The Dangerous Lord Darrington(97)

By: Sarah Mallory

His breathing softened. Guy supported himself on his arms above her, looking down. She could not see his face, but she could feel the love and gentleness emanating from him. He lowered his head, searching for her lips. She lifted her face to receive his kiss, light as a feather. Silently, they slipped between the sheets. Beth shivered slightly as the cotton struck cold on her bare skin, then Guy gathered her in his arms, warmed her with his own body and she fell asleep.

It was a beautiful autumn morning. A light frost coated the grass and the rising sun was a gilded orb against the pinky-blue of the clear sky. Beth stood amongst the ruins of the old church. She avoided the chill shadows, enjoying the warmth of the rising sun on her face. A faint mist hung over the river while on the other side of the wilderness it hovered between the trees, dimming the glow of their crisp golden leaves. She picked her way between the tumbled stones, moving away from the standing walls until she could see across the gardens to the Priory, its old stone turned to mellow gold in the morning sun.

Something, not exactly a sound, more a feeling, made her look round. Guy was approaching. He was wearing his greatcoat over his shirt and breeches, but it was unbuttoned and billowed about him. He stopped.

‘Do I intrude?’

‘You were sleeping. I did not want to disturb you.’

‘Thus when I did wake, you were gone.’ The smile in his eyes reassured her.

‘How did you find me?’

‘There were footsteps in the frost. When I realised they were heading through the cloisters I guessed where you were going.’ She saw the uncertainty behind his eyes. ‘Is anything wrong?’

‘No-o.’ She wrapped her arms around herself. ‘I was thinking. About the future.’

‘Well. Radworth booked the church for three weeks’ time, I suggest we use it. There is still time to read the banns. Would you object to that?’

She blushed. ‘No. I would like that. Very much.’

His relief was palpable and that pleased her.

‘I will have to go to Wylderbeck before then. I would like to take you with me. I want to show you my home.’

‘Yes, of course.’

She turned and walked back into the main body of the abbey. The air was very still and the sun had crept high enough to shine over the remains of the walls, bathing the area in warmth and light. It came to her that, centuries past, couples would have stood in this very spot, making their marriage vows.

She heard Guy’s step behind her and said softly, ‘Where will we live, when we are married?’

‘I hope you will like Wylderbeck enough to consider it our principal home.’

‘I am sure I shall, if you are there with me.’

‘I may have to spend more time in London. I have heard that Pitt would welcome my presence. With the current unrest in France I would like to think I might be of use to the government.’

She turned to him. ‘Then of course you must go. And I will come with you, if I may.’

‘I would not have it otherwise.’ He was standing very close. ‘You are shivering,’ he said. ‘You should be wearing more than a spencer over your gown.’ He opened his arms. ‘Come here, let me warm you.’

It was only a step to reach him. She slid her arms around him, under his coat, feeling the warmth of his body through the thin shirt. Guy pulled his greatcoat around them both.

‘What is wrong, my love?’

‘I was thinking about the family: Sophie, Grandmama, Simon.’

He rested his cheek lightly on the top of her head. ‘If Davey has his way I think Sophie will not be long in following you down the aisle and Lady Arabella will naturally continue to live here.’

‘She would want that, I think. If you do not object.’

‘Perhaps you should discuss it with your brother.’ She raised her head, brows raised in enquiry.

‘You had mentioned you would like to make Malpass over to Simon.’ Amusement deepened in his eyes as he noted her surprise. He said, ‘It is his birthright. If you wish to return it to him, I have no objection.’

‘But…then I should come to you with nothing. Well, almost nothing—my widow’s jointure…’

The glint of amusement in his eyes was replaced by a warmer glow. It sent a shiver running through her that had nothing to do with the morning chill and his words, softly spoken, told her everything she needed to know.

‘I have everything I need right here. Now and for ever.’

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