The Dangerous Lord Darrington(10)

By: Sarah Mallory

‘My dear sir, I am no schoolroom miss! I have heard much worse from my husband and my brother, I assure you. We must give him some laudanum,’ she decided. ‘Can you support his shoulders, my lord?’

The earl proved himself surprisingly useful in a sickroom, using his strength to gently raise his friend while Beth administered the drug. He continued to hold him up while Beth turned the pillows and straightened the covers. Soon Mr Davies was growing calmer again as the laudanum began to take effect and Beth could return to her seat. She wondered if the earl might retire now, but instead he sat down again. Neither of them spoke, yet the silence was not uncomfortable. It was surprisingly companionable sitting together, listening to the steady, rhythmic breathing of the man in the bed and Beth did not wish to break the spell. Her eyelids drooped and she dozed.

It was some time later that Beth woke and noticed that the earl’s bedside candle had burned itself out and the fire was reduced to glowing ash. She reached for the poker, but the earl forestalled her.

‘Allow me.’

She sat back in her chair and watched him as he knelt before the fire, stirring up the embers before building it up with small logs from the basket. He was still wearing the embroidered waistcoat she had found for him. The strings had been pulled tight across the back to make it fit and the white sleeves of his shirt billowed out, accentuating the wide shoulders that she knew lay beneath the soft linen. His movements were quick and assured and he soon coaxed the fire into a blaze. Beth gazed at his face as he sat back on his heels and regarded his handiwork. He had a handsome profile, she decided. The straight nose and sculpted lips would not have looked amiss on a Greek statue, although the heavy black brows and the line of his jaw were a little too strong to be called classical.

He turned his head at that moment and she found herself unable to look away, her gaze locked with his rather hard grey eyes. A presentiment of danger swept over her. She had become far too complacent; it was the middle of the night and they were the only beings awake in this twilight world. Her throat dried. There was a distant cock crow somewhere outside the window.

‘The servants will be stirring soon.’ Her voice sounded strained. ‘Perhaps you should retire, my lord.’ His brows rose and she went on, ‘I know one should not listen to gossip, but I am well aware of your reputation, my lord. We subscribe to the London Intelligencer…’

‘Ah. That explains a great deal.’

She heard the dry note in his voice and added quickly, ‘I am aware that much of what they write is untrue. No one knows better than I—however, it is not wise to be alone.’

‘But we are not—we have Davies here as our chaperon, after all.’

A twinkle of amusement banished the harsh look in his eyes and she found herself responding with a smile.

‘So we have, my lord. But there are some hours yet until breakfast and you should get some rest. You need not be anxious for me,’ she added quickly. ‘My maid is coming to relieve me shortly.’

‘Then if there is nothing else I can do for you, I shall return to my room.’ He stood up.

Intimidated by him towering over her, Beth rose, but even when she drew herself up her eyes were only level with his mouth. She was momentarily distracted by the curve of his lips and the tiny lines on each side of his mouth, indicative of laughter. An entertaining companion. The thought occurred to Beth and was instantly dismissed. She had no time for such luxuries.

‘Thank you, my lord, for your assistance.’

‘It was my pleasure, ma’am.’

With a slight bow he left the room. As soon as the door closed Beth was aware of a chill of loneliness wrapping itself around her.

Chapter Four

Lady Arabella did not believe in the modern notion of nuncheon and it was usually close to noon before she left her apartments to break her fast. By that time Beth had normally been up for hours and busy with her household duties, but after a night keeping watch in the sickroom she had slept the early morning away and was roused by her maid coming to tell her that Dr Compton had arrived to see his patient.

The hour was therefore quite advanced by the time Beth made her way to the breakfast table. Lord Darrington was already there and appeared to be upon the very best of terms with his hostess. They were bandying names unfamiliar to Beth as she came in and she heard her grandmother sigh.

‘Of course I never go to town now and most of my old friends have passed on, so I am no longer in touch with the world.’

‘Nonsense, Grandmama,’ said Beth bracingly. ‘Sophia and I read the London papers to you every day!’

Hot Read

Last Updated


Top Books