The Magic of You Page 3

He was coming back.

She'd have her chance this time to dazzle him with her wit and charm, to make him notice her, because he certainly hadn't noticed her the first time around. He likely didn't even remember meeting her

that one time, but why should he? She'd been 27 tongue-tied and bowled over by what he'd made her feel, so she certainly hadn't been at her most vivacious.

The fact was that Amy had matured a number of years ago in both body and mind, so this waiting to be taken seriously by the adults in her world had been pure frustration for her, and patience was not one of her virtues. She could be quite bold when she chose, and mischievously direct. She wasn't the least bit shy or coy, as she was supposed to be. And she was protective of her family, at least, by keeping her shamelessly daring nature more or less to herself so she wouldn't disappoint them with her brazenness.

Brazen behavior was well and fine for the rakes in the family--and the Malorys had more than their fair share of those--but quite unsuitable for the females. Jeremy had begun to suspect, but then, she was inordinately fond of that particular cousin of hers, and since they had become such close friends, she didn't always conceal her true nature from him.

She wasn't going to conceal her nature from Aunt George's brother either, not this time around. If anything, she was going to be her boldest where

he was concerned--if she didn't get all tongue-tied because of those disturbing feelings again--because of the time element involved. He wasn't coming back to England to stay, merely to visit, so she wouldn't have ample opportunity to work her wiles on him; she'd have very little time a'tall, and from what she'd learned about him, she'd need every single minute of it.

Finding out about her future husband--Amy was nothing if not confident that he would be her husband--

had been a simple matter of becoming chummy with her aunt George, who was only four years her senior. She had begun visiting Georgina when she and Uncle James were still residing with Uncle Tony on Piccadilly. Then, when it was time to start furnishing their new house in Berkeley Square, Amy had volunteered to help with that as well. And with each visit she would subtly steer the conversation around to Georgina's brothers so Georgina would talk about them without Amy having to ask any direct questions.

She hadn't wanted her personal interest known, hadn't wanted to be told she was too young for the man for whom she'd set her cap. She might have been too young then, but she wasn't now. And Georgina, missing her brothers as she 29 did, had been delighted to talk about them, relating childhood incidents and the pranks they'd all played on her, as well as some of the adventures and misadventures they had been involved in since reaching manhood.

Amy had learned that Boyd was the youngest brother at twenty-seven and as serious as an old man.

Drew, at twenty-eight, was a devil-may-care rogue and the charmer of the family. Thomas was thirty-two now and had the patience of a saint. Nothing ever ruffled his feathers, not even Uncle James, who'd given it his best shot. Warren, just turned thirty-six, was the arrogant one, and the cynic of the family. A brooder, Georgina called him, and a cad where women were concerned. And Clinton, the head of the Anderson family at forty-one, was a stern, no-nonsense sort of fellow who sounded very much like

Jason Malory, who was both head of the Malory clan and the third Marquis of Haverston. In fact, those two had hit it off surprisingly well when they'd met, obviously having much in common with so many younger brothers to keep on the straight and narrow.

Amy had been depressed for a while after finding out that, of the five handsome Andersons, and they were all quite exceptional in looks, the one she'd picked was actually the least suitable for her. But then, she hadn't actually picked him. The feelings that he'd stirred in her were what had done it, telling her without the least doubt that he was the one for her. It wasn't as if any of the other brothers had made her feel that way, or any other man for that matter, not even tonight, when she'd had the cream of society's young eligibles clamoring for her notice. And to hear her aunts George and Roslynn reminisce about what they'd felt upon first meeting their husbands, Amy knew what those feelings meant.

There was no help for it, none a'tall. And she was optimistic enough, and certainly confident enough, particularly after her smashing success tonight, to feel that she would have no problems ... well, just a few

--actually, a great many--but they'd all be overcome as long as she had access to the man, and now she would.

