Authors: Prideand Petticoats
Freddie shook his head. “I shall have to get used to the strange way you colonists think. Do you really think me such a fool as to marry a woman I didn’t love? I’m a gentleman, Charlotte, but even chivalry has its limits.”
Freddie sighed, leaned down, and kissed her unfashionably freckled nose. “Of course I love you, you frustrating American. I’ve loved you from the moment I saw you. I loved you in that horrid black dress, and I loved you when you spit cabbage soup on my table, and I especially love when you take me inside you, arching your back so that I fill you to the hilt.”
Charlotte stared at him, sherry eyes wide. Tak
ing advantage of her speechlessness, he bent and kissed her lips. “Tell me you love me, Charlotte.”
He looked into her face. For a long moment she said nothing, and his chest hurt so bad with the pent-up breath he was holding that he thought he might explode.
“I love you,” she said finally, and the passengers surrounding them erupted into applause. “You know I do.”
Freddie pulled her hard against him and caught her mouth again in a long kiss. “There is just one small matter, madam,” he murmured when they parted. He kissed her neck and ran his hand through her wavy hair, leaning down to whisper in her ear, “I do hope you are more discreet than I.”
“Discreet?” Charlotte frowned. “About what?”
“My feelings for you. You know that it’s dreadfully unfashionable to be in love with one’s wife.”
Charlotte’s eyes narrowed. “Yes. And?”
“I intend to be the most unfashionable man either of our countries has ever seen.”
Charlotte raised an eyebrow and curled her arms about his neck. “Oh, but I’m not going with you to Charleston.”
Freddie stared at her. Her eyes met his with no hint of mischief, and he had to grip a nearby rail to steady himself.
“You see, sir,” Charlotte continued, “Your life is in England. Your family. Your friends. I could
never ask you to give all that up because I know what it is to lose it.”
Freddie swallowed. “What are you saying, Charlotte?”
“I’m saying that I want to be where you are. I want to stay in London with you.” She smiled. “That is, if you’ll have me.”
Freddie pulled her against him. “I’ll have you. I’ll love you in any country you choose. America. England. I’ll love you in any place and any language, more than words can say.” He kissed her gently, speaking his love for her without saying a word.
ucia, you do not know how close I came to killing him. I still cannot believe he did it!”
Lucia had to lean on Charlotte for support as the laughter poured out of her. Charlotte sighed, then couldn’t help but smile herself.
It was a beautiful day. The sun peeked out from behind wisps of clouds and a cool breeze swatted at the ribbons of Charlotte’s bonnet. Lucia and she walked arm and arm through the manicured gardens of Grayson Park, Alex’s country estate.
Charlotte loved the contrasting rugged and bucolic landscape of Hampshire, and she thought Grayson Park matched the countryside in its charm. The massive gray building was more than a hundred years old, having been built in the time
of William and Mary. Charlotte had been stunned at her first view of Freddie’s country home, Wyndham Oaks—the red brick and white columns were stately and, in Charlotte’s mind, gave the house the appearance more of a castle than of a home—but Alex’s estate was nothing short of imposing. It was still difficult for her to believe that people actually lived in such breathtaking structures.
Lucia and Charlotte paused at the steps leading to the north front. While Lucia caught her breath and stifled her last giggles, Charlotte turned and took in the waterfall gurgling behind her and the carefully cultivated flowers and shrubs as well as the wild section of the garden to the right. The two women had meandered about the garden for almost an hour and were now in sight of the house’s conservatory, a room Alex and Lucia were presently remodeling.
Lucia straightened and took a deep breath. “I
have killed him, Charlotte. But as you have allowed the wicked man to survive, you most certainly will have to exact some retribution.”
Charlotte nodded as she and Lucia resumed their walk up the garden steps, down the little gravel path, and into the dusty conservatory.
“We’re traveling to Charleston in the spring. With his bouts of seasickness, I think that trip will be punishment enough. And if Freddie ever dares to even so much as think of placing another bet…”
Discarding their bonnets, the women strolled
through the conservatory doors and into a cool antechamber of the large house. From the adjoining drawing room, they heard laughter.
Exchanging a look, they opened the door and stepped into the light blue, brightly lit room. There, on the floor between two couches, were Alex and Freddie. Alex was making faces and waving his hands about his head, while Freddie babbled nonsensically.
Lucia glanced at Charlotte. “Our husbands have turned into fools.”
Alex and Freddie froze and turned in unison to face their wives. They shared the same sheepish look.
