Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

Page 65

Isabella looked out of the window for a long time, and when she finally turned to him, the rigid anger had faded from her eyes. "Whatever happened to your friend?" she asked. "The one you told me about at Lord Abercrombie's ball."
Mac went blank. "Friend?"
"The one who needs lessons in courting."
"Oh, that friend." He cleared his throat. "Yes, he is still anxious to learn courting techniques."
"We began practicing them once before. Perhaps we should start over again?"
"Is that what you wish to do?" Mac asked. "Start over?"
She nodded. "I think so."
Mac studied her in breathless silence. She looked back at him, her glittering green eyes so beautiful.
"In that case," he said in a light voice, "we should forget all about what happened last night in your bedchamber. That was far too scandalous for a courting couple."
She smiled a little. "Indeed. Quite improper. You must not mention last night to him."
"I never breathe a word about what goes on in my bedroom to my friends. It is none of their bloody business." Mac lifted her gloved hand, pressed a light kiss to it, and moved himself back to the opposite seat. "A gentleman should never occupy the same seat as the lady in a conveyance. He should sit with his back to the coachman, giving her the forward-facing seat."
Isabella laughed. Damn, it was good to hear her laugh. "It will be amusing to watch you trying to be highly proper," she said.
Mac pinned her with a look, no more teasing, no more cajoling. "If that is what it takes, I will do it. I want to win you back, Isabella. No matter if it takes me one year or twenty, I'm a patient man. I will win your heart again, I swear it. Even if I have to be so highly proper my ancestors turn in their graves to see me change myself for a Sassenach."
Isabella smiled, but the look on her face told him she hadn't given in. But her quiet acceptance of his presence for the rest of the ride and her errands that followed made him know that she'd give him a chance. She wanted him to try, and she wanted him to succeed. That, at least, gave him heart.
The next morning, a bouquet of hothouse flowers arrived with a note for Isabella. Isabella touched the blossoms, noting that the bouquet was small and tasteful-yellow roses, violets, and baby's breath. No orchids or other exotics. The card was edged with gold and read, in Mac's handwriting:I am most grateful, my lady, for the privilege of driving with you yesterday afternoon. Might you give me leave to walk in the park with you today, if the weather holds fine? I will call on you at three o'clock if that is convenient.
Your most obedient servant,
Roland F. Mackenzie
Isabella smiled to herself . Mac was certainly playing the proper gentleman, especially using his real name. He hated being addressed as Roland Ferdinand Mackenzie, or Lord Roland, preferring the nickname that had been pinned to him at the age of two, when he couldn't pronounce any syllable of his long name but "Mac."
"A gentleman sending you flowers?" Mac asked in a mock gruff voice behind his breakfast newspaper. "Is he a proper sort of gentleman?"
"I believe so." Isabella sat down at her place, fingering the card, which she'd slipped into her pocket. "He has invited me to go walking with him this afternoon."
Mac folded down one corner of the paper, giving her a stern look. "And what have you decided?"
"I will accept. Going for a walk in a public place will be most proper. And agreeable."
"Be careful of his intentions. I've heard of this Lord Roland's bad reputation."
"I believe he's reformed," Isabella said. "So he tells me."
Mac tsk-tsked. "Be on your guard, my dear. Be on your guard. I believe he paints women-with their clothes off."
"Don't overplay it, Mac."
Mac grinned and raised the paper again. His smile could make a lady's good intentions fly out the window. Mac had slept in his own room last night, and Isabella had lain awake for a long while trying to banish her disappointment.
At three o'clock that afternoon, the doorbell rang, and Morton glided up from the back stairs to open it. Mac, dressed in a fine afternoon walking suit, complete with hat and walking stick, stood on the threshold. "I have come to call upon the lady of the house," he announced in grave tones.
Isabella stifled a laugh as she peered down from the landing. Morton disliked games, and Mac had to more or less insist before Morton would show him into the drawing room.
Morton came out again and looked up at her, aggrieved. "My lady . . ."
"Thank you, Morton." Isabella gathered her skirts and glided down the stairs. "Indulge his lordship. He likes his bit of fun."
"Yes, my lady," Morton said mournfully and disappeared to the back of the house.
When Isabella entered the drawing room, Mac stood up, hat in hand. "My lady. I hope you are well."
"Indeed. I am in good health and spirits."
"I am pleased to hear it. Would you indulge me with your company in the park?"
"Why certainly, my lord. And thank you for the flowers. You were most kind."
Mac waved his hand dismissively. "It was nothing. I heard you liked yellow roses. I hope they suited."
"They suited me very well." Isabella heard Aimee's little voice in the hall, and she added, "Do you mind? Nanny Westlock says that Aimee needs to take some air, and I thought they could join us."

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