Page 19 of Merry Miss

“I’ll never wear it again.” She met his gaze with a rueful smile. “I’m officially on the shelf now, going into service.”

“You had a season, then?”

“More than one. My mother said two seasons were more than enough. Any more would have been a waste of time and money.”

“But that is not why you are going into employment?”

“No.”

“What happened?”

The fact that Jack would even pretend to care about her circumstances proved that although he was a rogue, he was a compassionate one.

And responsible as well. Rather than blame Delia for this entire misunderstanding, he blamed himself.

He was so very unlike Bartholomew, who’d never taken responsibility for anything a day in his life.

“My brother,” she said. The errant strands of hair around her mouth lifted at her long exhalation. She tucked them behind her ear. “Two months ago, Bartholomew announced that if his debts weren’t paid, he was going to end up in Newgate. My father couldn’t bear the thought of that happening, and, as horrid as Bart can be, we couldn’t either.”

Jack didn’t respond, so Delia continued her tale of woe. “It wasn’t the first time he had gotten himself into this sort of trouble, so it wasn’t as though we had valuable items left to sell. All that remained of any value were Rachel’s and my dowries.”

“And you and your sister were forced to enter service?”

“Just me. Rachel has remained at home to keep my mother company. She’ll be allowed one more season if my great aunt is willing to put up a dowry.”

“And what of your brother?” Jack’s interest sounded sincere.

The answer to this question was the most irksome to Delia.

“He will go right on living as he always has. But unfortunately, all my father has left is entailed, and the next time Bart falls into debt, there won’t be anything to keep him out of Newgate. Can I tell you something ironic?” She continued before Jack could answer. “I don’t want him to end up there. I want him to quit the opium dens and the other horrible habits he’s fallen into and have a happy life. I love him. My family is… they are my family. I already miss them.”

Delia waved a hand in the air. “I’m sorry for going on like this. But…” She dabbed at her eyes. “When you kissed me—it was my first kiss, and it was likely also my last. And it was a rather wonderful kiss, even though you thought I was a prostitute.”

She laughed. Her hero was an excellent listener.

“And that you found me interesting enough that you would have paid…” Delia scrubbed a hand down her face. “I shouldn’t be, and you’re perfectly right if you choose to judge me for saying so, but… I am flattered. And now that I have talked your ears off, I imagine you’d like to ready yourself for bed. I have my coat, and I’ll make a place to sleep on the floor if you don’t mind. I promise I’ll be out of your hair forever come morning.”

Six

“I’ll take the floor.” Jack contradicted her. “Or, if you prefer, I can sleep somewhere downstairs.”

He wasn’t at all keen on sleeping in public places. If it weren’t so bollock-shrinking cold outside, he’d have simply made a bed on the bench of the carriage.

Although that would have been damned uncomfortable as well.

“No!” Delia burst off the bed. “This is your chamber. If I’m to stay, then I’ll be the one to sleep on the floor.”

“Do you honestly believe I could sleep knowing a lady is on the floor while I’m on a perfectly good mattress?”

“But—”

“We’ll share the bed,” Jack said. “You’ll be perfectly safe. Now that I know…” Jack’s gaze lingered on the sweet curve of her waist and the round flare of her lush bottom before catching himself.

He turned to stare out the window instead.

“Oh, of course. I’m not worried about that.” She ought to be. She put too much faith in his self-control. “You are a most trustworthy gentleman.”

He wondered at her confidence.


Tags: Annabelle Anders Historical
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