A Bride for the Baron - Page 29

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“Then, to avoid that, I shall try to sound like a herd of stampeding elephants wherever I go.”

“That could work.”

He pushed off the wall, and suddenly the broad corridor seemed smaller and more intimate. He did not touch her, but he might as well have, because she was as aware of him as if he held her close. Each breath he took and released seemed to set the pace of her own.

She tore her gaze from his. “Don’t you think this woman looks like Cat?” Only a faint tremor in her voice hinted at her unsteady heartbeat.

“She does.” He bent closer to the painting to examine it.

Vera took a steadying breath and had herself composed by the time he looked back at her.

“Her name is Antigone Meriweather.” He shook his head. “Who would name their daughter Antigone?”

“Maybe they were fond of the ancient Greek play.”

“I am impressed at your knowledge, Miss Fenwick.”

She held the rolled page by her side in a calm pose, but she was pleased at the admiration in his voice. “Reading and learning were valued in my family, so I was introduced to the classics at a very early age. After our parents died, Gregory insisted I continue to read challenging works.”

Lord Meriweather stepped back from the portrait. “Why are you wandering along this corridor?”

“When I couldn’t find you elsewhere, I was told I might find you here.”

“Really?” He did not sound pleased. “Who told you that?”

“One of the maids. I’m not sure of her name.”

“Or you would not say it to protect her from my wrath at having my solitary haven breached.”

He was teasing, but she wondered if truth hid beneath the joke. “I did not mean to intrude, my lord. I can speak with you later.”

“You have searched high and low for me, so the least I can do is invite you into my private sanctuary.” He reached behind him and opened a door, one of only two that were closed. With a bow of his head, he indicated that she should precede him into the chamber.

Vera did not know what she expected to find on the other side of the door. It was a smaller version of the book room. Bookshelves flanked a black hearth and surrounded the tall window and the door. Like in the book room, leather-bound volumes filled every inch of shelf space and parts of the floor around a single wing chair and a table that looked as if it had been built in the Middle Ages. Heavy and blackened with age, it had what appeared to be a family crest on each leg.

“No question who commissioned this desk to be built, is there?” Lord Meriweather said as he followed her into the room.

She examined it more closely. “So, this is where it went.”

“You have seen this table before?”

“No, but I have heard about it.” She straightened and smiled. “Once it was where the lord of the manor sat to collect his rents on quarter days.”

He walked around the table. “That makes sense now. I thought it might have been built by someone with a bit too much pride.”

“That probably is true, too.”

As if she had not spoken, he went on. “I found this room shortly after Christmas. I would guess that my predecessor also used it when he wanted to be able to work uninterrupted.”

“And I have interrupted you. I am sorry.”

“You are no interruption. I am seeking refuge from my aunt and her matrimonial machinations. The good Lord save me from well-meaning aunts.”

His tone was so grim that she could not help laughing. “I will keep your refuge a secret.”

“Thank you.” He came around the table again. “I see you are carrying a rolled sheet. Is it something for our project?”

She liked how he said our project. “I made this sketch after our previous discussions. I am no artist like your cousin Cat, but...”

“Why don’t you show me what you have done? After that, I want to talk to you about some merchants in Whitby. You, having lived here longer than I, may know more about their reputations for service and honesty.”

He took the page she held out to him. Setting it on the table, he placed a book on each corner to keep the page from curling. He leaned his elbows on the top and rested his chin in the palm of one hand while he appraised the drawing. It was a pose she guessed he had taken often when he had worked in London before the war. He ran a finger along the lines she had drawn. On one half of the page she had sketched a possible exterior for the new church with a square tower and simple windows. The interior was on the other half, and that had taken her many more hours than the outer view.

She watched his face, trying to discern what he thought of her efforts. Until this moment, she had not guessed how much she hoped the drawings would be able to convey what she had failed to with words.

Tags: Jo Ann Brown Billionaire Romance
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