That Perfect Someone Page 9

Richard started to laugh, but that hurt too much. “Think I didn"t try that? He yanked me back to my feet every bloody time.” Richard"s words were starting to slur. “By the by, sorry for making you angry earlier tonight. Didn"t mean a bit of it.”

“I realized that—too late. By the time I got back to the room, you were gone. But I wasn"t away that long,” Ohr added with a frown. “What"d you do, grab your fancy duds and race out of the room to dress somewhere else?”

“Had to. Knew you wouldn"t be angry for long. You never are.” Ohr sighed. “I really didn"t think you"d be this foolish over a woman you can"t have. You have no trouble putting her from your mind when you"re bedding someone else. Have you never wondered why that is?”

Richard didn"t answer. He"d already passed out.

Chapter Eleven

IT TOOK TWO DAYS for Julia to get up the nerve to visit the Malory house down the street because she wasn"t going there simply to visit her friend Georgina. She was hoping to find out something, anything, about Jean Paul that might lead to her seeing him again. It was rather bold of her to try, but how could she not, when she couldn"t get the man out of her mind? Or the notion that he might really be her perfect match. How could she let him just slip away without finding out for sure? That had, in the end, convinced her. She would always regret it if she made no effort at all.

She wasn"t going to mention him to James, of course. But she reasoned that Georgina might not mind talking about him and might even be flattered that such a strapping young man was in love with her.

The Malory house wasn"t in its usual quiet state, however. She"d forgotten that all five of Georgina"s brothers had come to London for her birthday this year, and none of them had yet gone back to sea. Only Boyd lived permanently in London. While Warren and his wife, Amy, also had a house in town, they were usually at sea for half of each year.

When she was introduced to the two brothers that she hadn"t met before, Clinton and Thomas Anderson, just as they were leaving, she assumed they were staying with their sister until they sailed back to America.

It was the first thing she remarked on after she joined Georgina in her parlor and more introductions were made. Two of Georgina"s sisters-in-law were present, along with Boyd, her youngest brother. Julia was already acquainted with Boyd"s wife, Katey. And while she"d met Drew Anderson once before several years ago, and she"d seen his new wife at the ball, she hadn"t actually met Gabrielle until now.

“Actually,” Georgina said with a wry grin, “this is the first time ever that none of my brothers are staying with me. But then it"s a perfect opportunity for Clinton and Thomas to get to know the new wives in the family, so Boyd"s putting them up, thanks to that house you found for him.”

“And thank God for that,” James said drily as he sauntered into the parlor. “Can"t thank you enough, Julia, for leasing him that place that"s big enough for the lot of them. Now if they"d just stop spending all their waking hours here …”

The derogatory remark was typical of James when it came to his five Anderson brothers-in-law. Even Julia knew that. And no one there took it seriously.

Katey Anderson, who had only discovered last year that she was also a Malory, chuckled.

“You aren"t getting rid of me that easily, Uncle James.”

“You and Gabby are the exception, puss,” James said as he bent to kiss the top of Katey"s head on his way to Georgina"s chair, where he half-sat on the arm of it. “And if either of you would like to come to your senses, I know which arms to twist to arrange for a quiet divorce.” Boyd used to have quite a temper according to his sister. Although he"d apparently mellowed with age, it didn"t sound like it when he said, “That"s going a little too far, Malory.” Then, turning to Georgina, he inquired, “Isn"t he supposed to at least pretend to be nice when you have company?”

“Well said, Yank!”

Boyd nodded to acknowledge the compliment from James, but Georgina said, “If you mean Julia, she"s our friend and neighbor, and he doesn"t rein it in among friends, so do try not to encourage him.”

“Don"t dis courage him, George,” James said. “He"s finally getting the hang of it.” Georgina rolled her eyes toward the ceiling.

Julia grinned. She was used to this sort of banter in this particular household. She had been present when James had brutally disparaged his brother-in-law Warren and no one in their family had raised a brow over it, Warren included. But James didn"t only put his hooks in the Anderson men. If none of them were present, he could be just as abusive to his own brother Anthony. Their niece Regina had summed it up nicely once when she"d confided they were happiest when they were fighting, either each other or joining forces against a common enemy.

Definitely not a good time to come asking about secret admirers, Julia thought, when Georgina was surrounded by her family. Julia couldn"t deny that she was disappointed. After she"d finally worked up the nerve to broach the subject, she was going to have to leave empty-handed. Yet uppermost in her mind was the knowledge that Jean Paul wasn"t going to be in London for long, so she didn"t have time to dally if she hoped to see him again. All of which made her realize she probably wasn"t going to see him again.

She tried to enjoy the visit anyway. The Malorys were always entertaining. But her disappointment put a definite damper on her mood. She was about to give her excuses to depart when James beat her to it.

“I was supposed to meet Tony at Knighton"s Hall for a round or two in the ring this morning. I suppose I should at least make an appearance.”

“We have company,” Georgina said pointedly as he stood up to leave.

“Yes, but now you ladies can discuss ladylike things, and frankly, m"dear, I"d rather have Tony pound on me than suffer through yet another discussion of fashion. What about you, Yank?” he added with a glance at his brother-in-law. “Care to tag along?” Boyd shot to his feet instantly. “Are you joking? I"d love to!” Katey laughed as soon as the men left the room and said to Georgina, “That was quite a boon for Boyd. He was sure he"d never get invited to that private pugilist hall those two are members of and have a chance to watch them have at each other. Is Uncle James feeling all right? He"s not usually so—dare I say—kind to your brothers.”

“If his invitation extends to inviting Boyd into the ring, it wouldn"t be so kind, now would it?” Gabrielle remarked.

“Actually, Boyd would consider that a privilege! He so admires their pugilist skills.”

