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Home > The Secret Life of Lady Lucinda (Summersby #3)(10)

The Secret Life of Lady Lucinda (Summersby #3)(10)
Author: Sophie Barnes

“You know…”

Lucy gasped when she realized her friend’s implication. “Heavens, Constance!” She noticed that Lady Hyacinth had turned her head to stare at her in surprise, so she immediately lowered her voice and leaned closer to Constance. “I cannot believe that you would address such a thing over a cup of tea and with guests present no less. It’s highly improper!”

Constance shrugged her shoulders. “Perhaps.” She paused for a moment before saying, “Well?”

With a sigh of defeat, Lucy shook her head. “Not yet.”

“Well, then I do believe it’s high time you give it your best try. A lot of marital conflicts can be resolved between the sheets, you know—or at the very least be momentarily forgotten.”

Although Lucy thought she might soon die of embarrassment if they didn’t change the subject of their conversation, she also knew that Constance had a point. She’d been married to William for a full week now, and he hadn’t once tried to approach her since their failed liaison that first night together. It was disastrous. The worst part was that she’d no idea how to broach the subject with him. In fact, she completely lacked the nerve to do so, especially when they’d barely spoken to each other since. If only he would approach her, because if they continued to carry on in this manner, like two complete strangers who wished to have nothing to do with each other, their future together did look rather bleak to say the least.

CHAPTER EIGHT

Settling back against his favorite chair in the library, William raised his glass of brandy toward his father and uncle, standing by the fireplace enjoying their cigars. They immediately responded to his toast by raising their own glasses in return.

“I’m so glad you invited us,” Andrew said, walking over and plopping down on another chair. “It was a splendid idea of yours, this house party.”

“Yes, I must say that I’m rather happy to be here myself,” Galensbury added as he joined them. “Any excuse to escape the season is most welcome, if you know what I mean.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Andrew said, tossing back the remainder of his drink and reaching for the bottle that was standing on the side table next to his chair. “And your wife is lovely, William, absolutely lovely. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier for you.”

William groaned. Apparently everyone thought her the most wonderful creature in all of Christendom. If only they’d stop singing her praises so repeatedly—it was not only tiresome to listen to but served to make him that much more aware of the fact that she wasn’t who she appeared to be. “Thank you, both. I’m pleased to know that you’re enjoying yourselves.” What else was he to say? He certainly wasn’t about to tell them that Lucy wasn’t nearly as lovely as they thought her to be. Whatever issues the two of them were having, they were a private matter—not something that he was prepared to discuss with anyone other than his closest family.

“So tell us, William,” Stanton said as he and Charles claimed the last remaining seats across from William, each with his own drink in hand, “how’s married life suiting you?”

“You’ve definitely won the grand prize as far as her ladyship is concerned,” Charles added, “beauty and brains all tied up in a neat little package.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Andrew said as he raised his glass. “It really does seem as though we must toast your good fortune, William.” And raising their glasses, his friends proceeded to do just that.

William smiled to show his appreciation but said nothing.

“It was rather hasty, come to think of it,” Andrew suddenly blurted out. “Are we to assume that there’s a little Summersby on the way?”

“Good God, Andrew,” Charles exclaimed. “Do you always have to say the first thing that pops into your head?”

Andrew shrugged. “We’re all friends here, and besides, I’d rather be firm and direct and leave the wishy-washiness to the ladies.” He then arched a brow and turned to William, one big question mark adorning his handsome face. “Well?”

William couldn’t help but smile. As peculiar as he was, he loved Andrew and his boyish ways. “As far as I am aware, that is not the case. It certainly wasn’t the reason for my hasty decision to marry. No, I merely decided that my time was up and…having come across her ladyship at a private function, decided that she would do very nicely as my wife.”

Andrew nodded understandingly as he sank back against his seat. “Well, congratulations then. I’m sure you’ll be very happy together.”

“Here, here,” the rest of the group added, all raising their glasses for yet another toast.

“So, Charles tells us that you’re off on your wedding trip soon,” Galensbury remarked. “Mentioned you’d be heading to Constantinople?”

William nodded, noting with some curiosity the spark of interest that flared in his friend’s eyes. “You were there yourself some years back, were you not?”

Galensbury nodded, a pleasant smile drawn across his lips while his eyes took on a distant gaze. “I found the Turks to be a very loveable people—wonderful cuisine and a culture unlike any you’ve ever seen north of the Alps. It’s a long journey to be sure, but in my opinion very much worth it. And, if this was her ladyship’s idea, then you really are a fortunate man. Most women would choose to go to Paris and shop for the latest fashion,” he said as he shuddered.

