Read The Earl's Design of Love: The Stenwick Siblings Online

Authors: Morganna Mayfair,Kirsten Osbourne

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Regency, #Historical Romance

The Earl's Design of Love: The Stenwick Siblings (6 page)

BOOK: The Earl's Design of Love: The Stenwick Siblings
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“And to your wedding night?”

Percy nodded once.  “Yes, to my wedding night.”  He caught a servant who was running past.  “Do you know where my wife is?” 

The maid nodded.  “She’s upstairs getting dressed for your drive to your country home, I believe.”

“Good.  Would you check to see how much longer she’ll be?  I’m anxious to be on our way.”

After the maid hurried away, he turned back to
Anthony.  “Anxious?” his friend asked.  “That’s putting it a bit mildly, don’t you think?”

“Probably.”  Percy looked up, and there was Diana, slowly descending the stairs.  Her beauty suddenly look
ed very distant to him.  He walked to her, and took her hand, raising it to his lips.  “Are you ready to go?” 

She nodded, not looking into his eyes. 
“My things are in the coach.”  Anna had packed a valise for her, but would be there the following day with the rest of her things.

Percy smiled.  “Let’s say our farewells then and be on our way.”  He wasn’t sure what was wrong with her, but he could feel that it was something.  He had to find out what had happened to steal her happiness.

They quietly said goodbye to his mother and her parents before walking out to the coach.  He helped her into it, and climbed in, taking the bench beside her.  “Do you realize this is the first time we’ve been in a coach together?  We’re married, and there are so many things we’ve never done with one another.”  He stroked her cheek, leaning down to kiss her softly.

She turned her face away, before his lips could touch hers.  “I didn’t sleep well last night.  I’m very weary.”

He was surprised but willing to accommodate.  “It’s a three hour drive to my home from here.  Why don’t you use my shoulder as a pillow, and you can sleep?  I want to think about what I need to do with the fountain anyway.”  Since he’d first started the drawing, he’d know that the fountain was something that he had to build and he had to do it correctly.

He stared out the window as the miles passed, wondering what had happened between breakfast and her joining him downstairs to upset her so much.  She
’d gone from warm and loving to cold.  Had she just been trying to get him to marry her so she would have a title?  That seemed unlikely, because really she’d seemed incredibly friendly when she thought he was just a gardener.

Percy stared down at her pale head on his shoulder, wondering how she’d come to mean so much to him so quickly.  Had she really just put a spell over him
like she admitted she’d done to other men?  He didn’t think so, because if she had, it would have faded when he left her, wouldn’t it?

He sighed.  He wanted her to be happy.  That was the bottom line.


Chapter Six



Percy let Diana sleep until they reached Stenwick Manor.  He doubted she was really sleeping, but he didn’t argue with her.  When they pulled into the huge circular drive in front of the estate, he rubbed her shoulder.  “We’re home.”

Diana woke slowly and smiled up at him, her eyes filled with warmth.  After a moment, she turned her head aside with sadness. 
What was that about?
  He couldn’t imagine what he’d done to offend her or upset her, but whatever it was, it had to be related to him.

His servants had assembled in front of the house to be introduced to her, as was expected, and he introduced first his butler and man of affairs.  “Diana, this is
Bertram.  Bertram?  My wife, Countess Stenwick.”

took over the introductions from there, and she saw that it was just the three servants like he’d told her. 
Why hasn’t he hired more now that he has my father’s money?

The cook was a gentle older woman with kind eyes.  Her accent was Scottish.  “It’s nice
to meet you, milady.  Will you mind coming to the kitchens in the morning for a spot of tea so we can take some time to learn how to work together?”

Diana smiled sweetly.  “I’d be happy to.  I think you’ll find me easy to work with.”

The only maid dropped to a curtsey before her.  Diana had met her the day that Percy proposed, so she felt as if she already knew her.  “It’s good to see you again.”

The maid gave her a tentative smile.  “And you, milady.”

Percy smiled at all of them.  “Thank you.  I’m going to show my new wife around the house, and we’ll have luncheon in a few minutes if that would be all right.”

Cook nodded.  “I’ll get it ready to serve immediately.”

Percy slipped his arm around Diana’s waist and led her up the winding staircase.  “I think I told you this house was built in 1647.  It was built by my great great great grandfather.  There was an older house, but it burnt down not long before that, so they moved to the town house while this house was being built.”

Diana listened to him talk while she took in the house.  They were going to the west wing where she’d stayed before, because his mother had insisted she should stay in the family wing.

He finally led her to a room and opened the door.  “This room traditionally belongs to the countess.”  He waved to the bed and showed her the dressing room.  “There’s a connecting door here that leads to my room.”  He opened the door and showed her. 

