An Unexpected Proposal (St Daine Family 1)
than one family meeting wherein the matter under discussion was the twins 'unfair exclusion' from the festivities in Town , Lucien stifled a chuckle.
    He could fair understand their temerity, but privately, he believed the fuss was more about how much they would miss Phoebe once she married than any real desire to mingle with friends or to dance away an evening.
    Looking from one girl's bright, expressive face to the other, he sighed, a momentary sense of overwhelm filling him. How was he expected to know how to raise a family when he had never had one of his own, he thought, his own question in direct counter to Emily's. But he dared not voice his fears aloud, and especially not to the girls. Alaina and Emily would do their best to take utmost advantage of his feared shortcomings, he knew, twisting them to their own benefit, which they often did anyway now that Grandmother Amelia had come to assist him with the twins and Phoebe.
    He wondered, not for the first time, if his grandmother had schooled the girls in the art of cajolery since her arrival. Still, whether the twins had done so on their own or with Grandmother Amelia's assistance, they had learned all too well how to rearrange a matter to the benefit of their own gain.
    The notion struck him that perhaps it was time he started to look for a wife, for the girls' sake, but he hurriedly pushed it away to answer Emily's question. “You are expected to behave as any proper young lady might, Emily Anne, whether in Town or here, where you are protected by home and family,” Lucien reminded for what must have been the hundredth time since their father's death.
    The inquiry into their expected proper behavior settled once more, Lucien's gaze sought and found his grandmother and her current companions, pausing to linger appreciatively on Lady Claire. She had worn her hair up again, he noted, and wondered if it would fall to just below her shoulders or further if he dared to pull the jade tortoise shell combs free.
    “I told you he likes her, Emily,” Alaina said, her eyes twinkling merrily for having caught her eldest brother staring. “He has to be the reason Grandmere and Phoebe invited her, and look. She brought her red-haired friend, too.”
    Lucien's eyes flared and he promptly focused his stern gaze on the younger twin, which also conveniently served to pull his attention away from the rather attractive Lady Claire. “Who likes whom? What, exactly, are you suggesting, Alaina Georgette?”
    “Everyone likes Lady Claire,” Emily replied to her sister with a shrug while choosing to ignore her brother's question altogether. “But clearly she is impressed by precious few. Phoebe says she rarely dances. Perhaps that is the true reason Phoebe invited her? Grandmere says Lady Claire often appears rather dreary, too, and yet, her private conversations are lively and filled with surprisingly clever wit. I wonder if she has a secret?”
    The girls' chatter hopped from subject to subject without pause, as usual, and Lucien did his best to keep up. What had Emily said about Grandmother engaging in private conversations with Lady Claire? Lucien wondered. His gaze moved from his sisters to join them in their perusal of the lady in question. Why would his sisters think she had something to hide?
    Studying her carefully from the hem of her subtly muted green gown to the mass of shiny dark curls caught up in a set of elegantly matched combs, Lucien found himself pondering the last bit of Emily's contribution. Casual observation lent no clue and having realized he had slipped from engaging in polite conversation with his sisters to speculate about the possible secret life of Lady Claire Leighton, he cleared his throat to bring the girls' attention back to him—and his away from Claire.
    “Girls, one does not pry into the private affairs of another. Behave yourselves,” he admonished with a hint of warning. Still, his gaze wandered back to the lady in green while his thoughts

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