Eight years ago… Thomas Cartwright and Lady Nicola Fitzgibbons were simply friends. Over the wall separating their homes, Thomas and Nicola talked of all things – his studies to become a barrister, her frustrations with a lady’s limitations. All things end. When her diplomat father gains a post in Hong Kong, Nicola must follow. Bored and alone, she falls into scandal, time and again. Mired in his studies of the law and aware of the need for circumspection, Thomas feels forced to sever their ties. Besides, a member of parliament cannot be associated with a woman of scandal—it isn’t proper. But now Lady Nicola is back in London…and she won’t let Thomas ignore her.
Thomas took a breath, knowing he had to phrase this just right. “Lady Nicola, while I am cognizant of the honor you do me, I don’t believe it appropriate you visit me in my chambers. Shall we arrange a time that suits us both, perhaps for a walk about the park?”
China-blue eyes laughed at him. “Oh, pish. Don’t be such a fuddy-duddy, Thomas. We never stood on such ceremony before.”
Didn’t she know he couldn’t be her friend? Not since their ways had parted and she’d become who she was, while he had become who he was. “Our situations were different before, Lady Nicola. It is not appropriate for a lady of your standing to visit a bachelor in his chambers.”
“Who is going to comment? No one knows I’m here.”
Was she serious? “My clerk knows you’re here. By now, the senior clerk undoubtedly knows you’re here. Before ten minutes have passed, everyone in the building will know you’re here.”
“Well, then, they are a bunch of shocking gossips, and I should not like to know them any better.” She folded her hands in her lap.
“Not the point, Nicola.” Bloody hell, but she drove him mental. She tore at him and picked at him until he didn’t know where he stood. Always she’d done this, taken what little sense he had and driven it right out of his brain.
“I should say it is the point. Our visit would not distress you, if it weren’t for them.”
“It should distress me in any case. You should not be here.”
“Do you know what I’m hearing, Thomas? I’m hearing a vast amount of negativity, when you’ve not even greeted me properly. Why, you’ve yet to kiss my hand, or perhaps give me a h-hug.” Chin up, she looked at him with eyes brimming, and he saw right through her facade. She was truly hurt he’d not yet greeted her as he should.
Helpless, he stared at her. How did she do it? How did she turn his brain to mush? She’d been here less than five minutes, and already she had drawn him back in.
But she was right. He hadn’t greeted her as he should.
Standing, he went to her and drew her to her feet. “Welcome home, Nic.” And he hugged her.