A Deceitful Widow by Diana Hussey
sensual regency historical romance (Approx 84, 500 words)
Cover Art by Winterheart Design
Weary of war and turmoil, Jessica flees Spain for the peace of England with her orphaned nephew, determined to hide the boy from his father’s powerful family. She will do anything to protect him, no matter how tempted she is to trust the dangerously attractive lord who comes searching.
Lord Waring’s quest to find his late cousin’s child is thwarted by this disturbingly beautiful young widow. Elusive and defiant, her past shrouded with mystery, she is an enchanting enigma he cannot resist.
Now, drawn together by the silken ties of duty and love, they must find a path that frees them from the bonds of the past.
Waring stood on the threshold and examined the room. Here the walls were also white, but unlike the stark entry, several colourful fans mounted on one wall enlivened the room. A small desk sat by the window; a settee, chair and the table between them made up the other furnishings. Nothing all that much out of the ordinary, other than being somewhat sparse, but pleasing nevertheless.
All thought of the room and its contents disappeared at the silent approach of a slender, black clad woman, so astonishingly lovely that his breath hitched in his throat. She had to be one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, and he’d known his share. Long lashes framed a pair of silvery-grey eyes that studied him gravely. Her dark hair, drawn back into a knot at the base of her neck, was a sharp contrast to the creamy skin on that almost too-perfect face. Add to that a full, lush mouth and slim, straight nose and it was not surprising that he felt as if he had been planted a facer. Woman of uncertain age indeed! She couldn’t be more than a few years above twenty. He stifled the very unexpected and ungentlemanly desire to see that hair tumbled around her breasts, her lips moist and rosy with his kiss, and stepped forward and bowed.
“Yes, I am Jessica McClain. Please come in, Lord Waring.” She offered the briefest of curtsies, her expression unreadable, but he swore there had been a flash of surprise in her eyes, very like Mrs. Barnes’ reaction. Now what was there about him to startle these women?
“It is very kind of you to see me. Mr. Wardwell said that you seldom receive visitors. I hope my coming isn’t too inconvenient.” Waring smiled at her and wished suddenly that they were meeting under different circumstances.
“Not at all.” She gestured toward the chair and took a place on the settee. “Please be seated and tell me in what way I might be of help to you.”
If the cool, patient look on her face was any indication, the widow was supremely indifferent to his reason for approaching her. Waring took the offered seat and stared at the beautiful, expressionless face. Could she really be as cold as she appeared? It seemed almost unnatural, yet there was an air of fragility about her that was oddly appealing.
“A family matter, Mrs. McClain.” Waring heard the chilly note in his voice and paused. Not wise. It would not do to offend the woman. Not, at least, until he had his answers, but he had seldom felt so entirely unwelcome. Her manner bordered on rudeness, and he suppressed the impulse to respond in kind and moderated his voice. “I am looking for a woman named Luisa Foster Sinclair. Your solicitor suggested that you may be able to provide me with some information about her.”
“May I ask why you are interested in Luisa, Lord Waring?” For the first time she looked directly at him, a faint hint of interest in her eyes. He had not missed the familiar manner in which she spoke the missing woman’s name, and he tamped down a flare of excitement.
“Very recently, my family learned that my cousin, Andrew Sinclair, was married to a Luisa Foster prior to his death in Spain. Andrew’s grandfather, the current Viscount Linden, who is also my great-uncle, wants to meet Luisa, make sure that she is not in need.” He leaned forward in an effort to convey how important this was to them. “Lord Linden very much wants — needs — to hear something of Andrew.”
She searched his face, her hands clenched in her lap, and he withstood the scrutiny with barely checked impatience as he waited for her to reply.
“Then I am sorry to tell you that Luisa Sinclair died of the fever less than a year after Andrew’s death,” she said finally, the lightly accented voice husky with emotion. “She was my younger sister.”
She looked away, and Waring rose and walked to the window. He wanted to take this stranger into his arms and comfort her, a surprising impulse given his irritation at her chill manner, not to mention a presumption that would likely earn him a well deserved set-down.
“I am sorry, Mrs. McClain. I feared as much,” he said into the uncomfortable silence. “It seemed the only explanation of why Andrew’s wife never tried to contact any of the family.” He turned to face her. “But one does always hope otherwise, of course. It will be a great disappointment to my great-uncle. Ever since we learned of Luisa’s existence he has looked forward to welcoming her into the family.”
There was an instance of distaste in the cool grey eyes and he hesitated. Surely this sense of animosity was his imagination. It must be that unnatural stillness that had him on edge. The woman seemed barely to breathe, so little did she move. What would it take to disturb that studied calm? Clap his hands? Shout fire?
Ignoring his absurd fancies, Waring resumed his seat and summoned a smile. “If you do not find it too painful a subject, will you tell me a little of Andrew and Luisa’s life together? It would please Lord Linden very much, I know.”
Another intense and irritating scrutiny, but one with a more pleasant result, for she surprised him with a faint smile and a graceful wave of her hands.
“I’m not sure how you learned of my sister, my lord. I wasn’t aware that Andrew’s family knew of their marriage.”
“We did not, but recently a letter written by Luisa to Andrew came into our possession. Along with Luisa’s letter, there was a brief note from a Major Foster and we applied to the War Office for information. Then, thanks to the sleuthing abilities of my secretary, we located Mr. Wardwell.” Waring smiled and felt some of the tension ease from his shoulders. “You have a very loyal solicitor, Mrs. McClain.”
“Mr. Wardwell has been a good friend for many years,” she said lightly.
Was that relief in her voice? Waring murmured something unintelligible and cursed his overactive imagination, but then it seemed every bit of his good sense had vanished in the past half-hour. He put on what he hoped was an encouraging expression, leaned back, and waited for her to continue.