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Authors: Suzanne Enoch

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BOOK: Sin and Sensibility
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Slowly he stood, forcing her to look up to continue meeting his gaze. “The Griffin name and reputation has been beyond reproach for eight hundred years. That fact will not alter while it is in my charge.”

“I know that, Seb—”

“If you don’t wish to spend the Season in London, I can arrange for Charlemagne to escort you back to Melbourne Park.”

She lurched less gracefully to her own feet, her heartbeat accelerating at the threat. For heaven’s sake, the Season had just begun, and Melbourne was half the island away in Devon. “Shay wouldn’t do it.”

One eyebrow lifted. “Yes, he would.” The duke leaned forward, setting his knuckles against the desktop. “I wouldn’t choose to play this game if I were you, Eleanor.

You will lose.”

With a growl she yanked the pearl bracelet out of her pocket. She didn’t even particularly like pearls, but it had felt romantic when Viscount Priestley had placed them around her wrist, particularly when he’d been banned from anything more than the occasional dance with her.

She had to admire John’s bravery, whatever his motives.

“Fine. Send it back, then. Heaven forbid that some gentleman should like me enough to actually give me a gift.”

She slammed the bauble onto the desk.

At least she’d managed the last word. Lips clamped together, Eleanor stalked to the office door. With a dis-dainful sniff she pulled it open.

“A true gentleman wouldn’t risk causing a scandal by 8 / Suzanne Enoch

giving you a gift in the middle of a crowded ballroom.

He would come to me and ask permission to call on you.”

She heard the bracelet slide across the desk and fall into a drawer. “Lord Priestley,” Sebastian continued, “will not be receiving that permission.”

Gripping the door handle, Eleanor forced in a deep breath. “You already told him that.”

“Then he had no business giving you anything.”

That settled it. She was simply going to have to take up drinking. “I’m going to a nunnery,” she said, “so at least I won’t expect to find gentlemen calling on me.”

“Don’t tempt me, Nell.”

Ha. She’d like to see him try it
. “Good day, Your Grace.

Shall I send in a peasant for you to behead?”

“No, thank you.”

One day she intended to knock the wind out of his arrogant, condescending sails. The only thing worse than Sebastian treating her like a child was that he made her
feel
like a child. Of course she knew accepting baubles in public was improper; if her brothers hadn’t preemptively turned Lord Priestley away on four previous occasions, she never would have felt sorry enough for the viscount to allow him to fasten the bracelet around her wrist. Last night, though, it had seemed the only way to show the tyrants that they couldn’t completely control every aspect of her life.

Except that apparently they could. And turning away suitors they found unacceptable was one thing; now that she’d past her twenty-first birthday she’d begun to worry what would happen when they decided to find her an acceptable one. For all she knew, they already had several dull, thin-blooded prospects in mind. Prospects who Sin and Sensibility / 9

would, of course, acknowledge the superiority and authority of the Griffin males. Someone who wouldn’t challenge their leadership and who therefore would never be a match—or a challenge—for her.

Zachary and Charlemagne, Shay for short, were upstairs playing billiards, and it annoyed her that they could be having fun while she was being lectured and while she’d begun worrying about what they might have planned for her future. Heaven help them if they decided she needed further chastisement today. With the way Sebastian had a counter for every argument, her blood boiled for a fight she could win. And each loss only made the determination stronger. This morning she felt like Mount Vesuvius.

Eleanor stalked up the wide, curving staircase, her blue muslin skirt gathered in one hand as she stomped to the second floor.

At the open door to the billiards room, though, she stopped. Inside her brothers conversed, their voices joined by a third who spoke in a low, sardonic drawl. For a moment she listened, enjoying the smooth, cultured tone.

She knew the rules as well as any Griffin—no family rows in public. Thankfully this guest didn’t count as public.

“You two are cowards,” she announced, entering the room.

A ball thudded onto the carpeted floor. Shay, the taller of the two, straightened from the table. “Damnation, Nell,” he cursed, standing his cue upright. “You just cost me five quid.”

“Good. I thought it was your duty to protect me.”

“Not from Sebastian.”

“Besides,” Zachary broke in, leaning on his own cue,

“Melbourne’s correct. We don’t want a member of the 10 / Suzanne Enoch

family giving the impression that she can be bought for a short string of pearls.”

