Comfort and Joy
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by Sandra Madden
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: Maeve O'Malley rescued an unconscious man one December night, but her brother's sense of propriety forced her to marry the stranger. Art collector Charles Rycroft, from an old and wealthy Boston family, lost his memory following the attack which robbed him of a valuable sketch of St. Nicholas--and on recovering it he found himself married to a beautiful Irish girl--from the serving class. Victorian Romance by Sandra Madden; originally published by Zebra
eBook Publisher: Belgrave House, 2001
eBookwise Release Date: December 2010
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [410 KB]
Reading time: 252-354 min.
What the bloody? What the devil had happened? Where was he? And why?
Charles did not have to look far for the answer. He was in bed with a beautiful woman. An indisputably beautiful woman--but a stranger nevertheless.
While it wasn't the first time Charles Ashton Rycroft had awakened to find himself in bed with a pretty female companion, it had been several years since. At thirty years of age, he'd put those days of reckless youth behind him. But even then, on the morning after a frolic he'd almost always recognized the lady in his bed and most of the time remembered her name as well.
Unlike the present.
The woman snuggled familiarly against him, the bare flesh of her silky, warm back pressed to his chest. Charles's cheek nestled in a thick mane of shining sloe-black hair that smelled of sweet spring violets. His arms wrapped around her small body intimately as if he were in the habit of sleeping this way.
His head ached, an ache so fierce he feared it might split. Obviously, he'd had far too much to drink the night before.
Unwilling to wake the sleeping woman before taking stock of his predicament, Charles lay quite still. For a moment he listened to the ringing in his ears, willing the annoying sound away. Only his eyes moved as he scanned the foyer-sized room searching for something that might trigger a memory of what had occurred the night before. Nothing.
The barren chamber held only one rickety chair, a spindle-legged table with a washbasin, and a faded print on one wall, the subject of which appeared to be fairies romping among the stars. The narrow mattress beneath him felt lumpy and rough as if it were made from straw.
Outside, through the cold room's single window, flurries of snow danced in the gray winter dawn. Charles had never been in such humble surroundings and for the life of him could not fathom how he happened here.
"Good morning, me love."
The nameless stranger spoke!
Awakening slowly, the woman stretched and wiggled deeper into his arms. Her body, warm and velvety soft as a rose petal, rubbed against him, arousing Charles in a swift, shameful way. Stifling a groan, he gritted his teeth. He did not even know this woman. How could she do this to him?
She rubbed her eyes. He carefully withdrew one arm; the other remained pinned beneath her. Charles squirmed in a backward movement, intent on preventing any further embarrassing contact with the stranger's body. In the nick of time he realized that he would fall from the bed if he moved an inch more. He froze.
She sighed. A deep, contented sound.
Charles cleared his throat. "Good morning."
She purred again. Her lustrous blue-black curls tickled his nose. He gingerly swept the silky wayward strands away.
"I think we should lie abed all day," she murmured. A melodic Irish lilt laced her speech.
He knew no Irish women.
Charles looked wildly around the room for his clothes. "Ah, but I'm afraid I must be going now."
"And where would ye be going? You're not strong enough for work yet." She yawned loudly, not bothering to cover her mouth. "But I must be off to the Deakinses, I suppose."
That said, she rolled over. With no place to run, no clothes in sight, Charles held his breath and closed his eyes. A disturbing thought flashed across his mind. What did she mean, he wasn't strong enough to work? Had they spent an especially vigorous evening together?
Not wishing to appear at a loss, he replied, "I suppose you must."
Before he could say more, she moved. Soft, generous breasts brushed, then pressed, against his chest. A searing heat shot through Charles.
He opened his eyes, attempting to ignore the tightening in his lower regions, the sweet leaden ache her body ignited in him. "Before I get up, what do ye say to a mornin' kiss?" she teased in a low, throaty tone.
Dear God, the woman had no mercy.
Charles closed his eyes again and held his breath, hoping the gripping heat would pass.
Her arms curled around his neck.
He opened his eyes. His throat went dry. Large, twinkling, lapis-blue eyes fringed by long, dark lashes gazed up at him. Full ruby lips smiled in a coquettish fashion. "One kiss?"
What kind of cad would he be to deny such a lovely wench?
But as he dipped his head to comply with her request, she gave another little sigh and shook her head. A shadow of regret darkened her extraordinary eyes. "I suppose we should not start what there is no time to finish."
"I...I suppose not."
