Authors: Katy Madison
This charming, slightly Shakespearean with a touch of Agatha Christy and a dash of Barbara Cartland book will charm readers who have followed Ms. King since her delightful first novel.~Amanda Killgore—HUNTRESS BOOK REVIEWS
The Wedding Affair(The Second Shot) displays Ms. King’s skill at portraying rich, vivid characters and gives the added excitement of a strong mystery plot.~Suan Wilson— Old Book Barn Gazette
MORE THAN A WOMAN
"I am Mrs. Merriwether to you, Major Sheridan."
"You will never be Mrs. Merriwether to me."
Her son's gaze landed on Tony, although he continued to pat Phys. Tony leaned over, took his hand and showed him how to stroke the dog's head. Phys grinned a silly dog grin in appreciation.
Felicity looked at her carriage and back at him. "Where will you be going?"
"I'm taking an assignment in India."
"A few months, if all goes well."
The boy studied him curiously a moment before starting to speak. "Are you—"
Felicity's gloved hand clamped over the boy's mouth. Her movement brought the foursome—his dog, her son, and the two of them—in a tight circle. He reached out and touched the back of her gray silk gown and she froze.
The material felt particularly fine, rich, with just the faintest drag as his fingers slid down to the small of her back. She felt the same to him: wonderful, magical, almost more than a woman. Dear God, how he missed touching her...
THE SECOND SHOT
© Copyright 2011 electronic edition by Karen L. King
© Copyright 2003 by Karen L. King
Previously titled: THE WEDDING AFFAIR
Cover Art by Kim Killion
Hot Damn Designs
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This work is a work of fiction. All characters are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to any place, name, or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Table of Contents
February 1816, London
His body pricking to attention, Major Anthony Sheridan felt her gaze the minute she arrived. For just an instant her liquid brown eyes met his and erased six years. Then she turned her back on him and reminded him of the betrayal that separated them.
"I say, are you all right?" asked Lieutenant Randleton. "Look like you've seen a ghost."
No, Tony had just been given the cut direct by the woman who'd once promised to be his wife. She was supposed to be his reward for surviving the war. And he had survived. His memories of her warm brown eyes, the softness of her skin, and the supple curves of her untutored body intruded on his thoughts at the oddest of moments over the years away. She'd given him her innocence, and the gift haunted him, at times made him reckless or made him cunning and made him want both to die and to live in the mud on the Peninsula.
He should have come home and taken back his place in society with her by his side. But she must have known much sooner then he did that he couldn't fit in here.
But he'd be damned before he let her force him out until he was ready to go. His voice cut across the idle chatter of the ballroom. "Felicity."
She swung around. Her gray dress swirled around her slender form and shimmered down into place. A shudder coursed down his spine as he remembered the beauty of her body without any adornment at all.
Jewel-toned skirts swept back, parting before him like the Red Sea. Impatient with his painstaking progress, he lurched toward her.
Her sable hair was wound in a simple topknot at odds with the elaborate curls and crimping of the women beside her. She was like a calm refuge in the midst of a battle, and he wanted that respite from the noise and confusion. Her gaze dropped to his wounded leg. Her smooth white brow furrowed.
He said her name again to draw her attention away from his limp.
Flanked by two women, both of whom stepped closer to her and cast doubtful looks in his direction, she stood very still like a doe caught in that moment before running or taking a stand. He considered how best to separate her from her regiments and cut off her retreat. He didn't have to when she stepped forward and held out her hand.
"Major Sheridan, it is a pleasure to see you again. Have you been home long?"
He stopped, his gaze jerking to her face. She had circumvented his confrontation.
"It has been forever," she continued blithely in a singsong voice. The frown lines etched deeper into her forehead with every word. "I'm Mrs. Merriwether, now."
He smiled slowly.
He had always admired a worthy adversary and gave due respect to one who had outmaneuvered him. If he made the attempt tonight, he would fail to get to the bottom of why she had betrayed him. The reckoning would come, though. No one ever got the better of him. "Not quite forever, Felicity, but a pleasure indeed."
He half expected her to look down and then up at him through her lashes as she once would have. Instead her mouth tightened. "Address me as Mrs. Merriwether, please."
"We know each other too well for that," he murmured.
She had changed. No longer the impulsive, reckless bride-to-be he had left behind, she was a married woman with her own strategies. Her clothes were simple, yet elegant and gave him the impression of an understated determination to deny her nature. An aura of maturity and restraint enfolded her, right down to the fingertips of her gray gloves.
