"I declare, Sally, the only time my poor nephew doesn't cry is when
you're present," said Glee, who was plaiting the hair of her own
little toddler, Joy.
Sally Spenser dropped a kiss on little Sam's golden ringlets and
continued to rock him. She told herself she had become attached to
the little tyke because he had never known a mother's caress. More
likely, Sally's affection for Sam was fed by his own father's scorn
for his innocent son.
Sam's father, George Pembroke, the Viscount Sedgewick, was
undoubtedly the most exasperating man Sally had ever known. His
disinterest in his heir was unforgivable. His propensity for
tipping a cup too much was irresponsible. His predilection for
gaming was unwise. And his taste in poetry was nonexistent. In
short, there was not a single thing about the viscount of which
Sally approved. They could not be in the same chamber together for
five minutes without clashing.
Why, then, had she adored him for half of her two-and-twenty
years? Ever since she and Glee had become best friends while
attending Miss Worth's School for Young Ladies, Sally had worshipped
Glee's elder brother. It wasn't as if George had ever given Sally a
crumb of encouragement. Quite the contrary. The viscount had never
had eyes for any woman on earth, save his beloved wife Dianna, who
had been dead these two years past.
It hurt Sally to see George descend fauther into the grim valley of
grief he had dug for himself since Dianna's death. It was evident
he had no desire to live. There was no longer any joy in his life,
save his love for his daughter, who bore a striking resemblance to
"I'm so happy you've come to Bath," Glee said to Sally. "Not just
because I love you so dearly and am so thoroughly happy to see
you--but because poor little Sam needs you. I've become quite
concerned about him. He doesn't speak at all, and Joy--who's a week
younger than he--is already talking in sentences."
Sally bristled. "Mama said girls always talk before boys do. She
also said to never compare children for they each develop at a
different rate, but they all get to the same place sooner or later."
Glee sighed. "I hope you're right--about boys speaking later. I
worry so about Sam. I keep wondering if I'm doing the right thing
by allowing him to continue under George's roof. My brother is such
a brute! I truly believe Sam would be better off with me--except,
of course, for missing his sister, whom George would never give
up." Glee removed her daughter from her lap, stood her up, and
gave her rump an affectionate swat. "I want Sam and George to grow
close, and the only way that can happen is if George has to be
responsible for him."
"You have no reason to feel guilty," Sally said. "George does
need to exercise his fraternal responsibilities." She lovingly ran
her fingers through Sam's tresses. "Surely one day George will
realize how precious Sam is."
Sally reached down to clasp Sam's bare feet. "This little piggy,"
And he sat up and squealed with delight.
By the time Sally had finished grabbing each of Sam's chubby, curled
toes, he was giggling.
Then, his sister strolled into the room, a great, fat fluffy gray
cat in her little arms.
Sam scooted off Sally's lap and ran to take the cat from his
sister. The cat, who was obviously immune to Sam's clumsy abuse,
was almost as big as Sam.
Sally was pleased that Georgette was willing to share her pet with
her forlorn little brother.
Joy, her little legs churning, ran over to her female cousin. "See,
Mama made my hair pretty. Like the maiden in the book."
Georgette hopefully looked from Joy to Glee. "Will you plait my
hair, too, Aunt Glee?"
"I should be happy to, Georgette. Come here," Glee said as her arms
Sally stared after Georgette. Though her name was a variation of
her father's, she was all Dianna.
Sally still remembered her own grief when she had learned George had
become betrothed to Dianna Moreland. How painfully difficult it
would be to abandon her dream of growing up and capturing George's
heart. At first Sally was convinced George was shackling himself to
Miss Moreland for her enormous dowry.
Then, the seventeen-year-old Sally met the nineteen-year-old
Dianna. And Sally was even more devastated. Of course George would
love Dianna! She was not only wealthy, but elegant, gracious and
beautiful. Like her daughter was now. Georgette was tall for a
four-year-old. Her mother had been tall, too. And Georgette was
very fair of face with rich dark brown hair and eyes. Just like
After Glee finished braiding Georgette's hair, she sent the children
off with their nurse, then turned to her dear friend. "Now you
simply must tell me what brings you back to Bath so soon after you
arrived at your brother's house. What has he now done to cause you
to be so out of charity with him?"
Sally, who was on her knees picking up after the children, sighed.
"He all but promised my hand in marriage to the odious Mr.
"Pray, why is Mr. Higginbottom so odious?"
"Perhaps the word odious is unjust. The man may be perfectly
amiable, but it is difficult for me to determine that because I'm so
shallow a person I'm frightfully put off by his appearance. 'Tis no
fault of his that he is fat and persists in wearing garments that
fit him when he was a much leaner man. And it's terribly unkind of
me to object to the fact that his head is as hairless as a billiard
ball. Suffice it to say the man has a granddaughter who is my age."
Glee's eyes widened. "Oh, dear, that will never do! Does Edmund
actually think you would be that desperate to marry?"
