Twenty

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Chapter Twenty

  A knife to the heart could not have devastated Phoebe more fully. Part of her wasn’t surprised, but that didn’t make Edward’s parting shot hurt any less, and, more to the point, she never would have said such an ugly thing to him. Family was family. Phoebe sat rigidly on her side of the cart, stomach twisted in knots. Silently she reasoned that her brother was angry and would forgive her, but what if he didn’t? What if she’d just made a colossal, selfish mistake?

She stole a quick glance at James, realizing he’d fallen uncharacteristically silent

His gaze shifted briefly to her. “Do you want to go back?” he asked, tone sullen.

Her heart sank. “Y-you’re having second thoughts?”

“What? No.” He threw a surprised glance in her direction. “Of course not. I want you to come with me, but after that scene with your brother…” his voice trailed off, and he shrugged. “I thought you might be having second thoughts.”

“I don’t know, James. Maybe I am.” She sighed and worried her bottom lip between her teeth. “Where will we go once we’re married? We can’t return to either of our homes in Corsair without everyone learning of my condition and our latent marriage.” At a later time they could claim a premature birth and offer vague wedding details, but to make an appearance now would be social suicide. “And Edward will never allow access to my dowry under the circumstances. What will we do for money?”

A little smirk tipped the corners of his mouth. “Ye of little faith. Do you really think I have absolutely no plan and no means?”

She shrugged. “I hadn’t thought about it until now.”

“Because you expected me to leave you again?”

“Yes,” she replied honestly.

James looked over at her, making firm eye contact. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“So you keep saying,” she said without breaking eye contact. “But you haven’t answered my question.”

James shifted his attention back to the moonlit road. “I’m a colonel in His Majesties service, Phoebe. I earn a perfectly respectable living.”

“Very well, but where will we live?”

“I’ve been offered a posting of my choice. I thought we’d discuss the available options and make a decision together.” He glanced at her once more as though assessing her reaction to his answers. “For the moment my uncle’s country estate isn’t far from the Scottish border. I’d planned to stop there for at least a few days.”

Phoebe raised a brow in his direction. “You certainly have thought things through.”

He winked. “A man doesn’t take a wife lightly, and I want you to be well cared for and happy.”

Phoebe nodded, more than a little relieved. “Who is your uncle,” she asked after a moment, curious and wanting to keep up the stream of conversation. It was much better than the silence.

“Viscount Huntington. He won’t be in residence,” James added quickly. “His family is in London for the season. At last count he had seven daughters. I’m sure he’s trying to get at least one married off this year.”

“Seven daughters?” Phoebe knew very little of the Viscount Huntington. “How many children does he have in all?”

“Seven.”

“No sons then? What will happen to his title if he never produces an heir?”

James shrugged. “The title will pass to my nephew Toby.”

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