Home>>read Training Lady Townsend free online

Training Lady Townsend(39)

By:Annabel Joseph

“Bugger the lot of you.” Hunter had a horrible thought. During his drunken rambling, had he revealed all the sordid things he’d done to his wife? “Did I talk about Lady Townsend?” he asked.

They exchanged glances. “Only Big Bess knows what you talked about,” said August. “And anyone who overheard was probably too drunk to remember.”

“Pay attention, man. You’re splashing water all over the place.” Warren handed him a mostly-clean towel. “Don’t worry about Big Bess. Worry about getting yourself home to the woman who loves you.”

“Have to shave,” Hunter said, scrutinizing his gaunt, scruffy visage in a nearby looking glass. “Arlington, can I borrow your razor?”

The man handed over his shaving things with a skeptical look. “Need any help?”

“I can do it myself,” Hunter lathered his stubbled cheeks, then threw back his head and let out a groan. “Why did Aurelia ever agree to marry me? Why hasn’t she left me by now? Why am I even here? Why did I come back to Wroxham’s instead of staying with her?”

“Because you’re a stupid arsehole?” asked August.

“Those were rhetorical questions,” snapped Hunter.

“It was a rhetorical answer.”

Hunter ignored his friend’s mocking tone and applied himself to wielding Arlington’s glinting razor. “How often does your man sharpen this thing?” he asked, thrusting his chin forward.

“Every day,” said Arlington. “Doesn’t yours?”

Hunter hissed as he nearly nicked himself beneath the chin.

“For God’s sake. Be careful, would you?” said Warren. “I’ve promised Lady Townsend I’d get you home alive and in one piece.” He wrestled the razor from Hunter and began to flick away his stubble with firm, smooth strokes. Hunter thought that if their situation was reversed, he’d be tempted to slice his friend’s throat.

But Warren wasn’t that sort of chap.

“I’m sorry,” he said gruffly, closing his eyes. “I’m sorry for what I did to you, and her.”

“I’m inclined to forgive you, only because I understand. I mean, I don’t understand. I don’t know this person you’ve turned into, but I know you make Lady Townsend happy, so I’ll restrain myself from beating you to a bloody pulp.”

Hunter was rather grateful for that as he regarded his bloodshot eyes in the glass. Warren hadn’t left him with any bruises or black eyes to frighten Aurelia. Though he could have—and probably wanted to—his friend hadn’t hit him with all his strength. Hunter used the towel to rub away the last of the shaving soap. “Thank you, Warren,” he said, and he wasn’t only thanking him for the shave.

Across the room, August and Arlington broke into appreciative applause.

“We’ve had apologies and peaceable grooming. It appears we shall all remain friends,” said Arlington.

“Yes. All is forgiven,” agreed August. “Right?”

“Wrong,” said Hunter, collapsing in a nearby chair. “There’s one more person who has to forgive me, and it’s the person with the least reason to do so.”

“Aw, Towns.” August waved a hand. “Big Bess will forgive you. She’s a hell of a gal.”

Arlington punched the younger man on the arm. “He doesn’t mean Big Bess, you idiot. He’s talking about Lady Townsend.”


A mood of gravity descended on the company. Arlington was the first to speak. “Judging by the way she looked at you when you emerged from the woods together that day, your wife cares for you very much. It was clear for anyone to see.”

“That was before,” said Hunter. “Last night, I...I was frustrated. She was upset about Warren, and I lost my temper. I said and did unpardonable things. I don’t know how I’ll face her when I get home.”

“Might I suggest facing her on your knees, with apologies spouting from your lips? She’s an understanding sort of person,” said Warren. “If you had to fall in with the Doting Love-Shackle Brigade, I’m glad it was because of her, because I think she’s worthy of all the angst you feel.”

August rolled his eyes. “The Doting Love-Shackle Brigade. God save us.”

Arlington chuckled, then nudged Hunter on the shoulder. “Go on then, Townsey. The longer you wait, the harder she’ll be to face. You can borrow my horse, if Warren will go with you and bring it back again. Then the three of us will probably head back to town before we trouble your marriage any further.”

