Tender Rebel Page 35

"Get into bed—my bed. Until you conceive, you will sleep there."

The cold tone broke into her euphoria, shocking her. She turned around to see his expression was bland, his cobalt eyes opaque, making her wonder if her ears had deceived her. Then he looked away, as if he had dismissed her from his mind, while he calmly closed his trousers. And it finally dawned on her that he hadn't removed them. He hadn't even unbelted his robe. For that matter, she was still wearing her negligee.

Tears gathered in her eyes. Anthony looked up to see them, and his face transformed with fury.

"Don't!" he snarled. "Or so help me, I'll blister your backside. You got exactly what you came in here for."

"That's no' true!" she cried.

"Isn't it? Did you expect more when you put desire on a time schedule?"

She turned her back on him so he wouldn't see the tears fall and took refuge in his bed. Much as she wanted to return to her own room at that moment, she didn't dare put it to the test, not in his present mood. But shame washed over her, keeping the tears pouring. He was right. She had come in here thinking he would make love to her as he had before. That she got something entirely different was no more than she deserved. And to her further shame, she had actually experienced pleasure from it.

She had been so sure she had made the right decision. Ah, God, why hadn't she listened to Nettie? Why was she always so self-centered, never considering anyone else's feelings but her own? If Anthony had come to her with the same proposal, that she share his bed only until she conceived, then he wanted nothing more to do with her, she would have been destroyed and thought him the most callous, cruel…

ah, God, what must he think of her now?Shewouldn't have agreed to such an outrageous suggestion. She would have been horribly insulted, and yes, furious, just as he was.

At least he didn't love her. She would hate to think what he would be feeling now if he did. But he did feel other things for her, desire, jealousy, possessiveness…

Roslynn's eyes rounded with the startling realization that those particular feelings all accompanied love.

But he had said he didn't love her! No, he had said it was too soon to speak of love. But he'd never corrected her when she'd mentioned that he didn't love her. He couldn't love her. But what if he did? For that matter, what if he were telling the truth and he hadn't been unfaithful? If that were so, then her actions since they had married would be unforgivable. No—no! She couldn't be wrong about everything!

She sat up to see him still in the chair, his brandy snifter in hand again. "Anthony?"

He didn't glance her way, but his voice was terse, bitter. "Go to sleep, Roslynn. We will breed again at my convenience, not yours."

She flinched, lying back down again. Did he really think she had called him to invite him to "breed"

again? No, he was just being nasty, and she couldn't blame him. She would undoubtedly have to put up with a lot more nastiness too, because she couldn't think for the moment how to get out of this latest bargain she had struck with him.

But she didn't sleep. And Anthony didn't come to bed.

Chapter Thirty-seven

Itwas only half past seven when Roslynn hurried downstairs the next morning. Her cheeks were still blooming with color from the mortifying experience of having come face-to-face with James as she sneaked out of Anthony's room earlier, wearing only her revealing negligee. Still wearing his evening clothes, and still looking impeccable for that matter, he had obviously just come home from a night's carousing and was just opening the door to his room down the corridor when Roslynn saw him and he saw her. And his eyes made sure that he sawallof her, moving slowly down her frame, then maddeningly back up, before one infuriating brow crooked in amused inquiry.

Hell's teeth, she had been embarrassed, and, face flaming, she had shot immediately into her own room and soundly closed the door, cringing to hear James' hearty laughter before he entered his own room.

She had wanted nothing more than to crawl under the covers on her bed and never come out. It was one thing for James to think that she had made up with Anthony and was sharing his bed again, but quite another for him to see that that wasn't the case, that she was still keeping her own quarters, separate from his. What must James think? She shouldn't care. She had too many other problems on her mind to worry about what Anthony's brother thought of her curious behavior.

One of those problems was finding the bills from all her recent purchases before Anthony did. She realized now how childish was her desire to cause him penury just for spite. It was utterly contemptible for a woman her age to resort to such ploys. And besides, he was too angry with her now for her to risk antagonizing him further if he discovered the enormous amount of money she had spent, all in his name.

She didn't have much time. Though she had left Anthony still sleeping in the chair he had never left last night, he always rose early for his morning ride. She wanted to be out of the house before he came down.

Now that it was safe to leave, with Geordie no longer a worry, she could go to the bank and then personally take care of each of those bills. By the time she had to face Anthony again, she would at least have a clear conscience about that. Then she could consider how to get out of the horrible bargain she had made with him without sacrificing her pride or revealing that she still hadn't forgiven him for his lies.

As far as she could see, it was going to be impossible to make amends to him without her pride suffering in some way. She had already spent half the night on the problem, with no solution forthcoming.

She carried her reticule and bonnet still in her hands and dropped them into a chair in Anthony's study as she went to search his desk. Her short spencer jacket in brown with a gold weave and the sorrel-brown dress she wore were sedate enough for doing business, and for her mood, which was bordering on depression, and desperation, to see her way out of the hole she was afraid she had dug too deep.

The first drawer contained ledgers and account books, the second personal correspondence she didn't even glance through. In the third drawer she found what she was looking for, more than what she was looking for. It was stuffed full of bills, some opened, some not. Typical of the gentry, and what she had been counting on. Bills tended to be ignored, sometimes for months, sometimes indefinitely, usually at least until they were ready to be paid. Hers hadn't even been opened, as she found to her relief when she recognized the names of the five merchants she had dealt with.

But this time Roslynn couldn't resist glancing through the contents of the drawer. A bill for five hundred pounds from a tailor didn't surprise her; one for two thousand from a jeweler made her brows rise.

Another for thirty thousand to a Squire Simmons fairly boggled her eyes, and it didn't even say what it was for! And those were only three creditors of at least twenty bills that she could see piled in the drawer!

