A Momentary Marriage

By: Candace Camp

acknowledgments


I always thank the same group, but they’re the ones who always make my book possible.

Anastasia for her research and suggestions and being my sounding board.

Abby for helping me resolve the dilemmas and fill the gaps, as well as separating the wheat from the chaff.

Marla and all the rest of the team at Pocket for all they do to get this book out there—that’s a lot of work, people, and I appreciate it!

Maria and the folks at Maria Carvainis Agency for their support and expertise.





chapter 1


1882

Sir James de Vere was going home to die.

He would end his life as he had lived it, alone in the midst of his family. It was a bleak prospect, but even so, not as bad as spending his last days here in the gray and grimy city. At least at Grace Hill, he would have the beauty of his gardens. And Dem would enjoy the freedom of the country.

He glanced over at the huge dog, stretched out in the sunlight coming through the window. As if he had heard his master’s thoughts, the brindle mastiff raised his head and looked at James, then, apparently satisfied that all was in order, lay back down again.

“Sir?” the man on the other side of his desk said uneasily.

James turned back to his man of business. Obviously he had missed whatever the fellow had said. He found it more and more difficult to maintain his focus—indeed, to think of anything but the stab of pain behind his eye. “I beg your pardon. I didn’t hear you.”

“I was asking if there was anything else, sir.” The man’s tone was deferential, but James knew he was itching to leave. James was never sure if Johnson was more uneasy about incurring James’s displeasure or that of his dog. He had kept sneaking glances over at the mastiff throughout their conversation. In fact, Dem had a pleasant, even sweet nature, but James had never seen a reason to ease anyone’s mind about it.

“No. I think that’s everything.” He had wrapped up every detail; there should be no confusion or encumbrances or dangling ends in his estate. Even though he wouldn’t be here to see it, James disliked a lack of order. If he left it to his family, they would muck it up and eventually toss it all in Graeme’s lap to untangle. There was no point in subjecting his cousin to that.

“Um . . .” The agent shifted on his feet. “Mrs. Hobart?”

“Ah, yes. Mrs. Hobart . . .” James had forgotten about her—and wouldn’t that have sent that brown-eyed beauty into a snit if she had known?

“Yes, sir. She, ah, came by the office last week.”

“Did she now? How enterprising of her.”

“She’d heard you were in the city. I said you were not; I assumed you would not, um, that you, ah . . .”

“You assumed correctly.”

Dem let out a deep bark, which made Mr. Johnson jump. The animal surged to his feet, facing the doorway, on alert. There were footsteps in the hall, and James’s cousin appeared in the doorway. The mastiff gave a wag of his tail and padded over to regally offer his head for a pat.

James’s visitor obliged, saying, “Hallo, Dem, I believe you’ve grown even more enormous since I saw you last.”

“Hello, Graeme.”

“James.” Graeme’s blue gaze went to James’s agent, and he hesitated.

“Johnson, sir,” the man supplied.

“Yes, of course. How are you? I believe last time I saw you, you were awaiting a happy event.”

“Were you?” James glanced at his agent. Trust Graeme to remember such niceties.

“Yes, sir.” Johnson beamed. “Thank you for asking. We have a bouncing baby boy, healthy as an ox, I’m happy to say. And you, my lord, I believe you and Lady Montclair have been blessed as well.”

“Indeed.”

James watched as an equally fatuous smile spread across his cousin’s face. He resigned himself to a discussion of the wonders of infants. It did little to distract him from the knife of pain behind his right eye. His fingers twitched, and he curled them into his palm.

Graeme, glancing over at James, broke off his effusions. “But I have interrupted you. I apologize. I shall return later.”

“No.” James straightened. “Stay. We are finished here.” He turned to Johnson. “Buy Mrs. Hobart some jewelry, a necklace and earrings.” He paused. He had been with her for some time; it tended to raise expectations. “Maybe a bracelet as well. You’ll know what to get better than I.”

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