Home > Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke #3)(15)

Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke #3)(15)
Author: Julia Quinn

He gazed at her warmly. ―One must be a good host, no matter how humble the domicile."

―Surely you are not trying to tell me that you make your home on Hampstead Heath."

―Gad no. I‘m much too fond of my creature comforts for that. But it would be amusing, don‘t you think, for a day or two?"

―Somehow I suspect that the novelty of it all would fade with the morning light."

―No," he mused. His eyes took on a faraway expression, and he said, ―Perhaps a bit after that, but not by the morning light."

She wanted to ask him what he meant, but she didn‘t know quite how to do it. He looked so lost in his own thoughts it almost seemed rude to interrupt. And so she waited, watching him with a curious expression, knowing that if he turned to her, he would see the question in her eyes.

He never did turn to her, but after a minute or so, he said, ―It‘s different in the morning. The light is flatter. Redder. It catches the mist in the air, almost as if it creeps up from underneath.

Everything is new," he said softly. ―Everything."

Annabel‘s breath caught. He sounded so wistful. It made her want to remain right where she was, on the blanket beside him, until the sun started to rise on the eastern horizon. He made her want to see the heath in morning light. He made her want to see him in the morning light.

―I should like to take a bath in it," he murmured. ―The morning light, and nothing else."

It should have been shocking, but Annabel sensed that he wasn‘t talking to her. Throughout the conversation he‘d prodded and teased, testing how far he could go before she turned prude and ran away. But this…It was perhaps the most suggestive thing he‘d said, and yet she knew…

It hadn‘t been for her.

―I think you‘re a poet," she said, and she was smiling, because for some reason, this brought her great joy.

He let out a short snort of laughter. ―That would be lovely, were it true." He turned back in her direction, and she knew that the moment was gone. Whatever hidden part of himself he‘d dipped into, he‘d put it back, boxed it up tight, and once again he was the devil-may-care charmer, the man all the girls wanted to be with.

The man all the men wanted to be.

And she didn‘t even know his name.

It was best that way, though. She‘d find out who he was eventually, and he‘d do the same, and then he‘d pity her, the poor girl forced to marry Lord Newbury. Or maybe he‘d scorn her instead, thinking that she was doing it for the money, which of course she was.

She gathered her legs underneath her, not exactly kneeling but rather resting on her right hip. It was her favorite way to sit, utterly wrong for London but without a doubt the way her body liked to arrange itself. She gazed in front of her, realizing that she was looking away from the house.

There was something fitting about that. She wasn‘t sure which way a compass would point, though; was she facing west, toward home? Or east, to the Continent, where she‘d never been and likely never would go. Lord Newbury didn‘t seem the type to enjoy travel, and as his interest in her was limited to her childbearing talents, she rather doubted he would allow her to venture forth without him.

She‘d always wanted to see Rome. She probably would never have gone, even if there had been no Lord Newbury lusting over her wide, birthing hips, but there had always been the chance.

She closed her eyes for a moment, almost in mourning. She was already thinking as if the marriage was afait accompli . She‘d been telling herself that she might still refuse, but that was just the desperate corner of her brain trying to assert itself. The practical part of her had already accepted it.

So there it was. She really would marry Lord Newbury if he asked. As repulsive and horrifying as it was, she‘d do it.

She sighed, feeling utterly defeated. There would be no Rome for her, no romance, no a hundred other things she couldn‘t even bring herself to think about. But her family would be provided for, and as her grandmother had said, perhaps Newbury would die soon. It was a wicked, immoral thought, but she didn‘t think she could enter the marriage without clutching onto it as her salvation.

―You seem rather pensive," came the warm voice from beside her.

Annabel nodded slowly.

―Penny for them."

She smiled wistfully. ―Just thinking."

―Of all the things you need to do," he guessed. Except it didn‘t sound like a question.

―No." She was quiet for a moment, and then said, ―All the things I‘m never going to get to do."

―I see." He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, ―I‘m sorry."

She turned suddenly, shaking the fog from her eyes and settling on his face with a frank gaze.

―Have you ever been to Rome? It‘s a mad question, I know, because I don‘t even know your name, and I don‘t want to know your name, at least not tonight, but have you ever been to Rome?"

He shook his head. ―Have you?"


―I have been to Paris," he said. ―And Madrid."

―You were a soldier," she stated. Because what else would he have been, seeing such cities at such a time?

He gave a little shrug. ―It‘s not the most pleasant way to see the world, but it does get the job done."

―This is the farthest I have ever been from home," Annabel said.

―Here?" He looked at her, blinked, then pointed his finger straight down. ―This heath?"

―This heath," she confirmed. ―I think Hampstead is farther from home than London. Or maybe it‘s not."

―Does it matter?"

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