The Magic of You Page 2

They weren't all so terrible, those

Americans. Derek and Jeremy had even taken the two younger Anderson brothers out on the town with them while they were in London. And they'd gotten along famously, at least with Drew Anderson, who was the devil-may-care brother. Boyd, the youngest, had been too serious-minded to enjoy himself as much as the rest of them had. But it was one brother in particular whom James really objected to, the one who'd been all for hanging James when they had him at their mercy in America last year. That one James was never going to like, no matter what.

"I'm bloody well glad I won't be living in your household this coming month," Derek remarked to Jeremy.

Jeremy shot his cousin a grin. "Oh, I don't know. It's going to be damned interesting around there, if you ask me. I for one don't intend to miss a single minute of it."

Chapter 2

Across London in the newly purchased town house in Berkeley Square, Georgina and James Malory had mutually agreed to set aside the subject of the impending arrival of her brothers, at least for the remainder of the 15 night, since it was a subject neither of them could agree on, and it was doubtful they ever would. In all fairness, Georgina understood her husband's sentiments.

After all, her brothers had trounced him thoroughly and locked him in a cellar. The angriest of the lot, Warren, would have cheerfully hung James if he'd had his way, using the excuse that James was the pirate who had attacked two of their Skylark ships, which was perfectly true, but beside the point.

Warren had only used that as his explanation, however, when the real reason he'd wanted to put an everlasting end to James Malory was because James had compromised Georgina and publicly announced that fact at a gathering that had included half of their hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Yes, Warren was much to blame for the animosity that still existed between her husband and her brothers. But James was not faultless either; he had, in fact, instigated all of the original hostility with his acerbic tongue. And come to find out, after he'd carted her off to England, that it had all been deliberate on his part, to get her brothers to force

him to marry her, which they'd done quick enough; but that had not put an end to the talk of hanging, at least not from Warren.

And yet she understood Warren's side of it, too. Her brothers had despised the English even before the War of 1812, because of the English blockade of Europe that had cost the Skylark line so many of their established trade routes. Then there were also the numerous Skylark ships that had been stopped and boarded when the English were arbitrarily searching for deserters to fill their ranks. Warren bore a small scar on his left cheek from one of those forced boardings, when the English had insisted on confiscating several of his crew and he'd tried to prevent it.

No, none of her brothers bore any love for the English, and the war had just made those sentiments worse. So it was no wonder they felt that James Malory, an English viscount, once the most notorious rake in London, and an ex-pirate, wasn't good enough for their only sister. If she didn't love her husband to distraction, they would never have left her in his care when they finally located them in London. And James knew that, which was just another reason he'd never be completely amicable to her brothers. 17

But she and James weren't going to speak of it anymore tonight. It was a very touchy subject just now, and James and Georgina had learned to keep touchy subjects out of the bedroom. Not that they couldn't have a rousing fight in that particular room, or in any other room for that matter. But in the bedroom they tended to get distracted, which sort of took the steam out of a good argument.

They'd just finished being distracted, very pleasantly so, and James was still holding Georgina in his arms and every so often nibbling on a patch of bare skin, which promised they would soon be distracted again.

She found it amusing, outrageously funny actually, that James and his brother Anthony, both reformed rakes of the worst sort, both told to abstain from lovemaking in the last stages of their wives' pregnancies, both found it a delightful joke to let it be assumed by friend and family alike that they were following doctor's orders, but abhorring the deprivation.

Even James's son, Jeremy, had been fooled and was heard to offer the supportive words, "Well, hell's bells, what's two weeks

when we used to be at sea for much longer between ports?"

What was funniest about that was that Jeremy, fast following in his father's footsteps, ought to know better. He should have realized that two such masters of all things sensual, as both James and Anthony were, would know how to get around the doctor's dictate to satisfy themselves and their wives in other ways.

James had enjoyed the pretense, however, of appearing touchy in the extreme, just as Anthony had before him, at least until the letter arrived from America. Now there was no pretense at all to James's black mood, which no one was immune to, not when his satirical wit could lacerate so indiscriminately and with such deadly accuracy. Georgina had felt a few barbs herself, but she'd long ago figured out the perfect way to retaliate, by not retaliating at all, which drove her dear husband mad with vexation.

He wasn't vexed at the moment. He wasn't even thinking of the impending arrival of his in-laws, which would have totally destroyed his presently mellow mood. James was a man most happy and content when his little George was within

reaching distance, and right now she was very 19 accessible. His hands idly roamed, as did his lips, as his thoughts drifted back over the evening and the ball they'd attended.

A bloody ball, something he wouldn't have been caught dead at before he married, yet he supposed he had to make some allowances to the matrimonial state. The elders, as he and Anthony called their older brothers, had insisted he attend, though that wouldn't have done the trick, since he never had obeyed their dictates and wasn't about to start now. But Georgina had insisted, too, and that was all it took. He did so love pleasing her.

Then come to find he'd actually enjoyed himself, though that had had a lot to do with watching Anthony hem and haw and crack disparaging remarks about each and every young cockerel who danced attendance on their niece Amy, especially after Anthony had told him earlier, "I'll leave this one to you, old man, since you weren't around for Reggie's come-out. Fair's fair, after all, and Reggie caused me worry enough to last a lifetime, particularly after she set her heart on that bounder Eden. She wouldn't even let me shoot the

fellow, more's the pity, and now it's too late, since she married him."

James had other reasons to dislike Nicholas Eden, than Reggie's having married the fellow, but that was another story. She claimed to have fallen in love with him because he so reminded her of her dearest uncles, Anthony and James, which only made it worse in their book, because anyone like them just wasn't good enough for their Reggie. But neither James nor Anthony could find fault with his treatment of Reggie, at least notnow, though he'd really made a muck of it in the first year of their marriage. But now Nicholas was an ideal husband. That they'd never actually like the chap was a matter of principle.

