Scandal in Spring Page 62

“Using the door isn’t nearly as romantic.”

“Neither is breaking your neck.”

“How pragmatic,” Daisy said with a laugh, turning in his arms. Matthew’s clothes were scented with outside air and the acrid trace of tobacco. He must have gone out to the back terrace with some of the gentlemen after dinner. Huddling deeper into his embrace, she smelled the starch of his shirt and the clean, familiar fragrance of his skin. “I love the way you smell,” she said. “I could walk blindfolded into a room filled with a hundred men and I would find you right away.”

“Another parlor game,” he said, and they snickered together.

Catching at his hand, Daisy tugged him toward the bed. “Come lie with me.”

Matthew shook his head, resisting. “I’ll only stay a few minutes. Westcliff and I are leaving at first light.” His gaze slid hungrily over the prim ruffled nightgown. “And if we go anywhere near that bed, I won’t be able to keep from making love to you.”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Daisy said shyly.

He pulled her into his arms and hugged her carefully. “Not so soon after your first time. You need to rest.”

“Then why are you here?”

Daisy felt his cheek rubbing against the top of her head. Even after all that had happened between them, it seemed impossible that Matthew Swift was holding her so tenderly. “I just wanted to say good night,” he murmured. “And to tell you…”

Daisy looked up with a questioning glance, and he stole a kiss as if he couldn’t help himself. “…you don’t ever have to worry that I would change my mind about marrying you,” he said. “In fact, you would have a damn difficult time getting rid of me now.”

“Yes,” Daisy said, smiling at him. “I know you’re dependable.”

Forcing himself to let go of her, Matthew went reluctantly to the door. He opened it a cautious crack and glanced outside to ascertain the hallway was empty.

“Matthew,” she whispered.

He glanced over his shoulder at her. “Yes?”

“Come back to me soon.”

Whatever he saw in her face caused his eyes to blaze in the shadow-tricked atmosphere. He gave her a short nod and left while he was still able.

CHAPTER 13

Matthew quickly discovered that traveling in Bristol with Lord Westcliff was a far different matter than navigating the port city by himself. He had originally planned to stay at an inn located in the central part of Bristol. With Westcliff as his companion, however, they took up temporary residence with a wealthy shipbuilding family. Matthew gathered there had been many such invitations extended by prosperous families in the area, all eager to host the earl in the finest style possible.

Everyone was either a friend of Westcliff’s, or wanted to be. Such was the power of an ancient aristocratic name. To be fair, it was more than a name and title that inspired such enthusiasm for Westcliff…he was known as a political progressive, not to mention a skillful businessman, both of which made a man very sought-after in Bristol.

The city, second only to London in its volume of trade, was undergoing a period of explosive development. As the commercial areas expanded and the old city walls crumbled, narrow roads were being widened and new thoroughfares appeared on what seemed a daily basis. Most significantly, a harborside railway system connecting the TempleMead station to the docks had just been completed. As a result, there was no better place in Europe to establish a manufacturing business.

Matthew had grudgingly admitted to Westcliff that his presence had made their negotiations and meetings much easier. Not only did Westcliff’s name open doors, it practically inspired people to give him the entire building. And Matthew privately acknowledged there was a great deal to be learned from the earl, who possessed reams of knowledge about business and manufacturing.

When they discussed locomotive production, for example, the earl was not only conversant with principles of design and engineering, he could also name the dozen varieties of bolts used on their latest broad-gauge locomotives.

Without modesty, Matthew had never met another man who could rival his own ability to understand and retain vast quantities of technical knowledge. Until Westcliff. It made for interesting conversation, at least to the two of them. Anyone else taking part in the discussion would have started snoring after five minutes.

For his part, Marcus had embarked on the week in Bristol with a dual purpose, officially to accomplish certain business-related goals…but unofficially to decide what to make of Matthew Swift.

It hadn’t been easy for Marcus to leave Lillian’s side. He had discovered that while the events of childbirth and infancy were perfectly ordinary when they happened to other people, they were monumentally important when his own wife and child were involved. Everything about his daughter fascinated him: her pattern of sleeping and waking, her first bath, the way she wiggled her toes, the sight of her at Lillian’s breast.

Although it was not unheard of for an upper-class lady to nurse her own child, it was far more common to hire a lactating maid for that purpose. However, Lillian had abruptly changed her mind after Merritt was born. “She wants me instead,” Lillian had told Marcus. He hadn’t dared to point out that the baby was hardly capable of a discussion on the matter and would likely be just as content with a wet nurse.

Marcus’s fear that his wife might succumb to childbed fever receded day by day as Lillian returned to her old self, healthy and slender and vigorous. His relief was vast. He had never known such overwhelming love for one person, nor had he anticipated that Lillian would so quickly become his essential requirement for happiness. Anything that was in his power to do for Lillian would be done. And in light of his wife’s worry over her sister, Marcus had decided to form some definitive conclusions about Matthew Swift.

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