Sally's lips folded into a grim line, and her grip tightened on
Joy's cloth doll. "My feelings were never considered, I
assure you. All that mattered to Edmund was Mr. Higginbottom's
large purse." She tossed the doll into a basket.
"I cannot understand why your mother would continue to live under
her son's roof when he is so thoroughly mercenary. Did he not
himself marry for position rather than love?"
Sally nodded. "Mama is no proponent of love matches. Her father
arranged her marriage. Besides, she is besotted over Edmund,
and he persuaded her how advantageous it would be for me if I were
to marry Mr. Higginbottom."
"Oh, dear," Glee said. "And knowing you and your sharp tongue, I am
persuaded you alienated Edmund dreadfully."
"I could hardly be expected to hold my tongue---" Sally shook her
head and burst out laughing. "I daresay I've never been one to hold
my tongue in my entire life."
Glee laughed, too. "I daresay you're right."
"But I'm now faced with the difficulty of my situation. I refuse to
go back to Edmund's, and David is off who-knows-where in the navy.
As the daughter of a deceased vicar, I obviously have no great
fortune of own."
Glee's smile widened and her eyes twinkled. "You'll just have to
live with Blanks and me!"
"As much as I love you," Sally said, "I refuse to live off your
charity. I shall have to take a position. I've been thinking . . .
I was at the top of our class at Miss Worth's . . . Do you suppose
she would engage me to teach at the school?"
Glee shook her head vigorously. "I shan't allow you to think on the
matter! Why, you're the niece of Lord Bankston!" Her eyes surveyed
Sally, who was putting everything in its place. "Though, I declare,
looking at you now, one would believe you a parlormaid. Do leave
that for the servants!"
"You know I cannot."
Glee nodded. "I know. Living with you at Miss Worth's was the only
time in my life I had a tidy bedchamber."
"Then my neatness did not rub off on you?"
"Heavens no! I shouldn't wish to have everything tucked away for
I'd never be able to find anything. But that is not what we
were discussing. About your teaching . . . I daresay Lord Bankston
would suffer apoplexy if he thought his niece would accept a
position as a teacher."
"Grandniece. Then I shan't tell him," Sally said curtly. "My mind
is made up, Glee. I wish to be independent. I refuse to live off
"You were going to live with your brother. What is the difference
between living with me--who loves you--or living with your wretched
brother?" Glee challenged.
"Edmund was charged by our father with the responsibility of taking
care of us upon Papa's death. All of Papa's money--what there was
of it--went to his firstborn with that caveat. Edmund bought
David's colours and was to make a home for Mama and me with him and
Drucilla and their children."
"I am certain that if you stayed here in Bath with Blanks and me you
would quickly capture a husband, and that would solve all your
"You may be certain of it, but I'm not," Sally said. "You and
Felicity and Dianna all easily captured agreeable husbands because
you are beautiful. Unfortunately, I cannot aspire to such hopes."
"You are pretty," Glee countered.
"If one likes females as tall and shapeless as a beanpole. And add
to that I am possessed of hair that bears a remarkable resemblance
to brittle straw."
"That's not true! Granted, you are taller than average and slight
of frame, but your face is pretty. Why, you have the nicest
dimples I've ever beheld, and your eyes are lovely. 'Tis so
unexpected to see dark brown eyes on a blonde. I vow, I would trade
anything I have--save Blanks and Joy--to have your complexion."
Sally rolled her eyes. "You're the fair, pretty one. Why would you
want skin that's bronzed?"
"It's not bronzed. It's . . . tawny. Like you. Shades of golds
and browns. You're really very pretty."
"Would that men shared your views," Sally muttered. Her eyes
narrowed as she watched Glee. "Speaking of men, I detect a marked
difference of late in your husband. You have every right to tell me
it is none of my concern, but I'm quite distressed over what I
witness. Blanks had become so responsible, such an attentive
husband, and now he's returned to his former ways, cavorting with
that brother of yours."
Glee's little shoulders shrugged and she spoke in a troubled
whisper. "We shall never have another child, for he absents himself
from my bed."
Other maidens might turn scarlet and avert their gazes when
confronted with talk of what occurred between a married couple in
the bedchamber, but not Sally. Her brows lowered. "I cannot
believe Blanks has fallen out of love with you!"
"Oh, he hasn't," Glee said. "The problem is he loves me too
dearly. Ever since Dianna died on childbed, my darling Blanks is
determined to spare me such a fate. And--because he loves me so
dearly--he cannot be close to me and not . . . well, not wish
to make love to me. So that is why he is never around."
Sally sprang to her feet and glided across the carpeted floor to
Glee. "Oh, you poor dear. We must put a stop to his ridiculous
behavior." She hugged Glee to her.
"I cannot think of what to do. I have spoken to him any number of
times and assured him the women in my family are good
breeders. Felicity's already delivered two perfect children, and
Mama delivered three. I told him I am positive I shall never die
until every red hair on my head has turned white."
"And what does he say?"
Glee's lashes fell. "He says one in four women die on childbed, and
he'll not have me being one of them." A sob escaped her and she
turned to Sally with weepy eyes. "Oh, Sally, you cannot imagine how
good it is to lie with a man you love so desperately."
