The Wife He Always Wanted
mother’s frown. The countess, knowing of his adventure, avoided pressing him to join the conversation and allowed him to suffer in peace.
    Sarah found his condition both pitying and amusing. She ate her dinner while covertly watching Gabriel from under her lashes.
    She’d hoped he’d notice her new green frock. Her hope fell flat. He was too unhappy to notice much of anything. She bit back a sigh. Gabriel himself was proving to be the largest barrier to her attempts to make a success of their marriage.
    “Please bring my son a glass of brandy and a headache powder,” Lord Seymour finally said, after Gabriel growled at a maid. The nearest servant went off to do his bidding. “Next time you’re in this state, we will have a tray sent to your room.”
    “Next time I am in this state, shoot and bury me.”
    The countess brushed her napkin over her lips. “The headache is your curse for imbibing too much. Perhaps next time you will find another way to celebrate with friends.”
    “I understand eating ground glass is all the rage,” Sarah snipped. “Or dosing oneself with poison.”
    The dark glare he showed was not amused. “If my family wasn’t so disagreeable, I would not have to drink.” His focus was on Sarah. She refused to flinch at his angry tone.
    “You worried her,” Lady Seymour snapped. “You worried me.”
    “I should have stayed in America,” he grumbled. “The women there are less querulous.”
    A hand slammed down on the table. Lord Seymour pushed halfway up from the chair. “I’ll not have you take out your sour mood on your mother and wife. Apologize to them.”
    Gabriel winced under his father’s thunderous tone. “I apologize, Mother, Sarah.”
    Lord Seymour settled back in his seat. Silence fell but for the clink of silver against plates. After a few minutes, the earl turned to Sarah.
    “You’ve been spending a fair amount of time with Noelle of late,” Lord Seymour said. He lifted his wineglass and peered over the rim.
    “I have.” Sarah nodded. “We’ve become friends and she is an excellent teacher. I will have her, and Lady Seymour, to thank if I make my debut into society without tripping over my hem while dancing or insulting a duchess by calling her merely ‘My Lady.’”
    She shared a smile with the countess.
    “You must take care, Wife,” Gabriel broke in. “Noelle is a mischief-maker and prankster. She may get you into trouble with her ‘lessons.’”
    “Noelle is very kind,” Sarah countered sharply. She’d had enough of his surly disposition for one day. “She has been nothing but generous with her time and experience. It is not easy changing a country mouse into a swan. You should be grateful for her assistance.” She dropped her napkin on the table. She smiled at Lord and Lady Seymour. “If you will excuse me, I feel my own headache coming on.”
    * * *
    A bolt of pain shot a path behind his eyes. He grimaced as he watched his wife stalk from the room. He’d not meant to ruffle Sarah’s feathers, and he’d done so twice. Nor did he mean to insult his cousin.
    Well, yes to insulting Noelle.
    To his defense, Noelle
was
troublesome, though it was not entirely negative. Of his many cousins, she’d been the most fun. If there’d been mischief to be made, she was always at the center of the whirl.
    “I just wanted to warn Sarah lest she be at the receiving end of a prank,” he muttered under his mother’s scathing frown.
    “You might consider the work Sarah is putting into becoming a wife you can be proud of, and compliment her a time or two, instead of grumbling over her friendship with Noelle,” Father said. “Though, I think she needs no polishing. I find your wife an excellent addition to the family.”
    Mother glared. “How you managed to find such a jewel, and convince her to marry you in a rush, is beyond comprehension. And clearly you’ve lost your manners while you were away. Perhaps Noelle should take
you
under her wing and teach you

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