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Anger can be an expensive luxury.
Iverson Brentwood was out for blood.
It hadn’t taken him long to locate the address of the person h...
Anger can be an expensive luxury.
Iverson Brentwood was out for blood.
It hadn’t taken him long to locate the address of the person he was looking for. His body tense, he lifted the collar of his greatcoat and stepped down from the comfort of his dry, warm carriage and into the chilling spring rain. Settling his hat lower on his forehead, with keen purpose, his boots splashing the puddles, he walked toward the front door of the elegant house in Mayfair. Banks of cold fog drifted in from the Thames and swirled in the dreary late afternoon air. The one bright spot was a lone light that shone from a front-room window of the place he sought.
Droplets of water fell from the brim of his hat as he stepped under the overhang of the stoop. Unclenching his tight fist, Iverson lifted the heavy door knocker and rapped it quickly a couple of times. The clang seemed to rattle the windowpanes in the house and reverberate down the quiet street. He waited impatiently in the fading light of day as the seconds ticked by, and then rapidly struck the brass plate a few more times.
It was hell being a twin, or so Iverson had thought until he arrived in London and found out hell was actually realizing the man he always thought was his father wasn’t. The easiest thing for him and his brother to do would have been to sail back to Baltimore on the first ship. Instead, he and Matson had decided to keep with their original plan and move to London, and prove to their older brother and the gossipmongers that they weren’t going to hide from anything. And the questioning glances and whispers about their parentage had settled down, until today.
A tall, buxom woman wearing servants’ attire jerked open the door. Her thin, graying brows scrunched together in an irritated line across her forehead, as did her lips on her flat, pinched face. She looked him up and down with peculiar, deep-set brown eyes and then sniffed with annoyance.
“Ye didn’t have to hit the knocker so hard. I’m slow, not deaf, ye know.”
Iverson had never been taken to task by a servant and was momentarily surprised by the woman’s insolent manner. He was in no mood to be hauled over the coals by a peevish maid. But before he could gather his wits and put her in her place, she snapped her large hands to her ample hips, glared at him once again, and said, “What can I do for ye?”
The woman clearly wanted him to know she had better things to do with her time than bother with him. Her surly attitude made him even angrier with her employer. It shouldn’t surprise him that the scoundrel he was after had such a disrespectful servant in his employ. Iverson should have expected it.
Refusing to let go of his temper until he faced his intended prey, Iverson held his offensive retort in check and remained in what he considered a civil attitude. “I’m Mr. Iverson Brentwood here to see Sir Phillip Crisp.”
The servant rolled her eyes beneath puffy lids and lifted her rounded chin as if to dismiss him. “I’m afraid that’s not possible.”
“And why isn’t that possible?” he asked, his ire growing stronger.
“He isn’t here.” She extended her hand, palm up, and added, “I’ll be happy to take your card and give it to him when he—”
“That won’t be necessary,” Iverson answered, assuming this woman’s brusque attitude was merely a ruse to keep people away from Sir Phillip. Iverson wasn’t going to be duped that easily and certainly not by a churlish servant who didn’t know her place. He swept off his dripping hat and laid it in her outstretched hand. “I’ll stay until the man returns.” He then stepped past her and entered the well-appointed, dimly lit vestibule, unbuttoning his damp greatcoat as he went.
Sharp disapproval flashed across her face. “What are ye doing? Ye can’t just come in here without an invitation.”
Iverson had no quarrel with the woman, but he was tired of her disagreeable manner. He gritted his teeth, scowled, and said, “On the contrary, madam, I can, and I just did.” He draped his wet coat across her extended arm. “I intend to see Sir Phillip before I leave this house today.”
“But I don’t know when he’s returning,” she barked, clearly outraged.
Her shrill voice grated on Iverson’s ears, but if he had to endure the noise of the banshee in order to get to Sir Phillip, so be it. Anger burned in his chest, and he would not be put off so easily.
“That won’t be a problem,” Iverson said, peeling his well-fitted leather gloves from his hands and plopping them on top of his hat. “I’ll wait. No doubt he’ll be here by supper time, or for sure bedtime.”
“Excuse me, sir.”