Oh, but Sally could. Though a virgin, she was no blushing maiden.
She could never behold George's muscled body and not long to have it
stretched beside hers, to feel his solidness beneath her sweeping
hands, to want to take him inside of her. Thinking on it now caused
her heart to drum.
Shaking her head, Glee walked toward the door. "Our conversation
has been far too draining. Come, let's go to the Pump Room.
Perhaps I shall see my wayward husband there, and you can scold
Glee excessively disliked having to leave Sally on just her second
day in Bath, but Felicity had summoned Glee to nearby Winston Hall.
And since Felicity was the eldest of the siblings, neither Glee nor
George had ever possessed the backbone to defy her. Not that there
had ever been any need to, since Felicity's judgment was unerring.
So now Glee found herself in the Moreland's library facing Felicity
and a solemn George, with both doors leading into the chamber firmly
closed behind the three of them.
"Pray, what is all this about?" Glee asked.
Felicity's eyes flashed in anger, and her hands flew to her waist,
elbows pointed outward. "It's about George. We've all been patient
with him in his grief." She turned narrowed eyes on him, and her
voice softened. "Don't forget that I know what it is to lose a
beloved spouse. I never wanted to love another man again. I had
known love with Michael."
"You cannot compare Michael Harrison to Dianna!" George snapped.
"No woman can ever take her place. No woman has ever been created
who could be her equal."
"Be that as it may," Felicity said, "I've brought you here to tell
you life goes on. Whether you ever remarry is irrelevant--though I
do sincerely hope you will again know love. What is relevant,
dearest brother of mine, is your children. And I'm persuaded your
indifference toward them and your immature, selfish ways have to
stop. We've said nothing to you up to this point because of your
overwhelming grief, but I can no longer stand by and see your
children so neglected."
"My children are not neglected! They have a very fine nurse who
sees to all their needs."
"But they're already so handicapped, having no mother," Felicity
said. "They need a father. And they need the influence of a woman
of good birth. Though she's only four, it's time Georgette has a
governess. She needs intercourse with a well bred lady. As does
Now Glee stepped forward, her green eyes flashing. "Are you even
aware of the fact your son cannot speak? He's such a sad little
fellow, with virtually no parents to love him."
George was unaware of the fact. "At what age do most
children speak?" he asked.
"Your own daughter had an extensive vocabulary when she was two,"
Glee said, "and my daughter is already speaking in sentences though
she is a week younger than Sam."
"For Christ's sake, the lad's not yet two. What do you expect?"
Felicity interceded. "He'll be two next week. I'll grant you, boys
speak later than girls. My sons did not speak as early as my
nieces. Still, I'm concerned for little Sam."
"I'll thank you not to pity my son. His nurse tells me he's
"I don't for a moment doubt his intelligence," Glee said. "It's his
well-being I doubt."
"He's much larger than Georgette was at the same age," George
"We're not saying Sam is physically neglected," Felicity
said. "It's his emotional battering that worries us."
"My son is not battered!" These demmed sisters of his had no right
to tell him how to raise his children! There was nothing wrong with
his son. The boy was just shy. That was all. The lad's mother was
shy, too. God, but he missed her. What had George ever done in his
life to cause such unbearable sorrow to be heaped upon him?
"You're wrong," Glee said. "He's been raised as an orphan."
"So, if I hire a governess, you expect that woman to become a mother
to my children?"
"'Twould be better than things are now," Felicity said. "Though
best of all would be for you to remarry."
"That's out of the question," he said.
Felicity's voice gentled. "Believe me, I perfectly understand your
"No one's been in my shoes," George said bitterly.
An idea--a wonderful, brilliant idea--seized Glee. "George!
Felicity! I have a solution to the dilemma."
"To what dilemma?" George asked.
"The dilemma of your children having no mother," Glee answered.
"Sally could be their governess! She is already perfectly devoted
to your children, and just yesterday she told me she wished to find
a position as a teacher. This is infinitely better--because she's
so excessively fond of little Sam--and of Georgette, too."
"Sally Spenser?" George asked.
Glee put hands to hips. "Of course! What other Sally dotes on your
He shrugged. "Never thought of the niece of an earl being a
governess. Doesn't sound right."
"She's merely Lord Bankston's grandniece," Glee said.
Felicity walked up to George and settled a gentle arm around him.
"Think on it, George. In the meantime, Glee can make inquiries to
see if Miss Spenser would even consider being your children's
Glee's thoughts were flitting through her brain at a miraculous rate
of speed. Not only would Sally be perfect for the children, she
would be good for George, too. Not in the romantic sense, of
course. They weren't at all suited. In fact, they argued all the
time. But Sally, with her honest tongue, was probably the only
woman on earth who could handle George. If anyone could turn him
around, it would be Sally Spenser.
"I should wish for both of you to dine with Blanks and me tonight.
Miss Spenser is presently my house guest, George, and you will have
the opportunity to see for yourself if you think she will do."