SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, Book 2 Muses of Mayfair
“Say what you will about Miss Etchingham’s historical leanings,” Amelia said, nodding toward the pair in front of them. “If it’s a political wife you’re after, she could write your entire treatises on what is happening here, if you gave her time to learn.”
Prudence and Salford were deep in conversation, no doubt about some long-passed era. Whatever lack of interest held her tongue around him did not extend to Amelia’s brother. Malcomb moved his horse closer to Amelia’s, lowering his voice. “Miss Etchingham is accomplished, I’m sure. But I want a wife who can talk, and laugh, and feel something other than academic detachment.”
A fly buzzed against his ear. He lifted his hand to brush it away. Amelia flinched away instead, as though she feared his touch.
He narrowed his eyes. “Is something amiss, Lady Amelia?”
She blushed, but she didn’t apologize. “No. You should discuss your requirements with Miss Etchingham. Given enough time, you’ll suit each other well enough.”
“What if it’s not Miss Etchingham I want?”
Amelia’s hand tightened on her reins. Her mare mouthed the bit uncomfortably. “Then I wish you very happy with the next woman on your list.”
Her voice was as cold as the great hall in winter. He wanted to be the fire that brought her back to life.
“There’s only one woman on the list at present.”
She reined in her horse so quickly that he was ten yards beyond her by the time he came to a stop. He looked over his shoulder, turning slightly to keep her in sight. Her face was ashen, with all the pallor of marble under her crown of golden hair.
But her blue eyes were fierce as she nudged her horse up to meet him. “You brought Miss Etchingham here to marry, and marry her you shall,” she said, in a dark, urgent voice. “Whatever you may think of either of us, I assure you that she is the one you want.”
He wanted to touch her, to prove her wrong. But he couldn’t do it here. “We both know what could have happened last night. Why would I give that up to marry a woman who barely speaks to me?”
She closed her eyes. Without the sharpness of her gaze, she suddenly looked vulnerable. “If you won’t marry Prudence, find another. There are dozens of women in London who are better for you. I cannot entertain your suit.”
“Do you not want to upset Miss Etchingham by marrying me? There would be no scandal there.”
When she opened her eyes again, she didn’t look at him. Instead she turned her gaze out over the countryside, across the estate he had vowed to save. “You know nothing about me, my lord. I’ve caused no scandals, but I’m not a witless porcelain doll. I have dreams of my own. Find a sweet girl who will be content to let you think for her. Your career will be better for it.”
Her certainty shook him. But he couldn’t agree that easily. “Meet me tonight,” he said, knowing it was foolish to say the words even as they slipped through his lips. “Let’s discuss this where we can have a proper conversation, not in the middle of a road. Earls should propose marriage indoors, at the very least.”
That brought a glimmer of a smile to her face. “How very proper of you, my lord.”
He had never felt less proper in his life. “Tonight?”
She didn’t falter under the sudden command in his voice. She coolly stared him down, then looked up the road to where Salford and Prudence were disappearing around a bend.
When she turned back to him, there was mischief in her eyes. “The library, at a quarter to eleven. I trust that after our interview, this nonsense about a union between us will end.”
She cantered away from him, up the final rise toward the fort where Salford and Prudence awaited them. He gave her a few moments’ start before following her. She seemed so sure that they were ill suited- and perhaps they were. Ferguson surely has a reason for recommending Miss Etchingham over her.
Ferguson’s disapproval made no sense. Amelia wasn’t just more entertaining – she was the daughter of an earl, with a dowry large enough to compensate for any number of indiscretions. If he were marrying solely for status, Amelia was a better choice than Miss Etchingham, even without considering how her laughter heated his blood.
But Amelia’s reference to her dreams gave him pause. The ton didn’t appreciate women who thought of anything beyond the next social event. If her dreams were something that could harm his reputation by association, it could bode ill for his attempts to win allies.
A footman had taken his note to Ferguson that morning, as planned. It was a two-hour ride from Malcolm’s castle to his friend’s estate, but he could expect an answer by evening.
It couldn’t be bad – but if it were, what would he do? His scowl was gone by the time they caught up to Salford and Prudence, but his conscience still vacillated. He needed to marry for the MacCabes, not for himself.
But for the first time, he wondered if the clan was worth the sacrifice.
SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, Muses of Mayfair
© Sara Ramsey
SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, Muses of Mayfair
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