Page 65 of The Husband Season

Cassie. Whatever would she think? First his lordship does not turn up for her ball when she had been so sure he would offer for her, then he leaves town with nothing but a note of apology to her mother. Unless of course... Had he left Mount Street for Hanover Square? He could even now be making his offer and complaining that his cousin had landed him with an errand he did not want but could not refuse. He could easily return to London as soon as he had delivered her to her parents. She must be very, very careful not to let him even suspect how she felt about him. It would be too mortifying.

 * * *

 Bessie was taken aback when she was told they would be starting home the very next morning, and declared roundly they could not be ready in time.

 ‘We have to be,’ Sophie said. ‘Mark asked Viscount Kimberley to take us and I do not think his lordship will wait on our convenience. He has hired a chaise and will be here at nine tomorrow morning.’

 ‘But what about Master Edward? Surely you do not want to leave without knowing where he is?’

 ‘I do know where he is.’ She smiled and went on to tell Bessie what Adam had told her. ‘He is safe,’ she finished. ‘Captain Moore cannot harm him now.’

 ‘That is something, at least. Do you think it was Captain Moore who gave the viscount a black eye?’

 ‘How do you know he has a black eye?’

 ‘I saw him leave from the upstairs landing. He stood in the hall to adjust his hat at the mirror. It looked a real beauty.’

 ‘He said he bumped into a door, though I am not sure it is the truth.’

 ‘Well, you are going to have plenty of time to find out. Do you want me to pack your brother’s things, too?’

 Sophie considered this. ‘No. When the ship docks on its return he will doubtless come here to my aunt. He will need a change of clothes. Leave them in the closet.’

 * * *

 They spent the rest of the afternoon packing. Sophie had more baggage to go back than she had brought and it took their combined efforts to close the lid of her trunk. Other small items and her overnight things would go in her portmanteau. It was almost supper time when they finished, and Sophie went down to rejoin her aunt.

 They ate their evening meal with Margaret and the conversation was of general matters, for which Sophie was thankful. She did not linger long in the drawing room afterwards but went to bed so as to be fresh for her journey. But going to bed did not mean she would sleep. Her thoughts were churning.

 She was going to have two days in Adam’s company, two days of mental torture as she tried to keep her distance and be cool and composed, two days to watch him, to watch his changing expressions, the light in his eyes grow dark with anger or sparkle with humour, to note how he stayed in command, not only of those around him, but of himself. She could not imagine him crumbling with emotion. Had his wife seen any of that? Had he shown her a softer side?

 Who had he been fighting with? Had he come off worse or was his antagonist in a worse case? Nobleman who quarrelled usually settled their differences by duelling, even though it was unlawful; honour had to be satisfied in some way. But fisticuffs? Was it anything to do with his search for Teddy or did he have enemies of his own? Was that why he wanted to leave town in a hurry and was using her as an excuse? She didn’t like that idea.

 She turned over and thumped her pillow. ‘Stop thinking about him, find something less contentious to send you to sleep,’ she muttered. But if it wasn’t the viscount keeping her awake it was Teddy. He must have been at his wits’ end to contemplate hiding out in a tavern and going abroad again. Now he was crewing a convict ship. How dreadful would that be? Would he have enough to eat? Would the work be too strenuous for him? He was fit and healthy, but hard physical labour had never been part of his life. Perhaps it would do him good, make him grow up. But what on earth was she going to say to Mama and Papa?

 * * *

 She was bleary eyed and disinclined to stir when Bessie shook her awake at seven the next morning. ‘I’ve brought you some hot chocolate,’ she said, putting a dish of it on the table by the bed. ‘Drink it while I fetch a jug of hot water and lay out your clothes.’ She went to the window and drew back the curtains. Sunshine flooded the room. ‘Another hot day. Very different from the day we arrived...’

 Sophie was hardly listening. She sat on the edge of the bed in her nightgown to gulp down the drink. Today she was going home with nothing to show for her six weeks in London, except a broken heart. Her Season had been a bitter disappointment. She would have to confess as much to her parents. Papa would undoubtedly say she was still young and there was plenty of time to find a suitable husband and she would have to pretend to agree, knowing there could be no husband because she had given her heart where it was not wanted.