At the sound of the softly spoken feminine voice, Iverson turned and saw one of the loveliest ladies he’d ever beheld. She was tall, graceful, and beautiful. Thick and shiny chestnut-colored hair was attractively arranged on top of her head, leaving nothing to distract from the lovely shape of her face, the slender column of her neck, or her gently rounded shoulders. She was dressed in a modest, pale-lilac gown that suited her ivory coloring perfectly. The high waist of her frock fit snugly under the fullness of her breasts, causing Iverson to take a second glance. There was a distinctly wholesome quality about her that immediately caught his eye, and Iverson was instantly drawn to her.
His hot anger toward Sir Phillip Crisp started cooling.
She stopped a short distance from him, but he saw no fear in her delicate features—in fact, just the opposite was true. She seemed confident, very much in command of herself and unruffled by the situation she was confronting. With deliberate concentration, he watched her and couldn’t help but wonder about her connection to Sir Phillip: daughter, sister, mistress, or wife?
She looked suspiciously at him and said, “I must ask who you are and why you are frightening Mrs. Wardyworth.”
There was a slight tilt to her head and lift to her shoulders that immediately let him know she was challenging him. Her bright green eyes blazed with more questions than she had asked. The firm set to her gorgeous lips insisted he state his case without delay or face her judgment.
Iverson knew the polite thing was to introduce himself, but for the life of him, the only thing that came to mind was to say, “Frightening her?” He glanced around to the peevish servant smugly watching him. “No man, woman, or beast could frighten her. I doubt Napoleon’s army in their heyday could have terrified this ill-mannered harpy.”
“Did ye hear what he called me, missy?”
Keeping her imperious demeanor, the young lady turned to the woman and calmly said, “Yes, Mrs. Wardyworth, I heard.”
“The bugaboo insisted on coming inside. Brushed right past me as if I weren’t standing right in the doorway, he did.”
Iverson couldn’t believe his ears. Had the servant called him a bugaboo right in front of her mistress?
“I understand. I’ll handle this now. Why don’t you have Nancy make you a cup of tea?”
Mrs. Wardyworth sniffed again. “I think I’ll do that. Would ye like for her to make a cup for ye, too?”
“That would be lovely.”
Mrs. Wardyworth smiled sweetly at the lady and then looked down at Iverson’s coat, hat, and gloves in her hands as if she didn’t have the faintest idea what to do with them.
“Let me take those from you,” the young woman said and lifted the damp things from the servant and laid them on a nearby table.
“Thank you, missy,” she said. “You always know exactly what to do.”
Mrs. Wardyworth glowered at Iverson as she turned and lumbered down the corridor. He had never seen a servant be so openly rife with impudence to a guest and not be thoroughly chastised by her employer.
Iverson grunted a laugh that rumbled softly in his throat as he slowly shook his head. He looked at the poised lady before him and said, “I’ve heard of pampering the help, but I don’t believe I’ve ever witnessed it in such dramatic fashion until just now.”
Her eyes narrowed, and she looked at him intently. “Then you are by far a richer man for having seen how a few kind words can brighten a person’s day and lift their spirits.”
Iverson was near speechless again. Not only was the servant surly, now he was being chastised by this unflappable, overly self-confident lady. What kind of household did Sir Phillip have?
“Is that so?” Iverson quipped, not wanting to be scolded by such a delectable-looking female. “Then please tell me why my pockets don’t feel any heavier.”
A hint of a smile twitched at one corner of her mouth. “I wasn’t referring to money, and you well know it. Now, tell me, what can I do for you, Mr.—?” Her light green gaze slowly swept down his face to settle on his lips.
A flash of awareness tightened his chest and quickened his lower body as she looked at his mouth, letting her attention linger there for much longer than necessary. “Brentwood,” he said and swallowed hard. He wasn’t sure he liked being attracted to her. “Mr. Iverson Brentwood.”
Her gaze flew back up to his eyes in a brief moment of panic, and he would have sworn he saw her swallow hard, too. No doubt she had read or at least heard about the rubbish that blasted poet, Sir Phillip, had written about Iverson and his twin brother’s arrival in London. And if that had been all the man had written, Iverson might have been inclined to overlook it or even laugh it off, as Matson had suggested they do, but there was no way he could let pass the slur it cast on his mother.
