Read Till Dawn with the Devil Online

Authors: Alexandra Hawkins

Tags: #American Light Romantic Fiction, #Romance - Historical, #Fiction, #Romance, #Romance: Historical, #Historical, #American Historical Fiction, #General, #Fiction - Romance

Till Dawn with the Devil (20 page)

BOOK: Till Dawn with the Devil
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“Did you sleep well, Lady Rainecourt?” he queried huskily.

Sophia’s eyelashes fluttered open at the reminder that she was a married lady. “Y-yes, my lord,” she stammered, her gaze fixed on his left shoulder. “And you?”

“How could I not after being so thoroughly exhausted by your enthusiasm for our marriage bed.”

Sophia’s soft, inviting lips parted in surprise. “Oh.”

He had no desire to torment Sophia, so he led her over to the small sofa. “I slept well, knowing that you were safe and at my side.”

Reign blinked, taken aback that he had spoken the truth. He usually preferred to sleep alone. Beatrice’s pregnancy and unwelcoming temperament had kept him from his wife’s bed. After her death, he had taken numerous lovers, but his interest in each lady waned when his lust had been sated. He had not lingered in their beds unless he hoped to prolong their lovemaking, and he never allowed himself to sleep with a lady.

Until Sophia, he had not permitted himself to be that vulnerable to a lady.

“Come, my dear. Please be seated,” he said, sitting beside her. “It was not until this morning that I realized our marriage has deprived you of your personal maid. I hope Hannah will suffice?”

His wife nodded, though the corners of her mouth pulled downward. “Hannah was wonderfully kind and efficient, my lord. However, I miss Lucy. She has been by my side for years, and I do not know what I shall do without her.”

“Then I will bring her into our household,” Reign said, wanting to make her smile again.

“It is very kind of you to offer. However, Stephan knows how much Lucy means to me,”
she said, looking defeated. “He will refuse to give her up, just to spite me for what I have done.”

Because I defied my brother and am now beyond his control.

Reign was not about to feel regret over stealing Sophia away from Ravenshaw. He and Henry were unworthy guardians. The realization that Ravenshaw would be furious by the news of Reign and Sophia’s marriage made his victory sweeter.

“Do not fret, my dear Sophia,” he said, removing the tear trailing down her cheek with a light kiss. “I will figure out a way for you to have your Lucy back.”

“Thank you, my lord.” Sophia gave him a tentative smile. “You have been so generous with me. I do not know how to pay—”

Reign put his finger to her lips. “Enough. You are my wife now. I am content with our arrangement. Let us not speak further of debts and obligations.”

He expected her to debate him. Her forehead wrinkled in silent frustration as Sophia fidgeted beside him. Reign braced himself for whatever argument she might put forth, but she surprised him by saying, “Very well, Reign.”

“Gabriel.”

Her blond curls tipped to the right as she tilted her head inquiringly. “My lord?”

Reign suddenly felt defensive as she peered intently at him. “Now that we are married, Sophia,
it would not be unseemly for you to call me by my given name,” he said stiffly.

“I see.” She bit her lower lip as she quietly contemplated his command. “I must confess that when I awoke from my slumber, I realized that I did not know how to go about my day as your wife.”

“Despite my first marriage, I am woefully ignorant on how to be a husband,” Reign confessed, sensing the fear in her quiet confession. “There is no doubt that we both will make mistakes. Nevertheless, we can make this a good marriage, Sophia. I swear it.”

“Then we will figure this business out together.” Sophia took a deep breath. “If I may, I do have a question that has been on my mind for some time.”

“Ask it.”

“Does a husband expect his wife to kiss him in the morning?” Sophia asked, her eyes crinkling with amusement and mischief.

Reign responded with a wolfish grin. Sophia laughed as he pulled her into his arms and proceeded to demonstrate how much he approved of them kissing in the morning.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

“So the rumors were true.”

