina and Amesley out.

Although Amesley appeared nearly overcome with laughter, something he would pay dearly for later, Vane realized his plan was working to perfection. He met Tildie’s dark eyes, and she nodded approvingly.

He heard Leticia whisper, “Do you think you might become my real sister, Lady Sabrina? I’d like that ever so much,” before the ballroom doors were securely shut.

His daughter’s fledgling female instinct had honed in on his own desire. It might not be easy to capture this new zest for living, but he would try. No, for the prize Georgina presented, he would do anything and succeed! It seemed incredible, but there the thought was clear in his mind—there was nothing he would not do to win her. Love, he discovered,
the most powerful emotion after all.

He picked up an apple and weighed it in his fingers. Juggling it carefully in one palm, he strolled to the cabinet and slowly opened the door.

Georgina’s heart leapt to her throat and stayed there, sending hot excitement coursing through her at his appearance in the narrow opening. He was haloed by the firelight. She couldn’t help but notice what beautiful coloring he had; the vibrant auburn of his hair, his gold skin where it disappeared enticingly into his open shirt, the brilliant blue of his eyes, and his dusky sensuous mouth. There were no barriers between them now.

Suddenly he lifted the apple to his mouth and bit into it.

“Forry, what is going on?” Was that really her voice, so sparked with fearful delight?

“As Adam said to Eve. Take a bite and discover for yourself,” he drawled and offered the apple to her.

“It was Eve to Adam, as you very well know!”

In this instance, she fully understood what Tildie had tried to tell her. She looked at him and knew she loved him. She loved him, and she would not waste another precious moment!

Trying vainly to control a strong inner trembling, she took the apple from his hand and bit into it. Licking the sweet juice from her lips, she slowly placed the apple back into his hand.

With a bark of laughter, he tossed it over his shoulder. Then he stepped into the cabinet with her.

There was room for two only as they stood so closely her body ached with the contact and her tense muscles yielded eagerly to his. Desire sprang up between them like a palpable force. She had wondered what his mouth would be like if the long sensuous lines ever deepened at the corners in a real smile. Now witnessing it, pleasure burst like bubbles through her veins, making her giddy.

Raising her hand, she ran her fingertips over his warm lips. “You have a beautiful smile,” she breathed in a dreamy voice that sounded scarcely like her own.

“You make me want to smile, Georgina. What do you think we should do about that?”

There was only one answer.

She reached both arms around him and pulled the cabinet door closed.

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BOOK: My Lord's Lady
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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