Miss Winthorpe's Elopement

Miss Winthorpe's Elopement by Christine Merrill Read Free Book Online

Book: Miss Winthorpe's Elopement by Christine Merrill Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christine Merrill
Tags: Romance
children, just like their father. Any of those might do for the next duke.
    Very well, then. He would take her back to London, or let her take him. And if what she said was true, he would sort out the money, right enough. And once she and her books were safely stowed at Bellston, then he could return to his comfortable old life. They would live, happily ever after, as was told in folk tales.
    Just not with each other.

Chapter Four
    T he carriage ride to London was nothing like the one to Gretna. The trip outbound had been more excitement than misgiving, since she was convinced of the soundness of her plan and the immediate improvement it would bring to her life.
    But now that she had succeeded, she found it most disquieting. Jem had been relegated to a seat beside the driver, leaving her alone with her new husband with a morose shake of the head that showed no confidence in a brighter future.
    The man seated across from her was not the drunkard she had rescued on the way to Scotland. That man had been relaxed and friendly. His posture was familiar, as was his speech.
    But when sober, the duke continued to behave as a duke. She hoped he was still feeling the effects of the liquor, for his expression was most forbidding, and shehoped it was not she that had put the look of disgust on his face. Or, worse yet, that his foul mood was habitual. Perhaps it was only the strain of travel, for they had been almost two full days on the road.
    For whatever reason, her new husband sat rigidly in his seat across from her, showing no desire to close the distance between them.
    And in response, she felt repelled from him.
    It was foolish to care on that account. Jem’s original fears were quite the contrary to the truth. He had imagined her wrestling a brute for her virtue in the back of a moving carriage. But this man no more desired the physical contact of his spouse than she did herself.
    The chatty voyage to Gretna had been replaced with an uninterested silence that she suspected could stretch the length of the trip and far into the future.
    And it was all right with her, she reminded herself. Once they were settled, she would return to her books and would appreciate a husband who was not likely to interrupt her work with demands for her attention.
    Still, there were things that must be decided before they arrived in London. And that would be impossible without some communication.
    She cleared her throat, hesitating to speak.
    He looked up at her expectantly.
    ‘I was wondering if you had considered what we might do once we reach London.’
    ‘Do?’
    ‘Well, yes. I wish to go to my bank, of course. And make my father’s solicitors aware of my change in status.’
    He nodded.
    ‘But once that is done? Well, we cannot very well live with my brother. There is room, of course, but I doubt that it would be in any way comfortable…’
    He was staring at her and she fell into embarrassed silence. He spoke. ‘When we arrive in the city, we will be going directly to my townhouse, and can make the financial arrangements after that.’
    ‘Your townhouse.’
    ‘Of course.’
    She readied an objection, but paused before speaking. He was her husband, after all. And a man used to being obeyed. Insisting on her own way in this was liable to meet with objections. She said, ‘Wherever we reside, I will need room for my collection of books, which is quite substantial. And a quiet place to study. A London townhouse might not be the best choice…’
    He sighed, quite out of patience with her. ‘Perhaps not the ones you have seen. But I assure you, the Bellston property in London is more than sufficient. We will not be staying there for long, since no one of any fashion is in London at this time. We will adjourn to the manor, once you have settled your business.’
    ‘Manor?’
    He was still looking at her as though she were an idiot. ‘My home. I have a hunting lodge near Scotland, as well. I was visiting there when you found me. Butthere is

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