His Housekeeper's Christmas Wish(2)

By: Louise Allen



 And they were not actually going to see a doctor, although Grant had virtually completed his medical education at Edinburgh when he’d been forced to give it up.

 ‘Yes, but I—’

 ‘Have no money?’ Nuns were supposed to be penniless, he seemed to recall. ‘Don’t concern yourself about that, it is my fault you were injured and he’s a friend. What is your name? I’m Viscount Weybourn.’ He didn’t normally lead with his rank, but he supposed a title might reassure her.

 Her body shifted in his arms as she gave the sort of sigh that needed a lungful of air. She was probably mortified at being carried by a man, but if she wouldn’t go back into the convent then there wasn’t much option. He made another valiant, and unfamiliar, effort not to notice the feminine curves pressed against his body. He wasn’t used to getting this close to women unless they both intended to take things considerably further.

 ‘Teresa—’

 ‘Sister Teresa.’ Of course, nuns were named for saints, weren’t they? ‘Excellent. Here we are.’ The lights of Les Quatre Éléments glowed though the gathering dusk and he headed for them like a mariner spying a safe, familiar harbour.

 ‘An inn? Lord Wey—’

 ‘A very respectable inn,’ Alex assured her as he shouldered through the front door into the light and heat and bustle of a well-run hostelry. ‘Gaston!’

 ‘Milord Weybourn.’ The innkeeper came hurrying out of the back. ‘How good to see you again, milord. The other gentlemen are in your usual private parlour.’

 ‘Thank you, Gaston.’ Alex headed for the door on the right. ‘And some tea? Coffee? What would you like, Sister Teresa?’

 ‘Gentlemen? Private parlour? Lord Weybourn, put me down this—’

 ‘Tea,’ he ordered for her. Tea was soothing, wasn’t it? His little nun needed soothing; she was beginning to wriggle in agitation like a ruffled hen and, hell, if she didn’t stop she wasn’t the only one who’d need it. Soothing, that was, not tea. He really needed a woman. How long had it been? A month? That was far too long.

 Alex kicked the door closed behind him and leaned back against it for a moment while he sought for his usual composure. Nuns apparently did not wear corsets. The discovery was seriously unsettling. The soft weight of a small breast against his forearm was damnably unsettling. He was reacting like a green youth and he didn’t like the feeling.

 ‘My dear Alex, why the drama?’ Crispin de Feaux lowered the document he was studying, stood up and regarded the scene in the doorway with cool detachment. Possibly if he had erupted into the room pursued by sword-wielding soldiery Cris might have revealed some emotion, but Alex rather doubted it. ‘Have you taken to abducting nuns?’

 ‘Nuns? Surely not?’ Over by the fireplace Grant Rivers swung his boots down from the fender and stood, too, dragging one hand through his hair. Characteristically he looked responsible and concerned.

 ‘What do you bet?’ Gabriel Stone dropped a handful of dice with a clatter and lounged to his feet. ‘Although it hardly seems Alex’s style. High-fliers, now...’

 Alex narrowed his eyes, daring him to continue stripping her with that insolent gaze. Gabe grinned and slumped back into his chair.

 ‘I slipped on the ice and knocked Sister Teresa to the ground, injuring her ankle in the process.’ Alex pushed away from the door and carried his burden over to the settle by the fire. ‘I thought you should check it for her, Grant.’

 * * *

 ‘There you are, Sister Teresa, you’re in safe hands now and tea is on the way.’ The infuriating creature deposited Tess on the settee opposite the handsome brown-haired man and sketched a bow. ‘This is Grantham Rivers, a very handy man with a sprained ankle.’ She caught the grin Lord Weybourn sent the doctor and the doctor’s eye roll in return as his friend turned on his heel and sauntered over to the other two men.

 ‘I am not—’

 ‘A nun. I know.’ The doctor sat down. He was polite, but didn’t seem too happy. ‘Unlike Alex, I know that nuns wear wimples and do not trot around the streets alone.’

 ‘Do none of you allow a woman to finish a sentence?’ Tess demanded. She had gone beyond miserable since her interview with Mother Superior a week ago had knocked all her certainties into utter chaos. She’d forced herself into the same state of stoical, unhappy acceptance that had kept her sane, somehow, all those years ago when Mama and Papa had died. Now the shock of being hurled off her feet had sent her into an unfamiliar mood of irritation.

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