In Which Our Heroine is Shocked

WIPWed-1024x427 WIP Wednesday

Belinda Westcott’s aunt has a terrible cook. She believes the food is better when Belinda is there to encourage the woman. She has no idea Belinda does the cooking herself. Of course it makes her late when the guests at the house party gather before dinner… She’s in for a shock.

Taking a quick glance in the bottom of a shiny pot, Belinda tidied her hair, and judged herself adequate as well. Aunt Violet expected her at dinner, but Belinda couldn’t be certain whether she would be missed or not. She shook out her skirts and headed toward the drawing room.

The room’s main doors were closed. The stationed footman would open for her, but Belinda preferred not to make an ostentatious entry. She knew a smaller door opened on a servant’s pantry. No one paid attention to it. She slipped through the pantry and into the drawing room without notice. The company buzzed with first night anticipation, gentlemen young and old huddled near Uncle Hartwell’s decanters, matrons in full feather gossiped in ones and threes, and the eager young women clustered together as if there was safety in numbers. Belinda stood quietly behind a chair in which Viscountess Bellachat held court. Nearing eighty, the woman held herself past the age where manners mattered. She amused Belinda—most of the time.

“Look at them. Throwing themselves at him as if he were a prize stallion and they the farmer’s least favored mares,” the old lady grumbled.

“He’s the biggest prize this year, Mable,” another matron replied. “Duke’s heir. This bunch hopes to get the jump on the ducklings coming up next Season.”

She means the much-vaunted earl, of course. The Duke of Wynnwood’s new heir. She wondered how the earl would feel being compared to a breeding horse. It would serve him right. Being ogled as if she were a brood mare on auction had soured Belinda on the whole Marriage Mart business. Then again, it might puff up his male ego.

She glanced at the men at the end of the room, recognizing only a few of the older gentlemen. Which might be the earl? One rotund man going thin on top looked a likely candidate. So did the chinless fellow next to him. No eager misses clustered around either of them, however. There was no sight of Cecil or his cronies either.

Two ladies moved and she caught sight of her cousin Sophie smiling up at a tall gentleman while her friends stood wide-eyed nearby. If that was the earl, he was far from the faded roué Belinda expected. When he tipped his head to listen to Sophie, candlelight reflected off the thick honey-gold waves of his hair. Sophie obviously found him enthralling and, peering at his broad shoulders and strong back, Belinda could see why a naïve young thing might be infatuated. She tamped down her own unexpected and unbidden jolt of attraction swallowing the sudden lump in her throat.

Dinah Beckwith sailed over to Sophie’s circle. Last season’s diamond, she had turned down two younger sons, a viscount, and an earl’s heir. Belinda thought her a harpy who would settle for no less than a duke or a marquess—or the heir to one. Poor Sophie.

Doors to the dining room opened on the far right. “Dinner is served.” Carlton’s announcement woke Belinda from her absorption in Sophie’s companion just as he turned and she saw his face.

That is no earl!

Belinda’s stomach curdled. John Conlyn, author of Belinda’s greatest humiliation, the fiasco at the Duchess of Haverford’s charity Venetian breakfast, stood across the room, as gloriously handsome and untrustworthy as ever. He had been absent from Cecil’s circle of reprobates the previous season; she’d hoped he was gone for good.

That man can’t be the earl. Can he?

While Belinda watched, Aunt Violet took Conlyn’s arm, “As highest-ranking guest,” she trilled, gazing up and him and parading toward the dining room. Belinda’s lunch threatened to make a reappearance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contact Info

Caroline Warfield, Author

Email :