She looked around the room that was for countesses with surprise.  She knew that most members of the ton preferred to sleep apart from their spouses, but her parents had always slept in the same bed.  “Is this where I’ll sleep?” she asked without thinking.

Percy looked at her with narrowed eyes, surprised she’d asked.  “I thought you’d want to share a room with me.  Was I wrong?”  He didn’t know what he’d say if she insisted on her own room.

Diana looked at him for a moment and contemplated.  She could refuse to share his room, but why?  She knew they were meant to be together.  He was the man that would make her happiest in all the world.  She wasn’t going to start her marriage off on the wrong foot by refusing to sleep with him.  It didn’t make sense.  “No.  You weren’t wrong.”

Percy didn’t realize he’d been holding his breath until she answered.  He exhaled slowly and wrapped his arms around her, kissing the top of her head.  “You’ve seemed so distant all day, I was certain I’d done something to offend you.”

She thought about telling him what she’d heard, but she decided against it.  Eventually it would come out.  She wasn’t going to make trouble this soon.  Instead of ranting like she wanted to, she leaned forward and rested her head on his shoulder.  “I’m just tired.  It’s been a crazy three weeks.  Both of our mothers have been hounding me for details.  What kind of flowers did I want in my bouquet?  What color dress did I want to leave to come back here in?  What color nightgown did I want for my wedding night?”  She blushed as soon as she realized she’d said that.

“What color nightgown
you want for your wedding night?” he asked.  He looked down at her with a sparkle in his eye.

“I asked your mother what your favorite color is, and she said green, so I chose a green silk nightgown.”  She tried to meet his eyes while she said those words, but she just couldn’t force herself to do it.  Was this appropriate talk even for a husband and wife?

He swallowed hard as he tried to imagine her in an emerald green silk nightgown.  Hopefully the mothers hadn’t steered her toward a nightgown that would cover her from her chin to her toes.  “Why don’t you go put it on now?”

She laughed.  “Because Cook is putting luncheon on the table, and I’m hungry.”  She threaded her arm through his an
d pulled him out of the bedroom.  “You’ll see me in it soon enough.”

Percy sighed.  “I’ve already waited three weeks!  Five minutes ago wouldn’t be soon enough.”

Diana looked at him with surprise.  If he only married her for her money, he was certainly acting the part of a love-struck husband well. 

After lunch, they walked around the grounds of the house, and he kept his eye on the sun.  Every few minutes he would say, “I think it might be bedtime.”

She laughed and put him off repeatedly.  She was anxious about their wedding night and not willing to rush it along.  They stopped in the gazebo and he took her hand, pulling her down to the bench and onto his lap.

She looked around embarrassed.  “What if someone sees us?”

“Then they’ll think we’re a perfectly normal newlywed couple who cannot keep their hands off each other.  Who am I to disillusion anyone?”  Percy put his hand behind her head and pulled her face down to his for his kiss.  It was the first time she’d allowed him to kiss her since the wedding ceremony, and he found he was feeling more and more frustrated by the minute.

The kiss was long and needy, his tongue slipping into her mouth to tangle with hers.  One arm was a steel band behind her waist holding her in place while his other hand was caressing her breast through the linen of her gown. 

Diana met the thrusts of his tongue with her own, surprised that even though she’d been hurt by him earlier, she still felt so much passion for him.  Maybe that’s what their aura was about.  They were just compatible passion wise, but not in any other way.  She sank into his kisses, no longer caring if they were compatible in any way but physically.  His touch set her on fire.

His lips left hers and traveled to the side of her neck and he bit her lightly there, causing her to moan with pleasure.  “That feels so good,” she whispered.

Percy chuckled softly, delighted to realize that no matter what had been going on with her earlier, she still desired him in the same way she always had.  “Holding you feels good to me.  Let’s go to bed.”

She pulled away blushing and shook her head.  “Not until after supper, at least.   It’s not even dark out yet.”

He sighed.  “Do you really think I’m only going to make love to you in the dark for the rest of our lives?  I don’t want darkness.”

She pressed her lips to his again, shushing him.  “The first time…can it please be dark?”

He looked into her eyes and saw how embarrassed she was.  Finally he relented nodding.  “The first time.”

She stroked his cheek with the palm of her hand.  “Thank you for considering my feelings.”  Most men wouldn’t she knew.  She’d spent time alone with many men over the years, because her mother had insisted upon it.  Of course, they’d always had a chaperon within sight, but not within an area that could hear.  She’d learned a lot about men on those sojourns with her maid following behind her. “I really appreciate it.”

They made their way back to the house hand in hand a short while later, and she went up the stairs to change for dinner.  She knew he didn’t hold to formal traditions in the country, but she wanted to look nice for him on their wedding night.  She looked into the mirror as she pulled her clean dress over her head, amazed at how swollen her lips were.  How would she look in the morning after he’d had time to kiss her for hours?

