Authors: Elizabeth Thornton
Did she know that she was setting herself up for a challenge? He let the thought turn in his mind.
“Careful, Brand,” said Ash. “You're smiling again. If you're not careful, you'll be making a habit of it.”
Brand turned to stare at his friend and made a face when he came under the scrutiny of Ash's quizzing glass. No one looking at Ash would have believed that he had spent the better part of his adult life fighting for king and country in the Spanish Campaign. Brand knew that those were brutal years, though Ash always made light of them. Now that the war was over, he seemed hell-bent on enjoying himself. He was a dandy and the darling of society.
Brand had neither the patience nor the inclination to make himself the darling of society. He knew how fickle society was. As the base born son of a duke, he'd met with prejudice in his time, but that was before he'd acquired a fleet of newspapers stretching from London to every major city in England. Now, he was respected and his friendship sought after, now that he could break the high and mighty with the stroke of his pen.
He knew what people said, that he was driven to prove himself. It was true. But he never forgot a friend or anyone who had been kind to him when he'd had nothing to offer in return. Edwina Gunn was one of those people. It was to repay his debt to her that he had taken Marion and her sisters under his wing.
Ash was waiting for him to say something. “The sight of a beautiful woman always makes me smile.”
“I presume we are talking about Lady Marion? You haven't taken your eyes from her all evening.”
This friendly taunt was met with silence.
“Is she beautiful?” Ash prodded.
“Not in the common way, but she has style.”
“Mmm,” Ash mused. “If she allowed me to have the dressing of her, I could make her the toast of the ton. I'd begin by cutting her hair to form a soft cap. We'd have to lower the bodices on her gowns, of course, and raise the hems. I think she would look her best in transparent gauzes. What do you think?”
Ash was known to have an eye for fashion and many high ranking ladies sought his advice. In Brand's view, their newfound glamour wasn't always an improvement.
“You know what they say.” Brand moved to catch up with the rest of his party, and Ash quickened his step to keep up with him.
“What do they say?”
There was a crush of people at the top of the stairs and Brand felt a moment's anxiety. He relaxed when he saw Marion's fair hair glistening with gold under the lights of the chandeliers. Emily's dark cap of curls shimmered like silk. Then he lost sight of them in the crush.
“What do they say?” repeated Ash.
“One man's meat—”
The sentence was left hanging. A woman screamed. Some patrons cried out. In the next instant, Brand was sprinting for the stairs.
He shoved people out of his way as he thundered down those marble steps. He found her at the bottom, sitting on the floor, her head resting on her knees. Emily was with her.
“Stand back!” he flung at the group of people who had crowded round her. They gave way without a protest.
He knelt down and touched her shoulder with a shaking hand. He had not heard a shot, and there was no sign of blood. “Marion?” he said urgently. “What happened? Say something!”
She looked up at him with tears of pain in her eyes. “I stubbed my toes,” she said crossly. “There's no need to fuss.”
Then she fainted.
THE MARRIAGE TRAP
A Bantam Book / July 2005
Published by Bantam Dell
A Division of Random House, Inc.
New York, New York
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales
is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved
Copyright © 2005 by Mary George
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registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Published simultaneously in Canada