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Authors: Cari Hislop

Tags: #historical romance, #regency romance, #romance story, #cari hislop, #romance and love, #romance novel

A Companion for Life (4 page)

BOOK: A Companion for Life
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Chapter 5

Comfortably
fatigued, Penryth tucked his wrists under his neck as he returned
Lady Gillingham’s smile as she propped her chin on his naked chest.
“You grow lovelier every time I see you.” Her young cheeks flushed
a dainty pink as she briefly pressed her lips to his ribs. “If I
were your husband I’d be sick with jealousy at the thought of you
smiling at some other man like that.”

“If you were my
husband you wouldn’t leave me behind like excess baggage. You’d
take me everywhere.”

“I wouldn’t
take my wife to India; she might catch one of those deadly
fevers.”

“I don’t want
to go to India; I want to go to Wales.”

“I’d best warn
the natives.”

“Seriously
Penryth; I’d like to visit next summer. Boring Bertram won’t be
home for at least a year and with luck he’ll die before he can get
back on the boat. We could travel together. I could tell people I
was your wife.” She kissed his chest again before fluttering her
eyelashes. “I’d enjoy being your wife.”

“Being a lowly
Mrs Bowen wouldn’t suit you my Lady.”

“I wouldn’t be
Mrs Bowen for long. Carmarthen is bound to die soon. Being Lady
Carmarthen would suit me very well.”

“I thought you
wanted to be Lady Oldham. Isn’t he still in love with you?”

“Yes, but
Oldham’s so…I don’t know if I could marry someone who says he loves
me and then chews on his fingers like a madman.”

“Perhaps they
itch to caress you?”

“Hardly, he’s
just terrified of his mother’s reaction and you know he spends half
the year at home with his parents. I don’t think I could bear it.
Have you ever shared a dinner table with his mother? The woman is
frightening; a Valkyrie in the flesh. Every time our eyes meet I
get the feeling she dreams of disembowelling me.”

“Oldham is her
only surviving son. Perhaps you should be content with your present
lot. Your husband isn’t a bad fellow, if a little too trusting for
his own sake. Is his eldest son his own?”

“Yes of course,
but I prefer a more manly man, like you.”

“Your husband
is a manly man. I’ll never forget his enthusiastic demonstration of
strength at your house party where he declared he’d win you or be
damned. Remember how he drew back his bow farther than the rest of
us? The arrow flew past the target, over the far fence into your
father’s prize bull. I’m surprised the old man let you wed.”

“But Bertram’s
so boring. If I’d known he’d spend hours talking about the Indian
trading Company and profitable trade routes instead of me I’d have
turned him down. Hopefully India is more dangerous than the
Colonies.”

“Many men visit
India and return home in perfectly good health.”

“Yes, but
Bertram has the worst of luck. If anyone dies, he will and I’ll be
free to marry you. We could make love every morning, noon and
night.”

“I’d be dead
from exhaustion by the end of the first week. You’d have to resume
your search for a more manly man unless Oldham’s mother flies off
to Valhalla.”

“You’d enjoy
being married to me…”

“Perhaps if I
could forget you have a habit of keeping three lovers on the go at
any one time I would, but I’m afraid the position has been filled.”
His naked companion abruptly sat up mesmerising him with her wobbly
breasts.

“Filled?”

Staring at his
lover’s breasts made him think of the ones waiting at home. His
wife’s breasts were a trifle large, but they were a much more
pleasing shape. Why hadn’t he ever noticed that Lady Gillingham’s
breasts drooped unevenly? “Did you know your left breast is larger
than the right?” Her breasts jiggled faster as she slapped his
chest dragging his attention back to her angry eyes.

“What do you
mean the position is filled?”

“I’ve taken a
wife.”

“When?”

“This
afternoon.”

“Today? You
married some poor woman and then left her to see me? Are you
heartless?”

“She’s
sleeping.”

“Sleeping? You
never mentioned you were looking for a wife.”

“I wasn’t.”

“What happened
to change your mind?”

“Nothing that
concerns you; I don’t see why you’re so upset.”

“I was planning
to marry you!”

“You have a
husband…”

“I might
already be a widow; you could have married me.”

