Brenda Hiatt

Brenda Hiatt by Scandalous Virtue Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Brenda Hiatt by Scandalous Virtue Read Free Book Online
Authors: Scandalous Virtue
found herself holding her breath until Clarendon entered to announce Lord Foxhaven. She dared a quick glance as he followed the butler into the room, his beaver under his arm.
    Against the prim formality of Prudence’s drawing room, he appeared more outrageously handsome than ever—and perhaps the slightest bit ill at ease. Prudence’s expression, as she rose gracefully to greet their guest, showed more acute discomfort.
    “How nice to see you again, my lord,” she said stiffly.
    Lord Foxhaven bowed over her hand with perfect propriety. “Lady Creamcroft.” Then, with another bow in Nessa’s direction, “Lady Haughton. I’m honored to have this chance to pay my respects to you both.”
    Nessa bobbed her head in return. “Good morning, my lord.” She kept her voice low, as she had last night, and watched him closely for any sign of flirtation, or of a secret shared.
    It did not come.
    “Pray take a seat, my lord, while I ring for a tray,” suggested Prudence, motioning to a gold and white striped armchair.
    He complied, then made an innocuous comment about the unseasonably fair weather. “So much more pleasant than our usual autumn rains, don’t you agree?”
    Prudence assented with a further comment on the weather and Nessa nodded again, feeling oddly disappointed. This was the scandalous rake her sister had warned her against?
    “You are abroad early, my lord,” Nessa observed. “You must not have kept particularly late hours last night.”
    Prudence cast her a startled glance, and Nessa herself was nearly as shocked at her own boldness. But her eagerness for even a tiny glimpse into a rake’s night life had overset her well-learned reticence. What must it be like, to—?
    “No, I retired shortly after returning from Lady Mountheath’s entertainment. I am finding that late nights do not agree with me so well as they once did.”
    Nessa regarded him suspiciously, but he appeared perfectly serious. Only for the briefest instant did she imagine that she caught a hint of amusement deep in his blue eyes—but whether directed at himself or at her she had no idea.
    “That’s very commendable, Lord Foxhaven,” Prudence said approvingly. “Rationality and restraint generally develop with maturity, I have observed.”
    “Indeed, Lady Creamcroft,” he agreed. “I’ve also found that dissipation, while passingly enjoyable, leaves no lasting reward.”
    Though Prudence’s eyebrows arched ceilingward at even this oblique reference to his purported wildness, Nessa stifled a sigh. Was all his debauchery behind him, then? No doubt she should be pleased, for his sake, but…how very dreary.
    Indeed, he and Prudence seemed to be trying to outmatch each other in moral platitudes. “So I have always been taught, my lord. One need look no furtherthan the Book of Proverbs for numerous examples.”
    With difficulty, Nessa refrained from rolling her eyes at her sister’s words—and wondered at herself. Whence had come this new impatience with propriety? Or…was it so new? Hadn’t she always secretly—so secretly—chafed at the strictures laid upon her? Her chafing was becoming more overt after a year of relative freedom, that was all.
    Lord Foxhaven nodded as sententiously as any octogenarian at Prudence’s moralizing, making Nessa wonder if he could possibly be the same man she had met at the masquerade. Where was the humor that had attracted her?
    As though aware of her thoughts, he turned toward her. “I’m more familiar with the Song of Solomon than with Proverbs, I must confess, but I am willing to be instructed.” The slightest of winks accompanied his words, making Nessa’s pulse flutter unexpectedly. For a moment she found herself drowning in his deep blue gaze.
    A faint gasp from Prudence recalled her abruptly, reminding her that she should be equally shocked at his reference to the one book of the Bible their father had forbidden them to read.
    “Very commendable, my lord.” Nessa managed to

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