Brandy helped, or it would have if Henrietta Danbury let up her assault. “This place is a treasure, Clarion, if a bit dull around the edges. You’ve let it go to neglect. A house party is just the thing to give it life.”
David leaned forward elbows on his knees, cradling his drink. “What are you doing here, Henrietta? Don’t you have an end of Season ball to manage yet?”
“It was last week, you negligent man, and you weren’t there.” She stared down at him, brows together, her shrewd eyes boring into him. “Do you think this is about impressing the haut ton with your fashion sense? Your consequence maybe. If you want those who matter—matter to England not to the social whirl, you widgeon—to pay attention, you have to be seen. You have to impress. You will not wiggle into the Home Secretary seat by hiding in the country. You won’t escape the husband hunting mothers either, but that is neither here nor there. Danbury and I left London earlier than intended because you are important. What you do is important. We need people in power who will hold the middle course, neither clamping down on dissent until it explodes, nor throwing off all restraint. We need you. If clean wallpaper and country air does the trick then you must do it.”
The damned woman’s astute political sense hit home as none of her social nonsense had. Danbury smiled benignly and lifted his glass. “Hear, hear,” he murmured.
David leaned back and let his head sag backward. “You know I loathe the balls and superficial drivel.”
“That’s just what it is: superficial. You have to focus on the undercurrents and what’s beneath.” Henrietta Danbury shook her head. “If it is Bellwood’s granddaughter you’re worried about, don’t. Her mother has moved on to other prey.”
David grunted. He’d assumed as much. “Others will take her place. At a ball I have to watch my every step around the lot of them.”
“Surround yourself with ladies who have your interest at heart. When does Lady Madelyn return to Ashmead? She’ll know what to do. We could have a council of war. Invite Sir Robert and his brother, that steward of yours, too. Their wives will enlist in the cause gladly.”
The earl groaned. Now she threatened to turn his family on him. “Next you’ll recruit Lady Fitzwallace.”
The expressive brows of the marchioness snapped together. “Who? Lady Percival Fitzwallace and her spouse are in Paris.”
“Avoiding Awbury, one suspects,” Danbury added.
David waved a distracted hand. “It is nothing. I just meant— The neighborhood. Lady Vincent Fitzwallace has taken up residence in my dower house.”
“Delia? Here? But how perfect.” Lady Danbury’s explosion of delight horrified David. It didn’t bode well for his peaceful solitude. Her next words confirmed it. “She’ll know exactly what should be done.”
Note: excerpts from works in progress may have not yet been edited, will likely undergo change, and may not even make it into the final work!