Always Proper, Suddenly Scandalous(2)

By: Christi Caldwell

“Geoffrey,” his mother began as they started their walk toward the foyer and their waiting carriage outside. “You do know I’ve been patient. You are going to be one and thirty in three days.”

“Thirty.” He gave his head a rueful shake. Hardly endearing to have one’s own mother forget how many years he’d spent on this Earth.

She blinked. “Truly?”

He nodded. “Truly.”

Mother wrinkled her nose. “I was so very sure—”

“You’re wrong,” he interjected with a curt impatience.

“Regardless,” she began again, this time her tone less convincing. “It is time you take a wife.”

“I know.”

They walked down the long corridor; their quickened steps muffled by the long red carpet that lined the hall.

“You’ve not been to any events in nearly a fortnight. A fortnight.” She spoke as though Geoffrey hadn’t attended a single ton function all Season. “All the most marriageable misses have already received offers. Why, I heard from Lady Tisdale, who learned from one of her maid’s, that Miss Anna Adams is to receive an offer from the Marquess of Edgebury any day.”

Well, it was a good thing he’d not settled on Miss Anna Adams as his future viscountess. He silently inked her name permanently off his list. “I visit my clubs,” he groused under his breath.

Her eyes widened. “Your clubs? You will not find a marriageable lady at your clubs, Geoffrey,” she bemoaned. “It is time you fulfill your responsibilities as viscount.”

Geoffrey’s gut tightened as the familiar guilt licked at him, more painful than the biting sting of a lash. He knew well what his obligations were…to wed and propagate the Redbrooke line with male issues. His father, and his father’s father, and his father’s father’s father had done a rather deplorable job of producing sufficient spares to the heir.

Mother let out a little huff. “Do you know what will happen if you fail to marry and produce an heir?”

“I’ve not an inkling what should happen if I fail to wed.”

She continued on, ignoring the sardonic twist to his words. “The line will pass to a distant Scottish relation,” she said, as though he hadn’t spoken. She wrinkled her nose as though nauseated by the mere prospect of a Scott inheriting the title.

Yes, in the event Geoffrey failed to produce an heir, his solicitor had informed Geoffrey that he’d traced the next in line to great-great grandfather’s second cousin, once removed.

Mother paused, forcing Geoffrey to stop and look back at her. “Scottish.” The one word came out as slowly as if she were speaking to a simpleton.

Geoffrey widened his eyes. “Egads, never tell me a Scot?”

His mother narrowed her gaze on him. “This is not a matter to be taken lightly, Geoffrey. Can you imagine a man with the name of…?” She wrinkled her brow. “McTavish assuming the title?”

“McMorris,” he corrected, automatically.

She continued marching forward with a beat to rival a drum; as she walked she slashed the air with her hand. “McTavish. McMorris. It is all the same. The gentleman possesses Scottish roots. You must wed. Immediately.”

“I concur.” He forced the words out past gritted teeth.

His mother froze in her steps, and looked to Geoffrey. Her blue eyes wide like saucers. “You concur?”

A muscle at the corner of his eye twitched. “I do.” He’d spent nearly five years trying to atone for his past sins, and yet, it would appear his mother still didn’t trust that he’d reformed. “I know well my responsibilities, Mother.” He resumed walking.

She hurried along, and fell into step beside him. “I never imagined…” Her words trailed off.

Geoffrey waited. All the while, knowing she dangled that unfinished sentence before him in a paltry attempt at intrigue.

She tapped him on the arm with one of the white gloves she carried. “You are supposed to ask me what I’d never imagined.” A frown marred her lips.

The steady tick-tock-tick-tock of the long-case clock at the center of the hallway filled the stretch of silence until his mother glowered up at him.