"There, now," her mother said as she came up behind Amy to take over the brushing of her hair. "You must be exhausted, and no wonder. I believe you

danced every dance." 31

It would be dawn in another hour, but Amy wasn't tired. She was still too wound up with excitement to be able to sleep. But Charlotte would stay and chat for hours if she confessed that, so she nodded, wanting a little time to herself before exhaustion did take over.

"Knew she'd be a success," Agnes huffed over by the wardrobe, her gray head bobbing up and down.

"Knew she'd put your older girls to shame, Lotte. It's a good thing you got them married off before this one come out. Didn't I tell you so?"

Agnes didn't boss just Amy around. Charlotte got her fair share also, but never complained or thought to put the servant in her place. Her freckles were faded, she was plump as a cherub, and her fingers weren't so nimble anymore, but Agnes had been around for so long she was like family now, and that was that.

Amy sighed to herself. It was fine and well to think of replacing Agnes with her very own maid, but she knew she'd never do it, not when it would hurt the old girl's feelings.

Charlotte was frowning slightly over

Agnes's remarks as she met Amy's eyes in the mirror. She was still a fine-looking woman at forty-one, her brown hair untouched by gray, her brown eyes bequeathed to all her children except Amy, who, like

Anthony, Reggie, and Jeremy, had the black hair and cobalt-blue eyes of an exotic slant that had been passed down by her great-grandmother on the Malory side, who was rumored to have been a Gypsy.

Uncle Jason had told her once in confidence that it wasn't a rumor but was perfectly true. She wasn't certain whether he'd been teasing her or not.

"I suppose your sisters might have been a little envious tonight," Charlotte said, "particularly Clare."

"Clare is too happy with her Walter to remember that it took her two years to find him." And her finickiness, or patience, as it were, had paid off, since Walter was in line for a very hefty title. "What has she to be envious about when she's going to be a duchess, Mother?"

Charlotte grinned. "A good point."

"And although I didn't get to witness it firsthand--was Amy still resented that they'd made her wait until she was almost eighteen, when Diana

had been allowed to come out at only 33 seventeen and a half--"I did hear that Diana hadquite as many young men fawning over her as I did. She just happened to fall in love with the first one who came knocking at the door afterward."

"Perfectly true." Charlotte sighed. "Which reminds me that we'll more than likely be bombarded tomorrow, or rather today, with all those young hopefuls you dazzled at the ball. You really must get some sleep, or you won't last through teatime."

Amy chuckled. "Oh, I'll last, Mother. I'm going to enjoy every minute of the courting ritual, right up until the man I want snatches me up."

"How vulgarly put," Charlotte clucked. "Snatches you up, indeed. You're beginning to sound like James's boy."

"Well, hell's bells, d'you think so?"

Her mother laughed. "Now, stop that. And don't let your father hear you mimicking Jeremy, or he'll have words with his brother about it, and James Malory does not taken well to ridicule, suggestions, or good-natured advice. I swear, to this day I still find it hard to believe that those two are brothers, they're so dissimilar."

"Father isn't like any of his brothers, but I for one like him just the way he is."

"Of course, you would," Charlotte retorted, "as indulgent as he is with you."

"Not always indulgent, or I wouldn't have had to wait--was The rest of the words squeezed out of her as Charlotte bent over and hugged her tight. "That was my doing, sweetheart, and don't begrudge me wanting to hold onto my baby a little while longer. You've all grown up so fast. You're the last, but after tonight's success, I know you'll bèsnatchedùp in no time a'tall by some fine young man. I want that, 'course I do, but not as quickly as it's bound to happen. I'm afraid I'm going to miss you the most when you leave home to marry. Now get some sleep."

The abrupt end of her mother's confession startled Amy, until she realized Charlotte was close to tears, and that was why she hurried out, dragging Agnes with her. Amy sighed, aware of twin feelings of both hopefulness and dread that her mother's words were prophetic. Charlotte was likely to miss her the most if Amy's goal was fulfilled, since she would be moving to America, putting a whole ocean between her and her 35 family, to be with the man of her choice. Until that moment, she hadn't realized that it would have to be that way.