“I was never
going to offer you the position. I had every intention of dying a
bachelor, but I changed my mind last night and there it is. I
refuse to explain my actions to my mistress.”

“Is that all I
am; your mistress?”

“Yes, like I’m
one of your many lovers. We enjoy each other’s…”

She thumped his
chest with her fist making him grunt in pain. “You’re my
favourite!”

“I thought
Oldham was your favourite. He’ll certainly be the richest when his
father dies.”

“Is she
beautiful?”

“Not next to
you.” The woman kneeling over him seemed momentarily mollified.

“Is she
rich?”

“Penniless.”

“Is she well
connected?”

“Not
really.”

“She must have
perfect breasts.”

“She’s too fat
for perfection.”

“You married a
penniless ugly fat woman?”

“I didn’t say
she was ugly.”

“Why?”

“I have my
reasons.”

“Well you can’t
be in love with her or you wouldn’t leave her sleeping alone.”

“I’m not in
love.”

“Then why did
you marry her?”

“That’s my
business.”

“Well who is
she?”

“Mrs Rosamund
Philip’s sister, Miss Lily Leigh.”

“The vapid
orange haired creature who follows Mrs Philips like a fat
subservient shadow?”

“Yes.”

“You weren’t
going to marry me, but you chained yourself to an ugly drudge?”

“She isn’t
ugly; she’s quite pretty.”

“Get out of my
bed. Get out of my house.”

“What’s the
matter? I told you a thousand times I wouldn’t marry you…”

“And all the
while you gave me a thousand reasons to hope you’d change your
mind.”

“Hope? What are
you talking about? I made it clear…” She thumped him again before
jumping off the bed and racing towards the mantel and picking up
the first thing that came to hand; a Chinese vase smashed on the
floor beside the bed and was soon joined by an Indian God.”

“I can’t
believe all I’ve been to you is a minute of pleasure…” A ceramic
shepherd landed on the bed and bounced off onto the floor.

“I understood
it to be mutual pleasure…”

“Go away you
horrid Welsh turd or I’ll write to my husband and tell him you
ravaged me.”

“That won’t do
you any good if he’s already died of fever.”

“Put your
clothes on and don’t bother calling again because I won’t be
in.”

“Why don’t you
come here and let me kiss you…”

“Out!” Penryth
sighed in irritation at having to move before he was rested.
Reluctantly rolling off the bed he
leisurely pulled on his clothes as objects flew past his
head. He sighed again as she burst into tears. Why did women have
to cry so much? Melisande was a stunning woman, but… His eyes
returned to her uneven breasts. How could he make love to a woman
for over two years and not notice she had one breast larger than
the other? She was crying harder now. He could almost hear her
wishing him to take her in his arms and tell him his wife was a
jest. He approached the fire and brushed her back with his elbow as
he filled and lit his pipe. “You’re a wretched heartless Welshman
and I hate you.”

“Does this mean you won’t be visiting my
country next summer?”

“I hate Wales…there’s nothing there, but
stupid boring sheep.”

“Don’t forget the mountains and manly men.”
He blew a lungful of smoke into her hair as he admired her ear. His
wife had pretty ears; they had a pleasing curve that brought to
mind the heart in the wooden love-spoon his father had carved for
his mother.

“You’re hateful…I thought you loved me.” She
flung herself into his arms and sobbed into his coat.

“Melisande, you know it wouldn’t mean
anything to you if I did. Your husband loves you; the man sails
off, risking death, to increase his fortune so he can build the
house you want and all you muster in gratitude is that you hope
he’s dead.”

“Only because he’s a bore…”

“I’d bore you as soon as you could put my
heart in your purse; that’s probably why Oldham chews his nails. I
learned years ago to keep my heart well out of harm’s way.”

“You once loved Rosamund Philips; you could
fall in love with me.”

“I only thought I loved her.”

“Everyone knows she has her heart set on
making her precious Grace the Countess of Carmarthen. You’re going
to have a son by that fat ugly lump aren’t you? You married her for
revenge. You still love Rosamund…” His lover started to sob.
“…she’s been in your thoughts while you’ve made love to me.” With
her face pressed into his waistcoat she couldn’t see his expression
of exasperation.

