Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

Page 25

"Not if it means missing the St. Leger."
"Daniel did promise to return to his studies if he was allowed to go to the races," Isabella said. "Didn't you, Daniel?"
"I did," Daniel said in a bright voice. "I promise I'll become a dried-up stick like Dr. Nichols if you let me go to Doncaster w' ye. It's damned unfair for me to have to miss it. I never miss the St. Leger."
"You watch your language around a lady," Cam growled.
"Aunt Isabella don't mind."
"That doesn't make any difference. Apologize."
"Oh, very well. Sorry, Auntie, for m' foul tongue."
Isabella gave Daniel a gracious nod, while Mac turned another page of his newspaper. Cameron gave attention to his coffee and held out the cup for Bellamy to refill.
"What the devil are you doing here, Mac? And why is Isabella serving you breakfast instead of dropping you down the cistern?"
"My house burned down," Mac said from behind his paper.
Mac folded his newspaper, slid it to Cam, and tapped an article. The banner read: "Conflagration at peer's Mayfair home."
"They've got that wrong," Daniel said. "Uncle Mac's not a peer. Only Uncle Hart is."
"The reading public doesn't care, my boy," Mac said. "They just want to read about a fire at the house of an aristocrat."
"What the hell happened?" Cameron demanded.
Mac explained while Cam listened in growing bafflement and anger. "You think whoever's forging your paintings tried to burn you out? Why? Because you found out he was doing it? How did the bastard get inside your house at all? Beg pardon, Isabella."
Mac shrugged. "My front door stood unlocked much of the day. I have a footman stationed at the door, but I imagine he'd have had to relieve himself at some point."
"Or he let in the culprit himself," Cameron suggested.
"I'd be surprised; he's loyal. I plan to quiz him, but I'm letting my servants sleep this morning. They had a bad night."
"Bellamy isn't sleeping." Isabella looked pointedly at the former pugilist who remained hovering nearby with the coffeepot.
"He refused," Mac said. He shot Bellamy a severe look, which Bellamy blandly returned. "He seems to think I'll be struck down by an assassin if he lets me out of his sight."
"Could be." Cameron shoved his plate away and wiped his mouth on a napkin. He took another long drink of coffee and clattered the cup to the saucer. "You'll be safe enough here, Mac, with Bellamy and Isabella's household looking after you."
Mac slanted a smile down the table at Isabella. "Exactly what I thought ."
"I'm certain the Langham will suit your needs much better," Isabella said coolly.
Cameron shook his head. "Hotel's full up. Heard the manager say it this morning."
If Cameron had been back to the hotel that morning, Isabella would eat her silverware. "Hart keeps his house open and ready at all times," she pointed out.
The brothers looked at each other, wordlessly trying to figure out how to refute her argument. Daniel grinned. "I'll stay in Hart's house."
"No, you will not," Cameron returned. "Isabella, would you mind if Danny stays on with you? It's only a few days until we go to Doncaster."
Daniel simultaneously brightened at the confirmation he'd get to attend the races and looked crestfallen that he'd have to stay with an auntie who didn't like him smoking. "I can go to the hotel with you, Da'. You already have a room there. I can squeeze in."
Cameron shook his head. "I'm in and out too much to keep a proper eye on you. Isabella's is the best place for you to stay." Cameron rose, came to Isabella, and kissed the top of her head. "Thank you, sister-in-law. Lovely breakfast. See you on the train, Mac."
He shot his son one last scowl and strode out of the room. In the hall he thanked the footman who'd scuttled to open the door for him, and was gone.
The room settled into silence, as though a hurricane had just blown itself out. Cameron Mackenzie was a force of nature.
Daniel stared wordlessly at the table while Isabella and Mac went back to their breakfasts. Daniel's long arms had grown out of his jacket; he'd sprouted up this summer, and now was nearly as tall as his father.
He was a little boy no longer, but he wasn't a man yet, either. His throat worked as he said, "Da' doesn't want me with him."
Isabella's heart squeezed in sympathy. "The hotel is full, that is all. And he's right: I can look after you more properly here."
"Don't patronize me, Auntie. He sent me to Dr. Nichols to get me out of his hair, and he's having me stay with you for the same reason. Da' doesn't give a monkey's ass whether I learn physics or not. He just don't want me at the hotel with him. He wants to go about w' women, and he doesn't want a fifteen-year-old son in his way."
"You take it too hard. Cam simply wants what he thinks best for you."
"The boy is right," Mac said. Isabella sent him a glare, but Mac shook his head. "Cam's never been domestic, and you know it. I don't know what woman can make him settle down, but I'd love to meet her."

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Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.