The Sicilian's Marriage Arrangement(2)

By: Lucy Monroe

“I don’t think he’s trying to buy me a husband, you know.” She tucked a reddish-brown curl behind her ear. “He’s tried to buy me pretty much everything else since his heart attack, but I think even Grandfather would draw the line at buying a husband.”

He wouldn’t put anything past the wily old man, but forbore saying so. “It is natural for him to want to buy you things.”

She grimaced. “Yes, I suppose so, but in the past he’s always been impersonal with it.”

A husband would be a pretty personal purchase, Luciano had to admit. “What do you mean, signorina?”

“Oh please, you must call me Hope. We’ve known each other for five years after all.”

Had it been that long? “Hope then.” He smiled and watched in some fascination as her skin took on a distinctly rosy hue.

She averted her face, so she was looking at the overfull bookcase on her left. “Grandfather has raised me since I was five.”

“I did not know this.”

She nodded. “But I don’t think he noticed I even lived in his house except to instruct the servants to buy me what I needed, clothes when I grew out of them, books when I wanted them, an education, that sort of thing.”

It was as he had always surmised. Hope had been relegated to the background of Reynolds’ life and she had known it.

“But just lately, he’s been buying things for me himself. My birthday was a month ago and he bought me a car.” She sounded shocked by the fact. “I mean he went to the car dealership and picked it out himself. The housekeeper told me.”

“This bothers you?” Most women of his acquaintance would find a car a very appropriate birthday gift.

Her pansy eyes focused back on him. “No. Not really. Well, except that I don’t drive, but that’s not the point. It’s just that I think he’s trying to make up for something.”

“Perhaps he regrets spending so little time with you through your formative years.”

Her soft, feminine laughter affected his libido in a most unexpected way. “He had the housekeeper take me out to dinner for my birthday after having the Porsche delivered by the dealership.”

“He bought you a Porsche?” That was hardly a suitable gift for a young woman who did not even know how to drive. Porca miseria! She could kill herself her first time behind the wheel with such a powerful car. He would have to speak to Reynolds about making sure she had received proper driving instruction before she was allowed onto the roads alone.

“Yes. He also bought me a mink coat. Not a fake one, but the real thing.” She sighed and sat down in one of the burgundy leather reading chairs. “I’m, um…a vegetarian.” She peeked up at him through her lashes. “The thought of killing animals makes me nauseous.”

He shook his head and leaned back against the desk. “Your grandfather does not know you very well, does he, piccola?”

“I suppose not. I’m really excited about the six-week European tour he gave me for Christmas, though. Even if I won’t be leaving for six months. He booked it for early summer.” Her eyes shone with undisguised delight at the prospect. “I’ll be traveling with a group of college students and a tour guide.”

“How many other young women will there be?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. There will be ten of us in all, not including the guide of course.” She crossed one leg over the other and started to swing the ankle back and forth, making her dress swish with each movement. “I don’t know what the ratio of men to women will be.”

“You are traveling with men?”

“Oh, yes. It’s all coed. Something I would have loved to do in college, but better late than never, don’t they say?”

He didn’t know about that, but the idea of this naive creature spending six weeks with a group of libidinous, college age men did not please him. Why he should care, he did not stop to analyze. It was his nature to act on not only his behalf, but that of others as well.

“I do not think it is wise for you to go on such a trip. Surely a wholly female group would be more enjoyable for you.”

Her leg stopped its swinging and she stared at him, clearly dumbfounded. “You’re kidding, right? Half the reason for going on the trip is to spend some time with men close to my own age.”

“Are you saying you object to Joshua buying you a husband, but not when it comes to him buying you a lover?” He didn’t know what had made him say it. Only that he had been angry, an inexplicable reaction to the news she was interested in male companionship.