The hour was late when
Rule arrived home from his gentleman’s
club. To his surprise, his silver-haired
butler waited in the entry to greet him, his
eyes red from lack of sleep.
“What is it, Hatfield? I
told you not to wait up.”
The butler straightened,
looking more like his old self again.
“You’ve a guest, my lord. Two of them,
Rule frowned. “A guest?
I’m not expecting anyone. Who is it?”
“Your wife, sir.”
Silence fell. “My...my
wife is here?” He hadn’t seen her since the
day he married her three years ago.
moving strands of the silver hair hanging
over his wrinkled forehead. “Yes, my lord.
Her ladyship arrived from America late this
afternoon with her cousin, a Miss Caroline
“I see.” Of course he
didn’t see at all and all he could think was
bloody hell, what am I going to do now?
“Your wife, sir...she’s
waiting for you.”
“Violet is...my wife is
waiting for me? She is up at this hour?”
“Yes, sir, in the drawing
His mind was spinning,
trying to sort things out. Violet was in
London. He was supposed to have retrieved
her years ago. Instead, she had been forced
to cross the Atlantic on her own. He
started walking toward the drawing room,
wide awake now, no longer feeling the least
effects of the alcohol he had consumed.
As he strode into the
room, she sat bolt upright, her eyes bright
and blinking, glanced round as if to recall
where she was, straightened and shoved to
her feet. She was smaller than he
remembered was his first impression, petite
but shapely. In truth, she was different in
every way from the gangly sixteen year old
he had married for financial reasons.
Except for her glorious
copper hair, the likes of which he had never
He groped for something
to say. “Violet. I cannot believe you are
She gave him a chilling
smile. “It took a while to reach London.
But as you see, here I am.”
He couldn’t seem to make
himself move. “So you are.”
He did move then, closing
the distance between them, reaching out to
take both of her hands. She wore no gloves,
he noticed, and realized that aside from his
chase bridal kiss on her cheek, he had never
actually touched her without the barrier of
some sort of clothing.
“Welcome to London,” he
said. “If I had known you were coming, I
would have prepared a more proper greeting.”
Violet withdrew her hands
from his and looked him over head to foot.
For the first time, it occurred to him that
his cravat was undone and dangling round his
neck. His collar was missing, his shirt
unbuttoned and his hair slightly mussed.
Violet, on the other
Violet Griffin Dewar was
"It must have been quite
an evening,” she said, those leaf green eyes
he remembered taking in his dishevel.
He flushed like a
schoolboy. “Not really. I stopped by to
see friends and wound up playing cards at my
“You were gambling? I
didn’t realize you were a gambler.”
His embarrassment faded,
replaced by a hint of irritation. She had
been so malleable before. “I rarely
gamble. I was simply passing time.”
“Yes, well, you certainly
managed to do that.” She glanced up at the
clock, the hands pointing to the lateness of
the hour, condemning him.
“I am certain you are
tired,” she continued. “I shall leave you
to find your bed. I just wanted you to know
I was here and to say that there is an
important matter I wish to discuss with you
in the morning.”
“Yes, of course.” His
gaze ran over her. In the yellow glow of
the lamp, he saw that in the last three
years her features had softened, the sharp
angles smoothed into feminine lines and
curves. Her cheeks were as pale as cream
and heightened by a touch of rose. A full
bosom swelled above her tiny waist. Her
neck was slender and as graceful as her
A shot of lust hit him.
He had dreaded the day he would be forced to
make his marriage real, had put off his
duties for as long as he dared.
Now as he looked at
Violet’s full pink lips, glimpsed the tops
of her creamy breasts, he imagined what it
would be like to take his petite wife to bed
and began to see marriage in a whole
"I’ll have Hat rouse one
of the chambermaids and send her in to help
you undress,” he said, the image making him
start to go hard.
Reality set in. God’s
blood, his wife had come to London! He
would have to tell his family, try to
explain why he had kept his marriage a
secret. Rule thought of facing his two
brothers and their wives--worse yet, his
aunt Agatha, the matriarch of the
family--and inwardly he groaned.
On the other hand, as he
watched Violet collect her silk skirts and
sweep gracefully from the drawing room, it
occurred to him that having a woman like
that in his bed might just outweigh the many
disadvantages of being married.