|Released December 7th!|
Sibella has just met Lord Coombe a prospective suitor her brother has found. She turns to her sister for her opinion.
After running around the gardens with the children until they flagged, Sibella returned them to their mother and sought out Maria, finding her in her chamber.
“I subjected Lord Henry Coombe to the usual close inspection,” Maria said, winding a piece of pine-green velvet ribbon around her finger. “As I do all of your beaus.”
“He’s hardly a beau. But what did you make of him?”
“I don’t know,” Maria said thoughtfully. “He’s polite and well-mannered, of course, but he gives very little of himself away.”
“Dark brown eyes are so inscrutable, aren’t they?”
“You didn’t warm to him then.”
Sibella shrugged. “I neither disliked him nor felt a strong attraction to him.”
“Well we know why that is, do we not?”
The name Strathairn hovered unsaid between them.
As Maria rummaged in her jewelry box, Sibella was tempted to tell her about the kiss. They shared everything, and it felt disloyal not to, but for some reason she wanted to hold the heady, sensory details of John’s kiss in the moonlight close for a while, not wishing the experience pulled apart in the cold light of day.
When Edward returned to the house, Sibella waylaid him in the front hall. “I’ll thank you not to help mother find me a husband,” she said in a waspish tone.
For once Edward didn’t laugh. He grabbed her hand and pulled her down the corridor and into the library.
She spun as he shut the door behind him. “What is it?”
“You need to forget Strathairn.”
He held up a finger. “There’s a very good reason for it.”
“I know. He doesn’t wish to marry. At least me, anyway,” she said ruefully.
“A spy cannot marry. That is, a spy with any integrity who doesn’t wish to place those he loves in danger.”
“A spy?” Sibella’s pulse banged in her throat. “Are you sure you’re not embellishing, Edward?” It did make sense now that she thought of it.
“I did not want to tell you. I trust you’ll be discreet. And for heaven’s sake don’t tell Maria! She’s the worst at keeping secrets.” Edward folded his arms and leaned against the door. “He works for the military.”
So that was why such mystery surrounded him! “But what if a woman was prepared to marry him anyway and face those risks with him?”
“And subject yourself to a life of fear and heartbreak? You don’t know what you’re saying. Forget him, Sib, please. Strathairn appears on the surface of things to be an earl with a passion for breeding horses. But he also inhabits another dark, dangerous world, which is beyond your dreams. He resists drawing you into that world and exposing you to possible danger. If you wage a war of seduction, his resolve may well crumble. I’ve seen how he looks at you. Leave the man alone. There are other more suitable men in the world.”
He leaned forward and brushed a kiss onto her cheek. “Do you understand?”
She nodded mutely as she fought to grasp the truth, the certainty that she and Strathairn would never marry.
Edward opened the library door to find a footman standing in the corridor, trying his best not to look intrigued.