Derek ignored the soft kisses along his neck and concentrated on buttoning his shirt as he glanced
at his reflection in the mirror. Allison softly tried to coax him into staying a while longer, but Derek
reminded her it was nearly sunrise. “If you’re so concerned about appearances, darling, why do you
insist on leaving through the house where anyone can see you?”
“If you think I’m going to jump from the veranda for propriety’s sake, you’re sadly mistaken. I could
care less what any of your servants might think.”
“What a grouch you are, darling. And after I’ve shown you such a marvelous time all night long.”
Derek couldn’t deny that Allison held certain enviable talents in the bedroom. It was one of the reasons
he was marrying her. As if reading his mind, Allison said excitedly, “Just think, sweetheart, in only five
more weeks I will be Lady Montford. I can hardly wait!”
A noncommittal grunt was the only response Allison received. She was used to Derek’s moods, and
rather than press the issue, she was satisfied knowing that Derek was nearly hers and only hers. “Will I
see you later?” Allison asked as Derek headed toward the door to leave.
“I’m not certain. I have a lot of things to attend to today. It may be tomorrow before I get by again.”
Ignoring her pout, Derek crooked a finger at Allison, rewarding her with a passionate kiss when she
reached him. A sigh escaped Allison’s lips as she watched her lover leave. She wondered if Derek knew
how lucky he was to be gaining her hand in marriage. At times he seemed so nonchalant about the
whole happily-ever-after scenario.
Derek turned his head toward the tittering laughter as he continued down the hallway, his only
response to the smile of the knowing maid, a flirtatious wink. Her embarrassed laughter fading, the
attractive young woman fanned herself with her hand, envious at the lucky Lady Allison for snaring such
a fine specimen.
Derek attended to business over the next several hours. Before returning home for the afternoon,
he decided to drop by and see Joel. It had been a few weeks since they had been out for their Friday
night carousing with Phillip and David, and Derek wanted to make sure they were back on track. They
had never missed three weeks in a row and granted, Allison’s demands in dealing with the wedding
details had been the main reason for the interruption in the friends’ nights out. Derek wanted to
reassure his buddies that their weekly debauchery would not be sacrificed again on his account.
The butler informed Derek that Joel was not home. Only Lady Hampton was there, and Derek
thought he would pay her a short visit, always having looked upon her as a sort of surrogate mother,
though he’d never voiced it aloud. He was led into the parlor where Joel’s mother was seated alone
before the fireplace.
“Derek, what a lovely surprise!” Mary exclaimed, rising to greet her son’s friend.
Kissing her on the cheek, Derek replied, “Thank you, Lady Hampton. It’s good to see you as well.”
“I am sorry to say, but Joel is out for the rest of the day. You just missed him.”