That had Iverson fighting mad. His mother was no longer alive to defend herself, and he wouldn’t let anyone besmirch her memory and get away with it.
Iverson had a feeling Sir Phillip would be as easy to control as Lord Waldo Rockcliffe. Shortly after Iverson arrived in London, the Duke of Rockcliffe’s youngest brother had the gall to ask him why he and his brother looked so much like Sir Randolph Gibson, given he wasn’t their father. The answer Iverson gave him was a quick punch that left him with a black eye for a few days. Lord Waldo had never mentioned the subject again, and neither had anyone else. That one unplanned cuff had put a stop to much of the churning gossip, until today, with the publication of the parody A Tale of Three Gentlemen.
It wasn’t that Iverson had enjoyed or wanted to hit Lord Waldo. In fact, it was distasteful to him. It was a gut reaction. Only later did Iverson realize if he had let Lord Waldo get away with asking such a personal question, others would follow suit, and before long, his family would have been the laughingstock of London. Once again, his honor dictated he quell anyone else’s tendency to ask probing questions or write unforgiving humor about his parentage.
Iverson was determined to put the rumors, gossip, and ill-mannered remarks back in the closet where they belonged by scaring the devil out of Sir Phillip. Everyone had to know there would be a price to pay for making comments or writing about something that was none of their concern.
“I see you recognize my name,” he said, his simmering anger at Sir Phillip rising again.
“It would be difficult not to.”
“No doubt because you read Sir Phillip’s claptrap in The Daily Herald today?”
Her delicately arched brows raised a fraction. Her shoulders lifted ever so slightly before she pinned him with an intense stare. “Mr. Brentwood, I heard your name shortly after you arrived in London last fall, as did anyone who stepped inside a ladies’ parlor, a gentleman’s club, or the gaming hells near the wharf. Surely I don’t have to tell you that by now the name Brentwood has been whispered in every taproom and manor house in London.”
Iverson’s breath caught in his throat. She was absolutely stunning when her feathers were ruffled, and he had obviously done that by denigrating Sir Phillip’s writings. He’d never met a young lady who was so bold. He didn’t mind that she hadn’t pulled her punch or shied away from the cold, hard truth, but instead threw an insult right back into his face. She certainly had backbone and wasn’t afraid to let him know it. That made her extremely attractive to him. He had never cared for the timid, retiring wallflower. He didn’t know that he’d ever met anyone—let alone a lady—who had the nerve or fire to take him on and give him such a face-to-face dressing down.
He chuckled to cover his admiration for her courage and his slight discomfort at the veracity of her words. He gave her a perfunctory nod. “Gossip does travel fast and long, especially when it’s salacious.”
Assuming she had gotten the better of him, at least for the time being, she relaxed her shoulders. Another hint of a smile played around the corners of her attractive mouth and Iverson found it very inviting. In fact, much to his immediate distraction, there wasn’t much about her he didn’t find greatly appealing.
“Quite frankly, Mr. Brentwood, I didn’t know there was any other kind.”
Her admission reminded him that the poet was often in the gossip columns, too. In just the few months Iverson had been in London, he’d known of Sir Phillip’s name being linked to a married actress, a widowed countess, and a madame by the name of Shipwith.
“Tell me, who you are?” he asked.
Pride shone in her sparkling eyes, and her feminine chin lifted another notch. “Miss Catalina Crisp. I am Sir Phillip’s daughter, and his only child.”
Iverson didn’t know why, but he felt a sense of relief she wasn’t Mrs. Crisp, but he sure as hell wasn’t happy this beautiful and enticing young lady was Sir Phillip’s offspring. She was, by far, the most intriguing person he’d met since coming to London.
Shortly after his arrival, Iverson had been introduced to her father, and he’d seen the man at several parties during the winter, though surprisingly, his daughter had never been with him. Sir Phillip wasn’t at all like the pompous poet Lord Snellingly, who was an irritating fop, demanding attention from everyone and constantly wanting some poor soul to listen to him recite his dreadful poetry. Sir Phillip enjoyed the ladies. He was always talking, laughing, or dancing with a lady. In fact, the few times Iverson had been around him, he didn’t think he’d even heard the man mention his poetry. He didn’t have to, because his poetry was actually good.
