Say You Love Me Page 22

"I didn't know I was doing it until they pointed it out," he insisted.

She was blushing by then. And he was reacting as he usually did, his body responding to her sweet innocence in a purely primitive way. He took a step toward her but caught himself and stopped, raking a hand through his golden mane, annoyed with himself.

He'd already broken one of his own rules by going to her before it was even noontime. He'd received startling news that morning, and although it was really none of her concern, he had wanted to share it with her. But making love to her now was out of the question. She wouldn't expect it.

A mistress was to be visited in the dark, secret hours of the night. He'd already made allowances to come earlier so he could dine with her each evening. If he kept making allowances like these, he might as well move in with her so he could spend all his time with her.

What an incredibly tempting thought. To wake with her each morning. To breakfast with her. To tell her his thoughts as they occurred to him, rather than to keep them until he saw her again. To make love to her when he felt like it, not just at what was considered the appropriate time.

He mentally shoved the thought aside because it was too tempting by half. What the deuce was wrong with him? He hadn't even wanted a mistress in the first place. He might have changed his mind because of Kelsey, was very pleased that he had her, but still ... "You mentioned a meeting?" she said to end the long silence that had fallen. "M'father's getting a divorce." "I beg your pardon." "That's what that meeting was about," he explained, blushing slightly for having blurted it out like that. "So he could announce it."

Sympathy filled her soft gray eyes, and she came out of the chair to put her arms around him. "Your mother must be devastated." "Actually-" "You must be as well.”

She was trying to comfort him, and damned if he didn't like that very much, enough to savor it for a few moments before he confessed, "No, it's not like that a'tall. She's my stepmum, you see, and although I'm quite fond of the old girl, she was never around often enough for me to form a strong attachment to her. Besides, she's the one who wants the divorce." "Then your father must be-" "No, no, dear girl, no one is devastated, really they aren't-well, except perhaps for my Uncle Edward," he added with a slight grimace. "He tried his damnedest to talk M'father out of divorcing, but there's no changing Jason Malory's mind once it's set." "Why did your uncle object?" "I would imagine because it's going to be a bit of a scandal." "But I thought you said it was your father who abhorred scandals." "He does, but he's making an exception to grant Frances her freedom. They never had a normal marriage, you see. He only married her to give Reggie and me a mother. But that didn't exactly work out as he had hoped. As I said, she was rarely home." "Why not?" "Well, she's rather sickly," he explained. "So she went to Bath for the water cures quite often, until she finally just bought a cottage there and simply lived in Bath most of each year.,,

Kelsey sighed, laying her head against his chest. "People shouldn't marry for other than love." "Ideally no, yet many do." "Well, I'm glad you aren't very upset about this." "And if I was?" "Then I would endeavor to help you get over it, of course," she replied. "Why?" he asked softly.

She looked up at him, somewhat surprised. "Because that would be the mistressly thing to do, wouldn't it?"

He almost laughed. That would be the wifely thing to do, certainly, but mistressly? A mistress might worry if her protector was angry or not, but whether he was happy or sad wouldn't concern her very much, not unless it related directly to her. "That would be very generous of you, m'dear," he said, cupping her cheek. That she had been leaning against him for the last five minutes had quite done him in. "Perhaps I could use some of that help after all."

Since he had picked her up as he finished, and was already heading toward the door, she asked, "You aren't going up to the bedroom, are you?" "Oh, yes." "But that wasn't the kind of help I was referring to," she pointed out reasonably. "I know, but it's the kind I need just now, and I don't give a bloody damn what time of day it is."

He said that so belligerently, she blinked. "Neither do I, actually." "You don't?" "No, why should IT' "No reason a'tall, m'dear," he said, grinning from ear to ear.

DEREK HAD A FEW ERRANDS TO ATTEND TO THAT AFTERnoon, and he decided to take Kelsey with him. It had been an impulse to do so, one he should have ignored, but he didn't. His extremely mellow mood was likely to blame, and he could blame Kelsey for that.

She was turning out to be a splendid lover; at least, the pleasure he derived from making love to her was much more intense than he was used to, on a par with pure ecstasy. And after such an enjoyable hour as they had just spent, he was a bit more reluctant to leave her than usual.

The dress she donned for the outing was a surprise, though. Aside from that red dress she'd worn when he bought her, every time he'd seen her she had been dressedwell, more like a lady, and he supposed he had become used to that.

He was so surprised by the bright orange velvet with lime green trimmings that he remarked thoughtlessly, "I can barely see you in that, it's so glaring."

Which was true. Her other clothes had been tasteful and subtle in hue, so that her beauty was the first thing noticed, her gowns merely an enhancement to that beauty. But no one would be seeing anything but that atrocious orange when they looked at her this day, its brightness so hid her beneath it.

Belatedly, though, he realized he'd just insulted her. But she didn't look insulted when he glanced at her.

She looked merely thoughtful as she said, "I thought it was rather awful myself, but it's one of Mrs. Westerbury's selections that were made per your instructions."

He flushed with color immediately. He had told the dressmaker that Kelsey was his mistress and to dress her accordingly. But the woman must imagine all mistresses were culled from the theater district, where many of the actresses deliberately dressed flamboyantly to call attention to themselves.

"The neckline is quite risque as well," she added, and when his eyes went immediately to her breasts, which she had already completely covered with her jacket, she shook her head. "No, I will not show you." "Quite risque" He grinned. "Yes, quite."

She sighed and scowled at him as his fingers came to her jacket to undo the buttons, but she didn't try to stop him. And spreading the jacket wide a moment later, he changed his mind completely about the dress's being the only thing noticeable. No one was going to miss those despite the eyecatching material just barely covering them.

