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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Of Scandals, Schemes And Subterfuge...

The Countess of Walmer slammed the door behind her with a vicious resentment that she did not bother to hide. It made a most satisfying sound, but the effect was a little wasted, for Selby was her only audience. His customary dignified and impassive demeanor remained unruffled. Even a single eyebrow raised in disapprobation might have provided some measure of assurance that her distress had at least been noticed by someone.

She swept into the library only because she noticed the movement on the first floor landing, a sign that one of their guests was no doubt making their way downstairs for breakfast.Annette had no desire for breakfast, nor for the onerous company of anyone at that present moment in time. Being dismissed, especially by a gentleman and in such cruelly
final and dispassionate tones, was both rare and unforgivable.

It was only when she when she smacked a dainty hand against the ornate paneling - a gesture of frustration, to be sure, but not sufficient to cause any damage to either her hand or the woodwork - that she remembered the narrow access to her husband's study. Perhaps, she mused thoughtfully, Edward might like to hear of her encounter with his handsome younger brother. Of course, she would need to...well, to rewrite the scene a little. It simply wouldn't do unless she were the innocent and Jordan the guilty rake intent on seducing his erstwhile love. The idea had merit, so she deftly opened the hidden door and slipped inside, closing it firmly and quietly behind her.

It must but a few steps to the matching door that led into Edward's study - the width of a cupboard to be precise, a space for the storage of outdoor attire. Annette paused in the darkness, her fingers poised on the latch as she composed herself, considered her strategy and the possible ramifications, and adopted a suitable mien of distraught innocence.

"So you're looking for a husband for your daughter?"

Edward's words stopped her entrance in the nick of time. He had a visitor, it seemed, and Annette's quick mind soon discerned that this was no ordinary discussion. She decided to wait and see what interesting information this meeting might uncover.

"That would be the most expeditious resolution," Hebble responded, his voice rough and yet sly at the same time.

"And soon, I would imagine." Edward sounded thoughtful, and his young wife immediately discerned the unspoken. The silly chit has been compromised. I wonder who the father may be? She dismissed Edward as the potential culprit immediately - the man possessed an inordinate amount of propriety, and was far too concerned with his elevated status to seduce an up-and-upper like Christina Hebble.

"But not anyone, mind you." Hebble's warning sounded unpleasantly cold. "I was thinking that perhaps that brother of yours might fill the position nicely - no prospects to speak of, but he has the blood. I'll settle Hathorne on them - a wedding gift, shall we call it? - and a stipend too. He'll not lack in the transaction."

Edward's laugh rang with an undercurrent of both nervousness and disbelief. "Jordan? My dear fellow, we have more chance of snaring the Devil himself."

"Perhaps. But he's my choice."

There was a finality in Hebble's tone that sent a shiver of apprehension up Annette's spine. Her mind raced around the inner sense this conversation suggested far more than she had heard thus far. Somehow, Edward was at a disadvantage, but she was at a complete loss as the reasons why. But Hebble's ultimatum might well serve her own purposes far better than revenge. Hathorne...Jordie would be next door, bosom neighbours as it were. And with time - especially married to that dreadful, simpering miss - he must surely turn to her for solace and, dare she say it, distraction?

Annette took a deep breath and resolutely pushed the door open.

"I believe, gentleman, that you may require the assistance of a lady with exceptional talent for intrigue."

Their prodigiously startled reactions provided a most satisfying balm for her earlier wounded pride

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