The Magic of You Page 9

Warren was glowering quite seriously now, not sure whether she was teasing him or if she really wanted her husband to involve himself in Skylark. But he found the thought of bringing an Englishman, any Englishman, into the family business appalling, let alone a man he couldn't tolerate.

"That idea might have had merit if you had

married someone in America instead of a 103 blasted ocean away."

She didn't get upset this time, she merely said, "Are we back to that again?" Then she let out a sigh, "It's done, Warren. Please get used to it."

He shot out of the chair he'd been occupying for the past hour and moved to look out her window. With his back to her, he said, "Believe it or not, I'm actually trying, Georgie. If he weren't so damn provoking--and I think I resent the fact that now that I will be home more often, you won't be there, or anywhere near."

"Oh, Warren, I do love you, even with your impossible temper," she replied, her voice tender. "But hasn't it occurred to you yet that you and the others will be coming here frequently, now that Clinton has set up trade with England again? Quite possibly I'll see you just as much as before, or even more."

But to see her, he had to contend with James Malory. It was not the same.

"How is that going, by the way?" she asked to change the subject.

Warren shrugged, not much enthused about the new

venture. "Clint and the others split up this morning to look for a suitable space for an office. I'm supposed to be searching as well, but I wanted a chance to see you alone first, before we all showed up this evening."

"You mean Skylark will have an office in London?" she asked excitedly.

He turned around to see that she looked as delighted as she'd sounded. "That was Drew's idea. As long as we're going to deal with the English again, we might as well take advantage and put the entire Skylark fleet on this new route."

"And for that, of course, you must have an office," she agreed. "But who's going to manage it?"

"I am," he said, just then making that decision, but not sure why. "At least until we can bring someone over from America," he amended.

"You could hire an Englishman--was

"It's an American company--was

"With an office based in London--was

He started to laugh. They were doing it again. And she smiled at him, aware of it, too. Then a knock came at the door, and Regina Eden poked her head around it.

"So you are up, Aunt George," 105 Regina said. "I've brought those names I promised you. I never got a chance to interview these women myself, what with my Meg insisting only she was going to take care of Thomas. But these two were both highly recommended at the time, though I can't guarantee they're still available."

"I'll give the names to James," Georgina replied, apparently knowing exactly what Regina was talking about. "He's bound and determined to do all the interviewing himself. Ònly the best for my Jack,às he put it, as if I couldn't figure out what's best."

"A typical new father, but d'you really think you ought to let him do the interviewing? He'll end up scaring any likely nurse away, and then where will you--?was Reggie paused, only then noticing Warren near the window. "Oh, I'm sorry. Amy didn't say you already had a visitor."

"Think nothing of it, Lady Eden," Warren said as he came forward. "I have business to attend to, so I was just leaving." He leaned over the bed to kiss his sister good-bye, telling her, "I'll see you this evening--George."

Chapter 10

"Did I hear him correctly?" Regina asked after the door had closed behind Warren.

Georgina grinned, a bit surprised herself at her brother's turnabout. "I do believe that was his way of telling me he's going to give it another try."

"What?"

"Getting along with James."

Regina snorted. "It will never happen. That particular brother of yours has too short a temper to appreciate the subtle nuances of Uncle James's humor."

"Subtle?"

"All right, so subtle doesn't exactly describe it," Regina allowed.

"Dropping bricks is more like it."

Regina chuckled. "He's not that bad."

"Not with those he loves, no. We just get bruised every once in a while. People he doesn't like get flattened. Those he's actually angry with get buried. I've been there, so I'm speaking from experience.

And Warren manages to rub James wrong no matter what."

"It must be all that hostility. It 107 positively exudes from him. I swear, each time I've seen him, I've expected an explosion of sorts. Just now was the first exception. You really ought to keep him and Uncle James apart as much as you can while he's here."

"I was hoping that familiarity might breed a little tolerance on Warren's part, but you're probably right."

Georgina sighed. "It's not just James, you know, who brings out the worst in Warren. He's been angry at life for some time now, and he's not discriminating as to whom he takes it out on. Drew catches the brunt of it quite frequently. They came to physical blows a number of times in the few days I was home, before James arrived--to bury me."

"In order to marry you," Regina reminded her with a grin. "If he didn't run your reputation through the muck, your brothers would never have forced the matter."

"Well, that's another thing. Warren's angry at me for wanting to stay married to James, when he's the one who married me to him in the first place. And he's letting his previous bitterness get mixed up in this."

Georgina sighed again.

"I know he means well--in his own way. It's just that he's become rather fixated on protecting me, when I no longer need protecting."

"Sounds like he needs his own family to take care of and worry over," Regina suggested. "Some men aren't happy unless they feel needed."

"I wish that were an option, but Warren was hurt too much to ever put his trust in a woman again. He says he's never going to marry."

"Don't they all. But `neverìs a word that frequently changes its meaning over the years. Look at Uncle

James. He swore he would never find himself in a state of matrimony, either, but lo and behold ..."

Georgina laughed. "I wouldn't exactly compare the two. Your uncle, as you've pointed out yourself, had a disgust for marriage because of all the unfaithful wives--other men's wives--who ended up in his bed, philanderer that he was back then. My brother, on the other hand, fell in love and asked the lady to marry him.

"Her name was Marianne. She was incredibly beautiful, at least I thought so. Warren must have, too. It was one of the longest periods he ever spent at home, those five months he courted her, since he first started captaining his 109 own ship. And it was such a pleasure to have him home."

"That grouch?"

