The Viscount's Rose(10)

By: Meara Platt

They watched as Lily paused to tug on John Farthingale’s arm and drag him toward the private corner where she and Lord Emory were seated. “What’s going on?” her father asked, acknowledging Lord Emory and then tossing a questioning glance at her and Lily.

“Perhaps I can explain,” Lord Emory said, holding out his hand to accept the small pouch from Lily.

At the same time, Rose tried to make light of the matter. “Ha, ha. Funny you should ask, Father.”

“Oh, blast.” He groaned. “What now?”

Lily pointed to the pouch now in Lord Emory’s steady grasp. “Lord Emory has promised to return the… er… um… to the regimental headquarters for me.”

Rose was certain her father gained a new gray hair amid his thick, dark mane. “What’s in the pouch? Lord Emory, may I see it?” He held out his palm and waited for him to hand it over.

Lord Emory sighed. “I suppose you ought to be told.”

He held it out, sparing a mere glance at Rose while her father peered inside. “Merciful heavens,” he said with a groan, his face now red and his expression apoplectic. Rose thought it was a bit of an overreaction. After all, they’d been vexing him for years and he ought to be used to it by now.

He peered into the pouch again as though its contents might miraculously turn into something as unassuming as licorice sticks. Of course, no such miracle occurred. He shook his head and turned to Lord Emory. “You knew about this?”

Rose scrambled out of her chair and hopped on her good foot to defend Nicola’s brother. “We all did. Lord Emory was merely trying to help us out by returning it to its proper place. You ought to be very proud of Lily for telling you about it instead of—” She paused to clear her throat, for she was about to admit that she and Dillie had wanted to conceal the truth from him.

Honestly, the less the elders knew about some of their adventures, the better. “She tried for days to gain your attention, but you and Mother were too busy with all our visiting relatives to pay her any notice. So we were quite grateful when Lord Emory stepped forward to take up the slack.”

Her father ran a hand across the nape of his neck. “One daughter has her workshop blown to bits and the other is determined to demolish our new townhouse.” He turned accusingly toward Dillie. “And what are you up to?”

She cast him an innocent look, her big, blue eyes as round as saucers. “Nothing, Father. I’d never—”

“Spare me,” he said with a sigh. “Lily, you’re to remain confined to your bedchamber for the rest of the week. You ought to know better than to bring something so dangerous into the house.”

Lily tipped her head. “That’s my punishment? Not to leave my room for a week?”

Rose struggled to stifle her grin. Lily dreamed of being left alone to read her scientific tomes, so this confinement would be utter joy for her.

She spared Lord Emory a glance.

He winked at her.

Her heart melted a little more at this shared intimacy. Why did he have to be so appealing?

He tucked the pouch safely into one of his pockets and bowed to her and her father. “I had best return it to the headquarters now. Miss Farthingale, will you tell my sister that I’ll be back in an hour or so to escort her home?”

She nodded. “Certainly. Thank you, my lord.”

The salon seemed to dim the moment he departed, and Rose wished she could disappear upstairs as Lily just had. Their father had meant for Lily’s punishment to commence after this round of afternoon visits, but Lily couldn’t wait to start serving her sentence. She’d been working on a research paper for the Royal Society and was eager to finish it in time for the society’s annual competition.

Rose didn’t have the heart to tell Lily that she’d never be accepted into that male bastion. But who was she to cut short her sister’s dreams when she had artistic dreams of her own and understood the difficulties of a woman being accepted into a man’s domain? It hadn’t stopped her from trying, nor should it stop her sister.

However, she wasn’t stupid. This latest incident with the kiln was an unexpectedly dangerous escalation in Sir Aubrey’s threats. She’d admit defeat for the moment, for her attention had to be on her debut season anyway. But she wasn’t going to let go of her dream. Quite the opposite, she would resume pursuit of it as soon as Nicola’s brother had properly trounced the villain.

Her mother approached, distracting her from her thoughts. “Rose, you shouldn’t be standing. Sit down at once, my dear.”

She dutifully complied.

“Your father told me what’s been going on.” She nibbled her lip in concern and drew a cushioned stool beside Rose’s chair, gently settling Rose’s foot to rest on it. “It’s a wonder you weren’t more seriously injured. How do you feel?”