Authors: Amelia Grey
Tags: #Regency, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Historical, #London (England), #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense, #Historical Fiction, #General, #Love Stories
Desire for her stirred inside him. No matter what she did, he couldn’t shake the fact that he wanted her. He’d wanted her since the first night he saw her in his room.
She was beautiful even from the back. Her hair was up, showing a long and slender neck. He wanted to rise, go over and kiss her nape. He wanted to bury his nose in her warm skin and breathe in her soft womanly scent.
Her shoulders were high and her back straight but not rigid. And even though the fashion of her dress hid her womanly figure, he knew her waist was small, her hips slightly rounded, and her breasts full and firm. He swallowed hard, remembering how their weight had felt in his hands as he massaged her, how satisfying her nipples had been in his mouth as he’d sucked. Her breasts were just the right size to bring him immense pleasure.
As he looked at her he wondered why he desired her so desperately. It had to be that he’d just been too long without a woman in his bed. He expected to remedy that this afternoon. He had an appointment with a lady named Alice Thunderberry. He hoped she would be so beautiful and desirable that all thoughts of his wife would vanish from his mind.
Olivia turned and caught him staring at her.
“Good morning,” she said softly.
“Good morning,” he returned.
Andrew stood up and helped her with her chair and when he sat back down he picked up his paper and noticed she had brought a book with her. Without looking at him, she opened it and started to read.
He put the paper back in front of his face and returned to the story he’d been reading but soon found he wasn’t nearly as interested in it as he had been before Olivia entered the room.
Andrew kept expecting Olivia to interrupt him as she had before when they were at the breakfast table, but the minutes slowly ticked by. The only thing he heard was a small tinkling sound when she lifted her cup from the saucer and replaced it and the light rustle of a page turning in a book.
The silence grew.
It didn’t take Andrew long to realize he’d rather Olivia talk to him than completely ignore him. He lowered the paper just enough to look at her over the top. His lower body tightened when he saw her lovely profile in the candlelight.
Her lashes were dark, long, and slightly curled on the tips. She had a small, narrow nose that seemed the perfect size for her face. Her cheeks looked soft and delicate and her lips were beautifully shaped and ever so tempting.
She seemed so completely engrossed in what she was reading, so serene, that she was oblivious to his concentrated scrutiny.
Olivia was a passionate woman. It was only natural for him to want her. But he didn’t want to give in to his desire for her. He wanted to take one look at Alice Thunderberry and immediately want to take her to bed.
It struck him as odd that it had been his habit for years to read the paper at the table each morning but for some reason Olivia’s reading a book and disregarding him bothered him.
Had she known it would irritate the devil out of him for her to be so quiet? Is that why she brought the book with her?
He lifted his paper again and tried to concentrate on an article written about the latest antics from several members of Parliament but found Olivia was the only thing on his mind, even though she didn’t seem to know he was in the room.
He lowered the paper again and said, “You’re very quiet this morning.”
She looked up at him. “I didn’t want to disturb you.” An elephant trampling through the dining room couldn’t have disturbed him as much as her quietness had.
He asked, “Were you safe in your room last night?” Olivia’s shapely eyebrows drew together. He could see she was confused by his question and didn’t know how to answer.
“Did you have any unwanted visitors to your room in the middle of the night?”
Understanding showed in her bright blue eyes. “Oh, no, no. Nothing disturbed me. I slept soundly all night,” she said and immediately went back to her reading.
He couldn’t see the title of the book, but it must have been more interesting than the news he was reading. If he had to guess he’d say she was reading some of that romantic poetry nonsense that Byron published.
Finally he asked, “What are you reading?”
“Murder on the Thames,”
she said without looking up at him.
So much for thinking she might be reading poetry.
“That sounds like one of those horrid novels.” This time she looked at him. “It is. Thankfully I found it on your bookshelf. You don’t mind if I read it, do you?”
“No, of course not.”
“But there are other types of books on the shelves.
Some of them are more literary than such as that.” Olivia looked up at him and a sweet, genuine smile of amusement lifted the corners of her lovely lips. Andrew’s shaft jumped to life beneath his trousers. It was the first time she’d smiled at him when it wasn’t forced or deliberate, and damn if it wasn’t worth the wait.
“I know. I looked your shelves over carefully. You have many books I will enjoy reading, but this is the book that Lady Colebrooke’s reading society is reading right now.
I’ve joined their group. I’m a few chapters behind so I need to catch up before I meet with them again this afternoon.”
“I didn’t know Isabella still had her reading society since she married last year.”
“Yes, from what I understand it’s very well attended each year during the Season.”
“Odd. If I’m remembering correctly that group was once referred to as the Wallflower Society.”
“Really? Why is that? No, I’m sorry. Forget I asked. I didn’t mean to disturb you again and draw you into conversation. Please go back to your paper. I’ll ask Lynette to fill me in on the group’s history.”
She immediately looked down at her book and started reading again.
He must really have been like a wild boar to Olivia a few mornings ago when he didn’t want her interrupting him while he was reading the paper. She was determined not to bother him now, but today for some reason that was exactly what he wanted. He wasn’t interested in the news.
He was interested in Olivia and he wanted to talk to her.
A few minutes later Whibbs and a maid walked in with steaming plates of eggs and ham.
Olivia marked her place with a satin ribbon bookmark, closed her book, and laid it aside. He did the same with his paper.
As soon as the servants left, Olivia turned to Andrew and said, “About the other night. I want you to know I have no intentions of trying to trap the Marquis for Lynette. I wouldn’t do that. I was merely speaking favorably of Lynette to the Marquis.”
She seemed sincere but she had appeared sincere when she said she didn’t intend to leg-shackle him. “You must have had a reason for doing that,” he replied slowly.
