The Magic of You Page 23

enough.

"If you can't keep your private inclinations out of the lesson, Malory, you can stop right now. I should have known your showing up today had an ulterior purpose."

"But man learns from experience, don't you know," Anthony replied innocently.

"Man also learns by repetition, memorization, and a number of other less painful means."

"Oh, very well," Anthony grumbled. "I

suppose I can leave the fun part to my 283 brother. Back to basics, then, Anderson."

Warren raised his fists again cautiously, but at least this Malory was rather good at his word. The lesson was still grueling in the extreme, but it was back to teaching, rather than showing.

When Warren finally reached for a towel, he was done in. He had planned to look for a new hotel this afternoon, but decided it could wait for another day. What he needed was a bed and a bath, he didn't care in which order. What he didn't need was Anthony's chipper conversation, though he began innocently enough.

"How is the new office coming along?"

"The painters finish up tomorrow."

"Know a man who'd make a splendid manager," Anthony volunteered.

"So I can leave the sooner?" Warren guessed accurately. "Sorry, but Clinton decided at the last minute that we'd at least start with an American in charge, so I'm stuck until they return with one."

"That mean you're going to open the office yourself as soon as it's habitable?"

"That's the idea."

"Somehow I can't picture you behind a desk cluttered with invoices and such. One with a logbook at its center, yes, but not with all that boring business paraphernalia littered about. But I take it you've done it before."

"We've all had stints behind that office desk, even Georgie. It was something our father required of each of us, to learn both sides of the business."

"You don't say." Anthony actually sounded impressed, only to ruin it by adding, "But I'd wager you didn't like it one little bit."

That was perfectly true, though Warren had never confided that fact to anyone before, and wasn't going to now. "What's your point, Sir Anthony?"

Anthony shrugged. "No point, old man. I was just wondering why you even bother to open the London office until you've got your manager for it. Why not leave it closed for the time being?"

"Because new schedules have already gone out from the main office to all our captains. Skylark ships will begin arriving this month. They'll need cargoes lined up for them, merchants lined up to bid--was

"Yes, yes, I'm sure the whole process is fascinating," Anthony cut in impatiently. "But you can't have offices in every

port your ships sail into." 285

"Along our major trade routes we do."

"And what of ports not along those particular routes? Surely your captains have experience in acquiring cargoes on their own."

Warren donned his shirt and coat, every ache and muscle screaming for him to slow down. He didn't.

He'd heard enough already to guess where Anthony was leading, and he wanted an end to it.

"Let's just cut to the sum and substance of this little discussion, shall we?" he suggested. "I'm not leaving your country any time soon. That's been established. It's not going to change. Now, I've given you and your brother all the assurances I can about your niece. I'm even avoiding my sister so I can avoid her.

What more do you want?"

With those dark, satanic looks, Anthony could make his scowl downright chilling when he turned as serious as he did now. "We don't want to see the chit get hurt, Anderson. We really wouldn't like that."

Warren drew the wrong conclusion. "You aren't suggesting I marry her?" he asked, appalled.

"Good God, never think so," Anthony was quick

to assure him, just as appalled by that idea. "But it stands to reason, don't it, that the sooner you're gone, the sooner she forgets about you."

And the sooner Warren could forget about her. "I'd like nothing better, but I can't."

Anthony gave up for the moment, grumbling, "Why the bloody hell did you have to be left behind?"

Warren offered a shrug. "None of us wanted the task, but I volunteered for it."

"What the deuce for?"

Warren was damned if he knew. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

"Well, you'd best hope that decision doesn't come back to haunt you."

It was Anthony's last remarks that did the haunting as Warren rode back to the Albany. Why had he made that decision? It wasn't at all like him. It had surprised every one of his brothers. And Amy had already declared herself, though only minutes before. Perhaps he hadn't believed her then. Perhaps he had.

He was still worrying over it as he walked down the hallway toward his room and came face-to-face with the Chinese warlord whom he'd

last seen in a dingy gambling den in 287 Canton, and who'd later sent two dozen of his minions after Clinton and Warren with the express intent of ending their days. Zhang Yat-sen in London? Impossible, yet here he was, dressed in his formal mandarin silk robes, which he always wore to do business or travel in.

Warren's shock wore off just as Zhang's began, the man finally recognizing Warren, too. Instantly, Zhang reached for a sword that wasn't there. Warren was glad it wasn't there, since swords were not his specialty by any means. And considering that wherever Yat-sen went, his deadly bodyguards weren't far behind, Warren decided it would be prudent to get the hell out of there, which was exactly what he did.

He'd have to send someone back to settle his bill and collect his things, but he was damned if he was returning to the Albany with that mad Chinaman in residence.

Christ, he still couldn't believe Zhang Yat-sen was in London. The man despised foreigners, did business with them in Canton only because it was highly profitable, had nothing to do with them otherwise. And for those few he dealt with, his contempt was manifest. So why would he subject himself to thousands of them by leaving the isolation of his small world where his power was absolute--as long as it didn't draw the Emperor's notice?

Only a fabulous amount of money could have lured him here--or a personal matter. And Warren could be as modest as he liked, but he had the unpleasant feeling that that damned antique vase he and Clinton had come away with from Canton was that personal matter.

A family heirloom, Zhang had called it when he'd offered it as the stakes in the game of chance he and Warren had played. Warren had covered the bet with his ship, which was what Zhang had been after and what had led Zhang into that gambling den, which he would never have frequented otherwise. Zhang wanted Warren's ship for two reasons: one, because he had made the decision to have his own fleet of merchantmen so he wouldn't have to dealpersonally with foreigners anymore; and two, because he had a personal dislike for Warren, who never bothered to be deferential enough in his presence, and he hoped the loss of Warren's ship would end Warren's trips to Canton.

