Dorinda and the Doctor(3)

By: Sabrina Jeffries

“Slightly fewer than a hundred,” he said dryly. “Honestly, you mustn’t blame yourself for this. Her Grace can be very sly.” He began to pace. “But we will put her in her place, don’t worry. Tonight we’ll attend, look at each other with adoring eyes, pretend to have fallen in with her plan . . . and then pull the rug out from under her.”

“How on earth can we manage that?”

He eyed her intently. “We’ll get into a row at dinner over whatever couples usually argue over, and I’ll storm out. Or you. Whichever will upset her more. Then she’ll see what her meddling has wrought, and leave us be.”

Dorinda considered that. “I suppose it could work. Lisette is always trying to keep the peace between the members of the Duke’s Men; she wouldn’t like seeing two of her friends quarrel as a result of her machinations.”

“Precisely.” A twinkle appeared in his eye. “It might be fun, actually. As long as we can keep straight faces while we do it.”

His teasing never ceased to take her by surprise. Edgar’s doctors had all been stiff and dour, behaving as if she were some recalcitrant child who needed punishing for not spitting out an heir as she should.

Of course, Dr. Worth would probably be the same if he were treating her. Fortunately, he was not. So perhaps this would be all right. Besides, she had to do something, besides confiding her embarrassing secret, to keep Lisette from pursuing her matchmaking.

“Very well,” she said. “That sounds like an excellent plan. Though we should agree on what to argue over beforehand.”

“We certainly should.” A calculating look crossed his face. “And we can discuss it while you’re organizing my office.”

The swift increase in her pulse alarmed her. “You still want me to?”

“Of course. You’re here. You offered.” He swept his hand about to indicate the mayhem. “As you can see, I need the help.”

“You certainly do,” she said, then winced at her frankness. “I–I mean—”

“Trust me, I know. Why do you think I asked for the duchess’s aid?” His voice softened. “And I’ve noticed how much she relies on you in managing the duke’s household. I doubt she’s ever been taxed with quite that large an endeavor, while you’re obviously well accustomed to taking such matters in hand.”

Gratified by the fact that he’d noticed, she murmured, “Well, Edgar did have a large estate.” A rather tumbledown estate, which his nephew inherited, since she couldn’t give him an heir. “But what will people say if I remain here alone with you?”

“Nothing, I should hope. You’re a widow, not some maiden miss. I doubt anyone even saw you come in, and if they did, the cat’s out of the bag anyway. Might as well make the best of it.”

He flashed her another disarming grin. “Besides, since you’re living at the duke’s right now, Her Grace would surely notice if you return there so quickly. If we are to fool her tonight, she has to believe you spent the day with me.”

“That’s true.” And the idea of spending the day with him sounded perfectly wonderful.

Yet oh so dangerous.

Tamping down the quiver that went through her, she stared pointedly at his chest, where the banyan had fallen open again to reveal a smattering of dark curls. “I’m happy to stay and help, but—”

“Oh! Right.” He pushed back that errant lock of hair again. “None of my informal bachelor attire, eh?” He grinned as he turned for the door. “I’ll just go change into something more suitable. And I’ll put on the kettle.”

She gaped at him. “You know how to make tea?”

He eyed her askance. “I served on a ship for years, remember? If I wanted tea there, I had to make it myself. Would you like some?”

Edgar would have fallen through the floor before he made tea for her. “That would be lovely, Dr. Worth, thank you.”

“Percy,” he said. “If we’re to be convincing tonight, we should use each other’s Christian names.”

“Of course.” When he just continued to stare at her, she murmured, “You should call me Dorinda.”