yet. His eyes scanned the crush of people. “Do you think that heckler hit the mark? Is it possible that Angelo is one of Mr. Fleming’s authors?”
“Anything is possible.”
Jason sighed. “I don’t much relish the idea of threatening a lady.” He squared his shoulders. “I say, Denison, if you find anything out, you
let me know?”
“If you’ll return the favor.” To the question in the young man’s eye, Ash responded, “I have my own reasons for wanting to find out who this Angelo is.”
The interest in Jason’s eyes turned to speculation. “You’re on the case, too?”
“Hardly! I’m curious, that’s all. Well, go on. Investigate. And start with those hecklers. Maybe someone knows them.”
“Right. I was just about to.”
Ash smiled as young Ford began to mingle with the crush of ladies. He looked ill at ease, and Ash found that appealing. Ford, he knew, had not been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Anything he’d got had come to him through his own hard work. Ash admired that in a man.
His gaze shifted to Mrs. Barrymore. She’d lost the little color in her cheeks and was smoothing her brow with her fingertips. He could almost hear her making her apologies as she tried to disengage from the ladies surrounding her. She looked ill.
Someone spoke to him, but Ash brushed him off. A few strides took him to Mrs. Barrymore’s side. “Allow me,” he said, and, ignoring her objections, he cleared a path for her from the crowded dining room through the door and into the spacious front vestibule. No stranger to the Clarendon, Ash guided her to a pretty little alcove with a sofa and two chairs. She took one of the chairs.
“I don’t know what came over me,” she said. “I sensed…” She stopped, looked up at him, and managed a weak smile. “It’s Lord Denison, isn’t it? You’re Lady Amanda’s cousin.”
“And you’re Mrs. Barrymore.” He sat on the sofa, right by her chair. “How do you do?” He gave her one of the gracious smiles for which he was famous—not too admiring, but not shy, either. It didn’t seem to work. She was gazing at him as though he threatened her in some way. Violet eyes, he noted, with pupils dilating in alarm.
His smile disappeared. “Look, are you all right? Would you like me to get you something? Lemonade? Tea? Something stronger?”
“A glass of water would do fine.”
He hailed a passing waiter, asked for a glass of water, and turned to look at her again. Color was returning to her cheeks, but her beautiful violet eyes had turned to gray. A moment before she’d been off balance. Now, her eyes told him, she had herself well in hand.
He said easily, “You said you sensed something?”
“Did I?” She gestured with one hand. “The heat was too much for me. And the crowds. I became dizzy. That’s all it was.”
And he sensed that there was more to it than that. But he was in no position to correct her. “I wouldn’t let those hecklers upset you. The ringleader was a bully, and the others were followers. We won’t be seeing them again.”
“Yes, it was an unpleasant business. A strange business. I don’t know what to make of it. Thank you for your intervention. That was well done.”
The glass of water arrived, and she drank it back as though she’d just been rescued from the Sahara Desert. It came to him that she couldn’t wait to get rid of him and that as soon as she drained the glass, she would shake him off and run for cover.
He was mildly annoyed. Women didn’t take to their heels when he paid them a little attention. And how this country mouse could imagine that he was anything but a gentleman was beyond belief. So he’d stared at her through his quizzing glass. Most women would have been flattered. He wanted to dress her, not undress her. The trouble with Mrs. Barrymore was that she’d been reading too many Gothic romances and was confusing them with real life.
Those lustrous gray eyes, her best feature, were