Authors: Amanda Quick
“It will not fit into the trunk.” Tobias gripped the lid and looked at her. “You must choose between the Apollo and the urn. You cannot take both with you.”
She narrowed her eyes, suddenly suspicious. “You intend to take it for yourself, do you not? You plan to steal my urn.”
“I assure you, Mrs. Lake, I have no interest in that damn urn. Do you want it or the Apollo? Choose. Now.”
“The Apollo,” she muttered.
Emeline hurried forward to stuff a nightgown and some shoes in around the Apollo. “I believe we’re ready, Mr. March.”
“Yes, indeed.” Lavinia gave him a steely smile. “Quite ready. I can only hope that one of these days I shall have an opportunity to repay you for this night’s work, Mr. March.”
He slammed the lid of the trunk. “Is that a threat, Mrs. Lake?”
“Take it as you will, sir.” She seized her reticule in one hand and her traveling cloak in the other. “Come, Emeline, let us be off before Mr. March decides to burn the place down around our ears.”
“There is no call to be so disagreeable.” Emeline picked up her own cloak and a bonnet. “Under the circumstances, I think Mr. March is behaving with admirable restraint.”
Tobias inclined his head. “I appreciate your support, Miss Emeline.”
“You must not mind Lavinia’s remarks, sir,” Emeline said. “Her nature is such that when she is feeling hard-pressed she is inclined to become somewhat short of temper.”
Tobias settled his cold-eyed gaze on Lavinia again. “I noticed.”
“I pray you will make allowances,” Emeline continued. “In addition to all of the other difficulties tonight, we are obliged to leave her books of poetry behind. That was a very difficult decision for her. She is very fond of poetry, you see.”
“Oh, for pity’s sake.” Lavinia swung her cloak around her shoulders and strode briskly toward the door. “I refuse to listen to any more of this ridiculous conversation. One thing is certain, I am suddenly quite eager to be free of your unpleasant company, Mr. March.”
“You wound me, Mrs. Lake.”
“Not nearly so deeply as I could wish.”
She paused on the staircase and looked back at him. He did not look wounded. Indeed, he looked magnificently fit. The ease with which he hoisted one of the trunks testified to his excellent physical condition.
“Personally, I’m looking forward to going home.” Emeline hastened toward the stairs. “Italy is all very well for a visit, but I have missed London.”
“So have I.” Lavinia jerked her gaze away from Tobias March’s broad shoulders and stomped down the stairs. “This entire venture has been an unmitigated disaster. Whose idea was it to travel to Rome as companions to that dreadful Mrs. Underwood in the first place?”
Emeline cleared her throat. “Yours, I believe.”
“The next time I suggest anything so bizarre, I pray you will be so kind as to wave a vinaigrette under my nose until I come to my senses.”
“It no doubt seemed quite a brilliant notion at the time,” Tobias March said behind her.
“It did indeed,” Emeline murmured in very neutral tones. “‘Just think how delightful it will be to spend a season in Rome,’ Lavinia said. ‘Surrounded by all those wonderfully inspiring antiquities,’ she said. ‘All at Mrs. Underwood’s expense,’ she said. ‘We shall be entertained in grand style by people of quality and taste,’ she said.”
“That is quite enough, Emeline,” Lavinia snapped. “You know very well it has been a very educational experience.”
“In more ways than one, I should imagine,” Tobias said rather too easily, “judging by some of the gossip I have heard concerning Mrs. Underwood’s parties. Is it true they tended to evolve into orgies?”
Lavinia gritted her teeth. “Granted there were one or two minor incidents of an unfortunate nature.”
“The orgies were somewhat awkward,” Emeline allowed. “Lavinia and I were obliged to lock ourselves in our bedchambers until they ended. But in my opinion, matters did not become truly dire until we woke up one morning to discover that Mrs. Underwood had run off
with her count. That course of action left us stranded and penniless in a foreign clime.”
“Nevertheless,” Lavinia continued forcefully, “we managed to come right again and we were doing quite nicely until you, Mr. March, chose to interfere in our personal affairs.”
“Believe me, Mrs. Lake, no one regrets the necessity more than I,” Tobias said.
She paused at the foot of the stairs to take in the sight of the shop full of shattered pottery and statuary He had destroyed everything, she thought. Not a single vase had been left unbroken. In less than an hour, he had ruined the business it had taken nearly four months to establish.
“It is inconceivable that your regret equals my own, Mr. March.” She tightened her grasp on her reticule and walked through the rubble toward the door. “Indeed, sir, so far as I am concerned, this disaster is entirely your fault.”
This edition contains the complete text of the original hardcover edition.
NOT ONE WORD HAS BEEN OMITTED.
A Bantam Book
Bantam hardcover edition published July 1995
Bantam paperback edition / April 1996
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1995 by Jayne A. Krentz.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 95-2248
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