"Will you miss me, me love?"
How could he possibly miss a woman he did not know and could not recall? Granted, she was a beauty. Still, Charles must nip what could only be called a careless misadventure in the bud.
"Miss you?" He took a deep breath. "I'm afraid I do not know you, Miss. One night of passion is hardly--"
The smile slipped from her lips and her deep blue eyes went even wider--if it was possible. "One night of passion?" she cried, unquestionably incensed.
Apparently the tart angered quickly.
But Charles refused to retreat. "I daresay, I cannot seem to recall your name."
"Ye cannot recall me name!" she repeated. Quite loudly.
To his surprise, her anger melted away as quickly as it had come. A frown wrinkled the smooth alabaster plane of her brow. She really was quite breathtaking. Although it had been years since he had turned to a strumpet for physical release, it was not difficult to understand why he hadn't been able to resist this woman. Actually, a man would not have to be in his cups to want her. Her silky, fair complexion and the natural blush of her cheeks put him in mind of sweet peaches and cream--indubitably a delicious dish.
However, any association with an Irish woman, ravishing or not, was unthinkable for a man of his social status.
"Me name is Maeve. Maeve O'Malley."
"Maeve." The name tasted sweet on his tongue. "A pleasant name."
"I am your wife."
Shock, as a descriptive term, did not come close to capturing the cold, immobilizing force that took hold of Charles. He couldn't be certain his heart was still beating. It felt as if the blood drained from his body, his stiff, numb body. He could not seem to draw a breath of air, much less swallow one.
"We were wed five days ago by Father Thorn," she added quietly.
"You could not possibly be my wife!"
A loud rapping on the door served to silence Charles. He jerked his head toward the door. What new horror lay behind it?
A deep, graveled voice hollered from the other side. "What's goin' on in there?"
"That would be me dad," Maeve said.
"I warned ye about this," her father bellowed in a thick Irish brogue. "I didn't mind ye bringin' home the stray cats and the dogs, but a man is altogether another matter."
She shot Charles an impish grin. "Sure'n it is."
"Nothin' but trouble."
"And wouldn't ye be knowin', Dad?"
"Are ye all right in there?"
"I'll be out in a moment and puttin' on the tea. Go away now and give us some privacy."
Charles heard Maeve's father mutter and shuffle away.
"You brought me home like a stray dog?" he asked, confused.
"Me brother Shea and I found you in an alley on the way home a week ago now. In the true spirit of the Christmas season I thought to bring you home to give ye a wash and a bowl of champ." She lowered her eyes. "I believed ye to be a bummer."
"A bummer?" Mightily offended, Charles bristled at the insult. How could anyone believe the heir to the Rycroft fortune, and the president of the prestigious Rycroft Publishing firm of Boston, to be a bummer?
"Ye were unconscious when we found you. It appeared as if ye had a wee too much ale and had passed out as me dear dad sometimes does."
"I see." But he did not. Such a mistake seemed inconceivable no matter what the circumstances.
"When I wiped away the dirt, I discovered ye had been beaten. Can ye not feel the bruise here?" Maeve took his hand in hers and moved it to a sore spot on the left side of his jaw and then to a lump on his right temple. "And here?"
"Beaten?" Her story became more mysterious. He could not think how he would come to such a state. Charles had no enemies--that he knew.
"You were dealt a heavy blow to your head and to your jaw. And ye were kicked about the ribs as well."
He couldn't be sure if his now-throbbing head was from the lingering effects of the blow Maeve described, or from the news he had married an unknown Irish woman.
"How does it happen that you...that you and I are married?" he asked. "I am quite certain that I do not know you."
"Me brother Shea insisted."
She lowered her eyes and gave him a shy, whispered explanation. "When ye weren't quite yourself, he saw ye pull me down to the bed and kiss me full on the lips. You were bare as a newborn babe at the time. 'Twas only the second day ye were here. Myself? I took it as a favorable sign that you were regaining your strength."
"But me brother convinced me dad that ye'd compromised me. A wee bit angry he was for the liberty you took. I tried to tell him you were out of your head at the time."
"But Shea argued that he, bein' a man, knew the truth about what you were thinkin'. He said just because I was sleepin' on the pallet beside the bed, didn't mean ye didn't lure me into your bed after he and my dad were asleep. Besides, he said I'd seen your private parts and only a wife should do that."
His private parts. She'd become familiar with his private parts? Charles thought his head might explode with the pounding.
