The Bride Behind the Curtain (14 page)

BOOK: The Bride Behind the Curtain
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“Hey now, hey now, unhand my sister!” Lewis bawled jovially. Benedict moved his hand behind his back, but not, Madelene saw, before it had tightened into a fist.

“Not been importuning you, has he, Maddie?” Her stepbrother shook her shoulder. “Ha-ha!”

“Lewis,” she murmured. “I didn't realize you were here.”

Nature meant Lewis to be thin, but the amount of eating and drinking he did ensured that an early paunch blossomed beneath his gorgeously patterned waistcoat. No restrained dandy of the Brummel school, Lewis strove instead to be an “exquisite.” He liked a wealth of seals on his chains, huge sparkling buttons on his coat, and outsized pins on his cravat, and did not consider himself dressed if there were fewer than three rings on his hands. His pale ginger hair was oiled and carefully curled, or had been this morning. Now, it was just oiled and disordered, with slick elf-locks hanging about his reddened ears.

“Where else should I be, eh? Especially with artists hanging all about my sister! Have a care, Pelham.” He waggled a finger under Mr. Pelham's nose. “Or I'll be calling you out.” Benedict looked down at Madelene. She was only able to bear the pity in his eyes for a moment, before she dropped her gaze to her own hands and saw like his, they were knotted into fists. She forced them into a properly folded position. She must not let him, let them, see her anger. She must not make a display. If Lewis detected her true feelings, he would mock her for getting into a pet. Worse, Mr. Pelham would be disgusted. People were always disgusted by angry women.

“Ah, Miss Valmeyer, there you are!”

The new voice that hailed her was a woman's. Miss Deborah Sewell, Madelene's chaperone, strolled into the gallery. “And Lord Benedict! How delightful! I was only just now enjoying your rendering of Lake Geneva.” She waved her program book back toward the main gallery.

Deborah Sewell was an elegant woman, but it was not at all Lewis's sort of elegance. She was free and easy and perfectly turned out, with a smile always at the ready and the kind of wit that could cut any polite insult to pieces.

“Oh, Miss Sewell.” Madelene stepped up to her side and tried not to feel how much it was a retreat. Lewis gave her a bleary eye full of meaning and she tensed inwardly. “Miss Sewell, I don't think you've met my brother Lewis. Lewis, may I present Miss Deborah Sewell . . .”

“Ah! The infamous lady novelist!” Lewis bent into a showy, unsteady bow. “Is this your idea of chaperoning my sister? I shall be telling mother on you, just see if I don't!” He gave another hearty laugh that deepened the color in his cheeks, and his ears.

Miss Sewell's smile was as cool and level as if Lewis had remarked about the weather. “As I'll be seeing your mother myself later today, I do suggest you be quick about it. Now, Miss Valmeyer, I promised Lady Adele and Lady Helene I'd fetch you along. We have a fitting this afternoon and must not be late.” She looped her arm through Madelene's and drew her away. “Gentlemen, I'm sure you will excuse us.”

Madelene wanted to look back over her shoulder, she wanted to let Mr. Pelham see the apology in her eyes, but Lewis would see her looking, so she didn't dare.

Darcie Wilde
is the author of the Regency Makeover Trilogy of e-novellas as well as
An Unforgettable Woman
, a Regency-set historical mystery series inspired by the novels of Jane Austen. Her book,
Lord of the Rakes
, was a 2014 RT nominee for best First Historical Romance.

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BOOK: The Bride Behind the Curtain
10.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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