“You looked so sexy in those wellies,” he murmurs, referring to my rubber boots. “Do you think I could get a private viewing of you in those and…let’s say nothing else?”
“Nothing else? Sebastian Huntington-Ross, I am deeply outraged.”
“Are you now?” he asks with a laugh that rumbles through me.
“I didn’t know you’ve got a thing for gardeners.”
“Actually,” he says with another kiss that has my head spinning, “I’ve got a thing for my hot Texan wife.”
“I’m guessing you’ll want me to team a ten-gallon hat with those wellies, huh?”
“Now we’re talking.”
As he reaches under my top and slides his hands up my bare back, sending a jolt of anticipation through me, I hear the creak of the door and look up in surprise to see not only Sebastian’s mom, but his granny with disapproving look on her lined face.
Not that this is anything new. The day that woman gives me a look that’s not disapproving I think I might faint from shock.
I instantly dismount Sebastian and readjust my top in an attempt not to appear as though we were about to engage in, well, marital activity. We might be a newly married couple who do what newly married couples do, but getting caught out by my mother-in-law and judgmental grandmother-in-law still puts a halt to proceedings pretty quick. As you would expect.
“Mother, Granny,” Sebastian says in a surprisingly steady voice as he rises to his feet. I’ve had to get used to that here. Sebastian always stands whenever his mom or grandmother enter a room. It’s super formal and weird to me. Where I’m from, you only got up to go fetch another Coke.
“Don’t let us interrupt, you two,” Jemima trills in an unnaturally high voice. She must be feeling about as comfortable as I am right now. “Come, Geraldine. Let’s, err…go for a stroll in the garden.”
Geraldine scoffs. “Jemima, it’s after nine at night and it’s raining cats and dogs out there. Have you gone completely mad?” She clunks her way across the room with the aid of her cane and sits down carefully on one of the seats facing us. “It’s fortuitous that we found you in such a position.”
I blink at her in disbelief. It is?
Jemima is still hovering by the door, clearly uncomfortable. “What about the library, Geraldine? There’s a book collection I thought you might be interested in. I only came across it a few weeks ago, and I think you’ll find it quite fascinating. It’s about the history of bridges in the British Isles, which is a thoroughly enthralling topic—”
“Oh, Jemima,” she scolds. “I haven’t got the least interest in bridges. Take a seat, will you?”
Defeated, Jemima replies, “All right.” She slinks into another one of the armchairs and shoots us an apologetic smile.
“We thought you were both out for the evening,” Sebastian begins.
“We’re back,” Geraldine replies, pointing out the obvious.
“How are you this evening, ma’am?” I say to Geraldine as she steadily lowers herself into a seat by the fire with the aid of her cane. It has a brass handle in the shape of a wolf, which appropriately casts her as a Bond villain. All that’s missing is the hairless cat.
“I’ve told you before, Emma. In England ‘ma’am’ is what we call the Queen. Please remember to call me ‘Granny’ now that you’re family. You’re no longer on your Texas ranch here.”
I open my mouth to reply and shut it again. Having grown up in a modest house in inner-city Houston, the only time I’ve been on a Texas ranch was when I was filming Dating Mr. Darcy. “I forgot…Granny. Habit, I guess. You can take the girl out of Texas, as they say.”
Geraldine purses her lips in obvious distaste. “Quite. Now. I have something I must say to you both.”
“It’s gratifying to see you’re still engaging in what is characteristically considered the honeymoon phase of a marriage.”
Sebastian’s eyes find mine briefly before he replies, “Thank you?” Because what do you say to that? Yes, we’re at it whenever we get the chance. Can’t get enough of it, actually. We’re at it like the proverbial rabbits. Our room, the living room, the garden, even your room when you’re out at the opera (okay, we’ve never actually done it in Geraldine’s room, and nor do we plan to, but you get the picture).
She steeples her fingers, fixing us with her glare. “An heir. That’s what we need.”
“An heir?” I swallow. She’s already made it abundantly clear that as Lady Martinston, it’s my duty to provide the family with the next generation. The first time she mentioned it, in fact, we’d literally been married less than three minutes. You’ve got to admire the old girl’s tenacity, I guess.
“Yes,” she snaps, “an heir. How often are you engaging in marital relations?”
“Mummy, I hardly think—” Jemima protests as Sebastian’s eyes widen at me.
“Let them answer, Jemima,” she quips. “It’s been a year and still not even a sign. You’re not getting any younger, you know, Emma. I’m certain your fertility has already begun to wane. When I was your age, I’d finished having my children.”
I offer her a weak smile. That was because it was the 1800s and there was no TV.
“Granny, we haven’t even had that conversation yet,” Sebastian says. “Give us a chance, please.”
“What’s the delay? You’re clearly raring to go if that little display earlier is anything to go by. Make it mean something, my dear boy.”
I suck in air, every part of me cringing. The mood has gone from sexy rubber boot fun to creating an “heir” in two minutes flat.
Could this get any more awkward?
“Thank you for your concern, Granny, but when Emma and I decide we’re ready to start a family, we will be sure not to tell you until we actually have something to tell you.”
“Does that mean you’re already trying?” Jemima asks, a healthy dollop of hope in her voice. “Because we can leave right now and let you get on with it if you like.”
Oh, no. Awkward!
Jemima rises to her feet. “Can’t we, Geraldine?”
“I suppose,” Geraldine grumps.
I squeeze my eyes shut, fantasizing that I’m not in the living room with my mother- and grandmother-in-law, my clothes and hair disheveled next to my husband as they discuss our sex life.
“Good-bye, you two,” Sebastian says with a tone of finality in his voice.
Jemima bustles over to the door, clearly keen to get far away from this whole thing as quickly as possible, while Geraldine rises from her seat onto her creaky bones as though she’s an arthritic sloth in no hurry to get anywhere.
It takes forever, stretching the awkwardness out to a breaking point.
Eventually, she reaches the door and turns back to us. “Missionary position. That’s the best for procreation. That’s all your grandfather and I ever did, and we had all the children we wanted.”
Why did she have to put that image into my head. Why?
“Good-bye, Granny,” Sebastian says firmly, and thankfully, she leaves the room, closing the door after her.
Alone once more in the cavernous room, we catch one another’s eyes and instantly dissolve into peals of embarrassed laughter. Catching his breath, Sebastian says, “I’m so sorry about that, Brady. The word awkward doesn’t even begin to describe that exchange.”
Sebastian’s shoulders shake as he laughs. “Granny can be very direct when she wants to be.”
I think of the way in which she announced that I wasn’t good enough for her grandson and that I would be doing everyone a big favor if I just simply disappeared. “Ah, yes. That’s very true.”
He laces his fingers in mine and claims my lips with a kiss. “Brady, I have an idea. How about we grab those wellies of yours and head up to our bedroom away from any prying eyes.”
“And lock the door?” I ask.
His eyes sparkle as his face pulls into his sexy grin. “Lock it, bolt it, and hide the key.”
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Kate O’Keeffe is a bestselling author of fun, feel-good romantic comedies. She lives and loves in beautiful Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand with her family, two scruffy dogs, and a cat who thinks he’s a scruffy dog too. He’s not: he’s a cat. When she’s not penning her latest story, Kate can be found hiking up hills (slowly), traveling to different countries, and eating chocolate. A lot of it.
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