No Choice But Seduction Page 16

“What would?”

“If you’d stay at Haverston.”

Katey shook her head immediately. “I couldn’t possibly. And there’s no need, really. We’re only going to be there a night or two.”

“But we need you to stay,” Judith said earnestly.

Katey frowned. “What do you mean?”

“There was quite an uproar last night after you left. I’m sure you can imagine. None of us knew what Boyd had done until then. My parents were beside themselves, trying to think of a way to make it up to you. This isn’t nearly enough, but I’m certain it would make them feel much better if you would accept our hospitability while in Gloucestershire. You simply must.”

This was so silly, Katey was thinking, when Judith continued, “The house there is big and comfortable, you’ll like it there. And it’s good to have friends in your corner when you’re going to face the lions.”

It took Katey a moment to figure out what Judy was talking about, but then she burst out laughing. Judith must have remembered Grace saying that Katey hadn’t had the nerve to introduce herself to her relatives before. The “lions” were the family she’d never met, and the “friends” on her side were the powerful Malorys. Amazing that a child would even think of such things, but Katey was getting used to being surprised by this one. It was all in the upbringing, she supposed. Judith was nobility, but obviously she hadn’t been restricted to the nursery and nannies who treated her like a child. She spent most of her time with adults who loved and respected her.

Still, it wasn’t the Malorys who owed her anything. “I can’t just show up at your uncle’s door—”

“You can if I’m with you.”

“Your parents aren’t going to let—”

“They’ll be with us, too, at least my mother will,” Judith interrupted yet again. “My father’s already gone out for the day. But don’t worry, we won’t delay you. You don’t have to wait for us. We have more’n one coach and will catch up with you on the road.”

And with that settled, at least in Judith’s mind, the little girl rushed back into her house before Katey could think of any more reasons to refuse.

Once they were on their way Grace said, “Do you think they’ll actually come?”

“Of course not. That’s just a child’s wishful thinking. Her mother isn’t going to rush off to the country just to afford us some hospitality. The idea is ludicrous. Besides, she’s probably still abed.”

“That’s too bad. I would have liked to see that coach covered in flowers.”

Chapter Twenty

NO ONE, at least none of the adults who knew of his desire to make amends to Katey, had bothered to tell Boyd that she had been invited to Haverston. He had to hear it from Jacqueline, because Judith wouldn’t think of leaving town without telling her best friend where she was going and why. But he didn’t hear about it soon enough, which left him racing for Haverston, and still, it was impossible for him to ride fast enough to arrive before dark.

He could have arrived much sooner if he hadn’t gone to Katey’s hotel that morning. Even though the clerk had told him she’d checked out earlier, Boyd hadn’t believed him. No one had indicated last night that Katey was leaving England right away. He thought she might have asked the hotel staff to tell him she was gone if he came by. He knew she was angry at him and didn’t want to see him. But after he’d stubbornly waited in the hotel lobby, hoping to catch a glimpse of her walking by, he’d left.

Angry at himself for missing her, he concluded that she’d changed hotels just so he couldn’t find her. After he’d inquired at other hotels in the vicinity, he still couldn’t find her.

When he finally returned to Georgina’s house, he’d been relieved to learn she’d merely gone to Haverston. He knew the way there because he’d been to the Malory ancestral estate several times over the years when he happened to be in England during the holidays. That was when the entire Malory clan, his sister included, gathered at Haverston for Christmas.

Boyd would have found the ride pleasant what with the vibrant colors of autumn still dotting the landscape and the temperature somewhat mild, but the weather had turned foul, casting a gray pall over anything that could be seen through the downpour. At several points that afternoon, it was raining so hard that it was difficult for him even to make out the road in front of him.

He was soaked through long before he arrived. The butler told him the family was still at dinner as he led Boyd straight upstairs to dry off and change clothes. The butler hadn’t given him a choice to do otherwise, so Boyd had to tamp down his impatience to see Katey. He did request that his arrival not be announced, though. After his last meeting with Katey Tyler, he had no doubt that she would conveniently disappear with some excuse if she was warned that he was there. And it didn’t take him long to change clothes and run back downstairs.

His hair was still quite damp, as were his boots. He’d only tossed a few extra clothes in his valise before he rushed out of London, so he was without a coat, since the one he’d brought was still wet from the ride. He knew he was dressed too casually in his white, long-sleeved shirt and black britches for a dinner at Haverston, but that wasn’t going to keep him away.

When he reached the dining room, he didn’t budge from the doorway, even when the family noticed him and started their greetings. Katey was there, and he wasn’t going to let her run off on him again. She probably realized that he was barricading the doorway, preventing her escape, because she merely glanced at him briefly before ignoring him while she continued eating.

Well, at least she wasn’t running off, or even trying to. That should have been a relief. It wasn’t. And he was incapable of ignoring her in the same way. In fact, he couldn’t take his eyes off her.

She was wearing a white blouse with a dainty lace collar that was buttoned high to the neck. Her ample br**sts filled out the blouse. Hell, her br**sts filled out anything she wore much too amply.

Get your eyes off her breasts! he snarled to himself.

Her hair was arranged in the long braid she favored, though the tail of it wasn’t looped through her belt today. Instead her braid was laid over her shoulder with the tail end resting in her lap. The thick raven braid provided a stark contrast to her soft white blouse. And her pink cheeks…

He realized abruptly that she was blushing. Because she knew he was looking at her? He couldn’t seem to pull his eyes away even to end her discomfort or greet his in-laws. If given the choice, he could look at her for the rest of his life.

But he couldn’t continue to just stand there blocking the doorway. Jason Malory, Third Marquis of Haverston, was at the head of the long dining table and, treating him like any other member of his family, told Boyd to take a seat while motioning for one of the footmen to bring him a plate. The days of the Malorys squaring off on one side of a room against the Andersons on the other side were long gone.