Hunter looked at Warren. “Will you ride with me? I’m sorry for the way I’ve acted these few days. You’ve always been a good friend to me, whether I deserved it or not.”

Warren clapped him on the back with a grin. “You don’t deserve it, you tiresome bastard. But yes, I’ll go. I promised to deliver you home to her, and that was almost two hours ago.”

Chapter Seventeen: Danger, or Bliss

Aurelia awakened to the softly spoken prompt of her name. She sat up on the window seat to find her husband looking in at her, framed by the draperies. He was in breeches and shirtsleeves, and he looked every bit as woebegone as she felt.

“When I first saw you curled up in the window seat in London,” he said in a soft voice, “you seemed too beautiful for words. Certainly too beautiful to belong to me.”

“Oh.” She remembered that moment. It seemed so long ago. “I was hiding there from you.”

The smallest quiver of a smile touched his lips. “I knew you were hiding. I didn’t blame you then and I don’t blame you now.” The smile went away, and he looked so sad. “I need to apologize and explain, and beg for forgiveness, but I don’t think I deserve it, so I don’t really know what to say. May I come in, Aurelia? Please?”

He had never asked for permission before. She granted it with a small gesture, since her throat felt too tight to speak. He ducked within the space and sat beside her.

“I wasn’t hiding here,” she said once she regained her voice. “I was watching for you at the window. I suppose I must have fallen asleep.”

“I’m so sorry for what happened last night, darling, for the way I hurt and frightened you. How wrought up you must feel.”

Tears gathered in her eyes. “A little.”

“And then I left you alone. I thought you would want me to go. I didn’t know what to do, how to face you. I didn’t know how to explain what came over me. I felt angry and jealous, and impassioned by suspicions that weren’t true. I’m not making excuses. God knows there’s no excuse for treating you so roughly. For making you…cry.”

She was very close to crying again. She wanted to break down sobbing, and hide her face in the soft pleats of his sleeve. “I was so worried,” she finally managed to say. “I was afraid you’d never come back.”

His hand covered hers on the bench between them, tentatively, as if he feared she might pull hers away. “I was afraid you wouldn’t want me back. Aurelia, look at me.”

She could hardly do it. But they had to speak now, just as she’d had to speak with Lord Warren earlier. She met his gaze with as much directness as she could, and then he spoke in a gentle, somber voice.

“I promise you, I’ll never behave in such a way again. My idiotic accusations—how I hate myself for them now. I know you’ve never encouraged Warren, and that you’ve resigned yourself completely to our marriage.”

She couldn’t bear to hear him say it that way. “I haven’t resigned myself to anything, Hunter. I came to love you.”

“Do you still love me?” His voice roughened with emotion. “Even a little? Please don’t cry, my darling girl.”

“I don’t want to cry.” She took her hand from his to press her fingers against her eyes. “I want everything to be sweet again, and comfortable between us, the way it was.”

“I want that too. I’ll do anything to regain your trust.”

“Just don’t frighten me so.” She reached out to him and buried her tear-dampened face against his neck. His familiar scent and warmth enfolded her. Oh, she had been so afraid he was lost. “Don’t leave me again. We have to trust each other, and have discussions about what we’re feeling before things turn into a snarl. Don’t you think so?”

“Yes. We must be open and honest with one another about everything.”

“You should know Lord Warren was here,” she said, drawing back from him. “I received him in the drawing room. Nothing untoward happened, I promise.”

He brushed away her tears. “I know. I saw him and he told me.” He cradled her head in his palm, then took her hand and pressed kisses to each of her knuckles, and then the sensitive underside of her wrist. She shivered, momentarily lost to sensation.

“You saw Lord Warren?” she asked when her thoughts cleared. “Where?”

“At Wroxham’s estate.” He paused in his tender ministrations and looked up at her. “Nothing untoward happened, I promise. Just an unfortunate amount of drunken self-recrimination. Aurelia, forgive me for the terrible things I said to you last night, and the things I did. For my rude and petty jealousies, and my unconscionable attempt to force you. I know I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but I’m asking it anyway. I’m so unworthy of you.”