Now here was another of their nieces making her come-out, and although James and Anthony had had no part in raising any of Eddie's daughters, as they had Reggie, who'd lost both her parents when she was only two, Eddie's youngest daughter, with her coal-black hair and eyes of cobalt blue, so resembled Reggie that they could have been sisters. It made a bloody damn difference. It certainly had stirred up Anthony's protective instincts, though he'd tried to deny

it. And James hadn't particularly 21 liked what he'd felt himself while viewing the dandies and young rakehells who'd fallen all over themselves to gain Amy's attention. In fact, he had promptly changed his mind about hoping Georgina would give him a daughter as delightfully precious as Anthony and Roslynn's little Judith.

"You awake, George?" James asked in a lazy tone.

"Me and baby."

He sat up, both hands moving to the large mound of her belly for a gentle message. When the next kick came, it pressed right into his palm. Their eyes met and they grinned at each other. It never failed to thrill James clear to his soul, the feel of his baby moving inside his wife.

"That was a mild one," she told him.

His grin got wider. "Then he'll be ready for the ring at an early age."

"He? I thought you wanted a girl."

He snorted. "Changed my mind after tonight. I'll leave the worrying over daughters to Tony and Eddie boy."

Georgina smiled, knowing her husband so well she knew exactly what was on his mind. "Amy was exceptionally lovely tonight, wasn't she?"

He didn't answer that, but said instead, "What I want to know is, how the deuce did I miss it, when she's been over here lately more'n she is at home?"

"You didn't miss how lovely she is; you just missed how lovely she is," Georgina said with meaning. "As her uncle, you weren't supposed to notice that she'd filled out in all the right places, especially when Charlotte has had her wrapped up in those girlish, high-necked dresses right to the bitter end."

His green eyes widened on another thought. "Good God, you don't think Jeremy's noticed, d'you, and that's why he's been so agreeable about escorting her about?"

Georgina burst out laughing, tried to swat him, but couldn't quite reach him over the mound of her belly.

"You're impossible, James. Why do you keep attributing these lecherous inclinations to that sweet boy?

He's only eighteen, for God's sake."

Up went the single golden brow, an affectation

of his that she used to hate, but now was so 23 endearing to her. "Sweet?" he said. "My son? And eighteen going on thirty is what that scamp is."

She would allow that Jeremy looked older than his age since he had gained his uncle Tony's height, which put him a few inches taller than his father, and James's broadness of chest, which made him quite formidable compared with other young men his age. But she wasn't going to mention that to his father, who was plumped-up proud enough about the boy.

"Well, you needn't worry about Jeremy and Amy. I happen to know they've become the best of friends.

But then, they're of an age, you know. She'll be eighteen herself in a few weeks. I'm just surprised that Charlotte didn't make her wait those extra few weeks before her official come-out."

"That would have been Eddie boy's doing. He's a soft touch where his girls are concerned, which, come to think of it, isn't what Amy needs right now."

Georgina did a little brow raising herself. "Are you going to take a personal interest in this niece, too?"

"Not bloody likely," he replied in one of

his drier tones. "Boys are my specialty, don't you know, and I'm going to be enjoying my newest son too much to be worrying about Eddie's youngest daughter."

Georgina doubted that, for she'd heard how seriously he'd taken the raising of Reggie, that when denied his fair share of time with her during his pirating days, he'd up and kidnapped the girl for several months on the high seas, which had got him disowned by his brothers for a number of years. But Reggie was the favorite niece, due to her being more like a daughter to them all, so maybe James and Anthony would leave Amy to her own father's care and worry, since Edward had managed just fine with his other four children ... Not bloody likely.

"Now that you've changed your mind about having a daughter, what if we have one anyway?"

He placed a kiss in the center of her belly and grinned up at her, though his tone was as droll as it could get. "I will endeavor to persevere, George. Depend upon it."

She'd spend a great deal of time in bed while he endeavored to get it right the second time around, that she could depend upon.

25

Chapter 3

Just one block north of Berkeley Square, Amy Malory was finally preparing for bed. In the mirror at her vanity, where she sat brushing out her long black hair, she watched her mother, Charlotte, flit about the room, helping old Agnes put away Amy's finery, clucking over a rent stocking, a scuffed shoe, the smudged pink evening gloves.

She'd been meaning to talk to her father about getting her own maid. Both her older sisters, Clare and Diana, had had their own, and had taken them with them when they left home to live with their new husbands. But Amy had always had to share someone else's maid, and just now the only one left was old Agnes, who'd been with Charlotte since she was a child. Amy wanted someone who wasn't so set in her ways, who didn't do as much scolding and bossing as she did maiding. It was high time and ... and Amy couldn't believe she was thinking about trifles when she'd just had the most exciting day of her life.

Actually, there had been one other day even more

exciting, a day she was never going to forget, a day she'd recalled again and again these past six months since it had occurred. It was the day she'd met Georgina Malory's brothers and made the auspicious decision, quite shamelessly, to marry one of them. Nor had she changed her mind in the months since.

She just hadn't been able to figure out how she was going to accomplish her goal when the man she wanted had sailed back to America and she hadn't seen him again.

It was ironic that what had made today most special for her, aside from the fact that she'd been waiting forever for this chance to join the adult world --and her come-out had been a resounding success-- was overhearing Aunt George and Uncle James discussing, or more to the point, arguing about, the letter informing them that all five of her aunt's brothers were returning to England for the birth of her first child.

News like that had truly put the cream on the top of Amy's day.

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