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Valentine Corbett, the Marquis of Deverill, lifted hisglass. "I see trouble," he murmured, taking a swallowof whiskey.
"Not my husband," Lydia, Lady Franch said, lifting herhead.
"No, he's still ogling Genevieve DuMer." Shifting a little,Valentine could make out Lord Franch's profile nearthe entrance to the gaming room. The elderly Franch's attentionremained steadily on young Miss DuMer's amplebosom as they chatted.
"The oaf." Lydia lowered her head again.
Half closing his eyes, Valentine cupped the back of theviscountess's neck, encouraging her ministrations. Hisgaze, though, returned to the more significant little dramaunfolding 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 aroundher wrist."
Lady Franch's next comment was muffled and tickled alittle, but Valentine assumed it to be a request for more information.Setting aside the whiskey, he slid his fingersalong 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 bobbingbecame more enthusiastic. "I very much doubt thatthe Duke of Melbourne, at the least, approves of his sisteraccepting gifts from a gentleman -- especially in public,and especially from an idiot not deemed worthy to be asuitor."
He tilted his own head back, the antics of his fellowsbecoming less interesting as the motions of Lydia's mouthupon his cock began to produce results. Even as he allowedhimself to go over the edge, though, Valentine kepthis eyes open and his attention on the crowded ballroombeyond their cozy little hideaway. He never closed hiseyes; with the games he enjoyed playing, that would beboth stupid and suicidal.
As Lydia straightened again, he handed her the glass ofwhiskey. "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 histrousers.
"A fact about which I have always been honest."
"One of your few positive qualities."
Valentine returned his attention from the room longenough to lift an eyebrow. "I have at least two positivequalities. And the bosom has found a dance partner, which, I believe, means Franch will be looking for hiswife."
"Yes, with his poor eyesight he likes to have somethingclose by to ogle." She adjusted the barely covered objectsof her husband's adoration. "I'll be at the Beckwith soireeon Thursday," Lydia continued, smoothing the front ofher gown. "They do have that lovely tropical garden."
"And with insufficient illumination, I hear. Perhaps Ishould 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 ballroomfirst.
He leaned against the wall for a moment, looking out atthe drama that had originally caught his attention. LadyEleanor Griffin was being a foolish chit. Not only had shepermitted Priestley to place the bracelet on her wrist, butnow she appeared to be encouraging him to parade herabout in a waltz. Emerging into the large, mirrored ballroom,Valentine glanced at Eleanor's eldest brother. Sebastian,the Duke of Melbourne, continued his conversationwith Lord Tomlin, but Valentine knew him well enough tosee that he wasn't pleased. Hm. Perhaps the evening stillhad a few moments of interest left in it.
Valentine glanced to his left, though he'd already recognizedthe voice. "I assume you're referring to Priestley?"
"He's already been warned." Standing against the backwall of the ballroom, Lord Charlemagne Griffin followedthe meanderings of his younger sister and John Priestleywith 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 afootnote in the society pages."
"A bracelet on my sister's wrist." Charlemagnestraightened. "And I don't care where in damnation weare. I booted him off the front walk last week, and Melbourne'salready bared his teeth at the fortune-hunting idiot.Eleanor knows all of that, as well."
Valentine looked at the pair of dancers again. Honeyedbrunette hair coiled into an artistic knot at the top of herhead and pale green gown swirling about her legs, gracefulLady Eleanor Griffin actually looked more composedthan her dance partner. Her brothers weren't likely to killher, however. Priestley might not be so lucky. "Perhapsyour 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 ofwhiskey. "Complications. They are one of the reasonsI'm happy not to have siblings. I'll see you tomorrow,yes?"
Charlemagne nodded. "Melbourne said he'd asked youby."
With a last glance at Eleanor and Priestley, Valentineheaded for the door. He might be friends with the malemembers of the Griffin family, but becoming involved intheir domestic troubles not only didn't interest him, butleft him with a keen desire to be elsewhere. Especiallywhen he'd heard rumors of a rich game of loo beginningat the Society Club.
As he left, he glimpsed several young ladies followinghim with their eyes. It was something he was used to, and offering the chits a slight smile, he memorized the facesfor future reference. One never knew when one might becomebored 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.
Excerpted from Sin and Sensibility by Suzanne Enoch
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