“It's a well-written part,” Logan replied, walking backstage with her as they headed to their respective offices.
“And you play it brilliantly,” Julia said, her turquoise eyes filled with speculation. She smiled slightly. “It seems you've recaptured whatever it was that's been missing. It's because of Maddy, isn't it?”
Although Logan was annoyed by her perceptiveness, he couldn't argue. He responded with a surly grunt.
Julia continued with obvious enjoyment. “You must resent Madeline for proving that you're not invulnerable.”
“I never claimed I was invulnerable,” he returned evenly. “And if I harbor any resentment toward my wife, it's for a very different reason.”
“Really.” Julia's gaze mocked him. She entered her office, poking her blond head outside the door to add, “I shall enjoy watching you during the next few months, Logan. It will be interesting to see which part of you will win the battle—the half that wants to be happy, or the half that wants to flee from anyone who might dare to love you.”
“Your talents are wasted as an actress, Your Grace,” Logan informed her over his shoulder, continuing on his way. “With your imagination, you should have been a writer.”
The sound of her laughter trailed down the hall after him. As soon as Logan reached his office, he saw a familiar dark head above the back of his chair. Andrew, Lord Drake, was enjoying a drink at his desk.
“Jimmy!” he cried, grinning broadly. “What a fine newlywed you look, scowling that way.”
“What do you want?” Logan asked, shaking his hand in a firm grip.
Andrew smiled and indicated a crate beside the desk. It contained a dozen brandy bottles, each tied with a jaunty bow. “I brought you a gift, Jimmy. I'll admit, my feelings were wounded that you didn't ask me to stand up for you at the ceremony—but in the face of our long-standing friendship, I decided to let it pass.”
Logan took one of the bottles and inspected it admiringly. The vintage was an exquisite thirty-year-old French brandy. “Thank you, Andrew.”
“I decided to sample a bottle while I waited for you,” Andrew said. “Like nectar of the gods. Care for a glass?”
“I'll get one from the greenroom.”
“Don't bother—I brought one for you. Can't drink brandy like this from anything but a proper snifter.”
“I should have invited you to the ceremony,” Logan said gruffly, sitting on the edge of the desk as Andrew poured. “But it was all done rather quickly.”
“So I heard.” Andrew slanted him a wicked grin, his blue eyes sparkling. “Word has it that your new wife is carrying a bag pudding.” He looked at Logan with mock horror. “Can it be true? Will the Scott household soon be blessed with a little Logan?”
Logan accepted the snifter of brandy and nodded grimly, waiting for further mockery.
“Well done, then,” Andrew said abruptly, surprising him. “She's a likely wench, not to mention easy on the eye…and you could hardly do better than the daughter of a viscount.”
“No remarks about my being ‘caught’?” Logan asked. “I was certain you'd have something to say about that.” He sipped his brandy slowly, rolling the fine flavor on his tongue.
Andrew smiled. “You weren't caught, Jimmy. I've known you for too long. You wouldn't have married her unless you wanted her.”
Andrew was right…the only reason he had married Madeline was because he wanted her, needed her. The pregnancy had been a convenient excuse. Strange, that Andrew could have seen that so easily.
“We have no secrets from each other, do we?” Logan asked, staring at the man next to him and realizing that they were indeed brothers. Now he knew why they had remained friends for so long. They had each unknowingly felt the pull of their shared blood for years.
“Not one,” Andrew agreed cheerfully.
The urge to tell him…Andrew, I'm your brother…was so strong that Logan bit the insides of his lips to keep from speaking. He drank deeply of the brandy. There was no predicting for certain what Andrew's reaction would be to the revelation. Perhaps he might take a fleeting pleasure in the news, but Logan doubted it. More likely, Andrew would be suspicious, skeptical, bitter. He would turn against his father, and Logan as well, and cut himself loose from any kind of steadying influence. Logan had no wish to see his half brother embark on a gambling or drinking spree that could result in ruin.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Andrew asked, quirking his dark brows. “Just as my father does…like a scientist about to dissect a specimen.”
