Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

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Isabella's heart swelled as she thought of Mac, who was even now running all over London to make certain that Isabella's mother and sister wanted for nothing. Mac had no legal obligation to her family, and no emotional one to the people who had refused to speak to him after he'd married Isabella. He could have washed his hands of the Scrantons, claimed that Isabella's family deserved what they'd got.
But he didn't, and Isabella knew he never would. His compassion was as large as his heart, Mac, who'd decided to adopt a helpless little girl like Aimee so she wouldn't grow up in the gutter.
Even when Isabella had left him, Mac had made certain that Isabella continued to live as lavishly as she'd grown accustomed to. He hadn't punished her. He hadn't rushed into the arms of other women for consolation. He'd stopped drinking, stopped his all-night revels with his rakish friends, stopped wasting himself.
For her.
"I think I do," Isabella whispered to Louisa. "I do."
It was a heady feeling, this surge of love, and very, very frightening.
Chapter 20
It is said that the Scottish Lord has returned to the Continent to Paint, and rumor has it that his Lady has also taken a holiday there. They were seen in close proximity to each other in Paris, but each seemingly never noticed that the other was there.
-June 1881
Mac saw little of Isabella in the following weeks, because she was distracted with funeral arrangements and looking after her mother. But whenever they met in passing, Isabella would flash him a smile that set his heart throbbing. Other parts of his anatomy too.
He longed to stop her when she kissed his cheek on the way out of the breakfast room or rushed about packing up her mother's house to find out why she looked so pleased with him, but he also had much to do. He and Cameron spent most of their time with bankers and investment houses sorting out the tangle of Scranton's debts, buying them up or settling them outright.
Mac intended to take the debts he'd paid and make a show of ripping up the notes in front of Lady Scranton's face. He hoped to make the sad lady smile. And perhaps Isabella would seize Mac in an embrace of passionate gratitude and make some of his baser fantasies come true. Well, he could hope.
The fact that Cameron was just as willing to help warmed him. Cameron wasn't known for suffering fools gladly, but when Mac mentioned his gratitude, Cam said in surprise, "Isabella is family."
Hart, too, pulled stings from afar, and Ian himself came down, with Beth, of course, breaking the journey so not to tire her. The two of them stayed in Hart's town house, because Isabella's house now overflowed with her mother and sister, Aimee and Miss Westlock, and Mac. Beth and Ian spent most of their time at Isabella's nonetheless, and so did Cameron, which made finding time alone with Isabella damned difficult . But Mac, after three years of loneliness, couldn't help but like having the house full. Isabella, he noticed, never once suggested that Mac move into Hart's London mansion with Ian and Beth.
Mac kept a strict eye out for Payne, but the man seemed to have made himself scarce. Payne delivered no more paintings to Crane, nor did he stop to collect his money, and neither Mac nor Fellows nor the other policemen saw him lurking. Payne had never tried to find Aimee, which both relieved and disgusted Mac. What kind of man abandoned his own child? On the other hand, Mac had grown fond of Aimee and was happy enough that Payne wasn't trying to snatch her away.
Lord Scranton had a suitably grand funeral, and his family laid him to rest in his mausoleum in Kent. His heir, a distant cousin of Isabella's, took over the estate house, the only thing left of the earl's former holdings. The cousin, an affable middle-aged bachelor, was happy to let Lady Scranton and Louisa live there as long as they liked.
Lady Scranton liked the idea. She'd be on hand to advise on the running of the house she'd presided over for years, and she could organize village fetes and run the church's charity works to her heart's content.
Louisa was not so sanguine, but Isabella promised that Louisa would spend so much time at Kilmorgan and in Isabella's house in London that she'd be in no danger of moldering in the country. Also, it had been settled that Mac and Isabella would host Louisa's come-out ball, though their mother would be in the thick of the organization. Louisa would have her debut, not this spring, because the family would still be in mourning, but in the Season after that.
The afternoon after the funeral, which Hart and Daniel came down to attend, Ian planted himself in front of Mac and waited for Mac to notice him. This was Ian's way of letting Mac know he wanted a word.
Mac turned and walked with his brother across the sweeping lawn and down a lane lined with trees.
"Have you done it?" Ian asked.
Mac glanced at his brother, but Ian looked straight ahead. "Do you mean, is Isabella my wife again?"
"Do you think she is?"
"I don't know, which is why I am asking you."
Mac rubbed his upper lip, nervous for some reason. "You've been observing her for the last week. And me. You're a perceptive man. What do you think?"
"Do you share a bed?"
"Sometimes. Not as often as I'd like, but she's been a bit distracted, with her father ruining himself and dying and all."
Ian frowned, and Mac chastised himself. His brother took all words at face value.
"Yes, she has been distracted," Ian said. "You should be comforting her."

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Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.