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

When the door closed tightly behind her, only then did Grayson give vent to his feelings. Groaning aloud, he leaned his head down on his folded hands as they rested on the table with the sensation that a knife was being slowly pushed into his heart. There was nothing particularly wrong with Lord Irving, as far as Grayson knew. But still, he found his spirits rebelling against the man for daring to come near Dinah.

Her whispered name clung to his lips for a moment, lingering there and filling his mouth with sweetness. To think of her being courted by another was dread itself, but yet Grayson knew he ought to allow her to do whatever she wished. After all, that was precisely what he had just told his mother to allow Dinah to do, and he could not precisely turn around and force her to do as he wished, could he?

What is it you want her to do?

The answer was in his heart and rose to the surface without much difficulty. He wanted Dinah to turn away from Lord Irving altogether and to focus her attentions entirely upon him. That desire had not faded, even though he had been entirely honest with her and had told her everything about his difficulties and his struggles. She knew every part of him and had not, as yet, turned away from him entirely as he had thought.

That was the worst of it, Grayson thought to himself, barely able to find the strength to lift his head as the weight of his sins sank down onto his shoulders. Almost one full week ago, he had told her the truth about himself, told her everything with the mistaken belief that it would push her from him. That, he had hoped, would be the end of the matter. She would be gone from him, and he would have nothing to concern himself with any longer. In time, the feelings he had for Dinah would fade and he would be able to content himself with the knowledge that it had been she who had turned from him and not the other way around.

Except she had not done so. She had come to his side and offered her support. He could still see her face looking up at him, promising him that she would not leave to join a convent if he was willing to give up his gambling. Had they not been interrupted, Grayson was quite certain he would have kissed her – and then what would have occurred? Things would be a good deal messier than they were at present, for he was still fully convinced that Dinah was not the sort of young lady he should be pining after and certainly should not be eager to consider pursuing! That had been almost a sennight ago and still he could not get her face from his mind, could not forget her quiet voice as it spoke to him such words of kindness, gentleness, and understanding. In their own separate ways, they were growing and changing, but she more than he. She was turning away from her bitter harshness, away from her words of rebuke and her critical spirit, and in their place came a gentle beauty that warmed his heart all the more. He had promised to turn from his gambling—and that meant giving up liquor in almost its entirety – for he would only allow himself one small glass of brandy should he wish for something to drink – but that had not, thus far, been particularly difficult. However, given that he still had his debts to pay, Grayson did not quite know what to do.

Raising his head, he rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and then threw himself back into his chair, his eyes lifting heavenward. Perhaps he ought to pray. Mayhap God would be willing to listen to him if he asked for something that would be for the good of others and not just for himself.

“Remove my feelings from my heart,” he whispered, half begging, half praying. “Do not allow me to think of Dinah so. She deserves better than I. And help me to keep my promises. I do not want to bring her sorrow.”

This was said with such fervor that Grayson found himself almost convinced that his prayer had already been answered in some way. Mayhap Dinah would appear with the news that she had decided to permit Lord Irving’s attentions, meaning that his feelings would be pulled from him regardless. Or mayhap the gentleman seeking payment for his vowels would somehow forget the debts that were owed.

A knock at the door startled him, forcing him to sit up and gather up his vowels quickly before calling for the person to enter. Much to his astonishment, Dinah opened the door and looked at him, a small, hesitant smile on her lips as she drew near.

“Do come in, Dinah,” he said quickly, releasing the papers and pushing himself to his feet, a little too aware of the pain in his bad leg. It had not quite recovered since his beating a fortnight ago and seemed to be taking a good deal of time to return to its full strength, little as it was. “Are you all right?”

She nodded, her eyes holding something that he could not quite make out.

“Lord Irving has just left,” she told him, closing the door behind her and making his heart thump furiously at such an intimate action. There was nothing wrong with a cousin being in the same room as another, not when they lived under the same roof and had done

so for some time, but all the same, he could not help but react to the awareness that they were both very much alone together. “He wishes to dance with me this evening, at the ball.” Tipping her head just a little, she looked at him. “You are to attend, are you not?”

