How to Impress a Gentleman (12 page)

BOOK: How to Impress a Gentleman
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Like a cad, he collapsed upon her, breathing heavily. Returning to his senses several moments later, Charles rolled to one side and brought Lindsay with him.

“I am so sorry, My Love. Did I hurt you too terribly much?”

Smiling tremulously, she said, “Not so much.”

“I promise it is only like that the first time. After you heal, lovemaking will be much less of an ordeal. Will you trust me enough to try it again?”

“Yes, but Charlie?”

“Hmmm?”

“Can I be on top next time? For a fit man, you weigh a bloody ton.”

“Oh, Linnie, you will be the death of me yet!”

~ ~ ~

Sunlight trickled through the dappled glass and across Lindsay’s pale temple, tickling at her eyelids until they fluttered and opened. Stretching and rolling over in the bed, Lindsay grinned widely. Sitting up, Lindsay felt sore, but excited. Married life should prove to be much more entertaining than she had imagined. No wonder so many women took afternoon naps, how else might they get any rest?

Sleepy eyed, Lindsay felt that she might like to lay abed until noon. But Charles had already risen, dressed and gone down to breakfast. She realized, suddenly, that in all of the commotion over getting wed, Lindsay had not thought anything of the home to which she was heading. She knew that Braxton Hall had extensive grounds, for she had heard Charles telling Aiden of his plans for the property. What she did not know was the state of the manor house and she was eager to find out.

Quickly dressing in her serviceable brown travel suit, Lindsay pinned her hair to the nape of her neck and headed downstairs. Joining Charles in the private dining room she took her place to the right of the head chair.

Startled from his wool gathering, Charles turned to look down at his young wife. He was pleased that she had disregarded convention to sit next to him, rather than at the end of the table. In fact, he was pleased that he had married an unconventional wife, all around. Lindsay had bucked tradition in the bedroom last night, as well. His body grew warm just thinking about it.

Smiling down at her pixie face, he noted her subdued attire and nodded approvingly. “We must leave soon. I dare not risk Sir Richard’s guests overcoming us here, as they will all be departing today. I worry that we will be unable to hire a carriage in such a small town, however, and it is much too dangerous to attempt the back roads on horseback. I will see what the stable master has available while you ready your things.”

Lindsay cringed at the thought of riding Doc with such an ache between her thighs. No, a carriage was much more the thing. Lindsay ate a light breakfast of toast and tea and headed back up to her room to pack. She was unaccustomed to packing her own bags and had to rely on her observations of how Whitney had managed it. Would she have a personal maid at Braxton Hall? Would she have much of a staff at all? She began to wonder a bit, concerned about the lifestyle into which she may have married.

Lindsay’s rearing had prepared her to lead a fully staffed manor house. She would not know how to do manual tasks herself, anymore than she would be knowledgeable about running an elite London household. Her experiences were limited and, she realized, she feared her own inadequacies would be illuminated beneath Charles’ shrewd, oft critical, gaze. She feared this much more than the possibility of hard work ahead.

Finishing with her packing, she turned to Charles’ things. It took no time at all to place his few items in the saddlebag. Tidying up the room, Lindsay felt proud of her accomplishment. She felt useful and practical.

Charles entered the room, saw that all was in order, nodded and beckoned her out. “Your grandfather anticipated our predicament and sent his coach to escort us to Braxton Hall. Are you ready?”

Lindsay nodded and handed Charles’ saddlebag to him. Taking both bags, Charles followed Lindsay down the stairs and into the courtyard. Doc and Diamond were tethered to the carriage. The day was gray and overcast and Lindsay was glad to climb into the familiar coach. Folded neatly in the center of the forward-facing seat was her favorite blanket and pillow, topped with a note from her sister.

 

Dearest Linnie,

I was so happy to hear of your wedding Charles. The two of you suit perfectly! I will be dreadfully bored in this house without you. Do you think I could come for a visit, after your honeymoon?

 

All of my Love,

Leah

 

Post Script: I have sent Betty along, as I hear you have lost your lady’s maid. This way, you can have time to find and train your own before you send Betty back. But, please, dear sister, do not take overlong! Silvia is a sweet girl but she just is not as thorough as Betty at cleaning my riding habit!

