‘I can’t do that.’ Hugh turned away from his best friend, calling over his shoulder to a footman, who’d remained stoically seated in a shadowy alcove during the fracas, ‘The viscount’s leaving; show him out.’
Elise had hoped that the hostility between her husband and his friend might ease in a day or two, but she was disappointed on that score.
Raising herself up on an elbow and resting her rumpled blonde head into a cupped palm, she watched Alex pulling on his clothes. He’d welcomed her back to his side as he always did, by taking her to bed to make love to her at the earliest opportunity. As soon as his son had been settled in the nursery and his in-laws were safely occupied in unpacking and resting in their chambers Elise had been scooped into his arms and the stairs mounted two at a time.
Following their leisurely pleasure Elise had tried to question Alex about recent upsets, but he’d refused to have Hugh Kendrick’s name mentioned and had stopped her words with a hungry kiss before springing out of bed.
‘I’m off to see Adam in the nursery before going out. What will you and Bea get up to for the rest of the day while I pore over dusty old files with my solicitor?’
‘Mischief...’ Elise rolled onto her back, feeling languid, a smile tilting her mouth as she twirled a finger into the dangling golden fringe of the bed canopy.
‘That I can believe...’ Alex approached the enormous four-poster and leaned over his wife, planting a fist either side of her lissom body. ‘And your intended victim, sweet?’
A finger was placed on her lips, silencing her.
‘We must speak of him, Alex,’ Elise said crossly, sliding free. ‘Papa likes him and is bound to ask after him. How are we to explain away your argument with him?’ She sat up, using both arms to draw her knees beneath her chin. ‘Also, Papa is going after Colin Burnett for the money he owes him.’
Alex sat down on the edge of the bed, sensing his wife’s anxiety. ‘I was unaware of any shortfall. Walter’s not mentioned the debt or asked me to help in the matter.’
Elise sighed. ‘He probably did not want his son-in-law to think him incapable of sorting out his own affairs. You know how independent he is.’ She frowned. ‘I know it wasn’t long ago that my father could not abide Hugh because of the way he’d treated Beatrice. But Papa has his whims, and he thinks that Burnett is now the foe and Kendrick, as he calls him, is his knight errant.’
‘If Walter knew what that gentleman had planned for Beatrice he’d call him out—and me too, for introducing Hugh to his daughters in the first place.’
‘It wasn’t strictly you who was responsible...it was Hugh’s Aunt Edith who made the introduction.’
Alex smiled sourly. ‘I don’t think your father would quibble over details, sweet, he’d just reach for his choice of weapon...’
* * *
‘Stay with me a while longer...please...’
Gwen Sharpe stretched out a hand to the lean contours of a naked male buttock just within reach of a fingertip caress. Her husky plea went unheeded and a pair of buff breeches sheathed the muscled flesh from her touch.
‘Hugh! I want you to get back in bed!’
If Gwen had hoped an authoritative tone might work better than a seductive one she was wrong, but not surprised. She was aware that her hold on this charismatic man was slipping, and whereas once she might have blamed that doxy he kept on the other side of town now she wasn’t so sure that Sophia Sweetman was to blame. Gwen flopped down onto silk sheets, pondering on the identity of the woman who’d caught her lover’s eye.
She knew that a silly little debutante was flirting with him at every opportunity. She’d heard reports of Stella Rawlings even before she’d bumped into the redheaded wench in Oxford Street. Gwen had persuaded Hugh to take her shopping and had looked on, amused, as the chit negotiated several drapery counters to bring herself directly into Hugh’s path. Gwen had seen genuine boredom in Hugh’s face at the unexpected meeting. But he’d courteously exchanged a few words with Stella and her aunt before moving on.
It certainly wasn’t Miss Rawlings stealing him away. He’d an impatient nature and no desire for novices, however willing they were to learn the sensual arts. Gwen rolled onto her stomach, watching as he shrugged his powerful shoulders into a tailcoat then straightened his shirt-cuffs.
Aware of his mistress’s gaze, Hugh turned about and gave her a smile. ‘Do you want to go to the opera later in the week?’
‘Will you have more time to devote to me that evening?’ Gwen asked ruefully.