Unlike Keats, who had recently been ridiculed in The Examiner as a “complete failure,” and by Blackwood’s Magazine as an “unsettled pretender who had no right to aspire to poetry,” Sir Phillip was constantly being lauded and praised for his poetic genius. Iverson certainly had no reason to think the man would ever write a parody about him and his twin brother.
Clearing his throat and his thoughts, Iverson said, “In that case, Miss Crisp, I would like to speak with your father.”
“My father is not here.”
“Yes, your maid told me he was gone,” he muttered under his breath and rubbed the back of his neck in frustration. “And as I told her, I’ll wait for him to return.”
She gave him an understanding smile. “First, Mrs. Wardyworth is my housekeeper, not my maid. And second, my father has been gone almost a week. If you plan to stay until Papa returns, you will have to take up residence, and I’m afraid I can’t allow that, because it would shred my reputation.”
“On that point I will agree with you.” Iverson took in a deep breath. “So tell me, when is he expected back?”
“Sir, I can’t possibly tell you what I don’t know.”
“And if you don’t know,” Iverson echoed, “then how can you be certain he won’t return tonight?”
“I’m not.” She looked thoughtful for a moment before adding, “There are times when my father simply packs his trunks and follows his dreams and his muse. It often keeps him away for days at a time, but whatever road he takes, it eventually leads him back home. Perhaps you could check again in a few days to see if he has returned.”
That gathering storm of anger rose in him again. Iverson wanted to see her father now and put a death scare in him so he wouldn’t have any desire to print more of that sensational, obnoxious, and completely false drivel about his family.
“No, no, Miss Crisp.” Iverson shook his head impatiently. “I’m afraid that answer is not good enough.”
She sighed softly, folded her hands together in front of her and pleasantly said, “I don’t know where he is, so I don’t know what more I can do for you.”
A wave of sweet anticipation swept over Iverson, and his lower body hardened. Iverson knew exactly what she could do for him. He had an intense desire to pull her into his arms, press her soft breasts against his chest, and kiss her delectable lips. Impulsively, he took a step toward her with that in mind, but the reality of what he was about to do raced through him like a wild fire through dry brush, and he stopped just as he went to reach for her.
What was he thinking?
Kissing her would be madness.
Iverson was treading on unfamiliar ground here. He’d never been so enchanted by such a strong and determined young lady. She was the daughter of the devilish man he came to turn into mincemeat. The last thing he needed to do was kiss her inviting lips. Iverson had done some rash things in his lifetime, but thankfully, someone was watching over him just now and stopped him from creating even more scandal. It was enough of a thorn in his side that he found her immensely attractive.
Emptying his mind of wayward thoughts, he said, “There is a lot you could do for me, Miss Crisp.” He stopped and cleared his throat and his thoughts again. “But I’ll not mention what that is, because even though I’m not always a perfect gentleman, as you no doubt have noticed, I’m the last person to want to take the shine off your pristine reputation.”
Another knowing smile played on her lips. “I’m sure you have done plenty of that to innocent young ladies in your time.”
He started to let her remark go unanswered and not say more on the subject but realized he couldn’t let her have the last word. The temptation to best her was just too thrilling. Besides, there was a reason he was the aggressive twin in the Brentwood’s Sea Coast Ship Building Company, and his brother, Matson, always the peacemaker. They had set up their business that way years ago, and it had served them well, playing off each other as the good brother and the bad brother.
Some habits were just too damn hard to break.
“To a number of ladies, I’ll admit, but to none who weren’t willing.”
“And no doubt you still have a few of them waiting in line for a chance to be the one who conquers the heart of the Rake of Baltimore.”
She won’t give up.
“Actually, yes, I do. And coming from you, Miss Crisp, I’ll take that comment as a compliment that you even know that much about me.”
“As I said before, it would be hard not to have heard or read about you and your two brothers.”
“Yes, but for now, let’s get the subject back to your father. Surely, at the very least, you know if he’s in London.”
“My father never tells me where he is going.”
