Home > The Man's Outrageous Demands (Royal Cordova Family Trilogy #2)(2)

The Man's Outrageous Demands (Royal Cordova Family Trilogy #2)(2)
Author: Elizabeth Lennox

She then watched as a beautiful blond walked up to the group of men. Marabeth knew the woman, had known her since childhood. She was Lady Cecille Phillips and had been hounding Max to marry her for years.

But tonight she didn’t flirt with Max. Marabeth’s dislike of Lady Cecille grew to amazing proportions as she turned and seductively flirted with Sam, right in front of Marabeth’s mother and father, both of whom just smiled benignly. Sam then led the lovely lady off to the dance floor and smiled down into her vapid blue eyes as they danced closely.

Marabeth wanted to scream to Sam that Cecille was just a vacuous social climber who would sell herself off to the highest bidder. She placed her now empty glass on a side table and took another while she continued to glare at the striking couple over the rim, wishing both of them to perdition.

And just when Marabeth thought the evening could not get any worse, Sam looked up over Cecille’s shoulder and caught Marabeth staring at them. He had the audacity to wink at her! Marabeth wanted to throw her glass of champagne at him but he was too far away, and it wouldn’t be very couth of her. But manners came as a distant second reason for not throwing it.

Marabeth walked over to where her mother was standing and joined the group, trying to listen to the conversation. Unfortunately, it was about Sam and his qualifications for some sort of government position but she wasn’t sure which since she’d come in at the tail end of the discussion. Obviously Max was extolling the obnoxious man’s virtues to their parents.

She tried to walk away, not wanting to be involved in the conversation if it had anything to do with that man who had caught her at possibly the most humiliating moment of her life. She stepped away but her mother touched her arm gently. “Are you okay, dear? You look a little flushed,” Queen Natasha asked gently, always the epitome of grace and elegance.

“I’m fine, mother,” Marabeth said, but she raised one hand to her cheek, testing its heat.

The queen smiled and turned to face the couples dancing. “Good. Then tell me what you think of Sam Montrose. I saw you walk back into the ballroom with him right behind you several minutes ago. What were the two of you discussing together?”

Marabeth gritted her teeth, not wanting her name connected to the obnoxious man’s for any reason. “Nothing. I believe he was talking to Max and I was talking to Richard Marcum.”

That definitely caught her mother’s attention. “Oh, that’s nice. How is he doing?” Queen Natasha asked.

“He’s fine, I suppose. Very tired, though,” she said with derision, mostly aimed at herself though.

“Where is he?” the queen asked, looking around the ballroom. “I haven’t seen him in a while but his mother is over there by the window.”

Marabeth looked at the short, overweight woman who smiled artificially at everyone in her group. “I believe he’s still in the red salon, but I can’t be sure.”

“Well, I’ll see him later, I suppose. I was wondering, have you considered him as a possible candidate?” her mother asked.

Marabeth stifled a groan of annoyance. Since she had been in the middle of proposing to the man, she couldn’t very well lie and say that she hadn’t considered him. “The thought crossed my mind, but I don’t think he’ll work out.”

“Why not? He comes from a very nice family. I understand he’s taking over his father’s business soon. And I’m sure if he didn’t want to do that, we could find him a civil service job. Maybe that would allow you to live in the palace? I know your father and I would like that.”

Marabeth sighed. She’d heard this conversation so many times it was becoming a ritual at every party. Not specifically about Lord Marcum but there was always some candidate her mother or father pointed out to her and listed the man’s acceptability for marriage. “I know mother. And yes, I’m sure he’d make a very nice husband for someone with very low blood pressure,” she said.

The chuckle behind her almost made her temper explode. How she managed to control the explosion was beyond her powers of reasoning. All Marabeth could do at that moment was excuse herself from her mother and Sam, who had finished his dance with Lady Cecille and was now standing on the perimeters of their group talking to Max and several others, many of whom were women.

“If you’ll excuse me mother, I really need to talk to Beatrice,” she said, referring to her school friend she’d just spotted across the room.

The rest of the evening was just as irritating. It seemed that every time she turned around, she either caught Sam dancing with some other beautiful woman, or he was looking directly at her. It was disconcerting and exhausting. By the time the midnight hour struck, Marabeth made her excuses and exited the ballroom.

She closed the doors to her suite of rooms and pulled her long, white gloves off. Tossing them onto her dressing table, she stared at her reflection in the mirror. She didn’t see the redheaded beauty that stared back at her with soft, blue eyes. Nor did she see the flawless white skin that seemed to glow from within. All she saw was the awkward, skinny redhead with freckles that boys had ignored as a teenager. The only reason she’d had her first date at sixteen was because she’d already been betrothed to George Malcom, the Third. He had been killed in a driving accident two years ago, right after her sister’s wedding. Now Marabeth found herself in the bizarre situation of having to find herself a new husband.

Several months after his death, she’d heard her parents discussing new possible fiancés. She’d begged them to not commit her to someone she wasn’t remotely attracted to, like George. They’d agreed, but not very happily. They considered it their responsibility to find her a husband who was safe, having lived with the continuous threat of kidnapping all their lives.

Marabeth pulled the zipper down her back and, inexplicably, the smell of Sam came to her mind. She had to admit that he smelled very nice. It wasn’t cologne which she generally didn’t like on men. But it was earthy and masculine. Very nice and strong, she thought.

Hanging the dress on a hanger in the closet, she pulled on a silk negligee and slipped between the sheets. Pushing thoughts of the irritating man out of her head, she considered the other men she’d seen tonight. Although her parents were willing to consider her opinion on the subject of her husband, she knew they were growing impatient to have the issue settled. Marabeth knew her father wanted grandchildren and an heir to the throne just in case Max never settled down and married, which was a definite possibility, considering the way he discreetly had a mistress tucked away at all times, but never the same one for very long.

Marabeth slept fitfully that night, her dreams interrupted by a tall, handsome man. She ran from him throughout her dreams but each time she turned the corner, she ran into him, his arms closing around her gently, but firmly and his head bending down to kiss her lips. Each time her dream came to that point, she pulled herself out of the dream, waking and frantically trying to go back to sleep and dream about something else.

By the time the sun was streaming across her bed, she was still exhausted and none of her anger had dissipated since the man had not only intruded upon her embarrassing proposal, he’d also plagued her dreams. The man had absolutely no right to be that invasive she thought.

Walking down to the stables that morning, she tried to let the fresh, spring air calm her temper and soothe her tired soul. The birds were chirping and the sun was just coming up over the horizon as she entered the stables.

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