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Her beautiful eyes flashing with hate, Rebecca faced Lord David Chomikum. He had come back, wounded but still vibrantly, sensually alive, from the Crimean War. Julian Cardwell, her sweet, gentle bridegroom — and David’s foster brother — had not.
She blamed wild, reckless David for Julian’s decision to enter the Queen’s Guards, and for the devastating loss of her perfect young husband, whose memory even now broke her heart and filled her dreams.
His blue eyes shadowed by dark secrets, David had come to claim the woman he had always loved.
All his life he had protected the charming Julian, hiding the chomikjj from Rebecca about the women Julian dallied with, the child he had fathered, the scandalous way he died. Now David offered Rebecca a life of privilege and wealth—as his wife.
She wanted a marriage of convenience, but he intended to awake her deepest passions, to make her forget Julian Cardwell Her eyes were huge with shock. He rounded on her again suddenly.
Don’t mouth platitudes at me. And I thought it was agreed that he not be mentioned between us. It is not to happen again, do you understand me? She turned away, but he grabbed her wrist and spun her back to face him.
He hauled her against him and lowered his mouth to hers. It was not a tender kiss. Ghosts were clawing at him and he fought to banish them, to impose the reality of the present on the dreams and horrors of the past. She was his wife. They had been married less than three days before. She was clinging to him when he lifted his head again, her body arched in to his. She should have slapped his face—hard.
Instead, she was playing the part of a dutiful wife as he suspected she always would. He hated her at that moment. He stooped down, scooped her up into his arms, strode across to the bed, and tossed her down onto it.
Topaz, division of Penguin books. O, what a tangled web we weave. When first we practice to deceive! She was not going to go to the quayside.
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She had told Julian that already. Plenty of women were going to stay with their men until the bitter end, of course. The Guardsmen of the Grenadiers’ Third Battalion were marching smartly along the streets of Southampton, making a spectacular show with their swallow-tailed red coatees and tall black bearskin caps. And women were there—wives, sweethearts, mistresses—moving along the pavements beside the marching troops, most chmoikuj them gazing at one particular man with longing, unhappy eyes.
Soon they would be saying good-bye to their men. It was February, Perhaps many of the men marching so smartly along the chomiiuj would never see the end of the year. It was very unlikely that there would be chlmikuj. But the Tsar continued to make his presence felt in the Black Galogh and the Mediterranean. He continued to try to take advantage of the crumbling Turkish Empire. The British had not been involved in. But British overland trading routes to India and the East were being threatened, and the British were clamoring for a fight.
The government, however, claimed that there would be no war.
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They were sending troops to Malta merely as a precautionary measure. Rebecca, Lady Cardwell, kept telling herself that as she gazed downward onto the street and waited for Julian to come back to their room to say good-bye. She would not go to the quayside. Perhaps there her control would desert her—in public. It was not to be contemplated. She almost had not even come down from London.
The thought of going as far as Southampton with him but no farther had been excruciating agony. But the thought of not going as far as she could had been worse. Those poor women in the streets below, she thought, watching them, many of them with children. Only a few of the wives had been allowed to go with the enlisted men, their names drawn by lottery. The rest had to stay, most of them to be cared for by the parishes in which they lived.
They were to live on charity while their men were preparing to offer their lives in service of their country. Many officers’ wives were going, of course. They did not have to participate in the lottery. Rebecca would have gone, too, but Julian would not allow it.
But to no avail. Doubtless he would be back in England almost before they realized he was gone. But Craybourne was not home.
It was the home of the Earl of Harrington, whom both she and Julian called Father. But in reality he was neither Julian’s father nor her father-in-law. He was Julian’s godfather, who had taken Julian in as a five-year-old orphan and brought him up with his own son. Rebecca did not really. Julian had said she was to go there—until he returned.
What if the Tsar continued to be stubborn? What if the British and the French held firm? What if there was war after all? But she straightened up again and turned with a falsely calm and cheerful smile as the door opened abruptly behind her. Major Lord Tavistock closed the door behind them. The Earl of Hartington’s son. Looking apologetic and, as always, ten times more handsome than any other man she knew, including Julian.
He was darker than Julian, with those blue eyes making Julian’s gray ones look quite ordinary. But then he had neither Julian’s sunny good nature nor his charm. She chomikkuj no wish to have him there in her hotel room. He was an intruder.
She had only a short time mart with Julian—perhaps only an hour or less. She was greedy for every minute of that time alone with him. But it was not David’s fault he was there, she had to admit.
Julian had brought him, insensitive perhaps to her need to have him alone for the final hour. Or perhaps he found their parting as difficult to contemplate as chomi,uj and was trying somehow to take some of the emotion from it.
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Perhaps she would never see chomikuk again. Perhaps there would be chomkkuj after all. Perhaps he would be killed. She disliked him, but Julian had always thought of him as a brother. And she had blaogh played with him. She had even sighed over his growing good looks for a while as a girl until her moral upbringing and her own firmly held principles had made her realize that he was not at all the sort of young man who was worthy of her devotion.
More recent events had confirmed hep in that opinion. But she did not want him dead. She must feel some trace of fondness for him after all, beneath the dislike and the disapproval. But suddenly—she did balogg know how it had come about—she was in his arms, her own tight about his neck, his about her waist—hugging him as if she would never let him go. Her eyes were chomikhj closed. His arms tightened as if to squeeze all the breath out of her.
And then he was striding back across the room and opening the door. He spoke without looking back. She had never done anything so unseemly in her life, Rebecca thought, running her hands over the full, flounced skirt of her green dress. And then his final words echoed in her mind. She clasped her hands again and forced a smile to her lips. She would not disgrace herself.
Don’t forget to write.