A smile fluttered the corners of her mouth again. He was amusing her, and rather than it irritating the hell out of him as it should, for some reason he couldn’t fathom, he enjoyed it. Being tall and broad in the shoulders, his size alone intimidated most people, but it was clear Miss Crisp didn’t have an ounce of fear in her. She was strong, seductive, and every ounce his equal. Iverson didn’t know how a man who could spew such garbage from his fingertips could have spawned a daughter as lovely and captivating as Miss Crisp.
“Sir Phillip’s daily poetry column still continues to appear in The Daily Herald each morning. His… story, if anyone can call it that, A Tale of Three Gentlemen, just came out in today’s newsprint, so he has to be nearby.”
“Your guess is as good as mine on that. However, I will tell you that the daily poetry is often sent in weeks in advance, and the piece you referenced was turned in several days ago.”
“So you have read it?”
She hesitated, and he wondered why. It was an easy yes or no answer.
“It doesn’t change the fact I don’t know where my father is or that he has no control over when his writings are published. The scheduling of his printed work is always at the pleasure of the publisher.”
Iverson folded his arms across his chest in a nonchalant manner before saying, “Perhaps your father ran off to Scotland like Keats did when The Examiner vilified him a year or two ago.”
Miss Crisp tilted her head back defiantly. “My father’s work is praised and respected by his peers, and he has never been vilified by his critics.”
“No? Then maybe he’s absent because one of his colleagues slandered him. Keats was certainly upset when Lord Byron referred to an article about him and his being ‘snuffed out’ as a poet.”
He watched anger fly across her face. Her back bowed with indignation, and he thought he’d finally found her breaking point, but almost just as quickly, he watched in awe as her lovely, calm countenance returned quietly and without her fury erupting. Somehow she had managed to compose herself and not express her outrage over his damning words. Iverson could take a lesson or two from her on how to do that.
“You know your poets, Mr. Brentwood. I’m duly impressed by your knowledge.”
“Compliments of my mother.” Iverson smiled as he fondly remembered his mama and the many winter nights she sat her sons before the roaring fire and placed a book in their hands. “She was a firm believer in being well read and saw to it that her sons were, too. She was always quoting someone. She didn’t care if it was Shakespeare, Lord Byron, or the Bible, and poetry was always her favorite reading.”
“She’s to be commended on your education in the literary arts.”
“Yes, she is,” he said softly, feeling a sudden sense of grief. “I didn’t see her often in the last few years of her life, but she was a sweet, beautiful woman. She doesn’t deserve to be characterized in print as a fallen woman for a fleeting fling of passion that happened almost thirty years ago.”
Compassion quickly filled her eyes, and she took a swift step toward him. “Mr. Brentwood, I want you to know that my—”
Miss Crisp paused and stepped back when, at the rattle of cups and saucers, Iverson glanced down the corridor. The tallest woman he had ever seen was coming toward them, carrying a tray she held balanced in one hand and holding a cane to help her walk with the other. She was gangly, with slightly hunched shoulders. Her large, bulging eyes stared directly at him, and she wore a wide, giddy grin.
“Mrs. Wardyworth was right, missy,” the woman said as she approached. “I see you do have a gentleman caller, but by the dead saints, she didn’t tell me what a handsome, tip-top man he is.”
“No, Nancy,” Miss Crisp said too quickly, her gaze glancing from Iverson to the servant. “You must have misunderstood her. The gentleman is here to see Papa, not me.”
“Nonsense, missy,” she said, stopping in front of Miss Crisp and leaning heavily on the cane. “You know that can’t be true. Your papa’s not here.”
“Yes, that’s just what I was telling Mr. Brentwood. Papa is not here.”
Nancy continued to smile at Iverson and look directly into his eyes as if she were mesmerized by him. If he didn’t know better, he’d think the woman was infatuated with him.
She held the tray perfectly steady as she leaned against the cane. “Oh, don’t mind that, missy. It’s perfectly fine for him to use your father as an excuse to come see you. That’s what a true gentleman who wants to court you would do.”
Momentarily flustered, Miss Crisp shook her head and said, “Here, Nancy, let me take that tray from you. It’s heavy.” She turned to Iverson and said, “May I offer you a cup of tea before you go on your way, Mr. Brentwood?”
