Always Proper, Suddenly Scandalous(8)

By: Christi Caldwell


His father would have approved of this match.

That should be enough. It had to be.

Waxham discreetly nudged Geoffrey.

Geoffrey offered a hasty bow, and claimed Lady Beatrice’s hand. “My lady, it is a pleasure.”

She sank into an elegant curtsy.

The orchestra concluded a lively country reel. A smattering of applause filled the crowded hall. If memory served him, a waltz was the next set. A waltz and a quadrille. A waltz and a quadrille. That was his intended plan for an unspoken declaration of his courtship.

“Lady Beatrice, will you to do me the honor of partnering me in the next set?”

The young lady blushed. “It would be my pleasure, my lord.”

With the exception of the earlier stir Geoffrey had caused involving a teasing, American temptress, everything appeared to be going exactly as he’d planned.





A gentleman must remain free of scandal. Always.

4th Viscount Redbrooke





~3~





With the tip of her slipper, Abigail tapped a steady beat upon the Italian marble floor.

There were four mythical centaurs. She chewed her lip. Or were there five? Of course, it would really depend on whether one included the centaurs and centaurides as one.

After the scandal she’d created at Mr. and Mrs. Van Buren’s ball, Abigail had developed the oddest nervous tendency of cataloguing mythical Greek figures. It served as a welcome distraction from the gossips.

Asbolus. Chariclo. Chiron. And Nessus. Yes. Yes. “There are four.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Abigail started, realizing she’d been counting aloud, and looked over at the plump young lady who occupied the seat next to her. The woman shoved her wire-rimmed spectacles back upon her nose and studied Abigail like she’d sprouted a second head.

“Forgive me.” Abigail opened her mouth to engage the brown-haired, brown-eyed lady in conversation, but the woman directed her attention elsewhere.

Abigail sighed. After her fall from respectable society, she’d learned rather quickly that aloof condescension was not reserved for a single continent. Since her uncle had introduced her to London’s Polite Society, Abigail had braved soirees and dinner parties and visits to the theatre, amongst lords and ladies who peered down their long noses at her—the curl of their lips indicating that, without even knowing her, they’d found her wanting, simply because of her birthright.

“Where did you take yourself off to?”

Abigail jumped at the sudden appearance of her cousin, Robert Dennington, the Marquess of Westfield. She climbed to her feet. “I merely desired a rest from dancing.”

Robert folded his arms across his broad chest, and arched a golden brow. He looked down the row of young ladies behind her. “A rest? You’ve not danced once this entire evening.”

Abigail frowned. Nor did she intend to. She was trying to spare herself that humiliation as long as possible. She’d not expected her roguish young cousin to note as much. She sighed. “Yes. That is true. I wanted to sit.”

He glanced down at her ripped hem. “Ahh, yes…Redbrooke and your hem.”

She furrowed her brow. “Redbrooke?”

Robert reached for a champagne flute from a passing servant and took a sip. “The gentleman who nearly toppled you into Lady Hughes’s servant.

Redbrooke. It was a strong name that bespoke power and seemed to perfectly suit the square-jawed, thickly muscled gentleman.

Robert spoke in a quiet whisper. “You do not have to sit here, Abby.”

Her back went up. “I want to, Robert.” After her scandal in America she’d found she rather preferred obscurity to notoriety. She had received enough attention to last the remainder of her life and then well into the hereafter. No, wallflowers were most times spared from undue notice and dancing and Abigail was quite content to join their ranks. “You needn’t feel like you must watch over me, Robert,” she hurried to assure him. He’d already spent the better part of the evening at her side. “Your sister—”

“Is still otherwise engaged with Lord Redbrooke,” Robert interrupted. He tipped his chin across the ballroom, and Abigail followed the gesture.

Her heart’s rhythm did the oddest little sputter.

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