Page 11 of Merry Miss

His roadside angel held herself like a lady. She spoke like a lady. If she herself hadn’t confirmed his assumptions before they arrived, he might have wondered if he hadn’t misjudged her pending profession.

She lifted covers off a few dishes and began spooning generous portions onto the plate before him. “Is that enough?”

Jack nodded, swallowing an unfamiliar emotion. “It’s fine.” He dug in with his fork.

“Despite hating Christmas, aren’t you looking forward to seeing your family?” Her question came out tentatively as she poured wine into one of two separate goblets.

“I don’t hate Christmas. I’d simply prefer to ignore it altogether,” Jack grumbled.

“Oh.”

Typically, he didn’t discuss himself. He certainly wasn’t accustomed to discussing his feelings, and yet he’d determined to ease her entry into her new profession as pleasantly as possible.

Both of them would enjoy the evening more that way.

“I don’t mind seeing my grandparents.” Jack bit into a savory bite of meat. “But I’m happy to forgo the chaos of my sister and her offspring and their families.”

“Why chaos?”

“Lavinia,” he said and then swallowed some wine. “She… did not marry well.”

Miss Somerset’s eyes widened as she watched him from across the table. “Is he cruel to her?”

“Not intentionally, but… My sister was raised a lady. Unfortunately, she fell in love with the blacksmith’s son and is now the mother of ten.”

“Ten?”

“Admittedly, her husband has no complaints, seeing as eight of them are sons. The last two are a pair of girls.”

“And your sister is not happy?”

“I doubt anything will make her happy at this point.” Jack rubbed the back of his neck. “I’ve ensured they have a decent home. Lavinia wouldn’t have survived without servants. But. She lives with regrets. Regrets that have made her bitter.”

“She knew love, though.” Miss Somerset stared down at her food. “She must be grateful for that.”

“Delia.” Jack studied her. “Do you mind if I call you Delia?”

Whereas he expected easy permission, she paused as though deliberating the wisdom of allowing him to call her by her given name. “If you wish.”

For reasons he didn’t quite comprehend, the catch in her voice sent blood flowing to his cock. What other requests would she grant him that evening?

Anticipation enhanced the appetizer.

“Some females, my dear Delia, grow up thinking love will bring them happiness. They grow up pursuing romance rather than security.”

He had her attention.

“When a person heeds the demands of the heart, they cease listening to their brains. They make foolish decisions—ones that affect the entirety of their lives. Based on what? A temporary infatuation? My dear sister knew love—long ago. But that love has been smothered by crying babies, faded beauty, and the loss of her dignity.”

“But your evidence is anecdotal,” Delia said. “I know of several couples who are in love and quite happily married.”

Jack wouldn’t argue with her. “But not you. Or you wouldn’t be here now.”

Hurt flickered in her eyes. Jack had never been a man to mince his words, but a stab of guilt pinched nonetheless.

“Touché.” Those full rosebud lips of hers tilted up at the corners ironically. “Is it the children? Is that why you don’t enjoy Christmas with all of them? The noise?”

Was that it? Jack scooped a spoonful of potatoes into his mouth.


Tags: Annabelle Anders Historical
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