The tightness in her voice and stern set to her full lips let him know the offer was made merely out of politeness, and she didn’t want or expect him to accept. It was on the tip of his tongue to be chivalrous, oblige her, and decline, but unlike his twin brother, he had never been known for always doing the right thing.
Iverson wasn’t quite ready to leave Miss Crisp. It wasn’t something he could revel in, of course, but he was intrigued by Sir Phillip’s daughter. With her, he believed he’d met his match. He wanted to know more about this lady who stood up for her father with such vigor, allowed her servants more latitude than would be accepted by anyone else of means, and had the audacity to tell him to his face his name had been dragged through every respectable home and snickered about in every tavern in London.
He was more than happy to spend a few more minutes in her company. So for now, he would put aside what he wanted to say to her father, and even though he didn’t care a fig for the taste of tea, he would take advantage of her “slip of the tongue” and accept her invitation.
Iverson gave her what he hoped was his most charming smile and said, “Yes, thank you, Miss Crisp. I believe I would like a cup before I go.”
Her mouth rounded in surprise. He relaxed. At last, for the first time since he knocked on the door, he felt he had the upper hand, and it felt damn good.
“Allow me to take that tray from you,” he said, using some of the same words she had spoken to the servant. “It’s heavy.”
She bristled perceptibly and sucked in a long breath. He took hold of the tray, but she didn’t release it.
“No, I can’t allow you to do that,” she said, doing her best to pull the tray from his grasp.
“Of course you can,” he said. “I insist.”
The cups rattled in their saucers as the tray shifted between them. Iverson wouldn’t let go and neither would she. He could see she was more than mildly miffed at him for accepting, and was searching her mind, trying to find a polite way to uninvite him. Iverson sensed vulnerability in her. For a moment, that rare glimpse softened him, and he thought about letting go, but only briefly.
Iverson admired her show of determination, when she finally accepted defeat genially and let go of the tray.
She stepped back, and with a graceful lift to her shoulders and chin, politely said, “Very well. In that case, follow me.”
“Should I go with you, missy?” the affable servant asked while keeping her smiling gaze locked on Iverson.
“That won’t be necessary, Nancy. Don’t worry, Mr. Brentwood won’t be staying long at all.”
Iverson followed Miss Crisp down the corridor and into a spacious drawing room. She quickly removed scattered pages of newsprint from an oval pedestal table that stood between a gold-colored, brocade-covered settee and two large, tufted-back armchairs.
He glanced around as she handled her task. It wasn’t the most fashionably decorated drawing room he’d seen in London but certainly bigger than most. There was a low-burning fire in the fireplace, and he smiled to himself, thinking it wasn’t nearly hot enough to take the chill off Miss Crisp’s disposition.
A lamp had been lit on the desk portion of a finely polished mahogany secretary. It, too, was littered with newsprint, papers, ink jars, and quills. Over the fireplace hung a gilt-framed, large piece of aged parchment that had something written on it. The ends of the paper were rolled like a scroll, and the writing was elaborately styled with swirls, sweeps, and curly lettering throughout. Iverson harrumphed to himself. No doubt it was some long and well-received poetry written by the master of the house. He could see the man displaying his work in such a boastful manner in his own home.
Obviously, Sir Phillip was better off in his pockets than most poets. His house was larger than many of the homes in Mayfair, so it had to cost him a fortune to keep it and all the servants required to maintain it superbly.
Iverson placed the tray on the cleared table and looked at Miss Crisp. She motioned for him to take a chair.
“After you,” he said.
She sat on the settee, not letting her back touch the plush cushion behind her, and began pouring the tea. Iverson leaned back in the upholstered chair and made himself comfortable. He watched her delicate hands as they held the china pot. Her fingers were slim and her nails neatly trimmed. Suddenly he imagined her hands gently gliding across his bare shoulders and down his naked chest. He had a sudden urge to lift her fingers to his lips and tenderly kiss each one.
When she extended the cup to him, her gaze met his and held. He wondered if she had any idea where his thoughts had wandered. Iverson knew when a woman was aware of him, not only as a man but also as an object of her desire. And Miss Crisp had that look. He had never minded it, and certainly not with this lady. He took the tea and was certain she saw in his eyes he wanted something far different from her than tea.
