Head in the Clouds

A child of his heart, not of his blood.

A small cluster of white fleabane near Miss Proctor’s boot drew his attention. He grinned and bent to pluck the tiny daisy-like flowers. Making a deep bow, he held the miniature bouquet out to her. “Will you accept my apology, dear lady, and erase this entire conversation from your memory?” To his great relief, she returned his smile and even dipped into a curtsy as she accepted the flowers. “Thank you, kind sir. All is forgiven.” Her eyes no longer glimmered with tears but with playfulness. Gideon found it difficult to look away.

Gideon lowered her onto the bed, thankful that he’d felt no evidence of stays through her gown as he carried her. As soon as he slid his arms out from under her, she rolled over onto her side and grabbed the second pillow. She snuggled the downy square to her bosom and mumbled a few unintelligible words before settling herself. An unexpected tenderness rose within him as he watched her sleep. Could there be more to his feelings than simple attraction? Something deeper and more lasting? He’d escorted countless debutantes about London in the past, beautiful women who inspired ample appreciation within him for their feminine charms. But none of those women had created the tug of possessiveness he felt when he gazed at Adelaide. None of them stirred this desire to cherish and protect. And no matter how suitable their background and manner, none of them made him smile like his Addie. Addie. The name fit. Fanciful, whimsical—just like the woman herself. Yet there was strength in it, too. Simple, straightforward strength. He’d known she cared for Bella, yet until her relentless plea this morning, he hadn’t realized how deep her affections ran. Gideon couldn’t help hoping that some of those affections extended to him, as well.

God, forgive me for my impatience. I saw what I thought I wanted, and when you made no move to give it to me, I took matters into my own hands. I wasn’t content, and I didn’t trust you enough to wait.” She inhaled a shaky breath. “I’ve really made a mess of things, haven’t I? I need you more than ever, now. Show me where to go, what to do. And please give me enough faith to follow you even when I can’t see where the path is leading. In the name of Jesus, amen.

He gently covered her hand with his, wishing he could feel her soft skin through the rough leather of his work gloves. He dragged her fingers down from his mouth and cradled them against his chest. His gaze never left her face. Her breath caught in her throat, but she didn’t look away. Fingers splayed, her palm pressed against the thin cotton of his shirt, directly over his heart. In that moment, he knew she belonged to him.

He groped about for several minutes, growling like a bear and stamping his feet at anyone who ventured too close. Isabella rushed at him and retreated several times, giggling each time he missed. Then before Adelaide quite knew what had happened, the little mischief-maker shoved her from behind and launched her directly into Gideon’s path. Adelaide trod on his foot and banged into his chest, but Gideon wrapped his arms about her and somehow kept them upright. “Well, who do I have here?” His voice remained jovial, but she could feel his heartbeat accelerate under her palm. Did he know? Gideon’s hand moved up her back and lingered at the base of her neck. “Definitely feels like a member of the female persuasion.” His fingers toyed with the loose tendrils at her nape. Adelaide closed her eyes against the sensations assaulting her. His touch traveled to her shoulder, and she forced her eyes open. If he knew it was her, why was he taking so long to claim his victory? “Let me see …” He traced one of the rosettes on the edge of her sleeve. “I don’t recall Mrs. Chalmers wearing a flower like this.” Warmth from his hand shocked her momentarily as he quickly passed over the small section of her arm covered by neither gown nor glove. Calluses grazed her skin, leaving tingles in their wake. “Too tall to be Bella.” He explored her elbow, her wrist, and finally clasped her hand where it lay pressed against his shirtfront. “Mrs. Garrett’s dress had long sleeves, I believe, so this gloved arm must belong to …” His thumb drew a small circle against her palm. “Miss Proctor.” He’d known all along, the scoundrel.

He twisted his head to the side, grimacing only slightly. Then he smiled at her. The dimple in his cheek nearly undid all her hardearned control.

His gaze trailed over her face, memorizing each line and curve. She’d been his wife for little more than a fortnight, but she owned his heart. If anything happened to her, he’d be lost.

I’m not going anywhere, dear heart. I have a happy ending to write with you.” Addie stiffened. “You heard that?” she muttered against his chest. Gideon chuckled, his joy too large to contain. He pulled back just enough to see her face. “Yes, I did, my little dreamer. And I plan to fulfill that duty to the best of my ability.

...it would be unfair to measure him against a fictional standard that he could never possibly achieve.

One of these days, I’m going to learn not to sneak up on you.” The fiasco in the barn flashed through her mind. Yesterday she’d showered him with oats and today she’d pummeled him with a broom. At this rate, he’d be dead by the end of the week. “Mr. Westcott, I’m so sorry. I had no idea you were there.” Adelaide dropped the broom as if distancing herself from the weapon could remove some of her guilt. He wiggled his jaw one final time and then lowered his hand. “I don’t think you did any permanent damage.

She'd bet in his childhood he was one of those boys who pestered his brothers to the precise point where they would retaliate so that he could escape punishment while they received a scolding for beating on him. He probably had a full arsenal of crocodile tears to go along with those devastating dimples.

She glanced at him and winked. Gideon found himself enchanted all over again. Her clothes might be a wrinkled, mismatched mess, and strands of her hair might be sticking out at odd angles from the knot at her neck, but when he looked at her, he saw a princess. Now he just had to convince her to marry him.

She waited for more, but he just sat there with a smug look on his face. The rascal. He was going to make her ask, wasn’t he? She’d bet in his childhood he was one of those boys who pestered his brothers to the precise point where they would retaliate so that he could escape punishment while they received a scolding for beating on him. He probably had a full arsenal of crocodile tears to go along with those devastating dimples.

The fiasco in the barn flashed through her mind. Yesterday she'd showered him with oats and today she'd pummeled him with a broom. At this rate, he'd be dead by the end of the week.

The friendly, welcoming smiles she had grown to love still made her breath catch, but he’d added a new weapon to his arsenal. A secret, intimate smile that reminded her of warm kisses and strong arms. It never failed to flush her cheeks and flutter her stomach. The man was an invalid in a dressing gown convalescing amid a mound of cushions on the parlor settee; yet when he smiled at her like that, he became masculinity personified. Gideon had a dash of the rogue in him. And Adelaide adored him for it.

Unable to resist any longer, he buried his fingers in the hair at the base of her neck and angled her face upward. He leaned forward and dropped soft little kisses onto her lips, starting at the corner and working his way across until she began to stir. Her lashes flittered. “Gid—?” He smothered her question with his kiss. No longer playful, he took her mouth fully, holding nothing back. She was no longer Adelaide Proctor, governess. She was Adelaide Westcott, wife. His wife. It didn’t take long for her to recover from her surprise. She clasped his shoulder for support and stretched toward him. His pulse surged, and when she finally pulled away, he refused to let her separate from him completely. He rested his forehead against hers and listened to their ragged breaths echoing in the quiet morning. “Feeling better today, are we?” Adelaide asked as she lowered her head back down to her pillow, her face a becoming shade of pink. Gideon grinned. “A little.

Westcott Cottage did have a handsome prince as it turned out, and she’d just floured him like a drumstick headed for the frying pan.

You plowed him with a pitchfork?"
"I sure did. My daddy didn't raise no hothouse flower, you know."
Gideon had a feeling he would have liked her daddy.

Your place is with me now, Addie. I want you here. Move whatever you like. Wear whatever you like. All I care about is having you by my side.