by Camilla Kelly
“This is pretty unexpected,” I said, tying the belt of my
dressing gown more tightly and sitting gingerly on the edge of the sofa. Now
that the shock of his arrival was wearing off, it embarrassed me that my guest
had found me while I wasn’t properly dressed.
He moved from his place in front of
the fire to sit opposite me, on my new futon, arranging his rapier at his side
as he did so. His riding boots sank into the deep pile carpet.
“I really must beg your forgiveness
for the intrusion, miss,” he said, looking at me with such a sweetly apologetic
expression that I melted a little.
I glanced at the regency romance I’d
been reading – some literary comfort food after my row with Harry earlier in
the evening. I’d left it face down on the coffee table while I’d nipped to the
kitchen to make a cup of tea.
“But,” I said in a squeaky voice, “I
only left it open a crack.”
“I couldn’t resist the opportunity,”
he said. “In truth, I was looking for an escape.”
“Oh!” I said. “From the evil minions
your jealous cousin sent to kidnap you.”
That’s where I’d been in the story.
My guest – whom I was coming to
accept was Devlin McCawber, the dashing Duke of Reedford – shook his head and
stretched out his legs, beginning to relax.
“Lord, no. They’re hardly worth
troubling over.” He gave me a cocky smile.
The fact that he was so handsome and
dashing and I’d practically fallen in love with him as I read his adventures
went a long way to calming my initial hysteria when I’d returned, with a cup of
tea in one hand and a chocolate biscuit in the other, to find him in my
previously empty living room. Now I was just feeling amazed and more than a
A real romantic hero, sitting on my
“No,” he went on, “I just needed a brief
time away from Catherine.”
“Please don’t misunderstand me. She
is, of course, everything that’s bright and good in the world and I love her
madly. Only…sometimes…” He waved a hand, searching for the word, and gave up
with a sigh. “You understand?”
I stared at him. It was shocking to
think their relationship was less than perfect. But oddly consoling too.
“Yes,” I said. “I understand.”
He sank further into the soft
furnishings, the point of his sword raising the corner of the rug.
“It becomes a little exhausting
sometimes, everything so dramatic.”
“I can imagine…”
He looked at me earnestly. “You have
a beau? Perhaps a husband?”
I thought about Harry. His tousled
hair and faded jeans. Was he a beau? The word didn’t seem to suit him. But he
wasn’t a husband yet, either.
“Um…something like that.”
“Yes?” He glanced over my dressing
gown and fluffy slippers. I blushed. “He’s not here?”
“He’s gone to the pub.”
He waited for me to continue. He
really did have an excellent sense of intuition and attentiveness. And I’d
never seen such lovely eyelashes on a man.
“We had a bit of a row,” I said. “He
forgot our anniversary.”
“No wonder you were angry.”
“That’s right!” I was pleased he saw
my point of view. “I mean, after two years together, that’s still early enough
for me to expect the romance not to have gone out of our relationship –”
“And long enough to make your
anniversary worth celebrating.”
He shook his head sadly. “It’s a
terrible thing. Perhaps he had a good excuse.”
“No excuse,” I said. “None at all.”
“Catherine’s the same. She’ll never
“And then they make you feel
you’re being unreasonable.”
“I know exactly what you mean.”
We fell into a companionable silence.
He gazed into the electric fire wistfully.
“This is nice,” he said eventually.
“Having someone to talk to.”
I felt it had helped me too.
“Lady Catherine doesn’t know how
lucky she is,” I told him.
He gave me a mocking smile. It was
the same smile I knew for a fact made Lady Catherine’s knees go weak. And she
wasn’t the only one.
“Oh, I think she does,” he said. “In
truth, I think we both know how lucky we are.”
See, despite it all, he knew they
were destined to be together. But real life wasn’t so certain. Two years Harry
and I had been together, and the marking of an anniversary was, to my mind, as
much of a promise for the future as a celebration of the past. But Harry had
only said he didn’t need a special day to show me how he felt.
I said that was the perfect excuse
for someone who forgot his anniversary.
But did I really need flowers and
chocolates to prove that he loved me? Or, like Lady Catherine, was it something
I already knew?
“I think I’m lucky too,” I said eventually.
“But a little romance would be nice.”
“Ah, everyone needs a little
He made a big sigh, then began to
move, as if he were preparing to leave.
“You wouldn’t like a cup of tea
before you go, would you?” I said, hoping for a few more minutes of his
His face lit up.
“That would be lovely. Must keep my
strength up against my evil cousin.”
He followed me out towards the
“This cousin of yours,” I said
doubtfully, “he’s not likely to turn up in my living room, is he?”
Before he could answer, the front door
opened. And there was Harry, only slightly drunk, with a huge bunch of tulips.
But the bashful sweetness Harry
arrived with soon disappeared.
“Who’s this?” he demanded.
“This must be the scoundrel who
jilted you this evening in favour of the drink,” Devlin said. And, when Harry couldn’t
see, he winked at me.
“What on earth –?” Harry spluttered.
He tossed the flowers aside. “What’s it got to do with you?”
“What do you think?” Devlin asked
Harry seemed to weigh his options. He
blanked Devlin and turned to me. “Look, I’m sorry about earlier. You were
right. I’ve made reservations at the Grand Hotel to make it up to you.”
“And you think that’s enough?” Devlin
“Samantha,” Harry said, completely
tuning Devlin out. He softened his voice. “I love you. You mean the world to
me. Do you really need to hear me say it?”
I smiled. He was doing a fairly good
job himself of making my knees go weak.
“Yes,” Devlin said before I could
answer. “And often.”
Harry had had enough. He picked up
the umbrella from the rack beside the front door and brandished it like a
sword. “Right. Come on then, Captain Cavalier.”
Devlin raised an eyebrow. He didn’t
seem particularly intimidated.
“Harry,” I cried. “Would you really
fight for me?”
He glanced at his pink dotty umbrella,
then at the Duke’s lethal-looking sword. He took a breath but didn’t falter.
“Well, that’s enough to satisfy me,”
“Me too!” I cried. “I forgive you.”
I rushed towards Harry and leaped
into his arms, kissing his face all over.
Devlin, grinning, withdrew to give us
some privacy. “I should be getting back to the evil minions.”
“Good luck with that,” I called, as
he went back to the living room.
“You too!” he replied.
“What on earth is going on?” Harry
He let go of me and followed Devlin
into the living room. It was, of course, empty.
There was only my book, which had
fallen to the carpet, its pages closed.
©2009 Camilla Kelly
Camilla would love to hear what you think of her writing - email her now