The Countess:Madison Sisters 01(6)

By: Lynsay Sands

“True,” she agreed. “So I shal marry.”

“In two weeks?” Christiana shook her head. “You cannot find a suitable husband in two weeks.”

“Who says he has to be suitable?” Suzette asked dryly. “Dicky was supposedly suitable and that hasn’t turned out very wel , has it?”


“Do not fret, Chrissy,” Suzette interrupted. “I have a plan. I just need a little help from you to make it work.”

“What kind of plan? And what help?” Christiana asked worriedly.

Suzette sat eagerly forward and took her hands. “There are always Lords who are land and title rich and yet in desperate need of funds. I intend to find one who is desperate enough that he wil strike a deal with me. In exchange for marriage and access to three quarters of my dower, he must agree to al ow me access to one quarter of it to use as I wish, as wel as the freedom to live my own life.” She smiled widely. “Al I need is for you to sponsor our coming out . . . immediately. You have to get us to bal s and teas and soirees and anything else where I can meet and assess the men available. I wil do the rest.”

Christiana stared at her sister. Her plan seemed sound enough. Three quarters of Suzette’s dower was stil a fortune, and certainly the arrangement should leave Suzette happier than she herself was in her own marriage. In fact, Christiana actual y felt a moment’s envy that her younger sister would manage such an arrangement. As for Suzette’s request, sponsoring her for a coming out was little enough to ask, and certainly much easier than trying to convince Dicky to al ow Christiana access to her funds. While the man was pleased to waste money on food, wine, and his own pleasures, when it came to giving her anything as smal as pin money, his fist suddenly spasmed and closed tight. Of course, Dicky did seem pleased to say no to her when it came to anything, so convincing him to sponsor her sisters for a coming out might not be al that easy either, she thought worriedly.

“Chrissy?” Suzette asked anxiously. “You can do that, can you not?”

Christiana’s gaze returned to her younger sister. Seeing the worry and desperation on her face, she straightened abruptly. “Certainly I can. I shal make Dicky do it . . . somehow,” she added in a mutter as she got determinedly to her feet.

She would confront him at once, Christiana thought firmly as she crossed the room, and found she wasn’t afraid for the first time in a long time. It wasn’t just because she was angry about Dicky’s part in her father’s gambling either. Somehow just learning that her family had tried to write her and that she wasn’t as alone as she’d felt this last year was resurrecting her spirit, as was this short time basking in her sisters’ company. The old Christiana was awakening inside her as if from a long sleep, and she was ready for a fight.

“What if he says no?” Lisa asked worriedly, bringing her to a halt as she reached the door.

Christiana paused just long enough to force a smile to her lips, and then glanced back to say lightly, “Then I shal just have to kil him, won’t I?”

Chapter Two

Christiana usualy knocked before daring to enter Dicky’s office. This time, however, she was angry and ready for a fight. She did not knock, but thrust the door open, and sailed determinedly inside, her voice sharp as she announced, “We have to talk, Dicky.”

Christiana thought it a very strong start. It was just a shame that Dicky wasn’t there to hear it. The room was empty. She started to turn away with a scowl, intending to hunt the man down, but paused mid-turn as she saw someone sitting in one of the chairs by the fire. Recognizing her husband’s dark hair above the chair back, Christiana glared briefly, awaiting some sort of acknowledgment that he’d heard her. When none was forthcoming, her scowl deepened and she strode forward.

“You wil not ignore me, Dicky. I know you have been withholding my family’s letters from me, and you have somehow been preventing my letters from getting to them as wel . And now I find out that you took my father to a gaming hel of al places? How could you when you know what happened the last time? You have treated me most shabbily since our marriage, but I never imagined you would do something so—”

Christiana had been building up a nice head of steam as she crossed the room to stand before him, but stopped now as she got a good look at the man she was berating.

Dicky was leaning back in the chair, eyes closed and fingers resting on his chest as if he’d meant to loosen his cravat but had dropped off before he could. No doubt Dicky had nodded off after returning here on escaping Suzette’s “nattering,” she thought grimly.

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