The Viscount's Rose(9)

By: Meara Platt


“But—”

He arched a golden eyebrow. “Must I insist? Or point out that we’ve reached a certain intimacy in the few hours of our acquaintance—”

“We have not.” Rose gritted her teeth. She wasn’t one of his fast lady friends, and by the subtle glances he was casting at her bosom, she understood the intimacy of which he spoke. “Tending to me as I had trouble breathing is not at all the same as… as…” She frowned as he smirked at her. Had she truly thought him charming a moment ago? “As being intimate with the likes of you.”

“Rose,” he said quietly, but with unmistakable authority, “you mistake my meaning. I’ve expressed myself badly, but rest assured that I am not making untoward advances.”

“You’re not?” She schooled her features so as not to reveal her disappointment.

“But I fully intend to stay close to you until this villain is apprehended. If you wish to be rid of me,” he said, frowning lightly, “as you clearly appear to be, then tell me all you know about him.”

She nibbled her lip in consternation, uncertain whether or not to encourage him. She liked the notion of spending more time with Nicola’s brother, but feared it would only serve to break her heart. Oh, she hardly knew him, but he was handsome and poised and utterly overwhelming. “Lord Emory, I can deal with him myself.”

“The name’s Julian, and I will not allow you to confront this man on your own.” He puffed out his chest and stuck out his chin in a stubbornly protective gesture that melted her heart more than a little.

She cleared her throat. “I have plenty of male relations who can help me out.”

“They’re not trained in such matters. Would you have them hurt?”

Her eyes widened in horror. “Of course not. But—”

He slapped his hands on his thighs and stood. “Then it’s settled. I’ll take care of it. What’s his name?”

She hesitated, for this truly wasn’t his problem.

“His name, Rose, or I shall be forced to send out an army of Bow Street runners to round up everyone remotely connected to the business of pottery and—”

“Very well, I’ll give you his name before you cause a riot in the London streets. Sir Milton Aubrey. But you aren’t to hurt him.” She tried to rise along with him, but her blasted foot would not cooperate and she sank back in her seat with a wince. “Promise me.”

“I’ll do no such thing. He’ll get what he deserves. That explosion might have killed you and he knew it. The man deserves no mercy.”

She was shocked by the iciness in his expression. “I won’t have you in trouble because of me.”

He arched an eyebrow. “I can take care of myself. I—”

The twins bounded in just then, putting an end to their conversation as they hurried toward Lord Emory with welcoming smiles. Lily was carrying a smaller version of the pouch of explosives she had handed to him yesterday. She was holding it delicately as she moved across the room toward them.

“Oh, no,” Rose and Lord Emory muttered at the same time, for Lily looked quite contrite.

Rose winced. “I ought to have thought of this yesterday, but I was distracted by my swollen ankle. She held back some of those explosives, no doubt to experiment with them.”

“Good heavens,” he muttered.

“But Dillie must have prevailed on her to give it back.” She sighed and shook her head. “Lily’s the smartest of us all. I’m sure she’ll save the world someday with one of her brilliant discoveries, but Dillie is the sensible one. She looks out for her twin and is often the only one who can convince Lily that what she is about to do is dangerous and nonsensical.”

Lord Emory appeared to be listening attentively. “I understand. Lily is book smart, but Dillie is… heart smart. That is, she understands people and knows how to gently guide them to do the right thing.”

“Yes, that’s very well said. I’m impressed, my lord. Seems you’re quite perceptive as well as wise.”

He shook his head and laughed. “It doesn’t take a great mind to know that Lily will clear your salon in a trice if your other guests find out what she has in her grasp.”

An appealing thought, Rose decided, for she was not quite recovered from yesterday’s incident. Though she refused to admit it to Lord Emory, she had a throbbing headache as well as a throbbing pain in her twisted ankle. She dearly wished to return upstairs and spend the afternoon in bed with her foot comfortably raised, but couldn’t yet. “Oh, no! I thought Lily was coming toward you, but she’s going to tell Father first. That’s not good.”

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