One week since he had seen her last.
Kissed her last.
Since he had cupped her breast and felt her body’s reaction to his, the taut bud of her nipple…
He banished the thoughts lest his inconvenient prick decide to stiffen when he was attempting to conduct this interminable interview.
“How long have you been a widow, Mrs. Martin?” he forced himself to ask.
In truth, it hardly mattered. Nothing about her did, other than her willingness to be a kind mother to his daughters. He had been meeting women such as the lovely widow for the last three days, and none of them had suited thus far.
“Two years, Mr. Sutton,” she answered, well-spoken.
She was the daughter of a banker who owed him a favor. The connection would be a boon. She was educated, polite, and clean about her appearance. She was too pretty, it was true. But fortunately, he felt nothing when he gazed upon her, which was precisely what he wanted in a wife.
“Any children of your own?” he asked.
“I was not so blessed.”
A pious woman, then? Did she sit in church every Sunday? The notion rendered her less appealing as a possibility, for sinners and saints did not tend to dwell together in harmony.
Just why had Pen decided upon this woman as a possibility? Perhaps asking his sister for her aid in procuring a wife had been a mistake.
He frowned. “Did you wish for them?”
“Of course.” She smiled. “My greatest desire is to become a mother.”
“My daughters are… mischievous,” he said, reaching for the right word. “They are in need of mothering.”
“I understand, Mr. Sutton. When did their mother die, if I may ask?”
“Three weeks ago,” he said, which was true as far as he was concerned.
The venomous baggage was not welcome in his daughters’ lives after she had abandoned them.
Mrs. Martin’s brows arched in surprise. “Your period of mourning, sir…”
“Ain’t one.” He shrugged. “We weren’t married, Mrs. Martin. Their mother was a doxy.”
The widow nodded. “Of course, Mr. Sutton. Forgive me for my assumption.”
She was apologizing. And dreadfully polite. Why in the hell would a woman like her want to marry Jasper Sutton?
“I am not a polite man, Mrs. Martin. Nor respectable. You are aware that this is a gaming hell?”
“You are in need of a mother to your daughters,” she said, intelligent enough to understand the reason for his words. “I am in need of a wealthy husband. My late husband…he was a wastrel, Mr. Sutton.”
He began to understand that it was not just her father’s influence which had prompted her call.
“And here I was, thinking it was my dial plate that lured you in.”
A becoming flush tinged her cheeks. “Dial plate?”
“Face,” he explained, knowing a moment of guilt for relying on his flash. Part of maintaining patrons who were plump partridges was acting the part of a gentleman. Or at least aping their speech, and he had worked hard to scrape all traces of the East End.