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Affair to Remember, An
The Earl of Greyley′s sins have finally caught up with him. It couldn′t have happened to a more deserving man.
Lady Fetchwythe to the Dowager Dutchess of Roth, while taking a breath of fresh air on the terrace at the Hotchkiss soiree.
Greyley House, outside London
June 15, 1816
"Your brother will not be happy to see us."
"Nonsense." Sara Montrose, the Countess of Bridgeton, regarded her husband from across the rumbling carriage. "Anthony will be delighted we came to visit."
"Not if you engage in your usual heavy-handed matchmaking attempts," Nick said, a warning threaded through his silky voice.
"Me?" Sara slipped off her shoe and rested her foot on the edge of the seat opposite hers, very near her lord′s muscled thigh. "Heavy-handed?"
He lifted a brow, his blue eyes fixed on her with unwavering regard.
"Truly, Nick, I only wish to see if he is well."
He said no more, and after a moment, Sara frowned, a niggling worry settling between her shoulders. Her husband suffered from horrendous headaches, though it had been almost six months since he′d succumbed to an attack. "You seem out of sorts. Is your head--"
"No." Nick′s gaze softened. "I′m fine. And so is Anthony. Leave him be, Sara. He′s over thirty and well able to live his own life."
Sara wiggled her toes once more. "I just want to visit my brother. Surely there′s nothing wrong with that."
Nick snorted inelegantly, responding to her not-very-subtle demands by capturing her foot. His warm hands cupped her ankle as he kneaded the pad of her foot. Sara closed her eyes, almost purring as his hands made their way up her calf.
But before he could proceed further, the carriage rumbled to a halt. "Damn." Nick sighed and released his hold.
Sara hurriedly pushed her skirts back down and thrust her feet into her shoes just as the footman opened the door.
Moments later, they were climbing the stairs to Greyley House. Surrounded by a wooded park, the house sat on a small knoll and cast a forbidding shadow across the front lawn. Large and square cut, the manor conveyed all the welcome of a mausoleum.
"It makes me yearn for Hibberton Hall," Nick murmured.
"We won′t be long." She was just as impatient to return home as he. She hated leaving their daughter for more than a day or two at most. The thought of little Delphi made Sara sigh. She would say what she came to say to her brother and then leave, not that Anthony would pay any attention. He rarely did. Still, it was her duty as his sister to keep a watchful eye on him and to offer advice. Whether he wanted it or not.
She and Nick had just reached the top step when the door opened and a horse-faced woman dressed in a sturdy traveling pelisse stomped onto the portico. A bandaged dog was tucked under her arm, a flowered bandbox dangling from her fingers.
Her clothing proclaimed her a step above a practical servant, but the state of her coiffure made Sara pause. The woman′s long, dull blond hair tangled to one side, a mass of feathers seeming to grow from the lump.
Jenkins, Greyley′s most proper butler, followed hard on the woman′s heels. "Miss Turner, pray reconsider. They were only teasing--"
Miss Turner whirled to face the butler. "Teasing? Were they teasing when they rubbed poor Fanny with catnip and then locked him in the loft? That orange tabby in the barn frightened him so badly he nearly had a seizure."
"It was never proven that the children-"
"Are you suggesting that my sweet little dog opened the window in my room, climbed down a trellis from two stories up, and locked himself inside the barn loft?"
Sara′s glance slid to the nearly bald dog. He was as fat as a stuffed hen, his legs splayed in a most unattractive way. He truly was an ugly specimen. As if aware of her thoughts, the dog turned his bulging eyes toward her and lifted a lip to display crooked, yellowed teeth.
"Miss Turner," Jenkins entreated. "If you′ll just listen! I′m certain your beloved Fanny is an excellent dog. But His Lordship was most insistent you stay for the contracted length of time."
"Not for a hundred pounds!" Miss Turner descended the stairs at high speed, her chin so high, she didn′t see either Nick or Sara standing to one side.
"Two hundred pounds?" Jenkins said swiftly.
But it was a lost cause; Miss Turner never stopped. As she reached the drive, a lone carriage rattled from the stables and pulled to a halt. Miss Turner sent one last, virulent glare at Greyley House, hugged her ugly dog, then clambered into the carriage.
Jenkins had by this time noticed his master′s sister and her husband. His face colored and he quickly stepped forward. "My lady! My lord! I didn′t see you! Please accept my apologies. We′re in a bit of an uproar today and-"
"I′m sorry we didn′t let you know we were coming," Sara said quickly, trying to soothe the ruffled servant. It was a sign of how badly things were faring at Greyley House to see the usually stoic Jenkins so overset.
"The earl is expected any moment." The butler opened the door and escorted them inside. "A fire has been laid in the sitting room in anticipation of his return. I will light it now and bring some refreshments while you wait."
Sara smiled pleasantly, but her attention was already diverted to the foyer. Someone had added two sets of imposing armor at the bottom of the stairs, and a new tapestry adorned one wall.
Anthony loved old things. As the years passed, his house looked more like a museum display than a home. It was yet another sign that he needed a wife. Before Sara could point out such an incontrovertible truth, Nick′s hand closed over her elbow and he firmly guided her toward the sitting room.
They crossed the foyer and Sara noted other changes; one of the bottom spindles on the stair railing was missing, and the mirror in front of the entryway displayed a large crack.Affair to Remember, An. Copyright © by Karen Hawkins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.