6 weeks earlier
Brook sat quiet and wide eyed as she listened to Grams tell Lady Croft to mind her own business. The sudden question coming from Lady Croft to Sarah concerning Devon and Sarah’s scandal had sent Grams into the most vicious sharp-tongued frenzy.
“I shall quickly remind you of your own daughter’s scandalous marriage to the father of her child, which is in question though out town.”
Lady Croft placed her hand at her chest and said, “I assure you and the rest of the ton, the marriage is honorable and sound, as is their child.”
Grams remained seated and said, “Yes well, I highly doubt that. Any young woman would most certainly not jump between the sheets with that bumbling idiot, unless she was already with child.”
Lady Croft gasped at Grams frankness.
“Oh shut your mouth Able. You and I are no fools and for that reason alone, I dare say it is best to keep to your own business. Roomers coming from the right source can be very damaging to one’s reputation,” Grams said.
Lady Croft then walked away without another word to Sarah or Grams.
Grams took Sarah’s hand in her own and whispered to both her and Brook, “Direct and to the point is the best way to handle these upright gossipy woman.”
Brook smiled at how bold Grams remained even in public. She was use to it at the Price Estate. Grams never shied away from voicing neither her thoughts nor opinions. Brook secretly questioned whether they were related somehow.
Sarah turned to Grams and said, “I have given thought to remaining with Lady Wilcox until my marriage. It is creating a scandal with Devon and me dwelling under the same roof.”
Grams said, “Do you honestly give weight to the tons judgment of you Sarah?”
Sarah smiled. “No I do not. My fear is for the family.”
“Well fear not my child. I can assure you, Devon nor do I care one bit what is said. Let them talk,” Grams said.
Brook giggled. “Touché Grams!” Brook agreed with her.
“Touché? I am frightened to ask to what.”
The Ladies all looked up to see a tall young man with brown hair and large brown eyes standing before them.
Grams burst out, “Oh my dear Quentin! I dare ask how you have been my boy.”
Quentin smiled and said, “Quit well thank you. When I saw you I had hoped to see Devon close by.”
“He will be along shortly. It has had to have been five years since I last set eyes upon you,”Grams said.
“That sounds about right. The military keeps me moving often. I hold many regrets for not keeping in contact with you.”
“Yes, well, all is forgiven, now sit down. I would like to introduce Brook O’Brien and Sarah McMay, Devon’s wife to be,” Grams said. “Ladies this is Quentin Alexander an old dear friend of Devon and Landon’s.”
Quentin took each of their hands and kissed them after bowing of course. He then took a seat next to Brook on Grams left. The group remained silent for a short while. Brook noticed Sarah was fidgeting. Brook slowly covered her hand over both of Sarah’s in her lap. Brook continued looking forward and smiled softly. She knew Sarah had looked to her.
“I must confess that I was under the impression Lady Brook was to marry Devon.” Quentin moved his gaze to Brook. “Landon had spoken so often of you I assumed it was to be you,”Quentin said.
Brook did not look at him at first. “I suppose one will always draw an incorrect notion when one assumes. Next time it may serve you better to ask of things you do not know.”
Quentin chuckled. “My intension was not to offend you Lady Brook. I happen to be merely stating-
Brook’s gaze flew to him. “Offend? I dare say Sir, you are full of assumptions.” She could feel Sarah squeezing her fingers tightly. “I suppose you are now going to assume Landon and I hold interest in one another?”
Quentin began to say,“Well-
“Well let me assure you, we do not. And further more we are friends is all,” Brook said.
Quentin cleared his throat. “Would you care to dance Lady Brook?” He stood up in front of her.
“Yes, yes I would,”Brook said quickly. She suddenly grew uncomfortable at the mention of Landon. Quentin’s offer was the perfect excuse to remove herself from the group. Feeling her cheeks grow warm she had to do something.
Quentin held out his hand for Brook and gave Sarah a quick wink. Sarah drew her eyebrows together in confusion with his intentions.
As they approached the dance area Brook said, “I apologize for my quick words with you Sir Quentin. We had been discussing the affects of one who gossips about others.”
“Quite understandable Lady Brook. Your advice was well taken and I do promise to be more careful in the future,” Quentin said.
Brook smiled and laughed slightly.
“He was right,” Quentin said.
“Who was right?” Brook asked.
