“Welcome home.” My mother greets us in a singsong voice. “I trust you’re both feeling relaxed and recharged from your little break?”
Both sets of parents are waiting in the foyer of our house, apparently ready to celebrate our return from our honeymoon. I lean into Jax, close enough so that only he can hear my comment.
“Somebody’s had her Stepford pills today.”
I can feel his low laugh where it rumbles in his chest below my palm. It calms my fears about returning home. During our flight, I was worried that the connection between me and Jax would be lost. He seemed to grow more aloof the closer we got to home. Tension that hadn’t been in his hard frame during our three-week honeymoon became more noticeable by the minute. It diluted the tenderness I felt for him after such an amazing honeymoon, which made me feel guilty, so I’d spent the remainder of the flight trying to find ways to recapture it with small talk and inane observations.
“Seems someone’s missed hers,” Jax replies loud enough for our parents to hear. He takes a step to the side, putting distance between us and causing me to stumble from the unexpected loss of his body. I right myself, bright spots of embarrassment making my face burn. “I have work to do. Amber, you should rest. We have a battery of tests organised for you first thing tomorrow. It’s time to see if you’re able to live up to your end of the bargain.”
Jax strides out of the foyer in the direction of his office, my father and his falling into step with him. Left alone with our mothers, I look between them to see if they’re going to comment on how my husband just acted. They meet my perusal with deliberate blankness, although my mother does seem to be more nervous than usual.
“Is anyone going to tell me what tests he’s talking about?” Their mouths fall open at my belligerent tone. Internally, I shrug it off. They’re lucky I didn’t stomp my damn foot. I certainly want to. “No? No one?”
I give them my back, extending the handle of my biggest suitcase and tilting it so it will roll behind me. I signal the maid to bring the rest of my bags with her. Jax’s luggage can sit in the middle of the entry until the end of time, for all I can. When I reach the curved staircase, I immediately regret my show of defiance. There’s no way I’m going to be able to pull my bag up there.
“Maria.” My mother snaps her fingers at the maid. “Bring some refreshments to the lounge, then have their luggage taken to their room.”
She sniffs when Maria takes too long to move. “Come now, Amber. Tell us about your trip.”
I follow, with reluctance in each step, sitting on the loveseat closest to the window. It’s a beautiful day outside. Bright sunlight and barely a breath of wind. It’s a day that I could spend with my husband, if he wasn’t a workaholic who barely drew a breath before he dived straight back into his job.
“I think you’re mistaken as to how things will run from now on.” Jax’s mother, Elizabeth, speaks first. I run my gaze over her, taking in the perfectly coiffed hair and her straight unnaturally posture with her hands tucked between her knees. Looks like she had her Stepford pills today, as well. “My son is a very busy man. It’s your job to make his life run as effortlessly as possible. There will be no further allowances made for your delicate state.”
She stands, pacing in front of me. I assume that her “delicate state” jibe is a reference to my ongoing amnesia.
“You’ll take over the running of this house. It is not my place to do so now that he’s married. However, I am happy to provide some tips so that the transition is smooth. The same goes for Jax’s social calendar. That will require close attention so that your influence as the only St. George heir benefits my son from the outset. Once you are with child, Cynthia and I,” Elizabeth indicates my mother with her jutting chin. “will assist you so that you are able to concentrate on your most important duty—providing as many heirs as possible.”
“So, that’s what the tests are for tomorrow?” I slouch in my chair when they both incline their heads in agreement. “Well, I guess I’d better rest then. Wouldn’t want anything to get in the way of my ability to breed.”
“I feel that you would benefit from a lie down.” My sarcasm goes straight over my mother’s head. “It will improve your disposition.”
My feet are in action, removing me from this conversation before I say something I regret. I can’t take this farce, anymore. We’ve been home for less than an hour and my life is already being dictated by the expectations of “society”.
Isn’t that one of the reasons you ran away in the first place?
My stupid heel catches in the corner of the rug when that random though pops into my head. I stumble, steadying myself with a hand on the back of the settee. Balance regained, my shoulder clashes with the person currently entering the room as I restart my hasty exit.
“My apologies.” I give Seb a ghost-like smile as I pass.
He takes hold of the top of my arm to slow me, a shopping bag dangling from that same hand.
“It’s time. Be ready.”