aloud: Why had he bothered to visit?
She wanted to ask him that now, demand to know why he hadn’t just sent the money to school without ever coming to see her. It was obvious he’d never had any affection for her, had probably never approved of her at all. If he had, wouldn’t he at least have wanted her company?
Her hollow stomach lurched, and she thought she might be sick. Surely it was only the smell, not just from her father but from the pungent flowers surrounding him. Scents so strong she suddenly wasn’t sure she could enjoy her expansive gardens at school ever, ever again.
And then everything went blank.
The true lady represents both beauty and health. It is not uncommon, however, for even the healthiest of young ladies to swoon. Swooning should never be used to demand attention or stir unnecessary sympathies.
Madame Marisse’s Handbook for Young Ladies
Ian knelt and scooped Meg’s head into his lap. Then he lifted her altogether and crossed the room, passing the flowers and the windows and fireplace, reaching the three-story rotunda in the very heart of his home. He passed to the other side, knowing the library and billiard room were unoccupied but opting instead to take her upstairs. There were six rooms up there, only half of which were comfortably furnished and only one of which he absolutely could not take her to—it was, in fact, kept locked at all times.
But rather than taking her to John’s room—there was something repugnant in the idea of laying her on the bed in which her father had so recently died—he took her to his own room. It was the largest, after all, even larger than the guest room her father had used.
He’d forgotten he’d shut Roscoe in there, who greeted them with a wagging tail. Ian ignored him, settling Meggie on the bed and shooing the dog away when he tried taking a place next to her.
Ian poured a glass of water from the pitcher at his bedside. “Meggie?”
She seemed half-conscious, offering him only a little moan in response.
“Would you like a drink? Water?”
She turned away, eyes still closed, forehead puckered in a frown.
Roscoe squeezed closer, shoving aside Ian’s arm and nearly causing him to spill the glass of water. He replaced the glass, then reached for the dog, who was busy getting to know Meggie by pressing his nose directly in her face with a friendly lick.
“Oh! Oh!” Meggie sat up, brushing a hand over her cheek.
Ian hauled Roscoe away, wishing he’d had the heart to train him better. He told the dog to sit but knew the animal had no idea what such an order meant. “This is Roscoe. He’s harmless.”
“Dogs,” she said, “are made for the out-of-doors.”
He offered no argument, although he quite firmly disagreed. “I’m sure you’re right about that.” He held the dog back when Roscoe made another attempt to acquaint himself with this new visitor on the bed he so often shared with Ian. “But today he’d be more of a nuisance, with all the guests in and out.”
“Has he no chain, no shed?”
Ian eyed her. How could Meggie not like dogs, when it was her father who’d taught him they were the only living things that could really be trusted?
“He’s a barker . . . well, unless he’s comfortable, that is. And he’s comfortable here.”
She looked around for the first time. He took in the room too, trying to see it as she might. The heavy drapes were closed, but light seeped around the edges, providing a dim view. She was surrounded by plenty of down-filled blankets he kept handy, even now when the days were warm. His wardrobe, which he’d forgotten to close, stood off to the side. It held all his clothes, neatly hung. Beyond that was the open door to his bathroom, and he wondered if she was impressed by such a modern convenience. Surely she could see the parquet flooring and the towel he’d forgotten to rehang; it was draped on the side of the polished mahogany frame surrounding the porcelain tub. He followed her