Her Secondhand Groom(6)

By: Rose Gordon

“It’s seldom I render anyone speechless,” Lord Drakely drawled again, staring at her in a way that made her wish the ground would open in front of her and swallow her whole.

Steeling her spine, Juliet glanced down at his filthy children. “Come along, girls,” she said with as much bravado as she could muster. “You can join us on our walk.”

“That would be most excellent.” The tone of Lord Drakely’s voice made Juliet stiffen. Did the man truly mean to leave his daughters in the care of the first female he found? Apparently so because he cleared his throat and said, “Go on, girls I’ll come by Miss…”

“Hughes,” Juliet supplied tightly.

“Right, Miss Hughes. I’ll come by Miss Hughes’ cottage to collect you as soon as the carriage is mended.”

Juliet’s jaw dropped. “And just how long do you think that’ll be?” When he didn’t say a word, but continued to stare at her with a cocked head, she added, “My lord.”

“I don’t know.” He shrugged, and contorted his face into a careless, overdone frown. His entire demeanor was considerably more agreeable now. That was probably because he knew he wasn’t going to have to spend his afternoon with that pack of hyenas he called children. “An hour. Maybe two.”

Juliet nodded woodenly. She could watch them for an hour or two. It wasn’t going to harm her to do so. She’d just have to think of something to keep them occupied, that’s all. Looking at the dirty little girls, she extended her hand in their direction and rolled her wrist. “Come along, then. I think we have some biscuits and milk at home.”

At that, the youngest girl ran to her side as if she’d been searching for Juliet her whole life.

Juliet smiled at the young girl and gave her hand a gentle squeeze. Even if she was covered head to toe in dirt and had an ogre for a father, she was still adorable.

“Go on, girls,” Lord Drakely encouraged the other two girls who looked hesitantly at Juliet and her little company of brothers and sisters.

Smiling warmly at the two older girls, Juliet waited until they joined the ranks before calling her direction back to Lord Drakely and instructing the children to walk down the lane.

Juliet’s eyes roved over the girls, they were all very attractive girls with black hair like their father’s and wide, hazel eyes. They’d certainly have their pick of suitors, as long as their father didn’t scare them all away.

“What kind of biscuits do you got?” the littlest girl asked, licking her lips.

“We have several kinds, actually. My guess is you’d like the ones with ginger in them,” Juliet said with a grin.

The little girl nodded excitedly and returned Juliet’s grin. “Ginger biscuits are my favorite.”

“Well then, I’ll just have to make sure you get your fill.”

Chapter 2

Patrick had never wished he were anywhere else so badly in his life. The sun was setting and his carriage was just now rolling down the lane that led to the Hughes’ cottage. He yanked his handkerchief out of his breast pocket and wiped his sweaty forehead. Repairing a carriage in the hot sun while his blasted coachman stared at him was hard work. Gritting his teeth, he shoved the handkerchief back in his pocket, and for the fifteenth time today alone contemplated sacking Cruxley. The man was worthless. Except when it came to driving the coach. He could do that task fairly well. Oh, who was he fooling? The man couldn’t even drive the carriage correctly. The thing was always getting stuck in ruts, and if Patrick didn’t know better he’d swear Cruxley deliberately drove it over every rock, stick, hole, tree root, and small animal he could find. Riding in a carriage driven by Cruxley was the equivalent to being shaken wildly for no good reason.

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