Home > A Wicked Kind of Husband(8)

A Wicked Kind of Husband(8)
Author: Mia Vincy

“What? What?”



Ah. Yes. Lord Charles had mentioned daughters. Joshua couldn’t remember how many, only that it was a lot, and that they all risked being destitute if Joshua didn’t marry one of them, since Charlie was dead and daughters had to be married to inherit, and the one that was already married was a stepdaughter, and the one that was nearly married had been jilted, and all the others were too young.

Even now, his house might be overrun by giggling creatures in white gowns and colorful ribbons. He shuddered.

“Tell me there aren’t more of you,” he said. “Does my house have an infestation of sisters?”

“Only me, for now.”

“For now!”

“I mean to strengthen relations with my grandmother and—”

“Not the duchess!”

“You see, my sister—”


“Because my mother—”


“My other sister—”


“Then my father.”

She lifted her chin, with a hard look, proving that amiable did not mean soft.

“I had a debt to your father,” he said after a moment. “I discharged that debt by marrying you, ensuring your inheritance, and providing for your family’s material needs.”

“And we are all very grateful. But—”

“The agreement was that I get married to you. It was not to be married to you.”

“Unfortunately, one does tend to follow the other.”

“We can be married at a distance,” he said. “Our marriage has been highly satisfactory so far.”

“Mr. DeWitt. That will not do.” Now she was all stern and matronly. “My sister must make her debut, and I must persuade my grandmother to accommodate her. You need not be involved. I am more than happy that we lead separate lives. I only ask that you do not obstruct me or engage in behavior that will adversely affect her social position. Once this is done, I shall return to Sunne Park and you can go back to doing what you do best. Which, as I understand it, involves making money, offending people, and cuckolding lords.”



Joshua’s mind did a rare thing: It went blank. Only for the blink of an eye, but nevertheless. Then the thoughts came rushing back in.

Honesty: What a surprise. Politeness and honesty tended to be mutually exclusive, and Cassandra appeared to be the epitome of politeness. He loathed politeness, the way people went around ignoring the truth when it made them uncomfortable. Pretending that if they couched something unpleasant in delicate language, then it was no longer unpleasant.

Yet here she was, mentioning things that the polite did not mention.

It almost made her interesting.

He leaned back and stretched out his legs so that his boots flirted with her skirts. The blush on her cheeks had deepened but she met his eyes with calm defiance.

“Are you saying I have your permission, Mrs. DeWitt?” he said. “To conduct affairs, that is.”

“What you have, sir, is my complete indifference. I ask only that you be discreet, as your behavior reflects on my sisters and me. We have sufficient disadvantages, in the circumstances.”


“A series of minor scandals in my family. And your…birth.”

“Nothing wrong with my birth,” he snapped. “I have it on good authority that I came out in the usual way, with lots of blood and screaming.” He leaned forward and took a childish delight when she straightened her already straight shoulders. “I think what you meant to say is that I’m the bastard son of a bigamist earl and that kind of thing tends to upset people.” He threw himself back against the squabs. “The ‘bastard son’ part of it, I mean. They’re all fine with the ‘bigamist earl’ part.”

Her lips tightened, which was a shame, because they were rather lovely full lips, on a rather lovely wide mouth.

“If you’d like to put it like that,” she said.

But why discuss his father? This affairs business was much more intriguing.

“So you truly don’t mind if I take a lover?”

“It is not a wife’s position to mind. Ours is not the model of a faithful, loving marriage that my parents demonstrated, but—”

“Faithful! Your parents. Ha!”

A slew of emotions chased each other across her face: Shock? Disbelief? Sorrow? Fear? Then her features settled into cool dignity, her demeanor a reminder that she was the granddaughter of a duke, thank you very much.

“You will not pollute my memory of my parents’ marriage with your own sordid views,” she said. “Fidelity was a cornerstone of their relationship and of our family.”

The truth writhed inside him but he held it in. The naive darling truly believed her father had been faithful to her mother. Ah, well. No need to rob her of her illusions. It hardly mattered anymore.

“As for your own behavior, Mr. DeWitt: I do not believe you have been celibate since our wedding day and either way, it is of no concern to me. I’m sure your self-regard will not be diminished if I point out that you are no more to me than a stranger who pays the bills. For which, I say again, we are all grateful. Besides, I’d much rather you bother other men’s wives, if it means you leave me alone.”

Excellent: She didn’t want him; he didn’t want her. Finally they agreed on something. Their wedding night had been nothing short of awful, however necessary. His first wedding night, now: That had been marvelous. He had been nineteen, then, and touching a woman for the first time and he was very, very enthusiastic. And Rachel had some experience and was not shy in telling him what she liked and what to do, and they were already friends. But with this wife, Cassandra…

No. What was done was done, and it was best that way.

“That was not my best performance,” he said, sounding gruff and stilted to his own ears.

“I hadn’t realized one scored points.”

“We had a duty. I discharged my duty like a gentleman and you bore yours like a lady.”

“England must be very proud.”

Perhaps he should have been more tender with her. Talked to her or something. But he had been as gentle as he could, and talking was a trap. It led to intimacy, which led to affection, which led to attachments, which led to trouble, and he did not need more trouble. Other men’s wives made the best lovers, because they already knew what they wanted and they always went home to someone else. And she’d just given him carte blanche to do as he pleased. Which meant he could drop a note to Lady Yardley after all.

Except that it felt all wrong.

Curse Treyford and his wretched bigamy. Had his bigamy never been discovered, had his marriage to Joshua’s mother not been dissolved, had Joshua not been disinherited—well, Joshua would have become a fully-fledged aristocrat with all the morals of a dockside cat. As it was, by going off at fourteen to work in Birmingham, he had made middle-class friends and married a middle-class woman and developed inconvenient middle-class values. Like raising one’s own children and being proud of hard work and staying faithful to one’s spouse.

Mercifully, the hackney jerked to a stop, putting an end to this torture. The cabin swayed and men outside exchanged yells.

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