Sophia whirled around at the sound of Mr. Enright’s voice. Although it took her longer than most people to take in her surroundings because of her damaged eyesight, even she could deduce that the gentleman was unhappy. Much to her surprise, she realized that the last time she had spoken to Mr. Enright was the night of Lord and Lady Harper’s ball. After Reign had run the gentleman off, Sophia had initially hoped that Mr. Enright might approach her again so she could apologize for their abrupt parting.

Between the nasty dealings with her brother and her meetings with Reign, Sophia had almost forgotten about the gentleman.

Sophia curtsied. “Mr. Enright, it is so good to see you again.” She tried not to visibly wince as his firm grip squeezed the blood from her fingers.

“That remains to be seen,” Mr. Enright said enigmatically. “I have heard the most dreadful gossip, my lady, and I pray it is not true.”

Sophia’s throat tightened in response to the distress that she heard in Mr. Enright’s voice. “What have you heard?”

Had Mr. Enright heard tales of her outlandish behavior at Lord and Lady Bramsbury’s garden party? Reign had promised to ruin her so Lord Mackney would abandon his quiet ambition to marry Sophia, and Stephan was spared the humiliation of breaking his oath. Since Reign promptly married her after their dalliance in the Bramsburys’ lower terrace garden, even in the eyes of the
ton,
her sinful nature had been cleansed by the sanctity of marriage. Had Stephan stirred up mischief with Mr. Enright in an attempt to provoke her husband?

Stephan could be cruel but, if true, his actions bordered on lunacy. Reign would retaliate, and the hostility between the Rainecourt and Ravenshaw families would only escalate.

“Pray tell, Mr. Enright, of what rumors do you speak?”

The gentleman’s nose twitched as his lips thinned with disdain. “Is it true that four days ago, you and Lord Rainecourt were married by special license?”

Relief coursed through Sophia’s body. Her hand tightened on the handle of her walking stick as she offered Mr. Enright an apologetic smile. “Yes, it is true.”

“I was afraid of this.”

Before Sophia could respond, Mr. Enright took
her by the arm in an attempt to distance them from the other guests in the drawing room. “Mr. Enright, what are—”

Mr. Enright cast a wary glance at the other guests. No one seemed to be paying attention to them. “I realize that I ceded all rights to speak as your friend when I abandoned you to Rainecourt’s tender mercies the night of the Harpers’ ball. Even knowing the truth of what that man was capable of, I would have never guessed that he would have beguiled and bound another innocent to him.”

“Mr. Enright, you do not understand. Lord Rainecourt was attempting to—” Reluctant to mention her awkward predicament with Lord Mackney, Sophia did the sensible thing and closed her mouth.

“Attempting to do what? Marry you?” Her companion sniffed. “Rainecourt apparently succeeded. What amazes me is that Lord Ravenshaw permitted such an alliance, considering the dark history of your families.”

“And what exactly do you know of my family, Mr. Enright?”

The gentleman seemed to sense that he had made a grave error in mentioning her dead parents. “Not much,” he conceded. “I only know that your parents were once dear friends of Lord Rainecourt.”

“Reign’s father,” she reminded him.

“Yes. The father,” he said, his expression taking
on an intensity that burned through the murky shadows of her vision. “Then you know that their friendship with Rainecourt cost your parents their lives.”

Sophia was in no mood to be lectured. “I know my family history, Mr. Enright.”

“Perhaps you should pay attention to your husband’s family history, Lady Rainecourt. The son is more like his sire than most people know.”

“I have heard enough.”

“He killed her, you know.”

Sophia froze at the solemn admission. She did not pretend to misunderstand. “You speak of Reign’s first countess. Beatrice. I heard that her death was an accident.”

A soft despairing sound came from Mr. Enright. “Is that what Rainecourt told you?”

Sophia was not going to discuss Reign’s private business with a gentleman whom her husband clearly disliked. “I have no interest in discussing this further.”

She tried to pull away.

“You must listen to me,” he said, his voice laced with desperation. “Your husband murdered his first wife.”

“Rubbish.”