Was Anthony already in debt? Hell's teeth, and she had planned to add to it substantially. He would have gone through the roof if he had opened her bills. Thank God he was typical of his class and had just stuffed the things away to be ignored until a later day.

While she was at the bank, she would have to see about having the funds due him from her marriage contract transferred to an account for him and arrange to have the allotted amount added each month.

Then she would have to go through the unpleasant task of explaining about the money, for if she didn't tell him, he would never know it was available. And this wasnotthe time to talk of money to him. Another cursed problem to worry about.

"Hello, there!"

Roslynn jumped and hastily crumpled the bills in her hand and stuffed them in her skirt pocket, which was, fortunately, below the level of the desk, so Jeremy couldn't see what she was doing. At least it was only he. If it had been Anthony who had caught her behind his desk, she would have had no excuse.

With Jeremy, she didn't need one, but was still nervous from the start he had given her.

"You're up early," she pointed out, coming around the desk to get her bonnet and tie it on.

"Derek's picking me up. We're off to a wild party in the country that could last for days."

His excitement fairly bubbled over. God, how she wished she had known Anthony when he was this young and probably looked exactly as Jeremy did now, they were so close in resemblance. But she doubted Anthony had ever been this transparent, even at the tender age of seventeen.

"Does your father know?"

" 'Course he does."

This was said too quickly, and Roslynn felt her maternal instincts rise unexpectedly. "Just what do you mean, wild?"

Jeremy winked at her, full of high spirits. "There's to be no ladies, if you get my drift, but lots of women."

"Does your father know aboutthat?"

He laughed at her look of censure. "Said he might stop by himself."

Roslynn felt another blush coming on. If it was all right with his father, who was she to say otherwise?

The lad was certainly old enough to… well, James must think him old enough. But no son of hers would be cavorting with women at seventeen. She would see to that—if she ever had a son.

She sighed, picking up her reticule. "Well, have a—" No, she wouldn't wish him a good time. She just couldn't condone what he was off to do at his age, even if he did look a full-grown man already. "I'll see you when you return, I suppose."

"You're going out?" he asked in sudden concern, her bonnet making that obvious. "Is it safe?"

"Perfectly." She smiled. "Your uncle took care of everything."

"You need a ride, then? Derek will be here shortly."

"No, I have a carriage waiting and one of the footmen is accompanying me, though I'm only going to the bank. Be good, Jeremy," she said in parting, to his chagrin.

It wasn't that short a ride to the bank, but to Roslynn's irritation, she was still too early. She hadn't even thought of the time in her impatience to be out of the house. Rather than just sit there, she had the driver slowly round the block several times, until the bank was finally open.

Her business took just under an hour, longer than she had expected because of opening the account for Anthony. A hundred thousand pounds' lump sum, plus another twenty each month as per her contract, ought to help if he was as deep in debt as she thought. Whether he would appreciate this dowry of hers was another matter. Most men would. She just wasn't sure Anthony was one of them.

Coming out of the bank, Roslynn was distracted, as her driver and the accompanying footman were, by the sight of two men engaged in fisticuffs up the street, something one might expect to see down by the waterfront, not here…

She didn't finish the thought. An arm came around her waist from behind, cutting off her breath, and something hard and sharp poked in her side.

"No funny stuff this time, m'lady, or I'll let ye see just 'ow sharp this 'ere sticker be."

She said not a word. She was at first too surprised to, then toa afraid when she realized what his

"sticker" was. In broad daylight, right in front of a bank—this was incredible. And her carriage was right there, not five feet away. But she was being led behind it while the fight in front of it was still claiming everyone's attention. Had that been planned as a distraction? Hell's teeth, if this was Geordie's doing—

but it couldn't be. He had been warned off, violently. He wouldn't dare—would he?

She was shoved into an old coach, one with dark shades over the windows, and the fellow closed the door behind them after following her in. She started to get up off the floor, but a rough hand shoved her back down.

"Give me no trouble, m'lady, an' this'll go real easy fer ye," he said as he stuffed a cloth in her mouth, then quickly tied her hands behind her back. He looked down at his handiwork, noticed her feet, and decided to take no chances, whipping a rope around her ankles. His chuckle was ugly as he plucked her dirk out of her boot. "Ye won't be gettin' another chance to use this on me brother."

Roslynn groaned inwardly, hearing that. So he was one of the men from her last attempted abduction,

Geordie's men. Her cousin must be insane to still try and take her. He knew she was married. What the devil did he think he was doing? She stiffened, the answer coming to her. The only thing he could want with her now was revenge for her having eluded his well-planned trap.

The fellow left the coach, left her lying on the floor. A few moments later the old vehicle started to move.

Roslynn turned over on her side to try and sit up. The gag in her mouth hadn't been secured, and she frantically worked with her tongue to push it out. She had almost succeeded when the coach slowed down and she heard the driver shout, "That's enough, Tom!"

A second later the door opened and another fellow jumped inside the coach. She recognized this one as the footpad she had taken a chunk out of with her dirk. His lip was bleeding, and he was out of breath.

So the distractionhadbeen arranged. This was one of the pugilists, who had probably picked a fight with a stranger just so no one would notice when the other fellow led her away. And she had gone along willy-nilly, with a knife pricking her side, not making a single protest.

The fellow, Tom, was grinning at her as he lifted her up and set her on the seat across from him. He tucked her gag back in her mouth too, shaking his head at her in an amused way. At least he wasn't vengeful for the hurt she had caused him the last time, or he didn't seem to be. He was studying her and continued grinning. Finally he laughed.

"God, ye're a bleedin' beauty close up, ye are. Too good fer the likes o' that bastard what's payin' us, I'd say." She tried to speak through the gag, uselessly. "None o' that, now. Thought we'd never get ye, but

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