French Leave

French Leave by Maggie MacKeever

Book: French Leave by Maggie MacKeever Read Free Book Online
Authors: Maggie MacKeever
Tags: Regency Romance
disappointment. “Come,” he said, as he led her into the drawing room and settled her in a chair. “This will calm you.” He poured brandy from the decanter into a glass.
    Barbary was glad of the refreshment. She had walked some distance through the crowded streets before becoming certain that the policeman was following her. Each time she paused he had seemed absorbed in his surroundings, first in the contents of a shop window, then in a pretty little fountain built in a recess between the doorways of two adjoining houses. She drank the brandy, too quickly, and coughed. “I am glad to have found you home.”
    “I am glad to be home.” Conor studied her. “I did not think we would meet again so soon as this.”
    “Nor did I.” Barbary set down the glass, which Conor obligingly refilled. “Nor would we have except for that man.”
    Perhaps she had told him the truth. She did look flushed and breathless, as if she had been hurrying, and her hair was coming unpinned. Conor found himself feeling very charitable toward his wife’s cousin, perhaps because Barbary would never have let herself get into such an untidy state. He smiled.
    He was amused by her. Barbary could not bear it. “You must think me foolish,” she said with immense dignity. “You do not know, m’sieur, what it is like to be a woman alone.”
    “Well, no.” Conor looked apologetic. “I do not. But I assure you this is the most welcome of diversions. I had grown heartily bored with my own company.”
    Bored, was he? So much for his opera dancer, Barbary thought spitefully. She glanced around the room and noticed the broken glass in the fireplace. So Conor had been in a temper? Uncharitable as it was in Barbary, she could not help but be glad that he did not have everything his way.
    The silence grew uncomfortable. Perhaps Conor wanted her to leave. Perhaps he was expecting his opera dancer to return at any moment. Or the arrival of some other lady friend. Barbary stood up. “I have intruded. I’m sorry. I will go.”
    “No.” Conor caught her arm. “Stay. I’m damned poor company, and I apologize to you for it. I can’t get over the resemblance. You look so much like your cousin.”
    Perhaps Barbary hadn’t grown so haggard as she had thought. Conor’s hand burned her through the fabric of Mab’s gown. “But older,” Barbary said in an effort to remind herself of whom she had claimed to be.
    “I had thought so.” Conor frowned. “But perhaps not. There is a difference, at any rate.” He touched a strand of hair that had escaped its coil to curl upon her cheek; then abruptly released her and moved away.
    Barbary felt very foolish, standing alone in the center of the room. “I should go,” she repeated.
    “Please don’t.” Conor turned back to her. “Allow me to explain. Your cousin, when I met her, was fresh out of the schoolroom. She set her cap at me. I was amused. And flattered also, I suppose.” Barbary hadn’t been the first woman who set out to snare Conor, or the last; but she had certainly been the most determined, once even taking a lesson from Caro Lamb’s pursuit of Lord Byron and dressing as a page to steal into his rooms.
    Conor did not think Barbary’s cousin would enjoy hearing such tales. “She affected me,” he said simply, “in a way no other woman has. Nor any woman is likely to again, thank God! Your cousin was an education, Ma’mselle Foliot. I can only be grateful that particular madness has passed. When I came upon you—well, I was determined never to see Barbary again.”
    Barbary listened to this little speech with conflicting emotions. At its inception she had been very tempted to confess her identity. Now, at its close, she strove hard to restrain her inclination to box Conor’s ears. “I make no excuses for my cousin. How could I? But it has seemed to me that these misunderstandings are seldom one person’s fault.”
    “It was no misunderstanding.” Conor fetched another glass. He

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