The Countess:Madison Sisters 01

By: Lynsay Sands

Chapter One

My lady?”

Christiana remained curled on her side in her cocoon of blankets. She merely opened one eye to peer at the older woman bent over her. Grace, her maid. “Hmm?”

“Your sisters are here.” Those four words and the urgency behind them brought her other eye open at once.

“What? My sisters in London?” Christiana rolled over, thrusting the blankets and linens away to sit up. “And here at this hour? There must be some sort of emergency for them to be cal ing so early.”

“That was my thought when I saw them getting out of the carriage,” Grace admitted as Christiana got out of bed. “So I hurried up here to fetch you. If you’re quick we can have you dressed and downstairs before your husband sends them away.”

“Dicky wouldn’t send them away,” Christiana said with surprise, and then tacked on an uncertain, “Would he?”

“He’s done so with others.”

“Who?” Her horror and surprise came muffled from inside the cloth of her nightdress as the maid dragged it off over her head.

“Lady Beckett, Lady Gower, Lord Ollivet and Lord Langley . . . twice.” Grace turned away to trade the nightdress for a pale blue gown that matched Christiana’s eyes. As she began to help her don it, she added, “And I can tel you Lord Langley didn’t like it the first time, but was absolutely livid the second.”

“I can imagine,” Christiana said with a sigh as the dress dropped to cover her body. The Langley estate bordered her childhood home, Madison Manor.

Robert, the only son and heir, had grown up with her and her sisters. He was like family, the big brother she’d never had. He wouldn’t have appreciated being sent away like some sort of undesirable. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Grace snatched up a hairbrush and began to drag it through her hair before saying, “What good would it have done?”

“None,” Christiana admitted unhappily. Her husband had every right to turn away whomever he wished from his door, while she, as she’d come to learn, had few to no rights at al in this marriage. She sighed, and then grimaced as Grace tugged at her hair, pul ing it into the tight, matronly bun Christiana had worn since marriage, a style she absolutely abhorred. Aside from being ugly, having her hair pul ed so tight al day resulted in terrible headaches, but Dicky insisted it gave some sophistication to her unruly person.

“What could have brought my sisters here?” Christiana asked worriedly.

“I do not know, but it must be something important. They did not send word of their arrival in the city ere arriving,” the woman pointed out, and then stepped back. “There. I have finished with your hair.”

Christiana barely managed to swipe up her slippers before Grace took her arm to urge her to move. “Come, we must hurry. Haversham wil have found and fetched Lord Radnor by now. Let us hope we were quick enough and your husband has not yet sent them away.”

Grunting in agreement, Christiana hopped on first one foot and then the other to get her slippers on without the necessity of stopping as the woman rushed her to the door.

Christiana could hear both Lisa’s and Suzette’s high anxious voices from the entry below as she hurried along the upper hal and immediately frowned at the rudeness of keeping her sisters in the entry rather than showing them to the parlor. She couldn’t blame Haversham, however, the butler would only be fol owing Dicky’s orders regarding guests.

Dicky’s voice sounded next, loud and pompous as he announced, “I fear my wife is stil sleeping. You real y should have sent a messenger around with a card had you wished to see her. I could have responded with an appropriate time for such a visit. As it is, I fear you shal simply have to return to your father’s townhouse and send that card now.”

“Can we not just slip up to speak to her, Dicky? We are her sisters and it’s important.” Suzette’s tone was a combination of desperation, anger and something like shock. The anger was no doubt at Dicky’s pompous words. Probably the shock was as wel , Christiana acknowledged and knew the man her sisters now faced was a far cry from the one they’d encountered prior to the wedding. She had no doubt they were just as confused and startled by the change in him as she herself had been for the first six months of their marriage. However, it was the desperation that worried her. Something was definitely wrong.

“It’s al right, husband. I am awake,” Christiana cal ed out as she reached the stairs and started down.

Dicky immediately turned to peer up at her, his face like thunder. Whether his anger was over her sister’s words or her own, she didn’t know. Dicky preferred to be obeyed, and promptly; he wouldn’t appreciate Suzette’s insistence. However, he also wouldn’t be pleased with her arrival before he could send Suzette and Lisa away as he apparently had others.