The Magic of You Page 22

Amy dropped all pretenses to say stonily, "But in determination, I'll match anyone in the family."

James groaned inwardly. This was not going very well a'tall.

"Amy--was

"Now, Uncle James, it won't do you a bit of good to go on about this. Since I first met the Anderson brothers six months ago, I've known that Warren is the man for me. It's not a fancy that's going to go away. An Englishman would have

been preferable, certainly, but this has nothing to do with choice, and everything to do with feelings. I believe I'm already in love with Warren."

"Bloody hell," was all James said to that.

"My sentiments exactly. That's what he's going to put me through until he comes around."

"I won't say I'm sorry," James grumbled.

"Didn't think you would." And then she gave him one of her gaminelike grins. "But take heart, Uncle. I'm putting him through much, much worse."

Chapter 25

"Amy and Warren?" Georgina said incredulously.

"You heard me correctly the first time," her husband snapped as he continued to pound the floorboards in their bedroom.

"But Amy and Warren?"

"Exactly, and you might as well know, George, I'm going to kill him if he even looks in her direction again," James promised.

"No, you won't, and let me get this 271 straight. She wants him, not vice versa?"

"Am I not elucidating with crystal clarity? Would you like diagrams?"

"Now, don't take that Malory tone with me, James Malory. I find this a bit more than just mildly shocking, if you must know."

"You think I didn't?"

"But you've had time to digest it--was

"No amount of time would suffice for this bloody dilemma. What the devil am I to tell my brother?"

"Which one?"

He gave her a black look for that bit of deliberate obtuseness. "The one she usually lives with? Her father? Have you got it now?"

She ignored his droll retaliation. "I don't see how that pertains just now. You said she doesn't care if she has permission or not. Though it's not as if this just happened and we could hope it's no more than a temporary fancy. Since she first met him? No wonder she was always prodding me to talk about my brothers."

"So you've contributed to this mess?"

"Quite innocently, I assure you. I really

had no idea, James. And it's still too incredible to believe. Sweet little Amy, in aggressive pursuit of Warren?"

"You needn't dress it up so nicely. She's bloody well trying to seduce the man. She as much as admitted it, and in your brother's words, she's `throwing herself at himèvery time he turns around."

"So why are you so angry at him if he's the innocent bystander here?"

"Because I refuse to believe he's done nothing to encourage the girl. She's too damn confident of succeeding in what she's about."

"The optimism of youth?"

"I'd like to think so, but I don't."

"Then you're saying that she'll--that they'll--that it might actually come to--was

"Well, good God, George, don't chew it to death," he cut in impatiently.

"You think she's going to end up in his bed?"

"Quite so. And what I want to know is, will he marry her if he takes her innocence?"

"With Warren, I don't think that would matter as much as his distaste for marriage."

"Well, at least there's that."

Georgina gasped. "I'm shocked, 273 James. If it comes to that, of course he'll have to marry her. I'll see to it myself if your family won't."

"She won't have him if he's forced."

"Whyever not? That's how I got you, and I'm quite pleased with the bargain."

"Well, she doesn't happen to want him that way, thank God." He stopped pacing suddenly to grin. "So maybe that's the answer. We'll go ahead and force him."

Georgina glared at him. "When he hasn't done anything yet?"

James shrugged that reasoning off. "It's guaranteed he's compromised her in some way. A little coercion can ferret it out."

"Oh, no, you don't. You are not going to beat up on my brother again."

"Just a little bit, George," he tried to cajole her. "He'll survive it."

"Yes, and want your neck in a noose again. Forget it, James."

"You don't think it's poetic justice?"

"When you don't expect it to actually come to a marriage, no, I do not. I think you're just going to have to trust in Warren to continue resisting Amy. She'll have to give up eventually."

"Not bloody likely. She's already got plans to follow him home if it comes to that."

"Run off on her own? Oh, dear, that won't do at all. Would it help if I talk to her? I do know Warren best, after all."

"By all means, but to hear her say it, it won't do any good."

"It won't do a bit of good for you to start in on me, Aunt George," Amy said the next afternoon over

tea.

Georgina leaned back on the sofa where James had deposited his wife before abandoning her to this unpleasant task. Considering she'd seen Amy four times earlier today without once giving any indication that she was aware of Amy's predicament, it was somewhat disconcerting to hear that, when all she'd said was, "Will you pour?"

"You read minds now?"

Amy laughed. "Mind reading? Crystal balls? Magic wands? I've become a regular sorceress of magical feats lately, haven't I?"

"I beg your pardon?" 275

"It doesn't take mind reading to know what's on your mind, when you've been looking at me oddly since this morning, not to mention some very amusing absentmindedness. Now, since I haven't grown two heads overnight, it stands to reason that Uncle James has made a clean breast of it, and it's now your turn to have a go at me. Is that about the gist of it?"

"Sorry, Amy," Georgina said, slightly red-faced. "I didn't realize I was giving you odd looks."

"Oh, I didn't mind. 'Course, Boyd thought it rather strange when you kissed him on the nose and said, Ì'll see you tomorrow.`"

"I didn't!" Georgina gasped. "Did I?"

"What was really amusing was, he tried to remind you three times that he'd be out in the middle of the ocean tomorrow, but you just weren't paying attention. He left here mumbling about the climate driving people daft."

"Oh, stop." Georgina couldn't help laughing. "You're making that up."

"Cross my heart. In fact, it's a good

thing Warren wasn't there to hear him, or he'd set to worrying about it in his all-consuming way and likely have them all turning their ships around to come back tosee if it was the climate, or if your husband was the culprit."

