The Magic of You Page 8

"My, such a veritable old age," he said with scathing derision. "But when you are older, you'll learn that ladies who are so bold don't get treated like ladies for very long. Or is that what you were hoping for?

You're not my type at all, but I've been at sea for a month, so I'm not too particular right now. Take me to your bed."

He was trying to shock her back. Fortunately, she knew that, so she wasn't offended, shocked, or even intimidated by the subject. And as long as they were on the subject ...

"I will, just as soon as we're engaged."

"The proverbial tease." He snorted, implying he should have known, then sneered, "They teach you girls early in this country, don't they?"

"That wasn't teasing," Amy answered softly. "That was a promise."

"Then let's have a sample of what you're

promising." 91

His hand slipped around her neck to draw her forward. He didn't hold her in any other way. He didn't have to. She wanted his kiss a hell of a lot more than he wanted to teach her a lesson--and she was sure that was what he was attempting to do--so her arms circled around his neck to hold on tight. And when their mouths met and melded, it was exactly what she had expected, a kiss meant to scandalize her, deeply erotic and highly sensual.

But she had a surprise in store for Warren. Kissing was something she was quite familiar with, since, unbeknownst to her family, she'd had considerable practice at it these past few years. She hadn't been totally excluded from parties and entertainments; she'd just gone as a child right up until her come-out, whenever other children were included. It was considered a learning experience, after all, a chance for the older children to see firsthand how they were expected to comport themselves when they were adults. And there were always other girls and boys her age, and occasionally a boy she might take a fancy to and end up with in a secluded corner, or out in the garden in an even more secluded spot. One particular boy, a year younger than Amy, had been more experienced than all the others combined. But then, he'd been taught by an older woman who'd tried to seduce him, or so he had bragged.

But he'd certainly prepared her for what Warren had in mind, though not for what he made her feel. In that there was simply no comparison. She already knew she desired Warren, that he was the man, the only one, she wanted to make love to. But being able to press her body intimately to his, to taste his kiss--well, she got a bit carried away. She couldn't help it. She'd dreamed of this, wanted it so badly,

wanted him to want her, and now that it seemed he might ...

When his tongue thrust into her mouth, hers was there to meet it, to caress back, to thrust beyond for some exploring of her own. With a moan she pressed even closer, then thought she'd die of pleasure when his arms came around her to bring their bodies even tighter together. She'd felt first his surprise, then his acceptance of what she was giving, then finally, though not all that soon, his realization of what he was doing, which abruptly ended it.

"Jesus," he said, and pushed her away from him

until he held her at arm's length. 93

His breathing was rasping as hard as hers was, and there was nothing cold about his eyes now. They were hot, she hoped with desire, but she couldn't be sure, because his expression said he wasn't exactly pleased with her, or with himself for that matter, and his dis-pleasure was coming quickly to the fore.

"Where'd you learn to kiss like that?" Warren asked her harshly.

"I've been practicing."

"What else have you been practicing?"

There was enough insinuation in his tone to make her get a bit indignant. "Not what you're thinking," she retorted. "I'm good at boxing ears if a fellow tries something other than kissing."

"I wouldn't recommend you try that with me," he warned, though less severely, now that some of his composure was returning.

"I don't think I would," she said, remembering that wide belt of his.

"Not that I mean to do anything else with you," he quickly added, in case she got that impression. "In fact, I'm warning you now to keep your distance from me."


He didn't mistake her disappointment, which had him snapping, "Blast it, you're still a child!"

Her eyes narrowed then. He'd at last made her angry, enough to ask him pointedly, "Are you in the habit of kissing children like you just did me?"

The color that rose clear to his hairline was visible even in the dimly lighted nursery. Amy didn't stick around to gloat over it. She turned and, with splendid dignity, walked out of the room.

Chapter 9

"That girl, Amy," Warren said offhandedly. "I understand you befriended her."

Georgina didn't notice the slight flush that came with Warren's remark. She had Jacqueline in her lap, and so understandably didn't give her brother more than an occasional brief glance.

"It was more like the other way around, actually," Georgina replied. "I'm the outsider here, remember?

But why do you ask?"

"I was surprised to find her here again."

"Didn't she mention she's staying with 95 me until the doctor and James decide it's all right for me to get back to my normal routine?"

"How do you feel, by the way?"

She laughed. "How the bloody hell do you think I feel? Like I just had a baby."

"Blast it, Georgie, you don't have to sound like them just because you have to live with them."

"For God's sake, Warren, am I going to have to watch every word I say around you? Can't you just be pleased that I'm happy, that I've had a beautiful, healthy daughter, that I am fortunate enough to love my husband? So many women aren't that fortunate, you know. They marry to please their families, but it's not their families who end up miserable."

He got her point well enough, he just couldn't see how a man like James Malory could make her happy.

He couldn't tolerate the man himself, or his bizarre sense of humor. Nor could he figure out what Georgina saw in him. Malory wasn't good enough for her, not by any means. But as long as he made her happy, and there was no doubting that by the look of her, Warren would hold his peace. However, the first little sign of dissension between them, and Warren would be delighted to fan it

to split them up so he could take his sister back to America, where she belonged.

"I'm sorry," Warren said, because he hadn't meant to upset her. And since it seemed like a safe enough subject that she was willing to talk about, he mentioned Amy again. "Isn't that girl a bit too young to be taking over your responsibilities?"

