“Well, darling,” Michael Devane smiled broadly at his lovely wife and extended his hand to help her from the carriage, “home at last.” He kissed her temple and they stood for several moments looking at the sprawling Kensington townhouse that had been her family’s home for over fifty years.
“Home,” she repeated softly, both pleasure and reticence in the quiet word. The last time they’d stood on this spot, they’d just been married, and her father had just been hanged for his part in the murder of her previous husband. Michael Devane had been the police inspector in charge of that investigation; it’s how they’d met.
“We don’t have to stay here, Bethany,” he murmured close to her ear.
She smiled, and leaned into him as they began to move away from the carriage that had collected them at the train station. Their baggage was being taken inside and the huge double doors were now open. Carstaires, the family butler, patiently awaited them.
“As you said, Michael,” she whispered, “this is home.”
Genuine warmth came into her voice and her pretty features as she approached the tall, austere butler and his hauteur cracked, bringing forth a smile that surprised Devane as he watched her greet the man whose presence was as solid as the house itself. Michael wondered, in that moment, if she’d ever known a day in her life when Carstaires wasn’t part of her home. Probably not, he concluded, there was too much sincere happiness in the man’s face for there to be any doubt about his devotion to Bethany.
“The servants have assembled in the main hall, sir,” he told Michael when he arrived a step behind his wife.
Bethany’s grin was infectious and Devane nodded, then followed her inside. The household staff now consisted of a dozen people, in various positions. It was half the number her father and her previous husband had employed. Bethany had made it clear that she wanted to take an active part in the day to day affairs of the household, as well as do her share of the work. Devane had been more surprised than any of the servants, and it made him acutely aware of the fact that in many ways, they knew his wife better than he did. She’d insisted on selecting a small gift for each remaining member of the staff, and he had happily joined her in the shopping trips to obtain the presents.
“Amelia!” She ran to the cook the instant she spotted her waiting, and Devane held back, simply watching his wife’s pleasure in greeting the people she most often referred to as her friends, not her servants.
“Is there anything requiring my attention, Carstaires?” Devane asked the butler who stood next to him.
“A note from Sergeant Goodwin arrived this morning, sir,” he replied quietly. “I placed it on the desk in the library. Shall I retrieve it, Mr. Devane?”
Devane shook his head and smiled at the older man. “I’ll see to it, Carstaires,” he said. “Why don’t you join them?” he suggested, indicating the group of chatting staff. “Beth has a gift for you.”
Michael’s smile deepened at the genuine surprise in Carstaires’ voice.
“The library?” he repeated.
“Yes, sir,” the butler nodded, and Devane’s smile turned to a grin as he left the entrance hall and headed for the library.
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