A reluctant guest…
“You cannot be serious!”
Sir Harry Tresilian had heard his mistress utter those words before, often with a note of laughter in her voice, for May was serious about once in a blue moon. But never had she spoken them with such incredulity—that bordered on shock.
“Never more so, my dear,” he replied, looking back over his shoulder to where she still sat among the rumpled bedclothes, staring at him with astonished dark eyes. “I should like you to attend my sister’s wedding next week.”
May shrugged, affecting nonchalance. “As to that, not even the most stiff-necked members of the congregation can bar me from the church—”
“And to attend the wedding breakfast afterwards, as my particular guest,” he finished.
She ran a hand through her black curls, spilling in wild profusion over her smooth, pale shoulders. Shoulders Harry had been licking and tasting not half an hour ago. Skin like Devon cream, and a mouth as full and red as summer strawberries—and a tongue more tart than sweet, but amusing nonetheless. “And the wedding breakfast is to be held at Roswarne. Your family home, in which all the Tresilians will be assembled?”
“Perhaps not all of them,” Harry temporized. “Sophie and Robin wanted a smallish wedding. But the immediate family will certainly be there.” He added, more gently, “And you will be welcome. You needn’t worry that my family will make you feel uncomfortable.”
May rolled her eyes. “Not even your sister Cecily? We both know how fond she is of me!”
Harry just managed not to sigh. May did have a point—Cecily was ill at ease around her, and May’s habit of flippancy did not help matters. “Cecy won’t make a scene. It’s to be Sophie’s wedding, after all. And Sophie has nothing against you.”
“That’s because Sophie doesn’t know me,” May pointed out. “No doubt she’d find plenty to object to, if she did!”
“Nonsense!” Harry did his best to sound bracing. “Sophie’s always been one to extend a hand in friendship. And she’s perhaps the least judgmental of us all.”
“Hm.” May did not look or sound convinced. Throwing aside the sheet, she swung her feet to the floor and reached for her discarded dressing gown, a sheer silk confection the color of ripe peaches that no staid, respectable sort of woman would be caught dead in. Harry had loved seeing her in it—and taking her out of it even more. “I highly doubt your sister Sophie and I would have much in common.”
“You might be surprised,” he retorted. “Sophie is an opera singer. She’s had—some experience of the world these last four years or so.” Though, if truth be told, Harry did not much like to think what that experience might have included; there were some things he wasn’t comfortable thinking about in connection with his youngest sister.
May glanced at him, her expression suddenly sly and a hint of mischief sparkling in her eyes. Reading his mind again, confound her.
He improvised hastily, “What I’m saying is that Sophie has traveled far beyond Cornwall, and they do say that travel broadens the mind—and Sophie was broad-minded to begin with. You needn’t fear a snub or a cold shoulder from her. Besides, I doubt she’ll have eyes for anyone but Rob in any case,” he added with a wry smile. “To look at them you’d think they were married already.”
As we might be. As we could be. The words hung unspoken on the air: an old subject, and a sensitive one. One that May consistently avoided . . . as she did now. Lips compressed, eyes averted, she busied herself with tying the sash of her robe about her trim waist.
“Well?” Harry probed at last, unnerved by the continuing silence.
She glanced up, her lower lip caught between her teeth. “I don’t wish to make anyone at the wedding uncomfortable. Or to be made uncomfortable myself.”
“And I give you my word, as a Tresilian and a gentleman, that neither of those things will happen. Does that count for nothing?”
Her voice was low, but vehement. “You know just what it counts for, with me.”
“So I should hope.” He paused, then resumed, more gently, “I know this is unexpected, May-blossom. But I hope you’ll think about it, at least.”
She flushed at the endearment—as he’d known she would—and dropped her gaze, but not before he saw the warring emotions in her eyes. “Very well,” she conceded, almost sullenly. “I promise to think about it.”
For all her flippancy, May did not make promises lightly. Taking it as a small victory, Harry stole a farewell kiss before he let himself out of her chamber.
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