With some throat clearing, he closed the jacket again and buttoned her back up. She had a brow raised, waiting for his comment. He merely grinned sheepishly at her and led her out to the waiting coach.

But he added one stop to his list of errands, and when he came out of the dressmaker's a while later, having left her in the coach, he told her, "Just arranged for a few changes on the rest of your order."

She didn't need to ask what. He hadn't liked the color selection any more than she had, but he had very obviously liked the low bodice. She supposed she could live with that. Lace fichus could be added when she wasn't with him, and she could easily sew those herself. She made a mental note to go out and buy some materials tomorrow.

They were halfway to his solicitor, where his signature was required on some document, when he suddenly pounded on the roof for the driver to stop. The coach had barely done so before he was jumping out of it. Kelsey stayed behind again, but was able to watch from the window, since Derek didn't go far. He had hailed a middle-aged couple he apparently wished to speak to.

Frances stopped at Derek's shout. Her companion stepped back, as if he didn't want to be associated with her, but Derek barely noticed him anyway, he was so nondescript. "I didn't know you were in town," Derek said, giving her a hug. "I had some-ah, business to attend to, so I stayed in London after Amy's wedding," Frances said.

That surprised a frown from him. "Where? I haven't seen you at the town house." "Perhaps because you're rarely there?"

He grinned. "That's true. But surely Hanly would have mentioned it to me." "Actually, Derek, I'm staying at a hotel this trip," she admitted. "Why?" "Because I didn't want to be in residence if Jason showed if up.

He nodded in understanding. "M'father told us about the divorce this morning."

Her eyes lit up with excitement. "Then he's agreed to it?" "You didn't know?" "No, he never sees fit to tell me anything," she replied with a sigh. "Though to be truthful, I haven't been in contact with him since I told him I wanted it. I sent him word where I could be reached, but-well, I suppose he will get around to telling me."

She was fond of Derek, but she'd never felt motherly toward him. It wasn't in her nature to be motherly, she supposed. And had she known that was all Jason had wanted from her, she probably could have prevented their disastrous marriage before it began.

Actually, no, even she hadn't known at that young age that she had no motherly instincts, didn't even particularly car for children being underfoot. But regardless, she hadn't wanted the lad to be upset over the termination of her socalled marriage to his father. "I hope you weren't too distressed?" she asked uneasily. "It was-surprising, to say the least, but understandable, considering the circumstances. Only Uncle Edward had any complaints, because of the expected scandal." "The scandal shouldn't affect your family very much, since I've given Jason grounds to divorce me, the kind that will have his acquaintances in sympathy with him. I fully expect to take the brunt of it, but then I've never been socially active, so it won't even affect me that much."

She was talking about her having admitted to having a lover, he knew, and the very mention of it brought his attention straight to her companion. He was a scrawny beanpole of a man who couldn't have weighed more than a hundred pounds or so. And he was no more than a few inches taller than Frances, which meant he barely reached Derek's shoulder. But Derek knew instantly, just by the fellow's wary expression, that he was the culprit.

Derek's protective instincts rose, as did his anger. This fellow had caused his family grief, was going to be responsible for his father's embarrassment during the divorce. Bloody hell, not without paying for it, he wasn't.

Derek's long-armed reach caught the man's lapels and lifted him clear off the ground. He squeaked, gripping Derek's forearm, his eyes bulging with fright that did nothing to ease Derek's fury. "Did you know the Lady Frances was a married woman when you put your hands on her?" Derek demanded. "One blow and I could smash your face in, you little twit. Give me a single reason why I shouldn't do just that." "Put him down, Derek, this instant!" Frances shouted, revealing some anger of her own. "Have you lost your reason? Would I have been unfaithful to your father if he had made me happy? Well, he never did! And furthermore, he has been unfaithful to me since the day we married, a marriage that was never even consummated, I might add."

Derek's head swung around to look at her incredulously. "Never?" "Never," she said stiffly. "Yet he certainly hasn't slept alone since." "That is an absurd accusation, madam," Derek said just as stiffly. "When m'father rarely leaves Haverston." "He doesn't have to leave Haverston. when his mistress lives under his very roof!"

Derek was so surprised he dropped the fellow he was still holding to the ground and demanded, "Who?"

Frances had already flushed with heated embarrassment. She shook her head. She looked quite wary now, and quite upset, as she helped her companion back to his feet. "Who?" Derek was shouting now.

"I don't know who," she lied. "You're lying, madame."

"Well, it doesn't matter who," she insisted. "The point is, I certainly wasn't the first to be unfaithful. The amazing thing is that I wasn't unfaithful from the very beginning, when Jason Malory certainly gave me every reason to be. But enough is enough. And you have no call to harm Oscar. He has only helped along what should have been done years ago, the ending of an intolerable relationship."

Having said that, she huffed away, dragging her Oscar with her. Derek stared after them, trying to digest what had just been said.

After a moment, a hand slipped into his and he looked down, startled, to see Kelsey standing beside him. "Gad, I forgot you were waiting."

She smiled. "That's quite all right. What was that all about?"

He nodded toward the departing couple. "My stepmumand her lover." "Ah, so that's why it looked like you were going to kill the little fellow." "I bloody well felt like it," he mumbled as he led her back to the coach. "Amazing," she said, looking thoughtful. "What is?" "Well, if your father looks anything like you, I just can't imagine your stepmother preferring anyone else, and certainly not that little chap."

He smiled at that roundabout compliment and gave her a hug before he hefted her into the coach, then pulled her next to him on the seat. "What is amazing is that she claims my father never once touched her in all these years, that he's had a mistress instead who's been living right under his roof." "Imagine that," she said. "Actually, that's rather-shocking.”

Source: www_Novel22_Net

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