Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

Page 2

Isabella hadn't set foot in the Mount Street house in three and a half years, not since the day she'd left him with nothing but a short letter for explanation. Now she stood in the doorway, in hat and gloves donned for calling. Today of all days, while Mac painted Molly Bates in her spread glory. This wasn't part of his plan, the one that had made him leap onto a train to London after his brother's wedding and follow Isabella down here from Scotland. He'd call this a grievous miscalculation.
Isabella's dark blue jacket hugged her torso and cupped her full bosom, and a gray skirt of complicated ruffles spread over a small bustle. Her hat was a concoction of flowers and ribbons, her gloves a dark gray that wouldn't show London grime. The gloves outlined slender fingers he wanted to kiss, hands he longed to have slide up his back as they lay together in bed.
Isabella had always known how to dress, how to present herself in colors dear to his artist's eye. Mac had loved to help her dress in the mornings, lacing her gowns against her soft, sweet-smelling skin. He'd dismiss her maid and perform the tasks himself, though those mornings it had taken them a long time to descend for breakfast.
Now Mac drank in every inch of her, and damn it, grew hard. Would she see, and would she laugh?
Isabella crossed to the dressing gown Molly had left in a heap on the floor. "You'd better wrap up in this, dear," she said to the model. "It's chilly up here. You know Mac never believes in feeding the fire. Why don't you warm up downstairs with a nice cup of tea while I have a chat with my husband?"
Molly leapt to her feet, her grin wide. Molly was a beautiful female in the way many men liked-large-bosomed, round-hipped, doe-eyed. She had a mass of black hair and a perfect face, an artist's dream. But next to the glory of Isabella, Molly faded to nothing.
"Don't mind if I do," Molly said. "It's stiff work posing for naughty pictures. My fingers are that cramped."
"Some teacakes ought to loosen you again," Isabella said as Molly slid on the dressing gown. "Mac's cook always used to keep currant ones in large supply, in case of emergencies. Ask her if she still does."
Molly's dimples showed. "I've missed you, no lie, your ladyship. 'Is lordship forgets we 'ave to eat."
"It's his lordship's way," Isabella said. Molly strolled from the studio without worry, and Mac watched as though from far away as Bellamy followed Molly out and closed the door.
Isabella turned her lush green eyes to him. "You're dripping."
"What?" Mac stared at her then heard a glob of paint hit his board floor. He let out a growl, slammed the palette onto the table, and thrust the brush into a jar of oil of turpentine .
"You've begun early today," Isabella said.
Why did she keep on in that friendly, neutral voice, as though they were acquaintances at a tea party?
"The light was good." His own voice sounded stiff, harsh.
"Yes, it's a sunny morning for a change. Don't worry, I'll let you get back to it soon. I only want your opinion."
Blast her, had she come here to throw him off guard on purpose? When had she gotten so good at the game?
"My opinion on what?" he asked. "Your new hat?"
"Not my hat, although thank you for noticing. No, I want your opinion on this."
Mac found the hat in question right under his nose. Gray and blue ribbons trailed into glossy curls that beckoned to be lifted, smoothed.
The hat tilted back until he was looking into Isabella's eyes, eyes that had snared him across a ballroom so long ago. She hadn't been aware of her power then, the sweet debutante, and she didn't know it now. Her simple look of inquiry, of interest, could pin a man and give him the most erotic dreams imaginable.
"On this, Mac," she said impatiently.
She was lifting a handkerchief toward him. In the middle of its snowy whiteness lay a piece of yellow-covered canvas about an inch long and a quarter inch wide.
"What color would you say this was?" she asked.
"Yellow." Mac quirked a brow. "You drove all the way here from North Audley Street to ask me whether something is yellow?"
"Of course I know it's yellow. What kind of yellow, specifically?"
Mac peered at it. The color was vibrant, almost pulsing. "Cadmium yellow."
"More specific than that?" She wiggled the handkerchief as though the motion would reveal the mystery. "Don't you understand? It's Mackenzie yellow. That astonishing yellow you mix for your paintings, the secret formula known only to you."
"Yes, so it is." With Isabella standing so close to him, her heady scent in his nostrils, he didn't give a damn if the paint was Mackenzie yellow or graveyard black. "Have you been amusing yourself slicing up my pictures?"
"Don't be silly. I took this from a painting hanging in Mrs. Leigh-Waters's drawing room in Richmond."
Curiosity trickled through Mac's impatience. "I've never given a painting to Mrs. Leigh-Waters of Richmond."
"I didn't think you had. When I asked her about it, she told me she bought the picture from an art dealer in the Strand. Mr. Crane."
"The devil she did. I don't sell my paintings, especially not through Crane."
"Exactly." Isabella smiled in triumph, the red curve of her lips doing nothing to ease his arousal. "The painting is signed Mac Mackenzie, but you didn't paint it."

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Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.