He stood and collected the plates and platters, stacking them precariously, and in ghd products an altogether dangerous manner, on the tray MacPherson had left. Delia had spent her life thus far surrounded by servants who were unquestionably efficient. Those days were obviously over. Delia jumped to her feet. “Here, let me help you.” She circled the desk and reached to help steady the tray, brushing against him in the process. He yanked it out of her hands and stepped back, the dishes tottering threateningly. “I appreciate your assistance, ma’am, but I can well manage this.” He swiveled and stepped toward the door, balancing the tray awkwardly in one hand, pulling open the door with the other and ramming his foot against it to prop it open. Before she could say a word, he was gone, and she stared after him in surprise. He certainly moved quickly for a man his age. And he’d seemed surprisingly solid when she’d inadvertently brushed against him. Regardless of the effect of the years on his mind, he was apparently quite physically fit. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about his duties being too strenuous or him keeling over in the middle of serving tea. There was something else odd about Gordon, but she could not quite put her finger on it. It was probably of no significance at any rate. She returned to her chair and blew a tired breath. Thus far she and Gordon had managed to sort through the papers regarding Charles’s assets. There was more work to be done, of course, but she had a basic understanding of Charles’s worth — of her wort buy ghd straighteners h. And it was considerably greater than she had imagined. Nowhere near the respective Effington fortunes, of course, but impressive nonetheless. In truth, she was a very wealthy, woman. A very wealthy independent woman. A very wealthy widow, with all the freedoms widowhood and wealth offered. Still, she’d trade it in a moment for the opportunity to have her husband back and make right whatever had gone horribly wrong. Oh, certainly he was not the love of her life, and she had no doubt he did not love her either, but she had quite liked him. And thought he had liked her as well. Until after they were wed. Charles had procured a special license and they were quietly married early on the morning two days after she’d shared his bed. Then he’d insisted on going to her family. Th ghd sale online ere was a great deal of hell to pay through the rest of that interminably long day. Her father and brothers grim-faced and threatening, and her mother weeping and throwing herself about in fits of despair over the impending scandal of a spur-of-the-moment marriage between an Effington and that…that…man. How said marriage was in total opposition to the order of things, and how it could not end in anything but disaster. Then there was Cassie’s obvious hurt at having been excluded from any knowledge of her sister’s ru ghd hair dryer inous adventure. Charles had been cool and collected and Delia was rather proud of the way he presented himself to her family. It was not until Delia and Charles were once again alone that his character seemed to change and she’d realized just what a mistake she had made. Oh, not in sacrificing her virtue. The significance of that was probably of far more concern to others than to herself. She’d long accepted that most of the men who wished to marry her did so primarily because of her family and position and dowry and would not be entirely offset by her ruined status. Charles had procured a special license and they were quietly married early on the morning two days after she’d shared his bed. Then he’d insisted on going to her family. There was a great deal of hell to pay through the rest of that interminably long day. Her father and brothers grim-faced and threatening, and her mother weeping and throwing herself about in fits of despair over the impending scandal of a spur-of-the-moment marriage between an Effington and that…that…man. How said marriage was in total opposition to the order of things, and how it could not end in anything but disaster. Then there was Cassie’s obvious hurt at having been excluded from any knowledge of her sister’s ruinous adventure. Charles had been cool and collected and Delia was rather proud of the way he presented himself to her family. It was not until Delia and Charles were once again alone that his character seemed to change and she’d realized just what a mistake she had made. Oh, not in sacrificing her virtue. The significance of that was probably of far more concern to others than to herself. She’d long accepted that most of the men who wished to marry her did so primarily because of her family and position and dowry and would not be entirely offset by her ruined status. Charles grew more and more preoccupied and withdrawn, in the manner of a man with pres ghd hair straighteners best price sing matters on his mind. Matters he refused to share. He was gone much of the time, and when he was near her, his manner was brusque, even cold. He’d been reticent to speak with her, reluctant to so much as be in her presence. It was as if, having married her, he no longer wished to have anything to do with her. As if he regretted ever meeting her in the first place. And she slept alone. His demeanor was confusing and painful and more than a bit frightening. Any hope she’d harbored that affection, even love, between them might grow vanished. A heavy weight hung in her chest and she’d considered means of escaping the dreadful mess she found herself in. She dismissed the idea of returning to her family; that was an admission not merely of her mistake but of failure. Effingtons, even female Effingtons, did not fail. No, she would stay with Charles, and if that meant a marriage that consisted of nothing more than two strangers living in the same house, so be it. Still, she had hoped, with time, the friendly affection and passion they’d shared could be found again. She’d never dreamed there would be no time. She would not have wished him dead, ever, but his untimely death released her from vows they never shoul ghd sale d have taken. In marrying her, he had changed her life completely. In widowing her, his gift was her freedom and an entirely new life that could hold anything she wished. And if the price for that gift was guilt and a heart heavy with regret for what might have been, she could live with that. She had no choice. “Lady Wilmont.” Gordon’s voice sounded from the doorway and her gaze jerked to his. “I do not mean to be presumptuous, ma’am, and I do realize you were only ghd hair dryer trying to be helpful, but you must allow me to perform my duties, and…” His brow furrowed over his spectacles and he stepped closer. “I beg your pardon, ma’am, but is something amiss?” Abruptly she realized her cheeks were wet from tears that had fallen unnoticed. She dashed them away with the back of her hand. “Regrets, Gordon, nothing more than regrets.” Her ga ghd products ze dropped to the papers on the desk and she rearranged them aimlessly. “And, as there is little one can do about regrets, they are pointless.” “I see.” His voice was so soft she