LOVE ONLY ONCE - Johanna Lindsey (End)

  • wangzi

    khoảng 2 10 năm trước
  • Chapter 42
    REGGIE crossed the sitting room and opened the door to Nicholas’ bedroom, quietly slipping inside. To the right was the dressing room, the door leading out into the corridor, and next to it was the master bath, a big square room with walls and floor of blue marble and numerous large mirrors. Huge shelves held all kinds of jars and bottles, towels, shaving apparatus, and other of the lord’s necessities. The bath itself was large with cupid spouts for hot and cold water.

    Nicholas lay inside, relaxed, eyes closed. Harris was laying out towels and Nicholas’ robe and comfortable slippers. It was only nine o’clock, and Miriam’s guests were still in the house.

    “Good evening, Harris,” Reggie greeted him cheerfully. The valet was startled, but he managed to nod and return her greeting. Nicholas gave her a lazy grin.

    “Meg has been asking after you, Harris,” Reggie continued innocently as though she intruded on a man’s toilet all the time and wasn’t on a romantic errand at all.

    Harris perked up. “Has she, madame?”

    “Oh, yes. And you know, it’s such a beautiful night. There’s a lovely summer moon. What a perfect night for a stroll around the grounds, Meg was saying. Why don’t you go find her, Harris? I’m sure his lordship won’t mind. Will you, Nicholas?”

    “Not at all. Run along, Harris. I won’t be needing you again tonight.”

    “Thank you, sir.” Harris made a formal bow before, wholly out of character, he turned and dashed from the room.

    Nicholas chuckled. “I don’t believe it. Harris and sour Meg?”

    “Meg is not sour,” she retorted. “And they have been very friendly for some time now.”

    “Is love blooming there, too? You know about Ellie and Lord Barrett, I assume? You know everything before I do.”

    “I’m so happy for Ellie.”

    “You don’t think she’s too old to be contemplating matrimony?”

    “You can’t be serious, Nicholas,” Reggie giggled.

    “I suppose not.” He grinned, watching as she trailed her hand through the water. He caught it as it neared him, bringing it to his lips for a kiss. “I have you to thank, you know, for my childhood dreams coming true. She would never have told me if not for you. You know, don’t you, Reggie, how awful it is to wonder about your mother all the time? Who was she, what was she like? You lost both of your parents when you were only two.”

    She smiled gently. “I had four wonderful uncles to tell me everything I wanted to know about them—including faults, of which they spared no detail. But you did have your mother all along, you just never knew it.”

    “One of the things Ellie told me is that we Eden men only love once. That should delight you.”

    “Should it?”

    “Doesn’t it?”

    “Oh, I don’t know,” Reggie said evasively. “I’ll let you know after we have our talk. Care to have your back scrubbed?”

    She scooped the sponge out of the water without waiting for an answer and moved behind him. She was grinning, but he couldn’t see her expression.

    “I suppose you would like an apology?” he began uncomfortably.

    “That would be nice.”

    “I do apologize, Regina.”

    “What for?”

    “What do you mean what for?” he growled, turning to look at her.

    “If you would be a little more specific, Nicholas.”

    “I’m sorry I was such a dolt during our engagement.”

    “No, you weren’t very nice at all. But I can forgive you for that. Go on.” She began running the sponge along his back, then up around his neck, very slowly.

    “Go on?” He sounded bewildered, and Reggie threw the sponge at his head.

    “You left me. Or have you forgotten?”

    He grabbed hold of the sponge. “Blister it, you know why I did.”

    Reggie came around to the side of the tub and looked down at him, hands on hips, her eyes glittering. “I beg to differ. I do not know why. It is the only thing I have not been able to figure out.”

    In a quiet voice, with no fight in him, he said, “I couldn’t remain near you without…”

    She prompted him. “Without?”

    “Without making love to you.”

    There was utter silence. Then she said, “Why couldn’t you make love to me?”

    “Bloody hell!” he swore. “I was certain you would despise me as soon as you learned of my parentage. I knew I couldn’t bear your scorn. I was a bloody fool, I admit it. But I knew Miriam wouldn’t keep her mouth shut. I was right about that. I was just wrong about your reaction to my birth.”

    “Very well. Your explanation will do. You may go on.”

    He racked his brains. “I told you the truth about Selena. She really did contrive that scene you witnessed in the conservatory.”

    “I believe you.”

    This was apparently not what she was waiting to hear. “Oh! Your friend George. I—I suppose I was a bit unreasonable with him, but it wasn’t the first time his being with you has rubbed me the wrong way.”

    “Were you jealous, Nicholas?” Her humor resurfaced.

    “I… yes, blister it, I was!”

    “Duly noted. You may go on,” she said, her eyes intent on his face.

    “But what else have I done?” he asked, exasperated.

    The cobalt eyes sparked. “You are forgetting you had to be returned to me by force.”

    “No!” His temper exploded. “Now there, you’re wrong! I was coming back. My ship was ready to sail. I had decided to tell you everything, explain why I behaved as I did. Your bloody uncle and his thugs arrived the night before I was to sail.”

    “Oh, dear. I suppose you were too angry over Uncle James’ interference to talk to me honestly?”

    Nicholas scowled. “I don’t like that particular uncle of yours, not at all.”

    “He’ll grow on you.”

    “I’d rather you grew on me.”

    “That might be arranged.”

    “Then you don’t mind that I am destined to love only once?” he asked very seriously. But she wasn’t ready to declare herself to him, not just then.

    “If you could be a little more specific…”

    “Haven’t I told you what you want to hear?”

    “You have not,” she informed him.

    “Then come here.”

    “Nicholas,” she gasped. “I’m not dressed for bathing.”

    He grabbed her and pulled her into the bath on top of him. “I love you, love you, love you, love you. Is that enough or do you want more?”

    “That will do—for tonight.” Reggie wrapped her arms around his neck. Their lips met.

    After some delightful kissing, he demanded, “Well?”

    “Well, what?” she teased. He whacked her bottom. “Oh. Well, I guess I love you, too.”

    “You guess?”

    “Well, I must, mustn’t I, if I put up with you? No, no!” she shrieked as he began tickling her. “All right. I love you, you impossible man. I set my cap for you, didn’t I? And I never gave up hoping you would return my love. Now aren’t you glad I’m such a stubborn fellow?”

    “Stubborn fellow, but delightful all the same.” He kissed her soundly. “You were right, love, you’re not dressed for bathing. Shall we remedy that?”

    “I thought you’d never ask.”

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