“Sorry.” Logan relaxed his features. “I was just thinking that you seem a bit fashed, Andrew. Been spending too much time at the hazard tables of late?”
“One night too many,” Andrew admitted with a forced laugh. “But my confessions will keep 'til later. I only came by to offer my congratulations.”
“If you're in trouble—”
“I'm always in trouble.” Andrew rested his boots on the desk, heedless of the books and papers beneath his muddy heels. “But at least life is never boring. Tell me, Jimmy…how does it feel to be a married man?”
“I've only been wed for a day,” Logan said dryly. “It's too soon to come to any conclusion.”
Andrew made a face. “I can't say I'd fancy being served the same supper every night for the rest of my life. But, of course, a man can slip out now and then for a little variety, as long as he's discreet.”
“I suppose,” Logan murmured, contemplating his brandy absently. Madeline was hardly in a position to object were he to take a mistress. But he had no desire to insult her that way…and though he might belie it, the truth was that no woman had ever appealed to him as she did.
Andrew seemed to read his thoughts, reacting with a spurt of incredulous laughter. “Good God—don't tell me you're in love with her?”
“No,” Logan said swiftly, his eyes turning hard.
“That's a relief. Love is poison, Jimmy. Just remember what happened the last time you succumbed to it.”
“How could I forget?” Logan said, his voice tainted with sudden malice, and he stared at Andrew until the latter murmured uncomfortably and finished his brandy.
“I must be off, Jimmy. Good luck to you, and all that. By the by, I heard a rumor that you'll soon be giving a ball for her at your estate. If that's true, I'll be expecting an invitation.” Breezily he waved good-bye and left the office, his booted feet echoing in the hallway.
“There's no reason for Logan to host such a grand affair…not for my sake.” Madeline stared in distress at samples of hand-painted invitations, trying to envision the prospect of six hundred guests pouring through Logan's elegant London mansion.
“It's not all for your sake, dear,” Julia replied dryly, sitting nearby as she worked on the guest list. “It's partly to assuage Logan's all-important pride. Rather than handle the circumstances of your marriage with discretion, he wants to make a show of it, to demonstrate that he couldn't be more pleased with the situation. No doubt such a spectacle will dull the point of many a gossip's arrow—especially the ones who want to receive invitations.” Frowning slightly, Julia crossed out a few names and inserted others, striving to achieve the perfect blend.
“But why have it here?” Madeline asked. “Logan will hate having hundreds of people wandering through his home, staring at his art collection and investigating every surface and corner—”
“Of course he will. However, he knows that hosting the ball at his mysterious mansion will drive people into a frenzy. Everyone of significance is already begging for an invitation, and those who suspect they won't get one are already making plans to leave London the night of the ball.”
“He'll lose all his privacy,” Madeline said, unable to share Julia's enthusiasm.
“I'm certain Logan knew when he married you that he had to sacrifice most of his privacy. He certainly wouldn't expect a girl of your age to enjoy his reclusive lifestyle. You'll want to dance and attend the opera, travel, join clubs and social groups—” Julia stopped and peered at the list in her lap more closely. “Hmm. I should add a few more international names…”
While the duchess labored over the list, Madeline subsided in her chair with a quiet moan. She was beginning to understand what Logan wanted of her, and it would require the performance of her life. Not only was she to hold her head high as people tried to observe if she was showing or not…she was also to move among the crowd with confidence and poise—things they would expect of Logan Scott's wife. If she failed, it would reflect badly on Logan as well as herself. Why would he put her to such a test, and so soon after their marriage?
“I don't know if I can do it,” she said aloud, her fingers twining tightly in her lap.
Julia's turquoise eyes flickered with friendly sympathy. “Maddy…all he expects is that you try.”
Madeline nodded. She would do whatever Logan asked, because she loved him. He must never regret having married her. No matter how long it took, she would make him admit someday that he had chosen the right woman to share his life with. “I'll do more than try,” she said. “I'm going to succeed.”
“Good for you,” Julia said with an admiring laugh. “You're made of resilient stuff, aren't you?”
“I hope so.”
