The Magic of You Page 34

"Steven can go to hell for all I care, but you--you should have told me you were available for money, Marianne. I could have matched his price."

The insult struck home, bringing angry color to her cheeks. "How would you know what it's like to be poor and have nothing? You've always had everything you could ask for. I didn't like deceiving you that way. I didn't expect you to be so nice and

fun-loving--at least you used to be. But 423 I'd made the deal. I had to stick with it."

"Yes, for the money," he said in disgust.

"Well, here's something for free, Warren. That young lady you had staying at your house? It was all over town that you'd compromised her but she refused to marry you. And Steven left town on her ship. As I said, he'd been looking for a new way to hurt you. Looks like he may think he's found it."

Chapter 41

Georgina didn't wait to be announced and have Amy join her in the parlor. She marched straight upstairs to the girl's bedroom and, as upset as she was, didn't even knock. "Amy Malory, I cannot believe who I saw you with today. Do you have any idea--do you even know who--how could you possibly go out with that man?"

Amy rolled over on the bed, where she had been looking through the latest fashion plates her mother had brought home. "It's nice to see you, too, Aunt George. And how is little Jack?"

"You can pull that evasive trick with your

uncles, but don't you try it on me, young lady. That was Steven Addington you were with."

"Yes, I know."

"But don't you know who he is?"

"'Course I do," Amy said matter-of-factly. "You told me all about him, if you'll recall. He's the man who married Marianne. They're divorced, by the way."

Georgina's mouth dropped open. "You knew, and still you've been letting him call on you?"

"For the time being."

"But why?" Georgina demanded. "And don't tell me you like the man."

"He's rather handsome, don't you think?"

"Amy!"

"Oh, all right," Amy grouched. "It's quite simple, actually. Steven has been paying me attention, courting me, as it were, since we sailed from Bridgeport. I wondered about it at first, especially since he owned up to knowing about my refusal to marry Warren. How could he know that without knowing the rest?"

"He couldn't."

"Exactly. So why would he pay court to me when he was aware that I'd been compromised?"

"He thought you would be an easy 425 conquest?" Georgina suggested wryly.

"I considered that, but rejected it. No, he wants to marry me."

"What?"

Amy nodded. "Quite so."

"He's asked you?"

"No, but he's hinted that he will. I think he's waiting for Warren to arrive before he does."

"What's Warren got to do with it?"

"Everything. Consider what you told me about the man, how he and Warren were childhood rivals, how they wanted and fought over the same things. Warren wanted Marianne and Steven took her from him.

Steven thinks Warren wants me, so now he wants me, too."

"I suppose that does sound logical, doesn't it?" Georgina allowed.

"But his little spy--was

"What little spy?"

"One of the housemaids in your brother's house --I caught the girl eavesdropping twice during the few days I was in residence. But I'd say she failed to hear everything that day my uncles arrived--she caught only the worst parts. At

least I'm almost positive she didn't hear that Warren really didn't want to marry me."

"Why?"

"Because Steven has expressed sympathy for Warren--the bloody liar--because I didn't find Warren to

my liking. So obviously that is the conclusion he's drawn."

"You didn't correct his assumption?"

"I wasn't sure what he was up to then, so I let him think whatever suited him."

"But why are you going along with it?"

"For Warren."

"I beg your pardon?"

Amy grinned at Georgina's confounded expression and explained, "My way didn't work, Aunt George, my frankness and honesty not the least bit appreciated. So I'm going to try something as old-fashioned as simple jealousy to bring Warren around."

"Oh, God, there won't be anything simple about it if it involves Steven."

"That's the added bonus. I will be giving Warren a reason to challenge the man, so he can finally get that old bitterness out of his system."

Georgina sighed, forced to point out the obvious.

"Amy, this is assuming that Warren 427 wants you. How can you still be hopeful of that after what happened in Bridgeport?"

"You're absolutely right. He may not give a fig if I marry Steven. All I have to go on are my instincts."

"But he may not even return to London. He's got no reason to."

"He'll come," was all Amy said.

"How can you be so sure? Never mind, I know." Georgina shook her head. "Your instincts."

Georgina returned home in a dismal mood, sure now that Amy was heading for some major disappointment. If she knew her brother, and she did, he'd stay as far away from the girl as possible now,

which meant somewhere on the other side of the world. So she was more than a bit surprised to recognize the raised voice coming from James's study as Warren's, and to have it confirmed when she opened the door.

"So why don't you do something?" Warren was demanding. "She's making a blasted fool of herself."

"'Pears to me she's come to her senses,"

James replied offhandedly. "You were the one she was making a fool of herself over."

"Do you even know who this man is? He married a woman, forced her to have a child, just to have revenge on me. He's probably after Amy for the same reason, because he thinks it will hurt me if he wins her."

"Will it?"

"That's none of your damn business, Malory," Warren snapped, then thrust his hands through his hair in frustration before adding, "Look, if I confront Addington, I'm afraid I'll kill him. He's interfered in my life too drastically to overlook it."

"I don't know what you expect me to do, Yank. It's already been established that Amy won't listen to well-meaning advice where her heart is concerned."

"Then warn the man off. As Amy's uncle, you should have done so already. Why haven't you?"

James merely crooked a brow at this attack. "I wasn't aware that the chap was a personal enemy of yours. And if I had known, I hardly see that it matters. His behavior on the voyage here was above reproach."

"I've just told you what he's 429 capable of."

"In your opinion, but what proof have you?"

