Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

Page 4

Isabella closed her eyes, her lips thinning into a long, immobile line. Mac's temper splintered.
"Bellamy!" he shouted over the banisters. "What the devil is she doing out of the kitchen?"
Molly came closer, her smile good-natured. "Oh, her ladyship don't mind me. Do you, yer ladyship?" Molly sidled around first Mac, then Isabella, her dressing gown rustling as she headed back up to the studio.
"No, Molly," Isabella said in a cool voice. "I don't mind you."
Isabella lifted her skirt in her gloved hand and prepared to start around Mac. Mac reached for her.
Isabella shrank away. Not in loathing, he realized after the first frozen heartbeat, but because the hand he stretched toward her was covered in brown and black paint.
Mac slammed himself back against the stair railing. He wouldn't trap her. At least not now, with all his servants watching and listening, and Isabella looking at him in that way.
Isabella moved down the stairs around him, very carefully not touching him.
Mac strode after her. "I'll send Molly home. Stay and have luncheon. My staff can run your errands for you."
"I very much doubt that. Some of my errands are quite personal." Isabella reached the ground floor and took up the parasol she'd left on the hall tree.
Bellamy, don't you dare open that door.
Bellamy swung the door wide, letting in a wash of London's fetid air. Isabella's landau stood outside, her footman ready with the door open.
"Thank you, Bellamy," she said in a serene voice. "Good morning."
She walked out.
Mac wanted to rush after her, grab her around the waist, drag her back into the house. He could have Bellamy lock and bolt the doors so she couldn't leave again. She'd hate him at first, but she'd gradually understand that she still belonged with him. Here.
Mac made himself let Bellamy close the door. Tactics that worked for his barbaric Highland ancestors would be useless on Isabella. She'd give him that cool look from her beautiful eyes and have him on his knees. He had prostrated himself for her often enough in the past. The feeling of carpet on his knees had been worth her sudden laughter, the cool tinge leaving her voice as she said, "Oh, Mac, don't be so absurd." He'd pull her down to the carpet with him, and the forgiveness would take an interesting turn.
Mac sat down heavily on the bottom stair and put his head in his paint-stained hands. Today had been a misstep. Isabella had caught him off guard, and he'd ruined the beautiful opportunity she'd handed him.
"Oh, the painting's all spoiled." Molly hurried from the floors above in a flurry of silk. "Mind you, I think I look a bit funny in it."
"Go on home, Molly," Mac said, his voice hollow. "I'll pay you for the full day ."
He expected Molly to squeal in pleasure and hurry off, but instead she sank down next to him. "Oh, poor lamb. Want me to make you feel better?"
Mac's arousal had died, and he didn't want it to rise again for anyone but Isabella. "No," he said. "Thank you."
"Suit yourself." Molly stroked slender fingers through his hair. "It's the absolute worst when they don't love you back, ain't it, me lord?"
"Yes." Mac closed his eyes, his rage and need swirling around him until he was sick with it. "You're right, it is the absolute worst."
Lord and Lady Abercrombie's hunt ball in Surrey the following night was stuffed to the rafters with fashionable people. Isabella entered the ballroom with some trepidation, expecting at any moment to see her husband, who, her maid Evans had informed her, had also received an invitation. Evans had obtained the information directly from her old crony, Bellamy.
Seeing Mac in his studio like a half-naked god yesterday had sent Isabella straight home to fling herself on her bed in tears. Her errands had never got done, because she'd spent the rest of the afternoon curled into a ball feeling sorry for herself.
Isabella had risen the next morning and made herself face facts. She had two choices-she could completely avoid Mac as she had in the past, or resign herself to encountering him about London as they lived their lives. They could be civil. They could be friends. What she ought to do was become so used to seeing him that his presence no longer plagued her. Grow inured to him so that her heart no longer leapt into her throat at one glimpse of his strong face or the flash of his wicked smile.
The second choice was the more unnerving, but Isabella berated herself until she stepped up to the task. She would not hide at home like a frightened rabbit. Hence, her acceptance of Lord Abercrombie's invitation, even though she knew the odds were high that Mac would attend.
Isabella bade Evans dress her in a new ball gown of blue satin moiré with yellow silk roses across her bodice and train. Maude Evans, who could boast having been a dresser to famous actresses, several opera singers, a duchess, and a courtesan, had been dressing Isabella since the morning after Isabella's scandalous elopement with Mac. Evans had arrived at Mac's house on Mount Street, where Isabella, Mac's ring heavy on her finger, had stood in her ball gown from the previous night, having no other clothes at hand. Evans had taken one look at Isabella's innocent face and become her fierce protector.
I look quite acceptable for a matron of nearly five and twenty. Isabella surveyed herself in the mirror as Evans draped diamonds across Isabella's bosom. I have nothing to be ashamed of.

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Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.