“The ball,” he said slowly, a little overcome by the beauty of her expression and trying desperately to remember what it was she was talking about. “I do not think that I–”

“Lord and Lady Millington,” she stated, quite calmly. “You thought you would be recovered enough by then to attend, did you not?” A slight flicker in her eyes alerted him to the fact that Dinah was somewhat anxious about this evening. “I would like it very much if you were present.”

He nodded at once, not wanting to refuse her. “But of course.” Coming around from his desk, he limped towards two chairs that were close to the hearth, where a small fire burned, given that it was not the warmest of summer days. “Come and tell me what it is that you fear, Dinah. You do not appear to be looking forward to this evening.”

A small, rueful laugh left her lips. “You do not think me ungrateful, I hope?” she asked him, her eyebrows lifting.

“No, indeed not,” he answered quickly, “but rather it is that–”

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“And you know me well enough to know that I do not care for dancing or the like,” Dinah continued slowly, interrupting him but without the intention of being rude. “Lord Irving is being somewhat pressing, and I find that I struggle with his direct attentions. I do not wish to be courted by him—for I have no feelings for the gentleman whatsoever—and yet I feel obliged to do so for the sake of your mother.” Her eyes lifted to his, searching his expression. “I am quite miserable for I do not know what I ought to do, Whitehaven.”

“And yet I fear I cannot advise you,” he told her truthfully. “I have no wisdom with which to offer an opinion, Dinah, for I have very little experience of matters of the heart—save for being utterly wretched over the state of my own heart.” He shook his head and sighed, running one hand over his eyes simply so that he could block the sight of her intense gaze for a moment. “You must not think of what my mother wishes or what Lord Irving wants. You must look into your own heart and do as you think is right.”

This, however, did not seem to please Dinah. Instead, she closed her eyes, put her head back against the chair, and sighed painfully. Grayson, not knowing what else to say, merely watched her and put a guard over his own lips so that he would not blurt out the truth of his affections. He would not influence her. He would wait for her to decide about Lord Irving and then support her in whatever decision was made.

“I do not know what is right,” Dinah murmured, opening her eyes but remaining looking up at the ceiling rather than towards him. “I have struggled to know what is best to do—for I do not want to act in a wrong manner. I do not care for Lord Irving, but yet it is all too clear to me that Lady Whitehaven wishes for me to accept his court.” Sighing again, she lifted her head and looked at him again. “I wish to show my aunt the respect she deserves without behaving in a selfish manner.”

“It is not selfish to refuse Lord Irving,” Grayson found himself saying, before he could prevent it. “Not in the least. If you allow Lord Irving to court you, then soon you would find yourself with a husband, Dinah. A husband that you have no consideration for, not even the smallest amount of feelings–and all because you did not wish to show disfavor to your aunt.” Leaning forward in his chair, he reached out and grasped her hand with both of his own, aware of how swiftly she caught her breath and feeling the same reaction plunge deep into his heart. “Listen to me, Dinah. Do not accept Lord Irving if you have no willingness to consider becoming his wife. It will bring you no happiness, and my mother would find herself miserable to see you so sorrowful in a marriage you did not want. You have to forge your own path, my dear.”

Dinah swallowed hard, tears suddenly forming in her eyes. A little afraid that he had been the cause of it, Grayson made to let go of her hand, his mouth opening ready with apologies, but Dinah instead placed her other hand over his and held it there.

“My mother said the very same thing,” she replied hoarsely, her words clearly struggling to be formed against the waves of emotion that were crashing over her soul. “You are right, Whitehaven. I must continue to pray and to seek out the path that God has laid out for me.” A tiny smile caught the corner of her mouth, her expression soft. “And I do not believe that includes Lord Irving.”

The relief that crashed into Grayson’s heart was almost overwhelming, to the point that he wanted to lean forward and pull her into his arms and confess everything. The look in her eyes made his heart quicken all the more as he licked his lips, feeling his mind pushing him to tell her all that he felt, even though he knew he should remain silent. Dinah was not the sort of young lady that deserved a selfish, arrogant gentleman such as he! And yet, despite the warring of his mind, the urge to tell her everything continued to mount a great pressure in his heart.

“Then you will come to the ball this evening, will you not?”

He nodded before his mind had fully formed an answer.