The knock on the door had them both jumping apart, as though the person at the door would stumble in and see them standing a little too close together.
“Your mother has returned, my lord.”
Lord Whitehaven went ashen. Giving Dinah a quick look, he bowed and muttered an apology, before hurrying towards the door.
“I will not go,” Dinah called, wanting to tell him that she would accept his offer. “I will stay.”
He paused, his hand on the door handle.
“Then this is the day that my life has changed for the better,” he told her, sending a beautiful smile to her face. “I will sort this matter out and be done with gambling for the rest of my days.” To her surprise, he seemed quite at ease with this decision, smiling at her tenderly. “You have brought my heart a good deal of joy, Dinah. I thank you.”
“Thank you,” Dinah replied, her eyes lingering on his retreating form for as long as she could before the door closed tightly behind him, blocking him from her view.
“Lord Irving has called for Dinah!”
Grayson’s head shot up, seeing his mother standing framed in the doorway. She had come into the study without even knocking, meaning that he had to lean forward over his desk so that she would not see his debts.
“He asked me if he might call upon her only yesterday, and I agreed without question.” Lady Whitehaven frowned suddenly. “I did think that he did not seem to care much for Dinah initially, for to ask to court her when he had not even called upon her once was quite forward, do you not think? But now, at least, he has shown his intentions to be fixed upon her, which I am glad of.” Coming a little further into the room, she tipped her head and frowned. “Although how many visits do you think he should be encouraged to have before he seeks to court Dinah again?”
Grayson let out a long, slow breath and tried to push down the flare of anger that had, for some inexplicable reason, begun to burn in his chest. “I do not think that Dinah is interested in Lord Irving, Mother.”
Lady Whitehaven laughed and shook her head as though Grayson was being ridiculous. “You cannot say that, Grayson!” she exclaimed. “And neither can Dinah herself, for she has spent very little time with the gentleman and one cannot make one’s mind up about someone’s character without at least conversing with them first!” She lifted her chin as though to make out that she was wiser in such matters than both he and Dinah. “Besides which, Dinah has a good de
al to learn about society and the like, and whilst she may think that she will be content to live alone, I do not think that she will truly be happy in such a situation. No, I am quite convinced that matrimony is the very best situation for her.”
“Whereas I am convinced that Dinah is wise enough to know her own mind,” Grayson replied firmly. “Come now, Mother, you cannot simply force your will upon her and refuse to allow her to make her own choices.”
Lady Whitehaven’s eyes flickered.
“I know that you may think me uncaring and eager only to remove Dinah from my house and from my responsibilities – which is more than understandable, given that I have not shown any consideration for her whatsoever, but the truth is, Mother, that I wish for Dinah to be permitted to make her own choice in matters of the heart. It is what my sisters have each been allowed to do–”
“It was not as though I was able to prevent any of them from doing precisely what they wished,” his mother interrupted, her eyes narrowing slightly as she looked at him. “Dinah, however, needs a little more guidance.”
Grayson hesitated, not wanting to contradict his mother but feeling the need to defend Dinah prodding him unrelentingly.
“You have four girls of your own all happily married, Mother,” he said slowly, looking up at her. “Can you be content with that, if Dinah chooses not to wed?”
Lady Whitehaven’s lips whitened for a moment as she pressed them tight together, clearly battling her own thoughts and becoming aware fully, mayhap, of her own thoughts and desires on the matter of Dinah and her future.
“You should not leave her with Lord Irving,” Grayson finished, looking pointedly at the door. “I presume someone else is with her, but all the same…” Trailing off, he lifted one eyebrow and looked pointedly at his mother, seeing her sigh and nod.
“Titania is with her, Grayson,” she told him, her voice a little less firm than it had been at the first. “But I shall return to her directly.”
“Although…” Lady Whitehaven turned back to face him, her eyes roving over his face again. “Although I must say I am glad you are recovered so, Grayson. A heavy cold, was it?”
Grayson swallowed hard but nodded, well aware that most of his bruises had faded but that one or two still remained. His mother’s sharp eyes roved over his face, leaving Grayson with the uncomfortable feeling that she knew all too well that he was not telling her the truth.
“And it has taken you near a fortnight to recover,” Lady Whitehaven murmured, giving him a small shake of her head. “I do hope this means you can return to society soon, Grayson, for you appear to be a good deal improved.”
Again, Grayson merely nodded, putting a smile on his face that he hoped his mother would believe was genuine. This was only the second time in two days that his mother had seen him, with the first only being the previous evening when it had been late enough for candles to have been lit and most of his features fairly well hidden in shadow. Obviously, she had been informed by the staff that he was now working in his study and had come in search of him without hesitation.
“Good afternoon, Grayson.”
His smile remained fixed. “Good afternoon, Mother.”