wasn’t sure he had actually spoken. For several moments she shuffled through the documents in an attempt to recover her composure. She hadn’t cried since the day she’d been told of Charles’s death and even then had wondered if those tears were for him or for herself. Damnation, she had made a terrible mess of things. And now she felt so blasted guilty about it all, as if his death were somehow her fault. As if the simple fact that she had married him without loving him had somehow led to his demise. If she had loved him, would he have left her for some absurd trip to France? It was ridiculous, of course, nothing more than her own sense of right and wrong raising its ugly head. Charles hadn’t loved her either. And, in fact, didn’t most people she know marry for reasons that had nothing to do with love? her for some absurd trip to France? It was ridiculous, of course, nothing more than her own sense of right and wrong raising its ugly head. Charles hadn’t loved her either. And, in fact, didn’t most people she know marry for reasons that had nothing to do with love? “You’re quite right, Gordon, I should let you get on with your work without my assistance. You are extremely competent and I shouldn’t—” “Beg pardon, my lady.” She looked up. Gordon stood before the desk, his expression contrite and concerned. “My apologies, ma’am. I am perhaps too cognizant of my years to be as gracious as I should. You attempted to assist me, and for that you have my gratitude.” “Accepted.” He really was a very dear man, and if he was a bit confused at times or sensitive about his age, it was to be expected and overlooked. “Now then —” “Forgive me, my lady but…” He paused as if looking for the right words. “I realize you find yourself in a difficult position, with no guidance forthcoming from your family, and I should like to offer my assistance in any manner you might require.” She smiled in appreciation. “That’s very kind of you, Gordon. You have already been a great help and I am most appreciative.” “Should you find yourself in need of” — he straightened his shoulders slightly — “someone to talk to, I would be honored should you wish to confide in me. I am nothing if not discreet.” He paused. “Lord Marchant considered me his closest confidant.” She studied him for a moment. It must have taken a great deal for a man like Gordon to make such a ghd hair straighteners uk suggestion. In her experience, servants of a certain age and position were not given to offers of a personal nature. Obviously the kindness of his character superseded the restrictions of his training. Or perhaps she was such a pathetic creature even the hardest of hearts could not resist her. And if this sweet elderly man could make such an offer, she could certainly do no less than accept it. She’d rather enjoyed his company tonight and would wager he was a font of knowledge and wisdom about the ways of the world. Besides, between mourning and scandal, she was virtually isolated from the rest of society and quite at a loss as to how to spend her time. She had no particular interest in needlework and had yet to find anything of interest in the library. She had her sketchbook, but the long months in the scenic Lake District had reminded her she was not nearly as skilled with pen and pencil as her sister. She had somehow managed to fill the endless hours of her exile — or perhaps drift was a more appropriate word than fill — but had no idea as to what she would do with her time now. It was punishment of a sort, she supposed, her own personal purgatory for marrying a man she did not love and for now mourning not really the man himself but the promise of the man. ghd sale shop She cast the but cheap ghd straighteners uk ler her brightest smile. “I shall keep that in mind, Gordon. Now” — she nodded at his chair — “perhaps we should get back to work.” “Of course, ma’am.” Gordon retook his seat and began sorting the accounts due into stacks of those regarding household expense, those of a personal nature and those that didn’t fit into either category. She watched him with a sense of satisfaction. In a year in which she’d made no end of foolish decisions, hiring Gordon may well have been the only intelligent thing she’d done. In spite of his age, the bit of confusion he displayed and his obvious vanity when it came to his appearance, he certainly understood the art of organizing finances. Beyond that, he was a good sort if a bit odd. Still, she had no doubt they’d get on famously. And if indeed she felt a need for a compassionate confidant, she would not hesitate to turn to him. At the moment, he was the only untarnished spot in her life. hesitate to turn to him. At the moment, he was the only untarnished spot in her life. Lady Wilmont’s head bowed over the papers before her, and she was intent upon the work at hand just as she had been since they had started this chore three nights ago. The lamplight caught the strands of hair that tenaciously escaped a rather untidy, but utterly charming, coiffure. She did indeed look angelic at the moment. Tony, however, was a villain, a fiend, the devil incarnate. His self-loathing was emphasized by the thunder outside and the sound of the rain striking against the window, the violence of nature in stark contrast to the warmth of the scene in Wilmont’s library. Lady Wilmont was vulnerable and alone, with no one to turn to. From what he’d overheard, even visits from her sister would be rare and, indeed, since they’d begun their work sort ghd hair straighteners uk ing Wilmont’s finances, had that insensitive twin appeared even once? There had been a note or two but nothing else. For that matter, had anyone from her family paid so much as a single visit? Certainly she had been the center of scandal, but that had been months ago. The woman had also lost her husband, and one would think that alone would be cause for her family to forgive and unite around her. Obviously, each and every Effington in existence was inconsiderate and thoughtless. And was he any better? Wasn’t he taking advantage of her plight for his own miserable purposes, no matter how legitimate they may be? Oh, he was indeed a scoundrel, a bounder, a nasty piece of work to be sure. The Effingtons had nothing on him. He never imagined his opinion of her could change so dramatically and so quickly, never imagined he could have been so wrong and never dreamed he’d feel so wretched about deceiving her. In the days that Tony and Lady Wilmont had worked side by side sorting her husband’s papers, Tony had gained a much clearer picture of this woman his friend had married. She wasn’t at all as he’d thought, although she was substantially less willing to share confidences with him than he’d expected. Indeed, she was fairly reserved and prone to long stretches of silence when he was cer ghd pure tain her thoughts turned to Wilmont. Blast the man anyway. It was now obvious to Tony that Wilmont had gone too far in his courtship and had probably seduced the woman. There was no other reason he could see for their marriage, although Wilmont had certainly never before wed a woman he’d seduced, and their numbers were legion.