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To Love A Scoundrel (London Season Matchmaker 5) Lucy Adams 2022/7/22 11:45:18

“You cannot pretend that you are so pure of heart and mind that you have never had a single thought of entertaining a gentleman.”

Dinah stopped dead, closing her eyes as she leaned against the doorframe, hating the conflicting emotions that were whirling through her. She wanted to rail at him, wanted to shout at him for what he had attempted to do, and yet no words came to her lips.

“If you should ever consider it, Dinah, you need only ask. I should be here waiting for you.”

There was nothing she could say to such a remark. Without even a single look back, she quit the room and moved away as quickly as she could, allowing the door to slam behind her. Her whole body was shaking as she moved quickly to her own rooms, from both anger and a deep, unsettling sensation that did not leave her. Even as she locked her door, undressed hurriedly, and climbed into bed, it remained within her, growing slowly and yet steadily. A sensation that part of her had almost liked what he had done, that she had enjoyed the sensation of his lips upon her own. It was the most ridiculous notion, and yet it was not something she was easily able to get rid of.

“I must pray,” she murmured, climbing from her bed to kneel beside it. “Pray for my soul and for my heart.” Closing her eyes and bowing her head, she began to pray in a desperate attempt to remove the strange feelings that were beginning to swarm about her heart.

It was not until a few minutes had passed before Grayson slowly began to realize that the groaning that had woken him was coming from his own lips. Trying to open his eyes, the pain that lanced his skull from the beam of light coming from the chink in the curtains was enough to have him burying his head into the blankets once more.

“Your mother requests your presence at breakfast, Lord Whitehaven.”

The butler’s firm tone had Grayson frowning, despite the pain this brought him.

“She has received a note that has her greatly concerned, and I was told to rouse you at once.”

At this, Grayson lifted his head, feeling a shock running through him. “A note?” he croaked, suddenly afraid that his creditors had done the unthinkable and written to inform Lady Whitehaven of her son’s debts.

“Indeed, my lord,” the butler replied in a rather frustrated fashion, evidencing the fact that he had been pulled from his other duties in order to seek out Grayson and waken him. “Now, your valet is present and your breakfast tray has been set out on the table, unless you should like it set before you in bed?”

Grayson wanted to retort that the only thing he wanted to do was to close his eyes and crawl back down into the bedcovers, but instead he merely took in a long breath and murmured that he would rise and sit to eat. Not that he intended to eat very much, for the smell of the toast and coffee was sending his stomach twisting into knots rather than giving him any sense of hunger. The butler appeared satisfied with this, however, clicked his heels together, and excused himself, leaving Grayson in the capable hands of his valet.

“Go and lay out my clothes,” Grayson told the man, trying still to lift his head from the pillow but finding it much too painful to be able to do so with any ease. “I shall rise in a few moments.”

The valet said nothing but withdrew to Grayson’s small dressing room, which had its own adjoining door. Being left alone, Grayson was able to close his eyes tightly again and pull the blankets over his head once more, burrowing into the darkness and feeling his pain lift as he did so.

But there was nothing for it. He could not remain abed, for if his mother had received some sort of note, then he would have to ensure he was dressed and prepared to speak to her about it with as much dignity as he could muster. Probing at his forehead with long fingers and wondering if there was any easy way for the pain in his head to disappear altogether, Grayson forced himself to sit upright – and then immediately regretted doing so. His head felt as though it were being split in two, for the agony that lanced through his skull was like a red hot poker being pushed into his head.

The valet had returned on silent feet, and Grayson felt something being pushed into his hand. A glass of water, mayhap. Throwing it back, he swallowed it before he had time to gag, coughing furiously as he half threw the glass back at the valet.

“And now some water,” the valet added, before Grayson could speak. “Here, my lord. I have been told that the concoction that you took before will bring an end to your pain.”

Grayson said nothing but grasped at the filled water glass with greedy hands, throwing it back as quickly as he could and feeling the last remnants of the first drink being chased away. Coughing heavily for a moment, he wiped his eyes and handed the glass back to his valet. “I do not know what that was, Featherstone,” he muttered, passing one hand over his eyes. “But I must hope that the torture of drinking it will be worthwhile.”

His valet inclined his head. “Should you eat first or dress first, my lord?” he asked, not commenting on what Grayson had drunk. “If I might, I would also suggest a cold compress for your eye, although it may be a little too late to help.”

“My eye?” Grayson repeated, reaching up to touch it only to pull his hand back with a yelp. No wonder he felt sore all over! He had quite forgotten that he had been in a fight last evening. Groaning, he shook his head and lowered it into his hands, trying to remember exactly what had happened.

“How did I get back into my rooms?” he asked his valet, keeping his head in his hands for fear of what he would see on his valet’s face. “I do not recall anything other than stepping over the threshold.”

The valet cleared his throat. “I could not say, Lord Whitehaven,” he replied, seemingly honestly. “The rest of the staff were abed, as per both your and Lady Whitehaven’s instructions.”

Grayson lifted his head slowly and looked up at his valet, surprised that the agony in his head was already beginning to fade. “You mean to say that no one knows how I made it to my rooms?” he asked, seeing the valet both shrug slightly and nod at the same time. “I cannot imagine that I climbed the staircase myself, given the effects of my drunkenness this morning, but still…” He trailed off, trying his best to remember. “Surely my mother would not have come to my aid.”

The valet said nothing, leaving Grayson to consider this for some moments before sighing and rubbing at his forehead again.

“I think I may break my fast after all,” he muttered, attempting to rise from the bed and shaking off his valet’s assisting arm. “Whatever it was you put in that, Featherstone, it seems to have worked rather well.” Grimacing as he recalled the taste of it, he shrugged and then stumbled across to the small table that sat close to the fire, sinking down into a chair as quickly as he could. Mayhap he had, after all, managed to make it up to his rooms alone. There wasn’t really any other explanation now, was there? Mentally shrugging, Grayson quickly poured himself a cup of coffee and allowed the smell of it to wash over him. He would have to appear as presentable as possible when he went to speak to his mother, and that would start with removing any stench of liquor from his breath and, hopefully, settling his churning stomach. Grimacing, Grayson threw aside the niggle of worry and set about trying to eat a small piece of buttered toast, hoping silently that this note was nothing of any great importance.

Grayson grimaced, inclining his head and finding his mother’s somewhat shrill voice rather painful to listen to. She had thrown aside convention to refer to him as “Grayson” rather than “Whitehaven,” as she ought, but part of him presumed that this came from the agony that must still linger within her heart over the loss of her husband and his father.