“I did. A very good reason, but I don’t know that I should tell you.”
Was she indicating she couldn’t trust him? Andrew didn’t know much about what was expected in a marriage, but one thing he did know was that he wanted his wife to trust him.
“Why not?” he asked. “Is there something about the Marquis I don’t know?”
“No, but there is something about Lynette you may not know and I must have your promise that you won’t say a word to anyone before I tell you.”
Andrew suddenly realized that he and Olivia were having a conversation where they weren’t snipping at each other. And he was enjoying it. She really had his curiosity high.
“You have it.”
“Lynette is in love with the Marquis and has been for years.”
That got his attention. He never expected Olivia to say something like that, and he couldn’t help but be suspicious.
“But you hardly know her, why would she have told you her intimate feelings?”
“Perhaps she told me because no one else has ever asked her. I’ve noticed that a lot of people enjoy talking to Lynette, but they talk about themselves or someone else.
No one ever asks Lynette about Lynette.” Now that Olivia had pointed this out, Andrew was sure it must be true. The only thing he ever heard about Lynette was what a lovely person she was. Did everyone in the
overlook Lynette’s feelings?
“I observed the way she looked at him,”Olivia said.
“And the way she watched his every move even if he was on the other side of the room. I asked her about him and she freely admitted she has loved him since her first Season.” Lynette in love? He’d never considered the possibility.
“Has she told anyone else?”
“I have no idea, and I have told you only because you questioned my integrity.”
With good reason.
“I only mentioned some of her attributes to the Marquis because sometimes we fail to see what is right before our eyes.”
Was that true?
Andrew could tell by the expression on Olivia’s face that she was imploring him to believe her and he realized he wanted to. He wanted to forget she’d trapped him into marriage and take her to bed.
But something held him back.
“Yes, sometimes we see too much and there are other times we don’t see at all.”
Their plates of food remained in front of them untouched. Andrew laid his napkin in his lap and picked up his fork. He was impressed with his wife. She’d seen what others had missed, that Lynette needed a friend, someone she could confide in, and Olivia had offered help.
He wasn’t sure he wanted to soften his feelings about his wife. It was bad enough that he wanted to bed her. He didn’t want to start caring for her as well. That would put him in a hell of a spot.
It was best for him to continue to see her as the woman who duped him into marriage.
ater that afternoon
Olivia walked back inside the house feeling better than she’d felt since she’d come to London. Her second afternoon with the reading society had been challenging but wonderful.
While they had tea, Lynette had filled her in on why the group had once been called the Wallflower Society by a group of the confirmed bachelors.
Isabella had once been very shy. After she became confident in herself she wanted to help other young ladies who were shy or reticent for one reason or another. Today they had one young lady who was missing a front tooth and another who walked with a limp. There was a beautiful young lady who had no use of her left arm since birth. At the reading society all ladies were made to feel equal and special. Isabella talked to them about being confident in every aspect of life.
Olivia considered it a splendid thing to do for the young ladies and she had enjoyed every moment of the meeting.
After the meeting she and Lynette had made another trip to the apothecary. He was developing a cream for her to use that would cover her birthmark. The shade of the concoction was still too light, so he had asked her to come back in a day or two for another test.
Olivia was also feeling good because she and Andrew had actually talked that morning. She saw a softening in him that she hadn’t seen before. He was still wary of her.
She saw it in his eyes and the way he held himself in check whenever he was with her, but a crack in his hardness had occurred.
She understood his feelings, but she had to hope that in time he would come to realize she had not tricked him into marrying her.
She stopped in the foyer and took off her wet bonnet, cape, and gloves.
“Good afternoon, Madame. I trust you had a pleasant time.”
“Lovely, Whibbs, simply lovely. I didn’t even mind the drenching rain.”
He took her things from her and said, “That’s good. I’m going out on an errand. Do you need anything before I go?”
“No, thank you. I had tea at Lady Colebrooke’s. The only thing I need is to go up to my room and get out of these wet shoes.”
Later, after donning a pair of dry slippers, Olivia walked to her wardrobe to put away her reticule. She laid the black velvet drawstring purse on a shelf and suddenly went still.
She heard voices again.
Whispered voices of a man and a woman.
Was she going mad? Had her aunt’s talk of searching for Lord Pinkwater affected Olivia in some way?
She remained still for a moment and listened. Her mind was not playing tricks on her. She heard talking.
Whibbs was the only male servant who worked in the house and he had just told her he was on his way out to run an errand.
Perhaps he hadn’t left. Perhaps Andrew was home.
Olivia moved to the center of the room, trying to ascertain where the voices were coming from. They sounded as if they were coming from the walls, but that couldn’t be. The people had to be belowstairs, or upstairs right down the hall. She slowly opened her bedroom door and stepped out into the corridor.
She heard nothing.
She walked over to the top of the stairs and listened below.
All was quiet.
Looking behind her she saw the door to Andrew’s room.
Dare she? A shiver shook her but it wasn’t cold in the house. She’d go to his door and listen. But nothing would make her open that door and go inside his room again.
Feeling a little guilty, she quietly tiptoed down to Andrew’s bedchamber. She put her ear to the door but heard nothing. The voices hadn’t come from inside his room, either.
She shook her head in confusion. There had to be a reasonable explanation. Perhaps she was just hearing something that sounded like voices. She walked back into her bedchamber and all was quiet for a moment or two and then suddenly she heard the voices again.
A woman’s voice and then a man’s.
“This is ridiculous,” she whispered to herself. “I am not a madwoman. I am not going insane, but I am going to find who in this house is behind those voices be they human or ghosts.”