“You looked deep in thought for a moment, Mr. Brentwood.”
Oh, yes, she knew where his mind had been.
“Somewhat,” he admitted and cleared his throat. Wanting to get back to the reason for his presence, Iverson asked, “Where exactly does your father usually go when searching for his muse?”
She smiled. “I said he follows it, not that he searches for it.”
He acknowledged her correction with a nod. “Pardon me. Where does he usually go when he follows it?”
A wistful expression stole over her face. Iverson caught another quick glimpse of vulnerability in her, and for a brief moment, he had a desire to protect her.
“I have no idea, for I’ve never been with him. I stay here and take care of the house and the staff.”
He gave her a genuine smile. “Yes, I would say you definitely take care of the staff. Tell me, why is it that I haven’t seen you at any parties I’ve attended?”
“I have no idea why you haven’t seen me,” she said softly. “I was at several this past winter.”
She shifted her cup and saucer to her other hand and lowered her long, velvety lashes as if she didn’t want him to see her true feelings. For the second time, he had the feeling she was hiding something. Outwardly, she appeared strong and capable, but instinct told him that inside, she was feeling far differently. Something troubled her.
Again he wondered if she was hiding her father’s whereabouts, but her servants seemed to back up her claim that the man was gone.
And why did the thought of her hiding anything intrigue him so? No doubt because most young ladies he’d been acquainted with in Baltimore, and the ones he’d met since coming to London, enjoyed talking about themselves. It was easy to grow weary of a young lady constantly telling him how adept she was at running a household, how talented she was on the pianoforte, or how she had been praised for her stitchery.
As if feeling a little guilty about her short answer, she added, “I do tend to arrive early at a party and leave early.”
“That must be the reason we’ve never met. I usually arrive late and stay late. So will you be attending parties when the Season starts?”
“Yes, my father will probably insist that I make some of them, but there are so many, it would be impossible to make them all.” She cleared her throat and asked, “Is your tea to your liking, Mr. Brentwood?”
Iverson took the hint that she didn’t want to talk about herself and looked down at the cup he hadn’t touched. There was a small tart of some kind on the side of the saucer. He decided it might make the tea tolerable.
“Quite,” he said and popped the small refreshment into his mouth. It was very tasty.
“Mr. Brentwood, why don’t we put an end to this idle chitchat, and you tell me what it is you want from my father.”
His eyes searched hers before he said, “I don’t think I should do that, Miss Crisp.”
He grimaced, remembering why he had come over. The anger he had felt for the slander to his mother’s memory. “What I intended to say was for your father’s ears and not yours.”
“But I am here, and he isn’t. I’m somewhat familiar with my father’s business dealings. I may be able to help you.”
Should he tell her the truth? He was tempted.
Whether or not he was a gentleman, she was a lady. He was in her home. He had probably already shocked her enough for one afternoon.
“Please, Mr. Brentwood. I insist you tell me why you seem so desperate to see my father.”
Iverson tensed. Miss Crisp could get his back up faster than anyone else ever had, and that included both his brothers.
“You appear that way to me. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone quite as determined as you to see my father.”
Suddenly he was really tempted to tell her why he was there.
There was a reason he was called the Rake of Baltimore by the city’s social elite. When he first came to London, Iverson was determined to shed his image of the bad twin, but Lord Waldo had taken the rose off that stem a week after Iverson had hit Town. At that point, it appeared there was no hope to change his image or to be seen as refined and even tempered as Matson. Furthermore, Miss Crisp just seemed to be daring him to shock her. What would this beautiful, self-assured young lady do if he told her the truth?
There was only one way to find out.
He set his cup and saucer on the silver tray and leaned toward her. “All right, since you insist. I intend to grab him by the neckcloth and tell him if he writes another word about my mother or my brother, I’ll break his fingers so he won’t be able to write anything for a long, long time.”
Miss Crisp gasped.
“An enjoyable read.” - Historical Novels Review
“Sensual, charming and touching... 4 Stars” - RT Book Reviews
“An enjoyable read.” - Historical Novels Review
“Sensual, charming and touching... 4 Stars” - RT Book Reviews
Length: 6.875 in
Width: 4.1875 in
Weight: 5.92 oz
Page Count: 352 pages