The Bad Luck Wedding Night, Bad Luck Wedding series #5 (Bad Luck Abroad trilogy) (10 page)

BOOK: The Bad Luck Wedding Night, Bad Luck Wedding series #5 (Bad Luck Abroad trilogy)
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Oh my. He's such a... man.

A decade's worth of hardships and adventures had hardened her husband's features. Angles appeared sharper, the height and breadth of him seemed bigger, larger. The thin lines reaching outward from the corners of his icy blue eyes were new; the air of confidence and danger slightly familiar, but greatly intensified.

She licked her lips, swallowed hard. His nostrils flared, and Sarah felt like dinner. His dinner.

She never should have hit him.

If not for the ache in her hand, she might not believe she'd actually done it. Sarah had imagined her reunion with Nick a thousand different times and never—
never!
—had it happened like this. She rarely lost her temper. It was a trait that served her well in her professional life.

It was a good thing she was on a holiday.

Long, silent seconds marched inexorably by. She vaguely considered moving her feet, but they seemed to be frozen in place. Slowly, Sarah grew aware of the finely dressed crowd occupying the drawing room.

Ladies and gentlemen. Lords and ladies. Sarah felt a blush steal up her cheeks. She looked like a ragamuffin, had cursed like a fishwife, and had kissed his eye-teeth with her knuckles.

Oh my stars.
She was horrified. Mortified. Humiliated.

But hanged if she'd let anybody see it.

She squared her shoulders, lifted her chin, and spoke in a regal tone. "Perhaps a servant could show me to my room?"

A strange light lit her husband's eyes, a combined twinkle of amusement and promise of retribution. Sarah wished the floor would open right up and swallow her.

Nick—Lord Weston—looked past her and nodded.

Finally released from the prison of his gaze, Sarah turned around and spied the wide-eyed footman shifting uneasily in the doorway. She swept from the room, infinitely aware that stunned silence reigned in her wake.

From the hallway she heard the never-forgotten rumble of Nick Ross's laughter. "The woman always did know how to stage an entrance."

Right now what she'd love to do was practice an exit. From the castle.

Led through a maze of richly appointed hallways, Sarah dazedly followed the servant. Finally alone in a beautiful bedchamber decorated in tones of blue, gold, and white, she asked herself, "What just happened? Why did it happen? Why in the world did you hit him?"

She spied her bags and realized they'd been emptied, her things put away. Her brush and comb lay upon a marble-topped mahogany dressing table. Taking a seat, she stared into the mirror at her red-faced reflection and tugged a hairbrush through the windblown, tangled nest that was her hair. "You know why."

She'd been embarrassed and afraid. Embarrassed at walking into a room full of well-dressed people looking like a hag. Afraid because... well... just because. Who wouldn't be at least a little afraid under the circumstances?

Curse the man. It was all his fault. He was the one who forced her to make this trip, then wasn't where he'd said he'd be.
Twice.
Riding up to that fairy-tale fortress called Rowanclere Castle had been difficult enough. Arriving at Hunterbourne with its imposing Palladian facade, painted ceilings, marble statues, and maze of hallways that seemed to go on forever had been the most intimidating moment of her life. And had he been there to greet her?

Oh, no, he had not. He'd gone back to the snowy north.

She'd never been treated so rudely in her life. It's no wonder her dander got up. And then, upon seeing Nick Ross dressed like lord of the castle and looking so at ease in that gilded drawing room, so devastatingly handsome and masculine and... grown-up... Sarah's knees had turned to water. It had taken every remnant of her questionable courage not to turn tail and run. That weakness spiked her fury, and as a result, she'd let fly her fist.

"Better you had run away," she said, flexing her sore knuckles. Then she gripped the brash hard, gave it another mighty tug, and winced as strands of hair pulled loose from the roots. The tears that glistened in her eyes had nothing to do with the tangle. She'd acted like a termagant in front of Jake and Gillian Ross, in front of the pretty young women who must be his other sisters. Of course, they could have been princesses for all she knew. Heaven knows the surroundings were opulent enough for royalty.

Sarah set down her hairbrush, then buried her face in her hands.
How will I ever face any of those people again? How can I ever face Nick?

She'd intended to be poised and self-possessed and as presentable as any debutante in London. She had come so close to making it happen, too. All she'd needed to do was to follow the footman past that open doorway and on to her guestroom. She could have washed away the travel stains and donned one of her stylish dresses. Then, having gathered her composure, she could have waited to find him alone.

"But no, you couldn't do that, could you?" she said, lifting her head and glaring into the mirror. "You took one look at the man and lost your composure. That's some impression you made. Some entrance."

She hadn't been this embarrassed since her wedding night.

Knock knock knock.
"Sarah? May I come in?"

Nicholas. Lovely. Just lovely. Shades of nightmares past. "No."

He waited a moment, then said, "I will not have this conversation through a door."

She didn't want to have this conversation at all. "Go away. I'm sulking."

His chuckle drifted toward her, the sound so surprisingly familiar that she smiled upon hearing it. But the smile died when she saw the knob turn as he tried the door. "It's locked, Nick. Go away. I'll speak with you later."

"Locked?"

She heard the snick of metal releasing, then her audacious husband sauntered right into her room. "You shouldn't be so high-handed, Sarah. I own this castle. I own the key to this door. Legally, some would say I even own you."

"Only if they don't have the sense God gave an armadillo," she fired back, pushing to her feet. "Nick, I require privacy. I'm changing my clothes."

