Marrying Mr. English:The English Brothers #7(5)

By: Katy Regnery



“You hurt yourself today, Tom,” she murmured, taking his hand and pumping it very gently.

“A minor ski accident. I sprained my wrist on Devil’s Dash.” He chuckled with a low burr of pleasure as his fingers tightened around hers. “I’ll be okay, Ellie, but thanks for worrying about me.”

“Eleanora,” she said. “My name isn’t really Ellie—that’s just what Evie calls me. My name is Eleanora Watters.”

He didn’t drop her hand. He didn’t test out her name. He just grinned at her and nodded. “Okay.”

“Ahem,” said Van, and Eleanora dropped Tom’s hand quickly, her face flushing as she looked down at Tom’s friend. He had his arm draped around Evie’s shoulders, his fingers dangling directly over her cousin’s breasts, which heaved under a light pink angora sweater that covered her uniform. “Are we having drinks or what?”

Tom gestured to the booth, and Eleanora slid in next to her cousin, unwrapping her scarf and unbuttoning her coat but keeping it on. Van ordered a bottle of Asti Spumante, then leaned close to Evie and said something that made her blush and giggle. Eleanora rolled her eyes and turned to look at Tom.

“So . . .”

“So . . .,” he said, tenting his hands on the table. “Elizabeth Barrett Browning.”

“Yes.” Eleanora grinned at him, leaning one elbow on the table and shifting to face him. “I love her. She’s so honest.”

“And passionate,” he added, searching her eyes thoughtfully. “Though I confess I didn’t appreciate her as much as I should have when I studied her in college.”

“Were you an English major?”

“I was.”

“Where did you go?” she asked.

“Princeton.”

Eleanora whistled low.

“You’ve heard of it?”

“Sure. You know Brooke Shields? From the movie The Blue Lagoon? She gave an interview on The Tonight Show and said she wants to go to Princeton someday.” She swallowed, feeling a little silly, but pressing on. “So I looked it up.”

“And . . .?” he prompted, grinning at her in a way that melted any self-consciousness.

“What’s not to love?”

“Your cousin said you go to college locally.”

“Mm-hm.” She nodded. “At Colorado Mountain College. It’s hardly Princeton.”

“It’s still college,” he said, sliding a glass of sparkling wine over to her. He held up his own glass, and Eleanora did the same. “To college. And to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.”

As they sipped the sweet white wine, Eleanora felt a strange fluttering in her tummy and tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to ignore it.

By and large, these dates were gruesome—some rich boy who wanted to get laid putting his arm around her and trying to pass off nonstop innuendo as conversation. She went for Evie’s sake, in an attempt to look after her younger cousin, so that Evie didn’t look all alone in the world.

But Tom English seemed different. He seemed, as Evie had indicated this morning, genuinely nice. He seemed interested in more than getting her upstairs; he was talking to her about books and college. And he was so handsome, she couldn’t stop staring at him.

“What are your plans for Christmas?” she asked. “Staying here in Vail?”

“No, I’ll be headed back to Philly for Christmas.”

“Just here for a few days of skiing, huh?”

Her cheeks flushed hot as she heard the noise of sloppy kisses directly behind her and she braced herself for what was coming. Any minute her cousin would abandon her, and no matter how nice he seemed, when Tom English realized that she wouldn’t be putting out like Evie, he’d make some excuse for why they should call it a night. And she’d be left to walk home alone, again, to her cold apartment, worried about her cousin and wishing that someone, somewhere, would see beyond the waitress uniform and want to get to know her.

“No, actually,” said Tom, glancing down at his wineglass, running his index finger lazily around the rim. “I was here for . . .”

“For what?”

“To get married, actually. I got stood up.”

He looked up at her then, his eyes clear and blue, unapologetic and unhurt, and that’s when she felt it in her gut: she didn’t care that he was older or that she was his social inferior in every possible way. She desperately hoped that right here, right now, Tom English would want to get to know her.

***

Tom wasn’t sure what had prompted him to be so honest with her.

Maybe it was that she sat so straight, her eyes cautious, her coat still on, her blonde hair in a neat, simple ponytail, smelling faintly of maple syrup and pancakes whenever she moved her head. She was nothing like her cousin, who had one hand in Van’s lap and the other raking through his scalp as they kissed noisily across the booth. Eleanora seemed like a lady—smart and pretty. No, she wasn’t an East Coast debutante like Diantha or the other girls Tom had grown up with, but there was something honest and thoughtful about Eleanora Watters, and Tom hoped she wouldn’t run off the moment her cousin headed upstairs with Van. He—rather desperately—hoped she’d stay and talk to him.

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