“He wasn’t buying me!” she retorted. “And apparently he tried to give me the bracelet in a more discreet setting, and on more than one occasion. Someone—several someones—made it impossible for him to do so.”

Zachary, the youngest of the three brothers, made a face. “Then he should have acted like a gentleman and desisted.”

Eleanor folded her arms, turning her attention to the tall, black-haired man pouring himself a whiskey at the liquor table. “Humph. And what do you think, Lord Deverill?”

“Actually,” Valentine Corbett, the Marquis of Deverill, returned, “your brothers are completely correct.”

“What?”

“See? You may not listen to—”

“Shut up, Zachary,” she snapped, otherwise ignoring her brothers in favor of the lean face and half-lidded green eyes of the man she’d always considered not her champion, but her best example of how she wished she could behave but knew she wouldn’t ever, ever dare to emulate.

“Explain yourself, Deverill.”

He inclined his head. “Little as I like to give the Griffin brethren credit for anything, any male knows not to show favor in public to the female he pursues. Causes all sorts of difficulties.”

“I’m not speaking of your clandestine relationships with married ladies and opera singers,” she retorted. “I’m discussing a true gentleman with a genuine regard for a lady, one who wanted to demonstrate his honest interest by giving her a small gift.”

A slight smile touched that famously capable mouth Sin and Sensibility / 11

and vanished again. “You should have been more specific, then. I don’t know anything about that sort of nonsense.

‘Honest’ interest?”

“You see?” she exclaimed, flinging out her arms in her brothers’ direction. “Not even Deverill knows what you’re talking ab—”

“On the other hand,” Lord Deverill interrupted, “in the case of an ‘honest’ regard, Priestley should have joined the bracelet with a necklace and ear bobs. Then at least we could be assured that he didn’t just nick the trinket from his mother’s jewelry box. Which he likely did, considering that he has no money of his own and is after yours.”

While Shay and Zachary laughed, Eleanor looked into those deceptively lazy green eyes, one of them obscured by a falling lock of coal black hair. Some mamas with impressionable daughters claimed that if the devil could choose a countenance with which to lure young ladies into sin, he would look precisely like Valentine, Lord Deverill. Thank God she knew how charming he could be. Of course it wasn’t much of a challenge to resist him when he never even looked at her askance. Her lips twisted. “Now I’ve determined to keep you off my side in this argument.”

“I can understand that. I wouldn’t want me on my side either. You should be ashamed of yourself, anyway, allowing Priestley to approach and speak to you in public.

Next you’ll tell me you were just standing there and he accosted you.”

“That’s not the point, Deverill,” Zachary interrupted.

“She didn’t have to accept the bracelet, regardless.”

“Bravely said by a brother who should have done a better job of warning Priestley away from her in the first place,” the marquis said, his easy drawl deepening, “be-12 / Suzanne Enoch

fore the fellow could tempt her with a pretty trinket. Not that I’m taking sides, but it does seem to me that you three are the ones who made the error.”

Shay’s complexion darkened. “We can’t be expected to—”

“And you continue to err,” Deverill broke in, leaning across the billiards table to take his shot. “For instance, if you’re concerned over Lady Eleanor’s maidenly virtue, why the devil did you let me into the house yet again?”

“I was just about to ask myself the same question,” Sebastian’s dry voice came from the doorway.

“I think you should
all
leave,” Eleanor muttered, folding her arms across her bosom.

At the beginning she thought Lord Deverill had been at least partly on her side, but declaring her brothers responsible for
her
actions didn’t precisely leave her feeling any better. In fact, it was almost more insulting than her brothers’ original argument. She could easily have turned Lord Priestley away if she’d wanted to, after all.

It was far more likely that Deverill wasn’t on anyone’s side, and didn’t give a whit about the outcome. He did have a penchant for arguing simply because he enjoyed it. Which of course meant he was frightfully good at it, as he was at everything he attempted.

“I was invited,” the marquis returned, unflappable as always.

“So you were,” Sebastian admitted. “Care to join me in the stable?”

Deverill tossed his cue to Charlemagne. “You still want my opinion of your new mount, then?” he asked, making for the doorway.

