Marguerite had always cherished the nightly drives home from London that Sir Percy insisted on. Unlike much of Society, he did not let a townhouse. His excuse was that he never slept well anywhere but in his chambers at home, however she knew that he too found pleasure in the length of solitary, moonlit road that connected town and Richmond. His adventurous spirit indulged itself, giving his handsome team of bays the rein and allowing the coach rush on at breakneck speed. He never spoke to her during these mad dashes, so she delighted in the cool air rushing over her face and the occasional sideways glance at her husband's fine profile.
It used to be that he never returned these gazes, but tonight his eyes flick from the road to her face and back and again. Once she caught the stealthy blue eyes and the corners of his mouth turned up into an embarrassed grin. She sighed. The shy smile was only small consolation after a disappointing evening. Marguerite understood that Society expected certain decorum from married couples, but he had spent all night at the card tables and had given her only a few fleeting moments of his attentions. Suzanne was no comfort; when she was not dancing with Sir Andrew, the two were exchanging glances that could hardly be termed clandestine.
Her reflections were halted with the coach and she accepted Sir Percy's assistance in alighting. An envelope marked with her brother's seal was thrust at her and as she received Armand's apology for not waiting up and the news that he was headed to London at first light for business, Sir Percy stole away to pace the grounds of his estate. She came upon him near the terrace, admiring the reflection of the moon on river. Her foot struck the gravel and he turned to face her. A feeling of déjà vu elicited a shiver from her as he called softly to her.
She paused and he closed the space between them with several long strides.
"Stay with me a moment. The night would hardly be as beautiful if you removed your presence." Percy tucked her dainty hand into the crook of his arm and began to lead her about the garden. "Tell me, Margot, what troubles you?"
She remained silent, resting her head against his shoulder.
"Are you worried for your brother, dear heart?"
She shook her head and loosed his arm.
"Have you been insulted? Shall your English turkey be forced to take on more bantams? If this be the case, I must implore you not to wager on the other fellow this time." His eyes sparkled with amusement at his own jest, however there was no recognition in her face that she remembered this playful banter at the expense of Vicomte de Tournay.
Realization now dawned in his expression. "Dearest, is it something that I have done?" He took both milady's hands and earnestly beseeched her, "Tell me what it is and I will make it better."
Marguerite finally met his eyes. "You spent all evening at the card tables with the Prince. I know that it has been habit for almost a year that we ignored the other's existence, but I quite hoped that things would be different now that we have reconciled."
"Why is that all it is? Egads! I could not get away from the Prince. He was quite concerned with the cut of his waist coat and insisted that I was a lucky whist partner. I was quite sure that you would not miss me as you were surrounded by your court of admirers. I assure you that I have not grown indifferent in two weeks."
She turned her melancholy eyes away, but left her hand in his grasp. She sighed as his thumb traced the dainty fingers and knuckles.
"I had hoped for a dance." Marguerite whispered in a barely audible murmur.
Percy smiled. " 'Tis not too late."
"There is no music."
"How foolish of me!" Giddy relief glimmered in his eyes as Percy began to whistle.
Suddenly shy, Marguerite attempted to pull her hands away. "I care not how British you are, Percy, you cannot waltz to 'God Save the King'!"
But Sir Percy would hear none of it. In a swift motion, he had placed her hand on his shoulder, slipped his around her waist, and clutched the other. He twirled her through the steps of waltzes that had been drilled into him in his youth as he whistled and then dramatically hummed the Anglo anthem. With much effort, Marguerite restrained her amusement. Percy laughed, and, pressing his cheek to hers, pulling her close. The murmurs of his affections in her ear and the soft strokes of his fingers splayed across her back educed another shiver.
Sir Percy tucked his waistcoat around her shoulders and led her towards the house. A cool breeze rustled the leaves still clinging to the rose bushes and swirled those that had already fallen to the terrace steps. He felt its chill through his thin shirt sleeves. It wisped away the bit of cloud that had softened the moon which now illuminated the manor grounds. Suddenly the toe of his boot struck the first step. Overwhelmed with the memory of a similar night several weeks earlier, Percy stopped. Marguerite felt a tug at their loosely twined fingers.
This night, she turned back with a questioning look and Percy, fervently, ardently in love, took her in his arms and kissed her.