Scandal in Spring Page 11

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“Oh, of course he isn’t! But you know how my imagination is…it wants to plunge into every little mystery.”

“We must remain focused on what is important, Daisy,” Lillian said sternly. “No fantasies or stories…and no more thoughts of Rohan. He’s only a distraction.”

Daisy’s initial impulse was to utter some biting reply as she always had when Lillian became bossy. However, as she stared into her sister’s brown eyes, the same spiced-gingerbread color of her own, she saw the flicker of panic in them and she felt a rush of protective love.

“You’re right,” she said, forcing a smile. “You needn’t worry, you know. I’m going to do whatever it takes to stay here with you. Even marry a man I don’t love.”

Another silence, and then Evie spoke. “We’ll find a man whom you could love, Daisy. And hope that mutual affection will grow in time.” A wry little smile quirked her full lips. “Sometimes it happens that way.”

CHAPTER 3

“The bargain you made with my father…”

The echo of Daisy’s voice lingered in Matthew’s mind long after they had parted company. He was going to take Thomas Bowman aside at the first opportunity and ask him what the hell was going on. But in the bustle of arriving guests that moment would not likely come until this evening.

Matthew wondered if old Bowman had really taken it into his head to pair him off with Daisy. Jesus. Through the years Matthew had entertained many thoughts concerning Daisy Bowman, but none of them had involved marriage. That had always been so far out of the realm of possibility it was not even worth considering. So Matthew had never kissed her, had never danced with her or even walked with her, knowing full well the results would be disastrous.

The secrets of his past haunted his present and endangered his future. Matthew was never without the awareness that the identity he had created for himself could be blown to bits at any moment. All it would take was for one person to put two and two together…one person to recognize him for what and who he really was. Daisy deserved a husband who was honest and whole, not one who had built his life on lies.

But that didn’t stop Matthew from wanting her. He had always wanted Daisy, with an intensity that seemed to radiate from the pores of his skin. She was sweet, kind, inventive, excessively reasonable yet absurdly romantic, her dark sparkling eyes filled with dreams. She had occasional moments of clumsiness when her mind was too occupied with her thoughts to focus on what she was doing. She was often late to supper because she had gotten too involved in her reading. She frequently lost thimbles and slippers and pencil stubs. And she loved to stargaze. The never-forgotten sight of Daisy leaning wistfully on a balcony railing one night, her pert profile lifted to the night sky, had charged Matthew with the most blistering desire to stride over to her and kiss her senseless.

Matthew had imagined being in bed with her far more often than he should have. If such a thing could ever have occurred, he would have been so gentle…he would have worshipped her. Anything and everything to please her. He longed for the intimacy of her hair in his hands, the soft jut of her hipbones beneath his palms, the smoothness of her shoulders against his lips. The sleeping weight of her in his arms. He wanted all of that, and so much more.

It amazed Matthew that no one had ever guessed at his feelings. Daisy should have been able to see it every time she looked at him. Fortunately for Matthew she never had. She had always dismissed him as another cog in the machine of her father’s company, and Matthew had been grateful for that.

Something had changed, however. He thought of the way Daisy had stared at him earlier in the day, the startled wonder in her expression. Was his appearance that different from before?

Absently Matthew shoved his hands deep in his pockets and walked through the interior of Stony Cross Manor. He had never given a thought to his looks other than to make certain his hair was cut and his face was clean. A stern New England upbringing had extinguished any flicker of vanity, as Bostonians abhorred conceit and did everything possible to avoid the new and fashionable.

However, in the past couple of years Thomas Bowman had insisted that Matthew go to his Park Avenue tailor, and visit a hair-dresser instead of a barber, and have his nails manicured once in a while as befitted a gentleman of his position. Also at Bowman’s insistence, Matthew had hired a cookmaid and a housekeeper, which meant he had been eating better of late. That, along with losing the last vestiges of young adulthood, had given him a new look of maturity. He wondered if that appealed to Daisy, and immediately cursed himself for caring.

But the way she had looked at him today…as if she were seeing him, really noticing him, for the first time…

She had never given him such a glance on any of the occasions he had visited her family’s Fifth Avenue house. His mind ventured back to the first time he had met Daisy, at a private supper with just the family attending.

The grandly appointed dining-room had glittered in the effusively scattered light from a crystal chandelier, the walls covered in thick gilded paper and gold-painted molding. One entire wall was lined with a succession of four massive looking glasses, larger than any others he’d ever seen.

Two of the sons had been present, both of them sturdy young men who were easily twice Matthew’s weight. Mercedes and Thomas had been seated at opposite ends of the table. The two daughters, Lillian and Daisy, had sat on one side, surreptitiously nudging their plates and chairs closer together.

Thomas Bowman had a contentious relationship with both his daughters, alternately ignoring them and subjecting them to harsh criticisms. The older daughter Lillian responded to Bowman with surly impudence.

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