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Submitting to the Baron Em Brown 2022/7/22 11:37:56

“My marriage is not that sort of arrangement,” he said, though the thought of clapping a leash on Trudie was not wholly objectionable, especially if she were inclined to run off on wild and irresponsible ventures.

“How unfortunate. I know not your wife, but she must be the flaxen-haired young lady who arrived with your cousin?”

“Were they accompanied by anyone or did they rendezvous with another guest?”

“I am not aware of their plans, mon chéri.”

“I want them sent home.”

“Lord Ramsay, you may take up the mantle of master with your wife as it pleases you, but do not require my intervention.”

“They know not what they are about. This is no place for Trudie,” he maintained, and began to pace once more.

She looked at him sharply. “I invite all manner of women to enjoy themselves here.”

“I meant no offense, Madame, but I think my wife to be entirely na?ve as to what transpires here. Chateau Follet is beyond her.”

Marguerite sat down at her vanity and began applying her powder. “A bold insistence by someone caught unawares of his wife’s whereabouts.”

“Trudie is the last person I would expect to find here.”

“It would seem that you do not completely know your wife.”

A muscle tightened along his jaw.

She looked at him through the mirror. “If you mean to rescue your wife from the treachery of Chateau Follet—”

“Madame, you must know I have only fond recollections of my time here, but Trudie is…inexperienced.”

“If you wish to claim her, I shall not prevent you. But the hour is late and you have but arrived. My groomsman Jacque is at your disposal, and there are many guest chambers available. I invite you to make yourself comfortable. You are welcome to stay the night—or two. I do believe Diana and your wife are staying at least two.”

At least two? he nearly bellowed. Instead, he said with comportment, “I am honored by your invitation but, regretfully, I cannot accept.”

“Are you so certain the women will go with you?”

“I cannot force Diana to leave with me, but I will take my wife.”

“And install her under lock and key so that she never returns?”

Leopold squared his shoulders. He had not yet pondered that possibility. A proper scolding should dissuade Trudie from ever considering a second visit to Follet…but what if it did not?

“Madame, will you not explain to my wife—”

“Certainement no. You would ask me to criticize my own residence?”

“I beg your pardon! That is n

ot what I intended. I only meant that you could, with your vast experience, dissuade Trudie and convince her that she would find Chateau Follet most unsuitable.”

“But I know not your wife. And I will say to you what I said to an overbearing marquess last week: that I find it rather selfish of you to deny her the pleasures that you have partaken readily of here at Chateau Follet.”

Her words jolted him, especially when he had considered himself quite magnanimous for not condemning his wife her infidelity. His intention in coming to the Chateau was to protect Trudie.

Marguerite softened her tone. “Given your absence from the Chateau, perhaps you should consider making up for lost time. It would please me much if you chose to stay.”

She held out her hand, a clear signal of dismissal. He pressed his lips to her hand. There was little to be done but accept her offer for the moment.

Ensconced in one of the guest chambers, he dismissed Jacque soon after the groomsman had assisted him out of his coat and boots. He went to the sideboard and poured a glass of brandy. He finished the beverage rather quickly, then poured himself another. He gazed at the painting on the opposite wall. Scantily clad nymphs, many with their nipples showing through their thin garments, danced with satyrs in a forest setting.