seemed to resonate behind the coldness of his eyes.
"As you seem acquainted with the details of our conversation," Edward said drily, perhaps you should enlighten us as to what possible reason you might have for intruding upon a confidential discussion."
Annette tossed her head and smiled, allowing the delicate little dimples in each cheek to work their usual magic. This time, however, their charm seemed lost on her two companions. "It would seem, my dear, that you gentlemen have something of a dilemma involving your brother and our guest's pretty daughter."
Hebble snorted, his unpleasant features displaying a brief descent into dark humour. "Your husband, it would seem, doubts his his ability to...uh...convince his brother of the advantages of a match between himself and Christina."
"A most suitable match, indeed, sir." She allowed none of her intense disdain for the man to show through. "I fail to see the problem."
"Come, Annettte." Edward's scorn momentarily disturbed his usual obsession with polite address. "You know as well as I do that Jordan is a law unto himself. He will have none of it, and his sense of familial duty has never extended to a leaning towards either obedience or respect." He seemed to have quite forgotten that the brother in question, his propensity to act as a law unto himself notwithstanding, was in fact thirty two years old and well past the age of obedience to familial authority.
"Well then," his wife responded sweetly, "we shall just have to convince him of the expediency of the matter. Even Jordan cannot refuse to do the right thing."
"You're suggesting we entrap him?" Edward's eyes rose noticeably, but his mien was one of interest rather than disapprobation.
"I'm suggesting," she corrected him, with a note of laughter behind the words, "that we provide the much-needed encouragement and direction towards the only possible outcome. After all, it is a splendid match and he could certainly never hope to do better. He simply needs to...see things in proper perspective."
Hebble leaned forward, a large, calloused hand settling on his knee as he studied her with a hard, intense look. "And do you believe you are able to make him see reason."
"Oh, undoubtedly, sir. It is easily accomplished, if you will but allow me to make the necessary arrangements."
He nodded, evidently quite unperturbed by the direction they were taking. She could not help but wonder how many such conversations formed part of his business transactions, and just what hold he had on her husband. Annette was sure there was one. Edward would not even be having this conversation if there were not - he might dislike his brother, might even wish him gone or humiliated, but he'd not willing conspire with a thug like Hebble. She decided that little matter could wait a little longer. It would be useful to know, of course, but first she needed both master and guest to bite at the hook of indebtedness.
"I shall proceed immediately," she said. "Of course, the success of our game depends on Christina - she is a biddable girl, I assume?"
"She'll do as she's told." The cold assurance in his tone sent a small shiver up Annette's spine. The man was utterly ruthless, but that should assure her of success in her plan. A daughter who knew the wages of disobedience would indeed prove less of a bother than one who thought for herself.
"Then there is nothing left to be said." She rose and swept from the room, ignoring both men as they struggled from their seats as she departed, and closed the door with a snap behind her.
Revenge was indeed a strange and wonderful thing. Who would have thought that having revenge could bring her everything she desired as well? It was truly a most intriguing and delightful diversion.