Diana was thankful she’d had
Anna to tell her about what would happen on her wedding night, because her mother had tried, and had stammered through the whole process conveying nothing more than the fact that she would be naked in bed with her husband and he would kiss her.  She knew that much!

When she opened her door to descend the stairs for dinner, she found him lounging against the wall opposite the door.  He’d agreed to let her use the countess’s chamber as her dressing room, which suited her nicely.  She didn’t want to have to try to get ready in front of him.  She was self-conscious enough
without that. 

She’d carefully chosen a dress that had buttons going up the front so she wouldn’t have to struggle to get out of it later when he was waiting for her to change for bed.  She’d seen the way his eyes had lit up at the idea of her in a green nightgown, and she knew he wasn’t going to be patient enough to wait long.

Walking through the house with him, she could see signs of where the house had been let go while he’d concentrated on just earning a living and paying down debt.  It was nothing major, but there were repairs needed in various places.  She wondered if he’d start the repairs now, or if he’d wait until he was out of debt first.  She decided to wait and see without asking him.  It would be obvious if he suddenly came into a great deal of money, and she knew that if he did, he’d lied.  If he continued to live the simple way he did, then his friend was simply mistaken.  She had to trust him enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. 

He looked at her with a smile.  “Do you remember the fountain I was designing when you came here that weekend?”

“Of course.  It was beautiful!”

“It’s almost half finished, but I still feel like something’s missing.  Would you be willing to take a look at it after supper and tell me what you think?”  He truly valued her opinion, but more than that, he remembered something she’d said that weekend about how she could make it right.  He had no idea what that meant, but if she could do it somehow, he would allow it. 

“I’d be happy to.”  She smiled up at him, glad he was asking her opinion on things as if she mattered to him.  She didn’t want to keep thinking about what had been said earlier that day.

Percy held out the chair to the right of the one at the head of the table.  “I know it’s tradition for the countess to sit at the foot of the table, but it doesn’t make any sense to me to sit that far apart.”

Diana shook her head.  “We couldn’t have any sort of conversation at all.  I’d rather sit beside you.”

He dropped a kiss on her head before taking his own seat.  “I’m glad we think so much alike.”  He sighed.  “I was raised with all the formalities, and I accepted them all as the way I would do things when I was the earl.”  He shook his head.  “Everything changed when I realized how destitute I really was.”

She looked at him with understanding.  “So when you were worried about where your next meal would come from, you suddenly realized that how mannerly you were while you ate it didn’t matter as much as you once thought it did?”  She wished more of the ton would realize that their impeccable manners meant nothing without the riches that surrounded them.  She’d seen so many people in London who had very little money, but clung to the silly traditions.

“Exactly.”  He shrugged.  “And really?  Is it mannerly to sit twenty feet away from my wife just so that our servants will think we don’t like each other?”  He took her hand in his.  “I do like you.  I don’t care if they know it.”
  The affection in his eyes as he looked at her made her heart melt. 

She smiled, thinking about what a good role he was playing if he had only married her for her money.  At least he cared about her feelings.  A moment later the maid brought their soup to them, and Diana carefully spread her napkin on her lap before picking up her spoon.  They talked while they ate about what it had been like growing up.

“Father always worked hard, but we were just normal people living in London when I was a little girl.  Mother taught me in the mornings, and I ran around in the afternoons.  It was glorious.  We’d play tag and hide and seek.  I swear, I spent so much time on those streets I could go back there today and never get lost.  The church we married in was the one I attended as a child.”  She took a sip of the wine in front of her.  “What about you?”

He shrugged.  “Well, I grew up between here and our London townhouse.  We came here in the summers, but stayed there for the Season.  I loved it here.  I played outside as soon as the governess finished with my lessons every day.  No one really paid attention to me back then.  The girls weren’t born yet, and I got to just run free.
  I hated being in London for the Season.  There was so little I was allowed to do in the city, but Mother loved being there, so we always went.”

“Tell me what a normal day is like for you now,” she insisted.
  How would she fit into his life?

He pondered that for a moment.  “I get up early.  I keep country hours here.”

She nodded.  “Of course.”

“After I’ve eaten breakfast, I usually go outside and begin work immediately.  Usually there’s some commissioned job for me to work on, but if not then I do what I want.  I have two commissioned jobs waiting for me, but I have to finish the fountain first.”  He shook his head.  “I don’t know what it is about that thing, but I feel compelled to finish it as soon as I can.”  He took her hand in his.  “I know we’re newlyweds, but I need to work on it for at least a few hours every day.”

BOOK: The Earl's Design of Love: The Stenwick Siblings
4.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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