As the two women worked and talked, a tray of tea and delicate sandwiches was brought in, but Madeline couldn't bring herself to eat anything. Nausea was still a persistent problem. Logan had clearly been annoyed by her lack of appetite and had threatened to send for the doctor if she didn't improve soon.
“I wouldn't worry,” Julia reassured her. “Your appetite will return soon enough. You'll regain the weight you've lost, and a great deal more.”
Madeline rested a hand on her own flat stomach. “I'm actually looking forward to it. Right now it doesn't seem as if there is a baby at all.”
“Wait until it starts moving and kicking,” Julia said, smiling. “Then you'll have no doubt.”
The afternoon grew late, and Julia departed with the promise that she would return on the morrow to take Madeline calling with her. There were a few young married women whom Madeline must meet. “Not all of my friends are in the theater, you know,” Julia said impishly. “Marrying the duke has forced me to associate with respectable people from time to time.”
The duchess was being extraordinarily kind, Madeline reflected after she had left. It spoke of Julia's high regard for Logan, that she would go out of her way to be so gracious to his wife. Relaxing in a plush corner of the parlor settee, Madeline occupied herself with reading and needlework until Logan arrived home. He came into the parlor carrying the wintry scent from outside, his dark hair disordered and his cheeks slightly reddened from the cold. “Maddy,” he said, coming to stand by the settee.
Madeline tilted her head back to look at him, feeling as if she would drown in his fathomless blue eyes.
“Have you eaten?” Logan asked.
Madeline shook her head. “I was waiting for you.”
He extended a hand and helped her from the settee, his grasp warm and hard. “How was the afternoon with Julia?”
“We made some headway, I think. It's quite an undertaking, planning an event this large.”
He shrugged indifferently. “It's only a matter of hiring the right people.”
As they walked to the circular dining hall, Madeline wanted to slip her hand companionably over his arm, but thought better of it. So far Logan hadn't encouraged any overtures from her, and she thought it likely that he would rebuff her if she tried.
In the few days since their wedding, their relationship had been polite and somewhat strained. They discussed neutral subjects and chose their words carefully. There were no intimate glances, no casual kisses or caresses. It was only at night that the constraints melted away, when Logan would come to her bed and wordlessly remove her gown, and make love to her until she ached with the pleasure of it. Each morning he left for the theater before she awoke.
“Did rehearsal go well?” Madeline asked as he seated her at the table.
Logan amused her with an account of Arlyss Barry's latest feud with another actress who had upstaged her, and the dissatisfaction of a few actors regarding an agreement he had made with a rival theater. “The Daly has recently lost a pair of its major performers, so I've decided to lend them a few of my actors for their run of As You Like It. In return, we'll use two or three of their players for supporting roles in The Rose. Unfortunately, my actors are protesting the transfer. They consider themselves too good to perform at the Daly.”
“I don't blame them,” Madeline commented, watching from the corner of her eye as a pair of footmen brought in silver dishes and trays. “If I were an actor, I would much rather appear at the Capital.”
“Nevertheless, they'll do as I tell them.”
“But why enter into an agreement that will benefit the Daly far more than the Capital?”
“It's good for the profession as a whole. I don't intend to allow my sense of competition to harm the London stage—any stage, not just mine.”
“You're quite a statesman,” Madeline said with a sudden smile.
“I can afford to be.”
Expertly the footmen set the dishes before them and served tender slices of chicken bathed in cream-and-sherry sauce, vegetables that had been mixed with buttered breadcrumbs and molded into artful shapes, and pastry stuffed with truffles and eggs.
As Madeline stared at the array of French cuisine, the cloying aromas began to erode any trace of appetite. Feeling queasy, she averted her gaze from her plate and reached for her water glass. Logan watched her with a sudden scowl.
“You're going to eat,” he said.
“I'm not hungry.” Madeline swallowed against the rising pressure in her throat, while the smell of rich food filled her nostrils. Pushing her plate away, she closed her eyes and breathed through her mouth.
“Dammit,” she heard Logan mutter. “You're not consuming enough to keep yourself healthy, much less provide for the babe.”
“I'm trying,” she returned, her eyes still closed. “But I feel sick all the time.”
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