"But I was nursin' ye. What would you have me do?"
Charles shook his head. A small ray of hope blossomed in his heart. He would seek an annulment immediately.
"I didn't think it right to wed, myself," Maeve added. "But I had no choice."
The girl had been forced to marry him. More than likely Maeve O'Malley would be as happy as he to have the union quickly dissolved. His first matter of business this morning would be a visit to his lawyer and friend, Spencer Wellington.
He glanced at her hands--small, chapped, reddened working hands. Maeve dropped them under the covers as if she was ashamed.
"You have no wedding ring," he pointed out, as if the lack of the symbol might prove no marriage had taken place.
She pulled on a chain around her neck. It held a narrow gold band of clasping hands and a crown. "It was me mother's. But I do not need a ring to know I have a husband. I vowed to be loyal to ye and stay the course through sickness and health."
Charles wondered if the law would hold him to a vow he had no memory of taking. He thought not.
Maeve smiled then, a radiant smile that swept through the chilly room like a warm summer breeze. "'Twas a sweet, simple affair at the church," she said, "with just Father Thorn, Shea, and me da."
"What name did you call me for the ceremony?"
"Charles Rycroft. The name sewed into your jacket. But I've been calling you Charlie."
"Charlie?" How curious. How common.
"Aye. 'Tis a strong-sounding name, befitting a man with broad shoulders and the strong-muscled arms of a boxer. You are not a boxer, are ye?"
Charles could not help but feel flattered at her assessment of his physique. "No, I am not a boxer but I do fence and row," he told her. He'd engaged in gentlemen's sports all of his life. "And my name is Charles Rycroft."
"Fancy that, now. I thought the name might be that of the tailor's who made your fine jacket."
Looking around the room once again in search of his clothes, Charles saw rough woolen trousers and a flannel shirt hanging from a corner peg. "Do you know where my jacket might be? And my trousers?"
"Aye," she nodded. "We had to burn them. They were of no use to anyone, torn and covered with blood as they were."
The information made no sense. Bloody clothes. His body beaten and left to die in an alley. Charles attempted to remember what might have happened to him, if what the girl said was true. But it seemed the harder he tried to recall the events, the more his head throbbed.
He started as Maeve whisked the top cover off the bed and wrapped the wooly blanket around herself as she stood. "I have a job that I must be off to now."
Charles pulled the old down coverlet she'd left for him up over his chest. "What sort of position do you hold?" he asked with a fair amount of trepidation.
"Parlor maid to the Deakinses on Beacon Hill," she replied proudly.
Dear God, an Irish maid! Worse than he feared.
He'd been wed to an Irish maid. The throbbing in his head intensified to an unholy roar. It simply wasn't done. Charles had to extricate himself from this marriage as quickly and quietly as possible. A Rycroft did the right thing which meant--among other interests--preventing a scandal on Beacon Hill. And there would certainly be a scandal if it was known he'd married an Irish serving woman.
His diminutive wife stood above him, her head held high, her raven curls tumbling in provocative disarray about delicate, creamy shoulders. A sweet, captivating smile parted her lips, and for a fleeting moment Charles thought her the most ravishing creature he'd ever seen. A powerful silence fell across the room as his eyes met hers.
Maeve forced her gaze away. Suddenly feeling shy, she pulled her dress from the peg, a dark-blue silk hand-me-down from the Deakinses' daughter, Pansy.
"Would ye be turnin' your head for the sake of me modesty?" she asked.
"You were just lying in bed naked with me," he pointed out.
"That was when ye were Charlie."
Maeve had fallen in love with the man she called Charlie the moment she saw him wiped clean of blood and dirt. It was love at first sight and she knew it to be foolish. She thought him a gift from above, from her sweet mother who promised always to watch over Maeve.
From the moment Charlie regained consciousness he'd been a sweet and gentle man, a curious blend of vulnerability and strength. But Maeve knew amnesia to be a temporary condition, more than likely brought about by the beating. She understood that when his memory returned, the man she called Charlie might not be to her liking, or more likely that he would reject her out of hand.
From the time he first spoke, Maeve realized her Charlie wasn't Irish, which might be a problem. Irish immigrants were not welcomed or accepted by many of Boston's long-time residents. But Maeve chose to believe all would be well. It was the season of love, after all. She'd even speculated that the striking man she'd found in the alley might never regain his memory.
So much for that shamrock wish.
