Home > Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)(11)

Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)(11)
Lisa Kleypas

Rhys was chagrined to realize that Helen had never liked the ring he’d chosen for her. But he understood that she was trying to be straightforward with him now, even though she found the effort excruciating.

In the past, Helen’s opinions had been ignored or trampled by her family. And perhaps, he reflected, by him as well. He might have asked her what kind of stones and settings she preferred, instead of deciding what he’d wanted her to have.

Reaching for her hand, he lifted it for a closer look at the glittering ring. “I’ll buy you a diamond the size of a Christmas pudding.”

“My goodness, no,” Helen said hastily, surprising him yet again. “Just the opposite. This one sits very tall on my finger, you see? It slips from side to side, and makes it difficult to play the piano or write a letter. I would prefer a much smaller stone.” She paused. “Something other than a diamond.”

“Why not a diamond?”

“I’m not fond of them, actually. I suppose I don’t mind the small ones that look like raindrops or little stars. But the large ones are so cold and hard.”

“Aye, because they’re diamonds.” Rhys sent her a sardonic glance. “I’ll have a tray of rings brought up at once.”

A smile illuminated her face. “Thank you.”

“What else would you like?” he asked. “A carriage and team of four? A necklace? Furs?”

She shook her head.

“There must be something.” He wanted to inundate her with lavish gifts, make her understand what he was prepared to do for her.

“I can’t think of anything.”

“A piano?” As he felt the involuntary tightening of her fingers, he continued, “A Brinsmead grand concert piano, with patented check repeater action and a Chippendale mahogany case.”

She gave a breathless laugh. “What a mind for detail you have. Yes. I would love to have a piano. After we’re married, I’ll play for you whenever you like.”

The idea seized him. He would relax in the evenings and watch her at the piano. Afterward he would take her to his room and undress her slowly, and kiss every inch of her. It didn’t seem possible that this creature of moonlight and music would really be his. He felt himself at the edge of panic, needing to ensure that she wouldn’t be stolen from him.

Carefully he worked the diamond ring from her finger and drew his thumb over the faint indentation left by the gold band. It felt too good to touch her, the awareness of her softness, her sweetness, coursing through him. He made himself let go before he ended up ravishing her there in the office. He had to think. Arrangements had to be made.

“Where is your driver waiting?” he asked.

“At the mews behind the store.”

“An unmarked carriage?”

“No, the family carriage,” came her innocent reply.

So much for discretion, Rhys thought ruefully, and gestured for her to precede him to his desk. “Write a note and I’ll have it taken to him.”

Helen allowed him to seat her. “When shall I have him return?”

“Tell him he won’t be needed for the rest of the day. I’ll see to it that you’re delivered home safely.”

“May I also send a message to my sisters, to keep them from worrying?”

“Aye. Do they know where you’ve gone?”

“Yes, and they were quite pleased. They’re both fond of you.”

“Or at least of my store,” he said.

Helen struggled with a smile as she drew a sheet of writing paper from a silver tray.

At his invitation, the Ravenel family had visited Winterborne’s one evening, after hours. Since they were still in mourning for the late earl, their activities in public were restricted. For the space of two hours, the twins, Cassandra and Pandora, had managed to cover an impressive amount of territory. They had been beside themselves with excitement over the displays of the newest, most fashionable merchandise, the glass cases and counters filled with accessories, cosmetics, and trimmings.

He noticed that Helen was staring in perplexity at the fountain pen on his desk.

“There’s an ink reservoir inside the pen casing,” he said, walking around the desk to her. “Apply light pressure to the tip as you write.”

Picking up the pen cautiously, she made a mark with it, and paused in surprise as the pen created a smooth line across the paper.

“Haven’t you seen one of those before?” he asked.

Helen shook her head. “Lord Trenear prefers an ordinary pen and inkwell. He says this kind is prone to leak.”

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