“Landon. He told me your smile could change the mood of a room. And that your laugh was contagious,” Quentin said.
Brook’s expression held but her mind was racing. I wonder what else Landon had to say about me and why, why was he speaking about me?
“Are there any warnings before we begin?” Quentin asked.
Brook smiled and said,“I favor most men’s left feet, but if you prefer for me to step on your right, I will make an effort towards it.”
Quentin chuckled. “No, the left is fine with me Lady Brook. Am I allowed to lead or will it be a case of you decide as we dance?”
At that moment, the music began. Brook smiled devilishly at him and said, “I think I shall surprise you Sir Quentin.” She placed her hand in his. “Did Landon tell you I dance like a mule on ice?”
Quentin reframed from smiling at her chose of words. “He actually said you were flawless. That is why I was teasing you.”
“I suppose he did not happen to mention I have only danced with him. I do not attend balls on a regular basis. Grams had us practice to refresh my memory, but other than that, nothing,” Brook said.
Quentin began to move with Brook. “Well you seem to be doing outstanding thus far.”
Brook was looking down at her feet. As she did, she stepped on Quentin’s right foot and then bumped her head into his when she looked down again.
“I am sorry,” Brook said.
“We agreed it would be my left foot, remember?” Quentin said. “Relax and allow me to guide you. It will not help if you keep staring at your own feet.”
Brook gazed up to Quentin and said, “I have forgotten all the steps. Perhaps it is better if you just escort me back to Grams and Sarah.”
“Nonsense you can do this,” Quentin said as he smiled at her.
Landon and Devon approached Sarah and Grams. Devon took a seat next to Sarah. He gave her a long kiss on the cheek and then whispered something in her ear, which caused her to blush.
“Where is Brook?”Landon asked.
“Dancing my dear boy with your friend Quentin,” Grams said and then giggled.
Landon looked towards the dance area to see Quentin trying to dance with Brook. “What are they doing?”
“I am not certain. Perhaps they are both attempting to lead,” Grams said.
The group and everyone else in the ton watched as Brook repeatedly stepped on Quentin’s feet and a few other peoples’ in close proximity.
Brook crashed into Lady Marcy Croft when Quentin said go to the right and Brook moved left. Lady Croft glared at her fiercely with disgust. Brook immediately offered an apology. Lady Croft did not respond. She just scowled at Brook.
Brook released her hand from Quentin’s and started to move towards Lady Croft.
Landon stepped in front of Brook’s path right as she was going to come face to face with Lady Croft.“Good evening Red.” Landon scooped up Brook’s hand and placed his other hand about her waist. “OK, here we go and one, two, three.” Landon gave Quentin the ok to leave.
Quentin smiled and left to join the others.
Brook and Landon finished the dance flawlessly. Neither of them spoke as they gazed into one another’s eyes. After the music had ceased, Brook went to leave the dance area.
Landon took a hold of her hand and pulled her back to him. “I believe I was cheated out of a dance, Red.”
Brook said nothing as the music began again. He drew her close to his body. She could not turn away from his gaze on her.
Landon gave Brook’s hand a small squeeze and he watched Brook’s lips part slightly. The rush of the memory of their kiss a month ago flooded his mind. He still remembered how soft her lips were. The taste of her mouth on his. Somehow, every time he thought of the kiss, it felt as though it had just happened. You are trouble wrapped up in a voluptuous fiery red package. I find myself wanting to get into trouble right now. Why do your eyes always say yes to me? It would be far more helpful if they offered some kind of resistance instead of agreeing with my every devilish thought. Landon did not move his gaze but he did clear his thought the best he could.
Quentin took a seat next to Grams on the chaise lounge. Grams patted his leg and said, “Do tell us where you have been hiding.”
“I have just returned from China. At present time, I am on leave for three months. I suppose you have all heard of my sister’s passing?” Quentin said.
Devon said, “We did and are truly sorry. Theresa will be missed. How is your mother holding up?”
“She is not dealing with it well. I was told the first two weeks she did not leave Theresa’s bedchamber,” Quentin said.
“Oh dear,” Sarah said.
Quentin looked to Grams and said, “I was also told you and Lady Wilcox were the ones to get her to immerge from it.” He took up Grams hand and kissed it. “I do not know how I will be able to repay you for your kind friendship to my mother.”