It was just a small gathering. In addition to Judith and her mother, who had brought Katey to Haverston for some reason, Jason and his housekeeper, Molly, were there, seated together at one end of the long table. Molly was actually Jason’s wife and Derek Malory’s mother, though no one but the family knew that, and as far as Boyd knew, Molly insisted on keeping it that way.

Boyd wondered whether she had been introduced to Katey as the housekeeper. Not that it really mattered to him. His main concern was making sure Katey stayed in the room long enough this time to hear his apology.

To that end, he took the seat across from her, which still placed him close enough to the door to prevent her from bolting out of the room. Someone mentioned something about the rain when a crack of thunder sounded in the distance. He barely heard the comment, or the thunder. He was still staring at Katey, willing her to look at him. But she wouldn’t. As far as she was concerned, he wasn’t even in the room.

Which was as it should be, he supposed. She was a married woman, after all. She shouldn’t be paying attention to unmarried men apart from extending common courtesy, but she wouldn’t even afford him that. Well, of course not, she was still furious with him. And where the hell was her husband?

He’d assumed she was meeting that lucky bastard in England, but she’d never actually said she was, merely that she was on her way to meet him. Was that the reason for the world tour that Judith had mentioned was on Katey’s agenda? Her husband was in a different country?

Boyd hoped not, because in the back of his mind he’d been expecting to have to deal with her husband at some point, for his high-handed treatment of her. Actually, he would have welcomed that. He needed something to relieve him of his guilt. Katey’s forgiveness wouldn’t quite do it, but a thrashing by her husband—no, that wasn’t likely to happen. He didn’t just admire pugilists, he excelled at the sport himself. He could just imagine how much more guilty he would feel if he beat her husband senseless instead.

He repressed a bitter laugh. Whom was he kidding? If he was going to beat any man bloody, he’d relish its being the one man who could claim Katey as his wife.

His frustration was adding to his impatience. He wanted to apologize immediately, but he couldn’t. He needed to get Katey alone first. He couldn’t very well explain at the dining table the reasons for what he’d done in Northampton, not when those reasons involved his lustful feelings for her. She was a married woman. Surely she would understand.

“Where’s your husband, Mrs. Tyler?” he blurted out in frustration.

She glanced up at him, but only to raise a brow and ask with feigned curiosity, “Which one?”

He flinched. He couldn’t deny he deserved that. Just one more mistake he needed to apologize for, thinking she could be Cameron’s wife.

But Katey wasn’t interested in his reply. With her eyes back on her food, she said, “I don’t have a husband.”

Incredulous, he said, “You lost him?”

He was about to add his condolences when she said, “Never had one to lose. I’ve never been married.”

Two things happened to him at once. A sense of relief overwhelmed him. He could stop feeling guilty for desiring a married woman. She was available!

But then he thought of the hell he’d gone through on that voyage with her because he’d been forced to keep his distance, because he’d thought she was a happily married woman and the mother of two small children. And how different their encounter in Northampton might have been if her marriage hadn’t stood between them.

The possibilities stunned him. He might even have made love to her that day! And he wouldn’t have dragged her off to face the Malorys’ wrath, would he? With his mind unclouded by his desire for her he would have seen her for the sweet, delightful wench that she was. He would have had no trouble believing her then. But that hadn’t been possible because she had lied about being married. His mood darkened as he wondered if she’d told that lie to keep him away from her. His tone had a sharp edge of anger when he asked, “Then why were you using the name Mrs. Tyler?”

“For convenience. I used that guise as a cloak of protection, to keep unwanted attention at bay. It worked very well,” she added smugly, and peeked up at him to see his reaction.

Red-faced, Boyd said, “And your two children?”

She stopped pretending a fascination with her plate and lifted her head to stare at him directly. “They weren’t mine. You guessed correctly about that. They were my neighbor’s nieces. She needed someone to escort them to a relative in England. That was the impetus I needed to begin my world tour.”

The other people at the table had been following this conversation, glancing back and forth from Katey to Boyd. Jason reminded them that they weren’t alone in the room when he asked, “It sounds as if you two know each other from some prior meeting.”

Boyd tore his eyes off Katey long enough to glance at the eldest Malory. “She was a passenger on my ship during my last Atlantic crossing.”

Which made Roslynn gasp. “You knew her and still thought she was guilty?”

“I didn’t know her,” he said in exasperation. “We barely spoke on the voyage.”

“We spoke plenty,” Katey disagreed.

“Not about anything personal,” Boyd shot back, his eyes returning to her.

“We spoke enough for me to be glad I’d tacked a Mrs. onto my name.”

“Oh, my—,” Molly began, then made an effort to change the subject. “Perhaps we should adjourn to the parlor for dessert?”

With that suggestion the Malorys filed out of the room. But Boyd didn’t follow them. Katey didn’t move either. They were too busy glaring at each other to even notice they were alone now.

Chapter Twenty-One

WAS I SO TRANSPARENT?” Boyd asked.

It was as if two minutes of silence hadn’t slowly passed while they stared at each other across the table, oblivious of everything else in the room. Katey hadn’t expected him to show up at Haverston. When Judith and her mother had caught up to her coach and led the way to the ancestral estate, Roslynn had mentioned that Anthony might join them if he didn’t get delayed in Kent, where his brother Edward had sent him on business, but she hadn’t said anything about Boyd.

And then there he was, suddenly standing in the doorway, his hair wet, his dark brown eyes gazing intently at her, stealing her breath. She hadn’t expected to ever again feel that thrilling burst of excitement at the sight of him, but there it was, too, and she had to stomp on it immediately or she was going to be the one making a fool of herself.

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