Page 47 of The Husband Season

‘Oh.’ Too late she realised Jane had been right when she said falling in love was not something you could order, nor could you be sure that your love would be returned. The few times he had touched her had been acts of chivalry, not an indication of any deeper feelings for her. He behaved in the same way towards other ladies, young and old. She was no different. She had found the man to equal Mark, even surpass him, but Adam’s own words echoed in her brain. ‘I am not about to offer for you.’ ‘It is as a friend I wish to speak to you.’ A friend—that was all she was to him. It was a painful revelation.

 ‘What are you two whispering about?’ Lady Cartrose demanded. Mrs Malthouse had gone and he was the only one left and her deafness had prevented her from hearing their conversation.

 ‘I was asking Miss Cavenhurst if she would care to come riding with me tomorrow morning,’ Adam told her, raising his voice a little.

 ‘I am sure if she wishes to go I have nothing against it,’ the lady said. ‘No doubt Edward will accompany her.’

 ‘Will you?’ He addressed Sophie. ‘In the morning before the sun becomes too hot.’

 Teddy had suggested she could make him change his mind. But how could she? He seemed impervious to women’s wiles, and she would not demean herself by attempting it. On the other hand it would be churlish to refuse him. ‘Very well, I shall be pleased to.’

 ‘Good. I will call about nine o’clock and will bring a mount for you.’

 ‘Thank you.’

 He picked up his hat from the hall table. ‘Cheer up. It won’t be half as bad as you think,’ he murmured, settling the hat on his head.

 She watched him striding easily down the front steps and off along the road and her heart felt fit to break.

 * * *

 Somehow she got through the rest of the morning, conversing with her aunt, picking at her food at nuncheon and declining to go out. Even her aunt was worried about her. ‘Are you not well, child?’

 ‘I am tired, Aunt. I am not used to such a continuous round of engagements.’

 ‘Oh, is that all? We will have a day at home and you shall rest.’

 Rest she could not. She picked up a book and pretended to read, but her thoughts were whirring round and round in her head and going nowhere. She tried some embroidery that her aunt had started but never finished, but after a few stitches, she let it drop into her lap. Outside the sun was shining; the garden invited her. She took a parasol and ventured out to pace up and down, turning Teddy’s problems over in her mind, and they became all mixed up with her own huge problem. She had fallen in love and it was a state of affairs that could have no happy ending.

 Teddy would probably say that was the best thing that could have happened. He would tell her to make a push to win the man, make him change his mind about not marrying again and they would both benefit; a man like Viscount Kimberley could easily afford a few thousand to pay off his debts. Even if she could change his lordship’s mind—and how did one go about that? she wondered—she would be using him. That would be dishonest and would stand in the way of any chance of happiness. Far from making it easier, it made it more difficult, impossible. Teddy would never see that it was out of the question. Where was her brother? She had not seen him since breakfast. Surely he had not gone gambling again?

 The person most to blame was Captain Moore. Teddy would not ask him for more time to pay, but she could. Where could she find him? The only place she thought he might be was White’s, but ladies certainly could not go there. She thought about this for some time as she paced up and down, then, making up her mind, went indoors and made her way up to Teddy’s bedchamber.

 Her brother had eschewed the services of a valet. At Greystone Manor he relied on his father’s valet to help him with his toilette and the servants to tidy up his clothes. In London, it was Bessie who tidied up after him. She had even been known to tie his cravat for him. Hoping her maid was not in the room, she opened the door gingerly. There was no one there. It only took a minute to extract a suit of clothes, a shirt, cravat, hose and a tall hat, and then she was speeding along to her own room to change into them.

 She made a passable boy, she decided as she surveyed herself in the mirror over the night table and stuffed most of her hair up into the crown of the hat. She could not wear Teddy’s shoes—they were far too big—but she put on her own riding boots and tucked the breeches into those. She opened her door carefully and peered along the landing. There was no one about.