One Night With A Prince(10)By: Sabrina Jeffries
“So we heard,” Lady Draker put in. “Pulled a rifle on you, did she?”
Christabel wanted to sink under the table in mortification. Papa and his fellow soldiers might find the tale of her encounter with Mr. Byrne amusing, but this company would surely be shocked. Oddly enough, however, the only one showing disapproval was Mr. Byrne, who glowered at Lord Draker. “Youtold Regina?”
With a smug expression, their host served himself the last of the roast pheasant. “How could I resist? It’s not every day that you get shot at by a woman.”
“And you no doubt deserved it,” his wife added with a small smile. Christabel tipped up her chin. “He did indeed.”
“Yes,” Mr. Byrne snapped. “Like a fool, I tried to collect my due after your husband ordered his banker not to honor his note. What was I thinking?”
His sarcasm—and his lies—infuriated her. “Philip said you allowed him credit, then reneged.”
“He would never have done something so dishonorable,” she said stoutly.
“Oh? Have you forgotten why you’re here?”Because your husband stole your property to gain money to pay his gambling debts?
He was right, of course. Everything she’d thought about Philip had been turned on its ear since his death.
“I should have shot you when I had the chance,” she mumbled.
“So you really did fire at Byrne?” Lady Iversley’s eyes sparkled with curiosity.
“She put one hole in my cabriolet and one in my hat,” Mr. Byrne said.
“For all the good it did. He kept riding toward the house, cool as you please. You’d think people shot at him every day.”
“They do,” he said. When she glanced at him, startled, he had the audacity to wink at her. “You’d be surprised how many dishonorable gentlemen roam London. But that’s never stopped me from getting what I want.”
His gaze dropped to her mouth, and a delicious shiver swept down her spine. Blast him. How could she be attracted to this unrepentant devil?
She sighed. How could she not? Women leaped into his bed for good reason. Look at him—he was built for the bedroom, with his tousled hair and night blue eyes and that cocky smile promising paradise in his arms.
She jerked her gaze from his. Paradise, hah! Men didn’t give women paradise. Not a lasting paradise, anyway.
But as the dessert course replaced the dishes of sautéed this and fricasseed that, she couldn’t take her mind from Mr. Byrne.
Her mission would be so much easier if she understood him. But he differed markedly from the bluff foot soldiers, courteous officers, and practical field physicians she’d grown up with. Even on Philip’s estate, Rosevine, the men had been easy to read, their roles simple to define. Everything about Mr. Byrne unsettled her. She’d always been a good woman. Unsophisticated, unfashionably forthright, but good.
He made her want to be bad.
She stiffened her spine. Surely she wasn’t fool enough to fall prey to a charming scoundrelagain . Lady Draker daintily dabbed custard from her lips, then cleared her throat. “Have you been in town long, Lady Haversham?”
Christabel stabbed a stewed plum. “Just a few days.” Long enough to answer His Highness’s summons and discuss what to do about the politically sensitive letters Lord Stokely had bought from Philip. The ones that would destroy her family if she didn’t get them back.
“Then Katherine and I can show you the latest amusements.” Lady Draker flashed her a cheery smile.
“When were you last in town?”
“It’s been years.” When that seemed to startle her hostess, she added, “My mother died when I was young, so I grew up traveling with Papa and the army. That’s where I met my husband.”