The Rake's Ruined Lady - Page 6

With a curse exploding through his gritted teeth Hugh set the horses to a faster pace, exasperated by his maudlin thoughts and the fact that his friend had chosen this morning to remind him that his sister-in-law’s marriage was imminent. Beatrice Dewey was firmly in his past, and Gwen and Sophia, the courtesans he kept in high style, would serve very well for the present. If in need of deeper emotion he could head out to India and spend some time with somebody he’d grown to love...

* * *

‘What do you want?’

‘That’s a nice greeting, I must say.’

‘Are we to pretend I’m pleased to see you?’ Hugh folded the newspaper he’d been reading whilst breakfasting and skimmed it over the crisp damask tablecloth. He lounged into a mahogany chair-back, crossing his arms over the ruffles on his shirt. Sardonically, he surveyed his older brother.

Uninvited, Sir Toby Kendrick pulled out the chair opposite Hugh, seating himself with a flourish of coat-tails. He then stared obstinately at a footman until the fellow darted forward.

‘Coffee—and fill a plate with whatever is over there.’ Toby flicked a finger at the domed silver platters lining the sideboard whilst giving his order. He turned sly eyes on his brother, daring Hugh to object.

The servant withdrew with a jerky bow, a fleeting glance flying at his master from beneath his powdered wig. Hugh gave an imperceptible nod, sanctioning his brother’s boorish demand to be fed.

All of the servants knew—in common with the ton—that Hugh Kendrick and his older brother did not get on.

Sir Toby’s dislike of his younger brother had increased since Hugh’s wealth and standing had eclipsed his own. Toby had relished what he deemed to be his rightful place as loftiest Kendrick. Now he’d been toppled, and in such a teeth-grindingly, shocking stroke of luck for his brother that Toby had been apoplectic when first hearing about it. Knowing that he wasn’t alone in being bitter was no consolation to Toby. His brother was popular, and more people had been pleased than jealous of Hugh’s success.

Their mother and their sister had been overjoyed—no doubt because they’d both benefited from Hugh’s generosity. Toby had received nothing from Hugh other than a bottle of champagne with which to toast his luck. In the event Toby had refrained from smashing the magnum to smithereens on the step and downed the prime vintage at record speed, drowning his sorrows.

‘No broiled kidneys?’ Toby used a silver fork to push the food about on the plate that had just been set before him.

‘I don’t like kidneys,’ Hugh replied. He sat forward in his chair. ‘Neither do I like being disturbed by visitors at his ungodly hour of the day.’ He got to his feet. ‘Are you going to tell me what you want? Or have you just turned up for a free breakfast and the opportunity to try my patience?’

Toby shoved away the plate of untasted splendid food, a curl to his lip. ‘All that cash and you can’t find yourself a decent cook?’ he chortled.

‘As you’ve no appetite, and nothing of moment to say, it’s time you went on your way.’ He addressed the footman. ‘My brother is leaving. Show him out.’ Turning his back on Toby he strolled to the huge windows that overlooked Grosvenor Square, idly surveying the busy street scene.

The servant attempted to conceal his satisfied smirk on springing forward to do his master’s bidding.

‘You’re getting a bit too high and mighty, aren’t you?’ Toby barked, his cheeks florid.

‘Perhaps I spent too long studying you when growing up,’ Hugh drawled over a shoulder.

Toby whacked away the footman’s ushering arm, stomping closer to Hugh. ‘Very well...I have something to discuss,’ he snarled in an undertone.

‘Go ahead; but be brief. I have an appointment with my tailor.’

‘Might we repair to your library and be private?’ Toby suggested sarcastically.

Hugh glanced back at the servants clearing the breakfast things. He sighed. ‘If we must...’ He strode for the door without another word and once in the corridor approached the library at the same exasperated speed.

Toby trudged behind, his footsteps muffled by the luxurious carpet. Inwardly he squirmed at having to come here, cap in hand, and beg his brother for a loan. Not so long ago he had been the one the others in the family came to when in need of cash. It had given Toby immense pleasure to make them dance to his tune for their coins; even his mother had had to humble herself to extract her allowance from him. But now she had no need to because Hugh had provided her with a generous pension—something her dear late husband had omitted to do.

Sir Kenneth Kendrick had relied on his son and heir to provide fairly for his successors, proving that he might have doted on Toby but he had never come to know his eldest son’s true nature.