Anne Barbour

Anne Barbour by A Talent for Trouble Read Free Book Online

Book: Anne Barbour by A Talent for Trouble Read Free Book Online
Authors: A Talent for Trouble
her throat. A dainty diamond tiara glistened in the spun gold nest of curls piled high on her head, and on her deliciously curved breast blazed a spectacular necklace of diamonds and sapphires. Jonathan bent over his fiancée with an expression of pleased appreciation that bordered on the fatuous.
    The progress made by the pair into the center of the ballroom was almost royal. Friends were greeted, and compliments acknowledged by the ton’s reigning beauty. Conversation seemed to still as the viscount and his Clea greeted Lady Jersey and were bathed in that flighty lady’s most gracious smile.
    Tally turned her back and began to speak brightly to the person nearest her, a timid young girl in her first Season. The conversation elicited from this maiden, whose attention was still riveted on the splendid scene taking place beyond Tally’s left shoulder, could not have been described as scintillating—or even coherent, for that matter.
    The orchestra launched into a spirited country dance, and those who had gathered around the celebrated newcomers separated to form sets. Tally swung around again just in time to watch Jonathan take Clea’s slender hand into his own as the pair swung into the lively dance.
    Once again Tally turned away from the enchanting picture, only to find that the shy recipient of her monologue had been whisked away by Lord Mindenhall.
    “Well!” breathed a voice in her ear. “Did you observe the Grand Entrance?”
    Tally’s lips curved in a faint smile. At least there was one other in the room who was not enthralled by Lady Belle’s fairy princess aspect.
    “Oh, Cat. You cannot say she is not the loveliest creature in the room.”
    “No,” replied Cat ruefully, “though it would give me a great deal of pleasure to be able to do so. Come along, Tally, there is someone I particularly want you to meet.”
    The someone proved to be yet another perspiring dandy, who, under Cat’s minatory stare, requested Lady Talitha’s hand for one of her open dances. Then, with an air of one carrying duty to its limits, set off to procure lemonade for the ladies.
    “Cat,” whispered Tally in anguished accents, “this really is not necessary.”
    Cat merely turned upon her a stare of questioning innocence.
    “I mean,” continued Tally, “these—candidates you have been presenting all night. I’m sure they’re all very nice young men, but at the moment I do not require a nice young man. I am perfectly happy as I am.”
    “Nonsense,” returned Cat serenely. “I am merely ensuring that you have a good time tonight. And don’t tell me you’d rather be sitting on a chair discussing the best remedy for chilblains with all the dowagers.”
    “No, but I know you, Cat Thurston. You have matrimony on that scheming mind of yours, and I am not on the lookout for a husband, thank you very much.”
    “Nonsense,” repeated Cat. She smiled, gesturing toward the entrance to the card room.
    “Look, there is Richard. I thought he would never be finished in there.”
    As her husband made his way toward her, he passed Lord Chelmsford and Clea, who, having finished their dance, were recruiting their strength with a champagne cup. Clea bestowed a blinding smile on Richard and reached up on tiptoe to bestow a kiss on his cheek.
    “I didn’t know Lady Bellewood and Richard were so well acquainted,” Tally remarked in some surprise.
    “Oh, yes,” replied Cat with elaborate unconcern. “They have become quite good friends since she and Chelmsford became betrothed.” She gave a high little laugh. “It’s odd, really. Before the betrothal, Richard had little good to say of her. I expect he has come to terms with her for the sake of his friendship with Chelmsford.”
    “Oh,” Tally remarked dubiously, noting the enthusiasm with which Richard returned Clea’s kiss. She was prevented from any further observations by the approach of the little party, which appeared to be in the highest of spirits.
    Clea reached out a

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