“I doubt that"s James"s intention,” Georgina said. “As it happens, he"s been quite benevolent now that the ball is over and done with. You can"t imagine how much he hated having to attend, knowing he"d be on display. He was at his most sardonic the prior week, and I couldn"t even let him know that I sympathized with him, since I wasn"t supposed to know about the party.”

“It was a smashing success, though, wasn"t it?” Gabrielle said. “Regina must be pleased.”

“Smashing is a good word for it,” Katey replied. “It was such a crush, I could barely move about.”

“And Regina wasn"t pleased a"tall,” Georgina informed them. “She expected a few party crashers, but not in those absurd numbers.”

Gabrielle had been looking at Julia during this discussion and finally said, “I was hoping to meet you again before my husband and I leave town. Georgina mentioned you"re in trade just like her family, but that you also run your family businesses and have been for quite some time now. I find that fascinating, as young as you are.”

Julia grinned. “It"s not all that hard to do when you"ve been involved in it all your life. My father wasn"t lax in making sure I could take over for him one day.”

“You don"t run into trouble because you"re a woman?”

“Certainly. When it comes to negotiating new contracts or buying new businesses, I make my decisions, then simply let my solicitors speak for me. This keeps ruffled feathers to a minimum, my own included!” Julia chuckled. “Everything else is fairly simple because my father already employed very competent managers.”

“So you don"t do the hiring and firing yourself?”

“Just the managers, and I"ve only had to replace one so far. He was a good man, he just got it into his head that he could take advantage of a „female" employer. But what about yourself? I was told you and Drew have settled in the Caribbean instead of America.”

“I"ve loved the islands since I first went to live with my father there. And I was given a lovely little island as a wedding gift.”

“A whole island?” Julia asked, amazed.

“Really, it"s tiny!” Gabrielle laughed. “But Drew agreed to build our home there since he"s been trading in the islands for years anyway.”

It was too bad, Julia thought, that Gabrielle and Drew would be returning there soon. The young woman was so easy to talk to, Julia was sure they could have become good friends. But with the subject of the ball having been introduced, Julia grabbed the opportunity now to mention what had been preoccupying her.

“By the by, Georgina, I met an admirer of yours that night at the ball,” Julia said. “A young Frenchman by the name of Jean Paul.”

“A Frenchman?” Georgina shook her head. “I"m pretty sure I don"t know any.”

“No? So he"s kept his love a secret, even from you?”

“He professed to love me?” Georgina said with a frown now, and then a task. “Is this some new romantic notion young men are favoring these days, that they must risk all for love?”

“This isn"t your first secret admirer?” Julia guessed.

“No, unfortunately.”

Katey laughed. “That would be risking all, wouldn"t it, to fall in love with you?”

“That"s why I find this so absurd,” Georgina said. “They must know I"m happily married.

They"re more"n likely terrified of my husband for whatever reason. Perhaps it"s like a rite of passage, their picking the most unavailable woman to moon over, the one they"re most likely to get killed for pursuing. It quite annoys James, you know.” Katey was laughing harder. Gabrielle was looking up at the ceiling. Julia sighed inwardly.

She wasn"t sure what she"d expected to learn here today, but it wasn"t that Georgina didn"t even know who Jean Paul was.

“You weren"t interested in that French fellow, were you, Julia?” Gabrielle said, casting a worried look her way.

“No, of course not,” Julia replied, but her blush probably gave away the lie.

Chapter Twelve

JULIA"S NERVE WAS BEGINNING to desert her. She stood outside Jean Paul"s hotel. Did she really want to do this, make her interest so obvious to a man she hadn"t fully seen yet? That she was even there was so unexpected, she was still amazed.

When Gabrielle Anderson had followed her outside the Malory house, Julia had thought she"d left something behind. But, no, Gabrielle had said, “I know who you were talking about.

Jean Paul is a dear friend of mine.”

“But Georgina doesn"t know him?”

“She does, he just probably neglected to tell her his name. He"s not only careless when he"s around her, but thoughtless as well.”

“I suppose love does that to a man.”

“Among other things,” Gabrielle had cryptically said. “But you appear to be aware of the situation yet you are still interested in him?”

“Was it that obvious?” Julia said with a blush.

“No need to be embarrassed. I"m not even surprised. Jean Paul is not only handsome, he can be delightfully charming, too. But this obsession he has with my sister-in-law isn"t good for anyone involved, most of all him. He"s been lovesick too long over a lost cause. He needs rescuing. And while I wouldn"t ordinarily interfere, it occurred to me that a pretty girl like you could be his salvation.”

“That"s—a tall order,” Julia said uneasily.

“I merely meant, you could help him to forget about Georgina.” Hadn"t Jean Paul said nearly the same thing? And hadn"t she been thinking it as well? She"d been intrigued by a masked charmer, and now he was even more acceptable in her mind. He was a friend of the Andersons" and Gabrielle had confirmed that he was handsome and charming. Julia couldn"t find any reason not to pursue an acquaintance.

Gabrielle had put that thought in Julia"s head when she"d added, “He"s staying at Coulson"s Hotel if you"d like to leave him a message. Perhaps you can arrange a meeting somewhere to further your acquaintance. Wait, you didn"t bring your maid to chaperone, did you?”

“No, I live down the street here, close enough to walk, so it wasn"t necessary.”

“Well, no need to delay! My carriage is right here. I"ll go with you,” Gabrielle had offered.

“It won"t take long just to leave a note.”

This innocent suggestion still put Julia in the role of pursuer, and Jean Paul would know it.

She would have preferred a meeting by chance. Even if she arranged it, at least he wouldn"t know she did. But with her new friend going to the trouble of escorting her, she couldn"t back down now. She couldn"t get the time constraint out of her mind, either. Jean Paul was only visiting England. He"d said as much. He could leave at any time.

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