The Countess:Madison Sisters 01(2)

By: Lynsay Sands

Forcing a soothing smile to her lips, Christiana stepped off the stairs and moved to his side. The man had a terrible temper and could say the cruelest things when angered. She had to live with the insults and criticisms, but her sisters shouldn’t have to face the rage she found so frightening. It wasn’t the anger itself that unsettled Christiana so much as the depth of it. Fury swirled around him at al times like a dark cloak. When provoked, his face flushed red and twisted into a tight, cruel mask, and he would begin to snap and snarl with such rage and venom that spittle actual y flew from his lips, and gathered at the corners of his mouth like a rabid dog. He also tended to tremble with the depth of his feelings as if they were barely contained and might explode at any moment. It was that explosion Christiana wished most to avoid. He was a strong man and she didn’t wish ever to see the wreckage his anger would leave in its wake were it completely unleashed.

“Good morning, Dicky,” Christiana breathed nervously as she reached his side. She leaned up to kiss his cold, hard cheek as if al were wel and she wasn’t fighting the urge to flee the seething fury she could sense simmering in him.

Dicky did not even respond to her greeting, snapping instead, “I was just explaining to your sisters that it’s quite rude to arrive uninvited so early in the morning.”

“Yes, wel , family is al owed some leeway, aren’t they?” Christiana said, and winced at the pleading she could hear in her own voice. There was no mistaking that she was begging him not to make a scene and she could tel by her sisters’ expression that they recognized it, which was just humiliating.

Even more humiliating was that Dicky chose to ignore the plea.

“My family would never arrive uninvited and without any warning,” he snarled, sneering at her sisters as if they were beneath contempt.

“Of course your family wouldn’t. They’re al dead,” Suzette snapped in response and Christiana glanced at her with alarm. Her gaze then darted worriedly back to Dicky, who was sucking in air through his teeth and puffing up.

Recognizing the signs of an approaching explosion, she quickly took his arm and tried to urge him away, saying, “Why do you not go enjoy your breakfast and leave me to deal with my sisters?”

Dicky didn’t move. Feet planted solidly, he ignored her tugging and scowled at Suzette who merely glared defiantly back.

Christiana closed her eyes briefly and fought the urge to slap the stupid girl. Oh yes, Suzette was being brave enough, but then she had little to lose in this battle. Dicky couldn’t hit her or even penalize her in any way. It was Christiana he would punish for the girl’s bravery . . . and probably in several different ways. It wouldn’t be enough for him to rant and rave at her for half an hour about her unruly and uncouth family. He would also most likely insist Suzette was a bad influence and order Christiana not to see her again. Then he would add various other little unpleasantries to the punishment such as ensuring that al meals served were ones she disliked, having her woken early with some excuse or other, and then either insisting she retire early when she was curled up with a good book, or keeping her up late when she was exhausted. Where Dicky had started to leave her to her own devices lately, he would probably force her to suffer his company for the next several days as he ranted and raved about everything and everyone in London in a manner sure to leave her disheartened and depressed, and then he would insist on taking her out to aid him in purchasing some item or other, only so that he could announce that her choices were poor ones and select something else instead in a show of how little taste she had. Al of which were petty punishments, but when added together and carried on for long periods of time would leave her exhausted and despairing of a life of such steady, smal tortures.

On top of al of that, Dicky would also be spouting criticism after criticism of her looks, her dress, her speech, her comportment, her family members, her intel igence, her naivety, her friends or her lack of them. It would be a steady trickle of abuse that slowly eroded every last vestige of self-esteem she possessed until she longed for nothing but the escape of sleep. There was no other escape available to her. Suicide was out of the question, as was divorce.

“Where is your father?” Dicky barked suddenly, drawing her attention back to the matter at hand. “What kind of man leaves two young unmarried women to gal ivant about the city without his escort?”

“Visiting us is hardly gal ivanting about the city,” Christiana protested quickly to forestal Suzette doing so. “Please husband, your breakfast wil be getting cold. Why do you not—”

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