"His ex-wife confessed the whole thing to me before I left Bridgeport, how he paid her to pursue me until I proposed, then jilt me. How having a baby and letting me think it was mine was part of the deal, as well as marrying him with the promise of a divorce in the end."

James snorted. "And you expect me to take your word for it, or, for that matter, the word of a divorced

woman who quite possibly harbors a grudge against the man great enough to slander him?"

"To hell with you, then!" Warren said as he stormed out of the room, merely adding a curt "Georgie"

when he noticed his sister by the door.

She walked over to her husband's desk now to demand, "What the devil's wrong with you, James? You would have gone after Addington in a flash if anyone else had told you what Warren just did. You didn't believe him?"

"On the contrary, m'dear. I've no doubt Addington is as blackhearted as your brother painted him."

"Then why aren't you swearing you're going to kill the son of a bitch?"

"And deny your brother that pleasure? Wouldn't think of it, when that temper of his is so bloody entertaining."

Chapter 42

It was a garden party of the tedious sort, a hundred or so guests trying to amuse themselves with lawn games and charades, the hostess praying it wouldn't rain. James wouldn't have attended, even though Georgina planned to, if he hadn't heard that Amy was going to be there, as well as Steven Addington.

Not that he expected things to get interesting--unless Warren showed up. But James had a feeling he might.

It was a feeling he was giving up on as the hour wore down to early evening and tables were set up on the lawn to feed the horde. Dinner was a boring affair with the latest on-dits making the rounds as the guests moved from table to table, nothing that hadn't already been discussed at James's club. He was just about to drag his wife home when Warren walked out of the house onto the terrace.

James immediately looked for Amy. 431 Sure enough, the little minx was sitting at a table with Addington. She didn't appear to be enjoying herself, was merely listening to the American expound on whatever he was expounding on. James turned again to see how long it would take for Warren to spot them. Not long a'tall.

"Hotheaded ass," James mumbled. "Doesn't he know this sort of thing should be done in private?"

Georgina leaned toward him to ask softly, "What are you grumbling about now?"

"Your brother."

"Which one?"

"The one who's about to entertain us."

Georgina swung around and caught sight of Warren stalking across the lawn, heading straight for Amy's table. She started to get up. James pulled her back down.

"Just where d'you think you're going?" he asked his impetuous wife.

"To stop him, of course."

"Bite your tongue, George. This is what I came here to see, though I thought he'd only be issuing the challenge. But I should have known your

brother wouldn't do this in the civilized fashion."

Georgina took offense in Warren's stead. "He hasn't done anything yet--and devil take it, how did you know he would come here?"

"Perhaps because he received an anonymous note telling him that Amy and her beau would be."

"You didn't!"

He crooked a brow, not the least impressed with her display of chagrin, and not bothering to admit that he'd already accepted the fact, deplorable as it was, that Warren had to marry Amy after so thoroughly compromising her. And since the only stumbling block appeared to be Warren's tardiness in "asking,"

James had decided to have some fun in pushing him in that direction--in his own way.

But all he said to his wife was, "Whyever not?"

"James Malory!"

"Hush now, m'dear," he admonished. "He's reached his objective."

He had indeed. And Warren didn't bother with "hellos," "how d'you dos," or even "step outsides." Too

many years of festering hate got him right down to business. He picked Amy up out of her chair merely to set her out of the way,

then knocked Steven out of his. Steven 433 immediately jumped to his feet and came back swinging.

Shrieks followed from surprised ladies in the immediate vicinity, while their gentlemen quickly came forward to watch and place wagers. James moved to the sidelines himself, stopping next to Amy. He was prepared to prevent her from interfering if she thought to, but she didn't.

"How does it feel to have men fighting over you, dear girl?" he asked curiously when Steven was knocked on his arse for the second time.

"I'm not sure," she replied. "But I'll let you know when I see who wins."

"That's rather obvious, wouldn't you say?"

Amy didn't answer, but James detected the secret grin about her lips. He sighed to himself, having it confirmed that the little minx was too bloody loyal and too deeply attached to ever give up on the bounder. Why the deuce couldn't she have been fickle, like most females, and lost interest in Warren before the irreparable damage was done?

The fight was knocking down tables and putting the hostess into a dither, but it was also winding down.

Warren gave Steven two quick jabs in the style that Anthony had taught him, but it had been apparent from the start that he didn't need any fancy moves to defeat Steven. The man was out of shape, soon out of breath, and finally out cold.

Warren wasn't finished with him, however. He picked up a glass from one of the still standing tables and tossed its contents, whatever they were, in Steven's face.

The man coughed and sputtered for a moment before he opened his eyes, only to find himself lifted by the front of his shirt, and told in a deadly calm voice, "You're going to stay away from her, Addington, if you know what's good for you. You're also going to catch the next departing ship out of town. And I'm only going to give this advice once. Interfere in my life again, and you'll wish you were dead."

Warren emphasized that warning by knocking Steven out again. He hadn't taken a single punch himself.

But he didn't stick around to celebrate his victory. Without a single word to Amy or anyone else, he stalked back across the lawn and left.

"Figured out how you feel yet, puss?" James asked as Amy stared bemusedly after Warren's departing figure. 435

She sighed. "You have to hand it to the man. He gives new meaning to the word `stubborn.`"

James chuckled. "Doesn't he, though."

Amy stewed about it all night. Things had worked out just as she'd hoped they might with Addington--up to a point. Warren wasn't supposed to walk away in the end. He was supposed to get down on his knees and beg her to marry him--well, maybe not that dramatically, but he was at least supposed to declare himself. But no, he hadn't even told her hello.

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