The Bad Luck Wedding Night, Bad Luck Wedding series #5 (Bad Luck Abroad trilogy) (30 page)

BOOK: The Bad Luck Wedding Night, Bad Luck Wedding series #5 (Bad Luck Abroad trilogy)
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"Quiet!" Nick demanded. "Take your shot or we'll still be at this game come the queen's jubilee."

Chambers smirked. Nick flexed his fingers and imagined knocking out the blackguard's teeth before making an effort to fulfill the duty that had brought him here. "I imagine you'll want to return to Texas before that. The jubilee is four months away yet."

"Oh, no," Chambers said, sinking his third ball. "I'll be here. I wouldn't miss it for the world. I hear that any number of exciting events are planned around the celebration of the fiftieth year of Queen Victoria's reign."

Nick's interest spiked, although he kept his expression casual. "I see. Is there any particular event you are especially anxious to attend?"

"Yes. Buffalo Bill is bringing his Indian show to town. I'm eager to see how Londoners react to the performances. The show came to Fort Worth a while back, did you know that? It was my good luck to be Sarah's escort that evening. Why, I'll never forget the way she held my hand during the stunt riders' death-defying feats. And then later, when she expressed her thanks for my care and concern... well... let's just say I'll treasure the memory until the day I die."

That's it.
Nick would be damned before he'd listen to any more of this drivel. And so, for the first time Nick could recall, he allowed his personal considerations to outweigh his duty to his queen. Wielding the sword of his wit along with his superior talent at the game, Nick set about slaughtering Lord Trevor Chambers on the battlefield of the billiard table. When it was done, he was three hundred pounds richer and Lord Lovesick lay metaphorically, if not physically, bloodied and beaten on the Pelican Club's floor.

It should have left Nick in a good mood, but it didn't. He left the club feeling frustrated and angry and ready for a fight. Chambers's words hung around his mind like an unpleasant odor. Abandoned the sweetest, most wonderful woman on the face of this earth. How do you live with yourself, Weston, after deserting her as you did? Sarah with the babies. Longing on her face.

The pieces of truth in the accusations scraped him raw. He
had
abandoned her.
Had
deserted her. Had, in effect, denied her the children she apparently desired.

Right now, he felt like gutter slime.

He arrived back at Weston House to find a note from Sarah saying she and the girls had set off for the West End shops and expected to be gone all afternoon. Even though he had no intention of making another entry in the Pillow Book until after he saw her reaction to the one he'd left that morning, he found himself heading upstairs to retrieve the book.

Minutes later, he sat at the desk in his dressing room and picked up his pen.

 

Dear Sarah,

Do you have regrets about what happened between us in Fort Worth? Would your life have been better had we never married? Should I have stayed in town one day more and seen our marriage annulled at its beginning? You'd certainly be married again by now. You'd have children.

I find myself suddenly filled with doubts that sit uncomfortably on my shoulders. This is not a sensation I'm accustomed to feeling.

I have justifications galore for my actions, but at this moment, my thoughts are of you. Sarah, are the regrets too big to overcome?

Do you—in your heart of hearts—want me to let you go?

Nick

 

Ten minutes and a large whisky later, he added a postscript.

 

P.S. Not that I will, because I won't.

 

That night, Sarah gave him his answer in a most unexpected manner. When Nick adjourned to his bedchamber, he found his wife seated in one of two wing chairs pulled up in front of the fireplace. On the table between the chairs sat two glasses of milk and a plate of sweets.

"Hello, Nick," she said. "I think it's time we had a talk."

 

 

 

A bride should carry love letters from her groom to their wedding to ensure good luck.

 

 

Chapter 16

 

Sarah held herself totally still as Nick approached the fireplace. Inside, she trembled like a willow in a gale.

"Good evening, Sarah." Nick loosened his necktie as he stepped toward the wardrobe against the far wall. His gaze landed somewhere over her shoulder as he added, "I appreciate the thought of refreshments, but I'm tired tonight. Maybe we could chat in the morning?"

"This isn't a chat, it's a talk," she insisted. "I want to have it now."

Grimacing, he muttered something that sounded like, "Wish someone had broken my fingers."

"Sit down and have a glass of milk."

Sulking like a boy, he stripped off his jacket, tugged off his tie, yanked out his cuff links, then sprawled in the chair. If he'd shouted his lack of desire to speak with her this evening, he couldn't have been more clear.

Silently, Sarah handed him his glass of milk. He slugged it back as if it were Rowanclere Malt, then stared glumly into the fire.

Sarah chose a shortbread cookie from the tray, took a dainty bite, then said, "I want to talk about the Pillow Book."

"I don't."

"You asked me questions, and I think it's time we answered them."

"No, Sarah, don't pay any attention to the last entry. I don't know what I was thinking. I was in a strange frame of mind."

She finished her cookie, sipped her milk, then said, "For weeks now, you have used those letters as tools of seduction, very effective tools, I might add. But tonight's letter is different, Nick. This one breaks my heart."

Though he remained slouched, she sensed a sudden tension in him. He didn't say anything, but still the question hovered in the air between them:
Why?

"Because I honestly don't know the answers to the questions you asked me, Nick. I've never been so confused in my life."

Leaning forward, he propped his elbows on his knees and stared into the flickering flames. A weary sadness settled onto his face.