“The Rainecourt name spared your husband from the gallows,” Mr. Enright said, his words rushing together as fear drove him to make his case. “Everyone knows that Beatrice was unhappy with her marriage. She would have returned to her family if Rainecourt had not murdered her.”

“Please stop saying that my husband murdered his wife,” Sophia said crossly. “No wonder Reign loathes you. I would be annoyed with you, too, if you were spreading lies about me.”

“Forgive me, my lady,” Mr. Enright said, bowing his head. “I did not mean to upset you. You are just so much like her.”

“Her?”

“Beatrice. So beautiful, so full of life and laughter . . . the Rainecourt men are drawn to beauty, but they are careless with their possessions.”

“I am
not
Rainecourt’s possession.”

Mr. Enright gave her a pitying glance. “Defy Rainecourt and you will learn that I speak the truth about your husband.”

“Exactly what truth are you discussing with my wife, Enright?”

Reign did not trust himself to speak to Sophia as they sat across from each other in the compartment of the coach on the journey to the town house. If it had not been for his friend Dare, Reign might not have known that Enright had brazenly cornered Sophia in the drawing room.

How dare he?
Reign thought with a silent outburst of raw fury.

He should have called Enright out for approaching Sophia. The man deserved a bullet for touching her and filling her head with lies.

Reign regretted that he had not dealt with Enright years ago.

He wanted to confront the man this evening.

Instead he had calmly escorted Sophia away from Enright after she had asked Reign to take her home.

“I think you should know that I do not believe him.”

Reign’s gaze rose from his clenched fist to his wife’s pale face.

“What did he tell you?”

Sophia seemed to hesitate as if she had reconsidered the wisdom of repeating her conversation with Enright. “He had heard of our marriage, and was concerned.”

Was he, indeed?

Reign brooded, as he could well imagine what Enright had told Sophia. “I suppose he mentioned Beatrice.”

“Yes.”

The single word told Reign everything he needed to know. “And you did not believe him.”

It was not a question.

Sophia sighed. “I have heard the rumors about your first wife, Reign. And no, I do not believe that you murdered her. If you had arrived earlier, you would have overhead me defending you to Mr. Enright.”

Reign glowered at her. “I do not need your defense, madam.”

“Well, you have it just the same, Reign,” she snapped back at him.

Sophia gasped as Reign lunged for her and
pulled her into his lap. Her walking stick fell to the floor and rolled out of reach.

Nose-to-nose, the knot in Reign’s gut eased as he noted annoyance rather than fear in his wife’s eyes. “Did you already forget my name, wife?”

Sophia raised her eyes upward as if asking for divine intervention. “No, Gabriel, I have not. Are all husbands so irksome?”

“Is that what I am?” he asked, liking the way her body molded against his. “Irksome?”

“Among other things,” she said, feeling clearly provoked by his amusement.

Reign let his fingers dance down the side of Sophia’s face. He sobered as his thoughts shifted to Enright. “Stay away from Enright, Sophia. Like the Burrards, he believes that I got away with murder, and nothing will dissuade him.”

Sophia’s gaze clouded with concern. “Why is he so convinced that you murdered your first wife?”

Reign glanced away. “Enright knows that Beatrice did not love me.”

“But how—?”

He silenced her question with a kiss. When he pulled away, he said, “Enough talk about Enright. I will deal with him if he tries to interfere again.”

Reign deliberately slid his hand over Sophia’s left breast to distract her. “Have you ever been ravished in a coach, wife?”

Sophia pursed her lips together. She tilted her
head, intrigued by the notion. “No, I do not believe I have.”

Reign spent the next twenty minutes thoroughly and pleasurably dispelling Enright’s mischief from Sophia’s head.

CHAPTER TWENTY

Sophia awoke to the sounds of two males arguing. Still half asleep, she wondered what had provoked the fight between Stephan and Henry.

Then she remembered where she was.

She sat up and reached out for Reign. The sheets were cool to the touch. When they had arrived home from the ball, Reign had carried her upstairs to her bedchamber to finish what he had started in the shadowed interior of the coach.

BOOK: Till Dawn with the Devil
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