An Inconvenient Wife by Constance Hussey
long novel (approx 99,000 words)
Cover Art by Winterheart Design
Fleeing an obsessive suitor, Anne Mackenzie finds refuge in Portugal, although she will only be completely safe in England. When she takes two children into her care, she never dreams that they will be the key to return her home. Lord Westcott can take her away from Portugal and protect her from the dangerous man in her past, but the price is high—a loveless marriage. Unless Anne can thaw the heart of this compelling, aloof stranger, they may be irrevocably bound to a lifetime of unhappiness.
Unable to ignore the bonds of friendship, Lord Westcott reluctantly agrees to visit Portugal in search of a missing child. A recluse since the death of his wife and a crippling injury to his daughter, he never imagines he will return with two orphans and a wife—a wife whose dangerous secrets threaten his very life—and his long-frozen heart.
Chance has thrown them together, but only love can transform an inconvenient wife into his heart’s desire.
Publisher's Note: Constance Hussey is half of the writing duo Diana Hussey. Don't miss out on her other works!
Hampshire, England, 1804
Nicholas Blackwell, Viscount Westcott, scowled at his closest friend and folded his arms across his chest.
“Why not? I need you; England needs you. And this child needs you.”
Devlin St. Clair’s look of weary patience fueled Westcott’s anger and he slammed both hands down on his desk. “Dammit, Dev. Don’t spout that rubbish at me. You know very well I have a child right here that needs me and you are perfectly capable of carrying out this mission alone.”
St. Clair rose, walked across the room, and braced one hip against the desk. “Perhaps I can, but it will be far safer and go much faster with your knowledge and contacts,” he said in a quiet tone at odds with the grim set of his face. “I don’t want Juliette put to additional risk. Surely you can understand that.” He laid a hand on Westcott’s arm. “Three weeks, Nick. That’s all I ask. Sarah can come to Lynton and stay with my mother.”
Westcott stared at the broad fingers resting so lightly on his arm and thought about the invisible weight that strong hand carried. A friendship that went back to childhood, a staunch ally through boyish adventures, a steady presence during the nightmare of Camille’s death and Sarah’s terrifying illness.
“I will think about it.” Even so little a concession was difficult to get out. He would think about it—he was no liar, blast it—but whether he could step out of the safe fortress he had erected around his daughter was uncertain.
St. Clair’s mouth pulled back in a wry smile. “That’s all I ask.” His fingers tightened around Blackwell’s arm before he released him and straightened. “Thank you.” His smile broadened into genuine humour. “I know the way out.” The earl strolled to the door and paused. “You might consider that a change of scene may be good for Sarah.” The door closed behind him with a quiet snick.
Westcott dropped into his chair and buried his face in his hands. He did not want to leave Westhorp, leave Sarah; step back into the world. It had proven to be a hazardous place which he wanted no part of. He had obligations here.
And that gives you the right to ignore everything else? Westcott raised his head, stood, and shoved back his chair with enough force to flip it backwards onto the floor with a muted thud. A few quick strides to the French doors leading to the terrace and he stepped out into the chill air. The garden below was a bleak landscape of leafless trees and shrubs under gray, leaden skies that held the threat of bad weather. Months yet to go before spring, when he could push Sarah’s chair along the flagged paths so she could enjoy the flowers—and birds, butterflies and any other living creature they might stumble upon. For a moment, the picture of his daughter giggling at the antics of the squirrels lightened his mood. Sarah enjoyed new experiences. Maybe St. Clair’s suggestion had some merit.
Westcott clasped his hands behind his back and began to pace. Do you keep her too close, as St. Clair has implied more than once? Are you so caught in your own fear of hurting her that you are being selfish? But he couldn’t bear…and what does she bear, every day of her life because of your stupidity?
“You are an idiot, Westcott.” He stopped in mid-stride at the sound of his voice and grimaced. Now he was talking to himself—and damned unlikely to get a response!
But Portugal? In March? He hadn’t been there for years, and he hated sailing. Even St. Clair was a better sailor than he was.
Unsettled by the thought of leaving Westhorp, leaving his daughter, Westcott stomped out of the room. He had to speak to Sarah before he made a decision.