Scandal in Spring Page 73

Matthew sighed and raised his gaze heavenward.

Obediently Daisy stared at her own expectant reflection, seeing the torchlight flicker across her features. “Are you going to stare into it too?” she asked.

“No,” the fortune teller replied. “I only need to see your eyes.”

Then…silence. Farther along the street, people sung May carols and beat drums. Staring into her own eyes, Daisy saw tiny gold glints of reflected light, like sparks wafting upward from a bonfire. If she looked hard enough, long enough, she could half-convince herself the silvered glass really was the gateway to some mystical world. Perhaps it was her imagination, but she could actually feel the intensity of the fortune-teller’s concentration.

With an abruptness that startled Daisy, the woman took the looking glass from her hands. “No good,” she said tersely. “I can see nothing. I will give your shilling back.”

“No need,” Daisy replied in bemusement. “It’s not your fault if my spirit is opaque.”

Matthew’s voice was so dry one could light a match off it. “We’ll be just as happy if you’d make up something,” he told the woman.

“She can’t make up something,” Daisy protested. “That would be abusing her gift.”

Studying the fortune-teller’s corrugated features, Daisy thought she seemed sincerely disgruntled. She must have seen or thought something that had bothered her. Which was probably a good indication to leave well enough alone. But if she didn’t find out what it was, Daisy knew herself well enough to be certain the curiosity would drive her mad.

“We don’t want the shilling back,” she said. “Please, you must tell me something. If it’s bad news, I would be better off knowing, wouldn’t I?”

“Not always,” the woman said darkly.

Daisy drew closer to her, until she could smell a sweet odor of figs, and some herbal essence…bay leaves? Basil? “I want to know,” she insisted.

The fortune-teller gave her a long, considering glance. Finally she spoke with great reluctance. “Sweet the night a heart was given, bitter turns the day. A promise made in April…a broken heart in May.”

A broken heart? Daisy didn’t like the sound of that.

She felt Matthew come up behind her, one hand settling at Daisy’s waist. Although she couldn’t see his expression, she knew it was sardonic. “Will two shillings inspire something a little more optimistic?” he asked.

The fortune-teller ignored him. Tucking the handle of the looking glass at her waist, she said to Daisy, “Make a charm of cloves tied in cloth. He must carry it for protection.”

“Against what?” Daisy asked anxiously.

The woman was already striding away from them. Her opulently hued skirts moved like river reeds as she headed to the crowd at the end of the street in search of more business.

Turning to Matthew, Daisy glanced up at his impassive face. “What could you need protection from?”

“The weather.” He held his hand palm upward, and Daisy realized that a few fat, cold raindrops had splashed on her head and shoulders.

“You were right,” she said, brooding over the ominous fortune. “I should have gone for the smoked chub instead.”

“Daisy…” His free hand slid behind the nape of her neck. “You didn’t believe that load of nonsense, did you? That crone has memorized a few verses, any one of which she’ll recite for a shilling. The only reason she gave us an ill omen was because I didn’t pretend to believe in her magic looking-glass.”

“Yes, but…she seemed genuinely sorry.”

“There was nothing genuine about her, or anything she said.” Matthew drew her closer, regardless of who might see them. As Daisy looked up at him, a raindrop spattered on her cheek, and another near the corner of her mouth. “It wasn’t real,” Matthew said softly, his eyes like blue midnight. He kissed her strongly, urgently, right there on the public street with the taste of rain absorbed between their lips. “This is real,” he whispered.

Daisy pressed against him eagerly, standing on her toes to fit her body against the firm contours of his. The jumble of packages threatened to fall, and Matthew fought to retain them while his mouth consumed Daisy’s. She broke the kiss with a sudden chuckle. A vigorous rumble of thunder caused the ground to vibrate beneath their feet.

In the periphery of her vision, people were scattering to the coverage provided by shops and stalls. “I’ll race you to the carriage,” she told Matthew, and picked up her skirts as she broke into a full-bore run.

CHAPTER 17

By the time the carriage had reached the end of the graveled drive, rain was coming down in flat, heavy sheets, and wind battered the sides of the vehicle. Thinking of the revelers in the village, Matthew reflected with amusement that many amorous inclinations were surely being drowned in the downpour.

The carriage stopped, the vehicle’s roof roaring from the impact of relentless rain. Ordinarily a footman would come to the carriage door with an umbrella, but the strength of this deluge would whip the device right out of his hands.

Matthew removed his coat and wrapped it around Daisy, pulling it up until it covered her head and shoulders. It was hardly adequate protection, but it would shield her between the carriage and the front door of the manor.

“You’ll get wet,” Daisy protested, glancing at his shirtsleeves and waistcoat.

He began to laugh. “I’m not made of sugar.”

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