Dratted feelings. Why hadn't they settled on an Englishman instead?

Chapter 4

"Why Judith?" James asked his brother, referring to the name that had been bestowed on his newest niece. "Why not something melodic like Jacqueline?"

They were both in the nursery, where Anthony could be found more often than not when he was home.

Today he had his daughter to himself for a change, since his wife, Roslynn, had gone to visit her friend Lady Frances. Nettie, that harridan of a Scotswoman who had come part and parcel with Roslynn, and who'd arbitrarily taken over the care of little Judith, had vacated the room only upon threat of dire consequences. Anthony had to be a bit heavy-handed in his household at times, or the women in it would walk all over him. James was inclined to think that Roslynn did so anyway.

"Give over," was Anthony's response to James's question. "So you can be your perverse self and call her Jack? Why don't you name yours Jacqueline when she comes along, and then I'll call her Jack?"

"In that case, I'd simply name her Jack to begin with, so there'd be no room for change."

Anthony snorted. "Don't think George would appreciate that."

James sighed, giving up the idea before it took root. "Don't suppose she would."

"Or her brothers," Anthony added to be ornery.

"In that case--was

"You would, wouldn't you?"

"Anything to annoy those boorish louts," James replied with absolute sincerity.

Anthony laughed, which startled Judith, curled in the crook of his arm. She didn't cry, merely waved her hands excitedly. Her father caught one to bring the tiny fingers to his lips, before he glanced up at James again.

They were as different as night and day, these two brothers. Anthony was a bit taller and a lot slimmer, with black hair and blue 37 eyes, while James, like his other two brothers, was big, blond, and with eyes a mellow shade of green. Judith, now, had taken after both of her parents. She was going to have her mother's glorious red-gold hair, but her eyes were already the deep cobalt blue of her father's.

"How long d'you think the Yanks will stay this time?" Anthony asked.

"Too long," was James's irritable reply.

"No more than a couple of weeks, surely."

"One can hope."

Anthony might rib James now about the impending visit of the unwelcome in-laws-- there'd be something wrong with him if he didn't, since both brothers loved nothing more than to bait each other unmercifully--but against a common foe, he'd be standing there right beside his brother. But the Yanks hadn't arrived yet ...

Anthony was still grinning when he casually speculated, "I suppose they'll want to stay with you, now

you've got your own place."

"Bite your tongue. It's bad enough I have to let them in the door. I'd bloody well crack some skulls if I had to see them on a daily basis. Wouldn't be able to help myself."

"Oh, come now, they weren't all that bad. There were a couple of them I got along with splendidly, and you did as well, if you'd fess up to it. And Jason took to Clinton right off. Jeremy and Derek also had a rousing good time with the younger two."

James arched a brow that promised mayhem if Anthony didn't soon drop the subject. "Did anyone get along with Warren?"

"Can't say that we did."

"Nor will we ever."

That should have ended the topic, but Anthony wasn't prone to taking subtle warnings. "They did exactly as you wanted, old man, married you to their little sister--insisted upon it. So when are you going to forgive them for that thrashing they gave you?"

"The thrashing was expected. But Warren crossed the line when he involved my crew, and would have hung the lot of us if he'd had his way."

"Standard reaction when confronted with dastardly pirates," Anthony replied offhandedly.

James took a step toward his needling brother before he recalled the baby in Anthony's arms.

Anthony's grin got wider at 39 James's look of chagrin, his clear realization that any clobbering he'd had a mind to do would have to wait. And Anthony still wasn't done.

"The way I heard it," he said, "you've got the two younger brothers and George to thank that Warren didn't have his way."

"Beside the point ... and we're overdue for a visit to Knighton's Hall, you and I," James added with meaning. "We could both use the exercise."

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