Related collections and offers
|Publisher:||Epicenter Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.77(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Standing quickly, she busily brushed at her skirt. "I must get back. I've been gone much too long."
In silence, they cleared up the remains of the picnic, storing them back in Douglas' saddle bag. She untied Beauty and led her back to the path.
"Need a leg up?"
Without thinking, she responded, "I can do it myself." How could she? She had no mounting block. If she were dressed in something light, she could possibly gather her strength and sling herself over the horse, but her bombazine mourning gown was anything but light. "All right then, I need help."
Keeping a very straight face, he bent and laced his fingers together. She placed her foot in his clasp, her hand on his shoulder. "Ready."
"Up you go, Your Ladyship," he said in a teasing tone. She seated herself firmly in her saddle. "I shall be gone a couple of days, but when I come back, we shall go riding again."
From atop Beauty, she gazed down at him. She liked what she saw: his compelling brown eyes so full of life, the set of his chin that suggested a stubborn streak, the humorous lines around his mouth. She liked his massive, self-confident presence, too. In fact, what about him was there not to like?
Plenty. Whatever attraction she might feel for Douglas Cartland must end right here. "I cannot go riding with you, ever again. In fact, because of certain circumstances, I should not be riding at all."
"You mean, in case you're carrying the earl's child." His reply was so matter-of-fact it took a moment for his shocking words to sink in.
"Ladies do not discuss those matters."
"Unfortunately, they don't--not in this shallow, artificial society," he countered with a gleam in his eye. "What a shame pregnancy and birth are not to be discussed except behind closed doors. They are both in truth natural events, more to be celebrated than censored."
She could see his point but had no wish to argue. "Be that as it may, I won't be riding for a while, not with you or anyone else." Wanting to move away, she flicked the reins, but he held fast to Beauty's harness.
"How do you feel? Do you want the child?"
Strangely, no one had asked her that question before. She should remain silent, yet she wished to answer because she sensed his genuine concern. "There are many reasons why my family would rejoice if I had a child. We could continue to live in Chatfield Court. Millicent could have her dowry…all sorts of good things. Whereas, if I am not with child, our lives will be rather bleak. On the other hand," she pondered, biting her lips, "do I wish to carry the offspring of a man I despised? No, I do not. Now, let go of the harness."
He complied, and she flicked the reins again. Beauty leaped away, carrying her back down the trail in a satisfying, soothing gallop.