Sarah wanted to reach out, to brush the errant lock of hair off his brow. To comfort him because in doing so, she would find comfort herself. Instead, she sipped her milk and said, "You asked if my life would have been better had we never married. Who is to know the answer to that? I do know I'm happy with my life in Fort Worth. I love my work and I have wonderful friends."

After a moment of silence, Nick cleared his throat. "You're by yourself. You have no family."

A lump formed in Sarah's throat. She had to swallow it before she spoke. "Since Mother remarried, she lives elsewhere, so yes, I am alone quite often. I do regret not having a family of my own. I am envious of my friends who have a husband and children to fill their lives."

Nick kept his gaze on the fire. In a rough, soft voice, he asked, "So what stopped you from finding that for yourself? What stopped you from securing the annulment years ago? You could have had your husband and babies by now." He paused and shifted his feet "I met Chambers today. He made it perfectly clear that he was a volunteer for the job."

Sarah took a long time to answer. "I didn't want Trevor, Nick. For a long time, I wanted you."

He closed his eyes as if absorbing a blow. "And now?"

Now, she wanted to avoid the answer. She gave a little laugh. "For the first five or six years, you were the perfect husband, Nick. You were absent. I was able to bill myself as Lady Innsbruck and build my business. Some potential clients didn't believe that an unhappily married woman could possibly arrange a brilliant wedding, so I created a fantasy life that you and I shared. You were a secret agent and I—"

"What?"

Now she laughed with true amusement. "At least twice a year I took a holiday and traveled to New Orleans. I shopped and dined and had an altogether lovely time. Then I returned home with stories of my romantic interlude with Lord Innsbruck who was on leave from his most recent mission."

"Why, you little liar," Nick said, one corner of his mouth lifting slightly in a faint grin.

"Yes, I'm quite good. I might publish a book of such stories some day."

The mood turned serious once more. "So is that what you want, Sarah? A fantasy husband?"

"No." She could say that with certainty. "I do want children."

Now, for the first time, he looked at her. "I would give you children."

"I know you would, Nick. And, to be honest, you're the only man in my life right now who I would want to give me babies. But that doesn't answer the question of whether you
should
be the father of my babies."

A hint of defense entered his tone. "I love children."

"I know you do. You're a wonderful family man." Troubled, Sarah searched for words to convey the feelings running through her. Her own confusion didn't make the task easier. "But Nick, your oldest son will be born an earl. Your children will be Englishmen. I am not at all certain that's what I want for my babies. I don't know that I'm ready to live in a place where a woman's main concern is whether to wear butterflies or a bird's nest on her hat."

He scowled and turned his attention back to the fire. "And women don't worry about such details in Texas?"

"Of course they do. But it's different here.
I'm
different here. I like the woman I am when I'm in Texas. I'm strong and confident and sure of myself Here I'm... not. With you, I'm not. I don't know who I am when I'm with you, Nick."

Silence stretched between them. He held himself so still she could barely see him breathe. She tried again. "You identified the problem perfectly in this morning's letter. I
am
afraid. I know that. I don't know if that will ever change."

She inhaled a deep breath, then exhaled on a sigh. "What I don't know is whether or not I can make that cut you mentioned. I love the pretty pink stones. Do I really need a brilliant ruby?"

Then he moved, twisting his head sharply to shoot her a hard, glittering look. "Aye, you do. You shouldn't settle, Sarah. Whether it's with me or someone else, you damned well should reach for the jewel."

"Maybe so, but it needs to be the right jewel this time. I need to know it's right."

He held her gaze, his mouth set grimly. "Are you trying to say I'm not the right one? Shall I arrange passage home for you? Damnation, do you want me to book a spot for Lord Lovesick while I'm at it?"

Her chest hurt. "No, Nick. I'm asking for time."

"Time?" His brows rose, then he shut his eyes and let his head fall back against the chair as he gave a rueful groan. "Lass, I shared a bed with you last night and didn't touch you. If that's not giving you time, I don't know what is. What do you think I've been doing?"

"Seducing me."

Now he looked at her. Sarah continued, "Nick, when I read your letter tonight, I was ready to say forget the annulment, forget all my doubts, forget the life I have back home. It's lucky you stayed downstairs so long and gave me time to collect myself and figure out how to respond."

"Lucky isn't the word I'd use," he grumbled.

He was sounding sulky again, and she took that as a good sign. "Nick, I can't answer your questions now because I don't have the answers myself. After tonight's letter, well... I'm asking you to allow me the time to decide what is right for me. In the meantime, you need to be certain about what's right for you. If we make a commitment to this marriage, I won't abide certain behaviors. For example, there will be no Lady Steeles."

He shot her a glare and opened his mouth, but she rushed on. "Please, Nick. This time, we've got to get it right."

With that, she stood and walked toward the bedroom door. Just before she exited the room, he stopped her with a question. "Why tonight's letter?"

"What do you mean?"

"The other letters have been much more... provocative. Why did this one compel you to confront me?"

Sarah took a deep breath, then said, "The others were letters about seduction. Whether you intended it this way or not, this letter, tonight's letter, spoke to me of love."

* * *

Nick departed Weston House the following morning, bound for the country and a meeting with a man about a horse. He drove a coach and four, grateful for the chance to expend some energy controlling the spirited beasts. Nick hadn't been this frustrated since the winter he spent in Siberia with only bearded, bad-tempered Cossacks for company.

BOOK: The Bad Luck Wedding Night, Bad Luck Wedding series #5 (Bad Luck Abroad trilogy)
8.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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