 

Poking her head out of the coach, Lindsay asked Charles, “Where is Betty?”

Coming around from saddling his mount, Charles responded, “I sent her back with Thomas.”

“Whatever for?”

“I can take care of my own wife,” Charles snipped. “We are married, now, and I do not want hand outs from your family.” Then, more softly, he cajoled, “You shall have a lady’s maid. When we reach Braxton Hall, I will arrange it.”

Getting out of the coach in a true fury, Lindsay marched her five foot two inch self up to Charles’ towering form and glared. Whispering severely, she chastised him. “I am not a possession you horde or do with as you wish. I see no point in denying me a maid. It was to be a temporary situation, to help me get my bearings and not feel so alone. You are heartless, pompous, and inconsiderate!” Lindsay stunted her tirade as Charles’ whisky eyes flashed, then grew cloudy. She knew him well enough to know that, like any summer storm, he erupted infrequently but forcefully, when the winds blew too hot or cold for his typically even demeanor.

Still full of self-righteous indignation, Lindsay turned on the heel of her tiny boot, stalked back to the coach, climbed up and threw herself across the plush bench seat. Without saying a word, Charles opened the carriage door, set down a basket of food for their journey, snapped the door smartly shut, and mounted his steed. Signaling to Henry, they headed out.

The truth of the matter was that Charles was loath for anyone to see the state of Braxton Hall. Betty, he knew, could serve as a spy for the Beaumont clan. Upon her return, she would fill the family and staff in on gossip about the ‘dreadful’ way in which Charles kept his new wife. He would rather hire a local girl, who would be loyal to the Donovan household. It had not occurred to Charles that Lindsay might feel isolated and alone. She had him didn’t she?

Where they were and with whom else should not matter. It certainly did not matter to him. Where Linnie was, was home to him. She might not feel the same, Charles realized, shaken. After last night, he had felt so certain of where he stood. Now? This cloudy, stormy day seemed to obscure the truth of Lindsay’s feelings.

Ruminating, Charles realized, she had not said she loved him last night. Yet, to be fair, he had not shared his feelings for her, either. It, ironically, had not seemed the right time. They were both so vulnerable and moved, physically and emotionally, that he had not dared throw his deepest feelings out for her to critique.

They would have one month together, and though he knew it was selfish, especially with the comfort of
his
cousin John riding beside him, he wanted her to himself. He wanted her to belong to the Donovan home. Betty showing up had panicked him. He expected to welcome her family after he was certain of Lindsay and after his home was worthy of display. It seemed his actions had only served to push her away. Rethinking his plan, Charles turned back to Brighton, telling Harry to proceed, and that he would catch up.

Meanwhile, Lindsay sat curled around her pillow in the corner of the coach, unable to summon tears. Red heat scratched up her sides, pooling under her arms and at the back of her eyelids. She was furious, but did not quite feel any gut-writhing betrayal at Charles’ actions.
It was so unlike him to act out of hand, without considering the others involved,
she thought,
so, why had he sent Betty away? He had said he could take care of her... That was it!
Peeling off her riding jacket, Lindsay sat up in the jostling vehicle.

Charles is accustomed to taking care of himself, and now that I am a Donovan, he will naturally wish to establish himself as my caregiver. What a lummox!
She understood his sensitivity as she had overheard Charles tell Aiden of the disrepair of his new estate. She would likely have to go without for a while until the new repairs started to turn a profit.

This was cause for some mild concern. Normally she would not care, but Lindsay would need some gowns for the season one year from now. If Charles could not provide them, she would be asking her father to do so. Nothing would stand in the way of her sister’s come out. Thus resolved, Lindsay again curled upon the bench, resting her head on her down pillow and wrapping her beloved grey knit blanket around her legs, she drifted off to sleep the moment her eyelids fully closed.

~ ~ ~

Eventually the lulling rock of the carriage, as it rolled in and out of the road’s various ruts and divots, slowed and ceased. Lindsay roused from her slumber and sat up to rub her gurgling stomach. “I am famished!” she explained to the empty seat across from her. It’s plump, red cushion only absorbed her words, unconcerned. Quickly repinning her bonnet, Lindsay scrambled from the carriage and pulled out the heavy picnic basket.