Georgina wasn't quite so amused now. "Is that your way of telling me you think you know Warren as well as I do?"

"Not at all, but he's pretty predictable in his good traits, and caring for you is one of them. Are you going to miss your brothers?" Two of the three ships they'd arrived in were out to sea by now.

"Of course, but I expect they'll be back in a few months with the manager for the London office."

"You couldn't get them to reconsider and hire an Englishman?"

"No."

"Well, Warren will be more amenable to the idea, just so he can set sail himself."

"He's not one to climb the walls when he's landlocked," Georgina said.

"Glad to hear it, but I was referring to his desire to escape me, not to get back to sea."

Georgina's expression turned quite serious.

"Amy, I don't want to see you get 277 hurt."

"Nor will you. My romance is going to have as happy an ending as yours has."

"With my husband and brother at each other's throats, mine hasn't exactly been a bed of roses."

"'Course it has, only with thorns included." Amy grinned. "I prefer daffodils myself."

"What you'll get is snapdragons," Georgina predicted, not with the intention of making Amy double over in laughter, though she had to wait a moment to continue, since that was what the girl did. "I was quite serious."

"I know." Amy was still smiling. "But, you see, he's going to be a pussycat by the time I'm through with him--or should I say pu**y willow?"

Georgina rolled her eyes. "It really does run in the family."

"I'm just trying to lighten the mood, Aunt George. You shouldn't be worrying about this. Your brother's a big boy. He can take care of himself."

"You know very well it's you I'm worried about.

Amy, honey, I know my brother. He won't marry you."

"Not even if he loves me?"

"Well--no--I mean--that might make a difference, but--was

"Don't say it won't happen, Aunt George," Amy cut in. "On this I do have a crystal ball that says anything is possible, and Warren's opening up to let me in is one of those things. 'Course, as stubborn as he is, he'll hold out to the bitter end. I'm expecting it."

"Well, you've got that half right. The end is going to be bitter--for you."

Amy clucked her tongue. "Such dire predictions. I suppose it's fortunate for me that love listens to the heart instead of to advice, however well meant."

"You're suggesting I keep my opinions to myself?" Georgina said a bit stiffly.

"'Course not," Amy quickly assured her. "I'd like to point out, however, that I'm old enough to make my own choices here. It's my life, after all, and my future we're talking about. And if I don't do everything that's possible to win the man I want to share that life with, then it won't be anyone's fault but mine for failing, 279 will it? Now, I'd prefer to go about this courtship in the normal way and let him make all the moves, but you and I both know that's impossible with a man like your brother. So I'm doing it my way, and if it doesn't work, it doesn't, but at least I will have tried."

"That was quite a mouthful," Georgina said carefully.

Amy grinned. "Deplorable, wasn't it?"

"Minx." Georgina grinned back. "I never know when you're serious or not."

"Neither does your brother. Keeps him on his toes, I do assure you."

"All right, answer me this. Why haven't you given up on him by now? I understand he's already rejected you more than once."

Amy waved a dismissive hand at that reminder. "That means nothing."

"What makes you think so?"

"The way he kisses me."

"Kisses you?" Georgina jerked straight upright. "Surely not a real kiss?"

"One hundred percent real."

"Why, that bounder!"

"He couldn't help himself--was

"That scoundrel!"

"I enticed him--was

"The blackguard! He's already compromised you, hasn't he, Amy?"

"Well--if you want to get technical--was

"That settles it. He'll have to marry you," Georgina said with finality.

Amy shot forward herself. "Now wait, I didn't mean that technical, merely that a few situations we found ourselves in could have been misconstrued enough to lead to the most ghastly gossip, but they were all my doing."

"Don't lie for him," Georgina warned, still simmering with indignation.

"I wouldn't." Amy rethought that, and said, "Leastwise not until we're married. Then I would, of course, if it was necessary. But that's beside the point. There won't be any forced marriage here. Didn't Uncle James tell you that?"

"He mentioned it, but it makes no difference if my brother's already--was

"He hasn't--yet. But when he does, and he will--you may depend upon it--it will be between him and me. And besides, Aunt George, I have to be

asked or I don't say yes. It's 281 that simple."

"Nothing is that simple, not where my brother is concerned. Oh, Amy, you really don't know what you're doing." Georgina sighed. "He's such a hard, bitter man. He could never make you happy."

Amy actually laughed. "Come now, Aunt George, you're thinking of him as he is now, but that's not how he's going to be when I'm done with him."

"He's not?"

"'Course he's not. I mean to make him a very happy man. I'm going to put laughter back in his life. Don't you want that for your brother?"

The question threw Georgina off and made her rethink her position. It also brought back to mind that conversation she'd had with Reggie the day after Jacqueline was born, when she'd decided what Warren needed was his own family to worry about. Amy's optimism was suddenly quite catching. If anyone could work that kind of magic on Warren, it would be this vivacious, charmingly mischievous, beautiful girl who had her heart set on giving him the kind of love he needed.

James was going to have a bloody fit, but his wife had just switched sides.

Chapter 26

"Move those legs. Don't just stand there waiting for a broken nose." Warren more or less bounced out of Anthony's reach. "Better, old man, but you have to watch for things like this."

Anthony sprinted to the left. Warren moved accordingly, and still got in the way of a sharp right jab. He blinked rapidly as pain shot up his nose right into his brain. Not quite broken, but damn close. And it wasn't the first punch Anthony had landed unnecessarily, but with deadly accuracy. Warren had had

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