“Oh, don’t stop your playing on our account.” Charlotte rounded the chair-back settee in front of her and knelt down next to Freddie, taking her newborn daughter, Alvanley Adele Dewhurst, into her arms. As she had told Lucia, she had been furious when she learned a wager over a horse race had decided her child’s name. And Charlotte supposed she would rather suffer torture than admit to her husband that she was getting used to the name Alvanley, even liking it. Of course, the child’s middle name came from her Addy, and Charlotte could not wait for Addy to meet her namesake in the spring.
Lucia swept Allegra Madeleine Scarston into her arms, and the little girl giggled with pleasure.
Alex and Freddie settled back on the couch opposite their wives and contentedly took in the domestic scene.
“I say, old boy, this fatherhood thing isn’t half bad,” Freddie crowed. Charlotte rolled her eyes.
“Charlotte did do all the work,” Lucia said, sitting down in a light blue armchair and bouncing Allegra on her lap.
“Now wait just a moment, madam. I was with my wife the entire labor, and I’ve helped with everything,” Freddie protested.
“Except with her name,” Alex said.
Freddie glared at him. “Now see here,” Freddie objected. “I explained all of that. What else was I to do? A gentleman—”
“—honors his bets,” the three of them chorused in unison.
“Yes, we know,” Charlotte said. “You’ve told us a hundred times.”
Freddie continued his defense as a footman in blue livery delivered a letter to Alex. Alex glanced at it, rose, and handed it to Charlotte.
“It’s from Addy,” she said in surprise. “I know she said she was going to school, but I can’t believe she’s learned to write so quickly.”
Freddie took the baby, and Charlotte read the note over twice. As she read it, her face blanched.
Freddie was immediately beside her. “Bad news, darling?”
Charlotte looked up into the worried faces of Alex, Lucia, and her beloved husband. From Freddie’s arms, her daughter reached out a tiny hand a grasped a red curl of her hair. “You’re not going to believe this.”
“What now?” Alex inquired. “Has Alvanley bestowed his name on another of our illustrious peerage?”
“Selbourne,” Freddie growled.
“Addy is getting married! She’s fallen in love with her schoolmaster—a free black man in Boston, where she’s living now. She wants to know when we’ll be in America and if we’ll attend the wedding.”
“Absolutely not. Addy couldn’t be bothered to attend our wedding.”
Charlotte scowled at him. “That’s because we married in Scotland, and she was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, on her way home, at the time.”
“Excuses, all of it.”
“This from the man who has a hundred excuses why he can’t travel to America in a few months.” She looked at Lucia. “Two days ago he said he’d forgotten that he’d invited Lydia and Westman to Wyndham Oaks. Of course, Lydia had no recollection of the invitation. Then yesterday he told me he thought he was allergic to Yankees.”
“And what did you say?” Lucia asked.
“That I’m not a Yankee. I’m a Southerner.” She smiled at Freddie and then her daughter, who
smiled back. “I think the real problem is that Freddie fears he might end up liking America. And how gauche would that be?”
Freddie cradled his daughter in his arms and looked into her face, his emerald eyes dark and full of love. He leaned over and kissed Charlotte’s cheek, whispering, “I’ll be the most gauche man in Charleston if it means I’ll be by your side.”
She melted. “Keep that up and I might—
—forgive you for naming our child after a rotund dandy with a fondness for apricot tarts.”
Freddie scowled. “One day you will laugh at this.”
Charlotte raised a brow, but she knew he was right. She could imagine the two of them, white-haired and stoop-shouldered, smiling over all the years and all the memories. Smiling over his pride and her prejudice and their love.
Eternal gratitude, love, and thanks to my longtime critique partners and best friends, Christina Hergenrader and Courtney Burkholder.
The ladies who drop everything and critique when I ask—Linda Andrus and Tera Lynn Childs.
Robin Popp, for being my partner in the trenches. Why do we do this, again?
May Chen, for your insight and suggestions. You really
Evan Fogelman, who calls me princess when I feel down.
SHANA GALEN is the author of
When Dashing Met Danger
. She’s also a Regency enthusiast who’s researched the period in England, Scotland, and France. A former public school teacher, Shana lives in Houston, Texas, and writes full time.
Visit her website, www.shanagalen.com, for news, excerpts, and contests.
Visit www.AuthorTracker.com for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
PRIDE AND PETTICOAT
. Copyright © 2006 by Shane Bolks. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.
ePub edition August 2006 ISBN 9780061750359
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