A Masked Deception by Mary Balogh

By Mary Balogh

A Masked Deception

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Richard loved her and he wanted her! Margaret had shivered on the bed, leapt to her feet, and begun to undress hastily. Was she mad? He might be at home any moment. She did not believe that he would visit her that night, but there was always the chance that he might check to see that she slept peacefully. He must not find any trace of her costume. When everything had been safely stowed away at the back of a closet, Margaret had quickly brushed and braided her hair and climbed into bed. She had told Kitty not to wait up for her.

Her only ornaments were a pearl necklace that Richard had given her as a wedding gift, and her wedding rings. Margaret was one of the last to enter the drawing room. Her mother-in-law was there already, holding court to Devin Northcott and another, elderly gentleman. Her two sisters-in-law who were in town were also present with their husbands. There were several other close acquaintances, talking in groups. But Margaret's attention was caught by the three central figures before the fireplace. Richard was looking his usual magnificent and immaculate self, dressed in black, the color relieved only by his snowy-white shirt and flowing neckcloth.

Her husband smiled. A few minutes later Margaret left a sleepily grumbling Charlotte and returned to her own room, where she rang for Kitty and tried to decide what to wear for the day. She decided upon a simple primrose-yellow muslin gown with a bonnet to match. Kitty drew a tan-colored pelisse out of the closet, insisting that the day was not yet warm enough for her mistress to go outside without a cloak. Margaret refused to let Kitty dress her hair in any other style but the tight braids coiled at the back of her head; she was soon ready and dismissed her maid.

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