He waited a moment before saying, "Lass, that's not precisely a deterrent."

Sarah's eyes went wide. Despite the fact that she was still completely clothed, she snatched up the dressing gown that lay draped over a nearby chair and held it up against her like a suit of armor. "I'll meet you downstairs in an hour."

"Half an hour. The muniment room would be convenient, but under the circumstances probably not a good choice. Let's try the study, shall we? I'll send someone to escort you so you aren't late."

She nodded, then held her breath as he turned and left. When the door shut behind him, she sank back into her chair with a soft moan. The man was devastatingly handsome. Why in the world had she failed to prepare herself for that possibility?

What she needed was a fortifying cup of chocolate. Men might prefer brandy, but for Sarah and most of the women she knew, nothing hit the spot quite like chocolate.

She nearly jumped out of her chair when the bedroom door creaked open once again. Nick stuck his head inside, flashed a wicked grin and said, "Just as I suspected. You still have all your clothes on. Best get moving. You have half an hour. Don't be late."

The shoe she flung just missed his nose.

 

 

 

It's bad luck for a bride to wear black shoes to her wedding.

 

 

Chapter 6

 

Twenty-five minutes later, the Marchioness of Weston glided into Nick's study like a princess on a rose-petaled path.

The Marquess of Weston's mouth went dry as dust. She'd been a beautiful girl. Now a woman, she was exquisite.

She wore her spun-gold hair piled artlessly on top of her head. Wisps of curls escaped the pins and called attention to her thickly lashed amber eyes that gleamed with intelligence, confidence, and just enough spirit to make a man take note—once he made it past the lushness of her figure.

As his gaze skimmed her from head to toe, Nick knew a bittersweet regret at having missed watching her bloom.

The cut of her emerald silk gown was just different enough from current fashion to catch his style-conscious sisters' interest and make them green with envy. The luscious curves caressed by the silk were bound to attract the notice of every man in the castle.

The surge of possessiveness that raged through him at the thought caught Nick off guard. He offered her a drink and a seat in a wingback chair placed before the fire. Having declined the former, she accepted the latter while Nick poured himself a glass of Rowanclere malt. He was drinking more than usual today. Women—this woman in particular—often had that effect on a man.

Claiming the chair beside her, he studied her pensively, then said, "Sarah, you are captivating."

She bowed her head regally, as though the compliment were her due.

Accustomed to praise, was she? He wondered just how many men had told her she was lovely during the past ten years. Dozens? Hundreds? Gruffly he added, "And you're five minutes early. I'm surprised."

"I despise tardiness."

He arched a brow. "Coming from you, that is quite amusing. Were you not due in Scotland weeks before you arrived?"

"According to your timetable, perhaps, not mine."

Her slow, Southern accent dripped like a warm and sultry night. Hearing it took his thoughts back to their disastrous wedding night, and his mood darkened considerably. Funny how that memory still had the ability to chafe. "Welcome to Glencoltran Castle."

She fluttered her lashes, her smile patently false. "Is that where I am? I fear I've quite lost track."

Little witch.
"How was your trip?"

"I believe I covered that topic earlier."

"Ah, yes." Nick rubbed his hand across his jaw. "What happened to your escort? My footman said you arrived alone. Surely someone traveled with you from Hunterbourne."

Her smile didn't reach her eyes. "No. I'm quite accustomed to traveling alone. I noticed your sister Gillian in the drawing room. I assume she told you my kidnapper—that is, my escort, Mr. Jenkins—found something more appealing to do than continuing on to England?"

Dryly Nick said, "I understand he is on his honeymoon, and that he hired an escort to accompany you and your maid from Rowanclere to Hunterbourne."

"His honeymoon? That's welcome news. I trust he and Annie, will be very happy together."

"But what of the escort he hired?"

Dainty shoulders shrugged. "We didn't suit."

He waited, but she added no more and he decided not to press the issue. Sarah was safe and apparently sound. Later he would make certain she understood things were different here than in Texas. Ladies went nowhere unescorted. They especially didn't travel without a companion.

What's the matter with you? She's here. Sarah is finally here. You have much larger problems to concern you than what happened to her maid.

Damnation.
He hadn't felt this uncomfortable since he gave that bed of nails in Tibet a try.

An awkward silence fell between them. To fill it, Nick rose, lifted a tool, and tended the fire. Red sparks flew up the chimney as the log rolled.

Sarah shifted in her seat. "So. I believe you have something you wish to discuss?"

Nick scowled down at the flickering flames. Annoyed, he spoke in a tone that was sharper than necessary. "The manner of your arrival has complicated matters."

She blinked. "Excuse me? I believe
you
sent for
me.
Blackmailed me into coming. Basically had me kidnapped."

"Yes." He waved a hand in dismissal. "But you were supposed to meet me at Rowanclere so no one would know."

"No one would know what?"

"What we're doing," he snapped.

"Planning Charlotte's wedding? Why, is it a secret?"

"Not the wedding." He jabbed a burning log and sent it tumbling from the grate. Wonderful. Just wonderful. Ashes scattered as he grabbed the tongs and wrestled the log back into place and explained, "I had intended to keep our... relationship... quiet. However, Charlotte's fiancé and future mother-in-law were in the drawing room when you arrived. She's one of the biggest gossips in all of England."

BOOK: The Bad Luck Wedding Night, Bad Luck Wedding series #5 (Bad Luck Abroad trilogy)
3.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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