She dressed hurriedly, splashing cold water on her face from the basin and quickly sweeping her hair up to the top of her head. She fastened a bright red grosgrain bow in the center of her dark curls, paying no heed to the untamed locks that tumbled from their pins. She could not see them so they mattered not. The small wall mirror had fallen and broken several months ago and Maeve could ill afford to replace it.
"Tea will be ready in just a few minutes," Maeve told her plainly disturbed husband. "Best be dressing now. Ye'll find your clothes on the peg."
She scurried from the room without a backward glance. Charles Rycroft was a stiff sort. But she felt that beneath his starch lay a more affable man.
"What was all the shoutin' about?" asked her irascible father, who slouched at the small table in the center of the room.
"Never you mind. 'Tis none of your affair." Maeve set the kettle on to boil.
"As long as yer livin' under my roof, all that happens here is my affair," he insisted.
The O'Malleys lived in a three-room tenement flat on the first floor of a dilapidated brick building in South Boston. Her father and brother shared one room, she another, and the cramped kitchen served as their living area. A table with four spindly chairs, a small bookshelf, and a worn gold velvet sofa discarded by the Deakinses were the only furnishings.
The halls of the building smelled of cabbage and onions. The odor seeped under the doors, permeating every room and seemingly every pore of the tenement residents. Maeve imagined the awful aroma clung to her hair and adhered to her skin. She constantly sprinkled herself with her favorite violet fragrance, the only luxury she allowed herself.
"Me husband has remembered his name." Maeve set a chipped cup and saucer before her father.
Mick O'Malley looked up at her. His vivid blue eyes held the mischievousness of a leprechaun but the fringe of snowy white hair around the bald dome of his head was all his own.
"Aye? And has the fellow remembered what he did for a livin'? We could use another paycheck, me darlin'."
Maeve's father worked a block away at Rosie Grady's Saloon. Often as not, he drank away most of his salary.
"Saints above! How could I ask such a thing when the man does not even remember marrying me?"
"Did he try to disavow ye?" The red-bulb tip of the old man's nose deepened to a fiery shade.
The door of her room opened then and Charles's towering form filled the frame. She must become accustomed to calling him Charles. He regarded them silently--a bit warily, she thought. As Maeve gazed up at him, her heart fluttered like the wing of a startled bird on the branch, that commanding a figure he was. A restless, raw energy flowed from Charles Rycroft like sizzling lava from a volcano, stirring an ancient heat deep inside of her.
The teakettle whistled.
"Good morning," he said, barely moving his lips.
From the start, Maeve suspected her husband might be a wee bit priggish, an endearing trait she nevertheless meant to help him overcome. But she could clearly see now, what she'd refused to recognize before. Rycroft's refined way of speaking and poker-stiff posture spoke of good breeding. The man she'd rescued came from a different world than hers, one of wealth and privilege.
He stood well over six feet and exuded an air of authority no one could deny. His dark good looks radiated a power and masculinity Maeve found riveting. Clean shaven, she had taken the liberty of trimming his abundant side whiskers while he was still unconscious, his strong, square jaw revealed a man of power and potency.
Tearing her gaze away, Maeve motioned to the nearest chair. "Sit ye down. I'll have your tea in--"
"Regrettably, I cannot stay."
"Just where do you think ye be goin'?" Mick growled.
Charles arched an eyebrow. "Sir? I don't believe we've met."
Maeve raised a hand to cover her racing heart. Her father could be a hard man.
"Me name is Mick O'Malley, as well ye know." The old man's eyes narrowed.
Charles did not blink, although from Maeve's viewpoint, his jaw appeared to tighten. He extended his hand. "How do you do? I am Charles Rycroft."
Only five feet four, Maeve's father was strong for his limited stature. She knew he could crush a man's hand. Eyeing the tight clasp and the squeeze he gave Charles's hand, she held her breath.
Her husband did not flinch. Maeve felt a gentle heart swell, a fresh surge of respect for him.
"Where are ye from, Charles Rycroft?" Mick asked.
"My family has lived in Boston for years," Charles replied.
The old leprechaun's blue eyes lost their luster as they narrowed once again. "Ye one of those?"
Charles glanced at Maeve. All she could do was lower her head, shaking it slightly in warning.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Look." Mick turned to Maeve. "Ye can tell by the new way he's carryin' himself. By the mask he wears and the dull color of his eyes."
"What is that you can tell, my good sir?" Charles lifted his head and drew himself up to his full height.