“My dear boy I care very deeply for your mother. She did the very same for me when I lost Roy, Devon’s father. As her and I had done the same when Clare, when Sarah’s mother passed,” Grams said.
“You had?” Sarah asked.
“Yes we did Sarah. I know Lady Wilcox is your Mother’s aunt, but she had raised her as a daughter,”Grams said.
“I never knew that,”Sarah said.
“Yes well enough sad stories. I shall like to invite everyone to my country estate next week,”Quentin said.
“My boy, we could all use a change of scenery. Who else is to attend?
The music ended and Landon held Brook in his embrace a several counts longer than needed. Brook let him and did not pull away. He finally slowly released her hand from his and felt Brook’s hand begin to slide out of his hand. Instinctively he squeezed her hand at the last second before it slipped away completely. Landon gently rubbed Brook’s finger tips with his. The dance area was now empty and all eyes were upon them. Lord knows how long they had been standing there like that. For them, time did not exist. A sudden high pitched shriek came from one of the violins. Landon blinked out of his trance as did Brook.
Brook felt a rush of air leave her lungs as Landon released her fingers. She didn’t want him to let go. The comfort of his embrace felt warm and right to her. She smiled up to him trying to hide her own thoughts from him as if he could read her mind. Which at times she believed he could. He always seemed to know what she was going to do or say before she did.
Landon smiled then bowed. “Shall we, Red?” He held out his arm in the direction of the group.
“I am not certain when you began to call me Red, but I do not care for it.”
As she walked past him, Landon said to her back, “But I do.” He could hear Brook’s soft giggle. Her tone was deep and seductive sounding. Flirtatious even.
“Hello Landon,” Marcy Croft said as she stepped in front of their path. She looked at Brook and said,“I was relieved to see you figured out which of your feet are left and right.”
Brook glared at Marcy with pure hate. “Yes, well your bottom seemed to occupy most of the space around me. It was hard to view my feet.”
Marcy threw her head back and gave Brook a mocking laugh.
“Please excuse us Lady Croft we have friends waiting for us,” Landon said.
“Oh, I see. Now it is Lady Croft?” Marcy said.
Landon took Brook by the arm and led her away from Marcy.
“What did she mean by that?” Brook asked.
“She is always jealous of new woman to the ton and does her best to intimidate them. Pay her no attention no matter what she says to you,” Landon said. Beats of sweat were forming on his forehead.
As they arrived at the group, Landon offered to get everyone a drink. Quentin stood and said he would assist him.
As they walked far enough away from the group Quentin said, “Brook is more amazing than you had led on. Irish tongue does not do her justice from the way you had described it.”
Landon laughed. “Yes well Brook is hard to describe with mere words.”
“If you were hoping we might hit it off, I have to be honest and tell you, she is too much to handle. As entertaining as she is, I would be tongue tied with her every statement. She is more your type than mine Landon.”
Landon stopped and said, “I do not believe she is. Brook is a friend Quentin.”
Quentin smiled and said, “I was only pointing out that-
“Well don’t because you are wrong,” Landon snapped at him. “I am going to get the punch now.”
“I will get the drinks from…the bar.” Before he had a chance to finish his sentence Landon had walked away.
While Landon poured the punch into the three cups, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned slightly to see who it was. Good God I wish you would find yourself kidnapped woman.
“So, do tell me Landon, are you in the habit of slumming now?” Marcy asked.
“Marcy why do you always have to be so unpleasant? It is as if you aim to be malicious every morning when your feet hit the floor.”
Marcy turned her head away from Landon and gazed out over the crowd. “Perhaps I am plain-spoken and blunt with my words.” She crossed her arms over her stomach. “It is what makes me who I am.”
“Cruel, unkind, and wretched is what makes you, you,” Landon said. He started to walk away from her.
Marcy hollered out a little too loud, “I propose your new friend does not know all about you Lord…Charming.”
Landon turned back and faced her. “I am sorry you are hurt but that gives you no right to hurt others around you. Stay away from her Marcy.”
“Why, because you don’t want her to know the truth about us?”
“And what truth might that be Marcy? The truth that being this close to you draws up feeling of repugnance or nausea?” Landon said in a hard whisper.
Marcy glared at him and narrowed her eyes.“The truth about the broken engagement and our baby Landon.”© copyright 2012