Lady Hathaway's House Party

Lady Hathaway's House Party by Joan Smith Read Free Book Online

Book: Lady Hathaway's House Party by Joan Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joan Smith
Tags: Regency Romance
didn’t hurt me at all, and you aren’t going to. I’ll stay. You’re right about that. It will look odd to everyone if I dash off. I’ll stay, and you may be seeing me here and there in the future, so we might as well come to terms.”
    “That’s what I want to talk to you about. Belle, it’s foolish, this separation—”
    “I didn’t mean those terms! We may as well get used to meeting each other is all I meant—in public. I am thinking of going up to London for the season.”
    “I am just on my way there to get the house opened. We can go together.”
    “You are being purposely obtuse. I will stay with my Aunt Rankin again, as I did last year. She has invited me, and I don’t see why I must stay at Easthill all my life.”
    “You have a home in London. Why do you speak of staying with your aunt, as though you were still a deb?”
    “No, Avondale, you have a home in London.”
    “You’re my wife.”
    “We’re separated. Legally separated, and I shall stay with Aunt Rankin. You can’t stop me.”
    “I’m not trying to stop you. Come to London. Stay where you like. Belle . . .”
    A desperate note sounded on the last word, and he looked at her, uncertain. She had never seen him uncertain of anything before. He was always cool, calm, so in possession of himself it angered her.
    The library doors opened, and Lady Hathaway rushed out, in a state bordering on apoplexy. “Your valet told me you were here, Oliver,” she said, hurrying toward them. She then turned to Belle. “I know exactly what you are thinking, my dear, and you’re wrong. I didn’t do it for a little joke, or anything of the sort. I asked Oliver first, and he declined the invitation.”
    “I didn’t mean to come to London at once, but changed my mind,” he explained to his cousin.
    “Well,” Kay went on, “when I got your refusal, I decided Belle might like to come, for it is a great shame the way she lives at Easthill, not seeing a soul.”
    “I see all kinds of people,” Belle said at once, with an angry glance toward her husband.
    “Yes, Belle, but I mean real people, not Arnold Henderson,” Kay went on heedlessly. Avondale bit back a smile and looked toward his wife, who decided her best course was to fail to hear this slur.
    “No sooner had I assured you Oliver wasn’t coming than I had a note from him in the post that he was on his way. It was too late to let you know, for you were to leave the next day, and a letter wouldn’t have had time to reach you. I’ve been worried sick, but I don’t know how I could have prevented it. And the worst of it is Lady Dempster saw your curricle drive up, Oliver, and she came right in with Belle, so the story is as well as broadcast. They call her the London Intelligencer, you know. However, you must do as you think best. I can tell her you were only stopping to say hello, Ollie, if you wish to go on to London.” Kay knew she was safe to suggest he leave. Not one inch would he budge while Belle was here.
    “No, I told them at Wimborne I was on my way here for your party,” he replied quickly. “Belle and I have been discussing it. She is going to London.”
    “Oh my dear—is it true?” Kay asked, a radiant smile indicating as plain as day that she read more into the information than was intended to be conveyed.
    “To stay with her aunt,” Oliver continued with a meaningful look to his cousin.
    “Oh—with her aunt,” Kay said, and adjusted her face accordingly.
    “Yes,” Oliver went on. “And as we will be bumping into each other there, we have decided it is nonsense for either one of us to bolt off as though he’d seen a devil. That is . . .” He looked to Belle apologetically. This too she failed to hear.
    “I wanted to tell you the minute you got here, Belle, but with Lady Dempster at your elbow, you know, I dared not,” Kay explained.
    “It’s quite all right. I understand,” her guest said magnanimously.
    “I’ve got you at separate ends of the

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