Maeve knew instinctively that Charlie was a proud man despite the lowly workingman's clothes he wore. He must be ill at ease and uncomfortable in her brother's worn garments. More than that, he was at a dreadful disadvantage, finding himself in strange surroundings with a cranky old man and a wife he did not know nor want.
Her father, however, had no concern about Charles's discomfort. "I can tell by the looks of ye that you're one of those blueblood swells who have no use for little people like me. Ye make your fortunes off the backs of poor immigrants like us who--"
"Quiet, lass. I'm speakin'."
"Ye don't know what you're saying."
Her father turned his angry gaze on Maeve. "Ye be mindin' my words or it's sorry ye'll be."
Charles Rycroft cleared his throat. "I shall take my leave now, but I will be contacting you--"
"Do ye be thinkin' to leave without your bride?" Mick growled.
Charles turned his attention to Maeve. Silver-gray eyes, the shade of fine pewter, met hers. He raked a hand through his hair, straight and thick; the rich, dark-walnut strands fell to the nape of his neck in helmet fashion. Maeve had taken her scissors to her husband's head as well as his whiskers, and so much the better he looked for her efforts. If she didn't say so herself.
Rycroft stood with his shoulders squared regarding Maeve as if she were a dilemma he must resolve. Although he might not be handsome in the chiseled manner some women preferred, with his aquiline nose and deep-set eyes Charles Rycroft made Maeve's heart feel a bit lighter, beat a bit faster.
"Come, then." Rycroft took her arm and hustled her to the door.
She snatched her worn woolen coat from the peg.
Once out on the street, Charles reacted with annoyance when she told him carriages for hire did not abound in South Boston. Maeve patiently explained they must walk to the horse-drawn trolley stop. Every day save Sunday, Maeve took the trolley to Boston and then walked across the Common to the Deakinses' brownstone residence.
The early morning air encouraged a swift pace to keep warm. Boston winters were long and brutal. The city was regularly beset by violent northeast storms. Between nor'easters, the sky seemed to remain a permanent grizzly gray and the temperature rarely rose above a piercing, arctic cold. Like today.
Puffs of white smoke rose from the three-story brick dwellings into the somber gray sky. Predominately Irish, the South Boston streets bustled with activity as the residents left the area to fill their positions as servants and street mongers in Boston proper. Dressed in poorly fitting and worn layers of clothing, men, women, and children greeted each other in their musical accents.
An accent Charles found pleasing to his ear although he knew it to be a lower-class distinction. He'd been raised with a mind to class, schooled to treasure his heritage and uphold the tradition of the class to which he'd been born. As his mother often reminded him, his ancestors came to America aboard the Mayflower.
"Maeve, I want you to show me where you found me."
"Aye, but first I must let Mrs. Deakins know why I will not be workin' today."
No one ever objected to Charles's orders for any reason. "I will take care of the Deakinses. Now, do you remember where you found me?"
If he was not mistaken, Maeve slanted an irritated frown his way before hurrying on. "Aye. We found ye not far from here. Follow me."
Charles allowed her to take the lead, wondering fleetingly if she was warm enough in the thin wool coat she wore. His own unfamiliar garments did not protect him from the chill. They had only gone two blocks when he noticed Maeve's ears and the tip of her nose were red. Her slender fingers extended bare beyond the scratchy mittens that reached only to her knuckles. His heart went out to her, his wife, a poor Irish immigrant. A woman who'd taken him in and shared what little her family had with a him, a complete stranger. Charles had never met such a woman and he admired the courage she showed in taking in a man she thought to be a "bummer."
Maeve stopped and looked up at him.
Charles sucked in his breath. Her blue eyes were as deep and sparkling as a sun-swept sea. Arresting. He was momentarily blind to anything else but those startling blue orbs fixed on him.
"In there." She pointed to an alley filled with rotting trash. "Ye were propped against the wall midway."
"Why were you in this alley?" he asked, suddenly suspicious.
"Me brother Shea meets me at the Boston side and walks me home every night when 'tis dark. Shea's a boxer, you know, and he is not afraid to take shortcuts when it will take us out of the cold sooner."
Charles nodded and moved into the alley. He searched, kicking through unidentifiable trash, not quite knowing what he expected to find. Maeve O'Malley hummed.
"Is this the spot?" he asked.
"Aye, more or less."
"And you took me home from here?"
