Tender Rebel Page 27

He turned on his heel and sauntered out as nonchalantly as he had entered, leaving Roslynn bristling and Frances uncomfortably aware that much more had just transpired than was said. But as quietly as he had left the room, he slammed out of the house.

Roslynn grimaced, hearing the noise. Frances raised a questioning brow. "He's displeased about something?"

"You could say that."

"So are you?"

"Frances, I really don't want to talk about it."

"That bad, eh? Well, all I can say is you agreed to this marriage, knowing what he was like. I don't imagine he'll be an easy man to live with, but you must make the best of it. Just don't expect too much."

That was laughable. She hadn't expected a thing, until Anthony had deluded her into thinking he could change. And not twenty-four hours' married and he proved he couldn't. She could have understood a month later, or even a week, but the very next day after he swore he wanted no one but her? The trouble was, she couldn't seem to break through the anger to get back to her original reconcilement to take him as he was.

Anthony's thoughts were simmering along the same lines as he threw himself into the waiting carriage outside. He had every right to be furious and he was, immeasurably so. A business arrangement! He'd like to know what the bloody hell he was to get out of this "business arrangement" as it stood now.

Stubborn, unreasonable, vexing woman. And illogical, for God's sake. If she'd just use some common sense, she'd see how absurd her accusations were. But no, she wouldn't even talk to him about it. Every time he had tried yesterday, she had bestowed her false smile on him and flitted away, using his own family as a barrier against him. And they loved her. And why not? She was charming, intelligent—except in some matters—and beautiful, and they looked on her as his salvation. More likely she was the devil's

advocate, sent to drive him mad.

Well, he'd be doubly damned if he'd lose another night's sleep over the contrariness of his wife. She belonged in his bed, not nursing her foolish grudges across the hall. Tonight they'd talk, by God, and without interruption.

Now, how to word a message to James, to suggest he take himself and Jeremy off for the evening, without telling him why?

Chapter Twenty-eight

Awhile after Frances left, Jeremy came in with a stack of newspapers and a jaunty smile, telling Roslynn the notice would run for two weeks. She found it in each paper, the announcement of her marriage, but she had to admit that Anthony was right in this matter. There was no guarantee that Geordie would see it.

So she couldn't help feeling grateful that, even though Anthony was annoyed with her, he was still making an effort to find Geordie to warn him off.

She might be safely married, but if Geordie didn't know it, then how safe was she really? He could at this very moment be working on a new scheme to snatch her and drag her to the altar. He knew where she was—at least he knew that her clothes had come to this address. And if he succeeded in abducting her again, and she had to be the one to tell him he was too late, well, there was no telling what he might do to her in his anger at being thwarted.

Because of that, she elected to stay close to home for a while. Any remodeling she was planning could be done by having the tradesmen come to her, rather than her going to them. And she did plan extensive redecorating of Anthony's house. Nor was she going to bother to tell him about it. And when he saw the damage to his purse, because she had changed her mind about paying for it herself and intended to use only his money, well, he might think twice before getting in her bad graces again with more lies.

A wee voice whispered that she was being wickedly spiteful. Roslynn didn't listen to it. She was going to spend Anthony's money as if he were made of it. She might even insist he build her a new house, a mansion in the country perhaps, but after she had redecorated this one, of course. After all, the town house wasn't that large. It didn't even have a ballroom. How was she expected to entertain?

She could even pauperize the wretched man if she were of a mind to. Yes, there was an idea worth considering. A picture of Anthony humbled and having to come to her for an allowance was delightful indeed, and no more than he deserved for disillusioning her.

But Roslynn didn't devote too much time to vengeful thoughts today, not with Anthony's implied threat hanging over her head that there would be a confrontation between them tonight. She couldn't deny that worried her no small amount. And her nervousness increased during the afternoon, so much so that when James informed her during dinner that he and Jeremy were off to Vauxhall Gardens for the evening, she almost asked to join them. Why tonight of all nights did they both have to go out, never mind that this was the norm rather than the exception? Even though Anthony wasn't home yet, she didn't doubt for a minute that he would show up eventually.

But she didn't ask to intrude on the two Malorys who were still bachelors. She wasn't that much of a coward. At least that was what she told herself before James and Jeremy left. Nevertheless, as soon as the door closed behind the dashing pair, leaving her alone with the servants, Anthony's servants—Nettie didn't count—she found she was a coward after all.

It was a ridiculously early hour to be retiring for the night, but retreat to her bedroom she did, and with all haste. Dobson was told to inform Anthony when he finally came in that she wasn't feeling well and wasn't to be disturbed, for any reason. Whether that would put him off remained to be seen.

In case it didn't, however, she wasn't taking any chances. She donned her most unappealing nightgown, a heavy cotton garment more suitable for a cold Scottish winter in the Highlands, stuck her hair under an ugly nightcap that she borrowed from Nettie, never having liked the use of them herself, and finished her ensemble with a bulky robe that she usually wore only after her bath.

She also considered putting one of Nettie's thick night creams on her face, but that would be doing it up a bit too much. A glance in the mirror showed her that she looked appalling as it was. Anything more would just be obvious arsenal that Anthony might find funny instead of discouraging.

Of course, now that she was so bundled up, she was too warm for bedcovers. But that was just as well.

Curled up with a book would be a more natural touch, rather than pretending sleep, which Anthony would likely doubt if he arrived while it was still so early.

No, she had to appear normally indisposed, as if she weren't trying to deliberately avoid him. He would then have to give her the benefit of the doubt and leave her alone. That was, if he didn't heed Dobson's message. That was, if he came home at all.

