Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

Page 43

Her sly smile and the sparkle in her eyes snapped Mac's control. He tossed down his pencil and came around the easel to stand over her. "Little devil."
"I said it in jest, Mac. I suppose I've had one or two nights of grand passion."
"You, my dear, are coming dangerously near to . . ." He stopped, unable to complete the sentence.
Isabella's lips curved. "Dangerously near to what, my lord?"
A morning of grand passion? She was his wife, his other self, and they'd thrown off their clothes and their restraints. Why should he stop himself?
"A tickling," he finished. "You should be tickled until you can no longer make fun of your doddering old husband."
Her glance moved down his body like a lick of flame. "I would never apply the adjectives doddering or old to you."
Mac found it difficult to breathe. Or talk, or think. He seated himself on the edge of the chaise and yanked the crumpled sheet across her stomach. "I did promise to have these pictures done before Michaelmas. Now, sprawl, my dear. Arm overhead like that, leg hanging like this, sheet tangled and pushed aside."
Isabella let him move her arm and leg without a murmur. Mac's hands shook as though he were palsied.
"If a lady were truly sleeping after a grand passion," Isabella said, "she'd bundle up in the sheet so as not to catch her death of cold. After warming herself with a nice cup of tea."
"You are far too exhausted for that. Barely awake at all." Mac patted her hip. "Move that a little off the edge."
"That? Are you implying that I am stout, Mac Mackenzie?"
"The word never left my lips, my petite angel."
"Humph. Plump, perhaps? Portly, even?"
He wanted to tell her how much he adored her voluptuousness, her body that had grown even more beautiful since he'd seen it last. She'd actually become a little thinner since her departure, and he'd noticed that her appetite had lessened a bit, which worried him.
But Mac had been painting women since age fifteen, and he knew how sensitive they could be to any even imagined change to their waistline. A wise artist never mentioned it unless he wanted to lose a day's work. He'd always been thankful that Isabella was much more sensible about her body, but even joking as she was, he knew better than to tell her he preferred her curves to the bodies of women who slimmed themselves into sticks.
"My love," Mac said, "you have the finest, as the French say-derriere-imaginable."
"Liar." Isabella hooked her finger on the waistband of his kilt. "Take this off."
Mac froze. "What? Why?"
"You have seen what I have become. Perhaps I would like to see whether your derriere has grown broader with time."
What she would see was a c**k that had elongated into a rigid pole . She could hang her St. Leger Ladies' Day hat on it . . . and oh, Lord, why did he just think of that?
"You saw me in the bath, at your house in London," he said. "And I lifted my kilt for you in your drawing room."
"A brief glimpse, both times." Isabella tugged harder on the waistband. "Come now, Mac. Turnabout is fair play."
Mac decided he'd strangle whoever had invented that saying. He drew a deep breath, unpinned and unfastened the kilt, and let the woolen folds drop to the floor.
Isabella's eyes grew round. "Oh. My."
Mac put his knee on the chaise, swung himself on top of her, and lowered his face to hers. "Did you think you could lie here like this without me responding? I've been hard for you, my dear, since you barged into my house and actually spoke to me after three and a half years of silence."
"That was a few weeks ago. You must have found it a bit inconvenient."
"Inconvenient? It's been absolute hell."
Her eyes flickered. "You've borne up well."
"I'm dying for you. I've managed to keep myself from you for all these years. Because you wished it. Well, I can't do it any longer."
Isabella's slender throat moved in a swallow. Mac expected her to make another joke, to push him away, to mock him.
She touched his face. "You are with me now," she whispered. "And the door is locked."
Mac growled. "Hell, I wish I were a saint. I'd be able to leave the room if I were a saint."
"If you were a saint, you'd never have married me in the first place." Isabella's voice went soft. "And that would have never done."
"Why not? I made you miserable."
She stroked his skin, her touch feather light. "You saved me from ordinary marriage to an ordinary man who spent his days at his club and his nights with his mistress. I'd have nothing to do but buy new dresses, have teas, and hostess fetes."
"You do buy new dresses, have teas, and hostess fetes."
She shook her head. "I bought gowns I thought you'd like to see me in. I gave tea parties for your friends, so they would be my friends too. I ran fetes to help people who needed help, because I wanted to emulate the way you helped poor artists."
"I left you alone aplenty. Just like an ordinary husband."
"Not to your club or to a mistress, which would have been intolerable."
Her look was tender, her eyes so green. Mac brushed a kiss over her lashes, feeling them lush and full against his lips. "Clubs are rotten places. Gaming hells and cabarets are so much more entertaining. And I mean I'd leave you for weeks at a time. To run off to Paris or Rome or Venice-whatever took my fancy."

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