“How could I think of another woman when my
arms are filled with such beauty?” Penryth sucked on his pipe as he
relived the unpleasant moment his nephew has revealed he was in
love with Grace Philips; something bad was bound to come of it. The
boy’s heart would be broken and Penryth would have to piece it back
together. He put an arm around the naked woman and removed his pipe
to kiss her upturned lips. “Rosamund could never compete with your
superior charms…”

His wet eyed lover tugged on his ill-tied
cravat. “Come back to bed and prove it.”

“I must go check on my wife.”

“Stay!”

“If I return to your bed I’ll only fall
asleep. I’ll visit you in a few days. If I don’t find you occupied
I’ll happily worship your charms.” He tried to kiss her forehead,
but she pulled away and tugged hard on his cravat making him
cough.

“If you walk out that door you won’t touch me
again.”

“You told me to go, I’m going.”

Tears flooded out of pretty blue eyes that
looked deceptively innocent. “If you leave it’s over.”

“I’ll call in a few days.” He tucked his pipe
back into the corner of his lips and patted her wet cheek. “Don’t
upset yourself Melisande; it’ll make your eyes red. Men will think
you miss your husband.”

“I hate you!” She pulled free of his arms and
raced to pick something up to throw at him, but he was gone before
it smashed on the floor. “I hate you!” The words followed him to
the front door. He could only hope his timid wife would lose her
temper by sulking in silence.

Heading home, he was oblivious to the noise
of the city moving past. His thoughts quickly drifted away from his
naked mistress and settled firmly on his wife. Even after having
his needs satiated by a beautiful woman, the thought of exploring
his wife’s ample curves infused him with pleasurable heat. His
desire was irrational; the poor woman was bruised and battered, but
he’d felt the heat since that first hellish visit with William.
Bored with Rosamund’s gossip he’d glanced at Lily knitting in the
corner of the drawing room and found her staring at him. She’d
flushed a delicious pink and returned his stare with a look that
implied his kisses would be welcome. Blowing smoke rings into the
crisp air Penryth hummed an ancient song about star-crossed lovers
as he walked faster to keep his footfalls in time with the
song.

If he never saw Melisande again it wouldn’t
bother him. It was odd how some people were pleasant company, but
as soon as they were out of sight they were forgotten. Why? He
ignored the question and eagerly returned to the subject of his
wife. He couldn’t imagine making love to Lily and then walking away
thinking of another woman. No, when he made love to Lily… The
thought of consummating his impulsive marriage made his heart race
as fire coursed through his veins. Of course she found him
attractive, most women did, but that didn’t explain the strange
warm pleasant feeling in his chest that seemed to flare up when she
came to mind or to hand. He’d have to ensure she healed as quickly
as possible. At least his bride would never demand to be worshiped
and then wish him dead so she could marry a more eminent title;
she’d never demand anything. His feet impulsively changed direction
towards Bond Street as he hummed a waltz. The woman needed
cheering. He’d get her something stunning; something he’d always
said he’d never buy a woman.

Chapter 6

Her eyes still closed, Lily inhaled warm air
filled with the pleasant scent of burning coal. Opening her eyes
she blinked in confusion. She was in a strange masculine room. The
only decorations she could see on the pale pea green walls lit by
the fire were two paintings of remote hilly countryside. Lying
still she was mentally listing her aches and pains wondering if
someone was going to offer her another dose of laudanum when she
heard a faint knocking. Her heart leapt in shock as Mr Bowen’s
voice called out, “Yes?” Turning her head to view a wider aspect of
her new room she found she was alone. Sighing in disappointment she
strained to hear her husband’s voice drift through the thin brick
wall separating their shared chimney flue. “…William, did
you…your…?” He had to be sitting near the fire. Was he wearing that
red dressing gown? Her curiosity helped her disentangle herself
from her blanket and roll out of bed so she could hobble to the
fire. She felt like the brazen hussy her sister regularly accused
her of being as she ignored the pain of bending over to put her ear
near the flames.

“What the devil have you done?” That was
clearly William Bowen. He didn’t sound very happy.

“You’ve heard of my recent nuptials.
Good…”

“You really married her? Why? She’s fat and
ugly. You’ve said a thousand times you’d rather hang than wed…”

BOOK: A Companion for Life
9.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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