"That's just it, Reggie. Warren wasn't always like he is now.He used to be as charming and as fun-filled as my brother Drew. He still had a short temper, mind you--he's always had that. But you didn't see it very often, and it certainly wasn't like now. Then, he would be laughing with you thirty minutes after he'd blistered your ears over something. There were no extended bad feelings, no lingering bitterness--Didn't I tell you all this before?"

"Not me."

Georgina frowned. "I thought--it must have been Amy I told. James certainly doesn't want to hear anything that has to do with Warren. His very name--was

"George!" Regina interrupted with impatience. "You're getting off the subject. Am I to assume Warren and Marianne didn't get married?"

"You could safely assume that," Georgina said with bitter reflection. "The wedding arrangements were complete, it was merely days before the wedding, and then

--Marianne called it off. She told Warren she couldn't marry him, that she had decided to accept another offer instead, despite the fact that he was the one she claimed to love. Oh, she wrapped it up nicely with the excuse that she wanted a husband who would be around more often than a sea captain would."

"I'd heard it's perfectly acceptable for wives to sail with their husbands these days, that some are even raising families aboard ship."

"That's true. However, Marianne claimed she didn't have the constitution for sea travel, much less life at

sea."

"You say that as if you doubt it."

Georgina shrugged. "I only know that she came from a poor family, or rather, one that had fallen on hard times, and that she turned down my brother to marry into the richest family in town, one of the last descendants of the founding fathers of Bridgeport. Steven Addington was the current heir who appealed to her more."

"But your brother isn't exactly poor, and if she really loved him--maybe her reasons were legitimate. I don't think I would have cared to fall in love with a seaman, especially if I got seasick every time I set foot on 111 a ship."

"Oh, I agree, if that's all there was to it. But the man she married, well, he and Warren were childhood enemies, the kind that are constant rivals, who bloody each other's noses frequently, who end up hating each other even after their schooldays are over."

"That wasn't very well done of her, was it?"

"No, indeed. Anyone else would have been preferable. But that still wasn't all. She and Warren had been lovers, you see, and she happened to be carrying Warren's child at the time she broke off with him."

"Good God, did he know?"

"If he had, I guarantee we'd have a different end to that tale. But he had no idea, and didn't find out about it until a month after she'd married Steven. She was showing by then, so she had known beforehand, and still she married someone else. That hurt him the most, that he was denied the chance to raise his own child. You wouldn't know it by his disposition, but Warren is quite fond of children, so it was really a double blow for him, or rather, a triple blow. Being denied his own child, losing the woman he

loved, and losing her to a man he already despised."

"But wouldn't he have had some legal rights where the child was concerned?"

"That was his first intention, to pursue that course, until she told him that she would deny the child was his, and Steven, that bastard, would support her contention and claim it as his own."

"But wasn't it public knowledge that she and Warren-- I mean, after five months of courting ...?was

"That's true enough, but Steven was going to lie and say that he'd been her lover--her only lover-- that they'd quarreled and that was why she'd turned to Warren, but that she'd come to her senses in time, et cetera, et cetera. He was even going to name dates when he saw her in secret and made love to her, during the time she was stepping out with Warren. With the two of them standing firm against him, there was really nothing Warren could do."

"Is there any possibility that what that Steven chap was going to claim was true?"

"No--at least, Warren is sure it wasn't. Even if it was, it wouldn't help my brother any unless he believed it, and likely not even then, because you'd be adding deceit and other lies to it if that were the case. The baby-- 113 Samuel, they named him--proved nothing, looking like neither man, taking after Marianne instead. I saw him only once, and it broke my heart that I couldn't claim him as my nephew, so I can't imagine how much worse Warren felt, though I never asked if he saw him. It's a subject none of us like to bring up to him, for obvious reasons--his reaction is never pleasant."

Regina shook her head. "It must drive your brother crazy to know that a man who despises him so much is raising his child."

"It did," Georgina said softly, sadly, "until Samuel died three years ago. They say it was an accident.

Warren is bitter enough to have his doubts."

Regina sat down in the chair nearest the bed. "I never thought I'd say this, George, but I'm suddenly feeling quite sorry for your brother. I think I'll have him over to dinner. He and Nicholas ought to become better acquainted, don't you think?"

"Are you mad?" Georgina asked, wide-eyed. "Those two have too much in common--they both despise my husband. I'm trying to end their animosity, not give Warren an ally who'll stand with him against James."

"But my uncle James can hold his own, or I wouldn't have suggested it." And a single black brow rose in a manner that was distinctly Malory. "Do you doubt it?"

Georgina knew her husband. Of course she didn't doubt it. But that was not what she had hoped to accomplish during this visit from her family.

"Actually," she said, "your other suggestion is sounding better of a sudden. I'm going to give some serious thought to finding Warren someone else to protect. He could fall in love again. Miracles do happen."

Chapter 11

It was a while before Warren realized he was just standing there at the top of the stairs, staring at Amy Malory as she arranged cut flowers down in the foyer. He had stopped because he didn't want to disturb her, didn't want to have to speak to her, didn't trust his temper if he got near her again. Yet he didn't move away from the top

of the stairs, which she could at any time 115 glance up at and notice him there.

Of course, he had nowhere to move off to. He assumed his brother-in-law was still with the baby, so he couldn't visit his niece for a spell-- until the foyer was empty again. And he'd been uncomfortable in Regina Eden's presence, after he'd noted the resemblance she bore to the younger Amy, with the same cobalt-blue eyes, the same coal-black hair--the same disturbing beauty, but put together in a slightly different way. So he wasn't going back to his sister's room. And the other rooms abovestairs, a good many of them, were no doubt occupied, by James's son, temporarily by Amy, possibly by some of the household servants, though there was still another floor of rooms above this one.

Prev Next