Always Proper, Suddenly Scandalous(6)

By: Christi Caldwell


Abigail redirected her attention to the commanding, stern-faced man who’d fled her side. He stood, conversing with a young lady and a tall, handsome gentleman—a gentleman who seemed unable to remove his stare from the blonde woman on his arm.

An odd pang tugged at Abigail’s heart. There had been a time when a gentleman had studied her with that very look. She’d not realized until after his betrayal that eyes could lie.

Her gaze slid away from the trio, out to the sea of twirling dancers and wondered how her life might have been different if she’d come to London as merely the niece of the Duke of Somerset and not a relative fleeing scandal.

Abigail’s mouth tightened. The sooner her mother and father came to accept that she would never again be their sought-after, much respected daughter, the sooner her world could resume a semblance of normalcy.

Her heart twisted with the bitterness of truth. There would never again be anything normal about her life.

***

The young lady whose hemline he’d destroyed sat along the wall, studying him. Geoffrey frowned. Respectable young ladies didn’t stare. It wasn’t proper. Or polite.

Then, there was a boldness to this American woman so different than anything he’d ever witnessed amongst English women. He should be more appalled by such indiscretion. And yet, he couldn’t dredge up the appropriate level of shock.

“Are you looking for someone, Geoffrey?”

Geoffrey stiffened, and turned to face his sister, Sophie, now the Countess of Waxham, and her husband, Christopher, Earl of Waxham. The couple had wed just a few short weeks ago after quite a scandal, which had only fueled Geoffrey’s determination to avoid any hint of impropriety.

Of course his observant sister should have noted his interest. Geoffrey strove for bored indignation. “I don’t know what you’re speaking about.”

His sister snorted. And he knew he’d failed.

“It appears as though you’re searching for someone.” His sister looked to her husband. “Doesn’t it, Christopher?”

“It…”

Geoffrey turned a frown on his brother-in-law.

Waxham offered a sympathetic grin, holding his palms up sheepishly.

Sophie’s timely appearance however reminded him of his purpose that evening, and it wasn’t to act like a foolish swain over a mysterious American lady. Geoffrey inclined his head. “I’d like you to perform a certain introduction for me.”

Sophie opened and closed her mouth several times. “Introduction? To a young lady?” Disbelief underscored her question.

“Is that so very hard to believe?” Geoffrey rescued a flute of champagne from the tray of a passing servant, who eyed him with a wariness that said the servants had already discussed the Viscount Redbrooke’s remarkable lack of grace.

Sophie and Waxham exchanged a look.

Geoffrey frowned over the rim of his glass. When he’d been a young boy, his father, the former viscount, had schooled Geoffrey in his roles and responsibilities as a noble. The line would continue with him. His jaw set. He was determined of it. Geoffrey would never be absolved of his guilty actions on that night nearly five years past, but continuing on the male line would be a final act of penance for those sins.

Sophie caught her lower lip between her teeth. “You are not at all yourself this evening, Geoffrey.” She made to press the back of her hand against his forehead but he shifted out of her reach.

Geoffrey closed his eyes a moment and prayed for patience. “I don’t know what you mean.” He knew exactly what she meant; he didn’t feel much like himself this evening.

Sophie waved her hand. “There was that whole incident with your knocking over Lord Hughes’s servant.”

For an instance, Geoffrey felt a kindred connection to Sophie, who’d battled such gossip over the years. His sister had wrought much havoc upon Geoffrey’s household and in public, only it hadn’t occurred to him, until now, that the attention may have been unwarranted. “I did not knock over Lord Hughes’s servant.” He looked to Waxham one more time, in an unspoken male plea for support.

“Ah, yes. I believe it was a young lady your brother knocked over,” Waxham offered.

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