The Invisible Husband
sitting beside her and popped
it in her mouth. She knew he was standing near the headboard so he
could hide and watch her with his right eye. “Would you like a
boiled sweet?”

    “No.”

    “I found them
in your study. You had a pile of ladies fashion magazines in your
desk. I didn’t think you’d mind if I took some.”

    “No.”

    “You’re not as
talkative as your brother.”

    “No.”

    “I’m glad; he
gave me a headache.” She held the fashion magazine open so he could
see it. “What do you think of this dress? Do you think it would
suit me?”

    “Yes. In pink.
You look lovely in pink.”

    Eve felt her
cheeks turn pink with pleasure. The simple whispered words were
spoken with feeling. “Thank you. It’s my favourite colour.”

    “I know.”

    Eve felt her
pink cheeks darken as she wondered how much he knew. “And what is
your favourite colour my Lord?”

    “Pink.”

    The absurd
answer made her laugh out loud. “How long have you loved the
colour?”

    “Since the
first time I saw you.”

    Eve shivered as
the compliment somehow breezed over the back of her neck causing
pleasurable tingles. “When was that?”

    “Six months ago
at my cousin, Lady Harold’s, ball. She screened off a corner so I
could watch the dancers unseen. You came and sat down on the chairs
in front of the screen with a friend. You were so amusing…” His
soft sigh punctuated the words with a poignant sadness. Eve felt
her eyes mist over. The man must have spent the last seventeen
years watching life whirl by wanting to join in, but fearing
rejection.

    “Do you ever go
out in public wearing an eye patch?”

    “Yes, but I
look like a fool pirate from a Christmas pantomime; people laugh at
me. If I take it off they cross themselves as if I’m the devil.
When I was twenty my parents took me to London to introduce me into
society…” A long painful sigh conjured endless unpleasant images.
“…I foolishly insisted on attending a ball without my eye patch.
After the first five ladies felt too indisposed to dance with me I
kindly refrained from forcing any more to pretend to be too ill to
enjoy the evening and left.”

    “A pox on rude
ladies; I’d have danced with you. It would have made me the talk of
the town. ‘Ooh did you see Miss Eve Venables dancing with the one
eyed Lord? She looked like she enjoyed his company, but then you
know how she’s always laughing to herself. I hear she spends her
winters in the attic bathing in asses’s milk; it gives her that
pallid complexion.’ I even danced with Lord Mulgrave once though I
admit I accidentally stepped on his toes every few minutes
in-between apologies and profuse declarations of admiration for his
sharp canine teeth.” The bed curtain rustled with almost inaudible
laughter. “I’m afraid he was insulted when I compared him to a
favourite pet rat I made up for his benefit and fortunately he lost
all interest in my charms.”

    “He does look
like a rat.”

    “He is a
rat. If I was his mother I’d have to wear a sign around my neck
that said, ‘I did not mate with a rodent.’ The curtain rustled
again with laughter. “I understand your reticence at calling on
ladies in pink my Lord, but you could have written to me
anonymously. You could have tormented me by feeding me clues to
your identity and then showed up sporting some sort of tell; a pink
and white striped cravat would have been appropriate. You could
have used some of the fabric left over from the bed hangings. I
would have found that highly amusing and terribly romantic.”

    “I used a whole
bottle of ink and dozens of quills trying to write you a single
blasted letter. The best I could do was, ‘My dear Miss Venables, I
find you eminently worthy to be my Countess, but I’m so hideous I’m
afraid if I call on you I’ll frighten you; you may faint, hit your
head on a table and die of concussion. Will you marry me?’”

    Eve shook with
laughter. “You’re right, that wouldn’t

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