Lord Vile (Beastly Lords Book 3)(9)

By: Sydney Jane Baily


Ada laughed. “And you and I both have a child.” They beamed at each other.

Maggie and her husband, John Angsley, the Earl of Cambrey, were the only people outside of Ada’s own family who knew she’d never been wed and widowed. She’d told Maggie in a long letter from Juniper Hall as soon as she realized she was with child a month after fleeing London.

A month after receiving Alder’s terribly cynical wink.

Yet even her friend didn’t know who Harry’s father was. Ada would take that to her grave.

For one thing, Lord Alder had once been engaged to Maggie’s older sister, Jenny, now happily married to Lord Lindsey. Their engagement had not been official, however, since it had never been announced. What’s more, Alder had broken the agreement as soon as Jenny and Maggie’s father passed away leaving the Blackwood family in debt.

The shallow cad!

Ada hadn’t known any of that during the time she’d been smitten with Michael Alder. She’d simply thought him an upstanding viscount with a certain dash-fire that appealed to her tremendously.

Had she known he hadn’t kept a verbal promise to wed, she might have looked at him differently. Unfortunately, she learned Jenny’s tale far too late to avoid her own ruin.

After finding out from Maggie one day when they were visiting, enjoying their babies, and discussing men in general, how Lord Alder had ill-used Jenny, Ada imagined it would be terribly awkward to disclose who her child’s father was. Instead, she let Maggie believe she had loved a man who’d ardently loved her back, and who for private reasons couldn’t marry her.

Then she’d created an entirely false and tragic romance to save face and keep Harry’s father perceived as a good man. Often, Ada wished she hadn’t. It was a burden not to be able to rage against Lord Vile just once to a sympathetic ear.

“How is Jenny?” The question popped out of Ada’s mouth unbidden. She still had a fascination for the woman who, unlike her, had moved on from Michael Alder to a full and seemingly happy life.

“Very well. Living in utter bliss with her husband. And like me,” Maggie patted her barely blossoming stomach, “expecting again.”

Ada nodded, thinking how Harry might wish for a brother or sister who would never come.

“Her third, isn’t it?”

“Fourth,” Maggie said, then offered a wry grin. “You know Jenny with numbers. She likes to add.”

They both laughed. For as Ada had a head for the stock market, Maggie’s sister was a skilled accountant.

Inside, though, Ada thought if Michael Alder hadn’t broken off with Jenny Blackwood, then those four children would be his, and Harry wouldn’t exist at all. Stranger even to think that she and Jenny had kissed the same man.

“Are you all right?” Maggie asked, seeing some change in her expression.

“Yes, thinking how nice it would be for Harry to have a sibling.”

Maggie tilted her pretty head. “It could still happen, couldn’t it?”

Ada appreciated the softening in her friend’s eyes and voice, but she couldn’t think of opening her heart to another man, nor ever being used again for a man’s pleasure. She was sure Aristotle’s Masterpiece, the explicit book of relations between a man and a woman, had got it all wrong, for Ada had felt a little pain, certainly fear and excitement, but none of the great pleasure mentioned in the book, which got passed around from sister to sister and from sister to friend in the debutante groups.

Plus, she couldn’t recall that night without remembering how her maid and her mother had seen the blood on her undergarments—her utter disgrace had been complete.

No, it had been nothing but shame and humiliation. If Maggie and her sister didn’t mind the marital act of procreation in order to have happy husbands and more children, that was their business.

“Next time you see Jenny or write to her, please tell her I wish her well.”

“I will,” Maggie promised. “Where is your Harry, by the way?”

“We’ll go up to the nursery in a minute. I can’t wait for you to see the room. It’s—”

“Adorable?”

Ada smiled and rang for tea. “Yes, positively. And his nanny is patient and wise. My mother found her for me, and I love her.”

Maggie leaned back on the pale, rose-colored sofa. “You seem content. Is there anything amiss?”

“Except for needing to hire more staff, no. Why do you ask?”

“Your missive sounded as though you had something on your mind besides nannies and fireplace carvings.”

Ada knew she would need to get to the point, but was having trouble articulating exactly what she wanted from her friend. What if Maggie said no?

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