The Viscount's Rose(5)

By: Meara Platt

Lord Emory, who was still kneeling beside her, arched an eyebrow and looked up at her, his expression a mix of cynicism, tender indulgence, and something else she didn’t quite recognize. Whatever it was, it made her heart beat a little faster. “So you’ve told me three times already, Miss Farthingale.”

“Well, he is.” In truth, Lord Emory had taken excellent care of her, his medical knowledge obviously learned in the midst of battle, which only made her like him all the more for the attentive care he must have given the soldiers under his charge. He was smart and brave, and now that he’d wiped the grime off his face she could see that he was irresistibly handsome. His dark blond hair fell in thick waves almost to his shoulders, and the appealing glint in his dark green eyes made her melt a little each time he smiled.

She liked his smile.

He was muscled, too. She’d felt the sinewed tension along his arms when he’d carried her out of the shed and again when he’d insisted on carrying her to the tea table. Being a damsel in distress wasn’t so bad when one’s savior was as handsome as Lord Emory.

She studied his graceful movements as he rose from bended knee and took a seat beside her, noting the muscled ripple of his broad shoulders clearly outlined beneath his white lawn shirt. His jacket was ruined so he hadn’t been able to put it back on. “Uncle George will properly tend to my ankle,” she repeated. “You needn’t wait around for him or my parents. I’ll manage quite well with the help of my sisters and our staff.”

He smiled at her again, his eyes crinkling at the corners. It was a miracle she hadn’t melted into a complete puddle by now. Nicola had been right about her brother. He was charming, but Rose knew better than to mistake his politeness for anything more. “Are you that eager to be rid of me, Miss Farthingale?”

Lord Emory was experienced and sophisticated and knew how to go about in society. He ran with a fast crowd. Despite the unusual manner in which they’d met, she was ordinary in every respect and he probably considered her excessively boring. “Not at all, my lord. I have no wish to be rid of you. After all, you saved me and for that you shall always be welcome in the Farthingale home. But I suspect you’ve reached your limit of polite conversation and are eager to be on your way.”

“Do I look as though I’m eager to be anywhere but here?” He was still smiling and she was still melting. Drip, drip, drip. Her little puddle would soon be a pond. With ducks swimming in it. And a swan or two gliding across it.

She cleared her throat. “Well, no. But you must find my conversation quite dull. You’re too polite to show it.”

The twins weren’t nearly as polite. Having gobbled their ginger cakes, they sat fidgeting and bored until Rose took pity on them and gave them permission to return to the house. As they rose along with their governesses, Lord Emory also got to his feet. “Lily,” he said with quiet authority, holding her sister back as the others walked ahead, “I’m curious about your stash of explosives. How did you come by it? May I see?”

She nodded. “I found a large pouch when we’d all gone down to see Uncle Harrison’s regiment ship off for France last week. I tried to return it once I realized what it contained, but everyone was too busy to pay me any notice. So I brought it home. It’s hidden under my bed.”

“Under your…” Lord Emory’s eyes rounded and his mouth gaped open for an instant before he seemed to recover. “I’m good friends with the regimental commander. Will you permit me to return it to him?”

If Rose could have jumped to her feet and hugged him, she would have done so. “An excellent idea, my lord. This is the perfect solution, and it can all be done quietly.”

Lily frowned. “Shouldn’t I tell Papa first? I’ve been meaning to show it to him, but he and Mama are always so busy lately I can’t seem to get their attention.”

“We’ll figure it out afterward. Bring Lord Emory the pouch.” Rose shook her head and released a groaning laugh as Lily skipped off. “Brilliantly done, Lord Emory. Thank you.”

He chuckled. “And now, what were you saying about my being bored? Because I don’t believe I’ve ever spent a more unusual afternoon.”

“You’re right, of course. I only meant that you don’t strike me as a tea and cakes sort of gentleman.”

“Is that the only reason you want me gone?” He arched an eyebrow, looking impossibly irreverent. “Or are you worried that I’ll give your parents an accurate account of what happened today?”

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