The duke nodded, stepping aside to let Valentine pass.

Sin and Sensibility / 13

“I actually thought you might want to take him off my hands. The beast tried to nip Peep yesterday.”

Eleanor stood there for a moment, her mouth hanging open. “Of all the nerve,” she finally blurted. “That is
my
horse, and Peep already said she was teasing him with an apple.”

Valentine stopped in the doorway to look from her to Sebastian. “I won’t deprive a lady of her mount,” he said, and his lips curved in a sly smile. “Not without offering a suitable replacement, at any rate.”

“Valentine,” the Duke of Melbourne said, his tone clipped.

“I’m damned well not going to be pulled into the middle of a family feud. I canceled luncheon with L—with a very nice young lady to answer your summons.”

“Lydia Franch, perhaps?” Shay suggested, rolling the

“L” on his tongue.

“Or Laurene Manchester?” Zachary put in.

The marquis chuckled. “I never kiss and tell.”

Oh, this was too much
. “Excuse me, but I believe we were discussing my horse,” Eleanor interrupted. “Ask Peep if you don’t believe me. She promised to be more cautious.”

Sebastian gazed at her with an expression in his eyes that could allegedly make grown men quake in their boots.

Even though she’d grown up under his command, it made her want to either punch him or flee. The Lord knew she’d never asked to have a duke for an eldest brother. Lately that circumstance had been gnawing her insides raw.

“Eleanor,” he said in the cool, patient voice that belied the glint in his eyes, “my daughter is six years of age. I trust my opinion over hers.”

14 / Suzanne Enoch

“You trust your opinion over everyone’s, Sebastian.

And you are not taking my horse.”

“No, I’m not. Deverill is.”

“I haven’t even seen it yet,” the marquis cut in, “though I do have to wonder why you think I would want a lady’s animal.”

“He’s not a lady’s animal,” Sebastian returned. “Eleanor’s been training him to tolerate the sidesaddle.”

“I
have
trained him to do so.” She put her hands on her hips. “Don’t you dare take my Helios, Valentine Corbett.”

“That is enough, Eleanor,” Sebastian snapped, the remaining humor leaving his voice.

“Yes, it is,” Deverill seconded. Inclining his head in Eleanor’s direction, he headed past Sebastian out the door. “If you’ll excuse me, I may still be able to salvage my luncheon engagement.”

As the marquis descended the stairs, Eleanor’s brothers stood glaring at her. “Scowl all you want,” she said, turning her back on the lot of them. “You may take my bracelet, and you may attempt to steal my horse, but that doesn’t make you right. It only makes you bullies.” She strode into the hallway.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Sebastian’s even, controlled voice came.

“I think I’m going shopping,” she returned over her shoulder as she stalked to her bedchamber. It would have been more effective if she’d had something stronger with which to retort. “I’m going off to sea” or “I’m joining the army” would have sounded so much more defiant. Still, even shopping was something, and it did show the brothers Griffin that they didn’t rule her or her schedule entirely, as much as they might like to think so.

Eleanor stifled a frustrated sigh. No, a declaration of Sin and Sensibility / 15

shopping didn’t prove much of anything. And no distraction was as effective as it used to be at calming her desire to do something outrageous, something completely…wicked, something that wouldn’t show her brothers as much as it would show
her
that she could be free.

She paused in her search for a pair of gloves to look out her bedchamber window. Below her, Valentine took his horse’s reins from a groom and swung into his saddle.

Blast it, she envied the Marquis of Deverill, able to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted and with whomever he wanted. No one told him it wasn’t proper, or correct, or threatened to withhold his allowance, or even frowned at him—well, some of the old, tight-laced patronesses might frown, but he certainly didn’t care what they might think. He didn’t care what anyone thought.

Drawing a deep breath, Eleanor pulled on her gloves.

Hm
. She did care about the Griffin name and reputation, whatever Sebastian might think. She therefore might not be able to gamble or smoke cigars or go about…fornicat-ing with whomever she chose, but her brothers hadn’t won, yet. Eventually they would, when they decided they were tired of her rebellions and forced her to marry. She had no illusions about that. It would happen, and Sebastian had such complete control over her finances that real-istically she would be unable to refuse his orders.

BOOK: Sin and Sensibility
11.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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