Hell's teeth, none of this would be necessary if Dobson had been able to find the cursed key to the door yesterday when she had asked for it. But then, might not locking Anthony out be taken as a challenge by someone like him? It would certainly be a clear statement that she didn't want to talk to him, not now, not any time soon. No, this way was better. Let him come, if he must, but she would make him feel guilty as hell for disturbing her when she was feeling, and looking, so poorly.

The book she had on hand was a boring collection of sonnets, gushy in sentimentality, left behind by the previous occupant of the room, whoever that had been. But she was stuck with it. It was too late to risk going down to Anthony's study, where a small library was kept. It would be just her luck that he would walk in and catch her out of bed, ruining the effect she was striving for.

She gave up reading the silly book, however. At any other time she might have been enthralled, for love sonnets, which she surmised most of them were as she flipped through the pages, usually sparked a tender chord in her. But she was in no frame of mind to be romantic tonight. Anything but. She let her mind wander instead, wondering if she ought to allow her malady to last through tomorrow. She could use the time alone to think, to get in control of her emotions again.

Fortunately, Roslynn was still holding the book in front of her and appeared to be reading, because she had no warning that Anthony had returned. The door to her room simply opened and he was there.

Unfortunately, he wasn't so easily fooled.

"Very amusing, my dear." His tone was dry, his expression inscrutable. "Did it take all day to think this up, or were you inspired when the Hawke and his pup deserted you?"

Since she had no idea what he was talking about in reference to birds and dogs, she ignored the question altogether. "I asked not to be disturbed."

"I know you did, sweetheart." He shut the door, his smile unnerving. "But a husband is allowed to disturb his wife—anytime, anywhere, any way he wants to."

He was putting another meaning on the word, one that had her cheeks flaming, which he was quick to note. "Ah, it must be a fever," he continued, coming slowly toward the bed. "And no wonder, with that mountain of nightclothes you're wearing. Or is it a cold? No, you haven't bothered to redden your nose with a little pinching. A headache, then, of course. You don't need to produce visible symptoms to claim one, do you?"

His baiting enraged her beyond good sense. "Beast! If I did have one, you wouldn't care, would you?"

"Oh, I don't know." He sat down on the bed, fingering the tie of her robe. His smile was more humorous now that she had given up her ruse. "Do you have one?"

"Yes!"

"Liar."

"I'm learning from a master."

He laughed. "Very good, my dear. I was wondering how I was going to introduce the subject, but you've done it for me."

"What subject?"

"What indeed. Are we going to play dumb now?"

"Wearen't going to play anything.You'regoing to leave this room."

Of course he didn't. That would have been too much to hope for. He sat back, leaning on one elbow, infuriating her with his quiet scrutiny.

Suddenly he leaned forward and snatched her nightcap away. "That's better." He twirled the cap on his finger as he gazed at the red-gold locks scattered about her shoulders. "You know how I love your hair.

I suppose you hid it just to annoy me?"

"You flatter yourself."

"Maybe," he said softly. "And maybe I've known enough women to know how their minds work when they turn vindictive for some supposed wrong. Cold food, cold shoulders, and cold beds. Well, you've served me up all but the food, but I suppose that will come."

She threw the book at him. He dodged it handily.

"If you want to get violent, sweetheart, you've certainly caught me in the right mood for it. In fact, if I had found Cameron today, I think I'd have shot the bastard first and asked questions later. So don't press your luck."

He said it too quietly for her to take him seriously. She was too caught up in her own enraged passions to realize that she'd never seen Anthony like this. He was calm. He was in control. He was furious. She just didn't know it.

"Will you just get out?" she demanded shrilly. "I'm no' ready to talk to you yet, mon!"

"So I see.'' He threw her nightcap across the room. "But I don't particularly care whether you're ready or not, my dear."

She gasped when he reached for her. Her hands flew up to hold him back. Her action worked only because he allowed it—for the moment.

"Recall the first condition of this marriage, Roslynn. I'm to get you with child, at your own insistence. I agreed to do just that."

"You also agreed to the second condition, and you've done that too. It's the lying that came after that has changed things, mon."

She didn't doubt that he was angry now. It was there in the hard glint of his eyes, the clenched jaw. He was a different man, a frightening man—a fascinating man. He stirred something in her that was primitive, unrecognizable. Shouting she could have dealt with. But this? She didn't know what he would do, what he was capable of, but a part of her wanted to find out.

But Anthony was angry, not crazy. And that spark of desire that flashed in her eyes as she pushed away from him mollified him to a degree. She still wanted him. Even in her fury, she still wanted him. Assured of that, he found he could wait until she got over her pique. It wouldn't be a pleasant wait, but he wasn't about to have her crying rape come morning, putting him right back where he started, only with another grudge for her to hold against him.

"You really should have pinched your nose, my dear. I might have believed that."

Roslynn blinked, doubting her ears. "Oh!"

She shoved against him with all her might. He obliged her by leaving the bed. But his smile was tight as he stared down at her.

"I've been patient, but I give you fair warning. A man's patience is a fickle thing. It shouldn't be tested too often, especially when he's got nothing to apologize for and nothing to feel guilty about—yet."

"Hah!"

Anthony ignored that as he walked to the door. "It might help if you told me how long you intend to punish me."

"I'm not punishing you," she insisted stonily.

"Aren't you, sweetheart?" He turned to chill her with a parting shot. "Well, just remember that two can play this game."

What he might have meant by that bothered Roslynn for the rest of the night.

Chapter Twenty-nine

Ajab. Another jab. A left hook, followed by a right cross. The man was down, out cold, and Anthony stood back, swearing because it was over too quickly.

Knighton tossed a towel in his face, swearing too as he jumped into the ring to examine Anthony's partner. "Jesus, Malory! No wonder Billy tried to beg off today after he got one look at you. I always say the ring's a nice place to work out frustrations, but not for you."

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