she had dark chestnut hair, a heart-shaped face, large wide eyes, full lips…and appeared about as miserable as he’d ever seen a young woman, a state he suspected had something to do with the older woman at her side. His gaze slid over the matron. Well-rounded with dark hair, she was pretty despite the bloom of youth being gone—or she would be if she weren’t wearing a pursed, dissatisfied expression as she surveyed the activity in the ballroom. Adrian glanced back to the girl.
“First season?” he queried, his curiosity piqued.
“Yes.” Reg looked amused.
“Why is no one dancing with her?” A beauty such as this should have had a full card.
“No one dares ask her—and you will not either, if you value your feet.” Adrian’s eyebrows rose, his gaze turning reluctantly from the young woman to the man at his side.
“She is blind as a bat and dangerous to boot,” Reg announced, nodding when Adrian looked disbelieving. “Truly, she cannot dance a step without stomping on your toes and falling about. She cannot even walk without bumping into things.” He paused, cocking one eyebrow in response to Adrian’s expression. “I know you do not believe it. I did not either…much to my own folly.” Reginald turned to glare at the girl and continued: “I was warned, but ignored it and took her in to dinner….” He glanced back at Adrian. “I was wearing dark brown trousers that night, unfortunately. She mistook my lap for a table, and set her tea on me. Or rather, she tried to. It overset and…” Reg paused, shifting uncomfortably at the memory. “Damn me if she did not burn my piffle.”
Adrian stared at his cousin and then burst into laughter.
Reginald looked startled, then smiled wryly. “Yes, laugh. But if I never sire another child—legitimate or not—I shall blame it solely on Lady Clarissa Crambray.”
Shaking his head, Adrian laughed even harder, and it felt so good. It had been many years since he’d found anything the least bit funny. But the image of the delicate little flower along the wall mistaking Reg’s lap for a table and oversetting a cup of tea on him was priceless.
“What did you do?” he got out at last. Reg shook his head and raised his hands helplessly. “What could I do? I pretended it had not happened, stayed where I was, and tried not to cry with the pain. ‘A gentleman never deigns to notice, or draw attention in any way to, a lady’s public faux pas,’” he quoted dryly, then glanced back at the girl with a sigh. “Truth to tell, I do not think she even realized what she’d done. Rumor has it she can see fine with spectacles, but she is too vain to wear them.”
Still smiling, Adrian followed Reg’s gaze to the girl. Carefully taking in her wretched expression, he shook his head.
“No. Not vain,” he announced, watching as the older woman beside Lady Clarissa murmured something, stood, and moved away.
“Well,” Reg began, but paused when, ignoring him, Adrian moved toward the girl. Shaking his head, he muttered, “I warned you.”
-Adrian & Reg