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Page 37

Smiling, Livia looked up from the letter as she heard the sounds of a carriage outside. As the parlor was conveniently situated at the front of the manor, she had the advantage of seeing all the comings and goings at the entrance drive. The sight of a black carriage and a team of four was hardly unusual at Stony Cross Park. However, as Livia stared at the horses, whose breath was blowing white from their nostrils, she felt a tug of curiosity. Marcus had said nothing about visitors arriving today—and it was too early in the day for anyone to make calls.

Standing from the settee, Livia wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and peered through the window. A footman headed for the front door, while another opened the vehicle and stood back. A tall, lean form emerged from the carriage, eschewing the use of a step and descending easily to the ground. The man was clad in a black coat and an elegant hat, beneath which a gleam of blond hair was visible.

A thrill of sudden, intense excitement stole Livia’s breath away. She watched him without blinking, rapidly calculating…yes, it had been six months, almost to the day. But Gideon had made it clear that he wouldn’t come for her unless he was certain that he could be the kind of man he felt she deserved. And I’ll come armed with honorable intentions, he had written—more’s the pity for you.

Now Gideon was more handsome than before, if that was possible. The lines of strain and cynicism had been smoothed away, and the dark smudges had disappeared from beneath his eyes, and he looked so vibrant and vigorous that her heart thudded wildly in response.

Although Livia didn’t move or make a sound, something drew Gideon’s attention to the window. He stared at her through the glass panes, seemingly riveted by the sight of her. Livia stared back at him, wrenched with exquisite longing. Oh, to be in his arms again, she thought, touching the window, her fingertips leaving watery circles in the thin glaze of frost.

A slow smile began on Gideon’s face, and his blue eyes sparkled. With a shake of his head, he put his hand on his chest, as if the sight of her was more than his heart could bear.

Smiling brilliantly, Livia tilted her head to the side, gesturing to the front entrance. Hurry! she mouthed.

Gideon nodded at once, throwing her a glance rife with promise as he strode away from the window.

As soon as he was gone from sight, Livia tossed the blanket to the settee and found that her sister’s letter was still half crumpled in the clutch of her fingers. She smoothed the sheet of paper and pressed a kiss to it. The rest of the letter could wait. “Later, Aline,” she whispered. “I’ve got to see about my own happy ending.” And laughing breathlessly, she dropped the letter into the mahogany box as she rushed from the room.

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