I have come, my lovely,” Roddy said with his usual sardonic grin as he swept her a deep bow, “in answer to your urgent summons-and, I might add,-“ he continued, “before I presented myself at the Willingtons’, exactly as your message instructed.” At 5’10”, Roddy Carstairs was a slender man of athletic build with thinning brown hair and light blue eyes. In fact, his only distinguishing characteristics were his fastidiously tailored clothes, a much-envied ability to tie a neckcloth into magnificently intricate folds that never drooped, and an acid wit that accepted no boundaries when he chose a human target. “Did you hear about Kensington?”
“Who?” Alex said absently, trying to think of the best means to persuade him to do what she needed done.
“The new Marquess of Kensington, once known as Mr. Ian Thornton, persona non grata. Amazing, is it not, what wealth and title will do?” he continued, studying Alex’s tense face as he continued, “Two years ago we wouldn’t have let him past the front door. Six months ago word got out that he’s worth a fortune, and we started inviting him to our parties. Tonight he’s the heir to a dukedom, and we’ll be coveting invitations to his parties. We are”-Roddy grinned-“when you consider matters from this point of view, a rather sickening and fickle lot.”
In spite of herself, Alexandra laughed. “Oh, Roddy,” she said, pressing a kiss on his cheek. “You always make me laugh, even when I’m in the most dreadful coil, which I am now. You could make things so very much better-if you would.”
Roddy helped himself to a pinch of snuff, lifted his arrogant brows, and waited, his look both suspicious and intrigued. “I am, of course, your most obedient servant,” he drawled with a little mocking bow.
Despite that claim, Alexandra knew better. While other men might be feared for their tempers or their skill with rapier and pistol, Roddy Carstairs was feared for his cutting barbs and razor tongue. And, while one could not carry a rapier or a pistol into a ball, Roddy could do his damage there unimpeded. Even sophisticated matrons lived in fear of being on the wrong side of him. Alex knew exactly how deadly he could be-and how helpful, for he had made her life a living hell when she came to London the first time. Later he had done a complete turnabout, and it had been Roddy who had forced the ton to accept her. He had done it not out of friendship or guilt; he had done it because he’d decided it would be amusing to test his power by building a reputation for a change, instead of shredding it.
“There is a young woman whose name I’ll reveal in a moment,” Alex began cautiously, “to whom you could be of great service. You could, in fact, rescue her as you did me long ago, Roddy, if only you would.”
“Once was enough,” he mocked. “I could hardly hold my head up for shame when I thought of my unprecedented gallantry.”
“She’s incredibly beautiful,” Alex said.
A mild spark of interest showed in Roddy’s eyes, but nothing stronger. While other men might be affected by feminine beauty, Roddy generally took pleasure in pointing out one’s faults for the glee of it. He enjoyed flustering women and never hesitated to do it. But when he decided to be kind he was the most loyal of friends.