Three Times the Scandal

Three Times the Scandal by Madelynne Ellis Read Free Book Online

Book: Three Times the Scandal by Madelynne Ellis Read Free Book Online
Authors: Madelynne Ellis
façade of Dovecote’s townhouse was that it had seen a woman’s touch. There were traces of her presence scattered through the hall and drawing room—curiously feminine ornaments, embroidered pictures and a scrapbook of pressed flowers displayed upon the sideboard, but no obvious indication of who she was, and no overt sense that she was still here. It was as if she had simply vanished.
    Since Fortuna was used to the clutter of a large family, the drawing room seemed both cavernous and empty with only the five of them huddled around the fireplace. She and Lady Darleston sipped cups of tea provided by Dovecote’s bristly, if efficient man. This was not at all what she’d expected. She was under no illusion that she’d run into the night with three wolves, who given the opportunity would probably devour her. Curiously, the prospect of that happening didn’t frighten her. It intrigued her more than anything, but they all seemed too reluctant to act, their gazes constantly darting back and forth from one to another. Fortuna, in turn, found her gaze straying towards the woman whose presence had so changed the mood of the little band.
    Lady Darleston, had a pleasantly oval face, but her blush and smile were both painted on, and although her words were pleasant, there was something savage about her eyes.
    “ Why are you here?” Darleston towered over his wife. She sat closest to the fireplace—the ruling matriarch.
    “ Is it such an inconvenience that I wish to spend time with my husband?” She cast a sly glance at Fortuna as she spoke, and for a moment their eyes met. Fortuna immediately pictured her in the park the following day, wrapped up against the cold in a crested barouche, spreading word of her whereabouts to the other society matrons.
    “ If I wanted your company, Lucy, I’d request it.” Darleston dropped his brandy glass into the hands of Dovecote’s servant and swept out of the room.
    Lucy responded with a theatrical sigh, and gave a delicate shake of her head. “I see neither of you gentlemen is prepared to defend me. It pleases him to be spiteful. It’s a disgrace that he even attempts to leave me behind like that.”
    “ It was hardly leaving you behind,” Giles remarked, staring at the door through which Darleston had departed. “You do live there.”
    “ I reside there, Giles. Live implies there is something beside boredom to be had within those walls.”
    Giles stretched his long legs and crossed to the sideboard. “Please, save your breath, no sob stories. I’m sure the arrival of the new countess has provided you with endless opportunities for entertainment, without you needing to intrude upon ours.”
    “ That is where you are mistaken.” Her voice dropped to a breathy sigh. “I’m here because what I want is here. Surely Miss Allenthorpe will not deny me the pleasure of one gentleman’s company when she has three at her disposal?”
    Giles hushed Fortuna with the tick of his fingertip before she had a chance to respond. “Come,” he said, and taking her hand, drew her into the hallway. “There is no point in rising to her bait. Best we simply humour her, least she becomes even more spiteful. She has what she wants now.”
    Fortuna frowned. “Didn’t she want Lord Darleston?” They’d left Lady Darleston with Neddy.
    Giles shook his head. “Pay her no regard. Come, I’ll show you the guest room.” He slipped his hand into hers.
    Fortuna’s heart found its way into her throat as he led her upstairs. She’d trodden a similar path with Pennerley to his bedchamber and lost her innocence as a result. She couldn’t lose it twice, but that didn’t quell her nervousness. Nor did it mean she had to make the same mistake twice. She’d given her virginity to Pennerley having conceived of some ninny notion that the attraction between them ran both ways. In truth she’d been no more than a passing diversion for the handsome marquis, who instead of offering for her hand, had

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