While Harry was tending to the horses, Charles’ valet, John, was laying out two wool blankets. Seeing her hefting the awkward basket, John ran over to assist. They efficiently laid out a serviceable repast of cold chicken, rolls, and tea. Harry and John sat on one blanket, eating contentedly. On the other blanket, Lindsay settled herself with a chicken thigh and began to look about for Charles.

“Sir Charles forgot something in Bakersfield and had to go back. He said he would catch up,” John explained, offering a wide grin of encouragement. His thick, white-blonde hair pulled from his cue and hung about his lean, chiseled features.
Leah would be taken with that one
, Linnie thought wistfully,
if it weren’t for the fact he could not afford to keep a goat, much less a wife... Where is Charles?

Lindsay surprised herself as tears sprung to her eyes. Why was she so forlorn? She felt alone and vulnerable, unneeded, unloved. She was typically an independent person, but when it came to Charles, she always benefited from his reassurance. She needed him here right now, so soon after she had given herself to him, so soon after the onset of their marriage. Having let herself succumb to him so readily after he had blatantly betrayed her and her mother, she reviled herself for being fickle.

John picked up on her fragile state and set out to distract her. “Have you ever played ‘Yes or No’, My Lady?”

“N-no. I do not believe so.”

“Would you like to? Harry and I were just about to start up a game, were we not, Harry?”

“Certain, we were,” Harry grinned, transparently catching on to the ploy.

“Now, the way this game works,” explained John, “is you think of something, and we must ask only yay or nay questions to discover of what item you are thinking.”

“Sounds like a jolly good game,” Lindsay grinned at Harold’s lopsided smile and rousing to the competition called out, “I have it! You may ask your questions, fine sirs.”

“Is it an animal?” asked Harry, hopefully.

Lindsay shook her head.

“Is it a plant?” asked John, scanning their surroundings for inspiration.

“No again,” Lindsay laughed.

“A person, then?” John queried.

“Yes, a person.”

“Sir Charles!” crowed Harry, so certain of his young mistress’s thoughts.

“Oh, don’t be so droll, no!” Lindsay responded, rolling her eyes.

A short silence ensued before John asked, “Is it a female person?”

“Aye! A female.”

“Is it a specific person?”

“No, not specific...”

“A girl, what does a job, then?

“Yes, Harry,” laughed Linnie, now fully engaged in the game, “you are getting closer!”

“A lady’s maid,” called a deeply melodic voice, high behind their backs. “You are thinking of a lady’s maid to fix that disaster of a hair style you have fashioned, am I right?”

Looking over her shoulder, the sun shown gold in Lindsay’s eyes. Had Diamond been a white horse, Lindsay would have been tempted to liken Charles’ figure to that of Apollo, bringer of the sun. Hadn’t it just been hazy and nearing a drizzle before he’d flown up on his magnificent beast? The thrill that his appearance sent through her left her at a loss for how to react. She wished to scream like a harpy, scratching his eyes out for abandoning her. Equally strong was her urge to run, like a faithful wife, to wrap her arms around his neck and shower him with kisses. Such emotions he sent screaming through her!

She gave none of this away, thankfully. After all, her Adonis had been baiting her from the school room, teaching her well to restrain her excessive tendencies and avoid encouraging his exasperating behaviors. In the end, she simply responded, “You are correct, Sir,” and smiled politely. “I was thinking of a lady’s maid. My preoccupation is for the sake of others, however, not for myself. Seeing as how I haven’t a looking glass, those who surround me must suffer from your neglect, not I.”

She was instantly sorry the moment the caustic sound of the words returned to her own ears. How could she speak so, and in front of servants? And One her father’s servant, at that!

“Oh, Charles,” she said as she rose from the ground, “I am not in earnest. Please let us not quarrel, let me kiss you and be forgiven!”

Charles was heartened by Linnie’s display of affection. Sweeping her up in one arm, he dipped her back and kissed her sweetly on the mouth. “Lindsay, we must talk.”

BOOK: How to Impress a Gentleman
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