Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

Page 41

"You can paint a body without putting in my face, can't you? You can change the color of my hair. Or hire Molly when you go down to London again and paint her head in for mine. I don't care."
"Paint to order? Choose limbs and heads to suit the viewer? God save us."
"For heaven's sake, Mac, these aren't for a Paris exhibition. They're to win you a wager with a few obnoxious men at your club. Show them the pictures and then rip them up if you like. I'll not have you ridiculed by soft-handed lordlings who have nothing to do all day but think of ways to mock others."
Mac's smile returned, with a flash of his old wickedness. "My, you are protective of your wreck of a husband."
"If I can help you shut Dunstan's and Randolph Manning's jeering mouths, I will."
"I promise you, I care nothing for what those fellows think of me."
"I know you don't, but I hate the thought of them laughing at you, saying you're soft and weak and . . . and . . . impotent."
Mac burst out laughing. Still laughing, he laid his arms loosely on her shoulders. "If you want to persuade me to paint erotic pictures of you, my love, I certainly will not argue with you. I'd be mad to argue. But you leave it up to me whether I want to win the blasted wager."
When he looked like this, like the old Mac, charming and smiling and daring her, Isabella wanted to weave her entire life around him and never mind anything else. The knowledge that marriage with Mac hadn't ever been easy faded to nothing in the face of his smile. She'd loved him then, and she loved him now. She had never stopped. But choices-choices were hell.
"Very well," she said. She knew her tone was too capitulating, because Mac's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "It's your wager. Do as you like." She slid out from under his touch as a brassy sound floated up the corridor outside. "Goodness, is that the gong for supper? I haven't even changed my frock."
Mac stepped between her and the door as she tried to leave. His eyes sparkled dangerously. "I'll keep you to your word, my wife. We meet here, tomorrow morning at ten o'clock. Will that be too early? Will her ladyship have had ample time to rise and have breakfast?"
"Nine o'clock. I'll be finished with my morning ride by then."
"Nine it is." Mac cocked a brow. "Don't bother to dress."
Isabella flushed, but she kept her voice cool. "I'll wear my thickest dressing gown. I know you always forget to feed the fire when you're working."
Mac's gaze moved down her throat to her bosom, as though he could see through her gown to what he would paint tomorrow. "As you wish. Until then, my lady."
"Until supper, you mean. Unless you intend to hide in your room and not join us at table."
Mac grinned again. "I wouldn't dream of it ."
Isabella gave him a quelling look as she swept by, but his dark gaze had her heart racing. No man could look at a woman like Mac could. He made her feel desired, coveted, wanted. He looked at her as though he imagined her naked and hot on the floor underneath his equally naked and equally hot body. He was a wicked man, and he wanted to do wicked things to her.
Mac laughed behind her, as he always did when she walked away in high dudgeon, because he knew quite well that Isabella wanted to do equally wicked things back to him.
Chapter 12
The coolness between our Lord and Lady in Mount Street has apparently thawed, like welcome spring after a harsh winter. The Lord announced to all and sundry that a small Mackenzie was due to make his debut at the start of the next Season.
-May 1877
Mac prepared his canvas and the setting well in advance, wanting to be ready when Isabella arrived so she wouldn't have time to change her mind.
If she came at all. Isabella hadn't spoken directly to him at supper, though she hadn't bathed him in the frosty silences she'd given him in Doncaster. She chattered with Beth, exchanged opinions with Hart, pulled Ian into the conversation.
Mac had watched Ian, marveling at the change in him. His soul-wounded younger brother, who could withdraw into himself until no one could reach him, had been talkative-for Ian-a smile touching his mouth whenever he looked across the table at his wife.
True, Ian still had trouble meeting anyone's gaze but Beth's; true he hung on Beth's words, watching her lips as though he liked the shape of them. But he followed the threads of conversation with the rest of them better than he had before. No withdrawing, no "muddles," as he called them, no sudden tantrums. He gazed at Beth in undisguised love, Ian who'd always had trouble expressing his emotions. Beth had rescued his little brother, and Mac would always be grateful to her for that.
Ian caught Mac watching him as they ate and threw him a triumphant glance. Bloody cheek. After his brothers had struggled to reach Ian for years, two beautiful women had opened the world to him-Isabella with the love of a sister; Beth with the love of a wife. And damn it, wasn't Ian smug about that?
Mac retired to his studio after supper and started preparing for the next morning. He snatched a few hours of sleep on the divan he'd set up there, then rose and dressed in his painting kilt, boots, and kerchief to protect his hair long before Isabella was due to enter.
When, at precisely nine o'clock, Isabella did open the door without knocking, Mac was bent over his worktable mixing paints. He didn't look 'round as she closed the door. Something silken rustled, and his hands started to shake.

Back to Table of content

Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.