Silence fell. “My…my wife is here?” He hadn’t seen her since the day he married her three years ago.
Hat nodded, moving strands of the silver hair hanging over his wrinkled forehead. “Yes, my lord. Her ladyship arrived from America late this afternoon with her cousin, a Miss Caroline Lockhart.”
“I see.” Of course he didn’t see at all and all he could think was bloody hell, what am I going to do now?
“Your wife, sir…she’s waiting for you.”
“Violet is…my wife is waiting for me? She is up at this hour?”
“Yes, sir, in the drawing room.”
His mind was spinning, trying to sort things out. Violet was in London. He was supposed to have retrieved her years ago. Instead, she had been forced to cross the Atlantic on her own. He started walking toward the drawing room, wide awake now, no longer feeling the least effects of the alcohol he had consumed.
As he strode into the room, she sat bolt upright, her eyes bright and blinking, glanced round as if to recall where she was, straightened and shoved to her feet. She was smaller than he remembered was his first impression, petite but shapely. In truth, she was different in every way from the gangly sixteen year old he had married for financial reasons.
Except for her glorious copper hair, the likes of which he had never seen.
He groped for something to say. “Violet. I cannot believe you are here.”
She gave him a chilling smile. “It took a while to reach London. But as you see, here I am.”
He couldn’t seem to make himself move. “So you are.”
He did move then, closing the distance between them, reaching out to take both of her hands. She wore no gloves, he noticed, and realized that aside from his chase bridal kiss on her cheek, he had never actually touched her without the barrier of some sort of clothing.
“Welcome to London,” he said. “If I had known you were coming, I would have prepared a more proper greeting.”
Violet withdrew her hands from his and looked him over head to foot. For the first time, it occurred to him that his cravat was undone and dangling round his neck. His collar was missing, his shirt unbuttoned and his hair slightly mussed.
Violet, on the other hand, looked…well…
Violet Griffin Dewar was beautiful.
“It must have been quite an evening,” she said, those leaf green eyes he remembered taking in his dishevel.
He flushed like a schoolboy. “Not really. I stopped by to see friends and wound up playing cards at my club.”
“You were gambling? I didn’t realize you were a gambler.”
His embarrassment faded, replaced by a hint of irritation. She had been so malleable before. “I rarely gamble. I was simply passing time.”
“Yes, well, you certainly managed to do that.” She glanced up at the clock, the hands pointing to the lateness of the hour, condemning him.
“I am certain you are tired,” she continued. “I shall leave you to find your bed. I just wanted you to know I was here and to say that there is an important matter I wish to discuss with you in the morning.”
“Yes, of course.” His gaze ran over her. In the yellow glow of the lamp, he saw that in the last three years her features had softened, the sharp angles smoothed into feminine lines and curves. Her cheeks were as pale as cream and heightened by a touch of rose. A full bosom swelled above her tiny waist. Her neck was slender and as graceful as her hands.
A shot of lust hit him. He had dreaded the day he would be forced to make his marriage real, had put off his duties for as long as he dared.
Now as he looked at Violet’s full pink lips, glimpsed the tops of her creamy breasts, he imagined what it would be like to take his petite wife to bed and began to see marriage in a whole different light.
“I’ll have Hat rouse one of the chambermaids and send her in to help you undress,” he said, the image making him start to go hard.
Reality set in. God’s blood, his wife had come to London! He would have to tell his family, try to explain why he had kept his marriage a secret. Rule thought of facing his two brothers and their wives–worse yet, his aunt Agatha, the matriarch of the family–and inwardly he groaned.
On the other hand, as he watched Violet collect her silk skirts and sweep gracefully from the drawing room, it occurred to him that having a woman like that in his bed might just outweigh the many disadvantages of being married.
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