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To Love A Scoundrel (London Season Matchmaker 5) Lucy Adams 2022/7/22 11:45:19

The urge to go to her now was growing steadily, pushing him away from the window and half forcing his legs towards the door. Grayson stopped dead, catching himself. He was trying to stay away from Dinah, was he not? Turning back towards the desk, his eyes caught sight of the vowels and the demand for payment. If he remained here, then all he would have to think about would be the papers on his desk. Whereas, if he went to the gardens, then mayhap an idea would come to him, allowing him to see a solution to his current dilemma.

Again, his feet turned towards the door. He wanted to go to the gardens, to meet with Dinah, to talk to her, and to see her smile, if he could manage to garner one from her. And yet the other part of him told him to stay far from her, to remove himself from her company almost entirely and to ensure that he had nothing whatsoever to do with her. Warring within himself, Grayson turned back towards the desk and walked to the chair. Sitting down, he cleared his throat and began to pick through the vowels.

His heart screamed at him and, before he knew it, Grayson was out of his chair and out of his study, hurrying down the stairs towards the gardens before he could prevent himself from doing so.

Dinah’s expression was one of surprise, as she turned to see him striding out towards her. She dipped a curtsy, her cheeks flaring with color as she glanced about him. “Is something wrong? Does Lady Whitehaven need me?”

“What?” he asked, only to realize what she meant “Oh, no. No, she does not. In fact, I believe my mother is resting.”

“Oh.” Her cheeks were still a shade of red, her blue eyes flickering across the gardens, looking anywhere but his face.

Grayson cleared his throat, suddenly feeling embarrassed. “I–I just wondered if there was anything you required,” he said lamely, realizing just how foolish he sounded. “And it seemed like a fine day, so I thought a short stroll in these gardens might be worth my time.”

Dinah nodded quickly. “Then I should not delay you,” she stammered, making to move past him. “I am sorry if you expected the garden to be empty.”

“No, please.” His hand was on her arm in a moment, making Dinah stop dead and look down at where he had captured her.

“What I mean to say is,” Grayson continued quickly, all too aware of the searing heat racing up his arm, “is that you need not leave on my account, Dinah. I should be glad to walk with you in the gardens, should you wish it.” He left the decision up to her, seeing the surprise in her eyes and wondering what she thought of him at present. He was not even certain what it was he

wanted or intended to do during this short time with her, but at least his urge to go near her and to be in her company had been satisfied.

“You…you wish me to walk with you, Whitehaven?” Dinah asked, sounding somewhat dazed. “Are you quite certain?”

“Quite,” he replied, as warmly as he could. “I know I have been mostly absent this last week but…” He trailed off, not sure what else he wanted to say. Thankfully, Dinah did not seem to react with surprise, for she merely inclined her head in assent and turned back so that they both faced the same direction.

“The gardens are lovely,” Grayson began, feeling a flush of embarrassment creep up his spine. “I have not often been out here.”

“I often like to walk here,” Dinah replied, looking all about her and speaking in such a quiet, almost dreamlike tone that Grayson wondered what was on her mind. “Especially when it is quiet.”

“I suppose it is a good place for prayer,” he commented, presuming that was what she did whenever she walked here alone, only for Dinah to lift one shoulder in a half shrug. “Or to think, mayhap?”

“To think, yes,” she replied, her voice softening. “To remember, I suppose.” Again, her expression softened, her voice still soft as she looked anywhere but him. “It is where I come when my mind grows too heavy.”

Grayson said nothing, trying to understand what she was talking about without making it apparent that he had no understanding whatsoever. His brows furrowed, his lips pulled flat and his mind chewed over every possibility, thinking to himself that she must be struggling with the Season and the gentlemen that were seemingly so eager to pursue her.

“And has the quiet allowed you to come to a decision about Lord Irving?” he asked, not certain whether or not he had any right to ask this or not. “He appeared to be quite taken with you at the last ball.” Turning his head, he watched her closely, not wanting to miss anything she would reveal in her expression.

Dinah’s lips twisted, as two small lines formed between her brows. Her cheeks caught with a little more color, and she shook her head. “I do not care anything for Lord Irving, Whitehaven,” she told him firmly, making Grayson’s heart leap with evident delight. “But that is not what I was thinking of. I have already made up my mind as regards the gentlemen of the ton, and there is nothing more to consider.”

Blinking at the hint of anger in her tone, Grayson tried to recover himself so that they could return to that quiet amicability that had been between them both only a few moments before. “I do not mean to pry,” he answered apologetically, half wishing he could take her arm so that he could squeeze it gently and allow her to know the truth of what he felt. “I apologize if you believe that I am doing so.”

He wanted desperately to ask her what it was that had been on her mind as she walked through the gardens, half hoping that it had been himself she had thought of, even though he knew that such a thought was nothing more than foolishness.

“And I should not have spoken sharply,” she replied, sighing and shaking her head. “I apologize again, Whitehaven.”

“You have nothing to–”

“I often think of my parents when I walk here,” she continued, interrupting him as her voice became wistful. “I think of my mother, who so often told me that the path for my life would show itself to me should I only continue to follow God.” A slightly frustrated sound came into her voice, and she bit her lip for a moment. “Except that path has not become clear.”

Grayson sighed to himself, irritated that he had not immediately thought of Dinah’s parents when it came to wondering what it was she thought of. Of course, it would be them. His own sense of shame came over him again as he remembered how little he had cared about Dinah’s loss. Having been caught up with his own confusing emotions and his determination to rid himself of such things, he had never truly considered what it would be like to lose not one but both parents in one horrific moment. Dinah had been left an orphan, had been forced to leave the continent where her home had been, and had come to start afresh in England. He could not even imagine the struggle.

“For what it is worth, cousin, and this may come a great deal too late, I am sorry for what you have lost.” He threw out one hand in a gesture of hopelessness. “I wish there was something more I could say, something more that I might do in order to share with you my own shame over my lack of compassion for you in these last years, for I recognize now that I have been quite selfish.”

This seemed to surprise Dinah, for her eyes widened just a little and her brows rose high, looking at him as though she had never truly seen him before.