“My words exactly,” Andrew added.

The door opened and Ryan entered, followed by Alexandra’s husband Michael, the Earl of Trenton.

“Where the devil have you two been?” William asked as he stared at both men.

“Michael was telling me about his newly acquired mare during dinner. It was quite obvious that he was eager to show her off, so I suggested we take a walk over to the stables. I have to say that it was well worth it. She’s a stunning creature, William. You really must see her.”

“I shall look forward to it, though I do believe it will have to wait until tomorrow if that’s all right with you. In the meantime, why don’t you come and join us?”

“We were just discussing William’s rapid rise from veritable bachelorhood to responsible patriarch, though I’m sure the two of you must have a great deal more to say on the matter, seeing that you’re practically a pair of veterans in that department yourselves. After all, you’ve been married for what…one and two years, respectively? Surely your experience must be vast or, at the very least, vaster than ours,” Andrew remarked.

Ryan grinned as he walked toward the assembled group. “You’re always ready with a quick remark, aren’t you Fairfield?”

“And yet he does make a valid point,” Galensbury said, to which Stanton nodded. “Surely you must have some advice to offer.”

Taking a seat while Trenton headed for the sideboard, Ryan glanced across at William, hesitating only for a second before saying, “It is my belief that all marriages require a great deal of effort from both parties. It is vital to be honest, to listen to each other, and to respect each other’s opinions.”

William watched as Trenton handed Ryan a glass of claret.

Andrew stared back at him. “That’s it?” he asked with open disbelief. “That’s all there is to it?”

Trenton slumped into the last remaining armchair. “Did you think perhaps that there might have been a magic formula?”

“No, but perhaps something that required a bit more…shall we say craftiness?”

“I don’t believe there’s a married man who’d dare attempt such a thing,” Trenton said. William couldn’t help but notice the sparkle of mischief in his eyes. “Not unless he desires to find his home transformed into an open battlefield—and don’t be fooled by the inferior size of your opponent, for women are built that way primarily to deceive us. Mark my words, gentlemen: cross any woman and you’ll find yourself opposing a formidable adversary. But be honest with her, listen to her, and respect her opinion on matters of importance, and she will be far more likely to listen to reason and to follow your sound judgment.”

“Ah, so we are talking about being crafty then,” Andrew said with an air of marked relief present in his tone.

“I…” Trenton began. He must have realized that there was little point in discussing the matter any further, for rather than continue he simply shook his head and took a sip of his drink.

“It seems the trick is simple enough,” Stanton ventured after a momentary pause. “Be honest with her ladyship, William. Treat her as an equal, and I dare say you’ll be thoroughly rewarded. Is that the gist of it?”

“It is, ” Trenton said.

“Then I shall endeavor to do the opposite,” Charles remarked, raising his glass in salute. “For I dare say the very last thing I desire is for any woman to conceive of the ill-begotten notion that she can get along with me. I’m having a deuced hard time fending them off as it is!”

William couldn’t help but notice that both Ryan and his father were rolling their eyes. He stifled a grin.

“Anyone up for a game of cards?” It was Charles who’d spoken, no doubt tired of the topic of conversation.

“Sounds like an excellent idea to me,” Stanton remarked. “Perhaps the ladies would like to join us. What say you, Summersby?”

Turning his head, William regarded the man sitting next to him. Like Galensbury, he didn’t know him very well. They didn’t share the same kind of history that had always strengthened his friendship with Andrew and Charles, and then of course there was the age difference. It wasn’t much, but it had been enough to ensure that they had moved in different circles and missed each other entirely during their studies at Eton. “I’m sure they would be delighted,” he said, knowing that his sister in particular would be more than happy to participate. He couldn’t help but wonder if the same would be true of his wife.

As it turned out, Lucy wasn’t the best Bridge player in the world, though she certainly seemed to enjoy the game regardless of whether she won, and William had to concede that this spoke well of her character.

Naturally, Ryan and Trenton had won hands down, much to the annoyance of Alexandra who’d clearly been hoping to best them both—a feat made so much more unlikely by the fact that she’d been partnered with Aunt V, whose interest in card play seemed somewhat lacking. She had continuously interrupted the bidding with all kinds of remarks, most of them pertaining to fashion.

Still, it had resulted in a most entertaining evening, but the hour had grown late, and with most of his guests now in the process of turning themselves in, William walked across to his father who was still discussing some issue or other with his Uncle Henry. None of the ladies remained, not even Lucy who had stayed behind a bit longer than the rest, for when he’d suggested that she go to bed too, the look of exhaustion upon her face had turned to one of relief, and she had quickly said her goodnights.

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