Zhang lost the vase, however, and if Warren hadn't been a bit drunk that night, he might have noticed that the loss didn't affect 289 Zhang in the least, because he fully expected to have his property back by morning--along with Warren's head, most likely. He'd gotten neither, Warren and Clinton's crews coming to their rescue that night on the docks. But they'd made a powerful enemy in the bargain, which put an abrupt end to their lucrative China trade route.

Warren and Clinton, who'd most often taken that route, didn't particularly regret its loss. Those voyages had been too long in length, keeping them away from home for years at a time. Warren didn't particularly like the English trade that was going to take its place, either--the war years and the bitterness engendered from them were hard to forget, as was the scar on his cheek from a British saber. But Georgina was here--unfortunately--and as long as they were all going to be visiting her periodically, anyway, they might as well take advantage of the profits to be made here.

Warren had been outvoted, at any rate, on setting up a London office. But he'd been downright stupid to volunteer to stay behind to get it started. And now he had a serious enemy in London--besides his in-laws--who would take

infinite pleasure in chopping his head off. As his brother-in-law would say, bloody hell.

Chapter 27

Amy was getting rather frantic. Nearly a week had gone by since she had last seen Warren at that momentous ball. She'd been so certain he wouldn't stay away this time, but that was exactly what he was doing. And Uncle James hadn't said another word to her about him. Neither had Georgina. Those two were both going about their business as if they had no further concerns over her determination to win Warren, which worried Amy no end. Did they know something she didn't? Had Warren changed his plans and left England already?

The last worry took her straight to Warren's sister to demand, "Where is he? Have you heard from him?

Has his ship sailed?"

Georgina was going over the household accounts in her sitting room. She had resumed most of her duties by now, which only left Amy with more time to worry.

She put down her pen now and inquired, "I assume you mean Warren?" Amy just glowered in answer. "Yes, that was a silly question, 291 wasn't it? And no, Warren hasn't sailed yet. He's keeping quite busy, though, hiring and training staff for the new office."

That sounded reasonable, more than reasonable. "Just work? Nothing else?"

"What did you think?"

"That he was avoiding me."

"I'm sorry," Georgina said. "But he probably is doing that as well."

"Have you heard from him?"

"He sends a note by every so often."

Georgina would have liked to say more, to offer some hope, but that rascal brother of hers was avoiding her as well. She was in agreement now that Amy was the perfect choice for Warren, but she probably shouldn't have admitted that to James. His reaction hadn't been pleasant. In fact, he'd told her that if she helped Amy in any way, he'd divorce her. Not that she believed that for a minute, but for him to say it, she figured he'd be angrier with her than she cared to experience if she went against him on this.

So for the time being, she wasn't going to do anything. Amy would have to continue the campaign as she'd

begun, on her own. But Georgina's prayers were with her.

"Where is the new Skylark office, anyway?" Amy suddenly asked.

"Near the docks, where it's not safe for you to go, so don't even think about it."

Actually, Amy didn't want to see Warren in that environment, with his employees about. She'd merely been curious. But Georgina's answer got her thinking along other lines.

Georgina, however, noted her thoughtful look. "You aren't to go there, Amy," she stressed.

"I won't."

"You promise?"

"Absolutely."

But Amy wasn't going to promise not to seek Warren out elsewhere, and that left only one place she knew of where to find him: his hotel. Fortunately, there was no danger in her going there, unlike her excursion to The Hell and Hound. Warren was staying at a respectable hotel in a very respectable part of town. Amy and her mother had even had lunch there on more than one occasion.

Of course, Amy had never been there alone or in the evening, which was the logical time she could hope to find Warren there. But there was still nothing 293 scandalous in that. Her problem would be sneaking in and out of the house again, especially now that Georgina was no longer spending her evenings confined to her bedroom.

Actually, there was one other problem. She couldn't remember what his room number was. Drew had mentioned it the night they had all come to dinner, when he'd teased Boyd about forgetting his own number. They all had had rooms on the second floor. Well, if she couldn't recall it by the time she got there, she'd just have to knock on every door. Asking at the desk was out of the question, as that would turn the seemingly innocent into the positively scandalous.

Amy wasted no time in agonizing over whether or not she should go. The idea had taken hold and wouldn't be dismissed. But she gave considerable thought to what she was going to say to Warren when she showed up at his door. A simple hello just wouldn't do. "I figured you were due for another adventure," had some merit, though she leaned more toward simple honesty in reminding him that she'd

promised to come to him if he continued to completely ignore her.

She also devoted a great deal of time to her

appearance, but then, she had a lot of time to kill, waiting for her aunt and uncle to retire. The day dress with matching spencer of an aqua hue wasn't at all flashy to draw notice to her, but she removed the lace insert at the bodice, giving the dress a deeper dicolletage than she usually sported. Certainly nothing Warren hadn't seen before, but he'd never seen it on her.

The extra ammunition was called for, in her opinion. Warren wasn't likely to agree, but she had to do something to crack his stubborn streak. He did want her. She just had to make him forget for a while that marriage was involved. 'Course, her preparations would prove useless if she couldn't get inside his room, and there was a very real possibility that he'd simply slam the door shut once he saw her. She wondered if she ought to wear her riding boots and stick her foot in the door ...

She arrived at the Albany Hotel just after one in the morning. Warren had certainly had enough time to do any tomcatting he was going to do during the evening, and to be in bed by now. An unpleasant thought coupled with a pleasant one--she pushed both from her mind and hurried up the stairs to the second

Prev Next