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Sin and Sensibility
Valentine Corbett, the Marquis of Deverill, lifted his glass. "I see trouble," he murmured, taking a swallow of whiskey.
"Not my husband," Lydia, Lady Franch said, lifting her head.
"No, he's still ogling Genevieve DuMer." Shifting a little, Valentine could make out Lord Franch's profile near the entrance to the gaming room. The elderly Franch's attention remained steadily on young Miss DuMer's ample bosom as they chatted.
"The oaf." Lydia lowered her head again.
Half closing his eyes, Valentine cupped the back of the viscountess's neck, encouraging her ministrations. His gaze, though, returned to the more significant little drama unfolding beyond the gauze of curtains.
Lydia paused again. "What trouble do you see, then?" she asked.
"John Priestley is offering Lady Eleanor Griffin a brace-let of pearls, and she's allowing him to fasten them around her wrist."
Lady Franch's next comment was muffled and tickled a little, but Valentine assumed it to be a request for more information. Setting aside the whiskey, he slid his fingers along the edge of the curtain.
"The two of them are standing in plain view of everyone," he continued, "including all three of her brothers." He sighed, firming his grip on Lydia's head as her bobbing became more enthusiastic. "I very much doubt that the Duke of Melbourne, at the least, approves of his sister accepting gifts from a gentleman -- especially in public, and especially from an idiot not deemed worthy to be a suitor."
He tilted his own head back, the antics of his fellows becoming less interesting as the motions of Lydia's mouth upon his cock began to produce results. Even as he allowed himself to go over the edge, though, Valentine kept his eyes open and his attention on the crowded ballroom beyond their cozy little hideaway. He never closed his eyes; with the games he enjoyed playing, that would be both stupid and suicidal.
As Lydia straightened again, he handed her the glass of whiskey. "I do enjoy waltzing with you, my dear," he said, standing and helping her off her knees.
"Yes, but you enjoy dancing with everyone, Valentine," she returned, finishing off the whiskey as he buttoned his trousers.
"A fact about which I have always been honest."
"One of your few positive qualities."
Valentine returned his attention from the room long enough to lift an eyebrow. "I have at least two positive qualities. And the bosom has found a dance partner, which, I believe, means Franch will be looking for his wife."
"Yes, with his poor eyesight he likes to have something close by to ogle." She adjusted the barely covered objects of her husband's adoration. "I'll be at the Beckwith soiree on Thursday," Lydia continued, smoothing the front of her gown. "They do have that lovely tropical garden."
"And with insufficient illumination, I hear. Perhaps I should try archery."
"Shall I paint a target on myself?"
"I believe I can hit the mark." Stepping sideways, Valentine allowed Lady Franch to reenter the ballroom first.
He leaned against the wall for a moment, looking out at the drama that had originally caught his attention. Lady Eleanor Griffin was being a foolish chit. Not only had she permitted Priestley to place the bracelet on her wrist, but now she appeared to be encouraging him to parade her about in a waltz. Emerging into the large, mirrored ballroom, Valentine glanced at Eleanor's eldest brother. Sebastian, the Duke of Melbourne, continued his conversation with Lord Tomlin, but Valentine knew him well enough to see that he wasn't pleased. Hm. Perhaps the evening still had a few moments of interest left in it.
Valentine glanced to his left, though he'd already recognized the voice. "I assume you're referring to Priestley?"
"He's already been warned." Standing against the back wall of the ballroom, Lord Charlemagne Griffin followed the meanderings of his younger sister and John Priestley with pale gray eyes.
"Then you have to give him a point or two for bravery." Valentine gestured for another glass of whiskey.
The gray gaze flicked in his direction and back again. "For abject stupidity."
"It's just a bracelet, Shay. At a soiree hardly worth a footnote in the society pages."
"A bracelet on my sister's wrist." Charlemagne straightened. "And I don't care where in damnation we are. I booted him off the front walk last week, and Melbourne's already bared his teeth at the fortune-hunting idiot. Eleanor knows all of that, as well."
Valentine looked at the pair of dancers again. Honeyed brunette hair coiled into an artistic knot at the top of her head and pale green gown swirling about her legs, graceful Lady Eleanor Griffin actually looked more composed than her dance partner. Her brothers weren't likely to kill her, however. Priestley might not be so lucky. "Perhaps your sister is staging a little rebellion."
"If she is, it's going to be a short-lived one."
Chuckling, Valentine finished off his new glass of whiskey. "Complications. They are one of the reasons I'm happy not to have siblings. I'll see you tomorrow, yes?"
Charlemagne nodded. "Melbourne said he'd asked you by."
With a last glance at Eleanor and Priestley, Valentine headed for the door. He might be friends with the male members of the Griffin family, but becoming involved in their domestic troubles not only didn't interest him, but left him with a keen desire to be elsewhere. Especially when he'd heard rumors of a rich game of loo beginning at the Society Club.
As he left, he glimpsed several young ladies following him with their eyes. It was something he was used to, and offering the chits a slight smile, he memorized the faces for future reference. One never knew when one might become bored with cards.Sin and Sensibility. Copyright © by Suzanne Enoch. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.