Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

Page 27

Isabella threw him an exasperated look. "Mac, we are separated. That is the end of it."
"No, it is not."
She frowned at him, green eyes filled with anger. He was glad to see the fury; anything to erase her heartbroken look.
"I left you to save my sanity, Mac," she said. "I'll hardly return to it if you continue to drive me mad."
"You like me driving you mad." Mac let his grin blossom. "Your life is empty when I'm not giving you hell." He broke off as Bellamy pushed open the door to allow Evans to carry in a tea tray. "Tea, excellent. I'm famished."
Isabella regarded the setup of two cups and saucers with annoyance. The servants seemed elated to have Mac in the house and had settled into the habit of preparing all meals for two. Which delighted Mac.
Evans and Bellamy retreated, and Mac brought his feet down. "Now, then, Isabella, a courting couple would take tea together, would they not? A gentleman would call on the lady, and she'd serve him tea."
"Not alone." Isabella reached for the teapot. "Her mama or prim governess or maiden aunt would sit against the wall, keeping a disapproving eye on the young couple."
"Very well, we will pretend that Great-Aunt Hortense lounges behind the potted palms." Mac gave a mock salute to an empty chair on the other side of the room. "Then what?"
"Then nothing. I'd pour out, and you'd drink the tea."
Isabella filled the cups as she spoke. Mac's heart skipped a beat when, without asking, she prepared it the way he liked it-two sugars, no milk. She remembered.
Mac took the cup and set it next to him, waiting politely as she lifted the cloth from a basket and laid a scone on a porcelain plate. He didn't reach for it until she'd prepared her own tea; then he pulled the scone into two pieces, mounding its soft innards with pale yellow cream.
"One of the only things the English do right is scones and clotted cream," he said. "The Scots invented scones of course, but the English do them well."
"I am English," Isabella reminded him.
"I know that, my lovely Sassenach."
Mac took a deep bite of scone. Isabella's gaze fixed on his mouth as clotted cream oozed over his lips. Mac licked them clean, deliberately taking his time.
"This is quite good." He gave her a wicked smile. "Would you like to try it?"
His heart beat faster as Isabella's cheeks stained pink. "Yes, I would, rather."
Mac lifted the piece of slathered scone to her. Isabella took it between her lips, her tongue coming out to lift it inside her mouth. Mac's body grew hot as he watched her chew, her slender throat moving as she swallowed.
Mac held up his thumb, showing her a bit of cream clinging to it. "I have a little here ."
He waited for her to push him away, to bathe him in scorn and tell him that the game was over. Instead, she guided his hand to her mouth, closed her lips around the tip of his thumb, and sucked away the cream.
Mac groaned. "You are a cruel, cruel woman."
Isabella released his hand and sat back. "Why?"
"Tempting me with a taste of what I can't have."
"It is you who refuses to be satisfied with only a taste."
He set down his plate and ran a hand through his hair. "I don't want a taste, Isabella. I want all of you. Again and again, for the rest of our lives. That's what marriage means, my wife. Together forever. Bound in love."
"In duty, you mean," Isabella said.
He laughed. "Sassenach, if you believed marriage was for duty alone, you'd never have eloped with me in the first place. When you met me you didn't think, Ah, here is a dashing rake. Let me run off with him so I can be dutiful. No, you wanted some entertainment instead of marrying a dried-up stick your father picked out for you."
"Perhaps, but most marriages turn into duty and habit, from what I have witnessed."
Mac fell back against the sofa. "Oh, God, Isabella, you'll slay me with your pessimism. Look at Ian and Beth. They're mad about each other. Are you saying their marriage has changed to duty and habit? "
"Of course not."
"Nor did yours. Don't lie."
"No," she said softly. "It didn't."
Thank the Lord for that. He remembered the nights she'd smiled down at him in his bed, her warm body on his while she rode him. Duty, my balls.
"The proof is that when I drove you mad, you ran away," Mac said. "A dutiful woman would have stayed and put up with me."
"Gracious, I pity such a woman."
"I know you do, because you are not that woman. What you ought to have done was smash me over the head, repeatedly, until I came to my senses."
"Perhaps my leaving was meant to do just that."
He hid his dart of pain by reaching for the bowl of cream. "You certainly got my attention, love." He scooped a glob of cream onto his first two fingers and gave her a sly look. "Now, I dare you, my fine lady from Miss Pringle's Academy: From which part of my anatomy would you like to lick this cream?"
Chapter 8
The Lady of Mount Street has retreated to her Cottage in Buckinghamshire, where her Garden Parties have become legendary. She is all smiles despite the sudden absence of her Lord, and she presented a Poetess who is likely to take London by storm. An unruly baron whom more salacious gossip paired with the Lady was coldly and unmistakably rebuffed, leading this paper to rejoice that the Lady remains a pillar of virtue.

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