But he knew what she was. He'd tasted her passion, drank of her wild wantonness, once tempered only by her innocence. Now she wore the mantle of married respectability, but her eyes flashed with a barely controlled fire. Like a man starved of sustenance, he wanted to partake of her again, even if the wound she inflicted ran deep.
He, too, had changed. The idealistic youth who had left to rid the world of a monster was gone. The harsh reality of war had shattered his beliefs in the goodness of man, and she'd destroyed his dreams of a peaceful future. All that was left of that boy was a hollow shell. He no longer had a heart to break. Still he wanted his reward, he deserved his reward, and once he had his reward, he wanted to know why she hadn't waited for him.
Obviously, a discussion of the past wouldn't be tolerated in the middle of a ballroom with the half the ton looking on. Years ago she'd begged to join him in her last letter. Then she'd married another man.
He dropped his gaze to her lips and wondered if she still tasted as sweet as he remembered. "And I am quite looking forward to renewing our...friendship."
Felicity swallowed hard. Tony was back. He was back and at the same ball. He was the one person who could threaten her hard won control over her life and bring down everything she'd worked so hard to put into place. He'd thrown her life into chaos before, she couldn't—wouldn't—let him do it again.
He looked her over, and her pulse thrummed. Heat flooded through her. Memories of how she'd once thought she couldn't bear it if she didn't breathe the same air as him swamped her. She'd thought that fire put out, but her body betrayed her with a bone-deep need.
The lack of small talk made her jittery. But Tony had never been one for idle chatter. A man of action, he was more likely to do something forceful and unexpected, like sweeping her into an embrace.
Though he wouldn't sweep her into his arms. She knew that. The thought—wish, really—was bizarrely out of place. He'd made it clear in his last letter that he didn't want her with him.
Yet, why had he called out her name? Twice?
She couldn't help but look at him, his bearing at once military-straight and noble, squint lines etched in white against his tanned skin. He'd changed.
His brown hair was shorter than it had been, and laced with gold where the sun had kissed it. In spite of a noticeable limp, he walked with command and authority in every step. But when he finished his slow perusal of her and his winter-cold eyes met hers, a frozen shaft shot through her chest.
The heat in her blood faded into ashes. Had he ever cared for her or had she imagined a grand passion that did not exist on his side? Not that it mattered. He was no good for her, had never been good for her and she wasn't renewing their "friendship" under any circumstance. Still, she could hardly spurn him in company, not after she'd decided it was better to talk to him, rather than let him shout her name across a crowded ballroom.
She stared straight into the pale blue eyes that had once held hers with such warmth. Now they appeared so light and menacing, they seemed almost inhuman. He towered over her, too close yet not close enough. Her heart pounded in a mad rhythm.
She needed to bring him down a peg, although not so directly he would seek revenge against her. But he couldn't be allowed to think she would take up with him where they'd left off. Glancing down at the leg he favored, she strove for a cordial but distant tone. "You were wounded."
"Twice in the same leg." His delivery was so flat she marveled that he had even acknowledged her statement.
Behind Felicity, a woman gasped.
Tony was breaking all the rules. Calling out her given name in a crowded ballroom, referring to his limb with an accurate word like "leg." Next thing, he would be asking about his son—did he even know that her pregnancy had resulted in a son?
Felicity couldn't let that happen. She shook her head and stepped back, ready to end this charged encounter.
"Captain Lungren always says I lead with my right...foot, therefore this limb"—he patted his thigh with a slight wince—"always bears the brunt of the attack."
His lifted eyebrow spoke volumes. One shouldn't have to be so circumspect with vocabulary with a woman he'd known intimately. Or perhaps he hated to admit to a weakness, any weakness. She stared at him, trying to discern a betraying emotion in his icy-cold eyes.
The corner of his mouth lifted in a wry way. "Did you think I wouldn't return?"
Suddenly she wanted to blurt out that Charles was well and a lively child in spite of Layton's constant rebukes. She wanted to shout out that she was now a widow. She wanted to cuff Tony and demand to know why he had treated her so shabbily.
During her indecision, his gaze dropped to her mouth, and suddenly she knew why he had called out her name.
"There was always that possibility," she answered coolly.
His eyes flickered with a disdainful lust as if she were no more than Haymarket ware that had caught his passing fancy.
Felicity wanted to escape.
He didn't care about his son, didn't care if her reputations was ruined, didn't give a fig about her wellbeing. He just wanted what she had so foolishly given him years ago and paid for every day of her life since.