"You would have frozen to death if we had not. And 'twas Thanksgiving eve, a day we are happy to observe, countin' our blessings and all. With a roof over my head, and food left over from the Deakins table, it was only right we should take ye home and share our bounty."
Bounty? Charles found Maeve's outlook plainly astonishing. While he wished to explore her intriguing thought process further, he concentrated on the subject at hand. "When you found me, I had nothing? No money? Not even a pocket watch?"
She shook her head. "Nothing. Shea said you looked as if you were done over by a professional, a boxer like himself."
"I know no boxers, and I have never been to this part of town."
"Where was the last place you remember being?"
"If I knew that--" he stopped abruptly in mid-sentence. A memory, a fuzzy picture, floated up from the depths of Charles's subconscious. He recalled leaving Edgar Dines's gallery on Warren Street in the heart of Boston proper. Slowly the picture in his mind cleared. He'd carried a painting beneath his arm wrapped in brown paper. It was a valuable sketch, an irreplaceable rendering of St. Nick by an artist no longer living.
Dear God, he'd been robbed of his most precious possession.
A flood of pictures flashed through his mind in lightning-like fashion as the memory of the attack on him returned full force. Charles had been heading toward his carriage, which waited half a block away in front of his tailor's shoppe. Previous to his appointment with Edgar Dines, he had been fitted for a new suit and several other garments for the upcoming holiday festivities. But he'd not gone more than six feet from the art dealer's gallery when a blow to the head from behind felled him. All was blank after that.
For the following five days he'd apparently existed without memory or will. For five days he'd done whatever he was bid--including marrying the girl by his side. Maeve, who stood silently, regarding him with wide, wondering eyes as he searched his memory.
Surely he'd been missed by someone. A man of his standing did not simply disappear.
"Were there no posted notices that I was missing?" he asked her.
"Perhaps. I hardly ever read notices."
"You do read?" he intoned, aware for the first time that she might very well not. His wife could be illiterate.
Maeve reacted with an angry stomp of her foot. Her eyes sparked with indignation. "Of course I know how to read! What do ye take me for? Do ye think me dumb because me name is O'Malley and I'm Irish? And a woman?" Her fists dug into her hips and her midnight curls bounced atop her hatless head. "I'll have ye know--"
"Shhh," Charles raised a finger over his lips to still her. "You're creating a scene."
"Ye insulted me, you arrogant man!"
"Must you be so loud?"
"Don't be thinkin' ye are better than me because --"
"I don't," he interrupted hastily. "I don't think such a thing."
She appeared somewhat mollified, but a suspicious glint remained in her eyes. She tilted her chin, meeting his gaze. Charles looked away, away from the unspoken accusation, the pain in her deep blue velvet eyes. He turned back to the spot in the alley where she'd found him.
"Obviously, I was moved from the scene of the attack."
"I wouldn't be knowin'," she snipped.
"Was there...did you find a package here?"
" 'Twas no package, only you."
"I was carrying a package which means a great deal to me. It was wrapped in brown paper and was about this size." Charles described the two-feet-by-four-feet package with his hands.
"We found no package," she repeated, shifting from one foot to the other.
He thought she might be lying. The Irish were known to have liars and thieves among them. But then again, how would a young, uneducated immigrant and her boxer brother have any idea of the painting's value?
Only the most knowledgeable art collectors would know the piece was the only one of its kind. Charles had searched long and hard for this particular sketch of St. Nick. While he enjoyed collecting art, this acquisition had meant more than any of the others.
Staring at the cold, hard ground where he'd been discarded like so much garbage, Charles bit down on his lip. A searing mix of frustration and anger shot through him.
"Could we be movin' on then?" the little bit by his side demanded. "Me feet is colder than a frost fairy's toes."
"Never ye mind," she said with a roll of her eyes and a rueful sigh.
Charles nodded. He didn't want to know about frost fairies, whatever the hell they were. Recovering his sketch was a primary concern, and where to take Maeve another. Until he resolved the awkward dilemma of their marriage, he couldn't possibly let his friends and family know he had wed an Irish maid. The whole town would be talking.
Maeve O'Malley gazed up at him, waiting impatiently. Her long lashes and jewel-like eyes, innocent and trusting, reached deep inside him and touched his unguarded heart.
She had saved his life. He must do something special for her. Charles made up his mind quickly. He decided to take Maeve home with him--if only for a day or two. He would have her fitted with a warm new wardrobe and offer a generous settlement. It was the least he could do.
Before he divorced her.