Duty Before Desire

Duty Before Desire by Elizabeth Boyce Read Free Book Online

Book: Duty Before Desire by Elizabeth Boyce Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth Boyce
lord.”
    Perhaps not in the tea service department, but Sheridan knew perfectly well that Elsa entertained lovers at her home with some degree of regularity, if not in the same numbers as Sheri’s own bed-hopping. Elsa’s honest sensuality was one of the things he admired most about her.
    From the front pocket of his waistcoat, he plucked his quizzing glass. Squinting through it, he made a show of watching the maid work. “Is that hairstyle
meant
to resemble a basket weave, or is it just an unfortunate coincidence?”
    Elsa sighed. “Please see if Cook can scrounge up a mug for Lord Sheridan.” After the maid stalked from the room, her spine ramrod straight with wounded pride, Elsa chided, “Must you antagonize Foster so?”
    Sheridan waved a dismissive hand and leaned back in his chair again. “
Pfft
. She enjoys our little sparring matches. You know, I think she nurtures a bit of a
tendre
for me.”
    “You
would
think so.” Elsa opened a vanity drawer and withdrew a flask, silver inlaid with mother-of-pearl. She tipped a generous measure of clear liquid into her teacup. “You wanted some fortification, Chère. Here it is.” She proffered the flask.
    “Thank you, but I’d prefer to remain conscious, at least until afternoon tea. I’ve a fitting with my tailor at two.”
    Shrugging, she returned the bottle to its hiding place, took a sip of her drink, then adjusted the sash of her rose silk dressing gown. Elsa turned in her seat to face him and patted her knees. “So. What did you do yesterday?” She raised a brow, a teasing smile tugging at her full lips. There were dark circles beneath her glassy eyes, as if she hadn’t gotten enough sleep, despite the advanced hour.
    His right knee rocked side to side while he studied his friend’s shrewd expression.
Hell
. She already knew about the incident in Hyde Park; he’d stake his best pair of gloves on it. Still, he saw no reason to hand over his balls on a silver salver.
    “I had a consultation with my solicitor,” he said. “Asked whether this proposal of Lothgard’s is entirely legal. It turns out, the law holds no opinion whatsoever on disinheriting unmarried brothers.”
    “An unforgivable oversight,” Elsa replied, reaching again for her cup.
    This whole marriage business had Sheri’s guts in knots. He wasn’t cut out for it. He’d never be as religiously devoted to a woman as Lothgard was to Deborah, or as obscenely in love with his spouse as Brandon and Henry were with theirs. If he was to marry, he needed a wife who understood she was getting a bad deal, but would marry him, anyway.
    There was only one such woman in existence.
In Case of Crisis, Wed …
    “Marry me,” he said.
    Elsa snorted.
    “I’m in earnest.” Sheri sat up. “Marry me, Elsa. My only option for keeping my place in my family is marriage, so why not you?”
    At that, her eyes narrowed dangerously. “
Why not me?
What am I, Sheri, the old nag in the stable no one else wanted to ride to the hunt?”
    “No!” He shot to his feet. “No, of course not, Elsa.” He took her hands. “Marry me. We’re friends. We love one another.”
    “As friends,” she clarified, pulling her hands free. “You’ve cracked, dearest. We’d never suit, and you know it.” Turning back to her vanity, she selected a perfume bottle and dabbed fragrance on her neck and wrists. “Now then, if we’re done with that foolishness, finish telling me about your day.”
    Elsa’s quick refusal shouldn’t have surprised him, but it did. While they’d never been lovers, there was an undeniable affection between them, and he’d thought they had a sort of unspoken understanding. Neither of them was inclined to marry, but … well …
In Case of Crisis …
    Sheridan scratched his ear. “I took my supper at home. Lady Tyrrel came ’round.”
    Elsa’s eyes widened. “Her again? Then you enjoyed a better pudding last night than I did, you scoundrel, even though I dined at a duke’s

Similar Books

The Silver Casket

Chris Mould

Sex Symbol

Tracey H. Kitts

Only Everything

Kieran Scott

Vision Revealed

Lorie O'Clare