She gave him an incredulous look this time. "You must be joking. Have you forgotten already that I was only twelve years old when I took over the management of our ownhousehold?"

He had, but insisted, "You were a mature twelve."

She snorted, because he was being typically stubborn. "And Amy is a very mature seventeen, which--was


"Well, it's nothing to get alarmed about," she replied, frowning at his strange reaction. "She'll be eighteen in a week or so. She's just had her come-out, as a matter of fact, which was a splendid success." Then she laughed. "You should

have seen how huffy James got, because he 97 hadn't noticed that she'd grown up until that very night."

"Why should he notice? She's not his daughter, which is not to say she couldn't be."

Georgina quirked a brow at him, another blasted habit he'd noticed she'd picked up from her husband.

"Are you implying he's too old for me?" she asked with some distinct amusement this time. "I assure you he's not."

Warren had been referring again to how young Amy was, but he supposed he'd better stop it before Georgina started wondering about it. "I was merely making an observation."

They were silent for a moment while she carefully laid Jacqueline down on the bed beside her. He was fascinated, watching her fingers roam with feather lightness over the baby's face and arms, as if she couldn't get enough of touching her.

She sighed before she said, "I suppose she'll be getting married soon."

"The baby?" he asked incredulously.

Georgina giggled. "No, silly, I meant Amy. I'm going to miss her if she moves out to the country like her sisters did when they married."

"If you're worried about being lonely, you could come home," he suggested.

She looked up in surprise. "I was more often alone at home, Warren, than I ever am here. Or are you again forgetting that you and our brothers were rarely ever home?"

"But that's changed now that we've given up the China trade."

"But none of you ever stay at home for very long between sailings, no matter which port you're heading to. Even Boyd sails with his ship, though he isn't captaining her yet. Besides, I wasn't worried about being lonely. That's one thing I'll never be when my husband spends more time with me every day than he does away."

His look of disgust spoke eloquently of his feelings, though he still said, "Because he's got no responsibilities, no decent job, no--was

"Hold it right there, Warren. Are you now going to condemn him because he's rich and doesn't need to work? Because you'd be shooting down the exact circumstance that every American strives to attain, and which our ancestors made possible. Go ahead. I dare you."

He glowered at her. "That was not what I meant

at all, blast it. I've got more money 99 than I know what to do with, but you don't see me sitting at home doing nothing with my life, do you?"

"Neither does James. He was managing a thriving plantation in the West Indies before he returned to England. Before that he captained his own ship--was

"Are you suggesting pirating was hard work?"

"He wasn't always pirating," she snapped. "And we are not going to discuss his wilder days when we didn't know him and couldn't even begin to guess what motivated him. For God's sake, you wagered your ship, your pride and joy, on a bloody vase and nearly got yourself killed for it when that Chinese warlord wanted it back!"

"A priceless bloody vase!"

"It was still just as crazy as--was

"Not nearly as crazy as--was

They both stopped, realizing at the same time what they were doing--possibly because Jacqueline had started wailing at the loudness of it. They both colored with embarrassment, and said, "I'm sorry," at the same time.

James, having pounded up the stairs because of the

noise, arrived just short of hearing the apologies, and clearly stated his own sentiments on their shouting match. "Make her raise her voice again, Yank, and I'm going to wipe the bloody floor with your--was

"It's not necessary to go into detail, James," Georgina quickly interrupted. "We merely got a little carried away. Warren just isn't yet used to my standing up to him. I never did before, you see."

Another bad habit Malory had taught her, but Warren didn't say so this time. And since he had no intention of coming to physical blows with his brother-in-law again--at least not until he could match James's pugilistic skills, which he planned to work on while he was in London--it behooved him to support Georgina's claim.

"She's right, Malory, and I've already apologized. It won't happen again."

One of James's brows went up in that detestable manner of his that clearly said he didn't believe a word of it. But Warren was relieved to note he did no more than cross to the bed and pick up his daughter.

"Come along, Jack, and we'll find you some peace and quiet," James said on his way out of the room. 101

Georgina waited until the door had closed behind her husband before she hissed at her brother, "Not one bloody word about what he calls her, do you hear?"

"I wasn't going to mention it, but since you have, I happen to know that you don't like it any better, what he's named your daughter."

"No, but I know how to deal with it, and with his devilish sense of humor."


"By ignoring it. You ought to try it, Warren," she remarked dryly. "A little forbearance would do wonders for your disposition."

"You're getting as bad as he is."

"He'll be delighted to hear it."

His frown was becoming quite dark. "Answer me this, Georgie. Do you even know why he's always so blasted provoking and--and perverse?"

"Yes, but I'm not going to attempt to explain to you the past circumstances that have made him the way he is, any more than I would try to explain to him what's made you so callous and temperamental. Why don't you ask him yourself, if you really want to know?"

"I'll do that," he grumbled.

"Good, and by the by, the point I was getting to when we got--sidetracked--was that James does not just laze about doing nothing, as you were implying. Now that he has returned to England to stay, he's dismissed his estate managers and is seeing to his properties himself. He is also becoming involved in the many investments his brother Edward has made for him over the years. He's even looking into the purchase of a fleet of merchantmen."

"Whatever for?" Warren asked in incredulous horror.

"Oh, I don't know." She grinned. "Possibly to compete with his brothers-in-law. Possibly because it's something I can become involved in, in an advisory capacity. Of course, if someone were to ask him to get involved with the Skylark line instead ..."

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